Community

The Epic Wedding or Thirty-five Years of Better and Worse

Wedding on Vail Mountain

Wedding on Vail Mountain

Being a pastor who has officiated over 400 weddings, I know weddings have grown into epic events, sometimes costing tens of thousands of dollars. Remember “Franc” in Father of the Bride? A caricature for sure, but I’ve met her (the wedding coordinator) and that wedding was cheap compared to a couple I’ve been ignored during.

In these epic weddings, “the day of” is sometimes fretted over more than a thousand days of marriage. I feel a sermon coming so . . . let’s move on.

This was not so for Dee Dee and me. Our wedding day was—um—shall I say—far from epic. Unless a comedy of errors counts as epic. And unless epic can be had for around five hundred bucks. And unless epic can be defined by—well—see for yourself:

Dee Dee Dressed to Kill

Dee Dee Dressed to Kill

  • Our pre-marital counselor told me I was too immature and he was going to recommend the pastor not marry us. I almost punched him but that would prove his point.
  • Maybe this is why the pastor wandered in late and forgot the words to The Lord’s Prayer.
  • It snowed the night before. We were having an outdoor reception.
  • I looked like a Bee Gee wanna be in my tux (see the pic).
  • Our “photographer” was a “family friend.”
  • Dee Dee’s mom’s oven broke while preparing the food for the reception.
  • People showed up at Dee Dee’s mom and dad’s house before we were done taking pictures and began drinking punch concentrate. And there was no food.
  • Eugene Dressed to Stay Alive

    Eugene Dressed to Stay Alive

    According to a family tradition I knew nothing about, my Croatian uncle kidnapped Dee Dee to raise money for our honeymoon. Uncle Pete kept Dee Dee until many people left the reception and she missed most of it. And he only raised $50.

  • During the time Dee Dee was gone, my groomsmen decided to console me by giving me “the good punch” and I lost track of time, so to speak.
  • I’ve not seen those groomsmen since my wedding day.
  • Almost everyone was gone when we finally cut the cake.
  • We missed all the food Dee Dee and her sister and mother  prepared and arrived at our honeymoon hotel starving. Room service was closed and so we had our first meal as a married couple at Denny’s (Dee Dee’s favorite restaurant, not) surrounded by drunks.
  • My only vehicle was a vintage (read rusty, dog-tracking, oil-sucking, smoke-belching) ’64 GMC pick-up.
  • I had to borrow my father-in-law’s Pontiac for the get away car. Our friends used shaving cream to decorate the car and it ate the paint off, leaving “just married” etched on the hood.

    The Ride

    The Ride

But none of the above is Dee Dee’s fault. She tried to avoid the whole thing. She rejected my proposals twice before finally seeing the light.

Still it’s been one of our favorite stories. And as imperfect as our wedding day was, our marriage has been—not perfect, but an adventure neither one of us would have missed for the world. Never-the-less we decided it was about time to hold a do-over. Last June we renewed our marriage vows 35 years after our epic wedding experience.

Renewing Our Vows Kathleen Peachey Photography

Renewing Our Vows Kathleen Peachey Photography

We asked friends and family who have walked with us through our 35 year adventure to celebrate with us. It was epic. And beautiful. And without nearly as many faux pas.

As a matter of fact, it taught me what marriage is really about. As Dee Dee repeated her vows, the gravity of her words and the God-given depth of her love bore into my heart. I realized she has embodied those words. For better or worse.

You see, she has not only put up with me dreaming and moving and running and stumbling and messing up, she has loved me.

It’s ironic how you don’t see how true some things are until you see them in the light of time. I was too young—and immature—to know the meaning of our vows back then.

35 Years of Growing Together Kathleen Peachey Photography

35 Years of Growing Together
Kathleen Peachey Photography

But this last summer I learned that God’s love can always make our worse better, our poorer richer, and our less than epic wedding into a marriage adventure of a life-time.

P.S. This post came out of reflections on the word “love” in our daily photo-a-day Lent project @the_neighborhood_church #lentgallery on Instagram. Check it out at and join us.

Categories: belonging, Christianity, Community, dreams, Eugene C. Scott, God, Marriage | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Grey Saturday: Waiting for Communion

Good Friday in downtown Littleton by Eugene C. Scott

Waiting for Communion

The house is silent

Like the hearts of those

Who saw Him hung

And the stone rolled over

In gray morning light

 I remember the last night

We gathered round

A table piled high

With bread and wine

And hope

I sit and wait

For life to stir

His voice to fill the room

And touch my fearful heart

By Eugene C. Scott

A Celtic Prayer of Waiting

Though I am poor…
though I am weak…
though anxious of heart…
tried as I am…
though [the way] may be hidden…
though the night is here…
though you be silent now…

Categories: Art, Christianity, Community, Eugene C. Scott, God Sightings, Living Spiritually, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

People and Words Leaving their Mark

Chloe Hawker wrote the stirring poem below about her mother’s, Lisa Hawker, influence on her.  The imagery is surprising and ties death to life in a way that gave me hope.  Living spiritually is about leaving a mark.  “Inheritance” gives a word picture of how that happens.  Eugene

Inheritance

My mother gave me her love of cemeteries
And words—those carved into stone monoliths
As well as those scrawled across the back of
Receipt paper and notepads stained with old
Coffee drippings. She gave me skinned knees

Two writers

From kneeling in front of gravestones taking
Rubbings of the names and strange symbols,
Of the stories clawing out of the stale, dead
Earth or bursting through the broken door of the
Old mausoleum. She gave me lips
Stained with letters and ears eager to
Eavesdrop on the melodic conversations of
Eccentric strangers. She showed me the mist that only
Gathers at 4:07 in the morning in late October
When the leaves crisscross the tops of graves
Yet to be dug. She taught me to hear the
Murmurs in the ground around coffee shops
And subway stations and dark clearings when the
Moon hits just right. We are words, stone, mist,
And eyes, with dirt on our knees and callouses
On our fingers from gripping the pen so
Tight we felt we might break right through
The thin veil that covers the
Graves and syllables, ghosts and symbols.
In my open palms lies my inheritance:
Death, shrouded dreams, and creation.

Categories: Art, authenticity, belonging, care, Community, Living Spiritually, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The War in Afghanistan and Mother’s Day Combine to Make a Holy Day

Flags along our street marking a return from war

Sunday morning, Mother’s Day, as the light of a new day was still meandering down our street, my across the way neighbor walked out to the curb to pick up his newspaper. He stood for a long time staring up and down the street, holding his paper, a look of satisfaction smoothing his creased face. I followed his gaze.

American flags, on thin steel poles, about ten feet tall, lined my side of the road. He watched the flags catch the wind. I could see the pride swell in him as the flags fluttered.

After a time, he turned on his heel and stepped over the purple flowers draping the sidewalk and started back to his house. But he stopped, turned, and looked to his right at the three small stars and stripes he had decorating his garden. Bending down he pulled the middle flag up, adjusted it, and stuck it back in the ground. Then he stood facing the three flags, erect, heels together as if on a parade ground, as if he wanted to salute, but couldn’t. Maybe because he’s retired Air Force and was not in uniform. He and time stood still. Finally satisfied, he trooped back up to his front door.

The night before, a family in our neighborhood had welcomed home their son from the war in Afghanistan and had asked permission to plant flags along our street. I don’t know the family, though I’m very happy for them. And on Mother’s day weekend! They–along with me and my neighbor–will remember this holiday for a long time.

A daily reminder of a son

Soon my neighbor’s door closed behind him and I returned to brewing my coffee.

Why Celebrate?

Humans celebrate special events. We mark birthdays, rites of passage, anniversaries, raises, graduations, and important memories. Our lives revolve around rhythms: Christmas, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Passover, Easter, Cinco de Mayo, July 4, Father’s Day (hint, hint), and more. If we can’t find a reason to celebrate we make one up.

Animals don’t do this. At least not the ones I’ve known. My sweet dog wagged her entire body, tail first, the same way every time I returned home whether I’d been gone ten minutes or ten days.

We Need Holidays

Perhaps we need holidays because we habituate to the remarkable. “Ho hum,” people living in Vail eventually say to a mountain scape. God paints a new, unique, glorious sunrise every morning and we need a Sunrise Service to make it special. Everyday is a gift but we need birthdays to remind us.

Without a rhythm of feasts and festivals and parties throughout the year we may have to resort to the techniques advertisers use on us shouting, “New and Improved,” “Free,” “Epic television” just to get us to pay attention to our own lives. Or not.

Skeptics ask, “Why celebrate mothers only one day a year?” Yes, we should be grateful for mothers and fathers (hint, hint), and sunrises and our faith and marriages and children and each other every day. But to set a day aside and mark it out for a special celebration elevates the person or issue or idea above all others, if only for that day.

Everyday Can’t Be Holy

This is what the word “holy” originally meant: “special or set apart.” Thus a holiday is a holy day, or season set apart for special recognition. Despite what Garrison Keillor says, we can’t all be above average.

Most of the twenty or so flags are still standing along my street. They are beautiful still; but now when I’m in a hurry to get to an appointment, I can’t drive slowly admiring them and praying for the family whose son returned.

And I have since seen my across the street neighbor once again retrieve his paper. This time he picked it up and went straight back in. Perhaps his coffee and eggs would burn if he lingered. Or perhaps we both had that one holy moment and that was enough. We simply need to be prepared for the next one.

Eugene C. Scott fancies himself a writer so believes he has poetic license to watch people and write stuff about them. He is also attempting to write about what it’s like to live spiritually for a year.  You can join the Living Spiritually community by following this blog and clicking here and liking the page. He is also co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church.

Categories: authenticity, belonging, Bible, Community, Eugene C. Scott, God, God Sightings, Living Spiritually, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Moby Dick and How I am Forgiving the Church

I set yesterday, Monday, aside for practicing forgiveness. Believe me, I need all the practice I can get. Regardless, my thought was that during Holy Week, like Jesus, I would forgive something Big. So, I rummaged around in my past and touched on a particularly putrid wound I had so far bandaged over as “just a flesh wound.” Wiser people call it denial.

Ignorantly I pulled this memory out and laid it on the table. I could’t believe it. This grievance was not that big when I stowed it away for safe keeping, I thought.

But there it lay–a virtual Moby Dick.

I’m supposed to be good at spiritual stuff like forgiveness. I am a pastor, after all. But maybe I should have started this during-Holy-Week-do-one-thing-a-day-that-Jesus-did experiment with something easy like walking on water.

Gaping, I wondered if I could hide Moby away again. But it was too late. I had even told my congregation I was going to work on forgiving something Big on Monday.

“I’m going to forgive the Church,” I said naively.

But it was difficult knowing where to start.

Like many of you, I’ve had several painful experiences in the church.* And yes, I said several. That means I’m like the guy who gets sick from the all-you-can-eat salad bar but keeps going back for more. And I’m not talking a little food poisoning here. I’m talking hemorrhagic colitis or E. coli O157:H7 infection.

But seriously, these three situations crippled me, hurt my family, and if not for God’s tender, firm hand and a few very good friends and counselors, I would have left the pastorate–and the church–and maybe the faith.

Never-the-less, all day Monday, as I went through my work day, I studied my wounds, and prayed, and grieved anew. This new pain piled on old is why we are reluctant to forgive. Mid-day, however, I remembered reading a book on forgiveness by Lewis Smedes. Smedes wrote you have to specifically name the wrong done to you before you can forgive.

I realized it was not mere denial blocking me from forgiving theses churches and moving on in a more free life. Low-grade bitterness stemming from vague forgiveness was keeping me emotionally bedridden. I had told others this truth but never applied it to these wounds of mine. Yes, I knew they hurt me. Yes, I was wronged. But how exactly? I was surprised after the years of moaning and groaning I’d done about this, I could not state the cause of my pain in anything but vague, general terms.

Unlike Aspirin, forgiveness cannot be applied as a general anesthetic.

Monday night I broke out my journals and began pouring over them to find clues as to what the real issues were. First, I recognized I was not hurt by “the church.” But rather I had experienced three separate battle field traumas in churches. Some were inflicted by individuals, some by systems, some by whole groups, some–in part–self-inflicted.

Second, I saw the wrongs ranged from a lack of acceptance resulting in judgement and subsequent isolation to emotional and spiritual manipulation leading to abuse or what is called clergy mobbing.

Suddenly the whale began to break into smaller pieces, pieces I could work on. Something in me floated free. Forgiveness began to feel real and attainable.

Attainable not in one day, however. As I ended Monday writing my newest journal entries on an old story, I adjusted my Holy Week goals. I would still work on my daily list. But forgiving something Big would not be a sprint but rather a marathon.

The next step? I’m not sure. But, as they say in running, I’m just going to put one foot in front of the other. And I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

Eugene C. Scott is not a runner but likes to use running metaphors. Metaphors are not nearly as strenuous. You can join the Living Spiritually community by following his blog and clicking here and liking the page. He is also co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church.

*In saying this I am not claiming to be a victim or innocent. Though I was wronged, I realize my faults and sins added to these situations. **Clergy mobbing is a term researchers have begun using to apply to the abuse of clergy.

Categories: belonging, Bible, bible conversation, Christianity, church, Community, Eugene C. Scott, God Sightings, healing, Jesus, Living Spiritually, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Extreme Sport: Walking in Guatemala

Brendan taking his life and luggage in his own hands in Xela.

Walking in Guatemala should be considered an extreme sport. Except extreme sports aren’t nearly as life threatening. Every time I stepped into the street this last week while in Xela (aka Quetzaltenango), Guatemala on a mission trip, my life flashed before my eyes–along with several speeding motorcycles, microbuses, cars, trucks, and Chicken Buses. The only exception to this was early Sunday morning when mainly church goers are out and they are unlikely to hit you because that would make them even later to church.

But seriously, two years ago on his birthday my son, Brendan, was hit by a car that was going the wrong way on an “Una Via.” Brendan did not look both ways before stepping into the street. The car bowled him over and didn’t stop. Thankfully he’s ok.

Therefore, when I was out, I paid close attention. And when I wasn’t dodging careering vehicles, I noticed something.

There are few smooth, straight roads in Guatemala. 

In Xela, even city streets are rugged, at best cobblestone, sometimes dirt. Alley narrow and full of potholes, the streets wind and twist through Xela, the second largest city in the country.

A Typical Sunday Morning Street in Xela

This has economic roots. They don’t have the money to repair every road. Even the Pan American Highway has dirt sections and whole stretches that have collapsed down the mountainside and have only white painted stones as warning.

Still, even if Guatemala had the funds, I’m not sure they would spend them repairing roads. In the U.S. we believe every pothole, every headache, every problem has a solution. And the solution is money.

Not so in Guatemala. Bumps and curves are part of life’s terrain and are incorporated into life. There seems to be an unspoken acceptance here that not all roads (both real and metaphorical) need to be straight and smooth. Does this make some Guatemalans more adaptable or tough? There’s a gaping hole in the sidewalk? Step over it.

It made me wonder. Do my often smooth, straight roads (both real and metaphorical) make me less tough and adaptable, more apt to complain? Do I then expect more provision from God than God ever intended for me? As if God is the Concierge of some five star hotel I call my life?

In other words, life in reality has few smooth, straight roads, Eugene. Get over it.

Few Guatemalans go anywhere alone.

I also noticed that those speeding cars, taxis, microbuses, and Chicken Buses one needs to watch out for are always stuffed full of people. The good news is if you are unfortunate enough to be struck and killed by one of these vehicles, there will probably be plenty of witnesses.

Obviously this also is an economic issue. Most Guatemalans have even less money for cars than they do for roads.

But I think there is more to it than that. They, Quetzaltecos, even walk arm and arm. Sometimes whole families strung together totter down the narrow, cracked sidewalks. Almost anytime of day you will see people standing in groups in parks and on corners, or in front of tiendas, talking and laughing, maybe arguing too, though I’m not sure. I don’t speak Spanish.

It seems to me Guatemalans live life together. And they seem to like it.

Kids hanging out together at the InterAmerican School.

Economically many may have to live and work close to each other. Whatever the reason, Guatemalans seem to be “together people.” They are not isolated from each other. They do not embark on a solitary commute to work only to be re-entombed by an electric garage door opener when returning home. Our wealth and ubiquitous technology lets us live with a false security and facade of self-dependence. The rugged individualism so prevalent, and detrimental, in North America seems not to have taken hold in this part of Central America.

Could this be why all roads need not be smooth and straight? Life’s potholes are easier to climb out of with a helping hand.

Ten days in Guatemala is not enough to even scratch the surface of its culture. And Guatemala has serious problems with poverty, government corruption, poor education, and severe prejudice.

Central Park in Xela. Picture by Brendan Scott

Even so, Guatemalans are fascinating, hardy people in a beautiful country. And these are the insights that struck me as I walked the streets of Xela (pun intended).

I would like to be more rugged and yet less individual; more willing to use my own God-given strength but also more willing to bear burdens with and for others. I would like to be less apt to depend on governments, programs, and pretty promises for my well being yet more dependent on God and interdependent with the people and things God has given me.

I don’t want life to be safe but rather a walk with God that can be considered the most extreme of sports.

Eugene C. Scott has been to Guatemala twice. His son, Brendan, lived and taught there for three years. You can join the Living Spiritually community by following that blog and clicking here and liking the page. He is also co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church.

Categories: adventure, belonging, Christianity, Community, Eugene C. Scott, God Sightings, Living Spiritually, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Looking for a New Restaurant? Try God’s Kitchen

Photo and omelet by Eugene C. Scott

As a kid I didn’t have time for food, except peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, hamburgers, and an oatmeal-like breakfast cereal I called “Cooked Bird.” I liked it because it had a funny bird on the box. Eating got in the way of playing.

But my mom worried. So, the doctor said, “If all he wants to eat are burgers and PBJs, let him.” I loved that doctor. She wore galoshes and a dress that looked like John the Baptizer’s camel hair cloak. She was smart and well dressed. But I was really skinny. “Eugene the string bean,” my sister teased threatening to tie string to me and fly me like a kite.

Even when I was older, however, and gained weight, food was little more than a necessary evil.

That was then. This is now.

Today I not only eat healthily but I enjoy food. I even cook. Ask my wife, Dee Dee.

What’s changed?

I wound up in God’s Kitchen.

First, I learned eating is a good way to stay alive. Dee Dee, taught me this. After we were married she said, “I don’t care what Dr. Thulin said. Eat what I cook or die.”

Dee Dee is a woman of her word and, fortunately, a fabulous cook.

Second, I’ve been surrounded by people who are gastronomical geniuses, including Dee Dee, three Dietitians, and several outstanding cooks. They’ve rubbed off on me a bit.

I’ve always been a little mystified and jealous of the above friends who really love food. At almost any meal not only did they savor

Photo by Brendan Scott of the infamous friends.

the same meal I was mindlessly shoveling into my gaping mouth, but simultaneously they recalled details of meals past.

“Remember the aioli sauce on the burgers we ate in 01? In that cafe in South Dakota?” one might say.

“Yes.” Lips pursed, eyes glazed, poised fork full of fettucine. “It was heavenly. So creamy but alive.”

What? I can’t remember my last bite.

Food is more than physical nutrition.

But the real turning point came when I discovered my eating habits were, in fact, going to kill me. In the spring of 2011, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Read about that here. In the process I realized eating is as much emotional as physical. In their book “The Insulin-Resistence Diet” Cheryle R. Hart and Mary Kay Grossman argue having a “food memory” such as my friends have, contributes to physical and emotional health. They say overweight people often overeat because, though they are physically full, not having paid attention to what they just ate, they are emotionally unsatisfied and go back for more. Many without a food memory read, watch TV, or work while eating. For many then, enjoying food can contribute to emotional health because it works to satisfy on multiple levels.

Photo Eugene C. Scott. Omelete prepared and eaten by Eugene C. Scott

Pre-diabetes I had zero food memory, though I was not hugely overweight. And dissatisfaction raged in me. I did not so much overeat as I ate fast and moved on to the next experience.

Food is also spiritual

Though I am still a food connoisseur in progress, slowing down and savoring meals has expanded more than my palate. Food is spiritual. Most religions feature feasts and fasts as disciplines for growing spiritually. Some form of food (mostly chocolate) is the number one item people give up for Lent.

Enjoying food is becoming a main ingredient in my spiritual life, a metaphor for slowing down to savor all aspects of life. Instead of simply praying a blessing over my meal, I take the first bite of my omelet, fully tasting it, slowly, and say the prayer of thanks with the flavor in my mouth. As I wrote here, slowing down and paying attention to life in general is this year’s Lenten practice.

And I am beginning to better understand Jesus’ many references to food.

“Man cannot live by bread alone, but by everything that comes from God,” he said. It’s as if Jesus is saying, “Eugene, branch out. There’s more to food than PBJs and there’s more to life than bread. Just as you sustain yourself on the bread that comes from God, do so with all of life. Pull up a chair in God’s Kitchen.”

Here Jesus seems to be trying to convince us that in God’s Kitchen, material and spiritual provision are not cooked up in separate bowls. They are one.

Then Jesus made an even bolder, stranger claim about food. One that had early Greeks accusing followers of Christ of being cannibals.

Photo Eugene C. Scott Communion at The Neighborhood Church

“Take the bread and eat. It’s my body, broken for you. Drink the wine. It’s my blood to wash you clean. As you eat, remember me.” Bread and wine then taken in the way Jesus prescribed fill the hungry void between us and God and mysteriously become sacramental, spiritual made material and material made spiritual. Communion, two worlds joined, becomes the means for God healing our souls.

This means when we are seated in God’s Kitchen, a meal is not merely a plateful of spices, textures, flavors, hot and cold, nor proteins, vitamins, fats, and carbohydrates, but rather a mysterious mixture of heaven and earth. Food is not a waste of time, but the redemption of it. I’m learning.

Of course there are still times, even in God’s Kitchen, I wolf my food and end with an embarrassing belch.

To that God usually responds, “Bless you. And cover your mouth when you do that.”

Eugene C. Scott usually eats with his mouth closed and believes hamburgers are humankind’s greatest culinary invention. He is attempting to see 2012 as “The Year of Living Spiritually.” You can join the Living Spiritually community by following this blog and clicking here and liking the Facebook page. He is also co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church. God’s Kitchen, several good charities that feed the hungry go by this name.

Categories: Bible, bible conversation, Community, Eugene C. Scott, God, God Sightings, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What Not to Wear When Living Spiritually

By Eugene C. Scott

Camo clashes with blaze orange

No matter who you are, where you live, what your life is about, we all had a common experience today. No, not coffee. Before that. Clothing. Each of us walked into a closet, or some such room, and chose what we would wear for the day. And if you’re a male, and married, or the father of teenaged daughters, after dressing you were strongly encouraged to give it a second try.

We spend an inordinate amount of money and time on clothing, covering ourselves up. What’s that they say? Beauty may be only skin deep but ugly runs to the bone. Humor aside, what if daily each of us walked into a closet and purposefully chose what we did each day based on the more intangible interior clothing that makes us who we are.

So far, for me, this concept of living spiritually is about asking questions. I’ve begun to ask questions about the intangible, interior of things. For example, what not to wear when living spiritually.

Following is a list of questions I’m beginning to ask daily just as I would weigh what wardrobe to wear–or not.

  • Is this idea or activity good for my soul? Not just do I have time for it.

Living spiritually means asking do I have the spiritual, and emotional bandwidth for what I fill my day with. Clocks have little to do with the world of the soul.

  • Will this produce faith? Not just is it safe?

Some safety is a good thing. My poor noggin can’t take any more concussions. But God is not a “tame lion” as C. S. Lewis hinted. Faith and fear are enemies. Life lived spiritually includes risk.

  • Who can I be today? Not what can I get done today?

What we do stands on the foundation of who we are. Forgetting this we often flip foundations and do things that go against our very grain and then we find ourselves wondering who we are. First and foremost you and I are children of God, not cogs in the wheel of a business or government. We are not consumers but God’s highest creation. This truth can impact what we do each day.

  • Who do I have? Not what do I have?

We all know the things that will last forever are not our cars and jewelry and toys. God breathed eternity not into them but you and me. Where are your people?

  • Michael and Eugene dressed to kill.

    Is this fun? Not is this profitable?

Fun is not frivolous. Laughing and smiling improve our health and outlook on life. Worrying about the bottom line steals our peace and happiness and days of our lives. This is an irony. Fun is indeed profitable while worrying about profits is not.

  • Who can I serve? Not who is serving me?

If there is one key to unlock the mysteries of life, it is giving. Another irony. Receiving empties us. Giving fills.

And my foundational question is:

  • What will God think? Not what will people think?

Someone once said, “Being a pastor is like being a dog at a dog whistle convention.” True that. I think life for many of us is like this. “Be this; be that; wear this; eat that.” We need to listen for one voice only. The voice of the One who knows us and loves us from the inside out.

These seven questions comprise an interior wardrobe. It’s like that great theologian/philosopher/poet the Apostle Paul said some 2,000 years ago:

“So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.”

I’m thirty-eight days into this Year of Living Spiritually experiment (I started on December 26) and am still stumbling around quite a bit. These questions help define it and focus me. What questions or activities have helped you?

Finally, to paraphrase a friend of mine, pastor and song-writer, Sean Farver, I know a lot about the soul of this old world, but little about the world of the soul.

But I’m learning.

Eugene C Scott is helping Mike Klassen plant The Neighborhood Church. It’s a church where you can wear pretty much what you want, even if it doesn’t match. Just ask our wives. You can join the Living Spiritually community by following this blog and clicking here and liking the Facebook page.

Categories: adventure, Art, authenticity, belonging, Bible, bible conversation, Christianity, Community, creation, Eugene C. Scott, Faith, Fun, God, God Sightings, Jesus, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Dealing with Diabetes: Spiritual Living and Physical Health

Looking for God in all the Right Places

By Eugene C. Scott

My doctor glanced down at my chart. “Did anyone tell you you have type 2 diabetes?”

I thought, What? That would be your job. How can that be? Why didn’t you tell me before? If I hadn’t felt so lousy, I would have yelled at him. Instead I mumbled, “No.”

This was March of 2011 and I had had my blood tested for diabetes by his office in November of 2010. Apparently they forgot to call with the results.

I sat staring at him, feeling anger, confusion, fear, and relief all at once. This was not good. You can lose your feet, go blind, die from this. And I love sugar. It sure answered a lot of questions, though. For a couple of years I had been struggling with growing fatigue, mental sluggishness, mood swings, the inability to concentrate and read, and cuts and abrasions that would not heal.

In the months before that startling diagnosis my health had worsened. I woke up at three in the morning on December 23, 2010 feeling the room and my world spinning as if I were on a merry-go-round.

“Eugene, you have to go back to the doctor,” Dee Dee scolded me. I was scheduled to preach at our Christmas Eve service and I could barely stand up. Preachers are often accused of  making little sense. This dizziness would assure that. The doctor guessed it might be benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, a maddening catch-all label that seemingly has as many causes and treatments as stars in the sky.

The dizziness and other symptoms persisted. Several months, doctors, and specialists later, frustrated, fearful, and feeling sick unto death, I sat in my original doctor’s office (for the last time) hearing my belated diabetes diagnosis. Turns out vertigo plus diabetes equals one sick puppy.

As I learned about type 2 diabetes, the seriousness of my health situation sank in. “Diabetes can cause far-reaching health implications like heart disease, nerve damage and kidney damage. Amputation, blindness and even death can all result from not properly diagnosing or treating diabetes,” says the American Diabetes Association.

I’ve always carried a somewhat cavalier attitude about human mortality. Seems to me every last one of us will die. Why get too worked up about it? But I realized unless I controlled my diabetes, I might die by slowing but surely losing important pieces of myself.

It dawned on me I really liked my feet. And I didn’t want to feel this way until death do us part anyway. Fear settled in–deep.

Fortunately I have a friend who is a Registered Dietitian who has worked with diabetics and also two very good friends who have type 1 diabetes. They coached and counseled me. They talked me off the ledge.

“You have to take control of your own health, Eugene,” my dietician friend chided me. She was right. The doctor had failed to call with my blood test results. But neither did I call to find out my results. Nor had I been eating very well. Did I say I like sugar? A lot.

Too often I simply let life happen. A laze faire life has its costs and I was paying them. But did I have what it takes to change?

In any story there is a character arc. This is how the protagonist changes–or fails to–over the course of the story. Poor stories–ones which we find hard to believe and finish–don’t contain enough conflict for the change the main character experiences. In good stories the conflict is so great not only does it keep us turning pages, but we believe the conflict to be strong enough to produce the transformation the main character goes through.

In tragedies the hero fails to change despite the conflict. They lose their feet and kidneys and often the girl even. And we mourn these characters.

This is how real life happens too. Fictional conflict may be more dramatic than my real life  type 2 diabetes. And you–possibly–have faced more dire circumstances. At others times in life I have too. And that conflict usually changed me. Or rather God did.

Even so I felt weak, vulnerable. I pride myself on my physical and mental capabilities, such as they are. I do not like being sick, especially in public. Not being able to hike and read or converse was devastating. And I hated the way everyone looked at me with their sad, concerned eyes as if I were a kitten, who had already stupidly used up my nine lives.

So, I stepped out of my passivity. I found another–better–doctor. I read the book, The Insulin-Resistance Diet, this doctor recommended. I did what my doctor and the book said. I asked my congregation for prayer. I prayed! I took charge of my health. I lost 25-30lbs. Even the vertigo is now manageable.

What does all this have to do with living spiritually? First, when you are dizzy and muddle-headed and your blood sugars are riding roller-coasters inside your blood veins, it is hard to live, much less live spiritually. Physical health impacts spiritual health and vice versa.

Beyond that, this whole process has been like waking up from a semi-coma, first physically and now spiritually. Sometimes it feels as life is coming at me–full tilt–like water out of a fire hose. I miss more than I swallow but it’s sure fun drinking.

And that’s just it. I’m having fun. I am thankful for my diabetes. Because on December 26, 2011, a year after my vertigo onset and seven months after my diabetes diagnosis, I decided to take the next step and move out of my passivity in my spiritual life as well. That’s what I mean by living spiritually. I am no longer waiting for God to happen to me. I have grabbed his hand with all my might. And I’m holding on for dear life.

Join me in Living Spiritually?

Eugene C Scott has had a few health problems in his short life (he’s only 55!). He doesn’t have many spare parts left. As a kid, he never figured to live beyond 35. God and life are full of surprises, which includes co-pastoring The Neighborhood Church.

Categories: authenticity, belonging, Bible, bible conversation, care, Christianity, church, Community, Eugene C. Scott, Faith, Fun, God, God Sightings, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Loneliness and the Lost Art of Deep Friendships

By Eugene C. Scott

What do the TV shows “Seinfeld,” “I Love Lucy,” “Cheers,” and “Friends,” all have in common? They are all listed in TV Guide’s 50 most popular shows ever. Also each could be described this way:

Seinfeld (#1) is a sitcom about a group of friends living in New York City who navigate the meaninglessness of life together (Subplot: who they do or do not have sex with).

I Love Lucy (#2) an old sitcom about two couples who are friends trying to survive Desi’s stardom and Lucy’s craziness (Subplot: nothing about sex).

Cheers (#18) is another sitcom about friends. These friends meet in a bar and deal with life from there (Subplot: who they do or do not have sex with, except Norm).

Friends (#21) is a sitcom about a group of friends (go figure) who do or do not have sex with each other.

These shows depict people in “life on life” friendships in which they depend on one another for most of life’s seen and unseen necessities.

Sadly, for many, this kind of friendship is as unreal as the TV shows portraying it. Researcher John Cacioppo estimates 60 million Americans struggle with chronic loneliness. And “Americans reporting a healthy circle of four or five friends had plunged from 33 percent to just over 15 percent” between 1985 and 2004.

But loneliness is not only a matter of how many friends one has. Harry Reis, professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, claims, “Some of the most profound loneliness can happen when other people are present.” Lonely people can just as often be surrounded by others. What most of us are yearning for are what twelfth century monk Aelred of Rievaulx called “spiritual friendships.”

What is a spiritual friendship?

These deep are friendships are often born out of pain. Ruth and Naomi, that most famous of biblical friends, clung to each other after the loss of both of their husbands. I met my best friend, who also happens to be my wife, in a time when I was struggling with addiction and felt I had no future. Through the years the all too frequent pain in our lives has only driven us deeper with each other.

Yet, many of us hide our pain, even from those closest to us. This hiding only further isolates. Spiritual friends are vulnerable and that deepens our relationships.

Spiritual friendships also are non-utilitarian relationships. This is where the above TV programs promote a fallacy. Many of the friendships depicted in them are friendships with benefits: friendships that include so called casual sex.

The phrase “friends with benefits” reflects an assumption that other people often exist for what they can do for us or give us.

“Did you get any?” boys masquerading as men often ask each other after a date. Many times, if we think about it, we even speak the words, “I love you” to get the same words in return, at least in part. Interestingly, these “give me” relationships most often leave us empty.

The Apostle Paul told some of his friends, “I have no interest in what you have–only in you.” Spiritual friends aren’t in the relationship for their own gain.

Spiritual friends also value your soul. In the movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” blues guitarist Tommy Johnson admits he sold his soul to the devil in trade for his guitar skills. When Everette, who values Tommy’s soul, is shocked, Tommy says, “Well, I wasn’t usin’ it.”

We talk of being soul mates but rarely develop the vulnerability to dive beneath the surface where the soul resides. But our souls are what make each of us unique. Not, as advertisers claim, our clothes or toothpaste. Souls are the God-breathed image of our Creator.

A spiritual friend will look beneath the designer jeans for your designer soul.

Spiritual friendships are also redemptive. To be redemptive in daily life means to be part of the process that helps turn pain into beauty. Recently a friend of mine honored a mutual friend, Jay, by recognizing Jay’s deceased father Jim during a military ball. He awarded Jay with a plaque displaying all of Jim’s lost Korean war medals. Suddenly Jim became more than an old man crippled with Emphysema. He became a hero. And those of us still mourning Jim’s loss, especially his son, had our grief overlaid with pride and hope and healing.

Friends who walk with us through our pain, and refuse to use us for their own gain, and care for our souls also then care about growth.

Why are shows about friendships the all-time most popular? In part because they portray something we all yearn for: life on life communities. Do they do so with complete authenticity or reality? No. But, just as any good story does, they give us hope for what could be.

Eugene C. Scott has friends who occasionally call or text him for no reason whatsoever. Several of them also show up at The Neighborhood Church and nod their heads if he ever says anything profound.

Categories: authenticity, belonging, Bible, bible conversation, care, Christianity, Community, Jesus, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.