In the middle of the journey of our life, I came to myself, in a dark wood, where the direct way was lost. It is a hard thing to speak of, how wild, harsh and impenetrable that wood was, so that thinking of it recreates the fear. It is scarcely less bitter than death: but, in order to tell of the good that I found there, I must tell of the other things I saw there.
I first read this quote as a freshman in college, in Dante’s classic Inferno. Chronologically, I was not in the “middle of the journey” of my own life. However, this one phrase deeply resonated with me at that particular point in my life:
For a long time now, I’ve asked myself this question:
What is hope, really?
As I’ve grappled with different challenges or circumstances that seem insurmountable—as does every human being on the planet, to varying degrees—hope has sometimes felt elusive. Like just a word, and not something we can hold onto with certainty.
When you think of “prayer” what is it exactly that you picture in your mind’s eye?
Do you think of falling on your knees? Hands clasped together? Is prayer out loud? Or is it silent? Is prayer done in a church? Or in the privacy of your home? Do you pray by yourself? Or with others? Is prayer all of the above? Or is it none of the above? Continue reading “The practice of prayer”→
It’s December, and here in LA, we are in full swing of the season- holiday music jingles across the airwaves, I’m offered tiny mugs of cider and cookies at every turn (church, the shopping mall, Whole Foods), red, green and tinsel everything, and I’m feeling cozy, oddly romantic (I’m single), emotional (abnormal for me), and like I need to shop. Every. single. day. I’m wearing sparkly earrings, looking forward to the next Christmas party (one about every 48 hours), and planning a batch of spicy-sweet popcorn brittle, and browsing recipes for paleo eggnog. I’m watching Christmas movies, buying gifts for family (and let’s be real, me), and dreading the post-holiday abyss that is January while sipping my Starbucks peppermint mocha. It feels wonderfully chaotic, and also terribly and yet appealingly commercial. I’m overwhelmed, joy-filled, and stuffed. Explanation? It’s my first Christmas season in America in half a decade. Continue reading “With plenty or little”→
It seems like the world is going crazy. Terrorism, political crises, gun violence, fear and paranoia pepper the news, and it can feel increasingly like we’re in a world ruled by chaos and not control. Right now, just one country over from France, where a truck driver plowed into a crowd of hundreds on Thursday night, killing 84 people. I’m spending four weeks in Germany, where one-fifth of the population is from Turkey, a nation where an attempted coup for power unraveled only this weekend. On Sunday afternoon, I ate lunch with a Yazidi family from Iraq, forced to leave their country because of Isis. Certain crises feel a little more immediate this side of the Atlantic, although tragedy is striking the U.S. too. Regardless, I am struck again and again by the seeming impossibility of maintaining one thing in the face of horror: hope.Continue reading “Hope in the face of horror”→
If I’ve learned anything in the past seven years of following Jesus, it’s that He is dependable. Many, many times, I’ve been in fear about my health, anxious about a situation regarding work, or uncertain of how it’s all going to turn out. And every time He has come through for me by healing me, or giving me peace, or just working out those practical circumstances, I know His presence is something I can depend on for the rest of my life. And there’s no peace like knowing that this Man, who’s this faithful, will be at my side forever.
Jesus is dependable, but He is not predictable. When I first began to follow Jesus, I wanted to cram everything I knew about Him into formulas. And sometimes, formulas work. Example: if I don’t pray in the morning, I usually feel discouraged and grumpy by about 2 p.m. Another example: if I begin to thank Him for what He’s done, instead of complaining about a difficult circumstance, my whole mindset shifts. But I have found that when you follow a God who may have a will apart from your own and who knows you better than you know yourself, life can’t be planned the way you thought. And formulas aren’t going to work the way you thought. Continue reading “Jesus is dependable, not predictable”→
I don’t know if it was the first time I had ever met a refugee, but I do remember the first time I met a refugee from Syria. I’m sure somewhere in my twenty-something years, I’ve met someone who was forced to leave their native country because they were unable to live, work, and love in the place called home. But it probably didn’t mean anything to me. Maybe I even thought they were lucky to have left, considering living in their home country sounded like a nightmare. I couldn’t see and didn’t understand that home is still home, regardless of how bad it is. The reality of it didn’t hit me until I heard Sam’s story. Continue reading “No fear in love”→
Over the past few years, I’ve had times where I felt stuck. I was stuck in cold, damp February but ready for summer. Or I was stuck in my apartment with the flu, but ready to go on a weekend trip with friends. Or I was stuck in menial tasks instead of work I felt really passionate about. So I looked around and saw that I was living in an exotic, inspiring, artistically charged place (Morocco) and I had no excuse to feel bored. So I learned to respond to those emotions with one thing: creation. Continue reading “The created, the Creator, and creativity”→