Archive for the ‘sacred time’ Category

An Altered Advent

December 11, 2013

Best Day Ever

My dear friends. For those who don’t already know, I need to tell you that my beloved husband, Garrison Doles, slipped peacefully from this world on December 2, enfolded in the love and presence of our family and the encompassing of the God who entrusted him to us. I don’t need to tell you that I am heartbroken beyond imagining to have lost not only my husband but my amazing partner and companion in ministry. I am also tremendously grateful for all the prayers that encompassed us as we kept vigil with Gary and that are continuing to sustain us in these days.

Over at The Painted Prayerbook, I recently posted a reflection that includes a brief remembrance and blessing that I wrote for the celebration of Gary’s life, which we held last Friday afternoon. You can find it here:

Beloved: A Blessing for Garrison Doles

Last year, Gary released a gorgeous CD of his original Christmas songs. It’s titled Songmaker’s Christmas and is such a beautiful companion for this season. You can download songs or the entire CD by clicking this image or title below:

Songmaker's Christmas

Songmaker’s Christmas

You can imagine this is not the Advent season we had planned. With keeping vigil with Gary in the hospital, navigating these days following his death, and also journeying through the online Illuminated Advent Retreat that Gary and I had planned to offer together, I’m not able to be present here at The Advent Door in the way I had hoped. But we’ve traveled through two complete cycles of the lectionary here, so you can find lots of already existing work! I have a number of reflections and images that I’ve created previously for the scripture readings that we’re visiting during this season. For the third Sunday of of Advent, you can find some of them by clicking the images or titles below.

I send you much gratitude and many blessings. May you know the presence of Christ our Light throughout these days.

When the Prison Bars Bled Light

Advent 3: When the Prison Bars Bled Light

The News in Prison

Door 16: The News in Prison

Another Name for Patience

Door 15: Another Name for Patience


Door 11: In Which We Get to Sing

To Zion with Singing

Door 10: Hitting the Highway

Advent and the Unexpected Vigil

November 24, 2013

Image: Heartbeat Liturgy © Jan L. Richardson

(Cross-posted from The Painted Prayerbook)

Friends, you may have already heard this news through another place or person that connects us, but in case you haven’t, I want to share an update with you and ask for your prayers. My amazing husband, Garrison Doles, is in the midst of a medical crisis that has turned our lives inside out. Last week, Gary went into the hospital to address a brain aneurysm that had been discovered during the summer (in a fluky fashion, in the process of checking out something else that proved not to be a problem). We had hoped he would be able to have a less invasive procedure called coiling, but the aneurysm proved too complex, and he was taken into surgery. During an eleven-hour surgery, Gary had a stroke, and has had two additional surgeries to address brain swelling. He has been in a medically induced coma and will be emerging from that over the course of the coming days.

We don’t yet know the extent of the damage from the stroke. Based on what Gary’s remarkable neurosurgeon is telling us, there is cause for great concern and great hope. I would be tremendously thankful for your prayers and good thoughts for Gary, his wondrous medical team, and our families.

Some kind folks have asked about the online Advent retreat that Gary and I were planning. I’ve decided to still offer it, with the understanding that it will look rather different than we originally planned. I find myself reluctant to give up the chance to walk through the coming season in the company of kindred spirits.

If you’re interested in entering Advent with your eyes wide open—looking honestly and anew at seemingly familiar Advent themes such as mystery, waiting, hope, keeping vigil, and longing for light in the deepest darkness—and if you’re game for a bit of adventure and uncertainty about what it will all look like, then this is the place for you. I’d love to travel in your company. If you’re one of the folks who has already signed up, thank you and bless you!

I’d be grateful if you would let other folks know about the retreat by sharing a link to this post or to the retreat overview page (Illuminated Advent Retreat) via Facebook or anywhere else you’re connected. This would be such a wonderful gesture of support for Gary and me in this time. Most of all, I would be so tremendously thankful for your prayers in these days of keeping vigil and beginning to navigate a road that we never imagined traveling.

I send you much gratitude and many blessings as Advent approaches.

Illuminated Advent Retreat

Celebrating Epiphany and Women’s Christmas

January 4, 2013

Image: By Another Road © Jan L. Richardson

As always, the wonderful but intense days of Advent make me grateful that Christmas lasts for twelve days instead of just one. Although the world around us pretty well shuts Christmas down at midnight on December 25, the Christmas season, which extends to Epiphany on January 6, provides a great opportunity to pause and take a deep breath before we fling ourselves into the year ahead. To celebrate Epiphany, I have a new blessing for you over at The Painted Prayerbook; you can find it here:

Epiphany: Blessing of the Magi

And do you know that there’s a wonderful tradition, rooted in Ireland, of celebrating Epiphany as Women’s Christmas? You can learn more by visiting my Sanctuary of Women blog, where my latest post includes a link to a special retreat that I’ve designed for you to use for Women’s Christmas—or whenever you’re in need of a break! You can download the retreat as a PDF at no cost. I’m happy for you to share the retreat with friends—a great way to celebrate the day. Click the image or title below to visit the Women’s Christmas post and download the retreat.

Women’s Christmas: The Map You Make Yourself

I’m grateful for your company here at The Advent Door and look forward to returning when Advent approaches again. In the meantime, I’d love for you to join me over at The Painted Prayerbook, my blogging home the rest of the year. Happy New Year, Merry Epiphany, Blessed Women’s Christmas to you!

Almost Advent

November 20, 2012

It’s almost Advent! As we prepare to cross into the coming season, I am especially excited about what Advent holds in store this time around. At the top of my list of things that are inducing Advent excitement is the online Advent retreat that Gary and I will be offering. Here’s the skinny:

ILLUMINATED: An Online Journey into the Heart of Christmas
December 1-29

Travel toward Christmas in the company of folks who want to move through this season with mindfulness and grace. This online retreat is not about adding one more thing to your holiday schedule. It is about helping you find spaces for reflection that draw you deep into this season that shimmers with mystery and possibility. This retreat offers a space of elegant simplicity, much like the one created in my Advent book Night Visions. Intertwining reflection, art, music, and community, this four-week online retreat provides a distinctive opportunity to travel through Advent and Christmas in contemplation and conversation with others along the way.

This is an Advent retreat for people who don’t have time for an Advent retreat (and for those who do!) You don’t have to show up at a particular place or time, and you’re welcome to engage the retreat as much or as little as you wish. You can do this retreat in your jammies!

We’re excited that the retreat is already drawing folks from around the world. We’d love for you to be among them. For more info about the retreat, visit Illuminated Advent Retreat.

I have a few other treats and treasures designed especially for your Advent journey:

GIFTS FOR THE JOURNEY: My main website,, has lots of offerings that I’ve designed especially for your journey toward Christmas. You’ll find my books Night Visions and Through the Advent Door, greeting cards, and art prints. Great gifts for yourself and for others in this season. Open all hours; please stop by!

IMAGES ONLINE: Jan Richardson Images enables churches and other communities to use my artwork in worship, education, and other settings. Single images are available, or you can sign up for an annual subscription, which gives you unlimited downloads for a year. During Advent and Christmas, I’m offering a festive discount on annual subscriptions: for just $125, you can sign up for an artful year (regularly $165). The site offers many images for Advent, Christmas, and beyond. Visit Subscribe to Jan Richardson Images to sign up. You can also order any of the images as an art print.

NEW CD FROM GARRISON DOLES: My husband’s latest CD is hot off the press, and it’s amazing! Songmaker’s Christmas offers a stunning collection of twelve of Gary’s original songs for Christmas. Soulful and gorgeous and wise, these songs will open your ears and your heart anew to the stories of this season. Visit the CD page on Gary’s website to listen to song samples and place orders.

As we enter into Advent, I wish you many blessings and a wondrous journey.

P.S. If you’d like to receive these Advent Door blog posts via email, check out the “Subscribe by email” box in the sidebar (near the top, just above the cover for the Through the Advent Door eBook).

Entering Epiphany

January 5, 2012

Epiphany © Jan L. Richardson

With Advent always being such an intense time, it comes as a gift and a relief that Christmas is not over on December 25. Brief though it may be, with just twelve days, the Christmas season offers a lovely opportunity to linger with the Christmas story and to take a deep breath before diving into the year ahead.

Christmas ends, of course, with the celebration of Epiphany on January 6. It’s Epiphany Eve as I write this, and I wanted to offer this final post for this season of The Advent Door and wish you a blessed Epiphany. Thank you for journeying with me through Advent and Christmas this year. It is always a gift to have your company on the path through these days.

I would be delighted to continue to have your company as I return to my blog The Painted Prayerbook, where I’ll be offering new reflections and art throughout the coming year. I have a new post in celebration of Epiphany and hope you’ll visit; you can find it here:

Epiphany: Blessing for Those Who Have Far to Travel

There’s also a wonderful tradition, rooted in Ireland, of celebrating Epiphany as Women’s Christmas. In honor of the occasion, I’ve posted a reflection at my Sanctuary of Women blog. The reflection includes a link to a special mini-retreat that I’ve designed for you to use for Women’s Christmas—or whenever you’re in need of a break! You can download the retreat as a PDF (at no cost), and I’m happy for you to share it with friends. The retreat, which includes reflections and artwork, can be engaged in a single day or spread out over a number of days. You might select a reflection or two for conversation over a cuppa with friends on Women’s Christmas! Click the image or title below to visit the Women’s Christmas post.

Celebrating Women’s Christmas

Thank you again for walking through The Advent Door with me. I look forward to returning when Advent approaches again. Until then, I hope to cross paths with you at The Painted Prayerbook. Merry Epiphany to you, and a Happy New Year!

[To use the “Epiphany” image, please visit this page at Your use of helps make the ministry of The Advent Door possible. Thank you!]

Winter Solstice: Blessing for the Longest Night

December 19, 2011

Image: Longest Night © Jan Richardson

This week, in addition to preparing for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services, many congregations will offer a “Longest Night” or “Blue Christmas” service. Usually held on or near the Winter Solstice, this gathering provides a space for those who are having a difficult time during the holidays or simply need to acknowledge some pain or loss they are carrying in the midst of this season of celebration. For you who are offering or participating in such a service, and for all who struggle in this season, I wish you many blessings and pray for the presence of Christ our Light, who goes with us in the darkness and in the day.

Blessing for the Longest Night

All throughout these months
as the shadows
have lengthened,
this blessing has been
gathering itself,
making ready,
preparing for
this night.

It has practiced
walking in the dark,
traveling with
its eyes closed,
feeling its way
by memory
by touch
by the pull of the moon
even as it wanes.

So believe me
when I tell you
this blessing will
reach you
even if you
have not light enough
to read it;
it will find you
even though you cannot
see it coming.

You will know
the moment of its
by your release
of the breath
you have held
so long;
a loosening
of the clenching
in your hands,
of the clutch
around your heart;
a thinning
of the darkness
that had drawn itself
around you.

This blessing
does not mean
to take the night away
but it knows
its hidden roads,
knows the resting spots
along the path,
knows what it means
to travel
in the company
of a friend.

So when
this blessing comes,
take its hand.
Get up.
Set out on the road
you cannot see.

This is the night
when you can trust
that any direction
you go,
you will be walking
toward the dawn.

—Jan Richardson
from The Cure for Sorrow

[Update: Thanks to everyone who has contacted me to ask for permission to use this blessing for a Longest Night/Blue Christmas service. If you’d like to use “Blessing for the Longest Night” in a service, I’d be delighted for you to do so; simply include this credit line:

© Jan Richardson.

No need to write me for permission, though I would be pleased to hear where you’re using it. If you’d like to use the artwork, please scroll down to the end of this post for info. Many thanks!]

P.S. For previous reflections on the Winter Solstice, click the images or titles below:

Winter Solstice: The Moon Is Always Whole

Door 21: Blue Plate Special

Solstice: A Woman in Winter
(From my Sanctuary of Women blog)

[To use the “Longest Night” image, please visit this page at Your use of helps make the ministry of The Advent Door possible. Thank you!]

Feast Day and Other Advent News

December 12, 2011

The Day of the Lady © Jan L. Richardson

Happy Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe! Today is an occasion to celebrate Mary in her aspect as “La Virgen Morena” (The Brown-skinned Virgin) who appeared to Juan Diego in Mexico in the sixteenth century and became beloved as the Patroness of the Americas. I have a reflection on Our Lady of Guadalupe and invite you to visit it during this day of celebration: The Day of the Lady.

We have passed the halfway point of the Advent season. How is your Advent path unfolding? I’m finding this a good occasion to stop and take a deep breath. I invite you to join me in taking some time to look back at the season past and to do some dreaming about the days that lie ahead. As you reflect on the season so far, what do you notice? As you contemplate the time between now and Christmas, what do you hope for? What might you need to do—or not do—in order to have the season and the Christmas Day you desire?

As we take a deep Advent breath together, I have a few things on my mind that I want to share with you.

BLOG SUBSCRIPTIONS: At the beginning of the season, I added an option in the sidebar that enables folks to subscribe to The Advent Door and receive these blog posts via email. I used Feedburner to set this up and subsequently found there were a couple of problems with the way that Feedburner manages emails, the most troublesome being that for some folks, depending on your email host, the blog post is squashed together in a continuous block of text, with no breaks for paragraphs or poems, which has a big impact on readability. I’m happy to say that my blog service now offers email subscriptions (they began doing this just days after I had set things up with Feedburner-!), and they seem to handle the formatting splendidly. I have switched over to their subscription service.

I am grateful to everyone who has signed up to receive these Advent reflections by email. If you signed up before last Thursday afternoon (December 8), you signed up via Feedburner, and I would like to move you over to the new subscription service. If you would simply sign up again, using the new sign-up form at The Advent Door (near the top of the sidebar), that would be great. Once you’ve done this, I’ll delete your address from the Feedburner list and will close out that account once everyone has switched over. I’m sorry for the minor hassle but really appreciate your taking a moment to do this so that I can serve you better.

And if you haven’t signed up to receive these reflections by email, I’d be delighted for you to do so!

BOOKS: It’s not too late to order books for Advent and Christmas! I have some copies of my book Night Visions: Searching the Shadows of Advent and Christmas still available and would be pleased to send them your way. My new eBook, Through the Advent Door: Entering a Contemplative Christmas, is available on Amazon as a Kindle book. You don’t have to have a Kindle e-reader in order to enjoy the book; you can download a Kindle app to your iPad, iPhone, computer, etc. It’s been great to hear from folks who have done this in order to read this book. And my book In the Sanctuary of Women, just published last year, makes a good gift for yourself and others. For more info on all these books and to place an order, visit the Books page on my main website.

AN ARTFUL YEAR: During this season I’m offering a festive discount at my website Jan Richardson Images, which makes my artwork available for use in worship, education, and other settings. Through Epiphany Day (January 6), an annual subscription (which gives you unlimited downloads) is 125 smackeroos (normally $165). Visit subscribe to check it out. (Single images are always available as well.)

ART PRINTS: All the images at Jan Richardson Images—including the artwork from The Advent Door, my blog The Painted Prayerbook, and my books—are available as art prints. There’s still time to ship prints for Christmas! Once you’re on the images website, go to any image you’d like and scroll down to “Prints & Products” to place an order.

GRATITUDE: I am tremendously thankful for the opportunity to journey with you in this season. Thank you for your presence, your emails and comments, and your prayers. Thanks also to those who have supported the ministry of The Advent Door by linking to it through your blog, website, Facebook and other social media, or in print or by word of mouth (the original social media!). I am grateful as well to those who have sent a financial contribution, becoming patrons of my ministry through The Advent Door and beyond. For all the ways that you share in and sustain this ministry, I thank you. Know that I am praying for you in this season and beyond.

Blessings to you!

Advent 1: In Which We Stay Awake

November 24, 2011

Image: The Luminous Night © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Advent 1, Year B: Mark 13.24-37

“Shall I make a pot of coffee?” Gary asked me late last night—much too late last night—as I was burning the after-midnight oil, trying to finish everything on my list before leaving for the Thanksgiving holiday. He knows I don’t drink coffee (though I love the smell); it was his way of asking if I really planned on being up all night. At that point I was wrestling with technology that had chosen the worst moment to break down, and I could probably have stayed up till dawn trying to fix it, but finally I shut everything down for the night, left my studio, and went to bed. Where I then lay awake until the wee hours, as sometimes happens when I have worked too long and too late.

As I lay there, willing myself toward sleep, the Gospel reading for this Sunday floated through my insomniac brain (this blog post being another thing I didn’t manage to finish before I left). It was not lost on me, alert in the small hours, how Advent always begins with a word about wakefulness. “Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come,” Jesus says in this passage about the end of days that, along with its parallels in Matthew and Luke’s Gospels, is known as the “Little Apocalypse.” “…And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”

It’s a different kind of wakefulness, of course, that Jesus is talking about here as he tells his hearers how to recognize the signs of his returning. The wakefulness that Jesus describes is a state—a practice, a way of being—that bears little resemblance to the ways we usually try to keep ourselves (or unwittingly find ourselves) awake, methods that usually leave us jangly-nerved and less than fully functional.

Jesus urges us toward a kind of awareness in which, whatever else we are doing—even in resting and sleeping—some part of us remains open, stays alert, pays attention to what is unfolding and reflects on what it means. Jesus is talking here about cultivating the habit of keeping vigil: the art of waiting. He is describing a kind of awareness and attention in which we learn to not rely solely on what we can see (“the sun will be darkened,” Jesus says, “and the moon will not give its light.”) but turn to the wisdom of the other senses, to discern what they can tell us about what is unfolding in the world around us.

Contemplating this Gospel reading, I thought of this collage (above) that I created during Advent last year. It’s not even a full-blown collage, but one scrap among many that were on my drafting table in that season. I used it in a reflection here about finding myself in a stuck place in the studio. I realized that I had arrived at one of those threshold times that happens in the creative process, when something new is trying to work itself out but is taking its sweet time to make itself known. Like any birth, it tends to be messy. It is a kind of mini-apocalypse in which our familiar landmarks disappear, our sources of illumination go dim, our familiar ways of working no longer work.

It can be daunting to stay soul-awake when these mini-apocalypses come along, whether in the creative process or in life itself, which is its own creative art. It can grow wearying to persist in showing up to what is messy, to what is frustrating, to what lies in shadow, to what seems like it isn’t going anywhere. Yet as Mark’s Gospel reminds us here at the threshold of Advent, such times call us to trust that even in the dark, God is at work, is traveling toward us, has somehow already arrived.

As we enter into Advent, what draws you into the kind of awareness that Jesus describes? How do you enter into a waking that doesn’t depend on stimulants but that calls the deepest layers of our soul to keep a space ready, to pay attention, to turn all our senses toward perceiving where Christ may show up? How do you keep vigil and practice the art of waiting?

Blessing for Waking

This blessing could
pound on your door
in the middle of
the night.

This blessing could
bang on your window,
could tap dance
in your hall,
could set a dog loose
in your room.

It could hire a
brass band
to play outside
your house.

But what this blessing
really wants
is not merely
your waking
but your company.

This blessing
wants to sit
alongside you
and keep vigil
with you.

This blessing
wishes to wait
with you.

And so
though it is capable
of causing a cacophony
that could raise
the dead,

this blessing
will simply
lean toward you
and sing quietly
in your ear
a song to lull you
not into sleep
but into waking.

It will tell you stories
that hold you breathless
till the end.

It will ask you questions
you never considered
and have you tell it
what you saw
in your dreaming.

This blessing
will do all within
its power
to entice you
into awareness

because it wants
to be there,
to bear witness,
to see the look
in your eyes
on the day when
your vigil is complete
and all your waiting
has come to
its joyous end.

—Jan Richardson

P.S. Happy Thanksgiving to those celebrating the holiday today! For a brief morsel of a reflection from a previous year, see On the Occasion of Thanksgiving… And for an earlier reflection on this Sunday’s Gospel reading, visit Through the Door.

Night Visions Ready for You!

November 3, 2011

Advent is just a few weeks away! I’ve been planning and plotting some Advent and Christmas treats for you in my studio and am eagerly looking forward to opening The Advent Door again and traveling with you through another holiday season (this will be the fifth year of The Advent Door!). As we prepare, I want to let you know that my book Night Visions: Searching the Shadows of Advent and Christmas is back in print! I’m grateful to everyone who’s ever written to tell me they return to Night Visions each year, and to ask when the book would be available again because they want to buy copies as gifts for friends or colleagues, or another copy for themselves because they keep giving theirs away. The words I have received about the book are such a gift to me.

I am thrilled to be able to say the book is finally available now and is just waiting for you, whether you’re a longtime friend of Night Visions or meeting it for the first time. With my original artwork, reflections, poetry, and prayers, the book accompanies the reader through the weeks of Advent to Christmas and Epiphany Day. I’ve heard from many folks who have used it in groups—book clubs, Bible studies, retreats, and other gatherings—as well as for personal reading.

You can learn more, view sample pages, and order the book by visiting the Books page at Inscribed copies are available by request.

Blessings to you as Advent approaches!

Christmas Day: An Illuminated Joy

December 24, 2010

Reading from the Gospels, Christmas Day, Years ABC: John 1.1-14

Greetings at the end of a day that has included a visit from our friend Eric, in town from Italy; driving with Gary to north Florida, where much of my family lives; and a Christmas Eve service at the white painted church in the pines of my hometown.

I had been invited to lead the candlelighting portion of the Christmas Eve service, which is always done in memory of those who have died since the last time we gathered on this night. I spoke of how John tells the Christmas story in his gospel: how, in his prologue, there is no manger, no inn to be turned away from; there are no angels, no shepherds, no wise men. John leaves these matters to others. Yet his telling of the incarnation has a strange beauty and power all its own. This, I said, is how he tells it:

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God . . . .
What has come into being
in him was life,
and the life was the light of all people.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness did not overcome it.

I spoke of how we were there tonight, gathered in that place, because of generations of people who went before us, each generation telling the next about the Word who came among us as life and as light. I read the names of the beloved dead who had carried the light of Christ among us, including my aunt who died just a few weeks ago. Then the children walked through the congregation, touching their tapers to our waiting candles.

After the service, after the family dinner that followed, we headed just a little farther north to my parents’ home. The moon was low and orange as we crossed Paynes Prairie. Somewhere in that prairie darkness, bison and alligators sleep. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, the sun of Christmas Day has risen. It sends its message back to us, the moon bearing witness and passing the story along: how the light persists, how it shines in the darkness, and is not overcome.

As we move toward Christmas morning, I offer a reprise of one of the videos that Gary and I collaborated on last year; An Illuminated Joy intertwines his music with some of my images from a series called The Advent Hours. I invite you also to visit another video collaboration, Contemplating Christmas, and pray it will offer you some quietly festive moments this day.

Wherever you are, whatever your Christmas holds, I wish you a most blessed day, and may Christ our Light go with you. Peace to you, and Merry Christmas!

[For previous reflections for Christmas Day, see this post. For a reflection on the days after Christmas—or, rather, the days of Christmas, since Christmas is a twelve-day festival—please visit this post, which includes thoughts and artwork for this year’s gospel lection for Advent 1.]