Posts Tagged With: prayer

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

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.

 

Categories: Faith, growth, Prayer | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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

Psalm reflections

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“Your statutes have been like songs to me

Whenever I have lived as a stranger.” Psalm 119:14

 

I have been a stranger

  in the land

A foreigner in this place

  I am obtuse

To the language

  and culture

Yet one constant –

The song of your presence

 

I am no stranger

  to you

No foreigner

  in this land

Where heaven meets earth

  the song is born

Where you call me your own

  you lead me by the hand

 

“Show me the road that I must walk

For I lift my soul to you.” Psalm 143:8

 

The road divides before me

Shall I turn left or right?

I lift up my eyes,

My soul,

My prayer,

I put my trust in your

Unfailing love

I make my choice

And follow you.

 

© 2017 Julie Clark

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

A Call to Prayer

Sometime before we reached Mumbai

The crickets started their part

in the great symphony of the night.

“We’re still here!  We’re still here!”

They sang and called me to God.

 

A song rose in my heart in response

that I could not sing aloud.

What would the taxi driver think?

He may have thought I was a little off.

 

So I let it sing inside of me:

“Lord forgive us.

We have not honored you.

We have not cared for your creation.

We have not loved one another.

We have not cared for the poor and the weak.”

 

We reached Mumbai.

Waited for hours to be told

No room for you on this plane.

We were escorted out of the airport

and put in a taxi

by some kind airport officials.

The taxi drove off.

The driver and his co-worker

working the phones to get us

on another flight or into a hotel

in the wee hours of the morning.

A call came,

“You are lucky! Confirmed seats

available!”

They raced us back to the airport.

Same kind officials

escorted us quickly through

the lines and waved good-bye.

There was room on the plane

after-all.

We made it, last to board,

walking in a dream.

Very grateful.

© 2014 Julie Clark

Categories: borderlands, Faith, God, Life, Poetry, Prayer, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

MacGyver and The Christmas Season

This time of year is not the best time for a vacuum cleaner to go on the fritz.  Not with pine needles from the Christmas tree and all the muck brought in the door even though we take our shoes off in the entry.  Not to mention the 10 pound long-haired Weiner Dog who brings in his share of the outside, besides all the gorgeous fur he sheds.

 

Taking  the vacuum cleaner to Sears for repairs was an unappealing option.  I really dislike going to the mall, especially this time of year.  Crowds and the perilous parking lot that you may enter but the possibility of never leaving is out there. Besides who knows when I would get it back, probably late January. Too late for my pine needles and other seasonal muck.

 

Borrowing my son and daughter-in-law’s vacuum was not a sustainable option, so this morning after working on a Sudoku puzzle in the paper to wake up my brain, I put on my MacGyver cap. I must confess here that I really liked that 1980’s show when it first came out and have been inspired a few times to attempt some interesting repairs. Some have worked and others not so well. Nothing major, and definitely nothing with electricity or on our cars. Although, we did once stick some gum in our leaking gas tank in Kazakhstan when we ran over something that put a hole in it.  It worked well enough to get us down the mountain to a little town for repair.  But it wasn’t my idea and that is a whole other story. I have to mention also, that I was quite proud of my youngest son with said vacuum cleaner. A couple of weeks ago he came out of work and his car door was frozen shut.  He managed to get it open, but it wouldn’t close properly, so he used his apron to MacGyver it closed to get safely home.

 

Back to the vacuum cleaner. I narrowed down the problem.  It was not the motor or clogged in the hose.  It worked fine when I was using the hand tools. But that is no way to vacuum the whole house. The problem was it was clogged in the base.  I tried earlier to put a chop stick in there to loosen things up, but that only helped temporarily.  So this morning I took a few moments, said a wee prayer, and tried to think what I had in the house or garage that I could stick in there to clear the clog.  The idea of a plumber’s snake came to mind, but we don’t have one of those.  The thought of a plumber reminded me that I had a long plastic tool that came with some drain cleaner I had bought a while back. That plastic tool was just what I needed, with the little teeth on it like fish hooks. I laid the vacuum cleaner down on it’s side fully extended and went to work clearing the clog in the base.

 

Today I am grateful for many things. I’m grateful for how our brains work and how a small prayer can be answered in a few minutes. I’m grateful that I don’t have to put “go to Sears” on my to-do list. My husband and I talk about how we missed the 80’s because we spent most of it in China. I am grateful we didn’t miss everything.  Glad we did miss all the funky big hair, but if anyone could rock a mullet it was MacGyver.

 

Categories: Life, Prayer, Seasons | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Space Between

In the space between

My need –

My prayer

And His provision

There is an opportunity

For communion

With the Man of Sorrows

The Son of Man

Who had nowhere to call home

On this earth

 

I can enter the Sacred Garden

And stay awake for a while

With Him

While He bears my pain

And works unseen

His answer to my need

I will be changed

Deeply marked

With the fellowship of

His suffering

 

© 2013 Julie Clark

 

 

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Choices

Choices lie before me

Which path will I choose?

Will I choose a path of faith, hope and love?

Will I take the time to listen?

Will I discern the gravity pulling me?

Will I feel the ancient forces of good and evil?

Will I choose the good?

Will I ask for wisdom in the choosing?

That is my hope

That is my prayer

I’m still learning

I’m still growing

 

© 2013 Julie Clark

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

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