Hosanna!

How do we respond to such an exquisite display of love?

Jesus, seated on a donkey, resolutely rides into Jerusalem knowing he will die there. Both he and the saint who is showing him the way are holding a scroll. The word written by the prophet is coming to pass as the Word-Become-Flesh writes history.

Behind Jesus, the disciples follow in a huddle, solemn determination on their faces except for the one in front–John perhaps–whose face is filled with compassion.

The curious religious leaders and people of Jerusalem crowd the gate. One with  a closed fist looks away, another open-handed welcomes, a third protectively clutches her robe. And the ancient looking children in the foreground! Three are spreading their outer garments on the path or waving palms and the fourth pulls his robe over his head. He will lay down the only piece of clothing he has on. His hosanna costs him everything, including his dignity. But no one seems to notice.

The donkey plods on.

Like everyone here, I am convinced, determined, broken-hearted, sceptical, intrigued, guarded, caught up in hope, laid bare in shame, humbly trudging forward and standing in the way.

Jesus, I’m not ready, but you comes into my Jerusalem anyway. There’s not one person in this scene that you love less than another, no one you dismiss. No part of me is too aloof, too embarrassing, too tight-fisted to be loved.

My heart swells. Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!

palm frond by Samuel John

 How gently and lovingly
you wake in my heart. . .
how tenderly you swell my heart with love.
— “Living Flame of Love” by St. John of the Cross

Questions for your journey into Holy Week:

  • How does it feel to know that Jesus understands and welcomes every part of you?
  • How do you respond when you behold such an exquisite display of love for you?
Credits and references:
Mosaic, Einzug Christi in Jerusalem by Meister der Palastkapelle in Palermo, 1150.  [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons”Palm Frond” by Samuel John. Used with permission.
“Living Flame of Love” is in The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, translated by Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D. and Otilio Rodgriguez, O.C.D. with introductions by Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D. (ICS Publications, 1979)
This post was originally published March 28, 2015.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2017.
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 2013-2017.  http://www.estherhizsa.wordpress.com
Posted in Holy Week, Lent | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Cost of Being Known

“What was the most memorable meal you ever had?” a friend asked everyone at the dinner table.

One by one each person described an experience of eating extravagantly prepared food in an exquisite setting. But it was hard for me to listen. Many spoke of restaurants Fred and I can’t afford–or think we can’t. But it wasn’t just thinking of eating at high-end restaurants that made me anxious. I remembered a few a fancy dinners out, but I couldn’t remember what was on my plate or the pleasure I enjoyed.

I was hoping no one was keeping track of who’d said what, but then I heard, “Esther, what about you?”

I offered a vague, adequate response and the conversation continued. But that feeling of being less than–the only one who didn’t measure up–lingered. I’m not generous enough, playful enough, present enough.

That’s the cost of being with friends: you get an instant report of where you fall short. At least, I do. It made me want to retreat to where being who I am is normal, but this damned report card has followed me home.

It takes me a day or two before I can share my feelings with God. In the presence of love, I know God isn’t confronting me about my inadequacies. Something more is going on here. I sit uncomfortably waiting.

My mind drifts back over the two days I spent with these friends. I remembered the tears each time someone courageously admitted what was hard or painful for them.

A thought emerged. What if I did that? What if instead of giving an answer to fit in, I said what was really going on for me?

I pictured myself at table and this time saying, “I’ve eaten some amazing meals in my life, but I’m embarrassed to say I’ve been so distracted that I can’t clearly remember a single one.”

If I’d said that I know I would have been met with the same compassion and acceptance I felt when I heard their honesty.

The gift of being known and loved, that’s what God’s inviting me to receive.

Jesus looked at him and loved him.–Mark 10:21 (NIV)

Questions for your Lenten pilgrimage:

  • When have you felt led to tell a trusted friend what’s going for you?
  • What was it like to experience compassion and acceptance?
  • How might that open you to experience the same from God?

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

What happens when a city boy, with a pocket full of sermons, lands in a Scottish parish?

Godspeed tells of the places and people who taught me the pace of being known,” writes Matt Canlis (left). “My desire to modernize the church ground to a halt in a Scottish parish. But the first speed bump occurred in a class with Eugene Peterson, which I expected to be fresh and innovative. Instead our textbooks were dated and the lectures slow. My concern was for the future of the church. We didn’t need to slow down, the church needed to catch up!

“The second speed bump was arriving in Scotland for further education, and putting aside my dreams to plant a church. Instead, I found myself pastoring a small Scottish parish which had been founded 1600 years earlier by St. Ninian. That’s when I discovered I had entered a new seminary–the school of the parish–and my teachers were the parishioners and their ordinary lives. By God’s grace and the patient mentoring of a mature congregation, I began my real formation not just as a pastor, but as a human being.”

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
“Fancy Dinner” by Nick. Used with permission.
Who Am I? Multimedia art by Megan Yungwirth. Used with permission.
The photo of Matt Canlis and Alan Torrence and text is from livegodspeed. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2017.
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 2013-2017.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in False Self, Lent, Poverty of Spirit, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Empty

Empty

Before you go to bed,
shake the dust off your feet.
Open your front door and
–with a shoe in each hand–
smack those soles together.
Like a TV preacher,
tell those demons: “Be gone!”

Before you go to bed,
empty your pockets.
Pile up your
precious portfolio of plastic,
cell phone, cash, keys,
loose change, receipts, and Kleenex.
Pull your side pockets right out.
Flick those fabric ears clean of identity.

Before you turn back the sheets,
take off those dangly earrings, necklace, bracelet, watch.
Rub your wrist till it forgets what it lugged around all day.

Before you turn out the light,
take a warm, wet cloth,
close your eyes and wash your face.
Wipe away all you heard, all you saw, all you tasted.
Brush off every word you spoke, tooth by tooth.
Gargle, spit, smile.

Before you lay your head on the pillow,
grab your ankles,
flip your body upside down and give it a shake,
hard,
like your mother did when she brought washing in from the line.
Snap out that lingering thought, that clinging regret
till it falls to the floor and rolls under the bed.

When you are
completely
empty,
pull the blankets up to your chin
and say goodnight to your life.

Go to sleep
filled with God.

Like a waterwheel of divine love, the Father empties all of himself into the Son. The Son receives and empties all of himself into the Spirit. The Spirit receives and empties all of himself /herself into the Father. The Father receives and the cycle continues. It’s no good telling people to let go if they can’t be assured they will be refilled, but the Trinity gives us a model for how that can happen. I can let go, because I trust I will always be filled up again.–Richard Rohr

Questions for your Lenten pilgrimage:

  • How might the self-emptying/filling work of God be essential for us to love our neighbours?
  • When you read the poem “Empty,” what images compelled or repelled you?
  • Which letting go would you find most difficult? Which one most satisfying?

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

My St. Stephen’s friends, Colleen Butterley (left) and Roxee Forrest are up to some great love mischief. Once a week they read to children in Kindergarten-Grade 2 at Cameron Elementary school which is in the same neighbourhood as our church. Colleen’s involvement with Cameron began when when her children, now grown, attended the school. Roxee is a retired teacher. She said to me, “Teaching was my life; it’s great to be back in the classroom again as a volunteer. I just love it.”

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:
Banner: Goodnight Moon written by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Clement Hurd, 1947.
“Bed” by Erika Wittlieb on Pixabay. Used with permission.
A Good Night’s Sleep by 
Seán Ó Domhnaill. Used with permission.
Richard Rohr quote from Center for Action and Contemplation Meditation “Self-Emptying,” March 5, 2017,  adapted from Richard Rohr with Mike Morrell, The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation (Whitaker House: 2016), 90-91.
 
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2017.
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 2013-2017.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Lent, Poetry, Poverty of Spirit | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Will Love. End of Story.

A pharisee once asked Jesus which commandment is the greatest. 

Jesus said, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself'” (Matthew 22:36-39, NASB).

Notice that in this literal translation, Jesus doesn’t say “should,” guilting us into a proper disposition. He isn’t telling us to just do it, which is different than how it reads in the New International Version. There the verb is translated as an imperative or command: Love God; love neighbour.

But Pastor Peter Hiett points out that the actual word Jesus uses is shall.

I was curious, so I looked up the Greek, the language in which the New Testament was originally written. He’s right. Jesus doesn’t use the imperative but the future active indicative form of the verb “to be”–commonly translated “you will.” To be fair to the NIV translators, this form of the verb was sometimes used as an imperative.

But what if loving was never meant to be something we were ordered to do? Perhaps it’s more like God’s command, “Let there be light” and then it happened. Could loving God and loving our neighbour be something God is already doing in us? What if, as Hiett suggests, it’s the unfolding of the story God’s writing in our lives.

Novelist and preacher, Frederick Buechner writes:

The final secret, I think, is this: that the words “You shall love the Lord your God” become in the end less a command than a promise. And the promise is that, yes, on the weary faith and the fragile wings of hope, we will come to love him at last . . . And, loving him, we will come at last to love each other too. . . .

When I read this, I am overwhelmed with relief. Like everything else in the Christian life, what we need is given. God is already on it.

The Author of my life moves the plot along in every chapter. I saw it when our grandson Hadrian tenderly stroked Fred’s arm after he’d eaten hot wasabi. I felt it when I heard the heartbreak of another being shut down and dismissed. I tasted it in a home cooked meal.

As I notice God’s loving action in my life, I become more aware of when my actions fall short. I feel like I’m regressing. But once I get over my embarrassment, I can see forward movement. This awareness is a gift: I’m no longer blind to the way my behaviour affects others and can ask for the grace to do things differently next time.

God is writing a beautiful story with our lives.

There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.–Philippians 1:6 (MSG)

Questions for your Lenten pilgrimage:

  • What has your attention lately?
  • How might God be in the middle of it opening you to love?

* * *
Love Mischief for the World

St. Stephen the Martyr Anglican Church in Burnaby is teaming up with Progressive Housing Society to bring the Mobile Outreach Van back to the Lougheed Mall area. The van will be parked at the church parking lot one day a week. Those in the area who are homeless or at risk of homelessness will be able to receive the support needed to get housing or employment as well as food and clothing. I’m so proud of my church. (I’m in the second row, third from the right)

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:
“Third date with immortality” by jamelah e. Used with permission
Frederick Buechner in Secrets in the Dark, “Love”pg.103-104.
Photo of Fred and me climbing Cirque Peak, near Banff, Alberta by Fred. Used with permission.
Photo of St.Stephen’s by Audrey Watson. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2017.
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 2013-2017.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
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Guides from Beyond

“What are you feeling?” I ask people when they come for spiritual direction.

If they’re experiencing a “negative” emotion, like anger, sadness or disgust, they often want to manage or get rid of it. They don’t like feeling that way. But the wise poet Rumi wants us to welcome these unexpected visitors as guides sent from beyond.

Together with God, I help the directee name and welcome an uncomfortable emotion. I encourage them to give it space, without judging, analyzing or fixing it. “Notice how it feels in your body.”

Staying attentive to a particular emotion allows the directee to encounter the reality of God’s love and presence. I never know what that’s going to look like.

One directee felt as if she’d been thrown into a pit. Suddenly Jesus tipped it on its side, and they were in a safe catacomb together. Another was transported from screaming, unheard behind thick glass to tending a bountiful garden. One minute a directee felt storm-tossed in a sea, grasping for the railing of a boat that was always out of reach. The next minute Jesus was with her like a lifeguard, keeping her head above water. She was enveloped in peace as she pictured her body relaxing against his.

These encounters enabled my directees* to see their situation and themselves in a new light.

The experience I described in last week’s post is another example of what can happen when we welcome our feelings with God.

I told my spiritual director that I felt angry about the way I was being treated by someone and frustrated with myself that I couldn’t get past my anger and be more compassionate. I talked more about it and noticed I was afraid of what this person might do to me if I spoke up. I felt powerless.

I named my fear and powerlessness and something else emerged: I felt trapped. Every layer I allowed myself to feel was more distressing.

But my director and I continued to entertain my guests and invited Jesus to listen to them too. I noticed that he was not distressed. He was full of compassion.

“What’s the focus of Jesus’ compassion?” my director asked.

I held her question, convinced of what the answer would be. But I was surprised.

“Me,” I said.

When I received Jesus’ tender empathy for me, something shifted. I felt compassion for this person. Jesus didn’t blame them for their faults; he didn’t blame me for mine. He just loved and accepted us as we were. I’d felt trapped because I couldn’t change them or myself. Now I knew I didn’t need to do either.

My feelings guided me through what I feared was true into the reality that Jesus held.

Now that their work was done, they departed. I felt calm, hopeful and empowered.

Whether we welcome difficult emotions or not, these rude guests arrive on our doorstep and barge into our lives. Our first instinct is to get them out, and we use whatever means necessary to do it. But when we invite God to help us entertain these unwanted emotions, they generously repay us for our hospitality.

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.
 – Jelaluddin Rumi, “The Guest House”

*Special thanks to my directees for giving me permission to share their stories.
Such a gift to us!

Questions for your Lenten pilgrimage:

  • What feelings emerged in you as you read today’s post?
  • Can you welcome them and give them space, without judging, analyzing or fixing the uncomfortable ones?
  • Imagine Jesus welcoming these guests, welcoming you. What happens next?

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

Today is my husband, Fred’s birthday. This behind-the-scenes guy goes out of his way to make life easier or more fun for others. Fred does Costco runs and picks up Cobs Bread donations to be distributed to those in need. He plays Hide-and-Seek in the dark with our grandkids and me and knows how to die very ungracefully when he loses at Exploding Kittens (to the great delight of Hannah and Hadrian). This man’s love mischief knows no bounds. My Handsome Fellow makes great curry, fixes the car, maintains my bike and reads every post I write before it’s published. He also gives sweet kisses.

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
On the banner, “Welcome” by Richard Matthews. Used with permission.
“big six” by B. Used with permission.
“Welcome Home” by Stefani Woods. Used with permission.
Photo of Fred by Heidi Braacx. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2017.
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 2013-2017.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Lent, Spiritual Direction, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Loving Certain People: Part 2

This Lent I am taking you with me on my journey to love people who annoy or anger me. In last week’s post, Rowan Williams, Abba Moses, Hafiz and Jesus invited me to move from judgment to humility and compassion.

I prayed, “Jesus show me how you see the people in my life I can’t stand. How do you want me to love them?”

But when I opened myself to God and thought about a certain person, my anger returned. I wished they were more aware of how their behaviour impacts others. I wondered what I might say to them that they’d be able to hear. They’ve been judged and rejected before and fiercely protect themselves from it happening again. Pointing out how their behaviour affects me would not go well, and I feared what they would do to me if I did.

I hoped that prayer would soften my heart, but instead it underlined my powerlessness and lack of compassion. I couldn’t stop focusing on this person’s brokenness and the damage they were causing. How could I “cover their sin” without being complicit in its outcome?

As I continued to pray, Christ’s compassion did come. It came to me. He knows what it’s like to bear the bruises inflicted by others. I lingered beside him, soaking up his solidarity. Eventually, I recalled him saying, “Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing.”

With Jesus’ hand resting on my shoulder, this enemy was not so big and frightening anymore. Tenderness stirred, and I found myself letting go of my disappointment that they were not what I’d like them to be. I could also let go of my fear of retaliation.

I felt empowered, freed to live and speak from a place of love.

121153772_8f51e0c3cc_o

You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. -Matthew 5:43-44 (The Message)

Questions for your Lenten pilgrimage:

  • What feelings emerge as you ask God to help you love your enemies?
  • What have you noticed going on in your life lately that is speaking into that?

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

Dr. James Finley is a renowned retreat leader, Merton scholar, therapist and author of Merton’s Palace of Nowhere, Christian Meditation: Experiencing the Presence of God, and The Contemplative Heart. In this video, Finley is speaking about “The Peace that Surpasses Understanding.” Following his talk (42:00), a woman in the audience asks a question about dealing with a difficult person. His response has some healthy love mischief in it. 

 Credits and Resources:
“Smile for the camera” by Helen Haden. Used with permission.
Luke 23:34
“Dog & Cat” by紫流. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2017.
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 2013-2017.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Lent, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Loving Certain People

linus“I love mankind. It’s people I can’t stand,” exclaimed Linus Van Pelt decades ago in the cartoon strip Peanuts.

Perhaps it’s more accurate to say, “It’s certain people I can’t stand.”

When I see certain people do things that annoy me, I think, “That was stupid (or harsh, thoughtless etc). Then I turn to whoever is close by and tell them what I’m thinking.

I see. I judge. I talk.

This scenario gets ramped up ten notches when certain people hurt me. Now I’m not annoyed; I’m angry. It’s hard then, for the person who listens to me not to see that certain person through the same negative lens. My reaction is justified.

But what does the Inner Voice of Love say? Love your enemies. Be kind to the people in your life that annoy and anger you. 

“Cover their sins,” God says, now speaking through the words of the Desert Mothers and Fathers.

There was a brother at Scetis who had committed a fault. So they called a meeting and invited Abba Moses. He refused to go. The priest sent someone to say to him, “They’re all waiting for you.” So Moses got up and set off; he took a leaky jug and filled it with water and took it with him. The others came out to meet him and said, “What is this, Father?’” The old man said to them, “My sins run out behind me and I cannot see them, yet here I am coming to sit in judgment on the mistakes of someone else.” When they heard this they called the meeting off.

I read this story in Where God Happens: Discovering God in One Another by Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury. Williams explains,

To assume the right to judge or to assume that you have arrived at a settled spiritual maturity that entitles you to prescribe confidently at a distance for another’s sickness, is in fact to leave others without the therapy they need for their souls; it is to cut them off from God . . . But the plain acknowledgment of your solidarity in need and failure opens a door: it shows that it is possible to live in the truth and to go forward in hope.

When I see, judge, and talk about another, I keep them from getting what they need to live in a way that doesn’t annoy or anger others. I make things worse.

But when I see another’s need to be loved and stand with them in humility–remembering that I annoy and anger people sometimes too–I open the door of hope. In fact, Williams says, I become “a place where God happens for somebody else.”

Lord, help me notice when I sit in judgment on the mistakes of others and help me to stand instead. Help me to stand with them in need, failure, and humility. 

two-friends-girls

With That Moon Language
—Hafiz

Admit something:
Everyone you see, you say to them,
“Love me.”
Of course you do not do this out loud;
otherwise,
someone would call the cops.
Still though, think about this,
this great pull in us
to connect.
Why not become the one
who lives with a full moon in each eye
that is always saying,
with that sweet moon
language,
what every other eye in this world
is dying to
hear.

Questions for your Lenten pilgrimage:

  • How do you respond to people you can’t stand?
  • What would it look like to stand with them in solidarity of need and failure?
  • How is Jesus helping you live with a full moon in each eye?

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

Vancouver Police Department’s Staff Sergeant Mark Horsley went undercover as a person with mobility and cognitive disabilities in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. According to Wikipedia“[The DTES] area, one of the city’s oldest, is notorious for its open-air drug trade, sex work, poverty, mental illness, homelessness, infectious disease, and crime. It is also known for its strong community resilience and history of social activism.” Horsley wanted to catch criminals attacking and robbing people who cannot easily defend themselves. But, instead of catching crooks, he caught a lot of love. He was not disappointed.  

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
Banner image 
“Love” by Dustin Gaffke. Used with permission.
Photo of Peanuts’ Linus Van Pelt by Austin Kleon. Used with permission.
“Two friends” by ASIM CHAUDHURI. Used with permission.
“With that Moon Language” by Hafiz (1325–1389) translated by Daniel Ladinsky in Love Poems from God, 2002. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2017.
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 2013-2017.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Lent, Poetry, Poverty of Spirit, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

DIY Prayer Retreat #9: Living Out Our God-Created Identity

Here is another one-day prayer/silent retreat outline I put together for our contemplative group. You’ll find the introduction to Do It Yourself group prayer retreats here and other outlines under resources.

reconciliation_by_vasconcellos_coventry

Living Out Our God-Created Identity

Introduction:

Gather together, light a candle and take time to rest in God’s spacious and generous love in silence or as you listen to music.

Read aloud the following texts and poem:

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. –-Matthew 5:43-48 (NRSV)

“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

“In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” –-Matthew 5:43-48 (The Message)

22527202049_7498ce9a00_b

With That Moon Language
-Hafiz

Admit something:
Everyone you see, you say to them,
“Love me.”
Of course you do not do this out loud;
otherwise,
someone would call the cops.
Still though, think about this,
this great pull in us
to connect.
Why not become the one
who lives with a full moon in each eye
that is always saying,
with that sweet moon
language,
what every other eye in this world
is dying to
hear.

What goes on in you as hear this teaching of Jesus or read this poem? What feelings arise?

 

PERSONAL PRAYER PERIOD #1

bouts_anoiting

36 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. 37 And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. 38 She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.” 40 Jesus spoke up and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Teacher,” he replied, “speak.” 41 “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he cancelled the greater debt.” And Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” 48 Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” –Luke 7:36-50

Option #1:

  1. Read this passage and picture the story taking place. Imagine the details of sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch, but do it in a very specific way: put yourself in Simon’s place. You are a person of high standing. This is your house and you have invited Jesus to visit you. Imagine how you might look forward to this meal with Jesus. What goes on for you when this “enemy” pushes her way in uninvited? How do you feel when Jesus shows her such love and honour? Notice the tone in Jesus’ voice as he speaks of her and to her as well as when he speaks with you. What emerges in you as you hear what he says?
  2. The gospel story stops here, but your story doesn’t. Knowing how deeply Jesus loves you and always works for your greater good, what happens next? What do you and Jesus do or talk about?
  3. How do you feel toward your “enemy” now? Talk honestly with Jesus about this.

Option#2:

  1. Think of a recent, specific event in which you found it difficult to love someone. Using your imagination return to that moment with Jesus. What happens? How does Jesus care for you and for them?
  2. How do you feel toward your enemy now? Talk honestly with Jesus about this.

 

IMPORTANT NOTE FOR BOTH OPTIONS AND ALL PRAYERS:

When our actions fall short, we often see Jesus in two ways that are false. We may see Jesus colluding with us and joining us in disliking our enemy or we may see Jesus shaming us into becoming what we “should” be. But there is a truer way Jesus wants to be with us. Jesus looks at us honestly and lovingly. He knows how and why we fall short of loving others. Instead of judging us, he wants to give us more love and awaken us to live out of our “God-created identity.” Is there some compassion, graciousness, or  generosity  awakening in you for yourself and for your enemy?

PERSONAL PRAYER PERIOD #2

  • Re-read Luke 7:36-50 (above)

Option #1:

  1. Imagine the scene again, but this time put yourself in the place of the sinful woman (your “sin” would be unique to you). Now you are the person who has been uninvited, judged and disrespected. Yet you are determined to anoint Jesus and express your love for him. What goes on for you as you hear Jesus accept, honour and defend you?
  2. The gospel story stops here, but your story doesn’t. Knowing how deeply Jesus loves Simon too, what happens next? What do you and Jesus do or talk about?
  3. How do you feel toward your “enemy” now? Talk honestly with Jesus about this.

Option #2:

  1. Recall a time when an “enemy” belittled, judged, dismissed or disrespected you. Invite Jesus to return with you to that moment. How do you feel as he stands up for you the way he stood up for the “sinful woman”?
  2. Take a good amount of time with Jesus to soak in his love and acceptance.
  3. Knowing how deeply Jesus loves Simon too, how do you feel toward your enemy now? Talk honestly with Jesus about this.

PERSONAL PRAYER PERIOD #3

  1. Ask the Holy Spirit to bring to mind someone who feels like an enemy to you. It can be the same person you thought of earlier (if you did) or someone else.
  2. Imagine yourself in a favourite place with Jesus. Take some time to consider what that enemy did to you that hurt you so much and tell Jesus about it. Notice his compassion for you. How does he express his disdain for this injustice? Are there new details about this relationship that Jesus is bringing into the light?
  3. Take a leisurely amount of time to receive all the love and compassion Jesus wants to give you.
  4. When you are ready, talk to Jesus about the fact that he loves every one of us in the same way as his Father loves him. While it may be hard to believe that he loves your enemy that much, you know on some level that he does. Now ask Jesus to show you how he sees your enemy. What does he enjoy about them? How does this person, who is also made in God’s image, reflect Christ’s character?
  5. Instead of judging yourself or your enemy, Jesus wants to give you more love and awaken you to live out of our “God-created identity.” Is there a little compassion, graciousness, or generosity rising in you for yourself and for your enemy?

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Credits and Resources:
“With that Moon Language” by Hafiz (1325–1389) translated by Daniel Ladinsky in Love Poems from God, 2002. Used with permission.
The sculpture Reconciliation by Vasconcellos, showing two former enemies embracing each other, was erected in 1995 in the north aisle of the ruins of St Michael’s Cathedral, Coventry. (Destroyed during fire bombs during the Coventry Blitz on 14 November 1940). The text on the pedestal is in English and in Japanese. The English text reads: In 1995, 50 years after the end of the Second World War this sculpture by Josefina de Vasconcellos has been given by Richard Branson as a token of reconciliation. An identical sculpture has been placed on behalf of the people of Coventry in Peace Garden, Hiroshima, Japan. Both statues remind us that in the face of destructive forces, human dignity and love will triumph over disaster and bring nations together in respect and peace. Photo by Martinvl (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons)
“Charlie Brown Christmas Charlie Has Hope” by John Flannery. Used with permission.
“Christ in the House of Simon” by Dieric Bouts (circa 1420-1475) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
“Dog & Cat” by紫流. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2017.
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 2013-2017.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
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That Much

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That Much

The dried palm of my life
burns to ash.
You mark me like Cain.
A wet cross on my head
says plain as day:

I NEED
Y
O
U

I wipe it off.

I don’t want
to need you
that much.

But I do.

I sneak out to meet you at night,
give back what I stole, expect to be stoned.
I am the hypocrite demoniac child,
awakened from sleep, called from the grave, found by the sea.
I gave no greeting, no kiss, except in the garden,
but you knew that I would
and still washed my feet.
I loved you and lied,
yet you look in my eyes,
see the ashes imposed on my forehead.

 

Credits and references:
“Preparing Ashes” (banner) by Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P. Used with permission.
“Palm Cross” by Colin Paterson. Used with permission.
“That Much” by Esther Hizsa
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2017.
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 2013-2017.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
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Making Peace with My Humanity

3587392948_b1493e5726_bI had another dream where I was rushing against all odds to accomplish something important. I woke with urgency still fresh in my veins.

The day before, I tried to pack too much into my day and hurried to make dinner for friends. I don’t enjoy cooking; I find it time-consuming and stressful. I do it because we need to eat. I cook for friends when it’s my turn.

An hour before they arrived, I discovered the tomatoes for the pico de gallo were rotten and commandeered Fred to get more. In between warming and flipping tortillas in the cast iron pan, I made lemonade, checked the enchiladas, chopped cilantro and found bowls for the sour cream and guacamole, burning at least one tortilla in the process. Looking back on it now, I see the violent tone to my frantic pace, as I superhumanly forced so much into a single hour.

What if instead I made peace with my humanity and allowed myself a leisurely amount of time to enjoy what I was doing?

Just thinking about it eases me back into that sense of spaciousness I talked about last week.

The One who shares forever with me knows how much time it takes to prepare food. God doesn’t begrudge the inefficiency needed to find pleasure in it.

But I do. I want to do what I have to do as quickly as possible, so I have more time for what I want to do.

“What if you gave yourself ample time to enjoy both?” the God of Forever asks and goes on to quote 2 Corinthians 9:8. “I am able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.”

I let those words sink in. I have enough of everything I need. That includes time to savour the good work of cooking.

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He brought me to the banqueting house,
and his banner over me was love.
–Song of Solomon 2:4 (ESV)

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

08ae0f79-88b8-4817-9d5d-4d4ee637baa6-2Here’s Marina making the seafood crepes in the picture above for one of our monthly Scrabble and dinner nights. Marina, Wendy, Ingrid and Ed are excellent cooks. They enjoy creating delicious meals that are a delight to see, smell and taste. Although I am somewhat intimidated by their enthusiasm and artistry, their love of cooking doesn’t keep them from appreciating and enjoying what I cook too. They inspire me to have as much fun preparing food as I do finding seven letter words.

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:
Banner image of chef by Artica Roma Restaurant from Pixabay. Used with permission.
“Cooking” by baron valium. Used with permission.
Scrabble night photos by Ed Dahl. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2017.
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 2013-2017.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
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