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

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