August 22, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
Someone has said terrible things, done terrible things, or undermined you in so many deceptive ways that it’s hardly imaginable. You are hurt. More than that, you are hurting. Yet, you’re the Senior Minister. Or the principal of the high school. Or the head of the firm. Or the director of the program. Or the editor of the paper. Or the executive director of the organization. What do you do when you are hurt? I’m not sure I have any good answers, but perhaps the following options might be helpful . . .
- If you can work it out with another person, then try to work it out. Don’t blame. Just embrace how a particular action made you feel.
- If that’s not possible, then stand up for yourself within yourself. That is to say, no one can put you down if you are standing up within yourself.
- Sometimes you have to take the high road. Be the bigger person and don’t stoop down to the malicious, gossipy, malevolent level of someone else.
- If indeed you have made a mistake, then learn what you need to learn and go forth and live. Everyone makes mistakes. The key is to learn from them.
- Perhaps it’s helpful to forgive the person, not excusing bad behavior, but letting go so you can get on with your life. Forgiveness is about letting go.
- Put it in perspective, meaning that in the larger scheme of things, we sometimes make it too big of deal. Mole hills into mountains.
- There’s a time and place to grieve, regret and replay what has happened to you. There’s also a time and place to stop grieving, regretting and replaying.
- Embrace the hurt as hurt. Don’t pretend it’s not real. Feel it. Sit with it. Talk to a friend about it. And then begin shrinking it to a manageable size.
No one goes through life without being hurt or hurting others. It’s the nature of human existence. Take a Breath today. Maybe the hurt we feel is actually an opportunity to grow and learn and change. That doesn’t mean it’s easy; it just means it’s real.
August 14, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
Day 4 . . . Siena Retreat Center . . . Racine, Wisconsin
Woke early again. Glorious sunshine. Took a prayer walk. Not for exercise. But for meditation. I thought about my family. My friends. I felt so much gratitude this morning. Goldfinch at the top of a pine tree. Two rabbits playing alongside the road. Thought about Lily and Gracie how I miss my two dogs while I’m away. (Ridiculous, I know.)
The last day of a retreat / conference like this is a little like the last day of church camp. You have insights and feelings that you think will change your life forever. Do they? Probably not. But the experience stays with you forever.
I have listened to the stories of others. It’s so sacred when someone shares their story. I’m in awe, really, of clergy and congregations doing such good work. Perfect? No. But good, genuine, honest work? Yes.
“What do I want to bring to my church?”
That was the question posed to me today. My answer . . .
- I want to bring the very best of my intellectual and creative energy.
- I want to bring love and compassion.
- I want to bring a deep sense of hope for the future.
- I want to bring authenticity to what I do.
- I want to hold creatively the tensions I feel between success and failure and between what I need personally and what my congregation needs.
- I want to hold the tension between saying yes and no and between doing one more thing and not doing one more thing
- I want to hold the reality of what I know needs to be done today and the uncertainty of what outcomes might or might not happen tomorrow.
- I want to hold within myself the tension between effectiveness and faithfulness.
So, I Take a Breath today. And now my job at hand is less lofty and idealistic — I need to finish a sermon for Sunday about The Grapes of Wrath. Yikes! It’s Thursday!
August 13, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
Day Three . . . Siena Retreat Center . . . Racine, Wisconsin
Early morning walk. No rain. Sunshine. Cool air. Coffee. Thinking about church, not just my congregation, but church as church, and wondering about what it means to be a church in the 21st century. Thoughts . . .
- What does it mean to be a member of a church? It means you show up. Physically. Emotionally. Spiritually. Intellectually. Financially. Prayerfully. It seems so simple, doesn’t it? Just. Show. Up. Churches do not work if people don’t show up. Of course the same could be said for being a parent. Or a grandparent. Or a spouse. Or a friend. We have to show up.
- When conflict happens in a church (or family), we’re wired to either fight or flee. Fighting is aggressive and rarely does much good. Fleeing is passive and rarely does much good. This means that day after day church leaders, including myself, must find their center. To be centered – spiritually, emotionally and intellectually – is a place of strength and goodness. From the center place can come action. From the center place can come stillness. This is life-giving tension.
Take a Breath today. Hold silence for a few minutes. Ponder anew. Whatever you call it — soul, love, source, light, insight — let it come close to you today.
August 12, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
Thoughts from Day 2 . . . Siena Retreat Center . . . Racine, Wisconsin
- I awake early. Too early. At the Siena Retreat Center in Racine, Wisconsin I surrender myself to be a novice today. Open to learn. Open to grow. Open to be different at the end of the day. I see the tops of the trees outside my window swaying in the wind. I can hear the waves of Lake Michigan lapping the shore. To wake. To live. To learn. This is a gift.
- Breakfast with Parker Palmer and reminiscing about our mutual and dear friends — Tom and Carol Beech. I really miss seeing them. They are two of God’s extraordinary children. I feel gratitude for them.
- Exploring the difference between living with a broken heart and living with a heart that has been broken open. I want the latter. Not the former. Of course the former always happens too. The trick, I think, is to turn broken hearts into broken open hearts.
- Awareness: You cannot give what you are not willing to receive yourself. This is a note to all caregivers, ministers and therapists. YOU CANNOT GIVE WHAT YOU ARE NOT WILLING TO RECEIVE.
- Exploration: Paradox will drive you crazy, but if it doesn’t kill you, it will open you up to new ways of being in the world. Living with “either/or” might make life easier, but it doesn’t make it richer.
- A quote from Wendell Berry I learned today — “The only thing that has solved a big problem are a million little answers.” In other words, every gesture of goodness and kindness and compassion matters.
Take a Breath today. I have prayed today for each of my trustees and deacons. So much gratitude for them. So much to look forward to at First Congregational Church of Los Angeles. What is our work as a church? It’s to carry the tensions of this world in a life-giving way.
August 11, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
Here’s a hint that you’ve landed at a Catholic Retreat Center for a few days . . . the WiFi password is HailMary. (No, I’m not kidding.)
I’m in Racine, Wisconsin at the Siena Retreat Center doing a workshop with Parker Palmer titled – Habits of the Heart for Healthy Congregations. I thought I might post a few thoughts and ideas as the week goes along . . . Day 1.
- It’s been a long time since I’ve done something like this. I’m not in charge of anything this week. I only need to be present and show up with my life. It’s an odd thing not being in charge when you’re used to being in charge, even though thinking you’re in charge is one of the great delusions known to humankind.
- It’s also interesting letting go for a few days. I’m still flooded with everything I didn’t get done on the way out of First Church on Sunday afternoon. (By the way, The Grapes of Wrath Book Talk was fantastic!)
- We’re exploring paradox this week, and that means holding opposites in creative tension. You can’t have a church community if everything is either/or. There has to be a lot of both/and. Richard Rohr has written that “AND is the way of mercy.” I might also add that it’s the way of church and community and relationships.
- My room is comfortable but austere. This is not the Ritz Carlton. I have a chair. A desk. A single bed. But it’s clean and simple, and it’s a reminder that maybe I don’t need all the stuff around which I build my life. I have a love/hate relationship with stuff. I know you can’t take it with you. I know that the essence of life (thank you Jesus) is the quality of our soul and not the amount of our possessions. But some of my possessions feel soulful to me. I mean, they make me feel something a little deeper about life. Perhaps I’m kidding myself. I don’t know. All I know is that for the next three nights — no television and no radio and the scratchiest sheets that have ever touched human skin.
- Silence is essential, and I like that about retreat centers. It’s not merely silence for ourselves. Often relationships need silence. Silence is not the same as being sullen and withdrawn. Silence is beautiful when you can rest with it. Committee meetings and board meetings could use a little more silence too. Just to take it in. Just to consider and feel a few seconds longer. Yes, the Quakers were onto something.
- Finished my small group work tonight. I was with 16 other men and women, and I found them all to be quite remarkable. People really care about their churches and vocations. They’re all trying hard to do the work of God in the world.
- And by the way, the Dominican sisters hosting us are lovely. They extend hospitality as if handing off a precious diamond given directly by God, and of course hospitality is a gift of God. By the way, these are the “Nuns on the Bus” nuns, so they might look sweet and lovely, but they are fierce when it comes to justice in the world
Okay, Take a Breath and say a prayer for me this week because I’m going to say some prayers for you. I’m on a retreat, and I’m not quite sure who I am or where I am or what I’m doing. In other words, I’m in the perfect position for God to do something in my life.
August 6, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
Sky is blue.
Humidity is gone.
Hummingbirds are busy.
Coffee tastes good.
Orange juice is delicious.
Walking down the street.
Flowers in bloom.
Dogs seems happy.
Phone call to a friend.
Jogger says hello.
Thinking thoughts of gratitude.
Thinking this is IT.
Whatever IT is.
This. Is. IT.
Up a hill.
Around a corner.
Down the hill.
White cotton towel.
Clothes to wear.
Everything — the great cosmic IT — is beautiful.
The IT will change.
IT is always changing.
But for a moment.
A fine morning.
August 5, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
Ten Commandments for Loving Your Neighbor
- Treat people with dignity and respect. (Rich. Poor. Black. Brown. White. Gay. Straight. Christian. Muslim. Jew. Doesn’t matter. Everyone wants dignity and respect.)
- Listen to the feelings of other people. (Understanding what a person is feeling is more important than what a person may be thinking.)
- Share a positive word with others. (You can’t go wrong saying something nice to another human being. We never know how desperate he or she might be to hear it.)
- Do something kind without any strings attached. (Kindness is not a business transaction; kindness comes from a deeply human place inside you.)
- Learn something from another person. (And that is especially true when the person is different from you. The greater the human difference, the more likely it is that you can learn something new.)
- Don’t expect everyone to see the world like you. (It’s fine to have a point of view. It’s not fine to think there is only ONE point of view.)
- Notice something positive in people. (Can you ever go wrong finding something positive in another human being? Even a broken clock is right twice a day.)
- If you think you can help, then go ahead and try. (Don’t tamp down the good impulses inside your heart. If you think doing something good for another person might be helpful, then go ahead and do it.)
- Make room in your heart for a new friend. (Life is short. It really is. It’s short. It’s never too late to welcome someone new into your life.)
- Pay attention to the suffering of others. (Nothing connects people more profoundly than shared suffering and challenge. If you know my suffering, then you know me. If I know your suffering, then I know you. That’s how it works.)
July 27, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
It’s a small film and small films are often overlooked. No car crashes. No explosions. No sex scenes. Just a human story about a real man and his wife. The man’s name? Roger Ebert. And the film is titled Life Itself. Many of us remember that dynamic duo of film criticism — Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert. Thumbs up. Thumbs down. Both worked in Chicago. Both were writers. And both were strongly opinionated men. The documentary highlights their tumultuous relationship, but more importantly, it offers the tender story of Roger Ebert and the many changes he experienced over the course of his life. I found the film inspiring. Deeply moving. At times I caught myself laughing out loud. At other times I was on the verge of tears. It’s also a story of a marriage, Ebert’s late-in-life marriage to Chaz and the wonderful care she gave him during his last years. Take a Breath this week, and if you have a chance, go and see Life Itself. It’s a small film, but I think you’ll like it.
July 26, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
I’ve been reading a book by Meghan O’Rourke titled The Long Goodbye. It’s a good book. A very good book. She recounts the experience of her mother dying of cancer and the ensuing grief she experienced after her mother passed away. Grief is pervasive. No one is exempt. She points out that one of the most difficult experiences of grief is facing the feeling that the person who has died will be forgotten. Forgotten forever.
In particular she notes that after her mother died many of her friends never mentioned her mother’s name again. They were afraid they would offend. Or make her feel worse. Or that by mentioning her mother’s name, they would somehow cast Meghan back into a vortex of grief and sadness. Nevertheless, this sensitive daughter points out that one of her worst fears was that her mother would simply vanish. Be forgotten as if she was never here.
I think about that a lot because I think of friends and associate them with the person he or she has lost. I want to tell Don that I think of Mike. I want to tell George that I think of Kathryn. I want to tell Carol Jane that I think of Ken. I want to tell Don that I think of Maxine. Years have past, yes, but I still think of the person who has died. I find more and more that I like to say my mother’s name. “Joyce.” Her name was Joyce. Just saying her name means something to me. “Joyce.”
All of this is a way of saying that, not only is it all right to mention the name of the person who has passed away, but that it actually comforts a person, because it says that “He or she was here. He or she was real. He or she was important.”
Take a Breath. Speak to a friend. Look them in the eyes. And when the moment is right, it’s okay, it really is okay to say to them, “I want you to know that I think about so and so . . . and they meant so much to me . . . and I know they meant so much to you too . . . and I just wanted you to know.”
Let’s stop the silence of grief.
Say. The. Name.
July 21, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
This coming Sunday at First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, I’ll be doing a very different kind of sermon. I’m planning a dialogue sermon with questions. Ask an honest question. Get an honest answer. The answer may not be perfect or polished, but it will be a real response to a real question. And it’s going to be fun, too!
Rainer Marie Rilke once encouraged a young poet to “love the questions.” Loving the questions is a way of loving God, as well as respecting ourselves and others. Jesus himself often taught with questions. The Buddha posed teaching stories that more often than not ended with questions. In the Jewish tradition, rabbis probe the inner meaning of spiritual truth by asking questions.
Do you have a burning question you would like to ask about God, Bible, Church, Faith, Religion? I’m inviting you to begin posting them here on my blog and I’ll address as many as I can, while also taking questions live Sunday morning at 11:00 am. It should be a great Sunday at First Congregational Church of Los Angeles.
Take a Breath. And don’t forget to love the questions of our time!