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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January 17, 2015
by Dr. R. Scott
5 Comments

Dr. King. Thank You.

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I’m old enough to remember Dr. King and the news coverage of the marches he lead across the South and the speeches he delivered, including his speech “I Have a Dream” delivered in Washington D.C. I have admired him since I was a little boy and continue to admire him. I draw upon the profound sense of rightness that was at the heart of the Civil Rights movement, a rightness that has moved me over the course of my career to care about how women are treated, how minorities are treated, and in recent years, how GLBT persons are treated. I draw upon his personal courage, intelligence and spiritual genius. I draw upon his emphasis on non-violent protest. I studied Dr. King in graduate school. I’ve been honored to deliver sermons in some of the same pulpits around America where Dr. King himself once stood. I grew up in a small town in Indiana and it was white. All white. But I saw another world a few miles away in Louisville or Cincinnati or Indianapolis. Dr. King introduced to me to the “other” world, and the fact that he cared about this “other” world inspires me to care about “other” worlds today. Dr. King died so young. Were he alive today, he would be in his eighties. Nevertheless, he remains a presence with me and all of America. Every now and then our ordinary days are punctuated with greatness. I’m grateful it happened in my lifetime. Dr. King was surely an exclamation mark proclaiming that all people are God’s beloved children. Take a Breath this weekend. Take a Breath and let’s renew our commitment to peace and justice for all.

January 12, 2015
by Dr. R. Scott
1 Comment

Citizen: An American Lyric

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I’ve read a book. Not just a good book but a great book. But don’t run out and buy Claudia Rankine’s book — Citizen: An American Lyric — unless you’re interested in one of three things: 1. Lyrical poetry that throbs with insight on race in America. 2. Curiosity as to why there is still so much racial damage in our world. 3. And Women’s Professional Tennis.

Claudia Rankine is a professor at Pomona College, and if I have my way, she’ll eventually read a few sections of her book from the pulpit of First Congregational Church of Los Angeles. She is the author of several works of poetry and is a member of the Academy of American Poets. The book is an insightful mashup of pop culture and spiritual insight into our nation. I loved it and will no doubt turn to it again and again.

Yet, I liked the book for another reason and I’ll just say it: I think it’s important that white people understand how black people feel. And not just black people, but the book helped me wear the skin of the “other,” however “other” is defined at any given moment.

Almost every world religion (and certainly this is true of the Christian faith) asks its followers to honor the other, the neighbor, even the stranger and enemy. This is not easy, of course, but to some extent the salvation of the human family depends upon it.

A few quotes from Claudia Rankine . . .

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“You take in things you don’t want all the time. The second you hear or see some ordinary moment, all its intended targets, all the meanings behind the retreating seconds, as far as you are able to see, come into focus. Hold up, did you just hear, did you just say, did you just see, did you just do that? Then the voice in your head silently tells you to take your foot off your throat because just getting along shouldn’t be an ambition.”

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“To live through the days sometimes you moan like a deer. Sometimes you sigh. The world says stop that. Another sigh. Another stop that. Moaning elicits laughter, sighing upsets. Perhaps each sigh is drawn into existence to pull in, pull under, who knows; truth be told, you could no more control those sighs than that which brings the sighs about.”

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“The world is wrong. You can’t put the past behind you. It’s buried in you; it’s turned your flesh into its own cupboard. Not everything remembered is useful but it all comes from the world to be stored in you. Who did what to whom on which day? Who said that? She said what? What did she just do? Did she really just say that? He said what? What did she do? Did I hear what I thought I heard? Did that just come out of my mouth, his mouth, your mouth? Do you remember when you sighed?”

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“Yes, and the body has memory. The physical carriage hauls more than its weight.”

January 7, 2015
by Dr. R. Scott
3 Comments

Paris. Dangerous. Religion.

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Today is a dark day for Paris, the City of Light. A city I love and adore. Yet, this much I believe: There is nothing inherently bad with religion. Religion is bad when it becomes extreme. Fanatical. Unreasonable. When it creates “us and them.” Religion is bad when it forces people to believe. And conform. And relinquish personal freedom and dignity. Religion is bad when it assumes that violence is a legitimate means to accomplish a religious end. Religion is bad when it demonizes the “other.” Religion is bad when it literalizes ancient, un-evolved, barbaric concepts embedded in almost every world religious tradition. Religion is bad when it sees free-thinking and free-feeling as threats. Religion is bad when it loses its sense of humor and ability to engage in self-critique. There are good, loving, and peaceful Muslims. There are fanatical, dangerous, and violent Muslims. And the same can be said about Christians. Terrible atrocities have been committed in this world by Christians. At the same time, good, loving and caring Christians have changed the world in positive ways. Today is not a day to condemn religion; today is a day to condemn religious extremism and political fanaticism and religiously motivated violence. And perhaps most of all, as I Take a Breath this afternoon, it’s a day to pray for one of the great cities of the world. Paris, je t`aime.

January 4, 2015
by Dr. R. Scott
1 Comment

False. Opposites.

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False opposites are never helpful. Not personally. Not socially. Not philosophically. I’ve been thinking about false opposites for several weeks now as our nation has debated issues of race, justice and police conduct.

Police officers have difficult jobs. There are excellent police officers. There are some bad ones too. And the same could be said about doctors and ministers and lawyers. As a society we have a right to expect police officers to conduct themselves in a professional way. And to call for just and professional conduct is not in and of itself anti-law enforcement. On the contrary, the best of police officers call for the very same thing.

There is history in this country with the police and African Americans. It’s a history of blacks being targeted with illegal searches, excessive force, and intimidation. This is a fact. It’s not made up. It’s not a fabrication of liberals or a so-called biased media.

This means that police officers and the community they serve must break new ground. A community must appreciate the fact that police officers risk their lives every single day. Police officers must recognize they have to overcome history. A community must find a way to support their local law enforcement officials. Police officers must recognize they do themselves no favor when they defend improper conduct from one of their own.

Race is complicated in this country, and from all that has happened recently, it looks as if it will continue to be complicated. But one thing is clear: We make a mistake when we create false opposites. When most of us Take a Breath, we realize that two wrongs don’t make a right. Two wrongs just make two wrongs.

January 1, 2015
by Dr. R. Scott
9 Comments

Anti. Resolution.

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So, consider this. For today. Just one day. January 1, 2015. Don’t improve. Don’t get better. Don’t try harder. Let grace blow across your life like a gentle breeze, and allow yourself to remember something nice and beautiful and lovely, and don’t worry about what you didn’t get done last year, and let go of that failure you’ve been living with over the holidays, and forget about feeling guilty for not sending out Christmas cards or attending the funeral of a friend of a friend of a friend. Today. One day. Take a Breath. Be content with your life. You don’t have to be in a different place or with a different person. You don’t have to look younger or be smarter. You can just be who you are today. There will be time to improve on January 2. Fewer calories. More trips to the gym. And go ahead, read War and Peace. But for today, January 1, treat yourself the way God might treat you, with gentleness and happiness and grace.

December 25, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
13 Comments

Merry Christmas. From Us. To You.

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On this Christmas Day, Marti (Sweeney) Colglazier and I wish you a Merry Christmas. We also say thank you, thank you to our family and friends for all their love and support, thank you for friends who have loved us and forgiven us and helped us over and over again. We say thank you to our three children, Matthew, and his lovely wife, Laurie, and our beautiful granddaughter, Caroline, and to Drew, and his amazing wife, Marta, and Katie, and her partner / friend / companion Dan. We say thank you to the churches we have known and loved, including Southport Christian Church, Beargrass Christian Church, University Christian Church, The Riverside Church in New York City, and of course, our beloved First Congregational Church of Los Angeles. We say thank you to teachers and mentors. We say thank you to the poets and artists and intellectuals who have shaped our lives. I say thank you to those of you who have listened to my sermons, read by blogs, and purchased my books, and most of all, I say thank you to those who have asked me questions and pushed me to think about what it means to be a person of faith in the 21st century. We say thank you to God for the experiences we have had — joys and accomplishments, tears and sorrow, and everything in between. We say that we’re sorry that we do such a poor job keeping up with people, but we’re doing the best we can and there is only so much of us to go around. I say I am sorry for those I have hurt or disappointed through the years, because I’ve certainly done my share of that, but never with malice or ill intention. We say that we love you all and hold no animosity toward any other human being and we want for all God’s children in the world nothing but peace and love and justice. And I say that I think back to the astonishing chronology of my life and that I celebrated my first Christmas with Marti Sweeney when I was 16 years old. I bought her a modest piece of jewelry for Christmas from the local jewelry store located on the square of my home town of Salem, Indiana, and if I’m not mistaken, she still has that ring. She purchased for me that Christmas a green and tan checked shirt and a pair of dress slacks. We have reinvented ourselves over and over again. But we are together, not because of history or convenience, but because we choose it for our future. And so we wish you a Merry Christmas. Christmas points us to something. It’s points us to mystery. To the possibility that love still counts. That kindness and hospitality can change the world. That God is not beyond us, but deeply within us, and if God can show up in a stable, then God can show up anywhere. And because God is deeply within us, every breath is sacred. Every. Breath. Is. Sacred. So Take a Breath today. It’s Christmas. Breathe it in. Let it come close to you. Remember what you need to remember. Let go of that which you need to let go. And be happy today. Be happy and grateful and remember the words of W.H. Auden, “If on Christmas God invites you to dance, then dance.”

December 23, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
5 Comments

Christmas. Adam.

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A memory. When my kids were small, we used to celebrate “Christmas Adam.” My daughter Katie coined the phrase. She loved to celebrate Christmas Adam. Two days before Christmas. When we were in Indianapolis, we would get food from our favorite deli. Shapiros. Wonderful food. In Fort Worth we would get tamales. Delicious. Christmas Adam was almost Christmas. Not quite but it elongated the holiday for us. Christmas Adam is a reminder that holidays should be stretched out and savored. Take a Breath. It’s Tuesday. Christmas Adam. Do something today that is holi-day-ish. Enjoy. Or share. Or serve. Or ponder. Or pray. Or watch a Christmas movie. Or reach out to a friend. Take a Breath and move into the joy that is Christmas.

December 22, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
1 Comment

The Marker That Is Christmas.

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There’s nothing quite like Christmas to provide a marker for where we’ve been, where we are and where we’re going. Someone who was here last year is not here this year. We remember. Offer a toast and say a prayer. But we also look around and wonder about next year. Who will be gone? Who will be present? A year ago we were healthy. Now we’re not. Last Christmas I was without a job, but this Christmas I have a job. Last year I had a friend. This year my friend is gone. It’s Christmas as reference point.

I think this is one of the reasons why people seem to be more contemplative if not wistful during the Christmas season. It’s a marker for our existence. This awareness turns out to be a very good thing because, if we listen to it, we can be more present in the moment. Grateful for this Christmas. Grateful for the family and friends we do have. Take a Breath today. How is Christmas your marker this year? What do you remember? Feel? And most of all, how do you plan to live beginning Christmas day?