Burro

         
         My friends, if you see someone do wrong,
                  restore them with gentleness.
         Help them out of that pit;
                  don’t climb into it yourself.
         Bear one anther’s burdens:
                  this is what the law is really about.
         Don’t embarrass yourself
                  thinking you’re better than others.
         Do work you yourself are proud of;
                  don’t fuss about your neighbor’s.
         Live your life, not somebody else’s.

                           — Galatians 6.1-5

God I confess
I want so instinctively to prove my worth
by comparing it to another of less worth.
Free me from this illusion, this cruelty.
Give me the courage to claim my own life,
to lay my own boundaries, to sing my own song,

I confess
I seek my own heaven, not your peaceable Realm.
I want escape, not harmony.
Give me faith to belong to the whole,
to give and receive, to support and depend.

God, I repent of my superiority,
for I am of no help from up there.
Help me be a humble servant,
a willing, available partner,
a peaceable member of the Realm of Mercy.
May my life be a sacrament of sharing,
lifting others up, carrying burdens.

I would not be not a noble eagle
flying above, detached,
surveying those beneath me,
but a burro among friends,
gladly bearing my load.

         
         

__________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

To receive Unfolding Light as a daily e-mail,
write to me at unfoldinglight(at) gmail.com

June 30, 2016  Leave a comment

Psalm of the threshold

         
Eternal One, I praise you on this threshold;
         the door I open is to you.
Under your eye I pack my belongings;
         in your arms I move to a new place.

By your Spirit guide my hand
         to take only what you give me
         and leave the rest;
to bring with me what is truly need
         and leave behind what is unneeded.
Give me faith to trust
         what cannot be left behind,
and to release what I thought was part of me
         but was only the leaves of a season.
Give me grace to say goodbye
         even to myself
and turn and welcome the new day,
         even in my own soul.

God of time and story,
         may I ever dwell on thresholds,
between then and not yet,
         in the present, moving.
By your grace open doors;
         by your grace lead me through them.
For every door is your eye
         and every path is the palm of your hand.

         
         

__________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

To receive Unfolding Light as a daily e-mail,
write to me at unfoldinglight(at) gmail.com

June 29, 2016  Leave a comment

Recovery

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
I had a colonoscopy last week. It was uneventful. The most serious result of a routine colonoscopy is usually an onset of bad puns. I will spare you. I recovered in a room with a few others, in beds each with a curtain around it. The way they do a colonoscopy is to blow your intestines up with air like a balloon so they can look around. When they’re done, you have to, well, deflate. It doesn’t come as easily as you’d think. A nurse came around — I could hear him go from bed to bed —  encouraging each patient to pass air so they could go home. Some of the patients didn’t speak English so he had to use some sound effects to make the point.

There we were like a half dozen race cars in our little stalls trying to rev up, one by one. I couldn’t believe how hard it was to fart given how hard I was laughing. Usually that really works.

So, you might ask, what’s my point? I’m not sure I have one; I’m just reveling in how funny it is to be human. Do I need a better way to start the day?

But there are some lessons here. 1. God allows us to move on. God has so arranged the body that it can absorb serious indignities, deal with them, and then move on. And the same is true of our souls. When I talk about baptism with kids we explore water and its lessons, and we talk about rain and tears and baths… and if there are junior high boys we end up talking about pee — and I say, “Aren’t you glad you can?” God’s grace enables you to take the good stuff out of life and let what’s toxic go. Baptism promises: sin is forgiven, mistakes are rinsed clean, shame is washed away. When I invite kids to design baptismal fonts a couple have added flush handles.

2. Sometimes we have something in us — a gift, a grief, a wound, a rage, a Word — and it really needs to come if we are to live fully. Tend to what’s in you that needs to come out, and let it out.

3. Sometimes you need to do something humbling, or even humiliating, to move on. Nome of us is exempt from the indignities of being human. Like Naaman, we just need to get over our pride and be human beings, who are, after all, funny creatures. Poot.

4. This too shall pass.
      
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

__________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

To receive Unfolding Light as a daily e-mail,
write to me at unfoldinglight(at) gmail.com

June 28, 2016  Leave a comment

Colonoscopy

         
         Search me, O God, and know my heart;
                  test me and know my thoughts.
         See if there is any wicked way in me,
                  and lead me in the way everlasting.

                           —Psalm 139.23-24

Look where I cannot see,
         in my innermost workings.
Look where I don’t want to see,
       amidst my waste and offal.

Search beneath my consciousness,
         beyond my grasp, my knowledge or control.
Come to me when the watchman of my ego is asleep,
         enter by the back gate, unguarded,
or else I would push you away,
         I would not let you in.

Tell me the truth I can’t determine,
         not what I want, but what is.
Am I receiving grace as I should,
         and releasing what I do not need?
Are my boundaries clear,
         and the wall intact
between what is truly me
         and what is passing?
Show me my knots of fear and clinging
          and remove them by your grace.

Awaken me, O God, to the glory of this life,
         the gift of your grace
as your mysteries unfold within me,
         your wonders, hidden and yet marvelous.
Give me life, O River of Life,
         and lead me in the way of love.         

         
         

__________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

To receive Unfolding Light as a daily e-mail,
write to me at unfoldinglight(at) gmail.com

June 27, 2016  Leave a comment

Mantle

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.
         
         When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha,
         “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.”
         Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.”

                  —2 Kings 2.9

You who yearn for your master’s spirit,
have you forgotten, it was already given to you?
Remember, you were plowing, doing your work,
and a prophet threw their mantle over you.
You already have the power
to do what you must do.
There will be times of whirlwind,
times of loss and chaos,
times when your leader and guide
is taken up in a chariot of fire — 
but you still have the mantle.
You will strike the Jordan and it will part.
You will carry on the work of the prophet,
the work of Exodus, the work of justice.
In your own way you will do it;
you have been given your gifts, not another’s,
not even a great leader’s.
Look within.
What bears the fruit of love, joy and peace,
of patience, kindness, generosity,
faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?
Whatever in you bears this fruit,
nourish its roots and trust it.
Wear the mantle. Do the work.
Chariots of fire can’t take it from you.
Wear the mantle.

         

         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

__________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

To receive Unfolding Light as a daily e-mail,
write to me at unfoldinglight(at) gmail.com

June 24, 2016  Leave a comment

I will not leave you

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.
         
         Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah
         up to heaven by a whirlwind,
         Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal.
         Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here;
         for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.”
         But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live,
         I will not leave you.”

                  —2 Kings 2.1-2

Here’s a story about leave-taking. (It’s appropriate for a lot of United Methodist churches whose pastor may be preaching their last sermon there, or just did recently: most appointments run from July 1 to June 30). Oddly the lectionary skips a part, then picks up again. In the part it skips prophets from Bethel ask Elisha if he knows Elijah is about to go, and Elisha says, “Yes, I know. Keep silent.” Then he and Elijah go through the same routine they did earlier: “Say here.” “No, I’m coming with you.” They go to Jericho and prophets ask Elisha the same question and he answers the same: “I know. Keep silent.” Elisha and Elijah repeat their routine again and go on to the Jordan, where the lectionary picks up the story.

Why does the lectionary omit that part? The pathos? The repetition? But grief is like that. It comes in waves, it repeats itself, it asks what we don’t want to answer. And it’s a journey. It leads us on to a new place, then on again. It goes on longer than we think it will. We want to cut parts out. We do our best not to leave the ones we love, until we must. We experience it with the loss of a loved one, the departure of a beloved spiritual teacher, or really any significant change.
Elisha is not in denial. He’s trying to stay in the present moment. He knows Elijah is going. But he’s not gone yet. If you spend in your energy grieving what hasn’t happened yet, it might as well have already happened. To have gone off mourning before Elijah left would have been for Elisha to have left. But he didn’t.

Don’t grieve the future. Enjoy the present. Receive the blessings and lessons of the present moment. The future will have lessons of its own. No experience is guaranteed to last forever. Be present, and enjoy it while you can. Give and receive what you can with your loved ones; learn what you can from your spiritual teachers while you have them. Listen, “mark, and inwardly digest” what you can take from them. Not only will you not have to grieve before they even go, you’ll lose less when they do, because you’ve taken more in. Say to the present moment, “I will not leave you.”

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

__________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

To receive Unfolding Light as a daily e-mail,
write to me at unfoldinglight(at) gmail.com

June 23, 2016  Leave a comment

Fruit of the Spirit

         
         The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
         patience, kindness, generosity,
         faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

                  —Galatians 5.22-23

Spirit,
may your love fill me.

Your joy lift me.

Your peace hold me.

Your patience calm me.

Your kindness purify me.

Your generosity flow through me.

Your faithfulness steady me.

Your gentleness soften me.

Your self-control guide me.

Spirit, live in me.

         

         

__________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

To receive Unfolding Light as a daily e-mail,
write to me at unfoldinglight(at) gmail.com

June 22, 2016  Leave a comment

Foxes have holes

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.
         

         Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests;
         but the Human One has nowhere to lay their head.

                  —Luke 9.58

Creation, great Mother,
provides for her children.
We, her littlest ones,
are still learning how.

         •

The Holy One
is routinely crucified.
If you follow
don’t expect privilege.

Spiritual pride
is a reservation at the Hotel
of Illusions.

The Gentle One
stands with the outcast.
If you follow
don’t expect shelter
but in the Beloved’s heart,

which is the holy temple,
the arms of God.

 
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

__________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

To receive Unfolding Light as a daily e-mail,
write to me at unfoldinglight(at) gmail.com

June 21, 2016  Leave a comment

Fire from heaven

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.
         
         They entered a village of the Samaritans
                  but they did not receive him.
         James and John said, “Lord, do you want us
                  to command fire to come down from heaven
                  and consume them?”
         But he turned and rebuked them.

                  —Luke 9.52-55

It’s so easy and tempting and self-defeating to make enemies.

Last week the New England United Methodist Conference committed an “Act of Non-Conformity,” refusing to obey the denomination’s stipulations to discriminate against queer people. We are breaking a church law, hoping it stays broken forever, in obedience to the higher law of love.

In this act of ecclesial disobedience it’s tempting to want to call down fire on opponents, to make “sides” and create enemies and distance ourselves from them, and excuse ourselves from the command to love them. Bu we can’t. Especially in this struggle for inclusion and respect for all people, we have to practice it toward the very people who oppose it.

There is no “fire from heaven” to call down. There is only love that burns away our fear and anger. Jesus invites us into a way of reverence that harbors nothing but blessing and offers nothing but mercy, even toward the enemies of blessing and mercy. The way of the cross is to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, even as we break their rules. Even as we give voice to the the anger of the oppressed, we cry out with love.

The work of justice is always both inward and outward, to proclaim and to confess, to witness to God’s transforming grace in the world and to allow that grace to transform our own souls. It is God’s righteousness, not ours, that changes the world. Our repentance is the building material of the Reign of God. At our Conference session last week we began by wearing sackcloth and ashes and praying for repentance. It’s not a bad way to begin every day.

O God, we call down the fire of your love upon us. May we preach love with love in our hearts. May we cry sorrow with love in our hearts, cry rage with love in our hearts, demand justice with your love in our broken, radiant hearts, your love in our crucified, risen hearts.

         

         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

__________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

To receive Unfolding Light as a daily e-mail,
write to me at unfoldinglight(at) gmail.com

June 20, 2016  Leave a comment

My soul longs

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.
         
This morning our New England Annul Conference is considering a motion (overwhelmingly passed in a non-binding vote last night) that we “not conform or comply with the provisions of the Discipline which discriminate against LGBTQIA persons.” The Spirit is moving. I invite your prayers.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

                           Praying with Psalm 42

As a deer longs for flowing streams,
       so my soul longs for you, O God.

                  We cry out with those who long for justice,
                  who long to know your mercy and your comfort,
                  who yearn for a place of safety and belonging.

My tears have been my food day and night,
       while people say to me continually,
        “Where is your God?”

                  We hollow out a space in our hearts for those
                  who are wounded by our words, our actions and inaction.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
         and why are you disquieted within me?

                  We mourn in solidarity and cry out in anger
                  with those who suffer persecution and bigotry.

By day the Lord commands steadfast love,
          and at night God’s song is with me,
          a prayer to the God of my life.

                  We give thanks for your love that prevails,
                  that lives on in the hearts of the faithful,
                  and we repent of our closed and stony hearts.

I say to God, my rock, “Why have you forgotten me?
          Why must I walk about mournfully
           because the enemy oppresses me?”

                  We acknowledge the gifts of those who are oppressed,
                  the beauty we have cast away from us.

Hope in God; for I shall again praise the Holy One,
          my help and my God.

                  You give us the faith do justice;
                  you give us hope in your grace;
                  you give us love that we may love
                  on earth as in heaven. Amen.

__________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

To receive Unfolding Light as a daily e-mail,
write to me at unfoldinglight(at) gmail.com

June 17, 2016  Leave a comment

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