New Things In The New Year

Happy 2015!

We here at Searching Sophia’s Pockets have some exciting news to announce for the new year!

First of all, we have moved to our own domain, so this means you can now find us at SophiasPockets.com! Everything else remains the same, but this switch will help other people find us more easily, and it means less typing for you!

Second, we are beyond thrilled to introduce the first-ever Searching Sophia’s Pockets Interns: our Writing Intern, Nermine Mohamed, and our Social Media Intern, Will O’Brien!

Nermine, Our Writing Intern

Nermine, Our Writing Intern

Will, Our New Social Media Intern

Will, Our New Social Media Intern

 You may recognize Nermine’s name from such posts as Afraid of Liking Loneliness Too Much and Re-Kindling The Magic In the Ritual. Will is no stranger to Seaching Sophia’s Pockets either as he wrote one of our first guest posts ever, Growing Up Church-ed.

We are very excited to have these two brilliant people share their spiritual journeys with us and with you. Thanks to them you can be on the look out for more posts on Islam and the Middle East, as well as new ways to interact with the Searching Sophia’s Pockets community.

Thanks for joining us for another year of global spiritual journeys!

With Wisdom, Love …and Lint,

Autumn and Jenni

Ferguson: We Are Praying

Searching Sophia’s Pockets prides itself on being dedicated to global spiritual journeys, and yet today we feel most keenly that both Autumn and Jenni spent years of their respective spiritual journeys in the Saint Louis area, which struggles at this moment with the decision not to indite officer Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown. 

To honor that part of our journey and to stand in solidarity with everyone affected by the decision, firstly we offer Searching Sophia’s Pockets as a safe space, as always, on the internet. We offer these pages, these posts, these prayers, and their comment sections a as a safe place for conversation, rest, and action.

Secondly, we offer the following prayer, along with the quiet lamentations of our hearts, to the people of Ferguson, Saint Louis, and more broadly to those upon whom our racist systems inflict harm, which is to say, the world.

Dear God,

We are in agony,
crying, aching, but still we are praying.

This is the world we have made,
one where hurt has boiled to the surface,
despite our attempts to deny it.

Give us strength to bear witness to the racist systems that run this world,
to face the realities of oppression with open hearts and minds.

Give us compassion to gather with those who are not like us,
make us united in our common love,
our common search for justice,
and our common desire for peace.

When systems of power rage against us,
help us continue to survive as beacons of love.

Let us not dally in sentimental love,
the easy love that cannot withstand times like these.

Let us show the ferocity of love,
the bravery of love,
love that is not sated with mere words,
but demands living justice for all.

We are afraid, we wish for an easier way,
yet, filled with radical love,
we can stand together against even the greatest injustice,
calling out, in voices clear and united,
Black lives matter!
Amen!
Amen.
Amen.

I See Hunger Everywhere

Today’s post comes from Adam Pracht, who talks about the various forms of hunger he has seen, and what it can teach us about love. Adam currently works as a chef and lives in Chicago. He also wrote our first ever guest post, Tiny Love

I see hunger everywhere. On the south side of Chicago I see people going hungry, without food, money or homes. I see kids hungry for drugs, for power, where killing is a game, and a fun one too. I see hunger for violence, or money, a willingness to hack your way to the top regardless of who gets trampled underneath. It’s an insatiable hunger that sometimes makes it too difficult to get through the news. Sometimes it’s hard to get out of bed.

If you look really close, though, you can see a different kind of hunger. I see love and passion coming from places, and people, where I didn’t think I’d ever find it. I’ve grown to love and respect many men who could have continued their lives as gang members, but instead decided to put the guns down and made a life for themselves out of nothing but hard work. I’ve been given mad love from whole groups of people I was meeting for the first time, for no reason. Then I can start to see a different kind of hunger, which is just a hunger for love, to be able to give and receive freely and happily.

Many days it seems like it’s a losing battle. Most days, if we’re honest; but the good thing about hunger is that it’s not a desire, it’s a need. The hungry will always be pushing back, using our desire for peace to drive us to love with abandon, using whatever skills available to give. I find the more I give, the more of myself I still have left over. There are always people in need, always more we can be doing if we keep our eyes open to the people around us. I hope someday it will be easy to find love, anywhere, and we’ll have to look hard to find the misery and violence that dominated the headlines today.

 

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

Fear and a Hunger for Justice

We received this post too late to put it in last month, but it is too good not to share. It deals with an issue we have seen here more than once, fear, prejudice and being Muslim. Even though it mostly focuses on last month’s topic of fear, there too is a hunger for justice, for equality, for understanding, that underlies this great post from Hafsa Mansoor.

I’m afraid. A lot. I’m afraid that my faith is the defining characteristic- in the most negative way possible- of who I am. Don’t get me wrong; I am proud to be a Muslim, and I am proud to say that. I’m afraid of what people perceive as my religion. I’m afraid that the actions of ISIS and Al-Qaeda will be what people see as Islam. I’m afraid that the cloth I wear on my head will be interpreted as a sign of oppression and not the choice I made of free will. I’m afraid that the Islam FOX News pastes across headlines is the Islam people will think is the actual truth. I’m afraid people won’t bother trying to learn more about Islam because they think they already know what it is… but too many people don’t. I’m afraid that this all-too-popular perception of my faith will bar me from any political position and I will never be able to make institutional change because of it. I’m afraid every time I go somewhere new that I will be assaulted in a hate crime. I’m afraid the horrible things happening across the nations featuring Muslims- or Sikhs mistaken as Muslims- are not isolated incidents but indicators of a growing problem and misconception. I’m afraid.

But that fear empowers me to make change. It forces me to confront the problems I see in society, not just from a “humanitarian” perspective, but also from a sheer need for self-preservation, and don’t think I’m being dramatic when I say that. I aim to confront bigotry of any kind whenever I encounter it I am emboldened to take measures I would not otherwise I would have the courage to embrace to stop Islamophobia in its tracks- from starting a blog on what Islam is and writing this post to setting up a series of talks at my university about Islam and joining the Webster Muslim Students Association so we can educate, inspire, and empower people.

One of the things that has helped me the most in my journey to courage has been my faith- especially the hijab. Now I know that strikes a lot of people as counterintuitive because a headscarf is seen as so intrinsically oppressive in today’s society. But it’s not. It’s actually extremely empowering. I have such an immense amount of control over what other people see of me and how they view merely because of this cloth I wear on my head. And suddenly I don’t feel like I have to spend immense amounts of time every morning trying to conform to the beauty standards and new hair and clothing trends. I also don’t have to feel like I need to count my appearance as part of my charm and thereby sexualize or objectify myself;. I feel like because I’m willing to hide parts of my exterior, people get the message that it’s because I respect my interior. And it shows.

People tell me that I’m “intense” because I am so purely me and so comfortable with myself. I respect myself and my opinions and feel like I am worth something, and Islam has helped me to reach an accord with myself. The Qur’an has innumerous verses on women’s equality and promoted respect for women at a time when women were ordained second-class citizens and innately inferior to men; Islam championed women and gave them rights and worth as human beings, establishing them as queens over their households and men as mere providers for them. She can work and gain an education if she so desires, but it is for her betterment, not to earn money for her husband; if she earns any money through her career, it is hers to keep; her husband will still have to pay for all the expenses of the household. This is the power and respect Islam gave women- the self-respect Islam gave women.

So when I see on the news the bigotry and hatred, it is Islam that urges me to fight it and strengthens me to be able to make changes and join the cause to end the injustices committed on both sides of the debate, and it is Islam that helps me to conquer my fears and do what needs to be done in spite of any hesitations or insecurities that could hold me back.

A Prayer For Times Of Fear

To Whoever is Listening:

I am afraid. I tremble with fear.
This is not the fear that leaves me in awe of some higher power.
No, I have human fear, personal fear, and it is devastating.
I yearn for something to make me braver.
I know that this something is already inside of me.
Please let me find it soon.

 

I know others who are afraid too.
Some fear for their lives, or the lives of their loved ones.
Some fear making the wrong choice.
Some fear failure.
I pray for them too.
I hope that we can all find something that is bigger than our fears.
If we must be afraid, let us be afraid together, so that together we can overcome our fears.

Amen.

 

Want to share your prayers? Share them with the whole word by submitting to Searching Sophia’s Pockets!

Faith and Fear

By: Autumn Elizabeth

Fear not, you shall not be put to shame; you need not blush, for you shall not be disgraced. The shame of your youth you shall forget. –Isaiah 54:4

It is often said that if we trust in God, we need not fear. But here’s the thing. I am afraid. I have not forgotten the hard times of my youth. The disappointment of being a millennial looking for a job, the pain of enduring the violence done to my body and psyche, the hopes dashed, the dreams broken, I still feel them all, and it makes me afraid.

I am afraid to make anything permanent, for fear it will be taken away again. I am afraid of showing my passion for justice; for fear that the world will beat it out of me. I do not yearn for confrontation, yet this is what our world gives me. I am afraid that the world will continue to throw away all the lives, black, brown, queer, female, trans*, that don’t matter to those in power.

Yet, I know that for myself, as a follower of the radical Jesus, I cannot let this fear win. Perhaps, that is what all those passages in the bible are about. Maybe when they say “do not be afraid”, they mean “do not let fear own you”.  I cannot stop fear, but I must dare to move beyond it.

I have to dare to co-create a better world side-by-side with the spirit of universal justice. I have to dare to believe that we can all be valued and safe in this world.  I have to dare to show my heart to the people I love, and to show kindness to the people I don’t know.

I have to dare to believe in a better world, because I believe in a loving God, a powerful force that holds every creation dear. I believe in a God that does not victim blame, does not value some lives more than others. I believe in a God that moves with me in this world so that even the smallest acts of service, of change, of care, matter.

Yes, I am afraid. My faith does not erase my fear, but neither does fear annihilate my faith. They walk hand-in-hand with me as I travel through this messy, broken, and beautiful world.

The Fear of Loneliness

By: Jenni Taylor

The true knight of faith is always absolute isolation– Kierkegaard

I imagine a knight, the kind from storybooks with armor and a feathery plume. His armor is dented and dusty, his banner battered and torn. He has a face lined and wrinkled, that of Don Quixote- the man who would dream the impossible dream.

Don Quixote had his Sancho, but not always. There are moments in every knight’s life when he must go it alone, in the silences and the dark places. The monsters growl, the trees grow claws in the night, and the knight completely loses sight of his quest in favor of simply trying to survive.

lonly

It is there, in the moments of darkness, despair, loneliness and weakness, that a God of love quietly reaches out his hand. It is not a call, barely a whisper, and sometimes he is silent. But it is only in the dark can his presence be felt, and only in the silence when we are able to hear the slightest hint of a love lullaby being sung to our hearts.

I believe we are meant to be knights. I believe we are supposed to stand strong against injustice, fight for the underlings, bring peace to the lands we live in. I also believe even the strongest of us need to find strength, that knights can falter or fail or get lost in the wilderness. The quiet and dark are feared, as knights tend to fear weakness and prefer to fake a loud show of bravado than to be alone with their faults. But there they are, all the same. They will only be beaten when we learn to be still and alone for the universe to whisper secrets in our ear. Don’t be afraid to listen.

Fear VS Self Worth

Suzanne is an actress, and former Miss Arab USA, who devotes much of her time to ending bullying in schools through her work with notMyKid. Her post for us today is about fear and the pain fear brings. Yet her post also brings us wisdom surrounding self worth, and leaves us with hope for a better tomorrow.

Fear can do strange things to people.

On September 11, 2001, our entire country was fear-stricken and naturally, everyone responded in so many different ways. I’m of the opinion that people are born inherently good and learn hatred through experiences. The experience we all shared that day manifested our fears and wreaked havoc on our souls in a way that it seems we are still recovering from.

I was in high school when the attacks happened. My first thought was the same as everyone else’s, “Oh no! How terrible! Those poor people.” Approximately two seconds later my thought was “God, please don’t let it be an Arab.”

I’m an American-born Palestinian and have deep ties in the Middle East. I’ve always been so proud of my heritage. My parents really did a good job at balancing us within two cultures. But in my day to day life, it wasn’t a looming factor. I was an ordinary school kid who went to class, hung out with friends and had a mad crush on a boy in school. I wasn’t always thinking about my heritage. It was just there.

Until that day. Until I became embarrassed and scared to be me. Scared of what it meant.

The kids around me suffered from a separate fear. The fear of another attack, the fear of the unknown. And often times, I became their proverbial punching bag. In moments of fear, it is normal to find the humor in things.

It’s unfortunate when that humor is at the expense of others. I started getting compared to the most evil man alive. And the thing is, my classmates knew that I had no connection to these heinous crimes. I was just the obvious choice if you wanted to lighten up the situation through the conventional ‘bullying/making fun of someone’.

And in those moments, I hated who I was. I secretly wished for blond hair and a last name like Anderson or Smith. I didn’t want to be me. I was afraid of that.

I now travel to different schools across Arizona and talk to students about my experience with bullying. Obviously, the primary objective is for students to hear this and either, stop bullying or stand up for themselves or others who are victimized. But there’s something else. Something that I have found to be far more important.

Self Worth.

Through the years, I have learned that happy people don’t bully, secure people don’t bully. If you know someone who’s a bully, chances are that they have some internal struggles and manifest their pain in an unhealthy way. I learned how important it is to not bully the bully as they have their own struggles. It makes it so imperative that these people feel that they are valued, that they are worthy of being loved just as they are without the need for intense ego trips.

Meanwhile, bullies prey on the weak. As strong as I used to be, in that moment when I was ashamed of who I was I became the perfect target for a bully to use his words to hurt me. At that time, my self worth went out the window.

I believe that this strongly applies girls today. A person could bully us all day and night and it wouldn’t make a difference if we felt that we were of value, if we loved our bodies, if we knew that we were smart and capable.Self worth is the underlying factor of every issue where we experience fear through verbal bullying.

I’m quite aware that so many young people are physically bullied and that’s something that is beyond what I am describing here. But let’s imagine that everyone- the potential bully and the potential victim- had an understanding of self worth. I think it’s safe to say that bullying and fear of it would decrease exponentially.

We have a long road ahead of us, but I’m optimistic that it’s getting better. It’s become more and more acceptable for people to be unique and different. Gay kids are cool, smart kids are cool, athletic kids are cool. We are who we are and it’s nothing to fear!

 

A Prayer for the Movement

There has been a lot of violence in the world lately. It seems that the efforts of peacemakers, equality seekers, and  justice sojourners are being required everywhere this month. So today we offer up a prayer for the movement–the movement of people working together to seek a more peaceful and just world, the movement of people working against racism and sexism, agasint violence and destruction. This is for all of us…this is a prayer for the movement.

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Dear Spirit of Merciful Peace,

We ask you to sustain us
as we work together
across lines of race and religion
through differences of creed and culture,
towardsa world of  peace and love.

We ask that you help us help each other
during these times of darkness and pain.

We ask that you help us open our eyes
to see the beauty and hope in one another,
even when our differences seem vast.

We are each a part of this world,
and we need strength and wisdom
to be part of the movement of peacemakers and healers,
to live with compassion and work for justice.

We pray together,
for ourselves.
We are the movement.

Amen