DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Selah: Pause and Ponder

Written by: on October 12, 2020

As I read Shawn Cramer’s blog from last week, along with the concept of pause in Not Doing, I couldn’t help but reflect on the concept of pausing from a broader coaching perspective. Have you ever wished you could hit the reset button?  I am sure that I am not the only individual that has desired a break from the constant crazy aspects of life no matter how brief it may be. We live in a culture encompassed by noise. Volumes of studies have been done on the effects of constant noise on the human body. There is no escaping the noise of traffic, dogs barking, airplanes overhead, or the low hum of electronics. Combining that with the vast number of voices beckoning for our attention and time, the need to periodically hit pause becomes obvious. The ability to pause and reset in today’s world is a valid concern.

Selah is an interesting word used in scripture. It is a word of mystery. Depending on where you look and what you read the definition is widely debated. It’s meaning is only a best guess. The true meaning is unknown. It is found only 74 times in the Bible, 71 times in Psalms and 3 times in Habakkuk. Scholars have debated and given many definitions including, it being a form of suspension of music, an interlude or a pause. The Septuagint translates is as intermission. It appears to be a word that calls the reader to take a moment and think about what was said, to pause and ponder, to refocus one’s perspective, to lift up something for a period of time.[1]

In Not Doing Steven D’Souza and Diana Renner discuss the importance of pausing. Of all the definitions they use the most intriguing is “open stillness.”[2] “Pausing allows new stimuli to enter the creative process, to prompt another idea. It is a chance to step off the iterative track of logical decisions. It frees us from the concrete and reintroduces abstraction. It can also be the chance to transform what we been working on through connections not previously made.”[3] Sometimes hitting the pause button, taking the posture of “open stillness” can be a lifesaving act, a chance to find peace amidst turmoil. Pausing can become a moment of clarity and rebirth. It is often within that gap of time, when movement stops, and life is being pondered that God whispers our name. Yet, in contrast to taking a time to pause, can be a moment of hesitancy. Within the idea of hesitancy lies a level of apprehension and unwillingness. In my experience hesitancy is often a result of uncertainty and fear or self doubt. Hesitancy can eliminate opportunities and blind us to possibility. Hesitancy can also be a sign and an invitation to pause.

Jesus often saw the need to pause and ponder. “And in the early morning, while it was still dark, He arose and went out and departed to a lonely place, and was praying there.”(Mark 1:35) As I look at the life and sayings of Jesus I wonder if in many ways they are not an invitation to pause and ponder? “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole word and forfeit his soul?”(Mark 8:36) Selah! “With men it is impossible, but not with God: for all things are possible with God.”(Mark 10:27) Selah! “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these you did not do it to me.” Selah!  Could Jesus be the eternal Selah, the constant invitation to pause and ponder? How many opportunities do we have daily to just take a moment to pause and ponder? What are we missing out on when we blow by those opportunities? What is the cost to us and others when we refuse to pause and ponder? It is during the moment of pause that our ears yearn for answers.

 

[1] www.christianity.com/wiki/christian terms/what-does-selah-mean-in-the-bible.html

 

[2] Steven D’Souza and Diana Renner, Not Doing: The Art of Effortless Action, (London: LID Publishing, 2018), 121

[3] Steven D’Souza and Diana Renner, 123-24

 

About the Author

mm

Greg Reich

Entrepreneur, Visiting Adjunct Professor, Arm Chair Theologian, Leadership/Life Coach, married 39 years, father and grandfather. Jesus follower, part time preacher! Handy man, wood carver, carpenter and master of none. Outdoor enthusiast, fly fisherman, hunter and all around gun nut.

16 responses to “Selah: Pause and Ponder”

  1. mm Dylan Branson says:

    I’ve found that there are moments when God will push the pause button for us. As I’m writing this comment, the Hong Kong Observatory issued a Typhoon Signal 8 warning, which means that the city is effectively shut down. Typhoon days are the days where the city can finally stop and breathe from the “go go go” of city life. In this, I find it interesting how in our man-made world, God uses nature to force us to pause.

    I remember back in 2009 a massive ice storm hit Kentucky that shut down the city for almost a month. I can still remember waking up that morning and hearing the cracking of a telephone pole nearby that had frozen completely through and just…snapped. There were only a few neighborhoods in the whole county that had power for almost a week (some of my friends who lived in the countryside didn’t get power back for almost a month). But I remember the stillness of that time. It was almost eerie as we all paused.

    During my final year of undergrad, we had another big snowstorm hit the weekend before finals (which we were all grateful for). My friends and I had been preparing for our capstone presentation to graduate and others were studying for their exams. When that snowstorm hit, the school shut down for the Friday and the weekend. To this day, we still think back and refer to it as “The Weekend”. It was another time where we were forced to stop and just be with one another.

    When we are constantly in this “go go go” mode, we lose those precious moments of silence. But when we have a moment to stop and breathe, we can finally catch our breath and live.

    • mm Greg Reich says:

      Dylan,
      You are correct God has a way to create a pause when we refuse to. I often wonder why it is so hard for us to take a moment and quiet ourselves and be present in the moment? Even out bodies have a way of letting us know when enough is enough. This may explain some of them health trends we see in the US.

  2. mm Shawn Cramer says:

    Thanks for the shout out! I like how Renner and D’Souza mention how many of the arts have figured this out: music, visual art, and poetry. If you recall, I mentioned embracing learning jazz, and one key to good solos is having enough space. Because the blues was first a vocal expression, the instruments need these same breathing points.

    • mm Greg Reich says:

      Shawn,
      One of the extraordinary parts of jazz and blues is the aspects of dissonance. The concept of two disharmonious cords being used to create beautiful music. We often think that harmony has to be smooth and peaceful, but jazz shows us that isn’t the case. I wonder how many companies and churches miss out because they aren’t willing to walk in a world of dissonance? Does everything need to look the same in order for there to be harmony?

  3. mm Darcy Hansen says:

    “Could Jesus be the eternal Selah, the constant invitation to pause and ponder? ”

    I love this question. So often we go with the WWJD mentality which involves action more than being-but a pause, while an action, is more of a way of being, especially in our fast-paced world. Jesus moved at the pace of grace- he was always right on time, never rushed, not only in his actions, but also in his very state of being. I wonder if Selah and Sabbath are close sisters? Jesus embodied Sabbath- it wasn’t just a one day deal- it was his essence, his life’s rhythm.

    • mm Greg Reich says:

      Darcy,
      I do think selah and sabbath is one of the essences the church has lost due to the capitalistic influence on American Churches. The constant hustle and bustle of the culture, along with the attitude that the church needs to provide programs for every aspect of life leaves little time to enjoy sabbath and ponder the things of God.

  4. mm Jer Swigart says:

    My team is working “open stillness” into our regular rhythm in what we call “on-the-clock-off-the-grid” moments. In an effort to remain grounded and, in your words from our conversation last week, responsive rather than reactive, we’re finding the power of organizaitonal Selah. Moments to reflect and ponder. Where have we been? What decisions were made? How has this last season impact who I and we are becoming? What is Spirit saying to us about what happens next?

    Exploring questions like these require that we give our teams space to listen well. For us, that means that we suspend productivity. It’s proving invaluable.

    • mm Greg Reich says:

      Jer,
      There is much to learn if we were all willing to spent more time pondering our choices and looking at the potential outcomes. The idea of counting the costs is a rare concept beyond looking at money and marketing. I think if people truly took the time to count the cost of their choses and look at the potential long term ramifications we would be living in a different world.

      • mm Jer Swigart says:

        Greg.

        I do agree. And yet, what would you say a person or people group who can no longer afford to wait for our slow processes? I’m thinking in particular about marginalized people groups who actually need people with power and privilege to respond with much more urgency.

        • mm Greg Reich says:

          Jer,
          An alternative question may be how do you move them beyond the tyranny of the urgent toward anti-fragility while working toward the long term changes that need to be made?

  5. mm John McLarty says:

    Such an important post. It’s interesting, though, even when we do take time to pause and rest, how quickly do our thoughts turn back to the phone and all of the distractions waiting for us there? The Psalmist said, “Be still and know…” and yet, there always seems to be something more. How would you compare this stage of your life to previous chapters when you were in business and/or raising kids in terms of being intentional about selah?

    • mm Greg Reich says:

      John,
      Good question! First, I am still in business and will be until I die to at least until I am 70. Obviously I would love to be back in ministry but I am finding that there is little need for a 61 year with a new DMin. As far as Selah! Honestly, I find it much more difficult now to stop and pause reflectfully than when my children were growing and I was working 2 jobs. Maybe it is due to the urgency I sense at my age to complete what I sense Gods current calling is or the amount of studies and the crazy business environment I find myself in. Right now small pauses of thanksgiving are my focus. I hope to slot out larger times of reflection and deeper thinking as the weeks go by. But for now small moments throughout the day reminding myself God is in control and His word proves true is enough.

  6. mm John McLarty says:

    That’s interesting. Small pauses can be big moments- that’s important. But I still wonder- your response describes an urgency you sense for this decade to be meaningful/significant/faithful to God’s calling. I can appreciate that. But I also think about what I sometimes miss around me while I’m focused on the goal in front of me. To me, Selah! is an invitation to appreciate the journey without the tyranny of our self-imposed timelines. Just a thought.

  7. mm Chris Pollock says:

    Greg, thank you! Thankful for the movement of your post: from noise, unrelenting noise, ignorant and apathetic, to ‘selah’ and the possibility of this movement toward non-action (greater still in His grip).

    Have you ever felt that the action/movement/noise has just dropped from you? God snaps his fingers and, ‘nothing’. Volume on everything is turned down, life all-around pauses. There’s quiet.

    Sometimes, when we see the tension and volume rising around us in my place of service, we will lift our fingers to our mouths and remind one another, ‘SHHH’. Thanks for bringing that memory back through your post.

    We sure are called to a different way in Christ. To abide in Him, to turn the world upside down a little. This tendency toward quiet. There are other traditions and religions that encourage such movement too, deeper-sweet learning out there to encourage us, I think! Thankful that ‘selah’ is something from the history of ours that we can practise and share.

    • mm Greg Reich says:

      Chris,

      I find that Selah a spiritual discipline and a matter of perspectives that transcends the hustle and bustles of life moving us beyond the tyranny of the urgent into a place of reliance on God. This is a daily battle for me! I struggle with the need to be self reliant.

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