What Am I Waiting For?

John the Baptist gecomprimeerd Geertgen tot Sint Jans wikimediaAs I mentioned last week, stillness is not something I easily gravitate toward. When I do try to be still, fleeting and few are the moments when I’m walking on water,” blissfully free from distraction. Even though I know (and teach) that God is doing something on a deeper level, and the success of the prayer is measured by the fruit that appears in our lives, lately I’ve found my life less peaceful. I seem to be going through a season in which I’m acutely aware of my shortcomings.

One evening–at the time of day when I’m more prone to be inundated with self-deprecating thoughts–an idea came to me. What if my prayers are making me more aware of the dogged disappointment I feel? Could God be wanting to do something with this awareness?

The thought returned the next morning when I sat down to pray. I reached for some encouraging words from Anthony de Mello and read about a young man who found centering prayer frustrating but persisted with it. Finally six months later, he began to experience change. De Mello writes,

“This constant, painful, distraction-ridden attempt he was making day after day to expose himself to what seemed to be nothingness and emptiness, to attempt to just quiet his mind and attain some sort of silence through concentration on body sensations or breathing or sounds, was bringing him a new power in his daily living that he hadn’t noticed there before–and power in so great a measure that its presence in his life was unmistakable.”

De Mello goes on to say,

“This is one of the major benefits of this form of prayer: a change in oneself that seems effortless. All the virtues you formerly tried to attain through the exercise of your will power seem to come to you effortlessly now–sincerity, simplicity, kindliness, patience . . .  Addictions seem to drop off without the need for resolutions and effort on one’s part. . .”

As soon as I read that, I remembered how I felt about the virtues I haven’t attained and the addictions I can’t control. Then another thought came to me: what if God just wants to give me what I desire?

God wasn’t drawing attention to my shortcomings in order to scold me, nor was God minimizing them. Instead, God wants to save me from them–even if that simply means finding a way to be at peace with with who I am.

This is what I am waiting for.

sunrise Carlo Scherer Flickr

It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
–Lamentations 3:26

∗ ∗ ∗

Love Mischief for the World

candlesFred and I attend an Imago Dei group where we gather with other Christian contemplatives for fellowship, worship, sharing, and prayer. Twenty minutes of our time together is dedicated to silent prayer. We are greatly encouraged by this love mischief, and in all the years we have been meeting, no one has ever asked that we shorten or skip this portion of the evening–even though some have fallen asleep and even snored! Many find it easier to pray in silence with others present. De Mello writes, “Silence, when it is deep, can unite.” We have found this to be true and treasure the sense of love and unity we’ve experienced. If you are ever in the Tri-Cities area of Vancouver on a Thursday night and want to join us, let us know. You’d be more than welcome.

 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:
Geertgen tot Sint Jans (circa 1460-circa 1488) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Sadhana A Way to God: Christian Exercises in Eastern Form by Anthony de Mello, Image Books 1984, p.57.
“Another Day in Paradise” by Carlo Scherer. Used with permission.
“Candles” by Arne Hulstein. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2016.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Mystical, Poverty of Spirit, Prayer, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Peace, Be Still

Jesus-calms-the-storm-sisters-turvey-abbeyMark’s gospel says that one evening Jesus got into a boat with his disciples to cross the Sea of Galilee. He was exhausted after a day of teaching and healing and fell asleep on a cushion at the back of the boat. A while later a fierce squall threatened to swamp them. The disciples woke Jesus. “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

Unperturbed Jesus stood up and addressed the elements. “Peace! Be still!” The wind died down and the sea calmed.

I picture the disciples sitting in that boat, hands clenched to the railing as the rolling seas begin to settle. I can hear the last few waves lap against the boat’s hull until finally there is no sound at all. I can see the disciples, surrounded by stillness, rising in awe.

When I was in college, I swam twice a week at the YWCA. One morning I was the first one there. I rushed onto the pool deck, goggles in hand, to do my lengths, but the sight of the pool without one ripple in it stopped me. I had never seen the water this still before. I was reluctant to dive in and disturb it. What would it be like to embody such stillness?

I am rarely still. Even when I sit down to pray, my mind doesn’t stop whirring. I shut my eyes—as if this were a switch that makes me instantly present to God—and, without wasting a minute, I shout over the din of the waves and strain to hear Christ’s voice in the tumult.

But when I read this story again, Jesus whispers to my busy mind, Peace! Be still.

It takes time to become still. There is no way to hasten the process; Jesus knows that. But eventually my soul quiets down.

What does God do in this stillness? Who knows? For when I am finally at peace, I entertain neither thought nor feeling, so I have nothing to report. But when I think about it afterwards, I notice a delightful warmth residing in my chest. In the days that follow, I discover new freedoms.

I can imagine that as I waited for the waves to settle, the Holy Spirit hovered closer and closer then finally came to rest on the still surface of my soul. 

breath

 Calm the waves of this heart, O God;
calm its tempests.
Calm yourself, O my soul,
so that God is able to rest in you,
so that God’s peace may cover you.
Yes, you give us peace, O God,
peace that the whole world can never take away.
—Soren Kierkegaard (1813–1855) 

∗ ∗ ∗

Love Mischief for the World

SoulStream-Home-Slide-Founders-1140x328God can accomplish so much love mischief by seeding a desire for stillness in us. Many years ago the Imbach brothers followed that desire and went for spiritual direction. Little did they know then what would unfold. Eventually they began to offer spiritual direction and teach it to others and ended up founding a dispersed contemplative community that offers spiritual direction to the world. Here’s how it got started.

 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:
“Peace, Be Still” by Esther Hizsa reprinted from Stories of an Everyday Pilgrim, © 2015.
Jesus Calms the Storm © 2000 The Benedictine Sisters of Turvey Abbey and McCrimmon Publishing Co. Ltd(UK) /Used with permission of www.mccrimmons.com.
“Breath” Artist unknown.
Image of SoulStream Founders (Sue Vander Woude, Karen Webber, Steve Imbach, Andrea Kastner, Jeff Imbach) used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2016.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Mystical, Reflections, Stories, Stories of an Everyday Pilgrim | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Walking on Water

Walking on water Flickr ted

Jesus sends me off to pray
in my boat of words.

I begin to row.
Even though I know
he’s gone off to the hills,
I keep looking for him
beside me, hands touching,
asleep in the stern, head on a pillow.

A sprinkling of thoughts
are soon droplets of desire,
driven by restless winds
and desolation.

Why isn’t he here? 

I row my thoughts,
press them harder,
beg my prayers to carry me across the divide.
But the shore remains distant.

Then he appears
a ghost
walking on the water.
Come.

I step out with nothing solid under my feet,
praying without words or strategies,
trusting only his gaze.

It’s exhilarating
until
waves of doubt slap my feet,
soak my pants,
pull me down
into the cold, dark sea.

You’re going to drown, says the wind.

Water swallows my ankles, my knees, my thighs.

He grasps my hand.
My heart leaps open,
and then
we’re walking on water.

Then by Anne Y

22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.“You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” –Matthew 14:22-33 (NIV)

∗ ∗ ∗

Love Mischief for the World

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

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

Credits and References:
Icon of Jesus walking on water by Ted. Used with permission.
“Then” by Anne Yungwirth. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2016.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Mystical, Poetry, Prayer | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Held

leaf cropped

This picture called to me from the table covered with photos at a silent retreat earlier this year. I wasn’t sure why until I sat with it in prayer.

What stood out for me at first was the bronze colour. It spoke of the aged leaf’s beauty and worth. The nubs on the thin branch reminded me of lives spent. Soon there will only be a nub where this leaf once was. Though its days of photosynthesis are over and it has no more oxygen to give to the world, it’s still firmly attached to the branch–held, upheld, hallowed.

God had been listening to my thoughts again. Thoughts about aging and death come more frequently now when I notice changes in my parents and changes in myself. As I looked at the photo in my hands, God spoke to those thoughts. I am held. God is with me in this second half of life, revealing beauty that was not evident before, beauty that has nothing to do with what I can produce.

One day on our camping vacation this year, I noticed a sadness had settled on me. I listened to it and traced its source to a conversation I overheard while trying to go to sleep the night before. A fellow in the next campsite was talking about the long, steep and challenging trail he’d hiked. Fred and I have hiked trails like these in the past and were not up to tackling them this year. The sadness I felt made me realize I missed the thrill of bagging another peak.

I thought about the books I’d been reading: Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward and Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns. Their words, the trails we could hike, and the weather I couldn’t control invited me to find joy in what’s given instead of what’s planned and accomplished.

Rohr writes,

The ego clearly prefers an economy of merit, where we can divide the world into winners and losers, to any economy of grace, where merit or worthiness loses all meaning.

I always feared I would die wishing I had done more with my life. But I’m starting to see that there’s nothing big I still need to do, no more mountains I have to climb to prove myself. In this second half of life, without the need for winners or losers, it’s enough to know that I am held.

Mariam wished for so much in those final moments. Yet as she closed her eyes, it was not regret any longer but a sensation of abundant peace that washed over her. . . she was leaving the world as a woman who had loved and been loved back. —Khaled Hosseini, A Thousand Splendid Suns

∗ ∗ ∗

Love Mischief for the World

Khaled_Hosseini_in_2007

Khaled Hosseini is an Afghan-born American novelist and physician. He has written three books set in Afghanistan: The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns, And the Mountains Echoed. A year and a half following the release of The Kite Runner, he left his medical practice and devoted his time to writing. But that is not the only love mischief he’s been up to. He is currently a Goodwill Envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and has been working to provide humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan through the Khaled Hosseini Foundation. The ending of A Thousand Splendid Suns told me what kind of love mischief Hosseini holds dear.

 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:
“Leaf’ by seyed mostafa zamani (cropped slightly). Used with permission.
Photo of Khaled Hosseini” from Wikipedia.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2016.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in False Self, Reflections, Spiritual Direction, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

DIY Retreat #7: Circle Me, Lord

Here is another one-day prayer/silent retreat outline prepared by my friend Joy Richardson, a spiritual director in Coquitlam. You’ll find the introduction to DIY group prayer retreats here and other outlines under resources.

circle me Lord

CIRCLE ME, LORD

After people have gathered, begin with a time of quiet. Light the candle and welcome God’s presence.

Song: Encircling (based on St. Patrick’s prayer from Trust by Gemma)

The mighty Three my protection be
Encircling me
You are around my life, my home encircling me
Oh sacred Three, the mighty Three

Preparatory Prayer (Ignatius of Loyola):

O Lord, I acknowledge that I am in your presence.
I offer this time to you.
Lead my heart and mind.
May everything I feel, think and do be directed purely toward your greater praise and service. Amen.

Morning Prayer (SoulStream)

Blessed Trinity,
I receive your love, your presence and this day
as a gift from you.
I open my heart to you.
Please lead me deeper into your transforming love
as we spend these next hours together. Amen

 

Introduce and practice circle prayers by drawing them on paper (tracing a toonie or quarter works well) or encircling yourself with a scarf.

double circle prayer

Disperse in silence. In the silence, participants can schedule for themselves three times of personal prayers of 45-60 minutes each with breaks in between to eat or relax.

First Prayer Period: SEE, HEAR, CONSIDER

Luke 13: 10-17   The Healing of the Crippled Woman

  1. Read this passage slowly.
  2. Pray for the grace to know Jesus more clearly, to love him more dearly, and to follow him more nearly.
  3. Read the passage again slowly
  4. Set the scene. Who do you see? What do you see? Who are you?
  5. SEE: Watch the story play out.
  6. HEAR: Listen to the conversations.
  7. CONSIDER: Consider the actions of Jesus and others.
  8. What does Jesus say to you in your own condition/situation? Allow the conversation to evolve.

Second Prayer Period: CIRCLE ME

This is an encircling prayer, asking God to encircle us and others with the Trinity’s love. It is from the Celtic tradition. As you pray it, imagine yourself and others surrounded by our Three Personed God. Imagine the Creator, Son and Spirit loving each other and inviting you into this circle of love, care and protection.

As you pray, draw a circle around yourself with your finger, or place a scarf in a circle on the floor around you before you pray. These symbolize the encircling love of God.

Prayer for yourself:

Spend time with God. Perhaps it is helpful to picture yourself as a child with Jesus or held in the soft down of the Holy Spirit. Let God hold you gently. Enjoy the sense of God we receive from Psalm 131:2

I have stilled and quieted my soul
Like a weaned child with its mother
Like a weaned child is my soul within me.

As you spend time with God (and this may be as you go for a walk, knit, or colour), what thoughts or feelings come to you? Ask the Holy Spirit if there is anything God would like to show you. Lift this or anything else that is on your heart to our Lord in prayer. Here are some examples of circle prayers:

 

Circle me, Lord,

Keep __________ in.

Keep ____________ out.

Draw Your Prayers:

Trace a circle, and write your prayer in it. Be as creative as you wish as you use colour and design to accompany your prayers. Here are some examples:

Triple circle prayer

Third Prayer Period: CIRCLE OTHERS

“Praying for other people is a hospitality of the heart.” (Celtic Illustrations, p.140)

Joy explains, “God has been drawing me deeper into prayer for others. Many of those I love and care about are going through very difficult times. Many of my family and friends have people in their lives that God is drawing me to pray for as well. As I listen to the news, I am becoming more and more aware of people and situations that need prayer. We can use circle prayers to lift all of these people up to God.”

Take time to be with our Triune God. Lift one person to this Divine Community of Love. Sense the Trinity’s love for this person and God’s heart for them. Allow yourself to share in that love. Use a circle prayer to pray for them. Take your time. There is no hurry. Move on to pray for someone else when you have a sense your prayer for the first person is finished.

 

Circle __________ Lord,

Keep ____________in.

Keep ____________ out.

For example,

second triple circle prayer

Variations:

You can vary the words circle/encircle, keep/bring, in/within  or out/without. What makes it meaningful to you? Make changes as you wish.

Example:

Encircle Stan, Lord.

Keep bitterness without.

Bring a sense of Your presence within.

 

Closing: Gather together at the end for a time of sharing. Allow each person to speak without comment. Receive what each person has offered as a gift, pausing to pray silently for each one after they have spoken.

Credits and references:
Celtic Daily Prayer, from the Northumbria Community,  HarperSanFrancisco, 2002.
Celtic Illustrations: A Prayer Journal, Northumbria Community, HarperCollinsPublishers, 1997.
Ignatian Preparatory Prayer from The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola
Morning Prayer of SoulStream Community. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2016.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016  http://www.estherhizsa.com.

 

Posted in Ignatian Spirituality, Prayer, Prayer Retreat Outline | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Praying in the Cracks

Not that long ago, the idea of spending time alone with God in silence was not even on my radar. But God knew how much I needed this and invited me to “pray in the cracks.” This post was originally published in 2013. I hope you enjoy reading it.

joannagoddard.blogspot.comI went to my first spiritual director a dozen years ago while I was studying at Regent College.

After a few sessions my director said gently, “You have a lot of noisy, discouraging tapes playing in your head. I can’t compete with them.”

I swallowed hard. “What can I do?”

“Do you pray?” she asked.

“Yes. Sometimes. Not as much as I’d like.”

“How about praying in the cracks?”

“The what?”

“The cracks. The spaces that naturally occur in your day as you walk from one class to another, as you stand in line at the grocery store, or even as you wait for an elevator.  In those spare moments, instead of thinking about what you need to do next or trying to solve problems, just allow God to love you.”

“That’s it?”

“Yes. Do you think you can do that?”

“Sure,” I said skeptically.

“Trust me. If you pray in the cracks, it will change your life.”

As I walked from her office to the bus stop, I decided to try it. I began to pray and all kinds of thoughts flooded into my mind: things I should pray for, things I should do. Then I looked down at a crack in the sidewalk and stopped. Just allow God to love you, she had said.

jesusneedsnewpr.netLeaves—golden and red—caught my eye. Dry brown ones crunched under foot. I listened to the birds and the laughter in the distance, and I thought about being God’s beloved child.

After that, whenever I found myself waiting for anything (and remembered to pray), I quieted my heart and imagined God saying to me, “You are my beloved child, with you I am well pleased.”

In those cracks God deposited seeds of Christ’s kingdom. Before long I found myself relaxing in the shade of a mustard tree, with more freedom to pray and enjoy God’s presence.

A dozen years later I still pray in the cracks. And those old tapes? They’re not as loud as they used to be.

The Lord your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.
–Zephaniah 3:17 (NKJV)

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Love Mischief for the World

LA Evans-2014

Lesley-Anne Evans is the Creative Curator at Metro Community where she works with street people in Kelowna, B.C.. One of her initiatives is a blog Holding Out Hope, which gives them a voice. She quotes Phillip Stanhope who said that many people would “rather you heard their story than granted their request.” Lesley-Anne says, “We are all created in the image of God, and therefore creative. I love to coming alongside others as they discover, engage, contribute and celebrate their creative gifts.” Lesley-Anne says what’s most meaningful to her is being present and listening. Through this, she has begun to experience the rawness of the street community and the gift of holding space without judgement.

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:
Photo from The Bean and Bear
Painting by Christian Asuh
Photo of Lesley-Anne Evans used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2016.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Homelessness, Popular Posts, Prayer, Spiritual Direction, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Rescued

Creación_de_Adán_(Miguel_Ángel)As I looked back on my eight-day retreat, I saw the through-line of a story. It began with God’s whispers of love and a gentle awareness that I had been guarding and protecting my heart from God.

At the beginning of the retreat, I reflected on what drew me away from God in the past year and noticed something I enjoyed doing. It was not sinful in itself, but I sensed I enjoyed this pleasure too much. However, it seemed so insignificant, that I didn’t mention it to my retreat director. But when I imagined myself in the temple and heard the pharisee tell it like it was, I knew this pleasure was insidious. I loved it more than God.

“No one can serve two masters,” Father Alwyn had said in his homily one morning during the retreat. “They will hate one and love the other.” These words came back to me in my prayers, as did the psalmist’s words about idols: “They have eyes but do not see, ears but can’t hear . . . and those who make them are like them.”

Ignatius also warned of the danger of inordinate attachments. In this paraphrase of Ignatius’s Principle and Foundation, he writes,

All the things in this world are gifts of God, presented to us so that we can know God more easily and make a return of love more readily. . .  But if any of these gifts become the centre of our lives, they displace God and so hinder our growth as loving persons.

Another love had led me astray, and its pleasure numbed me from feeling God’s feelings and my own as I interacted with others, read scripture or prayed.

But God pursued me and invited me to come away and rest from this pleasure. And there Jesus wooed me back.

When you read about my experience, what goes on for you? Do you hear that God loves you just as passionately? Perhaps you feel discouraged or abandoned by God, because this has not been your experience.

Creación_de_Adán_(Miguel_Ángel)

We can’t orchestrate intimate encounters with God. In fact, Theresa of Avila warns us not to pursue them. But I suspect that God initiates divine encounters–both fleeting and grand–far more than we realize. What keeps them at bay?

Years of offering spiritual direction have shown me that the reasons we don’t experience God more are diverse and complicated. We can’t figure it out or fix it any more than we can control God’s actions. But what we can do is listen to the ache in our souls to connect with God. We can take that ache to Jesus and ask him to rescue us. We can ask him to open our hearts to see, hear and feel his love.

And then see what happens.

Jesus says, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

6278574520_3468bb59f9_b

Let me not run from the love which you offer. . .
Keep calling to me
until that day comes when, with your saints,
I may praise you forever.
Soul of Christ Prayer
by David Fleming, SJ

∗ ∗ ∗

Love Mischief for the World

people-984010_1280

When my friend Jeff is on public transit, he looks at the people around him and senses that they carry heavy burdens. Instead of distancing himself from his fellow passengers or feeling overwhelmed by their needs, he chooses to be present to them. He prays for them using a contemplative practice we teach in Living From The Heart. Without knowing their names or stories, he breathes in their suffering–not into himself but into Christ at the core of his being. Then he breathes Christ’s peace onto them. “It’s what I can do,” he says.

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:
“Creation of Adam” by Michelangelo (1475-1564) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
Matthew 6:24; Psalm 115:4-8; Matthew 11:28
David Fleming’s paraphrase is partly taken from here and from Draw Me Into Your Friendship: A Literal Translation and a Contemporary Reading of the Spiritual Exercises by David L. Fleming, SJ
The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila by Herself, 11.13; Interior Castle 6.9
“Rest” by Aftab Uzzaman. Used with permission.
Photo of person on bus from Pixabay.com. Creative commons.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2016.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Ignatian Spirituality, Reflections, Spiritual Direction, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

What a Good Person Looks Like

3589766729_b062a4b073_oI left my outer robe at the bottom of the sycamore and climbed into its branches. I had heard Jesus was coming this way and wanted to see what a good person looked like. Up in the tree with my bare limbs exposed, enemies took advantage of my vulnerability and threw stones at me.

Jesus saw this and came running. “Stop! Stop!” he yelled. One by one my accusers dropped their stones as Jesus put one hand on the trunk of the tree and held the other out to me. “Esther, come down.”

When I prayed with this story of Zacchaeus on my eight-day retreat, the picture of Jesus coming to my aid moved me to tears. It still does.

At the beginning of the retreat, God’s loving whispers in the psalms gently washed over me. Wave after wave glistened the surface of my heart like rocks on a beach. Finally my heart cracked open, and love saturated my soul. In the prayer periods that followed, Jesus told me that he never tires of being with me, and I rested, like the beloved disciple, with my head on his chest.

But when I returned to pray with this story of Zacchaeus, I felt drawn to the tree. Once again I shed my thick cloak and climbed back up where I would feel all that life pummelled at me. I stood on a branch and looked for Jesus in the crowd below, but he wasn’t there. Instead he was in the tree behind me. He put his hand over mine.

Someone shouted from below, “If the Lord likes you, why doesn’t he help you?” Similar words had been hurled at Jesus on another tree.

The only way down from this cross was to take up my cloak, harden my heart, and walk away from Jesus. That thought brought tears to my eyes.

“You’re a good person,” Jesus said to me.

His words puzzled me. Here, up in the tree, there’s no hiding all that I am from God or anyone else. There’s no protecting myself from joy or sorrow: the fear that one will leave and the other won’t. Here, in this place with his hand over mine, Jesus called me good.

I sat down on the branch and leaned back into his goodness. I leaned into this good God who welcomes all my joys and sorrows.

moonbeams_by_jessie_willcox_smith_print-raf74f29c46f64a40acf53e386e34f3b8_tqm_8byvr_512

May the shelter I seek
be the shadow of your cross.
Soul of Christ Prayer
by David Fleming, SJ

∗ ∗ ∗

Love Mischief for the World

2627204317_46a1d75b70_b“I woke early on July 1st. I was so excited to go to work,” writes my friend Theresa. “I had flags, a six-foot banner, pinwheels, and head bands with tassels and Canadian flags on them–all to decorate the pie shop with. I had told everyone at work we were going to celebrate Canada’s birthday. I wanted everyone at work to enjoy the day and, in turn, make sure every customer left happier than when they came in. That was my plan of love mischief for the day.

“Well. . . I missed my bus. So now I had to go the long way into work through downtown Vancouver and get on the Granville station escalator that scares me, because I know it’s going to shred me to death one day. But when I rode the escalator, I was thinking so much about my plans, that I was off the escalator before I had a chance to feel afraid.

“As I walked up the block to my bus connection, I saw a man sleeping on the sidewalk. He had an empty paper cup by his head. I noticed a bit of change, some candy wrappers and other garbage beside him. I then noticed his feet sticking out from under his thin blanket. His socks were wet and had holes in them. I don’t give to pan-handlers. I was one once, and I know the money rarely goes to food. But I couldn’t walk past him. I put some change in his cup but wouldn’t let go of the loonies I needed for my laundry.

“As I waited at the bus stop, I felt selfish for only leaving nickels and dimes. My heart/God said, ‘Give more, give more, give more.’  So I walked back across the street and bent down to put a five dollar bill in his cup, being careful not to disturb him. But I was concerned that the minute I turned my back someone would steal it from him. So I slipped it under the sweater that was his pillow without waking him.

“I got to work forty minutes later than planned, and faced many challenges (the first being my walk-in cooler going down resulting in the need to call a repair man on a stat holiday and other things too boring to mention). But every time these challenges were about to bring me down, I thought about the man on the sidewalk. I imagined him rising to more money in his cup than when he went to sleep and THEN finding five dollars under his sweater on Canada Day and being even happier than when he first woke up. And I smiled, for God is a way better planner than I am.”

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:
“Zacchaeus Tree” by Victor Chapa Used with permission.
Zacchaeus story Luke 19:1-10
John leaning on Jesus John 21:20
Psalm 22:8; Matthew 27:43
“Moonbeams” by Jessie Wilcox Smith (September 6, 1863 – May 3, 1935)
“Happy Canada Day” by Bill Barber. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2016.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Homelessness, Ignatian Spirituality, Poverty of Spirit, Reflections, Spiritual Direction, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Cracked Open: Part Two

publican iconAfter the pharisee listed my faults publicly and loudly, I began to weep. It was all true. I prayed, “Lord God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

My heart cracked open. I was now painfully aware of the extent to which my desires for pleasure, praise, prestige and power had hardened my heart and entombed my deepest desire. “Give me only your love and grace,” I prayed. “Let that be enough for me.”

When Edmund, the spiritual director for my eight-day retreat, had sent me back to pray with the parable of the tax collector and the pharisee, he said, “Be sure to let Jesus find you when you leave the temple.”

And Jesus did. He was waiting for me outside; he looked at me lovingly and took me by the arm. “Come with me,” he said. The next moment I was seated, and Jesus had a wash basin and towel. He was washing my feet.

Dirck_van_Baburen_-_Christ_Washing_the_Apostles_Feet_-_WGA1090“No!” I protested. “I don’t deserve this.” But Jesus continued to bathe my feet. He was so close that I reached out and placed my hand on his head. He looked up at me, and I saw tears in his eyes. And then my hand was on his bearded cheek. And then he kissed my palm. That exquisite kiss sent such a profound wave of acceptance through me, that I could hardly stay in my skin. I wept and wept.

When Jesus finished washing my feet, I wiped my tears and opened my eyes. I was back in the chapel at Camel Hill. I still had fifteen minutes left in the hour allotted for my prayer, so I closed my eyes and returned to be with Jesus. As I did, I remembered that no one washed his feet at that last supper.

“Let me wash yours,” I said to Jesus.

“All right,” he said. “Meet me at Simon the pharisee’s house.”

And suddenly I was in that story, kneeling behind Jesus washing his feet with my tears and wiping them with the long hair I used to have as a child.

In my prayer, Simon turned out to be the same pharisee was who had humiliated me in the temple. He scowled at me.

Jesus saw it and said, “Simon, let me tell you something.”

Even though I know how the story goes, I expected Jesus to say, “She’s a sinner but she’s okay.” But he kept to the script. “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown.” 

Now it was the pharisee who was stunned and humbled.

I was honoured and set free to follow my heart’s deepest desire. 

Hope by Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P.

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.

You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.

Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.
– Ignatius of Loyola

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Love Mischief for the World

kevin-lee-newcomers-choir.jpg.opt396x276o0,0s396x276Kudos to love mischief maker Kevin Lee for organizing Music in the Community on June 25. Kevin, who is a local opera singer, obtained a grant to promote neighbourliness in New Westminster. He and his long-time friends Heidi Braacx and Karina Inkster (aka the Cranky Molluscs) invited other local musicians to perform at Holy Trinity Cathedral. Artists included six talented soloists including one who composed his own song, the Newcomers’ Choir which Kevin conducts, the Heritage Uke Club and, of course, the Cranky Molluscs.

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 Publican and the Pharisee Icon” by  Ted Used with permission.
“Christ Washing the  Apostles Feet” Dirck van Baburen (circa 1594/1595–1624) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (John 13:1-11)
Woman washes Jesus feet with her tears is in Luke 7:38-50.
“Hope” by Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P.. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2016.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Ignatian Spirituality, Poverty of Spirit, Prayer, Reflections, Spiritual Direction, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Cracked Open: Part One

“I’d like you to begin the retreat by praying with Psalm 139,” said Edmund, the young Jesuit who was my spiritual director for the eight days I spent alone with God.

My room at Carmel Hill Formation House in Deroche opened onto a little patio and a forest of evergreen trees, foxglove and hundreds of wild orange poppies. I pulled up a rock for a foot stool and opened my Bible to the familiar psalm. The reality of God’s love enfolded me with peace. Memories of God’s attentiveness came to mind–as did many distractions. The hour was long, and I was relieved when it was over.

The next morning I returned to Psalm 139. I waited and fidgeted in the silence.

When I met with Edmund later that day, I read aloud the short summaries of what came out of my prayers. In response he gave me four more prayer assignments including a lectio on Psalm 91.

“I was surprised at how many times the words ‘defend’ and ‘protect’ were in Psalm 91. I sensed God’s desire to defend and protect me. I could picture myself having more freedom if I stopped guarding my heart. I’d be more present to others,” I told Edmund when we met the third time.

But Edmund was not impressed with my insights and asked me to pray with Luke 18:9-14, the parable of the tax collector and the pharisee. He invited me to use my imagination to enter into the story, and let it unfold.

So I did. I pictured myself in the place of the tax collector and imagined his life and what brought him to this penitent place. I hoped his story would open me to mine, but both times I prayed with the passage I felt disconnect from my remorse or any other deep feeling. I knew I couldn’t “push the river,” so I let it go and was at peace with what was given.

But Edmund wasn’t. I tried to talk him out of it, but he sent me off a third time to pray with the parable. 

the publican and the P iconI thought it might help if I knelt down to pray in the chapel. Once again I imagined myself in the place of that tax collector. This time I heard the pharisee pray loudly for all in the temple to hear, “I thank you, God, that I am not greedy, dishonest, or unfaithful to you, like Esther over there.” Hearing my name shocked me. The tall man went on to list my faults and failures liberally using disparaging adjectives.

Truth ripped my soul and I began to sob. I wept and wept, crying out to God for mercy. “Make him stop accusing me,” I prayed to God, and yet I was thankful that his words cracked me open.

After a while I sat back on the pew and took a deep breath. I knew I was forgiven and was grateful for it, but when I looked to the future and knew I couldn’t stop my hurtful behaviours, I wept again.

This was the pain that I had protected and defended my heart from feeling. This was the pain that Jesus wanted to soothe.

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A repentant and contrite heart,
O Merciful One,
is the gift you most desire.
Psalm 51:17 
Psalms for Praying by Nan C. Merrill

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Love Mischief for the World

CCS_Little_Flower_Souvenir_ProgramCarmel Hill is a dream come true for the Discalced Carmelites of the Karnataka Goa Province (India). In April 2012 Helen Chua Tiampo agreed to donate a piece of land to the Carmelites through Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza. Not long afterwards, 20 acres of land with a beautiful house was found in Deroche, a small community in the Fraser Valley, 85 km east of Vancouver, and Little Flower Formation House was built. Father Alwyn and Bother Joseph welcome all who, like the Carmelites, are drawn to contemplation to come and rest in God’s love and beauty.

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:
“California Poppy: Closed for the Season” by Philip Bouchard. Used with permission.
“California Golden Poppy II” by Thea.Rose Used with permission.
“The Publican and the Pharisee Icon” by  Ted Used with permission.
Photos of Carmel Hill are used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2016.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Ignatian Spirituality, Poverty of Spirit, Prayer, Reflections, Spiritual Direction, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments