December 8, 2016
by Dr. R. Scott
3 Comments

A. Nudge. Toward. Gentleness.

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During this holiday season I would like to nudge each of you toward gentleness. To be gentle with ourselves is an act of grace, kindness, and love.

Coming from the Midwest, I think of the occasional snowfall on Christmas Day. It blankets the earth with frozen whiteness, muffling the sounds of daily activity and providing a cushion for the hurts that so often plague the human spirit. When snow falls on Christmas day the world settles into quietness. Gentleness.

Oh how some of us are so demanding toward ourselves, relentlessly pushing to finish the list or check off one more errand. And then there are the shoulds — I should be better, I should be more, I should do this, I should do that, I should lose weight, I should improve, I should, I should, I should . . .

If ever there was a time for gentleness toward our deepest self, it is the Christmas season. According to the Gospel of Luke, they wrapped the baby in swaddling clothes on that first Christmas Day. What would it mean to wrap ourselves in gentleness this Christmas? To accept some of our weaknesses? To make peace with some of our mistakes? To lessen the load of heaviness we have been carrying?

Take a Breath today.  Christmas is less than three weeks away! Don’t panic, however, and run yourself into the ground. Instead, breath. Breath a little more. And find some time over the next few days to be gentle with yourself.

December 6, 2016
by Dr. R. Scott
0 comments

Restoring. Our. Humanity.

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There are so many things about Christmas that I love, not the least of which is that it provides an annual opportunity to restore our humanity. The music. The carols. The stories. And of course there is the intersection with culture. Perhaps taking children to see a performance of The Nutcracker. Or maybe doing a Messiah sing-a-long. And who doesn’t like watching a classic Christmas movie like It’s a Wonderful Life, or a not so classic one like Christmas Vacation? During the holidays art and culture intersect. And that’s a good thing.

Tomorrow night is a cultural highlight for me at First Congregational Church of Los Angeles. At 7 pm we’ll have a presentation of Charles Dickens’ classic story — A Christmas Carol. The story will be performed by one of the great actors working in America today – – Mr. David Mellville. I’m reaching out to all my Los Angeles friends and asking you to do yourself a favor and join me tomorrow evening at 7 pm. It is going to be a magical evening. The telling of the story lasts just a little over an hour.

Pay what you can at the door as a donation. No one will be turned away. Join me Christmas season in Taking a Breath. Let’s find a way to be blessed tomorrow night in Shatto Chapel at First Church. And then, let’s go out into this holiday season ready to bless others.

December 1, 2016
by Dr. R. Scott
0 comments

Real. Christmas.

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There’s a mantra in almost every recovery program that goes like this: “Keep it real.” Keeping it real means we focus on what is most important. Not the superficial experience but the inner meaning. Keeping it real means you go to the essence of something.

What would it mean for you to keep Christmas real this year?

One modest approach might be this: Do one thing this year that brings you closer to the original message of Christmas. One thing that represents a real Christmas.

  • You might try to attend a church on a Sunday. It’s a wonderful time of year to reconnect to a faith community.
  • At First Congregational Church of Los Angeles we have a Jazz Vesper Service December 4 at 7 pm. It will feature one of America’s great jazz musicians — Peter Erskine.
  • On December 7, we’ll offer a retelling of Charles Dickens’ — “A Christmas Carol.” This will feature one of our nation’s great actors — David Melville.
  • On Sunday December 11 we’ll have a reception after church featuring a children’s Christmas musical. It will delight you with the essence of the Christmas spirit.
  • On December 18 our Sunday morning emphasis on Handel’s Messiah will continue with the singing of the “Hallelujah Chorus.” It will be spectacular!
  • Christmas Eve will feature three services — Children and Families at 5 pm and traditional Lessons and Carols at 8 and 11.
  • Christmas morning will feature a service at 11 am with lots of carol singing and my homily titled: “Did You Get What You Wanted for Christmas?”

It’s the first day of December. The days are getting shorter. The list of things to do is getting longer. But Take a Breath today. In fact, Take a Breath every single day during this Christmas season. Keep it real. Do one thing that brings you closer to the reason for the season.

 

 

November 25, 2016
by Dr. R. Scott
3 Comments

Mrs. Brady.

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Florence Henderson passed away today. She was 82 years old.

I was once in a hot tub with Florence Henderson. We were soaking in a hot tub on the coast of California, and I looked over and recognized her.

And of course I said, “Well, Mrs. Brady, it’s so nice to see you.”

She said, “It’s nice to see you too too.”

That was it.

Take A Breath. Not every blog has to be profound.

November 24, 2016
by Dr. R. Scott
5 Comments

Happy. Thanksgiving.

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I’ve always thought of Thanksgiving as the most stable American holiday. It precludes any religious fights at the dinner table. People more or less agree on the menu — turkey and lots of it. It doesn’t have the same emotional baggage of Christmas or New Year’s Eve. And I’m guessing that most of us are even going to take a break from talking about the recent Presidential election.

Thanksgiving is the day to be, well, to be thankful.

Yet like most holidays it also becomes a marker. Last year life was this way. This year it is another way. No holiday, including the benign holiday of Thanksgiving, is immune from the vagaries of life. I’m thinking of the many people around the country for whom life has changed this past year. I think of families in my church who have recently lost loved ones. (I have two memorial services next weekend.) I think of people of the verge of a life change. (I’m conducting a wedding on Saturday.) I’m thinking of families coping with loss or change or both this year.

The genius of gratitude, of course, is that you aren’t merely grateful when life turns out well; you’re grateful for whatever is presented to you. This is why gratitude transforms everything, including the inevitable losses that touch our lives. A sure way to have a happier life is to rediscover gratitude. It’s that simple. The more grateful we are, the more alive we feel

I wish each of you a Happy Thanksgiving. More importantly, I invite you to Take a Breath, and experience gratitude on this most important of holidays. Perhaps for many of you, today is simply a repeat from last year. Yet I suspect for some of you, myself included, life is different in 2016. Yet gratitude, gratitude, gratitude . . . in all things gratitude.

November 11, 2016
by Dr. R. Scott
0 comments

Veterans Day

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To all who have worn the uniform of our nation, who said good-bye to family and friends in order to serve our nation, to those who risked their lives, to those who were wounded and traumatized by the horrors of war, to those who endured hardship, to those who experienced disruption of their personal dreams and aspirations, to those who have gone back into civilian life to make countless contributions to communities all across this country, I say thank you. I honor you today. Veterans Day. A grateful nation Takes a Breath and says thank you.

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

Oh Leonard. My Friend in a Suit. I Miss You Already.

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Leonard Cohen passed away tonight and I miss him already. The silencing of his voice creates a small cave inside my heart. Dark and empty. A wine bottle tossed out on the curb. Only echoes. I discovered Leonard Cohen years and years ago and he has been a companion for most of my adult life. He wrote the songs. I liked his voice. Old and gravelly and full of soul. His poetry was exquisite. (Better than Bob Dylan. Nobel Prize notwithstanding). Leonard helped me sing all my “broken hallelujahs.” I’ve had so many of them in my life. He helped me understand the feeling of being overcome by love, because “there ain’t no cure for love.” He helped me think of my “gypsy wife.” He helped me want to wear a “famous blue raincoat.” And in fact I have a blue raincoat. He helped me articulate feelings like being a bird on the wire. Or to sing to a woman that “I’m your man” and to mean it, really mean it. He helped me see that every Sunday morning I “pay my rent in the tower of song.” I’ve prayed over and over again: “If it be your will, that I speak no more, that my voice be still, as it was before.” I’ve wistfully thought about my “secret life.” I’ve wanted to kiss someone “a thousand kisses deep.” And yes, “I’m still crazy for love.” How over and over again, in one form or another, “sisters of mercy” have taken care of me. I even quoted Leonard Cohen to my doctor last week during my annual physical. I said, “I ache in the places where I used to play.” What can I say about you, dear Leonard? You liked a nice suit and so do I. Your father was a tailor in Canada. Oh Leonard, I too was born with a “golden voice.” I had no choice. I’ve spent time studying the world’s religions, but like you, my old friend, “cheerfulness kept breaking in.” I will listen to your music for as long as I can and I will sing as long as I have breath. I Take a Breath tonight for you Leonard Cohen. “O crown of light. O darkened one.” You made such a difference inside me.

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November 9, 2016
by Dr. R. Scott
4 Comments

Disappointment.

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When life turns out differently, when it doesn’t work out according to our best hopes or dreams, or when we work and plan and do our best only to fail, or when we feel so right about an outcome but that outcome does not happen, we experience a universal feeling of disappointment.

Some of us are waking up today terribly disappointed about a Presidential election. Even disappointed in America. Others are ecstatic with happiness. This is the way democracy works. In the end there’s a winner and loser. I wish the new President well. The weekend of his inauguration in January I’ll host a Interfaith Trilogue at First Congregational Church of Los Angeles with Rabbi Steve Leder and Imam Jihad Turk. Our focus will be this: “Three Religious Leaders: Thoughts For Our New President.”

In one way or another each of us is forced to navigate waters of disappointment. In relationships. In business. In ourselves. The genius of faith is that it transcends our immediate circumstances. That is to say, the night might be difficult but joy comes in the morning. Jesus affirmed this to his followers again and again by saying, “I am with you always.” Beyond pain. Beyond suffering. Beyond death. There is a presence of goodness and love that abides within us.

In the middle of disappointment I know only two things to do . . . refocus on that Presence of God that is above all, in all and through all, and then move forward into a new day, living life with as much passion and integrity as I can muster and continue caring for the issues that bring healing to the human family — respect, love, compassion, beauty, inclusion, kindness and justice. Take a Breath today. Disappointment is real. I know that. But I believe faith is real too.

 

November 2, 2016
by Dr. R. Scott
4 Comments

God. And. Baseball.

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The Chicago Cubs have won the World Series tonight, and with this single victory the universe has given us a gift. The lowly Cubs, perennially cursed, burdened with various flukes of failure and discombobulated efforts, beloved by fans and derided around the country by opposing teams, the Chicago Cubs, my dearly loved Cubs, have won the World Series tonight.

My dear friends spread out around the many corners of this great country and faithful readers of Take a Breath, the universe has smiled upon us all with love and kindness tonight, because tonight, unlike other nights in our often burdened and darkened lives, we can see that there is hope in the world. That life is open. That the world can get better. That love is possible. That after defeat after defeat after defeat, in the words of a great African America spiritual, “Joy has come to us in the morning.”

Yes, a fissure has developed in the psyche of the human family, and tonight, whether we are awake or asleep, whether we watched the game or not, the universe has offered us a wry smile of goodness. There is a heart beating tonight in the deep down beauty of all things. A rainbow has appeared over the United States of America. Even the timid and shy are considering speaking in tongues.

You may wonder when you walk out of your house on Thursday morning, “Why am I a little happier today? Why do I feel my heart racing with with unity and wholeness and well being? What is this existential joy that seems to be rushing through my veins?” The answer is simple: The Chicago Cubs have won the World Series.

Yet their victory, achieved on the green mundaneness of a baseball field points us toward a depth of experience that is often rare, rare and wondrous and verging on the ecstatic, because in the early days of November, with the days becoming shorter and the nights longer, we have been assured — I’m just going to say it — we have been assured by nothing less than the presence of God that the sweetness of every breath is good, that every heart beat is full of possibility, and that in this one baseball game we have discovered the mystery of all things.

Take a Breath today. Whether you are a baseball fan or not, let’s at least agree to this: the game breaks our heart. And sometimes, wonder of wonders, it puts it back together.

 

 

October 24, 2016
by Dr. R. Scott
0 comments

Street. Photos.

Jesus once said, “They have eyes but do not see. Ears but do not hear.” Which of course is all of us some of the time and some of us all of the time. But to help you open your eyes a little wider this week, I offer a couple of street photos I’ve recently taken . . .

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And then one more that seems to go with it. We cannot fly all of the time. But surely every human being is entitled to fly some of the time. Take a Breath. Blessings to you all.

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