Come out

         Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”
                           —John 11.43

Come out, you who have been entombed
in silence, in fear, in condemnation,
come out!
Come out to the one who loves you.
You who are afraid for your life,
who are afraid of your life,
you who are ashamed,
you who have been bound,
come out into your own life!
You who have been told you're unworthy,
you who are afraid of failing,
come out into your whole life.
You who are wounded and grieving,
who are hopeless or depressed,
you who wonder if you'll ever live deeply,
come out into life's fullness.
You who are well defended in your fortresses,
in armor, in costumes, come out.
Gays and abuse victims, transgender and shy,
gifted and doubtful, queer and other,
you can come out.
Come out of your closets, out of hiding,
out of exile, out of the wilderness.
You have a place, and the tomb is not it.
The One Who Weeps for You
calls to you.
You are wanted. You are mourned.
Come out.
And you who have rolled the great stones
over other people's lives,
roll them back. Stand aside.
Never mind the stench.
Call to them. Open your arms.
Unbind them.
Let them go.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light


          Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live,
          and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.

                           —John 11.25-26

Death, we are certain,
is final, a wall.
But Jesus says death
is not final at all:
not a wall but a curtain,
a hallway, a door,
a passage to something
uncertain but More.
Death is a darkness
and death is a dawn,
a deep letting go,
and a bright moving on.
The door is unlocked;
if you push it will give.
First you die, Jesus says,
first you die, then you live.
Help me, God, by your grace,
every moment, each breath
in and out, to receive
the new birth we call death,
like Lazarus, swaddled,
and just coming to,
awake from the birth canal,
risen and new.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Love is like this

         Though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus,
               after having heard that Lazarus was ill,
              he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. ...
         Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here,
              my brother would not have died. ...
         Some said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man
                have kept this man from dying?” ...
         Jesus wept.

                           —John 11.5, 21, 37, 35

Jesus hears the news, silent,
and stands by the window.
He feels the urge rise in him,
the wave of entitlement.
He remembers the desert,
the lure of magical powers,
the world in his hands,
the longing to be able to fall without hurt.
He feels the hunger to be exempt
from sorrow, from powerlessness, from death.
Which is to be exempt from life.
He would not choose that,
for himself or his beloved.

Only in the deepest love does he release his friend
from his own desires,
into the fragile craft that is life.
Love is like this, and worse:
the surrender, the pain, the hands pierced and empty.
He sits, for two days.
He enters the tomb
of his own broken heart.

And on the third day he rises.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light



Last week's heavy snow bent young pines down
then froze their tops to the icy ground.
Most have come free and have straightened up,
that mysterious life force raising us up,
never punishing, always raising us up.
There are some whose trunks split,
or were uprooted. Some will not survive.
Even now some are still bent and bound.
Most will survive. Some will not.
In any storm not all survive,
not all of us.

But take courage Beloved.
You are not a tree.
You are a forest.

Weather Report

as both life and death blow through us.
Storms will both strip things bare
and water the earth.
High and low pressure areas will develop
in isolated areas,
but you belong to something larger.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light



         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

You are light

         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.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light


So we may become blind

         “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.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light


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.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light


Water from the rock

         “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?

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light


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


Bent over

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:
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's not my enemy,
but the hands of Christ,
come to straighten me up and set me free.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light



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.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light


                                  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 dimensions of meaning. 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.

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.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

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

not cut off
but heightened

by the loving
embrace of

the black frame.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light


         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.
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.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

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,
trusting and receiving completely.
Water of my flesh and spirit of my God,
birth me into this good world
               and now
                                    and now...

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

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.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

How do you know

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

We don't. We are merely 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.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light


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,
all this world's imaginary kingdoms.
I want to be the king of elsewhere.

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

I abdicate my throne for you,
and here, bereft,

          Then the devil left him,
          and suddenly angels came
          and waited on him.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light


         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.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light