Two Small Coins

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(This is another lament – #2.  These are not meant to shame anyone, but to help me and anyone else who is struggling with how to pray and how to respond to the challenges we face in the world we live in.)

We watched from our screens

The worlds unfolding tragedies

Lord have mercy

Cities crumbling and unlivable,

Ruined,

Lord have mercy

 

We saw men, women, children, the elderly

Fleeing with little or nothing

On foot, in trucks

Later in unstable overcrowded boats

Looking for help, looking for hope

Lord have mercy

 

Some came to meet them

To feed them and clothe them

To help them

Thanks be to God

Some opened their wallets and gave

What they could

Thanks be to God

 

Others of us felt hopeless

What could we do?

We looked at our two small coins*

And put them back in our pocket

Lord have mercy and forgive us

 

Every day more tragedies unfold

On our flashing screens

Lord have mercy

Every day

Lonely people walk across our paths

Some hungry and homeless

Others in need of a friend

Lord have mercy and forgive us

 

Forgive us God for when we do nothing

Oh Lord let our hearts be open

Show us what we can do

Let not fear keep us from love

Show us how we can love

Let love grow in our hearts

To overcome fear

Show us what we can do

Let us take the two small coins*

Out again and find a way

To use what we have

To help our neighbors in need

Thanks be to God

 

*Luke 21:1-4

 

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Categories: Advent, borderlands, Faith, God, Hope, Hospitality, lament, Love, Prayer, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Series of Laments

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I am writing a series of laments. As a white evangelical Christian I did not learn to lament in my religious or cultural background. This lack of lament is probably due to the fact that I and my ancestors, as part of the dominant culture, have not suffered the injustice, oppression or violence as have many of my neighbors of color. In the last few years I have been introduced to this specific form of prayer.  It is connected closely with confession and repentance.  We are living in an extremely violent society, in an extremely violent world. We are reeling from one tragic event to another. As a follower of Jesus the Christ, I have learned from his teachings the law of sowing and reaping. What is planted is what grows.  With this principle in mind I wonder what it will take to root out the violence in our society and in our world. Large trees with long roots started as small seeds.  What seeds have been planted in our history that continue to bloom into violence? I believe a collective lament, confession and repentance is necessary for lasting change to occur. The path to healing in our communities, must go through this path of self-reflection and acknowledgement leading to lament, confession and repentance. I invite you to join me in this journey of overturning the soil in our hearts in the hope of producing the good fruits of love and peace in our world.

Laments can be spoken, chanted or sung together in a group or alone.  The bold letter words are for those who wish to pray together in a group.

This first lament is in response to the recent Texas church shooting.

 

#1 Lament for violence in our land:

 

Oh God hear our prayers!

 

Today children are grieving.

They have lost their parents or grandparents.

Oh Lord hear their cries.

 

Today parents and grandparents are grieving.

They have lost their children and grandchildren.

Oh Lord hear their cries.

 

Today brothers and sisters are grieving.

They have lost their siblings.

Oh Lord hear their cries.

 

Today neighbors and friends are grieving.

They have lost their neighbors and friends.

Oh Lord hear their cries.

 

We have done wrong against you

And our fellow human beings

Made in your image.

We have not loved our neighbors

As ourselves.

 

We have loved our power

More than our neighbors.

Lord have mercy.

 

We have loved our comfort

More than our neighbors.

Lord have mercy.

 

We have loved our privilege

More than our neighbors.

Lord have mercy.

 

We have loved our safety

More than our neighbors.

Lord have mercy.

 

We have loved our weapons

More than our neighbors.

Lord have mercy.

 

Lord have mercy

And forgive us these things

We pray.

Show us how to walk out

Our repentance towards you

And our neighbors.

Amen

Categories: Faith, God, grief and death, growth, Hope, lament, Paths, Peace and Reconciliation, Prayer | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Grief and Cultural Cliches

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There is an ongoing battle occurring as I sit down to write this blog.  It is over the death of a soldier and the response of the current President.  

 

In our present, ever-changing, lightning speed culture we have pushed and squeezed death into a tidy box or urn, as far away from us as possible.  We no longer know how to comfort those who mourn.  As a people who have lifted the value of physical comfort high on our list of our God-given rights, death makes us very uncomfortable. We do not know what to do with it.  Death takes too much of our valuable time.  We no longer go to those who have lost a loved one and sit with them in silence or tears.  We send cards or perhaps flowers.  We rarely go to funerals or memorial services.  When we do, the focus is often on celebrating the lives of the ones who have left us and leaving out the grief.

 

When confronted with grief we often don’t know what to say or do. If we speak we use clichés and platitudes. Instead of entering into the grief with our friend, neighbor or coworker we distance ourselves from the grief with phrases such as, “She died doing what she loved.” or “He knew what he signed up for when he joined the army”.  These unthinking, unfeeling phrases roll off the tongue and put the blame on the person who just died, for their choice.  I don’t need to be uncomfortable, it wasn’t my fault.  These kinds of phrases do not help the grieving person.

 

Living in Central Asia with people who value the observation grief has helped me understand it. They do not leave relatives, neighbors, or friends alone with their grief, they enter into it together.

 

What helps a grieving person is to enter the grief with them and feel the pain they are going through.  Silence is better than saying something that distances us from them.  When someone acknowledges my pain with words like  “I’m so sorry you lost your son”, they enter into my grief with me. When someone let’s me cry or even wail it makes my grief just a little bit more bearable.  Often those grieving need to process with their words what they are feeling or talk about their loved one.  If my goal is to listen and help bear their burden I can truly help instead of shoving their grief away.  

 

Maybe one thing this president is doing is highlighting the unhealthy, even dangerous places in our society. We need to pay attention! Let’s take another look at our responses to death and grief, sexual abuse and harassment, racial injustices, greed, idolatry and poverty, to name a few.

 

 

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Blind Spots

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I recently had an appointment with an eye doctor. I have Sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease. My pulmonologist asked me to get my eyes checked as it is common for this condition to be found in one’s eye. So I did. There was a small growth on my retina. The doctor said it looks like it’s been there a long time, but we should keep an eye on it. One of the symptoms of this growth is that I have a bigger blind spot in my left eye than in my right eye.

 

Blind spots. We all have them. We do not realise we have them until someone points something out to us that we missed, for instance my eye doctor showing me the big spot where I didn’t see the flashing dots on my exam.

 

This Sunday I enjoyed a a lovely church gathering that met in a home.  It had all the elements that I love, good worshipful singing, an inspiring message, lots of fellowship and (good coffee), and at the end a time to pray with one another. Before we broke up for the prayer, the prayer leader mentioned an impression he had that there were those of us with eye troubles needing prayer.  I remembered my growth creating a bigger than normal blind spot.  The sister I was praying with also had something going on with one of her eyes that was causing blurry vision. We prayed for each other and then she mentioned that there were probably spiritual implications to our troubles as well. I filed that away, but not before I felt a little defensive, nothing came to mind, it can’t be about that, I thought to myself. Well, isn’t that what a blind spot is? We don’t see it.

 

On Saturday we heard Jim Wallis speak about “America’s Original Sin.”  Last night we watched a documentary on Mohammad Ali. Now I’m not a fan of boxing and was a little resistant to it, but Bill nudged me a little bit and let me know it was not really about boxing.  So I settled in and was gripped by the story of this man. Of course I had heard about him, he was famous, a champion!  But I didn’t know the backstory how he had suffered as a black man against a world where white men called the shots and had caused so much pain and suffering for him, his people, his ancestors. I didn’t know why he converted to Islam and what that meant for him and so many others at the time.

 

This morning I woke up to my normal routine.  Bill had made my coffee, I gathered my devotional books, a bible, my journal and as I sat down to have my devotions, my Great Prompter, my Great Reminder (The Holy Spirit) reminded me of my blind spot.  Bill and I are grappling with what is going on in our nation at this time. Maybe white privilege is a big blind spot for a lot of us white folks. We get defensive, edgy when it is mentioned.  We want to defend ourselves.  It wasn’t me, my folks were mostly from the North, and not wealthy. What privilege?.  We need reminding and we need our more enlightened friends and friends of color to help us see what we don’t see. We have benefited and we have benefits, that our brothers and sisters of color do not have, just because we are white.

 

I never had to have “the talk” with my sons or my daughter about what to do if you’re pulled over by the police. Please listen to this song, “Hands Up”,  inbeded in this excellent article worth reading.

.https://sojo.net/articles/our-white-friends-empathy-not-enough

 

I didn’t even know about this until the last couple of years when so many videos circulated with black people (mostly men) being shot and killed at routine traffic stops.  I had some previews though, when we were driving from Atlanta to Birmingham one summer afternoon not too long ago.  I saw so many people being pulled over. They were all black, not one single white person on that short trip. What was this about? I wondered. I think it was a magnification of what has been going on all around the country, not just the south.

 

It takes a lot of effort to see what we do not see. We need help. We need friends and family members to tell us what we are missing. I have an extra big blind spot.  What I see, I see fine with my glasses on. Yet, there are some things I do not see. I need others to tell me. I need to push down my defences and listen!

 

I appreciate my friends of color who have shared their stories with me. It helps me see more clearly what I would not normally see. I am making efforts to listen to podcasts, read books, and watch movies on this issue and discuss with others what I am learning. Jim Wallis reminded us of the words of Jesus: “You did it to me.” from (Matthew 25:40) With those words he reminded us this is not a political issue, but  a theological issue. We have another opportunity upon us to move towards healing and reconciliation. I want to be a part of the movement to acknowledge and repent of the racism and the white supremacy that our nation was founded on. This is the road to healing.

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Strangers, Foreigners, Refugees

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Why welcome the stranger?

Are you afraid you don’t have enough

Resources for yourself?

Your family?

Your nation?

Not enough jobs?

Did you forget the story?

How did two fish and five loaves

Become enough to feed thousands?

 

They would have stayed 2 + 5,

If they were not given up and over

To the One

Who holds it all together

Who taught us the new math

Of sowing and reaping

Of trusting and love.

 

We need reminding

In these times of distress

Times of anxiety:

When we hold our fists

Closed tightly around our resources,

Our love, our humanity

It all turns to dust.

 

When we open our hands:

The Holy Wind blows

The seeds to good soil

Landing, planting, producing.

Holding fists tightly

Stops the river of blessing

Coming our way.

 

The stranger show us

The face of God

In a way we do not know.

Our dimensions become wider

New concepts expand our minds

Love expands our hearts.

We become more fully human

More like the One who formed us

And gave us all that we are

All that we have.

© Julie Clark 2017

 

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Fertile Ground

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What is this fertile ground

Where hoods are removed

And torches lit?

Where these actions and words

Of violence and hate

Reverberate across the earth?

Where radicalized 20 year olds

Fed on hate

Can take extreme views

To their conclusions and kill?

 

Is this an exposure

For all to see

The faulty foundations

In need of repair?

We cannot move forward

Until we address

The underlying decay

Made evident by recent events

 

Is it force upon force,

Violence answering violence

That will do this work?

No, that will only destroy

What is good and best

 

Instead

Call the elders

Listen to the truly wise

Study their words and their works

The ones who know how to love

To overcome evil with good

To push back darkness with light

The ones who have done this work

Can shine a light that we all

Can follow.

 

© 2017 Julie Clark

 

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Resources Needed

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In our exhaustion

Resources of love and patience

Run low

Small things take on large proportion

Sending us spiraling down

An open door for dark forces

To exploit our weakness

 

Yet, also a perfect time

To see where we need growth

Opportunity for forces of light

To nudge us to transformation

 

Stop

Pay attention

Pray

What are you doing Abba?

Where are you relentlessly working

To free me from the prison

Of self?

© Julie Clark 2017

Categories: borderlands, Faith, God, growth, Hope, Life, Love, Poetry, Prayer | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Peace Longings Part Three

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(I am reblogging this today.  It was part of a three part poem I wrote in 2016. A longing for peace that has only increased.)

How many tears

Can the oceans hold?

When will this violence

Cease?

What will stop the cycle?

More violence is not the answer!

Have we not learned that, yet?

It only prolongs and increases

The destruction and death.

We must wake up!

All must do the work

Of the farmer

Go back to the basics

Sow the seeds of peace

Tears of repentance

And forgiveness

The courageous ones

Will walk towards their enemies

With hands empty

Save for peace

This earth does not belong

To those who devour it

But to the Meek

The gentle of heart

The tide will turn

Wait for it

 

© 2016 Julie Clark

 

Categories: Faith, Hope, Life, Love, Peace and Reconciliation, Poetry, Prayer, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Like the Good Shepherd

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Come looking for me

Like the Good Shepherd

I am lost

I am lonely

I am scared

We all lose the path

Sometimes

We cannot find the way out

Of a maze

A pit

Out of the water

Rushing over us

We need

A rope

A strong boat

A  hand

To pull us out

And up

Sometimes

We can be

That rope

Or hand

When someone else

Is sinking

 

© 2017 Julie Clark

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Psalm reflections

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“Your statutes have been like songs to me

Whenever I have lived as a stranger.” Psalm 119:14

 

I have been a stranger

  in the land

A foreigner in this place

  I am obtuse

To the language

  and culture

Yet one constant –

The song of your presence

 

I am no stranger

  to you

No foreigner

  in this land

Where heaven meets earth

  the song is born

Where you call me your own

  you lead me by the hand

 

“Show me the road that I must walk

For I lift my soul to you.” Psalm 143:8

 

The road divides before me

Shall I turn left or right?

I lift up my eyes,

My soul,

My prayer,

I put my trust in your

Unfailing love

I make my choice

And follow you.

 

© 2017 Julie Clark

Categories: Faith, God, Life, Love, Paths, Poetry, Prayer, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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