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Posts tagged “humanity

Counting Questions

DeEttaHJenkins

Photo by DeEtta Harris Jenkins

There are expenses
we regularly calculate, but
there are others we ignore.

In order to see the big picture,
we can't just ask,
"How much does it cost
to do such-and-such?" or
"How much does it cost
to not do it?"

We must recognize that
costs can be attached
to more than our wallets.
Here are some
of the gospel's calculating questions:

What will it cost my heart & soul
to do or not do this?
What will doing or
not doing this cost my family?
What will this action or
inaction cost my neighbor?
What will these choices
cost the planet?

The universe is expanded
by gracious choices.
It is diminished
by greedy ones.

The cost is outrageous
for all these priceless lives;
secretly calculated in hearts
too small to hold Love's grand truth;

too scared to see all of us
have the same value;
too busy counting and comparing
to feel the ground beneath us quaking,
the skies above us tearing.

We shrink because we sense difference,
recoil with superiority's confidence,
while the universe expands and diversifies
and the holy one weeps.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Generosity

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Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home, and ate their food with glad and generous hearts… (Acts 2:46)

 

This past Sunday’s sermon was from Acts 2:42-47. The sermon title was “Glad and Generous Hearts” (from 2:46). This week, after the sermon (of course!), I saw the sermon come to life.

Patrick (pictured above) is a 24 year old student in Malawi. He is studying to become a midwife, and dreams of opening an orphanage after he graduates, to care for the many parentless children in his country. Patrick is an orphan whose parents died years ago (dad in 1998, and mom in 2006). He is raising three younger siblings.

Here is a photo of his family: Patrick, his sister Thandie, brother Madziko, and sister Dorothy. A fifth sibling, a brother, died last year because there was no money to pay for medicine to treat his malaria.

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A pastor friend of mine (who oversees a mission organization pairing US partners with orphans in nearby Rwanda) is paying Patrick’s tuition each semester, with whatever money he makes from part-time side-work reselling vintage items he finds in thrift stores, and other “found” money that materializes on occasion.

A few people in one of the small congregations I serve are pitching-in to provide educational uniforms and fees, as well as a small amount of money for food, for his two youngest siblings. Without funds for their education, they have been unable to attend school.  Thandie, Patrick’s oldest sister, has finished secondary school and dreams of attending university to become a licensed caregiver for people with special needs (mentally and physically challenged), but there are no funds for her college education now.

This picture is of Patrick and two other orphans from his community. When he was home on break from school this week, he met these two, six year-old Innocent, and nine year-old Innocecia. He spent his own money to buy them clothes, shoes, books, school supplies, and food.

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Whenever I imagine that I don’t have enough money to share with others, Patrick’s story helps me keep things in perspective. It reminds me that the human heart holds the world’s greatest treasures: love, compassion, and generosity.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins


Saturday

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What did they do,
on that first Jewish Sabbath
following the Thursday
of arrest and humiliation;
following the Friday
of trial and mocking and
scourging and flesh-piercing?

Promises for the third day
were long-tossed out
with the other rubbish,
their possibility extinguished
by the agonizing gore
of public crucifixion.

Perhaps that Saturday was one
when sorrow's adrenaline gave out,
leaving them motionless on the floor,
dry tears invisibly streaming down
the gullies grief had gouged
in their cheeks.

Maybe they drifted off
into exhaustion disguised as sleep,
only to bolt upright at random intervals,
wishing for slumbering dreams
of hope and waking nightmares
of memory to exchange places.

You would think,
whatever else was done,
said, and felt,
they could easily be convinced
that celestial bodies
were frozen in the sky,
if not backtracking.

It appears as if rehearsing
the pedantic ritual 
for burial and body preparation
may have been their only respite,
its numbing repetition requiring
just enough mental and emotional capital
to hypnotically rock them
toward tomorrow.

Will our Saturday ever end?

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


Change of Heart

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“Give us something to cheer about!”, the crowd cajoles. “We are in need of hosanna –  of being delivered on the spot – so let’s get moving!”

“Look what I have for you.” the voice trembles at first, then crescendos, “I have attacked an enemy with brute military might!”

“Is there gore, and blood? Can we do a victory dance?”

“Yes! Stomach-turning violence and rivers of blood. Let the spoils of celebration be gathered!”

“Let the banshee cry! Let reveling be unleashed!”

“But earlier in the week you had a different master; one who healed the sick, fed the hungry, invited the uninvited, and loved the unlovable. What of him?”

“His ways are arduous, expecting our abundance to feed the hungry, calling us to love our enemies, asking difficult questions of our choices and allegiance. Who knew being neighbors would be so complicated?!”

“I would never ask such challenging things of you. All empire asks is your unquestioned allegiance, your willingness to join and support the force, and a few other minor details in the fine print. You’ll learn about them later.”

“We are in!”

“The one you paraded into town on Sunday; do you know how dangerous he is? He’s a threat to all we’re trying to amass. As long as he’s around, you’ll always struggle, not just with how to treat your neighbor, but also with how far your neighborhood extends.”

“Ah, we see what you mean. In that case, by all means, let’s nip it in the bud, once and for all.”

“And by that, you mean?…”

The crowd roared, “Nail him to a tree! String him up! Give him the needle! Pull the switch! Ready, aim, fire!”

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


Deeper

FullSizeRender (68)This one was written in 2015

 

How can we more fully move
beyond a respect for the flag
and knee-jerk patriotism
to a discussion of the actions
of a government driven,
not by a desire for liberty
and justice for all,
but by the fear, greed,
and homogeneity of a few?

If our culture is going
to change for the better,
we're going to have to create
a safe environment
for deeper conversations.

We're going to have to face,
admit, and address
our own comfort and complicity
in the power structures that exist.

We're going to have to live glocally –
thinking globally and acting locally.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Looming

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Photo by Anne Shurley



The world is full
of three kinds of people:

[1] The one man (Yeah,
it’s most certainly a male.)
who's more convinced
than anyone else that
all of the privilege
and power he wields
is rightfully his, and his alone.

[2] The yet-to-be-jaded children
whose bones have not
developed a single sliver
of brittle entitlement.

[3] All the rest, whose worldview
lies somewhere on the spectrum
between the other two;

a perch that’s narrower
than we might imagine,
and heavily tilted toward
our own experiences.

We are all a lot closer
to one another than we imagine;
our common humanity
capable of weaving unbreakable
bonds of hope.

Our stories, the loom upon
which the warp and weft
of this tapestry are created.
Are we ready to listen?

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


Falling

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When your heart flutters
for the plight
of some other species,
when your wallet falls
readily open
for helpless and abused animals,

by all means,
give of yourself
in ways promising
to make the world more whole.

And when your breathing
levels out again,
giving you opportunity
for reflection,

ask yourself how
you might interpolate
such far-flung love
to those whose DNA
and messy life
are intertwined with,
if not strangling your own.

Love, however it begins,
whether near or far,
is the creature for and
in whom we exist.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Somebody Else’s Babies

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It's a convenient way
to distance ourselves
from both blame and responsibility;

"Somebody else"
is a sly way of saying,
"Don't look at me!"
But it actually makes me
want to stare; to stare and ask,
"Just who do we think we aren't?"

No matter how many barriers
with which we desperately
surround ourselves –
racial, economic, national, religious –
our shared DNA
of biology and spirituality
denies every construct of "other."

If we aren't our sister's keeper,
whatever else we're keeping
isn't worth it.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Only

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Photo by DeEtta Harris Jenkins

 

There's a race going on, alright.
And the people who are trying
their damnedest to win it
are the ones who're missing
everything along the way:

sunrises and sunsets
with their daily-repeated,
yet once-in-a-lifetime
explosion of color and light;

rocks shaped like hearts,
four-leaf clovers, and 
even three-leaf clovers
whose green is gift in itself;

clouds who momentarily
form themselves into memories
from our forgotten dreams;

cats, dogs, and
other domestic animals
who entertain us
with their mischievous antics;

wild animals whose
majesty and mystery
lift us out of our myopic frenzy.

That doesn't even get
to the people along the way:

ones whose uniqueness
we mistake for ordinary;

ones who smile
for no discernible reason;

ones who volunteer help
without expectation of reward;

ones who inspire us
by the tenacity of their
own anonymous struggle.

In our measuring,
calculating society,
we call all these little things.
Remind us daily that
they're really the only things.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

For These Times

Prayers of the People for January 29, 2017.

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Photo by Lizzie Mazariegos

We live, O God,
 in a fearful and divided culture;
  separated, not just
   from other faiths and nations,
    but also from the people
     who live in our neighborhoods,
     work with us,
    go to school with us,
   and even from some of the ones
  with whom we break bread
on a regular basis.

Our faith's rich tradition
 calls us away
  from such anxiety and estrangement,
   reminding us that we are
    all in this together;
     and contrary to Cain's
   distancing of himself
  from Abel's buried body,
 we ARE our neighbors' keeper, 
in neighborhoods without borders.

We pray, O Lord,
 for guidance and wisdom,
  as we navigate our personal,
 community, state,
and national roadmaps.

Show us the narrow
 highway of love,
  even as it winds through
 the challenging mountains
of relationship, listening, and sacrifice.

Give us feathers on our skin,
 bones hollow yet strong,
  courage of the clouds,
   so we won't be pulled long
   earthward by gravity's fear,
  but freed instead to float
 on rising currents of hope,
higher into grace's atmosphere. 

If only it were so easy,
 O God, like poetry rolling
  off our tongues,
 whisking us to happily ever after;
but we know better.

Our lives bear the bruises
 of broken hearts;
 our families carry the scars
of shattered dreams.

Give us this day,
 O storytelling dream-catcher,
 both tenacity and tenderness
for the living of these days.

Give us the gifts we need
 to open the doors of welcome
  to a world hungry and thirsty
 to know that your story
is also their story.

These and all prayers
 we ask in the name
  of the one who fed, healed,
  and welcomed the broken
 to a table of abundance;
Jesus, the Christ. Amen.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins