June 14, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
5 Comments

Sick. And. Tired.

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I am sick and tired of gun violence in our society. I don’t have an answer. I don’t have a solution. But I am sick and tired of it. Congressional Representatives should be safe. And so should children in Chicago and Los Angeles and New York City. Schools should be safe, like Columbine and Sandy Hook.

I am sick and tired of the gun violence. It’s partly mental illness. It’s partly a social illness of frustration and anger and complete disregard for our fellow human beings.

I am sick and tired of how we are treating one another, regardless of politics and ethnicity and economic background.

I am sick and tired of video games and movies that are saturated with violence and that diminish our collective humanity over and over again. Parents . . . it’s time to wake up.

The Speaker of the House today said that “An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.” That’s not just true of the House, Mr. Speaker. It’s true of the entire human family. It’s true of civilizations around the world. I don’t think the answer is more guns. I know some disagree. I just don’t believe that will make us safer.

There is something at the core of our humanity that is eroding away, that is slowly diminishing, in a quasi-apocalyptic way, and it is that part of us that respects the dignity of others, that feels some small impulse to love our neighbor as ourselves.

At a certain point we have to return to the greatest exploration of all . . . what it means to be humane with another.

So what if you have the best Apple computer or can watch 772 channels on cable or can post on FB or Twitter or Instagram. None of it matters if we don’t know how to be human in the family of all things.

Take a Breath if you can tonight. I’m trying to take one too. I’m not sure what to do and where to turn. I would like to say: “God save us.” But God is not going to save us.

God, the God I believe in, the God I will preach about this Sunday at First Church, that God is looking at us and saying, “You figure it out. Figure it out before you destroy one another. Figure it out before you kill everyone. You want me to save you? How about saving yourselves?”

I am sick and tired tonight.

June 13, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
2 Comments

Life. Changes.

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I have been going to a little bookstore on the Upper East Side of New York City for over two decades. Crawford Doyle Booksellers. I loved that bookstore. Small. Accessible. Everyone who worked there loved books. It was a literary gem. I was in NYC a few weeks ago for some meetings, wandered up Madison Avenue, and discovered that it is now closed. How can this be? Who pulled the rug out from under my literary feet? Life changes, my dear friends, and sometimes it trips me up just like it does you. I wish I could offer sage advice or religious insight for all the changes we experience. The world is dynamic, to be sure, and so is God. But beyond that, I only know to do one thing — Take a Breath. And then another. And then another. Sometimes we grieve over a loss. Sometimes we shrug our shoulders. Sometimes a change means something new is on the horizon. Maybe something even better. We never quite know. So, whoever you are, whatever you might be going through today, I offer this: Be grateful for the past. Be ready for the future. God / Universe / Source is forever calling us forth.

June 10, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
0 comments

I’m an Artist. That’s All.

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When I have no answers. And no clues. When the world presses in upon me and I feel my head spinning. And my prayers feel flat. And I cannot imagine writing another word. And another sermon feels too much. When there is nothing left inside me to say or speak or share. I head to my hillside in Los Angeles. A little outdoor studio I have fashioned there. I paint. I am not a painter. I do not pretend to be a painter. I am not a painter. I know I am not a painter. I’m only an artist. I paint because it makes me happy. That is all. There are so many ways of Taking a Breath. This summer . . . find something creative to do that gives you life. That’s what I’m saying. Make the summer creative.

June 9, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
1 Comment

The. Road. Back. To. You.

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God is not a satellite up in the sky orbiting our humanity. God is our capacity for thought and feeling. God is how we see life, live life, embrace life. God is an inner presence. This is why the closer we move to our true self, the more we seem to find God. It’s also why knowing a lot “about” God is rarely transformative. It must be pressed down like God juice, like energy moving through our bodies with a sense of immediacy and truthfulness.

This summer my colleague, Rev. Laura Fregin, and I will be offering a summer sermon series at First Congregational Church of Los Angeles titled: The Road Back to You. To move to our true self is not narcissism; it is a profound spiritual journey to God. This coming Sunday I will kick off the series exploring what it means to live with (and transform) core emotional / psychological wounds. We all have core wounds. What we do with them is our choice.

Take a Breath. I know it’s summer and everyone is traveling and busy with activities. I hope to travel a little too. But do something for your soul this summer — Join us every Sunday at 11 AM, and if you cannot be with us in person, then join us online for this summer trip — The Road Back to You. It’s going to be a good one.

June 1, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
6 Comments

Climate. Change.

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Putting politics aside, and I really mean that, I offer a couple of thoughts for your Thursday evening . . .

Climate change is THE moral issue of our time. If the planet doesn’t survive, no other moral issue matters. The economy doesn’t matter. Culture doesn’t matter. Religion doesn’t matter. Patriotism doesn’t matter. We can argue about what should be in second place, but climate change and the future of the planet must always be in first place.

If we cannot inhabit the planet, nothing else matters. If the planet cannot renew itself and sustain the human family, nothing else matters.

As a person of faith, I find President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States of America from the Paris Climate Accord disturbing for several reasons . . .

  1. The future of the planet is more important than any economic concern for a particular country, and that includes the United States. Jesus said a great deal about putting money before humanity.
  2. This decision is an assault on science, and I think science enhances life, and the vast majority of scientists agree that climate change has been created by human activity.
  3. I see the earth as the body of God, and therefore how I treat the earth is how I treat God, just as how I treat human beings is how I treat God.
  4. The earth can either experience a slow crucifixion or a slow resurrection . . . it is in our hands. God is not going to swoop down and save us. It is in our hands.
  5. When we turn our backs on allies, countries that have stood beside us for decades, we are destabilizing the world. I want America to be a moral leader and not a self-interested lone ranger.
  6. Not everything is a deal. Not everything is a transaction. We are in a relationship with allies, and in fact we should be in a relationship with Mother Earth. Relationships are better than deals.
  7. Technology is changing how we use natural resources. The name of the game is not “dominion over the earth,” but “partnership with the planet.”
  8. The ancient psalmist declared: “The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof.” Most of us have had religious experiences related to the beauty of the natural world. That should tell us something.
  9. Nearly half of the President Trump’s Cabinet are climate change deniers. At the beginning of the 21st century, I find this terribly disturbing.
  10. The future is wide open. God is on the side of life and goodness and joy. We do not have to devolve into a dystopian catastrophe. I love my children. I have a beautiful grandchild. I love the children at First Church. We must do better for them.

Take a Breath. Rise up. Speak up. Say a prayer. Mother Earth is crying for our help. This is not merely a political issue. This is the moral issue of our time.

 

May 29, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
1 Comment

Just. A. Memory.

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Memorial Day weekend in the southern Indiana of my childhood always meant listening to the Indianapolis 500 on the radio, washing the car in the backyard, a beginning-of-the-summer cookout, often including friends and family and plenty of hamburgers and hot dogs.

It also meant going to Crown Hill Cemetery with my father and grandmother, putting flowers on the gravesite of my grandfather, my dad’s father, Gayle Colglazier, and remembering, among other things, that he served this country in the Navy during WW II. My father carried within his body a solemnity on those Memorial Day weekends. Solemnity and pride and love. He missed his dad. I didn’t understand that then. I do now. He would sometimes cry and put his arm around my grandmother, Agnes.

It’s toward the end of the Memorial Day weekend. It’s not too late to remember those who gave their lives trying to make the world a better place, a safer place for all of us. I never want war. I hate what war does to our world and to the young men and women who are called to serve. But today I honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice of their lives, and I am Taking a Breath and saying a prayer for those families, because they never recover from the deepest loss of a son or daughter or spouse.

Blessings on this Memorial Day Weekend.

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

Poem. For. Today.

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Dear friends, whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever you are going through today, I know that a poem does not make everything better. It does not reverse time, nor does it replace a child killed in a bomb blast in Manchester, England. It’s only a poem. That’s all. The slenderest of literary threads. But someday a poem (and a prayer) is all we have. The following is by the brilliant poet Adam Zagajewski. It’s translated by Claire Cavanaugh. I have turned to this poem again and again over the past ten years of my life. I am turning to it today. I am Taking a Breath. Read it aloud for a moment. Share it with a friend. Please take a breath with me today. It’s all I know to do.

Try to Praise the Mutilated World

Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June’s long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of rosé wine.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You’ve seen the refugees going nowhere,
you’ve heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth’s scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the gray feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
and returns.

 

May 15, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
1 Comment

Mother’s Day / Night Dream

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I am in a house in a beautiful forest in the Midwest. The trees are swaying in the breeze. Dancing in the air. I am in the house with my mother. She is happy. I am happy. We had stopped at a bookstore and purchased some books. She was in the house reading. I was outside the house trimming some plants and working with flowers. I am happy. I come into the house. One side of the house is made of windows. The view is stunning. The trees are beautiful, as is the sky and meadow and forest. She says, “I think I’m going to bake us a few things.” She bakes some cookies and fixes some coffee. We enjoy a snack. I said, “This is really nice. We should do this more often, just the two of us.” She smiles and says, “I agree.”

Take a Breath today. Consider paying attention to your dream life. Sometimes dreams are the language of God / the great Unconscious / rising up to our consciousness with kindness and love. Not to be taken literally, they speak to us symbolically. Paying attention is a way of praying.

May 8, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
0 comments

A Heart Poem . . .

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A heart breaking is a real thing. It happens in an instant, the way lightening strikes a great oak tree in Michigan during the summer. You know the conditions are right (you heard the weather report earlier in the day) but you still don’t see it coming. When lightening strikes, your hair turns white and your skins crawls like a caterpillar and your teeth rattle like a sack of Chicklets. Your hands swim in the air, as if looking for the surface of the ocean. You can’t breathe. You think you’re going to die. (And in a way you do.) Why did you read that email? What possessed you to open that hidden box in the back of the closet? Why did you ask that question? But then something (someone) slaps you in the middle of the back, and you suck the sweetness of air into your lungs. At first it hurts. Like ice cracking inside your chest. And then you think: “This only happens to other people.” But it’s really happening and it’s not a dream and it’s not a movie and it’s not a novel and it’s certainly not a “reality” television show. It’s your life. In an odd kind of way you are relieved. (Being exceptional is such a burden.) Who knew? Grace is not getting over it, but learning you are not above it. If you’re lucky, one day your heart will beat for another human being. And it it will break. And then you will be alive.

 

 

 

 

April 26, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
2 Comments

One. Day. Mindful.

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This coming Sunday, April 30, 2017, our service at First Church will focus on the work of the Buddhist teacher — Thich Nhat Hanh. I highly recommend his new book to you — At Home in the World.

But for today, one day, a Wednesday, I tried to move into a place of greater mindfulness by following the insights of Thich Nhat Hanh . . . And so . . . in the spirit of transparency . . . I offer my day to you . . .

  • I woke early. A dream. Water rushing down the alley next to my boyhood home in Indiana. So much water. I’m in the front yard watching it flow into Main Street. I think to myself — “I wish I could capture that water. I could use the water for a garden.”
  • I go downstairs with the dogs at 5 am. They go outside and do their business. They run back into the kitchen because they are hungry. I wonder if they enjoy food. I think of the difference between eating and dining. I love to dine. I don’t do much of it these days, but I love it when it happens.
  • I fix a cup of coffee. It is delicious. Dark. French roast. I quickly scan the New York Times. One of my favorite restaurants, Union Square Cafe, is reviewed and receives three stars. I want to go there. I miss New York City.
  • I drive to work with the dogs in the car. I begin writing a sermon in my office. I talk to a friend on the phone. The dogs settle in by my desk. I am reading Thich Nhat Hanh. I love his writing. I have never met him, but I wish I could. He must be old now. I think of my mentor Brother David Steindl-Rast.
  • I had lunch yesterday at USC with Jim Burklo. He gave me his book on mindfulness. It looks great. My mind hops around like a rabbit as I try to write a sermon. But I come back to myself.
  • My assistant comes in and interrupts me. Not once but several times. She has a job to do. I understand that. She’s good. I step back and try to embrace her interruptions. I try not to see them as interruptions. That’s an ego place for me. Interruptions. I try to welcome them.
  • I’ve been writing a sermon for a couple of hours now. But emails keep coming. And dings. And text messages. They’re driving me a little crazy. Again, I try to step back. Is there a gift in that disagreeable email? Is there a gift in that unwanted advice I just received as a text? I wonder: How do so many people have my cell phone number?
  • Mindfulness is inviting me to a different place today. Here it is. A text. An email. A phone call. It’s not good or bad. It just is. It is life. I open myself to be present with it. Not fighting it but welcoming it.
  • The sermon is moving along. I feel energy writing it today. That’s usually a good sign. Need to wrap now. Appointments are coming in.
  • I head home late in the afternoon and go for a walk. I don’t want to take the dogs. I am tired of the dogs. But they give me a look. That looks the says, “Really, you’re going on a walk without us?” I think of companionship. They count on me. I count on them too. I take them with me. I don’t feel like exercising, so I try to embrace the joy of walking. Gratitude for each step. It feels pretty good.
  • I come back home and fix a gin and tonic. The Cubs are playing. They are losing but that’s okay. I let myself enjoy the game. The beauty, the slowness, of baseball. I eat dinner. I didn’t fix it. Carry-in from Joan’s on Third. It’s delicious.
  • I think of the tax cuts being proposed by President Trump. I’m worried that all the Senate met privately with the President about North Korea. Could we be in a war by the weekend? It would not surprise me.
  • The sun is setting. It’s been a good day. Tomorrow is busy. So is Friday. Anthony Rizzo just hit a homer and the Cubs are only behind by one run now. Hope springs eternal. I want to live each day more simply. Aware / Mindful / Conscious / Grateful / Alive.

Take a Breath. Consider trying one day mindful. The spiritual life is not about escaping the world; it is about embracing it more fully.