Being Restored by Grace

I enjoyed a nice break over Christmas and New Year’s. When a heavy snowfall slowed the world down even more, I noticed what it feels like in my body to relax, knowing nothing urgent needs my attention. Now that I’ve resumed my work, I can recall that felt experience of spaciousness when I’m tempted to rush or feel the impulse to schedule one more thing into my day.

What I experienced deepened my understanding of this quote from The Cloud of Unknowing written by an unknown author in the fourteenth century.

If you were now restored by grace to the integrity man possessed before sin, you would be complete master of these impulses. None would ever go astray, but would fly to the one sole good, the goal of all desire, God himself… It is God , and he alone, who can fully satisfy the hunger and longing of our spirit which, transformed by his redeeming grace, is enabled to embrace him by love… Truly this is the unending miracle of love: that one loving person, through his love, can embrace God, whose being fills and transcends the entire creation. 

Here’s what I heard this time.

The “integrity [wholeness or completeness] man possessed before sin” is not just a time long ago that I can never return to. It’s here and now in the core of my being, that place of unity with God untouched by trauma. When I return there in meditation, I live more fully out of that place throughout the day. I’m more able to be “the master of my impulses.” I find more freedom to choose what’s loving and life-giving for me and for the world.

When I first read about the unending miracle of love and imagined myself embracing God, I was moved to tears and still am. That’s what drew me to centering prayer which is what The Cloud of Unknowing is all about. In the meantime, I’ve also been learning how important it is to be present in my body. But when I tried to incorporate more body awareness into my meditation practice, it felt mechanical, like I was leaving God out of my prayer.

But now it’s all coming together. As I pay attention to my breath and sink into my body, I sink down into that place “before sin” in the core of my being. That place of union with God is not abstractly out there somewhere. It’s in my body. My body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. I can visualize and feel the sensation of myself flowing down into and occupying my toes, feet, legs, belly and on up to the top of my head. Feeling myself there, God, “whose being fills and transcends the entire creation,”including my body, is in my embrace, and I am in God’s. 

God’s embodied presence is where I’m invited to return to throughout my day. When I realize I’m somewhere else, I can pause and sink down into the felt reality that God is in me and I am in God. My mind gets there instantly. My heart and body take a little longer to arrive. But once there, grace restores me to the integrity or truth of my wholeness. Reconnected to My True Self, I’m not so easily led astray by impulses or fear.

That’s the theory, anyway, and what I’m testing out these days. To that end, I’m being faithful to a daily practice of meditation and yoga and have set an intention to observe what’s going on inside me during the day.

So far, I’ve noticed more peace and calm. I’ve also noticed worry and reactivity. I noticed the impulses that arise. Sometimes, I paused and returned to my body. Other times, I impulsively reacted and said or did things I regretted. That was disappointing.

But I realized I could pause there too and remember that I’m human. I offered myself compassion and forgiveness. Messing up reminds me that I’m being restored to live more out of my True Self, not out of a perfect self. That non-existent “perfect self” is who I think I need to be to be loved or feel good about myself. My True Self knows I’m loved just the way I am.

So I offer myself patience. Restoration is a process, a life-long journey with an opportunity to arrive in each moment.

I will be with you, day after day, to the end of the age.
–Matthew 28:20 (Voice)

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Love Mischief for the World

“If you or someone you know is in need of fresh produce, dairy, and more, we invite you to visit our Community Fridge! We have a fridge and pantry in our Community Room that is stocked daily with fresh foods that are available for free access. Come by to pick up some food or for a chat and some coffee! This is a welcoming space for all,” says Cariboo Road Christian Fellowship in Burnaby. What a gift! They are located at 7200 Cariboo Road, Burnaby. Hours of Operation: Tuesdays 12-4pm, Thursdays 4-8pm and Sundays 7-9pm Recommended Bus Routes: 101 Bus from Lougheed Station or 22nd Street Station (get off at 7200 Cariboo Rd).

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
“Falling Snow” by Dawn Perry. Used with permission.
The Cloud of Unknowing edited by William Johnston,1973, p.50.
“Black-Capped Chickadee” by Ron Bulovs. Used with permission.
Photo of poster from Cariboo Road Christian Fellowship by Gloarina Di Giovann,. Used with permission.

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I Love You. I’m Listening.

We cannot live our lives constantly looking back, listening back, lest we be turned to pillars of longing and regret, but to live without listening at all is to live deaf to the fullness of the music…. Listen for him. Listen to the sweet and bitter airs of your present and your past for the sound of him. —Frederick Buechner, The Sacred Journey

Whether we’re looking back on the last year or the last evening, pausing to reflect can evoke a fair bit of anxiety.

The first part is easy and generally involves savouring the gifts received–that intimate conversation, that moment of recognition, that person who arrived in the nick of time. We may remember the tastes, smells, sights, and sounds of the earth’s beauty. We may give thanks for our home, our relationships, new freedoms and the boundless, present, unceasing love of God.

The next part can be challenging, so let’s do it together.

What didn’t go so well? How were we hurt? Where are we still stuck? Perhaps, like me, you’re thinking. “I wish I wouldn’t have… “

I remember a recent conversation with a friend and notice how judgment is the first to show up, activating defensive strategies. I blame them or myself. I become the victim. I can feel discouraged, defeated and ashamed. I can fall into a loop of judgment  and shame for a long time, ruminating on what they did wrong or how my response wasn’t helpful. I stay in reactivity until I’m reminded by something I read or a podcast I listened to that we’re human. This is what it means to be human. We react to painful experiences. But we don’t need to stay there. We can open to God’s loving kindness. That’s where growth happens.

Pausing to notice my reactivity (often in the form of anger, judgment or shame), allows me to offer myself compassion. “That’s so hard,” I hear God say. “That hurt,” I say to myself. These words are a healing balm to my soul and invite gentle inquiry. With God, I ask myself, “Where does it hurt? What were you hoping for? What did you lose?”

“I love you. I’m listening,” I say to myself.

I notice a hint of tears at back of my eyes. Such loving compassion allows me to feel accepted and able to ask God for what I need instead of cowering under reprimands from my internal critic.

Let’s pause here and say hello to the part of us that’s so critical. What would it be like to thank her for trying to protect us from disappointment or harm? I look her in the eyes and gently say, “I love you. I’m listening.” She tells me she’s afraid that if I don’t overcome this, people will think I’m a fake. The critic doesn’t want any evidence that proves my fears about myself could be true. “I hear you,” I say to her and let her imagine with me what it would be like to let go of those fears. My shoulders soften, and my arms rest more fully on my thighs. I let out a long, slow breath.

I feel a shift from reactivity to presence. I watch the event again with compassion and curiosity. If judgment, guilt or shame creeps in, I gently ask them to take a seat and turn my attention back to the scene with an open, loving heart. I name what is, welcome my friend and myself just as we are. I feel the sadness that we weren’t our best selves. I notice where it hurts and what thoughts arise. My True Self, the me that lives in God unaffected by trauma, asks the hurting part of me what she needs to return home. “I love you. I’m listening,” I say to her and wait.

This hurting part of me needs reassurance that transformation is happening and to be reminded that I’m already home. I place my hand on my heart, and welcome the voice of Love, my voice intertwined with God’s, incarnate in all things, the ancient Word that has no beginning and no end.

Love says, “I created you and you are mine, and all I created I love and care for, nurture and make whole. I know who you are and I’m sharing what I know with you so you can see your beauty and feel the delight I feel when you come near.”

Feeling so loved, so accepted, I turn toward my friend. With my imagination, I listen and watch as Love holds them. The scene is so intimate. Tears are shed with heaving and wails, and God enfolds them in a loving embrace, stroking their head looking into their eyes.

This becomes my prayer for them. May they know how deeply they are loved, and may love release them from reactivity to openness, from shame and judgment to compassion and receptivity, from guilt to forgiveness.

I pray that for myself.

And for you.

I love you. I am listening.
When is the last time you closed your eyes and said these words to yourself?

When was the last time you took the time to give to yourself
what you endeavour to give others?
–Sarah Blondin, Loving and Listening to Yourself Meditation 

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Love Mischief for the World

I give thanks for the life of Desmond Tutu who was a South African Anglican bishop and theologian, known for his work as an anti-apartheid and human rights activist. He passed away on December 26 at the age of 90. In this above video clip, Desmond Tutu talks about forgiveness. You may also enjoy this interview with Krista Tippet. Tutu once said, “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” What little bit of good are you invited to do today?

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
This post was inspired and shaped by a number of teachers: Sarah Bondin, Tara Brach, Richard Rohr, and Julian of Norwich.
“Contemplating” by Courtney Carmody. Used with permission. 
“Best Friends” by Thomas Leuthard Used with permission.
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As You Step into the New Year

As 2021 comes to a close, I’m becoming more aware of what I’m leaving behind and what I want to take with me into the New Year. This year we’ve all had significant losses of one kind or another. We’ve also been enlightened as we learn more about ourselves and others and have welcomed some new freedoms.

Here are the questions I’ve been contemplating and some suggestions of how you might like to be with these questions. Allow yourself to linger with the questions or thoughts that draw you and let go of the rest.

What are you leaving behind as you enter the new year?

  • What did you begin this year with that you don’t have anymore? Perhaps you lost a loved one, a relationship, a job, a possession, a state of health, a freedom now restricted by the pandemic, climate change or the decisions of others. What do you need to say goodbye to? How would you like to do that?  Light a candle, walk a labyrinth, write a prayer, sing a song loudly while vacuuming, watch the clouds or spend a few moments in silence? What sounds inviting to  you?
  • What happened this year that still makes you angry, ashamed or upset?  Pause here and be gentle with yourself. Where does it hurt? What does that part of yourself need to hear, know or feel? What might Love offer you now to comfort or ease you? Imagine Christ with you sharing the weight of this. Does anything slip away?
  • What old belief did you discover this year that isn’t true? Perhaps you suddenly knew you were not responsible for someone else’s life or realized you can ask for what you need. Perhaps you discovered more about what it’s like to be a person of colour, transgender, neurodivergent, or indigenous. Perhaps past trauma led you to believe that that there was something wrong with you and now you know: it isn’t true.
  • What practice has grown stale? What do you notice you keep forgetting to do or have to push yourself to make happen? Take a moment to notice what you feel when you think about that practice without analyzing judging or fixing those feelings. As you listen to what’s arising in you, what do you need? What did that practice offer you, and what do you notice when you name that?
  • What habit doesn’t serve you? Have you noticed something that you used to do that you no longer find helpful or satisfying?
  • As you look back over the year, when did you fall under the spell that you are alone? When did you feel misunderstood, separate or excluded? When did you suspect that you are not enough or not lovable? Recall what that felt like. Where did it take you? What did it cost you? How did you get back?

What are you taking with you?

  • What new relationship, situation, work, or adventure are you welcoming into your life? What was birthed in you in Advent and Christmas that is now living and breathing in you?
  • What happened this year that made you smile or evoked gratitude? Linger there with Jesus. What made that experience so meaningful to you? What did you hear, know, or feel that you would like to remember and live into?
  • What belief sparkles for you? What have you discovered to be true and life-giving? Perhaps it is Jesus’ words, “I am with you always.” Perhaps it’s Valarie Kaur‘s, “You are a part of me I do not yet know.” What goes on for you when you say “I’m enough” or “I belong” or “I am just what the world needs”?
  • What new practice are you motivated to explore? Perhaps you’d like to try Tara Brach’s RAIN of self-compassion, centering prayer, or praying Compline. Maybe you’re drawn to eating more slowly and mindfully, trying out Yoga with Adriene, chair yoga or short daily walks. What would it be like to make a regular practice of simply noticing a negative thought and then pausing?
  • What new habit do you want to adopt that takes less than two minutes a day?  Drink a glass of water. Take a few deep breaths. What if you simply noticed when you’ve said something unkind to yourself and apologize?  Perhaps after you’ve learned why its important to use the pronouns others prefer, you set an intention to use them. You could name what you’re grateful for. Be kind to the earth and your body by having one less serving of dairy or meat or one more serving of greens.
  • How might you live more fully into your oneness with God and all living things? Perhaps you’d like to say a prayer or touch a tree. Take a risk and affirm someone by letting them know how who they are makes your life better. Notice when you feel separate and invite yourself to come home to your soul. Pray word or breath prayers for another, yourself and the earth. Write a reminder of your unity with all on a post-it note and stick it on your bathroom mirror. What would you write?

 Behold, I make all things new.
–Revelation 21:5 (NKJV)

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Love Mischief for the World

“Are you cooking a turkey?” I was asked more than once this Christmas. I reminded the askers that I’m a vegan, and then they ask me what we will have instead. I love this question. Here’s what Fred and I and our daughter and her family had for Christmas dinner. We started with a fancy drink and a veggie tray with my homemade roasted red pepper hummus, crackers, and a cheese ball that Heidi made. Next came Fred’s mango, shredded carrot and vermicelli spring rolls with peanut sauce. We opened a bottle of red wine (Sprite for Hadrian) which accompanied savoury pastries that Heidi filled with minced mushrooms, walnuts, Kalamata olives, and herbs (inspired by Shirley Delicious.) Our next course was veggie dog piggies in a blanket, then Buffalo Cauliflower Wings with Ranch dressing made by yours truly. The last savoury appetizer was Beyond Meatballs in sweet and sour sauce. In between courses, we opened presents and played Sequence. Then dessert: decaf coffee with vegan cannoli specially made by Thyme and Rosemary, mandarins, scones topped with raspberry jam and coconut whipped cream, and vegan white and dark chocolate. With our tummies full of good food and hearts full of love, Fred and I walked home on snowy sidewalks, grateful we hadn’t taken the car.

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
“Walk away”  Michał Koralewski. Used with permission.
“Snow Angel” by Rachael Moore. Used with permission.
“Buffalo Wings – J. Selby’s Plant-Based Eatery, Saint Paul” by Tony Webster. Used with permission.

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Christmas: As Is

The Nativity 1890 1910 by Franz Mayer&Co (detail) by Plum Leaves

I wonder if Joseph was peeved
when Mary, between contractions,
ordered him to close the door
then,
as soon as he did,
wanted it open again.

I wonder if,
in that chorus of angels,
one or two sang flat
and if some shepherds,
feeling and smelling sheepish,
were hesitant to go.

I wonder if
–after Mary gave birth to the Christ child
on scratchy straw
next to dog’s breath and cat fleas–
it didn’t still hurt like the dickens.

And I wonder if
the star was that bright
or the kings so sure.

But I don’t wonder
if God was troubled
that it wasn’t
quite
perfect.

And I don’t doubt
that God
is moved to tears
by our willingness
to be in the story.

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Love Mischief for the World

The greatest love mischief of all is being celebrated this day around the world.
Come, let us adore him!

What love mischief are you and God doing to care for the earth?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
“The Nativity” 1890-1910 by Franz Mayer & Co (detail) photo by Plum leaves. Used with permission.
Poem “Christmas: As Is” by Esther Hizsa, 2015, last stanza added 2021
“Decorations 1” by Neil Merton Used with permission.

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What Are You Waiting For?

I see in your soul
what’s mirrored in mine.
You’re waiting too

for the pandemic to end
to see everyone’s faces
no proof required

for the pain to stop
the days to get longer
the path to be clear

for stuff to stop
shaking up
our snow globe lives

to get everything done
and finally rest

to be thanked
forgiven
seen
known

for the storms to be stilled
the prisoners freed
a room at the inn.

We close our eyes
hold our breath 
and wait 
until we can’t

hold it 
any
longer.

Wait  with me
until the snow globe 
inside
settles
and we open our eyes 
to see 

God’s not waiting
for that moment to arrive.

This scratchy darkness
is a manger.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is doginmangercloseup.jpg

I cannot tell you
how the light comes,
but that it does.
That it will.
That it works its way
into the deepest dark
that enfolds you. . .

–Jan Richardson, “How the Light Comes”

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Love Mischief for the World

Advent 4: Tell

Mary didn’t just ponder these things in her heart. She went and visited her cousin Elizabeth who was also with child.

As you light this fourth advent candle, consider who might like to hear about your inner experience of God. Where would your visit take place–on a Zoom call, after church, over coffee? Imagine their joy and yours as you share how Christ is being birthed in you. Perhaps they will tell you how God is being birthed in them.

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
“Dogs in Waiting” by Raj Deut Used with permission.
Poem “What Are You Waiting For?” by Esther Hizsa, 2021.
“Dog in Manger” taken in New York, Saint Patrick’s cathedral by Jackie Bouchard. Used with permission.
“Fourth Sunday in Advent” by Jürgen Mangelsdorf. Used with permission

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Someone You Know but Never Met

The Canadian province of British Columbia on the Pacific coast declared a state of emergency on November 17 following massive floods and landslides caused by record-breaking rainfall in the previous several days. Four people have died as well as over 700,000 animals. 

Before dawn
you wake to milk the cows
and then remember 
their last breaths
as the waters rose.

In the city
someone you know but never met
finally falls asleep 
and so does the hope
that this day will be better than the last.

Meanwhile someone they know but never met
wakes to the word widow
another to dying
another to psychotic
another and another and another

alone
afraid
waters rising

There were moments when 
you knew and met
that blue sky of wonder
that dry ground of trust

but today
Isaiah’s promise
talk of Emmanuel

God with us?

empty words
meant for someone else 

At the dawning of this day,
someone you know but never met
is holding your hand
and breathing with you
while the waters rise and recede
rise and recede.

“Singing Shall Be My Light”
by Mary Wolfe

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you
.
–Isaiah 43:1,2

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Love Mischief for the World

Advent 3:Trust

After the angel delivered the news that Mary would give birth to God’s son, she said, “Let it be unto me according to your word” as if both feet were firmly in, but we don’t know that. How do you feel about God being birthed in you? Are your feet both in, both out, or one in and one out?

As you light the third advent candle, share your feelings with God. What would you like to ask for?

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
“Flooded” by Drew Brayshaw Used with permission.
Poem “Someone You Know but Never Met” is by Esther Hizsa, 2021.
Yarn-fibre painting titled “Singing Shall Be My Light” by Mary Wolfe. Used with permission.
“Third Sunday in Advent 141214” by Jürgen Mangelsdorf Used with permission.
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A Quarter Turn

I suddenly knew I was looking at it from the wrong angle, and I gave the cloth in my hand a quarter turn. Immediately I saw a beautiful and coherent golden pattern…. In wonder, the pattern had emerged, to be seen in all its beauty by those who could learn to make the quarter turn. —Helen Luke, Such Stuff as Dreams Are Made On

As soon as Mary agreed to be the mother of God, she took being different to a whole new level. No one really understood what it was like to be her–and that’s assuming they believed her, which I’m sure most didn’t. Add to that the awkward timing of events. Getting pregnant before she was married complicated things, to say the least. Thankfully, God sent an angel to bring Joseph up to speed, and Elizabeth had an inner revelation of the truth so that Mary wasn’t completely alone to process what was happening to her. 

I imagine her loss. This was not the life she’d anticipated. She would be talked about, misunderstood, and excluded. She would never know in her earthly life the powerful effect she’d have on generation after generation of Christ followers. 

But there were moments when Mary could make the quarter turn and see the “beautiful coherent pattern” of her life, the wonder-filled possibilities and realities growing in her womb. In those moments, her grief turned to joy. 

My soul glorifies the Lord
   and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
     for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
    holy is his name.–Luke 1:46-49

This Advent, I’m invited to make a quarter turn and see that Christ is being birthed in me out of where I am and who I am. A quarter turn one way, I see gift. A quarter turn back, I see lack. 

“You know my big, beautiful Christmas cactus died this year,” I said to my spiritual director.

We met in person again for the first time since Covid relegated us to boxes on a screen. As is my pattern, my thoughts spilled out before my Elizabeth. 

“For years, that plant got me through the dark days of winter. It always bloomed before Advent began and accompanied me through Christmas, a tangible sign of God’s presence. But now it’s gone.”

To make a quarter turn, you don’t have to move from where you are. You simply need to shift your gaze a little to see what God sees and feel what God feels in that moment. 

“What does God see?” my director asked. 

I closed my eyes and saw God smiling, holding my hand. “God’s with me, doing something in my inability to be what I’d like to be and my inability to let go of wanting life to be different.”

She asked me what I wanted to be different, and I told her about recent experiences that were hard for me. 

What’s God doing? I wanted to know. I wanted it to be as clear as pink blossoms. But it wasn’t.

Then I recalled something James Finley said in his talks on the Dark Night of the Soul. “If you understood it, it wouldn’t be what you’re looking for. It would be just one more thing that you understand.”

A quarter turn didn’t give me understanding. I didn’t suddenly see why I’m the way I am or why God doesn’t fix the bits that seem broken. I saw that the knowing my mind can grasp is not the only knowing I need. A different kind of knowing is being birthed. 

My soul wasn’t about to break into song, but I did feel a bit of hope. 

Weaving by Tristan Unrau

In wonder, the pattern had emerged, to be seen in all its beauty
by those who could learn to make the quarter turn.
Helen Luke, Such Stuff as Dreams Are Made On

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Love Mischief for the World

Advent 2: Wonder

After the angel’s greeting, Mary was told she would give birth to the Christ. What might God be birthing in you that will bless the world? It may be something you’re invited to do or let go of. It may be an invitation to come alongside someone and be their Elizabeth. It may be a desire to take a few moments with God making a quarter turn. Perhaps you’re being drawn to step into believing you matter, that you belong, that you are seen and loved.  

When Mary heard the angel’s message, she was perplexed. “How can this be?” She was filled with fear and wonder. What goes on in you as you receive the news that God is birthing something in you?

As you light the second advent candle, name what you think God may be bringing to life in you and tell God (and whoever is lighting the candle with you) how you feel about that. 

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
“The Annunciation” by Philippe de Champaigne, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
James Finley quote from Turning to the Mystics St. John of the Cross Listener Questions, pg7.
“Weaving” by Tristan Unrau, 2021. Used with permission.
“Second Sunday in Advent 081202 012” by Jürgen Mangelsdorf. Used with permission. 
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2021.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2021.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
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Being the Odd One Out

Finally, I thought as I placed a mat in front of our door. Now our doorway matched the other three that open onto the breezeway. We are no longer the odd one out.

On a Zoom call that week, a friend’s beautifully decorated Christmas tree shimmered in the background. She loves decorating her house for Christmas. Others noticed it too and talked about how this Christmas tradition sparks joy.

I didn’t add my thoughts to the conversation. You may recall reading in previous Advent posts that neither Fred nor I “deck the halls” for Christmas. Our Christmas decorating is minimal at best.

I felt a familiar tension: I should be decorating but, I don’t want to. A familiar angst: What will others think of me when they see few signs of Christmas in our place? A familiar plea: Can’t we just skip this season altogether?

But I’m in a different place this year. God has been coaching me in the school of “Be Yourself” and “You Belong.”

Recently someone I know who is queer came out. I didn’t try to reassure them that it was okay as if this was something to endure. I cheered. I was so happy for them that they can celebrate being who they are.

A thought arrived. What if I didn’t just get through this season? What if I celebrated how I observe this season and appreciate how others observe it differently?

What if I came out of the closet and declared that I am a non-decorating Christmas observer? Imagining it doesn’t bring me comfort or joy. It would be awkward. Whenever you do something different from others you risk being judged by them, or others may feel judged and compelled to defend their preference.

Being different from others takes a certain amount of courage. It requires us to lean into the reality that our belonging doesn’t come from being like others or even being liked by them. It’s something inherently ours. It’s grounded in a Love we always have and can never lose.

I think about the relief I felt when our doorway finally matched the other three. It was palpable. Something in us likes to fit in. I thought about that as I descended the outside stairs in our building. At the landing, I glanced at the four doorways of the condos underneath ours. Two had doormats and two didn’t.

We don’t all have to match.

Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

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Love Mischief for the World

Advent 1: Claim Your God-Given Identity

This Advent, I invite you to reflect on the Annunciation. We will pause in four places of the story. The first place is the greeting Mary hears. The angel tells her she is favoured by God. No matter what she thinks of herself, she is loved and favoured by her Creator. Jesus heard God’s voice. “You are my beloved son, in you I am well pleased.” What do you hear God saying to you? Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me so I have loved you.” We are no less loved and delighted in than Mary and Jesus were.

When you light the first advent candle, perhaps you’d like to take a moment in the silence to listen for God’s greeting to you. What loving words do you hear? Claim it as true. Henri Nouwen once said, “To pray is to listen to the One who calls you ‘my beloved daughter,’ ‘my beloved son,’ ‘my beloved child.’ To pray is to let that voice speak to the center of your being, to your guts, and let that voice resound in your whole being.”                

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
“Odd one out – Puffin Island Anglesey” by Airwolfhound
“Fruit Pears Apples Odd One Out” by Pixabay. Creative commons.
“Advent 091207_058” by Jürgen Mangelsdorf. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2021.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2021.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
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Horizons

What happened was so subtle I almost missed it.

Every once in a while, I’m asked to preach at my church. After I finished writing my homily for Sunday, I joined Fred for a walk. I shared with him what I was going to say as we sauntered along.

Away from my notes and hearing it with Fred, I made a connection I hadn’t noticed before. It was significant, and, when I got home, I revised what I planned to say.

Looking back on it now, I don’t immediately recall what that new revelation was. I only remember that one moment I didn’t see it, and the next moment I did.

It wasn’t until I stepped into the next moment that I had another view.

We can only see to the edge, to the horizon of what we know, but as we keep walking, more is revealed.

I stand in one place and want to know now, see now, understand now, and I can’t. Then I take a step in the unknowing, and I see a little more.

This is pivotal because it makes me realize that all I see, feel, and know at this moment is not all there is to see, feel and know. It’s not all God sees, feels, and knows.

It invites me to trust that there is more going on than I’m aware of. God sees what’s on the other side of the horizon. God is there and here.

Knowing that each moment has a new horizon and each horizon a new view gives me more compassion for my limits and deepens my desire to look for what new thing God wants to reveal that I couldn’t know before.

Years ago, when Fred and I set off on Tieras with our children, aged seven and ten, we planned to be gone for a few years, perhaps even sail around the world. We learned as much as we could about what to carry with us, what route to take, how to clear customs in each country, where to find supplies, how to communicate back home. The list was endless. I wanted to be able to solve every problem before it arrived.

I’m glad we were well prepared for most eventualities, but there were some things we couldn’t know until we arrived at our destination.

Life is like that. We find the road by walking, the known in one hand and unknown in the other.

And God? God, who knows all, is with us–within and without, above and below, behind and before us–leading the way.

See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.
–Isaiah 43:19 (NIV)

∗ ∗ ∗

Love Mischief for the World

“On Saturday, November 20 people around the world will mark Trans Day of Remembrance,” writes Bishop John Stephens to the parishioners of the Diocese of Westminster in the Anglican Church in Canada.

“This day began in the late 1990s to commemorate the life of Rita Hester, an American trans woman, who was murdered in Boston in 1998. Her murder remains unsolved. The violence of her death and the lack of media and community attention to her murder led to candlelight vigils and memorials that have spread around the world and that honor thousands of other trans people who had died, committed suicide or been subjected to violence. Canada is by no means exempt from this sad record. 

“Trans Day of Remembrance is also a day to commit and recommit to ending transphobic violence and discrimination.”

Bishop Stephens goes on to say, “We as members of the church need to confess how we have contributed to the situation faced by trans people. How have our thoughts, words, and deeds, and the things we have done and left undone allowed this violence and discrimination to continue? How often have we failed to see the trans people in our families, our parishes, our communities as fully human and worthy of our concern, support, respect, and love? What steps can we take as individuals and parishes to ensure safety for trans people? How can we educate ourselves about gender identity and expression in ways that change the church, our societal institutions, and our personal understanding of gender and identity?  

“I would urge you to seek out and participate in events being held in your area or online to mark Trans Day of Remembrance this Saturday. Bring that experience to your justice work in our parishes and in our diocese, challenging all of us to become allies or to become better allies to members of the Trans communities. How can we in the church chart a different path of love, living out the grace of God?

“I encourage you to remember the trans community in your Prayers of the People this Sunday.” For more information, go to https://cupe.ca/event/trans-day-remembrance.

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
“Horizon” by patrice-photographiste. Used with permision.
“Likey Hills” by Adam Hinett. Used with permission. 
Transgender flag photo from Leeds Beckett University. Creative Commons
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You Are Worthy to Leave This Sadness

He Desired Me So I Came Close

No one can near God unless He has
prepared a bed for you.

A thousand souls hear His call every second,
but most every one then looks into their life’s mirror and
says, “I am not worthy to leave this sadness.”

When I first heard His courting song, I too
looked at all I had done in my life and said,

“How can I gaze into His omnipresent eyes?”
I spoke those words with all my heart,

but then He sang again, a song even sweeter,
and when I tried to shame myself once more from His presence
God showed me His compassion and spoke a divine truth,

“I made you, dear, and all I make is perfect.
Please come close, for I
desire
you.”

–Teresa of Avila (translated by Daniel Ladinsky)

You are worthy to leave this sadness,
I hear God say to me in Teresa’s poem.

A cape of sadness slips from my shoulders and falls
to the floor.
I watch the trapped air dissipate until my sadness is inert.

I think about what makes me sad,
who makes me worry,
what feels impossible, unfair,
losing battles and deep divides.
Walk away from all that sadness, you say.
You can trust that I will be there
no matter what happens.

I try on trust,
run my fingers over the smooth burgundy fabric.

I wrap it around me and read the poem again.

You prepare a bed for me . . .
a bed in a room, a room in a house. Your house, my home.
I live there with you.
I have a place at the table.
My chair scrapes the floor as I pull it back. I sit down, inch it forward, and see
my reflection in my plate.
I pick up my fork, my knife, turn it slowly in my hand.
There I am again.

I belong. I belong. I belong. I belong.
The words chug along like a hundred car train.
I watch each car pass. “You belong” is painted on this car,
and the next and the next and the next.
My head moves back and forth, and back and forth until
the words blur into one long ribbon of fact.

I imagine coming home to you,
being greeted at the door,
sitting on the porch swing, talking about my day.
And you tell me
every place is home because you are
everywhere.
Every community is home because you are in each member.
I belong to my church, my neighbourhood, my friends, my family,
the earth, the sky, and every living thing.
I belong here because here is everywhere
you call
every second.

What do you call out?
Come home.
You are worthy to leave the sadness of believing
you don’t belong. 

Imagine living like you belong here.
Now step into what you see.
Live like you belong here.

∗ ∗ ∗

Love Mischief for the World

What would it be like to be visited by an angel and told that you were favoured, treasured and cherished by God?

And what if that favour meant that, right now, in your life as it is, God is birthing something unique in you that will bless you and your world?

Please join spiritual directors and Living from the Heart facilitators, Audrey Hoehn, Brent Unrau and me as we lead an Advent online morning retreat called The Advent of God’s Favour: A Quiet Morning of Reflection on the Annunciation of Mary on Saturday, December 4, 9-noon PT.  Register here.

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
Open Gate” by Tym. Used with permission.
“He Desired Me so I Came Close” by Teresa of Avila in Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West by Various (Author), Daniel Ladinsky (Translator). Used with permission.
“Birds on a Wire” by Julie Falk. Used with permission.
Image of the annunciation from pxfuel creative commons.

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