A Holy Place

Of course I told my spiritual director what happened, and she listened compassionately as I talked and cried. She asked me to name my feelings and notice how they felt in my body.

I told her that I felt betrayed, misunderstood, judged and rejected. I don’t remember what I felt in my body at the time but, as I sit with these feelings now, I notice a tenseness in my chest that extends across my shoulders and down my arms and queasiness in my stomach.

She invited me to hear again what God said to me about being with me. I imagined Jesus beside me, holding my hand. Eventually, those feelings eased, and they felt more like waves settling after a storm.

My director and I had recently attended a lecture by John Bell from Iona. “Remember how he encouraged us to imagine Jesus fully human with a full range of emotions? Jesus was betrayed, misunderstood, judged and rejected too. Perhaps he lay awake at night wondering how Judas could have betrayed him. Maybe he felt emotions as deeply as I do.”

That reminded me of my directees who are praying the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. “They are in the stage of their prayers when they accompany Jesus through his passion, crucifixion, and death. When I heard that in their prayers of imagination they never left his side–wiping his brow and speaking tenderly to him–I sensed Jesus’ deep gratitude. It meant a lot to him that these friends had not deserted him.”

“And how might Jesus be feeling toward you?” she asked. I closed my eyes and saw him holding my hand. “He’s grateful that I’m willing to feel what he feels and be with him in it.”

I realized then that I didn’t feel deeply hurt because of sin or pride. I felt this way because I’m human. I’m not saying that sin and pride didn’t play a part, but God didn’t seem to be interested in that part of the story. God was intent on communing with me in the place where we shared deep pain.

“It’s kind of holy,” I offered.

“It is holy, ” my spiritual director quietly affirmed.

As our session came to a close, I told her about the sailboat that was washed up on the shore on Bowen and Scott Erickson’s video clip. New life and goodness were going to come out of my shipwreck.

We talked about the Welcoming Prayer practice that I was (sort of) doing for Lent. It will help me keep meeting God in that holy place and receive God’s loving action within.

O Compassionate One, You reached
  from on high, You took me. 
You drew me out of many waters. 
–Psalm 18:16,
Nan C. Merril, Psalms for Praying: An Invitation to Wholeness

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

A few hours after last Friday’s post was published, I happened upon this video by Nadia Bolz-Weber who is a Lutheran pastor. In it, she talks about forgiveness. That is the ultimate love mischief. That’s where Jesus went with his pain, and it looks like I’m going with him.

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

Credits and References:
The Betrayal of Christ by Ugolino di Nerio 1!280-1330) [Public domain] Wikimedia.
Picture of boat aground by Esther Hizsa
© 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 Ignatian Spirituality, Lent, Poverty of Spirit, Prayer, Reflections, Songs, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Punch in the Gut

Sometimes self-awareness bubbles up gently and slowly expands to softly widen our world view and make more room for love to flow in and out of our hearts.

Sometimes self-awareness comes like a punch in the gut.

I know this. I’m living it. Last week I learned something that knocked me off my feet.

Getting up again isn’t quick or easy. Taking steps in this new reality is scary. What else will I find out? 

That punch caused a chain reaction. Other awarenesses surfaced and kept surfacing. Thoughts synapsed as I tossed and turned at night. If I’m capable of this then . . . How did I get here? What is “here”? Is it the reality I’m being told? 

As soon as it happened, I went home. Adrenalin coursed through my body. My gut pressed up against my spine feeling for a back way out and into the world I knew an hour before.

I had enough presence of mind to recognize I was in shock and shouldn’t be alone with the sharp images and words that kept replaying in my mind. I talked with Fred. I phoned a friend. Their love and compassion grounded me. They could hold this in a way that I couldn’t–not yet. I breathed in the thought that I was going to be okay, even if that thought had very little power to stop the aftershock.

The next day I met with eight other spiritual directors who gather monthly for peer supervision. The table where we eat lunch and “check-in” is one of the safest, most holy places on earth. I’m not kidding. Everyone there would agree.

I told them what happened, and they listened and held my pain, loving me all the more.

One of the directors, Mary Wolfe, had brought several her art pieces that we’d purchased. I brought home this one. Fred hung it above our dinner table. Every time I sit down for a meal, I see God’s mysterious, brooding presence.

Friday morning I took transit and a ferry to Bowen Island. On my way,  I opened an email that contained a prayer by Scott Erickson. In it were these words,

I ask for eyes to see . . .

To see my inadequacies not as something that dismisses me but as a main ingredient in my unique voice.

I held onto that thought and the hope it gave.

Outside the library on Bowen, I replied to a few emails, then reread one from a friend. I wanted her words to soak into my bones. Months ago, I booked this time away and was looking forward to the solitude. But now, I didn’t relish being alone with myself and my thoughts for the next two days.

Of course, God was there. Quiet as usual. Water healing my body, my soul. Trees, strong and faithful. But nothing I read over the weekend inspired me. Not even the poems of Hafiz.

Saturday morning, thinking it was the reading for the day, I mistakenly read Psalm 110. I didn’t make it past the first verse without crying.

The Lord says to my lord:
“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.”

What stood out for me in my Lectio was harsh.

Don’t get me wrong; not one shred of me heard blame from God. Love’s hand was tenderly on my forehead. God knew this was hard. Later, on a walk, I admitted, “I guess I’m an enemy.”

God said, “And what did I have to say about enemies? Love them. I did and I do and I am.”

Eventually, I relaxed into the rest God offered until the eve of my return. That’s when I realized I was still in a dark valley. Over the next week, I would need to tell people about the painful event and that thought let the adrenalin hounds loose in my body again.

I turned off the light and lay my head on the pillow.

“I’ll go with you,” said the God of few words.

Back home at the end of another work week, I’m still not on the other side where Easter joy displaces Good Friday misery. I think I’m fine then I read an email or get a phone call, and reality smacks me again.

But just as the blind man’s sight was restored in stages, clarity is coming. I’m beginning to see how my inadequacies co-create my unique voice, and that it is, in fact, a gift to others.

New awarenesses come–sky blue, sea green and cloud white.

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. –1 Corinthians 13: 12,13 (NIV)

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

When I was on Bowen, a sailboat similar to one we used to own was washed up on the shore. I walked out to have a closer look. It was damaged beyond repair. This vessel that once carried dreams and offered adventure, beauty and solitude was now was an eyesore and a problem. Was it a coincidence that a week later I came across this video by Scott Erickson, “Curator of Awesomeness”? I think not.

“Scott is a touring painter, performance speaker, and creative curate who mixes autobiography, mythology, and aesthetics to create art and moments that speak to our deepest experiences. He is the writer and performer of two one-man shows. Wrestling with his own professional burnout and clinical depression, “We Are Not Troubled Guests” is a performance story-telling piece in which he navigates the surprising gift of an existential crisis. His current show, “SAY YES: A Liturgy of Not Giving Up On Yourself”, juxtaposes story-teaching, participation, humour, and image curation as Scott walks us through the very personal and universal conversation about the death of a dream and the overwhelming voice of Giving Up in our lives. He is the co-author of Prayer: Forty Days of Practice and May It Be So, a Spiritual Director to brave women and men, and a professional dishwasher for his food blogging wife.” —www.scottericksonart.com

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

Credits and References:
Collage by Esther Hizsa; photos by Fred Hizsa. Used with permission.
Fibre artwork by Mary Wolfe; photo by Fred Hizsa. Used with permission.
Psalm 110; Matthew 5:43-44; Mark 8:22-25; 1 Corinthians 13: 12,13
© 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 Easter, Lent, Poverty of Spirit, Prayer, Reflections, Songs, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

How God Waits

On Monday I participated in a one-day silent prayer retreat with friends using last week’s post as our guide. I listened to Steve Bell sing Lenten Lands and a feeling of hope rose up in me. God has turned the world and brought spring to the Northern Hemisphere and to me. God is turned toward me, returning me home and enabling me to rest.

The time of year is come when all things turn.
The sun returns to warm the wintery earth…

I break the bread for her and pour the wine
And all I am is turned towards her now.

I heard the Lord say more to me about running away and returning in the Isaiah passage, “You couldn’t sit still,” God observed calmly. I wasn’t being chastised or guilted. God wasn’t disappointed or annoyed with me. God knew that for the past week or two, trying to be still has been as hard for me as trying to sit on a steel bench covered with ice. I just couldn’t do it.

Meanwhile, the Eternal One yearns to give you grace
and boundless compassion;
that’s why God waits.
–Isaiah 30:18a  (The Voice)

I love how God waits for me. I imagined what that waiting looks like. I recalled times others have had to wait for me and resented it (or vice versa). Or times someone knew the obvious and was waiting for me to FINALLY get it, internally rolling their eyes.  Or times when I imagined the worst and was unable to sleep until I heard the front door open and close and knew my son or daughter was safely home.

God doesn’t wait like that. God accompanies me while I ride off on fast horses. God sits beside me when I’m a single flag on a hill, vulnerable and depleted.

“But you refused. You couldn’t sit still;
instead, you said, ‘No! We will ride out of here on horseback.
Fast horses will give us an edge in battle.’
But those who pursue you will be faster still.

When one person threatens, a thousand will panic and flee.
When five terrorize you, all will run pell-mell,
 until you are as conspicuous as a single flag standing high on a hill.”
–Isaiah 30:16-17  (The Voice)

As I sat in the silence imagining God’s waiting, a picture came to me. I was a horse that had run and run but was now back in the barn, breathing heavily, mist rising from my nostrils. God was brushing me gently while my breathing slowed–brushing and stroking from backbone to belly, ready to listen to what happened out there.

What if God doesn’t expect us to stop running off on horses? What if in the running we shed something we can’t shed in the resting? What if I accepted that sometimes I have to run and trusted that God will bring me back to rest?

I held these wonderings as I collected pictures for my collage, paying attention to what evoked a strong emotion in me: the icy bench, the squawking bird, the galloping horses, standing alone in beauty without a path and nowhere to go, the bird who sees her reflection in the water and it isn’t as pretty as she thought. The surfer reminded me of Lee and that he’s gone. These pictures showed what’s inside me: restlessness, disappointment, grief, hurt, confusion, hope. Others bore witness to God’s gentle, faithful presence accompanying me like a whale, a dog and happy birds. God soothed my soul with a tender hand.

It wasn’t until I looked at my collage again the next day that I saw that water flowed from one image to another. I remembered Coco Love Alcorn’s The River. I let the song wash over me.

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

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

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

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

On Fridays, a group of Muslims meets to pray in the hall at St.Stephen the Martyr. In response to the shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, Pastor Ruth wrote this message to them on an easel. If you look closely, you can see what the Muslim men wrote in reply.

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

Credits and References:
Collage by Esther Hizsa; photos by Fred Hizsa. Used with permission.
Lenten Lands Music by Steve Bell; Lyric by Malcolm Guite on Pilgrimage.
Isaiah 30:15-18a (The Voice)
© 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 Lent, Mystical, Prayer, Reflections, Songs, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

DIY Prayer Retreat #13: A Lenten Retreat

Here is a Lenten retreat outline that came out a contemplative evening I facilitated at Tenth Church last week. The Lectio guide is adapted from Living from the Heart and used with permission from SoulStream. For this retreat, it is helpful to have collage materials, paper and coloured pencils or crayons.

OPENING

Light the Christ candle and begin with an opening prayer.

Listen to the song Lenten Lands by  Steve Bell

Lenten Lands

My love has is gone away in Lenten lands
Gone far away and clean forsaken me
And will she perish in those desert sands
Or will she turn again and come to me?

I brought her out of Egypt in her youth.
She come to me when we were on the run.
She tires of freedom now; she tires of truth
And seeks for something new under the sun.

 The time of year is come when all things turn.
The sun returns to warm the wintery earth.
The land revives the plants and seedlings yearn
Towards their rich beginnings and their birth.

And will she turn and or will she turn again?
I hold my arms out wide upon the tree
And will she see me yearn to her through pain
And turn again and turn again to me?

The grapes are swelling on the fruitful vine.
The figs are ripened low upon the bow.
I break the bread for her and pour the wine
And all I am is turned towards her now.

Music by Steve Bell; Lyrics by Malcolm Guite
From Pilgrimage by Steve Bell 

Reflect:

    • What did you notice going on in you as you listened to that song? Take a moment now and name the feelings that emerged.
    • You may notice feelings of hope, desire for God, or love. You may notice feelings of resentment, anger, shame, or frustration. Whatever feelings you notice, welcome them as honoured guests to your house, your body.

Welcome them? Are you kidding me? you may be thinking.

We may notice that some feelings draw us close to God and others away from God. We know by experience how easy it is to open to God when we feel gratitude or wonder, but when we’re bored, discouraged or angry, connecting with God can be a challenge. This may lead us to believe that when we have unpleasant feelings, we’re far from God. Without a second thought, we look for ways to fix or get rid of those unwanted feelings so we can be close to God again. Our feelings become barometers that measure our closeness to God. Good feelings? We’re great. Negative feelings? We better do something about that.

But this isn’t true. Our feelings are not a measurement of our closeness to God. Romans 8 and Psalm 139 testify that no matter what we do or how we feel, God is with us.

Our feelings are simply messengers telling us what’s going on in us, revealing our longings, fears, joys, and griefs. They give us useful information.

God always welcomes us and all our feelings in the same way the father welcomed the prodigal son. The last line of Lenten Lands reminds us that God is always turned toward us. The question is: are we turned toward God?

The pivotal word in Lent is “repentance” which simply means “turning.” In our feelings, we can turn toward God or away from God.

You’ve probably heard the terms “consolation” and “desolation.” Generally, they are understood to mean emotional states in which we feel consoled or desolate. However, when Ignatius of Loyola taught about prayer centuries ago, he didn’t define them as emotional states but as states of orientation. Consolation means we are turned toward God. Desolation means we are turned away from God.

As we enter into prayer today and throughout the forty days of Lent, I invite you to notice when you are in consolation and when you are in desolation.

We are in consolation

  • when we recognize and express any feeling to God, even anger, frustration or resentment.
  • even if we shout at God. Even if we use expletives and tell God off, we’re still in consolation because we’re engaged with God.

We are in desolation

  • when we jump on a good feeling as if it were a horse and ride away from God, pursuing the next thing that will make us happy or successful.
  • when we don’t like how we feel and turn our attention to what might make us feel better or make that feeling go away.
  • when we isolate ourselves from others or God because we feel ashamed or disappointed.

Reflect:

    • Take a moment now and hold the reality that all your feelings are good. Your emotional state is not a measure of your worth, your spiritual maturity or your closeness to God. All your feelings invite connection with God. They cannot keep you from God’s presence. Return to noticing the feelings that emerged as you listened to the song Lenten Lands ant turn to God in them.
    • Take a few minutes in silence to sit with your eyes closed or journal or draw.

 

An Introduction to Lectio Divina

We come to this prayer practice from different places. Some of you are familiar with Lectio, yet for others, this may be the first time you’ve prayed this way. No matter how experienced you are with Lectio, I invite you to open your heart to receive what God might have for you today as I offer this introduction.

Lectio Divina is Latin for “divine reading.” It’s an ancient prayer form introduced by St. Benedict in the sixth century and continues to be used by the Benedictines and other monastic traditions. Today it’s practised by both Catholics and Protestants in every walk of life.

Lectio Divina is… “a posture of approach and a means of encounter with a text that enables the text to become a place of transforming encounter with God.”
Robert Mulholland, Invitation to a Journey     

This “posture of approach” is a receptive posture. We open our hearts to God in prayerful receptivity. Our basic intent is to receive God’s presence in Scripture by opening up to it rather than by trying to grasp or master the meaning. We make an internal shift from control to receptivity, and we commit ourselves to God’s action and purpose.

Reading scripture [in this way]… is reading (and listening) with heart and spirit open. Don’t try to find something or make anything out of the passage. Wait for the gift that God has for you in it. Read slowly and reverentially, savoring what you hear and gently listening for the still, small voice of God that says, ‘This is my word for you today.’ It is listening for the voice of God, communicated through Scriptures and revealed by the Spirit. It is, therefore, prayer because it is an opening of self to God.
David G. Benner, Opening to God: Lectio Divina and Life as Prayer

Our desire is to encounter God so we can receive what God has for us. Lectio Divina sets the stage for that encounter to happen. Mulholland says the text becomes “a place of transforming encounter.” The scripture text is the place where we meet God. The real me meets the real God in the place where my life and the Word of God intersect. The Holy Spirit prepares us to receive God’s Word and be transformed by our meeting with God.

When we pray in this way, it’s like making a date with God to meet up in a specific location. There’s a certain amount of relief in the fact that we don’t have to make anything happen; all we have to do is show up and open our hearts to God. However, there’s a discomfort in this as well. We make ourselves vulnerable. We risk being disappointed. What if God doesn’t show up? What if nothing happens?  This type of prayer stretches our faith. It requires taking a risk and being vulnerable, so we need to be gentle with ourselves as we open to this way of praying.

Remember what I said earlier about our feelings, that they are guests who have useful information for us? In Lectio Divina, we meet up with God as we are, in our present emotional state, no matter whether it’s stormy or calm. We acknowledge and welcome our feelings as a part of our present reality and turn toward the One who is turned toward us now.

 

Practising Lectio Divina Together     

The Meeting Place: Isaiah 30:15-18 The Voice (adapted)

Listen! The Lord, the Eternal, the Holy One of Israel says,

“In returning and rest, you will be saved.
        In quietness and trust you will find strength.

But you refused. You couldn’t sit still;
        instead, you said, ‘No! We will ride out of here on horseback.
    Fast horses will give us an edge in battle.’
        But those who pursue you will be faster still.

When one person threatens, a thousand will panic and flee.
        When five terrorize you, all will run pell-mell,
    until you are as conspicuous as a single flag standing high on a hill.”

Meanwhile, the Eternal One yearns to give you grace and
         boundless compassion;
   that’s why God waits.           

Come to Quiet

    • Sit comfortably alert with your eyes closed.
    • Take a few deep breaths and then begin to breathe normally again.
    • Relaxing into your breathing, take some time to let go of the past and the future and come fully into the present.
    • Turn your heart to Jesus who is present to you now. Invite the Holy Spirit to help you.

Listen to your life

    • What have you been experiencing lately? Where is the energy either positive or negative? What might you be avoiding or resisting?
    • Let it arise within you rather than try to analyze yourself. Feel the energy of it and open your heart to meeting God in connection with this.
    • If nothing arises, that’s fine. Maybe you’ll be surprised in the prayer itself.

(Silence)

First Reading:  Listen for what is given to you. 

    • As the passage is read aloud, listen for a word, phrase or image that attracts you as you listen.
    • Let it enter your heart by repeating it over to yourself softly and lovingly during the silence after the reading.

(Silence)

Second Reading: Ask “How is your life touched by what has been given?”

    • As you hear the passage read again, let the word interact with your present life experience.
    • What does this word or image evoke in you?
    • What part of your life resonates with what was given?
    • Allow the connection to arise naturally in your being.
    • Sit with that impression during silence.

(Silence)

Third Reading: Ask “Is there an invitation here for you?”

    • Listen to the passage read aloud a third time. Given the connection that is emerging between the word/image and your life, what might God want to do for you?
    • What invitation, reassurance, encouragement, or clarification might God be offering you in this moment?
    • Ponder what arises during several minutes of silence following the reading. Trust what comes.
    • How would you like to respond to God? Do that now in your mind.

(Silence)

Conclusion: Rest

    • Take time to relax and rest in what has been given.
    • Don’t try to make it bigger or more spiritual than it is.
    • Receive it with humble gratitude and rest in God’s loving work in you.

(Silence)

 

ENTER INTO SILENCE

During the next few hours, allow God to deepen what emerged in the Lectio as you sit in silence, walk, eat lunch, colour, draw or make a collage.

 

GATHERING TOGETHER 

Gather again at the end of the day and give participants an opportunity, one by one, to share briefly what was significant for them in this retreat. Remember to receive what each has offered as a gift without comment, questions or advice.

Pray for one another and the world.

 

BLESSING

May you awaken to the mystery of being here and enter the quiet immensity of your own presence.
May you have joy and peace in the temple of your senses.
May you receive great encouragement when new frontiers beckon.
May you respond to the call of your gift and find the courage to follow its path.
May the flame of anger free you from falsity.
May warmth of heart keep your presence aflame and may anxiety never linger about you.
May your outer dignity mirror an inner dignity of soul.
May you take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek no attention.
May you be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul.
May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven around the heart of wonder.
–John O’Donohue, Eternal Echoes: Celtic Reflections on Our Yearning to Belong.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
–Lamentations 3:23, 24

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

Welcoming Prayer booklet

A Forty Day Practice of Welcoming Prayer is a resource from Contemplative Outreach that I’m using during Lent to help me welcome my feelings about what is going on in my life and turn to God in them.

“This praxis booklet helps you learn and establish a Welcoming Prayer practice–consent on the go–as well as understand the contextual background for its transformative process.  Structured in a 40-day format, the praxis booklet includes teachings on the human condition, nuances of the prayer practice, as well as reflections from practitioners, Scripture, and related wisdom.  To support learning and practising the prayer, each day includes a beautiful image, brief reading, Scripture, and mini-practice for the day.”–Contemplative Outreach

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

Credits and References:
The Return of the Prodigal Son, Pompeo Batoni, 1773,
“Eurasian blue tit” by Benjamin Balázs. Public domain.
“Green Valley” by Pisut Konepun. 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 Ignatian Spirituality, Lent, Prayer, Prayer Retreat Outline, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ashes to Ashes

“You are from dust and to dust you shall return,” Pastor Ruth says as she dips her thumb in the ashes and makes the sign of the cross on my forehead. Soon we will be scattering my nephew Lee’s ashes.

He was thirty-three years old and died from another overdose. This time fentanyl. Like the rich young man who asked Jesus what he should do to earn eternal life, Lee couldn’t give up what he needed to survive. He wanted to. He tried. Four times in rehab. Other times on his own. It was impossible for him.

Scripture says Jesus looked at the rich man and loved him. I know that Jesus looked at Lee and loved him too. Then Jesus did the impossible for him. He gave him what no one can earn anyway: an eternal life of love.

Lee was not alone when he died. Someone called 911. They tried to revive him but were unsuccessful.

Jesus was there too. Holding him. Looking at him with love. What did Jesus see?

I wonder if, in the moment of Lee’s death, his life flashed before Jesus’ eyes. Jesus would have recalled how Lee always gave to anyone who begged, even if he only had a couple of dollars. Did Jesus laugh when he remembered how Lee and my grandson, Hadrian, would goof around pretending to be apes? It was Lee that first suggested Hadrian might have autism, Lee that asked a question that led to a conversation that led to the marriage of Hadrian’s parents. Lee had a T-shirt with a typewriter on it that said: “text me.” He liked an unencumbered life. As long as he had an apple and a few almonds, he’d be fine.

Jesus had to keep travelling to be with Lee who went backpacking in Thailand before he was twenty, taught English to children in Honduras, and kayaked on Quadra Island and Campbell River.

Jesus was with Lee in his joys and sorrows, his triumphs and bad decisions. He never left his side during their painful outcomes. Jesus felt proud and shed tears as he listened to the songs Lee wrote that told his story.

I went for a walk after my brother Ron called with the news. It was so surreal. Two weeks before his death, Lee called and told me what he always does. “You know I love you, Aunt Esther. Don’t worry about me. I’m tough. I can take care of himself.”

“It’s okay,” I heard Jesus say at the end of my walk. “He’s with me now.”

I imagine Lee in heaven with Jesus. I picture him grinning and telling me he’s got his mojo back. “And Jesus?” he’d add in his characteristically understated way, “He’s all right.” Then I imagine him going off to find Jack Kerouac. “This is a big place. But don’t worry, I’ll find him. This isn’t my first rodeo.”

I would love to live like a river flows,
carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.
John O’Donohue

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

This is Lee after he’s taken a mouthful of wasabi. He loved wasabi, chilli peppers and curry. Lee Frehner (Nov 11, 1985-Feb 24, 2019) is my brother Ron’s oldest child. He is greatly missed by his parents, step-parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. Although, as Ron says, Lee could be a pain in the ass sometimes, we never stopped loving him, nor he us. He and God did some awesome love mischief in the world in Lee’s 33 years of life. And we are so grateful for him.

 

 

 

 

The only people for me are the mad ones: the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who… burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow Roman candles.  –Jack Kerouac

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

Credits and References:
Quote about dust from Ecclesiastes 3:20.
Lee with children by Hardeep B. Used with permission.
Kayaking and Wasabi photos by Kayla Kristine’s Facebook page.
Lee and Hadrian and  Lee with yarn behind by Heidi Braacx.  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 Homelessness, Lent, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Making Peace with My Addictions

Dan Harris, a co-anchor for Good Morning America, got his studio audience to meditate for sixty seconds. Some amazing love mischief, eh?

Many people try meditating but give up because they can’t stop the distractions. Harris explains that we don’t need to clear our minds–which is impossible to do–just focus and keep focussing.

I’ve heard this before from Cynthia Bourgeault and Thomas Keating. But because they meditate for spiritual reasons, (Harris does not), they take it one step further and understand that refocusing as a returning to God. Keating often said, “Even if you have to return to the sacred word a hundred times in a prayer period, God rejoices. You have come home to God a hundred times!” Our intent isn’t to master the art of meditation but to be in loving relationship with God.

I told Fred about Harris’s video while we were walking to church and something clicked. “All I have to do when I am inundated with distractions is to return to focusing on my breath again and again. And all I have to do to make peace with my addiction to food is to keep saying no again and again.”

I had wanted to resolve my struggles with one big crashing of the door. I wanted to enter the chamber of Love and be set free from my addiction to food and thoughts once and for all. But I’m discovering that all Love wants me to do is keep crashing the door–in this moment and the next.

If I fail; it’s okay. That moment’s gone. I’ll have another opportunity to choose Love in the next. If I succeed, that’s good, but that moment’s gone too, and I must choose again.

How often I succeed or fail doesn’t affect what I need to do right now and every moment after that: just keep returning to Love.

God is with me in this. God wants me to reap the benefits of healthy eating and contemplative prayer practices. God wants what’s good for me. But more than that, God wants to awaken me–moment by moment–to the reality that I am in God. I am in Love. And God is in Love with me.

In returning and rest, you will be saved.
In quietness and trust you will find strength.
— Isaiah 30:15 (The Voice)

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Love Mischief for the World

Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O. (1923-2018), Father Basil Pennington and Father William Menninger revived the practice of Centering Prayer after finding an old copy of The Cloud of Unknowing in a monastery library. Keating is the founder of Contemplative Outreach, “a spiritual network of individuals and small faith communities committed to living the contemplative dimension of the Gospel.” Father Keating travelled the world to speak with laypeople and communities about contemplative Christian practices and the psychology of the spiritual journey. One of my favourite quotes by Keating is “The chief thing that separates us from God is the thought that we are separated from him. If we get rid of that thought, our troubles will be greatly reduced.”

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

Credits and References:
An Open Gate (Askrigg, Yorkshire Dales) by Rachel Hartland. Used with permission.
Quote by Thomas Keating, Open Mind, Open Heart. (Warwick, NY: Amity House, 1986), 44.
© 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 Mindfulness, Overeating, Prayer, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

I Crashed the Door

Monday night I was in a conundrum. Tuesday mornings I set aside time to write my blog post, and I didn’t know what I would write about. I knew what I didn’t want to write about. I didn’t want to tell you that I’d fallen off the wagon. After two blog posts of talking the talk of saying no to my addiction to food, I hadn’t walked the walk.

I lay in bed and thought about it; I knew what I had to do. There was only one thing to do. Get back on the wagon. Embrace the discomfort of not saying yes, yes, yes to what satisfies for the moment.

Meanwhile, a song came back to me that was in my body since I danced it on Sunday night. It was based on a Rumi poem.

How long can I beg and bargain for things of this world?
How long can I beg and bargain for things of this world
while Love, Love is waiting?
I crash the door and enter the chamber of Love.

Sunday night twenty-five of us were in a circle holding hands. We rock stepped to the first two lines going to the right. When we sang “while Love, Love is waiting,” we put our curled hands to our chests and beat gently taking four steps toward the centre and four steps back. For the last line, we put out our left hand and smacked and slid off it with our right, sending that hand up into the air as we twirled around once. Then we held hands and sang the song again.

We sang and danced the song over and over. Even after the dances were done, my body carried it and brought Rumi’s words back to me whenever it could. While walking, driving or lying down to sleep, my mind was singing, How long can I beg and bargain for the things of this world . . .

I loved the song. I loved how it lingered with me, and I gave little thought to what it might mean for me personally. I didn’t wonder what I’ve been begging and bargaining for. I didn’t envision crashing any doors–that is, until Monday night. Then I knew: saying no crashed the door to Love.

The rest fell into place. I constantly beg and bargain with God. Please let me eat what I want and not gain weight. My four steps in toward Love and four steps back is a dance I’ve done for fifty years.

Saying no to the food I want isn’t a small thing to me. I don’t get to say no once. I have to say it over and over because temptation is relentless. Saying no is choosing to suffer. It is taking up my cross and following Jesus because that is where Jesus is. In Ignatian terms, it is the Third Degree of Humility. Sacrificing what I want for the sake of another is the highest expression of love–whether it’s seemingly small or doing something big like Oscar Romero or Mother Teresa did.

A month ago, I talked about this with my spiritual director, and she asked me, “What’s it like when you meet Jesus in your suffering?”

I sat for a while and held her question. “When I’m with Jesus, it doesn’t feel like suffering anymore. It feels like love.”

Rumi would say, “Uh-huh. You’ve entered the chamber of love or as you Christians call it: the kingdom of God.”

When I’m restless and can’t sleep, as I was on Monday night, I usually think that if I get up and eat something I’ll be able to sleep. But I didn’t do it. Instead, I crashed the door with my no.

I felt giddy and empowered. I can, at any time, enter God’s chamber and did. I’ve been there a few times now. It’s a bit like finding the door to Narnia, like beginning a new adventure.

Knock, and the door will be opened for you. –Luke 11:9

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Love Mischief for the World

I met Jan Hill at the Kyle Writer’s Group about ten years ago. She and I had a few things in common–writing, our listening vocations, and our Christian faith. For years, Jan had told me about the dance camps she and her husband, Sandy, attend and invited me to join them for the Dances of Universal Peace (DUP) that Sandy leads in North Vancouver once a month. After Christmas, Fred and I ran into Sandy outside Costco. He invited us over for a curry dinner that he and Jan were hosting with friends from DUP. That night, after dinner and conversation, the rug was rolled up, a guitar and djembe drum came out, and we sang and danced a few songs from different cultures around the world. One of those was the Rumi song. Once I had danced those songs, I knew I had to do it again. I’m so grateful for Sandy and Jan’s love mischief for the world and for me.

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

Credits and References:
“A Closed Door” by XeLflick. Used with permission.
“Narnia?” by Rowan Saunders. Used with permission.
“Dancing the Sardana” by chany crystal. 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 Ignatian Spirituality, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Truth and Reconciliation

For an hour and a half last Sunday afternoon, I was not myself. I was an indigenous woman who lived in Canada on Turtle Island (North America) when the settlers first came to our land. My life was short. I died of smallpox not long after the newcomers arrived. The Hudson Bay blankets they gave us in exchange for beaver pelts became our shrouds.

More than half of us died of the disease. We returned to our seats in the circle to watch what would happen to the others. Twenty blankets where spread out on the floor inside the circle. They represented our lands, and the forty participants who stood on them at the beginning of the Kairos Blanket Exercise represented hundreds of indigenous nations.

As our shared history unfolded, fewer and fewer of my people were left standing. The blankets that had been spread out and overlapped got scrunched up and their inhabitants struggled to remain on their tiny bit of earth. With every new law passed or action taken by government officials, more of my brothers and sisters died, were removed to residential schools, relocated, or exiled from the reserves without Indian status or European acceptance. Vacant blankets were scooped up by the authorities, as easily as they scooped up our children in the sixties and placed them in the hands and homes of the settlers.

I watched helplessly from my chair/grave. My people were voiceless, stripped of our land, our way of life, our dignity, our children, our identity.

This unrelenting, long-term trauma has taken its toll. There are more indigenous children in foster care now than there were in residential schools. We have been beaten down and have internalized the shame that has been cast as a dark spell upon us.

When the exercise was over and the blankets folded up, we became ourselves again: fathers, daughters, teachers, counsellors, retired folk, students–all non-indigenous except one.

Melaney Gleeson-Lyall shared her personal story of growing up in a non-indigenous adoptive family and re-connecting as a young adult with her ancestral roots, particularly within the Musqueam Nation. It was a sad, painful story and yet there was hope. Her voice was heard and the spell that fuels oppression was broken.

A divine voice inside her speaks the truth of who she is. God, who is reconciling us to one another, placed this truth like a treasure in her heart. It bears witness to the all-surpassing power of God at work in all of us. “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:7-9). 

Jesus said, “The truth will set you free.” Hearing the truth helps set indigenous people free from the past and enables us to reconcile.

George Erasmus of the Dene Nation said, “Where common memory is lacking, where people do not share the same past, there can be no real community. Where community is to be formed, common memory must be created.”

Last Sunday afternoon, I took a step toward reconciliation by learning more about our history. My understanding and empathy for our indigenous sisters and brothers have deepened. I look forward to the days to come when the effects of the trauma recede, indigenous peoples’ voices grow strong, and their spirits rise again.

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
    my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
    and he will bring justice to the nations. . .
 A bruised reed he will not break,
    and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice.
–Isaiah 42, 1, 3

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Love Mischief for the World

“In the heart of British Columbia’s Fraser Canyon region, between the towns of Boston Bar and Lytton, lies the traditional territory of the Kanaka Bar Indian Band—also known as T’eqt’aqtn’mux or ‘the crossing place people,'” wrote Sherry Yano in an article entitled “Kanaka Bar: Harnessing the power of community”  In this video by Jeremy Williams, Kanaka Bar Chief Patrick Michell talks about the importance of the values and ways of his ancestors and what he and his community are doing to continue to live those values today.

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

Credits and References:
Jacques Cartier rencontre les indiens de Stadacone, 1535 by  Marc-Aurele de Foy Suzor-Cote (Wikimedia)
Eagle Woman by Melaney Gleeson-Lyall. Used with permission. Her work is available at Native Northwest, Wickaninnish Gallery, and Sealaska Heritage Store
© 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 Childhood, Creation, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stop! In the Name of Love

The first thing you have to realize is that what you need to survive is killing you. That’s the tough part. There’s relief after a few big, hard swallows. Everything gets endurable. You can actually convince yourself that things are going to be okay even though you know in your gut that they’re not likely to.
Saul Indian Horse 

When playing hockey no longer provided an escape from the pain of the abuse he received from the residential school, Saul Indian Horse turned to drink. In so many ways, Richard Wagamese’s novel about an indigenous man who witnessed and endured endless atrocities is not my story. Yet when I read the quote above, I see what we have in common. Our addictions are killing us.

“Come on,” some of you will respond. “You don’t eat that much. And playing Scrabble by yourself on your tablet? That’s harmless.”

Perhaps my addictions are harmless to you in the way that Saul’s is to me, and you assume that I’m being hard on myself or overly dramatic. But let me put the truth another way: my addictions are robbing me of life.

Saul points out that indulging addictive behaviour delivers relief: the buzz I feel when I boot up the game, the pleasure I anticipate as I reach for the chips. I experience relief but not satisfaction. And so I want more.

After I preached one Sunday at the church where we raised our kids, I was invited to stay for coffee. They were celebrating the choir director’s birthday and asked me if I’d like some cake. After I politely declined their offer twice, I said, “I don’t always have the strength to say no to food I don’t need, so when I do, I’m going with it.”

“A moment on the lips, forever on the hips,” a dear friend piped up and chuckled. Her support made my truth real. How often have I convinced myself that this one piece of chocolate or that small slice of cake won’t matter?

Saul Indian Horse tried to ration his drinking, but it didn’t work. “The only way to really stop is to stop,” he confessed.

And the only way to do that, according to Marianne Williamson in her book A Course in Weight Loss, is through the power of divine love. “Only the power of love can overcome the power of hate,” says Williamson, “and make no mistake about it; your unhealthy eating is an act of self-hate. Overeating is an act of violence, and one of the mechanisms you are now dismantling is your habit of taking up the sword against yourself–whether the sword be a knife or fork.”

Williamson’s words hit me hard. I realized unhealthy eating is killing me. “You are realizing that food cannot nurture you emotionally,” she writes, “and that God, only God can.” God will help me receive love and give love.

When I stop doing what is bad for my body and soul, it’s an act of love, even though it doesn’t feel like it. Yes, even though it doesn’t feel good.

I have nothing but extra pounds to show for the excess calories I’ve eaten and nothing at all to show for the hours I’ve wasted playing Scrabble alone. One evening, I was about to pick up my tablet and instead of thinking of it as a guilty pleasure, I saw it as an act of self-hate. I stopped and picked up a book instead. That book was Indian Horse.

But me, God caught—reached all the way
    from sky to sea and pulled me out
of that ocean of hate.
–Psalm 18:16 (MSG, adapted)

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Love Mischief for the World

Richard Wagamese (1955-2017) was a Canadian author and journalist. An Ojibwe from the Wabaseemoong Independent Nations in northwestern Ontario, he was best known for his 2012 novel Indian Horse, which won the Burt Award for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Literature in 2013 and was a competing title in the 2013 edition of Canada Reads (Wikipedia). Indian Horse was made into a movie which was released in 2017. Wagamese’s life and writings have helped bring truth, reconciliation, and healing to our nation.

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

Credits and References:
U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Airman 1st Class Sahara. L. Fales in Health.mil, labelled by Google images for reuse.
Quotes by Richard Wagamese in Indian Horse,  p.189, 190.
Quotes by Marianne Williamson in A Course in Weight Loss, p. 16,17.
Vevey, Lake Léman, Switzerland by Airflore. 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 Overeating, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

An Invitation to Pray Naked in Front of a Full-Length Mirror

I think it is important to pray naked in front of a full-length mirror sometimes, especially when you are full of loathing for your body. Maybe you think you are too heavy. Maybe you have never liked the way your hip bones stick out. Do your breasts sag? Are you too hairy? It is always something.
Barbara Brown Taylor

Praying naked in front of a full-length mirror is a spiritual discipline I’ve never done. I imagine how difficult it would be. Never mind standing for the duration of the prayer and feeling cold, I would want to keep closing my eyes and that misses the point.

Every time I think of praying this way, I can’t get past having to look at my body and trying to convince myself that it’s beautiful. I know it’s not–not without deconstructing and reconstructing my concept of beauty and that feels like a lot of work.

I was thinking about what I’d say to God about my body when a question came to me gently: What would you like to say to your body? 

I pictured myself standing there and not looking away. Day after day, this old girl schleps me around and is often ignored and pushed beyond her limits. I’m grateful that she houses my thoughts, feelings and desires and does so much with them. “Thank you,” I’d say, but that’s not all.

I’d also say, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry I haven’t taken better care of you.”

I began to realize that loving my body isn’t just an exercise in learning to love how my body looks. Being okay with the fact that my body is not fashion magazine beautiful is important. But this doesn’t give me licence to neglect it. We wouldn’t think of owning a pet and not giving it proper food and exercise, yet that’s what I do to my body.

It might help to stop referring to my body as an “it” and use the pronouns “she” or “her” instead. Perhaps loving her means loving what my body is, knowing all about her, and responding to what she needs to be well. It means treating this old girl with the honour and attention she deserves. To do that, I would need to listen to her and hear how unprocessed feelings affect her. I’d need to ask her what she wants to eat, what’s sore and needs attention, and what needs to be a part of her daily and weekly rhythms.

I would need to make her a priority. Now, that’s big. I couldn’t imagine delaying a blog post or rescheduling a spiritual direction session so I’d have time to do my core exercises. That’s not going to happen. But I could make sure she doesn’t get squeezed out of my day. That requires reconfiguring what I think of as a valuable use of my time and not being so quick to do whatever strokes my ego, entertains my imagination . . . or tempts my taste buds.

I was about to defrost a bun to go with my pasta dinner. I stopped for a moment and asked my body what she wanted. “That’s a few too many carbs for me,” she said. I left the bun in the freezer. I know I won’t always be so compliant, but I’m grateful the moment that I was and hope this will happen more often.

Thursday morning as I listened to Pray As You Go, I was reassured that “the Word planted in our hearts always does its work.” That word is Christ, and it is God’s desire that I love and care for my whole self. God has begun this good work and will accomplish it (Philippians 1:6).

I don’t want my apology to my body to be empty words. So this is what I pray as I imagine myself standing naked in front of the mirror. Lord, help me to trust your good work. May you “produce fruit in keeping with repentance (Matthew 3:8).”

But the fruit of the spirit is kindness.
–Galatians 5:22

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Love Mischief for the World

Fred Rogers did a lot of love mischief with his message “I love you just the way you are.” In this clip from the 2018 bio-documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, officer Clemmons sings, “There are many ways to say ‘I love you.'” One way we communicate our love for someone is by including them and honouring the bodies they’ve been given. Mister Rogers did that, and we hear in this clip what a powerful effect it had on François Clemmons.

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:
Stick person in front of mirror by Tsahi Levent-Levi. Used with permission
Quote by Barbara Brown Taylor is from An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith.
Apples by Henry Hemming. 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 Aging, Overeating, Prayer, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments