Respecting the awesome power of words!

Posts tagged “self-examination

Church Whisperer?

zchurchwhisperer

There’s a certain range
of sociocultural behavior
and interaction that’s healthy.
Venturing too far from it
risks isolation and estrangement.

Growl at or feel threatened by guests?
Bark at every unexpected sound,
cowering in fear behind
a facade of bravado,
biting even the hand
that feeds you
when you’re surprised?
Constantly and inappropriately
marking territory?

Three questions,
regularly whispered
on the linear plane,
help identify areas
for examination:
What are we (not) doing?
Why are we (not) doing it?
How’s that working out for us?

The foundational whispers,
however, are neither
horizontal, nor sounded
across human vocal chords;
but vertical, and received
into human hearts:

Why were you placed
into this time and space?
Toward what and whom
are you being called
by love and grace?

We are created, then,
less as church whisperers,
than those to and through whom
the divine whispers.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 

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Let Freedom Ring

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They didn’t and don’t put
their lives on the line
to save a flag or
to demand we all stand
or revere a song;

but to give citizens of their nation —
all citizens — the chance
to enjoy lives of dignity,
respect, and opportunity.

When forces within a national culture,
economy, and infrastructure
thwart such freedom for some,
pushing them to call attention
to such incongruity by the exercise
of a first amendment right,
it’s not flag or nation being disrespected,
but the notion that one experience
is the only one that’s normative.

Waving patriotism, nationalism,
or soldiers’ service and sacrifice
as objection to the objection,
are red herrings, as is the suggestion
that there are less offensive methods,
since acceptability is a big part
of what renders outcry ineffective.

Instead of attempting to  
to force all into lockstep,
may our discomfort drive us
toward the recognition
of systemic injustice,
and to a table where ears lean in
to understand, rather than recoil
to fashion argument and disagreement.

Dismissing and refusing to listen
to the stories of protesters
is the surest way to escalate
refraction of their experience
while delegitimizing their lives.

To object to dissent is to miss
the whole point of freedom.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


weR1

trails2

Throughout history, people
have cordoned themselves off
by self-identification in layers,
climbing and clamoring to stand
on top of something or someone –
anyone or anything – just as long
as they do not believe
they are at the bottom.

In so doing, the bodies beneath
their feet are eventually construed
to be less than human.

The hardest lesson of all,
and one that upends
the whole fragile pile,
unfolds when we wake up
and realize that dehumanizing itself
is what sentences dehumanizers
to their own judgment;

and those whose hope, 
no matter how fragile and
compressed by the vitriol,
has held through the storm,
are the only ones who can lift us
all toward the sacred purpose
of our shared humanity.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Empty and Broken

zempty&broken

In a culture hell-bent on grasping,
patching, and covering up,
faith's call to empty ourselves
and embrace our brokenness
is arduous; but

as long as we are full –
of ourselves or our privilege
or anything else – and as long
as we pretend that we are flawless,
there is neither room nor path
for divine grace's infusion to us
and effusion from us.

Psalm 46:10's beginning statement
is often translated,
"Be still, and know
that I am God."
Its first Hebrew word, רָפָה (rapha)
can also be translated
"relax" or "let go".

Let go – empty yourself
of all you're trying to make
of yourself –  and know
that I am God.

We are never closer
to holy ground than when
we are standing
on common ground.

Being fully human is the result
of recognizing sparks
of both the self and the divine
in others, especially in those
we've been taught
to despise and devalue.

This may be the only
vantage point from which
we can truly ditch
all fear of scarcity,
all inflated pretense
of competitively-induced
self-worthiness and earning,

finally and fully relinquishing us all
to God's abundant mercy and grace.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


Circumference

zcircumference

Perhaps the human penchant
for scapegoating,
enemy-identifying, denial, and
refusal to accept responsibility,
would be a little less surprising
if we were willing and able
to admit the struggle between
good and evil going on
in each of our hearts
all day long and
most of the night.

The more and longer
we bifurcate reality,
conveniently hopping just over
the good/evil dividing line
each time we redraw it,
the deeper the chasm
of separation we dig.

If ever there was a time
for etching lines –
a season I cannot imagine –  
it is now long past.

Hope calls us to be
making circles, each one
more expansive that the last,
until all stories fit
within the circumference.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


Gospel

zgospel

We live and breathe, O God,
in a world increasingly beholden,
not to the gospels of Matthew,
Mark, Luke, and John,
but rather to the gospels of division,
fear, hatred, and violence.

Remind us today, and each day
of our earthly sojourn,
that you did not create us
for such divisive, loveless,
hopeless, and destructive purposes.

Give us courage to speak
your truth to privilege and power –
the privilege and power
we've been granted,
the privilege and power
at the top of the constitutional
and governmental food chain,
and all privilege and power in-between.

Give us compassion to feel
the anxiety and hurt rising up
from those who regularly find themselves
at the short end of the stick
and the end of the line,
with targets on their backs,
because of the practice of their faith,
the color of their skin,
the nation of their birth, or
the configuration of their chromosomes.

Give us wisdom to recognize
the greed and indifference
that turn a blind eye
for profit's sake.

Give us integrity to live into
our created purpose,
so we may speak justice,
walk humility, and breathe hope.

As followers of the resurrected one,
we are called to be his voice,
his hands, his feet.

Show us how to live and love,
so we and our broken world
can find ourselves
pieced together by and
mortared with grace.

So let it be spoken,
so let it be lived,
so let it be done.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Bated Breath

Carie Turner

Photo by Carie Rickenbrode Turner

 

(In our culture, these three – institution, religion, and faith – are formed into an awkward trinity. How do we see this three-legged monstrosity functioning in the world today?)

 

Every organization sees 
itself as institutional.

Every house of worship sees 
itself as religious.  

Every generation of faithers – 
those who take comfort 
beneath the banner of faith – 
sees itself as faithful. 

The age-old question 
of existential purpose, 
however, is not about 
perpetuity, ritual, or practice, 
but surrender, connection, transformation. 

The question we need 
to ask ourselves 
is not, "How can we 
assure the continued existence 
of our institution, 
the ongoing practice 
of our religion, and 
the future exercise 
of our faith?" 

It is, instead these three:

"Is our institution secure enough 
and honest enough
to build upon the foundation 
of its past?" 

“Is our religion aware enough 
to distinguish between 
convention and tradition, 
jettisoning the former 
when it stands in the way 
of giving breath and life 
to the latter?"

"Is our faith courageous enough 
to allow us to surrender 
our ties to empire, economy, and privilege, 
in order to be shaped into agents 
of hope for all creation?" 

The world waits 
for our answers 
with bated breath. 

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Funny

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Mixing the entertainment business
with religious practice
is usually funny,
in more than one sense
of the word.

It's funny in the sense
that you can't predict
how the amalgam will be received –
whose message will excite the masses.

It's also funny because it's hard
to tell who's laughing with you,
who's laughing at you, and
who's laughing to keep from crying.

Many will be laughing.
That's about the only thing
that you can take to the bank,
which is really the bottom line
for this duo anyway.
Isn't it?

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Death-Defying

GJK 36Photo by Gay Jenkins Howell

The truth of Adam and Eve,
a friend told me, is
"A fig leaf is no substitute
for a therapist."

So much here to feast on;
so much here to run from;
so much here too real to face,
yet too close to reject.

Let us dare to live and breathe
in a naked now, O holy one,
not as tawdry exploitation
of bodies as objects,

but as death-defying risk
of abandonment to no less
and no more than our light-reflecting
and shadow-casting selves;

for the truth of creation's story
cannot be told
without such revealing.

Let both our poetry
and our prose
stand and fall
as blood-pumping gamble
of allowing the narrative
of who we are
to pulse out of
our own woundedness,

for it is in and from
our stories that we'll live
and die and be resurrected,
not just in the end,
but also in the breath
of their telling.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Forgiveness Road

zforgivenessroad

One step at a time;
never leave out a step;
never skip ahead;
start over as often
as you can.

First, we must recognize
our need to be forgiven;
soul-searching honesty
about pain caused
to self and others.

Second, we must recognize
God's offer of forgiveness;
offered, not because
of who we are or
what we've accomplished,
but because of who God is.

Third, we must accept
that offer of forgiveness;
accept it deep
in our bones,
in deeper places than
we ever knew we had.

Fourth, we must embody
the gift of forgiveness,
in our walking,
in our talking,
in our seeing and hearing,
in our breathing.

Fifth, we must
live forgiveness forward,
offering it to others
as freely as we received it;
not because they've earned it,
but because neither of us can;
not because they deserve it,
but precisely because
none of us do. 

© 2017 Todd Jenkins