The Ritual Of The Top Ten

We would be remiss to end this month of exploring the ever-evolving ritual of the “Top Ten”. As 2014 comes to an end we all want to look back at what the year has held. We have selected ten posts, not because they are the best, or the most popular, but because they have represented some important moments from 2014. Even though we have only selected ten, we have been honored by every post and every comment. We hope each of you has found lots of wisdom, love …and even a little lint on your spiritual journey this year. Happy reading and Happy New Year!

  1. A Prayer for New Beginnings— A prayer for anyone starting a new journey
  2. Millennials Strike Back with Professions of Love— A post from Jenni Taylor about the value of Millennials
  3. Ferguson: We Are Praying— A spiritual reaction to the racism in Ferguson and across the USA
  4. Fear Vs Self Worth— A post about bullying by a former Miss Arab America and a notMyKid volunteer
  5. The Choice of Leaving Syria–A post about one woman’s choice to leave her home in Syria.
  6. For the Love of ElephantsJenni Taylor thoughts on justice for all of God’s creatures 
  7. It’s Your Church Too— Patrick Cousins,a campus minister at Saint Louis University, writes about LGBTQ justice
  8. Secular Spirituality: Is That a Thing?–Hailey Kaufman’s eloquent post on atheism and spirituality
  9. Strength To Endure–a reflection on sexism and strength after the shootings in Santa Barbara by Autumn Elizabeth 
  10. Fear and Hunger for Justice–Hafsa Mansoor writes about fear and justice as a Muslim
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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

 

Deepest Part of Love

Today’s post is from Shaza Askar, Syrian women currently studying, living and loving in Europe. Today she shares with us a poem about the roots of her love. We are very honored to share this glimpse into the deepest parts of love.

Imagine

Imagine I kiss all the bits
you thought were not beautiful.
Imagine I rest my fingers on them
and move them not, so that
my warmth will join yours
and you forget there was ever air
between our skin.
Imagine I show you new images of you,
images you started avoiding in the mirror.
Imagine I say all they say is untrue
and fill your ears with honest words
in an ancient language.
Imagine I plant white daisies
in the places you frown at,
and they bloom as you smile.
Imagine I told you to look after them
and let them brighten the way
as you go through your life.
Imagine you forget for a fleeting moment
you were ever anything other
than beautiful!

(Dedicated only to you)

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.

Choosing to Let Go

By: Autumn Elizabeth

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You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

― Max Ehrmann, Desiderata

Being an immigrant can be frustrating, so can being a Christian, and being a traveling Christian feminist…that can definitely get frustrating. Most of my frustration comes from concentrating too much on the results of my life. I want things to go my way, want my prayers to be answered the way I want, want everything to go as I have planned. Once I choose a path, I want it to be the right one. I want to be the one in control of all the outcomes.

But that’s the thing, I am not in control, not of my life as an immigrant, and not as my life as a Christian. I have to give up that illusion.  Now, I am not one to say “let go and let God”. I don’t believe that if I sit at home and do nothing God will make everything perfect.  I am pretty sure God wants us all to strive, to work, to hustle for a better world.

However, sometimes, when we are doing the best we can, when we are working to change the world with thought and action, we can give our frustration to God. We can choose to let go of the result, if and when we have given our best to the process.

So this is what I am choosing. I am choosing to let go of those things that are out of my control, like the result of a job application, or a visa application. I am deciding that my hard work will eventually pay off, even if I can’t see it.

Isn’t that the whole mystery of the universe, of God anyway? None of us, not a one, can know the ultimate effect of our actions. Yet we are called, as humans of a hurting earth, to act, to create, to work, even if the end result goes unseen by our eyes.

I choose to continue to support organizations like Faith Aloud, even when it seems like we fight the same battles every day. I choose to continue to pray for the people of Syria, of Ukraine,and  for all people who live in the mists of this world’s conflicts, even when it seems my prayers go unanswered. I choose to continue on this life path as immigrant, even when I don’t know if it is the right one.

I choose to believe that my work and my life are important for this world, even if I never see the good they do.  I am constantly, forever, choosing to believe that I am a child of the universe, a child of a loving God, and, that with my help, the universe is unfolding as it should.

If you want to tell us what you believe, what you choose, and how you are making a difference, you can submit your words, photos, and prayers.

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?

The Top 10 Tradition

We would be remiss to end this month of exploring tradition without addressing the “Top Ten” tradition. As 2013 comes to an end we all want to look back at what the year has held. We have selected ten posts, not because they are the best, or the most popular, but because they have represented some important moments from 2013. Even though we have only selected ten, (hey! it’s tradition!), the top thing to remember from 2013 that everyone’s journey is special and filled with wisdom, love …and lint.

  1. A Crazy World — A beautiful post about life and loss in war-torn Syria
  2. Mosaic — An artistic representation of the beauty and the diversity of humanity
  3. Eating our Values — A post about living one’s values through what one chooses to eat
  4. Creating Spirituality — A poignant post about religion, creativity and spiritual experiences
  5. In Defense of Prayer — A story about grief, confusion, prayer and atheism
  6. Doomsday for DOMA — A post that marks the end of the Defense of Marriage Act in the United States
  7. Heifer International and My Brother’s Gifts —  A sweet post about keeping a loved one’s spirit alive
  8. Manu Temple — A post from Jenni Taylor about a beautiful exchange in India
  9. Strangers and Angels — a post from Autumn Elizabeth about a beautiful exchange in Chicago
  10. The Proverbial Women —  the post that started it all…

A Crazy World

Today’s post on loss comes from A Syrian Girl, who writes from the midst of a war zone.  Like many many people in Syria today, she knows a great deal about loss. In her post, she shares the pain of loss, the wisdom of friendship and her honest request for prayers.

Being a Syrian and going through a lot during this hideous war, I have lost hope for anything good in this life. I don’t think that there is a single Syrian who lives inside Syria who hasn’t lost a dear person from his/her family or friends, a house, a neighborhood, or even a city. And the story that surrounds these losses is always too ugly.

The story that I’d like to share is about a friend of mine. His name is Elias Salloum. He was forced, like lots of young Syrian men, to fight with the government army. Till the unfortunate day came, it was on November 5th, 2012. Elias was fighting along with his fellow soldiers in Doma (the Damascus countryside) and was shot in his stomach and passed out. The only soldier who was near him had to move on and leave the place.

When he came back the next day with a group of soldiers to collect the injured and the dead, to his surprise, Elias was missing.  No one could figure out if Elias was dead or alive or how he became missing. As of today, Elias is still missing. His family had a memorial service for his soul, and is acting as if he’s dead.

"I am worried that I will knock on your door and find no answer" - Fairouz

“I am worried that I will knock on your door and find no answer” – Fairouz

Elias was a very good person and loved by everyone who knew him. I asked him once for a favor, and he helped me. He took me in his car, putting himself in great danger, to take me back to my home  in 2011. I ask that everyone who reads this story pray for Elias, even if he’s dead. Some of his friends still believe he’s alive. I certainly hope so.