Re-kindling The Magic In The Ritual

Today’s post comes from Nermine Mohamed, who like John Smith in his post on the prayer in ritual, and like Jenni in her post on the ritual of prayer, looks for the meaning behind rituals. Nermine gives us all great insights on how we must never take our rituals for granted, for they offer us a special kind peace and love.

I am a Muslim. “Ṣalāt” or Prayers are a cardinal doctrine in my religion; the second of the five pillars of Islam. It is a daily ritual that I am required to do five times. All my life I have been taught that I should pray, without knowing why I should. I would pray because I had to, I am obliged to, thus often I would just do it nonchalantly, absentmindedly, just to take it off my shoulders. I would recite the verses which had become meaningless because they have been said countless times without ever pausing to reflect on the meanings behind these words. My mouth would say them, but my heart never felt them. I would stand in prayer while my heart and mind are elsewhere.

Now I am trying to look at my daily prayers in a different way. It is true that prayers are a duty, an obligation you have to perform as a Muslim, but it is only for my sake, not a pressure or a burden, but a relief, a time-out from the big and stressful game of life. As Prophet Muhammed (Peace be upon him) has always referred to Ṣalāt as a relief from all the pain and worries of the world. Now I feel that I need to pray. I need to stand looking down humbly, for I am full of sins, full of flaws, yet God never pushes me away, God is always eager to hear me out, eager to direct me if I am lost or confused, and ready to forgive if I only ask for forgiveness.

I need to glorify God and give thanks for my countless blessings which are benevolently and bountifully bestowed upon me every single moment, even though I so rarely appreciate them and so often take them for granted.I need to kneel down with my nose on the ground, for I am always holding it up high, letting my human ego consume me, thinking I am smarter, I am better, that I do not need help. Thus it is a reminder that no matter how knowledgeable, smart, or successful I become, I owe it all to God.

I am constantly looking for peace, for guidance. I want to be more humble, more thankful and more compassionate. I found out that all of this is part of one single ritual that I was doing out of obligation without letting it affect and change me. That’s why rituals can be tricky. Sometimes, without even noticing, something very special, unique and spiritual can turn into a mundane habit, which often loses its meaning, its uniqueness, because it has been repeated countless times.

I am daily trying to re-kindle my spiritual connection with God through my daily prayers. It is not always that easy. It is a constant battle between the sounds of the world buzzing inside my ears and trying to listen to that voice within. Sometimes that voice fades away amidst all the noise, and sometimes it is not even there, but some other times I feel it, I hear it. Sometimes it is as loud as thunder, sometimes as low as a murmur. But when it is there, I find the magic in the ritual.

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Dinner Prayer

In honor of our theme of Hunger, we will do a series of food-based prayers this month! Enjoy and don’t for get to submit your own prayers!

Dear Spirit of Care,

I hunger for a pause,
a break in my day, my week, my overly-busy life.

Let this dinner bring me the peace I crave,
and let it remind me of the joys of slowing down.

Do not let me forget
those who will not have dinner tonight,
and those who will eat their dinner alone.

Let me be nourished,
so that I can nourish others.
Le me be fed,
so that I can feed the hungry.

Let me enjoy this meal,
let me enjoy those who share it with me,
let my hunger be satisfied.

Amen

Roots, Old and New

By: Jenni Taylor

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A wise person once told me to live in a place like my gravestone will be next door. You claim it as your own, make yourself part of the whole, and dive in with everything you’ve got.

When you give to people, you are giving to the place, too. Tears, laughter, blood from broken bones or broken hearts- it all spills into the ground and becomes food for roots. Relationships are tangible things, leaving vibrations in the air and under your feet long after you’ve gone.

Traveling, I set down roots. I make myself a part of that place. There are swing sets in Chicago, trees in Saint Louis, malocas in Peru, and dumpling vendors in China where I have left fingerprints and feelings and memories. Each new place I find myself, it becomes home.

I find myself home now. Not the physical house I grew up in, but surrounded by family and soon to be surrounded by friends. I am returning to old roots for a moment, for a breath of fresh air, of life and energy poured into my somewhat tired soul through the hugs of people I love dearly. I find myself blessed, with conversations and laughter that mean the world to me. I refresh myself before diving back into my new home with new roots reaching out ever so slowly in the jungle of Shanghai. I reach my roots out all over the world, feeling the community of individuals, families, teachers, friends, all who have made my life so incredibly rich.

I love my worldwide roots. Don’t be afraid to jump out, to find a new home, start something new. The ones you love will still be there for you.

Defining Strong Faith

Today’s guest post comes from David Etim who is writing from Lagos, Nigeria.   David, who wrote in February about Love and Childcare, retired as a career banker in 1998 to strengthen his commitments to God. Today, he shares his journey of finding strength of faith through the Bible and God. Even when we come at spirituality or faith from different paths, there is still wisdom to be gained from  the love David has for his faith and the strength he and others find there. 

“What is faith? It is the confidence assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see” (Hebrews 11:1 NLT).

Faith is something I cannot do without. My faith determines what happens to me, and without faith, life seems pointless. My faith may sometimes seem small but it is strong.

” …Abraham never doubted. He believed God, for his faith and trust grew ever stronger, and he praised God for his blessing even before it happens” (Romans 4:20 TLB).

I think that true faith results in actions. Faith without action is mere theory. Strong faith trusts in God for the results. When I walk daily by faith, I  hope to please God.

In a branch of my bank where I was working in 1995, we were unable to meet the profit target set for the branch. The bank management’s decision was to demote the branch at the end of the financial year, if we could not meet the management’s expectations.

In the light of scriptures I had faith that God would help me. ” If you will only let me help you, if you will only obey, then I will make you rich.” ( Isaiah 1: 19 TLB).

I sought the Lord in prayer, asking: “Lord you promised me that Your Presence shall go before me, and that I shall see prosperity”.  The Lord told me, “Preach My Word on Prosperity”.
During fellowship hour in the morning, because I was the branch’s Christian fellowship assistant coordinator, I told them what the Lord said. To God be the glory, the branch was not demoted, rather, there were mass promotions.

I have also witnessed strong faith in others.  Recently, a young lady offered her January pay to local children’s home. I asked her what the reason behind her decision was.  She told me that she loves children, and that, children are the heritage of the Lord, citing, Psalm 127.  Secondly, she told me she is expecting something from the Lord. I quoted Matthew 9:29 and told her: “…Because of your faith it will happen”.

I believe strong faith is simply obedience in love. Strong faith has to do with sensing the direction you are moving in and knowing that something good is in the making.

Waking Up

A Good Morning in Thailand

I’m tired of being tired. Not just the physical tired, but the emotional tired that comes with stress, living in another country, work, a busy life, and a multitude of other problems clamoring for my attention at any given moment. I’m tired of rolling out of bed and mechanically getting ready to hit the grind. I want to live my life, not just survive it.

So this week I am waking up saying, this morning is for ME. I will fill my own bucket with sunshine, peace and purpose before I go out and start filling the buckets around me.

I stretch. I put my arms over my head and breath deep enough my belly looks like a balloon. I take a moment to remember how incredible having life is, and how beautiful it is to take one breath, and then another.

I dance, sing, hum, or spend a minute listening to the birds or Spanish ballads. I put at least a moment of music in me because there’s something about having a song in your heart that brings joy.

I read. Right now it’s one or two verses from Ecclesiastes, or a poem by Dylan Thomas, or a moment with something I already know from my Chinese book to give me a little extra confidence. Words bring life, and I choose to put those words on my tongue like nourishing honey.

I soak in the sunshine. If there is no sunshine, I look at the trees and remember that they too are waiting for the sun to come back, and they do so with patience and grace. I try to stand tall like they do, and hope I will be as wise as they are some day.

I eventually get to work, have my breakfast, and drink my coffee. I try to remember to keep all the things from the morning in me, and to take another deep breath when needed.

Habits are hard to form. There will still be days when the thought of getting out of bed is painful in itself, when life seems too stressful to face, when the thought of doing it all again brings dread. But if I can breathe in and sing my blessings even one more time this week than last, I know I’m learning to wake up right.

Awakening to War

Hope of Life

“We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.” ― D.H. Lawrence

Today’s post again focuses on the conflict in Syria. Shaza Askar’s perceptive put a human face on the tragedy with wisdom and grace. Hopefully, this post will wake us all up to the realities of war, and guide us to work for peace.

Syria’s turmoil began with protests against the regime back in March 2011. A year and a half later it was formally declared a civil war. Three years later, the war has affected the world, even the international community has stepped in after accusations of chemical weapons use in the suburbs of Damascus in August 2013.

The human cost is high and continues to climb as fighting rages. The death toll now exceeds 130,000 and more than eight million Syrians have fled their homes, seeking refuge either in neighboring countries or other parts of their troubled country.

I was living in my home city Homs during the outbreak of the war in 2011. The beginning of the war, or let us say revolution, was frightening because no one could guess where it might take us, or what my country’s future was going to be like.

Since my family house was near the Old City of Homs, a center of action, we had a greater share of tragedies. I can clearly remember how it all started, the protests, the first confrontations between the rebels and the government army, the deployments of tanks and soldiers down the streets, and the raids on the houses.

One June morning in 2011, I awoke to find seven tanks on my block. At that point I knew, a real war had started. There was one time that my sister and I were walking home and suddenly two groups were shooting all around us, we ran like crazy for almost 200 meters to reach to our relatives’ house. We stayed there until there was a break in the battle and we could finally go home.

The scary thing about Syria is that even if you are in an area that seems calm, there are still airstrikes. There isn’t a no-fly zone in place. And there are airstrikes all around the country. So at any moment the veneer of calm can be shattered with an airstrike or with an artillery round. Consequently, civilians were indiscriminately being killed, and who is the murderer? It is an unanswerable question since there are quite a number of armies, groups, and affiliations which are fighting in my country.

I awake every morning knowing war is ravaging my country, I awake every morning knowing people in Syria will die. I awake every morning knowing being alive is a blessing.

Loose Thread: Thankful Thoughts

Hamilton Wright Mabie once said,

Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.

No matter what you are celebrating at this time of year, we here at Searching Sophia’s Pockets are, as always, grateful for all of you. We are also thankful for hugs, for hot chocolate, and for the love being shared around the world.

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

What’s your thankful thought?

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?

Loose Thread: Thankful Thoughts

Charles M. Schulz once said,

All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.

For our part, we here at Searching Sophia’s Pockets are, as always, grateful for all of you. And for food, and chocolate, and of course, wisdom, love …and lint.

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

What’s your thankful thought?

Turkeyless Thanksgiving

By: Autumn Elizabeth

This year there will be no turkey on my Thanksgiving table, and not just because I don’t eat meat, or because I am thousands of miles from the United States of America.  This year, both in preparation for the coming advent season and to honor and raise awareness for those who go hungry everyday, I will be fasting for Thanksgiving.  

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As someone who was raised Catholic, I have been aware of the power of fasting since childhood. When we remove the metaphorical and literal filler of food, we can become aware of other ways to fill ourselves. To mark this year’s U.S. Thanksgiving, which comes to close the the start of advent, and which has already been embroiled in controversy about worker’s rights, with an absence of food seems the only right course for me.  I will have time to think about the meaning of gratitude, of gifts, of wealth, in light of both the upcoming advent season and the existence of massive worldwide poverty and hunger.

Given the confluence of Advent and American Thanksgiving this year, I have to wonder, how would Jesus celebrate Thanksgiving?  It is hard for me to imagine the Jesus I know, the Jesus of the poor, the outcast and the overlooked, sitting at a table overflowing with food in a nice warm house discussing how early he will be getting up to stand in like for the best black Friday discounts.  I imagine Jesus might be at a soup kitchen, or might hang out on the street corner with those who don’t have houses or dinners.  Jesus might be so shocked by the gluttonous feast, he might spend the day in the temple praying.

I don’t really know how Jesus would celebrate Thanksgiving, but I can do my best to follow his example. Maybe next year I’ll be out on a street corner, but this year it feels right to pray for wisdom, for change, for love.

There will be no turkey on my table this Thanksgiving, no mashed potatoes, no green bean casserole. I will sit, at my table, an ocean away from Black Friday plans and pumpkin pie, and pray for the wisdom to celebrate all my blessings the way Jesus might. So, no matter how, or if, you celebrate Thanksgiving, I’ll be praying for you.