To Michael

I came home today and
Starting looking through boxes of photographs.
I was looking for the photo of you and me
At the United Methodist children’s educator event way back when.
The theme was “Peace” and you and I told the story of
Sadako and the 1000 Paper Cranes.

In my mind, the picture shows me, in white face,
Portraying Sadako.
I’m sitting in an old-fashioned wheel chair,
Wearing a hospital gown and surrounded by paper cranes.
You are standing in the background, narrating the story.

I see you in so many of my memories. …

I picture you smiling as I pop into your office —
The only one in the buillding with a rocking chair.

I see you standing at the microphone at annual conference,
The only clergy-person-not-from Edgehill
Speaking out for lgbtq folks.

I picture you sharing your stories
And teaching me how to tell my stories.

I see us preaching at Edgehill on Pentecost Sunday
Both of us wearing albs, weaving the story in two voices.

And then I found it …
Not the picture I had in my mind …
But a hidden treasure from the year
I was welcomed into full-time church ministry.

There I am. There you are.
Your eyes lighting up
As I introduce you to my Grandpa Tom,
The man I’d been telling you about in my stories.

Thank you, Michael.
I picture you and Grandpa Tom sitting on a porch in heaven,
The two of you swapping stories.

You are surrounded by
All the saints who went before.

You are a friend.
You are a blessing.
You are love.

Reverend Michael Williams passed away suddenly on March 19, 2018. We hold all who loved him in prayers and light.

A Blessing of the Empty Space

I pulled this blessing out of my book. I’m needing it today on this anniversary of my dad’s death. Bless all who mourn today.

You sit in the empty place that is left,
After the death, the arrangements, the service,
The cards and calls and e-mails,
The departure of family,
The thank-yous and acknowledgments.

Left with the emptiness,
The space that can never be filled
In quite the same way.

You see a shadow, hear a sound,
Taste a food they used to love,
Start to tell them something about your day,
Smell a blanket or sweater,
And your eyes and heart fill with tears.

The first week, the first month, the first birthday,
The first holiday, the first anniversary,
These bring you to the place of remembering,
The place of exquisite, lonely sorrow.
Bless you and your memories.
Bless the tender heart that beats within you.
Bless the empty space that can never be filled.

The shadows, the smells, the tastes, the thoughts,
Transform their pain into blessings,
Signs that though you live in that desperately empty place,
Your loved ones accompany you,
Laugh in the shelter of your heart.

The empty place
That can never be filled
In quite the same way
Is filled
With love.

From Christ Beside Me, Christ Within Me: Celtic Blessings by Beth A. Richardson. Copyright © 2015 by the author. Published by Upper Room Books. The picture is of my parents and me.

Honoring and Releasing Weavings 

Join your spirits with us today as we celebrate, honor, and release Weavings: A Journal of the Christian Spiritual Tradition. We will be worshipping at 2:00 p.m., Central Time, at The Upper Room in Nashville.

As the sun rises, I walk the dogs
And think of the Weavings Journal,
How it formed me and so many others.

Today we hold a service of worship
To honor and release Weavings.
We will gather around the table of the Lord.

The table holds icons and symbols.
It holds bread and cup.
It holds a copy of the last issue of Weavings
Already in the homes of readers.

“Keeping the Door Open for the Holy” is the theme of this last issue.
That’s what we are doing as we honor and release this friend.
We are listening for the Holy One
To show us the open doors of our future.

Thanks be to God for the gift of Weavings: A Journal of the Christian Spiritual Tradition.

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.

Grief

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Grief sneaks up on me,
cunningly disguising itself
so I can’t see it coming.

Or maybe I see through its costumes
and just don’t want to accept
that it’s still here,
dragging at the corners of my spirit,
masking the colors around me,
dimming my hope, my joy.

I don’t want to be sad
when the world is so shiny with tinsel
and the music calls for holiday cheer.

And then, finally,
I turn toward grief
and open my heart.

Grief and I embrace,
weeping,
into the night.

Thinking of Dad

Charlie, c. 1957

I am thinking of you today, Dad,
On this day when you crossed through the thin space
To join the saints who had preceded you:
Mom, Holt, Ida Mae, Bill …

You had been leaving us for a long time
As bits and pieces of your memory slowly slipped away.
“A blessing, really,” is what we all said of your passing.
But that did not take away the grief that we felt.

I remember the first time you did not remember who I was.
We were having dinner at the kitchen table.
You had been looking at me, and then
You finally asked me who I was.
I said, “I’m your daughter.”
You turned to Anna to see if it was true.
She said, “Yes. That’s your daughter.”
“I have a daughter?” you said in surprise.
But you took it all in as I told you who was:

Beth, your daughter.
Writer of books and liturgy.
Singer of songs.
Clergy in The United Methodist Church.
Worker at The Upper Room.
(You remembered The Upper Room.)

You were so happy
That you had a daughter.
So proud of who I had become.
And I was so happy
At your delight.

And so, we started our new ritual
Carried out in person, on the phone,
In which I would introduce myself to you
And you would be surprised … delighted!

And I was blessed with your love, your happiness,
And your affirmation
Over and over and over again.

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.