The Joker

There is a little Joker inside you,
playful and mischievous,
who skips and tumbles
and asks impudent questions,
and giggles at inappropriate moments,
whose energy is delight
that cannot be diminished,
who takes seriously
when you are taking
Taking Things Seriously
too seriously, and pokes you in the rib.
The little trickster sees the back side of things,
laughs and points,
sees the child in pompous people
and is not afraid of them,

only of you,
your scolding,
because you are the one
whose love that little imp wants—
and sometimes you care more about
What Grown-Ups Think Of You
than loving your little child.

Your dear Troublemaker laughs
at you and your bullies alike,
and even the devil, for you are all
small and funny and full of possibility,
and grief is a bad actor who forgets his lines
and whose underwear shows,
and disasters have holes in them.

Be a safe playground for that little Joker
who takes everything so lightly
that you yourself become light.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

The Mourner

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

There is a Mourner within you,
whose sorrow is greater than sadness
at what is no longer in your pocket
or your arms:
tectonic plates of grief
moving deep and silent,
crying without tears,
keening without sounds,
weeping for this world and all that is broken.

The Mourner is accustomed to being silenced,
for being feared—that her wails, once loose,
will run wild. But they don’t run;
they walk, steady, tireless, yearning.

When silenced her wails become stones
of meanness or despair.
Hear them knocking against each other
in the voices of tyrants and beggars alike.

Sit with the Mourner within you,
do not silence her,
give her time, and some water,
and a listening ear.
She is your strength and your wisdom.
She is your harmony with the song of the earth,
which is also a song of great wonder,
the song of all living things breathing, hoping,
singing through mouths that are wounds.
But first she must mourn.

The full moon is a happy soul
singing a sad song.
Only that way is she so lovely.

Do not abandon the Mourner within you:
she carries, under her cloak,
power, and hope, deep beauty,
and joy most firm.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

The Doubter

There is a doubter in you,
the kid in the back row,
the jilted one, the skeptic,
not out of malice but a broken heart,
unready to trust the good news
all the way to its end.

Don’t let Faith come barging in
to try to convince them.
Don’t let Piety trick you into
taking responsibility for them.
Let the Doubter be the Doubter,
and you be you.
Resist either criticizing or defending.
Just listen.

Then, bring three chairs close,
for you, the Doubter, and Jesus.
And just sit together.
Let those two look each other in the eye.
Let the Doubter say what needs to be said,
ask what needs to be asked. Listen.

Don’t be surprised if Jesus doesn’t answer,
but simply nods and holds the Doubter close,
for a long time,
holds them in his arms gently,
with holes in his hands,
maybe even holds both of you.

You’ll likely want to come and visit again.

Bartimaeus meditation

Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.                    —Mark 10.46-52

Tarry over this story. Let it seep into your imagination. Pray your way through it.

Like Bartimaeus you sit on the edge of your Way, your life.
Jesus shares the road with you: walks on your Way, your life.
He’s been there all along. Imagine that….

Something in you yearns for his presence and his grace. Let it cry out….

Voices tell you to be quiet, that your yearning is unwelcome.
But Jesus stops. He stands still.
Imagine Jesus, in no hurry….

Jesus calls to you. He wants to hear you.
Note how Jesus’ invitation overrules those discouraging voices, and take heart….

Bartimaeus threw off his cloak to come to Jesus.
What do you need to throw off?…

You stand before Jesus. He looks at you calmly.
He says, “What do you want me to do for you?”
How does your heart respond?….

Jesus says “You faith has made you well.”
Your faith is not your beliefs: it’s your reaching out.
Jesus meets it. Give thanks…

Jesus tells Bartimaeus to go his way, but instead he follows Jesus on the Way.
What Way does God’s grace invite you to follow?….

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Light in the rocks

Streaks of light stream
from veins in the rocks.
The same with the birds,
and the sky with the birds in it.
Music rises up out of trees,
and out of dirt, low, deep music.
Even dark houses shimmer,
benches hum.

And the people on the benches,
the old guy by the bus stop,
either waiting for the 6:15
or just woke up after a night there,
his old coat, his rumpled head,
light beaming out.

Even from your most earnest labor,
your most ragged sorrow.
without thought of glory,
light leaks out, music escapes.

The best we can do
in this miraculous world
is wonder.

Weather Report

as a low pressure area
disperses a fog of inattentiveness.
light coming, if not from above,
from beneath.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light


         Then God answered Job out of the whirlwind:
         “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?“

                   —Job 38.1, 4

Last night I woke from a dream of doom
fearing for the future of the world,
mummy-wrapped in despair, dread burning hot
in my basement. I couldn’t sleep.

When fear for the world overtakes me
I join Job on the ash heap, questioning suffering,
ranting against injustice, suffocating for hope.

And God answers.
Creation is bigger than you,
and greater than your suffering, even greater,
far greater, than all the suffering of the world.
It’s hard to see from your little corner
but the universe is good, and beautiful.
Stars and whales sing of it; your breathing proclaims it.
My grace is in it; my hands are beneath it all,
and you belong to it, even as you are,
though you can never know this mystery,
your part in this wonder and blessing.

My dread is small, even all our death;
God’s goodness is infinite. Praise.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light


         James and John said, “Grant us to sit,
         one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”
         But Jesus said to them, “To sit at my right hand or at my left
         is not mine to grant. …
         Whoever wishes to become great among you
         must be your servant”
                  —from Mark 10.35-44

Beware of a faith
that is no more than James and John’s request:
believing what you need to believe
in order to go to Heaven—
and receive all the benefits appertaining thereunto,
including getting to be with Jesus in glory.

What if Heaven means the perfection of serving,
the deepest bliss in kneeling at the feet of the undeserving,
the most profound joy in pouring out your life for another?

At the heavenly banquet newcomers are the guests,
but the real angelic souls are the servers.

To what do you aspire?
If you had to choose between living a life of love
and getting to go to heaven,
which would you choose?

Which do you already choose, moment by moment? 

moment by moment.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light


Our niece ran the Boston Marathon yesterday,
her ninth marathon; her fourth in Boston.
The marathon is like unto the Realm of God.
Everybody cheers for everybody.
No teams, no sides, no winners and losers.
(One person wins; the other 30,000 just run.)
Andrea wasn’t trying to win; she was just running—
though she ran an alarmingly steady eight-and-a-half-minute mile.
One year she nearly collapsed from dehydration,
staggered into the medical tent at mile 22,
and eventually was able to walk the rest of the course.
Yesterday I tracked her, passing the tent, running on.

At the finish line some people raise their arms
as if they’ve won. Some kiss the ground
as if returning from Mars. They have indeed won.

Every day people around you are bearing unseen burdens,
overcoming invisible challenges,
completing a story you don’t know.
You can’t judge their pace, or how far along they are.
Your job is to cheer them on.

Heaven, you know, is actually empty.
They’re all down here, unseen, crowded around,
yelling like crazy, cheering you on.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Indigenous People’s Day

         God said, “What have you done?
         Listen; your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground!”
                   —Genesis 4.10

Great Spirit,
for the blood of our siblings of the earth
which cries out to us from the ground
on which we build our houses and highways,
we ask your mercy.
For the songs of those the White people tried to wipe out,
songs that still resonate in this land,
we give you thanks,
and ask your mercy.
For the hopes of the people whose lives are belittled,
and who even now disappear without our caring,
we pray for your healing,
and ask your mercy.
O Mysterious One, may the peoples of this land be restored;
may the hosts and invaders be reconciled in true peace;
may the songs increase, and the dance grow thunderous.
Aho. Amen.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

October 11, 2021


There is a question inside you.
Like a baby needing to be born,
it must come out.

It may be a curious inquiry, or an angry challenge.
It may be a profound exploration, or a Zen koan.
It’s not a rhetorical question.
It may be a question for a friend, or your lover,
or the authorities, or yourself.
It may be a question for God, or the universe.
Maybe even for ancestors long gone.
It may be a question that’s actually a statement,
but there’s a real question behind it.
It’s a question to which you truly don’t know the answer.

Ask it.
Don’t force the answer. Wait in silence for it,
which may take a long time.
There may not be an answer.
But don’t silence the question any longer.
The graveyard murmurs with the cries of unasked questions.
Speak it, let the silence hang in the air,
and wait.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

October 8, 2021