About Impact

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Convincing myself…

I first met my dear friend Ashley while she was a camper at MCSC, then I became one of her youth ministers and then a roommate and fellow camp staff member. Now she is getting ready to decide what college she should attend. That is just weird. Earlier this afternoon she and I had an interesting conversation.

We were talking about how sometimes as Christians we convince ourselves that something we are doing or are going to do is the will of God, even when it may not be. I guess we just like having something concrete and not having to make the tough decisions. It really is much easier to just say I’m going to go to this college or I’m going to take this job so that we have a plan, rather than really being honest and seeking out what God truly wants for us. Sometimes God is gracious and still blesses the decisions we make. Other times it becomes very obvious we are running the opposite direction from where God is calling us.

I’ve been think about the times I’ve done this very thing. I’ve convinced myself it was where God wanted me, simply because it was easier than taking the steps of faith down an unlit path. Looking back at those times I thank him over and over for being gracious and forgiving my laziness and lack of faith. There have been times where God has taken my stubbornness and provided me with great opportunities to serve and be blessed by his people. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for that. But today it is the times that God has had to wait for me to admit I was avoiding the tough steps that are running through my head. I’m realizing more and more how hard it is for me trust and how much I miss out on when I’m too stubborn to do so.

Lord, teach me to trust you more. Help me tune into your voice and follow you wherever you lead. When I try to convince myself my ideas are your will, remind me you take the hard steps with me. I know in my head you will always bring me out of the valleys, but my heart can’t seem to handle the fact the path in front of me isn’t clear. Teach my heart to be willing to do whatever you call me to do. Give me a stronger passion for loving your people no matter where it is you place me to serve you. Simply put, God, make me more like Jesus.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Trapped in my head...

I don't exactly have the world's largest vocabulary, nor do I have a gift for putting thoughts into words. Lately this frustrates me more and more each day. There just don’t seem to be any words for the things I want to say. There is no way to explain to friends how thankful I am for them and how much I value their friendships. There is no way for me to share what a blessing they are in my life. There is no way for me to express how thankful I am that God knows what is best for me so I don’t have to try and figure it out on my own. There just doesn’t seem to be the right set of words I need to express how desperately I need more of him. Usually when there aren’t the right words available, there are always notes on a staff, but lately those seem to be in short supply as well. There are all of these thoughts in my head waiting to get out but they keep getting stuck. I feel trapped inside my own head. Some of you know that is a scary place to be!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Sometimes you get hurt...

Sometimes hurt comes from places you don't expect.
Sometimes hurt comes when you don't expect it.
Sometimes hurt comes when it seems you can't handle one thing more.
Sometimes hurt comes because of the choices you've made.
Sometimes hurt comes when you have no choice.
Sometimes hurt creates so much doubt you don't know where to turn.
Sometimes hurt comes when you need grow.
Sometimes hurt leads you to where you need to be.
Sometimes you get hurt just one time.
Sometimes you get hurt several times in a row.
Sometimes you get hurt just a little bit.
Sometimes you get really hurt.
What do you do when that sometimes comes?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Not why, but what.

Most days I don’t understand why God does things the way he does or allows some things to happen. One person experiencing the death of three people in one day. One person being betrayed by two friends. One person reliving pain that was from their past. It just doesn’t make sense to me.

But the question isn't why God, though I don't think it is wrong to ask that. Right now for me the question is "what?" What is it that God is trying to say to me and teach me. I love that God is teaching me so many things. There are so many thoughts and questions in my head, most of which I can’t seem to articulate. It is extremely overwhelming. Something big is coming. I can feel it. God prepare me for it and give me the ability to process it all.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

David's Friends

This weekend’s message was about David and his friends. Mark challenged us to think about similar friends in our lives and whom we could be friends to. Here are some examples of those friends in my life.

DAVID AND SAMUEL (1 Samuel 16:6-13)
Samuel spoke truth into David’s life and reminded him that God had given him a higher purpose. Janet Seeker would definitely be a Samuel in my life. She was my mentor my sophomore year at Bethel and was always reminding me of the gifts and talents God had given me. She challenged me to take the steps of faith I was afraid to take. If it weren’t for here I’m not sure I would have stepped out of the box and began to let God completely guide my steps. She was never willing to let me forget that God created me for a purpose and a life of complete surrender is where it starts.

DAVID AND JONATHAN (1 Samuel 18:1-4; 20:1-3, 30-33; John 15:13)
I have always loved the story of David and Jonathan, because it is a picture of the kind of friend I want to be, one that is constantly encouraging, serving, and supporting by others no matter what the circumstances. Without a doubt the Jonathan in my life is Jeff Myers. He has been there to encourage me through so of the toughest times in my life. He was there when I suddenly woke up one day and my entire world came crashing down. He was there when close friends hurt me. He has sat and cried with me during the hard times and laughed and rejoiced in the good times. I have no doubt in my mind that several of Jeff’s friends would say the same thing about him. This is the kind of friend I want to be.

DAVID AND NATHAN (2 Samuel 12:1-14)
Nathan took the bold steps of calling out the king, and pointing out ways he wasn’t living according to God’s will. Becky Gritton has been one of those people for me. I can remember several late night talks in the dorm or at her house, where she very honestly looks at me and calls me out on places where I have fallen short. I was thinking about just how often she has done that and realized that there has never been a time when one of those conversations have been unbearable. Of course they aren’t always pleasant, but they are filled with love. I know that Becky tells me the truth and holds me accountable because she cares about me. Some of those conversations have been major turning points in my life. I am truly blessed to have her as a friend and I thank God for her.

DAVID AND MEPHIBOSHETH (2 Samuel 4:4; 9:6-11)
This may be one of my favorite stories in 2 Samuel because I think it is a great picture of what God has called us to do. Mark talked about how Mephibosheth sat at the kings table because of his kindness and when David looked at Mephibosheth at every meal he was reminded that he was king because of the mercy of God. In the same way we are able to sit at the table of God because of His grace and mercy. While Mark was talking I immediately started thinking about my special needs student from Eastwood, but there were two other people from back home that stuck out as well. Chester Throop is from my home church and has Down syndrome. While I was in high school every week at church Chester would run up to me and give me a hug and tell me I was crazy. During church he would sit across the aisle from me and wave his hands during worship like he was directing the entire congregation. Another person that came to mind was Jason Keyser, who I grew up going to camp with at RLCA. He also has Down syndrome and I was always excited when he came to camp. Some of my favorite weeks were the ones where he was in our family group. He loved camp and was always so quick to encourage all of us in his group. I could spend hours with Chester or Jason because they simply love people. I miss them both.

Quote of the week:
“Too many of us are satisfied with making it to the table. Forgive us Lord. Remind us we have a higher calling of carrying others to the table." Mark Beeson

Friday, October 13, 2006

Reflections on "Meet with Me"

I’ve always enjoyed the song, Meet With Me, but never had a good reason why. Over the last few months the more I’ve sang it the more I like it. The last line of the verse says, “reveal yourself to me.” One of my prayers for the last few years has been that God would reveal himself to me. I know he is all around but many times I shut my eyes and close him out. Perhaps this is part of my reasoning. Lately, every time I sing the song, it seems to take on a whole new meaning.

I think this was in a service but it could have been in a random conversation, I’m not sure. Jason was sharing some thoughts recently about how all of us have these places in our hearts that we have filled with things other than God. This leaves us feeling empty, overwhelmed and various other feelings. Somehow in all of that this song came into the discussion and he mentioned that may be our prayer as we sing this song should be more than asking God to fill the body in which we are worshipping but rather those places in our hearts. Well put J.

Monday night Jason spoke about what happens when we feel like we are in the holding pattern of life. This pretty much sums up the last two-three years of my life. Then last night at New Community, Dr. Bob spoke about spiritual eyesight and over the last week or so I have spent time evaluating my perspective on where I’m at in life. This week has been a nightmare at work. Each day I walk into my room or the office another issue brought to my attention. Some are just annoying things here and there, while others are difficult and sticky situations. This means I haven’t slept much this week and haven’t always had a chance to eat lunch. Needless to say, it left me exhausted when I left school Thursday.

I’m not where I want to be in life, or should I say where it is I feel God is directing me. I know where I’m at right now is part of the process of getting to that place. That “holding pattern,” “time of preparation,” or whatever you wish to call it, is not easy by any means. Some days it seems like this stage will never end and I’ll be stuck where I am forever. Then as we sang this song the thought came to me. As I wait for God to take me to the next stage, he makes me stronger. The opportunities I have are ones where I can grow. The more I long for that place I want to get to, the more he draws me closer to him. I’m learning to trust and depend on him.

None of those things are as easy as it sounds. Singing those words and truly making that your prayer can be difficult. But I’ll wait and I’ll long and I’ll allow God to do his work. And in the process he will always meet me.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Driving with the artist of the sky...

I’ve grown to love the drive home to Vestaburg and more recently the lengthy commute to civilization, aka Mishawaka. It isn’t unusual for those drives to become conversations with God. Over the last week the topic of conversation has been the beauty and creativity of God.

Last week I watched the sunrise in my rearview mirror while driving to school. They have been some of the most colorful ones I’ve seen. The vibrant colors all swirl together in such a way that it looks like a painter’s pallet. I’m convinced some of those colors will be seen only in sunrises. Crayola can try all they want but they will never be able to create a crayon with the same beautiful shades seen in those sunrises. What a privilege it is to see the sun come up over the horizon and feel it warm my car through the windows! God blows my mind.

On my way to work on Monday, the sun was nowhere to be seen in the morning sky. Sheets of water were pouring down causing large puddles to start forming over the streets. It was dark but when you could catch a glimpse of the clouds you could see numerous shades of dark blues and purples. This is my favorite kind of weather and the perfect way to start a Monday morning.

Later that afternoon I had to drive home for a doctor’s appointment. I drove a total of five hours home and back most of which consisted of thunderstorms. The drive back to Sister Lakes was the best. I only drove through rain for about ten minutes but the rest of the trip was a beautiful light display across the entire sky. Back in July Jeff and I attempted to go to the beach to watch fireworks. We got half way there and decided to turn around for a couple different reasons, a major one being the fact it was pouring. I was thinking about that trip. It was a great time hanging out and catching up with Jeff but not once did we take the time to look at the lightening and the beauty of it. Monday night all I could think was, “Wow! Who needs the Fourth of July?!” The shape of each bolt and the directions they flashed across the sky was never the same. It was absolutely amazing!

Over the course of the last few weeks, Ursa Major has been lowering in the northern horizon. As I was driving up the road last week, I felt as if I was going to drive right into the cup of the dipper. The sky was dark and each star was so clear and bright. Frequently when I get home I’ll stand out in the middle of the road or driveway and just stand in awe of the magnificence. I just can’t help stopping sometimes to stare up. I’ve decided it is a good thing I don’t have a sunroof because I would probably cause several accidents. But soon Ursa Major and Draco will slip away into the horizon indicating the change in seasons.

I used to always hate fall because it meant cold weather and snow where coming. However, the more I think about it this fall the closer I’m coming to deciding it is my favorite. My love the days when it isn’t hot and it isn’t cold. You can where jeans and a t-shirt and be comfortable or shorts and a hoodie. I love he smell of rain early in the morning. I love the changing of the leaves and the storms fall brings. The whole season is about change.

So as I’ve been telling God how amazing he is for all of this he has been sharing some things with me. He has been reminding me that fall is about tearing down so that new growth can happen. He has been reminding me that like the weather changes in fall change in life is unpredictable. It won’t be long before the few constellations I know will be gone as well as the leaves, and nice weather. Then the blah and cold of winter will be here to remind me that in the times God seems far away and there is no chance of feeling life again, God is in the process of reconciling his people. The snow that covers the ground and tress, while the sun is shining high in the sky reminds me although I can’t always see what God is doing, he is always healing and restoring me.

The seasons will continue to change and I’ll continue to drive. And I’ll continue to focus on the sky and talk with the artist who painted it for us to enjoy. I’ll continue to try and understand God’s ways and follow whether the understanding comes or not. Praise God for the changing of seasons and the incredible beauty of his creation. Thank you for changing me Lord.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

New Community Thoughts

This week New Community was a child dedication and communion service. I have to confess I didn’t have a very good attitude about the evening. I’ve never really enjoyed child dedication services. As expected the place was packed with crying babies, small children making noise and parents embarrassed about it all. I’m sure Mark felt like he was screaming and having to talk over children all night. I thought, well Mark, welcome to the life of a teacher the first few weeks of school.

During the dedications where being done, they showed video images on the screens. They showed DB leaning down talking to a little girl and boy who were probably 4 or 5 years old. Everyone was smiling from ear to ear, including the parents as tears fell down their cheeks. Then God started to paint a small picture for me of how he could use each one of the children to further his kingdom some day. These children will some day be church leaders and the salt and light in their homes and places of work. The impact could be astonishing and here I was pretty much whining because I had to sit through the long process. How selfish I am?!

The truth is I wondered if those children seemed to understand something I had forgotten about. The trust they had in their parents and their innocence seemed to overshadow the fact that they were babies or too young to understand what was being said and done. I guess it just reminded me how we should be in our faith. Here I was coming to God complaining, thinking I wasn’t getting the type of corporate worship I needed. (Any suggestions or thoughts?)

God said, “No Sarah, what you need is a reminder that you are my child and your faith should be like that of these children. You have a classroom of students who need to be invested in just like these parents are going to invest in their children. Are you going to commit to investing in your students like your parents invested in you and all of these parents are committing to do?” As I approached communion that night I was humbled and ashamed I had raised myself to such a high place. Who was I to decide I was more important than celebrating the decision these parents were making? Again, God nailed it on the head.

I don’t really like teaching and had already said this school year was about investing in students. It wasn’t that I had lost that focus; it is more a matter of frustration. It has been hard to balance the teacher and youth pastor sides of things. In some classes I feel like have to play teacher so much the relationships will never develop. In other classes the relationships are there already and it is hard for me to focus on teaching the material because I just want to talk to them about life. The two biggest struggles I’ve decided about teaching in Christian schools is balancing the two roles and pushing students past mediocrity and complacency. And I don’t think there are easy solutions for either one.

Lord, forgive my selfishness, for thinking that I am higher than what I am. Be patient with me, for I find myself in that place far too often. Help me challenge these students to settle for nothing less than what you desire and demand from each of us. Start that lesson with me. Erase my selfish desires and unwillingness to push myself to the next level. Less of me and more of you...