Nathanael asked him,
         “Where did you get to know me?”
         Jesus answered,
         “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
—John 1.48

The Beloved sees you. Knows you.
Inner you. Soul you.
Not the faults and failures,
nor your alibis,
not the gold and silver medals,
not what you or others
think of you,
but the soul inside the story,
the heart beneath the wounds,
what God created
and has always loved,
the Thou of you.

Seen without judgment,
known without blame,
named, beloved, treasured—
welcome it.

You can stop pretending.
Let yourself become
the one God knows.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

January 14, 2021

… And see some more

          But who can detect their errors?
             Clear me from hidden faults.
—Psalm 19.12

I made a hurtful mistake yesterday, and I apologize.  In criticizing people with closed-minded, delusional thinking I paired them with people with schizophrenia. They are not the same, and it is hurtful to suggest that they are. Mental illness is not a choice, or something that one should confess or repent of. I am sorry for magnifying the stigma we have attached to mental illness. I acknowledge the hurt I caused by saying it, the hurt for people with mental illness to see themselves lumped in with people making bad choices. I am sorry for that. (It was in emailed versions, but I removed it here.)

Here’s the awful thing. I’ve long thought we should avoid using words like “sick” and “crazy” in criticizing people exercising poor judgment—it is deeply unfair to people suffering mental illness. But here I essentially made that very mistake. I did stigmatize mental illness. Maybe there’s something deep in my mind that does think poorly of mentally ill people. I hold, somewhere deep in my subconscious, a belief contrary to my beliefs! Fortunately I was invited to notice it, and I am grateful for people around me who wake me up, hold me accountable, and keep me honest. Thank you. Now I’m a little more aware.

This happens all the time. Our consciousness is a muddle of our own chosen values and the voices of our society that insinuate themselves into our minds like a virus. We hold contradictory beliefs. Sometimes we think things we don’t really believe. Here’s the thing: being wise or foolish, sensitive or mean, sexist or woke or racist or anti-racist is not a permanent state. It’s moment by moment. Even a committed anti-racist will sometimes have racist thoughts. It’s human. Hurtful voices run deeper in our subconscious than we know. We have to stay humble, vigilant and self-reflective. We have to give up being right, and take our critics seriously. We have to listen, confess, learn a little more, repent, and try to stay aware, ready to discover when we’re wrong.

For vigilance– mine and yours– I give thanks, and thanks as well for the grace to learn and move on to love mercy, to do justice, and to walk humbly with God.

Deep Blessings,

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

January 13, 2021

Come and see

Nathanael said to him,
           “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
           Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
                                 —John 1.46

We’ve already decided
no one from Nazareth should be taken seriously.
Let’s confess what I call our cultural fundamentalism:
the belief that there is only one truth, and we own it.
The belief that my group (however I identify it) alone matters,
and we alone are entitled to decide
what is Real, True and Important.
We will not be dissuaded from our illusions by facts,
because it’s not the truth but who says it that matters.
If the speaker is one of us and protects our entitlement
(and magnifies our grievance at the loss of that entitlement)
we will believe whatever they say.
But the voice of an outsider simply doesn’t matter.
We are entitled to define what’s True, Real and Important,
and they are not. No one from Nazareth.

It’s the way of religious fundamentalists,
conspiracy theorists, white supremacists,
and other like-minded people.
It’s the basis of racism, sexism, heterosexism,
and every form of discrimination,
behind every crusade, pogrom, witch-hunt and genocide.
Whites, Americans, men, Christians—we all suffer from it.

What’s the antidote? “Come and see.”
Humility. Willingness to hear another’s truth.
Listening. Taking the “other” seriously.
Attending most deeply not to those defending their entitlement,
but to those who have none.

God, help me listen deeply and humbly.
Help me see all people as real, as whole, beloved people.
Bid me always, “Come and see.”

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

January 12, 2021

Prayer for going on

Beloved, you have not given up on us.
Shine your light within us.
Crucified One, you have been here before.
Sustain us with your presence.

Give us the wholeheartedness
to mourn our brokenness
and then to rise and get to work.
Give us the resilience to stay faithful,
even in the shadow of evil,
to do justice and to love mercy.

Loving One, lead us.
Redeem our fear, redirect our despair
and revive our spirits.
Give us hope and dissatisfaction.
Give us strength and patience.
Give us humility and courage.
Give us love that will not quit
in the face of evil.
Be among us, be with us, be in us.

Faithful God, hold our hearts in yours,
and grant us your peace.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

January 11, 2021

Go to the desert to drink

A voice came from heaven,
“You are my Child, the Beloved;
with you I am well pleased.”
And the Spirit immediately drove him
out into the wilderness.
—Mark. 1.11-12

Birthed into a troubled world
that needs you,

honored with the burden
of glory that is not yours,

hearing the blessing from above
you have to retreat to hear it within.

The word drives you out
into solitude where you are only you,

beloved, and must free yourself
from being otherwise.

Only in the wilderness of your aloneness
can you become who you are—

there, and in the press of the world ‘s need.
Baptism is no get out of jail card.

It’s empowerment to go in
and set the prisoners free.

For this you will need your belovedness.
Go to where that’s all that matters

so you will have such blessing
that it overflows where it is needed.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

January 8, 2021

Out of the water

Just as he was coming up out of the water,
he saw the heavens torn apart
and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.
—Mark 1.10

Underwater it’s quiet.
Deep in God you hear your heart beat
and the Great Silence of the universe.

Only when you come up
do you hear the roar of the world.
Bring the silence with you.

God’s waters break,
the heavens’ womb opens
and you emerge into a wound

torn more than the waters.
Only the divine silence
overcomes the world’s noise.

The Spirit, dove of listening,
descends, and bears you gently
through this torn, raging world.

“The realm of heaven has suffered violence,”
Jesus says, “and the violent take it by force.”
But they needn’t storm the ramparts

of God’s heart torn open,
where we already are.
Life is both an emerging and an entering,

a birthing, from love, into love,
a binding of the wound.
Bring the silence with you.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

January 7, 2021


          It has now been revealed
           that the Gentiles have become fellow heirs,
           members of the same body,
           and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
                                 —Ephesians 3.5-6

Epiphany is the celebration of the revealing
of God in Christ to all the world,
represented by the magi from another country,
practitioners of another religion.
The “gentiles” are those who are not like us,
people of a different way.

God, help me to reveal your love, to all,
to shine with your light, and light alone—
especially to those who are not like me,
to those of a different way.

Those I disagree with, those I abhor,
are members of the same body.
It is to them I am to reveal your love
and shine with your light.
Shine in me, God of love and light,
shine in me.

Breath prayer:
                      Your light … in me

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

January 6, 2021

The right one

         There, ahead of them, went the star
          that they had seen at its rising,
          until it stopped over the place where the child was.
                              —Matthew 2.9

Of course a star doesn’t stop over one place.
What if they’d been off by one house?
They would have entered, and knelt down,
and paid honor to some other child.
They would have seen the divine,
revealed to them by the Spirit.
And, I tell you, the child
would have grown up to become the Messiah.

Kneel and honor whoever you meet,
and go home by your own way.
You will both be blessed.
Trust God to make of them, and of you,
what God will.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

January 4, 2021

Twelfth Day of Christmas

Twelve days seems long,
the gifts nearly forgotten,
the cookies gone;
but the child, remember, is still an infant.
We have a long road ahead of us,
justice on a far horizon,
our wholeness still in swaddling clothes.

The world looks at us oddly
when we say “Merry Christmas” today.
But time, as the prophets already knew, is relative.
Twelve days is more than enough
to finish off the leftovers
but barely enough to fully contemplate.
Ignore the world, hurrying nowhere.
We trust on a longer arc.
The world-bearing journey takes time.
The magi took two years.

It is neither late nor early. It is now.
The path the length of the universe
is no longer than this moment. This.
The infinite unfolds, God acts, today.
The sun rises on this day.
As always,

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

January 5, 2021

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