Behold

I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung over at our Five Minute Friday website. Today’s word prompt is “pause.” We would love to have you join us.

Lilacs blooming, the smells wafting through the air.
Time to stop, pause, breathe in her scents.
Behold, Gods amazing creation.

The mountains
Reaching high
The crisp mountain air
Is inhaled through my lungs.
Behold, Gods amazing creation.

Sitting on my porch
The sun kissing my face
A book in hand
Summer scents all around
Behold, Gods amazing creation.

Dirt caked in his fingernails
The sound of a tractor
Rolling from one end of the field
To the next.
Creation a time it’s finest.
Behold, Gods amazing creation.

A toddler
Gleefully
Blowing and popping bubbles
Laughter ensues.
Behold, Gods amazing creation.

Our God
The creator
Who wants us
To pause
And take it all in!

GDPR Compliancy

Dear friends,

I (Tara L Ulrich) am writing to alert you to some changes in data protection which may affect how you receive emails from me at Praying on the Prairie. This is of most importance to those who have signed up to receive blog posts from me at Praying on the Prairie via email. It’s important to be aware of what I do with your information.

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Redemptive Love

“He [Jesus] didn’t die for anything he could get out of. Jesus did not get an honorary doctorate for dying. He didn’t….he wasn’t getting anything out of it. He gave up his life, he sacrificed his life, for the good of others, for the good of the other, for the well being of the world…for us.”

“That’s what love is. Love is not selfish and self-centered. Love can be sacrificial, and in so doing, becomes redemptive. And that way of unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive love changes lives, and it can change this world.” (Bishop Michael Curry in his sermon at the Royal Wedding)

The redemptive power of love is a phrase that I haven’t been able to shake since listening to his sermon on Saturday. It is because of the redemptive power of love that I am able to tell my family’s story of mental illness. It is because of the redemptive power of love that I was able to graduate seminary and be consecrated as a deacon in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) It is because of the redemptive power of love that I truly believe God calls us to share God’s love with all the world.

“For God so loved the world that God gave God’s one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life. God did not send God’s son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him (John 3:16-17).”

My heart aches when I turn on the news or look at the comments in a blog post and see the evil that is being spewed out into the world. As Bishop Curry reminded us in his sermon, if we actually are able to love and show love, the world would be a much different place. If we truly loved one another, would our friends of color not fear for their lives? If we truly loved one another, would we truly treat each other as family?

I am especially proud to serve in a church (the ELCA) that truly believes that all are welcome in this place. I was excited and delighted to hear that Jamie and Rebekah Bruesehoff will be sharing their story at this summer’s National Youth Gathering. I had the opportunity to hear Jamie speak at this year’s ELCA Youth Ministry Network Extravaganza. Her story is powerful as she reminds us what it means to love God’s beloved children.

Today, evil has found its way as outside forces attack this family without even knowing their story. It is moments like this that cause my blood to boil because all of us are beloved children of God. God continually calls each and every one of us by name.

The redemptive power of love allows us to put aside our differences; to treat each other as “fearfully and wonderfully made” children of God. The redemptive power of love calls us to love ALL of God’s beloved children. The redemptive power of love is why God sent God’s son into the world for each and every one of us. The redemptive power of love truly allows us to hear the stories of our LGTBQ+ siblings. The redemptive power of love opens our hearts to all the world.

And because of the redemptive power of love, it is words and actions rooted in love that are pouring out to Jamie and Rebekah today. And this is the type of church I want to be a part of us; a church that openly and freely opens their doors without question. A church that truly lives out the words “all are welcome in this place.”

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
    you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
    Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
    I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
    you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
    how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
    all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
    before I’d even lived one day.
(Psalm 139:13-16; The Message)

A Broken Record

Friday May 18–yet another school shooting. This time at Santa Fe High School in Texas. My immediate reaction was that I wanted to cry; cry holy tears for those ten individuals who went to school that day planning on returning home but they didn’t return home.

Any time there is a school shooting, I feel like I am a broken record. So often media jumps to the conclusion that the shooter is mentally ill. Now don’t get me wrong, that could very well be the case. But the reality is that the mentally ill are more often the victims of a violent crime then the perpetrator. And as the daughter of a woman who lives daily with a mental illness, I know this reality all too well. I have first hand experience of the stigma that comes with a mental illness.

The reality though is that my mom is able to live a normal life because of the medications she is on. She is one of the most faith-filled women in my life and would seriously give the clothes off of her back to someone in need. She embodies what it means to love and be loved in this broken world. Yet her illness comes with a stigma; a stigma that still carries with it the weight of every school shooting and violent crime despite what statistics tell us.

I have to be honest. I grew up in a house where my dad and grandpa hunted. Yet those guns were not easily accessible. In fact, they were kept far away from our reach. I have so many questions in regards to guns and gun violence. How are these students getting access to these guns? Why is someone not able to stop them?

I don’t know what the answer is to end all school shootings. But what I do know is that too many kids have gone to school hoping to come home and haven’t because another classmate showed up to school with a gun. Often times they come with a motive because they are hurting and are not in their own right mind. Yet with proper treatment and care, these individuals could, perhaps, live a normal life.

My hurt aches for all of my friends and family and their children. I fear for the days when I will have my own children and will send them off to school. It breaks my heart that our children know what to do in the case of a school shooting because they have had active shooter training at their own schools. I don’t want the names of the children I love or even the names of my sister and other teachers who dedicate their lives to teaching to be on the list of deceased at the next school shooting.

My heart aches friends and we must do something about it. I cannot hear the name of more individuals who lost their life at school. There are too many school shootings. There are too many who have given their lives simply by being in school when a shooting occurs. We remember the ten victims from the Sante Fe High School shooting: Glenda Perkins, Cynthia Tisdale, Kimberly Vaughan, Shana Fisher, Angelique Ramirez, Christian Riley Garcia, Jared Black, Sabika Sheikh, Christopher Jake Stone and Aaron Kyle McLeod.

My eyes are wet with tears; tears that ache for the day when our children will feel safe going to school again. Wet with tears as I lift up my prayers to God knowing these individuals are not alone in their final days. But also wet that they had to breathe their last before graduating high school or going home to their own families.

The words from Marty Haugen’s Holden Evening Prayer are the words that I seem to only be able to cry out in the midst of another school shooting. “Let our prayers rise up like incense before you, the lifting up of my hands as an offering to you. O God, I call to you, come to me now, hear my voice when I cry to you.”

I am broken.

I am tired.

Tired of sounding like a broken record.

When will the sounds of this broken record cease

Or will this record play over and over again until it is simply way too late?

 

Sunday Blessings 214

(1) Time with WND Faith Formation Network friends.

(2) Gorgeous weather.

(3) Halo Top Ice Cream

(4) A call from Dad

(5) Much needed rain

(6) The Greys Season finale

(7) Holding baby Kane

(8) Make Your Own Italian Sodas at a grad open house.

(9) Texting with my fave

(10) #RoyalWedding!!

(11) Michael Currys sermon at the Royal Wedding. So lit!

(12) A great Senior Sunday

(13) Baking

(14) Lilacs

Holding the Secrets

I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung over at our Five Minute Friday website. Today’s word prompt is “secret.” We would love to have you join us.

Two sisters playing in the backyard. The younger one leans in and tells a secret to her big sister. After the secret is told, silence, lips are sealed. We must not tell others what we just heard.

What was it? The name of a boy? Or another kind of secret? Whatever it is, it must not be told. It must stay locked deep in the depths of our hearts. To this day, I still hold the secrets. I will forever hold her dreams. I will keep my lips sealed and not share what she told me about her first love.

And there are secrets we tell each other now too. There is something holy in holding each other’s secrets in the palms of our hands. Secrets that carry our deepest dreams and desires. Secrets that are to be held by only those we know we can trust.

Do you want to know the secrets?

I’m not telling!

Our Litanies

Laying in bed every night, the litany of requests and prayers constantly play through my heart and mind. This list of prayers that I am continually waiting for God to answer in my own life. I know that God hears them but before morning light and my eyes are barely open, the litany continues to play over and over again.

According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, a litany is defined as “a prayer consisting of invocations and supplications by the leader with alternate responses by the congregation”; or “a resonant or repetitive chant.”

Throughout our lives, there are so many litanies that we lift up to God. Litanies that are not just lifted up at church, but litanies that are said each and every day throughout the world. Litanies that play on repeat from one heart to the next. Litanies that embody our dreams, hopes and desires. Beautiful litanies that echo the heart of who God is; and also beautiful litanies that transcend time and space.

These litanies tell the story of who God calls us to be as people of prayer.

“Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7–NRSV).”

In other words, God calls us to lift our prayers; to voice our litanies out loud or in the depths of our heart. Because when we say those prayers; those litanies, a beautiful elegant litany of thankfulness and gratitude is opened to the world.

Linking up with Kelly and the Ra Ra linkup, Holley and Coffee for your Heart and Kristin and Porch Stories.

  

Include

I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung over at our Five Minute Friday website. Today’s word prompt is “include.” We would love to have you join us.

She stands
On the playground
All alone.

Waiting for someone,
Anyone to notice her,
Trying to hide her tears;
Tears of loneliness.

She’s looking for her place
In this world;
Searching, seeking, yearning
To know love and be loved.

Then another hand reaches out
Inviting her to come.
She goes.

This hand reaching out;
Jesus made flesh
In a new friend
Who sees her tears
And invites her in.

She is no longer
Alone!

Sunday Blessings 213

(1) Getting to hold a three week old baby

(2) Texting with my fave

(3) Recipes from Magnolia Table

(4) The season finale of The Big Bang Theory

(5) Awesome Caramel Roll volunteers

(6) Band Day Fun

(7) Sunshine

(8) Seeing some awesome Minot kiddos

(9) RW telling me how much he enjoyed my book.

(10) Being surprised by LH. It was so good to see you!!

(11) Flowers

(12) Getting to see CT and her girls.

(13) Talking with my momma

(14) Sweet texts and messages from friends

(15) Moderating #SlateSpeak this week.

An Unmet Mother’s Day

This post is a vulnerable post about my deep desires to be a wife and mom. I am thankful for all of the mother figures in my own life. But my heart aches that this deep desire has not been met for me yet so this is my attempt to try and capture my thoughts and feelings. Thanks for understanding and reading!

A three week old baby laying in my arms as I chat with the photographer and his mom. The magic of holding a baby instantly puts me in a different realm.  A sense of peace comes over me and the rest of the world doesn’t seem to matter in that moment.

Ever since I can remember I have wanted to be a mom. As a little girl, my sister and I would play house with our cabbage patch dolls. We would dream of the day we would meet our Mr. Right and our deep desires would finally be met.

However, the reality is that this dream has not been met for me yet. I still deeply yearn to be a wife and mom. So many times I hear these words from Scripture: “Take delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4; NRSV)” and I just want to let out a guttural scream because every day I do my very best to delight in the Lord yet these desires have not been met for me. I find myself constantly asking “How long, oh Lord, will you forget me forever?” How long?!?!?

I realize that there are other ways that these desires can be met for me; to be a foster mom etc. Yet the reality is that I have to grieve the dreams that once were before I take on these new dreams. I have to grieve that my body will, more than likely, never carry a life inside it for 9 months. I have to grieve the dreams of that sweet little girl who always dreamed of being a wife and mom.

The reality is that our world is full of brokenness. I think of my friends who have carried babies that never got to see life on this earth. I think of my friends who held their daughter for a few hours before she breathed her last. I also think of those many children who are waiting for someone to call mom and dad. There are so many who dream of being loved.

My mom has continually shown me that kind of love even though she has lived most of my life with a mental illness. She would seriously give the clothes off of her back to someone in need. And if I can be half the mom my mom has been for me then the world would be a much better place.

Sunday is Mother’s Day. It is a day to celebrate the mothers in our life. Yet this day can also be painful. It is a day that continually reminds me that these deep desires of my heart have not been met for me yet. It is a day that twinges with the sadness of those moms that have been lost. It also is a day that can ache so deeply because of what is no longer there or never was there in the first place.

Sunday, I will worship with a community of faith and we will celebrate the mothers in our midst. But the reality is how many others, like me, are putting on a fake smile and sitting in the ache of their hearts? May we be mindful of the ways we can love and be loved even in the midst of our own brokenness, our own aches and our own unmet desires.

Linking up with Kelly and the Ra Ra linkup, Jennifer and Tell His Story, Holley and Coffee for your Heart and Kristin and Porch Stories.