Winter Thoughts

Early in the day it was whispered that we should sail in a boat, only thou and I, and never a soul in the world would know of this our pilgrimage to no country and to no end. (Tagore)

Winter for me always conjures introspectivity. It’s a quiet place, and I grew up craving it like a true Minnesotan. Early morning routines in the dark: pulling on boots, tying the laces tight over thickly knit socks. Jacket, scarf, hat, gloves. The cold stealing my breath even in the huddled silence of a dark car, waiting for the engine to warm. Every year, without fail, it snows hard on my birthday, like a gift.

I’ve always loved winter for this feeling. In the eighth grade my class trekked up a few hours north to Ely, Minnesota, to stop at the International Wolf Center. Only a few hours’ journey more and we would have been at the Canadian border. Up here there was no particular sense of space or time, with entire boughs of waterfall frozen in unforgiving slats of ice, the temperature well below negative twenty Fahrenheit, slurring my sense of passage. My toes were numb even with heat packs stuffed into the tips of my boots. Settled well into the Iron Range, the water from the faucet tasted like rust, so I sipped at half-solidified apple juice from my water bottle as I snowshoed across a long stretch of tundra. At night we howled for the wolves. The sky was somewhere between dusk and dawn, a heavy purple. Two wolves howled back.

I savor this feeling, that break in continuity, the ground still solid beneath my feet but taking me somewhere I do not quite know. When I think about faith I let my mind settle here. Recently I have been meditating on this hushed place. It finds me, or I it, in times when I am sure of little else but snowfall. Last December I meditated fiercely here. I had just dislocated my left shoulder and been prescribed four weeks’ rest from martial arts. It had been nearly two years since I had gone a night without martial arts, let alone a month’s worth, and I was so unsure of what to do with myself, literally– learning a strange body, foreign bones, foreign motions– that I would sit and watch entire nights go past me, the sky turning gray then purple then dark. What is strength? How am I finding meaning in weakness? How am I finding meaning in growth? I prayed: please, let this have some meaning, if nothing else. 

This December I find myself in that clearing again, wordless. Though this time I know there is meaning in that which is difficult, inevitably and without fail. There is meaning if we seek it. Some context: I haven’t written and reflected like this since mid-October. After coming out to my mom I found myself putting back the smallest pieces of myself together, mending that which I didn’t know had to be mended. Always I have kept my queerness separate from normal life, tucked away from the good me who loves her mother and her mother-temple, and the rush of intimacy with which I had to confront left me breathless. Almost too much meaning. Retreat into a quiet space, not contemplative, but protective. The snow came at just the right time: love in insulation. Faith too big a bite to chew as a religious concept, but necessary as a definitive one: I trust. I believe. My god loves girls who love girls, I’d like to think, but this is a thought to unpack in the spring.

Even in the times when we are desperately unsure there is a space for contemplation. When I howled under that glassy sky, feeling maybe stupid and maybe hopeful, I let the frozen snow beneath my boots carry me forward. In the absolute silence that can only come with tundra two wolves howled back.

What a Dollar Really Cost?

How difficult is it to obtain a job? Beyond that, How difficult is it to obtain a job with an organization that allows you to speak your mind. A few days ago, Marc Lamont Hill was fired from CNN for doing so. His comments were “to not just offer solidarity in words” but “to commit to political action, grass-roots action, local action and international action that will give us what justice requires and that is a free Palestine from the river to the sea.” 

His point of view is not one different from my own. When defending his claims he stated

“My use of “river to the sea” was an invocation of a long history of political actors—liberal and radical, Palestinian and Israeli—who have called for their particular vision of justice in the area from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. For many, justice will come from a two-state solution. For some, like me, justice will come through a single bi-national democratic state that encompasses Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. I strongly believe that this is the best method to achieve peace, safety, security, and self-determination for both Israelis and Palestinians. Justice requires that everyone, not just a single side, is free and equal.”

What’s so bad about this? He speaks of justice and peace in an area that has been contested since 1948, where violence has ensued against innocent people. Whats the remedy for this? Staying quiet and being a slave to another’s mindset. We know how much are skills are worth, but can a price be put on silencing our opinion.

I end this post with these words inspired from Soolking’s song Guerilla. 

Do we truly know how tough it is to sing love in the middle of war? Unfortunately, there are some who face this moral dilemma in their daily lives. Additionally, there are world leaders who have no cure for war; they don’t want one. They do not want peace because they do not know war.

 

Reflections,etc.

The holidays are  a time to reflect on what we have and look forward with hope at the future, the year we have ahead of us. Christmas itself has become a very commercialized holiday, with advertisements and commercials for the hottest toys, technology, etc. We get so caught up sometimes during the holidays in finding the right gifts, and Christmas lists that we forget what Christmas is really about. Christmas isn’t about shopping or spending money. Christmas is about celebrating the arrival of Christ. The holiday season tends to be a stressful time for college students as well, with finals being all that we think (and worry) about. We need to focus less on what is out of our control.

As a side note, I’ve always been the kind of person that wanted to be in control of everything. I don’t know why I wanted to have so much control over my life, I guess it made me  feel better knowing exactly what was going to happen, how everything was going to happen, etc. I’ve learned this semester that I cannot control everything and I certainly don’t have to micromanage my life down to every detail. I’ve learned I have to let God take control.  With God in charge, I know everything will be okay.

 

 

 

learning me.

moving into my last semester here at BU, I’m trying to find a balance between being nostalgic, living in the present and thinking about the future. looking back to a similar moment in time, my senior year of high school, I can only appreciate the environments I’ve been placed in that have allowed me to grow. I was recently asked, “what do you want your legacy at BU to be?”  I think there’s an obvious legacy that many can understand and connect with. However, thinking about what I want people to think about when they think of me on this campus is hard to pinpoint. I just want people to know that I never had it all together, that it was actually the opposite. I struggled, wanted to quit, and leave so many times. I truly believe that life should be a series of attempts to accomplish great things, but that doesn’t mean you don’t fail. As I’ve gotten closer to God over my four years, I’ve gotten closer to myself. It’s been a process of learning me.

On a different note, I’ve become to comfortable in the church. Everything seems routine, maybe that isn’t a bad thing but I need to challenge myself to diving deeper. I’m just hoping for a deeper dive into the word, especially before I graduate, I feel like I’m missing  something.

God is on the Side of the Oppressed

Everyday scholars and journalists are being arrested and murdered for doing their jobs, Shia clergy and laypeople are being societally repressed as they have been since the creation of the state, and innocent men, women, and children die in Yemen from war and famine; through all this God is on the side of the oppressed and we will see better days soon. Inshahallah. These are just some of the known crimes committed by Mohammad bin Salman and the Saudi family, who have held power before him and still continue to hold this power with support from the America . I believe that it is important to address this because this is a form of organized terrorism and must be addressed by religious leaders throughout the world. As Salman travels to Tunis and other parts of the globe, we must keep in mind that oppressors will one day pay. There are currently prosecutors in Argentina, the nation with the largest number of Latin American Muslim converts, who are considering charging Salman with his war crimes. Ultimately, these charges may have no effect as some world leaders believe they are above the law, like Netanyahu and his gang of terrorists who have always had American Support. Hopefully we will one day live in a world with no oppression, but for now all we can say is La ilaha ila Allah, There is no God but God.

We, decent Muslims and humans of the world are with all those oppressed in the world: the Palestinians, the Syrians, the Yemenis, the Kurds, the Shia, the Uyghurs, the Rohingya Muslims, the Haitians, black people in America and throughout the world, Women, children, humanity; as many of us are oppressed by our own greed that makes us succumb to money and power, which makes us forget about the love we should have for our neighbors.

What will Come Tomorrow?

“Tomorrow is close if you have patience.” This Arabic proverb always provides insight for my future, especially because I do not know what the future holds. It means that as long as you are patient, you will receive what you have worked for or what it is that you want. I believe that most of us want more than one thing from tomorrow and these things change as each tomorrow goes by and becomes yesterday. At the moment I want to be a teacher, but I also hope to say “Yesterday I was a teacher”. At the moment I want to be a lawyer, but I also hope to say “Yesterday I was. lawyer”. At the moment I want to be a professor, but I also hope to say “Yesterday I was a professor”. Like most people I would like to obtain many things, but what am I doing to get there? Am I actually working hard? or am I just waiting for tomorrow to come to me? I honestly do not know, but I hope that tomorrow I can say that I tried my best to obtain and receive what I have, that I can truly be happy for myself and those around me. I hope to keep my optimism as I move forward, but I want to move forward with realism so that I can adapt to what tomorrow brings and mix it with what I learned yesterday.

Streaming Consciousness

I can say with complete certainty that I am fortunate. I have a strong support group of family and friends, a safe home to rest my head, and ample food to keep me going.

 

It has recently become more apparent to me that I must remind myself of this constantly. One “bad” day does not mean that all is lost or horrid. Too often, I find myself feeling if not for a moment that I am the center. The center of my life, and the center of my world. Whether or not this is the natural way of human thinking, it blurs the truth. It causes me to forget how fortunate I am and how in one instant, in one night, I could lose everything.

 

I refuse to think that privilege is given solely to the good. Maybe one has privilege to create change, or maybe it is just a game of chance and fortune. However, one with privilege has no right to see themselves as the center.

 

I may be digressing now as this post is an attempt to write only what immediately comes to mind. But what I am trying to say and what I need to do is to constantly understand how unbelievably fortunate I am. How everything I am and everything I have is a gift. And that too often it is taken away before it can properly be used.

 

at this point and more.

My roommate Lindsey is one of my closest friends and I love her dearly, but when she came back from being home all weekend, she was singing songs and not just any song, Christmas carols. I for one am someone who starts listening to Christmas music on November 1, so while I had been listening to Christmas carols on and off I was not prepared for “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” to be sung as high as possible. After Lindsey had finished her impromptu concert in our dorm room, she boldly claimed that it is “Christmas season friends!” My first thought was “Lindsey, it’s not even thanksgiving. Save the concert for after thanksgiving!” I let her be though for two reasons: (1) Who was I to ruin her fun, and (2) It did seem relaxing, and I had been stressing a little bit because I had not gotten my midterm back from one of my professors. She asked me to join her, and I did. We sang Christmas carols in our shoebox of a dorm room for probably close to an hour. I’m surprised we did not receive a noise complaint to be honest because Lindsey is especially loud.

At this point in the semester, I am feeling a lot of different emotions. I am not stressed by coursework, but I know that the end of the semester can be a stressful time for any college student. Between work, school, and extracurricular activities and social life it can seem like the world is spinning. Not to mention the pressure that can come with trying to get good grades and finish the semester on the right note. Sometimes, it is the littlest things that can help (such as an impromptu Christmas sig along session in your dorm room after a Patriots game), or helping someone find their way around Boston University’s sometimes intimidating campus.

I’ve gotten a lot of things out of my time at Boston University,and I’m grateful for the amazing opportunities that have been given to me. My internship at Marsh is a gift from God and I have gotten more out of it than I ever thought possible. It has even helped me find my chosen career path. I have made so many friends at Marsh and it has given me what I needed, especially as a student someone from a smaller school where there was no real sense of community. I feel blessed to be able to to go to Marsh and serve not just the school but also the Lord. The internship at Marsh Chapel has made the transition so much easier for me. Additionally, my work with Alpha phi Omega has also given me a purpose as well. Serving others is my passion and I am grateful to have the opportunity to serve others.

We have a bible verse that is essentially the Johnson Family’s verse. My parents even had it included in their wedding vows, and we say it all the time at home:

“Jesus answered, ‘The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength”

– Mark 12:29-30

This verse has gotten our family through so much, and is such an important passage in my life. I follow this passage every day. I have found that it means that we live by faith every day, and we love God with all of our being and live our lives the way God would want us to, loving all children of God, regardless of sexual orientation, ethnicity, race, socioeconomic background, etc. God calls us to love everyone, and that is especially important in today’s society. If we love all others, then we have done what God wants us to do, and that is more than enough.

 

What Do I Receive?

I write this post today after a week of pause to recollect and remind myself of the things that I am thankful for having in my life. I am issuing this practice as a meditative guide and prayer list after recalling the following quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

“In normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give, and life cannot be rich without such gratitude. It is so easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements compared with what we owe to the help of others.”

Here is my list of gratitudes (in no particular order):

Life, Emotion, Knowledge, Love, Friendship, Forgiveness, Sanctity, Music, Faith, Compassion, Grace, and Joy

Though these concepts are quite broad, they remind me of moments, even seconds, from the past week where I felt a sense of bewilderment about how truly amazing my life is.  I seek to keep these concepts and moments in prayer throughout the weeks ahead to remind myself of the many blessings bestowed upon me.

“How lovely is thy dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!

For my soul, it longeth, yea fainteth, for the courts of the Lord;

my soul and body crieth out, yea for the living God.

Blest are they, that dwell within Thy house: they praise Thy name evermore.”

-Psalm 84:1,2,4

an institution

“Well, the Church is an institution, Mike. Made of men. It’s passing. My faith is in the eternal. I try to separate the two.”
Spotlight
This quote pretty much sums up my view of the church and my faith since coming to college. I needed to separate the two so I could keep my faith. Coming from the perspective of the preachers kid, I got to see the tremendous highs of the church and some frightening lows. I realized that politics are everywhere, and people can say one thing and do the other. I saw people hurt my family, people I thought were people of God. As I got older I saw Christians preaching hate, discriminating against their neighbor, supporting racist rhetoric and calling it holy. For me there has to be a separation, institutions change and disappoint you, my faith has yet to do that. Tying those two together set yourself up for disappointment. I think I’ve completely separated the two. Faith is no longer found within the bounds of the church, from the mouth of a preacher. I find faith everywhere now, I think that’s for the better. I can see myself being open to more ideas and individuals because I’m not rooted in the institution any longer.