Led Into the Storm

If you haven’t already noticed, I love efficiency. I often look back on the chaotic, haphazard way I’ve arrived at a solution and–with a sigh–see a simpler, more direct route. It’s easy to assume that I did something wrong, it’s bad, and I’m to blame.

I’m thinking along these lines as I pray with the scripture of Jesus calming the storm. Two things stand out when I see myself in the story.

First, I know a storm will come. I’ve read this text so many times, it’s hard for me to imagine it happening for the first time, so I don’t. I get into the boat, fully aware of the inevitable.

The second detail I notice is that the disciples follow Jesus into the boat. He leads them into the storm.

Often I think storms come up because I’ve mismanaged things: if only I’d been more sensitive, if only I’d stopped and thought about that. But in this story, I know I didn’t cause the storm, I’m not responsible for it, and Jesus does nothing to avoid it.

I look back at a recent tempest in my life and see the ridiculous regret that I have: I wished I had acted out of the wisdom I received only after I’d gone through the storm.

Once again, I follow Jesus into the boat; I follow him into the storm.

Last time I prayed with this gospel narrative, I was invited to have faith that Jesus is looking after everything. So this time, I sit down by my sleeping Jesus and trust that he knows what he’s doing.

I sit peacefully on the floor of the boat with my back against the bench where Jesus is sleeping. We’re so close I can hear his breathing. The winds and waves are still, but a tiny storm of emotion rises from my belly into my chest and tears come. I struggle to name what I’m feeling.

It’s not anxiety, not regret, not sadness.

It’s love–love for God.

If you could do it, I suppose, it would be a good idea to live your life in a straight line–starting, say, in the Dark Wood of Error, and proceeding by logical steps through Hell and Purgatory and into Heaven. Or you could take the King’s Highway past the appropriately named dangers, toils, and snares, and finally cross the River of Death and enter the Celestial City. But that is not the way I have done it, so far. I am a pilgrim, but my pilgrimage has been wandering and unmarked. Often what has looked like a straight line to me has been a circling or a doubling back. I have been in the Dark Wood of Error any number of times. I have known something of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, but not always in that order. The names of many snares and dangers have been made known to me, but I have seen them only in looking back. Often I have not known where I was going until I was already there. I have had my share of desires and goals, but my life has come to me or I have gone to it mainly by way of mistakes and surprises. Often I have received better than I deserved. Often my fairest hopes have rested on bad mistakes. I am an ignorant pilgrim, crossing a dark valley. And yet for a long time, looking back, I have been unable to shake off the feeling that I have been led–make of that what you will.  
–Wendell Berry,
Jayber Crow

***

Love Mischief for the World

My friend Sean drives a bus in greater Vancouver. He greets each person that boards and bids them goodbye when they leave. We are greeted daily by bus drivers, cashiers, librarians, and receptionists. Often we greet them back without making eye contact or we don’t hear them at all. Hafiz says, “Why not become the one who lives with a full moon in each eye that is always saying, with that sweet moon language, what every other eye in this world is dying to hear.” Hmm. That sweet moon language says, “I see you. You matter. You are loved.”  If we did that, Sean would want to make us passenger of the week.

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:
“Friendliest Bus Driver in Vancouver” by The Dewolfs. Used with permission.
Mark 4:35-41
“Tempest Sedata” unable to find artist.
Tempest Sedata Icon, Source unknown.
© 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 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rocks in My River

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.
—Wendell Berry

The last line of this Wendell Berry quote caught my attention. The impeded stream is the one that sings. It’s the rock in the river that allows the water to make such a beautiful sound.

Wendell, are you kidding me? Rocks in my river make me swear. I hate it when I’m about to go out and can’t find my keys (again).  A squealing noise in my car, complicated instructions, discovering I’m missing an ingredient in a recipe after I’ve just gone shopping–they all bring out the worst in me.

And those are small rocks, never mind the biggies.

I get it that God often chucks rocks in our river to divert the flow or dislodge new life. I get that I can welcome God’s work in all things. But I hate bumping into rocks and being thrashed about by the turbulence, and I don’t do it gracefully.

Not long after Wendell’s words floated downstream to me, a directee told me about the rocks in her river and her frantic attempts to rest in the flow.

“I feel like I’m a whirlwind,” she said.

“And where is Jesus?” I asked.

“In the middle of it, in the middle of me.”

Minutes before, she told me how she’d experienced Jesus speaking Psalm 139 to her personally. He told her she was knit together wonderfully and that he would be with her no matter where she was.

I pictured Jesus standing in the eye of her stormy being, looking with wonder and delight at the whirling dervish he’d knit together.

That’s how he sees me too. He doesn’t just tolerate me until I come to my senses. He loves me when I’m a senseless brute.

I swear and he hears singing.

I say, “I’m such an idiot” and he says, “That’s my Esther. Isn’t she amazing?”

I was senseless and ignorant;
    I was a brute beast before you.
Yet I am always with you;

you hold me by my right hand.
–Psalm 73:22,23

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

At a potluck barbecue, a woman in our contemplative group asked me about SoulStream‘s Living From The Heart. I told her about the structure and content of the course. “But if you want to know what it was like, you can ask someone who took it,” I said looking at our friend Mei. “It changed my life,” she replied. It changed mine too when I took it ten years ago. A recent participant summed it up this way, “At Living From The Heart, I found a God I could love; as I continued on in the course, I found a God who loved me.”

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

 Credits and References:
“Vulcan Stream” by Reza. Used with permission.
“Donkey” by Thomas Breher at Pixabay. 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 Popular Posts, Reflections, Spiritual Direction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

At This Table

“I’ll start,” says one spiritual director after we blessed the lunches we brought. One by one, we go around the table, sharing what’s been significant to us in the past month.

One speaks of disappointment, another rages at loss, a third savours a gift. At this table, we’re not looking for approval or even understanding; we’re not fearing rejection or judgment. At this table we’re simply listened to and loved.

After lunch we gather in the living room. Alfred begins a short time of reflection with a quote from Wendell Berry.

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.

Silence invites us to let the words release the tension in our souls: our work is not to know, fix or advise. It’s okay to be baffled.

After a quiet “Amen,”  the facilitator for that day divides us into two groups. My group of three returns to the table where we had lunch. It’s my turn to share about an experience of offering spiritual direction; it’s their turn to be baffled and, to quote Douglas Steere, “listen my soul into a condition of disclosure and discovery.”

Being supervised by one’s peers takes a bit of courage. Can we trust them with our soul’s disclosure?

It helps that we regularly remind each other that our focus is not on improving skills or figuring out how to help our directees. Our intent is to hear the fear, longing or desire a direction session stirred up in the supervisee’s soul and bring it into the light of God’s love.

Alfred sits on my left, Mary on my right, like a Rublev icon. Then, protecting the privacy of my directee and maintaining confidentiality, I tell them about the trepidation and restlessness I experienced in a recent session. Our joint listening leads me to notice and make space for my feelings and recall other times I’ve felt this way. Eventually, their gentle questions uncover a crippling fear. Now that it’s on the table, a strange thing happens.

Neither Alfred nor Mary are under its spell. God isn’t either.

I try on their freedom. Instead of trepidation, I’m excited about what God is doing in my directee’s life and in mine.

I think back to the Wendell Berry quote Alfred brought. What if he or Mary had known which way to go and given me advice? They would laugh at the thought of it–not that they wouldn’t have been tempted to save me, but they really didn’t know what to do. What a wonderful gift to bring to the table.

He brought me to his banqueting table,
his banner over me is love.
–a Sunday School song based on Song of Solomon 2:4

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

My brother Ron (second from the right) and his wife, Deb, along with others from their church, served an Iftar meal to their Muslim neighbours during Ramadan last month. Pastor Joel Bergeland wrote about it on Mount Olivet’s blog. He writes, “At every turn of the night, we were greeted and recognized. It was difficult for me to cross the dining hall without being stopped multiple times by people wanting to shake my hand and let us know how grateful they were for our presence with them: ‘No one has done this before–what an act of goodwill.’ , ‘You give me hope that we can have a future filled with peace.’ . . .
‘This is God’s house, and that means everyone is welcome here. I hope you, too, feel welcome.’ I did. And judging by the laughter and conversations I saw the other Mount Olivet folks engaged in, they did, too.” God’s banner over us is love!

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:
Icon of the Holy Trinity by Andrei Rublev (1360-1430) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Wendell Berry quote from “The Real Work” by Wendell Berry, from Standing by Words. © 1983.
Quote from Douglas Steere, “To listen another’s soul into a condition of disclosure and discovery may be almost the greatest service that any human being performs for another.” was in On Listening to Another.
Photo from Mount Olivet Lutheran Church in Plymouth, Minnesota, 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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Changes

I smell freshly mown grass and my chest expands. A sense of freedom, gratitude, wonder and delight emerges.

I follow my senses to my childhood, lying on the lawn looking up at the clouds in a blue, blue sky. No more school for two whole months.

In the next breath, I’m taken to another lawn–my parents’ back yard in Vernon on the May long weekend. Dad’s pushing the electric mower, just about done. He’s already tanned, though it’s been a wet spring. He loves his lawns, back and front. Not a weed in them. “I cut the lawn on my 89th birthday,” he says proudly when he sits down to join us. His biking, hiking, and driving days are over, but he can still cut the lawn–for now anyway.

I return from my reverie and look out the window. Up until a month ago, Fred cut this lawn. Birds would follow him, grateful for the food he served up with every pass of the mower.

Now someone younger does the landscaping in our townhouse complex. The birds have a new hero, and I have more time with mine.

Another breath of fresh-cut grass and an old Gordon Lightfoot song comes to mind.

Sit by my side come as close as the air
Share in a memory of gray
And wander in my words
And dream about the pictures that I play, of changes

When I was in my teens, I’d sit on the front steps of my parents’ house in Ontario on warm summer evenings. My whole life spread out like the lawn in front of me–fresh and green. Oblivious to the occasional car passing by on the gravel road, I played my guitar and sang songs like this one, songs of love and loss, freedom and change.

God is still by my side as close as the air, feeding the birds, wandering in my words, and bringing new life in the changes.

God made the moon to mark the seasons,
and the sun knows when to go down.
–Psalm 104:19 (NIV)

***

Love Mischief for the World

On July 1, Canada will celebrate its 150 birthday. On this great occasion, I would like to honour Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples. This image (left) represents the Anglican Church’s solidarity with the indigenous peoples of Canada. The fish and cross were the first Christian symbols. In the middle is another ancient symbol: the medicine wheel. “The circle, being primary, influences how we as Aboriginal peoples view the world,” writes Elder Jim Dumont in Culture, Behaviour and Identity of the Native Person. “In the process of how life evolves, how the natural world grows and works together, how all things are connected, and how all things move forward toward their destiny, Aboriginal peoples see and respond to the world in a circular fashion and are influenced by the examples of the circles of creation in our environment.” Thank you to our First Nations, Inuit, and Métis sisters and brothers for your gifts of wisdom, healing, and forgiveness. May we listen and use what you have given to bring reconciliation to you and to our land.

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:
“Long Green Grass” in public domain.
Changes, ©1966 by Phil Ochs, as sung by Gordon Lightfoot
 © 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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Love Mischief

God’s been up to some love mischief.

I have three pieces of evidence.

Last Sunday I preached on the lectionary readings for the day. I was captivated by an image I found in Psalm 116 which said that God inclines his ear to us. I wove my sermon around this loving picture of God and also used it in last week’s post. Minutes before the service began, I looked through the bulletin and discovered the alternate psalm, Psalm 8, had been used instead.  If I’d read that one, I would have never found and used that image which spoke so intimately and compassionately to us.

Recently I received a letter in the mail from someone who made my life quite difficult a number of years ago. I opened it to find a heartfelt apology.

This week I was working on the summer schedule for the Wednesday Lunch Club, an outreach for those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Every time I thought I found a good day for our mid-summer barbecue, I noticed a conflict and needed to move it to a different day. The only date that would work was just three weeks after our Canada Day barbecue. The next morning I remembered that one of the fellows who comes to the Lunch Club is turning eighty and had hoped we’d celebrate this milestone on the Wednesday before his birthday. Guess which day that is? Uh-huh. The only one that would work.

God inclined his ear to us and heard our desires to be listened to, to be reconciled, and to be celebrated.

One of SoulStream’s core values is to trust that, despite all evidence to the contrary, God will accomplish God’s purposes in Christ. It often looks like God has left us to fend for ourselves, but sometimes we see the love mischief God’s been up to and know our prayers have been heard.

We trust that despite all evidence to the contrary, God will accomplish God’s loving redemption toward the fulfillment of all things in Christ.–SoulStream

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

Often I am touched by the embodied compassion I see in the people who come to the Wednesday Lunch Club. “Home” is the word most often used to describe what it feels like to be there. There’s a lot of love in that place. There’s also a lot of love mischief that goes on behind the scenes–by the two churches that support this ministry, by the soup and sandwich makers that prepare food, and by the drivers who pick up the Starbucks and Cob’s Bread donations we distribute. All who gather weekly to receive these gifts are filled with gratitude.

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:
“God the Father” attributed to Cima da Conegliano [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
“Hold On” by Luc De Leeuw. Detail of a stained glass window representing Father Damian and a leper. Used with permission.
“Comfort Food” by Quasimime. 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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God Inclined His Ear to Me

I love the Lord, because he has heard
    my voice and my supplications.
Because he inclined his ear to me,
    therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
–Psalm 116:1,2

I imagine God inclining his/her ear to me, bringing it so close to my mouth that I can whisper what I can’t say out loud.

God has heard my supplications, my pleas for assistance, direction, and relief. He has heard my rambling thoughts, my half-baked intentions. He holds my sighs and groans, my laughter, my despair. He listens to it all and leans closer still.

“To listen another’s soul into a condition of disclosure and discovery may be almost the greatest service that any human being performs for another,” Douglas Steere wrote in On Listening to Another.

I’ve been listened to that way. When I was praying the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises in 2012-13, I met with Father Elton Fernandes weekly. Early on in the exercises, I told him I dreamt that Fred and I had taken our four-year-old grandson, Hadrian, to the beach. “We let him play while we took a nap for a couple of hours–something we’d never do. When we woke up, we realized, to our horror, he was gone. We looked everywhere for him, grasping onto the hope that he was alive and well somewhere. We looked and looked for him until… I woke up. I was so relieved that it was only a dream.”

Father Elton waited for me to go on. I told him what it was like growing up as one of five children in the fifties and sixties. “When I prayed about the dream, I felt that God was going to retrieve and redeem my childhood.”

Father Elton was silent for a moment, then said, “What stood out for you were two things: looking and waking up. You talked about looking, that you sensed God was looking for you. But what about the waking up? What are you waking up to?”

“That I’ve lost someone precious to me.” Tears came as I continued, “And that someone is me. I’m waking up to the belief that I’m as precious as Hadrian is. The dream is asking me: Will I cherish and love myself the way God cherishes and loves me?”

I could hardly get the words out. I looked through blurry eyes for a tissue. “Thank you, so much. I never saw that coming.”

“Neither did I,” said Father Elton and I loved him for it.

God listens like that. In the silence, he waits for that still small voice in me to say out loud what I fear is true and what I hope is true.

Then God inclines his lips to my ear and tells me what he knows is true.

“Come,” God says, “let me wipe your tears,
and let my mouth come close to your ear
and say to you, ‘I love you. 
I love you. I love you.”

–Henri Nouwen,
Show Me the Way: Daily Lenten Readings

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

I found Michael Cook’s “Burning Bush” (in post above) three and a half years ago when I was looking for an image that illustrated the holy listening that happens in spiritual direction. In our conversations and in Michael’s art, I hear and see God’s embodied compassion again and again–leaning in, loving, protecting, listening, always listening. His painting, Night Prayer, so impacted our SoulStream community when we were together for our annual gathering in 2014, that we brought it again the next year. When I told Michael how it had touched people’s lives, he said, “Sometimes it is hard to believe that a painting might truly help anyone on their path; it seems such a weak thing.” Yet in this “weak thing” we encountered God. Michael, thank you for the love mischief you do as your life with God is poured out in colour for the world.

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:
“Burning Bush” and “Helichrysum: Memory of the Sun” by Michael Cook and photo of Michael Cook 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, Helpful Images, Reflections, Spiritual Direction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Stones, Slivers and Silence

I love being with people and look forward to social gatherings, but I often come home with a stone in my shoe. When I shake it out and it falls to the floor, I recognize that moment when something went wrong. I had little to contribute to a conversation and felt inadequate, or I said something I regretted. I detected a look of disapproval or a differing opinion made me rethink mine.

I pick up the stone, remind myself that God is with me and I’ll be all right, and toss it away. But a sliver of doubt remains. Am I good enough? Will they stop loving me?

I don’t even know this sliver’s buried itself in my soul until it begins to fester, making me sensitive to anything anyone says or does. Then I pull back, watch my words and try to be more acceptable. It’s so stinking hard, I want to run away and become a hermit.

But in community–the very place where I pick up stones and slivers–a moment comes when something goes right. Someone says or does something that finds that sliver and plucks it out.

Just last week, it happened again. I rub the tender spot where I was afflicted and look back on what transpired. I’m grateful for the Healer who came to me “in the mouth of friend and stranger.” But I’m disappointed to discover I still have insecurities. I wonder: if I sat longer in the silence, would God rid me of these stones and slivers?

Or perhaps it’s the silence that reveals how God does.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
–St. Patrick’s Breastplate Prayer

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

Friends of mine are hiking and biking to raise money and awareness for mental health.

Done in a Day is a charity hike that raises funds for mental health. On June 24, Patty and Dale Wagner will hike a section of the 24 km stretch of the Baden Powell Trail, from Cleveland Dam to Deep Cove on Vancouver’s north shore to support subsidized counselling for the clients of Burnaby Counselling Group.

Anne Duifhuis writes, “On June 25, 2017, thousands of cyclists will come together to celebrate and strengthen mental health for all Canadians while raising $1,500,000 for mental health programs and services–and I will be one of them! I rode the 60km route with the Vancouver Police Department team last year and will again. I invite you to join the movement and show your support with a donation or by joining me as a rider. Thank you!”

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
“Mustard Seed” by Wendy Linnington. Used with permission.
“Community…” by Kamaljith K V. 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 Poverty of Spirit, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Flies and Cold Fish

I’ve been doing too much, thinking too much. I’m so full of thoughts about what I have to do, my prayer times are inundated with them. I try to push them away, but each one promises to be the thought that will end all thoughts.

One of my doings landed me in a contemplative gathering on a Saturday night. Someone read Jan Richardson’s poem, “Stay: A Blessing for Ascension Day.” Together we listened for a word or phrase that drew our attention. Without fanfare or feeling, these words stood out for me.

Wait with your hands open
to receive what could never come
except to what is empty
and hollow.

The sentence sat on my lap like a cold fish while more thoughts buzzed and bumped against confines of the silence.

A few days later, I attended a one-day prayer retreat. Though I’d carefully guarded that time, I had to leave early to attend a memorial service.  For a couple of hours, I sat with more words, more dead fish on my lap.

Abide in us.
Holy God. . .
Mighty One. . .
Guiding One. . .

Then a thought emerged with a hint of a sob–not from the buzzing in my head but from the stillness of my heart: God is holy enough, mighty enough, present enough for me to let go of my thoughts and trust the hollow emptiness.

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.

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

Once when I was on a silent retreat, I feasted on the delicious poems of Hafiz, translated by Daniel Ladinsky (left). I felt so loved and God was so pleased. I often find myself quoting a Hafiz poem when speaking, directing or writing and smile inwardly in gratitude for Ladinsky and the permission he has given me to use these poems in blog posts. He commented, “You say, ‘I did a little dance,’ in reading something I sent, posted. That is really my sole care in the world now. . .  to help every creature boogie ever higher—become more free and safe.” Thank you, Daniel, for the love mischief you and God do for the world.

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
“Another Foggy Morning” by Carlo Scherer. Used with permission.
Jan L. Richardson, from “Stay: A Blessing for Ascension Day”
“Alone in the Woods” by Carlo Scherer. Used with permission.
“Just Sit Right There Now” from 
The Gift: Poems by Hafiz  Translation by Daniel Ladinsky.
Photo of Daniel Ladinsky by Kevin D. Mann
© 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 Poetry, Prayer | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Gift I Received

During teaching sessions of Living From The Heart, the participants and facilitators sat in a circle. In the centre was a low table adorned with a cross and a candle, and around it were a number of icons, two pictured here. This familiar, sacred space held many memories for us.

In our final closing, I invited each person to share a blessing, gratitude or gift they received during our time together. Many shed tears as they talked or listened; the affection we had for each other was palpable.

When I was certain everyone had had a turn, I began to speak. As I did, I felt a gentle hand on my arm. Deb, the co-facilitator sitting beside me, realized one of the participants had also begun to talk. That touch was all I needed to stop, look and listen.

Of course I felt bad for messing up. I’m quite sensitive about not leaving anyone out. But as I look back on that incident, it isn’t my remorse that stands out like it has in the past; it’s Deb’s gentle, loving gesture.

Whenever I’m in community for an extended period of time, I’m hyper-aware of my faults. I notice how often I draw attention to myself or cut someone off in conversation. All my shortcomings stack up until I’m convinced that’s all anyone sees. But each day, in one interaction after another, I heard that what I feared wasn’t true. People weren’t blind to my faults, but they weren’t blinded by them either. They could see me, and they liked what they saw.

This was how God loved me: with embodied kindness and compassion, without disapproval. This was the gift I received from Living From The Heart.

God would seem to be too occupied in being unable to take Her eyes off of us to spend any time raising an eyebrow in disapproval. Gregory J. Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

Finland is engaging in some love mischief at school. Here is a clip from Where to Invade Next, a documentary by Michael Moore that made me wish I were growing up in Finland today.

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

Credits and References:
Our Lady of Vladimir (12th century), the holy protectress of Russia, now in the Tretyakov Gallery public domain by Wikipedia Commons.
Icon of the Holy Trinity by Andrei Rublev (1360-1430) [Public domain], 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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Questioned by a Strawflower

JpegThis week I’ve been away at Living From The Heart. Here is a post I wrote two years ago when I was co-facilitating this course for the first time.

Five tight buds, glossy purple lollipops, greeted me as I passed them on my way to morning prayers. Many flowers that I recognized were blooming at Twin Creeks Lodge–iris, geraniums, petunias, pansies, and daisies–but I had never seen buds like these before. By mid-morning, one had opened up to the sun. “It’s a straw flower,” someone told me.

Next morning there were five buds again. Had I been seeing things? Where was the flower? Before noon the blossom reappeared: it closed at night and opened in the day!

Every time I passed the straw flowers during Living from the Heart, I looked to see what they were doing. They, in turn, looked at me and asked, “Are you open or closed?”

In the week-long intensive I co-facilitate with Deb Arndt and Jeff Imbach, we introduced ancient prayer practices and explored contemplative living. We had the privilege of watching the participants open to God and to one another. Our job was to help them recognize the Real Teacher in their lives.

It sounds easier than it is. At times, I was as tight as a bud, anxious that I might say or do something that would inhibit God’s work. The strawflower invited me to relax and open myself to the light. So did morning and evening prayers, the silent times of reflection, and the gathering of this little community as we ate, shared and laughed together. Even the rhythm of my breath–full, then empty, then full again–encouraged me to trust that God was recreating us.

By the end of our time together, spring had ended and summer arrived. The strawflower no longer needed to retreat at night. I long for the day when I will remain open to God and bask in Love’s warmth. But for now, I sense, it’s enough to listen to the flowers.

bracteantha_magenta_500px

“Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.
I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.
Keep company with me
and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

— Matthew 11:29-30 (MSG)

Love Mischief for the World

I want to honour the participants of SoulStream’s Living From The Heart course. It’s not easy to live from the core of who we are. Do we even know who we are? And can we trust that God is there, actively loving and leading us? As poet Anne Morrow Lindbergh writes, “It is a difficult lesson to learn today, to leave one’s friends and family and deliberately practise the art of solitude for an hour or a day or a week. . .” But what they’ve gained from their time away has led them into much love mischief for the world.

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:
“Strawflower buds at Twin Creeks” by Fred Hizsa. Used with permission.
“Bracteantha Magenta” by Fleming’s Nurseries. Used with permission.
SoulStream logo 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 2013-17.  http://www.estherhizsa.wordpress.com
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