November 27, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
0 comments

Thanksgiving.

imagesWhat a challenging year it has been for our world. ISIS. Beheadings. More troops in Afghanistan. Ferguson. Immigration debates.

And then there is the rest of life. More personal and closer to home. Missing my granddaughter, Caroline, and my children, Matthew, Drew and Katie.

Thinking about people in my church. Loss of spouses. Loss of partners. A divorce. Young families doing their best to piece together a life. Moms and dads working hard, exhausted every night, but they do it because they love their kids.

Yet this has been a year of great love too. Each week I serve a church of great love. Great joy. I see genuine friendship. Genuine care. And happiness. I love that Sunday morning is now a time of happiness in my church. And if we are occasionally small in spirit, then a greater heart absorbs our brokenness, and for that I am grateful.

I can say the same about my staff at church. What a joy it is to work with them each and every day. The same could be said about the leadership at my church. They care. They are smart. They feel. They participate. I could not ask for more.

I have many memories on Thanksgiving. My grandmother’s cooking. She was a wonderful cook. Thanksgiving and a birthday celebrations in Cincinnati at my aunt Jane’s house when I was a boy. I received a Glen Campbell record as a gift, as well as an oil painting set replete with canvases. Glen Campbell has Alsheimer’s disease now and I think of painting so often but never get around to it. I tell myself that someday I will be an artist. Someday.

I think of friends on Thanksgiving too. I am so grateful. So grateful for friends, most of whom have no idea what they have done for me or what they mean to me or how often I think of them, because my feelings are like Scandanavian fiords, deep and meaningful but placid on the surface.

It’s Thanksgiving and here is the menu — turkey, sausage/cornbread stuffing, brusell sprouts, collard greens, dilled carrots (recipe courtesy of Leslie Geoghegan), cranberry sauce, mushroom gravy, mashed potatoes, yeast rolls, fudge pie, Derby pie, and on and on it goes with wine and a few friends.

I’m with Marti Sweeney and she is still with me. I am grateful. And two Labrador retrievers — Gracie and Lily. I am grateful.

So, Take a Breath today, whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever you might be facing today, just Take a Breath and be grateful for something, one thing, just be grateful and breathe. Happy Thanksgiving.

November 24, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
7 Comments

Ferguson.

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I am praying for Ferguson, Missouri tonight. Praying and trying to Take a Breath. It’s hard to understand how a young unarmed black man can engage in nothing more than a petty theft and end up dead on a street in the middle of America. Police officers have difficult jobs. I get it. They risk their lives every single day. But black men risk their lives too. They risk being pulled over by police. They risk becoming automatic suspects in crime-ridden neighborhoods. They risk, at least statistically, a lifetime of imprisonment. The death of Michael Brown is a tragedy. A terrible tragedy for his family and friends. But it’s a tragedy for America too. The decision has just been handed down from the Grand Jury, and I hope and pray that frustration will not lead to violence, that rage will not lead to injury, and that grief will not morph into revenge. I’m praying for Ferguson, Missouri tonight. I hope you will pray tonight too.

November 24, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
5 Comments

A. Human. Issue.

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The immigration debate is not a political issue. It’s a human issue. And just as Jesus taught that people are more important than theological beliefs, so people are also more important than policy. The people we’re talking about live in my community of Los Angeles. We shop side by side in grocery stores and drive on the same streets. And yes, the people we’re talking about seek sanctuary from time to time inside my church on a Sunday morning, saying their prayers and taking into their difficult lives a much needed breath of peace.

We have millions of people in this country that, for one reason or another, did not go through the prescribed channels of citizenship. This means we have a massive human challenge on our hands in America, and one that needs to be solved as practically and humanely as possible. To acknowledge this challenge is not the same as rewarding illegal activity or diminishing people who went through the proper channels for citizenship; it simply means that a human crisis must be acknowledged and solved.

I hope our nation will Take a Breath in the upcoming weeks, because beyond politics (and that means Republicans and Democrats), I still believe Americans are a fundamentally compassionate and reasonable people, and that together we can solve complicated human challenges, including the challenge of immigration. I’ll let others decide if President Obama has crossed a line of authority regarding the presidency. I just know this: Every human crisis deserves a humane response.

November 17, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
4 Comments

Standing. On. The. Edge.

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Let’s hear it for standing on the edge. Something behind us. Something in front of us. Unknown territory awaits exploration, while everything familiar fades into the background. On the edge of life we see a new challenge. Embrace a new opportunity. The beauty of standing on the edge is that we almost always learn something new about ourselves. About others. Even about God. And when you think about it, everything in life is moving us to the edge, the ultimate edge and ultimate voyage. Standing on the edge can be anything. A new job. A new relationship. A new insight. A new stage in life. Learning to stand on the edge with courage and love and openness is one of the best things we can ever do. Take a Breath today. If you’re already standing on the edge, then embrace it. And if there’s an edge calling to you, then move toward it. And remember, as I’ve learned over and over again in Big Sur, the best views are almost always from the edge.

 

November 12, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
1 Comment

Praise. Philae.

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Let us Take a Breath today and give praise to Philae, a spacecraft that for the first time in history has landed upon a comet.

And let us praise scientists who labor and study and imagine ways of expanding our knowledge and connecting the dots of a complex and wondrous universe.

And let us praise women and men who still dream big dreams upon this earth.

And let us praise poets that remind us, “The heavens declare the glory of God.”

And let us praise God, great Source of all that is, Presence and Mystery of love, at once within us and always beyond us, Beauty, Creativity, Wonder, Blessing, Cosmic Meaning and the Equation of the great All in All.

And let us praise love, because the root of the word Philae comes from the word Phileo, which means love, and it’s not everyday that love lands on a comet.

November 11, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
8 Comments

Happy Places.

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This coming Sunday I’m preaching a sermon titled — “The Happy Jesus.” That may be the sermon title, but I must admit I don’t often think of Jesus as happy. I think of the suffering Jesus. The sincere Jesus. The caring, compassionate and loving Jesus. But happy? I’m not sure.

I often see statues of the happy Buddha. Smiling, on the verge of laughter, impish and playfully irreverent. But not Jesus. Never Jesus. Was Jesus ever really happy? And then I think about churches — Jesus communities — and I ask myself: Are churches happy places?

I remember receiving a cranky letter once when I was the Senior Minister at University Christian Church, and the woman complained that my picture in the church newsletter was inappropriate because I was smiling. “A smiling Senior Minister,” she pointed out, was “undignified.”

Most faith communities are running happiness deficits. Oh, we can focus on meaning and values and suffering with one another, genuinely doing our best to lead good and wholesome lives or curing the desperate ills of a broken world hungry for justice. But joy? Happiness? Laughter? Fun? Often they are in short supply.

Take a Breath today. One of the most healing, meaningful, theologically-infused, humanly-scaled, relationally-significant things we can ever do for our faith is to laugh and smile and be happy. And when it happens inside a church or temple, well, it’s not only a good thing; it’s a holy thing.

 

 

November 7, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
4 Comments

Life. God. The Apple Store.

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My phone crashed Tuesday night. Crashed and burned. I could barely sleep. I cannot live without my phone. It was like my soul had been unplugged from a great universal source of life and existential meaning. Phone is oxygen.

I arrived at the Apple store the next day at 9.50 AM. There was a long line. Ten minutes later the store opened and there were fifty people converging on wooden tables lined with iPads and iPods and iMacs and iPhones, and forty of the fifty people in the store that morning were chronologically over fifty, which is to say it looked like an AARP support group.

There is a Continental Divide for technology. On one side are smart fingerly-nubile young adults able to move across a keypad with the dexterity of a ballerina. On the other side of the divide are reading-glasses-wearing-faded-blue-jeans-Neil Diamond-era-gray-hair-men-and-women sporting-slightly-doughy-looking-middles-and-slightly-bedeviled-confused-and-frustrated eyes. These are my people.

Those of us in the latter group don’t know enough about technology to even ask intelligent questions, and so we say things like “thing-a-ma-jig” or “do-hickie.” We stumble around and say, “So, are my photos here or up in the sky? Password? I don’t have a password! Can I text and still watch a video? How do I sync my phone to my computer? What’s an operating system?”

You get the idea. What I really want is for someone to hand me my new iPhone the way Jesus was born in Bethlehem, wrapped in swaddling clothes and completely incarnate with my contacts, emails and iTunes. But that’s not how it works. A new iPhone — like God — requires questions and explorations and ignorance, trial and error, learning, trying, getting it wrong, getting it right, developing a relationship (yes, I said it – relationship) with the technology of the phone.

Take a Breath (and I’ll try to take one too), because what I discovered this week is that  iPhones and technology and operating systems are wonderful, and for most of us, especially those of us on the other side of the technological divide, we have to work at it, search for it, and go through moments of complete confusion. But the confusion is worth it. Because after a while, sometimes a long while, you realize you have made friends with your new phone and that the world is once again at your fingertips.

And likewise . . . sometimes . . . every now and then . . . we make friends with G-O-D. We realize that thing we have resisted the most is in fact the truth and beauty we’ve desperately needed all along. These are just thoughts, of course, thoughts after spending five hours in the Apple store this week and a few days with a perplexingly wonderful new phone.

November 4, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
7 Comments

The. Second. Journey.

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What is a “second journey?” A second journey is not merely the next thing, nor is it the continuation of what you’ve always done. A second journey is a decidedly new turn in life — or a new time or season or reality — one that is built upon where you’ve been, but it’s daringly open.

Carl Jung spoke of the importance of the second half of life, that we can’t live the second half of life with the same agenda as the first. I think Jung was right. But what I’m discovering is that over the course of a lifetime, we have many “second journeys,” that is to say, new turns that require us to embrace, often with faith and courage, a new reality.

A second journey, for example, might be taking a new job. But it also might be staying in the same job but with a new supervisor. A second journey might be something as drastic as an illness. But it can also be the inexorable diminishment of physical ability that goes along with aging. A second journey could certainly be a new relationship, but it can also be, after fifty years of marriage, a new insight into your spouse and how you relate to one another. Life / God / Universe offers us second journeys all the time.

Take a Breath today. Are you in the middle of a second journey? Or have you felt yourself drawn to a second journey recently? The difference between life as adventure and life as existence is often determined by how we embrace or don’t embrace our second journeys.

November 1, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
6 Comments

Rain.

It’s raining. Right now. As I write. Saturday morning. It’s raining in Los Angeles. It’s raining. And it’s beautiful. And quiet. And it smells like happiness. And it sounds like music. And all I can think about is a poem by the great African American poet Langston Hughes. Oh, my dear Saturday morning friends, open your hearts and go to church inside your head and get down on your knees even if you’re standing and walk the labyrinth inside your soul and hoist your prayer flags and chant your mantras and then . . . Let the rain kiss you / Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops / Let the rain sing you a lullaby / The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk / The rain makes running pools in the gutter / The rain plays a little sleep song on our roof at night / And I love the rain.

 

October 15, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
2 Comments

Creativity — L.A. Style!

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Okay, the traffic is bad in Los Angeles. Everyone knows that. There’s urban sprawl here too. And sometimes the diversity of the place can be chaotic and overwhelming. But there is something wonderful about Los Angeles, and what makes it wonderful is creativity. This is a city that buzzes with creative, artistic, imaginative energy. I love it that First Congregational Church of Los Angeles is one of the most artistic  faith communities I have ever known. Film. Literature. Theater. Music. It all happens here. I was on a walk recently in my neighborhood and took a picture of this love-bug-of-a-car, an automotive late-bloomer and an eco-statement of sustainable portion. It made me smile. It helped me Take a Breath. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is Los Angeles.