Monday, October 31, 2016

Standing With and Not Against

I thought I was all out of words after blogging all month for the Write 31 days challenge. But turns out I am not out of words...not by a long shot.

As I sit and watch out my window, I see the rain slowly trickling down.It's a bitter cold North Dakota Fall day. Only a few hours from me, on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, there is much happening. Water protectors trying to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline. Police officers who are simply trying to uphold the law and do their jobs. And Construction workers who are trying to do their jobs too. In all actuality, no matter how this turns out real people will be affected by this event.

This morning, I woke up to my Facebook feed full of friends checking in on the Standing Rock reservation. Now many of them are not physically there, but it was one way that they could show support for their native american brothers and sisters. I cannot help but think of the words of Martin Luther when he stood and said "Here I stand, I can do no other."

To say this is a complex issue in our state is an understatement. Yet I know that we are called to live out the words we hear 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." But what does justice look like? Do each of us see justice differently?

I have never really seen myself as a social justice warrior but I indeed have felt and answered the call to be a minister of word and service who picks up her basin and towel to wash the feet of all God's people. And so I find a complex spot..standing with my native siblings while they try to protect the water. But also yearning for peace in the midst of it all. A dear friend is in law enforcement and not only is he in danger, but his family is too. And so I find myself asking the question "Is violence the answer?"

I understand that violence is truly what often is what will be reported. Yet doesn't our God call us to be united in bonds of peace in this broken world. And on the other hand, we haven't been good at seeing the other; at seeing our native brothers and sisters, our black brothers and sisters, and so many others. Perhaps this is the only way that we will get woke and begin to listen to, love, and truly respect those that we often have considered to be standing on the outside.

In this world, I yearn for unity and justice for all. I yearn for my LGTBQ friends to never again be questioned for who they are and to be truly welcomed in the church. I yearn for my black/brown friends to step out into the world without fear that they might be shot and/or killed. I yearn for all of us to be respected and loved fully and completely without exception in this broken world. I yearn for all of us to remember the words to the 8th commandment found in Luther's Small Catechism which says "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor."

Too often it seems to me that we forget to look at our neighbors "in the best possible light." Today alone, I have seen people being reprimanded for checking in on the reservation even though they are not physically there. They have been told that they are lying. But I also have seen people accused of lying on the other side of the issue as well. Is that all we care about---lies, etc?

Martin Luther himself wanted to enact change and so he nailed 95 theses onto the castle doors at Wittenberg. To be honest, I don't think I have the strength or power to reform the church by myself. But as a united body of Christ together, I think some amazing things could happen (and have already begun to happen. Here's looking at you Decolonize Lutheranism peeps!) Many of us are tired of not fully living out the words that we confess, proclaim and sing. All--every race, gender, nationality, etc--should be welcomed!

I know that especially here in North Dakota not everyone agrees with the water protectors. But what if we sat down and truly listened to one another? What if instead of slandering one another we saw each other in the best possible light? What if our actions began to transform and reform the church in new and exciting ways?

Many won't understand why one side doesn't understand the other side. Many will think that their side is the ultimate truth. Yet isn't truth relative? True truth is knowing that God calls us to "love our neighbors as we love ourselves" despite our own differences and disagreements.

There is a part of me that struggles with the idea of violence and why someone would want to be arrested for a cause. Yet sometimes it seems to me we have to make gigantic waves to get the world's attention. And today, I am putting aside my own agenda, my own white privilege and standing with my native american brothers and sisters; not physically but in the ways that I know how.

Because God has brought some pretty incredible people into my life in this past year who are ready and willing and able to be amazing reformers in this world. And knowing that I am not alone, I simply shout out "Here I stand. I can do no other".

For whether it be an oil pipeline or whatever it may be...God reminds me--reminds all of us---that we need to stand on solid holy ground advocating for justice, mercy and kindness in this broken world.

"Here I stand, I can do no other."

The Transformative Word

When I started my Write 31 days challenge, I said it felt like a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book. As a child, I remember either getting to the end of one of those books and being really disappointed. Or sometimes I would go back and choose a new ending until I got the one I wanted. Or finally I would get to the end and be satisfied with the ending. As this month comes to a close, I'm extremely satisfied for where God led this series. (Good thing I trusted where God would lead me and YOU!)

God showed up in big ways this month as I looked for and found the Word made flesh in this world. It's all around us. We just have to look for it. It's in the simple acts of kindness and love that we show one another. It's in the brush strokes, camera shutters, musicians sounds, and the writer's words as the artists and dreamers make the Word flesh and alive. It's in the gathering at the table and breaking bread together. But most of all, it's in this precious love letter; the Bible that Christ gave to each of us. And God calls us to remember to make the Word made flesh in this broken messed up world.

When we are able to do that, it seems to me that we are all changed. During this month, I've felt God honing and making my own words (and even actions) more powerful. I've sat down to write words and been surprised again and again at the ways my own words embody the Word made flesh in this world. Because the truth is that every single one of us are holy story sharers who embody the Word made flesh in this world. And you never know how God might transform your words to make the Word flesh in this world.

I've seen it through so many of you as you too have participated in the Write 31 days challenge. I've learned new ways to pray and seen how prayer is another way the Word is made flesh in this world. I've seen it in Jesus and the many names he has been given. I've seen it in the story of so many of Jesus followers. I've seen it in the words of favorite songs as they bring the Word to flesh. And these are only just a few. The truth is that God uses each of us to make the Word made flesh in this broken world.

There is a holiness in knowing that as Gods beloved children, we are called to use our gifts in this broken world. There is holiness in seeing the Word come alive in our words and actions. There is holiness in knowing that in the words of Gungor, "He makes beautiful things out of dust. He makes beautiful things out of us." There is holiness in knowing that the true Word is alive and moving in this world as we continue to share this beloved story as we make the Word flesh in this broken messed up world.

And so as this month comes to an end, my hope and prayer is that we continue to make a difference as we embody the Word made flesh in this broken world. That we remember and don't forget who and whose we are as we live the Word and share its stories in this world. Because from the very beginning, in the stench and stealth of the manger, the Word was born into this world to transform it in new and amazing ways. Let's not ever forget that!

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."--John 1:1

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Word Made Flesh; Artists Edition--5th and Final Edition

I haven't shared any movie clips yet so I thought I would close out this Sunday write 31 days edition with just that. Today I'm sharing the trailer for the Son of God movie. Have you seen this movie? What did you think?

I haven't seen it myself, but want too. (Oh and friends, only one more day to go!)

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Here I Stand

"Here I stand, I can do no other"

This weekend, we celebrate the Reformation in the Lutheran church. Next year, in 2017, we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Martin Luther was all about changing and reforming the church. This movement began with good ol Marty nailing the 95 thesis or rather 95 rules to the castle doors in Wittenberg.

Today, my heart, soul, and mind wonder if it is time for another reformation of sorts. Who do we welcome into our buildings and pews? Last weekend, several friends and colleagues gathered in Chicago for the inaguaral gathering of #decolonizelutheranism. (To read their beliefs, head here!) I followed along on the Twitter stream and the livestream whenever I could. What I saw unfolding was the Holy Spirit moving and breathing as in that place, the church we all dream of was happening. A church where all are welcomed; no exception.

"Here I stand, I can do no other!"

I have to be honest friends. I've had to step away from social media, FB, etc this week in light of all that is happening here in ND in regards to the Dakota Access Pipeline and Standing Rock. The reality is real people will be affected no matter what happens. Oil workers/families who will lose their livelihood. Protestors who will have to eventually return to their homes. Police officers and law enforcement who will forever be seen as evil because of the acts of some of them. Farmers who are losing income because of where the protestors are standing.

One of my friends husbands is a highway patrolman. In my heart of hearts, I know that he would never hurt anyone. Yet that's not the picture the media is portraying. Yesterday buffalo stampeded down the hill to the protest sites. Many believe it was of God (which I'm not denying). But others also report that the protestors drove them onto the site.

"Here I stand, I can do no other."

I'm honestly embarrassed by some of the comments I've read. We are forgetting that we are all beloved children of God. We need to treat each other with respect and "love our neighbors as we love ourselves!" It's who God call us to be in this world.

For when we are able to stand together, despite our differences, the Word is made flesh as we love each other fully and with no exceptions. We are united as one body who embodies the Word in this broken world.

"Here I stand, I can do no other!"

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Stories Our Prairies Tell

I've always been a lover of the North Dakota prairies where one can honestly feel the heart of this land. A prairie wind so deep that you can feel it in the very depths of ones body. In the heart of this land lies the places where many of us call home including our Native American brothers and sisters.

Honestly in these days, one cannot live in the state of North Dakota without having ones eyes and ears open to what is happening at Standing Rock. Even just today, as I was waiting for my frappucino at Starbucks, the voices around me where continually talking about the protests and the Dakota Access Pipeline.

In this state, you will hear those on both sides of the issue; those who proudly stand with our native siblings and those who have seen the impact of the oil industry on our state. The oil industry, in all honesty, provided some jobs in our state. It's hard to not ignore that. But the oil industry has brought with it bad stuff too. I remember when I interviewed for a call in the heart of boom country and my father being scared at the possibility of his single daughter living alone in the midst of oil country. Yes, it seems that the oil boom has slowed down, yet one cannot drive through this state without seeing oil barracks pumping away.

So to say this issue is complex is an understatement. There are so many layers. Police officers who are simply trying to keep everyone safe and uphold the law as they live out the oath they promised to live by. Protestors who are advocating for what is right as they try to protect their and our water for the next generations. Other protestors who stand and pray for a peaceful end to this situation.

Many of my friends and colleagues who are watching from the outside of this state are feeling an urge and pull to listen to our Native American brothers and sisters. In fact, I know of several trips being planned to come to the Red Warrior and/or Sacred Stone camps. These friends come to learn and stand alongside the water protectors.

To be honest, I don't know much about the Native American culture, only what I've been taught and experienced in my 38 years of life. I remember working at a bible camp and participating and leading a day camp in Cannonball. I learned a lot about our native siblings that day. I remember sitting and having a father play hymns on his guitar for us. That memory is engrained in my heart and soul as it taught me a lot about who our Native brothers and sisters are and about their culture. Yet I still have a lot to learn!

My heart is weary as I see all that is unfolding. In fact, tears are streaming down my face as I write this post; tears crying out for Gods justice to reign. I'll admit that I'm also embarrassed by many of the comments I've heard and read. Too often it seems to me that we forget that we are all beloved children of God especially when we don't understand those that are different than us. God calls us to "love our neighbors as we love ourselves!"

I may not always be good at loving my neighbors. In fact, more times than I care to admit, I fail at that! I get wrapped up in my own white privilege. But I'm sure going to try loving my neighbors as I love myself. Because when we are able to do that, I believe we all will be changed and transformed for the better--a transformation that will forever shape the stories of who and whose we are.

So tonight, my friends, my prayer is that we listen to each other especially our native brothers and sisters as this situation will forever shape the story of these beloved prairies. For I believe, these beloved prairies will whisper God's love, grace and mercy if we truly listen to one another and open our hearts, minds, eyes and mouths to all God's beloved children.

"But what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, love kindness/mercy and walk humbly with our God!"--Micah 6:8

"Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."--Ephesians 4:3

As a writer, I often have to process through words and this is my attempt to do that. Please know these are my thoughts and only my thoughts. I want to continue to learn and understand. I want us all to be the best stewards of the land we can be. But most of all I want us all to love one another as beloved children of God; even and most especially when we don't agree with one another. 

Who is Welcome at the Table?

I am linking up for Five Minute Friday.  This is also Day 28 of the Write 31 Days challenge. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung on her blog Heading Home. Today's prompt is "eat." We would love to have you join us. Just hop onto Twitter on Thursday evenings and follow the #fmfparty. Hope to see you 

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was naked and you clothed me."

If you have been here at all during this past month, you know how the Word is made flesh through our relationships and through the breaking of bread together. God calls us to all come to the table and eat and drink and be merry together. I realize not all believe everyone is welcomed at the table but the truth is we are all beloved children of God called to make the Word made flesh in our world.

I have been thinking a lot about the table this week especially in light of all that is going down in my state with the protests and all related to the Dakota Access Pipeline. My heart and soul are weary and praying for God's peace to reign as together ALL are welcomed at the table of grace where all are fed and nourished by the bread of life that feeds us all.

Eating in itself is an act in which we can feel and touch the great goodness of our God. Think about all the times you have gathered with your friends and family at a holiday meal or sat and chatted with a friend over coffee. I don't know about you, but it is in those places that I am reminded of the ways that I am blessed and that God provides for all of us.

God calls us all to shine God's light in this world; in the midst of this broken messed up world. "Let your light shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." How can you glorify your father in heaven and who can you invite to your table to eat and drink with you?                               

For when all are truly welcomed to break bread and eat together, the word is continually made flesh in the world.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Hospitality at the Table

"The heart of hospitality is about creating space for someone to feel seen and heard and loved. It's about declaring your table a safe zone, a place of warmth and nourishment."--Bread and Wine; Shauna Niequest

Have you ever experienced a place where you have felt these very words lived out? Where you truly feel loved, and accepted without exception? For me, I can think of a few places where I have seen this embodied. Through my friends who welcomed me into their home when I first moved to Minot. Through all the communities I am a part of especially the diaconal ministry community, #SlateSpeak and others. Through my friends who organized, planned and led #decolonize16. As I watched the livestream, I saw the ways in which everyone was being welcomed in with open arms.

I think so often it can be easy for us to get caught up in comparing ourselves to the other. Yet God calls us to "love our neighbors as we love ourselves." Too often we fail at that though, don't we? We don't always see our neighbors in ways in which they feel seen, heard, and loved. God calls us to fix that.

I am reminded of the text that was heard in worship this past Sunday "For those who humble themselves will be exalted." Are we not called to be humble and show humility to one another? Just the other day, I saw this lived out on my Twitter feed. A friend made a comment on his Twitter feed that caused a lot of replies and comments. In realizing that he had struck a nerve with many, he rethought his words and apologized. This is one of the very things I appreciate and love about this friend. He embodies humility.

Humility="a modest or low view of one's own importance; humbleness"

Who can you invite to your house; to your table; to create space for them to be seen and heard and loved? For in doing so, you embody the Word made flesh as you break bread together just as Christ broke bread with his disciples on the night before his crucifixion. There is so much beauty when we sit down and break bread together; knowing we are indeed seen, heard, and loved in this broken world.

At the table, as the bread is broken and the wine is poured, the Word becomes flesh through fellowship where ALL are welcome; and ALL are seen, heard, and loved!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Let Your Light Shine

"Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." (Sacrament of Baptism; Evangelical Lutheran Worship Book, P. 231)

Every time there is a baptism, we light a baptismal candle and hand it to the family and state these words. In these words, we are reminded that as God's children we are called to glorify our Father in heaven and be God's hands and feet in this world as we serve God's people.

How often do we light our baptismal candle, but forget to live our lives so that we glorify our Father in heaven? I know that I am a good Lutheran; simultaneously saint and sinner. In other words, I don't always look at my neighbors in the best possible light. I don't always stand up and advocate for what I believe is right in this world. Yet God calls me to shine God's light in this world and glorify my Father in heaven.

A few months ago, I began a tradition of tweeting some of my friends a short sweet tweet reminding them they are loved. It started as a one time thing, but then I realized how much I loved doing it. So every week or so, I send out a quick tweet. It always surprises me how my words often are just what my friends need to hear at that moment. Just the other day, a friend replied with the words "You are a light on my Twitter feed."

I hadn't thought much about it, but it made me stop in my tracks and think about who God has called me to be as a beloved child of God. After sitting and reflecting for awhile, these above words from our Baptismal service popped into my brain. God was reminding me that I am called to be the Word made flesh in the ways that I can shine my light and glorify our Father in heaven.

As a good Lutheran, I am thankful that God's grace is sufficient for us all and that my life and faith are not dependent on doing good works because I fail at that every day...when I don't admit my own white privilege, when I am silent when I should be vocal, and in so many other ways. Yet God's grace calls us to try again and again to shine God's light in this world and glorify our Father in heaven through the good works that we are able to do.

For when we shine God's light in this broken world, the Word is made flesh again and again through our own acts of goodness, love, and mercy in this world. So my friends, may you let your lights shine before others so that we may see your good works and glorify our Father in heaven."

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Holy Story Sharers

A story locked deep in a little girl's heart for eighteen years; only shared with those who are the closest to her. Then one summer day, as a teenager, the lock is finally unlocked and her story is finally unleashed into the world. As an adult, she now looks back and wishes she would have unlocked that lock much sooner than she did. But now she cannot not share her story because it has shaped her into who she is.

A brave woman who now shares her story through the words of her self-published book. A brave woman who can't help but stand up for and advocate for those who daily live with a mental illness. A brave woman who captures her story in words spoken aloud or typed out onto a keyboard. A brave woman who shares her story in hopes that it will help someone else.

Author Brene Brown says, "The bravest thing you'll ever do is tell your story." A truth that we all need to hear because the truth is we are all theologians. We are all holy story sharers. Because in sharing our stories, the Word is made flesh again and again and again through our own intertwined stories.

It saddens me that it took me so long to unlock the story that I was holding close to my chest and deep in my heart. Yet in opening up that story, I have seen the beautiful ways that God has taken my brokenness and turned it into something magnificent. And in doing so, my story has been weaved together with other beloved children of God who also understand what it is like to live with a mental illness or live as a daughter, son, granddaughter, grandson, etc of someone who daily lives with a mental illness.

In sharing our holy stories shaped by a God who loves each and every one of us (no exception!), we see the reality of who we are as beloved children of God. We see each other as God's children "fearfully and wonderfully made." Too often, it seems to me that we get caught up in seeing each other's differences and our own privileges that we forget that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ knit together by Christ.

What would happen if we opened our eyes to see and our ears to hear ALL those around us? Would we not realize and see each other as gifts in this world? I believe we would. Because when I have sat down and opened my ears to holy listening, I have seen and heard the beautiful magnificent gifts of brothers and sisters in Christ that God has brought into my life.

"When we tell our stories in a safe community, all those things that separate us go away."--Sarah Markley

God calls us to be theologians; to be holy story sharers; holy story sharers who embody the Word made flesh when we share our own stories of brokenness and resurrection hope in this world. Holy story sharers who understand that our own stories can (and DO) proclaim resurrection hope! Holy story sharers who aren't overcome by fear but rather by hope and cannot help but share their stories in this broken messed up world.

Together, as holy story sharers, the Word is made flesh as our God of both life and death redeems each of us through our own stories of brokenness. "Behold I make all things new!"

I am also linking up with Holly and Testimony Tuesday, Kelly and the RaRa linkup, Jennifer and Tell His Story, Holley and Coffee for your Heart and Kristin and Three Word Wednesday.



Monday, October 24, 2016

To the Artists and the Dreamers.....

A writer sits at her keyboard typing away; letting the words spill out onto the page.

A musician strums their guitar; sweet heavenly sounds permeate the air.

A photographer captures life and love; finding a way to capture life that we cannot always see on the other side of their camera lens.

A painter strokes their paintbrush against the canvas.

A videographer captures their subject's story through their video camera.

A poet weaves words into stanzas creating beautiful poems.

Each artist creates using the gifts that God has given them. And in doing so, the Word is made flesh through the very artistic expressions God gives each one of us. That Word is manifested in so many various creative forms.

The gift is that God calls us to be artists and dreamers who live and love to find ways to share the Word made flesh in this world. Whether that be through our camera or video lens, through our music, through our paint strokes, through our words and in the many ways God calls us to create in this world.

Have you ever watched a painter or a musician or any artist in their element? It is almost impossible to put into words. The artist finds themselves escaping from this world into their own world creating and bringing the Word made flesh back into our world. So often the artist has this way of making us feel like we are at an event even when we are not.

The artists and the dreamers capture life through the Word made flesh in all they say and do. So often, the artists and dreamers are those behind the scenes who find ways to continue to capture the Word made flesh in our world.

So to the artists and dreamers, thank you....thank you for finding ways to capture the Word made flesh in this world. It is pure gift in this broken messed up world!

I am over at Mandy's today talking about finding friendships when one is a leader in the church. I even give a shout-out to the my social media friends. I would love for you to come visit me over there.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Word Made Flesh; Artists Edition #4

This past weekend, I spent at our synod senior high youth gathering. I had the honor and privilege of  hanging out with the youth who make up the LYO board and our keynote speakers. One of our keynote speakers was musician Tony Memmel. Tony is a gifted musician and genuine great guy! I thought today I would share one of my fave Tony songs "America to Go!" Enjoy friends!

Saturday, October 22, 2016


A little infant asleep in my arms as his parents enjoy our annual church dinner. We rock back and forth until this little boy finally falls asleep. I chat with this sweet infant sharing my thoughts as he drifts off the dreamland. I'm in my happy place. This sweet memory happened over four years ago, but it is a beautiful reminder of where I find delight.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a baby lover. I could spend hours with the warmth of a cozy infant pressed up against my skin as we cuddle together. In those moments, it feels like all my cares and worries just melt away. There is something so incredibly holy about these sweet moments in my life.

Holding infants is one of the places where I find delight. Delight in our lives are those places where the Word becomes flesh and brings about joy and happiness; a reminder that God loves us in this broken messed up world. Through delight, we are reminded that life does come out of death, joy does come out of sadness and so much more.

Besides infants, I find delight in children playing, in coffee dates with dear friends, through the relationships in my life, through sweet voices of children calling out my name and in so many other ways. Where are those places where you find delight?

In our places of delight, the Word becomes flesh through those very places and people who bring about joy, happiness, and delight in our lives. I believe Mary delighted when she held her precious infant son in her arms for the first time. I believe the father delighted when his prodigal son finally returned home.

"Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart!"--Psalm 37:4

Friday, October 21, 2016

Telling the Truth

I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday.  This is also Day Fourteen of the Write 31 Days challenge. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung on her blog Heading Home. Today's prompt is "park." We would love to have you join us. Just hop onto Twitter on Thursday evenings and follow the #fmfparty. Hope to see you there. 

I am spending the weekend at our synod youth gathering. This morning I found myself once again parked in a chair listening to our awesome speakers. We did an activity where they had the youth and adults write down all the labels and lies we give ourselves or have been given by others. It was a powerful activity as they then shared how we can combat the labels and lies with the truths in our lives. 

I remember as a little girl playing at the park and being called names; given labels and lies from a very young age. I'm not good enough. I'm not pretty enough. Your mom is crazy. And the list goes on and on. Yet we are too combat those lies and labels with truth. 

Because when we are truthful with ourselves and each other, we are helping make the Word made flesh in this world through the people and through ourselves by sharing our truths. So what are the truths that combat the lies and labels you've been given in life? 

For me, I know that the truth is....I am an encourager.
I am an advocate.
I am enough. 
I am a writer.
I am....

For when we live out our truths, the Word is once again made flesh in this world.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Something like Lemonade

Have you caught the new NBC drama "This is Us?" I missed the premiere episode of the show, but after catching comments on my FB feed and with friends, I knew that I was missing out on something good. I queued up the first episode and watched it on my I-Pad. I was immediately hooked. This is Us  is a rare story full of hope, humor, heart and even a little mystery.

In the first episode, the couple expecting triplets lose one of the babies during birth. The doctor and the dad have a heart to heart as the doctor shares how his wife and him also lost a child which led him to becoming a doctor. The doctor says something along the lines of "I like to think of it as taking lemons and making something like lemonade out of it."

Isn't that exactly what God calls us to do? To make beauty out of brokenness, to make something like lemonade out of the lemons in our lives? Several of my friends have experienced sad losses this year. My friend Julia and her husband Zach had to bury their daughter Kaia Gene. Julia has shared pieces of their story on her blog. My friend Erin and her husband Scott also had to bury their son #AlexanderScott. Erin has been processing and sharing their story through writing on her blog. They also had bracelets made to share about Alexander. I requested one and am waiting for mine to arrive. My friends are making something like lemonade out of their stories.

They will forever be shaped by their stories and experiences. And we all have been shaped by our own stories of brokenness. I think of my friend EG, her husband GG and their sweet little prince who they lost too soon. E shared that, in the midst of her pain, she just wanted another mom who understood what she was going through and who she could talk too. I think many of us long for others who understand in the midst of our own stories of brokenness. I didn't tell my families story of mental illness for 18 years because of the stigma associated with the illness and because I didn't think anyone would understand.

We need others who understand who we are, where we come from and the gift of sharing our stories. In our shared stories, hope emerges and unites us as a community of faith; a community of faith that walks together and becomes the Word made flesh as we sit with each other, as we wipe each other's tears, as we listen to each other and as we love each other in the midst of our brokenness.

So as the Word made flesh, as brothers and sisters in Christ, God's Word is made alive in this world through our words, actions and most especially through our love for one another. And it is in those moments of the Word made flesh that resurrection hope breaks through into this broken world.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Painting and God's Creative Souls

"Painting is by nature a luminous language."--Robert Delaunay

Walking into my mom's room at the nursing home, your eye would immediately be drawn to a painting on the wall. That painting is a drawing and painting of my family; my parents, sister, and I. I am holding a balloon and in the middle of the balloon are painted the words "The Ulrich Family." A baseball bat is leaning up against my dad. Even though, my parents have divorced. This painting holds a special place in our hearts as the painting was done by my aunt.

Growing up, my aunt was an artist who spent her days using her creative talents by decorating Dairy Queen ice cream cakes. I have always loved this about my aunt. Like me, she is a creative soul and God uses our creative souls to make the Word made flesh in this world.

Besides my aunt, there is my friend JK and her husband CK. They started their own business The Pink Moose--Colorado. Their logo states "vintage creative" and that is exactly who they are. I seriously want JK to come and decorate my house. She posted the above quote on her Instagram account for their business and I immediately had the idea for this post.

This summer, I got to spend some time with JK and her girls as we went shopping. As I watched JK in the store, picking out items for her latest project, I could see she was in her happy place. I love watching and seeing what her and CK create after finding treasures at a local sale.

Painting is indeed a luminous language; a language that is spread out through the paint strokes on the canvas the artist chooses to use in their life. And God uses many other creative outlets to bring about luminous language that makes the Word made flesh in this world.

In my landing page post, I shared about the many I have been gifted to watch create through the ways God has gifted them with creative souls. There are my photography friends like KK who have this way of capturing events and people in the most beautiful ways. There is my friend JC who creatively helps people share their stories through video. It's incredible to watch all those I know with their creative souls create something holy out of nothing or out of very little.

I think of all of us writers with the words God often places upon our hearts and minds. Through words, through paintbrushes, through camera lens and photo lens, God uses God's creative people to bring about the Word made flesh in this world.

As a creative being and writer, one of my all-time favorite verses is John 1:1 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." There is something so incredibly holy about creating and using the gifts that God has given me...whether that is to write a book, a blog post, or write poetry. And God has blessed so many of my friends and family with this same gift.

For the creative souls in my life, thank you! Thank you for the ways you embody and make the Word made flesh through your photographs, through your videos, through your music, through your paintings and paintbrushes, through your words, through your poems and through so many other ways. 

Thanks be to God for those gifts in our lives. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Made To Be In Relationship

A little girl, teased on the playground, tears streaming down her face. But then the gift of a new friend who also was holding her own story. This sweet little girl, my friend Mandy, with her chubby cheeks a side effect to the medication she was taking due to the kidney transplant she had had the year prior. These two little girls quickly became friends.

These girls who lived through elementary, junior high, and high school together; through first boyfriends, crushes, parents divorcing and remarrying and so much more. But after graduation, these two sweet souls parted ways. One to find her first job and home away from her parents. The other off to college and a dorm room and new experiences. A friendship that quickly drifted apart as these two college aged woman found new friends.

But the reality is our friendship never drifted a part completely. This friend Mandy called her best friend Tara the day she became engaged. This friend who left seminary for the weekend and flew home to be one of her best friend's bridesmaids on her special day. I remember standing next to my friend Mandy, a smile on her face that radiated throughout that day. After the wedding, I went back to seminary and my friend moved in with her husband. Little did we realize how things would change in the coming years.

I finished seminary, graduated and moved back home to North Dakota. My friend, now married, seem so happy with her married life. But before we knew it, the unexpected began to happen. My friend started experiencing seizures and other symptoms. One October morning, I picked up my phone to see that I had missed a phone call. I opened up my phone and began listening to it. Tears began streaming down my face. My friend's mom was calling to tell me that my friend had passed away; a life taken way too soon. I packed up my car that next Saturday and headed for her funeral; to say a goodbye I didn't want to have to say. But I needed to say!

There are days I wonder what my friend Mandy's life would be like today. Would David and her have children? Would she be happy? I watch photos of her nieces and nephews cross my Facebook feed and I know that she would have made an awesome aunt. I miss her each and every day. But luckily God has brought more amazing friends into my life.

There are my friends who I met at camp and saw me grow and mature into the woman of faith that I am today. There are my seminary friends who I ate cake with that first night at the seminary. There are my diaconal ministry friends and all of my colleagues in the church. There are the friends that I have made across the world wide web through social media. It is incredible the ways God blesses us with incredible relationships in our lives. Some of those relationships are for a season and others are for our whole lives.

The reality is that God created us to be in relationship with one another. Through the relationships in our lives, the Word becomes flesh through the people who God stands to walk with us. Through the relationships that remind us that we are never on this journey called life alone. Through the relationships, that embody the Word made flesh through those who love us for who we are created to be.

Friends and Readers, want a chance to win a $100 DaySpring Shopping spree. 

Also linking up with Holly and Testimony Tuesday, Kelly and the RaRa linkup, Jennifer and Tell His Story, Holley and Coffee for your Heart, and Kristin and Three Word Wednesday.



Breaking Bread Together

"In the night in which he was betrayed, our Lord Jesus took bread, and gave thanks; broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying; 'Take and eat; this is my body, given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.' Again after supper, he took the cup, gave thanks, and gave it for all to drink, saying: 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood, shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sin. Do this for the remembrance of me.'" (ELW; Holy Communion, Setting Two, P. 130)

Gathered in the basement community room, my new friends and I are sprawled out on the couches and chairs watching the movie Chocolat. A chocolate birthday cake sits on the table behind one of the couches. The smell of that sweet cake wafts into my friends Mike and Mark's noses as we watch the movie. Soon the credits roll and the movie ends.

After the movie, it's time to cut into the cake (my own birthday cake bought by me because I've only known these friends for a few hours now) One of my new friends suggests that we eat the cake like a pig....meaning with our hands. Before we know it, our hands are diving into the cake squishing and squeezing the crumbs of the cake into our hands and then into our mouths. Laughter erupts as we finish the cake. I'm practically rolling on the floor laughing.

That cake taught me so much about community and relationships and being surrounded by God's people because that cake broke the ice as my friends and I got to know each other. God calls us to gather at the table; to break bread with brothers and sisters in Christ. For in breaking bread together, through the food set on the table, the Word is made flesh through that meal and through that gathered community.

This summer, my friends JL, AD and I broke bread together many times while in New Orleans. We sat at a hotel restaurant one evening after listening to the sweet sounds of Jazz at Preservation Hall and broke bread over wine and fresh seafood. Another day, we woke up before the sun rose and found our way to Daisy Dukes for breakfast. Throughout the week, I found myself breaking bread many many times with friends; old and new.

And there have been so many other instances too where I've broken bread with my friends and family. I met my blog friend CM in real life as we broke bread at a beloved NOLA restaurant. A year ago, my friends JA, TM and I met and broke bread over a shared meal together. My friend JD and I broke bread with strangers at a restaurant that serves family style.

The thing is that, all throughout our lives, God blesses those relationships and at the holy tables where we are called to gather and break bread together. Like God provided food for the 5000 gathered with loaves and fishes, God provides for us too through food.

And through food, a visible sign of nourishment, the Word is made flesh. The Word is made flesh through the hands that prepare it. The Word is made flesh through the food set before us. The Word is made flesh through the ways we experience food in new ways. The Word is made flesh in all the ways we gather in community and break bread at the holy table.

I hope someday we all can gather, break bread and share in the Word made flesh through the food set before us.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Word Made Flesh; Artists Edition #3

I thought since I preached today. I would share the Word made flesh through my sermon. I know not everyone will agree, but the words I shared and preached are where God led me.  Enjoy my friends!

Justice on Earth

And just because it's a fun video made by my friend JC to prepare for the 2018 ELCA Youth Gathering, here is the promo video. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

In the Pit

Do you ever feel like your standing knee deep in a pit of mud and you can't get out? I know that I do! I find myself standing in that pit trying to work my way out of that pit. Slipping and sliding, I try to work my way out of the pit. I grasp onto the side and try to claw my way out of the pit but I keep sinking and sliding back into that pit. The truth is that I need God to rescue me from the pit!

When I was working at SuperAwesomeBibleCamp, our campers loved our mud pit. But the mud pit also had quicksand spots where you could easily sink into the mud. Watching my campers trying to work their way out of that mud and asking for a friend's hand to help them out reminds me of how we need our God to rescue us from our own pits.

Our pits all look different. Our pits might be parents divorcing. Our pits might be death. Our pits might be illness. Our pits are so many things. Yet the reality is that the pit is never too deep for our God. Our God gets down into the muck and mire of our lives and lifts us up out onto solid holy ground. Or in the words of one of my Instagram friends on their IG account today, "There is no pit so deep that God's love is not deeper still!"

Exactly! God's love is so deep that God is willing to go to all lengths to rescue us out of the pit. Some days you might find yourself on the edge of the pit, reaching out for God's hand to pull you out. Other times you'll find yourself so deep into the pit that you simply need to wait for God to come down into the muck and mire to rescue you. No matter where you are in the pit, God loves you so much that God set Gods son into the world to show us how much God loves us.

"For God so loved the world, that God gave Gods only Son into the world so that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life. God did not send Gods Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that we might have life through him."--John 3:16-17

God sent God's Son into the world as the Word made flesh; the Word made flesh who stands in the muck and mire of our pits with us. The Word made flesh who takes your hand and lifts you out of the pit. The Word made flesh who is willing to get dirty and stand in the pit with us because God loves us that much.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Mail as the Word

I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday.  This is also Day Fourteen of the Write 31 Days challenge. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung on her blog Heading Home. Today's prompt is "mail." We would love to have you join us. Just hop onto Twitter on Thursday evenings and follow the #fmfparty. Hope to see you there. 

I listen for the cluck of footsteps on my steps as the mail person walks up to my mailbox. I wait for the clank of the metal as the items are placed in it and the mailbox is closed. There is just something so holy about receiving real mail. (Today I got my Write 31 days mug and earlier this week, my FMF tshirt)

I wasn't sure how I was going to tie my theme together, but I think I figured it out or rather God showed me. Mail often is the Word made flesh in the midst of sadnesss, joy, and so much more. Can you think of those times when words showed up in your mailbox at the right time?

I am reminded of when my grandma and grandpa passed away and all the sympathy cards that showed up in my mailbox. I am reminded of how my friends are grieving the loss of their baby boy and how it has been through items sent to them from all over the US that has blessed them.

God often uses our words through mail to bless and be the Word made flesh in this world; the Word made flesh during times of loss, the Word made flesh during times of great joy and new life, and so much more. What can you do this week to bless someone with the Word made flesh via mail in their mailboxes? I guarantee God will use your words to bless them! 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Anticipatory Grief

Anticipate--to think of something that will or might happen in the future; to expect or look ahead to something with pleasure: to look forward to something; or to do something before someone else.

The other day, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed when I came across a post from someone who was sharing that her mom had recently been diagnosed with dementia. The doctor also proceeded to tell her and her family that they only have 2-10 years left. She went on to share how she was feeling "anticipatory grief."

I haven't really ever heard that phrase before that day, but it has stuck with me. As a daughter of a woman who lives daily with mental illness and now dementia, I find myself also feeling "anticipatory grief." Grieving those things that we won't get to share in this life. I find myself grieving the reality that Mom will, more than likely, never get to go wedding dress shopping with me if I ever find my Mr. Right. I find myself grieving so much, friends.

I don't want to anticipate too much. In fact, I want to cling to each and every day we do have. The laughs that are still to be shared. The joy that comes in mom seeing my sister or me. The love that mom embodies through her words and actions. But, so often, those things are overshadowed by the darkness of this illness that overtakes her in a moments notice.

There is anticipation when I call and wonder if she will remember my name or call me by another name. There is anticipation in seeing a phone call from her nursing home and wondering what todays news is. There is anticipation in the unknown and fear of when it will be her time to go to be with Grandma and Grandpa in heaven. There is anticipation that I cannot fix this and so badly want too. I so badly want the mom I have always known and loved to be whole again.

In this life, I know that my calling is to be Sandy's daughter; beloved, broken and blessed child of God. But with that calling also comes "anticipatory grief." Yet that "anticipatory grief" reminds me that our God is a God of life and death; a God of resurrection hope; a hope that becomes the Word made flesh when I remember that I am not on this journey alone.

In other words, that "anticipatory grief" will always be there because I am only human. But the truth is that in the midst of this anticipation, I am surrounded by people who will walk with me, who will dry my tears and who will simply sit with me in the midst of my own lamenting and anticipatory grief.

God surrounds us with community and places where we belong because God knows that we all will feel anticipatory grief at one time or another during the course of our lives. God wants us to cling to the promise that God will never leave us or forsake us. God will surround us with beloved sisters and brothers who too have experienced their own "anticipatory grief" and know what I/what we will need when we are experiencing it in our own lives.

"The story of any of us is in some measure the story of all of us."--Frederick Buechner

Also please join me at Lesley's place Life in the Spacious Place today as I am sharing about one of my favorite songs. I'll give you a hint--I posted the song here in the last week! :) 
Come visit me there!!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Creating and Using Our Gifts

Hammering away, board by board
Noah constructs the Ark God commanded him to build
Then Noah and his family and two of every animal 
Enter the ark where they stay to be saved from the flood.

The ark is one of the many stories of creating in the Bible. Noah creates and builds the ark. After the flood, a rainbow is placed in the sky; a creative reminder and promise to us all. Bezalel constructed and created the tabernacle of God. God creates the world and then rests on the Sabbath. Where else do you see God creating in the Bible? 

Like these individuals, God gives each and every one of us skills and abilities to use in this world too. God gave Solomon wisdom.  God gave you specific gifts. God gave me gifts too. I am an encourager. I am a poet and a writer. My frend BD is a musician. My friend KK is a photographer that captures the most amazing photos. Do we use our gifts in this world? Or are we afraid to use them? Do we hide them away only to be seen by our own eyes?

I think the truth is that God calls us to use our gifts because in sharing our gifts, we make the Word made flesh by honoring the gifts God has bestowed on each of us. By using my words, not only do I honor that gift, but I also honor the story of who I am; Tara; child of God; beloved, broken and blessed. And as a beloved, broken, blessed child of God, God wants me to use the gifts God has given me. God wants you to use the gifts you have been given too.

In utilizing our gifts, this world is a much more beautiful place as we embody the Word made flesh through our art; through our poetry; through our photographs; through our words and anyway God calls us to use our gifts in this world.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Poetry of God

A little girl sitting at the kitchen table, pen and paper in hand, creating her own world as the words spill out onto the page. An imagination that creates new people, places and stories as they unfold in her mind. This little girl would rather write than play with her toys on a rainy dreary day. She would much rather create magic and enchantment through the words she is creating on the page.

Ever since I was little, I've had a passion for writing and words. (So probably no surprise that my college major was communications with an emphasis in journalism and an English minor) As I grew older, I ventured further into the writing world...writing more than just stories, but now delving into poetry and other forms of writing. As I craft a poem, I realize how healing and holy the process of creating is for me. As the words spill onto the page, sentences form into stanzas which form into completed poems which are lifted to God in prayer. For me, my poems often are the Word made flesh as those poems are my prayers lifted to God like incense rising.

Sometimes the words leak onto the page and create holy tears in the form of a story or poem. Sometimes the words seem to be trapped until they are finally unlocked and over-flowingly spill onto the page without a second glance. And sometimes those words come to life the minute the pen hits the paper or the fingers tap the keyboard. No matter how they come, the words always build into a beautiful piece of art which often embodies the Word made flesh.

And like our own poems, stories, and works of art, we are created by a God who loves and claims us as God's beloved children. A God who knows every desire of our heart. A God who knows every hair on our head. A God who gifts us each with unique gifts and responsibilities. A God who mastered us each into God's own masterpieces.

"Still, God, you are our Father. We're the clay and you're our potter. All of us are what you made us!"-Isaiah 64:8; The Message translation

Last night, I was scrolling through my Twitter feed when I came across a quote from the Breathe Writers Conference which is being held in Michigan. One of the speakers Elizabeth Ivy said, "You are God's poem. God's artwork." As a writer and poet, I love that image. God is the master creator; a creator who turns words into magnificent works of poetry named YOU and ME. God is the master potter who takes clay and shapes it into who we are as God's beloved children. God, the creator, who when God is finished creating states "It is good" and reminds us that as God's master works of art; as God's own poetry, "fearfully and wonderfully made" we are loved.

In fact, as "beloved, broken, blessed children of God," our stories and our brokenness are beautiful in God's eyes. Our own brokenness is what makes the masters poem of us the most beautiful works of art to grace this world; a reminder that in this broken world, God still turns our brokenness into beautiful magnificent works of art.

I am linking up with Holly and Testimony, Kelly and the RaRa linkup,
Jennifer and Tell His Story, Holley and Coffee for your Heart,
and Kristin and Three Word Wednesday.



Monday, October 10, 2016

A Season of Weeping

Lament--"A passionate expression of grief or sorrow"

Hundreds have been killed by the hurricane in Haiti...and others are in Hurricane Matthew's path.
Every day, death and destruction seem to grace our television screens and newspaper headlines.
Violence, death, destruction, and so much more.
I don't know about you, but I feel like lately we are continually
In a season of weeping; a season of lament.

"Weeping may come for the night, but joy comes with the morning."--Psalm 30:5

The nights, and the darkness seem to be hovering over our heads these days. It feels like a continual rainy dreary day. Will the sun ever come up again? Or will the rain keep pouring down? Will our weeping finally end and turn to a season of dancing?

Remember when I was talking about Job and how his friends simply sat with him. Job himself though was lamenting. Job was shouting to the heavens. I think there are times in our world and even in our lives, when we are like Job. We want to wail to our God. And sometimes we do!!

The thing is God knows when we want to wail and lament. But the reality is that we are really bad at lamenting. Or at least, I think we are. When I look at our broken world, I yearn for God's peace to come about; the only peace that can pass all human understanding. I want to scream and cry out to our God again and again and again "How long, O Lord, How long?"

But I also get tired of asking that question, yet I know that God says it's ok to lament; to grieve and to cry out to God. I realize a lot of us get tired and overly weary from the events and brokenness we see in our world each and every day, yet God tells us it's ok to lament; to cry out; to ask again and again
"How long, O Lord, How long?

For when we lament, we honor that our God is in the business of bringing life out of death. Our God who overcame death and the grave. I am reminded of one of my fave quotes by Clarence W. Hall "Easter says you can put death in the grave, but it won't stay there." That's right, by lamenting and shouting and trusting that God can overcome death and the grave, the Word is made flesh once again. The Word is made flesh through the very laments and cries of our heart in this broken world; knowing that those cries and laments are heard by our God who promises to never leave us or forsake us.

And trusting in that promise, I know that the weeping truly will only last for a while and some day soon, we will be singing and dancing in the streets praising and giving glory to God; our God who calls and claims us as God's beloved children.