March 3, 2015
by Dr. R. Scott
0 comments

Mixed. Bag.

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This is how it works . . . rarely is it perfectly light or completely dark. Utterly good or horribly bad. It’s a mixed bag.

I had the experience myself recently. Not one but two colleagues reached out to me in such a lovely, human, honest way. Thank you. Thank you so much. They weren’t trying to save me or fix me. They were just being friends. On the other hand, I had a phone call on that same day from a man who is dying. This is not a metaphor. He’s dying. And he’s lonely and afraid and not sure what to do next. I’m still thinking about him. It’s a mixed bag.

It’s hard, isn’t it, to decide from one minute to the next whether to praise the world or curse it? Yet, and this is the one great stretch and aspiration of the human heart, all of living becomes a gift we are called to embrace. Not some of it but all of it. Life is an opportunity to learn and grow and change. An opportunity to become stronger and more vulnerable. Yet, it’s always a mixed bag.

Take a Breath today. Sorting out the mixed bag of each day is really the adventure of faith. It’s the adventure of becoming human.

February 27, 2015
by Dr. R. Scott
7 Comments

Leonard. Nimoy.

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I am NOT one of those people. One of those people who loved Star Trek and attended conventions and collected memorabilia. Not that there’s anything wrong with it. And I mean that. Really. I just want to be clear that I’m not a fan.

Yet I admired Leonard Nimoy and I’m sorry to hear of his passing. I admired him because he was more than Spock. He was a man of the theater. And he loved and wrote poetry. And he loved music and often sang in that Rod McKuen-Seasons-in-the-Sun kind of way back when I was in high school.

There is a little theater in NYC named after Leonard Nimoy. I used to have a friend who lived near there, so I would often walk pass it on my way to her apartment. I liked it that Leonard Nimoy had a theater named after him.

Recently Frank Bruni wrote in the New York Times about how a college humanities professor made a difference in his life. I could ditto that article again and again and again. I love the arts, not because they entertain me, but because they deepen my humanity. Who knew? Spock was a humanities guy.

I once ran into William Shatner on Larchmont Avenue in Los Angeles. He was, well, he was like William Shatner. I also rode an elevator with with Patrick Stewart in a hotel and asked him a question that was so stupid I’m embarrassed to reveal it and so I won’t.

But Leonard Nimoy — Dr. Spock — he was so much more. He was an actor and singer and poet. A troubadour of the human spirit. If you were a fan, my condolences. If you were indifferent, sorry to waste your time with this blog. But I Take a Breath from time to time, and I especially take one when someone important has broken off from the island of my life and floats away during the night. Leonard Nimoy. Thank you.

And in keeping with his spirit I will simply say: (You knew this was coming.) Be well and prosper.

February 27, 2015
by Dr. R. Scott
6 Comments

Random Post. Patterned Thought.

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Why have I not been writing on my Take a Breath blog? I don’t know. That’s the truth. I’m clueless. I have thoughts. And feelings. And ideas. But I’m distracted right now and I can’t explain it. Blogs have become a dime a dozen. Less than a dime. I’m not sure anyone gives a dime.

I thought it about Monday night. There was a car chase on the television news. Los Angeles television loves car chases. I woke up on Tuesday morning and there was a train wreck. Chases. Wrecks. Wrecks. Chases. I want to write about it, but I don’t really know what to say. I don’t even know how to feel. I want something more from life than wrecks and chases.

We had an amazing worship service last Sunday at First Worship. And we’ll do it again this Sunday at 9.00AM. It was so moving. So wonderful. I was proud of everyone that made it happen. I could write about it. I should write about it. But nothing. I have nothing. I’m not sure what to say. It was simply, splendidly, spiritually real. But I’m still thinking about it and not sure what to do with it.

Things are happening in the world. Big things. Little things. Neil Patrick Harris walked onstage in his underwear. John Travolta is getting more and more creepy. Birdman won the Oscar for best picture, and contrary to many of my friends, I liked it. I really liked it. (Birdman. Not Neil Patrick Harris in his underwear.)

My Associate Ministers, Ryan and Shanna, are leaving for new jobs in Kansas City. I’m in a funk about it. I really am. I’m trying to be positive and focused on the future and reframing it in a positive way, but the real truth is this: I’m sad. Just sad. Sad and a little scared. And my church is sad too. I know it. They know it. It’s life. But it’s sad.

I had a dream about Jerry and Diane Zehr. Old friends. Dear friends. What does it mean? Is there a message? An insight I need to pick up and understand? I think about them a lot, but over the past few nights, I’ve been dreaming about them. I don’t know why.

Sometimes I think the spiritual life is so utterly random. One thing pinging or ponging off another thing. Here’s the thing I learned a few weeks ago at a conference: Physicists now believe that what we think is random is not random at all. There are patterns in everything, including the patterns in our chaos. Most days I believe it. Rarely can I see it.

So Take a Breath today. It’s Friday. Feel what you need to feel. Be good to yourself today and another person. Pay attention to life. That’s about all I can say today. I hope it’s enough.

 

 

February 14, 2015
by Dr. R. Scott
3 Comments

Blue. Valentine.

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First Love. Last Love.

I gave you my love and pain, but mostly my pain.

You held it in your hand like a Robin’s egg –

Small and blue and so crushable.

Thank you for being so kind.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

February 11, 2015
by Dr. R. Scott
6 Comments

Brian. Williams. Bridget. Jones.

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Embellishment is so tempting. No one is immune. Including NBC News Anchor Brian Williams. But why is it so tempting? I think the answer may well lie within our human complexity, and yes, that includes our religious impulse. Every human being wants to be noticed. We want to know and feel that we matter. This need is more than a mere personality quirk; this is an existential longing found in every human being. The Christian faith, of course, offers a corresponding answer to this deep need, namely, that through Jesus Christ we are not only known by God; we are also loved and accepted by God. At times those of us who profess such faith actually believe it. We trust that we matter, and therefore have nothing to prove. On a good day we relax into our own skin, enjoy life and love our neighbor as ourselves. We even feel that we are held by something larger than ourselves. (Different religions express this truth in various ways.) But at other times we don’t trust it. And so we try to work our way, accomplish out way, spend our way, achieve our way, and in some instances, embellish our way toward significance. This is why most of us modulate between being too important (narcissism) and not feeling important enough (low self-esteem). Is misrepresentation wrong? Yes. It’s wrong. And in the case of Brian Williams, it was especially wrong because we count on journalists to give us an accurate reporting of the news. Furthermore, he claimed a valor that belonged to our troops serving in Iraq. You just can’t do that. Yet, to anchor the news today means more than being a journalist. We have turned journalists into celebrities, and they are marketed by networks, not so much as serious journalists, but as talk show hosts or reality television stars. Yet beyond the blurred lines of “infotainment,” the curtain has been pulled back and something philosophical has been revealed in the past few days, namely (and Take a Breath on this one), that we embellish because we are insecure, and we are insecure because we have not believed one of the cardinal truths of faith (and Bridget Jones Diary) — That God loves us just the way we are.

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February 10, 2015
by Dr. R. Scott
2 Comments

Bliss. Of. Ignorance.

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So it turns out that it’s true — ignorance really is bliss.

I recently attended a conference on the relationship between religion and science. It was amazing, fascinating, interesting, and I understood about every third sentence throughout the five days of lectures. I was in over my head. By the end of the week my brain hurt. (No, I’m not kidding, it really hurt.) I took notes. Pondered. Dozed off once. And most of the week I was baffled and confused.

I loved it.

It’s humbling to be around smart, accomplished, creative people. Yet, rather than feeling humiliated by my lack of knowledge, it felt surprisingly wonderful. It was bliss to know that so many people are thinking about the important questions of life. It was bliss to realize that behind one door is another door and another door and another door. And it was bliss to know that we’re never locked-in; that there’s always another way to think and feel and be in this world.

So I encourage you today — Take a Breath. There are many ways of looking at life, and that’s especially true when it comes to God and the mystery of the universe. To be sure, there’s a time and place to lean upon that which we know and believe, but it’s equally important to embrace what we don’t know — becoming a novice — and opening ourselves to the bliss of the unknown.

 

 

February 6, 2015
by Dr. R. Scott
6 Comments

A. Little. Poem. (that’s all)

Listening to a Lecture

A man sits on a stage.

He is reading from an ancient book.

I am listening to him read from the ancient book.

He is so sincere, and thinks that reading from the ancient book is enough.

It is not, of course, but I love that he believes it.

I have believed it too.

 

 

 

January 30, 2015
by Dr. R. Scott
10 Comments

Donald Hall: Essays After Eighty.

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I can’t imagine anyone reading this book. Unless of course you might be interested in literature. Or poetry. Or art. Or unless you ever think about getting old. Or you know someone who is old. Or unless you might be interested what it’s like for a brilliant artist to feel his creative powers recede from his body. Or unless you might have some interest in what it was like to live in the fifties and sixties and seventies and eighties and so forth. And to go through a marriage or two. And lose a beloved spouse. And grieve in such a way that you can barely function. And I can’t imagine anyone reading this book unless you think back to what it was like to go through periods of life when it was all work and happiness and happiness and work. And I can’t imagine anyone reading this book unless you’ve ever thought about encroaching death. Not passing away. Not taking a final voyage. But dying. If you’ve thought about any of the above, then you might just enjoy, as I thoroughly enjoyed, reading a new book by Donald Hall titled Essays After EightyTake a Breath today. If you don’t like the book, you’ll surely love the front cover photograph of Donald Hall. A reminder that sometimes old is beautiful.

January 24, 2015
by Dr. R. Scott
6 Comments

Two Lives. Two Deaths. One Reflection.

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This week two people I admired greatly passed away . . .

One was a theologian and scholar, Marcus Borg, and I found great insight from his writings and lectures. Borg was certainly a leading light for those of us who think of ourselves as progressive Christians. Not only did he bring great insight into the life of Jesus, he understood the importance of establishing Interfaith dialogue. He was brilliant, humble, and a person who cared deeply about the church. (As an aside, he looked very much like my father, Richard Colglazier). Borg will continue to live on through his many books, but he will be desperately missed.

The other person I’m thinking about today is Ernie Banks. Mr. Cub. He played for the Chicago Cubs for 19 seasons. I remember watching him on television when I was a kid. He had a pure enthusiasm for the game, was always a gentleman, and even though he broke the racial barrier with the Cubs, he always remained humble and a true professional both on and off the field. After his baseball career ended, he remained the most popular Chicago Cub of all time. I’m so glad he was awarded the Presidential Meal of Honor before his passing.

I never really knew Marcus Borg, though I preached in his home parish years ago, and read many of his books. I never met Ernie Banks, even though I admired him from afar. Yet both of these men — professional, accomplished, inspirational — made a difference in my life and the lives of so many. I’m grateful for both of them today.

It’s a Saturday and a good day to Take a Breath. One of the measures of our humanity is giving thanks for those people — near and far — who brought pleasure, joy and insight into our lives. And for me at least, I am thinking of two very different men — Macus Borg and Ernie Banks. One man taught me that Jesus still matters; another taught me that — next to Jesus — no one quite suffers like a Cub’s fan.

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January 21, 2015
by Dr. R. Scott
8 Comments

Books. Old. Friends.

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I was walking past a used bookstore a few weeks ago (yes, they still exist), and couldn’t help but notice some of the volumes in the window. But more than noticing them, I saw books that I had read years ago, and each book brought back a specific memory of time and experience. I read a book by Gadamer in graduate school. I remember struggling to understand it and the implications around philosophical hermeneutics. And then The Great Gatsby. I first read it in college, and then again a few years ago, and I am still enamored with the beauty of the language. There was a Steinbeck volume in the window, and I could feel again my love for his writing and the connection I feel to the Salinas Valley, little towns like King City and Gonzalez dotting that beautiful landscape. There was also a copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I loved that book. That book changed me. I remember reading it over thirty years ago when Marti was pregnant with our first child.

All of this makes me think that sometimes a book is more than a book; a book becomes a friend, a companion, a presence that stays with us throughout the years. I know someday my library will be dismantled and sold off (perhaps by the pound), but for now at least when I look at my bookshelves its like reviewing a life. My life. Books become markers. Touchstones. You’re a certain way before reading Gatsby. You’re different after reading Gatsby. That’s how it works. Books are that important. I know many people are reading off their devices these days, and that’s fine and good. I have lugged suitcases full of books around the globe. But there’s great pleasure in perusing your shelves or walking past a used bookstore or even getting a new book from Amazon. You Take a Breath. And you realize once again that a book isn’t just a book. A book is a friend that stays with you forever on the journey.

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