Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Farewell to the Adult Playground

Today I say farewell to San Francisco, a place I affectionately refer to as the adult playground.

In this city, I stretched professional muscles and met new friends at the monkey bars.
I ran without abandon and felt free to wear whatever clothes out to play.
I breathed in the air of a place that is safe and colorful and magical.

A few weeks ago a friend asked us what we will miss most about living here and as quickly as the words "pupusa" and "sightglass" formed on our lips, we both realized it is the place, the people, and the challenges disguised as play that will hold our hearts for a while.

We have had fun living in this city.

  • We've filled our tummies with fine dining and street cart tacos.
  • We've run an absurd amount of miles with #RAGNAR and risen early to do burpees with #novemberproject.
  • We've dressed up to hear the best singers at the opera, the undiscovered musicians in the bars, and the journalists speaking their work live at pop-up magazine. 

And we've both had fun in our jobs.
We've collaborated with some of the coolest, most creative people in our fields who are not afraid to try new things nor to fail at them.

We've learned new tricks just by living in a tech-hub. Tricks we get to show and tell for decades to come.

There is a magical energy about this place.  I'll be honest, it took some time for me to get used to the city smells and sounds and parking...but I know now that I will miss it deeply.

So, thank you, San Francisco, the city of adventure, our adult playground.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

We Are Not What We Own

Oh, the joys of city living!” This morning two different people said these words as they passed me cleaning out the broken glass of my car. The backseat window had been broken. Nothing of importance was stolen, but a mess was made and left for me to clean up. 

The line they gave was one I have internalized since moving to San Francisco. We live in a city, which means sometimes we learn lessons we would rather do without.

I’ve come to expect a broken window every now and then. Still, it puts me in a bad mood. Anger rises within me as I wonder if someone really thought I had something they needed or if it was just a fun game. Break the window and run. 

It’s moments like these, when the city teaches me a lesson about my possessions: 

I am not my possessions. 
My possessions should not have power over me.
When my possessions are attacked or harmed, I am not attacked or harmed. 

Of course it sucks to have to clean up someone else’s mess. 
It sucks to pay for a new window because insurance won’t cover it.
It sucks to have to go through the hassle of finding a time when you can meet the window repairman in a parking lot and have them fix your car. 

But it’s just a nuisance. My day goes on. I go on without that window. 

The lesson city living teaches me is that we are not what we own. 

Our identity and value is not based off of the size of our home or the price of our car. In fact, we choose to keep an older car just for this reason. Sometimes it gets broken into or bumped  and the less attached we are to it, the better. 

Sometimes I find myself fantasizing about a 3 bedroom house in a suburb. With a garage AND ample parking on the street. I dream about land that I would own and do with as I please. I think about what I would do with more space to spread out and decorate. 

And someday I may enjoy all these things.

But for now, I catch myself and I give thanks that I don’t have those things. I give thanks for our 1 bedroom apartment that only takes an hour to fully clean. I give thanks for a limited space that forces us to limit the number of things that we own. It simplifies our life. It helps us make priorities and live into our values of simple living and generosity toward others. Having neighbors on the other sides of our walls reminds us to be thoughtful in how we live and how it affects others. 

Even the break ins, broken glass from our car on the street, reminds me that some of our neighbors are in such desperate need that their best resort is to break in and steal from others.

On good days, I take a few minutes and pray for them. I pray for me, too, that I would be grateful for what I have and generous in sharing with others. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Claiming the Collar

On Friday night, I put on my clerical collar and headed out on to the damp streets of San Francisco to participate in Night Ministry.  We walked by a long line of people waiting for the Prince show, in and out of bars, and along the homeless-lined streets offering our presence and prayer.

I've walked with SF Night Ministry once before and it is a powerful experience. There are night ministers out walking every night of the year and they've created quite a community. Several people living on the streets know Pastors Lyle and Tom by name and are quick to share prayer concerns with them. I was surprised this particular night by how many interactions we had with people out drinking on a Friday night and the respect they showed for clergy in collars.

Then, on Saturday, I went to see the movie Spotlight. Spotlight is an award-winning drama exposing the sexual molestation of minors by priests in the Catholic Church. It takes place in Boston in the early 2000s and sheds light on a horrific systemic problem. My blood was boiling at several points during the movie when time and time again survivors shared how they had been preyed upon by someone that they trusted. Even worse, how they were both emotionally and spiritually harmed by the abuse. As their trust for clergy shattered, so too, did their trust in God.

As I walked out of the theatre, our musician Jason asked me jokingly, "You gonna quit?" As in, quit working for the church. Quit being associated with the clerical collar that has been used for harm.

I sat with lots of feelings for a while. On one hand, I experienced the trust given to me Friday night as I wore the clerical collar and walked the streets of San Francisco. I felt closely connected to the ministry of Jesus as I drew attention to the radical statement of love for the homeless and for the drunks. And on the other hand, I felt real shame for how this symbol of trust had betrayed many. I hated how this symbol now triggers abuse of power and bodies, fear and secrets.

I continue to sit with the complicated symbol of the collar and I struggle with how I can best reclaim this symbol for good. I'm glad the media unveiled such a shameful and horrific abuse of the clergy because it takes away the power of the secret and critiques blind trust. I pray that as I - a Presbyterian clergywoman - wear the clerical collar, my life and ministry can be toward rebuilding the trust given to those wearing a clerical collar. I now wear it with much more awareness that the trust I am given is not always earned and I need to be all the more careful with the authority I am given.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Mom's Celebration of Life

The Reverend Doctor Eugenia (Genie) Varker Martin

My mom loved big. And she was clear that her love came from God - 
Fierce, compassionate, overwhelming love.

You know it because she shared it with you.
She shared it with all of God’s children. 

Genie never met a stranger. 
She made friends quicker than anyone I know. 
In a moments time, she would know you - and love you.
She made space for people in her heart and in her home.

Today, I am struck by Paul’s letter to the Romans and the language of adoption - OUR adoption as children of God. Through Christ, we are more alike than we are different…because we are from the same God. We are…children of God. 

My mom lived and breathed this truth in her ministry. We learned this early as kids because she was always bringing people home to live with us.  

Someone had a need and she had the resource, and by God, she was going to meet that need!

I can say that it was a good experience growing up. We were loved by a whole host of people.

Genie embodied what it means to expand your family to include God’s family and she passed that on to many. 

In the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus teaches us where we should look to find God. He illustrates a scene in which the righteous are told that they cared for Christ when:

  • they saw the hungry and gave food
  • thirsty and gave drink
  • a stranger welcomed
  • the sick and prisoner were visited 

He said, 
“Just as you did it to one of the least of these…who are members of my family… you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40)

Genie was so interested in people because she saw Christ so strongly through them - through you. 

Mom could find God’s presence in everyone and she took Jesus’ words to heart by seeking out time especially with “the least of these.” 
She wasn’t going to miss Jesus in our midst! 

Now, my mother - the Reverend Doctor Genie Martin - was not perfect. She, like all of us had shortcomings. 

One of my favorites was her impatience. 
I'm pretty sure I get that from her. 

My mom wanted things when she wanted them, which caused some embarrassment for us kids when we went out to dinner and the waiter or waitress just wasn’t moving fast enough.

She was impatient in her driving, even talking herself out of a few speeding tickets on her way to do important ministry!

But she was impatient about the right things, too. My mom was impatient with social injustice. It hurt her heart to see how we, as sinful humans, shut God’s children out - how we treat God’s children as “less than.” 

I’ve heard stories over the years and have seen with my own eyes how my mom changed...how she stretched her heart to make room for someone different than her. 
Then the grief she felt when others, even those she loved, wouldn’t do the same. 

My mom’s love for people - for God’s children - was heart-bursting big.

The prophet Isaiah prepares us for what we celebrate today. Resurrection to new life.

“Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the EVERLASTING God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 40)

“Have you not known? Have you not heard?"

Jesus died for us.
Jesus was resurrected for us. 
Jesus goes ahead to prepare the way....to set the table...to welcome us into God’s kingdom.

My mom was prepared. 

Over Christmas she took me to lunch. She looked at me and said,

“As a mother, I’m not ready to go.”

“But as a Christian… as a Pastor who has witnessed the death and resurrection of the saints who have gone before us...

I can’t wait!
I can't wait to see what is next."

I looked at her and I felt her tension. The sadness in her heart to let go of dreams unrealized - to know she would say goodbye to those she loved. 

And the joy and anticipation she felt for getting to cross over from life to death to new life. 

My mom was not afraid.  She was prepared for this moment - for her death and resurrection. 

She was convinced. 
She lived unshakeable faith in Christ. 

It is a true gift she gives to each one of us. 

I spent my life watching my mom point to the source of her love in both her words and her actions. The confidence she had in God is the most generous gift to us:  She was prepared to go home because she knew her home was already prepared.

So praise be to God for the life of Genie Martin! 

She is welcomed with a chorus of voices singing, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”