I want to know Christ
           and the power of his resurrection
           and the sharing of his sufferings
           by becoming like him in his death.
                                —Philippians 3. 10

           Mary took a pound of costly perfume
           made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet,
           and wiped them with her hair.

                                 —John 12.3

Mary was not merely anointing
those feet, but becoming one with them,
so soon to be pierced, and her heart as well,
nailed to those feet,
blood of her tears streaming down,
oil of his burial bathing her hair,
buried with him.
You don’t need to go out and suffer;
only find the suffering close by
lay your hands on it, anoint it,
soak into each other.

Unnoticed, Christ passes by,
the aroma of your suffering in her hair.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Letting go

           Those who go out weeping,
                      bearing the seed for sowing,
           shall come home with shouts of joy,
                      carrying their sheaves.

                           —Psalm 126.6

           “She bought it so that she might keep it
           for the day of my burial.”

                           —John 12.7

The flower blooms only briefly,
but so sweetly.
True faith practices grief,
letting go and letting go
of letting go,
anointing our losses with
perfume and tears,
kneeling at the feet of the Beloved
we can’t possess or cling to,
trusting that the love that aches
bears us through,
until grief becomes gratitude
and sorrow an open heart,
and loss becomes sowing.
And we behold the blossom.
Only the soul that seeks love
and not happiness
finds joy.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light


           Mary took a pound of costly perfume
           made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet,
           and wiped them with her hair.
                                 —John 12.3

you pour your love out on me,
healing oil and sorrowing tears
sweetly mingling,
your hands a gentle bathing on my feet.
Your tender grace anoints,
soaks in, moves up my body,
a warm baptismal rising tide.
The fragrance of your love
fills the house of my heart.

in thanks I pour out myself for you,
my most precious essence,
the whole bottle of me.
May the fragrance of my love
fill the house of my life.

you wash our feet,
humble and patient,
honoring, blessing,
cleansing, perfecting.
The fragrance of your love
fills the house of the world.

Here in your ego’s death I die;
here your waters break and I am born.
I walk into every moment
redolent of the fragrance of that love.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light


           Mary took a pound of costly perfume
           made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet,
           and wiped them with her hair.
                                 —John 12.3

The disciples don’t understand,
too sure of themselves to imagine the tomb,
to feel the sting, the ache.
Mary does.
Feeling the dullness of his friends
and the harshness of the crowd,
the stone of loneliness,
heart breaking for the Beloved,
for the utter loss they begin to share already,
the gutting of the tomb
already being dug in her heart,
she performs a miracle:
in the shadow of the cross
an act of thoughtful kindness.

Jesus, may I be your Mary.
Let this be the whole of my religion:
to feel the ache of those who suffer
and to offer kindness against cruelty.
Let this be my worship:
simply to be kind.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light


           “Go get the fatted calf and kill it,
           and let us eat and celebrate;
           for this son of mine was dead and is alive again;
           he was lost and is found!”
                           —Luke 15. 23-24

At times I am the younger son,
throwing away the grace given to me.
At times I am the older, privileged,
praiseworthy, deserving, resentful
of the grace given others—
throwing away the grace given to me.

Prodigal means generous, not wayward;
this is the parable of the prodigal father.

Prodigal God,
bless me that I may be prodigiously generous,
forgiving and welcoming, without judgment,
giving without thought of deserving;
that in my generosity of heart
I, too, who have been lost may be found,
that I who have died may be alive again,
your prodigal child.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light


           There was a man who had two sons….
                           —Luke 15.11

How easy it is to fall into a selfish religion,
a faith based on what we want from God.
One son says, “Give me my share of the property.“
The other says “You never gave me so much as a goat.“
Neither wants their father, just his stuff.

Selfish faith wants things, not relationship.
Both sons break their relationship, betray their kinship,
remove themselves from the family.
“Treat me as one of your hired hands.”
“I worked for you like a slave.”

To both of them alike the father leaves his home,
and goes out to his distant sons—
one geographically and the other emotionally,
but both of them having removed themselves—
and he invites them back in.

Sometimes it is a gift,
responding to “Treat me as your slave“
with “Put a ring on his finger.”  
Sometimes it is a challenge,
responding to “that son of yours“
with “this brother of yours.“
But always it’s an invitation to join the party.

God does not give us things,
God gives us relationships.
When Jesus heals people he restores them to community.

Let what you seek bring you deeper in
to your kinship with all people, and all creation.
It is only as kin that we can truly pray,
and that we truly receive.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light


       The son said,
      “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you;
                I am no longer worthy to be called your son.“
       But the father said, “Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—
                      and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.
       And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate.”
                           —Luke 15.21-23

God is not bound by our shame.
The robe and ring are not merely gifts:
they signify family. Belonging.

You can’t unbelong from God’s family,
can’t be outside God’s intimate bond.
You always belong, always have, always will.

Run away; you are still God’s beloved child.
Come crawling back, poor of all but guilt;
you are still rich with God’s delight.

Delight, child. Beyond mere acceptance,
deeper than forgiveness: God’s utter delight—
reason for singing and dancing.

You belong, sealed, to God’s delight—
compassion, healing, gratitude and delight.
God has nothing but delight for you.

Repent of refusing God’s delight.
Your penance, hard as it is, is to come in and feast.
Your penance is to enter into God’s love and joy.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Coming to myself

           Then the younger son
           came to himself…
                           —Luke 15.17

you are not asking me to leave myself
and become someone strange.
You lead me to become myself.
To leave the far country of the things I desire,
to surrender the false ID all I pretend,
and return to the one you create me to be.

Even all my running away was running toward something,
toward a part of me I couldn’t name,
a place where you knew I would be—
and you were there, waiting for me.
Even my leaving was approaching you.
Even my scattering of treasures
was a seeking of what I treasure the most.

By your grace, then, may I come to myself:
to name my desires and fears,
to face my wounds and shadows,
to own my life—
and to come home to the beloved I am,
to the me of me, the you of me,
to know where I belong,
to remember whose I am.

Moment by moment
I pray to quit the pig sty of expectations and pretense
and come home to my belovedness,
come to myself, which is
to come to you.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Distant land

           A few days later the younger son gathered all he had
           and traveled to a distant country…
                           —Luke 15.13

It’s not so far, that distance,
hidden here in my wayward heart,
seeking space from you,
and that righteous son of yours,
hungry for my own self-made place
beyond the borders I imagine,
the closed eye, the clenched hands.
It’s not far at all, I can go there in a flash,
and do, daily.
What, even now, am I running from?
What am I never not looking for?

Oh, the things I could have used those wings for.

And yet.
In this far country I see your fingerprints.
You created this place, too. Nothing is outside you.
I can’t escape you, can I?

No matter how I distance myself,
no matter how far the land,
how removed my heart,
I am not even in sight of your horizon.
I am in you.
I have never left the house.

Walk with me,
this long journey home.


Breath prayer:
                         Home … in you

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light


           “Cut this tree down!
                 Why should it be wasting the soil?”
           “Let it alone until I dig around it
                 and put manure on it.”
                                        —Luke 13.7,8

What is repulsive to the nose
may be sweet to the roots.

What is waste to the mind
may be food for the soul.

What is difficult and disruptive
may harbor grace.

The Beloved, to revive you,
will not uproot you,

but will not leave
your roots untouched.

“Let it alone:” let what is
be what it is,

and flourish with its
hidden blessings.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

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