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.

October 12, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
20 Comments

6.10 PM. Sunday. Not depression exactly. Not sure what it is. (For Clergy Only)

No one told me. Not one seminary professor. Not one mentor. Not one colleague.

It’s 6.10 pm, and I started answering emails at 6.30 am and then worked my sermon over like an angry massage therapist between 8 and 9 and then I went to church and then I made announcements (considerably more stressful than a sermon) and then I delivered a sermon on anger that could have gone sideways about a hundred different ways and then did a Film Forum (A Sliver Linings Playbook) and then a few m0re conversations and then home by 4.30 0r so and then a shower and then a gin and tonic and then it’s 6.15 pm and I feel like a old wash cloth, a dirty towel in a high school locker room, a used car with rust and barely enough oil to get to the corner service station, of course I know there are no service stations but it’s just a metaphor, and then football is on (I’m for the NY Giants) and then baseball is on (I’m for the SF Giants) and then dinner at 6.25 pm because I’ve not eaten since 7.30 this morning . . .

I wonder . . .

Am I the only minister in the country who feels  this way and is there something wrong with me or is there a conspiracy of silence, about which I failed to receive a memo, because I don’t receive many memos these days hanging out on the left coast, and then it starts again on Monday morning? It. Starts. Again. And I want it to start again. I love that it starts again. But it starts again.

October is supposed to be Minister Appreciation Month. Hmm . . . Who thought that one up?

This is all I want to know. I want to know if there is another minister in the country that can appreciate what I’m saying about Sunday nights? Do I need to run to the ER tonight? I don’t have Eobla or any other lift-threatening disease. Or is everything okay, and like most folks from time to time, do I just need to learn to Take a Breath, relax, and let the troubles and triumphs of the day be enough? I’m asking. Really. I’m asking.

 

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

High Court. Personal Thoughts.

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The Supreme Court has recently provided significant support for Gay Marriage in America. And while I’ve written extensively on the topic over the past few years, I thought you might appreciate a succinct summary of where I am regarding same-sex marriage.

  • Marriage is a social institution, and by definition, social institutions evolve. If you don’t think this is true, just read the Bible, because the Bible portrays the evolutionary dynamic of marriage (multiple wives / concubines / absolute prohibition of divorce, etc.).
  • Marriage is for two people who wish to state publicly that they love one another and want to build a life together as a couple. This is true for gay people just as it is true for straight people.
  • Morality should not be measured by sexual orientation, but by the aspirations of men and women and their behaviors toward one another in the relationship.
  • The desire to be in a marriage is in fact a positive thing, regardless of the sexual orientation, because it indicates a desire to stabilize the relationship and move it toward a greater depth of meaning.
  • A gay couple getting married is not a threat to anyone else’s marriage. Just the opposite is the case. In states where gay marriage is allowed, it has become a reminder to straight couples that marriage should never be taken for granted.
  •  As someone who has performed marriage ceremonies for both gay and straight couples, I can tell you that gay couples bring extraordinary feeling to their ceremonies, and in many cases approach their marriage with greater seriousness than straight couples.
  • Marriage is one of the most sacred, mysterious and spiritual experiences we can ever engage. The fact that gay people wish to be married is a sign, not of a lack of religious sensibility, but of a desire to embrace faith more deeply. 
  • The biggest argument people make is this: Gay people are wrong. This line is reasoning is fallacious because, as gay people have been saying for a long time now, “This is who God created me to be.” Every human being should be allowed to be himself or herself.
  • I am so grateful to serve a congregation that welcomes all God’s children, including the GLBT community. The diversity of our people makes us stronger. (And infinitely more interesting!)

Take a Breath today. Let’s celebrate the rainbow collection of all God’s children. And as I say at the end of every sermon: “I love you all. Let’s love one another.”

 

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

Ebola.

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Some thoughts to keep in mind in between reports from CNN and every other hysterical news outlet in America . . .

1. Panic never helps a disease. Never.

2. Disease is not tied to ethnicity or nationality. It’s a disease. That’s it.

3. Disease does not come from God. No. It does not.

4. Disease is not in God’s plan. No. It is not. God wants to eradicate disease. God does not inflict disease upon people.

5. Disease is not a punishment. Ever. No. It is not. Sometimes diseases are consequences of behavior. But a consequence is not a punishment, and to make moral judgment about disease is a mistake.

6. People with diseases need medical care.

7. People with diseases need human compassion.

8. People with diseases need support from communities. Disease is isolating enough without losing touch with a community.

9. Diseases have scientific explanations, but they always trigger emotional trauma.

10. It’s time for the world community to come together to eradicated Ebola. We can do this. We have the capacity. If we can go to the other side of the world to start a war, then surely we can go to the other side of the world and end a disease.

It’s time to Take a Breath. It’s time to put disease into perspective. And I happen to think it’s time for America to act with with a little more faith and a little less fear. I’m just saying . . .

October 3, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
14 Comments

Of Course You’ll Disagree With This . . .

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Something has been gnawing at me for a few weeks now and I’ve debated blogging about it, primarily because I can’t prove anything and it may all be in my mind, and it will no doubt rankle about half the people who read Take a Breath . . .

A few weeks ago in New York City two entertainment stars were memorialized in impressive liturgical services. Joan Rivers, of course, was celebrated at Temple Emmanu-el, and virtually every media outlet in the country covered the memorial service, including everything that happened before and after it. Joan Rivers was a star. And she was also someone who broke barriers for women in the entertainment industry. The end of her life was the lead story for almost a week. (And yes, I was a fan.)

Interestingly enough, within days of that service another entertainment star was memorialized in New York City. She was the African American actress – Ruby Dee. Ruby Dee was an extraordinary talent. A woman of the theater and film. She was a writer. An actor. A poet. She was married to an equally fine actor, Ossie Davis. She was also on the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement, and she was never afraid to march and protest and make a difference in the world. She broke through barriers of racism and sexism, and she did so with unforgettable elegance and gutsy courage.

Yet, as remarkably talented as she was, I barely heard a word about Ruby Dee’s memorial service that week. How could an accomplished actress, entertainer and humanitarian like Ruby Dee be ignored by the national media? I’m not taking anything away from Joan Rivers. It just seems strange to me that an iconic figure like Ruby Dee can be memorialized inside the great Riverside Church of New York City and barely a ripple is made across the national landscape.

Here’s the thing about racism (and yes, I’m going there), we often think that racism is overtly violent toward another person. Yet the most insidious form of racism is when we unconsciously render others invisible because of the color of their skin. (Or age. Or class. Or sexual orientation. Or gender.)

Take a Breath and consider this: One of the most human things you can ever do is to help an invisible person become visible, which, when you think about it, is exactly what Ruby Dee did throughout her long and illustrious career. And that, it seems to me, is something worth remembering.

September 30, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
6 Comments

Message.

How can you explain it? You are walking on a street. There is an electrical box. Someone has used the box as a canvas. You stop and look at the art. You take a picture. You think about it for weeks. Is the Universe / God / Source / Soul / Collective / Meaning / Spirit / Something speaking a message to you? You Take a Breath. You take a picture.

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September 26, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
6 Comments

Death. Friendship. (not as depressing as it sounds)

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Last Sunday in The New York Times magazine, there was a marvelous article about Donald Antrim. Donald Antrim is one of the best fiction writers in America. I don’t really get his stuff, but it’s good. I’ve met Don once or twice, but that’s not really my point.

Donald’s father was Harry Antrim (pictured above). Harry Antrim was one of my best friends when I lived in Fort Worth, Texas. We often had lunch on Fridays at the Museum of Modern Art, which might also explain why I’m such a fan of the architect Tadao Ando. Harry passed away a few years ago, but I think of him often. I miss him.

In some ways, he’s like my friend David Farrar here in Los Angeles. In fact, they even look a little bit alike. Like Harry, David is smart. Interesting. Funny. And he’s possessed with an uncanny ability to let me be who I am without any judgment, expectation or attachment.

It’s a strange thing to think about a friend who has died. They are here. They are not here. Yet they remain a presence inside you.

One of the things I’ve noticed is that their presence doesn’t diminish. You would think that it would, but it doesn’t. In some cases the presence gets stronger, like a deeply saturated color — yellow ochre or aubergine.

Anyway, last Sunday afternoon as I read The New York Times, I thought about Harry Antrim and then about death and then about friendship and then about something I’m coming to believe more and more, namely, that nothing really goes away. And that when I Take a Breath, everyone I have ever known and loved is still with me. I can only hope they know that I am with them too.

September 25, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
0 comments

Tiny: A Story About Living Small

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Tiny: A Story About Living Small is a documentary. It’s diminutive in scope yet, as they say, good things come in small packages, and that’s certainly the case with this film. I liked it. It’s the story of a young man who builds a house. A tiny house. But the house is about a dream, and anytime a young person achieves a dream, it’s a beautiful thing to behold. It’s also a movie about stuff. Or better said, how we don’t need as much stuff as we think we need. What does it mean to “downsize?” Not when we’re old, but when we’re young? It’s a small film that is neither exciting nor dramatic, but it tells a human story that is worth considering. And so next time you’re searching through Netflix and trying to figure out what to watch, consider clicking on Tiny: A Story About Living Small. And get ready to Take a Breath, because I it will make you think and feel, and who knows, you might consider shedding a little of that clutter you really could live without.

September 22, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
8 Comments

War. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing. Say it again.

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I’m not a pacifist.  Many of my friends and colleagues are, and I respect them tremendously for their convictions. But I am not. I don’t know why I’m telling you this. I just am. I think there is a time and place when military intervention can accomplish a greater good. But it’s never crystal clear.

If you think I’m being inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus, all I can say is that you may be right. Still. I think there’s a time when wrongs must be made right. Enforced by a power that holds in its heart the greater good of others. But I know. In our world there aren’t just two sides to every story. There are a hundred sides. ISIS? I barely know what it is, and frankly, I can’t assess how serious a threat it is to our nation. Of course their obscene violence is repulsive. I know that. I ache for families of innocent victims. ISIS does not represent all Muslims. Let’s be clear about that. No. They do not. Maybe the President is right to begin bombing missions.

Yet I must admit — and here’s what I don’t understand — why is ISIS more of a threat to homeland security than homeland poverty? And homeland homelessness that exists all across the city of Los Angeles? And homeland crushing student loan debt that, in my opinion, is still crippling our national economy? And homeland Wall Street greed? And homeland environmental damage? And homeland air quality? And homeland water quality? And homeland racism that tears apart communities like Ferguson, Missouri? And homeland domestic abuse and sexual abuse? And homeland elderly who can barely afford to buy groceries because of their paltry retirement? And homeland educators and teachers who are paid poorly, while the work grows and grows and grows? And homeland medical care that continues to be the greatest indicator of the “haves” and “have nots” in our society? And homeland educational institutions that barely have resources to teach the arts and humanities, the life blood of the human spirit? And homeland sexism that continues to discriminate against women? And homeland homophobia that still threatens the LGBT community? And homeland immigration issues that we clearly don’t have the moral courage or political will to address?

Maybe I’m in a mood tonight. But I’ve been around long enough to see CNN cover bombing raids like low-budget video games. Headlines. Tomahawk missiles. Scud missiles. Embedded reporters. Flashing video clips. Press conferences. And of course, the explanation for “collateral damage.” I don’t want to be an isolationist. I really don’t . But I drive past collateral damage everyday on my way to work. I see it on the streets. In my congregation. In families in my neighborhood. I see it all over this country. And so . . . I’m Taking a Breath . . . and I wonder if I will ever see in my lifetime a President, or a Congress, or an American electorate that will declare war FOR the marginalized citizens of the United States of America. I can’t help but think that sometimes the greatest threat to our society is not foreign terror; it’s homeland despair.

September 15, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
1 Comment

Passages.

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No one has done more to help us understand our passages in life than Gail Sheehy. She has written about men. About women. About couples. And throughout the many decades she has been publishing, her thesis has remained remarkably consistent: We all go through passages — sometimes uniquely so — often predictably so — and each of our passages is possessed with an opportunity to learn something new.

It’s one thing, however, to write about passages with an objective journalistic eye; it’s another to tell your own personal story. Yet, that is exactly what Sheehy has done in her most recent book — Daring. It’s a moving, honest, inspiring, insightful, interesting, engaging and deeply thought-provoking book. To read it is to experience again the cultural reality of America from the 1960s through the opening of the new millennium.

I loved this book, because it made me think of my own passages. And I’m still going through passages, because as Sheehy has pointed out, the passages of life continue to reshape us all the way to the end of our days. If you like memoirs, and if you have some natural inclination to think about who you are, what you are feeling and why you are going through what you are going through, then I think you’ll enjoy this book.

Take a Breath today. I dare you to read Daring by Gail Sheehy.