The God We Got

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God could have come with battle lines drawn,
an army of trumpeting archangels,
and a legion of patriarchs.
But God came in vulnerability,
a baby without a home . . .
–from “The Arrival” by Ann Siddall

Why did God choose to come this way–so helpless, needy and vulnerable? For centuries Israel had been waiting for the Messiah to rescue them from exile and oppression. But, when God finally arrives, he’s powerless.

This is not the God I want. I want a big God who will end injustice and suffering, particularly in the lives of the people I love.

Yet, this little God is what we got.

When I wonder why God cried and needed to be changed, nursed and comforted, it finally dawns on me: God wants to be held. Perhaps, this was what the Trinity had been waiting for.

If God is not rescuing us in the way we’d hoped, it has to be because God With Us is doing something better. The nativity story tells me that having God with us in exile and oppression is better than being rescued from it.

I can picture the joy and exhilaration my friends would experience if they were delivered from their suffering. Jesus’ relationship with Mary must have been more wonderful than that.

Once, when Jesus was preaching, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed the womb that carried you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” Jesus replied, “Even more blessed are those who hear God’s Word and guard it with their lives!”

That’s us Jesus is talking about! We too can experience an intimacy with God even more blessed than what Jesus shared with Mary.

Imagine being so content with loving God and being loved by God that we forget about ourselves and just love one another. Perhaps that’s how those Messianic prophesies are being fulfilled. Perhaps that’s how God’s kingdom comes.

The Nativity 1890 1910 by Franz Mayer&Co (detail) by Plum Leaves

Dear Lord, as I come to you today,
fill my heart and my whole being
with the wonder of your presence.
–from Sacred Space

Some Advent Love Mischief:

  • The story of advent does not tell us God rescues us from problems. It tells us God is with us in our problems. Is it good enough for God to be with you in the midst of your life’s circumstances? How do you feel about this?
  • Can you imagine God present with you now in whatever circumstance you are presently living? What feelings emerge as you consider that being with you is what God desires most of all?
  • God wants to be held. How can we hold baby Jesus? With our imaginations. In a prayer that Ignatius of Loyola called Contemplation of Place, we can imagine ourselves in any gospel story. Picture the nativity and enter the stable. Take in the sights, smells, sounds and textures. Do you see Mary and Joseph? Do you see Jesus? Do they see you? What happens next?
Credits and References:
“Holding Hands” by Dave & Lorelle. Used with permission.
Luke 11:27,28 (The Message).
“The Nativity” 1890-1910 by Franz Mayer & Co (detail) photo by Plum leaves. Used with permission.
Thanks to Doug Schroeder, director of SoulStream community for leading us in a retreat on the weakness of God. My reflections and questions have risen out of that retreat.
© 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 Advent, Christmas, Poverty of Spirit, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God Became Weak

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“O come, o come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel,” we sing. We too “mourn in lowly exile here” until the Son of God appears. We long for God to come in power and right our injustice, heal our ills, dispel our confusion, and fill our loss. Yet, the nativity story tells us that God came in weakness.

This tiny God could do nothing for himself, let alone anyone else. God With Us needed to be fed, carried and clothed. God needed to be changed, held, rocked and soothed. God was needy.

God needy?! My Christian education never put those two words together. Neediness repels me. I want to fix needy people or avoid them. I don’t want to be needy myself. And yet, I was. If I’m honest, I still am.

I don’t like to remember it, but there was a period of my life–eight long years–full of injustice, fear and loss. The pain was so unbearable that it spilled into most conversations, causing people to judge me and distance themselves. Thankfully, enough people stayed close and gave me the support I needed to survive. But when life became bearable again, I knew I never want to be that emotionally needy again.

To know that God chose to be needy brings a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes. I struggle to put words to what is going on in me. I feel . . .  accepted.

Jesus was needy and divine. The Son of God needed to be held and comforted, just like I did in those eight long years. God is not repelled by my neediness, but endeared to it, in the same way a parent is enraptured by the neediness of their newborn child.

When God looks back on those awful years, I don’t hear God calling them awful or identifying me as a problem. I sense God saw God’s self in me and was filled with compassion and love. And God still is.

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Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
–“What Child Is This?” by William Chatterton Dix, 1865

Some Advent Love Mischief:

  • Remember a time when you were needy. What feelings emerge now as you remember it?
  • Imagine God looking back at that difficult time. How did God feel about you then? How does God feel about you now?
Credits and References:
“Cry of Life” by Sander van der Wel. Used with permission.
“Madonna Mary and Baby Jesus 21” by Waiting For The Word. 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 Advent, Christmas, Poverty of Spirit, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Patch of Fog

4454752004_8e5d43bf3a_b“Turn on your lights and slow down,” Fred said. The fog on the road was so thick, we couldn’t see more that a few metres in front of us.

I drove slowly, silently, looking for red tail lights and road signs while keeping an eye on the edge of the road. I focussed my attention on what might come into view, so I had time to respond safely.

Eventually, the fog dissipated and we resumed our speed and conversation.

“I can’t figure it out,” I said, referring to a recent experience I had while offering spiritual direction. As I listened to my directee that day, I suddenly found myself in a patch of fog. I couldn’t see the road ahead and didn’t know what to do. I had no choice but to slow down, let things unfold before me and inch forward until the way became clear.

“I don’t like that feeling and I wish I knew what caused it, so it doesn’t happen again,” I lamented. Fred was sympathetic, but God wasn’t helping me one little bit.

What God did do, over the next few days, was listen. God listened with me as I heard why I needed to figure out what caused the fog: I wanted that confident feeling of knowing what to do in any situation and assumed this confidence would better enable me to help others. As I continued to listen, I remembered a humbling experience I had had which showed me that the opposite can also be true.

A thought entered my mind: What if that foggy moment of uncertainty was a gift? Perhaps God simply wanted me to focus my attention on what was coming into view.

Then I had another thought: Much of the time, my mind is preoccupied with learning from the past or planning for the future so that I can know what to do in any eventuality. But what if I don’t always need to know what to do? And what if thinking I know what to do keeps me from responding to what God is actually doing?

Then a third thought emerged: What if being present is more important to God than knowing what to do? What if being present is even more important than doing things well?

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Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
–from the poem “Lost” by David Wagoner

∗ ∗ ∗

Love Mischief for the World

library-books-choose-meThe person in charge of maintenance at John Knox Christian School (aka my husband, Fred) was asked to repair a rocking chair in one of the classrooms. When Fred had a look at the glider-rocker, he discovered the bearings were gummed up and worn out from the countless number of hours teachers and educational assistants had spent rocking children and reading to them. Now that’s some great love mischief.

 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:
“Super Thick Fog leaving Montalvo” by Houston Marsh. Used with permission.
“Heavy Fog” by Anne Yungwirth. Used with permission.
School library books by bravelittlebird 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 Reflections, Spiritual Direction, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Sense of God’s Presence

3595278696_c846d6fc4c_oThis month I returned to Bowen Island to spend a few days alone with God. I hoped it would help me get through the dark months ahead.

I didn’t have much of a sense of God’s presence until I passed by a church and felt a tug to go inside. I feel that tug whenever I walk by the church, but I’d given up hope of getting in. Even when there’s a vehicle parked outside, it’s been locked. This time as I neared the church and empty parking lot, I was spurred on by the memory of another time in such a place and decided to give it a try. 

The door opened. A woman named Elizabeth was polishing brass candlesticks and encouraged me to come in. “I’ll put the lights on for you,” she said.

I thanked her and took a seat near the front of the church, so I could look at the statues. On my left, Joseph held the toddler Jesus in one hand and a lily in the other. On my right, Mary held the infant Jesus who faced outward. With one hand, she supported his bottom and the other was under his arm with her fingers around his chest. The Holy Child’s arms were spread wide and his face kind. On them, I rested my gaze.

Eventually Elizabeth went outside to tend the garden. In the silence, I imagined myself responding to Jesus’s welcome by coming close and letting him feel my hair the way my grandson did at that age. It was so soothing. I also pictured my hand, like Mary’s, firmly on Jesus’s chest with his back leaning me. That’s how I prayed–just feeling Jesus’s fingers in my hair while mine were pressed against his warm body.

The next day I was home again, praying with Luke 17:20-25. In this passage, Jesus told the Pharisees they didn’t need to go looking for the kingdom of God because it was among them. In fact, they could touch God right there and then if they wanted to.

Jesus went on to tell the disciples that there would come a time when they would be “desperately homesick for just a glimpse of one of the days of the Son of Man, and you won’t see a thing” (The Message).

The felt presence of God is like that. Sometimes the Son of Man is in our midst, having sent someone ahead to open the door, so he can welcome us with open arms. Yet other times, the door is locked and God is a cold statue.

While on my retreat, I read something Gerald May wrote in The Dark Night of the Soul. He said that the sense of God’s presence is not God. “Union with God is neither acquired nor received; it is realized.” Whether we experience the Holy or not, God is in us and we in God–as surely as the stars are always in the sky.

During the day it is hard to remember that all the stars in the sky are out there all the time, even when I am too blinded by the sun to see them. ―Barbara Brown Taylor, Learning to Walk in the Dark

∗ ∗ ∗

Love Mischief for the World

Perseid Meteor ShowerThis summer Fred and I took our eight-year-old grandchildren to Aldergrove Regional Park to view the Perseid meteor shower. Metro Vancouver and the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada invited people of all ages to set up their tents, lawn chairs, and blow up mattresses, and look up at the sky.  There were games, storytelling, a food truck run by the Elks, and members of the RASC and Fraser Valley Astronomy Club with telescopes for viewing. Hadrian and Hannah munched popcorn and watched the sky. Hadrian said, “It’s a good movie. Not much action, but the scenery’s great.”

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:
Howth – St.Mary’s Church by FarelGab used with permission
Beeston Church Open Door by alan feebery used with permission
Perseid Meteor Shower by NASA/Bill Ingalls [Public domain], via Wikimedia 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 Mystical, Prayer, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The King of Kensington

“I have some sad news for you,” the minister said and paused. “Ken Ryan asked me to give you a call. He’s got lung cancer. Stage 4. He’d like to see you.”

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If you’ve read my book, you may recall Ken, the hero in “Something Extra.” Ken and his wife, Lou, have been the heroes of many people’s stories, especially the man Ken found sleeping outside a local library. They offered him their spare room, and Lou never washed another dish in the three years this fellow lived with them.

“You changed his life,” I said to Ken and Lou a few days after I received the minister’s call.

Ken laughed. “He changed ours.” Except for some shortness of breath, this was the same Ken I have known for twenty years. As we sat around their kitchen table, Ken told me he sold his business and made end of life plans and arrangements for Lou. Ken has always been a person who sees what needs to be done and does it.

On my second visit, Lou anxiously awaited the delivery of the Burnaby Now. “There’s going to be an article about Ken in it,” she said. The full-page story about the “King of Kensington” spoke of what he’s done for Burnaby North and how the community is gathering to honour him.

Ken smiled when Lou talked about it, but I could see he was tired. He had just come from the hospital. “Now they want to do chemo,” he said. “I don’t know how I feel about that. It might give me a little more time. It might not.”

I felt sad but at peace. I know when Ken leaves this shore God will be welcoming him on the other side.

The morning after the community event for Ken and Lou, I read Luke 20:27-38. As I sat with Jesus’s words about death and imagined my own, I was not so at peace. I know I will be united with God. But, I wondered–with some trepidation–will I be recognizable as me?

I read the scripture again and heard Jesus, who has been on the other side, tell me what it’s like. “Our ecstasies and intimacies will be in God,” he said (The Message). And integral in those ecstasies and intimacies is the reality that God will know me. “As surely as I see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,” Jesus reminded me that morning. “I will see you. I will never lose sight of you.”

Tears came to my eyes. I felt I could trust Jesus in this.

Jesus extends the same hospitality to us that Ken and Lou extended to their friend. Our God finds us wherever we are and offers us a room in the house of the King. There we can be ourselves–here, now, and ever after. And by “us” I mean me too. That’s just starting to sink in.

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Don’t get lost in despair; believe in God, and keep on believing in Me. My Father’s home is designed to accommodate all of you. If there were not room for everyone, I would have told you that. I am going to make arrangements for your arrival.  I will be there to greet you personally and welcome you home, where we will be together. –John 14:1-3 (The Voice)

Love Mischief for the World

ken-and-lou-1-copy“An ‘extraordinary man’: Ken Ryan and his wife, Lou, have been heavily involved in their community over the years. From running the coffee pots at the food bank to coordinating a kid’s summer camp, there’s almost nothing the pair hasn’t done,” says Tereza Verenca in the Burnaby Now. Their love mischief was celebrated by hundreds who gathered at Lochdale Community School on November 5. 

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:
Photographs of Ken and Lou Ryan used with permission.
“Stairway to Heaven?” by Richard Walker. 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

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God Isn’t Always Trying to Teach Us Stuff

Sorry folks. No new piece of writing came together for me this week. I hope you enjoy this post, originally published in 2013. 

photo by Anne Yungwirth

God knows my thoughts even before I do.* And having heard all my thoughts, God must have a lot to say. I’m beginning to see that my life is a library full of the other half of my conversations with God.

“[God] speaks not just through the sounds we hear, of course, but through events in all their complexity and variety, through the harmonies and disharmonies and counterpoint of all that happens. . .” writes novelist and preacher, Frederick Buechner, “[but] to try to express in even the most insightful and theologically sophisticated terms the meaning of what God speaks through the events of our lives is as precarious a business as to try to express the meaning of the sound of rain on the roof or the spectacle of the setting sun.” (Now and Then: A Memoir of Vocation).

When I first began the “precarious business” of deciphering God’s messages, I kept listening for what God was trying to teach me. I was sure I was doing something wrong and that God, ever vigilant, wanted to fix me. 

Then, in my spiritual direction training, one of the facilitators, Steve Imbach, shared this story.

“Once when I was travelling, I spent a sleepless night on an uncomfortable bed. In the middle of the night I cried out, ‘God, what are you trying to teach me? I’d like to know, so I can learn it and get back to sleep.’  Immediately I heard the inner voice of God reply, ‘I’m not trying to teach you anything.’ That’s when I realized God isn’t always trying to teach us stuff.”    

Policeman in a classroom Philip Howard Flickr                                                                                                                    

Imagine a long-term relationship with someone who’s only concerned with what they can teach you. There would always be a distance between the two of you, with one feeling burdened and the other inadequate.

Jesus is our teacher, but he is much more than that. He is the Lover and we are his Beloved.* So he expresses his love in many ways: by comforting us when troubled, by bringing reconciliation and healing, and by helping us find meaning and purpose. He enjoys giving us what we need and hides these gifts out in the open for us to find. More than anything else, Jesus loves being with us.

And he keeps telling me that in a God kind of a way–a heart in a mug handle, a finger-painted sunset, a cancelled appointment that gives me breathing room, and a cell phone that survives being run over by a car.

heart mug

This is my Father’s world.
He shines in all that’s fair.
In the rustling grass, I hear him pass.
He speaks to me everywhere.
 Maltbie D. Babcock, “This is My Father’s World,” 1901.

Love Mischief for the World

Love by Dustin Gaffke

Weekly I visit a friend in hospital who is slowly recovering from a car accident. Rain or shine, I often find him hanging out in a gazebo outside with a group of people he refers to as “The Smokers Club.” This little community of people in wheelchairs, keep each other going–listening, sometimes ranting, often laughing, certainly loving. I could definitely see Jesus hanging out here; in fact, I do.

 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:
*Psalm 139:4
**Song of Songs
“If You Can’t Beat It, Enjoy It” by Anne Yungwirth. Used with permission.
Policeman in a Classroom” by Philip Howard. Used with permission.
Coffee Made with Love” by Karen Tjøstelsdatter. Used with permission.
“Love” by Dustin Gaffke. 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 Popular Posts, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

When We Find No Rest

“How was your weekend?” I asked “Bonnie” when I visited her again.

With a pained expression, she confessed that it hadn’t been easy. Her fears were having a heyday with her, and she felt defenceless against them.

Salzburg cross 2Once again she was on the cross with Jesus. But this time, instead of feeling comforted, her heart cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.”

I thought of the psalmist David who composed that lament, likely while on the run from King Saul. Yet in the next psalm, Psalm 23, David sings that he found rest by still waters, was protected in dark valleys, and that his loving God pursued him all the days of his life. David looked back at those nights of anguish and knew that God was there. God had gotten him through them.

This reminded me of two recent spiritual direction sessions.* One directee, “Jim,” told me, “I’ve been reading your blog, about how you had this moment of intimacy with God in your helplessness. That kind of stuff doesn’t happen to me. I’m stuck in this place I can’t get out of. I’m lonely, bored, unsettled, and underutilized. And God doesn’t seem to be doing anything about it.”

Jim knew in his head that God was with him, but he felt like God had left him to rot in jail. Bravely he closed his eyes and pictured himself in a prison cell. When he did, he discovered that he wasn’t alone. Other inmates were with him and one of them was Jesus. The solidarity he felt gave him hope.

Another directee, “Kathy,” said, “When I found this lump on my breast, I was horrified. How had I not noticed it before? For weeks after that, I was hounded by fear and shame. Then one day I felt a calm presence. It came so softly and gradually, it took me a while to notice it was there, but I had this sense I was accompanied.”

God’s presence was revealed to David when he looked back, to Jim through his imagination, and to Kathy through a palpable calm. Bonnie has experienced God’s presence before in similar ways, but that day God came to her disguised as a friend.

“Thank you for coming,” she said when I got up to leave. “I feel better.”

“I’m glad.”
Stillness by Christian.Rudman

God says he is with us on our journeys. He says he has been with us since each of our journeys began. Listen for him. Listen to the sweet and bitter airs of your present and your past for the sound of him. –Frederick Buechner, The Sacred Journey

*Thank you to “Bonnie,” “Jim” and “Kathy” for graciously allowing me to share their experiences.

Love Mischief for the World

ameripride-10Ameripride/Canadian Linen were very enthusiastic and committed to supporting our work by creating 1,260 comfort kits for those without homes this winter,” said Wanda Mulholland, coordinator of The Society To End Homelessness in Burnaby. Ameripride/Canadian Linen held their  third annual Day of Service on September 28, 2016. “We are grateful for their efforts and for the generosity of  SPARC BC,  Save On Foods and PODS,” said Wanda. The kits will be distributed in Burnaby, Surrey, Tri Cities, New Westminster, North Shore, and Abbotsford.

 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 of Salzburg Cross by Steve Imbach. Used with permission.
Quote: Psalm 22:1,2
“Stillness” by Christian.Rudman. Used with permission.
Photo of Ameripride/Canadian Linen event by Wanda Mulholland. 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 Poverty of Spirit, Reflections, Spiritual Direction, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God’s Salvific Love

ChristInGethsemane

This helplessness, what’s it like?” asked my spiritual director.

It took me a few minutes to let the feeling return to my body. It’s how I felt the night I was driving to a friend’s house in the rain. I was pressed for time, couldn’t find the address, and had forgotten my cell phone. “Panic,” I said as tears came.

Then I remembered how I eventually found her door and was warmly welcomed. I wasn’t even late. “But there’s a bottom to it,” I added. “Like I’m being held.”

“Like being held,” she said, savouring the thought.

“I visited my friend Bonnie* this week. She’s been ill for some time,” I said. “She’s so weak, she can’t do much of anything. She told me she finds it difficult to  concentrate long enough to pray. Then she said, ‘I end up picturing myself on a cross with Jesus, and God is holding us both. That brings me some comfort.’ Beautiful, eh? So tender.”

I wiped the tears from my cheeks. “Bonnie told me how hard it is for her–having been a strong, active person her whole life–to be so powerless and needy. She wanted to know what to do to get her strength back, yet even thinking of doing anything exhausted her.”

“And what did you want to say to her?”

“I wanted to say, ‘Just rest here in this holy place and be loved.'” More tears. I knew that’s what God wanted to tell me, too.

I visited Bonnie again a few days later and told her what happened in spiritual direction.

“This helplessness, it’s supposed to be salvific,” she said. “That’s what a priest told me years ago when I went through a dark night like this. He said it as if he were announcing great news, ‘Bonnie,’ he said, ‘this is salvific!’ It’s hard to believe, isn’t it? While I lie here, not doing much of anything, God is saving me.”

Hold on by Luc De Leeuw

Let me not run from the love which you offer.
–Soul of Christ Prayer
paraphrased by David L. Fleming, SJ

∗ ∗ ∗

Love Mischief for the World

brennan“My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ, and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it,” wrote Brennan Manning in The Ragamuffin Gospel. Richard Francis Xavier Manning (1934 – 2013), best known as Brennan Manning, was a Franciscan priest who left the priesthood to marry and later divorced. Alcoholism and one failure after another opened him to receive God’s salvific love. This self-declared ragamuffin knew, like few others, the depth of God’s love. Through his writing and speaking, along with millions of others, I was transformed. I discovered grace and began to believe that God really does love 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.

*Not her real name.
Credits and References:
“Christ in Gethsemane” by Michael O’Brien used w permission.
“Hold On” by Luc De Leeuw. Detail of a stained glass window representing Father Damian and a leper. 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 Helpful Images, Poverty of Spirit, Reflections, Spiritual Direction, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Keeping Vigil

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I’m awake in the middle of the night again. A sadness dogs me until I get up and listen to it. In the silence I hear a regret that I was not present.

That evening I had a meal with friends. I conversed awkwardly, didn’t remember what was important, didn’t really see or hear them. That day I rode my bike through the city on roads strewn with autumn leaves, by water, mountains, merchants, birds and cars, but I didn’t see or hear them either. I ate a sandwich I didn’t taste, travelled streets without smells.

vladimirskaya

I’m awake when I should be asleep, and all day long I’m asleep when I should be awake.

In the middle of this night, God the Child is keeping vigil. He is with me in my helplessness. One hand is on my chest, and with the other around my neck and his fingers under my chin, he gently pulls my cheek to his baby soft skin. He looks at me and sees me. He adores me as if I were his mother.

Even as I look away and fall asleep, he continues to watch over me. He is not thinking about what I’ve done or what I need to become. He is present, loving me now as if I were the whole world to him.

To him my helplessness is golden.

 

Darkness is as light to you.
Psalm 139:12

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Love Mischief for the World

6616415777_54688823da_zWhile I feel the confines of my own helplessness to change, others feel it much more acutely. One friend’s pain and weakness evades diagnosis and leaves them alone with their fears for days on end. Another who is tormented by relentless, sadistic voices is among the small percentage of people with schizophrenia who don’t respond to medication. Still another enters treatment for the fourth time with both hope and trepidation. I am sure their helplessness does not feel golden to them. Yet they continue to take one breath after another, giving themselves to us for another day.

And we are blessed by their gift.

 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:
“Rain on My Window” by Judy van der Velden. Used with permission.
Our Lady of Vladimir (12th century), the holy protectress of Russia, now in the Tretyakov Gallery public domain by Wikipedia Commons
Sculpture by Efrain Almeida photographed by Rodrigo Soldon 2. 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, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Dance of a Loving Community

hans_thoma_-_kinderreigen_1872“We find it difficult to admit our faults and failings,” Doug Schroeder, SoulStream‘s director, said in a reflection entitled “The Gift of My Imperfect Self.”

I read that while I was away co-facilitating a Living From The Heart intensive. During that week, I also noticed that I found it difficult to open myself fully to God and others in our community of participants and facilitators.

As I held these two difficulties–admitting my faults and opening my heart–a question emerged: Could my self-protection be related to my imperfections and how they can distance me from others?

It’s all fine to say that we share a certain solidarity with each other when we honestly admit we’re broken in some way, and we take comfort in Leonard Cohen’s lyrics: “There’s a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.” But our cracks have a shadow side which is also true. People can only take so much of them. We’re not so enjoyable to be around when certain behaviours rise out of our need to control or our need to be the centre of attention, fit in, look good, and so on. When this happens people may step away from us and we can feel rejected.

That’s exactly what I feared during Living From The Heart. That’s why I found it hard to stay open to “what is.” I didn’t want my current reality to include a shred of rejection. The possibility of this happening with eighteen people together for a week in a secluded retreat centre was pretty high. It’s what makes it so challenging to live in community.

Not long after the intensive, I was talking with a father whose son is addicted to alcohol and drugs. This man has worked long and hard to maintain their relationship. “But I need a break from him right now,” he admitted.

“I can understand that,” I replied. “It doesn’t mean you’ve stopped loving him.”

As I recalled our conversation, I saw people’s rejection (or perceived rejection) to my imperfections a different light. Even if they do need a break from them, it doesn’t mean they’ve stopped loving me.

Unlike God, we all protect ourselves to some degree from each other’s brokenness because of the reaction it produces in us. This often has more to do with the discomfort we feel about our own cracks than with someone else’s. But now, instead of labelling this distancing as rejection, I see it more as the dance of a loving community. We take one step back to take two steps forward as we learn to love each other and ourselves the way we are.

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 So I give you a new command:
Love each other deeply and fully.
Remember the ways that I have loved you,
and demonstrate your love for others
in those same ways.
Jesus (John 13:34, The Voice)

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Love Mischief for the World

edible-spoonsNarayana Peesapaty is the Founder and Managing Director of Bakeys Foods which has created and produced edible disposable cutlery. India is the world’s largest user of disposable cutlery with 120 million pieces getting thrown out every  year. Peesapaty’s utensils are made of millet, wheat and rice. Bakeys’ website says, “The demand for plastic cutlery is increasing over the days. Plastic, a petroleum by-product is more harmful to the human body because of the presence of several toxins and carcinogens. Its application as a food consumption utensil enhances the chance of these chemicals getting into the human system.” The edible utensils cost a little more than plastic (e.g. $4/100 spoons) but once Bakeys gets the volume they need, they can produce them for the same price as plastic. The utensils are made without preservatives, have a shelf life of three years, and even come in different flavours!

 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:
Kinderreigen (1872), Hans Thoma [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Quote from Leonard Cohen’s Anthem
© 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, Poverty of Spirit, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment