Water from the rock

Dearly Beloved, Grace and peace to you.
      “Take in your hand the staff
          with which you struck the Nile, and go.
     I will be standing there in front of you
          on the rock at Horeb.          
     Strike the rock, and water will come out of it,
          so that the people may drink.”

                —Exodus 7.5-6

Moses didn’t know what he was doing, hitting a rock with a stick. He trusted the Holy Mystery.

He couldn’t see the rock had water in it, the staff had power in it, his own heart held such faith.

And you, who stand before that rock, what spring hides within it? What courage waits in your heart?

What is that staff in your hands?

Woman at the well

         John 4.5-42

In a culture where only men can initiate marriage or divorce
she’s been thrown away by five husbands,
and now is used by one who won’t commit to her.
In a culture where women draw water in order of social status,
she’s there for her morning water at noon. She’s a pariah.
He’s a Jew and she’s a Samaritan; he’s a rabbi and she’s a woman.
She has no reason to expect an exchange at all, let alone respect,
and certainly not an engaging theological discussion.

But he sees her—her, not people’s judgment of her.
He sees her as she is, and accepts her without judgment:
she is not immoral; she has been used.
He sees her wound. And he sees the truth in her.
He sees her not as someone flawed,
but someone gifted.

He talks theology with her,
longer than with anybody else in the Gospels.

Then she leaves her water jug,
not out of forgetfulness but because she knows she’s coming back.
She goes into the village,
and the former outcast becomes the first Christian evangelist.
She brings people to Jesus.

Something happened in her that changed her.
What was it?

Imagine this: Jesus comes to you
in the dull midday heat of your ordinary life.
You are bound by judgments of how good you are.
And he sees through that. Sees you. You. Your soul.
He sees your wounds, sees your giftedness.
He sees how your wounds inhibit your gifts…
and yet can propel your gifts.
And in his knowing he sets you free.

Leave your water jug.
What is the news in you to tell?
What will you do? How will you tell it?

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

To receive Unfolding Light as a daily e-mail,
write to me at unfoldinglight(at) gmail.com

Bent over

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and peace to you.

Yesterday’s blizzard brought heavy, sticky snow
that weighed down the trees in the woods,
bent them double, and froze their upper branches
to the ground. They covered the path.
I had to free them to pass:
to pull the tops from the icy sow,
release the needles from heavy globs
and straighten the tree back up,
pressing against the snow’s grip, the set shape,
the bank of ice around the tree’s ankles.
My morning walk took twice as long as usual.

I am bent over, “weary and carrying heavy burdens.”
I am bowed down by wounds and habits,
held in place by frozen hurts.
It diminishes me, and gets in other people’s way.

Christ comes and straightens me.
Pulls me out of what clings,
releases what weighs me down,
loosens what is stiff and crooked,
opens me up from being bent in on myself.
I can stand tall, face the sun, bear fruit.

I am the bent over woman.
“When he laid his hands on her,
immediately she stood up straight
and began praising God” (Lk. 13.13).

When something presses on me,
challenges my stance,
perhaps it not my enemy,
but the hands of Christ,
come to straighten me up and set me free.

Deep blessings,
Pastor Steve

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

To receive Unfolding Light as a daily e-mail,
write to me at unfoldinglight(at) gmail.com

Spring of life

         The water that I will give
         will become in you a spring of water
         gushing up to eternal life.

                           —John 4.14

O Love, thou spring of life,
well up in me.
Gush up from deep within,
receiving, glad,
and overflowing,
giving life,
the breath of God
that mortal life nor heart cannot contain,
life rooted deep beneath the earth,
above the stars.
Run deep,
pure water of your grace,
pure flow of living energy,
that I may flow with love each day,
each breath.
O Love, thou spring of life, well up in me.


          Those who drink of the water that I will give them
          will never be thirsty.

                           —John 4.14

Fasting is a traditional spiritual discipline, especially during Lent. It’s not about self-punishment, but a host of other things. Fasting is a form of prayer, a way to pay attention to God. There are many forms of abstinence—people give up lots of stuff for Lent (and for medical reasons some people shouldn’t fast from food). But there is something powerful, something visceral, about fasting from food, something that touches our soul’s embodiment.

You might fast for a few hours, most of a day or longer. If you do, here are some things I experience when I fast. Ponder them and let them lead you deeper into prayer.

Hunger: I am led to inquire of myself what I most deeply want. I discover my hunger for God.

Obedience: I confront the demands of my ego and set them aside, and in humility fast simply because God asks me to, and for no other reason.

Discipline: I practice conscious, intentional choice making, and allow God to mange my will.

Detachment: I let go of desire and the need to fulfill it, and turn my desires over to God.

Weakness: I experience the limits of my powers, my dependence on God, and willingness to turn to God alone.

Slowing : I am not able to be so active. Fasting from food leads to fasting from hurrying. I am not able to be so driven, so bent on justifying myself. I have to adopt a more sabbath-like pace.

Simplicity: I practice contentment. I practice accepting what is instead of wishing it were otherwise.

Suffering: I find I can experience discomfort and still place my attention on God.

Compassion: As Jesus suggests in Mt. 6.16-18 I don’t usually let people know I am fasting. I bear it silently. I know anyone I meet may be enduring secret burdens and struggles, and I can be more sensitive and compassionate toward all people.

Justice: I am more aware of the poor and hungry, and I am more able to be in solidarity with them in prayer and action.

Transformation: I let God change my hunger for food into a hunger to let God’s love flow through me.

Grace: I am more mindful of receiving what I can’t control, and trusting grace.

Delight: I’m more aware of food, the gift of taste, the delight of eating. I get over taking things for granted.

May God bless your fasting; God bless your prayer.


Black frame

The black frame
holds the portrait treasures it

sets it off from the wall’s infinity
like silence after and before

not to mock or force a lack
but issue forth confer a given name

echo its colors answer back
its lines and shapes in rhyme

and draw your eye to beauty
not of an image but of the one you know

not ink or paint but love
given not made untakable

not cut off but heightened
by the loving embrace of

the black frame.


        Unless you are born anew you cannot see the Realm of God.
         That which is born of spirit is spirit.

                  — John 3.3, 6

You cannot get life, earn it,
keep it, store it up like money.
It is breath, Spirit.

You receive it.
Then you release it,
and become open to receive again.

You cannot hold it.
You must receive it
as God gives it to you.

Let go of your life,
accomplishments and mistakes,
all you deserve — good and bad —

and instead receive it anew from God
in this moment,
a single breath.

Let your repentance
be simply to breathe,
to receive and let go.

All the things you have to do
and all the things you want to do
disappear into the breath.

It is a death and resurrection.
Let yourself disappear into the breath,
the spirit, and be born again.

Go slow enough to live in the breath,
to surrender the life you build and hoard,
and to live the life God gives you.

Falling and rising, your breath
is the gift of life from God,
made new in every moment.

Breathe gently.
Breathe deeply.
Breathe life.


Born again prayer

         No one can see the Realm of God
         without being born again from above.

                           —John 3.3

God, birth me anew.
Let me start again.
I surrender everything to you:
my life, my aims, my will.
Start me over, fresh,
without guilt or shame or claims.
Let my life spring from you
and you alone,
you the divine flame
and me your light,
issuing from you new each moment.
I receive this glorious life you give me,
new and awkward and still learning.
Let me be vulnerable, a baby in your arms,
utterly dependent, helpless but for you.
Water of my flesh and spirit of my God,
birth me into this good world now
               and now
                                    and now…


Let her

Come to her.
Let her give you
the renewal of her body
as only she can,
point you where you’re headed
and let go.

Let her hold you in her lap,
all your scrapes and bruises,
your trinkets in your hands.

Let her do what you can’t,
let her grow you within herself

and with the pain of labor,
the dark, impossible passage,
birth you again
and give you to this bight, new world.


How do you know

How do you know, they ask us,
so certain of their doubt.

We don’t. We are simply beckoned.
We are open, which is our knowing,
in wonder more than certainty,
a way of not knowing
with deep faith.
We lean toward a darkness
shining with a mysterious presence.

We merely know
with a knowing greater than our minds
that there is more.
We don’t have a name for that More,
just a longing, which is our knowing.
We know our food by our hunger,
our wonder a way forward.

A bond beyond our knowing
grows in us, a belonging
without a bottom, without end.
The darkness answers our question
with a question,
and we listen.
The Mystery beckons,
and we draw near.


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