The first agreement

Fear begets violence.
Blame becomes assault.

Projecting our fear of harm,
we harm others.
To keep our place in the world
we try to remove others.
But it never works:
attempting to destroy each other
we only damage the world.

To “form a more perfect Union,
establish Justice, and insure domestic Tranquility,”
our first agreement has to be
to live together.
To accept the other, regardless of how vile.
To live, even side by side,
with those we fear and blame and revile.

For they are here;
the only way to be without them
is to be without life.

Our first agreement and our highest goal
is not how we shall win,
but how we shall live together.
For either we live together
or we do not live.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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You are a comet
zooming off through your space
and you think you’re alone,
just you,
remote, untethered,
out in your own private darkness…

but the gravity of God never loses you,
and even at unimaginable distances
pulls you back around.

The energy of our flight
is the dance of our freedom
and our belonging.

How attentively
God is always gathering us,
making of all of us little sparks
one thing.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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Parable of the mountain

It is as if God were a mountain
and people came in glee
and chipped off little pieces
and took them home, happy
that they could possess
a piece of the real thing,
sitting on their mantle, maybe,
among their memorabilia,
or in their hand,
without any sense
of its hugeness,
or the effort of climbing,
or what it might be like
to be so small,
to be held,
to stand on its shoulder
and see the world.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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Herod had immunity.
He could behead people;
his friends would let him,
his enemies powerless.
A dictator has immunity.
He will not use it for noble purposes.

We do not have immunity
from the consequences of our choices.
We will pay the price
for our bold, decisive action.

We are not immune to the suffering of the world.
If one suffers, all suffer together with them.
To follow Jesus is to renounce immunity.

Jesus did not say,
“Take up your lawn chair and follow me.”

Our trust is not that we will be treated well,
but that even in our weakness and vulnerability,
even in failure and suffering,
grace will prevail.
For even in all its evil and cruelty
this world is not immune
to love.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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Tiny bug

I’m sitting on my porch reading the Bible.
A tiny bug, smaller than the letter i,
crawls across the page, its feet treading
on the name of God, the deeds of Christ,
its microscopic feelers touching
again and again the cries of the poor,
the prayers of the desperate and the faithful,
uncomprehending, unsuspecting
the vastness, the mystery, the grace,
crawling over the face of God.

You and I both, bug.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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           In Mark 6 John the Baptizer criticizes Herod 
           for marrying his own sister in law,
           who, of course, resents John. 
           Herod’s daughter pleases him with a dance.
           He offers her whatever she asks. Mom says, “John’s head.”
           Herod complies.

It has all the sordid ingredients of a sinister thriller.
Power. Bitterness. Shame.
A whistleblower jailed.
Family dysfunction. Politics.
Wine, women and debauchery. Violence.
And a sexy dance number.

Doesn’t sound like a very good Bible story, does it? 
But this is not a detour from the gospel;
this is the context of the gospel.
This is the realm where the mercy of God works,
where courageous faith in God’s grace
meets the crass violence of this world.
This is where the gentle followers of Jesus
work their love and courage. 

We wish we lived in a peaceful world
with small problems.
But the world gives selfishness and fear great power,
and they kill people.
People do what they know is wrong 
till they don’t know any more, and they do harm.
And we live among them—not by default,
but precisely because they need us, 
and we have been given to them.
This word needs humility, generosity and grace.
For every Herod it needs a thousand Christs. 
To this, for this, we are sent. 
In the end, grace shall prevail. 
But be aware, it will be hard in the meantime. 

Steve Garnaas-Holmes 
Unfolding Light
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Because the purple clover
and the tiny sweat bee
appreciate each other
life goes on.

Your contribution to the world
doesn’t have to be
a great or small accomplishment.
It is enough—
it is glory—
for you to offer
mindfulness and gratitude.

You pollinate the world
with your attention.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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Independence Day

Let’s make today true Independence Day,
not merely to congratulate ourselves,
but to practice independence,
to set ourselves free
from cultural, political and religious expectations,
and instead be true to ourselves,
and radically free with God.

Let’s make it Inter-Independence Day;
for none of us is a separate planet;
we are all woven together, races and creeds,
nations and continents and colors and flavors,
in one living community.

Let’s make it not just our own Independence Day,
for the freedom we cherish is still sought by many.
Let’s repent of the ways we ourselves oppress others 
and comply with systems that oppress.

Let’s make it Anti-Domination Day
for those who have less liberty:
for only by offering freedom to others
are we truly free. 

Let’s make it Responsibility Day;
for liberty isn’t guarded by soldiers:
it’s exercised by taking part,
and, by our actions, making this
a nation of liberty and justice for all. 

Steve Garnaas-Holmes 
Unfolding Light
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             He could do no deed of power there….
             And he was amazed at their unbelief. 
                            —Mark 6.5-6

Sometimes you mess up. Sure.
But sometimes when you fail
the failure is not yours.
Not everyone is ready to receive what you offer.
Let it go.

We’re called to be in conversation
with a hurting world;
sometimes the hurt
impedes the conversation. 

You are a vessel for grace;
sometimes even mercy
can be hard medicine to swallow.
Forgive them for it.

For those who need mercy: mercy.
For those who refuse mercy: mercy.
For you who can’t convey mercy: mercy. 

Steve Garnaas-Holmes 
Unfolding Light
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Authority over demons

             He called the twelve
             and began to send them out two by two,
             and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.
                            —Mark 6.7

Beware the temptation to imagine
we must be given magical powers of exorcism.
We are given love.

The demons that plague this world
are not fantastical creatures with shadowy malice and twisted powers.
An “unclean spirit” is simply the fear of being unacceptable:
fear of powerlessness, fear of being oneself,
fear of not being enough, of not belonging, not deserving God.
These are the demons, and nothing more ominous or frightening,
that haunt even the greatest tyrant.

The love we are given
is stronger than all demons, though often slower to work.
Love overcomes fear and loneliness,
exorcises the anxiety of not belonging,
sets people free from torment,
free to join the giving-and-receiving of life.
It’s a slow, gentle medicine. But powerful.

We are given patience in the face of challenge,
courage in the face of injustice,
gentleness in the face of violence.
Authority over unclean spirits

Go out into this hurting world, and know
you are given a power greater than the demons of pain and fear.
Go with gentle courage. Go with love.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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