Beloved: A Blessing for Garrison Doles

December 10, 2013

Best Day Ever

O my dear friends. For those who don’t already know, I need to tell you that my beloved husband slipped peacefully from this world on December 2, enfolded in the love and presence of our family and the encompassing of the God who entrusted him to us. I don’t need to tell you that I am heartbroken beyond imagining. Please know that the prayers you offered for Gary and all of us provided such solace and sustenance during our vigil with Gary, and will continue to do so as our family finds our way through the coming days. Months. Lifetime.

We held a service to celebrate Gary’s life last Friday afternoon. It was heartbreaking and hopeful and wonderfully beautiful. It included much music. Gary’s amazing son, Emile, in whom Gary’s gift of song lives strong, opened the service by singing Gary’s song “Raise This Hour.” Gary’s also-amazing brothers sang, and Gary’s own recordings, including two guitar meditations he created for our Illuminated Advent Retreat, provided the opening and closing music. I can’t tell you enough to do the service justice−how honoring it was of Gary and how much solace it provided for mebut I want to share with you some words I wrote for that day. This is a brief remembrance and a blessing for my remarkable, beloved husband; for those who gathered to remember and grieve and celebrate; and now for you. Our dear friends Peg and Chuck Hoffman, who had so recently shared in our wedding, read these words for me.

Remembering

In the entirety of my life, what I am most proud of is this: that when Gary Doles crossed my path, I recognized him. Every single day, I knew what I had in him. This also means that I know all too keenly, with the precision of a knife’s edge, what I have lost, and all too soon.

I think we have all been carrying the sense of how horribly unfair this is. And it is. In the midst of my devastation and desolation, I have also been remembering some of the stories that Gary would tell me about his life. I won’t tell you the stories just now, but I will tell you that it is a marvel and a miracle that Gary Doles survived long enough for me to meet him. And for that I give thanks. Along with the heartbreak, I will always carry such deep gratitude for the years we had together, and for the extravagant grace of loving and being loved by him. Still.

After Gary died on Monday, surrounded by the prayers and the presence of our remarkable family, I stayed in the room as his nurse removed everything that had helped to keep him alive during the awful and beautiful vigil that we had kept with him for eighteen days. I watched as she removed the ventilator tube that had kept him breathing, watched as she took out the seemingly innumerable lines that had delivered medications. Finally Gary was shed of everything that had kept him living, everything that had tethered him until it became clear that nothing would return him to us. I placed my hand against his chest, and commented to the nurse that it felt so strange to feel a heartbeat, and know that it was only my own pulse. She said, “His heart beats in you now.”

In me. In us. Thank you for being part of the life of my husband whose heart beat with such strength and continues to echo in us still.

Where Your Song Begins Again
A Blessing

Beloved,
I could not bear it
if this blessing ended
with the final beat
of your heart,

if it left
with the last breath
that bore you away
from here.

I could not stand
the silence,
the stillness
where all
had once been song,
had been story,
had been the cadenced liturgy
of your life.

So let it be
that this blessing
will abide
in the pulse
that moves us
from this moment
to the next.

Let it be
that you will breathe
in us here bereft
but beloved still.

Let it be
that you will make your home
in the chamber
of our heart

where your story
does not cease,
where your words
take flesh anew,
where your song
begins again.

Advent and the Unexpected Vigil

November 23, 2013


Image: Heartbeat Liturgy © Jan L. Richardson

Friends, you may have already heard this news through another place or person that connects us, but in case you haven’t, I want to share an update with you and ask for your prayers. My amazing husband, Garrison Doles, is in the midst of a medical crisis that has turned our lives inside out. Last week, Gary went into the hospital to address a brain aneurysm that had been discovered during the summer (in a fluky fashion, in the process of checking out something else that proved not to be a problem). We had hoped he would be able to have a less invasive procedure called coiling, but the aneurysm proved too complex, and he was taken into surgery. During an eleven-hour surgery, Gary had a stroke, and has had two additional surgeries to address brain swelling. He has been in a medically induced coma and will be emerging from that over the course of the coming days.

We don’t yet know the extent of the damage from the stroke. Based on what Gary’s remarkable neurosurgeon is telling us, there is cause for great concern and great hope. I would be tremendously thankful for your prayers and good thoughts for Gary, his wondrous medical team, and our families.

Some kind folks have asked about the online Advent retreat that Gary and I were planning. I’ve decided to still offer it, with the understanding that it will look rather different than we originally planned. I find myself reluctant to give up the chance to walk through the coming season in the company of kindred spirits.

If you’re interested in entering Advent with your eyes wide open—looking honestly and anew at seemingly familiar Advent themes such as mystery, waiting, hope, keeping vigil, and longing for light in the deepest darkness—and if you’re game for a bit of adventure and uncertainty about what it will all look like, then this is the place for you. I’d love to travel in your company.

I’d be grateful if you would let other folks know about the retreat by sharing a link to this post or to the retreat overview page (Illuminated Advent Retreat) via Facebook or anywhere else you’re connected. This would be such a wonderful gesture of support for Gary and me in this time. Most of all, I would be so tremendously thankful for your prayers in these days of keeping vigil and beginning to navigate a road that we never imagined traveling.

I send you much gratitude and many blessings as Advent approaches.



Illuminated Advent Retreat

God of the Living

November 5, 2013


Image: Into This Living © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Pentecost +25, Year C: Luke 20.27-38

“Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living;
for to him all of them are alive.”
–Luke 20.38

Jesus knows the question the religious leaders have posed to him is a political one, wrapped in theological trappings. As ever, he responds to what lies beneath the trappings, exploding some assumptions along the way. Following on the heels of celebrating the Feast of All Saints last week, it’s an especially potent point that Jesus makes here: that in the eyes of God, there is no question of the dead versus the living, “for to [God],” Jesus says, “all of them are alive.”

On this side of the veil, we feel the distinction keenly, and Jesus does not dismiss or disparage this. Bent as he is on breaking down the walls of division, however, he cannot resist pressing against this one, the wall we perceive between the living and the dead. With his own death and resurrection almost upon him, Jesus pushes against that wall, shows it for what it is, challenges us to enter anew into our living and into our world that is so much larger, so much more mysterious than we dreamed.

God of the Living
A Blessing

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

When it seems
all solidity
and sharp edges.

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

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

and how strong what stirs
on the other side,

breathing with you
and blessing you
still

forever bound to you
but freeing you
into this living,
into this world
so much wider
than you ever knew.


AN ILLUMINATED ADVENT:
Hungry for an experience that draws you into Advent without feeling like it’s just one more thing to add to your holiday schedule? Join us for this online retreat that will intertwine reflection, art, music, and community. A great way to travel toward Christmas in contemplation and conversation, from anywhere you are. Begins December 1. Visit Illuminated Advent Retreat or click the thumbnail below. All new material for 2013! Group & congregational rates available.


Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Into This Living,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. (This is also available as an art print—just scroll down to the “Purchase as an Art Print” section when you click the link to the image on the JRI site.) 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. If you’re using them in a worship bulletin, please include this info in a credit line:
© Jan L. Richardson. janrichardson.com.

An Illuminated Advent

November 4, 2013

With the Feast of All Saints behind us, it can mean only one thing: Advent is around the corner! As we look toward the coming season, I am especially excited about an adventure that is shimmering on the horizon: our Advent retreat! This year Gary and I will be offering an all-new online retreat for Advent and would love for you to join us. We had such an amazing experience last year of journeying with hundreds of other folks who, like us, wanted to travel through the season with mindfulness and grace. We are eagerly anticipating setting out on the Advent path in good company once again.

If you’re hungry to travel through the season in a way that allows thoughtful, creative spaces of calm to naturally arise in the rhythm of your days—instead of seeming like just one more commitment in what can be a frenzied season—this retreat could be just the thing for you! Here’s the lowdown:

ILLUMINATED 2013: An Online Journey into the Heart of Christmas
December 1-28
All new for 2013!

Travel toward Christmas in the company of folks who want to move through this season with mindfulness and grace. This online retreat is not about adding one more thing to your holiday schedule. 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 with others along the way.

This is an Advent retreat for people who don’t have time for an Advent retreat (and for those who do!). We’ve especially designed the retreat so that you can easily enter into it in the way that works best for you. 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, to enter into some creative rest, and to experience renewal that will make a difference in how you move through the season.

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 and peace to you as Advent approaches!

For Those Who Walked With Us

October 29, 2013


Image: A Gathering of Spirits © Jan L. Richardson

Here in Florida, our summer weather has extended well into October this year. The temperature finally did drop noticeably near the end of last week—on the precise day that Gary and I left the state to head to California, where we were leading a weekend retreat and Sunday worship with the marvelous community at Los Altos United Methodist Church. Not surprisingly, we had beautiful weather there, so we didn’t feel shortchanged. It’s warmed up again now that we’ve returned home, but even so, there’s a shift in the light and in the feel of these days that lets us know that autumn is arriving at last.

I’m especially loving entering into this week that holds some festive days. I’ve written here previously (Feast of All Saints: A Gathering of Spirits) that the trinity of days of Halloween, the Feast of All Saints, and the Feast of All Souls has long been a favorite time for me—a thin place in the turning of the year. These days are haunted for me in a good way; they offer an occasion to remember, to reflect, and to offer thanks for those who have shaped my path by the path that they walked. These days remind us that in the body of Christ, death does not release us from being in community with one another.

In celebration, I’m offering a blessing that I wrote for an All Saints reflection in my book In Wisdom’s Path. I’m thrilled to share that the splendid composer James Clemens used this blessing for a beautiful choral setting, which was published this year by World Library Publications. You can listen to a gorgeous sample by going to this page on the WLP website, then clicking the “listen” tab (by the “use” tab).

As you listen, and as you move through this week, who lingers close in your memory? Who walked with you in a way that inspired and made possible the path that you travel? Remembering that in these days, the veil thins not only toward the past but also toward the future, how are you walking through this life in a way that will help make possible the paths of those who follow?

Blessings to you in these sacred days.

For Those Who Walked With Us

For those
who walked with us,
this is a prayer.

For those
who have gone ahead,
this is a blessing.

For those
who touched and tended us,
who lingered with us
while they lived,
this is a thanksgiving.

For those
who journey still with us
in the shadows of awareness,
in the crevices of memory,
in the landscape of our dreams,
this is a benediction.

For a related post and blessing, visit On the Eve of All Hallows at my Devotion Café blog.

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “A Gathering of Spirits,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. (This is also available as an art print! Just scroll down to the “Purchase as an Art Print” section when you click the link to the image on the JRI site.) 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. If you’re using them in a worship bulletin, please include this info in a credit line:
© Jan L. Richardson. janrichardson.com.

Blessing the Animals

September 23, 2013


Image: Even the Sparrow (detail) © Jan L. Richardson

With the Feast of Saint Francis coming up on October 4, many churches are planning a Blessing of the Animals service in proximity to the day. In honor of the occasion, and in gratitude for the animals who have graced my life, here’s a new blessing for you.

Blessing the Animals

You who created them
and called them good:
bless again these creatures
who come to us
as a blessing
fashioned of fur
or feather
or fin,
formed of flesh
that breathes with
your own breath,
that you have made
from sheer delight,
that you have given
in dazzling variety.

Bless them
who curl themselves
around our hearts
who twine themselves
through our days
who companion us
in our labor
who call us
to come and play.

Bless them
who will never be
entirely tamed
and so remind us
that you love
what is wild,
that you rejoice
in what lives close
to the earth,
that your heart beats
in the heart of these creatures
you have entrusted
to our care.

In memory of Zeke, who always won our battles over who had ownership of my drafting table.

blog-Zeke


P.S.
For a previous reflection on the Feast of Saint Francis, click the image or title below.

Saint Francis
Feast of St. Francis

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Even the Sparrow (detail)” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. 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. If you’re using them in a worship bulletin, please include this info in a credit line:
© Jan L. Richardson. janrichardson.com.

A Blessing in the Dust

June 30, 2013


Image: A Blessing in the Dust © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Pentecost +7, Year C: Luke 10.1-11, 16-20

But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you,
go out into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town
that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you.
Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’ 
– Luke 10.10-11

Knowing when to stay, knowing when to leave: this is one of the most challenging invitations for discernment that we will ever encounter.

There are times, after all, for leaning into the resistance that meets us; times when God calls us to engage the difficulty and struggle that will shape and form us in a way that ease and comfort never can. There are muscles—in our body, in our soul—that can be developed only by pressing through the resistance; not with pride, not with the utter conviction that we are in the right, but with the humility that enables us to summon our intention and will and open ourselves to the grace that carries us through situations that we cannot navigate on our own. There is ground that becomes holy only when we remain long enough to see the blessing that can emerge from struggle, that shimmers through only after the dust the struggle kicks up finally begins to settle.

And then there are times for leaving; times when—as Jesus counsels his disciples—the holy thing to do is to shake the dust from our feet and leave behind a place that is not meant for us.

This blessing is for those times.

A Blessing in the Dust

You thought the blessing
would come
in the staying.
In casting your lot
with this place,
these people.
In learning the art
of remaining,
of abiding.

And now you stand
on the threshold
again.
The home you had
hoped for,
had ached for,
is behind you—
not yours, after all.

The clarity comes
as small comfort,
perhaps,
but it comes:
illumination enough
for the next step.

As you go,
may you feel
the full weight
of your gifts
gathered up
in your two hands,
the complete measure
of their grace
in your heart that knows
there is a place
for them,
for the treasure
that you bear.

I promise you
there is a blessing
in the leaving,
in the dust shed
from your shoes
as you walk toward home—
not the one you left
but the one that waits ahead,
the one that already
reaches out for you
in welcome, in gladness
for the gifts
that none but you
could bring.

For previous reflections on this story, click the images or titles below:


Mapping the Mysteries



Are You Coming or Going?


P.S.
 Please come visit our Art + Faith page on Facebook! Gary and I would love for you to stop by, “like” the page, and be part of the creative conversation that’s unfolding there. And be sure to check out this summer’s Liturgical Arts Weeks at the Grünewald Guild—classes are filling fast, and we’d be delighted to save you a spot! For a glimpse of the Guild, visit this post: Where Heaven and Earth Meet.

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “A Blessing in the Dust,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. 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. If you’re using them in a worship bulletin, please include this info in a credit line:
© Jan L. Richardson. janrichardson.com.

To use Jan’s work in other settings (books and other publications, etc.), please visit Copyright Permissions.

Blessing of Elijah

June 25, 2013

If You See Me As I Am Being Taken
Image: If You See Me As I Am Being Taken © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Hebrew Scriptures, Pentecost +6, Year C: 2 Kings 2.1-2, 6-14

He picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him,
and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan.
– 2 Kings 2.13

This month marks twenty years that I have been in ministry. In June of 1993, after finishing seminary, I moved back to Florida and became the associate pastor of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Orlando. Twenty years and a couple of appointments later, I marvel and celebrate that I have managed to stay this long in Orlando, and that, even as I have remained, my ministry has taken me far down wondrous paths that I could hardly have imagined at the outset.

Gary and I are recently back from Annual Conference, where a number of our friends and colleagues were licensed, commissioned, or ordained for ministry. As I watched the ordinations—hands laid upon heads, stoles laid upon shoulders—I remembered my own ordination, and those who stood with me: my sponsors Bill Barnes and Bishop Charlene Kammerer, along with a circle of others (including many from the communion of saints) who mentored and mantled me for ministry.

Whether or not we are ordained, we are part of a lineage. We are here because someone—most likely many someones—told us a story that compelled us and called us to follow in the way of Christ. I offer gratitude for those who told the story to me, who lived the story for me, and who continue to provide strength and sustenance and guidance for my path. I offer prayers for those exploring a call to ministry and those newly entering ministry. For all of us, whatever shape our ministry takes, I offer this blessing in hopes that we will take up the mantle again and again, claiming it anew and walking with wisdom and hope, telling the story as we go.

Blessing of Elijah

Make no mistake.
This blessing that comes
like hands laid
upon your head,
a mantle draped
across your shoulders:
you do not bear it
alone.

Think of it
as lineage,
as litany:
an ancient legacy
entwining you among the strands
that weave through
generations and centuries,
that spiral with
the enduring and
determined grace
of the story that has
seized you,
and the One
who has claimed
and called you.

Take heart
that this blessing
comes to you
singed and
scorched,
signed by the blazing
of wonders
you can barely imagine
and by trials
that have already tested you,
or you would not
have found your way
this far.

Lay it down,
and it will be a path for you
across terrain
you never imagined
daring to cross.

Take it up,
and know the presence
of those who have passed this
on to you:
who encompass you
who enfold you
who go with you
and release you
into the keeping
of the road
that is your own
and the One
who has called
your name.


P.S.
 Please come visit our Art + Faith page on Facebook! Gary and I would love for you to stop by, “like” the page, and be part of the creative conversation that’s unfolding there. And be sure to check out this summer’s Liturgical Arts Weeks at the Grünewald Guild—classes are filling fast, and we’d be delighted to save you a spot! For a glimpse of the Guild, visit this post: Where Heaven and Earth Meet.

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “If You See Me As I Am Being Taken,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. 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. If you’re using them in a worship bulletin, please include this info in a credit line:
© Jan L. Richardson. janrichardson.com.

To use Jan’s work in other settings (books and other publications, etc.), please visit Copyright Permissions.

Delivered

June 16, 2013


Image: Delivered © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Pentecost +5, Year C: Luke 8.26-39

Those who had seen it told them
how the one who had been possessed by demons
had been healed.
– Luke 8.38

He must have found it suffocating at the least: to live with such an interior crowd, to never be able to turn off the constant clamor and press, the fracturing and fragmentation that left him unmoored and unhinged. He took to the graveyard, making his home among the tombs in a living death. And then one day Jesus came, and asked, What is your name?

Delivered
A Blessing

From the hundred wants
that tug at us.
From the thousand voices
that hound us.
From every fear
that haunts us.
From each confusion
that inhabits us.

From what comes
to divide, to destroy.
From what disturbs
and does not let us rest.

Deliver us, o God,
and draw us into
your relentless
peace.



Liturgical Arts Week at the Grünewald Guild

P.S. Please come visit our Art + Faith page on Facebook, where we’re currently featuring the remarkable artwork of our friends who teach with us in the Liturgical Arts Weeks at the Grünewald Guild. Gary and I would love for you to stop by, “like” the page, and be part of the creative conversation that’s unfolding there. And be sure to check out this summer’s Liturgical Arts Weeks at the Guild—classes are filling fast, and we’d be delighted to save you a spot! For a glimpse of the Guild, visit this post: Where Heaven and Earth Meet.

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Delivered,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. 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. If you’re using them in a worship bulletin, please include this info in a credit line:
© Jan L. Richardson. janrichardson.com.

To use Jan’s work in other settings (books and other publications, etc.), please visit Copyright Permissions.

A Needful Extravagance

June 9, 2013


Image: Extravagance © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Pentecost +4, Year C: Luke 7.36-8.3

Therefore, I tell you,
her sins, which were many,
have been forgiven;
hence she has shown great love.

– Luke 7.47a

Once again we see Jesus’ persistent refusal to distance himself from us. From the hungry, from the sick, from those who have lost their way, from the outcast, from those burdened by the labels and names and roles laid upon them: Jesus refuses to turn away. And not only does he resist turning away; he welcomes those who risk making their way to him. He recognizes and elevates those who push beyond the barriers and boundaries and rebuffs: the woman, so long bleeding, who reaches out for the hem of his robe; the children who gather around him; the women who, in every gospel, come to anoint and bless him, who see him as no one else does.

In this passage from Luke, in this woman’s lavish gesture, we see how love pours itself out: not in self-abnegation, but in an offering that springs from the depths of who we are. Love makes its way past the labels, breaks through the burdens of prejudice and stereotype and bias. This woman who has been set free by Jesus, and who now comes to anoint him: she knows this. She knows how love looses us, how it bridges the distance between us, how it calls us to recognize and respond to the holy in our midst. With such clarity and grace, she illuminates who Jesus is. With his response, Jesus illuminates who we are: not defined by the sins of the past but by the love and grace of the present.

Blessing for the Anointing

Some with ointment.
Some with tears.
Me, today,
with words
gathered and treasured
carried and poured out
for you
wherever you are.

May you welcome this
as what it is:
a needful extravagance
an offering both lavish
and crucial
that has let go
of everything
to lay itself at your feet
and tell you

I see you
I bless you

And you,
where can you go
that you do not need
this anointing,
this blessing that drenches
the one who gives,
the one who receives?


P.S.
 Please come visit our Art + Faith page on Facebook, where we’re currently featuring the amazing work of our friends who teach with us in the Liturgical Arts Weeks at the Grünewald Guild. Gary and I would love for you to stop by, “like” the page, and be part of the creative conversation that’s unfolding there. And be sure to check out this summer’s Liturgical Arts Weeks at the Guild—classes are filling fast, and we’d be delighted to save you a spot!

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Extravagance,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. 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. If you’re using them in a worship bulletin, please include this info in a credit line:
© Jan L. Richardson. janrichardson.com.

To use Jan’s work in other settings (books and other publications, etc.), please visit Copyright Permissions.