Old Friends and New

a quote from Sarah Parsons about Lent beginning in the wilderness

Years ago when I was editor of The Upper Room’s website, I began collecting my favorite quotes from Upper Room Books and sharing them in the “Seasonal Reflections” emails. These quotes and their authors became friends I relied on when I hit difficult stretches of life.

It was so satisfying to pick out a selection of these “friends” to include in the pages of Walking in the Wilderness. And I was able to add some new favorite quotes and authors from more recent Upper Room publications.

I hope that you also learn to feel that these faithful friends are waiting to share their wisdom with you when you hit life’s difficult seasons.

Here are just a few …

We are invited simply to be with God. … Crawling up in the lap of Love, resting our head against Love’s breast, and taking comfort in that slow, steady heartbeat of grace that says, This is where you belong.
-Roger Owens, What We Need Is Here

God, collect our tears … And pour them back on us as life-giving water!
-Safiyah Fosua, The Africana Worship Book: Year B

Dear God, help us to see that we are more more than our scars.
-Michael W. Waters, Freestyle

Faithfulness is consecration in overalls.
-Evelyn Underhill, Writings of Evelyn Underhill

All things come and all things go over and over again.
-John S. Mogabgab, Weavings

Grief is such a messy thing.
-Roberta C. Bondi, Wild Things

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Lenten Practice

“I never aspired to write a book for the Lenten season. I have always been so much more attracted to the softness of the season of Advent. In fact, I may have been heard to say, ‘I will never write a book about Lent.’ But here I am, writing a book for Lent, this season of wandering in the wilderness.”
-Introduction to Walking in the Wilderness: Seeking God During Lent

As I was considering my Lenten discipline this year, I decided to read my book in a different way. I’m finding that way to be creating a collage each day. This practice is keeping me grounded, letting me hear these words as if they were spoken to me.

Each day’s entry in Walking in the Wilderness includes a quote from an Upper Room author, a scripture reading, a reflection and prayer from me, and a word to carry in one’s heart through the day. As I tear apart the pages of the book, different elements speak to me and arrange themselves on a page.

I offer to you some of these pages. May the Holy One guide you through these days.

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Walking in the Wilderness

More and more in these days of social, political, religious, and spiritual upheaval, I find myself feeling that I have entered an era of exile, wilderness. … I’m not sure exactly when we arrived here. It might have been around the time that the 24/7 news cycle really got going. … Or when our earth began to groan and we could no longer ignore the effects of climate change. … Or when the global crises of rampant xenophobia and overt racism made us cry out. Or when the pandemic arrived.
-From the introduction to Walking in the Wilderness: Seeking God During Lent. Print book or eCourse.

It was over a year ago that I turned in the manuscript for Walking in the Wilderness. I had no idea that by the time Lent 2021 arrived, we would be walking through such a perilous desert.

The path we are traveling is lonely, difficult, heartbreaking. We do not know from day to day what new challenges or disasters that we will hear on the news or confront in our lives. So many of us are stretched to the limit, barely able to keep up with life. And, yet, like the Hebrew people wandering in the wilderness, when we look up, we see that we are not alone. We are a community stuck in the desert together. And the Holy One is traveling with us. Watch for the signs of God’s guidance — the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. Listen for God’s presence in a the quiet of the evening, in a scripture verse or song that brings you to tears, in the voice of a stranger or the laugh of a child. Remember and remind yourself each day that you are God’s beloved. And you are not alone.

I invite you to travel with me through the days of Lent beginning on Ash Wednesday, February 17. Gather a group of soul friends and study the book together. Or join us in an online course.

God makes a way for us through the desert. We are beloved. We are not alone. Thanks be to God.

Walking in the Wilderness: Seeking God during Lent: Print book or eCourse.

Blue Christmas Service

Join us on this day of the winter solstice as we gather for a Blue Christmas service — to give voice to those who are grieving and to remember those whom we have loved and lost. Even in our darkest times, God offers us hope and comfort.

The service is led by Rev. Todd Outcalt, author of Blue Christmas: Devotions of Light in a Season of Darkness, as well as Rev. Beth A. Richardson, Rev. Dr. Jacqui King, Rev. Bryan Tener, and Dylan White. Music by Rev. Dr. Cynthia Wilson, Dr. Diana Sanchez-Bushong, Tim Bushong, and Doc Hall.

The Ruler

I brought home my last load from the office on Wednesday and am starting to unpack and get things situated here at home. Plastic Jesus is sharing a cubby with Grandpa Tom’s wooden ruler.

More treasures from the office — A ruler from the pre-digital printing days.

Who knows how many years this ruler sat in the office of the Assistant Editor at Alive Now. When I arrived there in the 80’s the magazine was still being produced the old fashioned way. We sent the copy to the typesetters (amazing people who could key in strokes faster than anyone). The copy came back to us on really nice paper with the margins already set. These sheets were glued down on large sheets and marked up by the designer. The boards were then photographed and turned into plates that fit onto the printing press.

My job would be to read through the boards before they went to the production department and check the type and the instructions. That’s when I might use the ruler to try to imagine whether black words on an 80% screen of a color would be easy or hard to read.

I’m not remembering which was our first digitally-produced issue of the magazine. For a few years, the magazine was produced sometimes in the old way and sometimes in the new way. By the time the magazine was redesigned in the late 90’s, it was all digital production.

I loved the hands-on tasks of those early days of printing. And I’m so amazed to have gotten to see how much things have changed in technology since I started working at The Upper Room.

I remain deeply grateful for this wonderful work.

Related post: “Saying Goodbye to the Office.”

Saying Goodbye to the Office

So many people have lost so much this year. I’ve been fortunate in many ways. I have kept my job. I’ve not lost any friends or family to this disease. And I’ve even thrived by being able to work from home. When, six weeks ago, we learned that we would be working from home permanently and would need to clean out our offices by the end of the year, the grief of this time of massive change really hit me.

I’ve had an office at 1908 Grand Avenue for over thirty years. As I’ve worked through the process of cleaning out, throwing away, digitizing, and packing, I’ve felt both deep loss and profound gratitude. The people with whom I have worked these years have shaped and formed me. The Holy One has guided my path through the most amazing jobs. I have not reached the end of this journey just yet, but things will never quite be the same again.

I’ve been taking photos of the treasures in my office as a way to help me remember the stories; as a way to help me let go of possessions. I’m hoping to share a few of these photos with you.

This plastic Sacred Heart of Jesus has been with me since before I started working at The Upper Room. It was a gift to me from friends celebrating my calling as I began Divinity School. We were at a camp in Colorado for some days of renewal. We ate together, laughed, and sat up late at night dreaming about how to change the injustices of the church. The presentation of this plastic Jesus to me was a lovely affirmation of my calling — and a reminder not to take myself too seriously.

Jesus has graced a shelf in all of the eight offices I’ve inhabited. Now Jesus will watch over me in my office here at home.

I am grateful.

P.S. Friends, The Upper Room is not closing.   We are just going to be doing our work in a new way. The chapel is closed now because of Covid. Hopefully it will be open again after things are safe again.

God’s Mail Room

computer, candle, coffee

I woke up in the night, worrying
And praying for my candidate to win.
In my heart it feels
Like certain doom
If the other team is elected.

Then I thought about
All the other worrying people
Awake in the night.
Praying as fervently
For their candidate to win
And mine to lose.

What does the Holy One do
With all these earnest, conflicting prayers?

May my prayers
not be sorted
(in the heavenly mail room)
Into bins marked:
“Hopeless cases”
“Addressee not known”
“Features to fix in the next upgrade (Human 2.0)”

But rather
May my prayers be heard and acted on!
May they be filed under:
“Return receipt requested and sent”
“Straight to the Ear of the Creator”
“No worries, God’s got this”

At the end of this day
(or the very long nights to come)
May the Creator have mercy on us …
On our fears,
Our limited imagination,
Our wounded and calloused hearts.

May the Holy One
Crank up healing power
For me, for all of us …
Divided families, communities,
States, nations.

That we might to see and hear,
Know and accept each other
Through eyes and hearts of divine love.

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