About Impact

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

30 Day Bible Challenge: Luke

Yes. Yes. I know that I'm a three days past the 30 day mark and finished reading it a week ago but this is the first chance I've had to write. So here we go.

Luke is like a good friend to me, mostly to the year I spent studying and memorizing for Bible Bowl. We've had our fair share of fights and several good laughs. I think the best way to describe this recent read is like taking a walk down memory lane. I constantly felt God was saying, "Hey Sarah, remember this?" over and over again.

I was reminded of the power of God. I was reminded of faithfulness of Christ. I was reminded of the challenge that comes with surrendering everything. More than anything, I was reminded of the passionate pursuit God has towards his people.

Why is it so easy for me to forget that no matter how much I long to grow closer to Christ, God desires it a billion trillion times more than I do? That is what I've been reminding myself on the hard days the last couple weeks. It helps.

I'm not sure I'll continue to blog about the next 30 days of finishing the NT. We'll see.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

My buddy Chester

June 2007

This is my buddy Chester Throop. This morning his time on earth came to an end. Unfortunately I won't be able to return for the funeral but had been asked to share some things for a memorial video. I've wrestled all day with how to communicate all of Chet's awesomeness and impact in one little post. I guess the best I can do is try.

I'm not even sure where to begin. I could share about the world's longest lecture about pushing in my chair or him insisting on calling my parents by MY full name. I could share about how he would roll his eyes and call me crazy every time I tried to say something funny. I could share about how he would sit in the back row at church waving his hands as if he was directing a choir or the time he walked on stage during worship at VBS to help me lead.

There are so many stories I could tell most of which would make you laugh. Chet was a funny guy! However I think I would rather share about things Chester taught me.
  • Chet taught me the importance of laughing. It wasn't always easy to make Chet laugh but when you did, you would laugh together forever.
  • Chet taught me the value of consistency. I was late to one our famous monthly pizza parties for some school event and my sisters said he sat and said nothing until I got there. Evidently he thought I forgot and he had been waiting for it all day.
  • Chet taught me the power of a name. For the most part Chet would call me Sarah unless he was mad at me then it was Sarah Koutz but he always called my parents, especially my mom, Sarah Koutz. It might not make sense to anyone else but hearing him call my mom by my name spoke volumes to me about how he viewed me.
  • Chet taught me about fighting hard. The poor guy spend lots of time with doctors and in the hospital. Even when he had to walk with a cane for a while, it didn't stop him from doing anything including sneaking away to vacuum the auditorium during one of those pizza parties.
  • Chet taught me patience. Chet could be stubborn especially it involved doing work at school. When he made up his mind, it was hard to change it.
  • Chet taught me about joy. Chet had a joy like very few people. Even when he wasn't feeling well, he would find a way to do something silly and make me laugh.
  • Chet taught me about legacy. This week and in years to come people will share stories like mine of how Chester had a powerful influence on their lives. He has left a legacy that encourages you to be a better you. His legacy challenges me to do what I can to leave a similar legacy.
I could go on but it would take hours to read if I did. I have always cherished my memories with Chester, now I will cherish them even more. I'll miss Chet greatly. I already do. I'm so thankful God placed Chester in my life. I'm a better person because of it.

Several of you who read my blog have never met Chester. To you I say, live your life sold out for Christ so you can meet Chet while we are all worshiping in heaven.

Chet was not happy I insisted on taking this picture. He quickly removed the sombrero afterward.

Monday, November 01, 2010

30 Day Bible Challenge: RENAMED

Approximately 23 days ago I accepted a challenge to attempt to read the entire New Testament in 30 days. I knew it would be a huge challenge for me for a couple reasons. One, I'm a slow reader. Two, random trains of thought are triggered by things I find interesting when I read. Unfortunately they are very long trains. I knew this challenge would probably take more like 60 days.

The whole challenge has been much more difficult than I expected. Mark caught me off guard a bit. The last week or so I've been distracted by Abraham and Isaiah. This may have been DC's challenge but this is my blog, so I've renamed the challenge the 30ish Day Synoptic Gospels Challenge.

I'm almost done with Luke and will finished the revamped challenge in less than 30 days. Booyah! If the three people reading this are lucky, they will have a blog post to read before those 30 days end.

To the rest of you who successfully completed this challenge, congratulations!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Right Time

Do you ever notice God has the greatest timing ever? Do you ever think it sure doesn't feel like it? I've been reading the gospels and noticing how Christ always shows up at the right time, responds at the right time, provides at the right time, etc. Everything he does is always at the right time. It might not seem like it as we read the stories, but we always discover it was. That got me thinking of other places in Scripture where we see God stepping in at just the right moments.

The last couple days I've been thinking a lot about Abraham and his willingness to obey in faith as he prepared to sacrifice Isaac. As he climbed the mountain, was he thinking my son is dead? Did he sense that God may do something greater? Had he lost hope of becoming a great nation? I can't begin to imagine the thoughts he wrestled with on that walk. Even more I can't imagine what he felt as he raised the knife to kill his son. But at the last possible second God shows up and reveals a greater plan.

I've been wrestling with several things the last few weeks. Trying to make sense of the journey God has me walking right now. I've been quite frustrated this week with the ways Satan appears to be attacking not only me but those around me. Yesterday, at what seemed like the last possible moment a simple phone call changed everything. And because God is just that amazing, after some a good coffee conversation and a couple more phone calls, God has blown me away...once again.

God never fails. He always seems to know what just the right time is. I've got my idea but it usually is far from accurate. Tonight I'm thankful God knows me better than I do. I'm thankful for people who are willing to be obedient so God can use them. I'm thankful for the incredible faithfulness of my Abba.

Isaiah 55:8-9 "My thoughts are completely different from yours," says the Lord. "And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts are higher than your thoughts"

Monday, October 25, 2010

Without words

I've been staring at my computer screen trying to put into words all the thoughts in my head. Needless to say, two hours later...it isn't happening. So I'll share with you the words that are playing on repeat in my head tonight.

Now glory be to God! By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope. - Ephesians 3:22

Come, let us return to the Lord! He has torn us in pieces, now he will heal us. He has injured us; now he will bandage our wounds. In just a short time, he will restore us so we can live in his presence. Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him! Then he will respond as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring. - Hosea 6:1-3

Saturday, October 16, 2010

30 Day Bible Challenge: Mark

Mark is probably the gospels I've spent the least amount of time studying. I'm not really sure why that is.

Mark, for me anyway, draws my attention to the spiritual battle we are in more than any of the other gospels. Perhaps it is because Mark jumps into the story right at the beginning of Christ's ministry. I also think Mark makes it evident the role our faith plays in this battle be sharing several accounts of Christ healing people because of their faith.

I smile every time I read about Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52) because DJ Olson use to start our camp staff training by teaching from this passage.

I'm still working through some thoughts on Mark 14:1-9. Maybe I'll share those thoughts in another post.

Some thoughts on Luke should come tonight if I have the chance. I'm a little behind in the blogging portion of this challenge.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

30 Day Bible Challenge: Matthew

Last week I joined my friends DC and Brooke on a little 30 day Bible challenge to read the New Testament. I decided I would blog some thoughts and observations along the way. I'm sure there will be very few profound thoughts and lots of thinking out loud. I guarantee most of the thoughts will seem random. It's how I am.

I, and I assume most, usually read the Bible in smaller chunks, but I think there is a lot of value to reading larger passages as well. It helps me get a better grip of the big picture of God's story. It also helps me connect with the story itself. Here are a few other observations.
  • I don't remember the Matthew being so descriptive. As I read through the book, I found myself imagining every detail of the scene. I would say it reads like a novel, but DC stole my thunder on that one.
  • I found myself connecting with people like John the Baptist and Peter much more than normal.
  • This was a much more emotional read than past reads.
  • Christ took advantage of every opportunity he had to teach.
  • Hypocrisy is in no way one of Christ's favorite things. (Matthew 23)
If I have a chance tomorrow, some thoughts on Mark.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Thoughts from the Woods

Monday I spent some time listening to God as I explored some local woods. I literally came face-to-face with a red-tailed hawk and a white-tailed deer and had no camera to take pictures. I found some beaver tracks and tried to track down the creature but had no luck. It was awesome! Nature helps me reconnect with God. It reminds me of his creativity, majesty and love for his people.

While I was sinking ankle deep in mud and getting twigs stuck in my hair from climbing trees, God was teaching me about myself. I learned that no matter how much I love the idea of putting "safety first," he continually calls me to live dangerously. I was laying in a tree when I realized how many huge steps of faith God has called me to take in the last ten years. Every step of faith has had these characteristics.
  • These steps were all outside of my comfort zone.
  • There were plenty of other people telling me how dangerous or irresponsible the decision was.
  • God ALWAYS exceeded my expectations as I stepped forward.
To be honest, I frequently haven't recognized how great the risk was in each situation. I just knew it was the right thing to do. The desire to live in obedience seems to have blocked out most of the risk involved. I think God does that because he knows me so well. Otherwise, I may not have been so willing to leap.

I guess I am a little bit of an adventurer. God shared with me a little bit more about the adventure I'm on right now. I'm excited for it and know the next few months may not be easy but they will be fun. Maybe I'll even get another chance to catch that beaver!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Lessons from a Relationship Status

Jessica, Rachel, Susanna and Me

I had the privilege of spending my day with these lovely ladies and the rest of the Ditto family. During our lunch conversation, we started talking about relationship statuses on Facebook. We wondered who would cause the most buzz by changing their status. Of course there was only one way to find out so we all changed our single status to in a relationship.

Being the competitive people that we are, we made it a contest, but it didn't stay that way for long. Shortly after the texts, phone calls, comments and messages started showing up, we noticed some interesting trends. Forget the friendly competition! We had a little social experiment on our hands. There were some interesting and disappointing observations.
  • People who we haven't spoken with in YEARS want to know every thing about your life.
  • People who we've tried to connect with but never have the time suddenly seem to have an abundance of it.
  • It was interesting to note the people who took the time to call or text instead of just leaving a comment. A majority of those people are ones who have been intentional about staying connected not matter what.
  • The people closests to us, flat out ignored it or called us out because they know there was no way it was true. This was my favorite response!
  • We have a handful of smart friends who actually noticed all of our statuses changed at the same time and we were spending the day together. Well they're either smart or spend way to much time on Facebook.
Probably the biggest thing we learned for these shenanigans was just how much attention a change in your relationship status can draw. I scrolled back on my wall for months looking for a status update the caused more individuals to respond than a relationship update. I couldn't find one!!! We all found that more people responded to this than almost every other subject we've ever posted about.

More people were interested in who the guy was we were dating than updates about family members, school, work, ministry or even things God was teaching us. And that last one was the thing that bothered me the most. More people called and text in one day to find out details about a relationship with a boy than have ever asked about how THE most important relationship I will ever have. That made me ask myself some tough questions today.

Am I doing what I can to encourage those in my life to pursue Christ?
Do I know how to pray for my friends and am I doing it?
Am I creating space in my life to listen to what is going on in the lives of those around me?

Okay, you can all start whining and complaining about being tricked and how unfair it is. And may be this does sound a bit harsh. Say what you want. It's my blog and my Facebook account. Deal with it!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Reflections on Blogging

During a conversation with a group of GSM students after Journey Class tonight, I referenced an old blog post. When I got home tonight I decided to find it. In the process I read several old posts, many about teaching. I laughed. I cried. Teaching was such an adventure.

Now I'm sitting here wondering what my excuse is for not blogging. I have NONE! I enjoyed blogging. I'm glad I was able to capture the stories and emotions of the last few years. I THINK about blogging often. Obviously it rarely happens.

Maybe I'll get back to blogging on a regular basis. Maybe I won't. I guess time will tell.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Summer So Far - July Version

July kicked off with some thing our family doesn't do often, a trip to the beach We went to Tunnel Park in Holland and had a picnic, went swimming, build some sandcastles and of course played some Frisbee. It was a blast!

Somehow I managed to not take a single picture of High School week at RLCA. However I stole this from picture from my friend Caiti because she is awesome. This was one of the most interesting weeks I've ever been a part of at Rock Lake. I've never had a group of high school student be as honest and open as the students were during this week. They took huge steps and have huge dreams of building the kingdom.

A few days after camp, my brother's foster boys went back to their birth mother. I had already made plans to hang out with my friend, Chris, who was in town but he was gracious enough to make a surprise visit with me so I could to see them one last time. We played Apples to Apples and watch the kids ride bikes. I already miss these boys a ton. I pray if they remember nothing else from their time with our family, they remember how much God loves them. I probably told them that a hundred times that night.

Since I've been able to spend more time at home this month, it was time for a party. So the Impact gang came over to eat lots of sandwiches and play some games. Scum was the big game of the night and some how Nicole spent lots of time sitting on the king's throne and I spent a lot of time sitting on the floor in the scum of the earth spot. Oh well it was a very fun night with some amazing friends!

Since most of the time I've had with my family this summer has been tied to trips for Impact, I decided to take a weekend and spent it in Vestaburg with my parents. That weekend started with the annual Lugnuts baseball game with the church. I use to babysit for all the boys in this picture. I've seen them a few times this summer and it was exciting to hear some of their stories about what God is teaching them.

Part of that weekend at home included a day trip to Indy for the Boehm-Sheese Summer Party. It was VERY hot but it was great to see part of the family we only get to see once or twice a year.

July has been full of exciting conversations. Some over a picnic meal on ND's campus. Some in an empty Burger King restaurant. Some over a cup of coffee or a simple glass of water. I really enjoy just hanging out and talking with friends. Hearing the stories of how God is moving and leading His people never gets old.

Summer So Far - June Version

I know it is still July but if you are an educator or in student ministry you know that the school year is quickly approaching. Since I haven't blogged much this summer I thought I would share a few thoughts from the summer so far.

June started with a trip to my parent's house to do some work around the house with Anna and Ryan. We did some landscaping and assembled a swing set. After all that hard work we spent plenty of time eating and playing game. One of my new favorites, bocce ball!

A couple weeks later it was back to Vestaburg to lead worship for Vacation Bible School and share more about Impact's ministry. VBS week is always a bit crazy but I had the chance to have some really good conversations with my nieces and nephews about how much God loves them. And I get to tell all the students how awesome camp is!

Then it was off to MCSC for Deeper Life, a high school week of camp. This year was probably one of my favorite weeks I've done with this team. It was a powerful week of digging into what it means to BE. My highlight was watching my friend Jonathan (one of our Impact students) have the opportunity to baptize one of his campers.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

It's been too long

It has been far too long since I've been to the beach. In fact I can't really remember the last time I went to a beach. I forgot how much fun you can have there. Today I met part of my family at Tunnel Park in Holland, MI. A picnic, swimming, sand castles, Frisbee and lots of laughs make for a great day!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Time Flies

I was going to post some pictures and share a little bit about everything that has happened over the last month but then I started feeling a little old.

I was looking at this picture of my youngest niece, Cora, who turned a year old is January. I was going to write about my trip to see her and how she can now say Aunt Sarah.And then it hit me, a year from now, I'll be blogging about how my oldest niece, Heather, is graduating from high school. She went to prom this year! That's just weird.May be some day you'll get that post about what has happened over the last month, but until then I'll be trying to figure out how my nieces and nephews are growing up so fast.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Change around a Fire

Amazing things can happen around a fire.
--The most random group of people easily find ways to connect and new relationships are built. Our view of the kingdom is stretched a little wider.
--Silence is comfortable and accepted. God's whispers suddenly seem more audible then they've ever been.
--Worship happens...Stories are shared. Songs are sung. Creation is admired. Steps are defined.
--Life-changing memories are made.

This week I've had the privilege of hanging out with some absolutely amazing people around a bonfire. We laughed, cried and had a blast. God showed up in those moments and lives were changed by simply watching some stars, listening to a guitar and sharing our journeys. I was changed.

I'm incredibly grateful for these memories. I wouldn't have the month start any other way.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Springview Reflections: Community

I'm a very independent person. I want to be able to do everything by myself. I don't like having to ask for help. I'm incredibly stubborn on top of that. This means God is constantly having to remind me that he created us to do life together. Our retreat was a great reminder of this.

Why do I think that some how I can handle doing life on my own? Honestly it is just plain stupid. There is great value in building healthy relationships with other people. We learn from each other. We pick each other up when we fall. We encourage each other. We challenge each other.

I spent the weekend with some incredible people. We were all at different points in our journey. We were all completely different. As we shared our stories, our struggles and our victories we shared ourselves. Through all of that I learn more about myself. I get a bigger glimpse of God.

Sure we are all human and far from perfect. We'll make mistakes along the way and have to learn to forgive each other. I want to learn to be a better friend to others, to learn how to help others on the journey better than I am now.

Springview Reflections: At War

Ephesians 6:12 "For we are not fighting against flesh and blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places."

I know what you are thinking. "I thought this was a spiritual retreat. What's with all the weapons?" There are the obvious explanations. During a free afternoon David Joe and Chuck (pictured above) taught us how to shoot. It is a way of life on the farm. We carried the rifle with us as we hiked through the woods in case we came face to face with some wild boar or coyotes. And we brought machetes to help clear the path.

Then there are the not so obvious observations. It wasn't our theme for the weekend but the subject of spiritual warfare came up many times. I'm guessing all of us could identify the recent attacks from the enemy in our individual lives. Most of us came to the retreat feeling beat up and to some extent, defeated. But I'm not sure the conversations about these things would have ever come up if we hadn't started talking about weapons, how they work, and their purpose.

The battles we are fighting are part of a very real war that far too often many like to ignore. We can't though. We know how the story ends. God dominates! But knowing that ending doesn't me we get a free pass to not fight the battles. This weekend we got to talk very openly about these battles and we got to encourage each other along the way.

If shooting some guns and swinging some machetes is what it takes to get students to dialogue about our real battles, I'll shoot targets in a corn field any day.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Springview Reflections: Get Out of the Way

There is a lot prayer and preparation that goes into any retreat. Last weekend was no exception. We planned a few activities but for the most part we wanted to create the space and freedom for students (and staff) to connect with God in their own ways. Knowing that, I came with some goals for me personally.

By the time we arrived at Springview, I had already revamped all of our plans for that evening. By the end of campfire that night it became evident I was there to do two things. 1) Stay out of the way. 2) Be available. All of the sudden I had new goals.

I'm so glad I discovered that on our first night because I'm afraid I would have missed somethings otherwise. I wonder what would have been different if I wouldn't have pushed aside the original plan and focused on these. What would I have missed? What would others have missed?

I wonder how often we get in the way of something greater that God is trying to do. My original plans to do some extra reading and writing were good, but they were nothing compared to what God had in store. It leads me to ask this question.

Where else am I getting in the way of what God is trying to do?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Springview Reflections: Wash Over Me

During Impact's Spring Retreat last weekend a group of us hiked to this waterfall. As I watched Ty playing in the fall I realized it was the perfect image of the conversation I was having with God at the moment. So I grabbed my camera to capture the image.

I had visited this fall last November on a personal retreat. During that visit I was reminded of Jami Smith's Wash Over Me where she sings "only you can take this life and make it look like Jesus." Since then I've been praying God would do that with my life.

This weekend I found myself reflecting on how I've grown during those months and how there is still so much growth that needs to happen. We hiked further down stream on this trip and I looked at all of the stones whose rough edges had been smoothed away by the running water.

I long to be like those stones, smooth and shaped by the power of God. I'm not there yet but I'm taking steps. Just like David I keep praying that God would wash over me, cleanse me and smooth my rough edges.

Psalm 51:2 "Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin."

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

A little time

I love spending time with friends. Drinks at a coffee shop, a wheat-free meal, movies, chasing possums, coloring pictures, watching hockey, sitting in silence, sharing stories, building campfires...I don't really even care what we are doing as long as it involves being together.

It makes a huge difference when you take a part of your time and give it to someone else. You learn about other people's lives and the journey they are traveling. I've learned this about friends I've spent time recently. There have been moments of sharing both tears of joy and pain. In some moments there were lots of words shared and other moments just the peaceful stillness of each others presence.

This last week has been another reminder of how we have been created for community. A little time with a friend may just be the very thing they, or even you, need.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Change: A Love-Hate Relationship

I’ve always hated change. It is full of uncertainty and I can’t prepare for that. I don’t like not being prepared. Most of the time that is still true but I’m starting to find the beauty in change.

Not all the changes life has thrown at me in the last several months have been easy. Some come with great freedom and I welcome them with open arms. Most come head to head with my stubbornness. A few still come despite my kicking and screaming in resistance.

Perhaps the difference is the result of a better attitude. Perhaps I’ve just learned to accept that I can’t control things. Perhaps I’ve finally faced the reality that change happens. Regardless of what it is I’ve learned change brings an opportunity for growth.

I finding that growth from change may just be worth the uncertainty. I’m learning more about who I am and how God has created me. I’m constantly being reminded of how passionately God is pursuing me and how deeply he loves me. I’m being challenged to do more to live in community with others. I'm learning to trust. Had life continued as it was before, I fear I may have never grown in my understanding of these things.

I’ll probably always hate uncertainty. But somewhere in the middle of this love-hate relationship with change is the beauty of God molding and shaping me. That I love!

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Impatient Dreams

February is my least favorite month. It is during this month that I wrestle the most with my lack of patience. Winter has been here forever and spring is too far away. The blanket of snow out my back window is beautiful but it has over stayed its welcome, at least in my book.

In recent years I've tried to do less complaining about the cold weather and start dreaming more of what spring and summer will hold. I can't say I've been all to successful but at least I'm trying. Today I've done lots of dreaming and praying about some of the things I'm looking forward to this summer. Things like...

Vacation Bible School - As much as I'm not a fan of little kids songs, I love serving alongside my family and helping young students learn what it means to worship God.

Family - Coming from a family of educators, there is always more time to be together once school is out for the summer.

Chicago - This will be the first year I haven't been able to go with our GSM students to serve in Chicago. I'm pretty disappointed but I can't wait to hear what God does on their trip.

Golf - Since my brother finally taught me how to play last year, I've decided this is the summer to demolish him in the game! As a sidenote: provided there are no ankle injuries in May, I'll be back on the softball field as well!!!

CAMP!!!!!! - I'm very excited about Deeper Life and Rock Lake's High School week. I really wish I could add Camp Adventure to the schedule but unfortunately that isn't going to work out this summer.

Dear summer, PLEASE come quickly!!!