Too Much


This poem was written by Beth Richardson, a UMC pastor in the Rocky Mountain Conference (Colorado), and is posted on her blog, All the Wonders.  It provides beautiful language for the thoughts I’ve been having about the many sad news stories of late.


Too Much

Some days
It seems like
Too much to bear

Too much sickness
Too much dying
Too many stories of terror and sadness

How can I bear it.
These people I love
Are crazy with grief and fear.
This world I love
Has lost all sense and reason

I watch, I weep, I wait.
I wait for you to show up
With your healing,
Your comfort,
Your wisdom

Come quickly.
Come, soon.

by Beth A. Richardson

Happy Spring!


blossoms It’s the first day of Spring, and the temperatures might finally match the date on the calendar! Percy Shelley describes the emergence of Spring so beautifully:

And Spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earth’s dark breast
rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.

What are your favorite signs of spring?

-Katie Huffman

Image by Flicrk user skyseeker

The Love Affair With Life

bluebell walkThe great affair, the love affair with life,
is to live as variously as possible,
to groom one’s curiosity like a high-spirited thoroughbred,
climb aboard, and gallop over the thick, sun-struck hills every day.Where there is no risk, the emotional terrain is flat and unyielding,
and, despite all its dimensions, valleys, pinnacles, and detours,
life will seem to have none of its magnificent geography, only a length.

It began in mystery, and it will end in mystery,
but what a savage and beautiful country lies in between.

~ Diane Ackerman


Why I Wake Early


ellieWhy I Wake Early
by Mary Oliver

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and crotchety–

best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light–
good morning, good morning, good morning.

Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

Caren Swanson

Photo by Ellie Poole.

The Canticle of The Sun


9780763613815_p0_v1_s260x420In honor of the Feast of Saint Francis, I’m sharing one of my favorite prayers, “The Canticle of the Sun.”  My daughter has a children’s book that is an adaptation of the prayer, called The Circle of Days.  One of our favorite ways to end a busy day is to curl up and read it together.  The words have been such a comfort to me through the ups and downs of the last few years.  I trust that they will be an encouragement to you on this sunny Friday.

Most high, all powerful, all good Lord!
All praise is Yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing.

To You, alone, Most High, do they belong.
No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your name.

Be praised, my Lord, through all Your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and You give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of You, Most High, he bears the likeness.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;
in the heavens You have made them bright, precious and beautiful.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
and clouds and storms, and all the weather,
through which You give Your creatures sustenance.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Water;
she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire,saint-francis-of-assisi-detail.jpg!Blogthrough whom You brighten the night.
He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth,
who feeds us and rules us,
and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.

Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of You;
through those who endure sickness and trial.

Happy are those who endure in peace,
for by You, Most High, they will be crowned.

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Bodily Death,
from whose embrace no living person can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Happy those she finds doing Your most holy will.
The second death can do no harm to them.

Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks,
and serve Him with great humility.




I’ve been thinking a lot about benedictions lately, as my coworkers and I prepare for our final workshop with the pastors in the second group of Spirited Life. It is our task, in a very real way, to offer a benediction, a “good proclamation,” not only for our time together at the workshop, but for all the work that the pastors have put in over the two years of the program. It feels like such a great privilege to pronounce blessing, especially to pastors who spend their days doing just that (among many other things, of course!) and our staff is eager to do it well, thus there have been many resources shared between us recently. There are a plethora of benediction resources out there, from the UM Book of Worship, to contemporary poems and prayers. I thought I’d share a couple of my personal favorites here:

John O’Donohue, Irish teacher and poet, has been widely praised for his gift of drawing on Celtic spiritual traditions to create words of inspiration and wisdom for today. In To Bless the Space Between Us, his compelling blend of elegant, poetic language and spiritual insight offers readers comfort and encouragement on their journeys through life. O’Donohue looks at life’s thresholds—getting married, having children, starting a new job—and offers invaluable guidelines for making the transition from a known, familiar world into a new, unmapped territory. Most profoundly, however, O’Donohue explains “blessing” as a way of life, as a lens through which the whole world is transformed.

  • Carol Penner is a Mennonite worship leader and writer, though people of all denominations will find her accessible. Her website is a wealth of worship resources of all kinds.  On her site you will find benedictions for particular holy days, as well as general blessings.  I particularly love her benediction titled “Pitched, Peeled and Poised:”

Go into your week
with your ears pitched
to the sound of God’s voice calling your name.
Go into your week
with your eyes peeled
for the face of Jesus in unexpected places.
Go into your week
with your soul poised
to receive the Spirit of God,
the Spirit of Peace.

  • St. Patrick’s Breastplate is a much-loved prayer popularly attributed to the famed patron saint of Ireland.  It has been transposed into a hymn, but is lovely on it’s own as a blessing It is not traditionally used as a benediction, but with it’s strong language evoking praise and the abiding presence of God, I think it makes for a powerful one. It’s long, but some of my favorite lines include:

I arise today, through
The strength of heaven,
The light of the sun,
The radiance of the moon,
The splendor of fire,
The speed of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of the sea,
The stability of the earth,
The firmness of rock.
I arise today, through
God’s strength to pilot me,
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptation of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
afar and near.

  • There is a lovely video benediction for churches who use multimedia based on the Romans 15:13 prayer at WorshipHouse Media.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

6371421595_c96267e7b8_zGo in peace to love and serve the Lord!

Caren Swanson

Images by flickr users cknara and nffcnnr via Creative Commons.


Unless We Dare


Happy Friday, folks!  Here’s a poem by Amelia Earhart that is inspiring me today.  What are you inspired to dare this weekend?


Courage is the price that
Life exacts for granting peace.

The soul that knows it not,
Knows no release from little things:
Knows not the livid loneliness of fear,
Nor mountain heights where bitter joy can hear the sound of wings.

Nor can life grant us boon of living, compensate
For dull gray ugliness and pregnant hate
Unless we dare
The soul’s dominion.
Each time we make a choice, we pay
With courage to behold the resistless day,
And count it fair.

~Amelia Earhart

Caren Swanson

Instructions for Living a Life



Yesterday evening I watched the shadows march across my backyard as the sun meandered toward the horizon. Above my head a perfect blue sky was framed by the crown of willow oaks, dappled in the day’s remaining golden light. It was beautiful, in such a simple way, and I could feel the stress of the day ease off my shoulders. For a moment there, breathing deeply, I paid attention enough to be amazed at the beauty of God’s creation and the blessing of having the ability to enjoy it.

Is it worth telling you about this? According to the poet Mary Oliver, it is.

Telling about our wonder, or, in her words, our “astonishment” is part of paying attention. When I notice beauty, or take pleasure in something, or tend to some pain, and really pay attention to it, something shifts in me, and that shift becomes even more real when I share about it with another person. We live in a magical world, if only we have eyes to see it. Poetry helps me to see. What is helping you pay attention today? What are you being astonished by?1170697_10152205016022576_545809727_nCaren Swanson

Top image via blogger “An Octopus’ Garden,” bottom photo by Caren Swanson.

Walking With Grief


Walking With Grief

George MacDonald**


5613751328_359c13b1a0_bDo not hurry

as you walk with grief;

it does not help the journey.


Walk slowly, pausing often:

do not hurry

as you walk with grief.


Be not disturbed

by memories that come unbidden.

Swiftly forgive;

and let Christ speak for you

unspoken words.

Unfinished conversation

will be resolved in Him.

Be not disturbed.


5619333529_4ff0fd7698_bBe gentle with the one

who walks with grief.

If it is you,

be gentle with yourself.

Swiftly forgive;

walk slowly,

pausing often.


Take time, be gentle

as you walk with grief.


** Adapted from a passage in David Elginbrod by George MacDonald in Celtic Daily Prayer: Prayers and Readings from the Northumbria Community, 2002. USA: HarperCollins.

Caren Swanson

Images by flickr user seyed mostafa zamani via creative commons.

The Opening of Eyes


David Whyte is an English poet and writer whose early training in Marine Zoology had given him an astute eye for the workings of the natural world and our place in it as humans.  I was first introduced to him as the author of Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as A Pilgrimage of Identity, which I recommend to anyone exploring themes of vocation.  But for this quiet, post-holiday Friday (I hope you all had fabulous 4th celebrations!) I’ll leave you with this poem:

stormy sky

The Opening of Eyes

That day I saw beneath dark clouds
the passing light over the water
and I heard the voice of the world speak out,
I knew then, as I had before
life is no passing memory of what has been
nor the remaining pages in a great book
waiting to be read.

It is the opening of eyes long closed.
It is the vision of far off things
seen for the silence they hold.
It is the heart after years
of secret conversing
speaking out loud in the clear air.

It is Moses in the desert
fallen to his knees before the lit bush.
It is the man throwing away his shoes
as if to enter heaven
and finding himself astonished,
opened at last,
fallen in love with solid ground.

— David Whyte
from Songs for Coming Home 
©1984 Many Rivers Press

–Caren Swanson

Image by flickr user Ross Hong Kong via Creative Commons.