Your anxiety

         Cast all your anxiety on God, who cares for you.
                  —1 Peter 5.7

Your anxiety is not you:
it is a separate burden,
shaped to your shoulders, yes,
but not your soul, your flesh.
Stop, be still, and rest beneath it;
go down to where you are.

Breathe deeply of the Presence
who dawns within you,
who loves you dearly,
who is your bone and muscle,
who grows about you like skin
and bears the burden for you,
though it lifts only the tiniest bit
from your shoulders,
and holds the weight
so you can breathe.

God will hold it
until you walk free.

                  —May 30, 2014


Ascension Day: threshold

A hill or edge or precipice,
horizon out and mystery
above, beneath, within.

Departure, limen: driveway,
pier, or gate, or aisle,
a road; and a goodbye.

A parting; sorrow, mostly
masked, and wonder.
Fear of what is next.

Riven wide enough for light,
made empty space enough
for pouring in of this:

a breathing— listen— low,
a hope, a vision, passion,
story told and still unfolding,

woven in your bones and
pouring through your veins,
and every other soul.

In all those faces, rapt
or gaping, still unknowing,
God has set a flame

not yet but soon to burst,
to shine, to speak. That’s why
Christ came, and came again:

to breathe it back into us. All
the love of God is there, now,
in your hands, your wanting hands.

The space awaits. The silence
breathes. The road an arm, a hand.

                                 —May 29, 2014



There will be times of standing, bombed out,
looking up into the sky.
There will be long stretches,
awkward silences,
dreary periods with nothing in particular,
no action, no revelations, no filler.
Not the depth of dark nights,
just shallow, grey afternoons.
One foot in front of the other.

There will be ruins.
Someone you need
gone, gone deeper.

There will be absence,
the real, weightless burden of emptiness.

The desolate stretches in the desert
are also the road.
The pauses in the music,
the work of God.
The vast spaces between atoms,
part of the whole.
The negative space of the Holy One.
The hard labor of hope.
The angels of solitude
impose their disappointing mercy.
Making spaces.
The Absent One goes unseen
through your wastelands
toward something else.

Grasses at your feet stir, silent
in the spring wind.

                                —May 28, 2014


A spring

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

Vibrant life wells up in you,
bright with joy and beauty,
pulsing with a mysterious power,
flowing out into the world
as surely as a river finds its way
to the sea.

Where does it come from?
How deep, how far back
do you want to search:
the water burbling up pure and ready,
the damp hillsides shedding their snow,
the mountain peaks bestowing grace,
the clouds, the lakes of other continents,
the generations, the first word of dawn?

We can’t know this.
All you can do is open your heart,
and let the unbeckonable waters flow
from this very place
among the singing grasses.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

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

A prayer for the war dead

For those killed in battle, Lord— mercy.
For those wounded, maimed or haunted,
minds and hearts broken by mayhem
and the doing of mayhem— mercy.

For those whose spirits died to pull the trigger,
whose souls withered to do what they had to,
their hearts and faces held in the horror— mercy.

For those, now broken, for whom there are flags
but not food, shelter, health or sanity—mercy.

For those of other nations, who also served,
who also were taught to make enemies
of those who had been taught to make them enemies,
who suffered our terror—mercy.

For those who suffer without choosing:
the innocent, the families, the land, the cities— mercy.

For those who suffer for peace nonviolently,
who sacrifice and die protesting, healing, teaching,
for all of gentle hearts—mercy.

For us who call others to kill for us,
who continually offer our little ones in child sacrifice,
who find no better way, and who glorify
the killing and the dying rather than repent—mercy.

Lord of Gentleness, we confess our violence;
we confess our fear and self-centeredness;
we repent of our cold-heartedness and beg you:
forgive us, heal us, and bless those whom we have harmed;
in the name of Christ, who died loving,
who received and did not pass on our evil. Amen.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

To receive Unfolding Light as a daily e-mail,
write to me at unfoldinglight8(at)

Part of the plan

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
Last week our son Erin presented his capstone project for completion of two Master’s degrees, in Landscape Architecture and Urban and Regional Planning. His project is a brilliant plan to turn a toxic Superfund site landfill in Washington, D.C. into a beautiful, job-producing, educational, community-building park and museum. It’s really complicated. It would take decades to turn a seven-story tall mountain of garbage into a beautiful park?and it could only happen if a lot of people and agencies cooperate. It involves toxic waste remediation, new land structures, parks and plantings, roadways and riversides, community centers and teaching sites, and a lot of politics and millions of bucks. He thought about how everything fits in: flowers, trash, jobs and bikes, buried refrigerators and nearby neighborhoods, plytoremediation, water flows and tourists. Everything is a part of it.

Jesus told stories about how God is turning the toxic waste dump of human history into a beautiful, life-giving, community-building blessing. It’s complicated, and it involves multiple dimensions of personal and communal transformation. The Realm of God involves prayer and politics, hard work, healing and miracles. There are a lot of working parts.

And you are one of them. Each of us is gifted to be a part of God’s restoration of all Creation. God breathes Spirit into us for this purpose. You may not see how you fit in, but you do. None of us can see the whole thing. (Erin did a lot of research and knows a lot of Stuff that didn’t show up in his presentation.) You have been placed in this life and given certain gifts for the sake of the mending of the world. Like even a humble clump of grass in Erin’s plan, your love, courage or forgiveness may not seem like much. But God is counting on it. Even your limits, your struggles and your failures can be a part of the plan.

Trust the mystery of God’s healing of the world. Accept your part in it, even if you do not see it. Look for signs of love’s healing power. Pray that God may bless the world through you. The New Creation is coming—it’s a brilliant plan—and you’re one small part of it.
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

To receive Unfolding Light as a daily e-mail,
write to me at unfoldinglight8(at)

Groping for God

         God gives to all mortals life and breath and all things…
         so that they would search for God
         and perhaps grope for God
         and find God—
         though indeed God is not far from each one of us.

                  —Acts 17.25, 27

Disregard the patron Saint of Confidence.
Never mind the ones who nod knowingly,
as if looking at the blotty picture saying,
“Seriously, don’t you see the cow?”
Their smugness is their idol. Ignore it.

You were not created to know, not destined
for certainty. You are created to search,
groping in the light, reaching out
through the thicket of your moments,
wondering, wanting more, hungering.

God doesn’t want people who are finished,
trophies hanging on the wall. God wants—
wants, like we want, groping, perhaps finding—
hunters who are still seeking, explorers,
children of wonder and blessed unknowing.
In reaching out you expand your world.
In groping you open yourself. In not knowing
you allow God to exceed all bounds.
In searching you stay alive. Let your worship
be the praise of unfinished embraces,

of pauses in conversations. Let unknowing
be your sanctuary. And oh, as you flail,
like an infant not knowing the finger you grasp,
how God, so close, loves the touch of your probing,
and holds your wandering hand.


                  —May 22, 2014


Great God, in whom I Am

Great God,
in whom
I Am,
whose being is
all Being:
in me.

Dear Christ,
near whom I am,
thou breath of nearness:
do not leave me,
but my Mother be.

O Spirit,
truth of God,
and truth of me:
be thou my life,
that all my living be
but thee.

—May 21, 2014


Not orphaned

          The Spirit of truth, whom world does not know or see,
                  abides with you, and is in you.
         I will not leave you orphaned.
         I am in God, and you in me, and I in you.

                  —John 14. 17, 18, 20

I just returned from a week in which I saw a lot of family: two sons and a girlfriend and sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law and nieces and nephews. They are dear to me; even though we live thousands of miles apart and rarely see each other, they have a place in my heart. I love them and, in a way, I carry them around with me.

There is a Love, a Presence, in whom we live, and who loves us and holds us and carries us around, to whom we are important, and dear, and a source of delight. It is sometimes hard to imagine, because we can’t see with our eyes or hug with our arms, but it’s true. It’s no easier to imagine a solar system held together by the force of gravity that works over millions of miles, even though I can’t see that, either. But it’s true. We are not orphaned.

Jesus repeatedly invites us to shed the illusion that we are alone, that we are isolated individuals. We are part of the life of the Holy One, who lives in us, and we are part of each other. Near or far, seen or unseen, we are connected, we are claimed, we are accompanied. Trust that among those loved ones whom you hold dear in your heart, there is One who holds you, to whom you are a source of delight, One who is not far away at all, but with you, and even within you.

Meditate on this mystery, that you are held and loved and accompanied and gathered and made one. Let this mystery surround you, breathe deeply of it and let it fill you with life, and give thanks.

                    —May 20, 2014

Sabbath freedom

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
I’m going to take a break from Unfolding Light for a week. I love writing this; it’s part of my morning prayer routine. And I know it’s something that others count on. But for that very reason it’s a good thing to stop every once in a while. It reminds both me and you that we can survive without this.

At a meeting at church recently the leader asked us, “What do you long for?” One response was, “Four days without anybody needing me.” I thought, “That’s what the Bible calls Sabbath.” Sabbath is not a requirement, not a list of things we can’t do. It’s freedom from having to do them. That’s hard for us to grasp in this culture in which we are addicted to busyness. Part of the addiction is the belief that we have to be useful, we have to be accomplishing something, we have to justify our existence. And Sabbath says, No, you don’t. You just have to be. Your worth in this world is not defined by what you do, even for those who really count on you. Ultimately what we need to be able to count on is not is that people serve us but that they are themselves. Sabbath is an invitation to be yourself and do nothing else, even for a little while.

Dare to make sabbath time for yourself—for yourself—a little bit each day, each week, each month. Trust that this radical act of self-emptying is actually for God. God commanded the Sabbath not to get us to follow rules, but for our sake: to give us permission to be ourselves without any requirements, without anybody needing us to do anything. Sabbath is freedom, and God wants nothing more than for us to be free, and to be ourselves.        

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

To receive Unfolding Light as a daily e-mail,
write to me at unfoldinglight8(at)

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