Tag Archives: God

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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Is the Devil in the Details? Or is it Someone Else?

“I’m wondering why your truck is sitting here in the left turn lane idling all locked up.” The fresh-faced state patrolman didn’t smile when he said this. Lights flashed from the top of his patrol car as if pointing out my stupidity. I had hopped out of “my truck” (in reality my co-pastor Mike’s) to hang a sign directing people to our churches’ worship gathering and had locked myself out.

“It’s blocking the lane,” he said still not smiling.

I looked at the puffing truck then back at him. Yep. At least it was Sunday morning and the truck was not hindering the hordes from getting to church.

“We’ve called Triple A,” I answered.

So I stood in the median feeling foolish, thinking–for some unknowable reason–of that arcane quote: “For want of a nail the shoe was lost, for want of a shoe the horse was lost, for want of a horse the rider was lost.”

Little things make a big difference. Too often when I am doing several things at once and am in a hurry, I don’t pay close enough attention to the little things. Such as the little button that pictured “lock” instead of “unlock.” Such as where I last placed my keys, or wallet, or glasses, or wedding ring, or wife and children. Then I spend eons looking for them.

Since the cop wasn’t very talkative, I asked myself what life would look like if I spent those eons paying attention before instead of after.

Here’s what I heard.

Living spiritually is about paying attention. This is not only stopping to smell the roses. What about the parts of life not so fragrant or obvious? There was a message for me in this day’s foolish frustration. Small things loom large. It may not be the devil who is in the details but rather the very opposite: God’s whisper.

Living spiritually is also about learning what not to give credence to. I locked myself out of Mike’s truck because I gave credence to that voice inside me that said, “hurry, faster.” Most lost relationships, items, or moments in my life are the fruit of listening to false voices that call my attention elsewhere.

Inattentiveness is costly. More than wasting precious time, however, inattentiveness often wastes our very lives. Philosopher and theologian Simone Weil once said, “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” Paying attention to people and events, small and large, to life and God, is a gift of ourselves, and sometimes is a gift to ourselves.

AAA rescued Eugene C. Scott from his inattentiveness and the experience actually helped him pay better attention in worship. Not only that but his congregation got a good, well-deserved laugh. Join him in attending to God sightings and telling your stories here and on “Living Spiritually” at facebook.com/livingspiritually. Eugene is co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church.

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Can You Find God at Walmart?

By Eugene C. Scott

My wife Dee Dee delights in sending me on difficult excursions.

“Eugene, would you please run to King Soopers and pick up a gallon of milk? Oh, and I almost forgot, and some Star Anise, Lavender, and Mace?”

Back in the olden days, say 1995, before cell phones were common, that request meant I would wander up and down the grocery aisles for eternity lost and confused. Since the advent of cell phones, I only wander up and down the aisles lost and confused until Dee Dee answers her cell phone.

“Hello. Eugene! Where are you? I was getting worried. You left hours ago. No, not Sesame Street, Sesame Seed. It’s on aisle 9.”

Not me, but could be.

I don’t know what it is about grocery stores but I never know where anything is or what I’m really looking for.

Lost and confused is also how I’ve felt these last few days while on this “The Year of Living Spiritually” excursion. In my last blog I said I was going to spend 2012 on a daily search for the God-created soul–God sightings–in daily life. Finding Star Anise was easier especially since God picks up his cell phone less than Dee Dee does.

“God, what is it exactly I’m looking for?”

The first day, December 26, I was so busy trying to figure it out that I didn’t even read my Bible or pray. As I fell asleep that night, it dawned on me that was akin to being lost in the mountains and never pulling the compass from my pocket.

On the 27th I began the day by reading and praying. The prophet Haggai warned, “Give careful thought to your ways.” That made sense. Then I stumbled on a blog that defined being spiritual mainly as reading the Bible, praying, and going to church. Hmm. I do those things, especially the church deal since I’m a pastor and people would really wonder if I didn’t show up. But I’m not sure that’s all there is to it. I want to live spiritually not just do spiritual things once in a while.

December 28 was a full day. Busy. My daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren left to return home to Tulsa. Later that night, Dee Dee and I went to a 50th birthday party. Listening to the conversations and laughter, I began to notice the fine, golden thread of love for the esteemed 50-year-old that drew us all together.

Writer, pastor Eugene H. Peterson says people are God’s creation too and we can see God in them just as we might a sunset or mountain scape. True enough.

Maybe that’s why . . . wait I’m getting ahead of myself.

On December 30 Dee Dee and I stupidly ventured into Walmart. It was a zoo. People everywhere and we got a squeaky cart.

“I can’t stand this. Let’s come back tomorrow,” I whined.

“We’re here now and the party is tomorrow.”

We split up and met back at the cashier several decades later.

A bright-eyed, smiling woman checked us out. I had a large portable table in the squeaky cart but the bar code was on the opposite side of the perky clerk. I wheeled the squeaky cart around so it faced her.

She smiled at me, blue eyes open wide, scanned the table, and said, “Thank you.” Then she said to Dee Dee, “It’s nice to know you can still find some nice guys out there.” She nodded toward me.

“Oh, I didn’t find him that way. I trained him after I married him,” Dee Dee joked. Many a truth spoken in jest, I guess.

The clerk leaned over to Dee Dee and whispered something. Dee Dee’s smile sobered. Walking out I gave Dee Dee a look that asked, “What’d she say?”

“She told me she was lucky because she didn’t have to train her husband to be nice. ‘He married me even though he knew I had slight brain damage.’”

Both of us and the cart fell silent. Suddenly I was glad we ventured into the zoo and I thought I’d go back as long as the clerk with God’s eyes and God’s smile and “slight brain damage” would be there.

This living spiritually every day is hard. But maybe just heading out into the world with a new attitude and taking the time to look at people and events with new eyes is a good start.

Eugene C. Scott is writing these God sightings down daily in a journal and invites you to see the spiritual even in Walmart and join him in looking for God sightings in 2012. Also tell your stories about what it’s like. Comment here and join our “Living Spiritually” community by visiting and liking facebook.com/livingspiritually. Eugene still gets lost while shopping and is still co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church.

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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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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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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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Are You Living A Dog’s Life? Maybe You Should.

By Eugene C. Scott

Anastasia on a hike

“Look, that dog is smiling,” kids would say pointing at Anastasia, our white and black spotted dog.

It was true. Her dark lips curled up in a discernible smile and her eyes sparkled whenever we took her for a walk.

“Is it a Dalmatian?”

“Nope, just a happy mutt.” Then we would follow her down the trail as she loped along with her white tail turning like a crank on one of those old “Jack in a Box” toys.

It didn’t take much to make Anastasia happy. Just being with her people. We called her the “velcro dog” because she would always stick to the closest human in the house. And if any human uttered those cataclysmic words, “Wanna go for a walk?” she would explode with happiness. Even in her last days, when she could barely walk and couldn’t see, those words gave her an unexpected burst of new life.

Anastasia’s priorities were simple: people, going for walks, and food. In that order too.

Maybe we got the phrase “It’s a dog’s life” from dogs like Anastasia.

Pets, like Anastasia, Are More than Furry Friends.

Over the 14 years Anastasia was part of our family, I learned a lot from her.

Anastasia taught me companionship is crucial. As much as she liked to go for walks, she never did so without one of us, even if we left the front door wide open. But grab that red braided leash and watch out.

How much of our human unhappiness comes from our dependence on rugged individualism? I believe there is a correlation between the modern proliferation of emotional and psychological problems and our self-imposed isolation. One of the main symptoms of depression is a feeling of isolation which then drives the depressed person into deeper isolation.

Humans, like dogs, are pack animals. Some more so than others. But we, like Anastasia, would shrivel up and die if left completely alone.

She also showed me a good, natural smile breaks down walls. Even grumpy, scardy-cat, non-dog-lovers would stop and comment on Anastasia’s smile. Many would even bend down and pet her. Funny how we humans think a fancy car, or the right deodorant, or a pile of money, or lots of educational degrees, or whatever will make us attractive and important.

They don’t! But a smile can. Is that because a smile is a gift to others we can’t see unless we are looking self-centeredly in a mirror?

Anastasia had simple priorities.

Like I said, people, walks, food. Toss a good nap in there and she was done for the day. My life? You gotta be kidding me. I have to consult my “to do list” just to get out the door.

“Let’s see, I have my wallet, is there any money in it? My keys, my iPhone, which, of course, contains my iCal calendar and my Google Map to get me where I’m going.”

Have you ever heard of a dog searching for his key to the storage locker where he keeps all his stuff he hasn’t used or touched in two years?

The things that are truly important in our lives are few. Maybe as few as people, walks, and food.

Anastasia didn’t think more of herself than she should.

Comedian Brian Regan does a hilarious routine called “I Walked on the Moon” that makes fun of our human tendency to one-up each other in personal story-telling (see the embedded video). Regan points out we seem convinced that lifting ourselves above others while putting others down, will actually make us feel better about ourselves.

Anastasia had no such delusions. If ever, while she was running down the trail, she saw another dog approaching, Anastasia would stop, lay down, and assume a submissive stance. She was not an Alpha Dog. And it served her well. The other dog would approach and stand over her. Thus, Anastasia got in few, if any dog fights. Soon the two dogs would be smelling each other (I don’t recommend this for humans) and then bounce off playing and exploring until us humans hurried them along our way.

How many of our fights come not from real disagreements but from wanting to be the Alpha Dog, standing above others? Too many of mine do.

In my opinion, a willing, vulnerable submissiveness is crucial to a growing spiritual life.

In relationship to God no one I know is the Alpha Dog.

James, the brother of Jesus, wrote this same advice to some of his friends telling them, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” Whether you believe in God or not, there is a truth here. Pride, putting ourselves above others, often lands us in the bottom of the pile, while humility often lifts us up.

Funny the best thing about Anastasia is she seemed to know herself and her place: with her people on the trail smiling at all life brought her. Maybe living a dog’s life isn’t a bad idea.

Eugene C. Scott, co-pastor at The Neighborhood Church, misses Anastasia. It has been a year since Anastasia passed away. But along with the lessons she taught, he still finds stray white hair clinging to the couch. He’d love to hear of lessons you’ve learned from your pets.

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No Fear. Just Pain.

By Eugene C. Scott

Not the actual truck

The Nissan truck with the No Fear off-road package sat in the drive. Big knobby tires, six-inch lift package, fancy rims, dual exhaust.“Semper Fi,” said a sticker in the back window. We had driven from Winter Park to Loveland, CO on a fabulous fall morning to look at a used truck for sale. Necessitated by the untimely demise of my old, faithfulPathfinder.

As I climbed out of our car, I put my negotiating face on. It was a cool truck.

We walked across the road and into a wall of pain. A hurt, like a bad dream that won’t let you wake up, hung over the house. The owner of the truck, an ex-Marine with tattoos covering both arms and his neck, came out and shook hands. A big silver cross hung from his neck over his New Orleans Saints football jersey.

We introduced ourselves. He stood at an oblique in the middle of the street a good distance away from the truck.

“It’s a nice truck. You’re selling it so you can refurbish your son’s Mustang?” I said trying to pierce the awkward silence that surrounded him. I had spoken to him on the phone previously.

“Yeah.” His big frame sagged and he seemed to get smaller right there in front of me. He may have even stopped breathing. “It’s what he would have wanted.”

I could see the sorrow etched into his tough face. He didn’t look at the truck.

Long, agonizing seconds later he said, “He died a couple of months ago.”

There it was. The source of the pain.

“I’m sorry.” I touched his elbow. “What happened?”

“He killed himself.” Three words, flat, declarative, harsh, like someone had hit me in the face. He spat the next three words.

“Over a girlfriend.”

There in the middle of the street our worlds became a bubble, no bright blue fall day, no truck, no air. No fear. Just pain.

I turned to him and we talked. I told him as a pastor I had worked with suicidal kids, how tragic it was that those with so much to live for despaired so deeply. He turned toward me, opened his heart just a crack. More pain poured out. Pointing to a house two doors down he said a pastor lived there and he had been spending time with him. “You gotta trust God,” he said.

I nodded. “You can’t walk through this alone.”

I was relieved he had someone of faith to talk to and that God was part of the conversation. I lived several hundred miles–a world–away. My heart ached but I could not be his pastor, his counselor, or even his friend. The silence and the pain swooped back down.

“Can I drive it?” I asked pointing to the big, gray truck.

“Keys are in it.”

My wife, Dee Dee, and I climbed in. It was the kind of truck I had dreamed of in high school. It didn’t so much drive as it ate the road. It didn’t purr but rumbled. But the cab was clean, almost sterile, no signs of anything personal. The on board computer read, “0 miles,” indicating how far we could drive before we ran out of fuel.

Who lets potential buyers drive a truck that may run out of gas? I wondered as we pulled back into his driveway.

“Nice truck. It’s almost out of gas,” I said as I handed him the key.

“I haven’t driven it in a couple of months,” he said. That’s when I began to understand. I had not seen him come close to the truck. It had something to do with his son’s death.

My heart has been broken and I’ve been praying for him and his elderly mother and father and his other son ever since.

Les Avery, senior pastor of St James Presbyterian Church in Littleton, CO, where I served as a youth pastor in the 80s, used to end almost every worship service by saying, “Wrap your arm around yourself or of someone near you because, if you scratch beneath the surface of any life, you’ll find pain.”

It’s a poignant reminder. Sometimes you don’t even need to scratch. It comes gushing out.

Once again, I’ve been reminded to look at the grumpy, harried woman in the post office with kinder eyes. The waiter, the store clerk, the high school kid walking home from school alone.

They all carry pain–at least as deep as my own–if not deeper.

I’m not going to sermonize, tell you to be nice, “Co-exist,” “give peace a chance,” or “tolerate” each other. Bumper sticker philosophy and theology is such ineffective crap.

All of us know how cruel and insensitive and self-centered we are. We all know we shouldn’t be.

Maybe what we don’t as often remember is that God does not have to scratch beneath the surface of our lives to discover the pain. He sees all and knows all. And he weeps. But his tears are not empty.

By the first century AD, the Romans had tortured and crucified nearly 2000 people. Poverty, injustice, hunger, death, disease, and pain few of us know the depth of today racked the world Jesus lived in. So, what did God do? He let his Son be killed on the cruelest torture device yet known and had Jesus experience all the pain known to man.

Think of it. By having Jesus die on a device designed to induce maximum pain, God gave us a way to transform our pain into hope. God not only knows our pain. He redeems it.

The silver cross around that ex-Marine’s neck was not mere jewelry. It was his sign of hope for life, a reminder of how much God loves him and his son. Of how God had indeed wrapped his arms around us in the ultimate act of love.

Eugene C. Scott is co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church. He did not buy the No Fear truck, not because of the tragedy it represented, and certainly not because he was too old or not cool enough for it, but because his wife said it was not very practical.

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Rejoice! It’s October!

Ever notice how many “officially designated” special days there are on the U.S. calendar? Seriously! If you wanted to, you could celebrate something every day of the year. Though you might be celebrating some very strange things like “Cephalopod Awareness Day” (Octopus Day!) or “World Wetlands Day.”

It’s as if there is some odd contest to see which month can pile up the most (weirdest) special holidays and observances, apparently each month vying for “The Best Month of the Year Award” (BMYA). But no matter how many strange observances those other months compile, there is no contest.

Is December the best month of the year, boasting as it does of Advent and shopping and Christmas? Celebrating the birth of Jesus is a pretty big deal, except Jesus may not have actually been born in December. But one would think that that one holiday would make December pre-eminent. Apparently not because someone saw the need to add, uh hm, “Take It In The Ear Day” (December 8).

January weighs in with its attempt at winning “The Best Month of the Year” with New Year’s Day. Wow! The month that gives us all a fresh start and second chance. Pretty impressive. Except many people spend the day sleeping and hung-over. Maybe that’s why January also sports “National Humiliation Day” (I wish humiliation happened to me only once a year).

February doesn’t come close to best month of the year (despite that my son and grand-daughter were born in February) because it limps onto the stage boasting of Valentines Day (often very similar to Humiliation Day, for guys at least) and Ground Hogs Day. Have you actually seen a ground-hog? They are not much to look at.

March is a good month (both of my daughters were born then). Spring, though muddy and blustery, begins somewhere near this month. But officially March commemorates St Patrick’s Day (which is a dubious holiday because, though St Patrick did some really selfless and amazing things, chasing snakes out of Ireland and drinking green beer were not among them). So someone thought they also needed to dub March “National Noodle Month.” Even many Irish don’t really care.

April claims to be “National Frog Month.” Ten year-old boys must love April. But what self-respecting month begins with a special Day for Fools (no, not my birthday). Enough said.

May marks May Day and is called “National Moving Month.” Sorry but running around a pole naked and packing and hauling boxes aren’t my idea of a good party.

Everybody loves June and the beginning of summer; but June also brags of being “Potty Training Awareness Month” (which may be why my grandson was born in June). Close but no cigar.

July observes Independence Day (in the U.S.) and—lucky, or not, for all those July 4 picnickers—is also “National Baked Beans Month.” What no beer?

August is just hot. Why is this even on the list?

September settles in very close to the top of the BMYA list because my wife’s birthday is September—yes, the whole month. September also celebrates “National Cable TV Month.” If only . . .

November also nestles near number one for Best Month of the Year celebrating Thanksgiving and “International Drum Month” (is this somehow connected with all those leftover Thanksgiving drum sticks?). Tryptophan!

But the obvious winner of the Best Month of the Year Award is . . . “November, drum roll please” . . . OCTOBER!

Mr Bean celebrates October!

You laugh? Consider the following: October celebrates “Free Thought Month” (which gives me permission to freely think October is pre-eminent), “National Liver Awareness,” “Hispanic Heritage,” “Fire Prevention,” “Disability Awareness,” “National Popcorn Popping,” and “Church Library Month” (that’s a biggy).

October also features some of the best contradictory observances: “Go Hog Wild—Eat Country Ham Month” alongside “Hunger Awareness,” “Month of the Dinosaurs” beside “Clergy Appreciation” (maybe that’s not a contradiction), and “National”—get that—NATIONAL!—”Sarcastic Month” combined with “Positive Attitude Month.” And then there’s “Halloween” (which some might consider a blight on a nearly perfect month).

I’m sorry but all other months of the year pale in comparison to October. Fall is in full bloom, Pro and College football compete with baseball’s World Series. And all the best hunting seasons touch October. Plus there are some pretty amazing people who were born in the month of October. I won’t mention any names; just let it be known that October is also “Self-Promotion Month.”

Yes, October wins hands down.

So, what’s all this got to do with life, faith, and all that important, serious stuff? I’m not really sure.

Maybe . . .

  • Humans are incredibly creative and at the same time extremely silly.
  • There are way too many things to prevent, be aware of, and celebrate than is humanly possible.
  • I am just so ebullient about October I had to write something about it.
  • Or looking at the calendar we can all notice, “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad.”

For those lucky ones born in October–The Best Month of the Year–rejoicing and being glad may be easier than for others. Enjoy.

Eugene C. Scott is co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church and has nothing against a really good birthday party.

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An Epitaph to a White 2001 Nissan Pathfinder

By Eugene C. Scott

Unlike some people I know, I’ve never named one of my cars. You know what I’m talking about. My wife’s family named a couple of theirs: an old gray truck they called the Gray Ghost and an 80 something Olds they called the GLC, Good Little Car, which it wasn’t really, either good or little.

To me cars have always been something to get you from point A to point B. Don’t get me wrong. I like and know the value of a nice vehicle. I’ve owned too many jalopies, especially in high school. I am intimately acquainted with tow ropes and jumper cables. No, automobiles were mere tools. You do not name tools.

So, I was surprised this last Monday when my mechanic Dean told me my eleven year old, 267,000 mile white Nissan Pathfinder’s transmission problem was “catastrophic.” (See my last post, “Life is Funny”)

Surprised for two reasons: first, this was the only time EVER in all those miles and years the Pathfinder had a serious mechanical problem. One day it was running as strong as ever and the next day it dies of the equivalent of a sudden heart attack.

Second, I was surprised by my emotional reaction to the news. I became depressed, mopey. And then I felt stupid for feeling depressed about a vehicle, one I hadn’t even named. But as I’ve thought it over maybe it’s not that silly to be depressed about my Pathfinder’s unexpected death.

After all, I had dreamed of owning a four-wheel drive since I was a skinny kid in high school. And besides being a 4×4, it was the nicest car I had ever owned. It had power windows and locks and an eight speaker Bose sound system that flat-out rocked. I loved coming down the hiking trail and seeing how far away the keyless entry button would work.

But the Pathfinder was more than a nice vehicle.

We bought the Pathfinder in February 2001 in Tulsa. A month later I loaded it with our dog Anastasia, my mountain bike, and all my clothes and drove it to my new pastoral position in Vail. The family would come later. The Pathfinder took me home to Colorado, after twelve years of yearning.

The family joined me in June and as soon as possible we loaded the Pathfinder up and went four wheeling, windows open, tires tossing rocks and logs, radio off, everyone talking about the wonder of God’s creation.

I see now we used it not just to get from point A to point B but to stay connected. We drove back to Tulsa to see our friends we had left there. And when my mom’s health declined dangerously, the Pathfinder flew up and down I70 to Denver and back racking up thousands of miles.

On one of those trips back up the mountain Emmy, youngest daughter, and I discussed the meaning of lyrics and poetry. I discovered a depth in her that day.

Finally, I wept all the way home–gripping the steering wheel, radio off again–after my mom passed.

Inside its four doors we connected with each other as well. My son Brendan and I drove together back to Tulsa for his freshman year at Tulsa University. We listened to Van Morrison and talked about literature and hunting and the future. Those 950 miles flashed by.

After my oldest daughter Katie was married in 2003, she and her husband Michael came to visit and we packed mountain bikes on the Pathfinder looking for new trails. On those rides we began to establish a new trail for our relationship too. A very good and deep one.

When my mom was healthier, we all drove to Denver and picked her up to spend Christmas with us in the mountains. She sat in the back with Emmy and sang Christmas songs along with a Jaci Velasquez CD. That’s one of my best memories of her last years of life.

My wife Dee Dee relished loading our snow shoes in the back of the Pathfinder and heading out for a wilderness trek. Those were our most treasured dates filled with laughing, praying, and wonder.

And then there are the hunting and camping trips; my time alone in its cab listening to Darrel Evans, Waterdeep, or Mars Hill Audio Journal. God spoke to me in that car.

Now I know I am sad at the demise of the Pathfinder not because I am materialistic (though on other grounds I can assure you I am). It’s just that in 270,000 miles you compile some meaningful memories. The Pathfinder was just a tool. It is what we used to get here and there. But–oh–the richness of the journey and–oh–the places it took us.

If I had named the Pathfinder, maybe Faithful or White Knight would have fit. But no, that would just be corny.

Eugene C. Scott is in need of another cool car and is co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church.

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