Introduction to CRYING STONES by Kristy Shellenberger Yordy

I am so thankful to partner with Hebrew text scholar, Kristy Shellenberger Yordy. She gave the initial shape to THE STONES CRY. Here is her introduction:

Part of my joy and passion in working with the Song of Songs—a Hebrew Wisdom text—the past number of years has been witnessing the intertextual conversations that the Song engages with the biblical texts surrounding it, both the texts that were written before it and the ones composed after it.

I have especially been interested in how the Song sings itself in the gospel of John’s telling of the anointing, the crucifixion, and the burial of Jesus, and, especially, of the resurrection scene. I also have been energized by the way in which the protagonist of the Song, called “the woman of shalom” (the Shulammite), and Mary Magdalene share many of the same characteristics and personality traits, as do the Shulammite’s beloved (“man of shalom”) and Jesus.

In fact, one of the leading commentators on the gospel of John, Bruno Barnhart, argues that the author of the gospel of John takes the “nuptial” symbolism, language, and imagery that has its origins in the Song of Songs—with its lush and fragrant garden imagery—and applies them to the encounter between Jesus and Mary Magdalene in garden of the resurrection. In fact, most of the fragrances surrounding the burial in John are prominently featured in the Song of Songs. (The other three gospels (Matt, Mark, Luke) describe Jesus’s tomb and resurrection site simply as a rock, somewhere.)

Also embedded in the Song are a few poems and several one-liners which, in their emotional mirroring, give voice to the crucial pieces of the Mary Magdalene story that have gone missing in the mainstream of the Christian tradition. And it is my feeling that these pieces are building blocks for reclaiming Mary Magdalene’s voice today. The reading composed for our Easter morning gathering illustrates some of these mirrorings and reflections.

Cynthia Bourgeault in The Meaning of Mary Magdalene has helped me intuit the connections between the Song and the resurrection and between Mary Magdalene and the Shulammite: “It’s almost as if the Song of Songs is furnishing the libretto in the text for the songs and statements that were never allowed to be said directly between MM and Jesus . . . to get the heart of Christianity and the underground flavor of Christianity, you really have to look at the Song of Songs.”

In fact, just about every renowned Christian commentator (e.g., Origen, Gregory the Great, Bernard of Clairvaux, Therese of Lisieux, Teresa of Avila, Bruno Barnhart) has written a commentary or commentaries on the Song of Songs within which is woven Mary Magdalene.

The reading composed for our gathering tries to furnish some of the “librettos” in the Song that help us hear more clearly the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene at the heart of the Christian tradition. ~ksy


– A CONTEMPLATIVE SERVICE FOR EASTER 2020 — created by Kristy Shellenberger Yordy and Nina B Lanctot

Jesus said, “If the people are silent the stones will cry out.”



Joseph took the body of Jesus and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there…

We have gathered together, each of us bringing 12 small stones and anointing oil. As we listen to these stones and their stories, they mark a scripture journey of Love and the Beloved. We hear the voices of the Shulamite and her Partner in the Song of Songs, and Mary Magdalene and Jesus in the Gospels. These stones, these stories, accompany us now as well, in The Great Dying and The Great Awakening on our planet.




There will be four longer silences in which to listen to and anoint the stones. Use some oil or lotion that is meaningful to you much as Mary Magdalene anointed Jesus feet and head with fragrant ointment. It is a loving and soothing and blessing ritual of facing life and death with a dearly beloved one. 





           (take up a stone)


“How did the rose ever open

its heart

and give to the world

all of its beauty?

It felt the encouragement

of light against its being.


we all remain too



CHANT (set down one stone)  “Slowly blooms the rose within”






Female reader:  I am the rose of the plains of sharon,

the lily of the valley.


I am black and becoming,

daughters of Jerusalem.


Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!

I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.


CHANT (anoint and set down one stone)  “Slowly blooms the rose within”



  1. A THIRD READING FROM THE SONG OF SONGS (take up a stone) 


Male reader:     A garden locked, my sister, my bride;

a garden locked; a fountain sealed.

A garden spring,

a well of living water,

flowing torrents from Lebanon


Female reader: Awake, north wind!

Come, south wind!

Let breathe, my garden,

let flow, its spices.


Male reader:     I have come to my garden,

my sister, my bride,

I have gathered my myrrh with my spice,

drunk my wine with my milk.


CHANT (anoint and set down one stone)  “Slowly blooms the rose within”






Female reader: Set me as a seal upon your heart,

as a seal upon your arm.

For love is as strong as death,

passion as fierce as the grave.

Its flashes are flashes of fire,

the very flame of Yah.

Many waters cannot quench love,

neither can floods drown it.


CHANT (anoint and set down one stone)  “Slowly blooms the rose within”


“How did the rose ever open its heart and give to the world all of its beauty?

It felt the encouragement of light against its being.

Otherwise, we all remain too frightened.” (~Hafiz)



SILENCE – Listen as the stones cry out and anoint the stones with fragrant oil.





  1. A GOSPEL READING  Jesus and Mary Magdalene Went (Luke 8:1-3a)


Jesus went through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kin-dom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others…


CHANT  “Fall Fearless into Love” (set down one stone)  sing once



ERICA HESTU WAHYUNI | Inspring of the Last Supper

  1. A GOSPEL READING Jesus and Mary Magdalene Worked (Luke 8:3b)

Female Reader

[Mary called Magdalene and Joanna and Susanna and many other women provided for Jesus] out of their resources.

CHANT  “Fall Fearless into Love” (set down one stone)  sing once



Sieger Koder

  1. A GOSPEL READING   Jesus and Mary Magdalene Wept (Matt 23:37-39)

Male Reader

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you, desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

CHANT  “Fall Fearless into Love”

(set down one stone)  sing once




  1. GOSPEL READING Jesus and Mary Magdalene Prepare for Death (John 12:1-8)


Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany where he had raised Lazarus the dead man to life.

Lazarus sat at the table with Jesus. Lazarus’s sister Martha waited on them.

Then Mary took a pound of costly perfume with nard and anointed the feet of Jesus, wiping them with her hair.

Indeed, Mary took a pound of costly perfume and anointed the head of Jesus. And the whole house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

Then Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, the disciple who would betray Jesus, remarked:

“This perfume could have been sold for over three hundred silver coins and the money given to the poor.”


But Jesus rebuked him saying:

Male reader

“Leave her alone. Leave her alone. Leave her alone.”

“Was she not keeping it for the day of my burial? Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed all over the world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”

“What she has done will be told in memory of her.”


CHANT  “Fall Fearless into Love” (set down one stone)




SILENCE – Listen as the stones cry out and anoint the stones with fragrant oil. 




  1. GOSPEL READING Jesus and Mary Magdalene: Vigil (Mark 15:37, 40)


“Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last . . .

And the women looked on from a distance included Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James . . .”


CHANT  “Fall Fearless into Love” (set down one stone)  sing once



 10. GOSPEL READING Mary Magdalene at Jesus’ Burial (Matt 27:59-64)


“Joseph of Arimathea took down the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb. He rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and departed. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary saw where the body was laid, and they remained, sitting by the tomb.”


CHANT  “Fall Fearless into Love” (set down one stone)  sing once



 11. GOSPEL READING Mary Magdalene and Jesus at the Tomb (Luke 24:1–3)


“On the first day of the week, when it was still dark, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary brought spices to anoint Jesus. But the stone was gone and he was not there. An angel of the Lord said, ‘Do not be afraid. I know you are looking for Jesus. He is not here. He has been raised from death, as he told you. Come and see! Go and tell the others.’”

Jesus himself appeared to Mary Magdalene, but she did not recognize him.

Male:     “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?”

Female:  “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him . . . ” 

 Male:      “Mary.”

Female:  “Teacher.”

Male:      “Do not cling to me . . . go and tell the others.”

Narrator:  So Mary Magdalene departed and told the disciples what she had seen.


CHANT  “Fall Fearless into Love” (set down one stone)



SILENCE  – Listen as the stones cry out and anoint the stones with fragrant oil.



 (Mark 16:4)


When Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome looked up, they saw the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away.

CHANT  “Fall Fearless into Love” (set down one stone)



SILENCE      A TOUCH STONE – pick up and anoint a small stone.

Place it in your pocket and carry it with you, continuing to listen for the mystery that love is stronger than death.






You hardly imagined

standing here,

everything you ever loved

suddenly returned to you,

looking you in the eye

and calling your name.


And now

you do not know

how to abide this ache

in the center

of your chest,

where a door

slams shut

and swings open

at the same time,

turning on the hinge

of your aching

and hopeful heart.

I tell you,

this is not a banishment

from the garden.


This is an invitation,

a choice,

a threshold,

a gate.


This is your life

calling to you

from a place

you could never

have dreamed,

but now that you

have glimpsed its edge,

you cannot imagine

choosing any other way.

So let the tears come

as anointing,

as consecration,

and then

let them go.


Let this blessing

gather itself around you.


Let it give you

what you will need

for this journey.


You will not remember

the words—


they do not matter.


All you need to remember

is how it sounded

when you stood

in the place of death

and heard the living

call your name.


© Jan Richardson








All you need to remember

is how it sounded

when you stood

in the place of death

and heard the living

call your name.




Jan Richardson Blessing

Rose Chant

Fall Fearless into Love Chant by Darlene Franz


“Art thou in the darkness?”

As we come into Easter in the Year of Pandemic, I encourage entering Sunday morning in the dark and watching the sunrise wherever we are. If early morning kills your spirit, as it does for many, some walking and breathing and noticing of signs of life, death and new life on Easter will ground us. Listen deeply. Share what you notice if you wish.

a98c2b6b6d899e89f6d01b879fbce293 (2)

To enter most deeply into the darkness, begin on Saturday night. Fellow Wisdom Compatriot, Bri Stoner of Grand Rapids, MI, has created a series of rituals for her family for Holy Week. On Saturday evening she invites us to tether ourselves to Jesus as Mary Magdalene does, from the foot of the cross through the burial and the dark day and night of death. GO TO BRI’S BLOG FOR FULL REFLECTIONS ON HOLY SATURDAY AND ALL OF HOLY WEEK:

Holy Saturday: The Tomb and the Tether of Love

By Gabrielle Stoner – a plan for families with children that will work for anyone

Here are some excerpts:

Fear Not The Suffering — Brie Stoner/ words from Rilke

Don’t be afraid to suffer; return
that heaviness to the earth’s own weight;
heavy are the mountains, heavy the seas.

Even the small trees you planted as children
have long since become too heavy; you could not
carry them now. But the winds…But the spaces….

Then, we continue by reading Matthew 27:55–61:

11064619_823198107715728_5805261816131191940_nMany women were there, watching from a distance, the same women who had followed Jesus from Galilee and looked after him. Among them were Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons. 

205c6d75de8133dac634ff06a50ed415 When it was evening, there came a rich man of Arimathea, called Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate thereupon ordered it to be handed over. So, Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean shroud, and put it in his own new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a large stone across the entrance of the tomb and went away. Now Mary of Magdala and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

…We talk about how death is a part of life, how many times in our lives we go through periods of fear, doubt, uncertainty.   The disciples didn’t know what was going to happen and were very sad and very afraid.  We don’t like feeling that way, so we often run and hide like most of the disciples did…we turn our faces away from those uncomfortable feelings.

But Mary Magdalene didn’t run: she stayed with Jesus, she stayed at the tomb, and she shows us that having the courage to face our grief is part of what leads to new life…and that if we skip the hard stuff, we might miss the gift that new life will bring us.

In a way, during those hard times, we join Jesus in the descent into darkness…and Mary shows us that even when we are going down into our grief or difficult feelings, there’s always a tether of love holding us.

…I blow out the candle.

It’s funny how unaccustomed to sitting in total darkness we actually are in the West…

To close we sing this beautiful Quaker hymn by Paulette Meier.  You may think initially that this chant is too wordy or complex for kids, but Søren used to sing along to it even jumbling the words at age five…and I believe wisdom like this is absorbed by the soul even if the words don’t all register.

Art thou in darkness? – chant by Paulette Meier

Art thou in darkness? Mind it not, for if thou dost it will feed thee more. But stand still, and act not, and wait in patience, till Light arises out of Darkness and leads thee. ~ James Nayler (1659)


Holy Week: Love’s Epicenter

“The epicenter of Christianity is Love, and this week we are entering the epicenter. May we do so in Love.” ~ Rev. Cynthia Bourgeault

I searched and I searched. I needed to find the Beloved Disciple, Mary Magdalene, “in the picture” of “Palm Sunday” and “The Cleansing of the Temple.” Surely she was there along with “the twelve” and all the other rag tag and radical and ridiculous followers of Jesus. But look as I might I found nary a depiction of Mary Magdalene “on the Way” with Jesus in Holy Week.

Where’s Mary?
What happens if we “picture her in” to the stories we know by heart but which lack the presence and point of view of her loving loyalty?

Mary’s absence in the stories of Holy Week seems odd in light of the fact that she gets the highlighted iconography in the most risky of places. The Last Week. The Last Journey. The Last Teachings. The Last Passover. The Last All Night Prayer Vigil. She appears in none of these. Yet the Mary of Magdala appears in the bleakest and most brutal moment of Jesus life, at the foot of the cross. She follows on to the tomb. And she appears in every account in the darkest and most daring moment, facing death before dawn.

We need to hear the word “love” mentioned as we go into Holy Week. As we stand here in a world so abruptly and sometimes brutally awakening to discover ourselves as one — interconnected, fragile, radically dependent on our great spiritual traditions to reconnect at the point of the heart… As we stand at that place in our world today, we must come to see that despite the venerable input of tradition, that the exclusivistic, judgmental, punitive theologies we have promulgated are a luxury the world can no longer afford. The epicenter of Christianity is Love, and this week we enter the epicenter. May we do so in Love. ~ You can hear Cynthia Bourgeault’s 2014 Palm Sunday Sermon at Christ Church Cathedral, Vancouver, BC here.

We need the loyalty and embodied love of Mary to show us the Way more than ever. Mortality and “lasts” confront us in this particular “Crowning Blow” (Corona) Holy Week.

Is this my week of “lasts?” Have I already passed  the last time I will be able to make the 11 hour journey to see my 94 year old father in person? Have I had the last face to face worship gathering for…this year? The last hugs with grandchildren…? And will there be a dying loved one with whom I will not be able to say good-bye with a kiss? Will not share a last supper? A last prayer? And will that dying one be me?

We who live by Spirit Breath are faced with dying in unprecidented waves by suffocation. The wind has been knocked out of the earthly sails. Our hearts long to be anchored as we ride out this liminal holy and hellish journey.

If Holy Week is the heart of the matter, are we to dwell on suffering and injustice? My God, are we abandoned here?  My teacher, Cynthia Bourgeault, protests that the heart of the Good News is elsewhere. Love is stronger than death:

Look for Mary Magdalene this week.

On Monday, in the Anointing of Jesus. (John 12:1-11)


Tuesday, Jesus teaching on the grain of wheat. (John 12:20-36)


Wednesday, the betrayal. (John 13:21-32)


Thursday, footwashing. (John 13:1-17, 31b-35)  The praying.



Friday, the cross. The burial.



Saturday, the waiting.


gembrief_ostern_2010_0 (2)



Sometimes “Sounding Out Wisdom” is Susataining Silence

Friends, we are invited to (click here –>) join Northeast Wisdom in sits on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, morning and evening, via Zoom.


I am setting my intention for these times, and the sustaining times in between, toward the Wisdom of the Moment and of the Planet to arise among us all. What are you intentions? Be in touch.

(photo: “The Great Silence” at Kanuga Mega Wisdom School, November 2015, Nina B Lanctot)



A Prayer for Handwashing

Yesterday I was more insistent than usual that my grandchildren wash their hands before eating after school snack.

Lily (9) asked, “Is this because of Corona Virus, Nana.”

I answered clearly, “Yes. And to do all we can to keep everyone healthy.”

As I washed my own hands today it struck me what a potent global practice we are engaging on behalf of one another. One could foster fear amidst this washing. Or compulsion. Or the illusion of control. Or one could pray.

There are ritual prayers for handwashing in many traditions. Here is a teaching on cleansing before prayer in Islam. Here is handwashing prayer in the Jewish tradition.

There is a lovely chant for these words in Hebrew which name the Divine Ruach/Spirit rather than Melech/King:

Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Ruach ha’olam

asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav vitzivanu al netilat yadayim.

Blessed are You, Infinite One, Spirit/Breath,

who makes us holy through our actions

and honors us as we raise up our hands.

Thank you.


Here is the prayer that emerged for me:

God, wash from us the dis-ease of fear,

the grasp and the grip of greed.

Christ, cleanse us, amidst chaos,

of contamination, contagion and callousness.

Spirit, strengthen in us the soul

of sanity, sincerity and service.

In Oneness. In Love. In Hope. May it be so.

What if we were praying this, with each handwashing, aware of our global community of need and strength? What if we rinsed away the contagion of fear? What if we relinquished and resisted spreading habits that destroy? What if we intentionally opened to our role in compassion and healing? What transformation might be at hand? What Hope?

This-is-How-Muslims-Clean-Before-PrayerPrayer while washing hands in Islam.



Talking to Think

We used to tell our creative and vocal daughter when she was a preschooler, “You can think without talking, you know!” Perhaps that was my way of asking for some quiet so that I could think and then perhaps talk.

Most of us, to really hear ourselves think and to sound out the meaning of our lives need both — thinking and talking.  But most of all we need listening.

As a sacramental conversation, spiritual direction includes talking, thinking and deep listening.  It is a stylized or ritualized conversation in that it has a distinct beginning and end and a central focus.  For me that focus is best named as Wisdom.  While there are two chairs in the room – Director and Directee – a Third Partner, Wisdom, hosts the conversation.  Together as reflections arise we listen for the presence and activity of Wisdom, the Source of Life and Love in the directee’s life.


We listen for one thing – Wisdom.  That means we talk about all things.  For Wisdom insinuates itself into all of life. Our sacramental conversation becomes an outward sign of an inward grace: the evolving direction for living one’s life.  The Spiritual Director cannot “give” this direction.  Only the directee can sense when they hear Wisdom deep within, emerging in their own words, desires and intentions.

I am listening.  If you would like to glean along with me from the domain of spiritual direction, check in here.  If you are looking for a spiritual director, contact me.  I have space for listening as you Sound Out Wisdom.

On Silence

Mag asked us to share a reflection on silence as she prepares her sermon for this coming Sunday.  Here is what “came” to me:

Silence is the ever welcoming space of full acceptance and full challenge.

In holy silence, I am my whole self in God

and I keep becoming my whole Self in Christ. 

Like a murky pond after the rain, in silence I return to stillness.

The stirred up sediment of life settles, slowly,

so that I can see into the depths and reflect the blue sky once more.


(photo credit: Still Waters Retreat, Buchanan, MI)


“Voir ou périr” — See or perish

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ, priest, palentologist, and prophet of evolutionary view of God and the uiverse, wrote,”Voir ou périr.”  See or perish.

As I read and write today without glasses for the first time in my life, this is striking.  After six eye procedures, beginning on Valentine’s Day, 2018, I finally can SEE without glasses for the first time since I can remember.

I started wearing glasses at age 5 after reporting to my mother, “Look at the bunny.”  It was actually a horse in a field across the way.  I learned to know that I was techinically “legally blind” since, unaided, I could not read a single letter on the eye chart.  When I lost my ability to read close up in my 50’s, my dependence on glasses became complete. Remember that woman you saw swimming with her glasses on? That would have been me.


I declared this year following the end of my career in pastoral ministry the year of “Morphing into Jubilación [the Spanish word for retirement].” Maybe SEEKING NEW VISION would have been more apropos.  

Here’s the story: To correct cataracts I had lens implants in February, designed to give me 20/20 vision.  The correction was not complete.  The lens capsules became cloudy and I in July I had two capsulotomies,the surgeon played painless red laser tag to zap away the cloudy cells. Painless. But still not 20/20. Then Friday I had Lasix surgery on both eyes for the last bit of correction. Now my right eye sees far and my left eye sees near. My brain is putting that together. Pretty well. I went to church “glasses free.”

So when I came to this line today in the Cosmic Campfire Bookclub read, I got it:

“In the end, it’s all about seeing,”

Cynthia Bourgeault, Episcopal priest and Wisdom School teacher, writes. (p. 107)

I feel pretty hip (oops, that’s old slang) having joined a “cosmic” bookclub of 350+ folks via Facebook. The newly released anthology of spiritual memoirs, “how I found GOD in everyone and everywhere” (Andrew M. Davis and Philip Clayton,eds.) is the text for the COSMIC CAMPFIRE BOOKCLUB. It takes the lens of spiritual journeys of eleven clergy, scholars, scientists, philiosphers, healers to invite us club members to take a new look at our own ways of seeing and being.

Here’s what Cynthia said about vision:

…you begin to see in a dynamic, intercirculating, interabiding, cosmotheandric way that preserves both particularity and unity…

…as we open our mystical eye-of-the-heart and see, what we see is a Christianity which has essentially been waiting in the wings for two millenia for the time to arrive when it can finally become consistent in its own hightest cosmotheandric calling: ‘As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us…I in them and you in me, that they may be comletely one.” (John 17:21-23) (pp 111-112)

I am thankful that editor, Andrew M. Davis, says it more simply in the introduction:

In sharing these journeys with readers, we hope to offer a vision of spiritual return and reenchantment. Relating one’s own personal journey to that of others can offer new insight, inspiritual and depth to one’s life and to one’s world…The best journeys, after all, are those that are shared. (xv)

Want to join the journey? Find the COSMIC CAMPFIRE BOOKCLUB here.

Eyes wide open — with brand new grandson, Oliver, just two days old.


Drawing from the Center

I don’t follow the rules. Well, in some things. I am not like my Beloved who considers even public safety rules, like “NO SKATING. THIN ICE” as negotiable and dependent on individual interpretation. Those rules I follow. But when it comes to spiritual disciplines, no matter how “traditional,” I am prone to experimenting — doing my own thing.


Hence, Lent 2015, I cobbled together LECTIO/MANDALA.

A combination of contemplating texts, or life, or dreams — drawing a mandala/circular design — and writing a haiku prayer — this evolving practice was inspired by the tiny journals I found for $1.99 a piece at “The Amish Grocery” (Forks County Line Store) in Middlebury, IN. Continue reading