Weekly Note from the Preacher Woman, 5/18/18


I’m a bit slow with the Preacher Woman this week. We had a chance to head to the beach with our son and his husband for a couple of days. It was great to have time to spend together and watch all four dogs—their two chocolate labs, and our two little guys, romp on the beach. We ate great food and had a chance to catch up on what is happening in their world.

Meanwhile, the world continued on its way. Hawaii’s Kilauea volcanic eruption has displaced thousands and threatens to blast huge rocks into the air.  Another school shooting—this time in Texas (the 22ndschool shooting of 2018). Ebola threatens to spread to out from its rural roots, into the cities. Continued violence in Gaza with horrific loss of life. A plane crash with 100 lives lost. And a royal wedding offered a glimpse of fairy tale glamor and happily ever after for those weary of all the sadness and violence in the news.

Tomorrow is Pentecost. Besides the fact that we will try to remember to wear RED, we come to this day in much the same way as the earliest disciples. We wonder where God is amidst all the brokenness, cynicism, violence and fear. Jesus is gone. The world stumbles on. Are we a people of faith, or of wishful thinking? It all seemed clearer when Jesus was in their midst. But now? What happens now? What turns this group of well-meaning, but less than skillful men and women into a movement that changes the world?

There is something more here. Something Jesus calls the Advocate. The Helper. The One who Comes to empower us for the task set in front of us. We call it the Holy Spirit. But what exactly do we believe or understand about the Holy Spirit? Do I have the Holy Spirit? Do you? We of the Mainline churches can feel awkward when the “Spirit” conversations come up. We don’t want to come across as naïve or unable to take responsibility for our own thoughts and decisions. Or—perhaps even worse—releasing our need to control.

I remember a conversation in High School with a guy who had a locker near mine. He knew I was one of those “Jesus Freaks,” and tried to convince me one day, that believing in the Holy Spirit was the same as believing in being “possessed by a ghost.” Didn’t we sometimes call the Holy Spirit the Holy Ghost? It was hard to think of how to explain the difference to him. I no longer remember what I replied. But, I think of that conversation every so often, as I reflect on the question of how do we understand the third part of the trinity?

You may notice I have more questions than answers on this one. I can’t give you a formula, a list, a program on how this all works. But I know that Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would be with us. And I have experienced the mystery of seeing that promise—sometimes just a glimpse—and other times I think I may have heard the wind. So, whether we “get it” or not—it is there to walk alongside us, to fuel our passion, create a hunger for truth and justice, and empower us to do a work that is beyond our knowledge or skill.

I invite us to Get Our Red On tomorrow. And do a bit of wrestling. A few exploratory steps. We don’t know where it is taking us, but we can count on not being alone as we walk this way together.

See you tomorrow! Pastor Nancy

Weekly Note from the Preacher Woman, 5/12/18


Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. According to National Retail Federation, sales related to this holiday will reach over 23 billion dollars this year. It is the third highest spending holiday in our nation. It is a big deal. For some of our churches, attendance will be one of the highest Sundays of the year.

I’ve always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with Mother’s Day. I don’t mind that it is a secular, rather than spiritual “holy” day. Motherhood has always been a rather underrated profession, and I believe that taking a moment in time to recognize and celebrate that can be a good and healthy thing. I don’t even mind that the price of flowers goes up this weekend—Mother’s Day provides florists with ¼ of their yearly income. Got it. Cards? Always a good idea. Breakfast in bed—bring it! A crayon drawing and a bouquet of dandelions…perfect.

But here is the thing. This is not an easy day for many people. In fact, I know a number of folks who will intentionally stay away from church, restaurants, and friends to avoid thinking about this day. Death. Conflict. Abuse. Infertility. Miscarriage. Incarceration. Estrangement. Divorce. Loneliness. There are all kinds of reasons why this can be a tough day for many of the people we love, and many more whom we don’t even know are struggling.

Over the years, I have wrestled with this Sunday in May as a daughter, as a mom, and as a preacher. The lectionary planner calls this Sunday the Festival of the Christian Home. Sorry, same difficulties as the above. So, what’s a preacher (or a child, parent, friend) to do?

I believe that we all have people in our lives—mentors, relatives, friends, neighbors, teachers, who help to make us who we are—they are the helpers. Men, women—old, young—intentionally, or in passing. In the course of my life, I have been blessed. BLESSED! BLESSED! BLESSED! By those who have nurtured, nourished, guided, loved me into becoming. Many have been women, some have been mothers—if not biologically, spiritually.

Tomorrow, no matter how you feel about this one crazy Sunday of the year, I hope you will join us. We are going to be speaking about the Helpers. The night before Jesus was put to death, he stopped everything else he was doing to pray for his followers: All of his followers. He called them his helpers—and knew that it wasn’t going to be easy. And, it isn’t. (Don’t we know it!)

As those who claim Jesus as our guide, we too are called Helpers. So, we make ourselves vulnerable to a process of becoming—in our own brokenness, woundedness, loss and uncertainty. We midwife, we mother, we walk along side—no matter our sometimes “iffy” qualifications. And, that, beloved, is a Mother’s Day we can all celebrate.

See you in the morning. Blessings, Pastor Nancy

Weekly Note from the Preacher Woman, 4/26/18


What a gorgeous week! The sun has been out, and the flowers are blooming all over town. The mountains, oh my, the mountains! We used to have a gym teacher that said we had to have a jacket or sweater on at recess until the snow was off Mt. Hood. Not yesterday!!

Another spring memory, one that goes back to Jr. High, has been on my mind this week as well.  There was a married couple who taught at our school who, as soon as the worst of the winter weather was gone, rode their bikes to work every day. Just to be clear—this was not a thing back then. No adult rode their bicycles to work. There were no bike lanes. There was little in the way of gear. It could be pretty dangerous to be out in the middle of rush hour traffic. As I recall,  most people thought they were just eccentric. I wish I could remember their names, what they taught—that is all gone from memory—but I do remember one particular thing about them: they were worried. They were very concerned with the changes they were seeing in the environment. In a time before we talked about ecology, global climate change, and pollution—they talked about caring for the earth all the time.

To be totally honest, this whole issue was not that much on my radar– Jr. High stress was just about all I could handle. But it made an impression on me, even then. I remember one conversation in particular, when they talked about how they used to be able to ride their bikes without feeling like they needed to take showers afterward. The air had become so polluted, that they felt covered in grim by the time they got to school. They could remember a time when that was not the case.

And it is much worse now. I won’t make a list—it is too discouraging. But you know the facts as well as I. There will be no quick fix. But we do have the power to change a few things about the way in which we live, that when counted together will make a significant difference.

I am still working on this, so as I make some suggestions, please know that I am a work in process. For example:

  1. STOP USING PLASTIC BAGS at the grocery store. Hawaii has banned them—which is interesting when you go to the store without remembering your bags. On vacation I saw several people with their arms full of their purchases, because they had forgotten their reusable bags.
  2. STRAWS KILL SEA LIFE—There are several ways we can help. They make a variety of metal or glass straws that come in little pouches that we can carry with us. They even come with little squeegees to keep them clean. TELL SERVERS you don’t need a straw. If you saw the pictures of what happens to Sea Turtles or other sea mammals, you would never want to use another plastic straw.
  3. It is a hassle, I know. But here in Oregon, we actually have a pretty good system. You can get recyclables picked up at your house. For glass, and pop cans, however, you have to take them to a recycle drop location.
  4. EARTH FRIENDLY PACKAGING—I have found detergents for laundry and dishwasher that will be delivered with no extra cost to your door. They are packaged in cardboard, and use little packets of detergent that dissolve in water. Those big jugs of Laundry Soap are a huge waste.
  5. Wow, do we ever have terrific water in Madras. But lawns are a poor choice for how we use it. I haven’t quite decided how best to work on this—but sprinkler systems help. And turn some of your lawn into garden space, a rock garden, or wood chip space. We are in the desert! Cactus look fine.
  6. It is good for us (me!) and saves using fossil fuel for small trips. (definitely need to work on this one.

I’m going to try to continue posting ideas, and work at implementing them in my own life. It will take some time, but I want to witness to my love for this wonderful world God has given us. And care for the earth that sustains all life.

Coming Sunday—Isaac and Rebekah. The golden child of Abraham and Sarah’s old age. He is the “middle child” of the Patriarchs. Read ahead! See you Sunday.

Blessings, Pastor Nancy

How Attending Church Can Help the Senior In Your Life

Jason Lewis is a guest writer on our website.  He is the primary caregiver for his mom and a personal trainer specializing in senior fitness.  In recent years, he noticed what an impact church has had on his Mom, and not just spiritually. Going to church and participating in church activities has helped her stay both mentally and physically active. He wants to spread the word about that and offer additional tips on improving physical, mental, and spiritual health for seniors.

For many seniors, there is a daily battle: due to life circumstances that may be unique to their age or health concerns, elderly people often confront a variety of emotions or mindsets that may be somewhat debilitating and hard to bear. These include a sense of isolation, loneliness, boredom, and grief, as well as others. Even those who have family members nearby may not feel fulfilled, or they may feel lost after the death of a partner or close friend. It’s common for loved ones to feel unable to help when a senior shows signs of these problems, but for some, the answer lies in a very simple solution: church.

Going to church can help your loved one feel that they are a part of something, stay social, make a difference in the lives of others, help in their community, and find peace or solace after losing a loved one. There are many ways a religious organization can assist the senior in your life with staying healthy and vital; the key is to find the right one.

Here are some tips on how going to church can help impact your loved one’s life in a positive way.

Stay healthy

Going to church can help your loved one stay healthy by encouraging talk-based resolutions and peaceful relationships, which can help discourage substance abuse. Many seniors have fallen victim to prescription pain medication or turn to drugs and alcohol to numb their emotional pain and depression; attending church can help combat that. For more information on seniors and addiction, click here.

Reduce stress

Going to church can help reduce stress, in part because it allows for social situations that will help your loved one find happiness. Making a connection to others will help seniors find something to look forward to and can boost self-esteem and assist with healthy brain function, making for much happier days.

“Social support is no doubt part of the story. At the evangelical churches I’ve studied as an anthropologist, people really did seem to look out for one another. They showed up with dinner when friends were sick and sat to talk with them when they were unhappy. The help was sometimes surprisingly concrete,” writes T.M. Luhrmann of the New York Times.

Give back

Many church organizations give back to their communities by organizing food drives, helping shelters, putting together fundraisers for various charities, and giving children safe places to play and learn. These are all great activities for your loved one to participate in, as they can help foster a sense of community and togetherness.

“Many times, adults want to find ways to give back to the community once they retire, but aren’t sure where to start. Seniors who are part of a religious organization will be exposed to a number of charitable opportunities that will often coincide with their interests and abilities. Older adults may find that lending a helping hand to the less fortunate gives them a newfound purpose in their retirement and helps them make new friends,” writes Julia Little.

Finding the right church environment for your loved one may take some time, but it’s a great way to keep him active and social, especially if he’s recently lost a partner or has been battling loneliness. Encourage him to participate in church functions and offer to go with him for support, as any new venture–even a friendly one–can be daunting for some seniors. When you make it a joint effort, you’re showing how much you are about your loved one’s well-being.

  •  Photo via Pixabay by 12019

Weekly Note from the Preacher Woman, 4/20/18


This week, I have been in Colorado Springs with a cohort of clergy colleagues as part of the Center for Pastoral Effectiveness of the Rocky Mountains. I began this journey 10 years ago with Track I, and yesterday completed Track III. The core of the retreats (6 retreats for each track) is to become fluent in Family Systems work. I am not sure that is ever really going to happen. Family Systems, or Bowen Theory, begins with the assumption that we are all in communal relationships—first with our families of origin, and then with all the other people with whom we interact in our work, our churches, and our friends who also have families or origin who impact their reactivity and habits of mind and behavior.

There are patterns of behavior in our families of origin that move from generation to generation—passed on like the frequency of blue eyes, or a preference for chocolate. These patterns are universal—it doesn’t matter where we go—people are impacted by where they came from. What were the dynamics like? When something goes wrong, who is most likely to get the blame? How is conflict handled? Birth order. Marital patterns. Closeness. Estrangement. All these kinds of issues impact not only how we interact (or don’t) with our families. They can also predict how we may react to those around us who push buttons we didn’t know we had.

It is important work. It has kept me focused and sane in some pretty difficult church situations. And it has helped me work toward knowing how to deal with high conflict or anxious situations. But it is hard. Really, really hard. We dig deep. We look at things we don’t want to look at. And we are vulnerable in a way that requires a great deal of trust and safety.

The group with whom I have been working the last two years has decided to continue meeting. There are no more “Tracks,” but we will meet a couple of times a year to continue this life-long work. Because, basically, it works like this—to be a leader, and effective leader, means working on your own stuff. Only when I learn how to deal with my own fears, anxieties, and buttons, am I able to remain the kind of leader who can still listen, still guide, and still function when things go sideways. And things ALWAYS go sideways when we are working with other human beings.

Like other aspects of my spiritual and emotional journey, the work of the center is one that I realize is a work of a lifetime. I look forward to the journey, even as I realize the pain of examining layer after layer of brokenness in my own soul. Most wounds heal better when exposed to light and air.

This week, we have another story of human brokenness. Hagar. She was an outsider. A servant of Sarah and Abraham. She didn’t have a lot of control over her relationships, her life situation, or even her own body. Her story is one that many who have been silenced would recognized as their own. But the beauty of this story, is that God hears her. She wasn’t the “chosen” in the playbook, but she and Ishmael become the beginning of the story for the people of another book. I look forward to our time together on Sunday!  Blessings, Pastor Nancy

P.S. This weekend is an important one in many ways—we have the Poor People’s Campaign meeting here at the church on Saturday afternoon—2-4:00 p.m. The Table Talks on Sunday afternoon 2-5:00 p.m. AND Sunday is EARTH DAY! We have much for which to be thankful, and much work to do together. See you soon!