Benediction

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
Child of God,
beloved of God,
companion of God,

in all your journeys and becomings,
all your changes and challenges,
all doings and undoings and unknowings,

the Blessing One embraces you,
the Delighting One accompanies you,
The One enfolds you.

All that is holy and strong in you
cannot change or be taken;
it is eternal.

Your wholeness is unfolding.
Each day is a newness, a birth,
each challenge a chance to learn.

You will be well,
and a blessing to this earth.
Heaven travels with you.

Go in grace.
Go in blessing.
Go in peace.

Now—I’m off on an adventure,
and so are you!
See you in July.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

What do you see?

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
         “A little while, and you will no longer see me,
         and again a little while, and you will see me.”

                  —John 16.16

Jesus was not setting up some cheesy magic trick; he was simply inviting his followers to trust, and to pay attention.

More than once Jesus said, “Look. What do you see?” I began writing Unfolding Light ten years ago when I was campus pastor at Montana State University-Billings. The campus is right under the imposing 100-foot sandstone bluffs that rim the northern edge of the city (and much of SW Montana). I sent emails with announcements to students and faculty, including a little observation on “The Rims Today,” inviting folks to notice those great, ever-changing paintings of light and shadow, rain and snow and imagination. I just wanted them to look. When I moved here to Concord, NH, I reflected on the woods in much the same way.

The spiritual life is a process of waking up from taking things for granted, giving attention to what is before us. Things change, beauty happens, grace and mystery abound—but we miss most of it because we’re not looking. On the path I carved through these woods nine years ago, I sometimes meet a fellow walking his dog. He has earphones on. He doesn’t look up. I don’t imagine he’s seen the purple vetch or observed the brook among the ferns rising and falling after rains, or knows that there’s a fox with five kits whose den is not 40 feet from the path. (We stare at each other every morning and every evening.) He’s not looking.

When we get used to things we want to stop looking. Even if you already know what it looks like, don’t stop looking. Notice it. Let every day be new. Reality is not a static thing, but continually unfolding. This is the day the Lord is creating. Rejoice and pay attention.

Tomorrow will be my last post for a while as I take a break to move to Acton, MA—not a big move, like from Montana to here, but a move. I’ll resume some time after the 4th of July. “A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me.” In the meantime keep paying attention.

Weather Report

New, despite its familiarity,
unfolding with what is,
as shifting clouds emerge
give way and disappear,
divine presence
just waiting to be seen.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Turnaround

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
A prayer labyrinth is not a maze: you can’t get lost; there are no dead ends. It leads faithfully to the center, and back out again. This morning I walked the prayer labyrinth at our church one last time. In walking a labyrinth, you come to places where the circle doubles back, and you turn around and go the other way. Or at least it seems like the “other way”, although actually you’re still going forward, going toward the center, going toward the world. I love those places. I pause and attend to the turnaround, notice the letting go, savor the anticipation. I was going that way, and now I am going this way. This, too, is part of the journey.

The turnaround is a basic part of the path of life: a trip to the store and back… switchbacks up a mountain… you push the lawnmower this way and then that. Geese migrate south, migrate north. Even the earth itself swings from winter to summer, pauses, and tuns around. In the northern hemisphere today, June 21, is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, the beginning of summer, the turnaround. In the southern hemisphere, of course, it is the opposite turnaround.

My life has come to a turnaround. At the end of this week I will move away from this town forever, to take another church in a different town, in another state. I will cease being the pastor here, living here, walking these woods. I am going what feels like “another way,” but I am really still going forward. This is typical. We go through changes and reversals, graduations, losses and unexpected turns. We repent. New things seem strange, and we get disoriented. The weave of death becomes visible behind the fabric of life. We thought we were facing the visible world but we are facing heaven. We turn around.

Savor your turnarounds. Be of good courage. Take heart. This, too, is part of the journey. This is still the path, and you are still going forward. This is part of the blessing. Let all your letting go be blessed. Let this new chapter be a learning, a becoming, a birth. Let each solstice of your life be a gift. For even on the very day that the days cease growing longer and the earth turns toward the cold and dark of winter, summer begins.
         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

What I take with me

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
Packing for the journey,
leaving much behind,
what shall I take with me?

I take mindfulness,
so that wherever I am
I may actually be there.

I take gratitude,
by which everything,
everything is a gift.

I take trust.
How much I can sow,
knowing the seeds will sprout!

I take freedom,
not from accountability,
but to live by my choices.

I take love,
my connection with all,
my only true power.

I take wonder.
There is always more.
It is all mystery, all grace.

I take courage
for all of life’s yieldings
and steadfastness.

I take gentleness and kindness,
a way of being a blessing
that cannot be taken away.

I take an open heart,
open hands, open eyes.
All else I leave on the curb.

Find me on the road,
and find The One
—I do not go on my own—

by whom
I myself
am taken.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Baptizing

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.
And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

          — Matthew 28. 19-20

Baptizing in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit does not mean converting people to Christianity. It means immersing them in the love of a community that bears God’s Covenant to them and to the world.

To baptize you in the name of the Father is to honor you as God’s own, to see the Holy One in you, to acknowledge you as a sacred Being of God’s Creation and an embodiment of God’s presence. It is to say to you in words and in deeds, “You have your Father’s eyes.”

To baptize you in the name of the Son is to promise to love you as we have been loved, to honor you as one for whom Christ died, to demonstrate your forgiveness, to honor you as an equal in the Body of Christ, to entrust you to Christ’s healing, to listen with you for the Living Word in your life, to hold your living and your dying in the light of Christ’s resurrection, to teach you how to live in radical trust, compassion and gratitude as Jesus did, and you assist you in dying and rising with Christ. It is to say to you in words and deeds, “The peace of Christ be with you.”

To baptize you in the name of the Holy Spirit is to evoke the deepest power of God’s loving presence in you, to honor your holiness, to encourage you in discovering and giving your gifts, to show you how to breathe deeply, to engage you in loving as you have been loved, to bear witness to our oneness with you in the Spirit as members of the same body, fingers of one hand. It is to say to you in words and deeds, “You are the song and God is the breath.”

To baptize someone in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is to engage them in a Covenant with the One who goes into the world, who continually dies and rises to new life, and who is always with us. We do not convert them, but are ourselves converted. With Christ, we go on like a flowing river to new places, new realities, chapters. And always, the Loving One, the Healing One, the Empowering One is with us.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

The Holy Trinity

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
Mother, Son and Holy Spirit,
beyond words we bless you,

you who defeat our words, confound
our images, encircle our understanding,

who are not a thing to be described
but Being, Love, Presence, to be met.

You are this, and the opposite of that,
and something else altogether;

Being itself, and source of all Being,
all giving and receiving;

mystery mostly, and all grace,
a little light and a hand on the shoulder.

Your Being enfolds all creation, nebulae,
one heart at a time, in your arms.

No mode of being, no heaven nor hell
nor hidden heart place, is beyond you.

All is within you. The entire created universe
is the smallest beloved embryo in your womb,

and yet you walk beside us, speak to us
each by name, breathe in us, cell by cell,

inviting us into your blessing,
your delight, your future, yourself.

You live in our tininess, share our unknowing,
suffer our pain, tremble in us.

Moment by moment you create all things,
die and rise, enliven and enloven us to holiness.

Eternal mystery, indwelling presence,
infinite grace, we cannot name or picture you,

but only worship you. We cannot divide you,
nor ourselves from you, but only Be.

Mother, Son and Holy Spirit, all praise!
We are present to you in love. Alleluia!

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

I’ll not walk these woods again

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
Within a few brief days
we’ll move from here
and I’ll not walk these woods again.
The path will close in silently behind me,
no trace remaining there,
and neither they nor I desire it otherwise.

We pack in preparation for the move,
going through our earthly belongings,
what we will take with us,
what we will leave behind,
letting go, letting go.

I’ve said goodbye to people I will never see again.
When they say, “See you later,”
I say, “No, you won’t. But I’ll remember you.”

My eulogy’s been said, my house in order;
all that’s left to do is spread my ashes
in this place and the next.

Oh, stop pretending. The movers
will back up to the house in their big hearse
and I will go forever. I know this.
I just don’t know when.

The only antidote for fear of dying
is to be alive.
Walk these woods this morning, now.
Live this moment, give it all you have.
Take it in, and give all you have away.

In such a short time since the snow
the wild asparagus are taller than I,
holding their frilly fingers up
to the rain, the robed, processing clouds,
and now—look!—the rising sun.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

For the gift of life

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

         What are human beings that you are mindful of them,
         mortals that you care for them?

                  — Psalm 8. 4
         
         
For the gift of life,
O Giver of Life,
to breathe, to grow, to see,
to love, to be loved —ah, miracle,
to be loved!— I thank you.
For who I have become, mystery
of lessons learned and gifts unearned,
this puzzling, dazzling masterpiece of you
in me unfolding, this blessing, this gift of myself,
and for who I yet may become, I thank you.
For the turning of the days
in wonder and gracious abundance,
each given freely, bountifully,
each bearing in its arms more gifts;
for the invitation to come again
one more time around the sun,
to keep old paths clear by walking them
and to make new ones in new places,
I thank you.
For love that abides years and distances,
for friends that grow old and stay near,
for the gift of continually becoming,
I thank you.
And for all that is to come this day,
and this year and the next, I thank you,
you who are the Gift of life.
I thank you. I trust your blessing.
I light a candle for you.
For myself, your gift, I dare cry
Alleluia!
This day is my joyful prayer.
my life my reverent thanks.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Your glory

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
         I will pour water on the thirsty land,
                  and streams on the dry ground;
         I will pour my spirit upon your descendants,
                  and my blessing on your offspring.
         They shall spring up like a green tamarisk,
                  like willows by flowing streams.

                           —Isaiah 44. 3-4

Dark and early in your story
someone fearful of your inborn glory
buried it behind your house, and you,
innocently, and wise to save yourself
from their greater wrath,
believed its absence.

It’s not a pompous glory, ostentatious
or insistent on regard, but sure and quiet
as a wildflower’s, asking nothing.

And so you’ve lived—so have we all—
without it, your heart shoveled over
with self-doubt and apology, as if
you have no place or voice here
among angels.

We see you in the cripples who flocked
to Jesus, the mute, the paralyzed,
bent over, shut out, gone mad.

And all he meant to say was this:
you shine. You bring a gift
as no one else, and you belong.
Your Word deserves a hearing,
and this world needs your beauty
and your grace. There is no rank
you fall below, no worth you fail to match.
You shuttering was evil, and God
wants it undone, and wants you whole.

And so she takes you by the hand
and raises you to stand, to walk, to speak.
She listens to your song with joy.
She rains upon the earth
until you are unafraid of your radiance
and all our houses are surrounded by wildflowers.

         

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Pentecost

Spirit insurrects so quietly, but does not “enter” us. It is we who come from Spirit, light from sun.

A great wind heaves and breathes and sings in us, Chinook of light, a hurricane of grace. A great breathing breathes within, giving and taking in, surrendering, receiving, the in and out the same. The world enters and becomes us and we empty ourselves into the air, becoming air, in rhythm dancing: inspiration, respiration, expiration, a tango of oxygenation, combining, rusting, combusting, burning, living into death, exhaling, dying into life. We burn so hot, but fan ourselves a thousand ways instead of simply becoming light.

Tongues of fire leap up in us and give us tongues to speak, to bridge our differences, for languages are foreign, but not hearts. A yearning leans in us and conquers the abyss, a leaping up, a drumming dance, a compass reaches out toward what we love, a gravity that draws us toward each other, a passion for communion, holiness that seeks its whole, shining in every other soul.

The light is there inside us, the flame inside the wood. Throw yourself into the fire, the dance of God loving the world from inside the world. Go ahead and speak this love to strangers.

At the very least, draw near and see how it is that we are burning and not consumed.

_________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net