April 23, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
2 Comments

Wandering. Wondering.

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A few weeks ago I was wandering around in Chicago. It’s one of my favorite things in life — wandering around in a city, especially a city like Chicago. I’m not a tour-book guy. App? Forget about it. But I’m a wanderer, I’m a wanderer, I get around, round, round, round, round. I stepped into a church in Chicago. A noon day Mass was going on. I saw a crucifix. I thought a lovely thought that Christ, the resurrected presence of Jesus, still wanders cities. He wanders as a wounded presence through cities, cities like Los Angeles and New York and Chicago. That the wandering wounded Christ is wandering with me. At times looking for me. At times pushing me forward. At times beckoning me into a new thought or feeling or insight. I found myself sitting in the church for a minute. And then more than a few minutes. I then walked out of the church. I felt happy. Not not so much happy, but at peace. And then I walked two blocks because I wanted to go to an art gallery. And then I saw it. Under a window. Scrawled letters. A message. A revelation. A sign. The word was simple. FORGIVE. I read the word. Took a photograph. Suddenly my wandering turned to wondering. Wandering is great. Wondering is . . . well . . . it’s wonderful. Take a Breath. And happy wandering to you and your friends. And if you’re really lucky, I hope you find some happy wondering, too.

April 20, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
9 Comments

Easter. Memory.

Now they are grown. All three of my children. Matthew. Drew. Katie. All in their thirties. But on Easter morning I think back to the days when they were small. How much fun it was to prepare their Easter baskets. Cadbury Eggs. Peanut Butter Cup Eggs. (Still the best.) Solid milk chocolate bunnies. Yellow and pink Peeps. Jelly-beans.

The boys would wear their khaki pants and blue blazers. Katie a new dress. And off to church we would go. I was busy, of course, on Easter morning, but it meant something to me that they were in church. We didn’t shove religion down their throats. It’s who we were. Church was important. It was the spiritual oxygen of our lives. My job? Yes, it was my job, but it was more than a job.

After church we would come home and enjoy a nice brunch. Honeybaked ham. Marti made the same brunch every year. Quiche. Sausage and cheese. Bacon and asparagus. Angel biscuits. Fruit. Mimosas. (For dad. Not the kids.) On Easter we basked in the glow of church music and brass and lilies adorning the chancel. It was a day of joy.

I sometimes wonder how they remember it all. I wonder if they think back to Easter mornings. If they cherish those days or if in fact it was all a big chore to them. I don’t know and I’m a little afraid to ask. I just know that it meant something then, and now that they are grown, I hope it still means something to them. I marvel at what they are doing and who they are and how they are moving forward with their lives. But I still think of Easter dresses for a little girl. Blazers for a couple of boys. And church. And brunch after church. The goodness of the day.

You think it lasts forever. It doesn’t. But I read a quote this week by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who just passed away, and he said: “No one can take away the dances you have enjoyed.” I think that is true. And Take a Breath . . . I think that is the truth of Easter morning.

April 19, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
2 Comments

Easter. Sunday.

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To celebrate Easter Sunday, as if trying to commemorate something that happened centuries ago, is to miss the essence of Easter. Easter is a perspective on the world. A viewpoint. An orientation toward life. To believe in Easter means you believe that new beginnings are still possible, that love can conquer hate and bitterness and indifference, and that hope is never out of fashion. An Easter perspective on life doesn’t deny the empty places of our existence, but affirms that in the midst of them something good can still grow. Easter takes heartache seriously, while at the same time celebrating that there is more to life than heartache.

I don’t take Easter Sunday for granted. I love it. And of course, I’m ready to celebrate Easter at First Congregational Church of Los Angeles and I invite all of you to join us. I know the service will be glorious and wonderful and inspiring. Lilies will abound and the music will soar. There will be a special moment for all the children. A festive party will take place after the service in the Forecourt of the church. But I also know that Easter is bigger than one person or one church or one day in history. Easter is about the possibility that creative transformation is always sizzling under the skin of life . . . and living with that conviction . . . well . . . that changes everything.

April 14, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
3 Comments

How. It. Works. 2

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This is how church works . . . and I’m just going to say it . . . and I’m going to say it for my colleagues out there in church world doing their best and giving their best and trying their best . . . it’s not about you. It’s not about what you want. It’s not about the color of carpet you prefer. It’s not about which staff person you like or don’t like, the choir’s anthem you love or despise, and it’s not about what the minister said or didn’t say last week in his or her sermon.

Church is bigger than you. It transcends your personal taste. It goes beyond personal preference. Church is about a bigger cause, a bigger unity, and a bigger purpose than any one person. It’s about caring for all God’s children. It’s about making room for the stranger at the table of God. It’s about enlarging the beloved community so that all God’s children, young and old, straight, gay or confused, black, brown or white, male, female, transgendered, rich and poor, educated and uneducated can find their place. Church is the idea / belief / hope / feeling / aspiration / practice that makes sure everyone counts. And that means it’s always bigger than any one person, even though every person matters and the individual conscience should be honored.

This means that church only works when people learn to listen to one another, make decisions together, and are guided by something bigger, higher, deeper than their personal needs or wants. What is that bigger, higher, deeper thing? Well, that thing is God. God is the resonating energy of idealism that lives inside the human heart, an energy of love that calls us to affirm the humanity of all God’s children, and beyond that, to affirm the beauty and essential integrity of all creation.

So, what do we learn in church? We learn to love. And listen. And accept. We also learn to challenge one another to reach higher, think more clearly, feel more deeply, and when the time comes to pull together for a common good, a great good that transcends personal preference, then we do it. Why? Because we’re a church. A group of individuals who believe that religion is deeply personal, but which is always, always, always shared with others.

April 9, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
6 Comments

How. Church. Works.

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This is how church works . . . offered on behalf of my ministerial colleagues around the country . . . first of all you have to attend. Yes, showing up is 90% of church. You show up. Not every now and then. Not once in a while. Not when the mood hits you. You get up on a Sunday morning, do a few things to keep your household going, and then hop in the shower, get dressed, and head off to church.

Showing up is everything.

Some people can’t show up. Their physical challenges are too great. But if you can show up, you need to show up. If you don’t show up, church doesn’t work. It’s that simple. You may think you don’t make that much difference. But you do. Showing up is essential.

It also helps if you are excited about church. Excited? About church? Yes! Positive energy is everything. You feel it in the singing. The greeting of one another. The praying is better when you bring positive energy to it. That doesn’t mean you have to be happy. You can be sad and come to church. You can be down and come to church. Just bring an open heart. God will take care of the rest of it.

Showing up also opens the door to getting to know other people. Some people come to church and never talk to anyone. And that’s fine, I suppose. But the truth is, church works best when you share it with other people. Say hi. Say good morning. Say the peace of Christ be with you. Whatever you do, don’t say you’re sitting in my pew.

This coming Sunday is Palm Sunday. In my church, at least, that means it’s going to be a spectacular, joyful, and inspiring extravaganza of a Sunday. And then there is Easter Sunday. What can I say? We’ll have enough lilies in our sanctuary to choke a rhinoceros, and the music will be amazing, and the coffee fellowship after church will have some real food worth eating, and the children will have fun with an Easter Egg Hunt. What more could you want? And then the last Sunday of April, we’re going to celebrate Earth Day with a worship / musical presentation featuring Vox Femina and the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles. It will be an Un. For. Get. Able. Morning.

But none of it works. Not one note. Not one sermon. Not one candle. Not one amen. None of it works unless . . . get ready now . . . Take a Breath . . . unless someone . . . like you . . . shows up.

April 6, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
9 Comments

7 Days. Of. Family.

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Over the course of the past seven days I saw all three of my children, two daughters-in-law, one grandchild, my dad, my sister, brother-in-law and niece. Attention must be paid . . .

1. I’m grateful for my children. They are all, in their own right, exceptional human beings and I’m grateful for each of them.

2. They are busy with their lives. This is the way I hoped they would turn out, but it’s no longer theoretical. They’re active, busy, have friends and are doing things to push the world onward. They used to wait for me. I now wait for them.

3. They all do and say things that puzzle me. It’s not that I disapprove; it’s that I don’t always understand their perspectives and ideas. This is not a problem. Just an observation.

4. I no longer feel an inordinate investment nor a weighty responsibility for what they will eventually do with their lives. I care, of course. But I’ve quit worrying about what they will do or not do, and most importantly, I no longer feel a need to guide what might unfold for them. This, no doubt, is good news for me and better news for them.

5. My sons have married smart, wonderful, beautiful women. I adore them. My daughter has a partner in life, and he’s a great guy and treats her very well. It’s not always this way.

6. My granddaughter, of course, is a genius and will no doubt do great and wonderful things in the world. Supreme Court Justice. Governor of Indiana. President of the United States of America. Sometimes her three year-old sincerity really gets to me. I took her to Steak and Shake for lunch one day, and as we were driving up to the restaurant I said, “Caroline, maybe you and I could share some french fries.” She said — and this is an exact quote — “Actually, Pop-Pop, I think that is a very good idea.” Enough said.

7. As my dad grows older, I cherish every conversation and interaction. He’s older now, but I still see the same caring, loving and witty man inside his body. He’s still the same guy who would work all day and then come home and play pitch-and-catch with me in the back yard. How could I feel anything but gratitude?

8. My sister and brother-in-law take care of my dad. He lives in their home, and as best I can tell, it’s good for him, and I think he might even be good for them. My niece just moved into her own house. How can this be? I remember when she was born.

Take a Breath. And then another. And then one more. Feel . . . believe . . . know . . . that time circles the world at the speed of light and that every day is a gift of God. As for our families, unlike our friends, we don’t get to choose them nor do they get to choose us. But every now and then we have a stretch of days that makes us feel grateful that we still have one another.

April 1, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
6 Comments

Day. For. Fools.

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Here’s to the great fools of the world on this April Fool’s Day and to those of us who still believe . . .

That love is stronger than hate.

That forgiveness is still possible.

That loved ones remain inside our hearts.

That gratitude makes life better.

That kindness is never wasted.

That justice for the poor is still important.

That friends, new and old, are sparkling gems in a dreary world.

That learning something new is always possible.

That God lives in the heart of every human being.

That every day is a unique gift.

That creative energy is beautiful.

Take a Breath today, my fellow fools, and dare to believe that what appears to be foolishness is actually wisdom, the kind of wisdom that makes life worth living. (And that’s no joke.)

March 25, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
3 Comments

Le Week-End

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If you’re wanting to see a wonderfully romantic, sweet and lovely movie about an older couple in Paris — don’t go to this movie.

However, I’m glad I saw it, because it opened up several insights . . .

Older adults still have hopes. Just like young adults, they dream about taking a big gulp of fresh air and doing something different in their lives. They imagine quitting their jobs and running off to France or Italy. They still think about writing a novel, living in New York City, and spending time with interesting people. They think about retiring in a completely new and exotic place. Age changes many things, but it doesn’t diminish imagination inside the mature heart.

Older adults still like sex. Yes. It’s true. They think about it. They have desires. They want to touch and be touched, and so that erotic dimension of life that burns so brightly in the young . . . well . . . it might not burn as brightly in older adults, but it still sparks with passion.

Regarding relationships, one of the most painful (and insightful) dimensions of the movie is how love and hate, attraction and disgust, kindness and cruelty can exist so close together in a relationship. Perhaps you have to be married for a while to figure this out, but sometimes, in a matter of minutes, you can find yourself drawn to and repelled by the very same person. It’s a difficult and delicate dance but it’s true.

Finally, what I found most engaging is how long-term relationships need adventure. While it’s true that routines can be comforting, couples have to find ways of shaking it up, finding adventure in life, and while I would never recommend recklessness, I highly endorse taking a few risks that push us beyond the normal routines of life.

I don’t think Le Week-End is a great movie, but it’s a good one. Jim Broadbent. Lindsey Duncan. Jeff Goldblum. Definitely in the category of “worth seeing.” Take a Breath today. We’re never too old to learn. Never too old to take an adventure. As long as there is breath, there is life, and life is about opening ourselves up to an array of experiences.

March 18, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
4 Comments

You. Have. To. Play. The. Game.

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Since last Sunday night, everyone and his brother (and sister) has had an opinion about the NCAA basketball pairings. Bracketology has become a new branch of science.

“This team should not have been a 4th seed but a 5th seed.” “That team doesn’t deserve to be a 1 seed.” “The committee really overlooked a good team.” Opinions abound!

It strikes me, however, that once the tournament starts, it doesn’t matter if you’re a 1 seed or a 16 seed. At a certain point, the ranking and seeding and location of a regional final doesn’t matter. What matters is that every team has to play the game.

You have to play the game.

How we got to where we are in life is not unimportant. But in the end, how we got to where we are is not nearly as important as what we will do with the NOW in which we find ourselves living. Or said differently . . . you have to play the game.

And so we try. And we do our best. We squeeze as much juice as we can out of each day. The circumstances might not be perfect. We might wish we had a different pairing or a better seeding in the bracketology called life. But at a certain point it doesn’t matter. What matters now is that you have to play the game.

Take a Breath. Don’t focus on where you thought you would be today. Or where you deserve to be today. Focus on one thing — What will I do with the precious NOW of my life.

March 13, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
4 Comments

Plant. Something. Anything.

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Is there anything more hopeful, more mysterious given that it makes a profound connection with the earth, more beautiful than planting something? It takes so little. A clay pot. A little soil. A plant. Perhaps basil. Or a tomato plant. Or maybe a flower. The what and where is not nearly as important as taking a few minutes and planting something. Dirt under your nails is a beautiful thing. And don’t forget, humility is related to humus — the soil of life. For those of you in the east, Spring is almost here. For those in the west, Spring as sprung. Take a Breath. Do something good for yourself (and Mother Earth). Plant. Something. Anything.