Faith

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

What ifs

What if we can’t go to church

To understand what the church really is?

What if the virus is showing us

The viruses in our hearts?

What if the worship of mammon*

Was just too much for the earth to bear?

What if our independence

Drives us to community?

What if all the grief and loss

Teaches us to love again?

*Matthew 6:24

© 2020 Julie Clark

Categories: Faith, grief and death, Hope, Lent, Poetry | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Blooms and Thorns

Blooms and thorns

Outside my window

Growing on the same branch

Wheat and weeds

Outside my door

Seeds blowing on the same wind

Which will I choose to focus my attention

Who do I want to be

Do I want to be kind and loving

Or indifferent and uncaring

All this growing together

In our hearts

In our world

Intertwined

The world turns

Seasons change

What will we see

In the next season

After this pandemic

It seems we get a restart

Will we be a better world

Will we be better people

Or doom ourselves

Once again

I have read

Love triumphs evil

Light pushes out the darkness

Good wins over injustice

Shall we join

This hard work

Turn the soil and plant

The good seeds

Turn our weapons

Into plows

Our despair

Into faith and good deeds

Julie Clark

Categories: Faith, Lent, Love, Paths, Poetry, Seasons | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a 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

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

Watching and Waiting

Sorrow follows close

To shroud me

When my gaze 

On love wavers

The impossibilities

Of hope

Too much to hold onto

At times

When justice and peace

Slip away

In a mudslide


What I cannot see

Calls me 

To look closer


Do you see the courageous ones 

who faced

Down their fear

The generous ones who share

What once they hoarded

Do you see

The peacemakers plowing fields

 with what once

were weapons

The trusting ones letting go 

Of all they thought

They needed to control


Change is happening

In incremental steps

Think of what happens

With seeds

Or yeast

Explosion of life

About to happen 

All around us

Keep doing good

And growing 

Into the person

You are and truly want to be

© Julie Clark 2019

Categories: Faith, growth, Hope, Life, Love, Poetry | 2 Comments

Questions I Have

What is this division you bring?

What about peace on earth, goodwill towards all?

Is it about our choice?

To love and serve

Or horde and kill?

Do you come to us at our borders in T-shirts and flip flops

Or camped out in our city parks?

One more opportunity to choose

As you ask, “Who will you serve?

Me or mammon?”

Ok, I choose you.

Now I have enemies.

What did you say about enemies?

I have to love them too?

Now that is hard to do.

Oh, you did that.

I see.  Is that how this works?

Love changes everything.

Love is the force that brings peace

Far and near and finally

Everywhere.

How long?

“Until all is changed and all submit

To love

Singing praises!”

Your ways are better

Your ways are higher

Than ours.

What is impossible for humans

Is possible for you.

Now we must 

Get up on the highway

Of your ways

Watch and see

What you can do with love-

The strongest force there is

Moving mountains and

Raising valleys.

May we make the choice

To love

Rather than continue

This madness.

© 2019 Julie Clark

Categories: Faith, God, Life, Love, mountains, Paths, Peace and Reconciliation, Poetry, Prayer | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

It’s Complicated”

Photo by Craig Adderley on Pexels.com


I have been hearing this phrase more and more lately.  It’s a handy little phrase. I’ve used it myself many times when I am struggling to understood an issue or a situation.  It is true that life is complicated, human beings are complicated, but I feel like this phrase can be used now as an excuse, a way of not getting involved.  It is a way of distancing oneself from a messy perhaps dangerous situation. There are numerous situations going on around the world that are both messy and dangerous. 

I wonder in a revised version of the Good Samaritan story if one of the religious leaders who crossed the street away from the poor guy beaten and left for dead may have mumbled to himself as he hurried away – “It’s complicated…maybe he deserved what he got or maybe he has a contagious disease, or worse if I stop and help maybe someone will get me next!”

Last night I attended a vigil, calling for an end of the inhumane detention of immigrants in our country. I was heartened to see the church where the vigil was hosted packed out. More and more people are outraged at the news that is coming out and wanting to get involved or at least learn about what is happening.  It was helpful to hear from women who themselves endured the indignity of being locked up and treated as a criminal. (No it is not illegal to seek asylum.) Both women mentioned how terrible it was to witness the way children were treated. One saw the the agents tearing children away from their parents. 

There are numerous things we can do to help. We can raise our voices for the voiceless. We can contact our representatives both federally and locally. We can volunteer, we can donate, we can educate ourselves and help others understand.  We each can do something.  

Let faith have wings that lift us to pray

Let hope have eyes that look for solutions

Let love have feet that move us to action

May we take a risk to love our neighbors who are in great need rather than turn our backs on them because “it’s complicated”. 

I do not know what the answers are to good immigration reform. I need to learn. I do know inhumane treatment of immigrants is not one them. Another phrase I am hearing that I like much better is “This is not a political issue it is a moral issue.”

Categories: children, Faith, God, Hope, Love | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

True Self Knows

abstract art awareness branches

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

We all suffer

When one suffers

Like ripples on the water

Tracing it back

To the original stone

Shattering the calm

 

It all makes sense

Our connections

All fractured

All hearts broken

 

Let us go easy

Be gentle

Let the drops bead up

With Holy Oil

And roll

 

Rather then

Added to the burden

Of offences

We all carry

 

True self takes no prisoners

And knows

We will be welcomed home

With love

 

© 2019 Julie Clark

 

Categories: Faith, growth, Life, Love, pain, Poetry | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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