The Journey With My Best Friend

IMG_1518_Fotor18 years ago today, I married my best friend.  Danielle is one of the most remarkable individuals I know. She is gifted in so many areas, but the grace she walks in never ceases to amaze me. Danielle has the keen ability to put herself in other’s shoes and feel their joy and pain; she always responds in a way that is loving, truthful, and just.  She is my wife, my companion, my lover, and my partner on the journey God has called us on. She is my barometer; my faith in the Lord is my strongest gift, because He blessed me with a woman who is always willing to challenge my ideas and push me towards Him.

The journey thus far would be labeled by many as unstable, yet they only look at the things of this world to determine stability. Danielle and I look to the Lord as our rock and each other (our family) as the stability the Lord has blessed us with.  We have;

  • Lived in 14 different houses or apartments
  • Bought and sold 2 houses
  • walked through 2 miscarriages
  • had 2 amazing daughters that are created in God’s image and a blessing
  • ran a full marathon together
  • worked together as a team in ministry and continue to
  • lived in Florida, Michigan, and Texas
  • walked through significant joy and pain, and sometimes at the same time
  • worked through arguments and rough patches
  • lived life not for ourselves, but for the Lord
  • had too many cats and 2 dogs
  • a loving and mutually respected marriage, that is built on serving each other and not our own needs
  • walked through this marriage as a team, stronger together, and always will until the Lord chooses to bring us to our forever home.
  • chosen a simple life, one with fewer distractions so we focus on our family’s relationships.

We live life with minimal rules to keep things as simple as possible. Our two rules are simply to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind, and to never do anything that would cause resentment between each other. Resentment is the seed of hate, the seed that destroys respect. I will never say we have been perfect in this area, but the Lord has blessed our efforts with grace for each other.

Danielle, you are not my rock, you are not my source, but you are the one who God has blessed me with to walk this time on earth with and you are the one who deserves my faithful and consistent love, respect, and protection. You are an amazing woman, whom I am blessed to share a bed with;).

I Love you,

Scott

The Ending and Beginning of Seasons

seasons_FotorThis morning I have found myself reflecting on all the amazing things that have happened over the past 9 years in Hudsonville.  We have made amazing friends, have been blessed with an amazing church family, are close to family, been a part of an incredible running group, and have been blessed beyond what we could ever imagine. And now the season is coming to a close…and honestly, it hurts…beyond words.  But, I find rest and peace in the fact my Father knows and feels what I feel.

I want to honor some of the people who have had an impact on my life in a significant way…Please know that if you have been a part of my life (even if you haven’t) I love you. If you know me, you know I believe we were all created in God’s image and worth loving.

Wes Dupin: Wes gave me an opportunity of a lifetime by introducing me to a man who has become a significant friend and influence in my life; Bill Clark and Hope Water Project. Wes saw this amazing running team (HWP) that had a vision for something greater than any single church could accomplish.  He gave me the opportunity to start and lead Team Daybreak, which will go down as being one of the most impactful things in my life. We saw physical, emotional, and significant spiritual breakthrough as a team, and it was all because he gave me an opportunity.  Wes gave me another opportunity that would change the course of my life forever; the ability to lead Student Ministries for Daybreak. There is no way I can explain the impact that every student and volunteer leader had on me.  Because, Wes believed in me.

Bill Clark: Bill inspired and will continue to inspire me in many ways.  Mostly, because he is willing to listen and take action from his Heavenly Father, but at the same time is very open with the struggles that go along with sacrifice.  Bill makes the right choices for the strength and growth of his family and I get to call him my friend.

Julie Albright: Julie was my first “target” for Team Daybreak.  Eventually I wore Julie down and she agreed to run the Grand Rapids 1/2 Marathon (not sure she will ever fully forgive me for that one).  Julie has the amazing ability to serve both her family and her church with great balance.  This is a skill I needed to grow in, and Julie was a great example to watch and learn from.  She was always fully engaged in Student Ministries and seeing her small group grow and develop.  I love Julie’s sarcastic sense of humor and her love for her husband and kids.

The Sierra Leone Team (Ron, Todd, Matt, Harvey, Jada, Vanessa, Steve, and Jon): This was an amazing missions team.  This group truly put personal preferences aside and put the team first.  I have never been a part of a team who cared for each other more and was willing to compromise to maintain unity.  This team heeded Paul’s wisdom in Ephesians 4:3, “Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.”

Daybreak’s Student Ministry Team (Jon, Deb, and Danielle): Combined, we had a total of 1 years worth of formal student ministry experience, but this was an amazing group. Why was it so amazing?  Every team member understood their need for God’s wisdom. We were able to learn together, fall together, learn from our mistakes, rejoice in our wins, but most of all follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance in what He wanted to do in the life of the students.

Bailey Moseler and Jada Murphy: Two unique and gifted young ladies.  Both with amazing gifts and talents, who are doing their best to navigate a difficult world while serving Jesus.  Do not give in, do not compromise, when you fall down, get back up, have grace for yourself, and follow Jesus to the ends of this earth.  You will make a difference in this world.  Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your life at a very significant time…and this does not mean it is ending.  🙂

Jeff Moseler: We all have best friends but, Jeff is a true friend, because he cares about my soul and my relationship with Jesus.  He always challenges me through our ridiculous and fun philosophical conversations.

Jeff Leys: You are a true friend.  One who stretches, strengthens, challenges, and helps me be a better person.  You have taught me more than you will ever know and will hopefully continue to do so.  I love you brother!

Danielle, Riley, and Sidney: Danielle is the love of my life and someone I am incredibly thankful for.  From early on in our marriage she always said there could be no opportunity for resentment and that is one reason our relationship is what it is.  We are surrounded by broken and hurt marriages, which makes me all the more thankful for my amazing wife.  My daughters are amazing young ladies, who God has blessed me with.  They are treasures that I will protect with my life and a few weapons of choice.  I am so thankful for their willingness to follow God’s plan for our family.

The rest of my family and friends: Thank you for your support, prayers, and encouragement.  Without that, it would make all of our journeys a lot harder.  We should never look at each other’s path with jealousy or disdain, but only prayer, support, and encouragement.  God has created us all unique and together, if we allow Him, He will use us for His eternal purposes.  We are the Body!

There will always be changes of seasons in our lives; leaves will fall, snow will fly, flowers will bloom, and trees will blossom.  It is not inherently bad; it is simply the changing of seasons and the rhythm of life.  Even so, they can be difficult changes for all people involved.  But, we find peace in one thing.  This life is but a blip on the radar of eternity.  We are given the opportunity to follow God’s calling on our life and make the most of our time on this planet.  Because, in the end we stand before the most Holy Father and give Him and account of what we did.  To my family and friends who love and serve Jesus, that means we get to spend an eternity together.

Never good bye…always see you later!  I love you,

Scott

 

 

Building and Breaking

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When we are put in the midst of uncertain circumstances, surroundings, and future, real personal and spiritual growth will happen if you stay flexible.  Danielle and I were having breakfast with some amazing neighbors and friends this morning.   We were sharing stories of growing up, life as adults, and general conversation about all things family. Our friend who happens to be a talented artist, among other things, was explaining some of the process of painting with an oil medium.  The end result comes through sequences of building up  and breaking it down.  Through many iterations the end result is often not the vision you started with.  The story of my life…

We live in a world where we want continuous “building”, something I am completely guilty of.  We want consistent job promotions and salary raises.  We want to move from a small house, to medium house, to our large forever house.  We want a slow and steady growth into the promise land. Unfortunately, we have this utopian picture in our head of what life should give us and when we hit a breaking point, we have no idea what to do with it.  This life is not utopia, there are struggles, there is loss, and there is an incredible amount of breaking that occurs.  That may sound like bad news, but when your perspective shifts…it can be the most freeing and motivating experience of your life.

I am going to keep this simple.  We were made for a purpose; to shine our light and introduce the world to the love of Jesus.  That truly is our only job.  Now it looks different for each one of us; because, we all have different occupations and paths the Lord has led us down.  But one thing remains the same, we need to shine!  What would our witness look like if we all lived a perfect utopian life, with no challenges?  It would be worthless and ineffective.   Furthermore, what kind of knowledge would we have if all we ever did was win (build)?  One-dimensional and shallow.  So, we walk through life being built up and experiencing breaking points, but it makes us better, stronger, more relatable, and most importantly, more reliant on the Artist.  And just like the oil painting that was built up and broken down…all of the layers come together to form a beautiful masterpiece with dimension.  A masterpiece that was created for a purpose, a purpose greater and more significant than you will ever know.

So, we shift our perspective.  We embrace the broken state fully, knowing that God is building us up, layer upon layer, to eventually expose His perfectly imperfect masterpiece that has been made righteous through the ultimate sacrifice…Jesus. Embrace and enjoy the periods of building, but also embrace and rest in His peace through periods of breaking.  It is good; we are being equipped and we will come out on the other side shining bright with the love of Jesus.

building and breaking…building and breaking…building and breaking…we are God’s masterpiece.  In the end we will look back at the process, only to be amazed at the beautiful piece of priceless art which we have become.

Blessings through the building up and the breaking down,

Scott

A Father’s Heart

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I started this morning out like any other morning in my life, at least now that we have another puppy.  I got out of bed due to the annoying whining and barking of Xander in his crate and the weight of Zoe’s head on my arm at the side of the bed staring at me until I open my eyes. Both were signs the dogs were starving to death and could not make it one more second without food.  Side note, if you ever want to feel needed, valuable, and have the weight of life itself on your shoulders, then get a Golden Retriever:).  Seriously, from the time I woke up this morning, I could not get out of my head, “pursue the Father’s heart”.

I Read

I was reading in 1 Samuel, specifically chapters 1-3.  Hannah, one of two wives of Elkanah was in deep pain because she could not conceive a child.  I bring up the fact she was one of two wives, because Peninnah the other wife, would make it her goal to ridicule Hannah for her inability to have children.  Through the tribulation of sharing her husband and being ridiculed by her competition, Hannah only grew more desperate; instead of seeking earthly knowledge she humbled herself and sought the Father’s heart. She prayed and pursued God in her need, she committed any future child to the service of God…and the Father honored her humble and hurt heart.  He gave her Samuel and many other children.

Then there was Eli the priest whose sons followed in their father’s footsteps as priests themselves.  The son’s were unruly, selfish, used their positions for personal gain and really had no desire to give up anything to serve God.  God spoke to Eli, brought his sons transgressions to light and gave Eli the opportunity to step up and take care of the issue. But, unfortunately for Eli he chose the path of a gutless leader who steered clear of confrontation.  That would be his family’s downfall.

Two diametrically different people. One humble woman who sought the heart of God and spoke wisdom, “Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance, for the Lord is a God who knows, and by Him deeds are weighed” (1 Samuel 2:3). A visible and public leader who looked out for his family’s wants to the detriment of the people he was leading and their relationship with the Father.

I Ran

As I was running these verses and this comparison was going through my head.  I thought, how is it that the world we live in for the most part simply cannot grasp the fact Hannah’s model of leadership is what will draw us closer to Jesus, who will provide the riches of His Father’s Kingdom?  And that is when I was smacked in the face with my own issues, my own selfishness, my own sin.  Then this reality hits me:  we cannot lead like Hannah, or like Jesus, if we ever take our eyes off of our own shortcomings.  I am weak, I deserve the last seat at the table and if I ever lose that perspective and allow my eyes to focus on other’s issues, then that is the day I become like Eli and lose my effectiveness.

The way to the Father’s Heart is through brokenness, through humbling ourselves and recognizing we are nothing, have nothing, and can do nothing apart from Him who gives us wisdom and strength.

“He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; He seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor.  For the foundations of the earth are the Lord’s; on them He has set the world.  He will guard the feet of his faithful servants, but the wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness.  It is not by strength that one prevails” (1 Samuel 2:8-9).

 

Pursue His Heart,

Scott

My Mission

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Last fall I began to ask the Lord for my mission; what was it He was calling me to focus on as a pastor/leader.  Accepting a call into full time youth ministry put me in a position where I was surrounded by other pastors more than any point in my life.  What I realized was most of these individuals had very defined missions when it came to their ministry and I did not.  I could not take on someone else’s mission and call it my own, I knew that would not last, nor be fulfilling.  Asking the Lord for my mission began a 9 month journey of conversations, prayer, conceptualizing, and writing up to last Friday.  Friday morning I was driving down the road, listening to a podcast by Ravi Zacharias (Faith Under Fire – Christian Ethics in the Workplace Part 2, 3, and 4) and the Lord formed my mission in my mind.  “To call every person I encounter to a higher level through identifying and helping them develop their God given gifts and talents.”  The funny thing is, we often look for specifics from him, but he gives us a mission we can accomplish wherever we are…

I am not going to go into all the details of the podcast as you can listen for yourself, but I want to give you a taste of my mental journey with Lord as I was listening to Ravi.  My hope is that it speaks to you.

Faith Under Fire – Christian Ethics in the Workplace Part 2:

Principle #1 of this series states,  “Anything that refreshes you without distracting you from or destroying your final goal is a legitimate pleasure in your life.” In order to understand what is a distraction to my purpose, I must first understand my purpose. That is exactly what my prayer had been for the past 9 months and what the Lord had been revealing to me in this past season of being a Youth Pastor at Daybreak.  Through this question he began to formalize my mission in my heart and mind so that I could ask myself a very simple question:  what distracts me from my mission?  What distracts me from be an amazing father?  What distracts me from ensuring my wife knows she is the most valuable and loved woman on this planet?  What distracts me from speaking into the lives of those individuals whom God puts in my life?

Faith Under Fire – Christian Ethics in the Workplace Part 3:

Principle #2 states, “Any pleasure that jeopardizes the sacred right of another man or woman is an illegitimate pleasure.”  Any pleasure that I partake in that harms or hurts someone else is wrong for me.  Listening to Ravi and evaluating my own life I could not help but reflect on times where I have pursued fulfillment in a job (including ministry), spent time with an individual for all the right reasons, but then realized that the time I was away jeopardized the sacred right of my family to have their father and husband present.  No thing that brings me personal pleasure or fulfillment is good if it robs my wife and children of the right they have for me to be a godly husband and father…I believe that is sin and I missed the mark in God’s eyes.  My past excuses of, “I am just providing the best possible life for my family” is complete and utter bunk!  They need me, not the material crap.

Faith Under Fire – Christian Ethics in the Workplace Part 4: 

Principle #3 states, “Any pleasure, however good, if not kept in balance will distort reality or destroy appetite.”  I have multiple missions in my life; my mission to be the best husband I can be, my mission to steward my children well, and my personal mission.  All of these require careful and intentional balance.  I cannot get so focused on the individuals God puts in my life to mentor, only to forget about my mission as a father and husband.  At the same time I cannot stay at home all day with my wife and kids; although that sounds like fun, we would live in four separate cardboard boxes because we would not like each other very much.  Seriously though, God call us to find balance and he gives us many individuals in the Bible who had NO balance (King Solomon is one) and he gives us an example of perfect balance (Jesus).

Back to Friday.  After listening to Ravi in the car I arrived at my destination, grabbed a coffee, and sat down to write out the statement.  Nine months of prayer and within a 35 minute drive he formed my mission statement.  And the icing on the cake; as my friend and I were talking about this journey, he tells me exactly what I need to be doing…and it was almost word for word what I had written down not 2 hours earlier.  That is God.  He takes an impatient individual who likes to take risks, yet control how the risk happens, then slowly strips him of all his plans.  What has he left me with?  One step at a time, a mission, and complete and utter confidence that He will fulfill the mission He has called me to.

Pray for purpose…

Be patient…

Be obedient…

Live life His way…no distractions, honor other’s rights, and find balance.

Blessings,

Scott

COMMUNITY > individual

Screen Shot 2017-06-16 at 12_Fotor.pngAs I was out for a very abnormal run last night (running in the evening sucks…at least for me) I was reflecting on the amazing strength of an imperfect community.  NextJump, a very profitable, yet little known company I follow closely has a mantra “better me + better you = better us.”  They spend more money and time on holistic (emotional, physical, spiritual, occupational) employee development than any company I know of.  Because of that they generate industry leading profits and have an amazing culture…a community that focuses on the health of the people, the company, the vendors, and the customers. Before you think, “I wish my company did that!”, this has just as much to do with employee dedication to the organization as it does the company’s dedication to its employees.

Think about this for a second.  We go to college for a specific occupation; maybe it was to be an accountant, or a sales and marketing professional, or human resources representative.  We go to work to do a job, hopefully to the best of your ability, but for many people they are not fully engaged in what the company actually is trying to accomplish and the company is not fully engaged in the overall health of their most valuable asset:  employees (people).  So the results are often individual goals; a company doing everything it can to generate maximum profit for shareholders and employees who often develop a very narrow perspective around their jobs.  What if we could have the best of both worlds?  Focused development and growth of our employees + an authentic, compassionate and caring attitude for the stakeholders outside of the walls of the company = a more profitable organization due to healthy, happy, and selfless workforce who now acts as a community with a common goal.

As I was reflecting on this thought, I realized I have experienced this very thing in the last two years.  A guy who has quickly become one of my good friends introduced me to running for someone other than myself.  I had a pretty good idea of the value of community and building relationships, but Bill helped me see the power of community in the context of running and walking as a team.  Our team (Team Daybreak and http://www.hopewaterinternational.com) started out with about 45 consistent runners/walkers coming out for group runs on a Saturday morning.  In the end 80 people cross the finish line of the Grand Rapids Marathon either running a full or a 1/2 marathon and now the team has growth about 50% coming to groups runs for another year of training.  The significance of this is the majority of the individuals would have NEVER accomplished this if it was not for the community or team.  The team had a goal.  We ran and walked to improve ourselves + we raised money to provide clean water for those who do not have it = a stronger community of believers who are serving the Kingdom in a far greater way than before!!!

Here is the beauty of the team…and this is something that every organization in this world can learn from whether a church or a business.  Our team is a bunch of normal, everyday, broken and damaged people.  We are full of liars, hypocrites, cheats, adulterers…adulterers you say?  Yes, the last time I looked, Jesus said if I looked at someone with lust in my heart I have committed adultery…and guess what, I have.  My point is we are broken, we all have issues, yet we all have a few things in common. We are striving to reach a goal that is far greater than ourselves, serves someone other than ourselves, and we allow Jesus to pick us back up when we fall.  We refuse to dwell on the past, yet focus on the gift our savior gave us on the cross.  So, what if we had more communities where people were real, felt safe, put their own insecurities away, and simply encouraged each other to a new level instead of beating them up for where they presently are?  What if we had more individuals who put down their own personal desires in order to meet another’s needs…we would have stronger communities…unstoppable communities?

It is hard for me at times, but there is one thing I know beyond all doubt…If I focus on serving those around me, every need I have will be met and most likely exceeded by my Father.

Take a step towards community, because COMMUNITY > individual,

Blessings,

Scott

Vision for the Future

mountain-03_FotorFor the majority of my adult life I have had this unending sense of something more, something greater, more exciting, more effective…a better future.  There have been times where people encourage me and times when people discourage me.  There are times when I listen to the encouragement and there are times when I have listened to the discouragement, but in the end the sense of something greater always comes back to the surface.  For many years I wondered what was wrong?  Why could I not simply be happy with the status quo?  Why can I not just settle down?  And now after 40 years I have come to a conclusion.  This is who God has created me to be; He has created me to push the limits, expect better, and pursue what I know to be excellent in every relationship or organization I am a part of.  I now know I have two things that I must pursue: 1) to call people to a higher level (spiritually, physically, emotionally, occupationally, etc.) and 2) to recognize individuals God given gifts and talents to help them walk in those things.

The risk is, I must be willing to accept the fact that not everybody has the same desire to challenge the norm, ask the hard questions, do things differently, and that is ok… If I hit a brick wall I need to simply keep going in the direction the Lord calls me to go.

Before I dive into this, I am going to give a disclaimer that this is my opinion and me asking what if questions.

Joseph was a young man with 10 other brothers, but just happened to be the most loved son of his father, Jacob.  I am sure he was a snotty, know-it-all, little brother who knew his dad liked him the best.  Put yourselves in his shoes, how many of us wouldn’t act the same way?  We also know that Joseph had some pretty interesting dreams that he happily shared with his family.  Being a little brother myself, I am certain that when he told his family about the dreams, he was full of pride and hormones that made him feel invincible.  But, what if at the same time Joseph knew God had a big plans in store for his life?  What if he knew he was going to make a significant difference?  What if he was determined to figure out the path God had for his life?  And, what if a lot of that determination was perceived to be cocky, prideful, and illogical youthfulness?

I ask these questions, because can you imagine being thrown into a dry well by your own family as a young man and coming out with hope?  Almost certainly, there were mean and personally hurtful words being thrown around as he was dropped into the well.  Then a little later you are fetched from the well and sold to strangers from a foreign land.  Stop, and think about that for a second…was Joseph discouraged beyond all hope, was he consumed by anxiety, was he on the verge of giving up?  No, scripture says God was with him.  He proceeded to become great in the eyes of Potiphar, being a humble servant of the his master’s house, just as Jesus would do decades in the future.  Then he had it all taken from him again because someones selfish desires were not met and they couldn’t deal with their own sin.  Betrayal, the worst feeling of them all, and Joseph was not deterred from who God called him to be.  Again, God being with him, he becomes an even lower and humble servant of the king’s prison.  And again, he rises to the occasion because he knew God had called him to something great in His Kingdom.

I don’t need to go any further in the story because many of us know it.  God used Joseph in a pagan land, with a pagan king, to save His remnant.  Joseph did not lose hope, he did not let people discourage him, and his circumstances were NEVER beyond God’s help.  He did not despair, because he knew he belonged to a loving God who had a loving vision.  He knew God would bring good out of a hopeless situation.

My sense of a better future has nothing to do with material possessions, because honestly, I have learned that material possessions only leave me wanting.  My sense of a better future is my desire to raise up leaders who are willing to lay down their lives for others just as Jesus did.  We need people who pursue relationships for the sake of seeing the other persons life improved, not filling their own personal holes.  We need a church who is willing to lay down personal preferences in favor of biblical absolutes and that means loving people in spite of what people’s perception of us is (did Jesus care what people thought of him when he was speaking with the woman at the well?).  We need believers who are willing to sacrifice their own comfort for the sake of the Gospel message they carry within them. We need Christ followers who are willing to give up the head of the table for the wash basin and a willingness to wash the junk off of people’s feet.  Am I willing?  Are you willing?

Be encouraged…don’t lose the vision God has planted in your heart,

Scott