Good Morning

On the Pulse of the Morning

(Excerpt)

…Lift up your eyes upon
This day breaking for you.
Give birth again
To the dream….
Here, on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister’s eyes, and into
Your brother’s face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope—
Good morning.

Maya Angelou

Thoughts from Mary

I am grateful for sabbath, even when it doesn’t turn out as you had hoped. My aspirations for the month included down time along with organizing my office, playing with friends and family, and spontaneously saying yes to whatever showed up for the day. Instead, I spent over a week in bed with Covid (and a couple more weeks of tiredness) along with grieving the loss of a dear and close friend who while struggling through her cancer seemed to be living a full life. The sabbath that I hoped would restore some strength and perspective became a time of recognizing my weakness and need for God and others.

Sabbath is not something we accomplish or acquire or strive towards. It’s a resting in what God has for us.

Mary Pandiani

And so it is that I return to the call of Selah and my other responsibilities with a bit of heavy heart and weariness. Yet, I still remain grateful, not only for sabbath in whatever form it takes but also for this day. I want to claim, as Maya Angelou does, that I can say “good morning” to today, trusting that God will provide me with what I need for this day.

Sabbath is not something we accomplish or acquire or strive towards. It’s a resting in what God has for us. And for today, all I have is today. So may you, along with me, find the voice to say “help” where help is needed, trust that God shows up even when grief feels oppressive, and lean into “good morning” as a reflection of the hope that rests in God’s abundance, not my capability or circumstance.

Pax Bonum,
Mary Pandiani
Executive Director
Selah Center

Mary Pandiani, D.Min, serves as Selah’s Executive Director, leading the community and organization through its current transition period into future possibilities. Mary has served in various capacities for Selah, including as a founding board member, seminar/group leader, and co-facilitator for Selah’s extended programs, Living From The Heart and Way of the Heart. Mary is a spiritual director and coach, co-facilitator for a spiritual direction training program, and advisor for doctoral students. Mary received her Doctorate of Ministry at Portland Seminary, and her work focuses on a posture of contemplative living across the seasons of life. Her foundation starts with a love for the God who wants to be known and a desire to help others to pause-notice-listen-respond in ways that lead to a deeper understanding of God’s divine invitation. With the support of her husband Bill, Mary serves Selah while also enjoying her family of four adult daughters and their families. Mary lives in Gig Harbor WA where she knows the value of beauty in creation and the gift of community.

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Join Mary every Friday at 10:00 AM for Kairos. It’s a time for conversation the “selah way.” Welcome friends, old and new. Kairos is open to everyone interested in learning more about Selah. Kairos meets on Zoom for an hour at 10 AM. Click Here & Now for more info.

Am I Really a Contemplative?

Someday I Will Visit Hawk Mountain

By M. Soledad Caballero

I will be a real birder and know raptors
by the shape of their wings, the span of them
against wide skies, the browns and grays
of their feathers, the reds and whites like specks
of paint. I will look directly into the sun, point and say,
those are black vultures, those are red-shouldered
hawks. They fly with the thermals, updrafts, barely
moving, glide their bodies along the currents, borrowing
speed from the wind. I will know other raptors,
sharp-shinned hawk, the Cooper’s hawk, the ones
that flap their wings and move their bodies during the day.
The merlins, the peregrine falcons, soaring like bullets
through blue steel, cutting the winds looking for rabbits,
groundhogs that will not live past talons and claws.
I will know the size of their bones, the weight
of their beaks. I will remember the curves, the colors
of their oval, yellow eyes. I will have the measurements,
the data that live inside their bodies like a secret
taunting me to find its guts. Or this is what I tell myself.


But, I am a bad birder. I care little about the exact rate
of a northern goshawk’s flight speed. I do not need
to know how many pounds of food an American kestrel
eats in winter. I have no interest in the feather types
on a turkey vulture. I have looked up and forgotten
these facts again and again and again. They float
out of my mind immediately. What I remember:
my breathless body as I look into the wildness above,

raptors flying, diving, stooping, bodies of light, talismans,
incantations, dust of the gods. Creatures of myth,
they hang in the sky like questions. They promise
nothing, indifferent to everything but death.
Still, still, I catch myself gasping, neck craned up,
follow the circles they build out of sky, reach
for their brutal mystery, the alien spark of more.

(Helpful to read out loud if you don’t listen to the audio)

A poem touches each of us a bit differently, yet the same – a moment of encounter in the imagination that reaches deep within us. The bold italics indicate what captures me from what the Allegheny College professor and poet, M. Soledad Caballero offers. To hear these words read by the Irish poet Pádraig Ó Tuama further enhances the resonance I experience in the listening.

Walking along a slough bordering Camano Island, I witness a flock of herons, or the proper group name siege, hurling into the sky when Caballero’s words speak to me “what I remember: my breathless body as I look into the wildness above.…” In that moment, I hear my own thoughts that there is a wildness that runs through my own remembering and breathless body. It’s contemplation. That’s how the contemplative life engages my heart and soul and mind.

Analogous to the poet, I forget all the knowledge of what makes a birder a birder. For me, it’s the contemplative life. I want to live contemplatively, but I forget. I’m a “bad” contemplative in the sense that I fall and rise again, fall and rise again. I try harder, only to fall down again. The knowledge of what it means to be contemplative is helpful. But it quickly flies out of my head, especially in my greatest need.

My longing suggests that I want to know more, but seeking knowledge in the way of information lacks the power to transform my engagement with the world, others, God, even my own life. There is an “alien spark of more” when it comes to the contemplative life. I want to encounter more, go deeper more where wonder and curiosity generates movement and engages mystery.

As the poet seeks to know more about the birds, she recognizes they capture her heart not by the important details that she can learn, but how they live in the world. Witnessing their flight brings about questions, hopes and fears, stories of mythological gravitas. Interestingly, she does know quite a bit about the birds. Yet she longs for something more.

For me, I too learn about God, and want to know more about Divine Holy Mystery. But how quickly the energy in engaging God dissipates if I only stay in the grasping of intellectual attainment for what I think I need. My encounter with the Divine requires, demands, invites me into something that goes beyond my thinking. In the wonder and colorful mystery of who God is, I find a depth crystalizing the beauty of encounter. The crystalizing depth becomes a way of remembering. It is there that I see God move in and through my being so that when I do fall, or am a “bad” contemplative, I am not alone.

Perhaps the remembering is the spark for knowing birds, for knowing what is unknowable.

By Mary Pandiani
Executive Director
Selah Center

Mary Pandiani, D.Min, serves as Selah’s Executive Director, leading the community and organization through its current transition period into future possibilities. Mary has served in various capacities for Selah, including as a founding board member, seminar/group leader, and co-facilitator for Selah’s extended programs, Living From The Heart and Way of the Heart. Mary is a spiritual director and coach, co-facilitator for a spiritual direction training program, and advisor for doctoral students. Mary received her Doctorate of Ministry at Portland Seminary, and her work focuses on a posture of contemplative living across the seasons of life. Her foundation starts with a love for the God who wants to be known and a desire to help others to pause-notice-listen-respond in ways that lead to a deeper understanding of God’s divine invitation. With the support of her husband Bill, Mary serves Selah while also enjoying her family of four adult daughters and their families. Mary lives in Gig Harbor WA where she knows the value of beauty in creation and the gift of community.

Mystery of Suffering

May all the love you lavish come back to you in a glittery filled
bright ball of sunshine

As you have loved and cried and screamed and ached and nursed wounds in your children and  friends

May all of this come flooding back to you in your time of need.
May it speak directly and clearly to your soul.

You dear one are safe
You are loved
You are known
You are not alone
You are held
You matter
All of you — All your story matters
All of you
is safe —and held here

 

Jeffrey
part of the Selah Community

 

 

To Uvalde in Memoriam

I was in the woods at 8 tonight it was similarly quiet, and they were singing here too
I did not feel joy nor peace 

I asked to the Divine to offer grace, tender love, comfort to 21 families tonight
in Texas whose lives were shattered today 

I’m so glad I quit Facebook otherwise I’d be ranting at guns and conservatives

Somehow, there is a way to walk in the absolute terror in this world
Hold the space with injustice and cruelty ……
While aiming my own pathway toward peace 

I feel unable to do this 

And …. the Divine?
She will light the way

By Jeffrey,
Selah Community

I Wonder

Words from Jeffrey Brusseau….

I was in the desert, in the depths of the Grand Canyon of Grief. It was hot, dry, miserable. The walls of these cliffs are brown, sand, and burnt orange colors. I am walking and walking. Did I mention it’s hot, like 105? There is no clear path for me to follow—I don’t know where I’m going or where I will end up?

Lonely, exhausted needing some fuel, where will my help come from?

There is a watering can close by. I reach for it and try to read the word on the side.

S E L A H

I’ve not seen this word before. Opening the can I sniff inside, hmmmm, seems like water. I drink. It is ice cold, has ice cubes even! My body, my soul yells “Thank You!!” for the sustenance—didn’t even realize how much I needed this. Though I’m taking several long drinks—there’s more in the can. Where’s it coming from, I wonder?

For the first time in hours, I sit. My eyes see plants near me, cacti, mesquite, acacia, this question presses in on me—how do they get their water?

What I know is this. That can of water, sacred water, is left here for me. It speaks a language I can understand.

This miracle happened to me in 2017.

Today, in a moment of deep listening with an elder, wisdom revealed to me that Selah water has seeds within itself. Once ingested, these will sprout, only some of them.

A generous, overflowing love, a new way of being might emerge in a person.

I am that person.

These days I wander into the desert, filling up watering cans with Selah water. The next person who comes by this way, if they have eyes to see, if their journey has grief and deep pain, thirst will overwhelm. They will find this rusty weathered watering can, the letters on its side fading.

Their first drink is a surprise “how is this so cold, with ice in it, out in this heat?” Something holy beckons them to sit and rest awhile. They might wonder about this water and ask where the plants, on this barren sandy, dusty Canyon floor get their nourishment.

Rotating the can in their hands they make out the letters.

S E L A H

Wonder what that means?

Living in the Paschal Mystery: Leading to Ascension

[This message was given at Kairos: Friday Morning Contemplative Gathering on April 29, 2022]

From Mary Pandiani, Selah Executive Director

Easter has come and gone for many. And yet, looking at the church liturgical calendar, we’re still in Eastertide, namely the 40-days before the Ascension of Christ Jesus takes place. These 40-days and Ascension are part of the story called the Paschal Mystery – a living remembrance of Christ Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, the Ascension (the rising from earth to be with God), that culminates with Pentecost (the unleashing of the Holy Spirit). The connection to the celebration of the Old Testament Passover reminds us of the lamb whose blood protects the Israelites who finally leave Egypt, leading them to freedom from slavery.

We’re called into this Paschal Mystery where we’re connected to the story as well. Our lives operate out of a Paschal Mystery – a life, death, and new life rhythm in the everyday and final death of our lives. That means we’re participating, in intentional and unintentional ways, with the 40-days and Ascension. We, like the disciples and followers of Christ Jesus, don’t quite understand the resurrection, yet want to believe in hope, that it brings changes in us and our relationship with God. The stories include walking the road to Emmaus, eating breakfast with the disciples, doubting and believing with Thomas who wants to see the wounds of Jesus. Confusion, joy, despondency, loss of faith, gaining faith, amazed, hope, and deep longing. These are the mundane and miraculous ways Christ Jesus enters into our world, different but the same, as a result of the resurrection. All of these emotions and new realities occur within the 40-days, inviting us to consider the change that has taken place.

Is that not like how change impacts us, especially the one where there is resurrection – a new power of and in life? We are grateful, excited, yet confused and dazed by the reality before us. We hold hope while wondering what’s next. When my youngest daughter left home for the first time at 13 years old (she decided she wanted to go to a boarding school – ask me about that story sometime), I held promise for her in the new experience, yet deep loss in no longer having her around. I was both faith-filled and faith-less. The liminal space of the unknown, yet newness, felt both awkward and comforting. How was I to enter into this change?

It’s in these places that lead to the Ascension where we ask the question of transformation: what do I need to let go of in order to experience new life to its fullest? Jesus tells the disciples that he must leave; he even goes on to say it will be better that he leaves. In his leaving, he offers something more. Or as Ronald Rolheiser suggests, “Ascension is to refuse to cling to what once was, let it go, and let it bless you, so that you can recognize the new life you already have with and within you and receive its spirit.”[1] There is new life in leaving, as counter-intuitive as that may sound, for that’s where new life begins.

As we live in this season of the Paschal Mystery, let us ask ourselves, what do we need to let go of in order that new life may arise? If we desire change and transformation, how we can move towards it, rather than cower away? Can we receive the spirit of life, revealed in these changes, that brings deeper and more meaningful encounters with God, with others, and with ourselves? Let us consider the invitation that the Ascension is asking of us.

The ascension deepens intimacy by giving us precisely a new presence, a deeper, richer one,
but one which can only come about if our former way of being present is taken away.
Ronald Rolheiser[2]

[1] https://ronrolheiser.com/managing-an-ascension/#.Ymh3hy-B23U

[2] https://ronrolheiser.com/a-spirituality-of-the-ascension/#.YmnKUy-B23

Praying Stations of the Cross, a Primer for Protestants

As a protestant, I had heard of the Stations of the Cross but didn’t know anything about it until I decided to investigate it this year.

The Stations of the Cross or the Way of the Cross, also known as the Way of Sorrows or the Via Crucis, refers to a series of images depicting Jesus Christ on the day of his crucifixion and accompanying prayers. The stations grew out of imitations of the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, which is a traditional processional route symbolizing the actual path Jesus walked to Mount Calvary. The objective of the stations is to help the Christian faithful to make a spiritual pilgrimage through contemplation of the Passion Story of Christ. It’s one of the most popular devotions and the stations can be found in many Western Christian churches, including Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, and Roman Catholic.

The Stations of the Cross originated in pilgrimage to Jerusalem and a desire to reproduce the Via Dolorosa. Imitating holy places was not a new concept. For example, the religious complex of Santo Stefano in Bologna, Italy, replicated the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and other sacred sites, including the Mount of Olives and Valley of Josaphat.

Usually, a series of fourteen images will be arranged in numbered order along a path, and the faithful travel from image to image, in order, stopping at each station to say the selected prayers and reflections. This is done individually or in a procession usually on Good Friday, in a spirit of reparation for the sufferings and insults that Jesus endured during his crucifixion. As a physical devotion involving standing, kneeling, and genuflections, the Stations of the Cross are tied with the Christian themes of repentance and mortification of the flesh.

The fourteen Stations of the Cross

  1. Jesus is condemned to death 
  2. Jesus carries his cross 
  3. Jesus falls the first time 
  4. Jesus meets his mother 
  5. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the cross 
  6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus 
  7. Jesus falls the second time 
  8. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem 
  9. Jesus falls the third time 
  10. Jesus’ clothes are taken away 
  11. Jesus is nailed to the cross 
  12. Jesus dies on the cross 
  13. Jesus is taken down from the cross
  14. Jesus is laid in the tomb.

The style, form, and placement of the stations vary widely. The typical stations are small plaques with reliefs or paintings placed around a church nave. Modern minimalist stations can be simple crosses with a numeral in the center. Occasionally the faithful might say the stations of the cross without there being any image, such as when the pope leads the stations of the cross around the Colosseum in Rome on Good Friday.

Protestant puzzlement

Obviously, as a Protestant, I was puzzled about station six. Who was Veronica? According to Catholic tradition, Veronica was a pious woman of Jerusalem who was moved with pity upon seeing Jesus carrying his cross to Golgotha. As Jesus passed, Veronica wiped his faith. A miracle occurred when an impression of Jesus’s face was left upon the cloth called The Veil of Veronica.

And, I never knew that Jesus fell three times as featured in stations three, seven, and nine.

How protestants can pray the Stations of the Cross

In 1991, Pope John Paul II introduced “Scriptural or Biblical Stations of the Cross.” These fourteen stations are tied to scriptures from the Passion story in the gospels.

  1. Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-41)
  2. Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested (Mark 14:43-46)
  3. Jesus is condemned by the Sanhedrin (Luke 22:66-71)
  4. Jesus is denied by Peter (Matthew 26:69-75)
  5. Jesus is judged by Pilate (Mark 15:1-5, 15)
  6. Jesus is scourged and crowned with thorns (John 19:1-3)
  7. Jesus takes up his cross (John 19:6, 15-17)
  8. Jesus is helped by Simon to carry his cross (Mark 15:21)
  9. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem (Luke 23:27-31)
  10. Jesus is crucified (Luke 23:33-34)
  11. Jesus promises his kingdom to the repentant thief (Luke 23:39-43)
  12. Jesus entrusts Mary and John to each other (John 19:25-27)
  13. Jesus dies on the cross (Luke 23:44-46)
  14. Jesus is laid in the tomb (Matthew 27:57-60)

The Stations of the Cross

You might try meditating on these scriptures at each station. You can use the artwork below.

Online Resources

If you want to pray the stations using the scriptures listed above, there are lots of resources online:

  • Written resources
  • Prayer apps
  • YouTube videos
  • Podcasts

The next time you wear a necklace with featuring a cross, I hope you’ll remember the Passion Story and the Stations of the Cross. May you find Holy Week this year meaningful with the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday.

by Debora Buerk
Editor
Here & Now
Selah Community

Sources

“Experimental Theology” blog by Richard Beck, March 28, 2022
Wikipedia

Combinatory Play

While doing research for my doctoral dissertation awhile back, one nugget I continue to use is the gift of creative genius that by putting two-three ideas together, named by Einstein as “combinatory play,”[1] you create a new idea. Similar to cooking or baking, adding two or more different ingredients than required, you create your own new recipe. My friend, Lisa, makes new dishes nearly every night with her creativity by combining different ingredients for a mouth-watering experience. We all have this gift of creative genius by simply attending to what has been given to us in each day, combining that which seems unconnected, then somehow together creates a new idea, or at the very least a fresh idea.

I had a “combinatory play” experience today while listening to the story of Jacob, the son of Isaac, brother to Esau, in the Old Testament. It goes like this: Jacob steals the birthright of his older brother, causes a great rift in the family, leaves with nothing other than the promise that comes with a birthright. He goes to Bethel where he spends the night on the first night of his journey. He takes a stone as a pillow, and after falling asleep, he dreams of a ladder (some may recall the childhood song, “We are climbing Jacob’s Ladder”). It’s a place where heaven and earth touch. In the dream, God offers this promise:

14 Your descendants shall be like the dust of the earth and shall extend to the west and the east, the north and the south. All the nations of the earth shall be blessed through you and through your descendants.
15I am with you and I will protect you wherever you go. I will make you return to this country,
for I will not abandon you without having done all that I have promised you.” 
Genesis 28

This is where the connection between two different stories – two different ideas – begin to merge. 

The other story is Jesus in the wilderness, in a place of temptation, solitude, and questions by the devil who wants to distract, lead astray, cause Jesus to betray the Father, Creator God. In particular with the second question, the proposal is this:

Then the devil took Jesus to the holy city, Jerusalem, 
and he had Jesus stand at the very highest point in the holy temple.
Devil: If You are the Son of God, jump! 
And then we will see if You fulfill the Scripture that says,
“He will command His heavenly messengers concerning You,
and the messengers will buoy You in their hands so that 

You will not crash, or fall, or even graze Your foot on a stone.”
Jesus: That is not the only thing Scripture says.
It also says, “Do not put the Eternal One, your God, to the test.” 
Matt 4

According to Henri Nouwen, this temptation addresses the “desire to be spectacular” when the devil invites Jesus “jump,” to stand out among everyone else.[2] In fact, scripture is used to back up the suggestion to prove himself, surely there is nothing wrong to see if God will bring to pass what God promises. Indeed Jesus does stand out, but it’s not because he is seeking to stand out. He seeks something else.

That’s when the two ideas emerge. Placing Jacob’s experience alongside Jesus’ temptation, both stories are about encounter and seeking, granted of different kinds, that occur in isolation, only rocks for pillows, and discovering that God is present. And it’s about promises. It’s about what God will do, not what we set out to do. The discernment in these stories is not about jumping, becoming spectacular, or all the grains of sand as the number of descendants. It’s about meeting God in the places we find ourselves. 

These encounters in both Jacob’s seeking and Jesus’ experience reflect the real promise. God doesn’t promise that life will happen as we want or expect. In fact, it usually doesn’t. Rather, as we witness the discovery of Jacob and the response of Jesus to the devil, there is a promise of presence, one that Jacob recognizes as more valuable than all the eventual descendants.

16 The dream ended, and Jacob woke up from his sleep.
Jacob (to himself): There is no doubt in my mind that the Eternal One is in this place—
and I didn’t even know it!
17 But even as he said this, a bit of fear came over him.
Jacob: This place is absolutely awesome! It can be none other than 
the house of God and the gateway into heaven!
Genesis 28

Jacob finds God where God finds Jacob, in his solitude and questions, in the life he has been given, not the one that he thinks he wants. Jesus also meets God as he understands the “Eternal one in this place” as the one to whom he trusts, not in the proving of who is he. Jacob begins to recognize the sacred moment and place where God meets him. For Jesus, he lives out of God’s presence, in the solitude and questions, an ongoing filling by the One who loves him.

And for us, combinatory play – the creative genius given to us by the Creator – means we get to join in this reality that God invites us to also be present in God’s presence. 

  • Mary Pandiani, Executive Director, Selah Center

[1] https://www.themarginalian.org/2013/08/14/how-einstein-thought-combinatorial-creativity/

[2] Nouwen, Henri, In the Name of Love.

O Incomprehensible One

O Incomprehensible One,
you have taken the sharp knife of this life
and hollowed me out.
Scraped my insides.
Everything taken. Scoured. Empty.
You have punched holes in me
in painful places.
Helpless.
The wind blows through me.

And what is this?
Flute music!
             -Steve Garnaas-Holmes

Ah, flute music. “Really, God, that’s the way the music happens?” It’s the cry and joy of my life to experience the emptying that takes place as a result of pain. The cry comes from the act of scouring that grates, rubs, bruises my soul. Yet, as a result of the pain, joy comes in the music that plays through my holes. It’s not usually right away. In fact, I’m not sure the joy ever is immediate. Instead it comes after the place of helplessness. In that long waiting pause between punched holes and wind blowing, I often wonder if there will ever be music.

It’s not unlike the waiting we’re experiencing during Lent. From the dust-to-dust reality of Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday, it’s a long pause. An ongoing of emptying more, and then some more, and then even more. Will there ever be music again? Will there be a place of celebration for new life?

How do I wait there? Part hope from previous times where new life showed up. Part discipline by abiding in the container of Lent that sustains me with grace. And finally, part trust in the Incomprehensible God who has never failed me yet. I’m reminded in this space that all I can pray is what Teresa of Avila prayed: “Oh God, I don’t love, I don’t even want to love, but I want to want to love you!” That’s how I wait for the music.

by Sandy Shipman
Selah Companion and Flute Player

Jumping Into Lent

Full disclosure, I don’t really get Lent. Perhaps it comes from being raised in the Church of Christ where there were no holy days other than the Lord’s Day. The communion song, “This we do each Lord’s day, as Christ has said…” reverberates in my brain as I write. We didn’t follow the church calendar, celebrating Christmas and Easter very minimally at home, my parents’ appeasement to their children but don’t tell anyone at church. Or perhaps it’s my Enneagram Seven-ness: if you can avoid pain, you should avoid pain. Reading about the Crucifixion and participating in Lenten activities never really caught on with me. Writing about it is a stretch.

At a dinner party during the season, several people declined certain indulgent foods or beverages due to Lent. It got me thinking. First, I didn’t even know it was Lent. Second, I wondered if there was something wrong with my Christian-ness, my theology, with me. Why was I always so different, so other from people I knew and respected? Why was I always standing a little outside the mainstream rules and procedures?

I started thinking about what the cross meant. Which got me thinking a lot about grace and how I respond to mistakes. Last week, on a mountaintop in the dark, I made some mistakes that could have been life threatening. It was a scary situation. We all made it down alive and well, but the errors in judgment stayed with me. I found myself wanting to confess to everyone, but fearing the consequences, the punishment, the restrictions that might ensue, I kept the confession silent.

While I prayed on the mountain and on the way down, and shouted a final exclamation of gratitude at the bottom, I had pretty much ignored God after that. I didn’t want the lecture. As my backpack got heavier and heavier that night, so did this burden of guilt and responsibility.

About to shatter under the weight, I went to my friend and told her I needed to confess. I needed accountability. She listened to my whole, ugly story. I waited for judgement. Our Fathers and Hail Marys perhaps. Sacrifice a bull. Confess your sins in front of the congregation and be shunned. Carry a cross. Something.

And where two or more are gathered, I knew God was listening in. Of course, He knew. Of course. My hands instinctively slid to my backside to await the spanking.

You readers of the Lenten series know what came next. You know my friend and have experienced her grace. You know Jesus and have experienced His grace. The big arms-stretched-wide embrace of Love. Come home.

As I write, I cannot think of one time when I confessed to God and received anything but open arms. Not one time. I can tell you hundreds of times I delayed going to God because I expected punishment. And thousands of times I have judged others and invoked or wished harsh consequences on them. Yet my Lord, never once, has done the same to me. Lessons to learn, sure. Growth to be had, yes. Natural consequences, sometimes, but less than you’d predict. Always, open arms. Come home.

I’m thinking I might jump into this whole Lent thing and try giving up this delicacy of judgement. Focus on the healthy diet of love and forgiveness. Live in the gift. Maybe try it out after Lent too. After Easter, until Christmas, and again. Still.

Last night I went to a performance by Rona Yellowrobe, a Native American Flute player, singer, and storyteller, and her guitar playing partner, Bruce Witham. You can imagine how the two instruments go together nicely. Native American flute players do not use music or study notes. The music comes from the heart. Players may learn songs and repeat them, but the music is not written down, and can change as the spirit moves. It was beautiful. Bruce also plays the cello. Cello music is defined, written down, procedural. It comes from a composer—until Rona and Bruce get together, then the experience is magical.

To add to the glory of the evening, an accomplished harmonica player, Eric Brown, joined the duo. Bruce switched to blues guitar, and flute, harmonica, and guitar jammed like there was no tomorrow. There was only now. Musical mindfulness. Hallelujah and Amen. Turns out, Eric had never met either Rona or Bruce before stepping to the stage. Three distinct, disconnected instruments and musicians transfixing their audience with joy, a little outside mainstream rules and procedures.

And then the gift. The audience was invited to join in with singing the chorus of the song, “Get Together.” Separate instruments, voices, lives, beliefs, all praising, pleading together. The spontaneous and the designed. The weight and the grace. The Cross and the Resurrection.

Come on, people now

Smile on your brother

Everybody get together

Try to love one another right now.

Right now.

Right now.

—by Sandy Shipman
Selah Community

Embodied

The Word was God
And EVERYTHING was created
Through Him.

He chose to become embodied, as fertilized egg, embryo, and baby,

To limit Himself

And know what it means to be human.
Human like you and me.

Bodies precious as He formed male and female and declared them very good.

A body, a person as He was born
In this world: Jesus, Emmanuel!

Growing, playing, skinning knees, teasing siblings, celebrating Shabbat…

Parents, who loved God and His Word,

Imparting it to their eldest son and each child added to the family,

As important to them as every breath,
God’s scripture written on their hearts!

Apprenticeship with wood, skilled carpenter, provider to his family when Joseph died.

He knew the joys and sorrows of our everyday lives.

At the right time,
He was called to His ministry

To choose disciples, to teach and show us His Father, to touch bodies, and heal,
This man, who walked many miles, knew hunger and thirst,
Joy, sorrow, frustration, every emotion, just like you and me.

Beaten, humiliated, dying on a cross.

Dead and buried, and raised again through God’s power of resurrection.

Through the Holy Spirit, He lives in us.
Our bodies’ holy temples where He delights to dwell!
Every inch of us sacred, uniquely expressing aspects of God’s character.

We are His precious embodied people.

Kathleen Heppell
April 2019

On Wilderness: Testing or Temptation?

Sharing a reflection from Selah’s friend and former board treasurer, Lisa Veitenhans:

Eugene Peterson wrote, “… we see Jesus as the way we come to God. Jesus is also the way God comes to us.”

He also threw out a couple more zingers in this particular sermon (see below), comparing being in the wilderness for 40 days as being more like time in Eden and the nuance of the original language offering a coin flip definition of “Testing-Temptation,” with testing being something you do to confirm that something works and temptation being something that wants failure.

Imagine that our loving Lord comes to you and says, “Come with me to the quiet places where we can be totally together, free from distraction. You’ll leave all your regular duties, and comforts, behind, but don’t worry, you’ll be completely cared for, even by Wilderness itself. What will happen? Intense learning? Yes! Beauty? Beyond what you can imagine! Clarity? When distraction is gone, purpose will become clear. When we are done you’ll be ready to take the test.”

I would say, “Test? What test? Can’t we just go along together forever as we are?” Isn’t that how we want things to be? Sun shining, hearts smiling, comfort abounding places are so lovely! But that isn’t the way life actually happens (at least not yet). Sometimes we must have challenges. New challenges focus my attention, whether I want it to or not.

The first time I looked at the wilderness as more of an invitation to Eden than a pass/fail walk into some punishment, I felt my shoulders drop. My anxiety about failing God and not being able to resist temptation had always felt overwhelming. “Will I remember all the scriptures I need? Will I fail in the final second?” But this other way of looking at Testing-Temptation… I thought of a favorite teacher, who handed out the year end test, winking at me. He knew I would pass with flying colors in spite of my nerves because he knew me well enough to know I was ready. God knows our readiness much better than we do. So maybe the Testing- Temptation is more for us to know we are ready.

Peterson also says, “However necessary the wilderness is, it is temporary, an in-between time, and a place not intended to characterize an entire life. Wilderness life is a strenuous life. It cannot be endured indefinitely.”

But it can be endured for 40 days. Welcome to Lent. May each of us Christians all over this globe with all our forms and ways enter our little wildernesses where God meets us, prepares us and blesses us with his presence and love.

— As Kingfishers Catch Fire: A Conversation on the Ways of God Formed by the Words of God by Eugene H. Peterson
https://a.co/iyEAzA7