Thursday, December 31, 2009


Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

You are minding your business, carrying on, maybe in the kitchen or the laundry room, or sitting at your computer. Faintly at first, you hear exotic music outside, strange harmonies with a hint of bells. Do you think you smell spices? Incense? At your door there are standing strangers dressed in elegant oriental finery, brocaded robes with jewels and turbans. You awkwardly ask them in. But they do not sit. They kneel before you. They open treasures. You are, appropriately, speechless.

They say they have seen signs: a great power has been born in you, sent from God, a power that will rule the earth, hidden in your life like a king among peasants. It is not any kind of political sway, or magical ability. It is the love you have been given. You embody divine love, an infinite and beautiful power for the healing of the world. They say this gift in you is greater than that of all the kings of the world, and so they kneel in homage. They pray that you, too, will honor this great gift that is within you. Your objections mean nothing; these are wise and knowledgeable people, who understand more than you do. You must take their word.

They go home by another way, back to their lives, their watching, their hopes. They take nothing with them—no trinkets, no proofs, only this: that they have seen. Now they know. And you also go back to your life, back to the dishes. And you — now you have seen. Now you are aware.

You will not likely see the strange visitors again, ever. You will not hear the sounds of their voices, nor the tinkling bells as they disappear along the streets. But you will remember. And you will believe.

Deep Blessings,

Pastor Steve


Copyright c 2009

Steve Garnaas-Holmes

unfoldinglight (at)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

We have come to worship

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him."
Matthew 2.1-2

When the Magi kneel before the Christ child
this is no mere display of sentiment or devotion:
this is Wisdom kneeling at the feet if its master, Love.
All power, all rulers and their armies,
and all knowledge, all learning and understanding,
and all riches and beauty,
all kneel before the power, wisdom and beauty of love.
Secretly Herod and all the tyrants of this world know this,
which is why they are afraid, so desperate and ruthless:
they know Love is the one true power greater than they.
They have already bowed to their one true sovereign.

And all powers, all kings and wise men,
all with beauty and regal mien,
bow to the Christ child, the embodiment of love
that is born in you each morning.
Let your life itself be such a bowing,
such an extravagant opening of gifts.
Even tyrants secretly bow to the great love
that has been poured into you.
Live in deep trust of this, and take courage.

Copyright c 2009
Steve Garnaas-Holmes

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Five golden rings

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

In the rest of rest of the world Christmas is over (it runs from Thanksgiving to Dec. 25). Notice that people are already wishing you a happy new year. But for us Christians, it's only the fifth day. Five golden rings, four calling birds, three french hens, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree. We've got a lot of maids a-milking and lords a-leaping yet to go. For most of the world, Christmas is a gaudy flash, and it's over in a flurry of wrapping paper, and a day later we go back to normal. But going back to normal is not what Jesus' followers are about.

Santa has come and gone but Jesus is still here—now what? Now we begin to live as if the Splendor of Heaven is among us. We live as if the One Who Loves Us and who comes to save us has indeed come, and is indeed saving us. We live as if after years of longing in exile we are finally being rescued. We live as if the Prince of Peace walks beside us. We live as if angels hover, singing glory. We live as if a star is shining overhead that announces for all Creation that the Beloved is here. We live as if God is with us. Because it's true.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © 2009
Steve Garnaas-Holmes

Monday, December 28, 2009

The night wind

Stars of deep night,
sing your crystal songs in me.
Angels, radiate your joy
from within my darkness.
Mary, begin your deep breathing in me,
and Joseph, your benevolent uselessness.
Shepherds and all scruff and tatter,
all nighttime characters in me,
gather now, and come to the stable.
And you kings, you wise sages,
you voices from beyond, come,
with your wisdom and your swirling smoke
of incense and your dreams, come.

And you, child, whose very breath is heaven,
in whose heart God's heart beats in mine,
come. Let this birth occur.

I do not comprehend. I only stand,
mute and open like a stable,
plain and ordinary—a little rough, even,
but hospitable to miracles.
The night wind puts an arm around me
and I am at peace.

Copyright © 2009
Steve Garnaas-Holmes

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

It’s a special time, with the pretty lights and sumptuous meals, the gathering of loved ones and the giving of gifts, the beauty and the memories. But don’t think that the beauty and the luminous mystery belong to this day alone. The proclamation of Christmas is that God is With Us. This is not about one magical night long, long ago, but about God is with and among and within us always.

Ask Mary. When you were on that hard road to Bethlehem, when you were homeless in a strange place, where was God? Inside you. When you were shivering in that shed, left out of the circle of acceptance and privilege, where was God? Beside you. When you fled to Egypt, sought by powers and dominions whose soldiers were sent for your harm, where was God? Cradled in your arms, in your beating heart, in the depth of your breath. Each day, in your ordinary times, in your struggles, in the times of belonging and times of abandonment, where was God? Right here. Always, right here.

On this special night, God says to us with all the beauty it deserves, “I love you and I want to be with you. You are my delight, and I will give up all of heaven simply to be with you. Even if you do not understand, even if you hurt me and reject me, my desire is to be with you—to be in your arms, in your heart, in year breath. See! I am here. I am with you. Peace to you, and to all living things, in whom is my delight.”

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © 2009
Steve Garnaas-Holmes

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The constant angel

Stars shine their patent leather shoes,
light their little silver lanterns.
Angels put on their robes,
go over that tricky part one more time.
Mary sits on the donkey,
the donkey plods along, Joseph beside her.
Neither one tries the impossibility of words.
Wayside inn fills up, people
coming from a long way to fill it up.
A manger lies ready, open,
flies buzzing though its empty spaces,
while the dusty light settles.
The suns sets. The night begins to hush.
Shepherds, of course, are just out in their field,
nothing different, same as always.

You never get to see the gathering angels,
the light swelling just before it bursts forth.
You never know which manger will receive,
which night will shine, which moment
will give way to glory. If you did,
you’d miss all the rest.
Anyway, the one magnificent chorus
is not what changes you, but the gentle light
that seeps through everything, the quiet voice
humming as you sweep the floor,
check the oven, light the candle, open the door.

Copyright © 2009
Steve Garnaas-Holmes

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Baby in a manger


God does not come into our lives with overpowering force.
God comes with no more power than a baby has:
the power to evoke our love.

God comes with no more authority than a crying child,
the authority of one who knows suffering,
and will not be fooled by empty comfort.

God comes with no grandeur, no Empire,
but a world of infinite expanse, whose gates
are hidden in our hearts.

God comes with no parades, no banners,
no recognition at all, except among those who listen
to the silence that burns in all Creation.

God does not come to holy places, to sanctuaries and temples,
but to mangers and graveyards, shelters and tent cities,
to broken places.

God does not come to the triumphant and those in high places;
God comes to shepherds and lepers, to the poor and the weak,
and to you.

When you are willing, look.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © 2009
Steve Garnaas-Holmes

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter solstice

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

Today is the winter solstice: on our tilted planet the northern half leans farthest away from the sun on this day, and we begin the long arc back around to the lighter side. This is the shortest day (last night was the longest night): the sun rises later and sets earlier than on any other day, and farther to the south. (Notice where it rises and sets. Find your place in the order of things.)

It’s a day of promise and paradox. The days will get longer from here on out. And yet, winter is only beginning. The darkness is just now beginning to take effect. We have three more months of dark weather, winter cold and hibernation ahead of us. Yet, even as we enter into winter, spring has already won the battle. Light already rises from the tomb.

Early Christians in northern Europe borrowed ancient solstice celebrations to mark the birth of Jesus. “The true light that enlightens everyone was coming into the world.” Darkness will still be with us. Mystery enfolds us. We rise out of the unknown and move toward the One who can be loved but not thought. We travel the way of suffering and unknowing. And with us all the way, in the darkness, the blessed darkness, is the Light.

The promise of this day is not that the darkness will end. Our sufferings will not disappear. We will not come to some place where we know everything. Mystery will endure. The promise is that the Beloved will be with us. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it. Therefore we are not afraid to look in the darkness, to seek grace in suffering and mystery, to accompany those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to endure all things with hope. Winter may be coming, but spring has already triumphed.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © 2009
Steve Garnaas-Holmes

Friday, December 18, 2009

Blessed is she who believes

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

Blessed is she who believed
that there would be a fulfillment
of what was spoken to her by the Lord.
— Luke 1.45

Blessed is she who believes
that God can use her ordinary life,
who has done the work of peasants
and been in others’ shadows
and still is extraordinary,
who has nothing remarkable to offer,
who is not brilliant or powerful—
and who trusts that the miracle
is of God’s choosing, not her deserving.

Blessed is she who believes that
in plain living, in deep friendships
and love of children and quiet respect,
God speaks;
that in endurance and honesty,
in making soups and potholders,
in trust in grace rather than power,
and a tender heart for those who are abused
and the occasional letter to the editor,
God’s prophetic Word is proclaimed;
that in faithfulness to the weak
God’s promises are fulfilled.

Blessed is she who is not afraid to do great things,
to bear great love, to wield the power of her wisdom,
to know God in her body and her mind.

Blessed is she who believes
that God is in her
for the healing of the world.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © 2009
Steve Garnaas-Holmes

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Mighty One


Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
who has looked with favor on the lowliness of her servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is her name.
Her mercy is for those who wonder at her
from generation to generation.
She has shown strength with her arm;
she has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
She has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly,
filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
She has helped her servant Israel,
in remembrance of her mercy,
according to the promise she made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and Sarah and their descendants forever."

—Luke 1.46-55

What could this simple, uneducated peasant girl have been thinking, launching into a political analysis of power and history? What indeed. The world will never understand that God’s power is nothing, nothing like what the world thinks of as power. Only those who stand outside the obscuring walls of power can see.

The world thinks of power as power over, the power to force things to happen, the power to coerce, threaten and destroy. But God’s power is power under and within, the power to create and bless and set free, the power to bring forth. God’s power is not in places of influence and violence, not in the arrogant and rich, in those who are happy and respected and successful. It is not in the tyrants and tycoons. It is in powerlessness and brokenness. It is in poor peasants, in those who have been excluded, in ordinary people with broken lives. God’s power appears to this world as powerlessness; God’s order appears as disorder: backwards, upside down, inside out. The last are first, the poor blessed, the dead raised. God comes to upend the world.

The good news of this season is that the Mighty One is present among us, in the poor and the powerless, in times of hopelessness and suffering. In weak people, in bleak times, Christ comes. Do you see? Let Mary lead you to the light in the darkness, the hope in bleak midwinter, the babe in the manger.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © 2009
Steve Garnaas-Holmes

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What Mary said yes to


That God was up to something
That nothing is impossible with God
That what stirs in us is of cosmic importance
That the Source of the Universe favors you
That your ordinary life deeply matters
That you have no way of measuring the value of your life
That God has desires for you that you cannot grasp

Being part of an energy you do not fully understand
Accepting your gifts as holy
Not having control
The beyond within
Love that gives by demanding from us
Being changed
Giving yourself to something
without knowing how it will turn out
Being misunderstood, judged, powerless and rejected
The power and wisdom of those who are
misunderstood, judged, powerless and rejected
Glory in all things
Loving God by loving a person
Saying yes

The long haul

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © 2009
Steve Garnaas-Holmes

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Something coming


In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a virgin whose name was Mary. And he said, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you." But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son.”
— from Luke 1. 26-31

Unless our plans include immaculate conception,
God’s grace in our lives often comes as an interruption.

In lives in which we do not revere our souls
the first miracle is that God favors us.

God comes to us not as a stranger,
a neighbor, or a condescending authority,
but as our Infinite Lover.

We stand before God not as strangers
or slaves or defendants,
but as Beloved.

And God will have us.

God’s love flowers within us
in ways we cannot control.

It will become our master.

You might as well plan for miracles,
or at least keep your options open.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © 2009
Steve Garnaas-Holmes

Monday, December 14, 2009


She lives a beckoning.
Her hands beseech
in drawing water, pounding grain.

An invitation dwells within
the practiced grace of tending to the elders,
the invocations and priestly gestures
of washing pots, of cooking soup,
the welcome of a small dirt floor made clean.

She lays her eyes like hands on things
and consecrates them: cups and stones,
and children, and their tears;
her noticing, her calling to the holy.
She knows no saintliness beyond the plain
embrace of all that is, the feel of walking,
the sacredness of how we’re given, pure,
so confidently to each other here.

She does not question the roughness of her life,
but uses it to scrub her wisdom’s tabletop;
and yet with every breath she begs a question.
Her undemanding silence is a bidding,
her simply being, her vocation here:
to make intimate spaces for eternity to dwell.

The great round pot sits, washed and empty.
And there, beside the broom, as yet unseen,
dear Gabriel smiles at her and draws a breath.

Copyright © 2009
Steve Garnaas-Holmes

Friday, December 11, 2009

Shovel the driveway of the Lord

Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight a path for God.
Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.
— Luke 3. 4-6

This may mean something as grand as building a highway; but it is also something as simple as shoveling the driveway. Which I just spent half a day doing. In places where it snows, you dig out your sidewalk and driveway for two reasons: so you can get out, and so others can get in. A shoveled driveway is a thing of beauty.

The prophet’s cry is a plea for justice in this world where greed and the misuse of power oppress and exploit people and create “rough” and “crooked” places in society. But this social (and even cosmic) transformation can come about only when we also undergo an inner transformation. So we prepare a way within ourselves. We shovel the driveway of our own hearts so God can get in. It’s not a matter of “doing more stuff.” It’s a matter of removing stuff, pushing aside all the things we think we have to do and think and have and experience, so we can be present and available and accessible to God. Unlike shoveling the physical driveway, this means being still.

God can hardly climb into our cluttered minds and hearts with all the stuff piled up in the dooryard. We’re so busy, so subservient to external authorities and inner bosses, so tethered to calendars and to do lists, so burdened by expectations, that we are hardly free to simply allow God to live in us and grow and shine in us. So the first thing we do is to clear a path. Stop. Sit down. Be still. Push aside all your thoughts and ideas and beliefs and worries. You can have them; just clear a way though them.

Make time every day, even if just for a few minutes each morning, to clear a path for the Divine Presence to enter your consciousness. Just clear away some time with nothing in it, and sit and admire the clearing. God is a wanderer, and can’t resist a cleared sidewalk.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © 2009
Steve Garnaas-Holmes

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Practice contentment

John went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. He said, "Bear fruits worthy of repentance." And the crowds asked him, "What then should we do?" He replied, "Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise."
— from Luke 3. 2-14

There is an outward action here of practicing justice. And there is an inward one, of practicing contentment. We often fail to share because we are afraid of not having enough. The antidote? Appreciate what you have. Find wonder and beauty in what is before you. See the Beloved in those around you. Notice the grace of God in the simplest things, and let that be enough. In this way you will be to see the Hope of the World in a lowly manger.

Having one coat is enough. But merely having it is not enough. Delight in it. Marvel at the wonder of body heat, radiating from within. Notice the wisdom of zippers, drawing two sides together. Give thanks for pockets, that offer a place for your hands, like the stable for Joseph and Mary. Rejoice for the gifts of Fit and Comfort, and the steadfast way the coat enfolds you.

Take something from the cupboard and marvel at it. Hold an apple in the light and behold its intricate dapplings worthy of van Gogh. Eat a single raisin and savor it.

What if for Christmas you asked for what you already have? What if everything is a gift, everything sufficient, everything wonderful? What if you don’t actually need anything? Then you are free to share, to love the world and to build justice without hindrance or impediment. And you are likely, in such a state of mindful gratitude, to behold the very Incarnation of God, in simple things, every day.

A drink of water in the morning opens your life like a window and baptizes you with fire.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Waiting for God

O Silent Presence,

I love you who are
and are to come.
I wait for you
who are already here.

I long to see you right before me—
and this longing is you, isn’t it?
I wake in the night and you are not here or there.
You are the wakefulness.

You are the joy, the stillness,
the Silence the world is made of.
You are the ache, the yearning.
You are what Is and Is Not Yet,

enfolded in this world, unknown:
all that shall be, in the present moment,
You Who Are Coming,
and You Who Are Already.

You who are the Here of this place
beckon me to this place and its love;
you who are the Now of this moment
wait patiently for me to come.

The waiting I thought was for you
is for your beloved.
The ache that I thought was for heaven
is for the world

where you hide in plain sight,
waiting for me.
Aching, even.

Copyright © 2009
Steve Garnaas-Holmes