November 9

“I will give you rest”

By kmshultz

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” -Matthew 11: 28-30

Whenever I hear these words, I have an almost physical reaction to it; I can feel the weight falling off my shoulders as my chest opens up, I breath more deeply, I feel calm and at peace. This verse is possibly one of my favorite verses because it promises so much. I love it because it frees me from obligations and worries and tells me that I don’t have to carry anything on my own. I love that it upends my notion of what a burden is—it removes the crushing burden full of all the things the world has thrown at me and replaces it with a lightness, a freedom, a lifting up of my body and soul. It turns my burdens into joys.

In this verse, all that is asked of me, of all of us is to come: “come to me, all you who feel overwhelmed by expectations and responsibilities, come to me all you who are lost and don’t know what to do or where to go next, come to me all you who are drowning in homesickness, come to me all you who can’t find a minute to yourselves, come to me all you who are paralyzed by debt, come to me all you who see the world through shades of guilt and regret. Come to me and I will give you rest—I will give you a space free of worry and doubt and fear; a space that you can fall into, a space that will not only give you rest for your body, but rest for your soul.”

I love this verse because the freedom it offers has nothing to do with what I do—it’s all God. I can’t get rid of my burdens by being the best or working hard or anything else of my own merit; I get rid of my burdens because God frees me from the weight.

And I am fascinated by how this verse retains the language of the world to describe something of God: it still describes God as putting a yoke upon me, of laying a burden on my shoulders. But the yoke does not bite into my shoulders, the burden does not bow my head and press me down into the earth. It is a yoke of refreshment, a burden of rest. It is so much more than anything I deserve, but God offers it to me freely, gently, humbly.

This verse rises up and reminds me that I don’t have to carry this weight on my own. In fact, I can’t carry this weight on my own. This verse reminds me to lay down my worries, my fears, my vulnerabilities, to stop clinging to the things dragging me down. This verse reminds me to fall into Sabbath, into rest, into the easy yoke and the light burdens of our God, who is gentle and humble of heart. This verse gives me rest.

November 9

It’s Easy to be Lazy

By jlbishop

This past friday my roommate’s friend from home was visiting. My roommate, her friend and I all went to high school together, so it was a nice treat to see old friends and have a little reunion. We all agreed that we should go to the Top of the Hub and sip fancy drinks and see the city at a whole new angle. The view was phenomenal, the jazz band was fantastic and the drinks were incredibly overpriced. One cocktail, the “Luxury Side Car”, was $99 (I’ll stick to my Franzia thank you very much). But overall we enjoyed our Top of the Hub experience.

Our friend wanted to experience more of Boston’s night life and go bar hopping to dance and hopefully get some affordable drinks. I became really crabby and irritated because it was already midnight and I was tired and wanted to eat popcorn and watch Netflix. But my girlfriend told me that the bars were right across the street and it was my friends only night here and to enjoy our limited time together. I begrudgingly agreed to go but stayed in a bad mood. Soon, though, my bad mood melted away as I got lost in the fun music and company of  friends. We ended up having a great night filled with dancing and laughter and joy and merriment. It was a night full of memories and great stories to tell.

I realized from that night that sometimes it’s so easy to get caught up in laziness. It’s one thing to not be a a night/extroverted person who needs to go home; but it’s another thing when a friend is visiting for her first and last time, wants to see you and Boston, the night is still young for you, and you just don’t feel like being on your feet or walking more. For me, wanting to go home and eat popcorn and watch Netflix with my girlfriend was just laziness. Instead, I snapped out of it and put in the effort and ended up having an incredible night! I read a relationship advice post once that talked about important things to remember in a relationship- it was collection of little blurbs of advice from people in long, healthy relationships. One was from a girl who said something along the lines of “Those nights when you’re invited to go out/have a party to go to and just want to stay in and watch Netflix, choose to go out. Usually the nights when you just don’t feel like going out/being with friends and do anyway turn out to be some of your best times and memories. Netflix will always be there but memories have to be pursued and created.”

For me, that advice rings true for a lot of things. It’s so easy to be lazy and choose to do nothing, but put in just a little bit of effort and amazing things happen. Put in a little more effort and even more amazing things happen, give 100% and nothing is impossible! Where there is a will, there is certainly a way. If you’re lazy like me, let’s challenge ourselves together: Change our attitude from “not willing” to “willing” and let’s watch and see how things change for the better!

November 9

Lessons in Leadership

By jdingus

This week I opened the Sanctuary order of service to see what my responsibilities would be for the week. Michaela and I were scheduled to help lead the “Walking with You Ritual.” This is the time in our service where people share important joys, sorrows and needs for prayer. Between each sharing we sing the song “Walking with You” and at the end someone prays over the ritual incorporating the things that people have shared. This prayer has to be given extemporaneously and it is one of the few elements of the Sanctuary service I haven’t done before. In fact I’ve rarely if ever been called on to pray without having time to write a prayer. The way the order of service was written, it was unclear if I was supposed to sing the song or lead the ritual. So before the service I spoke with Michaela. She asked me if I preferred to sing or to lead the ritual and pray. I told her I’d never done it before, but that I was willing to try to pray and lead the ritual.

At first I was excited about this new opportunity, but then the time for the ritual came. I was so nervous. My heart was racing out of my chest and I could feel my palms starting to sweat. I looked across the circle at Michaela. She quietly mouthed to me, asking if I was still ok to lead the prayer. For a moment the nerves I had been harboring washed away. Here it is, this is my out. She’s in seminary; she’s done it a million times. I should just back out and maybe try it the next time. She looked at me reassuringly. I took a deep breath, smiled at her and told her that I could do it.

It probably wasn’t the most perfect prayer ever given. And I know that this new skill that will only get better with practice. But I took a risk and it worked out really well.

Now I could pretty easily write a blog post about learning to take chances and the importance of doing things outside of my comfort zone. Those are definitely important things to talk about. However, I think I learned more from my interaction with Michaela than from the act of trying something new. She ministered to me, recognizing my ability and encouraging me to try something bold and outside of my comfort zone. She decided that it was more important to empower me in a leadership role, than to take the spotlight for herself. She gave me the space to be brave, but made sure I was going to be ok.

This moment was a striking reminder to me about the ways leadership development should work in congregations. It’s made me want to find ways in my life and in my work at Marsh to cultivate the same sort of leadership. Today instead of reading the story for children’s ministry I let one of the children read it. She did a really great job reading for us, and I know she’ll get even better with more opportunities. My ministry with the kids at Marsh is not about me creating a program and getting a lot of praise and attention for it. It’s about creating a space where the children can grow in their faith, leadership and understanding. I’m grateful for Michaela for reminding me how simple and yet impactful cultivating leadership can be.

November 8

Sewing Spirit Back Together

By iquillen

I’ve been thinking about healing, and what that really means. During our Marsh Associate meeting with Jen and Soren on Monday evening, we heard two pieces of verse about this subject. The first was from Jeremiah, chapter 8, verse 22:

“Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people?”

We sang the second passage from an African-American spiritual, There Is a Balm in Gilead, which responded to this passage. The chorus and first verse went as follows:

There is a balm in Gilead / To make the wounded whole; / There is a balm in Gilead / To heal the sin-sick soul.

Some times I feel discouraged / And think my work’s in vain, / But then the Holy Spirit / Revives my soul again.

I also learned that in Eastern Christian traditions, the notion of sin is closely associated to sickness. The act of salvation, therefore, encompasses not relieving someone of the debt or weight that their spirit feels, but in curing and restoring them. The association between salvation and healing can also be found in the medicinal salve, which derives from the latin verb salvo, to save. This idea appears in the two passages, both in the balm for the wounded and the spiritual revival the Holy Spirit confers to us.

But what about the other kind of spiritual wounds that aren’t related to sin? We will all encounter moments of physical and emotional injury in our lives occasionally. When these wounds are particularly severe, we can also develop scars that linger with us long after. However, I rarely hear the expression of spiritual scars used. Now, on the one hand, it is a good thing that I don’t hear of scarred souls too often. But I do believe they exist, especially when a person feels alienated or betrayed by their own faith.

When I say this, I think of people who have felt rejection from their own faith community. This is particularly relevant for members of the LGBTQ community, many of whom may face exclusion or hatred from their religious communities after coming out. Another example is a person who loses a close friend, family member, or their home and possessions unexpectedly. The list goes on and on.

How do people find spiritual healing from these kinds of experiences? How does a person sew their spirit back together? The answer to this question seems different to the one that the spiritual provides to Jeremiah’s question.  One’s faith alone that God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit will do this doesn’t seem to be adequate answer to me. For some people, it might be enough. For others, though, traumatic, spirit-rending events can cause their faith in a higher power to waver or shatter.

One way to achieve spiritual healing may be to embrace the idea that time and life are still moving forward. This isn’t to say that life goes on, and that in the grand scheme of things what just happened was insignificant. Far from it. For someone with a wounded spirit, it means that life hasn’t ended, that they will not remain frozen in a perpetual state of despair.  If they can find some support, love, hope, and laughter in others and in themselves, their soul can begin to stitch back together and restore itself. I believe that there is a salve to sew one’s spirit whole again. But there may also be scars where it heals.

November 4

There’s Freedom in Scheduling

By jlbishop

I have been told so many times that “there’s freedom in scheduling.” What does that even mean? For the longest time I didn’t know, and it used to frustrate me so much each time someone told me that (that someone mainly being my mentor at the time, but still). I like to consider myself a free spirit, going where the winds of my moods and emotions take me. If I didn’t feel like doing homework, I didn’t. If I felt like dropping everything I was doing to go get coffee with a friend, I would. If my heart just wasn’t into something, I quit. If I didn’t feel like studying, I didn’t. Are you getting the gist? I was explaining this to a roommate once who looked at me horrified and asked how I survived college this far. I explained that the trick, though, is that I will always eventually be in the mood to study. So I push off studying until I feel like it, then I do it with undivided attention and focus and actually do well on the test each time. Telling me that there is freedom in scheduling when my spontaneous, capricious ways have brought me joy, excitement and good grades, was just, well, preposterous.

Did I mention that this capricious, free-spirited way of life worked flawlessly when I had no other commitments outside of class? Yup. Well, lets throw in two jobs and a serious relationship this semester. I tried so hard to stick to my unstructured way of life. But not so slowly and surely, things started becoming chaotic. I was forgetting assignments, nearly failing tests, unintentionally ignoring friends, for the first time ever was chronically stressed and had more sobbing breakdowns than I even thought possible. What was happening to me?! I just had too many commitments and responsibilities to be able to study whenever I felt like it, or drop everything to see friends. But I chose to do those than to do my homework, study in time, or complete my internship responsibilities. And naturally, things fell apart.

Echoing in my head were the words that my mentor always said to me: “there’s freedom in scheduling.” My director for this internship, Soren, told me the same thing and together we worked on it. He helped me time-manage and prioritize, and schedule in homework and study time and also social time. When midterms came around and I had 5 midterms in one week, I knew I had to buckle down. I scheduled and planned my time, and that week, although busy, was relatively stress free. There were no last-minute, late-night cram sessions, no tears, and no feelings of hopelessness. I did my work, and I stayed focus. And I’m proud to announce that I did well on all of my midterms! Yay!

I finally understand what “freedom in scheduling” means, and while I miss my spontaneous, free spirited days, it’s just not applicable anymore as I have more and more responsibilities and commitments. I’m actually excited to schedule my time! Who would’ve guessed!?

November 2

Looking Forward, Looking Back

By jdingus

With the passing of Halloween and the beginning of winter (I realize that winter is still a few weeks away, but as soon as it starts snowing it is winter to me) I’m taking some time to seriously reflect on this semester and really think about where I’m going from here. This is, after all, the season of class registration a time, which always makes me evaluate where I am and where I want to be.

This semester has proven to be a lot different than last year. The fear and the nervousness that surrounded me has long since past away, replaced by comfort and familiarity. I have friends here, I know how to navigate the city, I’m getting better at managing my class work and I know who to ask when I need help. But things are different. A lot of the people I was really close with have either moved on to new adventures in their lives or have drifted away. So I’ve been deepening relationships with a slightly different group of people. Also the rigor and quantity of my work has increased substantially. Amidst the changes, I feel like I’m finding myself in exactly the right place.

In order to maintain that feeling, to keep myself on track, I’ve been thinking a lot about my future. I came to BU with a year’s worth of AP credits and so I’m trying to decide if it makes sense to graduate a year early. It’s a decision I don’t want to make lightly, because it is going to have a huge impact on the rest of my time at BU.

This question has been weighing pretty heavily on me the past week or so. I have been running around, talking to advisors, asking friends for input, and of course talking to my mom. As my mind starts focusing on checking boxes and creating a game plan for the next few years, I’m trying to make myself remember to breathe. As important as these decisions are, college shouldn’t be a series of checked boxes. In this time of reflection, as the nights get long and snow starts falling, I want try and be thankful for the gift of each day. Particularly if I choose to graduate early, I don’t have an infinite amount of college. These years are flying by, and there is so much more to see, and experience, and learn. I’m praying for the clarity to make plans and make good life-affirming decisions, but I’m also praying for the presence and the courage to step back and experience as much as I can. I’m realizing though that this is a universal struggle, and so I extend these prayers out to everyone who is trying to plan for the future while living in the present.

November 2

We Remember

By kmshultz

I always find the transition from October to November a bit jarring. One day, I’m surrounded by gruesome or scandalous costumes, more sugar than anyone should ever have, and a trivialization of gore, violence, and death. And the next two days, I’m respectfully remembering all those who have passed away and commending them to God. At times, this switch can feel extremely contradictory and confusing.

Halloween and All Saints day and All Souls day may be united by their connection to death but Halloween trivializes death, making it seem distant and outlandish while All Saints day and All Souls days brings death very close to home, tying me to all those who have come before and especially evoking memories of those I personally knew who have died. Halloween may be the most overt display of death as streets abound with zombies, vampires, and other gory characters, but the two days following are what make death feel real to me.

In the choir anthem this morning, we sang a beautiful piece by Tarik O’Regan entitled “We Remember Them”. The music itself is beautiful, full of rich choral chords that follow a simple, haunting soprano solo. But the words were what really hit me this morning: “In the rising of the sun and in its going down, we remember them. In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter we remember them. In the opening of buds and in the rebirth of spring, we remember them. In the blueness of the sky and in the warmth of summer, we remember them. In the rustling of leaves and in the beauty of autumn, we remember them. When we’re weary and in need of strength, we remember them. When we’re lost and sick at heart, we remember them. So long as we live, they too shall live, for they are now a part of us, as we remember them.”

These words remind me of how much our lives are shaped by those who have died—we see them in all seasons, in the sun and the flowers and the leaves. But remembering those who have died does not drag us down into depression, it lifts us up and gives us strength, it shows us the way when we’re lost, it comforts us. These words remind me that the point of All Saints Day or All Souls Day is not to commiserate over and mourn those we have lost, but to rejoice in the fact that we shared life with these people and to remember everything that they taught us and everything that they meant to us. The most powerful words in this piece for me are the last ones: “So long as we live, they too shall live, for they are now a part of us, as we remember them”. These words give me such comfort—it helps me move away from our society’s idea of death as this great gaping hole that sucks us all in, destroying everything we’ve done and separating us from the people we love. The people I love who have died are not gone—they are still with me because, in remembering them, I bring them to life. Each of us carries our loved ones around in our hearts and they help shape who we are.

That’s why I need these two days after Halloween—they remind me that death does not have to mean blood and gore and creeping shadows in the night. They remind me that death unites us all, that we are surrounded by those who have gone before us, that they give us strength and direction. They remind me that death is only a stepping-stone to life and that, while I still miss my grandfather, I also carry him around with me all the time. These two days remind me that the fact that someone has died does not mean their life stopped. Because as long as we live, they live too—they are a part of us and we remember them always.

November 1

Unearthing the Overlooked

By iquillen

Another Halloween has come and gone. Costumes have been put away, spider webs and skeletons are being taken down from houses, and people are very likely recovering from a night of celebrating and eating copious amounts of candy. In hindsight, though, the holiday strikes me as a bit odd. Halloween is one of the few days in America each year where trickery, scaring, and disguising oneself are playfully celebrated.

This evening full of disguises seems to reflect the origins of Halloween. A recent BU Today article said that Halloween originated from a Celtic pagan celebration in the British Isles, called Samhain. It was the night when the spiritual world became closest to the physical world, and treats were offered to appease spirits that would appear. When Christians arrived and interacted with the local people, they adapted it as the night before All Saints Day, or All Hallows Eve. When Irish immigrants brought the tradition to America, it eventually became the phenomenon of costumes and trick-or-treating that we are familiar with now. The evening has evolved and changed, to the point where I wouldn’t recognize its history just by watching everyone wander from house to house.

Why am I talking about this now, the day after Halloween has ended? To be frank, because I was surprised to learn the history. Where this strange, fun time of the year came from was always something I had overlooked and taken for granted as a child. I saw it as a time where I would either put on a costume and go trick-or-treating, or as the night where I’d sit outside my home and hand out candy, admiring the various creative costumes people wore. It’s also really interesting to consider how a cultural and religious celebration developed into something so commercialized. The bat and pumpkin decorations have been in stores for some time over the past few weeks, and I’m almost certain I’ll still see candy being sold for a few more days.

With all this said, I’m not discouraging anyone from finding or making a disguise, carving Jack-o-lanterns and hanging up decorations, or going from house to house. But I do think it is important to realize where such traditions come from. For instance, I learned very recently that pretzels come from a German tradition. They represent the crossed arms of a person in prayer. I’ve eaten pretzels for most of my life not knowing this, and that piece of history, for one thing, is really cool! It also reminds me not to take my own faith traditions for granted as I interact with those of other people. There is a rich well of meaning buried under the things we do and see. This does not mean that every small gesture has to contain some religious significance. But we can become aware of and seek out the ones that do. When this happens, I believe that for a brief instant the world of the Spirit touches the world of the everyday. That contact can happen at any time of year, and encountering it is  startling, yet truly inspiring.

October 28

What’s Your Style?

By jlbishop

Last night, at our weekly Marsh Associates meeting, we discussed the different styles of worship.  We took a quiz with multiple statements that we had to rate from 1-5 with how true it is. For example, a statement like “I feel closest to God when I am surrounded by what God has made- the mountains, the forests, the sea etc.” Then we would rate it with 1 being the least true and 5 being the most.  I was interested in the quiz but didn’t think it would affect me much. I was wrong.

Taking this simple quiz has opened my eyes to the many different types of worship there are. The different styles are:

Naturalist, sensate, caregiver, enthusiast, traditionalist, ascetics, activists, contemplative, and intellectual.

Each of those styles are a different way to worship God. Whether it be through nature, your mind, art, the senses, dance and music etc. I know it sounds silly, but for once I finally understand that going to Church and praying silently are not the only way to worship God. I scored the highest on caregiver, naturalist and enthusiast. I scored the lowest on traditionalist, intellectual, and ascetics. What does that mean? I feel closest to God when I am helping others, in nature, or singing my heart out; and not so much when I’m doing rituals, reading theological books, or praying by myself. The former are the activities that I worship God best in.  This means so much for me! I now understand that it’s ok that sitting by myself silently or trying to read an intellectual book is draining. I never feel refreshed or closer to God after that. But put me in a homeless shelter handing out meals, on a beautiful path in a forest, or jamming out to a worship song in my car, and my soul is soaring!

I think it brings God more glory and honor to worship God in a way that lifts up your heart and soul. God made you that way, and God wants you to embrace that. I feel inspired and excited to get out there and help people, or take walks in nature, or have more impromptu worship jam sessions in my apartment… and not feel guilty that I haven’t sat silently and prayed or read any intellectually stimulating theological books.

God is an exciting God, a God of surprises, and I think God is delighted to be worshiped in all the ways God created us for!  So get out there and worship in a way that makes your soul (and God’s Spirit) to soar!

October 27

Labyrinth Lives

By kmshultz

Last week, I was asked where I saw myself in five or ten years. Questions like these have always been scary for me partly because I don’t want to miss out on the moment I’m living in right now by dwelling too much on the future, but also because I haven’t yet mustered the courage to acknowledge the edge of uncertainty looming before me; what is God calling me to do? How can I make a difference? Where do I go from here? How am I supposed to live my life?

As we walked a labyrinth last night at vespers, I was thinking about these questions, trying to figure out what I’m doing with my life. At first, I was lost in the slight anxiety that comes with having no idea of what the future holds. But as the gentle swish swish of my jeans against the floor accompanied my careful, methodical steps along the winding path, I was steadily overcome by a gentle calm. I realized that all this time, I’ve been looking at my life as a maze where I must make careful decisions at every crossroad and a wrong turn can ruin everything. I’d seen it as a world where there is one right way to do things and some people are more successful or efficient at living their lives than others. But I’d much rather think of life as a labyrinth where there’s only one path to follow, but people experience it differently depending on where they are along that path. As I walk a labyrinth, I’m not sure exactly where I’ll end up along the way, but I trust the creator of the labyrinth to guide me to the center. No matter how many twists and turns I take or how unlikely it seems that I’ll ever get anywhere, there is always a purpose to the path and it will always lead me to where I’m meant to be—and where I’m meant to be is right where I am. Labyrinths are spaces of moments, where the place I am right now is more important than where I have been or will be, it’s a space without anxiety, of breathing out and breathing in, and a space without notions of progress or achievement. It’s a leveling field that recognizes our individual differences in where we are in our lives, but also brings us together as we walk in parallel, turning at the same moment before going our separate ways. It’s the easiest maze we’ll ever see and that is such a relief.

Of course, the questions I brought to the labyrinth are still hanging there unanswered, but they don’t scare me as much anymore. The journey of finding the answers to those questions is much more important than the answers themselves and I know that this confusing, winding path will lead me where God is calling me to be. I just need to have faith, placing one foot in front of the other, breathing out, and breathing in.