Thursday, August 27, 2015

Even Closer

Photo by Jennie Roberts Jenkins

I thought you weren't there
   because I couldn't feel you
      for the intensity of my circumstances.

The feelings of your gentle, general
   presence were wiped away
      by the trauma I faced.

As I learn to read the story
   over again, I see you are everywhere
      so close and surrounding me,
         especially when night's at its darkest.

What I thought and felt
   as your absence was
      an intensity of presence
         for which I had no reference point.

"Trust" you whisper. "Hold on,
   because I'll never let go of you."


© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Unfathomed

Photo by Jason Goodman

         Once you catch even
         the tiniest fragmentary glimpse
         of divine mystery,

      it becomes crystal clear
      that all methods,
      measurements, and paradigms

   for describing God
   are woefully inadequate
   to carry the meaning
   of Love and Grace
   all by themselves.

Even if we piled every
current understanding
on top of all the holy
descriptions of history,
they still wouldn't reach
half way up Grace's hillside.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Other


The greatest seduction
in seeking solutions
to our problems –
collectively and individually –

is wedging enough
visible difference between
our shared humanity
to create an other
onto whom we can offload
all blame and responsibility.

Politics, religion, and
most institutions succumb
to this temptation all too often,
neglecting two components
of hope and resolution:

our own complicity
in the story, and
our universal need
for and responsibility
to one another.

Reconciliation and way forward
require cessation of divisiveness,
greasing of the gate hinges, and
rekindling of community's flame.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Monday, August 24, 2015

Student

Photo by Lee Lindsey McKinney

“I’m a student of life!”
she proclaims, as if
graduation were the farthest
thing from her mind –
or at least from her heart.

   How does this attitude work
   in the real world,
   where “control issues”
   pop-up at every corner,
   insisting we get a grip?

      In life’s adolescence –
      a period not necessarily confined
      to years ending in “teen” –
      hands and minds squeeze racquetballs
      in order to strengthen their clench.

   Suffocation begins when
   a fourth and fifth “R” –
   Relationships and Religion –
   succumb to the hands of control;
   there is no room for love,
   much less for God, if we’re unable
   to liberate the marionette strings.

Learning to relax and release
is a lifelong course;
a crucial one for receiving
a degree of/in Grace.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins


Saturday, August 22, 2015

Quarter Note


Music's math has the ability
   to expand the reach of poetry.

Melodies and harmonies
   are divine magic by themselves,
      but add the surprise
         of lyrics' overlay, and fresh air
            breathes in and out
               of places we've forgotten exist.

The notes' fractional pacing,
   woven with poetry's minimalism,
      lets words be absorbed
         in our core, storying hope and
            healing in ways surpassing amazing.

A good 3-5 minute song,
   with a depth of both tune
      and lyrics, can deliver
         gospel truth in 1/4 the time,
            and often more effectively,
               than a decent sermon.


© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Friday, August 21, 2015

Adapt-Olympics

Photo by Owen Jenkins

Somewhere around my fifth birthday, my older brother and I received a Pitch-Back as a gift. It's a trampoline of sorts that sits at an upright angle. When a ball is thrown against the mesh netting, the recoil action bounces the ball back to the thrower. Woven into the center of the netting is a rectangular target, or strike zone.

Over a five or six year period, I honed my pitching skill and my imagination in our back yard. Stepping off the proper distance between the plate and mound for Little League, I spent countless afternoons striking out the likes of Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, and even Babe Ruth, in my mind. Though I didn't understand the science of it, my body’s pitching motion was developing muscle memory, which still allows me, to this day, to throw a baseball with considerable consistency.

Throughout my life, I've learned to throw many things with accuracy. It's a game my brother and I often played. We'd grab a dirty shirt or pair of socks from the floor, wad them into a "ball", step across the room, and see who could most accurately toss them into the hamper. We'd do the same thing, competing to see who could ring the trash can with crumpled paper, bottles, cans, and pretty much anything we could find.

I usually won. Of course, my brother is not around to contradict me, but it's true anyway; not because I was a superior athlete, but because I spent more than five years of my life in the back yard with the Pitch-Back. And because my brain seems to have a pretty good auto-calculation function that adjusts for things like weight, distance, and even drag/wind-resistance.

What difference does this make? Unless the International Olympic Committee decides to create an adaptability event, where athletes toss random objects from varying distances into a variety of goals and cups, this particular skill seems to be superfluous. But it's not.

Okay, the physical skill itself probably has extremely limited application. But the concept translates well into organizational leadership, especially in the church. Though the church you serve and call home may not overzealously embrace a "We've always done it this way!" vision for the future, such an approach is a common and comfortable mode in institutional religion.

To quote an old hymn, many denominations and congregations rally 'round the cry, "It was good for Paul and Silas, and it's good enough for me." without realizing that Paul and Silas practiced the gospel in ways that were specific to their culture and context, neither of which are similar to twenty-first century USA.

Changes in technology and culture are both accelerating and unsettling. In order for the church to remain faithful and relevant, a balance between tradition and adaptation must be maintained. Here are some of the key questions we need to ask:

  • What are the core components of our faith?
  • How do we practice these?
  • Why do we practice these?
  • How can we best convey these first three answers to the current generation?
  • With respect to the gospel, what's the difference between the method and the message?

I believe a solid grounding in our faith practices is what provides us with spiritual muscle memory to effectively proclaim the message, and an openness to flexibility and creativity will allow us to adapt the method so that it reaches people in our current culture.

Let the conversation begin, or continue, whichever the case may be!

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Government

"Let our hearts not be hardened 
to those living on the margin.
There is room at the table for everyone.
This is where it all begins, 

this is how we gather in.
There is room at the table for everyone."
(from Carrie Newcomer's "Room at the Table")


Why do we need it?
How much is enough?

The irony of our current
political climate's disdain
for government is this:

the more ruthless and self-serving
the monetarily-motivated become,
the more government we need
to prevent mortal pillaging
of the powerless and voiceless;

and the more government
complexity/bureaucracy we have,
the less flexible and
efficient it becomes.

Privatization for profit
is not the answer.

Public discourse and
community restoration,
where all are invited
to the table, are.

Where is the off-button
for our escalating insanity?
Will we find both it and
the courage to act
more responsibly before
an implosion point is reached?


© 2015 Todd Jenkins