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Musings

Latest thoughts from First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood Pastor, Dan Baumgartner

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Thursday, 15 June 2017 Category Musings
“No man is an island...” starts a famous paragraph in John Donne’s Meditations from 1623. Donne is wrestling with the amazing way in which the lives of human beings are interconnected. He even marvels over how the death of one person can cause others to think long and hard about how they are living. The sound of a church bell, in Donne’s day a likely indicator that someone had died, was not only an announcement of news, but a challenge for the hearer to reflect on how their life, death and ...
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Thursday, 08 June 2017 Category Musings
Worship is ascribing ultimate worth. Worship is serving God.  Worship is telling the truth: God is God and we are not. Worship is acknowledging the power, compassion and presence of God. Worship is paying attention to God. Eugene Peterson writes “Worship is the strategy by which we interrupt our preoccupation with ourselves…and attend to the presence of God.” Worship happens in every corner of our lives. It also happens on Sunday morning. How do we prepare ourselves for something so moment...
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Friday, 02 June 2017 Category Musings
Yep. It’s a crazy world. Things are changing faster than any one person can follow.  Yesterday Anne and I walked down Hollywood Boulevard in the late afternoon, en route to an event at the El Capitan Theater. Though I am often on the Boulevard, it never ceases to amaze me. Steering around the tourists, police cars, tour buses, superhero characters and street folks is a cultural experience all by itself. Then I looked across the street and saw the signage for a relatively new building front:...
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Friday, 26 May 2017 Category Musings
The question came up spontaneously over a couple dinners with friends- what are you afraid of? Our answers ranged all over the place, most of them quite weighty. Some people talked about job fears- the potential of being out of work, or conversely, stuck in a job that sucked life out of them. Others mentioned common phobias- fear of heights, fear of public speaking, fear of flying. Many of us with kids talked about fears for their safety, or the influence of a confusing culture or doubts as...
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Friday, 19 May 2017 Category Musings
If you know me at all, you know I love to read- widely, deeply, critically. And I tend to read several books simultaneously, from a variety of genres. The author Diane Duane once wrote “Reading one book is like eating one potato chip.” If I have several books going, it means that I have one for whatever mood I’m in- theology, novel, poetry, history. It also means that a few times a year I finish a number of books all at once. So here’s the recently completed list:The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steve...
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Friday, 12 May 2017 Category Musings
I mentioned a novel by Steven Galloway called The Cellist of Sarajevo in a sermon a few weeks ago. It is based on a true story which occurred during the Bosnian War of the 1990’s. Unfortunately, many of us barely remember that war, which happened after the dismantling of Yugoslavia. It was awful. Any war is terrible, but this one included the killing of thousands of civilians, mass rapes and pillaging that went unchecked, ethnic cleansing and concentration camps. It was confusing because of the ...
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Thursday, 27 April 2017 Category Musings
This week seven young pastors in their 30’s or early 40’s will be with me in Los Angeles for 3 ½ days. They will come from Missoula MT, Milwaukie OR, Petaluma CA, Grand Junction CO and three from WA: Spokane, Aberdeen and Tacoma. It is an annual retreat group that started in 2009 with a trip to a cabin Anne and I once owned on Whidbey Island’s Useless Bay. Accordingly, we referred to the group as the Useless Bay Pastors.  Eventually, we sold the cabin, so the group shortened its name to sim...
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Thursday, 13 April 2017 Category Musings
I don’t consider myself a poet, though two or three time a year I will at least scratch out a few lines or the outline of something to come back to later. But every year since 2001 I have “received” a poem during Lent. I never really sit down to think about it, but inevitably an idea gets my attention and it feels like...a poem. A poem for Good Friday. It just happened this week for the seventeenth time, and I’ll read it tonight as part of our Good Friday worship service at 7pm. Attached is the ...
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Thursday, 06 April 2017 Category Musings
Imagine this- fifteen people sitting in a large dining room area eating breakfast together. Not so hard to picture, right? Now imagine this- no one says a word the entire meal. Everyone slowly eats, looks out the window or smiles if someone catches their eye...but in silence. Our pastoral staff took a quick 24-hour retreat at the Mt. Calvary Holy Cross Benedictine Monastery in Santa Barbara this week. The Monastery is Episcopal in affiliation, with four older monks who live and work the retreat...
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Friday, 31 March 2017 Category Musings
It’s inevitable. You go to a party, and while making small talk with people you don’t know well, the question comes up in the first two minutes- “What do you do?” The inquiry, of course, is about your occupation. What do you do for work? There’s nothing wrong with the question, although it does reinforce an erroneous assumption that our identity is primarily about function. Occasionally I change the question slightly to acknowledge that some people homeschool kids, others volunteer full-tim...
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