April 3, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
1 Comment

It’s. Not. About. You.

An enterprising Chinese man pulls a bicycle cart packed high with bags of recyclable plastic containers in Shanghai July 25, 2002. The man sells each kilogram (2.2 pounds) of plastic for 0.08 yuan ($.01) to a nearby depot. REUTERS/Claro Cortes IV CC/JD - RTR846W

How easy it is to take it all on ourselves. Personalize it. Believe that it is a judgment against us . . . or we believe we’re not enough . . . or we’ve made some kind of egregious mistake . . . or we feel insufficient compared to others . . . let me say it . . . please hear me today . . . it’s not about you.

A friend doesn’t call. And he doesn’t call. And he doesn’t call. It’s not about you.

Someone at works goes off in anger and offers a torrent of criticism. It’s not about you.

A spouse grows sullen, and you wonder what you’ve done. It’s not about you.

A child appears unhappy evening after evening. You try to make him or her happy but you feel like you’re failing. It’s not about you.

A person who is normally friendly isn’t so friendly as you pass in the hallway at work or church or school. It’s not about you.

A retail person treats you coldly, even when you try to be decently friendly. It’s not about you.

A customer goes off, inordinately s0, over-the-top upset about this or that. It’s not about you.

Take a Breath today. And for good measure take a few more. Most of us find ourselves in situations from time to time when we think we’re not enough or we’ve done something wrong. Set yourself free — believe it for a few minutes — it’s not about you! (Thank God!)

 

March 29, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
2 Comments

A. Morning. Prayer.

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A Morning Prayer

Still dark this morning.

The sky is clear.

The moon offers itself to us again.

Venus is still flickering.

The worries of the day have yet to begin.

Consider this. This. Consider this today:

So much of the world is free. 

 

March 23, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
1 Comment

I. Would. Like. To. Write. A. Blog.

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I would like to write a blog but I don’t know what to write. Do other bloggers feel the same way? Or do their cups perpetually runneth over? They say the desert in southern California is now ablaze with wildflowers. I envy the desert. Wouldn’t you like to awaken from a drought and blossom with lavish beauty?

Sometimes I don’t sleep well, and I’m guessing a few of you are in the same boat. I wake at midnight or two in the morning. The worst time of night is 3.40 am. It’s an island of dread. Too late to reclaim the night and too early to embrace the morning. There is no agony quite like 3.4o in the morning.

I now have a second dog — Daisy. Gracie sleeps on her dog bed. Daisy now sleeps with me. She starts in her chair at night, but at some point, like Carey Grant in the movie “To Catch a Thief,” she makes her way from the chair to the floor and then next to me on the bed. She then becomes an immoveable object. She is the Gibraltar of sleeping dogs. The great Unmoved Mover.

So much of life is a blank canvas. Some days I do something with it and some days I don’t. The same is true of the night. It is blank. What to do with our days? Our nights? Our lives? Sometimes I think the answer is this: We do something. You have a blank page and you begin to write. Pretty soon you have a blog. Or a sermon. Or a new book. You begin a relationship. You listen and share and listen some more. You begin a new job and you just start.

So much of life begins with the terror of emptiness. Interestingly enough, Christianity and Buddhism share a great love for emptiness. Jesus said you must lose your life to find it. Translated — You have to go through a drought every now and then for something new to bloom. The Buddha said, “Form is emptiness and emptiness is form.” In other words, there is no such thing as nothing-ness. Something is always lurking in our nothing.

Take a Breath today. I’ve had a little bit of a drought this week. Maybe you’ve been having one lately too. Maybe it’s not one thing, but in the words of the Dawes, my new favorite group, maybe it’s a “little bit of everything.” Whatever it is, you remind me and I’ll remind you — let’s not run from our emptiness. Let’s embrace it and see what happens. Who knows? Maybe even emptiness can become a blog.

 

 

March 17, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
1 Comment

My. Creative. Friends. (And Why I’m So Proud of Them!)

I’m in Seattle today, having just enjoyed the premier of a new musical last night titled A Proper Place. It is a marvelous new play. I loved the music. The humor. The poignancy. The plot. I hope it’s hugely successful! It’s partly Gilligan’s Island and partly Downton Abby. But I’m here because my friend, Curtis Rhodes, and a great friend of First Church, wrote the music with is writing partner Leslie Becker. Curtis is one of the finest people I’ve ever known in my life, and I count him as a dear friend, but as much as anything I admire his creative capacity.

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On Saturday I’ll head over to a book signing at Children Book World in Los Angles to support my friend David Mellon. David is an amazing artist, but for the past few years he put down his brush and picked up a pen, and he has written a wonderful young adult novel titled Silent. It’s a book rich in symbolism, imagery and an intriguing plot that will keep you turning the pages. I’ve known David nearly 30 years now, and he and his wife Judith have become especially important to me in recent days. But like Curtis, I admire his boundless creativity.

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I love all my friends, but I especially love those who pursue their creativity genius. Artists deepen the human experience. They make the world better for all of us. They open our hearts and minds a little wider. And so if you know an artist, Take a Breath this week and give them a little support. We are desperate for the gifts they bring us. (And since I’m doing commercials today, join me Sunday morning at 11 for my Lenten Sermon series . . . “The Art of Jesus.”)

March 2, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
0 comments

What is Progressive Christianity? / The Art of Jesus.

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This coming Sunday, March 5, I’ll begin teaching a six week Sunday Forum Series titled — What is Progressive Christianity. We’ll meet every Sunday morning at 9.30 AM, and I think you’ll find it provocative and insightful. We’ll meet in the Shatto Chapel of First Congregational Church of Los Angeles. Additionally, we’ll be videoing each of the sessions and we’ll make them available as the series unfolds. Also beginning this Sunday at 11.00 AM, I’ll do a Lenten sermon series titled The Art of Jesus. I’ve selected some amazing works of art that focus on the dying and rising of Jesus. I think you’ll find the sermons contemplative and engaging. If you haven’t been in church for a while — like since Christmas! — then consider this your personal invitation to come back home. It’s going to be a meaningful season of seeking and searching as we prepare of the celebration of Easter. And speaking of Easter, this year on Easter Sunday, April 16, we’ll have two identical services at First Church — 9.00 AM and 11.00 AM. Make plans now to be with us that Sunday. Take a Breath today, and then do yourself a favor by being with us each Sunday during this sacred season of Lent. Blessings.

February 28, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
1 Comment

Tomorrow. Ashes.

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Tomorrow I will offer the imposition of ashes at First Congregational Church of Los Angeles. I will sit in the chapel from 7 am to 9 am, waiting and willing to offer anyone who enters Shatto Chapel the gift of this ancient ritual. And then tomorrow night I will lead a short service at 7 pm in the chapel, again offering the imposition of ashes.

I will mark ashes upon the forehead of anyone who is willing to bear upon his or her body the sign of the cross. Ashes of mortality and grief and hope.

I will also wear ashes. I will wear ashes, because I know my body will return to the earth and my spirit to God. I will wear ashes because an unrelenting decrepitude courses through my body each day. I will wear ashes in solidarity with Jesus who suffered and died and rose again. I will wear ashes over all the heartache I have caused to the world, to myself and God.

I will ask God for forgiveness. I will resolve again to forgive those who have hurt me. And most of all, I will try to feel within my heart the suffering of others, not in a superficial-martyr kind of way, but in a way that is real and genuine. I will feel the suffering of immigrants in our country. I will feel within my body those who have been broken by life.

Today is Fat Tuesday. I went to Fred’s 62 with my friend David Farrar, and had a breakfast burrito with chili sauce. It was delicious. Tomorrow I will lean into a different way of being. Listening. Loving. Forgiving. I ask you to join me in Taking a Breath tonight. And tomorrow . . . join me in trying to begin again. And again. And again.

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
4 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.