I See Jesus More Clearly

Pain, suffering, mentally challenged, physically struggling, emotionally up and down but spiritually holding on to the truths of Christ. Can you identify?

Life as we know it is full of various experiences. These experiences begin to shape how we respond to life, to people and to our emotions. I’m not sure about you but often times when I reflect on my past experiences, I tend to remember all of of the pain, suffering and the bad. If I am not careful, I can begin to look through the present through the lens of a painful past.

What I have to constantly remind myself, is that our past is there for a reason. I once heard a wise man say, “God never wastes an experience.” 

Continue reading

Who Can You Build Up?

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My heart breaks for the lives of young men and women that are treated unfairly and given up on. I believe everyone deserves a chance to be able to overcome the struggles and battles they face. Everyone has a story and for a brief moment, I want you to hear a quick story from my life.

Many people see the work I do now and celebrate what has transpired over the course of my life but check this out… If my coaches in high school/college would have done a background check on my teenage years they would have discovered, I had 3 MIP’s, sold weed, smoked weed, skipped school, had poor grades at some point (1.2 GPA) and got drunk they would not have wanted me to a part of their program.

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It was very easy to find faults in my character, to display my weaknesses and hold me to the standard of my choices. However, the few people that were close to me were able to see I was just a hurting, lost and broken teen being influenced by my surroundings and making decisions based off of my broken emotions. They saw that I was a teen that needed guidance, love, support, encouragement and someone to believe in me.

If I was never loved through the wrongs I committed and the poor choices I made, then I would have never had the opportunity to earn a high school degree, two college degrees, soon to be master’s degree, earn a Division 1 basketball scholarship, become an NAIA All – American basketball player, married and be able to become a student pastor.

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I share this because when a person hits a low in life, people are quick to point, judge, condemn and beat down. Before you go and label someone as a thug, gangster, low-life and as someone that may not ever change, first learn their story and understand why they are making poor decisions.

Without people believing in me and of course God, I would either be dead or in prison. Based on the choices I was making as a teen, I was supposed to be apart and given up to the system.

God can use you to make a difference in someone’s life. There are people out there, young men and women that need to be heard; they need someone to listen, love them, support them, challenge them, and help them process how to make it in this world.

My questions for you:

Will you be the person you needed when you were at your weakest and prayed for someone to help you?

Who can you build up?

Who is the person in your life that you can walk alongside, encourage and help grow?

Who is the teen that needs your love and support?

Who can you mentor and not give up on?

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P.S. Think about these words, pray on them and remember: Be the change the world needs to see and as you do this; one day you will look up and realize, you influenced a lost teen to turn their life around to be a difference maker in this world.

In love,

J. Scott Samarco

Don’t Settle In Your Set Back

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I know you thought your dream would happen easy. You’ve been pushing hard to take your dreams to the next level. You have been making connections, being consistent, staying committed but some how life is not giving you back the same energy. 

I’ve been there. I have been in the place where it felt like I was doing everything I needed to be doing to be successful, but yet and still nothing was happening.I have even been to the point where I exhausted all of my resources and I was left with exhausted energy. 

Have you ever been there? Are you there now? My friend, what do you do when you are doing what you believe needs to be done, but nothing is changing? Do you give up? Do you say forget it? Continue reading

Last Year in My 20’s!

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Birthday blogs are cool. I don’t do them every year but I thought, hey this is my last year in my 20’s, surely I have something to say…

Recently, I was hanging out with some friends at a cool rooftop spot with some dope food. We began to talk about leaving our 20’s and what it was like for each of them. One shared, how he broke down and cried. (This made me scared. Ha!) As you can imagine, the other friend shared how it was just another day. I love hearing two ends of the spectrum, especially when both spectrums can be viewed as being extreme.

Although I am not crying, well at least while I am writing this I’m not, I am truly thankful to be alive another year. Despite some of my life goals not being accomplished yet, I believe God has me exactly where I need to be. With this perspective, I can keep living life to the best of my ability.

I want to share a few thoughts about my 20’s. Check them out below! 

Here are 29  thoughts for my 29th birthday:

  1. I am almost done with my 20’s which means, I have experienced some life. Yes, wisdom!
  2. Be optimistic. There is so much opportunity in your 20’s. Your life is not over because you’re not married, have a house, dream car, etc…
  3. Post college can be rough! Searching for my identity, calling and what I was suppose to do post basketball. ahhhhh!!
  4. Be authentic. Be real. Be you. Don’t try to copy someone else and don’t chase someone else’s dream. Go after your God driven dreams!
  5. Don’t rush love. So often we want to force relationships with people that don’t need to be in our life.
  6. Spend a lot of time alone. Singleness is a gift my friend. Utilize it. Grow. Learn who you are. Save money!
  7. Travel. Explore the world. The most meaningful experiences happen when you travel.
  8. Read. Invest in your mind and education. Every new book you read, opens a new door.
  9. Cry. Too often, we hold in our anger and frustration or we take it out in the wrong way. It’s okay to lay on the ground and cry because you are frustrated with how life is going. I did!
  10. Grow with God! Ask those questions about the Bible and faith that you always wanted to know. 2011 was my quest to truly understand the Bible and Christianity. This was 6 years after God saving me.
  11. Give back. Invest your time in your community, spend time with youth, be a mentor or a coach. I will forever be grateful for the opportunities I have spent with youth.
  12. Celebrate your friend’s success. Sometimes we get sour when one of our friends graduate college, write a book or land their dream job. Your time is coming so in the meantime be happy for your friends!
  13. Attend weddings and actually be and look happy. A lot of your high school/college friends will be getting hitched. Help your friends celebrate their special day. Go to the reception and help them turn up!
  14. Take time on making babies. Okay, this is my personal opinion. Kids are a major blessing to this world but I wanted to enjoy my 20’s kid free. One more year left. Fingers crossed! Ha
  15. Exercise! Stay consistent! Trust me, once collegiate/professional sports are over, the lbs will come if you are not consistently working out.
  16. Eat! Ha, you like how I added this one after exercise. Try out different food from different ethnic groups. Step away from the fast food. 🙂
  17. Write. Journal. Start a blog. Keep a record of great moments and bad moments. It always helps me to look back and reflect.
  18. Pray. If you are a believer, spend a lot of time talking with God. Me and God had to duke (fight) it out! God and I had some amazing, tough and challenging conversations through my 20’s. I am thankful for each conversation.
  19. Step out your comfort zone. Do something you are afraid to do. Move to a new state, or two. 🙂 Once you do, you will slap yourself afterwards and realize it wasn’t that scary after all.
  20. Love. Love every person in your life unconditionally.
  21. Forgive. Your heart will be broken. You will hurt people. Learn. Let go. Don’t hold grudges or regrets.
  22. Eat chocolate. Chocolate does the body, mind and soul good. It also cures bad days. Just saying…
  23. Drink coffee. 2012, I discovered a hidden love for coffee. My favorite drink is a cafe mocha with foam and an extra shot of expresso!
  24. Find patience. Your time in your 20’s is a long journey. Don’t try to become an overnight success.
  25. Progress not perfection. Give your all but ultimately understand your goal is to enjoy the process while making progress.
  26. Give yourself grace. You will make mistakes and you will make poor decisions. Learn from your choices and love yourself enough to move forward.
  27. Date/Court. Do this in healthy ways and be intentional about who you give your time and energy too. Oh yeah, money too. Dating is expensive. Isn’t it funny how, women get all the free dates and food? 🙂 
  28. Don’t do life alone. Find accountability, encouragement and support. You need a community that you can do life with.
  29. Celebrate! You need to celebrate your small victories. Remember to write your celebrations down so when you get discouraged, you can go back and get recharged!

Whew! I hope you enjoyed that list. 20’s are truly a great time. To me, much of life is about perspective, learning and growing. As you can see, the past 9 years of my life, I have done that!

I appreciate you. Let’s continue to get better together! Real talk! < – (Do people still say this? Ha! I did in my early 20’s!!) 

P.S. August 21st is my birthday. I do accept gifts….

Peace out fam! Share this with a friend!

Life.

“Out of your pain births a purpose. Out of your misery births a ministry. Don’t be so quick to run from the struggle.” – J. Scott Samarco

The struggle is real. We must confront reality. Not in a sense to make ourselves feel inadequate or unworthy but more so to understand that there is a battle and this battle is real.

We have to continue to push, fight, and battle to overcome adversity. Adversity is interesting. So often, adversity is viewed as being negative. To me, adversity is a tool to help us grow in character and in stature. Being able to take on adversity allows for the human mind to be stretched and challenged. This stretching, these challenges, help us gain a perspective that not everything in life is easy. I’ve heard many people say, “if it was easy, everyone would be doing.” Right!?

Life has a special meaning toward those individuals who understand their purpose. Cliche, true, whatever, I like it. For those who do not understand their purpose, life tends to constantly be challenging. More so mentally than anything. When one does not know or understand why they are here on this earth, they begin to question their value and what they can bring to the table. This questioning, usually leads to self esteem dropping, lack of self worth and a lack of confidence.

There are no quick fixes or points that say, if you do it this way everything will work itself out. I believe the main focus behind my thought process here is understanding we are all in a process. This process that we are in, is guiding us and helping us discover just what it is we should be doing. A constant message I share with myself, is to continue to embrace the process, to not let up, to work through the frustrations and to not beat myself up over my shortcomings.

I cannot be perfect. I can however, strive for perfection. Even with my striving I have to understand that I will fall short. With falling short, I know there are many lessons to be learned. These lessons help me stay in reality, all while pushing to be better daily.

I’m thankful for my journey in life and I know every pain I’ve ever felt, every misery I’ve battled through, it is all being used to shape and sharpen my calling in life. Whether we figure this out in our twenties or late fifties, we each have a role to play in this world.

God wants to use us for a purpose. Believing this is a great starting point. Happy 6 months!

The Samarco’s are On the Move

 

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If you follow myself or my wife on social media, you would know by now that we recently moved from Michigan to Indian Land, South Carolina. You are probably thinking where? I know right, I thought the same thing. We usually tell people we moved to Charlotte, NC. Indian Land is a suburb of Charlotte. I know you are thinking why the big move? Well…

The Back Story:

First, let me give you some back story to this transition. I am not sure where you are in life or what season of life you may be in, one substantial thing I believe about life is this: God will put you exactly where you need to be. Where you need to be may be for a short season or a long season. Either way, the key is to be obedient where He has you, to serve Him faithfully and allow Him to use you to be a blessing to the community in which you reside.

My last post, When It Felt Like Everything Felt Apart is a great segway to this post you are reading. I would encourage you to take some time and give it a look. 2011 was a tough year for me.

In March of 2011, I had just finished playing semi-pro ball for the East Kentucky Energy. We made it to the final four in the ABA. To go to the final four, we had to play a team from Michigan (my home state) in the regional championship game. Of course, we won. I could not let a team from my hometown show us up  🙂

In November 2011, I decided to move to Benton Harbor, MI to continue to pursue my professional basketball career with the Lake Michigan Admirals, the team we beat in the regional championship. The Admirals had moved to a new league called the Premier Basketball League. I thought if I go there for a season, this will lead to opportunities to play ball overseas or in the NBA D-League.

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The decision to head to Benton Harbor honestly was the only thing I had going for me. I wasn’t ready to give up the dream of playing basketball and work a 9-5. I just couldn’t see myself doing that again. So basketball was my only option.

As you read in my previous blog, 2011 was a valley. Little did I know, moving to Benton Harbor, the valley would continue. I was struggling playing with the Admirals. I got to a point where I was contemplating moving back home again with my Mom and starting over from scratch. At this point in my life, I had been walking with God for 6 1/2 years. I began to think to myself, maybe basketball isn’t going to work out the way I hoped it would.

Toward the end of 2011, I began to sense God calling me to go into ministry. I did not know what this meant but I was excited to begin to explore what God wanted to do with my life.

(I documented this season of my life on my Youtube channel: Click here to see them – > J Scott’s Video Documentaries )

My Journey to Ministry: 

December 31, 2011 I found myself at a New Year’s Eve service with friends. The minister there was a guest from Atlanta. She was a gifted speaker. Toward the end of service, she had asked me to stand up. She begins to say to me: “Young man, there is a huge call on your life. You may not even know it, but others have been watching your walk with God. You are a leader, and God wants to use you. Continue to press in and see what God has to offer.” Wow right?

Entering into 2012 was a season of intentional prayer. My biggest prayer was this: “God, show me the way and open the door for me to walk in so that I can do the work that You’ve set out for me.”

It was March and my team and I got invited to an after school program called, School of Hope to read to elementary students from Benton Harbor. Little did I know, God had a divine appointment waiting on me. The place where we were reading was run by a non-profit organization called, Mosaic CCDA and the founder (Brian Bennett) who started the non-profit walked in while we were there. Brian is also the lead pastor of Overflow Church. He and the owner of the Admirals were having a conversation and one thing led to another, I was introduced.

Two weeks later, we were having lunch together and he offered me an internship to work with the youth in the inner city of Benton Harbor. Without ever visiting the church, I gladly accepted. I knew this opportunity was an answer to prayer. It was the door I had been praying for to pursue my call to ministry. April 30th, 2012 my journey began with Overflow.

Myself and Pastor Brian

Myself and Pastor Brian

My Journey with Overflow Church:

Beginning my journey with Overflow Church, I did not know what to expect. I was just excited to serve and begin to learn what ministry is all about. My hope was to be able to serve God, the church, minister to youth, lead and impact others along the way. I had to learn quickly that you have to be careful what you pray for. Before I knew it, I was in graduate school at Wesley Seminary, teaching as an Adjunct Instructor and a life coach at Lake Michigan College, coaching basketball for Benton Harbor High School, playing basketball for the Admirals, a youth leader, mentor and working part time for Overflow as the Young Adult Pastor. Talk about hitting the ground running for the Lord!

Life seemed to be going fast paced for me. My leadership was growing at an extremely fast pace. God was moving. Students and young adults were coming to the Lord, lives were being transformed and on top of that, I was creating life long relationships. By December 2013, after 21 days of fasting and praying, I became the youth pastor of Overflow Church and joined the staff full time.

I am truly thankful for my four years with Overflow Church and for the leadership of Pastor Brian. He truly pulled me under his wing, mentored and discipled me. I will forever be grateful for our weekly Thursday morning 9am meetings where as Proverbs 27:17 says, “iron sharpens iron.” God used those meeting times to grow my walk in the Lord and to grow me as a leader. Love ya brother!

Love and Marriage!? 

In the midst of my journey in Benton Harbor, I got engaged May 24, 2013, and married a year later May 24, 2014. You can read the love story of my wife, Jasmine and I here: J Scott and Jasmine’s Love Story. It is a pretty good story if I say so myself.

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How I got to Indian Land, SC:

I know you’ve been waiting for the answer to how my wife and I got to South Carolina. I thought you would be interested in the back story first.

Toward the beginning of 2015, I began to sense that my wife and I’s time in Benton Harbor was coming to an end. I did not know if we would be leaving in 2015, 2016 or in a few years. All I knew, I needed to begin to pray and process with people I trust and that had a lot more wisdom than me to help me discern what the future may look like for the Samarco’s.

Having this transition in the back of my mind, I thought God would be leading my wife and I back to the metro-Detroit area near my hometown Ypsilanti. Well, God had different plans.

Two years ago, myself and a good friend of mine went to a youth conference in California put on by UYWI. (sidenote: this is the best youth conference around). Last year, my wife and I went back out to the conference.

Prior to going to the conference, each participant that registered for the conference got drawn into a contest. The contest was this: Whoever name is drawn will have the chance to sit down with a speaker of their choice. Somehow I ended up winning! Crazy right!? So out of the 5 speakers that were listed, I knew 3 of them and the other two I’ve heard about. One of the speakers that I wanted to get to know and talk life/ministry with was, Pastor Derwin Gray. Pastor Derwin leads a multi-ethnic, multi-generational, mission-shaped church called, Transformation Church along with a lot of other Gospel-centered leaders.

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Having lunch with Pastor Derwin at UYWI

While having an amazing lunch conversation with Pastor Derwin, I was able to meet Erick Hodge, who you do not see in this photo because he is the one holding the phone. Me and Erick got cool. I ended up attending another conference in August that Pastor Derwin and Erick were attending. Me, Erick and another friend ended up having dinner. At this time I heard of a training Transformation was doing at their church in October, called The HD Leader based off PD’s recent book on what it means to live a multi-ethnic life, and how to create a multi-ethnic, gospel-centered, mission-shaped church.

I told Erick I would be attending and he said I could crash at his place! I came down to TC in October and had such an amazing time. I was blown away by what God was doing through the church and the people there. In the midst of my time at TC, I learned that their teen director position had just opened up. Instead of jumping at the opportunity, I first wanted to pray and discern with my wife if this is something we should pursue…

After praying and talking with my wife, we went forward. I began going through the interview process. As I was going through the process, I believe God began to make it clear that this would be an amazing opportunity. Of course, God already knew the outcome. After 4 months of prayer, fasting, interviews and a visit to Transformation, God opened the door for my wife and I to have the opportunity to move to the south and for me to join on staff as the Teen Director of Transformation Church. Crazy cool God story right?

The Journey Continues…

P150587_14zSo here we are! Excited for this next chapter. Trusting God in this process and thanking God for the journey. I know He has great things in store for us and all of the teens at Transformation Church. I am anticipating God to do some really big things!

I recently ran across Psalm 20:4 that says, “May He give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.” 

My desire is to continue to serve Him wholeheartedly, passionately and faithfully. My plans are to simply share the Gospel in simplistic as well as creative ways to reach people for the Kingdom. May God’s perfect will be done in our lives.

P. S. Keep us lifted up in prayer as we get acclimated. Also, pray for my Overflow fam, all of the students and our family back home in Michigan. Thank you! Love each of you!

When It Felt Like Everything Fell Apart

When it felt like everything fell apart

The battle.

It was the year 2011. My life was slowly beginning to fall apart. I had lost some close friends I trusted, was lied to by multiple people, lost a job, lost one of my best friends to a tragic death, and I had moved back home with my mom and was sleeping on the couch and in a bed on the floor in the basement.

Everything seemed dark to me. I wasn’t questioning God and wondering why I was going through this valley. I understood life is not perfect, and everyone at some point has to go through something tough, I was just wondering how long the dark season would last.

I don’t know about you, but when I am in darkness, my heart, my thoughts and my emotions seem to be off. My heart is usually heavy, my thoughts are distorted, and my emotions aren’t as controlled as I would like them to be.

So what did I do?

I got away…

The summer of 2011, I spent in another state with one of my closest friends. I had saved up some money before I lost my job. I just needed to get away from home, gather my thoughts, think a lot and begin to work on what my next steps would be.

We can only be in the valley for so long. At some point, we have to come back up.

Feeling lost, out of place, not significant and wondering when a change was coming, I decided I would not complain and mope around. Instead, I would fight back. Yes, the universe and my world were dark, but there is a greater power in me that is capable of shining light.

I needed God to begin shining His light!

My friend that I was staying with in 2011 summer, I remember attending a church service with him. I don’t remember what the minister was saying; I just know I got extremely emotional and began to cry. I remember my friend looking at me in disbelief and shock as if he’d never seen a “grown man” cry.

At this moment, he didn’t judge, or tell me to suck it up. Instead he asked was I okay and just put his arm around me (I guess he gave me a bro hug).

I just needed support. I was grieving and mourning for months. The weight of the world and all of my thoughts got too heavy for me to carry alone. So I just cried. I let it out and released everything. I’ve learned that crying is good for the soul and as ET the Hip Hop Preacher once said: “Don’t cry to quit. Cry to keep going.” That’s what I was doing.

The darkness began to fade away, and I knew one day God would allow the light to get brighter.

All felt lost and apart but having friends and a God that cares, I knew there was hope. 2011 was one of the worst years of my life. Tough as that year was, I needed to go through it. My valley experience in 2011 allowed me to see and feel what it is like to do life alone. I’ll end with this: Life is not meant to be experienced alone.

From the bottom of my heart. I love you. I thank you for reading this. God is good even when it feels like everything has fell apart.

Summer 2011 in Memphis, TN

My best friend’s brother and Unc at the funeral.