Monthly Archives: November 2011

Is Black Friday our Non-fiction “Hunger Games”?

By Eugene C. Scott

The recent near riots on “Black Friday” prove once again truth is at least as twisted as fiction.

In her Young Adult novel “The Hunger Games,” Suzanne Collins invented a science fiction world in which television is used to manipulate and control people (Far fetched, I know). Through fiction, Collins explores the power and danger of a self-serving media in control of information.

Panem is a country where the wealthy province called the Capitol rules the other eleven districts through media promoted fear and manipulation. The height of this manipulation are the yearly nationally televised “Hunger Games.” These Games are simultaneously revered, hated, loved, and feared by the population of Panem. The Games consist of the ruling elite choosing one 12-18 year-old boy and girl from each district who must then enter a fantastic, futuristic arena created by the Capitol and there fight to the death. The sole survivor is then further manipulated for the Capitol’s purposes. Omniscient TV cameras promote and exploit every bloody detail and death of the Games.

In a previous blog I asked the question, “What if ‘The Hunger Games’ Were True?” The media hype before Black Friday and the simultaneous delight and shock over people trampling, pummeling, and pepper spraying each other during Black Friday suggests in an eerie way they are.

Lest you think I’m overreacting, notice how the media promotes the Black Friday shopping frenzy and then in the name of ratings run clip after clip of the hysteria they helped cause. These alarming newscasts are then surrounded by commercials for the very products we have been sent out to beat each other up to purchase. Worse yet, during Christmas most news hours will contain one story–or more–decrying the state of our economy and not so subtle pleas for us to save the economy by buying more. Again, this “news” story will be sponsored by products we can’t live without. Try sitting  down in front of your TV this Christmas season and count how many “news” stories are really nothing more than commercials.

Our media may be more subtle and less overtly evil than in Panem. Yet, Collins says she got the idea for “The Hunger Games” in part from TV. She was channel surfing between a reality show and war footage late one night. She says, “I was really tired, and the lines between these stories started to blur in a very unsettling way.”

Blurred and unsettling indeed. And our blurring of reality is destructive in more ways than people punching each other over “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.”

Our free fall into rampant consumerism is not just the fault of the media, however. Most often we are willingly duped. We want to need the latest 60 inch flat screen iPod. At its core Collins’ “Hunger Games” is about complacency, about uncritically believing what you see and hear on TV, what those in control of information tell you. We have been told and many (most?) have come to believe we are defined by what we purchase. And we need to buy these things that define us on Black Friday, or at least before Christmas.

It’s ironic that we have transformed Christmas–of all holidays–into the main engine behind this consumerist lie. Because the truth of Christmas is the death knell to consumerism. The truth of Christmas is that God came to be among us, born as a naked baby who owned nothing and yet had everything to give. And God did this not because of our purchasing power. But because in our need–products can’t fill–God still loved us.

Collins’ novel does not point to this ultimate truth. But it certainly pushes us to strive for more than the game we are being sold on the big screen.

Last year Eugene C. Scott bought himself a really expensive Christmas present. It was cool but did not satisfy or define him. This year he will happily settle for much less. Eugene pastors the Neighborhood Church which is preparing for Christmas through an Advent series called “The Gift of Christmas Presence.”


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Come Lord Jesus (or How the Nativity Foreshadows the Eschatological Throne Scene)

Yesterday was the first Sunday of Advent. Coming from zero church background until I was 21 and then being limited to Southern Baptist life, the season of Advent is in many ways a new discovery for me. If you are in the same boat, a brief background concerning Advent may be in order. Advent is Latin for “coming” and is a season of anticipation that both reflects the waiting of the Jews (and all creation) for the Messiah and looks ahead to the second coming (Advent) of Christ. This is observed through various liturgical methods such as the lighting of candles.

My family has decided to observe Advent this year, in hopes of creating godly traditions for ourselves and Mary Grace. While we will be lighting candles, we also did not want to be merely ritualistic in our practice. So, I have been meditating on what it means to long for the return of Christ and to reflect on the importance of his Incarnation.

Initially I have been convicted by passages that speak of Israel’s rejection of Christ when He came. John 1:11 says “…his own people did not accept him.” When the Magi seek out Jesus by inquiring of Herod about the location of the “King of the Jews,” Matthew 2:3 says that Herod “…was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him.” The very people who were so desperate for a Messiah, a deliverer, simply did not want Him when He came. I’m not sure why, perhaps is was how He came or how He would die. He was not what they expected in any way, so they rejected Him in every way.

I say these passages have convicted me, because I do not always long for Christ’s return. Like most young men, I have my whole life ahead of me; I want to climb mountains, travel, write books, attend my daughters initiation as a nun (or her wedding); basically, I want to live life. I’m just not ready for Heaven, at least not yet.

But perhaps the abundance of my American living has blinded me to the cruelty of this age. Perhaps I need to open the paper and read about mothers selling their 5 year-old daughters to be sex slaves only to have them raped and murdered. I need to remember my friends who have suffered from crippling diseases. I need to remember that this world needed redemption. It needs a Savior to come and set things right. A Messiah to free the captives, heal the sick, and lift up the oppressed. We need our Lord Jesus to come.

And yet, I wonder if those who say they are waiting will like what they see when He does in fact return. Will we want the evil in us removed? Will we like that not only the 5 year-old girl is set free but just maybe her murderer will be too? Will we still accept our Savior if He doesn’t meet our expectations? Will we be like Jerusalem?

Yet conviction is a lovely thing in that it leads to repentance and that leads to restoration. At Chapel, God began to reveal to me why deep down, I do eagerly await His arrival. Across the way from me was an older man, you know the type: members-only jacket, comb over, mustache, black socks and sandals; he had his eyes closed, hands extended, face turned upwards, swaying and singing his heart out to Jesus. Right beside him was the Seminary president, all prim in his perfect suit with his neatly trimmed beard. And with dignity he too sang the same words to the same God with the same devotion.

I turned from this scene to observe to Nativity set up in front of the pulpit. In it I saw extreme opposites brought together for one thing, to worship Jesus: the stench of animal dung mingled with the sweet aroma of Frankincense and myrrh, dirt and gold, kings and shepherds, donkeys and angels, all gathered around the crying, helpless, supremely weak Creator of the Universe. Truly ALL creation was on hand to praise the humble king.

I was instantly brought to the throne scene from Revelation, when every tribe, nation, and tongue is praising the lamb who was slain. As I wept, I joined the president, the old man, the angels, and the shepherds singing “Come Lord Jesus, Come!” Come Lord, indeed!

May this Advent season reignite our passions for our Lord. May it increase our resolve to be about His business while He is away: loving, witnessing, sharing, and sacrificing. May this Advent season leave us singing with all the conviction in the world, “Come Lord Jesus, come!”

Michael is a student at Denver Seminary. This reflection is nearly two years old and he is grateful for how Advent has become apart of his family’s rhythms. He has grown in anticipation of Christ’s return mainly because he has grown in suffering. You can read his new Advent reflections at his blog, A Sprig of Hope, by clicking here.

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Is Christianity A Lie?

By Michael J. Klassen

“Everything you need to know is written on these pizza boxes.”

In the movie The Invention Of Lying, Mark Bellison (played by Ricky Gervais) lives in a world where everyone tells the truth.

In Bellison’s world, no heaven exists. When people die, they pass into an eternity of nothingness. But while trying to comfort his mother in her dying moments, Bellison assuages her fears by making up a story  about what will happen next.

He describes a “better place,” a world of perfect love and happiness, where she will be surrounded by her family and friends. Relieved, his mother dies in peace. But in that moment, he discovers that he doesn’t need to tell the truth.

Not so ironically, the “better place” sounds an awful lot like modern Christianity. And in the movie, the faith that Bellison describes is a lie.

The Movie Takes A Swing At Christianity

When the movie was released, Christians were incensed. Interestingly enough, in real life Ricky Gervais proclaims himself an avowed atheist. In 2008 he was named an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society and two years later he wrote an editorial for the Wall Street Journal defending his lack of faith.

While explaining to his dying mother that a better place awaits her after she dies, her doctor and nurses are standing behind him, listening. Astonished that they had never heard about this better place, they begin telling their friends.

Bellison soon becomes a worldwide sensation. People gather outside his home begging to know more. Meanwhile, Bellison agonizes inside, fashioning a new faith that everyone will believe. Slowly he inscribes the tenets on the back of two pizza boxes.

A few hours later, he steps outside and announces, “Everything you need to know is written on these pizza boxes.”

Then, like Moses, he stands before an enthusiastic crowd to explain the ten beliefs on his list. You can watch the video clip by clicking here:

1. There is a man in the sky who controls everything.

2. When you die, you don’t disappear into an eternity of nothingness. Instead, you go to a really great place.

3. In that place, everyone will get a mansion.

4. When you die, all the people you love will be there.

5. When you die, there will be free ice cream for everyone, all day and all night, whatever flavors you can think of.

6. If you do bad things, you won’t get to go to this great place when you die. Bad things include rape, murder, or punching someone. You get three chances.

Numbers 7 and 8 don’t aren’t explained in the movie.

9. The man in the sky who controls everything decides if you go to the good place or the bad place. He also decides who lives and who dies.

10. Even if the man in the sky does bad things to you, he makes up for it with an eternity of good stuff after you die.

 Is The Premise A Lie?

Amidst the overwhelming criticism by people of faith—most notably Christians—the movie failed miserably in the box office, grossing only $18.4 million despite a clever manuscript and an all-star cast featuring Gervais, Jennifer Garner, Rob Lowe, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Tina Fey.

So was it a lie? Is it?

In the scene where he announces the “Ten Commandments,”, the crowd insists that Bellison carefully explain Rule Number 6: “If you do bad things, you won’t get to go to this great place when you die.”

For two hours, he clarifies what can prevent people from going to the good place. Finally, he explains that “bad things” boil down to our intentions: hurting people on purpose, stealing on purpose, murdering people on purpose.

Was Bellison’s explanation a lie?

Yes! A thousand times “Yes!”

The Invention Of Lying offers a glimpse of how secular people view the Christian faith. Good people do good things. Bad people do bad things. If we do enough good things, we go to heaven—and beware that we don’t exceed the limit of committing three bad things.

The religion that the movie rejects is based on being a good person. We earn our way to heaven.

If that’s true, though, then Jesus came to earth in vain. The Bible rejects that particular religion as well. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” Romans 5:8 tells us.

As the movie attests, differentiating good people from bad people isn’t easy. How do you determine what makes a good person good enough to go to heaven or bad enough to go to “the bad place”?

The Bible makes the difference abundantly clear: there isn’t one. In our heart of hearts, we’re all bad people deserving of the bad place. We cannot be good enough to earn a mansion in heaven. That’s why our heavenly father sent his only son Jesus to earth. All we can do is accept his offer of forgiveness for our sin. Then he gives us eternal life so we can go to “the good place.”

Christmas Isn’t About Being Good

This Sunday marks the first Sunday of Advent on the Christian church calendar. The word “Advent” means “beginning.” While Christmas day is the culmination of Advent, the weeks beforehand, starting with this Sunday, help us reflect on the true meaning of our faith.

Our faith rests solely on the greatest gift of all–a gift we can neither earn nor deserve: Jesus Christ.

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado with Eugene Scott. He’s working hard this Christmas season at trying to avoid being sucked into the consumerism vortex.


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The Year a Watch Changed Christmas

By Eugene C. Scott

Looking back I don’t know how we hadn’t lost our house. My mom had tried to sell our simple suburban red brick ranch several times but my brother and I didn’t want to move so we kept taking the for sale sign down. Maybe the market was similar to today too. I’m not sure. I was only fifteen and didn’t pay attention to such things. All I knew was that our Christmas tree stood nearly naked in the front room, centered in the picture window, and there were only a few presents under it, one each.

My dad died several years earlier and left us with no insurance and no savings. My mom had found work as a cashier in a local drug store and selling clothes in home shows for a company called Beeline Fashions. Sometimes she also worked as a cocktail waitress in a bar called the Front Range Inn. I worked in a local greenhouse and helped with the bills when I wasn’t being selfish. Times were tough.

But before my dad died, Christmases had been ample.

One Christmas Eve I woke to a buzzing sound. I thought it was my father shaving with his electric shaver. I woke my younger brother, not noticing it was still ink black outside.

“Santa’s come. Dad’s up and shaving. Listen.” We sneaked out of our little bedroom. But the buzz was coming from the living room. We peaked around the corner. My mom, in her robe, looking disheveled, sat on a chair facing the overflowing Christmas tree. My dad was on his knees running race cars around a track. Two new shiny bikes stood cocked on their kickstands and presents of all kinds filled the room. We gaped and then shouted in delight.

My dad jerked around. A car spun out. “What are you boys doing up?” He was caught. Then looking at the track he said, “Santa had to rush off. So, he asked me to finish setting up your car set. Want to give it a try?” He held a controller out to my brother and me.

We rode the bikes up and down the hall and played race track long into the night. Finally, my parents forced us back into our room to sleep until the real Christmas morning. That was 1964 or so.

Christmas of 1972 was anything but ample. I had spotted a wrist watch and let my mom know that’s what I wanted. It was a Timex with a copper face and a big, three-inch wide, tooled leather band. Really cool. I’ve always loved watches. It cost about thirty bucks. Well beyond our budget. Plus Christmas had become about getting clothing we needed not luxury items. Still a boy could hope.

We were not a church going family. Our tradition was to open one present each on Christmas Eve. Then open the rest on Christmas morning. Trouble was, there was only one present. We all sat in the living room staring at the tree trying to decide what to do. Good old immediate gratification Eugene argued to open them now and just sleep in on Christmas morning. My mom loved sleeping in and that argument carried the night. I took the wrapped box with my name on it and tore it open.

Afterwards I stood downstairs in the middle of my bedroom, my long hair covering my face, alone, weeping. The summer before I had been introduced to the Person whose birthday Christmas is a celebration of: Jesus. My life had become a whirlwind of change and newness. It was like a hard cast of clay that encased my life and heart had been broken and was flaking off, letting me breathe real life. That year, as Christmas drew near, through Thanksgiving especially, I ached to experience Christmas as a true celebration of the new friend and Savior I was learning about. I wanted to be thankful for the gift of life.

I didn’t want Christmas to be about getting, even really cool wrist watches. I didn’t know what I did want though. A star hanging over our house. Angels singing. Cattle lowing. Miracles breaking out. For Jesus to erase our pain and loss and emptiness and poverty–not just financially–but emotionally and spiritually too. Yes, that was it. Though that night I could not have said it that way.

I smeared my teenage tears. No angels had sung. And my family was still a mess, and would always be. But my tears were not sad only. There was joy in them too. The cool Timex swallowed my skinny wrist. My mom had sacrificed to buy it for me.

I looked at the watch and realized that’s how much Jesus loved me. Loves us! And in a few months we would mourn and celebrate his loving sacrifice at Easter.

My mom sold our house a couple of years later while I was in the Navy. And since that Christmas Eve, Christmases have been richer and poorer. But they have never been empty. For that I am thankful.

Eugene C. Scott’s favorite holidays are Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. In that order. He still loves watches, especially the two 1940 something editions of his dad’s. Eugene also co-pastors the Neighborhood Church which is preparing for Christmas through an Advent series called “The Gift of Christmas Presence.” It begins the Sunday after Thanksgiving.


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Good Gravy

Mary Grace likes home-made Apple Butter

I was listening to NPR on the way home from work the other day.  They were sharing a piece about soul-food.  In one of the interviews, a young man told of how he asked his granddaddy for his gumbo recipe, to which his granddaddy responded, “boy, there ain’t no recipe, now get in this kitchen and watch me make it.”

I could not help but smile, what a beautiful picture of what soul-food is all about.  Food for the soul must be born in the soul, not on an index card.

We’ve all seen this phenomenon first hand, that even when we follow aunt Betty’s recipe exactly, the results just aren’t quite the same.  We come up with excuses, blaming the altitude or the insufficient seasoning on our cast-iron skillet, but the only real excuse, and I really do believe this, is that it is missing the love.

When I go see my aunt Betty, she always makes me gravy and biscuits.  These are things of legends.  Every time either my brother or I are in Arkansas without the other, we will call each other up and rub it in that we had aunt Betty’s biscuits and gravy.  I have been eating this meal my whole life and yet I struggle to make gravy at all, let alone such wonderful grub as aunt Betty’s.

I’ve been watching her, trying to learn her secrets, but she always “eyeballs” the ingredients and evidently my eyeballs don’t work as well as hers.  Aunt Betty usually fusses over the thickness or saltiness, but no matter what, that is always some good gravy.  It is made with love, as she stirs with her wooden spoon, she gives herself to this act of creating because she loves me and you can literally taste it.

Perhaps it is this way with all our creative acts.  That if we try to recreate what another has done, no matter how good the original, the end result is simply left lacking.  This doesn’t mean we don’t learn from those before. No, we get in that kitchen and watch them work.  And we learn, if we are lucky, that the secret ingredient is not some exotic spice but a charitable heart, a passion to make the world a better place, even if only one biscuit at a time.  I am a witness that a single act of creating soul-food can change a person.

Although my aunt Betty never misses an opportunity to tell me she loves me, I hear her the loudest at the dinner table.  I taste the truth of these words in her gravy and it oh so sweet.  I only pray that I will be so brave when I put my hands to work, that I will not seek to imitate, but to love; and that is how I would best honor Aunt Betty.  Not by trying to recreate her food, but by giving myself to something in such a way, that perhaps it just might change the world, that it just might be real soul-food.

This is a re-post of a blog Michael wrote earlier this year, but in light of the coming gravy on Thanksgiving, he thought we might need the inspiration. Thanksgiving is his favorite holiday, but its not the same without Aunt Betty. Michael is cooking the Turkey this year with his family in Colorado. He writes a blog, A Sprig of Hope, which you can read by clicking here.


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What Would Your World Be Like If Everyone Told The Truth?

by Michael J. Klassen

In the movie The Invention Of Lying, Mark Bellison (played by Ricky Gervais) lives in a world where everyone tells the truth. Instead of pasting a smile on their face, everybody says what they mean—and what they’re thinking.

(just a warning: the movie includes vulgar references—including the movie trailer above)

In one scene, Mark enters a restaurant with his date Anna, played by Jennifer Garner. The waiter walks up to the table and says, “I’m very embarrassed I work here.” Then he looks at Anna and confesses, “You’re very pretty…that only makes this worse.”

Even television ads  tell the truth. In one scene, Bob, a spokesman for the Coca Cola company, explains to the television audience,

It’s basically just brown sugar water, we haven’t changed the ingredients much lately…we changed the can around a little bit though. See, the colors here are different there, and we added a polar bear so the kids like us.

He concludes by saying, “It’s very famous, everyone knows it. I’m Bob, I work for Coke, and I’m asking you to not stop buying coke. That’s all. It’s a bit sweet. Thank you.”

What Would Your World Look Like If Everyone Told The Truth?

Because everybody only tells the truth, they believe everything they’re told—despite their honesty and frankness.

Interestingly enough, because everyone is honest with each other, people don’t get upset with what they hear. They may be hurt by someone’s words, but they aren’t surprised.

What if everyone in our world was honest with each other? What if we said what we meant?

Initially, we’d probably be hurt, but over time, we’d learn to take people’s opinions in stride. We’d also discover that everyone is messed up, because we wouldn’t conceal our shortcomings and failures.

I’m part of a pretty amazing small group community. We meet twice a month for our formal gatherings, but we get together much more often than that. I like to say that “we live life together.” In fact, many of us are going to see a popular comedian tonight. We enjoy being together.

For the past year, a different person from the group has shared their story at our formal meetings. They pass around photos, tell stories from their past, and confess their shortcomings and failures.

A month ago, it was my turn to tell my story. And to be honest, in the hours leading up to the meeting, I was freaking out. What if I bore everyone? What if I’m a disappointment?

Nevertheless, I chose to jump into the murky waters of vulnerability.

Afterward, the group encouraged me and accepted me…despite knowing a little more about what I’m really like. I felt so overwhelmingly affirmed and loved.

We All Need Truth-Telling Relationships And Communities

We all need friends and communities of friends who really know us and accept us. Who love us despite our shortcomings and failures.

Referring to Christian community, Paul wrote, “Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15 NIV, italics added).

After all, relationships are built on honesty and truth-telling. Plastic smiles and always-cheerful dispositions do nothing to deepen a friendship or marriage.

Notice Paul says that by speaking the truth in love (which doesn’t apply only to confrontation), we become like Christ. If you read the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), which focus specifically on Jesus’ life here on earth, we see a full range of emotions in Jesus. He lived an authentic life and spoke honestly to the people around him.

I know, I know, you’re probably telling yourself, If people really knew me, they wouldn’t like me. But if everyone was honest about themselves, we’d all realize that we’re all messed up. We couldn’t look down on someone because they could equally look down on us. Rather than try to fix each other, we’d delve into each others’ hearts to discern why we act the way we do.

Sounds enticing, doesn’t it?

It’s never too late to start. But it begins with you.

Have you ever participated in an authentic community? How did it change you? I’d love for you to share about it with all of us.

Next week we’ll continue our discussion on The Invention Of Lying…

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado with Eugene Scott. He’s still learning what it means to live authentically.  


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Ten Things I’ve Learned about Life While Elk Hunting

By Eugene C. Scott

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

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

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

1. Elk are wild and unpredictable. And smart:

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

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

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

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

3. Death is a part of life:

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

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

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

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

5. Real life has no soundtrack:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10. Hunters and hikers leave behind the strangest things:

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

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

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

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


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An American Adventure

By Brendan Scott

After living in Guatemala for three years the idea of moving back to the United States sounded boring.  I thought, “Where’s the challenge in living in a country where I speak the language fluently?”

But readjusting to the states has been different than I expected.  While I can talk to almost everyone I meet, life here is still a challenge.  Just because I can communicate with everyone doesn’t mean making friends has happened effortlessly.

A couple of weeks ago, before the weather turned, I was transplanting trees for my uncle and it made me think about how hard it is to move.  To transplant a tree correctly the timing and soil must be right.  Pick the wrong season and the tree will whither and if the dirt is too hard the tree’s roots will never extend far enough to keep the tree alive.  And not to mention a lot of water must be added to keep the tree healthy in its new home.  It is also a lot of hard work for the person digging up the tree.  The trees roots must be left intact so that it can take hold in its new hole.

After I dug up and transplanted the fourth tree I was ready to admit change comes just about as difficultly for humans.  We root ourselves in our own holes and resist being transplanted even if there might be a better location for us.  Two of the trees I dug up and transplanted were hidden behind large pines.  They’d been there for years and years and their roots had taken hold in the dirt, but no one could see these trees.  They were wasted back behind the pines, but once I dug them up and planted them in their new holes my aunt said to me, “It looks as if they’ve always been there.  Like they’ve belonged there all along.”  She was right.  These two trees looked beautiful in their new locations and even if the change was difficult, it was good for them.

I know my life might not seem as adventurous as it was when I was living in Guatemala, but a challenge can be taken as an adventure if one keeps his or her eyes open and is willing to look for the bigger story.  And the challenge of taking jobs when I can get them  is a change that I hope has been good for me too.

I believe that my American adventure is just starting and I am excited to see where God plants me.  When God plants me into the soil he has prepared for me I know my roots will take hold and God will continue to grow me into the beautiful creation he created me to be, that’s his bigger story.  But if that is to happen I must be willing to let him do the work in me he desires to do.

No matter where I live I must live in his will, because that is right where I need to be and that’s when the true adventure begins.


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The Power Of Your Words

Early in our marriage, my mother-in-law scolded Kelley and me because we were overly negative with each other. “Watch what you say,” she lectured us. And she was right. After changing the way we spoke with each another, our marriage surprisingly improved.

To an extent, the words that surround us are performative.  In other words, the words we listen to affect certain outcomes in our lives. If you tell your daughter that she’ll never amount to anything, the chances are much greater than average that she’ll grow up believing she’s a failure. If I look at myself in the mirror every day and say, “You’re an idiot,”  eventually my words will sink in.

The Power of Words On Water Crystals

Dr. Masaru Emoto, a researcher in Japan, conducted experiments on the relationship between words and thoughts in the formation of water crystals.

He began by drawing polluted water from the Fujiwara Dam. After freezing a specimen on a Petri dish, he examined the water crystal under a microscope and observed that it didn’t resemble any particular molecular structure. But in a separate Petri dish, he prayed a blessing over the murky water, froze it, and crystals appeared as ornate as those formed from pristine spring waters in Japan.

Next, he printed positive and negative messages, taped them to bottles of distilled water, and then froze them overnight. Crystals grown in bottles with written messages like “Love and Appreciation” and “Thank you” taped on the outside resulted in beautiful, translucent, complex structures.

But the sample from the bottle with the message “Adolf Hitler” resulted in very under-formed crystals. Interestingly enough, the message “You make me sick, I will kill you” written on the side, resulted in no crystal formation at all. Praying for the water from a different location affected the results of crystal formation just as dramatically—regardless of distance.

Here’s the kicker: the average person is composed of approximately 60% water. Imagine the affect that television shows, movies, music, and our friends have on us. Greater still, imagine how what we say about ourselves affects us.  More than we’d like to admit.

In The Beginning Was The Word

Emoto’s further studies demonstrated that spoken words resulted in the same outcome. Dr. Emoto, a Buddhist, comments:

This principle is what I think makes swearing and slang words destructive. These words are not in accordance with the laws of nature. So, for example, I think you would probably find higher rates of violent crime in areas where a lot of negative language is being used. Just as the Bible says, first there was the Word, and God created all of Creation from the Word.

Scripture bears out Dr. Emoto’s premise. When you “confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Your words carry spiritual and eternal implications and changes.

We also read that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11). In the Hebrew understanding, invoking the name of Jesus meant invoking his manifest presence.

Our words are indeed powerful. How will you choose to use them today?

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado with Eugene Scott. He’s trying to break the habit of calling himself an idiot. Portions of this blog post are an excerpt from Michael’s book Strange Fire, Holy Fire (Bethany House 2009).


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What Do Charles Schultz, C.S. Lewis, Bach, Beethoven, Rembrandt and You Have in Common?

By Eugene C. Scott

What do Charles Schultz, Beethoven, J.R.R. Tolkein, Johann Sebastian Bach, Rembrandt, Charles Dickens, Georg Handel, Annie Dillard, Graham Greene, Michelangelo and C.S. Lewis have in common? No, they are not all dearly departed. Author Annie Dillard is alive and well, thank you. They are, however, all artists: cartoonists, musicians, writers, painters and poets whose work defines their genre. They also have in common a connection with their Creator. Each of these artists loved God and expressed that love through art.

We don’t often recognize it, but many of our creators of classics were those whose faith in God drove them to discover, invent, explore, write, paint and excel at their calling. Bach scrawled “Solo Deo Gloria” on each of his compositions because he wanted all to know his music was written to bring glory to God alone. It has! Rembrandt produced more paintings depicting biblical themes (850 religious versus 500 portraits) than any other subject. Rembrandt clearly possessed a passion to illustrate the truth of God. Tolkien created an entire fantasy world out of his belief that story telling reflects the eternal Wisdom and Beauty of our Maker.

Creativity and the arts are logically and intimately connected to our Creator. Genesis 1:1 and 26 reads, “In the beginning God created

The Storm on the Sea of Galilee by Rembrandt

the heavens and the earth. . . Let us make man in our image, in our likeness. . . .” God is creative and part of the image of God we bear is the ability also to create. God took nothing and formed it into magpies, rainbow trout and us. We build mud into temples, sheet metal into Jaguars and with ink we invent worlds. Tolkien rightly called us “sub-creators.”

That is not to say those who make no room in their lives for a Creator are not creative. The creation account does not say God granted the divine image only to those who believe. Many who have crowned themselves their own masters have become maestros. All humans carry creation in their genes. Simply because I don’t recognize the source of a river does not mean I cannot drink deeply from it.

But in knowledge and truth lies freedom. To know God as Creator frees us to create in the highest sense of the word. Pop culture is a testimony to the downward spiral of creativity. Rare are the Paul Simons, J.K. Rowlings and Picassos; rife are the Brittany Spears, Mr. T’s and Survivors. When a crucifix suspended in a jar of urine is passed off and hotly defended as art, is when we know the connection between creativity and the Creator has been stretched to its limit if not broken.

Christianity has been one of the culprits of this disconnect. Christians marched out of the age of reason believing imagination, story telling and theater were inventions of the devil. Some ancient churches banned art. And just twenty years ago, Contemporary Christian Music was thrown into befuddlement when Phil Keaggy, a masterful guitar player, produced an instrumental album called “The Master and the Musician.” Critics said it could not be a “Christian” album because it never mentioned Jesus by name.

The Three Crosses by Rembrandt

Yet, James, the brother of Jesus wrote, “Every good and perfect gift comes from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.” Good art, engineering, poetry and parenting comes from God. Art need not reflect religious subjects only to be great. But we must recognize creativity flows from the One, True Artist in order for art in us to flourish. You and I were created creative. We can decorate our corner of the world by letting God’s art purl through us.

Eugene C. Scott loves creativity and is writing a novel, writes poetry, dreams up lots of crazy things but can’t cook a lick.  He is co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church which is a grace-filled group of people who also love and welcome creativity.


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