Archive for the ‘books’ Category

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.

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, 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.

Announcing “Circle of Grace”!

November 20, 2015

Circle of Grace

Friends, I am delighted to share the news that my new book is here! Circle of Grace is a collection of blessings for the seasons, drawing us into the rhythms of the sacred Christian year.

The book was released on November 17—Gary’s birthday. In two weeks he will have been gone two years. And yet he is such a part of this book. He saw nearly every blessing first, and we had dreamed of this book together. His spirit sings in every page.

So from my heart, from Gary’s heart, into yours: this is for you. Each blessing and every word of it. Thank you for being so beautifully part of my—and our—circle of grace.

To order Circle of Grace: You can order the book from Amazon by clicking the book cover above or this link: Circle of Grace. It’s available in both printed and Kindle formats. Beginning Monday, November 23, the book will also be available at my website at, where you can request inscribed copies.

On this day, as Advent draws near, I want to share this blessing from the book with you, in gratitude.

Drawing Near
A Blessing for Advent

It is difficult to see it from here,
I know,
but trust me when I say
this blessing is inscribed
on the horizon.
Is written on
that far point
you can hardly see.
Is etched into
a landscape
whose contours you cannot know
from here.
All you know
is that it calls you,
draws you,
pulls you toward
what you have perceived
only in pieces,
in fragments that came to you
in dreaming
or in prayer.

I cannot account for how,
as you draw near,
the blessing embedded in the horizon
begins to blossom
upon the soles of your feet,
shimmers in your two hands.
It is one of the mysteries
of the road,
how the blessing
you have traveled toward,
waited for,
ached for
suddenly appears,
as if it had been with you
all this time,
as if it simply
needed to know
how far you were willing
to walk
to find the lines
that were traced upon you
before the day
you were born.

—Jan Richardson
from Circle of Grace

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!]

A Blessing with Roots

July 5, 2011

Getting Grounded ©  Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Proper 10/Ordinary 15/Pentecost +4 (July 10): Matthew 13.1-9, 18-23

During our recent Saint Brigid’s retreat, we were treated to a poetry reading from Father Kilian McDonnell, one of the Benedictine monks of Saint John’s Abbey, where our retreat took place. Having been on the retreat a few years earlier when Fr. Kilian came and shared his poems, I had been looking forward to his return visit with much anticipation.

For most of his life Fr. Kilian (who I first introduced in this post at The Advent Door) has worked as a theologian—teaching at Saint John’s University, writing scholarly books and articles on systematic theology, and taking a leading role in ecumenical work. At 75, in his so-called retirement, Fr. Kilian began to write poetry. In an essay that he wrote eight years after his poetic beginnings and included in his first published collection of poems (Swift, Lord, You Are Not), Fr. Kilian describes how, while reading a poem in the New Republic, “I said to myself, ‘I think I can do as well.'”

He acknowledges that his career as a scholar writing theology “out of a dogmatic, abstract, highly authoritarian, text-bound tradition” and dealing not only with the scriptures but also with “conciliar decrees, papal encyclicals, episcopal pronouncements, all highly conceptual, content and meaning-oriented,” had not prepared him particularly well for a vocation as a creative writer. “Too much imagination in theological writing,” Fr. Kilian observes, “can bring you to the stake.” Even in his own monastery, Fr. Kilian’s turn toward poetry was looked on by some as, if not outright dangerous, then a frivolous pursuit; he tells in one of his poems of a monk in the community who says, “Kilian does not have/enough to do./He writes poetry.”

Yet he has persisted. And as he prepares to turn 90 this year, Fr. Kilian is anticipating the publication of his fourth book of poems (the first having been followed by Yahweh’s Other Shoe and God Drops and Loses Things). It’s due out next month and is titled Wrestling with God. During his afternoon with us, Fr. Kilian gave us a sneak peek of the poems in this forthcoming book.

Most of Fr. Kilian’s poetry finds its grounding in the scriptures. And while some folks with stereotypes about monks, poetry, and the scriptures—let alone a combination of the three—might suppose that a longtime monk who takes his inspiration from the Bible would produce poetry that is ethereal or sentimental, Fr. Kilian’s poems provide a wondrous witness to how the contemplative life calls us deeper into the world, not away from it. Part of Fr. Kilian’s charm and punch as a poet lies in his earthiness (evident in such poems as “The Ox’s Broad Behind”), as well as in his willingness to go deep and deep into the layers of the biblical stories and to confront and call forth, with his piercing poet’s eye, the complexities of human life in this world given to us by a God who is both marvelous and maddening.

I will tell you that it is a wonder to be in the poetic presence of someone who has been pondering the Word—praying with it, contemplating it, ruminating upon it—in spitting distance of a century. Although we are not all called to become poets, Fr. Kilian’s deep engagement with the Word offers a window onto a life where the Word has found good soil and has born fruit, as this week’s Parable of the Sower calls us to.

As I ruminate on this week’s parable, I find myself wondering: What soil—what earth—is the Word finding in our own lives these days? How do we seek out the Word—in the scriptures and in the person of Christ—in the rhythm of our days? How willing are we to go deep into the layers and complexities it offers to us? How do we take the Word into ourselves and let it take root across the span of seasons and years? What fruit are we called to let the Word bear in and through us?

A Blessing with Roots

Tug at this blessing
and you will find
it is a thing
with roots.

This is a blessing
that has gone deep
into good soil,
into the sacred dark,
into the luminous hidden.

It has been months
since the ground
gathered the seed
of this blessing
into itself,
years since the earth
enfolded it.

that’s how long
a blessing takes.

And the fact
that this blessing
should finally show
its first fruits
on the day
you happened by—

well, perhaps we shall
simply call the timing
of this ripening
a mystery
and a sweet grace.

Take all you want
of this blessing.
Take every morsel
that you need for
the path ahead.
Let its fruits fall
into your hands;
gather them into
the basket of
your arms.

Let this blessing
be one place
where you are willing
to receive
in unmeasured portions,
to lay aside
for a moment
the way you ration
your delights.

Let yourself accept
its inexplicable plenitude;
allow it to give itself
to sustain you

not simply for yourself—
though on this bright day
I might be persuaded
to think that would
be enough—

but that you may
gather its seeds
into yourself
like the ground
where this blessing began

and wait
with the patience
of seasons
and of years

to bear forth
in the fullness of time
a stunning harvest,
a plenteous feast.

P.S. For a previous reflection on this passage, see Getting Grounded.

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

Related artwork:

Into the Seed

A Portable Cathedral for the 21st Century

June 17, 2011

“Although some may find Ordinary Time a lackluster season, I’ve grown fond of it for the ways that it invites me to discover the sacred in the rhythms of unbroken dailiness. Waking, eating, reading the paper, working, playing, talking, doing laundry, doing dishes, doing errands, doing nothing at all: how is God with us in these times? Who is God with us in these times?” —From In Wisdom’s Path: Discovering the Sacred in Every Season

As we approach the season of Ordinary Time, I am thrilled to share that my book In Wisdom’s Path has just been released as an ebook! With original artwork, reflections, poetry, and prayers, In Wisdom’s Path invites the reader to enter into the rhythms of the Christian year. From the contemplative “Cave of the Heart” in Advent to the “Daily Way” of Ordinary Time, the book serves as a companion through the unfolding seasons of the sacred year.

First published in 2000, the book is now available in a PDF format that brings the beautiful, full-color layout—designed by my splendid art director, Martha Clark-Plank—from the printed page to the screen. Read it on your computer or, better yet, on your iPad, Nook Color, or other portable reader, so you can always have it with you wherever you go!

As we release In Wisdom’s Path as an ebook, I find myself thinking of the exquisite illuminated prayerbooks of the Middle Ages called Books of Hours (which helped inspire The Painted Prayerbook blog!). Designed to enable folks to pray the same rhythm of prayer as the monks, nuns, and priests who prayed the Liturgy of the Hours, these prayerbooks typically were small enough to carry in a pocket or purse. This medieval prayerbook became, as one writer has put it, a “portable cathedral.” In pausing for a few moments and opening the book amidst whatever was going on, the owner entered into a sacred space—a thin place—for reflection and prayer.

In the spirit of these remarkable medieval prayerbooks, In Wisdom’s Path incorporates 21st-century technology to offer you a sacred space in our own time. We are pleased to provide this book for you in a format that you can download and take with you anywhere to find moments of respite and renewal in the rhythm of your day.

For more info and to purchase the ebook, visit the Books page at

P.S. In other book news, In the Sanctuary of Women was recently named a winner in the 2011 National Indie Excellence Book Awards! More info over at the Sanctuary of Women blog.

The Hours of Mary Magdalene

April 13, 2011

Just in time for Holy Week, Gary and I have released a new video today that we’re excited to share with you. The Hours of Mary Magdalene features images from my mixed media series of the same name, combined with Gary’s enchanting song “Mary Magdalena” from his CD House of Prayer. The video draws from the life Mary Magdalene, whose story is so intertwined with the dying and rising of Christ. Called by Christ to be the first to proclaim the news of his resurrection, Mary Magdalene became known in the Middle Ages as the “apostle to the apostles.”

The video draws also from the fascinating body of legends about the Magdalene—stories that may be slim on facts but convey something of our centuries-old fascination with this woman who played a distinctive role as a follower of Christ. As a preacher chick, I’m especially fond of the legend in which Mary Magdalene moves to France and becomes a famous preacher. (I like to imagine her going for a cappuccino and a chocolate croissant after holding forth.) She is also said to have released prisoners from a French jail. In the video you’ll find glimpses of these and other legends, including one that tells that she spent her final years as a hermit in the wilderness, clad only in her long hair; at the canonical hours, angels would come and whoosh her up to heaven for the liturgy, then would whoosh her back down again.

The Magdalene series found much inspiration in Books of Hours, those exquisite illuminated prayerbooks that became so popular among medieval folk as a companion for prayer. You can find out more about the original series and the influences and legends behind it on the Magdalene page in my online gallery.

We have launched the video at the splendid Vimeo site; if you click the Vimeo logo in the player embedded above, it will take you directly to a larger version of the video. We have also released the video on YouTube, where you can view it here. To share the video in worship and related settings, you can find a high-resolution version by visiting The Hours of Mary Magdalene on the Jan Richardson Images website. As always, using the Jan Richardson Images site helps make possible the ministry that I offer at The Painted Prayerbook and beyond. And downloading the video will support Gary’s ministry as well!

As Holy Week approaches, Gary and I hope you will enjoy a few moments in the contemplative company of the Magdalene, and that she may inspire us all to tell forth the words we are called to speak. Blessings!

Looking toward Lent

March 5, 2011

The Blessing Cups: Mary Magdalene and Jesus at Tea
© Jan L. Richardson

[For the Transfiguration Sunday reflection, scroll down or click here.]

With Ash Wednesday approaching, it’s time for a little Lenten housekeeping here at The Painted Prayerbook, as has become our custom at this point in the year. As we move into the coming season, I want to let you know about a few offerings that I have available—books, artwork, and other resources that I’ve created to draw you more deeply into the coming days. So have a cup of tea and sit for a spell while I share what’s been stirring in the studio…

A LITERARY LENT: It has been wonderful to hear from folks—men as well as women—who are reading my latest book, In the Sanctuary of Women. Many of them are reading it together in groups, including some who are using it as a way to stay connected across the distance by phone or online. Whether you read it alone or with others, the book offers a space for contemplation and conversation in the company of women from around the world and across the centuries. To order, click In the Sanctuary of Women or the cover below. And I’d be delighted to you have your company over at my Sanctuary of Women blog, where I’ll be posting frequently during Lent.

Published through my small press, Garden of Hollows: Entering the Mysteries of Lent & Easter offers artwork and reflections on the sacred texts and themes of the coming season. To order, visit Wanton Gospeller Press or click the cover below.

I am delighted to share the news that my book Night Visions: Searching the Shadows of Advent and Christmas has recently come back into print. With original artwork, reflections, poetry, and prayers, Night Visions is a companion for the journey from the beginning of Advent to the Feast of the Epiphany. Readers have told me that it works well during Lent, too! To order, visit Books or click the cover.

Be sure to check out the sidebar to the right for more books and other resources that provide good company for the season.

IMAGES ONLINE: Jan Richardson Images is a website that makes all my artwork easily accessible for use in worship, education, and related settings. You’ll find lots of images for Lent and Easter as well as the rest of the year. In addition to individual downloads, we offer an annual subscription that provides unlimited access to images (within the guidelines for use) for a year.

ART PRINTS: The Art Prints pages on my main website offer a variety of prints for Lent and Easter, including the images from Garden of Hollows. You can also order prints at Jan Richardson Images (which includes all the artwork I’ve created for The Painted Prayerbook); go to any image and click “Prints & Products.”

eNEWSLETTER: I periodically send out an e-newsletter, often in connection with the liturgical year. It includes a seasonal reflection, artwork, information about current offerings and upcoming events, and whatever else strikes my creative fancy. I would be pleased to include you in my mailing list and to stay connected with you in this way. You can sign up for the list here.

GRATITUDE: Many kind thanks for visiting The Painted Prayerbook and for the companionship you provide along the path. Your comments, emails, prayers, and presence are gifts for the journey and manna on my way. Know that you are present in my prayers. I wish you a blessed Lent.

Into Advent

November 22, 2010

Where Advent Begins © Jan L. Richardson

The elves and I are busy in the studio, happily painting and plotting as we prepare for Advent to begin this Sunday. During the coming season, I’ll be posting new reflections and artwork over at The Advent Door instead of here at The Painted Prayerbook. I’ve already added a couple of entries there and would be delighted for you to stop by. I’m planning to post at The Advent Door several times each week and look forward to sharing the coming days with you. I have lots of other resources for Advent and Christmas; you can find out more here.

I am also thrilled to say that my new book, In the Sanctuary of Women, was published last month. You can find more info and place orders on the Books page at my main website, where inscribed copies are available by request. I have also launched a companion site for the book at More than just a site about the book, is designed to foster conversation and community through such features as the Guide for Reading Groups and the Sanctuary blog. I’d love for you to visit!

And if you live in central Florida, please join us for a special holiday evening to celebrate the book’s publication. The gathering will be Friday, December 3, at 8 PM at First United Methodist Church of Winter Park (near Orlando). For further info, visit Sanctuary Celebration.

In this week in which we celebrate U.S. Thanksgiving, know that I am grateful for you. Many blessings to you as we cross into Advent.

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch…

September 20, 2010

I’m sorry to be absent from the blog for a bit. Gary and I were away leading a retreat last week for an amazing group of folks who were recently commissioned as ministers in the Florida United Methodist Conference. I took some desperately needed Sabbath time over the weekend and am spending this week on some things that need my attention as my new book nears its publication date, including finishing a website that will accompany the book (and will include a blog—another way to connect with you!).

So—know that I am missing being more present to you here but have been pondering the gospel lections with you in absentia, looking longingly at the drafting table and imagining what I would create and write if I could just fashion a few more hours in the day. I look forward to returning here in the not-too-distant future. In the meantime, I’m thrilled that the new book, In the Sanctuary of Women, will be available on October 1. It’s already available for pre-order online at such places as Amazon and Upper Room Books. I would love for you to stop by and check it out! I am excited about offering this not only as a book for personal reflection but also as a resource to foster conversation and community, whether in established groups such as book groups or study groups, or in informal conversations with friends or family members. I created In the Sanctuary of Women out of the understanding that a book can offer a place of sanctuary for our souls, and with the hope that it will invite readers to think about where we find sanctuary, and where we are called to create sanctuary with and for others.

On another note, I’ve taken the plunge and set up a Twitter account recently; if you’re on Twitter, I’d be pleased to connect with you in this way. You can find me at or by clicking the Twitter icon in this blog’s sidebar.

Sending much gratitude and many blessings your way in these days!