Keep awake

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

Keep awake, for you do not know when the Beloved is coming.
         — Matthew 24.42

You can’t tell beforehand
which manger will receive him.
You won’t expect how you will be met.

You don’t know when the Beloved will appear before you,
when your vision will break through the surface
to the holiness within,
when your belovedness will become evident.

You can’t predict how the One will come to you,
in what ordinary person
offering you grace,
needing forgiveness.

You never know when
you might see God in yourself
shimmering, breathing, calm.

Of the Present One
we only catch fleeting glimpses.
So keep your eyes open.
Stay alert.
Watch.

___________________

Weather Report

Partly clear
as a high pressure area of
Having Been Here and Done That,
producing heavy overcast,
is dissipated by wonder and gratitude.
Expect coming,
with patches of disclosure
and isolated moments when the sun
(which has always been there)
breaks through.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Published
Categorized as Reflections

Giving thanks for Thanksgiving

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
Thanksgiving was wonderful. Gathering in a town where we’d never been (in South Jersey, of all places!) with twenty-one people, thirteen of them strangers to us, around a couple of tables squeezed in where the armchairs are supposed to be. A house rearranged for the sake of togetherness, decorated for the sake of joy. Strangers made family by love. Becoming part of a tribe we’ve never met. A kitchen crowded with cousins, aunts and uncles; tables piled with food; conversations rich with memories and discoveries. A nine-hundred mile drive there and back, picking up sons along the way, through the thickest holiday traffic that not only one city but Boston, New York and Philadelphia had to offer, and every mile worth it.

Isn’t that what Jesus envisioned as the Realm of God? The world rearranged for the sake of community. Beauty honored. Separations overcome. Food shared. Journeys toward each other undertaken. Family created. Isn’t this Jesus’ vision of The Real World? People around one table, eating and talking. Communion.

Today, of course, I’m in my own familiar house, all alone, eating cereal. But the vision lingers. The promise looms. I’m still there.

This is what God is trying to do with us. It’s so simple—and lovely, really: just to get us to sit down and eat together and enjoy it. This is as complicated as God’s will for us gets. This is what God is trying to get us to do every moment of our lives. Come to the Thanksgiving banquet. The furniture has been rearranged, the strangers have been invited, the food is all here. There’s an empty seat for you. The invitation is always open.
         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Published
Categorized as Reflections

This very day

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

I don’t need to learn to levitate,
or want to turn to pure flame like the saints.
Here’s holiness enough for me:
to kindle gratitude like a heartbeat,
gratitude that is its own heaven,
gratitude for for morning and its breath,
for food as it bows its head and closes its eyes,
for the feel of my hand against my face,
for friends whose distance can’t diminish
the love they’ve left with me,
for breath and bone and sky and stone,
for each moment, every even dull moment
full of Being’s very wonder.
I’d like to be a bird on a wire
singing its guts out for no great reason other
than being thankful to be singing,
this very day.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Published
Categorized as Reflections

Night walk

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

This old torn coat will do me
in the woods, with a good sweater.
The path is no Appalachian Trail, just a way
among the beeches, oaks and pines
beyond the house, the sigh of traffic not too far.
An owl begins to speak, thinks better of it.
The moon, near full and thinly overcast,
glows dim, soft-spoken,
dropping splotchy shadows where it can.
I work my way through cloudlight,
shadows and their shadows,
hauntings and suggestions.
The trees are kind in the weak darkness,
the path is patient for me to find it,
and find it again.
The porch light doesn’t care how late I am,
but smiling, waits.

This life seldom offers clarion or neon,
white lights leading to red lights.
We walk slowly among uncertain shadows
cast by light reflected. It is enough.
We find our way.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Published
Categorized as Reflections

The real world

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
         for God has visited us and redeemed us.
God has raised up for us
         a mighty savior from the family of David.
This is as God promised through the mouth
         of the holy prophets from of old,
to save us from every power
         that would ruin our lives.
God has shown mercy to our ancestors,
         and has remembered the holy covenant,
the oath that God swore
         to our ancestors Abraham and Sarah:
to set us free from the power of evil,
         free to serve God without fear,
holy and righteous in God’s sight,
         all the days of our lives.

                  — Luke 1. 68-75

This is the plan. It’s God’s will. It’s not just a hope; it’s an accomplished fact. This is a way to see reality. This is the Real World. God saves us from what would destroy us (most of which is within us) and sets us free, puts us in harmony with God, makes us holy. Our lives are all we need. We are free to serve God without fear. Nothing can stop us from loving perfectly.

The world in which you have to earn your keep, please God, justify yourself or prove your worth is an imaginary world. The God who wants to judge you, critique your performance, or demand your improvement is a false God. This is the real God: the one who promises, who comes, who saves, who sets us free, who makes us holy, who gives us love.

It may seem like chaos rules the world, and terror is in charge. But the God of Blessing is actually the absolute Sovereign. Let others live in ignorance and fear. We live in gratitude, hope and compassion. For “the kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our God and of God’s Christ, who will reign forever and ever” (Rev. 11.15). Hallelujah.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Published
Categorized as Reflections

A blessing

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
         for you will go before the Lord to prepare God’s ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to all people
         by the forgiveness of their sins.
By the tender mercy of our God,
         the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness
         and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.

         — Luke 1.76-79

You, tender one, innocent one, child of God:
God will shine through you without your seeing it.
You will be God’s channel into people’s lives.
In your kindness people will somehow feel blessed,
and trust God’s grace because of your forgiveness.

For God will dawn upon us with gentle love,
being light to those who live in darkness,
those whom death shadows,
and guiding our hearts in lives of peace.

Let this blessing
walk with you today.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Published
Categorized as Reflections

The reckoning

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

Listen:
there is no inquisition
after the stilling of your heart and lungs,
no brutal trial, no depressing movie,
no damning questions.

The harvesters
with their scythes, their winnowing forks,
they are already here.
They are not interested in chaff,
not at all.
But there is no test.
They simply harvest what they can, and leave.

No, after the lights go out,
and the Light comes in,
there are only the little cherubs,
so sweet and lovely,
for whom there is only joy in this universe,
simple, and resolutely perfect.

And those gripped by evil who in desperation
have pilfered this world’s joy,
who have sown fear and cherished sorrow,
those the little cherubs will sweetly
plunder of their dear misery,
happily rob them of all of it;
they will strip them of their skin of scorn,
shatter the hate to which they cling,
tear the blindness from their eyes,
strangle their demons, gouge out their shame,
—little smiling angels, tears on their cheeks,
with graceful blades, cooing softly—
cut their fear right out of them
and lift their hearts, still freezing, from their chests,
leaving only God’s,
without so much as an apology,

bind them in tenderness,
plunge them in vats of forgiveness,
pour hot coals of beauty over them—
molten, breath-taking awe—
and pierce them with the gentlest heart-wrenching love,
piling on them relentlessly
the whole weight of all the world’s delight

until they break at last
into helpless tears of joy.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Published
Categorized as Reflections

What kind of king?

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”

         —Luke 23.33-37

What kind of king might this be,
naked and in agony,
defeated and vulnerable,
without a land or an army,
without dignity or power?

What kind of king is he,
who will not save himself,
who will allow scoundrels
to take the life right out of him,
and spend himself for the unworthy?

What Realm does he rule,
and what is his law,
and how will he enforce it?
How will he provide for his people
and defend his land?
What manner of king might this be?

He is the King of Forgiveness,
and his grace is supreme.
He imposes his imperial mercy
upon all who are broken and in need.
He establishes forgiveness
with absolute power;
it is a law that no one can break.

He is my king, the little man
who is shamed and abused
and remains unalterably kind.
Even the greatest force cannot prevail
against his mighty gentleness.

He is my king, the King of Forgiveness.
I bow to him,
and I will obey his command,
and I will follow him
into life.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Published
Categorized as Reflections

Rain

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

Rain,
this one drop falling just now
between the branch and stone,
falling with cloud-mingled memory
of a line of Siberian lakes,
memory of a thousand emigrations
from swamp and steppe,
of zephyrs, monsoons, chinooks and squalls—
this drop is now distilled from all of that
and simply falls, led to this spot, this splat
on a stone, where it rests
after all those glaciers and rivers, rests
in this moment, and asks me:
before you rush off
to your next Patagonian slope
will you fall, here, through this very air,
and soak into this place,
before you are swept away?

__________________

Weather report

Rain, somewhere,
perhaps not near you,
although what
matters you yourself
will have to see.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Published
Categorized as Reflections

Not a hair will perish

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
“You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.”
         — Luke 21. 16-19

Only someone who believes in death and resurrection could say “they will put you to death, but not a hair on your head will perish.” Only someone who knows that life is more than flesh, that you are more than a personality, that Who You Are already exceeds your physical body, your earthly life.

We believe that Jesus was a real, earthly human being and at the same time divine, that he was a mortal and that there was also something eternal going on in him, something that even after his death was and is still alive today. Now if we can only see that the same is true of all of us.

And it’s love that makes us that way. When we love we enter into that eternal, divine part of us. When we empty our lives into the world, there is nothing left in us but God. Nothing can harm that eternal essence of us, nothing can defeat it or kill it. Thus as Paul says, “Love never fails.” So in love we stand with the poor and the suffering,we reach out to the despised, we give our love to those who cannot return it, we are in solidarity with those who are persecuted. (We won’t be persecuted because of what we believe, but because of who we stand with.) This is what it means to be Christ-like. It is to die and be raised in love.

There’s not much comfort for those who say, “Give your life to Jesus and problems will be solved and you will be happy.” No, give your life to him and you will suffer. But you will also become more fully your true self, your God-given self, your your divine and eternal nature. You will gain your soul.
         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Published
Categorized as Reflections