Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Blackened Friday

The year’s end is growing
nearer than near,
as the retailers succumb
to their one greatest fear:

What will happen
if, dreadest of dread,
our columns of numbers
end the year in bright red?

If projections we made
for how business will grow
turn out to be bogus,
where will we go?

If the limits on spending
hold out through and through,
how can we continue?
What will we do?

The craftiest marketers
have developed a game;
it’s quite unimaginative:
More of the Same.

More stuff in the aisles,
more ads on the air,
more hours to open,
frenzy everywhere!

Open the stores
earlier than early;
create mob mentality,
customers quite surly.

Forget about families,
make employees show up.
Turn a profit with volume,
while the turkey throws up.

Hijacking Thanksgiving;
on the profits we’re betting.
We’ll rename the holiday:
Have a prosperous Thanksgetting!

Remember “Good Friday”
preceding resurrection?
This one’s the opposite:
Blackened Shopping Insurrection.

What can we do?
What’s our reaction?
What gift does love bring  
in our speech and action?

How ‘bout we let grace
flow wild and free
onto retail employees
we know and see,

making tangible acts
of thanks and giving
to brighten their day,
with our words and our living?

If you go out on Friday,
make your purpose clear:
you’re there not to buy,
but to spread peace and cheer.

And if you stay home
with family and friends,
find a retail employee,
and give hope to their kin.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Monday, November 23, 2015

Beginning of Advent

'Twas the beginning of Advent and all through the Church
our hope was dying — we'd given up on the search.
It wasn't so much that Christ wasn't invited,
but after 2,000-plus years we were no longer excited.

Oh, we knew what was coming — no doubt about that.
And that was the trouble — it was all "old hat."
November brought the first of an unending series of pains
with carefully orchestrated advertising campaigns.

There were gadgets and dolls and all sorts of toys;
enough to seduce the most devout girls and boys.
Unfortunately, it seemed, no one was completely exempt
from this seasonal virus that did all of us tempt.

The priests and prophets and certainly the kings
were all so consumed with the desire for "things!"
It was rare, if at all, that you'd hear of the reason
for the origin and meaning of this holy-day season.

A baby, it seems, once had been born
in the mid-east somewhere – the first holy-day morn.
But what does that mean for folks like us,
who've lost ourselves in the hoopla and fuss?

Can we re-learn the art of wondering and waiting,
of hoping and praying, and anticipating?
Can we let go of all the things and the stuff?
Can we open our hands and our hearts long enough?

Can we open our eyes and open our ears?
Can we find him again after all of these years?
Will this year be different from all the rest?
Will we be able to offer him all of our best?

So many questions, unanswered thus far,
as wise ones seeking the home of the star.
Where do we begin-- how do we start
to make for the child a place in our heart?

Perhaps we begin by letting go
of our limits on hope, and of the things that we know.
Let go of the shopping, of the chaos and fuss;
let go of the searching, let Christmas find us.

We open our hearts, our hands and our eyes,
to see the king coming in our own neighbors' cries.
We look without seeking what we think we've earned,
but rather we're looking for relationships spurned.

With him he brings wholeness and newness of life
for brother and sister, for husband and wife.
The Christ-child comes not by our skill,
but rather he comes by the Creator’s will.

We can't make him come with parties and bright trees,
but only by getting down on our knees.
He'll come if we wait amidst our affliction,
Coming in spite of, and not by our restriction.

His coming will happen-- of this there's no doubt.
The question is whether we'll be in or out.
"Behold, I stand at the door and knock."
Do you have the courage to peer through the lock?

A basket on your porch, a child in your reach.
a baby to love, to feed and to teach.
He'll grow in wisdom as God's only Son.
How far will we follow this radical one?

He'll lead us to challenge the way that things are.
He'll lead us to follow a single bright star.
But that will come later if we're still around.
The question for now: Is the child to be found?

Can we block out commercials, the hype and the malls?
Can we find solitude in our holy halls?
Can we find hope, keep alert, stay awake?
Can we receive the child for ours and God's sake?

From on high with the caroling host as he sees us,
He yearns to read on our lips the prayer: Come Lord Jesus!
As Advent begins, all these questions make plea.
The only true answer: We will see, we will see.

©  1994 Todd Jenkins

Friday, November 20, 2015

Between Breaths

Photo by Linda M. Patrick

“God is in the vowels.” he said.

Words are formed in a mash-up
between the hardness of consonants
and the airiness of vowels,
but it is the self of God who resides
in our own inspiration and expiration –
the very act of our breathing.

This truth is born out
in the Hebrews’ name for the divine:
four of the softest consonants –
Y-H-W-H – and a sacred refusal
to inscribe the vowels.

Maybe the vowels don’t need
writing or even pronouncing
because the self of God is so soft,
so tender, even in its consonants.

Then he said, “I read somewhere
that God is not just in ‘breath’
but is also in the pauses
between breaths (the psalmist’s selah)
which, the writer said,
is the most peaceful part
of breathing – the pause.”

Whenever I consider the pauses
between breaths, my heart always
replays my mother’s last day.

A frontal lobe brain tumor
was pushing life out of her body,
and we sat by, watching, waiting.

Near the end, her breaths
became more shallow,
less frequent, more desperate;

until they were startling gasps,
so far apart, I thought many
of them were her last.

And then, another one
would erupt into the silence.

Between the breaths,
I prayed conflicted prayers,
not sure my heart could take
the explosive agony
of another one, yet begging
for there to be just one more.

In that place and time,
I struggled for my own breath.

I don’t know what your breathing
is like or whether you’re wondering
if God is in it, or even in anything;

but I can tell you that,
twenty-nine years after I found
myself trapped between the breaths,
I still find grace between them,
even after them.  

Some days, I feel myself
breathing for you.

Other days, I know you
must be breathing for me,
because it’s the only way
I could have possibly made it.

I don’t always feel God
between the breaths
with my skin, but
my heart knows,
and when it gets darkest,
it sings to me.

My prayer for you is that,
when the lights go out,
you hear a heart’s song –
yours, mine, or someone else’s.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Thursday, November 19, 2015


      Very few things
      actually fit in one.
      The ones that do
      are usually quite simple.

   Trying to stuff larger,
   more complicated things,
   like people and relationships –
   both interpersonal
   and community/social –
   into boxes seldom turns out well,
   either for the stuffer
   or the stuffee.

Save the box
for the end of life.
We'll all breathe easier
if you do.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


Sometimes I wonder
   if a big part of hell
      isn't getting exactly
         what we want,
      and being stuck
   with precisely the God
for which we've settled;

to be securely locked away
   from all who bear differences
      of origin or opinion,
         of appearance or circumstance;

to be covered up
   and weighed down
      by all the stuff
         we've gated, hoarded,
      and even learned to worship;

to be unable to fully
   let go to grace,
      always subject to a deity
         who rewards obedience
      and punishes transgression,

never quite knowing
   how much good is enough or
      how much bad is too much.

If we're already neck-deep
   in this kind of zombie-life now,
      imagine how painful it will be
         to choose the same path for infinity.

On the other hand,
   there's always mystery;
      changing, growing,
         shifting, surprising, surrendering.
      Where are you on the journey?

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Monday, November 16, 2015

Holding On

Photo by Lee Lindsey McKinney

Fear took its best shot –
though it feels like its worst –
bombing, shooting, death-dealing
in dramatic fashion, driven
by forces beyond our comprehension.

Loss of life was intended
to be but the beginning.
The collateral affects are
an equally important objective:

difference, division;
all colluding to pull us
into hate's vortex,
shrinking us into "others"
equally bent on violent retribution.

Vengeance, as penultimate
exercise of power allowing fear
to set aside all meaningful similarities
and connections in order
to somehow even the score,
cannot and will not bring about
its own demise.

By its very nature, war ensures
both victor and vanquished
have the seed of violence
buried in their gut, and no amount
of neglect or freezing cold
or searing heat or negotiated armistice
will prevent its growth.

Our only hope is to crawl back
to the road leading
to a place called Healing;
an honest road of plowing
war's field until we reach
the deepest pain and then
begin the convalescent process,
rejecting escalation, trading
armistice's awkward pause
for peace in a deeper groove,

reconnecting human to human,
yielding to a love that listens,
clinging to a hope reminding us
we have to find a way
to keep ourselves in this together,
or we will find ourselves
out of it, apart.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


      Gratitude for service rendered
      is such an inadequate expression
      for all whose labors
      define the "V" in this day.

   To interrupt, if not wreck,
   your life with training
   for defending to the death
   is not a function easily disabled
   at the end of the day.

The moral injury of violence
so easily seeps into the marrow,
rendering life a volatile non sequitur;
exacerbating our lack of political
and cultural courage
in facing this requiem.

Let us dare to cease
our hiding behind the flag,
pledging, instead, adequate resources
for the amelioration
of battle's emotional carnage.

   Let us not merely put
   our money where our mouth is,
   but move it to the place
   where our heart beats.

      Let us risk speaking against war
      precisely because we are
      advocates for our veterans.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Sunday, November 8, 2015


Photo by Lee Lindsey McKinney
 In its snatching,
death believes it has
committed the ultimate theft;

believes the ache
of flesh-and-blood absence
is sufficient to tear
our faith asunder.

There are days when we would
halfheartedly agree,
because half a heart
is all we seem to have left.

Then it happens; someone else
remembers a time gone by
when the one we love spoke or
acted with grace beyond measure.

The memory is recounted to us,
and in its retelling,
a flickering candle
lights the darkness;

not totally and not for good,
but enough for us
to also remember
the love that has and
still does always surround us.

And in the moment
of that shared memory,
we know we are not alone;

we know love cannot be
taken away from us;
we understand hope
as a star refusing
to give-in to night,
no matter how cold
and dark it seems.

Today is the best day
to share that story.
Go ahead.
The stars are already
rising in the twilight.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


Early one morning,
as I poured my coffee,
I glanced out the kitchen window
at the oak tree by the shop
to see a crispy brown leaf
spring from its limb,

   gracefully tumbling down
   the shingled roof, surely executing
   masterful gymnastics moves,
   twisting, turning in mid-air
   with perfect lift, finally dismounting,

      sticking the landing
      in the tall grass
      that awaits a final trim.

   The other leaves on the ground
   spontaneously started a wave. 
   Those still in the trees lithely clapped
   their affirmation, patiently waiting
   on the next brave soul to let go.

Thus the wind directs a hopeful show;
each participant scored
on the scale of grace.

   Who am I that I am afraid
   of the Spirit's call to be blown
   into the dance that is
   the extraordinary routine
   of my life?

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Tuesday, November 3, 2015


(Exodus 17:1-6)

Journey by stages through Sin;
  so decently and in order; 
    following the Lord's command 
      all the way to life-threatening thirst. 

Rephidim, meaning "spread" or "support" 
  but which looks for all the world 
    like "grave" or "hole of thirsty death."
      Whose direction is Moses following?

How dare you bring us out
  to this God-forsaken place 
    leaving us fully bereft of
      life's second basic necessity!

What “gift” do you have next?
  Is the very air we breathe 
    going to suddenly form a vacuum?
      At least that would be a quick death!

What kind of crazy God
  sends leaders following Moses 
    out to Horeb – “land of the dried up”?
      What sort of elders follow?

Let the redeemed of the Lord say, 
  “Our hope and support were dried up 
    between Rephidim and Horeb; 
      God intervened with shepherd's staff:

life-giving water flowed;
  new life out of rock as if 
    it had been waiting eons for
      one with audacity to strike!”

What's next? Life emerging from tombs?
  Forgiveness and future emerging 
    as a dove from under baptism's water?
      What kind of crazy God is this who turns

desert rocks into pools of water,
  tombs into celebrations of life,
    water into grace and forgiveness,
      Church into healing hope for the world?

© 2015 Todd Jenkins