Monday, December 05, 2016

Violated

"The earth lies polluted under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed laws, violated the statutes, and broken the everlasting covenant."--Isaiah 24:5

After lunch, I walked in, threw my purse on top of the chair, and then threw my coat on top of my purse. Later that afternoon, I grabbed some cash for supper and then covered my purse back up with my coat. After supper, I went with my colleagues to our small group confirmation guide meeting.

Afterwards, I walked back to my office. I lifted up my coat and immediately I was overcome with panic. Where did I put my purse? Wasn't it just here an hour ago? Two of my colleagues and I franticly looked for my purse. NOTHING! Absolutely nothing.

I called the police to report my stolen items. I called to put a stop on my debit and credit cards. The voice on the other end of the line asked, "Did you just spend over $400 at Walmart?" "No," I answered. The banker quickly made sure everything was taken care of for me. I hung up the phone with my bank and waited for the police officer to arrive.

After waiting, for what seemed like forever, the police officer finally arrived. He wrote down my statement. After he left, I returned to my house. I poured myself a glass of wine. After enjoying my glass of wine, I decided to go to sleep. Throughout the night, any time I heard a strange noise, I would fly out of my bed and look out the window to see what was happening. Since these individuals now had my address, I was filled with fear and felt extremely violated.

Have you ever felt violated? It is a feeling that one cannot shake easily. In fact, any little thing can set off the panic meter. For me, this instance was a small instance of being violated. Yet there are individuals who are violated every day which literally makes me sick and breaks my heart. How can we let this happen? What can we do to help make sure this doesn't happen to someone else?

The truth is that we must do something! We must not be complacent when we see violations happening to God's beloved children. We cannot let these instances of violation happen again and again. We must do our very best to "love our neighbors as we love ourselves." We must stand up for justice, mercy and kindness. We must not let evil and hatred be the final answer instead we must work together to make sure that goodness, kindness, mercy and God's love ultimately win!









Sunday, December 04, 2016

Sunday Blessings 149

(1) Cinnamon candy canes

(2) Two snow days in one week

(3) A warm house

(4) Time with EG. Thanks for helping me run an errand, friend!!

(5) Strangers who helped push my car out of the snow.

(6) Meeting a fellow crier on Twitter

(7) Kindness

(8) Social Media

(9) Proofing my sisters Christmas letter for her.

(10) A hug from a friend! Thanks PC!

(11) Seeing the youth group from Bowden and getting them settled at church. Hugs from some of the kids who went with on the Metigoshe buses to the Detroit youth gathering.

(12) White bean enchiladas

(13) Hugs from some of my fave kiddos

(14) A beautiful PLN

(15) Another yummy Blue Apron meal

(16) My first Christmas card. Thanks MH!!

(17) Friends sharing one of my blog posts

(18) People reading and sharing my book

Silenced Whatevers

My body is shaking....

Tears are streaming down my face...

A relief I haven't felt in months....

My uncomfortableness opened to victory....

The last several months, in my beloved state of North Dakota, has been complex. Water protectors fighting to protect their water and stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. Law enforcement who were simply trying to do their jobs and uphold the law. Friends on both sides of the issue.

In the midst of it all, I have tried to listen to both sides while also following the calling of my heart.
"But what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, love kindness/mercy and walk humbly with our God!"--Micah 6:8. There were days I wanted to curl up into a ball and hide away from it all. But there was a persistence from God that wouldn't let me. I needed to listen to all who were being impacted by this situation.

So many times, over the last months, I've heard "Protesting doesn't work." "You're wasting your time." But tonight, as I hear the news, I can't help but realize that those whatevers to those statements; whatevers were meant to silence our native siblings instead have been silenced themselves.

And as those whatevers are silenced, I can't help but wonder what the stories our prairies will tell in the days, weeks and months to come. My hope is that the prairies will tell the stories of people who believed in an important cause and came together.

"His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”--Matthew 3:12 (NRSV) 

Will we be the wheat or the chaff blowing in the wind? 

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Who Are You?

They pressed him, “Who, then? Elijah?”
“I am not.”
“The Prophet?”
“No.”
(John 1:21; The Message) 
I called my mom awhile ago. When she answered the phone, she asked, Marj? (Marj was one of mom's previous coworkers) I patiently waited and responded with, "No mom, it's me Tara!" There is a soul weariness that comes with being one of  moms caretakers. There is a soul weariness that comes with not knowing if she will know who I am today. There is soul weariness that comes in waiting for the phone calls that no longer come. And I'll be honest, there is sadness and disappointment when she doesn't know who I am or forgets my birthday. 
So today's text is hitting me straight in the gut today. In fact, so much so that I can't shake this feeling and now as I write, the tears are beginning to flow; tears for my mom, tears for all the hatred and evil I see in the world; and tears for you and for me! For Pete's sake....I thought I was done crying and had no more tears left to shed.
When they came to John and asked him if he was Elijah or the prophet, was their disappointment that he wasn't? My guess is yes. These individuals were looking for the Messiah; the one sent to break down into the kingdom to save the people. The thing is Jesus did show up; only eight verses later. Jesus in the stillness of night let out his first cry which broke into the world---Jesus; Emmanuel; God with us! 
Clinging to the hope of Jesus, who does Jesus say we are? Are we the voices calling out in the wilderness? Who does Jesus say that I am? Am I willing to be a voice calling out in the wilderness? In the wilderness, as beloved, broken, blessed children of God, it seems to me that we are called to use our voices to proclaim this one, who born in the midst of the dirt and stench of the manger, comes to redeem the world. 

Friday, December 02, 2016

Yearning for Hope

Today's word of yearn is making me get extremely real with all of you. I am a 38 year old single woman who yearns deeply to be a wife and a mom. As a little girl, I would play with my dolls and dream of the days that I would hold my own child in my own arms. But that still hasn't happened for me. Am I called to be a mom or not?

The waiting feels so eternal and there are days I just want to curl up and forget about it all. Yet this call has been so persistent in my life that I am starting to realize that maybe I should shut up and listen because maybe God is trying to tell me something.

"May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy and crush the oppressor."--Psalm 72:4 (NRSV)

But in these days, I am not sure that I want my future child/children to grow up in our world as it currently is. It is not the world I hoped we were moving towards. I see so much evil and hatred. I see my black/brown, Native American, LGTBQ+, Muslim and Jewish friends being treated so horribly. It seriously breaks my heart and I wonder how many tears I can cry as I look at our fractured bloodstained world. I want to believe always that God's love wins but there are days I honestly have a hard time trusting in those words. I mean, how many tears can I shed before there are no more tears left?

"May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy and crush the oppressor."--Psalm 72:4 (NRSV)

I am the daughter of a woman who daily lives with a mental illness. This woman is one of the most faith filled women that I know. She has taught me more about life and living than I could ever imagine. She seriously would give the shirt off of her back to a person in need. She loves hard and she loves deep. In fact, her unconditional love has taught me what it means to love ALL God's beloved children. Yet because of her illness and the stigma associated with it,  Mom has not always been seen as a fully beloved child of God by all. Yet my mom is a beautiful beloved child of God. 

"May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy and crush the oppressor."--Psalm 72:4 (NRSV)

I yearn for the day our world will be better; a world that will truly love all God's beloved children. I am not sure when that world will come. In scripture, we are told we do not know the day nor the hour. But as we expectantly wait this Advent season, I have to hope in the love that comes from this child who breaks down into the stillness of night to bring hope and healing to all the world; This child who certainly reminds me to love well in the midst of our broken world; This child who will always "defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy and crush the oppressor."

For in these words of promise, I find a little bit of light; light that seems to, at least, dim the darkness some. So today, I am going to do my best to cling to this hope and shower love the best ways I can. Know this, "You are beautiful. You are enough. You are a beloved child of God (no exceptions)!"


Thursday, December 01, 2016

Craving What I Didn't Know I Needed

I am linking up for Five Minute Friday.  The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung on her blog Heading Home. Today's prompt is "crave." We'd love to have you join us.  Just hop onto Twitter on Thursday evenings and follow the #fmfparty. Hope to see you there! 

Advent is my fave season of the church year. It is a time that I crave; to slow down and remember what this season is truly about. In the midst of our broken world and as I watched the fires in Tennessee or listened to the hatred and evil I heard in our world, I knew I was in need of something different; something that would allow me to voice the brokenness I am feeling in this world. 

Two of my friends created an Advent devotional called "Rend the Heavens." Each day there is a prompt text and word. It has allowed me to simply write how I am feeling in our world; to remember our Jesus who was born in the stench and stealth of the manger. To be honest, this devo is something that I didn't even know or realize I was craving until I started participating in it. 

It is amazing how craving something we don't know we need can be so holy. I am feeling a connectedness and a holiness in this Advent season that I don't know about you, but that I have needed after watching the news or opening a newspaper. It has been balm for my soul! 

May you find the ways that your cravings are met this Advent season too! 

Tear Stained Eyes

"Once the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgement and by a spirit of burning."--Isaiah 4:4

Tear Stained Eyes
By Tara L. Ulrich

Turn on the television
Another shooting
More blood unnecessarily shed
Tear stained eyes

A swastika
Appears on
A school building
More tear stained eyes

A mentally ill man killed
Because of the color of his skin
Even more tear stained eyes
At the sight of more
Blood stains shed.

A man
On an airplane
Screaming
Evil and hatred
Tears, tears, and more tears shed

How many tears can I shed, Lord?

How many tears, how many tears?

I'm not sure
How much longer
I can take this?





Wednesday, November 30, 2016

I Can't and I Won't

"My mom is bipolar"
The words finally 
Escape my lips.

18 years of 
An untold story 
Because of the stigma
Associated with the illness. 

I didn't tell it
Because I was afraid; 
Afraid all I would hear is 
"Shut up"

Now 20 years later
After the first time
I told our story
I can't not tell it.

The voices
Of discord
Have finally
Been shut up.

The reality is that my fear was real because of our fractured world. Every time there has been a school shooting etc...where does the news immediately go? They almost always blame it on the individuals mental illness. Yet I know there is so much more to their stories. There is more than that one day captured in time. 

Or we turn on the news and hear of another black/brown man shot for the color of their skin. 

Or we see swastikas painted on school walls. 

Or we listen to voices that tell us to shut up because we are fighting for what we believe in. 

Or our Muslim friends are afraid to cover their heads because of how others see and treat them. 

Or we listen to the news trying to decipher what is truth and what isn't. 

In the midst of all the noise, God calls us to be still and listen which requires that we shut up and listen; truly listen to one another. Too often, we don't quiet our hearts and minds to listen for Gods voice. We are deaf to the trumpet sounds heralding around us. 

When we do finally shut up and listen, does Gods voice become even clearer? Or do we find ourselves still straining to hear Gods voice? 

"And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other."--Matthew 24:31 (NRSV) 


Once we take the time to shut up and listen, perhaps we finally hear the one true voice that calls us to be justice keepers, peace makers and lovers of all God's children. It's that voice that heralds the trumpets for ALL to hear; a voice we all need to hear in the midst of all the commotion of the world. 

Finally, may we take the time to truly listen, hear and proclaim in the promises of God who loved us so much God sent Gods son into the world for everyone of us. In all actuality, it seems to me that there are times that we need to shut up while at other times we need to use our voices to stand up for what is right! 

So I find myself clinging to the voice of God and in the midst of injustice, evil, and hatred, I must cry out; echoing the words of Desmond Tutu, "I wish I could shut up, but I can't, and I won't." I can't and I won't when I see human beings being treated horribly. I can't and I won't when media portrays the murdered as anything but a beloved child of God. I can't and I won't when my LGTBQ+ friends are killed in a night club in Florida. I can't and I won't when there are other children who are paralyzed by fear and can't tell their own broken stories. I can't and I won't when we don't treat one another as beloved children of God. 

I simply can't and I won't when God calls me to live out the words in Micah 6:8 "But what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, love kindness/mercy and walk humbly with our God!" 



Tuesday, November 29, 2016

In Our Brokenness

Fractured
Broken
Incomplete
Not whole

As I reflect on today's word, all I can do is cry out to our God because our world is indeed fractured. One doesn't need look far to see that. Yet it seems to me that in our brokenness, in our own fracturedness, we can and are gifts in this broken world.

I wouldn't be who I am without telling the story of my own mom's struggle of mental illness and living into my own vulnerability as her daughter. Yet I realize that is often so much easier said than done. In fact, I know how hard it is because it took me 18 years to tell my families story. As Brene Brown says, "The bravest thing you'll ever do is tell your story." Yet do we truly listen to one another's stories? It seems to me that often our ears and eyes aren't always completely open to the injustices happening all around us.

Our world is.......FRACTURED!

18 years of an untold story locked deep in the depths of my heart.
Fractured.

Divorced families
Fractured

Democrats or Republicans
Fractured

Water or oil
Fractured

Curse words or flowery language
Fractured

And these are only just a few of the examples I see in our broken fractured world every day. I want better. In fact, anyone who knows me knows that I am often a peacemaker and not an agitator. But what I'm learning is sometimes (read:most of the time) God calls us to move outside our comfort zones; to be agitators in this world. Perhaps we need to be Gods megaphone to a deaf world.

And as the megaphone, it seems to me that God can handle whatever we choose to scream at him. Jesus himself even cursed at the tree when he came into Jerusalem. As a daughter of a woman who daily lives with a mental illness, there are words that I have uttered that came from the very depths of my being--words that weren't pretty but instead were filled with lament.

Our world is indeed fractured in so many and various ways. In fact, I'm saddened and angry as I've watched how we treat one another. I'm especially angry at how my LGTBQ +, Jewish and Muslim friends and black/brown friends are treated. My dear friends, we can do better. I want so desperately to cling to hope, yet there are days I wonder if we will ever find hope, ever find wholeness, equality and justice in our broken fractured world.

It seems to me though that our brokenness is often what makes us whole again. It's what transforms us into who God has called us to be. I'm reminded of a Japanese art form called "kintsugi" where they take broken pottery, piece it back together and lacquer it with gold. The gold cracks are a reminder of where this pottery has been. It's also the place where the light shines through. It's where I believe God uses each of us to make the world whole again; by listening to and loving ALL Gods children. Yet I'll admit there are more days than I care to admit, I just want to smash our world into the ground because of the injustices I see around me.

During this Advent season, my only hope is in our God who came to Noah after the flood; who placed a rainbow in the sky as a promise that God would always fulfill. It is that promise that I hold on tightly to in the midst of our fractured world.

Broken
Incomplete
Fractured

Beautiful
When we
Do justice
Love kindness/mercy
And walk humbly with our God!