Life begins

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

         
         

It begins in deadly hearts of stars,
in elements consumed, transfigured
in killing, birthing heat.

It begins deep within, in the murderous
seething of earth’s innards.

It begins with rock defeated, riven, worn,
stone creased and cracked and crushed
a million times, battered
to sand and sent on its silted way.

It begins in womb-dark murk and musk of soil,
in death and rot and rank decay,
in spilled seeds split and broken down,
in loss, collapse and festering,
by blessed unseen bugs and germs
digesting darkness into light.

In awful places this miracle,
this life begins.
Brokenness
becomes
something.
In darkness, deaths and desolations
is the birth of what shall be.

         
         

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve
_______________________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Blessed darkness

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”

         — John 3.19-21

And yet—
I hate the darkness and all that is unknown,
and I am afraid to look into my shadows,
where truth is, obscured.
I turn on the lights,
keep things entertaining and happy.
I await the equinox,
when night is pressed into a corner of the room,
when mystery is eclipsed.

— And yet as darkness turns out its pockets,
new things are revealed,
things that had been carefully tucked into the murk,
and I close my eyes.
I flee from darkness into the obscurity
of lights and sparkle and brightness and flash.

Sprit of illumination, draw me
into the holy darkness,
the shadows where dwell things that are true,
the nocturnal fears and memories
that I only see truly in their dark.

Give me courage to look behind the veil,
to reach beneath the pall,
to close my eyes and go in.

Blessed darkness, you who reveal
the stars, and the loveliness of the moon,
illumine me.
Christ, Loving Mystery, enigmatic brother,
walk with me into this good night,
where I am shrouded in grace,
where I stumble into the cross—
you, my dark friend, bearing my darkness,
nailed to my evil,
entombed in my gloom,
making of my shadows
a grave that cannot hold.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Monotasking

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
I went to the desert last month. Not out west, but down in Boston. After her surgery, Beth was in the hospital for six days, and I stayed with her in her room and waited on her. For me it was a desert experience, a time when everything else was stripped away and life was reduced to the bare essentials of being present. For six days I retreated from my job and the busy world of multitasking, and entered into the blessed desert sabbath simplicity of monotasking: only doing one thing. I attended to Beth. That was all. Time meant little. There were days when I never even left the room, let alone the hospital. There were nights when I slept little, and days when I never got around to eating. I wasn’t fasting; I was just doing something else.

I’m not saying I was actually wholly attentive. At times I got restless, or distracted, or wanted to do something else. This is not about me, but the experience. It was very meditative. I loved the contemplative focus of just doing one thing, being fully present to Beth, and letting go of everything else. I loved the simplicity of it, the freedom from my wants and attachments. I liked being in that place of deep attentiveness. I didn’t mind if she was crabby or appreciative, or if what she asked of me was a little thing or a real effort. There was just one thing.

This is what Jesus went to the desert for. To each of his temptations he responded by deepening his attention to God. “We live not by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God…” “Do not put God to the test….” “Worship God, and serve God alone.” He was practicing monotasking, so that all he was ever doing was being attentive to God, loving and serving God.

I’m afraid I’ve slipped back into my busy, confused world since the hospital. I am not wholly attentive to Beth, nor to God. I am multitasking again. Whatever I’m doing I seem too often to also be doing something else. So I welcome the the Lenten season, when we go back to the desert. In prayer, fasting and acts of justice and generosity we practice loving attentiveness to God, to others, and to all the world. We stay present to Christ in his suffering, and serve him in all his incarnations, not to accomplish many things, but, in all we do, to love and serve God. God’s love for us becomes our love for others. Blessedly, beautifully, gracefully, our whole lives become one thing: God’s love in us.

May it be so for you this Lenten season.
         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Meditation on a disaster

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
         

God does not cause earthquakes. God causes compassion.

         Kyrie eleison.

We are small and fragile, and we need each other.

         Kyrie eleison.

God is the love that draws us toward each other.

         Kyrie eleison.

Sin is the fear that drives us away.

         Kyrie eleison.

This is life is a gift. Every moment is precious.

         Kyrie eleison.

Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

         Kyrie eleison.

This day, this moment, is the time for compassion.

         Kyrie eleison.

Pray that you might become more purely loving today.

         Kyrie eleison.

When all of life and death have swept over us, love is all that remains.

         Kyrie eleison.

We hold our sisters and brothers in Japan in our prayers,
mindful of the great compassion that enfolds them,
the Infinite Love that weeps with them,
the life-giving Presence that sustains them,
the Spirit that holds us all as one.

         Kyrie eleison.
         
         

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Not by bread alone

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
         Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”
         Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’ ” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”
         Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’ ” Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

         —Matthew 4.1-11

God, I have a list
of stones to turn to bread,
things to accomplish today
and in my short eternity—
power to exercise.
But I relinquish my list, and my power
         and receive from you alone.
         
Beloved, I have hired angels
to protect me from falling,
from being hurt, taking risks.
I want to measure your love
by my comfort and satisfaction.
But I renounce what shields me from love
and all its suffering,
from life and its losses.
         You alone are my security.
         
Infinite Lover,
I’ve put earnest money down on the world,
furnished with everyone’s adoration.
It was counterfeit, of course,
but none of us knew.
But I let go of it all,
         for your love alone,
         pure gift, is all
         that sustains me.
         
God, I would like to be God—
my God, for my sake, in my own way.
But I will be your creation
         and you be my God.
         
Infinite Love, Mysterious Wisdom,
take my life from my hands,
my power, my security, my place in the world,
and place me, empty handed,
         in yours.
         
         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Lent

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished.

         —Matthew 4. 1-2

Jesus went out into the desert to confront his temptations. He went to see his fears, desires and attachments more vividly, to name them and be more free from them, in order to become more loving.

The Spirit that led Jesus is also in us: Love that yearns to become perfected in us. In Lent we go with Jesus into the desert, not to suffer or wallow in guilt, but to see more clearly. We go to see our sin, in order to see through it to God’s love— and to get free of what inhibits love. We engage in Lenten disciplines in order to expose our temptations, to face our needs and fears and desires and attachments, to name the evil that is in us, and to see beneath them to our deepest, truest hunger, which is for God. We see our sin more clearly, and beneath it we see our belovedness. The more honestly we face our needs and fears, our failings and weaknesses, the more clearly we see how we habitually identify with them. But they do not define us; God’s grace does. So we pray and fast and give generously in order to see through the things that get in the way of our receiving and giving God’s love. And we let go of them, setting free the love that is already in us.

This Lent, go into the desert with Jesus to look at yourself honestly, to see through your sin, to see more clearly and become more deeply who you truly are: God’s Beloved, deeply loving.
         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Ash Wednesday

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
We stand before the divine majesty of God
with dirt on our faces
as if we’re babies who can’t feed ourselves
little kids fresh in from playing with fire
fighting with each other

in a neat little cross
as if it’s on purpose
and not the stain of inattention
inability to keep ourselves up
smear of greed
slopping slipping in low places

as if it’s ice cream
not
ashes of our old palms
tragic underside of our praise
scar of all the times we got burned
not seepage sewage tears
blood spattered shed
wound of grief and shame
dirt from our own grave
soot of our cremation

This is the mess we show up in before God
who gazes at us
and the death on our faces

(it’s only after this
amazed out of our old life
that we die
shed our lives like skin
become for the first time again:)

who gently
licks her thumb
and wipes us clean
and says,

“There now.”

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Fat Tuesday

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
Lent is a season of repentance, marked by the traditional practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. As a form of fasting, people often went without rich foods during Lent, so on the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, they would use up all their milk, butter and eggs by making “fat” foods,” like pancakes. Hence today is sometimes known as “Fat Tuesday” or “Pancake Day.”

We often pick something to “give up” for Lent. I don’t plan to give up milk and eggs. But I do intend to fast, and to do without sweets, snacks and unnecessary food, and to avoid eating in a hurry or standing up or while doing something else. The point is not to deprive myself, or make my life uncomfortable. The point is to be mindful. How much do I eat without needing to, just out of habit or “because it’s there?” How much do I eat without even thinking, without enjoying, without appreciating? By eating mindfully during Lent I don’t expect to be miserable. I expect to enjoy my food even more.

The reason for repentance is God’s judgment. If you think God’s judgment is condemnation and punishment, then I suppose Lent should be pure misery. But God’s judgment is simply the loving truth about us. So Lent is a time to become more mindful, to see ourselves more clearly, to and to realign ourselves with God’s love. Fasting is a practice that helps us expose and transcend our usual desires and attachments, and focus beyond ourselves and our immediate wants. But fasting goes along with prayer and almsgiving. Fasting without mindfulness and generosity is not a real fast. The point is not to improve self-discipline, but to deepen our love.

So besides “giving up” something, observe Lent by committing to a deeper practice of prayer or sharing. While I’m fasting, I’ll be writing letters on behalf of the poor through Bread for the World, and on behalf of prisoners of conscience through Amnesty International. The point of Lent is to move beyond our self-contained-ness and become more fully connected with God and others in love. Choose a way to observe Lent that helps you become more mindful, and more in harmony with God’s love for you and for others. You will likely experience in it a rebirth that will prepare you well for the miracle of Easter. And you’ll enjoy those Easter eggs all the more.
         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

I stumbled

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

“God,
I have stumbled again,” I prayed.
“Can you forgive me?”
         
And God said,
“Beloved,
“if you had any idea what I know
         
that you do not
         
of your burdens—
how my back aches from them,
and my legs are weak—
         
you wouldn’t need to ask.”

         
         
         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

We could disappear

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

We don’t go
behind the curtain
that is this world,
in front of which
things are what they say
and as they appear,
a bird is a bird, a flower a flower,
but behind which,
really,
the smallest flower is the sun,
and a bird is a prayer,
the language of your deepest longings,
something in you that has traveled far
and returned,
someone smaller than the wind
but free in it,
hope with a sense of geography,
a song that lays eggs,
a gesture of praise with children,
your death, singing above you,
branch to branch….

We don’t go because
just as easily as we could become
the graceful swan
we could also become pure flame

and disappear

or the wren outside your window
looking in.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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