Respecting the awesome power of words!

Posts tagged “love

One Foot

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Shadows cast themselves
across the path,
entirely convinced
they are chains,
if not barbed wire,
fully capable
of strangling all movement
in any direction.

But I, vessel
of light and dark,
fire and ice,
have burst
across their boundaries
time and again,
brimming with hope
in a sea of despair,

not because
of who I am,
but because
of what love’s done;
not because
of what I’ve done,
but because
of who grace is.

Let us,
both you and I,
break into
an all-out sprint,
flinging ourselves across
these penumbral barriers
like Olympians
at the finish line,
leaning into
and breaking the tape
of victory’s wreath.

This is the courage
by which we 
who’ve plumbed
the depths of despair
keep putting one foot
in front of the other,

because our deeps
keep telling us
there’s not only light
beyond the valley
of the shadow of darkness,
but life
in its richest manifestation.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

 

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4 Steps

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Love
Betrayal
Death
Resurrection;
four steps
of the dance of life.

Forth and back we go,
moment by moment,
step by step;
dips, turns, spins;
often breathless,
even dizzy.

Seldom are the people
in our inner circle
all on the same measure,
much less the same note.

Rarely do our tempos coincide.

But if we pay attention,
and hold one another
with tender, open hands,
the dissonance
of our differences
is significantly overshadowed
by the rhythmic sway
of the cosmos’ heartbeat.

Thump, thump.
Thump, thump.

Breathe.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

Three Days

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Or is it forever?

Since creation’s dawning,
dirt — humus —
has absorbed whatever liquid
gravity pulls toward earth’s core.

Grief trickling from all eyes;
brow-sweat of every effort;
life-source of each animal;
all soaked into the soil
as thirsty sponge
drawing all toward the center.

Gethsemane could be
no exception.

Anxiety of relational rending;
exertion of mortal desire;
arterial drip of ethereal hope;
all lay the groundwork
for betrayal, struggle,
and surrender.

Then there followed
three days of hell.

They stare at the ground,
waiting for creation
to happen all over again;

all senses and emotions
begging for dirt to be shaped
and breathed into once more;
afraid that it won’t,
yet scared to death that it will;

and the trinity of human desire
saturates the ground
over and over and over again:
tears, sweat, and blood.

Luke 22:44
In his anguish 
he prayed more earnestly, 
and his sweat became 
like great drops of blood 
falling down on the ground.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

Anyone

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And a voice thundered
from the clouds —
or was it a whisper in the dark —
or maybe both,

     “I love you, 
     each and every one of you, 
     so much that I refuse 
     to let anything 
     stand between us. 

    Even if you are so disbelieving 
    of this love and so afraid 
    of its unconditionality 

   that you kill the very flesh 
   of mine that I sent 
   to reveal it, 

  I will not give up on you, 
  but will keep pouring grace 
  like an everflowing stream. 

 It will flow through, around, 
 and into every crevice 
 of your life, whether 
 you’re paying attention or not, 
 until one day, you finally 
 give up on all the lesser gods 
 of competition, comparison, 
 amassing, distancing, 
 fortressing, and separation.”

“This is how much God loved the world: 
He gave his Son, his one and only Son. 
And this is why: so that no one 
need be destroyed; 
by believing in him, 
anyone can have 
a whole and lasting life.”
John 3:16 (MSG)

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

Dominance and Power

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The only dominance and power
  Christ intended for his followers
    to wield was the dominance
      and power of love.

      In order to practice love,
    we must set aside
  all other vestiges
of control and influence.

Don’t bring your bomb
  to a dialogue
    that can be diffused with understanding.

    Don’t bring your gun
  to a discussion
that can be mitigated with hope.

Don’t bring your knife
  to a confrontation
    that can be deescalated with listening.

    Don’t bring the jawbone of an ass
  to a conflict
that can be reconciled with grace.

Don’t bring your fear
  to a conversation
    that can be healed with love.

    Love is a tool, a gift,
  more powerful
than any weapon ever conceived.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

 


Prayer

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    As I watched video from a group
   of people offering a vitriolic prayer
  for violent success in their
imminent encounter with others
  who were identified as different,
   I contemplated the definition
    and purpose of such supplication.

  Perhaps the only thing we can say
 for certain about prayer is that
it is a petition offered on a level
 other than the realm
  in which we physically function.

  It can be a request for self-validation,
a plea for deliverance,
  or many things in-between.

  It might be offered
to the creator of the universe,
a deity of our own construction,
  or an unknown entity.

   We all do it, and probably
  more often than we realize;
sometimes with prescribed
  forms of hope, and other times
   with generic invocations of desperation.

To say that ours have been answered
is to lay claim to their recipient’s legitimacy.

  It seems to me that the genuine mettle
of our god surfaces, however,
not when results coincide
  with our requests, but when they don’t.

  Who and where is your god
when your petitions disappear
  into the abyss of the unrequited?

  There, in the vulnerable nakedness
of “No.” or “Not yet.”,
there remains the possibility
  of divine presence or absence.

    If you find yourself,
   in the deepest darkness,
  convinced that you’re walking alone,
you might want to consider
a different way of sensing,
  an alternate trajectory
   for your pleas and praise,
    or both.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

Get Thee Behind Me, G!

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“Jesus is bringing in 
another kingdom!” 
he declared.

“What kind of kingdom?” 
I wondered.

“A fierce, brutal kingdom!” 

“Hmmm.” I said.
“We’ve already had 
a bate of those monarchies. 
They’re a dime a dozen, 
piled high with carnage 
and destruction, 
toppled and reinvented 
like an unstoppable wave 
of serial monogamists. 
What if Jesus had something 
altogether different in mind?”

“Like what?” he asked,
his voice dripping
with doubt and suspicion.

When they heard
that he taught
as one with authority,
the generals and the politicians
and the landed gentry
and a few other wannabes
who were skilled
at masquerading
came to see him.

“We have come 
to do your bidding, Jesus. 
Your word is our command. 
Speak and we will marshal 
our troops and resources 
on your behalf.” 

His voice was unmistakably
firm and unyielding,
“I have come to proclaim 
a new way of being; 
a community where the tools 
you have come to treasure 
will be exposed 
as impotent and irrelevant; 
a neighborhood 
where connection reigns supreme.” 

“But, rabbi,” 
they chimed in chorus,
“we have all this might 
and power to wield 
on behalf of your kingdom!” 

“Get thee behind me, G! 
For I came to slice you 
from the middle 
of the violent concept 
of kingdom, 
and usher in God’s realm 
of kin-dom.” 

One by one,
with heads drooped
and shoulders stooped,
they slouched
toward their fortresses,
oblivious to the way
love was already
crumbling their walls.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

Foundations

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More than a dozen years ago, as a friend’s dad faced chemotherapy, I envisioned and wrote about this scene:

 

I see him standing
on a stormy beach.
It is a place
he’s been before.

The waves are tall,
strong, and fast.
Sand is washing out
from under his feet.
Anxiety is, understandably,
rising with the tide.

I also see a strong,
enormous hand scooping him up
and holding him safely.

Where the receding sand
washed away,
large foundation stones
are moved into place.

The cornerstone has
a familiar look and scent;
the look of compassion
and the scent of love.

When the foundation is secure,
the protective hand sets him
back down onto the rocks.

May Christ be for you all,
and may he give you each
the hope, strength,
and courage to be
for one another,
pillars of hope and
foundations of comfort
during the raging storm
of chemotherapy.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

Reflexive

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(when Psalm 22 stares back at you from the mirror)

 

"My sons and daughters,
why have you forsaken them?
Why are you so far from responding
to the their cries and groanings?

They beseech you in daylight,
wailing at the wall you’ve constructed
to separate their lives
from your comfort and security.

By night, their pleas waft
on smoldering embers
of their deconstruction."

The victors have constructed
a lovely narrative of deliverance;
their cry, God’s response;
like a sacred vending machine,
fed with the coin of deserving.

But what of those who are judged
to be subpar, those whose DNA,
language, or faith heritage
come from beyond
the 23&me dream package?

What of those who showed up
for work or school or worship,
oblivious to the call to pack heat
for self-preservation;
those who trusted that
the least of these, the lambs,
would be protected
by the Great Shepherd’s shepherds?

They counted on us to carry them;
to be there, not just in the delivery room,
but at the grocery store checkout,
the public library, the classroom,
the youth group meeting, the job fair.

Is our absence because
we don’t really care, or because
we’re actually the carnivores
circling ‘round them?

Their tongues glue to the roof
of their mouths, like jerky
dried for consumption,
salted with the tears of their anguish.

Their skin taut, revealing
a cadaverous collection of bones.

The coyotes circle,
yipping and nipping,
casting lots for what little remains.

The dream we sold them
promised they’d have a shot;
guaranteed dignity, respect,
even opportunity;
but the fine print and disclaimer
excluded them for myriad reasons,
mostly because we feared
that including them
would cost us too much.

We are slow to catch on, O Lord;
blind and deaf and too scared
to realize that tossing them
to the curb is infinitely more costly
than we ever dreamed,
because it has cost us our very souls.

Is there still time, still hope,
still opportunity to pull
more chairs ‘round the table?

If we feed those who’ve been starved,
welcome those who’ve been exiled,
humble ourselves before you and pray,
will you make your light shine 
upon us all, once again?

We wrap ourselves
with the sackcloth of confession,
and dust ourselves
with the ash of contrition,
O holy one, in hopes
that our forsaking
will not become our forsakenness.

Deliver us, we pray,
that we may live
to proclaim your story
to generations yet to come.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

 


Spoken Hearts

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Those who are
 vocabulary-challenged,
  and/or overcome by fear,
  often feel forced
 to abandon oral communication
in favor of violence;

the bravest, or perhaps
 the most desperate,
perpetrate physical aggression;

those with lesser gumption
 often assault language itself,
  waging battle against long-held meaning,
 gas-lighting society
into lexical confusion.

The rest of us
 are then tasked
  to hold firm
   to the tension
    between conflict
     forced upon us,
    and the eternal possibility
   of language,
  refusing to abandon
 the common ground
of our shared meanings.

In the end,
 war’s horror cannot
  stand on its own;
  and words, with their
 community interpretations,
will win,

because our common story
 outlives every other blitzkrieg,
  and love’s vocal evocation
 eventually woos
even frozen, trembling hearts.

          And now faith, hope, 
          and love abide, these three; 
          and the greatest of these is love. 
          (1 Corinthians 13:13)

© 2018 Todd Jenkins