Being the Odd One Out

Finally, I thought as I placed a mat in front of our door. Now our doorway matched the other three that open onto the breezeway. We are no longer the odd one out.

On a Zoom call that week, a friend’s beautifully decorated Christmas tree shimmered in the background. She loves decorating her house for Christmas. Others noticed it too and talked about how this Christmas tradition sparks joy.

I didn’t add my thoughts to the conversation. You may recall reading in previous Advent posts that neither Fred nor I “deck the halls” for Christmas. Our Christmas decorating is minimal at best.

I felt a familiar tension: I should be decorating but, I don’t want to. A familiar angst: What will others think of me when they see few signs of Christmas in our place? A familiar plea: Can’t we just skip this season altogether?

But I’m in a different place this year. God has been coaching me in the school of “Be Yourself” and “You Belong.”

Recently someone I know who is queer came out. I didn’t try to reassure them that it was okay as if this was something to endure. I cheered. I was so happy for them that they can celebrate being who they are.

A thought arrived. What if I didn’t just get through this season? What if I celebrated how I observe this season and appreciate how others observe it differently?

What if I came out of the closet and declared that I am a non-decorating Christmas observer? Imagining it doesn’t bring me comfort or joy. It would be awkward. Whenever you do something different from others you risk being judged by them, or others may feel judged and compelled to defend their preference.

Being different from others takes a certain amount of courage. It requires us to lean into the reality that our belonging doesn’t come from being like others or even being liked by them. It’s something inherently ours. It’s grounded in a Love we always have and can never lose.

I think about the relief I felt when our doorway finally matched the other three. It was palpable. Something in us likes to fit in. I thought about that as I descended the outside stairs in our building. At the landing, I glanced at the four doorways of the condos underneath ours. Two had doormats and two didn’t.

We don’t all have to match.

Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

∗ ∗ ∗

Love Mischief for the World

Advent 1: Claim Your God-Given Identity

This Advent, I invite you to reflect on the Annunciation. We will pause in four places of the story. The first place is the greeting Mary hears. The angel tells her she is favoured by God. No matter what she thinks of herself, she is loved and favoured by her Creator. Jesus heard God’s voice. “You are my beloved son, in you I am well pleased.” What do you hear God saying to you? Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me so I have loved you.” We are no less loved and delighted in than Mary and Jesus were.

When you light the first advent candle, perhaps you’d like to take a moment in the silence to listen for God’s greeting to you. What loving words do you hear? Claim it as true. Henri Nouwen once said, “To pray is to listen to the One who calls you ‘my beloved daughter,’ ‘my beloved son,’ ‘my beloved child.’ To pray is to let that voice speak to the center of your being, to your guts, and let that voice resound in your whole being.”                

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

Credits and References:
“Odd one out – Puffin Island Anglesey” by Airwolfhound
“Fruit Pears Apples Odd One Out” by Pixabay. Creative commons.
“Advent 091207_058” by Jürgen Mangelsdorf. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2021.
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 2013-2021.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
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Horizons

What happened was so subtle I almost missed it.

Every once in a while, I’m asked to preach at my church. After I finished writing my homily for Sunday, I joined Fred for a walk. I shared with him what I was going to say as we sauntered along.

Away from my notes and hearing it with Fred, I made a connection I hadn’t noticed before. It was significant, and, when I got home, I revised what I planned to say.

Looking back on it now, I don’t immediately recall what that new revelation was. I only remember that one moment I didn’t see it, and the next moment I did.

It wasn’t until I stepped into the next moment that I had another view.

We can only see to the edge, to the horizon of what we know, but as we keep walking, more is revealed.

I stand in one place and want to know now, see now, understand now, and I can’t. Then I take a step in the unknowing, and I see a little more.

This is pivotal because it makes me realize that all I see, feel, and know at this moment is not all there is to see, feel and know. It’s not all God sees, feels, and knows.

It invites me to trust that there is more going on than I’m aware of. God sees what’s on the other side of the horizon. God is there and here.

Knowing that each moment has a new horizon and each horizon a new view gives me more compassion for my limits and deepens my desire to look for what new thing God wants to reveal that I couldn’t know before.

Years ago, when Fred and I set off on Tieras with our children, aged seven and ten, we planned to be gone for a few years, perhaps even sail around the world. We learned as much as we could about what to carry with us, what route to take, how to clear customs in each country, where to find supplies, how to communicate back home. The list was endless. I wanted to be able to solve every problem before it arrived.

I’m glad we were well prepared for most eventualities, but there were some things we couldn’t know until we arrived at our destination.

Life is like that. We find the road by walking, the known in one hand and unknown in the other.

And God? God, who knows all, is with us–within and without, above and below, behind and before us–leading the way.

See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.
–Isaiah 43:19 (NIV)

∗ ∗ ∗

Love Mischief for the World

“On Saturday, November 20 people around the world will mark Trans Day of Remembrance,” writes Bishop John Stephens to the parishioners of the Diocese of Westminster in the Anglican Church in Canada.

“This day began in the late 1990s to commemorate the life of Rita Hester, an American trans woman, who was murdered in Boston in 1998. Her murder remains unsolved. The violence of her death and the lack of media and community attention to her murder led to candlelight vigils and memorials that have spread around the world and that honor thousands of other trans people who had died, committed suicide or been subjected to violence. Canada is by no means exempt from this sad record. 

“Trans Day of Remembrance is also a day to commit and recommit to ending transphobic violence and discrimination.”

Bishop Stephens goes on to say, “We as members of the church need to confess how we have contributed to the situation faced by trans people. How have our thoughts, words, and deeds, and the things we have done and left undone allowed this violence and discrimination to continue? How often have we failed to see the trans people in our families, our parishes, our communities as fully human and worthy of our concern, support, respect, and love? What steps can we take as individuals and parishes to ensure safety for trans people? How can we educate ourselves about gender identity and expression in ways that change the church, our societal institutions, and our personal understanding of gender and identity?  

“I would urge you to seek out and participate in events being held in your area or online to mark Trans Day of Remembrance this Saturday. Bring that experience to your justice work in our parishes and in our diocese, challenging all of us to become allies or to become better allies to members of the Trans communities. How can we in the church chart a different path of love, living out the grace of God?

“I encourage you to remember the trans community in your Prayers of the People this Sunday.” For more information, go to https://cupe.ca/event/trans-day-remembrance.

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

Credits and References:
“Horizon” by patrice-photographiste. Used with permision.
“Likey Hills” by Adam Hinett. Used with permission. 
Transgender flag photo from Leeds Beckett University. Creative Commons
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You Are Worthy to Leave This Sadness

He Desired Me So I Came Close

No one can near God unless He has
prepared a bed for you.

A thousand souls hear His call every second,
but most every one then looks into their life’s mirror and
says, “I am not worthy to leave this sadness.”

When I first heard His courting song, I too
looked at all I had done in my life and said,

“How can I gaze into His omnipresent eyes?”
I spoke those words with all my heart,

but then He sang again, a song even sweeter,
and when I tried to shame myself once more from His presence
God showed me His compassion and spoke a divine truth,

“I made you, dear, and all I make is perfect.
Please come close, for I
desire
you.”

–Teresa of Avila (translated by Daniel Ladinsky)

You are worthy to leave this sadness,
I hear God say to me in Teresa’s poem.

A cape of sadness slips from my shoulders and falls
to the floor.
I watch the trapped air dissipate until my sadness is inert.

I think about what makes me sad,
who makes me worry,
what feels impossible, unfair,
losing battles and deep divides.
Walk away from all that sadness, you say.
You can trust that I will be there
no matter what happens.

I try on trust,
run my fingers over the smooth burgundy fabric.

I wrap it around me and read the poem again.

You prepare a bed for me . . .
a bed in a room, a room in a house. Your house, my home.
I live there with you.
I have a place at the table.
My chair scrapes the floor as I pull it back. I sit down, inch it forward, and see
my reflection in my plate.
I pick up my fork, my knife, turn it slowly in my hand.
There I am again.

I belong. I belong. I belong. I belong.
The words chug along like a hundred car train.
I watch each car pass. “You belong” is painted on this car,
and the next and the next and the next.
My head moves back and forth, and back and forth until
the words blur into one long ribbon of fact.

I imagine coming home to you,
being greeted at the door,
sitting on the porch swing, talking about my day.
And you tell me
every place is home because you are
everywhere.
Every community is home because you are in each member.
I belong to my church, my neighbourhood, my friends, my family,
the earth, the sky, and every living thing.
I belong here because here is everywhere
you call
every second.

What do you call out?
Come home.
You are worthy to leave the sadness of believing
you don’t belong. 

Imagine living like you belong here.
Now step into what you see.
Live like you belong here.

∗ ∗ ∗

Love Mischief for the World

What would it be like to be visited by an angel and told that you were favoured, treasured and cherished by God?

And what if that favour meant that, right now, in your life as it is, God is birthing something unique in you that will bless you and your world?

Please join spiritual directors and Living from the Heart facilitators, Audrey Hoehn, Brent Unrau and me as we lead an Advent online morning retreat called The Advent of God’s Favour: A Quiet Morning of Reflection on the Annunciation of Mary on Saturday, December 4, 9-noon PT.  Register here.

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

Credits and References:
Open Gate” by Tym. Used with permission.
“He Desired Me so I Came Close” by Teresa of Avila in Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West by Various (Author), Daniel Ladinsky (Translator). Used with permission.
“Birds on a Wire” by Julie Falk. Used with permission.
Image of the annunciation from pxfuel creative commons.

Posted in Advent, Mystical, Poetry, Prayer, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

I Want to See

“If a man [or woman] born blind were told about the nature of the colour yellow, he would understand absolutely nothing, no matter how much instruction he received. Since he never saw these colours, nor their like, he would not have the means to form a judgment about them. Only their names would be grasped, since the names are perceptible through hearing, but note that the former image, because these colours are never seen by him. Such is faith to the soul. It informs us of matters that we have never seen or known, either in themselves or in their likenesses.” –John of the Cross, Ascent of Mount Carmel Book 2 Chapter 3

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked. “My Rabbi, the blind man said, “I want to see!” –Mark 10:50-52 (NLT)

Jesus, I want to see
the way I instantly saw one day
that eating mostly plants
slows climate change.

Seeing that changed me.

I want to see and be freed
to be kind.

I want
this conversation to enlighten,
that problem to push open
the stuck door of belief.

I want to sink
into my embodied soul
and feel
what my colour-blind mind
can’t comprehend.

I want to see
what others see
when they see
me
and imagine how I could bear
that much seeing.

I want to see what can’t be seen:
divine union
wholeness
loving God with my all my heart, soul, mind and strength.

But I can’t make myself see
any more than Bartimeus could.

You didn’t tell him
he’s been doing it wrong,
add an “If only …”
or say, “I wish you would have …”

You simply
saw him,
included him
and opened his eyes.

And you see me.

Me: It’s good to see you.
Mitch: It’s good to be seen.
–what’s said every time I see Mitch.

∗ ∗ ∗

Love Mischief for the World

Katharine Hayhoe is an atmospheric scientist and professor of political science and director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University and Cheif Scientist of the Nature Conservancy. She is also a mother, evangelical Christian, and author of Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World. She was named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People for her work as a climate scientist and communicator. You may also want to listen to this interview with her on On Being with Krista Tippett in an episode called, “Our future is still in our hands.”

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

Credits and References:
Jesus healing the blind man photo of the mosaic by Fr Marko Rupnik SJ in the chapel of the Mysteries of Light in the National Shrine of St John Paul II in Washington DC. by Lawrence OP. Used with permission.
“Citroenvlinder by
Posted in Mindfulness, Mystical, Popular Posts, Poverty of Spirit, Prayer, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Doing Things that Don’t Spark Joy

I tend to avoid doing things that don’t spark joy. These jobs end up at the bottom of my To Do list and don’t make a fuss until a deadline pinches them and they squeal. I groan. Oh bother. Do I have to?

No wonder I’ve kept so busy for so long. When I’m prioritizing the enjoyable or urgent over the tedious or boring, I never have to get to the bottom of the list. I hold onto the hope that these things will fall off the edge and into the black hole of I-didn’t-need-to-do-it-anyway. Sigh. I can dream, can’t I?

Fred didn’t announce his plan to declutter our place. Stuff just appeared on the floor of our spare room: four extra ice cub trays, a fondue pot and skewers, board games Hadrian and Hannah never choose. That same week, I heard the acronyms JIC and JIT. Many of us tend to collect things Just In Case we need them instead of trusting that we will receive what we need Just In Time.

I keep a lot of stuff just in case I might need it one day–like the clothes in my closet that I never wear. The colour or fit’s not quite right, but I might need them some day.

Inspired by Fred’s quiet campaign and the invitation to be present to each moment gave me a bit of energy to address bottom of the list things. I began to purge as if I were tidying someone else’s stuff. “You don’t even like this sweater,” I told myself and put it in a big garbage bag for the thrift store. I discovered I had five winter coats. Who needs five? Three went into the bag. I was surprised to find it felt good.

I also figured out how to take a screenshot on my phone so I could replace the points card I lost. I updated the freezer map. (If you have a deep freeze, an aging brain, and no freezer map, let me tell you, you are inviting meltdowns on a regular basis.) I sent that e-transfer, picked up that greeting card, and used the tahini that was sitting at the back of my fridge.

I made that phone call. I knew I would receive the answer to my question in two minutes, but the call would last close to an hour. It was as predicted. I moved from my desk to the couch so I wouldn’t be tempted to multitask. I fidgeted. I waited for an opportunity to kindly end the conversation, but there was a steady stream of talking. I also tried to stay as present as I could and listen. What I heard was heartbreaking and inspiring. “You’re like John of the Cross,” I said. You found intimacy with God in a cruel, dark place.”

“That’s right,” she said. “It sounds funny, but I knew God before I knew God.”

God was there with her, with us in that conversation, and here with me now as I write and notice that astonishing things can happen in the moments I want to avoid.

He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen,
who were washing their nets.–Luke 5:2 (NIV)

∗ ∗ ∗

Love Mischief for the World

I wonder if, when the disciples were washing the nets, they thought this was a holy thing to do or that they would meet the Holy One while doing this tedious work. I hope you enjoy listening to “Holy as the Day Is Spent” by Carrie Newcomer.

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

Credits and References:
“Housework again” by the Italian voice. Used with permission.
“Jesus collecting the disciples” photo by Travis. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2021.
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 2013-2021.  http://www.estherhizsa.com

Posted in Humour, Mindfulness, Reflections, Songs, Stories, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Astonishing Things Can Happen

How might this moment be a gift to me, just as it is? I asked in last week’s post.

I fingered that question like a smooth stone in my pocket while I put on my jacket and shoes. 

“Okay then,” I said to myself. “I’m going to enjoy this moment.”

Immediately a thought pinged back: you might not.

I took a breath and let go of the expectation I was putting on the present moment and rephrased my intention. “Okay then. I’m going to be in this moment and see what happens.”

On another bike ride with Fred, I paid attention to what I saw, heard, felt, and smelled and what was coming to my mind in that moment. One recollection led to another. It seemed as if each event had arrived at my door with bags of new clothes, and now I was opening the bags, taking the things out, and trying them on.

Oh. That’s what that person was trying to say.

Oh. Wait a minute. I thought we agreed to . . .?

Oh. Perhaps what that person is not saying in their email is telling me that . . . 

I can’t read or work when I ride, and it’s not safe to listen to podcasts, so my mind is free to listen to what I’ve experienced and be changed by what I hear. 

In a Ted Talk, poet David Whyte said, 

There is no self that will survive a real conversation. There’s no self that will survive a real meeting with something other than itself. There’s no organization that will keep its original identity if it’s in the conversation. And after a while you realize you don’t want to actually keep that old static identity. You want to move the pivot of your presence from this thing you think is you, into this meeting with the future, with the people you serve, with your family, with your loved ones. It’s in this self-forgetfulness where you meet something other than yourself that all kinds of astonishing things happen.

Each moment is a conversation and, in it, an invitation to be changed by it. I overlook this invitation when I relegate some moments as bad or unimportant, when I only see them through the lens of their capacity to make me feel good, or when I cover my ears from hearing anything that makes me feel less than or challenges my typical ways of being. Instead, I want to “move the pivot of my presence” and receive what is actually happening and let it loosen my grip on my old identity. 

Recently, I spent a fair bit of time trying to book a vacation place on Airbnb for a week in March. I’m new at this and am learning what to look for to help me make a good decision. As I scrolled through the listings and used the filters, I could narrow my search down to ones that had the non-negotiables for us. We wanted a quiet place in a specific location with a comfortable bed and a kitchenette that was reasonably priced and had a generous refund policy.

That was hard to find. So I began playing with what I might take off that list to make it work and asking what a host might allow to make it work. No. The 48 hour cancellation policy was firm.

That email conversation with a person who had a name helped me pivot. Instead of being afraid that we could lose hundreds of dollars if we cancelled later, I thought of the person I had conversed with receiving the income. I can imagine that Covid’s been hard on her business. And haven’t I been hearing and saying that we’re all connected? I’m not separate from her.

I began to consider a new thought. What if I set aside what’s best for me? We could book the place we want, and if something unforeseen happens and we can’t go, we’d have an opportunity to be generous.

And that would be astonishing. 

It’s in this self-forgetfulness where you meet something other than yourself
that all kinds of astonishing things happen.
David Whyte

∗ ∗ ∗

Love Mischief for the World

In this Ted Talk, David Whyte speaks of what he witnessed in the Galapagos Islands. It led him to see how astonishing things happen in real conversations with life. The quote in today’s post is from this talk. Whyte begins the talk by reciting his poem Everything Is Waiting for You. Here’s the first mischievous sentence, “You’re great mistake is to act the drama as if you are alone.” Enjoy the poem and the talk, and may you be astonished by what happens next.

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

Credits and References:
“Rest” by Aftab Uzzaman. Used with permission.
“Winter Bench at the Strip Mall” by Cam Miller. Used with permission. 
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2021.
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 2013-2021.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in community, compassion, False Self, Mindfulness, Poetry, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Listening to My Fear

“I got out my old calendars and checked. We used that Groupon. I didn’t lose three hundred dollars, afterall,” I told Fred, and he gave me a hug and a kiss.

It was a sunny Friday, and we’d just gotten back from a bike ride in Pitt Meadows. On that ride, I told Fred what happened to me on Tuesday evening. It took me three days before I could talk about it. Then I finally had the courage to check my records and find out if I had lost the money. That took less than five minutes.

When the facts were before me, I felt relieved but not sorry that I went through what I did, as uncomfortable as it was. I felt compassion for that part of me that was so panicked. It was paralyzed, afraid to look in case what I feared was true. I’m grateful that this part of me got to speak up and reveal the fear it carried. Now it’s in the light and, together, we can notice when that fear comes again, hold on tight to God, and let it pass.

As I was writing this, the phone rang. Fred took the call, and I left my writing to listen. I overheard that Hadrian, our grandson, was not going to come for a sleepover as planned. I felt a pinch, a little “Oh, no!” It sounded like he preferred to do something else.

He just turned fourteen. I always knew the day would come when this could happen, but that doesn’t mean I won’t feel the loss, and I was feeling it. I looked at the chocolate cupcakes and the veggie dogs defrosting on the counter and felt sad.

After Fred hung up the phone, he explained that Hadrian was feeling under the weather. He wanted to come alright, but needed to stay home and rest.

We were disappointed he couldn’t come, but I also felt a sweet relief. He still wants to come.

I returned to my laptop, writing and reflecting. The wave of sadness I felt when I thought Hadrian didn’t want to come revealed a fear. Something in me is afraid of how I will feel when our grandkids stop coming regularly for sleepovers. It will happen, and we will feel sad, but I don’t need to be afraid of the sadness.

I almost ended my post there and then realized later that I’d dismissed my fear.

What if it wasn’t ready to go? What if it had more to say to me?

Sure enough, it hadn’t gone far. I welcomed my fear to take a seat and tell me why it was so afraid of losing this pleasure?

I heard that it isn’t that I won’t feel loved or lack worth. I don’t like losing something that I count on to make me feel good, like being responsible with my money makes me feel good.

Then I saw it plainly: I believe I need to feel good to be happy.

I see how that belief winds me up. If I don’t feel good, I think there’s something wrong that needs fixing or I think about what I can do so I can feel good . . . or I just eat something.

What would it be like to let go of that belief? What if I simply surrender to this moment and receive what’s in it with openness and curiosity? How might this moment be a gift to me, just as it is? 

Welcome, welcome, welcome.
I welcome everything that comes to me today
because I know it’s for my healing.
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons,
situations, and conditions.
I let go of my desire for power and control.
I let go of my desire for affection, esteem,
approval and pleasure.
I let go of my desire for survival and security.
I let go of my desire to change any situation,
condition, person or myself.
I open to the love and presence of God and
God’s action within. Amen.
–Father Thomas Keating

∗ ∗ ∗

Love Mischief for the World

In this short video, Cherry Haisten introduces the practice of Welcoming Prayer taught by Father Thomas Keating. Welcoming prayer, spiritual direction, and focusing practices have helped me understand how feelings reside in my body and need to be welcomed and heard. They express how a part of me is feeling. When I am grounded in God, I am more able to move to a place of observing that part and welcoming my feeling instead of being identified with it. I can hear what my feeling wants me to know and see how it’s trying to help me, even if that help is not the help I need. In an interview with Tami Simon, psychologist and founder of Internal Family Systems, Richard Schwartz, talks about these parts of ourselves and explains why he believes there are no bad parts. 

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

Credits and References:
Leaf, fall, autumn, walking” from Pixabay. Public Domain.
“Giving Hands” by Artotem. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2021.
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 2013-2021.  http://www.estherhizsa.com

Posted in compassion, Mindfulness, Overeating, Prayer, Reflections, Spiritual Direction, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Sannyasi’s Gift

After my playful summer, I had literally hundreds of unread emails to clear. One thing led to another, and I ended up on Groupon. In my history, I found an expired coupon a couple of years old worth three hundred dollars. I went instantly cold inside. My mind whirled. How could that have happened? There was nothing I could do about it now. 

I got ready for bed but knew I wouldn’t sleep.

I listened to a guided meditation and then another to calm my body. I prayed. I sensed God saying, “You’re very careful. It’s likely a mistake. Even if it isn’t, it doesn’t change anything–not your life, your worth, or how much I love you.”

It doesn’t change anything, I repeated to myself like a mantra. 

The constriction in my body eased, but whenever I remembered what I saw on my computer screen, I tensed up again.

Begin here, I told myself.

I had just written last week’s post. I thought about the tree that fell. Help me, God, I prayed and imagined Mother God stroking my forehead, gazing at me lovingly.

Something in me was cracking. Now I could name it: my attachment to money. 

I can give money away, but to lose it through carelessness or to have it taken from me throws me into a panic. There. I named it. It bothers me, but I noticed that it doesn’t bother God. 

Then a thought came. What if I’ve been given an experience of living into what I fear and surviving it to loosen that fear’s grip on me? If everything belongs, as Richard Rohr says, then losing the money (assuming I did), isn’t bad. What if sometimes when we can’t let something go, the universe lovingly takes it out of our hands for us?

Let it go, Mother God whispered. Let go of the regret and shame. Let go of the belief that you can’t make a mistake. Let go of the belief that if you do make a mistake, even though you know it’s okay, that you won’t feel it. This is suffering, and suffering is painful.

“The root of sorrow is attachment,” said Anthony de Mello. I remember being in the trees at our campsite at China Beach this summer and reading one of de Mello’s favourite stories. 

This is a story of a guy who is moving out of his village in India, and he sees what we in India call a sannyasi. The sannyasi is the wandering mendicant. This is a person who, having attained enlightenment, understands that the whole world is his home and the sky is his roof and God is his father and will look after him, so he moves from place to place the way you and I would move from one room of our home to another. 

Here was the wandering sannyasi, and the villager, when he meets him, says, “I cannot believe this.”

And the sannyasi says, “What is it you cannot believe?”

And the villager says, “I had a dream about you last night. I dreamt that the Lord Vishnu said to me, ‘Tomorrow morning, you will leave the village around 11 o’clock, and you will run into this wandering sannyasi.’ And here, I’ve met you.”

“What else did the Lord Vishnu say to you?” asks the sannyasi.

Ands the man replies, “He said to me, ‘If the man gives you a precious stone he has, you will be the richest man in the whole world.’ Would you give me the stone?”

So the sannyasi says, “Wait a minute.” He rummages in his little knapsack that he had. He asks, “Would this be the stone you are talking about?”

And the man couldn’t believe his eyes because it was a diamond–the largest diamond in the world. 

He holds the diamond in his hands and he asks, “Could I have this?”

And the sannyasi says, “Of course, you could take it. I found it in a forest. You’re welcome to it.” And he goes on and sits under a tree on the outskirts of the village. The man grasps this diamond and how great is his joy. . . .

And then instead of going home, he sits under a tree, and all day long he sits, immersed in thought. And toward evening, he goes to the tree where the sannyasi is sitting, gives him back the diamond, and says, “Could you do me a favour?”

“What?” says the sannyasi.

“Could you give me the riches that make it possible for you to give this away so easily?”

God is granting me that favour. Some attachments fall away easily, as softly as a leaf falling from a tree. Other attachments break away with a crash. And if I don’t panic, I won’t run off trying to get the dead thing back or run around trying to figure out how I lost it in the first place so that mistake won’t happen again. Instead, I can stay right here in the middle of the pain of loss and let God give me the freedom my heart desires.

I still feel it now, the constriction in my chest, the feeling that something terrible has happened. I can be present to that part of myself, and gently give it space and time to see for itself that everything’s okay. I can let go of my desire to recoup my loss or regroup my inner defenses so it never happens again. I can give thanks that I’m being given an invaluable gift–to be able to lose what I have and be okay with it. 

Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.–John 12:24-25 (MSG)

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Love Mischief for the World

AN IGNATIAN PRAYER RETREAT

November 5-7, 2021

Online

I will be co-facilitating another Ignatian Prayer Retreat weekend online with my friend Sally Ringdahln on November 5-7, 2021. It would be awesome if you could join us. Register early. Space is limited. A past participant said, “This Ignatian Retreat offered me an opportunity to have encounters with God like never before. It has opened a door for me that I didn’t know exists and is possible.” Another said, “The Ignatian Silent Retreat created beautiful space within a chaotic time to meet with Jesus. The assigned prayers and times of spiritual direction were useful ‘structures’ within which to  stay present to the holy.”  

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

Credits and References:
“Bye-bye Summertime” (floating leaf) by Patrik S. Used with permission
Anthony de Mello, Rediscovering Life: Awakening to Reality p.37, 105.
“Cascades, Gleann nan Eildeag” by Tim Haynes. Used with permission.
Retreat photo by Ed Dahl. Used with permission.

© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2021.
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 2013-2021.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in compassion, Ignatian Spirituality, Prayer, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Begin Here

Begin here, the mystics say.
Humbly and honestly,
name where you are,
what you love,
what you feel,
and wait there
until the eyes of your heart
adjust
to the dark.

God is right beside you,
in and around,
above and below.
You don’t need to go anywhere else
to find God,
to be loved,

to become good.

So I begin here
on this rainy day.
I want to feel passionate
about God.
I want to want only God,
but I don’t.
I want to be distracted,
entertained,
indulge my appetite.
It’s hard to be still
and trust that anything is happening
as I sit in the silence.

I feel restless, helpless, confused.
I want to think my way out of this place,
but an ache rises up in my throat
and says, No.
Stay here.
Keep watch. 

This is a holy place.
I am doing a new thing.

I remember my morning walk.
Part of a maple tree had fallen.
A branch over a foot thick
broke.
A branch as big as a tree itself
vibrant with green, yellow, and red leaves
lay across the path.

In summer’s drought, the tree must have grown weak.
When the heavy rains came,
the tree drank until it was too heavy to hold itself together.
What looked healthy fell away
with a loud crash.

Something in me is cracking.
Something dead is falling away.
Life isn’t in the branch.
I thought it was in the tree,
but when I went back to look,
it was dying too.

My head wants to figure it out,
know what this means.
My heart says, Of course, you do.
It’s okay not to know.

I reread, reshape this poem
until it says what it needs to,
what’s true

and then I see it.
I feel it.

God is the ache.

“From now on I will tell you of new things,
    of hidden things unknown to you.
They are created now, and not long ago;
    you have not heard of them before today.
So you cannot say,
    ‘Yes, I knew of them.’
–Isaiah 46:6b-7 (NIV)

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Love Mischief for the World

These Sockeye salmon have travelled five hundred kilometres–from the Pacific Ocean to the Adams River–to spawn. Sometimes these courageous mothers need help to reach their destination. On a walk by a nearby salmon spawning stream, Fred and I met two women who told us where and when to see the Coho and Chum salmon swimming upstream to spawn. They told us how they look forward to this momentous yearly event. “One year, the water in the Brunette River was so low we found a number of salmon stranded and nearly dead,” said one of the women. “I’ll never forget picking up a huge salmon full of eggs. She was barely alive. Then I put her back in the river, and she swam away.” I loved the way these two friends witness, celebrate, and participate in the salmons’ epic journey.

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

Credits and References:
Photos of maple tree by Esther Hizsa.
Orange Maple Leaf” in banner by ☼☼Jo Zimny Photos☼☼. Used with permission.
“Sockeye Salmon in Adams” Theinterior, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2021.
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 2013-2021.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Creation, Poetry, Prayer, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Come Back

As autumn arrives, I find myself with little energy or enthusiasm. I have responsibilities, work to do, and practices to return to but lack the desire to do any of it. I don’t see a clear path forward as Covid continues to threaten and restrict. It bugs me that six hundred million dollars was spent on a federal election that didn’t change much.

This past weekend, our grandson invited us to join him for a Lord of the Rings movie-watching marathon. For three days, we accompanied Frodo on his journey to Mount Doom to dispose of the treacherous ring.

The scene that haunts me most is the sacrifice of Faramir in The Return of the King. Denethos, the ruling steward of Gondor, indulges himself with a meal of wine, fresh fruit and meat while the army he sent into battle, led by his son Faramir, faces certain defeat. While he eats, Pippen sings reluctantly for Denethos at his request. Scenes change from the crushing battle, to Pippen sorrowfully singing, to Gandalf sitting helpless, to Denethos eating heartlessly.

Denethos never does snap out of the spell that has trapped him in self-absorbed darkness. Thankfully, Faramir survives.

Why does this scene bother me so much? I think it’s because it shows the stark reality that, as humans, we’re all capable of such evil. Denethos could have stopped this tragedy, but he didn’t. He couldn’t becuase his heart had grown hard.

The movie’s pathos overly dramatizes my transient feelings. Yet, I recognize a disconnect and lethargy in me and fear what I will become if I give in to it.

Perhaps God, with the wisdom and kindness of Gandalf, is gently calling me back to the world and my place in it. Perhaps, like Merry and Pippen, I’ve had time to play, and now it’s time to attend to my tasks. Frodo was given his, and I’ve been given mine. No one can do them for us. They are ours and ours alone to complete.

Find me in the darkness, Lord.
Open my eyes to see you.
Give me the strength to move through the acedia,
so I can take my place, and do good.

Home is behind the world ahead
And there are many paths to tread
Through shadow to the edge of night
Until the stars are all alight.

Mist and shadow
Cloud and shade
All shall fade
All shall fade


–Pippen’s Song from The Return of the King

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Love Mischief for the World

September 30 is Orange Shirt Day. and Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Put on your orange shirt, and open your heart. How is God inviting you to participate in our calling to hear the truth, reconcile, and live justly and kindly?

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

Credits and References:
“Fall Leaves” by Douglas Hill. Used with permission.
“Orange Shirt Day 2018” by Province of British Columbia. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2021.
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 2013-2021.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in compassion, Justice, Reflections, Songs, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment