This morning

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

I walk in unfamiliar woods.
The morning sky awakens, yawns,
shoves off its rumpled sheets
then pulls them back over its head.

Around a pond small, unseen creatures
sing and croak their garbled hymns.
Between the ankles of gathering weather
I walk and listen, and find shelter.

Two geese lead their little ones
up the bank. They face the lashing rain
standing calmly, watchful, while
the wingless ones nibble in the grass.
Eventually one of the big ones
nibbles, too.

Something in you is always awakening,
always breathing, feasting.

Guard it,
for it carries you.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Two worlds

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
Mist of meadow incense rises gently,
flames on wild asparagus candelabras gleam,
birds in the choir loft sing a dozen anthems
and the sun walks up the aisle of grasses,
ringing a bell.
I am swept.

But I have to leave for four days of meetings at our Annual Conference. The sessions will drag, and mire in argument, and produce more talking than listening. It’s another world. How will I stay in the holy place, maintain my reverence, sustain a spirit of awe and wonder while we are caught up in “motions” and counter-motions that—ah, cruel irony!—do not move us? For that matter how do I, every day, keep the spirit of morning prayers during the afternoon coffee break?

When you are bored or angry or anxious
go into prayer.
Go into prayer right there.

Follow your breath.
Pay attention to the Spirit
breathing in and out of you,
weaving together the worlds
outside and inside you.

Let Jesus come sit by you
and breathe with you
and embrace the hall in love.

Live in the other world
even in the midst of this one
until there is only one world.

As the cantor chants his presentation on insurance claims, a flock of birds settles on the stage. An ancient psalm, sung in unbroken prayer for four thousand years, rises out of the papers, broods above your heads. It rains. You do not care how long the meeting is, or what transpires. You just enjoy sitting here quietly with the Holy One.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light


Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
Today is our anniversary—thirty-one years. That Beth has faithfully loved me all this time despite my faults (I am not as wise and saintly in real life as I sound in Unfolding Light) is, if not proof of God’s existence, at least a sign of God’s grace and power. That we forgive each other; that our hearts have deepened and expanded in one another’s care; that I, who am plenty self-centered, have learned to find joy in loving and serving another—these are evidence to me of God’s great mercy, and revelations of how God works in our lives.

That we have been changed by the Covenant that has held us, that in one another’s embrace each of us has become more beautiful, that in fidelity to the other we have become more truly ourselves, shows me something of what God’s faithful love is like. At the burning bush when God said “I am” God might as truly have said, “I do.”

That Beth might find joy in my presence hints to me that God might do the same. That I have grown in love assures me that there is a deeper love within me than my own passions. That I can love Beth unconditionally, despite her imperfection, evokes in me the capacity to love without cause other than simply for another’s blessing. That I keep learning how to love reminds me that God is not done with me yet.

That out of our love for each other we have produced three lovely sons suggests to me that God is a God of creativity and new life, that God works through relationships, and that God really likes people.

In these mercies God is present, and I know God. I come to know myself. I am shaped by God’s faithful love. I am filled with deep joy and gratitude. I thank God, and Beth, for this extraordinary gift. I hope I have returned some of the blessing to both of them. And I pray for each of you friendships, communities and other experiences in which you know God’s faithfulness and your belovedness, and come to love more deeply.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Yard sale

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
We had a yard sale this weekend.
A huge yard sale. A Jesus yard sale.
Toward the end we were just giving stuff away.
It was fun getting rid of things.
And it was more fun giving things away
than haggling over them.

(It’s marked $5. The guys says,
“Would you take two bucks for this?”
I say “How about one?,” smiling.
I’m pretty sure I got more out of that deal
than he did.
As he walks away I imagine Jesus
messing with his head.)

The real point is not how much stuff you have,
but how much joy you can find in letting go.

Being willing to let go is like being hungry;
actually letting go is like eating.

Getting free from our attachments,
unburdening ourselves of the things we cling to,
finding joy in giving—
the whole of life can be a liberating yard sale.

It’s not just that when we move now
the truck will be lighter,
but that by practicing letting go
I am a little more ready to love,
a little less concerned about doing without,
less weighed down by fear.

Ah!— I’ve been enlightened!



Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Won’t we want to live

God put this power to work in Christ
in raising him from the dead
and seating him at God’s right hand
in the heavenly places.

—Ephesians 1.20

If what we glimpse of death
is glory, entrance into God,
and not a loss but coming free,
a shedding of all heaviness,
a yard sale of our mortality,
a birthing from this lovely womb,

then won’t we want to live by dying
every moment, every breath a grave,
a womb, a passing, a death umbilical
and sweet, ascending into paradise,
glorified, not by our hand, but God’s,
becoming light,
our unencumbering a gift,
and sprung from clinging,
tagging every treasure cheap,
pile all our life beside the joyous road
marked “Free,”
and giving all our love away,
and letting go into the light,
into this death so unlike death,
receive each natal breath,
and, new, begin to live?


Getting beyond anxiety

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.
         —Acts 1.6-9

The disciples had already lost Jesus once. He had come back from the dead, but now he was talking about going away again. They were facing life without him. The story of the Ascension is about Jesus’ glory, but it’s also about the disciples’ grief. It’s about change, challenge and loss. It’s about our longing for faith when Jesus feels absent. It’s about the uncertainty and insecurity of facing the unknown. It’s about abandonment and anxiety.

This month I am moving to a new church, as many United Methodist pastors are, and my church, like many, is going to be without me. As we face this loss and change, the church and I are both feeling anxiety. Some people really want to believe in God but don’t experience God, and feel sad about that. There’s a lot of talk about the decline of the church in America. The whole church is anxious. In our own ways we’re all asking, “Jesus, are we going to be OK? Will you restore the kingdom now?”

But Jesus won’t promise that. Instead he shifts our attention away from our individual wants and anxieties (“It is not for you to know”) and focuses us instead on God’s grace in our lives (“You will receive power”) and on our purpose: “You will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth.” He says, “There is a lot you can’t know. But receive the gifts that are given to you, and share them. No matter what happens, embody God’s love.”

Focus on your purpose. Chaos is what is going on outside of you, but within yourself or your community, be the Gospel. Pay attention to grace in your life, and bear witness to that. Trust that there is power in that. You can’t predict or control the future, but you can choose your purpose, and you can stick with it. You can’t determine what happens to you, but you can look for grace in everything, and live by the grace you see.

When our world comes apart, we wonder, “Now what do we do?” The crucified and risen Jesus says, “Embody love, that’s what.” And then we’re not so afraid, no matter what happens.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

June blessing

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
Through all that changes around you,
may love and beauty remain constant,
and your be soul a mountain of life.

As caps are tossed in the air,
may you celebrate your milestones,
and keep learning.

As couples process down the aisle,
may the Beloved who is unseen
kiss you anyway.

May you find belonging in your new place,
the house suit you well
and the movers break only what you didn’t need.

May the Holy One
love being with you
like a trip to the beach.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

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