The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
         patience, kindness, generosity,
         faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
         There is no law against such things.

                  —Galatians 5.22-23

You can’t give yourself joy or peace.
They are fruits of something else.
What you can do is do things
that move the Spirit in you
that bear the fruit of love and generosity.

Whatever you have to do today,
do something that gives you joy.
Let the Spirit do the rest.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

 June 27, 2019

Taken up

         As they continued walking and talking,
         a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them,
         and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven.

                  —2 Kings 2.11


Pastors leave flocks,
sad or glad to go,
or both, and move on.
Kids graduate, chariots of fire
and whirlwinds separate them,
mixing feelings.
Mantles are passed.

Refugees stream over borders
with little knapsacks
of songs and trauma.
Hearts are transplanted.

Generations branch and root.
The world’s eyes get hooked on loss
but the pilgrim’s heart is confident
in the grace of the mystery
in which everything
is taken up.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

June 26, 2019

Homeless heart

         Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests;
         but the Human One has nowhere to lay their head.

                  —Luke 9.58

Jesus has made his decisive move, to go to Jerusalem—
love confronting power, God confronting the Emperor.
He is the protestor. He is the sovereign. He is the outcast.

For his solidarity with the victims he is victimized.
His disciples want to turn his enemies into victims.
Do you see how hard it is to fight this demon?

The New Human, the Messiah, the Fulfillment of Humanity,
is homeless. A refugee. Child in a concentration camp.
Whose side are we on? Whose side? Whose side?

O Love, O homeless heart,
may mine be yours
till you are not.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

   June 25, 2019

A whisper

         Now there was a great wind…
         but God was not in the wind;
         and after the wind an earthquake,
         but God was not in the earthquake;
         and after the earthquake a fire,
         but God was not in the fire;
         and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.
                  —1 Kings 19.11-12

In roar of rush and tumble
whitewater-frantic traffic,
tangled in there,
a whisper;
in life bent wrong,
in rusty knife-edged days
cutting deep and rough,
a murmur;
in empty, looted places,
long hope-starved roads,
not separate from them,
in wrecks and ruins and regrets
a sigh,

not much, I know,
since even my mildest voice
shatters planets, flattens suns,
but in temple-deep silence
at the root of your thickest pain
enough to be distinct
from noise or nothing,
neither shouting nor a closed eye:
a wordless syllable, slight, and yet
enough to have created light,
enough to let you know
I’m trying to let you know
I’m here.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
   —June 24, 2019


On my little island this is the longest day.
Perhaps on yours it is the shortest.
The same day means different things
depending on which island you’re on.

Recently I lost something, and yet, I gained.
As I age some things work more poorly; some improve.
Everything has light in it, and dark.
It’s more full in our eyes when we see both light and shadow.

There is always the thing, and our judgment of the thing.
There is my experience of it, and yours.
Neither is right, nor wrong.
Wisdom is knowing both.

God help us see without erasing.
Help us discern without judging.
Help us imagine the other side.
Help us stand, and allow.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

   —June 21, 2019


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

                  —1 Kings 19.11-12

Juvenile hearts, candy-sated, antennae bruised
by brutal onslaught, have to dial way up to hear,
spoiled by flash and sparkle, useless here.
Here light is too loud, even shadows can shout,
deep places, caves, hearts, canyons, stay empty
to receive. Stones are best, they listen slowly,
no cross talk, thoughtless, simple. Neat.
Of seasoned heart, you tune yourself
to silence, the vastness inlaid in the moment,
the infinite tiny here in this deep sliver
of silence. Here is ocean bottom, farthest heaven,
deepest prayer, free of walls of tongues,
of comprehending noise, of knowing’s lie.
Here the Word escapes the words, enlarges
and becomes beyond, within, the listener
and the silence one. Echoes vanish, waves
defining distance null, the Lover now
so fully present here, and deep,
that nothing need be said.
Being looked at.
Being held.

Tarry, and attend.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

   June 20, 2019


(In observance of Juneteenth, marking the end of legal slavery in the US, June 19th, 1865)

         Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?”
         He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him.
         They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss.
         Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding;
         and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these.
         So he gave them permission.
         Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine,
         and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

                  —Luke 8.30-33

The demon is “Legion,” a division of the Roman army,
tool of domination, demon of oppression possessing us.
The system’s plague infects the individual.
Our demon is white supremacy, the plague of whiteness.
It chains people, excludes them, wounds them.
It’s not our fault. It’s no one thing, but a Legion.
When racism gets called out we’re frightened.
We who profit from it object. It’s the voice of the demons.

Jesus sends the demons into a large herd of swine,
—kept, surely, to supply the Roman army—
sends them hurtling down, down, down into the sea,
the cosmic abyss, the darkness and void,
the waters where the Spirit of God broods,
where only the voice of God calls forth light.
He subjects the instruments of Empire,
the tools of subjugation, to God’s new creation.
This is Jesus’ work: to exorcize demonic systems,
to subject dominance to the creating grace of God.
Every black body freed is a victory of God.

But we are still possessed by Legion.
We’re not free of the demon yet.
At the edge of our town a tormented voice cries out.
We stagger reluctantly toward Jesus.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
   —June 19, 2019

Frightful miracle

         People came out to see what had happened,
         and they found the man from whom the demons had gone
         sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind.
         And they were afraid.

                  —Luke 8.35
From madness and anguish, self-harm and shame,
from rejection and exile to life among the dead,
from a legion of demons not of his own choosing,
Jesus restores a beloved.
And you? In the graveyard outside your village,
unwhole and frightful, poorly chained,
a wordless voice cries out. Listen… Draw near…

The people are afraid.
Of what? Change? Damage to their profit?
A threat to their settled way of thinking?
The subjection of their values to God’s?
Proximity to such uncontained, uncontrollable power?
The thin, porous boundary between sanity and insanity?—
the possibility that if the man is now like them,
they could be like him?
Yes, at least.
Maybe our fear itself is the demon, the chains, the exile.
When the grace of God tears apart your awful world
and wrenches it into health, what frightens you?
If Jesus were to heal your enemy what would you fear?
If Jesus were to expose your demons
and fling them into the primordial abyss
what would you be afraid of?
You are already afraid. Let the Healer come close,
and name the demon, and reach out a hand…

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
   —June 18, 2019

Deepen my yearning


Recently some stuff of ours got destroyed.
I’m discovering the innards of grief..
We were planning on giving the stuff away,
so it’s not the stuff I mourn, though it was valuable.
It’s what I’m discovering I need to let go of.
Attachment to what could have been let it go.
Blame of those who destroyed it let it go.
Shock at discovering a dark side of someone I trusted let it go.
Anger at the powerlessness of badly wanting something back
I can’t get back.
Promising myself to stop rehearsing outrage… but I do.
Dashed hopes…work wasted… feeling violated…let it all go.
How many ways desire clings,
how many little pieces there are to letting go.


As I wrestle with this small angel
I’m mindful of those who have lost more than things:
houses crushed in storms, loved ones dead, war’s terror,
villages destroyed, horrors fled, never to return,
black bodies threatened, lives trafficked, children enslaved,
queer souls on the front porch of hell.
It’s not that I should stop caring about our stuff,
but let it be a door to care for greater things.

So I pray: God, enlarge my grief.
Don’t remove my petty objection;
embed it in your yearning for justice.
Let me mourn more greatly. Change my desires.
Deepen my yearning into empathy and generosity and hope
and the willingness to lose that is love.


Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

June 17, 2019

Sixty-six rings

Time does not pass; the present
holds steady, and we pass through it.
We do not spend our days; we accrue them.
Our lives are not linear, like a string,
but cumulative, like rings of a tree.

All the memories,
the choices and the unchosen,
feasts and wounds, dry years and wet,
are the rings that make up the tree.

The little boy alone on the hillside is still in there,
the man weeping on the floor, the man bowing,
the eve of one day and the day after,
all I have received and given,

all of it is God growing in me,
none of it would I cut away,
each gift and loss, each success and failure
another ring

as today I give thanks and count one more
that firms me and forms me as I stand
in this moment
and hold new leaves up to the sun.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

―June 14, 2019

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