May 16, 2018
by Dr. R. Scott
5 Comments

Friend.

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I lost a dear friend yesterday. Donald Battjes. He was my friend. We had been friends for ten years. Losing a friend, a real friend, is like a small fissure opening up inside your soul. And then it grows larger. And deeper. Pretty soon you feel the best part of yourself falling into a Grand Canyon of sadness.

Don lived in Los Angeles and Provence. He had struggled with some health issues over the past few years, and so he was diminished, at least bodily, but his spirit remained intact. Intact and strong. He was so happy to be in Provence this spring. I talked to him last week. He was happy. Alive with love and friendship and curiosity about life. He was enjoying his house, a house he had worked hard to restore and bring to life.

He was here and now he is gone. There is nothing sentimental about death. Nothing. The finality of it is sobering. Some people are comforted by the assurance of an afterlife, as if our absence from one another is only a temporary inconvenience. Maybe that is the case. I’m not sure. I want to believe that I will see my friend Don Battjes again, and that we will sit on a heavenly patio overlooking a heavenly field of lavender and drinking a heavenly glass of French rosé. If it is so, then it is so. Any discussion of an afterlife, in the end, is speculation. Yet, I’m acutely aware today that there is love after death, and love in the midst of loss, and friendship endures, not in the physical body, but in our spiritual consciousness.

I am feeling so much loss today. Loss and gratitude, gratitude for someone who loved me, listened to me, laughed with me, and on occasion, cried with me. I went through a divorce a few years ago and I lost friends. I don’t know any other other way of saying it. People I thought would always care for me disappeared. Maybe I deserved their scorn. I don’t know. But what I do know is this — there were a few people who held onto me and would not let go and who checked on me everyday and who could be happy when I was happy and sad when I was sad. That was a handful of people. One of them was Don Battjes.

Don and I talked a couple of times each week. When he was in Los Angeles, we got together once a week for a glass of wine or a cup of coffee or lunch in Pasadena. He was a friend. Doesn’t that word say everything? Friend. He was in my home. I was in his home. I visited him in France last year and had such a nice time. I made dinner one night for him and his friend Trinka . . . roasted salmon and shrimp on a bed of roasted vegetables. I started with a potato soup. Ended with cheese and baguette. It was a perfect evening. I had such fun shopping and cooking that day.

I’m not talking about Don in order for you to think about Don. Or for that matter, it’s not about thinking of me. I’m asking that you to think of people you love and people who love you. Cherish them. Give thanks for them. And if there is some blip between you and your friend, forget about it. Let it go. Forgive. Or receive forgiveness. Don’t wait. A real friend is so rare . . . like a perfect rose in a garden of roses . . . and if you have been blessed with a friend, count yourself lucky.

Take a Breath today. Remember a friend. Give thanks for a friend. Write a friend. Call a friend. Helen Keller once wrote, “Better to walk in the dark with a friend than in the light all by yourself.” It’s true. Every now and then we get both — walking in the light and walking with a friend. That’s what I had with my friend — Donald Battjes.

 

 

May 15, 2018
by Dr. R. Scott
0 comments

Holy. Spirit.

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The Holy Spirit is energy! Flowing / Moving / Creating / Transforming / Beautifying / Mystifying / Redeeming / Forgiving / Inspiring / Enlightening / Judging / Lifting / Celebrating / Unifying / Cleansing / Burning / Flying / Floating / Engaging / Inciting / Indwelling / Satisfying . . . Energy! This Sunday at First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, along with churches around the world, we will celebrate Pentecost Sunday. Pentecost Sunday is that annual day in the liturgical life of churches when Christians celebrate the power of God’s Spirit to transform human life. Take a Breath today — and get yourself to church this week! It’s Pentecost Sunday. William Blake once wrote, “Energy is eternal delight!” Couldn’t you use a little more energy?

May 13, 2018
by Dr. R. Scott
0 comments

Mother. Sister.

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When I think of my mother on Mother’s Day, I think of my sister, and always with profound joy and gratitude. My mother was such a good mom when I was growing up. A little boy could not have asked for anything better. But then she went through a difficult time. Significant mental illness. A divorce. Several years of loneliness. My mother eventually moved into my sister’s home, and suddenly she had a new life. She helped my sister and my sister helped her. My mother helped bring up my niece. My mother was happy again, but her happiness would not have happened had it not been for my sister (and infinitely patient brother-in-law.) Like so many around the country today, I’m thinking of my mother. She’s been gone for several years now. She died of pancreatic cancer. Her name was Joyce. But my sister is alive and well, living in Indianapolis, and I am forever grateful that her kindness gave my mother a new lease on life. Take a Breath today. It’s Mother’s Day. If you had or have a good mom, give thanks to God. If you didn’t, then know that a mothering God always holds you close. If you mother is still living, give her a call today. As for me, I’ll give thanks today too, not only for my mother, but for a sister named Nancy, the best sister a brother could ever have.

April 26, 2018
by Dr. R. Scott
3 Comments

My. Day.

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This is just to say that it was a day. I started early in the morning and made a pot of black-eyed peas. Does anyone even know what a black-eyed pea is these days? Onion. Some peppers. Some ham seasoning. A little tomato. A little of this and that. And then working on a sermon for Sunday. Three poems. Laughter. Crying. Loving. Is there anything else we need in life other than laughter and crying and loving? And then at noon I went to Home Depot. And back home. And I tried to fix my crazy patio fountain. And then more sermon. And then Bill Cosby was convicted for more crimes than what I have black-eyed peas in my pot. And then a document for our fall stewardship campaign. And then a document for me and the Head of Pilgrim School. And then I went for a walk. And then a glass of wine. And then dinner. And then a meltdown with my stepson. I never use the word stepson, because it sounds so cold and removed, but I’m using it today. And then remorse over the meltdown. And then trouble in paradise. And then talking. And then apologies. And then rethinking this and that. And then the Cubs beat the Brewers, which might be the highlight of my day. Life is day after day after day. Some good days. Some not so good. But this is life. This is my life. I hang onto the truth, the belief, to the idea that God is not finished with me. It’s not over until the fat lady sings. At least that’s what I’ve heard my whole life. I could hear her warming up off-stage today, but she’s not finished singing and I’m not finished trying. Take a Breath today. Maybe your day has been like my day. One of those days. It’s okay. Even when we’re in the middle of one of those days, there is something that holds onto us. Could I be wrong that? Yes, I could be wrong. But I could be right, too. There is something in the universe that is faithful to me. And tomorrow is another day. For me. For you. Another day for all God’s children.

April 20, 2018
by Dr. R. Scott
0 comments

Earth. Day. 2018.

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As I prepare for a wonderful Earth Day Sunday at First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, I offer this poem for your reflection by the great poet W.S. Merwin. I love this poem. I love Merwin’s poetry. Just to see. To see a tree is a gift. A moment of Spirit. I hope you enjoy it as much as I, and if you’re in Los Angeles this Sunday, I hope you will join me for what promises to be a spectacular Sunday. Take a Breath. Love God. Notice a tree.

Trees

I am looking at trees
they may be one of the things I will miss
most from the earth
though many of the ones I have seen
already I cannot remember
and though I seldom embrace the ones I see
and have never been able to speak
with one
I listen to them tenderly
their names have never touched them
they have stood round my sleep
and when it was forbidden to climb them
they have carried me in their branches

April 18, 2018
by Dr. R. Scott
1 Comment

Barbara. Bush.

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I was a fan. A real fan of Barbara Bush. First Lady. Mother. Grandmother. Wife. Friend to many. Matriarch of a family. Philanthropist. Person of faith. I’m Taking a Breath today and thinking of the many reasons why I admired her so much . . . maybe you can Take a Breath in her memory today too . . .

  1. She loved her family and was fiercely loyal to them.
  2. She was a person of principle but not a political ideologue.
  3. She cared about her community and country.
  4. She spoke her mind, always feisty, but without being mean spirited.
  5. She was a person of faith and loved her church.
  6. She treated friends and strangers alike with dignity and respect.
  7. She maintained her personal dignity in the public arena.
  8. She cared about literacy and education for young people.
  9. She had an amazing wit and a mischievous sense of humor.
  10. And finally, she rocked gray hair and wore a strand of pearls like nobody’s business!

April 17, 2018
by Dr. R. Scott
1 Comment

Missing. You.

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I know it’s not that big of deal — it’s only been two Sundays — but I have missed you — First Congregational Church of Los Angeles! I have missed you and look forward to seeing you this coming Sunday. Thank you for the many expressions of concern and good wishes regarding my health. I’m doing well. I have follow up appointments this coming Friday, and until otherwise notified, I’m back to work!

This coming Sunday is Earth Day Sunday! We will celebrate the goodness of God’s creation, reminding one another that there is something profoundly sacred to Mother Earth. I would suggest that we think of the earth as the body of God — how we care for the earth is how we care for God. Want to love God? Great! Love the earth. I’ve been thinking a lot about my own body over the past weeks, and how caring for the body is a way of caring for the God that lives within us all.

Would you join me this week at First Church? Sunday morning at 11.00 AM. We will welcome our new Associate Minister for Children, Youth and Families — Wally (Cynthia) Hoeger. I would love to see the church crawling with babies, children and youth! It’s going to be a great Sunday at First Church. In the New Testament the Church is called the “body” of Christ. A reminder that another way we love God is by caring for our community of faith.

Take a Breath with me today. Care for the body. The body of the earth. The body of your community. Your personal body that so freely carries you through life. Take a Breath with gratitude and love for the ever in-fleshing / em-bodying presence of the divine.

 

 

April 7, 2018
by Dr. R. Scott
12 Comments

Heart. Pause.

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I’m taking a heart pause. Literally. A. Heart. Pause. A few weeks ago I was experiencing a slight shortness of breath while exercising . . .

A trip to my doctor . . . Hmm . . .

An EKG . . . Hmm . . .

And then a CT Scan . . . Hmm . . .

And then a Stress Test . . . Hmm . . .

And then an Angiogram . . .

And then a complete blockage in a coronary artery. And then the hospital. And then two stents.

I am home now. I am fine. Compared to so many people in the world, I am a lucky man. A blessed man. It’s humbling, of course, when a medical team saves your life. It is humbling to know (really know) that every single heartbeat is a gift of God. I knew that. (Theoretically) Now I know it.(Experientially.)

I’m in recovery mode now. My body is a little sore. I’m feeling excited and thrilled in one moment, and then the next moment I find myself inexplicable depressed and somber.

Like many of you, when it comes to daily habits, I know what I want to do, I know what I should do, and I know what I need to do, but I don’t always follow through. And so, like many before me, I am trying to reboot my life — take better care of myself, find more balance with my work life and professional life, eat better, exercise more, and through it all try to live in a way that relishes life as a gift, but which recognizes that moderation is a good thing too.

I’m not sure why I’m sharing all of this tonight. It’s Saturday night. I’m not going to church tomorrow. I feel no pressure over a sermon. But if I were preaching tomorrow, preaching tomorrow on the Sunday after Easter, it would be something like this — Life is a gift. Friends matter. Family matters. Faith matters. Live fully. Live gratefully. Be brave. Be fearless. Love others.

Take a Breath with me today. I don’t often ask this, but if you’re so inclined, say a prayer for me today. I will say a prayer for you too. I look forward to being back in the pulpit of First Congregational Church of Los Angeles on April 22. Between now and then I’ll doing some thinking and praying and reading, and if I’m lucky a little walking on the beach.

April 4, 2018
by Dr. R. Scott
2 Comments

50. Years. Ago.

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I was eleven years old when Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed. I was becoming aware of the world at age eleven. There was no such thing as “news” outlets or information choices. There was only the news — NBC, CBS and ABC. We were an NBC family, though CBS reigned with the avuncular presence of Walter Cronkite.

When Dr. King was assassinated, standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, I was very much aware of his national presence. He was in the news constantly and I was electrified by his speeches. I had a distinct feeling when I heard the news of his assassination that the world had changed.  Dramatically. Poignantly. Forever changed.

The two nearest cities of my hometown were Louisville, Kentucky and Indianapolis, Indiana. Robert Kennedy was in Indianapolis the day Dr. King died, and it fell upon his shoulders to announce, primarily to an African American audience, that Dr. King had been killed. If you watch a news clip of that day, you can hear the anguished grief in his voice. To the south in Louisville, a terribly segregated city and the hometown of famed boxer Cassius Clay / Mohammed Ali, the feeling was one of visceral rage.

In some small way, but in a way that was profoundly real to me, I knew that Dr. King’s struggle for America was a good struggle, the right struggle, and a struggle completely consistent with the message of Jesus. To this day I still believe in the fundamental human rights of all people — dignity, respect, compassion, opportunity, equality and justice. Like Dr. King, I anchor these values in the life and teachings of Jesus. But for me these values were also articulated by Dr. King’s message, and it’s why to this day I count him as one of the most important figures of my life.

Dr. King was killed 50 years ago today. In one way of looking at it we have made amazing progress as a society. But the work is not finished. Take a Breath with me today. On this 50th anniversary of his death I dedicate myself  again to Dr. King’s high purposes. Will you join me?

March 31, 2018
by Dr. R. Scott
0 comments

Yet. Not Yet.

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Oh how I am ready for Easter tomorrow morning at First Congregational Church of Los Angeles. Joy. Music. Laughter. Enough fragrance from the flowers to open a perfume factory. We’re all in need of resurrection, and the eternal greening of our souls marked with the arrival of spring.

Yet . . . Not yet . . .

Yesterday was Good Friday and contemplating the suffering of Jesus, which is the suffering of God, was almost too much. Good Friday never stops, because human anguish never stops.

But what about Saturday? Most of us are living in between something. In between a relationship. In between jobs. In between pay checks. Tomorrow is Easter. But most of us live in the Saturday time of yet-not-yet.

And so we Take a Breath during the yet-not-yet times. We center ourselves with prayer. We remember again that we are daughters and sons of God. We Take a Breath, trusting that even breathing is a prayer. We trust the silent working of something in our lives. Like yeast in dough or like a pearl quietly forming within the darkness of an oyster shell.

We keep living and waiting. We keep waiting and living. It’s Saturday. And it’s okay.