You don't have to believe in angels
to trust you live accompanied,
a creature in a meadow of creatures
linked body and soul,
as the planet of you
orbits in a field of gravities,
loves unseen
that lean and draw,
turn and pull
and gleam,
that know you,
walking with you even on this street,
prophets, neighbors, seers,
your ancestors, amazed and confident,
your other selves,
silently conferring,
even, yes, here along side you
in trust and wonder
your children's children,
and indeed, breathing with you,
something, or since God is not a thing,
someone of God.

Better not to concoct exotic beings
than to imagine
the Holy
into bits
of loneliness.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

 July 9, 2019

Good Samaritan

         But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus,
         “And who is my neighbor?”

                  —Luke 10.29
People say you should be a good Samaritan.
You can't.
Samaritans were despised outsiders.
Good or not,
you have too much privilege to be a Samaritan.
That's for the queers, the immigrants,
the trans, the blacks, the homeless.

You can be good,
you can be generous to strangers,
even to your enemy.
But you are not the hero of this story.
You can't be.

You're the one in the ditch.
Your neighbor is the other one.
You call them rapists and they pick your fruit.
You call them shiftless and dangerous
and they build your economy.
You abhor them and they bless you.

Stop making it about you.
Confess your dependence.
Receive your neighbor's grace.
Be humbly grateful.
Let yourselves be neighbors.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

July 8, 2019


         I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.
         Cure the sick, and say to them,
         “The Realm of God has come near to you.”

                  —Luke 10.3, 9

Ours is not to triumph, but to love.
It will confuse us mightily, and defeat us,
If we think we are to have power or influence,
if we expect to have a rightful place,
if we look to be given the keys to the city.
It will disorient us if we forget the sacrifice asked of us,
if we think opposition and persecution are for others.

We are to bear witness to the One who has power,
and to display that power in healing, not in dominance.
Lambs will always live differently from wolves.
We will always be outside the norm,
outside the halls of power.
We will be inside the Realm of God,
which bears upon the world to transform it,
which the world will resist.
Our perseverance in grace will be our victory.

We are sent out: not to convince but to mend.
The grace we bear will always make us odd.
We will know failure and disappointment,
but the Realm we proclaim is at work in us,
healing, transforming, making new and glorious.
The Commonwealth of God has already come near.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

July 5, 2019

God and country

You who despair that Nation has outlawed God,
has consumed Justice and spit out the bones,
take heart.
Love is eternal, and outlives Empire.
Spirit lives among the Little Ones
and power waits there, breathing.
If you become one of them
(surrendering much) you will know that power.

The Emperor struts and slays and displays
because he is desperate to believe his own lie.
The Powers that move in the shadows
wearing costumes of light
are certain of their powers. They are wrong.

The power of hope is greater than greed.
Compassion overcomes fear.
Our unity can't be abolished.

The divine slave woman strains in childbirth,
the pain is deep, the labor hard,
and we attend, not as strategy,
but to be alive.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

   —July 4, 2019


         The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
         patience, kindness, generosity,
         faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
         There is no law against such things.

                  —Galatians 5.22-23

You can't give yourself joy or peace.
They are fruits of something else.
What you can do is do things
that move the Spirit in you
that bear the fruit of love and generosity.

Whatever you have to do today,
do something that gives you joy.
Let the Spirit do the rest.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

 June 27, 2019

Taken up

         As they continued walking and talking,
         a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them,
         and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven.

                  —2 Kings 2.11


Pastors leave flocks,
sad or glad to go,
or both, and move on.
Kids graduate, chariots of fire
and whirlwinds separate them,
mixing feelings.
Mantles are passed.

Refugees stream over borders
with little knapsacks
of songs and trauma.
Hearts are transplanted.

Generations branch and root.
The world's eyes get hooked on loss
but the pilgrim's heart is confident
in the grace of the mystery
in which everything
is taken up.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

June 26, 2019

Homeless heart

         Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests;
         but the Human One has nowhere to lay their head.

                  —Luke 9.58

Jesus has made his decisive move, to go to Jerusalem—
love confronting power, God confronting the Emperor.
He is the protestor. He is the sovereign. He is the outcast.

For his solidarity with the victims he is victimized.
His disciples want to turn his enemies into victims.
Do you see how hard it is to fight this demon?

The New Human, the Messiah, the Fulfillment of Humanity,
is homeless. A refugee. Child in a concentration camp.
Whose side are we on? Whose side? Whose side?

O Love, O homeless heart,
may mine be yours
till you are not.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

   June 25, 2019

A whisper

         Now there was a great wind...
         but God was not in the wind;
         and after the wind an earthquake,
         but God was not in the earthquake;
         and after the earthquake a fire,
         but God was not in the fire;
         and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.
                  —1 Kings 19.11-12

In roar of rush and tumble
whitewater-frantic traffic,
tangled in there,
a whisper;
in life bent wrong,
in rusty knife-edged days
cutting deep and rough,
a murmur;
in empty, looted places,
long hope-starved roads,
not separate from them,
in wrecks and ruins and regrets
a sigh,

not much, I know,
since even my mildest voice
shatters planets, flattens suns,
but in temple-deep silence
at the root of your thickest pain
enough to be distinct
from noise or nothing,
neither shouting nor a closed eye:
a wordless syllable, slight, and yet
enough to have created light,
enough to let you know
I'm trying to let you know
I'm here.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
   —June 24, 2019


On my little island this is the longest day.
Perhaps on yours it is the shortest.
The same day means different things
depending on which island you're on.

Recently I lost something, and yet, I gained.
As I age some things work more poorly; some improve.
Everything has light in it, and dark.
It's more full in our eyes when we see both light and shadow.

There is always the thing, and our judgment of the thing.
There is my experience of it, and yours.
Neither is right, nor wrong.
Wisdom is knowing both.

God help us see without erasing.
Help us discern without judging.
Help us imagine the other side.
Help us stand, and allow.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

   —June 21, 2019


         Now there was a great wind...
         but God was not in the wind;
         and after the wind an earthquake,
         but God was not in the earthquake;
         and after the earthquake a fire,
         but God was not in the fire;
         and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.

                  —1 Kings 19.11-12

Juvenile hearts, candy-sated, antennae bruised
by brutal onslaught, have to dial way up to hear,
spoiled by flash and sparkle, useless here.
Here light is too loud, even shadows can shout,
deep places, caves, hearts, canyons, stay empty
to receive. Stones are best, they listen slowly,
no cross talk, thoughtless, simple. Neat.
Of seasoned heart, you tune yourself
to silence, the vastness inlaid in the moment,
the infinite tiny here in this deep sliver
of silence. Here is ocean bottom, farthest heaven,
deepest prayer, free of walls of tongues,
of comprehending noise, of knowing's lie.
Here the Word escapes the words, enlarges
and becomes beyond, within, the listener
and the silence one. Echoes vanish, waves
defining distance null, the Lover now
so fully present here, and deep,
that nothing need be said.
Being looked at.
Being held.

Tarry, and attend.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

   June 20, 2019


(In observance of Juneteenth, marking the end of legal slavery in the US, June 19th, 1865)

         Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?”
         He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him.
         They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss.
         Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding;
         and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these.
         So he gave them permission.
         Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine,
         and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

                  —Luke 8.30-33

The demon is “Legion,” a division of the Roman army,
tool of domination, demon of oppression possessing us.
The system's plague infects the individual.
Our demon is white supremacy, the plague of whiteness.
It chains people, excludes them, wounds them.
It's not our fault. It's no one thing, but a Legion.
When racism gets called out we're frightened.
We who profit from it object. It's the voice of the demons.

Jesus sends the demons into a large herd of swine,
—kept, surely, to supply the Roman army—
sends them hurtling down, down, down into the sea,
the cosmic abyss, the darkness and void,
the waters where the Spirit of God broods,
where only the voice of God calls forth light.
He subjects the instruments of Empire,
the tools of subjugation, to God's new creation.
This is Jesus' work: to exorcize demonic systems,
to subject dominance to the creating grace of God.
Every black body freed is a victory of God.

But we are still possessed by Legion.
We're not free of the demon yet.
At the edge of our town a tormented voice cries out.
We stagger reluctantly toward Jesus.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
   —June 19, 2019

Frightful miracle

         People came out to see what had happened,
         and they found the man from whom the demons had gone
         sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind.
         And they were afraid.

                  —Luke 8.35
From madness and anguish, self-harm and shame,
from rejection and exile to life among the dead,
from a legion of demons not of his own choosing,
Jesus restores a beloved.
And you? In the graveyard outside your village,
unwhole and frightful, poorly chained,
a wordless voice cries out. Listen... Draw near...

The people are afraid.
Of what? Change? Damage to their profit?
A threat to their settled way of thinking?
The subjection of their values to God's?
Proximity to such uncontained, uncontrollable power?
The thin, porous boundary between sanity and insanity?—
the possibility that if the man is now like them,
they could be like him?
Yes, at least.
Maybe our fear itself is the demon, the chains, the exile.
When the grace of God tears apart your awful world
and wrenches it into health, what frightens you?
If Jesus were to heal your enemy what would you fear?
If Jesus were to expose your demons
and fling them into the primordial abyss
what would you be afraid of?
You are already afraid. Let the Healer come close,
and name the demon, and reach out a hand...

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
   —June 18, 2019

Deepen my yearning


Recently some stuff of ours got destroyed.
I'm discovering the innards of grief..
We were planning on giving the stuff away,
so it's not the stuff I mourn, though it was valuable.
It's what I'm discovering I need to let go of.
Attachment to what could have been let it go.
Blame of those who destroyed it let it go.
Shock at discovering a dark side of someone I trusted let it go.
Anger at the powerlessness of badly wanting something back
I can't get back.
Promising myself to stop rehearsing outrage... but I do.
Dashed wasted... feeling violated...let it all go.
How many ways desire clings,
how many little pieces there are to letting go.


As I wrestle with this small angel
I'm mindful of those who have lost more than things:
houses crushed in storms, loved ones dead, war's terror,
villages destroyed, horrors fled, never to return,
black bodies threatened, lives trafficked, children enslaved,
queer souls on the front porch of hell.
It's not that I should stop caring about our stuff,
but let it be a door to care for greater things.

So I pray: God, enlarge my grief.
Don't remove my petty objection;
embed it in your yearning for justice.
Let me mourn more greatly. Change my desires.
Deepen my yearning into empathy and generosity and hope
and the willingness to lose that is love.


Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

June 17, 2019

Sixty-six rings

Time does not pass; the present
holds steady, and we pass through it.
We do not spend our days; we accrue them.
Our lives are not linear, like a string,
but cumulative, like rings of a tree.

All the memories,
the choices and the unchosen,
feasts and wounds, dry years and wet,
are the rings that make up the tree.

The little boy alone on the hillside is still in there,
the man weeping on the floor, the man bowing,
the eve of one day and the day after,
all I have received and given,

all of it is God growing in me,
none of it would I cut away,
each gift and loss, each success and failure
another ring

as today I give thanks and count one more
that firms me and forms me as I stand
in this moment
and hold new leaves up to the sun.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

―June 14, 2019


God, you who listen 
so completely and so well,
help me listen today,
listen slowly and openly. 
Help me hear your voice in the silence, 
hear the hear the whisper of grace unfolding,                     
hear your Spirit moving in its dance                       
that does not disturb its deep silence.

Beneath the roar and chatter may I hear you. 
May I speak in a way that does not disturb my hearing.
Speak, Holy One, for your servant is listening. 

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

— June 13, 2019

The rest of what he didn't say

What more did Jesus say
than what we have recorded?
Surely in months of speaking
there were more parables, sayings, teachings?
What more did he say?

Maybe nothing.
Maybe the truth was pure enough,
and his faith,
that he honored it
with pages and pages
of perfect silence.

The Gospels are gracious
to give us no more words,
no explanations
as if multiple words could do
for the singular Word:
only the perfect silence
in which he still sits
with us.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

   —June 11, 2019


The sound of a single chickadee.
The silence afterwards.
The taste of salt.
The incompleteness of my love
for one in whom is my twisted angel,
wrestling me toward gentleness.
Looking at a meadow
longing for my body
to become the grass.
Prayers that nearly form
then move on like clouds.

The clouds.

Everything feeds the fire
of my hunger for you.

I warm myself
by the flames.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

   —June 10, 2019

Thirty-nine years

We make our way along this way together,
our side-by-sideness a being,
so much of us in the other,
two voices in one harmony,
the going itself our path,
two ways twining, threaded in and out
of hopes and angers,
the bruise and heal become a song,
forgiveness a gravity, pains shared,
dreams carried in another's inner pocket,
selves emerging in the mirror of the other,
giving mutual birth.
The sound of a river.
Feeling was youth's energy,
the desert's spring flash flood;
now deeper currents sing.
Miraculous, though not uncommon,
how marvelous a tapestry is woven of two threads.
Approaching only now the middle age
of love, so much to learn,
looking back in gratitude fades
in the brightness of what may come.
Singing softly, sharing a smile, we walk on.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

   —June 7, 2019

Nothing can separate

         Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers,
         nor things present, nor things to come,
         nor powers, nor height, nor depth,
         nor anything else in all creation,
         will be able to separate us
         from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

                  —Romans 8.38-39

Nothing can separate you from the love of God.
         Not your sin, not your most horrible awfulness.
         Not your disbelief, or lack of faith.

Nothing can separate you from the love of God.
         Not your suffering, even if it feels deserved, which it is not.
         Not your jail cell, your cancer, your failure.

Nothing can separate you from the love of God.
         Not your anger at God when things stink.
         Not your questioning if God even exists at all.

Nothing can separate you from the love of God.
          Not your turning away when that love
          feels too hot, too confining, too challenging.

Nothing can separate you from the love of God.
         Not when you feel absolutely nothing of God,
         for God is not your feelings,
         which are feeble and fickle.

Nothing can separate you from the love of God.
         Not disaster, which is not God,
         or triumph, which is also not God.

Nothing can separate you from the love of God.
         You are in it like the air, like gravity.
         It is in you, for it is what you are made of.
         It's for you. On purpose. With delight.
Nothing can separate you from the love of God.
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

   —June 6, 2019