Psalm for the homeless

         
         
Praise be to you, O homeless God,
         for every path is your dwelling;
in this universe you have fashioned
         there is no place where you do not rest.

Praise be to you, whose place has been taken,
         for you give your place to the poor.
To those who have no home
         you grant a place in your heart.

Blessed are you, for you hold tenderly
         those whom others scorn;
and those who are passed by without notice
         you know by name.

Those who are without shelter
         you hold in your heart,
you honor them whom we judge,
         and you cherish their children.

For refugees and runaways
         you are their only safety.
You accompany them faithfully;
         and with them you search for belonging.

In your grace may all who are destitute
         find mercy and courage;
may they know their belovedness,
         and their belonging in this world.

We confess our kinship with them,
         for we all rely on your mercy.
Our only home is in you,
         and our only belonging is with each other.

O homeless God, you cry for justice,
         that we may make this world a welcome home,
that we who find shelter in your grace
         may make room for your beloved ones.

For it is you who seek a home among us
         in our sisters and brothers, it is you.
It is our own wholeness that they seek,
         that your human family may be one.

O unsheltered God, may the home that you find
          be ours.
We open our hearts to you,
         we open our laws and our powers to you.

Have mercy on us,
         for our family is asunder;
we have cast out our sisters and brothers
         and they want to come back home.

May we know your mercy
         as those who rely on the mercy of others.
May we open ourselves to others
         as you have to us.

Praise be to you, for your hospitality is deep,
         for in you we are, all of us, home.
Praise! For by your grace we shall dwell
         in the house of the Lord forever.

        

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

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Fruit of the Spirit

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

         
         The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
         patience, kindness, generosity,
         faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

                  —Galatians 5.22-23

However the Spirit works in you,
work with that Spirit.
However the Spirit bears love in you,
let that love grow.
If beauty or friendship feed your joy,
bathe your heart in those things.
If words or silence nourish your peace,
give time to them to bless you.
If baseball makes you more patient
then play baseball.
Whatever nourishes the Spirit in you
practice, that it may bear fruit.

And whatever diminishes
your kindness or generosity,
whatever chokes your faithfulness,
or diverts your gentleness and self-control,
whatever assaults the Spirit and its life in you,
let go of those things.
If watching the news or working too long
drains your compassion,
then repent of those things
and pray that you find a way
to tend the Spirit in you,
whose fruit already is there within you,
whole and life-giving, quietly ripening.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

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No place to lay his head

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests
         but the Human One has no place to lay his head.

                  —Luke 9.58

Among God’s creatures every one belongs.
But in our city we make sure to leave some out,
and God, well God’s the One We Have No Place To Put.
We dress Christ as a prince disguised as a pauper,
but there is no such secret, no difference.
We’re sure he’s on a mission trip to the slums,
not that he is born and dies there.
But the poor are not symbols of Christ, but Christ.
We can’t separate them from our forgiveness.
The cross is not so strange, just a cardboard box,
a mat under a bridge, a dark back room.
Christ survives amidst our offal, sick and dying,
picking through our wreckage unnoticed,
the Wandering One, a castoff among castoffs,
refusing our comfy middle class crown, our power,
our being right, being normal, being like us.
Only the lost and unworthy understand him,
his grace, his tattered holiness, his absolute embrace.
Our insiders’ religion of Fitting In,
the idolatry of privilege blinds us.
He is on the other side of the Wall.
We give him handouts and send him on his way.

To follow him you will agree to lose more than you gain:
your place, your entitlement, your assurance,
your protection from being an outsider,
the familiar ease of walking into a room,
the certainty you won’t lose more.

But you will,
because his gentle voice comes to you
from those dark rooms in you,
her voice from beyond your own Wall,
the one in you who has no place to lay her head.
The unacceptable in you, the unknown solitary,
the offender, the homeless orphan, the derelict,
the misfit looks out at the world in trembling uncertainty,
and in her voice you hear the holy,
in whom you long to touch all the others so.
You are known, and in your very unbelonging
loved for no good reason at all,
and that is enough, that is everything, that is all.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

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On the porch

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

How silly: we stand
on the porch of heaven
a little uneasy, though eager, too,
the heartfelt invitation in our hands,
briefly admiring the pearly gates—
amazing, really, the pearl, the craft,
the lucent colors purling up the columns,
the welcome warmth wafting from within—
but then we turn to the hope at hand…
and so— how silly, and how sad:
we stand and fumble for the keys,
and rummage anxiously, and dig around
forever, searching, failing, grasping more,
our friends and dear beloved looking on,
while we’re forever stuck outside—
when, look:
the door’s not locked,
not even closed,
there is no door,
and all we seek is on this side of it.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

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Doorknobs

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
                  
All day long you will grasp doorknobs:
shiny ones and worn ones, plain ones,
broken ones that only spin, or don’t latch,
locking ones, loose ones, or levered handles,
and if you’re lucky maybe an old glass one.

Each doorknob you touch will remind you:
that there is always more…
that the Teacher says, “I stand at the door…”
that God invites you into a new room in your life…
that what you haven’t seen becomes evident
only when you turn something around…
that a lock that keeps someone out
keeps everyone out… and keeps you in…
that sometimes you need to close the door
of your soul and have some solitude.

You will be aware of invitations to “Enter.”
You will notice promises of “Exodus.”

You know how people have something to say,
and it’s not until your hand is on the doorknob
to leave that they bring it up? And that sometimes
that someone is you? Live every moment
with your hand on the doorknob. Say it now.
And be ready to listen long past quitting time.

As yourself: are you one who makes it easy,
or hard, for someone to get in?

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

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Solstice

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
                  
It shall be that in the labyrinth
of days and seasons, even the sun
whose rising makes its way
along its close and tended garden path
day by day, bringing summer
here, and winter there,
shall turn back and go no farther,
but seek its other home as well,
and days that have grown long retreat,
or shadows shrink that have increased,
so that there shall be no dominance
of either light or darkness, day or night,
but only dappled beauty, life and death,
all things gathered up in grace,
as there shall be neither happiness alone
nor sorrow, but joy in all things.
On that day when the sun turns,
remember and be mindful,
grateful for both summer and winter,
for no time or season remains forever,
but comes only to marks its passing;
so that you may neither cling nor forget,
but with the sun rise in a new place
every day, and be present in this life,
this day, each moment we are given,
in gratitude and wonder, praising
the One who is always present,
always attentive, always in love.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

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Silence

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

         
         There was a great wind…
                  but the Lord was not in the wind;
         and after the wind an earthquake,
                  but the Lord was not in the earthquake;
         and after the earthquake a fire,
                  but the Lord was not in the fire;
         and after the fire
                  a sound of sheer silence.

                  —1kings 19.11-12

Not lack of words
but God’s native tongue.
Even “Light” and “Firmament”
are silent.

The root the world comes from:
silence is to the universe
what music is to the song.

The sound of listening,
the impossibility of containment,
the presence beyond understanding.

Silence is the lover;
words are the clothes.

“In the meadow beyond words and ideas…”
Prayer is allowing yourself
to be taken up by the Silence.

Silence is the body of God.

The world is held in silence
like a pebble in your hand.

What God says.
Even you are a metaphor.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

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Crazy

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         

         A man of the city who had demons met him.
         For a long time he had worn no clothes,
         and he did not live in a house but in the tombs.

                  —Luke 8.27

Listen to the way we use the words “crazy” or “insane,” as in “That’s just crazy” or “If you think that, you’re insane.” The way we usually use those words we don’t mean “mentally ill.” We mean “wrong,” “stupid,” “obstinate,” “unwise” or “having a bad attitude.” Sometimes we mean “imaginative” or “exceptional,” but usually there’s a negative connotation to it. There’s a difference between being mentally ill and being stupid, but I’m not sure our use of words help us see that. When we accuse people of being “crazy” because they disagree with us or make choices we don’t like, we make it hard not to think that there’s something ”wrong” with people who are mentally ill. Many people who are in prison or homeless are not at fault: they’re limited by aspects of their brain functions that they can’t control. But it’s hard for us not to blame them.

Just as with our joints and our digestive system and all our other parts, sometimes with our brains things don’t work smoothly. When people have cancer we don’t think there’s anything wrong with them; we feel sorry for them. But when they’re bipolar or OCD or depressed or have schizophrenia we feel like there’s something wrong with them or their attitude, as if they’re making a bad choice. Because it affects their personality we feel as if there’s something wrong with who they are as a person. Hence the stigma around mental illness—and the way we say “crazy” when we mean “wrong.”

Maybe it was better to think that people were possessed by demons. It took seriously that a person is sometimes under the influence of forces they can’t control. It allowed people to think of one as a good person possessed by bad spirits—like germs— instead of just a bad person. Jesus recognized each person as a soul, independent of their mental state. He could see the worthy, beautiful sane person beneath the demons, and he set people free from those demons.

We are not likely to “cure” mental illnesses with prayer as Jesus did. But we can at least see people who have mental challenges with compassion and faith. We can avoid implying that mental illness is a matter of choice or attitude. We can honor the soul that is whole and healthy within each of us, regardless of the functioning of our brain. In fact, we’re all a little insane: a little deluded and insensitive; often controlled by unhealthy thoughts, feelings, images, fears, memories and fantasies; a little out of touch with reality. We’re all a little crazy, and also infinitely blessed, loved and honored. So be careful how you use that word.
         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

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Cloud of witnesses

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
There are a lot of Korean pastors in the New England Conference of the United Methodist Church. At our Annual Conference session this past week one of our Korean colleagues was preaching. He ended his sermon by singing a Korean song, which he said was about love shining a light in the darkness. Of course we couldn’t understand the words, but it was a beautiful song, and he’s a very good singer. Toward the end of his song I gradually became aware that he was not the only one singing. There were others in the congregation, Koreans who knew that song, who had spontaneously begun to sing along. They grew in number and richness until by the end there was a whole chorus, full and vibrant and beautiful, dozens of them scattered among the several hundred of the rest of us, singing in Korean, blessing us, encouraging us, surrounding us.

I imagine it was a powerful moment for them, for their culture and language and heritage to have such a voice among us. It was the other side of Pentecost. But it was a moving moment for us anglos, to find ourselves amidst a community we didn’t even realize was there, a hope and a promise and a love that people were carrying around among us unsaid, and it had been there, unnoticed, all the time, but suddenly here it was in full voice—and we were in the middle of it!

God One, yet God is community, evident among us. We are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, saints and angels who keep the faith, bear the hope and pray the prayers that sustain us though we do not see them. Most often they are among the outsiders, not paragons of the dominant culture. But they are among us. Only occasionally do their voices rise above the clatter and chatter of the world. But they are there. They sing in a language we can’t know, and we are not given to grasp the Mystery of which they sing. But their song is of love. We are serenaded by the chorus of the Beloved every moment. They do not insist, but they invite us to be still and listen for them, to be washed in their song, and to wonder in gratitude and joy.

I will not hear even bird song again in the same way.
         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

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Quiet

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
                  
Nameless, hidden,
unbeckoned, you are present.
Too quiet for me to overhear.

I enter the clearing,
the frog slips into the pond,
the turtle ducks inside,
the bird falls silent.

After my thoughts and askings
I return to stillness and silence
for a long time,
a long, quiet, waiting time,
before you might murmur.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

To subscribe to Unfolding Light by daily e-mail write to unfoldinglight8(at)hotmail.com