I Crashed the Door

Monday night I was in a conundrum. Tuesday mornings I set aside time to write my blog post, and I didn’t know what I would write about. I knew what I didn’t want to write about. I didn’t want to tell you that I’d fallen off the wagon. After two blog posts of talking the talk of saying no to my addiction to food, I hadn’t walked the walk.

I lay in bed and thought about it; I knew what I had to do. There was only one thing to do. Get back on the wagon. Embrace the discomfort of not saying yes, yes, yes to what satisfies for the moment.

Meanwhile, a song came back to me that was in my body since I danced it on Sunday night. It was based on a Rumi poem.

How long will I beg and bargain for things of this world?
How long will I beg and bargain for things of this world
when Love, Love is waiting?
I crash the door and enter the chamber of Love.

Sunday night twenty-five of us were in a circle holding hands. We rock stepped to the first two lines going to the right. While we sang “when Love, Love is waiting,” we put our curled hands to our chests and beat gently taking four steps toward the centre and four steps back. For the last line, we put out our left hand and smacked and slid off it with our right, sending that hand up into the air as we twirled around once. Then we held hands and sang the song again.

We sang and danced the song over and over. Even after the dances were done, my body carried it and brought Rumi’s words back to me whenever it could. While walking, driving or lying down to sleep, my mind was singing, How long will I beg and bargain for the things of this world . . .

I loved the song. I loved how it lingered with me, and I gave little thought to what it might mean for me personally. I didn’t wonder what I’ve been begging and bargaining for. I didn’t envision crashing any doors–that is, until Monday night. Then I knew: saying no crashed the door to Love.

The rest fell into place. I constantly beg and bargain with God. Please let me eat what I want and not gain weight. My four steps in toward Love and four steps back is a dance I’ve done for fifty years.

Saying no to the food I want isn’t a small thing to me. I don’t get to say no once. I have to say it over and over because temptation is relentless. Saying no is choosing to suffer. It is taking up my cross and following Jesus because that is where Jesus is. In Ignatian terms, it is the Third Degree of Humility. Sacrificing what I want for the sake of another is the highest expression of love–whether it’s seemingly small or doing something big like Oscar Romero or Mother Teresa did.

A month ago, I talked about this with my spiritual director, and she asked me, “What’s it like when you meet Jesus in your suffering?”

I sat for a while and held her question. “When I’m with Jesus, it doesn’t feel like suffering anymore. It feels like love.”

Rumi would say, “Uh-huh. You’ve entered the chamber of love or as you Christians call it: the kingdom of God.”

When I’m restless and can’t sleep, as I was on Monday night, I usually think that if I get up and eat something I’ll be able to sleep. But I didn’t do it. Instead, I crashed the door with my no.

I felt giddy and empowered. I can, at any time, enter God’s chamber and did. I’ve been there a few times now. It’s a bit like finding the door to Narnia, like beginning a new adventure.

Knock, and the door will be opened for you. –Luke 11:9

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Love Mischief for the World

I met Jan Hill at the Kyle Writer’s Group about ten years ago. She and I had a few things in common–writing, our listening vocations, and our Christian faith. For years, Jan had told me about the dance camps she and her husband, Sandy, attend and invited me to join them for the Dances of Universal Peace (DUP) that Sandy leads in North Vancouver once a month. After Christmas, Fred and I ran into Sandy outside Costco. He invited us over for a curry dinner that he and Jan were hosting with friends from DUP. That night, after dinner and conversation, the rug was rolled up, a guitar and djembe drum came out, and we sang and danced a few songs from different cultures around the world. One of those was the Rumi song. Once I had danced those songs, I knew I had to do it again. I’m so grateful for Sandy and Jan’s love mischief for the world and for me.

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:
“A Closed Door” by XeLflick. Used with permission.
“Narnia?” by Rowan Saunders. Used with permission.
“Dancing the Sardana” by chany crystal. Used with permission.
 Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2019.
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 2013-2019.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Ignatian Spirituality, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Truth and Reconciliation

For an hour and a half last Sunday afternoon, I was not myself. I was an indigenous woman who lived in Canada on Turtle Island (North America) when the settlers first came to our land. My life was short. I died of smallpox not long after the newcomers arrived. The Hudson Bay blankets they gave us in exchange for beaver pelts became our shrouds.

More than half of us died of the disease. We returned to our seats in the circle to watch what would happen to the others. Twenty blankets where spread out on the floor inside the circle. They represented our lands, and the forty participants who stood on them at the beginning of the Kairos Blanket Exercise represented hundreds of indigenous nations.

As our shared history unfolded, fewer and fewer of my people were left standing. The blankets that had been spread out and overlapped got scrunched up and their inhabitants struggled to remain on their tiny bit of earth. With every new law passed or action taken by government officials, more of my brothers and sisters died, were removed to residential schools, relocated, or exiled from the reserves without Indian status or European acceptance. Vacant blankets were scooped up by the authorities, as easily as they scooped up our children in the sixties and placed them in the hands and homes of the settlers.

I watched helplessly from my chair/grave. My people were voiceless, stripped of our land, our way of life, our dignity, our children, our identity.

This unrelenting, long-term trauma has taken its toll. There are more indigenous children in foster care now than there were in residential schools. We have been beaten down and have internalized the shame that has been cast as a dark spell upon us.

When the exercise was over and the blankets folded up, we became ourselves again: fathers, daughters, teachers, counsellors, retired folk, students–all non-indigenous except one.

Melaney Gleeson-Lyall shared her personal story of growing up in a non-indigenous adoptive family and re-connecting as a young adult with her ancestral roots, particularly within the Musqueam Nation. It was a sad, painful story and yet there was hope. Her voice was heard and the spell that fuels oppression was broken.

A divine voice inside her speaks the truth of who she is. God, who is reconciling us to one another, placed this truth like a treasure in her heart. It bears witness to the all-surpassing power of God at work in all of us. “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:7-9). 

Jesus said, “The truth will set you free.” Hearing the truth helps set indigenous people free from the past and enables us to reconcile.

George Erasmus of the Dene Nation said, “Where common memory is lacking, where people do not share the same past, there can be no real community. Where community is to be formed, common memory must be created.”

Last Sunday afternoon, I took a step toward reconciliation by learning more about our history. My understanding and empathy for our indigenous sisters and brothers have deepened. I look forward to the days to come when the effects of the trauma recede, indigenous peoples’ voices grow strong, and their spirits rise again.

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
    my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
    and he will bring justice to the nations. . .
 A bruised reed he will not break,
    and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice.
–Isaiah 42, 1, 3

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Love Mischief for the World

“In the heart of British Columbia’s Fraser Canyon region, between the towns of Boston Bar and Lytton, lies the traditional territory of the Kanaka Bar Indian Band—also known as T’eqt’aqtn’mux or ‘the crossing place people,'” wrote Sherry Yano in an article entitled “Kanaka Bar: Harnessing the power of community”  In this video by Jeremy Williams, Kanaka Bar Chief Patrick Michell talks about the importance of the values and ways of his ancestors and what he and his community are doing to continue to live those values today.

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:
Jacques Cartier rencontre les indiens de Stadacone, 1535 by  Marc-Aurele de Foy Suzor-Cote (Wikimedia)
Eagle Woman by Melaney Gleeson-Lyall. Used with permission. Her work is available at Native Northwest, Wickaninnish Gallery, and Sealaska Heritage Store
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2019.
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 2013-2019.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Childhood, Creation, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stop! In the Name of Love

The first thing you have to realize is that what you need to survive is killing you. That’s the tough part. There’s relief after a few big, hard swallows. Everything gets endurable. You can actually convince yourself that things are going to be okay even though you know in your gut that they’re not likely to.
Saul Indian Horse 

When playing hockey no longer provided an escape from the pain of the abuse he received from the residential school, Saul Indian Horse turned to drink. In so many ways, Richard Wagamese’s novel about an indigenous man who witnessed and endured endless atrocities is not my story. Yet when I read the quote above, I see what we have in common. Our addictions are killing us.

“Come on,” some of you will respond. “You don’t eat that much. And playing Scrabble by yourself on your tablet? That’s harmless.”

Perhaps my addictions are harmless to you in the way that Saul’s is to me, and you assume that I’m being hard on myself or overly dramatic. But let me put the truth another way: my addictions are robbing me of life.

Saul points out that indulging addictive behaviour delivers relief: the buzz I feel when I boot up the game, the pleasure I anticipate as I reach for the chips. I experience relief but not satisfaction. And so I want more.

After I preached one Sunday at the church where we raised our kids, I was invited to stay for coffee. They were celebrating the choir director’s birthday and asked me if I’d like some cake. After I politely declined their offer twice, I said, “I don’t always have the strength to say no to food I don’t need, so when I do, I’m going with it.”

“A moment on the lips, forever on the hips,” a dear friend piped up and chuckled. Her support made my truth real. How often have I convinced myself that this one piece of chocolate or that small slice of cake won’t matter?

Saul Indian Horse tried to ration his drinking, but it didn’t work. “The only way to really stop is to stop,” he confessed.

And the only way to do that, according to Marianne Williamson in her book A Course in Weight Loss, is through the power of divine love. “Only the power of love can overcome the power of hate,” says Williamson, “and make no mistake about it; your unhealthy eating is an act of self-hate. Overeating is an act of violence, and one of the mechanisms you are now dismantling is your habit of taking up the sword against yourself–whether the sword be a knife or fork.”

Williamson’s words hit me hard. I realized unhealthy eating is killing me. “You are realizing that food cannot nurture you emotionally,” she writes, “and that God, only God can.” God will help me receive love and give love.

When I stop doing what is bad for my body and soul, it’s an act of love, even though it doesn’t feel like it. Yes, even though it doesn’t feel good.

I have nothing but extra pounds to show for the excess calories I’ve eaten and nothing at all to show for the hours I’ve wasted playing Scrabble alone. One evening, I was about to pick up my tablet and instead of thinking of it as a guilty pleasure, I saw it as an act of self-hate. I stopped and picked up a book instead. That book was Indian Horse.

But me, God caught—reached all the way
    from sky to sea and pulled me out
of that ocean of hate.
–Psalm 18:16 (MSG, adapted)

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

Richard Wagamese (1955-2017) was a Canadian author and journalist. An Ojibwe from the Wabaseemoong Independent Nations in northwestern Ontario, he was best known for his 2012 novel Indian Horse, which won the Burt Award for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Literature in 2013 and was a competing title in the 2013 edition of Canada Reads (Wikipedia). Indian Horse was made into a movie which was released in 2017. Wagamese’s life and writings have helped bring truth, reconciliation, and healing to our nation.

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:
U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Airman 1st Class Sahara. L. Fales in Health.mil, labelled by Google images for reuse.
Quotes by Richard Wagamese in Indian Horse,  p.189, 190.
Quotes by Marianne Williamson in A Course in Weight Loss, p. 16,17.
Vevey, Lake Léman, Switzerland by Airflore. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2019.
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 2013-2019.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Overeating, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Invitation to Pray Naked in Front of a Full-Length Mirror

I think it is important to pray naked in front of a full-length mirror sometimes, especially when you are full of loathing for your body. Maybe you think you are too heavy. Maybe you have never liked the way your hip bones stick out. Do your breasts sag? Are you too hairy? It is always something.
Barbara Brown Taylor

Praying naked in front of a full-length mirror is a spiritual discipline I’ve never done. I imagine how difficult it would be. Never mind standing for the duration of the prayer and feeling cold, I would want to keep closing my eyes and that misses the point.

Every time I think of praying this way, I can’t get past having to look at my body and trying to convince myself that it’s beautiful. I know it’s not–not without deconstructing and reconstructing my concept of beauty and that feels like a lot of work.

I was thinking about what I’d say to God about my body when a question came to me gently: What would you like to say to your body? 

I pictured myself standing there and not looking away. Day after day, this old girl schleps me around and is often ignored and pushed beyond her limits. I’m grateful that she houses my thoughts, feelings and desires and does so much with them. “Thank you,” I’d say, but that’s not all.

I’d also say, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry I haven’t taken better care of you.”

I began to realize that loving my body isn’t just an exercise in learning to love how my body looks. Being okay with the fact that my body is not fashion magazine beautiful is important. But this doesn’t give me licence to neglect it. We wouldn’t think of owning a pet and not giving it proper food and exercise, yet that’s what I do to my body.

It might help to stop referring to my body as an “it” and use the pronouns “she” or “her” instead. Perhaps loving her means loving what my body is, knowing all about her, and responding to what she needs to be well. It means treating this old girl with the honour and attention she deserves. To do that, I would need to listen to her and hear how unprocessed feelings affect her. I’d need to ask her what she wants to eat, what’s sore and needs attention, and what needs to be a part of her daily and weekly rhythms.

I would need to make her a priority. Now, that’s big. I couldn’t imagine delaying a blog post or rescheduling a spiritual direction session so I’d have time to do my core exercises. That’s not going to happen. But I could make sure she doesn’t get squeezed out of my day. That requires reconfiguring what I think of as a valuable use of my time and not being so quick to do whatever strokes my ego, entertains my imagination . . . or tempts my taste buds.

I was about to defrost a bun to go with my pasta dinner. I stopped for a moment and asked my body what she wanted. “That’s a few too many carbs for me,” she said. I left the bun in the freezer. I know I won’t always be so compliant, but I’m grateful the moment that I was and hope this will happen more often.

Thursday morning as I listened to Pray As You Go, I was reassured that “the Word planted in our hearts always does its work.” That word is Christ, and it is God’s desire that I love and care for my whole self. God has begun this good work and will accomplish it (Philippians 1:6).

I don’t want my apology to my body to be empty words. So this is what I pray as I imagine myself standing naked in front of the mirror. Lord, help me to trust your good work. May you “produce fruit in keeping with repentance (Matthew 3:8).”

But the fruit of the spirit is kindness.
–Galatians 5:22

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

Fred Rogers did a lot of love mischief with his message “I love you just the way you are.” In this clip from the 2018 bio-documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, officer Clemmons sings, “There are many ways to say ‘I love you.'” One way we communicate our love for someone is by including them and honouring the bodies they’ve been given. Mister Rogers did that, and we hear in this clip what a powerful effect it had on François Clemmons.

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

Credits and References:
Stick person in front of mirror by Tsahi Levent-Levi. Used with permission
Quote by Barbara Brown Taylor is from An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith.
Apples by Henry Hemming. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2019.
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 2013-2019.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Aging, Overeating, Prayer, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Sometimes We Want Vengeance Too

When I look at this painting of  Jesus’ rejection in Nazareth by James Tissot, I see a lot of anger. I can understand why. When Jesus read those beloved words from Isaiah 61 about the Spirit of the Lord being on him, he didn’t read the next line.

This community was suffering under the oppressive Roman regime and praying for the Messiah to come and “proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour and the day of vengeance of our God.”

If I’d been there and Jesus omitted the part about vengeance, I’d be mad too.

I remember when I was treated badly by someone I worked under. Two of my young male colleagues heard about it and offered to beat that person up for me. Of course, my friends wouldn’t do it. But it felt good to be understood and supported.

I think of people who have the power to ruin other people’s lives and do. I think of one who ruined mine. Ruin is a strong word. I can look back now and see the good that came out of what happened. But at the time, ruined was exactly how I felt, and a day of reckoning was exactly what I wanted.

If I’m honest, that’s what I still want when someone abuses their power and hurts me.

The day my friends offered to beat up my oppressor, my anger was too big to hide. But with smaller offences, it’s easy to push anger aside and pretend it isn’t there.

But this story, this painting invites me to meet Jesus in it.

I imagine myself as one of those men, sitting in the synagogue seething. Jesus, after reading from the scroll, comes down and sits beside me. All the others fade away. It’s just me and him. He takes my hand.

“Tell me about it,” he says. I don’t bother trying to convince him that it’s no big deal. He doesn’t care how big or small my anger is. He is intent on fulfilling what comes next in Isaiah 61:

to comfort all who mourn,
        and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.

A friend loves at all times,
and a sister is born for a time of adversity.
–Proverbs 17:17 (NIV, adapted)

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Love Mischief for the World

I’ll never forget hearing Brian Zahnd preach on Luke 4:14-30 and explain why the people of Nazareth were so angry at Jesus. Brian Zahnd is the founder and lead pastor of Word of Life Church, a non-denominational Christian congregation in Saint Joseph, Missouri. Brian is the author of several books, including, Sinners in the Hands of a Loving GodWater to WineA Farewell To MarsBeauty Will Save the World, and Unconditional?: The Call of Jesus to Radical Forgiveness. In a recent post, Brian said, “You can bomb the world to pieces, but you can’t bomb the world to peace.” He calls us to hope and to join the non-violent, inclusive love mischief of Christ. He ends the article with this, “Following the Jesus way of loving enemies and doing good to those who hate us isn’t necessarily safe and it doesn’t mean we won’t ever get hurt, but it does mean the darkness won’t prevail.”

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

Credits and References:
Thanks to Brian Zahnd who pointed out that Jesus chose not to read the line about vengeance.
Luke 4:14-21, Isaiah 61: 1-3
Painting of Jesus reading from the scroll by James Tissot (1836-1902) is in the Brooklyn Museum. Public Domain.
Image of two hands from PxHere. Creative Commons.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2019.
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 2013-2019.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Prayer, Praying with the Imagination, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Allowing the Path to Appear

Fred and I spent four days on the Oregon coast last week. It rained on and off during the long drive down. When we checked into our motel, the host at the front desk asked if we were ready for liquid sunshine.

But it didn’t rain. Not a drop. Though it was January, the weather was so sunny and warm while we were there, I needed only a light jacket or none at all. 

I walked on the beach and thought about how lucky we were. More than once we planned a trip like this in winter but had to cancel because the roads were too hazardous to drive. In September, we hoped to camp on Vancouver Island for a week, but it started raining heavily and didn’t stop. We never did get there.

I felt blessed to receive these four days of walking on the beach and listening to the surf, yet–

Yet I wish I could decide. I wish I could plan trips like this and be sure we’d have good weather. 

An aggressive wave threatened to get me wet if I didn’t pay attention. I looked out on the ocean and counted seven waves breaking. I listened to their roar. The currents and tides flow silently until the land rises up beneath, and then they crash against what doesn’t flow with them. Their energy expelled, the waves quietly recede.

Sometimes what I want and what I need are perfectly aligned and life flows gloriously. Other times I crash into life as it is, and it takes a while to receive “what is” as a gift. 

Be gentle with yourself, the waves seem to say. When you crash into the shore, it takes a while for the disappointment to recede, to let go of what you wanted, and to open to what God is doing in what is. It takes wisdom to know when to let go and when to push through.

Let the waves come, crash and recede, Love said. Notice what glistens and what’s been washed away. The path will appear.

All I need to do is receive and trust, and let go of control.

The morning we left, Fred and I both wished we could’ve stayed longer, wished we’d booked two more days to enjoy the warm sunshine. That was before we stepped outside and shivered. Though the sky was clear, the temperature had dropped below freezing. It was so cold we had to scrape frost off the windshield. 

It was time to go.

I stand before what is with an open heart.
–Macrina Wiederkehr, Velma Frye,
“What Is” from Seven Sacred Pauses

* * * 

Love Mischief for the World

Here is one of the videos on prayer by Rod Janz that I mentioned last week. Rod was in the same cohort with me when we took Art of Spiritual Direction over ten years ago. If you like it, you might want to attend the silent retreat Rod is co-facilitating with Marcia Fretheim in Deroche, BC on March 8-10. Check it out here.

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

Credits and References:
Photos of Tillamook Head and Gearhart, Oregon by Fred Hizsa, 2019. Used with permission.

© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2019.
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 2013-2019.  http://www.estherhizsa.com

Posted in Creation, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God Expands My World

My world’s gotten small. It happened so subtly, I hardly noticed. But now that I’m aware of it, I can see signs of shrinkage–not caring that I don’t care, taking things personally, being angry about something because of its effect on me, giving priority to what works for me. When the universe revolves around me, my world is very small indeed.

The fact that I see this is a gift. God noticed and brought it to my awareness–not as a call to action but as a call to prayer. Notice, just notice, your self-preoccupation, says God. Notice it with me. Notice what I bring to help you loosen your grip and let go. 

In last week’s post, I said that God makes a difference in our lives simply by being present. That doesn’t seem like enough when I think about it, but when I practice being present, well, that’s a whole different story.

I sat with God in my anger and sadness that my feelings had been overlooked. The thought that I didn’t matter felt unbearable. I knew there had to be a different way of looking at this, but for the life of me, I couldn’t see it. Jesus held my hand and told me that I mattered to him. But that’s not all Jesus did.

A few days later I was walking with a friend and told her what happened. She could relate, and after listening with empathy, she offered to tell me what she’d learned. I received the new perspective I’d hoped for and found compassion for the one who overlooked me and for myself.

I continued to notice when my world got small and resisted the urge to “do” before I’d “be” with God. God listened and expanded my world. I found myself drawn to participate in the Kairos Blanket Exercise and learn about our First Nations sisters and brothers. I told my daughter about it, and we dreamed of the day when the trauma caused by residential schools and the Doctrine of Discovery would be healed. We are grateful for the healing First Nations people are bringing to us.

After offering spiritual direction, I wonder if I did a good job. I think of how I could have done it differently. But when I sit with Jesus, I see him smile and am reminded that he can and does work in and around me. Nothing is wasted. All is good. He tells me to relax, breathe, be still, let go. And because he knows this is not easy for me, he hooks me up with my friend Rod’s meditations.

I didn’t have to keep my world from shrinking. I didn’t have to be on the alert that my ego was getting too big again. I didn’t have to fix myself. God took all that on. I just had to notice what God was bringing into view and be present with God in it.

God is safe. God doesn’t minimize, blame, or belittle me. God just loves me and opens my heart to the world.

In prayer, like the stars before the rising sun,
all the burdens of our autonomous self disperse
before the “piercing presence” of God.
–James Finley,
Merton’s Palace to Nowhere

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

blanket-exercise-reconciliation
Art by Melaney Gleeson-Lyall (Point),
Musqueam Coast Salish

The KAIROS Blanket Exercise™ program is a unique, interactive and participatory Canadian-Indigenous history lesson, developed in collaboration with Indigenous Elders, knowledge keepers and educators for reconciliation.

During the KBE, participants walk on blankets representing the land and into the role of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people by reading scrolls and carrying cards which ultimately determine their outcome as they literally walk through situations that include pre-contact, treaty-making, colonization and resistance.

The Exercise concludes with a debriefing, conducted as a “talking circle”, during which participants discuss the learning experience, process their feelings, ask questions, share insights and deepen their understanding.

Canada is in a season of reconciliation and we are all invited to participate.

Click on the link for more information on the Blanket Exercise that SoulStream is offering on February 10.

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

Credits and References:
“Small black bird” by Caroline. Used with permission.
“Birds on a wire” by Julie Falk. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2019.
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 2013-2019.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in False Self, Mindfulness, Prayer, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Calls to Prayer

Notice what you notice.

You’ve heard me say that countless times in my book and blog. It’s become a contemplative practice for me ever since I prayed the Ignatian Exercises in 2012-13.

I notice experiences that warm my heart. I also notice ones that irk me. My initial response to my noticing is to receive these experiences as calls to action. If I like what happened, I wonder how I can make it happen again. If I’m bothered by an incident, I wonder what I can do to resolve or avoid what I caused it.

What I have been slow to realize is that these noticings are not calls to action but calls to prayer. They are invitations to share my joys and disappointments with God.

In an Advent reflection, Monica Brown helped me identify with the barren-hearted or displaced and name my own struggles. I felt invited to bring my struggles to prayer and let God be God, “the one who comforts us and makes a difference to our lives simply by being with us.

I held that thought. God makes a difference in my life simply by being present. This means I need to be present to God’s presence. That’s exactly what God desires: to be present with us, not as a means to an end (and that end being our perfected selves), but as an end in itself. . .  an end to our striving, an end to the belief that we are on our own in this, an end to our disconnectedness from others, and an end to ourselves apart from God.

Brown said, “God’s desire to be one with us is greater than our desire for God” and that “we can only experience the fulfilment of God’s promise in and through our own humanity.”

Let me slow that down for you as God did for me.

God’s desire to be one with us is huge.

God accomplishes oneness with us by meeting us in our human struggles and feelings of disappointment.

So often I want to tell myself something that will make me feel better about whatever’s gone wrong. I look for ways to comfort myself instead of letting God comfort me. My own counsel keeps me from union with God.

It’s taking me a long time to believe that God makes a difference simply by being present with me in my disappointment or difficulty.

So here’s my New Year’s resolution. Whenever I’m in a conundrum or funk about something, I want to notice my urge to counsel or comfort myself and hear instead a call to prayer.

Let me not run from the love which you offer.
–from the Soul of Christ prayer
paraphrased by David L. Fleming.

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

It’s been two and a half months since Mike Hurley became the new mayor of Burnaby and already our city’s citizens who are homeless or at risk of homelessness are being cared for. In December, four temporary warming centres have been set up in different locations in Burnaby and are open from 8pm to 8am daily until the end of March. Beginning in January, the fifth location will be at St. Stephen the Martyr Anglican Church, my home church which is within walking distance from the Lougheed Skytrain station. The centres will provide basic shelter for the night, washroom facilities, mats, tables and chairs, hot beverages and snacks, and space for people’s belongings. Thank you, Mayor Hurley and city councillors, for your wonderful love mischief. Thank you, Pastor Ruth, for helping us be good followers of Christ.

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

Credits and References:
“Bells” by uroburos from Pixabay Creative Commons
“Hold On” by just.Luc. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2019.
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 2013-2019.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Advent, Homelessness, Ignatian Spirituality, Poverty of Spirit, Prayer, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

DIY Retreat #12: Welcoming the New Year

This retreat was adapted from one prepared by Mei Chang, a SoulStream partner who is a spiritual director and retreat facilitator with a heart to offer contemplative spaces in urban areas. Instructions on how to plan a personal or group retreat are here. For this retreat, you will need a stone for each person, collage materials (optional) and paper and coloured pencils or crayons (optional).

Welcoming the New Year

 So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground. –Joshua 3:14-17 (NIV)


LOOKING BACK

At the turning of the year, let’s spend time together with God–to look back on the year that is past and to look forward to the year that is to come. If our life is like a journey, what landscape have you been travelling through? Imagine yourself there now, walking on a path. What do you see? Hear? Feel? Smell?

As you walk on, you see a river ahead and the path continues through the river and re-emerges on the other side. You can’t see what’s beyond, but you know you need to cross the river to continue your journey. Imagine God holding back the river so you can cross over. As you stand at the river’s edge, you realise you are going to have to leave behind what you know for what is unknown. This is where you are standing now as you leave behind the past year and prepare to step into a new one.

As you stand on the threshold and are about to cross from 2018 to 2019, look back. Remember this past year and how God journeyed with you and brought you thus far.

You can do this in one of the following ways :

  • Make a collage using pictures that represent aspects of the past year that stand out for you. 
  • Use a Prayer of Examen.

Examen for the Year

Pause and become aware that you are in the presence of God. Ask for the grace to know God and to know yourself as God knows you.

Look back over your year. You will recall joys and sorrows, accomplishments and failures, unexpected gifts and disappointments. Remember you are not looking alone; God is with you, shedding light. Receive the light to see your life as God sees it– with compassion and curiosity. God sees your deep desire to love and be loved.

Review the year with gratitude

As you review the year, pay attention to the good gifts you have received.

  • What are you especially grateful for this past year?
  • Name specifically what comes to your memory now, and thank God for them.
  • What do they say to you about your life and God’s love for you?

Pay attention to your memories and emotions

As you reviewed your year:

  • What memories speak most loudly to you?
  • What situations, events, relationships, or activities bring up the most emotion now, as you remember them?

Choose one feature of the year and pray from it.

While you are lingering with your memories and emotions, there may be one thing that keeps drawing you back to it. Perhaps it is a single event, a relationship, an interaction ,or a feeling. Stay with what is most alive for you now and pray with it.

  • What might God be wanting you to notice about yourself?
  • How is God present to you in this? What is your response to God?
  • Is there something new you notice now that you didn’t see before?

Closing prayer

Thank God for the past year–both the joys and struggles–and for the gift of Christ’s presence with you.

LOOKING FORWARD

When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.”

So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”

So the Israelites did as Joshua commanded them. They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, as the Lord had told Joshua; and they carried them over with them to their camp, where they put them down. Joshua set up the twelve stones that had been in the middle of the Jordan at the spot where the priests who carried the ark of the covenant had stood. And they are there to this day.–Joshua 4:1-9 (NIV)

After the Israelites crossed the Jordan River, God told them to take stones from the middle of the river and set them down in their camp as a memorial. Why? To remember how God was with them and how God brought them to the Promised Land.

  • Pick up a stone and let it be a memorial of how God was with you 2018. If you could inscribe a word or an image on that stone that has come from your looking back, what would it be?
  • Spend time with your collage or take a walk and see what word or image draws your attention or seems to speak to you.
  • Hold that word or image. What hopes, questions, fears or dreams arise as you as you enter the new year?
  • How does the word or image you imagine inscribing on your stone speak into those hopes, questions, fears and dreams?

Perhaps you’d like to journal or draw a picture of yourself at the edge of the Jordan.

  • What prayer rises in you?

So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
–Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)

* * * 

Credits and References:
“Sitting in Silence” by Alice Popkorn. Used with permission.
“Stones” by Peter. Used with permission.
“Reaching Out” by little*star. Used with permission.
Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2018.
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 2013-2018.  http://www.estherhizsa.com

Posted in Ignatian Spirituality, Prayer, Prayer Retreat Outline, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Advent IV: Presence

Instead of the usual Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love, I have chosen different words for each week in Advent this year.

I’m feeling pretty good, then suddenly I’m not. I received an email, and in it, my friend tells me she’s frustrated and overwhelmed. I worry that I’ve contributed to this. I feel agitated and want to connect with her to make sure we’re okay, but she’s unavailable for a few hours.

I don’t know what to do with myself, so I decide to deliver my papers. Fred has asked me more than once why I keep doing this job that pays so little. “Because it gets me outside and doing something physical for half an hour,” I say.

As I begin my route, I realize my reaction to the email is disproportionate to the situation. My friend is not likely angry with me. Even if she is, we’d sort it out. Our friendship means a lot to both of us.

The Burnaby Now lands on a doorstep with a thud. I’ve been triggered again by that old fear of rejection.

When will I ever be done with it? Another paper. Another thud.

Maybe I need more counselling. Thud.

Maybe I’m not going deep enough in spiritual direction. Thud. Thud.

“Sometimes it’s hard to be me,” I said to my spiritual director the day before. “I’m so tired of being surprised by the thought that people like me. I often think they’ll only remember the thing about me that annoyed them.”

I felt sad and my director asked me, “How does God want to be with you in your sadness?”

The session had been a good one, so I’m disappointed to be back in the dumps again.

After I finish my route, I remember that I’d planned to look over my blog post one more time before it goes out. I’m alone in the house, so I read it aloud. I slow down when I get to the part about God wanting to be with us. Tears come when I read, “What is going on in your life right now that has your attention?” God is present right now, with me and my irrational fears.

“You’re brave,” Jesus told me when I met him in my sadness the day before. He knows it isn’t easy to be me sometimes.

Here he is again, right beside me in my disappointment that I’m still so easily triggered. I thought I needed a big fix, but God knows all I need is Christ with me, holding my hand till the fears subside.

You can guess how the story ends. My friend isn’t angry with me. In fact, she tells me how much she appreciates being able to say how she’s feeling.

Sometimes I enjoy being me, I’d also told my director. I do.

If God has come in the flesh,
and if God keeps coming to us in our fleshly existence,
then all of life is shot through with meaning.
Earth is crammed
with heaven,
and heaven (when we finally get there) will be crammed with
earth.
Nothing wasted.
Nothing lost.
Nothing secular.
Nothing absurd…
All are grist for the mill of a down-to-earth spirituality.
David G. Benner,
The Gift of Being Yourself: The Sacred Call to Self-Discovery

* * *

 Some Advent Love Mischief:

  • What’s going on for you right now? What feelings emerge as you think about it?
  • Now imagine Jesus in the flesh coming to you, revealing the reality that God is present.
  • How does it feel to have Jesus welcome and listen to your feelings with compassion?
  • We often want to dismiss or fix uncomfortable emotions. Yet to God, nothing is wasted, lost or absurd. Each feeling is precious, containing God’s presence.
  • Linger with Jesus and “what is.” Ask him to show you what he sees and feels when he looks at you at this present moment.
Credits and References:
“Trevlig fjärde advent!” by Susanne Nilsson.Used with permission.
“The Nativity” 1890-1910 by Franz Mayer & Co (detail) photo by Plum leaves. Used with permission.
Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2018.
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 2013-2018.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Advent, Christmas, Mystical, Reflections, Spiritual Direction, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments