Ox

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

If I were an ox
and You my driver,
would I mind?

If love were my yoke,
would I balk?
If I walked a path
whose way I could not see,
whose end I could not know,
would I complain?

If I pulled a cart laden
with riches beyond my knowing,
bound for strangers,
would I refuse?

Oh, Driver, Brother, You
who set me free,
crack your whip of light.
Let’s walk this joyful road.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

God’s Absolute

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
         for theirs is the realm of heaven.”

                  — Matthew 5.3

It is this simple:
God’s immutable, supreme, unconditional law
         is not the law of deserving,
                  the law of punishment and reward—
                           but the law of grace.

It is God’s Absolute:
         more constant than the speed of light,
                  the force of gravity or the passage of time.
God brings light out of darkness,
         life out of death,
                  people out of slavery.
God overwhelms sin with forgiveness,
         turns mourning into dancing
                  and loss into victory.

There is only One Thing, and it is grace.
         God’s holy blessing, glory and loveliness
                  throb at the heart of all things.
It is not perceptible to rational thought
         or common sense;
                  it follows no human rule or expectation;
and nothing—not time or space,
         suffering or evil, sin or death—
                  can diminish its power, alter its course
                           or determine who receives it.

The more deeply you trust this,
         the more readily you see
                  this rough and shabby world
as a seed coating,
         as a tomb soon to be emptied,
                  a child to be loved.

The more deeply you trust this
         the more madly you love,
                  the more courageously you sing,
the more hopefully you kneel
         before God’s hurting ones
                  and stand before the world’s mighty ones;

the more freely you pour yourself out
         like a waterfall of God,
                  knowing even your grave is a gate;

the more grateful you are to live in mystery
         and, in perfect humility,
                  burn with the light of heaven.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Standing here

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

I am trying to stand here
among snow-bowed trees
and softly buried grasses
but my breath escapes me
in little vanishing schools of fish,
the snow patiently falling
makes me a distant mountain,
the trees’ hidden roots
thread me deep into the earth,
the clouds make sign language
that I belong to the sky.
For a moment
I am close to just being here
but the blackbirds swing down
and carry me off on their black wings to
         —I don’t know where.
                  I don’t know at all.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Blessed

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
         for theirs is the realm of heaven.

                  — Matthew 5.2

Blessed are those who are weak,
         for God’s infinite power is in them.

Blessed are the losers
         for they are receivers.

Blessed are those who do not believe,
         for God believes in them.

Blessed are the lives that are all messed up,
         for God is in them.

Blessed are those who appear worthless,
         for they are not.

Blessed are the ugly,
         for they will be called Beautiful.

Blessed are the wounded,
         for God’s miracles arise in them.

Blessed are those who are judged and condemned,
         for they are not judged or condemned.

Blessed are the gentle,
         for they have the power of God.

Blessed are you when you have nothing to say,
         for you are a love note from God.

Blessed are you when you fail,
         for God does not fail you,
         nor fail in you,
         but shines with glory and delight.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Spirit of gentleness

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

God has told you, O mortal, what is good;
         and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
         and to walk humbly with your God?

         — Micah 6.8

Micah proclaims a three-dimensional faith. God calls us to love kindness, with gentle compassion toward others; and to walk humbly with God, with trusting, grateful companionship with God; and to do justice: to turn systems that hurt into systems that heal— with courageous, determined attention to the world, especially its poor and vulnerable. None of these stands alone. We don’t retreat into humble intimacy with God without also caring for others. We don’t only care for individuals without also changing the systems and societies that affect them. We don’t charge into the fray to change the world without a spirit of kindness and humble trust in God.

What weaves all these together, making devotion, compassion and justice one, is faith: gentle trust in God’s grace. We are rooted in God’s gentle grace, in which the poor, the mourning, the hungry, the powerless and the persecuted are blessed. God does for us what Micah call us to do: God is kind to us, walks humbly with us, and transforms us from people who hurt into people who heal. Trusting in God’s gentleness, and the power ofd that gentleness, we are bold to be gentle in this world, and to work to make the world more gentle.

May God’s spirit of gentleness fill you, bless you and guide you this day, that you may do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.
         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Accompaniment

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
Last week Beth and I were in New York to hear our niece Kristin play at Carnegie Hall. She’s a world-class pianist with the Vienna State Opera, and she was accompanying a couple of singers in a recital. It’s a wonder to watch as well as to hear. She doesn’t just play the notes behind the soloist. She creates a musical world in which their singing can live and belong and shine. She does it not only with perfect skill, but with delight. She plays beautiful music and gives it to them as a gift. You can see the passion and love with which she plays, and the care and attention with which she offers up the music. An eyebrow rises, she leans forward, nods her head, rapt in attention not to the piano, but to the music in the singer. It’s as if she is evoking the music in the soloist by her own playing, as if she is drawing out beauty in another by giving it away, saying “Here is a gift. Add your own beauty to it and make it wonderful.” She is a master; yet if you weren’t looking you wouldn’t notice. Our attention is never on the accompanist, but secretly she makes the world beautiful.

It’s what God does: she accompanies us. With wonder and delight she goes with us, creating the music of our lives, staying in time with every beat of our existence. She surrounds us with the music that gives meaning to what we do, and makes harmony possible. She loves us into our own beauty, and draws the best out of us, making it hard for us not to shine with light and grace.

And God invites us to accompany others. Love is not some sentimental feeling; it’s giving our gifts for the sake of someone’s beauty. Focusing not on ourselves but on them, we love and support them; we give the best of our skill and our passion; we offer the beauty that is in us for the sake of the beauty that is in them. We pass on the light, and it shines in them until the whole world shines. Secretly we make the world beautiful.

So we accompany one another in this life. And in our companionship, though you wouldn’t notice if you weren’t looking, there is God.
         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

“Follow Me”

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

“Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.”
         —Matthew 4.19

To follow Jesus is not just to profess belief in him. It is to accompany him deep into the heart of life. It is to enter fully into the life of God. We leave behind all that keeps us from beholding the What Is; all that entangles us in our attachments and fears; all that holds us back from pure, radical love. We leave behind all that prevents us from being fully present and available to the Spirit. We enter into the miracle of love in this world.

To follow Jesus is to climb inside of him as he moves through this world, loving its glory into freedom, loving its wholeness till it makes the world whole. We join his amazing dance of grace and beauty sadness and joy, and stay with the dance even as it snakes and jives through the slums and the refugee camps, corporate offices and army barracks, the insane asylums and funeral parlors, showering love on people who can’t believe it, and won’t. We stay with him as he turns water into wine and hugs lepers and makes tyrants nervous and feeds hungry souls and bodies. We learn to see glory in the ordinary and trust blessing when it’s bleak. We live inside of God, who is love, and watch God happen in every little thing. To follow Jesus is to burrow into the sun.

Jesus comes on like a flood of love and hope and light and blessing, inundating every square inch of the place and sweeping a lot of things away; and we strap on our life jackets and hang on for dear life and ride the waves. To follow Jesus means mostly to stay with him, especially when it gets hard: to keep our arms around him while he’s weeping for his people, when he’s accused, while they’re whipping him, while he’s dying. And to stay with him still, in the darkness. And—dang if this isn’t the weirdest thing—stay with him right up into the light in his resurrection. To follow Jesus is to not let go of life, even in death. Just hang onto him.

To follow Jesus is to fall in love. Just let go and fall. Follow. Breathe deep. That’s his voice, calling. Go.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Praying

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

The silence has such tiny fingers,
         arms as light as breath.
                  It’s not easy to feel them around you.

God’s Word rises slowly
         like a winter dawn,
                  holding you in its vast eye.

Have you ever walked in deep snow
         just to feel it
                  press against your legs?

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

Violence never changes the world. It only adds to the wounds. Only nonviolence will heal us. Nonviolence is not passivity; it is more than “not fighting.” It is the transformative act of bringing the power of compassion to bear upon the world. It requires of us the courage to risk suffering, and the love to care for those who oppose us.

It begins with the transformation of our own hearts. We confront ourselves in humble self-honesty, confess our own violence, and ask the God of Peace to remove from us our anger, fear, greed, and the willingness to hurt and dehumanize others for our own gain. We experience our own forgiveness by the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Forgiven of our own faults and injustices, we remain aware of our own sin. We see ourselves as part of a unified whole of humanity, not a separate individual. We are able to love others as ourselves: mindful of our common failings and frailties and that we are all equally flawed and forgiven, God’s Beloved. We then can act for the sake of justice without judgment toward persons, without bitterness or blame, but with clear hearts loving even our enemies. Ultimately it is not our actions but the love with which we carry out those actions that accomplishes powerful things and changes the world.

Many will laugh and say that simply being kind in the face of great evil will not change the world. But think of it: who changed the world, Jesus or Pilate? The British colonialists or Gandhi? The sheriff with the dogs, or Martin Luther King, Jr? Nonviolence is the only power capable of changing the world. Let it begin in your own heart.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

After a big snow

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

Sometimes prayer is simply this:
the city hushed, the highway slowed
and now of no concern,
walking knee-deep in woods
and out into the meadow,
along a narrow way
through this sky made flesh,
each step an exploration, a baptism,
giving time to wonder,
attending to the effort,
letting this re-creation of the earth
occur within as well,
the little tufts that top the snow
bowing patiently and asking,
“What’s the hurry?”
and knowing there is none,
there is none.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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