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 2, 2018 – Read reflection.
Monday, Advent Week One – December 3, 2018 – Read reflection.
Tuesday, Advent Week One – December 4, 2018 – Read reflection.
Wednesday, Advent Week One – December 5, 2018 – Read reflection.
Thursday, Advent Week One – December 6, 2018 – Read reflection.
Friday, Advent Week One – December 7, 2018 – Read reflection.
Saturday, Advent Week One – December 8, 2018 – Read reflection.

Week Two of Advent
Sunday, Advent Week Two – December 9, 2018 – Read reflection.
Monday, Advent Week Two – December 10, 2018 – Read reflection.
Tuesday, Advent Week Two – December 11, 2018 – Read reflection.
Wednesday, Advent Week Two – December 12, 2018 – Read reflection.
Thursday, Advent Week Two – December 13, 2018 – Read reflection.
Friday, Advent Week Two – December 14, 2018 – Read reflection.
Saturday, Advent Week Two – December 15, 2018 – Read reflection.

Week Three of Advent
Sunday, Advent Week Three – December 16, 2018 – Read reflection.
Monday, Advent Week Three – December 17, 2018 – Read reflection.
Tuesday, Advent Week Three – December 18, 2018 – Read reflection.
Wednesday, Advent Week Three – December 19, 2018 – Read reflection.
Thursday, Advent Week Three – December 20, 2018 – Read reflection.
Friday, Advent Week Three – December 21, 2018 – Read reflection.
Saturday, Advent Week Three – December 22, 2018 – Read reflection.

Week Four of Advent
Sunday, Advent Week Four – December 23, 2018 – Read reflection.
Monday, Christmas Eve – December 24, 2018 – Read reflection.
Tuesday, Christmas Day – December 25, 2018 – Read reflection.

Wednesday, Christmas 2 – December 26, 2018 – Read reflection.
Thursday, Christmas 3 – December 27, 2018 – Read reflection.
Friday, Christmas 4 – December 28, 2018 – Read reflection.
Saturday, Christmas 5 – December 29, 2018 – Read reflection.
Sunday, Christmas 6 – December 30, 2018 – Read reflection.
Monday, Christmas 7 – December 31, 2018 – Read reflection.
Tuesday, Christmas 8 – January 1, 2019 – Read reflection.
Wednesday, Christmas 9 – January 2, 2019 – Read reflection.
Thursday, Christmas 10 – January 3, 2019 – Read reflection.
Friday, Christmas 11 – January 4, 2019 – Read reflection.
Saturday, Christmas 12 – January 5, 2019 – 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.