Prayer and our existence

The outside world is hushed. The phone is put aside. I sit still in the middle of an empty study lounge. All the tables and chairs have been cleared out, leaving me to sit on the ground and listen to the cars faintly race by on the highway below and the occasional rattle of the air ducts. As I grow stiller and the subtle noises become clearer, I begin to let my mind focus on each one until I rearrange them to be in harmony together. I sit and let all my thoughts race by, not reaching at them. Canceled classes, friends gone away, experiences never had, all go by as I begin to think about what I did get while I was in this building. By not grabbing at these thoughts, I do not allow anger to consume my moments of peace. Instead I reflect on the many joys I have had here at school. As we reign in our surroundings and person to what we have, are, and exist as, we better know ourselves.  During this exercise you envision yourself in your memories and see your ups and downs, successes and follies. You see your cracks and flaws in your words and actions, yet you are still special.
Prayer with intention can build and direct our lives in a way that no other outside force can help. It is centering and helps understand one’s purpose. There are worldly and outward callings, and there is the inner one. Prayer connects us to ourselves. Our busy and connected world can engage us in life but it cannot help us engage in ourself. By praying we are listening, not only to the world but to the intuitions, guidance, and callings that subtly exist in life. The kind of subtlety that can drowned out easily in a busy schedule or washed out by the constant noises of life. Prayer reminds us who we are. It is the connection to our roots, a reminder that we are not built out of our environment, but a part of it. Prayer gives our actions intention and reminds us of a certain purpose that each of us are called to. Prayer is a reminder that we are in this world to do some good and not of the world and its temporary existence. Prayer also keeps us in community. It serves as a tool that constantly reminds us that we have more in common with each other than we do apart. When we pray together, whether it is impromptu or sharing the same words that have been prayed on for centuries, we are brought into community with our fellow human family. The greatest function we have to survive is our community and family, which prayer can bind together whether in thought, word, or deed. In our communities, wherever they may be, home, family, neighborhood, work, church, school, city, they remind us how we serve a unique role and are able to be in community together. Prayer keeps this alive because it keeps each person alive.

Thank you Marsh Chapel!

I’ve thought about numerous things to write about for my last blog post as a Marsh Associate, and honestly it was harder than I thought it would be. There are so many things I want to say and that I wish I could tell everyone that’s been through this journey over the past two years, but I only have one word right now: Thank you.

To Tom, Devin, Denise, Phoebe, Emi, and Nick: Thank you so much for welcoming me into such an amazing group of people. I am forever changed because I had the chance to be with y’all. I will never forget the memories I made my first semester as a BU student and Marsh Associate, and I will hold all of y’all in my heart forever.

To TJ, Shruti, and Alec: Thank you for being so welcoming, kind, and helpful to me when I was just starting out at BU. I learned a lot from y’all, and while it’s been quite a ride we have all been on, I couldn’t imagine any other group of people I’d rather go on this journey with, and I look forward to what our futures hold for us.

To Br. Larry, Rev. Karen, and Jess: Thank you so much for supporting me and helping me grow in God’s love over the past two years, and helping me answer some interesting and thought-provoking questions, and guiding me through the way of love.

To Dean Hill: What can I say to show you how much I appreciate your warmth, kind heart, and support for me as I’ve grown up over the past two years. You helped make Marsh a second home for me from the beginning, and I am eternally grateful to know someone as amazing and compassionate as you.

To all the office staff, and everyone that has helped make Marsh such an incredible experience for me: Thank you so much for everything all of y’all have done, and I  pray we will all be together again soon. I will always remember y’all, and I will treasure every moment, big and small, that we have shared over the past two years.

Walk in love and stay safe everyone, and thank you again!

Simplicity and the Streets of Boston

Comm Ave has quieted down over the past several weeks. The bustling street full of cars and pedestrians has grown still. The stillness is only occasionally cut by a sprint of traffic or a cyclist here or there. Comm ave reflects our lifestyle here in Boston. The days are still and are only interrupted with only a few tasks of necessity. I get out daily, weather permitting, on my mountain bike and continue to explore the empty streets of Boston. The air is crisp and it is Spring. Cycling has helped me experience the city in a whole new light, especially during these times where traffic is thin and the streets are empty. Like many Americans, we go for walks in the daytime and evening to soothe our heads and bodies. We find comfort in the setting sun and the crisp Spring air. We work and live in the same setting, allowing for our roommates and families to see us at work. The days now surround our essential selves. What do we need to do in a day to remain who we are? While I am sure that social media is providing every means to keep us occupied, their gurus cannot fill the quiet here on Comm Ave, or in our homes. My roommates and I work, eat, and socialize together. We keep each other balanced during these tumultuous times. I have gotten to see the other side, the side less seen, in both of my roommates.
I think that with the busy year we have all had, two of us being seniors, we forget the peace and comfort we can bring to another life. We are all eager for the next steps in our lives. Sitting around at night, looking at the Boston Skyline, a cherished sight I hold close to my heart, we remember all the fun we had in our undergraduate times. While many of these memories were not shared together, we find a bond in storytelling and the power of connectivity. It is amazing that we can relate easily to other people and relay memories of fondness. It is even easy to do this with strangers. While the airports are quiet, I remember a time in my life when I was flying to Tennessee and the man next to me inquired about my shoes. A simple remark, a universal one, since we all have footwear and walk as humans. That question turned into a 15 minute conversation with a complete stranger who didn’t feel like a stranger at all.
As we wonder what the world looks like with the varying degrees of COVID-19, we hear stories of protest and stories of people coming together. Back home on the Cape, a coffee shop with a simple mission has become a light that I look to. In Brewster, the Snowy Owl is a young business that provides the freshest roasted coffee in the area. While businesses have been closed to customers, they have been roasting away and preparing coffee kits for all of the First Responders, Police, and Firefighters in the nearby towns. It is opportunities like this that make us think of our own emergency personnel. Who is caring for them in our communities? Have we shown care and grace to another person in this time of distress? Or brightened someone’s day with a smile? I do not know if every First Responder or Police officer drinks coffee, but I can at least assume they appreciate the gesture of this small business. If I have learned anything about COVID-19 and its affect on communities, it has given us a way to become closer without being physically closer. We have worked to overcome our setbacks to still maintain equilibrium in our lives. We will overcome this and go forward and cherish our times together. Some rally to open the country, others sit and wait. Whichever view fits your outlook on the situation, let us remember the way we can help our neighbors and that we should carry no ill will towards our leaders who have tried to handle an unprecedented situation.
We have seen the protests and we have read the stories of goodwill. Which stories do you want to spread?

Simplicity and Self-Care

It can be hard to practice self-care during this time of uncertainty and fear. In a non-covid world, I would be full of energy every day, walking all over the city that I’ve grown to call home over the past four years. Yoga and Pilates would be filling my time when I was not in class or at Marsh. However, things have changed. The world is at a standstill right now, and it’s easy to think that we can put self-care on hold because everything else in our lives is seemingly on hold, at least for the next couple of weeks.It’s also too easy to find ourselves asking the questions “what if?” and “why now?”

Furthermore, it is important to understand that if there was ever a time where self-care and simple things in life were necessary, it’s a time like this one. Self-care and finding joy in the most basic things is what has helped me through this. Prayer journaling every night has also helped clear my head from the fog that our current world brings, and it has also warmed my heart knowing that even if not everything in life is as clear or as in plain sight as they once were, at least I know that God is with me through this season, and to guide me in a direction that maybe I had not thought about before. It can be incredibly humbling to know that while yes, many things have changed and some everyday  things might not be the same for a little while, self-care and enjoying the simple things are what we need to value during this time of meditation.

A Final Thought On Marsh Chapel

Dear Marsh Community,

Today, April 19th, 2020, I write what will likely be my final Marsh Blog post.

In four years, I’ve seen an immense amount of change. But throughout these changes, one things has remained constant: my prayer at Marsh Chapel.

During a non-coronavirus impacted school year at Marsh Chapel, you could find me on a Wednesday at 11:06am, sitting in the back pew admiring an inscription or a stained glass window.

During a non-coronavirus impacted school year at Marsh Chapel, you could find me sitting at the piano on a Tuesday at 10:14pm, playing Amazing Grace.

During a non-coronavirus impacted school year at Marsh Chapel, you could find me on a Saturday at 2:33pm, standing in the narthex, reading a few of Thurman’s works in the display case.

During a non-coronavirus impacted school year at Marsh Chapel, you could find me on a Thursday at 7:23pm, preaching a sermon with my fellow associates in remembrance of Maundy Thursday.

During a non-coronavirus impacted school year at Marsh Chapel, you could find me on a Sunday at 12:22pm, handing out a hot chocolate or signing thank you notes on the plaza with MOVE.

During a non-coronavirus impacted school year at Marsh Chapel, you could find me on a Friday at 4:45am, pacing on the back of the beach in preparation for a spring concert.

During a non-coronavirus impacted school year at Marsh Chapel, you could find me on a Monday at 6:01pm, praying before a community dinner in the Marsh Room.

During a non-coronavirus impacted school year, you could find me at Marsh Chapel on any given day, at any given time, in a state of prayerful reflection. A constant in the midst of uncertainty.

In the space surrounding the chapel, and within the building’s four walls, I have found prayer to be my refuge. Prayer allows me to accept whatever the future may bring, while experiencing the totality of the present moment. Prayer remains a constant, and so too, Marsh Chapel remains a constant in my spiritual life.

I would like to take a moment to thank many of those who have helped me find wholeness at Marsh Chapel. I could write an essay on my gratitude for every person on this list, but to keep it readable, I’m listing one quality that you’ve inspired me with:

To Soren and Jenn: Thank you for your hospitality.

To Brother Larry: Thank you for your questioning.

To Dean Hill: Thank you for your words.

To Heidi: Thank you for your positivity.

To Ray: Thank you for your detail.

To Scott: Thank you for your encouragement.

To Justin: Thank you for your inspiring playing.

To Karen: Thank you for your check-ins.

To Jess: Thank you for your laughter.

To Victoria: Thank you for your enthusiasm.

To the Marsh Chapel Choir: Thank you for your talent.

To Members of the Book Study: Thank you for your thoughtfulness.

To The Members and Community of Marsh Chapel: Thank you for your presence.

And of course, my fellow Marsh Associates:

To TJ: Thank you for your friendship.

To Shruti: Thank you for your passion.

To Alec: Thank you for your open-mindedness.

To Celie: Thank you for your awareness.

To Devin: Thank you for your boldness.

To Denise: Thank you for your drive.

To Emi: Thank you for your humor.

To Phoebe: Thank you for your honesty.

To Nick: Thank you for your integrity.

To Marritt: Thank you for your enthusiasm.

To Savannah: Thank you for your creativity.

To Ian: Thank you for your listening.

To Matt: Thank you for your drive.

To Kasey: Thank you for your intellect.

I’m grateful to have shared so many memories, moments, and prayers with all of you.

I feel that it is only fitting to end my last blog post with my first memory of Marsh Chapel, and the words that sealed my love for this place. There’s something fitting about the fact that over the course of my four years, this musical reminder of God’s presence never changed. These words continue to center my thinking, and open my eyes to a profound sense of hope.

“God be in my head, and in my understanding,

God be in my eyes, and in my looking,

God be in my mouth, and in my speaking,

God be in my heart, and in my thinking,

God be at my end, and at my departing.”

May the Lord bless and keep all of you, may the Lord make his face shine upon you, and be gracious unto you. May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and grant you peace. Now and forever. Amen.

With love and admiration,

Tom

 

Self Love and Self Care

During this difficult time, it is far too easy for self-care to be forgotten or neglected. Unfortunately, I find that when self-care is forgotten, my self-esteem and general well being suffers tremendously. As a result, I have three strategies that help me greatly in maintaining my mental and physical health.

The first strategy is to be sure to have an hour of physical activity everyday (at least!). There is great variety in how I do this, the simplest is to take a safe neighborhood walk with my family who is with me at home. This stretches my legs and gets fresh air into my lungs. Another method is what I call my driveway workout which is an hour of body based exercises that strengthens my muscles which are not getting nearly enough work. Yoga has also become a great at home practice to stretch me out and bring awareness to my body. Between all of these options, I find that I can stay physically active in this time of isolation.

My second strategy for self-care is to have something that can be a routine everyday other than getting up and going to bed. This can be cooking something new, exercising at the same time every day, or in my case, painting. I try every day to go into the woods behind my house and create a watercolor of a scene that I stumble upon while walking around. They all are not winners, but the act of walking into the woods and painting can be very meditative for me. This then becomes a scheduled activity to help divide up the days.

The final strategy that I have during this period of time is to keep socializing!!! Just do it from a safe distance. My family and I make sure to FaceTime of video call a different friend or family member as often as we possibly can. We will play games and talk just to keep our relationship healthy and give us new conversations and stories to share. We will also visit my grandparents from a safe distance as they sit up in their balcony and we stand/ sit below in the yard. Some days we will just chat and other days we may have a picnic.

In the end, the days are getting brighter, longer, and warmer. Summer is almost here. And while some days may be harder than others, keep fighting, keep pushing, and take care of yourself so that we can take care of others when we have to.

Current events that have shaped my views on humanity.

Many of us are scattered around the world. We have been displaced by the COVID-19 outbreak and its effects on society, forcing us to relocate or remain where we are. These have been trying times. Securing food, shelter, health, and comfort have been at the forefront of people’s agendas. Nearly every day the government releases some update or correction on the rules and laws that we should follow to stay healthy. What I have witnessed about people in crisis mode is the need to stick together and connect. As we have been moved about the nation we have connected in various ways to remain in tact. Yesterday I celebrated Easter on my computer with a congregation I am still getting to know yet feel more and more connected with every virtual meeting. No matter how far apart we are physically, humans will allow their connections to continue, not giving way to true separation. Christians still united and celebrate the mass, we gather for prayer on our screens and share the same words that have been prayed for centuries and the effect is still the same, we remain connected to God and to each other. This shows us that humans do not fail in remaining together. This new form of togetherness that takes place over the internet shows us a new platform of connectedness. While not a replacement for in person connection, the internet has allowed us to reach out to those near and far, sick and well, all for the sake of remaining connected. While governments may cease social activities, peoples’ lives remain beating like the heart in each living person. We carry on, doing the best we can to remain connected. Our humanity lives on, and so do we, despite not being together. We also know that God is always with us. God is with us when we rise, work, live, and sleep. God’s presence is made known to us when we speak in prayer and live in intention. God doesn’t leave our side. God is always with us so that we may never be alone in the world. As we reach out to one another over the phone, email, zoom, or other platforms of media, let us keep in mind that our gifts are being shared, that the value of presence alone, even when it cannot be seen, can sustain us in our trials.

Week One: Thinking about God/Humanity

It’s been an interesting and unusual time in everyone’s lives. There’s so much uncertainty and the fear of the unknown is present in many people’s minds. At the beginning of this quarantine/social distancing journey, I had these feelings of uncertainty, and definitely a fear of the unknown. So many questions ran through my head. Will I ever get to physically walk across that stage to receive a diploma? Will I get the job in research that I want so much? Is my mom’s job secure? Are my family in other states safe? I was stressed and panicked because I could not easily attain answers to all of  these questions. However, I have seen God in ways I did not expect to necessarily.

I have seen God give strength to those patients bravely fighting coronavirus in America’s medical centers.

I have seen God give strength to all of the healthcare, grocery, and researchers that are working so hard in a time that is so uncertain.

I have seen God give strength to my fellow seniors and classmates, where we did not see this coming just a couple months ago.

I have learned to see God in the smallest, most simple things, and I have seen the good of humanity in ways I never thought possible.  I have seen people love each other and support each other in ways I have never seen before. Have I seen the awful parts of humanity with  hate towards other humans? Yes. I would be lying if I didn’t say that I saw the bad in some people. However, in the past month and a half almost I have seen more people filled with God’s love and loving others the way we are told to. God is everywhere.. in the virtual Sunday church services, the zoom meetings and classes, and even in howling wind on a gloomy day. God is in the hospitals, bringing many people healing in a time when such a thing is a blessing, even a miracle.  Even in this crisis, when it seems like everything is at a loss; loss of financial security, loss of commencements, loss of togetherness, loss of life, what we simply cannot lose is a loss of faith in the Lord. Perhaps now more than ever, we need the Lord to guide us through this time, to make us feel a little less alone, to heal the sick, to take the pain this pandemic has caused so many away.

What have I learned about humanity, and even more importantly, God’s strength? I’ve learned more than I could have ever imagined. We will come out of this different people than we were at the beginning of the year, forever changed. However with God by our side, we will always be strong. God will always be with us.

Taking Care and Talking Care

Over the course of the past month in quarantine, I’ve found that I’ve been surrounded by silence a lot. My general inclination to fill that silence is through music. Whether it be listening to music through my headphones or sitting down at the piano, I tend to turn to music to internalize my thoughts and add some excitement to my day.

More recently though, I’ve found that talking aloud, rather than just listening, has provided some much needed time to take care of myself. Each day over the past two weeks or so, I’ve taken time to give a call to a family member or friend, catching up and reflecting on the day’s events. No matter how mundane or boring, I feel more centered and relaxed after getting on the phone and reaching out.

I hope to extend this daily practice throughout the remainder of the quarantine and extend a call to those who I haven’t connected with for a long awhile. Today, my family and I called to touch base with Inman Moore, a 90 year old retired minister in California. Though we hadn’t spoken in over five years, it felt so nice to reconnect with an old friend in faith.

I’m starting to realize just how much faith-building relies on talking and conversing, rather than just listening. There has to be reciprocity between the senses.

Taking care of yourself is important, but it sometimes implies that you are alone in that task. The phrase, “talking care,” reminds one to reach out for support and simply talk, extending care to oneself and another.

Simplicity and Story Sharing

I came into the semester fresh off a surgery I’d been waiting two years for. My recovery was not the slow, beautiful process I had wanted it to be. When BU told us to stay home, I was actually relieved. I was so tired of running around with my three healing incisions and a newly settled tendon. Also, if you have ever had your armpit cut open, you know that it’s kind of terrifying to take care of. (PS, if you have had your armpit cut open, please comment on this post, we should talk. I have some really great and very specific memes about it).

It’s Month 3. I have a lot of range of motion back, I can lift a little over two pounds with my right arm, can carry a bottle of water without flinching. There are some motions I still won’t get back for another seven months. But at three months is when I start to get building up the arm again instead of just protecting it.

So, my major self-care activity has been working out. Since I’m not running around campus, jerking my arm about and unable to really take it slow like I needed to, I don’t have as much post-op pain, let alone chronic pain. I don’t have to base my whole day around how my shoulder feels when I wake up. I can actually set a workout schedule for myself, because the days where I wake up and know It’s Going to Be A Bad Day are few and far between. And because I’m not in pain when I work out, I don’t feel scared or sad about my injury as often. I work out every day on FaceTime with one of my best friends, so it’s also time I get to share with another person. 

I am in the least pain that I’ve been in for the last two and a half years. It feels amazing. There was so much tension I was carrying at school. Our campus isn’t exactly accessible for people who are injured, have chronic pain, or have a disability. When my shoulder hurt, which was often, I was quick to snap, short-tempered, easily disappointed and aggravated. I feel like I have been able to let all that go. I can fully concentrate on the situation at hand without that 10% of my brain devoted to being distressed about my shoulder pain. Even as the world grows more disconnected, I find that I am more connected than ever to the beauties of daily life.