Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Profit

Photo by Becky Johnson

He can be the most egotistical
and ambitious one at the table,
discarding the community-minded
and the connectional,
quickly dismissing the philanthropic
and the pastoral.

   If we make the mistake
   of electing him CEO,
   the board will soon be filled
   with the seedier members
   of his neighborhood:
   Ruthlessness, Greed, Deception.

   Once these four begin
   to block-vote, there is
   but one who can
   turn the rudder:
   his renegade cousin
   and homophone, Prophet.

Speaking truth to Profit's power,
this radical one weaves
an image of the future
in which creation's abundance
overcomes scarcity,
community trumps difference,
and hope assuages fear.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Monday, September 28, 2015

Storm


How she brews and
   where she blows
      is the answer we want,
   but no one knows.

Wind and rain,
   fire and ice,
      a path of destruction
   through us all does slice.

Dark brooding yin
   crashes yang’s violent light;
      all in their path
   succumbing to fright.

Our structures and bodies,
   are hurled through the air,
      shredded like paper.
   Does anyone care?

Captured together,
   a serendipitous chance,
      rainbow and funnel
   paired for a dance.

One rip-roaring,
   hell-bent on death;
      the other still promising
   love’s holy breath.

Let metaphor carry you
   past picture’s contrast
      to relationship’s reality
   so you may hold fast

to the ways your life
   can be healed or broken
      by the words you choose,
   either withheld or spoken.

Hope’s seed is scattered
   to places unknown.
      Come hell or high water,
   we’ll hang-on ‘til she’s grown.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins


Friday, September 25, 2015

3 Steps


All the worthwhile words that haltingly come out of my mouth and occasionally travel from my index fingers to keyboard (apologies to my high school typing teacher) are due to the confluence of three things:

Presence
Like the caveat of many contests, random drawings, and games, declaring, "You must be present to win.", life also requires our in-the-flesh arrival. Whatever winning is, perhaps life's rejoinder is, "You must show up to learn, participate, and grow."

Observance
Being there is not always seeing there. In order to truly recognize what's going on, we need more than bodily arrival. Spirit, emotion, and intellect also need to arrive and participate in the practice of presence.

Immersion
Finally, once we are corporeally, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually cognizant and engaged, we must make a connection between the self and experience of others and our own selves. This is where narrative weaves us together. We are listening to another's story, not to find a pause or opening to insert our own tale, but to find and settle into the places touching our own emotions, fears, hopes, and dreams.

It's that straightforward. It's that frightening. It's that rich. What are you waiting for?

© 2015 Todd Jenkins


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Epidemic


Phobia is supposed
to be an unnatural fear,
but when your heart
is racing because there's
a spider in your shoe,

   or your knees are knocking
   on a mountain overlook,
   or you're hyperventilating
   in the middle of a crowd,

there's not a whit of difference
between organic and GMO.
The tension can be exhausting,
leaving you a candidate
for a long nap in a safe place.

   What happens when
   our fear is more relational?
    
Spiders, heights, and crowds
may not affect us by their absence
and our avoidance,
though many a flattened spider
may strenuously object;

   but what toll do our
   interpersonal anxieties exact on us,
   both individually and collectively?

When the shape or skin tone
or religion or some other basic,
fundamental characteristic
of a person causes us
to recoil in panic, what harm
is done to our psyche, and
what cloud is cast over our culture?

   © 2015 Todd Jenkins

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Surely Knot

Photo by Carie Turner
Beware the snare
of certitude.
The smaller your circle
of surety, the tighter
your weave of absolutism,

the more likely you are
to exclude some chapters
of the divine story.

If I've learned one thing
about the scope and purpose
of life itself, it's that

there's always more
than I imagined.
The great surprise
of God is surprise itself.

Paradise approaches
as I loosen the noose,
releasing the need
to control the field and direction
of the universe's expansion.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Monday, September 21, 2015

Sojourning

Photo by Joe Stephenson

Faith is, first of all,
   the willingness to undertake
      a journey, sans map,
         allowing the depths
      of theological questions
   to challenge our life's
assumptions and practices.

Her inferior doppelgänger
   approaches from a different angle,
      asking us to fashion gods
       from our fears and phobias,
      creating a personalized  deity
   who offers the faux
security of self-control.

Be very wary of the pretender’s
   seductive lure. Ask yourself,
      “If I can control it,
      how small and shallow
   must it be, and
how much can it be worth?”


© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Sunday, September 20, 2015

E-grace-er

Photo from disdressed.blogspot.com 

Grace's wheel, soft but firm,
gives itself up, bit by bit,
to repair and reframe
our broken ways,
as we've misunderstood
our way through life.

Even after she gently
sweeps away the debris,
the imprint and shadow
of our deepest cracks remain,

yet we have the opportunity,
rewriting hope with the story
of our next chance;
not with whitewashed amnesia,

but holy reverence
for all the chapters
constructing our meandering
road to redemption.

Erase and sweep us toward
your sacred gift, O God,
with ample reminders
of our historic struggle

that we might narrate
the life-giving nectar
of your holy forgiveness
in all the world's places
where it is sorely lacking.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins


Saturday, September 19, 2015

More or Less

Photo by Ashley Goad

It’s the response of equivocation,
when we’re either not sure
of what’s being asked,
or of how to answer.

But it’s also the answer of eternity.
When your life’s question
presents itself, as it will
all of your days and then some,

you may begin to see
the answers holding water
are less about measurable quantity
and more about intrinsic quality;

 less about holding on,
more about letting go;
less about maintaining control,
more about freedom of surrender.

Each weekday ending in “y”
is a great day to decide
for more or less
of the options before you;

an excellent opportunity
to count with your heart,
realizing where more is less,
and where less is more.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins


Thursday, September 17, 2015

Quick

Photo by Emma Montgomery

Pain knows no “them”;

at the quick,
we are all connected.

This is the deep place
where our essence resides
and from which it rises;

the place wherein
suffering and joy 
are held in the same heart,
at the same time.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Tipped


When a religion built
on answers encounters
a faith freed by questions,

    will there be a collision and struggle
    or an invitation for flesh and blood
    to open mind and heart

        so there's room
        at the table for everyone?
        Who knows which way
        the balance will be tipped?


             © 2015 Todd Jenkins

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Good

Photo by Jerry Gorman

When you hear people begin
a sentence with, "I wish...",
what usually follows?

Is it a description
of something judged negatively
that happened in the past
("... you hadn't done that/
this hadn't happened.")
or something positive that hasn't
yet happened in the future
("... you could get that new job
you applied for.")?

Most people use "hope"
to describe a future desire,
and "wish" to describe
a desire to change the past.

The human mind has a difficult time
focusing on both past and future.

What will it take for us
to spend considerably less time
wishing about the past and
a whole lot more time and
energy hoping for the future?

Whatever it is, 
I hope we do it!


© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Transitions

Photo by Jerry Gorman

During the past seven months I have engaged a season of discernment. After 25 years of pastoral ministry in two different congregations, I feel called to a differently-nuanced ministry practice. The phrase "transitional ministry" is now in vogue to describe what was once called "interim ministry". Leaders at all levels and in all denominations of Christian ministry have come to realize that "transitional ministry" is really what all congregations are facing. Changes in culture and technology are happening at an accelerated pace; and the question for mission and ministry is not, "Will we change?" but, "How will we change?"

A more basic question might be, "Will we get caught up in waves of change happening TO us, or will we, instead, seek to discern ways God is leading us to choose and lead change happening THROUGH us?"

Faithfulness to the gospel calling requires the ability to distinguish between the message and the method. The message remains the same, even as our understanding of it grows, via the intersection of our collective and congregational life's story with the Holy Spirit's inspiration. The method is the vehicle necessary to effectively deliver the message to our culture.

The gospel story is one of paradox. From the outside, especially when viewed through the lenses of intellect and logic, it seems quite contradictory. This is because it has a two-fold purpose.

On the one hand, it offers us all comfort in our afflictions. In all the circumstances where pain and suffering have broken us, the gospel offers its soothing balm of love and hope. I'm talking about the pain and suffering inherently built-into this unpredictable and often-unforgiving change-fest we call life, and the grief and hurt we inflict on ourselves, as well as the injuries we suffer at the hands of others. In ALL these afflictions, unconditional love and unbounded hope wrap us in a blanket of comfort, and a promise of healing and deliverance.

On the other hand, the gospel also afflicts us in our comfort. In all the places and ways where we have become complacent and have attempted to both domesticate the gospel and make it a proprietary text bowing to the reflection we see in the mirror, the gospel kicks back, goading us to a place of more humility and a table of larger community.

The twenty-first century call to faith in this particular culture – the USA in which we live –challenges us to mold the method so that it reaches the ears and hearts of hungry people with the message that transcends all times and methods. The therapeutic question for the paradox of our comfort and anxiety is, "Is our anxiety about the method or the message?" The former is a place where the Spirit offers comfort to soothe the affliction of our desire for convention. The latter is a truth challenging us to offer our own comfort to assuage others' affliction.

Carry on, confident that God is writing our next chapter with every bit as much love, hope, and grace as our past and present chapters contain.


© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Friday, September 11, 2015

Re-Member


We add the prefix,
pronouncing a single word
so easily, sure we understand
all the "re" there is to know.

Telling the story over and over,
whether it's out loud
to the same person
or different folks,

or silently pushing the rewind
and replay buttons in our hearts
and minds, we have a firm grasp
on the repetitive nature
of reliving events from the past,
whether they were in our own past
or somewhere before or beyond that.

But what about the "member"?
What dimension does it add
to the word's meaning?

It's the population of a place,
group, or organization;
the peopling of a particular narrative.

To bring a story back to life –
to remember  is to keep
its characters alive in your life;

to call the roll and hear members
from the past answer,
"Present and accounted for."

Their voices won't likely
vibrate your eardrums,
their physicality probably
won't cast a visible shadow;

but your heart will hear and see
them as loud and large as ever.
When you bring them back this way,
I hope you'll find ways
to endure the regrets and
pain their parting still causes.

I pray you'll listen for a story
of your future into which
they're re-membering you;
a story written in the font
of grace before you were born.


© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Flag


When I grow up, I want
   to be a flag, so people
      will pay more attention to me
         than to issues of real life.

      Don't you think that will make
   me feel special, if not powerful?

I'll touch people's deepest emotions,
   inciting more reaction and less action.  

      I'll wave and wave in every wind,
         without regard for either
      the direction of its flow
   or the damage it unleashes.

I'll be the distraction by which
   magicians and politicians alike
      perpetrate their illusions,
         as all attention centers
      on my colors, design, and
   position on the pole.

See me waving?
   See them bowing? 
      See others hating?

         I'm large and in charge,
      and nobody seems to realize it.
   Genuflect, and carry on.


© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Protect this House

Underarmor shouldn't have
the corner on protection
with commitment and passion.

Sport is not the only place
where goals of an opponent
must be actively denied.

When fear and anxiety creep
into our religious rituals,
when hatred and xenophobia

wend their way into our lived theologies,
we must rise with voices in harmony
and proclaim, "Not in this house!"

Ours is a place where Justice's
only allegiance is to Truth;
where Peace understands

that she is not a commodity
held and controlled only by a few,
but must be owned by all.

Photo by Janis Williams
© 2015 Todd Jenkins