About Scott Jeffries

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

A Part of My Story: The Breakdown

My stomach hurt, my neck was constantly stiff, I was exhausted all the time. The weight of the world, at least my world, was on my shoulders. I was trying to finish Grad School, my job kept me occupied nights, weekends, and holidays, and my wife and I had a small child that was just a year old. I was trying to make a career, a life, a future for my family, but it was so hard and so strained and full of pressure. I was drowning under all of the responsibility. I kind of bottomed out emotionally.

For some reason, several months before, I had signed up to be a part of a training as a Challenge Course facilitator. Since this training was being done on the campus where I worked I got to spend a week being paid to be outside, to use my body, to work as a team with people, to challenge myself in ways that were different for me.  In a way that only God could orchestrate, even though I had signed up months before, the training occurred when I was at my lowest point.

Throughout that week, through God’s grace and all of the finer qualities of the training, my load began to lighten and I was given space to breathe, to think, to pray, and to listen. Christ was there waiting for me. What he wanted to tell me was this, “You have tried to manage your life on your own, why don’t you consider putting me on the throne of your life. Why don’t you let me run things for a change? Do you understand what is possible if you truly trusted me for everything?

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I can’t remember one moment or one spiritual experience that revealed this to me. It was more like walking through a darkened corridor, like at a theater or stadium, that opens up to a bright, awe inspiring, and dynamic setting and experience. Everything was different because Christ was illuminating everything around me. All things were dripping with his presence, warmth, and love. All I knew was I had found what I was looking for and it was like I was putting on glasses for the first time and could see clearly. Christ had broken through my darkness and depression and had even used that darkness to make me reach out to Him in my desperation.

I had replaced myself from the throne of my life and placed Christ there. I had never felt so free. Everything changed from that moment. It all happened so easy yet seemed like a long, winding journey.

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A Part of My Story: Taking The Disabled To Church

When I was in college, I used to work at a facility for the mentally handicapped. I often worked on the weekends and one of my favorite duties was taking a group of the residents to church. It was a small Baptist church where our little gaggle of adults almost made up a third of the congregation.

I loved these times because it taught me quite a bit about what Christ intended his church to be about. Let me explain:

  • Acceptance – This little church embraced these 10-15 mentally handicapped adults as part of their family. Our group wasn’t stuck in some corner somewhere so that most of the congregation could steer clear of us. No, we were front and center. The church members knew our people and considered them friends, not charity cases.

Survey: Church Congregations More Racially Diverse, Open to Homosexual Members | TGC | The ...

  • Praise and worship – I don’t usually connect much with worship music and singing but I always had such a good time singing with my challenged friends. They knew how to worship. Nothing held them back. They swayed, they belted the songs out, and legitimately were enjoying themselves. It was authentic, in the truest sense. It was joyful, unlike any kind of joyful you have ever experienced in church.
  • An image of heaven – One Sunday morning, I looked around me and just took in the scene of my friends singing and worshiping and thought, “this is probably what heaven will look like. People of all states, colors, sizes, and ability praising our God.” I came to the realization that heaven won’t have the homogenized, cookie cutter feel of most our churches. Heaven will be more like a feast where the invitations were sent far and wide and in every neighborhood. Every race, color, mental capacity, social class, and ability will be represented and we will gladly join with each other in worship and praise.

The images and remembrances of these times have stuck with me, even 20 years later. Since then, I have had a soft spot for those in church who don’t fit our expectations, or cause a disruptions or two, or lack proper decorum. If the church isn’t for these people, then who is it for?

A Part of My Story: Discovery On Fisk Avenue

I went to a small Baptist college in a small town in central Texas.

Down the street from my college was a Presbyterian church. I had recently been reading a lot of Frederick Buechner and Thomas Merton and was fascinated by their spiritual journeys. Both of them came to conversion in their early to mid-twenties and something about their story resonated with me. I desired a deeper spiritual journey and like Buechner and Merton, thought I needed a change of scenery, a new religious path, something different to align myself with.

My evangelical, Baptist exposure from the early 1990s wasn’t doing it for me. I began to visit this Presbyterian church on a regular basis. The minister of the church was named Norbert and he preached with an intelligent but not cold style that reminded me of Buechner. I appreciated his understated spirituality that seemed to shape who he was not just what he did in his position. He was a minister, not just a CEO in a robe.

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But what truly reached me from these services was the recitation of scripture, prayers and the Apostle’s Creed. Joining the whole congregation in words of confession, statements of belief, and prayers that have been recited for hundreds of years connected me to something that was bigger than myself. I liked the feeling of standing my ground and announcing my faith and joining others in a prayer that didn’t have to go through a human filter but was the very words of Christ that he told us to pray.

There was a real plan to this church service that didn’t require a grandiose vision or human charisma. Human charisma is usually not sustained from week to week.

Was it stale and stuffy? Yeah, but I felt a part of the service, a part of the worship. I wasn’t just a consumer. I was joining the saints around the world who were saying the same prayers and making the same stand. That felt right to me and shook me out of my college-aged tendency to make everything about how I felt about it.

What did this affection for a more liturgical approach mean for me? Where would this take my spiritual journey?

 

The Problem With Celebrity Pastors

The problem with celebrity pastors is that whether they chased celebrity to begin with or it found them, maintaining celebrity requires feeding a public that no matter what they say, probably aren’t supremely interested in the integrity of the Gospel. If you are a celebrity pastor and your next steps are pushing away from Christ, then you need to ask yourself if you are feeding the needs of the public or the needs of the Kingdom of God. There is nothing wrong with a platform that is relevant but that platform should never come at the cost of your calling to the church and the power of the Gospel. Yes, I am talking to you Carl Lentz, Robert Jeffress, Brian Mclaren, and Ed Young.

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I have a lot of admiration for Rick Warren, the author of The Purpose Driven Life. Finding another best seller to match the success of Purpose Driven Life never seemed to be of great interest to him. Since his best seller was released, he has developed movements for community ministry and international relief. He has published books on healthier living and on life’s tough questions. But I never get the sense that he feels the need to top himself, to feed his celebrity. It still seems like Warren is a pastor at heart and the steps he has taken since he became famous have been to carry on his pastor role and to honor what God wants from his life.

How To Pray When Someone Else Is Praying

You are in a group or at a public event and someone besides yourself is praying. What do you do? Do you just sit there and hope it doesn’t go too long? Do you nod your head and make sounds of agreement? Do you try to hang onto every word and pretend that the words are your own?

My mind has a tendency to wander during these times of prayer. But, lately, I have used a different tactic that has brought life and power back to these times of prayer. While the other person is praying, I will use their words to guide my own conversation with God. I let there be a real interplay between the other person’s words and my own. In normal life, you can’t have two people speaking to another at the same time but God certainly can handle it. If this doesn’t make sense let me give you an example.

Person Praying: Lord, will you provide your power to help Joe with his job situation…

Me (silently): Father, Joe has been through so much, give him better days and show me how I can help him.

You simply let the person praying give you an outline or a prompt and you join in the prayer with your own silent prayers and petitions.

This process sounds hard and difficult, especially if you think you need intense focus for your own prayers. I am not good at multiple things at once but this has been very natural and easy for me. It is something that I look forward to and keeps me engaged and connected to God during public prayer.

Try it the next time you are in church or even at the dinner table.

 

How to Read the Bible

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  1. Read it everyday. I don’t want you to find a reading plan, I just want you to read it everyday. This could mean you read the same chapter five days in a row. This could mean that you meditate, memorize, and mark up one verse for a week. The point is to interact and to be exposed to scripture everyday. We often treat Bible reading like an exercise program, and there is some value to that, but for most of us, we would rather not exercise but do it because it is good for us or we are trying to reach some goal. I may not want to run but I should want to hear from God in scripture. So, we should expose ourselves to it as much as we can and make it a part of us rather than a compartmentalized aspect of our day.
  2. Accept the mystery. If you are struggling to understand scripture then join the club. Don’t let your pastor or your super religious friends on Facebook present an approach to scripture that always ends in certainty. Mystery is built into scripture by God. Why? So when things are revealed to us, that revelation is so sweet and so profound it brings out praise and glory to God. Also, for some reason, God wants us to wrestle with our faith. That means we have to wrestle with the words we find on the page at times. If everything was crystal clear to us then we would have moved on from reading and embracing scripture long ago and have no need for it.
  3. Read it aloud and with others. I have a tendency to romanticize monastic life but one aspect that I know I would enjoy would be the practice of reading scripture during meals. In some monasteries, during a meal, the monks will eat in silence except for one monk reading from scripture. Because of Evangelical’s obsession with our “quiet time,” we think that scripture reading is an individual, solitary activity. For most of church history, the only way you were able to hear scripture is when someone else read it to you. I think there could be great benefit to this.
  4. Act it out. I am serious. Think about those times you have been in a Bible Study, maybe as a youth, and a group had to act out whatever scripture was being covered that day. You remember that story don’t you. The scripture became embodied for you. I have acted out the Psalms in the past and the practice is very powerful. This doesn’t have to be a group thing, it just needs to put you in a different posture concerning scripture so that the words and messages are enlivened for you. Try it with the Psalms and you will know what I am talking about.

Why I Am Married To My Wife

There are many reasons why I am married to my wife, Leah. Here is an example of one.

Leah is one of the most compassionate people I know. She channels that compassion into wonderful acts of service and love. She genuinely seeks ways to make life better for people. She once led the food service at a community ministry that served free lunch to homeless, poor families, and the like. She turned that place into a home kitchen with so much love and care and free hugs that what could have been a very condescending and transactional ministry was turned into a real family atmosphere.

What is so great about my relationship with her is that the things that make her great – compassion, gentleness, service – are exactly the things that I often lack. And the good qualities that I possess – being well read, having wisdom, and being thoughtful – are the areas where she could use some help.

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How this plays out most effectively is when I am too much in my head and making my faith a spiritual exercise, Leah comes along and reminds me that there are people in need and we need to be willing to do something for them and find ways to serve. And when she needs to press pause on life and breakneck times of service, I remind her that God is waiting to just spend some time with her and to speak to her just one on one without all of the activity.

God knew what he was doing when he put us together. With the help of each other we become better people. What a wonderful gift this is.

What Is It Like To Be A Christian In 2017?

For me, being a true follower of Christ in 2017 means…

  • Lots of prayer. The tragedies in our back yard and close at hand call for countless prayers to be offered and questions to be answered.
  • Soul searching. With so much divisiveness and loss and heartbreak that I have faced personally and many people are facing collectively. I have to ask myself what is my role to play? How am I complicit to many of the wrongs around us and how can I make an impact to spread the Kingdom of God?
  • Confronting fear. What are Christians so afraid of? We should be the least fearful people on the planet. The strong and unshakeable Kingdom of God is a perfectly safe place to be. Christ has defeated death and we can start to experience the eternal life now.
  • Being true to the Gospels. Every time I see Christianity wrapped up in politics I long to return to the Gospels and read what Jesus found to be most important and what he asked us to do. I want that to shape me, not an Americanized version that vaguely uses Jesus as a way to push personal agendas.
  • Being counter-cultural. The times in history when Christianity has been the most potent and effective are the times when it was on the margins and not front and center and obligatory. All of the tools that seduce the culture – power, media, institutions and bombast are not the tools that Jesus used. I need to study and embrace prayer, peace, silence, Sabbath, and worship and let these things work through the power of Christ, even if the world sees no value in them.

Photo by Elijah Henderson on Unsplash

Confessions of A Sour Face, Part Two

As I mentioned in my last post, I have a certain surface quality that doesn’t immediately endear myself to people. I also mentioned that this bothers me and makes me think of things I need to do to make myself appear more friendly and approachable. But, I realized that this is foolish.

One of the speakers at the Apprentice Gathering Conference that our Community got to participate in led us through an active imagination exercise. She asked us to close our eyes and imagine that there is a figure standing in front of us and when that figure turns around we realize that it is ourselves. This version of ourselves that is in front of us is holding a gift in their hand and begins to hand us the gift.

The problem was, in my imagination, I could never turn around. This version of myself that was supposed to hand me a gift would never turn around. It was very strange. Mind you, I don’t over-spiritualize situations but this was just really odd. It is my imagination, why would it be blocked from showing me myself and what was in my hand?

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Move to the following Sunday in my own church’s service. The sermon is over and the ritual that our church follows is a song is sung and people are given a chance to respond to the message.  During these times, sometimes I pray, sometimes I am silent, and sometimes I sing. This time, I bowed my head and closed my eyes. What did I see? I saw Christ handing me a gift!

I am not trying to be cute or trying to be dramatic or trying to be overly spiritual, this is what I saw.

What does it mean?

Remember that I went into the Gathering in Wichita discussing with some friends how I get frustrated by how people respond to me and often have a negative reaction. As the week went along and I had moments with God to reflect on these things and got to listen to strong teaching on struggle and forgiveness I started to realize something. God has made me how I am for a purpose and he wants to use who and how I am for his glory. I didn’t need to get in touch with myself to understand this, I needed to get in touch with Christ. Whatever gift my imaginary self was wanting to give me was not what I needed to receive. What I needed to receive was the gift of Christ and all that he has to offer. That is where I will find fulfillment, understanding, love, acceptance, and purpose.

I may have a sour face but Christ needs to use me the way that I am and that was a rich lesson to learn. I don’t need other’s approval and admiration. God will provide what I need and when I need it. I can quit trying to fix my face and keep working, with Christ’s transformation, on my heart. Then I will be the Christ that only I can be.

Confessions of A Sour Face, Part One.

“You are hard to read;” “You aren’t the most expressive person;””I thought you were mean the first time I met you;””Does he ever talk?”

These are quotes that have been said about me over the span of my life, some within the last week. On a regular basis, I hear from people about my “look.” Apparently, my face does not provide a very comforting, welcoming, or friendly sense in others. And because first impressions are so hard to move away from, it takes a lot of work on my part to guide people towards a truer sense of who I am.

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I have asked myself what is wrong with me? I have tried to even change the position of my mouth to a more smiling posture but that can’t be sustained over long periods of time and seems so fake.

I mentioned this aspect of my existence to some of my friends at the Apprentice Experience. One friend said that these reactions to me was a form of persecution. He said that I was being persecuted for righteousness sake. I guess he meant that because I care more about who I truly am in Christ rather than how I look to others, I wasn’t playing an image management game that seems to be so important to most of the world and I was paying the price for it. He may have overstated things a bit but it got me thinking. Should I work to make sure I am projecting an image that appeases the world’s need for me to look and behave a certain way at all times or should I focus on the inside and Christ’s transformation in me and let people’s perception take care of itself?

The ironic thing is that I am more friendly, outgoing, and enthusiastic than I used to be. Honestly, I consider this a minor miracle and a sign of Christ’s transformation in my life. Still, it bothers me when I hear the comments like those above and I wonder what am I supposed to do?

In my next post, I will tell what happened in Kansas and shortly thereafter that gave me my answer to my dilemma.