Archive for the ‘blessings’ Category

The Wrestling Is Where the Blessing Begins

August 2, 2017

Image: The Wrestling Is Where the Blessing Begins
© Jan Richardson

Reading from the Hebrew Scriptures, Year A, Proper 13/Ordinary 18/Pentecost +9: Genesis 32.22-31

Jacob was left alone;
and a man wrestled with him
until daybreak.

—Genesis 32.24

Jacob is no stranger to encountering God in a dark, betwixt place. It has been just four chapters and a lifetime since that night when, fleeing for his life, he was visited by an angel-drenched dream that assured him of God’s presence on his path. Now, in this latest nighttime meeting, Jacob learns that sometimes when the angel meets us in the wilderness, it makes us work for a blessing. This seems to be one of the ways the angels choose to minister to us, knowing there are times when a good struggle comes as one of those strange comforts of the wilderness. Sometimes we need not to rest but to wrestle, to be stretched to our limits, to reach deep into the reserves we did not know we had.

We are not certain, of course, just who it is that goes toe-to-toe with Jacob in the night as he is on his way, with trepidation, to seek Esau years and lifetimes after fleeing in fear. The text is fuzzy—likely with intention—on whether the visitor who approaches Jacob in the dark is a man or God. The visual tradition settled somewhere in between, frequently depicting Jacob wrestling an angel.

Working on this painting as I thought about this passage, I began to find my imagination drawn not to the figures locked in their fierce struggle; what drew me instead was the ground. I imagined the tracks and traces left by their feet, the imprint of their bodies on the earth, the map made by their wrestling. I imagined those lines beginning to form the blessing that Jacob receives, twining into the letters of the new name he will bear with him, limping, when morning comes.

On your path, where have you encountered a struggle that brought not only a wound but also a blessing? When has an experience of wrestling with God helped you know who you are, and which way to go? If you were to write a blessing whose lines have their roots in a time of struggle, what would that blessing be?

Jacob’s Blessing

If this blessing were easy,
anyone could claim it.
As it is,
I am here to tell you
that it will take some work.

This is the blessing
that visits you
in the struggling,
in the wrestling,
in the striving.

This is the blessing
that comes
after you have left
everything behind,
after you have stepped out,
after you have crossed
into that realm
beyond every landmark
you have known.

This is the blessing
that takes all night
to find.

It’s not that this blessing
is so difficult,
as if it were not filled
with grace
or with the love
that lives
in every line.

It’s simply that
it requires you
to want it,
to ask for it,
to place yourself
in its path.
It demands that you
stand to meet it
when it arrives,
that you stretch yourself
in ways you didn’t know
you could move,
that you agree
to not give up.

So when this blessing comes,
borne in the hands
of the difficult angel
who has chosen you,
do not let go.
Give yourself
into its grip.

It will wound you,
but I tell you
there will come a day
when what felt to you
like limping

was something more
like dancing
as you moved into
the cadence
of your new
and blessed name.

—Jan Richardson
from The Cure for Sorrow: A Book of Blessings for Times of Grief

A bonus blessing: Please click the audio player below to hear Gary’s wondrous song “I Will Not Let Go,” which was inspired by this story. (For my email subscribers: if you don’t see the player below, click here to go to The Painted Prayerbook, where you can view it in this post.)

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “The Wrestling Is Where the Blessing Begins,” 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.

Welcoming Blessing

June 27, 2017

Image: The Best Supper © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Year A, Proper 8/Ordinary 13/Pentecost +4: Matthew 10.40-42

“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me.”
—Matthew 10.40

In a beautiful town on the southwest coast of Ireland, there is a magical restaurant. My sister and I discovered it last summer. It is a wondrous combination of coziness, loveliness, deliciousness, and friendliness. I couldn’t help but fall in love.

After our sister time, I remained in Ireland for two more weeks to work on the blessings for The Cure for Sorrow. The restaurant became a regular spot for me. During that solitary time of working on these grief-borne blessings, it was an extraordinary gift to know I had a place I could go—a place where they called me by name, welcomed me to the table, talked with me, fed me in belly and soul.

I had left for Ireland feeling like a stranger in my own skin, so altered by the loss that was compelling me to make a new life. That new life is still in the making, but when I left Ireland, still enfolded in the welcome I found there, I felt less like a stranger to myself. When I returned to that coastal town this summer and walked into that restaurant once again, I heard a voice say, “Jan! You’re back!”

My experiences in Ireland gave me a new glimpse of the power of welcome, of what can happen when someone gathers us in and invites us to be at home when we are not at home, or have had to leave our home, or do not know where home is.

This blessing was inspired by that enchanted restaurant. May we know—and create—places of welcome that help us become something other than strangers to one another and to ourselves. May we learn how to make one another at home in this world.

Welcoming Blessing

When you are lost
in your own life.

When the landscape
you have known
falls away.

When your familiar path
becomes foreign
and you find yourself
a stranger
in the story you had held
most dear.

Then let yourself
be lost.
Let yourself leave
for a place
whose contours
you do not already know,
whose cadences
you have not learned
by heart.
Let yourself land
on a threshold
that mirrors the mystery
of your own
bewildered soul.

It will come
as a surprise,
what arrives
to welcome you
through the door,
making a place for you
at the table
and calling you
by your name.

Let what comes,
come.

Let the glass
be filled.
Let the light
be tended.
Let the hands
lay before you
what will meet you
in your hunger.

Let the laughter.
Let the sweetness
that enters
the sorrow.
Let the solace
that comes
as sustenance
and sudden, unbidden
grace.

For what comes,
offer gladness.
For what greets you
with kindly welcome,
offer thanks.
Offer blessing
for those
who gathered you in
and will not
be forgotten—

those who,
when you were
a stranger,
made a place for you
at the table
and called you
by your name.

—Jan Richardson
from The Cure for Sorrow: A Book of Blessings for Times of Grief

With gratitude to Neill, Grace, and everyone at No. 35 Kenmare.

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “The Best Supper,” 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.

Easter 3: Blessing That Does Not End

April 27, 2017

Image: And Open Our Eyes to Behold Love’s Face
© Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Easter 3: Luke 24.13-35

Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.
—Luke 24.31

Following so close on the heels of Easter Sunday, this week held what would have been my seventh wedding anniversary with Gary. As the anniversary approached (part of the ghost calendar that I recently wrote about on my author page on Facebook), I found myself thinking about the blessings that wove through our wedding day. There were blessings spoken during the ceremony, blessings offered at the reception, blessings embedded in the very fact of being enfolded by a lifetime’s worth of family and friends who had gathered to bless us as we began to make our married life together.

On this anniversary, it came to me with particular clarity that a blessing does not end. This is part of the fundamental nature of a blessing: the energy and the grace of it cannot dissipate or disappear. The form of a blessing might change with changing circumstances, but it cannot be destroyed. The essence of a blessing endures. It lives in the community that mediated the blessing and continues to hold it in memory and celebration; it lives in the hope that persists; it lives most of all in the love that called forth the blessing in the first place—the love that is, as the Song of Songs tells us, as strong as death. (Stronger, I would say.)

When we experience horrendous, life-altering loss, it can seem that the blessing we had known has indeed disappeared. When a person who had embodied that blessing and borne that blessing in our lives is no longer physically present, it can become difficult to believe that the blessing is still present, is still active, is still in force. Part of the invitation of grief is to keep our eyes and our hearts open to how the blessing persists, how it still wants to be known in our lives, and how it wants to help us live still when our lives have fallen apart.

In this week’s gospel lection, we witness the enduring power of a blessing. Walking the road to Emmaus with the risen Christ, Cleopas and his companion feel the burning of the blessing in their hearts. Not until they sit down at the Emmaus table with Jesus, hear him speak words of blessing, and see him break the bread, does recognition begin to dawn.

Then their eyes were opened, Luke tells us. They recognize, they see, they know the truth of the One before them: that the Christ who came as Love made flesh, as blessing embodied, will continue to live in the love that is stronger than death.

Blessing That Does Not End

From the moment
it first laid eyes
on you,
this blessing loved you.

This blessing
knew you
from the start.

It cannot explain how.

It just knows
that the first time
it sat down beside you,
it entered into a conversation
that had already been going on
forever.

Believe this conversation
has not stopped.

Believe this love
still lives—
the love that crossed
an impossible distance
to reach you,
to find you,
to take your face
into its hands
and bless you.

Believe this
does not end—
that the gesture,
once enacted,
endures.

Believe this love
goes on—
that it still
takes your face
into its hands,
that it presses
its forehead to yours
as it speaks to you
in undying words,
that it has never ceased
to gather your heart
into its heart.

Believe this blessing
abides.
Believe it goes with you
always.
Believe it knows you
still.

—Jan Richardson
from The Cure for Sorrow: A Book of Blessings for Times of Grief

For a previous reflection on the Emmaus story, click the image or title below.


Easter 3: Known

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “And Open Our Eyes to Behold Love’s Face,” 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.

Easter 2: Blessing of Breathing

April 21, 2017

Image: That We May Breathe Together © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Easter 2: John 20.19-31

He breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.”

—John 20:22

You can almost feel it resonating throughout Christendom: a deep, collective breath being taken. In the wake of the intensity of Lent, Holy Week, and Easter—intensity borne of the starkness of this stretch of the liturgical year as well as its immense, nearly overwhelming richness—we need a pause, a shared regathering of ourselves as we begin to absorb what it means that Christ is risen, that death has not had the final word.

Breath is precisely what Jesus comes to give his disciples, his friends who followed him to the end and hardly know what to do now, reeling as they are from all that has occurred and struggling to discern what happens next.

He breathed on them, John tells us in his gospel. More than any words could have done, this breath comes as gift, as grace: Christ’s own breath that bears to them the Spirit that will enable them to keep living, to keep breathing, to proclaim the astonishing news of the risen Christ, and to be his body in this world.

Here on this side of Easter Sunday, what deep breath do you need to take? How will you open yourself to the risen Christ who comes to breathe the Spirit into you?

Blessing of Breathing

That the first breath
will come without fear.

That the second breath
will come without pain.

The third breath:
that it will come without despair.

And the fourth,
without anxiety.

That the fifth breath
will come with no bitterness.

That the sixth breath
will come for joy.

Breath seven:
that it will come for love.

May the eighth breath
come for freedom.

And the ninth,
for delight.

When the tenth breath comes,
may it be for us
to breathe together,
and the next,
and the next,

until our breathing
is as one,
until our breathing
is no more.

—Jan Richardson
from The Cure for Sorrow: A Book of Blessings for Times of Grief

For a previous reflection for Easter 2, click the image or title below.


Easter 2: Into the Wound

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “That We May Breathe Together,” 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.

Easter Sunday: While It Was Still Dark

April 15, 2017

Image: While It Was Still Dark © Jan Richardson

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

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark,
Mary Magdalene came to the tomb.

—John 20:1

While it was still dark.

While it was still night.

While she could not see.

While she thought death held sway.

While she grieved.

While she wept.

While it was still dark, resurrection began.

Seen
For Easter Day

You had not imagined
that something so empty
could fill you
to overflowing,

and now you carry
the knowledge
like an awful treasure
or like a child
that curls itself
within your heart:

how the emptiness
will bear forth
a new world
you cannot fathom
but on whose edge
you stand.

So why do you linger?
You have seen,
and so you are
already blessed.
You have been seen,
and so you are
the blessing.

There is no other word
you need.
There is simply
to go
and tell.
There is simply
to begin.

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

For a previous reflection for Easter Sunday, click the image or title below.


Easter Sunday: A Blessing for the Rising

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “While It Was Still Dark,” 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.

Holy Saturday: Vigil

April 14, 2017

Image: Vigil © 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

And now? we asked yesterday. What do we do now?

We wait. We watch. We keep vigil. We remind ourselves to breathe.

And if, still reeling from the rending, we hardly know what we keep vigil for, it is no matter.

And if, in our aching, we hardly know how to hope, it is no cause for despair.

On this day, all we need to know is this:

We do not wait alone.

The Art of Enduring
For Holy Saturday

This blessing
can wait as long
as you can.

Longer.

This blessing
began eons ago
and knows the art
of enduring.

This blessing
has passed
through ages
and generations,
witnessed the turning
of centuries,
weathered the spiraling
of history.

This blessing
is in no rush.
This blessing
will plant itself
by your door.

This blessing
will keep vigil
and chant prayers.

This blessing
will bring a friend
for company.

This blessing
will pack a lunch
and a thermos
of coffee.

This blessing
will bide
its sweet time

until it hears
the beginning
of breath,
the stirring
of limbs,
the stretching,
reaching,
rising

of what had lain
dead within you
and is ready
to return.

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

For a previous reflection for Holy Saturday, click the image or title below.


Holy Saturday: In the Breath, Another Breathing

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Vigil,” 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.

Good Friday: Still

April 13, 2017

Image: Still © Jan Richardson

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

They took the body of Jesus.
—John 19.40

All too quickly the breaking of the bread becomes the breaking of the flesh.

All too soon the cup offered at the table becomes the life poured out at the cross.

After the rending, after the emptying: an impossible stillness, an aching silence, an incomprehensible hollow for which no word will ever be adequate.

And now? How will we meet this silence? What will we do with this ache?

Still
For Good Friday

This day
let all stand still
in silence,
in sorrow.

Sun and moon
be still.

Earth
be still.

Still
the waters.

Still
the wind.

Let the ground
gape in stunned
lamentation.

Let it weep
as it receives
what it thinks
it will not
give up.

Let it groan
as it gathers
the One
who was thought
forever stilled.

Time
be still.

Watch
and wait.

Still.

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

For a previous reflection, click the image or title below.


Good Friday: A Blessing for What Abides

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 “Still,” 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.

Holy Thursday: Blessing the Bread, the Cup

April 12, 2017

Image: Simply Given © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Epistles, Holy/Maundy Thursday:
1 Corinthians 11.23-26

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup…
—1 Corinthians 11.26

Holy Thursday, and it is time to come to the table.

Here at the table, there is bread.

Here at the table, there is wine.

Here at the table, there is Christ, offering the gifts to us with beautiful simplicity and astonishing love.

As we linger at the table, as we leave the table, what will we do with what we receive?

Blessing the Bread, the Cup
For Holy Thursday

Let us bless the bread
that gives itself to us
with its terrible weight,
its infinite grace.

Let us bless the cup
poured out for us
with a love
that makes us anew.

Let us gather
around these gifts
simply given
and deeply blessed.

And then let us go
bearing the bread,
carrying the cup,
laying the table
within a hungering world.

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

For a previous reflection, click the image or title below.


Holy Thursday: Blessing You Cannot Turn Back

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Simply Given,” 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.

Palm Sunday: Blessing of Palms

April 5, 2017

Image: The Way of Blessing Shall Become Our Own Way
© Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Palm Sunday: Matthew 21.1-11

“Blessed is the one who comes
in the name of the Lord!”
—Matthew 21.9

This is the week we remember once again the moment when Jesus enters Jerusalem, moving with intention and deliberation into what waits for him there.

In some respects, the final stretch of Jesus’ path has been laid out for him. We know what will happen to him after he enters the city. We know the terrible road he will walk to the cross. Yet Jesus is no helpless victim here, no passive participant. He is not dragged into Jerusalem, nor does he slink into the city on the sly. Jesus does not cease to make his own road as he chooses to walk with courage and clarity.

This week invites us to consider how we are moving through our own journey—through Lent as well as through life. Are we allowing ourselves to be swept along by circumstances, traveling our road by default? Or are we seeking to walk with intention and discernment, creating our path with some measure of the courage and clarity by which Christ walked his, even in the midst of forces that may lie beyond our control?

There is a time for stillness, for waiting for Christ as he makes his dancing way toward us. And there is a time to be in motion, to set out on a path, knowing that although God is everywhere, and always with us, we sometimes need a journey in order to meet God—and ourselves—anew.

This is a week to ask, how do we meet God in motion? How do we move toward the One who is already making his way toward us? Whatever circumstance we may find ourselves in, how do we participate in creating our path? What road is calling to us and has our name written on its stones? Will we go? 

Blessing of Palms

This blessing
can be heard coming
from a long way off.

This blessing
is making
its steady way
up the road
toward you.

This blessing
blooms in the throats
of women,
springs from the hearts
of men,
tumbles out of the mouths
of children.

This blessing
is stitched into
the seams
of the cloaks
that line the road,
etched into
the branches
that trace the path,
echoes in
the breathing
of the willing colt,
the click
of the donkey’s hoof
against the stones.

Something is rising
beneath this blessing.
Something will try
to drown it out.

But this blessing
cannot be turned back,
cannot be made
to still its voice,
cannot cease
to sing its praise
of the One who comes
along the way
it makes.

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

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “The Way of Blessing Shall Become Our Own Way,” 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.

Lent 5: The Lazarus Blessing

March 31, 2017

Image: Rise Up, Lazarus (Death Has No Power Here)
© Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Lent 5, Year A: John 11.1-45

He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”
—John 11.43

You can imagine that this text, which has long been one of my favorites, has new layers for me in the wake of Gary’s death. Lazarus compels my attention not only as I think about my beloved and carry my questions about life, death, and resurrection in connection with his dying, but also in connection with my living.

When we suffer an agonizing loss, something of us goes into the grave. As we wrestle with our grief, we will be visited by questions about what new life waits for us. We will find ourselves faced with a choice: will we gather the graveclothes more tightly around ourselves, or will we respond to the voice of Christ, who stands at the threshold and calls us to come out?

The choosing is not to be rushed. We need to give the weeping and wailing their due, the tears and the anger their place. It is only in reckoning with death—including the death that has taken place within us—that we can begin to discern what new life lies beyond the tomb of our heart.

In this Lenten week, I want to share a blessing I wrote several years ago as I reflected on the story of Lazarus. This was a pivotal blessing for me. It opened my eyes to what a blessing can do—how it can meet us where we feel most lifeless and call us to enter our lives anew.

At the time, I wrote about being struck that Jesus does not go into the tomb to pull Lazarus out. He does not enter his realm to haul him to this side of living. Lazarus has to choose whether he will loose himself from the hold of the grave: its hold on him, his hold on it. Only when Lazarus takes a deep and deciding breath, rises, returns back across the boundary between the living and the dead: only then does Jesus say to the crowd, “Unbind him, and let him go.” Not until Lazarus makes his choice does the unwinding of the shroud begin, and the graveclothes fall away.

That, too, is part of what a blessing can do. It can stir in us the power to rise up and choose life anew. It can help us begin to imagine what that new life might be like. A blessing can help us breathe into the life that waits for us here, within this life.

On this day, as we keep company with Lazarus and hear the voice of Christ calling to us, what will we choose? What might we need to let go of, to loose ourselves from, so that we can move with freedom into the life to which Christ calls us?

Lazarus Blessing

The secret
of this blessing
is that it is written
on the back
of what binds you.

To read
this blessing,
you must take hold
of the end
of what
confines you,
must begin to tug
at the edge
of what wraps
you round.

It may take long
and long
for its length
to fall away,
for the words
of this blessing
to unwind
in folds
about your feet.

By then
you will no longer
need them.

By then this blessing
will have pressed itself
into your waking flesh,
will have passed
into your bones,
will have traveled
every vein

until it comes to rest
inside the chambers
of your heart
that beats to
the rhythm
of benediction

and the cadence
of release.

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

A bonus blessing: For a song that will bless your ears and your soul, click the player below to hear Gary’s wondrous song “Rise Up,” which was inspired by this story. It’s from Gary’s CD House of Prayer. (For my email subscribers: if you don’t see the player below, click here to go to The Painted Prayerbook, where you can view it in this post.)

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Rise Up, Lazarus (Death Has No Power Here),” 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.