Listen to him

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         This is my Son, the Beloved;
         with him I am well pleased;
         listen to him!

                  —Matthew 17.5

Jesus shows us the way of the cross,
but we back away.
We’re afraid of the loss and pain,
the sacrifice, the many forms of death
involved in the way of radical self-giving.
Just earlier Jesus said, “I’m going to my death.”
Of course Peter, our blabbermouth, objected.
But God says: Don’t worry. Look at Jesus,
with all the trustworthiness of scripture
and the hardiness of Moses and Elijah,
and shining with the light of resurrection
already radiating in him— isn’t he OK?
The way of the cross, of love amidst fear,
of entering the suffering of the world,
of confronting injustice at great cost,
this way will take you through dark places—
but look at the light with which you’ll shine.
Through all your suffering there is beauty.
Even though you go through death
you will burn with a heavenly light,
the light of my love for you,
the light of the rising dawn of Easter
already in you.
You won’t understand this
until after you’ve seen resurrection,
but I’m letting you know before hand.
Eventually you’ll know: Jesus seems crazy,
his way objectionable, his teaching absurd—
but it will light your way through the night.
Listen to him.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

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Transfigured

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         

         He was transfigured before them,
                  and his face shone like the sun,
                  and his clothes became dazzling white.
         From the cloud a voice said,
                  “This is my Own, my Beloved;
                  with him I am well pleased.”

                           —Matthew 17. 2, 5

You are God’s Beloved.
         Let it be so.
         That’s how you become pure light.

What was brilliant in Jesus
         was simply God’s pleasure
         radiating in him.

Open your heart to God’s desire for you
         like light pouring into a room,
         like silence receiving a bird song.

God’s love for you
         burns like a bonfire in you.
         How do you put that under a bushel?

It’s not arrogant to bask
         in God’s delight in you.
How stuck up it would be
         to spurn the Beloved’s ardent passion!

Lie down and let God make love to you.
         See? Even as you blush reading this
         you begin to glow.

Become the Beloved,
         and like a youth in love
         you will be transfigured
         with the light of God.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

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write to me at unfoldinglight8(at)hotmail.com

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Shine

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

         
         And he was transfigured before them,
         and his face shone like the sun,
         and his clothes became dazzling white.

                  —Matthew 17.2

How might I shine with light?
How might I be transfigured
by the light of God?
How might I be light for the world?

Practice joy and you will glow like a star.
Practice wonder and you will shine
like a candle in a dark place.
Practice compassion and you will radiate
like the sun.

And if that is too hard,
practice gratitude.
Simply practice gratitude
and you will shine with the light of God.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

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I am given

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

In a meadow stands a small tree
of whom nothing is asked,

snow at its feet, a bird song
weaving through its branches.

This day is not a test, a burden.
No need to accomplish,

to feel or experience
this instead of that.

I am given to this day as a gift,
to be present, to bear my light,

to witness this glory,
to return thanks.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

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The other cheek

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         Do not resist an evildoer.
         If anyone strikes you on the right cheek,
                  turn the other also;
         and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat,
                  give your cloak as well;
         and if anyone forces you to go one mile,
                  go also the second mile.

                           —Matthew 5.39-41

Jesus is not inviting us to be victims. He invites us into a prophetic act that exposes injustice without retaliating, an act of nonviolent civil disobedience that invites the oppressor to choose differently.  It’s like getting arrested for sitting at the front of the bus. The only way for a right handed person to hit someone on the right cheek is with a backhanded slap, which is not an assault, but an insult. Offering the other cheek is not a way of getting beat up worse; it’s a way of saying, “Do you see what you’re doing? Do you really want to do this? I have made my choice not to retaliate. Now you have a choice.”

A law in Exodus 22.26-27 prohibits keeping someone’s cloak; it is their survival. To give your cloak to one who sues you puts them in an obvious position of law-breaker, exposing their selfishness and inviting them to see that you have chosen generosity. They now have a choice.

A roman soldier can compel a citizen to carry their burden for a mile, but no more. Going another mile puts the soldier in the obvious position of oppressor. You have made your choice of service; now he is in a position to recognize his abuse of power, and take back his burden.

Nonviolence is not timidity. It’s not accepting an abusive relationship. (The way to turn the other cheek is to leave.)  It requires great personal courage, and real risk, to expose injustice by being openly vulnerable to it. It requires that we respect the oppressor and that we stay in relationship with them, which is not easy if they’re being cruel. It also requires deep trust in God’s grace, both for your own well-being and also for the oppressor’s awakening. This is what it means to take up your cross: in love to bear the sins of the world in order to bring about reconciliation, leaving the eventual outcome to God. Its effectiveness is not up to us. The outcome is not ours to decide; only our own choices are. Often the “outcome” is visible only after hundreds or thousands or maybe even millions of such choices. But when we live in love and courage in the face of injustice we create the possibility of change.

Have courage. Change the world. Choose love.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

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A different world

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         Love your enemies
                  and pray for those who persecute you.
         If you love those who love you, what reward do you have?
                  Do not even the tax collectors do the same?

                           —Matthew 5.44, 46

We’re afraid to be nonviolent partly because we can’t be sure of the outcome. We’re afraid we’ll pray for our enemies and they’ll still be our enemies. Maybe. But here’s the miracle: the power of love is such that the act itself is the result, no matter what happens next. The oppressor is not likely to be freely choosing his evil. He’s probably at the mercy of fear and bitterness and loneliness, unable to break free, unable to chose compassion, unable even to see his injustice. He’s just doing what “tax collectors” do. But when we act in love, we we are freely choosing. (We get the upper hand: we’re more free than the oppressor!) Our freedom, not his bondage, determines how we live. We have set ourselves free. That’s no small outcome.

Moreover, when we choose to love our enemy we create an alternative world. When someone is cruel, we create a world of kindness anyway, and invite them to choose to enter it. That world of grace and compassion exists whether or not they choose to enter it. It has power. Love creates a gravitational field that changes how everything in it behaves, even if no one can see it.

Jesus’ teaching is no wimpy excuse for passivity. It’s a call to live with the courage to make our own choices, to trust in the power of our own fully realized being, to refuse to let another person—especially one who’s in bondage to fear—determine our way of living. When we make our own choices we create a new world. When we make those choices in love, we open a door for others into that world. We change the outcomes that are possible. Indeed, when we love our enemy all of reality is changed.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

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write to me at unfoldinglight8(at)hotmail.com

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Teach me your way

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
                  —Matthew 5.38-44

Teach me your way, O Lord,
          and I will observe it to the end.
Lead me in the path you show me,
          for I delight in it.

                  —Psalm 119.33, 35

Jesus’ teaching seems so hard, so impractical, so unreasonable, so unlikely to work. We’re pretty sure we’re smarter than him on this. We come up with all sort of reasons why we couldn’t, shouldn’t actually do this stuff. We resist it with all our heart and soul and strength and mind. Of course we don’t know what we’re talking about, since we’ve never actually lived it.

The point of Jesus’ teaching is not to find reasonable ways to avoid it; it’s to practice it, to learn from it, to follow in his footsteps. Of course we’ll not be good at it; we’ll get it wrong, fumble and make huge mistakes. Of course we’ll get hurt. And of course—of course—it will not work. We won’t convert our enemies or purify our souls. We’ll make fools of ourselves and lose a lot.

But we will follow in the way God leads us, the way of nonviolent love. And in our following, however feebly and awkwardly, grace will happen. Our lives will become God’s. Blessing will happen, someone will get loved, and the Gospel will be proclaimed. Even when it “doesn’t work,” God’s will is done, God’s delight fulfilled.

Don’t try to outsmart God; don’t judge Jesus’ wisdom; don’t calculate outcomes. Don’t run away. Don’t seek excuses to go the way of the world. Seek the faith to go the way of Christ, the courage that comes from surrendering your self-envelopment and trusting in God. Just be quiet and try it.

Offer your resistance to God. Open your heart to God’s leading and trust that there is blessing in it. Pray continually:
          Teach me your way, O Lord,
                    and I will observe it to the end.
          Lead me in the path you show me,
                    for I delight in it.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

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write to me at unfoldinglight8(at)hotmail.com

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To love my enemies

         
         Love your enemies
         and pray for those who persecute you.

                  —Matthew 5.44

Heavenly Lover,
I confess I don’t want to love.
I want to protect my fear, my hurt and anger.
I want to fix, to control, to be right,
to unload my pain onto another.

When I am this way,
so self-absorbed, so sure of my right,
I abandon your love and work against you.
I become your enemy.

And yet you love me.
No being right, no winning,
just the cross,
just your love.

May your love absorb my pain and fear;
may your love become my love.
May I actually love my enemy,
love them as your beloved,
wounded and precious as I am.
Let me see myself in them,
broken and afraid and tangled in faults,
and truly love them,
with love undiluted by fear or self-concern,
but only wonder and thanksgiving,
and desire that they be well and whole.
May I love my enemy as myself.

By your love in me, let me love.

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

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Commuter train, falling snow

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
                  
In mounds of snow, and snow still falling,
the train’s light threads through
the thickly woven air,
its own little world.
The old Gregorian horn,
burrowing through muffling trees,
is so thin and solitary, so far away,
the muezzin’s voice,
wrapped in a long scarf of silence,
barely calling out over the field.
But the souls bundled within
are no less precious,
traveling with the Beloved,
their hopes no less keen,
their prayers
no less clearly heard.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

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write to me at unfoldinglight8(at)hotmail.com

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A Valentine for you

Beloved,
my darling,

you are more
messed up than you think,

but you are mine
and I love you
forever.

Love,
God

________________________
Weather Report

Warmth
tempering even the coldest day,
despite periods of loneliness or difficulty,
and a high degree of Presence.
Winds of varying strength,
highly saturated, that are always,
always,
the breath of the Beloved.

         

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

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

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