Truth Was Born

“Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?”—Galatians 4:16; NRSV

I am often told that my tenderness and softness are my super powers. That my words often quell the fire that is lit in my friend’s hearts. Yet there are times in my life when I look at the images on my television screen and see my tenderness and softness as a curse rather than a blessing because I want to shout from the mountaintops…STOP IT! Treat each other with radical love and respect.

After the election, I woke up to a different world than I thought we were moving towards. I have been weary in the midst of it all. I want to use my voice to speak up. But more than anything, I want to shut up and listen to those on the margins; to understand where they are coming from while also listening to the other side of the issue as well.

I have watched the images of the children in Aleppo whose crying has stopped and my heart simply breaks. I want to wake up the world to this injustice that is taking place. I want more than anything for these children  to know safety and peace; to not be afraid to go outside and play without fearing for their lives.

Telling the truth is hard and it can put strains on our relationships when both sides believe they are telling the truth. Is telling the truth worth the risk? Does telling the truth open our minds and hearts to be a part of the body of Christ without questioning one another?

There are some really great people in my life who teach me what it means to be a truth-teller. Truth-telling is scary, but it also often opens my eyes to see and my ears to understand in new ways. These truth-tellers have done exactly that for me in the last several months.

Will we open our mouths to tell the truth even when that is the hardest thing we could do? Truth was born in a stable in Bethlehem that holy night. Truth was born when this little boy came into the world to change the world and change us. Truth was born when this one promises to come down and rend the heavens.

Are we willing to believe in this truth and share his truth with the world?

Sunday Blessings 150 and 151

(1) Finding my LLR Elegant Carly

(2) Another snow day

(3) A great night with awesome kids from church

(4) Getting to be part of BG’s Baptism

(5)  Texting with MW

(6) A post worship/council nap

(7) Chatting with CT on the phone

(8) A great text convo with my friend JS

(9) Time with my friend EG–What a great night!

(10) Finding peppermint mocha kcups from Target

(11) Chatting with BA on the phone

(12) Christmas cards in my mailbox

(13) Leftover pizza sent home with me

(14) #SlateSpeak

(15) LCM Board Christmas party

(16) A member complimenting my sermon and sharing how I just keep getting better.

(17) A trusted colleague liking my sermon note on FB! Thanks JC!!

(18) Watching Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors

(19) Holding Baby BG and taking their family photo!

(20) Talking to me Daddy

(21) A post liturgical nap

(22) Talking to mom. It was a good day. She sounded so good.

Bringing Good News

“Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. 6 And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”–Matthew 11:4-6 

But where is this Good News for the children and families in Aleppo? Where is the Good News for those who are huddled on concrete floors to stay warm? Where is this Good News for those who are starving to death? Where is this Good News for black and brown bodies who are innocently killed because of the color of their skin? Where is this Good News for our LGTBQ + and Muslim and Jewish friends? 

The truth is when we don’t see these beloved children of God, there is no Good News. The children have stopped crying. The starving no longer need food because they have starved to death. The homeless are frozen in huddles in the streets trying to stay warm. Another black/brown body is killed for no other reason than the color of their skin. Our LGTBQ+ and Muslim/Jewish friends are still seeking acceptance and love in this world. 

Sweet Jesus, can we not see them? Can we not hear them? We must see and hear them. We must not be silent. We must speak up and shout the injustices we see in this world. For when we do that, the blind will see, the lame will walk, the lepers will be cleansed, the deaf will hear, the dead will be raised and the poor will indeed have Good News brought to them.

Will we be the voices that bring Good News to those on the margins; those who the world often overloooks? Will we cry out in the silence and proclaim the Good News of the one who brings radical love to all those on the margins? Will we be the ones who help the world to turn? 

“Wipe away all tears, for the dawn draws near, and the world is about to turn”—Canticle of the Turning

Where is this Life Eternal?

The children of Aleppo have stopped crying. 
The silence of their cries is deafening. 
Only to be broken by the sounds of war.
My heart is breaking.

Where is this life eternal for which John speaks of? 

Yes, there are many who question their faith and who don’t believe. But can we blame them? Can we blame them when another war has broken out? Can we blame them when death not life appears to have the last word? Can we blame them when hatred and evil are running rampant in the world? Can we blame them when the children no longer cry? 

Again, where is this life eternal for which John speaks of? 

This Advent, I am weary, friends; weary for Aleppo; weary for our future; weary for Syria; weary for the tumult we see daily; weary, weary, weary! I hear these words from one of our Christmas hymns “And a weary world rejoices!” And I want to believe, but the images on my television screen cause me to doubt. Will our weary world ever again rejoice? 

The tears continue to stream down my face as I weep with Rachel. I am raw with grief for the brokenness of our world. I am raw with love; love for God; a love unlike any other. I am simply raw as I yearn for peace on Earth and love, justice and mercy for all of God’s beloved children. 

In the birth of Emmanuel, the noise of the world is silenced as we hear the cries of the one who is with us. Emmanuel, God with us…God with us in our pain, God with us in our doubt, God with us in our joy, God with us in our mourning and our dancing. God with us when we cannot find the words to speak. God with us in the love and hope born that holy night. 

Will this hope and love shout forth in the midst of the silenced cries of the children of Aleppo? Will life eternal truly be given to all God’s children even those who question their faith or don’t believe? Will we shut up and listen and then radically love ALL God’s children; no exceptions? 
Will we let our voices pierce through the noise to proclaim the hope born in Emmanuel; God with us, today and always so that a weary world will once again rejoice when life not death, peace not war and love not hatred finally truly have the last word? 

Now is the TIme

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

I just finished watching Dolly Parton’s movie Christmas of Many Colors. Let’s  just say that by the end I was a blubbering mess. Now I am sitting with my peppermint mocha in hand, the tree lights twinkling, and the sounds of Full House on television behind me. 
It is bitter cold outside. It feels like negative 20. So I am finding myself staying inside where it is warm and cozy. I am reflecting on this Advent and how my friends Advent devo has released this beautiful vessel from me. A beautiful vessel of words that captures my own story. 
I cannot help but think of those in Aleppo especially the children. I want them to know safety and love. To be honest, every time I see an image of a child with their ash covered face; full of fear, I immediately want to adopt them ALL. But I know that is not my reality. So I am doing my best to help in the ways that I know how to help. 
In the midst of a broken world, Advent is the time for us to reflect on the hope and peace that is born that holy night in a manger in Bethlehem. This baby who cries out and pierces the darkness with his cries of raw love in this broken world. 

Emmanuel God with us…God with us in our pain, God with us in our doubt, God with us in our joy, God with us in our mourning and our dancing. God with us when we cannot find the words to speak. God with us in the love and hope born that holy night. Now is the time to reflect on the gift that is born; the child born as the Word made Flesh! 

This song is so powerful. Listen closely to the words. 
The Word made flesh! 

A Love Like No Other

In the heart of a North Dakota winter, the bitter cold takes away ones breath from the moment one steps outside. The rawness of the cold is felt in every fiber of ones being. That rawness is a rawness that I haven’t felt anywhere else. It can easily paralyze one from going outside during the winter months. So I know the rawness of a ND winter very deeply, yet that is not the rawness that is penetrating my heart and soul in these days.

I watch the children in an orphanage in Aleppo crying for help and my heart breaks. I want so deeply for them to be able to play outside without fearing for their lives. I am filled with the rawness of tears as they trickle down my face. I yearn for these children and their families safety.

I am filled with the rawness of cold as I hear stories of homelessness in these frigid temperatures. Babies, parents, and children who are living in the streets. More tears trickle down my face.

My heart is raw as I want to do so much more for those in need. My throat is sore as I try to cry out in the midst of my tears. Raw tears that weep for Syria. Raw tears that weep for my Muslim and Jewish friends. Raw tears that weep for every black and brown body that have been killed because of the color of their skin. Raw tears that weep along with my friends and all those in the LGBTQ community. Raw tears that weep because we are afraid to shut up and listen to each other. Raw tears that yearn so deeply for peace, justice, mercy and kindness in this broken shattered world.

Like a ND bitter cold day, the world is raw with her own brokenness and her own tears. Tears that call for the birth of Emmanuel; who cries out into the silence of the night. Tears that call forth hope in God with us. Tears, who are raw, with love for all of God’s beloved children.

A raw love, born into the silence of the night, in a manger in Bethlehem, through one of the first refugee families; Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus. This raw love that is a love like no other; a raw love that is steadfast, faithful and breaks forth into our broken shattered world.

Our Psalm of Anguish

“O Lord God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers. You have fed them with the bread of tears, and given them tears to drink in full measure. You make us the scorn of our neighbors; our enemies laugh among themselves”–Psalm 80:4-6 (New Revised Standard Version)

Our Psalm of Anguish
By Tara L. Ulrich

Children in an orphanage in Aleppo cry out for mercy and safety.

“How long, Oh Lord, How long?”

War breaks out again and again.

“How long, Oh Lord, how long?”

A woman in labor cries out in pain.

“How long, Oh Lord, how long?”

Rachel inconsolably weeps.

“How long, Oh Lord, how long?”

Another Black and Brown person killed simply due to the color of their skin.

“How long, Oh Lord, how long?”

The mentally ill hunger for acceptance and love in this world.

“How long, Oh Lord, how long?”

White privilege is too rampant and alive in this broken world.

“How long, Oh Lord, how long?”

Silence the “whatevers” of the world, we pray.

“How long, Oh Lord, how long?”

The LGTBQ community yearns to truly be accepted in this world.

“How long, Oh Lord, how long?”

The world waits for the Lord to come and rend the heavens.

“How long, Oh Lord, how long?”

A single woman patiently waits for God to answer the desires of her heart.

“How long, Oh Lord, how long?”

Our modern day cries for mercy, justice and peace continue to pierce through the noise
of this broken shattered world.

“How long, Oh Lord, how long?”

Those with anxiety ask for your peace to be granted.

“How long, Oh Lord, how long?”

The world continues to cry out in pain and weep with Rachel.

“How long, Oh Lord, how long?”

We cry for you to remember us all; ALL of God’s beloved children.

“How long, Oh Lord, how long?”

We wait for the birth of the Messiah; hope born that holy night, who cries out into
the silence of the night.

“How long, Oh Lord, how long?”

In anguish, we ask “How much longer, Lord? How much longer must we wait?

For the Children of Aleppo

A ten year old little boy Carlos pleas for the world to come save him and his 47 brothers and sisters from an orphanage in Aleppo. I listen to his voice while my eyes wander and glance into the eyes of all these children. I watch as another little boy sways back and forth in his place. Children who so desperately want to be able to go outside and play; who want peace to reign on earth.

These children all stand looking into the camera and quickly finding a place in my own heart. I so desperately want to take them ALL in. I want so desperately for them to know peace and freedom in their lifetime. I want so desperately to shield them from their countries own shattered hearts and dreams. I want them to not be afraid to go outside in fear of their lives.

Carlos’ words continue to echo in my ears and in my heart. His words speak truth as he reminds us that these might be the last words we hear from him. I don’t want to believe his words, but I know that he is speaking truth. This ten year old boy who had to quickly grow up two years ago when he lost his own parents to an air strike. This ten year old boy who is pleading on behalf of all of these children who are locked in their orphanage and who so deeply want to find freedom and peace. My heart is breaking for and with them.

My heart is shattered and broken; praying for these 47 beloved children of God. Will we feed them and clothe them? Will we welcome them into our homes? Will we be Christ to them? I honestly want to take them ALL in; every one of these 47 precious children standing in that orphanage in Aleppo. But I know that is not my reality, but I will fight to do what I can; to show them love and grace and freedom; to show them that death and destruction will not have the last word but God will.

And as I pray, watching these 47 children whose lives may soon be shattered and broken once again, I must weep; weep like Rachel. Weep for all of God’s beloved children who deserve to be loved; to be welcomed with open arms and hearts. Weep until there are no more tears left to cry.

Broken and Shattered

The words poured onto the page as I wrote our story for the world to see. Two years later, I held our story; my story in the form of a book; a book that holds the very deepest parts of my family’s story. It holds the very deepest and vulnerable parts of my identity as the daughter of a woman who lives daily with a mental illness. For so long, that story stayed locked in the depths of my heart. Yet that story; my own story of brokenness is what makes me who I am as a beloved child of God.

And when I look at the world around me, I cannot help but see so much brokenness; so many shattered dreams and hopes. I watch as the fathers in Aleppo cry out for safety for their children. Like Rachel, I weep for these dear beloved souls.  I catch my breathe for just a moment and ask for the Lord’s kingdom to come; for Christ to rend the heavens and come NOW. Aleppo is shattered and broken. What are we willing to risk for these dear beloved children of God? Does their freedom and safety mean anything to us OR would we much rather stay in our own comfort zones? I pray that we come together as our own comfort zones are shattered and broken.

I watch this world and all I can think is. Our world is fractured. Our world is broken. Our world is shattered. What are willing to risk to bring it back to wholeness? I am reminded of the Japanese art form “kintsugi” where they take gold laquer and laquer the cracks. The cracks remind us of the pieces brokenness and helps to shine the light through it.

Without my own story, I wouldn’t be who I am. I wouldn’t be Tara; Beloved, Broken, Blessed Child of God. Without your stories, you wouldn’t be who you are either. In the midst of our own shattered dreams and hopes, we are all beloved, broken, and blessed children of God who are ALL called to be loved in this broken world.

Are we willing to look at each other’s cracks in the midst of our own brokenness? Are we willing to understand how we are all broken? Are we willing to let ourselves proclaim God’s love and grace in this broken world? Are we willing to be on Jesus’ right and left side as he hangs on the cross?

“Suddenly they shouted, ‘What have you to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?'”–Matthew 8:29

In the midst of my own family’s journey with mental illness, there are times I cried out to God; cried out from the deepest parts of me; with the most visceral words I could utter to speak. There were times I wondered if God was trying to make me stronger; trying to teach me something. All I know now is my own brokenness; my own shattered hopes and dreams remind me that God promises to come again; to come down and rend the heavens. And so in the midst of this very shattered broken world, I find myself clinging so tightly to that promise!

Will the Lord come soon to rend the heavens OR will it be too late?

Will this world continually be a place of deep brokenness and shattered dreams and hopes?

Will we seek to shatter the walls that divide us?

I’ll be Waiting!

“But you, dear friends, carefully build yourselves up in this most holy faith by praying in the Holy Spirit, staying right at the center of God’s love, keeping your arms open and outstretched, ready for the mercy of our Master, Jesus Christ. This is the unending life, the real life!”–Jude 20-21 (The Message)

Maybe I have become cynical this past year, but it seems to me that we have failed miserably at building each other up. We have failed miserably at outstretching our arms to ALL of God’s beloved people. We have failed miserably at opening our hearts and minds to one another. We have simply failed miserably at being change agents who work to build each other up as we attempt to piece together pieces of this broken world.

As a young child, I was the kid who was bullied and picked on. I was the kid who didn’t learn to take care of her adolescent self the best she could because her mom was living with a mental illness and at times couldn’t teach me those things properly. I remember standing on the playground having so many awful names hurled at my little girl self. No wonder, I didn’t want to unlock the story that was locked deep in the depths of my heart. (And didn’t tell that story until I was 18 years old!)

Instead of building up, there was tearing down occurring and as I look at our broken world, that is often what I still see. Have we forgotten that God calls us to “love each other as we love ourselves?” Or maybe we don’t love ourselves because the world has been unkind to us and taught us that we are unlovable? The truth though is that we are all loved children of God. I want everyone of you to know that in this broken world. Yet I know that is hard to trust in when the world seems to be telling you something else.

I honestly don’t know what it is like to live in this world with different colored skin or as an LGTBQ+ individual or as a Muslim or Jew. But when I hear these words from the book of Jude, I want to do better. I want to shut up and listen to these dear beloved souls of God who fully understand what it is like to live with different colored skin or as an LGTBQ+ individual or as a Muslim or Jew. In all honesty, these dear beloved souls continually teach me what the cost of discipleship is in this broken world.

So, despite the ways of the world, I want to be a change agent; who isn’t afraid to break bread with tax collectors and sinners; to break bread with those that society and the world often deems as the outcasts or on the margins of society. As Lenny Duncan reminded us in his post yesterday, “God’s people are not on the margins, they are the center of God’s own heart which flees empire and you!”

My own call to ministry calls me to pick up my basin and towel and wash the feet of all God’s people; no matter who those people are. So, my friends, today I am standing with my basin and towel right next to me, waiting to wash your feet. My arms are outstretched wide; waiting for all of God’s beloved children to be embraced in this love.

Come to me all who are weary, sit down, and let me wash your feet.

I’ll be waiting!