This Day We Say Grateful: A Sending Blessing

June 24, 2016

WhenFriendsRejoiceBothFarAndNearImage: When Friends Rejoice Both Far and Near © Jan Richardson

In this season, I often find myself thinking of friends in ministry who are on the move—who are leaving the communities they have known and are entering into new forms of ministry as they take new appointments, retire, or go on leave. I wrote a “sending blessing” for one of these friends, Dan Johnson, who recently retired after serving for 22 years as the senior pastor of my home church, Trinity United Methodist Church in Gainesville, Florida. The blessing was used to close Dan’s final service there. The church also gave the image above to Dan as a print, beautifully framed with another blessing of mine called “In the Leaving.”

As I continue to navigate my own thresholds in these days, I am so grateful for the chance to offer words and images for those who are finding and making new paths.

If you are in a threshold time, or know someone who is, this blessing is for you. Deep peace to you.

This Day We Say Grateful
A Sending Blessing

It is a strange thing
to be so bound
and so released
all in the same moment,
to feel the heart
open wide
and wider still
even as it turns
to take its leave.

On this day,
let us say
this is simply the way
love moves
in its ceaseless spiraling,
turning us toward
one another,
then sending us
into what waits for us
with arms open wide to us
in welcome
and in hope.

On this day,
in this place
where you have
poured yourself out,
where you have been
emptied
and filled
and emptied again,
may you be aware
more than ever
of what your heart
has opened to
here,
what it has tended
and welcomed
here,
where it has broken
in love and in grief,
where it has given
and received blessing
in the unfathomable mystery
that moves us,
undoes us,
and remakes us
finally
for joy.

This day
may you know
this joy
in full measure.

This day
may you know
this blessing
that gathers you in
and sends you forth
but will not
forget you.

O hear us
as this day
we say
grace;
this day
we say
grateful;
this day
we say
blessing;
this day
we release you
in God’s keeping
and hold you
in gladness
and love.

—Jan Richardson

Using Jan’s artwork…

To use the image “When Friends Rejoice Both Far and Near,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible.

Using Jan’s words…
For worship services and related settings, you are welcome to use Jan’s blessings or other words from this blog without requesting permission. All that’s needed is to acknowledge the source. Please include this info in a credit line: “© Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com.” For other uses, visit Copyright Permissions.

Easter Sunday: A Blessing for the Rising

March 26, 2016

RisenImage: Risen © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Easter Sunday:
John 20.1-18 or Luke 24.1-12

Why do you look for the living among the dead?
He is not here, but has risen.

—Luke 24.5

Risen
For Easter Day

If you are looking
for a blessing,
do not linger
here.

Here
is only
emptiness,
a hollow,
a husk
where a blessing
used to be.

This blessing
was not content
in its confinement.

It could not abide
its isolation,
the unrelenting silence,
the pressing stench
of death.

So if it is
a blessing
you seek,
open your own
mouth.

Fill your lungs
with the air
this new
morning brings

and then
release it
with a cry.

Hear how the blessing
breaks forth
in your own voice,

how your own lips
form every word
you never dreamed
to say.

See how the blessing
circles back again,
wanting you to
repeat it,
but louder,

how it draws you,
pulls you,
sends you
to proclaim
its only word:

Risen.
Risen.
Risen.

—Jan Richardson
from Circle of Grace

Using Jan’s artwork…

To use the image “Risen,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible.

Using Jan’s words…
For worship services and related settings, you are welcome to use Jan’s blessings or other words from this blog without requesting permission. All that’s needed is to acknowledge the source. Please include this info in a credit line: “© Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com.” For other uses, visit Copyright Permissions.

Holy Saturday: In the Breath, Another Breathing

March 25, 2016

Breath Will Come to the Desolate BonesImage: Breath Will Come to the Desolate Bones © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Holy Saturday:
Matthew 27.57-66 or John 19.38-42

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there,
sitting opposite the tomb.
—Matthew 27.61

Holy Saturday.

This day between the dying and the rising.

This day that calls us to hold our anguish and our hope in the same hand.

This day that invites us to marvel that when our heart has been shattered, it somehow manages to keep beating. That we somehow manage to keep breathing.

Still.

In the Breath, Another Breathing
For Holy Saturday

Let it be
that on this day
we will expect
no more of ourselves
than to keep
breathing
with the bewildered
cadence
of lungs that will not
give up the ghost.

Let it be
we will expect
little but
the beating of
our heart,
stubborn in
its repeating rhythm
that will not
cease to sound.

Let it be
we will
still ourselves
enough to hear
what may yet
come to echo:
as if in the breath,
another breathing;
as if in the heartbeat,
another heart.

Let it be
we will not
try to fathom
what comes
to meet us
in the stillness
but simply open
to the approach
of a mystery
we hardly dared
to dream.

—Jan Richardson
from Circle of Grace

Using Jan’s artwork…

To use the image “Breath Will Come to the Desolate Bones,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible.

Using Jan’s words…
For worship services and related settings, you are welcome to use Jan’s blessings or other words from this blog without requesting permission. All that’s needed is to acknowledge the source. Please include this info in a credit line: “© Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com.” For other uses, visit Copyright Permissions.

Good Friday: A Blessing for What Abides

March 24, 2016

Good Friday IIImage: Good Friday II © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Good Friday: John 18.1-19.42

There they crucified him.
—John 18.18

What Abides
For Good Friday

You will know
this blessing
by how it
does not stay still,
by the way it
refuses to rest
in one place.

You will recognize it
by how it takes
first one form,
then another:

now running down
the face of the mother
who watches the breaking
of the child
she had borne,

now in the stance
of the woman
who followed him here
and will not leave him
bereft.

Now it twists in anguish
on the mouth of the friend
whom he loved;

now it bares itself
in the wound,
the cry,
the finishing and
final breath.

This blessing
is not in any one
of these alone.

It is what
binds them
together.

It is what dwells
in the space
between them,
though it be torn
and gaping.

It is what abides
in the tear
the rending makes.

—Jan Richardson
from Circle of Grace

Also for Good Friday . . .

Several years ago, Gary and I created a video that intertwines my Seven Last Words art series with Gary’s exquisite song “This Crown of Thorns.” I would love to share it with you. [For my email subscribers: if you don’t see the video below, click here to go to The Painted Prayerbook site, where you can view it in this post.]


Using Jan’s artwork…

To use the image “Good Friday II,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible.

Using Jan’s words…
For worship services and related settings, you are welcome to use Jan’s blessings or other words from this blog without requesting permission. All that’s needed is to acknowledge the source. Please include this info in a credit line: “© Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com.” For other uses, visit Copyright Permissions.

Holy Thursday: Blessing You Cannot Turn Back

March 23, 2016

Holy Thursday IIImage: Holy Thursday II © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Holy/Maundy Thursday: John 13.1-17, 31b-35

Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet.
—John 13.5

Blessing You Cannot Turn Back
For Holy Thursday

As if you could
stop this blessing
from washing
over you.

As if you could
turn it back,
could return it
from your body
to the bowl,
from the bowl
to the pitcher,
from the pitcher
to the hand
that set this blessing
on its way.

As if you could
change the course
by which this blessing
flows.

As if you could
control how it
pours over you—
unbidden,
unsought,
unasked,

yet startling
in the way
it matches the need
you did not know
you had.

As if you could
become undrenched.

As if you could
resist gathering it up
in your two hands
and letting your body
follow the arc
this blessing makes.

—Jan Richardson
from Circle of Grace

Using Jan’s artwork…

To use the image “Holy Thursday II,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible.

Using Jan’s words…
For worship services and related settings, you are welcome to use Jan’s blessings or other words from this blog without requesting permission. All that’s needed is to acknowledge the source. Please include this info in a credit line: “© Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com.” For other uses, visit Copyright Permissions.

Lent 1: Beloved Is Where We Begin

February 11, 2016

Desert of the BelovedImage: Desert of the Beloved © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Lent 1, Year C: Luke 4.1-13

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan
and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness,
where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.

—Luke 4.1-2

If we back up a bit in Luke—if we turn around, hang a left at the genealogy, and take a look at Luke 3.21-22—we will be able to enter this week’s text with the same knowledge that Jesus had: that when he went into the desert, he went with the baptismal waters of the Jordan still clinging to him, and with the name Beloved ringing in his ears. How else to enter into the forty-day place that lay ahead of him? How else to cross into the wilderness where he would have no food, no community, nothing that was familiar to him—and, to top it off, would have to wrestle with the devil? How else, but to go into that landscape with the knowledge of his own name: Beloved.

In this first week of Lent, as we turn our faces toward whatever this forty-day place holds for us, we would do well to have that name echoing in our own ears—to enter into the terrain of this season with the knowledge that we, too, are the beloved of God. And so I want to offer you a blessing that tells us this. It’s a blessing I wrote last year for those who joined us on the Beloved Online Lenten Retreat—a beloved community indeed.

As we cross with Christ into the landscape of Lent and into the mystery that lies ahead of us, may we know at least this about ourselves: that our name, too, is Beloved.

Beloved Is Where We Begin

If you would enter
into the wilderness,
do not begin
without a blessing.

Do not leave
without hearing
who you are:
Beloved,
named by the One
who has traveled this path
before you.

Do not go
without letting it echo
in your ears,
and if you find
it is hard
to let it into your heart,
do not despair.
That is what
this journey is for.

I cannot promise
this blessing will free you
from danger,
from fear,
from hunger
or thirst,
from the scorching
of sun
or the fall
of the night.

But I can tell you
that on this path
there will be help.

I can tell you
that on this way
there will be rest.

I can tell you
that you will know
the strange graces
that come to our aid
only on a road
such as this,
that fly to meet us
bearing comfort
and strength,
that come alongside us
for no other cause
than to lean themselves
toward our ear
and with their
curious insistence
whisper our name:

Beloved.
Beloved.
Beloved.

—Jan Richardson
from Circle of Grace

For a previous reflection on this passage, visit Lent 1: Into the Wilderness.

For a broken heart: If Valentine’s Day is a difficult day for you or someone you know, I invite you to visit A Blessing for the Brokenhearted.

New from Jan Richardson
CIRCLE OF GRACE: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons

Circle of GraceWithin the struggle, joy, pain, and delight that attend our life, there is an invisible circle of grace that enfolds and encompasses us in every moment. Blessings help us to perceive this circle of grace, to find our place of belonging within it, and to receive the strength the circle holds for us. from the Introduction

Beginning in Advent and moving through the sacred seasons of the Christian year, Circle of Grace offers Jan’s distinctive and poetic blessings that illuminate the treasures each season offers to us. A beautiful gift in every season. Available in print and ebook.

Order the book


Using Jan’s artwork…

To use the image “Desert of the Beloved,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible.

Using Jan’s words…
For worship services and related settings, you are welcome to use Jan’s blessings or other words from this blog without requesting permission. All that’s needed is to acknowledge the source. Please include this info in a credit line: “© Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com.” For other uses, visit Copyright Permissions.

Ash Wednesday: A Blessing in the Ashes

February 8, 2016

Ash Wedesday CrossImage: Ash Wednesday Cross © Jan Richardson

Readings for Ash Wednesday: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17; Psalm 51:1-17;
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Let me hear joy and gladness.
—Psalm 51.8

We buried my husband’s ashes last April, two weeks after Easter. Gary’s ashes rest now in a stand of palmetto trees on the farm that’s been in my family for generations; the farm where, just a few short years earlier, Gary and I were married on a gorgeous spring day. As our beautiful family gathered by the palmettos last April, in sight of the barn where we had been married so recently, I was astonished by the brevity of the span between those two days.

On that day last April, I told our family about how, as Gary and I had planned our wedding, we knew we wanted it to be a day of blessing. So blessings wove throughout that day of celebration, offered by family and friends during the ceremony and reception. I also told our family that as the day of burying Gary’s ashes drew near, I had longed for it to be a day of blessing as well. And so, in the midst of our sorrow and grief, we offered blessings in celebration of the astonishing life that had come among us, and that lingers with us still.

In that spirit, as this Ash Wednesday approaches, I want to share a blessing with you. It’s one that I’ve shared here before. I am sharing it again because this blessing—which I wrote before Gary’s death—is one that I need to claim for myself, now more than ever. I need to claim the blessing that lives among the ashes. I want to be marked by that blessing, and by the Holy One who knows what to do with dust.

As Ash Wednesday and Lent draw near once again, what blessing do you need to claim from the ashes?

Blessing the Dust
A Blessing for Ash Wednesday

All those days
you felt like dust,
like dirt,
as if all you had to do
was turn your face
toward the wind
and be scattered
to the four corners

or swept away
by the smallest breath
as insubstantial—

did you not know
what the Holy One
can do with dust?

This is the day
we freely say
we are scorched.

This is the hour
we are marked
by what has made it
through the burning.

This is the moment
we ask for the blessing
that lives within
the ancient ashes,
that makes its home
inside the soil of
this sacred earth.

So let us be marked
not for sorrow.
And let us be marked
not for shame.
Let us be marked
not for false humility
or for thinking
we are less
than we are

but for claiming
what God can do
within the dust,
within the dirt,
within the stuff
of which the world
is made
and the stars that blaze
in our bones
and the galaxies that spiral
inside the smudge
we bear.

—Jan Richardson
from Circle of Grace

BelovedWith Gary’s wondrous son on the day we buried Gary’s ashes.


Previous posts:
I have a number of reflections and blessings for Ash Wednesday; to visit these, begin with this post at Ash Wednesday: The Terrible, Marvelous Dust.

For a broken heart: If Valentine’s Day is a difficult day for you or someone you know, I invite you to visit A Blessing for the Brokenhearted.

New from Jan Richardson
CIRCLE OF GRACE: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons

Circle of GraceWithin the struggle, joy, pain, and delight that attend our life, there is an invisible circle of grace that enfolds and encompasses us in every moment. Blessings help us to perceive this circle of grace, to find our place of belonging within it, and to receive the strength the circle holds for us. from the Introduction

Beginning in Advent and moving through the sacred seasons of the Christian year, Circle of Grace offers Jan’s distinctive and poetic blessings that illuminate the treasures each season offers to us. A beautiful gift in every season. Available in print and ebook.

Order the book

 

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Ash Wednesday Cross,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible.

Using Jan’s words…
For worship services and related settings, you are welcome to use Jan’s blessings or other words from this blog without requesting permission. All that’s needed is to acknowledge the source. Please include this info in a credit line: “© Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com.” For other uses, visit Copyright Permissions.

Transfiguration Sunday: A Blessing Made for Coming Down the Mountain

February 5, 2016

TransfigurationImage: Transfiguration © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Transfiguration Sunday, Year C: Luke 9:28-36 (37-43)

And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed,
and his clothes became dazzling white.
—Luke 9.29

Dazzling
A Blessing for Transfiguration Sunday

Believe me, I know
how tempting it is
to remain inside this blessing,
to linger where everything
is dazzling
and clear.

We could build walls
around this blessing,
put a roof over it.
We could bring in
a table, chairs,
have the most amazing meals.
We could make a home.
We could stay.

But this blessing
is built for leaving.
This blessing
is made for coming down
the mountain.
This blessing
wants to be in motion,
to travel with you
as you return
to level ground.

It will seem strange
how quiet this blessing becomes
when it returns to earth.
It is not shy.
It is not afraid.

It simply knows
how to bide its time,
to watch and wait,
to discern and pray

until the moment comes
when it will reveal
everything it knows,
when it will shine forth
with all that it has seen,
when it will dazzle
with the unforgettable light
you have carried
all this way.

—Jan Richardson
from Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons

For previous reflections on Transfiguration Sunday, click the image or title below.

Transfiguration II
Transfiguration Sunday: When Glory

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Transfiguration,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. (This is also available as an art print. After clicking over to the image’s page on the Jan Richardson Images site, just scroll down to the “Purchase as an Art Print” section.) Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!

Using Jan’s words…
For worship services and related settings, you are welcome to use Jan’s blessings or other words from this blog without requesting permission. All that’s needed is to acknowledge the source. Please include this info in a credit line: “© Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com.” For other uses, visit Copyright Permissions.

Blessing That Meets You in Love

January 25, 2016

For LoveImage: For Love © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Epistles, Epiphany 4, Year C: 1 Corinthians 13.1-13

And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three;
and the greatest of these is love.

—1 Corinthians 13.13

Loving is always risky, because we cannot enter into it without being changed. Altered. Transformed. In the face of this, we might well ask, Do I really want this? Do we really desire to be so undone?

Loving is never just about opening our heart. It is about being willing to have our heart become larger as we make room for people and stories and experiences we never imagined holding. It is about being willing to have our heart become deeper as we move beyond the surface layers of our assumptions, prejudices, and habits in order to truly see and receive what—and who—is before us. It is about being willing to have our heart continually shattered and remade as we take in not only the brokenness of the world but also the beauty of it, the astounding wonder that will not allow us to remain the same.

Blessing That Meets You in Love

It is true that
every blessing begins
with love,
that whatever else
it might say,
love is always
precisely its point.

But it should be noted
that this blessing
has come today
especially to tell you
it is crazy about you.
That it has been
in love with you
forever.
That it has never
not wanted
to see your face,
to go through this world
in your company.

This blessing thought
it was high time
it told you so,
just to make sure
you know.

If it has been shy
in saying this,
it has not been
for any lack of
wanting to.
It’s just that
this blessing
knows the risk
of offering itself
in a way that
will so alter you—

not because it thinks
you could stand
some improving,
but because this is
simply where
loving leads.

This blessing knows
how love undoes us,
unhinges us,
unhides us.

It knows
how loving
can sometimes feel
like dying.

But today
this blessing
has come to tell you
the secret
that sends it
to your door:
that it gives itself
only to those
willing to come alive;
that it vows itself
only to those
ready to be
born anew.

—Jan Richardson


For a previous reflection and blessing for this passage, click the image or title below:


Epiphany 4: The Greatest of These

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “For Love,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible.

Using Jan’s words…
For worship services and related settings, you are welcome to use Jan’s blessings or other words from this blog without requesting permission. All that’s needed is to acknowledge the source. Please include this info in a credit line: “© Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com.” For other uses, visit Copyright Permissions.

Women’s Christmas 2016 – A Gift for You

January 6, 2016

Wise Women Also CameImage: Wise Women Also Came © Jan Richardson

Happy New Year and Merry Epiphany! In celebration, these three wise women are stopping by with a gift for you. You might know that some folks celebrate Epiphany (January 6) as Women’s Christmas. Originating in Ireland, where it is known as Nollaig na mBan, Women’s Christmas began as a day when the women set aside time to enjoy a break and celebrate together at the end of the holidays.

It’s become a tradition for me to create a new retreat each year that you can use on Women’s Christmas or whenever you need some time for respite and reflection. The retreat, which you can download as a PDF, includes readings, art, questions, and blessings. This year’s retreat, titled “Home By Another Way,” was inspired by my search for home in the wake of Gary’s death.

There’s no cost for the retreat; it’s a Women’s Christmas gift especially for you! You can do the retreat anytime you wish, alone or with others. For a link to the retreat and more about Women’s Christmas, visit this page at my Sanctuary of Women blog:

Women’s Christmas 2016: Home By Another Way

I would love for you to pass along the gift by sharing the link with your friends via Facebook, Twitter, or any other way you’re connected.

Blessings to you, and Merry Women’s Christmas!

P.S. Our festive Advent discount on annual subscriptions to the Jan Richardson Images site continues through Epiphany, plus a few days! An annual subscription enables you to download any images for use in worship during the year. Advent rate: $125 (regularly $165). Extended through January 10. Click Subscribe to sign up.

[To use the Wise Women Also Came image, please visit this page at Jan Richardson Images.]