Acension Day prayer

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
He was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.

                  —Acts 1.9

God seated him at God’s right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion.

                  —Ephesians 1.8-9

Master of Love, you have been taken from one place
and given in all places.
Released from one body, you now live in ours.
Lord of Love, you reign in my heart.
You are not absent, but within.
The power with which you create worlds,
raise the dead and heal all wounds,
the power of infinite love, lives in me.
Here in my heart, in all our hearts,
where love takes flesh as thoughts take song,
here in my heart your love sings.
Here in my heart is heaven,
and the Lord of Love,
reigning over all the universe.
I am your simple vessel, your humble home,
your sacred Body.
Together, we are your flesh.
We come into the world,
singing and dancing.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

With the eyes of your heart enlightened

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
I pray that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know the hope to which God has called you, the riches of God’s glorious inheritance among the saints, and the immeasurable greatness of God’s power for us who believe. That power in us is the very same power God put to work in Christ in 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. And God has put all things under Christ’s feet and has made Christ the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
         —Ephesians 1.12-23

God, may the eyes of my heart be enlightened.
May I see today not with the eyes of my fears and desires,
but with the eyes of heaven.
May I see with the eyes of your hope, and your tender love.
May I see your loving presence in all things,
supreme and yet hidden.
May I see the power of resurrection
radiant in every moment.
May I truly see,
with the eyes of my heart
full of your light.
Amen.

         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Psalm 47

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
         
Don’t you want to dance?
         Don’t you feel the urge
         to rear back and sing real loud?
Because the Holy One, the Most,
         is so magnificent,
         and so totally has this world.
The Loving One has given us a love
         that overwhelms everything else.
Imagine this: the Infinite One
         has chosen us among all Creation,
         to love us and stay with us!

The universe is a song of praise
         to the Glorious One,
a flash of the radiance
         of God’s infinite power.
Go ahead and sing along!
         Make harmony with the heavenly song!
Sing your heart out to the Beloved!
         Let your whole life be the song!

Love is the heart of everything,
         so let love be the glory of your own heart.
—Doesn’t that make you want to sing?
         To run around shouting like a kid?—
The Loving One rules everything;
         occupies everyone’s secret place.
All of us—the whole planet—
         are God’s little ones,
         God’s dear sweeties.
What kind of a God could this be,
         but the most wonderful?

         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

A place to begin

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

A guy comes into my study every once in a while to try to believe in God. Larry finds all our biblical stories kind of quaint and poignant, but unconvincing. He wishes he had something more than just his skepticism. He says, “I’ve clung to my skepticism like a lifeboat—but where has it gotten me? I’m still all alone in the middle of the sea.” So he wants to believe. I tell him that’s a pretty good place to start.

That’s all we ever have: a place to begin. None of us has the final truth; we all just start where we are and go from there. None of us possesses belief in all its fullness. But there is a wanting to believe; there is some kind of urge or leaning, a desire—or even, dare we call it love?— in our hearts. Deep within us lives an attraction to the Mystery that seems to be Someone, a desire for the God we can’t know, a love for the God we can’t always find. That desire, that gravity that draws us toward the great dark shape we can’t see, is our starting place, every day. If you have felt God’s hand on your heart, or heard her voice in your dreams, count yourself lucky. But know that memory alone will not draw you forward, without that pull of desire and even doubt. Whatever you remember or believe, whatever you possess or know, it is not your death bed, not a stopping place; it is a place to begin.

Something prowls in your heart that is true and powerful and it gives you life and moves you forward. It may not be belief. It may be a vague sense of how things ought to be, or hope disguised as loss. What is it? Sit still and let it emerge from the shadows. Let it speak, let it invite you. In what direction does it point you? Go there. That desire is the voice of God, pulling you closer. Follow it.

Larry comes in now and then, and we talk about the God he’s looking for, whom he doesn’t find, whose mystery haunts him, whose dream clings to him like a smell, whose voice is still coming together like bits of the wind. We talk about what’s real in his life, and how this God in whom he doesn’t believe keeps showing up. It’s like watching two people fall in love. It reminds me that I, too, am in a place to begin. I give thanks that somehow Someone has given us a place to begin. “Don’t be finished looking,” it all says to me. “Keep beginning. Keep beginning.”

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Friends

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
         I have called you friends….
         You did not choose me but I chose you.
         And I appointed you to go and bear fruit.

                  —John 15.15-16

It’s hard for the girl to trust
that the boy of her dreams
has chosen her.
But he has.

It’d hard for her to trust
that she makes his world beautiful.
But she does.

Even after all these moments of grace
it’s hard to trust
that the Passionate One
wants you, chooses you, adores you.
That you make this world more beautiful.
But you do.

Then why not run out
onto the dance floor
where your lover waits,
hiding in all their eyes?

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Conquer the world

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
         The commandment we have from God is this:
         those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.
         And God’s commandments are not burdensome,
         for whatever is born of God conquers the world.

                  —1 John 4.21, 5.3-4

However daunting it may seem to face the world’s suffering and evil, don’t fall for the illusion of the power of empires, or of the smallness of your life. A far greater power enfolds us, the power that creates the universe, that raises the dead, that transforms all the world bit by bit. The law of God is not the sort that we may obey or disobey. It’s The Way Things Are—more like the law of gravity: universal, unfailing, absolute and without exception. You can live in harmony with it or fight it, but it will prevail. It conquers the world. It is no impersonal “Force” that you can use; it’s the living presence of The Holy One, whose power is hidden in loving kindness.

What conquers the world is what created it: God’s pure, self-giving love. What conquers the world will not appear as the victory of armies, the domination of empires or the capture of market share. It will be hidden in the restoration of the human heart, in people’s return to one another and to the root of their being, in the human family falling in love with life. To love is not a burden; it’s the secret key to the deepest joy, to participating in what makes the world real.

God’s presence is the root of your soul. God pours love into your heart breath by breath. Receive that grace, and let it fill you to overflowing. Don’t worry how long it takes to start a galaxy spinning. Don’t expect a miracle on the scale of the re-creation of the universe to occur visibly within your lifetime. But neither doubt that the world is being re-created, bit by bit, nor that sometimes, for a moment, you may catch a glimpse of resurrection. Trust the infinite, miraculous power of love. Love your neighbors, and you join in a great miracle that even now, without their knowing it, conquers the world.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Joy

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
         I have said these things to you
         so that my joy may be in you,
         and that your joy may be complete.
         This is my commandment,
         that you love one another as I have loved you.
         No one has greater love than this,
         to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

                  —John 15.11-13

Two great energies stand side by side,
dance together in harmony:
the dark readiness to die,
the befriending of loss, risk and suffering—
and beside this somber pledge,
deep joy, complete joy,
the joy of a lover with her beloved.

A martyr’s a fraud who’s not happy to go.

Once you find your delight
in your neighbor’s well-being,
you are never far from the road to joy.
The opportunities for parties are endless!
Any moment, you can bless someone
undeserving, and there you are—
celebrating again!

Lay down your mortal life,
your little scrap of cloth,
and you are left with nothing at all
but the infinite delight of God.

When the little cage of your life
is battered and smashed,
out flies the bird
that never stops singing.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Staying

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

         
After a big church fight like the United Methodist Church just had, people sometimes ask the losers why they stay in a denomination– or sometimes even with congregations– when they have such deep differences. Why not leave them and join up with more like-minded people? Well, you stay because they’re your people. You stay because Jesus’ commandment wasn’t to agree with each other, but to live with each other.

We are a part of this great, messy organism of the human community, and all the little messy parts of it, like families, and congregations, and denominations. We don’t get to opt out. We don’t get to pick and choose our neighbors. We don’t get to vet whom we love and whom we avoid. That was the issue when Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan, in response to the question, “Who is my neighbor?” The answer is, whoever you meet up with, especially the ones you think aren’t, and wish weren’t, your neighbor. Especially them.

Despite various calls for doctrinal conformity, what binds us together in the church is not our choices but God’s. God makes up the church; we don’t. What unites us is not our mutual assent to similar ideas, but our love for each other. We participate in God’s love for everyone. It’s love precisely because it bridges our differences. It is love because it is rooted in God’s care for everyone, regardless of how good or right or at home we feel among them. The same is true of our families, and the whole human family: we are One, whether we like it or not. So we might as well practice liking it, and living with each other.

The willingness to extend care and even to embody unity with those who are different from us seems like a challenge– but isn’t that what love is? Love is a commitment to the well-being of the Other, and the deepest love is toward one who is very much other. “Loving” someone who is essentially a projection of myself is hardly love at all. Loving someone who is really, really different—now that’s love.

So we stay in families and churches order to love the people who drive us nuts, the people who we believe are betraying Jesus and his love, the very ones he died for. We may not be doing it well. But we’re definitely getting a lot of practice. God help us.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve
______________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Understanding God

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

If you want to understand God
walk up to a blooming lilac
and hide your face in the light purple.

Gather all the memories of that scent
from your childhood.
(Don’t confuse the roses at your grave.)

Imagine giving that aroma to someone.
Imagine them receiving it.

Now, you still don’t understand God.
But what you do
is enough.

___________________

Weather Report

Softly,
with increasing blue
throughout the mystified day,
deepening toward evening
into a kind of leaning.
Clearing,
with a slight chance of visibility.
Very slight.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Pruning

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower.
He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit.
Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.

                  —John 15.1-2

Even the greatest tree
under which we found shelter
can fail us. They do not live forever.

In times of death, loss or betrayal,
times when what was fruitful is barren,
when what was strong has withered,
when what once blossomed is hard and dry,
when what was generous and nourishing
is thorny and hurtful,
the vinegrower, lover of life and joy,
tender of kindness and blessing,
weeps.
He does not punish, but gently tends.
Even if most of the tree is dead,
it is pruned to save what is living,
what is kind and hopeful and giving.
But how can he not weep, as he cuts off
limbs of his own flesh?

You will imagine those whom you hope
God is cutting off at this very moment,
but I don’t mean others.
I mean in you, the part in each of us
that is unloving, ungiving,
whatever is attached to what is dead.
The death of what is unkind in us
is the pruning by which
the resurrection of love
may come forth, small and green.

In a dying vine
even the smallest tender shoot
is the deepest hope of the vinegrower.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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