It Isn’t That Easy

It isn’t that easy.

Jesus asks, “Are you coming?” I say, “Yes.” And then what?

I’m not instantly empowered like a superhero released from the kryptonite of salt and sugar, egoic desires, or negative thoughts. Taking Jesus’ hand won’t prevent me from sinking into self-criticism, making mistakes or experiencing fear or depression. He isn’t asking me to walk on the sea of my suffering unaffected by it.

Yet when I hear Jesus’ invitation to go with him, I do hear a we’re-going-to-do-this-thing grit. It isn’t a brute force I’m given that makes transformation possible. It’s courage to continue the journey of deepening awareness, grieving losses, receiving compassion, letting go, and not deserting myself when I can’t let go.

And that even sounds easier than it is. Deepening awareness involves recognizing how my patterns of behaviour affect others. This can evoke feelings of sadness, disappointment, regret and shame, recriminating thoughts, and fear of judgment and rejection. Grieving our losses isn’t a walk in the park either. Receiving compassion is hard when everything in me wants to stay behind a self-protective shield. And if I hear that Let It Go song one more time, I’m going to scream. 

“It isn’t simple. It isn’t easy,” I tell Jesus.

“It isn’t,” he replies softly.

Once again, he offers me his hand, and we take a step toward my suffering: my disappointment over a pattern of behaviour that hurt someone.

Instead of pushing my uncomfortable feelings away, I feel the cold waters of sadness rise over my ankles, my thighs, my chest. Waves of regret, insecurity and inadequacy peak and fall. But as Isaiah promised, I’m not swept away. I feel buoyed up. I’m able to hear from God and from another that I’m forgiven. That empowers me to forgive myself. 

I notice something else buoying me up. As I ruminate over what happened, I make a discovery that’s liberating.

I know that we’re all human and that on some level we all struggle with feeling inadequate. But I realize now, I didn’t really believe it.

Some people seem so together. They look together. They say the things I wished I’d thought of. They are wise, kind and loving. So I assumed they don’t struggle the way I do, that they can handle anything, that they’ve arrived. 

But they haven’t. My confirmation bias simply set aside moments I’ve witnessed and times they’ve told me about when that they feel as insecure as I do.

A friend said recently, “I can look like I have it all together when I don’t, and it doesn’t do me any favours.”

So here’s my take away. Nobody walks on water.

When Jesus says, “Are you coming?” he isn’t inviting me to put on my superhuman cape and be what I’m not. Yet, he’s determined to take me somewhere and do something miraculous with who I am.

When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
–Isaiah 43:2 (NIV)

Questions for your Lenten journey?

    • What do you hear when Jesus says, “Are you coming?”
    • Where do you think you’re headed?
    • What goes on for you when you consider allowing your feelings to be acknowledged and felt? 
    • Have you ever been swept away by them? Is something in you afraid of being swept away again? What’s it like to name that and receive Jesus’ compassion for you in that place.
Credits and References:
Superhero invasion by kath.Used with permission.
Father Damian by just.Luc. Used with permission
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2022.
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 2013-2022.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in compassion, Lent, Prayer, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Are You Coming?

I loved the look of satisfaction on Jesus’ face. We just fed five thousand men, plus women and children, with one boy’s lunch of bread and fish.

The scene continued to unfold in my imagination as I prayed with this gospel story while on retreat three years ago. I watched Jesus send the disciples off across the sea and then ascend the mountain to pray. He didn’t go far before he stopped and looked back at me. “Are you coming?”

“Oh yes!” I said and caught up to him.

Further up the mountain, we knelt and prayed. I heard his prayers. He heard mine. God listened intently, and the Holy Spirit enfolded us with love.

I didn’t want the moment to end. So I was a little annoyed when Jesus opened his eyes and gazed over his left shoulder to the Sea of Galilee.

Then I saw what he saw. A wind had come up and his friends were straining at the oars. They were exhausted and afraid.

In an instant, Jesus was up on his feet and booking it down the mountain. I could hardly keep up. We were running so fast and the mountain was so steep, I thought I might tumble ass over tea kettle.

When we got to the lake, Jesus didn’t hesitate. He sprinted across the water like a scene from The Shack. 

Then he stopped, turned around, and saw me stranded on the shore.

I will never forget that moment. He looked me in the eyes and once again asked, “Are you coming?”

That story lingers with me now as I find myself again standing on the shore of “I can’t.” 

I think of what I can’t do and list the many failures that prove that I’m right. I can’t stop overeating. I can’t be still. I can’t stop judging. I can’t stop worrying, obsessing, analyzing, fixing, and catastrophizing.

I can’t, Jesus. I can’t walk on water. I don’t want to fail again.

But Jesus doesn’t share my limiting beliefs and is unafraid of failure. He knows all about confirmation bias and is undeterred by my arguments.

He holds out his hand and says, “Are you coming?”

If you fight for your limitations, you get to keep them …
I promise you. You lift your head up, take a breath.
There’s a lot of great possibilities out there.
― Billy McMahon (played by Vince Vaughn) The Internship

Questions for your Lenten journey:

When we say something repeatedly to ourselves we come to believe it’s a fact. We know it’s true with the same conviction that we know we can’t walk on water. We even back up those beliefs with personal experiences that prove we’re right. We are often unaware of our confirmation bias which is “the tendency to look for information that supports, rather than rejects, one’s preconceptions, typically by interpreting evidence to confirm existing beliefs while rejecting or ignoring any conflicting data” (American Psychological Association).

    • As you listen to your thoughts today, what judgments about yourself do you hear?

    • What would it be like to imagine that these may not be true?

    • In 1 Corinthians 10:5, Paul says, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” What if we captured the thoughts we have about ourselves and shared them with Jesus?

    • We all have unchangeable limitations and accepting them helps us let go of old dreams and find new ones. Other limitations are ones we’ve unconsciously put on ourselves. As you talk with Jesus about your limitations, what encouragement do you receive? What new freedom is coming into view?

Credits and References:
Painting of Jesus walking on water by Daniel of Uranc 1433 CCO Public Domain.
Image of beach from pxhere. CCO Public Domain.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2022.
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 2013-2022.  http://www.estherhizsa.com.
Posted in compassion, Ignatian Spirituality, Lent, Mindfulness, Mystical, Overeating, Prayer, Praying with the Imagination, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

I Am Fed

For me, church is often one long exercise of trying to stay present. Multiple times, my mind drifts off like a balloon rising far above the hymns, prayers, and readings. I find it again caught in a zephyr of thoughts that seemed unimportant an hour ago. 

I pull the string down and coil it around my fingers. I hold my bouncing mind securely and open myself to receive an insight or image that might feed the hunger within. 

The sermon is a little easier. Today, Claude, our student priest, reminds us of Jesus’ words, “Blessed are the poor.” The poor, I hear Claude say, are those who need to rely on God–for everything. 

While I clean up the kitchen after supper, I listen to an On Being podcast. Sharon Salzberg tells Krista Tippet that her spiritual journey began when she heard, “There’s suffering in life. It’s not just you. You don’t have to feel aberrant and alone and weird. It’s a part of life, and you belong.” 

“It’s one of life’s big mysteries to me,” Salzberg says, “that we don’t talk to each other about the most common things, like the fact that we wake up in the morning feeling confused and scared and full of self-doubt. The miracle is, when someone finally names it, that’s so liberating.”

In the night, I wake for the third time and try to get back to sleep, I become aware of the jumble of disconcerting thoughts in my head. I feel confused, scared and full of self-doubt. I see how these feelings pull me up and out into a zephyr of catastrophizing. Then I hear Sharon’s compassionate voice. Of course you have these thoughts. We all do.

I hear Claude. We are all poor and need God for everything. 

With each breath, I reel myself back.

I need you, I inhale

I’m here, God exhales in me.

The next morning, I go to worship again. This time, it’s morning prayers on Zoom with my SoulStream community. In it, there’s a poem by Mary Oliver. In the poem, is an image illustrating what I just experienced.

This morning the redbirds’ eggs
have hatched and already the chicks
are chirping for food. They don’t
know where it’s coming from, they
just keep shouting, “More! More!”

Something in me is like a newly hatched bird, vulnerable and needy. Something in me fears if I don’t get what I need, I will die. So I open my grotesquely large mouth and cry, “More! More!”

Of course, you do, God says, sounding a lot like Sharon Salzberg. And God comes like a mother bird. She feeds this blessed, beloved part of me with words instead of worms that she’s picked up from the mouths of others.

I am fed.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is newly_hatched_barn_swallow_hirundo_rustica_littlest_nestling_begging_baby_birds_nests_gaping.jpgThen he looked up at his disciples and said:
“Blessed are you who are poor,

for yours is the kingdom of God.”
–Luke 6:20 (NRSV)

Reflection questions for your Lenten journey

      • How do you feel when you see and hear that needy part of yourself?
      • Imagine God coming close with compassion, understanding and acceptance. Linger there and notice what you sense in your body. What thoughts or feelings arise?
      • Take another moment to reflect: How has God come and fed you in the last 24 hours? What thoughts and feelings arise as you consider the “worms” God brought? 
      • Share your feelings honestly with God.
Credits and References:
Photo of mural of little girl and balloon from Pixabay. Creative commons.
Excerpt from “This Morning” by Mary Oliver (1935-2019) in Felicity.
Newly hatched Barn Swallow, (Hirundo rustica), youngest nestling begging by Kati Fleming, CC via Wikimedia Commons

© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2022.
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 2013-2022.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in compassion, Poetry, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

It’s Your Turn

For the past few months, I’ve been revising blog posts for my third book. I’ve hunkered down to do the grunt work of publishing: formatting, footnoting, acquiring permission from a photographer and poets, and designing the cover. I used to dream of being on Oprah’s reading list, selling millions of copies of my books, and letting others do this tedious work. Alas, I remain an everyday pilgrim.

As I returned to the posts from 2015-16 contained in this book, I heard how often I was dogged by self-criticism and fear of rejection. Recently, friends who read my blog told me that I’ve changed. I’m much kinder to myself now. This caused some unease as I got reacquainted with the person that I was back then. I winced at how often she felt the weight of her faults, mistakes, and sin. Yet in every post, I read how she was tenderly invited back into the heart of the Beloved. I believe it was God meeting me in my shame that has enabled me now to live less disabled by it. I can join God in finding the part of me that feels disconnected and bring her back into wholeness. So I hold that old me with a deep gratitude and am pleased to honour her.

Here’s what I wrote for the back cover.

Are you hounded by self-criticism? Ever feel like you don’t measure up, don’t belong, or don’t like how you look? Do you wonder if you’re enough or do enough? You are not alone.

 In the Heart of the Beloved is full of “me, too” stories. Once again Esther, the Everyday Pilgrim, bravely opens to her fears, dreams, and insecurities and finds herself in the heart of the Beloved. As we follow her there, we, too, open to God restoring our souls, walking with us through dark valleys, and returning us home to dwell in God’s love forever.

In the Heart of the Beloved is getting closer to being released. But one thing is missing.

Below is a draft of the book’s cover. I fell in love with Sylvia Sassen’s photograph of this vibrant pink tulip some time ago and was delighted when she gave me permission to use it for my blog and book. See that space in the middle of the back cover? Often it’s reserved for famous people to say something positive about the author’s writing. But it seems appropriate to me that a book by an everyday pilgrim should be endorsed by other everyday pilgrims–aka you.

Would you consider sending me a sentence about how my writing has impacted you? I would like to print it on the back or inside the book.

Please send your words to me at aneverydaypilgrim@gmail.com or include them in the comment section below. I look forward to reading what you have to say.

Surely goodness and mercy will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the heart of the Beloved forever.
Amen.

—Psalm 23:6  translated by Nan C. Merrill
Psalms for Praying: An Invitation to Wholeness

∗ ∗ ∗

Love Mischief for the World

I am grateful for the love mischief of photographer Sylvia Sassen and poet Nan Merrill (1931-2010). “I truly believe we stand on the brink of either a great darkness beyond imagining or, if humanity can awaken to our environmental, societal, institutional challenges, we can create a global garden where lasting peace, true justice, integrity, cooperation, freedom, and respect for all peoples and all of creation will reign,” Merrill said in 2002. “I believe that as individuals offer their ‘grain of sand’ gifts, a tide of growing goodwill and service will wash over the earth—a groundswell of renewed life for everyone. A naive dream, some may say, yet dreams come to fruition one step at a time. This is what motivates me to offer my life toward that dream; this is why I shall continue to write, honouring my gift as an offering as my heart dictates.”

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:
“Drops” by Sylvia Sassen. Used with permission.
Images of In the Heart of the Beloved book cover by Esther Hizsa. used with permission.
Posted in In the Heart of the Beloved, Reflections, Stories, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Five Hundred

five hundred posts
over almost nine years

one hundred and three months of
listening and feeling 
naming and holding
what I experience on my pilgrimage of life

weekly episodes of reality TV
honouring what is and what isn’t
sharing our common humanity
and the love mischief of God

five hundred posts and I’m not there yet
five hundred more and I still won’t be 
this is not a blog for those who just want to get “there”
it’s a blog for those who want to arrive
here

and be welcomed 
home

thanks for journeying with me

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
–Psalm 84:5 (NIV)

∗ ∗ ∗

Love Mischief for the World

Did blogs exist back in 2004 when this picture was taken in Banff National Park? Cirque Peak was quite a hike. Fred was recovering from years of kidney dialysis post-transplant. I was grateful to be able to do the hike even if we did have to stop often and rest. I was grateful for my husband, my companion who would eventually become my weekly proofreader. The first gift he ever gave me was a pack of bubble gum which we couldn’t get in Bella Bella where we met and a copy of The Writer’s Market. Our forty-three years of love mischief with God has included many adventures including this one. I’m not so fond of bubble gum anymore. But I sure am fond of him. Thanks, Fred.

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:
Image of fireworks by Max Pixel. Creative Commons.
Photo of Gracie and me on the Lion’s Gate Bridge taken by a kind cyclist from Coquitlam, August 2021.
“Strolling with My Honey Up Cirque Peak, Banff National Park” by Fred Hizsa, August 2004. Used with permission.
Posted in Poetry, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Holding My Tender Heart


I’ve been afraid of rejection
my whole life.

Then I got rejected
twice
in one day.

My head told me
not to take it personally.
It doesn’t reflect badly
on them or me.
It’s for the best.

I continued on,
but when I looked back
my heart hadn’t moved.
She was still sitting at the corner
with a shocked look on her face,
feeling ashamed,
doubting her goodness.

“Oh, tender heart.”
I knelt down to wipe a tear from her cheek,
“I know,
I know this is hard.”

She’d wrapped her arms tightly
around her knees
as if she could protect herself
from what had already happened.

“I thought I belonged everywhere,”
she said. “That’s what you said God said.
But I don’t.
I don’t belong
there.”

“No. Not there.
They don’t want you there.
It’s true,” I said to my heart.

I stroked her back
and tucked her stray hair behind her ear.
“But you belong here,” I said.
“You belong to me.”

I picked her up and carried her
with shame, doubt and disappointment
tightly clutched in her hand.

Then, in the rocking rhythm of my body,
after a while
I felt her
soften
and heard her
sigh
as the hurt
slipped
from her tiny
fingers.


God tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart.

–Isaiah 40:11

∗ ∗ ∗

Love Mischief for the World

Coincidence? A friend sent me the Centre for Action and Contemplation‘s statement of belonging and anouther friend read it out at a meeting that same week. What would it be like for our communities of faith to be brave enough to create a litany of belonging, speak it out, and live by it? We are as beautifully diverse as these wild flowers. We all long to know that, in our differences, we are loved and accepted. That knowing needs to come from within ourselves, where we are one with God. We’re constantly on shaky ground if we rely on others for a sense of belonging. That said, how good it is when what we hear from God inside is echoed outside. May we be good echoers of God.

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:
Painting by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (November 30, 1825 – August 19, 1905) photo by Thomas Hawke.
Used with permission.
Moonbeams by Jessie Wilcox Smith (September 6, 1863 – May 3, 1935)
“Wild Flower Garden III” by Lex McKee. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2022.
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 2013-2022.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
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My Wild and Precious Life

Greg McKeown’s book Essentialism gave me the courage to schedule more time for writing. My third book won’t get published if I keep trying to fit it in around everything else.

“Everything else” includes my non-negotiables–spending time with family and friends, meditating and getting outside, preparing food and tidying up, reading, listening to podcasts and relaxing. It includes life-giving work–offering spiritual direction, preparing and co-facilitating contemplative experiences, and volunteer activities. It also includes meetings, sending and responding to emails and deciding moment by moment what I will say yes to and what I will say no to. 

“Only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter,” writes McKeown.  As much as I want to believe I can fit it all in,  I can’t. Something loses out. Most often it’s my writing.

Two conflicting beliefs arose as I began making writing a priority: the belief that we all have a unique gift to offer the world and the belief that every moment is sacred–whether we are washing the dishes or creating a masterpiece. These represent two different postures: focused, forward movement and receptive rest.

Finding our purpose and living it out led Jesus to leave his quiet life as a carpenter and become an itinerant teacher, healer and Saviour. Sue Monk Kidd, in The Book of Longings invites us to live out of  “our largeness.”  Poet Mary Oliver asks, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Marie Forleo, author of Everything is Figureoutable says, “There has never been and never will be another you. You have a purpose–a very special gift that only you can bring to the world.”

I believe this is true, and it’s also true that our purpose isn’t our identity. I need to know who I am when I’m not writing. That’s the gift of the present moment. Each moment we can come home to ourselves, to who we are, an identity that is not achieved or dependent on what we do. Writing is a way I live out my purpose not who I am. I am a cherished child of God, loved and lovable, whole and complete, whether I write or whether I don’t..

However, if every moment is holy, and I am not what I do, I can easily assume that what I choose to do doesn’t matter. But it does. My discernment experience told me that while God is in everything and every moment, there are still choices to be made in how I spend that moment. 

It’s easy to see we need to make healthy, kind, and loving choices. But there are a lot of things we can do that are healthy, loving and kind, and we can’t do them all. In my recent discernment, God invited me to choose what is most aligned with who I am and what makes me most alive right now–even though it meant not going to Bible study, even though it meant disappointing others. Instead of going to Bible study, I’m offering a short series of weekly gatherings for my church on Zoom to reflect on four podcasts about compassion. 

As I open to the tension between these two postures of focused movement and receptive rest, I can appreciate both as necessary. I feel joy when I’m doing what I love and peace when I don’t have to do anything at all but breathe in the wonder of the moment. 

Joy is peace dancing. Peace is joy at rest.
― Frederick Brotherton Meyer

∗ ∗ ∗

Love Mischief for the World

“Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done. It doesn’t mean just doing less for the sake of less either. It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.”–Greg McKeownEssentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.

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:
“Walking in leaves” photo from Pixabay in Creative Commons.
“‘Just right!’ she sighed.” by Steve Corey. Used with permission.
Posted in Mindfulness, Reflections, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Taking Time to Discern

I heard it again as I signed onto Zoom. A heaviness in my chest said, I don’t want to do this.

The leader of the Bible study greeted me as names appeared in squares, then faces. I felt a deep affection bubble up for each one there. That’s why you’re here, I reminded myself.

Yet, as time went on, I noticed my disinterest in the reading, how often I looked at the clock, and how relieved I felt when we finished.

Last week, in preparation for our annual Vestry meeting, our priest sent out a reflective guide* to help parishioners discern whether to continue on in their various commitments.

I considered the questions prayerfully and thought about the Bible study. I remembered feeling this way a year ago. I thought about why I felt I needed to be there and what it would be like to trust God to meet that need. As I sat with the thought of leaving the group, I felt sad. I would miss my weekly connection with people who’d adopted me when Fred and I first came to this church seven years ago. 

A few days later, I told our priest I was thinking of leaving the Bible study. 

“Sounds like it isn’t working for you anymore,” she said.

While I was writing this post, I looked back to what I wrote when I was in this place a year ago. I’d wondered what it would be like to keep going to the group and allow my unsettled feelings to be there. I assumed that if I were less afraid of those feelings, I’d be freed to stay and enjoy the group. Now a year later, I am less afraid of those feelings, and I am free to go.

During my check-in at Bible study the next week, I told the group what I’d discerned.

They were sad and told me they’d miss me too, but no one tried to talk me out of it. They respected my decision. 

I’m so grateful for the clear, persistent voice in me that knew I was not where I needed to be. I really wanted Bible study to work for me, and I kept hoping I would change to make that happen. Instead, God was inviting me to accept my limitations as a gift that frees me go where I can thrive.

Essentialism: only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all,
to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution
towards the things that really matter.
― Greg McKeown, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

I was saddened to hear that “Thich Nhat Hanh, the revered Zen Buddhist monk who helped spread the practice of mindfulness in the West and socially engaged Buddhism in the East, has died. He was 95″ (ABC News). I have prayed many times with this guided meditation above. Thich Nhat Hanh once said, “Your body is your first home. Breathing in, I arrive in my body. Breathing out, I am home.” This has encouraged me as I learn to live mindfully. You may enjoy these quotes and this interview with Oprah.

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

*A Short Guide for Discerning Volunteer Roles

Discerning is a word we use to suggest a more thoughtful and reflective process of making a decision. When we discern we make more room for the Holy Spirit to weigh in.

Give yourself some time and space– at least 10 or 15 minutes–when you can be reflective without too many distractions.

Some questions you might ask yourself about whether to continue in a ministry or regular activity:

  • As you look back over your year in this role what was life-giving? What did you enjoy? What did you find challenging?
  • Step into the belief that God cares very much for you and for your world and is actively working in this regard. Step into the belief that we are invited to serve from a place of freedom and not obligation. Imagine yourself with the choice of continuing for another year in one hand and not continuing in the other. Both are equally good choices. Let any judgments, “shoulds” or fear of guilt fall away. What feelings arise? Does one hand feel heavier than the other?
  • Imagine Jesus standing before you smiling lovingly at you and looking at one hand and then the other and then back to you. He asks you, “What would you like to do?”
  • Choose one option as if you’ve made the decision. For the next day or two walk around with your choice. Do you feel more or less peace? What thoughts add to your peace or diminish it? Do fears arise? Perhaps you’d like to share those fears with Jesus or talk it over with a spiritual director, mentor or friend.

Credits and References:
“Which Way to Artlegarth?” by Mike Beales. Used with permission.
“Hearts Desire” by Ted Rheingold. Used with permission.
Short Guide to Discerning Volunteer Roles by Esther Hizsa.
Posted in Mindfulness, Prayer, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Journey of an Everyday Pilgrim

As I was preparing last week’s post, I felt nervous. I loved the concept of becoming more aware of God’s felt presence in my body, but I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to maintain the practice. What if this becomes just another New Year’s resolution that I’ve forgotten about but you, my reader, haven’t? I’d feel accountable to keep it up. I don’t want to be driven by a fear of looking bad or letting you down. A part of me wished I’d written about something else, but there wasn’t anything else I wanted to write about.

Friday morning, I packed my laptop and the clothes and food I’d need for a three-day retreat on Bowen Island. I kissed Fred goodbye and headed to the Skytrain. A few hours later, I was drinking coffee and looking out the window at ocean, trees and the Vancouver shoreline. 

In the quiet, the discomfort about my blog post returned. As I read it over, I was aware once again of how “out there” my post might be to some readers. Was I inferring something from The Cloud of Unknowing that wasn’t there? Would the author agree that God is in our bodies? 

And then there it was at the end of the quote: “…God, whose being fills and transcends the entire creation.”

There it was: the belief that God fills everything God creates including you and me. 

As I revised my post, I felt like God was right beside me, and smiling and saying, “I wouldn’t leave you alone to pitch a big idea like this by yourself.” 

When the post was published, I felt less afraid I’d written something I’d later regret. But what if I did? Would that be so bad for you to see me change my mind or fail to follow through on my intentions? Would it be so bad for you to see that I’m human?

I’ve been writing weekly blog posts for eight and a half years. My vision is clear: to write honestly and vulnerably about what I’m experiencing right now in my life with God. In a way, it’s a weekly Examen. What was a consolation or a desolation? Where did I find God? Where do I need to return to and meet God there? What do I notice coming back to my mind and heart?

Sometimes a story or poem flows out easily. Other times, I struggle to articulate what’s newly forming. Then there are times that I know what I need to write, but it might not put me or someone else in a good light. Somehow, as I open to God and what I’m noticing, the words I come. I’m accepted and embraced in that moment and the next. This is the journey of the everyday pilgrim. 

God gives only the present, moment by moment.
–The Cloud of Unknowing

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Love Mischief for the World

Many people find it difficult to practice the daily Examen regularly. We can get discouraged when we look back, and life provides proof that we didn’t measure up or we failed again. The Examen isn’t meant to guilt or shame us into changing our behaviour. Instead, Ignatius wanted us to receive God’s love in all of life–in what went well and what didn’t. He wanted us to experience God with us–savouring joyful moments with us and offering us compassion when life was hard. I like to pray the Examen with Fr. James Martin, SJ. You can find his guided meditations on SpotifyApple, or wherever you listen to podcasts. 

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

Credits and References:
Camino de Santiago” by Marcin Bajer (featured/banner image). Used with permission. 
Both quotes from The Cloud of Unknowing edited by William Johnston,1973, p.50.
Photos in blog post of the North Shore mountains from the causeway near Snug Cove, Bowen Island and a trail on Bowen by Esther Hizsa. Used with permission.
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Being Restored by Grace

I enjoyed a nice break over Christmas and New Year’s. When a heavy snowfall slowed the world down even more, I noticed what it feels like in my body to relax, knowing nothing urgent needs my attention. Now that I’ve resumed my work, I can recall that felt experience of spaciousness when I’m tempted to rush or feel the impulse to schedule one more thing into my day.

What I experienced deepened my understanding of this quote from The Cloud of Unknowing written by an unknown author in the fourteenth century.

If you were now restored by grace to the integrity man possessed before sin, you would be complete master of these impulses. None would ever go astray, but would fly to the one sole good, the goal of all desire, God himself… It is God , and he alone, who can fully satisfy the hunger and longing of our spirit which, transformed by his redeeming grace, is enabled to embrace him by love… Truly this is the unending miracle of love: that one loving person, through his love, can embrace God, whose being fills and transcends the entire creation. 

Here’s what I heard this time.

The “integrity [wholeness or completeness] man possessed before sin” is not just a time long ago that I can never return to. It’s here and now in the core of my being, that place of unity with God untouched by trauma. When I return there in meditation, I live more fully out of that place throughout the day. I’m more able to be “the master of my impulses.” I find more freedom to choose what’s loving and life-giving for me and for the world.

When I first read about the unending miracle of love and imagined myself embracing God, I was moved to tears and still am. That’s what drew me to centering prayer which is what The Cloud of Unknowing is all about. In the meantime, I’ve also been learning how important it is to be present in my body. But when I tried to incorporate more body awareness into my meditation practice, it felt mechanical, like I was leaving God out of my prayer.

But now it’s all coming together. As I pay attention to my breath and sink into my body, I sink down into that place “before sin” in the core of my being. That place of union with God is not abstractly out there somewhere. It’s in my body. My body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. I can visualize and feel the sensation of myself flowing down into and occupying my toes, feet, legs, belly and on up to the top of my head. Feeling myself there, God, “whose being fills and transcends the entire creation,”including my body, is in my embrace, and I am in God’s. 

God’s embodied presence is where I’m invited to return to throughout my day. When I realize I’m somewhere else, I can pause and sink down into the felt reality that God is in me and I am in God. My mind gets there instantly. My heart and body take a little longer to arrive. But once there, grace restores me to the integrity or truth of my wholeness. Reconnected to My True Self, I’m not so easily led astray by impulses or fear.

That’s the theory, anyway, and what I’m testing out these days. To that end, I’m being faithful to a daily practice of meditation and yoga and have set an intention to observe what’s going on inside me during the day.

So far, I’ve noticed more peace and calm. I’ve also noticed worry and reactivity. I noticed the impulses that arise. Sometimes, I paused and returned to my body. Other times, I impulsively reacted and said or did things I regretted. That was disappointing.

But I realized I could pause there too and remember that I’m human. I offered myself compassion and forgiveness. Messing up reminds me that I’m being restored to live more out of my True Self, not out of a perfect self. That non-existent “perfect self” is who I think I need to be to be loved or feel good about myself. My True Self knows I’m loved just the way I am.

So I offer myself patience. Restoration is a process, a life-long journey with an opportunity to arrive in each moment.

I will be with you, day after day, to the end of the age.
–Matthew 28:20 (Voice)

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Love Mischief for the World

“If you or someone you know is in need of fresh produce, dairy, and more, we invite you to visit our Community Fridge! We have a fridge and pantry in our Community Room that is stocked daily with fresh foods that are available for free access. Come by to pick up some food or for a chat and some coffee! This is a welcoming space for all,” says Cariboo Road Christian Fellowship in Burnaby. What a gift! They are located at 7200 Cariboo Road, Burnaby. Hours of Operation: Tuesdays 12-4pm, Thursdays 4-8pm and Sundays 7-9pm Recommended Bus Routes: 101 Bus from Lougheed Station or 22nd Street Station (get off at 7200 Cariboo Rd).

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:
“Falling Snow” by Dawn Perry. Used with permission.
The Cloud of Unknowing edited by William Johnston,1973, p.50.
“Black-Capped Chickadee” by Ron Bulovs. Used with permission.
Photo of poster from Cariboo Road Christian Fellowship by Gloarina Di Giovann,. Used with permission.

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