Ascending Christ

He was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.
While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven,
suddenly two men in white robes stood by them.
They said, “People of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven?”

— Acts 1.9-11

While I was looking up, expecting you there,
the beginnings of despair in the emptiness of the air,

you were beneath, the seed buried in my life,
burrowing mightily up into my light, unseen,

climbing slowly, pushing aside rocks and roots
to reach my daylight, my face, my eyes.

You were the blossom opening from within me,
swelling my limbs, alluring,

the song like a lost miner
making its way out of my lungs,

the unborn child within, changing everything,
the longing for God—Beloved, you were that!

When I tremble it is you, ascending still,
working your way up into me.

 

Seasons

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
For some of you today is a holiday; for others it’s work as usual. In New Hampshire the sudden arrival of summer weather is drawing us outdoors. But folks just a hundred miles north or south of us are in a different place in the progression of spring. And as we come out into the spring warmth, some of you who read this are in the southwestern desert, where the heat is driving you inside. This time of year feels something different to you who are in Seattle, and to you loyal readers in England. Some of you are in Australia where everything is opposite of all this. And for you who are in Brazil near the equator, seasons don’t figure so much at all.
Some of you are celebrating births and graduations, while others are mourning deaths and losses. Many of us are facing moves to new places. Some are going through difficult struggles, living with serious diseases, wrestling with addictions, experiencing depression; others enjoying a gift of freedom, deep joy, or new life.

All the seasons and changes belong to one earth; all are part of one living process, one breathing planet, one beautiful organism. One life. The rains that have inundated Montana and the upper midwest are the floods that will eventually embrace the south. The storms that hammer the continent are born out over the sea. The currents that cool one side of the globe warm the other.

We are all part of one living being. One’s songs of courage are woven with the threads of another’s suffering. Another’s joy flows through our sorrow. When we pray for our own healing, without knowing it we seek the healing of the world. When our hearts go out to others who we think suffer more than we, both are strengthened. A child mourns over her mother in Africa dying of AIDS, and I am blessed. Our struggles and blessings, prayers and thanksgivings are not separate; they are one. We are all one being, one cell, one Life. We are all the prayer of one God, one Love.

In your particular place today, in your weather, on your path, you are not alone. Those who suffer and who rejoice, who pray and who despair, who need life and who offer life, all are with you. All are in you. And we are all in God, whose love is our blessing, our unity and our life. Living or dying, we belong to this Love. This is the day the Lord is creating. Give thanks and rejoice.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Flowering

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
In the lengthening days of early spring,
among the vanishing snowshadows,
I hear new bird songs, see geese overhead,
and greet the long-awaited return of smells.
Trees light their little green sparklers,
and I walk among them.
Then the great flowering procession begins:
first the gentle, snow-defiant crocuses,
and the hyacinth, low and easy to miss,
then the forsythia, the dogwood, dandelions
and daffodils, followed in proper order
by the tulips and the flowering trees,
crabs and cherries, and the azaleas.
Little purple things, and white ones, dot the yard.
Finally the lilacs bloom, and I walk among them.
The catalpa tree will blossom much later,
and I will stand beside it as well.
Among flowering beings, softly opening,
with billowing wonders, I, too, live,
with my own great unfolding.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Keeping the commandments

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
         “If you love me,
         you will keep my commandments.
         And I will ask the Father,
         who will give you another Advocate,
         to be with you forever.”

                  — John 14.15-16

Beloved, I do love you,
and I long to keep your commandment,
to love as you have loved—
but I know my love falters.

I begin to doubt, begin to fear, to despair.

But I sit here in prayer, still.
Your Spirit comes and pours into me,
breathes in me, and sits with me.
I let the fear drain out of me.
I let my thoughts wander off
and I do not follow them.

Even as I wonder
if I can keep your commandment,
you become my Advocate,
the one who believes in me,
the one who loves in me.
You become my heart, my love,
my keeping.

I rest in the mystery
of your dwelling in me.

         “On that day you will know
         that I am in my Mother,
         and you in me,
         and I in you.”

                  — John 14.20

         

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Complicity

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
We pray for the people and communities affected by severe storms and flooding this spring. We hold them in the light of God’s mercy, and in the care of our own hearts. Even when all is devastated, God is still present, still loving, still creating.

As we pray we deepen not only our compassion for those who suffer, but also our connection with them. And we confess our our complicity in their suffering. Recent storms of unusual severity are part of a pattern of global CO2 imbalance and climate change. Of course we do not “cause” the weather, any more than we cause earthquakes or cancer. But we do make choices that contribute to larger patterns. War, terrorism, economic crises, the spread of diseases, cultural and ethnic tensions, the degradation of the earth, and even the weather are all things we think of as being beyond our control, but they are affected by choices we make. Large global patterns are made up of small, individual choices. Every time we tolerate a racial slur or buy chocolate or bottled water or drive instead of walking, we unconsciously contribute our small bit to large patterns.

My goodness. So does this mean that our prayers should be filled with guilt and despair? No, in fact, the opposite. They should be saturated with hope and joy. Because if we have the power to contribute to global misery, we also have the power to contribute to the healing of the world. If we can be even in some small way complicit in injustice, then we can also be complicit in restoration.

In our prayer we become more conscious of the connection between our actions and the lives of others. Our deepened awareness affects our choices. Justice and compassion are no longer abstract concepts; they are the means by which we choose food, use resources, discuss politics and relate with people. Prayer becomes concrete action in our daily lives. And as we become aware of our link with others on this planet, we get closer to our sisters and brothers. This can only be a blessing.

And if we can affect someone far away by changing a light bulb or buying fair trade coffee, then we can do so as well in our prayers. Just as our visible acts have invisible affects, so our invisible prayers have visible affects. Your prayer affects the world.

Whether you mean to or not, you do treat your neighbor as yourself. So devote your life to doing no harm. Pray for those who suffer. Trust that your prayers have great power. Enfold the world in your compassion, and you will contribute to a wholly different kind of global warming.
         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

I am the woods

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
Holy One,
I am the woods
         you walk through.

I am the hall
         where your singing resounds.

I am the morning
         you rise in.

I am the body
         in which you breathe,
         you beat, you spark,
         you flow.

My pain
         you dwell in,
my plainness
         you fill,
my not knowing
         you see from within,
In them I seek you
         who are here.

I am the poem,
         you are the truth.

You are the hunger,
         I am the food.
         

         

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

You are the rain

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

You are not an arrow
whose aim is to slip through this life
untouched, without a trace,
until you find the one thing you are looking for.

You are the rain,
condensed of love,
and your life is to fall upon the earth
and drench it with love,
to fling yourself onto the plains and rooftops,
on every leaf and every dog,
running into every crevice and along every cheek,
to let every drop of yourself fall and flow away,
to drench this world with compassion,
to bathe it in mercy, to flood it with blessing,
to pour delight out upon the city,
to soak your love into the fields,
to spend yourself until all is clear
and there is nothing but
yellow glowing where the rain comes from,
and a rainbow,
and on the earth,
pools of light, shimmering
among green growing things.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

5K

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

I ran in a 5K race yesterday, a cancer center fundraiser. It was a “race,” but except for the first two or three runners, we weren’t competing against each other. If anyone was competing at all, it was against the clock, against our own inertia, our own inner limits. In fact everybody was supporting each other, rooting for fellow racers, cheering them on, encouraging them. We were all sharing in giving ourselves to something greater than ourselves.

Your prayer life is not just “between you and God.” You are not alone; unseen millions pray alongside you and for you, and encourage you in their prayers. Even hermits belong to communities who pray for them, and they for their communities and for the world. Buddhist pilgrims on their way to Lhasa pray not only for themselves but for all living things. We are not all out jogging alone on our own private paths. We are part of a race, a human race, and all of us are running with joy and purpose toward God. We do not live out our spirituality in private, but in our daily relationships, in service and justice and creativity, among others who believe in us and bless us though we do not know them.

Today as you run your race, as you sit in prayer or go about your work or enjoy Creation, trust in the communion of saints, the unseen beloved, on earth and in heaven, who are praying for you, cheering you on, running with you with joy and determination. Give thanks, and keep your head up.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Judgment day

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
You’ve heard about the nut that’s predicting Judgment Day this Saturday. (He seems pretty smug that he’s going to Pass.) Well, he’s right. He’s delusional and his biblical scholarship is whacked. “About that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mt. 24.36). But he’s right. This Saturday, May 21, is Judgment Day.

In fact every day is. God’s judgment is not the Finals in which God eventually reveals the Judge’s Scores that have been kept secret up until then. God’s judgment is simply God’s truth about us. That truth includes who we really are, and the nature of what we’ve done. It isn’t some worldly grading of good versus bad culminating in a thumbs-up-or-down, heaven-or-hell Elimination Round. Because God’s truth about us is not separate from God’s love for us. We are not separate from God. So God’s judgment is that we are beloved, forgiven and precious. Screwed up, to be sure, but God’s anyway, and not just begrudgingly. God doesn’t just tolerate us. God actually loves us. And God’s love for us outweighs every other characteristic about is, including our sinfulness.

Technically, Judgment day isn’t this Saturday; it was Good Friday. That was the day God issued God’s Judgment: You are sinful, and saved. Case dismissed. So we don’t have to wait until Some Day to stand before God: we live before God every moment, and every moment God reveals the truth about us: “Oh, you are sinful, all right. You are worse than you think. But you are mine, and I love you.”

Jesus said, “I do not judge anyone who hears my words and does not keep them, for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.” (Jn. 12.47). He said, “This is judgment, that light has come into the world” (Jn. 3.19). And he also said, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever” (Jn. 14.16). He talks about this “Advocate” in John 14, 15 and 16. The word in Greek, paraklete, means a defense attorney. God is not our judge; God is our defense attorney! It is the world that judges, that pretends to be able to separate out our good from our bad, and add it all up to one final Score. But the Spirit is our defense attorney, our advocate, the one who knows who we really are. God knows the various unseen forces that twist and distort us to that we are so susceptible to evil, so that we do evil when we think we’re doing good, so that we can’t see. And God sees the selfishness even in our piety. But God does not judge that by sorting it all out and labeling it. God judges us by subjecting us to mercy, loving us, and opening to us the possibility of being re-created.

Yep, Saturday is Judgment Day. But I’m not worried: so is Sunday.
         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

In my Father’s house

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
         —John 14.2

         
We usually think Jesus is talking about the afterlife here. But Jesus is always much more interested in how to live than how to be dead. If “I shall dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life” (not my death), then maybe “my Father’s house” is in this life, not just the next. Maybe Jesus is promising that God has prepared a place for you in this world. Despite all your troubles, despite the times when you feel that you don’t belong or that you’re not safe, you are in the right place. God wants you here.

Jesus goes before you into your life and all of its challenges and prepares a place. You belong here; you are part of God’s family. In your troubles and suffering, though you feel like you’re all alone and there’s no rest, Jesus has gone before you in suffering, and accompanies you there, and makes room for you there. As you speak prophetically and work for reconciliation and justice, the world resists, and wants you to feel like an outsider. But you are where God wants you. The world may tell you there is no place for you. But you have your own room here. You are in God’s embracing presence. You don’t live in a dangerous, lonely world. You’re not a stranger in a strange land. You live in God’s own house. You are wanted here. You have your very own room.

Be at home here. Take courage. Live in trust that God gives you a home in this life. Then entering the life to come will not merely be an escape, but even more profoundly a welcome homecoming.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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