Fierce Blessing

Image: Streams of Mercy © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Hebrew Scriptures, Year A, Proper 16/Ordinary 21/Pentecost +11: Exodus 1.8-2.10

The story of the Exodus begins in the hearts of the women. The midwives Shiphrah and Puah, the mother of Moses, his sister, the daughter of Pharaoh: without them, no Moses, no Exodus, no freedom.

There is a beautiful resonance between the story of these women and the story of the Canaanite mother whose lively exchange with Jesus we saw last week. Each in her own way is bent on tracing the circle wider. They give themselves, often at great risk, to save the life of another. Clever, creative, and fiercely devoted to those in their care, each woman displays a sacred stubbornness that will forever alter the story of the people of God.

And us? What, and whom, will we choose to be fierce in protecting? How will we give ourselves to help make possible the life and the freedom of another?

Fierce Blessing

Believe me when I say
there is nothing
this blessing would not do
to protect you
to save you
to encompass you.

This blessing
would stand between you
and every danger,
every evil,
every harm
and hurt.

This blessing
would dare
to wade with you
into the waters that come
bearing life.

It would make
a way for you
through the waters that come
threatening death.

I cannot explain
how fierce
this blessing feels
about you
but I can tell you
it has more than pledged
itself to you;
it would lay down
its life for you
and not once
look back in regret
nor go in sorrow
for what it has chosen
to give.

And you—
so deeply blessed,
so utterly encompassed—
what will you save
in turn?

Not because
it is owed
but because
you cannot imagine
failing to pass along
this grace
that casts its circle
so wide,
this love
that flows
so deep
through this perilous
and precious life.

For a reflection on this Sunday’s Gospel reading, click the image or title below.

A Thin Place
The Thin Man

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Streams of Mercy,” please visit this page at (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 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.” For other uses, visit Copyright Permissions.

7 Responses to “Fierce Blessing”

  1. Jim McWhinnie Says:

    Thank you, poet of the Spirit.

  2. Maureen Says:

    Your poem revives. Such a deep faith and so much love run through it. Thank you, Jan.

  3. Leslie Says:

    Welcome back! My soul has missed the rhythm your wisdom filled insight.

  4. Cynthia Helton Says:

    I’ve just learned that my grandson is using drugs. Meth. We’re all devastated ..and afraid. But I still love him so much. This prayer puts into words what my own heart wants to scream. Thank you, Jan, for being God’s voice to me this day.

  5. Sue Says:

    Wow. This is So So Powerful. thanks for the words, and the arresting image, Jan.

  6. Lynda Says:

    The poem is incredibly beautiful and the image inspirational as it pulls one into the swirls of colour. Thank you.

  7. donna Says:

    Dear Jan
    Thank-you for always speaking to me from the heart. I can’t imagine how hard it is for you to return to writing truth. I just wanted you to know that my own heart is always moved by your reflections. Thank-you

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