And now some silence

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and peace to you.

I’m going to be off for a couple of weeks. I’ll resume in mid-August. Meanwhile, Unfolding Light will be all silence. After all, silence is God’s native tongue.

In fact it’s yours, too. You’ve just forgotten it. We all come from a land of silence and early on are taught speaking as a second language. If we sit in silence long enough we begin to hear what was spoken in us in the beginning.

We often listen for angels but complain that we never hear them—not knowing that actually we hear them fine, we just don’t understand them, since the language they sing in is silence.

But listen. They’re singing even now.

Deep Blessings,

Pastor Steve

Blessing

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.”
         —Genesis 32.24-28

We trust a dark God
who seizes us in lonely places,
who comes to us in travail
who births us only in great labor.
There is no struggle in which
blessing is not enfolded in the mystery.
There is no tribulation in which
God is not reworking the clay.

Therefore the prayer of the faithful
is not that my life be easy,
but always and only this:
“I will not let you go until you bless me.”

Your own poor choices
renounce the moment you see.
But of the struggles life thrusts upon you
do not let go
until you get from them a blessing,
and become a new person with a new name.
         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Israel

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.”

         —Genesis 32.24-28

I find it significant that the nation who worshiped Yahweh did not name themselves after Abraham, the father of us all, or Moses the great liberator, or David, the great king. They took the name Israel, Jacob’s new name that means “God-wrestler.” We are distinguished not by our superior faith or our unique land or even our particular history. We are distinguished as the people who wrestle with God.

We argue, we doubt, we cry out when God seems unjust or inattentive, we make impetuous demands, we bargain, and sometimes when God jumps us we even just plain fight back. (In the Bible, just thinking about God doesn’t count as theology: you have to get down and dirty and actually wrestle with God.)

God is no “unmoved mover.” God is a wrestling partner, one who challenges us, draws us into serious and sometimes even desperate struggle, a God who engages us. Moses and the prophets often bargained with God, disagreed, complained, criticized, and called God names. God seems to have loved it. God is the one who jumps into our darkness when we are left alone and says, “Bring it on.”

But God is not our enemy. God’s challenge is not to destroy us, diminish us or take away our power. It’s to get us going, like a sparring partner who gets a boxer to fight better. It’s to trick us into wrapping our arms around life, and laying our hands on God.

I don’t mean that God does mean things to us. It’s that in all of our struggles it’s really God we’re wrestling with. No matter what our struggles, our deepest anxiety is about our identity, our Source, our meaning, our future, our worth… which means we’re really wrestling with the One from whom those things come. This is good news, because as much as it may appear that the difficulties of our lives are our enemies, at their heart is a God who is our ally and deepest friend and companion.

God comes to us in dark, lonely places, in struggles and mystery. So grapple vigorously with this life and its Creator. Trust the grace that lurks in the night. You’ll be surprised how often God lets us win.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

5000

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full.
         —Matthew 14.19-20

Alone and struggling, I came to hear him. I stood in front and took it in. I heard a word of grace. I gave him my heart as he spoke.

I saw him break some bread, bless it and give it in baskets to his helpers. They gave me some. It tasted like freedom.

And then a hush fell, the others silent. I didn’t see why, couldn’t imagine why: I wanted to sing and shout, to praise loudly, to tell my story: there in the bread, my whole life poured into the bread, my whole life rose before me, like bread rising, full and very special, touched by God. Why not sing a song?

Only when I turned around did I see why the spreading hush, the awed silence, as the gift was passed from hand to hand: his helpers kept going among the people, bearing baskets of bread, giving it away. The bread did not end. He did not just feed me. He fed everybody. All of them. Here was a miracle: not me, but 5000. I was not alone. We were as one. A community, drawn together as if we were one body, one loaf of bread. The miracle was not the bread but the sharing, not that he made bread, but that he made a community, not that he gave me a gift, but that he gave the same gift to others, that he drew my “I” into a “we. I was saved, not by being made special, but by being included.

I imagine the miracle happens again and again, not by making bread appear, but by making it disappear, into the hands of the hungry.

I wonder what it was like to be one of those people helping him, following him, carrying those baskets out into the crowd, seeing the miracle in the unending bread, among the people. I think I could spend my life doing that.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Miracle

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
You think it is an ordinary day,
dull even, the weariness familiar.

But then he reaches into that moment,
the ordinariness of it, so small,

five rolls and two sardines, whatever
you happen to have along,

takes away your little sack of inadequacy,
your confidence of your unworthiness,

whatever you cling to, your sustenance,
your tiny hoard, your lunch for one,

blesses it, calls it divine, and a gift,
as if what is of earth is enough,

breaks it up so that you could not possibly
have it or live with it it again,

and gives it away, all of it, no longer yours
but God’s, whose hands are a hungry world,

and you can’t limit the way it multiplies,
the people it feeds, the wonder it becomes,

as if all long he has known that it was not slight
but hiding a miracle, bearing unseen abundance.

It is not the bread that is transformed
but the little hard roll of your trust,

the two little fish of your thinking
that you’ve seen the bottom of it,

your sureness that miracles come from nowhere
and not from right where you are.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Beginning the day

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

A glass of water.
A slow walk.
Sitting still, opening,
being present in the Presence.

This is the day the Lord is making.

Today is a day of unfolding Being,
a day to take in grace,
to open to my belovedness.

Today I will encounter many things,
feel many things,
and You will be with me in it all.

Today I will meet none but the blessed of God,
none but those who seek grace,
none but myself in other clothes.
I will love them;
You will love them through me;
I will love them as myself.

I make no demands of this day.
I trust you who accompany me.
I open the eyes of my heart.

I ask only that the infinite loving kindness of God
may flow through me this day
into all Creation.

I am breathing.
I am beloved.
You are here.
I am breathing.
I am.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Heat

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
Once upon a time, when people were young and innocent and thought they could tell God what to do, they said, “God, you are too distant! Come near. We want to continually feel your warmth and see your glory.” So God drew very near, and indeed they were warm. But God, being the Source of all warmth, was too much for them. They sweltered. Cities sagged under the weight of the heat. Meadows buzzed, where nothing else could happen but being hot. Lampposts, steering wheels and tempers were hot to the touch. Only the hermits in the desert understood, and went on praying. The people cried out, “It is too hot! Go back! Stand farther off!”

But God said, “You have asked for what you did not want, and you do not want what I have give you. Now you ask me to draw back. But I will not go away from you. I never have. Nevertheless I will protect you from the glory of my presence. I will make you safe. I will not let it ever get too hot or too cold. I will keep you from seeing the whole spectrum of light, or hearing all the frequencies of sound. I will keep you from seeing things very very small, or very very far away, or very very near. I will usher you away from the heights of the mountains or the depths of the oceans, and as well the heights and depths of your heart. I will prevent you from knowing what you can’t measure or prove or understand. I will confine you to the prison of what you like and recognize. I will shield you from the overwhelming presence of my glory: you will only see hints and suggestions. As punishment for telling me to go far away, I will make you feel like I have obeyed your command. Everything will always seem very moderate to you, not too extreme in any way, never too hot or bright or lovely or wondrous or glorious or dark.

“As a result of my punishment, without your knowing it, there will be a part of you that always wants more, always seeks me, which indeed is all I want. And to show you that there is so much more than you are ready to receive, and to remind you that I am more present than you believe, every once in a while I will let you actually see the smallest fringe of my glory and presence: a thing of beauty, an experience of heart-rending love, a time of unimaginable darkness, or perhaps simply a very, very hot day. You must be ready, for it won’t last long. And many will not understand, and raise the old complaint.  But you will know.”

And it was so.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

I will whisper

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

I will whisper in your ear.

         •
A voice of clear silence,
the breath the world came from.

         •
A small boat in a light breeze
slips along the water.

         •
More sun pours into the meadow
than it knows what to do with.

         •
A figure vanishes into the crowd
but is not lost.
What if I am all of them?

         •
The moments that have passed between us
do not disappear. I hold them
in my hand, ripening.

         •
I have this blessing that expands
to fill the universe.
What can I do with it?
I hide it inside you from behind.

         •
I touch you in places
not of your knowing,
a hand on your heart,
only deeper.

         •
I never speak.

         •

         •
Hours after the rain,
the trees are still weeping.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

The Spirit intercedes

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

You who pray, take heart.
You don’t have to heave your prayer
over a wall of difference, an abyss
of distance between you and the Holy One.
Your prayer need not be enlarged to be noticed
or translated to be understood
or embellished to be worthy.

The God at the far reaches of the universe
is also within. The Holy Indwelling Presence
will never fail you or abandon you.

We do not know how to pray as we ought,
but the Spirit intercedes for us
with sighs to deep for words.

We do not pray to God: God prays in us.
We merely hold the space.

We do not know how to give as we ought
but the Spirit gives in us gifts too deep for words.
We do not know how to forgive,
but the Spirit intercedes with surrenderings.
We do not know how to grieve,
but the Spirit cries in us with tears too deep for words.
We do not know how to wonder, to lament, to bless,
to trust, to heal, to dare, to thank.
But the Spirit intercedes.

We do not know how to live as we ought,
but the Spirit intercedes for us
with lives too deep for words.

To every day, to every moment,
to each breath and every heartbeat we say,
Amen.

         

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

The feast within

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

“The realm of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in a field… The Realm of of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened…. The realm of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field… The realm of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind…”
         — from Matthew 13

The idea of a heaven far away and later
was invented by travel agents with tickets to sell.
Let them make their expeditions to Other Places.
Perhaps from there this land will seem exotic
and they’ll find their way home with new wonder.

But Jesus has no far-off land in mind.
Do you see?— the realm of heaven is not removed
but always inside something, hidden
close at hand, underground, under water, under
your nose. Nearer than your thinking.
Heaven is not up, my friends, but in.
It is the Seed of the World,
the Soul at the heart of all things,
the source from which all things emanate.
The realm of heaven is the heart of a cry,
the energizing dream,
the love in a love song.
The Holy One is the Center of All Things,
and we radiate from her like light,
like laughter, like the smell of a rose.

This mustard seed vibrating with delight
becomes the million million things you see
and when you reach to the center,
the love at the heart of each moment,
the soul of the person before you,
you are there.

You who are wandering
on the fringes of the royal estate,
who stand out in the outer darkness
and see the feast within, look:
the door is open.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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