God

God Come Down: A Christmas Day Reflection

 

rmnp-7

Trouble by Eugene C Scott

 

King David was, as usual, in trouble. Somebody or something was after him. Swords, spears, poison, royal duplicity. Or doubts and devils of the internal kind. Not so different from me, or you I suspect. On any given day we need God now and in force.

“Part your heavens, Lord, and come down; touch the mountains, so that they smoke. Send forth lightning and scatter the enemy,” David prayed. (Psalm 144:5-6)

How often have you felt like that? God, come down!

Christmas is an answer to that prayer.

Sort of.

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Red Tree in White by Eugene C Scott

 

Because no matter how many flashing lights we string and drums we bang, in the birth of Christ there were no smoking mountains and lightning bolts.

That’s not to say Jesus’ birth was not marked by the monumental. There hung a star, sung an angel choir. Those, however, were mere messengers. The birth itself was the miracle.

I remember the births of my children. Each was profound and transformational. With each I stood trembling as if thunder had crashed, wondering at the miracle of being a part of God’s creation.

Thirty some-odd years later, I put the two stories together, the birth of Jesus and the birth of my children. God came down like this?

There was no thunder and lightning, outside my overwhelmed heart. They were  beautiful, red and wrinkled and pointy-headed. They looked old, as if they’d travelled from eternity. They were fragile and tiny, skin translucent, as near death as life. Vulnerable. Needy.

15433778_10154502976454823_4068332343685572051_nThere’s a modern painting of Joseph and Mary after the birth of Jesus. It is so real and earthy. Dirt and stone but no smoke and lightning. The parents slouch on the ground, leaning against a rock wall with sandaled feet forward. Their eyes are closed in tired disbelief. Mary, slumped on Joseph’s shoulder, holds Jesus, swaddled, fragile, just like my children: vulnerable, needy.

The Lord came down, answering our many prayers, but in the most unpretentious, unpredicted, unexpected way.

Why? Why not come as David prayed?

The answer, in part, is at the heart of the Incarnation.

In coming, my children did not claim my allegiance through show of force, but captured it with a smile or cry. They did not force me to kneel down to change their diapers or raspberry their bare tummies, but I knelt to serve, love, and be near them. They did not demand service and sacrifice, they needed it and I found my greatest joy in making sure they were dry and safe and well fed. I served them gladly. They did not demand love but they grew it in me and drew it from me.

This is why Jesus came not with thunder and lightning but with dimples and folds.

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Dimples and Folds by Eugene C Scott

This is why he came a mere six pounds and nineteen inches rather than six-foot four two-fifty.

 

The God who needs nothing, especially our puny selves, came down as a needy babe so we could bow down, love, serve, and draw near.

As Frederich Buechner writes, “The Word become flesh. Ultimate Mystery born with a skull you could crush one-handed. Incarnation. It is not tame. It is not touching. It is not beautiful. It is uninhabitable terror. It is unthinkable darkness riven with unbearable light. Agonized laboring led to it, vast upheavals of intergalactic space/time split apart, a wrenching and tearing of the very sinews of reality itself. You can only cover your eyes and shudder before it, before this: ‘God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God . . . who for us and for our salvation,’ as the Nicene Creed puts it, ‘came down from heaven.’”

Yes, we should cover our eyes and shudder as if lightning struck. And sometimes I do. But Omnipotence joined in impotence so that we need not run and hide. We desire nothing less than a mountain shaking miracle for all to see. But what we needed was altogether different. We needed the miracle of God come down to be with us so that as he grew so would our love for him.

And one more miracle. God did not come down only that angel announced day. He does it now and forever. “I will be with you till the end of the age.” May this Christmas be the beginning or renewal of your journey with God. After all, he came down in answer to your prayer.

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Welcome! Photo by Eugene C Scott

 

Categories: Art, Bible, Christianity, Eugene C. Scott, Faith, God, God Sightings, Jesus, Living Spiritually, miracles, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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.

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

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 Perfect Picture of Easter

On a day when we are exposed to pictures of tombs and bloody scenes of the crucifixion while munching Easter eggs, chocolate bunnies, and jelly beans, many of us may experience a serious diseqaulibrium. What is this day really about?

Piney Lake, CO 2012

This picture from my daughter Emmy’s baptism last summer at Piney Lake, CO says it all for me. She was lost and Jesus found her. And I had the honor of baptizing her. She is now more who God made her than ever before. This picture tells the story of us all.

Categories: adventure, Art, Christianity, Eugene C. Scott, Excitement, God, God Sightings, happiness, Jesus, Living Spiritually, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 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

The Antidote to Fear

Famously President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in his “First Inaugural Address” on March 4, 1933, said, “. . . the only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified, terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

It sounds good, but is it true?

Many may agree there is a “terror which paralyzes” but would disagree that it is “nameless, unreasoning” or “unjustified.”  The Phobia List alone names 530 different terrors which paralyze.  Some seem unjustified–and even silly–such as Caligynephobia, a fear of beautiful women, or Linonophobia, a fear of string, or Logophobia, a fear of words.

Few fears are unnamed–and for those who hold them–unreasoning.  Achluophobia, a fear of darkness (#4 on Top Ten Fears see graphic below), and Acrophobia, a fear of heights (#3) are very reasonable.  I must admit, however, that Apeirophobia, a fear of infinity, Homilophobia, a fear of sermons, and Phobophobia, a fear of phobias are simply weird.Top Ten Fears

Taken literally then, Roosevelt may be right.  Fear itself is the culprit.  Fear is so much a part of our lives it has become a figure of speech.  “I’m afraid you’re wrong,” or “I’m afraid so,” we often say.

More than that, fear, as the proliferation of phobias attests, is a foundational emotion in our daily existence.

Fear drives both sides of the raging gun-control debate.  One side owning guns to foster safety; the other banning guns to foster safety.

The base emotion behind worry is fear.  “Will I still have my job tomorrow?”  “Will she still love me, when she finds out what I’m really like?”

And fear is a mighty motivator.  Most political ads of this past poisonous political season tried to motivate us through fear of America failing.  This is the fight of the famous fight or flight response.

Fear also drives us into deep denial.  Using the same example as above, many stuck their heads in the sand in response to the elections.  The infamous flight response.

But you know, don’t you, I’m not speaking of rational fear.  The car racing toward us.  The dark alley with a person skulking.  No, I am referring to that low-grade fever many of us are shuffling around with.  Generalized, unactualized fear.  Fear of things that may never happen or that have no answer.  The “what if” fear.  What if there is no God?  What if there is?  What if I said the wrong thing?  What if I didn’t say enough?  What if I’m too skinny, fat, short, tall, ugly, beautiful, smart, stupid, white, black, rich, poor, normal, abnormal?  Need I go on?

We may only have fear to fear.  But it is a powerful foe.  And it dominates our daily landscape.

I would wager that most of us make umpteen daily decisions based on fear.  And most of them, then, are bad decisions.  As Rosevelt said fear paralyzes or shifts us into reverse.  And it certainly prevents us from living spiritually.

What is it you are afraid of?

Personally I don’t fear death (#6) or disease much at all.  They seem largely out of my control, like being a passenger on an airplane.  I may dread a crash (#1), but even if I were to push the pilot out of his seat and take control, I would not do anything but make matters worse.  So, I sit back and enjoy the ride, bumpy or not.  (This does not mean, however, I don’t pursue healthy living)

My fear?  Disappointing people (Rejection #8), especially those I love or respect.  Not only do I feel (falsely probably) that I am in control of this but am responsible for it.  And my biggest fear is disappointing God.  At least occasionally I can bluff people into believing I’m more than I know I am.  Not God.  God sees through to the core.  Decision making based on either of those fears has been disastrous for me.

In short, I’m afraid of being judged, being deemed unworthy and rejected by others and God.  But God pushes back against this fear.  My “perfect love banishes fear,” God promises.  What does this love look like?  “Forgive them for they do not know what they do,” Jesus asked the Father for those who murdered him.  It looks like Jesus.  Being open to Jesus’ unconditional, perfect love allows us to live fearlessly.

But I’m afraid I don’t believe it most times.  And there lies the antidote to fear.  Not courage.  Not bravado.  Not control.  Not safety.  Faith.

Faith is at the heart of living spiritually.  Fear then is its enemy.  In coming blogs on The Year of Living Spiritually we will explore the role fear plays in destroying living spiritually and the role faith plays in destroying fear.

Maybe the phobia most of us have is one I coined: Fidephobia, a fear of faith.

But God is working on the antidote.

Categories: authenticity, Eugene C. Scott, Faith, Fear Factor, God, God Sightings, Jesus, Living Spiritually | Tags: , , , , , , | 27 Comments

The Top Spiritual Events of 2012

Comet Hale-Bopp Over Val Parola Pass

Comet Hale-Bopp Over Val Parola Pass by A. Dimai

What were the top spiritual events of 2012?  Audacious question, I know.  I’m not a “New York Times” writer, I’m not Oprah, or even your local journalist.  Who am I to try to answer it?  Nobody.

Maybe that’s the point.  Spiritual things often come in strange, unexpected packages.  Many say I fill that bill.  So, here are my three top spiritual events of 2012.

Proliferation of YouVersion

Johannes Gutenberg must be dancing on a cloud.  YouVersion is a Bible app with possibly the same impact on our world as Gutenberg’s 1440 invention of the movable type printing press followed by his printing of the Gutenberg Bible in 1452.  This single act stole the Bible from the hands of only the rich, powerful, and educated and placed it in the hands of almost anyone.  YouVersion, created in 2007 through LifeChurch.tv by Bobby Gruenewald and Terry Starchy, is now placing the world’s most influential book back in the hands of everyman.YouVersion

As of this writing, with more than 74,000,000 installs around the world, and Bible verses shared on Twitter and Facebook at “21 times per minute,” YouVersion is one of the fastest growing apps in the world.  But what made me consider YouVersion for this list is not just its explosive growth.  Rather it’s that its founders, shunning the potential to become the next e-billionaires, seem more concerned about you and your spiritual growth rather than making a buck or billion.  YouVersion is truly free, no commercials breaking in, no sharing your info, no catch.  LifeChurch.tv and 50 some partners simply give what they believe is the most valuable gift they can give: the Bible.

The U.S. Presidential Election:

The YouVersion is getting people reading.  This election got people praying.  At times for opposing outcomes, but praying none-the-less.  But seeing something so base as a Presidential election as a spiritual event goes deeper than people bending their knees in order to bend God’s arm.  Or how it will change the U.S. and maybe the world.

In early October a group of friends from our church gathered for a meal, some wine, and a conversation.  It was a delightful night, until someone brought up the election.  Or that’s what conventional thinking would have us believe.  It was a delightful evening, in part, because we discussed the coming election.  Though all from the same church, we were not of the same mind or political party.  Contrary to popular wisdom–never discuss politics and religion–we had a calm, though passionate, deep, nuanced, diverse, broadening conversation.

By the end of the night we were all still friends–and maybe even closer.  More over each of us pulled our heads out of our ostrich holes and saw that good, godly, intelligent, caring people held views contrary to our own.  And we didn’t have to call names and slap labels to be listened to.

Though I have no empirical proof, I believe this kind of thing happened more often than the power, money hungry media that depend on division, would have us believe.

What’s the spiritual impact?  People learning to talk while disagreeing and being divided.  Shallow conventional wisdom would have us believe it’s more spiritual to “just get along.”

No!  True soul work calls for living together, sharing a meal, and also our contrary ideas and beliefs.

Sandy Hook Tragedy 

Everyone I asked what they thought was the most spiritual event of 2012 mentioned this, or a similar tragedy.  How can that be?

Because, as C. S. Lewis wrote, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” (The Problem of Pain, 1940).  Not that God inflicts pain that we will listen up.  But God is too loving and wise waste our pain, even self-inflicted.

As Sandy Hook unfolded on our television screens–or closer–we looked inside ourselves terrified and glimpsed how needy we are.  How vulnerable, how thin our skin, literally and figuratively.  How much we need God.

Members of the Sandy Hook Elementary community ring the field prior to the start of the Giants-Eagles game on Sunday. Reuters / December 30, 2012

Jesus shocks us saying, “Blessed are they who are poor in spirit and blessed are they who grieve.”  What? we shout.  “For they will see God,” Jesus finishes.  These become blessings when we seek our Creator, the one who loves us despite how cruel we are to one another.

On December 14 we saw how poor in spirit we are and how deep our grief can be.

Sandy Hook, and tragedies like it, force us to look beyond the material and ask for help.  That is when we reach out, even asking God in anger, “Why?”

“Why” is a spiritual question and cannot be answered by the age-old easy answers offered by psychologists, pastors, pundits, or politicians.  And especially by blamers.  “You who are without sin cast the first stone,” Jesus challenged the blamers.

But we prefer easy answers more than mystery, especially painful, soul sifting mystery.  We know easy answers don’t solve anything.  Sadly, however, they allow us to go back into hiding.  Until another tragedy calls us out.

In 2012 these were the things that drew back the skin of every day life, revealing the soul pulsing beneath.  They made me look deep into the eyes of God.  They helped me see life is more than it appears.  You, however, may debate the spirituality of these events or even deny them.  And you may be right.  If so, be my guest, name your own.

P.S. Thank you for reading and traveling this spiritual path with me in 2012.  It has been an honor to be even a small part of your reading, blogging life.  Thank you.  May 2013 be filled with mystery and truth and fun and creativity and God.

Categories: Eugene C. Scott, Faith, God, God Sightings, Living Spiritually, Meaning, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Looking Back on the Year of Living Spiritually

Life is like a mountain

Life is like a mountain

The rugged 12,556 foot peak of New York Mountain sported a long cornice of snow still hanging from its barren ridge.  I was alone and miles from nowhere, as the old Cat Stevens song goes.  If I fell . . . I didn’t finish the thought.  I needed to climb over the peak and hike down the other side to reach my truck.  Part way back from a brief backpacking trip to New York Lake in White River National Forest, I had reached an impasse.  The trail disappeared before me about halfway up the face.  I thought this is where I descended a couple of days before.  But now it looked different, much steeper.  Impossible.  I searched the face, looking for something familiar, safer.  There was only one cut through the cornice.  My knees were screaming from pounding across several miles of a trackless scree field.  If that was the trail, I was not sure I could climb it, especially with my full pack.

I searched north and south along the peak coming up empty.  I started to scramble up where I thought I remembered coming down.

They say one way to avoid getting lost on a wilderness trail is to turn around–often–and look from whence you’ve come.  I had.  But it’s amazing how different your back-trail looks.  It gives you context.  Establishes bearings.  This is true especially on high, unmarked tundra trails that peter out.  And in life.

For the Year of Living Spiritually it’s time for taking bearings, for context, for looking back.  About a year ago we set out together (some have joined as we traveled) to daily look for the God-created soul in people, places, things, and life in general.  Looking back, what is it we saw?  I can only speak for myself.

People

While expecting God to show up only in flaming sunsets, if not burning bushes, I noticed God in people.  As I wrote in my January 3, 2012 post, “Writer, pastor Eugene H. Peterson says people are God’s creation too and we can see God in them just as we might a sunset or mountain scape. True enough.”  But I found myself falling back to default and looking for God in obvious places.  With 6 billion people on the planet, looking for God in people ups the possibility for daily God sightings.  Plus, seeing God’s image in others helped me judge less and love more.  Funny how that works.

Silence

Instead of giving up some meaningless food product last Lent, I fasted from noise.  I intended to turn off the radio and television for the six weeks of Lent but ended up feasting on this beautiful silence until August.  Football season.  This silence granted me awareness of life flowing around me that exploded my creativity and prayer life.  Listening to the blues, I began to hear biblical themes in that sad, gritty music.  I read more.  I heard God and sometimes listened.

Friendship

My chemical engineer friend Steve and I hiked miles and mountain biked more.  On the hikes especially we discussed politics, diabetes (he’s type 1 and I’m type 2), God and the space-time continuum, movies, apologetics, the best bike pedals, writing, our marriages, story, the ontological argument for the existence of God, the books we are writing, retirement, and sex.  Someone once said we can often see God in the space between us.  I agree, especially when we narrow the space.

May 12, 1979

May 12, 1979

Marriage

Marriage is much maligned.  In certain ways it deserves it.  As a pastor, I’ve observed and called ambulances on many a wrecked marriage.  Dee Dee and I have been steering ours between the lines for 33 years.  We’ve gone off the road a few times.  Still I never imagined how love, friendship, partnership, trust, comfort, and intimacy could grow and change.  Especially through the hard times.  Back then–in 1979–I thought our love was as big and rich as it ever would be.  The Apostle Paul writes, “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”  In my marriage I have experienced this love that surpasses knowledge.

Sacred Space

One cold day I met with a young pastor and an Eastern Orthodox priest in the sanctuary of the Father’s church.  No, this isn’t a joke.  We sat side-by-side, equal but different, on a hard pew surrounded by icons and reminders of how faith is real.  The conversation we had was holy (meaning different from the average conversation) because of where we were.  I’ve had the same good conversation in a brew pub.  In that sacred space, however, I was pushed closer to those men and saw that, while the noisy, relentless gears of culture grind on, often determining the futures of millions, a small conversation with-in a sacred space brings heaven to earth.  I–we–need sacred spaces to shut out the false voices of fear and worry.  We need sanctuary.

The space between is often where God dwells

The space between is often where God dwells

There were more God sightings.

But in looking back, I see, as in my New York Mountain story, that I’ve not finished.  Have you?  Living spiritually takes more than a year.  And seeing where we’ve gone gives hints about where we need to go.  So, whether hanging on the face of a 12,000 foot peak or standing flat-footed, we will go on.

But before we do, turn around a take a look at your back trail.  Get your bearings.  Drop a note here and tell us where you’ve seen God.  Then we’ll move on.

Categories: adventure, authenticity, belonging, Eugene C. Scott, Faith, God, God Sightings, Jesus, Living Spiritually, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

When Christmas Reality Exceeds Your Christmas Expectaions

Steve FossettA few years ago, just before Christmas, Dee Dee and I had the honor of sharing a table at a fundraiser for the Beaver Creek Religious Foundation with Steve Fossett and his wife.  Price of admission for Dee Dee and I: praying the blessing for the meal.

I had recently read “The Spirit of St. Louis,” Charles Lindbergh’s account detailing his 1927 solo, non-stop flight across the Atlantic.  Fossett had recently completed his own record-breaking, solo, unmotorized balloon circumnavigation of the globe.  It was an invitation of a lifetime.  I was champing at the bit to hear his story.  Fossett was only too willing to comply.

Finally, near the end of the dinner, Fossett came in for a landing and I asked, “Did you encounter God in any way while you were up there alone?”

Fossett’s face went blank.  He stammered something about the flight being just a record for him.  Like the many Boy Scout badges he had earned in younger years.  I was embarrassed to have asked and disappointed in how un-romantically he viewed his accomplishment.

Another Invitation

On the night Jesus was born the angels came to a group of shepherds with an invitation of a lifetime.  “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you, he is Christ [the One you have been waiting for] the Lord. . . . You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

What?  A baby in a horse trough?  What’s so great about that?  I wonder if they experienced similar disappointment to mine?  The Messiah was foretold to be the ultimate king, born of David, Israel’s greatest king.  The solution to all their problems.  They were soon to learn Jesus was much more than their expectations.

And so it is.  Somehow God mingles our meager Christmas expectations with much greater heaven-hope.  In “The Weight of Glory” C. S. Lewis wrote, “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Christmas is so much more than ribbons, bows, eggnog, Santa, and mistletoe.  It’s an open, down-to-earth invitation of a lifetime.  What will we settle for this Christmas? A tie and slippers?  While God sings, Come celebrate, experience, worship Immanuel, I Am with you.

May this Christmas be nothing you ever hoped or imagined.

Eugene

Categories: adventure, Art, Christianity, church, Eugene C. Scott, Faith, Gilcrease, God, God Sightings, Jesus, Living Spiritually, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Was 12.12.12 Really Worth Noticing?

12.12.12

Old and new mix photo by Eugene C. Scott

On my way to a meet a friend for coffee in downtown Littleton yesterday morning light crept over the eastern horizon, refracting through scant moisture in the air, turning the sky gray, then purple, then pink, then finally Colorado blue, giving birth to a day that some say will be remembered for its numerical uniqueness, 12.12.12.  On 12.12.12 as I drive, I realize much more of  passing significance might happen this day.  That this will be a day filled with moments: people, sights, sounds, emotions, hopes, disappointments, surprises, and flavors I will not experience in just this way ever again.  Here, in honor of 12.12.12 are 12 of them.

  1. Driving east I see the street lights, red and green (Christmas colors), a flash of yellow, glow as if they too know what time of year it is.  I feel a strange peace.  These traffic lights, awash in the light of a new day, will not appear this soft, this festive five minutes from now.  Can there be beauty even in things we mere humans create?  It seems so.
  2. I’m surrounded by silence pregnant with . . . Don’t fill it, you’ll kill it, I warn.  So, I let it sit, weigh on me, entice me with its promise, realizing what I hear or don’t hear won’t be spoken again.
  3. The parking lot is full.  On another day, in a more narcissistic mood, a parking lot full of cars already at 6:30am. would have left me impatient, worried about being late.  Instead I stroll a street I’ve never walked and commiserate with those already off to work and notice the contrast between new and old buildings like walking in and out of shadows from the past coloring the future.
  4. The smell of coffee and history mixes inside Littleton Train Depot, now called Romancing the Bean.  This place ended its service as a railroad depot on December 31, 1981 long before anyone dreamed up trendy, flavored coffees.  But, as with so many things thought dead, the depot has sprung to new life and purpose.Littleton Depot
  5. My friend and I drink coffee and share pieces of a cinnamon roll.  I’ve not eaten a cinnamon roll in a year and won’t again for another year.  It’s sweet.  Gummy.  One bite is enough.  Suddenly we’re talking of how, if we are living in God, we, like God, are living in the past and present.  We don’t simply forget the past.  It is still here being healed and transformed in us.

    Brian R

    Photo by Eugene C. Scott

  6. As I leave Romancing the Bean, I see something I haven’t seen in a long time.  A copy of the Rocky Mountain News.  The last from February 27, 2009.  I grew up reading the Rocky every afternoon, mainly the comics and sports.  Then later real news.  I don’t read any newspaper any more.  Ironic how on a day recognized for something that will never happen again, there sat a voice now silent.
  7. I retrace my steps back to my truck but all has changed.  It’s busier, the light harsher.  I have to hurry.  I’m beginning to forget to hold on to these moments.  My next meeting is not close by.
  8. I’m late, self conscious, thinking of my apology.  Living already in the future.
  9. As I enter, the laughter of my friends and colleagues fills what would be, without them there, a sterile meeting-room environment.  Forgettable, meaningless.  I’m convinced there will not be committee meetings in heaven.  But the people who call meetings–even this sin forgivable–will be.  As I walk out the door, I feel glad to be among them today.
  10. I make it to the food bank barely on time.  The look on a young mother’s face gathering food is furtive.  She wears a practical and thankful and firm and full-of-business mask.  But her eyes let me in, ask me to see her for who she is and say, “I’m more than this.”  Then she turns away.
  11.   Finally at home, later, after losing too many moments I meant to hold on to, writing this, I hear, “Yohoo.”  The cheerful inflection in the red-head’s voice as she trails in the door after wrangling five-year olds all day brings me back to attention.  We talk; we eat.  The day of uniqueness almost over.  Have I seen anything?

    Clock Tower

    Photo by Eugene C. Scott

  12. The sky is dark indigo.  There are stars up there, somewhere.  Not as many as when I would lie in my back yard in summer and try to invent my own constellations.  But those moments are past.  Now there’s too much ground light and my eyes are older.  And I’m busy.  But also I ask, which stars are dead already and only shimmering in death, moments long past that I am only now noticing?

Mundane day, I know.  So 12.12.12, amounting to a mere 1,440 seconds, a day like millions of others before, a day containing a myriad of events, people, and impressions that will never happen just this way again, flicked by.  I know I missed something.  But I put up a net and caught a few moments of passing significance.  And tomorrow maybe I’ll catch more.

What did you see?

Categories: Eugene C. Scott, God, God Sightings, happiness, healing, Living Spiritually, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

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