About Scott Jeffries

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

Smiling At Walmart

Inspired by some of Rob Walker’s ideas about The Art of Noticing, I have started a new practice that has helped me function in a very difficult place – Walmart.

As an introvert, I am often drained by crowds and as a burgeoning grumpy old man, I don’t like hassles and encountering difficult people and avoidable social irritations. So, I often avoid Walmart and its crowds and sensory overload and seek quicker and less intense locations.

But lately, I have begun visiting Walmart with a smile on my face. Not because I am naturally cheery or experiencing tremendous highs in my life but because smiling is a tactic against our fears and a salve against what can often be a rather sorrowful existence.

Has it made a difference? Has there been any noticeable effects to this practice?

Humorously, God has orchestrated strange encounters at the check out line that are hard to believe unless he had something to do with them. One time, I had someone, on a Saturday when the lines are the longest, notice that I had a few items compared to their basket and let me go ahead. Another time, someone apologized to me when they were holding up the line with all of their items. I said, “It is not a problem, you don’t come to Walmart on the Weekends expecting things to go quickly. I am fine.” Huh? Who is this guy and what are the words coming out of my mouth?

grocery cart with item

Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

Another time, a lady with a patch over her eye and who has clearly experienced healthier days noticed that I was getting some ice cream. She started to chat with me about the ice cream and I told her how much our daughters like ice cream. She was so pleased that I was getting this for them and said,”Well, I am sure they appreciate what a good dad you are.” What? You don’t know me lady or my parenting skills but that sure was encouraging.

Last week, it was my turn to hold up the line. Why? Because the check out lady and I couldn’t stop telling each other to have a good day. First, she praised me for getting to Walmart early and I stated that it helps to plan out these things but Walmart isn’t that bad. She said, “No, it is really not. There are a lot of good people here.” Then I said my goodbyes and wished her a nice day. She followed up with “have a nice day” even though she had already said it when she loaded my last item in the bag and when she gave me the receipt.

That is just the check out line. Smiling changes my mindset enough in the hustle and bustle of the aisles that instead of expecting the worst experience coming around the corner to the next aisle I find myself expecting a chance to smile at someone, to offer courtesy, and to assist someone trying to get something off the top shelf. I don’t have a scowl on my face trying to figure out how to maneuver to the piece of real estate that is most advantageous to me but am willing to offer someone else the lead and the opening needed to get that one item in that one place.

Who knew that simply smiling would make such a difference?

This whole experience has reminded me of what is taught by James Bryan Smith,”I am one in whom Christ dwells and delights and I live in the strong and unshakable Kingdom of God.” And the gates of hell, or Walmart, shall not prevail against it.

God Wants You To See Him

“God has better things to do…”

“Does God really care about…”

Many of us suffer from the false narrative that if God does exist he is so beyond our little sphere of knowing and belonging that we are largely incapable of seeing or experiencing him. Worse, we think that God doesn’t really want to be known and doesn’t really want to be seen; that he has much grander and majestic things to be doing than messing with our insignificant and measly lives.

But what if the exact opposite was true? What if God wishes to be known and is knowable? If we asked longtime knowers of him, would they tell us that God is seen everywhere?

Julian of Norwich beautifully states, “for God wishes to be seen, and he wishes to be sought, and he wishes to be expected, and he wishes to be trusted.” If this is true, then why is it so hard to see God? To think that he is even available to be seen?

This is the whole crux of the human story isn’t? Do you remember those Stereograms that were popular 20 years ago? The image appears to be just a mishmash of squiggles, shades, and patterns but if you look just right or long enough you can see a giraffe or a building or a mountain. The true image is hidden and not visible until the viewer can “see through” the lines and swirls. I have never been able to see the hidden images, not once. Does that mean that the image isn’t there? I doubt that everyone else is just lying to me about what they are seeing.

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Our preoccupation, our selfishness, our greed, and our contempt for others and even God keep us from seeing him and knowing him. God doesn’t force us to see because he wants us to have the freedom of thought and attention so when we do see him it is because we are truly and fervently seeking after him.

In The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard says, “No doubt God wants us to see him. That is part of his nature as outpouring love. Love always wants to be known. Thus he seeks for those who could safely and rightly worship him….The ability to see and the practice of seeing God and God’s world comes through a process of seeking and growing in intimacy with him.”

Yes, the more we Grow Up, the more we are able to see God and the more we are able to know God. But first, we have to believe that God wants to be seen and wants to be known.

Jesus once said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the father.” I would say the sheer fact of the incarnation of Jesus – his life, his miracles, his teachings and sacrifice – are evidence of God wanting to be seen. This is where we must start. Our God wants to be known and is knowable.

The Most Important Thing About You

The most important thing about you is who you are becoming.

The most important thing about you is not what you do for a living.

The most important thing about you is not what clothes you wear or your overall aesthetic.

The most important thing about you is not what people think of you.

The most important thing about you is not that everyone likes you.

The most important thing about you is who you are becoming.

The most important thing about you is not your strong ideals.

The most important thing about you is not your personal preferences.

The most important thing about you is not your stance on a social or political issue.

The most important thing about you is not who your favorite team is.

four people holding green check signs standing on the field photography

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The most important thing about you is who you are becoming.

The most important thing about you is not not drawing attention to yourself.

The most important thing about you is not having a dynamic group of friends.

The most important thing about you is not bucking trends.

The most important thing about you is not your personality type or Enneagram number.

The most important thing about you is who you are becoming.

The most important thing about you is not your “Previously Watched” list on Netflix.

The most important thing about you is not how many followers you have, who you influence, or how many likes you get.

The most important thing about you is not where you worship or which Bible Study you just finished.

The most important thing about you is not whether you can get alone time or find the next great event.

The most important thing about you is who you are becoming.

The most important thing about you is who you are becoming. Are you finding the good life that is marked by good things – faith, mercy, joy, justice? Do you reflect Jesus’ compassion, his willingness to be used by God no matter what that looked like to others, or his desire to help his friends. Is love, willing the good for others, a fruit of your daily existence? Do you seek what God wants done and go do it? Do you have tenderness when most would have judgement? Do you possess forgiveness where most would have resentment and hatred? What are you becoming?

I fail and I stumble and I screw up and I have deep regrets and I sometimes resemble the opposite of Christ but I pray and I read and I write and I exercise and I worship and I find someone to love because I follow Christ and want to be more like him. And by the grace of God I can become something more than this selfish, consumed by falsehoods, bitter, and full of sin person that exists now. That is what is most important.

What is the most important thing about you?

 

God Does Not Share Your Pessimism

The constant pull on the church is to drift in to secular modes of thinking. No, I am not talking about views on the latest social and culture trends that seem to cause ubiquitous fighting, name calling, and dismissive labeling. I am talking about the appalling lack of joy found among Christians and churches in general.

The sign of our times in America is to be outraged, to bemoan, to criticize, to choose doom and gloom. And Christians seem to be no different. Why is that?

Perhaps it is because we view God as a being like us – prone to eyerolls, in constant need to point out faults, a glutton for reasons to be annoyed, always ready to pass judgement. But this is not the God that we worship.

Dallas Willard says:

We should, to begin with, think that God leads a very interesting life, and that he is full of joy. Undoubtedly he is the most joyous being in the universe. The abundance of his love and generosity is inseparable from his infinite joy. All of the good and beautiful things from which we occasionally drink droplets of soul-exhilarating joy, God continuously experiences in all their breadth and richness.

God’s great pleasure is for you and me to experience his life of joy. This isn’t some by and by sentiment about the afterlife but even now, even 2019.

silhouette of person holding glass mason jar

Photo by Rakicevic Nenad on Pexels.com

Jesus says, “my peace I give to you, not as the world gives.” Jesus, himself, was a peaceful and joyous and creative person. He told his followers repeatedly that if you have seen him, you have seen the father. Jesus was not morose, frustrated and did not lose himself in pessimism; instead he comes off the pages of scripture as tender, loving, ready for a dinner with friends, joyously wanting to heal and change hearts.

We should not overlook the great problems and tragic circumstances of this world but our general state of being should not be doom and gloom but joy and peace. We have a God who is a joyous being and is awash in his good creation and desires our lives to be echoes of this reality and even bodily representations of it.

Let’s call the church and its members to a Grown Up view of God and our lives in the strong and unshakable and joyous Kingdom of God.

 

 

The Night I Learned What It Meant To Be A Dad

I wrote this a few years ago when Grace graduated from High School. I thought I would update it and share it again on her birthday.

Our first born turns 20 years old today. She is bright, hard working, mature, and brave. I am amazed at her growth and maturity. She is going to be a great adult.

My most vivid memory of Grace as a toddler involves the moment I feel I first became a Dad. Sure, I was a dad by function and circumstance but it was this incident that showed me what kids can do to you and how they can teach you profound lessons.

Grace was two years old and a pleasant kid despite the age. My wife had a weekend commitment and that meant that I was in charge of Grace for the night. I would have to feed her, get her ready for bed, and make sure nothing seriously went wrong.

I was, and still am, an incredibly self focused individual. All of this responsibility was incredibly inconvenient, hard, and was removing me from my own agenda and preferences. I was feeling sorry for myself and bitter towards my wife for leaving me alone for hours on end with this bundle of demands, irrational behavior, and diapers. As the evening progressed, my plan was to do what I had to do and then get her in bed as soon as possible so I could be free of all of this annoying responsibility.

We lived in a duplex at the time and our neighbors had a toddler size play set out front complete with a slide. They were kind enough to allow us to use the play set whenever we liked. After I fed Grace, we went outside and she started to play and slide and slide and slide. At first, I thought this was a great way to occupy her before bed and I wouldn’t have to entertain her and I would soon be on to my own agenda. But something changed in the course of a few moments.

GRace

I think I first noticed her smile. Each time she went down that little slide, she had the most joyful grin on her face. It was infectious and I started to smile along with her. I began to notice everything, I noticed her joy, her beautifully cute hands and feet as she went about play. I noticed the way she completely lived in the present. Then I noticed the incredibly perfect night that enveloped us. West Texas sunsets are the best in the world and this night’s sunset was a masterpiece. The coolness of the early spring evening was so pleasant I wanted to soak in it.

Slowly, I began to live completely in the present myself.  This moment was beyond anything I could have ever concocted. This little girl was mine and she was planted on this earth to show me a side of love, compassion, and sacrifice that is unique to parents. I became a Dad that evening because there was nothing I wanted more than to have a thousand more moments like that night. To share a bond that only a parent and a child can experience. To recognize what family means on a heart level and not just a surface level.

I am grateful for that little girl teaching me this lesson and for the lessons she has taught me the following 18 years. Hopefully, I have taught her a few lessons and given her a few priceless moments along the way as well.

You Are Doing The Enneagram Wrong

People can’t get enough of the Enneagram. Two of our daughters have taken multiple tests, share memes and posts related to their Enneagram type, and like to discuss their type frequently. Podcasts and books abound discussing the Enneagram and how our knowledge of the 9 types found in it can shape our work, relationships, and potential success. I am attending a conference in September and an intensive workshop on the Enneagram is already sold out.

The fadishness of The Enneagram means that we can lose sight of the true value of this particular personality marker. Unlike other personality inventories, the Enneagram numbers are not designed to be a fixed style (like Myers Briggs) but help explain why you do what you do. In other words, the best use of the Enneagram is to help a person become a more whole and integrated version of themselves, taking in some of the best aspects of the other number types to be the best version of ourselves we can be. Our Enneagram number has its positives and its negatives. In our best moments, we take on the best characteristics of our type but their is a dark side to our type that is unhealthy and can be damaging to ourselves and others.

For example, I am predominately a 5 which means that I can be perceptive and full of insight but when I am not doing well I can be stingy, greedy, and unwilling to extend myself in useful ways. What I see many people who have started dabbling in the Enneagram do when they find out their type is to over identify with it and use it to label themselves and others. They spout off about their type and treat it like a limiting, predictor of the future that everyone should take notice so that we know what to expect in all situations. I refuse to let our 11 year old take any kind of Enneagram quiz because at her age, nothing is set in stone and I don’t want her as a pre-teen already thinking that she is this kind of person or that kind of person with little hope for growth or transformation.

The best resources on the Enneagram are ones that discuss it as a tool of transformation. As a 5, I collect knowledge and observe but my best version is becoming a person that is generous with myself and my time so that my knowledge is shared and let loose for the benefit of others. I have to be more vulnerable and transparent. It is not about losing my characteristics but enhancing them and transforming them with traits that may be easier for other Enneagram types. Each Enneagram number has a shadow issue that is not intended to stay and fester but be changed so that more virtues are present.

So go take all of the Enneagram tests you can find but use the knowledge you gain to begin Growing Up. Take that awareness as a means to discover more of yourself so that you can love God and love others to the best of your ability. Remove the 21st Century tendency toward narcissism and instead find a way to become a better you for the benefit of those around you.

*Jan Johnson‘s work on the Enneagram was helpful in formulating this post. Other resources I would recommend are The Essential Enneagram by David Daniels and Virginia Price and Donald Miller’s interviews with Ian Cron on the Building a Storybrand podcast.

National Be With God Day

On July 17, you should have eaten a Hot Dog while getting a Tattoo. You should have done this because that day was both National Hot Dog Day and National Tattoo Day.

Recently, I was trying to explain Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday, Lent, and Bastille Day to one of our daughters. As I haphazardly tried to teach her I realized that humans have a penchant for marking days and finding deep meaning in anniversaries and special occasions.

I would like to declare a special day for today – National Be With God Day. We have religious holidays and national holidays and ridiculous holidays. But what if Christians set a side a day a year to be with God? Not to go to church (though some may want to), not to perform some ministry task or service project (though some may want to), and not to just pray (though some may want to). What I am talking about is just a day dedicated to be with God in all the ways that you can. Here are some ideas to fill your day with God:

person holding pen and planner

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  • invite God into your day by asking him to join you in your activities
  • consider a promise from God and adopt that promise as your mantra for the day
  • spend 10 minutes in nature noticing everything you can about God’s creation
  • be with God before being with your phone. Create a habit of talking and hearing from God before talking and hearing from anyone else
  • take the slow lane and drive the speed limit, reminding yourself that Christ is with you and hurry and busyness are often ways to avoid being with God
  • examine your day – where was God present? how open were you to his presence?when did you miss the mark?
  • cut something out of your routine to allow more space and reliance on God. This could be cutting out a meal or the media you usually consume or an activity that is usually scheduled for that day. Rely on God for your fulfillment and not external things
  • set a timer on your phone so that when it goes off you can remember to thank God for all the blessings that are provided for you
  • read a Psalm, not for deep knowledge but for comfort and encouragement. Let the words soak over you to bring you inspiration

I promise you that if you commit a day to be with God, you will find an activity or practice that will impact your day and bring you closer to God. In the words of Jan Johnson, “Do what you can and not what you can’t,” and see where God takes you as you dedicate 24 hours to being with Him.

It might be one of your favorite days of the year.

 

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.