A Spark of Something Holy

Last week’s post reminded me of a previous post I wrote a few years ago. Here it is again. 

Fred and I have been attending an Anglican Church in our neighbourhood. For Lent we joined a group that has been gathering after church to discuss Brian McLaren’s new book, We Make the Road by Walking.

One chapter focused on the kingdom of God. In it, McLaren writes,

freedom by Anne YToday as in Jesus’ day, not everybody seems interested in the good news that Jesus taught. Some are more interested in revenge or isolation or gaining a competitive advantage over others. Some are obsessed with sex or a drug or another addiction. Many are desperate for fame or wealth. Still others can think of nothing more than relief from the pain that plagues them at the moment. But underneath even the ugliest of these desires, we can often discern a spark of something pure, something good, something holy–a primal desire for aliveness, which may well be a portal into the kingdom of God. 

So often when I meet people who are in difficulty, all I see is the tangled mess they’re in. I wonder how I could possibly help them welcome God into their lives. But McLaren invites me to believe that God has already placed a divine spark of the kingdom in everyone. My job isn’t to help them address the smothering mess but to give some air to the spark that is there.

I remember a pastor friend doing that at an outreach lunch we had.  The man sitting at the table beside him launched into a rant about church people being hypocrites and how he hated hypocrites. The pastor could have been offended and pointed out that this fellow was in a church, and the meal he was eating was made by “hypocrites,” but he didn’t. Instead, he matched the man’s intensity and said, “Me too. Preach it, brother.”

The pastor found a portal into the kingdom. He saw how this man and Jesus were alike: both wanted people to stop being “whitewashed tombs” and get real.

I didn’t hear what was said after that, but I saw the men’s body language and heard the tone of their voices as they interacted. They were relaxed, animated and laughed easily. My friend had kindled a spark of something holy.

Blueberry Hannah N

I love the place where your glory dwells. — Psalm 26:8

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

I was inspired by Whitney Thore in this Ted talk. I didn’t like hearing that it was a malicious smack on the head that fanned into flame the spark of holiness in her, but I love the courage she was given to stand against judgment and let go of shame.

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:
Creation of Adam by Michelangelo
“Freedom” by Anne Yungwirth. Used with permission.
“Blueberry” by Hannah Nieman. Used with permission.
The reference to “whitewashed tombs” comes from Matthew 23:13-39. Jesus delivered seven woes to the Pharisees and teachers of the law. In verse 27 he says, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.”
Today’s post was originally published on March 27, 2015
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2018.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows:
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2018.  http://www.estherhizsa.com.
Posted in Reflections, Stories, Wednesday Lunch Club | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God in Every One of Us

God is in all creation–including us–just by virtue of the fact that we were created by God and of God. In the beginning, there wasn’t anything else but God to create us with. We were made in the image of God, and God is in every cell of our being.

What would it be like to trust that God is in every person, with them in all that they do, loving them and working for their good, whether they are aware of it or not?

What would it be like to believe that about ourselves?

When I trust that God is in every person and actively working in their lives, I am more able to let go of judgment, less quick to give advice, and less focused on what they might be doing wrong. A humility emerges: I don’t know what they need to be whole. I don’t know what being whole looks like for them. I wonder what God envisions as God continues to transform them.

When I trust that God is in every person, I have more space for who they are right now. Forgiveness comes more readily. I start looking for where God is active in their lives. Where is new life sprouting? I want to join in what’s taking shape. Often it’s simply by listening and bearing witness to what gives that person joy.

When I trust that God is in me, accomplishing the good work already begun, I am more patient with myself, less judgmental, and less focused on what’s wrong with me.

As I write these words, a sadness comes out of hiding. I feel it in my throat and tears fill my eyes. As I sit with the sadness longer, it tells me its name: Compassion. I make space for Compassion to sit beside me, as I would a friend. She puts her arm around me and invites me to put my head on her chest. She strokes my hair.

I don’t know what I need to be whole either, I tell her.

Shh, she says, It’s okay. God in every cell of your being does.

For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill God’s good purpose. —Philippians 2:13 (NIV)

Love Mischief for the World

This week I’d like to honour the love mischief of sexual trauma survivors and their courage to talk about what happened to them. This is for all the “Me Too”s in the world. You are beautiful.

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:
Sunflowers sprouting after four days by Eve Chan. Used with permission.
Sunflower by Najat. 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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DIY Prayer Retreat #11: Releasing Reality

Hi everyone, 

I led our contemplative groups’ monthly retreat in June and this is what I used. For instructions and guidelines to help you lead a DIY, check here.

May you be blessed as you open yourself to God in the silence.
Esther

Releasing Reality

FELIX CULPA

Recorded by Steve Bell on PILGRIMAGE
Song by Alana Levandoski (used with permission)

He who watches over you will never slumber or sleep.
O my child, lay your burdens down.
Lay them at my feet.
He who watches over you will never slumber or sleep.

GLORY PRAYER

In the light of the high heavens
and the infinity of dawnings in space,
in the darkness of ocean depths
and the sea’s ceaseless waves,
in the glistening of a creature’s eyes
and the dark life-blood that ever flows,
in every emanation of creation’s life
and the warmth that moves my body,
in the inner universe of the soul
and its everlasting foundations
your glory glows, O God.
In every shining of the world’s inwardness
and the warmth that moves my everliving soul your glory glows.

–John Philip Newell,  Sounds of the Eternal: A Celtic Psalter  (Material Media: San Antonio) 37.

A MEDITATION:

Someone gave me two situations in which she found it difficult to be aware. She was in a service industry where many people were lined up, many phones were ringing, and she was alone and there were distractions coming from a lot of uptight, angry people. She found it extremely difficult to maintain serenity and calm. The other situation was when she was driving in traffic, with horns blowing and people shouting four-letter words. She asked me whether eventually that nervousness would dissipate and she could remain at peace.

Do you pick up the attachment there? Peace. Her attachment to peace and calm. She was saying, “Unless I’m peaceful, I won’t be happy.” Did it ever occur to you that you could be happy in tension? Before enlightenment I used to be depressed; after enlightenment, I continue to be depressed. You don’t make a goal out of relaxation and sensitivity. Have you ever heard of people who get tense trying to relax? If one is tense, one simply observes one’s tension. You will never understand yourself if you seek to change yourself. The harder you try to change yourself, the worse it gets. You are called upon to be aware. Get the feel of that jangling telephone; get the feel of jarred nerves; get the sensation of the steering wheel in the car. In other words, come to reality, and let tension or the calmness take care of itself. As a matter of fact, you will have to let them take care of themselves because you’ll be too preoccupied with getting in touch with reality. Step by step, let whatever happens happen. Real change will come when it is brought about, not by your ego, but by reality. Awareness releases reality to change you. Anthony de Mello, Awareness p. 144-145

FOR REFLECTION AND PRAYER:

  • What is in my reality right now? What awareness is it releasing?
  • What do you think you need to be happy? How would you fill in the blank? Unless I have _____, I won’t be happy.
  • What emerges in you as you see yourself holding onto what you think you need? Get the feel of it. Stay there with God and let whatever happens happen.

CONNECT WITH CREATION

  • Notice the beauty in Creation around you as you walk. What is inviting you to spend time with it?  (e.g. a tree, plant, bird, the sky, the earth)
  • Engage with what draws you. Using your senses, touch it, smell it, gaze at it. Notice its colours and textures and unique attributes.
  • Listen to what it is saying to you and the reality being released in your life. What do you want to say to it? How might God be loving you through this gift of creation?

See the whole universe,
not only as something to love,
but as something that can love you back.
— Pierre Teilhard de Chardin 

THE RIVER by Coco Love Alcorn

The river is a healer 
The river is a sage 
The river knows no end  
And the river feels no age 
The river is a leader  
Every single day 
It’s living in the moment  
And it always finds a way 

Water heal my body
Water heal my soul
When I go down, down
To the water
By the water I feel whole

The river calls me over 
It’s calling out my name 
In the day and in the night 
I hear that river all the same 
It’s calling me over 
Calling out my pain 
Oh a river gathers tears  
Just like a river gathers rain 

The river is a traveller  
Always on the go 
A river never worries  
If it’s fast or if it’s slow 
River take me 
To where I need to go  
Oh, and I will just relax  
And let the river flow 

PSALM 16 Conserva me, Domine (Grail version, adapted)

Preserve me, God, I take refuge in you.
I say to the Lord: “You are my God.
My happiness lies in you alone.”

You have put into my heart a marvellous love.
Those who choose other gods increase their sorrows.

O Lord, it is you who are my portion and cup;
it is you yourself who are my prize.
The lot marked out for me is my delight:
welcome indeed the heritage that falls to me!

I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel,
who even at night directs my heart.
I keep you ever in my sight:
since you are at my right hand, I shall stand firm.

And so my heart rejoices, my soul is glad;
even my body shall rest in safety.
For you will not leave my soul among the dead,
nor let your beloved know decay.

You will show me the path of life,
the fullness of joy in your presence,
at your right hand happiness for ever.

Silence awakens us to the fullness of life below the surface.

Image Credits:
“Glory Prayer” by John Philip Newell used with permission.
“Sunrise” by Susanne Nilsson . Used with permission.
“Bark Cabin Natural Area” by  Nicholas A. Tonelli. Used with permission.
“Vulcan Stream” by Reza. Used with permission.
The last photo was taken of an image I chose in a prayer exercise at the SoulStream partners’ retreat in early June.
© 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, Prayer Retreat Outline, Reflections, Resource | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exactly What I Need

It’s also helpful to realize that this very body that we have, that’s sitting right here, right now with its aches and its pleasure, is exactly what we need to be fully human, fully awake, and fully alive. — Pema Chodron

I finally stopped snacking after supper and at night when I can’t sleep. I’ve been trying (and not trying) to kick this habit for a long time. Now, it’s happened. I didn’t get a download of willpower or receive a miraculous healing. I had a bad bout of acid reflux. It was so painful it woke me up–literally. Reading up on it later, I discovered that lying down after you eat makes it worse.

It’s not like I suddenly got this condition. I knew I had it but somehow got used to the gnawing feeling in my oesophagus, which increases when I’m stressed–like I am now as I write about this.

Let me stop here and tell you about the feelings going crazy in my body right now. Shame is at the base of my neck poking me. A wee bit of panic is in the pit of my stomach as I imagine some of you reading this and being turned off. “Acid reflux? Do we really need to read about that? What’s next? Hemorrhoids?” A wisp of despair is expanding in my chest. Am I getting to that stage where aches, pains and medical appointments take centre stage?

The urge to hide is strong. Wouldn’t it be easier to write about something else, anything else? After all, it’s personal and more than one of you may be tempted to give me advice, which is the last thing I want.

So, why am I telling you this? Because that is how God is working in the life of this everyday pilgrim. Lately, God has been speaking to me through creation–lakes, trees, my Christmas cactus and now, my body. Creation isn’t just the earth, trees and animals. It’s people too. And not just our souls but our skin, limbs, and organs. God is in my body giving me exactly what I need to be fully alive.

This morning as I was brushing my teeth, I remembered Jesus’ saying, “I will be with you always.” Typically and contextually, we interpret that to mean Jesus will be present with us. But this morning I heard it in a more collaborative sense: “I’m with you in this.”

God desires my wholeness and is using my suffering (pain in my gastrointestinal tract) to end my suffering (the fatigue and discomfort from overeating), and it’s working. . . so far, anyway.

This post may incite some strong emotions. My story may not be yours. It doesn’t have to be, but what it evokes in you… now that’s all yours. Don’t waste it. Listen to those precious feelings expressed in your body. Listen to what they’re saying to you. Listen with God, who is with us in this, awakening us to a full life.

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. –1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV)

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

This week, I’d like to honour the love-mischief of those with long-term illnesses. My friends who have Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Lupus, Crohn’s, Fibromyalgia, and Celiac disease take great care to listen to their bodies. They often have to curb their enthusiasm, pace themselves, and rest when they’d much rather be active. A full life looks different for them than for others, and they, like pioneers, are patiently discovering it.

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:
“No Body Is Perfect” Permanence (2015/16) – Zhang Dali. Photo by Rob Oo. Used with permission.
Photo of seniors in a pool by Calgary Community Services. Used with permission.
Photo of a man sitting on a bench from Max Pixel distributed with a Creative Commons Zero CCO.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2018.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows:
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2018.  http://www.estherhizsa.com.
Posted in Aging, Creation, Overeating, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Faithful Companion

See the whole universe,
not only as something to love
but as something that can love you back.
–Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

As many of you know, I have a Christmas cactus in the room where I pray, write, and offer spiritual direction. I love its quiet, faithful companionship. Nearly a decade ago, a friend grew it from a cutting and gave it to me in a tiny pot as a Christmas gift. Now it is over a foot tall and bushy with a woody stem and thick branches. For its whole life, this plant bloomed only in the appropriate seasons: Advent and Christmas. However, this year, as I’ve noted in my blog, it has “loved me back” exuberantly–blossoming through the dark days of Lent and into Eastertide.

I had adjusted to its dormancy through Pentecost and now in Ordinary Time, and then four pink buds appeared as summer began. I watched and waited for the flowers to open, but the first tight bud never did. Since I’d suspected that giving the cactus fertilizer regularly had helped it to bloom more during Advent and Lent, I gave it some more. But the next day, the second bud dropped.

I listened to my cactus friend like I listened to the tree and the lake. It asked, What has been going on in your life that my unopened buds invite you to notice?

I carried the question in my pocket, forgetting it was there until I felt a pang of guilt over a couple of untended relationships. I held both the weight of disappointing others and the squeeze of trying to fit everything in.

The dropped buds also spoke to me about wanting something to happen before its time and my incapacity to do anything about it. Whether it’s a piece of writing, a patch of darkness in a directee’s life, the ripening of forgiveness, or adequate housing for all our city’s citizens, I can’t force a blossoming.

Without buds or blossoms, my cactus is still vibrantly alive, keeping me company as I let go, once again, of trying to be more than I am, and as I wait for God to bring words, hearts, and justice to life.

Wait for the Lord;
    be strong,
and let your heart take courage;

    wait for the Lord!
–Psalm 27:14

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

“B.C. Housing and the city are scheduled to build Burnaby’s first residence for people who are homeless by March 2019, the provincial government announced Friday,” says Lauren Boothby in Burnaby Now. “A new three-storey building at 3986 Norland St. will have 52 studio units for men and women, including seniors and people with disabilities, who are homeless and need support to address mental health or substance abuse issues” The Society to End Homelessness in Burnaby has advocated for this for a long time. So good to see this love mischief happening in my city.

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 my cactus by Fred Hizsa. Used with permission.
“Sitting in Silence” by Alice Popkorn. Used with permission.
Photo of a homeless man by dgozgozz on Pixabay. 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 Creation, Homelessness, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How My Suffering is Ending My Suffering

In my post “Releasing Reality,” I referred to Anthony de Mello’s counsel to let our suffering end our suffering. How does that work?

Suffering reveals my siren gods. It reveals the alluring attachments that toss me about. Suffering helps me notice when I’m either lamenting their loss, trying to hold on to them, or striving to get more.

Richard Rohr defines suffering as “whenever you are not in control.” We suffer when we can’t control getting or keeping what we think we need to make us happy.

I found it helpful to use de Mello’s statement, which is in the story I quoted in that post, as a fill in the blank: “Unless I have _____, I won’t be happy. Using a previous post “Tossed About” as an example, I could say, “Unless I feel calm, I can’t be happy.” I could also say, “Unless I feel good about myself, I can’t be happy.”

When I notice and name what has me in its spell, I begin to see that requiring this to be happy is an illusion. All I need is right here. God, who loves to give good gifts, gives me everything I need in abundance.

Listen to the words of one who knows and speaks of this reality.

Psalm 16 Conserva me, Domine (Grail version, adapted)

Preserve me, God, I take refuge in you.
I say to the Lord: “You are my God.
My happiness lies in you alone.”

You have put into my heart a marvelous love.
Those who choose other gods increase their sorrows.

O Lord, it is you who are my portion and cup;
it is you yourself who are my prize.
The lot marked out for me is my delight:
welcome indeed the heritage that falls to me!

I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel,
who even at night directs my heart.
I keep you ever in my sight:
since you are at my right hand, I shall stand firm.

And so my heart rejoices, my soul is glad;
even my body shall rest in safety.
For you will not leave my soul among the dead,
nor let your beloved know decay.

You will show me the path of life,
the fullness of joy in your presence,
at your right hand happiness for ever.

We too can say: “You are my God. My happiness lies in you alone.” We can say this because it’s true–even while we crave what the sirens are offering.

On the surface of my soul, standing in my boat, seeing only a black, empty ocean, it’s hard to believe there’s an abundance of fish down there. But I have been asked to put out into deep water before and have known times when my boat was filled to overflowing. Silence has taken my hand and opened my eyes to the love right in front of me. Moment by moment, if I wait, I will behold the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. I will see a fish breaking the surface of my disbelief and awakening me to a deeper knowing.

It’s true: God, you are showing me the path of life; there is fullness of joy in your presence right here, right now.

When I awake I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness.
–Psalm 17:15 (NRSV)

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

Listen to the lyrical love mischief of Coco Love Alcorn:

Water heal my body  
Water heal my soul  
When I go down, down  
To the water 
By the water I feel whole.  

Guaranteed, you’re going to be singing it all day… and feeling wonderfully heard and whole.

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:
“Ulysses and the Sirens” by Herbert James Draper (1863-1920) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
2 Peter 1:3, Matthew 7:9-11, Luke 5:1-11, Psalm 27:13
The Naked Now by Richard Rohr,p. 123
Awareness by Anthony De Mello, p. 141-145
© 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, Prayer, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Life below the Surface

Saturday morning at the annual SoulStream partner gathering at Sorrento, Lorie Martin, our retreat facilitator, invited us to enter the meeting room in silence. Pictures of creation were scattered over two long tables. She asked us to choose an image that represented our soul. This one intrigued me because it shows life on the surface of the sea as well a life beneath.

The black water under the boat teems with fish, but the fisherman can’t see it. This illustrates what I’ve been reading in Anthony de Mello’s Awareness and wrote about last week. Awareness is being able to see below the surface and know that I don’t need the love I’m striving to get or keep.  All is already given and I can just enjoy it.

We were invited to reflect and journal about our pictures and remain in silence, even during the break. When I went down to the dining hall to get a coffee, I saw Deb coming the other way. Deb and I work together in the Living From the Heart course. When our eyes met, we grinned at each other and touched hands as we passed by. The look on my face and the touch of my hand told her how much she is loved. It delighted me to imagine how good that made her feel.

I got my coffee and was making my way back to the meeting room still thinking about our brief encounter. Suddenly it dawned on me that Deb must have felt the same delight, as she imagined how good it was for me to receive her love. (In fact, she told me later that she did.)

It touched me then and it touches me now as I write about it. I don’t have to be her new best friend or sit beside her to have worth. I can just love her and receive her love without needing anything from her.

When I returned to the meeting room, I picked up the picture I’d chosen. My heart felt full as I looked at the sea beneath my boat filled with people. Among them was Deb, shining in the sea of my soul. Marijke, who sat beside me, pointed to one of the fish and whispered, “That’s me.” I smiled and nodded at this woman who was my classmate in Art of Spiritual Direction over ten years ago.

The day before the gathering, Fred and I camped for a night by Shuswap Lake. Early that morning, I sat quietly in the silence and looked at the lake. Every once in a while a fish would break the surface. I’d hear a tiny splash and then it was gone. There’s more down here than you can imagine, the tiny splash testified.

Back home again, I set my timer for twenty minutes and open myself to God in the silence. My body relaxes as I recall the picture of the fisherman on the surface of the sea and the abundance of life teeming within my soul. I feel myself let go of what I think I need and rest in the goodness of what I have.

My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.–Jesus
John 10:10 (TLB)

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

It was a joy to have SoulStream partner Lorie Martin introduce us to Celtic Spirituality at our annual gathering. Lorie lives in Abbotsford, B.C. where she offers spiritual direction/companionship, inner healing sessions, and leads contemplative retreats. Lorie has journeyed through the deepest of waters in a series of losses including the death of their youngest daughter. In these authentic raw experiences, she has learned to embrace both the grief and the graces that impact us deeply, change our lives, and crack us open to our core. Lorie holds space for all people, inviting openness to fresh awareness and experience of Divine Presence in suffering, dying, waiting, and in the new risen life that emerges. She is the author of Invited, Choose LoveGrace upon Grace, and 2018 The Next Dawn. Lorie graduated from SoulStream’s Art of Spiritual Direction in 2007  and has been a part of retreats around the world.

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 Lorie Martin used with permission. The text is from her website.
© 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, Mindfulness, Prayer, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Releasing Reality

I’ve been feeling out of sorts for a week or two–unmotivated to pray or read in the evenings. I just want to disappear and indulge in things that make me feel good. I feel this way whenever uncomfortable stuff gets brought into the light, and I don’t want to grieve a loss or accept a reality I can’t change.

When I got good and sick of Netflix and trying to beat the droid at Scrabble, I picked up where I left off in Anthony de Mello’s Awareness. This story stood out to me.

Someone gave me two situations in which she found it difficult to be aware. She was in a service industry where many people were lined up, many phones were ringing, and she was alone and there were distractions coming from a lot of uptight, angry people. She found it extremely difficult to maintain serenity and calm. The other situation was when she was driving in traffic, with horns blowing and people shouting four-letter words. She asked me whether eventually that nervousness would dissipate and she could remain at peace.

Do you pick up the attachment there? Peace. Her attachment to peace and calm. She was saying, “Unless I’m peaceful, I won’t be happy.” Did it ever occur to you that you could be happy in tension? Before enlightenment I used to be depressed; after enlightenment, I continue to be depressed. You don’t make a goal out of relaxation and sensitivity. Have you ever heard of people who get tense trying to relax? If one is tense, one simply observes one’s tension. You will never understand yourself if you seek to change yourself. The harder you try to change yourself, the worse it gets. You are called upon to be aware. Get the feel of that jangling telephone; get the feel of jarred nerves; get the sensation of the steering wheel in the car. In other words, come to reality, and let tension or the calmness take care of itself. As a matter of fact, you will have to let them take care of themselves because you’ll be too preoccupied with getting in touch with reality. Step by step, let whatever happens happen. Real change will come when it is brought about, not by your ego, but by reality. Awareness releases reality to change you.

I could relate to this woman. The only difference was that the noise was not external but internal. Although I know I’m attached to my feel good go-tos, de Mello’s words exposed a deeper attachment: Unless I feel good, I won’t be happy.

What would it be like to get the feel of my jangling thoughts, the jarring reflections of myself in the mirror, the sensation of boredom? That sounds like a ridiculous question. It would feel awful. Who wants to feel that?

But even more ridiculous is the thought that I can choose not to have those feelings. Whether I want to feel them or not, those feelings are there. My only choice is to observe them or suppress them—live aware or unaware. Or to use biblical language: choose light or darkness. Jesus said people choose darkness to commit evil deeds. De Mello explains we only sin when we are unaware. Suppressing reality comes at a cost and we’re not the only ones who pay it.

Let your suffering end your suffering, says de Mello. Suffering reveals an attachment and an attachment observed loses its power.

These words give me the courage to sit with God and look again at what has caused me to feel out of sorts. What suffering does Love want to end?

Jesus said, “I have come as light into the world so that everyone
who believes in me should not remain in the darkness.”
–John 12:46 (NRSV)

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

Today I’d like to feature the love mischief of a tree. The tree I am looking at is very tall. It isn’t particularly pretty and isn’t that useful to me right now in the cool of the morning. It just stands there and grows–very slowly. Today it will provide shade for those seeking a break from the sun and rest for birds. It will be greatly appreciated one moment and overlooked the next, yet neither state changes its essence. It is completely powerless to stop anyone or any event from harming it or destroying it. It just stands there revealing God’s presence to those who will receive it.

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:
“Lonely Tree” by Mika Hiironniemi. Used with permission.
Awareness by Anthony De Mello, pages 141-145
John 3:19
“Stillness” by Christian.Rudman. Used with permission.
“Bark Cabin Natural Area by Nicholas A. Tonelli. 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 Mindfulness, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Forgiven

As I kneel at the altar to receive the Eucharist, it suddenly occurs to me that when Isaiah cried out, “Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips,” he may not have been speaking generally or just identifying with our human condition.

Maybe his cry wasn’t from false humility, an indicator of low-self esteem, or an excuse as to why he wasn’t prophet material.

What if, on the day of that overwhelming vision of God, he had with his lips hurled abuse at his wife, sealed an unjust deal, or remained silent and walked by on the other side of the road while his neighbour lay suffering. Perhaps that very day, he saw anew how his self-serving words, spoken decades ago have left an indelible mark.

I imagine Isaiah, facing the grievousness of his action, expects that this is the end. He knows God knows what he’s done. He knows that he, of all people, should not be a servant of the Holy One.

What does the Holy One do? God does not rise up in anger and dispense punitive judgment; nor does God excuse or minimize Isaiah’s sin. God sends a seraph with a live coal from the altar and touches his mouth. In an instant, Isaiah’s guilt is removed. He is forgiven and called to serve again.

I kneel at the altar, a woman of unclean lips, very aware of my own specific reprehensible sin. Then the priest, like a seraph, places the Host in my hands. I put it in my mouth and my guilt removed, my sin forgiven.

The scripture from Isaiah continues to speak to me personally, specifically. God asks, “Who can I send to care for my people?”

I take the cup that is offered and return to my place in the church.

“I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.” So he got up and went to his father.

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. –Luke 15:18-20 (NIV)

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

“In September 2017, St. James’ Anglican Church in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver held a Reconciliation Feast to bring together parishioners and survivors of Canada’s Residential Schools who live in Vancouver. In the spirit of Reconciliation, the Feast honoured the strength, resilience, courage and dignity of survivors, and celebrated the beginning of a renewed relationship between our church and our Aboriginal neighbours,” writes Nii K’an Kwsdins (aka Jerry Adams). Jerry Adams and Father Matthew Johnson, both from St. James, facilitated a workshop at Inside Out Church, a mission conference hosted by the New Westminster diocese of the Anglican Church last Saturday. Along with the others in attendance, I hope that this will be the first of many feasts of reconciliation. In this article, Adams tells us how churches can plan and host one.

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:
“The Prophet Isaiah” by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1698-1770). [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
“The Return of the Prodigal Son” by Rembrandt [Public domain], via Wikimedia 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 Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Tossed About

I think I’m doing fine until a miscommunication leads to a last-minute pick up from Sure Copy. Piles of photocopied class notes for the Living From The Heart course cover our dining room table. Hurriedly, I check, count, and paperclip each set of handouts, hoping I will get it all done before my brother and his wife arrive from Minnesota.

I’m halfway through when I discover one document is missing. Though I checked and rechecked my list, it was not included in the originals I gave the printer. Before I can finish counting or do anything about the missing handout, I hear a knock at the door and familiar hellos.

I greet my brother Ron and his wife, Deb, and leave my work to visit with them. But it’s hard to be present. I can’t stop thinking about what I still have to do before I leave the next day.

Our daughter and her family arrive, and we have a lovely dinner together. But as much as I try, I’m only half there. By nine, Ron and Deb can barely keep their eyes open, so they turn in for the night. I apologize for being distracted, and they are quick to forgive.

I leave the last of the dishes to Fred and turn on the computer. I begin printing copies of the missing document and, despite my prayers, the printer keeps jamming.

By eleven o’clock the dishwasher’s running, my clothes are packed, and all the photocopies are counted and in order. I go to bed but can’t sleep. Regret makes me toss and turn. I wish I’d been more organized. I wish I could have let things go and enjoyed my evening.

Around 2 a.m., I remember a friend’s wish. She said, “I wish you’d have more compassion for yourself.” I lie still and listen deeply for God’s compassion. Like a gentle wave lapping on the shore, I hear, “That was so hard.”

Together, God and I look back over the last two days and notice how I spent my time. I was delighted when I found Naomi Shihab Nye’s video for my blog post and loved how it all came together. Because I didn’t think my photocopies were ready, Fred and I had time for a walk. I sense that God enjoyed those moments as much as I did. Neither of us wished that I had been packing or counting copies instead.

I blamed myself when I got thrown by the circumstances that made it hard for me to be present, but God wasn’t upset with me, nor was anyone else. There’s a person that I’d really like to be all the time, but I’m not. And somehow that’s okay.

The next morning is sunny and spacious. Ron, Deb and I enjoy a leisurely breakfast and a long walk along Stoney Creek. They catch their ferry and, a few hours later, I catch mine.

During my week away, co-facilitating Living From The Heart, moments come like waves. Sometimes I’m lifted and delighted to be who I am. Other times, I’m dropped and dismayed by something I’ve said or done and left scrambling to regain my footing and salvage my self-esteem.

But whether the waves lift or drop me, one thing never changes–I am still in an ocean of love drawn by God’s current of compassion.

The Lord is gracious and righteous;
    our God is full of compassion.
The Lord protects the unwary;
    when I was brought low, God saved me.
–Psalm 116:6 (NIV)

Love Mischief for the World

I was chatting with “Mike” (not his real name) who is a regular at the Wednesday Lunch Club, an outreach for those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. I find out he used to be a chef at a prestigious hotel. He tells me one of his creations is still on their menu. One thing leads to another and he tells me how he got chatting with a manager of a local grocery store. The manager told him that right before cheque issue day, they have a fair bit of food stolen. Mike says, “Tell you what, why don’t you give me the food that’s about to expire, and I’ll take it down to the homeless camp and cook it for them.” That’s just what he did. “They loved the food and the manager’s problem was solved,” Mike said. Now that’s come incredible love mischief, eh?

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:
“Stormy weather” by Leif Harboe. Used with permission.
“Pacific Ocean” by Scott Anderson. Used with permission.
“Love” by Dustin Gaffke. 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 Homelessness, Ignatian Spirituality, Reflections, Wednesday Lunch Club | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment