Archive for the ‘sacred time’ Category

Pentecost: What the Fire Gives

May 17, 2015

What the Fire GivesImage: What the Fire Gives © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Book of Acts, Day of Pentecost: Acts 2.1-21

And how is it that we hear, each of us,
in our own native language?
– Acts 2.8

We buried Gary’s ashes near the end of April. Two days after what should have been our fifth anniversary, I gathered on the family farm with our parents, our brothers and their wives, and Gary’s son. The last time we had all been at the farm together was for the wedding, which seemed both astonishingly recent and also an eternity ago. With my brother’s help, I had picked a spot for the ashes down by the lake, tucked in a stand of palmetto trees that appears in some of our wedding photos.

After we all made our way to that place by the lake, I looked around the circle at each face. Dearly beloved, I said. I told them of how, as Gary and I had planned for our wedding, the word blessing kept coming to mind. We decided it should be a day of blessing, and so blessings wove through the ceremony and the celebration that followed—blessings that were spoken, and blessings that were embodied in the people who had come to be with us that day.

I told our family how, as I had prepared for the day of burying the ashes of our beloved, the word blessing had come to mind once again. And so, in that place of letting go, there were blessings offered and received, spoken and unspoken as we placed my husband’s ashes in that sacred ground.

As Pentecost Day approaches, I have been remembering those blessings that came in the presence of ashes. There is such a finality to ashes—ashes to ashes, dust to dust, after all. Yet Pentecost arrives to remind us that ashes do not have the final word, and that fire does not come only to consume. It comes also to bless, to call, to inspire, to give to us what we could never begin to imagine on our own.

The fire of Pentecost scalds us toward speech, and this is a blessing and a miracle. This is not, however, where the greatest miracle lies. The miracle of Pentecost, as my seminary professor Dr. Bill Mallard told us one day, is not a miracle of speaking. It is a miracle of hearing, and of understanding.

How will we allow the Spirit to scorch us, not only toward the word we need to speak, but also toward the word we need to hear? How will we open ourselves to the Spirit that comes to set us ablaze with vision?

What the Fire Gives
A Blessing for Pentecost Day

You had thought that fire
only consumed,
only devoured,
only took for itself,
leaving merely ash
and memory
of something
you had thought,
if not permanent,
would be long enough,
enduring enough,
to be nearly
eternal.

So when you felt
the scorch on your lips,
the searing in your heart,
you could not
at first believe
that flame could be
so generous,
that when it came to you —
you, in your sackcloth
and sorrow —
it did not come
to consume,
to take still more
than everything.

What surprised you most
were not the syllables
that spilled from
your scalded,
astonished mouth —
though that was miracle
enough,
to have words
burn through
what had been numb,
to find your tongue
aflame with a language
you did not know
you knew —

no, what came
as greatest gift
was to be so heard
in the place
of your deepest
silence,
to be so seen
within the blazing,
to be met
with such completeness
by what the fire
gives.

– Jan Richardson


For previous reflections, blessings, and art for Pentecost, click the images or titles below:


Pentecost: This Grace That Scorches Us


Tongues as of Fire

Pentecost: When We Breathe Together


The Origin of Fire
Pentecost: The Origin of Fire


Pentecost
Pentecost: One Searing Word


Fire and Breath

Pentecost: Fire and Breath

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “What the Fire Gives,” 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.

Ash Wednesday: The Terrible, Marvelous Dust

February 13, 2015

Ash Wedesday CrossImage: Ash Wednesday Cross © Jan Richardson

Readings for Ash Wednesday: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17; Psalm 51:1-17;
2 Corinthians 5:20b – 6:10
; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Let me hear joy and gladness.
–Psalm 51.8

It is a strange anointing, this cross that comes to mark us as Lent begins. Ashes, dust, dirt: the stuff we walk upon, that we sweep away, that we work to get rid of, now comes to remind us who we are, where we are from, where we are bound.

How terrible. And how marvelous, that God should feel so tender toward the dust as to create us from it, and return us to it, breathing through us all the while. Even after releasing us from the blessed dust at the last, God continues to breathe us toward whatever it is we are becoming.

Ash Wednesday hits close to home once again. My husband’s ashes remain in the keeping of my brother, waiting in a beautiful wooden box that Scott has built for them. This spring we will bury the ashes on the family farm where Gary and I were married not so long ago. And we will breathe, and we will bless the earth from which we have come, and we will give thanks for the astonishing gift that passed too briefly among us but whose love, tenacious as ever, goes with us still.

This is a blessing I wrote for Ash Wednesday a couple of years ago and want to share with you as the day approaches again. I would also love to share the coming season with you on the new online retreat I’m offering for Lent. If you haven’t already signed up for the Beloved Lenten Retreat, you’ll find info about it below.

Blessing the Dust
A Blessing for Ash Wednesday

All those days
you felt like dust,
like dirt,
as if all you had to do
was turn your face
toward the wind
and be scattered
to the four corners

or swept away
by the smallest breath
as insubstantial—

Did you not know
what the Holy One
can do with dust?

This is the day
we freely say
we are scorched.

This is the hour
we are marked
by what has made it
through the burning.

This is the moment
we ask for the blessing
that lives within
the ancient ashes,
that makes its home
inside the soil of
this sacred earth.

So let us be marked
not for sorrow.
And let us be marked
not for shame.
Let us be marked
not for false humility
or for thinking
we are less
than we are

but for claiming
what God can do
within the dust,
within the dirt,
within the stuff
of which the world
is made,
and the stars that blaze
in our bones,
and the galaxies that spiral
inside the smudge
we bear.

–Jan Richardson

Previous posts: I have a number of reflections and blessings for Ash Wednesday; to visit these, begin with last year’s post at Ash Wednesday: The Hands that Hold the Ashes.

For a broken heart: If Valentine’s Day is a difficult day for you or someone you know, I invite you to visit A Blessing for the Brokenhearted.

An invitation into Lent…

During Lent, my creative energies will be going toward a new online retreat that I’ll be offering for the season. I would love to share this journey with you! Intertwining reflection, art, music, and community, the retreat is designed as a space of elegant simplicity that you can enter from wherever you are, in the way that works best for you. You don’t need to show up at a particular place or time in order to join in the retreat.

I sometimes hear from folks who say, “I’d love to do this, but I don’t have time for a retreat!” I completely get that! So I have especially designed this retreat so that you can engage as much or as little as you wish. Rather than being one more thing to add to your Lenten schedule, this retreat weaves easily and simply through your days.

For more info and to register, please visit our overview page at Online Lenten Retreat. In addition to the individual rate, we have group rates available for those who want to share the retreat together near or far. You can even give the Lenten retreat as a gift! If you have questions about the retreat, or concerns about things that you think might hinder you from sharing in the journey, be sure to check out our FAQ page (you’ll find a link on the overview page). The Beloved Retreat is new for 2015.

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Ash Wednesday Cross,” 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.

Transfiguration Sunday: Overshadowing

February 8, 2015

OvershadowingImage: Overshadowing © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Transfiguration Sunday, Year B: Mark 9.2-9

Then a cloud overshadowed them,
and from the cloud there came a voice.
–Mark 9.7

We’ve seen a few Transfiguration Sundays here at The Painted Prayerbook! Today’s artwork is new, created as I reflected on Mark’s use of the word overshadow (episkiazo in the Greek). I’m intrigued by how, in the gospels, the only other place we see this word appear is in Luke 1, when Gabriel tells a startled Mary that the power of God will overshadow her. [For more on this, and the invitation God extends to us to be a habitation for the holy, see this post: Transfiguration Sunday: Show and (Don’t) Tell.]

For blessings and other reflections for this final Sunday after Epiphany, I invite you to visit earlier reflections that I created for you. You can begin by visiting last year’s post for Transfiguration Sunday, which includes links to previous writings; I’ve included a link to that post below. Or you can simply enter “Transfiguration” into the search bar in the upper right corner of this page.

Thanks to everyone who’s registered for the online Lenten retreat! I am eagerly looking forward to sharing the season with you. If you haven’t signed up, I would love for you to join us. The info is below.

Blessings to you, and may the Spirit overshadow you and enfold you with peace.

A Lenten Journey…

Beloved Lenten Retreat

Beloved Retreat: Are you hungry for an experience that draws you into Lent without feeling like it’s just one more thing to add to your schedule? Join us for this online retreat that easily fits into the rhythm (or chaos!) of your days, offering you an elegantly simple space to reflect on your journey and receive sustenance for your path. Intertwining reflection, art, music, and community, this retreat is a great way to travel toward Easter, from anywhere you are. New for 2015! Visit Online Lenten Retreat for details and registration. Individual, group, & congregational rates available.

For previous reflections on Transfiguration Sunday, click the image or title below.

Transfiguration II
Transfiguration Sunday: When Glory

For a broken heart: With Valentine’s Day coming up, I want to share a blessing that I wrote last year for the first Valentine’s Day after Gary’s death. If February 14 is a tough day for you or for someone you know, I invite you to visit “A Blessing for the Brokenhearted” by clicking the image or title below.

Valentine
A Blessing for the Brokenhearted

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

Beloved: An Online Retreat for Lent 2015

January 23, 2015

Beloved Lenten Retreat
I am still savoring the amazing experience of traveling with everyone who participated in the Illuminated online retreat during Advent. Inspired by that journey, I am back in the studio, preparing an all-new retreat for Lent. I would love for you to join us! Here’s a glimpse of what this online retreat holds in store:
 


BELOVED
An Online Journey into Lent & Easter
February 18 – April 6
New for 2015!

This online retreat is not about adding one more thing to your schedule! It is about helping you find spaces for reflection that draw you deep into the mysteries and gifts of this season. Intertwining reflection, art, music, and community, this retreat offers a space of elegant simplicity as you journey through Lent.

You can join in this all-new retreat from anywhere you are; you do not have to show up at a particular place or time. You’re welcome to engage the retreat as much or as little as you wish, in the way that fits you best. If you’re hungry for a simple way to move deeply into this season, this retreat is for you.

Individual, group, and congregational rates are available. You can also give the retreat as a gift! For retreat details, FAQs, and registration, visit Online Lenten Retreat.


 
The season of Lent invites us to know, most of all, how completely God loves us, and to let go of everything that would keep us from receiving and responding to that love. This invitation is at the heart of the Beloved Lenten Retreat. If that sounds good to you, please join us!

Blessings to you as Lent draws near.

Baptism of Jesus: Beginning with Beloved

January 6, 2015

Blessing the BaptismImage: Blessing the Baptism © Jan Richardson

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

And just as he was coming up out of the water,
he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending
like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven,
“You are my Son, the Beloved.”
–Mark 1.10-11

Beginning with Beloved
A Blessing

Begin here:

Beloved.

Is there any other word
needs saying,
any other blessing
could compare
with this name,
this knowing?

Beloved.

Comes like a mercy
to the ear that has never
heard it.
Comes like a river
to the body that has never
seen such grace.

Beloved.

Comes holy
to the heart
aching to be new.
Comes healing
to the soul
wanting to begin
again.

Beloved.

Keep saying it
and though it may
sound strange at first,
watch how it becomes
part of you,
how it becomes you,
as if you never
could have known yourself
anything else,
as if you could ever
have been other
than this:

Beloved.

–Jan Richardson

P.S. I have a number of previous reflections on the Baptism of Jesus; for links, visit this post: Baptism of Jesus: Washed.

A Gift for You…

Wise Women Also Came

Celebrating Women’s Christmas: Originating in Ireland, Women’s Christmas is celebrated on Epiphany (January 6) as an occasion to take a break at the end of the holidays. I’ve created a new retreat as a gift especially for you to use on Women’s Christmas—or whenever you’re in need of some time to reflect and rest. The retreat is available to download as a PDF at no cost. You can find the retreat by visiting this post on my Sanctuary of Women blog:

Women’s Christmas 2015: Illuminating the Threshold


Using Jan’s artwork…

To use the image “Blessing the Baptism,” 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.

Women’s Christmas 2015 – A Gift for You

January 2, 2015

Wise Women Also CameImage: Wise Women Also Came © Jan L. Richardson

Happy New Year and Merry (almost) Epiphany! In celebration, these three wise women are stopping by with a gift for you. You might know that some folks celebrate Epiphany (January 6) as Women’s Christmas. Originating in Ireland, where it is known as Nollaig na mBan, Women’s Christmas began as a day when the women set aside time to enjoy a break and celebrate together at the end of the holidays.

It’s become a tradition for me to create a new retreat each year that you can use on Women’s Christmas or whenever you need a space of respite and reflection. The retreat, which you can download as a PDF, offers readings, art, and blessings that invite you to listen to your life. This year’s retreat explores the theme of thresholds, those betwixt and between places that emerge when we have left what was familiar but have not arrived at what lies ahead. Sometimes chaotic but full of possibility, thresholds are a great place to pray, imagine, and dream. The retreat is designed to help you do this.

There’s no cost for the retreat; it’s a Women’s Christmas gift especially for you! You can do the retreat alone or share it with friends. For a link to the retreat and more about Women’s Christmas, visit this page at my Sanctuary of Women blog:

Women’s Christmas: Illuminating the Threshold

I’d love for you to pass along the gift by sharing the link with your friends via Facebook, Twitter, or any other way you’re connected.

Blessings to you as the new year begins, and Merry Women’s Christmas!

P.S. Our festive Advent discount on annual subscriptions to the Jan Richardson Images site continues through Epiphany/January 6! An annual subscription enables you to download any images for use in worship during the year. Advent rate: $125 (regularly $165). Visit Subscribe to Jan Richardson Images.

[To use the Wise Women Also Came image, please visit this page at Jan Richardson Images.]

At the Edge of Advent

November 24, 2014

End and BeginningImage: End and Beginning  © Jan Richardson

Advent, almost! With the new season beginning this Sunday, it’s time to head over to my blog The Advent Door, where I’ll be offering a few reflections during the coming weeks. I’ve posted a new reflection there for this Sunday; you can find it here: Advent 1: Blessing When the World Is Ending.

I’m especially excited to be launching Illuminated 2014, our all-new online Advent retreat. The retreat begins this Sunday, and if you haven’t already registered, I would love for you to join us! The Illuminated Retreat is a wonderful way to enter into Advent without stressing your schedule. There’s info below, plus a couple more things I want to share with you as the season begins.

ILLUMINATED 2014
This online retreat is not about adding one more thing to your holidays. It is about helping you find spaces for reflection that draw you deep into this season that shimmers with mystery and possibility. Offering a space of elegant simplicity as you journey toward Christmas, the Illuminated Retreat fits easily into the rhythm of your days, anywhere you are. Begins November 30. For info and registration, visit ILLUMINATED 2014. Individual, group, & congregational rates available. A great gift for yourself and others!


Jan Richardson Images

ADVENT SPECIAL AT JAN RICHARDSON IMAGES
The Jan Richardson Images site makes my artwork available for use in worship, education, and other settings. You can download single images or sign up for an annual subscription, which gives you unlimited downloads for a year. During Advent and Christmas, we’re offering a festive discount on annual subscriptions: for just $125, you can sign up for an artful year (regularly $165). The site offers many images for Advent, Christmas, and beyond. More info at Subscribe to Jan Richardson Images. You can also order any of the images as an art print!


Interview

INTERVIEW WITH FAITH & LEADERSHIP
I talked recently with Faith & Leadership about Advent, art, grief, and our call to be people who put the pieces together. Read the interview here in the Advent issue of their online magazine.

Blessings to you as Advent arrives!

So That You May Know the Hope

November 19, 2014

So That You May Know the HopeImage: So That You May Know the Hope © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Epistles for Christ the King/Reign of Christ Sunday: Ephesians 1.15-23

So that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened,
you may know what is the hope to which
he has called you.

– Ephesians 1.18

Hope is a hard word for me these days. Last Friday marked a year since Gary had the surgery that would begin to bear him away from us. I think of those who waited with me with such hope throughout that surgery, throughout the two emergency surgeries that would follow, and throughout all the days we kept vigil with Gary until it became clear our vigil was at an end. What is the use of hoping, when hope comes to such a pass?

For those in grief, it is common to encounter well-meaning people who seek to stir our hope by schooling us in God’s ineffable ways, who want to tell us our loss is part of a larger plan and a bigger mystery that we cannot know from here but that we will understand one day. I have a tremendous tolerance for mystery, a great capacity to abide the unknown. In the wake of my husband’s death, I am clear that when it comes to suffering, in the astounding variety of forms by which we experience it in this world, it is not enough to chalk it up to mystery, to a larger plan. It’s not that I’m not interested in the bigger mystery, or in knowing that I might have a better grasp of it someday in another world. It’s just that someday is not, in itself, sufficient to get me through this day, to move me from one moment to the next in this world where Gary is not.

In the midst of my grief, what I know is that hope, inexplicably, has not left me. That it is stubborn. That it lives in me like a muscle that keeps reaching and stretching, or a lung that keeps working even when I do not will it, persisting in the constant intake and release of breath on which my life depends.

The apostle Paul (or, perhaps, the author who wrote in his name) well knows the deep presence of mystery in our life with God. (For now we see in a mirror, dimly, he writes in 1 Corinthians 13.) But he, too, is uninterested in simply abiding the mystery or locating our hope in a “someday” realm. In this week’s passage from Ephesians, he prays quite specifically for his friends to be illuminated here and now, praying that God will give them a spirit of wisdom and revelation as they come to know God. He prays that the eyes of their hearts will be enlightened. So that you may know, he writes, what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power (18-19).

Paul is talking about a knowing that is tied with resurrection. He is talking about a hope that is bound together with the life of the risen Christ. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead, Paul writes in verse 20. Paul makes clear that Christ, in turn, is putting his power to work in us, and not just for someday, but also for now: that this hope is active in our lives as we press into the mystery that attends us. Even as Paul writes about the risen Christ being seated in the heavenly places, he also bears witness to a Christ who wore our flesh and abides with us still, hoping for us when our hope is shattered, breathing new life into us, encompassing us in the arms of a community that holds us with hope.

Hope is not always comforting or comfortable. Hope asks us to open ourselves to what we do not know, to pray for illumination in this life, to imagine what is beyond our imagining, to bear what seems unbearable. It calls us to keep breathing when beloved lives have left us, to turn toward one another when we might prefer to turn away. Hope draws our eyes and hearts toward a more whole future but propels us also into the present, where Christ waits for us to work with him toward a more whole world now.

What are you hoping for these days? Who helps you hope when it is hard to hope? How does your hope call you to see what is here and now?

Blessing of Hope

So may we know
the hope
that is not just
for someday
but for this day
here, now,
in this moment
that opens to us
hope not made
of wishes
but of substance
hope made of sinew
and muscle
and bone
hope that has breath
and a beating heart
hope that will not
keep quiet
and be polite
hope that knows
how to holler
when it is called for
hope that knows
how to sing
when there seems
little cause
hope that raises us
from the dead
not someday
but this day,
every day,
again and
again and
again.

– Jan Richardson

For previous reflections for Christ the King/Reign of Christ Sunday, visit Christ Among the Scraps and You Who Bless.

An Advent Journey…

ILLUMINATED 2014 — Registration now open!
Are you hungry for an experience that invites you into Advent without stressing your schedule? This online retreat is not about adding one more thing to your holidays. It is about helping you find spaces for reflection that draw you deep into this season that shimmers with mystery and possibility. Offering a space of elegant simplicity as you journey toward Christmas, the Illuminated retreat fits easily into the rhythm of your days, anywhere you are. Begins November 30. For info and registration, visit ILLUMINATED 2014. Individual, group, & congregational rates available.

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “So That You May Know the Hope,” 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.

An Illuminated Advent – 2014

November 7, 2014

Illuminated Advent Retreat

For the past six weeks, I have been on My Big Road Trip. It has been such a gift to take to the road, with little agenda or schedule, and receive the treasures of hospitality and solace I have found on the path between Florida and Canada. Now it is nearly time to return home. As I prepare to go, I’m so aware of traveling not only toward Orlando but also toward Advent, with great anticipation as I dream and imagine what the coming season might hold.

I am eager to begin the all-new online retreat that I’m offering for Advent, and I would love for you to join me! If you are hungry for a simple way to move deeply into this season, this retreat is for you. Some details are below, along with a link to our main info and registration page for the retreat.

ILLUMINATED 2014: An Online Journey into the Heart of Christmas
November 30-December 27
All new for 2014!

Are you hungry for an experience that invites you into Advent without stressing your schedule? This online retreat is not about adding one more thing to your holidays. It is about helping you find spaces for reflection that draw you deep into this season that shimmers with mystery and possibility. Intertwining reflection, art, music, and community, this online retreat provides a space of elegant simplicity and a distinctive opportunity to travel through Advent and Christmas in contemplation and conversation along the way.

This is an Advent retreat for people who don’t have time for an Advent retreat (and for those who do!). You can easily enter into it in the way that works best for you, from anywhere you are. You don’t have to show up at a particular time or place, and you’re welcome to engage the retreat as much or as little as you wish. This is for you: a space to breathe deeply and to experience renewal that will make a difference in how you move through the season.

Individual, group, and congregational rates are available. You can also give the retreat as a gift! For retreat details, FAQs, and registration, visit Illuminated Advent Retreat.

Blessings to you as Advent draws near!

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 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.