Archive for the ‘poetry’ Category

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

Blessing in a Time of Violence

November 16, 2015

Holy Even in PainImage: Holy Even in Pain © Jan Richardson

For Beirut, for Kenya, for Paris, for Syria. For every place broken by violence and hatred. For every person in pain and grief. For you, from me, in sorrow and hope.

Blessing in a Time of Violence

Which is to say
this blessing
is always.

Which is to say
there is no place
this blessing
does not long
to cry out
in lament,
to weep its words
in sorrow,
to scream its lines
in sacred rage.

Which is to say
there is no day
this blessing ceases
to whisper
into the ear
of the dying,
the despairing,
the terrified.

Which is to say
there is no moment
this blessing refuses
to sing itself
into the heart
of the hated
and the hateful,
the victim
and the victimizer,
with every last
ounce of hope
it has.

Which is to say
there is none
that can stop it,
none that can
halt its course,
none that will
still its cadence,
none that will
delay its rising,
none that can keep it
from springing forth
from the mouths of us
who hope,
from the hands of us
who act,
from the hearts of us
who love,
from the feet of us
who will not cease
our stubborn, aching
marching, marching

until this blessing
has spoken
its final word,
until this blessing
has breathed
its benediction
in every place,
in every tongue:


— Jan Richardson

Using Jan’s artwork…

To use the image “Holy Even in Pain,” please visit this page at (This is also available as an art print. After clicking over to the image’s page on the Jan Richardson Images site, just scroll down to the “Purchase as an Art Print” section.) Your use of helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!

Using Jan’s words…
For worship services and related settings, you are welcome to use Jan’s blessings or other words from this blog without requesting permission. All that’s needed is to acknowledge the source. Please include this info in a credit line: “© Jan Richardson.” For other uses, visit Copyright Permissions.

It Is Hard Being Wedded to the Dead

October 24, 2014

River of LifeImage: River of Life © Jan Richardson

A Reading for All Saints Day: Revelation 7.9-17

The Lamb…will guide them to springs of the water of life,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
– Revelation 7.17

For many years, I have loved the days of Halloween, All Saints, and All Souls. This trinity of days from October 31-November 2 is a sacred space in the turning of the year—what Celtic folk have long called a thin place, where past, present, and future intertwine, and the veil between worlds becomes permeable. I learned long ago that it’s important to pay attention to what happens in these days. Mostly what happens is that the days offer a window onto my life—a perspective that, however subtly, shifts how I see my path. But sometimes these days offer a doorway, a new threshold that changes everything.

Gary and I began dating on Halloween, the eve of All Saints. As our life together unfolded, the sense of crossing a sacred threshold with him, of walking together through a door of mystery, wonder, and love, never disappeared.

It seems beyond belief that this year, when our church celebrates All Saints Day, Gary’s name will be among those read in the litany of remembrance; that, as for each of the beloved ones who have died in the past year, a bell will sound for my husband, who has crossed a threshold that is beyond my reach. Yet the Feast of All Saints assures us that even here, in the depth of our grief and loss, there is a doorway, a place where the worlds touch.

As I approach this first All Saints Day since Gary’s death, I am pressing my ear to that door. In the depth of my sorrow, I am learning that Gary and I still have thresholds to cross; that mystery and wonder abide, drawing us more and more deeply into the love that has little regard for matters such as death and time.

This is a poem that came in the early days of grieving, as I was first beginning to reckon with Gary’s dying and with the love that has kept making itself known. I offer it to you as an All Saints gift, a talisman to hold onto as you remember your own beloved ones. May our love be more fierce than our grief, more enduring than our tears. Blessings.

It Is Hard Being Wedded to the Dead

It is hard
being wedded
to the dead;
they make different claims,
offer comforts
that do not feel comfortable
at the first.

They do not let you
remain numb.
Neither do they allow you
to languish forever
in your grief.

They will safeguard
your sorrow
but will not permit
that it should become
your new country,
your home.

They knew you first
in joy,
in delight,
and though they will be patient
when you travel
by other roads,
it is here
that they will wait
for you,
here they can best
be found

where the river runs deep
with gladness,
the water over each stone
singing your
unforgotten name.

– Jan Richardson

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

A Gathering of Spirits
For Those Who Walked With Us

An Advent Journey…

ILLUMINATED 2014 — Registration now open!
Are you hungry for an experience that draws you into Advent without feeling like it’s just one more thing to add to your schedule? I would love for you to join us for this all-new online retreat that easily fits into the rhythm of your days. Intertwining reflection, art, music, and community, ILLUMINATED 2014 will be a great way to journey toward Christmas from anywhere you are, in the way that fits you best. Begins November 30. For info and registration, visit ILLUMINATED 2014. Group & congregational rates available.

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “River of Life,” please visit this page at (This is also available as an art print. After clicking over to the image’s page on the Jan Richardson Images site, just scroll down to the “Purchase as an Art Print” section.) Your use of helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!

Using Jan’s words…
For worship services and related settings, you are welcome to use Jan’s blessings or other words from this blog without requesting permission. All that’s needed is to acknowledge the source. Please include this info in a credit line: “© Jan Richardson.” For other uses, visit Copyright Permissions.

Day 8: Who Gives Life to the Dead

February 25, 2012

And Calls Into Existence the Things That Do Not Exist © Jan L. Richardson

. . . in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.
—Romans 4.17

From a lectionary reading for Lent 2: Romans 4.13-25

Reflection for Thursday, March 1 (Day 8 of Lent)

Who Quickens the Dead

Who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were. —Romans 4.17, King James Version

As if
dealing with the living
were not enough.

As if
we were ready
for what we have
and grieved

to suddenly wake,
open its eyes,
and turn its face
toward us again.

As if
we believed
the hand that
wakes the dead
could wake us.

As if
the voice
that calls
into being
what does not exist
could call to us.

As if
we could let it.

This reflection is part of the series “Teach Me Your Paths: A Pilgrimage into Lent.” If you’re new to the series, welcome! You can visit the first post, Teach Me Your Paths: Entering Lent, to pick it up from the beginning.

[To use the image “And Calls Into Existence the Things That Do Not Exist,” 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

– Jan Richardson

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!]

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

Easter 6: Love and Revelation

May 22, 2011

Love and Revelation © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Easter 6, Year A (May 29): John 14.15-21

On a day more than six hundred years ago, in the English town of Norwich, a woman walked into a cell attached to the parish church. She intended to stay there for the rest of her life. The original name of the woman is unknown, and the cell where she would live as an anchoress—a woman devoted to a life of contemplation and solitude—no longer remains. It is likely that she took her name from the church in whose cell she lived: the Church of St. Julian.

Nearly everything we know about Julian of Norwich comes from a manuscript that she composed in her cell. In it she tells of how, at the age of thirty and a half, she became desperately ill. Just as she thought herself at the point of death, her pain suddenly departed. As Julian continued to pray, she was visited by a series of sixteen visions or revelations—what she called “showings”—in which she came to experience and know God’s love for her.

Julian recorded her visions in a short text, and then, after nearly two decades, she expanded on them in a longer text that incorporates the insights that she gained through years of reflecting on and praying with the visions. Together Julian’s texts became the book known as Showings, or Revelations of Divine Love.

In the final chapter of Showings, as Julian comes to the end of the remarkable work in which she has revealed to us a God whose endless mystery encompasses a deep desire to know and love us in all our human particularity, she writes,

And from the time that it was revealed, I desired to know in what was our Lord’s meaning. And fifteen years after and more, I was answered in spiritual understanding, and it was said: What, do you wish to know your Lord’s meaning in this thing? Know it well, love was his meaning. Who reveals it to you? Love. What did he reveal to you? Love. Why does he reveal it to you? For love. Remain in this, and you will know more of the same. But you will never know different, without end.

From her anchorhold, with her stunning simplicity, Julian echoes and embodies what her beloved Jesus says to his friends in this week’s gospel passage. At the table where he gathers with his disciples on the night before his death, he persists in telling them what he wants them—needs them—to know about who he is, what he has done, what he will yet do, what he is calling them to do after he is physically gone. In this passage, Jesus becomes very clear about why he wants them to know these things, and what underlies and encompasses and is the reason for their knowing.

“They who have my commandments and keep them,” Jesus says, “are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

The knowledge that Jesus shares with his followers is not for the purpose of giving them worldly power. It is not designed to make them feel important, or to initiate them into secrets meant for a select few, or to make their lives easier. He does not intend for them to use the knowledge as a weapon to threaten or diminish others. What Jesus reveals to his friends—his friends at the table that night, his friend in the cell at the Church of St. Julian, his friends throughout the ages—he does for one reason:

For love.

Jesus speaks of love and revelation in the same breath. He wants his friends to understand that loving and knowing are of a piece, that loving draws us deeper into knowing and being known by the one whom we love. Here on the threshold of his death, Jesus cannot go until he assures them that he will not leave them bereft but will, in fact, continue to love and help them. He cannot leave until he tells them that by their loving, they will remain in relationship with him; through their shared love, he will yet reveal himself to them and be known by them.

What knowledge does your loving lead you to? As you stretch yourself into loving others, what becomes revealed to you—of them, of yourself, of God? How has love challenged or changed what you know? How are you opening yourself to its presence in your life?

Blessing that Knows Your Name

Chances are
there will come a day
when you will forget
every last word
of this blessing.

It does not matter.

Let this blessing
slip through
your fingers.
Let it roll from
the smooth plane
of your palm.
Let each line
and every syllable
fall away.
Let this blessing
to where all
blessings begin.

Let it leave you
until all that remains
is the place where
it pierced you—
whether like fire
or like breath
you could not say,
only that you heard
your name as it entered,
then heard its own
as it blew away.

P.S. For a previous reflection on this passage, click the image or title below:

Easter 6: Side Orders

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

Easter 4: Blessing of the Gate

May 9, 2011

Blessing of the Gate © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Easter 4, Year A (May 15): John 10.1-10

Once again, for the fourth time in this Easter season, the lectionary turns toward the theme of knowing. Beginning with Easter Sunday, the gospel readings have beckoned us to pay attention to where we pay attention, to how we turn ourselves toward the Christ who comes to us. To the women at the empty tomb, to Thomas in the locked room, to the two at the Emmaus table, Jesus shows himself, inviting others to see and recognize him, even to place their hand within his very flesh so that they may know and trust who he is.

And here again this week the gospel lection impresses upon us how keen Jesus is for us to know him, to follow after the One who first knows us. Knows us by our own name, Jesus tells us in this Sunday’s text from John’s Gospel.

Jesus recognizes, of course, the import of knowing another’s name. Throughout the scriptures as well as in mythology and folklore, we see how knowing someone’s name often means having a kind of power; one’s name holds something of a key to one’s nature. Yet with Christ, this knowing is always steeped in grace, not control. “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out,” Jesus says in this passage where he describes himself as the good shepherd. The gate of Christ swings toward freedom, not captivity. The shepherd does not assume a role of domination, of power-over that constrains and confines; he is one who pours his power out on our behalf, that we may enter into the places where we can flourish. “…that they may have life, and have it abundantly,” Jesus says.

As the Easter season continues to unfold, this theme of knowing will persist. As we travel through these days of resurrection, how will you open yourself to the Christ who desires to know you and to be known by you? How well do you want to be known? Are there any corners of your heart that you resist being known? Might those very spaces become a place of prayer, a doorway, a gate that opens into freedom?

Blessing of the Gate

Press your hand
to this blessing,
here along
the side
where you can feel
its seam.

Follow the seam
and you will find
the hinges
on which
this blessing turns.

Feel how
your fingers
catch on them—
the slightest pressure
sending the gate
gliding open
in a glad welcome.

Wait, did I say
press your hand
to this blessing?

What I meant was
press your hand
to your heart.

Rest it over that
place in your chest
that has grown
closed and tight,
where the rust,
with its talent
for making decay
look artful,
has bitten into
what you once
held dear.

Breathe deep.
Press on the knot
and feel how it
begins to give way,
turning upon
the hinge
of your heart.

Notice how it
opens wide
and wider still
as you exhale,

spilling you out
into a realm
where you never dreamed
to go
but cannot now imagine
living this life

P.S. For a previous reflection on this passage, click the image or title below:

Easter 4: In Which We Do Some Sheep Wrestling.

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

Easter Sunday: Risen

April 20, 2011

Easter II © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Easter Sunday:
John 20.1-18 or Matthew 28.1-10

Easter Blessing

If you are looking
for a blessing,
do not linger

is only
a hollow,
a husk
where a blessing
used to be.

This blessing
was not content
in its confinement.

It could not abide
its isolation,
the unrelenting silence,
the pressing stench
of death.

So if it is
a blessing
that you seek,
open your own

Fill your lungs
with the air
that this new
morning brings

and then
release it
with a cry.

Hear how the blessing
breaks forth
in your own voice

how your own lips
form every word
you never dreamed
to say.

See how the blessing
circles back again
wanting you to
repeat it
but louder

how it draws you
pulls you
sends you
to proclaim
its only word:


P.S. For a previous reflection on Easter Sunday, see Easter Sunday: Out of the Garden. I am also offering daily reflections throughout Holy Week at the Sanctuary of Women blog and would be delighted to have your company there as well. And if you haven’t seen the videos that Garrison Doles and I recently released for Lent and Easter, I welcome you to check them out here: Listening at the Cross and The Hours of Mary Magdalene. Know that I’m holding you in prayer throughout this Holy Week, and I wish you a joyous Easter!

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