The Power of the Pause

Coffee with Cream and Sugar
An Invitation into the Sweet Oneness of God
#6-The Power of the Pause

JOSEPH JACKSON (BLACK LIKE COFFEE)

Selah

Pause and think about that.  Think about the power of pause.

Pause! Take a deep breath.  Breathe in, then slowly breathe out.  Pause and think about that.

Whether it’s from exhaustion or an intentional discipline, the pause has the potential to energize or give way to contemplation and relaxation.

Someone once said, “slow down and enjoy the journey, because the best moments in life are often found in the pauses.”

There’s power in the pause, and I believe everyone can use a pause from time to time. A pause from routine, a pause from labor, a pause from other people, even a pause from play.  The pause invites us to rest, renew, refuel, revive, rethink.  A pause to muse and meander.  The pause offers an opportunity to walk, to wander, and to wonder. The pause gives us a moment to ponder over whatever comes to mind. It gives us a chance to simply sit and gaze. I am convinced that there’s a need to consciously and intentionally pause more often.

Jesus illustrates the ultimate model to follow as he takes times of pauses in his mission and ministry.  The Gospels are replete with examples where Jesus steals away for prayer, for communing with God, for reflecting and meditating.  These stories also show how Jesus starts with prayer and contemplation (like in Mark 1:35—long before the dawn). He moves, as the author and priest, Henry Nouwen, describes, “from solitude to community to ministry”, and, in doing so, teaches us the “true order of spiritual work.”

Selah. The Psalms call us to pause.  When you see the word, Selah, between the stanzas, it is said to mean: pause and think about that.  Selah appears in the Psalms over 70 times. Think about that! In Psalm 32, this word appears after each stanza, a total of three times, reminding the reader to pause. Verse seven is one that has always resonated with me: You are my hiding place.  The verse alone calls me to pause.  Makes me go hmmm! Invites us all to do the same. Go hmmm! Pause. Selah.

I don’t know about you, but I long for more pauses and more solitude, whether a simple pause between the next thing, or a longer pause for extended restoration and reflection.  I recently returned from a brief five days of pause at the Abbey of Gethsemani.  I say brief because I could have surely stayed longer.  While away, I journaled daily vignettes, personal reflections, as a form of pause during that larger pause. Below are just a few of them for you:

      1. I wake up to clouds and rain.  I must have slept hard, because I didn’t hear the 3 a.m. monastery bells that ready the monks for 3:15 Divine Office, also known as Opus Dei or Divine Hours.  The first of the Hours is Vigils.  I did make it for Lauds at 5:45 a.m. and breakfast at 7:00, Sext at 12:15, None at 2:15, Vespers at 5:30, then closing out the day with my favorite solemn service, Compline at 7:30.  After Compline is the Grand Silence (The Grand Pause).
        Seven times a day I shall praise You for Your righteous judgements — Psalm 119:164
      2. As dusk approaches after Compline, I decided to take a trek up Calvary Hill where a huge stone cross stands.  Surrounding the cross are wild grasses, beautiful flowers, and brownish red stones. Also, artifacts, candles, and notes that visitors have left in crevices.  The base of the cross looks like a mini grotto.  The sun is setting between the knobs, a most beautiful sight!  As the sun lowers, it indicates it’s time to descend the hill before it gets too dark (an additional pause).  Bedtime will be my final pause for the day.  Nighty-night!
      3. Gethsemani provided for me the spiritual discipline of contemplation and listening–a disciplined rhythm of prayer, work, study, and leisure.  Surely God cared for me through the monks, the land, and the community of retreatants. God comforted my mind, body, soul, and spirit.  I left Gethsemani emotionally, spiritually, mentally, even physically healed, ready to pick up where I left off in ministry (An extremely needed pause).

May you be encouraged and inspired to take a pause.  I tell ya’There’s power in the pause!  Can I get a witness?  Somebody say, Amen!

HEATHER LEE (WHITE LIKE CREAM)

Selah…I will instruct you and teach you… (Psalm 32:8)

The pause is not only something that we do after, but something that we do before. It is something that opens a space—a space where, as we hear in Psalm 32, we can be taught. Joe noticed one of his favorite verses in Psalm 32 (verse 7) ends with Selah…the invitation to pause, the invitation to think about that, to stop and reflect back on the words you just read. I am aware also that this same Selah, this same pause, is also a moment to reflect before what comes in the next verse (verse 8…where we are taught). The pause is after before and before after. In Joes, terms, think about that!😊

Joan Chittester, in Wisdom Distilled from the Daily, writes it like this, “a time between times” (pg. 176). She is writing about the Benedictine monastic practice of Statio, a Latin word that essentially means, Selah, a holy pause. For Benedictines, it is a mindful practice of stopping one thing before we begin another, something challenging in our culture of multi-tasking and busyness. For me, if practiced in the moment, it may be noticed as the space between breaths, that brief moment after the exhale, where I rest in the loving source of all that is, where God gathers up a new breath to breathe into me and into all–as the next note that is the choir of creation. Exhale…statio…inhale. Exhale…selah…inhale.

Joe and I titled this reflection before it was written, and it has the word power in it—the POWER of the pause. I know power is not frequently associated with pause, but this is where it may be doing its teaching to us today. It seems that so many of us who are engaged in the courageous work of love, of social justice, of belonging, of unity, of love, of love, of love–are looking to ground the work in a different kind of power—are looking to be empowered by the pause. There is an organization that Joe and I are connected in Wisconsin called WISDOM. It is an organization made up of many smaller organizations of many faiths, all committed to social justice and social change. Recently, as part of a contemplative offering for this organization, I reviewed the mission statements of those organizations and most, if not all of them, point to this word, power.

Selah.

From what source do we draw our power to act, to speak, to engage? Might it be from the depths of the pause? Might it be these disciplines of pause, of Statio, of Selah that are needed in our world? For me, the answer is a confident yes, drawn from my own experiences that have taught tme he power of the pause. My personal discipline is articulated in the Stay part of my rule…let me share.

As part of being formed as an oblate at Holy Wisdom Monastery, each oblate creates a rule of life that guides their unique monastic vocation in the world. Joe has a rule. I have a rule. You have a rule too (really!). Perhaps you may be called to pause—to listen for it…recall it…articulate it. It is there within you. Selah.

My rule is a song with a refrain that sings Listen, Stay, Obey, grounded in the tenets of holy listening, stability, and obedience that are part of the Benedictine way. The verses of the song explore each of those words more deeply, with a bridge verse that describes how they are intertwined, much like the Holy Trinity. The Stay verse is my Statio—it is my Selah—it is the time between times, the time between what I have just listened to in my life–the last moment, the last day, the last month, the last year, even the last season—and the response or action that I am to take in obedience…in courage and trust. The Stay verse sings:

Stay means drop down, to the still lake within
or nest in the treetops that dance in the wind.
Exhale, be patient, the wait won’t be too long.
Yoga, a swim, a walk with the dog.
Follow through seasons with prayer, work, and play
Listen…Stay…Obey

I am reminded as I sing this verse internally today—as I sit at the shores of a lake in Northern Wisconsin– that I am at a Selah space for me—a place of Statio—a space that is a beacon of the still lake within, with a screened in porch above its waters that is my nest in the windy treetops—where yoga, a swim, and a walk with the dog are all possibilities—I am reminded that this pause is necessary not only for integration of what has come before, but also for the power to carry out what is to come with authenticity and integrity. This pause, at this moment in time, is in obedience to my rule of life. It is from this place of pause that my power to do what I must do next—my power to be continually taught by love– will come.

Selah.

SUGAR (THE SWEET ONENESS OF GOD)

 It is the sweet, sweet, summertime now here in Wisconsin (I am reminded of one of my favorite summer tunes by Ella Fitzgerald—maybe pause to listen…).

Joe and I find that each of us are taking so many pauses in so many forms that we can’t seem to come together to complete the blog about pauses. Hopefully that makes you giggle as much as it does us.

Why not let that be the teaching…the sweet, sweet sugar—the sugar that puts a blank space before you and invites you to simply pause along with us. Where are you on this late June summer day? Can you take a moment to exhale, pause, and inhale, pause. What practices or places of pausing are near and dear to your heart? Can you describe the power they give you? Can you envision a world that draws power from the pause? Tell us about it.  Do you journal? Write music? As a form of pause? Retreat? Walk dogs? Join us here in the sweet sugar of the blank page…and let’s fill it together with the power of the pause.

Selah.

9 thoughts on “The Power of the Pause”

  1. Powerful insight, teaching, & emphasis the power in pausing.
    Keep on keeping on & I will look a pause in a greater depth & conscious going forward.
    God bless you both,(Pause)God Bless you!!

  2. Deep contemplation of the pauses in my daily life: walking Boomer, an hour at the gym and even the chaos of the minister wives conference.
    Pause, reflect, refuel – forward.
    Repeat

  3. I never really thought about it but I guess my pause would be daily walks by the water and sitting there at some point watching the ducks and thinking about life in general.

  4. This blessed me in a very real way. The power of the pause. The power for me is the innate ability to know that one actually needs to pause, rest in the bosom of God. The power of the Pause for me is the intimacy in being able to breathe the breathe of God while I rest in the assurance of His will for my life. Andddddddd thank you sir for sharing this writing with me. I know but only a few personally that would appreciate this. But I most definitely am going to share it with them

  5. Thank you so much for sharing this blog with me Pastor Jackson (my Road Dawg), pausing gives rise to reflect on direction for me. Many times as I plan for direction on an advocacy process it’s essential to that process to pause and listen for that still voice of God’s guidance.

  6. My pause is in the pause. When I’m in another activity, thought(s) consume me and i stop and wonder then I’m off on another journey. What stories I come up with. Thank you for the share.

    1. Heather, I love the metaphor of the screened-in porch overlooking the the lake, being a nest. And the nest itself was a place I was privileged to enter into centering prayer last July.

      1. I love the time I have spent in that nest. It’s a beautiful setting for meditation, prayer and catching up with friends.

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