Living from the Heart

Today a new cohort will gather at Rivendell Retreat Centre on Bowen Island to begin the Living From The Heart course. I’ll be there too, co-facilitating with Deb, Jeff, and Brent. I expect the participants will be excited and a little nervous, perhaps wondering: Where will this way of living take me? Will I fit in? Some will ask themselves what the heck they were thinking and consider changing their minds. I know, because I’ve heard confessions like this a few days into the course. I also hear, “I’m so glad I stayed.”

What does it mean to “live from the heart”? We know how to live from our heads: obtaining good counsel, thinking things through. But I heard of a study showing that most decisions are not made with our minds but with our emotions. That’s a tricky prospect. And what about our bodies. How many times do we sacrifice our health to meet a deadline? Often our bodies don’t have a say.

In scripture, the “heart” is not synonymous with emotions. The heart is the core of all of who we are. It contains our mental, emotional, physical, spiritual, and volitional energies. And right in the middle of that is God who dwells within our hearts (1 Co 3:16).

Imagine the conversation that happens in that place! Imagine God listening with compassion to all that is going on in you–all that has made you who you are, all the mess, all the glory, and all your deepest longings. When we are listened to, understood, and completely loved by our Creator, we are freed to be good and just. We are freed to be ourselves.

We all want that. Of course we do, because God at the core of our being wants that. And that’s why, despite the nervousness of a new beginning, people come to Living From The Heart. That’s why you keep showing up for prayer. That’s why you are reading my blog.

We were made to live from our hearts.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
–Psalm 32:8

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

I made the collage above at a SoulStream annual gathering a couple of years after I joined this dispersed contemplative Christian community. Praying with the images that I cut out and glued down helped me listen with God to my heart and let go of what I was holding onto out of fear. Living From The Heart is one of the courses offered by SoulStream, and I am so glad I get to participate in the love mischief that happens there.

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:
“Love Heart” By Louise Docker from Sydney, Australia (My heart in your hands) CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Photo of my collage by Fred Hizsa. Used with permission:).
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2018.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2018.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
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A New Kind of Happy

It was raining and the forecast was for rain all week. I wouldn’t have minded if it was a typical week of writing, seeing directees, and going to the Wednesday Lunch Club, but all that was scheduled for the next seven days was camping with Fred on Vancouver Island, bike rides and walks on the beach. The weather changed all that.

After my initial disappointment, I felt invited to let go of what I’d planned and open myself to something new. What could we do on a rainy week at home?

I didn’t want to fill it with work, but I was grateful to get caught up on a few things. However, those few things took longer than I thought they would and the fun stuff we did wasn’t as much fun as we’d hoped.

Midweek, there was a break in the weather. Fred and I drove down to Point Roberts and walked along the shore under blue skies. Fred said that the moment he smelled the ocean, he was able to relax and be in vacation mode. But I had a headache and an unresolved issue I kept thinking about.

It poured rain on the drive home. “Maybe we should have gotten a last-minute flight to some vacation spot,” I said.

“Yeah,” Fred replied. “We could have been sitting under a palapa eating hamburguesas right now.”

Thursday morning in prayer, I remembered Fred coming to the ocean and being instantly at peace. I couldn’t do that until I fixed my world or flew out of it. But what if God was offering what Fred found: peace in the middle of it?

The “something new” I was being invited to wasn’t a different pleasurable experience. It was receiving pleasure at God’s right hand.

I am happiest when the sun is shining, all my work is done, and no one is upset with me. But God didn’t deliver those things. God just took my hand and showed me that a new kind of happy was possible.

You will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
–Psalm 16:11

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

The Society To End Homelessness in Burnaby is inviting people who live and work in Burnaby to participate in the four public dialogues on the overdose crisis. Karen O’Shannacery of the Society writes, “While the health providers and social services are responding, the health care system alone cannot keep people safe from the poisoned illicit drug supply.  The community is part of the solution, and needs to come together to understand the crisis, the resources available, and think differently about people who use drugs.” The dialogues are scheduled for Sept 26, October 16 and 27, and November 8. More information here.

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

Credits and References:
“Splash!” by Anne Yungwirth. Used with permission.
“If you can’t beat it… enjoy it.” by Anne Yungwirth. Used with permission.
Photo of hands painted on fence from Pxhere CCO Public Domain.
© 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, Mindfulness, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Portage

“You’re the only one here who isn’t retired,” my brother said to me.

I was with two of my siblings and their spouses at my brother’s cottage in Minnesota. They were planning a trip to France next year and welcomed Fred and me to join them. But travelling abroad doesn’t excite either of us.

However, the question of retirement and how I can best live in this next stage of life remained uncomfortably with me.

I like what I do and I don’t want to stop doing it. But when I took stock of “what is” in my life, I had to admit how tired I am. This led me to examine how much I do as well as what I eat and how this is likely contributing to my fatigue.

Then I thought of Fred–my cycling, camping, and grandparenting buddy–and his health. He needs to rest a lot, and there’s nothing he can do to change that.

Add to this my challenging relationship with silent prayer and my ADHD tendencies that make me wonder sometimes how I can call myself a contemplative. I can’t imagine spending the rest of my life content to just be.

As I thought about how to make the most of the years ahead, I kept stumbling over the realities in my life and what I feel powerless to change.

One morning, still unsettled in prayer, I found this poem by Steve Garnaas-Holmes in my emails. He wrote it after canoeing in the Boundary Waters north of where my brother lives.

Canoe

Curious God,
I will be your little canoe,
just big enough for you
and whatever grace you pack for the journey.
You paddle me where you will.
Surely I will drift,
and slip sideways in the wind,
but that too is your Spirit,
and you will right me as we go.
In still or troubled waters I will trust your touch,
surrender to your leading,
and go where you paddle me.
And when I find myself upside down and out of sorts
I will know you are portaging me to the next passage;
I will trust, and wait, and let you carry me,
until again, by your grace,
it is I who carry you.

When I read this, I recognized I was “upside down and out of sorts.” I understood then that I was being portaged to a new way of being. God was inviting me to trust, wait and be carried.

A few days later, Fred and I went to visit my eighty-five and ninety-year-old parents. As often happens on this four hundred and fifty kilometre drive, we talked about what’s been going on lately and what we’ve noticed.

In the meandering conversation, a new question began to emerge. It took a while for me to verbalize it succinctly, but I was being invited to let go of the question of what my retirement should look like and pick up this one instead: What does it look like to be a contemplative in my own skin?

When I held that question, I realized that God was using what is in my life to shape my passage into who I am becoming.

I see a way forward now. It is light and spacious. That doesn’t mean I won’t need to make some lifestyle changes, but all of a sudden, “what is” has been transformed from stumbling block to gift.

From now on I will tell you of new things,
    of hidden things unknown to you.
They are created now, and not long ago;
    you have not heard of them before today.
So you cannot say,
    “Yes, I knew of them.”
–Isaiah 48:6b-7

Note: If you’re having a déjà vu moment, thinking you’ve read this post before, it’s because the draft got prematurely published on Monday. It went out to my email followers and, for a short time, was on Facebook. That was a bit of a shock–like realizing I’ve gone out of the house half-dressed! Anyhow, I hope you enjoyed my fully dressed post. 

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

I subscribe to Unfolding Light and, Monday to Friday, receive a daily poem or reflection from Steve Garnaas-Holmes. When I asked him for permission to use “Canoe” in my post, I let him know that I had passed on one of his poems to a friend who struggles with mental illness. Steve replied giving me permission to use his poems and added that he would pray for my friend. What a gift.

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:
“Stoplog Canoes” by Martin Cathrae. Used with permission.
“Canoe” by Steve Garanaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light August 27, 2018. Used with permission
“Rocky Portage” by OakleyOriginals. Used with permission.
“Praying” by Tarah. 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 Aging, Poetry, Prayer, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Discovering My True Self

I know I shouldn’t compare myself with others. There’ll always be someone who is kinder, wiser, and taller than I am. But it’s not so easy to let go of comparisons when it seems like I’m the only one in a group that isn’t measuring up.

A recent experience of this triggered my fear of not belonging. It compelled me to make plans to improve myself and become a more actualized person. I began to wonder if God was turning up the heat. After all, as a counsellor friend would say, “Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.” In the turmoil, I was so tempted to try to become the person I think I should be.

I’ve been reading Richard Rohr’s Immortal Diamond: The Search for the True Self. It helped me realize that if I did try to remake myself, I’d only be constructing a false self. And that passive-aggressive god who stokes the fire of my insecurity? That’s a false god.

I remember Rob Des Cotes once said that the Christian life isn’t about having a picture of the Christian we think we should be and striving to become that person. God created us uniquely and is still creating us. God is the only one who knows what our True Selves look like. “So we need to be discoverers,” he said, “on a path of discovering who we are in Christ.”

I hold this truth and relax my grip on the desire to change myself. As soon as I do, the pinch of not measuring up or fitting in returns. I take a deep breath and invite the real God to meet me in my real life. One by one, I name “what is” that I wish wasn’t. I welcome the pinch of disappointment that brings.

Right in the middle of the turmoil I want to flee, I see my Creator looking at me with great joy. I can tell, that joy isn’t coming from a knowing that someday I will be more Christlike. It’s rooted in the now. God enjoys who I am right here, right now.

As I remain in Love’s gaze, I think back to my experience of being in that group where I felt as if I wasn’t measuring up. I recall my friends’ faces, their words, their touch. Not a hint of judgment. No sense of sacrificial acceptance of me. They looked at me the same way my Creator does.

And I am invited to join them–to see what they see and share their joy.

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

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

The City of Burnaby hosted a public hearing for a proposed supportive housing complex for individuals who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless on August 28, 2018. Karen O’Shannacery of the Society to End Homelessness in Burnaby said, “The city reported 27 letters had been received and 7 people made presentations urging the city to approve the project. No one spoke against the project. Given the lack of opposition at the hearing, it is hoped that the Mayor and Council will next positively consider the rezoning bylaw (2nd reading) on Monday, September 17th during regular council meeting starting at 7 pm.  Once built, the supportive housing facility would be the first of its kind in Burnaby. The province has committed to spending $7.6 million to build 52 units on a city-owned lot at 3986 Norland St. B.C. Housing hopes to begin work on the site in October and finish construction in March 2019, but first the property must be rezoned.” Thank you, Karen and all those who wrote letters, attended the meeting and made presentations. Let’s hope Mayor Corrigan and the council join this love mischief.

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:
Quote about change attributed to Tony Robbins.
“Birds on a Wire” by Julie Falk. Used with permission.
“Measuring Up” by woodleywonderworks. 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 Reflections, Rob Des Cotes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Waiting for the Eternal

Soon after my eight-day retreat, I queued up the last five blog posts so they would be published while I was away on vacation. It felt good to know I didn’t need to have another post ready until August 24.

That’s today and here I am writing it.

Usually, some experience or thought comes to mind that I want to share with you, but in the last few weeks, nothing’s surfaced except a vague uneasiness. I didn’t know its source until a friend and I were chatting about silent prayer, and I admitted how difficult it is for me to enter into silence and be present to God.

The next day I was sitting around a table with the other Living From The Heart facilitators from Calgary, Saskatoon, and the lower mainland. Before we began our work for the day, Brent Unrau led us in morning prayers. This passage from Lamentations was read aloud.

Gaining hope,
    I remember and wait for this thought:

How enduring is God’s loyal love;
    the Eternal has inexhaustible compassion.
Here they are, every morning, new!
    Your faithfulness, God, is as broad as the day.
 Have courage, for the Eternal is all that I will need.
    My soul boasts, “Hope in God; just wait.”

It is good. The Eternal One is good to those who expect Him,
    to those who seek Him wholeheartedly.
It is good to wait quietly
    for the Eternal to make things right again.

In these encouraging words, I heard, “Just wait. The Eternal will make things right again.”

After a brief time of silence, Brent invited us to share what was stirred in us as in response to the reading. When it was my turn to speak, I told them what stood out for me. Then I hesitated and looked into the gentle faces of my friends. Could I say why?

“When I finished my eight-day retreat, I sensed that silence is the doorway to intimacy with God, but so often I can’t open that door.” Tears came as I spoke. “Then when I heard, ‘Just wait. The Eternal will make things right again.’ I felt hopeful. God will help me.”

As I sit here now with my computer on my lap, I feel those tears again. I recall my friends’ compassion. I remember the prayer when Jesus and I were on the beach and he took me through a doorway into another world. He showed me that the God is actively redeeming every person’s life–including mine.

Have courage, for the Eternal is all that I will need.
–Lamentations 3:24 (The Voice)

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

During my vacation, my brother Ron took me to his church’s annual Blues Brews N BBQs. For six years, Mount Olivet Lutheran Church in Plymouth, Minnesota, has hosted this music festival which has raised over $100,000 for community partners, Habitat for Humanity and PRISM in Minneapolis and St Paul. This year’s line up included Miss Myra and the Moonshiners, Harrison Street, and The Alex Rossi Band. Here are more photos of this amazing event.

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 person on beach in fog by jen . Used with permission.
Lamentations 3:21-26 (VOICE)
“Foggy Beach” by Mike Maguire . Used with permission.
Photo of Blues, Blues and BBQs by Ron Frehner. 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, Prayer, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Doorway

My Eight-Day Retreat: Part 5

Father Roshan picked up on the theme of finding the lost and assigned me the story of Zacchaeus for one of my prayers.

I took the despised tax-collector’s place. However, in my story, everyone was nice to me and I to them. I climbed into the tree, not just to see Jesus, but to see him interacting with people I loved. While up in the tree, someone asked me if I needed anything. How nice is that?

Jesus found me up in the tree and asked to come to my house.

“Really? Other people have nicer houses and more comfortable beds,” I said.

“I don’t mind the squeaky bed in your spare room.”

I asked him if we could invite the people who were following us to come to dinner too. But he said, “Maybe tomorrow. Today I just want to be with you.” So we hung out.

In another prayer, Father Roshan asked me to return to the embrace I experienced when I was the prodigal came home. I told him that it was unlike any other hug in that it was unmeasured. Jesus lets me hug him as long as I want to.

As soon as I said that, I knew that the opposite wasn’t true. I was not comfortable letting Jesus hug me as long as he wanted to. It was a fleeting thought and I brushed it away.

I prayed with Jesus’ embrace, as instructed but, after a few minutes got bored, and there were fifty minutes still left in my prayer!

What now? As I sat in the silence, things added up: God wants to be with me always, asks me to do nothing, vanquishes my fears, finds the joy that is lost and does everything so I am completely satisfied and without want. Then God keeps hanging around like a smitten lover.

The penny dropped. I remembered the erotic words in Teresa’s and John of the Cross‘s poems about uniting the Lover and the loved. I remembered Jesus’ words that one day we would realize that we are in the Father and he is in us and Jesus’ prayer that we may be one just as the Father and he are one.

Divine union. God has been wooing me and desiring an endless embrace. No wonder I was resistant to praying and kept running off. No wonder I was so restless during prayer. I knew from my spiritual direction training that resistance happens when God comes close and wants deeper intimacy.

I imagined myself returning to be one with God, like a missing bit of fabric being woven back into one cloth which is connected to all.

“Breathe in my love,” God said again. I breathed in God’s love with each inhale and breathed out my love for God as I exhaled. There were no tears or surge of emotion, only peace and contentment.

At our final meeting,  I told Father Roshan about this. He was grateful that God had given me such grace.

“I used to think that when I teared up and felt God’s tender love that this was a gift, and it was. But it was more than a gift; it was a doorway to enter into and remain in God’s love more deeply and intimately,” I said.  “You helped me experience that. Thank you.”

“Thank you for trusting me,” said my thirty-one-year-old director.

“I kept thinking that God wants us to know we are loved so we can be freed to do God’s work. But that isn’t our higher purpose.”

“It isn’t,” Father Roshan said.

“We will love and care for others out of God’s abundant love for us. But our higher purpose–what God wants most of all–is for us to live in the awareness that we are one with God in Christ and connected to all God has created.”

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)

I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. —John 17:20-21 (NIV)

Oh, night that guided me,
Oh, night more lovely than the dawn,
Oh, night that joined Beloved with lover,
Lover transformed in the Beloved!
–John of the Cross, “Dark Night of the Soul”

For Reflection:

  • How do you feel about the idea that God desires to be in union with you?
  • What do you embrace in this invitation?
  • What do you resist?
  • Imagine our loving Friend with you in both your delight and your resistance, loving you just as you are right now.  What word, phrase or image comes to you as a gift and a doorway?

* * *
FAQs about My Eight-Day Retreat

  • Where can I go for an Ignatian eight-day silent retreat?

Many Jesuit retreat houses offer guided eight-day retreats (e.g. Loyola House in Guelph). But they are quite a distance away if you live in greater Vancouver. However, Chris Chiu, who is also a JSAV director and SoulStream partner, and I will be offering an Intro to Ignatian Prayer weekend at Carmel Hill, in Deroche on October 18-20, 2019. If you would like a longer, eight-day one, please let SoulStream know and we will consider offering it.

Credits and References:
“The Open Door” by Eric Magnuson. Used with permission.
“Zacchaeus Tree” by Victor Chapa 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, Mystical, Prayer, Praying with the Imagination, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Seeking and Finding the Lost

My Eight-Day Retreat: Part 4

On Day Five of my eight-day retreat, Father Roshan invited me to pray with a few “Joyful Mysteries.”

In the first, I relived a wonderful visit with our now 36-year-old son and his wife. In another, I recalled the time I met the homeless fellow outside Tim Hortons. In a third, I returned to that Sunday morning at Twin Creeks when I heard God’s call to leave church ministry to devote my time to writing and spiritual direction. What gave me joy in each of these situations was that I was able to live out of my true self–I was accepting, non-judgmental, generous, free, and happy.

The words I heard at Twin Creeks still brought tears to my eyes. The risen, living Christ… seeks for that which is lost within me. The joy of being myself was lost in me, and Jesus was recovering it.

The next day when I prayed with the story of the prodigal son, I lamented to God that I have run away to the foreign land of my false self, not once, but many times.

“And each time I welcome you back with an embrace and feasting,” God said.

“But I keep leaving your love to do what I think will make me happy (even though it doesn’t).”

“And I will keep bringing you home.”

In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, my fears beat me up and left me for dead. My pride and need for other people’s approval walked right on by. God, disguised as my friend Theresa, saw me, tenderly bandaged my wounds, and took me to a hotel. There Jesus sat by my bed, cooled my brow and walked me to the washroom until I was well again.

The second last night of my retreat, I had a dream in which I could see a parasite under my skin. It poked its head out of a hole in the surface then went back in. Jesus and I were watching it together, and he said, “Just wait. Sit quietly and it will come out.”

The next day in prayer, I returned to being with Jesus at my bedside. I remembered the verse, “Perfect love casts out fear.” Jesus sat patiently and waited for my fears to emerge and leave until only love remained.

Perfect love casts out fear.–1 John 4:18

For Reflection:

  • What “Joyful Mystery” might you bring to Jesus?
  • As you relive this moment, how does Jesus express his love to you?
  • What has been lost in you that Jesus is seeking to find?
  • What image, word or phrase does Jesus use to deepen the gifts given to you in your Joyful Mystery?

* * *

FAQs about my Eight-Day Retreat

  • What did you find hard about the retreat? Any surprises?

Despite the fact that I am an extrovert, I enjoy the silence. So I didn’t mind that too much. It was a bit challenging for Fred and me to be together and not express a thought or feeling, but we got the hang of it. He did, however, give me kisses or hugs, and I found this helped me welcome God’s love even more.

I am often surprised by how the little things I hardly notice–the friendly cyclists, the squawking birds–make their way into my prayers in a meaningful way and how God gratefully receives and redeems all my prayers: the mountaintop moments and the tedious valleys.

Credits and References:
Painting by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (November 30, 1825 – August 19, 1905) photo by Thomas Hawke.
Used with permission.
Le Jour ni l’Heure 6561 : Louis-Maurice Boutet de Monvel, 1850-1913, Le Bon Samaritain, 1878, musée des Beaux-Arts d’Orléans, Loiret, mardi 25 juin 2013, 14:31:07. Photo by Renaud Camus. 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, Prayer, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

O That You Would Vanquish My Fears

My Eight-Day Retreat: Part 3

On the fourth day of my eight-day retreat, Father Roshan asked me to pray with three “Sorrowful Mysteries.”

The first memory that returned to me was the day our son, who was sixteen at the time, was leaving for six weeks. Somehow our wires got crossed and Fred ended up leaving to take him to the drop-off spot without me. Those years were difficult ones for our family. I had really wanted to go with them and say goodbye to our son and let him know I loved him.

That feeling of being left behind still cut into me. I wept in my prayer as I pictured myself feeling distraught and bereft. Jesus put his arm around my shoulders and comforted me. In that spacious hour of prayer, he showed me that this fear of being abandoned has been in me since before I was born.

After my prayer, I sat by a creek, listened to the water and looked at the trees. High above me, some birds began squawking. I’ve heard birds squawk until the danger has passed, but these birds didn’t stop. I couldn’t see them, and there was nothing for me to do, but I noticed it.

The memory I returned to in the next prayer was also one in which I felt abandoned. Once again, God was bringing it into the light. This was a fear God wanted to vanquish. I stayed with Jesus and let him love me, but my body was restless. My legs were jumpy and I could hardly sit still. I was as agitated as the squawking birds. Then a cry from deep within came out of me, “I am so afraid of being abandoned.”

I wiped my tears and pictured my friend Theresa holding her godchild’s tiny baby. The newborn was in distress and crying uncontrollably. When Theresa took him in her arms, she felt his hard tummy and instinctively rubbed his tiny feet. She gently stroked his back and kept rubbing his feet until he let out an enormous burp and shortly afterwards filled his diaper. The crying stopped and, after a diaper change, he rested blissfully in her arms.

For the rest of my prayer, Jesus held baby-me, stroking my back and rubbing my tiny feet. I remembered the first words that stood out for me in my retreat: I am with you, encompassing you with love wherever you go.

“I will never leave you or forsake you,” Jesus said gently as I rested blissfully in his arms.

God has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”
Hebrews 13:5

For Reflection:

  • What “Sorrowful Mystery” might you bring to Jesus?
  • As you relive this moment, how does Jesus want to love you now?
  • What fear is coming into the light that Jesus desires to vanquish?
  • What image, word or phrase does Jesus use to release you from your fear?

* * *

FAQs about My Eight-Day Retreat

  • What do you do on an Ignatian eight-day retreat?

The whole time is spent in silence (except for daily meetings with the director). As much as possible, we are encouraged not to speak (verbally or non-verbally), listen to another or give another person eye contact. We are not to use the phone, computer or the internet. The inner space then becomes a private cell for the retreatant to commune with God alone, much like Jesus experienced when he went up the mountain to pray.

Each day we meet with the director. He or she listens to what happened to us in the previous day’s hour-long prayer periods and then assigns us four subjects to pray with based on what they have just heart. The focus of each prayer is either a meditation from scripture, a prayer of imagination with a gospel story or a story from our own lives, or an invitation to meditate on a particularly intimate moment when we encountered Jesus in a previous prayer (called a “Repetition”). After each prayer period, we make brief notes of what happened during our prayer, particularly noting how we felt and how we noticed Jesus responding to us.

During the other twenty hours when we are not intentionally praying, we rest, eat, go for walks or engage in an activity that does not occupy our minds (e.g. no reading, watching TV, video games) and sleep. Some retreatants knit, colour, photograph, or do puzzles. I took the time to draw (with stick figures) what happened in my prayers, tidied cupboards, sat by the creek, went for a walk, napped, and biked from home to UBC and back for my meetings with Father Roshan.

Credits and References:
“Archangel Michael” by Guido Reni [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
“Angel of Healing” sculpture by Susan Lordi. Photo by Anne Davis 773. 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, Prayer, Praying with the Imagination, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Don’t Do a Thing

My Eight-Day Retreat: Part 2

“I don’t enjoy praying for a whole hour,” I admitted to Father Roshan on the third morning of my eight-day retreat.

His eyes widened for half a second. But he didn’t question me. He just kept listening.

“I told Jesus how difficult it is for me to be present and sit still for a whole hour. Jesus said he knows and is grateful that I keep showing up.

“Eventually I realized what keeps me from true abandonment is doing things. I think that I’m responsible for fixing myself when I see a weakness or a sin. But Jesus said, ‘You don’t have to do anything. Just receive my love.'”

Father Roshan smiled.

“In my next prayer period, Jesus invited me to be okay with the silence. ‘Just receive. Don’t do a thing,’ he said. ‘Breathe in my love.’

“In my fourth prayer–the passage on the lilies of the field in Luke 12:22-31–these words stood out for me.

Don’t be afraid of missing out. You’re my dearest friends! The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself.

“I realized that I was afraid–afraid that the eight days would go by and nothing significant would happen. But here was Jesus reminding me, I’m his dearest friend and I won’t be disappointed.”

Father Roshan asked me to pray a third time with Psalm 139 and Isaiah 43:1-3–one in each prayer period–and again with the Luke 12:22-31. In each of these prayers, I was to return to the moment when I had the deepest felt experience of God’s love. This was a stretch because, except for the first day, I didn’t feel any strong emotions, only calm or restless. My fourth prayer was to be a prayer of imagination with Luke 7:36-50.

I biked home by way of Kits beach and enjoyed the cool ocean breeze. Cyclists coming the other way greeted me and smiled. God was everywhere seeing me and loving me.

Back home again, I showered and had a short nap then sat down to pray. In the first prayer period, I returned to an image I’d been given earlier, of floating in an ocean of God’s love. I floated, looked at my clock every ten minutes or so, and tried to simply rest and receive. “Enjoy this,” Jesus whispered.

The next prayer period began as slowly and uneventfully. Eventually, Jesus got up and opened a door into another world and invited me to follow him. In this place, I could see everyone on earth. I saw God intimately and actively working in each of their lives–redeeming, healing, comforting, empowering, inspiring them and bringing them home.

“I’m doing it all; you don’t need to do a thing,” he said again.

“But I want to,” I said, achingly bored.

“Then know it’s already happening. It happens as you rest, as you abide in me.”

My prayers continued to be calm, without much emotion. Even in the prayer when I imagined myself washing and anointing Jesus’ feet, I had no tears. So I got some water in a bucket and used that.

Simon scowled, “She’s not that sorry or grateful. Look at her. Not a tear.”

Jesus rose up indignant. “Watch what you’re saying. You have no idea how many tears she’s shed.”

At that, I burst into tears. I felt defended, understood and deeply loved–just as I was.

Just Sit There Right Now
–Hafiz

Just sit there right now.
Don’t do a thing.
Just rest.

For your separation from God,
From love,

Is the hardest work
In this
World.

Let me bring you trays of food
And something
That you like to
Drink.

You can use my soft words
As a cushion
For your
Head.

For Reflection:

  • How do you feel when Jesus asks you to just be with him and don’t do a thing?
  • Are you ever bored or restless during prayer? How does Jesus respond to you when you feel that way?
  • Is there an image, word or phrase in my story today that evoked a noticeable feeling in you? Welcome that feeling with Jesus. Notice his compassion. Is there something God wants to bring into the light to comfort, encourage or heal you?

* * *

FAQs about My Eight-Day Retreat

  • Where did you have your retreat?
    In the past, as you may recall, I stayed at a retreat centre (Rosemary Heights in Surrey [now closed], Carmel Hill in Deroche, and Queen of Peace in Squamish), and the retreat director stayed there too. Except for when it was in Squamish, the director travelled back and forth to Richmond for supervision. This year, however, because Father Roshan doesn’t drive, we needed to travel to him. Only three of us were participating this year and each of us elected to retreat at home.
  • How was it organized?
    Father Richard Soo, SJ, who oversees the Jesuit Spirituality Apostolate of Vancouver’s Ignatian Exercises in Daily Life (Annotation 19) and supervises the dozen or so directors who lead people through the exercises, arranges for us to have an eight-day silent directed retreat annually.
Credits and References
“Time” by Free Photos at Pixabay. CC0 Creative Commons.
“Lily Flower Early Flora” by Pixel2013 at Pixabay CC0Creative Commons.
“Just Sit Right There Now” from The Gift: Poems by Hafiz  Translation by Daniel Ladinsky.
© 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, Prayer, Praying with the Imagination, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Encompassed with Love

Hi fellow pilgrims, 

In the next five posts, I will share with you some of what I experienced on my eight-day retreat. I will be posting them on Mondays and Fridays from now until August 17.

As you begin, I invite you to notice where you are standing. Are you standing outside my experience or entering in?

Standing outside, you might be analyzing, quantifying or evaluating what happened in my prayers. I can tell you right now, there is nothing I learned in my eight days that I didn’t know already. 

Entering in, we take off our shoes as Moses did when he realized he was standing on holy ground. The reader receives these encounters with God as gifts to treasure and to deepen their love for God. Although the encounters didn’t happen to them, these stories still have the power to transform as do the encounters recorded in scripture: Moses and the burning bush, Elijah when he hears the still small voice of God, the Samaritan woman when she meets Jesus at the well. 

So, please, take off your shoes, enter into my story, and meet for yourself the God who loves you more than you can ever hope for or imagine. 

My Eight-Day Retreat: Part 1


“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want,” I read and was moved to tears. God cares for me and looks after me completely.

I was touched again when I read that God is “ever with me.” God was with me, not just in my life, but now as I began another eight-day silent retreat. God would be with me in green pastures and the dark valleys I would be experiencing as I spent these days alone with my Saviour and Friend.

“Rest,” my shepherd said. I imagined myself as a dog and lay my head on Jesus’ lap and he stroked my head and played with my ears. I felt content and carefree. Whenever thoughts lured me away, my shepherd reached out his crook and gently brought my mind back to his presence. “Don’t do a thing,” he said. “Just rest and receive my love.”

In the next two hour-long prayer periods on that first day of my retreat, I meditated on Psalm 139 and Isaiah 43:1-3. In both passages, I heard again that God is with me. In the heights and depths, in life and in death, before I had substance and after I have none, through deep waters and in darkness, God encompasses me with love wherever I go. Once again tears came.

I was reading a paraphrase of Psalm 139 by Nan Merrill and joined in the prayer near the end of it.

O that you would vanquish my fears, Beloved,
and all that separates me from true abandonment
and surrendering myself into your Hands.

My shepherd heard my prayer, and as I will share with you in the next posts, did exactly that.

Here is Nan Merrill’s Psalm 139 rewritten as though God is speaking these words to us personally.

Oh My Beloved, I have searched you and known you!
I know when you sit down and when you rise up;
I discern your innermost thoughts.
I find you on the journey and guide your steps:
I know your strengths and your weaknesses.
Even before words rise up in prayer,
Lo, I have already heard your heart call.
I encompass you with love where’er you go,
and My strength is your shield.
Such sensitivity is too wonderful for you;
it is high; boundless gratitude is your soul’s response.

Where could you go from My Spirit?
Or how can you flee from My presence?
If you ascend into heaven, I am there!
If you make your bed in darkness, I am there!
If you soar on the wings of the morning
or dwell in the deepest parts of the sea,
Even there My hand will lead you,
and My Love will embrace you.
If you say, “Let only darkness cover me,
and the light about me is night,”
Even the darkness is not dark to Me,
the night dazzles as with the sun; the darkness is light to Me.

For I formed your inward being,
I knit you together in your mother’s womb.
You praise Me, for I am to be reverenced and adored.
My mysteries fill you with wonder!
More than you know yourself do I know you;
your essence was not hidden from Me,
When you were being formed in secret,
intricately fashioned from the elements of the earth,
My eyes beheld your unformed substance,
in My records were written every one of them,
The days that were numbered for you,
when as yet there were none of them.
How precious to you are My creations, O Blessed One!
How vast is the sum of them!
Who could count My innumerable gifts and blessings?
At all times, I am with you.

O that I could vanquish your fears, Beloved;
O that ignorance and suffering would depart from you –
All that separates you from true abandonment,
is surrendering yourself into my hands!
Yet are these not the very thorns that focus your thoughts upon Me?

You wonder if you will always need reminders to turn your face to Me,
but I hear only your yearning to come to Me in love,
to learn of My mercy and wisdom!
I have searched you, O My Beloved, and know your heart!
I will help you to face the darkness within you;

I will enlighten you, that you might radiate My love and My light!

∗ ∗ ∗

Love Mischief for the World

Every day for my eight-day retreat, I biked to the UBC endowment lands to meet Father Roshan Kiro, SJ. for spiritual direction. I had never met this young priest before and little did I know when I began what love mischief he and God were up to. When we met, Father Roshan listened to what happened in my prayers for the point at which I experienced God’s love most intimately. Then he invited me to meet God there in the next day’s prayers. He trusted that all God wanted to do was love me and instil in the core of my being the significance of that love. He knew that God joined me in my deepest desire: to be free from all that keeps me from loving and being loved.

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 Good Shepherd” is by Liturgical Works
“If You Can’t Beat It, Enjoy It” by Anne Yungwirth. Used with permission.
Photo of Father Roshan 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, Prayer, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment