Friday, July 3, 2015

Illumination

Candles are a safe,
controllable method
of being reminded
of fire's two essential qualities:
heat and light;

and with these hi-tech,
dripless varieties,
it's almost as if
they burn but don't burn.

We no longer need them
for their light, now that
we have electricity
to incandescence and beyond.

But our hearts are hungry
for what's lurking beneath
our own shadows;

to let you claim and redeem
the parts of us that we're afraid
to let anyone else see,
because those parts
don't measure-up
to the world's demand
for perfection.

In the half-light of our lives,
O God, claim us,
redeem us, send us;
through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.



© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Lighthouse


Today's anger is not
entirely about what's been
said and done today.

Today's tears do not flow
exclusively from what we have
experienced in the moment.

The river of life
has many tributaries,
and all of them
create the flow in which
we live and breathe.

Recognizing the currents
and their sources,
where to paddle and
when to float,

are the keys to not being
carried so far out to sea
that we lose sight
of the lighthouse.
Photo by Jerry Gorman


© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Whisper

Photo by Kendall Cox

No matter how loudly
you speak about God and your
religious practices and beliefs –
no matter how sound your orthodoxy –

   your voice is a fragile whisper
   when compared to the
   voluminous-shout
   of how you live with
   and treat other people –
   your visible orthopraxy.

      That's the reason Jesus couldn't
      separate the commands
      to love God and love neighbor.
      Integrity of faith requires both;
      one cannot exist without the other.

         © 2015 Todd Jenkins


Monday, June 29, 2015

Facing Reality

Hurt and Anger are opposite spheres of a small world named Fear.  It is a world that masquerades as ultimate, unchangeable reality, though it is none of the three.  Much confusion arises when human suffering is not differentiated from fear.  Suffering is as real– as human– as we can get.  Fear is a magnified illusion that rarely, if ever, delivers on its promise that our obeisance to its anxious pleas for hiding and separation will protect us from more suffering. 

Suffering touches deep places of body, mind, and spirit.  Its integration into our whole being is precisely what makes us human.  Its presence offers us the opportunity to become what God intended.  This journey of becoming fully human – the trip we call life –  travels through the fields of suffering. In one form or another, suffering is life-long and never easy.



Fear is the result of being overwhelmed by the mystery and enormity of human experience and life’s transformational capacity.  It is what causes us to shrink into a translucent wisp of lesser possibilities.  We succumb because we mistakenly believe that “less” will somehow be more manageable.  In reality we are not managers at all.  When it comes to suffering, management is not an option; it is a denial.  Pain may be managed, but suffering cannot.

Hurt is an inward-turning, victimized response to suffering.  With it, we personalize the pain and seek to find a simple and quick way out, most often at the expense of others.  We often recognize our own ability to self-inflict physical injury, whether it is simple clumsiness and carelessness or more pernicious masochism. 

Emotional, spiritual, and relational injury, however, are most often blamed on others. This is where hurt comes in. When we choose to cast all blame for pain and suffering beyond ourselves (including blaming it on God), we create a lightning rod which cannot help but cause ourselves to be the ground. That is to say, abdicating all responsibility for our own pain is the surest path to never healing.

Anger is a cousin to Fear’s denial.  It is an outward explosion of Fear.  With it, we attempt to create a force-field of protection against sufferings that we have not yet examined.  It’s a smokescreen that attempts to re-focus attention away from our own vulnerability toward the actions of others, and its trigger is seldom limited to immediate words and actions.  Most often, it’s an accumulated reaction to a host of unexamined encounters.

Anger often masquerades in religious uniform. We justify it with phrases like “righteous indignation” convincing ourselves that we have a moral right and responsibility to unleash our anger, so long as it is on behalf of someone else.  The chances of our righteous indignation being justified are far greater when it is expressed on behalf of voiceless, powerless people, and far less when it is used to protect Jesus or the church from people we believe are fundamentally different from us.

Sometimes righteous indignation is a sacred exercise.  Other times it is only a risky shortcut through unknown territory. Unexamined piety’s anger chills the soul, crusting another layer of resentment between one heart and another.



I would like to tell you that I am at peace with my life’s suffering, that I never allow my pain to turn into hurt and blame, that I never project anger on those near and dear to me, and that my righteous indignation is always sacredly appropriate. But that would not be facing reality. When today’s actions and reactions are better than yesterday’s, I know that grace has triumphed. Other days, I pray for mercy.


© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Love Grows


How simple it once was—diapers 
and meals on one end
awe, admiration, and 
total dependency on the other;
then the stretching began—
curiosity, personality, disagreement,
anxiety, joy, hopes, 
dreams, “protective custody”

One awed at individuation; 
fearful of risk, dangers;
another trying on ideas and 
beliefs like hats in a haberdashery.
Runaway horse crashing through 
deep woods on a new moon;
one releasing from without, 
clutching from within.

Youth imagines an inverse relationship 
twixt age and wisdom,
infatuated with today’s grape, 
bored with yesterday’s raisin.
Too busy reinventing the wheel 
to stop and comprehend
the inevitable consequence 
of vinegar or wine in the long run.

We are all easily confused into believing 
that the middle of life
is the heart of the matter—
the place where we imagine ourselves
masters of our own destiny, 
frantically working and deciding,
planning a future that would 
do an investment counselor proud.

Then one day we wake up and 
it’s déjà vu all over again;
dependency creeps surely but 
stealthily back into our lives,
moving us toward the way 
it was in the beginning.
We can fight it, or recognize 
the gift of human interdependence.

Oh, the pain of holding 
the illusion of self as individual!
Oh, the joy of thread 
that makes it to the loom!
Love grows not so much 
upward and outward
as it weaves us into 
the fabric of life’s circle.



Auditory Space

Photo by Lee Lindsey McKinney

What happens here,
   in the absence
      of spoken words?

The other four physical senses
   get room to grow,
      as well as Spirit.

As vocal chords,
   teeth, tongues, and lips
      cease their synchronized undulation,

the muted path between
   minds and hearts opens
      divulging connections and opportunities
         we've yet the capability to verbalize.

Sometimes we smell or taste truth
   long before we can enunciate it;
      we hear and see things
         far beyond language's limits.

Often, these inarticulate revelations
   must be revisited again and again
      before we're capable of integrating them
         in word and deed, life and love.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Pharisaic

If the church has ever
typed with both hands,
it is in our caricature
of first century Judaism's
institutional professionals.

We condemn their job-class
with generalizations
at our own risk,

unremembering the likes
of Nicodemus, Jairus, and
an unknown host of others

who may well have been willing
to cast aside privilege and
maybe even belief
for a shot at grace.

If we dig deeply enough
into their faults, we just might
realize that, chief among them

is attempting to protect God
by focusing far too exclusively
and confidently on behavior
applicable only to a people
wholly other, which creates barriers
to seeing them as holy other.

E tu, Brute?


© 2015 Todd Jenkins