Jan L. Richardson is an artist, writer, and ordained minister in the United Methodist Church. She serves a director of the Wellspring Studio, LLC, and travels as a retreat leader and conference speaker. Here's how she describes this book of devotions:
"Here amongst these pages, in the presence of women past and present, is a place to enter into the mysteries that lie at the heart of who we are. We do well to remember that the practice of prayer must do more than reinforce what we already know and believe. Instead, the act of praying prompts us to question, to move beyond familiar habits and patterns and routines, and to imagine possibilities beyond what we can see."
Richardson has organized the stories, poetry, prayers, and blessings here around six women from scripture and history:
• The Beginning of All Things: The Book of Eve
• A Habit of the Wildest Bounty: The Book of Brigid
• A Way in the Wilderness: The Book of the Desert Mothers
• Say What You See: The Book of Hildegard of Bingen
• The Mysteries of Making: The Book of Harriet Powers
• In the Garden of Delights: The Book of the Bride
Each chapter includes several features:
• Readings about the featured woman along with invitations to ponder how certain related themes unfold in your own life;
• The Secret Room with places along the path that call us to stop and look and be open to the unanticipated;
• Blessings to connect us with others;
• Digging Deeper with a list of books about the featured woman and themes explored in the chapter.
Richardson opens the book by describing a practice done by some artist friends. Before they begin a painting, they write a prayer on the canvas. Nobody will see the words since each stroke of the paintbrush covers them up. But the prayer exists as a foundation and invisible backdrop. So Richardson's own prayers support this book.
She provides insights into prayer, contemplation, spiritual journeys, and the grace of personal renewal. We were impressed by the rich material on thin places, the soul of time, sacred reading, loitering in the neighborhood of the world, a prayer of encompassing, learning to see, the art of hope, finding my tribe, and holy ambiguity.
But our favorite parts are Richardson's blessings. Here is a sampler of three of them:
may the love of God find you,
enfold you, gather you in."
"May you find the practices
that offer you a doorway
into the heart of God."
"May you have
the vision to recognize
the door that is yours,
courage to open it,
wisdom to walk through."