A Me I Have Not Seen Before

I’m curious. Why didn’t Mary Magdelene or the disciples on the road to Emmaus recognize the risen Lord? Why did the resurrected Christ suddenly have the superpower to appear and disappear, walking through walls and closed doors. And why, when Jesus’ body was gloriously restored, did he still have the scars on his hands, feet, and side?

Reflecting on these three mysteries, David Johnson, a SoulStream partner, says this to our community,

This third mystery is really the key to grasping fully the meaning of resurrection—i.e., the key to experiencing resurrection, not just accepting the doctrine. Jesus’ lingering wounds tell us that the new life God offers us is not about restoring perfection. It’s not taking us back to the Garden of Eden. Resurrection isn’t a “do-over.” No, I believe that the resurrected Jesus continues to bear the wounds as a sign that he is continuing to be with us, daily taking the slings and arrows of this outrageous life right along with us. And he’s now inviting us to do the same for others. That means that resurrection isn’t just a one-time event, something in the past to profess faith in, something in the future to wish for. No, resurrection is here. It’s now. It’s not so much something to be believed as it is something to be lived.

The resurrection is something to be lived. Jesus shows us that as we live it out, we will look different, we will do things we couldn’t do before, and we will continue to bear the scars of the wounds that threatened to kill us.

So, I ask myself, How am I different in my post-Easter Covid-19 life? What can I do now that I never could before? From what deaths have I risen?

As you reflect on these three mysteries, I would love to hear how you’ve experienced resurrection. Here’s where these questions take me.

I’ve never seen myself so consistent at centering prayer, daily exercise, and eating healthy food. I never thought I would have the superpower to run Zoom meetings complete with screen shares, breakout rooms, and random unnerving glitches. While my normally full life has been ramped up with steep learning curves and more responsibilities and jobs to do, I’ve been given words to breathe that keep me grounded: pause, be one, notice, let go of what doesn’t serve you.

Twenty-five years ago, I thought I would die when Fred was so sick that he had to fly back to Canada leaving me in Turkey with our thirteen-year-old son, ten-year-old daughter, and a 40-foot boat I couldn’t sail. A few years later, I thought I would die when I had to leave a church I loved because I couldn’t fix what was wrong. I thought I would die last spring when I was judged and dismissed.

But I have risen.

As I recall those events, I no longer experience the intense grief, helplessness, or shame I felt then. I feel free and a little less afraid of the next death that’s coming. I have more compassion and hope for others who are struck down for they will but not be destroyed. I have more freedom to choose what gives life to me and to others instead of numbing, disappearing, or distracting myself. That’s not to say I don’t do those things anymore, but to have the superpower to do them less often than I used to. Now that’s a me I have not seen before.

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. –2 Corinthians 4:8-10 (ESV)

∗ ∗ ∗

Love Mischief for the World

Being resurrected is being awake to what is true and living out of that space. It’s the state of being “woke.”  When we are awake–living with awareness–we make life-giving choices that affect the planet and its inhabitants. Justin Michael Williams explains this term with a lot of passion. That passion comes from his roots and from his own transformed life. He invites us to stay woke and join the revolution that begins from inside where God/Truth/Love dwells in the core of our 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:
Road to Emmaus by Fritz von Uhde – Der Gang nach Emmaus (1891). Wikimedia Creative Commons.
“We can do it- Rosie the Riveter” by .alicia.kowalski. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2020.
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 2013-2020.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
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Becoming What I Eat and Drink

 

On Good Friday I watched Jesus Christ Superstar (Stay Home #WithMe). I braced myself for the scene that bothers me more than the thirty-nine lashings or the death of Judas.

A woman comes out of the shadows, “See my eyes I can hardly see. ” Then a man, “See me stand I can hardly walk.” Then more and more and more people approach Jesus.

“I believe you can make me whole. See my tongue I can hardly talk. See my skin I’m a mass of blood. See my legs I can hardly stand. I believe you can make me well. See my purse I’m a poor, poor man.”

The voices get louder and more insistent. “Will you touch, will you mend me, Christ? Won’t you touch, will you heal me, Christ? Will you kiss, you can heal me, Christ?  Won’t you kiss, won’t you pay me, Christ?”

Jesus tries to touch each one but he can’t. “There’s too many of you; don’t push me. There’s too little of me; don’t crowd me.”

They all converge, relentless until he screams. “Heal yourselves!”

I’m agitated on one level because this isn’t the Jesus I know. I’m also agitated at a deeper level because this is how I feel and act sometimes. Though my screaming comes in a different form, it is a scream none the less. My soul cries, “There are too many of you; there’s too little of me.”

On Easter Saturday, Fred and I watched It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood. The journalist who has come to interview Fred Rogers sees over and over again, how Mr. Rogers takes time with each neigbour he meets. He is never rushed, fully present. He loves them just the way they are. He gives himself to them. This is the Jesus I know.

I want to be Fred Rogers, I sighed. I mean, I want to be my truest self, the me that I see in Fred Rogers.

Long ago, I gave up trying to make myself into someone else. I’ve also given up trying to become my True Self. That’s God’s work. I can’t push the river. Until God transforms me, I’m resigned to being overwhelmed, self-protective, and hurtful at times.

On Easter Sunday before I  went online to participate with Christ Church Cathedral in the Holy Eucharist, I read “This Is My Body,” Chapter Eleven in Richard Rohr’s The Universal Christ. In it, Rohr writes,

“As St. Augustine said, we must feed the body of Christ to the people of God until they know that they are what they eat! And they are what they drink!”

Tears began to flow. I can be Mr.Rogers. I am Mr.Rogers.

Minutes later, I joined the people of God. Hundreds of us in our homes gathered around Christ’s table. With them, I ate Jesus’ body and drank his blood and consumed the reality that my deepest me is God, as Catherine of Genoa once said.

I have been resurrected, and I can live out of Christ in me. Fred Rogers is in me, ready to come out of the tomb.

As the bread and wine which we now eat and drink
are changed into us,
may we be changed again into you,
bone of your bone, flesh of your flesh,
loving and caring in the world.
Amen.
from A Communion Liturgy of the Iona Community

∗ ∗ ∗

Love Mischief for the World

This sermon by Archbishop Melissa (-26.29) brought me to tears. Her words went right into my heart and from it at the same time. “I rely on the resurrection,” she said.

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:
The poster It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is owned by Sony.  This image is used to provide critical commentary on the film of the poster itself, not solely for illustration and qualifies as fair use under the copyright law of the United States.
Photo of communion elements from Wallpaper Flare. Creative Commons.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2020.
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 2013-2020.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
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Rooted, I Rise

Two weeks ago, I looked at my Christmas cactus and wondered if, like me, it needed a haircut. It’d finished blooming, so it was time. But then I saw a tiny bud and found another and another. My faithful friend wasn’t ready to stop blessing me.

Some mornings I wake in triumph having rested well and not given in to the temptation to eat during the night. This morning, I wake in defeat. I make coffee and look to see how the buds have changed. Their growth is barely noticeable.

In an email, I receive this quote by Joan Chittister.

As life goes on, it becomes clearer and clearer that the cross is not a dark aspect of religion. It is, on the contrary, the one hope we have that our own lives can move through difficulty to triumph. It’s the one thing that enables us to hang on and not give up when hanging on seems impossible and giving up seems imperative. The cross says very clearly that things will work out if we work them out and that whatever is, is important to our life’s fulfillment. The cross says that we can rise if we can only endure.

We’re in the Easter season and yet, in many ways, we’re still on the cross of our struggles and in the tomb of Covid-19. I keep losing and gaining back two of the thirty pounds I need to shed to bring my cholesterol down. I remind myself to be present when I walk, but my mind, like a restless hound, strains on the leash. A kilometre later, I realize I’ve been planning again.

When I realize that once again I’ve failed to do what I intended, I feel sad and discouraged. The temptation to give up is strong but not as strong as the temptation to berate myself.

For a split second, I pause.

It’s in that pause, that resurrection happens.

In that pause, I hear, “This is hard.”

The tiny buds say, “Look at me. Trust. New life is coming.”

“Persevere,” Joan says.

That’s enough to open my heart to pray and allow me to unroll my yoga mat. I hear Adriene say, “Let’s begin seated in a cross-legged position. Congratulate yourself for being here. The hardest part of the practice is over.”

All I have to do right now is to listen to her voice and notice how it feels in my body. That’s all God asks of me in this moment.

“Root to rise,” I hear Adriene say.

Rooted, I rise.

“If we could surrender to Earth’s intelligence,
we would rise up rooted, like trees.”
–Rainer Maria Rilke

∗ ∗ ∗

Love Mischief for the World

In many ways, my story is nothing like Maya Angelou’s and yet I listen to this and know she is speaking for all of us. We have all been lied about, ground down, and killed with hatefulness. We have all been the slaves of shame and pain and yet, like life, we rise. We rise because Christ, who is at the core of our being, rose and continues to rise.

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:
Photo of the Schlumbergera (Christmas Cactus) by Maja Dumat. Used with permission.
Quote from Wisdom Distilled from the Daily, by Joan Chittister, p 148.
“As the mist rises” by Mark Seton. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2020.
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 2013-2020.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in compassion, Easter, Holy Week, Overeating, Prayer, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Remaking History

We were about to make Canadian history: the first Living from the Heart course day on Zoom.

Audrey, Brent and I had put in extra hours rearranging the material, learning how to do break out rooms, and prepping the participants. We asked them to be patient with us and with themselves as this was a first.

At 8:30 I tried to join the participants who were checking their equipment before we began at 9:00, but I couldn’t get into the meeting. Then I tried to text Audrey, who was our Zoom host, but my cell phone went blank. My heart pounded, my cell phone was unresponsive and the circle on my screen kept circling and circling and not letting me in.

My mind flooded with what-ifs. What if I couldn’t join? What if they have to manage the day without me? What if I’ve done something to my account that caused this?

Finally, after ten minutes of mind racing and jittery panic, my face appeared along with the invitation to join. Everything was fine. I could relax.

A few days later, I had another episode of sudden, irrational panic, when Fred wasn’t where I thought he would be, and I couldn’t get ahold of him on his cell.

“I was listening to a lecture by Tara Brach and she said, ‘Anxiety is the portal to freedom’,” I said to my spiritual director after telling her about my episodes of panic. “She encouraged us to welcome anxiety, feel it in our bodies, and listen to it as if it were a vulnerable child. She asked, ‘What does your anxiety want to hear from a kind soul?'”

My director asked me the same question.

“I hear: ‘This is hard.'” Tears filled my eyes and rolled down my cheeks.

In that hour, we listened deeply to my body, God, and the words and images that came to me while tears continued to flow.

At first, God brushed away all the guilt, blame and shame I felt about being anxious. That brought tremendous relief.

Then God came close and wrapped his arms around the tiny, panicking baby in me and soothed me. He was so grateful for my anxiety. It was my anxious cry that helped him find the part of me that was buried under the leaves of guilt and blame. God matched my panic with his desperation to comfort me.

To God, my anxiety was not something to be feared or shunned, but a guest to be warmly welcomed and treated with honour and respect.

As I step back and look at my life, I’m often in what Tara Brach calls “the trance of fear.” Anxiety constantly murmurs below the level of consciousness. It compels me to rush and causes me to judge.

Now I see that anxiety knocks at my door whenever I’m aware that I’m rushing or judging. It bursts in uninvited when I’m in a full-blown panic.

These moments are gift.

These are the moments when I hear the tiny baby in me crying and God and I can go to her.

Every time we do, we re-make history.

*

After I finished writing this, I wondered why this story was given to me for my Good Friday post?

Perhaps it’s because this is what Good Friday is about. God, who can’t stay away, comes to earth, walks with us on the road, and goes with us into our pain to set us free.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

—Jellaludin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks

∗ ∗ ∗

Love Mischief for the World

Have you noticed the sky is bluer? Clouds are clean and fluffy. Daffodils are coming up on school grounds in beds so perpetually trampled that no one knew there were bulbs underground. The earth is breathing a sigh of relief as fewer planes, ferries and cars are in motion. Now that we can’t shop, work or visit as much, more people are walking and biking–enjoying the beauty around them. The blossoming trees blush, delighted to be given so much attention. There’s some divine love mischief happening on our earth. “Now I am revealing new things to you, things hidden and unknown to you, created just now, this very moment. Of these things, you have heard nothing until now. So that you cannot say, Oh yes, I knew this. –Isaiah 48:6-7 (Jerusalem Bible)

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:
Photo of mural of little girl and balloon from Pixabay. Creative commons.
Quote by Tara Brach from before in a lecture on anxiety and sleeplessness.
“‘Just right!’ she sighed.” by Steve Corey. Used with permission.
“The Guest House” from The Essential Rumi is a teaching story translated by Coleman Barks © by owner provided at no charge for educational purposes.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2020.
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 2013-2020.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Holy Week, Poetry, Prayer, Reflections, Spiritual Direction, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Using Our Imaginations to Be with Christ in Holy Week

In the past few posts (and in my upcoming Good Friday post), I have shared how Christ has shown compassion for me in my suffering.

Now I want to be with Jesus in his suffering. The best way I know how to do that is to imagine myself with him in the stories of his passion and death. Will you join me?

An Introduction to the Prayer of Imagination/Ignatian Contemplation

    • It’s an old way of praying.
      People have been praying this way for centuries unintentionally and intentionally. It was developed and used extensively by Ignatius of Loyola in the 16th century.
    • It’s possible.
      Some people think they don’t have a very good imagination. If you can worry, you have a good enough imagination!
    • It’s earthly.
      We get into the scene with our five senses.
      What we’ve experienced in life informs our imaginations. For example, we don’t need to know what a hillside in Galilee looks like. Imagining a hillside we know will do.
      Our imaginations don’t always tell us what’s true; we can imagine Jesus not being Jesus. Suppose in your prayer  you meet up with Jesus and he scowls at you and says, “What took you so long?” This is not Jesus but someone else in your life that is being projected onto him. If this happens, stop right there. Let that image go and ask the real Jesus to come and take the imposter’s place.
    • It’s heavenly.
      We get to experience Jesus face-to-face.
      God uses our imagination to shows us what we couldn’t imagine. We can be surprised by love.
      This prayer experience becomes our gospel story. Like the woman at the well, our encounter changes us, and it is a real encounter that we will treasure forever.
    • I have written about my experiences of praying the prayer of imagination. Here a post about what happened when I prayed with the story of Jesus’ and Blind Bartimaeus. (Mark 10:45-52)
  • Praying the Prayer of Imagination in Holy Week 
    • Usually, when we use our imaginations to pray with a gospel story, our focus is on our relationship with Jesus. We are often given an awareness or gift that opens us to see Jesus more clearly, love him more dearly and follow him more nearly. But in the Holy Week scriptures, Ignatius invites us to turn our attention to Jesus and let him receive gifts from us.
    • The only gift Jesus asks for is our presence. “ When we pray with the stories of the passion and death of Jesus, we might feel pity, horror, gratitude, wonder,” writes David Fleming. “But the specific grace that Ignatius would have us seek is the grace of compassion. Ignatius emphasizes how important it is to enter into Jesus’ inner experience. We are to suffer with Jesus—by our compassion. It is as if Jesus were saying, ‘Let me tell you what it was like, what I saw, what I felt. Please don’t interrupt; just stay with me and listen.’”
    • Just stay with Jesus, listen, and offer comfort– a sip of cold water, your hand on his cheek, a gentle embrace.
    • We cannot stop what is happening, nor does Jesus want us to. This is so hard. We want so badly to change the situation or run away. We are tempted to distance ourselves physically or emotionally, so we don’t feel the pain of another. We fear it will overwhelm us.
    • It takes courage to suffer with anyone who is about to die and to feel so helpless. That’s why we need grace. We can ask God to help us stay with Jesus and not fall asleep in one way or other.

Prayer Guide
In Ignatian Contemplation, we use our imaginations to put ourselves into a gospel story in order to encounter Christ in the scene.

    • You will need to actively use your imagination—things won’t just happen on their own.
    • Get involved in what is taking place. Don’t just be an observer.
    • Don’t try to come up with a lesson or insight from the story. It’s about being with Jesus be in the scene.
    • Don’t worry about being distracted; when you notice your mind wandering, gently bring yourself back to the scene.
    • Set aside 20-30 minutes for your prayer.

Steps:

    1. Ask for God’s grace as you begin your prayer e.g.:
      God, you are with me always and have shown compassion to me in my suffering. I ask for the grace to be with you in yours and offer you compassion.
    1. Readings:
      • As you read the passage, let the gospel scene saturate your mind. Read the passage slowly two or three times. Notice what you see. What do you hear, smell, taste or touch? Use your five senses to help you get into the story.
      • If you remember details from another gospel allow them to play into the story, but don’t look up the different accounts.
      • There is no need to remember every detail of the story. Just focus on what seems alive to you.
    1. Praying with your Imagination
      • Gently, place yourself in the scene. What is it like to be there? Use your five senses.
      • If you begin as one person in the story (e.g. Peter), you do not need to do what he does. In fact, to show Jesus compassion, you will do what is not recorded in scripture. Let your story unfold.
      • Feel free to participate in the scene naturally as you would if you were there.
      • Notice that you may be drawn to intervene and stop what is happening. But this is not what Jesus wants. His story must play out. Your role is simply to be with Jesus so he does not suffer alone.
      • Even in suffering, you may experience Jesus extending compassion to you. This is a beautiful gift, but be careful not to allow the focus to shift to you and your story.
      • What feelings emerge as you participate in the story? How might you express your compassion to Jesus?
      • Don’t worry if it feels like not a lot is happening. Your presence with Jesus at this difficult time is a precious gift to him.
    1. Ending
      • Gently withdraw yourself from the scene and end the prayer period with a short prayer of thanks.

The Scripture Passages: (Choose one each day)

Easter Sunday

On this glorious day, we ask for the grace to experience the joy of Jesus in his resurrected body and his victory over death. In our prayer, we travel through time and space and meet him in the upper room, outside the empty tomb, on the road to Emmaus or on the beach with a spectacular catch of fish. Choose one of the resurrection stories and be with Jesus there.

Feel free to tell us how your prayers went in the comments below.

Grace and peace to you, my friends.

Credits and References:
“Christ Carrying the Cross” by Titian (1490-1575). Wikipedia Public Domain
Quote by David L. Fleming from What is Ignatian Spirituality? p.84.
Partial copy from The Entombment (Russian, Late 15th Century) Icon written and photographed by Ann Green. Used with permission.
“The Incredulity of St. Thomas” by Caravaggio, 1601-2. Wikimedia. Public Domain
This outline is adapted from notes from SoulStream’s Living from the Heart course and lectures by Father Richard Soo, SJ. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2020.
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 2013-2020.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in compassion, Easter, Holy Week, Ignatian Spirituality, Praying with the Imagination, Reflections, Resource | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God Let Me Drift

At 8:55 am, I clicked on the link to the Zoom gathering of SoulStream‘s Leadership Team. I like to be early so I can greet each person as they arrive.

I was feeling unusually peaceful. I’d given myself enough time to participate in Day 6 of A Novena for Times of Unravelling, got onto the mat for 20 minutes of Yoga with Adriene and had a shower before I clicked “Join Meeting.”

When I entered the “room” the team was already engaged in the first item on the agenda. My heart sped up and my chest tightened. I wasn’t five minutes early; I was 25 minutes late. I missed the gentle hellos, morning prayers and the beginning of this discussion.

As I took in my new reality, the embarrassment I felt began to subside. I already knew the back story that was being shared, I’d had lovely morning prayers, and no one was upset with me.

I’ve been learning to take my hands off the railing of my coracle, look up at the sky and trust. That’s exactly what I was doing yet God let me drift out to sea without a “Hey, girl. Don’t forget you need to be somewhere at 8:30.”

Why did God let me drift?

I wonder if the experience of messing up and it being okay was more valuable than arriving on time.

As I write about it, I feel my chest and shoulders soften and my wondering turns to a knowing.

The thing about letting go of the sides and leaning back into trust is the very real possibility that my little boat can drift out into the shipping lanes and be capsized by a freighter.

I recall one evening after dusk when we were sailing with our young family off the coast of India. I was at the helm and having a lovely conversation with our twelve-year-old son and nine-year-old daughter. Engrossed in the moment, I misread the red and green lights coming toward us. Fred came into the cockpit in the nick of time. He cranked the wheel hard to port and off the collision course we were on.

In a similar situation off the coast of Australia, we got a call on our VHF radio from the ship we nearly hit. “We’re having a barbecue on the aft deck. Want to join us?”

“We almost did,” I replied.

Fearing something like that can happen again makes it hard for me to relax back in my coracle. Yet these stories tell me two things: I can trust God to be there in the nick of time if a big danger ensues and God may have a different definition of “big danger” than I do. Apparently, being late for a meeting is not a big danger to God.

Come to me.
Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.
I’ll show you how to take a real rest.
–Matthew 11:28 (The Message)

∗ ∗ ∗

Love Mischief for the World

Zoom meetings I attend have been scheduled to start after 7 pm to free participants to go outside and bang pots and pans for the frontline healthcare workers. Meanwhile, a B.C. hotel chain, in conjunction with United Way and private donors, is offering free rooms to medical staff. Some have been sleeping in their cars to keep from bringing Covid-19 home to their families. Here is a poem in gratitude for health care workers.  I love this video by Chris Mann and he has more. For a laugh, check out this one and this one.

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:
“Adrift” by Scott Wylie. Used with permission.
“Feather 2” by Jim Champion. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2020.
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 2013-2020.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Lent, Mindfulness, Reflections, Songs | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Meditation for These Uncertain Times

Pause with me.

Take a deep breath and let it out slowly. Then take another.

Continue to breathe slowly and deeply. Notice where your body feels tense and send your next breath there . . . to your shoulders, neck, legs–whatever feels clenched.

Notice your breath going in through your nose, down into your lungs and out again.

Allow your awareness to drift down, down, down, like a falling leaf, from your head to your heart. Settle into your heart, the very core of your being, where all of who you are is held in all of who God is.

Is there an image that comes to mind of what it’s like to relax into being completely loved, accepted and cared for? Perhaps something from Psalm 23 or Psalm 131.

I imagine myself in a coracle. At first, I’m sitting up, hands gripping the sides, fearful of what I might bump into next. But gently I lean back, feeling the ribs of the coracle support my spine, shoulders and head. I let go of trying to control what I can’t and look up at the sky. I notice what it’s like to be unconcerned about where life’s current is taking me.

Now let this question float up from your soul into the air: What is giving you life these days?

Return to your breath. Notice any tension in your body and relax. Just as the question floated out of your soul, let an answer return.

For me, it’s taking time for silent prayer, yoga, getting outside, doing some good work, engaging with others and playing Sequence with Fred (even though I’m on a losing streak).

Hold those experiences with God and allow gratitude to rise.

After a spacious amount of time, allow another question to bubble up from your soul. What has been challenging for you?

Again, relax your mind and let your shy soul speak.

For me, it’s having too many things to do in too little time. It’s the rocking of my coracle when people do things differently than I do. It’s the bumping against the rocks when the way I thought I would go is not the way I’m going. It’s when I look at myself in this tiny boat and feel like I’m not enough.

Notice how you feel now that you’ve named what challenges you.

I feel a little panicky, disoriented, disappointed and afraid.

Imagine God coming close to your ear and whispering something to encourage you–not anything you need to do or change. What does Love want to say?

I hear: “This is hard. I am here. We’ll do this together.”

Savour those words for a few cycles of breath.

Now, look at your hands. Open them up. Is there anything you are holding onto that isn’t serving you? What is Love inviting you to let go of?

For me, it’s that feeling of urgency. I imagine experiencing it again and, instead of reacting, taking a breath and resting back against the rounded surface of the coracle. Once again I look up at the sky and recall God’s voice: “This is hard. I am here. We will do this together.”

Breathe that sense of love and wellbeing into your body and breathe it out into the world. Remember that we are all connected sharing the same air with all living creatures. We are all one in Christ.

Allow those who are hurting or struggling to come to mind and send out love and comfort to them with each breath. Breathe in all the darkness, all of Covid-19, all the misery and panic into God’s heart, in the core of your being. God’s heart expands bigger and bigger and bigger until all the darkness, all the sickness, all the misery and panic are absorbed and transformed and returned as love into the world with every breath you take. 

After a spacious amount of time return to following your breath.

Put your hands over your heart and thank God for being in your body, in your life and in the world and never ceasing to love. 

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    God’s mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
–Lamentations 3:22-23

∗ ∗ ∗

Love Mischief for the World

A number of my friends are in choirs and missing singing together. I’m sending this love mischief out to them. Thanks, Boelle for sharing it with me.

Today’s post was inspired by the voices of Christine Valters Paintner, Parker Palmer, Adriene Mishler and Pema Chödrön.

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:
“Uncertainty” by anjan58. Used with permission.
“Coracle” by Mike Prince. Used with permission.
“Giving Hands” by Artotem. Used with permission.
Blue Skies of Scottdale by Dru Bloomfield. used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2020.
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 2013-2020.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in compassion, Lent, Mindfulness, Prayer, Reflections, Resource | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Covid-19

How are you doing in the midst of this world-wide pandemic? Finding a new normal eludes us daily. We all are all experiencing losses of one kind or another.

It’s surreal.

My days have been occupied by Zoom meetings and emails with other leaders of SoulStream and St. Stephen’s. Gradually we move from denial, through grief, to acceptance and action.

I feel the effects of the pandemic personally too. Every time I make a trip to the store or touch anything someone else has touched, I risk spreading the virus to others or bringing it home to Fred who has a compromised immune system.

I invite you to pause with me and notice. What are you feeling? What do you notice?

I feel both restrained that I can’t do what I want to and relieved as my days become simpler and more spacious.

I feel sad for the huge losses others are experiencing.

I feel the weight of figuring out how we will manage to continue the Living from the Heart course with video conferencing and still make it a life-giving experience for our participants.

Notice how you felt when you read that my feelings were similar or different from yours? Open to those feelings too.

God sees and feels all these things with us. Allow yourself to sink into God’s love and notice.

As I open to God in the silence, I realize that I’m afraid to stop moving. If I don’t stay on top of my emails, things will pile up, and I will be buried so deeply I won’t be able to get out from under it.

I could not hear this until I was silent. Now that I have, I know God has heard it too.

God says, “Rest, my love, I will take care of everything.”

I stretch out in God’s sheer silence and breathe with those words. On the in-breath: Rest, my love. On the out-breath: I will take care of everything.

I breathe and rest for a generous amount of time.

Another noticing comes to me: I’m not ready to open to all the pain in the world right now. I allow myself to be there without judging or trying to change myself. I continue to rest and trust that God will take care of this too.

Near the end of my silent prayer, I feel invited to breathe in love and breathe out love for the world and for a few people that come to mind. I can do that.

What feelings emerge as you hear God say to you, “Rest, my love, I will take care of everything.”?

I feel hope rise and trust. I even feel a tickle of curiosity and anticipation. What might God have for us that we never expected?

I feel a lightness in my chest that all this will work out for good in some way or other. I recall one of SoulStream’s core values: We trust that, despite all evidence to the contrary, God will accomplish God’s loving and redeeming purposes toward the fulfilment of all things in Christ.

God is accomplishing God’s loving and redeeming purposes in us with every breath we take.

May we live with compassion for ourselves and for others. We are doing many things for the first time.

And when we feel overwhelmed, exhausted or afraid, God, help us to share those feelings with you. Remind us that you are right here. Tell us again: Rest, my love, I will take care of everything.

Rest, my love, I will take care of everything.
–God

∗ ∗ ∗

Love Mischief for the World

Here is some love mischief you can participate in as we flatten the Coronavirus curve. Join Christine Valters Paintner for a Novena for Times of Unravelling. Do yoga at home with Adriene. Continue to meet with your prayer or Bible study group on Zoom. Apparently, Zoom has temporarily lifted the 40 minute limit on groups of 3 or more for those with the basic (free) plan. Tune in to the Metropolitan Opera’s free streaming of spring performances or enjoy Steve Bell’s weekly concerts on FB. Share a poem, song or article that you found encouraging. Call a friend who doesn’t have internet access. Did a vacation or dinner out get cancelled? Consider donating that money where it is needed.

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:
“Covid-19” image by Prachatai. Used with permission.
Keep calm” by Melissa Hillier. Used with permission.
“Sleeping girl on a wooden bench” by Albert Anker (1831-1910) / Public domain
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2020.
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 2013-2020.  http://www.estherhizsa.com

 

Posted in Lent, Prayer, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Even When

I’m here as promised. I have lots of time but nothing I want to write about. I’m waiting, listening, remembering that You always come through. We’ve done three hundred and ninety-five blog posts together, and You’ve never let me down. Even when I had no time and no words, we squeaked out a poem.

What do you have for me today? What can we offer our readers?

I look back on my life lately. It’s a mix of surprise (“I did that!”) and humility (“I did that?”) and You, quietly in the background.

In our Lenten book group at my church, I’m reading Richard Rohr’s The Universal Christ, looking for a morsel to move me. So far, it’s all good stuff but more affirming than enlightening–except one part.

I felt my heart dial in when Rohr talked about You pulling back to create a vacuum that only You can fill. He talked about Mother Teresa and how she’d had many years of darkness. Then Rohr makes this confession:

“For the last ten years, I have had little spiritual ‘feeling’, neither consolation nor desolation. Most days, I’ve had to simply choose to believe, to love and to trust. . . The simple kindness and gratitude of good people produces a momentary ‘good feeling’, but even this goodness I do not know how to hold on to. It slides off my consciousness like cheese on a Teflon pan. But God rewards me for letting him reward me. This is the divine two-step dance that we call grace: I am doing it, and yet I am not doing it. It is being done unto me, and yet by me too. Yet God always takes the lead in the dance, which we can only recognize over time.” (78-79)

When You pull back and I don’t have a felt sense of your presence, I fear I’m failing. I’m not focussed enough in prayer, not disciplined enough in my ways, or perhaps I’ve wandered off the path. One of the reasons I was so touched by my experience in spiritual direction was that I had such a tangible sense of Your presence and love. You had not left me. You had not given up on me.

You are not giving up on me now. I bring nothing to our meeting today because you have not given me anything to bring. You are doing it so you can give me something now.

I think the word you have for us today is: persevere. “Keep going, I am with you,” You say, “Choose to believe, trust and love. Something is happening even when you can’t do some of the poses in yoga, even when you find yourself snacking at 1:30 in the morning, and even when you notice, after the fact, a way to be more generous or kind. I am in the even-whens.”

God does not know how to be absent.
–Martin Laird

∗ ∗ ∗

Love Mischief for the World

The love mischief we need to do for the world right now is to wash our hands and to keep our distance. This will help stop the spread of Covid 19. This article from a doctor in Western Europe woke me up.

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:
“Eastern Phoebe.” is by Doug Greenberg. Used with permission.
Quote by Martin Laird is from Into the Silent Land.
“Eastern Phoebe” by Denis Fournier. Used with permission.
“Man washing hands” by Marco Verch. Used with permission
Banner image “EasternPhoebe” by Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2020.
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 2013-2020.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Lent, Poverty of Spirit, Prayer, Reflections, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Being Counted

“I talked to a nurse practitioner about my gastric reflux,” I said to my spiritual director. “I changed my diet, don’t eat after supper and raised the head of our bed. And that’s not all I’ve been doing to care for my body. I’m still doing yoga every morning. I’ve never been able to be consistent about exercise before. But now if I don’t do it, I miss it.”

The changes were significant and my director was duly impressed.

“But those aren’t the only changes. I’ve decided to be vegan for Lent. It’s the single most effective thing I can do to care for the earth and future generations,” I said and was surprised to find myself tearing up.

I reached for a tissue and explained. “Our priest and I suggested at a debrief about our church’s community meal that we serve vegan food because it’s ethical, economical and hospitable. Almost anyone can eat it. But not everyone there was convinced. People really liked the beef stew and turkey dinner, and there are rarely more than two vegans that come. Although we made the decision to provide vegan meals for the time being, I realized that to help make a lasting change, I needed to be added to the number of vegans that come, even if it’s only one more.”

As I spoke, I felt a hard lump in my throat. It was so painful, I began taking slow deep breaths. I sat for a moment and then told my director about it.

“I think this is really important to God,” I said recalling another time I experienced this.

Years ago I was on retreat and joined in a community prayer time. The leader asked what hopes we hold that have yet to be realized. People shared various things, and I said, “A home for everyone.” Suddenly I had this painful lump in my throat holding back a wail of sorrow. I didn’t know what was happening. It was weeks before I could name it as God expressing God’s feelings in my body.

It was happening again. God feeling strongly about the earth, about all the living creatures on it and about one person being counted.

It’s almost shocking to feel God’s feelings, to be one with the divine in such a visceral way. It’s humbling to step back and let my body have a voice.

It’s also awkward. God has weighed in about what I eat on a subject that’s dangerously divisive.

Ignatius warned about adding things to spiritual experiences like this one and making assumptions that God never intended.

As I write about it now, I return to the feeling, the lump in my throat, the experience in spiritual direction. I breathe and listen.

What is God saying in this?

God isn’t saying everyone should become vegan. But I’m hearing that God cares deeply for this earth and all living things.  When we act with compassion for our bodies, others–all God created–we express God’s compassion. And that compassion, unlike empathy or pity, leads to actions that free and transform.

Five Contemplations Before Eating

1. This food is a gift of God from the earth, the sky, the universe, numerous living beings and much hard work.

2. May we eat with mindfulness and gratitude so as to be worthy to receive it.

3. May we transform our unwholesome mental formations, especially our greed, and learn to eat with moderation.

4. May we keep our compassion alive by eating in such a way that we reduce the suffering of all beings, preserve our planet and reverse the process of global warming.

5. We accept this food so we can nurture our brotherhood and sisterhood, strengthen our community, and nourish our ideal of serving all beings.

Source: Savor by Thich Nhat Hanh and Dr. Lilian Chueng. Italics mine.

∗ ∗ ∗

Love Mischief for the World

St. Stephen the Martyr Anglican Church in Burnaby loves to eat together and seeks to love our neighbours in practical ways. So we put those two desires together and invited the neighbours to come for dinner. Everyone is welcome. Everyone is host and guest. No one has to eat alone or go hungry or fear they don’t belong. Community meals like this are happening in other places too. Maybe there’s one in your neighbourhood. Or maybe you could start one.

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:
“Être homme, c’est précisément être responsable” photo by Vassilis Londos. Used wth permission.
The story of “A Home for Everyone” is in my first book Stories of an Everyday Pilgrim.
Ignatius speaks of this danger of adding onto what God has given in the Second Week Rules for Discernment Spiritual Exercises, 328–336.
“The Potato Planters” by Jean-François Millet (1814-75)/ Public domain
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2020.
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 2013-2020.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in community, compassion, Ignatian Spirituality, Lent, Mindfulness, Mystical, Reflections, Spiritual Direction, Stories, Stories of an Everyday Pilgrim | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments