Seeking Submissions: SAFETY

jack o lantern, Halloween, Safety

This month at Searching Sophia’s Pockets, we are focusing on the theme of SAFETY. Often what makes us feel safe says a lot about what we are afraid of, what we cherish, and who we are as human beings. We invite you to look deeply and tell us how safety and your spirituality connect. If you are lacking inspiration for your submission, here are a few questions to get you started:

  1. When did you feel safest on your spiritual journey?
  2. Is the call to follow a spiritual leader safe or dangerous?
  3. Do you feel safe exploring your spirituality?
  4. How has your spirituality helped you in times when you felt unsafe?
  5. Who/what provides safety on your spiritual journey?

With Wisdom, Love …and Lint,

The Searching Sophia’s Pockets Team

Practicing Forgiveness

Today’s post comes from our regular contributor David Etim, who is writing from Lagos, Nigeria. Today he shares the wisdom he has gained from practicing forgiveness.

Sun, Forgive

For me, lack of forgiveness is a spiritual virus, a monster that can destroyed us spiritually.I have also learned from my journey of faith that the more I practice forgiveness the more easier it has become for me. My practice of forgiveness is based in biblical scripture. The Bible often counsels against this lack of forgiveness.

Watch out that no bitterness take root among you, for as it springs up it causes deep trouble hurting many in their spiritual lives –Hebrews 12:15

Furthermore, for me, the Bible’s counsel regarding lack of forgiveness is as relevant today as when it was written.

God’s Word says:

 Try to show as much compassion as Your Father does–Luke 6:36


Your attitude should be the kind that was shown by Jesus Christ–Philippians 2:5

It is true that some out of envy and jealousy do petty things that hurt me, but I have decided how to respond to those hurts: I will do all I can to make the person happy by showing love.

For me, forgiveness is a biblical command and it is always worth it to stand on my conviction without compromise. What happens to me is not nearly as important as what happens in me.

Yom Kippur, Forgiveness, and Race

Today’s guest post comes from Sarah Barasch-Hagans who is a queer Jewish woman from St. Louis and a third year rabbi-in-training at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. Sarah is also the founder of the Fargesn Media Project and one of the founders of the acclaimed Black Lives Matter Haggadah. Her post shares her perspective on Yom Kippur. It also sheds light on the relationships between atonement and forgiveness as well as looking at how race affects those concepts. You can find more of Sarah’s writings on her blog.

Yom Kippur is the Jewish “Day of Atonement” of fasting and soul searching that seems to come every autumn exactly when we need it. This past week, after a year in which I engaged intensely in challenging accepted ideologies around race and class and power that Ferguson had highlighted in my hometown of St. Louis, Yom Kippur again came right on time. This year, I finally realized how truly countercultural in America is the Jewish approach is to apologizing and forgiving.

American society tends to make apologizing optional for the powerful yet demands forgiveness from the powerless. We have never offered reparations for slavery yet we tout as exemplary the Black families in South Carolina who have forgiven Dylann Roof for mass murdering their relatives while they prayed in church–even though he has expressed no remorse for his evil actions. On the heels of this news, set amidst this year of the rebirth of the Black Civil Rights Movement, it has felt especially important to me clarify the theology of forgiveness in Judaism.

In Judaism, we are not required to forgive those that wrong us. Rather, responsibility rests with the one who has done wrong and is required to atone. Even if we are not forgiven the first time we apologize, we must still attempt to fulfill the commandment by offering atonement three times with sincerity. Especially in cases where we may have sinned repeatedly, demonstrating sincerity arguably requires that we perform actions to show we are on a path to truly changing the behavior we are apologizing for. Only then, only after we have sincerely attempted atonement with the person three times, are we are said to have atoned properly before God.

This theology has serious implications for dialogues on race in our country. I believe that Jewish theology is absolutely clear that the current role of White Americans–Jewish and non-Jewish–is to atone.

Judaism would not demand that individual Black Americans forgive White People or the institutions that uphold racism. If individual Black Americans find peace in forgiveness, that is their choice, but but that is not required. Jewish tradition does have much to say about short term restorative justice and and long term reconciliation and community building, but is a conversation for another day.

We must delay those conversations because they are too comforting. This is our time to avoid the impulse to deflect blame or to try to plan for the future. This moment, this exact season in the Jewish calendar, is when we atone without knowing whether we will ever reach a place of comfort.

This time is for difficult spiritual exercises by those of us who are implicated in sinful cycles. Each of us of all races and genders and class backgrounds and sexualities and ability levels must look honestly at ourselves and our place in oppression, interpersonal and communal, and seek teshuvah–usually translated as atonement but literally meaning “turning.” This is our time of turning towards a path of love and justice. This is our time to exercise faith in turning to a path we may not even be able to imagine. Because until we are absolutely honest about the path we are on, we will never be able to see, much less travel, along the path we seek.

Forgiving The World

By: Nermine Mohamed, Writing Intern 2015

Blue ruffles; light blue just like the sea, dancing up and down so smoothly and so playfully just like the waves. I could still hear her voice; a girl in a ruffled blue skirt I met on a vaporetto in Venice on my way home. She was singing at the top of her lungs, laughing, giggling; covering the noise of the engine, all to blue girl italyherself. I kept on watching her, envying her a bit and I wondered from where all this could  possibly come from; all this unrestrained joy and happiness, this peacefulness, not worrying about a thing, and tuning out the world’s noise and living in your own song.

As I watched her carefree dancing, I found myself thinking about forgiveness. She gave me a reason today to start forgiving. To start forgiving the world I’ve been angry at for a long time now. The restlessness, the closed doors, the circle that gets tighter every day, how I got to be so lost and confused, all the thinking and worrying, all this must stop, must be forgiven and forgotten, because only forgiveness can make us lighter, freer, happier, like blue ruffles!

So it is okay; to have lost people, to have been hurt and disappointed. It is okay not to know who we are or what we want. It is okay to change our minds, to change course, to go back to where we started or to stop all together, take a break and think it all over again, because sometimes all that we need is simply to flow with life’s streams, without worrying where we will end up.

Blue ruffles taught me today that I should start forgiving: forgiving myself for giving up, for not trying harder, for losing hope, but more importantly I should start forgiving the world as it is—regardless of every hardship—finding on my way beautiful things to explore and beautiful people to know. In order to flow, to sing and dance around like blue ruffles, I must forgive.

I followed her after we got dropped off and she was still singing and dancing around while holding her granny’s hand (who was all the time attempting to control her to no avail thankfully) and I could not resist snapping a shot of her as I wanted to keep this memory for when I need a reason to hope, to forgive and to start afresh.

A Prayer For Forgiveness

ForgivenessAs we explore forgiveness, we here at Searching Sophia’s Pockets offer this prayer for all of us who are searching for forgiveness. This prayer is just a template everyone is welcome to modify it, customize it, and re-create to better fit their own journey and beliefs. If you would like to share you re-creations, we welcome you to do so in the comment section, or to submit your own prayer.   

Dear Spirit of Unconditional Love,

Let me feel forgiveness wash over me,
and let that feeling renew me.

Help me know the blessing that comes from letting go,
from forgiving those I am able to forgive.

Bless those that I cannot forgive,
and help them know the unconditional love that surrounds us all.

Let me feel supported by unconditional love,
and let that love allow me to forgive others and myself as much as possible.

Help me embody forgiveness in its best form,
and help me see forgiveness as part, but not all of your divine love.


Please feel free to use this and any of our content in services, prayer groups etc., just remember to link it back to us! 

Forgive Me My Wrong Impressions

By: Jenni Taylor, Author in Chief

You fear heaven, the source of spiritual peace; you fear nature, the haven of rest and tranquility; you fear the God of goodness and accuse him of anger, while he is full of love and mercy.–Khalil Gibran

“You fear heaven”, says Gibran, and I am taken back to the childhood bewilderment of heaven as a place of limited space for well behaved little boys and girls. If God is so big, why isn’t heaven bigger? If God loves us, why is there a time limit on his forgiveness? If God created the trees and mountains and forests, why would he choose a city of gold to live in for eternity?

“You fear nature,” says Gibran, and I look around my apartment where the windows are never open because the air is polluted and murky. I remember days of wandering free and hugging trees and now I can’t remember the last time I threw my arms around a tree trunk feeling it’s bark and life and comfort.

“You fear the God of goodness,” Gibran says, and I feel the walls come up around my heart when I try to pray. Maybe he is angry with me. Maybe he is disappointed. Maybe it will be better to slip through my life quietly and not bother him with requests when I haven’t held up my end of the bargain.

“He is full of love and mercy,” Gibran says.

He is full of love and mercy.

He is full of love and mercy.

He is full of love and mercy.

I let this mantra enter my heart.

And I know God, the fabric of the universe, this connecting force of creation, rebirth, and new beginnings, this intangible palm holding all pasts, presents, and futures of every living thing, is not to be feared, nor to be bargained with. All my questions, my insecurities, my doubts, come from human fallibility and not from an all-encompassing fountain of love and mercy.

Forgive me my wrong impressions, and help me to see the bigger picture. Help me to embrace heaven on earth, the beauty and healing power of nature, and the fact that your love and mercy is bigger than my fears. Amen.

Forgiveness In The Bible, Forgiveness In Real Life

By: Autumn Elizabeth, Editor in Chief
Forgiveness, Bible, Love

If your loved one sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.
Luke 17:3-4

I am not unfamiliar with the Bible, and I know full well that it contains quote a few messages like the one above— messages about forgiveness. But, well, in real life, I don’t find these teachings so easy to follow, especially when it comes to people I love.

The above passage from Luke is one that has always been hard for me. A stranger knocks into me on the street, I can forgive them. I find it is easy because there isn’t any baggage there. But someone I love, someone I trust, if they hurt me…well I find that finding forgiveness and reconciliation is a bit harder than the verse from Luke makes it appear.

Recently, I found myself in a situation where someone near and dear to my heart hurt me in a way they have done before. My loved one was of course sorry, and asked for forgiveness. Part of me knows that it is better for both of us if I forgive them, that it is indeed the “proper Christian thing to do”. But because it isn’t the first time, because they aren’t a stanger on the street, I was finding forgiveness a little hard… maybe really hard.

I understand that forgiveness is good, but when I read passages from the Bible, especially the one above from Luke, part of me thinks to myself “Come on! Seven times in one day! And I still have to forgive them!”.

But that is what I am called to do if I want to follow Jesus, it may be what we are all called to do if we want to find our own peace. Forgiveness has let me move on from hurt, it has helped me rebuild trust with people I love.

There is another verse from Luke that I find helps me when I am struggling with forgiveness of those I love. In Luke 6:37, we are told that if we forgive, then we will be forgiven. When j am really struggling with  this forgiveness business, I like to read both of the versions of that passage below.

Jesús también les dijo:

“No se conviertan en jueces de los demás, y Dios no los juzgará a ustedes. No sean duros con los demás, y Dios no será duro a ustedes. Perdonen a los demás y Dios los perdonará a ustedes.


Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

The first version focuses on how God will forgive us, will not condemn us, will mot judge us and so we are called to do the same. For me this connection with God is important for learning how to forgive those I love. I know i will need the help of the divine if I am going to truly reconcile and forgive those who have made mistakes seven times a day. the connection with God’s forgiveness also reminds me that i make far more than seven mistakes a day, and some i even forget to seek forgiveness for, and yet the divine spirit of love forgives them all.

The second passage doesnt mention God’s forgiveness, although it is implied. For me though, side by side with the other version of the same passage, the second version reminds me that the people i love are forgiving me just as often, if not more than I am forgiving them. We are all in this forgiveness business together.

Ultimately, forgiveness in the Bible can seem a lot easier than it does in real life, with real loved ones and years of history included. Yet the Bible, for me is also a resource when this forgiveness stuff gets really hard. It often helps me find new ways to look at forgiveness in real life. For me, the messages in the Bible also remind me to forgive myself when I am having trouble forgiving other, and that in the end, even if I can’t forgive someone seven times in one day, we are all still unconditionally forgiven, and loved by the divine.

Seeking Submissions: Forgiveness

Forgiveness, spiritual
This month at Searching Sophia’s Pockets, we are focusing on the theme of FORGIVENESS. Forgiveness can be a tough topic, but a vital one for many spiritual journeys. We invite you to look deeply and tell us how forgiveness has shaped your relationship with your spirituality, with others, and with the world at large. If you are lacking inspiration for your submission, here are a few questions to get you started:

  1. Who are you struggling to forgive right now? How has this affected your relationship with the divine and/or your spirituality?
  2. How did you learn to forgive?
  3. How do you define true forgiveness?
  4. Who forgives you? How?
  5. How do you ask for forgiveness?

With Wisdom, Love …and Lint,

The Searching Sophia’s Pockets Team

Exploring Identity

We’re pleased to share another guest post by Esraa Mohamed, who previously wrote When Rituals End and Desires, Sex, and Love. Esraa is an Egyptian Muslim and physical therapy student with strong passion for the universe and its mysteries. Today, she shares with us a glimpse of her own black box; with all the things we dare not to dig up and explore. The struggle and reward of exploration in a thought-provoking post!

Perhaps curiosity is the best virtue of man

Generally I consider myself a courageous person. I hold pride in the curiosity to explore everything, to the extent that I recall committing suicide to explore death and delve into its mystery. We all have black boxes, in which we tend to keep the things we dare not to explore, and I’ve got plenty. With each and every box I open, I get to lose a piece of my identity, unleashing another imprint into me that happens to be either compelling or astonishing.
So far I’ve opened many boxes and with each time I had to explore things for the first time; things that clash with my old principles and that’s how I explored the change of principles. Nothing is absolute. As much as there is virtue in exploration, as much as it drives you to struggle, I wonder sometimes who I am between all these personalities I explore throughout the day.  Am I the sociable and outgoing or the aloof and introvert one? Am I the chatterbox or the cistern? I’ve previously believed that by exploring different skins, I would know my identity, but I was abandoned with an identity crisis.

Spiritually, I’ve always wondered whether I am a religious person or an ignorant person who’s convinced with the idea of ethical human beings! An infinite loop of questions persist its roots into my sub-consciousness, perplexing me even more. And that’s why on top of all things I want to explore and delve into the spiritual life. I long for exploring new rituals, prayers and customs. I want to be set free of any boundaries. And there tickles a question: what is the point of exploration if I have no guts to change my religion? Yes, it’s nourishing my soul, but still it’s driving me into an unbearable struggle. Though I am a Muslim, yet I haven’t really explored Islam.

It’s said “Not until you lose yourself that you find yourself.” This saying, in the past, used to piss me off but someone told me that by losing, we’re losing our foolish and immature selves, to finally reach to the core of our real self.

Thus, I have learned not to complain about the struggle and agony of exploration, but be grateful for its long-term imprints.

Exploring The Places You Already Are

IMG_2266By: Jenni Taylor, Author in Chief

I spent the morning on the top of a high rise apartment building in the middle of Shanghai. We had to sneak up there, and a lock might have been picked, but there we were at sunrise. It was after a night of Japanese food, sake, and roughly two hours of sleep. One of my companions was in the same clothes as the night before, the other wearing batman pajamas.

You really can’t make this up.

Shanghai is comprised of people. 28 million, in fact. A Shanghai sunrise is mostly haze and enough swirls of pink and purple to remind you what a sunrise is supposed to look like. We had a 360 view of- well, apartments. Tall apartments, short apartments, windows galore. We could see laundry drying and teddy bears left on the window sill. There were curtains and no curtains, plants and no plants, bikes and toys and kitchen sinks and washing machines. There were at least a million people a stone’s throw away in any direction, with more apartments stretching as far as the eye could see.

And there was quiet.

Up above it all, with blurry eyes and an over sized t shirt, I saw my city. This crazy, attitude-filled city I have chosen to live in, going on three years. I saw the bits and pieces of lives being lived as strangers right next to each other, piled on top of each other, in this place that I have always perceived as a little bit lonely. I could see the haze lifting ever so slightly and the buildings turning gold under the filtered sunlight. It was magic.

Batman pajama lady and I started to sing, like the sleep deprived giddy people we are.

“Blue skies smilin’ at me
Nothin’ but blue skies do I see
Bluebirds singin’ a song
Nothin’ but bluebirds all the day long”

And as we were singing like fools on the top of the world, I felt all my fears of being back in Shanghai melting away. Yes, it can be a lonely city. But that makes it just that much easier for a little joy to go a long way. Returning to a place does not have to make you feel tired and worn when there are still so many adventures to be had.

So I hugged Shanghai with my heart and waved goodbye to the skyline before creeping my way back down the stairs. I fell asleep smiling, knowing there is still so much left to explore.