Thursday, March 31, 2011

We built a temple

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

We built a church of wood
         and they burned it to dust.

We built a shrine of gold
         and they stole it all.

We built a cathedral of stone
         and they toppled it with ease.

We walked out into a field of love
         and they can't even find it.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

But now I see

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God's works might be revealed in him.

God, help me see your glory.
Open my eyes to your grace.

“We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world."
May I see by your light.
May I do the works of light.

He spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man's eyes, saying to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see.
Help me let go of old ways of seeing.
Give me a new consciousness.

The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, "Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?" Some were saying, "It is he." Others were saying, "No, but it is someone like him." He kept saying, "I am the man."
Give me courage to see others as they truly are,
not as I want to see them.

Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. Some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath."
I confess that I sometimes care more
about defending my world view
than about others and their well being.

They did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called his parents and asked them.
Give me grace to honor what is in my heart
without having to ask others what I know to be true.

So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, "Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner."
Help me to see your grace in those whom I judge,
to see your truth in what I resist
to see your presence where I have refused to see.

He answered, "I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see."

Once I judged, and I was blind,
but by your grace I see grace
and my eyes are opened.
You have set me free
from the fear of seeing.
You give me courage to see what is,
and behold what is before me.
I look with my soul, not only my eyes,
and I watch what others do not notice.
I look to the heart, and attend to the soul,
and so I see the unseen, by your grace.

They said, “We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from."
I confess the preconceptions that blind me,
the blinders of what I want to be true,
and how I want to be right.

The man answered, "Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing." They answered him, "You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?" And they drove him out.
Give me courage to see grace and and mercy,
to notice injustice and demeaning,
even when others want me not to see,
when I would be at ease being oblivious.

Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" He answered, "And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him." Jesus said to him, "You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he." He said, "Lord, I believe." And he worshiped him.

God, help me to see with your eyes,
with your compassion,
with your grace,
for otherwise I am blind.

Jesus said, "I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind." Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, "Surely we are not blind, are we?" Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, 'We see,' your sin remains.”
God, be my seeing.
Create me anew as your eyes.
Look upon this world with love
from within me.

—from John 9

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

No such thing as deserving

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God's works might be revealed in him.

         — John 9.1-3

Biblical cultures believed that all disease and misfortune is God's punishment. We come close. One problem is that our little ego-self has a hard time being fully in the present moment. We stay chained to the past: we believe that what we've done in the past somehow determines what we “deserve” in the present. But God is not in the past, and God is not determined by the past. God is not obligated to match a punishment or a reward with some past deed, and we are not obligated to compensate for the past. Resurrection means that God is free of the past, and sets us free as well. This is what forgiveness is, and the grace of God.

In this story, people assume that a man born blind has to stay that way. Jesus will show them otherwise.

Another problem is that we really do think that, having eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, we can judge—and just because our little egoic selves think we can, we think that judging is what needs to be done, and what God does. We think that one's actions can be so simplistically labeled as good or evil as to warrant a single particular fate that one “deserves.” But our actions have a thousand aspects, causes and consequences, and good and evil are not so easily separated out. Many of the “bad” things we do are ways of coping we learned as children that kept us sane and alive. Is that bad? Maybe what God judges is not our past but our present: how present we are to God right now, in this moment.

In this story, people assume that if there has been sin, someone ”deserves” punishment. Jesus will show them otherwise.

Neither the man nor his parents sinned (in the past). He was born blind so that God's glory might be revealed in him (in the present). There is no such thing as deserving. There is only God's grace.

You think that for your acts, good or bad, there is deserving. Let God show you otherwise. Be present to God in the present moment. Let God free you of the past. Learn from it, yes; receive from it, let it shape and guide you. But it does not control you, or God. You live with the consequences of what you have done, but God does not attach reward or punishment to that. God only grants you grace. Allow God to bring you gently into the present moment, freeing you from the past, and from all “deserving.” No one owes anyone anything. You are free. You are loved. You are free to love God as perfectly as you can. Come into God's presence—God's presence for us, God's present— with thanksgiving.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Monday, March 28, 2011

Mud season

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

The woman answered him, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, "I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!"
—John 4.17-18

Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni!" (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, "Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father.
—John 20. 15-17

In between winter and spring is mud season. The beautiful snow disappears, burned down to icy, grimy crusts. Yards expose a season's filth, matted and ugly. The ground is wet, sloppy and spongy. Brown mud covers everything. Green and flowering growth will come, but this comes first.

There is a season between repentance and rebirth, between the old life and the new. There is a kind of mud season in which we have become newly honest about our faults, wounds and struggles. We are exposed and vulnerable, and not yet comfortable with a new way of living. We are unrecognizable as our old selves, but not yet fully formed as new ones. The clay is still wet and fragile, too tender to cling to.

It's hard to change our lives. It's a long process, and it does not come all at once. We need to be humble and patient, and gentle with ourselves. And we ought to be so tender with others, in case they, too, have entered into their own mud season. We need to not cling to the way they are, so that they are free to become what they will be. New life will surely come, but only if we respect it. Be gentle with yourself and others, and be patient with the mud seasons. The little green shoots will appear soon enough.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Friday, March 25, 2011


Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished.

—Matthew 4.2

          Fasting, I confront my desires.
          I follow them and they lead me
          inward into my wilderness.

The people complained against Moses and said, "Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?"
—Exodus 17.3

          Too often it is only through suffering,
          through struggle and want,
          that I find what I seek,
          and who I am.

God opened the rock, and water gushed out; it flowed through the desert like a river.

—Psalm 105.41

          You provide what I need,
          not what I crave,
          and not where I expect it.

God humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
—Deuteronomy 8.3

          A deeper thirst yearns beneath my wants.
          I befriend my temptations,
          without surrendering to them,
          until they show me what they are hiding.

As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.

—Psalm 42.1-2

          This holy thirst is not a weakness;
          it is my salvation. It never fails me.
          It is You, drawing me nearer.

"Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water."

—John 4.15

          May my soul's thirst flood my body's;
          May I never lose my overwhelming
          craving for you.

When Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), "I am thirsty."

—John 19.28

          My thirst for You takes me
          to places of compassion:
          when others thirst
          my mouth is dry.

The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.

—John 4.14

          One thirsty gulp of Your grace
          lasts me forever,
          gushing up from within me
          for life.

          God, today I am happy
          to be hungry and thirsty
          for you.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The woman at the well

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.
The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water." Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come back." The woman answered him, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, "I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!" The woman said to him, "Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say....”

         —John 4.15-20

Women did not have the power to marry or to divorce. That was the discretion of the man. So she has been used five times, and is being used now again. But Jesus neither judges her past nor dwells on her situation. He names her pain, but allows her to set the agenda for their conversation. She doesn't want to talk about the men in her life. She wants to talk about God. So they do.

For yeas she has been ignored, belittled, and treated as if she had no worthy ideas or valid perspective. She has been treated as if she is not worthy of another's attention or fidelity. She is ostracized by her community (she can't go to the well 'till noon, at the bottom of the village pecking order for morning water). But now, at last, here is someone—a man, no less, and a Jewish rabbi!—who listens to her, who attends, not to what he thinks of her, but to what she is actually saying. He doesn't just tolerate her. He truly, deeply and wholly accepts her, and all of who she is. I imagine at some point that mingled with the water from the well and the living stream in her heart that Jesus promises are her tears of joy and gratitude.

We all have our secret burdens of pain, shame or despair. We all have our secret struggles, our failures, our wandering journeys. We have been misunderstood, judged, labeled. Aren't we all hungry for acceptance, in which we can just be ourselves without either pretending we're perfect or dwelling on our wounds? The one single most remarkable thing about the church I serve, that which I am most proud of them for, is that they are a safe place for people whose lives are broken.

This is not just lovely; it's holy. This willingness to embrace people is an embodiment of God's grace. God receives us without labels, without judgment, without distraction, and attends to our hearts. We get self-conscious before God and start listing our strengths and weaknesses and God says, “Yeah, so? I love you.”

What we are all most thirsty for is to belong. Pray that you might offer a safe place for all others, for those whom even you judge harshly. May they find in your presence the warm, gentle embrace of God. Listen to them.
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The weaver of heaven

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

The weaver of heaven looks out
upon her world and wants
to walk among her dear humans unnoticed
for she knows how alarmed they can be

So she weaves a beautiful garment for herself
and when she is finished
naked and eager she puts you on
and you fit perfectly

And you walk out into the world
and hardly anyone
not even you yourself

But every movement is actually her
every breath is really her
and even when you stumble
she is beautiful in you

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

Now the Lord said to Abram, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” .... Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.
         —Genesis 12.1-2, 4

God grants us lives that are more interesting than predictable. I'm only 57, not 75, but these days I feel like Abram: every United Methodist pastor serves under the appointment of their Bishop, and this summer my Bishop is appointing me to another church (in Acton, Massachusetts.) This will be our sixth move, so we're used to this business of stepping off into the unknown. The temptation, of course, is to pretend that it's not unknown: to imagine that I can just be the same and do more of the same, that I don't have to learn or be anything new. That would be too bad.

We resist change and the unknown, partly because we fear loss. I'll miss some friends, and my dear New Hampshire woods. But mostly we fear the loss of control, knowing what to do. Since we identify so deeply with our control, it feels like we're losing ourselves. Well, in fact that is true, since we really are invited to become new people. Abram became Abraham.

But in all our travels and travails, in consolations and desolations, no matter what treasures are taken, or trophies given to us, through all our changes, even as we leave who we are behind and become new people, two things are constant. One is our soul, the holy core, the divine nucleus of who we are that cannot be taken away or changed. All God's transformations faithfully honor our deepest self; they do not destroy it. Let all that is new and unknown strip away what is external and reveal your soul.

The second: God did not say to Abram, “Go find it.” God said, “I will show you.” This also is constant: the Holy Presence who abides, who lives so intimately with us that it is not above or beside us but within. When things about us are busy and changing, it takes time to sit still and go within to meet that Presence. But the Beloved is there. In all your changes, seek that holy seed of who you are, your eternal soul, and seek the One who abides within. And you will find that they are one, that your soul is of God, and yearns for God, and leans toward God. This mystery will accompany you through all changes and illumine the unknown. Go from Abram to Abraham. Go from merely having a soul to being one; let go of everything else—and no changes will trouble you.

No matter how far the lands where you roam,
your journey is always coming home.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Monday, March 21, 2011

A psalm of spring

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

O Greening God, Spring be your praise!
         Praise be these warming, gentle days,

the evening light that lingers more
         each day beside her lover's door,

the silent, ice-bound brook's release
         to sing its melody of peace,

and snow-bowed limbs, now free, that lift
         their hands to thank you for the gift.

The lines of geese, mile after mile,
         are monks processing up the aisle

toward the altar of their nest
         while chanting psalms that we are blessed.

Your praise be sap in buds and roots,
         the courage of the small green shoots,

the breeze from warmer bosoms drawn,
         the songs of birds that thread the dawn.

O God of budding, birthing things,
         all rising up your glory sings—

all bugs that hatch, all smells that waft,
         all thawing, swelling, turning soft:

this is your praise, and may it be
         as in the woods, so clear in me.

Emerge in me, O Lord, like spring,
         that I may be the hymn you sing.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Friday, March 18, 2011

Born again

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.
Jesus answered him, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the Realm of God without being reborn from above." Nicodemus said to him, "How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can you enter a second time into your mother's womb and be born?"

         — John 3.3-4

OK, class, settle down. After you all finish tittering about Nick's silly question here—listen, it's the same question you have, isn't it? He gets our panic: in this being born again thing—I get to bring my old self along, right? He's made the absurdity of it clear by using a biological image of climbing back into the womb and trying again, but the reality is spiritual: not just your body but your whole self, what you think is “you”— you can't take it with you. When you are born again you don't go back to some earlier point, you go onward. You die. You leave your self behind. You're not just birthed again, you're conceived again. You're created. You're a wholly new person.

Nicodemus' question points out our deep attachment to our “self.” That attachment is what we call sin. Sin is living in the illusion that I can create myself, and that I do create myself, and that this self I create is worth defending. We assume that our self is contained in our body, and spend our lives wrestling with its limitations. We identify with our feelings and thoughts and beliefs, with our memories and personalities and accomplishments, as if that's who we are. But who we are is an image, a little bit, a handful of God.

When we really, truly, madly, deeply love God, we love God even more than our own “self”—and we give that self over to God, along with the illusion that we are God, that we get to create and control our own self. In so doing we return to our true self, our soul. We allow God to create us, over and over again, in God's good and beautiful grace, trusting, as she said the first time in Genesis, that is is “very good.” We are re-born, not by human will, but from God. “To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of human doing, but of God” (John 1.12-13).

To “believe” doesn't mean to think. It means to give your heart to the One who creates you new, every morning you awake, every breath. So, Nick, the answer to your question is yes. Enter again into your Heavenly Mother's womb, and be born again, and again, and again. The hard part is letting go of who you think you are, so that you are ready to receive it from God. (That's what Lent is about.) Every moment we choose, we can let go of the person we have been trying to be, let the Beloved conceive us anew, and allow her to birth us into this world as newborns, beautiful babies, full of wonder, and swaddled in love for the Mother who gives us birth and life.
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Life begins

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

It begins in deadly hearts of stars,
in elements consumed, transfigured
in killing, birthing heat.

It begins deep within, in the murderous
seething of earth's innards.

It begins with rock defeated, riven, worn,
stone creased and cracked and crushed
a million times, battered
to sand and sent on its silted way.

It begins in womb-dark murk and musk of soil,
in death and rot and rank decay,
in spilled seeds split and broken down,
in loss, collapse and festering,
by blessed unseen bugs and germs
digesting darkness into light.

In awful places this miracle,
this life begins.
In darkness, deaths and desolations
is the birth of what shall be.


Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Blessed darkness

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.
And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God."

         — John 3.19-21

And yet—
I hate the darkness and all that is unknown,
and I am afraid to look into my shadows,
where truth is, obscured.
I turn on the lights,
keep things entertaining and happy.
I await the equinox,
when night is pressed into a corner of the room,
when mystery is eclipsed.

— And yet as darkness turns out its pockets,
new things are revealed,
things that had been carefully tucked into the murk,
and I close my eyes.
I flee from darkness into the obscurity
of lights and sparkle and brightness and flash.

Sprit of illumination, draw me
into the holy darkness,
the shadows where dwell things that are true,
the nocturnal fears and memories
that I only see truly in their dark.

Give me courage to look behind the veil,
to reach beneath the pall,
to close my eyes and go in.

Blessed darkness, you who reveal
the stars, and the loveliness of the moon,
illumine me.
Christ, Loving Mystery, enigmatic brother,
walk with me into this good night,
where I am shrouded in grace,
where I stumble into the cross—
you, my dark friend, bearing my darkness,
nailed to my evil,
entombed in my gloom,
making of my shadows
a grave that cannot hold.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.
I went to the desert last month. Not out west, but down in Boston. After her surgery, Beth was in the hospital for six days, and I stayed with her in her room and waited on her. For me it was a desert experience, a time when everything else was stripped away and life was reduced to the bare essentials of being present. For six days I retreated from my job and the busy world of multitasking, and entered into the blessed desert sabbath simplicity of monotasking: only doing one thing. I attended to Beth. That was all. Time meant little. There were days when I never even left the room, let alone the hospital. There were nights when I slept little, and days when I never got around to eating. I wasn't fasting; I was just doing something else.

I'm not saying I was actually wholly attentive. At times I got restless, or distracted, or wanted to do something else. This is not about me, but the experience. It was very meditative. I loved the contemplative focus of just doing one thing, being fully present to Beth, and letting go of everything else. I loved the simplicity of it, the freedom from my wants and attachments. I liked being in that place of deep attentiveness. I didn't mind if she was crabby or appreciative, or if what she asked of me was a little thing or a real effort. There was just one thing.

This is what Jesus went to the desert for. To each of his temptations he responded by deepening his attention to God. “We live not by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God...” “Do not put God to the test....” “Worship God, and serve God alone.” He was practicing monotasking, so that all he was ever doing was being attentive to God, loving and serving God.

I'm afraid I've slipped back into my busy, confused world since the hospital. I am not wholly attentive to Beth, nor to God. I am multitasking again. Whatever I'm doing I seem too often to also be doing something else. So I welcome the the Lenten season, when we go back to the desert. In prayer, fasting and acts of justice and generosity we practice loving attentiveness to God, to others, and to all the world. We stay present to Christ in his suffering, and serve him in all his incarnations, not to accomplish many things, but, in all we do, to love and serve God. God's love for us becomes our love for others. Blessedly, beautifully, gracefully, our whole lives become one thing: God's love in us.

May it be so for you this Lenten season.
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Monday, March 14, 2011

Meditation on a disaster

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

God does not cause earthquakes. God causes compassion.

Kyrie eleison.

We are small and fragile, and we need each other.

Kyrie eleison.

God is the love that draws us toward each other.

Kyrie eleison.

Sin is the fear that drives us away.

Kyrie eleison.

This is life is a gift. Every moment is precious.

Kyrie eleison.

Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

Kyrie eleison.

This day, this moment, is the time for compassion.

Kyrie eleison.

Pray that you might become more purely loving today.

Kyrie eleison.

When all of life and death have swept over us, love is all that remains.

Kyrie eleison.

We hold our sisters and brothers in Japan in our prayers,
mindful of the great compassion that enfolds them,
the Infinite Love that weeps with them,
the life-giving Presence that sustains them,
the Spirit that holds us all as one.

Kyrie eleison.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Friday, March 11, 2011

Not by bread alone

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.
         Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread." But he answered, "It is written, "One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.' "
         Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, "He will command his angels concerning you,' and "On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.' " Jesus said to him, "Again it is written, "Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"
         Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me." Jesus said to him, "Away with you, Satan! for it is written, "Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.' " Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

         —Matthew 4.1-11

God, I have a list
of stones to turn to bread,
things to accomplish today
and in my short eternity—
power to exercise.
But I relinquish my list, and my power
         and receive from you alone.
Beloved, I have hired angels
to protect me from falling,
from being hurt, taking risks.
I want to measure your love
by my comfort and satisfaction.
But I renounce what shields me from love
and all its suffering,
from life and its losses.
         You alone are my security.
Infinite Lover,
I've put earnest money down on the world,
furnished with everyone's adoration.
It was counterfeit, of course,
but none of us knew.
But I let go of it all,
         for your love alone,
         pure gift, is all
         that sustains me.
God, I would like to be God—
my God, for my sake, in my own way.
But I will be your creation
         and you be my God.
Infinite Love, Mysterious Wisdom,
take my life from my hands,
my power, my security, my place in the world,
and place me, empty handed,
         in yours.
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.
Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished.

         —Matthew 4. 1-2

Jesus went out into the desert to confront his temptations. He went to see his fears, desires and attachments more vividly, to name them and be more free from them, in order to become more loving.

The Spirit that led Jesus is also in us: Love that yearns to become perfected in us. In Lent we go with Jesus into the desert, not to suffer or wallow in guilt, but to see more clearly. We go to see our sin, in order to see through it to God's love— and to get free of what inhibits love. We engage in Lenten disciplines in order to expose our temptations, to face our needs and fears and desires and attachments, to name the evil that is in us, and to see beneath them to our deepest, truest hunger, which is for God. We see our sin more clearly, and beneath it we see our belovedness. The more honestly we face our needs and fears, our failings and weaknesses, the more clearly we see how we habitually identify with them. But they do not define us; God's grace does. So we pray and fast and give generously in order to see through the things that get in the way of our receiving and giving God's love. And we let go of them, setting free the love that is already in us.

This Lent, go into the desert with Jesus to look at yourself honestly, to see through your sin, to see more clearly and become more deeply who you truly are: God's Beloved, deeply loving.
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ash Wednesday

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.
We stand before the divine majesty of God
with dirt on our faces
as if we're babies who can't feed ourselves
little kids fresh in from playing with fire
fighting with each other

in a neat little cross
as if it's on purpose
and not the stain of inattention
inability to keep ourselves up
smear of greed
slopping slipping in low places

as if it's ice cream
ashes of our old palms
tragic underside of our praise
scar of all the times we got burned
not seepage sewage tears
blood spattered shed
wound of grief and shame
dirt from our own grave
soot of our cremation

This is the mess we show up in before God
who gazes at us
and the death on our faces

(it's only after this
amazed out of our old life
that we die
shed our lives like skin
become for the first time again:)

who gently
licks her thumb
and wipes us clean
and says,

“There now.”

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Fat Tuesday

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.
Lent is a season of repentance, marked by the traditional practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. As a form of fasting, people often went without rich foods during Lent, so on the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, they would use up all their milk, butter and eggs by making “fat” foods,” like pancakes. Hence today is sometimes known as “Fat Tuesday” or “Pancake Day.”

We often pick something to “give up” for Lent. I don't plan to give up milk and eggs. But I do intend to fast, and to do without sweets, snacks and unnecessary food, and to avoid eating in a hurry or standing up or while doing something else. The point is not to deprive myself, or make my life uncomfortable. The point is to be mindful. How much do I eat without needing to, just out of habit or “because it's there?” How much do I eat without even thinking, without enjoying, without appreciating? By eating mindfully during Lent I don't expect to be miserable. I expect to enjoy my food even more.

The reason for repentance is God's judgment. If you think God's judgment is condemnation and punishment, then I suppose Lent should be pure misery. But God's judgment is simply the loving truth about us. So Lent is a time to become more mindful, to see ourselves more clearly, to and to realign ourselves with God's love. Fasting is a practice that helps us expose and transcend our usual desires and attachments, and focus beyond ourselves and our immediate wants. But fasting goes along with prayer and almsgiving. Fasting without mindfulness and generosity is not a real fast. The point is not to improve self-discipline, but to deepen our love.

So besides “giving up” something, observe Lent by committing to a deeper practice of prayer or sharing. While I'm fasting, I'll be writing letters on behalf of the poor through Bread for the World, and on behalf of prisoners of conscience through Amnesty International. The point of Lent is to move beyond our self-contained-ness and become more fully connected with God and others in love. Choose a way to observe Lent that helps you become more mindful, and more in harmony with God's love for you and for others. You will likely experience in it a rebirth that will prepare you well for the miracle of Easter. And you'll enjoy those Easter eggs all the more.
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Monday, March 7, 2011

I stumbled

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

I have stumbled again,” I prayed.
“Can you forgive me?”
And God said,
“if you had any idea what I know
that you do not
of your burdens—
how my back aches from them,
and my legs are weak—
you wouldn't need to ask.”

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Friday, March 4, 2011

We could disppear

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

We don't go
behind the curtain
that is this world,
in front of which
things are what they say
and as they appear,
a bird is a bird, a flower a flower,
but behind which,
the smallest flower is the sun,
and a bird is a prayer,
the language of your deepest longings,
something in you that has traveled far
and returned,
someone smaller than the wind
but free in it,
hope with a sense of geography,
a song that lays eggs,
a gesture of praise with children,
your death, singing above you,
branch to branch....

We don't go because
just as easily as we could become
the graceful swan
we could also become pure flame

and disappear

or the wren outside your window
looking in.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Not waiting

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

The trees are not waiting, as I am, for spring.

The snowmelt falling without guile
into the brook, why should it be mindful
of dark Atlantic currents, clouds rising and
sweeping within weeks along the steppes?
It's only dropping with its pure plop
into this black water spinning under the cedars.

The trees are not waiting for spring
or even a sunny day.
They are not patient. They do not know.
They stand, as I am, knee deep in snow
with their little buds in their hands,
attentive to the press of bird or breeze,
or none, upon their limbs
and sing one note at a time
in their vast, unfolding song of praise.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

March blessing

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.
May the blessings of March be yours:

the fierceness of its changes
brace your heart;

the strength of its winds
give you confidence;

the melting of snow
give courage to your repentance
and your forgiveness.

May the possibility of spring
haunt you.

May all that is frozen, hard and hidden
begin secretly to soften
and come to light.

May green living things,
tender, still and strong,
beneath what is seen,
begin silently to stir and rise.

Crocuses, dear, prepare
to pierce your heart.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.
He led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, "This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!"

         — Matthew 17. 1-5

A mountain top, a man shining with light, the appearance of great leaders long dead, a bright cloud, a voice from heaven—let's face it: there's just no explaining the Transfiguration. Peter tries to contain it—and we join him—trying to put it in a box, make it fit, make it “mean something.“ But it doesn't.

Sure, it's a vision of the Risen Christ appearing in glory, and an image of Jesus as the light of the world and the completion of the Law and the Prophets, and so on. But really, it's about this one thing: mystery. There's power, and there's glory, and there's the story of the journey to freedom with Moses and the revelation of the Truth by Ezekiel. But mostly there's just mystery. This is where the philosophers can only say, “Hm,” and the theologians, “Oh;” while the saints cry, “Ooh!” and “Aah!

We follow a mystery. We are allured by wonder, led by inexplicable light, claimed by a grace that defies all logic and transcends all understanding. We let our minds, as tools of control, rest. We let our confidence in knowing what's going on take a sabbath. Instead we gaze. We go to the place where we are in the dark, where the Voice that speaks us says, “Let there be light.” We seek the faith that is a willingness to be overwhelmed, and a trust that the unknown is benevolent. We stand in silent wonder until our hearts catch fire, until we ourselves are transfigured by astonished delight. When we die and stand before God in judgment on on our lives, the great cry of faith is not our beliefs, but the song of the saints, echoed by the angels, raised by all Creation. It is simply this, a cry close to the sound of “Yahweh,” the name of God: Wow.

Life is mystery. Faith is trust in it. Stop trying to explain it, Peter, and simply let it be. Be in awe. Be at a loss for words. Be amazed. Be dazzled. Pay attention. Don't miss it. Listen.

Wow. Amen.
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light