Thursday, November 17, 2011

Morning Walk

Dear Urban Abbey Members and Friends:
I LOVE the way Steve Garnaas-Holmes paints such vivid pictures with words.  His first paragraph gives a prescription for being present to each moment of the day.  How wonderful that sounds to give such focus and acknowledgment to the presence of ‘God with us’.  Could I live such that my mind is so uncluttered with worry, envy, greed, pride that I can give my full attention to what is before and around me as I go through my day?  That is my goal.

But, in his second paragraph, Steve reminds us that we are fallible humans and will perhaps fail in being really present – my mind has wandered and skipped about to other things even as I write this.  With God’s grace, we can return to the present…and the more we practice this, the more we can remain in the present.  As Steve points out, we can work at being present to God no matter where we are or what we’re doing.

What speaks to you in Steve’s meditation?  I invite you to share your thoughts and insights with the Community.

Shalom and blessings, George

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

Each morning I begin the day with a walk in the woods.  It's not for exercise, though I sometimes go quite a distance, nor to walk the dog, though he comes along.  It's to begin the day by being on the earth, being in a body, being alive.  I practice being there, and not being somewhere else in my head.  I use my senses, taking in what is around me.  I look at everything and notice stuff.  I notice the trees, the colors and textures and shapes and shades.  I notice the air, and how warm or cold it is, the wind, the clouds, the moon.  I notice gravity, and how my body works with it.  I feel my breathing.  I listen to the little sounds, the conversations of the grasses, the birds, the brooks beneath the other sounds of distant traffic and planes.  I'm not analyzing, judging or thinking.  I am simply mindful of being a mammal moving across the ground, moving through the presence of God, being alive.
Oh, I'm not Thich Nhat Hanh.  My mind wanders.  I think of the coming day, or imagine some silly scene, or carry on some argument with an imaginary person.  But then, by grace, I return. I come back into the woods.  I return to the present.  Sometimes it takes a while, but I get there.

I've discovered you can do this anywhere, whether or not you have woods.  In cities and suburbs, alone or in crowds, you can pay attention.  You can begin the day by being mindful, paying attention, returning moment by moment to the present, here and now.  Even in this moment, sitting at your computer, you can stop and look around, or close your eyes and breathe.  You can be alive.  Sometimes that is enough.  Sometimes it is important that that is enough.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Hold me -- a Psalm for the Brokenhearted

Dear Urban Abbey Members and Friends:    We are all broken people; we all suffer in some fashion.  Several years ago when I was going through Stephen Minister training, I came across a book by Henry Nouwen, the Wounded Healer.  Nouwen emphasizes that from our woundedness, we have a great capacity to minister to others.  Because we suffer, we can more deeply understand the struggles other go through and be present for them.  Our Lord, Jesus, was also wounded both physically and emotionally – bearing our sins.  He demonstrated for us how our woundedness can break down barriers and allow us to really be present for others in need.

The poem below by Steve Garnaas-Holmes paints for me a very vivid picture of my brokenness.  But, knowing that I am God’s beloved, even though broken, gives a peace and strength.  Because I am God’s beloved, I can reach out to others and be the conduit of that Presence to others.

What images does this poem bring to your mind?  What does it call you to do or be?  I invite you to share your thoughts with the Community so that we can all be enriched.

Shalom and Blessings, George

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

O Thou Mysterious Love, hold me.

When I cannot stand, be the ground that holds me.

When I have fallen apart be the gravity that binds my pieces.

You are the Presence I do not see, cannot feel,
the Steadiness that lets me tremble.

You are the darkness I stumble through;
you are the way and the not knowing.

You are the well of my tears, the soft place for me to fall.

You guard my tenderness, and defend my wholeness.

You are the fiber of my making, the love that brings me through.

You keep me in your hands; you bear me on your hip.

Hold my shattered fragments in your hands, until I am ready to be made new.

Wrap my unknowing in your arms of darkness until my dawn is ready to rise.

Holy One, Creating One, I am your Beloved.

I am yours.  I am yours.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Saturday, October 29, 2011


Dear Urban Abbey Members and Friends:

In the past two weeks we have had three long-time St. Georgians die –Martha Williams, Mae Guill, and Al Brevard. These three individuals all led long and full lives and were examples to us of Christian living and care of others. Their deaths leave a large hole in our community and sadness in our hearts.

As I reflect on their lives and their deaths, I am struck by the importance of community and prayer. Each of these people got to a point where they were not able to physically be with us at Sunday services or other Community events. The Community responded by sending Eucharistic Ministers and visitors to bring Community to these people who weren’t able to be with us. The linkage continued to be strong and the frailer in our community knew they were not forgotten. While only a few of our members were called to visit or bring communion, especially as they became frailer, the larger community responded by shrouding them and their families in prayer. This made a marked difference in their outlook and ability to deal with limitations on what they could do. These prayers were powerful not only for those who were ill, but reached their families as well. Knowing there was a network of people who cared buoyed the spirits of the families.

What a blessing community is. But community can also be fragile; it needs to be nourished to be kept strong and vibrant. When we become part of community we share in that responsibility and must give as we are able to support it. I invite you to consider how you support our community.

Shalom and blessings, George

Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Blessing for Today

Dear Urban Abbey Members and Friends:    Below is a poem from Steve Garnaas-Holmes this past week.  I ran across it again this morning as I was working through some e-mail.   As I read it again, I felt warmed and well loved by the Holy, Steadfast, Divine, and Delightful One.   This reminds me once again to open my eyes and see God’s WONDERFUL creation around me.   Though it’s overcast and the sun isn’t out (yet), there is a peacefulness in the seeming gloom that invites reflection.   This is another very blessed day….my task for today is to keep awake to each moment of it, look for that odd happening,  and meet each of you as we join together in God’s eternal present as the day unfolds.

 Shalom and blessings, George

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

Today may the good earth hold you
with the unfailing love of the Steadfast One.

May the sun illumine you
with the loving wisdom of the Holy One.

May the air fill you
with the Spirit of Life.

May the human family surround you
with the Divine Presence.

May birds remind you
of the joy of the Delightful One.

Today may some thing gracious happen
to speak to your heart.

Today may something odd happen
that awakens you.

Deep Blessings,

Pastor Steve
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Dear Urban Abbey Members and Friends:

Steve Garnaas-Holmes meditation for today struck me on several different levels. First, the Holy One gives us SO many blessings each day. Our God is extravagant in showering us with good things – people to help us along our path, food, health, beauty…

Second, the Holy One gives all this manna (grace) with virtually no strings attached—God asks only ONE thing of us: that we open our hands, hearts, and selves to receive these blessings given. This second part can be real stumbling block for some of us—I know it is for me. As many of you are aware, I had surgery this past week (Sep 6) to remove a cancer from my body. The surgeons and nursing staff were very skilled…the surgery went perfectly, I am recovering quickly and have a good prognosis for the future. The hard part now comes in accepting the help, lovingly given, by spouse, family and friends. I am not back to 100%, but I feel well and want to do more. In the midst of this I need to realize that, just as in opening one’s self to receive the good gifts God gives, it is important to open one’s self to receive the ministry and blessing of others. I am not good at this; in fact, I get irritated with those who are trying to be generous to me.

So, Steve’s message to me this day is to be aware of this shortcoming and to work at accepting the help & hospitality of others with a more loving heart. What does this meditation hold for you this day? I invite you to share your thoughts and insights to enrich our Community.

Shalom and many blessings, George

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron “You have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death." Then the Holy One said to Moses, "I will rain down bread from heaven for you.” … In the morning thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, "What is it?" For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, "It is the bread the Holy One has given you to eat.” The people of Israel called the bread manna. —Exodus 16. 2-4, 13-15

We sigh as we sit hungrily in our tents, amidst fields of manna. We never seem to recognize it at first, and even when we do it's a mystery. (“Manna” is Hebrew for “What's that?”) But God provides for us grace we haven't earned, a harvest we never planted, blessing that comes from the heart of God.

Every day is manna. Each breath is a feast of life, granted by the hand of mystery, full of infinite blessing, offered for us to have abundant life. Every moment is a gift, overflowing from God's grace, connecting us with God, inviting us to digest that grace, to take it in and make it a part of ourselves. You can't analyze it, understand it, or make sense of it; you can hardly describe it, or even name it. “What's-it?” may have to do. All you can do is receive it, take it in, and live on it.

Every moment is manna. It looks unremarkable or even unidentifiable, but it's God's grace. Today, look for the manna. Take what you need.

Weather Report:

A low-pressure system of extravagance
will rain blessing upon us,
coming out of a direction we never suspect.
Despite partially clouded awareness,
low-lying hearts may be inundated with gratitude.
Expect flash floods of grace today and tomorrow,
with drifts of blessing reaching two feet—or two hands.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Legacy of the African-American Spiritual

Dear Urban Abbey Members and Friends:

Last week I listened to a lengthy unedited interview of Krista Tippett with the late Joe Carter, a celebrated performer, educator, and traveling humanitarian who took the Negro Spiritual to audiences around the world. It is a wonderful interview and gives a marvelous insight into the culture of the slaves: their roots, their spirituality, and their outlook on life.

One of the things that struck me most, though it wasn’t particularly articulated, was the way the people lived in the present moment. Their songs were the expression of the great pain and sorrow. But at the same time, they were always looking upward, always reaching. There was always some level of hope, always the glory hallelujah someplace saying, "Oh, and on that glory hallelujah, then we fly."

They lived life to its fullest and weren’t afraid of death. Some of the songs give a prescription for how to live and yet be ready when called home. Here are a couple that spoke to me.

Steal away, steal away, steal away to Jesus
I've got to steal away, steal away home
I ain't got long to stay here
Steal away, steal away, steal away to Jesus
I've got to steal away, steal away home
I ain't got long to stay here
My Lord He calls me, He calls me by the thunder
The trumpet sounds within my soul
I ain't got long to stay here
Green trees are bending, poor sinner stands atremblin'
The trumpet sounds within my soul
And I ain't, I ain't got long to stay, to stay here.

Let the work that I've done speak for me
Let the work that I've done speak for me
When I come to the end of this road
And I lay down this old heavy load
Let the work that I've done speak for me
Let the life that I've lived speak for me
Let the life that I've lived, Lord, speak for me
When I come to the end of this road
And I lay down this heavy load
Let the life that I've lived, oh, Lord, speak for me.

These remind me to keep my focus on the Lord: be open to God’s call, live unafraid, help those in need, show joy in my life. I’m reminded that my ultimate home is in Jesus and with God.

There are 11 of Joe Carter’s spirituals on the web site at I encourage you to download them to your music library and listen to them when you need a lift.

I invite you to share your thoughts and insights to enrich our Community.

Shalom and blessings, George

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Take up Your Cross

Dear Abbey Members and Friends:

WOW! What a marvelous approach to the Love of God and what it means to be a follower.

I have to admint that when I'm confronted with the phrase, "Take up your cross", I'm drawn to the things that trouble or irritate me -- the annoying aunt, the neighbor who doesn't like me, illness or some disappointment in life.

As I read the words Steve has this day, I realize I am called to a joyful service, not a grudging one. This call is one I've heard before -- to take up my cross by opening myself to God's will. When I am able to be vulnerable, to yield my will to God's, to try and be as I percieve God's call, that is true joy. I experience a deep, soul-filling joy and closeness to God. To be sure that doesn't happen to me often, but it is something I strive for.

To me, Steve's words give an ideal I can work at -- be a channel for God's love and reconciliation, a listening presence for those who need to be heard, the hands of God that bring comfort and healing. Taking up this cross is not an easy task, but it is a joy-filled one.

What does Steve's meditation have for you? What call do you find in his words? I invite you to share your thoughts and enrich our Community.

Shalom and many blessings, George

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

If you want to become my followers, deny yourselves and take up your cross and follow me.” —Matthew 16.24

The aunt who annoys you is not your “cross to bear.”

The cross is not an annoyance, nor something thrust upon you.
It is your free, willing and unresentful choice to be gentle,
to be nonviolent for the sake of justice,
to be vulnerable for the sake of healing,
to open yourself to other people's suffering,
to enter into the shame of the world with the enormous grace of God.

To take up your cross is to enter into God's fierce longing for healing and justice,
even at your own loss,
confident that being wrapped in God's love,
even amidst the suffering of the world,
is heaven.

To take up your cross is to trust that God alone is our security and our power,
that grace is absolute and death is relative,
that the world can get along without us but not without our love,
that forgiveness is more powerful than force,
that love is stronger than fear,
more lasting than death,
more real than anything else.

To take up your cross is not to go alone,
but to follow the Humble One, the Trusting One, the Gentle One,
the one who already bears your cross, your sin, your suffering, your death,
who wants to bear your light, your blessing, your soul, in love.

To take up your cross is to die with Christ
and to rise with Christ into a new life that can't be killed,
in which you can suffer but not be hurt,
and die but not be dead,
in which you are truly alive,
because it is no longer you but God living in you—
wholly present and infinitely loving,
and deeply joyful.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Living Sacrifice

Dear Urban Abbey Members and Friends:

Steve Garnaas-Holmes has returned from vacation and has provided another wonderfully evocative poem on the scripture verse below.

For me, his poem is a call to live fully in the present moment, each moment as I experience it. It is also a call for me to remember that God is in each of those moments holding an outstreched hand to pull me up if I stumble, to embrace me if I need comfort, to touch my cheek and offer acceptance with my 'warts' and all. God's only request, not at all a demand, is that I turn my will to God, open myself to the Spirit's call. God can then take me and make me an instrument of God's love, a reconciling, healing, and comforting presence to others.

I invite you to ponder Steve's poem and share with the Community what you find in it.

Shalom and many blessings, George
Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. — Romans 12. 1-2

God of mercy, source of love, I give you myself today.

My desires, my treasures, I lay before you,
until they are transformed into your desires,
the yearnings of life, the energy of blessing that is you,
that is within me.

The desires of the world, and its expectation that I conform,
I renounce, that I may be transformed into the body of your love.

May all I do today be a living sacrifice, a gift to you of who I am,
consumed and changed in the fire of your grace.

God of mercy, source of love,
each moment I lay myself on the altar of the world.

Take me.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Dear Urban Abbey Members and Friends:

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve listened to two of Krista Tippet’s On Being podcasts. There were a couple of thoughts that grabbed my attention that I want to share with you.

The first was from an interview with Elizabeth Alexander called Words that Shimmer. A portion of the conversation centered on the word, Love, and how it can exist along with adversity. One of the questions asked was, “What if the mightiest word is love?” In the context of adversity and the difficulties we all experience in life, I believe love is mighty. Love calls us not just in those happy or romantic occasions; but, love also has a grave side to it. We are called to love in the face of disappointment, grief, and adversity. I know in my own life and family there are disappointments. Love doesn’t preempt that disappointment or grief. Love is the enduring power that helps me to get past that grief. When we say we love on a broader, or National, level, Love calls up deep responsibilities. Love calls us to live with different opinions and values, while not relinquishing our own. Love calls us to listen to others and try to understand where they are coming from. Loving in this way is not an easy task; it demands much of us.

The second was from an interview with Frances Kissling called Listening Beyond Life and Choice. The conversation was around the abortion issue, but what I took from it was related to the thoughts from the interview with Elizabeth Alexander. Frances in one sense also spoke to the deep responsibilities involved in loving others. If we look at polarizing issues like abortion, there is probably no room for common ground with those who have very strong and deep convictions on an issue. But Love calls us to forget (at least for a time) the pressure to come to agreement or common ground, and to listen and try to understand where the other person is coming from. If we can do this, we humanize (rather than demonize) the other person. Listening to the other, even on less polarizing issues, may not change them, but it will change us. I know that in my own life, my views have changed a great deal from those I held as a younger person. That change comes from listening and trying to understand. While I still have many beliefs that I cannot abandon, I can live with those who have differing beliefs or opinions. We can then work to find the common ground, the higher truth that we can both support while retaining our differences.

I invite your thoughts and comments to continue the dialogue. If you’re interested in the specific On Being programs I referenced above, you can find them at

Shalom and many blessings, George

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

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

What I take with me...

Dear Urban Abbey Members and Friends:

I found the meditation below by Steve Garnaas-Holmes to be very intriguing. This one of those writings that can (I think) be most useful by engaging it in a Lectio-style approach. I plan to go back to this and sit in quiet and see what ‘speaks’ to me. I love the imagery I get from this poem. One example for me is the phrase “I take mindfulness”. This is a reminder to me to try to live in the present, be fully engaged in what I’m doing now not worrying about the past moments or what will come in the future. This is especially important when I’m with someone – give that person my undivided listening and presence. There’s much more work to do with gratitude, trust, freedom, love, wonder, etc.

What does this poem say to you?

Shalom and blessings, George

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

Packing for the journey,
leaving much behind,
what shall I take with me?

I take mindfulness,
so that wherever I am
I may actually be there.

I take gratitude,
by which everything,
everything is a gift.

I take trust.
How much I can sow,
knowing the seeds will sprout!

I take freedom,
not from accountability,
but to live by my choices.

I take love,
my connection with all,
my only true power.

I take wonder.
There is always more.
It is all mystery, all grace.

I take courage
for all of life's yieldings
and steadfastness.

I take gentleness and kindness,
a way of being a blessing
that cannot be taken away.

I take an open heart,
open hands, open eyes.
All else I leave on the curb.

Find me on the road,
and find The One
—I do not go on my own—
by whom
I myself
am taken.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Monday, June 20, 2011

God's Love

Dear Urban Abbey Members and Friends:

The meditation below by Fr. Don Talafous struck me as a marvelous affirmation of how God touches and is present for people of all religions. None of us has an ‘exclusive” relationship with God. We in our Urban Abbey, like Fr. Talafous, have been enriched by religious practices from other religions – I can recall one of our Community meetings where Raima Later led us in Hindu chant. There have been others.

I was also struck by Fr. Talafous’ response on the appropriateness of a Christian book for a Jewish friend. Early in our Urban Abbey’s history, we struggled with how to be open to all who come to the Abbey for refreshment, but yet retain our focus as a community deeply rooted in the Christian tradition and following Christ as our model for interaction in the world.

For me, the meditation has several messages. One is to be open to insights into spirituality and ways of becoming more in union with God offered by other religious traditions. A second message is to focus on the truths we share with fellow Christians and those from other religious traditions when we are in discussions. This will allow us to truly listen and understand others. We are not called to change our own beliefs, but to find those areas where we can work with others to advance God’s kingdom. A final message from this meditation is to remember our own faith tradition and honor it in our lives.

I invite you to share the insights this meditation has for you.

Shalom and many blessings, George
One problem a collection of reflections like this might have competing on the Internet with other Web sites of "spirituality" results from the inclusion of the Christian perspective. Books with wider public appeal do not betray or give preference to any such "narrow" perspective as the critics would call it. A friend asked me if a book of my reflections would be an appropriate gift for some Jewish friends. I had to say that I didn't think so. No effort is made here to exclude Jewish or Islamic or Hindu readers; in fact I am indebted to these faiths for insights. I believe with St. Paul that God has not left any part of the world without some witness to God's love for us. For Christians that witness shines out in Jesus Christ. But I don't think that we can say that it is only in Christ that God has revealed something about God's love for all human beings. On the other hand, to ignore Christ in the interest of a wider appeal would be turning our backs on what has formed and nourished us. Faithful Jews, it seems to me, must affirm that God has shown love for them by the care given the Chosen People and described in the Scriptures. Other religions affirm a similar message through entirely different images of God or of the power that cares for the world. It's hard to imagine -- impossible to believe -- that God does not make the divine love available to human beings wherever they are. – Fr. Don Talafous, St John’s Abbey

Monday, May 23, 2011

Judgment Day

Dear Urban Abbey members and friends:

When I read Steve Garnaas-Holmes mediation below, it literally brought tears to my eyes. I don’t fancy myself as particularly emotional, but the words and picture of our God that Steve crafted were overpowering. The reminder that God loves us SO MUCH that we are not judged, but accepted as we are [warts and all]…and loved is very powerful.

The thought that Good Friday was our Judgment Day is one that I had not considered before. I am sinful, but I am God’s…in fact God sent God’s Son to suffer horribly and assure me that I am loved…for always. God’s judgment is to be merciful and all-loving to us. Through that never ending love, God continues to call each of us into a deeper relationship with God. When we fall or fail to live up to that love, God invites us to not give up, but, with the reassurance of God’s love, to pick ourselves up and continue to work at being the person God is calling each of us to be.

My task is to never forget that love, to never give up on God…God certainly will never give up on me (or you)!

Shalom, George
Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

You've heard about the nut that's predicting Judgment Day this Saturday. (He seems pretty smug that he's going to Pass.) Well, he's right. He's delusional and his biblical scholarship is whacked. “About that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mt. 24.36). But he's right. This Saturday, May 21, is Judgment Day.

In fact every day is. God's judgment is not the Finals in which God eventually reveals the Judge's Scores that have been kept secret up until then. God's judgment is simply God's truth about us. That truth includes who we really are, and the nature of what we've done. It isn't some worldly grading of good versus bad culminating in a thumbs-up-or-down, heaven-or-hell Elimination Round. Because God's truth about us is not separate from God's love for us, we are not separate from God. So God's judgment is that we are beloved, forgiven and precious. Screwed up, to be sure, but God's anyway, and not just begrudgingly. God doesn’t just tolerate us. God actually loves us. And God's love for us outweighs every other characteristic about us, including our sinfulness.

Technically, Judgment day isn't this Saturday; it was Good Friday. That was the day God issued God's Judgment: You are sinful, and saved. Case dismissed. So we don't have to wait until Some Day to stand before God: we live before God every moment, and every moment God reveals the truth about us: “Oh, you are sinful, all right. You are worse than you think. But you are mine, and I love you.”

Jesus said, “I do not judge anyone who hears my words and does not keep them, for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.” (Jn. 12.47). He said, “This is judgment, that light has come into the world” (Jn. 3.19). And he also said, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever” (Jn. 14.16). He talks about this “Advocate” in John 14, 15 and 16. The word in Greek, paraklete, means a defense attorney. God is not our judge; God is our defense attorney! It is the world that judges, that pretends to be able to separate out our good from our bad, and add it all up to one final Score. But the Spirit is our defense attorney, our advocate, the one who knows who we really are. God knows the various unseen forces that twist and distort us so that we are so susceptible to evil, so that we do evil when we think we're doing good, so that we can't see. And God sees the selfishness even in our piety. But God does not judge that by sorting it all out and labeling it. God judges us by subjecting us to mercy, loving us, and opening to us the possibility of being re-created.

Yep, Saturday is Judgment Day. But I'm not worried: so is Sunday.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Are We Being Called To Change?

(A Blog entry for our Urban Abbey blog, submitted by Anne Omelianowich)

Last Saturday, at the quarterly chapter meeting of The Urban Abbey, we prepared ourselves to select a new member of our leadership counsel. In doing so, we used a selection from Joan Chittister’s new book, Monasteries of The Heart. It challenged us to explore and support the gifts of each in conscious and committed ways.

‘Leaders’, Joan tells us, ‘must be an example to the community of its best self; open, loving, hospitable; committed to study of the Word; kind and understanding of the struggles we all face. The leader must point out all that is good and holy more by example than by words and must value the Gospel beyond public approval. The leader must be committed to the needs and growth of the community and even-handed in their love for the members. The leader must encourage us to be: a sign of the world to come, a bringer of peace, a haven for the homeless, the heart of the temple on the streets of the city, a light in the dark to those who seek peace and human community.’

As we meditated on these directives and shared our thinking in small ‘Listening Groups’, many came to realize that we honestly do not know all of our members in this way. There was a response of yearning to know all in the same way, to the same degree and within this vision. Many agreed that for the most part, those that we do know this well we have come to know within our Listening Groups over a period of time. Those that we have not had that shared experience with are those we know far less well.

We have asked the question in recent chapters concerning the reassignment of members within the Listening Groups, and it has met with resistance. The resistance came from very good reasons largely centered on the Benedictine rule of stability; but for the first time, in a long time, there seems to be a collective listening that hears that now is time for this change.

Another bit from the Monasteries of The Heart says that ‘the self-centered community carves out no new directions, risks no new questions, that might disturb the sleepy apathy that comes to anyone over time.’ With this bit of caution, I would ask us all to listen and consider if, at our next chapter meeting in September, it is the time to change our Listening Groups so that we might come to know, understand and appreciate one another more fully, enabling us to share and discover each other’s unique gifts. If we did know one another this well, what might we become as a community?

Faithfully, Anne Omelianowich

Monday, April 18, 2011

Stay with me

Dear Urban Abbey Members and Friends: I love the way Steve Garnaas-Holmes structures his poems. They really help me focus on things that seem to be important for me this day. To me this poem paints such a wonderful picture of our loving and steadfast God who is always there -- never sleeping, or bored and frustrated with me. We have a God who gives so much and asks so little of us in return -- stay away for a while; be attentive to my call.

I wish you all a very blessed journey this Holy week to a joyful Easter morning.

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." — Matthew 26.36

He does not ask great faith of me,
but only that I stay awake
to the prayers of the suffering.

In every faltering morning meditation,
my prayer mere tissue in the wind,
in every half-hearted afternoon,
heart drifting in and out of sleep,
there is One, soggy-kneed and steady,
who is praying with all the heart of heaven,
for me.

You are my prayer.
You are my companion,
my garden,
my sleep.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Friday, April 8, 2011

When Lazarus Rose

Dear Urban Abbey Members & Friends: The poem below by Steve Garnaas-Holmes really got me thinking about my morning routine. As I'm getting older, I can certainly relate to Steve's poem. As I lay in bed in the mornings in that twilight area between sleep and waking, I can start to feel the aching muscle in my lower back or the bit of arthritis in my elbow. It would certainly be more comfortable to stay there lying still rather than getting up to greet the new day and get aching muscles and joints in action. That in a sense is renewal, a commitment to meet the new day. In the more figurative sense, I find that twilight time between sleep and waking something akin to the veil between life and death (new life). In those moments, I can be more open to God's presence and loving embrace. The challenge for me is to remember that Presence as I become fully awake and use that as a call to renewal -- that I try to become a conduit for that love and reconciliation itno the world around me.

Shalom and blessings, George

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Dearly Beloved, Grace and Peace to you.

When Lazarus heard his name
he took a sudden breath.
With visceral trembling
blood resurged. But then,
as when awakening some days,
he lay a moment, mired, reluctant to rise
from the familiar swaddling of his death.
Rising, even more than dying,
there could be no return:
for if he chose to stand,
all he knew would then be lost.

And still now every morning,
each momentary wish for healing is a risk,
a wakening call to change, to choose,
to leave so much behind,
and be again made new.

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

Thursday, March 31, 2011

RoL Reflections

Dear Urban Abbey Members and Friends: One of the Lenten disciplines I have attempted to take on this Lent is a Lectio Divina-style contemplation of various prayers. I have recently been reflecting on our Abbey’s Rule of Life. Here are some of my reflections. With the intention of drawing closer to God,… -- I have to be conscious in my desire to do this and try to subjugate my will to God’s. I will with God’s help… -- I cannot do this alone or under my own power; I need to look to a higher Power to underpin my efforts. Pray daily, guided by the Book of Common Payer or another Christian format,… -- To develop a strong personal relationship with God, I must feed that relationship. Just as with a close friend, I need to talk with God daily about my hopes, fears, frustrations, joys, and adoration. …and worship regularly in community,… -- I need also to maintain bonds and support of the community by sharing worship with them regularly. Study scripture and pursue a specifically selected spiritual activity annually,… -- To be close to God and try to be aware of God’s will (call) in my life, I need to do my homework and study sacred writing ( scripture, writings by theologians, books) to have more knowledge of what God is about. I need to be intentional in doing this. Serve others,… -- I need to remember that Christ was a servant-leader; my highest calling is to imitate Him in serving and being present for others. …share the tasks of the Urban Abbey Community,… -- To keep our Abbey Community strong and able to serve its members and the wider community, I must do my part and be an active participant. …and be mindful of God in my daily work, and… -- I need to try to be present in each moment of my day, remembering that I am God’s agent and doing whatever task I’m about to serve and glorify God. Show fellowship with a welcoming heart, seeking Christ in everyone I meet,… -- Fellowship and hospitality are the hallmarks of abbeys of old. I am called to extend that to those I meet in the course of my day; I need to remember that each person – rich, poor, good, bad – bears Christ in them and welcome them as I would Christ. …offering comfort and celebration… -- I not only need to offer fellowship and hospitality, but I need to try to meet each person where they are at the moment, whether it is to listen, to offer comfort and support in time of trouble, to rejoice with the person in times of joy. What does our common Rule of Life mean to you? How do you approach it each day? I invite your thoughts and reflections. Shalom and many blessings, George

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Weaver of Heaven

Dear Urban Abbey Members and Friends:

I was 'blown away' by the imagery of God's presence in Steve's poem below and wanted to share it with you. What an exquisite thought that each one of us is a 'beautiful garment' for our God. What a delight God must take in each one of us, with all our flaws an foibles, that God would 'wear' us and use us in that way to project grace, love, reconciliation to others.

This certainly gives me a renewed sense of purpose and call to be present in each moment of my day. What does this poem say to you?

Shalom and many blessings, George
Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

The weaver of heaven looks out
upon her world and wants
to walk among her dear humans unnoticed
for she knows how alarmed they can be

So she weaves a beautiful garment for herself
and when she is finished
naked and eager she puts you on
and you fit perfectly

And you walk out into the world
and hardly anyone
not even you yourself

But every movement is actually her
every breath is really her
and even when you stumble
she is beautiful in you

Deep Blessings,

Pastor Steve

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Fat Tuesday

Dear Abbey Members and Friends: My week to provide a reflection was last week, but I just got overwhelmed and didn’t get to it. Tonight as I read through Steve’s offering for Lent, it struck me as exceedingly important. In fact, it was a way of looking at Lent that I hadn’t done before; but, it makes so much sense…and how in keeping with the way God would want us to approach Him. As Steve so wonderfully put it, “the point of Lent is to… become more fully connected with God and others through love.” I’m going to give it a try!

I wish you all a blessed and holy Lent. Shalom and many blessings, George
Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

Lent is a season of repentance, marked by the traditional practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. As a form of fasting, people often went without rich foods during Lent, so on the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, they would use up all their milk, butter and eggs by making “fat” foods,” like pancakes. Hence today is sometimes known as “Fat Tuesday” or “Pancake Day.”

We often pick something to “give up” for Lent. I don't plan to give up milk and eggs. But I do intend to fast, and to do without sweets, snacks and unnecessary food, and to avoid eating in a hurry or standing up or while doing something else. The point is not to deprive myself, or make my life uncomfortable. The point is to be mindful. How much do I eat without needing to, just out of habit or “because it's there?” How much do I eat without even thinking, without enjoying, without appreciating? By eating mindfully during Lent I don't expect to be miserable. I expect to enjoy my food even more.

The reason for repentance is God's judgment. If you think God's judgment is condemnation and punishment, then I suppose Lent should be pure misery. But God's judgment is simply the loving truth about us. So Lent is a time to become more mindful, to see ourselves more clearly, to and to realign ourselves with God's love. Fasting is a practice that helps us expose and transcend our usual desires and attachments, and focus beyond ourselves and our immediate wants. But fasting goes along with prayer and almsgiving. Fasting without mindfulness and generosity is not a real fast. The point is not to improve self-discipline, but to deepen our love.

So besides “giving up” something, observe Lent by committing to a deeper practice of prayer or sharing. While I'm fasting, I'll be writing letters on behalf of the poor through Bread for the World, and on behalf of prisoners of conscience through Amnesty International. The point of Lent is to move beyond our self-contained-ness and become more fully connected with God and others in love.Choose a way to observe Lent that helps you become more mindful, and more in harmony with God's love for you and for others. You will likely experience in it a rebirth that will prepare you well for the miracle of Easter. And you'll enjoy those Easter eggs all the more.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Lenten Quiet Day Offering: Finding Balance

Hosted by St. George’s Urban Abbey

Does your daily life resemble a high-wire artist trying to bicycle across a canyon while blindfolded? Where do you find balance in your life? How do you establish and maintain a healthy relationship with your family and with God?

Join Sister Charlotte Lee, O.S.B., and Katherine Frick, Obl.S.B for a day of reflection on “Balance and Stability Walking Through Life with God”.

Where: St. George’s Episcopal Church, Arlington Virginia (Virginia. Square. Metro)
When: Saturday, March 26th 9:30 AM- 3:30 PM
Cost: $10 covers lunch, Scholarships are available
RSVP: Please RSVP by Tuesday, March 22nd to Scherrone Dunhamn, Scherrone1 at verizon dot net
(Or email for more information.)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

For I Do Not Forget Your Commandments

I have gone astray like a sheep that is lost;*
search for your servant,
for I do not forget your commandments.
Psalm 119:176

This certainly says it all: “God, don’t forget me”. Even when I forget God, God is there. It is also a commitment on my part to not forgetting God. And that is the harder part... In my work and my play all too often I fail to look beyond myself. I take the attitude “All I need is to work harder”, that “it” is all in my control... Then all I can do is take faith that God forgives me when I forget, and remains by my side...

God, please help me to honor myself by using and sharing the skills you have given me. Please help me to always keep You as the first tool of my work. Even better, God, help me remember I am the tool You use for the work You do...

Monday, February 21, 2011


Dear Urban Abbey Members and Friends: Good morning and Happy President’s Day to all. This is not my assigned week for a meditation, but the thoughts of Steve Garnaas-Holmes have such a powerful message for me that I wanted to share it. For me Steve’s meditation is a wonderful reminder of our loving God who is with us in every moment of our day, whether we acknowledge that Presence or not. God shares our pains, our troubles, and our joys – whether we remember that God is there or not. We are reminded that our individual path through life will have rough as well as easy spots but there is One who is with us at every step, every turn – whether God is in our consciousness or not. I am reminded that I must keep on my path and that God is there, ever faithful, ever present to steady me and give a gentle push to keep me at it.

Shalom and blessings, George
Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites looked back, and there were the Egyptians advancing on them. In great fear the Israelites cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, "Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness?” … But the Israelites walked on dry ground through the sea... — Exodus 14.10-11, 29

A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" —Mark 4. 37-38

We walk through the valley of the shadow of death. We strain at the oars of our little boat against a tempestuous sea. We wake in the darkest depths of the night. We suffer difficulties, losses, even despair. And through it all the Infinite Presence, the One who Accompanies Us, whispers in our hearts, “Peace. Be still. This is not where the story ends. Yours is not a story of tragedy, of life diminished into misery and meaninglessness. Yours is a story of abundant life, slowly unfolding. It is a process, a journey. This is merely a passage. I am bringing you through this narrow place into a broad and spacious place. I am bringing you through this valley of tears to a meadow of rejoicing. You cannot arrive without first traveling. You must walk this path, and pass through these dark places. There are rough steps along the way. But I am leading you out of this place into another. Every step, even the fearful ones, even those of suffering and loss, are steps by which I come with you closer to the place of your deepest delight. Your pain is real, and I do not begrudge your despair. But trust this: whether or not you feel it, I am with you. Every step toward blessing is blessing. Walk with me, and let the walking itself give you courage.” And so, picking up the little bundle of our hearts, we go, hand in hand with the Loving Mystery, the morning light dawning slowly, silently, about us.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Finding God on a Plane (Posting from Angela Churchill)

Dear Urban Abbey Members,
I travelled this weekend to Houston for a family reunion with my cousins. As my daughter slept soundly beside me, after a frantic and hectic departure, the plane provided a rare moment for me to sit and be. Feeling restless and fidgety, I decided I would take advantage of that moment to read a magazine I had brought along. The Sun is a literary magazine that I receive as a gift from a friend--but I have two years of these wonderful writings in box at home. I had thrown one in as a last minute gesture of hope that I would actually find time to read on the plane. And here was a moment!

After reading several short and long stories and essays, I came to an excerpt of a book called "Courage to Pray" by a Russian Orthodox Priest named Anthony Bloom. I thought to myself "This should be interesting." I was stunned by its clarity. I share this with you today because I think it helped summarize for me our purpose and reason for being as an Abbey.

"We must let our heart go its own way, towards its own deepest desire, which it knows is different from all others. This desire is different from all others not necessarily because it is more strongly felt, but because it comes from farther off, from what is deepest in us. It is not simply an act of our free will, but something which is in our deepest being and which involves all that we are. It is something quite simple but inseparable fundamentally from our self- awareness and open to a limitless beyond. God reveals himself to us in this awareness that we are essentially a cry for him.

Our inner atmosphere is not made up only of what we are clearly conscious of and can be precisely expressed. It is also composed of all that is living in our inmost depths. This is what makes us realize what we fundamentally are. It is always there.

Throughout the day we are a succession of social personalities, sometimes unrecognizable to others or even to ourselves. And when the time comes to pray and we want to present ourselves to God, we often feel lost because we don not know which of these social personalities is the true human person, and have not sense of our own true identity. The several successive persons that we present to God are not ourselves. There is something of us in each of them, but the whole person is missing. And that is why a prayer which could rise powerfully from the heart of the true person cannot find its way between the successive men of straw we offer to God....

It is extremely important that we find our unity, our fundamental identity. Otherwise we cannot encounter the Lord in truth. We should be on the watch all the time to see that none of our words and actions are incompatible with the fundamental integrity we are seeking. We must try to discover the real person we are, the secret person, the core of the person to come, and thee only eternal reality which is already in us.

This discovery is difficult because we have to cast aside all the mens of straw. From time to time something authentic shows through.... Our deep reality may take over in moments when we are so carried away by joy that we forget who might be looking at us,... or when we are unselfconscious in moments of extreme pain, moments when we have a deep sense of sadness or of wonder. At these moment we see something of the true person that we are. But no sooner have we seen, than we often turn away because we do not want to confront this person face to face . We are afraid of him; he puts us off. Nevertheless this is the only real person there is in us."

I can so relate to sitting down to pray and having various "social personalities parade before God". I do believe the Abbey is called to be a crucible to provide the space for people to journey towards discovering their most authentic self that God created them to to be. And I had to smile as I realized when I had a moment to simply be, God was the one who took advantage and showed up on the plane. I have been pondering this passage since that time. How are we providing those opportunities for people to show up and experience there most authentic self? How do you experience these moments in the Abbey? Please share.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Spiritual Growth While Caring For Our Urban Abbey

My first blog in this series (“Our Abbey - A Community of Growth”) spoke of our life together in community and our intent to become more what God calls us to be as we live our lives. Our next Urban Abbey Chapter meeting is this Saturday, February 19, 9:30-3:00 in the Rhodes Room. This is a time of fellowship, sharing, spiritual growth and decision making. You might wonder, as I do, where the spiritual growth is in our chapter meetings. We have services and prayers and this weekend we will also have the Labyrinth open and celebrate the Eucharist together.

But I often forget what I think may be a key element of spiritual growth: our work together to discern God’s call for St. George’s Urban Abbey and how we, all of us, as God’s co-creators, are making decisions for and about our community. This is not how I traditionally think I am “growing spiritually”. Making such decisions often feels like drudging busy-work. However, I expect God does not see it that way. This is important work, and done well creates a wonderful place to share and grow.

So, as you prepare your offerings of food and presence, and look forward to quiet moments with God, join me in asking God for guidance before we arrive, and using our time together as a time to practice caring for God’s creation. What important spiritual growth, to assist God in creation!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Our Abbey - A Community of Growth

This is the first of what I hope will be three "extra" postings over the next week discussing our Urban Abbey community and exploring how the service of doing the "business" of maintaining our community at our quarterly meetings is very much an exercise in spiritual growth, part of our daily work in becoming more like Christ. In this first reflection I share some insight into my personal understanding of our community, a bit of "what we are".

Last week Angela, Scherrone, Wayne and I spent Wednesday evening visiting with Greg Finch of the Community of Reconciliation at the National Cathedral. The Community of Reconciliation describes itself as “an ecumenical network of individuals seeking radical balance in life and a deepening commitment to reconciliation in the world”. We had a wonderful conversation, with much joyous learning and sharing of invitations. We invited Greg, and perhaps a few other members of the Community of Reconciliation, to join us for our February 19th chapter meeting. (Saturday February 19th from 9:30 AM until 3:00 PM).

The discussion of what each of our communities “is”, and my daily reading of The Rule of Benedict as part of my personal meditation, brought into focus how our Urban Abbey parallels aspects of the traditional Benedictine monastery. We are not a walled expanse of land, as we think of monasteries, but we are an Abby, which to me, parallels the design and function suggested by St. Benedict in his Rule with:
  • Our specific intent to become more what God calls us as we live our lives
  • Our choosing to come together as a community to support each other in this intent
  • Our welcome to all God’s children to join our life together, whether for an hour or day-in and day-out
  • Our formation of an enclosure where we more deeply seek God in the silence of our Listening Groups
We do the messy and hard work of becoming more like Christ through all four of these, but it is within our enclosure, our Listening Groups, where we truly set aside our outer trappings, let our guard down and get to the task of Christian growth. Here is where we come face-to-face with our Lord, where we may well find wonderful peak experiences and new life, but also find our fallen nature and our need for God in our life…

Saturday, February 5, 2011


Dear Urban Abbey Members and Friends: This is my week to post some thoughts/meditation…and I’m late. It has been a very busy week for me. As I was driving home Friday evening and stressing about not having done my blog posting YET, I reflected back on the week and realized how blessed I have been this past week.

My new job with the Navy is in the Appropriations Committee Congressional Liaison office. We deal with questions and interest items from the Defense Appropriations Committees, but we also have to prepare the Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) and Chief of Naval Operations (CNO). So, it seems we live from one short suspense tasking to the next. As I looked back at my week of going from one hot item to the next, I realized all the help I had been given from the young officers in our office. Our efforts are joint efforts by the office, but my colleagues were caring, calmed me down when that was needed, pitched in to help do “Read Ahead” memos for the SECNAV or CNO, provide guidance on how to arrange transportation, and a host of other tasks. In the midst of all our frenetic efforts, they took the time to listen, help out as they could, provide soothing counsel. To be honest, I can’t really remember how I responded in return. I hope that I treated them as generously in return, but I know there were times when I was a bit sharp.

I guess the message in this rambling is that we can get caught up in the events of our busy lives and overlook the blessings and grace that God is constantly sending our way through others around us. My goal for the upcoming few weeks (which also promise to be hectic) is to try to remember to ‘take a few deep breaths’ in the midst of the business of the day to see the blessings and generosity of others…and to be a blessing to them. In one of his past meditations, Fr. Don Talafous (Saint John’s Abbey) reminds us that, while we cannot always control the events going on around us, we can control our reaction to them.

I am constantly amazed at overwhelming generosity of our God and the way God puts people in our path to cheer us on. Where do you find the blessings of God in your life?

Shalom, George

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Do We Opt for Comfort Rather Than Change?

One goal of the Urban Abbey blog is sharing discoveries we run across during our daily times of meditation and prayer. Many of us use a number of different sources and devotionals, so sharing not only our discoveries, but where we found them can be a joy!

Patty (my wife) and I read from Forward Day By Day, a devotional from Forward Movement, "an agency of the Episcopal Church." Today I was struck by the line
"...we have been warned that growth brings change and that change can be scary. Unfortunately, many of us have taken that warning to heart and have opted for comfort rather than change."
St. George's IS changing, and we are not always comfortable. As part of St. George's, our Urban Abbey changes as well.

To make matters a bit more difficult, many of these changes are not things we have control over, we don't have the option of "comfort"... But we do have the comfort of God and our St. George's (and Urban Abbey) communities to hold to during the most uncomfortable of the changes...

May God be in our communities!


If you wish more information about Forward Movement, you can find it at

Here is the Meditation for today (Wednesday, Jan 26, 2011):

wednesday, january 26 (timothy and titus, companions of saint paul)

Isaiah 49:1-12. …saying to the prisoners, “Come out,” to those who are in darkness, “Show yourselves.”
Over the past thirty years, much has been written about church growth and the drop in mainline church membership. I read what pertains to the Episcopal Church, and what I read is usually accompanied by complaints about the direction being taken and some aspect of inclusivity.
When we in the church feel weak or threatened, we tend to be a selective bunch. It has been over ­thirteen years since a new presiding bishop, Edmond Lee ­Browning, issued a historic pronouncement from the pulpit of Washington National Cathedral: “There shall be no outcasts in this church.” Yet, in many parishes it is a struggle to cast our loving, accepting eyes on all those around us.
At every vestry retreat I have ever attended on the subject of church growth, we have been warned that growth brings change and that change can be scary. Unfortunately, many of us have taken that warning to heart and have opted for comfort rather than change.
It is time to reflect on today’s verse from Isaiah and our call to proclaim, “Come out…Show yourselves.” (1998)
PRAY for the Diocese of Lucknow (North India)
Ps 119:49-72 * 49, [53]; Galatians 2:11-21; Mark 6:13-29