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

Beloved:

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

Beloved:

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!

Weekly Note from the Preacher Woman, 4/12/18

Beloved:

I met a man in Jerusalem whose family has been doing the same job since the 5th century. It has been passed down from generation to generation, father to son. It is a sacred obligation and is taken extremely seriously. Imagine! Being able to trace your family back to the 5th century—to know where they lived and worked, and the particulars of what they did for a living.

In case you are curious, the job that has belonged to this family for all these years, is “Keeper of the Key” to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The church was founded in the 4th century by Helena, mother of Constantine. She believed it to be the site upon which Jesus had been crucified, was buried and arose. Over the centuries it was razed and rebuilt, fought over and held dear.  Eventually, there were five different Christian sects that came to share this holy space—which is likely why, the key has always been held by a Muslim family. Even hundreds of years ago, Christian leaders didn’t trust each other to share.

I can’t trace my “people” back that far. I know who my grandparents were, and even had the chance to meet my great grandparents on my mother’s side, but other than that…my “people” are just names and dates on a document one of my distant relatives put together.

The stories we are following for the next several weeks are about how the Jewish people understand who they were as people—before they were a people. Dozens of times in scripture, we read the phrase: The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob. God is our God, because God was their God. The beginning story of the God of the Patriarch and the Matriarchs gives a task to God’s People—they were, and are, to be a light to the nations—to bring blessing to all the world.

I have always loved these stories. These people are our people.  The stories of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob are equally the stories of Sarah, Hagar, Rebekah, Rachel, Leah (and so on and so on and so on…) The characters are flawed. The make huge mistakes. They can be strong, powerful, faithful—and then turn around to be weak, powerless and manipulative. They can even be pretty funny. These are people we need to know, if we are going to understand who we are as the people of God in this place and time. And there is something comforting in knowing that God can use all of us—even in our failure, our betrayals and disastrous choices.

So, bring your Bibles—we are in for a whirlwind tour of our founders of the faith.

Blessings and peace, Pastor Nancy

Weekly Note from the Preacher Woman, 4/5/18

Beloved:

What a marvelous Holy Week we shared! Again, thank you, thank you to all who made such a special week happen! Wow! Christ is risen, Indeed!

This week, My Michael and I are going to trade places. I will sit in the front row and cheer him on, and he will be preaching. This gives me a bit of a break this week, and also gives Mike a chance to preach when he has had time to prepare, rather than jumping in when I am sick. So, I hope you will join me in being present this Sunday! I know you will be glad you did.

Our next sermon series will begin next week: “Bible Stories for Adults.” I love the stories we heard as children in Sunday School.  We colored pictures, sang songs, played with the main characters on the Flannel Board, did an appropriate craft, and maybe memorized some key scripture verses to remind us of the grand stories of the faith. It was fun. But, when you think about it—it was a sanitized version of the actual stories in the text—which is entirely appropriate. But I wonder—have we ever considered some of these great stories through the lens of our adult faith?

I loved these stories as a kid. And I read them for myself. Then I re-read them. They were like Steven Spielberg movies, before there were Steven Spielberg movies–they had a bit of everything—love, betrayal, violence, adventure, stupidity, and heroic deeds.   The characters—even the heroes– were flawed. They made poor decisions. They did bad things. It was sometimes unclear who was the good guy and who was the bad guy. And they really weren’t rated G.

What I would like to do in these weeks leading us to Pentecost is to look at these great stories as adults. Why are they told in this particular way? How do we understand these stories differently as adults than as children. How does our social location–our age, our race, our gender, our nationality impact how we read the story? How would earlier generations have read this story differently? We will look at some of the ways scholars have approached the texts, and see what archeologist have discovered about those who lived, worked, and raised families in a particular place and context.

I hope it will be fun. And, if there is a particular story you might want us to look at, be sure to let me know asap—I will be making the final cut by Monday afternoon. Bring your Bible to church, and join us as we explore our stories together.

See you Sunday, Pastor Nancy

Weekly Note from the Preacher Woman, 3/29/18

Beloved:

Holy week always makes me feel like I am part of that old novelty act on the Ed Sullivan Show. You may remember the guy—in my memory, he was on every week—who balanced china plates on top of a spinning pole? He would get each one going, and then run back and forth along the line of plates trying to keep them from wobbling and crashing to the floor. The orchestra played the “Sabre Dance” by Aram Khachaturian during his act, and I can never hear that piece without having my heart race as I mentally dash from plate to plate to keep them from falling.

So many moving pieces, small details to get lined up, and then making sure everyone else knows what we are doing, and when. It is all worth it, though. Once everything comes together, it is simply the most wonderful week in the church year, as we retell our story together. It is THE story of our faith, just as the Passover is THE story for the Jews. There is a wonderful Jewish understanding of retelling the story. It has to do with re-membering. Each year, when the pascal meal is eaten, the story of the Exodus is told, not as something that happened to other people in the distant past, but a story that is re-lived, re-embodied as family and community. Through the darkest moments of life, the most tenuous of situations, the gathered community lives the story by sharing it together.

No wonder Jesus chose this night to provide us with the central sacrament of our Christian faith—the Last Supper. It was in the midst of this joyous, serious, messy moment of life, that Jesus shared this intimate mandate (Maundy Thursday comes from this word) that has had profound implications as we…do this in remembrance of me.

 It can be a challenge in this busy and stressful world to slow our rhythm to the rhythm of this week’s story. It is slow and fast. Joyous and devastating. Hopeful and crushing. And just as it was all these things to the early church, so it is for us as well. We live in similar times. We struggle with the same concerns as did our early forbearers.

At the very center of this week is something so small, we may not even notice it. It is the seed of God’s intention. No matter the content of the present moment, the distress all around us, the darkness that seems to be more powerful than the light—Resurrection will come.

Whether you are able to be with us in person over the next few days, or are walking the path from afar, we are God’s people in this place. And together, we prepare mind and heart for the absolutely unexpected, surprising notion that God’s love wins.

Blessings on this holy moment. Pastor Nancy