God Expands My World

My world’s gotten small. It happened so subtly, I hardly noticed. But now that I’m aware of it, I can see signs of shrinkage–not caring that I don’t care, taking things personally, being angry about something because of its effect on me, giving priority to what works for me. When the universe revolves around me, my world is very small indeed.

The fact that I see this is a gift. God noticed and brought it to my awareness–not as a call to action but as a call to prayer. Notice, just notice, your self-preoccupation, says God. Notice it with me. Notice what I bring to help you loosen your grip and let go. 

In last week’s post, I said that God makes a difference in our lives simply by being present. That doesn’t seem like enough when I think about it, but when I practice being present, well, that’s a whole different story.

I sat with God in my anger and sadness that my feelings had been overlooked. The thought that I didn’t matter felt unbearable. I knew there had to be a different way of looking at this, but for the life of me, I couldn’t see it. Jesus held my hand and told me that I mattered to him. But that’s not all Jesus did.

A few days later I was walking with a friend and told her what happened. She could relate, and after listening with empathy, she offered to tell me what she’d learned. I received the new perspective I’d hoped for and found compassion for the one who overlooked me and for myself.

I continued to notice when my world got small and resisted the urge to “do” before I’d “be” with God. God listened and expanded my world. I found myself drawn to participate in the Kairos Blanket Exercise and learn about our First Nations sisters and brothers. I told my daughter about it, and we dreamed of the day when the trauma caused by residential schools and the Doctrine of Discovery would be healed. We are grateful for the healing First Nations people are bringing to us.

After offering spiritual direction, I wonder if I did a good job. I think of how I could have done it differently. But when I sit with Jesus, I see him smile and am reminded that he can and does work in and around me. Nothing is wasted. All is good. He tells me to relax, breathe, be still, let go. And because he knows this is not easy for me, he hooks me up with my friend Rod’s meditations.

I didn’t have to keep my world from shrinking. I didn’t have to be on the alert that my ego was getting too big again. I didn’t have to fix myself. God took all that on. I just had to notice what God was bringing into view and be present with God in it.

God is safe. God doesn’t minimize, blame, or belittle me. God just loves me and opens my heart to the world.

In prayer, like the stars before the rising sun,
all the burdens of our autonomous self disperse
before the “piercing presence” of God.
–James Finley,
Merton’s Palace to Nowhere

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

blanket-exercise-reconciliation
Art by Melaney Gleeson-Lyall (Point),
Musqueam Coast Salish

The KAIROS Blanket Exercise™ program is a unique, interactive and participatory Canadian-Indigenous history lesson, developed in collaboration with Indigenous Elders, knowledge keepers and educators for reconciliation.

During the KBE, participants walk on blankets representing the land and into the role of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people by reading scrolls and carrying cards which ultimately determine their outcome as they literally walk through situations that include pre-contact, treaty-making, colonization and resistance.

The Exercise concludes with a debriefing, conducted as a “talking circle”, during which participants discuss the learning experience, process their feelings, ask questions, share insights and deepen their understanding.

Canada is in a season of reconciliation and we are all invited to participate.

Click on the link for more information on the Blanket Exercise that SoulStream is offering on February 10.

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:
“Small black bird” by Caroline. Used with permission.
“Birds on a wire” by Julie Falk. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2019.
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 2013-2019.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in False Self, Mindfulness, Prayer, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Calls to Prayer

Notice what you notice.

You’ve heard me say that countless times in my book and blog. It’s become a contemplative practice for me ever since I prayed the Ignatian Exercises in 2012-13.

I notice experiences that warm my heart. I also notice ones that irk me. My initial response to my noticing is to receive these experiences as calls to action. If I like what happened, I wonder how I can make it happen again. If I’m bothered by an incident, I wonder what I can do to resolve or avoid what I caused it.

What I have been slow to realize is that these noticings are not calls to action but calls to prayer. They are invitations to share my joys and disappointments with God.

In an Advent reflection, Monica Brown helped me identify with the barren-hearted or displaced and name my own struggles. I felt invited to bring my struggles to prayer and let God be God, “the one who comforts us and makes a difference to our lives simply by being with us.

I held that thought. God makes a difference in my life simply by being present. This means I need to be present to God’s presence. That’s exactly what God desires: to be present with us, not as a means to an end (and that end being our perfected selves), but as an end in itself. . .  an end to our striving, an end to the belief that we are on our own in this, an end to our disconnectedness from others, and an end to ourselves apart from God.

Brown said, “God’s desire to be one with us is greater than our desire for God” and that “we can only experience the fulfilment of God’s promise in and through our own humanity.”

Let me slow that down for you as God did for me.

God’s desire to be one with us is huge.

God accomplishes oneness with us by meeting us in our human struggles and feelings of disappointment.

So often I want to tell myself something that will make me feel better about whatever’s gone wrong. I look for ways to comfort myself instead of letting God comfort me. My own counsel keeps me from union with God.

It’s taking me a long time to believe that God makes a difference simply by being present with me in my disappointment or difficulty.

So here’s my New Year’s resolution. Whenever I’m in a conundrum or funk about something, I want to notice my urge to counsel or comfort myself and hear instead a call to prayer.

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

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

It’s been two and a half months since Mike Hurley became the new mayor of Burnaby and already our city’s citizens who are homeless or at risk of homelessness are being cared for. In December, four temporary warming centres have been set up in different locations in Burnaby and are open from 8pm to 8am daily until the end of March. Beginning in January, the fifth location will be at St. Stephen the Martyr Anglican Church, my home church which is within walking distance from the Lougheed Skytrain station. The centres will provide basic shelter for the night, washroom facilities, mats, tables and chairs, hot beverages and snacks, and space for people’s belongings. Thank you, Mayor Hurley and city councillors, for your wonderful love mischief. Thank you, Pastor Ruth, for helping us be good followers of Christ.

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:
“Bells” by uroburos from Pixabay Creative Commons
“Hold On” by just.Luc. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2019.
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 2013-2019.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Advent, Homelessness, Ignatian Spirituality, Poverty of Spirit, Prayer, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

DIY Retreat #12: Welcoming the New Year

This retreat was adapted from one prepared by Mei Chang, a SoulStream partner who is a spiritual director and retreat facilitator with a heart to offer contemplative spaces in urban areas. Instructions on how to plan a personal or group retreat are here. For this retreat, you will need a stone for each person, collage materials (optional) and paper and coloured pencils or crayons (optional).

Welcoming the New Year

 So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground. –Joshua 3:14-17 (NIV)


LOOKING BACK

At the turning of the year, let’s spend time together with God–to look back on the year that is past and to look forward to the year that is to come. If our life is like a journey, what landscape have you been travelling through? Imagine yourself there now, walking on a path. What do you see? Hear? Feel? Smell?

As you walk on, you see a river ahead and the path continues through the river and re-emerges on the other side. You can’t see what’s beyond, but you know you need to cross the river to continue your journey. Imagine God holding back the river so you can cross over. As you stand at the river’s edge, you realise you are going to have to leave behind what you know for what is unknown. This is where you are standing now as you leave behind the past year and prepare to step into a new one.

As you stand on the threshold and are about to cross from 2018 to 2019, look back. Remember this past year and how God journeyed with you and brought you thus far.

You can do this in one of the following ways :

  • Make a collage using pictures that represent aspects of the past year that stand out for you. 
  • Use a Prayer of Examen.

Examen for the Year

Pause and become aware that you are in the presence of God. Ask for the grace to know God and to know yourself as God knows you.

Look back over your year. You will recall joys and sorrows, accomplishments and failures, unexpected gifts and disappointments. Remember you are not looking alone; God is with you, shedding light. Receive the light to see your life as God sees it– with compassion and curiosity. God sees your deep desire to love and be loved.

Review the year with gratitude

As you review the year, pay attention to the good gifts you have received.

  • What are you especially grateful for this past year?
  • Name specifically what comes to your memory now, and thank God for them.
  • What do they say to you about your life and God’s love for you?

Pay attention to your memories and emotions

As you reviewed your year:

  • What memories speak most loudly to you?
  • What situations, events, relationships, or activities bring up the most emotion now, as you remember them?

Choose one feature of the year and pray from it.

While you are lingering with your memories and emotions, there may be one thing that keeps drawing you back to it. Perhaps it is a single event, a relationship, an interaction ,or a feeling. Stay with what is most alive for you now and pray with it.

  • What might God be wanting you to notice about yourself?
  • How is God present to you in this? What is your response to God?
  • Is there something new you notice now that you didn’t see before?

Closing prayer

Thank God for the past year–both the joys and struggles–and for the gift of Christ’s presence with you.

LOOKING FORWARD

When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.”

So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”

So the Israelites did as Joshua commanded them. They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, as the Lord had told Joshua; and they carried them over with them to their camp, where they put them down. Joshua set up the twelve stones that had been in the middle of the Jordan at the spot where the priests who carried the ark of the covenant had stood. And they are there to this day.–Joshua 4:1-9 (NIV)

After the Israelites crossed the Jordan River, God told them to take stones from the middle of the river and set them down in their camp as a memorial. Why? To remember how God was with them and how God brought them to the Promised Land.

  • Pick up a stone and let it be a memorial of how God was with you 2018. If you could inscribe a word or an image on that stone that has come from your looking back, what would it be?
  • Spend time with your collage or take a walk and see what word or image draws your attention or seems to speak to you.
  • Hold that word or image. What hopes, questions, fears or dreams arise as you as you enter the new year?
  • How does the word or image you imagine inscribing on your stone speak into those hopes, questions, fears and dreams?

Perhaps you’d like to journal or draw a picture of yourself at the edge of the Jordan.

  • What prayer rises in you?

So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
–Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)

* * * 

Credits and References:
“Sitting in Silence” by Alice Popkorn. Used with permission.
“Stones” by Peter. Used with permission.
“Reaching Out” by little*star. 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 Ignatian Spirituality, Prayer, Prayer Retreat Outline, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Advent IV: Presence

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

I’m feeling pretty good, then suddenly I’m not. I received an email, and in it, my friend tells me she’s frustrated and overwhelmed. I worry that I’ve contributed to this. I feel agitated and want to connect with her to make sure we’re okay, but she’s unavailable for a few hours.

I don’t know what to do with myself, so I decide to deliver my papers. Fred has asked me more than once why I keep doing this job that pays so little. “Because it gets me outside and doing something physical for half an hour,” I say.

As I begin my route, I realize my reaction to the email is disproportionate to the situation. My friend is not likely angry with me. Even if she is, we’d sort it out. Our friendship means a lot to both of us.

The Burnaby Now lands on a doorstep with a thud. I’ve been triggered again by that old fear of rejection.

When will I ever be done with it? Another paper. Another thud.

Maybe I need more counselling. Thud.

Maybe I’m not going deep enough in spiritual direction. Thud. Thud.

“Sometimes it’s hard to be me,” I said to my spiritual director the day before. “I’m so tired of being surprised by the thought that people like me. I often think they’ll only remember the thing about me that annoyed them.”

I felt sad and my director asked me, “How does God want to be with you in your sadness?”

The session had been a good one, so I’m disappointed to be back in the dumps again.

After I finish my route, I remember that I’d planned to look over my blog post one more time before it goes out. I’m alone in the house, so I read it aloud. I slow down when I get to the part about God wanting to be with us. Tears come when I read, “What is going on in your life right now that has your attention?” God is present right now, with me and my irrational fears.

“You’re brave,” Jesus told me when I met him in my sadness the day before. He knows it isn’t easy to be me sometimes.

Here he is again, right beside me in my disappointment that I’m still so easily triggered. I thought I needed a big fix, but God knows all I need is Christ with me, holding my hand till the fears subside.

You can guess how the story ends. My friend isn’t angry with me. In fact, she tells me how much she appreciates being able to say how she’s feeling.

Sometimes I enjoy being me, I’d also told my director. I do.

If God has come in the flesh,
and if God keeps coming to us in our fleshly existence,
then all of life is shot through with meaning.
Earth is crammed
with heaven,
and heaven (when we finally get there) will be crammed with
earth.
Nothing wasted.
Nothing lost.
Nothing secular.
Nothing absurd…
All are grist for the mill of a down-to-earth spirituality.
David G. Benner,
The Gift of Being Yourself: The Sacred Call to Self-Discovery

* * *

 Some Advent Love Mischief:

  • What’s going on for you right now? What feelings emerge as you think about it?
  • Now imagine Jesus in the flesh coming to you, revealing the reality that God is present.
  • How does it feel to have Jesus welcome and listen to your feelings with compassion?
  • We often want to dismiss or fix uncomfortable emotions. Yet to God, nothing is wasted, lost or absurd. Each feeling is precious, containing God’s presence.
  • Linger with Jesus and “what is.” Ask him to show you what he sees and feels when he looks at you at this present moment.
Credits and References:
“Trevlig fjärde advent!” by Susanne Nilsson.Used with permission.
“The Nativity” 1890-1910 by Franz Mayer & Co (detail) photo by Plum leaves. 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 Advent, Christmas, Mystical, Reflections, Spiritual Direction, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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
Posted in Advent, Overeating, Prayer, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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.
Posted in Advent, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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
Posted in Advent, Aging, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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
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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