Groundhog Day

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

Today is Groundhog Day, when a groundhog emerging from its burrow will predict whether there will be six more weeks of winter. I’m sure it’s a reliable way to predict the future. Well, OK, maybe not. I bet the groundhog is not contemplating the future, but simply coming out of his burrow.

But in his honor, consider the movie “Groundhog Day.” In it a TV reporter is sent unwillingly, resentfully, in fact, to cover the ceremony in Punxatwney, PA. The whole time he wishes he were somewhere else. The next day he wakes up and it’s Groundhog Day all over again. Indeed, he keeps repeating the same day over and over, Groundhog Day after Groundhog Day. He goes through a series of responses: he gets goofy and does things he normally wouldn’t, knowing there will be no consequences. He does various terrible deeds, even getting himself killed, knowing he’ll wake up again the next day and start all over. He takes piano lessons. He does good deeds. He flirts with the woman he’s attracted to. But he’s always yearning to get out of Groundhog Day, and he never does. Day after day, it’s still the very same Feb. 2. Day after day, he wishes he were elsewhere. But eventually he comes to a point when he forgets himself and becomes entirely present, perfectly satisfied with the present moment—and finally he breaks free and re-enters the real world.

It’s simple: be present. We so easily get caught up in rehashing the past, worrying about the future, wishing things were otherwise, being elsewhere. Ironically the more we wish things were otherwise, the more stuck we are. It’s only when we accept What Is that we are set free. We can only move into an actual future from the real present.

Today let the groundhog predict the future. You stay in the present. Live it while it’s here. It won’t come again. The present moment is all you have: if you don’t live in it, you don’t have anything. Accept what is. It’s good enough. Let this whole day be the one, unrepeatable gift that it is. May it be a blessed one.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

_______________________________

Copyright (c) Steve Garnaas-Holmes
unfoldinglight(at)hotmail.com

Paper boat

How amazing that you have chosen
the thin paper boat of my life
in which to cross this sea,

a little sheet folded in certain shape
to make a cupped-hands dish,
the printing running this way and that.

Somehow over the wind-raked expanse
and through the stomping surf
this weightless little scrap arrives

and you step out and smile and say,
“Thank you. I’m so glad to be here.”
and I look around the gentle shore and wonder:

how the heck do you do that?

__________________
Copyright (c) Steve Garnaas-Holmes
unfoldinglight(at)hotmail.com

Absolute love

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you… and you will be children of the Most High; for God is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Mother is merciful.
— Luke 6. 27-28, 35-36

God, I am your beloved,
whom you love absolutely and perfectly.
No matter how good or bad I am , you love me wholly.
Help me to trust in your love,
your perfect, absolute, infinite love for me,
to trust that no matter what happens
I know that I am beloved.
Help me to love with your love,
love that is absolute and not conditional.
Give me the courage to love, the wisdom,
the freedom, the strength of heart.
Help me to surrender every desire but to love,
every wish to judge, to punish, to prevail.

God, I hold before you those whom I find it hard to bless.
They are your beloved, too, no matter what. Bless them.
Grant them healing, forgiveness and wholeness of life.
May the blessing you shower upon them
be the blessing you grant to me.
Amen.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

_______________________________

Copyright (c) 2010
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
unfoldinglight(at)hotmail.com

Wind

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and peace to you.

In the relentless wind
the people on the street stagger
to keep from crashing into each other.

We look most of the time like strangers,
like we’re ignoring each other,
as if we have nothing to do with each other,

but actually our lowered heads
and preoccupied gazes, our silences
and fastidious avoidances

are how we lurch and resist
the powerful wind howling within us, given,
that bends us with irresistible love

toward each other.

____________________

Weather Report

Overwhelming,
as the entire atmospheric condition
of our relatedness sweeps through us.
Invisible connection will prevail,
despite scattered areas of resistance.

Deep blessings,
Pastor Steve

___________________
Copyright © 2010
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
unfoldinglight(at)hotmail.com

One body

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

Now you are the body of Christ
and individually members of it.

— 1 Corinthians 12.27

We are not separate things, but all parts of one living Being.
We are no more separate than the fingers on a hand,
the notes in a chord, the words in a sentence,
the flavors in a gourmet dish, the cells in a body.
We are part of one another; we are each other in different ways.
There is one body, and we are all it.

We serve the poor because they are us.
We love the stranger because in them we know ourselves.
We side with the oppressed because they hold our wisdom.
We honor those who are different because they complete us.
We respect those who horrify us, for they are within us.
We bring the Other to our table: it is theirs, for we are theirs.
We include them in our compassion, for we include them.

The Christ that is in you is not separate from the Christ
in the unclean and lepers and drug addicts and terrorists.
Your choosing may be different, but the Spirit is One.
You are not the One, but you are in the One.

This is the mystery of the Holy Trinity, that in all there is One.
There is One of us, and the oneness, the One, is Holy.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

_______________________________

Copyright (c) 2010
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
unfoldinglight(at)hotmail.com

What the doctor heard

You sit on the paper rolled out on the doctor’s bench.
With her stethoscope she listens at your back.
She pauses, stills, leans closer.
She comes around and listens at the front.
Her eyes widen.
She sits, staring into the distance.
“What did you hear?” you ask. She is silent.
“The voice of God,”
she says, and returns to her silence.

______________________

Weather Report

Partially spoken today
with periods of clearing,
as the Word, in its continual flow,
at times condenses around
and within us.
Fifty percent chance of participation.

Copyright (c) 2010
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
unfoldinglight-(at)-hotmail.com

Burdens

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

I shake mounded snow from the branches
I walk beneath, and they rise
from their burden of beauty, but most
in these woods are happy to bow
under the weight of the blessing
bestowed upon them in darkness
and brilliant now in the morning.
The sun will quietly bear
its bundle among the branches
that waited all through the night,
until, embraced in its beams,
they are patiently, softly unbound
and rise up into the light.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

_______________________________

Copyright (c) 2010
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
unfoldinglight (at) hotmail.com

Compassion for the poor

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because God has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
God has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

— Luke 4. 18-19

The radical message in scripture is not only that God has an intense care for the poor and powerless, but that the reason for this is that God is among them. God does not use power by domination, coercion and control; God is the quiet power within and beneath that raises up, gives life and resurrects. The God revealed in the crucified and risen Christ is a God who is poor and vulnerable, whose power is the power of no power. God is not Pilate and Herod; God is Christ. God is at the bottom of the heap, not the top. God is among the poor and lonely, the rejected, the powerless.

Our care for the poor does not come from guilt, or a sense of requirement, but mindfulness that God comes to us in poverty. We encounter God by serving and honoring those who are poor, and especially in experiencing our own poverty. “Compassion” literally means to “feel with.” Our care for the poor is not pity for people less fortunate than us, but sharing life with people who are just like us. For we have nothing with which to pay for our lives; we are utterly dependent on God’s grace, not our own abilities; we are captive to our own fears and desires, bound up in oppressive and exploitative social and political systems, and blind to the truth; we lack courage, trust and generosity; we are powerless to control the world. If we imagine ourselves standing in Judgment, we know we are poor. And God is compassionate and merciful, for God is among the poor.

So in our poverty we extend Gods’s compassion for all who suffer. You don’t have to accomplish great things. Just hold the poor in your heart, and act in compassion. Let this question guide you: Is my life good news to the poor? Does my living proclaim freedom to people who are bound up? Do I help people see, do I shed light in someone’s darkness? Do my thoughts and actions honor and serve those who are poor and powerless, abused or exploited, rejected or forgotten? Pray that by God’s grace in you, the way that you think, pray and act may give others hope and freedom.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

_______________________________
Copyright © 2010
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
unfoldinglight(at)hotmail.com

I am a man

In the Sanitation Workers’ Strike of 1968 in Memphis, the African American demonstrators carried placards that read simply, “I am a man.” It seems obvious— but it was news to the city: that they were human beings worthy of respect. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream that we celebrate today is the heart of both social justice and contemplative presence: the commitment to see others as people rather than as symbols or roles or projections of our own feelings.

Today you will encounter people who may be far away, or very different from you, your political opposite, or someone with a history of annoying or offending you. You will be temped to judge, categorize, or dehumanize them. Resist the temptation. Stay present. See them. Allow them to be real, whole people. Beneath their strangeness, politics, or annoying behavior, there is a heart with hurts and hopes, equal to yours and close to you. You are one in the Beloved. Love them. Even if they are your enemy, love them. More than all the political and economic reform in the world, seeing people as people and loving your enemies is the one thing that will actually change everything.

_______________________________

Copyright (c) 2010
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
unfoldinglight(at)hotmail.com

Outsiders

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

Jesus said, “There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way. — Luke 4. 27-30

When Jesus preached his message of the universal inclusiveness of God’s love—that God would heal a pagan foreigner—those who wanted “insiders” and “outsiders” were threatened. So those who moments before had approved of Jesus as one of their own quickly made him into an outsider.

We all need to feel that we Belong and that the Universe approves of us. And it’s natural (original, actually: original sin) to believe that there’s a reason for that, not just God’s grace. It’s hard not to suppose there’s something about us that makes us more worthy than others. Of course someone who seems less worthy messes up our system and threatens our security. So we compare. We don’t just judge and oppose those who threaten our sense of belonging and approval, we also want to get them out of our way: to eliminate them. Slamming the door on someone, cutting off a relationship, executing someone, genocide—they all come from the same spirit.

We all have a different set of people that we want to drive out of town: gays or gay-bashers, terrorists or corrupt CEOs, the people who annoy or offend us. But the impulse is the same. As we resist evil and injustice the real challenge is to stay in relationship with the people we want to eliminate. To bless those who curse us, and pray for those who abuse us. This doesn’t mean staying in an abusive relationship. But it does mean staying in the human family, and letting others, even the demon-possessed, stay here, too. There is always Christ in the ones we want to reject. And he always slips through the midst of us and goes on his way.

As Jesus points out, it’s the outsiders God blesses first.

Deep Blessings, Pastor Steve

_______________________________ Copyright (c) 2010 Steve Garnaas-Holmes unfoldinglight(at)hotmail.com