February 27, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
1 Comment

Seriously? The Wrong Movie?

HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 26: Director Barry Jenkins and the cast and crew of 'Moonlight' accept the Best Picture award onstage during the 89th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 26, 2017 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

They announced the wrong winner for Best Picture last night at the Academy Awards. La La Land did not win, as was announced on Sunday night, but Moonlight was the Best Picture winner! (And you thought Steve Harvey announcing the wrong winner of the Miss Universe pageant was bad!)

The winning film is neither here nor there with me. But what I find interesting the morning after is the notion of what we do with mistakes. Either ones we have made or that someone else has made. Mistakes happen all the time.

The options, of course, are many. We can move toward denial or blame or hurt. We can simmer in anger. We can entertain fantasies of revenge or carry a grudge until the day we die.

What makes mistakes so complicated is that it’s one thing for a person to make a mistake and it hurts us; it’s another thing when a string of mistakes becomes a pattern that is toxic and we have to protect ourselves from it. Mistakes are also difficult because we feel embarrassed, remorseful to be sure, but embarrassed, because we want others to think better of us.

What do you do with mistakes?

It’s a little trite on a Monday morning to suggest it, but perhaps it’s worth contemplating that mistakes just happen. Someone put the wrong card into the envelope and Oscar chaos ensued! It was a mistake. No one was injured. No one died. No one was trying to hurt anyone. A mistake was made. That was Sunday. Today is Monday. It’s time to start living again.

Take a Breath . . . Is there a mistake you have made that you need to let go of so you can embrace a new day? Has someone around you made a mistake, but you’ve let it bother you long enough? Is there a mistake that still lingers in your system as resentment or shame or remorse? Every now and then you have to say: Enough is enough! It’s time to start living. La La Land did not win. Moonlight did. And the great world keeps spinning.

 

 

February 21, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
1 Comment

Black. History.

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There’s so much about Black History Month that can feel artificial. Every February it comes around. It comes around and then passes. However, if you really want to celebrate Black History Month, consider reading one of the following books or watching one of these films . . .

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. It’s a poignant, personal telling of a young black man’s experience. This book won the National Book Award last year. It’s a beautiful book. I loved it. If you’ve not read it, I highly recommend it.

The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander. Ms. Alexander is a marvelous poet, but this is her autobiographical reflection on a marriage, the death of her husband, and what it means to find meaning as an African American woman. Terrific book!

Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson. I just finished reading Dyson’s book. It was searing, stunning and powerful. It helped me understand race in America as much as any book I’ve read. Get it! Read it!

And if you don’t want to read a book, consider watching the following . . .

13th directed by the talented Ava DuVernay. (We’re showing this film at First Congregational Church of Los Angeles on February 23, 7:00 pm).

I Am Not Your Negro directed by Raoul Peck features the brilliant, insightful thinking of the late Jame Baldwin. This is an important film.

If you’re interested in something a little lighter, go see Hidden Figures. It doesn’t capture the gritty reality of the Civil Rights Movement, but it tells an important (and inspiring) story.

Fences starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis is a fascinating, dialogue driven drama. The performance by the entire cast is wonderful. It’s heavy but worth it.

Moonlight is the little movie that could. Although small in budget, it packs a huge wallop of social and racial awareness. Might just win an Oscar this Sunday.

Here’s a suggestion: Take a Breath today. If you want to honor Black History Month, then do something really radical like appreciating black culture. It’s still February. It’s not too late. It’s never too late.

 

 

 

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

Bible. As. Haiku.

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The Bible as Haiku (1)

The sun begins to shine.

Large dark clouds gather in our hearts.

The sun keeps shining.

The Bible as Haiku (2)

Paradise is lost.

We never stop looking for it.

Paradise finds us.

The Bible as Haiku (3)

We have lost our way.

Something keeps looking for us.

We wake up at home.

The Bible as Haiku (4)

Leaving our Eden.

We find the garden within.

God is not out there.

The Bible as Haiku (5)

Early morning rain.

Each drop is the universe.

So that’s how it works.

 

 

 

 

 

February 15, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
2 Comments

It’s. Just. A. Poem. (But Maybe You’ve Been There)

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Broken Down

My car is broken down outside Needles, California.

I wish I could write a poem. A good poem about my broken down car. The kind of poem that would live inside you like an avocado seed – securely happy in a sea of warm green flesh. But I can’t write poems anymore. I never could, really.

Or a maybe I could write a movie script. Not even a whole movie. Just a scene about a broken down car in Needles, California. Two people talking. Finally breaking through everything that separates them. A lingering close up in front of the car. But I’ve never written a movie scene, and besides, people spend years writing scripts, so it must be more complicated than what it appears.

Or maybe I could write a song. Something ironic and full of ambiguous feeling. But I don’t know how to write songs either. If I could write a song it would be mysterious. Something like: I begin each day swimming in your eyes / asking only for a brief respite upon your shore. I begin each day swimming in your eyes/ looking for forgiveness and nothing more. But like I said, I don’t write songs. So that is that.

My car is broken down outside Needles, California.

I am waiting on a tow truck. I am waiting for you.

 

 

February 2, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
4 Comments

A Survivalist Guide for Living with the Trump Presidency

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I’m not sure I’ve ever seen nerves more frayed than what they are right now in America. President Trump’s aggressive agenda is creating anxiety across the country. Almost everyone I meet is feeling the stress. We’re in a perpetual state of pastoral crisis. As a clergy person, my job is not to wring my hands in despair; it’s to offer hope and a spiritual pathway forward. I’ve been thinking about what I need to survive the next four years . . . I share it with you . . .

Survival Rule Number One: I’m going to refuse to live with pessimism about my life for the next four years. There is still so much goodness in the world, and not only goodness, but beauty and truth and joy. I’m not going to allow anyone in the Oval Office (Democrat or Republican) to wreck that for me, and nor should you. Life is a gift, and one way we save the world is by enjoying the world.

Survival Rule Number Two: I’m going to keep standing up for human dignity, love and respect. I’m not going to be shrill about it. I’m not going to be the guy to shout the loudest. I’m simply going to keep reminding myself and others that the essence of my faith is love for God and love for neighbor, and love means respect, justice and fairness. We cannot stop standing up for one another. And we especially cannot stop standing up for those who cannot stand at all.

Survival Rule Number Three: I don’t have the capacity to save the world. I can, however, reach out to friends and family with goodness and compassion. I can make the world a better place in ways that are real and personal. Besides, we only save the world one person, one human gesture at a time. Jesus once defined faith as giving someone a cup of cold water. This is something I can do. It’s something you can do too In this challenging time, treating one another with a little extra gentleness is an essential thing.

Survival Rule Number Four: I’m going to move closer to my friends and my community of faith in the upcoming days, and we’re going to talk about what we need to talk about in order to get through these seismic changes happening in America. We need one another right now. We need to talk (and vent) and remind one another that we are not alone. We need to listen to one another. We need something more than another Breaking News report on television. News is fine; but we need community to help us absorb it and process it.

Survival Rule Number Five: As the country seems to become more and more shallow, I’m going to move more deeply into my humanity with greater attention and feeling. I’m going to start a love affair with poetry again. I’m going to read more books. I’m going to take more time with the arts. I’m going to pay attention to my feelings, dreams and intuitions. I’m going to spend more time in the temple of my soul, not as a way of escaping reality, but as a way of finding a deeper sense of it.

Survival Rule Number Six: I want to follow the path of wisdom that suggests — being here now / being present with what is / sitting with the true reality — is always a way of insight. Escapism doesn’t work. Activism is critically important, to be sure, but something must be added to it. We have to discover the philosopher’s stone. America is where it is, and historians will eventually sort out how we got here, but to be present with the reality of our times is not a defeatist concession, but a courageous embrace of life.

Survival Rule Number Seven: I’m going to pray / meditate / send good thoughts toward the President. This is not easy, but it’s the right thing to do. When we pray for someone who sees the world differently from us, or in the words of Jesus, when we “pray for our enemies,” the world is mysteriously changed. And the world changes because we change. Maybe some of us are not ready for that today. Fine. But I think it’s part of the spiritual survivalist package that we need. Besides, when we pray for the “other,” we’re acknowledging that we too need guidance, and that kind of humility is essential.

Friends, I invite you to Take a Breath. We’re in a strange time right now in America. A stressful time. A disconcerting time. But it’s a time perfect for the resources of the heart. Let’s survive it together one breath at at time.

January 21, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
2 Comments

Trilogue.

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Bringing people together goes to the heart of faith. The word religion literally means to “bind back together.” Tomorrow morning I will host a conversation of faith titled: “Thoughts for the New President.” My guests will include Rabbi Steven Leder and Imam Jihad Turk. From our respective faith traditions, we’ll discuss what we think is important for President Trump to know and do at the beginning of his new administration. I think the conversation will be exciting, thoughtful and most of all interesting. If you’re in Los Angeles tomorrow, join me for what I think will be a historic conversation at First Church.

January 20, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
5 Comments

President. Trump.

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Dear President Trump:

I am a person of faith, lived imperfectly to be sure, but as a person of faith there are things I believe . . .

I believe it’s important to affirm that all people are children of God, and regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender-identity, or sexual orientation, each person deserves love and respect. It is unacceptable (and un-American) to demonize groups of people, and that is especially true coming from the person sitting in the Oval Office. The level of discourse coming from the White House needs to be aspirational. If America has a president who talks and acts like a bully, then we will learn to bully one another. I hope you will govern differently than how you campaigned.

I believe it’s important to affirm that the environment reflects the goodness of God, and that we are called to care for the environment as we care for our own bodies. Mother Earth is in trouble. The challenge of climate change is real. You can’t make America great again if the planet is falling apart. (And if the rising seas begin to swallow up your properties around the world.) For people of faith, caring for the planet has emerged as the spiritual / ethical challenge that God is calling us to embrace.

I believe it’s important to affirm that the world needs diplomatic wisdom. We live in a perilous time. We cannot be naive. I know that. Yet, it’s important to understand that diplomacy is not the same as making a business deal. Making deals has served you well in your business life, but America isn’t merely a business. We’re a diverse nation living in a complex world. My fear is that, without some degree of humility, international relations will quickly deteriorate. The human family is desperate for good will and compassion and thoughtful understanding.

Mr. President — Many of us are Taking a Breath today. We love our country. We love our neighbors around the world. We love this fragile planet upon which we live and work and play. I hope you will Take a Breath too. You are the President of the United States of America. Today, all around the world and in many different languages, people of faith are saying a prayer for you and our country. I’m saying a prayer for you today, too.

Sincerely,

Rev. Dr. R. Scott Colglazier

 

January 19, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
4 Comments

President. Obama.

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Dear President Obama:

There is so much I will remember and miss about your presidency . . .

Your quiet dignity. Your thoughtful approach to life. The way you and and the First Lady brought so much strength and courage to our nation. I will never forget the way some politicians refused to work with you. How some people tried to humiliate you because of your race, or because of the false reports that you were not born as a U.S. citizen. I appreciate that you loved books. And the arts. I loved that the First Lady enjoyed fashion! The two of you cared about America’s children. And when tragedy struck our communities, you were there with words of hope. You inherited a financial disaster. You guided us through it. You inherited war. You did your best to help us move past it. As for healthcare, thank you for caring about this important issue, because that is where people live — getting sick, going to the doctor, trying to adopt a healthier life. Health care is one of the great moral issues of our time. It is complicated. But you stood up it and stood up for the American people. I’m old enough, Mr. President, to remember the Civil Rights Movement. You are our first African American President. I was so proud when you were elected. I was so proud of your vision of America and the world. I was so proud when you helped us understand the pain of race in America. Your presidency was not perfect. Of course not. As a clergyman I am called to care for Republicans, Democrats and Independents. Some of my church members voted for you. Some did not. And that’s the way democracy works. But you made history for us, Mr. President. I am Taking a Breath today. I hope you will soon take a Breath for your yourself, too. You held it together for eight years, so we could hold it together as a nation. I honor you. I thank you. I say a prayer for you today.

Sincerely,

The Rev. Dr. R. Scott Colglazier

January 4, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
0 comments

Huston. Smith.

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One of the spiritual giants of our time, Dr. Huston Smith, passed away on January 1. Huston brought amazing insight into religion, probing the differences and similarities of the religions of the world. I honor his life by sharing just a few quotes from this extraordinary gentleman and scholar. I recommend any of his books, almost all of them are still in print, but for today I encourage you to enjoy the following . . .

“The faith I was born into formed me. I come from a missionary family – I grew up in China – and in my case, my religious upbringing was positive. Of course, not everyone has this experience. I know many of my students are what I have come to think of as wounded Christians or wounded Jews. “

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“Science is empirical, all about physical senses that tell us about the world. But physical senses are not the only senses we have. Nobody has ever seen a thought. Nobody has ever seen a feeling. And yet thoughts and feelings are where we live our lives most immediately, and science cannot connect with that.”

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“I am critical of modernity giving science and technology a blank check as if it were the fountain of all truth. That is not true. And I think I may have introduced a word which has now caught on quite a bit, scientism. Science is good. It simply reports a discovery.”

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“God has to speak to each person in their own language, in their own idioms. Take Spanish, Chinese. You can express the same thought, but to different people you have to use a different language. It’s the same in religion.”

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“Walnuts have a shell, and they have a kernel. Religions are the same. They have an essence, but then they have a protective coating. This is not the only way to put it. But it’s my way. So the kernels are the same. However, the shells are different.”

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“Poetry is a special use of language that opens onto the real. The business of the poet is truth telling, which is why in the Celtic tradition no one could be a teacher unless he or she was a poet.”

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“Swallow your pride and admit that we all need help at times.”

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“At the center of the religious life is a peculiar kind of joy, the prospect of a happy ending that blossoms from necessarily painful ordeals, the promise of human difficulties embraced and overcome.”

January 2, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
7 Comments

Forgive. My. Happiness.

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It is January 2, 2017 and I would like to say: Please forgive my happiness. Leonard Cohen, who spent many years in a Buddhist monastery, once remarked: “I spent many years studying the world’s religions, but joy kept breaking in.” So it goes. To my friends I want to say forgive me today for being a happy human being, hopeful and full of joy and vitality. I’m sorry if I have not been miserable enough for you, that I did not flagellate my soul to your satisfaction, but joy keeps breaking into my life and I am happy today. To my children I want to say, forgive me on this second day of the New Year for being so happy, for feeling as if life is a gift, for loving someone special and being loved by someone special, for wanting to read more books and write another one too, for my continued passion for enjoying good food and wine and friends around the table. I am so proud of all three of you, and for any enmiserating feeling I afflicted upon you through the years, I ask your forgiveness, but I meant well and that surely is worth something. You don’t have to rescue me, take care of me, worry about me or anything else related to my life, because I am happy today. Your friendship means everything to me. To my fans (tongue in cheek) and detractors (not tongue in cheek), I want you to know that life beat the hell out of me this past year. I reached the kind of low point I once thought unimaginable for a person like myself, a patch of days when I didn’t care if I woke up in the morning. But somehow God showed up, and I do not use the word G-O-D lightly. Kindness rescued me this summer and I will never forget it. I am repaying the universe with my happiness. I offer every smile, every laugh, every ecstatic moment of happiness as a lighted votive candle to Universe / Source / Love that I name with the word G-O-D. And so forgive me for discovering one of the great secrets in all of living, namely, that despite its many struggles and heartaches, life is good. To my church members, I hope you will forgive me for being so happy each Sunday at church. For the first time in my career I don’t think of going some place else. I don’t think about what is next. Oh, I want us to be a little bigger, and a little better, and a little stronger. But I am happy today, and so if it’s too much to behold, just kindly avert your eyes. To my friends, whom I thought were my friends, those of you I never imagined you leaving me stranded upon the shore of your affection, I ask you to forgive my happiness today, because I am only now beginning to see that I am responsible for my own disappointments, and the disappointments I might have had in you this past year only make my joy richer today, because it has provided me with the opportunity to forgive and let go and move forward with gratitude for all that we were and all that we are not and all that we might still become. I am only now beginning to learn how my amazement of joy must be laced with incredulous dismay. So, to anyone who is reading this today, who might have a passing interest in me or what I write from time to time, let me just say it: I am happy. Forgive me. Take a Breath. And Happy New Year.