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earthy gray
dry as parched wilderness
symbol that we too shall perish

Dust to dust
ashes to ashes
each of us makes our humble return
back to the habitat of our origins

All that is false is allowed to die –
misguided allegiances
harmful compulsions
lingering resentments
ego-driven agendas –
dead on the ash heap of confession

Only then is there a new beginning
a reconciling
a turning toward wholeness
a desiring for God

Finally in the fullness of time
the desert blooms again
salvation comes
life triumphing over death.

Words (c) Mark Lloyd Richardson, 2015

When I Die


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I wrote this poem several years ago as I reflected on the joy I have always felt from running, which has been for me a life-long endeavor. Running has taught me lessons about perseverance and potential I do not believe I could have learned any other way. So, with tongue firmly in cheek, I penned the following words to imagine a future where my running career would be admired and not forgotten. Besides, my wife Dallis just captured the perfect image during a recent race I entered on New Year’s Day 2015!

New Year's Resolution Day Run 2015

When I die

I’m thinking of donating my body
to medical research, though I haven’t signed
anything official yet. It’s not that I object to
the idea of decaying under a pile of dirt and leaves,
in fact it seems quite right—dust to dust,
ashes to ashes—the way it should be
if we are to give back to the material world
what it has given to us. But I figure that

if my body goes to science, then on some
perfect afternoon when the sun glimmers
through autumn leaves of red and gold,
pre-med students will huddle around
my cold preserved form with their sharp
utensils to explore what remains of me,
and one will say, “Look at this brain. He
clearly had an active mind.” Another will
comment, “See these shoulders. He must
have carried life’s burdens well.” Someone else
will observe, “His heart is quite big. Do you
suppose he felt compassion more than most?”
Another budding scholar will take the measure
of my arms and wonder, “Did he use these to
hold the ones he loved? Did he embrace life?”

Then someone will take one studied look
at my long sinewy legs
and remark in a way
that would make any cadaver smile,
“Damn! This guy was a runner!”

Words (c)2009 Mark Lloyd Richardson
Photo (c)2015 Dallis Day Richardson



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Douglas Family Preserve, Santa Barbara, CA

Douglas Family Preserve, Santa Barbara, CA

Create in us, dear God,
minds that appreciate truth wherever it is found,
hearts that revel in the beauty of this world,
spirits that sing of peace and goodwill for all.

Challenge us to see the problems of our day
and not be overcome by them.

Encourage us to begin one new endeavor,
open one new chapter,
relate to one new person,
learn one new skill,
trust one new intuition,
bless one new relationship,
with our whole selves.

We may not solve the world’s problems,
but we will become part of the answer.

We will be compassionate.
We will be kind.
We will be open.
We will be your children
with and for one another.

Words (c)2015 Mark Lloyd Richardson

If All Goes Well

I wrote this poem in 2004. It was inspired by Psalm 27:13, and a poem written by Juan Antillon Montealegre, of Costa Rica, found in the book Prayers for a Thousand Years.

If all goes well

will find no more enemies
and will come back home
Nations will talk
before picking up swords
Tyranny will tumble
Peace will prevail
Even toy companies
will stop producing arms

If all goes well
will become leaders
who care more
about the common good
than their own

If all goes well
Religious folk
will grasp the truth
that God is God of all
not a provincial deity
to be trotted out
for self-serving interests

If all goes well
God will appear again
in the stars
waves of grain and water
in egrets, falcons, otters,
sacred waterfalls, clouded skies
God will show up
at the birth of a Muslim
the death of a Buddhist
in the aching breaches of
misunderstanding and mistrust
God will come to Bethlehem
to birth a dream,
to Jerusalem
to unwrap death’s dark shroud
in the light of freedom

If all goes well
if all goes well
as long as we, the people,
don’t destroy earth’s gifts
We will take our children’s hands
so they may feel
protected by gentle love
We will know the joy of laughter
the reality of tears
We will greet one another
with holy kisses
We will live now and always
in the land of the living
Together we will taste and see
the goodness of God

If all goes well
If all goes well

If all goes well

Words (c) 2004 Mark Richardson

A Planetary Prayer


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Flags in New York
Having participated in an Interfaith Prayer Vigil for Peace today in Santa Barbara, and seeing the wonderful involvement of persons from many religious traditions, I was reminded of a prayer I wrote several years ago.

A Planetary Prayer

In a world aching to be healed,
among nations longing for peace,
on a planet wealthy in resources,
in a time ripe for change,
for a dream greater than us all,
with divine aims to guide us,
we dare to face this day with hope.

Power higher than the heavens,
Song sweeter than the birds’,
Strength more enduring than the hills,
Peace more resilient than discord,
Passion breathing life into our lives,
Presence both fierce and tender,
keep us ever in love with you,
with one another,
and with creatures great and small,
so that our labors for justice
on this fragile, swirling planet
may bear the fruit of wholeness,
as you call us forever forward
into a new and brighter day.

In your many names. Amen.

Words (c) 2009 Mark Lloyd Richardson

God of Earth and Sky and Sea


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A Prayer for the Second Sunday of Advent:

God of earth and sky and sea,
God of rich and poor and in-between,
God of lost and God of found,
God who is like a shepherd to us,
we walk the path of Advent awakenings,
mindful of your call to repentance and change,
thankful for your offer of mercy and grace.
You are ever before and behind us.
You are the one constant amid a sea of change.
You are the shepherd who feeds his flock,
the one who gathers the lambs in his arms (Isa 40:11).
You long for us to receive your word of comfort.
You announce that our penalty is paid,
that we are free to live with godlike compassion,
that we are empowered to bring comfort to the world.
Still we turn away,
and walk in paths that suit our own interests,
and fail to welcome the one who is different,
and justify our prejudices with Scripture verses.
Forgive us our sins, and change our hearts, O God.
In this time of waiting and watching,
we pray for all who need the comfort of your presence,
for all who need the comfort of your Church.
To those who are sick or in pain, bring wholeness.
To the lonely and discouraged, renew hope.
To the grieving and troubled, speak comfort.
To any who struggle with self-judgment, extend your grace.
To any who are exiled from your Church, awaken their faith.
(We silently bring our prayers for particular persons now.)
Make of us your forgiven and reconciling people.
Use us to welcome others into your kin-dom.
Stir up within us the faith to trust you with our blind spots,
our shortcomings, our very lives.
And even though our lives are transient like the flowers of the field,
feed us with your word that stands forever (Isa. 40:8).
In the name of the Christ who comes among us to heal and to save. Amen.

Words (c) 2014 Mark Lloyd Richardson

Song of the Ages


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Song of the ages,
you sing across the glistening waters of time.
You sing with an eternal enjoyment
of everything your hands have made.
Your song is a gloria carried on the winds
and punctuated by pulsating waves.
Your song sings itself into our lives
for our very being is hidden within you.
Song of the ages,
may all of our days harmonize
with your deep notes of justice, compassion and peace.
May our lives sing out with joy too
so that all may hear of your blessing
and want to join in your unending song.

Words (c) 2014 Mark Lloyd Richardson

Inhabiting a Common and Precious Space


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"Reach" Photo credit: Dallis Day Richardson

“Reach” Photo credit: Dallis Day Richardson

Methodists have a way of envisioning and living out our faith that is expressed in three simple rules:

  1. Do no harm
  2. Do good
  3. Stay in love with God

Bishop Reuben P. Job describes the first rule in such a way that we can see its potential to change the world one relationship at a time. We live in a time of intense culture wars, political battles, religious squabbling, and international tensions. We see the huge scale of harm being done in the world through both careless and deliberate acts, too often by people of faith and religious institutions. So it helps to hear Bishop Job describe the first simple rule as an “act of disarming, laying aside our weapons and our desire to do harm.” Healing the world requires change from within the human heart as well as outward behavioral change.

For years now the United Methodist Church has been doing considerable harm to our LGBTQ neighbors, family members, and friends. We have had language in our guiding document The Book of Discipline that marginalizes a whole community among us. A day will come when the language will be removed and the church will repent of all of the harm it has knowingly or unknowingly done to peoples’ lives. Especially painful is the legacy of young people who have felt rejected by the very church that exists to nurture love for God and one another.

Bishop Job writes that the act of disarming and seeking to do no harm is revealing in other ways: “We discover that we stand on common ground, inhabit a common and precious space, share a common faith, feast at a common table, and have an equal measure of God’s unlimited love. When I am determined to do no harm to you, I lose my fear of you; and I am able to see you and hear you more clearly. Disarmed of the possibility to do harm, we find that good and solid place to stand where together we can seek the way forward in faithfulness to God” (Reuben P. Job, Three Simple Rules: A Wesleyan Way of Living, Nashville: Abingdon Press, © 2007, pages 23-24).

We, the people of the United Methodist Church, need to remove language from our Discipline that continues to harm individual lives as well as the heart of our spiritual community. We need to listen deeply and intently to the stories of our LGBTQ neighbors, family members, and friends, about how the gospel is being misrepresented in our broken institutional life. We need to look deeply and intently into our own hearts for the places we are armed with weapons of fear, mistrust, and judgment, and seek God’s help in laying those weapons down. We need most of all to repent of the harm the church has already done to persons of sacred worth and commit ourselves anew to manifesting the beloved community where God’s justice and righteousness reign!

We inhabit a common and precious space. Let us begin to act like it.

God, in your grace that exceeds our imaginations and confronts our complacency, hear our prayer.

Words © 2014 Mark Lloyd Richardson
Photo © 2014 Dallis Day Richardson

God’s Year to Act


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Prayer Vigil for Pastor Frank Schaefer at First UMC, Santa Barbara, CA

Prayer Vigil for Pastor Frank Schaefer at First UMC, Santa Barbara, CA

Tomorrow morning in a makeshift courtroom in a Memphis hotel, the Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church will meet to hear the final appeal of Rev. Frank Schaefer who performed a same-sex marriage ceremony for his son Tim in 2007. Many prayers have been said for Pastor Frank and his wife Brigitte as they have traveled this difficult journey through a church trial and previous appeal process to arrive at this day. Many of us are deeply grateful to Frank for his prophetic witness to both church and society regarding the gospel imperative to offer grace and peace to all of God’s children, including our LGBTQ neighbors!

On this eve of Frank’s appearance before the Judicial Council, many people came together for a prayer vigil in the sanctuary of First United Methodist Church in Santa Barbara. During this vigil, we lifted up Frank and Brigitte, that they be surrounded by God’s comforting and empowering presence. We prayed for the team of people representing Frank and for the members of the council to exercise wisdom and compassion in their deliberations. We prayed for faith communities and followers of Christ everywhere that together we move forward in the ministry of Christ for the sake of the whole world, which is beloved of God.

At this critical time in the life of the church, I am claiming the inaugural sermon of Jesus found in Luke, chapter 4, for all of us. Here’s how Eugene Peterson’s The Message states these familiar words of Jesus to his hometown congregation:

“God’s Spirit is on me; he’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor, sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to set the burdened and battered free, to announce, ‘This is God’s year to act!’” (Luke 4:18-19)

At the close of our prayer vigil this evening we called Pastor Frank and Brigitte and through the wonders of speakerphone we prayed with and for them. We prayed that the church that seeks to follow Jesus fully embrace the ministry of Jesus that extends to all of God’s children. We prayed believing that in the end love will prevail, because it is a force stronger than fear or prejudice or discriminatory church law!

Words (c) 2014 Mark Lloyd Richardson

In the Stillness Find Grace


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Meditation Chapel at La Casa de Maria in Santa Barbara, California

Meditation Chapel at La Casa de Maria in Santa Barbara, California

Be silent.
Be still.
Let your God look upon you.
That is all.

Our hour of centering prayer in the small Meditation Chapel tucked among the oak trees was nearing an end recently when our facilitator, Jeanette, said words to this effect.

I am always grateful to be able to sit prayerfully in silence with others. It is a community of prayer that lends support and peace to my life. Centering prayer is a contemplative form of giving your intention to God, and allowing your body, mind, and spirit to simply be in the presence of the Holy. It’s not about forming words or thoughts, like so much of the prayer I am asked to do in my work as a minister. Even though I am conscious of trying to let go of the need to say the right words or the best words when I pray in public, there is usually a sense that someone (not least of all myself) is measuring those words for an adequate expression of faith.

In centering prayer I let go of any need to satisfy others and simply sit in the stillness that is able to fill the cathedral of my inner being. Even when thoughts arise and distract me from my prayerful intention, I do not worry that my prayer is inadequate. I am aware of the Spirit welcoming me again and again into life and joy.

Jesus said, “The Reign of God has come near.”

For me, one of the most powerful settings for God to release the healing balm of grace is in a contemplative community praying alongside one another.

Words (c) 2014 Mark Lloyd Richardson


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