May 26, 2016
by Dr. R. Scott
5 Comments

The. Journey. Begins.

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I begin a summer sabbatical today. The send off I received from First Church last week was amazing. I will never forget that Sunday for as long as I live. Beautiful flowers from Susan Leary. Music from Jonathan Talberg and Christoph Bull. The performance of “The Alan Watts Blues.” Our never-ceases-to-amaze-me choir. Liturgy from Laura Fregin. Kaleidoscopes for the children. Eloquent comments from Tom Strickler. A great turnout of people. An outstanding reception after church. The day was perfect. I don’t think of myself as deserving any of it, but I am deeply grateful for all of it. And today my friend and facilities manager, Leo Lopez, put together a fabulous lunch for me and the staff. I recognize today that the journey is everything. I once thought life was about being someone or getting somewhere. I am only now beginning to understand that it’s the journey toward those things that matters most. As for God, well, for me at least, God has become the ultimate question. Not the final answer. As I said in my sermon last week, “Journeys are supposed to be unknown. That’s why they require faith and courage and receptivity to the many gifts and challenges life presents.” I’ll do my best to pay attention this summer. To listen more deeply. To laugh when I want to laugh. To cry when I need to grieve my life. To love more passionately. To enjoy the gifts of art and music and poetry and literature and travel. And quiet. Copious amounts of quiet. To open my eyes wider to beauty. And suffering. To feel and think, bringing my heart and mind together to form a union within myself. I hope you’ll find a few moments of sabbath yourself this summer. Listen to the deeper voices of your soul. Enjoy your life. And First Church members — Attend Church Every Sunday! I love you all.

May 17, 2016
by Dr. R. Scott
4 Comments

It’s. Almost. Here.

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This coming Sunday, May 22, will be my last Sunday at First Congregational Church of Los Angeles before beginning my summer sabbatical.

To those of you who are friends and members of First Church, it would be so good to see you on Sunday. (Our service begins at 11 AM.) You are part of my life. I am part of your life too. Let’s come together this week. It would mean so much to me.

Also, my friend Tom Strickler is furnishing an amazing reception after church. Delicious! Plus, where else can you hear a rendition of Van Morrison’s song — “The Alan Watts Blues?” It’s going to be a special Sunday.

I have so many thoughts as I approach the summer, but the primary one is gratitude, gratitude for the people who care for me, believe in what I’m trying to do at the church, and especially gratitude toward so many who work alongside me each week. I feel gratitude toward those who will make this sabbatical possible. I know it will be a burden to the staff, but I will try to repay it on down the line.

People have been asking me: “What are you looking forward to the most?” The answer is simple — I’m looking forward to time. Time to think. Time to read. Time to feel. Time to clear my head, to look back on my life and look ahead to my life. Most of all, I look forward to the freedom of waking up and deciding what I want to do on any given day.

I’m also looking forward to writing. Really writing what I want to write. I’ve found it all but impossible to work on a writing project outside my weekly church responsibilities. I hope I’ll get into the routine of writing every day this summer. If I’m lucky, I’ll get into a creative zone and actually make some progress on a book. If I don’t make any progress, I plan to lower my standards and not worry about it.

And so friends, I end every sermon by saying “I love you all, let’s love one another.” I think that’s how I’ll end this blog post today too. Take a Breath. I love you all. If you can be in church this week, I look forward to seeing you. I’ll be taking a break from social media this summer. My work email will be shut down. I know First Church is in good hands. Hold me in you heart this summer. I need it more than you know.

 

May 10, 2016
by Dr. R. Scott
0 comments

Under. Construction.

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How simple it all would be if we could just get it together. But getting it together is an elusive thing for many of us. Myself included.

I’m sitting at my desk, looking out the window, and I see so many signs of construction.

The finials on the front of our church are being repaired. Down below children from our school are playing in the courtyard, and they are in the intense process of constructing their young lives.

The fact that they are playing there at all is a result of a construction project on our campus — a new parking garage and soccer field.

Beyond the church the Los Angeles skyline is dynamic. Cranes and construction projects are visible from my office in three different places.

All of it reminds me of where I am inside my soul: I’m done with the most futile project of my life, namely, getting it all together.

I was under construction yesterday. I am today. And I’m going to be under construction tomorrow. I think the whole human experience can be best summarized with two words: Under. Construction.

Some days it’s exciting. Other days terrifying. But embracing the unknown means that life is open. Living with openness and courage is the essence of everything I know to be true about faith.

So Take a Breath today. Are you under construction? Fantastic. Embrace it. Love it. Befriend it. It means you’re still alive and part of the human family. I would even say that it’s a sign God is not finished with you (or me) yet.

April 27, 2016
by Dr. R. Scott
4 Comments

Longing.

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Longing begins like a small seed inside your soul. It is dormant for weeks. Maybe years. And then the right amount of rain and sunlight begins to awaken it. (That’s a metaphor. I’m talking about life circumstances, events or feelings.) It germinates quietly. No one notices it. You don’t even notice it yourself. Until one day you feel a slender vine growing up inside your heart, tickling your lungs, and up through your throat, and soon it reaches out through your ears and nose and mouth. You think: “What is happening to me? What’s wrong with me? Why is this growing inside me?” But nothing is wrong. It is longing. Once it begins growing there’s no stopping it. You either acknowledge it or you don’t. It’s inconvenient, to be sure, and utterly annoying. Some days it is painful. (That’s the price of longing.) Longing is about coming to life. The Buddha teaches that we suffer because we long too much. And thats true, but only to a point. Because to live without longing means we live without intensity or beauty or passion. Some days we make a choice: No longing and no pain or longing and the possibility of pain. That’s a choice worth Taking a Breath over.

April 21, 2016
by Dr. R. Scott
4 Comments

Prince.

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Too many thoughts tonight upon hearing of the death of Prince . . .

He was a musical genius. He forged a style all his own. A true original. I think of the music he left the world. That one thing that abides. That continues.

And his style wasn’t just music. He had a sartorial style that was unparalleled.

And the way he could move!

Oh, it takes courage to be yourself in this world. To find your own way.

Of course we all leave behind something. A kind of legacy. His passing makes me think about what I’m leaving today / living today. How I’m leaving this world for others.

He brought so much joy to people. Real joy. He was not merely a great musician; he was a great performer. His concerts were experiences. Events that stayed with people for a lifetime.

I think of him as too young to leave this world. We’ve lost too many great musicians and artists lately. I grieve them all.

The brevity of life is not cause for morbidity. It’s motivation to live. Really live and love, recognizing that every single day is a gift.

I believe that when people are in the presence of great artists, they are in the presence of God. That’s the nature of art. It transcends the ordinary. It infuses life with meaning and insight.

Like a lot of you tonight, I’m Taking a Breath. I’m saying a prayer of thanksgiving for Prince. Maybe you’ll say one too.

April 21, 2016
by Dr. R. Scott
4 Comments

Great. Reversal.

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There’s a theme that runs throughout the teachings of Jesus, namely, that God’s kingdom / presence / influence is about reversal. Jesus said, “The first shall be last the the last shall be first.” Reversal. Or again, “The meek will inherit the earth.” Reversal.

It’s hard to believe in reversal, isn’t it? It might make for a good sermon on Sunday, but the real world kicks in on Monday. In the real world the rich get richer. The poor have less. And those of us caught in the purgatory in between are perennially stuck.

Yet, low and behold, drum roll please, pull the curtains back and let’s celebrate: We have seen a great reversal in America. Andrew Jackson has been kicked off the twenty dollar bill and in his place a courageous, African American abolitionist, who fought for the freedom and dignity of her people, Harriet Tubman, will replace him.

Not only does this represent a better picture of the America we were; it represents the America we want to become. And on to top of that other women, such as Sojourner Truth and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, will be on the back the the ten dollar bill.

History / Herstory unfolds. Perspective changes. Values morph. Ethics evolve. And this is a good thing. It’s a sign that God is still working with us. From my perspective, seeing Harriet Tubman on a twenty dollar bill will not only be a good thing . . . Take a Breath . . . I would call it a God thing. I take it as a sign that God’s reversal is alive and kicking . . . even in the 21st century.

 

 

April 6, 2016
by Dr. R. Scott
2 Comments

Step. Back.

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Grace comes to us in so many different ways. Sometimes things fall into place and we’re pleased and happy and grateful. But sometimes that does not happen. Life becomes complicated. We become confused inside our minds and the way forward is not obvious. It’s not a matter of right or wrong. Oh that it were so easy! It’s often a matter of this might be good, but that might be good too. This could work. That might work. We don’t know. And so we struggle. Sometimes we agonize and struggle. Sometimes we make things worse.

I offer a simple suggestion of wisdom today — Take a step back. Maybe you can’t step off. Maybe you can’t get it fixed. Maybe you can’t find definitive direction. But step back. Take a breath. Let things settle. Pause and find a moment of peace. Consider the larger picture. Give yourself the gift of perspective. Say a prayer. Sit quietly for a few minutes. Sometimes the miracle is not found in the fixing of the problem; it’s found in discovering a new perspective on it. Perspective is everything.

Take a Breath today. It’s more than a title of my blog. It’s a way of life. And it works. I promise you. It works.

 

 

April 2, 2016
by Dr. R. Scott
2 Comments

Thoughts. That. Matter. (to me) 3.

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Everyone likes Anne Lamott. She’s a wonderful writer. Candid. Funny. Poignant. Most of all, when you she writes about the spiritual life you cannot help but feel that she is telling the truth to you. Not someone else but to you. Over the course of a lifetime we accumulate many losses. We don’t get over losses. Instead, they have a way of getting inside us. And as Lamott suggests, that is a good thing. Enjoy.

“You will lose someone you can’t live without,and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”

April 1, 2016
by Dr. R. Scott
2 Comments

Thoughts. That. Matter. (to me) 2.

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It’s one of my favorite quotes by Teilhard de Chardin. Priest. Intellectual. Scientist. Philosopher. He writes of the potential of humankind. The possibility that lives within each of us. The possibility that resides in the human family. I love this quote. It hints at the power of science and technology, as well as the limitation intrinsic to these important disciplines. There’s a place for science. There’s a place for the exploration and potential of the human spirit. A place for God.

“The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides, and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, we shall have discovered fire.”

March 31, 2016
by Dr. R. Scott
2 Comments

Thoughts. That. Matter. (to me) 1.

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I recently read a memoir by the poet Mary Karr. This quote provides insight, hope and faith in a world that chews us up on a daily basis. I share it with you today. For those of you who need it, I know you’ll love it. And if you don’t need it today, share it with a friend. After Brussels. After San Bernardino. After. After. After. It’s only a thought. But sometimes a simple thought makes all the difference.

“The world breeds monsters. But kindness grows just as wild.”