Posts Tagged With: Heaven

A Twist on Tolkien: All Who Are Lost Wander

Sassy

Sassy’s World PC Eugene C Scott

Of all the dogs I’ve owned, I loved the one I lost most. She was a black and white Springer Spaniel we named Sasson, Hebrew for joy. I know, I know. We were young and so spiritual and didn’t have kids yet.

We bought her in our first year of marriage. Dee Dee chose her, dark puppy eyes saying, “Pick me, pick me.”

We called her Sassy. And she was. She was arrow quick, sweet, and easy. I’d return home from my construction job and she’d run around my legs and shake with excitement. She learned to sit, heal, come, stay, and all manner of dog tricks so quickly she convinced me I was a dog whisperer.

We took her everywhere. She loved to ride on the wheel well of my white Toyota pickup, catching the wind.

In the summer of 1980, we took her backpacking in the Holy Cross Wilderness. While I reeled in brookies, she stood on the rock next to me trembiling to see what was on the end of the line. She slept in our tent with us.

At the end of the weekend, as we drove down the long dirt road out of the mountains, she perched on her wheel well. Dee Dee and I planned our next trip and were captivated by a world exploding with wildflowers. We stopped for gas in Eagle. That’s when I noticed Sassy was gone. Instantly I knew what had happened. She had fallen out on the twisty, bumpy dirt road. We raced back and searched the entire route. Desperate, we stopped cars and asked if they had seen a black and white Springer.

“Yes,” one driver said. “Right back up there.”

Our hearts soared. We drove along praying, slowly searching the road and the woods. Another car approached and I got out to stop it and ask. They ignored me and drove by. We drove up and down the road growing more frantic and despondent each moment.

Finally, we returned home, silent, guilty. We burst into tears entering our tiny living room with her dog toys scattered about. We placed ads in the Eagle County papers. We waited. We hoped the people in the car that didn’t stop had her. But we never saw Sassy again. Even thirty-seven years later, I miss her and feel guilty for letting her ride the wheel well, for not watching, for losing her.

DogHeaven

Fb.com/ilovemydogfans

This memory came back sharp because of the Facebook meme: “Heaven is a place where all the dogs you’ve ever loved run to greet you.” That thought gave me hope. Heaven will be a place to be reunited. And with more than lost dogs. My mom. My brother.

But it also gave me pause. If I were lost, who would search for me?

I picture myself standing along that dirt road, watching the truck tires throwing dust. I raise my hand but the truck heedlessly turns the corner. I shiver with shock and thrust my hands in my pockets. Soon the dusk rises cold and dim from around my feet. A fading sliver of light clings to the tips of the dark pines. I glance up and down the empty road. I wait. They’ll come back. The silence and aloneness beat together as an ache in my heart. I’m lost.

Life is often like that. More metaphorically than literally, we’re lost.

And we always believe we’ll find ourselves just over the next rise, or in the next relationship, or job, self-help book, or birthday. I turned thirty, forty, and fifty thinking with each birthday: surely now I’ll know who I am and what I’m about. Finally, I’ve arrived!

Arrived where? Now in my sixth decade, I’ve learned that without a fixed point, a north star, there is no finding yourself. In “Meditations in Wall Street,” Henry S. Haskins wrote, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

As inspiring as this oft-misattributed quote may be, God did not design us with an infallible inner compass. It’s as if our inner-Siri tells us to turn north on Main Street, but we don’t know north from a hole in the ground. Even if we deny it, all internal drives find themselves following external maps. Too many of these lead nowhere, at least nowhere good. This is why each new generation sets out to find itself and comes up empty. Self is not something we find, but rather something created and pointed out by God.

John Newton had it right in “Amazing Grace.” “I once was lost, but now am found.” The passive voice in those lyrics speaks volumes. Newton’s internal sense of lostness left him searching until it was confirmed and answered by God. God is the ultimate North.

Thus the Bible describes humans as lost. And worse lost sheep. Jesus especially uses this metaphor. He is the shepherd searching for the one lost sheep. If I were lost, who would search for me? For you?

Though God was not careening down a mountain road and carelessly tossed us out. Rather we jumped. Still, Jesus walks that dusty, lonely dirt road calling our names. Jesus placed a lost and found ad in our newspaper. He weeps for our loss. He has marked your soul with his breath and that lonely heartache you and I feel is for him. He is home. He is North. He is found.

If heaven is the place to be reunited with loved ones, maybe even dogs, then earth is the place Jesus traveled to reunite us with heaven.

Road

Wanderlost PC Eugene C Scott

Tolkien may be right that “Not all those who wander are lost.” But it is just as true that all who are lost wander. And wonder. Where the hell am I? Who am I? Why am I here?

The answer is not within, except when from inside we cry out.

“My God, why have you forsaken me?” Even Jesus felt that lostness.

And God the Father answered. “I Am!” I am with you. Even in death on the cross, even in suffering, even in daily life and periodic drudgery. I am with you. Reach out your hand and take Mine.

Categories: adventure, belonging, Bible, Christianity, creation, Eugene C. Scott, Faith, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Hitler, Mother Teresa, and Me

Lake Atitlán

The Stepping-Off Place by Brendan Scott

I have this recurring day dream where I’ve died and gone to heaven. 

I’m standing in line, in the clouds, though the footing is firm enough. My hands are sweaty. My heart is playing the kettle drum. I see the gates gleaming.* A line of people stretches out behind me horizon-like into eternity. Just ahead of me stands Adolph Hitler and just behind slumps Jeffery Dahmer.

Not good company, but maybe good placement, I think. I’m a saint compared to these guys.

Just then I hear my name.

“Eugene, Eugene C. Scott.” The angel sings my name like notes off a blues guitar and waves me forward, smiling.

“Here! Here I am!” I shout, flapping my arms, ducking out of line, and running through the gate, leaving Adolph and Jeffery behind.

Then the day dream reverses and darkens.

I’m on the same cloud, in line, heart stuttering, sweat dripping. This time I’m in line between Mother Teresa and Billy Graham. Good company, but bad placement, I think. No saint compared to these two.

I square my shoulders and stand straighter like my mom used to tell me to. But it does no good. I know I’ll never measure up.

I hear a sound like nails on a chalkboard. “Eugene, Eugene C. Scott?” The angel is pointing like the “Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.” Away from the streets of gold, I slink.

The dream comes one final time.

The gates rise in the distance. People are scattered about. There are blue patches in the clouds and through them, I see home, my last home. Not wanting to fall through, I move away and bump into someone.

“Sorry,” I mutter. He grabs me. I look. It’s a dark skinned man with a beard.

“Jesus,” I say (not like the cuss word, though, like the name). “You’re not British.”

His face crinkles into a smile.

“What are you doing out here?” I ask, peering at the gates.

Just then the blues guitar plays my name: “Eugene, Eugene C. Scott!”

Jesus pulls me under his arm.

“He’s with me!” he shouts and walks me through the gates.

 

*I realize heaven may or may not be in the clouds and that the streets of gold and gates of pearl are probably metaphors to help us see that what is valued here is building material there. But bear with me.

Categories: Art, belonging, Christianity, Eugene C. Scott, God Sightings, grace, 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

Death in the Family

Dear friends

Last Thursday, October 18, on my 56th birthday, my brother-in-law passed away.  He had been ill for a long time and so it was a bitter release.  I had a blog half-written that is still incomplete.  Managing grief seemed to be the agenda of every day not writing.  Thank you for your understanding.  He was a creative, intelligent man and we will miss him.  A free spirit.

His death certainly was a reminder that living spiritually is not all about profound quotes, surreal sunsets, and happy thoughts.

Life and death walk with their fingers entwined like co-dependant lovers, sometimes angry and out of step with each other but never letting go.  Living spiritually is about facing death while dreaming about the life that is beyond this veil.   Pray for our family that the strength of God fills us for today and the hope of God encourages us for tomorrow and beyond.

Eugene

Categories: adventure, Bible, Christianity, Eugene C. Scott, Faith, God Sightings, Jesus, Living Spiritually | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

What if Everyday Was Earth Day? Or Heaven on Earth Day?

I live in Colorado. I’m not bragging. Just sayin’.

19th Century Denver entrepreneur Frederick Bonfils once crowed, “‘Tis a privilege to live in Colorado.” John Denver called Colorado home, writing lots of cool songs about the mountains. Not many other states can claim that. Take Oklahoma for example.

“Visit Colorado for the skiing; move here for the summers,” they say, because we have four distinct seasons. Just when you’re getting tired of 90 degree days, a crisp fall breeze rolls in and changes all the aspens to gold. Then comes hunting season followed by ski season.

Even so, Colorado is not perfect. We don’t have as many bugs as, say, Illinois. And the mountains sometimes block your view. Spring is muddy. And winter is horrible. Like Minnesota with tons of snow (wink, wink, wink).

Never-the-less, many people consider Colorado heaven on earth. I tend to agree, though not literally, of course. But I’m biased. I was born here.

Heaven on Earth Day

I apologize for gloating. It started yesterday on Earth Day, April 22. About 3:30pm my wife Dee Dee, my son, Brendan, and I took a four mile hike into the foothills west of our house. It was a spectacular day, 80 degrees, with a topless blue sky, small white clouds crowning the mountains, the tips of the aspens turning chartreuse, and the earthy smell of being outside and away from man-made contrivances.

Climbing the rocky trail I was in awe. “God is an artist, a craftsman, a dreamer beyond compare,” I thought. “What if every day were Earth Day, heaven on earth day?”

What if we really believed that God created this place and in so creating gave it an inherent worth and beauty? What if, like Jesus, we believed “the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

We might better care for it. Admire, love, nurture, steward it.

Some fail to see heaven on earth

Those of a spiritual mind-set have struggled to grasp the God-given worth and beauty of the material world, however. Christians especially have had too little regard for the material, while dreaming of a celestial place called heaven. This dualism has skewed their view of their environment. They become “so heavenly minded they’re no earthly good.” They fail to see heaven on earth.

“This place is not our home,” many of fine-tuned spirituality say while lusting after pearly gates. C.S. Lewis compared our time here on earth to a stay in a fabulous hotel. No matter how nice the hotel, Lewis said, you yearn for home.

Why trash the hotel

Hotel or not, no one but drug crazed rock stars trash the hotel. Yearning for heaven does not mean we ignore God’s command to care for and steward the very place Jesus’ and our own feet touch down.

We are people with two homes

In his book “Christ Plays in 10,000 Places,” Eugene H. Peterson argues that creation is first and foremost about place. This place, not just heaven. “All living is local,” he writes, “this land, this neighborhood, these trees [and here is where radical environmentalists miss the mark] and streets and houses, this work, these people.” (p.72) Like a fine work of art, it all carries the brush stroke of the artist.

God created the very soil we were drawn from. And the earth is not just a platform for our ethereal spiritual selves to briefly settle, like butterflies flitting from flower to flower little recognizing their beauty nor realizing they are a source of life. The material is imbued with spirituality. And spirituality is carried by material reality. They are linked and both are crucial to our lives.

Jesus lived an earthy spirituality

Jesus, who most assuredly lived spiritually, knew this, “Even Solomon in all his splendor was not adorned as these,” Jesus said taking in a hillside of lilies. He was no radical environmentalist. But his was an earthy spirituality: one that saw the touch of his Father in all creation, especially where we least expect it. Not only in flowers, rocks, sunsets, aspen trees, sparkling rivers, but in fishermen, children, prostitutes: people too.

I’m fortunate. I live in a place it’s easy to see heaven on earth. But you do too. Like a room with mirrored walls full of two-year olds, God’s fingerprints are everywhere. We simply have to stoop down to see them.

Where have you seen God’s mark lately?

Eugene C. Scott once yelled at some high school kids who threw trash out their car window. His wife and children were terribly embarrassed and the high schoolers drove off laughing. He is an avid conservationist and loves the outdoors, hunting, fishing, hiking, and people. 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: Art, Bible, care, Christianity, creation, Eugene C. Scott, God Sightings, Jesus, Living Spiritually, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Imagination: God’s Greatest Gift

By Eugene C. Scott

My mom was proof that, though humans were cast out and barred from the Garden, we took a piece of Eden with us, like dirt lodged under our fingernails. For nearly twenty-five years my mother lived in an ugly two-story brick apartment building in a part of the city that no longer had much going for it. No parks, few trees–buggy elms–and only the constant rush of cars going elsewhere surrounded her. Surely no garden.

Yet mom transformed that place. She had a wonderful imagination, an artist specializing in raising rose bushes. Every summer on the canvas of dirt between the apartments and where the cars nosed in to park she created a masterpiece of color and beauty. By mid July, red, yellow, white, burgundy, pink, and multicolored roses splashed their colors against the pale brick and rusted iron railing of that old building. Summer after summer people from all over the neighborhood streamed by to see what mom’s horticultural imagination had wrought.

When mom passed away in 2003, the whole neighborhood groaned in grief. For comfort, my family and I imagined mom, now healed of her emphysema, planting a rose garden in heaven, taking God’s best and giving it her own unique twist. Between tears we laughed and smiled at that picture.

Then at the memorial service, mom’s well-meaning and beloved pastor decided it was time to dispel that notion. We don’t know that there is gardening–or are even roses–in heaven, he said. He read a passage about heaven (I don’t remember which one) and told us heaven is not about continuing what we loved doing here but about being forgiven of our sins. He continued, Only what is true, not what is imagined can bring you comfort.

On one level he was right, of course. Even what we imagine heaven or God–or anything really wonderful–to be like will pale in light of God’s reality. My mom may well have gladly chucked her spade upon entering the Pearly Gates.

But . . .

Imagination is one of God’s greatest gifts. Imagine what life would be like without it (sorry).

Just think. Robert Adler imagined not having to get up from the couch to change the television channel. Viola, the remote control.

But seriously, you name it. If it exists, someone imagined it. Leif Enger’s surprising, glorious novel, “Peace Like a River,” “Star Wars,” the Internet, the artificial heart, my mom’s rose garden in the middle of a concrete jungle.

Imagination is also what infuses faith. As a matter of fact, faith would not be possible without God’s gift of imagination. By imagination I don’t mean only dreaming up Easter Bunnies. That’s only the starting place. I mean seeing something real that is not yet there–or is not there on the surface of things.

For example, some see the cross only as so much misused lumber or–today–mere jewelry. But Jesus imagined it as the ultimate instrument of healing. His death and resurrection made it so. Our God-given imaginations then let us see into the past as Jesus hung on that cross and at the same time gaze into the future as Jesus welcomes us back to the Garden.

This is the kind of imagination that thrilled atheist C. S. Lewis and made him see that “Nearly all that I loved I believed to be imaginary; nearly all that I believed to be real I thought grim and meaningless.” He read books, like George MacDonald’s fantasy, “Phantastes,” and found faith and Christ buried in the poetry and prose. His imagination was the tool God used to dig out those truths. Later, moving from atheism to belief in Christ, Lewis said his new faith came from having his imagination baptized. We know the end of that story. Lewis then used his baptized imagination to write stories that helped thousands believe in a God who came down into a weedy, overgrown garden to bring it back to its original state. Without an imagination Lewis, and you and I, would never believe.

Traditionally Lent is about fasting, giving up for a time what we think we have to help us yearn for and realize what we don’t yet believe we really do have. This Lent let God baptize your imagination. As Crystal Lewis sings, let God give you “beauty for ashes, strength for fear, gladness for mourning, peace for despair.”

God can and will show you the truth that he has planted beautiful roses even among the harsh, concrete reality of day-to-day life. As Paul said, God can do far more than we can hope or imagine.

So, what was that piece of the Garden, stuck under our fingernails, we took with us from Eden that day? Our ability to imagine what it once was and what it one day will be. And no matter what my mom’s pastor said, I can still imagine mom in the Garden–sleeves rolled up, dirt smeared face, smile a mile wide, pruning back a red rose. One day I’ll join her, I imagine.

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

Beginning on March 13–the Sunday following Ash Wednesday–we will begin a Lenten series titled “Embrace: Discover, Desire . . . Jesus” at The Neighborhood Church.  During worship we will explore those things of God we can embrace and add to our lives as a response of love to Jesus.  These worship gatherings will also include hands-on opportunities to practice these things God asks us to add to our lives.  Join us.  See tnc3.org for worship times.

Categories: Art, authenticity, belonging, Bible, bible conversation, care, Christianity, creation, dreams, Eugene C. Scott, Faith, God Sightings, Jesus, TV, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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