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


Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

I ran in a 5K race yesterday, a cancer center fundraiser. It was a “race,” but except for the first two or three runners, we weren’t competing against each other. If anyone was competing at all, it was against the clock, against our own inertia, our own inner limits. In fact everybody was supporting each other, rooting for fellow racers, cheering them on, encouraging them. We were all sharing in giving ourselves to something greater than ourselves.

Your prayer life is not just “between you and God.” You are not alone; unseen millions pray alongside you and for you, and encourage you in their prayers. Even hermits belong to communities who pray for them, and they for their communities and for the world. Buddhist pilgrims on their way to Lhasa pray not only for themselves but for all living things. We are not all out jogging alone on our own private paths. We are part of a race, a human race, and all of us are running with joy and purpose toward God. We do not live out our spirituality in private, but in our daily relationships, in service and justice and creativity, among others who believe in us and bless us though we do not know them.

Today as you run your race, as you sit in prayer or go about your work or enjoy Creation, trust in the communion of saints, the unseen beloved, on earth and in heaven, who are praying for you, cheering you on, running with you with joy and determination. Give thanks, and keep your head up.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Judgment day

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
You’ve heard about the nut that’s predicting Judgment Day this Saturday. (He seems pretty smug that he’s going to Pass.) Well, he’s right. He’s delusional and his biblical scholarship is whacked. “About that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mt. 24.36). But he’s right. This Saturday, May 21, is Judgment Day.

In fact every day is. God’s judgment is not the Finals in which God eventually reveals the Judge’s Scores that have been kept secret up until then. God’s judgment is simply God’s truth about us. That truth includes who we really are, and the nature of what we’ve done. It isn’t some worldly grading of good versus bad culminating in a thumbs-up-or-down, heaven-or-hell Elimination Round. Because God’s truth about us is not separate from God’s love for us. We are not separate from God. So God’s judgment is that we are beloved, forgiven and precious. Screwed up, to be sure, but God’s anyway, and not just begrudgingly. God doesn’t just tolerate us. God actually loves us. And God’s love for us outweighs every other characteristic about is, including our sinfulness.

Technically, Judgment day isn’t this Saturday; it was Good Friday. That was the day God issued God’s Judgment: You are sinful, and saved. Case dismissed. So we don’t have to wait until Some Day to stand before God: we live before God every moment, and every moment God reveals the truth about us: “Oh, you are sinful, all right. You are worse than you think. But you are mine, and I love you.”

Jesus said, “I do not judge anyone who hears my words and does not keep them, for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.” (Jn. 12.47). He said, “This is judgment, that light has come into the world” (Jn. 3.19). And he also said, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever” (Jn. 14.16). He talks about this “Advocate” in John 14, 15 and 16. The word in Greek, paraklete, means a defense attorney. God is not our judge; God is our defense attorney! It is the world that judges, that pretends to be able to separate out our good from our bad, and add it all up to one final Score. But the Spirit is our defense attorney, our advocate, the one who knows who we really are. God knows the various unseen forces that twist and distort us to that we are so susceptible to evil, so that we do evil when we think we’re doing good, so that we can’t see. And God sees the selfishness even in our piety. But God does not judge that by sorting it all out and labeling it. God judges us by subjecting us to mercy, loving us, and opening to us the possibility of being re-created.

Yep, Saturday is Judgment Day. But I’m not worried: so is Sunday.
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

In my Father’s house

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
         —John 14.2

We usually think Jesus is talking about the afterlife here. But Jesus is always much more interested in how to live than how to be dead. If “I shall dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life” (not my death), then maybe “my Father’s house” is in this life, not just the next. Maybe Jesus is promising that God has prepared a place for you in this world. Despite all your troubles, despite the times when you feel that you don’t belong or that you’re not safe, you are in the right place. God wants you here.

Jesus goes before you into your life and all of its challenges and prepares a place. You belong here; you are part of God’s family. In your troubles and suffering, though you feel like you’re all alone and there’s no rest, Jesus has gone before you in suffering, and accompanies you there, and makes room for you there. As you speak prophetically and work for reconciliation and justice, the world resists, and wants you to feel like an outsider. But you are where God wants you. The world may tell you there is no place for you. But you have your own room here. You are in God’s embracing presence. You don’t live in a dangerous, lonely world. You’re not a stranger in a strange land. You live in God’s own house. You are wanted here. You have your very own room.

Be at home here. Take courage. Live in trust that God gives you a home in this life. Then entering the life to come will not merely be an escape, but even more profoundly a welcome homecoming.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Red bricks

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
Along Main and Pleasant and Spring,
shoulder to shoulder through town
stand all these red brick buildings.
Brick by brick, a city is made.
Each brick was laid by hand,
with a trowel and a string, and an eye
for straight lines and plumb edges.
All of the walls, the straight ones,
the worn, painted ones,
the old and crumbling, leaning ones
are pages of an old book.
The arched windows,
the palladian windows,
the columns and corbels,
pediments and pilasters set in
at the rousing turn of the last century
by men in overalls and cardigans,
intent on creating a beautiful wall
and a fine city, are not like modern windows.
They say something.

Everything in this world,
every tangle of undergrowth,
every rumpled cloud,
every troubled tribe,
every sorry excuse for a soul
was laid by hand.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

The blessing of the path

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

May all your difficulties give you wisdom.
         May all your sorrows grant you grace.

When you are lost and on the wrong path,
         may flowers bloom at every step.

When the way is ugly and rough,
         may it lead you to the perfect place.

When you have gone the wrong way,
         may delightful strangers go with you.

When the path to your goal is narrow
         and the way is easy to lose,
may all the places you end up
         be just as interesting.

When there is no road,
         let your feet speak to you:
that God is the going,
         and you stumble from blessing to blessing.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Shuck off your burlap

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

In the resurrection—that shedding
of our little crust of death—
Judas is lighthearted,
and Pilate contemplates eternal truths
and writes ecstatic hymns.
They always had it in them—
and finally they are free.

Listen: in this evil ugly world,
bugged as it is by the illusions of depravity,
there is only beauty and holiness.
Among all the mad and mangled people of earth
there are only saints and royalty.

In your ordinary life,
with its handbag of pain
and your few little coins of success,
an entire star burns with pure glory,
a field of wildflowers exults.
This is not good luck, or physics gone wild.
It’s God.

What can you do, you who are made of delight,
but fall defenselessly in love with everybody,
and give yourself away
until you are pure song?
What can you do but
shuck off your burlap clothing,
catch fire
and dance?

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Evil thoughts

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

The spirit of Osama bin Laden is alive and well, among his followers who wish destruction and shout and wave guns and banners at us, and among his enemies, who wish destruction and shout and wave guns and flags at them. When in a fit of humanness we wish ill of terrorists, we become them. When we rejoice in their death, we join them in dividing the world. We project our fear and anger onto others. We think evil thoughts.

Fear is the root of all evil. More fear, even the fear of evil, even fear disguised as anger at evil, will not change things. According to scripture, it is only love that casts out fear.

The trouble with evil thoughts is not that they are bad for us, but that we are so mean to them. Like evil people, we judge them and despise them (that is, we fear them) and try to get rid of them. We think evil of them! But we are not responsible for the thoughts that leap into our minds. Nor do we have to identify with them and feed them. Just let them come and go. We can lovingly respect even our evil thoughts, as members of the heavenly host of our imaginations. In fact, our evil thoughts balance out our pious thoughts and maintain the ecosystem of our psyches. Evil thoughts are the flies and maggots of the mind. They’re disgusting, but they keep it clean.

Rather than being ashamed of our evil thoughts and trying to suppress them (which is a way of feeding them, focusing on them and remaining attached to them) we can accept them, confess them, surrender them to God, let go and move on. It’s not thinking evil, but letting go of evil, that sets us apart from terrorists.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Were not our hearts burning within us?

“Were not our hearts burning within us
while he was talking to us on the road?”
        —Luke 24.32


A song you didn’t hear,
ringing in your ears.

Anticipation of a kiss, its
memory, its warmth already fading.

Wakefulness that’s not your own.
A silent accompaniment.

A resonance vibrating in your chest
that makes you look around.

An answer, unprovoked,
a tendril reaching as if for light.

Something about “kingdom
among you,” ungrasped, firm.

An echo following the silence,
always just out of sight.

A sure, embracing presence
beyond the door, the sky, within.

The collapse of a stranger’s strangeness,
a tenderness, an urge to bow.

This impossible reverence rising in you,
belovedness passing through you like blood

as if Someone is here.


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