April 26, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
2 Comments

One. Day. Mindful.

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This coming Sunday, April 30, 2017, our service at First Church will focus on the work of the Buddhist teacher — Thich Nhat Hanh. I highly recommend his new book to you — At Home in the World.

But for today, one day, a Wednesday, I tried to move into a place of greater mindfulness by following the insights of Thich Nhat Hanh . . . And so . . . in the spirit of transparency . . . I offer my day to you . . .

  • I woke early. A dream. Water rushing down the alley next to my boyhood home in Indiana. So much water. I’m in the front yard watching it flow into Main Street. I think to myself — “I wish I could capture that water. I could use the water for a garden.”
  • I go downstairs with the dogs at 5 am. They go outside and do their business. They run back into the kitchen because they are hungry. I wonder if they enjoy food. I think of the difference between eating and dining. I love to dine. I don’t do much of it these days, but I love it when it happens.
  • I fix a cup of coffee. It is delicious. Dark. French roast. I quickly scan the New York Times. One of my favorite restaurants, Union Square Cafe, is reviewed and receives three stars. I want to go there. I miss New York City.
  • I drive to work with the dogs in the car. I begin writing a sermon in my office. I talk to a friend on the phone. The dogs settle in by my desk. I am reading Thich Nhat Hanh. I love his writing. I have never met him, but I wish I could. He must be old now. I think of my mentor Brother David Steindl-Rast.
  • I had lunch yesterday at USC with Jim Burklo. He gave me his book on mindfulness. It looks great. My mind hops around like a rabbit as I try to write a sermon. But I come back to myself.
  • My assistant comes in and interrupts me. Not once but several times. She has a job to do. I understand that. She’s good. I step back and try to embrace her interruptions. I try not to see them as interruptions. That’s an ego place for me. Interruptions. I try to welcome them.
  • I’ve been writing a sermon for a couple of hours now. But emails keep coming. And dings. And text messages. They’re driving me a little crazy. Again, I try to step back. Is there a gift in that disagreeable email? Is there a gift in that unwanted advice I just received as a text? I wonder: How do so many people have my cell phone number?
  • Mindfulness is inviting me to a different place today. Here it is. A text. An email. A phone call. It’s not good or bad. It just is. It is life. I open myself to be present with it. Not fighting it but welcoming it.
  • The sermon is moving along. I feel energy writing it today. That’s usually a good sign. Need to wrap now. Appointments are coming in.
  • I head home late in the afternoon and go for a walk. I don’t want to take the dogs. I am tired of the dogs. But they give me a look. That looks the says, “Really, you’re going on a walk without us?” I think of companionship. They count on me. I count on them too. I take them with me. I don’t feel like exercising, so I try to embrace the joy of walking. Gratitude for each step. It feels pretty good.
  • I come back home and fix a gin and tonic. The Cubs are playing. They are losing but that’s okay. I let myself enjoy the game. The beauty, the slowness, of baseball. I eat dinner. I didn’t fix it. Carry-in from Joan’s on Third. It’s delicious.
  • I think of the tax cuts being proposed by President Trump. I’m worried that all the Senate met privately with the President about North Korea. Could we be in a war by the weekend? It would not surprise me.
  • The sun is setting. It’s been a good day. Tomorrow is busy. So is Friday. Anthony Rizzo just hit a homer and the Cubs are only behind by one run now. Hope springs eternal. I want to live each day more simply. Aware / Mindful / Conscious / Grateful / Alive.

Take a Breath. Consider trying one day mindful. The spiritual life is not about escaping the world; it is about embracing it more fully.

April 16, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
3 Comments

Easter. Morning.

It is Easter morning, and as the artist He Qi suggests in his marvelous painting, the demons of violence and hatred begin to flee, even as the women who discovered Christ on that first Easter morning begin to awake. Something runs. Something draws near. I suppose that is true this Easter day too. Take a moment. Pause. Consider your life. What needs to be sent away? What needs to come close? The celebration of this day is more than a look at the past; it is always a look within. The tomb of the heart awaits its opening.

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April 15, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
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Holy. Saturday.

Giotto_di_Bondone_009-largeSuch an amazing painting by Giotto. The angels encircle the body of Jesus. Some cover their ears. Others cover their eyes. Their grief is palpable. His friends have taken him off the cross. They gaze upon his body. Has this really happened? Is this real? How could the world do this to him. Everyone looks frozen. Grief does that to us, of course, it stops us in our tracks and turns out heart into the rock of Gibraltar. It is Saturday. The day in between death and life. A waiting time. Liminal time. What was is over and what will be has not been revealed. Oh, how faith is needed on a Saturday.

April 14, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
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Good. Friday.

6The dark cross in this painting is massive. It dominates the canvas. It dominates the consciousness of anyone who gazes upon this incredible painting by Georgia O’Keefe. I love this painting. The New Mexico hills look like the backs of elephants stacked side by side. You want to touch this cross. Feel the pegs at the center of the painting. Spirit is tactile. Awareness wants skin. But there is also a horizon of light — yellow and orange and red — and it spreads from one side of the canvas to the other, a reminder that the somberness of death is not the whole story. There is a light. It beckons us to follow. To believe. To look through the suffering of today and see that there is something beyond it. That takes faith, of course, but Good Friday is a good day for faith.

April 13, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
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Holy. Thursday.

00000937-largeHoly Thursday celebrates one of the great acts of Jesus — He washes  the feet of the disciples. He then commands them to “love one another as I have loved you.” This is the essence of Christ energy — to love as we have been loved. To love the way he loved. This image, a Romanesque fresco from southern France, captures the starkness of generosity and the surprise, if not shock, of receiving such kindness. Tonight at First Church we will gather at 7 pm for a time of reflection on this profound call to love one another. Music will be shared. The Eucharist celebrated. Prayers offered to God. All are welcome.

April 12, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
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Holy. Wednesday.

4In this painting by William Congdon, “Crucifixion 2,” we encounter the energy of Christ. Not merely a person, in this painting Christ becomes pure energy of creative, transforming love. Christ is a burst of divine energy. It’s one thing to know a lot about Jesus; it’s another to be engaged by the real energy of the divine that is forever being released into the world through him. The spiritual life is about tapping into the deepest energies of life. For Christians, the opportunity of Holy Week is to move into the currents under the surface of ancient events; we swim in the rivers that flow under the ocean.

April 11, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
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Holy. Tuesday.

Working Title/Artist: Fra Angelico: The Crucifixion, ca.1420 Department: European Paintings Culture/Period/Location:  HB/TOA Date Code:  Working Date:  photography by mma 1994, transparency #1a scanned and retouched by film and media (jn) 1_4_06

This painting reminds us, not just of the suffering of Jesus, but the suffering that accumulated around him. In this painting by Fra Angelico, you see at the bottom of the canvas Mary, the mother of Jesus, who has fainted and is comforted by two other women. Through her we get a glimpse into the suffering God, the God who collapses with heartache in the face of violence, betrayal and oppression. Mary’s tenderness, her vulnerability, is a reminder that love breaks us open again and again. Is it painful? Yes. But it is so essential to our humanity.

April 10, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
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Holy. Monday.

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This painting of the crucified Christ is by the great Spanish artist Velazquez. The Christ figure, hanging upon the cross, looks contemplative. He looks as if he is in a meditative / dreaming state of consciousness. To gaze upon him, oddly enough, provides some degree of calm. A peace that passes all understanding. How is it that in the middle of chaos we can find calm or in the middle of a storm we reach moments of peace? Faith opens the heart to such mysteries, and during this Holy Week, we are invited to sit in a contemplative place. Sometimes pausing is the pathway to God.

April 3, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
1 Comment

It’s. Not. About. You.

An enterprising Chinese man pulls a bicycle cart packed high with bags of recyclable plastic containers in Shanghai July 25, 2002. The man sells each kilogram (2.2 pounds) of plastic for 0.08 yuan ($.01) to a nearby depot. REUTERS/Claro Cortes IV CC/JD - RTR846W

How easy it is to take it all on ourselves. Personalize it. Believe that it is a judgment against us . . . or we believe we’re not enough . . . or we’ve made some kind of egregious mistake . . . or we feel insufficient compared to others . . . let me say it . . . please hear me today . . . it’s not about you.

A friend doesn’t call. And he doesn’t call. And he doesn’t call. It’s not about you.

Someone at works goes off in anger and offers a torrent of criticism. It’s not about you.

A spouse grows sullen, and you wonder what you’ve done. It’s not about you.

A child appears unhappy evening after evening. You try to make him or her happy but you feel like you’re failing. It’s not about you.

A person who is normally friendly isn’t so friendly as you pass in the hallway at work or church or school. It’s not about you.

A retail person treats you coldly, even when you try to be decently friendly. It’s not about you.

A customer goes off, inordinately s0, over-the-top upset about this or that. It’s not about you.

Take a Breath today. And for good measure take a few more. Most of us find ourselves in situations from time to time when we think we’re not enough or we’ve done something wrong. Set yourself free — believe it for a few minutes — it’s not about you! (Thank God!)

 

March 29, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
2 Comments

A. Morning. Prayer.

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A Morning Prayer

Still dark this morning.

The sky is clear.

The moon offers itself to us again.

Venus is still flickering.

The worries of the day have yet to begin.

Consider this. This. Consider this today:

So much of the world is free.