A Meditation on Forgiveness

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Today’s post takes wisdom beyond walls from a metaphor to a reality. Antonio Turner is incarcerated within the Pennsylvania prison system. In this post, Antonio shares his ideas on pain, forgiveness and ultimately, redemption. Antonio have his permission to post this via written letter from inside prison. 

By: Antonio Turner

Quietly I calm my breathing. I relax, struggling to delve my mind into the most intrinsic core of my being. On a trek to forgive my mother remains the unconquerable hurdle on this journey. Why is it so difficult?

Although I have forgiven her from a cognitive standpoint, her rejection still lingers forming a cesspool in my mind: inside an already toxic and overflowing subconscious. Trying to contain the unrestrained resentment bubbling to the surface makes it hard to steady my mind on the difficult task ahead. The forgiveness process, for me, has not been a nourishing act from the heart. Yet since this betrayal and abandonment continue to be a taunting fact of my life, groveling about the matter will get me absolutely nothing!

So today as I ponder my life during a spell of meditation, the hold this unconquerable hurtle has on my heart is becoming a cancer. I sit paralyzed with fear – in my late forties – tormented by these feelings which have a direct effect on other women in my life.

As I secretly detest my mother for the immeasurable mental, physical and emotional pain she inflicted, my body tenses. I call God into my meditative space for help – to relax, to comfort and to guide.

I pray the combination of God and opening up my heart to Him will release the hurt carried every day. I so desire the fetters which have kept my mind in chains for the better part of three decades to be loosened – to release their grip on me. Since I was a little boy, I’ve prayed for this. Maybe I’m a dreamer, thinking, hoping this can happen.

            Blue stars, a gleam of hope

            Galaxies of complicated thought.

            Spheres of emotional entanglement

            A calloused heart full of rings and knots.

On bended knees, if I were only able to open my heart wide enough – seeking a depth of understanding more powerful than sight, I pray. I ask God to give me a comforting lens to examine my bitterness.

Maybe through the lens of forgiveness, I could’ve seen how she only acted out of her own pain – being a victim of domestic violence herself. She was an innocent floundering in her own torrent of pain. My meditation moves towards removing my selfishness, yet was it unreasonable for a child to want to be wrapped in the love of his mother? I don’t know. I’m just a dreamer.

 

My imagination has a tendency to run away from me. Through the prism of compassion can my prayers cause me to see my mother trying her very best? How can you shower affection when you are dealing with your own deep wounds, ones skewered and damaged by love itself?

By the grace of God, I’m now able to recognize her rejection actually had nothing to do with me. Her own woundedness prevented her from being able to love herself. With that emptiness piercing her soul, how could she truly love her own child?

Within my prayers, I ask, “How can I detest someone with so much visceral pain? With no self-love, wasn’t it impossible for her to love me?” I craved that love so much, which is why I pray for forgiveness now.

Guided by a beacon of light from my heavenly Father, I sit creating a sculpture with my words. I’m the one who needs to beg for forgiveness. As I fix my gaze on a starless sky – witnessing the clouds finally freeing the moon – suddenly the gates of my heart spring open. Could this be the first step to free my own hurt permanently?

As I end my prayer, I realize every present moment is an opportunity for a new beginning. And through the trials of suffering, the soul learns wisdom and compassion. My time in meditation has taught me it is possible to attain a newfound freedom from the realm of resentment. I don’t want to end this prayer, but know only through God can I release my mother from what she did to me. God provides a new forgiveness process much greater than my pain.

 

A Prayer for MLK Day

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For me, as a US American citizen, this Martin Luther King Jr. Day feels especially intense, because this same week this country will inaugurate someone who has denigrated those who struggled along side Dr. King, someone who has amplified voices of hate, and incited increased violence against the oppressed. 

Dear God, 

I pray today for those who make shit happen.

For those who do good, even when it goes unnoticed.

For those who seek justice, even when it is hard.

For those who show up, even when it is dangerous.

I pray today for those who are radicalized by love and who will not stop loving even in the face of hate.

I pray today for those who don’t just speak and share words of peace, but who act with a fierceness of love that bring justice to all.

I pray today for all of us, that we hold ourselves accountable to peace and love and justice, and that we be those people whose work and words bend the moral arc of the whole universe towards justice.

Amen.

 

A Prayer for Rock ‘n’ Roll

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So here’s to your survival and swimming up the stream, crossing over one dam after another, until we get to Rock and Roll Heaven’s gate.– Indigo Girls

I went to my first rock concert when I was 16. I spent a lot of my late teens and early 20’s in rock venues, practice spaces, and recording studios. Sometimes the music was good, sometimes the music was bad, but it was always freeing, and often holy. I know there are people out there who disagree with me, but when I hear that perfect guitar rift, I’m pretty sure I’m hearing the voice of God just as clearly as when I hear a perfect rendition of Ave Maria. So here’s a prayer for rock ‘n’ roll, for those who make it happen, regardless of their beliefs, and for the ways it brings people together, makes people free, and gives us all something to sing about.

To the Universe that gave us Jimi Hendrix, Neil Peart, and Debbie Harry,

Forgive us for those who railed against music in God’s name.
Hatred has never been holy, and creation almost always is.

I pray today, for a world with louder music and quieter bigots;
a world with more guitars and fewer guns;
with more cowbell and less hate.

Did you hear that world? I’ll say it again,
more cowbell, less hate.

Dear God let that be our refrain.

Because lyrics never murdered,
cymbals never orphaned,
and bass drums have never lynched anyone.

God, give us a world with more songs that let us glimpse heaven even while they scream about highways to hell.

Because “Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine” better represents my faith than “I will build a great, great wall”.

Because there is justice in a drum fill,
and hope in a guitar wail.

So, God bless the punks, the grunge rockers, the metal-heads, and the classic rock junkies.
Bless the musicians who play too loud and the fans who dance too hard.
Which is to say,
God bless rock ‘n’ roll and God bless me.

Amen.

A Prayer for Spacious Places

When hard pressed, I cried to God;  they brought me into a spacious place.–Psalm 118:5

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This is a prayer for those spacious places where we find peace, love, and freedom. These places are both physical and metaphysical. They are urban, suburbia, rural; they are the homes of our friends, the tents of our lovers, the blankets of stars.

Oh universe of all things great and small,

I have seen the wonders of this world, and my heart.

I have been split open by the view from the tallest mountain, by the stars shining from the tallest building, by climbing the tallest tree.

These places have broken the broken parts of me,
where grief and pain have made me small and petty.

I have seen so many places where anger has made everything small,
where tiny pebbles of hate burn without fire.

I wish to live only in places where I can be my biggest self.

Places of risk, possibility, enormity, and freedom.
Places that are so immense they terrify and inspire me.

Yet, out of all the spacious and immense places I have been,
from the tallest tree that I have ever climbed
to the view from a building trying to reach the heights of Babel,
the most spacious place I have ever known is love.

Let me live there always.

Amen.

A Prayer of Remeberance

By: Nermine Mohamed, Writing Intern 2015

We are honored to share a post from our former intern, Nermine, whose prayer about remembering her mother offers grace and wisdom. Her prayer seeks blessings for those living with loss, just as our prayer for the dead sought blessings for those who have died. 

It’s hard to put in words what we feel about a person who is long gone; a person who is no longer a part of our life and who never got to know what we’ve become, who we are now…They say time heals and that’s true. Our own frail human memory makes loss bearable. But do we really want to forget or is it simply inevitable?

From all that I’ve lost, all the memories I can no longer recall, all the photographs that captured a moment I don’t remember living or even how it felt being there, I know that what hurts even more than the loss is the inability to remember what we once had.

Today my mother would have been 54 years old. I sometimes think what my life would
have been like if she was still alive. I get angry sometimes that I can’t remember much.There’s nothing but emptiness; a void of something that has left without leaving me any traces to hold on to. So, I pray for me and everyone who suffered loss that we can be healed by remembrance.

Dear God,

Today I pray for remembrance of the mother.
I wish I had a little bit more time to know her better.

Help me remember her by being even just a tiny bit like her,
for everyone speaks of her strength, her honesty, her generous and loving heart.

Help me remember her by living up to her memory
and being be the best person I can be.

Help me remember her every time I feel lost or alone
and help me remember that I never really was lost or alone,
for I’ve always had support and found people who love me
even when I thought there’s nothing to love in myself.

Help me remember her by cherishing every living moment,
by keeping every memory solid,
by not taking life for granted, by loving,
by staying true to who I am and what I believe in.

Help me and all those who have lost a loved one.

Help us remember those who are gone,
even when our memories fade and there’s nothing to recall.

Help us remember them in little acts of kindness,
and by showing those who are grieving
that pain can be healed and that nothing is ever lost forever.

Help us remember them in You,
in Your boundless generosity and Your mercy
and how You always give way more than you take.

Help us remember them in Your kindness,
for despite our loss and the pain that seemed at the time intolerable,
You helped us heal.

Love and peace made their way into our hearts again
and now we know that You don’t really put us through what we can’t endure.

Help us remember with patience, with gratitude, and with faith that there’ll be another chance to see those we’ve lost, where we’ll hold on to them for all the time we couldn’t have and all the memories we wished they were a part of, and finally there will be no letting go.

Amen.

A Prayer for the Dead

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Dear God,

They say that dead men tell no tales,
but I am not so sure.

I think, perhaps, it is only the dead that can tell us anything at all.

Through their death they show us the mirror of mortality.

They show us the flaws in our own lives.

The deaths of those we cherish tell us each the stories of our own ends,
and give us the power to rewrite them.

I believe it is every person’s last gift, to shed light on living through their dying.

Those who I morn have taught me lessons, have told me their stories, and have given me strength to change my own.

So I ask that the dead be blessed, as they have blessed me by living and dying.

Amen.

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.