November 28, 2015
by Dr. R. Scott

Birth. Day.


Today is my birthday. Birth. Day. I am grateful for the many people who have contributed to my life. Friends. Family. Parents. Grandparents. Children. Grandchild. Spouse. Dogs. And yes, churches.

On this day of my birth I’m aware that every moment of my life has poured into my ever becoming being, that nothing has been wasted, that everything I am today is a composite of my past, except for the continuous golden thread that I follow with my index finger and thumb into the future and which leads me to embrace something new and meaningful and beautiful in the world.

On this day of my birth I recognize again that the woman who gave birth to me is no longer here. And like so many of you, sometimes I feel like a motherless child, and that’s not necessarily a bad feeling, it’s just a feeling.

On this day of my birth I think of those people I have loved but who are no longer in my life, people who have made the great and inevitable passage from one world to another. What do they know? What do they see? I suppose I’ll find out soon enough.

On this day of my birth I’ve come to the conclusion that Facebook / Phones / Texts / Emails / and a few cards in the mail have created for me a personal — It’s a Wonderful Life — experience, because I received so many birthday greetings from people who honestly, genuinely, and generously seem to care about me. I don’t deserve it. I have not earned it. But I am moved and thankful.

(I had a dream last night. I was at the Riverside Church in New York City, and I was going from room to room trying to find a meeting I was expected to attend. It was an important meeting. I was running late. I kept trying to find it. Poking my head into room after room. I finally concluded that I was lost. Too late to attend the meeting. I was lost and just gave up. The last thing I remember is walking down Broadway all alone.)

There’s a connection between birth days and finding a room. We are born. A choice we do not make. Yet we are here. We find ourselves in a room. The room of a family house. The room of our elementary school. The room of our college or job or relationship. We go from room to room. We find and don’t find. We look frantically. We try to belong. We try to escape. Sometimes we stop looking altogether. But this is life. Room after room after room.

I had dinner tonight with some friends. Mike and Paula Lisbe. They used to be my neighbors. They moved but we’re still friends. I love their children. Paula has been my room almost since the day I met her. Why? Because I’ve known that if I ever needed a friend, needed help, I could call her. She would ask only one question: What do you need me to do? That’s what a mean. A room.

Jimmy Stewart discovered years ago in that black and white classic – It’s a Wonderful Life — that he really did have friends. That he had been blessed beyond his wildest imagination. It’s nothing nearly so dramatic for me today, but I am aware tonight that I have been blessed. People and experiences and places that have become rooms. It causes me to Take a Breath. It causes me to say — thank you. I say thank you on my birth day.





November 22, 2015
by Dr. R. Scott

Giving Thanks. For Mistakes.


Oh, I know. It’s the week to count your blessings. To give thanks for the many good things that have happened in your life. I would never take away from such good thoughts. Yet, I want to suggest a slightly different viewpoint you might consider be before you gobble down your turkey and dressing and reach for that second piece of pumpkin pie.

What about giving thanks for mistakes? Yes. Mistakes. Those moments when you messed up. Miscalculated. Got caught up in something that was completely ridiculous if not destructive to yourself or someone else. To make a mistake is a sign that you are human. To learn from your mistake is a sign that God is still doing something wonderful in your life.

When it comes to making mistakes, there are a variety of options available to us . . . (a) We can deny and become defensive. (b) We can become grief stricken and ashamed. (c) We can give up on ourselves in a fit of despair. (d) Or we can grow from our mistakes and become a deeper, wiser, more authentic human being.

Take a Breath this Thanksgiving week. Enjoy time with friends and family. Look back on your life with gratitude. Do something kind for another human being. But don’t overlook one of the most important experiences on the human journey, namely, mistakes. Learn. Grow. Understand. And if you dare, even give thanks for them.

November 13, 2015
by Dr. R. Scott

Paris. I Love You.


How utterly heartbreaking tonight to hear the tragic news coming out of Paris. We live in a small, complex and vulnerable world. Time and distance have been erased in the 21st century. Every moment is now. Every place is next door.

I pray for the people of Paris tonight. I will light candles for Paris this weekend, especially at First Congregational Church on Sunday morning. Evidence to the contrary, I still think prayers and candles matter.

I’m struck tonight by the shifting mythology of evil. There was a time when evil was thought to be located in a “devil” or “Satan” figure. Over time the mythology of evil shifted, so that evil was understood as a pervasive inexplicable reality. This was dramatically illustrated in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic movie The Birds. Now evil has become incendiary and capricious, not by a foreign government, but by any disgruntled person or fanatical group. Sometimes it’s driven by personal despair, as in the Columbine shooting. More and more it is driven by political fanaticism. Regardless, the innocent always suffer.

Friends, it’s Friday night, it’s been a long week, and I’m not sure I have much to offer except this: Let’s Take a Breath. Let’s us not lose heart. Let’s not surrender the reality that beauty and joy and compassion are still with us in the world. And tonight, pray for one of my favorite cities in the world — Paris. City of Light. City of my dreams.


November 10, 2015
by Dr. R. Scott

Students. Standing. Up.


I am impressed by those students at the University of Missouri who stood tall, protested an administration insensitive to a variety of racial incidents, and I’m also impressed that a Division One NCAA football team would stand up for African American students who have been the victims of racial violence and intimidation.

I’m  sorry the University president lost his job, because I don’t want anyone to lose their job, but I take great heart when people stand up for the right things, the better things in our society, and I’m glad when young adults feel passionately about something other than the next new iPhone or how much money they will make after they graduate. I think the recent events at the University of Missouri might be an indication that college students are latching onto the ideals of justice and equality, and that they are trying to make the world a better place for all God’s children. I find it all refreshing.

Take a Breath today and ask yourself: What would I be willing to protest? What would cause me to stand up and be counted? What injustice would cause me to rally and stand beside a fellow human being? I’m not saying the recent events at the University of Missouri constitute a movement, but it’s surely a good start, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s an important step in the right direction.

November 9, 2015
by Dr. R. Scott

Patti. Smith.


Some of you may know Patti Smith as a punk rock performer or poet. But in recent years she’s turned her attention to memoir, and has done so with a fluttering deft touch. In 2010 she chronicled her friendship with the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe in the book Just Kids. She won the National Book Award with this volume and it was certainly well deserved.

However, I just finished her most recent book, M Train, and I liked it even more. If you enjoy travel, or if you find yourself nurtured by the dreamy memories of places and trips, then I think you’ll find her book completely satisfying. For me at least, travel has never been about trying to see all the famous spots in the world. The Eiffel Tower is the Eiffel Tower. But what I remember are moods, currents of feeling while walking the streets of Paris or New York or San Francisco. That’s why I travel. Smith captures this kind of mood-travel so very well in her book.

This memoir is also a reminder that certain books and writers have nurtured her as she packed and unpacked her suitcase. Again, I know this so well. Many years ago I lugged a volume of poetry all across Italy, reading the complete poems of Eugenio Montale. I still cherish that book and I can recall specific cafes where I read it. In many ways, Smith’s book is the perfect travel book because it touches the inner nerve of what we all want when we travel — quiet, insight, novelty and something that sustains us long after we are back home.

Take a Breath, and if you are so inclined, read either of these volumes, or better yet, put them together and give them to someone for Christmas this year.

November 5, 2015
by Dr. R. Scott

Joining. (Really? A Church?)


You visit a church. You like it. And then you find yourself attending the church more or less regularly. The minister knows your name. You say hello to some of the same people who sit where you sit on Sunday. You hang around for Coffee Fellowship too. And then y0u hear it announced. A membership class. Or it’s the pastor’s coffee. Or the new member orientation session. You are terrified. You try to decide: Do I want to be a member of this church? 

It seems so simple, but it’s not simple, because you’ve never really thought of yourself as someone who joins a church. What will your friends think? Your family? Yet you like it. You have friends at work, but it’s not exactly like church. You go out and party every now and then on the weekend, but it’s not like church. You often have spiritual thoughts or feelings, but it’s not exactly the same as church. You think to yourself: “What I really want is a spiritual home. I want to be connected to a place and a people and a spiritual feeling that is nothing less than the presence of Christ. I want a few people to know me. Yes, that part of me. And I want to know them, too.”

So you hear a little click inside your mind and decide — “I want to join this church. I. Want. This. Church. To. Be. My. Church.” You take the step, and that one step, like so many other important steps in life, makes all the difference.

Take a Breath today. Faith is deeply personal, but it was never meant to be individualistic. Whoever you are, wherever you are, and whatever your faith persuasion — Find a community.

November 2, 2015
by Dr. R. Scott

View. Point.

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Consider this:

We love God by trying on a new viewpoint. A new perspective. Turning the prism slightly and seeing new color or experiencing new insight. I was recently at the new Broad Museum in Los Angles. I like it very much. I took this photo from inside the museum, looking through the honeycomb exterior of the building, onto the Frank Gehry designed Disney Hall, and then beyond that to the hills surrounding Los Angeles. It’s a photo of perspective. A view within a view within a view. I love architecture because it’s all about viewpoint.

Take a Breath this week. Find one thing. One situation. One relationship. And then risk a new perspective.

October 26, 2015
by Dr. R. Scott

I. Believe. In. Dog. (I Mean God.)


This coming Sunday at First Congregational Church of Los Angeles we will engage a faith that is mystical, ecological and completely and utterly relational. And if that’s not enough, it will be FUN too. We will hold our annual Blessing of the Animals service at 11:00 AM.

It’s a mystical day, because we often sense in these animals a Spirit bigger than the animal itself. These cats and dogs and horses and birds become angel like to us. They save us. They stand with us.

And they are ecological, because their presence reminds us that we are all part of this wondrous web of life, a web that includes all God’s creatures.

And they are relational, that is to say, we are connected to them in ways great and small, and in fact these lovely creatures become companions for us on the journey.

Take a Breath today, and if you’re in Los Angeles on Sunday, join us at 11:00 AM for the Blessing of the Animals service. If you’ve had a beloved pet pass away, bring a photograph and we’ll bless the sweet memory of your friend. I’m so looking forward to this service and I’ll be preaching my sermon: “I Believe in Dog (I mean God).”

Okay, I know it’s only Monday, but I’m looking forward to Sunday! Join me for a special day at First Church, and if you cannot be with us, pause for a moment this week and give thanks for those lovely creatures that have touched your life.

October 20, 2015
by Dr. R. Scott

I’ll. Be. Me.


The movie, I’ll Be Me, was released a couple of years ago, but I only recently had a chance to see it on Netflix. It’s the story of Glen Campbell and his struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s not your typical biopic. It shows a real man and a real family doing their best to handle Campbell’s intellectual diminishment. If you’ve had a family member struggle with Alzheimer’s, then I recommend this movie. Moreover, if you’ve ever had a situation with a family member that was complicated and difficult, then I think you will appreciate this movie too. It’s truthful and honest. Alternately comical and heartbreaking. For someone a little older like myself, the movie gets near the bone, making you realize that this disease claims thousands and thousands of people each year. Frankly, you can’t watch the movie without thinking, “Who is next?” I believe it was Nancy Reagan who spoke of President Reagan’s disease as the “long good-bye.” The movie, I’ll Be Me, is the good-bye tour of Glen Campbell. Take a Breath today. If you can think, if you can remember, if you can cherish a good memory, then give thanks. If you know someone who is struggling with Alzheimer’s, for goodness sake, be as patient as you can be. And if you know someone caring for an Alzheimer’s patient, do something kind and thoughtful for them. They carry a long and silent burden. Oh the memories, the memories that play ever gentle, and sometimes fleetingly, on our minds.

October 19, 2015
by Dr. R. Scott

Steve. Jobs.


I had a chance to see the new movie — Steve Jobs — and I recommend it to you. He’s an iconic figure, to be sure, and someone who will go down in history as a genius innovator and entrepreneur. But as the movie points out, he was a deeply complicated (and conflicted) person. Perhaps that’s the price of genius. The movie is like watching an opera in three parts, each section loosely structured around the launch of a new computer. Yet, with every technological launch, Jobs found himself embroiled in a variety of relationship conflicts, not the least of which was a conflicted relationship with his daughter. Beyond the story of Steve Jobs, I cannot help but think of how life rarely unfolds smoothly or even logically. Life is a series of beginnings and endings. A success here is followed by a failure there. Yet, we keep relaunching our lives. In the film, it’s only in the third act that Jobs begins to make headway with his daughter, a reminder that we shouldn’t give up on ourselves. There’s always time to grow. Time to change. Time to relaunch. Take a Breath today, and if you have a chance to see Steve Jobs, then please do so. It’s interesting and well done. More importantly, it’s an artistic reminder that life is not a straight-line trajectory of success, but a series of launches and relaunches.