Our Brokenness Doesn’t Define Us!

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

It can be so easy to get wrapped up in our brokenness and to think that it defines us. People look at us and they don’t see our brokenness. They do not know our stories. Yet we get so caught up in our brokenness and the ways it defines us. The thing is, my friends, is that we are all cracked and broken pots (see yesterdays post). But God makes us whole again.

God stands with us in the midst of our brokenness and wants us to know that that is not what defines us. What defines us is that God calls and claims us as God’s beloved children. We are defined by our title “children of God.” In other words, I am not defined by what I am not. I am not defined by my singleness or my suffering. I am not defined by my desires to be a wife and mom. I am defined as a beautiful beloved child of God.

“Tara Lee Ulrich, you are a baptized child of God, whatever else you are, remember that you are; for that is the basis of whatever else you are.” These beautiful words remind us all of who and whose we are. They define our belongness as children of God claimed in the waters of baptism. 

At the cross, Jesus died for our sins and because of God’s love for us, Jesus’ life, death and resurrection also help remind us who and whose we are. The cross embodies the definition of our calling as God’s beloved children. In the words of the christian group Gungor God makes beautiful things out of dust; out of us! So remember you are not defined by those things that bear you down; you are defined as one of God’s beloved children. 

Cracked and Broken

Walking up the stairs to church, the crack in the window catches my eye. The crack is a symbol of the brokenness in our world. But it is not the only symbol of brokenness, we walk down the street and see a cracked car window or we go for a walk and step over a crack in the sidewalk. These cracks are visible to the eye, yet how many of us are journeying through this life with our own brokenness; our own brokenness that is not easily visible to other’s eyes.

Our brokenness seems like such a tiny crack to those who do not know us. Yet our own brokenness is so much bigger than what others see. We want to fix our brokenness. We want to feel whole and complete. But so often our own brokenness feels like a gigantic burden to those in our lives, but especially to our own selves. So we stand with our broken and scattered pieces and try to piece it back together again.
It is almost impossible to find the beauty in the midst of our broken selves, yet God takes us and makes beautiful things out of us. I am reminded once again of the Japanese art form “kintsugi.” According to Wikipedia, kintsugi is “the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum.” This art form reminds us of the history of the piece’s own brokenness. It also is the place where the light gets in. What if we looked at our own brokenness in much the same way?
The thing is it can be so easy for us to be swallowed up by our brokenness, yet God doesn’t leave us drowning. God puts individuals in our path who hold us up and help us to see the gifts of who God calls us to be. In other words, we are not defined by our brokenness, but rather are defined by who we are; “fearfully and wonderfully made children of God.” And in the end, that’s all that matters! 
It’s all that matters because God sent God’s one and only Son into the world for each and every one of us. “For God so loved the world that God sent God’s one and only son into the world so that everyone who believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life. Indeed, God did not send God’s son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that it might be saved through Him.”–John 3:16-17
As we journey to the cross, we find ourselves, in all of our brokenness, standing at the foot of the cross watching as Jesus’ dies for our sins. In the darkness of Good Friday, the sights and sounds of Jesus death alert us to the relentless reality of the cross. This simple wooden cross bears the weight of Jesus’ death but also bears the weight of each of us in our brokenness. And then hours later, on Easter morning, that weight is lifted as life not death, light not darkness, and wholeness not brokenness have the final word.
Trusting in the resurrection promise, God takes our own brokenness and in the words of Gungor, “makes beautiful things out of dust; makes beautiful things out of us.” And as beautiful children of God, we are continually made whole. 

Our Own Golden Calves

Idol–“a representation or symbol of an object of worship”; “an object of extreme devotion.” (Merriam Webster’s Dictionary)

In our world, there are many things that can so easily be turned into idols. Often times the American flag and our patriotic colors of red, white, and blue turn from simple devotion to extreme devotion. It is as if we turn these items into our own idols. Now don’t get me wrong, I think the flag is an important symbol in our history. But too often we forget the history of others around us.

In our story from Exodus, Moses’ people have turned the calf into their own idol. They are no longer worshiping God but are worshiping this golden calf. God calls us, like he called Moses’ people, to not worship idols but to worship him. When we worship God, we are reminded of the promise that God made to Abraham, Isaac, and even Moses. “I will multiply your descendants like the stars of the heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.”–Exodus 32: 13

God calls us to trust fully in God’s love for God’s people. In the midst of our pain, suffering and joy, God reminds us that God sent God’s son as Immanuel “God with us.” God with us in our pain. God with us in our joy. God with us in our sorrow. God with us in our grieving. God with us….at all times and in all places.

During these final days and weeks of Lent as we journey to the cross, let us not turn to idols, but rather trust in the one who came as the light in the midst of the darkness, the joy in the midst of the sorrow and as the one who redeems life over death.

Palpable Love

“Our sorrows and wounds are healed only when we touch them with compassion.”–Jack Kornfield

“Compassion is the wish to see others free from suffering.”–Dalai Lama

“Compassion is at the heart of every little thing we do. It is the dearest quality we possess, yet all too often it can be cast aside with consequences too tragic to speak of. To lose our compassion, we lose what it is to be human.”–Unknown

Has the world lost her compassion? Have we forgotten how to truly listen to one another, wipe each other’s tears and be compassionate to one another? I see so much hatred and evil in our broken world that I truly believe we have forgotten what it means to be compassionate to each other. We so quickly sling ugliness at one another rather than compassionate words.

Compassion is what has helped me through those times in my life when I have been wounded. I can name the people who have sat with me in the silence. I can think of those people who have prayed for me and my family. And it is because of their examples that I find myself knowing what it means to be compassionate and caring to others.

This morning, I sat in a pew and then around a table with former Bible camp counselor staff as we laid the camp secretary for many years to rest. She died suddenly and unexpectedly this past weekend. We laughed together sharing our favorite stories. We wiped each other’s tears. We broke bread together as we remembered her compassion for us and shared that compassion with one another. The love and compassion around that table was palpable.

As I sat around that table, I found myself basking in the glow of these dear souls in my life. I also found myself realizing how much they have taken a piece of my heart as we care for one another in both our joys and sorrows. It is a gift that I won’t forget and it is a gift that I hope that I can freely give to others.

I may not always agree with my friends. I may not always understand why they stand on another side of an issue than I do. But what I do know is that God has called me to love them; to be compassionate, caring and kind to them. And it is because of the love of God and my dear family and friends who help me be seen, known, and loved that I can offer that same love and compassion in my own life.

God is a compassionate being and calls us to follow God’s example of compassion for all in this broken world. “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.”–Psalm 145: 8-9

Linking up with Holley and Coffee for your Heart and Kristin and Porch Stories.


Public Witnesses to the Power of the Cross

Lent began with an ashen dusty cross on our foreheads; a reminder that “We are dust and to dust we shall return.” On that night, a heaviness encompassed the air as the relentless reality of the cross weighed on our shoulders. We woke again the next morning with the shadow of that ashen cross still barely visible but reminding us once again of our mortality.

From the cross, we step onto the path and begin our journey to the cross. Along the way, we are continually transformed as we encounter the love of Christ given freely to each of us. Together we sit and break bread with Jesus. We see and hear those who are opposing Jesus–the one who has come not to condemn the world, but to save it. We listen and take it all in; feeling every emotion. 
And on Good Friday, we find ourselves standing at the foot of the cross–silent! We so desperately want to stop it all, yet our words won’t come out. We can’t muster up the strength to prevent this from happening. Shocked and speechless,we stand and watch as Jesus cries out and then breathes his last. In the utter silence of this moment, it appears that death has the final word as Jesus hangs lifeless on the cross.
Three days later, the women come to the tomb. There is no stench from a decaying body. The stone is rolled away. They look in and realize that Jesus’ body is gone. They think it has been stolen. They run to tell others and along the way they encounter Jesus. Jesus is alive. He has been raised from the dead. Together, we all trust in this resurrection promise and loudly proclaim,”Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Allelulia!” 
From the cross to the grave to Easter morning, Jesus proclaims God’s scandalous love for all the world. This love opens our hearts to be transformed and renewed by this very love. This love also teaches us to follow Jesus example of love;”He loved them to the very end.” Together, it is this love that calls and claims us to be public witnesses to God’s love for all in this world. 
Knowing what has been done for us, our voices are no longer silent. We cry out for justice. We cry out for mercy and kindness. We cry out in all the ways we know how so that Gods love will be known to everyone. We cry out to break down the walls of injustice. We cry out so others will listen to those voices who aren’t being heard. We cry out because we are called “to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God.” 
As public witnesses to the power of the cross and as bearers of the Word made flesh, we trust in the resurrection promise of hope; a hope that bears light, truth and life not darkness, falsities and death. In our public witness, our words and actions embody the power of God in this broken world. It shows us that death can be buried in the grave, but it does not have the last word–Christ does.

I’m linking up with Holly and Testimony Tuesday, Kelly and the RaRa linkup and Jennifer and Tell His Story. 


The Gift of Water

“Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water. If you can’t go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does.”–Margaret Atwood

Standing on the edge of the river, our eyes watch the water flow over the rocks and obstacles. The water knows to flow over it or through it. Water, like the waters of Baptism, is holy and refreshing. It also cleanses us of our sins. In addition, it quenches our thirst like no other beverage. But what about those places where there is no water or their water isn’t pure?

I cannot help but think of the people in Flint, Michigan as I read our text from Ezekiel. I find myself crying out, “How long, Oh Lord, will you forget them forever?” When will they get the clean water they so desperately need in that community? I also find myself thinking about those in my own state who were trying to protect the pipeline from going through one of their main water sources. In both of these situations, it is water that is central.

Water is central to the gospel too. Jesus offers the life-giving water that only he can give. Jesus offers this life-giving water to the woman at the well and she tells others about this water; water that gives life to all of God’s people. And it is this life-giving water that finds Jesus hanging on the cross on the night of his crucifixion and death. With his hands and feet nailed to the cross and a crown of thorns on his head, Jesus parched from thirst simply cries out “I thirst.” A sponge of water is placed upon his lips; only wetting his thirst very little. And then Jesus breaths his last.

Water is a holy element in this world. It flows freely. It goes exactly where it wants to go. Water is patient. Water quenches our thirst. Water frees us and washes us of our sins. Water calls and claims us as God’s beloved children as we are freely given the gift of the life-giving water only Jesus can give. Are we willing to share that water with all of God’s beloved children?

The Ultimate Sign and Wonder

“Then Jesus said to him, ‘Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.’”–John 4:48

How often do we too look for signs and wonders in the midst of this broken fractured world? I don’t know about you, but there are times in my life when I truly want to see those signs and wonders. When someone I love is diagnosed with cancer, I want that person to be cured of their cancer. And that is only one example, there are so many more I could share. Often times God shows up in ways we never imagined or expected. We are looking for signs and wonders and God shows up in completely different signs and wonders than we expect.

It seems to me that often the world is looking for extravagant signs and wonders that will show them the kingdom is here on Earth. But the truth is that those signs and wonders aren’t flashy like a Hollywood sign. But rather they are flashy in their own way. They come from our gentle humble radical Christ who wasn’t afraid to turn water into wine, who wasn’t afraid to sit with tax collectors and sinners, who was all about reminding us of God’s love by dying on the cross and then being raised from the dead.

“Easter says you can put death in the grave, but it won’t stay there.”–Clarence W. Hall

Lent is a time when the signs and wonders of Christ come once again in unexpected ways. For me, death in the midst of the days of Lent has more of a heaviness to it than any other time. A dear friend passed away this weekend. She is now reunited with the love of her life. Yet our hearts are broken. This is only one example of how life and death are so apparent as signs and wonders. On Easter morning, Jesus is risen from the dead when we are reminded that life not death has the final word. 

Each Easter, as the keys to the organ swell as we sing the words to “Jesus Christ is Risen Today,” I find myself clinging to the promise of the cross; the ultimate sign and wonder of how much God loves each of us.

Sunday Blessings 164

(1) A beautiful day

(2) Lemon Meringue pie on pi day

(3) D.C. Sharing her strawberries with me.

(4) Seeing EG and BG tonight. They are both getting so big.

(5) Videoing people for our Lenten worship.

(6) Zumba

(7) Ellie Holcomb’s Red Sea Road album

(8) Watching Class B Boys BB

(9) Watching Special Olympics World games on tv. The moment with Jason Mraz and Grace Vanderwaal was something special.

(10) Cinnamon Jelly Beans

(11) Getting to give EG his bottle.

(12) Baby snuggles

(13) Baptism celebration

(14) 50 degree spring weather

(15) Time at one of my fave places CotC

(16) Potato klubb with KN and MH

(17) Lunch with KW and DW

(18) Having fun filming clips for our Lenten videos.

(19) Winning a prize at this week’s #fmfparty. Thanks Krafty Kash!!

(20) Buying books on Amazon and getting some great deals.

(21) For the Love of the Arts event and performing some of my poetry.

(22) An accidental call from Uncle J and texting with Aunt C as a result of that call.

(23) A PLN

(24) Apple Rum Cake

(25) Hugs and convo with one of my fave kiddos. Thanks KM.

Look on the Heart

The Lord does not look on the outward appearance, but on the heart. How often are we guilty of doing just the opposite? We look at a persons outward appearance and so easily can judge them. Yet we don’t know them. We don’t know their stories. God calls us to get to know them and to look at their heart.

Through social media, I’ve met some incredible people. To be honest, I’m not sure if we would have been friends if we met in real life before we did on socal media. Yet what I know is I see these friends hearts through their words, their passion for justice, their care for others, and their faith. I’m delighted to call them friends because I’ve truly seen their hearts.

We need to better about getting to know one another. We need to look deeply into each other’s hearts. Our hearts are called to share the same faith Christ shared with us through his life, death, and resurrection. I’m reminded of one of my fave passages from the book of Romans where we are reminded that all of us are the Lords.

“If we live, we live to the Lord. If we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lords.”–Romans 14:8

God with Us

Mary cries out in labor pains as Jesus comes into the world. Soon the silence of the night is broken by the cries of this holy infant; Immanuel (God with us) Wrapped in swaddling clothes, Jesus lies in a manger in Bethlehem surrounded by his parents Mary and Joseph. This holy infant sent to save the world. “For God so loved the world that God gave Gods only son that whoever believes in  him may not perish but have eternal life. Indeed God did not send God’s son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world may be saved through him.” (John 3:16-17)

Jesus hangs on the cross crying out “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.” With dry parched lips, he exclaims, “I thirst.” With a crown of thorns on his head and nails in his hands and feet, he breathes his last. The crowd gathered stands in awe and utter silence. Gently, Jesus is taken down from the cross and is wrapped in burial cloth. They place his body in the tomb and roll the stone in front of it.

Three days later, women return to the tomb and find the stone rolled away. Jesus’ body is no longer in the tomb. Jesus has been raised. Life not death has the ultimate word. “Easter says you can put death in the grave, but it won’t stay there.” In this promise, we declare our trust in Immanuel; God with us.

God with us in the manger in Bethlehem. God with us as Jesus breaks bread with tax collectors and sinners. God with us as Jesus offers lifegiving water to the women at the wall. God with us on Maundy Thursday as Jesus washes the disciples feet even those who will deny and betray him. God with us on the cross as Jesus breathed his last. God with us when the world is broken and fractured. God with us when we are afraid. God with us in both our mourning and dancing. God with us at all times because God promises to never leave us or forsake us.

In the promise of Immanuel; God with us, let us trust in this profound scandalous love that comes in the life, death and resurrection of God’s Son. A love that is born in a manger in Bethlehem and that dies for our sins as Jesus hangs that dark Friday night as he breathes his last. A love that rises again on Easter morning as life not death has the final world.