November 9, 2018, Weekly Note From the Preacher Woman


This week is our Celebration Sunday. We will have a chance to turn in our thoughtful responses to the question: how am I called to support the mission and ministry of God in this place? I chose this year’s theme by wondering what gospel values might help me, and all of us, look prayerfully at who we are and who we are becoming.

It seemed to me that in order for me to really live into generosity, I had to look carefully at simplicity. It is so difficult, sometimes, to be honest with myself about how I practice my faith. Sometimes it is easier to think about my faith than live into it. I can love the idea of something, but actually walking the walk of it is far more difficult for me. This is true of things like prayer, meditation, listening, writing, serving—just about every area of life that I want to give over to God’s dream for me and for all human kind.

Most of the time, if I am totally unflinching with myself, I realize that there really is “enough” time, money, space to do the things I feel called to do. The only real obstacle is me. I get in my way. I get in God’s way.

I’m working on it. I will likely have to continue working on it until I take my last breath. Part of the journey for me, is to listen to the impulse of the Spirit—the moment when there is a choice between A and B. Between simplicity of habit and generosity or scurrying around like I am being chased by my calendar. I could help that person struggling with their groceries up the hill—or I could continue to hurry on my way so that I won’t be late. I could rush by the person standing in the office on my way to “important duties” or decide to listen attentively to the story that needs heard. I could finish my to-do list, or I might listen to the call of the Spirit and jump in my car to give a bit of comfort and space to someone feeling overwhelmed by new responsibilities.

This week is about looking at myself and deciding who I am, and who I want to be. I am looking at my time, my energy, my dreams, God’s dreams—and yes, I am looking at how I spend my money. Could the local congregation, the wider church, the people in need do without the money I give? Maybe. And just think! If I didn’t give what I do, I could do other things—buy a newer car, maybe take a nice vacation, do some traveling. And that would be nice. But, beloved of God, here is the thing I keep landing on—I love being part of what God is doing here. I want who I am and how I live to make a difference. I could make a difference in a variety of places, for a variety of causes, but I choose right here at Madras UMC and right now, in partnership with all of you. Of all the places I have been in my life, and of all the cross-roads at which I have stood over the years, this one seems the most important. The world needs us. Right now.

As Uncle Mordecai tells Esther, “Who knows, if perhaps you were put in this position here for such a time as this?” He was talking about her becoming Queen, who could save her people. But I think the words apply to us as well.

I rather think we are here for such a time as this. And it gives me goosebumps.

I am looking forward to sharing time together this week. To commit ourselves anew to who and whose we are. To work toward a world that makes room for the least, the lost, the lonely. To grow strong in faith and delight in God’s hope and dreams for the world.

Blessings and peace, Pastor Nancy

November 2, 2018, Note From the Preacher Woman

In the space of a week, I have lost three men who I have considered mentors in my life. Two of them were Catholic priests with whom I studied Centering Prayer in Snowmass, Colorado: Father Joseph Boyle and Father Thomas Keating. The third, Eugene Peterson, was a retired Presbyterian pastor, whom I met only once.

Each one of these men has played an important role in helping me to shape my pastoral identity. On this All Saint’s Day, I would like to share just one thing I learned from each of these saints.

For a some of the toughest years of my life, I was a regular at St. Benedict’s at Snowmass. I went there to go deeper into the practice of Centering Prayer, the practice of silence, and to train as Centering Prayer instructor.  I wasn’t the only protestant—but I did get chastised once in a while for singing too loudly during the chanted prayers in chapel. (One monk told me they could always spot the Methodists).

Father Joseph was the abbot at St. Benedicts. He wasn’t directly involved in the retreats, but I saw him each time we shared worship with the monks. He had a certain presence that seemed to radiate compassion. At the end of compline each evening, Father Joseph would stand at the door, holding an aspergillum to anoint each person with holy water as we left the chapel in silence. I can’t remember what words he said, if any, but it was a moment that left its mark. It was a blessing. Intimate. Personal. Prayerful. A moment of intention and connection as individuals and as community. It taught me the power of bestowing blessing.

Father Thomas Keating was the original abbot of St. Benedict’s. He was one of the founders of the Centering Prayer movement and wrote the books from which we studied. I had begun the practice of Centering Prayer before visiting the monastery. We exchanged letters, and I was able to meet with him each time I went to Snowmass on retreat. There are so many things I learned from Father Thomas, that it is hard to share only one. But one thing I try to remember every single day, is that “God is present in every moment, no matter its content.” It doesn’t matter if I am having a great moment, an anxious moment, an angry moment, or a despairing moment. God is present. God is present. God is present.

Eugene Peterson was the author of the translation of the Bible called the Message. He was a pastor, a seminary professor, and a prolific author. I have half a shelf of his books. He grew up in Montana, returning there with his wife to live in the Flathead Lake area when he retired. I met him at a pastor’s retreat, and found him to be gracious, a person of deep faith and a servant’s heart. He was a scholar, and a contemplative. Even now, this is an unusual combination. In one of his books (I can no longer remember which one) he shares his thoughts on what it was like for him to be in pastoral ministry. He never wanted to serve in a congregation that was larger than his capacity to call everyone by name. In a culture where even pastors are tempted to believe that bigger is better, he chose relationship.

It has been a lot of years since I have spoken in person to any of these three special men. But today, I lit a candle for them, and said thank you. I pray that I will continue to live into the lessons they taught me. And I hope in some way to be the bearer of the light they brought into the world.

Blessings, dear friends. Pastor Nancy

October 26, 2018, Note From the Preacher Woman


If I had a “word of the week,” today’s word would be HOPE.

When I read the news, it feels as if the entire planet has been infected by a “lethal absence of hope.” Father Gregory Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries,uses this phrase to describe why young people end up in gangs. But, lately, it seems like this is a phrase that is apt for all of us.

Many of us have been up close and personal with despair. We have observed it in loved ones. We have felt it when the losses of life have just become too much. We have seen it in the casual cynicism of many young adults who believe their future was doomed before they ever came of age, by the harmful choices of preceding generations. We have seen it in crowds of people shouting threats to one another. We have read and heard it in the acrimonious conversations surrounding the future of the United Methodist Church. So where is the hope?

Here. Right now. In this place.

One of the inmates with whom I have been working got released this week. As he prepared for the transition, he got increasingly anxious. There were so many unknowns. And he had some good reasons to be fearful—housing, job, support—would there be anyone on the outside who would take a chance on a parolee? As it happens, he had more going for him than he even realized.  The education department at Deer Ridge goes the extra mile to give inmates as much support as they can. They are an awesome group. He also had some unexpected help from what we know as  “the Methodist Connection.” I was able to connect with some pastoral colleagues in the area to which he was going, who were able to suggest some local resources. He was surprised there was anyone out there—especially churches, who were willing to help a former inmate.  But there was. There is. I give thanks that he has teachers, mentors, and people on the outside that may just prove to him that there are people of hope in the world.

After all, when Jesus said we are the “salt of the earth”, he wasn’t talking about seasoning French fries. Jesus was calling us to a ministry of hope.  We are not the wishful thinkers, the naïve, the taken advantage of—we are the risk-taking “hopers” of the world. We are the doers of grace that move the world in the direction of love, of grace, of justice. And even when we fail, we get back up and do it all again.

One of my favorite authors and mentors, Eugene Peterson, died this week. He was the man who gave us “The Message.” I will be telling you more about him soon, but for now, I want us to think about his interpretation of Romans 12:

So, here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.”

 What a good reminder. For that, beloved, is who we are. We are a people who choose Hope. We are a people who keep our eyes on God. We are a people changed from the inside out. We will walk around in our everyday, ordinary lives and live the Hope that God has given us to live. And the world will indeed change. Hope is contagious! Go spread it around!

Blessings, Pastor Nancy