Tag Archives: fun

Why God Likes Vacations

 By Eugene C. Scott

Where do you go for rest and relaxation?

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

I mean seriously.

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

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

And there’s no Facebook or Twitter.

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

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

A lightness of soul

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

Being busy does not equal being important

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

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

“How are you?” we ask one another.

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

But here is what we’re really saying:

“How are you?” we ask one another.

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

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

God likes vacations

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

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

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

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

“Miles from nowhere

I guess I’ll take my time

Oh yeah, to reach there

Look up at the mountain

I have to climb

Oh yeah, to reach there.

Lord my body has been a good friend

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

Miles from nowhere.

Not a soul in sight.

Oh yeah, But it’s alright.”

Eugene and Stasia

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

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

Eugene C. Scott also believes God likes us to take vacations because it gives God time to clean up the messes we’ve made. Join him in the year The Year of Living Spiritually. You can join the Living Spiritually community by following that blog and clicking here and liking the page. He is also co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church.

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

How I saw myself

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

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

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

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

“It’s my rope.”

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

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

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

“Go! Or are you chicken?” Tim chided.

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

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

“You did not.”

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

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

My Top Six Worst Decisions:

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

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

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

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

2. Trusting Tim’s meager knot tying skills.

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

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

My Top Five Best Decisions:

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

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

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

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

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

Does Life Just Work Out for the Best?

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

No.

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

Eugene C. Scott decided to get up this morning. That was either a good or bad decision depending. He also believes living spiritually means living fearlessly. You can join the Living Spiritually community by clicking here and liking the page. He is also co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church.

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What Not to Wear When Living Spiritually

By Eugene C. Scott

Camo clashes with blaze orange

No matter who you are, where you live, what your life is about, we all had a common experience today. No, not coffee. Before that. Clothing. Each of us walked into a closet, or some such room, and chose what we would wear for the day. And if you’re a male, and married, or the father of teenaged daughters, after dressing you were strongly encouraged to give it a second try.

We spend an inordinate amount of money and time on clothing, covering ourselves up. What’s that they say? Beauty may be only skin deep but ugly runs to the bone. Humor aside, what if daily each of us walked into a closet and purposefully chose what we did each day based on the more intangible interior clothing that makes us who we are.

So far, for me, this concept of living spiritually is about asking questions. I’ve begun to ask questions about the intangible, interior of things. For example, what not to wear when living spiritually.

Following is a list of questions I’m beginning to ask daily just as I would weigh what wardrobe to wear–or not.

  • Is this idea or activity good for my soul? Not just do I have time for it.

Living spiritually means asking do I have the spiritual, and emotional bandwidth for what I fill my day with. Clocks have little to do with the world of the soul.

  • Will this produce faith? Not just is it safe?

Some safety is a good thing. My poor noggin can’t take any more concussions. But God is not a “tame lion” as C. S. Lewis hinted. Faith and fear are enemies. Life lived spiritually includes risk.

  • Who can I be today? Not what can I get done today?

What we do stands on the foundation of who we are. Forgetting this we often flip foundations and do things that go against our very grain and then we find ourselves wondering who we are. First and foremost you and I are children of God, not cogs in the wheel of a business or government. We are not consumers but God’s highest creation. This truth can impact what we do each day.

  • Who do I have? Not what do I have?

We all know the things that will last forever are not our cars and jewelry and toys. God breathed eternity not into them but you and me. Where are your people?

  • Michael and Eugene dressed to kill.

    Is this fun? Not is this profitable?

Fun is not frivolous. Laughing and smiling improve our health and outlook on life. Worrying about the bottom line steals our peace and happiness and days of our lives. This is an irony. Fun is indeed profitable while worrying about profits is not.

  • Who can I serve? Not who is serving me?

If there is one key to unlock the mysteries of life, it is giving. Another irony. Receiving empties us. Giving fills.

And my foundational question is:

  • What will God think? Not what will people think?

Someone once said, “Being a pastor is like being a dog at a dog whistle convention.” True that. I think life for many of us is like this. “Be this; be that; wear this; eat that.” We need to listen for one voice only. The voice of the One who knows us and loves us from the inside out.

These seven questions comprise an interior wardrobe. It’s like that great theologian/philosopher/poet the Apostle Paul said some 2,000 years ago:

“So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.”

I’m thirty-eight days into this Year of Living Spiritually experiment (I started on December 26) and am still stumbling around quite a bit. These questions help define it and focus me. What questions or activities have helped you?

Finally, to paraphrase a friend of mine, pastor and song-writer, Sean Farver, I know a lot about the soul of this old world, but little about the world of the soul.

But I’m learning.

Eugene C Scott is helping Mike Klassen plant The Neighborhood Church. It’s a church where you can wear pretty much what you want, even if it doesn’t match. Just ask our wives. You can join the Living Spiritually community by following this blog and clicking here and liking the Facebook page.

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Dealing with Diabetes: Living Spiritually and Physical Health

Looking for God in all the Right Places

By Eugene C. Scott

My doctor glanced down at my chart. “Did anyone tell you you have type 2 diabetes?”

I thought, What? That would be your job. How can that be? Why didn’t you tell me before? If I hadn’t felt so lousy, I would have yelled at him. Instead I mumbled, “No.”

This was March of 2011 and I had had my blood tested for diabetes by his office in November of 2010. Apparently they forgot to call with the results.

I sat staring at him, feeling anger, confusion, fear, and relief all at once. This was not good. You can lose your feet, go blind, die from this. And I love sugar. It sure answered a lot of questions, though. For a couple of years I had been struggling with growing fatigue, mental sluggishness, mood swings, the inability to concentrate and read, and cuts and abrasions that would not heal.

In the months before that startling diagnosis my health had worsened. I woke up at three in the morning on December 23, 2010 feeling the room and my world spinning as if I were on a merry-go-round.

“Eugene, you have to go back to the doctor,” Dee Dee scolded me. I was scheduled to preach at our Christmas Eve service and I could barely stand up. Preachers are often accused of  making little sense. This dizziness would assure that. The doctor guessed it might be benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, a maddening catch-all label that seemingly has as many causes and treatments as stars in the sky.

The dizziness and other symptoms persisted. Several months, doctors, and specialists later, frustrated, fearful, and feeling sick unto death, I sat in my original doctor’s office (for the last time) hearing my belated diabetes diagnosis. Turns out vertigo plus diabetes equals one sick puppy.

As I learned about type 2 diabetes, the seriousness of my health situation sank in. “Diabetes can cause far-reaching health implications like heart disease, nerve damage and kidney damage. Amputation, blindness and even death can all result from not properly diagnosing or treating diabetes,” says the American Diabetes Association.

I’ve always carried a somewhat cavalier attitude about human mortality. Seems to me every last one of us will die. Why get too worked up about it? But I realized unless I controlled my diabetes, I might die by slowing but surely losing important pieces of myself.

It dawned on me I really liked my feet. And I didn’t want to feel this way until death do us part anyway. Fear settled in–deep.

Fortunately I have a friend who is a Registered Dietitian who has worked with diabetics and also two very good friends who have type 1 diabetes. They coached and counseled me. They talked me off the ledge.

“You have to take control of your own health, Eugene,” my dietician friend chided me. She was right. The doctor had failed to call with my blood test results. But neither did I call to find out my results. Nor had I been eating very well. Did I say I like sugar? A lot.

Too often I simply let life happen. A laze faire life has its costs and I was paying them. But did I have what it takes to change?

In any story there is a character arc. This is how the protagonist changes–or fails to–over the course of the story. Poor stories–ones which we find hard to believe and finish–don’t contain enough conflict for the change the main character experiences. In good stories the conflict is so great not only does it keep us turning pages, but we believe the conflict to be strong enough to produce the transformation the main character goes through.

In tragedies the hero fails to change despite the conflict. They lose their feet and kidneys and often the girl even. And we mourn these characters.

This is how real life happens too. Fictional conflict may be more dramatic than my real life  type 2 diabetes. And you–possibly–have faced more dire circumstances. At others times in life I have too. And that conflict usually changed me. Or rather God did.

Even so I felt weak, vulnerable. I pride myself on my physical and mental capabilities, such as they are. I do not like being sick, especially in public. Not being able to hike and read or converse was devastating. And I hated the way everyone looked at me with their sad, concerned eyes as if I were a kitten, who had already stupidly used up my nine lives.

So, I stepped out of my passivity. I found another–better–doctor. I read the book, The Insulin-Resistance Diet, this doctor recommended. I did what my doctor and the book said. I asked my congregation for prayer. I prayed! I took charge of my health. I lost 25-30lbs. Even the vertigo is now manageable.

What does all this have to do with living spiritually? First, when you are dizzy and muddle-headed and your blood sugars are riding roller-coasters inside your blood veins, it is hard to live, much less live spiritually. Physical health impacts spiritual health and vice versa.

Beyond that, this whole process has been like waking up from a semi-coma, first physically and now spiritually. Sometimes it feels as life is coming at me–full tilt–like water out of a fire hose. I miss more than I swallow but it’s sure fun drinking.

And that’s just it. I’m having fun. I am thankful for my diabetes. Because on December 26, 2011, a year after my vertigo onset and seven months after my diabetes diagnosis, I decided to take the next step and move out of my passivity in my spiritual life as well. That’s what I mean by living spiritually. I am no longer waiting for God to happen to me. I have grabbed his hand with all my might. And I’m holding on for dear life.

Join me in Living Spiritually?

Eugene C Scott has had a few health problems in his short life (he’s only 55!). He doesn’t have many spare parts left. As a kid he never figured to live beyond 35. God and life are full of surprises, which includes co-pastoring The Neighborhood Church.

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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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Size Matters

By Eugene C. Scott

Size matters. Especially to 12-year-old boys. That’s the year, 1969, I began to believe bigger was better. Every Friday night my best-friend Bruce and I would walk to a mall in our neighborhood to hang out. We always hoped there would be girls there. There usually weren’t and, had there been, we would have been afraid to talk to them anyway. Bored Bruce and I would saunter over to Hodel’s Drug Store to buy a bottle of Dr Pepper each. Since we were scrawny kids, we’d buy the biggest bottle of DP available: 16 oz. Then we’d stroll around acting big and sipping our Dr Peppers.

Not my truck

To us size mattered. Bigger was better, especially where Dr Pepper was concerned. By high school, however, we needed something even bigger. Monster four-wheel drive trucks filled the bill. Most Friday nights you could find a dozen trucks with those huge tires, roll bars, and loud 8 track players parked in front of my house. My mom complained they blocked her view of the mountains.

Does size matter?

According to my high school buddies it does (not to mention the spam email industry that promises a magic pill that can enlarge a body part most high school boys value even over their trucks.).

It seems like many people in the modern world suppose bigger is better.

Though many people complain about them, mega-churches are all the rage. In the new church (church planting) world the going philosophy is, “Launch Large.”

Fast food joints offer to “super-size” already big burgers. Thus our waist lines have grown bigger.

Think too of Walmart, The Home Depot, Google, colleges, public school systems, and–please no–big government.

Since growth is usually good and a sign of life–and bigger often means cheaper prices or more services–most of us haven’t given the bigger is better mantra the scrutiny it needs.

But “big” is not a synonym for “best.”

Think of the trend in education. At one time, students learned one-on-one or in small groups led by one teacher. Then communities formed small schools that could educate all the children there. But as communities grew so did schools. As did the size of the problems. Curricula became uniform, teaching to a median rather than specific needs, leaving many kids treading water in a sea of students. Grades and over-all knowledge dropped. This, in part, developed a mind-set of information dumping rather than mentoring.

Standardized testing ignores diversity. This one-size-fits all mentality lends to a loss of individual achievement. To battle that we award students with a generic “you are special” rather than getting to know them and what they are capable of. We can’t; there are too many of them. In large schools discipline problems have exploded exponentially because there are few real, relational consequences.

Big is not synonymous with bad but is often impersonal, cumbersome, unaccountable, one-size (BIG!) fits all.

Big churches have more money for mission and programs. It’s just that they often lose touch with their people. Likewise big businesses offer better deals but few personal services.

Still big has a dangerous down side. Think of the internet. Its main flaw is its offer of anonymity and lack of accountability. But the internet is not evil. Just the aloneness and distance it fosters. Humans were created to be connected. Big strains or destroys that.

I know I sound idealistic and unrealistic. Maybe so. But I remember the problems my friends in high school and I had with those huge trucks. We each owned one (you were not cool if you didn’t) and all drove alone to the same hangouts. Soon we fought over who had the biggest and coolest truck and our friendships frayed. Then OPEC declared an oil embargo and gas prices shot through the roof. After that we all walked together down to the local park and talked and hung out. Life was good.

Whatever you think, I believe the distance this focus on big creates between us as humans is insidious and dangerous. It eventually forces us to be less than human, less than we were created to be.

God faced this same problem. God was so big we could not really connect with him. So he poured himself into a tiny baby, and lived a small life where those within several hundred miles could touch him, argue with him, love him and be loved by him.

Does size matter? God thought so.

Eugene is a recovering Dr Pepper addict, could not afford a real monster truck–so was not very cool in high school–and is not very large himself, but doesn’t have small-man syndrome. He also is co-pastor of the intentionally small but really relational The Neighborhood Church.

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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.

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