Gun-related violence is leading cause of death for children ages 1-19 in the US. -CDC
Like the frog waking up to her imminent death in a pot of boiling water, We’ve been acclimated to a new reality. One shooting at a time. One headline at a time. One mass murder at a time. Kyrie eleison.
Now we’re waking up to the bad news. Our children, our teachers, our families are dying. We can no longer keep our precious human resources safe from this epidemic of violence. Kyrie eleison.
Let us wake up and take action. Put our bodies on the sidewalks. Add our voices to the chants calling for change. Kyrie eleison.
This week someone asked me about how I experience the divine. I found myself talking about how I connect with the Holy One through creativity.
My “retirement gig” of creating GIFs has been the biggest surprise to me. I was sick with COVID in February and got curious about how GIFs are made.
I’ve been drawing cartoons for fifteen years or so; the last ten years on the iPad using the “Paper” app. These little drawings have been moving (in my head) since I first created them. I delight in bringing them to life for you.
FYI – I have been approved as an official Creator on GIPHY.com and yesterday my account reached a total of 1 Million views. My GIFs are now showing up wherever you can search the GIF database (on your phone, on Facebook, etc. Try searching “Scottie,” “Scottie dogs,” and “Elephants.” Or search for special holidays such as “April Fool,” “Earth Day,” “Cinco de Mayo.”
I began creating SoulCollage® cards as a part of my Spiritual Direction training at Haden Institute. Collage was a new skill for me, so it took me a while to get comfortable with it.
When the pandemic started and my body, brain, and spirit were in crisis, I turned to this activity to help me connect with the Holy One. The activity of cutting and pasting grounded me, allowed my intuitive self to communicate.
Here are a few of my SoulCollage cards.
A question for you: How do you experience the divine?
The news about the school shooting at the elementary school in Nashville today has been so hard. I’ve been wondering what I would say to all of those who are hurting. All those families who lost someone, who know a person who was killed. All the teachers and parents and first responders and pastors and — oh, gosh, all of us who keep realizing with a sinking feeling that we can’t ultimately protect ourselves and our loved ones from the terrible things that sometimes happen in this world.
We had this job here — to learn to love this earth and the people on it. To treat folks the way we would like to be treated. And it feels like that things have gotten away from us and our world is racing along towards disaster.
And here I am, awake in the night. Feeling afraid, alone, full of grief and bewildered about how we got to this place of brokenness.
We are held captive by the false idolatries of the Second Amendment, beliefs in conspiracy theories, a multimillion dollar industry of guns.
And where is the holy one tonight?
God is weeping in a hospital hallway where parents seek their injured or murdered children and loved ones.
God is holding a first responder overwhelmed by the scenes they saw today.
God is sitting beside the bed of every parent who lies awake trying to figure out how to keep their child safe as they go to school, the mall, the movie theatre.
God is reaching out to hold the heart and mind of the one so wounded that this horror gets acted out.
God holds the space between us as we numbly see the news, read the latest statistics.
Have mercy, dear creator of the universe. We are danger of tumbling into the abyss.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.