Saturday, February 28, 2015

Long Shot

It was a long shot; not impossible, but pretty impressive; 447 yards, according to the range-finder. There was a significant breeze, blowing from who-knows-where, for which he had to account. Once she was squarely in the crosshairs, he took two deep breaths, slowly but steadily pursing the second one between his lips.

It seemed like the trigger action was at least three inches long. He was sure she would spook before the powder explosion could push the lead through the barrel and across the chasm that separated them. He swallowed as hard as he could, certain that anything less vigorous would have resulted in him choking on his own heart.

She dropped instantly, giving up the ghost almost before her head bounced off the ground. He raced toward his prey, first sliding down one side of the canyon, then struggling up the other. By the time he reached her, his heart felt like it would leap from his throat again, this time from anaerobic shock.

Five more minutes passed before he could think and breathe at the same time. He took the selfie-stick out of his backpack and attached his phone to it for the first time. The first few attempts were blurry, partly because he was in such a hurry that autofocus didn't have time to adjust, and partly because his hands were still trembling.

When he finally got the shot he wanted, he uploaded it to hootsuite, so that it could be uniformly spread on all his social media platforms at just the right time. He struggled to compose the perfect text to accompany the photo, uncharacteristically  at a loss for words. Finally, inspiration came:

"I've pursued her relentlessly through the wilderness for nearly 40 days. At several points, I almost convinced myself that she didn't exist, but I had to be sure."

The picture's caption simply read: Certitude has finally killed Faith.



© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Friday, February 27, 2015

27¢ part 2

Here’s how the first night’s dream began. I didn’t remember this part until I dreamed it again the second night. The doorbell rang in the middle of the day. My first thought was, “I don’t care what you’re selling. I’m not interested!”

The house was a wreck, as if an epic struggle had taken place and no one bothered to straighten up. I unlocked and opened the door. He just stood there, smiling; no product, no pitch, just a smile. He didn’t have a name badge either, but I knew who he was. I knew because I’ve never been looked at like this before. It wasn’t so much being looked “at” as it was being seen into.

I’ve had people see into me before, but not like this. When others have seen below the surface, their instinct has been recoil. No matter what their mouths say, if you look in their eyes, you see the retreat. Not this one.

In fact, it felt like we were falling into one another; like this being seen – this being known – was an invitation to cease all pretending. I could tell it would have been futile. I felt like a lion tamer hiding a big steak behind my back.

That’s when I started to scramble. My litany of “If onlys” went into overdrive. “If only I’d known you were coming today: I could have finished that DIY den renovation and we would have had a lovely place to visit; I would have prepared Pinterest-worthy hors d’oeuvres to pull out of the oven; I could have read a daily Lenten devotional, so we could discuss it together; or I could have prayed the newspaper, cementing my solidarity with all who have the boot of oppression/injustice on their neck; I would have shaved and put on my best salvage-chic for you.”

I wanted to ask if you’d come back in a few months, or at least tomorrow, so that I could prepare for your arrival. But your eyes said, “Today is the day; now is the time.” Seeing that you weren’t going to give up, I invited you in. As we slowly walked toward the kitchen, I silently rehearsed all of my excuses. “I’m not worthy to be called your child. I’ve wasted so much of that with which you have gifted me…”

Before I could squeeze the first phrase from my lips, you grabbed me and hugged me. I felt the waterfall release, first from my own eyes, down your back; then your own, down mine. I couldn’t tell which of us was holding on more tightly. All I knew is that I never wanted to let go.

Through the veil of tears, I caught a glimpse of my son at the top of the stairs. He was smiling, and then turned to go to his room. A minute or so later, he was bounding down the stairs with one fist clenched.

That’s how the two dimes, one nickel, and two pennies arrived for their dance on the counter. There were no words, at least not out loud. It was as if our hearts suddenly remembered a language all their own; a language I couldn’t remember ever knowing.

Even though my son still seemed to know the language, there were some things he hadn’t yet understood. He was speaking with his heart, but the accents of economy and empire were unmistakable. He may not have known the word "transaction", but he was fully aware of how things worked. Or so he thought.

There was no transaction, at least none in which we could play a part. The rhythm of my heart hesitantly fluttered-out a new word: transformation. We tried it on for size, my son and I, both of us wallowing around inside it like children in their parents’ dress-up clothes. There was no way we could fill it out – at least not now – but it rested well on us in spite of its roominess.

A larger heart percussed a brief message, vibrating us to the core, “It’s a gift, this grace, and all you can do is pay it forward with all that you have, and all that you are, even if it’s 27¢ at a time.” 

This is the thing that God does every day, right before our eyes, whether we are paying attention or not, so we might as well watch.
Photo by Lee Lindsey McKinney

© 2015 Todd Jenkins 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

27¢ part 1

Did you ever have a story run through you that was completely out of your control? It feels like I’m trying to dry my hair in a wind tunnel. Hang on!

It was the second Thursday in Lent. I know that only because a daily devotional I read on social media identifies each day that way. I’m quite sure I couldn’t do that myself. By the third Tuesday in Lent, I’d be so confused I’d already be in the upper room, wondering why Jesus and the disciples hadn’t shown up. I might, even if only for and instant, wonder if I’d been left behind.

My son walked in and plopped two dimes, a nickel, and two pennies that looked like they’ve been through Hell on the counter. Not the run-over-by-a-train kind of Hell that kids sometimes do to coins; but more like a dragged through the coarsest pockets in the roughest places on earth kind of Hell.

My son is 22 years old now, but here he was much younger. He was at that age where truth not only comes out of your mouth naturally, but it also flows from your eyes, your hands, and even your heart, without you even trying. Not that he doesn’t tell the truth now, but this was before he learned how the truth opens windows, and before he saw how doors were closed by falsehood.

This was the age when truth came naturally. If you can’t remember that age, for yourself or even for children in a younger generation, you should find a way to hang out with little people whose truth-telling has not been pruned by ego; people who have not yet learned how to calculate their words. The simple truth, reflected in his eyes and heart, was that he expected this 27¢ to pay for everything; to change the world.

The counter onto which the coins rolled and settled from his hand was marble; a milky white with brown streaks that could have been warm strands of caramel stirred through hot milk. The coins made a kind of music and did their own dance, before prostrating themselves in silence.

I had no idea what was coming next, but the truth that was emanating from his whole body spoke clearly to me: “God is going to do something right before your eyes, whether you are paying attention or not, so you might as well watch.” That’s what the name of the story should be, but whoever heard of such a rambling name for a short story?

How could anyone expect five small coins to change anything? I’ll tell you how: because it was all he had, and he knew that whatever he had was enough.

That’s your truth for today: it's all I have, and I know that whatever I have is enough. Take this with you today and speak it – if not with your lips, at least with your heart – into every circumstance of your life. You do that, and I’ll go back to sleep again tonight, in hopes of dreaming the rest of this story.
 
Photo by Lee Lindsey McKinney
© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Sooner

Hell's hand basket arrives
sooner and with greater vengeance
as we continue to use
religion to justify political action
instead of to critique it.

The Hebrew scriptures' lessons
go largely unheeded,
as the potential
for prophetic voices is silenced
by absorption into the process.

Power's aphrodisiac
will not be overcome
so long as the prophet's paycheck 
is cut in the royal vault.

Where are the houses
of worship that dare
to listen for a voice crying
in the wilderness; a call
to exchange violence and oppression
for honest dialogue and dignity?



© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Monday, February 23, 2015

V

When the hemisphere shrinks
to a personal level, no longer
describing just half of the earth,
but half of your world –
your speech, your mobility, your life –
you gain a whole new respect for the word.

You recall all of the times
that were synchronized, unnoticed:
smiles, laughter, movement,
all flowing in glorious symmetry.

Bits and pieces of grace trickle-in,
lines and narratives long-stored:
“Take up your mat and walk.
What do you want me to do for you?
Your faith has made you well.”

You feel him standing there,
the great physician himself,
aura of his love radiating all ‘round.
Now it’s our time to ask:

You, hair-counting, flower-nourishing
safe-keeper of all creation;
put her and us back together.

Bring us to the place of wholeness,
where who we’ve become reaches
toward your intents and purposes,
and love is the final measure.
 
Photo by DeEtta Harris Jenkins

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Fringe

They’re loose threads hanging
from the periphery; no cross-threads
anchoring or securing them;

mostly ornamental, usually monochromatic;
no strength in and of themselves;
unable to protect us from sun, wind, or rain;

just dangling there as if no one knows
quite what to do with them.
If they are looped, returning to the main,

they will likely hinder movement 
by catching on sharp corners,
throwing the brakes on everything.

They’re also people, hanging out
on the margins, bearing similar qualities
to their dangling fabric cousins.

Some of them are ostracized by society
simply because they don’t fit
the standard window frame;

others, because they are too afraid
to let their warp be woofed.
Culture would just as soon let them

get caught in the door, ripped away
from the main by a body hell-bent
on uniformity and progress.

What would it take for us to listen
to them, to notice them flapping
in the breeze and hear their stories?

What would it mean to recognize
that their lives are valuable,
that we are all of one garment?
 
Photo by Lee Lindsey McKinney

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Friday, February 20, 2015

Secrets

Some of them are merely
wrapping paper for surprise,
temporarily covering reality
until the planned moment of joy:
that first pony or puppy,
the weekend getaway to paradise
with one(s) dearly loved.

Others are shadows
marinated in more pain
than seems humanly possible
to bear; bruises and cuts -
maybe even amputations -
that have effected
self-ectomies beyond recognition.

Live tenderly with those
who eschew the former.
You never know who
has walked through
the inferno of the latter.

The invitation to trust
cannot be accepted at gunpoint.

Before we can risk wading
into the river of grace,
we must learn to trust
that someone else is holding
onto our brokenness
with the buoy of love
and without the anchor of judgment.



© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Torture

Dehumanizing others is the first step
into the abyss of the self-destruction
and annihilation of the world.

It is the irreparable chasm
whose width is difference,
whose depth is superiority.
Photo by Jennie R. Jenkins


God help us, because
I'm not sure anyone else
can repair/rebuild the bridge!


© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Touchscreen

A few weeks ago I dreamed that I sat up in bed and there, in front of my face was a Google-glasses-type touch-screen. I could see everything in my room, but there was an overlay with a big red button labeled, "Adjust Last Friday's Weather."

I thought/said, "How can you adjust something so big and beyond your control as the weather a week after it has happened?" Then I tried to remember last Friday's weather. It rained, and rained, and rained (in my dream remembrance) until it flooded. So I reached out and touched the "Adjust" button.

The next thing I knew, I was canoeing down a river with my son. We were talking, fishing, and had scuba gear with us so we could dive and explore. I noticed that the river had some unusual flow patterns, as if there were all sorts of irregular geological formations along its bed, so I asked him what river we were on and what he thought we might find on our dive. 

He said, "We're not on a river. This was field and forest before last Friday's rain. There's no telling what cool stuff we'll find."


© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Reflections

When ashes are imposed –
as if we have no choice in the matter –
the only way we can see them
is by reflection.

What do we see, if we pause
to reflect on the oil and ashen stripes
smudged vertically and horizontally
on our foreheads?

Perhaps it may appear as if
it's our cerebral matter peeking,
leaking out, pouring our deepest thoughts,
oft hidden, now exposed
for all the world to see.

Or maybe it's the dusty grey mess
of our life's collective catastrophes
in all their naked embarrassment.

And yes, it surely is a stark reminder
that all of us will go, sooner or later,
back into the earth,
composted toward the future.

But let it also remind us that each of us
contains, in the core of our existence,
a spark of divine hope meant to burn
brightly for all the world to see,

not because we, ourselves, can muster,
much less create it, but that Love itself
has chosen to share this glowing grace
with us all, and called us to let it burn
from birth to death unhindered.



© 2015 Todd Jenkins


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Enough

How is it that we insist
God's love can only be
for a chosen few

because we're afraid
there won't be enough
of it to go around;

that we contrive our own
path toward God
as the only one?

What horrors would we commit
against one another if we felt
the same way about oxygen?

What hatred DO we perpetrate
in the name of society and sovereignty
over the gift of water?

The biosphere is just as much
built on elemental grace, as air and water;
no one owns a molecule of any of them.



© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Monday, February 16, 2015

Speed

When you already are
where you need to be today,
speed is more of a reckless distraction
than a necessary traveling companion.

As we recognize the purpose
of presence, the road widens,
as do all of the experiences
along the way.

Don't mistake the fleeting happiness
of arrival for the joy of journey.
Without the story of travel,
 most destinations lose their luster.

Photo by Todd Jenkins


© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Longing


Have you ever felt like you were a puzzle with a few important pieces missing? People often enter relationships in order to find and fill the places that feel empty in their lives. Perhaps there is a sense of relational longing that works this way.

But some of the emptiness we feel will never be filled by another person. There are two kinds of emptiness that we need to face solo. The first is the emptiness we create when we are ashamed of who we are. Our embarrassment over parts of who we are and what we've done causes us to hide or bury pieces of ourselves. This emptiness can only be filled when we recognize and welcome our shadow selves into the whole of who we are.

There's another kind of emptiness that comes from our hunger for the holy. Blaise Pascal envisioned a hole within each person that can only be filled by God. This has been described as a God-shaped hole within each of us.

In the physical realm we know as life, this hole is never completely filled. Its existence creates the ache for holy communion that nudges us ever-toward God. This longing is what keeps us moving toward our life's intended purpose. It keeps us growing toward love.

When we approach the deeper places on our spiritual path, we learn to embrace this desire as a welcome companion. It is a hunger of hope whose purpose has never been satisfaction or arrival, but rather yearning and journey.


© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Thursday, February 12, 2015

God-itude

Sometimes, I have great difficulty
dealing with other people's God-itude.
Of course, I also struggle
to name and claim my own
delusions of grandeur.

This was the ticket out of Eden;
yet it is also the invitation
to the incredibly difficult
and painful gift of community
for which we both long
and are created.

Every life worth living
is spent tightroping the chasm
between hubris and humility. 

Photo by Todd Jenkins

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Settled


Maybe it's the way
an argument is
supposed to end;

or a description
of the human conquering
of a piece of real estate;

or the excuse given
for the excessive air
in a bag of chips.

But it could also be
a pining resignation over
circumstances beyond our control.

What if I told you
that our perspective
on certain uses of this word
is what determines
our level of contentment
with life itself?

When we shift the energy
of our labor away
from trying not to settle
for anything but exactly
what we want in life,

and direct it toward settling
into the joy of what is
with us in the here and now,
we will experience the deep peace
of being truly settled;

we will learn what it means
to live and breathe
comfortably in our own skin.


© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Monday, February 9, 2015

Lent 2015

A lot of phones have cameras, and many have ways to share those images. Here's what I want you to try for the season of Lent (February 18-April 4):

As you go through your day and week, you zoom right past a lot of amazing things. Commit yourself to slowing down, paying attention, and taking a picture of at least one extraordinary ordinariness every day.

If you don't think your world has any of these in it, think again: a child's well-worn toy in a yard; pretty much ANY animal; an old barn or building; something abandoned on the side of the road like a chair or an old TV; the sun, moon, or stars; a sleeping child or other loved one; an old sign; a car with lots of character; a bumper sticker that makes you laugh or ponder; a flower, tree, or plant; that randomly ordinary thing that's extraordinary for you because of where or whom it came from; something brightly colored that's randomly situated against a muted background; something that reminds you of a happy time; something that reminds you of someone you love... That's just a drop in the bucket.

Why am I asking you to do this? Because doing it changes both your focus and your attitude for life. Looking for visual connections and affirmations in life helps you pay better attention to the verbal, tactile, olfactory, culinary, and spiritual gifts that are yours for enjoying and sharing.


That's right. Sharing is the next step. Send it to a friend, show it to a coworker, or post it to social media. You don't even have to comment on it for now; just let the photo speak for itself. We'll worry about words after Lent is over and you've created your photo collection.

Todd

Friday, February 6, 2015

If Only

History is much colder
than you ever imagined,
far warmer than you’ve dreamed,
more dangerous than you ever thought,
less glamorous than we’ve written it,
and even more boring
than the latest generation sees it.

To be sure, there are many lessons
to be learned from its study;
but we dare not fool ourselves
into believing that the version currently playing
at the Rialto of Memory Lane
is any less a fairy tale than the stories
we read to our grandchildren.

When we see ourselves
as its preservationists,
we would do well to remember
that the thing to which we naturally cling
is mostly a figment of skewed reminiscence;

that our own constitutions
would likely wilt beneath the weight
of its actual ancient burden;
and that its primary purpose
is to give us wisdom and courage
to move forward, not to seduce us,
siren-like, to wistfully turn back.
 
Crystal Springs Campground, Kelso, TN

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Distraction

In Oz's temple, when Toto,
with perception firmly grounded
in four-footed creation,
pulls back the curtain
on the professor's charade,
the truth of our deception
is clearly revealed.

The universal questions
for flummoxed humanity:
What monsters do we hide
behind our drapes?
What anxieties do our shades
keep us from facing?

Fear is a fog that hides
the mountain named Love.
His anxious clouds hang low,
obstructing our view
of the truth of who we are.

However large and imposing
our apprehensions may be,
there is a simple plan for peace:
allowing the sun of hope to shine,
burning off our blinding dread.

Rise and shine; and rise again,
O beacon of grace!

© 2015 Todd Jenkins