Day 2: Up From the Water

February 16, 2012

spacer  Up From the Water © Jan L. Richardson

And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.
—Mark 1.10

From a lectionary reading for Lent 1: Mark 1.9-15

Reflection for Thursday, February 23 (Day 2 of Lent)

What does a rite of passage look like from the inside?

When I was married nearly two years ago, one of the things I wanted most on my wedding day was to be present to it. Walking down the aisle, I paid attention to taking in the beloved faces of those who had gathered from across decades to surround and to bless. I found myself suddenly overwhelmed, surprised by the tears that momentarily overtook me.

Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, Mark writes in his story of Jesus’ baptism. And I wonder how that was for Jesus: to be inside that moment, to inhabit that space in which the waters break over him as he hears a voice name him Son and Beloved; to be in that place of passage as he moves into the life for which he has been preparing.

[To use the "Up From the Water" image, please visit this page at Your use of helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

Posted in art, blessings, Gospel of Mark, lectionary, Lent | Leave a Comment »

Day 1/Ash Wednesday: Rend Your Heart

February 15, 2012

spacer  Rend Your Heart © Jan L. Richardson

Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing.
—Joel 2.12-13a

From a lectionary reading for Ash Wednesday: Joel 2.1-2, 12-17

Reflection for Wednesday, February 22 (Day 1 of Lent)

Rend Your Heart
A Blessing for Ash Wednesday

To receive this blessing,
all you have to do
is let your heart break.
Let it crack open.
Let it fall apart
so that you can see
its secret chambers,
the hidden spaces
where you have hesitated
to go.

Your entire life
is here, inscribed whole
upon your heart’s walls:
every path taken
or left behind,
every face you turned toward
or turned away,
every word spoken in love
or in rage,
every line of your life
you would prefer to leave
in shadow,
every story that shimmers
with treasures known
and those you have yet
to find.

It could take you days
to wander these rooms.
Forty, at least.

And so let this be
a season for wandering
for trusting the breaking
for tracing the tear
that will return you

to the One who waits
who watches
who works within
the rending
to make your heart

P.S. For previous reflections on Ash Wednesday, please see The Memory of Ashes, Upon the Ashes, The Artful Ashes, and Ash Wednesday, Almost.


[To use the "Rend Your Heart" image, please visit this page at Your use of helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

Posted in art, blessings, lectionary, Lent | 10 Comments »

I Will Remember: On the Eve of Ash Wednesday

February 14, 2012

spacer I Will Remember My Covenant © Jan L. Richardson

I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.
—Genesis 9.15

From a lectionary reading for Lent 1: Genesis 9.8-17

Reflection for Tuesday, February 21

On a day years ago when I was dealing with a vexatious situation—a tussle with an institutional system, as I recall—I spent some time talking with Gary. Gifted at thinking through things with me, Gary mostly listened and helped me name some possible options for moving forward. Then, as we were finishing the conversation, Gary said to me, “The thing to remember here, Jan, is that I am on your side.”

I am on your side.

For those who don’t know me, let me say this: I was past forty when I married, nearly two years ago now. A fervently focused person from the time I was a child, I have been a Woman With A Plan—even when the plan was changing—nearly all my adult life. I enjoyed being in relationship—when it wasn’t breaking my heart, that is—but prized my independence and understood the importance of finding and making a life that I loved, one in which my sense of wholeness didn’t rely on being involved with someone else.

I will tell you that after Gary showed up, I realized I had vastly underestimated the kind of claim that a relationship could have on me. More than a decade later, I continue to marvel at the strangely wondrous state of being so met by another person. In a relationship that’s grounded in that mutual sense of being met, I have come to see how it’s possible to become intertwined and tangled up with another in ways that do not confine and limit us but instead help us to know ourselves more clearly, open doorways to paths we had not imagined on our own, and draw us deeper into who God has created us to be.

I am on your side.

The narrative of Noah is, among other things, an amazing story of the God who chooses to become tangled up with us, who takes our side, who risks casting God’s lot with us. It is a Big Deal on God’s part to make such a covenant. Yet as I spiral back around this story, it occurs to me that for Noah to accept this is no small thing.

To be sure, God is insistent about binding Godself to Noah, along with his family and his descendants. In this passage, God speaks the word covenant seven times, the repetition becoming something of a litany as God tells Noah—again and again—what God is doing. I am establishing my covenant with you, God says. This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you, God emphasizes. I will remember my covenant, God insists. And so forth, until God decides that it has sunk in; that Noah gets it.

But a covenant does not run in one direction, and Noah must choose whether he in fact wants to be a party to this covenant, to receive this marvel that is wondrous but weighty. He must decide whether he wants to be so claimed by God, and whether the God who wants to take his side is offering a relationship that will be a cage that makes him smaller or a home that frees him to be who he is.

Tomorrow, as we cross the threshold into Lent, we will hear the words of the prophet Joel as he tells us, “Rend your hearts.” We, like Noah, can choose to do this, to turn toward God, because God has already opened God’s own heart to us. God keeps letting God’s heart break for us. Keeps choosing to become bound to us. To become entangled with us. To covenant with us and with creation and with those who will come after us.  Keeps taking our side even when we have wandered into the far country, bent on a path of our own stubborn choosing. In this season God asks us, invites us, dares us to let ourselves be claimed.

Here on the threshold of Lent, who or what have you allowed to claim you? Do you find yourself becoming more free, more yourself in this claiming, or more confined? Where do you find the presence of God in the connections that hold you? Are there any entanglements that God might be inviting you to look at in this coming season? What do you resist inviting God to claim in your life?

As we enter into Lent, may this season draw you closer to the One who persists in seeking us out. Blessings.

[To use the "I Will Remember My Covenant" image, please visit this page at Your use of helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

Posted in art, lectionary, Lent, mystery | 5 Comments »

Teach Me Your Paths: Entering Lent

February 13, 2012

spacer Teach Me Your Paths © Jan L. Richardson

Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.
—Psalm 25.4

From a lectionary reading for Lent 1: Psalm 25.1-10

Advent and Christmas are not so very far behind us, and already the season of Lent draws close. The liturgical year can feel quite compressed right about now, but perhaps this is just as it should be. The season of Lent invites us, after all, to live into the Incarnation—to wrestle with what it means that God became flesh; to discern how God calls us to let the Word become flesh in us; to let go of what hinders us from recognizing Christ and finding and following the pathways he opens to us.

For me, these brief weeks between Christmas and the beginning of Lent this year have been a time of living into the paths that began to open up in my studio during the season of Advent. Those who have been journeying with me for some time know that last year was a relatively fallow one, art-wise. It was one of those seasons that happens periodically in the rhythm of the creative life—a time when not much seemed to be happening at the drafting table (and what was happening was vexing), but deep beneath the surface, preparation was taking place. Advent became a time for beginning to come to the surface, for experimenting and moving in some new directions, for finding and following the lines that presented themselves.

As I continued to follow those lines into this new year, new images came, arriving in forms I could not have predicted. And here at the outset of Lent, the studio teaches me anew the invitation that lies at the heart of the coming season: to pay attention, to keep practicing, to allow God to wear away what hinders us, to be open to the surprising turns and openings that draw us deeper into the path of God.

During this Lenten season, I’ll be sharing the images that have emerged in recent weeks. I’ll post an image daily throughout Lent. Brief reflections will accompany the images for the forty days of Lent, and I’ll also post images and my usual reflections for the Sundays of Lent (which aren’t counted in the forty days). I offer these not just to give you a glimpse of what’s been taking shape in my studio but as an invitation to you to engage your own path and to look for the openings that are waiting for you in the coming weeks. I’ll be posting each reflection about a week in advance of the day it’s intended for.

If you’d like to receive these reflections during Lent (and beyond), there’s a subscription signup form near the top of the sidebar; just submit your email address, then respond to the confirmation email that you’ll automatically receive, and each new reflection will be delivered to your inbox. Or, as usual, you can always find the reflections here at The Painted Prayerbook.

If you enjoy what you find here, there are several ways you can help sustain this ministry and enable it to continue. Doing any of these during this Lenten season would be a tremendous form of support:

  • Share a link to a reflection via Facebook, Twitter, email, blogs, or through other media. You’ll find share buttons at the end of each post, or you can simply copy the link for the reflection and share it.
  • Make use of the Jan Richardson Images website, or give a subscription as a gift to your pastor or church. Designed to make my artwork easily accessible for use in worship and related settings, the images site includes all the images I’ve created for my blogs. You can download individual images, or, with an annual subscription, you can have access to all the images for a year’s time. Please know I’m always happy to work with churches that may not be able to afford the full subscription price; just drop me a line through the images site. And thanks for including a credit line when you use an image; this is always a crucial way to support artists.
  • Become a patron of The Painted Prayerbook. Although I’m an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church, my ministry involves raising my entire income myself. Purchasing books and art prints (available at and using the Jan Richardson Images site are great ways to be a patron of my work and sustain my ministry; you can also become a patron by making a contribution. For more info, visit the Patron page on my main website.

Thank you so much for sharing in my ministry. Your presence here is an especially welcome form of support, as are your prayers! Know that I hold you in prayer and I look forward to sharing the season of Lent with you.  May God draw you down a wondrous path in the weeks ahead.

[To use the "Teach Me Your Paths" image, please visit this page at Your use of helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

Posted in art, lectionary, Lent, The Psalms | 3 Comments »

Transfiguration Sunday: To the Mountain Again

February 12, 2012

spacer Transfiguration II © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Transfiguration Sunday: Mark 9.2-9

With a trip this week and getting ready to launch a new Lenten series, a picture will need to be worth a thousand words today. I do have a couple of previous reflections on Transfiguration Sunday and hope you’ll visit them. Click on the images or titles below:


Transfiguration: Back to the Drawing Board


Transfiguration Sunday: Show and (Don’t) Tell

I’ll be launching my new Lenten series tomorrow, with daily posts throughout the season, so come back soon! I wish you many blessings in this Transfiguration week.

Posted in art, Gospel of Mark, lectionary, sacred time | Leave a Comment »

Epiphany 6: What the Light Shines Through

February 5, 2012

Testimony © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Epiphany 6, Year B: Mark 1.40-45

Last week the news came that a friend of mine has been diagnosed with a brain tumor. It is large, and it is grim; the doctors measure his life in months, perhaps weeks. A stained glass artist who has devoted his life to finding beautiful ways to capture light, Joe—making his own path as ever—is finding other ways to measure and mark these remaining days. The threads of community that he has tended across the years in such places as the Grünewald Guild are gathering around him now to support him and to make it possible for him to be in places he loves; friends and family have enabled him to return to his home and studio at the artists’ community where he lives, and folks from the Guild are plotting a trip where they’ll bring Joe back up there.

Living on the other side of the country, I am missing being present for this but am grateful for the words that come across the miles, words that tell of how Joe is entering his dying in much the same way that he has entered his living. The tumor has impacted his speech and visual recognition skills. But a note comes from a friend who writes of how even when Joe struggles with words, “he seems, to me, even more himself than ever. He’s almost translucent with grace. And I have been so moved by the ‘random’ words that, at times, come instead of the one he’s trying for. It’s almost as if the words that he has most often expressed come easily; blessing, blest, grace, friends, church, my voice, your voice…”

I gather up these words as I ponder the words that Mark offers in the reading from his Gospel this week, words about a leper who finds healing in his encounter with Jesus. “If you choose, you can make me clean,” he says to Jesus. Stretching out his hand and touching him, Jesus says, “I do choose. Be made clean!”

It is a mystery to me how Jesus chooses, and where, and why. I cannot fathom how he chooses at times to stretch out his hand, and at other times seems to withhold it; how he chooses against the restoration that he offers with such ease in stories such as this one. Why the leper, and not Joe? Why the mother-in-law of Simon, as we saw last week, and not millions of others across the ages who have lived with illness and pain?

I know, of course, there are few answers to these questions in this lifetime. And I know that it is better to look for the miracles that do come, including the daily wonders of connection in the midst of a world that pushes us toward isolation, the marvels of friendship and community that return to us and gather around us when life breaks us open.

I do not let Christ off the hook for the ways he sometimes chooses. And yet I think about my friend across the country, speaking the words that have come most easily to him. Blessing. Blest. Grace. How in the midst of the tumor that grows and the days that dwindle, there is something in him that is fiercely intact and persistently whole. Friends. Church. That knows still how to capture the light. My voice. Your voice. That rises up to freely proclaim, to offer testimony in the luminous way he has always done and will do until the last breath leaves him.

Joe is having an exhibit at his studio this weekend, wanting to have this chance to share with friends his artwork from across the years. “Bring food. Bring joy,” Joe says in the invitation.

This day. This hour. In each moment given to us, may we bring sustenance. May we bring joy. Whatever illness we bear, whatever wounds we carry, may we be ministers of healing to one another, and may the wholeness that persists within us rise up and shine through, offering testimony in the ways that only we can offer.

What the Light Shines Through
A Healing Blessing

For Joe

Where pain
does not touch you.
Where hurt
does not make its home.
Where despair
does not haunt you.
Where sorrow
does not dwell.

Where disease
does not possess you.
Where death
does not abide.
Where horror
does not hold you.
Where fear
does not raise its head.

Where your wounds
become doorways.
Where your scars
become sacred maps.
Where tears
become pools of gladness.
Where delight
attends your way.

Where every kindness
you have offered
returns to you.
Where each blessing
you have given
makes it way back
to you.
Where every grace
gathers around you.
Where the face of love
mirrors your gaze.

Where you are
what the light
shines through.

Joe in the studio. Photo by Kristen Gilje.

P.S. For a previous reflection on this passage, visit The Medium and the Message.

[To use the "Testimony" image, please visit this page at Your use of helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

Posted in art, blessings, Epiphany, Gospel of Mark, lectionary | 14 Comments »

Epiphany 5: Healing and Feasting

January 29, 2012

The Domestic God © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Epiphany 5, Year B: Mark 1.29-39

In a parallel universe, where there are thirty hours in a day, perhaps my parallel self has completed a new reflection and artwork for this week. In this universe, however, with its mere twenty-four-hour days, I’ve been devoting my studio hours to preparing some Lenten fare to accompany you during the soon-arriving season. I am already, as ever, surprised by where the Lenten texts are taking me, and I look forward to sharing the path through the coming season with you.

My Lenten immersion, along with preparing for some upcoming events, has left me sans new reflection. But I do have a previous reflection on this passage; please visit it here:

The Domestic God

I especially want to recommend Mary Ann Tolbert’s insights into this gospel passage, which have influenced my thinking about this text and which I briefly quote in the reflection.

This week offers two feast days that are good companions to the gospel reading. February 1 brings us the Feast of Saint Brigid, the beloved Celtic saint who was a light for the early church in Ireland and who worked many miracles of healing. February 2 is Candlemas, also known as the Feast of the Presentation or the Feast of the Purification of Mary. For reflections on these days, which are among my favorites of the year, click on the images or titles below.


Provision and Plenitude: Feast of Saint Brigid
(New at my Sanctuary of Women blog)


Feast of the Presentation/Candlemas

Wishing you many blessings and a festive week!

P.S. Speaking of upcoming events, I invite you to visit my calendar on my main website: see Calendar. Be sure to check out the Liturgical Arts Week that Gary and I will be involved with at the Grünewald Guild this summer. I’ll be the keynote speaker, and Gary and I will teach a class especially designed for preachers, worship leaders, liturgical artists, and anyone else who would like to dive into the texts for the Advent season. We’d love to have you join us at the wondrous Guild!

[To use the "Domestic God" image, please visit this page at Your use of helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

Posted in art, Celtic, Epiphany, Gospel of Mark, lectionary | Leave a Comment »

Epiphany 4: Blessing in the Chaos

January 24, 2012

Shimmers Within the Storm © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Epiphany 4, Year B: Mark 1.21-28

In his brilliant essay “To Retrieve the Lost Art of Blessing,” John O’Donohue writes, “The force of a blessing can penetrate through and alter the inner configuration of identity. When the gift or need of the individual coincides with the incoming force of the blessing, great change can begin.”

This kind of change and reconfiguration means that a blessing is not always a comfortable and cozy thing. Sometimes the blessing most needed is one that involves confrontation and calling out, that requires standing against what is not of God. Such a blessing may be difficult to give—or to receive. It calls us to acknowledge and challenge and grapple with forces that thrive within chaos, forces that often work in ways that are exceedingly subtle and cloaked and require even more wisdom and discernment of us than when such forces take clear and obvious forms.

But, as Jesus shows us in this passage where we see him healing a man in the grip of a destructive spirit, such a blessing—the blessing that comes in facing the chaos rather than turning away from it, the blessing that comes in naming what is contrary to God’s purposes rather than letting it persist unchecked—makes way for the wholeness we crave. It brings release to what has been bound; it invites and enables and calls us to move with the freedom for which God made us.

“The human heart,” writes John O’Donohue in his essay, “continues to dream of a state of wholeness, a place where everything comes together, where loss will be made good, where blindness will transform into vision, where damage will be made whole, where the clenched question will open in the house of surprise, where the travails of a life’s journey will enjoy a homecoming. To invoke a blessing is to call some of that wholeness upon a person now.”

Is there some part of you that has become bound—that recognizes what is holy and craves its blessing, but fears the change that would be involved? Is there a habit, a belief, a relationship, an aspect of your life that has you in its grip, that confines you, that limits the freedom with which you move through this world—perhaps without your even realizing it? Can you imagine what release would look like? Is there a destructive force at work in a person or system or institution you’re connected with, that you might be called to engage? Can you identify a first step that would help you confront what confines you or those around you?

This day, this week, may you give and receive the blessing that will help you and yours enter more deeply into wholeness. Peace to you.

Blessing in the Chaos

To all that is chaotic
in you,
let there come silence. is neither affiliated with the authors of this page nor responsible for its contents. This is a safe-cache copy of the original web site.