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.

The Great Backyard Bird Count

This weekend was “The Great Backyard Bird Count.” I pulled out my binoculars, bird book, and piece of paper to write down all the birds I saw.

I started watching birds at 11:00 a.m. The first minute or so, my mind swirling with busyness, I didn’t know how long I would last. And then I started noticing the birds … and my mind slowed down. “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly [Parent] feeds them” (Matthew 6:26, NRSV). These words from Jesus calmed my thoughts.

The Tufted Titmouse was the first bird I saw at the feeder. And then a Chickadee. These birds swooped in, grabbed a seed, and then flew back to a branch to eat it. A Robin was working her way through the berries on the cedar tree. In another cedar, a pair of Purple Finches were eating bugs from beneath the bark. House Finches, Goldfinches, Nuthatches, all took turns. And then the Red-bellied Woodpecker took over the feeder.

A Red-tailed Hawk flew into the yard and perched near the top of the tree to do some preening. The little birds took a break from the feeders until the hawk moved on.

I stopped watching at 11:30 a.m. Like the birds, I was grounded in the present moment. Grateful for birds and sky and binoculars; grateful to the Creator who made us all.

And — it’s not to late to count some birds … the Bird Count goes through February 21.

There Is a Season

“For everything there is a season.”
-Ecclesiastes 3:1, NRSV

I’m excited to announce that I’ll be retiring from The Upper Room at the end of 2022. I plan to stay here in Nashville and learn what retirement looks like for me.

I’ll be welcoming the Rev. Dr. Amy E. Steele who will begin work at The Upper Room as Dean of The Upper Room Chapel and Executive Director of Program Ministries. (I will be serving in an emeritus role with the Chapel.) I hope to dedicate this coming year to documenting content from our out-of-print magazines: Alive Now, Pockets, Weavings, and devozine.

I’m looking forward to time for creativity, worship-leading with The Academy for Spiritual Formation, and just hanging out.

I covet your prayers as I discern how to “finish well” and as I cross this threshold into the next part of my journey.


Artwork by Beth A. Richardson: “The Rabbit,” SoulCollage from 6/21/21.

My Dream Job

Thirty five years ago today – December 1, 1986 – I started my dream job at The Upper Room. And, thirty five years later, I am still serving in an Upper Room dream job.

While in divinity school, I had the opportunity to work for Alive Now magazine during a summer field education placement. That was the summer I fell in love with editing. I couldn’t imagine working anywhere but Alive Now, so I did freelance editing and housecleaning for two years until the Assistant Editor job came open. I applied, and a year later I was hired!

I worked with Alive Now for ten years. In 1997, I had the opportunity to become the editor of The Upper Room’s first website. After thirteen years in digital publishing, I journeyed back to Alive Now as managing editor, helping, also, to oversee the production of Weavings Journal. These last five years, I’ve served as the director of prayer and Upper Room worship life and Dean of The Upper Room Chapel.

I’m grateful to the staff of The Upper Room for teaching me, nurturing me, forming me. I would not be who I am today if it were not for those Saints, living and dead, who shaped my life. Rueben Job, Mary Ruth Coffman, Janice Grana, Judy Smith, John Mogabgab, Michael Williams, Hoyt Hickman, Mary Lou Redding, Marjorie Thompson, Deen Thompson, and so many more.

I am grateful, today, and each day, for waking up, going to the office, and working for my Upper Room dream job.

Advent

Picture of an Advent wreath

It’s about time to order your Advent candles and choose your Advent spiritual practices.

I offer several suggestions for your consideration.

So … blessings upon you in this season of light!

Healing from Trauma

Many of you know that I am a survivor of childhood trauma. When I got to the point of being ready to face what had happened to me, I had the privilege of receiving lots of help from my community and from professional helpers. (I’m grateful!)

On this side of the healing journey, I can see that this terrible experience helped shape who I am today — and created in me the gifts that I give the world. I can see the presence of the Holy One who took those wounds and made them into strengths that I can offer to others who have gone through trauma. I believe that God takes our wounds and transforms them for the sake of the world.

This is why I’m so excited about The Upper Room’s upcoming event: RESILIENCE | Healing Practices for Mind, Body, and Spirit. We’ll be hearing from experts around the world who will share the wisdom that they’ve gained in the areas of trauma and the healing of trauma.

I’m especially looking forward to sharing with you the conversation between Rev. Trevor Hudson and Rev. Sidwell Mokgothu, both from South Africa, both present and active during that country’s long journey from Apartheid to post-Apartheid healing. We’ll also hear from Rev. Dr. Ron Bell on the body’s responses to trauma. Rev. Dr. Amy Steele will offer us biblical narratives and a theological framework for understanding trauma. I’ll be the worship leader for this event.

The retreat is virtual — you can attend from your home or wherever! And if you cannot be present for the retreat — or if you miss any sessions — recordings will be available following the end of the retreat.

We’ve got a $15 discount for you. Just use the code FRIEND15 when you register. I hope to see you there as we work through our individual and collective traumas.

Learn more or register: UpperRoom.org/resilience.

When the World Seems So Broken

Birds

These mornings, when the world seems so broken,
I skip the news and social media.

Instead, I go outside and contemplate the sky …
Morning dawning in the firmament.

I watch the creatures around me
Doing creaturely things:
Hopping, flying, walking, breathing.

I am, in my little life,
Part of a great, still-beautiful world.

I breathe myself into union
with the One who is never broken.