Praying on Behalf the World

Nine of us gathered this morning in The Upper Room Chapel to pray with and on behalf of the world. Two guests from Colorado joined us. We sang, prayed, and lit the first candle of Advent, the candle of peace.

Our candle lighting prayer by Steve Garnaas-Holmes:

Loving God, you are our peace;
prepare our hearts for your coming.
Forge the swords of bitterness into plows of blessing;
till the soil of our souls for your springing forth in us.
Remove our heart’s defensive armor,
clothe us in light alone,
and pierce our wide-open hearts with your love.
By your Spirit in us, may we be at peace:
awake, and ready to welcome your presence.
Amen.

Join me in an online course this Advent. Child of the Light: Walking Through Advent and Christmas.

Getting Ready for Advent

burning candles

Advent’s arriving on Sunday! It’s time to dig out the Advent wreath. (Now, where did I pack that? I’m hoping that I’ve still got a box of unlit candles.)

This year, I’m looking forward to an online course using my first Advent book, Child of the Light: Walking through Christmas and Advent.

“We all need this time of Advent to slow us down, to open our ears to God’s quiet voice, to guide us through the chaos of the consumerist culture that Christmas has become.” Child of the Light provides tools to help you find your quiet center. Our eCourse invites you to find that quiet center with friends old and new. Enter with Beth into readings and reflections inspired by the season’s carols and hymns. Your spirit will be lifted and your mind quieted. The experience extends past Christmas to Epiphany, encouraging you to live into the joy of Christmas beyond seasonal celebrations.

I hope you’ll consider joining us in Child of the Light.

The Gift of Advent

I’ve loved Advent as long as I can remember. And running across this photo of me, face to face with the Nativity set let me see the gift my parents gave me as a young child.

My memories are of our family lighting the Advent wreath together every Sunday. Each child yearned to be old enough to light the candle. Once you could read, there was the Bible passage or that week’s meditation from the Advent booklet. I didn’t love accompanying the family’s Advent hymn on the piano. 😉

When The Upper Room invited me to write a book for the Advent season, I was thrilled. It called back all those memories of the Advent wreath, the candles, the little book, the awkward hymn playing and the singing.

And I am grateful for this gift.

God, open our hearts and the hearts of the world to your hope. Peel back the layers of our stubborn opinions, our fearful assumptions, and let the light of your life-giving spirit enter in. Amen.

The Uncluttered Heart

Advent Hope

I’m sitting here reading about the world’s latest craziness. (What is going to happen next?!?) And I’m wondering where those the nice Advent feelings are that I used to be able locate inside myself. “Maybe, this year, there will be peace.” “Oh, look, there are the signs of hope (or joy, or love).” Right now, I’m not feeling very hopeful.

I remembered something I’d written about hope in The Uncluttered Heart and share it here:

Hope isn’t a simple, sweet sentiment or an unreachable goal. Hope’s a bit risky — it’s not based on and doesn’t rely on some kind of secret-handshake promise from God. Our hoping does not mean that everything will turn out the way we want it to.

Hope is, instead, a spiritual practice, appropriate any time but especially during the season of Advent. We wait and hope for the coming of Christ into the world. We hope even when it doesn’t feel like it’s going to make a difference. We hope because we are children of God, children of hope. …

When we hope, we align ourselves more closely with the God of the Universe — the eternal force of good, of hope and love and peace.

Carry these words in your heart today: I am God’s partner in hope.

From The Uncluttered Heart by Beth A. Richardson. Copyright © 2009 by The Upper Room. Used with Permission.

Uncluttered Heart – Links to Daily Posts

For those of you looking for The Uncluttered Heart … The emails and texts are no longer available. But the content is here — though you will find the dates are wrong. Blessings on your Advent season! – Beth P.S. The book is available in print, EPub, and Kindle formats.

Week One of Advent
First Sunday of Advent – December 1, 2019 – Read reflection.
Monday, Advent Week One – December 2, 2019 – Read reflection.
Tuesday, Advent Week One – December 3, 2019 – Read reflection.
Wednesday, Advent Week One – December 4, 2019 – Read reflection.
Thursday, Advent Week One – December 5, 2019 – Read reflection.
Friday, Advent Week One – December 6, 2019 – Read reflection.
Saturday, Advent Week One – December 7, 2019 – Read reflection.

Week Two of Advent
Sunday, Advent Week Two – December 8, 2019 – Read reflection.
Monday, Advent Week Two – December 9, 2019 – Read reflection.
Tuesday, Advent Week Two – December 10, 2019 – Read reflection.
Wednesday, Advent Week Two – December 11, 2019 – Read reflection.
Thursday, Advent Week Two – December 12, 2019 – Read reflection.
Friday, Advent Week Two – December 13, 2019 – Read reflection.
Saturday, Advent Week Two – December 14, 2019 – Read reflection.

Week Three of Advent
Sunday, Advent Week Three – December 15, 2019 – Read reflection.
Monday, Advent Week Three – December 16, 2019 – Read reflection.
Tuesday, Advent Week Three – December 17, 2019 – Read reflection.
Wednesday, Advent Week Three – December 18, 2019 – Read reflection.
Thursday, Advent Week Three – December 19, 2019 – Read reflection.
Friday, Advent Week Three – December 20, 2019 – Read reflection.
Saturday, Advent Week Three – December 21, 2019 – Read reflection.

Week Four of Advent
Sunday, Advent Week Four – December 22, 2019 – Read reflection.
Monday, Advent Week Four – December 23, 2019 – Read reflection.
Monday, Christmas Eve – December 24, 2019 – Read reflection.
Tuesday, Christmas Day – December 25, 2019 – Read reflection.

Wednesday, Christmas 2 – December 26, 2019 – Read reflection.
Thursday, Christmas 3 – December 27, 2019 – Read reflection.
Friday, Christmas 4 – December 28, 2019 – Read reflection.
Saturday, Christmas 5 – December 29, 2019 – Read reflection.
Sunday, Christmas 6 – December 30, 2019 – Read reflection.
Monday, Christmas 7 – December 31, 2019 – Read reflection.
Tuesday, Christmas 8 – January 1, 2020 – Read reflection.
Wednesday, Christmas 9 – January 2, 2020 – Read reflection.
Thursday, Christmas 10 – January 3, 2020 – Read reflection.
Friday, Christmas 11 – January 4, 2020 – Read reflection.
Saturday, Christmas 12 – January 5, 2020 – Read reflection.

Don Beisswenger – Presente

Since he passed away on Monday, I’ve been thinking with gratitude about the many ways that Don Beisswenger shaped my life. I moved to Tennessee the fall of 1979 after having grown up in my dad’s churches in Oklahoma. Edgehill was the first church I actually chose to join on my own. Don and Joyce Beisswenger were in that church and I’m blessed for it.

I was a disillusioned, impassioned young adult wanting to change the world. I attended a program at Don and Joyce’s house and learned about “liberation theology.” “There is hope for the church,” I thought, and ended up at Vanderbilt Divinity School working on my M.Div. (I signed up for the course on Contemporary Theology and waited in vain for the unit on liberation theology to come along.)

I marched all over town protesting with activists like Don and Hogan Yancey, telling the story of the U.S. War in El Salvador and the martyring of Bishop Oscar Romero. I went to Washington, DC, slept in a church with activists from Jonah House, and stood with others to block the entrance to the Pentagon on the Feast of the Holy Innocents — commemorating the slaughter of the male Hebrew children by King Herod.

Don was in charge of Field Education while I was a Vanderbilt. I interned with social justice groups. And then, needing one more field education unit, I served for a summer with Alive Now Magazine at The Upper Room. I found my vocation during that summer of Field Education. Since I had figured out what I wanted to do — be an editor — I got tired of doing school work. One Sunday, Don mentioned to me, “Hey, Beth, Y’know, the faculty has approved your graduation, pending the completion of your incomplete. I went home from church and finished the paper that day.

But Don’s influence didn’t end there. It was about that time that he and Joyce bought the Cheatham County land that became Penuel Ridge Retreat Center. I count myself fortunate to have been included in the small group of 8-10 of us who walked the land and listened for God’s purpose for that place. I became a part of the “core team” who discerned that the land would become an interfaith place of solitude and retreat, rooted in social action.

For a number of years, then, I lived next door at the retreat center. Don and I built decks together, worked on projects like the construction of The Well, led and attended retreats, walked the trails, and stood around looking at the tractor when it wouldn’t start. (In fact, my mind’s eye sees him sitting on the tractor, that wry smile on his face.)

In 2004, Don served a six-month federal prison term at the age of 73 for his non-violent protest. His book, Locked Up: Letters and Papers of a Prisoner of Conscience was published by The Upper Room. (It’s on my goals, Don, but I still haven’t gotten arrested for a matter of conscience. I’ll keep working on that one.)

Don Beisswenger has joined the communion of saints. Thank you, my friend, for all the ways you influenced, changed, nurtured, and enriched my life. You are present in this world through all of us who were shaped by you.

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.

Feast of the Holy Innocents

A few days ago I held a baby in my arms. I felt my heart shaped and molded into a vessel of love and compassion. I imagined the birth of the Holy Child, the softening of hardened hearts, the world transformed by Christ’s coming.

And then … I remembered the world in which we live: the homeless, the poor, the sick, the vulnerable ones who barely have enough to survive. I remembered those with power, whose hearts never seem to soften.

And today we observe The Feast of the Holy Innocents. When King Herod ordered the murder of all the children in Bethlehem so that he could hold on to his power.

When Herod knew the magi had fooled him, he grew very angry. He sent soldiers to kill all the children in Bethlehem and in all the surrounding territory who were two years old and younger, according to the time that he had learned from the magi. This fulfilled the word spoken through Jeremiah the prophet:

A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and much grieving.
Rachel weeping for her children,
and she did not want to be comforted,
because they were no more.
Matthew 2:16–18

I don’t know what to do with this story, with this world, with the situation in which we find ourselves. I seek wisdom and hope in the midst of it all; and I turn wise ones in various traditions (see the readings below). Where do you turn? What do you pray for? What are you reading?

If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of [their] own heart?
– Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
The Gulag Archipelago

Rather than original sin, there’s original soft spot. The messy stuff that we see in ourselves and that we perceive in the world as violence and cruelty and fear is not the result of some basic badness but of the fact that we have such a tender, vulnerable, warm heart of bodhichitta [a felt need to replace others’ suffering with bliss], which we instinctively protect so that nothing will touch it.
– Pema Chödrön
Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living

“You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you that you must not oppose those who want to hurt you. If people slap you on your right cheek, you must turn the left cheek to them as well. When they wish to haul you to court and take your shirt, let them have your coat too. When they force you to go one mile, go with them two. Give to those who ask, and don’t refuse those who wish to borrow from you.”
-Jesus, Matthew 5:38-41, CEB

I would not look upon anger as something foreign to me that I have to fight… I have to deal with my anger with care, with love, with tenderness, with nonviolence.
– Thich Nhat Hanh, Being Peace