Seed Is Born

“Think of a situation that takes up considerable time and energy,” Jeff Imbach said to the participants at the Living from the Heart intensive last week.  We were at Rivendell Retreat Center on Bowen Island, sitting in a circle, opening to God who is with us in our everyday lives.

Jeff explained, “For example, the situation could be a co-worker or family member who is driving you crazy, a task that is tiresome and boring, a feeling of insecurity about a job. Close your eyes and notice how you respond to this experience? What are your first feelings, your first thoughts? Fear, anger, blame, analysis, fixing, judging?”

What came to my mind was the previous morning. I had a number of jobs to do before I left for Living from the Heart but felt anxious about one in particular. I had to submit my book Seed Cracked Open to be published. Pressing PUBLISH evoked a feeling of panic.

“Take a few moments to simply be with the situation from deep within yourself without thinking, judging, interpreting, or blaming, ” Jeff said. “What surfaces for you as you get beyond the thoughts and emotional responses to the situation? What physiological responses emerge–warmth, churning stomach, fear, pleasure?”

I pictured myself working at the computer. I hate being rushed for time. I recalled the unyielding tension in my throat, chest and arms. I felt it again sitting in the room as Jeff continued.

“Be with that response for a moment. Allow it to rise up in you. In this moment, you are engaged with the experience directly. Stay in that engagement.”

I felt like I was being squeezed into something that was getting smaller and smaller. I wanted to put it off and relieve the tension. But the book launch was set, and if I waited until after I got home again, my books might not arrive on time.

Fear. Panic. What if I missed something important? What if something goes wrong, and I get a shipment of books I’m disappointed with? What if people don’t like it or don’t care about it?

“Now, go deeper,” Jeff said, “until you are awake and aware. You know what you are thinking, you feel your reactive emotional responses (either positive or afflictive), but you are no longer consumed or controlled by the situation or your responses to it. You no longer need to deny it, conceptualize about it, or react to it. You are simply there with it and in it but not overwhelmed by it.”

As I became aware of my fears, a ribbon of space wove in between those feelings and my experience of pressing the key. In that space, I saw what God saw.

My “baby” was being born. She was coming into the world vulnerable, fragile and beautiful. I felt a sense of wonder and joyful responsibility.

“In that place open your heart to God’s loving presence deep within you, at the core of your being and rest there,” Jeff said.

I rested with this picture of God and me, proud parents of our new baby. With curiosity and delight, I wondered what was ahead for her on this journey. How would she be received? How will the world be different now that she has arrived?

You know me inside and out,
    you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
    how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
    all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
the days of my life all prepared
    before I’d even lived one day.
–Psalm 139:14-16 (The Message)

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Love Mischief for the World

Here’s my baby. Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) hopes to make it available on Amazon next week. The book launch will be Friday, November 15 at 7:30 at St. Stephen the Martyr Anglican Church, 9887 Cameron Street, Burnaby, BC. If you’d like to come, please let me know. I’d love to see you there. Copies of Seed Cracked Open and Stories of an Everyday Pilgrim will be available for sale. I will read a few stories from my new book and tell you about my adventures on her journey from conception to birth.

Fred read Seed Cracked Open over one last time before I submitted it to KDP. He says, she’s a keeper.

You will find more about her here.

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:
Images are from Michael Cook‘s painting Night Prayer. Used with permission.
Quotes by Jeff Imbach © SoulStream 2019, 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 Humour, Prayer, Reflections, Seed Cracked Open, Spiritual Direction | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Step of Faith

I promised you that I would wear an orange shirt on Orange Shirt Day before I owned one. That made me nervous. I could have ordered a shirt specially made for that day, but the shipping was expensive, and I was sure it wouldn’t fit me well. The local store I thought had them, didn’t.

Fingers crossed, I went to a couple of thrift stores. I didn’t find one orange shirt; I found a dozen to choose from. I like the one I chose so much, I want to wear it every day.

God closed one door and opened another to something more than I hoped for.

I hold onto that story as the date for my book launch inches closer. I need to press “Publish” so the books arrive on time. But I can’t. I’m still waiting for permission from a publishing company to use a poem. It’s been over ten weeks now. Will it ever come?

On Sunday I’m trying to listen to the sermon and not stew about it. Ruth, our priest, talks about staying with uncomfortable feelings and taking them to God.

God, you know I don’t like uncertainties and having to rely on something that is out of my hands. But, I’m not in this pinchy place alone. You are here and know what I need.

Could the Provider of Orange Shirts be up to some love-mischief?

Ruth ends her sermon with a poem, I can’t believe it. That poem would work even better than the one I originally planned to use. God, do you really work that fast?

I email the author and the next morning, I receive permission to use his poem. In fact, he is delighted that what God has given him has found a place in my book.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for
and certain of what we do not see.

–Hebrews 11:1 (NIV, 1973)

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Love Mischief for the World

Bases and Orphan Aid thrift stores are run by volunteers who want to make life better for children and families. Bases provide opportunities for children, youth, families in Burnaby that lead toward success and independence. “If a child wants to join a sports team but can’t afford the equipment or fees, we can help them,” a volunteer told me. The proceeds from Orphan Aid Thrift Store go to support the care and education of HIV-AIDS orphans in Zambia through the Abbottsford charity, Seeds of Hope Children’s Ministry.

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:
Photo of painting of knights attempting a leap of faith to reach the Holy Grail (from the feature film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) by Mary Harrsch. Used with permission.
Foggy Mountain by Lauri Sten. Used with permission.
Photo of Bases Thrift Store from basesburnaby.com, 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 Humour, Reflections, Seed Cracked Open, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Frog Trainer Retires

The image of trying to get all my frogs in a bowl keeps coming to mind whenever I notice a desire for things to go my way or fear that they won’t. This noticing brings a little more freedom. I can take a breath and let my desires and fears loosen their grip on me. I can envision letting go of what I think I need and begin to rest in the reality that I am enfolded in God. God is all I need.

Julian of Norwich says,

This is the reason why our hearts and souls are not at perfect ease. We seek refuge in small things, but cannot find comfort there. We do not recognize our God who is all-powerful, all-wise, and all-good. He is our only true rest.

Recently, I noticed my heart was not at ease and was tempted to “seek refuge in small things.” Julian’s words led me to ask:

What is bothering me?
What do I hope will bring comfort?

Sometimes it takes a while to name what’s going on. Eventually, I recognized that one of my life-long desires has been to be myself and be accepted. I have begun to notice that when my heart is not at ease, it is often because I’ve done something that I fear will cause another to pull away. Then I scramble to find ways to get the frog of acceptance back in my bowl.

But I have chosen to retire from frog training and let go of all the I-would-be-happier-ifs. That means letting go of my desire to be authentic and still belong. I already have that in Christ. What if I don’t need it from others as much as I think I do?

Wow. That’s a biggie. I can be misunderstood or ignored and not be undone by it. I admit, it will be uncomfortable, but I don’t need to change myself or try to change others to satisfy my desire for acceptance.

When I feel accepted, it’s golden, a gift I deeply treasure. But when I feel the pinch that I’m not acceptable, I can begin to picture myself saying “Oh, well” instead of “Oh, no!”

That “Oh, well” allows me to turn my gaze outward. My focus is no longer on getting what I desire. Instead, I can welcome and be present to the ones I am with.

Julian writes,

This lesson of love became the foundation of all the showings that were to come. Contemplation of God’s love gives the soul perspective. In light of this vastness, we behold our own littleness, and this fills us with awe and humility. It also awakens in us abundant love for all our fellow beings.

Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the skies.
–Psalm 36:5 (NIV)

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Love Mischief for the World

September 30 is Orange Shirt Day. Phyllis Webstad’s story is the reason I am wearing an orange shirt that day. Every child matters.

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
Image of frogs from pxhere. CCO public domain.
The Showings of Julian of Norwich by Mirabai Starr, p. 14, 17.
Two friends” by ASIM CHAUDHURI. 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 Poverty of Spirit, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

All Shall Be Well

While Fred and I were camping at Rathtrevor Beach on Vancouver Island last week, I had an unusual dream. I dreamed that I was co-facilitating Living from the Heart and looked at the schedule. My name was next to the upcoming input session. How had I missed that? Seized with panic, I looked in my binder for my notes and wondered if I’d copied the handouts.

I often dream that I’m in charge of a situation I’m unprepared for and utter chaos ensues. But what was unusual in this dream is what happened next. My panic subsided and an inner confidence in God arose. I didn’t have a clear picture of how to proceed, my session started late, and one interruption followed another. Yet I was certain that something better would come of this than if things had gone as planned.

As I reflected on the dream, I sensed that God was inviting me to rest and trust. God knows I have a couple of busy months ahead. God also knows that when I get stressed about all I have to do, I relieve the stress by working harder to get things done. This dream encouraged me to relax and enjoy the beauty around me. All shall be well.

Back home again, that gift of peace remains. There is enough time to do what needs to be done. God is with me as I prepare for the Living from the Heart intensive later this month and what’s coming up in October and November.

“All shall be well,” wrote Julian of Norwich, a thirty-year-old medieval Englishwoman, after recovering from a life-threatening illness. During that ordeal, sixteen “showings” were revealed to her and, as soon as she was well, she recorded the details of them. Julian wrote,

It is the grace of God’s goodness that our souls seek and always will, until we come to know God directly and realize that he already has us enfolded in himself . . .

And so we can approach our Beloved with great devotion, asking for our heart’s desire, knowing that what we really want is God, and that all God really wants is us.

As I sit with my dream and Julian’s words, I am touched by how tenderly and completely God cares for us. I reawaken to the reality that even in the chaos I am enfolded in God. I have what I desire.

God is inside us and inside God is everything.
–Julian of Norwich

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Love Mischief for the World

My friends Nancy Bailey and Marcia Frethiem are co-facilitating a half-day prayer retreat called Connecting with God. It will be at St. Stephen the Martyr in Burnaby on October 5, 9:30 am-12:30 pm. Find out more and/or register here. I’ll be there and hope you can come too. “The Lord will fulfill God’s purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.” —Psalm 138:8

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:
Photo of Rathtrevor Beach by Yummifruitbat Creative Commons.
Photo of Evening high tide at Rathtrevor by Ruth Hartnnup. Used with permission.
The Showings of Julian of Norwich by Mirabai Starr, p. 68, 16,17, 24.
© 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 Creation, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Frogs in My Bowl

I checked my pockets for the third time, but my new credit card wasn’t there.

“I was sure I brought it along,” I said to Fred anxiously. Then I remembered that a bunch of my cards fell out of my pocket while we were on the ferry to Langdale. I thought I’d picked them all up, but what if I missed one?

“Maybe we should call the credit card company,” I suggested. But we didn’t have a record of the card’s number with us, and we wouldn’t be home again until the following evening. A frog had jumped out of my bowl, and it wasn’t coming back.

“To move forward is to give up on ‘getting all the frogs in the bowl,'” Seth Godin wrote in the foreword to Pema Chödrön’s fail fail again fail better. “Perhaps your job in life, your purpose, is to get all the frogs in a bowl and keep them there. As soon as we get a few frogs in the bowl, they jump out, and we have to start all over again. Wouldn’t it be great, we wonder, if we could just find stability, if everything would work out just the way we hope, if finally, finally, all the frogs were in the bowl.”

Yes! I want all my frogs in the bowl, and I want them to stay there. But for weeks now, God has been inviting me to give up on that.

What would it be like to just notice what’s in your bowl and not judge it as good or bad?  the Spirit whispered. What if what’s in your bowl, for however long it’s there, is the next thing you need to move forward? 

Fred and I had been planning our overnight bike trip on the Sunshine Coast for a while. I didn’t want to spoil it by stressing over the missing credit card. Here was an opportunity to fail better by “welcoming the unwelcome” and the raw feelings that come with it.

Anxiety had taken a seat in my chest next to my heart. I pedalled up and down hills as it rattled off one what-if after another. Eventually, it stopped talking, and I was able to enjoy the scenery. I even had a good night’s sleep and enjoyed the return ride down the coast.

As soon as we arrived home, I checked the wallet I’d left behind. Thankfully, my new credit card was there. I must say, I enjoyed having that frog in my bowl. All was right in my world. I wondered if the frogs would stay still long enough for a photo op.

God will bring people and events into our lives,
and whatever we may think about them,
they are designed for the evolution of God’s life in us.
— Father Thomas Keating

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Love Mischief for the World

Prince Ea is an American spoken word artist, poet, and filmmaker who started and popularized the “Make S.M.A.R.T Cool” movement to promote values like intelligence, free thought, unity, and creativity in hip hop music and culture. In this video, he tells a story which is also in Pema Chödrön’s book, fail fail again fail better. The story invites us to welcome the unwelcome with curiosity and open to the gift in all things. This theme is also found in Ignatius’s Prayer of Examen, Jean-Pierre de Caussade’s classic, The Sacrament of the Present Moment, and Richard Rohr’s Everything Belongs and Romans 8:28.

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:
Frog on a bench by Pixabay . Creative Commons Zero (CCO)
Quote by Seth Godin in Pema Chödrön’s fail fail again fail better, xiv, “Welcome the unwelcome,” 29.
Image of frogs relaxed on a bench by Max Pixel. (CCO)
Thomas Keating (1997). “Active Meditations for Contemplative Prayer”, p.52, A&C Black
© 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, Mindfulness, Prayer, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Fail Better

I ended my eight-day retreat with a keen desire to be more compassionate. But within days, I acted on a judgment and hurt someone.

Soon afterward, I read Pema Chödrön’s fail fail again fail better. Chödrön says that when things work out the way we want them to, we consider it a success. Failing, then, is when things don’t work out the way we hoped they would.

Chödrön explains that when we fail, we tend to move away from the rawness we feel and blame others or ourselves. In my case, I blamed myself for being judgmental and thoughtless.

Instead of assuming my failure was bad and believing there was something wrong with me, God invited me to fail better: to feel the discomfort of what happened and hold it with curiosity. 

When we fear or experience the devastation of failure, Chödrön says,

“You can say to yourself . . . ‘Yes, this doesn’t feel good, and yes, my knees are actually trembling, but I’m going to stay with this: I am going to explore this . . .’ You are offered the potential of opening up into the as-yet unknown, the much bigger world . . .”

So with knees trembling, I welcomed God’s presence and action in my feelings of failure, as I do when I pray the Welcoming Prayer. I gazed into the eyes of Love and felt accepted. God wasn’t disappointed in me for not having more compassion. Nor did God blame me for being judgmental.

I had thought that if I wasn’t so judgmental, I would be more compassionate. But my Creator didn’t seem to share my point of view. As a One on the Enneagram, judgment will likely be a lifelong companion. What if I welcomed it as neither good nor bad?

What came to mind was what I have begun to notice. When someone does something incorrectly or morally wrong, I feel uncomfortable.

I recalled a recent conversation with a fellow who spoke unkindly about someone. My discomfort made me want to stop him or distance myself from him. But as I stayed with my discomfort without acting on it, I became curious about why he said what he did. I saw how hurt he was. I heard his desire to be loved and accepted.

A “much bigger world” opened up to me. My judgment was the doorway to compassion.

“From now on I will tell you of new things,
of hidden things unknown to you.
they are created now, and not long ago;
you have not heard of them before today.
So you cannot say,
‘Yes, I knew of them.’”
–Isaiah 48:6,7

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Love Mischief for the World

Pema Chödrön is no stranger to failure. Her world fell apart when her second marriage ended. “It was the worst time of my life,” she wrote in fail fail again fail better, “and it resulted in a really good life that has a lot of happiness and well-being . . ..” Chödrön (born Deirdre Blomfield-Brown July 14, 1936) is an American Tibetan Buddhist nun. She has written several dozen books and is principal teacher at Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia, Canada.  Chödrön has many videos on Youtube. I  particularly like this one on Tonglen Prayer. As a Christian, I practice this prayer of compassion by breathing in the suffering of another into Christ in me and breathing out the peace of Christ for them.


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;
“Hearts Desire” by Ted Rheingold. Used with permission.
Pema Chödrön, fail fail again fail better, 25, 39, 45, 118, 119.
“Last Day” by Rachel Titiriga. Used with permission.
Photo of Pema Chödrön https://www.flickr.com/people/64954998@N00 [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D
© 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 compassion, Mindfulness, Mystical, Prayer, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Compassion Leads the Way

This is my last post about what happened on my 8-day silent retreat in July. If you haven’t read the previous ones, I encourage you to do that before you read today’s.

I stood with the Trinity looking down at the earth. We saw open country and villages, then into homes and hearts. We saw the joy, hope, suffering and despair each person carries.

“We need to be there with them,” God said. “It’s time.”

“I’m ready,” Jesus replied.

I heard the joy in his voice and saw relief on God’s face. But the Holy Spirit began to weep. She knew what would happen to Jesus.

“I’ll go with him,” I said.

From the annunciation of Jesus’ birth to his rising from death, my job on the Love Team was to stay with Jesus wherever he went.

I’ll never forget sitting beside him on the hillside as we shared a meal with five thousand new friends. “Isn’t this the best?” he said.

Before dawn the next day, we rushed down from the mountain where we’d gone to pray. Jesus saw the disciples in their boat, straining at the oars, exhausted and afraid. He wanted to go to them.

When our boat landed on the other side, we were hungry and tired and the locals took us in. We went to my friend’s house. While we ate dinner, she told Jesus about her life. Her story didn’t shock her anymore, but it shocked him. He’d be wiping his tears and she’d be saying, “It’s okay. I’m fine now.”

Everything Jesus did in life and in death was motivated by compassion. He’d look, see, feel and love.

When we were in a hurry to get to the disciples, I hesitated at the shore. I don’t have the divinity or the compassion Jesus does. If I was going to go with him, I would have to walk on water too. I would have to do the impossible.

But when I held Jesus’ hand, it didn’t seem impossible at all.

We just did it.

Impossible

God, I thought: this is too hard.
I throw myself at it.
I drag myself through it.
It is more than I can do.
It is hard; I doubt I have what it takes.

And then you said,
no, it is not hard. It is impossible.
You cannot do it.
You don’t have that power.

But I do, and I give it to you.
I breathe my power through you.
You need not “dig deep” to find it.
It’s right there, flowing through you.
It’s there when you don’t feel it.
It’s there when you feel you’re a failure.

As long as you think it’s hard,
it will be hard.
But when you realize it’s impossible
then you know it’s not yours to do, but mine.
Stop trying to do it. Let me do the hard work.
You just come along.

I am doing the hard thing in your life.
Stay with me while I do it,
because without you, even for me,
it’s impossible.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes

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Love Mischief for the World

I watched another movie this week in which “good” triumphed over “evil” by using violence. It saddened me to watch people being oppressed, beaten and abused. But I took no comfort in seeing the hero of the story kill their persecutor.

In Richard Rohr’s meditation on Tuesday, he quoted Walter Wink who said,

There are three general responses to evil: (1) passivity, (2) violent opposition, and (3) the third way of . . . nonviolence articulated by Jesus.  . . .

Jesus abhors both passivity and violence as responses to evil. His is a third alternative not even touched by these options. . . .

Jesus’ Third Way bears at its very heart the love of enemies. This is the hardest word to utter in a context of conflict because it can so easily be misunderstood as spinelessness. But it is precisely the message [Martin Luther King, Jr.] made central to his efforts in the polarized circumstances of the American South.

[Martin Luther King, Jr said,] “To our most bitter opponents we say: We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We shall meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will, and we shall continue to love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws, because noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. Throw us in jail, and we shall still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and we shall still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our communities at the midnight hour and beat us and leave us half-dead, and we shall still love you. But be ye assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. One day we shall win freedom, but not only for ourselves. We shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory.”

It isn’t hard to love our enemies; it’s impossible. But this is the love-mischief Jesus invites us to do 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:
Photo of a copy of Rublev’s Icon of the Holy Trinity by Fr James Bradley, Used with permission.
Bible stories are from John 6:1-24
Icon of Jesus walking on water by Ted. Used with permission.
“Impossible” by Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light. Used with permission.
“March for Our Lives” photo by Becker1999 (Paul and Cathy). used with permission
Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation for Aug 20, 2019. Martin Luther King, Jr., sermon delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama (Christmas, 1957), written in the Montgomery jail during the bus boycott. Reprinted in the A. J. Muste Essay Series, number 1 (A. J. Muste Memorial Institute, 339 Lafayette St., New York, NY 10012). Walter Wink, Jesus and Nonviolence: A Third Way (Augsburg Fortress: 2003), 12, 13-14, 58-59, 60-61.
Image of Martin Luther King, Jr by Dick DeMarsico, World Telegram staff photographer [Public domain].
© 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, Mystical, Praying with the Imagination, Reflections, Spiritual Direction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Invited to Love

This is the fourth post about what happened on my 8-day silent retreat in July. If you haven’t read the previous ones, I encourage you to do that before you read today’s.

I pray with Psalm 51 again, trying to hold the reality of my sin and its cost in one hand and God’s all-encompassing redemption in the other. Sometimes what comes out of sin and redemption is better than if sin hadn’t happened. Maya Angelou’s writings would never have impacted so many had she not been sinned against.

In my prayer, I talk with Jesus about this.

He doesn’t beat around the bush. “Sin harms others and yourself. It does a lot of damage,” he says. “Would you like to see what the world would look like if more people followed Love’s way?”

He shows me fields and rolling hills of lush green vegetation.

I don’t ask him to show me what the world looks like because of sin. I have a pretty clear picture of that. And yet, I know this is not how the story ends. Love overcomes evil.

In my imagination, Jesus and I visit Maya Angelou. In an interview, she once said, “There isn’t one day of my life that I haven’t thought about [being raped as a child]. Not one. I have had to use an incredible amount of energy to keep balance in my life. An incredible amount. If I hadn’t had to do that I could have written ten more books or five more films.”

“But look at the good that’s come out of what you endured,” I say to her now.

“Look, honey, if God is in the business of making us whole–and God is–doesn’t that tell you that being whole and undamaged by the sin of others is better?”

I hear her. Yet, I’m still not convinced that my sin is that bad.

Jesus, Maya and I go to see God.

God greets us warmly, wrapping his long Thomas Keating arms around me. He looks into my eyes. I see tears. Every day he, too, remembers what happened to Maya. “Yes. I redeem all,” God says, “But I would like to have to redeem less of it.”

There is no harshness in his voice. There is no getting out of this either. My past, my fears, my false self and inordinate desires have caused me to act in unloving ways. God never forgets the pain others carry because of it.

That pierces my heart. I long for the compassion God has.

Then God says, “Would you like to join us in loving the world?”

I can’t believe my ears, God knows how insensitive I can be and how much I resist change. God knows me, sees me as I am–the good, the bad, the ugly–and yet God invites me to join the LOVE team.

I feel the same joy and excitement I did the day, Jeff Imbach and Deb Arndt asked me if I’d consider co-facilitating Living from the Heart with them . . . and like I did when I was twenty-one years old and on a beach with Fred, and he told me I was the woman he’d been looking for his whole life. I was thrilled to be on those LOVE teams. Here was another invitation.

Just as I am, I get to go with God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Jeff, Deb, Fred and others and love the world.

What a grace to receive!

You lead me in the path of goodness
to follow love’s way.
–Psalm 23:3
Nan C. Merrill, Psalms for Praying; An invitation to Wholeness

∗ ∗ ∗

Love Mischief for the World

Wanda Mulholland, former Coordinator of the Society to End Homelessness and the Task Force on Homelessness in Burnaby, was awarded the 2019 George Doering Service Award from the governments of BC and Canada to recognize all her work on behalf of people who experience homelessness in Burnaby. In her acceptance speech, she said, “I am deeply honoured to receive an award remembering the legacy of George Doering, a man who worked tirelessly to help others and to actively support causes that he believed in. . . . Over 50 people who were homeless in Burnaby have died since 2006 because of the long term impact of poverty and homelessness. To these people, I am deeply sorry that we failed to provide you with housing and services which you absolutely deserved. I am very grateful that things are changing for the better in Burnaby.” —End Homelessness

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:
Landscape image from Pxhere. Creative Commons.
“Passion” from Pixabay, Creative Commons
© 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 False Self, Ignatian Spirituality, Praying with the Imagination, Reflections, Spiritual Direction, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Love Is Our Birthright

This is the third post about what happened on my 8-day silent retreat in July. If you haven’t read the previous posts. I encourage you to do that before you read today’s.

Erik suggested that I pray with Psalm 51. Since we both care deeply about what happened to the First Peoples after the settlers came to Canada, he encouraged me to allow that sin to enter into my prayers.

I opened Nan Merrill’s Psalms for Praying, and this portion of Psalm 51 spoke to me.

Have mercy on me, O Gracious One,
according to your steadfast love;
According to your abundant kindness
forgive me where my thoughts and deeds have hurt others. . .
Teach me, that I may know my weaknesses,
the shortcomings that bind me,
the unloving ways that separate me,
that keep me from recognizing your Life in me
For I keep company with fear,
and dwell in the house of ignorance.
Yet, I was brought forth in love
and love is my birthright.

There it was in black and white. My unloving ways–born of weakness and ignorance–separate me and hurt others.

I have hurt others. I breathed deeply, feeling the sadness in my heart, my throat and down my arms.

But the sadness did not overwhelm me. Grace was there too. These words were also true: I was brought forth in love and love is my birthright.

Jesus said, “Let’s go for a walk.”

We went with God and the Holy Spirit back in time and into a residential school. We saw children muzzled, scrubbed clean of their identity, robbed of their humanity. We wept from a bottomless well of grief.

“The government, the church, the average person–they all dwelt in a house of ignorance,” I said to Jesus. “I never want to be that blind.”

Then I saw that I was.

I too followed the church’s ways and trusted my elders. I even thought I was being compassionate.

Years ago, when my lesbian coworker and my gay youth group member asked me if it was okay to be gay, I told them what the Bible said. I didn’t realize then that I was muzzling, scrubbing, robbing them of life, separating them from Love.

That was a long time ago. I see things differently now. Yet, more recently, I ‘ve judged people as “less than” and justified myself when others did the same.

The Trinity encircled me and held me tenderly.

We are all brought forth in love and love is our birthright.

Forgive all that binds me in fear,
that I might radiate love.
–Psalm 51:7

∗ ∗ ∗

Love Mischief for the World

On August 4, I attended my first Pride Parade. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family were in the parade. Organizations, businesses, government departments, support services and schools demonstrated their support. I particularly liked the signs that said, “Closets are for clothes; schools are for everyone.” The ones that said, “I love my gay son” and “I love all my children” brought tears to my eyes. For three hours my friend and I watched and hoped and finally, near the end, came a supportive voice from the Christian community. Parishioners from Christ Church Cathedral paraded with pride.

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:
Psalm 51:10 image from New Life Church Collingwood. Used with permission.
Psalm 51:1-5, 7 from Nan Merrill’s Psalms for Praying; An Invitation to Wholeness.
Image of two hands from PxHere. Creative Commons.
Pride Parade photo by Ruth Zacharias. 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 community, Ignatian Spirituality, Poverty of Spirit, Praying with the Imagination, Reflections, Spiritual Direction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Best Day Ever

This is the second post about what happened on my 8-day silent retreat in July. If you haven’t read last week’s post, I encourage you to do that before you read today’s.

“I’d like you to pray the third exercise in ‘Week One’ of the Spiritual Exercises,” Erik said. “This is the one where you have conversations with Mary, Jesus and God about the sin that has hurt others and creation. God knows we’re not wholly responsible for our actions. Culture, upbringing and unkind things that were done to us impact our choices.”

“Yet we don’t want to brush off what we’ve done,” I said. “We need to feel compassion for those we’ve hurt and make amends. So I need to meet God somewhere in between those two places.”

“Yes,” Erik said. “That uncomfortable sweet spot in between. We want to be aware of what we’ve done but not weighed down by guilt. In that place, ask for the grace of confusion–the bewilderment that God does not condemn or reject us but loves us all the more.”

With a clearer understanding of what to do, I met up with Mary in my prayer. What mother could I imagine playing this role? I settled on Maya Angelou. I loved being in her presence and savoured the way she looked at me. She made it easy for me to be honest. I talked with her about my wasted opportunities to love specific people. She knew who I was talking about and smiled when I mentioned their names. They are dear to her heart.

“I tend to do what feels good in the moment and that takes priority,” I said.

“Yes,” she said shaking her head, “and that contributes to their low self-esteem. But I hear you. It’s hard to push against the ‘NO’ inside. Maybe you’re tired and need more rest.”

We talked about it with Jesus. I have always pictured him the way I first saw him in a painting in the basement of the church where I grew up–you know, light brown long hair, beard, a gentle face and a white robe with a blue sash. That’s how I saw him now.

He didn’t dismiss the severity of my problem either. “You can’t do it,” he said plainly. “Let’s go see my Father.”

I imagined God as Father Thoma Keating. His arms opened wide to greet us. “Welcome, my daughters! Welcome, my son!”

We sat down and had tea. “Yes, this is very serious. You know that yourself, Esther. Think of how many times family, friends, teachers and church members missed opportunities to love you when you were growing up and how that affected you. It made you seek love elsewhere.”

Then he stood up and said, “So I’m going to DO SOMETHING about that. Mary, Jesus, let’s take the opportunity we have right now to love Esther.”

They pulled out copies of my book and got me to read their favourite stories. They told me the parts that made them laugh and cry. They remembered each event that happened and told me what it was like for them to be there.

Then we played Scrabble. Jesus played a word that opened up the board. Mary made words like “peace” and “joy” regardless of the double or triple letter squares. God set me up so I could get the triple word scores. Then I told them to knock it off, and we played for real. Mary won. She has an incredible vocabulary.

We rode bikes and went to the beach. We sat by the ocean and watched the sun change out of its clothes and dip into the sea.

It was the best day ever.

Out of Christ’s fullness,
we have all received grace in place of grace already given.
–John 1:16 (NIV)

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

This is the love-mischief I’ve been up to lately. Four years ago, SoulStream used the poem “Seed Cracked Open” by Hafiz and the painting “Night Prayer” by Michael Cook at a Partner Gathering. I fell in love with both and was over the moon when Daniel Ladinsky, who translated the Hafiz poem, and Michael Cook gave me permission to use their art for my book. And they wrote something for the back cover! Today I ordered my draft copy. The book contains my blog posts from 2013-14 (freshly edited) and five prayer retreat outlines. All going well, Seed Cracked Open will be available on Amazon in September, and I will have copies to sell a few weeks after that.

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

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

Credits and References:
“Cold” (Lima, Peru) by Luis Alveart. Used with permission.
Sunset in Capetown by Phumzile Phala Creative Commons
© 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, Ignatian Spirituality, Prayer, Reflections, Seed Cracked Open, Spiritual Direction, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment