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In the quiet space, I sat with a sketchbook. Where I expected art to come forth, words poured out. Snippets of prayer, blessings, dreams and hopes. I washed over words with watercolor. I marked colored pencil in symbols and lines. I was embarking on a new/old way of engaging with God. New because, for the first time ever, I recognized the sacred in this way of expression. Old because I’d been writing and creating art throughout my life. But, was this an acceptable form of prayer? Was this a way of communion with God? What about devotions? What about spoken prayer or it’s close companion, quiet wordy prayer? Was I allowed to commune with God in a different way than many people I know? Was it acceptable to allow silence to whirl me away towards a place of creating that which is true, good and lovely… to the space I was certain God resides for me?

When my friend, Monica, sent me a poem entitled Blessing the Dust by Jan Richardson, I found a kindred spirit. Jan is a United Methodist minister who uses art and words to create prayer to God. Blessing the Dust captivated me. It’s soulful words sent me straight to her website to be greeted by beauty and depth of heart.

Jan was a precious gift sprinkled into my life. One I didn’t think to mention to friends. Yet, in only the way the Spirit moves with joy and generosity, not long after I read Blessing the Dust, a friend in my congregation handed me Jan’s book, In the Sanctuary of Women. Over the last year, I’ve spent many mornings reading In the Sanctuary of Women. Jan’s hopeful words and blessings swirl around Eve, Brigid, the Desert Mothers, Hildegard of Bingen, Harriet Powers and the bride in Song of Songs. Her words are life-giving. They bless. They bestow. They love. Jan is one of the most influential writers/artists/ministers for me at this moment in my life. She helps me see the gift of creativity to the world. She helps me not to discount the gift of the artist. She helps me celebrate the feminine. Below, I share the art and blessing luring me to her in the first place.


Blessing the Dust

All those days
you felt like dust,
like dirt,
as if all you had to do
was turn your face
toward the wind
and be scattered
to the four corners

or swept away
by the smallest breath
as insubstantial—

Did you not know
what the Holy One
can do with dust?

This is the day
we freely say
we are scorched.

This is the hour
we are marked
by what has made it
through the burning.

This is the moment
we ask for the blessing
that lives within
the ancient ashes,
that makes its home
inside the soil of
this sacred earth.

So let us be marked
not for sorrow.
And let us be marked
not for shame.
Let us be marked
not for false humility
or for thinking
we are less
than we are

but for claiming
what God can do
within the dust,
within the dirt,
within the stuff
of which the world
is made,
and the stars that blaze
in our bones,
and the galaxies that spiral
inside the smudge
we bear.

© Jan Richardson

To Ponder:
Who are the pilgrims who’ve gone before you to light the way for your work in the world?

Painted Prayerbook
In the Sanctuary of Women

Related Posts:
Celebrating the Feminine
Wild Woman
The Gift of Anne
Keeper of the Flame
Still I Rise
Taking Her Space