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Commencement

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
         What can be seen is temporary,
         but what cannot be seen is eternal

                  —2 Corinthians 4.18

We’re off to Minnesota for our youngest son’s college graduation. Graduates tend to experience mixed feelings: pride, relief, a sense of achievement—and grief, or at least the anticipation of it, at the end of relationships, experiences and a way of life. That’s how it always is. We outgrow things. We move on. Even good changes are difficult, and sometimes even sad. But we move on. “When I became an adult, I gave up childish things….”

It’s no easier to mature in our spiritual lives. At times we outgrow things that we’ve become familiar with and depended on, for decades or maybe even our whole lives: beliefs, feelings or experiences, ways of worshiping or praying. When things shift like that, especially when the familiar no longer comforts us, it can feel like things are falling apart, or that God has abandoned or mistreated us. But it might be that God is simply letting us grow up. We have come to what is officially called a “Commencement.” A beginning. It can feel like an end, but it’s also a beginning.

When that happens, it sometimes feels like it’s not just you, but the whole world that’s changing. That’s actually true. St. Paul says, “If anyone is in Christ, there is a whole new Creation” (2 Cor. 5.17). It might be disappointing for graduates these days to “commence” in a world that has no apparent place for them; without jobs, they go home and live with their parents. Sometimes in our spiritual lives we feel like what we do in our souls is of no great importance in the world. But remember that when you let God change you, you change the world. No one might see the contribution you make, but Creation is made new.

Whatever Commencement you (or your kids) are experiencing, congratulations! Now get used to the change. What can be seen—the outward forms of the life you live—is temporary. It will keep on changing. It’s what is invisible that is essential and eternal. Your soul will outlast all the beginnings and endings you experience. Get used to letting go, letting God change you, letting the world evolve. Don’t worry. What matters most will not be lost, even if you can’t see it. After all, the greatest treasure of all no one can see but God.

I’m taking a vacation from Unfolding Light, so I’ll be off through next week. See you on the 18th.
         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Tying up the strong man

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
         No one can enter a strong man’s house
         and plunder his property
         without first tying up the strong man;
         then indeed the house can be plundered.

                  —Mark 3.27

Your worst nightmare,
your most frightening demon,
the most evil power that threatens you,
stalking your darkness and oppressing your days,
even Satan himself,
is in bigger trouble than he thinks.
Take joy in this most gracious of crimes:
the Humble One
has gone in through his terrible back door
disguised in sorrow, scorn and weakness,
and tied up the strong man,
stripped him naked,
exposing the sham of his glory,
robbed him of all his treasures,
emptied his powers,
and plundered his house of shame.
There’s nothing left of him but your fears.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Dying and rising

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

         
         
         So we do not lose heart.
         Even though our outer nature is wasting away,
         our inner nature is being renewed day by day.

                  —2 Corinthians 4.16

My health is failing; my body is wasting away. My soul is stronger year by year.

My prayers are no good. The more I pray the harder it gets. God is transforming my prayer life.

The church I once loved no longer speaks to me. The church as we know it is dying. The church is being renewed.

My faith is crumbling.  God is inviting me into a new relationship.

I have faltered in raising my children, and failed in what I’ve tried to do. God is leading me into a new way of parenting.

My job no longer excites me. I am discovering my calling.

People don’t understand me. I know who I am.  People don’t appreciate what I am doing. God leads me.

Once I was acquiring possessions. Now I have fewer and fewer. I am more and more blessed.

My marriage is in crisis. The way I used to be doesn’t work now. I am falling into a new kind of love.

So many things that I love in the world are disappearing, collapsing, being taken away. The world is being renewed.

When the shell cracks, the bird is born.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve
______________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Who you are

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
         For you did not receive a spirit of slavery
         to fall back into fear,
         but you have received a spirit of adoption.

                  —Romans 8.15

The important thing is not what you have to do,
but that you belong.
God does not demand. God gives.
You are not a slave to laws you must not break;
you belong to a love that is unbreakable.
God does not want anything from you,
just you.
Not for some purpose removed from you,
not to believe in God or to glorify God,
but just to be with God. Just to be God’s.
God does not say, “Follow my rules or else.”
God says, “I love you.” There is nothing else.

Who you are is not about you.
You are God’s, that’s who you are.
You are what results
when God cannot contain her joy.
You can let go of everything,
your sorrows and joys, your suffering and triumphs,
your personality, your self-made self,
and just be God’s.

You are God’s, that’s who you are.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Greening

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Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
         
The swollen brook nearly disappears
beneath the burgeoning green,
the woods thicken lustily, sweating,
songs in a hundred languages throng the air,
wildflowers reach into their green pockets,
pulling out purple,
a strong-armed flock finishes
its four thousand miles,
and in the water they take their bows,
a confetti of bugs celebrates noisily,
blue and black and brown and happy,
a heron lifts off the pond
on its cloud of wings,
things swarm and swell
and reach and hatch,
becoming new and truly amazing.

From far away you can’t tell
all this is happening,
like you can’t always see
from the outside
the mighty billowing inside you,
the immense spring,
the roots that crack the stone,
the greening that will eventually
take the city.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Born from above

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

         
         
         No one can see the Realm of God
         without being born from above.

                  —John 3.3

With every breath
you come from God.

Your life is a gift,
everything is a gift,
and so you see.

You are not born long ago,
but right now,
seeing everything
with the wondering eyes
of the newborn.

Look up into those eyes.
Fall, as if dead, into those arms.
Let her birth you into this
other world, eyes open.

Take that first breath, bewildered,
as one about to be born.

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Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve
______________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Send me

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
I said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the Sovereign, the Lord of hosts!” Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!”
         —Isaiah 6.5-8

God,
my small mind,
my little sparrow of fear
believes I am not good enough
to bear your love into this world,
to be the one to shine with your flame,
to carry your flowers,
to speak your Word.

Burn up that little mind
in the blaze of your love.
Let your whole heaven of beauty
sweep me away.
Kiss me with your fierce glory
and I melt,
smitten, molten,
my lips still burning,
my guts still aflutter.

Newly made, I know myself anew—
not by my falterings,
but by your flame in me.
I find myself not in my fear
but in your love.
Here am I.
I want to be there
as you kiss the world.
Send me.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Near

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
         
Sunrise. I walk away
from the noise of my street
out to the woods.
Low sunlight runs its fingers
through the trees.
A great blue heron
presides over the marsh.
All is still. Everything is in prayer.

Don’t be fooled.
I am no nearer to God here
than yesterday sitting in traffic,
no nearer than the heron
wherever he was then,
never farther than the heron
from his own
black, keen eyes, watching,
watching.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

A meditation on Psalm 104.27-31

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All living beings eat from your hand;
    you give and they gather.
You open your hand
    and we are filled with goodness.

         
         You hand me my life, each moment a gift.
         I trust…. I receive… I am grateful.

When you hide your face
    we are dismayed.

         All my anxiety is because I can’t see
         your invisible face that’s always there.
         I trust… I close my eyes… I am here.

When you hold your breath
    we die and return to dust.

         Each breath, I die.
         Then you breathe your breath into me
         and you bring me to life.
         I breathe… I live… I Am.

Each moment you breathe forth your Spirit
and we are re-created;
    all the universe is created anew.

         You are always creating the world;
         each moment you are creating me.
         I breathe in… in your image… I am being formed

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God’s delight in all Creation.

         You delight in me.
         I delight in you.
         This is eternal life.

         
         

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

Sighs too deep for words

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
         We do not know how to pray as we ought,
         but the Spirit intercedes
         with sighs too deep for words.

                  —Romans 8.26

I do not know how to speak.
I let go of my words.

I do not know how to listen.
I unclasp the silence.

I do not know how.
I do not know.

I rest in you,
and you pray in me.

Even what I hear is not your words
but your sighs too deep for words.

Amen,
and amen.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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