Count the Cost

Dearly Beloved, Grace and Peace to you.     Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.   —Luke 14.27-28, 33

    God, help me to walk away from all I possess, to fall in love with you, and follow you in love. Let my money and my goods belong to those who need them more. My comfort and security, my power and control, and all that others think of me, I’m giving away. My habits and my ways of thinking and of doing things, my mastery, I’m selling at a yard sale, cheap. My assumptions and judgments I leave behind—even my deepest beliefs— and only follow you, and there alone discover what I know, receive what is given to me, and possess what is mine. Holy One, Life-Breather, this day I let go of everything I have and leave it all to follow you. And tomorrow all that I’ve acquired I’ll give away again.     _____________________ Weather Report

Clear, as a low pressure system brings relief from the obscuring clouds of having and doing, the stickiness of all we cling to, and we become who we are.     Deep Blessings, Pastor Steve

_______________________________ Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes Unfolding Light

Mountain Top Experience

Dearly Beloved, Grace and Peace to you. This weekend I hiked the Franconia Ridge in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, including Mt. Lafayette, one of the highest peaks in the eastern US. It was a beautiful Saturday, so of course I was not alone. I was prepared to run into other hikers, and to share the summit with a small crowd. But I was not prepared for how chatty they were up there. It sounded like a bus station. People chattered on an on about their businesses and cars and taxes and—really!— plumbing problems at home.

We stood atop a miraculous thrust of rock into the sky, with a view of the great wide earth in every direction. We saw mountain ranges to the east and west, clouds messing Mt. Washington’s hair. We looked down on lush forests. We got a glimpse of the vastness of the earth. And we exulted in the wondrous gift of legs that could carry us up there and take us back down, and hearts and lungs that served us so well. And if we looked—but no one looked—there were little red berries on the eastern side of the summit, and little tiny alpine flowers. No one seemed to be looking at anything. They were just talking and eating and taking pictures (mostly of each other). And talking. I wonder if they even noticed they were having an actual mountain top experience. I had to hike north and find a wind-blasted rock outcropping to find what ought to be abundant on mountain tops: silence.

I understand. People are easily frightened by awe, like heights, and so they stay away from the edge. We all do, to some degree. We keep our experience shallow, we distract ourselves with trivia, we numb out. But we miss a lot.

How often are we in a miraculous place and forget to stop in awe? How often does the silence of heaven surround us and we don’t dare to listen, or beauty come to us and we don’t look it in the eye? How often do we have a mountain top experience and don’t even know it? How often is this life beautiful enough, but we are not present?

Pay attention today. You may not be in a dramatic location, nor have to work very hard to get there. But you might encounter something awesome—if only you will give it your attention, your silence, your wonder. Practice noticing in the ordinary moments. Then not only will you be ready for the really spectacular ones, but they’ll happen more often.     Deep Blessings, Pastor Steve

_______________________________ Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes Unfolding Light

Psalm 81

Sing a song to the Love of our Lives;       a love song to the One we’ve seen and known. Pick up something and make a beat on it,       blow it or strum it so it sings! Start up the song at a good time, or awkward—       either way it’s a party.

For this is God’s Way. You’ve known it       in the time of your worst suffering: the voice that says, “I’ve relieved you of your burden.       Beloved, I’ve set you free. When you wept in secret, I heard you.       In your weakness I was power in you. When you were tested,       I was grace. Remember?

So listen to me now.       This is for you. Why bow down to what doesn’t set you free?       Why give in to what you know isn’t true? I am Being itself.       I stand between you and your prison cell. Open your mouth wide.       I will fill it.

But do you listen to the silence that speaks?—   or do you want to stay in control? I’ve let you dash around after your feelings,   leash yourself to your thoughts. Now try listening to something deeper.   Let yourself embody Love’s wisdom.

That takes all the power away       from what would diminish your life. Whatever is rooted in fear withers,       and your freedom from it is guaranteed.

What I really want is to feed you exquisitely,       to nourish you with the most amazing food.”

_______________________________ Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes Unfolding Light

A prayer for presence

Dearly Beloved, 
Grace and Peace to you.
Holy One,
Intimate Presence,
Perfect Love,
you are with me now
in my waking, in my awareness,
in my breath.
You are present in this day,
and will be present in all things,
each moment, each occurrence.
I do not ask that you shield me
but that you be with me,
and that I be present to you.
You will be in the secret beauties,
in the puzzles and frustrations,
in the empty boring passages.
You will be in light and shadow,
pleasure and pain, answer and
question, invitation and rebuff.
You will be in my safety and in my risk,
in my triumphs and defeats,
in my breath and in my flesh.
Your Holy Presence will be in strangers,
in voices and silences,
clarity and mystery.
You will be looking gently upon me
with blessing, deep into my eyes,
and looking out through my eyes.
I pray that I may be mindful of your presence,
and listen for your voice,
and act in harmony with your grace.
I pray as I live, in the power of your Spirit,
in the mystery of your creating,
and in the company of your Christ.   Amen.
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

A place at the banquet

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, “Friend, move up higher.” … When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
— from Luke 14. 10-14

Forget false modesty,
or a clever set-up for a public compliment:
this is about losing yourself.
You can go through life asking what’s in it for you—
seeking thanks, payback, recognition—
and be disappointed—in this ungrateful world,
and, face it— in yourself.
Or you can forget yourself,
and look for ways to give, unrewarded,
because giving is wondrous,
and be constantly surprised.
Find the joy in unreturnable favors,
thankless jobs, unrewarded gifts, wasted blessings.
Stop trying to manage your return
like an anxious shopkeeper,
and give everything away.
Then everything becomes a gift.
Once it becomes a joy to you to see the needy receive,
all of life is an invitation to a banquet.
Always, the head table is in the servant’s quarters.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes

God’s passionate devotion

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

Thus says the Lord: What wrong did your ancestors find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthless things, and became worthless themselves? They did not say, “Where is the Lord who brought us up from the land of Egypt?” … My people have changed their glory for something that does not profit…. My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water. Is Israel a servant, a slave by birth? Why then has he become plunder?

—Jeremiah 2. 5-6, 11, 13-14

The God of the Old Testament is often portrayed as vindictive, judgmental, and often in a foul mood. It’s said that the New Testament God is the loving who cares for us, while the Old Testament version is just mad that we broke the rules. But God is no more angry at us than we are at a child who runs into a busy street. It’s not the rules, but our lives, that God is so passionate about.

God only loves us, and is anguished that we endanger ourselves. God gives us life and sets us free, and ardently calls us to turn away from attachments that enslave us and diminish us. God wants clear, flowing, life-giving water for us, not brackish tank water. God wants freedom for us, not attachment and addiction. What appears as God’s anger is really God’s devoted passion for us to change in order to be fully alive and fully free.

Be mindful of the One who is your life, your breath, your energy, and your freedom. Recently, how have you sought “life” in accomplishment, in security, in what other people think of you? And how have you sought life in the Holy One? How have you given yourself over to things that enslave you? How might God be wanting to set you free?

God is the fountain of life within you. Abandon the leaky pits you dig that hold fetid water, and turn to the Life-Giving One. God is your freedom. Trust that God desires that you be fully alive and free. Let go of your attachments, and receive from the Beloved life that is undiminished.

When it seems like God is shouting at you, don’t worry that God is mad at you. It might be that you’ve run out into the street, and God really really wants you to be OK. Turn around and listen.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes

Yard sale

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

We had a big yard sale. Some people were happy to find an item they were looking for, some enjoyed bargaining, some just wanted to feel like they’d made a steal. Some people haggled over every little dime (generally, more well-dressed folks). (I can just imagine their prayer lives.) We let go of a lot of things for pretty cheap. After all, the reason we did this was not to make money, but to get rid of stuff. Toward the end we gave a lot away. Man, it feels great.

What is it that makes your life rich? Probably what you give away, not what you hang onto. More likely things like faith, hope and love. Things like relationships, awareness, attitudes, possibilities. Things like joy, generosity, courage, gratitude. In fact, most of what enriches our lives are the kinds of things that are renewed the more we give them away—like forgiveness, attentiveness, trust, blessing. It’s sharing, not possessing, that enriches our lives. It’s true of our talents and abilities. It’s often true even of our possessions. The more we let go of, the more ready we are to receive what is given to us.

Do you want your life to be about getting or giving? Why not let go of everything? Let your life be a yard sale. When life haggles with you, let things go. Let go of everything. Let it go. Trust that no matter what you give away, you will thrive. “Be content with what you have; for God has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you’” (Heb. 13.5).

Live today as if you know that it is not what you have but what you give that makes your life rich.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes

Open your hands

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

The sun spills up over the rim of the world
and pours out between the trees,
floods the hillside and soon the bottom land.

Colors warm and ripen,
light pools in open places,
and your eyes awaken.

See? It’s that easy.

Open your hands.

Weather Report

All will be given,
increasing through the day,
with patches of abundance and generosity.
Fifty percent chance of receptiveness.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes

Daughter of Abraham

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

A woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.

— Luke 13.10-17

Take a moment to be with yourself. Breathe gently. Be mindful of God’s presence.

In stillness, ponder: What is bent over in you? What is unable to stand tall? What unseen gifts, what unacknowledged beauty, what strength waits to be released? What part of you is put down… left out… repressed… in exile? In what ways have you become accustomed to looking down?… being unable?… expecting nothing?…

Imagine Jesus looking at you… seeing you, truly seeing you… Imagine him calling your name. He beckons you to come to him. To leave your accustomed place, your place of hiding, to leave the familiar comfort of your despair….

Imagine him laying his hands on you, his power flowing through you, light from him filling you. Imagine that bent over part of you rising, straightening, standing tall.

You know that there will be criticism, misunderstanding, resentment— but he protects you from it all. He defends your wellness, your liberation, your worthiness. He calls you “Daughter of Abraham,” a title both honorific and endearing, and a sign of your inclusion in a holy community.

Your blessing may not unfold as suddenly as this woman’s, or as clearly. But blessing is yours. There is something in you—perhaps not what you expect— that Christ desires to raise up. Let it happen.

And praise God.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes

Thou hast loosed my bonds

At dawn the night
loses all its grip;
neither the room nor the street
even remembers
how dark you were, how blind.

Come into a clearing,
light poured into it,
pressed down, spilling over.
Feel a gate open inside you.

Something like scales fell from his eyes

You were worried about
all the wrong things,
what you would owe,
what you would look like,
which lane to shoot.
The best dangers passed by you

We crossed on dry ground

Come back to those
who knew you at your worst
and see if they don’t still
love you.

Once we broke all the dishes,
we tasted the food.

Behold, I am doing…

You can’t imagine how deeply
you hurt her, how deeply
she forgave you without
your knowing.

Thou hast loosed my bonds

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes

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