Time for Rising

Lift your head and dry your eyes.
Time for rising.
–Steve Bell, Bethany in the Morning

During Lent, I tried unsuccessfully to refrain from zoning out. Many evenings I succumbed to temptation and played Scrabble on my tablet or snacked while watching Netflix. As the weeks passed, I became more and more aware of how my addictions control me.

When I took it to God, I felt invited to renew my practice of Centering Prayer in the morning and do it again in the evening to keep the demons at bay. I hoped this would loosen my addictions’ hold on me and reconnect me to my desire for God.

Sometimes all I could do was make myself sit for twenty minutes in prayer with the promise that I could have a game of Scrabble afterwards. This actually felt like a move forward, and I do think it helped.

Working so hard to pray and fight my addiction doesn’t feel very contemplative. There’s a violent tone to it. Yet Christ didn’t come to me with clubs and swords, but with his breath. Just breathe. That’s all I had to do.

On Easter weekend, I listened to a podcast by Christine Valters Paintner on work. She quoted Thích Nhất Hạnh and in a guided meditation invited me to pay attention to what happens in my body when I rush and what happens when I’m present.

As I said last week, that’s when Christ appeared to me. Now was the time for rising.

I began reading Thích Nhất Hạnh’s The Miracle of Mindfulness and Richard Rohr’s The Naked Now and committed myself to a few simple practices:

  • Practice Centering Prayer 20 min twice a day.
  • Pray the Examen at the end of the day.
  • Whenever your mind is dispersed, pay attention to your breath. Count it. Let it return you to the present.
  • As much as possible, wherever you are, be fully there. Let it be the most important thing to do.

I get nervous when I write a “To Do” list like this. I don’t want to set myself up for failure. But in another podcast, Paintner talked about her rule for Sabbath keeping and admitted that, although she cannot always keep it, it’s good to return to. She likened it to what happens in Centering Prayer: when our mind wanders off, we are invited to gently return to God.

This felt doable.

An Ignatian practice is to recognize times of consolation (when we are turned toward God) and times of desolation (when we are turned away). Then make a plan while in consolation for what to do when desolation comes.

Mornings are my times of consolation and evenings are my dark times. By committing to these practices in the morning, even if I can’t always do them, there’s more possibility that I will.

I may not be able to sit for long or pray the Examen, but I can follow my breath for a few minutes and be aware of God praying in me, loving me, now, and now, and now.

The one thing we do every moment of our lives [i.e. breathe] is therefore to speak the name of God. This makes it our first and last word as we enter and leave this world.–Richard Rohr, The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” –John 20:19-22 (NIV)

 * * *

Love Mischief for the World

Christine Valters Paintner , PhD, OblSB, REACE is the online Abbess of Abbey of the Arts, a Benedictine oblate, and the author of 8 books on monastic spirituality and creativity, as well as a poet, photographer, spiritual director, pilgrim guide, and teacher. I met Christine at a workshop SoulStream hosted for spiritual directors a few years ago. I still have the collage I made that day. This Easter, I signed up for Christine’s “daily nourishment” and received an invitation to take a free 8-day “Monk in the World” e-course, which contains the podcasts I referred to in my post today. I found her course so helpful, I have recommended it to directees and friends. The podcast I listened to on work is on the fifth day of that course. 

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:
Raising of Lazarus photo by Ted. Used with permission. This brightly-coloured icon is a fresco on the wall in the Monastery of St. John near Athens.
Richard Rohr, The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See, page 25.
Sunrise by Susanne Nilsson . Used with permission.
Photo of Christine Valters Paintner 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 Easter, Ignatian Spirituality, Overeating, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Miracle Moments

I love the drama in the stories of Jesus’ resurrection, watching the progression from sadness and despair to confusion and then to joy. One minute life is dark and pointless and the next, it’s bright and full of possibility. Jesus’ presence changes everything.

I’ve experienced this myself and seen it in others as we bring our troubles into the light. There, in Christ’s presence, the very thing we’re afraid of loses its power, and trust rises. It’s a miracle moment.

Speaking of miracles, my Christmas cactus is in full bloom for the fourth time since before Advent. It seems Christ wants to bring new life everywhere, in everything.

I came across this quote:

If while washing dishes, we think only of the cup of tea that awaits us, thus hurrying to get the dishes out of the way as if they were a nuisance, then we are not “washing the dishes to wash the dishes.” What’s more, we are not alive during the time we are washing the dishes. In fact, we are completely incapable of realizing the miracle of life while standing at the sink. If we can’t wash the dishes, the chances are we won’t be able to drink our tea either. While drinking the cup of tea, we will only be thinking of other things, barely aware of the cup in our hands. Thus we are sucked away into the future–and we are incapable of actually living one minute of life. ―Thích Nhất Hạnh, The Miracle of Mindfulness

After I read this, I noticed times when I’m not alive. I often rush through one activity to get to another. I also noticed, just as Thích Nhất Hạnh says, that when I finally get to do what I wanted to, it’s not as satisfying as I’d hoped.

When Christ appeared to me in this quote, I  wasn’t sad or desperate. I was feeling flat and bored, looking for the next best thing to entertain me. My Lord showed me there’s no life in that tomb. The miracle is right here, right now, in this moment.

Thích Nhất Hạnh writes,

. . . the real miracle is not to walk on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child–our own two eyes. All is a miracle.

Hmm. This is going to take some practice.

Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom
of God without being born from above.” –
-John 3:3 (NIV)

Love Mischief for the World

Thích Nhất Hạnh, born in 1926, is a Vietnamese  Buddhist monk and peace activist. He lives in the Plum Village meditation center in southwest France,  travelling internationally to give retreats and talks. After a long-term of exile, he was given permission to make his first return trip to Vietnam in 2005. Nhất Hạnh has published more than 100 books, including more than 40 in English. He is active in the peace movement, promoting nonviolent solutions to conflict. His book, The Miracle of Mindfulness, teaches people of any religion how to be consciously alive to every moment. (Wikipedia)

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:
Christ appears to Mary Heinrich Hofmann, published on Bible card [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo of boy on path from Pixabay. Creative Commons.
Photo of Thích Nhất Hạnh by Duc (pixiduc) from Paris, France. (Thich Nhat Hanh Marche meditative 06) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
© 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
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Purple Everywhere

John and Peter rush to the tomb.

If it’s empty, as she said,
then–

Prayers rise to their lips
leap from their hands.

God runs to meet them,
spilling purple
everywhere.

 

Credits and References:
Painting of the disciples Peter and John running to the tomb on the morning of the resurrection by Eugène Burnand (1850-1921) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
© 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
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Writing a Prayer

My friend
wrote
this icon.

“You don’t paint icons,”
she said.
“You write them.
You are writing
a prayer.

“You begin with a small
brush. Then use
smaller and
smaller
ones.”

She entered the tomb
with her
brushes,
paint and
trepidation.

She paced
and wrote
until her prayer
appeared–
white linen, dark robe,
beard, fingers, forehead,
her lips and his,
her cheek on his,
his life for hers.

 

Credits and References:
Partial copy from The Entombment (Russian, Late 15th Century) Icon written and photographed by Ann Green. 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
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Our Hands Have Touched God

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. —1 John 1:1

On this day,
my prayer takes me
to the cross.

I hear
God’s laboured breath
and final words.

I see
God’s arms outstretched and aching,
hands pierced,
head crowned,
face in agony.

I touch
God’s bleeding feet.
My fingers tell Emmanuel,
“I’m here.”

My mind wants to
run and hide
in theology or memories,
but my gut is curt:
Stay here.

I kiss
God’s feet and bless
my lips and fingers.

 

 

Credits and References:
“Christ on the Cross” by Sonnenstrahl on Pixabay. Creative Commons.
© 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
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Jesus Shows the Full Extent of His Love

It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. . . so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. –John 13:1, 4,5 (NIV)

Jesus got up, took a basin of water and washed the disciples’ feet. The Son of God expressed the full extent of his love by caring for their bodies. He loved them entirely heart, soul, and body.

What might Jesus feel as he washed his beloved friends’ feet?

Perhaps a shudder of fear as he touched the place where his own feet would be pierced. Perhaps a wave of gratefulness that, for now anyway, their feet would be spared. Perhaps an ache of loss, knowing they’ve reached their destination. Perhaps a rising of hope as he imagines walking with them again.

What do I feel as Jesus washes my feet?

Embarrassed that he would care more for my feet than I do. A little overwhelmed at the intimacy of his touch. I struggle to stay present and be loved in this wordless way. I want it to be done and for him to never stop all at the same time. I fear I will be forgotten when he goes on to the others, yet I see them and want them to enjoy his extravagant love too.

What does my body feel?

Jesus’ holds my foot with one hand and pours warm water over it with the other. Then lowers my foot into the basin and washes between my toes. My skin feels the gentle touch of his hands, the warmth of the water, the coolness of the air as each foot is lifted and dried. I feel the tingle of clean, the invitation to rest, and the desire to keep following my Saviour.

* * *

Reflection questions for Maundy Thursday:

  • Imagine Jesus washing your feet. What goes on for you?
  • What feelings arise?
  • What conversation is sparked?
Credits and References:
Jesus washes the disciples’ feet by Harold Copping (1863-1932) from Waiting For The Word
 © 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 Easter, Holy Week, Praying with the Imagination, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Your King Is Coming

Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion;
    see, your king is coming,
    seated on a donkey’s colt. 
–John 12:15

Savour these words with me.

Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion; see, your king is coming. . .

Ever since I was young, waiting for someone to arrive makes me anxious. Fear asks, What if they don’t come? What if you don’t really matter? But in these words of John, reality tugs at my sleeve. “Look. See for yourself. Your king is coming. There he is, seated on a donkey.”

Daughter Zion. . .

Ever since I was young, I’ve had trouble believing I’m lovable. I was rarely anyone’s first choice. If I was, I assumed there must be something wrong with the person who would choose me. Whenever I started to believe I was good enough to be loved, something would happen to prove that I wasn’t. But the Christ who rides into Jerusalem every Palm Sunday comes and shows me the people in my life who know me and love me the way God does–just as I am. I am invited to lay down my palm branch and believe I am a beloved daughter and friend.

Your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.

Ever since I was young and got in trouble for being bad, I was afraid of God. I knew Jesus loved me because the Bible told me so, but God, who knows all and sees all, I wasn’t so sure about. But Jesus shows us that God is like him: gentle, benevolent, and more loving than the most loving person you know.

“Recall a time when you felt loved or felt love for another,” Matthew Linn, SJ said when he came to Vancouver recently. “God loves you even more than that. Rest in this image as you go to sleep at night. Recall it again when you wake up in the morning.” This is our king. This is our God.

Gaylon Keeling Contemplation...Keeping Watch by Hafiz

In the morning
When I began to wake,
It happened again–

That feeling
That You, Beloved,
Had stood over me all night
Keeping watch,

That feeling
That as soon as I began to stir
You put Your lips on my forehead
And lit a Holy Lamp
Inside my Heart.

 * * *

For reflection and prayer:

  • What else do you hear in this verse?
  • What fear in you is being allayed?
  • Imagine laying down a palm branch and welcoming all the love you long for.
  • Steve Bell’s song “Lenten Lands” (lyrics by Malcolm Guite) echoes today’s theme. You may want to have a listen.
Credits and References:
“Entry into Jerusalem” by Giotto di Bondone (c. 1267 – January 8, 1337). Creative Commons.
“Contemplation” by Gaylon Keeling. Used with permission.
“Keeping Watch” is in I Heard God Laughing: Poems of Hope and Joy by Hafiz (Author), Daniel Ladinsky (Translator). 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 Holy Week, Lent, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Return and Rest

“Keep noticing,” says Father James Martin, SJ at the end of his Daily Examen podcast. It’s an invitation to notice God’s demonstrative love in the events of our lives. It’s also an invitation to notice what we’re feeling physically and emotionally and allow those feelings to be heard. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, said he learned far more from his feelings than he did from his thoughts. These inner movements helped him discern when he was moving toward God and when he was moving away from God.

It’s not so easy to listen to what I feel. If I listen to my body, it might ask for more rest when I have so much to do. If I listen to the knot of anxiety behind my sternum, will I be chastised by the voices in my head or by God?

Sometimes I’d rather not hear what my feelings have to say. Often I wish they’d just go away.

But another invitation comes from God: Keep returning. Keep returning to me with what you notice.

Yesterday that invitation came in these verses from Isaiah.

This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:

“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
    in quietness and trust is your strength,
    but you would have none of it.
 You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.’
    Therefore you will flee!
You said, ‘We will ride off on swift horses.’
    Therefore your pursuers will be swift!
A thousand will flee
    at the threat of one;
at the threat of five
    you will all flee away,
till you are left
    like a flagstaff on a mountaintop,
    like a banner on a hill.”

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
    therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
    Blessed are all who wait for him!
–Isaiah 30:15-18

Three things stand out for me in this passage. First, that the Sovereign Lord calls us to return to God with our noticings (that’s what it means to repent) and sit quietly with the Holy One who desires only to love us more and more. Second, God knows we will “have none of it” and run from this love which is offered and that this will leave us feeling abandoned and alone. Third, God will rise up and bring us home.

I remember being told that when we walk away from God, God just waits until we return. But the Holy One does more than wait for us; God rises up and shows us compassion. God finds the lost sheep, the rejected Hagar, the despised Zacchaeus, you and me.

That knot in my chest returns me to God. It won’t go away–pursuing me on its “swift horse,” and I don’t want to listen to it alone.

I take a deep breath and settle into quietness and trust. Back here with God, I notice that I’m not so afraid to hear my soul speak.

Let me not run from the love which you offer. . .
Keep calling to me
until that day comes when with your saints,
I may praise you forever.
Soul of Christ Prayer

* * *

Reflection questions for your Lenten pilgrimage:

  • What have you noticed that has unsettled you?
  • How are you tempted to run from the love God offers?
  • How has God risen up to show you compassion?
Credits and References:
“Rest” by Aftab Uzzaman. Used with permission.
Luke 15:1-7, Genesis 16, Luke 19:1-10
Photo of child’s hand picking up leaf by Jennifer at Pixabay. Creative Commons.
© 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
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God’s Demonstrative Love

Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.–John 12:3 (NIV)

In Meeting Jesus in John, Brother Jonathan invited us to consider the demonstrative love of Jesus. Like Mary of Bethany who poured perfume on Jesus’s feet, God pours out love to us. Brother Jonathan says, “There’ve been many times where I felt completely unworthy of the love which brought me into being, saved me, and promises me, even now, eternal life. And yet, that is what the befriending of God in Jesus is about. It is about that extravagant love.”

Brother Jonathan invited us to ask for a renewed awareness of how God has demonstrated that extravagant love for us and “to turn in gratitude to the One who loved us first.”

I wrote down what came into my awareness.

I had planned to make a spinach, beet and goat cheese salad for a potluck then discovered someone else was bringing a similar salad. At first, I was disappointed that I had to change my plan, but as I was gathering salad ingredients at Costco I found one I enjoy that had all the fixings in it. It would take no time at all to prepare.

I went to Bible study on Day Two of my plan not to eat after supper, and someone brought really good chocolate. Wanting to get to Day Three gave me the courage to resist. Then a friend who works at a high-end pie shop brought in a pecan pie. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings and I wanted a piece of pie, but I also wanted to say no. The man who brought the chocolate looked at the woman cutting the pie and said, “I’ll pass.” And there was my opportunity. I added, “Me too.”

One guest at the Wednesday Lunch Club regularly takes food to another who has been too sick to come. I like this fellow but find it difficult when he liberally shares his thoughts and jokes without considering whom he might offend. It really bothered me this week, and I mentioned it in an email to my colleague who oversees the ministry. Speaking up about this stuff can become a big deal and I felt discouraged thinking about it. In her email back, my colleague told me she’d already had a gentle word with this man, and he agreed to “rein it in.”

In the Daily Examen, James Martin SJ invites us to begin the prayer by recalling two or three things that happened that day for which we are grateful. “They don’t have to be big things. Just notice them and give thanks,” he says.

So here are my three things. They’re not big, but they do mean a lot to me because they demonstrate how intimately God knows and cares for me.

Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. –John 13:2

* * *

Reflection questions for your Lenten pilgrimage:

  • Ask the Holy Spirit for a renewed awareness of God’s love for you.
  • How has God demonstrated that love?
  • Express your gratitude to God.
  • Ask for the grace to see opportunities to show God’s love to another.
Credits and References:
Painting of Mary washing Jesus’s feet by 125ed-magdalena2bunge2bpies2bde2bjesus [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
“Washing of Feet” by Giotto di Bondone [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
© 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 Lent, Prayer, Reflections, Wednesday Lunch Club | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Loosening My Grip

I’ve been walking with the image of the dead leaf dancing in the wind.  With each step I hear, Peace before me. Peace behind me. Peace under my feet. 

I see a missed a call on my cell phone and feel a wave of panic. This could be bad news. But I have a directee coming soon and decide not to return the call. If I did, I could get embroiled in politics and then I’d find it difficult to stay present to my directee.

I sit in the chair where I offer spiritual direction and breathe as scenarios play out in my mind.

Peace before me. Peace behind me. Peace under my feet. 

God invites me to let go and trust.

After my directee leaves, I go online to send a quick email and see one from the person who called. Without opening the email, I see why they called: they want my advice on what to give someone for a gift. Whew!

Later, as I reflect on what happened, I realize how attached I am to a certain thing going a certain way and how helpless I am to ensure that it does. I didn’t lose what I feared I might, but that’s no guarantee I won’t in the future.

Can I hold what I love a little more loosely? Can I trust that even if the worst case scenario plays out, it will not be the end of the story?

Again I imagine the worst case scenario, but I don’t stop there. I also imagine how life might rise from the ashes. I feel my body relax, my grip loosen.

Christ before me. Christ behind me. Christ under my feet.

Those who try to make their life secure will lose it,
but those who lose their life will keep it.
–Luke 17:33 (NRSV)

* * *

Reflection questions for your Lenten pilgrimage:

  • What phone call would disturb your peace?
  • What would it be like to let go of life as you’d like it to be and trust God in life as it is?
  • What image, word or experience is God offering you today that helps you loosen your grip on life?
Credits and References:
“Walking in leaves” photo from Pixabay in Creative Commons.
“‘Just right!’ she sighed.” by Steve Corey. 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

 

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