Monday, June 27, 2016

To Whom Would We Go?

I stand amazed. For no one compares to Him.

At the end of a busy week, on the brink of another that appears even more daunting, I turn to Him.

I consider the weakness and nothingness I have to offer God when He deserves so much. I think of how much I need His wisdom and strength, and yet how little I have prayed. I mentally analyze this desire I have to Love Him purely and serve Him energetically, and I contrast that with how much I actually do.

I gather these thoughts together and present them to Him. I’m not proud of them. They make my heart heavy. But I offer them to Him because they are sincere. I offer them to Him because I have nowhere else to go.

He does not turn away.

“Father, I am here, because to where else or to whom else would I go. My eyes have seen that You are gracious. I have known the touch of Your hand. My days are surrounded with the happiness and Love that You alone bestow. I can’t stop believing in the One who believes so steadily in me. You are too true, oh God, and thus, when my heart wanders, it always comes back to You.”

I will stand amazed often during my journey here. For no one compares to Him.  

Jesus said to the twelve, “You don’t want to go away too, do you?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God!”  John 6:67, 68

Monday, February 8, 2016

Courtship is Not the Answer

The concept of courtship (viewed as an alternative to dating) is at times controversial. Greatly acclaimed by some, it is likewise highly scorned by others. There is nothing sacred about the word “courtship” as compared to the word “dating.” Courtship is not a magic wand that can suddenly transform a romantic relationship into a holy pursuit. It is not a miracle cure for the world´s relationship ills.  As a term, a concept or a set of principles, courtship is not the answer. I am more convinced every day that there is only One Answer in this world, and His name is Jesus. So why do I choose to use the word courtship at all?

Let me clarify something really important. I learned from personal mistakes that courtship is not about saying “no” when asked out on dates, it is not about potential suitors talking to your parents, it is not about going out on group dates instead of dates alone with your boyfriend/girlfriend, it is not about not having sex or not kissing your partner prematurely, and it is most definitely not about trying to be different from the world by sheer will-power. 

Courtship is deeper than outward behavior. Courtship is a matter of the heart and the heart of the matter is Submission.

Submission may not sound very inviting, but it is the most peaceful place in the whole world—a place where deep joy and freedom abound. When I use the word courtship, it encompasses principles that apply long before I meet “the one” and which continue to be relevant after marriage and into eternity. Courtship is:

1. Submitting my emotions/feelings to the truth of God.

2. Submitting my future to the wisdom and Love of God.

While our emotions are an incredible gift from God, they are not to be our guide, especially when we´re talking about life´s most important decisions. Surrendering our fantasies, attraction and romantic feelings to God (yes, even when the other person is a wonderful, godly potential partner) takes away the emotional clutter and distraction from our hearts and minds so that God can make the first move, so that God can give us clear indicators when it´s the right person and the right time.

We often are in danger of elevating ourselves above God and thinking we know more about how to bring about a beautiful future for us than He does. A true follower has cast his life into the hands of the master. Don´t you agree that the most beautiful love stories will result from casting our lives into the hands of Love itself? When we learn day by day to fully trust Him and be satisfied with Him, our hearts can be set free from concern about who or where our future spouse is.

In God´s great wisdom, He has prepared parents or godly mentors who help us take our submission experience deeper yet. Sadly, many young people outwardly go to friends, family or pastors for counsel but are inwardly not willing to submit to that counsel due to their emotions that are already invested in a certain guy/girl. In turn, many parents, pastors and mentors are unprepared to give good counsel that would draw forth a greater experience in submission. However, if you know that your parents or mentors have a true connection with the God of heaven, there should be no fear but rather great peace and rest in knowing that they are on your side, they will fight for your future happiness and will guard you from unwise decisions.   

The principles of courtship draw my eyes away from self-trust and call me towards the sweet Lover of my soul. 

Courtship should never be put on a pedestal. Courtship, in and of itself, is not the answer, but it points me to the Answer. The principles of courtship remind me Who should be at the center of my thoughts, heart and life. You may call it by a different name, but for me courtship comes down to an attitude of the heart, an attitude of dependence and submission that I believe greatly pleases the Creator.  

Friday, January 15, 2016

Falling in Like

I don´t mind that our courtship has been rather unusual (or yes, super weird in many people´s eyes)! I don´t mind because it has been more wonderful and sweet than any experience I could have ever tried to imagine. As I look back, I have to smile at some of our early journey together. Here is an excerpt from almost a year ago...February 2015...

It wasn´t something we consciously discussed. Neither of us ever formally agreed to not utter the expression “I love you” to the other. We just knew. I knew that he wasn´t planning to say it soon and he knew the same about me.

This unique and slightly comical aspect of our relationship was made more obvious to me the day Joshua looked up from his homework and said slowly, “I really like you, Ariana.” Struck as I often am by his sweetness, I unhesitatingly smiled and replied, “I truly like you too, Joshua.” A strange smile took over his face as he noted, “So I guess we´re falling in like with each other.”

As it stands, we are nearing six months of the most special courtship ever and no, we haven´t directly used the word “Love” to describe our feelings toward each other. 

Our reasoning is rather simple. In short, we are saving the phrase “I love you” much like one would save a kiss. Not because the words (or the kiss) are wrong. To the contrary, they are so especially beautiful that we want to be sure we understand their true meaning. We are not afraid of the word but we do revere it.

Sixteen months ago something happened to us. We realized that we had underestimated Love—God´s Love. We had no idea how to truly Love our God. Our discussions concerning how much we lacked a basic understanding of the Universe's greatest power—the active Love of our Creator—filled many a Facebook message. We developed a new respect for the word that God Himself uses to describe His essence. We became aware of how rashly we had declared our love for God in the past. We even took to capitalizing “Love” in all our correspondence to commemorate our conviction.

To be genuinely in Love is an experience that the Creator of the Universe must gift two hearts with. To be genuinely in Love is to be touched and filled by God Himself.  

It is possible to be precipitous and presumptuous with a word that is supposed to mean everything self-sacrificing, unending, strong and pure. And thus, Joshua and I will save our “I love you” until the time God impresses us to calmly and confidently declare His closeness to our hearts. For now, we are quite delighted to be falling in like.    

P.S. The perfect time turned out to be August 29, 2015 when Joshua couldn´t hold back the words "I Love you" any longer and proposed to me atop our special bridge!  

Monday, January 11, 2016


We all know a bit too much about imperfect.

It´s all around us. It´s inescapable.

Imperfect is when a college student does not return from class because they´ve been shot.

Imperfect is when the kids in El Salvador´s streets cannot avoid gangs, rape and empty futures. 

Imperfect is when families in Syria have access to no safe place on the entire planet. 

Imperfect is when the little girl still thinks her parent´s divorce was her fault.

Imperfect is the 17-year-old in court who has tried to stop smoking marijuana for two years but can´t, and all the rehab facilities have waiting lists.

Imperfect is an irregular heartbeat on an EKG that scares me.

Imperfect is the hidden tears on the young face of one I love. 

We know too much about imperfect.

Our belief in anything—humanity, reforms, beauty, God—waxes thin and our hearts grow tired of loving. But something inside of us shouts for reason…for don´t you only label things as imperfect because your soul also knows that perfect exists? Isn´t all this chaos of imperfection inversely defining some pristine and yet illusive concept of perfection?

Perhaps there is a “perfect” Love that would make us entirely less afraid. Perhaps there is a “perfect” way by which imperfect beings can be made spotless again through the grace and sacrifice of another. Perhaps there is a “perfect” sequence of events weaving itself above and beyond and through all this imperfection. Perhaps the only way for the superiority of Perfection to be made convincingly manifest is to let the ugliness of imperfection run its course. Perhaps this mess of broken and fallen realities will draw us, without force or coercion, to develop a loyalty within us that will never allow this to happen again.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

He Writes

Several months have passed since posting any thoughts. I may have subconsciously wanted to give it a break and see if I would miss it. Or perhaps, I wanted to be sure of all of my motives.

With finals done, a lull in my work schedule, and the rain keeping me indoors, I´ve felt nudged by a still, small voice to make writing a priority again. I have been reminded of how much writing means to me. Writing brings greater introspection and awareness. Writing gives clarity, perhaps because the letters are arranged at regular intervals on a white page and neatly lined up in rows. The written words are, much like photographs, my souvenirs of having lived.

And so, I write. I want to write about Him—the tireless Writer. For when everyone gives up, He writes. When the present with its joys and troubles is all we can see, He writes eternal thoughts. When we think surely He has abandoned us, He still writes in a quiet corner. When in our weakness we are swept away by enemy floods, He wages war with His pen and rescues us.

His intent is simple, almost childish. His hands hold a writing tablet and He etches, a millimeter at a time, all things beautiful. But four letters take precedence.  An L, an O…and with painstaking precision a V and an E. Over and over, He carefully seeks another empty surface on the same tablet and begins again. He will not stop until it is perfect, until every space and corner is filled with His Love. He who has begun this good work will surely complete it.

And this is my hope. For when I am not faithful, I am called back and still God writes.

“The tablets were written on both sides; on the one side and on the other they were written. Now the tablets were the work of God and the writing was the writing of God engraved on the tablets.” (Exodus 32:15, 16)

“…not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.” (2 Corinthians 3:3)

“…this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (Jeremiah 31:33) 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

For One

Reminiscing from Redwood Creek Summer Camp 2015

It took one small face. And then everything made sense…

His name is Bryce*. Almost from day one, he caught Joshua´s attention. “There´s something about that kid,” Josh told me, “He reminds me of me when I was that age…kind of troubled and yet there´s a spark inside of him.” Over the course of the week, Bryce´s reserved yet eager spirit had won my heart too.

Friday night comes. Most everyone has dispersed from the campfire area into the darkness. Bryce stays behind with head lowered. Thin shoulders heave slightly with emotion. His counselor, Leif, sits protectively close, visibly compassionate. Live embers still glow and spark in the fire area.

Josh and I linger nearby. I know Joshua longs to rush to him, but he considers for a moment. I am touched to the core by the small tearful figure. 

Joshua makes his way towards the two on the bench. From a distance I overhear snatches of an exchange among the three boys who all know more than a thing or two about hard things in life—Leif on one side, Josh on the other, both turned toward their younger brother who is hurting. I hear Bryce say “don´t have any parents” and “don´t ever want to leave camp.” They talk in quiet voices. I hear words of strength and comfort.

“Can we pray together?” Leif asks Bryce. The earnest young eyes shine as he eagerly nods. How I wish we could take him home!

The scene is embedded upon my soul. Everything makes sense now. He is the reason. Bryce is the reason. His young face makes every hour in board meeting, every minute spent on grant applications, every early morning at camp, all the rushing back and forth to the rappelling rock, every prayer offered in preparation for camp…all of it…he gives it purpose! He´s the reason why! He makes everything worth it a million times over!

Yes, every camper is equally amazing and important but with unexpected passion I realize we did everything for Bryce. He is enough. Without second thought, I´d do it all again…I´d do more…just for him. I´d heard our girls´ director say several times that we would do it all for just one camper, but now it clicks. I´d do it again…just for Bryce.

I look skyward, stars visible through the encircling trees. Leif and Bryce have gone to bed. Josh sits a few feet away deep in his own emotion. I can´t stop the tears that keep welling up in my eyes because…

God would do it all again. The cold nights, the days with little food, the profound exhaustion, the friends who betrayed, the death sentence, the Father´s face stolen away. God sees my tear-stained face, forlorn and needing a home…and He´d do it all again…just for me. I am enough. I make it worth it.   

 *Name changed

Sunday, August 9, 2015


The green is more brilliant today. The sky is more strikingly blue. This is the clearest it´s been since the fires started over a week ago. The smoke has dissipated and the vibrancy of color returns. I´d almost forgotten what normal was.

I contemplate a comparison between the clearing atmosphere and the moment when we´ll at last see our God face to face rather than “through a glass dimly.”

We've almost forgotten what normal was. We hear only distant rumors of how life was before the haze of sin hid our Father´s countenance and sucked color from our vision. Were we indeed destined for evening walks with our Creator God?

When time brings restoration, a vaguely familiar face will appear—the Holy One who is Love, in full and glorious color. A hidden spring will flood my heart with recognition…this is the face we once knew. This is the original spectrum of color unveiled. Our souls will eagerly drink in the sight…because we´d almost forgotten what normal was.