Blessed Moments in Time

I have now been back with my parents in New Jersey for a week now. Seven days. It has honestly just now occurred to me that roughly seven days ago, just 168 hours ago, just 10080 minutes ago – each minute being only a brief moment in time – I was just arriving back to the home I grew up in after a long day of cleaning out my room in the Engineering House and singing way too many songs in a five-hour car ride.

It’s crazy how just a little over a day before that, I was preparing on going out to dinner with my girlfriend and finally getting a moments rest after a long semester.

And roughly 14 hours earlier that day – Thursday morning at 4am – I was just finishing my final programming assignment and preparing to hand it in and complete my semester before finally being able to exit Photonics and travel home.

As I have experienced my heart, mind, and soul decelerate from hundreds of miles per hour to an almost full stop, I can’t help but for a moment reflect on a heart, mind, and soul’s journey through time.

It doesn’t really matter what the velocity your soul is moving at each day.
Fast
or
slow,
it is all relative to time,
and
time
keeps
pacing
the same.

And each moment is exactly that: a moment. And at each moment, our states of being are affected by those around us.

Sometimes, the effects that others have on our states are positive. Sometimes, not so much.

Sometimes, the impacts on our states are small. Other times, they are massive, potentially affecting the trajectory of our being in massive, eternal ways.

Sometimes, another soul only crosses our paths for a brief moment.
And other times, their existences are almost permanent.

And if we are lucky, some of those individuals who impact us in massive positive ways are also people who have a more permanent existence in our lives.

But sometimes, loss and farewells do occur. Our existences are finite – only moments in time.

And, can we honestly, ever, really expect complete permanence in those that we cherish?

I find there are many ways we can respond to our finitude,
either with fear,
anxiety,
or distance.

Or, we can respond to our existence with both
a sense of courage,
and
a sense of thankfulness for existence.

And truly, in the present moment, we can cherish our existences – because that is our only guarantee.

And we can courageously know that, loss and pain do occur, but that doesn’t mean we cannot have love and hope, and it most certainly doesn’t mean we cannot love our existences and those around us.

And also, we can make sure that those who have had impacts on our lives know that we are thankful we have had the blessing of having them cross our paths in time.

And so, thank you to my fellow Marshians.

Thank you Ian, you one time wrote that I had courage, but I it is only thanks to the kindness and support from you and others. You are one of the most other-aware individuals I have ever met, and I am most certainly sure that wherever you go, you will continue to bring a massive and positive impact on those around you.

Thank you Kasey, your humor, and your passion for justice has been an inspiration to me. Thank you for the many memories in the community dinners at Marsh Chapel, and at our Monday night dinners. Your spirit and heart always brought a wonderful dynamic to our community, and your passion and heart will be a blessing to the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.

Thank you Denise, Devin, Matt, and Tom. Your persistence in my life has been a blessing, and I always looked forward to laughing, talking, and hanging out with you on Sunday mornings, and on Monday nights. Your hearts and our conversations filled me with life and courage that carried me through the stresses of the semester. Thank you to the rest of the Marsh community, and thank you to my mentors and leaders. Our conversations were a regular retreat from my day to day challenges, and your thought-provoking conversations that challenged me to change are still impacting me today. I cannot wait to see you all again next semester.

Thank you to the Sojourn community. Our conversations as an eclectic bunch were life-giving, and the community you have given me is something I cannot wait to return to this summer and over the next semester.

Thank you to EpiscopalBU for providing me a time of meditation, fellowship, and community every week. You are all wonderful people, and something I always looked forward to on Wednesday evenings after a long day of classes.

Thank you to my friends from Orientation. Thank you my friends from Engineering. Thank you to my professors this semester who gave me assistance when I struggled and who spoke with me regularly. Thank you to every friend I have made and every new wonderful person in my life.

I don’t even know how to close a sentimental blog post. To those who are moving on to the next chapters in their lives and to those I have had to say goodbye to: thank you – I honestly am unsure if I can put into language the impacts you have had on me as a person. And to those I will see again in September, or in a week, thank you so much for a wonderful semester. I look forward to many more conversations, fellowship, and moments together.

Thank you, God, for each and every moment I have had on this earth. Thank you for the tough moments, and for the bright moments. Thank you for the heartbeat I have in my chest, and the air in my lungs. Thank you for those I have been blessed to know.

Thank you.

The Last Page of the First Chapter

Today I write my blog post from room 909 in Sleeper Hall. Just nine months ago I began my college career by moving into this same room with fear, anticipation, and curiosity. Now, I sit in the same room with with very different feelings: thankfulness, hope, and excitement.

I will be leaving room 909 at approximately 3:00 pm today, and board a plane that will take me home. (Or at least my home for a month until my family moves to San Diego.) I feel extremely lucky to say that BU is my second home. With so much transition this past academic year, it is nice to be able to feel comfortable with the school I chose.

I am thankful that I was able to begin work at such a positive place of thinking and growth. I’ve met some of the nicest and most thoughtful friends anyone could ask for and I feel so grateful to have them in my life. I wish Kasey and Ian the best as they venture forth from BU and begin their success in their respective fields.

I am hopeful that the other Marsh associates and I can be as passionate and focused next year as Ian and Kasey were this year. Devin, Denise, Nick, and Matt all inspired me to work harder and I see hope in each of them every time we check-in on Monday nights at our weekly meetings.

Finally, I am excited for my own future at BU. There is so much opportunity I see around me. I am no longer fearful. I feel secure. I feel as though I have matured this year in some respects, and I am looking forward to the many more changes to come in the future.

To anyone who is reading this, I wish you a wonderful summer. And to my fellow Marsh associates, I can’t wait to laugh and work with you all soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

We have come to that time of year again—the wrapping up of classes, the slow dwindling of my to-do list as I cross off papers and exams in a steady slog to the end of the semester. As I sit in the chapel now—9:30 pm on Saturday, May 6th in the year 2017—I have one exam standing between me and graduation. It’s strange to think that in less than three weeks, I will get on a train to Seattle with no definite plans of when/if I will return. Meanwhile many of my friends are preparing for one-way trips of their own and the surreal finality of it all is starting to sink in. It’s crazy to think back four years ago to my eighteen-year-old self who decided to pack up and move across the country. So many things have happened in my life since then—my family moved from Holden Village in central Washington to Seattle via a seven-month road trip around the country, I visited 22 new states but also traveled outside the U.S., spending time in Tanzania and Ecuador, I gained a much clearer sense of my own identity, my place in the world, and my sense of call. I became more comfortable living in ambiguity and I became better at truly listening to the people around me. My brother started college and my parents started new jobs, I published one novel and wrote a second. The political landscape shifted dramatically. I met so many people that my ability to remember faces and names has drastically diminished. I grew in my faith, my confidence, and my understanding of the world.

On some level I can’t believe that four years have already gone by but on the other hand, my first days at BU feel like faded memories lodged on a high shelf far away, dusty from disuse and the passage of time. And now, thinking about leaving feels like I’m on an ice floe that’s broken off from the mainland and is slowly drifting out to sea. There are so many people here who have been woven into my life and it’s hard to imagine a life where I don’t get to see them every week. But I know that is the nature of college life—it is a temporary alignment of people and events. It is beautiful while it lasts but must inevitably transition into something new.

Last Monday, the Marsh Associates had our end of the year dinner. We laughed and ate delicious food and then the other associates presented me with a parting gift—a binder full of every blog post I have written during my three years in the internship program. It is fulfilling to have a physical representation of all the work I have done here but the part that I will cherish the most is the last section of the binder where they all wrote letters of love, wishing me well and remembering the work I have done here. Reading these letters, I was overwhelmed with gratitude and surrounded with love and community. As I prepare to move on to the next part of my journey, it will be hard to say goodbye but I am excited to follow my call. I know there will be things about next year that will be difficult but it is comforting to know that I have so many wonderful people who love me and will be praying for me. I have been blessed to be a part of this community during my time here in Boston and I can only hope that I have been a blessing to others as well. Peace and love to all of you.

 

O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us. Through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Thankful

I am regularly floored by the year that I have had.

At our Monday meeting last week we asked each other a series of questions. It is one of my favorite things that we did this year. One of our questions was where have you seen God this year?

I love that question, because it challenges me to examine my life and pay more attention to the big and small ways God breaks through.

This year, I consistently saw God in the people in my life. I have been blessed with the most supportive friends and family. It blows me away. The relationships I have formed this year have sustained me through exhaustion and uncertainty.

This is true of my colleagues here at Marsh. Over this year, they have become like family to me. They never fail to make me laugh. They never fail to make me think. They are thoughtful, kind and passionate. They each bring their unique perspectives, life-experiences and selves to the table and our conversation is rich because of it.

They push me to re-examine my own assumptions, to think deeply about my faith. They have taught me so much about faith, humility, patience and openness to God in these last few months. I have witnessed God at work through them and I have enjoyed every step of this journey thus far. They inspire me.

I cannot even begin to describe the ways that they have blessed my life this far, but I am a better person for knowing them.

My final blog post of the year is dedicated to them. My friends, who have reminded me of the love and grace of God every single day. Thank you.

Where the Heart Is

There is a saying that home is where the heart is. When I first came to BU, I wanted to create a new space that I could call home. Perhaps I could have gone further away from Brookline, the town near Boston where I grew up, to accomplish this. But when I came to Marsh Chapel my freshman year, I found a place that grounded me where I could place roots.

Marsh Chapel has been described as a heart for the heart of the city, and a service in the service of the city. I would take the first part of this phrase and add an “h” to the word heart: Marsh chapel has become a hearth, as well as a heart for the city and a home for me. When I say hearth, I mean a space where people can find rest, food, warmth. Most of all, I believe a hearth is a space where people can find solace, growth, and change. I believe in building such hearths through acts of hospitality, listening, and yielding.

This belief stems from spending Tuesday nights cooking dinner for students in a basement kitchen and sharing it over conversation and laughter. It emerges from nights I would spend cleaning dishes and just listening to the simple peace of water flowing and dirt being washed away. It comes from my experiences sitting down with people and yielding space and time to them—space for them to comfortably be themselves, and time for them to tell me their stories.

I believe that one of the greatest challenges as a student is learning how to listen. This is more than just paying attention in class so that you don’t miss something. It involves not thinking about how you’ll respond to what someone is telling you, and just being present with them. Listening is becoming comfortable with your own silence so that you can discern the voices of others, the sound of your surroundings, and maybe the gentle whisper of the Divine. Once you’ve discerned that, you then have a choice to make: how do I respond to what I’ve heard?

I believe that sometimes the hardest power to master is not knowing when to act, but knowing when to yield. This is not the same as giving up, or being complacent. Yielding is knowing how much you can do to support someone before stepping back, and letting them make decisions for themselves with the tools they’ve been given. It is knowing when to let go of your ego while still preserving your worth as a person for the sake of another. It is knowing that you don’t have to fix every problem to have hope, hope that when all else is said and done, survives best at the hearth you’ve created for yourself and for others.

These are the beliefs I’ve developed at Marsh Chapel. They are the flames that nurture me as I leave my home. They are where my hearth and heart is.

Privilege

Walking up the steep hill to my externship at Hebrew College, which I did not apply to because I knew well the assistant director, I realized my privilege. I have two internships that pay me and also care about my development fully. While I’ve had a “rough” semester, I’ve received a full ride to BU and just recently was awarded another scholarship for BU center for humanities. I got to move into a room that met my own desires and I’ve been presented with opportunities to lead in many different areas. I led an ASB trip that changed my whole perspective on the South and education, and became a CAS Dean’s Host. This rough semester has been filled with blessings and so I had to pause while on that hill and check my privilege.

My semester hasn’t been ideal. However, it was a non-ideal semester at one of the top schools in the country, in one of the best cities in the world and I still live to tell my story. Too often this semester I’ve dwelled on the negative. I’ve focused on what BU hasn’t done for me or the stress college has caused me. So for the rest of the semester, I will acknowledge the good.

Shrouded

Have you ever gotten to the point where you sort of do not really feel any meaning about your actions anymore? Where you are wondering where all of then meaning and intentionality has gone? Where you kind of wonder where your feelings are, and where the light of your soul is?

To me, that is one of the strangest, weirdest feelings. I don’t understand it. I love music. I love talking to people and being all warm about existence and optimistic, but, for some odd reason, all of that feels very dead. I am not sure why, but I almost do not really feel like myself. I feel out of touch with who I am.

Every little structure and meaning in my life currently feels lifeless – I currently feel lifeless. My little meaningful series of playlists? I have fallen behind. Listening to music feels like a challenge right now. My schedules? Behind. My goals? Behind. Blog posts – which, I actually really do enjoy writing? Behind. Everything I put a lot of effort into initially this semester and was excited about? I am behind on all of them.

Maybe it’s burnout. Maybe I am a little too plugged in to everything. Maybe I am too stretched. Maybe I am too stressed, and it’s approached a limit where I am hitting a level of exhaustion. I don’t know.

All I know is I feel like I am really out of touch with myself, and I am really out of touch with reality. I can still work and keep going, but all of the parts of my life that deal with a sense of meaning have disappeared.

I have definitely missed the mark on a lot of the ideas I have reflected upon this semester these past few months.
Have I intentionally rested? Absolutely not.
Have I really actually thought a little bit more about my vocational goals and truly settled upon what I really want to do? No.
Have I worked to solve my problems with trust and anxiety? Eh, maybe. I just do not feel much right now, but I might have perhaps gotten a little better there.
Have I improved on my time management? Nope.
Have I lived in this grace I experienced? Kind of, but I have taken it for granted. The meaning is dimmed. And, perhaps, maybe I have not. I mean, I do not feel too accepting of myself right now. How accepting of myself, a failure, am I actually?

But perhaps, I can learn a thing or two in the midst of this darkness, and perhaps I just need to keep going. Maybe I can listen to my reflections on darkness and negative infinity? There’s an idea that might be useful to me right now. I really should just let go of my anxious control over everything and every commitment I am a part of because maybe I am burning myself out a little too fast. Perhaps I can keep walking on through this darkness, and maybe I’ll find God.

 

Yesterday, I led Sojourn’s team at Relay for Life at BU. I was exhausted and I almost backed down close to the date of the event – this was a commitment I made several months ago, but I have an assignment I am now several days late on, a partner assignment we are a week behind on, and another assignment that is due tomorrow. Plus, I have not gotten enough sleep lately.

I was stressed, I was tired. But I went. I had to. I had to be there for my team.

We were a small group, and I decided to walk the track for a while. It was invigorating. I walked alone, but in that still quiet internal loneliness, I felt sparks return. I needed that. I need to bring back the contemplative and mindful rhythms of a healthy spiritual life back into my life. How I do so? I do not even know anymore, I feel as though I do not have any time ever, and it’s hard to meditate or do centering prayer when you are half asleep.

I guess, again, I just need to keep trudging through this darkness, and hold my candle through the storms and day to day stresses ahead of me in the midst of these tense times in student life, in our current political and social climate, and in the midst of uncertainties about my future. And, if the storms ever rage too strongly and blow my candle away, I can hold steady, knowing that I will be able to relight this candle somewhere further.

Because, I know, just because I don’t feel the optimism, and the meaning, and the warmth, does not mean existence can no longer have optimism and meaning and warmth. This is only a temporary experience.

And I know, somewhere in all of this darkness, and tension, and stress, I will find God. `

Different Points of View

I have encountered a difficult situation earlier this week that I have been thinking over quite regularly.

 

Earlier this semester, I became friends with a girl on my floor who is incredibly nice and smart. A bio-medical engineering major, she is both hard working and passionate about her studies. She is also a conscientious and caring friend to all she meets. She meshed into my friend group quite well and was a positive presence to many good times and laughs.

 

Unfortunately, earlier this week I found out that she had very differing views than my own; she does not believe in evolution and she holds questionable views of homosexuality. I am a firm believer in both evolution and a person’s rights to love who they want.

 

After finding out more about her views and opinions after a few months of friendship, I was shocked and a little disappointed at what I discovered. I started questioning, “Should I still be her friend even if she holds views I vehemently disagree with? Should I judge her by her character or by her beliefs?” As a Christian, I believe that I should be a friend to all, but I’m having a hard time coming to terms with these different beliefs and how I should handle our friendships in the future.

Vulnerability in Disharmony

I don’t often mention to people I meet that I work at Marsh Chapel. One reason for this is the question that people will invariably ask me afterward: “Are you religious?” Or, an even trickier one: “Do you believe in God?” As much as I would like to answer these two questions, the truth is I haven’t really developed a full answer to either one yet.

But the other day, these questions did come up in conversation, when I ran into someone I knew at the Howard Thurman Center. He had mentioned that he went to a worship service on Easter weekend, so I asked him what experience with religion he had, if any.

Note to self: If you don’t want to answer a question, sometimes it is wise not to ask your conversation partner the exact same one, lest they end up reflecting it back at you.

This is what ended up happening. But rather than try to sidestep the question or change the subject (which I am prone to do, if you know me well enough–I do try to acknowledge when I do this, though), on this occasion I answered his question as truthfully as I could. We ended up chatting about faith and religion for a few minutes, and eventually we shifted to talking about science and religion, a topic I enjoy discussing a lot. He didn’t think that science and religion have different methods to answer similar questions, but he did say something that profoundly struck me: “I don’t like how much psychology has permeated society.”

This comment caught me by surprise. I had heard a sentiment like this expressed by one of my uncles before, but in that case it was just “I don’t like psychology.” My uncle had claimed that psychology was a science without much substance. Funnily enough, both of us happen to be in neuroscience, yet my opinion differs significantly with his on that one. But I digress.

I asked my friend to clarify what he meant by that, and he explained to me that he felt psychology gives  people ways to rationalize their own behaviors and motivations. In the process, it permits them to do nothing to change them. I replied that psychology is valuable because it’s difficult to change your behavior or grow in your perspectives if you don’t understand what they are to begin with, or where they come from. While we disagreed in our assessment of psychology’s value, he did have a point: knowing something about yourself allows you to be complacent if you do nothing to act accordingly with that knowledge. 

My friend challenged me to think about how willing people are to change their opinions even when they know where they come from, especially when they hear opinions or evidence they disagree with. He also commented on how current debates on identity and personal experience as forms of knowledge change our understanding of what truth is. He argued that there were moral principles of truth that hold regardless of personal experience, and that many of these principles are grounded by religion. My response was that a person’s experience informs what they believe in, and what people believe in are often principles that they think are true. That subjective, personal truth still has meaning, even if it may not be grounded in fact or align with broader moral principles guided by religion.

Throughout our conversation, I could tell that these issues mattered deeply to my friend–and that we had strikingly different opinions on them. Yet what moved me most about this conversation was that no matter how tense the conversation got, we were able to keep listening, pushing, and leaning on each other. By the end we had walked out of the Howard Thurman Center and parted ways with a handshake and a hug–a compromise that my friend came up with after we had talked about the kinds of greetings and interactions we like (my friend prefers handshakes, whereas I’m more prone to hug if I know someone and am comfortable being around them).

I can’t say for sure if we both walked away from that conversation with changed minds or changed perspectives. But I can say that for the hour or so in which we were talking to each other, we were able to be vulnerable with each other in expressing what each of us believed in. My respect for my friend has grown immensely because of that experience, even if we starkly disagreed about what we were discussing.

There is risk in disagreement–often it is much easier to pretend to agree for the sake of preserving harmony between people. But I believe that experiencing some discomfort and vulnerability in disharmony is healthy. That disruption of agreement allows us to open up, to take our thoughts in hand and reshape them with questions, and to truly expose our ideas to someone else’s. That was something that I experienced in conversation the other day, and I am glad to have encountered it. Maybe I should try sidestepping questions less in the future.

Easter Blessings

Easter has come and gone! Honestly, I cannot believe that it has gone by so quickly. The day itself, I have to admit, was pretty long. The three services definitely took a toll on me. I was very very tired. But, I had a lot of fun.

I really appreciate all the hard work that my peers put in to make sure that the day went really well and that the services were running as they were supposed to.

The sunrise service was a blast! It was so fun being able to run a service with the other marsh associates. They all did such an amazing job.

The cross activity went so well, much better than I would have expected. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to lead the meditation portion of that service. It was an amazing experience that I will always remember.

After the services were over I was able to enjoy the beautiful weather with my friends and throw the football around. Then I met up with my parents and had dinner. It was nice being able to see them, the last time I saw them was at the beginning of the semester. It was great being able to catch up.

Overall, this past Easter embodied the true meaning of the day. I was able to enjoy it with friends and family. Easter is a time when you are supposed to be appreciative of all the blessing that you have in your life. I am truly blessed to have such great friends, family, and peers. They made the day very memorable. It was the first time in a while I was truly happy for the entire day.