Fun

Seven Christmas Gift Wrapping Ideas For Multi-Thumbed Men

As I was wrapping the Christmas gifts I carefully picked out for my wife today, it dawned on me that many of us men are gift-wrapping impaired. And there is no support group for that.

I’m not the only one though. Many of us have had the Christmas Eve experience of buying the perfect gift for our wives or girl-friends (not that you should have more than one) only to take a sledge hammer to it out of frustration. Or at least it looks like we wrapped it with a sledge hammer. So, after I pulled the errant tape from various parts of my body and placed Band-Aids over my scissor wounds, I decided to offer some hard earned advice on making gift wrapping easier.lexus-es-350-red-bow

  1. Buy a car or some other huge, outrageously expensive object that will dazzle her and that any reasonable human would realize could not be wrapped. By the way, car dealerships are open on Christmas Eve. Though, unfortunately, I’ve discovered finding those huge bows they show on television are as hard to find as it is to wrap—say a diamond.
  2. Buy a diamond. They are really small and the store should wrap it for you for the prices they charge.unknown
  3. Have the store or one of those worthy charities wrap it. Or your daughter. The trouble with this is, then others will know you can’t afford a car or a diamond.
  4. Don’t wrap it! I mean you spent hours—or at least minutes—picking it out. Why cover it up? Plus she might like the wrapping paper more than the gift.
  5. Give your gift to her naked. That should distract her, especially if you can’t afford a car or a diamond. Though this could be awkward at a family gathering.crazy-funny-old-man-01-www-funnypica-com_-140x140
  6. Give her cash. It slips easily into one of those cash cards with a sweet message already written on. Then say, “I know your love language is really quality time. This is so we can go shopping together.”
  7. Don’t give her a gift. The holiday is about giving. God gave us Jesus. But Christmas has become far too commercial, as Charlie Brown said. And all the worry about wrapping gifts obscures the reason for the season.

I hope these gift wrapping suggestions were helpful. Now get out there and get shopping, you’ve only got a few hours until it’s Christmas Day. Merry Christmas.

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Categories: Fun, God, Jesus, Marriage, TV | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

Does Fear Build Faith?

1967 stingray bike

A bike like mine

Rumor was kids had died riding their bikes down “Suicide Hill.”  Therefore, all summer a group of us hung out on the knob sitting on our stingrays–not seriously contemplating careening down the hill–but hoping to see some other sucker bite the dust.  All elbows and asses and handlebars flying and crashing in the dirt.  To my disappointment, I’d witnessed no deaths, or even hospitalizations.  Still, I’d never seen any kid, no matter how old or cool, make it all the way down.

Suicide Hill was sheer fear, with a bump halfway down that launched anyone ballsy enough to try it into a near death experience.  At the bottom stood an elm tree stump.  Most kids bailed midair rather than become one with the tree.

Rule was no brakes, no skidding your feet.  Full speed.  I was eight or nine and I spent many a day atop Suicide Hill ginning up the courage to be the one to make it down intact.

Back then, if I thought about it at all, I thought courage was the absence of fear.

Now, close to fifty years later, now that I’ve broken bones, torn ligaments, sustained concussions, and endured prolonged hospital stays, I know fearlessness is not always the presence of courage but of stupidity.

What’s the Function of Fear?

Does fear have a purpose, God-given?

Obviously, the fight or flight response is instinctive and protective.  It is a function of the adrenal system designed to keep us alive.  You’ve heard the old adage: the best way to survive a grizzly bear attack is to outrun, not the bear, but your buddy.

However, let’s not confuse adrenaline with courage or fear with cowardice.

I once saw a cartoon by Dan Piraro of “Bizarro” fame.  It featured a heedless man walking down the street surrounded by disaster.  He was protected by guardian angels and knew it.  The angels above him were complaining how much safer life would be if he didn’t know they were flying just above his head.

Maybe that’s the role fear plays.  It’s our on-board guardian angel.  “Shields up,” it shouts, “Run!”  Something besides cowardice told me to endure the name calling of my friends rather than risk the bump and stump of Suicide Hill that summer long ago.  Conversely, several short summers later, I broke my leg braving the world’s first and worst zip-line (Click here for that story).

Fear Adds to Faith

Literal fearlessness does not require faith.  This is the same idea behind forgetfulness not equalling forgiveness.  If I can’t remember a wrong, I need not forgive.  Just so, if I don’t sense risk or danger, no true courage or faith is required.  People with the unfortunate disorder congenital analgesia, the inability to feel physical pain, have no concept of hot or cold and the danger either holds.  Rushing into a fiery building to rescue someone–knowing what it could cost–calls for courage and faith not fearlessness.

Therefore, when I call faith an antidote to fear, I am not talking of an anesthetic.  Rather faith helps us face our fears.  Faith is reality based, eyes open to the danger.

It is almost as if it is a circle.  I face my fears with faith and then my faith grows while my fear diminishes.  Until I step into entirely new territory.  Then fear starts the circle of developing faith again.  Fear rightly viewed and applied can develop faith.

Back on Top of Suicide Hill

It took me all summer to finally give Suicide Hill a shot.  And oh, how I wish I could tell you about fearlessly speeding from the top, hitting the bump half-way down, launching my sting ray into the wild blue, crossing my handle bars, the wind in my crew-cut, avoiding the stump, landing upright in a burst of dirt, and skidding to a stop just before hitting the stinky tad-pole pond.  Applause, adulation, money!

Fact is I closed my eyes, hit the brakes, and dribbled off the trail and into the weeds, falling over.  But I tried!  Years later, after I had faced other death-defying dangers, I tried Suicide Hill again and ripped down that hill on my bike reaching the bottom with no problems.  That day I sat at the bottom of Suicide Hill on my Schwinn ten-speed looking back up the hill that once dominated me.  That day I swear Suicide Hill looked more mole hill than mountain and the mighty bump and gruesome stump mere provocateurs.  I had been plenty scared.  But no more.  At least not of Suicide Hill.  God, through my fear, had produced faith with which I could face the future.

Do you have a story of fear building your faith?  Tell us about it.

Categories: adventure, Eugene C. Scott, Excitement, Faith, Fear Factor, Fun, God, God Sightings, Living Spiritually, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 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

The Good News and Bad News of Christmas

Oh no, It’s Christmas already?

Bad news!  There are only 26 shopping days left until Christmas.  Good news!  You can reduce your shopping and stress by developing the fine art of regifting.

Regifting is Fun

Consider Larry Kunkle and Roy Collette.  In 1964 Larry’s mother gave him a brand new pair of mole skin trousers for Christmas.  Larry hated them so the next year he regifted them to his brother-in-law Roy.  Roy re-regifted them to Larry the next year.  Thus a bizarre 25 year tradition was born.

Roy returned the pants to Larry stuffed in one-inch round, three-foot long steel pipe with the understanding that Larry had to unwrap them without damaging them.  The two agreed that the pants could only be given again if they were undamaged.  Their regifting escalated.

Larry installed them inside the glass of an insulated window.

Collette decorated a 600 pound safe with red and white stripes, placed the pants inside, and welded the door shut.

Kunkle wrote a note saying the pants were in the glove box of a 1974 Gremlin.  With the note he delivered the Gremlin crushed into a 2,000 pound three-foot cube.

By 1985 Collette built the pants into a 4-ton Rubik’s Cube.

Kunkle hid the pants in a station wagon filled with 170 car generators welded together.

Finally Collette shipped the pants to a friend to encase them in 10,000 pounds of broken glass.  But the friend accidentally incinerated the pants in the process.  They now sit in an urn on Kunkle’s fireplace.

The Ultimate Regift

Linc and Papa looking for Christmas trees

Linc and Papa looking for Christmas trees

As creative and fun as all that is, the ultimate regifting, the regifting I’m talking about, is not complicated or costly, at least financially.  Nor is it material.  Not that material gifts aren’t meaningful.  Several years ago my wife Dee Dee gave me a compound bow for elk hunting.  I love that thing.  But one of my best memories of Christmas was last year sitting around our kitchen table talking and praying with our adult children.  It was one of those time stopping moments, eternity came close.

But why call giving others your time and presence regifitng? Because it affirms that you are a wonderful, creative, priceless creation of God.  That all you have and all you are was first given to you by God.  When you give yourself to others, it is a giving of what you already have.  And that which is most valuable.

The good news of Christmas is this is what Jesus did.  He gave of himself.  And 2,0000 some years later people are still talking about that gift.  I guarantee no one will remember my compound bow that long.

You don’t have top shop till you drop.  The ultimate regift then is giving those you love what you already have, yourself.  This is the gift of presence, time, attention.  This presence is at the heart of Christmas.  Of all the things God could have given us, he gave us himself in the person of Jesus.

Why not take each of the shopping days left and be with each other.  Put away your smart phone, turn off the TV.  Write someone a real letter, on paper.  Tell a story.  Laugh.  Share a meal.  These are priceless gifts.

Categories: belonging, bible conversation, Eugene C. Scott, Fun, God, God Sightings, Living Spiritually, love., Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

Wasting Time with God

Photo by Brendan Scott

“Papa, Papa, wanna build blocks with me?” begged my three and a half year-old granddaughter, Addi.

“Sure,” I said and I meant it. I don’t get to see her enough, or her brother, Linc, or her mom and dad. I’d stand on my head in a bowl full of worms if she asked (Addi thinks I enjoy eating worms. Not sure where she got that idea). So, I ignored my knees and sat cross legged on the floor building blocks with her.

“Papa, Papa, wanna color with me?” was her next request.

“Absolutely!” I said, though I wasn’t good at coloring when I was a kid. All that staying in the lines stuff. Plus I was always in a hurry. Good coloring book art cannot be rushed.

“Papa, read me a story.”

“Papa, can I sit next to you?”

“Papa, wanna taste of my oatmeal?”

“Papa, let’s go on a hike.”

With each request there was a good reason to say, “Maybe later” or some other dodge us adults use to avoid being child-like again.

Testing my skills

Instead I dropped everything I was doing or thinking and dove into her world. How natural and good it felt to immerse myself in the simple worlds of my grandchildren. I was born for this, I thought.

Some might say I was wasting valuable time. With the world needing saving from global warming, Republicans, financial ruin, Democrats, and all nature of other evils, how could I sit and build blocks that 15 month-old Linc was bound to come along and topple? All the while laughing in his deep baby voice, “huh, huh, huh, huh.”

Later Addi asked, “Papa, draw a heart for me. I don’t know how.”

We sat wrinkled elbow to tiny elbow at the kitchen table and I drew hearts and she colored them in. As I watched her color, I marveled at how much she wanted to be with me. And how much I wanted to be with her. There next to her I experienced that strange “peace that passes all understanding” and that defies description.

Then God whispered, “See how much you love being with your grandkids? That’s how much I enjoy being with you.”*

I looked down at my heart Addi was coloring and wondered at the timing of God’s whisper. There was my heart laid out for God and everybody to see, poorly rendered, imperfect, but mine and real. Being colored in by someone I would die for. I am speaking metaphorically here, and not. And God chose that moment to speak. To remind me how much God desires my measly, distracted, infinitesimal presence. Desires me and enjoys me.

The rest of the week I asked God:

Abba, wanna go mountain biking with me?”

Abba, wanna read with me.”

“Abba, would you like a taste of my omelet?”

“Abba, let’s hang out.”

“Abba, sit here next to me. I’m afraid.”

And to my surprise God dropped everything he was doing and joined me, pointing out magpies along the trail while biking, directing my eyes to a deer antler shed while hunting, drawing close and assuaging my fear and worry. Just Being there.

I shared this story with a friend and he said, “Yeah, someone once told me I needed to ‘waste time with God.’”

Was that what I was doing? I wondered. If so, it sure felt good. I think I’m going to do more of it.

*I hope you know I didn’t actually hear words and I quaver at putting words in God’s mouth. But it was a strong feeling and since Jesus’ name in Hebrew means “God-with-us” I think I’m on safe ground here.

Categories: adventure, Art, authenticity, belonging, bible conversation, Christianity, Eugene C. Scott, Fun, God, God Sightings, happiness, Living Spiritually, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Why God Likes Vacations

By Eugene C. Scott

Where do you go for rest and relaxation?

Is it twelve miles from nowhere up a mountain in the Pecos Wilderness? I’m willing to bet most people don’t consider strapping on a 50 pound backpack and hauling it into the wilds a restful idea.

I mean seriously.

Rest? You have to walk the whole way. There’s no escalator.

Relaxation? There are bears and mountain lions and mosquitos. And dirt. And you eat out of the same pot you cook with and wipe your spoon on your pants when you’re done. And you sleep on the ground in a tent and poop in the woods.

Photo by author

And there’s no Facebook or Twitter.

Still that is exactly what I’m going to be doing over the next few days.

And I will love every inconvenient, dirty, grueling, quiet, slow, peaceful, real minute of it.

A lightness of soul

Why? Mainly because there is a moment after hiking for miles that you shed your heavy backpack and feel a physical lightness that makes you want to grab onto something for fear you might float away. Then later, before crawling into your tent, that physical lightness turns into a lightness of soul as billions of stars salt the night sky. With those stars comes a lightness–a freedom, as if my soul has taken flight and is soaring and breathing again for the first time. To see the vastness of God’s creation–of God himself–is to be reminded I am not in fact the center of the universe. Hunkering down below those mighty peaks and brilliant stars I remember I do not determine the course of world events, or often, even of my own life just as I don’t direct the stars.

Being busy does not equal being important

Up there I know I am not responsible for who becomes president, poverty in Haiti, global warming, or your happiness. That is not to say I do not play a role in these things. I do and so do you. But wilderness tells me in no uncertain terms, you are not all that. 

I believe this is why so many of us have a difficult time unplugging and truly taking time off. We are comfortable in our delusion that we are all that.

“How are you?” we ask one another.

“Busy!” we exclaim. “OMG, you would not believe all the things I have to do.”

But here is what we’re really saying:

“How are you?” we ask one another.

“Important!” we exclaim. “OMG, if I stopped doing what I’m doing for just one second, the entire world (at least the one that revolves around me) would collapse.”

The truth is, however, that our worlds do not collapse when we rest.

God likes vacations

Years ago–at the beginning of human time–God created rest saying, “Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Work six days and do everything you need to do. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to God, your God. Don’t do any work . . . .” Sabbath–taking one day or more off–is God’s gift to us so that we can feel that lightness of soul. So we know that God, not us, is All That.

Modern science is finally catching up with God on this concept. Elizabeth Lombardo, a clinical psychologist who wrote a book titled A Happy You, says, “Taking a break . . . affords you an opportunity to step back, put life into perspective, and remember what’s really important. It helps get your priorities straight.”

And all this time we thought God was trying to be unreasonable and bossy. And the funny–meaning ironic–thing is that Christians are the ones most guilty of believing being busy equals being important. And pastors may be the worst of the worst at unplugging and resting.

Cat Stevens’ (now Yusaf Islam) old song “Miles from Nowhere” speaks of unplugging and getting our priorities straight:

“Miles from nowhere

I guess I’ll take my time

Oh yeah, to reach there

Look up at the mountain

I have to climb

Oh yeah, to reach there.

Lord my body has been a good friend

But I won’t need it when I reach the end.

Miles from nowhere.

Not a soul in sight.

Oh yeah, But it’s alright.”

Eugene and Stasia

For me the beautiful thing about being miles from nowhere and falling asleep under the stars, and marking time based on hunger pains not calendar appointments, and spending several days with a fly rod rather than a key board in my hands is knowing that the world is in God’s hands and not mine. Under that vast dome of stars, I realize true importance comes not from busyness but rather from the fact that the God who created those billion stars and that towering mountain knows my name and has written my story in his book. And this is true whether I am resting or working.

When I return, and you ask me how I am, I hope I answer, “I’m not all that. But it’s alright.”

Eugene C. Scott also believes God likes us to take vacations because it gives God time to clean up the messes we’ve made. Join him in the year The Year of Living Spiritually. 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, creation, Eugene C. Scott, Fun, God Sightings, happiness, Living Spiritually, priorities, Uncategorized, values | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

How I Almost Invented the Zip-Line and Other Bad Decisions

This is how I saw myself

“Let’s tie a rope from the top of this cliff down to that tree and slide down,” I said standing atop a thirty foot cliff. I was ten years-old and full of myself, being one of the older and cooler kids in our gang, and also having just been named the starting pitcher of my Pee Wee baseball team.

“Great idea,” said Tim, who was slightly older and, in reality, a lot cooler because it was his rope.

I tossed Tim’s rope down and secured the top to a large rock. Tim tied the other end to a tree. We then cut a short piece off the end to loop over the zip-line.

“It was my idea so I go first,” I said.

“It’s my rope.”

“I go second then.” We tied a safety rope around Tim’s waist and slowly lowered him down.

“I’m going again. Without the safety rope,” Tim said when he came back up. He zipped down the second time laughing and shouting.

Finally my turn came. I sat on the edge of the cliff with my legs dangling over. My brother and a tall kid looked up at me. Fear turned my mouth desert dry.

“Go! Or are you chicken?” Tim chided.

I launched myself into thin air. Unfortunately, Tim, not being a Boy Scout, was not trained in knots. The bottom knot came untied and I fell straight down, landing standing up, on my left leg. I felt and heard it snap. The tall kid took off running for home.

“I broke my leg,” I whined when everyone gathered around me.

“You did not.”

I pointed to my left foot which was hanging sideways on my leg. Both bones, compound fracture, end of my baseball career. I’ve regretted that day, especially years later when I realized I almost invented the zip-line.

Unfortunately, jumping off that cliff was not my worst decision. I’v made many more. So many that at times I’ve been afraid to make one at all. I’ve frozen at the top of the cliff, so to speak.

My Top Six Worst Decisions:

6. Dropping out of high school for a job at Gordon’s Greenhouse that paid $1.75 an hour.

5. Climbing to the top of a glacier to see if “Those really are bear tracks going in that cave.”

4. Moving from the Mile High City, gateway to the Colorado Rockies, to Bloomington, ILL, popcorn capital of the mid-west.

3. Breaking up with my future wife, Dee Dee, when I was in the 8th grade.

2. Trusting Tim’s meager knot tying skills.

1. Buying a used Chevy Citation. For the sticker price, without bartering.

I have good reason to not trust Tim or myself. But I’ve made some good decisions too. Or more correctly, just as not all that glitters is gold, so too, not all that begins daft ends dark.

My Top Five Best Decisions:

5. Dropping out of high school for a job at Gordon’s Greenhouse that paid $1.75 an hour. I’ve seldom quit anything since and have been married 33 years and now have a doctoral degree.

4. Climbing to the top of a glacier to see if “Those really are bear tracks going in that cave.” That’s just really a great story I’ll tell another time.

3. Moving from the Mile High City, gateway to the Colorado Rockies, to Bloomington, ILL, popcorn capital of the mid-west. My youngest daughter was born, my oldest daughter met an incredible man and married him, and I am grandfather to the two best grandkids in the world to name a few unexpected outcomes of that move.

2. Trusting Tim’s meager knot tying skills. I now know that scars, physical and emotional, are–at the same time–the most tender and tough parts of me. And if I had become rich and famous because I invented the zip-line, I would not have become a pastor.

1.  Finally marrying Dee Dee. You knew that was coming. Plus, there is nothing even God can do with a used Chevy Citation.

Does Life Just Work Out for the Best?

But this is not simply a case of life “working out for the best.” Nor is it proof “everything has a reason.”

No.

Shallow platitudes and blind fate had no hand in my worst decisions becoming my best. This was not a mere learning my lesson. I still don’t trust ropes or philosophies tied by the mere hands of man. Only God can bring beauty from ashes and joy from weeping and give even suffering a reason. As I look back, I see God’s hand, gently–or not so gently–redirecting my poorly chosen paths. And because of that, I (more often now) face decisions–and life generally–boldly, fearlessly. Because this turning of worst to best is the powerful work of God’s perfect love. It’s called redemption. And that is where I place my trust and base my decisions.

Eugene C. Scott decided to get up this morning. That was either a good or bad decision depending. He also believes living spiritually means living fearlessly. 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: adventure, Eugene C. Scott, Excitement, Faith, Fear Factor, Fun, God Sightings, Living Spiritually, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 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

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

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