By on May 4, 2011

SelahBy Nancie Carmichael –

The word “Selah” intrigues me. When I was a child, my father would read a Psalm to my brother and sister and me from the King James Bible before we left for school in the morning: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. . .Selah.” (Ps. 46: 1; 3)

“Selah?” I asked. “What does that mean?”

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“It’s a pause. It means to stop and think about what you just heard.”

I don’t know where my father got his facts—maybe from his confirmation classes as a child. I recently did some digging on the subject and Dad’s definition is probably as good as any. Some scholars say they really don’t know what it means. Others believe it was a musical notation. The New Living Translation uses the word interlude: “The Lord Almighty is here among us; the God of Israel is our fortress. Interlude.”

There are some who believe that “Selah” comes from the same root as the Hebrew word “calah”, meaning to weigh, to measure. I read through the Psalms and Habakkuk where “Selah” was used. It seems the word is a boundary, a marker. A place to stop and observe. Often the word stands between contrasts—the instability of a world without God; of unrighteousness apart from God—highlighted against descriptions of His faithfulness, His mighty power. Regardless of what we call it, it’s good to occasionally observe a Selah; time to be still—time to think.

Do you need a Selah in your life? I do—more than ever. We live in a world of information coming at us. A lot of information. Some of it is trivial, some of it is important. But things of importance need to be assimilated, and that takes some thinking, weighing.

We do have Selah’s presented to us—places to stop and think. They come in the natural rhythms of life: A day off. Sunday. A vacation. A sleepless night. A time of waiting. Or maybe it’s disguised as an interruption.

Last week our electricity was off. Suddenly there was no radio, TV, nor internet access. The silence was deafening. Here was a Selah—time to think! But maybe you are like me—I think I have so much to do that when a Selah comes along, I resist it, fuming that “I don’t have time for this”. . and miss an opportunity to hear from God.

Then there are the more significant Selah’s: A job that’s ended. A loss, a life-disruption, or an illness. It may be the silence of the empty nest. And in these crossroads of our journey, we have occasional opportunities to consider how to proceed meaningfully. These are good times to ask, where do I go from here?

I’ve found that journaling my prayers and reflecting what I’ve read in Scripture helps to add a “Selah” into my ordinary routine. When I don’t have my quiet time, I feel disoriented, lost. The story is told of a woman pioneer who was in a wagon train with her family on the epic journey west. The vastness of the landscape overwhelmed her, and she wrote in her diary, “I write to remember who I am.”

A Selah helps us remember who we are, and remember who God is. Sometimes even if we have quiet places, we fill them up with busyness. Maybe it’s because thinking feels dangerous—it can confront us with changes and choices we must make; responsibilities we must assume; things we must let go. But it can be the most significant and life-shaping part of our journey. It’s what helps us grow.

We are not diminished by God-given pauses in life. Instead, we can have greater effectiveness, greater focus. To honor Selah in our lives is to live reflectively. It is to live as Jesus did, periodically getting away from the crush of life to hear from the Father. Then we return, fully involved, fully engaged; fully obedient to God’s purpose for us.

Nancie Carmichael is an author and speaker. One of her books is “Selah—Time to Stop, Think, and Step into Your Future.” Her books are available at amazon.com. For further information, contact [email protected], or see http://www.nanciecarmichael.com/.

About Nancie Carmichael

Nancie Carmichael and her husband Bill have been involved with the writing and publishing field for many years as they published Virtue Magazine and Christian Parenting Magazine. They now own a book publishing company, Deep River Books. Nancie and Bill have written several books together including: Lord, Bless My Child; and Seven Habits of a Healthy Home. Nancie has written: Your life, God’s Home; Desperate for God: How He Meet Us When We Pray; The Comforting Presence of God; Selah: Time to Stop, Think, and Step into your Future; and her latest book, Surviving One Bad Year—Seven Spiritual Strategies to Lead You to a New Beginning. Bill and Nancie make their home in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and are parents to five married children and grandparents to ten. Nancie received her Master’s of Spiritual Formation from George Fox Evangelical Seminary in 2012, and in 2005, received an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Western Baptist College. Website: nanciecarmichael.com

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