Prayer

Paying Attention to Emotions

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I am learning more about emotions these days. Learning to look back over my day or even a few days and identify my feelings and emotions. A much better practice then shoving them down or acting on them without thinking. Here’s an example from what I’ve been reading: Did I feel Anger? Sadness? Fear? Then connecting some dots to what brought on these feelings. This goes along with a contemplative prayer practice called The Prayer of Examen.

 

Here’s what was lurking in my subterranean depths the other day.

 

I was feeling anger at the injustice in our world.

 

I was feeling sadness that all our kids and their families live far away at this time.  

 

I was feeling some fear of becoming insignificant, losing my strength, memory and voice as I grow older. Am I accomplishing anything important these days?  Am I missing something?

 

Now that I have identified these feelings I can talk about them with loved ones and I can pray about them. Naming these emotions helps me work through the difficulties I may have faced that day. It also helps me sleep better!

 

I also see how important it is to help children with identifying their emotions and connecting them with what is going on in their lives.  Not an easy task but so important for a life long practice.

 

Several years ago I began learning  inner healing prayer practices. We learned to connect our current troubling emotions with memory of when we felt these before, until we hit on a spot in our pasts that flared up with these emotions.  With finding these we were then able to invite Jesus into the painful memories and find healing. In this healing of finding him with us in our painful memories we were then able to deal with the present situation that was stirring up old emotions of loss, fear, anger, sadness, or abandonment.

 

Now having worked through the negative emotions, I can move on to look for positive ones.

Did I feel loved today, seen, heard, or appreciated?  Did something make me laugh, or feel happy or peaceful?  Spending a few moments appreciating these emotions leads right into gratitude. Gratitude is a great way to end any day.

 

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Lament for the Earth

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God we ask for your mercy and help.

 

We have filled the waters of the earth with poison and pollution.

We have harmed people, animals, fish and plants with this water.

We have continued to fill the waters with chemicals, plastics and garbage even when we know this is harmful.

 

God have mercy on us and forgive us.

Help us to care for these precious waters that sustain us.

 

We have poisoned and polluted the land.

We have destroyed forests and fields.

Our foods are no longer rich in nutrients.

We continue to harm people, animals and plants with our poisons and pollution.

 

God have mercy on us and forgive us.

Help us to care for the land that sustains us.

 

We have poisoned and polluted the air.

We continue to burn fossil  fuels that are heating our atmosphere.

We are harming people, animals and plants with these poisons and pollution.

We know this, yet we continue to burn and pollute our air.

 

God have mercy on us and forgive us.

Help us to care for the air that sustains us.

 

The earth is suffering and groaning

With floods and fires.

Glaciers are melting and forests are disappearing

While deserts are increasing.

 

Oh God forgive us!

 

We have done this to the beautiful earth you created, filled with living creatures that we are harming, including ourselves.

We have ignored the warnings and

We have not acted when we realized long ago we were culpable.

 

God we ask you to help us do what is right.

Help us to care for our planet and all who inhabit it.

 

Even now, if you do not help us it will be too late.

We put our hope in you. Help us and sustain us.

 

God have mercy on us! Amen

 

for a better understanding of what is happening to our planet read this extensive article in the New York Times Magazine:

 

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/08/01/magazine/climate-change-losing-earth.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fmagazine&action=click&contentCollection=magazine&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=7&pgtype=sectionfront

 

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What Will It Take

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What Will It Take

 

Today I am adding my voice to many who are speaking up for the children being separated from their parents at our borders.  I am appalled, grieved and angry. I know this is not the first time our nation has done this, but I pray that it will be the last. I pray that men and women in our government will take responsibility and quickly return these traumatized children to their parents. Children are being used as political pawns all over the world and they need us all to speak up for them.  Today is not the time to be silent or sit and watch from the sidelines.

 

What will it take

For those harming

The little ones

The children

To awaken

To the gravity

Of their own plight?

 

You are being watched

Your actions are being noted.

Will it be a vision

Of a millstone

Necklace being

Crafted for you?

Or

Will it be a later cry

“Lord, when did I see

You as a child

Being torn

From your parents?

The answer,

“What you did

To the least of these

You did to Me.”

 

Speak up!

Lift your voices

All mothers

Fathers

Grandparents

Send your help,

Else who will listen

When someone comes

For your children

Or grandchildren?

 

© 2018 Julie Clark

 

Categories: children, Faith, God, lament, Poetry, Prayer | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Ramadan, The Perfect Time to Meet Your Muslim Neighbors

We are in the midst of Ramadan, the month of fasting for Muslims. It is the 9th month in the Muslim Lunar calendar. This is when all able-bodied Muslims will fast from food, drink and other physical needs from sunrise to sunset. It is a time of prayer and purification to become closer to God. The Arabic word for God is Allah. Ramadan marks when the first chapters of the Quran were given to the Prophet Muhammad.

Ramadan is the 4th of 5 Pillars of Islam.  These Pillars define what it means to be a Muslim. Here is a list of the 5 Pillars:

  1. Shahada: faith in the Islam religion,
  2. Salat: pray five times per day facing the direction of Mecca,
  3. Zakat: give support to the needy,
  4. Sawm: fast during Ramadan, and
  5. Hajj: make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once during one’s lifetime.

The season of Ramadan is a season of joy and celebration.  It is also a season of generosity and kindness. Although the fasting can be difficult the month is punctuated with celebratory meals after the sun goes down. These are called iftars. They are often celebrated together with families and friends, as well as community events. This is a great opportunity to join an iftar and meet your neighbors.  My husband and I have several days marked on our calendars to join an iftar. Some of these are interfaith events, hosted by a community of Muslims. Some churches are also getting involved and hosting iftars for their Muslim friends and neighbors. This can be a time to build friendships and understanding. Why not check with your local mosque and see if there are any such gatherings that you could join?  Or ask a Muslim friend, co-worker or neighbor if you could join them for an iftar? Be prepared for some delicious food and warm hospitality. You may be eating and staying up later than what is normal for you, but the benefits of making or strengthening existing friendships is worth being a little sleepy the next day.

I have heard stories from some of my immigrant friends who grew up in the middle east how Christian, Muslim, and Jewish neighbors would make food for each other during their holidays. This would be a custom worth reviving in our multi-faith and diverse communities.  Maybe you will be inspired to host an iftar for your friends and neighbors. Just make sure you use halal meat or make a vegetarian meal. Costco carries halal meat as well as neighborhood halal stores. I have 2 in my neighborhood. This is one way to build love and peace in our world so desperately needing it.  One step at a time, right where we live.

 

Categories: Faith, God, Hospitality, Love, Peace and Reconciliation, Prayer, Seasons | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Encircled

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Encircled with Lavender and Rosemary

On this warm day

Breathing in pure fragrant air

Releasing anxiety and pressure

Pressure to be

Something I am not

Receiving peace

Healing and rest

May my fragrance be

Life giving and refreshing

To the ones

Encircled by my love today

 

2018 Julie Clark

Categories: beauty, Faith, growth, Life, Love, Poetry, Prayer, Seasons | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ancient Words, Ancient Prayer

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“May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.” Psalm 33:22

 

Ancient words, comforting words

Still bringing life

Over the long passages of time

Joining in the cry of the faithful

Or the desperate

Or both

Please be mindful of me

On this treacherous pilgrimage

On planet earth

My mind

Incapable of knowing

All the sinkholes

And swirling vortexes

Threatening to take me

Down and away

I will leave those to you

And keep my eyes focussed

On this path

One step at a time

You are my good shepherd

After all

 

© 2018 Julie Clark

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

In Honor of Black History Month – A Poem and a Lament of White Privilege

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I have decided to take the risk of offending you

  To gently ask that you join me too

  To wake up and make a move

  Towards what we know is true

I have decided to open my eyes wide

  To notice the turning of the tide

  To pay attention to those in pain

  And stand with them side by side

I have decided to open my ears

  To no longer be controlled by my fears

  To grow and to learn something new

  Though I am late and full of years

 

I have decided to take the risk of offending you

  To gently ask that you join me too

  To wake up and make a move

  Towards what we know is true

There is work to do and it’s not too late

  We are needed to advocate

  (Though we are white and somewhat fragile)

  To move a mountain of ignorance and hate

Our first work is to lament

  Centuries of damage, discord and blood spent

  There is far too much history

  To rush in like a savior sent

 

Oh God have mercy on us and hear our prayers

 

We have enjoyed our privilege and not listened to the cries of the oppressed

Instead we listened to voices minimizing or denying this oppression

 

We have turned our backs on their suffering, segregating ourselves

In neighborhoods and schools

 

For this we ask forgiveness

 

We have not full acknowledged our history

Of white supremacy, injustice, violence, genocide and slavery

 

We have hid behind our shame and fear instead

 

We have not listened to voices of our brothers and sisters of color

Asking us to take another look at our history.

 

For this we ask forgiveness

 

Help us to grieve and to mourn the past and the present racial injustice

Help us to open our ears, our eyes, and especially our hearts

Soften our hearts where they have grown indifferent and cold

 

O God have mercy on us and forgive us

 

Help us turn from the injustice

That is still systemic in our nation

Help us to understand what needs to be done

To undo and untangle racial injustice from our systems of

Justice, Education, Housing, Medicine, and Employment

 

For this we ask for your help and strength

O God have mercy on us and hear our prayers

Amen

 

   

  

 

Categories: Black History Month, God, lament, Lent, Peace and Reconciliation, Poetry, Prayer, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

 

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

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