Carried

“Let me carry you,” I heard Jesus say during morning prayers part way through co-facilitating the Living From The Heart intensive.

I liked the idea of being picked up and carried, but as I imagined Jesus cradling me in his arms, I saw myself squirm and struggle against the confinement.

I couldn’t relax. What if I forget things or let people down?

Jesus seemed willing to take that risk. Me? Not so much.

After the intensive, I went for spiritual direction. I biked along the Greenway into Vancouver and thought about Jesus’ offer and my response. I noticed how often during that week I was either vigilantly trying to avoid making mistakes or feeling remorse for making them.

“Will I ever be free of this?” I asked my director.

“I wonder if you could take a moment and listen to where your motivation was coming from.”

Tears filled my eyes. Under my vigilance, fear and remorse was a desire to allow the Spirit to flow freely, unhindered by misinformation or oversight.

When I told my director this, she invited me to imagine how God feels about this deep desire.

“God loves it, but there is a big ‘but’ on top of that desire: BUT sometimes I’m so focused on doing things well that I lose sight of how this affects others.”

“And how does God feel about all that?”

I closed my eyes again and saw my pure desire below the surface and the messy reality of “the big but” above. Then Jesus reached out his arm. With one swipe, he cleared the surface.

I didn’t feel blamed and absolved for my missteps or preoccupation, though I suppose I was forgiven. Nor did I get the sense that Jesus didn’t care about the people who’d been hurt by my hypervigilance. In that moment, Jesus wanted nothing to block his view of my desire or keep him from delighting in my heart.

Eventually, my director brought me back to Jesus’ invitation to carry me.

This time when I imagined myself in Jesus’ arms, it felt spacious. There was room for all of me: my desire to let the Spirit flow and my sadness over what I do that hinders it.

“Is there an invitation here for you?” she asked.

“To be as kind to myself as Jesus is to me,” I said as more tears streamed down my face.

People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.
–1 Samuel 16:7

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

I’m so excited. Beth Carlson-Malena and my friend Mark Fox are co-pastoring a new church called Open Way Community Church in Vancouver. Knowing Mark and Beth, it’s going to be punny, rich and real. What else could it be when God invites them and all of who they are to do some love mischief for 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:
The statue was carved for Father Thomas Green, SJ (1932-2009) by Joe Crawford, December 1988.  Steve Imbach writes, “We visited Father Tom in the Philippines and when our visit with him was over he told us to take it home; it was ours.  It now sits in the room I offer direction in.”
“Autumn Leaves 2” by Paul. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2017.
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 2013-2017.  http://www.estherhizsa.com 

 

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What’s a Bucket to Do?

jesusneedsnewpr.netI’ve been on Bowen Island co-facilitating Living From The Heart, so I’ve had no time to write. But I think you’ll like this post (originally published in 2014) which follows up what I posted last week. The quote at the bottom is new. I love it.

I keep thinking of myself as that leaky bucket.  I marvel at the fact that I don’t need to put myself into God’s ocean of love; I’m already there.

The first illusion, which I talked about last week, is that I need to fix my holes to be useful to God. The second is that I could ever be empty of God.

When I open myself to God, I do not let in more of God. I am already full of God. Instead, I open myself to the reality that I am in God.

When Darrell Johnson taught at Regent College, he once said in a sermon on John 17, “We are in God and God is in us,” then added with a wondrous sigh, “and you can’t get much closer than in.” 

Jesus prayed that we would be one with the Father in the same way he is. God answered that prayer through Jesus’s death and resurrection. Yet we keep living as if nothing has changed. Father Thomas Keating, a Benedictine monk, said, “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.”

Yes. “That thought” makes me thrash about, frantically trying to keep myself afloat. Jesus smiles. “Let yourself sink into my love. Abide in me and I will bear fruit in you.”

I imagine myself again as that leaky bucket sinking into an ocean of love, not fixing or accomplishing or becoming… anything. I feel peaceful.

But it doesn’t take long before my ego asks, “So, what are you doing here?”

The answer comes to me in the middle of the night: I am “doing” the will of God. As I rest in God’s love, I am fulfilling all God wants me to do with my life. 

Out of this resting, out of God’s fullness comes surrender to God’s will. I can surrender from a place of being immersed in love because I know that God is attending to my needs. My ego can relax: God is my creator, savior, and sanctifier. 

Here in God’s ocean of love, with my ego asleep beside me, I am free to do whatever pleases God.

God wants nothing more than our consent to be loved.
–Father Thomas Keating.

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

KeatingI first began praying without words when I ran out of them and found myself drawn to just rest in God’s presence. A few years later, in what is now called Living From The Heart, I was introduced to the practice of Centering Prayer with a video of Father Thomas Keatinga Trappist monk and founder of Contemplative Outreach. Keating’s life is a vibrant example of the freedom and joy that is the fruit of prayer. His enthusiasm is contagious.

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:
Painting by Christian Asuh
“Beach Sunset, Yallingup” by Mark Pegrum. Used with permission.
Thomas Keating, Open Mind, Open Heart. (Warwick, NY: Amity House, 1986), 44.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2017.
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 2013-2017.  http://www.estherhizsa.com 
Posted in Helpful Images, Popular Posts, Poverty of Spirit | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Immersed in an Ocean of Love


Here’s one of my favourite posts, originally published January 17, 2014. I hope you enjoy it.

I awake at 4 a.m. with an emotional heaviness and remember what caused this feeling. I got hoodwinked by fear in a legitimate disguise: I saw an injustice and pushed the panic button–again. I ended up making a fuss over nothing and now I wonder if those involved are getting frustrated with me.

I hate these holes in my bucket.

“If you were a leaky bucket and wanted to be filled with God’s love,” I heard Rob Des Cotes say at a prayer retreat not long ago, “you could either spend your life patching the holes or simply immerse yourself in the ocean of God’s love.”

When I heard Rob’s words, I imagined myself as a bucket–filled and surrounded with love–and a deep ahhh relaxed my body.

God is loving me now at four in the morning. God doesn’t despise my weaknesses but sees these holes as openings through which I can be filled with love.

I breathe in and out and picture myself lying in God’s ocean of love. I hear the pebbles move, feel them shift under me as the cold water flows out and rushes in again. Salty waves flood my weaknesses and recede leaving every filament of their tattered edges as wet and vibrant as anemones.

In the morning my fears will have drifted off to sea; I will laugh at myself and wonder why I was so worried. Even if my peers are wearied of me, I will not be undone. God is with me.

But here, now in the night, I don’t want a strategy for how to live with my weaknesses. Here and now, I just want to lie in the ocean of God’s love and feel God’s tireless, boundless love wash in and out of the holes in my soul.

sand beach When I awake, I am still with you. Psalm 139:18b

∗ ∗ ∗

Love Mischief for the World

Rob Des Cotes (March 2, 1954 – April 6, 2016) was a spiritual director, retreat leader and pastor of Imago Dei, an ecumenical network of Christian faith communities based in Vancouver, with sister groups across Canada, the US, UK and Asia. Rob founded Imago Dei–a community drawn to Christ–in 2002.  He was the author of four books of meditations for spiritual direction, Fan the Flame, Higher Than I, Ultreia! (Go Higher) and Strength to Strength.  Rob’s life, teaching, and friendship opened me to receive God’s love and joyfully discover who I am in Christ.

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

Credits:
“Wave Coast” by Wonderlane. Used with permission.
“Sandy Beach” by Donna Geissler. Used with permission.
Photo of Rob Des Cotes used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-17
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, 2014  http://www.estherhizsa.wordpress.com.
Posted in Helpful Images, Mystical, Popular Posts, Poverty of Spirit, Praying with the Imagination, Rob Des Cotes, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Limited

“I’ll be darned if a 500-meter hike is going to beat me,” I said to Fred a few minutes before I crashed. There I am, flat on my back before the mountain.

We began the Edith Cavell hike in Jasper at eleven-thirty in the morning. Because of construction on the access road, we needed a permit to travel on it, but the earliest one we could get was for eleven. Considering it was Canada’s 150th anniversary and the National Parks were free this summer, we were lucky to get a permit at all.

It was only supposed to be a 3-5 hour hike, only 8 km return, only 500-meter elevation gain. Anxious to get going, we didn’t eat lunch before we started and didn’t stop for a break every hour like we usually do. It seemed like the high point we were heading for was just up ahead, but of course, it wasn’t. I kept thinking we were almost there and envisioned lunch at the top, so I kept pushing–even though my body was running on empty and my feet like lead.

A hundred meters from a lookout, I had to stop and eat something. I sat for a few minutes, expressed my determination to Fred, then pushed on.

Five minutes later I had to sit down. When I did, I felt light-headed and knew I had to lie down before I fainted.

I lie there for a good ten minutes. Eventually, I was able to sit up. I ate my lunch like a chastened child, while others pressed on to the summit. No matter how much I wanted to join them, I couldn’t. At least not until I had recovered my strength.

On a YouTube video, I heard James Finley talk about moments of contemplative awakening. These are humbling moments in which we become sharply aware of our limitations. We see how tiny, imperfect and powerless we are. This humility is almost too much to bear, yet we find ourselves embraced by wonder. A deeper awareness has awakened: we are a tiny part of a limitless God who is unlimited Love.

When I imagine what this looks like, I picture myself on that mountain trail, flat on my back surrounded by beauty. There I am–just as I am–as much a part of that beautiful mountain as the flowers, rocks, and snow.

By God’s grace, I revived and was able to finish the hike. Fred and I said very little when we reached the summit. We sat for a long time filled with awe and gratitude.

Later we discovered we had, in fact, climbed nearly 800 meters, but I got the point. I got the point.

On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. –John 14:20 (NIV)

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

Okay, it’s a bit of a stretch to call this love mischief, but it’s pretty incredible none-the-less. On that Edith Cavell hike, we came across two marmots who did this right on the trail. We watched them spar for a full five minutes before one chased the other off defeated.

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 me on Edith Cavell Hike by Fred Hizsa. Used with permission
Indian Paintbrush on Edith Cavell By Gorothbalion (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2017.
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 2013-2017.  http://www.estherhizsa.com 
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Hidden Buckets

Imagine how refreshing the air would be
in a community of open, caring honesty,
without that hidden bucket of hurts
fermenting under the kitchen sink.
Steve Garnaas-Holmes

Recently I read these words and saw my hurt fermenting in a particular bucket under a particular sink. That same week, I listened to others who’d been hurt and were gathering the courage to name it and talk about it with their offender. God was clearly prompting me to speak up.

I get butterflies in my stomach just thinking about it. The last thing in the world I want to do is talk about my hurt with the person who hurt me.

If I open the door that hides that bucket, I know I’ll see the hurts I’ve caused in there too. Most likely the one I offended would point them out gently, but too easily I imagine a barrage of rotting garbage being flung at me. Do I really want to open that door?

No, but apparently God does.

I sit with God and try to figure out what I might say. My fight or flight reflex kicks into action. I take some deep breaths till it settles down. I play out different scenarios of how things might go, but this brings me no peace.

Eventually, I hear God simply say, “I’ll be with you.”

Working it out with the person who hurt me will be hard. We’ll both want to run away, get defensive or cry. It may even be uncomfortable for a while. But we’ll survive.

And then, imagine how refreshing the air will be.

If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you.
–Matthew 18:15 (MSG)

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

If you are in Greater Vancouver on September 24, you might want to join me in some love mischief and walk for reconciliation in Vancouver. “The Walk for Reconciliation is a positive movement to build better relationships among Indigenous peoples and all Canadians. This bold vision calls on every one of all ages, all backgrounds, all cultures and all faiths to come together as communities and as individuals,” says Reconciliation Canada. “The act of walking and sharing our stories joins us in a commitment to create a new way forward for reconciliation. Join and support the spirit of ‘Namwayut – We are all 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:
“Compost Bucket” by Deer Park Monastery. Used with permission.
“Name the Hurt,” a poem by Steve Garnaas-Holmes
“Forgiveness” by scem.info. Used with permission.
“Walk Two” from Canada 150+ events.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2017.
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 2013-2017.  http://www.estherhizsa.com 
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Living Out of Our Stories: Part 2

You either walk inside your own story and own it
or stand outside your story and hustle for your worthiness.
–Brené Brown

I don’t have to do anything to find a story from my past that has me hustling. These stories remind me often enough that they’re there.

When something happens to me that shouldn’t be a big deal and wouldn’t be a big deal to the next person but is a BIG DEAL to me, I’ve bumped into a story that owns me.

You know something’s a BIG DEAL when it makes you want to retaliate.

That’s how the Israelites felt when they were exiled to Babylon and their captors asked them to sing them a song from their homeland. This seemingly innocent request elicited a huge WTF reaction in them. They were so enraged, they imagined the joy they’d feel if someone took their captors’ babies and dashed them against the rocks. It’s in Psalm 137. Read it for yourself.

I take great comfort in the fact that God allowed such a violent expression of rage to be included in our prayer book. It gives space for my anger.

I don’t always understand what’s going on when I’m outraged. But as I sit with another in a similar place, I can see that their anger is madly trying to alleviate the unbearable pain they’re experiencing.

My counselor friend told me that anger is a call to action. God, at the very core of our being, is reacting to injustice and sending a message: this is NOT okay.

Anger’s a good messenger but a bad advisor. Yes, we need to do something, but if we act on our violent inclinations, we merely perpetuate what was done to us.

Instead, we can share with God what’s happened and how we feel. As we loosen our grip on our anger and bear the unbearable, transformation begins.

We remember feeling this way before.  When we follow the thread of similar feelings, it can lead us to an unredeemed story in our past that’s trapped us.

That’s exactly where God wants to go. God wants to return with us to a time when we were hurt and our fear latched onto that violation as proof that we’re worthless.

Here and now, God wants to write a new story.

Perhaps God will send Jesus back into our past and we’ll see a new story unfold. This happened to me not long ago when I remembered being shamed by my elementary school principal.

Perhaps God will speak through the words of a song or a line in a movie to gently dismantle our fear and return us to what’s true.

Perhaps a wordless knowing will come, like a breeze through a wide open window, and we’ll know because we know because we know: we are precious.

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

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

Dr. Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston. Talk about love mischief for the world! She’s spent the past sixteen years studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy.  She is the author of  The Gifts of ImperfectionDaring Greatly, and Rising Strong. Her latest book, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and The Courage to Stand Alone, will be released mid-September.

In this Facebook video, Brené responds to the recent protest and violence in Charlottesville, VirginiaBrené says, “We need to own our stories or they will own us.” Here she talks specifically about the stories we hold in common with others.   

 

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:
“Tower #15: by Chris Feichtner. Used with permission.
“Looking Back” byLisa E. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2017.
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 2013-2017.  http://www.estherhizsa.com 
Posted in Childhood, Prayer, Praying with the Imagination, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Living Out of Our Stories

“We live out of our stories,” Monty Williams, SJ said to our little group of Ignatian directors. We listened intently to this wise, amiable priest who was born in Guyana seven decades ago.

Father Williams explained that each of us has a blessed history made up of experiences that make us feel good. These stories affirm that God knows, loves and values us.

We also have a conversion history. This history contains the difficult circumstances or events we lived through. We look back at what happened and see how God worked in it to transform us or the situation.

In addition to these histories, we have an unredeemed history. This one contains the stories that are unresolved in our lives. Awful things happen to us that tell us we are worthless, unlovable, ugly or bad. Some of these stories have no happy endings and continue to rob us of life.

“In the first week of the Ignatian Exercises, the retreatants who pray the exercises see how they live out of their unredeemed stories and how those stories trap them. In their prayers, they become overwhelmed by sin–theirs, other people’s, our culture’s and humankind’s. They discover that they don’t and can’t control their lives or protect themselves from horrors or terrors. Their security in themselves or their system falls apart and they become aware of their utter dependencies.” When that happens, he explained, they can feel like they’ve lost themselves, like they’re falling off a cliff, about to drown or be shattered into a million pieces. “Yet, in that moment, as they continue to wait on God in prayer,” Williams says, “they discover that they are held.”

“You can’t give someone the experience of being held by God,” he says. “You can only give them the space to discover it for themselves.”

I sat there with the other directors, riveted to his words.

I know that moment of feeling shattered and then discovering that I’m held. While offering spiritual direction, I’ve sat with others as they have discovered it, too. It doesn’t just happen in the Ignatian Exercises; it happens in everyday life. I wrote about it before I even understood it.

Water II

will I
be poured out?   am I
available?   can I
be used   overlooked   undervalued?

as I
wonder
will I?   am I?   can I?
I am
dropped
and
splatter
everywhere

outside myself
I devise ways
I could have fallen
without
falling apart

while you
collect my
droplets in the mist

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

Geoffrey “Monty” Williams, SJ’s love mischief is getting people excited about a five-century old document called the  Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola. Williams is a highly regarded priest, scholar, and guide to Ignatian spirituality. He serves as a faculty member at Regis College at the University of Toronto and is Co-Chair in the Diploma in Ignatian Spirituality at the same school. Williams, a frequent retreat leader and speaker, travels around the world and has written many books including his newest one, The Way of the Faithful: The Dynamics of Spiritual Desire (2017).

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:
“Forlorn” by wan mohd. Used with permission.
Water II reprinted from Stories of an Everyday Pilgrim by Esther Hizsa © 2015
“Droplet” by Anne Yungwirth. Used with permission.
Photo of Geoffrey “Monty” Williams, SJ used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2017.
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 2013-2017.  http://www.estherhizsa.com 
Posted in Ignatian Spirituality, Prayer, Reflections, Spiritual Direction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Saved

O Sapientia

I cannot think unless I have been thought,
Nor can I speak unless I have been spoken.
I cannot teach except as I am taught,
Or break the bread except as I am broken.
O Mind behind the mind through which I seek,
O Light within the light by which I see,
O Word beneath the words with which I speak,
O founding, unfound Wisdom, finding me,
O sounding Song whose depth is sounding me,
O Memory of time, reminding me,
My Ground of Being, always grounding me,
My Maker’s Bounding Line, defining me,
Come, hidden Wisdom, come with all you bring,
Come to me now, disguised as everything.

© Malcolm Guite from Sounding the Seasons,
Canterbury Press 2012 www.malcolmguite.com

I began my morning prayer with this sonnet by Malcolm Guite. In it, I heard the wonderful truth that God is the source of my becoming.

After I returned from my retreat at Queen of Peace monastery, I felt conflicted and unsettled, despite having had many sweet encounters with Jesus in my prayers.

In spiritual direction, I described the joyous, committed way of life and worship of the Dominican nuns. Their beautiful desire to be wholly God’s included a willingness to humble themselves, beat their breasts and ask forgiveness for the sins that were “my fault, my own grievous fault.”

I attended mass and sung prayers daily in the stunning sanctuary, but I wasn’t drawn in.

“I felt like I didn’t belong there,” I told my director.

I knew this was significant, but I didn’t know why until I sat with this poem and a memory returned from my retreat.

In one of my prayers, I was with Mary at the Annunciation. After Angel Gabriel left, Mary and I marvelled that God was coming to save everything.

I said, “God’s going to save the rich and the poor, the outcast and the proud, our nation, our families. . .”

“And you too,” Mary added.

I was perplexed and astonished. God has already saved me and God is still saving me.

Now I know why I felt conflicted. The sisters’ ardent devotion somehow led me to believe that I was responsible for my transformation. If I’m not the person I should be, then who’s to blame? Certainly not God.

I’d begun to wonder if I’d missed out on so much more in life because of my sin, my stubbornness, my pride.

But that morning, the Spirit told me not to give it another thought. I cannot thwart God’s good work. I can trust that, in Christ, I’m becoming my true self.

How is it that I can be told what I already know and my throat throbs and tears come as if I’ve never heard it before?

I sat there with tears rolling down my cheeks over the good news that Jesus is saving me and he’s doing it perfectly.

My soul magnifies the Lord,
  and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.
–Luke 1:46,47

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

Malcolm Guite’s work and presence is inspiring and impacting the world. Malcolm is a priest, chaplain, and teacher at the University of Cambridge. He’s also a poet and singer-songwriter. His publications include What do Christians Believe? (Granta 2006); Faith, Hope and Poetry (Ashgate 2010, paperback 2012); Sounding the Seasons: Seventy Sonnets for the Christian Year (Canterbury 2012); The Singing Bowl: Collected Poems (Canterbury 2013); Waiting on the Word (Canterbury 2015); and Parable and Paradox (Canterbury 2016).

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

Credits and References:
“Annunciation” by Fra Angelico, 1437. Wikimedia. Non-commercial usage allowed.
“The Nativity” 1890-1910 by Franz Mayer & Co (detail) photo by Plum leaves. Used with permission.
“O Sapientia” © Malcolm Guite from Sounding the Seasons, Canterbury Press 2012 www.malcolmguite.com and photo of Malcolm Guite used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2017.
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 2013-2017.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Christmas, Ignatian Spirituality, Prayer, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Live the Question

The most striking image I had during my eight-day retreat came when I prayed with the Nativity. After the Holy Child was born, Joseph delivered the placenta. He held this once vital organ in his hands and didn’t know what to do with it. What did people do with placentas in the first century?

Never mind that; why was the placenta in the scene at all? I’ve imagined this story hundreds of times but never thought about the placenta–even after watching six seasons of Call the Midwife. That made me pay attention to this detail. Perhaps something once life-giving is no longer needed.

The same message was repeated two more times. In a homily at Queen of Peace, our Director, Father John O’Brien, pointed out that manna came to the Israelites only when they ran out of the bread they’d brought from Egypt. When I prayed with the Wedding at Cana, I noticed that Jesus turned water into wine only when the host ran out of his supply.

I had more curious encounters in my prayers and wondered how they all fit together.

At Jesus’ presentation at the temple, Anna turned to me said, “You too are a woman called to prayer.”

As I sat by the Jordan deliberating whether I should heed John’s call and be baptized, Jesus grabbed me by the wrist and echoed the words I just prayed. “You say you want to see me clearly, love me dearly and follow me nearly. Well, you do. So, come on. Let’s do it.”

We both went under the water, and I wondered, What am I dying to? What am I rising to?

I keep thinking about the placenta. What is unnecessary in my life? Is it control? Anxiety? Half-heartedness? Is it something I own or do? Nothing touches a big Yes in my soul.

I have to leave you hanging. I really don’t know. And it’s pointless to try to figure out what God hasn’t revealed. As Rilke says, “Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. . .  Live the questions now.”

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.― Rainer Maria Rilke

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

This week I’d like to honour the love mischief of questions. We ask: Why isn’t God healing me? How come I didn’t see this before? Should I leave my job? An answer doesn’t come readily, yet as we live that question, like water in a river, it widens our banks and opens us to new possibilities. Sometimes there is a question under the question. Someone may ask, “How can I deal with my anger?” And God asks, “What are you angry about?”  Another may ask, “I used to love going to church, but now it does nothing for me. What’s wrong with me?” And God may say nothing until you ask a different question.

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

Credits and References:
“The Nativity” by Gerard van Honthorst 1592–1656 from Wikipedia Commons.
“Closed until further notice” by abhijit chendvankar. Used with permission.
“That is the question” by Alan Levine. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2017.
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 2013-2017.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
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Sin, Hell and Roller Derby

“I’d like you to pray with #50 in the Spiritual Exercises: the sin of the angels,” my director instructed on the third day of my eight-day retreat. He also assigned three more prayer periods focussing on sin and hell, mine in particular.

I groaned inwardly. I’ve never liked praying with these particular exercises, let alone assigning them to others. It’s hard not to believe that Ignatius wants to scare us into compliance.

I confessed that I didn’t have a literal view of hell; he assured me one wasn’t required. We both agreed that living in the illusion that we are on our own in this world is hell enough.

“I guess I’ll just have to trust Ignatius,” I said, causing the newly ordained Jesuit to raise an eyebrow.

I went back to my room at the retreat house at Queen of Peace monastery, closed the door and re-read Ignatius’ instructions.

As I sat in the silence, I pictured angels happily answering prayers, sitting by bedsides, and whispering God-thoughts.

Meanwhile, the angels who’d fallen were bitter and resentful. Their sense of abandonment compelled them to needle people until they woke up to the “reality” that they too are on their own.

How often have I been blinded by the illusion that God has abandoned me? I would have never admitted that or even thought it, but my actions spoke for me. And those actions hurt others.

I’ve fallen into hell. Yet every time I have, Jesus rescued me. I couldn’t imagine that he won’t also redeem the angels.

But I know enough about Ignatian prayer not to get caught up in theological arguments. Ignatius invites us to open ourselves to encounter God personally. What sin has been casting me into hell?

At one point on my bike ride to the monastery, I unintentionally went off the pavement onto gravel. I knew, with Gracie’s skinny tires, if I turned too quickly to get back up onto the pavement I could fall. I knew this from experience.

Once Fred and I were riding together when that happened; I ended up with cuts and bruises. I lost my temper and blamed Fred for misguiding me. That memory returned to me now in prayer along with other memories when I yelled at Fred or needled him with criticism. I felt ashamed and sorry for my actions.

Tears came–not from contrition–but from the realization that God and Fred had already forgiven me. For years now, God has been snatching me from the hell of my misbeliefs, quieting my anger and helping me be kind.

It wasn’t my confession that saved me from hell. It was God. Awareness of the impact of my actions was given long after God listened to the fear that drove my anger.

“Fred’s so good to me,” I told my director the next day. “He got up early to take my bike down the stairs for me.” Tears flowing, I told him what happened in my prayer.

He listened intently then gently pointed out that if I were Catholic and he was hearing my confession, he would assign a penance. “Is there something special you could do for Fred?”

A week after I returned home, we went back to Squamish to cycle the roads I’d told him about. But I still hadn’t told him about praying with #50 in the Spiritual Exercises.

As we strolled through the town, we saw a poster with an image of a woman dressed in a hooded red robe and roller skates. An event called The Squamish Inquisition was on that very evening.

“Roller Derby!” Fred exclaimed.

“Uh-huh,” I replied. “You want to go to this?”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” he said. “My grandmother and I used to watch it on television when I was a kid.

“Okay,” I said, mustering up a smile. “Let’s do it.”

I finally confessed to him what happened in my prayers and that going to roller derby with him was my penance.

He thought this was hilarious. “You need to write a blog post about this,” he said.

Penance number two. Now you owe me one, Fred.

Love Mischief for the World

Today, Fred, my siblings, and I ride the final leg of our 300 km bike trip from Jasper to Banff. Tonight, all being well, we’ll be soaking in the hot springs and recalling all we’ve seen: marmots, elk and bears; steep canyons, waterfalls, and emerald-blue lakes; and of course miles and miles of trees with one peak after another coming into view. I’m grateful for the love mischief of Parks Canada for protecting these beautiful places for all to enjoy.

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:
“Angel Reloaded” by Carlo Scherer. Used with permission.
Banner photo of roller derby from Wikipedia Commons.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2017.
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 2013-2017.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Ignatian Spirituality, Prayer, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments