A Clematis Love Story

  
For ten years
I had broadcast love
To the purple clematis
Climbing the mailbox
At Ace, the bird dog’s house.

I watched for it to sprout,
To grow, to bloom.
I took pictures of its beauty.

Then I realized
That I could plant my own.

The first plant
Went in the ground
Late in the year
And was overmulched
The next spring.

The second plant
Never got put into the ground
And died in its pot
Over the winter.

And now, finally,
There is a beautiful, purple clematis
In my garden
To which I can broadcast love,
And tend and watch,
Photograph and share.

Clematis mystery,
Clematis beauty,
Clematis love.

This Tree

  
This tree,
My companion
In the front yard.

You are the filter
Through which I watch
The winter sky.

Sunrises, stars,
The sliver of a moon
In the pre-dawn light.

Some may call you bare.
I see the beauty of
Your shape,
Your branches, strong,
The witness that winter
Is not dead.
It brings a time of reflection,
Of seeing through other filters.

And now, with Spring,
You sprout new life.
You tell an Easter story,
That death has no power.
Resurrection changes all.

 
 
Find more of my prayers in my book Christ Beside Me, Christ Before Me: Celtic Blessings.

The Color of Memory

I wait each spring,
watching the buds grow
on Grandpa’s peony,
flown from Oklahoma to Tennessee, 
tucked in a plastic grocery bag
when I came home from his funeral.

These fuchsia petals,
these golden stamens,
these rich green leaves,
are the colors of memory.

Grandpa carrying in a bucket
of yellow sweet corn,
giant red tomatoes,
and fuzzy green okra.

Grandpa planting in black earth,
Oklahoma red clay
coaxed into fertile soil
by years of care and compost.

Grandpa in crimson on game day,
in dark suit on Sunday morning,
in carpenter khaki off to work.

Grandpa in my heart, in my mind.
Grandpa love, Grandpa wisdom.
Grandpa always present, steady
like the peony bloom
that opens every spring.

Thank you, Creator.
Thank you, memory.
Thank you, Grandpa.

 
 
Find more of my prayers in my book Christ Beside Me, Christ Before Me: Celtic Blessings.

You, O God!

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Let my prayer stand before you like incense; let my uplifted hands be like the evening offering.
– Psalm 141:2 (CEB)

You, O God!
You paint the sky with our prayers.

You, O Great Gardener!
You coax forth delicate buds and blooms.

You, O Mighty One!
You bend your ear to our laments, our praises.

You, O Gentle Spirit,
You delight in creatures great and small.

Shelter us with your love.
Enliven us with your passion.
Kiss us with your peace.

You, O God! You!
Praised be your name.
Amen.

 
 
Find more of my prayers in my book Christ Beside Me, Christ Before Me: Celtic Blessings.

Welcome, Spring

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Long nights and cold days
Fallow fields and dormant trees
A lenten journey of the inner world

I open my eyes and see
Light. Warmth breaking through

Promise of new life
Coming out of death
Resurrection

Welcome, beauty
Welcome, buds
Welcome, newness
Inside and all around me

You, God, source of Hope
Source of Healing
Source of Life

Welcome, welcome
Make your home in me


Photo by Beth A. Richardson. Tulip tree bloom with the windows of The Upper Room Chapel in the background.

 
 
Find more of my prayers in my book Christ Beside Me, Christ Before Me: Celtic Blessings.

Jack and Friends

JackI love Spring. I love pups. And I love taking pictures. Here are pictures from photo shoots this spring with Jack and his good buddies, Spec and Girlfriend.

It was Jack’s eyes that caught our attention when he was a tiny puppy. And when his eyebrows aren’t too long, you can still see them. Aren’t they the cutest eyes? He’s wearing his St. Patrick’s Day bandana in this photo.

 
 
Here’s Jack again in his lucky Irish bandana. I used one of The Pioneer Woman’s photoshop action to make this photo dramatic. Not that Jack needs any help with drama …Jack

 
 
In the middle of this photo shoot, some people walked by. Jack’s always alert and he jumped up to bark and growl and watch the people until they left “his” street. (See what I mean by drama?)Jack
 
 
Jack’s buddy, Spec, stays with us a couple of days a week. (He stays with us when Sandy, his human, is traveling.) Spec is 13 years old very wise. He’s also nearly deaf and doesn’t seem to mind Jack’s sonic bark. He’s a handsome guy.Spec
 
 
Spec is such a cute “little old man.” Here he is on the back porch. As I said, he can’t really hear. But he loves to be outside on the back porch, keeping watch and randomly barking. Bark! (“I’m in charge here!”) Bark! Bark! (“Is anyone out there?”) Bark! Bark! Bark! (“This is my porch!”)Spec
 
 
Girlfriend is the dog next door. Girlfriend is a miniature Schnoodle (Schnauzer and Poodle mix). She was Jack’s first friend after we brought him home. He has great fun playing with her. I took these pictures of Girlfriend one night when the light was so perfect and the grass so green.Girlfriend
 
 
Girlfriend’s got a hurt knee, so she and Jack don’t get to play together very often. Jack’s pretty sad about it. When Jack arrived, he was smaller than her. She still can’t figure out how he got so big.Girlfriend
 
 

If you are still reading after all this canine photo love, thank you — and here’s one last picture of Jack. Did I mention that I love, love, love the Spring. And pups. And taking pictures.Jack

Season of Change

Spring in the Agape Garden, Upper Room
Spring in the Agape Garden, Upper Room

Lately I’ve been reflecting that my time at The Upper Room has given me more than a just steady job for more than 20 years. I find myself talking to my web development colleagues about organizing a web page using “The Mind of Christ,” “The Heart of Christ,” and “The Hands of Christ.” Or I’ll discover that I’m trying to figure out the right web application for teaching Lectio Divina. “Weird!” I think to myself. “I sound like Stephen Bryant [the boss of The Upper Room]” It’s not a bad thing … but when did that start?

Even more than the breadth of knowledge about spiritual things, my spiritual self has been formed by working here. I don’t know why it surprises me that my relationship with God has been influenced by this place and these people. In my time working here, I’ve been mentored and nurtured by some of the most knowledgeable, creative, and humble spiritual leaders in the Protestant world.

I’m grateful for these gifts … and extremely sad that we are going through another round of layoffs of our staff. Since the beginning of the year, we have lost 14 staff people, whose jobs have been terminated because of the sinking economy. We are in a time of great change, great grief. We cherish your prayers … and we need God’s love, presence, and healing.

Yearning for Spring

Bradford pear blossom
Bradford pear blossom

It’s been cold and wet here in Nashville. For a long time. Seems like the whole earth has been holding its collective breath waiting for spring to burst forth. We’ve been in slow motion … watching, waiting, barely daring to breath … hoping for the trees to open up their blooms and announce the end of winter. This week, spring is finally here.

I went out early this morning to shoot some pictures of the ornamental pear tree across the street. Nashville is full of these trees. They are almost the first tree to bloom in the spring and nearly the last tree to turn red in the fall. I don’t think I’d ever noticed until this morning the variety of colors in their blooms. Their white outlines dot the dormant, gray hills of the entire city. Once the pear trees are in full bloom, the redbud trees are soon to follow and spring is well underway.

Today, the day was clear and the sun was warm. I could almost hear the sighs of satisfaction from all of creation. Whew. Spring and her flowery beauty have finally arrived.