Every night
the wino sleeping on the concrete

becomes perfect, young and beautiful,
wise, and eternally beloved.

We who pass by
seldom see the miracle

we really want to,

want to bear it

the pain and betrayal,
the splendor,

the question
with the little hook in it.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
   —August 17, 2020



Be a good steward
of the courage you are given.

Befriend your fear,
your faithful companion,

wise challenger;
bear it as a shield in battle.

Offer up a generous burnt offering
of your security, your comfort.

You needn’t push yourself.
Follow the Spirit that leans forward in you.

Submit to the sun
rising in you.

Dare to be the tattered dandelion,
nothing left but wispy seeds,

floating on the unknown,
the divine wind.


Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

August 14, 2020

Grace in the pit

              Joseph said, “It was not you who sent me here, but God.” 
                                                 —Genesis 45.8

Joseph is not excusing his brothers for their cruelty.
He’s seeing his own fate in a larger context—
God’s desire for wholeness.

Joseph is not suggesting God wanted him sold into slavery.
He’s recognizing the simple miraculous truth
that God is in everything, even evil and disaster.

Joseph is not suggesting that God orchestrated
his brothers’ crime.  He’s acknowledging
that God’s will overthrows ours.

Later in the story, when his brothers fear
he’ll lose the nerve of his forgiveness, he’ll say,
“You intend to do harm, but God intended good.”

Yes, your disasters are disastrous. Evildoing is evil.
But even there, God is at work.
Even in hell, God’s grace heals.

At the bottom of your pit,
God can deal with that.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

August 13, 2020

Canaanite woman

                                 Just then a Canaanite woman began to shout,
               “Have mercy on me!”
                                                   —Matthew 15.22

Canaanites— indigenous people, natives,
exiles in their own land,
asking for mercy,
begging for bread that is already theirs,
that the Colonizers not keep the blessings to themselves,
declaring to the privileged that their Lives Matter,
inviting the dominant ones to see through the glass darkly,
to see the Others as people,
to enlarge the circle of their care, 
their responsibility,
their oneness.
A woman, judged lesser, pushed away
—Nevertheless: bravely advocating,
daring to banter as the rabbi’s peer.

Even Jesus must be schooled,
look in his smooth mirror,
face his bias,
be changed. 

Wisdom is not knowing already,
but being open.
It is the change
that brings forth the miracle. 

Bless you, Sister, for your saving deed.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

August 12, 2020

What defiles

                  It is not what goes into a person that defiles them,
                but it is what comes out of them that defiles.
                                                   —Matthew 15.11

You are responsible for what you do and say,
not for what others do or say,
not what happens to you.
You have no reason to be ashamed
of something having happened to you,
no matter how humiliating it may be.
Your integrity and dignity are intact.
Look at Jesus, scorned and abused,
but radiant with the glory of God.
You are responsible for your choices,
nothing beyond that.
Let go of your shame.
(Even your mistakes have been given to you.)
What defines your character is not your fate
but how you respond—
and even more than that,
the abiding grace of God in you
that cannot be defiled.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

August 11, 2020

Dear Emperor

Dear emperor,
over-feathered bird,
primping, preening, posing,
you have not distracted us enough.
Pointing a frenzied finger
at imagined monsters,
you have failed to frighten us
of the right things.
Demeaning the people,
denouncing their voices,
parodying the cry of the poor
and the caution of the wise,
you have peddled despair,
but alas,
we are still here, still healing.
You have not set us free from God.
You have not relieved us of the burden
of our passion for justice.
You have not cured us of our hope.

Even now—amazing!—we are singing.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

August 10, 2020

Three haiku

Sun entering woods:
the Word slips in without
breaking the silence.

Bird on a thin stalk
in the breeze knows wordlessly
Spirit’s gravity.

Prayers drift with the brook;
ignore them. Instead: the Sun’s
hand on your back.

Weather Report

though at times it will be unfair,
God letting the rain fall on the just
and the unjust,
the low pressure zone reminding us
how little is about us.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

August 7, 2020


Little Boy, Fat Man,
carry our fear downward
into the streets, into the bodies
of the people living there, looking up…

Officer, bear our rage
onto the streets, onto the bodies
of those black people lying there,
looking up…

Only by grace and humiliation
do we see
Abel looking up at Cain,
Joseph looking up from the cistern:
at brothers, not enemies,
kin, assuming difference and threat,
blood, haunted by fear and shame.

What siblings look up at us now,
waiting for our hand to come down?

                  In Memory:
                  Hiroshima bombing
                  75 years ago today.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

August 6, 2020

Another question

“How are you?” is a good question
to connect with someone’s inner experience.
Make sure you ask it of yourself.

Take it seriously, and also leave it behind.
You live in a world that is bigger than you,
greater than how you’re doing.

Once you’ve asked it,
ask what God is doing.
It will take more thought,

more wonder, more trust.
It might take a whole day watching
to begin to see.

Even amid gloom and disaster,
in the face of injustice and suffering,
God is doing something.

What? Wonder. Look. Be curious.
Spend your day like this
and how you’re doing will change.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

August 5, 2020

Bid me come

“If it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”

When you’re afraid of the storm,
when wind and waves and weariness bully you,
you want your Savior.
You want to hear that comforting voice.

But don’t be fooled by relaxing easement.
Sometimes the Sovereign of Heaven and Heart
won’t becalm you, won’t hasten you to paradise,
but will make you say, “Have me join you.”
And if it is truly the One, you will.
The Beloved will draw you out
of the Boat of Assurance.
You will step into the deep unknown—
and you will sink. You will plunge
into the dark chaos, the sea formless and void.
You will be immersed in the baptismal drowning—

Jesus holding your hand no matter how deep you go.
And only then will you be raised—
delivered from the womb of the sea—
new and wet and infant, breathing in
with renewed passion this cherished life,
this miraculous new belonging.
And the storm outside will vanish within
the calm within.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

August 4, 2020

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