A Prayer for Encouragement

By: Autumn Elizabeth, Editor in Chief 

Sometimes we can be, as the Lit songs says, our own worst enemies. When others encourage us, we hear only platitudes; when we see a new journey ahead, we let fear and doubt close the door. Sometimes we waste our time waiting for the perfect words of encouragement, when perhaps there is no such thing.

I am not immune to this kind of thinking. I spent much of our recent hiatus in such a state of waiting. Ultimately, I realized that no one’s words would give me sufficient encouragement, except for the words of my best, most-hopeful self. So here is the prayer I created to encourage that voice, to encourage myself, and to start sharing all of these prayer with all of you again.

My Dearest Self,

You are capable.
You are capable despite your failures, past and future.
You are capable despite your doubts and the voices of those who doubt you.
You are capable because you are loved, more than you will ever know.

You are capable because against all odds, you have still continued to exist.

You are capable because you are part of a species that is the result of millions of random mutations. You are part of a species that flew to the moon, photographed the stars, and measured galaxies.

You are capable because you are part of the same history as poets, philosophers, and prophets.

You are capable because you have dared to ask yourself for encouragement.

You are capable because you said so.

Amen

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Forgiving The World

By: Nermine Mohamed, Writing Intern 2015

Blue ruffles; light blue just like the sea, dancing up and down so smoothly and so playfully just like the waves. I could still hear her voice; a girl in a ruffled blue skirt I met on a vaporetto in Venice on my way home. She was singing at the top of her lungs, laughing, giggling; covering the noise of the engine, all to blue girl italyherself. I kept on watching her, envying her a bit and I wondered from where all this could  possibly come from; all this unrestrained joy and happiness, this peacefulness, not worrying about a thing, and tuning out the world’s noise and living in your own song.

As I watched her carefree dancing, I found myself thinking about forgiveness. She gave me a reason today to start forgiving. To start forgiving the world I’ve been angry at for a long time now. The restlessness, the closed doors, the circle that gets tighter every day, how I got to be so lost and confused, all the thinking and worrying, all this must stop, must be forgiven and forgotten, because only forgiveness can make us lighter, freer, happier, like blue ruffles!

So it is okay; to have lost people, to have been hurt and disappointed. It is okay not to know who we are or what we want. It is okay to change our minds, to change course, to go back to where we started or to stop all together, take a break and think it all over again, because sometimes all that we need is simply to flow with life’s streams, without worrying where we will end up.

Blue ruffles taught me today that I should start forgiving: forgiving myself for giving up, for not trying harder, for losing hope, but more importantly I should start forgiving the world as it is—regardless of every hardship—finding on my way beautiful things to explore and beautiful people to know. In order to flow, to sing and dance around like blue ruffles, I must forgive.

I followed her after we got dropped off and she was still singing and dancing around while holding her granny’s hand (who was all the time attempting to control her to no avail thankfully) and I could not resist snapping a shot of her as I wanted to keep this memory for when I need a reason to hope, to forgive and to start afresh.

Finding Yourself in Silence

By: Jenni Taylor, Author in Chief

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing. And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb. And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.–Khalil Gibran

I spent three days on the back of a motorcycle steadily winding its way through the mountainous north of Vietnam, through the villages on the outskirts of Hanoi. The guide was driving, and because of the roar of the motor I was excused from making conversation.photo 4

It was three days of near total silence, and the silence was welcomed with open arms. Stress, responsibilities, and agonizing meetings had dominated my life recently, and a break was long overdue. So it began- one the back of this dirt bike Honda.

It was in the silence of the roads, the strength of the mountains, and the patience of the empty rice paddies where I emptied my heart like emptying lint out of old, unused pockets, and filled it up again. If eyes are the windows to the soul, my eyes were due for a window washing. I spent those hours watching the landscape and filling my eyes with beauty, with fog creeping over lakes and fisherman casting their nets.

I let my mind go free. I let thoughts float by, without judgment, just acknowledgment that they needed to exist in order to move on. I thought about places I’ve been, people I know, things I have done. Positive blended with negative in one big pool of remembrance, acknowledgment of pieces of my life I had not given thought to in a long time.

photo 1It was in the silence I began to find healing. There was no music, no conversation to drown out the honesty flashing through my mind, and I stood face to face with myself, a full look at my naked soul in a mirror. I saw someone who was tired, but strong. I saw the experiences that left marks on my heart and began to see those marks as beauty marks. I saw my soul reaching for beauty, truth, and strength.

So I took my soul by the hand and showed it the spectacular beauty, truth, and strength in the mountains surrounding me, and began to see it echoed and copied into my soul’s DNA. I soaked up nature like a sponge in a bathtub, and made it a part of me.

I so desperately needed that silence, the quiet, the roar of the motor and the flashing pavement beneath the wheels. Within another two weeks I found myself crying on a beach looking at a rainbow, and sang a song of thankfulness to the skies. Silence leads to song, and mountaintops lead to more journeys. It is in the silence when you can truly find yourself.

Desire for Understanding

By: Jenni TaylorIMG_0518

My travels have just taken me to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Unlike, the United States, which prides itself on being a melting pot, Malaysia has not melted- it is a beautiful hodgepodge of cultures, religions, languages, clothing, and food from all over the world. Short shorts and tank tops are next to hijabs and chadors, with all the wearers using selfie sticks or shopping at Sephora. Harmony seems impossible, but there it is- a million differences passing each other on the street or eating at each other’s restaurants.

I am surrounded by swirling colors and culture, only to log on and see updates on Ferguson protests and now Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where three Muslims were shot and killed.

So, my desire is this: understanding. I want to understand where hatred comes from and how to stop it. I want others to understand that our similarities are far greater than our differences.

This has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with wisdom. I am not asking for agreement, or even tolerance, which seeks to ignore rather than understand. I’m asking for patience, and a willingness to listen.

Here in Kuala Lumpur there is a Hindu holy place called the Batu caves. They just finished celebrating Thaipusam. It involves flowers and prayer, and also hooks and self-mutilation. The hooks are placed through tongues or through the skin on backs. It is described as a religious euphoria reached through intense pain.

I do not understand it.

I do not agree with it.

But I do understand that holy pilgrimage comes from a need, and I recognize that need. It’s a need I find in my own life, when I go into the quiet places and search for something bigger than myself.

I may not understand, but wisdom tells me to try. It tells me that if I sit down and have a cup of teh terik with someone different from me, we will find a shared point of truth. And as a wise man once said, the truth will set you free.

So I pray,

Teach us patience. Give us wisdom and understanding. Help us to stop feeling threatened and find our safety, peace, and comfort in You, and not in the reactions of our fears. Help us to be salt, to be light, and to be your love.

Amen.

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.

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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.

Changing Together

By: Autumn Elizabeth

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I am the change. You are the change too. This point was proven yesterday the the People’s Climate March, which took place all around the world. Hundreds of thousands of people came together, ignored their differences, and marched to make change.

In Paris, where I was marching, the vegans weren’t throwing things at the people wearing leather shoes. Greenpeace wasn’t jostling with the World Wildlife Foundation for the best space. Christian groups weren’t bashing the Atheists.  Everyone coexisted to create change.

This coexistence for change is at the core of my faith and my life. I believe that to create a better world, to create the kin-dom of God here on this earth, in this time, we have to work together. I am not suggesting that my belief is to ignore difference, but rather that I believe we must embrace it and work together anyway.

Being the change also means supporting justice for everyone. Reproductive justice organizations like Planned Parenthood attended the People’s Climate March yesterday, because environmental justice affects reproductive justice. In the same way, men must work to end patriarchy, and white people must work to end racism. If we want change, we have to support each other.

I don’t think I would be a very good representative of Jesus, if I only wanted to help Christians nor would I be a very just feminist if I wanted to oppress men. To make change, we all have to be open. We have to be willing to embrace differences, to help one another, and to unite for global justice.

I am the change, you are the change, and together we can make change happen!

 

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

 

Submissions: Roots

Roots

Deep roots are not reached by the frost. -J.R.R. Tolkien

 

Another month has begun. This month we are interested in roots. The dirty ones, the deep ones, the roots of faith and the roots of doubt. We want to share all the wisdom we can muster about our roots.

What keeps you rooted in your faith? What have you buried? What lies below the surface of your life, of this world? Answer these questions in a post, photograph, or work of art and then submit them to Searching Sophia’s Pockets!

The topic of roots is as broad as it is deep. We are interested in it all. Roots grow deep. Roots connect us to where we have been in the past and nourish us for the future. Roots are the foundation, the family, the faith that keep us strong, or make us crumble. Roots are what we hide beneath the surface, what no one else can see, but they also influence everything we are.  We all have roots, our faith has roots, maybe even our creative impulses have roots.  Let’s explore them all together!

 

Strength to Endure

By: Autumn Elizabeth

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I love the Ramones. Their music has always spoken to me, so it is no accident that the title of this post is also a title of one of their songs. I have been honored this past month to see the amazing post about the strength of people around the world to bear burdens, to survive hardships, and to live with grace and laughter. Yet I cannot help but notice, that most of these posts deal, in one way or another, with the burden of womanhood.

Since I was a very small girl I have been aware that there are burdens many women know that many men will never face. I have been aware that it requires a special strength in order to endure the label  “girl” and the labels that come with it like “whore”, “sweetheart”, “bitch”. The recent tragic events in Santa Barbara, California, have only made me more aware of what can, and does, happen when patriarchal ideas are taken to a violent extreme.  (For an intelligent summary of this check out Laci Green’s video on Elliot Rodger and the media reaction to this tragedy. It is worth watching but may be quite disturbing for anyone who has a brain and a heart). In light of this, and other tragedies, both personal and global,  it seems that we all must be more aware than ever of the strength it takes live in this world.

But here is what this month has taught me: we women, we who have endured  more than our share for so long, we have the strength to endure. Moreover, I have seen proof that despite tragedy and suffering, the strength of the human spirit, across all genders, sexual orientations, races and religions,  will always endure.  We all have the strength to continue to walk along the  never-ending road toward justice and equality.

Which brings us to this month’s theme of Equality. This month is not just about gender equality, it isn’t just about LGBTQ equality either. This month is about how if we all have the strength we can create of would that treats people with an equal love, equal respect and allows everyone equal rights. So show the world your strength, your commitment to equality and submit now! I, for one, can’t wait to see the hope and strength of spirit this month brings. And let’s all remember the wise words of the Ramones:

I have the strength to endure
And all the love so pure
I have the strength to endure
Because… because…

-The Ramones, Strength to Endure

A Prayer for Strength

 

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Dear Universal Source of Strength,

We pray for the strength to listen to the burdens of others, and the strength to bear burdens of our own.

We ask for help in negotiating the fine line between personal strength and public aggression.

We hope the we show our own strength in the wisest of ways.

We pray for those who must summon strength all too often, those who battle, those whose suffering seems unfairly immense.

We hope that their strength is honored, not exploited.

We ask that you continue to show us the ways we can support the strength in those around us.

We ask for strength that comes from a friend’s hug, a warm cup of tea, and a good meal.

We hope that we find this strong support easily.

We pray for those for whom the strong support of loved ones is not available.

We hope that when we search ourselves for strength in times of trouble, we are able to find it.

We pray that when we cannot find it ourselves, someone does us the kindness of showing us our own strength.

We ask for the wisdom to recognize our own strength, even when it comes in quiet forms.

We pray that the strength of this world, this time, be a strength of compassion, love, and tenderness toward all things.

Amen.