Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Art of Writing

Sermon writing/preparation is hard work!

I love the first few steps of diving deep into scripture and opening up all of the questions. I love collaborating with other people and hearing diverse opinions and interpretations of scripture. I even love the initial stage of getting thoughts on paper. Writing and writing... not caring if one paragraph goes with the next.

It's the editing that gets me. The point at which I need to take all of the brilliant (ok, I think it's brilliant) work and trash 78% in order to make it a clear, cohesive, communicable piece of work. Some weeks I'm so rebellious, I barely do editing at all. I claim that the Holy Spirit will move and bring it together. Unfortunately, sometimes the Spirit does move and feeds my rebellious spirit. But, most weeks I know when I've cut editing too short and have done a disservice by not fulfilling my responsibility to proclaim the good word.

It's a fine balance between holding myself accountable to the hard work of proclaiming the gospel and receiving the amazing grace that it will be o.k. no matter how flawed of a vessel I am.

These lessons for me, though certainly foreshadowed in seminary and internships, take on new meaning in these first few months of preaching regularly.  I hope that with time and experience comes great growth. If I'm honest, I'm praying that somewhere along this journey God will just intervene and make it easy. Yet, at the same time I hope that never happens because it is in the hard and long process of editing that I discover the golden nugget (the word that both the community and I need to hear most) and I remember how rewarding this whole process can be.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Life in San Francisco

Many of you have inquired about life in San Francisco. Particularly, how Tim and I have transitioned from life in the Southeast. It is certainly different and while I still have fresh "outsider" eyes, I'd like to share with you what I love and what I'm learning I don't :) The lists aren't equal in number... which reflects how Tim and I feel. The positives of living here definitely outweigh the negatives.

Things I LOVE!

1. Not driving. Whew! Seriously a relief. Especially after living in HOT-lanta for three years where traffic was a real downer. Riding the bus here is not only convenient, but entertaining. Pretty much everything is within walking distance of where we live (bank, grocery, pharmacy, restaurants, movies, cafes, etc).

2. The Farmer's Market. The fresh produce here is out of this world delicious. Tim and I have never eaten so many fruits and vegetables before in our life! Our weekly tradition has been to get up on Saturday mornings and go produce shopping at the Alemany Farmer's Market. We sip our coffee and spend most of the morning people watching and tasting new fruits (ever heard of a pluot?! It's a plum/apricot). 

3. The spirit of openness. I'll admit, I wasn't thrilled to learn that nudity is legal here :) However, there is a free spirit here that allows people to be exactly who they were meant to be. I find deep beauty in that openness and I'm enjoying the process of breaking down my own stereotypes for what is "normal" in order to recognize God's beauty in everyone.

4. The FOOD! San Francisco is known for it's delicious cuisine and it does not disappoint! Come visit and you'll see that our "tour" of San Francisco is basically eating your way through the city. From amazing coffee and chocolate and dynamo donuts to cuisine from all over world - my tastebuds have certainly enjoyed our time here.

5. The vistas. There have been several moments during our two months here when my breath has literally been taken away by the views. From the ocean to the bay, I've really enjoyed living close to water and reminding myself how small I am in God's BIG and BEAUTIFUL creation. I can't wait to explore more of the terrain - camping and wine country and the shoreline. 

6. The cultural diversity. I LOVE sitting in a cafe or tacqueria in the Excelsior or Mission and forgetting that I'm in the United States. It happens to me on a weekly basis. Hearing Spanish (and really any other language) is music to my ears. 

What I DON'T love:

1. Not having a washer machine :( We walk across the street and do our laundry at a local laundry mat. It's really not all that bad. I do enjoy getting three loads done in one hour! However, it's something to get used to and I'm realizing how much I took for granted having a nice washer and dryer in our apartment.

2. It's expensive. Living here has definitely opened our eyes to the large price tag on living in a big city.  Tim and I have been very blessed to be employed and cared for, but it has opened my eyes to how hard life is for folks when they don't have a paycheck coming in. For friends who are in school or trying to make ends meet. For those who live in the city in deep poverty.

3. The crowds and noise. It's hard to find peace and quiet in the city. I've been told that I'll get used to it...and I think I already am. Still, I'll need to find my escapes (my urge to go camping starts here...)

4. The violence and cultural/racial discrimination. I know, this happens everywhere. It is certainly not particular to San Francisco. However, I'm realizing (like I did when I lived in Quito, Ecuador) that living in a new place raises my sensitivities to it. Surely being around lots of different people also accounts for the higher number of class and racial clashes I see. It's hard though, to see hatred and violence between people and to feel utterly helpless.

Overall, Tim and I are really REALLY happy here. We definitely feel like we are living out God's call on our life and ultimately that is what matters the most.

Admittedly, it's nice that our call was to such a cool city :)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

My heart is heavy

Last Sunday was HARD. Our nation watched as the news reported on a shooting in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. A white supremacist opened fire on the Sikh temple and several worshippers died. 

It's hard because people died. It's hard because it is violent and full of hate. It is hard because it reminds me how much I take for granted my ability as a white, privileged woman preacher to worship God in peace. I read in scripture how Christians were persecuted for their faith, for their ethnicity, for their race. Yet today, I do not experience that persecution. I watch as friends do. 

I got to know a few Sikhs in Atlanta through an interfaith group. We got together once a month (Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Jews, and Muslims) and sat in silence because words got in the way. We took turns telling the story of our faith and our tradition, meeting one another in those stories and growing  a deep bond. It only took some time spent together, getting to know one another, walking into the sacred space of silence and prayer together, and that experience allowed us to pay attention to the ways that God can move over and between the barriers we create to connect people and allow them to grow relationships of mutual respect. 

I yearn for the day when all people will be respected and valued. When hatred and violence will not have the last word. When we can quiet our own opinions, judgments, and hate long enough to see our brother and sister as an equal. As one worthy of peace and justice. Love and respect. 

My heart is heavy this week for my Sikh brothers and sisters. Praying for them as they experience this hatred and grief. Praying for justice. Praying for healing. Praying for peace.

If you're in San Francisco, I invite you to join me this Sunday at 9:00 PM in Union Square for a Community Vigil for the families of those that were killed worshipping in the Sikh Temple. The vigil is sponsored by the California Council of Churches. And if you're reading this from afar...please be in prayer with us. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.