Facing the Holidays This Year

candlesThis year, our holidays — All Saints, Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas — will be different and challenging. I’m grateful to be a part of several events from The Upper Room to comfort you during this difficult season.

  • All Saints Service on November 4, 11:00 a.m. (Central Time). Streaming on Facebook and YouTube.
  • Blue Christmas Advent e-Course. Begins November 29. Learn more.
  • Blue Christmas Service from The Upper Room Chapel on December 21, 11:00 a.m. (Central Time). Streaming on Facebook and YouTube.

All Saints Service
I recently wrote about my saints in an article published on The Upper Room’s website. If you don’t have a church family with whom to celebrate All Saints Day, please consider joining us on Facebook or YouTube for an All Saints service from The Upper Room Chapel on Wednesday, November 4, 11:00 a.m. (Central Time). We will gather together, light candles, and name our saints.

Advent e-Course – Blue Christmas
This Advent will undoubtedly prove to be an unusual one. In the midst of a global pandemic, following a contentious presidential election in the U.S., and in the swirl of racial unrest, we long for a vision of the Holy One.

The Upper Room invites you to join us this Advent as we seek the Light in a season of darkness. Together, we will spend daily time reflecting on the light of the season, gather weekly for online worship, and engage in times of prayer and reflection on scripture. Learn more.

Blue Christmas Service
Join us on December 21, 11:00 a.m. (Central Time) for a Blue Christmas Service in The Upper Room Chapel. Streaming on Facebook and YouTube.

My New Book – Walking in the Wilderness

We may be traveling in the wilderness, but we are not alone. We travel together, holding this sacred space for one another. And the Spirit travels with us into our wilderness journey. “Introduction,” Walking in the Wilderness: Seeking God During Lent

I’m excited to announce that my new book has arrived. Walking in the Wilderness: Seeking God During Lent is published by Upper Room Books and available now from your favorite bookseller.

We may be traveling in the wilderness, but we are not alone. We travel together, holding this sacred space for one another. And the Spirit travels with us into our wilderness journey. “Introduction,” Walking in the Wilderness: Seeking God During Lent

Many voices join mine in guiding us through this perilous season. You will find familiar friends and new ones. Prophets, teachers, and wise ones from whom we hear just right the words. Roger Owens, Juanita Campbell Rasmus, Stephen D. Bryant, Roberta Bondi, Safiyah Fosua, Michael Waters, and many others lend their wisdom.

On the six Sundays of Lent, I offer spiritual practices that I hope will help guide us through these difficult days. These practices are Being Present, Lament, Lectio Divina, Trust, Compassion, and Hospitality.

Blessings to you during this time of chaos and turmoil. Never forget … You are not alone. You are beloved. Thanks be to God.

Listening to One Another

I’m honored to be in a virtual choir for this video by my friends at Rising Violets (Marie McGilvrey and Jenn Franklin).

Marie wrote the song a few elections back after being saddened by the growing division in this country; at the same time, she began receiving daily visits from a Mockingbird pecking on her backdoor window. Mockingbirds have a beautiful birdsong but are known for singing the songs of other birds. This inspired the song about truly listening to one another, seeing the beauty in diversity and the ultimate oneness we all share.

I hope you’ll watch the video and share it with others who might need these words of hope these days.

Blessings,
Beth

Love Is Our Hope

There is this part of me
That, if it were not
For the singing of the Wood Thrush,
Would feel so hopeless.

There is this part of me
That, if it were not
For the beauty of the yellow butterfly,
Would find no joy.

There is this part of me
That, if it were not for
The wild abandon of a puppy’s play,
Would sink deep into despair.

In this long, hard season
Of sickness
Of death
Of isolation
Of injustice and fear …
Where is our hope?
Where is our joy, our purpose, our anchor?

Our hope comes from each other.
Though we are apart,
We are woven together in the fabric of love.

Our hope comes from within,
From the heart of courage
That beats inside each living being.
From the essence of the Holy One, Knit into our spirits
Before we were imagined.

Our hope comes from the One
Who said that nothing.
Nothing.
Nothing in all creation
Can separate us from Love.

Love.
Love is our joy,
Our purpose,
Our anchor.

Love.
Love is our hope.

Summer Art Market – Purple Elephant Wisdom

Purple Elephant Wisdom Cards

I have contributed several items to the Virtual Summer Art Market at Art & Soul in Nashville, TN. (Art & Soul is an artist’s co-op which supports the arts and creative expression. We offer a variety of classes in a welcoming and inclusive space.)

At the market, you’ll find a fantastic variety of artwork, jewelry, leather handbags, photography and notecards representing thirteen local Nashville artists. I’ve offered several collections of my Purple Elephant Wisdom Cards. You’ll find sets of five or ten assorted elephant wisdom cards, packs of five wisdom cards mounted on colorful card stock (with envelopes), and a full set of 36 deluxe wisdom cards. (Learn more about the Purple Elephant Project.)

The Summer Art Market will be open through August 1. Visit SummerArtMarket.com and support the studio and local artists. We have set a pickup date and location for Sunday, August 2 from noon – 4 at the parking lot of Art & Soul in Nashville. If any purchases are from out of town, you will be able to contact info@summerartmarket.com, and each artist will contact you directly to arrange shipping.

JJ’s Week of “Firsts”

puppy in pink towel
First portrait of JJ, the new Scottie puppy

One week ago today, we picked you up from your birthplace.
We met the humans who brought you into this world.
We met your mom (Shannon), your dad (MacGregor), and your siblings.

Then you took your first ride in the car,
Had had your first portrait made,
Spent your first night away from your family.

It has been a week of firsts …
First going to sleep alone in a crate.
First breakfast.
First thunderstorm.
First trying to pee in the rain.
First visit to The Vet.
First time to meet Arya.

We heard your first bark (at Arya),
Watched your first frenzied play that collapsed into a nap,
Laughed at your first romp with each new toy.

You, with your yips and growls,
Your ferocious energy and warm cuddliness,
Your puppy eyes and ears and feet and nose …
You have frolicked your way solidly into our hearts.
And we are grateful for you.

Bless to me this puppy.
His waking and sleeping,
His eating and playing,
His eyes and ears,
His sharp little teeth.
Bless to me the joy he brings —
Bless to me this puppy.

Jack and the Rainbow Blessing

collage of rainbows

We drove east out of Nashville
On a pilgrimage to pick up JJ.
(“JJ,” “Junior,” “Jack, Jr.”)

As we traveled,
A rainbow hung in the sky above us.
Mile after mile after mile,
We watched it curve through the sky.

What a joyful sign!
From you, dear Jack?

And then, a double rainbow …
And we knew that your spirit was traveling with us.

You …
And all the company of furry, winged saints
Were singing a blessing for the tiny pup
Joining our family.

Bless this new life.
Bless this family.
Bless this home.

Bless the leashes and the bowls.
Bless the beds and bless the toys.
Bless the treats, especially … bless the treats.

Bless this pup,
His eyes and ears and feet and tail.
Bless his friends,
Dog and cat and bird and squirrel.
Bless each step that he will take.
Each car ride, to the park and to the vet.

Bless the love.
Bless the laughter.
Bless the tears.
Bless this pup.
Every day of his life.


Today we pick up JJ, a nine-week-old, black Scottish Terrier. He was born at the White Shadow Ranch near Asheville, NC. Pictures will be coming soon.

Quickly

May there be no breach in the walls, no exile,
and no cry of distress in our streets.
-Psalm 144:14

Holy One, the walls have been breached.
Your people are crying,
and we are in exile in our own land.

What is this place where we now live?
Hate marches down city streets at the noon of day.
Abusers walk the halls of justice and power.
Children are stripped from their mothers’ arms and sleep in cages at the border.

Holy One, where are you today?
The evildoers hold the fortresses of power.
The exploiters of the poor grow in their wealth.
Your little ones languish in despair.
Calls of distress go ignored in the streets.

Where is our hope?
Where is our rescuer?
Come quickly, God of Compassion
Come quickly to save us.

This is my conversation with Psalm 144:14 from the Pilgrim Press Book, The Words of Her Mouth: Psalms for the Struggle. Image by David Ramos on Unsplash.com.

Counting Time

When life has slowed,
And days run into days run into days
I count my time in dog walks and cups of coffee.
I watch the plants,
Reaching toward the sun
Offering beauty …
Blooming, fading, dying away.

When life has slowed,
I count my interactions in phone calls and Zoom windows.
I imagine seeing you,
Our arms thrown around each other in love.
How long until that day?

When life has slowed,
And loss builds upon loss.
We grieve in isolation
Far from comforting rituals.
Wakes and potlucks,
Shared tears and handkerchiefs.
The quiet words of a familiar reading, a favorite song.
The gathering of the family from far and near.

When life has slowed,
And days run into days run into days.
We count the time in sunrises and sunsets,
Breaths in and breaths out.

When life has slowed,
Breathe. Listen. Trust. Love.
We are not alone.

I Remember You, Grandpa Tom

Grandpa Tom and me

I remember you, Grandpa Tom.
Resilience forged in World Wars and dust bowls.
Kindness shaped by love and generosity.
Faith cultivated in times of struggle and uncertainty.

You grew vegetables in the back yard,
Three rotated crops,
Food harvested from March to November.
That was the way your people survived.

The garden — a statement of faith
In the One who created the seeds, the sun, the rain.
The garden you called your “Fitness Center.”

In these days of pandemic, I remember you.
Your resilience, your kindness, your faith.

I think of you, at the end of my day, when I put on my work clothes
And walk out the door to my “Fitness Center.”
Trimming bushes, sowing seed, spreading mulch.
Hoping that I, too, in this time of challenge
Might be a person of resilience, kindness, and faith.