A monk, a shadow, a bee

God, I confess
I'm in a hurry, so I mass produce my life.
I've sent you a lot of junk mail.
I live an entire day as a form letter.
Most of my deepest thoughts I've outsourced.
It's all automated. Robots. Saves me time.
So much of what I say to people is autofill.
It's awkward sometimes, but close enough.
I say I have you on speed dial, but
I don't know your number.
Wouldn't recognize your voice,
since I do all the talking, then hang up.
I get impatient if you don't offer overnight shipping.
I'm in a hurry.

God, slow me down.
Give me the grace of reverence,
to live at a pace of awe and attentiveness.
Patient as a monk, a shadow, a bee.
I want to be present. Here. Now.
Let me be a lake still enough
to reflect the beauty around me.
Without knowing what's next, or needing to.
For you, who create this day for me,
may my living it be handcrafted, fermented,
reverently, at the speed of delight.
May I be present.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

September 19, 2019

One master

         No slave can serve two masters.
                  —Luke 16.13

God I admit: so often
I am trying to look good.
I'm serving the master of being right.
I'm loyal to the boss of my ego.

But I can walk away from that master.
I am free to serve you,
to belong to your grace alone,
to seek only to receive and give love.

Faithful in small things, to be faithful in great,
I submit to your grace.
Help me each moment to examine my loyalty
and serve only your love, absolutely devoted.

         Your love … alone.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

September 18, 2019

No tiger

The tiger chasing me is not real.
         The fear I am fleeing so well is imaginary.
                  There is actually no danger.

The palace I strain for so nobly is not real.
         My ambitions are a distraction.
                  There is no treasure there.

My fears and ambitions drive me,
         push and pull, before and behind,
                  yet they are so small, so small!

How puny my will is compared to yours.
         How weak must I become to gain
                  the infinite strength of your will?

Give me courage to stand still in what is real,
         to empty myself of my fears and desires
                  and be guided instead by your delight.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

September 17, 2019

Farmer's market

In the farmer's market
each booth creates a world of smells,
a little universe of color, root, and leaf,
a song of music or of thread,
the scent of flowers, the smell of bread.
Each center breathes out its own creation
ringing out and overlapping every other,
a world of worlds to every other world singing.

And so among the people as they stroll
and as they go, and as they work and walk
accustomed streets and subway platforms,
each creates a little world that ripples out
and fills the world, a world of worlds.
Each one chooses, as you do, their colors,
gravities, aromas and their givens..
The world you live in others do as well.
Be mindful of its song, its light, its smell.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

September 16, 2019

Get lost

         They were grumbling and saying,
         “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

                  —Luke 15.2

The worst way of being lost isn't
not knowing where you are
but knowing you're in the wrong place:
feeling you don't belong.
Righteous bullies will try to convince you
there's no place for you.
Whatever it is about you they pick
it means you can't be with us.
You belong elsewhere: nowhere.
Get lost.

Alas, poor frightened bullies,
there is no such thing.
Everyone belongs.
You have a place in this universe,
which was created with you in mind.
The world with no place for you
is an imaginary one.
The shepherd who doesn't find you
isn't yours.

You have a place of belonging in this world,
the lily in the pond, the note in the song,
and no one, no place, and no lack of place
can take it from you.
Beloved, you can lose your belongings
but you can't lose your belonging.
You're always in it.
You can't get lost.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

September 13, 2019

This house

No map shows the street
where this house stands secretly,
full of light and music,
no street runs away from this home
that does not pass it by on all sides
and arrive, though travelers wander
in search, looking always too far,
consulting signs and charts,
sometimes asking directions
to this house that stands, full
of candlelight and song.
All the doors go in. People have
searched yet no one has ever left
its many mansions, or been outside,
ever, even those who never go
into their room and close the door,
this house of ordinary things, light
on windowsills, small voices, a cup,
a little bread, and kin who cherish you.
Everyone in it wanders searching for the house
they're in, where always, in this house,
this house of yours, you belong,
you belong.
You may sit anywhere you like. It's yours.
Every time you find you're in it,
we have a party.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

September 12, 2019


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