Thursday, June 23, 2011


Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.
Child of God,
beloved of God,
companion of God,

in all your journeys and becomings,
all your changes and challenges,
all doings and undoings and unknowings,

the Blessing One embraces you,
the Delighting One accompanies you,
The One enfolds you.

All that is holy and strong in you
cannot change or be taken;
it is eternal.

Your wholeness is unfolding.
Each day is a newness, a birth,
each challenge a chance to learn.

You will be well,
and a blessing to this earth.
Heaven travels with you.

Go in grace.
Go in blessing.
Go in peace.

Now—I'm off on an adventure,
and so are you!
See you in July.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What do you see?

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.
         "A little while, and you will no longer see me,
         and again a little while, and you will see me."

                  —John 16.16

Jesus was not setting up some cheesy magic trick; he was simply inviting his followers to trust, and to pay attention.

More than once Jesus said, “Look. What do you see?” I began writing Unfolding Light ten years ago when I was campus pastor at Montana State University-Billings. The campus is right under the imposing 100-foot sandstone bluffs that rim the northern edge of the city (and much of SW Montana). I sent emails with announcements to students and faculty, including a little observation on “The Rims Today,” inviting folks to notice those great, ever-changing paintings of light and shadow, rain and snow and imagination. I just wanted them to look. When I moved here to Concord, NH, I reflected on the woods in much the same way.

The spiritual life is a process of waking up from taking things for granted, giving attention to what is before us. Things change, beauty happens, grace and mystery abound—but we miss most of it because we're not looking. On the path I carved through these woods nine years ago, I sometimes meet a fellow walking his dog. He has earphones on. He doesn’t look up. I don't imagine he's seen the purple vetch or observed the brook among the ferns rising and falling after rains, or knows that there's a fox with five kits whose den is not 40 feet from the path. (We stare at each other every morning and every evening.) He's not looking.

When we get used to things we want to stop looking. Even if you already know what it looks like, don't stop looking. Notice it. Let every day be new. Reality is not a static thing, but continually unfolding. This is the day the Lord is creating. Rejoice and pay attention.

Tomorrow will be my last post for a while as I take a break to move to Acton, MA—not a big move, like from Montana to here, but a move. I'll resume some time after the 4th of July. "A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me." In the meantime keep paying attention.

Weather Report

New, despite its familiarity,
unfolding with what is,
as shifting clouds emerge
give way and disappear,
divine presence
just waiting to be seen.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.
A prayer labyrinth is not a maze: you can't get lost; there are no dead ends. It leads faithfully to the center, and back out again. This morning I walked the prayer labyrinth at our church one last time. In walking a labyrinth, you come to places where the circle doubles back, and you turn around and go the other way. Or at least it seems like the “other way”, although actually you're still going forward, going toward the center, going toward the world. I love those places. I pause and attend to the turnaround, notice the letting go, savor the anticipation. I was going that way, and now I am going this way. This, too, is part of the journey.

The turnaround is a basic part of the path of life: a trip to the store and back... switchbacks up a mountain... you push the lawnmower this way and then that. Geese migrate south, migrate north. Even the earth itself swings from winter to summer, pauses, and tuns around. In the northern hemisphere today, June 21, is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, the beginning of summer, the turnaround. In the southern hemisphere, of course, it is the opposite turnaround.

My life has come to a turnaround. At the end of this week I will move away from this town forever, to take another church in a different town, in another state. I will cease being the pastor here, living here, walking these woods. I am going what feels like “another way,” but I am really still going forward. This is typical. We go through changes and reversals, graduations, losses and unexpected turns. We repent. New things seem strange, and we get disoriented. The weave of death becomes visible behind the fabric of life. We thought we were facing the visible world but we are facing heaven. We turn around.

Savor your turnarounds. Be of good courage. Take heart. This, too, is part of the journey. This is still the path, and you are still going forward. This is part of the blessing. Let all your letting go be blessed. Let this new chapter be a learning, a becoming, a birth. Let each solstice of your life be a gift. For even on the very day that the days cease growing longer and the earth turns toward the cold and dark of winter, summer begins.
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Monday, June 20, 2011

What I take with me

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.
Packing for the journey,
leaving much behind,
what shall I take with me?

I take mindfulness,
so that wherever I am
I may actually be there.

I take gratitude,
by which everything,
everything is a gift.

I take trust.
How much I can sow,
knowing the seeds will sprout!

I take freedom,
not from accountability,
but to live by my choices.

I take love,
my connection with all,
my only true power.

I take wonder.
There is always more.
It is all mystery, all grace.

I take courage
for all of life's yieldings
and steadfastness.

I take gentleness and kindness,
a way of being a blessing
that cannot be taken away.

I take an open heart,
open hands, open eyes.
All else I leave on the curb.

Find me on the road,
and find The One
—I do not go on my own—

by whom
I myself
am taken.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Friday, June 17, 2011


Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.
And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

         — Matthew 28. 19-20

Baptizing in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit does not mean converting people to Christianity. It means immersing them in the love of a community that bears God's Covenant to them and to the world.

To baptize you in the name of the Father is to honor you as God's own, to see the Holy One in you, to acknowledge you as a sacred Being of God's Creation and an embodiment of God's presence. It is to say to you in words and in deeds, “You have your Father's eyes.”

To baptize you in the name of the Son is to promise to love you as we have been loved, to honor you as one for whom Christ died, to demonstrate your forgiveness, to honor you as an equal in the Body of Christ, to entrust you to Christ's healing, to listen with you for the Living Word in your life, to hold your living and your dying in the light of Christ's resurrection, to teach you how to live in radical trust, compassion and gratitude as Jesus did, and you assist you in dying and rising with Christ. It is to say to you in words and deeds, “The peace of Christ be with you.”

To baptize you in the name of the Holy Spirit is to evoke the deepest power of God's loving presence in you, to honor your holiness, to encourage you in discovering and giving your gifts, to show you how to breathe deeply, to engage you in loving as you have been loved, to bear witness to our oneness with you in the Spirit as members of the same body, fingers of one hand. It is to say to you in words and deeds, “You are the song and God is the breath.”

To baptize someone in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is to engage them in a Covenant with the One who goes into the world, who continually dies and rises to new life, and who is always with us. We do not convert them, but are ourselves converted. With Christ, we go on like a flowing river to new places, new realities, chapters. And always, the Loving One, the Healing One, the Empowering One is with us.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Holy Trinity

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.
Mother, Son and Holy Spirit,
beyond words we bless you,

you who defeat our words, confound
our images, encircle our understanding,

who are not a thing to be described
but Being, Love, Presence, to be met.

You are this, and the opposite of that,
and something else altogether;

Being itself, and source of all Being,
all giving and receiving;

mystery mostly, and all grace,
a little light and a hand on the shoulder.

Your Being enfolds all creation, nebulae,
one heart at a time, in your arms.

No mode of being, no heaven nor hell
nor hidden heart place, is beyond you.

All is within you. The entire created universe
is the smallest beloved embryo in your womb,

and yet you walk beside us, speak to us
each by name, breathe in us, cell by cell,

inviting us into your blessing,
your delight, your future, yourself.

You live in our tininess, share our unknowing,
suffer our pain, tremble in us.

Moment by moment you create all things,
die and rise, enliven and enloven us to holiness.

Eternal mystery, indwelling presence,
infinite grace, we cannot name or picture you,

but only worship you. We cannot divide you,
nor ourselves from you, but only Be.

Mother, Son and Holy Spirit, all praise!
We are present to you in love. Alleluia!

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I'll not walk these woods again

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.
Within a few brief days
we'll move from here
and I'll not walk these woods again.
The path will close in silently behind me,
no trace remaining there,
and neither they nor I desire it otherwise.

We pack in preparation for the move,
going through our earthly belongings,
what we will take with us,
what we will leave behind,
letting go, letting go.

I've said goodbye to people I will never see again.
When they say, “See you later,”
I say, “No, you won't. But I'll remember you.”

My eulogy's been said, my house in order;
all that's left to do is spread my ashes
in this place and the next.

Oh, stop pretending. The movers
will back up to the house in their big hearse
and I will go forever. I know this.
I just don't know when.

The only antidote for fear of dying
is to be alive.
Walk these woods this morning, now.
Live this moment, give it all you have.
Take it in, and give all you have away.

In such a short time since the snow
the wild asparagus are taller than I,
holding their frilly fingers up
to the rain, the robed, processing clouds,
and now—look!—the rising sun.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

For the gift of life

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

         What are human beings that you are mindful of them,
         mortals that you care for them?
                  — Psalm 8. 4

For the gift of life,
O Giver of Life,
to breathe, to grow, to see,
to love, to be loved —ah, miracle,
to be loved!— I thank you.
For who I have become, mystery
of lessons learned and gifts unearned,
this puzzling, dazzling masterpiece of you
in me unfolding, this blessing, this gift of myself,
and for who I yet may become, I thank you.
For the turning of the days
in wonder and gracious abundance,
each given freely, bountifully,
each bearing in its arms more gifts;
for the invitation to come again
one more time around the sun,
to keep old paths clear by walking them
and to make new ones in new places,
I thank you.
For love that abides years and distances,
for friends that grow old and stay near,
for the gift of continually becoming,
I thank you.
And for all that is to come this day,
and this year and the next, I thank you,
you who are the Gift of life.
I thank you. I trust your blessing.
I light a candle for you.
For myself, your gift, I dare cry
This day is my joyful prayer.
my life my reverent thanks.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Monday, June 13, 2011

Your glory

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.
         I will pour water on the thirsty land,
                  and streams on the dry ground;
         I will pour my spirit upon your descendants,
                  and my blessing on your offspring.
         They shall spring up like a green tamarisk,
                  like willows by flowing streams.

                           —Isaiah 44. 3-4

Dark and early in your story
someone fearful of your inborn glory
buried it behind your house, and you,
innocently, and wise to save yourself
from their greater wrath,
believed its absence.

It's not a pompous glory, ostentatious
or insistent on regard, but sure and quiet
as a wildflower's, asking nothing.

And so you've lived—so have we all—
without it, your heart shoveled over
with self-doubt and apology, as if
you have no place or voice here
among angels.

We see you in the cripples who flocked
to Jesus, the mute, the paralyzed,
bent over, shut out, gone mad.

And all he meant to say was this:
you shine. You bring a gift
as no one else, and you belong.
Your Word deserves a hearing,
and this world needs your beauty
and your grace. There is no rank
you fall below, no worth you fail to match.
You shuttering was evil, and God
wants it undone, and wants you whole.

And so she takes you by the hand
and raises you to stand, to walk, to speak.
She listens to your song with joy.
She rains upon the earth
until you are unafraid of your radiance
and all our houses are surrounded by wildflowers.


Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light


Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

Spirit insurrects so quietly,
but does not “enter” us. It is we
who come from Spirit, light from sun.

A great wind heaves and breathes and sings in us,
Chinook of light, a hurricane of grace.
A great breathing breathes within,
giving and taking in, surrendering, receiving,
the in and out the same.
The world enters and becomes us
and we empty ourselves into the air,
becoming air, in rhythm dancing:
inspiration, respiration, expiration,
a tango of oxygenation,
combining, rusting, combusting, burning,
living into death, exhaling, dying into life.
We burn so hot, but fan ourselves a thousand ways
instead of simply becoming light.

Tongues of fire leap up in us and give us
tongues to speak, to bridge our differences,
for languages are foreign, but not hearts.
A yearning leans in us and conquers the abyss,
a leaping up, a drumming dance,
a compass reaches out toward what we love,
a gravity that draws us toward each other,
a passion for communion, holiness
that seeks its whole, shining in every other soul.

The light is there inside us, the flame inside the wood.
Throw yourself into the fire, the dance
of God loving the world from inside the world.
Go ahead and speak this love to strangers.

At the very least, draw near and see how it is
that we are burning and not consumed.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

This morning

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

I walk in unfamiliar woods.
The morning sky awakens, yawns,
shoves off its rumpled sheets
then pulls them back over its head.

Around a pond small, unseen creatures
sing and croak their garbled hymns.
Between the ankles of gathering weather
I walk and listen, and find shelter.

Two geese lead their little ones
up the bank. They face the lashing rain
standing calmly, watchful, while
the wingless ones nibble in the grass.
Eventually one of the big ones
nibbles, too.

Something in you is always awakening,
always breathing, feasting.

Guard it,
for it carries you.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Two worlds

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.
Mist of meadow incense rises gently,
flames on wild asparagus candelabras gleam,
birds in the choir loft sing a dozen anthems
and the sun walks up the aisle of grasses,
ringing a bell.
I am swept.

But I have to leave for four days of meetings at our Annual Conference. The sessions will drag, and mire in argument, and produce more talking than listening. It's another world. How will I stay in the holy place, maintain my reverence, sustain a spirit of awe and wonder while we are caught up in “motions” and counter-motions that—ah, cruel irony!—do not move us? For that matter how do I, every day, keep the spirit of morning prayers during the afternoon coffee break?

When you are bored or angry or anxious
go into prayer.
Go into prayer right there.

Follow your breath.
Pay attention to the Spirit
breathing in and out of you,
weaving together the worlds
outside and inside you.

Let Jesus come sit by you
and breathe with you
and embrace the hall in love.

Live in the other world
even in the midst of this one
until there is only one world.

As the cantor chants his presentation on insurance claims, a flock of birds settles on the stage. An ancient psalm, sung in unbroken prayer for four thousand years, rises out of the papers, broods above your heads. It rains. You do not care how long the meeting is, or what transpires. You just enjoy sitting here quietly with the Holy One.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.
Today is our anniversary—thirty-one years. That Beth has faithfully loved me all this time despite my faults (I am not as wise and saintly in real life as I sound in Unfolding Light) is, if not proof of God's existence, at least a sign of God's grace and power. That we forgive each other; that our hearts have deepened and expanded in one another's care; that I, who am plenty self-centered, have learned to find joy in loving and serving another—these are evidence to me of God's great mercy, and revelations of how God works in our lives.

That we have been changed by the Covenant that has held us, that in one another's embrace each of us has become more beautiful, that in fidelity to the other we have become more truly ourselves, shows me something of what God's faithful love is like. At the burning bush when God said “I am” God might as truly have said, “I do.”

That Beth might find joy in my presence hints to me that God might do the same. That I have grown in love assures me that there is a deeper love within me than my own passions. That I can love Beth unconditionally, despite her imperfection, evokes in me the capacity to love without cause other than simply for another's blessing. That I keep learning how to love reminds me that God is not done with me yet.

That out of our love for each other we have produced three lovely sons suggests to me that God is a God of creativity and new life, that God works through relationships, and that God really likes people.

In these mercies God is present, and I know God. I come to know myself. I am shaped by God's faithful love. I am filled with deep joy and gratitude. I thank God, and Beth, for this extraordinary gift. I hope I have returned some of the blessing to both of them. And I pray for each of you friendships, communities and other experiences in which you know God's faithfulness and your belovedness, and come to love more deeply.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Monday, June 6, 2011

Yard sale

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.
We had a yard sale this weekend.
A huge yard sale. A Jesus yard sale.
Toward the end we were just giving stuff away.
It was fun getting rid of things.
And it was more fun giving things away
than haggling over them.

(It's marked $5. The guys says,
“Would you take two bucks for this?”
I say “How about one?,” smiling.
I'm pretty sure I got more out of that deal
than he did.
As he walks away I imagine Jesus
messing with his head.)

The real point is not how much stuff you have,
but how much joy you can find in letting go.

Being willing to let go is like being hungry;
actually letting go is like eating.

Getting free from our attachments,
unburdening ourselves of the things we cling to,
finding joy in giving—
the whole of life can be a liberating yard sale.

It's not just that when we move now
the truck will be lighter,
but that by practicing letting go
I am a little more ready to love,
a little less concerned about doing without,
less weighed down by fear.

Ah!— I've been enlightened!

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Friday, June 3, 2011

Won't we want to live

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.
God put this power to work in Christ
in raising him from the dead
and seating him at God's right hand
in the heavenly places.

         —Ephesians 1.20
If what we glimpse of death
is glory, entrance into God,
and not a loss but coming free,
a shedding of all heaviness,
a yard sale of our mortality,
a birthing from this lovely womb,

then won't we want to live by dying
every moment, every breath a grave,
a womb, a passing, a death umbilical
and sweet, ascending into paradise,
glorified, not by our hand, but God's,
becoming light,
our unencumbering a gift,
and sprung from clinging,
tagging every treasure cheap,
pile all our life beside the joyous road
marked “Free,”
and giving all our love away,
and letting go into the light,
into this death so unlike death,
receive each natal breath,
and, new, begin to live?

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Geting beyond anxiety

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.
So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?" He replied, "It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.

         —Acts 1.6-9

The disciples had already lost Jesus once. He had come back from the dead, but now he was talking about going away again. They were facing life without him. The story of the Ascension is about Jesus' glory, but it's also about the disciples' grief. It's about change, challenge and loss. It's about our longing for faith when Jesus feels absent. It's about the uncertainty and insecurity of facing the unknown. It's about abandonment and anxiety.

This month I am moving to a new church, as many United Methodist pastors are, and my church, like many, is going to be without me. As we face this loss and change, the church and I are both feeling anxiety. Some people really want to believe in God but don't experience God, and feel sad about that. There's a lot of talk about the decline of the church in America. The whole church is anxious. In our own ways we're all asking, “Jesus, are we going to be OK? Will you restore the kingdom now?”

But Jesus won't promise that. Instead he shifts our attention away from our individual wants and anxieties (“It is not for you to know”) and focuses us instead on God's grace in our lives (“You will receive power”) and on our purpose: “You will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth.” He says, “There is a lot you can't know. But receive the gifts that are given to you, and share them. No matter what happens, embody God's love.”

Focus on your purpose. Chaos is what is going on outside of you, but within yourself or your community, be the Gospel. Pay attention to grace in your life, and bear witness to that. Trust that there is power in that. You can't predict or control the future, but you can choose your purpose, and you can stick with it. You can't determine what happens to you, but you can look for grace in everything, and live by the grace you see.

When our world comes apart, we wonder, “Now what do we do?” The crucified and risen Jesus says, “Embody love, that's what.” And then we're not so afraid, no matter what happens.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

June blessing

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.
Through all that changes around you,
may love and beauty remain constant,
and your be soul a mountain of life.

As caps are tossed in the air,
may you celebrate your milestones,
and keep learning.

As couples process down the aisle,
may the Beloved who is unseen
kiss you anyway.

May you find belonging in your new place,
the house suit you well
and the movers break only what you didn't need.

May the Holy One
love being with you
like a trip to the beach.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light