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.

Baby Watching

I sit on the floor watching a sleeping child. Three months old, she is a miracle of breath, of tiny hands and feet and eyes and mouth.

How can hearts not be softened by the sight and sound and touch? Perhaps this intent was part of the divine gift. …

That a child would come into the mess of this world. That we who stopped to watch would be forever changed by the sight and touch and sounds of an infant babe.

Come, all you with hearts of stone. Come, all you with spirits of cynicism. Come and see this miracle of breath, of tiny hands and feet and eyes and mouth.

To us, this child is born.

Our Strength, Our Hope

Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art.
-Charles Wesley
“Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus”

Jesus, Child of God, you are our strength, our hope, our comfort, and our consolation. You are, indeed, the hope of the world. Send your strength and healing to every broken place, every despondent heart.

From Child of the Light by Beth A. Richardson. © 2005 by the author. Published by Upper Room Books.

Photo: St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland.

St. Francis and the Blessing of the Animals

Today is the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi. In St. Francis’ “Canticle of the Sun,” he named all of creation as his siblings. We’re celebrating St. Francis today at The Upper Room with a Blessing of the Animals. We’ve invited our friends, families, and neighbors to bring their pet(s) or picture of their pet(s) for a blessing. Those of you close by, we hope you will join us any time between 4 and 6 p.m.

Jack has had a bath and a haircut and will be present at the event. If you would like a blessing (or a head hug) from Jack, he will gladly oblige.

Praise to you, Lord, with all your creatures; and above all to Brother Sun, who makes the day that lightens us. He is fair and shines with a great splendor. Most High, he bears your mark.

Praise to you, Lord, for Sister Moon and for the Stars. In the heavens you have framed them, clear and precious and fair.

Praise to you, Lord, for Brother Wind, for the air and the cloud, for calm and all weather by which you give sustenance to your creatures.

Praise to you, Lord, for Sister Water. Very useful is she and humble and precious and chaste.

Praise to you, Lord, for Brother Fire by whom the night is lightened. He is lovely and limber and lusty and strong.

Praise to you, Lord, for our sister, Mother Earth, who upholds and cares for us, who brings forth the many kinds of fruit, the painted flowers, and the grass. …

Praise and bless the Lord, and give God thanks, and serve God with great humility.

Francis of Assisi
“Song of the Creatures”
Writings of Francis and Clare

Easter

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Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
– John 20:18 (NRSV)


Scripture Readings for Easter Sunday (April 15)

Photo Credit: © Beth A. Richardson. Dogwood bloom outside The Upper Room.

Holy Saturday

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They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. … And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
– John 19:40, 42 (NRSV)


Scripture Readings for Holy Saturday (April 14)

Photo Credit: Photo © Beth A. Richardson. The Pietà by Michelangelo housed in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City.

Premier of “Requiem of Remembrance”

Some of you remember the prayer I wrote called “Some Days Are Very Hard.” I wrote it after a Facebook friend posted a response to one of Jack’s funny posts. She said that she appreciated Jack’s humor because “some days are very hard.” That phrase worked on me until it became the prayer that I wrote and which was included in my book.

I shared that prayer with a choir from Los Altos United Methodist Church in Los Altos, California. At the end of the retreat, T. Paul Rosas, the senior organist for the church, asked if he could use the words in a requiem that he was writing to commemorate the lives of family and friends.

He has completed the first segment of the requiem and it will premier tonight at the church’s Maundy Thursday service at 7:30 PDT.

[Update: 9:20 a.m.] [Update #2 — corrected times: 1:45 p.m.] The service will be live streamed from the church’s website. Tune in at 10:30 pm ET, 9:30 CT, and 8:30 MT 7:30 pm Pacific time. But even if you cannot watch, think and pray about the events of this day and of the premier of this beautiful musical piece “”#4 Dies Irae (Some Days Are Very Hard) by T. Paul Rosas. Thank you, Paul and Los Altos United Methodist Church. I’m deeply honored.

Here’s a video of the prayer that I recorded at Iona last year.