I’m A Fan Fridays — “I had reached my life-long limit of lies.”

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I’m back; not with a loud bang but with a bit of a whimper.  The year 2014 was the worst year of my life.  There are so many reasons why; we’ll get to some in time.

Today is a good day.  Part of the reason it’s a good day is that I’m determined to live in this day and only this day.  I’ll leave tomorrow to itself.  I can only handle this one.  I’ve come to realize, kicking and screaming and not all at once, that I’m an alcoholic and an abuser of prescription drugs.  It’s a nasty combination which almost, on a couple of occasions, landed me in a real-life version of an opening scene from the HBO series Six Feet Under.

I’ll write more about my journey as days go by, but that’s not all I’ll write about.  I’m determined to keep at this blog; I think I really need it.  And if I write something out of my own experiences that moves you or someone you know to live a better, more joyous life, then it will be worth it.  I know that, for me, cathartic experiences can truly come from anywhere, carried by anyone, at any time and in any place.

Here’s a monologue from a movie that was “made for me to see.”  I truly think God knew that I would not truly get what I was doing to myself, my family and my friends until I saw this film.  The thing is, none of that truly hit me until the THIRD TIME I watched it.

Yeah.  I sat through this film three times before I understood how much like Denzel Washington’s character I actually was.  I’m not black and I’m not a pilot.  That’s about the extent of our differences.  But, like him, I couldn’t see it until I saw it.

This monologue, so beautifully done by the great Denzel, is where I got to on February 3, 2015.  The day before my 46th birthday this past week, it was as if I had reached my life-long limit of lies.  I thought I had gotten there before, but I was wrong.  My rock bottom, as it turned out, had a trap door.  I have a long, long way to go and a lot of amends to make, but I’m ok.  I’m scared as hell, but I’m ok.

I didn’t drink today, and I took only the medicine prescribed to me as directed.  I’m alive now, and if I’m blessed with the opportunity to wake tomorrow morning, I’ll pray to God to continue to do for me what I cannot do for myself.

Love yourselves, my friends!

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Follow Scott on Twitter — @scotylang

I’m A Fan Fridays! From Bump To Buzz on a very Good Friday!!

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Hello my dears!

You know, today being Good Friday and all, I started to write this whole long post about Atonement Theories and how they almost entirely ruined my faith in God.  But, I’m not going to do that.

Instead, I want to focus on what this Good Friday ultimately reminded my of– that Love will always win!  How do I know this?  It’s hard to explain; I just do.

This video I’d like to share with you today may not be proof to some that God exists, and quite frankly, it was never intended to make such a claim.

At the same time, I see no other way to describe this piece other than to say that it is the very epitome of an expression of what true love is.

So, I’m going to save my Atonement Theory discussion for another day, and simply leave this right here for you.  Enjoy!

 

 

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Follow Scott on Twitter:  @scotylang

 

 

 

On Hope…Just a few words while I have them

tumblr_m62ggwMtaR1rx2k32o1_1280I love The Shawshank Redemption.  It just might be my all-time favorite film.  At the beginning of the story, Andy Dufresne is convicted of murdering his wife and her lover–a crime he didn’t commit–and is sent to Shawshank Prison in Maine to live out the rest of his days.  I’m sure you’ve seen the movie so you know exactly who and what I’m talking about.  (Side note: If you haven’t seen this masterpiece, shame on you! Do so immediately! Just keep your TV tuned to TNT.  They show it at least once a week, it seems!)  It is truly a story about hope when all hope seems completely lost.

Andy is the character that keeps hope alive throughout the story, and infuses the lives of his imprisoned friends with that same, contagious hope.  After an initial battle with the understandable fear he has about entering that terrible prison in the first place and a truly horrifying start to his incarceration, Andy is able to find some friends among the inmates and even the guards.  He figures out a way in which he can become useful.  He creates for himself a possibility.

Hope seems to be easy to live into when you have something to hope for…or, is it something to hope in?  Andy lives in the hope that justice will one day prevail, that the truth will one day come to light and it will be proved that he is, indeed, innocent.  If he can just work hard, keep his head down and an ear up, he just might find himself in a position to once again bask in the freedom that he and all of his fellow inmates know is just beyond the walls– walls that seem to close in more and more as the years go by.

Sometimes I’ve wondered if the story could’ve played out the same way if Andy had actually been guilty.  His innocence seems to be the linchpin.  Everyone else is guilty.  Their fates are sealed.  They know they deserve the punishment they’ve gotten.  They might get paroled at some point, but that isn’t very likely.  Their hope has all but disappeared with their guilt.  Andy, however, has something on which he can hang his hope–the justice that arrives on the back of truth.

But what is truth, really?  These days, it seems as though one man’s truth is another man’s blasphemy.  Some days it feels to me like something to hang my hope upon is nothing more than yesterday’s pipe dream.  I used to be so sure, so certain of where my hope was hung.  But, as I entered my thirties and felt my faith changing, I slowly began to realize that my trust in that which is greater than myself was shifting as a result of an extremely shaky and unfocused hope.

In my youth, my hope was firmly fixed upon a life after this one, and, not insignificantly, was tied to an “I’ve got it all worked out” theology.  That made things quite easy…until the questions without any answers started popping up.  The religion of my teenage upbringing seemed to have very little room for uncertainty.  If you studied and prayed hard enough, you’d know what to do.  All of the difficult questions had answers, except the ones that didn’t.  In those cases, we were to “leave that up to God.”

Without answers, my hope began to fade.  Without a feeling of certainty, I began to wander, lost in the desert of the unexplainable.  Then I discovered what it is that lies just on the outskirts of unanswerable questions– Mystery.  A place where my hope slowly started to flower.

For a brief moment in time, I thought about giving up on my faith.  I thought I could, as some of my friends had done, leave God behind in favor of a Secular Humanist approach.  (In a remarkable bit of irony, I’ve witnessed the lives of several friends actually transformed by God for miraculous purposes the moment they gave God up.  Go figure.)  As for me, I could never pull that off.  There has always been something in the ceremony of my religious practice that has kept me intrigued and engaged in a pursuit of a relationship with the Sacred.  And it was a refocusing on that pursuit that re-energized my hope and strengthened my faith.  It was a reinvestment in a greater hope that enabled me to trust in mystery.

A few weeks ago, a dear friend of mine, Dr. Donald Brash, explained his thoughts on hope to me.  A statement he made baffled me at first, but as I let it settle, the meaning became more clear.  He said:

“Hope is greater than faith because it liberates faith to new possibilities.”

Possibilities.  I like them.  Without possibilities, we’re doomed to live forever behind the walls of our own personal prisons.  The prisons we create for ourselves every time we’re confronted by our own faults and shortcomings.

Hope is real.  Hope is powerful. Hope is, as Andy Dufresne says to Red, “a good thing, maybe the best of things.  And no good thing ever dies.”

 

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Follow Scott on Twitter:  @scotylang

On living among the retired one percenters

VeroBeachFLHPAh…Vero Beach!  I love ya.  Seriously, you’re so beautiful.  Your beaches are free and your weather is brilliant.  At the same time, though, I simply can’t pay $135 for a short sleeved, casual shirt at the local men’s shop.  I don’t even know if I wish I could.  It’s a nice shirt, but, let’s face it…it’s not $135 nice.  Come on.

Charge whatever you think you can get.  That’s capitalism.  I’m down with it.  You want a specific clientele.  That’s your right.  I get it.  I know that demographic is here, or else your beach-front specialty stores wouldn’t be able to stay afloat, as it were.  Folks here may drive slowly and have a terrible time parking between the lines, but Lord knows they’ve got plenty of money to spend.

I truly don’t begrudge anyone here or anywhere a nice, comfortable retirement.  I think what’s making me uncomfortable is the exclusiveness.  I’ve lost count of the number of different gated communities I’ve seen during the ten days I’ve been here.

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What’s breaking my heart a little every day I’m here is the obvious effort our society is putting into separating ourselves from one another.  We seem to be buying into the illusion that by putting up walls, implementing rules about the height of our neighbor’s grass, and charging outrageous prices for a golf shirt we’re somehow going to be able to live without the fear of anyone trampling on or taking from us what we’ve worked so hard to store up.

I’m not saying that all who have retired down here constantly say to each other, “Let them eat cake!” But I do wonder if all of the mansions literally built upon the sand here don’t play so very easily into the metaphor of so many misguided uses of money and resources.

We can try our hardest to isolate ourselves from the poor and the disenfranchised.  We can stand our ground all we want against the desperate and needy. But it won’t change the fact that they still exist in great numbers all around us.

Vero Beach, I’m glad to have the opportunity to get to know you.  You have so much potential; so much to offer.  I’m afraid I just may not be your type, and, like a fickle lover, you won’t even notice when I’ve gone.

 

I’m a fan Fridays! A Simple Song

4135698Good day to you all, and Happy Friday!  For this edition of I’m A Fan Fridays! I am thrilled to bring you a performance that I’ve loved for quite some time.

Leonard Bernstein’s “Mass” is a work which was commissioned by Jacqueline Kennedy to be a part of the opening of the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.  It had its premiere on September 8,1971.

This performance of A Simple Song from this great work remains my favorite, to this day.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you “A Simple Song” performed here by Joseph Kolinski.

Enjoy!

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Follow Scott on Twitter:  @scotylang

On running with the Florida bobcats…

MaMaBobcatSitsSo, a week ago today we landed in Vero Beach, Florida, ready to begin work on How To Succeed. The cast got settled into our wonderful living accommodations, and after a cursory glance around town, I had in mind a few different routes I thought I might try to run while I’m here.

I’m in the middle of a Lenten Run Streak where I’m running at least one mile per day, every day, through Easter (I might extend it after the holiday…we’ll see), and finding new routes isn’t always the easiest thing to do when working out of town.

Several of us in the cast are being housed in some newer condos on the west side of the city, which has just recently seen some development into the more “wild frontier” type lands that Florida has away from the coastal habitations.

So, Friday evening after a long day of rehearsal, I decided to venture out a bit from the confines of our beautiful if not slightly regrettable gated community to the main road and beyond.  The main road is relatively quiet, especially at dusk, around 7:00ish.  After a straight shot of a quarter mile or so, I came to a traffic light and took a left.  This direction was sure to take me to some more interesting territory by the look of things.

After another mile, a second intersection presented me with another left onto a road which looked extremely interesting.  I made the left, and within a few hundred yards, bid adieu to the confines of pavement for the much more pleasant dirt road.

It wasn’t very long before I saw a woman walking in my direction with her leashed canine companion heeling very nicely alongside.  I had my earphones in, and was concentrating more on the Dave Matthews Band in my earbuds than what she was attempting to tell me.

“Waaa waaa waaa waaahh, ” she said, as she approached.  I removed my headphones to hear her more clearly.

“Hi! I’m sorry.  What did you say?”

“Watch out for the bobcats up ahead, ” she said rather casually, I thought.

“You mean, like a kids football team?” I answered, trying to amuse. I was sure she would chuckle.  She didn’t.  “Bobcats? Really?”

“Yeah, they come out around this time of night, around dusk.  Also, not too long ago a raccoon got a guy.” Again with the casual.

“Did you say a raccoon got a guy?

“Yeah. There was rabies and everything.  It was terrible.  That’s why I always walk with my dog.  Have a great night!”

“Thanks.  I will.”  I stared for a second in the direction of my certain doom.

How would they break the news to Malisa?  I thought to myself.

“Hello, Mrs. Langdon?  Yes, we have some news.  Your husband…Well, your husband had an encounter with one of our bobcats down here in Florida.  Yeah, actually he was able to evade the feline, but in the end it was the raccoon that got him.”

I turned around, turned on the jets and waved politely to the woman and her dog as I left them in the dust.

I’ll stick to the pavement.

 

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Follow Scott on Twitter: @scotylang

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m A Fan Fridays! Get Busy Living…

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Welcome to another edition of I’m A Fan Fridays!  Today I’d like to take you to a movie you might know and even might know very well.  I used to teach this film in my Humanities course when I taught at East Brunswick High School some years back.

This film is easily on my Top 5 list, and this scene is perhaps my favorite in the picture.  Hope, even in the midst of the most dire circumstances, is a beautiful thing, and music can remind us of that in ways that few other things can.

If you’ve never seen The Shawshank Redemption, see it immediately.  If you have seen it, then sit back and nibble on this little nugget.  Enjoy!

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Follow Scott on Twitter:  @scotylang

On calling myself a runner and then claiming it

AREYOUAREALRUNNERI have a hard time owning some things about myself.  I’m middle-aged (something you can define when you’re 25, but find unbelievable difficult to place when you’re 45), I’m balding (ugh…curse you, Bradley Cooper, and your head of hair!), I’m relatively short (but at 5’9” I’m as tall as Tom Cruise, so there’s that!), and I’m a runner.

While I can’t do a thing about the first three, the last thing on that list is something over which I have full control.  I’m a runner because I run.  That’s it.

This winter was very tough for me; I’m not going to lie.  The cold winter months do not suit my constitution, and running on a treadmill just reminds me of the stress test I recently took because I’m, well, middle-aged.

While I agree with those who might argue that any label you allow yourself to be saddled with may not be the best idea, sometimes claiming one or a few just might keep us grounded in a way that having no defining terms about ourselves cannot.  Sometimes labels can direct us toward a purpose or a desire we might have to accomplish a thing.

When I think about the fact that I’m a runner, I realize that, first of all, it’s a label that I’ve chosen, not because I’m a particularly great runner, but because it defines a part of who I am, albeit a very small part.

I’m a runner not because I run but because I say I am.  Then I have to go about living into all of what that label means to me.  Sometimes I get into a slump, and I don’t run for a while.  That happens to some runners, sometimes.  But even if it didn’t, it happens to me, and I’m still a runner.

Carolyn See wrote one of my favorite books on writing I’ve ever read. Making A Literary Life is a wonderful love letter of a book to aspiring writers in which she talks about what it means to be a writer and live a writer’s life. The most obvious thing you must do if you want to be a writer, she points out, is of course, to write!  But, it’s also more than that.  Being a writer is also about living into what you think a writer’s life looks like to you.  She encourages her students to try on the part of a writer.  Dress the part.  Think you are a real writer and then write!  Write with daring and panache as if everyone in the world cannot wait for you to type another brilliant sentence the way only you can.

Now, I may be coming across as if I’m saying that you can label yourself whatever you want and you don’t have to do anything else.  That could not be further from the truth.  If you’re a runner, then you run, because that’s what runners do.

What I am saying is, only you get to claim the labels that define you, and only you decide what the rules are for claiming that label.  Labels can be a good thing, but only when we claim them as our own.  By calling myself a writer, I am compelled to write.  When I put it out there that I’m an actor, I’m compelled to continue to do the best work I can in my chosen career field.  When I refer to myself as a runner, I’m moved to lace up my Brooks Pure Flows and proceed to the day’s route (with shorts and a shirt, of course…no one wants to see my middle-aged self in just the sneakers!).

So, in this day and age where there’s so much pressure to conform to certain labels and to be contained in certain boxes, break free of the constraints by owning who you are and what you do.  Try on a label or two and then live into what that label means to you.

Then, know this…

You are so much more than you could ever define or imagine.  No label you could ever come up with can match what you are worth right now, as you are. You will not be more worthy once you’ve achieved this or that.  You are not “less than” until you’ve reached this goal or that milestone.  Who you are right now is more than enough.

Everything else is just a label.

On trusting blindly–or other people watching our stuff

Strangers shopI was sitting alone at a table in a local coffee shop, working on my laptop while listening to music with my head phones on.  Her slight touch on my shoulder almost startled me, and would have if I hadn’t seen her approach out of the corner of my eye.

“I’m sorry to bother you.  Would you mind watching my stuff for just a minute while I use the restroom?”

“Of course!  No problem!”

And that was that.  An easy thing to do.  No problem.

Then I got to thinking.  Why would she ask me to watch her things?  That MacBook Air is at least a thousand dollar computer; not to mention any important, irreplaceable documents she might have stored on it.  Why ask me?  Why ask anybody?  Do I look that trustworthy?

Come to think of it, I do the same thing sometimes.  I’ll ask a complete stranger to watch my things while I see a man about a horse.  Is it a wise thing to do?  Probably not.

I think what it comes down to is that we want to be able to trust people.  We want to be able to believe that everyone we come in contact with actually believes that following “The Golden Rule” is a good way to go–Do unto others and all that.

I heard a story once from a guy who was in Vienna with his wife.  He and his new bride were from the States and were on vacation in Europe; a belated honeymoon.  They came to St. Stephens church in the middle of the historic downtown when a stranger came up to them and, seeing the camera around the husband’s neck, asked the visiting couple in his broken English if they wanted him to take a picture of the two of them in front of the cathedral.

The husband said, “Sure!  That would be great!”

So the stranger took the camera and started to back up as he looked through the lens, instructing the couple where and how to stand.

“Let me back up more.  I’ll get church better, ” he said.

So, the stranger backed up and backed up until he finally turned and ran away with the camera, never to be seen again.

What struck me when I heard that story was how I was completely with the guy while he was telling it.  Yeah, dude, of course.  You wanted a picture, yeah.  You gave him your camera, sure.  Then what happened?

It never occurred to me that I wouldn’t have done the same thing.

I’m not sure if I ever want to give up that feeling.

On the quest for a personal Lenten journey

lent_desktopAs a young boy, living in the South Philadelphia suburb of Tinicum Township, I spent a good deal of time at St. John’s Lutheran Church serving as an acolyte.

I loved being an acolyte.  We got to wear robes like the clergy; we got to light the candles with a super cool lighter/extinguisher thing; we got to assist in the distribution of the communion elements; and, the most cool thing of all, got to ring the church bells!  I can barely put it into words how important being an acolyte was to me at that time.

When I was nine years old, we moved to New Jersey and my parents left the Lutheran tradition behind us.  After a few years with a non-denominational, community church, our family settled itself in with the local Church of Christ– an evangelical, fundamentalist tradition born out of the restoration movement.

Too say the very least, the Churches of Christ disagree with the worship practices of the main line denominations, and my services as an acolyte were not needed in my new church home.  This secretly broke my heart, but I lived to accept the fact that things were going to be different.  The old ways of my young faith were to be set aside, and I would simply have to learn the new ways of God, which were actually the old ways of God.

Confused yet?  Yeah, so was I.

My maternal Grandmother, who lived across the street from us in that South Philly, suburban row home, continued on with her faithful participation in the Lutheran tradition, and, because of and with her, I secretly kept some of the traditions of her faith in my own practices.  A very significant practice for me (not every year, I’ll admit) was the practice of observing Lent.

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What I remember about my observance of Lent was that it began 40 days prior to Easter and that I had to give up something; that was about it.

As I grew older into adulthood, I pretty much gave up the practice entirely.  I don’t have the time to give up anything.  I’m good without it.  Besides, I don’t worship that way, anymore.

About fifteen years ago, my wife and I re-examined our faith and were led to a different way of seeing God, faith, and religious practice.  We now identify ourselves as Christians who worship in the United Methodist tradition, and Lent and Easter once again play a very significant role in the practice of my faith.

This year, in an effort to grow, I determined to seek out a Lenten journey that was more personal for me than giving up caffeine, which has become my go-to item to chuck.  This year I thought that instead of giving something up, I would seek to find something to do, a path to walk that would bring me closer to God and my fellow humankind.

I was led to the House For All Sinners And Saints, where I felt invited and called by God to participate in this Lenten practice.

Whether you’re a Christian or not, whether you believe in God in your own way or reject the notion of God altogether, no matter where you are on your journey in this life, I want you to know that I am going to participate in this Lenten practice as a way to lift you up.

I don’t need you to be like me, to worship like me, to practice a religion like me.  What I do need you to know is that you are so much more than you can ever imagine, more valuable than you can ever realize, and loved beyond all measure.

During the Lenten season as many around the world reflect on where they are in relationship to God, I want you to know that you are as close to God as the air you breathe.  God is never away from you and you are never away from God.

You are loved and cherished by God because you are God’s beloved creation.  You are loved and cherished by God because you were created, in spite of all of the things you might think get in the way.  You are worthy because you are God’s beloved child–redeemed and whole and brilliant.

During this Lenten season I want you to know you are loved, and I will try my best to show it.

I wish you peace!

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Follow Scott on Twitter: @scotylang