DIY Prayer Retreat #13: A Lenten Retreat

Here is a Lenten retreat outline that came out a contemplative evening I facilitated at Tenth Church last week. The Lectio guide is adapted from Living from the Heart and used with permission from SoulStream. For this retreat, it is helpful to have collage materials, paper and coloured pencils or crayons.

OPENING

Light the Christ candle and begin with an opening prayer.

Listen to the song Lenten Lands by  Steve Bell

Lenten Lands

My love has is gone away in Lenten lands
Gone far away and clean forsaken me
And will she perish in those desert sands
Or will she turn again and come to me?

I brought her out of Egypt in her youth.
She come to me when we were on the run.
She tires of freedom now; she tires of truth
And seeks for something new under the sun.

 The time of year is come when all things turn.
The sun returns to warm the wintery earth.
The land revives the plants and seedlings yearn
Towards their rich beginnings and their birth.

And will she turn and or will she turn again?
I hold my arms out wide upon the tree
And will she see me yearn to her through pain
And turn again and turn again to me?

The grapes are swelling on the fruitful vine.
The figs are ripened low upon the bow.
I break the bread for her and pour the wine
And all I am is turned towards her now.

Music by Steve Bell; Lyrics by Malcolm Guite
From Pilgrimage by Steve Bell 

Reflect:

    • What did you notice going on in you as you listened to that song? Take a moment now and name the feelings that emerged.
    • You may notice feelings of hope, desire for God, or love. You may notice feelings of resentment, anger, shame, or frustration. Whatever feelings you notice, welcome them as honoured guests to your house, your body.

Welcome them? Are you kidding me? you may be thinking.

We may notice that some feelings draw us close to God and others away from God. We know by experience how easy it is to open to God when we feel gratitude or wonder, but when we’re bored, discouraged or angry, connecting with God can be a challenge. This may lead us to believe that when we have unpleasant feelings, we’re far from God. Without a second thought, we look for ways to fix or get rid of those unwanted feelings so we can be close to God again. Our feelings become barometers that measure our closeness to God. Good feelings? We’re great. Negative feelings? We better do something about that.

But this isn’t true. Our feelings are not a measurement of our closeness to God. Romans 8 and Psalm 139 testify that no matter what we do or how we feel, God is with us.

Our feelings are simply messengers telling us what’s going on in us, revealing our longings, fears, joys, and griefs. They give us useful information.

God always welcomes us and all our feelings in the same way the father welcomed the prodigal son. The last line of Lenten Lands reminds us that God is always turned toward us. The question is: are we turned toward God?

The pivotal word in Lent is “repentance” which simply means “turning.” In our feelings, we can turn toward God or away from God.

You’ve probably heard the terms “consolation” and “desolation.” Generally, they are understood to mean emotional states in which we feel consoled or desolate. However, when Ignatius of Loyola taught about prayer centuries ago, he didn’t define them as emotional states but as states of orientation. Consolation means we are turned toward God. Desolation means we are turned away from God.

As we enter into prayer today and throughout the forty days of Lent, I invite you to notice when you are in consolation and when you are in desolation.

We are in consolation

  • when we recognize and express any feeling to God, even anger, frustration or resentment.
  • even if we shout at God. Even if we use expletives and tell God off, we’re still in consolation because we’re engaged with God.

We are in desolation

  • when we jump on a good feeling as if it were a horse and ride away from God, pursuing the next thing that will make us happy or successful.
  • when we don’t like how we feel and turn our attention to what might make us feel better or make that feeling go away.
  • when we isolate ourselves from others or God because we feel ashamed or disappointed.

Reflect:

    • Take a moment now and hold the reality that all your feelings are good. Your emotional state is not a measure of your worth, your spiritual maturity or your closeness to God. All your feelings invite connection with God. They cannot keep you from God’s presence. Return to noticing the feelings that emerged as you listened to the song Lenten Lands ant turn to God in them.
    • Take a few minutes in silence to sit with your eyes closed or journal or draw.

 

An Introduction to Lectio Divina

We come to this prayer practice from different places. Some of you are familiar with Lectio, yet for others, this may be the first time you’ve prayed this way. No matter how experienced you are with Lectio, I invite you to open your heart to receive what God might have for you today as I offer this introduction.

Lectio Divina is Latin for “divine reading.” It’s an ancient prayer form introduced by St. Benedict in the sixth century and continues to be used by the Benedictines and other monastic traditions. Today it’s practised by both Catholics and Protestants in every walk of life.

Lectio Divina is… “a posture of approach and a means of encounter with a text that enables the text to become a place of transforming encounter with God.”
Robert Mulholland, Invitation to a Journey     

This “posture of approach” is a receptive posture. We open our hearts to God in prayerful receptivity. Our basic intent is to receive God’s presence in Scripture by opening up to it rather than by trying to grasp or master the meaning. We make an internal shift from control to receptivity, and we commit ourselves to God’s action and purpose.

Reading scripture [in this way]… is reading (and listening) with heart and spirit open. Don’t try to find something or make anything out of the passage. Wait for the gift that God has for you in it. Read slowly and reverentially, savoring what you hear and gently listening for the still, small voice of God that says, ‘This is my word for you today.’ It is listening for the voice of God, communicated through Scriptures and revealed by the Spirit. It is, therefore, prayer because it is an opening of self to God.
David G. Benner, Opening to God: Lectio Divina and Life as Prayer

Our desire is to encounter God so we can receive what God has for us. Lectio Divina sets the stage for that encounter to happen. Mulholland says the text becomes “a place of transforming encounter.” The scripture text is the place where we meet God. The real me meets the real God in the place where my life and the Word of God intersect. The Holy Spirit prepares us to receive God’s Word and be transformed by our meeting with God.

When we pray in this way, it’s like making a date with God to meet up in a specific location. There’s a certain amount of relief in the fact that we don’t have to make anything happen; all we have to do is show up and open our hearts to God. However, there’s a discomfort in this as well. We make ourselves vulnerable. We risk being disappointed. What if God doesn’t show up? What if nothing happens?  This type of prayer stretches our faith. It requires taking a risk and being vulnerable, so we need to be gentle with ourselves as we open to this way of praying.

Remember what I said earlier about our feelings, that they are guests who have useful information for us? In Lectio Divina, we meet up with God as we are, in our present emotional state, no matter whether it’s stormy or calm. We acknowledge and welcome our feelings as a part of our present reality and turn toward the One who is turned toward us now.

 

Practising Lectio Divina Together     

The Meeting Place: Isaiah 30:15-18 The Voice (adapted)

Listen! The Lord, the Eternal, the Holy One of Israel says,

“In returning and rest, you will be saved.
        In quietness and trust you will find strength.

But you refused. You couldn’t sit still;
        instead, you said, ‘No! We will ride out of here on horseback.
    Fast horses will give us an edge in battle.’
        But those who pursue you will be faster still.

When one person threatens, a thousand will panic and flee.
        When five terrorize you, all will run pell-mell,
    until you are as conspicuous as a single flag standing high on a hill.”

Meanwhile, the Eternal One yearns to give you grace and
         boundless compassion;
   that’s why God waits.           

Come to Quiet

    • Sit comfortably alert with your eyes closed.
    • Take a few deep breaths and then begin to breathe normally again.
    • Relaxing into your breathing, take some time to let go of the past and the future and come fully into the present.
    • Turn your heart to Jesus who is present to you now. Invite the Holy Spirit to help you.

Listen to your life

    • What have you been experiencing lately? Where is the energy either positive or negative? What might you be avoiding or resisting?
    • Let it arise within you rather than try to analyze yourself. Feel the energy of it and open your heart to meeting God in connection with this.
    • If nothing arises, that’s fine. Maybe you’ll be surprised in the prayer itself.

(Silence)

First Reading:  Listen for what is given to you. 

    • As the passage is read aloud, listen for a word, phrase or image that attracts you as you listen.
    • Let it enter your heart by repeating it over to yourself softly and lovingly during the silence after the reading.

(Silence)

Second Reading: Ask “How is your life touched by what has been given?”

    • As you hear the passage read again, let the word interact with your present life experience.
    • What does this word or image evoke in you?
    • What part of your life resonates with what was given?
    • Allow the connection to arise naturally in your being.
    • Sit with that impression during silence.

(Silence)

Third Reading: Ask “Is there an invitation here for you?”

    • Listen to the passage read aloud a third time. Given the connection that is emerging between the word/image and your life, what might God want to do for you?
    • What invitation, reassurance, encouragement, or clarification might God be offering you in this moment?
    • Ponder what arises during several minutes of silence following the reading. Trust what comes.
    • How would you like to respond to God? Do that now in your mind.

(Silence)

Conclusion: Rest

    • Take time to relax and rest in what has been given.
    • Don’t try to make it bigger or more spiritual than it is.
    • Receive it with humble gratitude and rest in God’s loving work in you.

(Silence)

 

ENTER INTO SILENCE

During the next few hours, allow God to deepen what emerged in the Lectio as you sit in silence, walk, eat lunch, colour, draw or make a collage.

 

GATHERING TOGETHER 

Gather again at the end of the day and give participants an opportunity, one by one, to share briefly what was significant for them in this retreat. Remember to receive what each has offered as a gift without comment, questions or advice.

Pray for one another and the world.

 

BLESSING

May you awaken to the mystery of being here and enter the quiet immensity of your own presence.
May you have joy and peace in the temple of your senses.
May you receive great encouragement when new frontiers beckon.
May you respond to the call of your gift and find the courage to follow its path.
May the flame of anger free you from falsity.
May warmth of heart keep your presence aflame and may anxiety never linger about you.
May your outer dignity mirror an inner dignity of soul.
May you take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek no attention.
May you be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul.
May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven around the heart of wonder.
–John O’Donohue, Eternal Echoes: Celtic Reflections on Our Yearning to Belong.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
–Lamentations 3:23, 24

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

Welcoming Prayer booklet

A Forty Day Practice of Welcoming Prayer is a resource from Contemplative Outreach that I’m using during Lent to help me welcome my feelings about what is going on in my life and turn to God in them.

“This praxis booklet helps you learn and establish a Welcoming Prayer practice–consent on the go–as well as understand the contextual background for its transformative process.  Structured in a 40-day format, the praxis booklet includes teachings on the human condition, nuances of the prayer practice, as well as reflections from practitioners, Scripture, and related wisdom.  To support learning and practising the prayer, each day includes a beautiful image, brief reading, Scripture, and mini-practice for the day.”–Contemplative Outreach

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 Return of the Prodigal Son, Pompeo Batoni, 1773,
“Eurasian blue tit” by Benjamin Balázs. Public domain.
“Green Valley” by Pisut Konepun. 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, Lent, Prayer, Prayer Retreat Outline, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ashes to Ashes

“You are from dust and to dust you shall return,” Pastor Ruth says as she dips her thumb in the ashes and makes the sign of the cross on my forehead. Meanwhile, my nephew Lee’s ashes are being shipped from Courtney, B.C. to Ontario.

He was thirty-three years old and died from his seventeenth overdose. This time fentanyl. Like the rich young man who asked Jesus what he should do to earn eternal life, Lee couldn’t give up what he needed to survive. He wanted to. He tried. Four times in rehab. Many times on his own. It was impossible for him.

Scripture says Jesus looked at the rich man and loved him. I know that Jesus looked at Lee and loved him too. Then Jesus did the impossible for him. He gave him what no one can earn anyway: an eternal life of love.

Lee was not alone when he died. Someone in the homeless camp called 911. They tried to revive him but were unsuccessful.

Jesus was there too. Holding him. Looking at him with love. What did Jesus see?

I wonder if, in the moment of Lee’s death, his life flashed before Jesus’ eyes. Jesus would have recalled how Lee always gave to anyone who begged, even if he only had a couple of dollars. Did Jesus laugh when he remembered how Lee and my grandson, Hadrian, would goof around pretending to be apes? It was Lee that first suggested Hadrian might have autism, Lee that asked a question that led to a conversation that led to the marriage of Hadrian’s parents. Lee had a T-shirt with a typewriter on it that said: “text me.” He liked an unencumbered life. As long as he had an apple and a few almonds, he’d be fine.

Jesus had to keep travelling to be with Lee who went backpacking in Thailand before he was twenty, taught English to children in Honduras, and kayaked on Quadra Island and Campbell River.

Jesus was with Lee in his joys and sorrows, his triumphs and bad decisions. He never left his side during their painful outcomes. Jesus felt proud and shed tears as he listened to the songs Lee wrote that told his story.

I went for a walk after my brother Ron called with the news. It was so surreal. Two weeks before his death, Lee called and told me what he always does. “You know I love you, Aunt Esther. Don’t worry about me. I’m tough. I can take care of himself.”

“It’s okay,” I heard Jesus say at the end of my walk. “He’s with me now.”

I imagine Lee in heaven with Jesus. I picture him grinning and telling me he’s got his mojo back. “And Jesus?” he’d add in his characteristically understated way, “He’s all right.” Then I imagine him going off to find Jack Kerouac. “This is a big place. But don’t worry, I’ll find him. This isn’t my first rodeo.”

I would love to live like a river flows,
carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.
John O’Donohue

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

This is Lee after he’s taken a mouthful of wasabi. He loved wasabi, chilli peppers and curry. Lee Frehner (Nov 11, 1985-Feb 24, 2019) is my brother Ron’s oldest child. He is greatly missed by his parents, step-parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. Although, as Ron says, Lee could be a pain in the ass sometimes, we never stopped loving him, nor he us. He and God did some awesome love mischief in the world in Lee’s 33 years of life. And we are so grateful for him.

 

 

 

 

The only people for me are the mad ones: the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who… burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow Roman candles.  –Jack Kerouac

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:
Quote about dust from Ecclesiastes 3:20.
Lee with children by Hardeep B. Used with permission.
Kayaking and Wasabi photos by Kayla Kristine’s Facebook page.
Lee and Hadrian and  Lee with yarn behind by Heidi Braacx.  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
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Making Peace with My Addictions

Dan Harris, a co-anchor for Good Morning America, got his studio audience to meditate for sixty seconds. Some amazing love mischief, eh?

Many people try meditating but give up because they can’t stop the distractions. Harris explains that we don’t need to clear our minds–which is impossible to do–just focus and keep focussing.

I’ve heard this before from Cynthia Bourgeault and Thomas Keating. But because they meditate for spiritual reasons, (Harris does not), they take it one step further and understand that refocusing as a returning to God. Keating often said, “Even if you have to return to the sacred word a hundred times in a prayer period, God rejoices. You have come home to God a hundred times!” Our intent isn’t to master the art of meditation but to be in loving relationship with God.

I told Fred about Harris’s video while we were walking to church and something clicked. “All I have to do when I am inundated with distractions is to return to focusing on my breath again and again. And all I have to do to make peace with my addiction to food is to keep saying no again and again.”

I had wanted to resolve my struggles with one big crashing of the door. I wanted to enter the chamber of Love and be set free from my addiction to food and thoughts once and for all. But I’m discovering that all Love wants me to do is keep crashing the door–in this moment and the next.

If I fail; it’s okay. That moment’s gone. I’ll have another opportunity to choose Love in the next. If I succeed, that’s good, but that moment’s gone too, and I must choose again.

How often I succeed or fail doesn’t affect what I need to do right now and every moment after that: just keep returning to Love.

God is with me in this. God wants me to reap the benefits of healthy eating and contemplative prayer practices. God wants what’s good for me. But more than that, God wants to awaken me–moment by moment–to the reality that I am in God. I am in Love. And God is in Love with me.

In returning and rest, you will be saved.
In quietness and trust you will find strength.
— Isaiah 30:15 (The Voice)

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O. (1923-2018), Father Basil Pennington and Father William Menninger revived the practice of Centering Prayer after finding an old copy of The Cloud of Unknowing in a monastery library. Keating is the founder of Contemplative Outreach, “a spiritual network of individuals and small faith communities committed to living the contemplative dimension of the Gospel.” Father Keating travelled the world to speak with laypeople and communities about contemplative Christian practices and the psychology of the spiritual journey. One of my favourite quotes by Keating is “The chief thing that separates us from God is the thought that we are separated from him. If we get rid of that thought, our troubles will be greatly reduced.”

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:
An Open Gate (Askrigg, Yorkshire Dales) by Rachel Hartland. Used with permission.
Quote by Thomas Keating, Open Mind, Open Heart. (Warwick, NY: Amity House, 1986), 44.
© 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
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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 can I beg and bargain for things of this world?
How long can I beg and bargain for things of this world
while 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. When we sang “while 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 can 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

* * *

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
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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

* * *

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
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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)

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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 , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 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

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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
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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

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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