growth

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

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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.

 

 

Categories: grief and death, growth, Life, pain, Uncategorized | 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

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

 

Categories: Faith, growth, Hospitality, Life, Love, Poetry | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 7 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

Happy Valentines Day

Let’s Grow Love

Love Grows

Categories: growth, Love, Peace and Reconciliation, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Ask the question

Love Grows

When the seams of life unravel

When fog blurs vision

The way forward is obscured

When positions are hardened

Anger flares

Resolution and reconciliation

Seem millions of miles away

Remember

The greatest of all is love

It is the pulse that runs the universe

Slow down and listen

Feel it running through

Your veins

Ask the question –

What does love look like?

Give imagination free reign

Wait for your thoughts to form

Then get ready

Bring a friend, sister or brother

Go do that good

You are inspired to do.

© 2017 Julie Clark

 

Be Your Best

Be your best

Come alive

Breathe in life

Inspire me

With your love

With your courage

Be your best

Find a way

Show the way

I will follow

Be my best

Together we

Sow the seeds

Of love and courage

© 2017 Julie Clark

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

Plant These

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(This is the first chapter of a Children’s Story I am working on.)

 

Thelma woke one morning. It was still “dark morning” as she had always called it when one of her parents had awakened her for school or some early morning traveling before sunrise. “Is it dark morning?” she would ask.

 

This time it wasn’t her parents or older sister, but colorful light glowing or rather dancing in her room.  There were no sounds. Usually these days, she would awaken to raised voices in the kitchen, her mother arguing with her sister or father.  They must still be sleeping she thought.  Then she quickly threw off her blankets and hurried to the corner of her room where the dancing lights were bouncing up and down in a basket.  She stubbed her big toe on the comfy chair next to her desk, but not hard enough to slow her down and only a quiet yelp escaped from her mouth.  She peered into the basket. What she saw was extraordinary! The basket was filled with small glowing seeds of every color bouncing up and down.  There was a note folded on the side of the basket. She lifted it out and turned on the small light on her desk to read it.  It was hard to take her eyes off those seeds.  One part of her wanted to hide them like a secret treasure so no one else would see them or take them, but she turned her eyes to the note now and read:

 

“ Plant these: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control.  These seeds will die unless you plant them.  Outside in your backyard you will find a bicycle in a tree.  The bicycle will show you where to plant these seeds.”

 

Thelma quickly put on her robe and slippers and headed for the back door.  There was Skiff her beloved mutt curled up sleeping on the mat in front of the door.  He opened his eyes and wagged his tail as she approached.

 

“OK, Skiff you can come with me, but no barking, understand?”  She whispered as she patted him on the head.”  

 

She opened the backdoor and off they went towards the one big tree in her yard.  Sure enough, there was a bicycle hooked up to the trunk of the tree.  She could barely reach it. But with a little hop she was able to unhook the bike and bring it down.  The basket fit perfectly to the handle bars.

 

“Ok, here goes!” She whispered to herself and Skiff as she climbed onto the bicycle and set off.  The bicycle had a mind of it’s own!  She was going to peddle down the street but instead the bicycle went around her house.  She tried again as the driveway came up on the right but again the bicycle went bumping around the house and one more time again.  Then she remembered in her frustration to steer the bike, that the note said the bicycle would show her where to plant the seeds.

 

“Oh! I’m supposed to plant the seeds around our house!” She parked the bike against the house and began digging little holes for the seeds under the kitchen window.  She carefully placed a few of the glowing seeds and covered them back up with dirt. Then all along the sides of the house she repeated her task until she ran out of seeds, which happened to be where she had started. The bicycle was gone.  Then she noticed the early morning light painting the eastern sky.  She glanced over to the tree and caught a glimpse of the bicycle disappearing into the thick foliage of the tree.  

 

As she and Skiff opened the back door she met her parents and older sister coming downstairs.  

 

“Hey, you’re up first this morning!  How did that happen?” Bea, Thelma’s oldest sister asked.

 

Thelma didn’t answer, she just walked over to them and gave them all hugs and said: “I love you.”  Then together they went into the kitchen to make breakfast together.  

© 2016 Julie Clark

 

 

Categories: beauty, growth, Hope, Life, Love, Marriage and Family, Story: Plant These, Trees | 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

Resolutions

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Some are about loosing

(weight or bad habits)

Some are about gaining

(wealth or a spouse)

All about changes to make in the year

Yet how much do I control

What happens to me?

Surely my choices are factors

In the matter

But I truly believe

All things considered

That the most important change I can make

In a year

Is what comes from my heart

And works itself out

in the way

I treat others

(And that is including

myself)

© 2016 Julie Clark

Categories: growth, Life, Poetry, Seasons, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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