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!

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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!

A Prayer for Starting Over

Here is a prayer for those of us who are starting over now, or who know someone who is. Feel free to make any adjustments to the prayer as you and your faith deem necessary, and feel free to send us your prayers too!

Dear Spirit of Wisdom,

Starting over is really hard.
I had a dream, a plan, a hope, a relationship,
but not it is gone–now I must begin again to find my own way.

In these confusing times let me find wisdom,
in my faith, in those who support me, and in myself.

As I struggle to press forward,
help me find strength and perseverance.

As I am healing the wounds of loss,
let me find comfort and care.

This journey is fresh and new,
and so I pray to find some joy,
in starting over.

Amen.

The Back and Forth of Starting Over

By: Autumn Elizabeth

By some ways of looking at my life, I have spent the majority of the last few years starting over. Starting to reclaim a new spiritual path after my church refused to marry me and my partner, starting over with a new life in Europe after that unsanctioned marriage ended. But the truth is, I am not sure starting over is even possible.

Starting over spiritually has not meant giving up my lifetime of faith and starting fresh. On the contrary, starting over has led me both forward and backwards. I have rediscovered some of the beauty and radical justice buried in my Catholic heritage, and I have found deep wells of solace and a place to pray in my yoga practice. I have also kept a deep admiration for my church as they struggle to more radically embody the love of Jesus and move to embrace all types of love.

I think starting over is always about moving both backwards and forwards simultaneously. No matter how much someone hurts us, no matter how broken our hearts, none of us really forget, we keep tiny pieces of all the people we love in our hearts forever. For me, in times of heartache, starting over often looks a lot like going back to the people who knew me before my heartache, and it also often involves finding new relationships of love and support. So it seems, for me at least, that starting over is more a process of growing in wisdom and love than a process of erasing our past.

For me starting over has been a process of going back and moving forward. I am blessed to have found solace in both places. 2015 stands to be a big year for me in both directions. Looking to the future I will graduate from my master’s program, and I will celebrate entering a new decade of wisdom. Looking back, this site will turn two and my oldest friendship with turn 21. To me, this is what starting over looks like—it is the growing of new branches while my roots grow deeper too. This January, may your new year be rooted in all the blessing of your past, and all the possibilities of the future. Here’s to staring over, and to keeping all the wisdom we’ve already gained.

Theater Rituals Creating Community

There is no magic quite like that of an empty theater. There are smells, textures, curtains and sawdust, a million shades of black painted over a million other colors that came before. There is expectant silence, and twilight sleepiness. Saying goodbye to an empty theater is akin to tucking a child into bed in the soft glow of night lights, knowing you will leave before she wakes up.

My place of magic was The Beverly Arts Center, a theater space used by various community theater groups on the south side of Chicago. I was a chorus child, an oddball, a laughing extra in period costume and sausage curls created by a neighbor’s mom. I loved every minute of it.

A community theater would perform A Christmas Carol like clockwork every year. It’s where I learned to harmonize to “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” while simultaneously learning the ins and outs of theater love, life, and lore. It was Cassie who pushed me out in the snow to do a ritualistic anti-curse when I said the name of the Scottish play without knowing any better (Dear Lord now I know). It’s where Christmas Present gave me a Jiminy Cricket good luck charm and Joe was a jolly Bob Cratchit and the stage manager let us eat the turkey prop after the show if we kids weren’t too annoying in the green room. It’s where a small group of friends bonded over silly tricks and broken hearts, stolen kisses backstage and a brother chipping off his sister’s nail polish.

It was community.

Community theater isn’t quite like any other kind of theater. There’s a switch in priorities, a love, a group bonding over something we would do for free, again and again and again. It means family, loyalty, laughter and support. It means bear hugs after the curtain goes down, story telling at a bar, and the knowledge these people will love you unconditionally as long as you don’t ever skip strike or act like a diva.

It was in this magical place where I felt loved, wanted and accepted. Religious tradition stresses the importance of breaking bread together. Surviving tech week together is a slightly more intense yet equal equivalent.

It’s been a long time since I was able to partake in this crazy Christmas tradition, but every time I hear “Carol of the Bells”, I feel a piece of the magic come back again. The bells remind me that during that special time God really did bless us, every one.

Afraid Of Liking Loneliness Too Much

 Last week Author in Chief, Jenni Taylor, wrote a post about not being afraid to be alone. Today, our guest post from Nermine Mohamed focuses on fear of liking loneliness too much. Nermine is a Muslim from what she calls “the huge, crowded and contradictory city of Cairo”, although today she is living in Germany. In her post, Nermine shares her wisdom on loving herself while having fears she might be alone too much.

Loneliness is one of the greatest fears of our era. People commit suicide, settle for less, and throw themselves in unhappy relationships just to give themselves the illusion of conquering loneliness. On the other hand, some people are not afraid of loneliness and it is quite hard for them to picture their life with others in it. So, there are actually two sides of this coin: the fear of loneliness and the fear of too much solitude.

I was once a people person. I loved to be around people all the time. It made me feel safe. It made me feel protected. People gave me a sense of identity, a sense of worthiness. I’m no longer that person.

Now, I know who I am and I won’t be afraid to say that I love and enjoy my own company. I never get bored when I’m alone. I think clearly in solitude. I like the sound of my own breathing; I find it soothing; it unlocks my mind; it unwinds my soul. I stopped giving justifications for my thoughts, beliefs or worldviews.

I’m happy with what I’ve become, yet I cannot help but feeling afraid. Yes, I’m afraid of this drastic and ultimate independence and lonesomeness and where it will lead me. Although lots of people fear loneliness, for me it is easy to be alone. It is safe and trouble-free. But is this the way things should be? Are not we made into this world to help one another grow and thrive?

I keep pondering the reasons why I turned into this lonesome soul… There are probably many reasons and fears still buried in my unconscious mind that took part in reshaping who I am. But I know the fear of being rejected, or being caste-out just because I think differently caused me to change. Maybe it is also the intense mental pain I feel when I try so hard to make myself understood and miserably fail at it. Maybe it is my need to justify myself to the expectations of others, no matter how unfair or unreasonable they might be.

Yes, it is healthy to learn to love our own company. Loneliness can make us appreciate good company more; it can unleash our creative nature and make us learn about ourselves in an unusual way. It can help us explore our capabilities, potentials, new talents, and new sides of our personality. It can enrich our soul and make us better people.

Yet, loneliness can also lead to a dingy path and that’s what I dread. I’m afraid too much loneliness might taint my soul and obscure my vision. I’m afraid I’ve been deluding myself thinking that I do not need anyone, because I do need other people. My life can’t be full without others who actually give it meaning and sense.

We cannot go it alone all the time, the road can be long, tiresome and full of stumbles and that’s why we need company; we need people to help us back up when we fall, to slow us down when we go too far, to put us back on the right path when we are lost and confused.

I’m not afraid of loneliness, but I am afraid of liking loneliness just a little bit too much.

I think it is good not to fear our own company, but now I also know that as much as I like my own solo song, every now and then I have to let in some other tunes and just listen to the sound of it all together. Only then I will surprise myself, only when I find harmony in the most unexpected of places, only when I am not afraid to listen to more than my own voice…

The Choice of Leaving Syria

Today’s post comes from Shaza Askar, a young Syrian woman. Shaza’s brave words shed a new light on the theme of choices. Above all, Shaza’s post gives us a glimpse into the reality of war, and we here at Searching Sophia’s Pockets are exceedingly glad she is able and willing to share her story.  

my room Homs

“A part of me is still there…” says Shaza of her room in Homs, Syria

From the outside, Syria looks like Armageddon. It just looks like full-on combat around every corner, but war-zones are never what they appear from the outside. There are always pockets of calm and neighborhoods where life goes on.

Around the end of the year 2011, I chose to move to the capital city of Damascus to pursue a Master’s degree there. You can never guess that life was almost normal in the neighborhoods inside Damascus. However, in the distance you could always hear artillery rounds landing, but it seemed like there were areas and pockets that were nearly calm except for some mortars and Grad Rockets falling every now and then, in addition to explosions taking place once in two or three weeks.

Despite choosing to move somewhere safer, I almost lost my sister in an explosion in summer 2013. More than twenty people were burned to death while they were riding a bus after it passed over planted explosives. People around the explosion were injured too. My sister was one of those injured by the explosion, of course but thankfully she survived it. The violence continued to escalate. Battles were surrounding the capital city; some of them even took place within the neighborhoods of Damascus. We had to make a choice.

Living in a situation like that, fleeing the country was the only choice for me. After the choice of leaving Syria was made, I, along with my sister, began the long and exhausting process of preparations. After a few months of working on our papers in such a complicated situation, and having to fly to Jordan or Lebanon whenever we had an appointment with the German Embassy, risking our lives with snipers who were readily placed on the way to the airport, my sister and I were finally accepted to study at German universities that were exceptionally supportive to us with regard to our special case.  I can’t be thankful enough for every person that showed real compassion during that time because it meant a lot.

Escaping Syria was my choice, but what of the people who are still there without the option to leave? What is their choice?

Loose Thread: Thankful Thoughts

Albert Schweitzer  once said,

In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.

For our part, we here at Searching Sophia’s Pockets are, as always, grateful for all of you for being the people who “rekindle the inner spirit.” Thank you for being part of this community And sharing your ideas, your spirit, and your traditions.

We invite you to share something you are thankful for with the community of Searching Sophia’s Pockets.

What prayer of thanks do you want to share this week?

Espresso Faith

Today’s post comes from Emily Hornburg, a Chicago native who moved down to small town Missouri to work as a youth minister. Her post links our November theme of Food with our December theme of Traditions, as she talks about traditions she has made surrounding faith and coffee. You can read more of her writing on her website, Love Woke Me Up This Morning, or  follow her on Twitter @LoveWokeMeUp. And now…take a sip of your own coffee and enjoy Emily’s caffeine-enhanced wisdom.

For some reason, I associate coffee with faith.

Maybe it’s because in high school my friends and I were all coffee addicts and we named our Bible study “Espresso.”

Maybe it’s because in college the guy I had a crush on lived at the coffee shop and convinced all of his “fan-girls” it was the best place to have a deep discussion about life and faith. Even after he graduated, and my overly-romantic heart had found another guy, I still had weekly coffee dates with friends so we would talk about the Bible and pray together. Searching for Sophia together if you will.

Maybe it’s because whenever I lead chapel at a local school I have to run by Starbucks on my way. Now, the students say when they go for a Starbucks run before class it’s called “pulling an Emily.”

If you were to look at my old Bibles, you would probably find multiple coffee stains splattered on the pages. But still now, years after high school and college, you’ll still find me sitting at a café with a warm cup of steaming caffeine goodness, a Bible somewhere nearby (even if it’s on my iPad where it can’t get stained), and a good friend sitting across from me.

I think though, it’s because in our world today, or at least in my world, it’s the equivalent of breaking bread in the Bible. In Jesus’ day, when people broke bread together, it was a sign of community. A sign of friendship and family and being together. Being able to break bread together was something special and holy.

In my world, it’s coffee. If I ask you to share a coffee date with me, it’s holy. It’s taking a moment to take a breath from the world and enjoy someone’s company. To share life together. To share faith together. Even if you’re drinking tea or hot chocolate while I have my coffee fix. While it’s not quite the same as the Eucharist, it’s still community. It’s still holy.

I think today, if Jesus were to walk up to me, he wouldn’t invite me somewhere to break bread. I think he would invite me to coffee.