Mary, with lily

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

having enough of words,
lays aside her prayerbook
and gazes at the lily,
full of grace,
imagines God’s delight at its creation,
the praying hands of its petals
beckoning down into its gentle infinity,
little flecks of pollen trembling
with her heartbeat,
its tender fragrance seeping
through all the world’s meanness,
enduring forever,
held in a slant of light,
white, against the scumbled walls,
until her gaze becomes angelic
and she knows.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve


Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Categorized as Reflections

What Mary sees

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

          And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord,
                   and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior….
         for she has looked with favor
                   on the lowliness of her servant.
         Surely, from now on
                   all generations will call me blessed;
          for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
                   and holy is her name.
          Her mercy is for those who reverence her
                   from generation to generation.
          She has shown strength with her arm;
                   she has scattered the proud in their illusions.
          She has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
                   and lifted up the lowly;
          she has filled the hungry with good things,
                   and sent the rich away empty.
          She has helped her servant Israel,
                   in remembrance of her mercy,
          according to the promise she made to our ancestors,
                   to Abraham and Sarah and their descendants forever.”

                            —Luke 1.46-55

Mary already sees clearly the Reign of God that the prophets envisioned and that Jesus will establish. Salvation has come to her: despite the world’s addiction to status and its illusions of her lowliness, she knows she is blessed. Despite what the world has told her—that she is young and poor, without standing or power, that she is female, that she is someone else’s property, that she is at the mercy of other people’s whims—despite the lies of the Evil One, she believes that she is beloved. The Mighty One has already done great things for her. Even before the child is born, the Promised One has already taken the throne.

The Reign of God comes whenever the good news breaks through. It comes whenever a child feels accompanied, whenever a peasant girl believes that she is worthy. Salvation comes whenever the hungry are fed good things, and the rich turned away empty-handed, whenever the poor are empowered or the mighty made to share. The world is redeemed every time an outsider is treated with reverence, an immigrant is welcomed, an abuse victim respected. The new world dawns when a person who has been silenced speaks, or when you give light and space to a vulnerable place in your heart.

The Savior is born when we overcome our insistence on how she should come. Keep your eye on the peasant girl. She knows.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Categorized as Reflections


Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.
         Do not be afraid,
         for you have found favor with God.
         The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
         and the power of the Most High will overshadow you;
         therefore your child will be holy.

                  —from Luke 1. 26-35.

Beloved, you have found favor with God. Already.
You need not work for it, or reach impossibly.
God is delighted with you as you are,
and loves to be with you, always.

Now, then.
Live your life.
Let God think of your ordinary days as holy.
Raise your kids. Do your work. Blossom as you will.
Holy Spirit will come upon you;
therefore it will all be Holy.
The love you give your children will make them holy;
the love you bring into the world will redeem it.
Your labors and lovings, the secret work of angels
hidden in the flour you knead and the floor you scrub
and the foreheads you kiss will ring with glory.
Nothing will be changed, child, but your eyes will be opened.
Your hands will be the throne of the almighty,
whose eternal grace will reign forever.
This, not some shimmering dream,
is what will save the world.
For nothing will be impossible with God.

Now say, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord;
let it be with me according to your word.”

And every morning say this to yourself:
“Hail, Beloved, full of grace.
Blessed are you and blessed is the fruit of your soul.”

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Categorized as Reflections

Immaculate conception

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

Biology is not suspect.
An ovum may have split
and made itself again,
miraculously producing
inexplicable chromosomes,
but this is not required
for a joyful, brave and gentle life.

The virtue of the virgin birth
is not that Mary didn’t let her flesh
produce the way God made it to,
nor that the intercourse created good
was deemed less so,
unbecoming for holy people
or incompatible with compassion,
but this:
that God offered and Mary received
the life-giving life within her
directly, and through no one else.

There is no intermediary
between your immaculate heart
and the embodiment of God.

Say yes.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Categorized as Reflections

God’s house

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         The Lord declares to you
         that the Lord will make you a house.

                  —2 Samuel 7.11

The first time I heard this scripture I imagined God like a magician turning David into a house. Poof! Now you’re a house.

That might not be what this means, but it stays with me. It’s not that weird. After all, Paul says that your body is the temple of God. And what Gabriel said to Mary was essentially, “God is going to come live in you.” Maybe this is the message of Christmas, the meaning of Incarnation: you are God’s dwelling place, God’s house.

You hold God inside you. God actually dwells in your body. Your thoughts, words and actions, your body itself and your breathing, are where God lives. God sleeps in you at night. God gets up in the morning and goes in and out of you. When God steps into the world, it’s after having been nourished in you. When God gets weary of the injustice of the world, God comes home to rest in you. Evil can’t take you over as a squatter because God lives there. You are where God feels at home. God sometimes remodels. God sits looking out a window, feet up, and says, “Yeah, I love this place. Built it myself.”

Be a spacious house for God. Make plentiful room for the Holy One to hang out in. With big windows. Like Mary, don’t just let God in; let God take over. Begin the day by expanding your soul, breathing in, creating room. Let God make you a house. And let God live there.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Categorized as Reflections

Advent blahs

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
Dear God,
I just don’t feel like Advent today. I don’t have time to sit in the velvet darkness and contemplate some wonderful silence. I don’t feel Jesus coming. I’m not in touch with any promise or vision. I have absolutely no idea what Isaiah means by “preparing a way,” and even less idea about that crazy John the Baptist jumping around in the desert with grass in his hair. I don’t know what it means to “make of my heart an open manger.” I’m just not there. I’m busy, tired and distracted. I haven’t set up my stupid little Advent wreath; the candles lie in their stupid little box in the closet, under a lot of stuff. You’re starting to bug me. All the spiritual hype about repentance and transformation sounds to me just like the crap from Macy’s about how I need to buy their stuff. I’ve done Christmas before. I know what to expect. I bet I’m going to be just fine in January like I am now. So I’m just going to go right on with my ordinary little life here, OK? Whatever is in my soul, I’m not handing it over. It’s nothing special, anyway, nothing devout and holy. It’s clenched inside, plain and undeserving, and fine with that.  I’m fine. I just want nice presents and a good dinner with the kids. That’s all. So if you’re going to break in on my world, it’s up to you. If you’re going to do some wacky Gabriel thing with me, knock yourself out. Go ahead and make flesh turn into heaven, and a plain human life divine. If you’re going to come into my life, don’t wait for me. Just do what you do, you know, behind our backs and unasked for and all that.  Go right ahead. Do your thing. OK? Please?

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Advent Pentecost

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He himself was not the light, but he came to bear witness to the light.
         —John 1.6, 8

John the baptizer appeared, the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight a path for God.” …. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me…. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

         —Mark 1. 2, 7, 8

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; God has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed.
         —Isaiah 61.1

Do not quench the Spirit.
         —1 Thessalonians 5.19

Here in Advent we have a little Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit! We open our hearts to the God who is not only the infinite creator beyond us or the savior beside us, but also the spirit who dwells within us. We await the birth of Christ in Bethlehem, we await the coming of Christ as the culmination of human history, and we also await the birth of Christ in our own hearts.

Christ was born to serve the poor and to re-weave the torn fabric of our world in which we separate ourselves from those who suffer, and thereby separate ourselves from God. Christmas is not a sentimental tale about a cute baby; it’s about the healing of the world. When Christ is born in us, Christ’s spirit comes to life in us in a new way, and we become devoted to that same work of the mending of the world. Our lives are re-shaped for the purpose of bearing witness to the light.

To be baptized by the Holy Spirit is to be changed. The Spirit takes over our lives, like it did Mary’s, for the sake of the healing of the world. The Holy Spirit seeks the inclusion of those who have been excluded, the forgiveness of those who have been judged, the raising up of the downtrodden. (This also means the bringing down of those who have too much power or wealth. You’ll hear it loud and clear next week in the Magnificat, in Luke 1.46-55). The coming of the Holy Spirit is not about feeling good; it’s about the transformation of human society.

Don’t imagine that on Christmas day you’ll open presents, eat a big feast, then sleep it off and get up the next day and return to life as usual. It certainly wasn’t like that for Mary and Joseph. In “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” we sing, “Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us tonight.” Do you really want that? Then expect to be changed. Don’t quench the Spirit, but be open to the life-giving, life-changing presence of the One who is coming to life in a new way within you.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Advent prayer

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
Holy One,
prepare your way in me.

Give me faith, like the stable,
to know your presence within me.

Give me courage, like Mary,
to let your life overwhelm mine.

Give me strength, like Joseph,
to protect what is holy, tender and growing.

Give me patience, like the shepherds,
to be still and listen.

Give me humility, like the magi,
to kneel before your presence.

Give me trust, like the child,
to let myself be borne into a new world.

Give me joy, like the angels,
to bring good news to the poor.

Give me love, like the manger
to hold Christ within.

Holy One,
prepare your way in me.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light


Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
In rough-edged wind,
edge of town,
end of day,
light all used up,
a shed waits, still,
dust settling,
bedding down for the night,
doors resting on their hinges.
You want to say it’s empty,
but it’s full—
full of silence, of longing,
of waiting,
full of God’s hopes,
full of space for a birthing.

The passion that makes worlds
is still dreaming.
This stable is made of that,
the manger carved, through eons,
of your deepest ache,
this empty space,
this womb,
created by your soul, unerring,
leaning toward that realm.

Enlarge its longing in you.
Breathe in.
Let the cupped hands of the manger
hold your heart open
with God’s deepest desires.
The angel song that sounds like sorrow
but feels like joy,
the harmony of longing and confidence,
swells in the waiting silence,

Warm wind
blows in through the window.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light


Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         May the God of peace sanctify you entirely;
         and may your spirit and soul and body
         be kept sound and blameless
         at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

                  —1 Thessalonians 5.23

God does not live in outer space. God lives in our souls. The wonder of the Holy Trinity is that God is not only infinite but also incarnate. God, who is pure love, lives within all loving souls. The birth of Jesus reveals God in human flesh, in human love, in human presence. Jesus is not an exception. God is fully present in all of us in love.

As you prepare for the coming of Christ, don’t think that it’s going to be just a sweet baby born one night long ago. It’s God’s incarnation—God’s inhabitation—in Jesus, and also in us. Imagine God, present and loving, within you. God lives and reigns in your heart. Your soul is the manger in which the Christ child lies, from which he looks upon the world. Your heart is the throne from which God reigns with unconquerable gentleness and infinitely deep compassion.

As you sit there and read this, as you walk about today, the whole glory of heaven radiates from within you. The presence of God gives you life; it is your pulse, your breath, your awareness. Live in harmony with God’s presence within you. Act and speak in harmony with God’s delight in you. Let every breath be God praying in you. Of course your awareness of this will change you radically. Go with it. May the God of peace occupy you entirely.

Weather report

increasing throughout the day,
with patchy moments of clarity,
as the jet stream of time
moves through the divine,
condensing into this world.
This will produce holiness,
especially at lower levels.
Mystery tomorrow, with a general
blessing trend.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Your Cart
  • No products in the cart.