Advent Day 27

Anticipation

By Beth Griffith
Selah Companion

Hitting the snooze button
Morning coffee
Birdsong
Sun rising behind the peaks. 
Snow falling softly
Soup simmering 
Icicles dripping
Evening conversation 
Turning back the covers 
Head resting on a pillow
A Child is born

Advent Day 16

Come, O Wisdom

By Evelyn Gerardo Challis

Selah Companion

Liturgy for Advent

Opening prayer: As we await with longing the celebration of Christ’s holy birth may we embrace the inner light we have been given through the abiding love of our God. May God’s Love kindle a luminosity that heals the darkness and doubt, fragility and sin of our world within, and the universal world of which we are a part.

Intercession: Carry us, O God, as Mary carried Life within her. Carry us as we yearn for the arrival of fresh perspective, that our life might be given to bringing about a peaceable kingdom of heaven on earth. May those whom we entrust with faith-filled leadership in our nation, and local governance, churches, synagogues, temples, and the sanctuary of our being have eyes that burn with love, hearts that open with compassion, and words that speak your wisdom and extinguish the fires of injustice, we pray.  

The Response: Come, O Wisdom from on high, and teach us in the ways to go.

The Intercession: Protect us, O God, as we journey individually and collectively, through worldwide sorrows, and an upsurge of violence in this nation that have taken lives and loved ones, homes, and hope. Continue to protect all those who speak and serve courageously to bring healing in known and unknown ways. In their care of us, especially the most vulnerable, hold them closely, dear God and give them sustained comfort and protection, we pray,

The Response: Come, O Wisdom from on high, and teach us in the ways to go.

The Intercession: As we celebrate this Advent season, may we be mindful of the everyday miracles that invite us to remember and surrender to the joy of being God’s beloved, we pray. 

The Response: Come, O Wisdom from on high, and teach us in the ways to go.

The Intercession: Knowing the joy of anticipation and yet profound loneliness, frustration or sadness that may be part of these holy days, may we release dread and reflect the peace of the Spirit that sustains us in times of isolation and separation. May we be turned to your luminous Love, O God, so that you are known in every place, in every welcoming face, in every human heart; seen in our struggles and in our longing; embraced in our suffering and in our rejoicing. We lift up to you at this time the names of those you know well, O God, as they, and we, seek your healing. We pray especially for (Name those for whom you wish to remember.)

The Response: Come, O Wisdom from on high, and teach us in the ways to go.

The Intercession: Home is where we all belong, O God, and loved ones among us have been welcomed to the home of eternal peace where suffering and pain have ceased and our breath of life is one with yours. We entrust to you those dearly loved who have died, especially (Name those whom you wish to remember who have died). 

The Response: Come, O Wisdom from on high, and teach us in the ways to go.

Closing Prayer:  Blessed God, Holy One, hear our prayers and the many more we carry within us. As we speak your name, bless our union with you that it might deepen and still us, so that finally, out of the silence, we might emerge proclaiming that you are in our midst, that you shine in our darkness, that you are at work in our world and that you move us through turbulence to a lasting peace. Luminous One, in Your Holy Name, we pray.  Amen

Advent Day 12

Shepherds

By Kathleen Heppell,
Selah Companion

While we prepare for sleep and night watch of our sheep, the fire warms us. Sky cloudless, black, yet bright with stars… We whisper… how such beauty takes our breath away.

A blinding light. Bright as day. Stunned. Paralyzed. Will we die? “Fear not.” we hear, shaking as we fall on our faces, our arms covering our heads. These words… we try to make sense of what we hear and have seen. 

Lifting our heads, we see an angel announcing Rejoice! Rejoice! The Messiah is born this night in Bethlehem, as scripture foretold. Wrapped snugly in clothes, lying in a manger.

Our Savior lying in a manger?

The sky becomes brighter as the heavenly host sings, filling us with joy as we have never known. We hear Glory to God in the highest heaven and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.

And then they are gone, leaving us with baaing sheep, our fire, and one another. 

How is it that He chose us,

lowly shepherds,

to hear and see

the good news?

We must see our Savior. No one wants to be left behind, yet our sheep must be protected. We don’t argue in our usual ways; a hush among us as we decide who will go into Bethlehem. The fastest run toward the sleeping town to the stable at the inn guided with a knowing in our hearts. 

We stop in front of the opening. Panting, we gather ourselves. How to enter this place with the promised Savior within? This smelly stable is Holy. Our overflowing joy gives unfamiliar confidence. We enter in silence. Oldest to youngest, our torches held high.

There he is, a baby lying in a manger, wrapped in snug clothes. Nearby his parents sit up, rubbing their eyes, questions on their faces. “The angel of the Lord told us our Savior, the Messiah, was born this night. We have come to worship.”

They nod in understanding, with curiosity and awe on their faces. We fall to our knees. Foreheads to the ground, we praise the Lord of Lords and King of Kings, Adonai, and in our midst, Immanuel, just as was promised.

We know within our depths…

at the right time…

this baby will grow up to

lead us and redeem us.

Strange… the smells of animals would be incensed to our God. Somehow we know our presence, the offering of our hearts and voices, is pleasing to the Lord Most High.

We excitedly share more of our story with Mary and Joseph. Tired as they are, they, too, praise our God, who keeps His promises. We leave as dawn begins to kiss the earth. Travelers and shopkeepers on the road look at us as worse than the dirt they walk on. They hear us praising God to the highest heaven; we don’t care who we awaken.

Shrinking back from the stench of our clothes, they cannot miss the glory shining, like Moses, upon our countenance when they look at our faces. “Our Savior is born this day in the stable just down the road. The angel of the Lord told us; the heavenly host sang praises. It was the darkest night yet shone brighter than the noonday sun!”

Trying to take in what we are saying, they can see our joy. Some shake their heads, “Shepherds! The heavenly host coming to them? The Savior of the world born in a stable? How can that be?”

We tell them, see for yourselves, providing directions… While some seem curious, most keep shaking their heads. They don’t seem to want to see for themselves.

Yet nothing dampens our overflowing joy. Returning to our flocks, we tell everyone.

As we watch over our sheep, we ponder within ourselves and to one another how is it that He chose us, lowly shepherds, to hear and see this good news. How did He choose this young couple, peasants, to be His parents? How is it that the Messiah was born in a stable? And we ask, when will He deliver His people? 

We know within our depths… at the right time… this baby will grow up to lead us and redeem us.

Advent Day 9

O Holy night! The stars are brightly shining

It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth


Long lay the world in sin and error pining


‘Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth


A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices


For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn


Fall on your knees; O hear the Angel voices!


O night divine, O night when Christ was born


O night, O Holy night, O night divine!

Soul Felt Its Worth

By Sandy Shipman,
Selah Companion

She struggles with perfection, wants every detail just so. It sounds like criticism.
The counselor says to love.

Then He appeared, and the soul felt its worth.

Anxiety fills his mind. Overwhelms. He lashes out.
The counselor says to love.

Then He appeared, and the soul felt its worth.

She wants answers. Clarity. Solutions. Fix it!
The counselor says to love.

Then He appeared, and the soul felt its worth.

He wants peace and retreat. Life interrupts. He withdraws.
The counselor says to love.

Then He appeared, and the soul felt its worth.

She wants obedience. Conformity. Goodness.
The counselor says to love.

Then He appeared, and the soul felt its worth.

He wants respect, honor, legacy.
The counselor says to love.

Then He appeared, and the soul felt its worth.

She wants, he wants, they want, yearn, ache, grasp, fight, flail.
The counselor says to love.

Then He appeared, and the soul felt its worth.

Advent Day 4

Advent is the Season of Hope

By Lynne Benson
a Selah Companion

Ad = towards

Venture = about to happen

I love playing with language, words, derivatives, and meanings and considering what is intended.  So, my little brain put together “advent” – looking forward to what is about to happen.  This advent season stirs the beginnings of what I can offer to my friends when I send out Christmas greetings.  I want to give something of meaning, and value, something of myself that took effort, thought, and the work of my person.  So, the last few years have been devoted to painting pictures for greeting cards.  While it might not have the intended meaning extended to the receiver in quite the way I began the work; I am drawn to what comes to mind as I look at life.

My first attempt was of Christmas ornaments hanging from the limb of a fir tree.  It is something that most people recognize, no matter what tradition, culture, or country of experience.  So many things come to mind.  If I want to decorate my world with my attitudes, actions, and presence, I realize I cannot hang in midair but need support and dangle in midair, hopefully showing off the reflected light of the other brilliance around and show that I get to be part of a great whole that graces that tree.  Not alone, hanging, dangling with others to make a more beautiful whole.

The candle painting from a different year displays light in a dark place.  Truthfully, my favorite part of the picture is the rounded glass holder that catches the drippings.  Something about how it catches the light and roundness warms me, a reminder that it doesn’t shine on its own.  It holds something of substance that supports a wick that runs through the waxy pillar that, by its composition, warms the hardened to a softened texture and lightens the dark.  Nothing of that pictured object works by itself.

My tree was intended to have a whimsical feel to it.  While in the cold, it holds up the softness of the snow, a tree that is a remembrance of nature, a symbol of the season we often bring into our homes to remind us of a holy-day (holiday), yet in some ways, seems a disconnect with the true meaning as it was kind of a non-biblical, non-Christian way of commemorating the birth of Christ which likely happened in a different season anyway.  

The picture beckoned something else – warmth; I wanted life to speak into what seemed cold.  While bunnies are not often out and about during this time, it just seemed fitting to have the little guy depicted.  Not only does it symbolize warmth to me, but they emerge in little bundles of fur into adolescent fluffs during the spring on our property.  I watch for them as they give me such delight.  Life.  Warmth is expected after the cold and dark of winter.  I look forward to the winter solstice as a reminder that the daylight hours will begin to lengthen.  The tree by itself seemed lonely.  The presence of the rabbit is a bit of hope; in turn, the tree is a bit of shelter: Christmas is the season of hope for our Shelter.

All considered, the conclusion is Emmanuel – God with us.  As I have compiled my thoughts in writing this, all these pictures bring the realization that we are not alone.  And isn’t that what God meant when it was said, “Come,” “I am with you,” “You will be with Me,” and “I will be with you”?  We are not alone.

My painting teachers often point out the need for light.  It is critical when painting realism that you consider “where your source of light is.”  It determines shading, the hues used, where the light hits the objects painted, and whether your finished illustration “makes sense.”  One of the most stirring things in pondering creative handiwork is the eye.  Imagine:  If the pupil of the eyes is too close together in a portrait, you can imagine what that person looks like.  More like a toon, I’d say.  If they are raised, the point, or the “apple of the eye,” as some name it, must be in the correct position for the viewer to know where the person is looking, and you tend to look in that direction and wonder what is being looked at.  Have you ever heard of someone being the “apple of one’s eye”?  That speaks to preciousness.  I find it funny that we also call it the pupil – a place of learning.  It is also a place that uses light and adjusts to it, and the cones of the eye allow for color to be perceived.  The eye’s structure, function, and workings are nothing short of miraculous.  By the way, our pupils widen in darkness to catch whatever bit of light possible.  My cat’s eyes become more beautiful when those huge, dark pupils enlarge.  His face looks more dear to me.  Do I strain to see the Light who calls me precious, and will the learning of my gaze widen with amazement at Beauty? Do I see the Light more clearly?

There are techniques such as the rule of thirds and the “s” curve to provide movement, so your “eye” will travel across the picture, clearer and more distinct in the foreground, less so for distance.  So many things that I have learned to help me to “see” my world differently, including the tremendous variations of green there are when I look at a wall of trees through the “eyes of my heart,” and meaning grows more profound.  Until someone pointed this out, I never would have recognized that, and now my awareness has been piqued for all kinds of details.  This creates profound wonder in the beauty I don’t want to miss and helps me see there is so much more to the world than I realize.  My Light is growing brighter, showing more details, and shining greater wonder into the beauty surrounding me.  And thus, begins my lessons on creativity.  They continue.

Happy Anniversary Selah!

August 20, 2007-2022

Message from John Kiemele, 
Founder and Director Emeritus

Dear Selah Community,
On this 15th Anniversary of our Selah Center, we want to extend our prayers and blessings for all the gratitude we feel. Thank you for fanning our community flame and for shepherding the movements of our collective hearts. What a deep and abiding gift to share this contemplative journey with you all!

The traditional gift marking the 15th anniversary is crystal. May we all receive the gift of God’s Spirit, clarity, and clearness toward the fullness of life that extends such experiences to others.

The contemporary gift for a 15th anniversary is a clock or other timepiece. May this birthday greeting be received as a reminder from the Creator of Time Eternal to take time for ample pause, reflection, and response to the Loving Presence among us and through us as a dispersed community of contemplative companions.

May God’s blessings continue to fill and lead us all. And may we remain in the awe and wonder of life with God.

Our hearts and prayers hold Selah,
John and Marissa Kiemele

Mary Pandiani,
Executive Director,
Selah Center

About Selah Center

Selah is a welcoming community that pauses, encounters the Spirit through contemplative practices, and grows together toward wholeness and loving others.
Learn more at SelahCenter.org.

About John Kiemele

John Kiemele
Founder of Selah Center
Seattle, Washington
Program Director
Rolling Ridge Retreat Center
Andover, Massachusetts

John Kiemele is a wellbeing educator and spiritual director who currently companions individuals, teaches various seminars and lifestyle classes, leads contemplative retreats, and also serves as Program Director at Rolling Ridge Retreat Center in North Andover, Massachusetts.  With a focus on contemplative soul care, John gratefully walks alongside individuals, small groups, classrooms, and congregations.  Recognizing how intentional pausing and listening unlocks life, John strives to engage the whole person – body, mind, soul – in the lifelong process of living well.  John received his Ph.D. in education/spirituality from Talbot School of Theology, with post-doctoral emphases in Spiritual Direction

You Might Have Stared, Too

By John Kiemele
part of the Selah Community

I had an appointment at a downtown office, parked the car and was crossing the street when something caught my attention: A woman was leading a llama down the street. This is not a regular occurrence where I live, so of course I paused to look. Okay, I stared.  

Here was a llama, with its shimmering, well-groomed coat, shiny halter with ornamental lead, tall and stately with a rather regal, clip-clopping along.  

Strangely enough, it seemed like everything in this particular moment belonged. And there I stood, smiling at serendipity. When I entered my intended appointment, I inquired if anyone had noticed the lady leading the llama right outside their office window. They had not noticed, and with the tilting folders, an army of sticky notes, and the humming machinery, I understood.

How easy it is to miss such scenes when regular life piles in around us. How often, I too, miss these unsuspecting slivers of life tucked into simple street crossings.  And yet, seeing that llama that day, I realized that every moment holds a potential surprise. Every moment echoes from Love and begs my heart to wonder about something more. To move with attentive openness to unfolding life. To be alert to slivers of mystery that make me smile at llamas—and keep wondering,

About John Kiemele

John Kiemele is a wellbeing educator and spiritual director who currently companions individuals, teaches various seminars and lifestyle classes, leads contemplative retreats and serves as Program Director at Rolling Ridge Retreat Center.  Focusing on contemplative soul care, John gratefully walks alongside individuals, small groups, classrooms, and congregations.  Recognizing how intentional pausing and listening unlocks life, John strives to engage the whole person – body, mind, soul – in the lifelong process of living well.  John received his Ph.D. in education/spirituality from Talbot School of Theology, with post-doctoral emphases in Spiritual Direction, Mindful Self-Compassion, the Enneagram Spectrum, and Wellness Coaching.

Photo by Pierre Borthiry on Unsplash

Listen to the Weaver

By Deb Tripp
part of the Selah Community

It never starts alone really
At least that’s the story I’ve heard
This magic —  this alchemy of
Listening  — being listened to
Of opening and stretching.
It is a weaving  — you the
First listener —  the warp
The strong threads tied to
My loom across the back beam.
It is your ability to hold
The tension that gives me
The notion that I can open
Up a little more.
The warp tension is strong
Up and down, back and forth
This listening creates the
Dance — the weaver’s dance.
And soon it is time to think
About the weft. What texture?
What colors?  How much space
Between my words and your words?
What tone?  What value?  How
Wide should we stripe our cloth today?

Photo by Aditya Wardhana on Unsplash

A Prayer for Our Country

God of mercy,
bless this nation of ours.
We pray for liberty,
         that none may be oppressed or exploited.
We pray for democracy;
         that all voices be heard, and none silenced.
We pray for peace,
         that there be harmony, in which everyone’s gifts may flourish.
We pray for justice,
         that no one benefit at the expense of another,
         that there be a just and equal sharing of power.
We pray for a spirit of patriotism,
         that we be faithful to one another as a whole.
We thank you for our freedom, and those who have protected it:
         teachers who taught us to question,
         neighbors who acted in covenant with one another,
         those who spoke out against injustice.
We thank you for the gift of our diversity;
         may we honor all people
         and celebrate our rich differences.
We thank you for this land, for it is yours.
         May we live in reverence for your Creation.
God of mercy, in love of our country we confess
         our mistreatment of the poor, and of the land,
         our abuse of power, and idolatry of our place in the world.
Temper our might with humility
         and our power with compassion.
Mend our divisions, heal our fear,
         and restore our love of one another.
Bless this nation,
         and bless every nation the same,
         for all of us are sisters and brothers.
On this Day of Inter-independence,
bless us O God, and make us a nation of justice and peace,
         a nation of benevolence and generosity,
         a nation of mutual sharing and cooperation,
         a nation devoted to the healing of the world.
God of mercy, bless this nation,
that we may be a nation of mercy.
Amen.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes,
www.unfoldinglight.net
Used with permission

About Steve Garnaas-Holmes

Steve Garnaas- is a retired United Methodist pastor. He and his wife Beth live in Maine. He often leads retreats on prayer, poetry, and renewing our language about God. He writes a lot of church music.  “I am trying to be here now,” says Garnaas-Holmes.

Unfolding Light

Unfolding Light is a daily reflection rooted in a contemplative, creation-centered spirituality, often inspired by my daily walk in the woods. In poems, parables, psalms, thoughts, and the odd weather report I hope to invite readers into a spirit of presence, compassion, justice, and delight. Though these writings are rooted in the Christian story you’ll hear in them melodies of many traditions. Unfolding Light is for anyone who wants to be a part of God’s healing of the world. You can receive Unfolding Li

Photo by Spenser Sembrat on Unsplash

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

 

 

Lamenting in Haiku: Kairos Response

Breathe, pause, listen, hear
Spirit awakens wonder
Pause, embrace beloved

Deb Tripp

struggle to let go
refocus and re-engage
as part of the whole

Theresa Schaudies

Alienation
Seeking different Gods we become
Alien nation

Tom Cashman

Oh, the powerful pause
Helps me listen much better
It is space for Grace

Tressa Peterson

Broken heart exposed
Pain, anger, sadness cry out
Love is here, waiting.

Wendy Bryant

May I be aware
Of Holy Spirit guidance
And very grateful.

Tressa Peterson

Intention toward You
Giver of love Who gives all
Bend my heart in love

Lynne Benson

With wonder….wander
Intentional wandering
Is not squandering

Kathy Bentall

Written by: Lynne Benson, Kathy Bentall, Wendy Bryant, Tom Cashman,
Tressa Peterson, Theresa Schaudies & Deb Tripp
are part of the Selah Community

Embodied