Won’t we want to live

God put this power to work in Christ
in raising him from the dead
and seating him at God’s right hand
in the heavenly places.

—Ephesians 1.20

If what we glimpse of death
is glory, entrance into God,
and not a loss but coming free,
a shedding of all heaviness,
a yard sale of our mortality,
a birthing from this lovely womb,

then won’t we want to live by dying
every moment, every breath a grave,
a womb, a passing, a death umbilical
and sweet, ascending into paradise,
glorified, not by our hand, but God’s,
becoming light,
our unencumbering a gift,
and sprung from clinging,
tagging every treasure cheap,
pile all our life beside the joyous road
marked “Free,”
and giving all our love away,
and letting go into the light,
into this death so unlike death,
receive each natal breath,
and, new, begin to live?


Getting beyond anxiety

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.
         —Acts 1.6-9

The disciples had already lost Jesus once. He had come back from the dead, but now he was talking about going away again. They were facing life without him. The story of the Ascension is about Jesus’ glory, but it’s also about the disciples’ grief. It’s about change, challenge and loss. It’s about our longing for faith when Jesus feels absent. It’s about the uncertainty and insecurity of facing the unknown. It’s about abandonment and anxiety.

This month I am moving to a new church, as many United Methodist pastors are, and my church, like many, is going to be without me. As we face this loss and change, the church and I are both feeling anxiety. Some people really want to believe in God but don’t experience God, and feel sad about that. There’s a lot of talk about the decline of the church in America. The whole church is anxious. In our own ways we’re all asking, “Jesus, are we going to be OK? Will you restore the kingdom now?”

But Jesus won’t promise that. Instead he shifts our attention away from our individual wants and anxieties (“It is not for you to know”) and focuses us instead on God’s grace in our lives (“You will receive power”) and on our purpose: “You will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth.” He says, “There is a lot you can’t know. But receive the gifts that are given to you, and share them. No matter what happens, embody God’s love.”

Focus on your purpose. Chaos is what is going on outside of you, but within yourself or your community, be the Gospel. Pay attention to grace in your life, and bear witness to that. Trust that there is power in that. You can’t predict or control the future, but you can choose your purpose, and you can stick with it. You can’t determine what happens to you, but you can look for grace in everything, and live by the grace you see.

When our world comes apart, we wonder, “Now what do we do?” The crucified and risen Jesus says, “Embody love, that’s what.” And then we’re not so afraid, no matter what happens.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

June blessing

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
Through all that changes around you,
may love and beauty remain constant,
and your be soul a mountain of life.

As caps are tossed in the air,
may you celebrate your milestones,
and keep learning.

As couples process down the aisle,
may the Beloved who is unseen
kiss you anyway.

May you find belonging in your new place,
the house suit you well
and the movers break only what you didn’t need.

May the Holy One
love being with you
like a trip to the beach.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Ascending Christ

He was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.
While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven,
suddenly two men in white robes stood by them.
They said, “People of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven?”

— Acts 1.9-11

While I was looking up, expecting you there,
the beginnings of despair in the emptiness of the air,

you were beneath, the seed buried in my life,
burrowing mightily up into my light, unseen,

climbing slowly, pushing aside rocks and roots
to reach my daylight, my face, my eyes.

You were the blossom opening from within me,
swelling my limbs, alluring,

the song like a lost miner
making its way out of my lungs,

the unborn child within, changing everything,
the longing for God—Beloved, you were that!

When I tremble it is you, ascending still,
working your way up into me.



Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
For some of you today is a holiday; for others it’s work as usual. In New Hampshire the sudden arrival of summer weather is drawing us outdoors. But folks just a hundred miles north or south of us are in a different place in the progression of spring. And as we come out into the spring warmth, some of you who read this are in the southwestern desert, where the heat is driving you inside. This time of year feels something different to you who are in Seattle, and to you loyal readers in England. Some of you are in Australia where everything is opposite of all this. And for you who are in Brazil near the equator, seasons don’t figure so much at all.
Some of you are celebrating births and graduations, while others are mourning deaths and losses. Many of us are facing moves to new places. Some are going through difficult struggles, living with serious diseases, wrestling with addictions, experiencing depression; others enjoying a gift of freedom, deep joy, or new life.

All the seasons and changes belong to one earth; all are part of one living process, one breathing planet, one beautiful organism. One life. The rains that have inundated Montana and the upper midwest are the floods that will eventually embrace the south. The storms that hammer the continent are born out over the sea. The currents that cool one side of the globe warm the other.

We are all part of one living being. One’s songs of courage are woven with the threads of another’s suffering. Another’s joy flows through our sorrow. When we pray for our own healing, without knowing it we seek the healing of the world. When our hearts go out to others who we think suffer more than we, both are strengthened. A child mourns over her mother in Africa dying of AIDS, and I am blessed. Our struggles and blessings, prayers and thanksgivings are not separate; they are one. We are all one being, one cell, one Life. We are all the prayer of one God, one Love.

In your particular place today, in your weather, on your path, you are not alone. Those who suffer and who rejoice, who pray and who despair, who need life and who offer life, all are with you. All are in you. And we are all in God, whose love is our blessing, our unity and our life. Living or dying, we belong to this Love. This is the day the Lord is creating. Give thanks and rejoice.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light


Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
In the lengthening days of early spring,
among the vanishing snowshadows,
I hear new bird songs, see geese overhead,
and greet the long-awaited return of smells.
Trees light their little green sparklers,
and I walk among them.
Then the great flowering procession begins:
first the gentle, snow-defiant crocuses,
and the hyacinth, low and easy to miss,
then the forsythia, the dogwood, dandelions
and daffodils, followed in proper order
by the tulips and the flowering trees,
crabs and cherries, and the azaleas.
Little purple things, and white ones, dot the yard.
Finally the lilacs bloom, and I walk among them.
The catalpa tree will blossom much later,
and I will stand beside it as well.
Among flowering beings, softly opening,
with billowing wonders, I, too, live,
with my own great unfolding.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Keeping the commandments

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         “If you love me,
         you will keep my commandments.
         And I will ask the Father,
         who will give you another Advocate,
         to be with you forever.”

                  — John 14.15-16

Beloved, I do love you,
and I long to keep your commandment,
to love as you have loved—
but I know my love falters.

I begin to doubt, begin to fear, to despair.

But I sit here in prayer, still.
Your Spirit comes and pours into me,
breathes in me, and sits with me.
I let the fear drain out of me.
I let my thoughts wander off
and I do not follow them.

Even as I wonder
if I can keep your commandment,
you become my Advocate,
the one who believes in me,
the one who loves in me.
You become my heart, my love,
my keeping.

I rest in the mystery
of your dwelling in me.

         “On that day you will know
         that I am in my Mother,
         and you in me,
         and I in you.”

                  — John 14.20


Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light


Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
We pray for the people and communities affected by severe storms and flooding this spring. We hold them in the light of God’s mercy, and in the care of our own hearts. Even when all is devastated, God is still present, still loving, still creating.

As we pray we deepen not only our compassion for those who suffer, but also our connection with them. And we confess our our complicity in their suffering. Recent storms of unusual severity are part of a pattern of global CO2 imbalance and climate change. Of course we do not “cause” the weather, any more than we cause earthquakes or cancer. But we do make choices that contribute to larger patterns. War, terrorism, economic crises, the spread of diseases, cultural and ethnic tensions, the degradation of the earth, and even the weather are all things we think of as being beyond our control, but they are affected by choices we make. Large global patterns are made up of small, individual choices. Every time we tolerate a racial slur or buy chocolate or bottled water or drive instead of walking, we unconsciously contribute our small bit to large patterns.

My goodness. So does this mean that our prayers should be filled with guilt and despair? No, in fact, the opposite. They should be saturated with hope and joy. Because if we have the power to contribute to global misery, we also have the power to contribute to the healing of the world. If we can be even in some small way complicit in injustice, then we can also be complicit in restoration.

In our prayer we become more conscious of the connection between our actions and the lives of others. Our deepened awareness affects our choices. Justice and compassion are no longer abstract concepts; they are the means by which we choose food, use resources, discuss politics and relate with people. Prayer becomes concrete action in our daily lives. And as we become aware of our link with others on this planet, we get closer to our sisters and brothers. This can only be a blessing.

And if we can affect someone far away by changing a light bulb or buying fair trade coffee, then we can do so as well in our prayers. Just as our visible acts have invisible affects, so our invisible prayers have visible affects. Your prayer affects the world.

Whether you mean to or not, you do treat your neighbor as yourself. So devote your life to doing no harm. Pray for those who suffer. Trust that your prayers have great power. Enfold the world in your compassion, and you will contribute to a wholly different kind of global warming.
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

I am the woods

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
Holy One,
I am the woods
         you walk through.

I am the hall
         where your singing resounds.

I am the morning
         you rise in.

I am the body
         in which you breathe,
         you beat, you spark,
         you flow.

My pain
         you dwell in,
my plainness
         you fill,
my not knowing
         you see from within,
In them I seek you
         who are here.

I am the poem,
         you are the truth.

You are the hunger,
         I am the food.


Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

You are the rain

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

You are not an arrow
whose aim is to slip through this life
untouched, without a trace,
until you find the one thing you are looking for.

You are the rain,
condensed of love,
and your life is to fall upon the earth
and drench it with love,
to fling yourself onto the plains and rooftops,
on every leaf and every dog,
running into every crevice and along every cheek,
to let every drop of yourself fall and flow away,
to drench this world with compassion,
to bathe it in mercy, to flood it with blessing,
to pour delight out upon the city,
to soak your love into the fields,
to spend yourself until all is clear
and there is nothing but
yellow glowing where the rain comes from,
and a rainbow,
and on the earth,
pools of light, shimmering
among green growing things.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

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