Archive for the ‘The Psalms’ Category

Epiphany 2: Known

January 12, 2015

You Have Known MeImage: You Have Known Me © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Psalms for Epiphany 2: Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18

O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
– Psalm 139.1

Over the past year, I have been thinking a lot about knowing. Gary’s death left enormous holes in so much of what I had known—about my life, about God, about who I am in this world. As I reckon with the rending of my known world, I am living with a constellation of questions such as these:

Who am I, when the person who has known me best is no longer in this world?

What does it mean to know and be known by someone who now belongs to eternity?

In the midst of my grief, how do I lean into the love of the God who holds us both and knows us beyond the limits of time?

Where does this knowing lead me and call me in this time, this life?

I don’t have many answers for these questions, but as we travel with the readings this week—all of which have to do, in some way, with being known—I have this blessing, offered in the hope that we will never cease to reckon with the challenge, the comfort, and the call of knowing and being known.

Peace to you.

Known
A Blessing

First
we will need grace.

Then
we will need courage.

Also
we will need
some strength.

We will need
to die a little
to what we have
always thought,
what we have allowed
ourselves to see
of ourselves,
what we have built
our beliefs upon.

We will need this
and more.

Then
we will need
to let it all go
to leave room enough
for the astonishment
that will come
should we be given
a glimpse
of what the Holy One sees
in seeing us,
knows
in knowing us,
intricate
and unhidden

no part of us
foreign
no piece of us
fashioned from other
than love

desired
discerned
beheld entirely
all our days.

– Jan Richardson

For previous reflections for Epiphany 2, click the images or titles below.

How Did You Come to Know Me?
Epiphany 2: How Did You Come to Know Me?


Between Heaven and Earth

Of Fig Trees and Angels

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Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “You Have Known Me,” 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.

Where the Story Begins

November 4, 2014

Where the Story BeginsImage: Where the Story Begins © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Psalms, Year A, Proper 27/Ordinary 32/Pentecost +22: Psalm 78.1-7

I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings from of old,

things that we have heard and known,
that our ancestors have told us.
– Psalm 78.2,3

Gary was a remarkable storyteller. In the Song Chapel concerts that he performed across the United States, song and spoken word wove together, inviting us to hear the story of God anew. Gary knew how to pare away the layers of familiarity in the stories of our faith—those layers that can lull us into thinking we know what a story is about. In his hands, a story became a sacred space of revelation, of transformation, of welcome.

Sometime after Gary’s death, the thought came to me: Now he is all story. Story is what remains of my beloved: the stories he told in song and spoken word; the stories by which he invited us to enter into the story of God; and the stories we tell now of who Gary was in this life.

The author of Psalm 78 understands the power of story, and the absolute necessity of it. He understands that we cannot know God without stories; that we cannot know ourselves without them. The psalmist knows that we cannot be the people of God without telling the story of God, passing the story on to each generation. Things that we have heard and known, that our ancestors have told us, the psalmist writes.

Where does the power of a story lie? What is it about a story that so compels us?

Once upon a time.
Long ago and far away.
In the beginning.

Incantation and enchantment, invitation and initiation.

We speak of getting lost in a story, but part of what draws us to a story is the promise of finding: finding a different world, finding another time, finding ourselves. There is something in us that hungers for a story, an empty space that is shaped precisely to its contours. We reach for the threads that a story offers, we enter the rooms it opens to us, we inhabit the skin of another and somehow, in the hands of a good story, we are returned to ourselves. And we are perhaps holding the threads of our own stories a bit differently, or entering a new space within ourselves, or finding ourselves able to inhabit our own skin more completely.

Elie Wiesel says that God created us because God loves stories.

When Christ came (in the fullness of time, the story goes), he came as the Word made flesh. A story in motion. And he went into the world with stories on his lips, weaving them everywhere he went.

A sower went out to sow.
A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers.
There was a man who had two sons.

And, this week, Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.

Jesus understood that in a world where it can be so difficult to know God, to know others, to know even ourselves, a story can offer a language, a doorway, a point of entry. He knew how a story can take us a little deeper into knowing, a little farther down the road in our journey of return.

We will not hide them from their children, the psalmist writes in Psalm 78. And perhaps that’s where the true power of a good story lies: that it unhides something, reveals something—and someone—we need to know.

What stories are you listening to? What stories are you telling? How do you attend to your own story? Where have you experienced being lost in a story, and being found? How might God be inviting you to look at your story with new eyes?

Blessing the Story

You might think
this blessing lives
in the story
that you can see,
that it has curled up
in a comfortable spot
on the surface
of the telling.

But this blessing lives
in the story beneath
the story.
It lives in the story
inside the story.
In the spaces
between.
In the edges,
the margins,
the mysterious gaps,
the enticing and
fertile emptiness.

This blessing
makes its home
within the layers.
This blessing is
doorway and portal,
passage and path.
It is more ancient
than imagining
and makes itself
ever new.

This blessing
is where the story
begins.

– Jan Richardson

For a reflection on this week’s gospel passage, click the image or title below.

Midnight Oil
Midnight Oil

An Advent Journey…

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

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

Day 37/Wednesday of Holy Week: Rejoice and Be Glad

April 3, 2012

Rejoice and Be Glad © Jan L. Richardson (click image to enlarge)

Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you. Let those who love your salvation say evermore, “God is great!”
—Psalm 70.4

From a lectionary reading for Wednesday of Holy Week: Psalm 70

Reflection for Wednesday, April 4 (Day 37 of Lent)

In her book Traveling Mercies, Anne Lamott writes that the two best prayers she knows are “Help me, help me, help me” and “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” I think of Lamott’s prayers as I linger with Psalm 70, a tiny jewel of a psalm whose five brief verses offer a spare bit of elaboration upon that basic cry for help and declaration of gratitude.

“Be pleased, O God, to deliver me,” the psalmist pleads as the psalm begins. “O Lord, make haste to help me!” These same words (in the Douay-Rheims version of this verse, which renders the first part as “O God, come to my assistance”) open every office of the Liturgy of the Hours, with the exception of Vigils; for nearly two millennia, this constant reminder of humanity’s need for help has been embedded in the prayers that carry monastic folk through the day and night. The psalmist continues in this vein, imploring God to bring “shame and confusion” to those who seek to harm him, and entreating God to hurry. “You are my help and my deliverer,” the psalmist cries out as the psalm closes; “O Lord, do not delay!”

Help me, help me, help me.

Tucked into this tiny psalm, amidst the psalmist’s pleas for aid, a single verse counsels joy in the presence of panic: “Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you,” the psalmist sings. “Let those who love your salvation say evermore, ‘God is great!'”

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

For some of us, asking for help—from God, from another person—can be tremendously difficult. It may rarely occur to us that God created other people so that we don’t have to do everything by ourselves. Yet as the psalmist reminds us, knowing what we need and asking for appropriate help is part of what it means to belong to God—and to one another. And as the psalmist also reminds us in verse 4, seeking the help of God (which so often comes through others) is a pathway to gladness; drawing near to the God who takes delight in delivering us is a road to rejoicing.

And so I am here to ask you: What help do you need this day? How would it be to ask for it? What gladness and gratitude might be waiting for you there?

Blessing that Waits
to Come to Your Aid

When I have become
so reliant on myself
that I cannot see
the need that gnaws
so deep
in my soul,

open my eyes,
open my heart,
open my mouth
to cry out
for the help
that you do not ration,
the deliverance
that you delight to offer
in glad and
generous measure.

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

Day 36/Tuesday of Holy Week: A Rock of Refuge

April 3, 2012

Rock of Refuge © Jan L. Richardson (click image to enlarge)

Be to me a rock of refuge, a strong fortress, to save me,
for you are my rock and my fortress.
—Psalm 71.3

From a lectionary reading for Tuesday of Holy Week: Psalm 71.1-14

Reflection for Tuesday, April 3 (Day 36 of Lent)

Pondering this passage and this image, I keep thinking of Skellig Michael. A small, peaked rock of an island off the coast of Ireland, Skellig Michael was home to a small community of monks in the Middle Ages. According to legend, the monastery was founded by Saint Fionan in the sixth century. In a stark landscape that afforded few level surfaces, the monks managed to build six stone cells (living quarters) constructed in the “beehive” style distinctive to Celtic monasteries, along with two oratories (places for prayer) and a tiny hermitage on a peak whose location would have made getting there an arduous pilgrimage in itself. It’s thought that a monastic community remained on the island until the twelfth or thirteenth century.

The monks of Skellig Michael devoted themselves to a way of life in which they embodied the words of the psalmist who, in today’s reading, proclaims, “My mouth is filled with your praise, and with your glory all day long” (v. 8). I imagine that on that craggy rock where they kept a rhythm of personal and communal prayer throughout the day and night, the monks felt a particular connection with this psalm and its imagery of the rock of refuge that the psalmist finds in God. Like the desert fathers and mothers of the early church who served as models and sources of inspiration for these monks, the brothers surely must have found that their home on Skellig Michael was not a place of escape from spiritual struggle but a space where they could both wrestle with God and rest in the God who delivered them and provided shelter and strength for their souls.

On this Lenten day, where do you find the solid ground that God provides? How do you seek the refuge, solace, and shelter that God offers you—not as a perpetual escape from the world but as a place of safety where you can receive the strength and sustenance that will enable you to engage the world in the ways God needs you to engage it?

Blessing of Refuge

That I may flee to you
not to escape forever
from the world
that you have created,
the world that you
call beloved

but that in your refuge
I will find
your presence
to strengthen me
your courage
to sustain me
your grace
to encompass me
as I go
where you would
have me go.

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

Day 29: God Has Given Us Light

March 25, 2012

Has Given Us Light © Jan L. Richardson

The Lord is God, and has given us light.
—Psalm 118.27a

From a lectionary reading for Palm Sunday: Psalm 118.1-2, 19-29

Reflection for Monday, March 26 (Day 29 of Lent)

As if to confirm God’s penchant for revelation that we reflected on yesterday, Psalm 118 sings of light that comes as a blessing and gift from God. Light, the psalmist tells us, is one of the ways that God provides and cares for God’s people.

The last of the psalms that comprise what’s known as the Hallel (Hebrew for “praise”), Psalm 118 is part of the song of praise offered during festival times. Encompassing Psalms 113-118, the song is sometimes called the Egyptian Hallel and is a joyous telling of what God has done in the life of the people of Israel: how God has provided for them, what God has given to them, what God has brought to pass through them. During the festival of Passover, the first part of the Hallel (Psalms 113 and 114) is sung before the Passover meal, and the second part is sung following the meal (Psalms 115-118). It’s likely that it was the song that Jesus and the disciples sang as they left the Last Supper. What hope it must have given them, as they went into the night, to sing of the God who does not let darkness have the final word.

In John O’Donohue’s book Anam Cara, he writes, “If you had never been to the world and never known what a day was, you couldn’t possibly imagine how the darkness breaks, how the mystery and color of a new day arrive. Light is incredibly generous.” The psalmist knows the gift of light and does not take it for granted. How about you? At this place in your Lenten journey, how do the words of this song find a home in you? What light has God given to you as blessing and gift?

Blessing of Light

Let us bless the light
and the One who gives
the light to us.

Let us open ourselves
to the illumination
it offers.

Let us blaze
with its
generous fire.

[To use the image “Has Given Us Light,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

Day 27: Restore the Joy of Salvation

March 23, 2012

Restore the Joy of Salvation © Jan L. Richardson

Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.
—Psalm 51.12

From a lectionary reading for Lent 5: Psalm 51.1-12

Reflection for Friday, March 23 (Day 27 of Lent)

And this is, after all, what the psalmist desires: not to wallow in his sins or berate himself eternally for his brokenness, but to rest in the God who does not abandon him. To rejoice in the God who knows all the broken pieces and who holds them in mercy and love. To enter into the restoration that God is always working to bring about.

How do you lean into this joy? How do you open yourself to let it in, even when you don’t feel whole? How do you welcome this joy that is present even in the midst of brokenness, this joy that is part of how God works within us to put the pieces together? Is there some place in your spirit that needs to be more willing, that needs God’s sustenance in order to live into the salvation—the wholeness, the deliverance, the freedom—that God intends for you?

[To use the image “Restore the Joy of Your Salvation,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

Day 26: My Secret Heart

March 22, 2012

Secret Heart © Jan L. Richardson

You desire truth in the inward being;
therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.

—Psalm 51.6

From a lectionary reading for Lent 5: Psalm 51.1-12

Reflection for Thursday, March 22 (Day 26 of Lent)

Not just in my heart
but in the secret space
it holds.

In the heart of my heart.
In the place where I am myself.
In the space that I protect the most
and share the least.

In the hidden chamber
that I sometimes close off
even from myself.

In the realm
where you wait
and watch,
where you see each thing
that lies in shadow,
where you know the names
of all that makes its home
in me.

Here
in my secret heart;
here
teach me to move
with your wisdom,
to open the doors
that will draw me deeper still,
to live in the truth
that you desire;
here
let me open
the windows wide
so that those who pass by
will see you
looking out.

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

Day 19: And Saved Them from Their Distress

March 10, 2012

And Saved Them from Their Distress (click image to enlarge)

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and God saved them from their distress.

—Psalm 107.19

From a lectionary reading for Lent 4: Psalm 107.1-3, 17-22

Reflection for Wednesday, March 14 (Day 19 of Lent)

The lectionary selects just two small sections of Psalm 107 for inclusion in the reading, but as part of your reflection this Lenten day, I hope you’ll read the whole psalm, which you can find here: Psalm 107. In its entirety, the psalm offers a beautiful narrative arc by which it tells of how God has delivered God’s people from a variety of places of difficulty and despair. The psalm describes how God has met them in the desert, in the darkness of prison, in illness, in storms upon the sea, and in other places of “oppression, trouble, and sorrow,” as the psalmist puts it. In each place, God helps and saves them when they are “at their wits’ end” (v. 27).

There’s some thought that Psalm 107 is a pilgrimage song, and that this psalm of joy was lifted up by pilgrims who survived the dangers of travel and made it safely to Jerusalem at festival times. It reads also as a marvelous encapsulation and evocation of the way that God has delivered God’s people across the vast expanse of time, providing for us and freeing us from the places where we have been in peril.

How would you tell your own story of what God has done in and through you? What arc would you trace in the telling, and what places of healing, freeing, and transformation would you include? As you reflect on this, I have a special gift for you: another song from my amazing singer/songwriter husband. Written as he reflected on Psalm 107, it’s called “God Is Gonna Bring Me Home” and is from his CD Draw Us Closer. Simply click this audio player to listen.

Many blessings to you on your Lenten path, and may you have cause to sing this day.

P.S. Thanks so much to the folks who have ordered art prints from this Lenten series! I am grateful for the support this provides for this ministry. If you’re interested in an art print of your own or to give as a gift, I invite you to visit Jan Richardson Images, where all the images from this series—and many other images—are available as prints. Just click the desired image, then scroll down to the “Purchase as an Art Print” section beneath the image.

[To use the image “And Saved Them from Their Distress,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

Day 18: O Give Thanks

March 9, 2012

 For God’s Steadfast Love Endures Forever (click image to enlarge)

O give thanks to the Lord, for God is good;
for God’s steadfast love endures forever.

—Psalm 107.1

From a lectionary reading for Lent 4: Psalm 107.1-3, 17-22

Reflection for Tuesday, March 13 (Day 18 of Lent)

The author of this psalm remembers what the people of the Exodus—like us—sometimes forgot: that the antidote to grumbling is gratefulness. Offering thanks to God doesn’t mean ignoring or glossing over the presence of difficulty or suffering around us or within us. But cultivating a practice of gratitude sharpens our ability to perceive the presence of God in the midst of it. Thankfulness for what God has done for us—out of nothing but God’s sheer and steadfast love for us—helps dispose us toward recognizing what God is seeking to do even now, and it opens us to participate in what God is working to bring about in our lives and in the world.

This day, this moment, for what do you give thanks? As you reflect on this, here’s a thankful song for you, from my husband, Garrison Doles; it’s from his CD Draw Us Closer.

[To use the image “For God’s Steadfast Love Endures Forever,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

Day 15: A Tent for the Sun

March 3, 2012

A Tent for the Sun © Jan L. Richardson

In the heavens God has set a tent for the sun.
—Psalm 19.4b

From a lectionary reading for Lent 3: Psalm 19

Reflection for Friday, March 9 (Day 15 of Lent)

Sun Blessing

That what it reveals
we will have no cause
to fear.

That what it illumines
we will greet
with joy.

That each place
where it rises
will be at peace
and every place
where it sets
will be at rest.

That we will bless
what lives in its path.

That we will blaze
with its gracious light.

[To use the image “A Tent for the Sun,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]