Lent Day 6. Selah Center’s Executive Director Mary Pandiani shares the purpose of her Lenten contemplative journey.
Tag Archive for: Selah Center
Lent Day 5. Selah Companion Lynne Benson wonders “For What Do I Wait?” during Lent. Lynne shares a piece of her artwork.
Lent Day 4. We repost from The Plough’s Daily Dig a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Lent Day 3. As a follow up from Monday, Wendy Bryant offers a haiku inspired by the teachings of Dorotheos of Gaza. Entitled “Wholeness.”
Ash Wednesday. As Here & Now begins this special series for Lent and Easter, Selah Center’s Executive Director Mary Pandiani invites you on a contemplative journey together.
A Word of Intention
By Mary Pandiani
To start the new year, we read this scripture with anticipation and a promise. The “home of God is with His people” where God’s presence resides with us, no matter what the circumstances. We have the unending flow of God’s fountain, like the original baptismal waters that came from a river, always renewing, always originating from the source of life.
In early church baptisms, a stream ran through the church so the waters were never stagnant. Similarly, as we start this new year we begin again, finding restoration in the living waters that come from the One who makes all things new.
One way to be intentional about the new year is to explore what a “word” might be for the entire year.
Rather than proclaiming a New Year’s resolution that may last for six weeks at the most, listen for the invitation by God for the choice of a word. Listening proves to be more life-giving and honest than assigning some goal or need for accomplishment. It’s a way to explore the intention to have for this beginning again. The discovery of the word becomes more about the integration of being and doing than just the doing.
The process usually starts with dedicating some time to ask these questions:
- What seems to be resonating with my soul right now?
- What are ways I’ve seen God at work as the last year comes to a close and a new year begins?
- What images/pictures come to mind and heart as I take time in quiet to be present to God?
Sometimes it comes through scripture or a poem, or a conversation. Over time, usually a week or more, a pattern emerges that brings some confirmation. It cannot be forced. I wait for as long as I need to wait. One year the word didn’t appear until late March. If I’m honest, there are years where the word sticks and other years where it was helpful but not necessarily profound. If I keep the word prominent in some form, whether in a journal or an artistic expression, I use it as a lens to see the year—a way to stay awake to the ways God is present.
While there’s no formula for the process, it begins with the question:
What is the longing God is revealing to me for this year?
As we say in Selah, if all we can bring is desire, that is enough. Perhaps your “word” begins with expressing the desire to have an intention given by God. Remain open and receptive to what may unfold for you.
With whatever word you have for this new year, may you discover the ways God is with you as you continue to come alive and awake to the journey God has set before you.
By Christopher Ball
part of the Selah Community
in the return
of the One
and is to come
is to look beyond
throbbing with anticipatory,
and frigid darkness
vibrating with primordial Spirit
the essence of our very being
woven together tenderly
By Mary Pandiani
…Learning to trust what emerges,
So that gradually
You may come to know
That deep in that black hole
You will find the blue flower
That holds the mystical light
Which will illuminate in you….
A Blessing for Loneliness
About thirty years ago, a new tradition began at Christmas time. In the Western Hemisphere, the night of the Winter Solstice, Blue Christmas becomes a time to honor the sadness that accompanies the season. On this day, we acknowledge those who no longer celebrate the Christmas season with us in person. Entering into a ritual of quietness, we light candles in remembrance. It’s a time to grieve amid celebration for the season.
This year, Blue Christmas touches close to my heart. Several deaths in the last few months have impacted me, most significantly a dear friend of thirty-two years and my mother-in-law of my late husband. I celebrate this Christmas without them, and it’s not easy to do so. While I can still enter the joy of the season, my heart is heavy with grief upon grief. This realization holds my attention nearly every day. Tears well up from deep inside.
I use the word “honor” in sadness purposefully. Sadness does not take away the joy from the season. Just as Mary and Joseph experienced joy and sorrow on their journey, from hearing from the angels, trying to find a place to stay for the night, and giving birth to baby Jesus. Holding both is a paradox. And I am reminded there is sadness and joy in the life story. I want to make a note of this reality and honor it.
The poem by John O’Donohue, A Blessing for Loneliness, invites me into what the darkness of grief and sadness offers. Ending with the “blue flower” in this blessing, he captures my imagination with mystical allure. In Romantic poetry, the blue flower symbolizes the artistic and emotional striving for the infinite. Connecting to Blue Christmas, I remember my longing for the infinite, even amid my sadness. Can I trust that what emerges, whether in the grief or the joy of the season, will be a gift from God? I find solace in knowing the pain I feel is equal to my love for those I miss. And could it be, from the darkness, I might know light?
This is the hope of the season and our lives; a light has been brought into the world. I celebrate the light while honoring the darkness. My prayer on the longest night of the year is to continue to learn what it means to trust God in whatever happens, whether sadness or joy.
By Sandy Shipman
I understand the waiting of Advent, the wanting, the waning hope. Aching for justice, mercy, and love while experiencing division, judgment, and hate. We pray, “Thy Kingdom come,” like the Jews of Mary’s time praying for the Messiah. We pray and wait for the powerful and mighty to save us. Who would have thought that God would deliver the Messiah not from the mountaintop but from inside a human? That was unexpected.
Now, we have this annual practice of the whole church waiting expectantly for Jesus to come from inside Mary during the Advent season. Candles and choirs and scripture readings. But back then, most people didn’t know the Messiah was coming so soon. They had work and oppression and Laws on their mind. They had hope for the Messiah in the same way we do. Perhaps thy kingdom come, someday, later, in the future. But today, we have work to do, battles to fight, and morality to uphold and defend.
Mary was another teenager who got pregnant before marriage. I imagine she was shunned and judged and deemed less than. Few suspected the Spirit had entered her, that Jesus was alive within her. How might the conversations, the interactions have changed if the neighbors had known that God was so near?
I recently created art with a teenage girl, an amazing artist. She was kind, inquisitive, protective, and she made me laugh. She was also a six-year veteran of the juvenile justice system. And pregnant. I imagine she is shunned, judged, and deemed less than. I can hear the neighbors discussing virtue and choices and patterns of behavior. What if we knew the Holy Spirit was living inside her? What if we believed Jesus was alive within her? Would our conversations and interactions change with God so near?
Would we travel great distances and bring the child gifts? Do we?
What if, in all our conversations and interactions, we behaved as if we believed God was alive in each of us? What if we kept the Law and loved one another?
Anyway. I understand the waiting. The wanting. The waning hope.
Let’s surprise everyone with God’s Love delivered once more from inside a human. You. Me. Thy Kingdom Come.
By Wendy Bryant
from the Selah Community
A breath, an opening, constant movement
lungs open, close, pause
another breath, another opening… and another, pause
astounding ministry is offered again and again
when will i consent? to bring to birth
God’s Spirit…suspended…waiting…for my “yes!”
The Annunciation is a painting widely attributed to the Italian Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci, dated to c. 1472–1476. Leonardo’s earliest extant major work was completed in Florence while he was an apprentice in the studio of Andrea del Verrocchio. The painting was made in oil and tempera on a large poplar panel and depicts the Annunciation, a popular biblical subject in 15th-century Florence. Since 1867 it has been housed in the Uffizi in Florence, the city where it was created. Though the work has been criticized for inaccuracies in its composition, it is among the best-known portrayals of the Annunciation in Christian art. Source: Wikipedia
Editor’s Note: Annunciation, also called Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary or Annunciation of the Lord, is the angel Gabriel’s announcement that she would conceive a son by the power of the Holy Spirit to be called Jesus (Luke 1:26–38). Debora Buerk, editor
ByBy Lisa Veitenhans,
The afternoon sun fades shadows to shadows
No electricity to brighten the late day.
Collect the candles.
Strike the matches.
How feeble they look in the deepening gloom!
Moment by moment the shadows reach their depth and disappear
Branches against the sky no longer seen.
Back toward the house,
Alive in the darkness.
With welcoming warmth,
Long leaps of light dance against the walls.
What could not be seen in half-light
Came alive in the night.
After the gloomy shadows,
In the pure darkness—
Light! Leaping about laughing.
By Kathleen Heppell
As men who study the heavens, believing they foretell what will happen on earth, they ask what does the appearance of this Star mean?
Close to journey’s end the Star grows brighter… larger… brilliant in the cloudless night sky. Hot sun rests low on the horizon. We break camp. Efficient. Deliberate. Though the outsider might believe all is chaos.
Ready, our anticipation growing, we look up to the vastness of the sky filled with stars. We gasp as one. Where is the Star? Despite the multitude of stars, the Star we’ve studied, and followed for these many months is gone!
How can this be? The Star we’ve studied is gone!
How can this be? It has been close to two years since we first saw this new brilliant Star in the western sky, larger than any planet. As men who study the heavens, believing they foretell what will happen on earth, we asked what does the appearance of this Star mean?
Searching wisdom literature of many countries, we found in Jewish writings Daniel’s prophecy. This captive from the tribe of Judah, honored by our Babylonian ancestors, prophesied the coming of Messiah.
We, too, believe…
We, too, believe in a Messiah coming to bring the end of time as we know it. Studying these writings, we understand this Star announces the birth of the Jewish Messiah. He will change the world.
Our hearts quicken with awe and excitement. We must do whatever is necessary to see this Jewish King and Messiah. We will follow the Star to find him to worship and bring gifts to honor him.
We watch for bandits. Dressed as any traveler, nothing indicates our status.
It took much to prepare for this journey: camels to carry food, water, tents, and many men to keep us safe. They lead the animals, set up and take down camp. Traveling in the cooler air of darkness to see the Star, we watch for bandits. Dressed as any traveler, nothing indicates our status or gifts to be given to the Jewish King.
Now, with no Star visible we are confused, discouraged. We have come too far to give up. Entering Jerusalem, we ask the men we pass, Do you know where the King of the Jews has been born? Their faces show shock, fear, and heads turning to see who might have heard our question. No words spoken, heads move from side to side. They almost run from us.
Certainly, the King must have been born here.
We come to the palace. Certainly the King must have been born here. When we ask the guard, he orders us to enter through the gate. Long is the wait before we meet King Herod. We explain our quest. Treated with great respect, food is set before us. We wait again as he calls for priests and religious leaders.
The Messiah’s birthplace is Bethlehem.
Finally, in a private room, we learn the Jewish King, Messiah’s birthplace, is Bethlehem. So close! Another night’s journey! King Herod tells us to return and report where the King resides expressing his desire to worship. His face shows no joy. How curious King Herod and the people we met did not know of his birth. Profusely we thank the King for his hospitality and direction.
We depart to the out skirts of Jerusalem to camp, rest, sleep, as we wait with excitement. Tomorrow we will meet this new King! Taking down the camp at sunset, we await the darkness praying for the star’s appearance to locate the exact place in Bethlehem. There… The Star… Such beauty… Dawn’s edges peak over the eastern horizon. Leaving all but a few to set up camp, we walk to a simple home, the star directly overhead.
Holding our breath, we enter a room dimly lit.
Servants take our gifts from sacks, handing them to us. We are at the door. It is open. Holding our breath. Hard to believe we have reached our destination. We enter into a room dimly lit. There is a young woman dressed in peasant clothes, dark hair, questioning eyes, and no fear of us: strangers entering her home. A child, not yet two, sits quietly on her lap, her son with the same dark hair and eyes.
Our only thought to bow down. Worship pours from our hearts, out of mouths to the Almighty God. After a pause of reverent silence, we explain how we have come to her door: the Star, the search leading to Daniel’s prophecy, our long journey, and priests at Jerusalem’s palace telling us of Bethlehem.
Our hearts burst with joy, tears of gratitude flow down our cheeks.
We present our gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh. This young boy toddles to us smiles, touches us, curious… We smile, reach out to him, our hearts bursting with joy, tears of gratitude flow down our cheeks.
We depart before the village awakes. Returning quickly to our camp, we wonder if sleep will come. Awakening, we share what we have dreamed. We all had the same dream! We are not to return to Jerusalem or Herod. Departing as quickly as possible, we take another route not equipped to face battle with palace guards, be taken captive, or required to tell Herod where the child lives. Boundless joy in our hearts mingles with foreboding. Herod intends evil.
Boundless joy in our hearts mingles with foreboding.
Long will be our journey home. Our hearts lightened and filled with unshakeable hope. God, who we have known as Mystery, has spent thousands of years preparing for this day and the days to come. We will wait and watch filled with awe and reverence; he will bring his plan to fruition for the Jewish people and the world!