A Season of Blooms

In this season of blooms,
The hard work
Of birthing, growing, transformation,
Forgotten in the moment of metamorphosis.

God’s miracle of creation
Illustrated in color,
In delicate arrangement
Of petal, pistil, stamen,
Proclaiming life.

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One who created me,
Who shaped me before I was born,
Be in my heart, my mind,
Be in my voice, my hands,
As I step into this new job.
I am yours.

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This week I began a new position at The Upper Room: Director of Prayer and Upper Room Worship Life. I continue to mourn the loss of Weavings and Alive Now, but I remain grateful for the ways these publications shaped me and live on in the person I have become.

A Season of Grieving

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Today it happened. The [last] issue of Alive Now arrived. I read the Managing Editor’s introduction inside the front cover and the “Last Page” — fittingly a poem by frequent-contributor Jan Richardson — as I always do. Then I set it aside. I will savor it in its own time, during March and April. Recently I received a refund check from Upper Room Ministries [PO Box 340004, Nashville TN 37203] for the balance of my subscription. I send the check back with a note that I would MUCH PREFER having Alive Now than any refund. I asked them to look for a way to restore Alive Now as a living devotional guide. I have walked with this publication for more than two decades. The cover has a Celtic look. Beautiful. Thank you, Beth and other editors, writers, supporters.
-Deborah, Shared on Facebook

It was a year ago in January when we learned that the Weavings journal would be brought to a close. The subscriptions had dwindled down to just a few and income from subscriptions didn’t begin to cover the costs of production. In June, we made the same determination for Alive Now. The last Weavings — November/December/January — arrived in people’s homes in October. The last Alive Now — March/April — is in the mail right now.

Since the first of this year, I’ve slogged through days like I was trying to walk through an ocean. I was weighed down by my grief and the grief of readers, world-wide.

I have nearly completed all the tasks of “stopping.” I realize, now, that it has been like journeying with two best friends in the process of their dying. Alive Now and Weavings, in hospice care, are nearing the ends of their journeys.

I am so grateful that I had these two friends for so long. And I’m so sad to see them go. But I’m weary from the process of watching them end, from responding to the grief of myself and others. From taking care of the last collection of articles, the last editing, the last contracts and check requests, the last printing, the last delivery of the copy to the office. I am nearly finished with the last of everything … and I’ll be able to turn over the future of these fine publications to the movement of the Spirit and the creativity of The Upper Room staff.

I’m so grateful to all of you for walking with me, for your incredible loyalty through the years, for your writing and your photography. For your purchasing and your gifting. For your support and enthusiasm. And for your feelings of loss, your solidarity, during this season of grieving.

We will be conducting a ritual of honoring and releasing Weavings on February 21 at 2:00 p.m. (CST). I hope you will think of us during that time. Also, we have back issues of Weavings available for sale for a short time. (And we have a place for you take a survey and share your stories of Alive Now.)

Thank you all for your support. We at The Upper Room welcome your prayers as we discern our next steps. And I’ll be moving on to a new role at the office. And, like Julian of Norwich reminded us, “All shall be well. And all shall be well. And all manner of things shall be well.”

Thanks be to God for these two friends, Weavings and Alive Now.

Thirty Years

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Thirty years ago today I joined the staff of The Upper Room as assistant editor of Alive Now magazine. I was awarded the generous, extravagant, unheard-of salary of $15,000 per year, after which I went out and bought a car.

How can I adequately express my gratitude for these years of formation, of shaping and nurturing my being?

To my Saints, living and passed on to the eternal, I give great thanks. To Mary Ruth, John, Rueben, Hoyt, Laura, Moses, Joyce, Henri, Dorothy, Julian, Hildegard, Dietrich, and so many more. To Deen, Stephen, Marjorie, Michael, Janice, Judy, Bill, Don, Jerry, Trevor, Vance, Flora, and too many to name.

For retreats and prayer times. For brainstorming sessions and staff training. For laughter and tears. For parties and chapel services. For writing and editing and copy sessions. For print resources and for digital expressions. For immersion in creativity, undergirding our passion to help people grow in their relationships with God.

I see myself 30 years ago, and then I look at myself today. I write and talk and think — and don’t remember how I learned the things I know. I know many ways to prayer. I know the wisdom of Christian mystics. I know the ever-increasing hungers for sacred ways of living. I have stayed in this place and been gifted with a culture that values and embraces and teaches these things.

This thirty years — my post-graduate work in Christian spirituality. My Ph.D. in the Christian Life. My apprenticeship in growing closer to God.

In the words of Dag Hammarskj√∂ld: “For all that has been — Thanks. For all that will be — Yes.”

Slogging through Grief

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Yesterday I sent the last issue of Alive Now to the production department. Its publication date is March/April 2017. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been proofreading, getting final sign-offs, sending corrections to the designer. Each task has brought me one step closer to the end of this publication that has been like a dear friend and mentor to me.

I’m grieving, heart-sick. In this one year, I’ve closed two beloved publications: Weavings and Alive Now. These two resources have been a part of my life for over 30 years. It’s like losing best friends. Alive Now was the place of my first published writing. In the Alive Now office under the care of Mary Ruth Coffman, I fell in love with words, with editing, with the spiritual life. Mary Ruth, John Mogabgab (editor of Weavings), and many others mentored and guided me on this path, setting the course of my career as an editor, writer, leader, mystic.

I will be a part of shaping what is next for The Upper Room as we seek to serve these audiences in new ways. But right now, I’m too heart-sick to think about that. I guess it’s like trying to replace a beloved pet with a new puppy or kitten. I’m just not finished with the grieving part.

Many of you are also grieving the closing of these two publications. I’ve been hearing from you. I have a request: If you have been touched by one or both of these publications, please help us as we discern the future.

  1. Fill out a survey for Alive Now and/or Weavings, telling us a bit about yourself and your needs.
  2. Join our email list (at the links above) so that we can keep in touch and we can let you know when we have new resources available.
  3. Tell us your stories about Alive Now and Weavings — how we met and how you have used the publication.

Thank you for being a part of our journey. Please help us share the word about our research and continue to pray for us as we develop new resources for those who are hungry for a sacred way of living.

Advent Practice and Hashtag Prayer

  
Alive Now, one of the publications I edit, has been participating in an Advent practice of “praying with your camera in your hand,” or praying with your eyes – Visio Divina

We’ve shared the graphic (above) with the words for each day and invited people to see, pray, hashtag, and share. Churches and people all over the world are observing Advent together in this way. Even a church in Jerusalem!

I’ve been teaching the use of hashtags and how to use them. “Tag your photos by typing in the hashtags #AliveNowMag and #adventphoto. Then click on the hashtag to see and pray the photographs of others.”

There is still plenty of time and need for Advent practice. This time of Advent starts to speed up and some sort of practice of stopping, praying, and listening is more important than ever. 

Visit my Facebook page, follow me on Twitter, or search for me on Instagram and pray with all of us these last days of the season of preparation. 

Blessings,
Beth

On Injustice, Advent, and Jubilee

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Repost from the Alive Now blog.

I was standing on the street visiting with an African-American friend when a car containing mutual acquaintances pulled up about ten feet from us. The folks in the car motioned for me to walk over to their window to talk with them. I won’t go into the details of what happened, but when they drove away without acknowledging the presence of my friend on the sidewalk, I realized that I had been given the gift of glimpsing the racism that he sees, experiences, and lives every day. In those awkward moments after they drove away, we stood in silence. I finally said, “Well, that was rude.” And then I had a further gift. The barrier was breached, and we were able to talk for just a few minutes about his experiences of being a person who is treated differently from me because of the color of his skin.

In this world, in this time, when there is so much hurt, so much injustice, so much anger and despair, I still live in a place of privilege, protected from the small and large slights, injustices, and downright dangers of looking different, of being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Jesus came to bring release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind. That’s the message of Jubilee, the message of Advent — and I’m mostly on the privileged side of that equation. Most of the time, I’m the free one rather than the captive. Most of the time, I don’t see the daily injustices of racism and classism that oppress persons of color or those who live below the poverty line. It’s uncomfortable, but not as uncomfortable as the fear of a mother who, when her black son leaves the house, prays that he will come home again safely. It’s not as uncomfortable as a community who feels threatened by the very system created to protect it.

I pray for wisdom to know how to be a Christ-follower today — in this place and in this time. To live faithfully and with courage. To be God’s heart and hands in the world. To have the opportunity to speak truth, to acknowledge that things are not right. To be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. I want to make a difference in this hurting world. And I wonder, how can we be prophets, healers, followers of Christ when a world of hurt, injustice, and anger is boiling over.

Break into this world, God of Light.
Open our shuttered eyes, shuttered life,
to the stories of injustice.
Open our locked-up hearts
to your spirit of love and compassion.
Give us courage to speak truth to injustice.
Guide us as we seek to be bearers of hope
in places where there is no hope,
Bringers of comfort where there is despair,
Sources of courage where there is only fear.
Come quickly, Emmanuel.
Amen.

Share with me your hopes and dreams, your thoughts and actions.