December 15, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
4 Comments

Christmas. Opening.

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Between now and Christmas it will happen. An opening of the heart. It’s almost impossible to predict when or how it will happen. Perhaps a Christmas song playing on the radio. “White Christmas.” “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” Doesn’t matter. Or maybe it will be a television show. “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Or Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo in “Christmas Vacation.” You will ponder something important: Like forgiving an old friend. Or calling your sister. Or reconciling with a parent. Maybe it will be something for yourself. Like taking a day off. Not for errands. Not for shopping. But to walk along the beach or to have lunch with a friend or maybe because you can’t remember the last time you stayed home for an afternoon to read a book. You Take a Breath. You let the opening happen inside your heart. And rather than seeing it as an abyss through which you might perilously fall, you see it as a tunnel through which you walk, only to emerge on the other side to a beautiful, more meaningful landscape. Between now and Christmas night something will come knocking on the door. I can only say this, my dear friends and readers, I can only say this from my own experience as a human being — flawed, often failing, but still trying to be engaged with life — I can say this: Open the door. It will mean everything.

December 12, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
2 Comments

Simple. Suggestion.

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A simple suggestion. In the midst of Christmas trees and shopping sprees. Family dinners and holiday parties. Amazon deliveries and trips to the mall. Visits with Santa Claus and personalized Christmas cards. Packed cars and full refrigerators. Christmas music and holiday concerts. School programs and gifts to the teacher. Menus planned and punch bowls replenished. Trips to the airport and flights delayed. Long security lines. Overhead bins. Assembling toys. Buying more batteries.

A simple suggestion. Between now and December 25. (Are you ready?) Consider going to church. If it’s been a year or twenty years; it doesn’t matter. Give it a try. Go to church. Give it a try. One service. This Sunday. Next Sunday. Christmas Eve. Do yourself a favor and give your soul one hour of thought, feeling and contemplation. Do something completely selfish for yourself and listen to music and say a prayer and notice how candles still flicker with mystery in the 21st century. Go ahead. I dare you. Bring a friend. Listen to “Silent Night, Holy Night.” Breath. Pray. Laugh. Cry. One service between now and Christmas Day.

Take a Breath this Christmas. Discover, if only for an hour, what it’s really all about.

December 8, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
5 Comments

New Atheism. Merry Christmas.

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Surely you’ve noticed the spate of books recently on not believing in God. Unlike some ministers, I actually have a lot of respect for atheists, especially those men and women who have worked through various issues in a thoughtful, rational and personal way. Moreover, I think some atheists might enjoy participating in a faith community, a place where people learn and grow and listen to one another. Oddly enough, atheists are now creating their own communities, an indication that, regardless of our intellectual trajectories, we’re still wired for spiritual connections.

I’m also noticing something else in our culture, namely, that many people who claim not to believe in God are nevertheless extolling the virtue of spiritual experience. This makes me think that what atheists are really rejecting is not so much God, but a certain definition or viewpoint of God. More to the point, often what atheists are rejecting is what might be called classical / traditional / literal theism. Literal theism is the “Man Upstairs.” Literal theism is a God that casts lightning bolts or stops car crashes or punishes people with diseases. Theism includes an all-powerful God. An all-knowing God. An all-present God.

Yet many of us, myself included, rejected this kind of theism years ago. God is neither the “Man Upstairs” nor a bigger version of a human being sitting up in the sky. God is the word we use to describe all of being and all of becoming or, as the theologian Paul Tillich said, God is the “ground of all being.” There is theism and then there is the God beyond theism. Rather than thinking of God as a person up above the earth, God can be understood as energy, as presence, as inspiration and insight and wisdom that is simultaneously beyond us but also within us.

As we move more deeply into the Christmas season, I would suggest that you Take a Breath and allow the natal story of Jesus to point you toward an encounter with God’s spiritual energy that pulses through the universe, including the spiritual connections we make with one another. I love the Christmas story, because it’s not merely about a baby being born, but it’s about a great cosmic constellation of love, compassion and forgiveness, and this cosmos of love still has the power to shift human consciousness.

 

 

 

December 3, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
8 Comments

“I. Can’t. Breathe.”

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“I can’t breathe.”

“I can’t breathe.”

“I can’t breathe.”

“I can’t breathe.”

“I can’t breathe.”

“I can’t breathe.”

“I can’t breathe.”

“I can’t breathe.”

“I can’t breathe.”

“I can’t breathe.”

“I can’t breathe.”

And so Eric Garner cried out this chilling complaint eleven times. And we can’t even have a trial. Not even a trial. In New York City, a city I love, we cannot even have a trial. What has happened to us as a people? Something is broken tonight in America. Terribly broken. Tonight, I cannot in all good conscience encourage anyone to Take a Breath.

November 28, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
10 Comments

My. Birthday. Thank. You.

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This is how it happened. Slept until 7 am. Coffee and juice. A long hike. Went for a swim. Soaked away some of the aches that live in the places where I used to play. (Leonard Cohen.) Had lunch. (A club sandwich and diet coke with lime.) Did a little shopping in Carmel but not much. Too crowded. Talked to my kids. A few friends too.Thought a great deal about how many people have been so good to me. Kindness upon kindness. Grace upon grace. Love upon love. Walked the dogs a couple of times. They are always happy. Dinner with Marti and a dear friend. (Wedge salad and a hamburger. Rombauer Chardonnay.) Good conversations about love and life, travel and places where we’ve been and want to go. In other words, I had a birthday and nothing happened. Nothing happened but everything happened, because everything is found in the nothing / ordinary moments of living. God is found, not in some earth-shattering experience, but precisely in the simple moments that tether us to the earth. Where is heaven? (Oh my . . . we’re actually floating in heaven! Right here, right now . . . and heaven consists of walking dogs and eating a hamburger and walking down a crowded sidewalk and getting Facebook birthday wishes.) Heaven is any moment that pulls us under the surface of our living, and it resonates with truth and beauty and meaning. I’m not exactly sure when it happened but at a certain point I had the realization that I am growing older and that life is getting shorter and that every day is a gift, and that what I plan tomorrow may or may not happen, and so I try to live as fully as possible each day, without being paralyzed by the fear of tomorrow’s unknown. And so I am Taking a Breath tonight, and I’ll keep taking a breath until I cannot take another one. Taking a breath is my birthday prayer. One after another after another. One breath at a time. One grateful breath after another.

November 27, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
6 Comments

Thanksgiving.

imagesWhat a challenging year it has been for our world. ISIS. Beheadings. More troops in Afghanistan. Ferguson. Immigration debates.

And then there is the rest of life. More personal and closer to home. Missing my granddaughter, Caroline, and my children, Matthew, Drew and Katie.

Thinking about people in my church. Loss of spouses. Loss of partners. A divorce. Young families doing their best to piece together a life. Moms and dads working hard, exhausted every night, but they do it because they love their kids.

Yet this has been a year of great love too. Each week I serve a church of great love. Great joy. I see genuine friendship. Genuine care. And happiness. I love that Sunday morning is now a time of happiness in my church. And if we are occasionally small in spirit, then a greater heart absorbs our brokenness, and for that I am grateful.

I can say the same about my staff at church. What a joy it is to work with them each and every day. The same could be said about the leadership at my church. They care. They are smart. They feel. They participate. I could not ask for more.

I have many memories on Thanksgiving. My grandmother’s cooking. She was a wonderful cook. Thanksgiving and a birthday celebrations in Cincinnati at my aunt Jane’s house when I was a boy. I received a Glen Campbell record as a gift, as well as an oil painting set replete with canvases. Glen Campbell has Alsheimer’s disease now and I think of painting so often but never get around to it. I tell myself that someday I will be an artist. Someday.

I think of friends on Thanksgiving too. I am so grateful. So grateful for friends, most of whom have no idea what they have done for me or what they mean to me or how often I think of them, because my feelings are like Scandanavian fiords, deep and meaningful but placid on the surface.

It’s Thanksgiving and here is the menu — turkey, sausage/cornbread stuffing, brusell sprouts, collard greens, dilled carrots (recipe courtesy of Leslie Geoghegan), cranberry sauce, mushroom gravy, mashed potatoes, yeast rolls, fudge pie, Derby pie, and on and on it goes with wine and a few friends.

I’m with Marti Sweeney and she is still with me. I am grateful. And two Labrador retrievers — Gracie and Lily. I am grateful.

So, Take a Breath today, whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever you might be facing today, just Take a Breath and be grateful for something, one thing, just be grateful and breathe. Happy Thanksgiving.

November 24, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
7 Comments

Ferguson.

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I am praying for Ferguson, Missouri tonight. Praying and trying to Take a Breath. It’s hard to understand how a young unarmed black man can engage in nothing more than a petty theft and end up dead on a street in the middle of America. Police officers have difficult jobs. I get it. They risk their lives every single day. But black men risk their lives too. They risk being pulled over by police. They risk becoming automatic suspects in crime-ridden neighborhoods. They risk, at least statistically, a lifetime of imprisonment. The death of Michael Brown is a tragedy. A terrible tragedy for his family and friends. But it’s a tragedy for America too. The decision has just been handed down from the Grand Jury, and I hope and pray that frustration will not lead to violence, that rage will not lead to injury, and that grief will not morph into revenge. I’m praying for Ferguson, Missouri tonight. I hope you will pray tonight too.

November 24, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
5 Comments

A. Human. Issue.

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The immigration debate is not a political issue. It’s a human issue. And just as Jesus taught that people are more important than theological beliefs, so people are also more important than policy. The people we’re talking about live in my community of Los Angeles. We shop side by side in grocery stores and drive on the same streets. And yes, the people we’re talking about seek sanctuary from time to time inside my church on a Sunday morning, saying their prayers and taking into their difficult lives a much needed breath of peace.

We have millions of people in this country that, for one reason or another, did not go through the prescribed channels of citizenship. This means we have a massive human challenge on our hands in America, and one that needs to be solved as practically and humanely as possible. To acknowledge this challenge is not the same as rewarding illegal activity or diminishing people who went through the proper channels for citizenship; it simply means that a human crisis must be acknowledged and solved.

I hope our nation will Take a Breath in the upcoming weeks, because beyond politics (and that means Republicans and Democrats), I still believe Americans are a fundamentally compassionate and reasonable people, and that together we can solve complicated human challenges, including the challenge of immigration. I’ll let others decide if President Obama has crossed a line of authority regarding the presidency. I just know this: Every human crisis deserves a humane response.

November 17, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
4 Comments

Standing. On. The. Edge.

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Let’s hear it for standing on the edge. Something behind us. Something in front of us. Unknown territory awaits exploration, while everything familiar fades into the background. On the edge of life we see a new challenge. Embrace a new opportunity. The beauty of standing on the edge is that we almost always learn something new about ourselves. About others. Even about God. And when you think about it, everything in life is moving us to the edge, the ultimate edge and ultimate voyage. Standing on the edge can be anything. A new job. A new relationship. A new insight. A new stage in life. Learning to stand on the edge with courage and love and openness is one of the best things we can ever do. Take a Breath today. If you’re already standing on the edge, then embrace it. And if there’s an edge calling to you, then move toward it. And remember, as I’ve learned over and over again in Big Sur, the best views are almost always from the edge.

 

November 12, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
1 Comment

Praise. Philae.

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Let us Take a Breath today and give praise to Philae, a spacecraft that for the first time in history has landed upon a comet.

And let us praise scientists who labor and study and imagine ways of expanding our knowledge and connecting the dots of a complex and wondrous universe.

And let us praise women and men who still dream big dreams upon this earth.

And let us praise poets that remind us, “The heavens declare the glory of God.”

And let us praise God, great Source of all that is, Presence and Mystery of love, at once within us and always beyond us, Beauty, Creativity, Wonder, Blessing, Cosmic Meaning and the Equation of the great All in All.

And let us praise love, because the root of the word Philae comes from the word Phileo, which means love, and it’s not everyday that love lands on a comet.