Life below the Surface

Saturday morning at the annual SoulStream partner gathering at Sorrento, Lorie Martin, our retreat facilitator, invited us to enter the meeting room in silence. Pictures of creation were scattered over two long tables. She asked us to choose an image that represented our soul. This one intrigued me because it shows life on the surface of the sea as well a life beneath.

The black water under the boat teems with fish, but the fisherman can’t see it. This illustrates what I’ve been reading in Anthony de Mello’s Awareness and wrote about last week. Awareness is being able to see below the surface and know that I don’t need the love I’m striving to get or keep.  All is already given and I can just enjoy it.

We were invited to reflect and journal about our pictures and remain in silence, even during the break. When I went down to the dining hall to get a coffee, I saw Deb coming the other way. Deb and I work together in the Living From the Heart course. When our eyes met, we grinned at each other and touched hands as we passed by. The look on my face and the touch of my hand told her how much she is loved. It delighted me to imagine how good that made her feel.

I got my coffee and was making my way back to the meeting room still thinking about our brief encounter. Suddenly it dawned on me that Deb must have felt the same delight, as she imagined how good it was for me to receive her love. (In fact, she told me later that she did.)

It touched me then and it touches me now as I write about it. I don’t have to be her new best friend or sit beside her to have worth. I can just love her and receive her love without needing anything from her.

When I returned to the meeting room, I picked up the picture I’d chosen. My heart felt full as I looked at the sea beneath my boat filled with people. Among them was Deb, shining in the sea of my soul. Marijke, who sat beside me, pointed to one of the fish and whispered, “That’s me.” I smiled and nodded at this woman who was my classmate in Art of Spiritual Direction over ten years ago.

The day before the gathering, Fred and I camped for a night by Shuswap Lake. Early that morning, I sat quietly in the silence and looked at the lake. Every once in a while a fish would break the surface. I’d hear a tiny splash and then it was gone. There’s more down here than you can imagine, the tiny splash testified.

Back home again, I set my timer for twenty minutes and open myself to God in the silence. My body relaxes as I recall the picture of the fisherman on the surface of the sea and the abundance of life teeming within my soul. I feel myself let go of what I think I need and rest in the goodness of what I have.

My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.–Jesus
John 10:10 (TLB)

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

It was a joy to have SoulStream partner Lorie Martin introduce us to Celtic Spirituality at our annual gathering. Lorie lives in Abbotsford, B.C. where she offers spiritual direction/companionship, inner healing sessions, and leads contemplative retreats. Lorie has journeyed through the deepest of waters in a series of losses including the death of their youngest daughter. In these authentic raw experiences, she has learned to embrace both the grief and the graces that impact us deeply, change our lives, and crack us open to our core. Lorie holds space for all people, inviting openness to fresh awareness and experience of Divine Presence in suffering, dying, waiting, and in the new risen life that emerges. She is the author of Invited, Choose LoveGrace upon Grace, and 2018 The Next Dawn. Lorie graduated from SoulStream’s Art of Spiritual Direction in 2007  and has been a part of retreats around the world.

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:
Photo of Lorie Martin used with permission. The text is from her website.
© 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 Creation, Mindfulness, Prayer, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Releasing Reality

I’ve been feeling out of sorts for a week or two–unmotivated to pray or read in the evenings. I just want to disappear and indulge in things that make me feel good. I feel this way whenever uncomfortable stuff gets brought into the light, and I don’t want to grieve a loss or accept a reality I can’t change.

When I got good and sick of Netflix and trying to beat the droid at Scrabble, I picked up where I left off in Anthony de Mello’s Awareness. This story stood out to me.

Someone gave me two situations in which she found it difficult to be aware. She was in a service industry where many people were lined up, many phones were ringing, and she was alone and there were distractions coming from a lot of uptight, angry people. She found it extremely difficult to maintain serenity and calm. The other situation was when she was driving in traffic, with horns blowing and people shouting four-letter words. She asked me whether eventually that nervousness would dissipate and she could remain at peace.

Do you pick up the attachment there? Peace. Her attachment to peace and calm. She was saying, “Unless I’m peaceful, I won’t be happy.” Did it ever occur to you that you could be happy in tension? Before enlightenment I used to be depressed; after enlightenment, I continue to be depressed. You don’t make a goal out of relaxation and sensitivity. Have you ever heard of people who get tense trying to relax? If one is tense, one simply observes one’s tension. You will never understand yourself if you seek to change yourself. The harder you try to change yourself, the worse it gets. You are called upon to be aware. Get the feel of that jangling telephone; get the feel of jarred nerves; get the sensation of the steering wheel in the car. In other words, come to reality, and let tension or the calmness take care of itself. As a matter of fact, you will have to let them take care of themselves because you’ll be too preoccupied with getting in touch with reality. Step by step, let whatever happens happen. Real change will come when it is brought about, not by your ego, but by reality. Awareness releases reality to change you.

I could relate to this woman. The only difference was that the noise was not external but internal. Although I know I’m attached to my feel good go-tos, de Mello’s words exposed a deeper attachment: Unless I feel good, I won’t be happy.

What would it be like to get the feel of my jangling thoughts, the jarring reflections of myself in the mirror, the sensation of boredom? That sounds like a ridiculous question. It would feel awful. Who wants to feel that?

But even more ridiculous is the thought that I can choose not to have those feelings. Whether I want to feel them or not, those feelings are there. My only choice is to observe them or suppress them—live aware or unaware. Or to use biblical language: choose light or darkness. Jesus said people choose darkness to commit evil deeds. De Mello explains we only sin when we are unaware. Suppressing reality comes at a cost and we’re not the only ones who pay it.

Let your suffering end your suffering, says de Mello. Suffering reveals an attachment and an attachment observed loses its power.

These words give me the courage to sit with God and look again at what has caused me to feel out of sorts. What suffering does Love want to end?

Jesus said, “I have come as light into the world so that everyone
who believes in me should not remain in the darkness.”
–John 12:46 (NRSV)

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

Today I’d like to feature the love mischief of a tree. The tree I am looking at is very tall. It isn’t particularly pretty and isn’t that useful to me right now in the cool of the morning. It just stands there and grows–very slowly. Today it will provide shade for those seeking a break from the sun and rest for birds. It will be greatly appreciated one moment and overlooked the next, yet neither state changes its essence. It is completely powerless to stop anyone or any event from harming it or destroying it. It just stands there revealing God’s presence to those who will receive it.

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:
“Lonely Tree” by Mika Hiironniemi. Used with permission.
Awareness by Anthony De Mello, pages 141-145
John 3:19
“Stillness” by Christian.Rudman. Used with permission.
“Bark Cabin Natural Area by Nicholas A. Tonelli. 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 Mindfulness, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Forgiven

As I kneel at the altar to receive the Eucharist, it suddenly occurs to me that when Isaiah cried out, “Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips,” he may not have been speaking generally or just identifying with our human condition.

Maybe his cry wasn’t from false humility, an indicator of low-self esteem, or an excuse as to why he wasn’t prophet material.

What if, on the day of that overwhelming vision of God, he had with his lips hurled abuse at his wife, sealed an unjust deal, or remained silent and walked by on the other side of the road while his neighbour lay suffering. Perhaps that very day, he saw anew how his self-serving words, spoken decades ago have left an indelible mark.

I imagine Isaiah, facing the grievousness of his action, expects that this is the end. He knows God knows what he’s done. He knows that he, of all people, should not be a servant of the Holy One.

What does the Holy One do? God does not rise up in anger and dispense punitive judgment; nor does God excuse or minimize Isaiah’s sin. God sends a seraph with a live coal from the altar and touches his mouth. In an instant, Isaiah’s guilt is removed. He is forgiven and called to serve again.

I kneel at the altar, a woman of unclean lips, very aware of my own specific reprehensible sin. Then the priest, like a seraph, places the Host in my hands. I put it in my mouth and my guilt removed, my sin forgiven.

The scripture from Isaiah continues to speak to me personally, specifically. God asks, “Who can I send to care for my people?”

I take the cup that is offered and return to my place in the church.

“I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.” So he got up and went to his father.

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. –Luke 15:18-20 (NIV)

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

“In September 2017, St. James’ Anglican Church in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver held a Reconciliation Feast to bring together parishioners and survivors of Canada’s Residential Schools who live in Vancouver. In the spirit of Reconciliation, the Feast honoured the strength, resilience, courage and dignity of survivors, and celebrated the beginning of a renewed relationship between our church and our Aboriginal neighbours,” writes Nii K’an Kwsdins (aka Jerry Adams). Jerry Adams and Father Matthew Johnson, both from St. James, facilitated a workshop at Inside Out Church, a mission conference hosted by the New Westminster diocese of the Anglican Church last Saturday. Along with the others in attendance, I hope that this will be the first of many feasts of reconciliation. In this article, Adams tells us how churches can plan and host one.

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:
“The Prophet Isaiah” by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1698-1770). [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
“The Return of the Prodigal Son” by Rembrandt [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 Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Tossed About

I think I’m doing fine until a miscommunication leads to a last-minute pick up from Sure Copy. Piles of photocopied class notes for the Living From The Heart course cover our dining room table. Hurriedly, I check, count, and paperclip each set of handouts, hoping I will get it all done before my brother and his wife arrive from Minnesota.

I’m halfway through when I discover one document is missing. Though I checked and rechecked my list, it was not included in the originals I gave the printer. Before I can finish counting or do anything about the missing handout, I hear a knock at the door and familiar hellos.

I greet my brother Ron and his wife, Deb, and leave my work to visit with them. But it’s hard to be present. I can’t stop thinking about what I still have to do before I leave the next day.

Our daughter and her family arrive, and we have a lovely dinner together. But as much as I try, I’m only half there. By nine, Ron and Deb can barely keep their eyes open, so they turn in for the night. I apologize for being distracted, and they are quick to forgive.

I leave the last of the dishes to Fred and turn on the computer. I begin printing copies of the missing document and, despite my prayers, the printer keeps jamming.

By eleven o’clock the dishwasher’s running, my clothes are packed, and all the photocopies are counted and in order. I go to bed but can’t sleep. Regret makes me toss and turn. I wish I’d been more organized. I wish I could have let things go and enjoyed my evening.

Around 2 a.m., I remember a friend’s wish. She said, “I wish you’d have more compassion for yourself.” I lie still and listen deeply for God’s compassion. Like a gentle wave lapping on the shore, I hear, “That was so hard.”

Together, God and I look back over the last two days and notice how I spent my time. I was delighted when I found Naomi Shihab Nye’s video for my blog post and loved how it all came together. Because I didn’t think my photocopies were ready, Fred and I had time for a walk. I sense that God enjoyed those moments as much as I did. Neither of us wished that I had been packing or counting copies instead.

I blamed myself when I got thrown by the circumstances that made it hard for me to be present, but God wasn’t upset with me, nor was anyone else. There’s a person that I’d really like to be all the time, but I’m not. And somehow that’s okay.

The next morning is sunny and spacious. Ron, Deb and I enjoy a leisurely breakfast and a long walk along Stoney Creek. They catch their ferry and, a few hours later, I catch mine.

During my week away, co-facilitating Living From The Heart, moments come like waves. Sometimes I’m lifted and delighted to be who I am. Other times, I’m dropped and dismayed by something I’ve said or done and left scrambling to regain my footing and salvage my self-esteem.

But whether the waves lift or drop me, one thing never changes–I am still in an ocean of love drawn by God’s current of compassion.

The Lord is gracious and righteous;
    our God is full of compassion.
The Lord protects the unwary;
    when I was brought low, God saved me.
–Psalm 116:6 (NIV)

Love Mischief for the World

I was chatting with “Mike” (not his real name) who is a regular at the Wednesday Lunch Club, an outreach for those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. I find out he used to be a chef at a prestigious hotel. He tells me one of his creations is still on their menu. One thing leads to another and he tells me how he got chatting with a manager of a local grocery store. The manager told him that right before cheque issue day, they have a fair bit of food stolen. Mike says, “Tell you what, why don’t you give me the food that’s about to expire, and I’ll take it down to the homeless camp and cook it for them.” That’s just what he did. “They loved the food and the manager’s problem was solved,” Mike said. Now that’s come incredible love mischief, eh?

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:
“Stormy weather” by Leif Harboe. Used with permission.
“Pacific Ocean” by Scott Anderson. Used with permission.
“Love” by Dustin Gaffke. 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 Homelessness, Ignatian Spirituality, Reflections, Wednesday Lunch Club | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Belated Valentine for You

Lately, I’ve been writing my posts on the week I publish them. But this week I was on Bowen Island co-facilitating the Living From The Heart course, so I knew I needed a stand-in. I found one, or should I say, she found me. A month ago a friend recited this poem by Naomi Shihab Nye, and I’ve been savouring it and sharing it with friends ever since. Enjoy.

 

Love Mischief for the World

Naomi Shihab Nye is a poet, songwriter, and novelist. She was born to a Palestinian father and an American mother. Although she calls herself a “wandering poet”, she refers to San Antonio as her home. Her books include 19 Varieties of GazelleA Maze Me: Poems for Girls, and Transfer. Her most recent book is Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners  Nye was the recipient of the 2014 NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature

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:
“Happy Valentine’s Day” by Elisa. Used with permission. (banner)
Photo of Naomi Shihab Nye by Micahd – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,  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 Poetry, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

An Old Memory and a New Reality

“Where did you accept God’s invitation to be loving, to be grateful, to be yourself?” Father James Martin asks in his Daily Examen podcast.

Wow. God wants me to be myself–unselfconsciously, unapologetically, gloriously me.

What does that feel like? Like the girl who doesn’t think twice about offering Jesus her lunch.

That feeling reaches into my past and pulls out a thirty-year-old memory. I’d taken our kids to a Norman Foote concert, and we had so much fun, I felt like the best mom in the world. We were singing silly songs as we buckled up to go home, but before we got very far, I heard an expensive scraping sound. I looked in my side view mirror. The rear bumper of our van had hooked onto and dislodged the front bumper of the car beside us.

Even now, as I write about it, I feel adrenalin rising in my chest and into my throat. I don’t recall how we got unhooked from the car and exactly what happened next, but I do remember thinking, “If this were a movie, that would be Norman Foote’s car.” Sigh. It was.

Though I could see the humour in it, it wasn’t funny to me at all. Life was admonishing me: Don’t go thinking you’re so good.

From that day on, whenever I get close to feeling good about being myself, I think about Norman Foote’s bumper. That’s why, I suspect, God brought this old memory to mind.

Just like our van got unhooked from the damaged bumper and repairs were made, God is detaching me from the damaging belief that if I become truly myself, I will embarrass myself and harm others–and that would be terrible.

“It isn’t true,” I tell myself and take a deep breath to let a new reality emerge. Accidents can happen to anyone–and do.

That new scrape on the drivers’ side of our car? I didn’t do it. And the one who did is an excellent driver who has no trouble being himself and enjoying every minute of it. I think he makes God very happy.

So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose?
–Romans 8:31 (MSG)

Love Mischief for the World

Norman Foote is a Canadian musician, songwriter, and comedian. He has been nominated for four Juno Awards for Best Children’s Album in 1990, 1993, 2001, and won in 2010. Foote is known for his kids’ eye view of the world and his friendly, but pointed, jabs at anything from pollution to Mom’s style of cooking. His latest album is called Always Be Yourself. That’s the plan, Norman. Thanks for being a part of my journey.

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:
“Pure Joy” by Martin Hricko. Used with permission.
“Joy Is Measurable” by Funkybug. Used with permission.
Photo of Norman Foote 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, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God Sees Me

All of a sudden, I was the boy in the story. I heard Jesus tell the disciples, “You give them something to eat.” While they stood there perplexed, I made my way through the crowd and offered Jesus my uneaten lunch: five small barley loaves and two fish. He received it with such gratitude that I was taken aback. It may not have seemed like much to anyone else but, to Jesus, it was perfect. And then, of course, he did something wonderful with it.

This is what I imagined as I sat in a room filled with people listening to a reflection on the feeding of the five thousand. Tears came to my eyes, I was so moved by my encounter with Jesus.

Jesus had locked eyes with me, received my meagre offering, and cherished it. He saw the childlike desire of my heart to give what I have without stopping to think how insufficient it is.

The next morning, in my prayer time, I return to that encounter with Jesus. I wonder what he received from me. What does my lunch represent?

I picture myself again before him. I offer my attempts to be present, my misfired intentions, my writing. Each gift evokes the telltale signs in my chest and nose that I’m about to cry.

But there’s more. Jesus doesn’t just receive my offerings, he receives me. He looks at me–just as I am–and loves me. Now I have tears in my eyes and a hard lump in my throat.

If there’s one thing I know, that I talk about in sermons, write about on my blog, and hold space for in spiritual direction, it’s this: we are loved just like this.

Once again Jesus steps into my world to tell me what he sees when he looks at me. “If I can look at a goldfish that costs twenty-five cents the way Annie Dillard does, imagine what I see when I look at you.”

And then I hear, “Can you believe that other people see it too? That I couldn’t possibly keep this seeing to myself. How could I? I have to share it with others.”

Now I have tears in earnest and that wonderful witness in my throat. The words that are coming to me are true. “I know how people look at you,” Jesus says. “I know they see what I see. I admit, not everyone and not all the time. But more than you think and more often than you know: you are loved.”

Now I hear music–not choirs of angels in my head but a song my ten-year-old granddaughter listens to. This line keeps echoing, “Can you believe it? Can you receive it?”

Later that morning I walk with a friend who reads my blog. My recent posts have made her sad. She tells me I’m being too hard on myself.

Yup. I think God noticed that too.

Jesus looked at him and loved him. –Mark 10:21 (NIV)

 

Love Mischief for the World

Mobile Loaves & Fishes is the organization behind Community First! Village in Austin, Texas. “Austin is an awesome place,” says  on Best Tech, “but the way the community is striving to give its homeless citizens a better life is what truly makes it a beautiful city. Community First! Village is a development stretching over 27 acres. It provides affordable, permanent housing for people in Central Texas who are disabled or chronically homeless. Not only does it provide homes, but it also helps these people find jobs and purpose. In 2017, men and women earned $400,000 through the micro-enterprise programs at the Village, so the mission isn’t just to give them places to live but to also help integrate them back into society.”

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:
Stained glass loaves and fishes in Saint James the Greater Catholic Church, Concord, North Carolina. Photo by Nheyob [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons.
The Feeding of the Five Thousand is in Matthew 14:13-21Mark 6:31-44Luke 9:12-17John 6:1-14
Jesus with the children by Michael O’Brien. 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, Mindfulness, Praying with the Imagination, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Seeing Ellery

God, help me see what you see, I pray as I walk.

I wonder if I’ll ever slow down enough to see more than a label: that’s a tree, a flower, a truck that needs a new muffler.

Annie Dillard saw what God saw when she bought a goldfish and named him Ellery.

This Ellery cost me twenty-five cents. He is a deep red-orange, darker than most goldfish. He steers short distances mainly with his slender, red lateral fins; they seem to provide impetus for going backward, up, or down. It took me a few days to discover his ventral fins; they are completely transparent and all but invisible—dream fins. He also has a short anal fin, and a tail that is deeply notched and perfectly transparent at the two tapered tips. He can extend his mouth, so that it looks like length of pipe; he can shift the angle of his eyes in his head so he can look before and behind himself, instead of simply out to his side. His belly, what there is of it, is white ventrally, and a patch of this white extends up his sides–the variegated Ellery. When he opens his gill slits, he shows a thin crescent of silver where the flap overlapped—as though all his brightness were sunburn.

For this creature, as I said, I paid twenty-five cents. I had never bought an animal before. It was very simple; I went to a store in Roanoke called “Wet Pets”; I handed the man a quarter, and he handed me a knotted plastic bag bouncing with water in which a green plant floated and the goldfish swam. This fish, two bits’ worth, has a coiled gut, a spine radiating fine bones, and a brain. Just before I sprinkle his food flakes into his bowl, I rap three times on the bowl’s edge; now he is conditioned, and swims to the surface when I rap. And, he has a heart.

I love how Annie Dillard’s care and observing of Ellery allowed her to see beyond his measurement of usefulness or value.  She enjoyed his beauty and savoured the wonder of this creature that God created, gave life to, and loves.

Rushing from one activity to another forces me to measure, judge, and categorize. With so many things to do, I am often in triage mode, separating whatever comes to me like sheep from goats: useful not useful.

But on the heels of Earth Day, God is inviting me to stop . . . see . . . and fall in love with that tree, that flower–maybe even that truck with the noisy muffler. God knows when I do, I care for the earth and all that is in it the way Annie Dillard cared for Ellery.

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.
–Genesis 1:31 (NIV)

Love Mischief for the World

Second Nature Home Boutique is a social enterprise entirely focused on eco-friendly, organic products for the home. “A social enterprise is one whose social mission is just as important as their financial mission,” says Elizabeth McKitrick (left),  founder of the store located in East Vancouver. “So it’s on equal footing; you have to make a profit in order to be in business, but the profits are re-invested back into the business for the benefit of all involved [the artisans who make the products, the local community, the environment and the owner].” Elizabeth was interviewed by Maryam Khezrzadeh on Medium.

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:
Photo of two goldfish by Erin Khoo. Used with permission.
Photo of goldfish by maxxum. Used with permission.
Quote by Annie Dillard in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
Photo of Elizabeth McKitrick and Elya Bergen at Second Nature Home Boutique by Maryam Khezrzadeh. 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 Creation, Mindfulness, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

I Love You More than Anything

I love You more than anything.
And when I am in my right mind
I know this to be true 
But You know it all the time.
Rob Des Cotes

If actions speak louder than words, mine wouldn’t say I love God more than anything. They might say it’s true sometimes. Yet God knows–even when I don’t–that it’s true all the time. God isn’t angry when I turn to other loves but stays with me and patiently restores me to my right mind again.

I want to live in my right mind all the time and know what God knows: that I really do love God more than anything. For me, this means waking up to this reality in every moment.

“I think God is inviting me to live mindfully,” I told my spiritual director and waited for her response.

I’ve been seeing my spiritual director for some years now. She will question me if she thinks I am taking on a spiritual practice to earn God’s love or avoid a painful feeling.

She wasn’t questioning me now. Instead, she helped me explore this invitation. As I did, I admitted that being present to whatever I’m doing is often boring.

“I like being entertained and getting a break from the constant chatter in my head,” I said and told her that I enjoy snacking and watching a movie. But I don’t like what it does to my body, how it keeps me up too late and makes me not want to pray.

“What are you thinking?” I asked.

She was reminded of the story of the disciples in the upper room. They had locked the door yet Jesus came in and appeared to them.

My addictions lock me in. But that has not stopped Christ from coming in to free me. He is offering me new life, and this new life is going to take some getting used to.

I told her that I’m clear-headed in the morning, but by evening, I’m at the mercy of my addictions. I mentioned the Ignatian practice of making a plan while in consolation, so I know what to do in times of desolation. I was thinking generally; but she asked me specifically, “What’s  your plan for tonight?”

Yikes. It was a Friday. TGIF. I didn’t want to commit to anything but a pasta dinner and wine with Fred and kicking back. It was hard to make a plan and say out loud that I would pray and go to bed at a decent time. But it was easier to do it with the support of someone who loves me and doesn’t rationalize my addictive behaviours.

As I biked home from that session, I rode mindfully. I counted the revolutions each time my foot pushed down on the pedal. I tried to see how high I would get before I stopped pedalling. To keep counting, I had to pay attention to what I was doing. What a gift to realize that during the hour it took me to get home, I got a break from the chatter in my head.

Even though it felt boring, at nine o’clock I prayed for twenty minutes in silence, read something inspirational, prayed the Examen and the SoulStream Night Prayer, and went to bed. Then I did it the next night and the night after that.

Each morning, I was able to wake an hour earlier than I used to. I had an extra hour to pray and write at the time of day when I’m in my right mind. What a luxury that is.

Ignatius says, “All the things in this world are also created because of God’s love and they become a context of gifts, presented to us so that we can know God more easily and make a return of love more readily.” All things–including Netflix and Scrabble. I still enjoy these gifts, but less often and as a choice instead of a compulsion. And when I do, I enjoy them with God, and it’s the most important thing I do at that moment.

We love because God first loved us.
–1 John 4:19

Love Mischief for the World

Rob Des Cotes founded Imago Dei Christian Communities in 2002.  He became a spiritual director, retreat leader and pastor of Imago DeiHe is the author of four books of meditations for spiritual direction, Fan the Flame, Higher Than I and Ultreia! (Go Higher) and the final book, Strength to Strength. Rob passed away on April 6, 2016, and as it says on the Imago Dei website, he “continued on a new part of the journey with his Father.” Rob was instrumental in making Christian contemplative writings and teachings accessible to all as well as forming community where contemplative practices can be lived out. If you do a search of his name on my blog, you will see some of the ways he has impacted my pilgrimage. He is deeply missed.

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:
Photo of woman on dock by Matthias Zomer from Pexels. Creative Commons.
Prayer by Rob Des Cotes,  written on October 9, 2014, for Imago Dei Communities.
Ignatius quote from The Spiritual Exercise of Ignatius of Loyola, Principle and Foundation, paraphrased by David L. Fleming.
Jesus with the children by Michael O’Brien. Used with permission.
Photo of Rob Des Cotes 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, Prayer, Reflections, Rob Des Cotes, Spiritual Direction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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, Mindfulness, Overeating, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment