Posts Tagged With: friends

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.

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

Loneliness and the Lost Art of Deep Friendships

By Eugene C. Scott

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is a spiritual friendship?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

W.W.H.P.D?: What Would Harry Potter Do?

By Eugene C. Scott

Of all the battles Harry Potter faces, one is paramount. Not his conflict with Draco Malfoy, Professor Snape, the Dementors, the sweetly evil Dolores Umbridge, not even with Him-Who Must-Not-be-Named, Lord Voldemort. Rather this battle is more personal, more realistic, more tragic. Closer to home. This struggle is the emotional core of the entire Harry Potter series. Harry never met his parents. He knows not his mother.

Suppose, like Harry, you only had the opportunity to know your mother through secondary sources. Let’s say you only knew your mother through what others said about her, a few moving pictures, and reading pieces of her journal and old letters. But you never met her, heard her sing, kissed her cheek, asked her questions, smelled her hair, knew why she died for you.

If that were your story–or mine, then, like Harry, we could not say we truly knew our mothers. Not in that deepest sense of knowing. At best we could only nod sadly and say we knew of our mothers. In that situation many of us would ache for our mothers, that touch, that intimacy. A pain made worse when someone says, “You look just like her” or “Too bad you never met her.” That desire to know–truly know–would drive our stories, our lives as desperately as Harry’s.

This is the exact non-fiction situation humanity faces in knowing God. We know of God through secondary sources: what others say about God, artists depictions, reading pieces of God’s journal and old letters (otherwise known as the Bible). But we’ve never met God, heard his voice, touched him, looked in his eyes. And it drives us insane.

This distance, this yearning for, this knowing of while not being intimate with God troubled God. A tragedy every bit as dire as Harry’s.

Study, dig, argue, theorize, reason, pray, pry, beg, try as we might, intimacy–true knowing of God–escaped us.

Into this impossible situation strode a Jewish carpenter named Jesus saying, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. . . . I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” John 14:1, 6-7

Today this statement strikes many as too exclusive, ludicrous, audacious.

How could Jesus claim to be the only way to come to and know God? There must be many ways to God.

Would it be exclusive, unfair, or restrictive, however, of me to say, “I am the only way to truly know me”?

You can search secondary sources to learn of me, pictures, old sermons, hearsay, rumors. But if you want to know Eugene C. Scott, you can do so only through Eugene C. Scott. My wife, the person who knows me best, can show you one piece of my puzzle. My children more pieces. My life-long friend Jay a few more. My other friends and congregation a piece here and there. But many pieces are missing unless I too reveal myself to you.

Harry wanted nothing more than to meet, face to face with his parents. The whole magical and muggle world could be damned.

This truth was the core of Jesus‘ Incarnation, God becoming flesh. God saw the tragic limits of secondary sources and bridged them. And Jesus’ life proved his claim of Being Divinity Among us true. Jesus exerted an authority over nature, demons, illness, people, arguments, and finally death that only God could hold. Jesus was God in flesh. Thus it is not audacious or restrictive for Jesus to claim to be the only way for each of us to come to or know God. It is the opposite. By so saying Jesus throws the door to intimacy with the Father wide open.

This doesn’t mean we can’t learn something about God through Buddha, the gods of the Hindus, from Islam, and even certain strains of Christianity. But they are all secondary sources and prone to misinterpretation and often downright error. Jesus’ seemingly exclusive claim then is actually inclusive. He intends to include you and me.

Back to Harry.  Suppose Lilly Potter walked back into Harry’s life. What would Harry Potter do?

Suppose Jesus walked into our world spreading his powerful, loving arms wide and saying to one and all, “Here I AM. Know ME.”

What would you do?

Categories: adventure, Art, authenticity, belonging, Bible, bible conversation, care, Christianity, church, Community, creation, dreams, Eugene C. Scott, Excitement, Faith, friends, God, God Sightings, Jesus, loneliness, love., Meaning, miracles, murder, mystery, pain, self-doubt, story, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

All the World’s a . . . Dance: The Trinity and You

By Eugene C. Scott

“Country road take me home. . .,” John Denver warbled from the CD player as our Jeep jolted down the lonely miles of country roads in the Canyon Lands of Utah. “. . . to a place where I belong,” John sang in complete incongruity to how out-of-place we were among the soaring rock formations and sinking canyons breaking the pastel expanse of the desert. We had not seen a home in hours and the last time we did it was a meager, wind-bitten outpost set against this glorious wilderness.

As we pounded out the miles, I wondered why more of us don’t call these wild places home? I remembered I had once dreamed of living alone in a teepee in the wilderness.  Like me, so many of us romanticize rugged individualism and the wilderness in songs, paintings, and books. And many of us yearn for the singular beauty of the desert or an isolated mountain.

Yet the majority of us sink our roots nearer to communities than canyons. Why is it only the hardy hermit or crazy coot can live out in barren places? Certainly the harshness of wilderness life plays a role. That there is no hot, running water, not to mention no Quickie Mart, may indeed be an ingredient. But there were no Quickie Marts for most of human history and even back then folks chose to gather in communities rather than brave the solitude of their vast and wild world. So ease of life cannot be the major factor in why we gather rather than scatter.

I tried variations of my lone wolf in the wilderness dream before coming to the conclusion that not only did I like people but I also needed them.

God is the cause of our need for community. “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image in our likeness. . .’” (Genesis 1:26) This simple sentence contains as much information about human life as a DNA strand. For centuries theologians and philosophers have held those words under their microscopes mining them for meaning. Most have concluded being created in God’s likeness means we derive our personhood, emotions, intellect, will, etc. from God. In other words, all the attributes God shines we reflect–albeit in a severely smoky mirror. We are who we are because God is Who He is!

Thus we come to the words “us” and “our” in that ancient sentence. Here is our first introduction to God as three-in-one. Trinity may be one of the toughest concepts about God to understand. I’ve heard various attempts to describe God’s three-in-oneness. The simple chicken egg, they say, is made of three distinct parts: the shell, the whites, and the yoke, but there is only one egg. Others focus us on complex chemicals to see how God can be three-in-one. H2O can be a solid, a liquid, or a gas, and still be water. Today modern molecular biology informs us that every whole is made up of millions of other wholes. In essence models of Trinity are all around us.

An older and better metaphor for understanding God as Trinity can be seen in the Greek word perichoresis. It means to dance: peri = around and choresis = danceFor thousands of years the ancient Greek Orthodox Church pictured the Trinity as Father, Son and Holy Spirit in a holy and sacred dance.

Eugene H. Peterson, in his book “Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places,” describes it this way: “Imagine a folk dance, a round dance, with three partners in each set. The music starts up and the partners holding hands begin moving in a circle. . . . The tempo increases, the partners move more swiftly . . . swinging and twirling, embracing and releasing. . . . But there is no confusion, every movement is cleanly coordinated in precise rhythms . . . as each person maintains his or her own identity.”

Shakespeare wrote, “All the world’s a stage.” But it may be more true that all the world’s a dance and Father, Son and Holy Spirit are the caller. There is nothing we do without “dancing” with God and others in relationship.

How are we created in God’s image? God is in relationship and we too were created to be in relationship. Our human need for community is not just an analogy of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; it is one of the attributes of God we reflect. Just like God is love and God is just, God is community. The Father exists in relationship with the Son and the Holy Spirit. The great darkness and pain of God the Son on the cross was the breaking of that community for the first time in history. The great victory of the resurrection was the healing of that Holy Community and the mending of the tear in our human relationships with God and one another.

We need to live near other people and be intimate with one another because God created us in their image–the image of Community. Our need for one another is God designed. Therefore, those hermits hacking out a life in the wilds of our world are bucking God’s plan. And John Denver’s longing for home was planted in his heart by God. I love and need the solitude of a desert horizon or mountain vista. I hear God’s voice and see God’s strength in the barren places. But I feel God’s warm arms and know God’s forgiving love and healing touch best when standing among my God ordained community of family and friends.

Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church. More info go to tnc3.org.

Categories: adventure, Art, authenticity, belonging, Bible, bible conversation, care, Christianity, church, Community, creation, dreams, Eugene C. Scott, friends, Fun, God, God Sightings, grace, Jesus, loneliness, mystery, together, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Are Books About to Become Extinct?

By Eugene C. Scott

I have thousands of good friends. Friends not just acquaintances. People who have spoken into my deepest fears and hopes, people I have shared untold hours with. They have asked and answered questions, frustrated me, left me yearning for more, angered me, comforted me, challenged, and have always been only an arms length away. None of these unusual friends have ever met me, however, nor I them. Still they have walked with me down every path of my life.

I’m not talking about my covey of life-long friends, who are thicker than blood, who also fit the above description. And no, I’m not referring to my Facebook friend count nor people in church, though they are friends too. These are friends some would not count or–possibly–even notice in their own lives. But they are there. And they have so much to say.

One of these friends, one of my best gave me great pleasure–and insight into my own family of origin–by telling me a story about a 1960s tragedy—a murder—that rocked a Minnesota family and brought one brother to his knees and the other to an understanding about the true nature of faith. Through that story, I was transported back to my childhood and warm memories of my family, before it was broken, and how my own loss started me on a journey of faith.

Another less poetic friend shared theology with me that challenged (oh how I prefer avoiding challenges to my beliefs) me and gave me a refreshed relationship with Jesus and a new view of heaven and earth.

An older friend mesmerized me with a series of jokes, puns, and one-liners retelling his life story. I laughed so hard my cheeks hurt and I found myself wishing I didn’t take life so seriously; and for a moment I didn’t.

I also had a young friend who shared with me his struggles and victories while growing up without a father. I saw my own struggle in his–my father died when I was eleven. He too had fantasy father figures. His were Bill Cosby from “The Cosby Show” and an older hippy kid who befriended him. Mine was my older sister’s boyfriend. We arrived at a school father/son event in his souped-up GTO. I knew I was the coolest kid there until I realized this guy was not my dad no matter how hard I wished he was. My friend’s story defined my story. Though many men could influence, help, mentor, and love us fatherless kids, no one could replace our real fathers, except maybe God.

There are many more of these friends I could share with you. Strangely none I have seen face to face, however.

As you may have guessed, these friends are all books. The Minnesota family is Leif Enger’s invention in his outstanding novel, Peace Like a River. Enger’s storytelling and prose were so simple and beautiful I have read this novel half a dozen times.

Dallas Willard wrote one of the freshest, most challenging, accessible theologies called The Divine Conspiracy. It describes God’s desire, God’s conspiracy to let us know him and to live life beyond our human constraints. I go back to it again and again and discover new layers each time.

The next friend mentioned above is I Shouldn’t Even Be Doing This! an autobiography by my favorite comedian, Bob Newhart. I read it in two days and still retell his jokes to whoever will listen.

Next Donald Miller’s delightful books are each funny and light, true, and flawed, real, yet able to slip under the skin and pierce one’s heart. Miller’s fourth book To Own a Dragon: Reflections on Growing Up Without a Father is a slim book—197 pages—each page of which showed me my past and future vistas through viewing Miller’s life.

Some suggest my friends, books, should be placed on the endangered species list. Reading is declining, ebooks may bury books with bindings. Movies and TV have also dug the grave deeper. These good friends of mine are on life support. Or are they?

I look at my library of friends, lined neatly on the shelves, or not, so diverse and beautiful, and full of life and wisdom–and even foolishness–and I grieve. Their loss, if it comes, will be great. To me people who do not read books (or God forbid, cannot!) are like people who have seldom or never tasted chocolate or ice cream. They are missing something delicious.

Or more accurately they are missing a rich interaction no other medium can offer, daily conversations with people from all over the world and all through time that will comfort and challenge while also delivering them on great flights of fancy. I have read a piece of one book or another daily, missing only a few under duress, for nearly twenty-eight years. I can’t imagine life without books.

In 1953 Ray Bradbury wrote a science fiction titled Fahrenheit 451 in which the government begins to burn books because they deem them dangerous. But like most other beautiful, important things in our lives, nothing so drastic or romantic will spell the demise of books. If books die it will be while we are not looking. Their loss will come at the hands of inattention.

There is hope. Brabury’s novel recounts a secret society that covenants to save their favorite books. Each person participates by memorizing a book and in essence becoming the book. The book through its host, so to speak, comes to life. Bradbury’s idea is not far-fetched because story–factual or fictional–is the life blood we readers share with books. Story is a part of most–if not all–of our lives. Our very lives are stories, unbound, living books. Therefore, the soul of a book, story will live on, as it did before books and as it will after.

And I for one–no matter whether others read or what technology comes–will not easily let go of my many friends.

Categories: Art, authenticity, belonging, bible conversation, Community, dreams, Eugene C. Scott, friends, God, God Sightings, happiness, Meaning, mystery, TV, Uncategorized, values | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Isolation Kills and Intimacy Gives Life

By Eugene C. Scott

Isolation

The Illinois sky was painful, gray, close, oppressive. The few of us standing on the hill in the cemetery were all tucked into our coats and scarves against the winter wind. He, the man we were gathered around, was tucked against that same wind–against life–into a nondescript coffin.

I was a young associate pastor in a large Presbyterian church and had been asked to preside at the man’s funeral. I hadn’t known the man. He was homeless and had been hit and killed by a train. The few others at the graveside, dark suited men from the mortuary, a newspaper reporter wishing he were elsewhere, the policemen who had found the man’s body, workers from the homeless shelter, and the grieving train engineer, didn’t know the man either. Nor did anyone know if the man had stepped in front of the train accidentally or on purpose. It mattered to the engineer.

Funerals are always heart  breaking. I remember each one I’ve officiated. But I’ve carried that particular  funeral and that man in my heart for twenty years.

At all of the other funerals there was always someone who could speak for and about the person who had passed. Even the very old, who have outlived their friends and family, often have a doctor or nurse who witnessed their last moments. Presiding over these memories is painful but beautiful too.

This day I read the man’s bare-bones obituary, recited the 23 Psalm, offered a prayer, stood in cold silence for a moment, grieved in a strange, disconnected way and then turned and left the man in the hands of God and the gravediggers.

No one should be that unknown.

Yet many of us in modern culture, especially in America, , and not just the homeless, live isolated lives, unknown to ourselves and others. I recently heard someone say we Americans are people of the box. We live in boxes, travel in boxes, and work or learn in boxes within a bigger box. Shared knowledge and experiences are rare. Each of us has his or her own earbuds plugged into a personalized playlist. And it’s costing us.

In 2003 thirty-three researchers from various fields published a report called “Hardwired to Connect” in which they wrote, “We are witnessing high and rising rates of depression, anxiety, attention deficit, conduct disorders, thoughts of suicide, and other serious mental, emotional, and behavioral problems among U.S. children and adolescents.” Further the report states, “In large measure, what’s causing this crisis of American childhood is a lack of connectedness. We mean two kinds of connectedness — close connections to other people, and deep connections to moral and spiritual meaning.” Hardwired to Connect is not merely opinion but a combination of various empirical studies that show how and why humans need to know and be known by others.

Science aside, most of us intuitively know we need each other. Starbucks has not taken over the coffee shop world because they serve the best coffee. Starbucks’ genius was offering Americans a place to connect, if only briefly and outwardly. Mark Zuckerberg too made a mint providing people with a way to connect. Yet we need deeper connections than these two famous entrepreneurs capitalized on.

I was recently interviewed as a character witness for a long-time friend. A few minutes into the interview, I realized the FBI agent was professionally sprinkling into the conversation questions that would confirm whether I truly knew my friend.

“What do his children do?” he asked as if he didn’t already know.

“Has he ever travelled out of the country?”

Each question drew up a different memory from our thirty-four years of friendship. Pictures of being at each others’ weddings, of ski trips, fights, the births of our children, tragedies, successes, meals, illnesses, vacations, funerals, you name it, they flooded into my head.

Finally the FBI agent asked, “Is he patriotic? Does he love his country?”

More memories. To my chagrin tears rose to my eyes and my chin quivered. I was crying in front of a FBI agent.

Patriotic? My friend has served in the military all the time I’ve known him. Love his country? He volunteered to serve in Iraq for a year despite the fact his age would have kept him from having to do so. His son fought in Bagdad as a Marine. Patriotic? Are you kidding me?

But those memories aren’t the ones that brought on the embarrassing tears.

After my mother passed away in 2003, I inherited the United States flag that had draped my father’s coffin years before. That year, for Christmas, my wife Dee Dee gave me a wooden triangular case to display the flag in. One night we had a group of friends over, including my patriotic friend and his wife and son. They noticed my father’s flag was folded improperly and asked my permission to refold it. My friend and his son stood apart–the flag between them–and using sharp, precise military moves refolded the flag, handed it to me, and saluted. I wept that day too.

This was not playing army. This was father and son honoring a son and a lost father. This was an intimate gift coming from a long friendship. My friend knew me.

Sitting across from that FBI agent I cried because in a world of isolation I knew my friend well enough to pass the test and he knew me that well too. And neither of us would face life or death unknown like that unfortunate homeless man.

Eugene C. Scott writes the GodSighings blog.  Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO.

Categories: authenticity, belonging, Bible, bible conversation, care, Community, Eugene C. Scott, friends, God, God Sightings, happiness, Jesus, loneliness, love., priorities, together, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

This Day in History: A Meal Fit for a King–and You

By Eugene C. Scott

My eyes didn’t know what to fix on, so they darted from one delight to another. Oh, this is wonderful–but too much. Delightful, but I should have given Solome more guidance. The Master will . . . he will what? You may call me double-minded with my wonder and worry together crashing over me in waves. But you were not there. You never tried to serve the Master, to please him. I was never good at guessing what went on in that mind of his. When I looked for his praise, he chided me and when I knew I had failed him, his eyes spread patient love over the hole my hope had escaped from.

But this was too much. Little did I know that a sumptuous feast was the least of our worries.

Lamb, and bread, hyssop, herbs–bitter and sweet, jars of wine, fish, and candies sagged the long tables. This is a meal fit for a king, not our Master. I rubbed my hands together but I could not otherwise move. They would be here in moments. Dozens of oil lamps bound in iron to the walls burned softly, lighting the low ceiling with rich gentle arcs.

“You like it, Ruben?” A familiar voice touched me from behind. I turned.

“Solome, how did you do all this?” I asked kissing her cheeks. “The Master will . . . Is this what the Master asked for?” Solome had not prepared a simple Passover meal but a lush Roman style Reclinium. Pillows rimmed the low tables ready for our guests to lounge and rest on as they feasted. Table cloths covered the rough wooden boards.

“Who knows?” Solome said with a shrug of narrow shoulders. “He said to prepare the Upper Room. And I have done so. He was not more specific.” She swung her arm across the room.

“But the cost,” I complained looking at the dozens of candles burning on the tables. “He will surely say we spent too much and should have given all this to the poor.”

Solome rolled her eyes. “The poor. We are giving this to him. No one has less then the Master.”

My feet, dancing beneath me, carried me around the room. Just then voices, loud and laughing, filled the house below. And up the stairs came Peter and John. The Master, Jesus followed them. Then all the disciples streamed in and filled the room with noise and odor and expectation. Over a hundred of them. He surveyed the room. I clenched my eyes.

“Master, I’m sorry,“ I shouted. “You know Solome. Extravagance is her real name.”

I know, it was low of me to blame her. Can you honestly tell me you would have not?

“And yours, my dear Ruben, is Worry.” His whole face widened in a smile.

“Peace,” he called to us. He patted me on the shoulder.

I smiled at how the Master assumed charge, became the host, even in my own house. My worry drained away.

Had I known this was our last meal together, I would have spent my entire estate on this meal. I would have hired guards. I would have . . . .

“Abba,” he prayed lifting the Kiddush Cup and the murmur of voices stilled. “Bless this our meal of Passover. Deliver your people tonight as you did our father, Moses long ago.” He passed the cup and directed us through the keeping and remembering of God’s commands for his people. He never read from the scroll I had provided but spoke from memory. James, his brother corrected him when Jesus gave new meaning to one of the old readings or prayers. Peter nudged James to quiet him.

The Master led us through the Maggid Cup, asking us the Passover questions. He let the children answer first. And we ate. I ran back and forth refilling cups and plates. I never spoke to the Master again that night–never spoke to him again ever.

He blessed the Birkat Hamazon Cup and passed it.

Then the trouble began. And in my house. Lord, forgive me. In the middle of this–I did not see what happened as I was busy serving wine, though you can ask Matthew because he wrote it down, and of course I know now–Judas–how I hate that man–shouted, “Surely not I, Rabbi” and ran from the room. Thomas stood to go after him but stopped under the Master’s gaze. How would the world be different if Thomas had stopped Judas?

At last came the unleavened bread. Jesus began in a whisper, tears in his eyes and we all leaned in to hear about the night, because of the blood of the spotless lamb, God’s angel of death passed over Israel.

He prayed, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Then he said–I didn’t understand it that night–”Take and eat; this is my body.”

He handed the broken bread to John, who had a confused look on his young face. Then Jesus lifted the fourth cup, the Hallel Cup, and blessed it saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s Kingdom. Do this in remembrance of me.”

So, I still have trouble believing it, on Jesus last night in the world, he spent it with me–and you.

And so, thinking it may be the last night of our world, on every Yom Ree-Shon, the first day of the week, (you call it Sunday) we obey the Master and fill the Upper Room, spending it together, serving a Love Feast–though not as lavish as the last supper with Jesus that night. For whenever we eat the bread and drink the cup, we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes again–and as he said,  he “will drink it anew” with us.

Read Matthew 26:17-56, Mark 14:12-42, Luke 22:7-46, John 13:1-17:36

Also, go to tnc3.org for info on how The Neighborhood Church is remembering this week in history.

Two thousand years ago this week one man turned history upside down. I would give anything to have been there, seen him, heard his voice. Instead we can only use our imaginations to re-enter ancient history. Each day this week, called Holy Week, we are going look at this day in ancient history through the eyes of a fictional character who witnessed part of that day as Jesus lived it. Join us as we believe a better story: the greatest, truest story ever told.

Categories: authenticity, belonging, Bible, bible conversation, Christianity, church, Community, dreams, Eugene C. Scott, Excitement, Faith, friends, Fun, God, God Sightings, Jesus, love., Meaning, story, Uncategorized, worship | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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