dreams

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

The Wonder in Weakness

Aspen Tree Art photo by Eugene C Scott

“Wrap your arms around yourself or someone you love today,” Pastor Les Avery used to say at the end of every St. James Presbyterian worship service, “because you never know what kind of pain lies just beneath the surface in each of us.”

This last week that phrase came to mind over and again as I (along with a dozen others) delved deep into the lives of 13 couples who were considering becoming church planters.  This assessment went beyond determining preaching skill and church leadership.  These couples tentatively allowed us to explore their lives, see their weaknesses.

What I saw humbled and hurt.  Each had a story of crushing pain.  As I read their dossiers and listened to their stories, I ached.  They told of serious struggles,doubts, and pain.  On the surface each looked shiny as a new penny.  Called by God and gifted.  But pain simmered underneath.

During this time, I read from Eugene H. Peterson’s challenging book, “Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places.”  “Wonder is natural and spontaneous to us all,” he writes.  “When we were children we were in a constant state of wonder–the world was new, tumbling in on us in profusion.  We staggered through each day fondling, looking, tasting.”

I gasped.  I wanted, needed that kind of wonder.  How was I going to find wonder locked inside a commercial grade hotel listening to the tarnished hopes and dreams of extremely ordinary people?  Doesn’t wonder only come in burning sunsets, roaring tides, priceless artwork, and tender newborns?

Then I saw it.  The wonder of it all.  Wonder comes in people too, especially broken people.

First of all, here were these people, like me, with every reason to give it up and become grave-diggers.  Dealing in death not life.  But they had walked out of the cemetery and were still dreaming, still asking God for something more.  It was incredible, their hope.  It was wonderful.

Picture by Brendan Scott

Second, I saw myself in them.  I realized my tarnished dossier looks very much like theirs.  And worse.  Loss, fear, failure, trauma, health problems.  If their pain made them unfit, mine did too.  Yet, I’ve logged 30 plus years in this stuff called ministry.  And 56 in life.  And I’m even a church planter.

The wonder of it all is that I should not be who I am, have done what I have done, be in the wonderful place I’m in.

Yet, I am.  How?  Through my pain and weakness.  That’s what I saw in those couples.  I was once there with too much against me, with too many flaws, too many weaknesses and failures to add up to any good.  Still am.  Yet God continues to use me.  How was it that I was assessing and assuring them?  By God’s grace.

The wonder in weakness is this: “But he [Jesus] said to me [Paul], ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

And with that reminder, Christ himself wrapped his arms around me because he knows my pain and flaws and his grace is enough.

Categories: Art, authenticity, Church Planting, dreams, Eugene C. Scott, God Sightings, grace, Living Spiritually, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Before I die . . . Caution This Blog May Disrupt Your Bucket List

Before I die, I want to . . . .

Before I die I want to . . . Picture by Eugene C. Scott

Before I die I want to . . .
Picture by Eugene C. Scott

How would you finish that sentence?  I know how I wouldn’t.

Wild-eyed risk-taker and adventurer I’m not.  Never have I wanted to jump from an airplane, become a human bungee, climb Mt Everest (there aren’t any elk or trout that high), or swim with sharks.  Yet those are the types of activities populating many bucket lists.

That’s why I’ve not given much thought to making, much less fulfilling, my own.

Until the other day.  That’s when, while driving in downtown Denver, I was confronted by artist Candy Chang’s unique and interactive piece of art titled “Before I Die . . . .”

Chang’s public, artistic bucket list gave me pause.  What do I absolutely need to do before I die?  Tough question.  But as I thought about it, I realized I’ve checked a few things off of an unspoken bucket list.  Not all fun or positive.

I want to get involved picture by Eugene C. Scott

I want to get involved picture by Eugene C. Scott

So, with apologies and in no particular order here’s

My Bucket List

I’ve . . .

Flown in a helicopter and gotten vertigo

Camped out in the snow, several times

Dropped out of high school–not an aspiration but an act of desperation

Joined the U.S. Navy

Dee Dee, Eugene, Emmy, Brendan, and Katie

Dee Dee, Eugene, Emmy, Brendan, and Katie

Earned Masters and Doctoral degrees

Almost drowned while snorkeling off the wild shark inhabited side of an island in Subic Bay, Philippines

Snorkeled in Belize without almost drowning

Lived for a summer near Telluride in a wheelless sheepherder’s wagon called “The Lunch Box”

Been thrown in the brig (that’s a Navy jail)

Grande?

Grande?

Had several careers: Carpenter, sailor, miner, salesman, barista, and pastor

Been homeless

Our honeymoon in Mazatlan

Our honeymoon in Mazatlan

Married a beautiful red-head

Raised three awesome children (see above)

A winter adventure

A winter hunting adventure

Hunted elk in the Colorado Rockies

Started a church

Sandbox fun

Sandbox fun

Become a grandfather

Outlived my father

Morning on Haleakala Volcano

Morning on Haleakala Volcano

Watched the sunrise from atop Haleakala Volcano on Maui

Floated in the Dead Sea

Trembled at a loaded pistol pointed at my face

Learned how to live with Type 2 Diabetes

Canoed up the rapids of the Bumbungan River to Pagsanjan Falls in the Philippines

Published a short story in Bugle Magazine

Visited Israel and survived

Been robbed and given a dozen parking tickets in Vancouver, BC

Jumping into Lake Atitlan

Jumping into Lake Atitlan

Jumped from a towering rock into Lake Atitlan in Guatemala

Written for the Vail Daily

Almost been arrested performing a baptism at a public lake

Visited a cloud forest in Costa Rica

Gotten stuck half way down the rock face rappelling

Built houses for people in need in Mexico and Costa Rica

Backpacked to Cathedral Lake at 11,000 ft

Been fired, a couple of times

Rafted the Green River to the confluence of the Colorado

Also Brown’s Canyon on the Arkansas River

Spoken to a crowd of 8,000 people

Taken a bull elk

Skinny dipped, no picture, thank, God

Done several illegal things I’m not proud of

A tough trail

A tough trail

At age 55 mountainbiked the Colorado Trail for 25 miles

Co-written a song

Invented the zip line, sort of

Finished a first draft of my novel

Snowmobiled 100 miles in Yellowstone National Park

Broken the same leg three times

Survived my crazy family of origin and my own insanity, thank, God–literally

A Different Kind of Bucket List

My bucket list surprised me.  But I must confess many of those things happened to me; I did not happen to them.  I’m glad for them anyway–even some of the hair-brained ones–because I learned from them and through all experienced God’s redemption.  Maybe even an unintentional bucket list counts.

Still that question, “Before I die, I want to . . .” hangs there.  It’s haunting.

Death is no abstract concept for me.  One summer evening in 1966 my dad dropped us off at my older sister’s house.  The next time we saw him he was in a coffin.  Both of my parents are gone now, and my wife’s parents too, and several beloved friends.  My brother-in-law passed away on my birthday this year.

Being a pastor, I’ve had the terrible honor of spending time with many people in their last stages of life, even until their final breath.  I’ve performed too many funerals: babies, children, teens, mothers, fathers, those who lived well and those who did not.

Facing death this way either cauterizes your heart or opens it to what really counts in life.  Or both.

A One Item Bucket List

Bonnie Ware, a palliative care nurse, discovered a different kind of bucket list and wrote about it in her book titled “Top Five Regrets of the Dying.”

But what are the regrets of those of us left here?  What counts in life?  What must we do before we die?

I can only speak for myself.

If I’m honest, though I yearn to publish my novel–and write more–and take an elk with a bow and arrow, and teach my grandkids to love God and the outdoors, and retire, and read hundreds more books, and travel with my wife, and meet Leif Enger, the top item on my bucket list is. . .

Saying what needs to be said to those I love.  Daily.  Repeatedly.  In case they don’t hear or mishear.

My father died from a heart attack.  I didn’t get to say goodbye.  Nor he.  I’ve regretted that every waking day since.  Many tough years later, my mother died of emphysema.  We talked for hours before she passed, saying everything needed and more.  What peace those times with her brought then and now.  Sometimes I dream of talking to Jim, my father-in-law, one last time.  “You were a second father to me and taught me how to be a man.  Thank you,” I say to him in my dream as he casts his blue eyes down because he was uncomfortable with emotion.  Today I’d say it even if it made him squirm.

But it’s hard.  I stood before Candy Chang’s board and chickened out.  Instead of writing “Before I die I want to ‘say what needs to be said to those I love,’” I wrote “write a novel.”

I’m going to go back downtown and change my answer.

My addition to the board

My addition to the board

Categories: adventure, Art, authenticity, dreams, Eugene C. Scott, Excitement, Faith, Fun, God, God Sightings, happiness, Living Spiritually, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

A Ride from Death to Life

Last week I peddled my mountain bike up a chert strewn, sandy trail into mountains that resembled barren mounds some demon had impaled with burnt toothpicks.  It was the first time I had ventured into the area know as the Hayman Burn, which, in 2002, was the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history, turning the mountains southwest of Denver and northwest of Colorado Springs into smoke and ash.

Eerie does not describe the feeling that settled on me as I wended my way through both standing and fallen charred pines.  Not one left living.  The silence fearful.  The seared landscape marred the Colorado blue sky as they met above the burnt tree-tops in an ashy gray blend.  My breath came hard and dry as I pushed through the dust.

I mourned.

These were the mountains I had roamed and fished and explored as a child and young man.  Dee Dee’s parents owned a cabin near there that burned in a 1965 fire but was spared, barely, in this fire.  My novel is set in these mountains.  The fire blistered not just 215 miles of forest and 135 homes, but also memories and possibilities, each charred acre holding stories of the past and lost hopes for the future.

Now all ash.

Then I noticed something.  Splashes of gold.  Along the almost invisible creek, trickling life through death, and in odd places off in the distance, young groves of aspen–the replacement forest–had sprung up.  Made up of only a dozen or fewer trees in each grove and only standing head high, they shouted hope.

The Hayman Fire was set by a troubled woman who, it seems, was trying to torch her own demons and instead released them on the people and wildlife of the Front Range.

This seems to be the way life is.  Most, if not all, tragedy has a human source.  “We have met the enemy.  And he us,” said Walt Kelly in his “Pogo” comic strip.

And it’s not just the landscape or our enemies we scorch.  In his brilliant short-story Every Little Hurricane, Sherman Alexie describes a fight between two American Indian brothers “slugging each other with such force that they had to be in love.  Strangers would never want to hurt each other that badly.”

So it is.  Human history is littered with pain, hate, hurt.  A ride through this landscape is drear.

Then I noticed something.

Splashes of golden grace.  Along the way, life trickling through death, and in odd places off in the distance, someone forgives a grievance, another delivers a kiss, a baby laughs, an old woman closes her eyes to begin the journey home, a young couple turn their love into a vow, a man tosses a dollar to another holding a cardboard sign, a Democrat eats with a Republican, friends weep together, enemies call a cease-fire, a parent thanks a teacher, two children laugh and squeal as they trundle down the slide together, a teenager holds the door for a stranger, brothers lower their fists.

These little things shout hope also.  These little things are the seeds of salvation.  Because mere humans cannot destroy forever what God has eternally created.  Just as those aspens are rooted in God’s ever-life-producing soil, though burnt, we too, when rooted in God and his gift of grace in Christ, can spring back to life from the soil of charred lives.

I zipped back down the trail on my bike breathing easier and filled with a melancholy hope.  In the midst of this scarred landscape is a golden place called grace, where heaven, blue and clear and  descending meets the burnt tree-tops of our lives.  Look up!

Categories: adventure, Christianity, creation, dreams, Eugene C. Scott, God Sightings, grace, healing, Jesus, Living Spiritually, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

In our Hearts Grief and Grace often Ride Side by Side

Not the James Taylor Show

“Red Rocks is one of the finest places on the planet to perform,” James Taylor said near the end of his show last night.*

He’s right.

Towering above us ancient and unmovable were Ship Rock on the left and Creation Rock on the right. Taylor’s smooth, ageless voice filling the space between. Rock and wind and sky surrounded us while song and poetry and story filled us. The lights of Denver danced in the night sky above the back wall of the amphitheater. It was remarkable.

“There is a young cowboy, he lives on the range,” Taylor sang his famous lullaby. I closed my eyes and imagined that cowboy and sang along to myself, “deep greens and blues are the colors I choose, won’t you let me go down in my dreams?” I breathed deep.

But Taylor was painting a different picture of life than the one many Coloradans had lived out in the last four days. I opened my eyes and saw Alameda Boulevard stretched out west to east in a straight line of lights from the foothills to Aurora. There on the far horizon I imagined one of the lights was the theater. There still lurking was the pain and heart ache of twelve innocent people dying and many more being wounded physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

The light of JT and the lights of Denver

Guilt buffeted against my peace. Should I be enjoying myself? How can this beauty, my sense of well-being, co-exist with that?

Still they seemed to. Drawing my eyes and heart back to the stage–to the here and now, to what I can be and do–Taylor sang, “Shower the people you love with love.”

And I could see, on the screen, in his now creased 64 year-old face, his alive but tired eyes, that he too has known pain. Yet he still believed what he was singing.

Maybe JT, right there on stage, without knowing it, was living out a truth: that in our hearts grief and grace often ride side by side.

As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote in his famous poem “Christmas Bells:”

“And in despair I bowed my head

‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said;

‘For hate is strong

And mocks the song

Of peace on earth good-will to men!’

“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

    The Wrong shall fail,

    The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

Maybe that’s the thing. Song, poetry–art in general–remind us of this dichotomy of life. In the midst of horrific pain and evil, beauty is undiminished. Grace prevails. Maybe it’s even made more beautiful. James Taylor put on one of the best shows I’ve seen in years. In a stunning setting. The clarity and sweetness of his voice matched the clarity and power of the message I heard God whisper in my heart. “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

*July 23, 2012. This may be a slight paraphrase since I did not write his quote down word for word.

Categories: Art, dreams, Eugene C. Scott, God Sightings, healing, Living Spiritually, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Do Not Disturb; I’m Creating, Thinking, Praying, Living

Where and when do you do your most creative thinking, praying, living? For me it is when I am on a hike or out in the woods undisturbed. Andrew Wyeth locked himself in his studio and created some wonderful works of art.

I find that if I am drowning in noise, I only think the thoughts the noise is telling me to think: buy this, vote that, don’t eat that.

But in silence I think my own thoughts, and–I hope–some things about God too.

How about you?

P.S. Unlike Wyeth, I will sign autographs.

Categories: Art, authenticity, creation, dreams, Eugene C. Scott, God Sightings, Living Spiritually, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Living Spiritually @ Work

Eugene preaching

I don’t know what you do with your Sundays. I work.

If I’m preaching that Sunday, I fall out of bed at about 4:30am or 5, French press two cups of coffee–wait–delete my junk email, and maybe post something on Facebook I sleepily think is really profound. By then my coffee is ready and it wakes me enough so I can read what I posted and see it is really stupid. So, then I pray and try to pull my sermon out of the mud.

Around 8am I troop off to Dakota Ridge High School (our church meets for worship in a local high school so we can be a part of and impact our local community). At the school, I help some people I love to hang out with unload our trailer which contains rolling crates full of sacred stuff like crayons, microphones, a beat up Bible or two, lots of cords, and some communion wine. Then we set it all up. We unfold about 100 folding chairs–making sure not to use the ones with gum stuck on them–perk gallons more coffee, set up a cross and an altar, run enough cords to snare an elephant, and practice the music.

During all this, we talk to each other. And look for lost sacred stuff somebody repacked in the wrong rolling crate. And laugh. A lot.

Occasionally something unexpected happens such as the building is locked because the custodian slept in, or the trailer falls off my trailer hitch en route because it was not attached correctly, or my Pathfinder breaks down because it had a million miles on it, or I lock myself out of my co-pastor Mike’s truck while it’s parked in the middle of the street because I’m a dummy.

Finally at 10am (or more likely 10:15) a crowd gathers and we drink more coffee, sing, eat, talk and laugh, pray, read the Bible, participate in a sermon, maybe watch a movie clip, sing some more, and then have it all packed back up by noon. We also watch and listen for God in case he rolled out of bed that morning too.

Sometimes seeing and hearing God in the midst of all this is the hardest part. Not because God didn’t hear his alarm. With all the work, loading and unloading, tripping on cords, and practicing, I forget that even this work is spiritual. And I don’t mean just the praying and preaching. It’s as easy in my work to miss the spiritual as it is in yours.

What’s so spiritual about crates, cords, and coffee? The same thing that is spiritual about your work.

  • Our work is spiritual when we perform it with the most passion and God-given skill and intelligence possible. This makes God–and in return–us happy. God invented work–all kinds of work. Not just the obviously spiritual, like being a pastor. When we do the work our world needs done, delivering packages, fixing cars, selling cell phones, God is pleased. God is smiling when you do your work well. Stop for a moment and notice.
  • Eugene performing a wedding in Vail.

    Our work is spiritual when we serve people and our world. My prayers and sermons may not be as concretely usable as the houses I built when I was a carpenter, but I do provide a service. So do you. Our paychecks–minimal as them might be–provide for others. Our work is how God encourages us to participate in caring for other people.

  • Our work is spiritual because it fulfills the purpose that God breathed into each of us. And as I’ve learned in the mundane Sunday morning set up, this purpose need not be dramatic and world-shaking. Most often purpose flows through the little pieces of our work like light refracting in a prism. Our work is unique and beautiful. And work lets us know we count. This is the theme of the beautiful movie “Hugo.”

What do you do with your Sundays or Mondays or Thursdays? Something spiritual no doubt. But you–like me-may not have recognize it easily.

Eugene the Starbucks Barista

Eugene C. Scott secured his first job at age 12 and has since mowed lawns, cultivated carnations, sorted packages, fought fires, fixed machines, built houses, refurbished car batteries, sold paint, roofed houses, dug ditches, cleaned bathrooms and classrooms, brewed coffee, and even collected unemployment in his long and varied work-life. He is grateful to be co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church. You can join the Living Spiritually community by following this blog and clicking here and liking the page.

Categories: authenticity, Christianity, dreams, Eugene C. Scott, Fun, God Sightings, happiness, Living Spiritually, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

10 Things I’ve Learned About Life While Elk Hunting

By Eugene C. Scott

I’ve been hunting elk off and on–mostly on–for the past thirty some years. For most good hunters, hunting is not about the kill (Good here refers to moral character not skill level, of which I have finite amounts: skill level not morals. And most hunters I know are good ones). Although no fancy restaurant can match the taste of an elk steak you brought off the mountain yourself and grilled up on the back yard barbecue.

Hunting is about getting close to the earth again, being rooted in creation and the Creator: wood, rock, and soil not steel, glass, and concrete. It’s about matching wits with the wild and losing most of the time. It’s about hours upon hours spent in the wide open, thinking, listening, learning.

Here are a couple of things I’ve learned while out in those wild places.

1. Elk are wild and unpredictable. And smart:

That’s why after chasing them through knee-deep snow, in subzero weather, up and down rugged mountains elk scale as if anthills, you’ll spot the biggest herd with the most magnificent bull you’ve ever seen gathered around a “No Hunting” sign on the ninth hole of the local golf course.

I’ve found this true of all good things we pursue, relationships, pleasure, success, meaning. We find them in the most unexpected places. This is true especially of God.

2. Indoor plumbing is the greatest invention of all time:

There is no possible way to make hanging your bare hiney over a log pleasant. If we still had to relieve ourselves in this way, automobiles, telephones, computers, iPods, and all manner of modern devices would not have been invented because we’d all be too constipated and grumpy to think.

3. Death is a part of life:

The wilderness is strewn with bones. Sometimes you even find the carcass. And there’s no government worker who steals in in the dark of night to scoop it up and hide it so your sensibilities are not offended. In the forest one can’t miss the fact that all life ends in death. Trees, flowers, elk, humans all die and melt back into the soil. It is also true that life springs from death. This is what anti-hunters and extreme animal rights activists seem to deny. Something gave its life for every item in Whole Foods, whether it be flora or fauna.

A week in the woods brings home the powerful truth we all needed Someone 2,000 years ago to give his life so that we could live today.

4. Hot running water is the second greatest invention of all time:

If you don’t believe me, wait for a miserable below zero winter day filled with driving sleet and go stand outside for 10 hours. Afterwards, when basking in your hot shower, Warren Buffet and all his wealth couldn’t coax you out.

5. Real life has no soundtrack:

Have you ever heard the sound a raven’s wings make when it flies above you on a cold, silent day? It’s a loud, squeaky whoosh. How about a cow elk mewing to her calf? Or your own heart’s driving thump because you just heard a twig snap that could well be an 700 pound elk sneaking up on you? Have you heard the beauty of nothing for several hours? If not, it may because Hollywood has conned you into believing silence is deadly and that in order to really feel you must have your favorite song playing in the background. This is a lie.

6. The best things in life are shared with your hunting partners, except that hot shower:

Wilderness solitude is a magnificent gift. But the first thing most hunters do is find someone with which to share what he or she has seen and heard in those lonely moments. Plus most tasks take two or more people to do well. Try hauling 400 pounds of elk meat off a mountain by yourself and you’ll know what I mean.

7. While camping every meal is gourmet and the best you’ve ever eaten, even beans.

8. Life is filled with C.S.Ds.:

Early in my hunting career, I was tracking a large buck. He was across a deep draw and had not scented me yet. I was looking for a clear shot. Then I came upon two hunters on a knoll. We whispered to one another and I told them I was tracking the buck. Suddenly the deer came out of the trees across the draw. I raised my rifle but one of the other hunters pushed me out of the way and shot the buck himself. While the jerk went to track and dress what should have been my deer, his hunting partner tried to apologize telling stories about how thoughtless this man was.

“He’s a Chicken Shit Deluxe,” the hunter drawled in his Texas accent. I wondered why he continued to hunt with such a skunk.

I’ve encountered what we now call “C.S.Ds.” in most walks of life. People who will push you down in order to raise themselves up. But the ironic thing is that they don’t seem to realize that they really have not elevated themselves but have made themselves king only among the other leavings on the bottom of the chicken coop.

9. Keep your sleeping bag zipped all the way up in the tent at night, especially after eating that gourmet pot of beans.

10. Hunters and hikers leave behind the strangest things:

One year, after a severe snowstorm, we found an abandoned camp high on top of a mountain. They left horses, saddles, tents, pots and pans, everything except their personal items. The outfitter had to come and get his horses and gear several days later. But the other items are still there rotting into the soil. Another time, while scrambling down the side of a mountain that was more cliff than anything–no trail, hanging on to tree trunks so as to not fall, I took a break and looked down by my trembling leg. There in the pine needles was an ink pen. Dirty white with “The Hilton Hotel” lettered on the side. We have found a half-track, hammocks, clothes, arrows, way too much trash, and a tent with a “North Face” sleeping bag and a large bottle of “Baby Oil” inside.

Makes me wonder what we are leaving behind in our day-to-day lives: people, memories, lessons, love, opportunities, whatever. Maybe we should be more careful.

Mostly we leave behind what God and life is trying to show us, whether we are elk hunters or Starbucks dwellers. These are our stories and we all have one–or more!

Eugene C. Scott got to elk hunt with his son, Brendan, who helped brainstorm this list, for the first time in four years. For both the hunting and brainstorming he is grateful.

Categories: adventure, authenticity, belonging, Community, creation, dreams, Eugene C. Scott, Excitement, Faith, friends, Fun, God, God Sightings, Jesus, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Harry Potter and the Church Part II

By Eugene C. Scott

It’s true, like the old bumper sticker said, that “God Doesn’t Make Junk.” But after 50 plus years of watching the people around me and daily looking in the mirror, it’s plain God certainly created his share of peculiar, screwy, and eccentric people.

I think that’s one of the reasons I liked J. K Rowling’s main setting for the Harry Potter stories, “Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.” I felt right at home. Rowling peopled and staffed her school with bizarre and broken people.

Outwardly handsome and cool but secretly unsure of himself, Gilderoy Lockhart, one of the many Defense Against the Dark Arts professors, was a fraud.

And let’s not forget half-giant game keeper and failed wizard Hagrid or the sadistic janitor Argus Filch.

Many of the students too are screwy. Luna Lovegood is loony, marching to a drum that may not even exist. Even the trio of Harry, Hermione and Ron are a bit odd.

These people are largely dismissed by the “main stream” wizarding community but not by their Head Master equally strange Albus Dumbledore.

In this Hogwarts reminds me of the church. After 30 some years involvement in the church, it occurs to me God too has peopled his community with peculiar, screwy, unconventional and downright broken people, myself not being the exception.

Luna Lovegood would not have been friendless in most churches I’ve served.

Dr. Bob was a retired PhD in one church I pastored who truly believed he had evidence of extraterrestrials having come to earth. During a Sunday school class I taught, a man asked to do an announcement advocating adopting orphaned baby Chinese girls. He proceeded to put on a Chinese Queue and sing the Elvis song “My Little Teddy Bear.”

I won’t name the broken, bleeding, angry, confused and disillusioned.

Rowling lends humor to her increasingly dark stories through fleshing out these eccentric characters. God, however, seems to attract them. As popular as Jesus is today, he hung out with a pretty unpopular, scraggly group back in the First Century.

I feel at home, just like when I read Harry Potter, then when I read of these early peculiar, broken students in Christ’s school of life, or look around me in today’s church. You’ve met them too–or are one.

The wonderful thing is God created such eccentrics and loves us despite our brokenness and he wants them/us to people his spiritual community called the church.

This is where I find the pervasive philosophy in the modern church focusing on bright-shiny people false. Years ago I had a college professor who taught that because we were followers of Christ, we should be the best of the best, with the whitest smiles, nicest clothes, best grades. “God,” he said quoting the bumper sticker, “doesn’t make junk.” I bought it until I looked in the Bible or in the mirror again.

Not that I equate, as he seemed to, offbeat, broken people with junk. God made no one expendable. Jesus died for every Lockhart and Lovegood among us.

But, somehow, despite the church’s ability to be filled with outcasts and Jesus’ willingness to embrace them, this is not the demographic the church focuses on nor the image we portray. To our shame.

When was the last time you saw a pastor preach or teach from a wheel chair? Or have any kind of visible disability? I recently attended a huge church planter’s conference where all of the speakers I heard were cool looking and pastored mega-churches. There was not a halting, unsure Harry Potter among them.

Or closer to home, when was the last time you shied away from the Luna Lovegood or Gilderoy Lockhart in your life or church?

You see, what I believe Rowling knows is that we’re all Lovegoods and Lockharts. We just don’t want anyone else to know it. So, we think surrounding ourselves with the cool and the smart and the successful will make it so for us too. What we often don’t see is that they too are not really bright-shiny either.

But God knows our fears and failures and forgives them. God knows too our eccentricities and revels in them.

This is where Hogwarts reminds me more of the church than the church does sometimes.

Categories: adventure, Art, authenticity, belonging, Bible, bible conversation, Books, care, Christianity, church, Community, dreams, Eugene C. Scott, Faith, friends, God, God Sightings, grace, happiness, healing, Jesus, Literature, love., Meaning, ordinary, pain, story, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Harry Potter and the Church Part I

By Eugene C. Scott


Like J. K. Rowling’s wonderfully weird invention of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Jelly Beans, her Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and God’s equally wonderful and weird church are both humanity flavored hope. Sometimes they’re sweet and sometimes disgusting.

The truth is Rowling gave Hogwarts the same humanity flawed quirkiness that God created the church to reflect.

In chapter six of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” a confused but expectant Harry Potter stands on platform nine and three quarters waiting for the Hogwarts Express–a magical train that will take him–for the first time–to Hogwarts, where he will be schooled in magic. Once there, Harry’s life changes dramatically.

In this magical castle filled with moving staircases, strange rooms, stranger people, talking portraits, and ghosts, Harry, among other things, will cement life-long friendships with Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley while discovering that even the best witchcraft and wizardry school is full of quirks and imperfections and–more-so–quirky and imperfect people.

As I have enjoyed J. K. Rowling’s classic stories as pure fun reading, I also have been challenged by some of her deeper themes. Did she, for instance, intend to draw parallels between the mythical castle called Hogwarts and God’s mysterious community called the church?

Intentional or not, the parallels are there.

Relationships Define the Church and Hogwarts

Contrary to popular belief, the church is not a building nor an institution. It is a community. Yes, most often the church meets in a building and–unfortunately–becomes far too institutional. Hogwarts too is a particular place and has rules–most of which Harry breaks. But this is not what defines Hogwarts.

At Hogwarts, Harry, the orphan, finds his family. Through his friendship with Ron Weasley at Hogwarts, Harry is unofficially adopted into the Weasley clan. It is at Hogwarts also that Harry meets his godfather, Sirius Black and is mentored by a father figure, Albus Dumbledore.

Like Hogwarts, the church, first and foremost, is a community. A family thrown together in a myriad of relationships. Orphans all adopted by Christ.

I grew up in what is commonly called a dysfunctional family. We weren’t completely dysfunctional, however. We did two things very well: fight and meddle in each other’s business. What we did not manage was to foster intimacy. We loved each other to the best of our ability. Still my family was a lonely, chaotic place.

Then I became a follower of Christ and was adopted into this quirky, imperfect family called the church. Like Harry, it was in this completely foreign and unexpected place that I discovered true family. I am who I am because of God speaking and working through the family members I have met in various churches. I have served in six churches over the last 32 years. In each one God has introduced me to people who have become life-long friends. We have, as the great theologian and poet Paul said, “carried one another’s burdens.” We have cried, laughed, fought, feasted (a lot), and lived life together. Rowling was brilliant in drawing Harry as a hero who needed friends to accomplish his mission. And Hogwarts as the place those relationships formed and thrived.

This too is us.

The Church and Hogwarts Are a Mix of Angels and Demons

Much to Harry’s dismay, however, Hogwarts is far from perfect. It is there, under the Sorting Hat, that he discovers his own dark side. It tells Harry, “You could be great, you know, and Slytherin will help you on the way to greatness, no doubt about that.” But Ron warns him, “There’s not a single witch or wizard who went bad who wasn’t in Slytherin.” Should Harry join the darker, more prone to evil House of Slytherin, or the more benign House of Gryffindor? Each of us, whether follower of Christ or no, face the same choices.

No wonder so many wars and wonders have been wrought in the name of God. 

In Hogwarts Harry battles his nearest enemy, Draco Malfoy. Hogwarts, like the church, contains not just angels but demons (so to speak). In the church I’ve been and met both. Like Harry, all of us who have spent more than 10 minutes in the church carry and have inflicted wounds.

Rowling invents a fictional school that rings true because it is such a real mix of sinner and saint. Just like the church.

If Harry imagined Hogwarts as utopia, he was sorely disappointed. This may be why so many of us give up on the church. We are drawn to its divinity but are driven away by its humanity. Our unrealistic expectations are as much a part of our disappointment as are the actual flaws thriving in the church. I plummet emotionally each time the church–or more correctly people, including myself, of the church–don’t live up to my lofty ideals.

Though I understand well the pain that the church can inflict (from personal experience as well as theoretically), the load that weighs heaviest on my pastor’s soul is trying to convince people that the church is both more and less than they ever imagined. More in that it is about being human and being in relationships while also being in relationship with God.  Less in that it is about being flawed humans who need each other.

And in that way the church reflects humanity and human community perfectly. Harry could have never become who he was born to be without Hogwarts and all the pain, joy, disappointment and triumph mixed together in one.

Imagine had Harry, as do so many people today in regards to church, refused to board that mysterious train bound for Hogwarts, one of the best stories written in modern times would have never come into being. So too, when any of us refuses to join that infuriating, dangerous, glorious, Christ-community God calls the church. What real story might you be missing?

Eugene C Scott is co-pastor of one of those wonderfully weird places called The Neighborhood Church.

Categories: adventure, Art, authenticity, belonging, Bible, bible conversation, Books, Christianity, church, Community, creation, dreams, Eugene C. Scott, Excitement, Faith, friends, Fun, God, God Sightings, happiness, Jesus, Literature, loneliness, love., Meaning, mystery, pain, story, together, Uncategorized, values | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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