Would I?

Would I recognize you Jesus if you rode into
town on public transit?

If you stepped off a bus in filthy blue jeans
and a tattered coat carrying a bedroll and backpack,
would I see your holiness?

Would I see you tenderly, quietly lay your
hand on the man sleeping in a doorway?

Would I hear your gentle voice when you
spoke to the mumbling, disconnected,
bent over woman pushing a shopping cart?

Would I recognize how your compassion
connected with the sullen, pocked-faced,
wild-eyed teenager as you shared a laugh and
your coffee?

Would I turn away from you, a man
who looks down on his luck, and go about my life
“serving Jesus?“

Or would I, for a moment, glimpse my King,
no show, no theatrics, no pomp,
the radical, servant Jesus,
the confident, silent Jesus, the unexpected,
triumphant Jesus?

Open my eyes.

by Zoanna Pearson
Selah Community

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

A Light Hold

 

Strangely
after years of more
clutching, grasping, weaving, planting –
more insisting all remains –
blew a gentle breeze inviting
something else for tired hands:
A light hold.

Ego’s habits railed and thrust
persistent drives and cloudy ruse,
surroundings also reinforced
resisting change, remaining closed –
and yet my heart pulsed life, real life,
open, curious, present, now:
A light hold.

Oh, the risk of loss and change.
Oh, how awkward not to hold
tightly as I have before.
What if suddenly I find
nothing – just nothing – for these hands?

Holding lightly feels like limbo,
unsupported, almost painful,
weak, unstable, vague somehow,
and yet that gentle breeze insists
hope and wonder, pause and rest.

A light hold needs not manufacture,
not exert undue efforts.
A light hold checks my expectations;
A light hold bids simple and less;
A light hold honors what is present,
receives all shapes, attends with love;
A light hold echoes deeper trust –
my hands do not form this life.
All they do as best they can
is hold this lightly,
savor,
share,
believe.

by John Kiemele
Selah Community

 

Bless, O God, the Ordinary

My tattered, non-descript, black purse that holds a hundred snapshots
Of days and weeks gone by-
Of coffees lingered over with friends,
The book that cried out to be purchased,
Snacks half-eaten,
Mine or the kids?
Scraps of notes from the pulpit,
Mountains of change,
Clanging together like a bad symphony

Bless, O God, the Ordinary

My long, grey, puffy down coat that has kept me warm
In this unusual season of snow and ice
Whose pocket holds the puppy treats
Used to bribe Ruby on walks to linger in Creation
The stuff stack, still attached,
That gets in the way every time I put it on,
But holds the promise of a backpacking trip
That by its very nature is unlikely,
Being a down coat, after all

Bless, O God, the Ordinary

Bless my vision, that I might see clearly –   what is not

Bless my hearing, that I might listen  – for voices not of my own

Bless O God, the Ordinary,

That in it, I might see and hear and know the Extra-ordinary

Your Presence in all things.

Amen

—by Bev Emerson
Selah Community

Excerpt from
Reflections: A Journey through Lent into Easter
from Selah Center
Available now on Amazon

Hand Over

Eternal Love,

May my pointing hands refrain from forging dark divides
and seek instead to guide along the potent paths of Love.

May my drooping hands retell of efforts sown and pauses reaped,
of wholeness sought and second buddings eager to appear.

May my wringing hands be still and simply fold in rest,
releasing outcomes, oughts and shoulds, reclaiming fear-tossed peace.

May my clenched hands unfurl strife, untether tight control,
and in the widening space receive and nurture and support.

May my open hands refuse to strike, suppress, exclude,
and rather gather silently with deeper sights in view.

May my cupped hands reach toward Love and find compassion there,
quickened to the hope-filled life,
to untapped gifts and dreams,
to Eternal Love.

John Kiemele

Morning Walk

The darkness surrounded

I turned on my little light

A few steps forward, then

Poof! Battery dead

Darkness came close

But then light came through!

A movement of trees above

And moonlight revealed shadows

All at once unafraid

No lamp necessary

The shadows just enough.

We walked on

Shadows our companions

Then the sun began to rise.

– Lisa Veitenhans

Lent (n.)

Lent (noun). From the Old English lencten meaning springtime or spring. “The fast of Lent,” comes from the West Germanic for “long-days,” or “lengthening of the day.”

Lent (n.) the “period between Ash Wednesday and Easter,” from the late 14th century Lenten (n.) In the Christian calendar (early 12th century), “the forty days of fasting before Easter.” Also from the Old English lencten  meaning springtime or spring. “The fast of Lent,” comes from the West Germanic for “long-days,” or “lengthening of the day.”

In the Christian church, Lent is a time to meditate and reflect on the life of Jesus Christ: his life, affliction, atonement, death, burial, and resurrection. Lent’s length refers to the forty days he spent in the wilderness being tempted by Satan before beginning his public ministry (Matthew 4).

Lent is about our relationship with Christ. Like all relationships, it has seasons of trial and deprivation, as well as seasons of joy. Lent helps us see where our wants have become distorted into needs. It’s the humble acknowledgment that our appetites can and should make us more forgiving.

Lent is a promise to walk with Jesus. To put our hand in His trustingly, no matter what it requires—into the wilderness or to the cross. Lent is the time to renew our promise to follow Jesus. Just as Naomi said to Ruth, “Wither thou goest, I will go.” (Ruth 1:16 KJV)

The trap of Lent is legalism. The spiritual practice of fasting from food, a vice, a bad habit, or a pleasure. Lent should not be confused with New Year’s resolutions. Nor is it a self-improvement project.

Lent is a time of repentance—an awareness that sin separates us from God and what it cost Jesus Christ to reunite us. Perhaps Lent might be a time to give up our resolutions and instead listen for God’s leading.

by Debora Buerk
Selah Community

Excerpt from
Reflections: A Journey through Lent into Easter
Debora Buerk, Editor
Available on Amazon

What Lent Means to Me

Lent is a time we remember the passion of Jesus Christ (the Easter season when Christ completed his mission on earth at the cross). The three traditional practices to be taken up with renewed vigor during Lent are prayer (justice towards God), fasting (justice towards self), and almsgiving (justice towards neighbors).

For my Muslim friends this is a bit like Ramadan. It’s a time to be sober, reflective and circumspect. A time to ponder the deeper things of Jesus Christ and how we are invited to faithfully follow his example. I think this could be a practice for our society in general, even if one doesn’t claim to be religious, or a Christian.

I welcome the time to draw closer to God, to reflect, and to try to do life more generously. Serving others. Being good neighbors. Loving our enemies. Being somebody who makes this world a better place. Watch this space.

Dr. Rev. Andrew Larsen
Selah Board of Directors
Pastor, Worldly Holiness,
and Photographer

About Dr. Rev. Andrew Larsen

Andrew Larsen works as a consultant and player-coach with many churches and organizations seeking to understand the “other” and empower peacemaking initiatives. He is a public speaker and preacher but also comes alongside as a teacher and leader to help groups engage each other. He utilizes relationship building between communities, often using photography and a growing network of relationships across the country in both churches and mosques. He aligns in ministry with the Covenant Church (consulting with both Love Mercy Do Justice and Serve Globally–departments within the denomination) but also collaborate with other groups. He helps advance this kind of ministry through multiple program ideas they’ve perfected over the years including: peace feasts, multi-faith dialogue events, “cultural listening” events where they learn about a specific demographic in the Muslim community, visits to the other community, and many other community building activities.

Additionally he works in peacemaking and storytelling in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, completing two documentary films called, “Blessed Are the Peacemakers: One Man’s Journey to the Heart of Palestine” and just recently finishing another movie, “Make Hummus, Not Walls.”

Excerpt from
Reflections: A Journey through Lent into Easter
from Selah Center
Available now on Amazon

Moving Toward Wholeness

With Intention, Selah is Moving Towards Wholeness

God’s invitation of transformation extends love to us through relationship with and in God by the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the working of the Holy Spirit, and the abundant outpouring of grace by the Creator God.

As you say goodbye to 2021 and move into 2022, remember that you are not alone on this contemplative journey as one being in community with Selah and the One who holds us together.

For those who have participated in Living From the Heart, you know that the focus of the year includes Transformation – a Moving Towards Wholeness. As this image of Kintsugi* suggests, we bring our brokenness to God, knowing the One who restores us to the beautiful vessel we are always meant to be.

May this new year be one of Kintsugi –
a Moving Towards Wholeness for you –
through the grace of God. 

*Kintsugi
Kintsugi (golden joinery) is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum…As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.”
https://traditionalkyoto.com/culture/kintsugi/

-by Mary Pandiani
Executive Director
Selah Center