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

What it's like

I said,
God, you don't know what it's like to be human.
You aren't limited by forces you can't overcome
but always have to watch out for.
You don't have to dance with mortality,
never have to navigate vulnerability,
never even have to think about gravity.
You don't know what it's like to have to try so hard.
The danger. The impossibility. The not quite belonging.
don't know what it's like
to not even have to know what it's like.

God said,
Stay with that.
Maybe now
you know something

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

August 13, 2019


 “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth?
         No, I tell you, but rather division!”

                  —Luke 12.51

Not us-versus-them. Not good people on one side
and everybody else on the other. Not you against neighbors.

But you, distinct from what others want of you.
You, not what will please them.

The real you, true and unmodified,
standing for what you know and care for,

regardless of how others balk and resist and criticize
and cajole and manipulate and persecute and crucify.

Beware: those whose hearts are unwhole
will try to draw you in to complete them;

but you cannot be them for them. This is the great division.
You must be yourself, and let their incompleteness go,

without ceasing to love them. Let them press against you
even as you stand for them.

Jesus prays for strength for you to stand as self,
to stand without pleasing, without apologizing.

Stand with hope and trust, though you be alone—
for, standing alone, you find your true companions,

bound not by opinion but by the Whole, What Is,
given, not made, the Body of Christ.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

August 12, 2019


         We are strangers and foreigners on the earth...
         seeking a homeland... a better country...

                  —Hebrews 11.13, 14, 16

Tongues corrupt and tangled,
lungs not made for this air,
we know it feels wrong.

Language of white supremacy,
habits of greed and violence,
our own tribe is betrayal.

How dare those foreigners
show us the map of our lostness.
Immigrants in our own house.

Pilgrim, marry your longing.
This world you were meant to change.
That heaven you seek is in the wrong people.

Find them, your other home there.
Seek that heaven, and bring your children,
all of us.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

August 9, 2019


         Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit
                  —Luke 12.35

God is not sitting idly by
         watching our self-destruction.

God is at work in every moment,
the same dance of electrons
and embrace of gravity
vibrating with love,
creating and creating,
grace in the very being of it.

In every moment
God is mending what is
from the depths of what is.

Tragic or magic, momentous or mundane,
every moment is a choice
to join in harmony
or sit idly by.
Be ready.

The light of the lamp
of your heart, lit,
enlightens the world
and guides us in this darkness.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

August 8, 2019


         Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
                           —Luke 12.34

Wherever your love is,
         there will be your will.

You pass by a lilac, and its scent allures you;
         you want it, and so you turn aside to smell it.

If you love it you will seek it.
         The more you love, the more might with which you seek.

Friends, learn to see the Beloved
         in everything, every person.

Let her beguile you,
         and without trying you will turn aside and do justice.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

August 7, 2019


This is the day, August 6th,
when history reminds us
the terrorism, the barbarism we're capable of:
destroying an entire city full of innocent civilians
just to frighten a leader or two.

Lest there be any question,
three days later we'll do it again.
Not military targets, just shocking.
Pure terrorism.
We'll justify it,
wrap it in strategy and politics and patriotism,
as if we had no other choice—
but hundreds of thousands will die,
and more will suffer, for a generation,
a generation.

It's how we do things.
We firebombed Tokyo in the night of March 9,
killed 100,00, destroyed 16 square miles of city,
and left a million homeless.

We did that to 67 Japanese cities.
Civilian deaths. Sixty-seven entire cities.

We are a great people.
And this, also, is who we are.
We will never escape our own violence
until we confess it.
We will never attain true greatness
without true honesty.

Let this be a day of confession, mourning and humility,
and a day of compassion.
Let us begin to be people of peace.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

August 6, 2019


         Strive first for the wholeness of Creation,
         and these things will be given to you as well.
         Do not be afraid, little flock,
         for it is the Beloved's good pleasure to give you the whole realm.

                  —Luke 12.31-32

You strive for it
         yet it is pure gift.

You long for it
         yet you already have it.

You want to know your place in it,
         but it is all yours.

It's easy to forget
         but it's the most important thing.

You know you need it
         but even more you need to trust

it is given to you,
         all of it, gladly,
everything you need.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

August 5, 2019


A meadow, a small crowd of trees
marching over the hillside
over a million years pauses for me here
and I'm so grateful.

God I thank you for every thing,
for the whole of it, not partial,
good and ill,
for the bird that ate my snack, thank you,
the morning walk and the poop stepped in,
for grace that hauled me from deepest pit,
sunlight on a pitcher handle, thank you,
for sickness— the body to be sick—
and recovery, always trailing death,
the small yellow stone happy on a city street,
always your mystery in it,
mountains leaping up can't contain it.

Humility tackles me. Wonder erupts.
Thankfulness tangles my words.

I give you thanks,
my life:
may every thought word and deed be thanks,
and after I die
linger in the air.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

August 2, 2019

I forget you

I forget you
utterly, completely.
I forget you with my whole self.
I forget you with my hands,
reaching for not you,
grasping something always else.
With my breath I forget you,
air passing out of me, never returning.
I forget you with my feet,
walking up stones,
not touching earth,
you are forgotten.
I forget you with my eyes,
seeing otherwise,
not even the shape of you,
the space in the air that isn't you,
not what casts the shadow, not the shadow
but only the shape
I forget.
I forget you with my butt,
sitting where I please, not minding.
I forget you with everything I have
when I can manage it.
I forget you on the tip of my tongue
and at the back of my mind
how can I possibly
forget you?

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

August 1, 2019

Bigger barns

          The farmer thought, “I will pull down my barns
          and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods....”
          But God said, “This very night your life is being demanded of you.
          And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?”

                  —Luke 12.18, 20

I'm always building bigger barns
to hold resentments,
what I'm sure people owe me,
storehouses of The Way I Want Things To Go,
reputation and pictures of myself—
oh, several silos of those pictures—
and barns, huge barns, of How I Like It,
my securities and assurances.
All built of wax.

But then:
my life is on fire,
all of it, house and barns, going up,
and I have 30 seconds to get out.
What would I grab?

My integrity? My wife? Those pictures?
My sense of humor? My mind?
Yeah, my mind. Or what about my soul?
Of course. My soul.

… Wait...
I'd grab you, God.
Grab you and run.

          If you have been raised with Christ
          seek the things that are above...

                   — Colossians 3.1

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

July 31, 2019

Angel of death

You are an angel of death
to everything you eat,

to every insult you swallow
and it lives no more,

to every bit of meanness
you receive and destroy,

an angel of death
to loneliness and despair,

you, the living end
of unloveliness,

an angel of death
to the Emperor of Cynicism.

In your very being
you are an end to them.

You consume them,
turning them into life.

You remove them from this world,
you usher them into the new Being.

What more could the angel of death
do for you?

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

July 30, 2019

The explorer

The explorer traversed oceans
and passed through many wonders and dangers
until he finally found the temple he was seeking,
and stood before the mighty gates.
Then he went home.
Everything after that was a letdown.

He never realized how vast the temple is.
I wonder how many million gates he passed by
on his way, and on his way home.

Even now, look up. There it is.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

July 29, 2019

One thing

         Martha, Martha… there is need of only one thing.
                  —Luke 10.42

No matter what you do
what you have done is what
you ended up doing.
Where you are is where
you ended up being.

Only one thing is needed:
to be here,
in this moment,
present, attentive and willing.

Forget your multitasking.
It's just swatting flies.
They'll never go away.
No, practice mono-tasking:
do one thing at a time,
this thing you're doing,
deeply, wholly,
fully open and loving,

Be here. Do that.

Weather Report

and not what you wish or imagine,
here, not elsewhere.
Life is this, not something else.
Pay attention.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

July 19, 2019


         You are worried and distracted by many things.
                  —Luke 10.41

Sometimes you are distracted
by your prayers,
your desires pulling so many ways
like chores, the must, the ought,
the please oh please,
the wouldn't it be better if.

Forget your prayers
and pay attention to the Beloved,
sit without purpose,
simply gaze,
and be without excuse

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

July 18, 2019