Monday, February 29, 2016

Church

Church of the Spilled Blood
Saint Petersburg, Russia
Photo by Ashley Goad

I cannot and will not
be church unless I
first see church.

   No one will know church
   until we learn how
   to show church.

      We cannot have church
      as noun until we have
      been church as verb.

         Church is not an act
         of gathering, but
         an impetus for sending.

It's not a people,

much less a steeple,
but a living,
breathing manifestation
of Christ in action. 

 © 2016 Todd Jenkins

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Here

Photo by Anne Apple

We are here.
Wordless, 
empty handed, 
but here. 

Holding ohana tenderly, 
   in palms calloused 
      from trying too hard 
         to do the right thing,
      with syllables stretched too thin 
   from trying to speak comfort; 

         elbow-deep in the casseroles 
      of our compassion; 
   neck-deep in  the feebleness
of our words. 

Time passes, grief still crashes
   tsunami-like, crushing retaining walls 
      like empty beer cans; 
         taking out city blocks 
      of structured dreams, 
   leaving you breathless. 

We are here. 
Wordless, 
empty handed, 
but here. 

We'll camp with you 
   under a starry canopy; 
      listening to the stories 
         of dreams washed out to sea;
      help you dig 'til you find 
   something to stand on; 
      sit in your empty foundation 
         'til you're ready 
      to reconstruct hope above ground. 

We are here. 
Wordless, 
empty handed, 
but here. 

         We're here to be batteries 
      for your heartlamp, 
   when the Easter bulb 
      is ready to shine light
into darkness again. 


© 2016 Todd Jenkins

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Bubble


Do you remember
   the neighbor kid whose parents
      were paragons of hospitality,
   sincere and nice, and as compassionate
as anyone you knew;

yet the boy himself was
   an arrogant little snot,
      always condescending,
      forever reminding you
   that he might as well
have been royalty and,

if you knew what was good for you,
   you'd give him a wide berth,
   the best seat, and
first choice of popsicle flavors?

Some people are like that
   with their religion;
      externally pitying all who don't
   see, say, practice, and pray
the way they do;

but secretly both fearing
   and abhorring all who wear
the robe of "other",

because faith's genuine article
   has enough courage to carry
      a little doubt in its pocket
         and enough humility to hold
      all of creation in awe,
   but doctrine can't afford to drift
in the sea of such luxuries.

         Don't be that kid.

He grew up wasting all the grace
   his parents lavished on him,
      when he found out that
   everyone else was
just as special as he was.

The bursting of that bubble,
   over a long season of self-neglect,
   not only made him and his world angry,
it also nearly broke him.


© 2016 Todd Jenkins

Friday, February 19, 2016

Water

video

The water's keys
are persistence
and community.

A single drop,
once pounded onto a rock,
no matter how hard it falls,
makes no visible difference.

Gallon after gallon,
year after year,
however, cuts a canyon
deep and wide, more grand
than any hammer ever has.

Take your cue from the river:
be soft, be steady,
and stick together.

Love flows not
from the anxious or the angry,
but flows long and passionately
for those who fall together
instead of apart;
those whose gentleness
knows no end.


© 2016 Todd Jenkins

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Keys

   Sodus Point, NY
We spend too much time
   imagining ourselves
      not only having the keys,
   but also deserving them;

      not just to the church building,
   but maybe even to the kingdom.
      And then we walk
into the gospel’s brick wall:

   the phone rings;
      it’s a friend of a friend
   who works in the court system.

The story: an infant in Foster Care
   has been placed on hospice care;
      both parents currently incarcerated.

      Would we host a one-time
   court-granted family visitation
      in the church building?

This is when you realize
that neither of the keys,
actual or metaphorical,
belongs to you; you're
merely borrowing them,
until someone else needs them.

   You realize that such acts,
      small and inconsequential
   as they may seem, are what
being church is all about.

And then you hear a voice:
“Your next step toward being church
is to figure out how to enter
these stories earlier.”


© 2016 Todd Jenkins

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Carbon Dust

Photo by Kendall Cox

"You are dust, 
and to dust 
you shall return." 
(Genesis 3:19c)     

Nearly thirty years ago,
I watched a teenage pyromaniac 
stare in awe 
at a marshmallow on a stick, 
held over the fire way too long, 
a smile spreading across his face. 
"Whoa, dude; 
totally carbonized!" 

            ******

   In loving reverence, 
   cremains of the dearly departed 
   are treated as sacred ashes, 
   in a beautiful urn 
   on the family room mantle 
   or in a personal prayer space 
   or scattered across 
   holy woods or water. 

We are stardust, 
we are golden, 
and we've got to get ourselves 
back to the garden.
(“Woodstock” by Joni Mitchell)

      Darkness reminds us 
      we're surrounded 
      by billions of stars. 

         We rarely think of them 
         during the light of day. 
         But they're there all along; 
         were there long before 
         the first strand of human DNA 
         sparkled on earth;

will be there long after 
the final helix ceases to exist; 
sending their light via 
speeds stretching comprehension; 
shooting, fizzling in a constant 
galactic fireworks of magnificence. 

   With or without combustion, 
   our carbon-based bodies, 
   once breath and heartbeat cease, 
   are composted back into the earth, 
   embalming fluid be-damned. 

      The Lenten question –  
      or the existential one –  
      is not if we'll flatline, 
      or even when
      but how much humus 
      we'll provide the world around us
      while we're still 
      on the green side of the grass. 

         It's not a question 
         of greatness, fame, or fortune, 
         or of pedigree, real estate, and portfolio.
   
It’s about passion and purpose; 
not whether we appear 
to be shooting stars, 
but how our candle casts light 
into the shadows 
of the neighborhood. 

"Keep open house;
be generous with your lives.
By opening up to others,
you’ll prompt people
to open up with God,
this generous Father in heaven."
(Matt 5:16 MSG)

© 2016 Todd Jenkins


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Question

Photo by Linda M. Patrick

Everyone has a question
that bubbles-up most;
one that matters;
quickening pulses,
spinning the planet.

         In the end –
         and the beginning
         and the middle –
         it turns out not to be
         where or when or
         what or how or why.

               The one that moves us
               is the only one that
               truly connects us:
                      Who?


© 2016 Todd Jenkins

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Dugout

Photo by Lee Lindsey McKinney

 We hold one another's pain
   as close as we are able –
      as near as we dare –

         scratching through the pile
      of cooled ashes
   from fires long-spent
in the canoe’s bottom,

      searching for warm embers
   capable of hollowing
a deeper resting place for suffering,

   praying that our proximity and
      desire to sit low in the boat
         will carry us safely through
      the river's winding shadows,
   from the headwaters of sorrow
toward the ocean of hope.


© 2016 Todd Jenkins

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Without Measurability

1 Corinthians 12:31b
"... and I will show you 
a still more excellent way." 
(a way without measurability)


Agape is a single-source phenomenon.
Apart from the gift and self of God,
it does not exist.

This kind of love is not spontaneous
or emotional reciprocity
for what someone else has done
for you or to you to make you
feel comfortable or happy.

It is a conscious choice to put
someone else's well-being
ahead of your own,
even and especially when
it is difficult and painful for you to do;

a choice made, not for the sake
of gaining anything for yourself,
but made because you know
that you were put here,
in this specific time, place, and circumstance,
to give other people
a chance to recognize godness within;

a choice made, not by the strength
of your own power or goodness,
but by the gift and grace of divine outpouring.

As long as we're earthbound,
we'll never be able
to love anyone, including ourselves,
fully, completely, or unconditionally.

Why?
Because we are not God.

What, then, are we to do?
This, and this alone:
love as freely and fully as we can,
each day, and seek to love more
each day than the day before.

Do it without measurability,
for this is the true character of agape.


© 2016 Todd Jenkins