borderlands

Am I Hoarding Jesus?

 

When I was a young person coming back to faith in Jesus in the mid 70’s I was taught I had the answers to the questions of life. My experience as I traversed different parts of the world and met different kinds of people that this was not all together true. Yes, my young life had changed as I made following and learning about Jesus a priority, but I had a lot to learn from the people I met. Yes, I could offer prayers and encouragement from my perspective and I did see people encouraged, and even recovered from sickness. Yet, I learned to be quick to listen, slow to speak. Well, I had to be, because I was learning a new language! One of the many gifts of learning a new language. I also was learning and seeing beautiful things in the culture and people around me that I had not learned in my own culture. I learned to look for what good things God was already doing in a person’s life and in their culture. I learned to affirm those good things. Of course every culture has it’s light side and dark side, including my own. Now as I look back on those early years I think it was arrogant and naive to believe I had all the answers. Is it possible that Christians are hoarding Jesus? Saying and teaching that the way I interpret his life and teaching is the only way seems a bit narrow and exclusive.  As if I know all the mysteries of Christ who died for the sin of the world, the very same who is reconciling all things, all people, all creation to himself. I do believe those points. I just don’t pretend to know what they mean exactly or how it will happen.

Here in the form of a poem are some reflections from Mark 9:38 – 41 John said to Him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, we tried to prevent him because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not hinder him, for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me…”

Here, the path is wide

The door flung open

Us and them dismantled 

Here, we celebrate 

Our commonality – our humanity

See the goodness in each other 

Here, the hoarding of Jesus

Is not allowed

Trust the outcome 

To the one true judge

Of all motives, all character

Here we love and respect

We build up and affirm

The God given love

In one another

© Julie Clark 2020

Categories: borderlands, Faith, God, growth, Love, Paths, Poetry, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

China Bans Religous Funerals

by Dr. Bill Clark

(My anthropoligist husband wrote this article about what we experienced in China in the late 1980’s when we lost our baby boy in a late miscarriage. Now China is depriving it’s Muslim and Christian citizens of the right of religous funerals . Now throughout the world we are all experiencing a disruptions in our funeral practices not for political or religious reasons but because of Covid19 pandemic.)

A recent article, Christians Not Allowed to Hold Religious Funerals, came out on Jan 23 in the online Bitter Winter e-zine.  https://bitterwinter.org/christians-not-allowed-to-hold-religious-funerals/

It brought up memories of the funeral of our son David in Guldja (Ili), Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in NW China (XUAR) My wife, Julie was 5 months pregnant in early Nov 1988 when she had a late miscarraige. We named the baby boy David. We had become friendly with the Russian family who were the caretakers for the Christian graveyard. (photo) We wanted a graveside religious ceremony for the baby and went to the college’s foreign affairs officer for permission. Mr. Guan, from the Xibo minority group and a Russian speaker, knew of a Russian priest still in the area, and was willing to introduce us. We did not speak Russian. Julie and I had previously bonded/interned with a Chinese Church in Taiwan and wanted a Chinese speaking pastor for the ceremony. We even had an address. After an initial delay Mr Guan agreed to take us to the pastor’s home and called the school’s driver to come pick us up. Pastor Lin, 80 something, was a seminary graduate from Lanzhou, and in very poor health. Brother Wu was visiting Pastor Lin and his family at that exact time and, when he learned about our need, volunteered to perform the ceremonies. He was taking over many of Pastor Lin’s duties as a young lay leader in the unregistered church. We made plans to meet at the graveyard early the next afternoon.

At Ili Teacher’s College we were under strict guidelines to not attend any of the Han Christian services that met periodically in the city. I still remember the earlier stern talk from Mr Guan ( the wai ban) telling me that if  I attended one of the services, the school would shortly thereafter escort me and my family to the border. Instead of going to the border (the USSR was only 64 kilometers away!) we were now headed to the home of a Christian pastor of an unregistered church. 

We were so surprised the next day to find that Brother Wu had brought over a dozen church members to join us. We gathered around the gravesite and they joined in our grief for losing our son. Those tears are beyond price and went a long way in opening pathways of healing for Julie and I.

In light of the recent regulations banning Muslim and Christian funeral ceremonies, I am reflecting on the basic humanity of Mr Guan and the Communist Party officials at our school. They were decent and allowed us to grieve our child in the way that was most meaningful to us. In Uyghur and Kazakh society and now, increasingly, among Chinese Christians throughout China, that decency is being taken away. 

In Xinjiang since the concentration camp era began in earnest in 2017, all aspects of Islamic religious ceremonies, including funerals, have disappeared from public life. (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/08/world/asia/china-uighur-muslim-detention-camp.html)

Julie and I remember the comfort of prayer and ritual around that gravesite on a cold windy November afternoon. That comfort has been taken from Muslim and Christian families in China. It is not right for a government to deprive the comfort and healing of religious rituals in a time of death.  . 

Categories: borderlands, Faith, grief and death | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

A Blessing for those Waiting for Justice and Deliverance

A Blessing for those Waiting for Justice and Deliverance

(for those imprisoned in NW China)

In this waiting

Which feels so long, too long

When despair nags at our heels

Bless us with hope, 

Bless us with prayers to pray

With names of precious people we know

And do not know

Names and faces of captives and prisoners

We can hold before you

And honor them and honor you, their creator

Bless the space, the time

Between now and their deliverance

May they know your presence,

Your love, your goodness

May they know you hear

The cry of the afflicted

Even if the cry comes 

Silently from their hearts

Bless them with 

Lifting the heavy burden

With healing their 

Broken bodies

Their broken hearts

Lift their heads

Lift their hearts

To hope, to wait, to know

You are coming

and have not

forgotten them

Categories: borderlands, Faith, God, Hope, lament, pain, Peace and Reconciliation, Poetry, Prayer | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Do the Hard Work

Do the hard work

Take the time to listen

To another

With a different voice

A different belief

A different color of skin

A different culture

A different story

Take the time to learn

Find your new teachers

You won’t be disappointed

You will be enlarged

You will expand

You will grow

You will receive

A true gift

© 2019 Julie Clark

Categories: borderlands, growth, Hospitality, Peace and Reconciliation, Poetry | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Lectio Divina Poem

Photo by Couleur on Pexels.com

Lectio Divina Poem on

Mark 7:24….

Jesus on the move

One place to another

Sent to the lost children 

Of Israel, yet…

Why is he here

Where the Gentiles live?

Like a magnet pulls

He draws the hungry,

The thirsty, the sick

The poor, the desperate

The greater the need

The louder they call

His meal disrupted

A noisy, needy

Foreign woman

With a child

He heard her cry

And turned his attention

Questions and answers

“Even the dogs eat 

The children’s scraps”

For this answer

She is rewarded

Her child is healed

Her faith commended

Do we see these

Women? mothers?

These men, fathers?

They will do anything

To save their child

Do we hear them?

Or do we turn away

From the disruption

And finish our hearty meals?

© 2019 Julie Clark

Categories: Autumn Poems, borderlands, children, Dogs, Faith, God, lament, Peace and Reconciliation, Poetry | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

Locked In and Locked Out

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Photo by Life Of Pix on Pexels.com

(This poem is dedicated to those imprisoned in concentration camps and their families in Northwest China.)

 

What else can I do

But continue to speak up and out

For the ones locked in

And the ones locked out

They are separated from family

From community and their beloved land

From health and safety

Their hearts are tormented

And their bodies are broken

They are in anguish and pain

Can you hear them and lend your voice?

 

What else can I do

But pray and cry out

For the ones locked in

And the ones locked out

For the ones I know and do not know

To ask the One whom death could not hold

Who razor wire and prison gates

Cannot keep out

To walk among these people

Locked in and locked out

To call them by name

To comfort

To give courage

To give hope

To heal

To restore

To lift up

To set free

To rise like the sun

And bring a new day

 

© 2019 Julie Clark

Categories: borderlands, Faith, God, grief and death, Hope, lament, Poetry, Prayer, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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

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

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

Will I?

 

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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

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