Many Sources of Inspiration

Today’s post comes from our regular contributor David Etim, who is writing from Lagos, Nigeria. He shares with us the many ways he finds inspiration on his spiritual journey. His wisdom comes from a deeply Christian perspective, and also holds value for us all. It is also a beautiful transition from our theme of inspiration to next month’s theme of blessings.

Wisdom, Interfaith, Candles

Progress gives inspiration. And inspiration? That is what allows me to make my way towards greatness.

I have found inspiration in looking at what Gloria Copeland says,

Even if it seems costly at the time, always do what God puts in your heart to  do. Your whole future may depend on it.

I found inspiration too in what is written in the Bible. Hebrews 10:35 says,

Do not lose your courage, then, because it brings with it a great reward.

And in my own life’s progress I have found inspiration. On my birthday last month, I was given a number of gifts including  an additional job and  a self-contain apartment in a parsonage. These were great progress in my life and gifts from God.
God has used this providential turn of events to teach me to know God better, to become more obedient to God and to give me inspiration combined with steadfast persistence.

Finally, I find inspiration in the people God has sent to my life. God will always bring the right people, at the right time into my life, and their steady love for God and humanity are a constant inspiration to me.But there is more. Contact without inspiration is a waste and inspiration without improvement is a great waste as well. Take for instance, ever since I came in contact with Searching Sophia’s Pockets, there have been a tremendous improvement on my writing skills. This work inspires me too.

Inspiration is the key to aspiration. Inspiration averts expiration. Inspiration comes little by little developing my capacity and moving me to the next level.  I enjoy this supernatural ride of divine inspiration, which enables me support my projects with the spirit.

Please celebrate the many sources of inspiration with me, and celebrate their source.
God is awesome! God is wonderful! God is All-Inspiring!

A Prayer for Inspiration

As we move towards through our month dedicated to inspiration, we offer this prayer in hopes that it inspires all of us.

Divine Spirit of Inspiration,

Inspire us to do good in this world.

Let us be living examples of hope.

Bring us inspiration to create, to pray, to live beautifully.

Give this world the inspiration it needs to move toward true unity.

Inspire us every day to do our best as we care for ourselves and those around us.

Amen.

If you would like to share your own prayer, please feel free to submit it to us! Like all prayers on Searching Sophia’s Pockets, please feel free to edit and shape this prayer for use in your home or place of worship, and then share the experience with us!

Inspiration as Communion, Combustion, and Co-existance

Today’s inspiring post on inspiration and connection comes from Matheus Yuhlung. Matheus is a Christian blogger who is pursuing an M.A. in Philosophy and currently lives in New Delhi, India. This beautiful post in is one part theory and one part poetry, and all parts wisdom. 

Fireworks, Interfaith, Celebration, Inspiration

It is often said that the communion between the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit was so spectacularly un-containable that they had to create men to join in their blissful co-existence. Though, there really are no theological grounds or scriptural references to support such sayings; it still never fails to fascinate me.

As a Christian, my greatest source of inspirations has always been the Bible; which in turn is said to be inspired by God himself. And yet, I can’t help but be inspired by things that are not based on scriptures too, like the one I mentioned above.

The way I see it, the act of being inspired and inspiring others is both a conscious and a subconscious act. It’s like a need-based dependency, where we are obligated to take a chunk out of another being’s soul or to give ours to them, to motivate each other in our spiritual sojourning.

For this, we hand pick some sources and curate it with utter care and imbibe the inspirations we cultivate from them in our lives. While, there are some sources through which inspirations just grow in our souls when we come in contact with them, say: culture, people, education, art et cetera.

But as much as inspirations can act as a metaphysical adhesive that glues us together for good, it can also work in the opposite direction as well; and so Rabindranath Tagore wrote:

My song has put off her adornments. She has no pride of dress and decoration. Ornaments would mar our union; they would come between thee and me; their jingling would drown thy whispers.

Ornaments of my soul i.e. ego and its siblings called pride and vanity would certainly mar our union and this is one thing that I’m most uninspired to do.

But, if life is a spontaneous combustion of a great blue flame, the act of being inspired and inspiring others, I believe, becomes the intricate entwining of our souls that forms the very basic elements of hydrogen and oxygen that burns this great blue flame of our spiritual co-existence. And if in such a flame, I’m by the very nature of my being obliged to burn; I’ll put my best effort, to try to burn with the finest particles of my soul.

For more from Matheus find him on twitter:  @matheusyuhlung  

Inspiration in Unlikely Places

By: Jenni Taylor, Author in Chief

Paper, Interfaith, Inspiration, WordsCopy rooms tend to be soul-sucking places. You can often find a teacher or office worker there, eyes glazed over, listening to the monotonous whirls and gasps of the machine and probably stapling in the same rhythm. The fluorescent lights flicker, the walls are bare, and you are sure this is the beginning of the zombie apocalypse.

But while the machine sucks the soul and the school year gets long and never ending, there are still a few coworkers trying their best to inspire their students. I found a pile of hopeful homework left next to the copy machine. There they were, 150 neatly piled copies of a commencement address given by David Foster Wallace at Kenyon in 2005.

This is obviously a famous enough speech, especially since it made it to the reading list of 10th graders in Shanghai, China, but I had never read it before. I had come to the copy room to make my own monstrous load of dead tree handouts and decided to read it while I waited for the machine to stop its weird mechanical noises of death.

I was not disappointed.

For those who are not familiar, the speech is a rather abrupt and depressing affair beginning with a fish and water analogy and spiraling down into the dark and monotonous truth of adult life. He describes the long hours at work, the struggle to get through a grocery line, only to get home, sleep, and get up the next day to do it all over again.

At first, it made me sad. Really, really sad.

I’m 26, and most of the time feel like I’m play-acting at the whole adult thing. That weird, giggly joy of stepping into your own apartment for the first time, or getting a paycheck that the 15 year old me would never have dreamed of, or laughing at myself in the mirror because my business suit looks exactly like a costume I had to wear for a children’s play a long, long time ago. It’s all a big game.

But then you get used to it all, the joy disappears, and it becomes the exact repetitive monster David Foster Wallace describes. The rat race is real, my friends. I became doubly sad realizing that as a 10th grader I would have waved aside this prophecy as a rant from a man who clearly had nothing better to do in his life. Now, it felt as if he had been watching me in the grocery store.

There is, however, a light at the end of the tunnel. He leaves his listeners with a challenge to think of others as possibly being more important than yourself, and adjusting your lens with which you see the world. Small yet powerful words.

So there I was, in the copy room, completely engrossed in reading this speech and having a small existential crisis of examining what my adulthood has become. I decided that today is a good day to change and start seeing things in a different way. I snuck a copy from the pile and it is now in my desk, next to notes from students I read when I am feeling uninspired. I gave those a read as well, and suddenly life is feeling new again. Inspiration brings joy, energy, and much needed passion.

My prayer:

Thanks God, for inspiration found in unlikely places, and the pure joy of literature and the power of words. Thank you that the cliche “it’s never too late to change” is true. Thank you for a reminder to look above and around and even upside down, to shake up the world like a snow globe and stand to the side, rather than the center. Help me bring meaning to even the dullest of moments and joy in fluorescent-lighted rooms. Help me to pass on inspiration to others who need it, just as it was given to me today.

Amen.

Seeking Submissions: Inspiration

Prague, Stained Glass, Church, BeautyThis month at Searching Sophia’s Pockets, we are focusing on the theme of INSPIRATION. Inspiration relates to everyone’s spiritual journey, and it also relates to our thoughts on holy texts, our creative journeys and much more. So look deeply and tell us what has inspired your spiritual journey and how you draw inspiration from your spiritual experiences.

If you are lacking some inspiration for your submission, here are a few questions to get you started:

  1. Who do you look up to as inspiring spiritual leaders? Why?
  2. What inspires you about your faith?
  3. How might creativity, inspiration and faith be linked?
  4. Where do you find spiritual inspiration in your daily life?
  5. What are you uninspired to do?

With Wisdom, Love …and Lint,

The Searching Sophia’s Pockets Team

My Moroccan Interfaith “Aha” Moment

By: Autumn Elizabeth, Editor in Chief 

Morocco, Hijab, Interfaith

At the beginning of this month I really knew nothing about modesty. As I wrote in my post about preparing for my trip to Morocco, I wasn’t all that sure about modesty and religion, or modesty’s relationship to hijabs and other coverings. I also had absolutely no idea how modesty might relate to my own spiritual journey.

However, since wearing a head covering in Morocco, since reading our own Nermine Mohamed’s post about hijabs, and since encountering The Hijab Project by the amazing Amara Majeed, I feel like I have a much better understanding of modesty.

My experiences in Tangier, Morocco were enlightening and important. I saw women and men  with their own version of modest clothing. Some women covered their heads, others didn’t. Some men, mainly students of the Koranic schools, covered their heads too. Some people wore traditional djellabas, others wore modern interpretations, still others wore jeans and t-shirts.

Although Morocco is a Muslim nation, there was a Spanish Catholic Mission in Tangier as well. When I saw several nuns walking in the Petit Soco in the center of Tangier, for the first time, I saw their habits as a form of hijab. Now this may seem like an obvious connection, but despite my years of interfaith work, I had seen head coverings as something primarily associated with the Muslim and Jewish faiths. This was for me a mix between an “aha” moment, and a startling realization of my own ignorance.

Although I had no judgement on head coverings prior to this moment, afterword I felt a deep spiritual connection with my head coverings. I felt suddenly perfectly at home with my head covered as a Christian in a Muslim country. I also saw the deep and abiding connection between what are referred to as the “Abrahamic religions” meaning Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Baha’i. These religions share a common bond, and to some extent a common practice of head covering.

For me this is why travel, and the sharing of spiritual journeys from around the world, is so important. No matter how different our spiritual journeys look from the outside, when we see people not religion, when we share experiences and not ideologies, we can find striking similarities, and fonts of wisdom we would have missed otherwise.

Hijabs and Modesty

By: Nermine Mohamed, Writing Intern 2015

11090958_10153701787980278_1405256105756384901_oI never like to talk about why I wear “Hijab”, even back in my own country, although it was not a big deal as I belonged to the majority. What’s uncommon is not wearing it. But after moving to a Western country, I become the uncommon, the different as I look and dress differently than others. It never bothered me being the “outcast”; on the contrary I feel more comfortable and at ease with myself here than back in my own country. But what does bother me is that I always get asked a lot of questions which always make me feel uncomfortable. Being a very private person, I don’t really like people asking me questions about my personal life or my beliefs, unless we are in a very close relationship to allow for such discussions. I understand that some people simply ask out of curiosity or interest to know more about a different culture and religion.

Although I know that this is not normal and religion questions are a red line for many people, yet a friend of mine once told me that by wearing a veil, I explicitly identify myself as a Muslim, which means I am open to discussing my religion and my beliefs. It is a valid argument, yet it completely ignores the other side who certainly would not like being asked these kinds of questions by random strangers or people I have just met or people who have no business prying into my personal life, my wardrobe or what parts of my body I am to cover or uncover.

Yet, I always know how to adapt and go with the flow and apart from the silly questions of whether I sleep or shower in it; mostly people ask me why I wear it. I always try to cut the conversation short and just give the standardized answer without going deep into the subject: It is out of modesty. One other time, my manager suddenly and quite out of the blue while working, came to me and asked me whether those who don’t wear the “Hijab” are considered bad and I am ultimately better than them. I was startled by the question and I told him definitely not and that it is a personal decision and has nothing to do with who’s better and who is not. This is why I decided to write about Hijab and modesty.

I first wore my Hijab when I was really young about 13-14, but not out of religious reasons or anything. I just wanted to look different as it was not that common back then. Being a childish decision, I took it off shortly after for more than a year. I wore it again, but this time was me trying to be more religious. I wore it this time longer for 3 or 4 years and then I started to feel uncomfortable, burdened, shackled. I could not do it anymore. Part of me kept on saying that I would be happier and freer once I take it off. And I did. I took the decision and told my family who was not really happy about it, but did not force me to do anything against my will. It was only for a day and actually no one really knew about it as I wore it again the next day. All I remember is that I felt uncomfortable and did not feel like myself. Now I am pretty much at ease with it. I decided to stick with my decision, to see it as something I am doing to be closer to my faith.

But, looking back at that time when I took off my Hijab for this one day and then decided against it, I know that part of me was afraid and not quite ready to face all the jaw-dropping stares, the whys questions, the go back to God-preaching and the you will go to hell-threats, which any woman who takes it off is subjected to. I know that while I had the freedom to decide for myself, others don’t have this leisure, and are being forced or pressured by society to wear what is seen as a sign of modesty and are being judged and measured by this scale of modesty that only a simple scarf on the head defines.

I decided to wear something that defines my faith and who I am, but faith never means the absence of doubt. As any human being, I have my own doubts. My mind is buzzing every minute of every day with so many questions that I don’t have any answers to and a continuous struggle to reconcile between my worldly views and my spirituality. And I cannot reconcile with how Hijab is seen as a sign of modesty, because all these labels and definitions always tend to single out something as the modest, the right, the good, the worthy and leave the rest behind or implicitly taunt and criticize all that’s different from the prescribed definition or image.  I know that my faith is not and should not be measured by what I wear. I know that what I wear is not by any means the ultimate definition of modesty. I know that a woman should be free to dress as she feels like, and people have no right to ask a woman why she is wearing or not wearing something.

That’s why I’d like to think of modesty (of any kind) as a decision. And there is never a clear-cut formula for a decision. Decisions are personal, a part of who we are and our personal journey. We should have the freedom to make our own decisions. We should have the right to doubt them, to change them without needing to explain or to justify our reasons. And we should never ever be judged or measured by others’ decisions.

Modesty, Meaning, and Me

By: Jenni Taylor, Author in Chief

I would not say modesty is my strong point. In fact, I spent the better part of an afternoon creating non-modest memes of myself.

jenni

Then I sent said memes to friends so they could share in my wit and glory… modesty… about that…

I spent quite a bit of energy and time fighting against the idea of modesty while growing up. In a religious sense, modesty, specifically clothing modesty, was seen as a virtuous trait for women- and women only. My beautiful, confident, feminist warrior princess side of me had a difficult time with this message, and proceeded to throw the baby out with the bath water.

But then our writing intern, Nermine, wrote a beautiful piece including her definition of modesty, and it is the exact definition I’ve been looking for all these years. So here I am, aware of my faults, but slowly beginning to come around again.

So, modesty, it’s time you and I had a talk. I recognize that what some may see as confidence in me is sometimes insecurity (not all the time! But yes, okay, sometimes). I recognize my need for bluster and bravado, and that you, dear modesty, may be a better option. I’ve seen you before, you know. That quiet confidence, complete security in oneself. You and I have had some good moments but have never become fast friends.

Modesty, you are directly linked to security, and security is linked to self-love and acceptance. I know when my spirit is in its happy place, fully loved and accepted by the universe, you will come quietly and build your nest in my heart. I want to be a wise old woman someday, and I need you there with me.

So, here I am. Deflate my pufferfish-like ego, and help me to get back to the truth. And the truth is, I still look pretty good even when I am deflated.

Success and Modesty

Today’s post comes from our regular contributor David Etim, who is writing from Lagos, Nigeria. David provides deep insights that show us that modesty and success do not have to be opposite in our lives. in fact, David believes that there is  a way to see modesty and success as linked to one another, that a type of modest success exists.

modestsuccessIn all honesty, my life as an individual has been dramatically influenced by people whose lifestyle have been moderate both in the Bible and in the secular world such as: Rick Warren, David Oyedepo, and Bill Gates, just to mention a few.  I believe my worth would have been far less than what it is today without access to the life-changing stories of these men. When the spirit of modesty influences a heart, it will be reflected in the way the person lives, and leads them to a success rooted in modesty.

The Oxford Dictionary defines “Modesty” as “showing regards for conventional decencies.” I am of the belief that modesty is not thinking less of myself; it is thinking of myself less. It is also my belief that living a modest life will make me very successful and productive.

In my banking days when I was in a training, one of my course-mates said to me, “Etim, your lifestyle does not fit our environment.” He meant that I lived more modestly than the rest.  When the course ended, I was singled out as not only the youngest in that course as one of the top three in the whole course. My modest lifestyle did not go unnoticed. Modesty pays! Even the bible notes modesty and rewards it, according to Gen. 6:9-10: “Amidst all mankind at that time, God singled out Noah…….He tried always to conduct his affairs according to God’s will.”

There is no way around it. Modesty and success are not opposite, but in my life at least, modesty has brought success. So I say, to God alone be all the glory!

What is Modesty for an U.S. American Living in Morocco?

We decided to have each member of our staff reflect on the question: What is Modesty?  Our Writing Intern, offered her perspective as Muslim woman, our Editor in Chief tried to define modesty, and our Author in Chief explored modesty in a multicultural world. For our last piece in this series, our Social Media Intern, Will O’Brien, shares his thoughts on modesty beyond its depiction in western media.

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When I think of modesty, my mind jumps to an image of a dad lecturing his daughter for her “revealing” outfit choice in one T.V. sitcom or another. I fear that this is often the western image of modesty– something a man is imposing on a women. I am afraid we seen modesty only as a symbol of the hetero-patriarchy, an accomplishment of white men, and a feather in the hat of the traditional powers that be.

Having conjured this image myself I cannot claim to be immune of the societal structures that placed it there; however, in taking this image a step further I hope to change this concept. What if modesty, as it is taught in most religious traditions, as an act of self-expression, not an imposition?

I think that modesty is not purely a performative representation of one’s self based on how they dress, or how society tells them to dress. Saba Mahmood, in her book Politics of Piety, advocates for modesty to be an element of individual agency. It is not something that can be imposed on someone, and thus modesty is something totally different than what is portrayed in much of western media. True modesty is a decision that one makes for oneself about oneself.