Halloween costume

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
I heard of a Halloween party once in which everyone was invited to come dressed as their own worst neurosis. Right on. Halloween is an acknowledgement that we live in a trick-or-treat society in which we are continually manipulating how others see us, to avoid tricks and get treats. It’s a day to confess that we are not who we pretend to be. What we wear the rest of the year is actually a costume. Today we can take it off: today we have permission to expose our demons, to name our dreams, to confess how scary our insides can look sometimes, and even to scare the goblins right back.

As the little pirates and princesses come to your door tonight, you might imagine that they are mocking your feeble attempts to dress up as a responsible adult, to pretend things about yourself, to appear to be the way others want you to be, to present yourself in a certain way so that you get the treats you want. Don’t take their mockery personally; thank them for being honest about you. Give them candy. Let them nudge you to ask yourself how often you wear such a costume, how desperately you pretend to be someone you’re not, and how deeply you’re willing to be yourself, even if it makes others uncomfortable. Ask this: what would you look like if you went as your own best self?

Go to God and take off your costume. Get naked if you have to, to shed the illusion that we are what we pretend to be, and that who we are isn’t good enough. Let the Holy One give you courage to claim yourself, and to be yourself without apology or adjustment. Seek the faith to go out into this trick-and-treat world without a disguise. Decide to live in such a transparent way that divine love in you is always instantly recognizable.

You can be polite. You don’t have to scare people with all your inner demons, or parade your inner beauty. But you can be yourself. The one it will most frighten, at first, will be you. But soon you’ll notice that your own best self fits better than any costume.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Crossing over

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
When those who bore the ark had come to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the edge of the water, the waters flowing from above stood still…. While all Israel were crossing over on dry ground, the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, until the entire nation finished crossing over the Jordan.
         —Joshua 3. 15-17

Even if your way is unmapped,
the road itself not yet built,
your journey is not aimless,
but always toward holiness,
toward a place that’s been prepared for you,
not farther away, but closer,
not an end, but a home.
Even when you’re there,
you will keep approaching.
Even now you are there.


All your life you are crossing over
through Red Sea Jordan
holy waters of the Womb,
leaving this world for the next,
into a life of deeper life.
Every moment, God’s water
is breaking.


Among the throng that thread their way
across the desert of your heart
there are priests who bear God’s presence
within you.
They won’t drop it.


When you are bearing something sacred,
barriers before you will withdraw,
but only at the moment
when you step into the flowing mystery,
into the depth of what holds you back.


While you cross over,
the bearers of the holy
will wait for you,
for all of you,
until you yourself
are part of holy land.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Prayer for peace

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

Twenty-five years ago today, October 27, 1986, in Assisi, Italy, the home of St Francis, Pope Paul II declared the first World Day of Prayer for Peace. He was joined by religious leaders representing over a dozen faith traditions from around the world. Today again we join with people of all faiths to pray for peace.

Holy One,
In the beginning you created all things with a single word.
Each moment you re-create all things with a single breath.
We are all expressions of your one desire,
all members of one body,
all created in the deep peace of your love.
Each breath we take is your peace,
your one peace for all living things.
May your holy peace illumine our hearts,
fill our bodies and transform our minds,
heal our communities,
mend your world,
and re-create all things,
new in the breath of your love.


Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve


Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Many languages

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
Last night at a dinner we were blessed by an imam, chanted over by a rabbi and prayed for by a priest. I needed all three.

I don’t believe that there is only one true religion. There is one God, yes—one reality, one absolute truth— but many ways to live in reverence. There are many ways to wake up, many names to give the sacred, many languages in which to praise, many stories that reveal the Holy. (Mine is the Jesus story. What’s yours?) Religions are not “all alike;” they see different parts, and lead us on different paths. Some see more than others.

But none of us has the whole story, because God is infinite, too great for even an entire religion to understand or worship fully. The One, the Creator of the Universe, whose name is I Am, the Merciful One, the Way, is greater than any image, any name, any tradition. The Heavenly Lover of All Beings has way more imagination than to only reveal herself to one people in one time in one form.

Don’t assume that you worship the one true God in the only way possible. Don’t let yourself off the hook by thinking that you don’t have a choice. When you do, you can easily begin to believe that your religion is more real than the truth itself, and stop seeing altogether, stop being present. No, devote yourself to being present. Seek what is true and what gives life, what most deeply connects you with Creation in love. Have the humility to know that there are other ways. Have the curiosity to wonder what you’re missing. Have the grace to thank God for the wisdom of other traditions, and the wisdom of your own. Have the courage to choose your favorite story, learn it well, and live it out, not because other stories are false but because it is the one that most deeply gives you life and brings you into harmony with all Creation.

When I am prayed for by someone of another faith, I am reminded that my understanding is incomplete, my perspective is limited, my tradition is finite. Only God is infinite and whole and perfect. God is beyond my naming, my understanding, my worship. I practice my imperfect faith, and God smiles and says, “It is enough.”

As you practice your faith, seek the prayers and blessings of people of other faiths. You need it.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

The teacher within

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
The scribes and the Pharisees tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students.

         —Matthew 23.4, 6-8

Beware the voices around you or within you that claim to lead you by dispensing demands and guilt. They won’t teach you anything. Don’t follow what gives you shame; follow what gives you life, what sets you free. Don’t listen to the teachers who will show you what it’s like when everybody likes you and agrees with you. Listen to the ones who lead you toward the grace-full presence of the Holy One.

Don’t try to learn from what everybody else wants you to hear. Learn from your own doubting questions. Don’t trust the teachers who know a lot. Trust the ones who are still learning, for we are all students. Trust that God wishes to be your rabbi, to reveal herself to you in your life, in your way, in your heart and mind and experience.

You will grow in wisdom not by a greater command of the facts, but by a deeper openness to God’s presence. God is not outside of you waiting for you to figure out how to get there. God is within you, leading you. Listen to the voice of wisdom within you. It’s not a voice of certainty, but a voice of wonder, of openness, of learning. Open your mind to every moment as an opportunity for the Present One to be revealed to you. Enter every moment as a learner of wonder, a student of God. Trust the silent teacher within.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

The sun walks

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

The sun walks through the autumn woods
slowly on her long yellow legs,
notices things, points them out,
reaches down between the grasses
and draws out their color,
touches leaves here and there
and makes them brilliant,
plucks a leaf and drops it,
plucks a leaf and drops it.
All through the woods her light
flutters down, swings down, dances down.

It is not winter that takes these leaves,
not frost that steals them in the night.
She gives them. It’s how she finds her way
down into the black soil,
how she gives her light
to the darkness working beneath.

It is not death
that takes us from this world,
but life that gives us, ripe and golden,
into the next.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

A meditation on Psalm 90


Infinite One, we live within you.
         We are little bits of your infinite life.
You form us from handfuls of mud,
         and we, your handfuls, return to mud.
Life is changing and transitory:
         we will not outlive the grass in our yards.
When we set our little lives
         against your infinite desire for us
         it is fearsome.
We can try to erect monuments
         as artificial extensions of our life span,
         but who are we fooling?

Teach us to be present in this moment,
         to find wisdom in loving presence.
Accepting that our life is passing,
         each morning we meditate on your steady love;
         we embed the day in mindfulness.
Even in the drudgery we endure,
         even in the evil we see and do,
you are present,
         and opening the eyes of our hearts,
         we find joy.

Open our awareness to your loving companionship
         and your miraculous presence in all things.
Our hope is not for lives that are long but deep,
         deeply rooted in your presence.
We do not seek immortality, or greatness,
         or influence that outlives us,
         but to belong in your life.
Our accomplishments are not ours to measure
         but belong in your hands.
May all that we do
         be in your hands.


Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

With all of my heart


Spirit of Love,
I desire to love you with all of my heart and soul and mind,
in all that I imagine and all that I desire.
May my thoughts be kind,
my feelings be shaped by compassion,
my daydreams be merciful.
May my consciousness itself be an act of love,
my mindfulness be gratitude,
my awareness be flooded
with your grace-filled presence within me.
Spirit of love,
may your love in me flow to my neighbors,
to all whom I meet or think about.
Direct me in kindness toward each person that I meet;
may every word and deed be blessing.
I devote my heart to compassion above all,
above being right or getting my way or proving myself.
May I avoid all coercion, but trust the power of love,
the infinite strength of gentleness.
May all anger and resentment turn to forgiveness,
all fear turn to tenderness,
all judgment turn to reverence.

Spirit of love, you are all that is;
all that is created flows out of your love,
bears your love, begs for your love.
May I return your love, radiant in me,
to all Creation.



Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Roadside grave

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo… and the Lord showed him the whole land…. The Lord said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants’; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.” Then Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the land of Moab, at the Lord’s command. He was buried in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor, but no one knows his burial place to this day.
         —from Deuteronomy 34. 1-6

A garden and a fence,
I know we all want it,
but sometimes the Promise
is not the abundance and security we crave
but an abiding presence
that walks with us
even as we lead others home,
and if we’ve walked with them
as we ourselves have been accompanied
then we’ve known heaven,
and if our steps were hope for someone tired
and wandering, even if we were, too,
then we’ve been in the right place,
and if we’ve pointed someone,
even with unsure hands, toward their wholeness,
then we have made a great journey,
and if on our way we’ve loved someone on theirs
then we’ve rested in peace,
and if we’ve fond belonging
not in a place but a way of going,
and lived on pure, uncultivated gift,
and trusted the unseen companion,
and if we’ve found holiness on the way,
and wonder, even on a road that was
mostly mystery and never finished,
even if we never really arrived,
but never gave up,
then even an unmarked grave
out behind a gas station
at the edge of a desert
with names in our pocket
is good enough.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

The religion of love

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
Someone asked him, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to them, ” “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
         —Matthew 22. 36-40

There are two religions in the world, and every moment each of us is always choosing between them, sometimes waffling back and forth—but you can’t have both. One is the Religion of Being Right, in which there is a certain way in which we acquire life, certain rules we follow, and if we follow them correctly, we secure our survival. These rules may be the Ten Commandments or Shira law or common decency or the properties of crystals or the principles of investing, but the dynamic is the same: if you master the requirements, offer the right sacrifices, do the right thing, you are rewarded—and if not you suffer. In this religion, regardless of how loving God may be, the crux of our relationship with God is that we meet the demands that God makes of us.  The highest value in this religion is to be right.

The other religion is the Religion of Being in Love. God doesn’t make demands, but offers blessing, unconditionally.  God loves us without regard to our obedience or “worthiness”, and swept up by that love we love God and all Creation. God does desire certain things, but doesn’t withhold blessing dependent on our performance of those things.  In this religion love is life, and so rather than seeking survival, power, security and esteem, we seek to live in love with God and all beings. Rather than trying to acquire life by our own effort or even our own faith, we receive it as a gift. There are commandments we follow and principles we observe, but the highest value in this religion is living in love.

You can’t serve both masters. If you really follow all the rules, sooner or later you’ll hurt someone. If you really love all beings, sooner or later you’ll break a rule. Jesus is clear on his choice of love. He often quotes God from Hosea 6.6: “I desire love, not burnt offerings.” The cross is where Jesus takes sides in the conflict between being right and being loving.

Sin, I think, is our instinct to be right, to be worthy, to get what we want, to deserve life, to position ourselves to survive as an individual (or even to risk our life as a way to make ourselves worthy). Love risks all this for another’s sake. To love God with all our heart, and our neighbor as ourselves, is to abandon every other motive.

This doesn’t mean to be a doormat. It doesn’t mean we don’t protect ourselves from abuse, try to accomplish things, maintain good boundaries, get angry and express it, or honor and take care of ourselves. It means that we do all these things in love. In fact, usually when we “give in” to another or surrender our boundaries or suffer injustice or abuse, it’s not not to love others, but to worship their idols: to follow what their religion says about our deserving or worthiness. Don’t fall for it. Follow your own religion.

Today notice when you are tempted to sacrifice being loving for being right: getting your way, winning your argument, proving your worthiness— rather than serving the other person in humble love. Open your heart to God’s love continually pouring through you, so that each moment might be your love song, your devoted prayer, your act of love for God and for all people, all beings, all Creation.
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

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