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

 

Movers and Shakers

By: Jenni Taylor

We are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.
-Arthur O’Shaughnessy

I move. I shake. I dream. I forsake. I take trains and take chances, I make mistakes. I’ve lived in small rooms and big rooms, rooms with toads and stray cats, rooms with candles and comfort. I’ve been skinny Buddha and fat Buddha, the equivalent of Paul being content in all things, all places, at all times.

I only agree with Paul to a point. Contentment is oil for squeaky wheels, and I like being squeaky. Discontent- discontent is gas for the engine. It’s energy. Fire. Passion. Movement. Be content being uncomfortable. Be content wandering lone sea breakers and sitting by desolate streams.

But don’t be content with the way the world is. Move it, shake it, dream it into a new reality. How can we lose the world, forsake the world, be in the world but not of it? I suggest the very difficult task of uncurling your fingers around whatever you want the most. Let go, be free. Choose loneliness, because only in the quiet can your heart begin to grow, expand, move within your chest and burn with new fire.

Choose silence first, then as your heart begins to mold to a new form, go. Move. Dance. Put yourself in the world and smile like it’s the last day of your life. Give. Look into the eyes of everyone on the street and see their needs, bright and open and wounded. Sometimes, by choosing loneliness for yourself, you can eradicate it for others.

Everyone is a bit lonely, but that does not make them world changers. Set yourself apart, embrace your discontent, dance to your own beautiful music. Then see the world move, shake and crumble into loveliness.

Seeking Submissions: Movement

Welcome to August!

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This month we are focusing on the wisdom and love found in moments of movement.

We can’t wait to read your submissions. Tell us how your faith moves you, how moving has changed your faith. Show us and the world how you have moved on your spiritual journey.

We need your voices, your stories, your wisdom, and… whatever lint you find in your wise pockets.

A Prayer to Keep Us Rooted

Roots are our foundation, our past, and all the things we have buried. Here is a prayer for those special things that keep us rooted.

Dear Spirit of the Past, Present, and Future,

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Photo of “Submerged Motherlands” by Swoon

No matter what kind of past I have come from,

I know the spirit of universal love still surrounds me.

Some days I feel blessed with strong roots, strong support,

and some days I feel disconnected and disheartened.

Help me to add to my foundation only that which will make me stronger,

help me feel rooted to faith, love, and community.

I know that as I explore the spiritual mysteries of this world,

I am finding deeper connections to everyone.

Help me explore the present with grace and mindfulness,

help me find the wisdom and let go of the pain in my past,

help me breathe love into the future.

 

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.

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)

Sacando las Raíces

By: Jenni Taylor

“Mi pecado es grande,” Cynthia joked, dragging a six foot root behind her to throw into the fire. “My sin is big.”

I was in Iquitos, Peru. A church recently bought a small plot of jungle ground outside of the city to build a missionary school. We had begun by sleeping in tents on shaky platforms made of sticks, but now it was time to clear the land for small houses and a maloca, a circular hut for meetings.photo1 (1)

The property was called the virgin jungle. We were, in effect, destroying a small piece of it. Some of the Peruvians came from the city; many others came from deep within the jungle and had done this many times before.

The men used slashing and burning to clear a stretch of a hillside, down to a small creek that flowed with clear, fresh water. The last mission school had still water, and students had come down with malaria. Cynthia, the young woman who had pulled out the root, was a survivor.

As the men slashed and burned, the women came behind. Mama Noemi, the mother of us all, crouched like a baboon over the burnt earth with her machete. She had loose breasts, strong hands, and wrinkles deep around her eyes. She had come to the mission school with her husband after she said she had been healed of blindness. She spoke more jungle dialects than any linguist at Harvard ever could.

The rest of us girls, eight of us or so, came behind mama. We crouched as she did and used our hands to pull out the root systems that had fed the trees for hundreds of years. We would pull and tug and hack away, sometimes two or three girls working at one root system weaving across the top of this small mountain. That’s when the joking began. We must be pulling out our sins, hacking away in this jungle heat and sweat.

As we pulled the ground, the soil and ashes began to give way to the whitest, purest sand I had ever seen. The afternoon light was beginning to fade into stretches of purple and yellow. The women went down to the creek to bathe, allowing cool water to soothe tired muscles. Mama Noemi crouched again, this time beating her laundry against a rock and then slapping it rhythmically into the water. The cooking fire lit up the dusk and smoke curled into the sky.

That night, after dinner and in the dark, we gathered in a circle and sang. A girl used a tambourine from the city, and a boy beat out a rhythm echoing Mama Noemi’s laundry on his cajon, a handmade jungle drum. The stars above wrapped their gauzy light around the southern cross constellation and twisted their way through the dark, twinkling with the same echoing rhythm and bringing their own music to the cacophony. This wild place, this tiny patch of untamed ground was becoming a home, and each song was a root of their own spirituality sinking into the ground and declaring the land theirs. So they sang, wailing to the sky, their spirits as wild as the jungle surrounding them.

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!

 

A Prayer As We Work For Equality

Dear Spirit of Glorious Wisdom,

Give us the strength, love and wisdom

to stand for something more than ourselves,

to believe in a world of justice here on this planet,

to act with love in the face of inequality and hatred.

Let us reach out to the people that society has persecuted.

Let us live towards a better world,

where equal rights are a certainty, not a just the dream of a great man,

where no one is beaten because of who they love,

where no child’s life is worth more than any other’s.

Let us continue to work for equality for all the people of your earth.

Let our actions reflect your wise spirit and your vision of a more just world.

Amen

It’s Your Church Too

10304700_10100837314741541_5443715570065754002_nToday’s post is from Patrick Cousins, who works as a campus minister at Saint Louis University. Patrick grew up outside of New Orleans and spent fifteen years in a Catholic religious order, teaching in high schools in Zimbabwe, Louisiana, and Arizona before moving to St. Louis in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. His post is a beautiful reflection on what LGBTQ people of faith can face and really relates to Autumn’s post about her own experiences with the church as an LGBTQ person. His post is filled with insight, wisdom and hope for LGBTQ people, and really all people of faith.

I have worked as a campus minister at Saint Louis University (a Jesuit university in St. Louis, MO) for a long time, and over the years I have worked with a number of students who have been in the midst of the coming out process. For many of them, religion has been a source of pain, shame, and confusion: churches claim to speak on behalf of God, and therefore too easily claim absolute and unchanging certitude for themselves. But religious communities and traditions can still be places of affirmation and growth. There is still plenty of misunderstanding out there, but more and more, members of religious communities are coming to understand that using appeals to tradition or church history or doctrine to deny other people the ability to form communities and relationships does not further people’s well-being.

For too long, members of  LGBTQ communities have been faced with terrible options when it came to dealing with their religious lives. These terrible options include:

  1.  Hide in plain sight. Religious communities that impose a culture of silence, a “don’t ask, don’t tell” kind of situation, tell LGBTQ people that they can only be loved and welcomed if they wear a mask or simply don’t share their personal lives in community. That is no way to form healthy relationships or build trust.
  2. Deny your own experiences and self-understandings. As the Jesuit priest Tony DeMello says, “When reality comes in contact with a rigidly held belief, reality is usually the loser.” That is, when someone else gets to tell you what is true about you, your experience can easily be dismissed or chopped up to fit their beliefs.
  3. Leave. For too many people coming out means losing their spiritual homes, the rituals and traditions that have been so formative in their lives, and even feeling that God has told them they have no place in the community.

So, what would I like you to know about religious life as a member of  LGBTQ communities?

 

  1. There are a lot of straight allies out there, even in faith traditions that do not support LGBTQ equality. A lot of people are struggling with how to stand with their LGBTQ friends. For some of them, that means leaving their religious communities, but for more of them, that means offering a voice of encouragement and welcome. We don’t always do that like we should – we put a foot in our mouths, we don’t understand your experience, our cowardice overcomes our love and we don’t stand with you like we want to – but we want to make our religious communities and our society a place that makes real the love we talk about on Sundays.
  2. The God I believe in does not want you to lie. Having to pretend to be something you are not is no way to wholeness or well-being. If God knows you in your deepest self, then trying to deny who you are is like hoping God won’t know who you really are, and that seems a little silly to me. Trying to lie to yourself about who you are does not seem like an expression of loving kindess for yourself, either. Knowing and acknowledging yourself in your greatness and smallness and beauty and silliness is part and parcel of allowing yourself to know that God knows and loves you that way too.
  3. It’s your church too. Often enough I hear people say something about how if you are a Catholic and you support same-sex relationships, then you aren’t really Catholic (or whatever other denomination). It can feel like “the church” is really the leadership – the Pope, the pastors, the officials, but your voice and your experience matter too. I don’t fault anyone who no longer feels at home in the tradition they grew up in, and for those who stay, it can still be a challenge, but I know a lot of people who have simply refused to allow someone else to dictate to them whether they are “good enough” or not.
  4. The risk is worth it. I can’t tell you that your religious community won’t let you down. Mine lets me down all the time. But the alternative is worse: presuming that religion can only let you down, that religious people can’t change or will only act on their worst impulses, is a lonely way to go.

I could run through all the Bible verses that get used on either side of the aisle, but you probably know them better than I do. I can tell you about church teachings that have changed, advances that this or that denomination has made in its affirmation of the dignity of LGBTQ people and their relationships, but you already know what is going on; progress is happening, sometimes slowly, but there is still a long way to go for a lot of religions.

Instead, I encourage you to do something that is at the heart of the Jesuit tradition, the driving force behind SLU’s mission: reflect on how you see God active in your life. If God is active in our world, then surely God is active in your daily life, not just in headline-worthy news stories and political decisions, but in how you care for your friends, how you go about your job or your studies, and how you share your gifts with people. Think for a few minutes about how you have seen healing, reconciliation, mindfulness, and encouragement in your daily life. Think about the communities that have fostered that kind of well-being. If you can find a community that energizes you, keeps you engaged in being thoughtful and generous, and helps you to see the activity of God in your daily life, that’s a community worth hanging on to.