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Today

Dearly Beloved, Grace and peace to you.          We must work the works of the One who sent me                   while it is day;          night is coming when no one can work.          As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.                            —John 9.4-5

This is your day, your life. Night will come, when you are no more. But today you are God's light in the world. This is the time to shine, to love, to forgive and ask forgiveness, to speak for justice, to give yourself to the mending of the world. This day.

The coming of night need not frighten you. But let it keep you awake while it is day.

 

Deep blessings, Pastor Steve

__________________ Steve Garnaas-Holmes Unfolding Light www.unfoldinglight.net

To receive Unfolding Light as a daily e-mail, write to me at unfoldinglight(at) gmail.com

You are light

Dearly Beloved, Grace and peace to you.

         Once you were darkness,                   but now in Christ you are light.          Live as children of light—                   for the light shines                   in all that is good and right and true.                            —Ephesians 5.8-9

You don't need to seek the light. You are light, light of God's Word, light of Gods love, shining in your being.

Meditate on this light, glowing from within. Trust this light, given, not made.

Don't worry to shine the light; it already shines. Simply be mindful. Open the shutters of your heart, and let the divine light radiate.

You are light.

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Deep blessings, Pastor Steve

__________________ Steve Garnaas-Holmes Unfolding Light www.unfoldinglight.net

To receive Unfolding Light as a daily e-mail, write to me at unfoldinglight(at) gmail.com

So we may become blind

Dearly Beloved, Grace and peace to you.

         “I came into this world for judgment          so that those who do not see may see,          and those who do see may become blind.”                            —John 9.39

The ninth chapter of John tells a story hilarious with irony about Jesus healing a blind man while all those about him can't see the truth. They are not ready to see the man healed, because it contradicts what they believe. For them truly believing is seeing. They don't believe; so they are blind to the miracle in their midst.

How like us. We have things figured out. We have people pigeonholed. We have our ideas about God. We have our opinions. And of course—lucky for us—we're right. Prejudices, judgments, beliefs: delusions, all. They keep us from really seeing.

Sometimes I know the woods so well I don't have to look. I don't see them. Sometimes we see people the way we've been conditioned to see them, and in our eyes they can't change. It is not God who is absent. It is we who are blind.

Jesus told us parables to confuse us, so we would start over. “If your eyes causes you to sin, pluck it out.” When what you've seen keeps you from seeing anew, blind yourself.

Blind to our judgments, unknowing, perhaps we will really see for the first time.

Deep blessings, Pastor Steve

__________________ Steve Garnaas-Holmes Unfolding Light www.unfoldinglight.net

To receive Unfolding Light as a daily e-mail, write to me at unfoldinglight(at) gmail.com

Hope

Dearly Beloved, Grace and peace to you.

          Today, the first day of spring, is a door still closed. Woods still in the ice trap, pine saplings still bent, their tops bound to the icy snow. My fingers ache from my walk. They feel no different from deepest January, tut the sun is moving, rising to the right of the trunk where it rose yesterday. Earth is leaning. I can hear it. New birds sing. I hope in spring, not because I wish but because I know. I trust what's beyond the door, even before it opens. The grace of God, and free forgiveness, and the treasures that lie within, a heaven that comes like breath in my sleep, do not ask proof. Today is the first day of autumn for my friends Down Under. I stand on greening earth. The door is within.

 

Deep blessings, Pastor Steve

__________________ Steve Garnaas-Holmes Unfolding Light www.unfoldinglight.net

To receive Unfolding Light as a daily e-mail, write to me at unfoldinglight(at) gmail.com

Water from the rock

Dearly Beloved, Grace and peace to you.
      “Take in your hand the staff
          with which you struck the Nile, and go.
     I will be standing there in front of you
          on the rock at Horeb.          
     Strike the rock, and water will come out of it,
          so that the people may drink.”

                —Exodus 7.5-6

Moses didn't know what he was doing, hitting a rock with a stick. He trusted the Holy Mystery.

He couldn't see the rock had water in it, the staff had power in it, his own heart held such faith.

And you, who stand before that rock, what spring hides within it? What courage waits in your heart?

What is that staff in your hands?

Woman at the well

         John 4.5-42

In a culture where only men can initiate marriage or divorce she's been thrown away by five husbands, and now is used by one who won't commit to her. In a culture where women draw water in order of social status, she's there for her morning water at noon. She's a pariah. He's a Jew and she's a Samaritan; he's a rabbi and she's a woman. She has no reason to expect an exchange at all, let alone respect, and certainly not an engaging theological discussion.

But he sees her—her, not people's judgment of her. He sees her as she is, and accepts her without judgment: she is not immoral; she has been used. He sees her wound. And he sees the truth in her. He sees her not as someone flawed, but someone gifted.

He talks theology with her, longer than with anybody else in the Gospels.

Then she leaves her water jug, not out of forgetfulness but because she knows she's coming back. She goes into the village, and the former outcast becomes the first Christian evangelist. She brings people to Jesus.

Something happened in her that changed her. What was it?

Imagine this: Jesus comes to you in the dull midday heat of your ordinary life. You are bound by judgments of how good you are. And he sees through that. Sees you. You. Your soul. He sees your wounds, sees your giftedness. He sees how your wounds inhibit your gifts... and yet can propel your gifts. And in his knowing he sets you free.

Leave your water jug. What is the news in you to tell? What will you do? How will you tell it?

__________________ Steve Garnaas-Holmes Unfolding Light www.unfoldinglight.net

To receive Unfolding Light as a daily e-mail, write to me at unfoldinglight(at) gmail.com

Bent over

Dearly Beloved, Grace and peace to you.

          Yesterday's blizzard brought heavy, sticky snow that weighed down the trees in the woods, bent them double, and froze their upper branches to the ground. They covered the path. I had to free them to pass: to pull the tops from the icy sow, release the needles from heavy globs and straighten the tree back up, pressing against the snow's grip, the set shape, the bank of ice around the tree's ankles. My morning walk took twice as long as usual.

I am bent over, “weary and carrying heavy burdens.” I am bowed down by wounds and habits, held in place by frozen hurts. It diminishes me, and gets in other people's way.

Christ comes and straightens me. Pulls me out of what clings, releases what weighs me down, loosens what is stiff and crooked, opens me up from being bent in on myself. I can stand tall, face the sun, bear fruit.

I am the bent over woman. “When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God” (Lk. 13.13).

When something presses on me, challenges my stance, perhaps it not my enemy, but the hands of Christ, come to straighten me up and set me free.

Deep blessings, Pastor Steve

__________________ Steve Garnaas-Holmes Unfolding Light www.unfoldinglight.net

To receive Unfolding Light as a daily e-mail, write to me at unfoldinglight(at) gmail.com

Spring of life

         The water that I will give
         will become in you a spring of water
         gushing up to eternal life.

                           —John 4.14

O Love, thou spring of life,
well up in me.
Gush up from deep within,
receiving, glad,
and overflowing,
giving life,
the breath of God
that mortal life nor heart cannot contain,
life rooted deep beneath the earth,
above the stars.
Run deep,
pure water of your grace,
pure flow of living energy,
that I may flow with love each day,
each breath.
O Love, thou spring of life, well up in me.
 

Fasting

          Those who drink of the water that I will give them
          will never be thirsty.

                           —John 4.14

Fasting is a traditional spiritual discipline, especially during Lent. It's not about self-punishment, but a host of other things. Fasting is a form of prayer, a way to pay attention to God. There are many forms of abstinence—people give up lots of stuff for Lent (and for medical reasons some people shouldn't fast from food). But there is something powerful, something visceral, about fasting from food, something that touches our soul's embodiment.

You might fast for a few hours, most of a day or longer. If you do, here are some things I experience when I fast. Ponder them and let them lead you deeper into prayer.

Hunger: I am led to inquire of myself what I most deeply want. I discover my hunger for God.

Obedience: I confront the demands of my ego and set them aside, and in humility fast simply because God asks me to, and for no other reason.

Discipline: I practice conscious, intentional choice making, and allow God to mange my will.

Detachment: I let go of desire and the need to fulfill it, and turn my desires over to God.

Weakness: I experience the limits of my powers, my dependence on God, and willingness to turn to God alone.

Slowing : I am not able to be so active. Fasting from food leads to fasting from hurrying. I am not able to be so driven, so bent on justifying myself. I have to adopt a more sabbath-like pace.

Simplicity: I practice contentment. I practice accepting what is instead of wishing it were otherwise.

Suffering: I find I can experience discomfort and still place my attention on God.

Compassion: As Jesus suggests in Mt. 6.16-18 I don't usually let people know I am fasting. I bear it silently. I know anyone I meet may be enduring secret burdens and struggles, and I can be more sensitive and compassionate toward all people.

Justice: I am more aware of the poor and hungry, and I am more able to be in solidarity with them in prayer and action.

Transformation: I let God change my hunger for food into a hunger to let God's love flow through me.

Grace: I am more mindful of receiving what I can't control, and trusting grace.

Delight: I’m more aware of food, the gift of taste, the delight of eating. I get over taking things for granted.

May God bless your fasting; God bless your prayer.

 

Black frame

The black frame
holds the portrait treasures it

sets it off from the wall's infinity
like silence after and before

not to mock or force a lack
but issue forth confer a given name

echo its colors answer back
its lines and shapes in rhyme

and draw your eye to beauty
not of an image but of the one you know

not ink or paint but love
given not made untakable

not cut off but heightened
by the loving embrace of

the black frame.

Breathe

        Unless you are born anew you cannot see the Realm of God.
         That which is born of spirit is spirit.

                  — John 3.3, 6

You cannot get life, earn it,
keep it, store it up like money.
It is breath, Spirit.

You receive it.
Then you release it,
and become open to receive again.

You cannot hold it.
You must receive it
as God gives it to you.

Let go of your life,
accomplishments and mistakes,
all you deserve — good and bad —

and instead receive it anew from God
in this moment,
a single breath.

Let your repentance
be simply to breathe,
to receive and let go.

All the things you have to do
and all the things you want to do
disappear into the breath.

It is a death and resurrection.
Let yourself disappear into the breath,
the spirit, and be born again.

Go slow enough to live in the breath,
to surrender the life you build and hoard,
and to live the life God gives you.

Falling and rising, your breath
is the gift of life from God,
made new in every moment.

Breathe gently.
Breathe deeply.
Breathe life.

 

Born again prayer

         No one can see the Realm of God
         without being born again from above.

                           —John 3.3

God, birth me anew.
Let me start again.
I surrender everything to you:
my life, my aims, my will.
Start me over, fresh,
without guilt or shame or claims.
Let my life spring from you
and you alone,
you the divine flame
and me your light,
issuing from you new each moment.
I receive this glorious life you give me,
new and awkward and still learning.
Let me be vulnerable, a baby in your arms,
utterly dependent, helpless but for you.
Water of my flesh and spirit of my God,
birth me into this good world now
               and now
                                    and now...

 

Let her

Come to her.
Let her give you
the renewal of her body
as only she can,
point you where you're headed
and let go.

Let her hold you in her lap,
all your scrapes and bruises,
your trinkets in your hands.

Let her do what you can't,
let her grow you within herself

and with the pain of labor,
the dark, impossible passage,
birth you again
and give you to this bight, new world.

 

How do you know

How do you know, they ask us,
so certain of their doubt.

We don't. We are simply beckoned.
We are open, which is our knowing,
in wonder more than certainty,
a way of not knowing
with deep faith.
We lean toward a darkness
shining with a mysterious presence.

We merely know
with a knowing greater than our minds
that there is more.
We don't have a name for that More,
just a longing, which is our knowing.
We know our food by our hunger,
our wonder a way forward.

A bond beyond our knowing
grows in us, a belonging
without a bottom, without end.
The darkness answers our question
with a question,
and we listen.
The Mystery beckons,
and we draw near.

 

Place

Dearly Beloved, Grace and peace to you.           The devil took him to a very high mountain           and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor;           and he said to him, “All these I will give you,           if you will fall down and worship me.”           Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written,           ‘Worship Yahweh your God, and serve God alone.’”                            —Matthew 4.8-10

I confess: I seek a place in a world that is not Thee. I seek belonging in a realm of dislocation, this world's imaginary kingdoms. I read the world's opinion and believe it; I covet the esteem of ignorance, the delusion of my loyal subjects upon the throne of elsewhere.

Teach me to be at home in you, to rest my hand on a desert rock until I see they are the same. To float in the sea until I know myself to be in you. To walk among men and women and know that they and I and you are one.

I abdicate my throne for you, and here, bereft, belong.           Then the devil left him,           and suddenly angels came           and waited on him.

__________________ Steve Garnaas-Holmes Unfolding Light www.unfoldinglight.net

To receive Unfolding Light as a daily e-mail, write to me at unfoldinglight(at) gmail.com

Stone

Dearly Beloved, Grace and peace to you.          Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness          to be tempted by the devil.          He fasted forty days and forty nights,          and afterwards he was famished.          The tempter came and said to him,          “If you are the Son of God, command these stones          to become loaves of bread.”          But he answered, “It is written,          ‘One does not live by bread alone,          but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”                            —Matthew 4. 1-4

God, I confess I want to turn these stones to bread. I want to turn this prayer into piety, this day, this life, into something else. I want the power to make something what it is not.

I will let the stone be a stone and this moment be what it is, and hunger hunger. I let go of the illusion of power to unmake what is into what I wish.

Without judgment or willfulness I will let each stone be its stone, and most: myself what I am, for only thus, not as I wish or fear, but truly, do I know you as you are, loving beyond my desire or imagination.

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__________________ Steve Garnaas-Holmes Unfolding Light www.unfoldinglight.net

To receive Unfolding Light as a daily e-mail, write to me at unfoldinglight(at) gmail.com

Dust

Dearly Beloved, Grace and peace to you.

         Then the devil took him to the holy city          and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him,          “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down;          for it is written, ‘God will command the angels concerning you,’          and ‘On their hands they will bear you up,          so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”          Jesus said to him, “Again it is written,          ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”                            —Matthew 4.5-7

We want to survive. Our ego craves security— that what we think of as our “self” endures, safe and free and whole in itself. Pain and suffering press against that craving; we don't like them. Mortality assaults our security; we fear and fight it. We wish to be able to escape harm (our superheroes can do it). We're afraid the world's treatment of us, our suffering and pleasure, is a measure of our deserving. Wrapped in our ego-cocoon, we equate comfort with security and security with being an enduring self. But we do not endure separate from God. We are just dirt rearranged— except for God's Spirit in us. So rather than try to preserve the dirt we choose to live by the Spirit. Today someone will smear mud on our face and tell us we are dust, and to dust we shall return, no escape. We are forgiven, set free from the lie of “deserving,” free to live by the power of the Spirit alone. Rather then wanting to escape, alone, we return, dust and all, to God, who holds us tenderly and re-creates us each breath, this grace our only security.

Deep blessings, Pastor Steve

__________________ Steve Garnaas-Holmes Unfolding Light www.unfoldinglight.net

To receive Unfolding Light as a daily e-mail, write to me at unfoldinglight(at) gmail.com

Fat Tuesday

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and peace to you.

The butter and eggs, they are good.
The glad songs of praise,
with both “Alleluias” and a bit of honey on our lips,
these are good.
There will come a time for fasting—but, wait.
First, let us praise butter,
how it enriches and enlightens our food,
how it causes us joy and gratitude.
Let us give thanks for the riches of life
and indulge in them honestly
before we turn from them
so that we might remember
that the fault is not theirs,
but only in our craving.
I shall eat pancakes today with deep mindfulness
so that I may say goodbye to them properly,
so that in the next forty days
I might learn attentiveness without them
and afterward return to such riches of life
not with selfish craving
but with reverence.
Let delight be the beginning and end
of my devotion.

__________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Coming

Lovers
embrace at a train station.

All Creation exults
at your coming,

even in winter
blossoms are not ashamed to open.

Every day I rise up laughing,
every moment it’s always like this,

every step an unwrapping,
every breath an arrival.

Even before the train has stopped
you have leaped,

you run toward us,
arms open.

 

 

Ordinary light

Coming down from the holy mountain
we know we have not escaped the world's darkness,
we've found how light is hidden here.

It was no different from the rest of our lives;
we just took the time to remove our sunglasses
and see for a change.

Even ordinary light is miraculous and holy.
Christ lives and shines with infinite love and divine glory
in our passing days of laundry
and crabby co-workers and scrubbing the kitchen table.

Give thanks for momentary glimpses
of the fullness of God’s glory,
but don't stare at the sun.
Know it’s here,
and look for the light where you are.

A little girl waits for the bus,
singing a nonsense song to herself,
and stops, silent, staring at trees.
I swear, she casts shadows.