Have you been able to stay in a pause long enough to hear a deeper response, not only from another person, but also from yourself? I remember the story of Jesus who kneels down to write in the sand after a woman of ill-repute is thrown at him by men who have condemned her, stones ready in hand. “What do you say?” they ask Jesus. He lingers; he pauses; he makes everyone uncomfortable. Then he responds, “Let the first one without sin throw the first stone.” Soon, no one is left except the woman. In his response, Jesus provides a way for the woman, for himself, even a way for the men who can walk away.
Pauses hold possibilities, hope, healing, and perspective. That’s what Selah offers in her unique charism – the gift given to others – the pause that gives space from what is to what can be, a new moment, pregnant with the power of the Spirit who imbues life, abundant life.
Over the last year, the Selah board has taken a considerable amount of time to explore who we are, where we’ve been, and to anticipate for the future. As a result of those conversations and prayer-filled times together, we have landed on an Intention Statement. Rather than getting picky about mission and vision statements, we want it to be known what we intend to be and do, recognizing that all we do is by God’s invitation:
Selah is a welcoming community that pauses,
encounters the Spirit through contemplative practices,
and grows together towards wholeness and loving others.
Each word is chosen with care. First, we state our name – the one birthed out of noticing the value of pausing before responding. From the Hebrew Psalms and Old Testament books, Selah means to lift up within a song of praise, and I would add lament. It gives space between one stanza and another, an offer of breath in the midst of what is given. Thirteen years ago (2007) John Kiemele (Founder) and his wife Marissa had that word confirmed when they were given an unexpected and spontaneous gift of a chalice etched with the name, Selah.
By being a “welcoming community,” we reflect our values of hospitality, welcoming those who want to come to the table of what we offer and who we are. These values reinforce that we believe all belong to God, and as a community we hope to accompany those who want to know God in deeper and more meaningful ways.
For the verbs we choose pause, encounter, and grows together – verbs that sustain our priorities of what it means to be part of Selah. Pausing offers the opportunity to be present to those around us, to ourselves, and to God. Encountering acknowledges that God is already present in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus and the ongoing work of the Spirit who is Divine presence. Through practices, we find necessary scaffolding that prepares our hearts, minds, and bodies for God’s presence. Finally, Growing Together anchors our community by acknowledging that the contemplative life cannot be lived alone. By accompanying one another, we move towards God’s intention for our lives, personally and communally, through shaping that occurs in relationships.
The pausing, the practicing, the awareness that come with contemplation flourish in places where we gather to share in the presence of God. Our hope is that these actions of pausing, encountering and growing together will lead to greater wholeness and loving others. This contemplative life is not meant for us alone. God’s loving embrace makes us able to extend ourselves in uncomfortable and challenging places, knowing that the stretch and the risk lead to healing and wholeness.
In a world of rhetoric and noise, a place of speed that over-speaks and interrupts, a society that wants certainty without its gift of mystery, Selah offers a posture of listening through the pause, encounter, and growth. In that posture, my hope with the one who I asked “How can we go forward?” becomes more about relationship than figuring everything out. That ability to wait in the relationship has come from God’s invitation to stay present, generously listen, and pay attention as we all navigate the way forward.
From these words of old,
consider the pause, the encounter,
and the growing together:
Prayer of Habbakuk to God
-Consider a Pause-
2bI have heard the reports about You,
and I am in awe when I consider all You have done.
O Eternal One, revive Your work in our lifetime;
reveal it among us in our times.
As You unleash Your wrath, remember Your compassion.
3 God is on the move from Teman in the south;
the Holy One is on His way from Mount Paran.
[Selah – pause]
-Consider the Encounter of the Spirit-
Your splendor overtakes the skies;
Your praise fills every corner of the earth.
4 Your radiance is like a bright light,
rays stream down from Your hand,
and there Your power is hidden.
5 Pestilence marches before God;
plagues follow in God’s steps.
6 You stand still and survey the earth;
God looks their way, and the nations jump in fear.
Indeed, the eternal mountains crumble.
The ancient hills are humbled and bow down.
The paths You carved will last forever….
[Selah – pause]
-Consider Growing Together-
17 Even if the fig tree does not blossom
and there are no grapes on the vines,
If the olive trees fail to give fruit
and the fields produce no food,
If the flocks die far from the fold
and there are no cattle in the stalls;
18 Then I will still rejoice in the Eternal!
I will rejoice in the God who saves me!
19 The Eternal Lord is my strength!
God has made my feet like the feet of a deer;
You allow me to walk on high places.
Habbakuk 3:2b-6; 17-19
- We affirm God’s initiating love expressed profoundly in Christ Jesus.
- We welcome God’s love as the true Source of our being and our becoming.
- We relate to God with receptive hearts and minds, nurtured in the way of Christ Jesus.
- We honor the uniqueness of all persons as the recognized presence of Christ Jesus.
- We encourage an openness toward, sanctuary for, and hospitality to all persons.
- We value community as shared journey with others who desire contemplative living.
- We recognize the triune presence of God as the One who fills each moment with us, gives inspiration for vision, births newness and hope, and reconciles all creation.