Responding to the World Contemplatively

Crescent earth from Apollo 4How is God calling me to respond to our beautiful, broken world? The same way I am asked to do everything else: contemplatively.

“Contemplatively” simply means living out of the reality that we are always in union with God. The apostle Paul said, “In Christ we live and move and have our being.” So, we are not alone in any venture, including this one.

With this in mind, SoulStream (the contemplative Christian community I belong to) expanded our value of justice to include the following:

God being our helper, we will endeavour to

  1. approach our divine call to care for the world positively and lightly, knowing that our response will be a natural outflow of our life in God.
  2. become more aware of our own complicity and our own inner landscape in terms of attraction and aversion around responding to the world’s beauty and brokenness.
  3. support one another in our community, as we continue to converse about our anguish and helplessness around what we see and allow God to move us into hope.
  4. join God in healing the world in ways that are true to our own gifts and limitations.

Night Prayer by Michael CookA few of us had been working on this initiative for months. When we finally got these four statements down on paper and shared them with our community at our annual gathering in June, it helped us all move forward.

Inspired by Michael Cook’s Night Prayer (above) and the Hafiz poem Seed Cracked Open, we have been praying, “God, what love-mischief can ‘We’ do for the world today?”

This is what God, Fred and I have been up to while on vacation in Banff National Park.

  • Petted a dog and looked into her eyes
  • Listened to the sounds of creatures stirring in the morning
  • Instead of disposing of our paper, plastic, metal and glass in the campground garbage bins, we held onto them until we found recycling bins in town
  • Were saddened by the exhaust of a 4 kilometer long train of vehicles inching down from Lake Louise to the highway and have composed a letter about it to Parks Canada (along with suggesting they include recycling info in their Mountain Guide)
  • Spoke up for the earth when people were going off-trail and damaging the fragile plants
  • Encouraged someone who wants to start composting
  • Applauded my nieces who are doing a month-long simplifying challenge. Each day they will get rid one more thing (i.e. first day one, second day two, etc)
  • Tried to eat more slowly and bless those who grew the food
  • Prayed outside with my eyes open
  • Gave thanks for life around me (although it wasn’t easy when it was perpetually cold and we had even more rain and hail!)

What love mischief have you and God been doing for the world? Let me know. I’d love to include what you’ve been up to in my upcoming posts. Don’t worry if doesn’t seem like much. Wendell Berry says,

“The real work of planet saving will be small, humble, and humbling, and (insofar as it involves love) pleasing and rewarding. Its jobs will be too many to count, too many to report, too many to be publicly noticed or rewarded, too small to make anyone rich or famous.”

Credits and references:
“Crescent Earth from Apollo 4” by Jason Major. Used with permission.
Acts 17:28
Night Prayer by Michael Cook. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2015.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013, 2014, 2015.  http://www.estherhizsa.wordpress.com

About Esther Hizsa

Esther is a spiritual director and writer. She lives in Burnaby with her husband, Fred, and they have two grown children and two grandchildren.
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14 Responses to Responding to the World Contemplatively

  1. Esther, this is so beautiful. Thank you. I confess to an internal groan when you began your creation series as I prepared to feel the usual mix of guilt and frustration and helplessness overwhelming my desire to do something. It is a delight to reach this post and read the additions to the Soulstream value of justice—so beautiful, with space to start where we’re at and approach it “positively and lightly,” joining together in God’s work “in ways that are true to our own gifts and limitations.” I love the recognition of this as a natural outflow of our life in God, and a process entailing small acts and internal shifts. Even I can’t find a way to turn this into guilt and helplessness! Lots of hope and freedom here for me. Thanks for all the prayer and work you and your colleagues put into this.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Esther Hizsa says:

      Hi Carolyn,
      Thank you for sharing what was going on for you. I am sure you spoke for many. I am so thankful to Jeff Imbach (who did much of the background work and prayer in this statement) for inviting me to join him and Doug Schroeder our director in launching this initiative. I look forward to see how God will use our community to protect and heal the world and support others like you in their journey as well. May God bless you with much love-mischief!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Dave Small says:

    Thanks Esther. I enjoyed reading the value statements from SoulStream. I particularly appreciated the line “attraction and aversion around responding to the world’s beauty and brokenness.” Sometimes, in reflecting on “justice”, we only find the “aversion” to what’s wrong in the world. I like how this statement adds the “attraction” to the “world’s beauty” as a parallel responsibility.

    I’m going to go somewhat off topic for a moment. You use the word “contemplation” quite often. We also use the term “meditation”. I recently tried to define those words with more precision. But I’m also wondering how you would distinguish those terms.

    Thanks again for the great writing!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Esther Hizsa says:

    Thanks Dave. It’s so good to hear what resonates with you.

    I’d like to hear how you define the terms “contemplation” and “meditation”. I have not caught up to that post yet. Which one is it in?

    These terms are often used interchangeably (as in “I will contemplate/meditate on that.”) So it’s confusing. Here is my take on it and how we would teach it at SoulStream’s Living from the Heart.

    Meditation is an activity involving cognitive reflection. For example, a person can meditate on scripture, a piece of art, nature etc. In this form of prayer their mind is engaged in thinking and aware of thoughts and feelings.
    The term “meditation”, especially in other prayer traditions, is also used to describe a process similar to how Christian mystics open themselves to a state of contemplation (oneness with God) which is beyond cognition or awareness of thoughts or feelings.

    Similarly, contemplation can be used two ways. The way Ignatius uses contemplation is not the way other “contemplatives” use it (e.g. Fr. Thomas Keating, author of the Cloud of Unknowing, John of the Cross). For Ignatius, a contemplation is a meditation on a Bible story or an event using our imagination and five senses (ie Contemplation of Place).
    For other Christian mystics, contemplative prayer (centering prayer, stillness) helps us enter into the reality that we are in union with God. Without engaging thinking or awareness, we rest there and allow God to love us and be loved by us in the core of our being. Teresa and John of the Cross taught that contemplation is a gift: we cannot attain it, only receive it.

    Contemplative living then is living out of the reality that we are always in the Trinity, loving and being loved. The fruit of contemplative prayer comes in being able to let go of the illusion that we are separate from God.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dave Small says:

    That’s a great explanation. Thanks for taking the time to respond Esther. Your ideas are easy-to-follow and very helpful.

    I did write a post on contemplation and meditation, but it doesn’t have the clarity you provided. That being said here’s the link: https://teresaofavilaturns500.wordpress.com/2015/07/26/meditation-and-contemplation/

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Esther Hizsa says:

    Thanks! I read your post. It’s great and looks at things I didn’t address. It takes a community to raise a contemplative!

    Liked by 1 person

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