Slogging through Grief

grief

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.

Jubilee … and Native American Heritage Month

tree
Cottonwood tree at Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site

Repost from Alive Now’s blog.

I don’t know where to start in sharing the thoughts and feelings that swirl around in me. November is Native American Heritage Month. And November is Thanksgiving — a day when many of us celebrate “The story of Pilgrims and Indians coming together to share in the harvest.” And this November is the 150th anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre in Southeast Colorado.

I am so limited by my European-American heritage and blinders. I am a descendent of a conquering force that decimated the people who lived in this country when my ancestors arrived. But I’m wondering, what if our Native brothers and sisters could have had a Jubilee year — when all they had lost could be returned to them from centuries of cruelty, oppression, marginalization, and genocide? Reparation for lost lives, lost lands, lost languages, lost heritage?

I (We) can never, ever, ever make up for the wrongs that have been done to the indigenous people who lived in harmony with this land. The Oklahoma land where my grandmother grew up — “free” land that her father won in a land lottery — taken from the Kiowa and Apache people after the territory of Oklahoma had been promised to be a place for native peoples. The land where my family’s cabin sits in Colorado — “free” land taken from the Arapaho and Comanche people after gold was discovered in the mountains. The land where my house sits — “free” land taken from the Yuchi and Cherokee after the native people of Tennessee were forced to walk the Trail of Tears following the “Indian Removal Act” of 1830.

Last June I participated in a pilgrimage to the site of the Sand Creek Massacre in Colorado. One hundred and fifty years ago on November 29, nearly 200 peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho people were killed on the banks of the Big Sandy River in southeast Colorado in an massacre by U.S. Cavalry troops. The leader of the Cavalry was a Methodist minister. During the days of the pilgrimage, we learned what had happened, listened to the stories of those who were descended from the survivors, prepared our hearts and spirits, and rode together to the site of the massacre.

We walked a hill overlooking the valley where so many had died. A hot wind seemed to carry the cries of the women, children, and old people who had died at the hands of the troops. We listened and learned and prayed and cried. One young adult descendent told us that his people, still today, associate United Methodists with the killers on that day.

There is so much I cannot do to make things right. But here are some things I can do:

  • Learn the stories about the places I live and move. Every place in this land has stories to tell about those who lived here before the Europeans arrived.
  • Listen and bear witness to the truth. It is so easy to ignore what happened, to make excuses. But harm was done and generational trauma continues in the Native American community.
  • Participate in The United Methodist Act of Repentance and Healing with Indigenous Persons.
  • Develop relationships with indigenous people.
  • Sponsor a runner for the Sand Creek Massacre Spiritual Healing Run. On the anniversary of the massacre, runners start from the site of the massacre and run the 180 miles to Denver. The run is a prayer, a remembrance for those who were killed. Sponsorship for one runner costs $500 for travel from Montana, Wyoming or Oklahoma, food and lodging. Gifts of all sizes are welcome.
  • Recognize and accept that repentance is life work.

Creator of all people,
Heal the wounds.
Open our eyes and ears and hearts.
Transform us into people of compassion and justice.
Lead us to true repentance.
We are yours.
Amen.


Photo: Cottonwood tree at the site of the Sand Creek Massacre. Photo by Beth A. Richardson.

Love Your Enemies

Mosaic

This is a repost from the Alive Now blog.

Jesus set such a seemingly impossible standard when he said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5). I’ve been all jumbled up inside since I heard that Osama Bin Laden had been killed. I felt relieved, but also sad. When I saw and heard the crowds of people cheering, I was uncomfortable. I was nervous this American response would stir up even more hatred and violence toward our country. During the night I had strange, disturbing dreams, and I woke up feeling tired and anxious.

I was worried about the current issue of Alive Now on “The Household of God,” in which we hear the voices of people from all over the world, from several different religions all talking about how we are invited to a banquet where God is the host. What if, I worried, there’s a backlash against the magazine because of these current events? (We were aware that the content of this issue would be challenging for some.) Then I remembered how we turn this magazine over to God as we begin to work on each issue, asking for God’s guidance and wisdom as we gather and shape the content. Perhaps, I thought, this issue on “The Household of God” in some way represents what God wants to say to us today.

It makes sense that Osama Bin Laden’s death would bring up emotions. 9/11 was an event of terror that brought trauma to an entire nation. And events such as Bin Laden’s death bring the trauma back as if happened only yesterday. For me, it’s brought back feelings of fear and sadness. I imagine that this event has stirred up a variety of responses in us all, especially for those who were directly affected by the attacks ten years ago and the wars since then.

Those of us who are Christ-followers have the example of Jesus, who set that seemingly impossible standard when he said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44). May the God of love guide us. And may we keep learning how to be Christ-followers, even as we seek our place in the world community.

Blessings,
Beth A. Richardson

 

Photo Credit: © iStockphoto/Thinkstock.

Preparing for Lent

Awkward Season cover

Hi, Friends,

Lent is only a few weeks away. Ash Wednesday falls on March 9th this year. I have some suggestions for a Lenten journey, in case you are still considering the path you will take this year.

The Awkward Season – an online retreat with my friend and colleague, Pamela C. Hawkins. I’ve not written a Lenten book, but I wish I had written this one. 🙂

The retreat will be offered by The Upper Room and BeADisciple.com. It begins on March 9. Cost is $40. You can find out more about the retreat here.

The Gift of Sorrow – The March/April 2011 issue of Alive Now magazine contains a “Guide to Lent” within its pages. You can order single copies of the issue for your use during Lent. Cost of a single copy is $3.95 (if you need 10 or more copies, there’s a 50% discount). Call 1.800.972.0433. (You can order a subscription to Alive Now by calling the number above or ordering online.)

On the Alive Now website “Daily Reflections” assist you in taking some time with God each day. (They are available on the website and also via email.) And beginning on Ash Wednesday, we’ll be adding some additional content to the “Daily Reflections.” One new piece is “Audio Lectio,” a weekly recording of lectio divina using an excerpt of the gospel reading from the lectionary. Come pray the scripture with us.

What IS Lent, Anyway?! — If you’ve got some questions about Lent, I recommend the article, “Lent 101” by Rev. Penny Ford. Here’s a link to the article on the Alive Now website.

Blessings to you as we prepare to walk with Jesus through days of struggle and toward the Resurrection. I hope to see you on the way.

Beth

Whispers of Guidance

Cover of May/June 1987 Alive Now
Cover of May/June 1987 Alive Now -- the first issue I worked on as Assistant Editor

This week I paged the January/February 2011 issue of Alive Now. “Paging an issue” is when the editor sits down with all the potential copy (poems, quotes, scripture, stories, etc.) and the theme (“Living in the Present” — in this case) and decides what goes on what page.

I was trying to get this task finished all of last week and, instead, ended up doing quite a bit of “housekeeping.” I put up pictures in my office, cleaned out files, and alphabetized all the Upper Room books on my shelves. Then on Monday morning of this week, all the chores completed, I faced the task of paging the issue.

I had a bad case of “Editor’s Block.” After working on the web for 14 years, paging a printed copy of a magazine seemed so — permanent. On the web, it’s easy to take something down or change it if you don’t like it. Not in print. What gets published is ink on paper.

I started thinking about wandering around the building and visiting with people. That’s when I remembered Mary Ruth — my boss, mentor,  and editor of Alive Now when I worked there in the 80’s. She must have faced the same thing. When it was time for an issue to be paged, Deen (the Editorial Assistant) and I waited with expectation. Once Mary Ruth completed her task, we had a whole bunch of work to do — picking out photos, typing copy, sending permissions requests, etc. But until she paged the issue, we sat around watching the deadline approach … watching the deadline pass. And where was Mary Ruth?! She was not at her desk! She was off wandering around the building again.

So, now I know … I’ve got a new understanding of Mary Ruth’s “wanderings.” It’s a daunting task to pick what goes into the magazine and on what page it will be seen. It’s a holy moment; a time to be open to the Spirit — listening hard to the whispers of guidance — even as we wander the building, stare out the window, or compete a few housekeeping tasks.

Creating God, guide this task, these choices, that these ideas and words and paragraphs would become instruments of your grace in the form of a magazine. Amen.