Grateful

I’m grateful.
So very, very, very grateful.

Grateful – in a way that this little word can’t contain.
(You know those languages
that have many words to describe love or snow or forest?)

I am grateful –
Like the feeling that your head is going to explode – in a good way –
With the most beautiful fireworks you’ve ever experienced.
Or that your heart is so full that it can’t contain it all –
and so it overflows with warmth and love,
flowing through your body all the way to the tips of your fingers and toes.

I am grateful –
Like standing on a beach watching an entire sunset.
Not just until the sun goes down below the horizon,
but watching colors change in the sea and the sky —
all the way into the beautiful night.

Grateful — Like hiking above tree line on a sunny June day
next to alpine meadows and cold, rushing streams.
(Not all the elation is from lack of oxygen.)
It’s the exhilaration of being alive and walking on an earth
that is more mysterious and beautiful than we can imagine.

Grateful — Like the feeling of being scrubbed clean by an Oklahoma wind.
Like warming up after a walk in fresh, unblemished snow on a snow day.
Like eating the first tomato from the garden,
holding a new puppy, or finding a hummingbird nest.

I am grateful –
Like the feeling of oneness that you have when you find the Holy One
sitting right there with you and your weeping friend.
Like the moment in the worship service
when you stop worrying about whether the piano needs tuning
and you notice the Spirit sweeping through the congregation – through you.

As I step through this threshold into retirement,
I am grateful –
For all the experiences.
For the people I’ve had the opportunity to meet and work beside.
For the chance to impact the lives of people,
and be changed by them as well.
Grateful, even, for the mistakes and the missed opportunities,
for they are part of the fabric of my being.

I’m so, very, very, very grateful.
(In the fullness and expansiveness
of this tiny, inadequate, yet perfect, word.)

Metamorphosis

Help me be patient with myself
During this metamorphosis.

This shedding of what has been:
Working Monday through Friday,
Week after week,
Year after year.
The security of routines
and institutional cycles.

I am disoriented, befuddled,
Unsure of myself
And what the future holds.

Let me surrender to the uncertainty,
To the discombobulating feelings.

I have outgrown the cocoon of the familiar
And hear the calling of something new
Beyond this comforting, shabby enclosure.

I am preparing to emerge
(A rehearsal for my final metamorphosis?),
Transformed,
And ready to fly.

Celebrating the Retirement of Rev. Beth A. Richardson

Reposted from UpperRoom.org. The Upper Room will honor the retirement of Rev. Beth A. Richardson on November 30, 2022, at 1:00 p.m. CST with an online celebration. After serving 36 years with The Upper Room, most recently as Dean of the Chapel and Director of Prayer and Worship Life, Beth will retire on December 31, 2022.

An Oklahoma native, Beth is an ordained elder in The United Methodist Church and a member of the Mountain Sky Conference. She has worked at The Upper Room in many roles over the years, including editor of both Alive Now magazine and Weavings Journal and director of The Upper Room’s website, and has also served as Worship Leader for several Academy for Spiritual Formation retreats. Also a bestselling author, Beth’s books include Walking in the Wilderness, The Uncluttered Heart, Child of the Light, and Christ Beside Me, Christ Within Me, which can be found at Upper Room Books. You can follow her writings at betharichardson.com and jackthescottie.com.

The celebration is an online gathering open to all via registration. This time of worship, celebration, and blessing will be hosted by Rev. Dr. Amy E. Steele, Dean of The Upper Room Chapel. The celebration will also include Rev. Jeff Campbell, General Secretary and CEO of Discipleship Ministries, staff, friends, faculty, and board members of the Academy for Spiritual Formation. Bishop Karen Oliveto, Western Conference, Mountain Sky Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church, and Dr. Don E. Saliers, emeritus faculty and Theologian-in-Residence, Candler School of Theology are included among the many guests who will lead us.

As part of the celebration, there will be an opportunity to give to the Chapel in honor of Beth, and participants will be invited to offer words of gratitude for Beth and her ministry.

To register for the online celebration, click here.

Notes from Colleagues

draft of Weavings Logo, 1985

Ever since I did my stint cleaning out boxes and files in the basement of The Upper Room, I’ve been wondering if handwriting will ever have a chance to come back into the workplace. (Perhaps in one of those technologies that we can’t yet imagine?)

In the editorial world that I entered in the 80s (before the personal computer) we often communicated with each other by writing a note (on paper … with a writing utensil!!). Of course, we also walked across the hall to talk together, called each other on our office phones, or (for more official communications) sent memos typed on typewriters (with carbon copies that were duly filed away in big metal filing cabinets).

But much of the communication was in the form of handwritten notes — attached to files, on scraps of old paper tucked into manila folders, treatises on yellow Post It notes. I knew the handwriting of all the editors and editorial assistants in all the magazines. And last winter in the basement I remembered each person as I recognized their handwriting.

I found plenty of evidence of my own work in those days: submissions to the magazines, worksheets tracking the quotes material in each issue, free-lance manuscripts edited in red or black pencil. (Or whatever writing utensil was at hand.)

I most enjoyed finding the notes from John Mogabgab. Seeing his tiny, neat script brought such warmth to my heart. My favorite find from John was a note on a draft of the new Weavings logo. “What do you think?” John wrote on a yellow Post It note.

Deep Gratitude

As I reflect on these nearly 36 years at The Upper Room, I’m filled with deep gratitude for the opportunity to serve in this special organization. I’m grateful for the chance to work with so many editors, theologians, biblical scholars, teachers, editorial staff, writers, preachers, artists, and photographers — special folks who joined The Upper Room’s mission to help people grow in their relationship with God. I’m grateful for Weavings, Alive Now, devozine, and Pockets, and the ways that they shaped generations of children, youth, and adults of all stages.

I celebrate the legacy of the editorial saints whose handwriting I found in the basement of The Upper Room. I praise God for John and Mary Ruth and Rueben. I thank heaven for Janice and Charla, Judy and Willie. “Thank you,” I want say to Mary Lou, Tom, Rita, Kathleen, Bill, Melissa, George, Carol Ann, JoAnn, Jan, Lynn, Sandy, Marilyn, Mel, Nicole, Robin, Deen, Patty, and Eli.

Well done, all of you. Your work and your lives made a difference. Thanks be to God.

Seasons

Dogwood tree in the fall

As I walked the dogs on the first morning of fall, I felt a cool breeze on my cheek. When I looked up, I saw the first autumn leaves swirling in the air. 

This year as I clean up the squash vines and pick the last tomatoes, I’m so aware of the change of seasons in my life. 

For 35 years, my focus has been The Upper Room at 1908 Grand Avenue in Nashville, Tennessee. This ministry and the people who embody it have been an important part of my formation, shaping me into the person I have become. And I am so very grateful. 

On the afternoon of November 30th, we will celebrate my retirement from The Upper Room with a service and reception. [I’ll let you know soon how you can join me online for the celebration.]

I am beginning to wonder, Who will I be when I am no longer a staff person of The Upper Room? What will it be like to wake up on a Monday morning and not go to work? How will I adjust to this new schedule (or lack of schedule)?

I am in the fall of life. Like the plants and trees here in Tennessee, some facets of my life are fading and dying, creating space for the new things that the Holy One will be doing in me. I trust that I’ll find the way gracefully, as so many of you have already done.

I ask your prayers for this transition – both for me and for the staff of The Upper Room. And I’d love to hear from you if you have any tips on entering into the season of retirement.

Blessings and love,
Beth

Notes from Mom in the Innisfree Log

Innisfree, 1950s

One of the treasures of the Colorado cabin is a log that was started by our parents to record the activities of each visit to Innisfree.

Mom wrote the first entry in August, 1957.

Charlie had told us all about Innisfree, but we had to see it to really take it all in. Charlie, Sandy, and I arrived in the Volkswagen, having left the folks in Colorado Springs with fuel pump trouble. They arrived about dark after having some trouble finding the place. We will be forever indebted to the Blanton’s for hamburgers that evening, for we had no supplies.

Our first tour of the Maine building left us wondering where to start. The first night, it was no small job finding places to sleep. There were lots of beds and plenty of cover, but the place had not been occupied by anything larger than a rat for two or three years.

The next morning, we tore into it. I forgot to miss Beth, who was just a few months old and was staying with Aunt Eileen. Mother began to go through the kitchen. She pulled out more jars and coffee cans than could be imagined.

The cabin contained numerous personal items, and we began to realize how dear this place had been to the Smiths, and to other friends who shared memories of times spent here in the mountains. At times, we felt as though we were intruding and trespassing.

Charlie hauled truckloads of bedsteads and other useless utensils to the Exchange – from whence they came, probably, originally.

Charlie and I stayed here a few days [after the folks left] and then returned to Mooreland, then picked up Beth at Norman. 

Marty Richardson, August, 1957
Mom’s 1957 Log Entry

Over the years, Mom, Dad, Grandparents, friends, each of us kids, wrote about our visits in this sacred place.

In these days when everything is so deeply digital, I’m struck by the unique handwriting of each of these individuals. And I find it so comforting to hear that person’s voice as I read the words. While I have been here at the cabin this summer, I digitized the logs from 1957-1983.

The summer of 1983 was the last visit here that Mom made before her death in November from an inoperable brain tumor. I looked specifically for the record of activities from that summer. Mom, Dad, and I were here in July. I recognize the words I wrote in the log that summer. They became a part of my first published article (in Alive Now magazine, 1986).

Images of ritual tying us together with each other and with our past and the past of Innisfree — Trail Ridge Drive, mornings in the kitchen with “Hot Blast,” reading “The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” throwing a rock in the river, feeding the hummingbirds, reading the log, being together and telling and retelling stories.

Beth A. Richardson, July, 1983

And Mom’s last entry in the log …. I wonder if she knew on some level that it would be her last trip to the cabin, her handwriting was so spidery …

I’m still recovering from my second craniotomy (Dec. 10); still suffer absence of strength and equilibrium, but everybody helps. Next year I’ll make up for it. Eleven days is about enough just now. Beth will bus to Nashville on Saturday. The Thomas family is at Martha Ellen’s and a couple from [?], Bill and Maggie at Goodwin’s Riverview. To bed. Charles Crutchfield and in-laws at Echota.

Marty Richardson, July, 1983
Mom’s 1983 Log Entry

This year is the 65th since my folks bought this place — five cabins purchased by five Methodist clergy families. I’m deeply grateful for the gift of this place and for 65 years of relationship with the Goodwins, the Smiths, the Blantons, and the Crutchfields. 65 years of relationship to this land which had a very, very long history before anyone thought to “own” it. 65 years of history in one place is long and rich. I continue to savor each moment in this place where my roots have grown deep.

I leave on Monday to go back to Tennessee and I’ll be back next summer. Until the next time, dear Innisfree. Thank you.

Love Affair with a Shooting Star

I don’t remember when I first fell in love with the wildflower called Shooting Star (Primula sect. Dodecatheon). 

Back in the late 70s, my dad took me to the camera store near Oklahoma City University and bought me my first Nikon. The next time we were at the cabin together, the two of us took our cameras on hikes and recorded images of wildflowers. I remember him searching for the Spotted Coral Root Orchid that bloomed in the summer, usually near the base of a rotting tree. I don’t remember seeing any Shooting Star.

One summer in the 90s I took my first photograph of a Colorado Shooting Star. The patch of flowers was up the canyon a ways, right on the bank of the river. I climbed over a fence so I could get close enough to take a photograph. Each summer I went back to that spot to see if the shooting stars were still blooming there. (No, I did not scale the fence again. Most of the time, the gate was open!) And then I found a little patch of them at the river’s edge right below our cabin. Their eco system, nestled in the base of an old pine tree.

Each time I get here to the canyon, I take a pilgrimage down to the river and visit the shooting stars. 

I admire the flowers for their resilience. They are so beautiful, tender, delicate, tenacious, putting down roots next to a frigid, rushing river. The summer after the flash flood of 2013, I wondered if the flowers would still be there. I found that their tree had fallen, but that enough pine roots were still there to hold together their home. Shooting Star, grass, moss, and ferns. Now they bloom, courageously hanging out over the water.

I love you, my beautiful little Shooting Stars. You give me stability, courage, joy, and hope. May I — may we — be as resilient as you.

Join Me in a Life-Giving Retreat

St. Augustine writes, “You have made us for yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in you.”  In these times of the 24/7 news cycle, the relentless news of disasters and crises, I find myself so very tired. I am finding that the Academy for Spiritual Formation community has become a sort of “church” for me, bringing me grounding, succor, and rest. The Academy experience has been both life-giving and life-changing for me. 

Will you consider joining me for the next session of the 2-year Academy?

The Academy for Spiritual Formation is a holistic experience in Christian formation, framed in the context of worship and intentional community.  Participants journey together for eight, six-day sessions over the course of two years, growing together in wisdom and love.  The rhythm of the day feeds the soul and taps the deep well of God’s grace that sustains our life in the Spirit.  

The next Two-year Academy for Spiritual Formation (Academy #42) begins January 23, 2023 at Camp McDowell, a beautiful Episcopal Conference Center near Birmingham, Alabama. I will be the worship leader for Academy #42. If you join us, we will have the opportunity to journey together during the two years! The rest of the amazing team for Academy #42 Pat Luna (Retreat Leader), Don E. Saliers (Theologian), Robin Dease (Spiritual Director), Derrick Scott (Covenant Groups) and Kathy Norberg (Hospitality).  Please take a look at the amazing faculty that will be joining us.

Please prayerfully explore the website for Academy #42, including the downloadable brochure. Like almost everything worthwhile, the Academy will require a sacrifice of your time, talent, and treasure, but the rewards will indeed be everlasting. Know that I will be praying for you as you discern God’s will for you regarding this exciting opportunity.  

We Have No Words

We Have No Words

We have no words
To express the depths of our grief,
Our sorrow, our outrage, our despair.

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

For parents and grandparents,
Aunts, uncles, siblings, and friends
Who have lost someone
They knew and loved.

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

For first responders
And all those who witness violence firsthand.
For survivors and their loved ones.

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

For all held captive by fear,
And those imprisoned by wounds,
Minds twisted by mental illness and rage.

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

For the leaders of our country and our world,
Who seem powerless to stop the violence
That fills our news feeds,
Our schools, churches, grocery stores …
The public places that used to feel safe.

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Holy One, we stand before you in grief,
In sorrow, in outrage, in despair,
And we cry out …

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

A Prayer for Ukraine

SoulCollage, 5/21/21, Beth A. Richardson

God makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. …
God breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
God says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

God makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. …
God breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
God says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

Psalm 46:9-10, NRSV

God of peace,
Russia has invaded the Ukraine and war seems inevitable.

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.

God of wisdom,
Rain down your Spirit onto the leaders of the world
That they might find a way where there is no way.

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.

God of comfort,
Wrap the grieving ones in your cloak of consolation.

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.

God of courage,
Be present with all those who are in harm’s way.

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.

Amen.


Reposted from UpperRoom.org.