Posts Tagged With: listen

Grief and Cultural Cliches

IMG_6304

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.

 

 

Advertisements
Categories: grief and death, growth, Life, pain, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blind Spots

IMG_9418

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

On a day like today

IMG_8566

On a day like today

When the sun comes out

After months of hiding

Behind low clouds and

Sheets of rain

You could believe anything

You can hope again

Hearts grown cold

Could thaw

Life could start fresh

Love could bloom

You could make new friends

Instead of enemies

Reach across walls and fences

Touch hands

Change could happen

People could listen

To one another

With compassion

They could share resources

They could take care of this earth

That has  been home to us

For ages

We could choose a path of peace

Instead of war

On a day like this

© 2017 Julie  Clark

 

Categories: Faith, Hope, Lent, Life, Love, Peace and Reconciliation, Poetry, Seasons, 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

Will I?

 

DSCN2946

If I listen

I will hear a variety of

Chirps, tweets and caws

Outside my window

The motors become background

To the symphony

If I listen

 

If I look

I will see the flowers

In the trees

The vibrant colors

In the garments swishing by

The mouths turning into smiles

If I look

 

If I smell

I will catch the aroma

Of spices in the air

The curries being prepared

The jasmine and frangipani

Dominating the fragrance of the path

If I smell

 

If I taste

I will savor the fruit and yogurt

In the lassie

The spices in the biryani

The ginger in the strong

Milky tea

If I taste

 

If I touch

I will feel the texture

Of the rich colorful fabrics

The weight of the children

In my lap

The cool tiles on bare feet

If I touch

© 2016 Julie Clark

follow the leader

 

 

Categories: beauty, borderlands, Life, Paths, Poetry, Travel, Trees | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Enemy Within

Again hate and fear are splashed across the pages of our newspapers, our screens, and our hearts. How is our world continuing to spiral further and further out of control? What will stop this craziness?  It’s not just the terrible violent acts, but also the hateful and fearful aftermath. Fingers are being pointed in all directions.  We really want answers and we want to blame someone other than ourselves and our own communities for these horrific acts of violence.

Here’s how Eugene Peterson translates the words of Jesus in The Message, regarding the final days. Matthew 24:11:  “In the confusion, lying preachers will come forward and deceive a lot of people. For many others, the overwhelming spread of evil will do them in—nothing left of their love but a mound of ashes.”

There is a lot of confusion, a lot of voices, deception and spreading of evil. What has happened to the love in our hearts?   Do you know that fear kills love?  More words from The Message this time from 1 John 4:17-18  God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, ….There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear…

For those who want to blame Islam – I want to say this is not Islam, read these words translated from the Qur’an: “Whoever kills a person [unjustly]…it is as though he has killed all mankind. And whoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved all mankind.”(Qur’an, 5:32)

And for those who are asking the question (I have heard it too many times): “Why is the Muslim community not speaking out?”  They are! I hear them! Maybe their voices are not being listened to, or the wrong people are being heard.

For those who fear (as in fear the slippery slope) the LGBTQ community.  These ones are beloved of God! Who does the right to judge and condemn belong to? I remember there is only One Judge and it is not me. This judge is full of mercy – he even loves me, in all my messy brokenness.

The only remedy I understand from the words of my Saviour are “Love one another, this is my command.”  Not just love those who love you, remember? Love your neighbor, love your enemy.  Those following him are supposed to be known by their love, not by their condemnation.

So if the case is that the enemy is not out there but within our own hearts, if truly our love is growing cold, we better hurry and learn how to love again before all that is left is a pile of ashes.

 

Categories: Faith, God, Love, pain | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Which Way

DSCN1744

There are those

Who spread fear

Just as black ink

Splatters thick

across the paper

 

Then there are those

Doing the slow work

Of love

Meticulously erasing

The stain

One person at a time

And filling the space

With glorious colors

Where beauty can take shape

And life can grow again

 

Here is a suggestion

Instead of standing against

The “Other”

Come along side

Listen to their story

Sorrow and pain

Love and joy

Understand

They too are human

Just like you

 

How did this happen?

The bridges slowly built

With care and love

Years of hard work

Dynamited in seconds

Rubble of hate and fear

Left behind

An enemy came

And spread seeds of destruction

Instead of kernels of peace

Fingers stop pointing

Look instead to the heart

Am I a good neighbor?

Am I my brother’s keeper?

 

© 2016 Julie Clark

The Path to the Garden

Categories: beauty, Faith, growth, Hope, Life, Love, Paths, Peace and Reconciliation, Poetry | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

How Good To Center Down! by Howard Thurman

Passing on a beautiful poem/meditation I read this morning from Howard Thurman’s Meditations of the Heart.  In our over full, over stimulated stressed lives, this is a good reminder. Perhaps a good way to start the Lenten season. 

 

IMG_7096  

 

How Good To Center Down!

 

How good it is to center down!

To sit quietly and see one’s self pass by!

The streets of our minds seethe with endless traffic;

Our spirits resound with clashings, with noisy silences,

While something deep within hungers and thirsts for the still moment

    and the resting lull.

With full intensity we seek, ere the quiet passes, a fresh sense

    of order in our living;

A direction, a strong sure purpose that will structure our confusion

    and bring meaning in our chaos.

We look at ourselves in this waiting moment –

    the kinds of people we are.

The questions persist:  what are we doing with our lives? –

    what are the motives that order our days?

What is the end of our doings?

Where are we trying to go?

Where do we put the emphasis and where are our values focused?

For what end do we make sacrifices?

Where is my treasure and what do I love most in life?

What do I hate most in life and to what am I true?

Over and over the questions beat in upon the waiting moment.

As we listen, floating up through all the jangling echoes of our turbulence,

   there is a sound of another kind –

A deeper note which only the stillness of the heart makes clear.

It moves directly to the core of our being.  

Our questions are answered,

Our spirits refreshed, and we move back into the traffic of our daily round

With the peace of the Eternal in our step.

How good it is to center down!

 

Howard Thurman

Categories: Faith, God, Hope, Lent, Life, Paths, Poetry, Prayer, Seasons | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Summer Chimes

Poplar

 

Along ancient paths

newly surfaced again and again

poplars, descendants of

the Aged Ones,

are whispering

in the warm summer breeze

 

Will i stop and listen?

Autumn will come

soon enough

and lash these chimes,

winter will find them gone

 

Now in this warmth only

is their message heard

for this season,

later the falling leaves

and bleak branches

will have another message

 

Life presses in

with it’s pressures

do this, do that

and hurry up

you are late again,

fill every moment

with a call or a text

until the pulse races

and the poplars

playful message of

peace and joy

cannot be heard

for another year

 

© 2015 Julie Clark

Categories: beauty, Faith, Life, Paths, Poetry, Seasons, Trees | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On the need for ears

DSCN1750The voice sometimes takes over,

all good intentions of course,

but it forgets

the ears have a job to do as well.

As the lips move, passion builds

as a case is made,

losing connection with the heart of the other,

forgetting the words of the Holy Book:

“Be quick to listen,

slow to speak

slow to become angry.”

 

How much better to first give the ears

their chance,

rein in the tongue of fire,

and opinions for awhile

Be prepared to learn from another’s

point of view.

Wisdom’s treasures

are often found

in hidden places,

for the quick to listen

to hear them.

 

© 2015 Julie Clark

 

Categories: Faith, God, Hospitality, Life, Peace and Reconciliation, Poetry | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: