Safe

“You are joy. You’re our hope. You are gen-tle-ness.”  Then I heard the Poor Clares sing, “You are safe-ty” and teared up. I noticed the impact the word “safety” had on my body and remembered a similar sensation I’d had the day before when I heard someone speak of love as safety.

A day or so later, I was on my laptop looking for a creation image to go with last week’s blog post. Nothing fit. I paused, and a thought came: Search with the words “Let there be light.” I did and found a picture of a flower, delicate with morning dew, facing the sunlight. It spoke to me of unselfconscious beauty and receptivity.

At another moment, the question, “Do you feel safe?” came to me. I opened to it as gently as the pink flower opened to the sun and saw myself on the ground with my legs drawn up trying to protect myself while being kicked. It lasted no more than a second. Another image came of a dried, curled up leaf on the ground being angrily crushed underfoot. My heart pounded and thoughts came. It’s not safe to be vulnerable. If you say what you think–that you’re loved– you’ll be ridiculed and crushed. 

That evening, I watched a documentary on trauma and how trauma is buried in our bodies and forms beliefs in our subconscious. Therapies that integrate the body in healing, such as Focusing, yoga, and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT or tapping), help the body release the pain around the traumatic memories and reveal unconscious beliefs. Expert after expert had strong words to say about suppressing or hiding our trauma. They all said we have to let it out.

So the next morning in prayer, I opened to the thoughts and images that had come to me and the hurts that had hardened into beliefs.

With the fingers of my left hand gently tapping on the outer edge of my right, I said softly, “Even though a part of me believes that if I open up and let people see who I am I will be kicked, I love and accept myself as I am.” I thought of the person I’ve been trying to forgive who caused my dismissal.

I continued tapping. “Even though a part of me fears that if I believe it when someone tells me that they love me, I will be ridiculed, I love and accept myself as I am.” I felt the beginning of tears as I pictured the beautiful, brave flower opening to Love.

“Even though a part of me feels like a leaf that will be crushed if I say I’m good or loved, I love and accept myelf as I am.”

I tapped specific points on my head, face, and chest while naming the images and thoughts that evoke fear in me: “This flower that is open and vulnerable, this leaf that can be crushed, this thought: who would ever love you?” All the while, I was tearful and calm but acutely attentive.

Then I tapped with some recent loving experiences: Deb’s enjoyment of my writing, Jeff’s smile on Zoom, Brent’s words in an email, a directee’s gratitude for a spiritual direction session,  Fred’s hug, the affection of my sister, my kids, and grandkids. As I named and recalled in my mind’s eye each experience, I felt panic rise up in my chest and began to weep. I took deep breaths to enable myself to keep tapping and remain receptive to the messages of love.

The little girl inside me was panicking while the mother in me continued to soothe her. My breathing and gentle tapping reassured her. “It’s okay. You’re safe here. You can believe you are loved. No one’s going to hurt you.”

A half-hour later, I was on a Zoom call with my friend and Living from the Heart co-facilitator, Audrey. I wanted to tell her what happened, but we had a ton of work to do and limited time. However, one thing led to another, and I ended up telling her anyway.

We were both in tears. It was good, but I was nervous. I wasn’t able to read the look on Audrey’s face when she was listening to me. I took a brave step. “Can I ask you what was going on for you when I was sharing that? Were you wishing I would just hurry up and move on?”

Audrey looked me right in the eyes. “I wasn’t thinking that at all. You know what I was thinking? I was honoured that you would tell me. I was glad that I was able to listen to your stuff because you listen to mine! I was so glad to there for you.”

She was essentially telling me I was loved and safe. I expected my body to panic and my mind to rise up to protect me with thoughts like, “You know she’s just saying that to make you feel better.” But my body and mind were at ease. For the most part, I could meet Audrey’s eyes and receive her love. When I told her that, I saw tears rolling down her cheeks.

“Can you come alongside the scared little girl in you?” Audrey asked me.

“I can,” I replied with my hand over my heart. She’s safe here.

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
–Matthew 11:28 (NKJV)

Love Mischief for the World

Illuminated 2020 retreat-banner

This year I will be attending Jan Richardson’s online Advent Retreat. Jan writes, “Beloved friends, it has been hard to wrap my head around what the season of Advent might look like this year. But I do know this: I will be offering a new online Advent retreat, and I would love to spend the season in your company! Registration is now open for the Illuminated 2020 Advent Retreat. In a chaotic time, this retreat will offer a space of elegant simplicity. Intertwining writing, art, music, and community, this online journey creates spaces of reflection and rest that you can enter into from anywhere you are, in the way that works best for you.”

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

Credits and References:
Photo of dried leaves from Max Pixel in public domain.
“Just right!’ she sighed.” by Steve Corey. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2020.
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 2013-2020.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Advent, community, Prayer, Reflections, Spiritual Direction, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Joyful Mysteries and Silent Dreams

“Let there be Esther,” I heard God pronounce, speaking right into my life-long struggle to exist.

During the Ignatian prayer retreat I was leading last week, I had a chance to pray with one of my “joyful mysteries.” As I instructed the retreatants to do, I returned to a moment in which I felt loved by God.

That morning, I’d shared the poem Book of Genesis with the retreatants gathered online. Whenever I hear read this poem, I find myself close to tears. In prayer, I returned to that feeling and lingered there. I imagined God saying, “Let there be Esther. Let her be soft and strong. Let her be short and like biking and. . .” More tears came as I got a sense of God creating me with the same wonder and delight God had when s/he said, “Let there be mountains and trees and birds and fish,” and they came to be.

The subject of my birth took me back to a pre-cognitive memory I had when I was praying the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises eight years ago. I was a baby and, being the third child, there was no room for me on my mother’s lap. One of my siblings squeezed my cheeks, and I heard, “Be quiet. Nobody asked you to be here.”

Whether this was an actual memory or my child’s mind trying to make meaning, it seeded a fear of rejection I unconsciously internalized from a very young age. This fear has plagued me ever since.

In prayer, I saw myself with my siblings and mother again, but this time the heavens parted. A chorus of Let was pronounced over me in the presence of my family. God had spoken. I was beautiful and good and deeply loved.

This led me to look back on my life-long struggle to exist.

At times, I experienced bouts of depression and a desire to disappear whenever life validated that what I feared was true. Other times, I experienced anger and barked back when I felt dismissed or silenced. A recent experience of that woke me up and allowed me to notice moments in which I can now hold uncomfortable feelings, notice the pinch, and not react. In these moments, I didn’t need to bark back or disappear.

More “Lets” are being spoken from God’s heart as I continue to be created. “Let Esther stand strong, and let her know the freedom of feeling her fears and not being overwhelmed by them. Let her be free to respond in love. And let her believe that she is beautiful and good and deeply loved by her family and friends.”

God “continues in rounds saying let, and let and let until even silent dreams are allowed.”

The Lord, your God, is in your midst,
    a warrior who gives victory;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
    he will renew you in his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.
–Zephaniah 3:17

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Love Mischief for the World

I am so inspired by Jim Kwik’s story. He was called “the boy with the broken brain” but there was a “Let” for Jim. God shared his silent dream of becoming a superhero, and he became one. He uses his superpowers to help others find theirs.

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

Credits and References:
“Let there be light” by Sylvia Sassen. Used with permission.
The quote in the last paragraph is from Kei Miller’s poem, Book of Genesis.
Photo of Rudy Hizsa and Hannah-Lynn Hizsa-Munson by Fred Hizsa. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2020.
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 2013-2020.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Childhood, Creation, Ignatian Spirituality, Poetry, Prayer, Praying with the Imagination, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

When You Are In Over Your Head

“I’m so sorry to hear that,” I said to Sally after she shared the news that her mother was dying. “Don’t worry about the retreat. I’ll find someone to fill in for you.”

She’d been looking forward to co-facilitating the Ignatian silent retreat with me. I saw a mix of sadness and relief on her face.

I reached out to my friends Katherine and Thelma. Thankfully, they were available to step in last minute, and together we would offer spiritual direction to each of the participants. The retreat could go ahead as planned, but I would need to facilitate the input sessions by myself. I was comfortable with the material and the format. It should be fine, I thought.

An hour before a Zoom check-in a few days before the retreat, I got a phone call from a participant who lives in Alberta wondering why I wasn’t online. I suddenly realized that I hadn’t allowed for the time difference between provinces. Another participant lives in Saskatchewan. Would the schedule still work for her? During the check-in, I discovered that a couple of people hadn’t received the handouts and another didn’t have the schedule for the spiritual direction sessions. Addressing issues like these were the reason I scheduled the check-in, but what transpired rattled me. I felt alone with the weight of it.

“This is exactly why we have co-facilitators in Living from the Heart,” I said to Fred. Why did I think I could facilitate alone? I caught myself. I didn’t choose this. It’s just how it played out. But the hard facts landed. There was more stress in facilitating alone, and it was not likely going to be as enjoyable as working with others.

The next day I settled into a full day of offering spiritual direction online. In a moment of silence, I looked over at my Christmas cactus and thought I saw a bud on it.

When the session was over, I remembered what I saw and got up to take a closer look. There wasn’t one bud. There were fifty or more facing the window. I turned the plant around and saw that many of the buds were pink already. One would likely bloom on the weekend of the retreat.

A sense of awe filled me. The coming of the blossoms at the darkest time of the year has always been a visible sign to me of God’s presence and of hope.

You are not alone, the cactus reminded me. God will be with you.

And God was. As I explained Ignatian prayer to the retreatants sitting in little boxes on my computer screen, God was with me–invisibly and visibly. The cactus was blooming and Katherine came to every input session even though I hadn’t expected her to. How good is that?

When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
    When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place,
    it won’t be a dead end—
Because I am God, your personal God,
    The Holy of Israel, your Saviour.
–Isaiah 43:2 (The Message)

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Love Mischief for the World

One of the participants in the Ignatian retreat told me about the music of the Poor Clares of Arundel. I listened to it and feel my body relax and my heart open. What a gift. Here is the story behind the music. In it, one of the sisters says, ” Our hope for the album is that people will have an experience of God and know they are loved by God.  And if people can have an experience of God, then we will have achieved what we set out to do.”

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

Credits and References:
Geertgen tot Sint Jans (circa 1460-circa 1488) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Image of Christmas cactus by Esther Hizsa.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2020.
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 2013-2020.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in community, Ignatian Spirituality, Prayer, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gifts of Joy

On the ferry from Nanaimo to Horseshoe Bay, I checked my emails. Among them, was a yes in response to an urgent plea. The relief I felt was delicious.

The weather held and I was able to ride the rest of the way home, about forty kilometres. As I settled into the three-hour ride, I remembered that I still hadn’t written my blog post for Friday, and it was Thursday already.  Here I am again, Lord. What do you have for me?

Up and down the hills in West Vancouver, I thought about my restless night and what I’d said in an email to a friend about trying to trust. I recalled my ride to the ferry that morning and how one person led me to another which led me to trust. By the time I biked by the Lions Gate bridge, a poem was taking shape.

I had five kilometres to go when my pedal and crank arm fell off. I got off my bike and stared at my dismembered bike in disbelief. As I mentioned in last week’s post, I had no phone to call Fred. Thankfully, I was not far from a Skytrain station.

I came through the door just in time for a scheduled Zoom call which laid to rest another worry I’d been carrying.

Before I connected to Zoom, Fred had fixed my bike. No exaggeration. He fixed it in less than five minutes.

After the call was over, I said an unrushed hello to Fred and opened to the joy that was rising in me like a chorus of crickets at dawn.

I gathered the gifts I’d received around me as I did as a child on Christmas morning. My blog post was composed. Two worries were gone. I’d gotten to bike to and from Nanaimo–despite a few obstacles. I was back home with Fred, my own bed, and all my vegan options. And there was something else.

This year and last, I’ve had to let go of directing the Ignatian Exercises. It’s been a loss, but the biggest loss for me is not meeting with the other directors regularly. Now I was working with two of them again on a silent retreat next weekend. They were the ones who answered yes to my urgent request.

I sat there in my living room savouring the delight that God noticed that I missed them.

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
    All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
 They feast on the abundance of your house,
    and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
–Psalm 36: 7, 8

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Love Mischief for the World

I just heard that the University of Alberta is offering a free course called Indigenous Canada and signed up for it. “This course explores key issues facing Indigenous peoples today from a historical and critical perspective highlighting national and local Indigenous-settler relations. Indigenous Canada is for students from faculties outside the Faculty of Native Studies with an interest in acquiring a basic familiarity with Indigenous/non-Indigenous relationships.” (website)

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

Credits and References:
Panoramic of the Lions Gate Bridge by Ken Lane. Used with permission.
“Joy Is Measurable” by Funkybug. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2020.
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 2013-2020.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in community, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Trying to Trust

Away from home
at the end of a full day,
I read an email and received
a problem–
a big problem that I had to solve.

I noticed the absence of
butterflies in my stomach
and “Oh Nos” in my head.
I knew who to ask for help
and sent them an email
with “urgent” in the subject line.
There’s nothing more you can do, I told myself.
You just have to wait, I added
and went to bed.

But I didn’t sleep.

I tossed and turned and tried
to trust God.
Apparently trying to trust
is not the same as trusting.
But trying
was all I could do.

The next morning I woke early,
put on my biking clothes,
packed up my things,
and headed out before dawn–
without a phone
(It had an untimely death.)
or a map.
I did have
the directions from the ferry to the retreat centre
that I’d scrawled on paper two days before.
I just had to follow them in reverse,
easy-peasy.

But it wasn’t.
Nothing looked familiar in the dark.

I flagged down a pickup truck.
The driver told me to turn left at the light.
That road led me to the cyclist
who let me follow her until she had to head up to the hospital.
“Go this way,” she said and pointed.
That road led me through a tunnel and past a school I recognized in the growing light,
by one intersection, then another.
Was I supposed to turn there?
At that moment, I saw a woman walking her dog.
She told me to turn back and take the next road right
which led me to the ferry terminal,
and the ferry worker
led me to the ferry

and that led me
to trust
a little bit
more.

The Eternal One will never leave you;
    God will lead you in the way that you should go.
-Isaiah 58:11

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Love Mischief for the World

This A Rocha Talk explores the lived experience of ecological grief and seeks to foster conversation on how we might engage in this grief in ways that promote sustainability and well-being as humans who care for Creation.  The panelists include Anupama Ranawana, a theologian and writer based in Oxford whose work focuses on decolonial theology, feminist religious thought, faith and international development and ecological justice, Brent Unrau, a Registered Clinical Counselor, and spiritual director, who lives in an intentional community on Kingfisher Farm in Surrey, B.C. Canada, and Hannah Malcolm, who is training to be a priest in the Church of England and writing a PhD on climate and ecological grief. In her spare time, she writes and organizes around the theology of climate justice. The Panel Discussion is hosted by Matthew Humphrey, Director of Theological Education at A Rocha Canada.”(A Rocha website)

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

Credits and References:
“Can’t sleep” by Jonas Lönborg. Used with permission.
“Sunrise over Nanaimo Harbour’ by Steve. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2020.
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 2013-2020.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

How the Light Gets In

On the afternoon before the opening weekend of Living from the Heart at Bethlehem Centre on Vancouver Island, I took a walk around Westwood Lake to allow my jostled soul to settle. That morning, I’d read the poem Vessel by Steve Garnaas Holmes. It invited me to be a vessel that opens to God’s light. I echoed that desire and sighed. Would I be settled and open enough to let light in?

I set an intention to notice whenever I was feeling anxious and to invite myself to relax and open to God.

Because of COVID, we had distanced fixed seating. So every time I sat down for our gatherings, I returned to the same two participants on either side of me. They were so lovely, I felt like I was coming home each time I sat between them.

Saturday evening before we began, I got chatting to the woman on my left. I was so relaxed that I forgot I was the one who was speaking first. As soon as I realized it was me that was on, I looked at my watch. We should have started five minutes ago! I got everyone’s attention and asked someone to relight the Christ candle and sound the singing bowl. After a moment of silence, I opened my binder and suddenly realized I had missed reviewing this section of notes when I went over the course content the day before. I stumbled through an explanation of assignments and then accidentally changed the order of what we were doing next, which affected my co-facilitators, Audrey and Brent.

At the close of the evening, I apologized to them for messing up. Audrey told me not to worry about it. Brent just smiled and said, “Oh, you wonderful human.”

The next day Audrey led us through a prayer of imagination. In it, I met Jesus who was so kind to me. When it came to the part of the story where Bartemeus followed Jesus, I looked up at Jesus. Life would be so much simpler if that’s all I had to do.

Jesus looked at me and smiled, “Just to let you know, I’m a wonderful human too. I don’t always know where I’m going, and I might make some mistakes along the way.”

But you are Jesus and Jesus was sinless, I thought. Then the penny dropped. Mistakes are not sins. Not doing things perfectly is a part of being human. It’s how we learn and grow. It’s how the light gets in.

Later that day we played Leonard Cohen’s Anthem. I heard Jesus again in Cohen’s gravelly voice, “Forget your perfect offering. There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

Forget your perfect offering.
–Leonard Cohen

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Love Mischief for the World

On October 20, 2020, Archbishop Melissa Skelton came to St. Stephen the Martyr to dedicate our Pet Memorial Garden and our newly erected statue of St. Francis. In her homily, she talked about her own dog, Teddy. “At first I felt completely incompetent to care for him. But over time I learned more from Teddy about standing my ground than I had from any assertiveness training. I learned more from Teddy about curiosity than any class I had ever taken. I learned more from Teddy about constancy than I had learned from some of my relationships with human beings. And this is to say nothing about what I learned from Teddy about devotion, about physical closeness, about being alert to the natural world, about finding peace in the midst of anxiety, about joy, and about play. I learned a lot about play!” Then, during the reception, we were delighted to meet Teddy.

Anyone is welcomed to have their pet’s ashes interred in our memorial garden. Arrangements can be made by contacting info@ststephenburnaby.ca.

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

Credits and References:
Photo of Westwood Lake trail by Kevin Brown in alltrails.com.
Autumn sunrise through Bradford pears by Martin LaBar. Used with permission.
Photo of the dedication of St. Stephen’s Pet Memorial Garden by Elaine Renforth. Used with the permission of Elaine Renforth and Archbishop Melissa.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2020.
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 2013-2020.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Creation, Prayer, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Stillness Needs and Offers

When this post is published, I will be at Bethlehem Centre for the opening weekend of this year’s Living from the Heart. Last year we had a new team, new format, new location, and a new intern. It was also my first time coordinating a team.

This year the theme of new things continues. Because retreat centres in the Lower Mainland are not receiving groups, we are going to Vancouver Island–another new location and a new way of doing things due to COVID. One detail that needs to be attended to surfaces, then others, followed by emails or Zoom meetings. It’s hard to relax and trust.

I was at Bethlehem Centre five years ago, leading a contemplative retreat for women. I travelled there with my friends Theresa and Gail.

During the retreat, I talked about stillness. I passed around a jar of pond water and asked each person to name what was going on in them at that moment that made it hard to settle.

“Give the jar a shake before you pass it to the person next to you,” I said. Then, when we were finished passing it around, I set it down.

Over the weekend, the water in the jar turned from cloudy to completely clear. The jar told us what stillness needs and what it offers.

When it was time to pack up and go home, I picked up the jar. Theresa laughed and said, “Don’t shake it!”

I stopped and saw what she saw. I was holding something sacred that had settled in us that weekend. She didn’t want to lose it.

I know what stillness needs; I know what it offers. And I know that right now, I am a shaken up jar.

Even so, You are holding me in Your still hands, inviting me to watch the details settle and see what you see.

Attention, all! See the marvels of God! He plants flowers and trees all over the earth, Bans war from pole to pole, breaks all the weapons across his knee. “Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.” —Psalm 46:10 (MSG)

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Love Mischief for the World

It takes a lot of dedication and support to open and maintain a retreat centre.  We are so grateful for the Love Mischief of Bethlehem Centre, located near Nanaimo, B.C. The centre “encourages and supports the expression of beliefs and values about humanity, spirituality, healing and peace. We welcome groups and individuals exploring a spiritual path and seeking a gathering place for education, reflection and community building.”

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

Credits and References:
Photos Bethlehem Centre by Russell McNeil. Used with permission.
Photo of Bethlehem Retreat Centre building and grounds by Bethlehem Centre.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2020.
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 2013-2020.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Creation, Mystical, Prayer, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Old-Growth Forest

An old-growth forest. Yellow cedar, Sitka spruce, Douglas fir have been around for centuries, literally. Year after year, they cycle through the seasons and grow imperceptibly taller, more solid, roots extending. That is what I’m becoming.

The slow pace of summer lingers in my body, calling me to come and play outside–walk among the trees, bike into the country. The trees invite me to do ordinary things, enjoy ordinary moments, and let the work of producing come and go.

Autumn to spring my life has been dominated by work. I have gone days without getting outside and when I do, I’m still thinking about work.

This fall feels different. The compulsion to endlessly produce has subsided. Life flows like sap through my trunk, greens around the edges, and bears seed, but most of the time, I’m just standing, being– 

An old-growth forest.

That is what I am becoming, situated in the background, rooted in the organic ecosystem, sending and receiving nutrients underground from a network of love.

For this, I give thanks to my Creator. 

Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
–Genesis 1:11,12

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Love Mischief for the World

Fred and I watched the documentary Hadwin’s Judgement. It’s the story of Canadian environmentalist Grant Hadwin and his drastic measures to stop clear-cut logging. It was heartbreaking to see the devastation that he witnessed. Because of more and more people like Hadwin and John Vaillant, who appears in this documentary and wrote about Hadwin in The Golden Spruce, forestry is changing in Canada

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

Credits and References:
Giant Douglas Fir Trees, Cathedral Grove – MacMillan Provincial Park, Vancouver Island, British Columbia by  Miles Green. Used with permission.
Rainforest near Bella Coola by Drew Brayshaw. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2020.
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 2013-2020.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Aging, Creation, Justice, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Decomposing

Where do I need to stay when everything in me wants to flee?

As soon as I began asking myself this question, one answer came to me, but I wasn’t brave enough to write about it.

Silence. Silence is the place I need to stay, yet everything in me wants to flee into my thoughts.

How could I admit that to you when I write a contemplative blog and teach about centering prayer and the value of silence and solitude?

Often when I try to pray my brain won’t quit thinking. I face the same problem when I want to sleep. I try focusing on my breath, but just when I begin to feel sleepy, I can’t maintain my focus and slip back into thinking again.

“There’s a skittishness in me when it comes to opening to silence. I’m nervous about something, but I don’t know what,” I told my spiritual director.

She gave me space to welcome my skittishness and God’s presence with me there. The image that came to mind was that my skittishness was like a cat and God was sitting with it, completely relaxed and stroking it. The cat was loving it, her head pushing up against God’s hand.

I felt myself relax as I held that picture and knew I didn’t have to figure out what I was skittish about. It was enough to name it and be with God in it, and then I realized–

“This is prayer!” I said to my director. The very thing I desired and could not do, I entered into simply by naming my reality and being with God in it.

We paused there to take that in.

“How do you see your skittishness now?” my director asked.

“As something to be honoured.”

She waited for me to continue.

“At first, I saw it as something to get rid of, but it’s kind of like the dead logs on the forest floor. In one part of the book The Overstory, a botany professor said that they need to clear the forest floor to help the trees grow. But the botanists that had come to deeply love the forest and listen to the trees knew that a decomposing log gives life to the forest. It’s as if my skittishness is something in me decomposing and giving life to me. Just as I never see that slow work in the forest, I may not see it in myself. But eventually, I will see the results of it.”

So I sat this morning in silence, pressing my head against God’s hand while my mind flitted here and there, decomposing something or other.

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
— Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ

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Love Mischief for the World

My friend and Living from the Heart co-facilitator Brent Unrau wrote, “Had a rough patch on Sunday mood-wise until I stumbled upon this light-infused leaf of awe, wonder and still calm. Somehow this little atriplex copper plume leaf bathed in late afternoon sun ushered me into the healing balm of fall. Please take some time to slow yourself down and drink in the veins, the colour, the mood of this leaf, and see how it affects your heart.”
Thank you, Brent!

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

Credits and References:
“Charlie” by Lois Elling. Used with permission.
“Forest” (Wisconsin State Forest by Joshua Mayer. Used with permission.
“Artiplex leaf” by Brent Unrau. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2020.
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 2013-2020.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
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Seeking Truth and Reconciliation

September 30 is Orange Shirt Day. If Bill 369 passes in parliament, it will become National Truth and Reconciliation Day. This is a day to wear an orange shirt and renew our intention to acknowledge the violence done to others and ourselves, learn the effects of dehumanization, and choose to live more compassionately.

I began this journey a few years ago by listening to the stories of indigenous people. One story gently led to another. I watched and read Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese, learned about Orange Shirt Day from Phyllis Webstad, participated in the Blanket Exercise, saw the Anglican-made documentary Doctrine of Discovery, joined a book group that discussed Speaking Our Truth by Monique Gray Smith, attended Children of God, a play written and performed by indigenous people, and went to National Indigenous Day celebrations. Each experience opened my eyes and heart to indigenous people and the truths about their history that needed to be named and grieved.

This led to action. I walked for Truth and Reconciliation, lobbied for Bill C-262, and in June, joined others in our SoulStream community and formally renounced the Doctrine of Discovery. We continue to talk together about what more we can do. Education and self-reflection top the list.

Recently, an indigenous friend introduced me to the podcast All My Relations, and I am learning about blood quantum and native re-appropriations. I have also added Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer and Neither Wolf Nor Dog by Kent Nerburn to my reading list.

Last week, I listened to Eckhart Tolle: Being in the Now. Tolle told Oprah, “Love is the recognition of yourself in another. . . You can love your neighbour as yourself because you recognize your oneness with your neighbour.” That was a bing-bing moment for me, as Oprah would say. Loving my neighbour as myself doesn’t just mean loving them the way I would like to be loved, but loving them in our oneness. I am them, and they are me, one in Christ.

What I began to see is that the person I judge (and I am not thinking of indigenous people here) as mean, uninteresting, or unimportant is a part of me–the part of me I don’t want to acknowledge that can be mean, uninteresting, or unimportant. When I cut this person off, I cut off a part of myself. But when I am reconciled with these aspects of myself, this changes how I see and respond to others.  As I love myself, I will love them. Or, I could put it this way: as I stop dehumanizing myself, I will stop dehumanizing others.

The action or spiritual practice here is to notice when I’ve judged and disconnected from another, see myself reflected in them, and then welcome that part of me home. For example, when I’m irritated by someone in victim mode, I can take a step back, and remember when I was in their shoes, and offer compassion to that version of myself. That compassion will also be available for them.

In this process of learning, feeling, acting, and reflecting, we become more human. We will be reconciled to ourselves and our neighbours.

[A scribe] asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?”  Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind,
and with all your strength.’
The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
–Mark 12:28-31 (NRSV)

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Love Mischief for the World

Are you open to God doing some love mischief in your life? Sally Ringdahl and I are offering an Ignatian Silent Retreat online November 6-8. This retreat is designed for anyone who would like a silent, guided prayer retreat, for anyone who is considering participating in the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises or anyone who would like to experience Ignatian Prayer—Lectio Divina, Gospel Contemplation (Praying with your imagination) and Prayer of Examen. For more information or to register, go to https://soulstream.org/ignatian-prayer-retreat-fall-2020/

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

Credits and References:
Image of two hands from PxHere. Creative Commons.
Photo of sheep by Twila Savigny. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2020.
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 2013-2020.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
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