Easter Blessing

Bless this day
When light returns,
Love astounds,
Life prevails.

Bless the grieving,
The lonely,
The hungry.
Hope is reborn.

Bless the young ones
And the old.
Bless the enemies
And those despised.

Bless this world,
Gripped by violence.
Peace returns.

God makes a way
Where there was no way.
Christ has risen.
Alleluia.

From my book Christ Beside Me, Christ Within Me: Celtic Blessings. Copyright © 2016 by Beth A. Richardson.

The Place of Our Brokenness

Here in this season of Lent, we are so aware of brokenness in our world, in society, in our relationships, in our selves. And that’s the amazing thing about God’s presence in the world. God transforms the brokenness that we all have … even Christ’s brokenness on the cross.

God, the Great Transformer, the Great Healer, weaves us back together so that the place of our wound, the place of our brokenness becomes the place of our greatest strength.

Watch Video.

To Michael

I came home today and
Starting looking through boxes of photographs.
I was looking for the photo of you and me
At the United Methodist children’s educator event way back when.
The theme was “Peace” and you and I told the story of
Sadako and the 1000 Paper Cranes.

In my mind, the picture shows me, in white face,
Portraying Sadako.
I’m sitting in an old-fashioned wheel chair,
Wearing a hospital gown and surrounded by paper cranes.
You are standing in the background, narrating the story.

I see you in so many of my memories. …

I picture you smiling as I pop into your office —
The only one in the buillding with a rocking chair.

I see you standing at the microphone at annual conference,
The only clergy-person-not-from Edgehill
Speaking out for lgbtq folks.

I picture you sharing your stories
And teaching me how to tell my stories.

I see us preaching at Edgehill on Pentecost Sunday
Both of us wearing albs, weaving the story in two voices.

And then I found it …
Not the picture I had in my mind …
But a hidden treasure from the year
I was welcomed into full-time church ministry.

There I am. There you are.
Your eyes lighting up
As I introduce you to my Grandpa Tom,
The man I’d been telling you about in my stories.

Thank you, Michael.
I picture you and Grandpa Tom sitting on a porch in heaven,
The two of you swapping stories.

You are surrounded by
All the saints who went before.

You are a friend.
You are a blessing.
You are love.

Reverend Michael Williams passed away suddenly on March 19, 2018. We hold all who loved him in prayers and light.

St. Patrick

I’m thinking today of St. Patrick and those holy days in July when we were on pilgrimage in Ireland.

The stained glass window above is in Saul Church, the site of Patrick’s first church. It is the only depiction we saw with Patrick clothed in blue rather than the green we know today.

I wrote this reflection there in that holy place.

St. Patrick, I thought I knew you, the saint of stained glass and mitres, of shamrocks and crosiers.

Today we celebrate your feast day with parades and green beer. But the color of your adopted country is blue. And the old ones took your feast day as a time for abstinence and prayer.

Let me see past the 21st-century Patrick to the Patrick of 432, the man called to return to his place of bondage and bring the word of love.

Let me reclaim your remembrance as a holy time, an opportunity for service to the poor, the hungry, the enslaved. For you once were poor, hungry, and enslaved. Let me reclaim your remembrance with gratitude and humility.

Pray for me. Pray for us, Patrick.

Ashes and Hearts

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Ashes and hearts.
Hearts and ashes.
The convergence of this day of
Sacred and secular.

As if we needed a reminder that
To dust we will return.
We with our bodies showing signs of age …
We with our society exploding?
Imploding?
Teetering on the edge of
We-don’t-know-what?

What is this day,
Then,
Of hearts and ashes?

Ashes of hearts?
Hearts of ash?

From dust you came,
And you will go back to dust.
And, along the way,
There is Love.
Before, behind, beside, within,
There is Love.

Great Lover of the Universe, may there be love … before, behind, beside, within us. Mark us with your love. Amen.

Are You Thirsty? Come to the Water

As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
-Psalm 42:1-2, NRSV

You Are Invited: Join Me in The Academy for Spiritual Formation

I will be serving as worship leader for the upcoming Two-Year Academy for Spiritual Formation at Camp Sumatanga, Alabama. Our first session is August, 2018. In a Two-Year Academy, the community comes together for a week each quarter for study, prayer, worship, silence, laughter … all drinking from the flowing streams of God’s love and grace.

I hope you will consider whether you are being called to join with me on this journey. We have the most amazing leadership team: Pat Luna, Blake Kendrick, Don Saliers, Kathy Norberg, and me. We are very excited about the faculty we have recruited. They include Roberta Bondi, Loyd Allen, Roger Owens, Amy Oden, Grace Imathiu, Barbara Brown Taylor, Luke Timothy Johnson, and Luther Smith. (See the entire list of faculty.)

If you would like to have a conversation with me as a part of your discernment, please reach out to me. I’d love to visit with you about The Academy. Contact me.

My Academy Story

I had worked at The Upper Room for fifteen years before I attended The Academy for Spiritual Formation. I “knew” about The Academy because I worked at The Upper Room. I watched my colleagues, one by one, attend the Two-Year Academy at Camp Sumatanga, Alabama.

When I saw The Academy brochure, it didn’t speak to me. Reading the prospectus just brought back memories of Divinity school: Trying to stay awake as I trudged through text books. The pressure of reading and exams and sitting through lectures.

It was my friend, Jerry Haas, who finally lured me into The Academy for Spiritual Formation. He invited me to attend the Five-Day Academy in Arizona. It was at Picture Rocks Retreat Center — I had never been to Arizona, so the location hooked me. (There will be a Five-Day Academy at this location in 2019.) Additionally, I was excited to meet Flora Slosson Wuellner, one of the faculty presenters. And my friend and colleague, Elise Eslinger, was to be the worship leader.

I attended that five-day experience and fell in love with The Academy for Spiritual Formation. It was nothing like Divinity school. It was nothing like anything I had ever experienced. A few months later, I joined the Two-Year Academy in California in its second week. And the experience nurtured, shaped, and changed me. (Note that there is a Two-Year Academy in California beginning in July, in case Alabama is too far away.)

I discovered a thirst I didn’t even know I had — a thirst for community, for silence, for a daily rhythm of prayer. I discovered a thirst for the Holy One. I count myself fortunate that I was enticed into The Academy experience.

I hope you will listen to the longings of your spirit, your thirsts, your hungers. I hope you will consider whether you are being called to join me on this journey. (Learn more.) Contact me if you’d like to visit about this opportunity.

All Shall Be Well

When you wake up in a fog,
The clouds hiding the sun,
Hiding the hope and the confidence
You used to have.

When the place you are standing
Feels like it tilts at random moments
And you risk sliding into the abyss.

When you are floating
In a pool of wet darkness,
Your foot tethered to a boulder
That pulls you under.

May the bright sun of the universe
Cut through the clouds
And cover you in warmth and light.

May the healer of the heavens and the earth
Wrap you in safety and confidence,
Stand firm beneath your feet,
Hold you up when you feel you are sinking.

May the creator of hope
Tap you on the shoulder
And whisper,
“I’m right here.
And all shall be well.

“You are not alone.
And all shall be well.

“You are mine.
And all shall be well.”