Night run

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

 

The sun blows out her candle,
I run into evening’s shroud and on,

the moon’s gentle hand on my shoulder,
her odd footprints beneath the black trees,
I run up the long, vague robe,
unfolding, blue-grey before me,
through curtains of crickets,
through the evening’s folded hands,
shadows draped over shadows,
light is only faint yellow song
in windows across fields,
in the night air everything is hidden,
rushing past me unseen,
I can only believe,
all I know is the whisper at my face,
the little stars gathered around me
as everything else goes by,
the mysterious pumping and whirling within,
the clockwork of footfalls beneath me,
the Companion breathing and breathing,
the soft darkness,
no thought of the end, or elsewhere,
I can’t see, I can’t tell,
but I know the road is passing,
I know the moon remains,
I know the darkness will not lose me,
I know I am running into its deep thickness,
into its invisible embrace,
only and always
into You.

 

         

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

 

__________________

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

 

 

 

 

Gold Medal

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
These days Olympic athletes are vying for gold medals, which only the very best will get. Although I’m not really into sports, I love watching people do things—almost anything—really, really well. Doing something excellently gives a dimension of beauty to it that makes it a joy to behold.

Sometimes new Olympic events are added, but some things you can never turn into a competition. It’s too bad there aren’t more gold medals anyway, some way of saying, “That was splendid!”  I know a woman who was abused as a child—terribly—but she turned out OK. It took a lot of therapy, bad turns, good friends and self-discipline, but here she is with no bitterness, fear or self-loathing, and a lot of tenderness and wisdom. She ought to get a gold medal.

A friend of mine is exceedingly good at paying attention, listening with a deep, compassionate heart. There’s no medal for that. A kid in my church asks the best questions in the world. She should at least be in the running for a bronze. Someone can stop in perfect wonder at the shape and glory of a cloud. Another is always honestly encouraging. I know someone who can cry at the drop of a hat. There’s an old guy I know who’s almost always grumpy and cynical, but he’s 94 and he keeps going. Give the guy a medal. A newborn baby just lies there. Eats a little, poops and sleeps. Doesn’t even smile yet. And you can see the gold medal shining in her parent’s eyes.

Ephesians 4 says to “live a life worthy of your calling.” It says God gives each of us different gifts for building up the Body of Christ. We all contribute something to the community. You life’s work is to find out what your calling is, what your own gifts are. There are an infinite number of “Olympic events.”

And there are an infinite number of gold medals. “Each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” Christ’s gift is infinite. God’s grace is a gold medal for everyone, not for an outstanding accomplishment, not for being better than others, but just for being ourselves.

Discover what is is to be yourself, to live out the gifts God gives you. There’s no competition; nobody in the world can do it like you. Nobody. There won’t be a medal you can hang in your trophy case. But it will be beautiful, and a joy to behold. And whatever it is to be you, just to be you, know that it gives God that great smile of the coach whose favorite athlete has just won the gold.
         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Ephesians 3.16-19

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

                  Ephesians 3.16-19

I live in this vision for you:
that the Glorious One, with all her riches,

will make her vast strength
the fiber of your soul;

that the Beloved will live
in the heart within your heart;

that you let God’s Spirit be yours,
God’s faithfulness blossoming in you;

that you will be grounded in love,
your roots growing deep and strong in love.

My hope for you is that you may glimpse
the universe-wide love of Christ for you,

and that this wonder fills you so fully
that you are bigger than the world with God.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Abundance

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks,
he distributed them to those who were seated;
so also the fish, as much as they wanted.

          —John 6.11

Maybe he had some stashed,
maybe people had it all along
and they just needed to share,
maybe they were all satisfied with a crumb,
maybe it meant his body, his presence,
maybe there is always more bread hidden in bread
and it only needs to be opened,
maybe he made bread just like that,
sourdough and everything.
Which it was doesn’t matter.
The sun rose this morning
with more light than you know what to do with.
More beautiful green living things reach out to you
than you’ll ever have time to consider.
More birds sing to you than you’ll ever listen to.
Immeasurable grace is poured out upon you,
splashing, most of it rivering down your legs
and into the floorboards.
More of what you need to carry on
is secreted into your heart than you believe.
There is hope enough folded into this world.
Of forgiveness and tender delight
you are given more
than you can ever use or comprehend.
Of the darkest mystery,
dense with love like the billioning stars,
you are given so much more,
even in your bleakest droughts,
your dustiest griefs and desolations,
than you can know.
And of you yourself,
given with confidence
to this effulgent universe,
there is so much more than you can see,
so much more.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

David and Bathsheba

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.


In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab with his officers and all Israel with him; they ravaged the Ammonites, and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem. It happened, late one afternoon, when David rose from his couch and was walking about on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; the woman was very beautiful. David sent someone to inquire about the woman. It was reported, “This is Bathsheba daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” So David sent messengers to get her, and she came to him, and he lay with her.
… [When David heard that Bathsheba was pregnant he had her husband killed (endangering his army in the process) and married her.]
—2 Samuel 11. 1-4

How easily we who have power abuse it. In the spring, because we can, we go off to war and ravage others. Of course we send others to do our violence. From our lofty places of power, because we can, we take people into our desires. Their own lives and loves matter little, only ours. In our palaces of fear, because we need to, we build lies to protect us, and construct elaborate defenses to protect our lies, and we use other people’s lives as the bricks of our defenses. And this seems right to us. We do it as individuals, as groups, as a nation.

Most of us don’t rape and murder, but in our own ways we all use people. In our minds we make them less than real, less than whole, so that all they represent to us us is either what we want or what we fear. Reduced to objects, we use them as it seems to us they were meant to be used. It seems right to us. Power distorts our vision. It is only with love that we can truly see people, see reality.

God, we confess our abuse of power, our blindness to our selfishness and fear.
We confess that we sometimes see others not as real people but as projections of our fears and desires.
We confess that we are often unaware of the power we wield, the privilege we abuse, the people we hurt.
We confess that we excuse the abuse committed by our heroes.
We ask forgiveness, and pray that you will open our eyes.

We pray for healing, courage and grace for victims of abuse,
for victims of rape,
for victims of murder, war and violence.
We pray for all those whom we dehumanize to protect our sense of security.
We pray for the healing of our worship of power.
We pray for the gifts of humility, honesty and compassion.
We pray for the mending of the world.
Amen.

Deep Blessings,

Pastor Steve

__________________

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Birds have been yelling

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

Birds have been yelling at me all day,
trees trying to flag me down,
the sky making faces.

What does it take
to get
my attention?

In the room the clock taps is foot,
the window opens its eye,
the chair waits for me, patient, knowing.

Silence comes in to be with me,
doesn’t even need a chair
to be at ease.

Sunlight leans against a tree.
God and I just sit, saying nothing,
looking out the window.

Deep Blessings,

Pastor Steve

__________________

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Spread love

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

When someone walks into a crowd and sprays death and suffering around, the news media will spend hours telling us about a deranged shooter, but only mention in passing someone who gives their life in shielding a loved one from the bullets. Why is this? It’s because we are transfixed by the nature of violence. We are fascinated, in both fear and wonder, with violence as a form of power. Held back by our belief in the apparent power of violence, we have yet to come to realize that love is an even greater power.

Do not doubt the power that a person can have by spreading love through a crowd. It may not ever be known, and will certainly never make the news, but a person can exercise great power in spraying forgiveness and compassion around a room. One can make one’s home a nest of goodwill and loving kindness, from which one goes forth surreptitiously to cast their love upon unsuspecting and undeserving strangers. One can fearlessly display tenderness and forgiveness in public places, to the bewilderment of onlookers. Who could gauge how much suffering has been averted by the secret, unknowable prayers of people whose obsession is to spread love throughout the world? There are some who dedicate their lives to this work alone.

In fact, I recommend it. Become as single-minded in compassion as others may be in fear, hate, violence or hard-heartedness. Grant love and blessing without regard either to people’s deserving or to your own fate. Love indiscriminately, and people will witness a truly world-changing power. It’s happened before. It can happen again. Even in your own town.

May love surround you. May grace abound. May healing and new life flow through you all of your days. And may you be fearlessly, relentlessly gentle. Peace.

Deep Blessings,

Pastor Steve

__________________

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

I will make you a house

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
David settles in as king of Israel, and wants to build a temple. He says to God, “I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.” But God says, “I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle.” God promises to uphold David, and says “The Lord will make you a house” (2 Samuel 7.11). I know what that means: that God will make for David a house, and also that God will establish him as a royal dynasty: the house of David. But when I was young I liked to imagine that it meant “I will make you into a house,” like, turn you into a three-bedroom bungalow. Poof!

Funny little joke. Except that, of course, it’s actually true. Paul says that “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 9.16), so in a way God has made you into a house. And Ephesians 2.22 says it, too, not just of individuals but all of us—in fact specifically disparate groups, Jews and gentiles—“You are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.”

Ephesians is talking about the formation of the early church, but the principle is more universal. God lives in our unity with others. When we believe there are others with whom we have nothing in common, what we have in common is God. Jew and gentile, fundamentalist and progressive, gay-basher and rainbow-wearer, Taizé and praise band, Romney and Obama, believer and atheist—God does not just ask us to get along; God lives in the bond between us. God has made us into a house.

We don’t have to play on the same team, but we do have to remember that we are part of the same humanity. We are all cells of one organism. Our opinions, values and behaviors distinguish us but can’t divide us. Part of the power of a nonviolent protester facing armed authority is that the latter suffer from the illusion of our separateness, and therefore lack power, while the nonviolent one knows that in fact they are one; and that truth has all the power. That’s why Jesus’ death was also a victory. In dying for his enemies, he did away with their their enmity. They became one. It’s a cosmic shift: enmity has no power.

You are a house. God has chosen you as a tent to move about and live in. Your opponents are also houses of God. And we all are a house where God lives, not in any of us alone, but in the sacred space among us. Be mindful of this mystery, for it is the foundation of a great and powerful dynasty.
         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Rest a while

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

The apostles gathered around Jesus,
and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them,
“Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.”
For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.
And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves.

—Mark 6. 30-32

Breathe in. Breathe out.
Let go of all you have accomplished.
Step out of what you have done,
the who you think you are
that comes from something,
into the who that is I AM.
Be still.

Breathe in. Breathe out.
Set everything down.
The great burden of being yourself,
what everyone thinks, even you,
the work of remembering,
what you must and mustn’t,
let them all go.
Be still.

Breathe in. Breathe out.
Come to the sabbath place
where nothing, even you,
is fashioned, everything just is.
Come into the rest that is God,
the silence from which your light pours,
the Spirit brooding over the waters.
Here where you are received,
receive yourself.
Be still.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Deep Blessings,

Pastor Steve

__________________

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Wildflowers

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

Dark and early in your story someone fearful
of your inborn glory took it
and buried it behind your house,
and you, innocently, and wise to save yourself
from their greater wrath,
believed its absence.

It’s not a pompous glory,
insistent on regard, but sure and quiet
as a wildflower’s, asking nothing.

And so you’ve lived—so have we all—
without it, your heart shoveled over
with self-doubt and apology, as if
you have no place or voice here
among angels.

What do you think happened
to the cripples who flocked
to Jesus, the mute, the paralyzed,
bent over, shut out, gone mad?

And all he meant to say was this:
you shine. You bring a gift
as no one else, and you belong.
Your Word deserves a hearing,
and this world needs your beauty
and your grace. There is no rank
you fall below, no worth you fail to match.
Your shuttering was evil, and God
wants it undone, and wants you whole.

And so she takes you by the hand
and raises you to stand, to walk, to speak.
She listens to your song with joy.
She rains upon the earth
until you are unafraid of your radiance
and all our houses are surrounded by wildflowers.

Deep Blessings,

Pastor Steve

______________________

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net