Evil has only one small power:
to destroy.
It's not really power,
just fear with practice.
Evil can take down towers,
but it can’t raise a single one.
It can frighten but not teach,
it can wound but not lead,
it can destroy but not create.
It can cause sorrow,
but it can't move the world forward.
It can only destroy.
So can, by the way, a germ.
It is no great power.

You need not save the world from evil.
Merely live gently with hope,
create beauty, spread love,
give of yourself even in the face of fear,
and evil with all its small terrors
will be outdone.
Even a massacre is not as great a thing
as a child's drawing.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

September 11, 2019

Lost Coin

         What woman having ten silver coins,
         if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp,
         sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it?

                  —Luke 15.8

The Divine One is searching for her silver coin
         in you.

The sweep of your life is your search
         for the Divine in yourself.

It is not outside or elsewhere
         but in your house.

If you are still and look calmly you will see it
         glinting in your soul.

Keep your eyes open until you find it. Then
        “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God.”

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

September 10, 2019

Lost sheep

sometimes I feel so small and lost.
Do you hear my little cries?
Do you even notice you're missing me?
In the gritty, lonely places where I need you,
in pain and struggle,
in the ordinary relationships,
you are so absent.
In the face of injustice and suffering
you aren't there when I need you.
I am right here and yet I feel so far away,
so invisible, so insignificant to you, so lost.
I ache for you, for your steady presence.
How else can I cry out to you?
Come and find me.
Hold onto me and don't let go.
Dare to leave all behind to search for me.
I am here! I am here! Look for me.
Look everywhere.
For I am everywhere,
and everywhere, I am with you.
I am the lamb that takes away
the sin of the world, and I love you.
I am right here,
crying out to you in your prayers.
Come to me, and I will give you rest.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

September 9, 2019

Psalm 139 re-imagined

O Love, as your own you know me,
                from within you see me.
You know my doings and not doings,
                you have taken all my steps.
My breathing is you breathing in me,
                you are the nerve, and I your muscle.                 
My thoughts are yours before they are mine,
                even my cries are you crying out.

Where can I find your absence?
                How could I be apart from you?
If I crawl down to the depths of my despair,
                you are there.
If I escape to the farthest island of my loneliness,
                you await me.
If I make my bed in my failure
                you lie with me in the dark.

You have formed me with love,
                love beyond my figuring.
You created me to be me, a wonder
                I will always only be discovering.
You are creating yourself moment by moment,
                unfolding in me.
I do not comprehend this mystery:
                I move in it,
and I rest in it,
                here, with you.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

September 6, 2019


         “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother,
         wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself,
         cannot be my disciple.”
                           —Luke 14.26

It’s probably not your mother and father.
It’s probably someone else, or maybe everybody,
in front of whom you don’t want to look stupid. 
You don’t have to hate them,
but you have to be willing for them to hate you
for your politics or your trans friends or your anti-racist work,
or your letter to the editor or your allegiance to bees. 
You have to be willing for them to think you’re alien
for taking your faith so seriously,
for declaring a hope that looks silly,
for standing in a vulnerable place for justice,  
for sticking to the discipline that gives your life frame and strength.
And, let’s face it, sometimes
you have to care more about praying than you do about your friends,
or you would never pray.

You don't have to lose your care for life,
but you do have to lose your attachment the life you engineer
instead of the life you're given.

There's some major letting go to be done.
Count the cost.
Don’t leave anything out.

Then count the cost of giving up. 

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

September 4, 2019

The road around the edge of the world

A road runs
around the edge of the world.

One one side is this place,
its green meadows and familiar cities.

On the other is pure mystery,
dark, starred, unseen.

How odd that we stay so much on the road,
going and going,

seldom leaving it,
neither here, nor there.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

September 2, 2019

A prayer for Labor Day

We pray for those who labor,
especially those who labor so we may take a Labor Day vacation.
Grant your grace to those whose labor costs them,
whose labors degrade or wound or endanger them,
body and soul.
Bless those who pick our fruit and pack our meat,
who clean our rooms, tend our gardens,
gather our waste and care for our aged,
underpaid and unprotected.
Be with those who risk
to advocate and organize and unionize
those who labor for our sake.
Sustain those who labor unhappily,
and those whose labors
would be better spent with their children.
We pray especially for those who labor
under threat or force,
who are not paid, and are not free.
May all who labor be granted Sabbath,
and know their worth apart from labor.
In gratitude for your labors, O God,
we give thanks for those who join you
in creating the world,
that all our labors may create and not destroy,
bless and not abuse, and yield beauty and joy,
for the sake of the wholeness of all Creation.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

August 30, 2019

On a gray afternoon

On a grey afternoon
(it was not suppose to rain)
after errands to the hardware store
and messing with a database
(is this how I mend the world?)
tired and mindless, at the pace of ennui,
I walk out of the basement office
into the dreary parking lot
and there flits onto a dead branch
a goldfinch—a stray bit of sun,
yellow alarm, tiny shout of glory—
and, having made its point, flies off.

All the way home I breathe,
         How can I not be grateful?
         How can I not be awake?

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

August 29, 2019


The sin was simple,
but its path was complicated,
like a long involved story,
maybe even a hilarious tale
by the campfire,
a story involving voices and characters,
lots of terrific playacting
that got me up and prancing around—

till I accidentally stepped in the fire.

But without complication or lead-up
your forgiveness is even more simple

and healing.

Weather Report

the sun of grace shining
even through dark clouds,
light giving growth
even during storms.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

August 28, 2019


         When you give a banquet,
         invite those who cannot repay you...

                  —Luke 14.13

Make of your life a welcome home.
Make your heart a buffet of goodness.

Make yourself a front porch, wide,
two chairs, only one step up.

Think of yourself as a free sample,
a rocking chair, a bench by a lake.

People need a place to belong, to matter,
to receive without question.

Round up all your furniture of love and respect,
all your heirlooms of special treatment,

and put them out on the curb.
Go ahead and make a sign that says FREE.

It's not about airing your laundry, “being yourself.”
It's about letting them do that.

After all, you live in God's house,
who has given you the run of the place.

         Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers,
         for by doing that some have entertained angels
         without knowing it.

                  —Hebrews 13.2

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

August 27, 2019


Of course the laughing brook is singing.
So are the stones, even the big ones, singing.

The ice in Antarctica, the ice slipping off Greenland,
the river entering the ocean is singing.

Mountains are singing, and not the great deep
sonorous dirges you expect, but little ditties.

Air has a song. Excuse the obvious, but it's a lovely little air.
The rock beneath the soil has a tune it can't get out of its head.

The bottom of the sea and the stars
are joined in intricate six-part harmony.

The man in the moon—look and you'll see—
is a happy man singing a sad song.

Cities sing. Houses sing. Airplanes don't sing but
the people in them sing, long songs streaking across the sky.

Everything is singing, singing. Liturgies and chants,
oldie goldies, sea chanteys, incantations,

wedding songs and elegies, rope-skipping tunes, hymns,
fight songs, and loves songs... oh, the love songs.

Your guts are singing all the time, singing.
Your bones are a song. Your skin. Your eyes.

I don't know what this means, but God
is singing a little song in you right now. Always.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

August 26, 2019

Bind yourself to this

After the gash the reaching, the weaving,
tendrils of flesh finding each other.

After the flash, the flames, grey ash—
the greening, small prelude to the immense.

Children, wounded, homing, stand
at thresholds and step through.

Root hairs stitch with patience, grasses
fur volcanoes' ribs, mosses home bare rock,

arctic birds find place in ice, species drift
and shift and shape. There will be life.

The very word that there be light
ripens the dark. Being seeks its fullness.

Battered souls still mend and seek to mend,
and even caved do it to save and to defend.

Whatever is broken, bent or incomplete,
an inner knowing whispers make it whole.

Even in the year your mouth
is full of ashes, bones of smoke,

something new will rise, already is.
Bind yourself to this, through flood and flame,

in you and every soul, this mending will, the heart
of what it is to be, moving, given, graced.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

August 23, 2019

Eyes unbent

Today you will see someone bent.
You will be tempted to wonder
how they brought it on themselves.

You will hear an offer
of healing, a brave and generous hope
denied, belittled, deferred.

You will see a hand outgiven,
a meeting yielding to frailty,
touching what can't be touched.

You will witness a tightening,
old fears and excuses,
a caging, an act of depressing,

and yet a remolding
to unbow you, stand you straight,
a loosening, a raising, if you dare.

Today you will notice someone bent
and see with awe, not pity
a daughter of Abraham,

and with eyes unbent
be set free and given power to heal
if you choose so to see.

         “And ought not this woman,
         a daughter of Abraham
         whom Satan bound for eighteen long years,
         be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?”
                  — Luke 13.16

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

August 22, 2019


Tourists we are, most of us,
even the locals,
who walk out to the sea
and maybe dip in up to our ankles,
let the mystery finger our little bones,
or maybe we dive deep
and let the unseen breathe us in,
or sail far, under the sound only
of wind and unknowing.
Still, what do we know
of this vastness that birthed us?
How can we begin to say a word
of the great undersea mountains
and rivers, the creatures there
larger and darker than our dreams,
how can we pretend, but only
bring home a shell, a little sand dollar,
hollow and curious,
barely whispering of the real life
whose actual skeleton it was,
little grey thing on the dresser?
Every prayer, every conversation
is a postcard from the real place,
a memory of the time
we dipped our feet
in the immense, murmuring water,
            the silence wave after wave
                         reaching out for us.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

August 21, 2019

Bent over woman

She comes, as always, eyes on the ground,
feet her frame, dust her distance.
The cause, surely, within her,
out of sight as sky.

He sees what is bent, what is caged,
sees what is tall and straight and strong in her.
Sees what is free in her,
what is noble and beautiful.
Abraham and Sarah.
Lays his hand on the lock,
sets it open.

Now: to see faces.
Heaven is eye to eye.
Horizon given. Distance possible.
To bear a load, to watch a bird,
to see more than one thing at a time.
What she stands for.
Once bent, now sent, she sings.

This is not a faith that wishes,
but that frees.

         And ought not this woman,
         a daughter of Abraham
         whom Satan bound for eighteen long years,
         be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?”
                  — Luke 13.16

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

August 20, 2019


A flock of birds, my questions rise,
a twisted path in a tangled jungle,
whispering may and might and not answers,
every tree a priest of my unknowing.

In the temple, fog.

Easy to resent this religion of obscurity,
the keen temptation of wisdom,
deification of the dumb.

But however vast the mountain view
it is partial, small in the universe.

This I know:
what I know is nothing, imagined.
When I know
I presume, and forget you.

Rather this cloud of honest mystery
shrouding me
on this very real

rather the longing,
yours as much as mine,

this hand I hold
in the dark.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

August 19, 2019


God, I thought: this is too hard.
I throw myself at it.
I drag myself through it.
It is more than I can do.
It is hard; I doubt I have what it takes.

And then you said,
no, it is not hard. It is impossible.
You cannot do it.
You don't have that power.

But I do, and I give it to you.
I breathe my power through you.
You need not “dig deep” to find it.
It's right there, flowing through you.
It's there when you don't feel it.
It's there when you feel you're a failure.

As long as you think it's hard,
it will be hard.
But when you realize it's impossible
then you know it's not yours to do, but mine.
Stop trying to do it. Let me do the hard work.
You just come along.

I am doing the hard thing in your life.
Stay with me while I do it,
because without you, even for me,
it's impossible.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

August 16, 2019


         Some of our ancestors suffered mocking and flogging,
         and even chains and imprisonment....
         Yet all these, heroes of the faith, did not receive what was promised....
         Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,
         ...let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,
         ...looking to Jesus, who endured such hostility against himself from sinners,
         so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.

                  —from Hebrews 11.36 – 12.3

Like artisans building a cathedral,
we are engaged in work that outlives us.
The building of justice will take generations;
knowing this, we do not grow weary or lose heart.
Sustained by those who have come before,
who endured so that we may be brought this far,
we carry on, against all odds, against all opposition.
We are not intimidated by the thought
that we will not achieve our goal in our lifetime.
Of course not. This is not for us,
but for our children's children's children.
Our little triumphs and failures are ennobled,
not by our successes, but by the immense grace
of the work to which we devote ourselves.
Discouragement, despair and even death do not trouble us,
for our lives are insignificant in the shadow of this work,
which bestows its blessings to the ends of the earth,
and to generations far beyond us.
Friends, take courage. God is in this;
this is where, though you are small, you become immortal.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

August 15, 2019

Open my eyes

God, cleanse me.
There is so much fear, so much fear.
I don't learn because I don't look.
I don't look because I'm afraid.
I don't see who people are, hear what they're saying,
and hear what they're not saying.
Something like scales cover my eyes.
I want to see.
I want to see myself, God.
I want to notice my fears so I can face them
and allow them to be healed.
Help me to believe in this,
to believe in myself, to believe in your grace.
Give me courage to look, and wisdom to see.
With the eyes of my heart enlightened,
may I go slow enough to see clearly, eyes open, all day;
to pray always: to listen without ceasing.
Open my eyes, Beloved, to see you here.

Open my eyes...
Open my ears …
Open my heart...

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

August 14, 2019