Iterations of Trials

Last Monday, I ran the first iteration of one my internship projects. This project is the implementation and light facilitation of small intentional conversations during the weekly Monday night religious life dinners. This project is connected to this years theme of Conversations at Marsh Chapel.

When designing topic themes, I had to consider: the questions, the relevance, whether or not it could be interesting and in which ways the topics could be contextualized. Do themes within religious life have some insight to bring to the conversation?

This week, the topic was: Should we be vegetarian?

The questions were designed to inspire personal conversation and invite a multitude of perspectives to share by inviting individuals to share what their experiences with diets and vegetarianism.

I was very nervous going into the evening and was afraid of how the conversations were going to go.

When Brother Larry finished the Chapel announcements and introduced me, I went back to old insights about public speaking I learned last summer as an Boston University student advisor. I am not the best public speaker; I usually shake and tremble and speak to quietly or too quickly or I just sound very awkward.

I managed to fight though the nervousness and introduce the topic and hand out the questions. I heard much discussion and even got to partake in it a little bit myself.

Although there is much tweaking that will need to be done in this project, I am happy with how it started nad was inspired by the conversations that ensued. The atmosphere was lighthearted, calm, and conversational.

I am excited to see how the project continues to grow and change! The next topic is: What does Common Ground mean to you?

Your a Reflection of Who You Surround Yourself With

I sat in Marsh this past Monday night and amongst, exams, clubs, and sleep deprived undergrads (like myself) I found the opportunity to enjoy these 2 hours I had with my Marsh family. The six of us laughed over dinner and made group messages, changed our blog design and simply, I was happy. I enjoyed every minute of it. I realized how important fellowship is again, and more importantly friendship. These early weeks of the school year I’ve been looking for a family. I have tons of friends here at BU, and a few that I consider my extended family. however, I haven’t found a group of people that I can be myself around constantly. I haven’t found people that keep me grounded. Monday night, I begin to think that I had found that here at Marsh. Monday reminded me of the amazing people I intern here with at Marsh. I must admit I’ve taken them from granted. I’ve taken for granted the permanent fixture that Marsh has been thus far in my college career. I’ve taken for granted how easy it is to feel warmth when I’m around my Marsh team, and how I see our friendship growing even stronger.

For the first time in a long time, I was homesick. I missed the little things like my mom’s spaghetti. But, I realized missed that same feeling I had Monday night. When you find your people hold on tight to them. Sadly, we live in a world where injustice takes the lives of hundreds of people every week. I must admit, these past few weeks, that reality has kept me down in combination with tons of other stuff. Cherish every moment with your people when you find them, especially the beginning uncomfortable stages of getting to know each other. The people you surround yourself with are a reflection of you. I’m starting to enjoy the reflection I’m seeing.

Practicing Gratitude

I have recently gotten really into podcasts. The other day I was listening to a Ted talk podcast done by NPR that featured A.J. Jacobs. Jacobs is the author of A Year of Living Biblically. In this book, Jacobs discusses his attempt to follow every commandment of the Bible for a year and how this experience influenced him. I was drawn to one piece of his experience in particular, which discussed thankfulness. There are multiple verses throughout the Bible that call us to express gratitude. Jacobs took these verses literally, describing how he made a concerted effort to thank God for even the simplest things.

I know that I should be infinitely thankful, but I’m not always great at doing it. At letting that thankfulness move from my head to my heart seeping into every fiber of my being, so that I feel gratitude flowing through my veins and bursting from my heart. This pod cast led me to the conclusion that thankfulness is a discipline. An important one for people of faith. Thankfulness requires that we regularly acknowledge that God is at work in even the most mundane. That we recognize with our heart what we know with our minds, that we didn’t come to where we are today because we are awesome.

Which is not to say that we ignore the sorrows life hands us. Obviously, thankfulness can be really hard at times. I don’t think thankfulness means swallowing disappointment or sadness and pretending that the world is all rainbows and sunshine. Sometimes life is horrible, and the sky is gray and it doesn’t feel like the rain will ever stop falling. I don’t think the Bible is telling us to lie about how we are feeling. Or to suppress our pain. Rather, I think the call to thankfulness is to keep our eyes open even as we walk through difficult times. To persistently look for God as our world re-arranges. To notice the ways that God is holding us close as we journey through rainbows and thunderstorms alike.

I will bless the Lord at all times; God’s praise shall continually be in my mouth. Psalm 34:1

Reflections on Identities

It was Friday afternoon. I looked at the clock. It was almost 5pm. My probability homework needed to be handed in within the next few minutes. I left the South Campus common lounge, went to Ingalls to staple my homework together, and hurried to Photonics to hand it in.

The past few weeks were long and tiring. There was always something to do. There were challenges and tests and late nights and less sleep and labs and work and commitments and a seemingly endless stack of assignments. Slowly, though, the stack was shrinking. The storm was passing; the light rain was rolling in.

I handed it in. This was the last assignment in the series of assignments, labs, projects, and tests from the rushes of the weeks of midterms. For a moment, there were no impending assignments, no impending challenges. For a brief moment, I felt the sense that there was nothing that needed to be done.

I walked to Marsh Chapel. Maybe, I could take a moment and find some peace in one of the campus’s sacred spaces. Someone was practicing music in the chapel, so I decided to walk to the green space outside and sit on a bench. For a moment, I had no sense of urgency: there was nothing that desperately needed to be done.

I looked and there were people walking around. The crisp autumn air was refreshing in the now pink sky. The leaves danced around in the light, cool wind. For a moment, everything was okay.

The Charles River water moved slowly. Everything moved slowly. Here I was, a Colombian American from New Jersey sitting in the middle of the city of Boston on a bench in a green space in a large university. Here I was, thinking, calculating and reflecting.

I am a Rodriguez. Another Rodriguez. “Your family is full of calculators with feelings,” my friends have often joked about my family. “The people in your family seem to really have emotions, feeling types,” they would say. “Yet, they are all like engineers.”

I am a Rodriguez. “El se ve como un ingeniero,” my brother had joked to my father, as I put on my first pair of glasses as a young boy. The science channel had been on nearby, and Build It Bigger was showing. I was amazed at the massive designs and constructions being built.

I sat there, the clouds multiple hues of orange, red, yellow. The sky an orchestrated mix of colors and textures.

My father would often talk about meaning. He would often tell us to take deep value in our faith. The ideas of faith and meaning – of spirituality – were important. My parents were very liberal Christians. We went to a contemporary church every Sunday. My father deeply valued our faith, and he deeply valued the faith of other traditions, of other religions. His head was full of random texts and readings from multiple perspectives. His common advice, “be awake, son” his common farewell, “pilas, God be with you.”

My phone vibrated and I reached into my pocket. It was a message from Jennifer that read:

On my way home : )

My family would talk about love often, always commenting about the goodness of love, of loving your significant other, of friendship, of family, and of selflessness. They would talk about the value of caring about others. My family instilled a deep sense of caring – of love – into me.

My sister was a cinephile, and she would often convince the whole family to watch all kinds of movies: romances, actions, thrillers. We would watch them all together. My parents, my siblings, and I would often see way too much meaning into it all. The young couples in love, the people standing up for those lesser than, and the action – these were all wonderful stories to carry with us wherever we go.

The colorful leaves in the trees rustled in the wind. The sound was relaxing, the white noise.

In high school, Sunday school was usually run by Steve, the youth pastor. By the time I was in high school, Steve had been youth pastor at Mendham Hills for several years. He was very cool, very chill, and made sure youth group was both fun and meaningful for everyone there. In Sunday school, he would teach in the Socratic method. As we studied passages and ideas within our religious tradition, he would often question our tradition’s ideas and concepts to see what we thought of them. Often, he would ask us to say what we thought. Oftentimes, we had no idea. He would encourage us to research, to see what others thought, to think critically and deeply about the very ideas that gave our religious identities meaning. He would often answer our questions with more questions.

I took a few deep breaths. I had been on the bench for a while now. I noticed my backpack was a little far from me, so I pulled it closer. I looked around as several joggers ran by.

After a while, I decided it was time to probably go home and get my things together to go and hangout with Jen. I stood up from the bench and began my walk towards my room in South Campus: The Engineering House. That’s me: an engineering student.

I put in headphones, and played a random song on my October Playlist. “Rewind” by Andy Mineo came on. The chorus was sung:

When I rewind, replay

All the things that made me

Who I am


The good and the bad

The good and the bad

When I rewind

When I rewind

Everything I’m not, made me everything I am

When I rewind

When I rewind

Everything I’m not, made me everything I am


I walked towards the brownstone I live in.

Here I am, my identity in the collection of stories that inspire and drive me. Here I am, another paintbrush in the great canvas of Boston University.

Here I am, my biology telling a story: I am Hispanic and the language in my biology carried by generations of farmers and workers who lived in Colombia. This biological language in me now having traveled thousands of miles into the city of Boston.

Here I am, a calculator with feelings, like Wall-E. A Rodriguez, another one who constantly thinks about how much love matters.

Here I am, an engineering student. A person who loves math and science. A tinkerer.

Here I am, a Christian, an intern at Marsh Chapel. A person who loves reading theology, philosophy, and psychology. A lover of the humanities. A person who takes deep interest in these topics. Someone who came from Mendham Hills, from the youth group of Steve. A questioner. A person who deeply loves pluralism and diversity.

Here I am, telling my story, and inspired by the stories I find those around me telling.

We are all telling stories with our lives and identifying with everything in our past that has given us meaning. We find our identity in what we see when we rewind: the good and the bad.

It was a long week, but it brought me to here. It was a good week.

Quiet Space

At our weekly staff meeting, we did a guided meditation followed by a time of journaling. For my blog post this week, I want to share what I wrote, unedited and unpolished, from that brief moment of reflection:

The thing about quiet spaces is, all it takes to destroy them is a single noise—the nervous tapping of your foot, the constant beating of your heart, the scraping of chairs from the floor above, sirens, honking horns, loud laughter or shouts from outside the window. And suddenly, your concentration is broken. Instead of imagining a small candle flame flickering in front of you, sending soft shadows on the walls of your mind, the melting of the wax like the melting of your muscles into relaxation, you are distracted buy this now unquiet space. You remember the reasons your muscles needed to relax in the first place, your mind races—planning, prioritizing, worrying. The task seems so simple—focus on the flame, let it pull you in. But you are held back, constrained by lists and schedules and expectations.

In a world that seems to be getting louder every day, these quiet spaces are the key to our well being. We don’t have to ignore the noise but we need to find ways to take a step back, to sit in a darkened room, to bask in the simplicity of a candle flame. And it is in these quiet spaces that we create a space for answers, for clarity, for direction, for God.

When I came to the chapel today, my head was buzzing, clouded after a day where nothing seemed to come easily, where my world gradually narrowed until all I could see was my computer screen. But then I stepped outside, embraced by the fresh air. I ate dinner with friends, shared with each other about our lives—somewhat overwhelmed but knowing we’ll get through. And then we sat together, eyes closed, and minds relaxing, imagining that simple, calm, hopeful flame. And all of those other things melted away.

It’s the simple things

It happens like clockwork. I lay in my bed ready to sleep and I began to go through my day, the work needed to be done tomorrow, all the future stresses of the week and I think God’s got me so I can make it through this one, “he”s gotten me through worst.” I realized this week, I need more reminders that he’s got me. Not a physical reminder or even a spiritual one, I needed something simple for myself. I thought about it and it quickly became clear. I needed to change what I listened to every morning and allow my music to become a reminder for me. I made a playlist of all my favorite praise and worship songs and threw in a few songs that let me know he’s there. Sounds silly, but its inexplicable how empowered you feel going to class when Brandon Roberson is telling you “nothing is impossible, nothing is too hard for you, no one can compare to you, you can all things.” I’ve had to listen to that song at least 50 times just this week. Every time, it did something different for me. I think its important to have that reminder that God is right there with you even at your lowest times. Even at 1:30 AM when your writing a paper and all you want to do is quit, it’s important to remember you get your strength from someone greater than anything on earth.

I’ve heard rumors of a sophomore slump, I’ve been trying so hard to avoid it, its stopped me from enjoying the blessings I’ve had this semester. Often in classes we are asked to look at the bigger picture, but instead I;ll ask you to look at the small stuff. To quote one of my favorite poet, Whitman, “The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?  Answer. That you are here—that life exists and identity, That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.” Enjoy contributing your verse, that is a blessing in itself.

Exciting Meetings

I have been in meetings for the United Methodist Church a lot these past two weeks. Eight days in a row to be exact-with some travel in between. It was at times physically exhausting, at times emotionally draining, but also incredibly inspiring. Despite the ways in which meetings can bog us down, I feel so lucky because I feel that I saw the church at its very best this week.
These meetings were interlaced by some of the most beautiful and moving worship services. Wonderful daily reminders of why we were there; why we were listening to reports, drinking gallons of coffee, waking up early and going to bed late. That above all else we were there to serve God and the world through our work.
I witnessed our young people commit to having difficult conversations in a respectful manner that affirms the value of every individual. I saw those conversations begin. I had the opportunity to talk with the incredible leaders this church has produced. Those conversations fill me with such hope for our future as a church. With passionate young leaders like them, there is no limit to what this church can do.
I learned so very much about the incredible things we are doing for young people and women around the world. The opportunities we provide for spiritual growth, education, the work being done to advocate for changes to oppressive systems. More than that, I was so incredibly inspired by all that we can be and do in the next four years.
There is a lot of good in the church, and in the world. These last two weeks were a timely and wonderful reminder of that. A celebration of all that we have done and all that we can do. As I reflect on those past two weeks, I am reminded of Ephesians 3. Now to God who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to God be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. I’m so grateful to be on this journey, to see first hand what God is doing in this world and I cannot wait for all of the exhausting but exciting meetings to come.


Monday marked the end of an era in Boston. The Boston Red Sox lost to the Cleveland Indians and were eliminated from the playoffs; this was the last day time that David Ortiz will step on a field to play a game of professional baseball. It is only fitting to talk about “Big Papi” and what he meant to me.

One of the most exciting times in my life was when the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004; David Ortiz was an integral part of that team. He went on to win 2 more World Series with the Red Sox and will be immortalized by having his number retired.

One of the many reasons that he is so beloved in the city of Boston is that he always wore his heart of his sleeve. This was not always the best thing (ie. smashing a phone in the Orioles’ dugout). He was known for allowing his emotions the get the best of him at times. With that being said, for the most part, he had good intentions with the majority of his actions.

He never hesitated to visit sick children in hospitals or make appearances at charity events. He did not just care about getting his money or just doing well on the field. He cared about the community and the fans. He understood that for some fans the game of baseball was an escape from hardship. No he was not perfect all the time. But, no one is. I think it is important for all of us to know that our intentions are as important as our actions. Impulsive actions are often not acceptable. But if you act impulsively it is important and responsible to admit fault and act for forgiveness. Everyone has emotion and sometimes cannot control their actions. Baseball is a great example of realizing fault and moving forward. David Ortiz has had to do this many times in his career. So should we.

On of the better times which Ortiz let his emotions get the best of him was after the Boston Bombing. His heartfelt speech after the tragic events of the Boston Bombing still gives me chills to this day. I remember where I was when the bombing happened; I also remember where I was when David Ortiz gave his speech. Although saying a vulgar term on live television probably was not the plan. I appreciate his devotion to the community and how he too was emotionally impacted by the tragic and horrific events of that day.

I want to thank David Ortiz for his time in Boston. For giving all Bostonians something and someone to cheer for. For rebuilding a historic franchise. For his electric smile. For giving back. No matter where you go, Boston will always be your home. Have a happy retirement.

Community Snapshots

For my blog post this week, I have several fragments—instances this week where I felt part of something bigger—a larger community, a movement, an experience beyond myself. They were meaningful to me and I hope they can bring some sense of meaning to you as well.


My professor lets us out of class early so we can participate in the walk out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. We gather on the plaza beneath an achingly blue sky and I stand surrounded by students beneath the arc of metal birds proclaiming Free at Last. I look up at the front of the chapel, framed by trees whose leaves are starting to burst into fall flames. Our shouts echo off the cold stone and fill the crisp fall air. We have gathered to bear witness to each other, to pledge unity, to remind people that there is still work to be done. We can’t understand all of the words that are spoken but we nod and cheer anyway. Because we know what lies at the core of their message. We tie small strips of fabric together, creating a swirling, twisting chain that connects each and every one of us. We know this walkout will not solve the problem. We know it will not bring back the ones we have lost. We know it will not end discrimination. But we are all here, tied to each other, beneath a sculpture celebrating freedom and human dignity. We are all here to push for change, to push each other, to foster hope in a world that desperately needs it. My shoulders ache from the weight of my backpack but I feel bolstered by this sense of community forged from a seemingly ordinary day.


I walk into the National Museum of African Art in Washington, DC and stop to listen to two boys drumming. They perform rhythms from the Mali empire, the intent looks of concentration on their faces occasionally giving way to a smile that can’t help but bring out smiles in all of us watching. I stand in the midst of a growing crowd, all of us swaying or tapping our feet. The children watch in fascination, one of them mirrors the drumming actions, hitting imaginary drums as he visualizes himself adding to the pulsing rhythm. The adults smile, close their eyes, cheer, laugh. We are all captured by this music, unable to take our eyes off the skillful and rapid movements of the boys’ hands as they fearlessly fill the room with sound. I can feel the beat in my bones. There are no words but it is a language that we all understand.


I emerge into the top floor of the recently opened National Museum of African American History. A circle of screens fill with images of African Americans dancing, singing, speaking, competing. The images are accompanied by music and create a collage of life, a snapshot of culture, a representation of the African American experience. The exhibits cover music, clothing, television, theater, sports, art, fashion. I walk around in a daze, overwhelmed by the richness and fullness of everything. I barely scratch the surface. I pass by elderly women with their daughters, married couples pointing out art pieces and biographies, lines of children following behind their mother, young men laughing and joking—all finally able to experience a museum that is entirely their own. There are stories of endurance and triumph. There are stories of discrimination and inequality. There are stories of pride and creativity. There are stories of life being lived. As we pass each by other, we are drawn together, whether consciously or not, sharing in a collectivity of witness and memory, of hope and progress. We have all come searching for something and here together we have found it.

Failure Faced

It became clearer and clearer to me that I had no more options. As I sat in the basement of the South Campus main residence hall at three in the morning on a weekend, I stared at the blinking line on my terminal. No matter what I did, I could not seem to figure out how to implement the function that created a POSIX thread. Each compilation of code brought new errors.

I survived project 1, but project 2 was a whole new level of programming. I sat there, learning new concepts, and attempting to implement them, only to find out there were other new and confusing concepts I should have known about. What was I doing in this course? Was I going to have to drop Operating Systems?

No matter how many hours I spent thinking about the problem, no matter how many hours I spent on theory, it was no use: I simply did not have a strong enough background in the C language to properly implement this function library.

It was an error on my part to enroll in such a high level course while knowing I do not have the skillset yet.

Why didn’t I catch my lack of proficiency in C? I noticed I struggled with programming when I took Applied Algorithms; I got the theory, but I could rarely implement it in C. My professor noted that I would need to practice C more to catch up as proficiency in programming is important for computer engineers.

It was an error on my part to not have spent personal time improving my skills in programming with C.

I sat there and the reality that I might have to drop this course began to sink in. The cut-off date for a safe drop without any permanent transcript repercussions was quickly approaching. The cut-off date to apply for other courses was long gone. Dropping this course so late will result in me having to take only twelve credits this semester, and being four credits behind on my degree program. I might have to overload next semester, or take summer classes, or break my general education electives into smaller courses. No matter what I do, this will have a negative effect on my future coursework.

It was an error on my part to be a few days past the last day to add classes when I came to the realization that I needed to drop this course.

It was an error on my part to not hear the words from the professor the first couple of days of class, “This is a C-extensive course, if you do not feel you are comfortable with programming in C, this course might not be for you.”

It was an error. I made mistakes. These were my errors. As the project 2 deadline continued to approach, I began to shift my efforts onto my other assignments and studies. The thought of a successful project 2 became less and less real. As I returned to my room from the lab and prepared for bed, my head was racing.

‘Was this because I went on that retreat and missed office hours? Why didn’t I see this coming? Should I have not have focused on studying for those midterms? Should I have not done homework before this project? Why did I have to get sick this weekend? What am I going to do about my degree? Am I even going to make it anymore? Is this it? Have I hit my limit? Am I cut out for this?’

I could not sleep. The clock on my phone read past 5am. I tossed and turned.

Can I fit my coursework in if I were to drop this course?

I opened a web browser on my phone and began planning my schedule on the student link.

I don’t think it’s possible. I can’t drop this course, but I also don’t seem to be able to successfully complete this project.

I could not stop thinking about my mistakes. I continued to blame myself and I could not stop that internal voice that began to label me as
a failure,

I could not stop thinking about how I got here, and whether or not this was going to ruin my future. What was even my future at this point? What do I even want to be? Do I even enjoy all of this? Should this be my major?

Slowly every support in the foundation of my vocational identity began to fall over. The entire structure came tumbling down.

On Monday evening, I went over Jen’s apartment after spending most of the day completing homework assignments in all of my other courses, the assignments I postponed due to allocating all of my time to my Operating Systems project.

The stress must have been painted all over my face, because she immediately asked me if I was okay. She was well aware of my struggles with this project, and she was aware I was considering dropping the course.

Throughout that evening I continued to repeat the same fears, the same concerns, the same statements where I blamed myself, where I would talk about how it was just
oh so so so so-oo stupid of me to have let this happen, to get to this point.

At some point, Jen stopped me in my spiral and began to wake some sense into me. She first asked: “Nick, are these thoughts even useful?”

I thought to myself, ‘No. These thoughts aren’t useful.’

Is blaming yourself going to change anything? Is constantly thinking about what you could have or should have done going to change this?”

‘No. It’s not.’

And then she reminded me:

“You are at this point and constantly thinking about what you should have done or could have done isn’t going to change anything. You cannot go and change the past. You are here. You can only move forward.”

‘I can only move forward.’

At some point I really needed to forgive myself and give myself a break. I have made it this far, and I did not destroy my entire existence and future with one course.

Jen reminded me that this was one course. She reminded me to put this all into perspective and that this one small failure was exactly that: one small failure in the grand scheme of things. A small failure doesn’t automatically shroud and overpower everything.

It’s not like the moment we fail, we fall, or we make mistakes we become unsalvageable. It’s not like this failure brought me to the point of no return.

As I spiraled out of control, she pulled me out of it, and helped me snap back into reality.

I dropped the course – and I am still alive. I am still a computer engineering student. My future, my coursework, my existence as a student in this wonderful university did not instantaneously vanish.

It’s going to be okay. I failed. I made mistakes. It’s okay though, I am only human.

I am only human, and although I have failed, I can still keep going and keep working.

I can still keep going.

I can still accept myself, even though I am very much well aware of my flaws.

I can still accept myself.