Archive for the ‘blessings’ Category

Lent 4: Mysteries of the Mud

March 25, 2017

Image: Mysteries of the Mud
© Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Lent 4, Year A: John 9.1-41

“He put mud on my eyes.
Then I washed, and now I see.”
—John 9.15

He could simply have touched him. Or spoken a single word. Instead, when Jesus encounters a man who has been blind since birth, he spits on the ground, turns the dirt to mud, and spreads the mud on the man’s eyes. Jesus tells him to go and wash in the pool of Siloam.

The man goes. Washes. And sees.

Appearing midway in our Lenten journey, this story reminds us that this season is a time for getting close to the things of the earth. Ash, wilderness, waters of birth, wellspring, mud: the images that have accompanied us these past few weeks impress upon us what an elemental fellow Jesus is. Throughout his ministry we see him touching the world around him, turning to the things of earth to help us see the things of heaven.

This week’s gospel reading underscores it for us: Jesus is no sterile savior. He is not interested in remaining tidy and removed. With a beautiful and earthy economy of gestures, Jesus reveals himself as one who is willing to fully inhabit the messiness of our world and of our lives. He is ready to enter into the muck with us. He engages the muck as a place where holiness happens: where sludge becomes sacramental, and through grimy eyes we begin to behold the face of Love, beholding us right back.

How might the mucky places, the thick places, the earthy places become the very places that Christ uses to help you see more clearly? Are there places or practices that contain something of Siloam for you—spaces where you can wash away what would hinder you from seeing, and allow your vision to become clear? How might you take yourself to your Siloam in this season, this day, this moment?

Blessing of Mud

Lest we think
the blessing
is not
in the dirt.

Lest we think
the blessing
is not
in the earth
beneath our feet.

Lest we think
the blessing
is not
in the dust,

like the dust
that God scooped up
at the beginning
and formed
with God’s
two hands
and breathed into
with God’s own
breath.

Lest we think
the blessing
is not
in the spit.

Lest we think
the blessing
is not
in the mud.

Lest we think
the blessing
is not
in the mire,
the grime,
the muck.

Lest we think
God cannot reach
deep into the things
of earth,
cannot bring forth
the blessing
that shimmers
within the sludge,
cannot anoint us
with a tender
and grimy grace.

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

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Mysteries of the Mud,” 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 3: We Will Find Wellsprings

March 18, 2017

Image: We Will Find Wellsprings for Our Deepest Thirst
© Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Lent 3, Year A: John 4.5-42

A Samaritan woman came to draw water.
—John 4.7

Wholly seen. Wholly known. A woman sets out on a daily task, carrying her water jar with her. She returns from her task transformed, proclaiming what she has seen and heard, her water jar left behind.

It is no mistake that this encounter happens at a well, and one established by no less a figure than Jacob, who knew what it meant to meet God by the waters and become forever altered. On the day that Jesus encounters this woman of Samaria, the well echoes with all the waters that have flowed through the story of God: the waters through which God has created, gathered, graced, comforted, delivered, and renewed the people of God.

As the woman talks with Jesus, the well echoes, too, with her own story, both spoken and unspoken. The tale of her entire life resonates in the space between her and Jesus, and in the knowing that passes both ways.

In this Lenten season, where do you need to go to be seen like this, to be heard in this way, to be known as this woman was known? What part of your story do you most need to give into the hands of someone who will receive it with gentleness, who will invite you to see it in its wholeness, who will help you listen for the wellspring that its hollows contain?

Blessing of the Well

If you stand
at the edge
of this blessing
and call down
into it,
you will hear
your words
return to you.

If you lean in
and listen close,
you will hear
this blessing
give the story
of your life
back to you.

Quiet your voice.
Quiet your judgment.
Quiet the way
you always tell
your story
to yourself.

Quiet all these
and you will hear
the whole of it
and the hollows of it:
the spaces
in the telling,
the gaps
where you hesitate
to go.

Sit at the rim
of this blessing.
Press your ear
to its lip,
its sides,
its curves
that were carved out
long ago
by those whose thirst
drove them deep,
those who dug
into the layers
with only their hands
and hope.

Rest yourself
beside this blessing
and you will
begin to hear
the sound of water
entering the gaps.

Still yourself
and you will feel it
rising up within you,
filling every emptiness,
springing forth
anew.

—Jan Richardson
from Circle of Grace

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “We Will Find Wellsprings for Our Deepest Thirst,” 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 1: Where the Breath Begins

March 5, 2017

Image: Your Earth © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Lent 1, Year A: Matthew 4.1-11

The Spirit of God breathes everywhere within you, just as in the beginning, filling light place and dark…green earth and dry…. God’s love grows, fullness upon fullness, where you crumble enough to give what is most dear. Your earth.
—Joan Sauro, from Whole Earth Meditation

Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness.
—Matthew 4.1

Just off a highway that runs south of Gainesville, in northern Florida, there is a small community that has one stop sign, a general store, and more cattle than people. I grew up there, a mile from the farm that was started by my great-grandfather and has been in the family for more than a century.

That piece of earth is a place of deep memory for me. Its landscape holds not only my own story but also layers of stories of those who have gone before me and whose stories have become part of mine. It is where, on a bright spring day nearly seven years ago, Gary and I were married. And it is where, just five years later, we buried his ashes.

The farm is part of my earth, my inner terrain. The life I have lived within its landscape has shaped and formed me, and I carry its contours inside me.

The season of Lent calls us into a landscape. Though the imagery of wilderness is dominant in Lent, this is not the primary terrain that this season invites us to enter.

We enter Lent to enter our own earth, to make a pilgrimage into our own terrain. We move into this season to look at our life anew, to consider what has formed us, where we have come from, what we are carrying within us. Lent invites us to look at the layers that inhabit us: our stories and memories, our imaginings and dreams. This season invites us to notice what in our life feels fallow or empty, where there is growth and greenness, what sources of sustenance lie within us, where we find our inner earth crumbling to reveal something new.

Lent opens our own terrain to us, that we might meet anew the God who lives in every layer of our life.

As this season begins, how might God be inviting you into the landscape that inhabits you? Is there a space within your soul that needs your attention, your compassion, your prayer? How might it be to open that space to the presence of Christ, who knows what it means to enter a difficult terrain, and who found sustenance and angels even there?

Deep peace to you as we enter into the landscape Lent offers us. May it be a place where you can breathe deeply.

Where the Breath Begins

Dry
and dry
and dry
in each direction.

Dust dry.
Desert dry.
Bone dry.

And here
in your own heart:
dry,
the center of your chest
a bare valley
stretching out
every way you turn.

Did you think
this was where
you had come to die?

It’s true that
you may need
to do some crumbling,
yes.
That some things
you have protected
may want to be
laid bare,
yes.
That you will be asked
to let go
and let go,
yes.

But listen.
This is what
a desert is for.

If you have come here
desolate,
if you have come here
deflated,
then thank your lucky stars
the desert is where
you have landed—
here where it is hard
to hide,
here where it is unwise
to rely on your own devices,
here where you will
have to look
and look again
and look close
to find what refreshment waits
to reveal itself to you.

I tell you,
though it may be hard
to see it now,
this is where
your greatest blessing
will find you.

I tell you,
this is where
you will receive
your life again.

I tell you,
this is where
the breath begins.

—Jan Richardson
from Circle of Grace

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

Epiphany Day: Where the Map Begins

January 3, 2017

Image: An Ancient Light © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Epiphany Day: Matthew 2.1-12

“We observed his star at its rising,
and have come to pay him homage.”
—Matthew 2.2

Friends, Happy New Year! I am grateful to be opening a new chapter of The Painted Prayerbook with you as this year begins.

With Epiphany approaching on January 6, I want to share a blessing with you that I first offered here in 2010 (in this post, which includes a reflection on the story of the journey of the Magi). Like so many blessings that I wrote before Gary died, this one rings differently for me now. As I work to make a new path so altered from the one Gary and I had dreamed together, it comes as a grace to remember the story of the wise ones who set out with only a star to guide them.

If you are feeling mapless, if you are needing light for an uncertain path, this is for you.

Where the Map Begins
A Blessing for Epiphany

This is not
any map you know.
Forget longitude.
Forget latitude.
Do not think
of distances
or of plotting
the most direct route.
Astrolabe, sextant, compass:
these will not help you here.

This is the map
that begins with a star.
This is the chart
that starts with fire,
with blazing,
with an ancient light
that has outlasted
generations, empires,
cultures, wars.

Look starward once,
then look away.
Close your eyes
and see how the map
begins to blossom
behind your lids,
how it constellates,
its lines stretching out
from where you stand.

You cannot see it all,
cannot divine the way
it will turn and spiral,
cannot perceive how
the road you walk
will lead you finally inside,
through the labyrinth
of your own heart
and belly
and lungs.

But step out
and you will know
what the wise who traveled
this path before you
knew:
the treasure in this map
is buried
not at journey’s end
but at its beginning.

—Jan Richardson
from Circle of Grace

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “An Ancient Light,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Advent special! During this season, subscribe to Jan Richardson Images and receive unlimited digital downloads for only $125 per year (regularly $165). Click Subscribe to sign up. (Extended through Epiphany!)

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.

Opening The Advent Door

December 12, 2016

Crossing the ThresholdImage: Crossing the Threshold  © Jan Richardson

Friends, I want to make sure you know that during this season, I’m over at my blog The Advent Door. I would be delighted for your company there! My latest reflection is “Advent 3: In Sorrow and Celebration.”

In these Advent days, I send you much gratitude and many blessings. See you back here at The Painted Prayerbook in the new year!

The Cure for Sorrow – Publication Day!

November 15, 2016

The Cure for Sorrow
A blessing helps us to keep breathing—

to abide this moment, and the next moment,
and the one after that.
—from the Introduction

Friends, I am so grateful to be able to tell you this news: it’s publication day! My new book, The Cure for Sorrow, has just been released today, and I would love to share it with you.

If you live with grief, you know what a wild mix it can be—how terrible and how graced it is, how it opens our hearts even as it breaks them. The Cure for Sorrow bears witness to this wild mix. Every page is infused with the rending, the solace, and the hope that are present in our grieving. The book offers a space of blessing in the midst of it all.

One of the places you can find The Cure for Sorrow is on my website, where we are delighted to offer inscribed copies by request. To order, just click the book cover above or this link: The Cure for Sorrow. (A side note for folks ordering from Amazon: if the book’s page tells you it ships in 1-2 months, pay no attention! That’s a glitch, and Amazon will be shipping them shortly.)

On this publication day, I am grateful beyond measure for your companionship and support that have helped make this book possible. I wish you deep peace and so many blessings.

Blessing for an Anniversary Date

November 10, 2016

Wandering in TimeImage: Wandering in Time © Jan Richardson

We are moving through a season that holds such tender markers for me, anniversaries that echo with deep sorrow instead of celebration. We have passed Halloween, the day that holds the beginnings of who Gary and I became together. His fateful surgery was November 14. His birthday—he spent his final one in the hospital—is November 17. December 2 will mark three years since Gary died.

The span of time since Gary’s death feels both surprisingly short and achingly long. These days of memory, these anniversary days I am moving through, heighten that sense of the shortness-and-longness of time, making me more keenly aware of the ways that time compresses even as it stretches out, fluid even in its seeming fixity.

From the moment the neurosurgeon came into the waiting room at 4 a.m. and said, It did not go as we anticipated, time has moved in strange ways. I have come to think of this strangeness as a consequence of having a heart that now lives in two worlds, a heart that has been torn open toward eternity even as I continue to open my heart to this life, to what is here and now.

In the strangeness of time, there is deep grace. And perhaps the strangeness itself is a grace. Perhaps the strangeness is a sign that time is wider and deeper and more whole than we can perceive in this life, that now and eternity are not the separate realms we often make them out to be.

When we travel through days of memory that stir our sorrow, when we spiral back around moments that open doors to a past we wish we had the power to change, when time seems more of a burden than a blessing, may we be given a glimpse of the eternity these days hold. May these anniversaries show us that grace and love are vaster than our sorrow, and more enduring. May we find that remembering can be a form of hope. May we know time’s strange graces and open our hearts toward the solace they hold.

Blessing for an Anniversary Date

I am imagining
you have learned by now
that time will never move
quite straight for you again—
no more forward only,
if ever it traveled that way.

Now it will be
the bend and
the turn of it,
the curve and
the cradling of it,

the unfurling,
unfolding,
unwinding of it
as it arcs you around
in this spiral
of seasons,
as it draws you around
in this circle
of days.

Like today,
for instance—
this day that marks
a year since last
you passed by
this gate,
this threshold,
this door
that lives with such
vividness in your
memory,
opening onto the
chamber of your heart
where what this day once held
keeps happening.

Let yourself listen
for the liturgy
that persists here,
for the life you shared
that still opens out
along secret paths.

Let yourself
linger again
at the door
of this day.

Let yourself
give yourself into
its hours with
exquisite kindness
and wondrous care.

Light the candles
in celebration
of what remains,
in the ceremony
of what abides
in the shelter
of these hours,
in the mystery
of this day.

—Jan Richardson
from The Cure for Sorrow

The Cure for Sorrow

COMING NOVEMBER 15!

A blessing meets us in the place of our deepest loss. In that place, it gives us a glimpse of wholeness and claims that wholeness here and now. —from the Introduction

Jan’s much-anticipated new book enters with heartbreaking honesty into the rending that loss brings. It moves, too, into the unexpected shelters of solace and hope, inviting us to recognize the presence of love that, as she writes, is “sorrow’s most lasting cure.”

Available now for pre-order on Amazon.

 

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Wandering in Time,” 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.

All Saints: God of the Living

October 31, 2016

A Gathering of SpiritsImage: A Gathering of Spirits © Jan Richardson

“Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living;
for to him all of them are alive.”
—Luke 20:38

I have long loved this trinity of days of October 31, November 1, and November 2: Halloween, the Feast of All Saints, the Feast of All Souls. For many years these days have been for me a threshold time—what the Celtic tradition calls a thin place, where the veil between worlds becomes permeable. I learned long ago that this thin place is a time for paying attention, for listening at the threshold, for noticing what door seems to be opening and inviting me to walk through.

It seemed fitting that Gary and I began dating on Halloween, that the roots of our relationship go deep into these thin, in-between, meeting-of-worlds days. As I continue to navigate this path in the wake of his dying, it comes as a comfort to remember the message of the Feast of All Saints: that in the body of Christ, death does not release us from being in relationship with one another. The separation that causes us such pain in this life does not sever the bonds of community.

As we move through these days, I want to share a blessing I wrote three years ago, the last time this reading from Luke 20 came up in the lectionary. When I wrote the blessing, I had no idea how much I would need it for myself, and how soon. Just a week after I posted it, Gary had the surgery that, so unexpectedly, would bear him away from us.

In these days, may the veil be thin for each of us. May we know the blessing of those who are gone from this life but who breathe with us still, and may we know the grace of the God who breathes life into us all. Deep peace to you.

God of the Living
A Blessing

When the wall
between the worlds
is too firm,
too close.

When it seems
all solidity
and sharp edges.

When every morning
you wake as if
flattened against it,
its forbidding presence
fairly pressing the breath
from you
all over again.

Then may you be given
a glimpse
of how weak the wall

and how strong what stirs
on the other side,

breathing with you
and blessing you
still,
forever bound to you
but freeing you
into this living,
into this world
so much wider
than you ever knew.

—Jan Richardson
from The Cure for Sorrow

The Cure for Sorrow

COMING NOVEMBER 15!

A blessing meets us in the place of our deepest loss. In that place, it gives us a glimpse of wholeness and claims that wholeness here and now. —from the Introduction

Jan’s much-anticipated new book enters with heartbreaking honesty into the rending that loss brings. It moves, too, into the unexpected shelters of solace and hope, inviting us to recognize the presence of love that, as she writes, is “sorrow’s most lasting cure.”

Available now for pre-order on Amazon.

 

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “A Gathering of Spirits,” 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.

Solace Blessing

October 20, 2016

Gesture of GraceImage: Gesture of Grace © Jan Richardson

In the anguish. In the grief. In the unmendable loss and unfixable sorrow.

In the rending of the heart within us. In the ruptures of the world around us.

In the divisions. In the rancor. In the fissures and fractures and all the ways that life breaks us open.

In this. What solace do we need to receive? What solace do we need to offer? Among the fragments, what gesture of grace will we inhabit and inscribe and enact?

Solace Blessing

That’s it.
That’s all this blessing
knows how to do:

Shine your shoes.
Fill your refrigerator.
Water your plants.
Make some soup.

All the things
you cannot think
to do yourself
when the world
has come apart,
when nothing
will be normal
again.

Somehow
this blessing knows
precisely what you need,
even before
you know.

It sees what will bring
the deepest solace
for you.
It senses what will offer
the kindest grace.

And so it will step
with such quietness
into the ordinary moments
where the absence
is the deepest.

It will enter
with such tenderness
into the hours
where the sorrow
is most keen.

You do not even
have to ask.

Just leave it open—
your door,
your heart,
your day
in every aching moment
it holds.

See what solace
spills through the gaps
your sorrow has torn.

See what comfort
comes to visit,
holding out its gifts
in each compassionate hand.

—Jan Richardson
from The Cure for Sorrow

The Cure for Sorrow

COMING NOVEMBER 15!

A blessing meets us in the place of our deepest loss. In that place, it gives us a glimpse of wholeness and claims that wholeness here and now. —from the Introduction

Jan’s much-anticipated new book enters with heartbreaking honesty into the rending that loss brings. It moves, too, into the unexpected shelters of solace and hope, inviting us to recognize the presence of love that, as she writes, is “sorrow’s most lasting cure.”

Available now for pre-order on Amazon.

 

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Gesture of Grace,” 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.

Announcing “The Cure for Sorrow”!

September 21, 2016

The Cure for Sorrow
A blessing meets us in the place of our deepest loss.
In that place, it gives us a glimpse of wholeness
and claims that wholeness here and now.
—from the Introduction

O my friends. I never hoped to write this book. But here it is, about to make its way into the world this fall.

The Cure for Sorrow is a book of blessings for times of grief. It is infused with everything that has been present to me in the wake of Gary’s death nearly three years ago now. The aching sorrow, the stubborn hope, the anger and bewilderment, the beauty, the wild grace, the unrelenting love: all of it intertwines on every page.

This book acknowledges that mourning is hardly a tidy process. Rather than an orderly, predictable progression of stages, grief is a horribly messy undoing of us. If we can allow ourselves to pay attention to it, grief holds the power to remake us in ways we never imagined. With blessings that speak to the rending of grief, the presence of solace, and the tenacity of hope, The Cure for Sorrow is a companion on that journey.

Most of all, this book is a gift from my broken and hopeful heart to yours. I would love to share it with you.

The Cure for Sorrow will release on November 15. You can pre-order it on Amazon by clicking the cover above or this link: The Cure for Sorrow. It’s available for pre-order in hardcover and on Kindle. On November 15, it will be available also on my website at janrichardson.com, where you will be able to order inscribed copies.

I am so grateful for the ways you continue to be a blessing on my path. Deep peace to you.