Seed Cracked Open

It used to be
That when I would wake in the morning
I could with confidence say,
“What am ‘I’ going to
That was before the seed
Cracked open.
Now Hafiz is certain:
There are two of us housed
In this body,
Doing the shopping together in the market and
Tickling each other
While fixing the evening’s food.
Now when I awake
All the internal instruments play the same music:
“God, what love-mischief can ‘We’ do
For the world
—Hafiz (tr. by Daniel Ladninsky)

Seed Cracked Open is full of stories about God’s intimate and attentive love for us. Through the events of Esther’s everyday life and her exploration of contemplative Christian spirituality, she is drawn deeper in love with God, her neighbour and creation. “The seed has cracked open,” she says, “and I discovered, as the poet Hafiz did, that ‘there are two of us housed in this body’: God and me! Wherever we go, whatever we do, God is there—inspiring, transforming and enjoying me as I am. That’s led to some delightful ‘love-mischief’ for the world.”

It contains 78 stories, poems and reflections taken from my blog posts 2013-14 (freshly edited) and 5 prayer retreat outlines.

Seed Cracked Open is available as a paperback on Amazon.

Here’s what people are saying about the stories in Seed Cracked Open.

“From all space, says Hafiz, the Rose now blooms.
And the Rose in Persian literature can mean Jesus,
or The Beloved. Yes, indeed, may this beautiful book,
by a beautiful soul, Esther Hizsa, help you crack open
your heart and let a sun rise from there for the
whole world to see via your talents and love.”
—Daniel Ladinsky, international bestselling PenguinRandomHouse author

“Esther’s writings are an invaluable companion for these confusing times”

—Michael R. Cook, artist and creator of Night Prayer (cover art)

“It always seems I can take away something from your writing and apply it to my life.”

“Thanks for being honest in what you’re going through. The perspective you give helps a lot.”—Donna

“Oh Esther, what you wrote is beautiful. A big part of your gift is your vulnerability.”

“Esther, Love it, love it, love it! Thanks for your timely insights into my own little messes!”—Liane

“Love your God—so accessible and personal. I wish I had known your God when I was young.”—Valerie

“Thank you for your amplification of the Bible and for your insights about how to shift our hurts. I find your writing down to earth, well-grounded in reality and helpful. I also appreciate your willingness to write in the first person and let me know you better.”—Jan

“I’ve been very restless and excited this past month preparing to move into a new home. Your writing was a reminder that I am in the Lord’s hand.”—Cheryl

“Esther, this caught my breath—oh my! My eyes fill with tears, such tenderness, such love! Thank you for sharing.”—Gail

“Thank you for adding a little more fuel to that Holy Lamp within my heart.”—Jim

INTRODUCTION to Seed Cracked Open

When we pray, God is usually silent. This makes relating to our Creator awkward, to say the least. No matter how many books on prayer I read, I continued to cry out, “But what does that look like for me right now?”

God heard my cry and answered by showing me the stories in my life. As I paid attention to them, I learned a lot about God and what God has to say. I learned a lot about myself: that I’m loved more than I can ever hope to imagine.

I began writing down my stories and published Stories of an Everyday Pilgrim in 2015.

I’d never written a book before, and my writers’ group told me I needed a platform to market it.

“A platform?” I said.

“A website. A blog.”

My heart sank. I had no idea how to do that.

“I’ll show you, Aunt Esther.” My niece Pascale Lemire had launched her website, Dog Shaming, and it had gone viral. She’d been interviewed by magazines, was publishing a book with Random House, and Dog Shaming calendars would soon be selling at the mall.

I biked to her apartment in Vancouver one afternoon. Within three hours, she set me up and got me started. I launched my blog in the summer of 2013.

Now I had a place on the internet where people could meet me and hear about my book. However, to hold their interest, I needed to keep writing regularly. I began posting a story, reflection or poem every Friday at four pm, and I haven’t stopped.

What started as a practical necessity became a spiritual practice. Weekly I’d notice what came to my awareness that seemed significant and write about it. Six years later, I have published over 350 posts.

But that doesn’t mean much to my readers who don’t follow blogs. They keep asking me when I’ll put out another book. Others ask if I would publish the prayer retreat outlines we’ve used in our Imago Dei group. Well, friends, here they are—seventy-eight posts and five prayer retreat outlines.

The stories I included in Seed Cracked Open were written from July 2013 to December 31, 2014. Not long afterward, I came across Hafiz’s poem “Seed Cracked Open” and Michael Cook’s painting Night Prayer. Both the poem and image spoke to me of what God was doing in my life during those years.

In 2012, when I was praying the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises Retreat in Daily Life, I had a strange dream. I dreamed that I was married to three men and struggling to justify this marriage. The meaning soon became clear. I was married to three vocations: pastor, writer and spiritual director. The one I loved the least (being a pastor) demanded so much of me that I had little time for spiritual direction or writing. Yet it was hard to let it go; this was the “husband” that paid the bills and fed my need to be needed.

But a seed was planted during my retreat and two years later it cracked open. At the end of 2014, I was laid off from my job as associate pastor of New Life Community Church. Within a year, I published my first book and welcomed new directees.

Formatting this new collection of stories was not a simple matter of cutting and pasting. With fresh eyes, I reread and edited each piece.

As I did, I listened more deeply to my life. I noticed how often I awakened in the night with anxiety and how much I struggled with being good enough. At times, I was humbled by my own vulnerability and wondered if I should even publish a story. Then I laughed at myself because I already have.

And here’s the rub. That’s what people have thanked me for the most: my willingness to be vulnerable. It means a lot to know we aren’t the only ones that feel the way we do.

If that’s all you get from my stories, consider yourself a lucky bum.[1]

[1] See page 58

Hafiz (c. 1320-1389), “Seed Cracked Open,” Love Poems from God; Twelve Voices from the East and West (translated by Daniel Ladinsky). Used with permission.