January 20, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
3 Comments

President. Trump.

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Dear President Trump:

I am a person of faith, lived imperfectly to be sure, but as a person of faith there are things I believe . . .

I believe it’s important to affirm that all people are children of God, and regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender-identity, or sexual orientation, each person deserves love and respect. It is unacceptable (and un-American) to demonize groups of people, and that is especially true coming from the person sitting in the Oval Office. The level of discourse coming from the White House needs to be aspirational. If America has a president who talks and acts like a bully, then we will learn to bully one another. I hope you will govern differently than how you campaigned.

I believe it’s important to affirm that the environment reflects the goodness of God, and that we are called to care for the environment as we care for our own bodies. Mother Earth is in trouble. The challenge of climate change is real. You can’t make America great again if the planet is falling apart. (And if the rising seas begin to swallow up your properties around the world.) For people of faith, caring for the planet has emerged as the spiritual / ethical challenge that God is calling us to embrace.

I believe it’s important to affirm that the world needs diplomatic wisdom. We live in a perilous time. We cannot be naive. I know that. Yet, it’s important to understand that diplomacy is not the same as making a business deal. Making deals has served you well in your business life, but America isn’t merely a business. We’re a diverse nation living in a complex world. My fear is that, without some degree of humility, international relations will quickly deteriorate. The human family is desperate for good will and compassion and thoughtful understanding.

Mr. President — Many of us are Taking a Breath today. We love our country. We love our neighbors around the world. We love this fragile planet upon which we live and work and play. I hope you will Take a Breath too. You are the President of the United States of America. Today, all around the world and in many different languages, people of faith are saying a prayer for you and our country. I’m saying a prayer for you today, too.

Sincerely,

Rev. Dr. R. Scott Colglazier

 

January 19, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
4 Comments

President. Obama.

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Dear President Obama:

There is so much I will remember and miss about your presidency . . .

Your quiet dignity. Your thoughtful approach to life. The way you and and the First Lady brought so much strength and courage to our nation. I will never forget the way some politicians refused to work with you. How some people tried to humiliate you because of your race, or because of the false reports that you were not born as a U.S. citizen. I appreciate that you loved books. And the arts. I loved that the First Lady enjoyed fashion! The two of you cared about America’s children. And when tragedy struck our communities, you were there with words of hope. You inherited a financial disaster. You guided us through it. You inherited war. You did your best to help us move past it. As for healthcare, thank you for caring about this important issue, because that is where people live — getting sick, going to the doctor, trying to adopt a healthier life. Health care is one of the great moral issues of our time. It is complicated. But you stood up it and stood up for the American people. I’m old enough, Mr. President, to remember the Civil Rights Movement. You are our first African American President. I was so proud when you were elected. I was so proud of your vision of America and the world. I was so proud when you helped us understand the pain of race in America. Your presidency was not perfect. Of course not. As a clergyman I am called to care for Republicans, Democrats and Independents. Some of my church members voted for you. Some did not. And that’s the way democracy works. But you made history for us, Mr. President. I am Taking a Breath today. I hope you will soon take a Breath for your yourself, too. You held it together for eight years, so we could hold it together as a nation. I honor you. I thank you. I say a prayer for you today.

Sincerely,

The Rev. Dr. R. Scott Colglazier

January 4, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
0 comments

Huston. Smith.

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One of the spiritual giants of our time, Dr. Huston Smith, passed away on January 1. Huston brought amazing insight into religion, probing the differences and similarities of the religions of the world. I honor his life by sharing just a few quotes from this extraordinary gentleman and scholar. I recommend any of his books, almost all of them are still in print, but for today I encourage you to enjoy the following . . .

“The faith I was born into formed me. I come from a missionary family – I grew up in China – and in my case, my religious upbringing was positive. Of course, not everyone has this experience. I know many of my students are what I have come to think of as wounded Christians or wounded Jews. “

*

“Science is empirical, all about physical senses that tell us about the world. But physical senses are not the only senses we have. Nobody has ever seen a thought. Nobody has ever seen a feeling. And yet thoughts and feelings are where we live our lives most immediately, and science cannot connect with that.”

*

“I am critical of modernity giving science and technology a blank check as if it were the fountain of all truth. That is not true. And I think I may have introduced a word which has now caught on quite a bit, scientism. Science is good. It simply reports a discovery.”

*

“God has to speak to each person in their own language, in their own idioms. Take Spanish, Chinese. You can express the same thought, but to different people you have to use a different language. It’s the same in religion.”

*

“Walnuts have a shell, and they have a kernel. Religions are the same. They have an essence, but then they have a protective coating. This is not the only way to put it. But it’s my way. So the kernels are the same. However, the shells are different.”

*

“Poetry is a special use of language that opens onto the real. The business of the poet is truth telling, which is why in the Celtic tradition no one could be a teacher unless he or she was a poet.”

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“Swallow your pride and admit that we all need help at times.”

*

“At the center of the religious life is a peculiar kind of joy, the prospect of a happy ending that blossoms from necessarily painful ordeals, the promise of human difficulties embraced and overcome.”

January 2, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
7 Comments

Forgive. My. Happiness.

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It is January 2, 2017 and I would like to say: Please forgive my happiness. Leonard Cohen, who spent many years in a Buddhist monastery, once remarked: “I spent many years studying the world’s religions, but joy kept breaking in.” So it goes. To my friends I want to say forgive me today for being a happy human being, hopeful and full of joy and vitality. I’m sorry if I have not been miserable enough for you, that I did not flagellate my soul to your satisfaction, but joy keeps breaking into my life and I am happy today. To my children I want to say, forgive me on this second day of the New Year for being so happy, for feeling as if life is a gift, for loving someone special and being loved by someone special, for wanting to read more books and write another one too, for my continued passion for enjoying good food and wine and friends around the table. I am so proud of all three of you, and for any enmiserating feeling I afflicted upon you through the years, I ask your forgiveness, but I meant well and that surely is worth something. You don’t have to rescue me, take care of me, worry about me or anything else related to my life, because I am happy today. Your friendship means everything to me. To my fans (tongue in cheek) and detractors (not tongue in cheek), I want you to know that life beat the hell out of me this past year. I reached the kind of low point I once thought unimaginable for a person like myself, a patch of days when I didn’t care if I woke up in the morning. But somehow God showed up, and I do not use the word G-O-D lightly. Kindness rescued me this summer and I will never forget it. I am repaying the universe with my happiness. I offer every smile, every laugh, every ecstatic moment of happiness as a lighted votive candle to Universe / Source / Love that I name with the word G-O-D. And so forgive me for discovering one of the great secrets in all of living, namely, that despite its many struggles and heartaches, life is good. To my church members, I hope you will forgive me for being so happy each Sunday at church. For the first time in my career I don’t think of going some place else. I don’t think about what is next. Oh, I want us to be a little bigger, and a little better, and a little stronger. But I am happy today, and so if it’s too much to behold, just kindly avert your eyes. To my friends, whom I thought were my friends, those of you I never imagined you leaving me stranded upon the shore of your affection, I ask you to forgive my happiness today, because I am only now beginning to see that I am responsible for my own disappointments, and the disappointments I might have had in you this past year only make my joy richer today, because it has provided me with the opportunity to forgive and let go and move forward with gratitude for all that we were and all that we are not and all that we might still become. I am only now beginning to learn how my amazement of joy must be laced with incredulous dismay. So, to anyone who is reading this today, who might have a passing interest in me or what I write from time to time, let me just say it: I am happy. Forgive me. Take a Breath. And Happy New Year.

 

 

 

December 24, 2016
by Dr. R. Scott
2 Comments

Christmas. Eve.

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So, dear friends, scattered across the country and around the world, today is Christmas Eve and I wish I could offer you something beautiful and profound for your contemplation, but all I can think about are the little things of my little life . . .

Like the unexpected Christmas card I received from a friend a few days ago, the knock on the door last night from two friends dropping off a few bottles of wine, including a bottle of champagne more worthy than what I’m willing to spend, the email wishing me a Merry Christmas Eve and a Merry Christmas Adam, the way coffee tasted this morning, hot and delicious, the rain that pelted my house last night, only to be replaced this morning with sunshine and air so cool, so clean it makes me realize why I love California in the winter, and yes, there is winter in California.

I think of the simple pleasure of listening to Handel’s Messiah, aching with the idea that all “flesh shall see the glory of God.” I am thinking that we now have a president-elect tweeting about nuclear weapons and wonder if our whole nation hasn’t lost its mind. I am thinking of my children and how they are all grown now, how I miss them and think of them everyday.

These are the little things of my Christmas Eve. Coffee. Fresh air. An email. A card. A walk in the neighborhood. Christmas cuts its way through me today, the way ribbons decorate packages under the tree. It just feels so uneventful. Understated.

Perhaps that was the way of the first Christmas. That it was quiet and ordinary. A simple family. A barn. A cold night. A birth. Yet, even our most ordinary moments invite us to draw near. What will we find? We never know. But we are invited to take a moment, to contemplate, and ponder and open ourselves to something that is at once beyond us and deeply within us.

I’m thinking of a poem by Thomas Hardy titled “The Oxen.” It’s one of my favorites. It captures what I’m feeling. I’m not sure what is on the other side of this curtain called Christmas. But I know I want to go there, I want to open myself up to something that matters. Mystical. Beautiful. True. There was a time in my life when faith was about what I knew to be true. Now, faith is about what I hope might be so. That difference means everything. I wish each of you a Merry Christmas. If you are in Los Angeles, I look forward to seeing you tonight at 5 pm, 8 pm or 11 pm. And of course Christmas morning at 11 am. Regardless of where you are, what you are feeling or how you are moving through this Christmas weekend, I send you the best of my love. With gratitude. With humility.

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
“Now they are all on their knees,”
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
“Come; see the oxen kneel,

“In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,”
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.

December 8, 2016
by Dr. R. Scott
3 Comments

A. Nudge. Toward. Gentleness.

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During this holiday season I would like to nudge each of you toward gentleness. To be gentle with ourselves is an act of grace, kindness, and love.

Coming from the Midwest, I think of the occasional snowfall on Christmas Day. It blankets the earth with frozen whiteness, muffling the sounds of daily activity and providing a cushion for the hurts that so often plague the human spirit. When snow falls on Christmas day the world settles into quietness. Gentleness.

Oh how some of us are so demanding toward ourselves, relentlessly pushing to finish the list or check off one more errand. And then there are the shoulds — I should be better, I should be more, I should do this, I should do that, I should lose weight, I should improve, I should, I should, I should . . .

If ever there was a time for gentleness toward our deepest self, it is the Christmas season. According to the Gospel of Luke, they wrapped the baby in swaddling clothes on that first Christmas Day. What would it mean to wrap ourselves in gentleness this Christmas? To accept some of our weaknesses? To make peace with some of our mistakes? To lessen the load of heaviness we have been carrying?

Take a Breath today.  Christmas is less than three weeks away! Don’t panic, however, and run yourself into the ground. Instead, breath. Breath a little more. And find some time over the next few days to be gentle with yourself.

December 6, 2016
by Dr. R. Scott
0 comments

Restoring. Our. Humanity.

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There are so many things about Christmas that I love, not the least of which is that it provides an annual opportunity to restore our humanity. The music. The carols. The stories. And of course there is the intersection with culture. Perhaps taking children to see a performance of The Nutcracker. Or maybe doing a Messiah sing-a-long. And who doesn’t like watching a classic Christmas movie like It’s a Wonderful Life, or a not so classic one like Christmas Vacation? During the holidays art and culture intersect. And that’s a good thing.

Tomorrow night is a cultural highlight for me at First Congregational Church of Los Angeles. At 7 pm we’ll have a presentation of Charles Dickens’ classic story — A Christmas Carol. The story will be performed by one of the great actors working in America today – – Mr. David Mellville. I’m reaching out to all my Los Angeles friends and asking you to do yourself a favor and join me tomorrow evening at 7 pm. It is going to be a magical evening. The telling of the story lasts just a little over an hour.

Pay what you can at the door as a donation. No one will be turned away. Join me Christmas season in Taking a Breath. Let’s find a way to be blessed tomorrow night in Shatto Chapel at First Church. And then, let’s go out into this holiday season ready to bless others.

December 1, 2016
by Dr. R. Scott
1 Comment

Real. Christmas.

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There’s a mantra in almost every recovery program that goes like this: “Keep it real.” Keeping it real means we focus on what is most important. Not the superficial experience but the inner meaning. Keeping it real means you go to the essence of something.

What would it mean for you to keep Christmas real this year?

One modest approach might be this: Do one thing this year that brings you closer to the original message of Christmas. One thing that represents a real Christmas.

  • You might try to attend a church on a Sunday. It’s a wonderful time of year to reconnect to a faith community.
  • At First Congregational Church of Los Angeles we have a Jazz Vesper Service December 4 at 7 pm. It will feature one of America’s great jazz musicians — Peter Erskine.
  • On December 7, we’ll offer a retelling of Charles Dickens’ — “A Christmas Carol.” This will feature one of our nation’s great actors — David Melville.
  • On Sunday December 11 we’ll have a reception after church featuring a children’s Christmas musical. It will delight you with the essence of the Christmas spirit.
  • On December 18 our Sunday morning emphasis on Handel’s Messiah will continue with the singing of the “Hallelujah Chorus.” It will be spectacular!
  • Christmas Eve will feature three services — Children and Families at 5 pm and traditional Lessons and Carols at 8 and 11.
  • Christmas morning will feature a service at 11 am with lots of carol singing and my homily titled: “Did You Get What You Wanted for Christmas?”

It’s the first day of December. The days are getting shorter. The list of things to do is getting longer. But Take a Breath today. In fact, Take a Breath every single day during this Christmas season. Keep it real. Do one thing that brings you closer to the reason for the season.

 

 

November 25, 2016
by Dr. R. Scott
3 Comments

Mrs. Brady.

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Florence Henderson passed away today. She was 82 years old.

I was once in a hot tub with Florence Henderson. We were soaking in a hot tub on the coast of California, and I looked over and recognized her.

And of course I said, “Well, Mrs. Brady, it’s so nice to see you.”

She said, “It’s nice to see you too too.”

That was it.

Take A Breath. Not every blog has to be profound.

November 24, 2016
by Dr. R. Scott
6 Comments

Happy. Thanksgiving.

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I’ve always thought of Thanksgiving as the most stable American holiday. It precludes any religious fights at the dinner table. People more or less agree on the menu — turkey and lots of it. It doesn’t have the same emotional baggage of Christmas or New Year’s Eve. And I’m guessing that most of us are even going to take a break from talking about the recent Presidential election.

Thanksgiving is the day to be, well, to be thankful.

Yet like most holidays it also becomes a marker. Last year life was this way. This year it is another way. No holiday, including the benign holiday of Thanksgiving, is immune from the vagaries of life. I’m thinking of the many people around the country for whom life has changed this past year. I think of families in my church who have recently lost loved ones. (I have two memorial services next weekend.) I think of people of the verge of a life change. (I’m conducting a wedding on Saturday.) I’m thinking of families coping with loss or change or both this year.

The genius of gratitude, of course, is that you aren’t merely grateful when life turns out well; you’re grateful for whatever is presented to you. This is why gratitude transforms everything, including the inevitable losses that touch our lives. A sure way to have a happier life is to rediscover gratitude. It’s that simple. The more grateful we are, the more alive we feel

I wish each of you a Happy Thanksgiving. More importantly, I invite you to Take a Breath, and experience gratitude on this most important of holidays. Perhaps for many of you, today is simply a repeat from last year. Yet I suspect for some of you, myself included, life is different in 2016. Yet gratitude, gratitude, gratitude . . . in all things gratitude.