New moon, Advent

         
         

Waiting
for the moon to fill
night by night
hidden sun pouring light into you

in the great deep night
of the virgin’s womb
holy child
floating in darkness
waiting to learn your name

soft crescent of dawn in me
out of darkness rising
in stillness, waiting

in this empty space
a presence
umbilical

I am the holy child
the night my womb

not another season but
a new person

pale belly
beating heart
dark moon, whole and round—
ah! you are already here.

         
         

______________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

I prepare a place

         
         

Holy Child of mystery,
I prepare a place for you.
I remodel the inn of my heart.
I clear a room
and let go of many things.
I fashion a crib of finest wood.
I make a space that is just for you,
and open it up each day,
and in stillness I wait—
until I find that in darkness of night
beneath my knowing or waking,
in cold and poverty,
without place at all,
you have already come
and lie waiting in some
unexpected manger.

         
         

______________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Child of peace

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse….
         With righteousness he shall judge the poor….
The wolf shall live with the lamb….
         and a little child shall lead them….
They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain.

         — from Isaiah 11.1-11

“One who is more powerful than I is coming after me;
I am not worthy to carry his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

         — Matthew 3.11

Jesus is not coming to protect us from God’s condemnation, nor to set up a new hoop to jump through to get to heaven. He comes to save us from our own violence: to show us how to live gently with all Creation, since such harmony is what heaven is. He saves us by drawing us into God’s peace and breathing into us the fire of God’s love.

In this candled, starlit season we find it easier than usual to be peaceable with one another, to love our neighbors, to extend hospitality to strangers and enemies, to give gifts to the undeserving. It’s a good start. But Jesus does not come for a season, but for all eternity. He comes to change us forever. He comes as a little child, a child who will be hurt and destroyed—but he comes anyway. He comes as a lamb who lies down among us wolves, a lamb who will surely be eaten—but he comes anyway. He comes as the Gentle One to bear God’s tenderness to us; as the Harmless One to save us from our fear of God; as the Loving One to set us free from the terrible weight of our desire to hurt or destroy; as the Vulnerable One to invite us into that dangerous, world-changing place of non-violent love. He comes to transform us.

This Advent, pray that you may be baptized with the Holy Spirit of compassion, that the little child might lead you into a life of holy peace. Pray that the carols you sing, the gifts you give, the candles you hold, the greetings you send may change you forever. Pray that the gifts you receive this Christmas may be gifts of courage, love and creativity. In the Spirit of Christ, may you become more deeply a Child of Peace.
         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

______________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

The ax

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
         John the Baptist said, “Bear fruit worthy of repentance.
         Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees;
         every tree that does not bear good fruit
         is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

                  —Matthew 3.8, 10

Beloved, take your ax
to the trees in my orchard that bear no fruit,
to the limbs that are not loving,
to the roots of the fears and desires,
the attachments and expectations
that get in the way of your perfect love in me.
Take your ax to the Way I Wish Things Were.
Come at the habits by which I grasp at control,
exercise power, protect my security.
Dig them out. Cut them down. Chop them up.
Throw them into the fire of your grace.
Let me bear the fruit of love, even in winter,
flowering within me.

As the Virgin Mother waits, ripe with Christ,
may I blossom with you.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

______________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Watch

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.


In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’ ”

— Matthew 3.1-3

When John the Baptist comes yelling out of the desert telling us to repent, we wonder, with maybe a little panic: Of what? How? What am I supposed to change? Repentance seems like something we have to work at to meet some externally imposed standard, something we have to start getting right. But Advent promises that it’s actually God who’s behaving in a new way, doing something new. All we we do is notice, and say “yes.”

Like Mary, swelling with Christ, we hold a new incarnation of God within us. God is in you, moving with new life, surrounding you, moving in a new way. What is God doing? How is God’s presence unfolding in you? To discern this, of course, you have to be still and watch a long time. It’s as if in the woods you find a little den of some sort and you want to know what kind of animal lives there. What you do then is sit off a way and wait and watch for a long time until whatever it is comes out. You have to be still a very long time.

Be still for a few minutes every day this Advent and wonder, “God, what are you doing in me?” Devote yourself to saying “Yes” to it, whatever it turns out to be. In silence, simply sit and wait. Don’t expect an answer. The little creature won’t come out for a long time. God is doing the work, and you are practicing being present. As you do, you will become more present all day long, all season long, until the truth is revealed. Let this redirecting of your will and your attention be your repentance. Let this attentive presence be your preparing. As Jesus says, watch. Keep awake.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

_______________________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Keep awake

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

Keep awake, for you do not know when the Beloved is coming.
         — Matthew 24.42

You can’t tell beforehand
which manger will receive him.
You won’t expect how you will be met.

You don’t know when the Beloved will appear before you,
when your vision will break through the surface
to the holiness within,
when your belovedness will become evident.

You can’t predict how the One will come to you,
in what ordinary person
offering you grace,
needing forgiveness.

You never know when
you might see God in yourself
shimmering, breathing, calm.

Of the Present One
we only catch fleeting glimpses.
So keep your eyes open.
Stay alert.
Watch.

___________________

Weather Report

Partly clear
as a high pressure area of
Having Been Here and Done That,
producing heavy overcast,
is dissipated by wonder and gratitude.
Expect coming,
with patches of disclosure
and isolated moments when the sun
(which has always been there)
breaks through.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

______________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Published
Categorized as Reflections

Giving thanks for Thanksgiving

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
Thanksgiving was wonderful. Gathering in a town where we’d never been (in South Jersey, of all places!) with twenty-one people, thirteen of them strangers to us, around a couple of tables squeezed in where the armchairs are supposed to be. A house rearranged for the sake of togetherness, decorated for the sake of joy. Strangers made family by love. Becoming part of a tribe we’ve never met. A kitchen crowded with cousins, aunts and uncles; tables piled with food; conversations rich with memories and discoveries. A nine-hundred mile drive there and back, picking up sons along the way, through the thickest holiday traffic that not only one city but Boston, New York and Philadelphia had to offer, and every mile worth it.

Isn’t that what Jesus envisioned as the Realm of God? The world rearranged for the sake of community. Beauty honored. Separations overcome. Food shared. Journeys toward each other undertaken. Family created. Isn’t this Jesus’ vision of The Real World? People around one table, eating and talking. Communion.

Today, of course, I’m in my own familiar house, all alone, eating cereal. But the vision lingers. The promise looms. I’m still there.

This is what God is trying to do with us. It’s so simple—and lovely, really: just to get us to sit down and eat together and enjoy it. This is as complicated as God’s will for us gets. This is what God is trying to get us to do every moment of our lives. Come to the Thanksgiving banquet. The furniture has been rearranged, the strangers have been invited, the food is all here. There’s an empty seat for you. The invitation is always open.
         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

______________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Published
Categorized as Reflections

This very day

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

I don’t need to learn to levitate,
or want to turn to pure flame like the saints.
Here’s holiness enough for me:
to kindle gratitude like a heartbeat,
gratitude that is its own heaven,
gratitude for for morning and its breath,
for food as it bows its head and closes its eyes,
for the feel of my hand against my face,
for friends whose distance can’t diminish
the love they’ve left with me,
for breath and bone and sky and stone,
for each moment, every even dull moment
full of Being’s very wonder.
I’d like to be a bird on a wire
singing its guts out for no great reason other
than being thankful to be singing,
this very day.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

______________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Published
Categorized as Reflections

Night walk

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

This old torn coat will do me
in the woods, with a good sweater.
The path is no Appalachian Trail, just a way
among the beeches, oaks and pines
beyond the house, the sigh of traffic not too far.
An owl begins to speak, thinks better of it.
The moon, near full and thinly overcast,
glows dim, soft-spoken,
dropping splotchy shadows where it can.
I work my way through cloudlight,
shadows and their shadows,
hauntings and suggestions.
The trees are kind in the weak darkness,
the path is patient for me to find it,
and find it again.
The porch light doesn’t care how late I am,
but smiling, waits.

This life seldom offers clarion or neon,
white lights leading to red lights.
We walk slowly among uncertain shadows
cast by light reflected. It is enough.
We find our way.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

______________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Published
Categorized as Reflections

The real world

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
         for God has visited us and redeemed us.
God has raised up for us
         a mighty savior from the family of David.
This is as God promised through the mouth
         of the holy prophets from of old,
to save us from every power
         that would ruin our lives.
God has shown mercy to our ancestors,
         and has remembered the holy covenant,
the oath that God swore
         to our ancestors Abraham and Sarah:
to set us free from the power of evil,
         free to serve God without fear,
holy and righteous in God’s sight,
         all the days of our lives.

                  — Luke 1. 68-75

This is the plan. It’s God’s will. It’s not just a hope; it’s an accomplished fact. This is a way to see reality. This is the Real World. God saves us from what would destroy us (most of which is within us) and sets us free, puts us in harmony with God, makes us holy. Our lives are all we need. We are free to serve God without fear. Nothing can stop us from loving perfectly.

The world in which you have to earn your keep, please God, justify yourself or prove your worth is an imaginary world. The God who wants to judge you, critique your performance, or demand your improvement is a false God. This is the real God: the one who promises, who comes, who saves, who sets us free, who makes us holy, who gives us love.

It may seem like chaos rules the world, and terror is in charge. But the God of Blessing is actually the absolute Sovereign. Let others live in ignorance and fear. We live in gratitude, hope and compassion. For “the kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our God and of God’s Christ, who will reign forever and ever” (Rev. 11.15). Hallelujah.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

______________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Published
Categorized as Reflections