Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Five Thousand

Dear Urban Abbey Members and Friends: I thought the meditation below was wonderful and should be shared with you all. I thought the images that Steve paints of growing in awareness of community were important to us as a community. God's good gifts to us, especially the gift of the Son's Body & Blood, are gifts given to us as community, as well as gifts given to us as individuals.

Steve points out that the sharing of the gifts is the miracle. We are all called to be participants in that miracle --to share the gifts, to build community.

What spoke to you in Steve's meditation? I invite you to share the piece of the miracle you've discovered with the rest of the community.

Shalom, George

---------- Forwarded message ----------

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. —Matthew 14.19-20

Alone and struggling, I came to hear him. I stood in front and took it in. I heard a word of grace. I gave him my heart as he spoke.

I saw him break some bread, bless it and give it in baskets to his helpers. They gave me some. It tasted like freedom.

And then a hush fell, the others silent. I didn't see why, couldn't imagine why: I wanted to sing and shout, to praise loudly, to tell my story: there in the bread, my whole life poured into the bread, my whole life rose before me, like bread rising, full and very special, touched by God. Why not sing a song?

Only when I turned around did I see why the spreading hush, the awed silence, as the gift was passed from hand to hand: his helpers kept going among the people, bearing baskets of bread, giving it away. The bread did not end. He did not just feed me. He fed everybody. All of them. Here was a miracle: not me, but 5000. I was not alone. We were as one. A community, drawn together as if we were one body, one loaf of bread. The miracle was not the bread but the sharing, not that he made bread, but that he made a community, not that he gave me a gift, but that he gave the same gift to others, that he drew my “I” into a “we. I was saved, not by being made special, but by being included.

I imagine the miracle happens again and again, not by making bread appear, but by making it disappear, into the hands of the hungry.

I wonder what it was like to be one of those people helping him, following him, carrying those baskets out into the crowd, seeing the miracle in the unending bread, among the people. I think I could spend my life doing that.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Friday, July 22, 2011


Dear Urban Abbey Members and Friends:

Steve Garnaas-Holmes has done it once again. From my perspective this is such a wonderful story...and indeed, how true about us human. Most times, we want what is not good for us; and the good gifts that are given to us, we do not want. I love the images Steve presents of a God who is boundless in all aspects, especially God's boundless love for us. Our hearts do long for more and to know God more deeply. We see through the veil only dimly, but occasionally we get a glimpse of the glory and magnificence of our God. Our task is to keep ourselves awake for those moments when God pulls the veil may be today!

Shalom and many blessings, George

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

Once upon a time, when people were young and innocent and thought they could tell God what to do, they said, “God, you are too distant! Come near. We want to continually feel your warmth and see your glory.” So God drew very near, and indeed they were warm. But God, being the Source of all warmth, was too much for them. They sweltered. Cities sagged under the weight of the heat. Meadows buzzed, where nothing else could happen but being hot. Lampposts, steering wheels and tempers were hot to the touch. Only the hermits in the desert understood, and went on praying. The people cried out, “It is too hot! Go back! Stand farther off!”

But God said, “You have asked for what you did not want, and you do not want what I have given you. Now you ask me to draw back. But I will not go away from you. I never have. Nevertheless I will protect you from the glory of my presence. I will make you safe. I will not let it ever get too hot or too cold. I will keep you from seeing the whole spectrum of light, or hearing all the frequencies of sound. I will keep you from seeing things very very small, or very very far away, or very very near. I will usher you away from the heights of the mountains or the depths of the oceans, and as well the heights and depths of your heart. I will prevent you from knowing what you can't measure or prove or understand. I will confine you to the prison of what you like and recognize. I will shield you from the overwhelming presence of my glory: you will only see hints and suggestions. As punishment for telling me to go far away, I will make you feel like I have obeyed your command. Everything will always seem very moderate to you, not too extreme in any way, never too hot or bright or lovely or wondrous or glorious or dark.

“As a result of my punishment, without your knowing it, there will be a part of you that always wants more, always seeks me, which indeed is all I want. And to show you that there is so much more than you are ready to receive, and to remind you that I am more present than you believe, every once in a while I will let you actually see the smallest fringe of my glory and presence: a thing of beauty, an experience of heart-rending love, a time of unimaginable darkness, or perhaps simply a very, very hot day. You must be ready, for it won't last long. And many will not understand, and raise the old complaint. But you will know.”

And it was so.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Monday, July 18, 2011

Presence in the Wild

Dear Urban Abbey Members and Friends:

I think many of you know that regular exercise is one of the pillars in my life –spirit, body, & mind. One of the disciplines I’ve taken up is to listen to podcasts while I’m on the elliptical or stationary bike. I like to fill this otherwise “mindless” time with something that will engage my mind.

Last week, I listened to a podcast from NPR’s On Being program. The podcast is called, “Presence in the Wild”. The URL for it is

The program was an interview with Kate Braestrup who is a writer and a chaplain to game wardens in the parks and forests of Maine. She accompanies these law enforcement officials in the wild on search-and-rescue missions. She's there, as she puts it, at the hinges of lives — moments where everything suddenly changes. In her own life and in her "ministry of presence," as she calls it, she sees how loss, disaster, decency, and beauty intertwine. And she says this has made her "religious but not spiritual".

While this has a focus on pastoral care ministry, there are some wonderful spiritual insights for everyone. Following are some of the ones that were important to me. They’re in Kate’s words.

“I don't look for God or God's work in magic or in tricks or in, you know, saying "this is what I want" and then I get it. I look for God's work always in how people love each other, in just the acts of love that I see around me.

“One thing the Buddhists say, or the Tibetan Buddhists, anyway, is that you prepare your whole life for your death.”

“Unitarian Universalism at its best is a way of looking at religious questions without requiring that the answer be found for everybody, without requiring that your answer be imposed on everybody else. There's a humble acceptance that I am not God. I am not the arbiter of these things, that the best I can be is a window through which the person that I'm with can get a glimpse of something, and I can only do that by being as completely loving to them as I can be, whoever they are and wherever they are. The place that it's the most directly useful is when I'm dealing with people who aren't religious at all.”

“But then I think at least in the long run what it lets me do is back off and allow God to just do what God does and not feel like I have to shape it or guide it or force it into a certain place that accords with anything, that I can really just let it be.”

“I look for God's work always in how people love each other, in just the acts of love that I see around me.” So this [rape and murder of a young woman] tested that. This event tested that for me, because, in general, I don't get involved with a lot of sexual predators and murderers. I'm much more likely to be dealing with accidents or people who've done something stupid or they got drunk and did something stupid, but they weren't actively malicious. So to look for where love was in this situation, the very obvious place to look would be in the hearts and the hands of the guys who did their best to find her and to make things right for her and for her family. And with all the limitation in that, with all the, you know, with all of the…”

You know, you point something out that's very simple, but really striking and unsettling in good ways and bad, that even when the miracle, and, you know, you say we can call things miracles, but it's not — the picture's more complicated than that. But even when it is of a life restored, that is always a temporary restoration. And you say that most of the time, perhaps, "a miracle can only be the resurrection of love beside the unchanged fact of death."

These were wonderful insights for me; I’ll listen to this podcast again next week to see what will speak to me then.

I encourage you to use some of your “mindless time” to listen to this podcast and see what resonates with you. When you do, please share your insights with the rest of us.

Shalom and many blessings, George

Friday, July 8, 2011

Prayer in Time of Change

Dear Urban Abbey Members and Friends: Good morning. As you may recall, I love the way Steve Garnaas-Holmes puts his thoughts in poetry. His poem of yesterday was wonderful for me. There are so many reminders for me in his words – be present to the moment, know that our loving God enfolds us each moment of our day, pay attention to what God has to offer this day, let go of my limitations (or concept) of God so that God can show me new dimensions of God’s Being and presence.

I will “sit with” this again for some new insights. As you reflect on this poem, what does it say to you or call to mind for you?

Shalom and blessings, George

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

This is the day the Lord is making;
God is not finished creating it yet.
Let us rejoice and be glad.

God of Creation, God of new beginnings,
we open our hearts to you in this new day.
In all that is new and different
we look for your creating hand,
and wonder at your Creation still unfolding.
In all that is not as we are accustomed to
we confess our desire to control,
acknowledge our powerlessness,
and turn to you as our only Lord and Creator.
Bless our grief, and turn our hearts to your loving care.
In all that is unfamiliar remind us
to pay attention; to see what is,
not merely what we remember;
to see as if for the first time.
In our uncertainty, return us
to the certainty of who we are,
and to your sure and unfailing presence with us.
In all that is unknown, unwrap us
from the grave cloths of our expectations;
help us to be lovingly present to what is,
free from having to know,
free from needing to be comfortable,
poised to behold and to love without fear.
God of Creation, in this new day
we let go of all that we cling to,
and return to your Holy Presence
in this moment.
Help us to die and rise with Christ,
to become new people,
born not of our own will or knowledge,
but born anew of your Spirit, your delight,
your Moment.

This is the day the Lord is creating.
Let us rejoice and be glad.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light