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.

Equality in Marriage

Today’s post comes from our regular contributor David Etim, who is writing from Lagos, Nigeria. He writes about the ways he finds equality as necessary in a faith-centered marriage.

In a globalized world that is filled with cross-cultural relationships and marriages, I have been thinking a lot on how it is possible to build a healthy and growing family where the woman (wife) is unjustly treated and she is not in decision-making position in the family. To be honest I believe this injustice goes against my faith.

The Scriptures has many guidelines on marriage and gender equality. We can see it captured in Ecclesiastes for example : ” Two can accomplish more than twice as much as one, for the results can be much better” ( 4:9 TLB ). So, ” Live happily with the woman you love….” ( Ecclesiastes 9:9 TLB).

In the light of this, and in all honesty, “Marriage is honorable.” So, at this moment in my life, I believe my dignity is not in my strength, nor my skill; it is in my God-ordained friend, counselor and loving wife, mother and real partner for life. “….A gift too wonderful for words!”  ( 2 Corinthians 9:15 NLT). To find this equal partnership is a great honor that I take very seriously.  ” ….What is important is faith expressing itself in love” ( Galatians 5:6NLT).

 As it has happened, Barack Obama is the President of the United States of America today not just because his parents disobeyed the law criminalizing marriage between Whites and Blacks at that time, but more importantly their cross-cultural marriage has a divine tinge, as we might see in their love and in his actions.

In this globalized world, equality in love is one of the most consistent and striking findings that I have discovered through my faith.

Equality in Stardust

By: Jenni Taylor

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.– Ecclesiastes 9:10

I am mesmerized by the mystery of the finite being part of the infinite. I find myself a part of the adolescent state of humanity wondering, “why are we here?” realizing it might not even be the right question to ask.

We are the small- we know it now, looking further and further out to the stars. We are self-aware of our ignorance. Now, when do we find our place in “the big”?

Death is said to be the great equalizer. It’s true. Our bodies fade away, breaking back down into the particles they first came from. Star stuff, they say, the dust of the universe. Good, bad, ugly and beautiful all sent spiraling together in equal amounts of very scientific gases.

Though our bodies are scattered throughout the galaxies in rather equal measures, I think about our equality on earth. The equality of breath, of oxygen flowing into our lungs at the same rate as every other person, and what we decide to do with that oxygen. How breath can become breath of life or breath of spewing hate. I think about the equality of giving, how it is bottomless and continuous and has nothing to do with the amount we start out with. I think about the equality of souls, each one precious, despite its smallness or its place in the world.

We are much more alike than different, and we all have tentacles reaching out from our hearts straining to connect with something, anything. We are equal in our emptiness, and we are equal in our capacity to fill the emptiness of others with love.

So, before we turn to stardust and the working, planning, knowledge and wisdom are all gone- let’s equalize our buckets, giving and taking, and help each other out on this journey to the stars.741060_10100356163796891_698349742_o

All are Welcome

By: Autumn Elizabeth

This is a story that is quite personal.  It involves my home church, and our struggle together to witness the equality God has shown us. This is not a story with a happy ending, or a story that is meant to chastised. This is the story about how I asked my church to marry me, and how this request was denied.  This is a story about what it means to ask for radical welcome.

When I joined the Disciples of Christ Christian church, I left behind a church where, as a woman, I was seen as unequal, and where I couldn’t embrace me whole self. Living now, far away from the home church that denied me the nothing except the one thing I asked for aloud I have come to face the heart breaking reality that although I still firmly believe in a Jesus who would have fought the police at Stonewall and a God that suffered along side Matthew Shepard, my faith in humanity finds itself on softer ground.

I several years ago, I asked this welcoming church to bless the marriage of my same-sex partner and I. There was hesitation. There was discussion, there was love, there was support, and then there was an answer. That answer was “no”.  The church continued to journey towards a place where that answer might someday be “yes” for someone else. But the truth remains, before I came along, no one stood for me. Before I asked these questions no one asked. Before I argued, no one made a peep. I do not mean to imply that I was alone among my fellow chruch-goers in my sexuality, far from it in fact. But the de facto “don’t ask don’t tell” policy of many christian churches, where LGBTQ people are not shamed, but not welcomed, meant that I had to be the one to ask, and I had to be denied.

My favorite Disciples of Christ quote is etched on the side of my home church. “In essentials, unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things, charity.” Indeed this is the quote most often shown to me as a claim that I must not force any church to be open and affirming of LGBTQ people. Yet, when one looks closely at this argument, it becomes clear that despite the importance of “all are welcome”, welcoming all people, regardless of sexual orientation, or gender identity is actually not essential. Thus, I use this quote to disagree, to advocate that welcoming everyone means equality is essential in the eyes of God.

As long as the single most important essential of disciples doctrine remains “all are welcome”, then in fact, there can be no questioning, no doubt. In all things we must offer charity, we must always have our hearts, our hearths and our doors open. What I offer you, I cannot deny to the person who asks me next. Acceptance of all people, blessing of all unions, welcoming of even our enmities is an essential tenant of Christianity, or at least it is an essential tenant of any Christianity I want to believe in. As people who beleive in the radical love of God, the impossible expanse of God’s welcomeness, we must let everyone participate equally. This radical equality means we must love and accept all who enter our churches’ doors, and it means LGBTQ people must be allows to participate in every ritual of the church. It also means that as LGBTQ people, we cannot deny ourselves access to being full members of our faith groups, nor can we deny ourselves the freedom to be open and honest with our fellow church members about who we are.  Finally, the radical love of God insists on all of us, that we not wait for someone else to ask for justice, whether we are part of LGBTQ communities or not, we all must demand that our faith communities act with justice, act with love, act with radical welcome.

My faith in human nature now rest, as it often does, on the next generation, and in the fact that, despite the outcome of my personal request I have done my part. I have ensure that when the next generation stands, they will not do so alone.  They will be able to look back on this moment, when I asked, you denied me..will you deny them too? They will know that someone, hopefully many someones, have stood up for the radical love that Jesus preached, and asked again and again until their voices were heard, “When will you truly welcome me to the table?”