Archive for the ‘art’ Category

Epiphany 2: How Did You Come to Know Me?

January 10, 2012

How Did You Come to Know Me? © Jan L. Richardson

Readings for Epiphany 2: 1 Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20); Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18; 1 Corinthians 6:12-20; John 1.43-51

“Go, lie down,” Eli tells the young Samuel; “and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’”

“For it was you who formed my inward parts,” prays the psalmist; “you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you…and that you are not on your own?” Paul writes to the Corinthians.

“How did you come to know me?” Nathanael asks of Jesus.

With each passage, the lectionary this week presents us with a God who calls to us, seeks us out, draws close to us, inhabits us. Again and again the word know appears, its repetition pressing upon us how serious God is about wanting to know us, and us to know God.

This God who calls to us, who fashions us within the womb, who inhabits our own bodies, who recognizes us in the midst of our daily lives: for those of us who need some breathing room in our lives, this God can fairly overwhelm. Do we want to be this sought, this known from the inside out?

Yet the God we see in these passages is not an intruder invading our lives by stealth or by force. Nor—though too many have absorbed such an image—is God’s persistent presence with us a form of surveillance designed to keep track of everything we do wrong. Somehow, this God who pervades all of creation, down to our very cells, manages to offer a spacious hospitality that calls to us but does not confine us; that continually invites but will not force us; that simply asks us to see and hear and know the One who is ever in our midst and in our own selves.

This week, this day, how are you listening? Where are you looking? What holy space are you making for God in yourself? How are you opening yourself to the God who wants to know and be known by you?

Blessing for Knowing

To receive this blessing,
it may feel like
you are peeling back
every layer of flesh,
exposing every nerve,
baring each bone
that has kept you upright.

It may seem
every word is written
on the back of
something that your life
depends upon,
that to read this blessing
would mean tearing away
what has helped you
remain intact.

Be at peace.
It will not be
as painful as that,
though I cannot say
it will be easy
to accept this blessing,
written as it is
upon your true frame,
inscribed on the skin
you were born
to live in.

The habits that keep you
from yourself,
the misconceptions
others have of you,
the unquestioned limits
you have allowed,
the smallness you have
squeezed into:

these are not
who you are.

This blessing simply wants
all this to fall away.

This blessing—
and it is stubborn on this point,
I assure you—
desires you to know yourself
as it knows you,
to let go of every layer
that is not you,
to release each thing
that you hide behind,
to open your eyes
to see what it sees:

how this blessing
has blazed in you
since before you were born;
how it has sustained you
when you could not see it;
how it haunts you,
prickling beneath your skin
to let it shine forth
in full and unstinting
how it begins
and ends
with your true name.

P.S. For a previous reflection on John 1.43-51, click the image or title below:

Of Fig Trees and Angels

[To use the "How Did You Come to Know Me?" image, please visit this page at Your use of helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

HOLIDAY DISCOUNT EXTENDED! The special Christmas rate for annual subscriptions to Jan Richardson Images has been extended through Sunday, January 15. Visit subscribe for details.

Baptism of Jesus: A Return to the River

January 6, 2012

Born of Water, Born of Spirit © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Epiphany 1/Baptism of the Jesus: Mark 1.4-11

If you’re celebrating Epiphany this Sunday, scroll down or visit Epiphany: Blessing for Those Who Have Far to Travel.

I kept thinking I was going to be able to create a new reflection and image for Baptism of Jesus Sunday, but I was happily consumed with preparing the retreat for Women’s Christmas and finally had to let go of doing something entirely new for Sunday. If you haven’t visited my reflection on Women’s Christmas (which some folks celebrate on Epiphany) at the Sanctuary of Women blog, I’d love for you to stop by. The reflection includes the mini-retreat (which you can download as a PDF at no cost) that I designed as an opportunity to spend time in reflection on this day. If you can’t take time today, know that the retreat works anytime! Here’s where you can find it:

Celebrating Women’s Christmas

I do have a quartet of previous reflections on the Baptism of Jesus and invite you to visit these. Click on the images or titles below to find them. Do not miss Janet Wolf’s story about the baptism of Fayette in the post Epiphany 1: Baptized and Beloved. Her story continues to bless and haunt me as it challenges me to think about what the sacrament of baptism really means.

Baptism of Jesus: Following the Flow

Epiphany 1: Baptized and Beloved

Epiphany 1: Take Me to the River

Epiphany 1: Ceremony (with a Side of Cake)

I also have a charcoal of the Baptism of Jesus, which originally appeared in The Christian Century magazine. You can find it on my images website by clicking this thumbnail:

Whether you’re celebrating Baptism of Jesus or Epiphany this Sunday, I wish you many blessings!

[To use the "Born of Water, Born of Spirit" image, please visit this page at Your use of helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

Epiphany: Blessing for Those Who Have Far to Travel

December 31, 2011

Epiphany © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Epiphany, Years ABC: Matthew 2.1-12

Merry Christmas to you, still! Because Advent is always such a wonderfully intense time for me, with offering The Advent Door and being engaged in other holiday happenings, I usually arrive at Christmas Day quite spent and ready for a long winter’s nap. I am grateful that instead of being over on December 25, when I’m finally able to take a breath, Christmas is a season—a short one, to be sure, with only twelve days, but a season nonetheless, with its own rhythm and invitations.

This year, the days of Christmas have been for me a time of resting, connecting with family and friends, long walks in the beautiful Florida sunshine, and doing some dreaming about the year ahead. Though the coming months are sure to be marked by surprises, I want to enter the year with some sense of what I’d like for the path to look like, and where I’m feeling drawn to go.

The Christmas season ends with Epiphany, a feast day in which the early church celebrated Jesus’ brilliant manifestation (epiphaneia in Greek, also translated as “appearing”) not only to the Magi but also to the world through his birth, baptism, and first recorded miracle at the wedding at Cana. Eastern Christianity maintains this multifaceted celebration of Epiphany, while we in the West focus primarily on remembering and celebrating the arrival of the Magi, those mysterious and devoted Wise Men who traveled far to welcome the Christ and offer their gifts.

As we travel toward Epiphany and savor the final days of Christmas, this is a good time to ponder where we are in our journey. As we cross into the coming year, where do you find yourself on the path? Have you been traveling more by intention or by reacting to what’s come your way? What direction do you feel drawn to go in during the coming weeks and months? Is there anything you need to let go of—or to find—in order to take the next step? In the coming months, what gift do you most need to offer, that only you can give?

Blessings and traveling mercies to you as we approach Epiphany and the year to come. I look forward to walking with you.

For Those Who Have Far to Travel
An Epiphany Blessing

If you could see
the journey whole
you might never
undertake it;
might never dare
the first step
that propels you
from the place
you have known
toward the place
you know not.

Call it
one of the mercies
of the road:
that we see it
only by stages
as it opens
before us,
as it comes into
our keeping
step by
single step.

There is nothing
for it
but to go
and by our going
take the vows
the pilgrim takes:

to be faithful to
the next step;
to rely on more
than the map;
to heed the signposts
of intuition and dream;
to follow the star
that only you
will recognize;

to keep an open eye
for the wonders that
attend the path;
to press on
beyond distractions
beyond fatigue
beyond what would
tempt you
from the way.

There are vows
that only you
will know;
the secret promises
for your particular path
and the new ones
you will need to make
when the road
is revealed
by turns
you could not
have foreseen.

Keep them, break them,
make them again:
each promise becomes
part of the path;
each choice creates
the road
that will take you
to the place
where at last
you will kneel

to offer the gift
most needed—
the gift that only you
can give—
before turning to go
home by
another way.

P.S. For another reflection on Epiphany (which includes a bonus gift of a downloadable mini-retreat), visit this new reflection at my Sanctuary of Women blog:

Celebrating Women’s Christmas

For previous reflections on Epiphany here at The Painted Prayerbook, click the images or titles below. Also, the special holiday discount on annual subscriptions to Jan Richardson Images (the website that makes my work available for use in worship and education) will be available through Epiphany Day (January 6). For info, visit Jan Richardson Images.

Epiphany: Where the Map Begins

Feast of the Epiphany: Blessing the House

Feast of the Epiphany: A Calendar of Kings

The Feast of the Epiphany: Magi and Mystery

[To use the "Epiphany" image, please visit this page at Your use of helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

You Who Bless

November 15, 2011

Christ Among the Scraps © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Christ the King/Reign of Christ Sunday, Year A: Matthew 25.31-46

“Come, you who are blessed,” Jesus says; “for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”

You Who Bless

who are
a blessing

who know
that to feed
the hungering
is to bless

and to give drink
to those who thirst
is to bless

who know
the blessing
in welcoming
the stranger

and giving clothes
to those
who have none

who know
to care
for the sick
is blessing

and blessing
to visit
the prisoner:

may the blessing
you have offered
now turn itself
toward you

to welcome
and to embrace you
at the feast
of the blessed.

P.S. For a previous reflection on this passage, visit Christ Among the Scraps. And Advent is just around the corner! I’m looking forward to spending the coming season at my blog The Advent Door and would love to have your company there.

I also want to let you know that my book Night Visions: Searching the Shadows of Advent and Christmas is back in print! Click the cover below to find out more.

[To use the "Christ Among the Scraps" image, please visit this page at Your use of helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

Blessing the Talents

November 7, 2011

Buried © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Year A, Proper 28/Ordinary 33/Pentecost +22: Matthew 25.14-30

Again and again throughout the gospels we see it in Jesus: a persistent bent toward revelation, a hankering to bring into the open what we might be content to leave hidden. Seeing our brokenness and our sins, Jesus challenges us to offer these to the light of God, that they might not fester in the dark and twist toward evil. Seeing our giftedness and the graces that God plants in each of us, Jesus impels us to uncover these, that the power of God may show forth in the world.

“You are the light of the world,” he tells his hearers in Matthew. “A city on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way,” he urges them, “let your light shine before others” (Matt. 5.14-16). Later he tells them, “Have no fear of them [those who will persecute his followers]; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops” (Matt. 10.26-27).

A lost coin, a lost sheep, a lost son; a bleeding woman seeking a surreptitious healing whom Jesus cannot allow to remain hidden; children whom the disciples seek to dismiss; gifts once enclosed in the earth that Jesus lifts up to point toward the kingdom of God: with constant persistence, Jesus—this incarnate God who took such visible and vulnerable flesh so that we might clearly see the love that God has for us—tugs at what has been hidden or missing or buried in order to show us how the presence of God shines through it.

And so we see this quality again in the gospel reading for this Sunday, in this parable told by the One who will not be content to let us hide what God has given to us, who urges us to uncover the treasure that God has placed within us, who calls us to show forth the presence of God in the way that only we can.

How do you do this in your own life? Is there anything you allow to hinder the gift of God in you? Is there some gift that you have been willing to let lie dormant because others do not value it, or it seems prideful to you to pursue it, or because you don’t know how to use it, or for lack of time or some other reason? How might you allow God to break through these obstacles for you, so that others can see the presence of God in you in the way that only you can reveal it?

Blessing the Talents

There are blessings
meant for you
to hold onto

like a lifeline

like a candle
for a dark way

tucked into a pocket
like a smooth stone
reminding you
that you do not
go alone.

This blessing
is not those.

This blessing
will find its form
only as you
give it away

only as you
release it
into the keeping
of another

only as you
let it
leave you

bearing the shape
the imprint
the grace
it will take

only for having
passed through
your two

P.S. For a previous reflection on this text, in which I confess my fondness for the shovel-wielding servant, visit Parabolic Curves.

[To use the "Buried" image, please visit this page at Your use of helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

Inspired: On the Feast of All Saints

October 29, 2011

A Gathering of Spirits © Jan L. Richardson

I’m recently back from a fantastic trip to Kansas City to see my friends and artist-heroes, Peg and Chuck Hoffman. The trip was, in large measure, an occasion to experience some “art reinvigoration,” as Peg put it—sort of a spa vacation for my inner artist. Coming in the midst of some fallow time and creative shifts in the studio, my visit to Kansas City provided marvelous sustenance for my eyes and my creative soul.

I spent time in the studio with Peg and Chuck, where we did some painting on the World Canvas Project. The World Canvas has grown out of Peg and Chuck’s experience in working in such places as Belfast, Northern Ireland; Chuck has created a beautiful blog about the World Canvas, where you can have a glimpse of the project and our painting session at this post that Chuck recently added: Blessings.

Peg and I spent an afternoon doing “retail research,” which featured a splendid browse through Anthropologie (be sure to check out their visually inspiring Tumblr-powered site at the Anthropologist). Chuck and I made a trip to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, where, as it happened, there’s currently an exhibition of prints by Romare Bearden, best known for his collage work and who has been a source of inspiration for me. We found artful treasures at used bookstores; visited Peg and Chuck’s church that features liturgical art by Richard Caemmerer (cofounder of the Grünewald Guild); had a pivotal conversation while sitting on the floor of their prayer room one morning, looking at images and dreaming of books to be born; and savored time at tasty tables where we talked about the wonders and challenges of living at the intersection of art and faith.

In the creative life, it can sometimes feel like we are laboring alone. My vocation as an artist and writer—and my natural disposition—requires a goodly measure of solitude in order to be present to and tend what’s trying to come forth. And of course the experience of feeling like we’re alone isn’t limited to those who work as artists or in other professions that are obviously creative. My time with Peg and Chuck underscored for me how important it is for us—regardless of our vocation—to stay close to our sources of inspiration: the people and places and practices that help us know who we are and what God has called each of us to do and to be in this world. It is crucial to connect with those who can provide insight and energy and encouragement for this work.

We’re coming up on a day that reminds us of all this. The Feast of All Saints on November 1—one of my favorite days in the Christian calendar—invites us to remember that although we are each called to some measure of solitude in order to discern what God wants to bring forth in our lives, we never go about this entirely alone. All Saints Day is an occasion to celebrate and revisit the faithful who have gone before us (and not just those who have been canonically designated as saints), those whose lives provide inspiration for us who follow on the path. The saints, who are not models of perfection but rather people who opened themselves to the ways that God sought to work in and through their particular lives and gifts, invite us not to copy their lives but to draw encouragement from them as we seek to let God do this same work in our own particular lives.

So where are you finding inspiration these days? Who provides encouragement on your path? How have you seen the Spirit work through the gifts of another in a way that helps you trust that the Spirit will work through your own gifts? Who helps you remember you are not alone?


God of the generations,
when we set our hands to labor,
thinking we work alone,
remind us that we carry
on our lips
the words of prophets,
in our veins
the blood of martyrs,
in our eyes
the mystics’ visions,
in our hands
the strength of thousands.

A blessed All Saints Day to you! On this day, in this season, in the company of the communion of saints, may you find yourself in a thin, thin place where heaven and earth meet and you receive what you need for the path ahead.

[The "God of the generations" prayer is from my book In Wisdom's Path: Discovering the Sacred in Every Season.]

P.S. For an earlier reflection on All Saints, see Feast of All Saints: A Gathering of Spirits. For a related post, visit On the Feast of All Souls at my Sanctuary of Women blog.

For a reflection on the gospel lection (Matthew 25.1-13) for November 6, click the image or title below:

Midnight Oil

[To use the "Gathering of Spirits" image, please visit this page at Your use of helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

Heart of the Matter

October 16, 2011

The Two Commandments © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Year A, Proper 25/Ordinary 30/Pentecost +19: Matthew 22.34-46

I came home from a recent trip to the library with an armload of books from the art department. From Arts & Crafts of Morocco to The Art of Japanese Calligraphy to Medieval and Renaissance Art and beyond, the books are providing savory fare for my hungry eyes in this season of needing some new sustenance in my practice as an artist. Today at teatime, my book of choice was Shaker Design, a catalog from an exhibit cosponsored by the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in the 1980s.

June Sprigg, the author of Shaker Design, writes,

The Shakers were not conscious of themselves as “designers” or “artists,” as those terms are understood in modern times. But they clearly worked to create a visible world in harmony with their inner life: simple, excellent, stripped of vanity and excess. Work and worship were not separate in the Shaker world. The line between heaven and earth flickered and danced. “A Man can Show his religion as much in measureing onions as he can in singing glory hal[le]lu[jah],” observed one Believer. Thomas Merton attributed the “peculiar grace” of a Shaker chair to the maker’s belief that “an angel might come and sit on it.”

I am fascinated by the elegant simplicity that the Shakers brought to the work of their hands. The lines of Shaker design seem to emerge directly from their sense of what is most essential; follow the simple curve of a bowl, the uncluttered planes of a cupboard or dresser or table, the weave of a basket, and you can see how it has been created by someone who managed to strip away all that wasn’t necessary, who found the heart of the piece.

As an artist whose work has become increasingly spare the past few years, I am drawn to and challenged by such designs, curious about how others—in a variety of media—have found their way to the lines of their handiwork. Looking at a Shaker chair, a Japanese tea bowl, an Amish quilt, I wonder, What did their makers have to pare away in order to discover what was essential? How did they find their way to the heart of the matter?

It’s these kinds of questions that we see Jesus engaging in this Sunday’s gospel lection. “Teacher,” a lawyer from the religious establishment asks him, “which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Designed to test him, the question nonetheless prompts Jesus to lay out the lines that lie at the core of his life and teaching: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind,’” Jesus says to the lawyer and to the others within earshot. ‘And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Firmly rooted in his Jewish heritage, Jesus gathers up the wisdom of his forebears and distills it into these two commandments that stand at the center of his history and of our own. He has found the heart of the matter, bringing to light what is most important, what is most crucial and essential in our life together.

Jesus knows that arriving at and living into what is essential is rarely easy. With these two commandments, Jesus extends a call that is compelling in its utter directness and seeming simplicity, yet the work of love—loving God and one another and ourselves, with all the artfulness and creativity this asks of us—can be wildly complicated. Jesus’ words this week get at something I continually experience at the drafting table: arriving at something that appears simple and basic is one of the hardest things to do.

Maybe someday, in one of these reflections, I’ll include a picture of the box of scraps from my drafting table—all those pieces that I pared away, that I chose against, that I let go of in order to find the final design, the essential line, the heart of the matter. In the meantime, I am here to ask you: How do you do this in your own life? Where is Christ’s call to love—this call that draws us into the deepest places in our own hearts, the heart of the world, the heart of God—taking you? How do you sort through all that competes for your attention, so that you can find what is most crucial? What are the challenges along the way, and where do you find the presence of beauty and delight in the lines of your emerging life?

May the heart of God draw you in this week, and may you know the grace and power and beauty that come in discovering the design that God desires for you. Blessings!

P.S. For a previous reflection on this passage, see Crossing the Country, Thinking of Love.

[To use the "Two Commandments" image, please visit this page at Your use of helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

Taxing Questions, Take Two

October 14, 2011

Taxing Questions
© Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Year A, Proper 24/Ordinary 29/Pentecost +18: Matthew 22.15-22

I’m sorry to be posting so late in the week, but I wanted to bob up to the surface at least briefly to offer a link to an earlier reflection on this Sunday’s gospel lection. You can find it here: Taxing Questions.

Many blessings to you, and may the coming days bring good questions, given and received.



Fitted for the Wedding Feast

October 3, 2011

Getting Garbed © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Year A, Proper 23/Ordinary 28/Pentecost +17: Matthew 22.1-14

Oh, October! We are crossing into my favorite time of the year. I can already feel something in my spirit begin to shift as we move into this season that brings cooler weather (so welcome here in Florida), festive days, and preparations for Advent. I have the windows to my studio wide open and am eager to see what the coming months will bring.

This week, the lectionary offers us Jesus’ parable of the wedding banquet. Here’s my previous reflection on this passage:

Getting Garbed

Since that reflection begins with a mention of my wedding anxiety dreams, I thought I’d include here a bit of proof that I made it through! Here’s me, just after our ceremony last year—a wondrous occasion held on the farm that’s been in the Richardson family for several generations. While my crew searches for the elusive loops to bustle up my train, I am breathing a sigh of relief, reveling in a day for which I had, in fact (contrary to my anxious dreams), sent out the invitations, planned the service (with Gary’s collaboration), finished dressing by the start time, and found a wedding gown that I—who hadn’t even been sure I’d wear anything resembling a wedding dress—loved more than I ever imagined possible. Okay, finding the dress did happen only a few weeks before the celebration, but it did happen!

May God garb you and enfold you this day. Blessings!

P.S. Happy Feast of Saint Francis tomorrow! For a reflection in celebration of the day (October 4), visit Feast of St. Francis.

From the Vineyard to the Table

September 26, 2011

Violence in the Vineyard © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Year A, Proper 22/Ordinary 27/Pentecost +16: Matthew 21.33-46

A quick hello from the studio, where I’m continuing to attend to those small steps that I wrote about last week and also gearing up for a couple of retreats. For an earlier reflection on this Sunday’s gospel lection, please visit this post: Violence in the Vineyard.

We have some liturgical festivities coming up:

This Sunday, October 4, is World Communion Sunday. For a previous post in celebration of the day, see The Best Supper.

The feast of Saint Francis is next Tuesday, October 4, but since I know some congregations will be celebrating his day this Sunday, I wanted to give it a mention this week. I invite you to visit Feast of St. Francis for an earlier reflection on one of my favorite saints.

Many blessings to you as you celebrate!