Advent III: Mystery and Wonder

Instead of the usual Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love, I have chosen different words for each week in Advent this year.

I spent a few hours on my last silent retreat gazing at the icon, Pantokrator: Jesus, Creator and Saviour of the World (below), and reflecting on these words by Julian Norwich (1342-1416)

I saw in my hand a hazelnut seed. God showed me that this is everything there ever was, and everything there ever will be. And I knew instinctively that God made it, God loves it and God sustains it. I knew that despite evidence to the contrary, all shall be well, yes, all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.

I look at Jesus. He holds our lives as sacred gospels in one hand and blesses us with the other–not condoning our evil but calling forth goodness until there is nothing left but love. He made us and everything else on earth. He loves us and sustains us–despite all evidence to the contrary.

Every year at some point during Advent, God sends Angel Gabriel to each one of us, greeting us by name, announcing the good news that despite all evidence to the contrary, God is saving the world and we will bear the saving Seed.

I know this full well, yet I’m never ready. I haven’t overcome the bad habits or lost the weight I hoped I would have by the time another year rolled around. I’m still not up to the task of giving birth to the Christ.

Mary, on the other hand, was innocent and pure. But God reminded me this year that when Gabriel came to her, she was also vulnerable and weak. Christ comes in my weakness, in my not-enoughness. Whether we’re ready or not doesn’t seem to matter to God. Christ isn’t born into life-as-we’d-like-it-to-be, but into life-as-it-is.

We know that’s true, yet we’re pretty stuck on becoming perfect–or at least a new, improved version of ourselves. So when God does come, we wonder what God’s trying to teach us or get us to do. Then we focus on the new learning or new job to be done.

But what if that isn’t the point? It certainly wasn’t with Mary. Jesus didn’t come to improve her; he came to be with her–and us. Gabriel told Joseph, “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). What if God shows up just to be with us?  What if loving us and our receiving that love is perfection. Could the world be saved simply by receiving God’s love? That’s what I heard on my eight-day retreat. That’s what God told Julian six hundred years ago.

It’s not that we don’t need to learn or do stuff. It’s that we skip over the most important part: receiving God’s presence and love.

Jesus, I look at you, holding my stories–the good ones and the ones I’m ashamed of–and blessing me. I close my eyes to take it all in. When I open them again you’re still looking at me. You never stop looking at me, loving me, and being born in me just as I am–and through me, saving the world.

How you keep doing that is a mystery. That you keep doing it fills me with wonder.

Just as you’ll never understand the mystery of life forming in a pregnant woman, So you’ll never understand the mystery at work in all that God does.–Ecclesiastes 11:5 (MSG)

* * *

Some Advent Love Mischief:

  • Imagine Gabriel coming to you here, at this moment. What is going on in your life right now that has your attention?
  • Now imagine Gabriel announcing to you, as he did to Mary, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.” Let the reality that God is with you and loving you right now wash over you. If God were to speak, what would you hear? If God were to communicate that love non-verbally, what do you imagine happening?
  • Rest in that love and receive it.
Credits and References:
“Trevlig tredje advent!” by Susanne Nilsson.Used with permission.
Julian quote from St. Dunstan’s Anglican Church in Aldergrove, B.C.
Matthew 1:23, Luke 1: 28 (NIV)
Pantokrator Icon written and photographed by Ann Green. 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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Advent II: Yearning

Instead of the usual Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love, I have chosen different words for each week in Advent this year.

A few weeks ago Fred and I had a Groupon for a restaurant in the Vancouver’s West End. We arrived an hour early so we could go for a walk. I thought we’d stroll along English Bay, look out on the ocean, the ships in the harbour, and the Lions and the other snow-capped north shore mountains. But Fred wanted to “poke, and sniff, and smell” as he says, down Davie Street. So we did.

The first thing I noticed was the rainbow flag painted on crosswalks, awnings, and banners. Rainbow decals were on the doors and windows of the shops and restaurants. Everywhere I looked I heard, “You are welcome here, just as you are!” I felt a warmth in my chest and the beginning of tears.

Our route took us past two churches. The doors of St. Paul’s Anglican were open, and there was a labyrinth inside. Central Presbyterian didn’t look like a church at all. The original building had been demolished and a high-rise apartment tower was built in its place. The church uses the ground floor for their gatherings and outreach ministries and the floors above provide affordable housing for seniors.

We passed a community garden, folks walking their dogs, and others dressed up and in a hurry. I smelled pizza, marijuana, and earth, freshly dug from a huge hole in the ground—no doubt for the foundation of yet another high-rise. I heard a First Nations man shouting for a long time but couldn’t follow what he was saying or to whom. No one seemed to be listening.

“Alfred lives around here somewhere,” I said to Fred. Alfred DePew is another spiritual director and writer I know. I was still savouring the book he just published, Odalisque, a novel about Thérèse, an orphan, artist, and prostitute living in Quebec City after WWII. I loved how Alfred was able to see the beauty and sacredness of her life and tell her story.

A section of a side street was converted into Jim Deva Plaza. Chairs and tables were set out near a bright pink and blue megaphone, four metres in diameter. The inscription inside invited those who have had no voice to find theirs and use it. Once again I felt moved. God sees the suffering of those who are marginalized. Grace has spilled onto the streets. For God knows, many are too hurt, too angry, or too afraid to enter a church. So God paints rainbow flags, arranges chairs, and inclines an ear to them. And God inclines churches, writers and spiritual directors to listen to their stories and welcome them into the kingdom.

It all comes from a deep yearning God has to connect with us.


With That Moon Language
–Hafiz

Admit something:
Everyone you see, you say to them,
“Love me.”
Of course you do not do this out loud;
otherwise,
someone would call the cops.
Still though, think about this,
this great pull in us
to connect.
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.

* * *

Some Advent Love Mischief:

  • What yearning do you share with God? How do you experience it?
  • How have you seen God’s kingdom come? Where do you still yearn for God’s kingdom to spill onto the streets?
Credits and references:
“Trevlig 2:a advent!” by Susanne Nilsson.Used with permission.
Photo of Davie Village banners from Wikipedia Creative Commons
Photo of Davie and Bute by Jeff Hitchcock from Seattle, WA, USA [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
“With that Moon Language” by Hafiz (1325–1389) translated by Daniel Ladinsky in Love Poems from God, 2002. Used with permission.
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Advent 1: Interruption and Disappointment

What if we found new words for our Advent candle-lighting wreaths this year? Instead of the traditional Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love, what words would you choose to mark each week in this season of waiting?

Two words jump out at me, jostling each other to get at the matches. Interruption and Disappointment shout, “Pick me! Pick me!”

So I’ll begin with both.

Life as usual will be interrupted to prepare my heart and home to celebrate Christmas. How do I feel about that? I don’t usually like interruptions, especially when I have so much to do. But a funny thing happens sometimes when I’m interrupted and happens more and more as I age. My attention is turned to something else, and I forget what I was doing. I find myself enjoying what interrupted me.

I was interrupted from answering a time-sensitive email one evening when Fred let me know dinner was ready. He poured me a glass of wine and lit a fire in the fireplace. It was so lovely, I completely forgot about the email until the next day. And it turned out fine. No one was disappointed.

Disappointment. Yes, I hear you, I feel you. You show up, first as frustration, then as judgment, and then you finally come out of hiding. When you do, I realize I had expected more from someone or something than was possible. You often show up with your cousin Interruption; the way I wanted life to play out got interrupted by life as it is.

Owning my disappointments helps me turn from resentment to compassion for myself and my tendency to criticize–and for others and their own disappointments around their tendencies.

Thank you, Interruption. Thank you, Disappointment. Thank you for turning my attention from achieving and performing, to receiving and forgiving.

Thank you, God, for making space in me to receive you.

The season of Advent means there is something on the horizon the likes of which we have never seen before… .What is possible is to not see it, to miss it, to turn just as it brushes past you. And you begin to grasp what it was you missed, like Moses in the cleft of the rock, watching God’s presence fade in the distance. So stay. Sit. Linger. Tarry. Ponder. Wait. Behold. Wonder. There will be time enough for running. For rushing. For worrying. For pushing. For now, stay. Wait. Something is on the horizon.
-Jan L. Richardson, Night Visions: Searching the Shadows of Advent and Christmas

* * *

Some Advent Love Mischief:

  • What in your life has been interrupted by Advent this year? How do you feel about that? What goes on in you as you hold these feelings in this season of hope?
  • What disappointments do you carry? How do they make themselves known to you? How might they help you receive our Saviour?
Credits and References:
“The First Sunday of Advent” by Susanne Nilsson. Used with permission.
“Home Fore 5” by anoldent. 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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Choosing to Love My Body

“Love is a choice,” a directee said to me last week.

I hadn’t heard that declaration in a while and felt a resistance rise up in my chest when she said it. Yet she was relaxed and animated as she talked about her new freedom. In a situation in which she could have easily criticized or dismissed someone for their actions, she was liberated to accept them as they were and love them anyway. Choosing to love wasn’t a duty. She simply made a choice to see this person through grace-filled eyes.

Meanwhile, on the personal front, I addressed what had caused the flare-up of bursitis in my shoulder. The pain was gone, but I still hadn’t done the strengthening exercises my body needs to prevent it from coming back. I keep imagining Blanche Bickerson from the 1940’s radio show with that tone in her voice. “You say it, but you won’t do it.”

Remember last week I wrote about loving myself for God’s sake?

These random thoughts began to percolate in my mind: love is a choice, my body needs attention, and I am called to love myself for God’s sake.

What if God is inviting me to love and care for my body–not as a duty but, lovingly, as a gift? What if I chose to love my body as much as I love my directees and made space for it as I do for them?

I’ve written a number of posts about how God is inviting me to love and care for my body. I say it, but I haven’t done it. Not consistently anyway.

On Tuesday I tell Blanche to step aside and workout with Jillian Michaels’ DVD, Ripped in 30. I don’t expect to be “ripped in 30.”  I just hope I’d still be doing it a month from now.

On Wednesday, whenever I get up or crouch down my thighs and calves remind me that I worked out. But that’s okay. At least I did it.

I’m offered a ride home from the Lunch Club. “It’s okay. I need the exercise,” I say and open my umbrella. On the short walk home, I think again about loving myself for God’s sake. I hold the idea that “myself” includes my body. When I say I have a body, it sounds like something I own rather than something I am. Yet if I say, “I am a body,” what happens to “me” when I die? I’m not just my body. But I can’t live without it on this earth.

At home, I catch a glimpse of myself from the side in the full-length mirror in the hall. I look again, then look away.

On Thursday I work out with Jillian again. “Give me everything you’ve got,” she says. “That’s all I want. Everything you’ve got.” Bown, bown, b-b-b, bown bown, pounds the music.

Friday I am on Day 23 of keeping my gratitude journal. I let the previous day’s events come back to me. I choose to see how I enjoyed my body and record what I’m grateful for.

  • The tastes and smells of the meal we had with our Imago Dei friends to celebrate American Thanksgiving.
  • The ability to walk and work out.
  • My pain-free shoulder.
  • My fingers that write these words for you to read.

Choosing to love my body is choosing to at least try to see it through grace-filled eyes.

So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
God saw everything that he had made,
and indeed, it was very good.
–Genesis 1:27, 31

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

Recently my daughter, Heidi, and I went to the Italian Cultural Centre’s art gallery to see the exhibit, Women’s Work: Reflections upon the History of Women in Textile, which is on display until Dec 30. The exhibition examines the role of women throughout history. The curator, Angela Clarke, told us how the exhibit came about. Clarke selected sixteen significant Italian works of art that either deal with themes pertaining to women or were created by women. Then it was the task of sixteen of the leading female professional fibre artists in British Columbia to utilize these paintings as a starting point for their own explorations on the history of women.  Artworks such as Bernini’s Ecstasy of St. Teresa, emphasize women’s historic roles as mystic and spiritual teachers; the Ravenna Mosaics with Theodora, demonstrate women’s capacity to rule behind the throne. Finally, paintings such as Perugino’s Marriage of the Virgin look at the historic institution of marriage and women’s traditional role within it. The artwork was simply amazing.

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:
Old Woman at the Mirror by Bernardo Strozzi (1581-1644). Wikimedia, Creative Commons.
Source for Women’s Work: Italian Cultural Centre website.
Photos of Life Jacket Work by Bettina Metzkuhn. 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 Creation, Reflections, Stories, Wednesday Lunch Club | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Loving Myself for God’s Sake

Am I being greedy?

I pushed the question aside, but it kept coming back. Should I really be co-facilitating both offerings of Living from the Heart that will be held in B.C.’s Lower Mainland in 2019? Even though I had carefully discerned with the other facilitators that this was the way to go, I began to second-guess myself.

I know a number of people who would love the opportunity to facilitate. And training new facilitators would enable SoulStream to offer the Living from the Heart course in other locations. Was my selfishness getting in the way of progress?

My spiritual director invited me to bring these questions to God. I closed my eyes and imaged myself again as a bird held tenderly in Jesus’ hands. But this time, instead of being snuggled into his chest, I was lifted up to his face. He was looking into my eyes and smiling. I heard what he was thinking: Don’t worry about taking someone else’s place, I can give them what they need in a thousand different ways. 

“I get the sense that this is a gift for me,” I told my director. “God will love others through it because that’s the nature of love, but it seems important to God that I know that facilitating this course in this time and place is a gift given to me, for me.”

When I said that out loud, it didn’t sound selfish or greedy. It sounded honouring to God. God, who knows me inside and out, knows what gives me life and wants me to receive it.

A week later, Fred and I are on the Sunshine Coast. In the early morning, I zip up my jacket and, with coffee in hand, go outside to pray with my eyes open. Low clouds cling to the hills along the shore. I hear a tinkle and three dogs emerge from a sailboat moored at the marina. Then a man gets out and closes the hatch to keep the warm air in. The dogs stretch and scamper up the wharf; the man follows.

I reflect on something I’d read in Gerald May’s book, The Dark Night of the Soul. May talks about how God brings freedom by transforming our desires. He writes,

The twelfth-century abbot and spiritual writer St. Bernard of Clairvaux explains one way in which this happens. We usually begin, he says, by seeking gratification and fulfilment through our own devices. He calls this “love of self for one’s own sake.” When life teaches that this doesn’t work, we then turn to God, a higher power, and seek the consolations that are given through grace. In Bernard’s words, this is the “love of God for one’s own sake.” Gradually, we find ourselves falling in love not with the consolations of God, but with the God of consolations: the “love of God for God’s sake.” In the atmosphere of this love, Bernard says we finally begin to discover how loveable we ourselves are: “love of self for God’s sake.”

I’ve read about these four ways of loving before but never liked them because I’d always understood them as stages of maturity. I felt disheartened because I never seem to get past loving myself or God for my own sake. But May says that transformation doesn’t happen in a linear fashion.

The dogs and their master return. It’s silent again, then I hear a creature break the surface of the water, exhale loudly, and submerge into the deep. I scan the sea beyond the dock and hear it again. A sea-lion.

This is my gift to you, for you, Jesus had said. I remember the joy it gave him to see me receive it. Now I know why. I was loving myself for God’s sake.

Jesus, the very thought of thee
with sweetness fills the breast;
but sweeter far thy face to see,
and in thy presence rest.
–St. Bernard of Clairvaux

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

I’ve taken up the challenge of keeping a gratitude journal for thirty days. Every morning after my silent prayer, I record at least three things I’m grateful for from the previous day. If you need a little inspiration to join me in this love mischief, spend five minutes watching this video by Brother David Steindl-Rast.

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:
“Stones in hand”  by Hugo. Used with permission.
Quote from The Dark Night of the Soul by Gerald May, page 97-98.
Photo of the Backeddy Resort and Marina by the Backeddy.
© 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 Prayer, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Right Where I Am

I looked at this drawing of an injured bird and felt tender inside. I lingered for a while with that feeling and the sense of being held. Then, in the retreat’s spacious silence, I reflected on a poem by Mary Oliver. It began like this:

In the afternoons,
in the almost empty fields,
I hum the hymns
I used to sing

in church.
They could not tame me,
so they would not keep me,
alas,

and how that feels,
the weight of it,
I will not tell
any of you,

not ever.

I looked at the wounded sparrow again and heard the words explode with meaning.

The hymns I used to sing … could not tame me … would not keep me … and how that feels … the weight of it … I will not tell … not ever.

Sadness welled up in me. For Mary Oliver. For myself. I thought of my leaving of one church to attend another nearly four years ago. The weight of it is not so heavy now, but apparently, it’s heavy enough to bring me to tears.

I saw Jesus’ hands holding me, gently bringing this wounded sparrow to his chest and stroking my head with his finger.

“Tell me about the weight of it,” he whispered.

I went for a walk and let the losses come to mind. It felt like a divorce: amicable, irreconcilable. It felt like walking by the house I grew up in and seeing a stranger through the window, washing their dishes at the sink, looking up at their family’s photos on the wall.

What stands out for me as I write and what I talked about in spiritual direction a few days later, was not my grief, but the experience of being held and seen. God saw the traces of my sadness and knew that I loved more deeply than I thought I did.

I talked and wept for the hour-long session, voicing the trembling beliefs I held in my cupped heart: God hears what I haven’t told anyone ever, not even myself.

“And where does that take you?” my director asked softly.

I shook my head. “Nowhere. There’s nothing I need to know … or do  … but rest and lean my head against God’s chest.”

Soon after that, I had the dream of the car crash. The next day I wrote about it. Later that week, my shoulder began to hurt. It got increasingly worse until I finally went to the emergency department of the hospital. I was convinced I’d pinched a nerve, but it was bursitis.

“Just rest and take anti-inflammatories,” the young doctor said.

I did and, though the pain was relentless, God was with me. God held the weight of it; God was in the core of my being, breathing in the pain and breathing out peace. God was behind the closet door whispering, “You’re not alone.” God was holding me tenderly, stroking my head.

Thankfully, my body began to heal. I’ve even had a few good nights’ sleep.

Mary Oliver goes on to say,

Once a deer

stood quietly at my side.
And sometimes the wind
has touched my cheek
like a spirit.

I know what that feels like. It feels like being okay right where I am because God is here too: the deer at my side, the wind touching my cheek.

He Will Know

When your heart is in despair
He will know
When you feel beyond repair
He will know
When your day is filled with tears
He will hear
When your night is filled with fear
He is near
When this world leaves you behind
He will know
When it all seems so unkind
He will know.

–Music and Lyrics by Byron O’Donnell and Brian Wakelin,
Performed by Steve Bell on Devotion.

Love Mischief for the World

I am so grateful for the Love Mischief of Steve Bell. He finds and sings songs that God wants to sing to us. Thank you, too, to Byron O’Donnell and Brian Wakelin who wrote this song (lyrics above). Thank you for sharing your experience of God’s love in those days when the weight of life was too much.

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:
Drawing of the wounded bird in hands by Olive B. Chan. Used with permission.
The excerpt above is from “The Beautiful, Striped Sparrow” by Mary Oliver, in Thirst 
Brown Deer under Tree by Photo by Devon Rockola from Pexels. CCO Creative Commons
© 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 Helpful Images, Poetry, Praying with the Imagination, Reflections, Spiritual Direction, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Caught One

I caught a dream.

I dreamt I was driving someone else’s car and giving a few friends a ride. We got in and I took off, then traffic slowed down. I applied the brakes but the car didn’t respond as quickly as I expected. We slid into the car in front of us. The impact was not hard, but it was hard enough to cause damage to both cars. Another friend was driving behind us, and he took my passengers where they needed to go. I was left to deal with the accident which wasn’t in my plan for the day. That’s when I woke up.

The day before a directee told me about a dream she’d had. It had profoundly impacted her. This made me pay attention to my dream. The first thing I noticed was that my reaction to the mishap wasn’t catastrophic nor was the outcome. In the past, if I imagined having an accident, I would feel panic and shame, but I was calm in my dream. I did all I could to prevent hitting the car in front of me except anticipating that the car I was driving needed extra time to stop.

I was disappointed that my day was disrupted. I had to change my plan and deal with the damage. I also had to learn to drive this car differently if I was going to keep driving it (or get the brakes fixed.)

The pivotal question was the significance of the car. I thought about my life and what seemed to fit the metaphor. It didn’t take long for me to admit–even though I didn’t want to–that it was my body. It’s not the body I used to have even ten years ago. It needs to be driven differently and, if it isn’t, I will feel the effects and others will too.

God’s message was gentle without a hint of blame or shame. Take care of your body. Be careful how you drive it. 

I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
–Psalm 32:8 (NRSV)

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

Last week a fellow came to the Wednesday Lunch Club. He was sick from sleeping in a moldy sleeping bag and tent. I called Progressive Housing Society to get a number for a local shelter and they told me to call 211, a help hotline. I did and the woman who took my call told me what shelters in our area had space available and emailed me their addresses. It would have taken me hours to get the information she had at her fingertips. According to bc211‘s website,  it “is a nonprofit organization that specializes in providing free information and referral regarding community, government and social services in BC.” The website and hotline help BC residents find help when in an emergency or crisis or in need of counseling, financial assistance, housing, employment, medical services, victim services and more. If you’ve contributed to United Way, you’ve supported bc211’s 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:
“dream catch me when I fall” by Joslynn Gallant. Used with permission.
keys in hand by Sephelonor at Pixabay. CCO Creative Commons.
© 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 Mindfulness, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sardines in the Dark

“Hannah? Hannah?” Hadrian called out in the dark. But there was no answer. The silence confirmed his deduction: Hannah had found our hiding place. He was on his own.

Our grandchildren, Hadrian and Hannah, love to play Sardines in the Dark. It’s a version of Hide and Seek. The person who’s “it” hides. When the seekers find the one hiding, they squeeze in beside them until the last person discovers them draped over each other. Playing this at night with the lights out is what makes it so much fun. You’d think that after a few years our grandkids would get bored with the game. Our three bedroom townhouse isn’t very big. But here we were again.

It was my turn to hide. I sat on shoes in the hall closet, closed the door and waited. One by one, counting to twenty in between, the eleven-year-old cousins and Fred came through the front door. Fred found me almost immediately. Then Hannah. We stifled our giggles and were as still as mice.

I heard Hadrian search the bedrooms a second time and come back.

He was inches away when he called out again.”Hannah? Fred?” His voice trembled; it wasn’t fun anymore. My compassion for him made it too hard to sit still. I knew Fred was feeling the same angst. We squirmed in our cramped spots “accidentally” bumping into the closet door.

Hadrian pulled open the door. “I found you!” he said with great relief. I gave him a hug.

“That was scary,” he said. Then a minute later, he grinned and shooed us outside. “Now it’s my turn to hide.”

I kept thinking about Hadrian’s mounting fear of being alone and my mounting desire to be found. It gives me such a visceral sense of God’s desire to be found that it has lingered with me all week. I’m often in the dark, wondering what to say next in spiritual direction or trying to figure out how to handle a complicated situation.

“You’re not alone,” I wanted to whisper to Hadrian in the darkness.

“You’re not alone,” God whispers to me.

I will let you find me, says the Lord.
–Jeremiah 29:14 (NRSV)

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Love Mischief for the World

I made Buddha bowls with miso gravy for Scrabble night. A study, published in the journal Science, shows that avoiding meat and dairy is the single most effective way we can help the environment. According to The Guardian, “The new research shows that without meat and dairy consumption, global farmland use could be reduced by more than 75% – an area equivalent to the US, China, European Union and Australia combined – and still feed the world. Loss of wild areas to agriculture is the leading cause of the current mass extinction of wildlife.” My love mischief got two thumbs up from Hadrian’s mom who owns Vegan Yarn and her pal, Karina Inkster, a personal trainer and the author of Vegan Vitality, a plant-based cookbook and active living guide.

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:
“.jus let me iN” by Sippanont Samchai. Used with permission.
Photo of Buddha bowl by Ingrid Dahl. Used with permission.
“Found Me” by Anne Yungwirth. 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 Childhood, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Shame’s Spell

Jesus pushes me out of uncomfortable places
and pulls me into them.
–Steve Garnaas-Holmes

I almost said no to co-facilitating Living from the Heart next year because it makes me uncomfortable at times. I’ve told you how it tosses me about. I don’t like feeling anxious that I’ll do something wrong or fearing the sting of messing up. Yet, when I was at the intensive this fall and experienced those feelings again, although they were uncomfortable, I survived. The world didn’t come to an end, and I was able to recognize that whatever “mistakes” I did make could be used–like everything else–for God’s glory.

I returned from Living from the Heart with energy and lightness, a deeper trust in God and more affection for my co-facilitators.

Not long afterwards, we met on Skype to debrief our week together. We welcomed each other warmly, began with silence and prayer, and checked in. Then we held the question: What stood out for you as a gift or a challenge during the intensive–or in our team?

I was fine until I heard the last three words. I felt myself go cold and a little ball of panic gathered in my chest. Would I hear that I had hurt my friends or let them down in some way? I bit my lip and focused on my breathing for a moment. I could trust that their kindness and love was real.

We shared many things we were grateful for. I can’t remember any challenges that were voiced that I needed to be concerned about. After the video call, I noticed I was tired. The ball of panic had eased, but I could still feel it. I gave it some space and realized it was shame. Now the uncomfortable feelings that toss me about have a name.

It’s shame that makes me want to avoid whatever or whoever triggers it. Yet, I have never felt shamed by my colleagues.

As I held that feeling of shame, I knew I didn’t need to be afraid of them or the situations that trigger it. It’s an irrational reaction tied to past experiences when I felt betrayed by people I trusted. Besides, I know what it’s like when the shoe’s on the other foot and what I’ve said causes someone else to feel ashamed while I feel nothing but love for them.

Yet shame’s spell can be strong. It must be ten years ago now that I ended a friendship because every time I was with a certain person, I felt bad about myself. Despite the fact that no one else who knew the woman had a bad thing to say about her, I was convinced that she was the source of my shame. That’s how real it can feel. It has taken me this long to realize it isn’t true.

Shame’s spell has been broken. Maybe not completely. But because Jesus pulled me into that uncomfortable place and pushed me out of it, it doesn’t have the power over me it used to.

God reached all the way
    from sky to sea; he pulled me out
of that ocean of hate…
He stood me up on a wide-open field;

    I stood there saved—surprised to be loved!
–Psalm 18:16,19 (MSG)

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Love Mischief for the World

I was saddened to hear that beloved pastor and author of The Message (and many other books), Eugene Peterson, has entered hospice care.  Here is a video of Bono and Eugene made in 2016. They talk about how the Psalms help us pray honestly.

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:
Shame image by Pixabay. Creative Commons.
Opening quote from Who do you say I am? by Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Painting of girls by Jessie Wilcox Smith (September 6, 1863 – May 3, 1935)
© 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 Childhood, Mindfulness, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Enliven Us

Open in me the gates of the kingdom, I prayed before church on Sunday, hoping something in the service would enliven me. But God’s still, small enlivening was not in a hymn, the sermon or Eucharist as much as it was in the people and what I heard in conversations before and after worship.

Aggressive cancer … exhausted and weeping … what a little girl needed to do to be loved … overwhelmed and just getting through.

If these four people were my directees and the conversations happened in spiritual direction, we would have an hour to open to God and what is going on for them. We would share an intention to receive God’s loving action in their lived reality.

But what can I do in these brief encounters? I hold what they carry and feel compassion rise. I can pray for them as they come to mind through the day. But it doesn’t feel like enough.

This time of year I prepare those who are praying the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises to meditate on the Principle and Foundation. I offer them a few translations or paraphrases including this one by Jacqueline Bergen and Sr. Marie Schwan. It begins like this:

Lord, my God
when your love spilled over into creation 
you thought of me 
I am made from Love,      of Love      for Love. 

I close my eyes and recall the people who spoke with me on Sunday. I imagine God’s love spilling over and creating them “from Love, of Love, for love.” Their creation or enlivening (en-life-ing) began at the genesis of all things. Enlivening is happening now–moment by moment–whether we see it or not.

Further down in the prayer, it says,

Teach me reverence for every person, all things.

I hold each person, tenderly, lovingly. I reverence not only them but what God is doing in “all things”–the cancer, the weeping, the memory brought to mind, the heavy load.

The next line says:

Energize me in your service.

Yes, I will help carry their burden. Energize me, Lord, to do what you ask–no more, no less. Enliven us, your church.

Carry each other’s burdens,
and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

–Galatians 6:2 (NIV)

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Love Mischief for the World

The Grade Two teacher asked the facility manager at the school (aka my husband, Fred) if he could tell her what’s in the storage shed. Two of her students were trying to break into it to see what was inside, and she thought the information would assuage their curiosity. Fred had another idea. “Send them to me,” he said.

He placed a huge wad of keys into the boys’  hands and announced, “You’re holding the keys to every door in the school. What would you like to see?”

Their eyes grew wide. Every key. Every door. “The shed! The shed!” they exclaimed. And that’s where they started.

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 a person on a bus from Pixabay.com. Creative Commons.
This statue was carved for Father Thomas Green, SJ (1932-2009) by Joe Crawford, December 1988.  Steve Imbach writes, “We visited Father Tom in the Philippines and when our visit with him was over he told us to take it home; it was ours.  It now sits in the room I offer direction in.” Photo by Steve Imbach. Used with permission.
Photo of keys in a child’s hands 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
Posted in Creation, Ignatian Spirituality, Prayer, Reflections, Spiritual Direction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments