How to be alive

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
         
         Those who want to save their life will lose it,
         and those who lose their life for my sake,
         and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.

                  —Mark 8. 35

         
What you can hang onto
is the corpse.
What is life
is freely given.

         
         •

You are the cocoon;
love is the butterfly.
Which will you be?

         
         •

Life is what you receive
when you’ve given yours away in love.

         
         •

It’s when you sing the song
that it becomes beautiful.

         
         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

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Take up your cross

Dearly Beloved,Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

Meditate slowly on these words.

Jesus said: Deny yourself
and take up your cross
and follow me.

—Mark 8. 34-37
         
         
         

Renounce the illusion that you are an isolated self

contained in your body alone.

Beloved, you live in God, and are a part of God,

a member of Christ’s body.

The Spirit in you is in all people,

with whom, in that Spirit, you are one.

Enlarge your loyalty from that illusory little “self”

to the whole.
         
         
         

Let the indwelling Spirit expand your heart

with God’s compassion,

compassion for all people.

In this loving kindness, be mindful

that you are given the willingness

to love all people, no matter the cost,

and even to suffer for them for the sake of love,

since your life is greater than your comfort.
         
         
         

In your willingness to suffer with others,

you are with Christ;

and wherever you go, the Faithful One is with you.

This is your deepest desire:

not to be securely self-contained,

but to be with God, in the most intimate way.

In compassion, even in suffering, this is your bliss.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

__________________

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Published
Categorized as Reflections

You are with me

Holy One,
Light of my shadows and Way of my wandering,
you are the desert in whom I find myself;
you are the presence in whom, in solitude, I am not alone.
Walk with me into the wilderness of my sin.
Expose what is hidden that I need to see;
receive what is broken, that it may be healed;
forgive what is hurtful,
and bless what returns me to life.
By your grace may I find in my shadows your glorious image,
and in my broken heart your crucified Christ.
For you are my only power, my only security,
and the source of my truest self.
Gracious and Loving One,
I walk through a valley of shadows and death:
you are with me, and I trust you. Amen.

         
         

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

Published
Categorized as Reflections

Where the wild things are

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
         And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.
         He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan;
         and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

                  —Mark 1. 12-13

         
         
     

Go with him
into the deserted places
where mind won’t survive,

deep in your wilds, exposed,
with the beasts,
feral, shifty, wise

in their wordless ways,
their primal hungers,
their devouring instincts,

disappearing easily
into your canyons and outcroppings.
You don’t vanquish them,

you watch,
and learn to survive among them,
and witness the mystery,

how they lie down beside him.
Even they know
these washes and gulches

are a palm.
In this extremity,
you find your place

among your terrors,
your wastelands,
your angels.

         
         
     

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

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Categorized as Reflections

Dust to dust

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
It’s not easy to tell people they’re going to die. It’s not easy to tell dozens of them, one by one, face to face. They came forward willingly, as if to hear something they wanted to hear. I marked their skulls. I smudged their foreheads with mud, with ashes mixed with oil. I looked them in the eyes. “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Old people not far from dusthood, some whose loved ones’ dust has only recently settled, young people hopefully far from it, a few who had narrowly escaped it, and many of them dear to me. I felt the loss as I marked their foreheads, as if I were doing dozens of funerals. Naming the dead. After a while it got sad. I wanted to quit.

But they kept coming. They kept facing their own mortality with calm beauty, with clear eyes, with beating hearts, strong hearts, loving hearts. They lived their lives, even if they were only as long as the line up the aisle, with courage and compassion. They carried their dust through the world with faith, leaning on Jesus, aware that they were nothing but dust and love, and ready to leave the dust behind.

I thought of the early Christians, marked with real crosses, walking lovingly to their death. I thought of Civil Rights marchers, facing violence with faith and courage. I came to believe that I was among a body of people around the globe who will live with love in the face of death, and whom therefore death cannot defeat. My own dust mattered little. It was the love I clung to.

What could I do but join them — to mark my forehead with the dust of death and the ashes of repentance, as one who has died, and walk out of my grave into the light?

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Published
Categorized as Reflections

Ashes

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

All that was precious
and heartfelt is nothing
but ashes,

a smudge
borne away
on your forehead, God.

I am dust
and to dust
I return,

in your hands,
awaiting
your breath.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Published
Categorized as Reflections

Burying the alleluias

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
Among the untranslated words of our liturgy, Alleluia is dear. A word of love, a word of praise and joy, a word of gratitude for grace, a it can make a whole song all by itself. It’s a sweet, rich word. Of course, like all our words — like anything sweet and rich — it can be overused.

Sometimes, like junk food, our alleluias come and go too easily. We can sing alleluia out of desperation to feel good. We can sing alleluia in denial of the depth of the grace we’ve been given, and its cost. We can sing alleluia in denial of our deep sorrows, in denial of our suffering and the suffering we cause, of our sin, our terrors, our broken hearts and our guilt. Sometimes our alleluias are too easy, too self-satisfied, too self-centered. Not always. But, like sweet, rich food, they can be overused.

It’s not always time to party. Sometimes what we need to say is not alleluia, “praise the Lord,” but eleison, “have mercy.” Sometimes our alleluias fall silent in the face of injustice: the oppressed are not yet free, and it is not yet time to exult. Sometimes we need to fast from our glib happiness and tend to the sorrows of our hearts and of the world. We can’t have our alleluias on demand; sometimes we have to wait. We need to listen in silence to the cry of the cross, so that the Alleluia of resurrection means something.

So in Lent, as we fast from rich, sweet foods, we fast from our rich, sweet Alleluia. On Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras, in French) an old tradition is to use up all the fat — the milk, eggs and butter in the house (usually in pancakes). And we use up all the alleluias. A liturgical tradition for this day includes burying the alleluias, carrying a small casket out of the church and interring it, as we would for someone we love. It’s a tender moment.

Use up your alleluias today. Relish the word. Walk around singing it, saying it, praying it. Rejoice in being “shriven” — having confessed and been absolved (hence another name for today, “Shrove Tuesday”) — before you enter into a season when your freedom is still being worked out. Then tonight, bury your Alleluias. Kiss them goodbye. Wish them well. They will go down into the darkness, into the silence, to be drowned out by the moans and the cries. Let them go. They have infinite life in them. They will arise again on Easter, having seen Hell and transfigured it, and returned, singing.

But today do not worry yourself about the dark journey to come. This is the day the Lord is creating. Let us rejoice and be glad. Alleluia!
         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Published
Categorized as Reflections

Sing

         

Music of Life,
sing in me.

Heavenly rhythm,
dance in my heartbeat.
Beautiful voice of the universe,
sing in my breathing.

Every moment
I listen for your love song,
I move to it,
I live in harmony with it.

I am a note in your music.
Your whole symphony is in me.

In the dark places
where singing is not heard
I will sing.

Music of life,
God in me,

sing.

         
         

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

Published
Categorized as Reflections

Listen

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
He was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”

                  —Mark 9.3-7

Let go of what you knew,
and what you want to.
Your only shelter is this light.
There is only the radiant
granting of love in this moment.
In silence, the language of glory,
listen.

The Beloved does not speak.
He shines.
Listen.

With ears for love,
listen.

         
         

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Published
Categorized as Reflections

Light in the darkness

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
Loose the bonds of injustice, undo the thongs of the yoke, let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn.
         —Isaiah 58.6, 8

It is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts.  We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.
         —2 Corinthians 4.6, 8-10

Jesus said, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.” Six days later, Jesus was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.
                  —from Mark 8.32 – 9.6

When I’m weary or lost and my way is dim, those who shed light on my path and show me the way are not those who are comfortable and successful. The ones who rise as a light in the darkness and enlighten my heart are those who live with generosity and courage, who struggle with patience and suffer in love, who shelter the weak and defend the powerless, who sit with the lonely and keep vigil with the suffering, who stand up for justice and are in solidarity with the poor. They shine with joy amidst suffering and with the light of peace amidst other’s anxieties. They are the ones who pray for peace from behind bars, and whose loved ones are imprisoned, who face death with gentleness, who work for healing. They speak out on behalf of the ignored and exploited; they stand up for justice; they willingly face the callousness of systems and the anger of those who are entrenched in power and privilege. They are the ones who walk with abuse victims and work for justice for immigrants, who tend the dying, who care for the children no one wants, who endure grief without bitterness and love without reward. They are the ones who follow Jesus’ way of compassion and self-giving, who give of their lives for the sake of love and healing and justice. They give light to the world. They shine in my darkness; they illumine my way; they give my heart joy and courage like the rising of the sun. In the valley of the shadow of death, they glow with the light of resurrection, and I give thanks.

I pray that with them by God’s grace I may always behold God’s light and receive God’s grace, and shine with their hope for the healing of the world. And may you, God’s Beloved, shine with the light of God’s peace.  You are the light of the world.  Let your light so shine, that others may see, and glorify God.
       
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Published
Categorized as Reflections