Dog day

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
The day we finally took our old dog in
to put him down he didn’t stagger, wheeze,
collapse or fail. We took our walk, and when
I let him off the leash out in the trees
he snuffed and rambled, poking down among
the old dead leaves with curiosity.
When it was time, he gladly came, and hung
his head out of the window, just to see.
With clarity and trust he laid his chin
upon my knee, and looked, and calmly felt
the needle stick. This wasn’t all to win
a case, delay, or riddle us with guilt.
He simply lived each moment, one by one.
No lesson, but to witness how it’s done.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Have you learned

A hawk with no notion of air
moves through morning air.

A wind with a thousand names
whispers your name.

A river flows among stones,
stones who’ve never heard of rivers.

A wisdom deeper than instinct
enters the meadow, the streets.

A bird sits on a branch lightly,
watching to see what you will do.

Have you learned to strip naked
and swim in the sea?

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve


Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

With authority

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”
                  —Mark 1. 22-27

Jesus’ authority was not power, but authenticity, the harmony of words and actions, both flowing from a life-giving truth. The Buddha speaks of the eightfold path of right mindfulness, right intention, right action, right speech and so on. Jesus clearly embodied love that creates life and re-writes our stories, that “authors” a new reality. When we live with integrity rooted in love, we connect with a life-giving power that re-creates the world.

The spirit in the man cries out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?” The spirits—they seem to be plural—are smart to feel threatened. They know that Jesus has indeed come to destroy them: he is out to undermine the very power of evil itself.

You don’t need to have miraculous powers. All you need to do is live with authenticity, live with integrity rooted in love, live your life as truly as the songbird sings its own true song, and you tap into Spirit, and through you flows a power that defeats evil and creates a new world.

Be lovingly present. Let your actions speak. Be transparent to God’s grace. In so doing, you draw on a power that helps you stand against all that would diminish life. And you shift the balance of power in the universe.
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Love builds up

Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.
—1 Corinthians 8. 1

God of love, by your grace
I seek to be wise and courageous,
to speak the truth boldly,
to stand for the good.
May I do so in your Spirit,
gently and humbly present for others.
By your grace may I desire
to be loving instead of being right,
to listen instead of talking,
to support instead of dominating,
to build others up instead of surpassing them,
to let others be heard instead of saying my piece,
to remember that they are as beloved as I,
to offer what they need
instead of getting what I want.
God of Resurrection, may I love others
with the same self-giving compassion
with which you love me,
and love all the world.


Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Ten years

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

A decade ago I was campus pastor at Montana State University-Billings. I occasionally e-mailed news updates to interested students. After a while the messages evolved into a daily reflection that I called Unfolding Light. The earliest piece I can trace was on January 16, 2002. I’ve been doing it ever since. So I guess this is our 10th Anniversary. Think of that. Some of you have been reading this for ten years. Thanks for hanging in there. (And thanks to my family, who’ve patiently endured the time and money I spend doing this.)

I’ve posted two thousand, two hundred and sixty-nine blurbs, written and sent from home (three homes in three states) and occasionally on the road, in airports, in church basements, retreat centers, and, yes, on the backs of envelopes. And you’ve read them, passed them on, responded, used them in worship, argued with me, thanked me, critiqued my poetry, sent prayer requests, gotten your mother on the mailing list, challenged my theology, pleaded with me to publish, end even occasionally visited my church in order to meet me. But mostly, you’ve quietly received and read and pondered. I never know where these words go, who they might touch, how they will live their own lives. But you have been there.

I used to know everybody on my list, but now there are over a thousand of you in seven countries. (I have to use six different email addresses to get around spam limits. I’ve got to streamline that.) Some have left the list; some have let me know when they get accidentally dropped off the list. Some of you are friends; some are just email addresses. And I don’t know how many read this on the web site I started a couple of years ago, or your sister forwards it to you every day, or how many innocent bystanders see it quoted in some church newsletter. But I know you’re there. I think of you. And I think of you as “my people.” I often pray for you. And I thank you. This has been an important part of my prayer discipline, and every weekday morning I know there are people waiting for this. It keeps me at it. Thank you for being there.

It’s like preaching: there are folks who are willing to listen. But it’s also like praying, and this is as true for you as for me: your prayers go somewhere. They are heard. They are received. You don’t know where your prayers end up, or what effect they have. But there are unseen multitudes who hear them. Your prayers go out into the world like seeds, and they spring to life and bless this world in ways you can never know. Prayer can sound one-sided. (I wish I could be as attentively silent as God.) But it’s a conversation.

I give thanks for the mystery by which we are in this together. And I rejoice that whether or not you have an electronic audience, you are heard. Your prayers matter to The One Who Listens, who waits eagerly for them every day. Have courage. Keep at it.

Deep Blessings,

Pastor Steve


Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Psalm 111

God! You! Glory!

I thank you in my deepest guts,
         echoed by the whole tribe of God!

Your magic amazes me,
         confounds anyone who tries to understand.
Your miracles, brilliant and vast,
         come from such tender, loving hands!
The universe shimmers with grace,
         glows with your gentle mercy.

We are in awe: you feed us;
         you are steadfastly thoughtful toward us.
We see your grace in all that you do,
         mighty Creator, tender nursemaid.

Your love and justice sing through the world.
         When we hear it we know how to dance.
The song is eternal.
         To live is to sing it, sing it out loud,
         with eyes closed.

The bound ones you set free;
         the abandoned ones you marry.
This is your holiness,
         what sets you apart.

(Wisdom is rooted in awestruck wonder,
         overwhelmed by God.
Practice wonder,
         and you will know what you need to know.)

Lovely One, the universe is your praise.
         Infinite Beauty!
         Infinite Glory!


Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Praying for someone

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
When I pray for someone I don’t ask God to do certain things. God is already doing more than I know. God does not need to be informed or convinced of anything, nor is God taking a vote. And I don’t know exactly what needs to happen, anyway—what the best outcome is, or the consequences of my desires. God is present with life-giving grace in every person, place and situation, and God will be present in the future. My prayer does not change that. What my prayer changes is me.

What I do when I pray is open my heart to others and to God. I am mindful of God’s gracious presence, the Loving One who dwells in each of us, and mindful of God’s blessing, God’s hope. I am mindful of the person I am praying for. I give them room in my heart, a place for their being to find blessing and rest. And I surrender my spirit to God on their behalf. I make my love and blessing available for them. I allow myself to be deeply connected to them in God, as if we are both children in God’s arms, or twins in God’s womb. I pray so that something might happen in the harmony of our spirits that couldn’t happen in them alone. In this way I can pray even for my enemies. I pray to be as lovingly present to them as God is. In fact I offer up my love for God to use in any way, even for some other person or purpose I know nothing about. I pray simply to be a part of God’s love, to participate in loving kindness.

I don’t know how this affects the person I pray for, or the world or the future, but I trust that it does. By a spiritual butterfly effect, my being lovingly present touches other spirits, which touch others, and the web of the world’s consciousness changes. As I become more mindful of the Loving Presence, and more lovingly present myself, I am changed. And when you change one note, you change the chord. When you change anybody, even yourself, you change the world.

So I pray, and trust the unknowable power of God. And grace happens.
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

My soul in silence waits

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

For you my soul in silence waits.

I let go of all thought of control,
I let go of all thought,
I let go.

I am waiting to be made whole in you,
I am waiting in you,
I am in you.

Pour yourself into me,
you who are already in me,
I who am still.

A bare tree,
blue stillness,
the moon rises.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Psalm 62

         Psalm 62.5-11, a paraphrase

For you alone my soul in silence waits.
         In you alone my confidence is rooted.
God, you are my steadiness, my solid ground.
         In you I find my resolute steadfastness.
You are my only security, my truest strength.
         You are where I belong.

People, notice where you put your trust:
         root it in God, not some other fluff.
Let your heart and God flow into each other.
         It’s where we all belong.

The way we judge and compare people
         is a complete delusion.
A noble person, a lowlife—it’s a sham.
         Who made this up? Who believes it?

Don’t think your life will be enriched
         by getting your way, or having stuff.
Learn to see through the shimmer
         to what really matters, what really is.

Pay attention: it keeps coming up:
         God is the only power.
And God, you are the only Love,
         No matter what we do.


Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Leaving the nets

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him.

         —Mark 1.16-18

Each moment God calls us
to let go of what we’d thought was so important
to go with the movement of God through our lives
and to connect more deeply with others,
especially those who are removed from our lives.

You don’t need to change jobs.
It happens immediately, moment by moment.

Even as you are bent to your work
a shadow of light passes over,
a net with the world in it.

Are you coming?

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

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