About Scott Jeffries

Christ follower, son, husband, father, brother, friend, librarian, neighbor, sports fanatic, music lover, reader,

Try This Meditative Exercise

I posted this three years ago. It was part of a series of posts on the practice of Christian meditation. Back then, mindfulness wasn’t even the buzzword it is now.

The lack of response from Christians regarding their own historical practice of meditation and mindfulness is concerning. Grown Up Christians have so much to bring to the table on this topic but we are largely silent. Maybe republishing these posts will help spark some thought and discussion.

You have read this post and this post and you think you want to try this meditation thing. Let me give you a simple exercise for you to do.

Right off the top of my head, I can think of some meditative verses that we can use.

“Be still and know that I am God”

“Speak for your servant is listening”

“My peace I give to you”

“Abide in me and I will abide in you”

“Be Holy, as I am Holy”

“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life”

First, take a verse and repeat it once. Next, pause and imagine your life reflecting the truth of the verse. That is all there is to it. Try this for 10 minutes and then do another verse tomorrow.

Let me give you an example of what I am talking about.

Say we choose to do “My peace I give to you.”After repeating the verse a few times, I am going to imagine what Christ’s peace is all about and what it would look like in my life if I was inhabited with the peace of Christ. What would be different about my life? What habits or behaviors would no longer have a hold on me? How might my relationships be impacted? Be grateful for Christ and his outpouring of gifts.

Pretty simple and intuitive, right? Try it now and tell me what God is teaching you through this exercise.

My Experience With Meditation

 

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I posted this three years ago. It was part of a series of posts on the practice of Christian meditation. Back then, mindfulness wasn’t even the buzzword it is now.

The lack of response from Christians regarding their own historical practice of meditation and mindfulness is concerning. Grown Up Christians have so much to bring to the table on this topic but we are largely silent. Maybe republishing these posts will help spark some thought and discussion.

So I started meditating regularly at the beginning of this year. As I mentioned in the last post, the podcasts I was listening to kept bringing it up. I knew that if these atheistic practitioners were getting benefit out of their version of meditation, then what kind of benefit could I get from not just slowing my breathing and focusing my mind but actually inviting God to be present, to speak, to work in me in a powerful way.

I knew I needed help with where to get started, so I picked up Richard Foster’s book, Sanctuary of the Soul.  I wrote down all of the methods and practices that surfaced in Foster’s book, from praying a Psalm to beholding nature, and committed to try one of these practices for 10 minutes a day.

The practices are not as important as the fact that I am intentional every morning at encountering God. I spend much of my time beholding God’s glory and greatness. Sometimes that leads to confession on my part, sometimes that leads to an inspired task to do later in the day, and sometimes I just try to savor who God is and am in awe that he cares anything about me.

I am not really that good at it. It takes much of my time just to be able to get my mind from going in a million different directions. I have extended past 10 minutes many times, not because I am having a wonderfully rich experience, but because I wasted so much time on getting my mind to slow down in order to focus on God.

Something has changed since I started practicing meditation.

I can’t really explain it. What I can say is that it has given me a place to return to during my day. I take the calmness and the assuredness I get from God during my meditation to the rest of my day. I am not swayed as much by the swivel of good and bad that an ordinary day brings, because I know, from my time with God, that I am loved and that God is a great God. That knowledge alone consistently teaches me to trust God in all circumstances.

I can say with confidence that I wouldn’t be relaunching this blog and writing consistently if it wasn’t for this intentional practice of meditation. I can say with confidence that some of the successes I have had professionally and personally have come from this practice.

It is not a magic exercise, but it has given me such a sense of God moving and working in my life that my faith has grown and I have learned to listen and trust God in a way that hasn’t happened in years.

Meditation has been a game changer for me. It can be for you as well.

Next time, I will provide a brief method of meditation that you can try.

Should Christians Meditate?

Cross, Symbol, Religious, Christianity, Jesus, Catholic

I posted this three years ago. It was part of a series of posts on the practice of Christian meditation. Back then, mindfulness wasn’t even the buzzword it is now.

The lack of response from Christians regarding their own historical practice of meditation and mindfulness is concerning. Grown Up Christians have so much to bring to the table on this topic but we are largely silent. Maybe republishing these posts will help spark some thought and discussion.

Yes. I am going to talk about meditation.

No. I haven’t tipped over into a woo-woo land full of rocks, colors, reincarnation, and chants.

I want to introduce/reintroduce meditation as an important practice among Christians. Before you get nervous and confirm all of your fears regarding me and all of this spiritual life talk, let me explain why I think this is important:

  • Meditation is a mainstream phenomenon that is extremely popular among secular creatives, productivity gurus, business types, and blog heroes. Tim Ferriss, Seth Godin, Brian Koppelman, and Chase Jarvis are using meditation and are spreading the message of this practice on their popular web platforms and podcasts. These people have thousands of followers who are hardwired to practice any tactics that are brought up in blogs, podcasts, or books. There needs to be a Christian response to this.
  • Meditation app, Headspace, has 3 million subscribers and celebrities like Emma Watson, a favorite of my daughters, calls it “genius.” A third of these subscribers are under the age of 30. Other meditation apps, such as Calm, are also very popular.
  • Christian meditation is so different and counter to the type of meditation found among the people and apps above that the message embedded in its practice needs to be spread more widely and with enthusiasm.

While the type of meditation practiced by the secularists and the New Age dabblers is primarily an exercise to empty your mind, Christian meditation is an exercise to fill your mind with God.

One practice seeks nothingness, the Christian practice seeks abundance, one practice seeks suppression of thoughts and feelings, the Christian practice seeks redemption of thoughts and feelings.

You may be asking, “Isn’t my scripture reading and my prayer life my way of filling my mind with God?” It helps but our approach to these tasks often fail us. We can’t help turning scripture reading into an academic study that begins to remove the chance to encounter God. Having a “prayer list” makes this exercise more of a task to complete rather than a chance to commune with God.

So, we need an intentional practice that is solely for the purpose of providing space for God to speak and for us to listen, for God to reveal himself and for us to behold his Glory, for God to forgive and for us to savor his mercy.

Secular meditation leaves everything up to the individual to achieve some kind of peace or fulfillment. Christian meditation is an opening for God to touch every aspect of our self. Which option sounds more appealing?

Next time, I will discuss ways that meditation has helped me over the past few months.

 

Perseverance Is Not A Dirty Word

This year has been a time of perseverance for me.

What is interesting about perseverance is that most of the time it is a choice. The desire to quit and give up and stop toiling is right there and much more attractive than persevering through hardship, suffering, and uncertainty.

Really, what is there to gain from perseverance?

On the surface, nothing. At the moment, pain is most likely still present, deep challenges and obstacles appear stacked up and never ending. There doesn’t seem to be any way for this pain and these challenges to dissipate or to improve. This is why perseverance is a choice, because circumstances often present a clear path to immediate ease of pain and relief from suffering. Yet, many of us choose perseverance! Why should we? What prompts us to think that being long sufferers or steadfast is going to get us anything? Shouldn’t we just cut our losses and find a new path?

The Bible doesn’t see perseverance as something to avoid but to embrace. In fact, perseverance seems to be an essential part of our Growing Up. Paul, in a letter to the Christians in Rome, says that we should “glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” James uses even more elaborate language. He says, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”

man standing near mountain

Photo by Ilyes seven on Pexels.com

If we are to believe these great men of God and writers of his holy scriptures, then character, hope, blessing, and some kind of great honor known as the crown of life is promised to those who persevere under suffering. Truth be told, if you began to analyze characters from the Bible you would find story after story of perseverance and endurance in their faith. From Abraham to John, one of the great themes of the Bible is how true faith in God is tested and strengthened through perseverance.

These reminders illustrate to me that I hinder my growth and maturity in my Christian life when I refuse to persevere. If I choose not to persevere, then I could be choosing to miss out on all that Christ has in store for me.

So, I need to sacrifice my current comfort, my near pleasures, and my quick fixes for the promise of abiding joy, strength of character, and anticipated good outcome sometime in the future. This is hard work, and some days I don’t think I have it in me, but I feel called to persevere to obtain the best that God has to offer.

What are you being called to persevere in?

Jesus Is Personal and Ordinary And That Is Extraordinary

I can probably name all of the appearances Jesus made after his resurrection. What I haven’t done is analyze the context of his appearances. He didn’t come busting through walls like the Kool Aid man, he never wowed anyone first with a fancy trick, he refrained from personal confrontation. Instead, he did the following:

  • He visited his friends. Jesus’ resurrected body was not a apparition or a ghost, he wasn’t around to haunt his enemies or confront those that sent him to death. He preferred to reassure Thomas, reconcile with Peter, and comfort Mary.
  • He preferred to be barely noticed. Mary mistook him for a gardener, the friends on the road to Emmaus spent miles with him and didn’t notice who he was, and he tarried in the distance cooking breakfast while the disciples fished.
  • The context of his appearances were rather ordinary. Appearing in a garden, walking along a road, preparing breakfast in the early morning, stopping by in an upper room. These were just normal locations in normal settings. There was nothing sensational or amazing about the context of the conversation or the encounter.

Frederick Buechner, our great theologian of the midst of life, states:

In other words, it is precisely at such times as these that Jesus is apt to come, into the very midst of life at its most real and inescapable. Not in a blaze of unearthly light, not in the midst of a sermon, not in the throes of some kind of religious daydream, but…supper time, or walking along a road. This is the element that all the stories about Christ’s return to life have in common….

The sacred moments, the moments of miracle, are often the everyday moments, the moments which, if we do not look with more than our eyes or listen with more than our ears reveal only… the gardener, a stranger coming down the road behind us, a meal like any other meal. But if we look with our hearts…what we may see is Jesus himself, what we may hear is the first faint sound of a voice somewhere deep within us saying that there is a purpose in this life, in our lives…

black vehicle on brown raw road

Photo by Vikas Sawant on Pexels.com

I find it reassuring that I am more likely to encounter Jesus as I drive and walk into my workplace than I am in some burst of knowledge or words written in the sky. Also, that Jesus is concerned about the ordinary and even seems to prefer it. He certainly can use the miraculous and the profound but he isn’t above using a meal or some kids running around or an ordinary argument among friends.

We could be missing God’s voice and purposes and direction because we expect something grander and amazing. Perhaps Jesus wants us to recognize “the miracle of one instance of our precious life to the miracle of the next.”

A Simple Go To Prayer To Do Right Now

My go to prayer the past few weeks is incredibly simple. It only has three lines but in those three lines, I am able to express faith in God’s power, intercession for others, and a hope for a glorious future.

I discovered the prayer from listening to an audio version of James Bryan Smith’s book, The Magnificent Journey. I have now adapted the prayer to include myself, activities, and difficult situations. The prayer goes like this:

Father, may your will be done in ___________’s life today.

May _________ be well today.

May _________ find Joy and Peace today.

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Photo by Luis Quintero from Pexels

First, I am praying that what God wants done is done in this person’s life. That they have nothing happen to them that is not what God intends. Sometimes, I will drop the use of the word “today” and include a time more specific or open ended.

Second, I am praying for their body and spirit to be protected and whole. I am praying that their thinking not be distorted or misguided and that God provides fullness and fulfillment in their life.

Third, I pray that what becomes a reality in their life is a sense of ultimate well being and a contentment in their circumstances. I am praying that what truly satisfies is present and that God’s presence reminds them of all that is good and possible in this life for today and for all their days.

Perhaps the true effectiveness of this prayer is not in the words but in the simplicity and ease of it. I quickly memorized it and began saying it throughout my day. Almost once an hour, I will say the prayer for a person, then myself, and then a situation I find myself in. Even if I am horribly distracted, burdened, or upset, I am usually able to slow down and voice this prayer for those three things.

If you need a recharge to your prayer life or struggle to know what to pray for, I would encourage you to try this prayer. It has been a profound part of my spiritual life over the last month.

 

A Little Light, A Big Legacy

Jean Vanier died last week. You may not know his name or what he committed his life to but you should.

More than 50 years ago, he started the L’Arche movement of care for the mentally handicapped. Before Vanier came along, these people most likely would have lived in sanitariums and treated more like animals than human beings. Vanier decided to take a few into his home and treat them with tenderness, with love, and with a sense of openness to learn from them as much as they might learn from him. Today, L’Arche is all over the world and is a reminder of our need to love people that we find different, that annoy us, that might even disgust us.

Vanier never wanted L’Arche to be a franchise of facilities. Instead, he referred to L’Arche as a “sign not a solution.” I love that. Why must we constantly find methods, programs, and solutions when reality shows us that quick fixes rarely come and the true value is in the present, where God is and does his work.

Vanier says about L’Arche, “I don’t want to change the world, but I can change myself. We can be little lights of love. L’Arche can be little places where people love each other and never hit the headlines but that is okay.”

A quote from his book, Becoming Human

Vanier loved the word “little.” In an interview with Krista Tippitt, he stated that, “What is important is to become a little friend of Jesus.” What I think that means is to find a simplicity in Jesus and his approach to his life and ministry. To find friendship in Jesus’ presence and guidance and ways of living. If you have ever worked with the mentally handicapped, you know this kind of little friendship of big hugs, warm smiles, words of endearment, and pats on the head.

It is also important to lessen our drive to understand everything. Vanier would say that we are not intended to know everything and, in fact, our knowledge could be a detriment to us doing what we truly need to do. “If we know too much, it might cut us away from being present and available,” Vanier said.

Vanier has taught us to accept what we can’t understand and to not miss an opportunity to love what is right in front of us:

“We should love reality and not live in the imagination of what could have been and what should have been. God is present in reality and we can live that reality with the needs we have. We can trust God in that reality.”

If you want to hear more from Vanier, I couldn’t recommend this interview highly enough. I have listened to this three or four times in the last few weeks. He expounds on the equilibrium that handicapped people bring to society, the need for tenderness, and the vulnerability of God. Listen to it now.

What You Cannot Do

Have you ever thought about the power that man has?

Man can create, organize, build, and achieve but man can also destroy. Man’s power to destroy is constantly on display. From bomb marked city-scapes to scandals that take down entire corporations, there seems no end to man’s power to destroy. Man can also destroy marriages, friendships, families, and themselves.

Frederick Buechner points out that man’s power, as great as it is, only works from the outside, externally. “A man has power from the outside to push, pull, prod, and mold other men to his liking, for his good or for theirs, but it is only the outside of these other men that his power can affect.” Buechner goes on to illustrate that the most powerful person in the world, as great as this person’s influence and control, still couldn’t satisfy the deepest longing of his own personal soul or that of anyone else’s. The longing that each of us has for love, for deep peace, and meaning can never be satisfied by man’s efforts, no matter the autonomy, freedom, or power. “All man’s power is powerless because at its roots, of course, the deepest longing of the human soul is the longing for God, and this no man has the power to satisfy.”

electric electricity high voltage line industry

Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán on Pexels.com

The Bible makes the bold claim that God is love. Dwell on that claim for a second. If this is true then all forms of love that we have as humans, as distorted as they may be, does not come from ourselves but are a reflection of God’s love. In other words, love is not one of man’s powers. Man can only yield its power externally but cannot reach into the heart, to our deepest selves, only God can do that. This is his power to satisfy and to bring true healing, to bring life-giving love, to hold things together, to restore.

Trying to operate in man’s power to achieve what only God can bring will only cause your world to feel small, closed in, and dark. But the power of God’s love expands your world, opens you up to receive love from others, brings light to the dark, helps you get up when you are down and generates peace when it is nowhere to be found.

Ultimately, which would you rather have? Man’s power or God’s power?

I’ll Take The Blame

I originally posted this two Easters ago but it is such a great reminder for me I may just make it an Easter tradition.

I have spent so much time in the last few months reflecting on the teachings and miracles of Jesus that I felt like I was ill prepared for Easter week. I wanted to feel connected to the reality of Jesus’ last days, his crucifixion, and resurrection. I immediately thought of a book I read several years back called Unapologetic by Francis Spufford. His chapter on Jesus is one of the most powerful things I have ever read. His description of Jesus’ crucifiction is the kind of raw, stark, and beautiful thing I needed this week. So, I thought I would share a few of Spufford’s words and offer a little meditation for us to get in line with the level of love and sacrifice present in Easter week. More to come this week.spufford

Daylight finds him in a procession again, but this time no one could mistake him for a king. He’s stumbling along under the weight of his own instrument of execution, a great big wooden thing he can hardly lift, with an escort of the empire’s soldiers, and the bystanders who’ve come blinking out of the lodgings where they spent the festival night don’t see their hopes, or even the possibility of their hopes, parading by. They see their disappointment, they see their frustration…

Place yourself in the crowd that morning. What is going through your head as Jesus stumbles by? Are you saddened? Angry? Ashamed? Disappointed? Relieved? Glad? Are you being swept away by the jeers and cat calls from those around you? Do you want to spit at him like the person beside you? Or are tears rolling down your face? The pure humiliation of Jesus’ parade through the streets is shocking compared to the promise of just a few days before. Isn’t that just like us humans. We will turn on a person for no good reason other than our personal preferences weren’t met that day and we might as well take it out on something or someone.

…he’s turning his bruised face toward the whole human crowd, past and present and to come, and accepting everything we have to throw at him, everything we fear we deserve ourselves. The doors of his heart are wedged open wide, and in rushes the whole pestilential flood, the vile and roiling tide of cruelties and failures and secrets. Let me take that from you, he is saying. Give that to me instead. Let me carry it. Let me be to blame instead. I am big enough. I am wide enough. I am not what you were told… I am the father who longs for every last one of his children. I am the friend who will never leave you. I am the light behind the darkness…

What do you fear you deserve? What has my sin done? What should be in store for me? Jesus takes the blame. He embraces our faults and takes them in on himself. That is the picture of Jesus as he heads to the cross.

 

 

When Adults Are Dumb

Have you seen the Still Face experiment? It is movingly powerful. It shows a mom and baby happily interacting, connecting and enjoying each other’s company. Then the mom is instructed to turn back to the child with zero expression on her face. Then for two minutes the infant starts to stress out and is visibly disturbed that the mom is not showing the affectionate attention that the baby expects. The point is to show the power of engaged, loving attention and the damage it can cause when it is not present. (See the video below)

I had this video in the back of my mind recently when I read Mark 10, which contains two stories that seem to have nothing in common but actually are connected to one another beautifully. The first story is of Jesus surrounded by children who seem to be getting on the disciples last nerve. Then, in the story that follows, Jesus is approached by a young, rich and powerful man who wants to know the secrets to the spiritual life.

I had never compared and contrasted the story of Jesus with the little children and the story that follows it. In the first story, the children are being rebuked by the disciples but Jesus makes the statement that no one will enter the Kingdom of God unless they receive it like little children. He says that the Kingdom of God belongs to “such as these.” You see, these children couldn’t stay away from Jesus. There was something about the way that Jesus interacted and accepted them that seemed to make all of the difference in the world, despite the disapproval of the adults on the scene.

If the point of the scene with the children is hard to grasp, it is perfectly illustrated by the story of the rich young man. He is an obedient, faithful person who still wants more and can’t even recognize when what he wants is right in front of him. In a moment of tenderness, Jesus even looks on him and scripture says, “loves him.” The children would have taken this look and that love and been perfectly content but the man ignores Jesus’ look of love and the words that come with it.

The man, the adult, has lost the ability to accept Jesus’ love and life as all that he needs. He has Jesus’ full attention and even an interaction of love and acceptance, exactly what the children knew was worth being present for, and that wasn’t enough.

For us, we dismiss the interactive, loving, and present Jesus for things that we conclude we really need. Instead of, with childlike eyes, take what is right in front of us. Our adult preferences, pride, and know-it-all nature cloud the simple, yet transformative, presence of Christ looking at us and loving us. Jesus’ look and love are enough, I don’t need to add-on to that.

Like a baby who craves a parent’s affectionate attention, what we need is Christ and his attention and he so longs to give it to us.