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

Learning to Discern

road-to-nowhere_FotorOne of the many lessons I have had to learn and grow in (continually), is who and who not to listen to.  I believe the majority of the people around me have the best intentions and want the best for our family; but I always have to remember they are speaking to me through their own worldview lens.  They may be risk averse, so their advice is just settle down; some come from the perspective that we must only do what is logical, and in that case what we are doing really does not make sense to the world; other people come to the table with a higher risk tolerance than I have, and may suggest simply selling it all and moving without a plan.  There are so many different perspectives, none of them are necessarily more wrong or right than the other, but it is my job to discern the Lord’s will for our family and walk the path he has called us to.  That is not an easy task, especially for some one who is a recovering people pleaser.

One such situation happened a few weeks ago.  I was talking to a good friend of mine who has influenced me in many positive ways.  Our paths are different, our spiritual gifts are different, our world views are slightly different, but we do share the same Savior, so my level of discernment is usually down around him.  He challenged me to be cautious and discern well the voice of the Holy Spirit versus my flesh and that I must be cautious when stating the “Lord is calling our family” to something specific.  While his advice was good and was given with good intentions, there was also a level of doubt that was planted in my heart.  Did I hear from the Lord correctly on this move and should I openly proclaim this is the direction the Lord is taking our family?  This seed of doubt floated around in my mind for days, tainting various areas of my mind with more doubt.

At the same time I was reading through Genesis about Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc. and the specific direction God gave to those men.  Even in the midst of their own frailty and misguided steps, God was faithful and He implemented the promised plans.  Overall, these men were faithful to God’s voice even in the midst of some extreme situations that tested their faith.  In the end the seed of doubt planted in my mind was overcome by the assurance of my Father.  I was reminded that we do our best to listen to His voice and in the end, His grace covers us even in the midst of our mis-steps and lack of faith.  There is one thing I will not compromise on…ever!  When Danielle and I come into agreement that God is moving us in a specific direction, I will not shy away from proclaiming that direction.  Why?  Because I absolutely DO NOT want the credit that comes from the results of stepping out in faith.  I would rather risk proclaiming His direction in my life and Him getting the credit for the results than to suffer from the embarrassment of me mis-hearing God and failing miserably.

The beauty of walking through these types of situations is it causes me to reflect and enter into conversations in a more prayerful state.  When people ask me for guidance, am I speaking out of my flesh or am I speaking out of my faith in a God who has the perfect plan?  Am I intentionally being an encouragement or am I attempting to bring the other person into alignment with what I am comfortable with?  What are my intentions in every conversation, to further my agenda or to seek out God’s perfect plan and to discern how His children fit in the story?

I have works to accomplish today.  Are they advancing heaven or hell?  That is the question.

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2, NLT)

Blessings,

Scott

Counting the Cost

friends3_FotorWhoever says they love change and are not willing to admit there are struggles and challenges along the way are either lying or incredibly selfish.  Transition and change is difficult on all parties involved.  We grow fond of the things we are surrounded with, whether it is a house, our neighborhood, or really close friends and family.  I found myself asking the question this afternoon, “Lord, I am not sure surrendering our family to your will is worth it?”  I actually contemplated what disobedience would look like for me, if it meant my family could continue in the life and relationships they currently have…but then I remember His grace and its all consuming effects.

Danielle and I both went to pickup the girls from their last day of school late this morning.  We picked up our oldest daughter to the sounds of middle schoolers running out screaming in joy that school was over for the summer.  The first question out of my daughter’s mouth was, can we change a specific detail of her birthday party so more of her friends could come.  Our obvious answer, was absolutely.  She has built incredible relationships and I want to do nothing more than give her the time she needs with her friends before the big move.

Onto picking up our youngest daughter; the one who does not show visible emotion very often.  I pull into the pick-up lane and see her and two friends sitting on the ground together.  She see us and stands up.  Her two friends stand up and all three hug each other; all I see is three sad faces on girls who are growing up too fast.  They hug for what seems to be minutes, while my daughter looks at me with that all too familiar uncomfortable “I am the center of attention” look on her face.  At the same time, she is fighting tears…and I can’t.  I realize what is going on, I realize we are taking her away from two friends she loves dearly, I realize this is the cost of following Christ at times. That may sound trivial, but to an 8-year-old, there is nothing trivial about this situation.

There is always a price to be had when you do your best to follow the path God has for you.  Is there blessings along the way, yes?  Is there pain and discomfort along the way, more than you will realize in the excitement of a new adventure?  God, pour out your grace, wisdom, and understanding on our girls; show them your path is good and just, and that you are always with us when we follow you.  Just as you were with and blessed Joseph after he was sold to the Ishmaelite’s and eventually to Pharaoh; bless and walk with our girls on this journey.

Is it worth the cost, YES?  Jesus freely offers water of life to those who thirst.  We must understand when we take Him up on His free offer, we are no longer our own. We have been bought with a price.  There is no such thing as superficially following Christ, to only turn back when things get difficult…it is a life of surrender and trust…

Love, Blessings, and all your prayers are accepted:)

Scott

 

My Plans and God’s Grace

grace_Fotor

When Danielle and I were in the middle of praying through what the Lord had for our family in this season we felt like we had two options:  stay where we were and have a fruitful ministry or take the leap of faith and watch him amaze us through his goodness. Believe it or not this was not an easy decision, but ultimately we chose to jump off the cliff and fully trust him.  Once we jumped, God went to work on my heart and mind like I had never experienced before… and it has been painfully revealing.

I have discovered, as I alluded to in my last post, I have an issue with trying to control the process once I feel a transition.

My tendency, once I feel transition, is to quickly go to work on figuring out what is going on.  I love the beginnings of transition, but once I know transition is on the horizon I constantly seek out a plan that will restore everything back to a previously comfortable place.

But through the discovery of this weakness of mine, I have also gained a greater understanding of God’s grace.  When I have made mistakes and went into “plan and control” mode, God has come along and blessed us in the midst of it.  Perfect example. June of 2012, our family came into a season of transition.  I was emotionally tired and instead of taking the time to pray through things I simply planned out a path that would restore our family to a comfortable place.  I made some calls, we moved back to Michigan and we were back to a comfortable place for our family.

In the period of time that followed our move back to Michigan, God blessed us with a beautiful house, a great job, an amazing church, and we were surrounded by people who loved us and encouraged us.  He brought us back into an amazing church family (Daybreak) where we able to serve the church and an incredible running team (Hope Water International).  Through those experiences we built lifelong relationships with people who have stretched us and challenged us as individuals and as a family.  It has been a season of blessings, but make no mistake it has been a season of trial, error, and learning.  Out of my weaknesses he has brought blessing… It is only by God’s grace this is possible.

And now… He has brought us full circle back to this point of decision.  We are committed; we are moving forward; and I am not completely sure what is in store for our family. But I know one thing, it is going to be good.  How is it going to be good?  I have no idea and I really do not care, because we are simply doing our best to follow Him.  “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

Yeah Jesus!

Scott

Transition

Railroad tracks

Transition is a strange thing.  Something I have learned over the years is we must do everything we can to walk through transition well, but be cognizant of the fact we will be blindsided by new things during transition.  What does this look like in a practical sense for me?  I can easily allow people and/or circumstances to justify the transition, when in fact it is simply the path the Lord wants our family to go down.

Over the last few months I have allowed myself to get absorbed into the lives of some Old Testament people living in change.  One specific story has been floating around in my brain; Saul and David.  Two individuals who handled transition in a completely opposite manner.  David walked closely with God, honoring Saul, a man created in God’s image (not necessarily living that way).  David was anointed as king, while King Saul was still on the throne.  Could David have raised an army and overthrown the Kingdom, easily justifying his actions?  Absolutely, but instead he made the decision to harm no hair on Saul’s head.  On the flip side, Saul allowed God’s transition to consume him.  He wanted to maintain control of something he was NEVER meant to control…and it drove him completely mad.  To the point of allowing hate and vengeance to fill his heart, ultimately taking his life.

I went into Spring Break this year praying for some very specific things.  One being, I wanted the Lord to completely take over the development of my weekly messages for Daybreak’s students.  I had felt like I developed some patterns in my message prep that were too rigid; not allowing the Lord to speak.  I came out of spring break with Him telling me to resign!!!  What was that?  At first I tried to justify the transition and I pointed it towards my need to spend more time with my family and to operate in my God-given talents.  Yet, the reality of it was, that was simply my attempt to justify a transition that God was orchestrating.

My tendency once I feel transition, is to quickly go to work on figuring out what is going on.  I love the beginnings of transition, but once I know transition is on the horizon I constantly seek out a plan that will restore everything back to a previously comfortable place.  A good business plan and strategy gets my blood flowing, but I can allow my desire to control and shape things to blind me from the move of our sovereign Father.  Now He is teaching me to let go of the things I find security in and rely on Him completely, my true source.  A good plan is Biblical, but always make the plan flexible enough to be altered by our loving Father.

What is on the other side of this transition?  I don’t know and believe it or not, I am good with that.  Where am I going to work?  I don’t know.  Where am I going to serve the Lord?  In Texas.  How?  I have some ideas but, I am convinced that He will reveal His plan as I need it.  I am on a mission, and that mission is to follow my Father wherever He wants me…to step away from the head of the table and to pick up the cloth and the wash basin (Gene Wilkes, Jesus on Leadership).

Here is my challenge today…what are you hanging onto?  Let it go; surrender it to the One who knows best.

Love and Blessings,

Scott

The Beginning of a New Season

When I am in the midst of a changing season, my brain is continually absorbing and processing information in a way that causes me to not communicate the events very clearly and timely to the people around me.  I have been blessed with amazing family and friends who deserve the opportunity to hear the stories of the journey.  This blog is my desire and the way by which I can communicate what we are visibly walking through and what I am internally processing.  I will intentionally be leaving out personal details, because those are things the world does not need to know, but besides that, my life is an open book.  It is my hope that those reading will be encouraged by the blessings and the challenges of this journey.

Our journeys begin long before we are born.  It began in a garden thousands of years ago with the creation of Adam and Eve.  The truths that I rely on are…

  • I (we are) am created is God’s image (Gen 1:26)
  • I am (we are) worth dying for (John 3:16,17)
  • I have (we have) a specific purpose in God’s magnificent and perfect plan (Ephesians 2:10)
  • I am (we are) my Father’s son (Romans 8:14-17)
  • I am (we are) the Salt and Light of this world (Matthew 5:13-16)
  • I am (we are) rooted and continually built up in Christ (Colossians 2:7)

 

The circumstances of life, whether good or bad, are what God uses to mould and shape us into who we are and who we are called to be today.  Not all of us are called to take significant risk and move our families half way across the country, but that is what Danielle and I have been called to do.  If people do not agree, that is not by burden to bear, I am only responsible for what the Lord puts in front of me and my family.  But my challenge to those around me will always be to rise up to a new level and operate within the gifts and skill sets God has blessed you with.  Do not worry about what others around you are doing, but set your eyes on what God has called you to do and GO!

We are a few months into this journey at this point.  Soon, I will back up to the beginning of this season and share the stories of struggle, grace, and the direction that has come from God challenging our family to pursue His purposes.

If you ever have questions, concerns, or just need prayer reach out and comment.

With Love and Blessings,

Scott