The Way of the Wilderness

By Mary Pandiani
Executive Director
Selah Center

For this Lenten season, I wonder about and wander into the wilderness. If Jesus willingly went into the desert, aka wilderness, there is value in exploring the way in which Jesus encountered his surroundings, himself, evil, and the presence of God. In these forty days of Lent, I ask God to awaken us to what might be revealed as we consider our world, our community, and ourselves. To approach Easter with a hope-filled heart, no matter what we encounter this season, God meets us as we face the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. This encounter with God moves in, through, and beyond the wilderness into places that extend the hope of God’s abiding presence.

What does wilderness have to do with contemplation? If Selah, as a welcoming contemplative community, is about pausing, encountering, and growing, then what does that look like in the wilderness? The wilderness provides certain elemental factors that offer space and time to reflect upon the inner workings of the heart. In this uncluttered and quieter place, we journey along, asking for pauses, encounters, and growth to open us to listen more deeply, both in the wilderness and beyond.

For the Mondays through Lent, I will explore the three temptations of Jesus in the wilderness as they relate to us. Through the lens of Henri Nouwen’s In the Name of Jesus, these temptations speak to the questions, triggers, and pulls in our own lives. Nouwen first explores the desire to be relevant, to be in touch with all that’s going on in the world, and to be in the center of it all, with the innocent-sounding yet provocative statement to “turn these stones into bread.” Then he explores Jesus’ response to Satan’s “throw yourself down” where Jesus confronts the desire to be spectacular, to stand out among everyone else. Finally, the third temptation of worship – the act of acknowledging who is at the center of our lives – Jesus reveals our desire to be powerful. Over the course of the season, each Monday, I will post another pondering about these temptations and the invitation that God offers to us in the life of Jesus.

– Mary

Below poem is by Steve Garnaas-Holmes – you can use this for this day or at another time.

Prepare the way of the Holy One,
      make straight paths for God.
           Every valley shall be filled,
                      and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
           and the crooked shall be made straight,
                      and the rough ways made smooth.

                                      —Luke 3.4-5

“The driveway into my heart is an obstacle course.
My trust of God goes up and down like a mountain range.
The words I say twist and turn around
what ought to be clear and true.
My thoughts are rough, rumpled and pitted and marred.
Roots of the trees of all my desires
have heaved up the sidewalk.

The wilderness where you, O Mystery, prepare a way
is my own troubled mind.
Simplify my trust. Undistort my eyes.
Still me.
Smooth my heart, Love, till you can roller skate there
with your eyes closed.”

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
unfoldinglight.net

About Mary Pandiani

Mary Pandiani, D.Min, serves as Selah’s Executive Director, leading the community and organization. Mary has served in various capacities for Selah, including as a founding board member, seminar/group leader, and co-facilitator for Selah’s extended programs, Living From The Heart and Way of the Heart.  Mary is a spiritual director and coach, co-facilitator for a spiritual direction training program, and advisor for doctoral students.  Mary received her Doctorate of Ministry at Portland Seminary, and her work focuses on a posture of contemplative living across the seasons of life.  Her foundation starts with a love for the God who wants to be known and a desire to help others to pause-notice-listen-respond in ways that lead to a deeper understanding of God’s divine invitation.  With the support of her husband Bill, Mary serves Selah while also enjoying her family of four adult daughters and their families.  Mary lives in Gig Harbor WA where she knows the value of beauty in creation and the gift of community.


About Steve Garnaas-Holmes

Steve Garnaas-Holmes is a retired United Methodist pastor. He and his wife Beth live in Maine. He often leads retreats on prayer, poetry, and renewing our language about God. He writes a lot of church music.  “I am trying to be here now,” says Garnaas-Holmes.

Unfolding Light

Unfolding Light is a daily reflection rooted in a contemplative, creation-centered spirituality, often inspired by my daily walk in the woods. In poems, parables, psalms, thoughts, and the odd weather report I hope to invite readers into a spirit of presence, compassion, justice, and delight. Though these writings are rooted in the Christian story you’ll hear in them melodies of many traditions. Unfolding Light is for anyone who wants to be a part of God’s healing of the world. You can receive Unfolding Light by daily email—visit unfoldinglight.net.