Year In Focus: Selah…


I’m a shallow breather. Every now and then I end up taking a huge, full breath. It’s like I’m having to catch up. At 60, I’m used to the pattern. In fact it’s so natural for me that I often don’t realize that I’m doing it.

But those around me do, and they regularly ask me if something’s wrong because I sound like I’m sighing—at least that’s what I’ve been told. It’s gotten to the point that my husband asks, “Breathing or sighing?” He doesn’t want to assume and he wants to be sure I’m okay.

I don’t know how long I’ve done this. I asked a doctor once about it, but they sort of blew the whole thing off as a non-issue. So I don’t worry about it.

But I wonder. This forgetting to breathe sometimes feels like a metaphor for my life. I move at a pretty fast pace. I take on a lot. A little improvement has come with age and awareness (aka acceptance) of my limitations.

How does this apply to my theme this year of stillness and rest?

I’m glad you asked.


I need to learn to pause. I can’t keep going at a speed that leaves no room for breathing.

Last week I was reading in Psalms, the prayer book of the Bible, and I noticed a word I tend to skip over. My New Living Translation uses the word “interlude.” Older translations have the word, Selah, set off to the side. Essentially, the word is an invitation to pause. To take some time consider the previous verses—to let the Truth sink in deeply.

I don’t know about you, but I like that…I need that. And not just when I’m reading scripture. I need to schedule in time to reflect the same way I am intentional about getting up and moving each hour (Thank you FitBit).

My recent reading about sabbath reinforced the truth that it is not simply empty inactivity, just as spiritual fasting isn’t merely not eating. Pausing to catch my breath isn’t Selah. Inherent within Selah is the spiritual practice of reflection, listening, and focus. It won’t happen unconsciously or outside of my intention.

So today, I will be looking for moments to stop, breathe, and reflect. I hope you find some, too.


Breakfast Pause

My spiritual focus for the year comes from John 15 and Jesus’ repetition of the word “meno” to abide.

I’m not usually hungry when I first wake up. Maybe I worked up my appetite taking the dogs out in the frigid cold and then cleaning the snow and ice off my husband’s van. Whatever it was, there was definitely a very large “rumbly in my tumbly.”

I decided to have an English muffin, fruit, and tea. I had to defrost the gluten free muffin. When I pulled it out of the package it was solid like a hokey puck. I had to double the usual defrost time. I opted for butter and honey. I’m not sure where the reference to molasses came from because in my experience honey is excruciatingly slow.

The honey may have seemed that slow because I had already spent forever gleaning the precious and delicious seeds from a pomegranate. Husband had purchased this special treat and he picked a great one. I don’t think I’ve ever had one with more seeds. But more seeds resulted in more work. I started to wonder if I was ever going to be done…ever going to get to eat.

This morning I felt more like tea than coffee, so I put a large amount of water in the microwave to heat, loaded my tea ball with loose leaf tea, and proceeded to steep a large mug of tea. To be done properly the process takes about ten minutes.

Finally, as I bowed my head to give thanks for my meal, I felt that reminding nudge. I confess I was a bit grumbly–can I blame it on the hunger?

I am so used to instant meals. Grab and go. Wolf it down. There’s a time to savor, but that is rarely when I’m by myself.

God’s word to me was that I wasn’t by myself. And I didn’t need to rush. Rushing is the antithesis to abiding, dwelling, to being still.

There’s an old hymn that admonishes “take time to be holy.” Here are the lyrics. You read them and let God speak to you and I’m going to finish my tea. Breakfast may be gone, but there’s still a need to pause…

Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord;
Abide in Him always, and feed on His Word.
Make friends of God’s children, help those who are weak,
Forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek.
Take time to be holy, the world rushes on;
Spend much time in secret, with Jesus alone.
By looking to Jesus, like Him thou shalt be;
Thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see.
Take time to be holy, let Him be thy Guide;
And run not before Him, whatever betide.
In joy or in sorrow, still follow the Lord,
And, looking to Jesus, still trust in His Word.
Take time to be holy, be calm in thy soul,
Each thought and each motive beneath His control.
Thus led by His Spirit to fountains of love,
Thou soon shalt be fitted for service above. William D. Longstaff, c.1882

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