Free

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
        

Don’t seek divine union,
not yet. That’s a lot to ask for.
Don’t seek wisdom or deep faith.
They take a long time to grow.
Don’t bother with feeling God’s presence.
Feelings are slippery things.
And to know the will of God,
well, that’s ridiculous.

Simply want this:
to be free with God.

The blackbird cries raucously,
lifts from the dead branch
and swoops over the driveway.
And the sky,
the blue and white sky
loves it.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Published
Categorized as Reflections

Enemies in the Psalms

         O daughter Babylon, you devastator!                  Happy shall they be who pay you back
                  what you have done to us!
         Happy shall they be who take your little ones
                  and dash them against the rock!

                            — Psalm 137. 8-9
         

Many people feel uncomfortable with the Psalms that that pray for deliverance from and even violence toward our “enemies.” We often skip over those parts, both in public worship and private devotions. Here are some reasons not to.

1. The Psalms are not all about how we ought to feel or what we wish we believed.  They’re about who we really are.  And we do have angry thoughts & feelings that we need to honestly confess. Sometimes those Psalms express our secret anger. Expressing those feelings doesn’t mean we give our hearts to them; in fact usually saying those things out loud names what we renounce, and leaves us with an uncomfortable feeling: a deep need to repent right now.  These Psalms bring us to confession.
 
2.  Our “enemies” are not necessarily other people. I do not consider anybody my enemy, even some deluded terrorist who’d like to blow me up.  My real enemies are my fear, my hunger for approval, my desire for power & control, and so on.  And I do indeed dislike those enemies, and I wish God would destroy them.  To my anger or my self-centeredness I say, “Happy shall be they who take your spawn and dash them against the rock.” Sometimes I need to say that out loud—in the company of a community who can offer forgiveness, transformation and hope.
 
3.  The Psalms are not our personal Hallmark cards to God.  They are the cry to God of humanity as a whole.  The Psalms voice not only our own feelings, but also the cry for justice of all who are oppressed.  If these Psalms are more visceral and vengeful than we’re comfortable with that’s because they’re not our cry: they’re their cry of the oppressed against injustice. They were written by real people suffering real evil. In praying these Psalms we take their anguish seriously, we stand in solidarity with them and we lift up their prayer, even if it’s not how we would say it.

4. Although we do not wish personal harm to come to the perpetrators of injustice, we do oppose their evil, and we lament its fruits. The “enemies” in these Psalm are not necessarily individuals. “Babylon” is not a person; it’s a nation, a corporation, a system, a cultural mindset. We don’t pray for the destruction of people, but we do cry out for the destruction of what an unjust system generates, its “little ones.” Of course by our complicity we ourselves are also enemies of justice—which brings us back to the first two points about confession.

The Psalms, with all their reverence, anguish, joy, gentleness, sorrow, rage and hope help us embrace our whole experience, worship with our whole heart, mind, soul and strength, and stand in solidarity with the whole human family and all Creation.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Published
Categorized as Reflections

Psalm 137 – a prayer

                  
We pray for exiles and refugees;
for those who have been displaced by war,
poverty, discrimination, poison or violence;
for those who have fled their homelands
for safety, for work, for hope,
for those who have been taken from their homes
into slavery.
We pray with them and join in their song.

         By the rivers of Babylon—
                  there we sat down and there we wept
                  when we remembered Zion.
         On the willows there
                  we hung up our harps.

We pray for all oppressors,
that their eyes may be opened,
that their hearts be changed,
that they find their own true, deepest longings for life.
We pray for them and plead for their conversion.

         For there our captors
                  asked us for songs,
         and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying,
                  “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

We lament the families that are broken,
the cultures that are destroyed,
the traditions that are lost,
the voices that are silenced.
We weep with them and join in their song.

         How could we sing the Lord’s song
                  in a foreign land?
         If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
                  let my right hand wither!
         Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
                  if I do not remember you,

                  if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy.

We join in their grief.
We honor their terror.
We accept their anger.
We lift their cry.
We stand with them and join in their song.

         Remember, O Lord, against the Edomites
                  the day of Jerusalem’s fall,
         how they said, “Tear it down! Tear it down!
                  Down to its foundations!”

We pray for the end to all violence
and the end to all the offspring of injustice,
that evil itself be demolished
and its spawn eliminated,
that every human heart be free of fear.
We rage with all victims of injustice
and join in their song.

         O daughter Babylon, you devastator!
                  Happy shall they be who pay you back
                  what you have done to us!
         Happy shall they be who take your little ones
                  and dash them against the rock!

We pray for exiles and refugees.
We are among them:
for until our sisters and brother are restored,
our home is not whole or safe.
We pray with them, and join in their silence.

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

Published
Categorized as Reflections

Mustard seed

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

Among darkening mountains
sending roots down
into your despair
         
only a small thing in your hand
a rowboat among battleships
a soft song shredded by wind
         
What equals the wheelbarrow
before you full of laundry
or papers or stained bed sheets?
         
How does the bird find her way
to the Patagonian plains
or the salmon up the impossible stream?
         
What raises the oak?
What fills the moon so full? The sea?
Close your eyes and look around
         
the fingerprinted clay molded into you
along the bones of your years
the decaying soil of your will
         
beneath your continent
something shimmers
nothing more than a word
         
drawn up like a tide, a forest
a song sung by generations in harmony
a root that cracks the mountains
         
not the least bit anonymous
someone holds you close
in this umbilical world
         
a warmth is given
a rain falls on something
no greater than a mustard seed

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Published
Categorized as Reflections

Dog mind

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

         
My dog lives in eternal prelude
to something glorious,
each moment a resurrection.
Whenever I get up from a chair he is sure
something great is about to happen.
The wings of his ears fly toward the smallest sound.
The click of the back door opening gets him panting,
his ears pointy. The doorbell or a car in the driveway
is occasion for eager frenzy.
The rattle of dog food pouring into a plastic dish,
the leash slipping off its hook, or the word “out,”
are springs of an ecstasy already granted.
Whenever I stand before my closet I might be
changing clothes. Surely those are running duds.
He sniffs every piece prayerfully.
Despite how often he is wrong, he is sure.
At dinner time in the basement he clatters
ahead of me to the bottom of the steps, turns around
and dances—dances, I tell you—leaping straight up,
David dancing before the ark—
elegant, righteous leaps, outbursts of hope
in holy celebration of the feast to come.
When he wants something—food, or going out—
even his longing is robust and confident,
trusting in things unseen, believing in me,
praying as if he has already received it, as if
even before your wishes are granted joy is possible.
What higher, troubled thinking might I shed,
what regret or calculating quit,
to attain this purity of hope?
Outside, for no worldly reason, suddenly
he drops his hips and fires off in a rocket run,
doing joy circles, for-the-love-of-it laps,
rhythmic explosions in his hind quarters,
ears a-wag, tongue a-flap, tail asunder,
outgunning all possibility of despair.
He rounds the field and heads back toward me;
his ears streaming flags, his tongue a scarf,
eyes shining with the glee that this moment—
this—
he has never done before in his life
and it’s his favorite part.

         

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Published
Categorized as Reflections

Psalm 91

         

                 
         

If you totally trust God,
          you’re already in heaven.
You’re inside God,
         and nobody can take you out.

God stands between you and what scares you,
         between you and all the dangers.
Like a mother bear,
         she’s got your back,
something serious.
         Don’t worry.
Spend no fear on the terrorist from afar
         or the cancer from within,
the fretting that wakes you in the night,
         or the bridge you know will collapse.

Yes, suffering closes in around you at times,
         and tragedy walks your neighborhood.
But this is not the title of your story,
         not your end.
Learn to see with clear eyes
         how love never loses.
When you live inside the Beloved,
         and the world is a house that is God,
evil can’t define you, can’t change you,
         can’t find you at all.

The Creator of the world fills it
         with those who bear her love to you.
They hold you in their invisible arms,
         they secretly catch you when you fall.

So stand up to what overpowers,
         don’t flinch from what scares you.
You will meet monsters, learn their names
         and tame them with love.

Love says, “Here. Come settle in my heart.
         Nothing can take you from me.
When your soul cries out, don’t worry—
         I’m already holding you.
In your worst trouble, I’m with you.
         I set you free. I honor you.
I give you the joy of life lived deeply.
         You will shine in me forever.”

         
         

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

Published
Categorized as Reflections

Hunger

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

We sit at our tables
things falling off
hungry
for the deep hunger we’ve lost
the one we were born with
for life, all of it, and earth,
and humanity,
all of it,
outside the gate.

We feed ourselves insatiably,
growing hungrier by the mouthful
tasting less
seeing, hearing less and less
lest we see through the gate,
lest we see Lazarus,
reclining in the gutter
of Abraham’s bosom,
lest we see all of this wide life
in his tear-drained eyes,
lest we see this terror
that we’re dying of hunger.

Safe in our torment
on this side of the great chasm
we still long for a drop of heaven’s water.
Hungering for compassion, we have none.
Starving to live life, we don’t.

O soul, in your familiar flames,
heaven is right here.
Go through the gate.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Published
Categorized as Reflections

Last day of summer

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

Summer’s turned her face toward
the way she’ll go, but hasn’t yet.
It’s I who turn, before the trees,
to thoughts of losses and regret.
But she reminds me, in the way
she offers up this gift, to let
the light move without effort, dread,
remorse or clinging through the leaves
(that are not dead today) and so
to move, attend, and still believe
this is a summer day—this day—
that I can cherish and receive,
each moment given, full
of that one moment’s miracle.

________________________

Weather Report

Expect today today.
Tomorrow may form upwind of us
but it will remain consistently today
all day. Conditions will remain steady
and prevail into tomorrow.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Published
Categorized as Reflections

God is mindful

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

As you sit in prayer
and try to remain mindful of God,
failing because your thoughts wander,
remember this:
that God is perfectly mindful of you always,
attentive to your being and your doing,
never straying from your heart,
not missing a single breath,
or forgetting a single heartbeat.
God is never distracted, never forgets.
Without neglecting anything else in Creation,
for all of Creation is present in God,
God is fully present to you,
seeing not from afar but from within
your journeys, thoughts and feelings,
holding tenderly your sins and wounds,
delighting in your gifts and beauties,
fully aware of what you yourself
only dimly suspect deep within you.
God is in all that you see, and in your seeing,
in what you hear, and in your hearing,
in your wondering, in your sorrow, in your awe.
God is grateful for you, and delights in you.
God longs in you, grieves in you, exults in you.
God’s gives full, peaceful, loving attention to you
all your day and all through the night,
not controlling or manipulating,
just beholding, blessing, loving
and breathing life into you,
powerful, joyful, beautiful, infinite life,
granting you mindfulness
and mindful always of you.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Published
Categorized as Reflections

Psalm 4

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
       

  
         Psalm 4

O Love, you believe so surely in me!
         You hear my soul, my silences.
When I have been hemmed in,
         you have set me free.
Hold me in your smiling gaze and hear,
         what I haven’t spoken even to myself.

How long will I lose myself
         in other people’s lies and delusions?
Holy One, I trust that you gather all to yourself;
         gather me now, gently.

When troubles disturb the pond’s surface,
         the depths need not stir.
I will not find peace or truth in worry
         but in silence.
Love, I trust in you;
         Holy One, I offer myself to you.

Some clamor for obvious signs,
         for God’s face to look like their wishes.
But it couldn’t be any clearer:
         your joy that blossoms in my heart
is more real than all their successes.
         Your face is my sun.

I can relax. I can even lie down.
         I can close my eyes in peace and sleep.
O Devoted Presence, you alone
         let me release myself into you.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Published
Categorized as Reflections