Transforming Thoughts

Last Saturday morning I drove to a town an hour away, where I knew essentially no one, nor was I familiar with the area. I pulled up to a church unbeknown to me and vice-versa. I walked in and was greeted by those who knew only of my name and information from an application.

Two months before this moment, my cousin prompted me with the idea of being a senior counselor for a well-known camp called Summer's Best 2 Weeks, a camp originating closer to central Pennsylvania. However, I was going to be a counselor for a camp at a church that was hosting their own similar version.

Do you really think you can be a camp counselor?
People aren't really going to like you.
Sports? You're not good at sports.
Teaching Bible? You'll probably mess up and the kids will learn nothing.
No one will understand you or care to.

Those were just a few of the thoughts in my head as I sat down at the table Saturday morning with a dozen strangers. I was so afraid. I felt like turning back. 

This isn't the first time God has pushed me into open fields of uncertainty. First it was attending a youth group where I knew no one. And then last summer when I made the decision to attend a mission trip to Ecuador including flying to Florida by myself and meeting up with 400+ strangers from all over the place. And now, again, He set me in a place where I was far away from comfort. 

This morning I read Philippians 4, what a great book it is.

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." (v.8)

I began to think about all the insecurities that I had been feeling last weekend when I arrived. Where those thoughts true? Were they noble or right? Were they excellent or praiseworthy?

Often I believe we view this verse as a command to purity, but after thinking about it, this verse speaks to so much more than that. It is obvious that God does not desire us to think negatively of ourselves, but how often do we truly believe and see ourselves the way God does?

What if I were to replace those thoughts that I previously mentioned? What if I were to recreate them as pure and noble, as admirable?
Do you really think you can be a camp counselor? becomes: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Phil. 4:13)
People aren't really going to like you. becomes: Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. (Romans 8:39)
No one will understand you or care to. becomes: I am fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139:14)

Does your thought life need transformation?

P.S. So it turns out that I've been told I am at least a half-decent counselor, that people like me and do desire to understand me. The sports part.. well.. let's just say I'm still working on that! But it turns out, my insecurities were wrong as they usually are. If only I had read Philippians 4 sooner. :)


It's All about the Attitude

My English professor shared this with our class recently, which was neat as my professor is not a Christian (and this piece is written by a well known Christian pastor), though is most certainly an admirable and respectable man who is a blessing to many. May it bless you.

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you... we are in charge of our Attitudes.”

-Charles Swindoll


Everyone is Searching


A woman, unhappily married. Unhappily married to a man who has no respect for her, who verbally abuses her, who certainly does not care for her best. Yet she does not want to be alone, so she stays. She is searching.

The boy bullied countless times in the hallways at school is ashamed of himself, embarrassed of who he is. He contemplates suicide. He is searching.

The young girl who made a mistake. And now she's pregnant. "But I thought he cared about more than just this body of mine" she says, after he leaves her. She is searching.

Searching for what?

"God IS love." 1 John 4:8

We are all searching for love. It's the core of all we do.
Often looked at is the struggles we face, or the sin we are constantly in battle with.
Instead we should go further than just identifying the sin. What makes us want to do those certain sins?
The easy answer is "Oh, it's just my sinful nature."
This statement is completely true, but there is so much more to it than that.

The core of all our hearts is wanting to feel and know that we are loved, a desiring to be known by others.

"God IS love." 1 John 4:8

Whether it's a woman starving herself because she doesn't feel beautiful enough,
Or the man that continues to look at pornography in secret,
Or the girl who will go to bed crying tonight because she has discovered the unfaithfulness of her boyfriend.
Or the boy who is only fourteen, but today he will endure 'hazing' in hopes that he will be accepted into the city gang.
All of these issues that individuals are faced with daily return to the same thought.
"I simply want to be loved. I simply want to be known."

How about the Christian struggling with sin yet wanting to seek after God. The Christian who feels incredible weight to reflect the perfect standard that only Jesus has set and can match. The Christian feels not good enough. The Christian is searching.

The struggles we face are typically a side effect of the fact that we have a seemingly unquenchable desire to love, be loved, know, and be known.

"God IS love." 1 John 4:8

Maybe you are wondering why I continue to mention the verse above.

"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." Genesis 1:27

If God IS love, and we were made in HIS image, then it is certain that love and loving is a huge part of being human. And consequently, this love we desire can be found in God. Before we can work on any of the issues we have, we must first believe that we are known and loved by a God who IS love. The sin we deal with daily, or even the insecurities we face are the consequence of not realizing the limitless and unconditional love of God.
Dear Christian, or may I even go further to say, Dear soul, you are loved.


So we Depend on Him

"We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead." 
2 Corinthians 1:8-9

A few things have happened in my life recently, and sometimes I wish they would all just go away. I'm sure you know what I mean. Sometimes I look up toward Heaven and I ask God, "Do I really have to deal with this?" or "What do you want me to do? Because I sure don't know!"

I came across these verses in 2 Corinthians and it was a reminder to me to stop relying so much on myself, and that maybe the situations in my life are to redirect my focus and source of strength to God. I think we all need that sometimes.

Be encouraged, that despite whatever may be happening in your life, or whatever difficulties you may be feeling, that God is there letting you know that you can depend on Him! Much like we cannot raise the dead, we cannot fix all the things wrong in our lives. But God, he can raise the dead, and He makes all paths straight.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understand,
In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight."

Proverbs 3:5-6


All the Things we want to Erase ~ Part 1

  • To learn:
    Permanent change in behavior or mental processes due to practice or experience.
Recently in my Psychology class we were discussing this. I was fascinated by the fact that once you learn something, you can never be rid of it. Whether learning how to play an instrument through practice, or learning by experience that touching something hot will burn you, this is information that can never be erased from memory.

My mind ventured farther to question: What about the experiences that we don't want to remember? What about the habits that we have learned? All the things we do that we dislike, or even hate... what do we do with those?

Beyond the scope of simple things such as riding a bike, or knowing not to touch something hot, sometimes I wonder why God created us to never forget certain things - like certain experiences. Perhaps, though we may dislike them, it is actually for our own benefit.

Think about it: Experiences are essentially what make up who we are.
If we lacked the experience of pain, could we ever truly experience joy?
If we lacked the experience of fear, could we ever truly experience security?
If we lacked the experience of uncertainty, could we ever truly experience real faith?

If we had it our way, we would most likely choose to erase the hard things, the things that weigh us down. I know I would. Who wants to feel the things they don't like? No one.

While there is value in recognizing the things we desire to erase or forget, there is an alternative to this seemingly dead-end street. It's called replacing.

What's that? Come back soon when I have it a little more figured out and I'll tell you. :)
For now, think about the things that you desire to erase. The things you desire to forget.
God can teach through all things, through all experiences, through all circumstances.
In fact, these are exactly where He enables growth and maturity the most.

It is ironic that the most disliked things about the human condition are the some of the most valuable things about the human condition. That although in our human condition we are so incomplete, we are also made whole, through His grace.

James 1:2-4
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

I meant it when I said 'Come back soon'! There will be a second part to this post which will relate to the alternative of erasing - replacing.


Loved - Are we? Should we be? CAN we be?

I know, I know. It's Valentine's Day, so that means EVERYONE is making some status or post or blog on love. This also involves the mention of wonderful things like hearts, flowers and chocolate.
Okay, don't get me wrong, I totally agree that God is our first love and He makes us whole even if we're single, etc. BUT, I didn't want to just throw out another one of those speeches.

 I think most ladies (and gentlemen) have heard that speech a countless amount of times. They want to believe it. They want to be able to think and believe that even though they have no physical, human lover, that they are still complete and satisfied. It is true that they are complete. But are they truly satisfied?
For a long time, I thought I loved myself. You know, a healthy amount of love for one self.
You take care of yourself, your dress yourself nice, you feed yourself, you are responsible with your body, you have friends, you have a good church community, and the list goes on and on.

But recently I have come to realize that it's not so much that I don't love myself, but that I don't believe I should be loved, or worse yet, I can't be loved.. Anyone out there feel me right now? Somehow I just know, whether verbally spoken or not, in some of your hearts, you feel this too.

This is not to say that "Ah mah gosh! I am SO wonderful, who wouldn't love me?! I DESERVE to be loved!" This is more along the lines of... "Look at me. At all my imperfections. Does God REALLY love all of this? Does He REALLY want this relationship with me? I mean, look at me, I can't do anything right. I shouldn't be loved. I can't be loved."

Take this simple phrase, one which we are all so familar with: "God loves you."
It's almost so overused that we are jaded towards it.
But if we truly believed this in our heart of hearts, how would our lives look?
How different would we be?

If we truly believed that God loved us, that we do not have to constantly beat ourselves up over our sins, our imperfections, that we do not have to try to have everything together, and be the "most spiritual Christian", wouldn't we be so different?

It's not Valentine's Day itself that makes people feel miserable. It's the fact that it's a huge reminder to ourselves of our deep feelings of not being loved, a reminder to the fact that we feel like we should not or cannot be loved. It becomes such a large gap in our hearts because at the heart of every individual is the desire to be truly loved and truly known.
If we believed that God truly knows us and still truly loves us, then I think we would feel and think quite a bit differently about ourselves.
Because what you think about yourself reflects what (1) God thinks and (2) what you think God thinks of you.
  • "I should/can not be loved." = "God does not love me/God is not capable of truly loving me because He does not truly know me."
  • "I cannot forgive myself." = "God cannot forgive me."
  • "I am not complete." = "God cannot complete me."
  • "I am alone." = "God does not understand me."
  • "I am trapped." = "God cannot free me."
  • "I feel so burdened." = "God cannot carry my burdens."
  • "I am worried." = "God is not in control of this situation."
  • "I cannot let go of this situation." = "God is not trustworthy."
Those are just a few examples that show the reflection of our true state of relation with God and our satisfaction in Him.
And the truth is, whether you are single today or not, you can still be facing this dilemma in your life.

Someone wise recently told me that "God is not against us, He is against our sin."
Let's reverse it. God is for YOU! God wants to make you whole, He wants you to know and feel that you are loved. He has come to remove the shame, the guilt, the feelings of not being good enough or measuring up to someone elses opinions or ideas.
So today, remove the roses, the chocolate, perhaps even the special someone, and ask yourself: Should I be loved? Can I be loved?

God does love you. He wants you to know you are loved and you are known. Of course you can read this and still not truly believe. It's a long process but a life changing one, for sure. It's a process I am still working through. But every now and then I catch a glimpse of its beauty.
By believing this truth then it will not only effect what you think of yourself, but what you think of others. But that's a post for another time. ;)

That concludes my ramblings. Hope it made sense. Now I will go enjoy some chocolate myself... ;)

Romans 8:38-39
"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Like the photos? Check out my photography blog!


A Man of Sorrows

He was despised and forsaken of men,   
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. 
Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, 
Smitten of God, and afflicted. 
Isaiah 53:3-4

As I was flipping through my Bible recently, I came across these verses and they hit me in a way they had not before.

Sometimes when I look at the Christian world, on the surface I see polished people trying to hold it together. I see people trying to maintain a certain reputation, a certain facade.

As Christians, a message we hear a lot is that we should be the most joyful people. We should be the most satisfied people. We should never have a bad day, an irritating moment, or any reason to be upset. Of course the Bible does say rejoice always, but I think too often, whether we realize it or not, we take this message we hear and it skews our openness. It confuses us. We become less of humans, and more like models on magazine covers. 

I know the struggles of my own heart, I know the pain I face daily. I know my own sorrows. Surely, every other Christian out there shares in this with me. Yet something does not seem quite right.

Our Christian reputation concerns us more than our ability to be vulnerable and honest, our ability to be real. Truth is, the only perfection and genuine 'Christian reputation' that has ever changed anything or anyone was that of Jesus. We don't need to be perfect - because HE is and was that for us.

I understand the desire of wanting to be something, the aspiration to meet goals relating to success or character, especially in the sense of spiritual maturity. Nevertheless, before we can focus on where we want to be, we need to realize where we are. And sometimes looking at where we are is one of the most painful things. Looking at where we are forces us to look at our mistakes, our failings, our regrets, and our seemingly never ending struggles. It means we must FEEL something, rather than maintaining that 'put-together Christian' facade. However, if we do not realize those feelings, if we do not open ourselves up to the painful parts of our imperfections, of our struggles, then we can never truly grow.

And I encourage you to feel, because of all people, Jesus felt the most. He was a man of sorrows. He felt every kind of pain. He was acquainted with grief. And He knows the pain you feel - because He carried our sorrows, including yours and mine.


I've created a new blog!

Due to my recent purchase of a beautiful camera, the Canon Rebel T1i, I've decided to make a blog based solely on practicing my photography skills.

It's called 366 Days with Sherlock.

Essentially, I will be taking pictures every day for the year of 2012 and posting one for each day.

Right now it is in the making and not completely set-up, but it's getting there.

I hope you check it out and enjoy! :)