Wrinkles

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

When you meet a challenge,
a time of change or uncertainty,
a time of difficulty or sorrow,
a time of great hope or fear:
you can treat it as a loss or a threat,
and grapple with it
by the might of your anxiety
and the weight of your will.

Or you can accept it as an invitation
to deepen
your awareness,
your rootedness,
your prayer,
your trust,
your soul.

You can fight,
or you can deepen.

The bumps and crevasses
you struggle over
are only the wrinkles
in God’s hand.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Published
Categorized as Reflections

Strive first for the community

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?… Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?’ or “What will we drink?’ or “What will we wear?” … But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

         — Matthew 6. 25, 31, 33

Sadly, for millions life really is not much more than food, clothing, shelter and medical care. It certainly isn’t much without those things. It might sound like Jesus is telling the poor to tough it out and wait for the blessings of the afterlife instead of expecting worldly comforts in this life. Or maybe that if they live morally upright lives God will somehow reward them with material goods. But this teaching does not let us off the hook of God’s demands for justice. We might get away with that if “the Kingdom of God” were something private and individual. But “the kingdom of God” is a community.

Strive first for the community, not for yourself. Seek the community of God: a community of compassion, with just and merciful relationships. If we who have food and clothing (and power and privilege), share with those who do not, everyone will have enough. What prevents us from sharing more? What prevents us from taking risks in order to reshape economic systems of injustice? Our fear of not having enough. So it’s not the poor that Jesus is talking to, but us. If we cling to our riches and comforts, we will have only our materials goods, but not real Life. If we strive for the community of God, everyone— even we who have enough— will have enough.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Published
Categorized as Reflections

Seek first God’s presence

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

Do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?’ or “What will we drink?’ or “What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
        —Matthew 6. 31-33

Beneath all worry, whether petty or profound, is the fear that What Is is not enough, that there will not be enough grace. Worry is a symptom of living in a world of scarcity and fear, a world in which God is absent and blessing is scarce. But Jesus says in truth we live in a world of abundance and blessing, in which God is immanently present and generous. Jesus invites us into an alternative consciousness: as awareness that “what is” is God. Reality is not mere impersonal “existence;” it is an expression of God. The universe is the gift of a generous, faithfully present Lover. Whatever we experience, God is in it.

When we become mindful of God’s loving presence, when we enter the “kingdom of God,” the Realm of Grace, we find that in whatever we experience or fear, even in suffering and loss, God is with us, within us, pouring into our lives God’s infinite love. In all things there is infinite grace. It may come to us in ways other than those of our choosing, and we may indeed still experience pain, difficulty disappointment and grief. But not despair. Mindful of God’s loving presence, we receive abundant blessing and grace that is sufficient for any day, even the worst.

Do not worry; don’t send your mind on a wild goose chase into some other world looking for scarcity, deficiency and despair. Seek first an awareness of God’s gracious, loving presence in what is before you, and you will receive blessings beyond your asking.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Published
Categorized as Reflections

Accepting what is

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

         — Matthew 5.34

One of these cold wintry days, it’s suddenly warm and gentle. You can enjoy it, or you can spend the day worrying that it’s going to be cold again tomorrow, and let your worry chill you to the bone. When spend our energy in anxiety about the future, or regret about the past, making judgments about the way things are or ought to be, wishing things were otherwise, the that becomes our consciousness, our experience, our reality. If you spend a warm day thinking about how cold it’s going to be, then for you it’s actually a cold day.

When we worry, it’s because we believe things are not as they are supposed to be, or at least the way we want them to be. It’s negative consciousness. In thinking about the way things are not, we remove ourselves from the things themselves. We also fall into the temptation to control things, to make things the way we want them. When we desire to control things, it is another way of removing ourselves from them. Our “treasure” is our desire for control rather than what is around us. But Jesus invites us to accept what is as it is, without judgment, without control. Just be here. Be present to what is. Let it be.

Sure, we have hopes and desires, and we exercise judgment about our lives and the world. But even if we are struggling against great evil and injustice, we begin by shedding the illusory temptation to control reality. We can’t make things other than they are. We can’t turn stone into bread. This doesn’t mean we can’t change the world; in fact, it is the secret to doing so. Rather than giving ourselves over to what is not, we become present to what is, and in that presence we discover that part of what is is the potential for transformation, already present and powerful, just waiting for us.

When we become lovingly present, right here and now, accepting what is without judgment, we enter into the very power of Creation.
         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Published
Categorized as Reflections

The glass of water says

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

The wind says, “Let me hold you.”
A cloud mouths your name in silent payer.
A bird intones an ancient chant,
“Beauty nearby! Beauty nearby!”.

You walk under the street light,
an angel with one wing,
and she says,
“You, too, have this gift.”

You cross the bridge,
patient on its hands and knees,
and it says, “Walk over my back
to your love.”

You go along the frozen river
and the black water moving underneath
says, “Already something in you
is arriving at God.”

The steps you climb say,
“Yes, the whole world holds you in its lap.”
The door says, “Go through! Go through!”
The wastebasket says, “I will relieve your burden.”

The glass of water, with a twinkle in its eye,
says, “Yes, it’s true. Beforehand,
long ago, we all agreed, all of us,
to bless you, and to go on blessing you.”

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Published
Categorized as Reflections

Passages

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites looked back, and there were the Egyptians advancing on them. In great fear the Israelites cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness?” … But the Israelites walked on dry ground through the sea…

         — Exodus 14.10-11, 29

A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

         —Mark 4. 37-38

We walk through the valley of the shadow of death. We strain at the oars of our little boat against a tempestuous sea. We wake in the darkest depths of the night. We suffer difficulties, losses, even despair. And through it all the Infinite Presence, the One who Accompanies Us, whispers in our hearts, “Peace. Be still. This is not where the story ends. Yours is not a story of tragedy, of life diminished into misery and meaninglessness. Yours is a story of abundant life, slowly unfolding. It is a process, a journey. This is merely a passage. I am bringing you through this narrow place into a broad and spacious place. I am bringing you through this valley of tears to a meadow of rejoicing. You cannot arrive without first traveling. You must walk this path, and pass through these dark places. There are rough steps along the way. But I am leading you out of this place into another. Every step, even the fearful ones, even those of suffering and loss, are steps by which I come with you closer to the place of your deepest delight. Your pain is real, and I do not begrudge your despair. But trust this: whether or not you feel it, I am with you. Every step toward blessing is blessing. Walk with me, and let the walking itself give you courage.” And so, picking up the little bundle of our hearts, we go, hand in hand with the Loving Mystery, the morning light dawning slowly, silently, about us.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Published
Categorized as Reflections

The cart

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

Do not resist an evildoer….
Love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you…
Be perfectly loving, therefore,
as your heavenly Mother-Father
is perfectly loving.

         —from Matthew 5

Why do I put my shoulder to the cart
of one one whom I meet who is in my way
and strain against them
until they are out of it

instead of standing by,
holding them gently,
and letting the infinite grace of love
work invisibly to change them
and me
and the way itself?

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Published
Categorized as Reflections

Stitching

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

I celebrate bruises, fevers and swelling of flesh.
Thank God for excess fluid, rashes and clots.
These are not failures of the body,
but acts of defiance and hope,
a gathering of neighbors.
Slice a body with scalpel or weapon
and immediately cells gather;
they reach out and take each other’s hands
across the abyss of pain,
and make a wholeness of it.
When tissues are torn,
threads of blood take hold of each other,
reweaving living fabric.
Break a bone and without pause
the little angels begin patiently stitching,
knitting calmly, purposefully in the dark.
Wound us and the forces of life
rush to the scene to assist and to heal.
And so it is with friendship:
the phone call goes out,
and the cells of love respond,
the bones of family connect,
stitching us together over miles
in a tissue of prayer.
It’s who we are, how we’re made,
the way we reach out and hang on for dear—
isn’t it precisely the whole miracle?—
life!

Beth underwent ten hours of surgery and six more days in the hospital, and we are home and recovering, thankful for the gift of love and healing, and the prayers of friends. Life is really, really good.
         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Published
Categorized as Reflections

Perfectly loving

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

Be perfectly loving, therefore,
as your heavenly Lover is perfectly loving.

         —Matthew 5.48

Infinite Lover,
I want to be loving.
But sometimes my heart flows with some love
and some fear, some anger,
some wanting control.
I react. I’m defensive.
I come at people as if they are
my problem, my regret, my weakness.
My love gets trampled,
swamped by a dozen other things.
I am loving unless I have a point to make,
a lesson to teach, a score to win,
a character to defend, a wound to vent.

Help me to be more than partly loving,
but purely loving, loving to everyone,
not just the easy times, the easy people.
The hard ones are not ghosts from my darkness,
but wounded lovers, worthy of your love.
Sun of love, dawn in me;
forgive my self-centeredness
as morning forgives night.
Receive all that is not loving in me,
transfigure it in the light of your grace,
and flood me with your perfect love.
After all, though I am such a poor lover,
you love me perfectly.

Just so: each person you send me, remind me:
I am here only to love them,
only to love them,
purely to love.

         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Published
Categorized as Reflections

Companion

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
When a loved one has surgery, you are with them as you can and you wait in the waiting room when you must. God gives us the spirit to reach into another person’s life when they’re going through a hard time, and companion one another. The word companion literally means one who shares bread. We share the bread of each other’s suffering, joy and struggle, the bread of one another’s lives.

Yet there’s a limit to that. Sometimes the closest we can get is the waiting room. We can be with one another, but not actually take their place. Every parent knows the ache of this limit.

And here’s a mystery: God knows the ache of being with us as we suffer, as if watching from beside us, and yet at the same time suffers with us, sharing the bread of our lives from within us. The deep scandal of the cross is that God suffers with us. God is our infinite companion. There is no limit to God’s with-ness.

The Holy Spirit is that Presence. When Jesus rose from the grave of our suffering he returned to give us his Spirit. He said, “You shall be my witnesses,” and gave us the spirit of companionship, the love by which we share the bread of one another’s lives. “You shall be my with-ness, to the ends of the earth.” This is the Spirit that guides us in love every day, every moment.

In that spirit, pray for those who struggle alone, who have no one to accompany them. Pray for those whose hands no one holds, whose bread no one shares.

Go in peace, and may the love of God and the companionship of Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit accompany you, guide you and renew you each moment, into the mystery of infinite life.
         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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