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.

#BlackLivesMatter and Crucifixion

By: Autumn Elizabeth, Editor in Chief Christ, Interfaith, Christian, BlackLivesMatterI am supposed to be packing my bag for my next big adventure. In a little more than 24 hours I will be moving across an ocean. But I am not packing, my thoughts and prayers are interested in what is happening in the place I am stopping at on my journey. I am speaking of St. Louis, of Ferguson, of U.S. America, and the struggle for justice that is happening there today, and every day.

There are a lot of issues that need exploring on this topic, but I want to take a moment and explore the link between the crucifixion of Jesus and what is happening at this moment in my home country.

With the recent arrests of Johnetta “Netta” Elzie, many of the Millennial Activists United folks, and Cornel West, among other, my mind drifts to my recent trip to the Vatican in Rome.

While I was at the Vatican, I was told that after a terrible fire, early Christians were blamed for this fire and were tortured, burned alive, arrested and crucified by the Roman state. This is of course after Jesus was arrested and killed by the government of the lands in which he was born.

When I see my friends, brave activists, and those who I hold in the deepest gratitude of the spirit, and I see what they endure, the tear gas, the bruises, the beatings and the deaths, I cannot help but recall Matthew 27:30-31:

 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

As an ally, a comrade, a co-conspirator with those fighting for the literal lives of people of color in U.S.America, I cannot ignore the violence that is being perpetrated on those seeking justice, those calling for an end of domination, of racism, of injustice. In the same way I am called to give up earthly comforts to follow Jesus, I am called to give up the illusion that I too have not been steeped in racism, called to not merely observe but to stand with my comrades of color.

Marcus Borg explores the link between the crucifixion of Jesus and the movement to end oppression and domination far better than I ever could.

Jesus was killed. This is one of those facts that everybody knows, but whose significance is often overlooked. He didn’t simply die; he was executed. We as Christians participate in the only major religious tradition whose founder was executed by established authority. And if we ask the historical question, “Why was he killed?” the historical answer is because he was a social prophet and movement initiator, a passionate advocate of God’s justice, and radical critic of the domination system who had attracted a following. If Jesus had been only a mystic, healer, and wisdom teacher, he almost certainly would not have been executed. Rather, he was killed because of his politics – because of his passion for God’s justice.

Jesus fought against the state, the corrupt status quo, and he suffered for it, he was killed for it. As a Christian, I am firstly and most importantly a citizen of the way of Jesus. And as a citizen of such a state I salute everyone working for justice with #BlackLivesMatter. I believe Jesus is with you, I believe you are doing the work of God, and this post is for you.

Exploring The Road Less Traveled

By: Autumn Elizabeth, Editor in Chief Deco, Interfaith, Two Roads
                               Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
                                I took the one less traveled by,
                                And that has made all the difference.
                                –Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken

I can’t tell you the first time I heard this poem, but I can tell you that I have heard it so often that it may be the only piece of writing that I have passively memorized. This poem is quoted on cards, and oft cited to those of us who don’t follow te traditional roads.

Mostly this poem is read as an exultation of the road less traveled, a song of praise to those who walk against the grain of society. I was lucky enough to have a teacher who once taught me another reading of this poem that has informed my life choices ever since.

In class one day, Mr, Hoelscher read this poem, and then told our astonished class that it wasn’t a poem that praised the road less traveled. Indeed, Mr. Hoelscher pointed out that the speaker of the poem never says that the road less traveled was better. In fact, Mr Hoelscher drew our attention to the last stanza which starts,

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
He pointed our that it is entirely possible that the sigh indicates regret at taking this path, that perhaps the road less traveled was hard, exhausting work.
I can tell you that after 30 years of exploring what life has to offer, after years of obstinately choosing the road less traveled, I have to agree with this reading of the poem. Taking the road less traveled has also made me sigh–sigh with frustration, with exhaustion, and even with regret.
I have found that those of us who take the road less traveled don’t like to admit to the hard parts of our journeys. In fact, often even from the outside the difficulties are hidden, and sometimes I am not likely to remind the world that my life is not all glamorous french cafes and visits to the Louvre. The road less traveled remains less traveled because it is difficult, because the path is not clear.
Yet despite its difficulty, my exploration of this road has been beautiful, profound and rewarding. It may have made me sigh, but taking the road less traveled has indeed made all the difference in my life.

A Prayer For Healing, A Blessing In Disguise

By: Autumn Elizabeth, Editor in Chief 

Prayer for Healing, Blessings, Interfaith, weepingI have a friend who is in the midst of battling cancer, but this friend is just one of many who needs healing. Lately, I find myself praying for healing often, a little too often for my liking. My private prayer journal is filling up with friends asking for good thoughts as they heal from surgery, for strength as they heal from broken hearts, for spiritual healing for this broken world or simply prayers that they will feel the healing power of love as they struggle with death and dying. This is the prayer I say when I get these requests:

Dear God,

Give_____ what they need in abundance.

Let them feel the wholeness that comes from being loved,

because they are indeed loved.

Let them find a way to heal their wounds seen and unseen.

Let me find a way to help them the best I can.


This is a prayer of healing, but this prayer isn’t just about healing for others. By saying it so often, I have found a blessing there too, in disguise. In praying that others are healed, I am freeing myself from the awful feeling of uselessness that comes with loving those who are suffering, and for me feeling that I am doing something is a huge blessing.

i was not raised, neither by my church nor my family, to be useless, I was taught to serve, to help, to work, and to persevere. But in these recent times of so much hurt and suffering to those so near and so dear to me, I have often felt useless.

I struggle with questions like: What can I do to heal this world? How can I help when I am so far away? What use are my skills with words in times like these? But I have found that in praying for the healing of others, I too am healed. In praying for healing, I am blessedly useful. Thus, the prayers of healing I offer are, in some small way, my biggest blessings.

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.

Preparing For Modesty

By: Autumn Elizabeth, Editor in Chief  

modesty prepreareI’ll admit, I am not the most modest person in the world. In some senses I have worked hard on doing things that most people consider immodest, such as embracing my sexuality, loving my body, and having excesses of fun. So as I prepared for a trip to Morocco, it wasn’t that surprising that my closet contained virtually nothing that met the cultural standards of modesty there.

Despite all my travels, I’ve never been to a predominantly Islamic country before, so I wanted to make sure I was prepared. I researched what parts of the body I shouldn’t expose, and read copious articles on the mix of European and Moroccan values and fashion happening in places like Casablanca.

I found lots of diverging opinions on dressing modestly. Some people said ti was a political statement to wear whatever they wanted as women, others felt most comfortable adopting the fully traditional Moroccan dress. My favorite piece of advice, coming from a European woman who spent several months living in Morocco, was that she tried to embrace the cultural modesty while still being herself.

Of course, this isn’t simply a cultural question, but also a religious one as well, and I think it is important to respect both religious and cultural values as a traveler. So this brings me back to my closet, and its complete lack of what one might call “Moroccan Modest” clothing. Although I could go for the political statement, as I write this my partner is packing several sari’s I have acquired from around the world to help me cover what my clothing won’t. Hopefully this international hodgepodge of fabrics, and a Ramones t-shirt or two, will sufficiently allow me to feel like myself while embracing a new level of modesty. Hopefully, I will be able to respect the culture and faith of Morocco, while honoring my own. Hopefully, I will be prepared for modesty and presented with new ways of viewing this complex concept.

Courage is Acceptance

FullSizeRenderBy: Autumn Elizabeth, Editor in Chief 

Recently, six amazingly brave people climbed on an oil rig that is still headed to the Arctic. These six people were part of a Greenpeace mission to stop Shell from drilling in the arctic. Along side this direct action, Greenpeace also  started a conversation about what courage is.  Then I ran across a post about living cross culturally and I remembered that this Saturday is Global Citizen Earth Day.  Suddenly, courage was an international question. I began thinking about courage, acceptance, and my cross cultural life as interconnected concepts.

Living abroad has taught me a lot of things, and has involved a strange mix of struggle and beauty. Yet, of all the things I have seen, and learned by  living in a world of cultural mixing, I think the most important is that accepting difference is brave, even courageous.

When I am experience someone’s difference, or a different culture, when I am confronted with a different idea about how to greet my neighbor or how to pray, I have two choices. I can degrade the things I find strange and different, or I can accept them.

It takes a lot of courage to accept difference. It is easier to degrade it, and our history as humans has shown that humanity often takes this easier route. Racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, even the degradation of the earth can all be seen as ways we humans have tried to degrade difference.

But every day each of us has the chance to choose something else, to be brave, to embrace difference. I may not understand someone else’s faith, but I can be brave and accept that it is true for them. My support of Greenpeace’s direct action against Shell may seem wrong and strange to you, but you can be brave, you can accept that this is my path, my way of saving the planet.

We are each called to our own spiritual journey, our own life path, our own interpretation of faith, we all have our own passions, our own beliefs, our own way to save the world. Be we can all also share the common courage of accepting each other’s difference. Courage isn’t belittling the things we find different, courage is accepting them and seeing if they hold any truth for our path.

Waiting for Acceptance

By: Autumn Elizabeth, Editor in Chief 

When the Searching Sophia’s Pockets team and I planned out the themes for this year, I had high hopes for this month’s theme. I thought I would be writing posts about getting accepted into grad school, and the ways that acceptance would allow me to open up my spiritual journey.I had also hoped that my Lenten practices would have been able to provide me with a post about accepting my new path, my calling.

I have to accept however, that the universe seems to have other plans. Today, after my Lenten social media hiatus, I am forced to face acceptance of a totally different kind.

It seems that what I am accepting this month is the unknown, which seems like it should be easy since I just wrote about it for the blog Tiny Buddha. The thing is sometimes it is hard to take our own advice, and sometimes the weight of trying to accept our current reality feels crushing.


For me, pushing for acceptance, even pushing myself to accept the chaos in my life, is not really effective. I have found that acceptance tends to come when I stop worrying about it. So now I am trying to relieve the weight, remove the stress, and just let acceptance happen. I pray not so much for the strength to accept my current situation, but the wisdom to accept myself as I am, and the patience to give myself time to accept the changes and the chaos in my life and my future. I also pray that each of you give yourselves those gifts as well.

Praying Into The Silence

By: Autumn Elizabeth, Editor in Chief 

This lent, as I disconnect with social media in an attempt to better listen to that still small voice of God, I have heard nothing but deafening silence. The roaring silence surrounding uncertainties in my future, in the life of my friends, in my faith.

This silence has been tough. It has not been the silence of peace, but rather a soul-churning silence. It has been a silence that feels more like crawling on gravel than swimming the the deepest of oceans.

In my fumbling attempt to struggle through this time of silence, I began searching for some new prayers to say. Prayers that might help me live better in the silence of waiting. In my search, I found some prayer cards that I had taken from a special box in my grandmother’s home after she died.

FullSizeRenderI remember picking them at random.Yet now, a message is clear in the ones I chose. Saint Rita and Saint Philomena, patron saints of the impossible, Saint Michael, protector of the faith, and the Holy Mother Mary.

It seems in my blind grief I knew the deepest yearnings of my soul: to achieve the impossible, to be strong of faith, to be comforted by the brave love of a fierce mother.

So as I stumble around in this silent waiting for God’s voice, I pray these prayers. I pray for the impossible reality that is the kindom of God on this earth. I pray for faith that is strong even in silence, even in doubt. I pray for the grace to accept my path the way Mary did, even when it isn’t the path I had planned for.

I pray into the the silence, with all the faith I can muster, knowing that sometimes, it is in these moments of struggle that we see most clearly, that it is in the moments of deafening silence that we hear most clearly.

Desire for a Radical Chrisitanty

By: Autumn Elizabeth, Editor in Chief 

It is important to note that for the purposes of this article, the word “radical” is used in the sense of desire for drastic social, political, economic and cultural reform. It is also important to note the privilege that I, as a white christian writer, have in using that word. I encourage everyone to consider their own personal reaction to this article and its title if we had substituted Islam for Christianity. 

So let’s get this out of the way… I am a radical, anti-racist, sex-positive queer feminist. Oh and one more thing, I am a Christian.

As such I believe in the unconditional love of God, and in living a life dedicated to  the service of others. I believe in the power of prayer, and the power of the Bible.

I also believe we live in a racist society that privileges white skin over lack and brown skin. I believe that, as  Dossie Easton put it, “Sex is nice and pleasure is good for you”.I am pro-choice, pro-same-sex marriage, pro-gender neutral bathrooms.  I know that many people, indeed even some people reading this very article may think, may believe that my beliefs are incompatible with Christianity. Some may even think that my desires, my beliefs, cause me to be separated, or distanced, from the love of God.

I however, believe the opposite. There is a passage from the Bible that is often cited by my friends over at Faith Aloud, at times when people see their work, or a woman’s reproductive choices, as keeping them from God.

I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love –Romans 9:38-39 The Message Bible

I can turn to God’s love and know that I cannot be parted from the love of God, no matter what anyone else says. My beliefs, my desires, my thoughts, and even the opinions of other Christians, cannot separate me from my God.

Yet, for me I want more than to be able to claim that my beliefs aren’t separating me from God. I need, I yearn for, and I call for a view of Christianity that embraces these beliefs. In fact, I demand a Christianity that reflects the radical politics of that totally radical guy, Jesus, whose message was one of radical love, radical action, and radical welcome.

Riffing on Flavia Dzodan’s awesome article on intersectional feminism, I  would say that my Christianity will be radical or it will be bullshit. Let me say that again, my Christianity will be radical or it will be bullshit. I don’t think this means everyone’s Christianity needs to be as radical as mine, but I do desire to have a place in the world of Christianity. I need a powerful Christianity that challanges me to be a better adovocate for justice in this world, but I also know that my desires aren’t everyone’s desires. 

I desire worship services that reflect my beliefs, I desire churches that seek out and support marginalized people, I desire sermons that discuss how difficult and revolutionary love can be. But mostly, I desire a racial Christianity that worships this Jesus:o-JESUS-570

Yet, I am well aware that many people have no desire for the view of Christianity I am talking about here, and I think that is okay.  I am also called by the Bible to honor the fact that no one’s belief’s can keep them from being loved by God, and that I am called to love people whose views are different than mine. Indeed, love for each other, and everyone else is what defies us as Christians, or as the writer of John puts it:

 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.–John 13:35

We are all human, our desires are infinite, but we all deserve a place at the table, a chance to voice our desires without judgment, and above all, we all receive, whether we deserve it or not, the unconditional love of God.