Comfort ye

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         Comfort, O comfort my people,
                  says your God.
         Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
                  and cry to her that she has served her term….
         A voice cries out: “In the wilderness
                  prepare the way of the Lord,
         make straight in the desert
                  a highway for our God….”
         See, the Lord God comes with might…
         he will feed his flock like a shepherd;
                  he will gather the lambs in his arms,
         she will carry them in her bosom,
                  and gently lead the mother sheep.

                           —from Isaiah 40.1-11

Isaiah brings good news to people in exile. He imagines a smooth, level road in the desert on which the exiles can return home. We are in our own kind of exile, separated from our truest selves. Our lives sometimes seem like high tension wires strung between disturbances and obligations. The call of Advent, this promise of comfort, cries out in the wilderness of our noise and haste, where we are held captive by our tasks and obligations, our fears and desires, our addictions and attachments, our willfulness, our slavery to being defined by how we are judged and how we have pleased others. The prophet calls us home from this exile, home to our own lives, to our simple Belovedness.

The voice comes to us in quiet and darkness and silence. The road through the wilderness is the road of being still, evening out the mountains and valleys of our days. The road home, the way to re-enter our own lives, leads us through silence and darkness, through our not knowing, not having anything to say. It leads us through mystery, in which we dwell with the promise, without words for it, or ways to manage it. The way home is not an arduous journey. In fact the promise of Advent is that One is coming who will lead us, carry us, feed us, bring us home.

Listen in these days for the voice that calls you home. Prepare a way, a way of silence and stillness amidst the busyness, a way of not knowing but waiting. Wait for the presence of the One who speaks tenderly to your soul, who leads you in loving gentleness, who whispers in the darkness, “Comfort, O comfort my people…”

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Categorized as Reflections

New moon

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

New moon,
         inlaid in darkness
                  as smooth as polished stone,

skinny girl of light
         bending over empty trees,
                  smiling, eyes closed,

ear of heaven
         leaning toward my silence,
                  hearing more than I,

you welcome me to this time
         of not knowing,
                  my mind with empty hands,

my heart like you,
         so little seen,
                  like all the world, waxing,

pregnant with light,
         turning gently,
                  what is, becoming.

Already, beyond my certainty
         you are full and whole
                  and shining.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Categorized as Reflections

Live hopefully

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         In accordance with God’s promise,
         we wait for new heavens and a new earth,
         where righteousness is at home.

                  —2 Peter 3.13

What are your deepest, holiest hopes? Hopes for your life? For your family? Your community? Your world? The universe? Imagine those hopes fulfilled. Give your heart to your hopes. This is faith.

Don’t think that your hopes are too audacious. God’s hopes for the world are even more audacious than you can imagine. Mary thought it audacious that God should choose her to carry God’s hope for the world, but it was true. The same is true of us.

It might seem that your life is too messed up, the world too much in the grip of evil, for there to be much hope. But our hope doesn’t come from wishful thinking, or from the world or its condition. It comes from God. Hope rises from the love that is at the heart of all things. It comes from trust that the love that created the world can transform the world. Of course there is evil in the world, and failure in our own lives, but we don’t live under its spell. We choose to live by the light of God’s promise, not the world’s threats and disappointments. Exercise the muscles of hope, not despair, for despair holds the door open for evil, while hope holds the door open for God.

Attend to your hope. Listen to it. Bring it to mind. Envision the fulfillment of your hope. Let it be real. Live as if your trust it. Imagine it coming to pass. Live as if it is coming to pass even now. Live as if Christ is actually coming.

God moves this world not by force but by the Spirit. By participating in God’s hope for the world, like Mary did, we help it to come to fruition — no matter how many generations it takes. This Advent season, give voice to your hope, and live by its light. Be awake. Live hopefully.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Categorized as Reflections

Black Friday

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and peace to you.

Today is the biggest shopping day,
but Sunday is the beginning of Advent.

On Black Friday
when merchants go into the black,
      go into the black.

Enter the mystery.
      Wait for what you do not know.
While others are checking off items on their lists
      chuck out your list.

While others are shopping,
      wait to receive.
While others seek satisfaction
      seek patience.

While others join the rush
      join the stillness.
While others fill their carts
      empty your heart.

While others take advantage of a limited supply
      know that an infinite grace is prepared for you,
that what is promised you
      can’t be taken away from you,

and that what you are given infinitely
      you can infinitely give.
Find peace not in finding, but in waiting,
      and befriend not knowing.

Imagine that you will receive
      what you can’t expect.
Believe that what you’ve always wanted
      you’ve never imagined.

Go into the black, and wait there
      for the dawn, for the angel,
      for the child.
In the black, in the silent mystery
      is the holy.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Categorized as Reflections

Hands open

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

Come into this day with your hands open,
with your hands open like eyes to the world,
like a morning meadow swept of darkness
ready for the sun to be poured in thick.
Come into this day with your hands open
with the surprise of gratitude,
ready to receive all that’s lavished on you,
and you know, the whole world is lavished,
the day with its touchings and releasings,
the night with its abundance of darkness,
stars in their billioned waves, poured out for you
even when you can’t see them,
and time, handed to you
just as regular and steady as a heartbeat,
and everything in it, poured out and piled up
and falling all around you and into your open hands.
Come into this day with your hands open
like wounds unafraid to be healed.
Come into this day with your hands open,
open for letting go, open to give all your gifts,
to give and receive until they are the same.
Come into this day and the next with your hands open
wide enough for ol’ Mama Life to come give you
one of her hugs, light as air, sure as earth,
long as the rest of your days.
Come into this day with your hands open
and keep them like that ’till death closes them.
Come into this day with your hands open
wide enough to say with all you mean
please and thank you and thank you again,
hands open enough to be empty,
and they will be full of light.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Categorized as Reflections

Practice gratitude

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
It feels so good to complain— to hide behind my powerlessness, to focus on someone else’s fault, to give significance to my opinions, to protect myself with a shield of negativity. But complaining is a way of picking at a wound, and making others bear my pain. Whining is a weed in the garden of the spirit. It steals energy from compassion, sucks the nourishment out of the soil of my mindfulness, and chokes my willingness to be lovingly present. It prevents me from entering into the vulnerability of acceptance, reverence and forgiveness.

So like giving up something for Lent, I’m giving up complaining for Thanksgiving. I will notice when I’m tempted to whine, and instead practice gratitude. Instead of voicing my complaint I will follow it inward and observe the pain it comes from. When I am drawn to fiddle with a wound by complaining, instead I will exercise compassion toward myself and others by seeking healing. Instead of becoming attached to my opinions, I will be lovingly present. Instead of whining I will bless. In all things, I will practice gratitude. And when I can’t muster the spirit to be grateful, I will turn to the deep wisdom of silence.

I trust that it will not always be easy, that gratitude is a practice, not a feeling, and that it will indeed take practice. But I will practice diligently. For what better way is there for my life to be filled with blessings than for my heart to be filled with gratitude?

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Categorized as Reflections

It’s Monday

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
It’s Monday and you’re back—
at work, in class, in line, in step and all,
your back against the wall, back in the dodge-and-lurch,
but you want to go back, back to yesterday, in church,
even though most of it you don’t really want—
the part where they looked past you, stained glassed you,
surpassed you with faces all photographic,
when their words went flying by like traffic,
when they said all these holy things
that you weren’t buying and then left them lying
on the ground like cheap scripture candy wrappers,
no, not that part.
And not the part when the preacher,
over-happy over-reacher, said that stuff
that made God sound so high, so far, so wee,
so dense, without much sense, without much feel,
without some touch, some place where you could fall,
where you could rest, where you could just
get in— no, not that part at all.

No, it was in that part you didn’t see coming,
a baby’s noise, maybe, or a mistake,
or maybe the look on the kid’s face trying so hard
to light the candle and it just wouldn’t,
and people tried not to laugh but they couldn’t,
though it wasn’t funny, and he kept on, so serious,
until he got it lit, and for a flash, a bit, a flame,
you saw it: as if God was there inside him all along and you
didn’t know why the look on his face made you light
up like the candle, so odd—but you did. And now
it’s Monday and you want it back, that moment, that kid,
that light, that God.

Oh, darling, don’t go where those Monday others went
and giggle at the mystery, the ones who struggle hard
to keep their skin on tight— but go on, step into that light,
that mapless place where hapless souls discover God
inside you, there, not hiding, no, but so deep down
it’s hard to see, so holy, you, that it’s invisible
unto the human eye.

It’s Monday and you want to reach for God
who seems so high, so far, so wee, but look and see:
God isn’t there, hung up in someone’s reaching place,
but here, inside your hands, your face,
the place that’s broken, truth unspoken,
your doubt, your woundedness, your tired out,
your burned out, kept out, inside out,
your dangling threads, your dead, your left unsaid,
your dreads, your didn’t know, your danger.
God’s in the hungry, thirsty ones inside you,
in the homeless, in the stranger,
in the sick, imprisoned self, the one you’ve kept
back on the shelf because she couldn’t get the candle lit,
but God was in her anyway.
That’s where God is. Never shoved away
beyond some should, but in the anyway,
the nonetheless, the here to stay.

It’s Monday and your life’s a mess—go on, confess,
’cause God is in you anyway, with no unless,
without condition, cause or testiness, just there,
like Monday, in your face, your hands, your heart,
with love and tenderness and grace,
enjoying, hanging out. Don’t do that Monday doubt
and think you have to reach for God—
oh, God is rooted deep inside and reaching out for you
like blood that reaches from your heart and oozes up
to every throbbing part, like flame that uses you
for a candle, like earth that refuses to let you go,
but opens up her arms, and all you have to do is fall,
that’s all.

It’s Monday and your God is here, and loving it,
your second coming, perfecting you from inside out,
and not expecting anything from you but you,
just being here, and watching, humming, resurrecting.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Categorized as Reflections

Prayer to my sovereign

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
God has raised Christ from the dead and seated him at God’s right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come, and has put all things under his feet.
         —Ephesians 1. 20-22

Merciful Sovereign, Mighty Lover,
you are ruler of the universe.
You hold all Creation in your care;
you reign in glory from among the poor.
All this world’s evil, powerful as it seems,
strains under your feet.

You who are sovereign of all things,
be the tender ruler of my heart.
I surrender myself to your grace.
I am utterly subject to your gentleness,
obedient to your forgiveness and your delight.
I am at the mercy of the resurrecting power
that you stir up in me.
Your grace overthrows my will;
your presence overpowers my doubt;
your joy subdues my fear.
As darkness is powerless against the light,
I am defenseless against your love.

I am not my own Emperor. My life is yours.
You conquer all that would enslave me,
and you alone set me free.
Therefore I submit myself,
my attachments and addictions
my insistence and refusals, to your control.
Save me from my private kingdom,
and restore me to your loving Realm.
May I be obedient today to your sovereignty,
my desires subservient to your grace,
and all grasping banished by your loveliness.
Trusting in your unconquerable tenderness
that rules the world,
your grace that subdues the nations,
I submit myself to your delight
and devote myself to your service.
All-loving One, I bow to you.
Your will be done.
Rule my heart, and make of my life
your heavenly Realm.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Categorized as Reflections

Ephesians 1.15-23 as an affirmation of faith

We believe in God, the Mother and Father of glory.
We believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom God has put immeasurably great power to work, raising him from the dead and seating him at God’s right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. God has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of Christ who fills all in all.

We pray that God may grant us a spirit of wisdom and revelation, and that we may come to know God. We pray that the eyes of our hearts may be enlightened, that we may know the hope to which God has called us, and that we may know the riches of God’s glorious inheritance among the saints, and the immeasurable greatness of God’s power for us who believe. As we give thanks for one another and remember each other in our prayers, may God deepen our faith, and our love for all the saints.

Categorized as Reflections

A blessing (Ephesians 1. 15-23)

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         Ephesians 1.15-23— a paraphrase

the Lord of Love shines out through you
and your love of others radiates
so clearly I can see it from here.
I am grateful for you,
and I hold you in the arms of my prayers.

I pray that God,
whom our Master of Love revealed to us,
the Womb of Beauty,
may give you a spirit of wisdom and clarity of vision.
I pray that you come to know God
more and more deeply.
May the eyes of your heart be bright.
May you find yourself in the place of hope
that God has prepared for you.
May you discover the glorious riches
that God gives all her precious children.
May God’s power amaze you
as it works within you through your trust in God—
it’s the same power with which God
raised Christ from the dead!

Christ’s love reigns with God at the heart of all things.
This love is greater than any human power,
greater than all systems and dominions and empires,
and renders them pointless.
Christ’s love saturates all that is,
and all that is to come.
God has given everything over to love.

The Church is the embodiment of this love,
Christ’s risen body, Christ’s fulfillment,
filling everything
until everything
is love.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Categorized as Reflections
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