Lent 1: Beloved Is Where We Begin

February 11, 2016

Desert of the BelovedImage: Desert of the Beloved © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Lent 1, Year C: Luke 4.1-13

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan
and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness,
where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.

—Luke 4.1-2

If we back up a bit in Luke—if we turn around, hang a left at the genealogy, and take a look at Luke 3.21-22—we will be able to enter this week’s text with the same knowledge that Jesus had: that when he went into the desert, he went with the baptismal waters of the Jordan still clinging to him, and with the name Beloved ringing in his ears. How else to enter into the forty-day place that lay ahead of him? How else to cross into the wilderness where he would have no food, no community, nothing that was familiar to him—and, to top it off, would have to wrestle with the devil? How else, but to go into that landscape with the knowledge of his own name: Beloved.

In this first week of Lent, as we turn our faces toward whatever this forty-day place holds for us, we would do well to have that name echoing in our own ears—to enter into the terrain of this season with the knowledge that we, too, are the beloved of God. And so I want to offer you a blessing that tells us this. It’s a blessing I wrote last year for those who joined us on the Beloved Online Lenten Retreat—a beloved community indeed.

As we cross with Christ into the landscape of Lent and into the mystery that lies ahead of us, may we know at least this about ourselves: that our name, too, is Beloved.

Beloved Is Where We Begin

If you would enter
into the wilderness,
do not begin
without a blessing.

Do not leave
without hearing
who you are:
Beloved,
named by the One
who has traveled this path
before you.

Do not go
without letting it echo
in your ears,
and if you find
it is hard
to let it into your heart,
do not despair.
That is what
this journey is for.

I cannot promise
this blessing will free you
from danger,
from fear,
from hunger
or thirst,
from the scorching
of sun
or the fall
of the night.

But I can tell you
that on this path
there will be help.

I can tell you
that on this way
there will be rest.

I can tell you
that you will know
the strange graces
that come to our aid
only on a road
such as this,
that fly to meet us
bearing comfort
and strength,
that come alongside us
for no other cause
than to lean themselves
toward our ear
and with their
curious insistence
whisper our name:

Beloved.
Beloved.
Beloved.

—Jan Richardson
from Circle of Grace

For a previous reflection on this passage, visit Lent 1: Into the Wilderness.

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.

New from Jan Richardson
CIRCLE OF GRACE: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons

Circle of GraceWithin the struggle, joy, pain, and delight that attend our life, there is an invisible circle of grace that enfolds and encompasses us in every moment. Blessings help us to perceive this circle of grace, to find our place of belonging within it, and to receive the strength the circle holds for us. from the Introduction

Beginning in Advent and moving through the sacred seasons of the Christian year, Circle of Grace offers Jan’s distinctive and poetic blessings that illuminate the treasures each season offers to us. A beautiful gift in every season. Available in print and ebook.

Order the book


Using Jan’s artwork…

To use the image “Desert of the Beloved,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible.

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: A Blessing in the Ashes

February 8, 2016

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

We buried my husband’s ashes last April, two weeks after Easter. Gary’s ashes rest now in a stand of palmetto trees on the farm that’s been in my family for generations; the farm where, just a few short years earlier, Gary and I were married on a gorgeous spring day. As our beautiful family gathered by the palmettos last April, in sight of the barn where we had been married so recently, I was astonished by the brevity of the span between those two days.

On that day last April, I told our family about how, as Gary and I had planned our wedding, we knew we wanted it to be a day of blessing. So blessings wove throughout that day of celebration, offered by family and friends during the ceremony and reception. I also told our family that as the day of burying Gary’s ashes drew near, I had longed for it to be a day of blessing as well. And so, in the midst of our sorrow and grief, we offered blessings in celebration of the astonishing life that had come among us, and that lingers with us still.

In that spirit, as this Ash Wednesday approaches, I want to share a blessing with you. It’s one that I’ve shared here before. I am sharing it again because this blessing—which I wrote before Gary’s death—is one that I need to claim for myself, now more than ever. I need to claim the blessing that lives among the ashes. I want to be marked by that blessing, and by the Holy One who knows what to do with dust.

As Ash Wednesday and Lent draw near once again, what blessing do you need to claim from the ashes?

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
from Circle of Grace

BelovedWith Gary’s wondrous son on the day we buried Gary’s ashes.


Previous posts:
I have a number of reflections and blessings for Ash Wednesday; to visit these, begin with this post at Ash Wednesday: The Terrible, Marvelous Dust.

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.

New from Jan Richardson
CIRCLE OF GRACE: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons

Circle of GraceWithin the struggle, joy, pain, and delight that attend our life, there is an invisible circle of grace that enfolds and encompasses us in every moment. Blessings help us to perceive this circle of grace, to find our place of belonging within it, and to receive the strength the circle holds for us. from the Introduction

Beginning in Advent and moving through the sacred seasons of the Christian year, Circle of Grace offers Jan’s distinctive and poetic blessings that illuminate the treasures each season offers to us. A beautiful gift in every season. Available in print and ebook.

Order the book

 

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Ash Wednesday Cross,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible.

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: A Blessing Made for Coming Down the Mountain

February 5, 2016

TransfigurationImage: Transfiguration © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Transfiguration Sunday, Year C: Luke 9:28-36 (37-43)

And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed,
and his clothes became dazzling white.
—Luke 9.29

Dazzling
A Blessing for Transfiguration Sunday

Believe me, I know
how tempting it is
to remain inside this blessing,
to linger where everything
is dazzling
and clear.

We could build walls
around this blessing,
put a roof over it.
We could bring in
a table, chairs,
have the most amazing meals.
We could make a home.
We could stay.

But this blessing
is built for leaving.
This blessing
is made for coming down
the mountain.
This blessing
wants to be in motion,
to travel with you
as you return
to level ground.

It will seem strange
how quiet this blessing becomes
when it returns to earth.
It is not shy.
It is not afraid.

It simply knows
how to bide its time,
to watch and wait,
to discern and pray

until the moment comes
when it will reveal
everything it knows,
when it will shine forth
with all that it has seen,
when it will dazzle
with the unforgettable light
you have carried
all this way.

—Jan Richardson
from Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons

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

Transfiguration II
Transfiguration Sunday: When Glory

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

Blessing That Meets You in Love

January 25, 2016

For LoveImage: For Love © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Epistles, Epiphany 4, Year C: 1 Corinthians 13.1-13

And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three;
and the greatest of these is love.

—1 Corinthians 13.13

Loving is always risky, because we cannot enter into it without being changed. Altered. Transformed. In the face of this, we might well ask, Do I really want this? Do we really desire to be so undone?

Loving is never just about opening our heart. It is about being willing to have our heart become larger as we make room for people and stories and experiences we never imagined holding. It is about being willing to have our heart become deeper as we move beyond the surface layers of our assumptions, prejudices, and habits in order to truly see and receive what—and who—is before us. It is about being willing to have our heart continually shattered and remade as we take in not only the brokenness of the world but also the beauty of it, the astounding wonder that will not allow us to remain the same.

Blessing That Meets You in Love

It is true that
every blessing begins
with love,
that whatever else
it might say,
love is always
precisely its point.

But it should be noted
that this blessing
has come today
especially to tell you
it is crazy about you.
That it has been
in love with you
forever.
That it has never
not wanted
to see your face,
to go through this world
in your company.

This blessing thought
it was high time
it told you so,
just to make sure
you know.

If it has been shy
in saying this,
it has not been
for any lack of
wanting to.
It’s just that
this blessing
knows the risk
of offering itself
in a way that
will so alter you—

not because it thinks
you could stand
some improving,
but because this is
simply where
loving leads.

This blessing knows
how love undoes us,
unhinges us,
unhides us.

It knows
how loving
can sometimes feel
like dying.

But today
this blessing
has come to tell you
the secret
that sends it
to your door:
that it gives itself
only to those
willing to come alive;
that it vows itself
only to those
ready to be
born anew.

—Jan Richardson


For a previous reflection and blessing for this passage, click the image or title below:


Epiphany 4: The Greatest of These

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “For Love,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible.

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 2016 – A Gift for You

January 6, 2016

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

Happy New Year and Merry 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 some time for respite and reflection. The retreat, which you can download as a PDF, includes readings, art, questions, and blessings. This year’s retreat, titled “Home By Another Way,” was inspired by my search for home in the wake of Gary’s death.

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

Women’s Christmas 2016: Home By Another Way

I would 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, and Merry Women’s Christmas!

P.S. Our festive Advent discount on annual subscriptions to the Jan Richardson Images site continues through Epiphany, plus a few days! An annual subscription enables you to download any images for use in worship during the year. Advent rate: $125 (regularly $165). Extended through January 10. Click Subscribe to sign up.

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

Epiphany: For Those Who Have Far to Travel

January 2, 2016

TheWiseOnesImage: The Wise Ones © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels for Epiphany: Matthew 2.1-12

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born
in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East
came to Jerusalem.

—Matthew 2.1

For Those Who Have Far to Travel
A Blessing for Epiphany

If you could see
the journey whole,
you might never
undertake it,
might never dare
the first step
that propels you
from the place
you have known
toward the place
you know not.

Call it
one of the mercies
of the road:
that we see it
only by stages
as it opens
before us,
as it comes into
our keeping,
step by
single step.

There is nothing
for it
but to go,
and by our going
take the vows
the pilgrim takes:

to be faithful to
the next step;
to rely on more
than the map;
to heed the signposts
of intuition and dream;
to follow the star
that only you
will recognize;

to keep an open eye
for the wonders that
attend the path;
to press on
beyond distractions,
beyond fatigue,
beyond what would
tempt you
from the way.

There are vows
that only you
will know:
the secret promises
for your particular path
and the new ones
you will need to make
when the road
is revealed
by turns
you could not
have foreseen.

Keep them, break them,
make them again;
each promise becomes
part of the path,
each choice creates
the road
that will take you
to the place
where at last
you will kneel

to offer the gift
most needed—
the gift that only you
can give—
before turning to go
home by
another way.

—Jan Richardson
from Circle of Grace


EPIPHANY UPDATE:
I have a gift for you! My new retreat for Women’s Christmas (which some folks in Ireland and beyond celebrate on Epiphany/January 6) is hot off the press. It’s a retreat that you can download at no cost and use anytime you wish throughout the year. For a link to the retreat and more about Women’s Christmas, click the Wise Women image or the title below:

Wise Women Also Came
Women’s Christmas 2016: Home By Another Way

I would 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.

New from Jan Richardson
CIRCLE OF GRACE: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons

Circle of GraceWithin the struggle, joy, pain, and delight that attend our life, there is an invisible circle of grace that enfolds and encompasses us in every moment. Blessings help us to perceive this circle of grace, to find our place of belonging within it, and to receive the strength the circle holds for us. from the Introduction

Beginning in Advent and moving through the sacred seasons of the Christian year, Circle of Grace offers Jan’s distinctive and poetic blessings that illuminate the treasures each season offers to us. A beautiful gift for the new year. Available in print and ebook.

Order the book

 

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “The Wise Ones,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Advent special! During this season, subscribe to Jan Richardson Images and receive unlimited digital downloads for only $125 per year (regularly $165). Click Subscribe to sign up. (Extended through Epiphany!)

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.

At The Advent Door!

December 18, 2015

MagnificatImage: Magnificat © Jan Richardson

Friends, I have been remiss in posting a note here to let you know that during this season, I’m over at my blog The Advent Door! I would love to have your company there as we travel toward Christmas. In addition to reflections for the Sundays of Advent (including this coming Sunday, Advent 4), I have recently posted an article that shares some of my journey in traveling through this season with grief. The article is titled “This Luminous Darkness: Searching for Solace in Advent and Christmas,” and you can find it here.

In the days to come, I’ll be sharing reflections and blessings for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Then I look forward to being back here at The Painted Prayerbook in the new year!

Sending much gratitude and so many blessings to you in this sacred season.

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 janrichardson.com, 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:

Peace.
Peace.
Peace.

— Jan Richardson


Using Jan’s artwork…

To use the image “Holy Even in Pain,” 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.

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.