Sunday, May 31, 2015

Forever's Now

Excessive focus on
the future aspect of eternity,
with blatant disregard for
the now of it, often leads

     to legalism and a bifurcation
     of Christianity that justify
     all manner of abuse and injustice.

This harmful convergence,
characterized by rampant individualism,
is a denial of communal
and corporate responsibility
for all of creation.

     When everything and everyone else
     are either stepping stones
     or threats to personal gratification,

there's no need to speculate
about the parameters of Hell
in a distant future, because
we're already creating
and living in it now.



© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Baring All

Photo by Lee Lindsey McKinney

Who would dare to use
    the precious resources
        of human life to record
            their thoughts and feelings
                for others to read?

                Somewhere between an open
            invitation to the slings and arrows
    of others' critiques and a presumption
of overinflated ego lies a heart

    that recognizes helpful writing
        as nothing more or less
            than a return to spiritual consciousness
                that lies within each human soul.

                    The only words worth sharing
                are those that open us all
            to the triangular conduit
        between our deepest selves,
    the core of others,
and the heart of God.


© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Friday, May 29, 2015

Here-wellness

If home must be a specific place –
a planetary space where sights,
smells, sounds, tastes,
and especially feels are comforting
in their shared historicity –

then we must choose between
being tethered or having both physical
and emotional knots in our gut,
distracting us from wherever
else we find ourselves.

What if we learned to yearn
for a more expansive place –
a movable feast of sensory
and spiritual delicacies traveling
to each time named "now",
each place called "here"?

Dreaming of this place/space
 at night, my bones ache
with its fire upon waking,
my heart bursts
with love's desire.

Will you covenant with me
to covet this mirage
whose density overwhelms
the lesser truth of our youth?

Will you pray for
our homesickness to be
healed by the gift
of here-wellness?


City Lake, Cookeville, TN

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Past Pulling

Memory and hope,
   as divine components
      of human life,

    give time additional dimensions
       that transcend a mere linear
          progression from past to future.

        This makes it possible
           for what's already happened
              to pull us toward
                 what's yet to come.


© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Gifted


Life is a gift. It was opened and given to you when you were born. Have you ever thought about what you spend most of your time doing with it? 

Some people spend most of their time in the Returns/Exchange line. What they have isn’t what they like (somebody else’s life/gift looks better from across the pasture fence?). They assume it isn’t what they need—it isn’t the “right” gift for them – so they spend their lives trying to return it or exchange it for another.

Some people spend most of their days in the Customer Service line, convinced that, because their life doesn’t operate as smoothly as the infomercial, it is defective and needs to be repaired or have significant parts replaced.

Some spend all their energy reading the instruction manual, afraid to take the gift out of the box until they have thoroughly familiarized themselves with EVERY part, function, and instruction. Untouched and unused, their gift remains on the sideline.

Some people spend their lives seeking to acquire accessories for their gift – aesthetic improvements, protective gear, performance upgrades, and the like. It’s as if they are unwilling or afraid to use it until it is perfect.

Think about the folks who spend most of their time and energy in line at the software/IT department hoping that a disc re-format or clean-up will erase the negative memories and events of their past and thereby give them a fresh start.

Others put most of their time and energy into practicing the use of the gift – finding out what it will do, how it can interact with and help others, putting it through the paces. Despite obvious signs of wear and tear, there is a certain glow about their gift that clearly indicates the joy with which it is well-used.

All of these folks practice varying degrees of maintenance (or un-maintenance) for their gift. Some run it wide-open in high gear, and seem to be driven by a clock whose countdown they cannot see. Others pull over on life’s shoulder at the slightest noise or vibration and call AAA. Some develop a regular rhythm of use and maintenance, getting great mileage from their gift and only slow down occasionally but regularly for much-needed restoration.

Where are you in all this?


© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Shiva

               Our hearts hurt because they know
               that yours is awash in the ache
               of the love a mother has for her progeny;

            because the circle of life
            is not supposed to backtrack,
            allowing a child to die first.

         It is in this pain we feel
         reverberating from you, as source,
         that our common humanity bonds.

      Our prayers cast their net beneath yours,
      holding you up, as you offer
      to the heavens a full spectrum
      of grief, loss, and love;

   our hearts sitting shiva with yours,
   swinging low the chariots of our love,
   keeping the fires of hope stoked
   to guide you out of this dark valley.


© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Separation

It's the primary consequence of sin, you know: distancing that shape-shifts into so many divides and builds such high walls. Each one adds to the one before it, exponentially tugging our hearts away from the truth and liberation of grace, until we are, ourselves, utterly divided. By the time love begins its untangling, and  forgiveness starts to sink in, it can be nearly impossible to figure out where it started.

The beauty of it all is that divine mercy is not concerned with the beginning of separation, but with its end. Have your interpersonal walls been constructed with shame, ego, or a fibrous blend of both? Grace will deconstruct the walls, brick by brick.

Has the umbrella shielding you from the celestial nourishment of sun and rain been formed from unresolved guilt, a tarp of lesser gods incapable of love and unworthy of hope, or all of the above? Grace will pull back the cover, letting light shine and water flow.

Has the misery of your daily existence been woven from untold abuse, deification of your expectations, or unyielding threads of both? Grace will open the closet, blessing you and everything still contained therein, and invite you to a place at the table of hope.

Have you become an insatiable bundle of appetites, a heart-locked hermit, or a dizzying pinball, bouncing uncontrollably between these two extremes? Grace will show you your true worth, being, and calling.

No matter where you find yourself, the important thing is to not run or hide. Wherever you are when you recognize yourself, let divine love join you. Let grace gather the fragments of your brokenness, leaving nothing of who you are behind. 

Listen to the conclusion of Wendell Berry’s poem, “Wild Geese”:

Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear,
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye
clear. What we need is here.

It's not just that what we need is with us in the present. The crucial understanding of the human condition is that being with ourselves and those in our midst – fully alert, alive, and present to and in the here and now – is what we need more than anything else. It is really all we need. Everything else is superfluous accessorizing.



The roll, then, is not being called “up yonder”. It is being called daily, hourly, momentarily, in our lives. How (or) will you find ways to answer?

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Write, Pray, Live

Actually, prayer is not just in the middle. It is also on both ends, and pretty much everywhere in between. But for the purpose of this piece, it is the middle-praying that gets my attention.

I’m a writing thinker. That’s something I’ve learned over the years. If I write things down, so that I can return to them as frequently as I need, they stand a much better chance of impacting my life.

Recording thoughts and ideas is just the beginning of my understanding of them; sometimes the pre-beginning. They're not pinnacles of my life's wisdom (an idea that made me feel fraudulent for years, until I realized its absurdity), but simply momentary glimpses of the road ahead, revealed in sacred lightning flashes along the journey of life's darkest and stormiest nights.

Then comes the middle-praying; the time I spend listening for what these written words mean for my living. There are usually a lot of questions. What will you do now? How will you live differently; love differently? What difference will these words make? What difference will you make?

Finally, comes the living; or the trying to live. There! I've said it again, and it feels like I get it a little more, each time the letters and spaces spell it out; not completely, but more than before. That's all I hope for: more today, in whatever form that comes; and the patience and attentiveness to recognize a little bit of what is boldly stenciled in the creation of each day’s unfolding; in the blooming of every day called today.

Carry on; not with egotistical condescending, but with the humility of shadowed revelations.
 
Photo by Lee Lindsey McKinney
© 2015 Todd Jenkins


Friday, May 22, 2015

Stay Tuned

Photo by Owen Todd Jenkins

I first heard it as a child. My initial remembrance is that the announcer for the TV show "Batman" would say it right before a commercial break, as if I would somehow forget that this amazing episode of crime fighting by the dynamic duo would return after Madison Avenue tried to sell us something. At the end of the show, we were also reminded to tune in next week, "Same bat time; same bat channel."

I've found myself using it a lot lately, in emails and text messages, to remind myself and others that we're all still waiting on something: an answer, or maybe even a better question. But now I realize that it's also a call to be steadily attentive to the divine whisper. I see how easy it is to change my heart's channel and miss hearing and seeing the bread crumbs that God regularly piles on my path.

Stay tuned! You don't want to miss any of life’s episodes.


© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Power Lifting

I found this one in an old prayer journal while cleaning out my study (originally journaled 4-1-2003). 
 
Photo by Lee Lindsey McKinney
Weight of the world
precariously balanced
on shoulders too narrow,
too weak to bear such mass.

Sweating, straining, shaking,
determined not to fail;
loud and clear the message:
Will and way must meet.

Yet, another voice pleads
a very different case:
The solar system did just fine
for eons without your help.

Let the earth spin its wobbly path
just the way I planned
so you can sing
and dance upon it
in my gift of joy to you.

Let go of God's work;
spend your energy becoming
the universe's gift of creation
by living love and hope.

So much lighter the step
when the world is released;
double-spinning 'round the sun
to embrace life's light and dark.


© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Listening


When we listen
   only for and in
      our own language,
         Pentecost is nothing more
            than the drunken stupor
               of country boys
                  come to town;

its ethnic flavor
   leaves a bad taste
      in our mouth,
         yearning us toward
            English-Only referendums,
               tighter border controls.

But for those who're learning
   to hear in the dialect
      of neighbor – maybe even
         the brogue of love –

transcendent tongues
   of fire are an invitation
      to listen through
         the amplifier of hospitality,
            seeing the web of grace.

Are you ready
   for prophesying progeny,
      for dreaming elders,
         for visioning youngers,
            for trafficked and guest workers
                to awaken the gospel?


© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Red

It's a color claimed by many
throughout the centuries.
Pentecost is the day when we
celebrate fire's arrival.

Happy birthday, sister Church!
How many candles should we light?
Enough to cause them to dial 9-1-1?

What languages do you know?
Which ones are you open to feeling
vibrate across your vocal chords?
Are your ears burning?

“Let's wake the neighbors;
let's get the word out!
Come on, crank up the music,
climb a mountain and shout!”

Or maybe we should just
light a couple of candles as usual,
say a few safe/tame prayers,
take up the basket of leftovers
and call it a day.
Photo by Lee Lindsey McKinney
 © 2015 Todd Jenkins

Monday, May 18, 2015

Feathers


Wisps of evidence
that creatures of the air
have graced us
with their presence;

    gossamer-winged beings
    of rainbow beauty
    leaving hints of joy
    to call us toward
    the rarefied air of love;

        Pentecost doves,
        afire with hope,
        but also so many others
        who lift us up with their
        extraordinary ordinariness,

            breathing life into us
            just by having flown past
            in our darkest night,
            floating grace to our feet.


            © 2015 Todd Jenkins

Sunday, May 17, 2015

In the Wind

Like ashes in the wind we blow,
a wisp of sight, a whiff so light;
unless you’re there you'll never know.

That is how a whole life passes,
from forceful breath to fragile death,
a bate of never ending classes;

where love is learned, grace is caught,
faith unwrapped, forgiveness strapped,
holding peace forever sought.

If our hearts aren't open wide,
ignoring "How?" exclaiming "Wow!"
we'll never catch the rising tide;

miss the sound of crashing waves,
cleansing pain, richest gain,
miss the crest of hope that saves.

When the breeze your soul scatters,
surf crashes, fear thrashes,
know you're alive and love’s what matters.



© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Contributing Factor

Our daily encounters
with others have
an influence on their
past, present, and future.

We do not make them
do what they do or
stop them from doing it.

We cannot make them
who they are or
whom they'll become,
but we have a contribution.

Whether we judge or listen,
 we're contributing.
Whether we affirm or accuse,
we're contributors.

Whether we see and listen
or look and ignore,
we have contributed.

Whether we plant
or tear asunder,
it's our contribution.

What will yours be today?


© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Friday, May 15, 2015

Deeper

How can we more fully
move beyond a respect
for the flag and
knee-jerk patriotism

to a discussion of the actions
of a government driven,
not by a thirst for liberty
and justice for all,

but by fear, greed,
and a xenophobic desire
for the homeostasis of a few?

If our culture is going to change
for the better, we're going
to have to create a safe environment
for deeper conversations.

We're going to have to face,
admit, and address our own
comfort and complicity
in the power structures that exist.

We're going to have
to live glocally –
thinking globally
and acting locally.
 
Photo by DeEtta Harris Jenkins


© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Churched-Up

Those multi-syllabic,
churched-up words:
it's the unpacking
that gives meaning;

taking them off of their pedestal
and shaping them into images
that can be lived in
and loved through,

in both the mundaneness
and the extraordinariness
of our everyday world.

Without that, they're just
museum pieces; relics
from a bygone era

that need to stay
on the shelf and off
our pages and lips.


© 2015 Todd Jenkins