Alone, unwary, unwarned,
in shadows I flail, I slip,
I falter, I fail, I mangle my life,
I fall, I can’t get a grip at all.
Some mystery, some strife-tangled
arms and legs have a hold on me.
What am I fighting, what battle,
this pitch? Is it myself?
My demons, my errors at last?
Is it outer or inner, this struggle,
this foe? I don’t know.
But I wrestle, panicked, weary,
anxious, something gripping me—
no, someone—
no, You:
my midnight terror, fierce
companion, arm in arm, face to face,
chest to chest I feel your heart
beating, beating,
I feel you breathing down my neck,
In me.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

July 31, 2020

Dark God

           Jacob was left alone;
           and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.
                                 —Genesis 32.24

We trust a dark God
who seizes us in lonely places,
who comes to us in travail,
who births us only in great labor.
Faith is no mere greeting card but a wrestling,
an awful confronting of both doubt and assumption,
a tangling with what is in which neither can prevail.
The Mysterious One uses barred holds,
offers invisible becomings.
There is no struggle in which
blessing is not enfolded in the mystery.
There is no tribulation in which
God is not reworking the clay.
Limping, we become a new person with a new name.

Therefore the prayer of the faithful
is not that things go well,
but always and only this:“I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

July 30, 2020


They are living paradox,
lullaby singers
with flaming swords,

not always comforting,
with terrifying reassurances,
balm that disturbs,

singing a song of truth
in front of armies,
hope amidst tragedy.

We like them up in the sky,
away, fictional,
because, after all,

they wake us
to what is more real
than we sometimes can bear,

and if you
come too close
you catch fire.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

July 29, 2020

Taken, blessed, broken, given

        Taking the five loaves and the two fish,
he looked up to heaven,
and blessed and broke the loaves,
and gave them to the disciples.
—Matthew 14.19

You are taken,
removed from this world and its pulls and pushes,
delivered into one not of their choosing or yours,
another belonging.

You are blessed,
loved hot enough to change your chemistry,
the original light echoing in you from the beginning,
divine delight around which the galaxy of you formed,
ember of love glowing at the center of your fire
no matter what you or others do.

You are broken,
your finish, your frame, your hold, all of it.
Even your brokenness is taken up and broken
until there are enough cracks for the light to shine through.

You are given,
pure gift, treasured in the giving,
offered without price, nor expectation of return,
to the city whose hands are open, and also closed.
Received or not, God enters the world.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

July 28, 2020

Peace meal

                 A meditation on Matthew 14.12-21

They went and told Jesus that John had been beheaded.
All of what is about to happen
is in a context of violence, oppression, trauma, and fear.
[…Holy One, grant me your peace…]

When Jesus heard this, he withdrew… but the crowds followed him.
The Spirit helps us balance service and solitude.
[…Holy One, grant me your peace…]

Seeing the crowd, he had compassion for them and cured their sick.
Despite people’s anxiety Jesus acts only out of compassion.
[…Holy One, grant me your peace…]

The disciples said, “Send them to buy food.”
But he said, “You give them something to eat.”

We always face what we don’t have. It is not relevant.
[…Holy One, grant me your peace…]

They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.”

What if the power, the grace, is within you?
What if your small offering is enough?
[…Holy One, grant me your peace…]

He took the loaves, blessed and broke them.
Jesus does not internalize the world’s violence or the disciple’s anxiety.
His response to evil and trauma is blessing.
[…Holy One, grant me your peace…]

He gave them to the disciples.
Before you act, your gift is taken out of the world’s hands,
brought into Christ’s care,
blessed and broken (you do not know the infinite grace of this blessing),
and only then given back to you to give.
[…Holy One, grant me your peace…]

The disciples gave them to the crowds.

All that you have is placed in your hands for the sake of the world.
[…Holy One, grant me your peace…]

All five thousand ate and were filled, with twelve baskets left over.
There is enough grace to spare for the tribes of Israel.
Soon there will be seven baskets, enough for all Creation (Mt.15.37).
Expand your hope.
[…Holy One, grant me your peace…]

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

July 27, 2020

Pure van Gogh

Nothing can separate us from the love of God
in Christ Jesus the Beloved.
—Romans 8.39

You can’t separate the music from the song.
You can’t have earth without its gravity.
There is no electricity without positive and negative,
giver and receiver.

Van Gogh’s painting is about sunflowers
and also about how van Gogh sees sunflowers
and also a painting of van Gogh.
Rough sketch or finished painting, it’s pure van Gogh.

You are part of God’s love as much as God is.
Nothing beyond or within you,
no death or suffering or sin
or even your distrust of this can change that.

Root in this. Let it be your song.
Your gravity.
What you receive and give.
Pure van God.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

July 24, 2020


         All things work together for good
for those who love God,
who are called according to God’s purpose.
For those whom God foreknew
God also predestined to be conformed
to the image of God’s Beloved.
—Romans 8.28-29

This is who we are: particles of the light that is God.
This is our purpose, our destiny.
God intends this for everyone before we are created
(God foreknew us), and so all of us—
everyone, not just some special class,
is predestined to be an image of God’s love:
called, justified and glorified.

This doesn’t mean everything works out OK
for God’s favorite people.
It means when we align ourselves with God’s love
we are in harmony with the infinite force for good
that is in all things.
The universe is for us, not against us.
Even in our failure or suffering
God’s purpose advances through us.

The world and its rewards and punishments
knows nothing of this.
Your calling is to give them a hint.
The infinite delight of God works in all things
to help you do this.
Even if you fail,
glory is your destiny.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

July 23, 2020

The bowl and its fruit

The river doesn’t know how to be a river.
The bird doesn’t have to write a song.
The candle only needs a wick.

The wire that brings the voice of your grandmother
to your hungry ears does not know your grandmother,
does not know her voice, or the way she says the word precious.

The heart does not begin to know the love of God,
only opens to it,
holds the space.

         We do not know how to pray as we ought,
         but the Spirit prays in us
         with sighs too deep for words. 
             (Rom. 8.26)

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

July 22, 2020

Unlike a pearl

The realm of heaven
is like a merchant in search of fine pearls;
on finding one pearl of great value,
they went and sold all they had and bought it.
—Matthew 13.45-46

We’re window-shopping.

We pretend it’s something you hunt the world for,
or it’s sold only in the most exclusive markets.

Friend, unlike a pearl, it’s already in your hand.
It is within you.
Let go of everything else
and there it is.
What won’t you trade for it?
Ah, there you are.

Listen: unlike a pearl
you can’t have or hold it:
it’s a realm, a whole people.
It’s for the world, not you.
That may be the hardest thing to let go of.
When you do—
there it is.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

July 21, 2020

Mustard seed

              It is the smallest of all the seeds,
             but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs
             and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air
             come and make nests in its branches.
—Matthew 13.32

You are a mustard seed of justice.
Never mind the smallness of your witness.

The wound is deep, the sickness is awful,
the hunger is great.
But you are a mustard seed of healing and justice.
Immeasurable divine fruit is hidden
in the smallest acts of love and courage.
It’s not about you. It’s the power you contain.

You are a mustard seed of justice.
But only when you are sown.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

July 20, 2020

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