Man’s Best Friend

ZoeFotorI do not believe in coincidence and I do believe in general revelation.  A little over four years ago, on my oldest daughter’s birthday, we picked up Zoe. Zoe was our first family dog and a beautiful Golden Retriever.  From the beginning she was mischievous, like most Golden puppies, yet she grew into being one of the sweetest dogs I have ever known. She was always the first to greet me at the door with a big happy puppy smile and her bushy wagging tail. Zoe was our family dog, but I was her alpha, and that meant she looked to me for protection and affirmation. It was no coincidence we picked up the little puppy on June 29th 2013, but now we are on the brink of watching Zoe pass away. She has developed a pretty aggressive lymphoma and is in the last days of her short life.

I say it was no coincidence, because pets can be instant common ground that is the beginning of many great relationships. Having a Golden Retriever who is happy to see everybody and stands in your front yard to greet whomever walks by is the easiest way to get to know your neighbors. We developed some great relationships simply by Zoe greeting people in the front yard. Specifically our friends Paul and Sheena whose Goldendoodle bounded into our yard to greet Zoe, and the first conversation started. And now at the end, we had the opportunity to meet one of the most amazing and sweetest veterinarians I have ever met, Dr. Proshek at Kingsbridge Animal Clinic in Garland, Texas.  We have seen him and his amazing team pretty much once per week over the past 3 months as we have walked this journey with Zoe. We have become “regulars” at Kingsbridge and enjoy seeing everybody’s smiling faces as we drop Zoe off for her weekly visit. Zoe hangs out for the day and follows them around the office, takes a nap in Dr. Proshek’s office on the carpet, and simply shares her sweetness with the staff…Zoe has become one of their own. And we are so incredibly thankful for the care and love they have shared with Zoe and our family.

I believe in general revelation. General revelation is the belief that the Father (the Creator) is revealed throughout all his creation. Somebody said that “if I could be half the human my dog is, I would be twice the human I am.” While I am not entirely sure that is true, I definitely get what they were trying to say. Zoe is the sweetest and most forgiving dog I have met…that is something I could learn so much from. I was impacted to my core yesterday reading through the Gospel of Mark, specifically chapter 15. Mark states 4 times how Jesus was mocked and criticized, and yet He never retaliated…He did not seek out justice at a justified point in time; He simply turned the other cheek, and said “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Jesus was more interested in sacrificing Himself so that those who mocked Him had an opportunity to turn from their ways and pursue a relationship with God. Zoe represents the all too familiar unconditional love of a dog. General revelation of God is very clear, we simply need to open our eyes to the beauty around us.

Zoe is an amazing family pet, one we will never forget and cherish the many memories she blessed us with.  In death and in life there is mourning and joy, we simply have to look in the right places. There are no coincidence, there is only a plan leading to hope in the One who knows all and will bring an end to death and restore His perfect creation forever. “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for (divinely guaranteed) will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see (Hebrews 11:1). What I know is loss is NEVER for nothing, we must stop and look around us for the opportunities of relationships with those who are in need of Hope.

Hope, Love and Blessings,

Scott

 

Kingdom Friends

DSC01597_FotorWhen our team was in Sierra Leone at the beginning of May, one of the things that struck me most was the pure brotherly love shown by men in that country.  We had the privilege to travel with the WHI employee who was charged with developing village partnerships.  Every village we would visit, he would walk with the Chief to simply develop and build a relationship.  You would often see him walking with his arm wrapped around the chief or the two men walking through the village holding hands. There was one purpose in this action; it was completely selfless and it was done to bridge the gap of division to create unity and the strength of community; to see the village strengthened through teamwork.  I will be honest, the act of holding hands took many of us back at first, because here in the states we have a hard time disseminating between brotherly love and sexual love due to our overly sexualized culture.  But there was nothing impure about this, it was simply two leaders who wanted the best for their communities and were willing to bridge the gap and work together in order to see a common goal accomplished.

I was reading from 1 Samuel 18 this morning and was challenged by the relationship of Jonathan and David.  This was a deep and close relationship. It says in verses 1 and 3, “Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul” and “Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul.”  This relationship was only possible because of Jonathan’s devotion and love for the things of God.  His dependence on God allowed him to put his own personal well-being behind those people he loved.  His loyalty and allegiance to David was only possible due to his loyalty and allegiance to his Heavenly Father.  The love Jonathan had for David had nothing to do with selfish desire, it wasn’t a self-serving or sexual kind of love; it was a pure love between brothers that could only come out of a cultivated and deep relationship with God.  Jonathan and David were bonded by their love for God and His purposes…for the things of God and His Kingdom.

I have done my best to walk the last 21 years of my life in pursuit of the ways of God.  I would be lying if I said I was successful all the time or really a majority of the time.  I really do not know the percentage of time I have been successful in the ways of the Lord, but the fact remains the Holy Spirit always redirects me to the ways of God when I get off the path.  There have been times over the past few years where I get close to someone, begin to build a solid relationship, and we connect in a deeper way due to our common desire for the things of God’s Kingdom.  We connect because of an unselfish desire to see the Body of Christ united and the spiritually lost introduced to their Heavenly Father. Along with those types of relationships, trials will come.  Jonathan had to walk a fine line of serving his best friend David and loving a father who wanted to kill his closest friend. What was Jonathan’s compass pointed at when he encountered those types of situations? Truth…God’s truth. Jonathan understood that great friendships come at great cost, but truth always prevails when fought for.

I have had these types relationships, but I have failed when presented with tough situations, confrontations, or bad decisions.  I wasn’t strong enough spiritually or emotionally to stand up for truth, to press in and fight for the relationship.  It was far easier for me to walk in the opposite direction and take care of my family and myself.  I could sit here feeling guilty and beating myself up, but that does no good either.  I simply look back, evaluate what was good, what went wrong, and make sure history does not repeat itself.  I also cannot allow the fear of what might happen prevent me from diving deep into a friendship/partnership that could result in the advancement of God’s Kingdom.

I find myself once again in a situation very similar to Jonathan’s relationship with David. Yet, the Lord has stripped me of pride, shown me the value of true servant leadership, filled me with love for His church, and put in me a desire to not run from confrontation, but simply press into it with the Love of the Father.  Jesus’ love is not weak, nor soft, but it is compassionate and firmly planted in Truth; willing to lay down His life for all of God’s children.

So…what is holding you back from friendships that have the ability to change the world around you?  What is holding you back from being the change instead of complaining about the current situation?  What is holding you back from embracing the lost and introducing them to a loving Father who misses them? What is holding you back from moving forward instead of dwelling on what wasn’t or what could have been.  Decide today to take a step towards the Son…

Blessings and love,

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

 

 

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