God

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

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.

Categories: Faith, God, growth, Hope, Peace and Reconciliation, Prayer, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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

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

Shameless Audacity

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Shameless audacity

Just go ahead and ask

You will not regret it

Pour out your words

Coming straight from your heart

What do you need?

What do you want?

Who are you carrying

Close in your thoughts?

Bring it all up

Bring it all out

Pray –

What will it hurt?

You will be welcomed

You will be heard

In this place

Where heaven meets earth

Connection becomes communion

Ask, seek, knock

Believe and receive

The Spirit is yours

 

© 2017 Julie Clark

Categories: Faith, God, Hope, Hospitality, Lent, Poetry, Prayer, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Equilibrium

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Every now and again

Life circumstances line up

A great wall of water

A perfect storm

That knocks you down

And carries you away

You and the balls

You have  been juggling

Faith, hope, and love

 

Now amidst all the wreckage

You find a way to stand up

And breathe

You start your search

Looking for those balls

To throw into play again

Without them you

Really can’t live

For very long

© 2017 Julie Clark

 

 

 

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

Not Brave Enough Yet

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Yesterday I was hit by a cloud of grief that soaked me as I watched Barack and Michelle Obama wave good-bye.  I could only watch for a couple of minutes and then just had to sit with my grief. As my thoughts went to the bravery of the women who would be participating today in the Marches across the nation, I felt afraid and vulnerable.  I, at this point, am not physically strong enough or emotionally brave enough to march. I want to hide. I don’t want to stand out. I am one of those faceless, nameless women (no longer) who have been molested and groped. As many others before me have done, I am choosing to move into the light rather than hide in the shadows. This new president has made it very clear he is not on my side. Thank you to all the women who are able to step out and make a stand today.

 

I’m a complicated person, in process, aren’t we all? I have lived overseas for over 20 years of my adult life. I know what it feels like to live as a foreigner, an outsider, one who does not understand all the languages and cultures swirling around me.  I was sent by evangelical churches and people to love people with very different cultures and languages. That is why I am grieved by so many from this demographic who are now calling for isolationism and nationalism. Are they giving into fear and self interest rather than being ruled by love?  They seem to be listening to another voice other than the One they claim to be following.

 

I count it a privilege to have many Muslim friends who are very dear to me, some even call me Mom. I grew up among Hispanics in East Los Angeles and am honored to have a precious daughter-in-law, whose first language is Spanish.  I am also very proud to have a Vietnamese son-in-law. From all of these groups I learned more about family and community.  I have learned about hospitality, kindness to strangers and a deep respect for the elderly.  I am enriched by my international family and friends. We are deprived when we cut ourselves off from the richness of other cultures.

 

Through listening to the stories of our friends, my anthropologist husband and I are trying to understand what it’s like to be on the margins in our own country. We are part of an organization (Peace Catalyst International) that builds bridges, not walls.

 

Today I am feeling stronger.  After listening to some of the inauguration speech by the new President, I want to say I’m sticking with the words of Jesus over his.  Jesus said if you want to be great, then be the servant of all and he showed us how to do that by laying down his life.  He said the first will be last and the last will be first.  So this “America First” statement strikes me as really dangerous. Self interest never leads to love. I’m sticking with “the greatest of these is love”.

 

 

Categories: borderlands, Faith, God, growth, Hope, Hospitality, Love, pain, Paths, Peace and Reconciliation, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

We like sheep

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We like sheep? This phrase kept running through my mind this morning after only a few hours of sleep. Not the smartest of animals.  Following each other into dangerous places. Over cliffs, etc.  The question now is how far is the fall?  Time will tell.  Will electing someone who is proud of assaulting women, makes fun of the disabled, clearly ethnocentric and narcissistic, racist, a war monger, fear monger, a liar and a cheat (have I forgotten anything?) have any consequences? Of course it will, but what they will be we have yet to see.  “When the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding.” Anyone remember this verse from Proverbs before you voted?

My world seems less safe today than yesterday. Yet I cannot give into fear.  I have to practice what I preached on Sunday: “Don’t let your hearts be troubled, don’t be afraid…” I remind myself today of the Way of Jesus.  It is a long pilgrimage of following him and practicing his ways.  Which are so very different from the ways of this world.  It is a way of doing good, not being overcome by evil, but overcoming evil with good.  It is a path of peace, where peacemakers, the humble, the poor, the pure in heart, those hungry and thirsty for justice, the meek, the merciful, those in mourning, and yes the persecuted are all blessed. It is a way of forgiving and being forgiven. It is the way of loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves.  

Thank goodness and thank God advent is just around the corner.  Maybe some will search their souls during this season and align themselves with the Good Shepherd and his ways.  It will help as we encounter the consequences of our choices.  Maybe listening to Handel’s Messiah will help us get through some of this darkness.  I’m starting early – today. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LmeyG5LlFWU

Here’s some sheep verses in case you are interested.  

Isaiah 53:6

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Matthew 9:36

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Mark 6:34

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

1 Peter 2:25

For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Categories: Advent, Faith, God, pain, Paths, Peace and Reconciliation, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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