Facing the Corona Malaise – Cross the Threshold

Ponderings from Mary Pandiani,
Selah Executive Director

“Every day, those caretakers and I cross the threshold,”
says my friend who works at a nursing home,
“going back into the building to provide
what we can to those in need for the day.”

I am struck by her profound gift of intentionally moving back
into a life-threatening environment every time she goes to work.
It’s not unlike what our military does while at war, our police and firefighters perform every day on the job, and our health-care providers give. While I always appreciate the dedication and service, I ponder with new wonderment the intentionality of crossing from one space to another, knowing the risk involved. Such purpose and character by taking a step from one world to another.

I realize, to a lesser degree while carrying the weight of intentionality, we all cross the threshold – it’s called waking up to life each morning, choosing to go forward in whatever form we can. Because a new day is outside out of control, the choice to go forward could seem to be forced. But it is a choice. We have a world behind us in yesterday, and now face a new world in today. While we can’t go backwards, we can stay at the threshold by deciding to not enter, usually reflected through hiding in the fear of what the day holds. The paralysis of our stance robs us of the present day as well as the freedom that comes in risking what a new day will bring.

That’s what I heard in my friend’s voice when she offered those words. When they cross the threshold, the choice of moving forward offers freedom of living as God intended, fully embracing what each day gives, in the risk, the unknown, and the beautiful.

For such a time as this in the crisis, we are being asked to cross the threshold into a life that will never look the same as it has in the past. How do you want to enter into each day? What is the invitation by God for you to walk into the day with intentionality? I know for me, I want to wake each day with the thought, “Here we go again, God, I want to cross the threshold with you.”

Facing the Corona Malaise

Ponderings from Beth Griffith,
a Selah friend and Living From the Heart facilitator

Over the past weeks I have been sitting with friends, soul mates, directees, clients, mentors, therapists, spiritual directors, and other companions as they explore and reflect on their experience of living in social distancing and in a pandemic. I have heard details of their individual stories and listened for the deeper narratives influencing their words, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. If I allow myself to sink deeper, below the details, below the narratives, I hear similar themes:


I would like to invite all of us to sink deeper with one another. As we sink deeper, we begin to connect. We connect with our common experiences (apart from the details, which are unique to each of us), our common humanity, and with our core selves. In this connection, we soothe one another’s bodies and souls. We validate, we see, we hear, we offer compassion and understanding. We are validated, we are seen, we are heard, we experience compassion, and we are understood. These are the best gifts we can give one another, and to ourselves.  They comfort rather than weigh us down. For in the details, we stay in the spinning and the chaos, in the confusion, and in the unknown. In sinking deeper, we rest. We rest in the knowing, “Here I am, right here, right now.” And we let others know, “Here I am with you, right here, right now.” If we welcome this, then we can welcome the next moment, and the next moment, and the next moment, and the one after that. In therapeutic terms from my training as a counselor, when we do these things, we are grounding ourselves in the present, we are soothing our central nervous systems, we are co-regulating, and we are helping ourselves and each other move through this time of uncertainty and trauma.

As a fellow contemplative, when we do these things, we are living out of who we are as a child of God and offering support to our fellow travelers…If we listen deeply for what is beneath the surface, beneath the details, and if we allow this to teach us and transform us, then in time we will come to the other side of this. And we will come to the other side with deeper connection with God, with our own selves, and with those with whom we journey.


To honor God’s invitation for Maundy Thursday,
the celebration of the Last Supper,
here is a poem written by Lisa Veitenhans,
one of our Selah board members.


Pour the wine

Break the cracker


Hold a moment


Dark purple veins rise

Just visible

Lift it, look at it, feel it


Lay on tongue

Hold there

Lips close

Sharp alcohol, bitter and sweet

Rigid cracker edges melt

Slowly, eyes closed

Chew it.

Open eyes

Pick up the cup

There! dusty fingerprints.

A Clearer View

A Clearer View
From the desk of John Kiemele


Since we turned our calendars a few months ago, who hasn’t thought about or heard references to this being a year for seeing with greater precision, for gaining or regaining vision clarity?

Little did I or any of us realize then what all would be involved in catalyzing clarity for us. Understandably this year, approaching Holy Week and the celebration of Resurrection Life feels entirely different with nearly every external set and prop and script stripped away.

In such barrenness where is the kindling for celebration?
I know I am not entirely bereft (or else what have I been cultivating these nearly 60 years?); however, my angst among the sparseness does catch my attention.

Much like Irish poet and priest John O’Donohue catches my attention when asserting that we have “utterly taken up with the outside world and allowed the interior life to shrink.” (“Divine Beauty” © 2003)

Hmmm…enter my question:
If I don’t have all the external accoutrements this Easter, what is there?

One possible answer:  A clearer view.

O’Donohue charges that somewhere along the line we have unlearned the patience and attention of lingering at the threshold where the Unknown awaits. Somehow my chronic distractions and or inattention erode interior capacity for a celebration wellspring.
Have I substituted ease and convenience for substance?
Has impatience set up layers and layers of expectations?
Do my persistent “ought-to-bes” and “really-should-bes” realign my inner willingness to linger?

Somehow if I want a clearer view, it seems that my stubborn familiars need to be turned…if not tossed.

Thanks be to God that our loving Unknown Turner lives…closer to me than my own breath…asking to clear my view during Holy Week 2020.

The prayer emerging for me is to relent, to soften, to allow, to invite a clearer view.  English poet Malcolm Guite pens my prayer this way:

Come to your Temple here with liberation
And overturn these tables of exchange
Restore in me my lost imagination
Begin in me for good, the pure change.
Come as you came, an infant with your mother,
That innocence may cleanse and claim this ground
Come as you came, a boy who sought his father
With questions asked and certain answers found,
Come as you came this day, a man in anger
Unleash the lash that drives a pathway through
Face down for me the fear the shame the danger
Teach me again to whom my love is due.
Break down in me the barricades of death
And tear the veil in two with your last breath.

(“Cleansing the Temple,” Sounding the Seasons, Canterbury Press, © 2012)

An unveiled, clearer view…so be it.

Peace and love to you in this good day.
John Kiemele
North Hampton, 2020


For more Selah Ponderings:  Selah Ponderings

Ash Wednesday

From the desk of Mary Pandiani

Ash Wednesday

“Whoever you are, you are human.
Wherever you are, you live in the world,
which is just waiting for you to notice the holiness in it.” 

Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith

Being human. It’s our reality. I’ll confess I don’t particular like being human.
That’s not entirely true. I love the gift of life, the everyday-ordinariness of watching people connect, the longing that draws us towards the depth of wholeness, among the many gifts of what being human means. But the other stuff – the failings, the limits, the disappointments – these and so many other places of resistance cause a deep sadness.
In the substrata of my being, I want all to be reconciled and good, in others and myself. With a metaphor I described recently at our Selah retreat, I find myself falling into an abyss of profound bafflement at this being human.

What does this abyss have to tell me?
A friend suggests the practice of awareness versus analysis through her question, “Why don’t you sit for awhile on one those ledges you described in your abyss?”
Sit, linger, allow all that is happening around you to be what it is, nothing more.
Gradually my eyes adjust to the darkness of the abyss, my heart slows in the quietness of the silence, and I open to the Spirit’s encounter.
Slowly an awakening sheds light on the origin of my sadness and frustration.

It’s not that I don’t want to be a human being. Like I said early, I actually love so much of what it means to be human. What I don’t like is that I too often focus on life as a human “doing.” I’m tired, exhausted is more like it, from all that I expect of myself to do. Similar to the message of the African guides who ultimately halt the fast pace of Westerner’s safari trip and go no further, I need to “let my soul catch up with body.”
That’s what being human means. The soul works with the body.
Certainly, being human means there is doing. But the orientation in which I allow my soul and body to work together through the grace of God brings about a rhythm to life.

28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me.
Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.
Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.
Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” 

Matthew 11:28-30 The Message
For Lent I’ve been pondering about my focus during the 40-day period of reflection. The 40 days represent the 40 days Jesus walked in the wilderness which the season then culminates with the observance of the Passion Week, a time of walking with Jesus through the Last Supper, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and the Resurrection by celebrating Easter. The Spirit stirs within me this question – what does it mean to be human in light of the life, human-yet-divine life of Jesus the Christ? Today on Ash Wednesday, I bring my first reflection, with the intention of providing one each week during Lent until Easter.
Together we’ll look at our human story with Jesus’ story.

Need Some Rest

From the desk of Mary Pandiani
March 26, 2020

Need some rest?
Longing for solace in place of fear and confusion?

Here’s a piece to consider while we navigate a new normal:

Douglas Kaine McKelvey

In a world so wired and interconnected, our anxious hearts are pummeled by an endless barrage of troubling news.  We are daily aware of more grief, O Lord, than we can rightly consider, of more suffering and scandal than we can respond to, of more hostility, hatred, horror, and injustice than we can engage with compassion.

But you, O Jesus, are not disquieted by such news of cruelty and terror and war.  You are neither anxious nor overwhelmed.  You carried the full weight of the suffering of a broken world when you hung upon the cross, and you carry it still.


When the cacophony of universal distress unsettles us, remind us that we are but small and finite creatures, never designed to carry the vast abstractions of great burdens, for our arms are too short and our strength is too small.  Justice and mercy, healing and redemption are your great labors.

And yes, it is your good pleasure to accomplish such works through your people, but you have never asked any one of us to undertake more than your grace will enable us to fulfill.


Guard us then from shutting down our empathy or walling off our hearts because of the glut of un-actionable misery that floods our awareness.  You have many children in many places around this globe.  Move each of our hearts to compassionately respond to those needs that intersect our actual lives, that in all places your body might be actively addressing the pain and brokenness of this world, each of us liberated and empowered by your Spirit to fulfill the small part of your redemptive work assigned to us.

Give us discernment in the face of troubling news reports.  Give us discernment to know when to pray, when to speak out, when to act, and when to simply shut off our screens and our devices, and to sit quietly in your presence, casting the burden of this world upon the strong shoulders of the one who alone is able to bear them up.


Reflections on Wonder

From the desk of Mary Pandiani
March 16, 2020

I sit on the grass for an unexpected picnic today. Needing to clear my head on this beautiful – but confusing – March day where I walk to a grocery store in order to get something for lunch. No restaurants open, including my favorite Red Elm café. When I consider the picnic benches, I decide it wiser to sit on the grass with the little English daisies, using my coat as my blanket. A sunny bright spot on this hill in Wright Park on a day that carries an onslaught of information, too much information that causes my brain and heart to restrict the oxygen I need. Looking down at the landscape, I see something beyond the noise. It’s wonder. Capturing an essence of presence and peace, I remember that God invites me to consider the lilies, in this case, the daisies of the field. Even in the midst of all this pandemoniun, I can see things differently. I look up and see the trees, some who have been around since the Influenza Pandemic of 1918. They are whispering, “Don’t forget, life continues on. Maybe not in the way you thought it would or should, but life offers more than what you could ever think or imagine. Don’t you see God’s abundance in the beauty of this day?”
I offer these words as encouragement, and a way to reach out to say you are not alone in whatever circumstances you find yourself in. In fact if you consider yourself a part of Selah, we want to offer community that says you belong, even when social distancing seems to be the necessary norm. On Friday morning, 10am PST, on Zoom, I’ll be offering an hour of time for pausing and realigning perspective in our Selah way, the same kind of pausing and realigning I needed from the gift of my spontaneous picnic. Should you want to join me, please email me at director@selahcenter.org. I’ll invite you to join me for the hour of time we have together. 
Yes, wonder in the abundance of God’s presence is what I hope for as we navigate this unprecedented time. And I hope to do it with others. 
Help Me Listen
O Holy One, 
I hear and say so many words, 
yet yours is the word I need. 
Speak now, 
and help me to listen; 
and, if what I hear is silence, 
let it quiet me, 
let it disturb me, 
let it touch my need, 
let it break my pride, 
let it shrink my certainties, 
let it enlarge my wonder.
Ted LoderGuerrillas of Grace

Plans and Paths

From the desk of Lisa Veitenhans
March 11, 2020

Every year the ordinary time from January 1 until Ash Wednesday feels like time in-between the old stuff and new something-that-will-happen. I make plans and resolutions, think about the past, and wonder about spots neglected. Once all my thoughts have started to form into a plan of action and the fooling around of practice has been tried, Ash Wednesday arrives and calls me to stop and set it all aside. “Remember you are dust.” Everything waiting on the brink of movement, my last deep breath taken before plunging in, and the call comes to, “Wait. Pay attention to this.”

My Celtic reflection for Ash Wednesday offered an imaginative way of looking at the creation of human beings. Adam made not just of dust, but of all the elements of sea, sun, clouds, stone and even light, being the light of God within us – a way of reflecting His divine image. I felt connected deeply to the trees blowing outside the door, close clouds moving quickly in the sky, and the bright green of the grass. I nodded to my dog, stretched and went about the day.

The day had one primary event that I’d reflected much upon and made plans and resolutions regarding. The dog had to see a surgeon about his tricky knee. My beloved dog had suddenly developed a funny limp and after seeing his vet, he was going on to see a surgeon. I had plans in my head about cost, recovery and so forth.

“Do you mind if I take another x-ray?” he asked.

“Not at all,” my mind was still humming with how many days he’d need absolute rest after surgery and questions about whether or not it would interfere with other plans.

That all stopped suddenly when the surgeon came back in and sat close to me. “I’m sorry,” he said.

All my plans and resolutions halted abruptly and began to dissolve and blow away like dust. I got very still. A different and unexpected path opened. I turned to walk toward an undesired destination, accepting.

We sat on the floor at home, looking out over the world, my hand on his back, where we’ve sat many times. Clouds sailed past in the bright sky, the neighbors’ trees swaying in the gentle wind and I wondered about the morning’s reading, about the connectedness of God’s creation, made by the same hand, breathed to life by the same creativity. Kito will finish his life, as I will finish mine. It is part of life, dying. It seemed right to remember about the dust, to even begin to experience the pain of it, watching all my plans blow away and accepting this new way forward.

Shape of My Heart

From the desk of Mary Pandiani
March 4, 2020

The “if” questions. As a conditional phrase, the “if” leads into questions such as “what if,” “if not,” “if you can,” and other such doubt-sowing questions. Our world is full of them, especially the anxiety when we experience a season of “if this” ____________ (coronavirus, financial security, illness, etc – you fill in the blank) doesn’t change, then what? There are other kinds of “if” questions that focus on necessities for sustainability in everyday life, security and safety, power and control – the things that make the world go round. If you don’t have them, then life falls apart, right? We need the basics, wanting and needing them aren’t bad in and of themselves. But what if the desire for the basics prove to be the very thing that gets in the way of what is best for us? How do we discern then how to live? The “if” questions offers a chance to pause, to wonder, to remember about what’s most important, as I reflect on them during this season of Lent.
Jesus encounters the “if” questions while being tempted in the desert. Right after he hears the words at his baptism, “You are my beloved,” he moves into the wilderness, fasting for 40 days. He faces the “if” questions by the tempter who sows doubt and causes misdirection in the important work to come. “If you are the son of God…” “If you can turn the stones into bread….” “If you can throw yourself down….” Each time, Jesus replies with a statement “It is written” to shut the tempter down.
How does Jesus discern in the midst of his fasting and exposed state, choosing the way of God over what the tempter offers? What gives him wisdom for the better choice, even in the things that are important in life – eating, protection, power that helps create energy? What, in turn, shapes us to do likewise, providing strength and wisdom to face the “if” questions with a discerning heart? 
Remember Jesus’ entry point into the desert with the awareness and receiving of his identity soaked in belovedness? That foundation shapes him as he declares “it is written.” He is an expression of God’s love as the “Word.” The scripture that once was read to him now becomes a part of him. The shaping of his life comes from what Eugene Peterson speaks of “entering the world of the text and letting the text ‘read’ me.”[1] The declaration of “it is written” speaks to what has become a part of him, an interior life of listening and responding, living into his identity of belovedness, that leads to an exterior life of discernment and purpose.
What is written on my heart? What is shaping me as I make choices? Can I live into my own belovedness as God’s child? In this season of Lent, can I walk the road of reflection letting God do “God’s healing action within” (Welcoming Prayer) through letting go of what I believe I need in order to receive what God has? What “if” that happens?

“my heart has no bones,
so, I wonder —
what is it that keeps it from collapsing in on itself
Love — the same Love the that pulls me out of gentle slumber,
calls me into the shape of its desires, and holds me true….”
― Kate Mullane Robertson

Cloistered Intention

From the desk of Doreen Olson
April 1, 2020

During this period of necessary self-isolation I admit that it’s been somewhat challenging to maintain my equilibrium. In the midst of constant updates as to the severity of this pandemic I’ve pondered how to avoid being overcome by fear. Perhaps you have experienced a similar challenge.
In light of this, my gratitude to the Cistercians is understandable. They’ve been self-isolating for centuries. For nearly a thousand years in fact. A recent post by the nuns of Mount Saint Joseph Abbey in Ireland offered four concrete tips.

1.Write down a weekly schedule.
It needn’t be too complex or specific. In fact, it’s important that you don’t regiment yourself so much that you become like a soldier. But having a basic schedule will structure your week and give you the time and freedom to live a productive life. You may want to color-code the entries according to whether they are daily, weekly or monthly occurrences.

2.Add at least two prayer times to this.
They needn’t be for more than ten minutes. Set aside a quiet place, and a good time, and make this your chosen meeting place with God.

Everyone can have access to books if they want.

Many online stores are still operating.

4.Try to live in the present moment.
One of the thoughts that short-circuits self isolation is the “What-to-do-next” thought. It makes you restless, unable to engage with staying in one place. Your weekly schedule is a good start. And books will give you a ‘mental space’ to lose yourself in.
I’m grateful for this hard-earned wisdom. Though I’ve developed and followed a “Rule of Life” for many years I’m feeling that the current season necessitates a change. My morning meditation and evening prayer of examen needs to be bolstered by mid-day prayer in order to keep my soul focused on what is essential. Thankfully, there are many opportunities available. Among my favorites is the Pray-as-you-Go app. There are also numerous podcasts that have fed my soul. A current go-to is James Finley’s Turning to the Mystics. These mid-day messages ground me once again in truth. 
Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)
In what ways are you finding equilibrium
as you face the very real fears of this current reality? 
As you go about creating a schedule for your days and weeks I hope you will be gentle with yourself. Find ways to add rituals that nurture you. Is that through taking a walk or listening to music or baking some muffins or writing an actual pen and paper letter to a friend? What rituals might you add to your week that nourish your soul? 
Be well, my friends. 

So Be It..

From the Desk of John Kiemele

March 11, 2020

Recently, we were walking along the nearby beach companioned by crashing waves and the still-cool breeze when right in front of us, dashing across the sand toward the water was a bare-foot boy, five maybe six years old.  Exuberance was flowing from his arms and his legs and his face and his shrieking voice.    As he reached the water’s edge, he turned toward his family trying hard to follow his energy, and, while jumping up and down in place, he shouted at the top of his voice, “Get a load of all that water!”  This was a living picture of bottled anticipation erupting into pure joy.

I stopped walking for a moment, savoring the picture:  one so young, undoubtedly visiting the ocean for the first time, entirely captivated and overjoyed by the vast and dynamic Atlantic lapping at his feet. Hmmm…what a scene to ponder.

In this season of Lent, this young lad causes me to pause, drawing my attention to a fresh way, a way calling for a living encounter with something or someone beyond me that is so vast and dynamic and vibrant.  He challenges me to open my eyes wider and see beyond the more familiar rhythms of restriction, removal, regret or remorse to something else…something along the lines of relinquish, reflect and realign…something preparatory for abundance and fullness of life…something sustainable born of anticipation…something re-awakening me to First Love.

What about cultivating openness or awakening my heart again to feel wonder-filled Love constantly lapping at my feet?  What about widening my eyes and arms to receive anew the vast, unpredictable, essential, untamable, transforming, ubiquitous Divine Love?  Ocean-like Divine Love is teeming with life in every moment and every movement, and simply returns again and again and again wondering if I might pause and notice and maybe jump in.  Divine Love constantly invites me forward with longing for connection and the hope-filled promise of life.  “Get a load of all that water” indeed!

And then I wonder about after Lent…how does alertness to the dynamic of Divine Love continue in the ordinary rhythms and places of my life?
How do I remain awake and open to God’s regular invitations toward fullness of life and transformation?
How does my heart remain awake and engaged, energizing my arms, legs, voice and imagination?
Hmmm…perhaps I revisit the beach.
Perhaps I reconstruct this scene of childlike anticipation rushing toward ocean waves.
Perhaps I re-check my willingness to pause often, listen keenly, and live responsively.
Perhaps I practice keeping my heart soft and porous.
Perhaps I merge my path with other kindred hearts and continue walking gently and resolutely alongside the crashing waves of Love.
Perhaps it’s being willing to get wet…there is a load of water to be had after all.

So be it.