Tag: Bible

Two Thousand Eighteen

They say that what you’re doing at midnight as the new year begins is what you will do for the rest of the year.

Two thousand eighteen found me, the solitary occupant of the pew I was sitting in, with my bare toes curled upon the cold wood floors of the church that raised me.

I don’t know what that says about how my year will go.

New Year’s Eve service is a longstanding tradition in my home church. We call it “watch night service,” a nod to how the church continues to wait for the return of her bridegroom. In years past, I’ve held on to my little white candle, flanked by my parents as I watched the secondhand creep to twelve. Other years I’ve linked arms with my dearest friends, women of faith who have created some of my happiest memories with me. But this year, I sat alone.

Which seemed strangely fitting because I’ve spent most of last year feeling awfully alone.

A majority of that stems from my depression, which I have battled against in 2017 more than any other time of my life. I’ve walked through the darkest depths of my mental health, almost scaring myself with how far I’ve tumbled down this rabbit hole. And depression, great and terrible beast that it is, keeps me in the land of darkness, alone and feeling like I am separated from the great love of the Father.

What is it about darkness? It scares us as children, transforming shadows into monsters that hide in our closets and take residence under our beds. When we grow into adults, the darkness reminds us of our vulnerability. Racing hearts betray our bravado. Fear lives in the darkness.

And the early moments of 2018 greeted me with darkness once again, as the lights of the church were flipped off, one by one.

But when I looked to the altar, fire burned.

The motto of our church is “Lighted to Lighten.” It speaks of the incredible experience of grace, and the truths that spill from the beginning of John’s Gospel and the beginning of the world.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it… There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.

John 1: 1-5, 9 (NASB)

In the beginning, God spoke light into the darkness and it’s been shining ever since. Through Christ, we receive the Light of the World and as believers, we take on the great commission that commands us to go into all corners of the earth, bringing light into the darkness.

So on New Year’s Eve, I sat in the darkness of my home church, a church that lay my foundations but has also broken my heart.  And when midnight came, the year of our Lord 2018, six candles centered around the cross gave us light.

Our reverend took one flame from the altar and lit his neighbor’s candle. Who lit another’s. Who lit another’s. Until the entire congregation was ignited.

Let there be. Lighted to Lighten.

There is something about the sacredness of the Creation story that repeats in the first breath of a new year. Out of darkness comes a new beginning. And the hope that He will look at His creation and say, “It is good.”

I have spent so much of this last year feeling like I am not good. That my shortcomings far outnumber my successes. That I will remain in the valley of the shadow of death. That even in a place of worship, I am alone.

Yet the fire burns on.

This is my reminder. That even in my darkness, there is Light at the cross. And although depression ravages my heart, it cannot extinguish the flame. The darkness cannot comprehend it.

So I walk in the darkness, with my bare feet treading this hallowed ground. Holy even in the trials. And while depression and doubt fill my thoughts, the promise of God tells me that the Light will conquer the darkness. Victory is already won.

This little light of mine.

Happy New Year.

On Depression

Every time I post something on this blog, I think, This is it. This is the farthest you can go. You’re showing too much of your heart in this one.  You can’t do this again on the next post. Stop right here.

But the problem with censoring myself is it makes it hard to find something else worth writing about. I putter around for a few months trying to find a neater version of myself to share. I never seem to come up with anything.

So here I am, friends, showing you the rawest parts of my heart because honestly, I don’t have the words for anything else.

I’ve had a rough few months. Or perhaps, more accurately, a rough year. Maybe a rough couple years.

And I’ve been sad. So sad. Even when I am happy, there is an undercurrent of sadness and there are moments when I fear it will swallow me whole. There are moments when I wish it would.

Mental health is a strange thing, isn’t it? We seem to be talking about it more in our world as we consider gun violence and terrorism and free will and sickness but I don’t know if we’ve ever really gotten to the root of it. What I do know is that I’ve struggled with mine for a very long time.

The Church, from what I have seen, does a poor job addressing mental health. We dismiss people’s pain as a direct result of their sin. We claim that there is no need for professional help or medication if only we pray hard enough.

I don’t discount the power of prayer. Far from it. One of my favorite gospel stories is the one of Jesus healing the demon-possessed boy who was deaf and mute. He commands the spirit out of the boy and when His disciples see him healed, they ask Jesus why they were not able to do the same. Jesus responds, “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer” (Mark 9:29, NASB).

I’ve held on to that verse through many dark times. It has reassured me that with prayer, healing is possible.

But, Jesus? I’ve been praying a long time now. And I’m still sad.

Depression makes me doubt everything about myself. Admittedly, I am in a difficult season of life, regardless the state of my mental health, but depression takes this string of upsets and tells me, You have not succeeded at anything you have tried to achieve. Your best days will never come. 

It infects all of the relationships in my life by placing in me a crippling fear that I am not good enough and thus, entirely replaceable.These people who I call mine deserve better and surely, they could find better in another woman. It is an awful thing to feel as though you are a disappointment of a daughter and a failure as a friend.

But the worst part of depression is the way it attacks the foundations of my faith. It calls into question the very nature of God so I no longer know what is true.

When you lose track of the Truth, there is only room for lies.

He isn’t listening. He isn’t here. If He loved you, He wouldn’t let you feel such pain. 

There is no purpose in this suffering.

This is not for your good.

He is not good.

Depression, you dark and terrible beast. How long will you have your grip on me? Why must you possess me like a demon?

They brought the boy to Him. When he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth. And He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him…”

Mark 9: 20-22 (NASB)

Like the demon-possessed boy, depression leaves me incapable of hearing or speaking Truth. It pulls me into its flames where it consumes and destroys.

Will you continue to rage inside of me until there is nothing left but ashes and dust?

Ashes and dust.

Oh, Great God. Can it be?

When I was getting my minor in Jewish studies, my professor taught us of the Old Testament commandments to keep the fire on the temple altar continually burning. The flames would burn low throughout the night and a priest would rekindle the fire every morning, sifting through the ashes to reignite it.

Rabbi Viñas had an uncanny ability to know when the stories of old could be reminders for today.

The priests didn’t have to light a new flame every morning. If they dug deep enough in the ashes, they would find an ember. A glowing remnant of what once was.

From these ashes, you can build a fire still.

Somewhere in the ashes of my ravaged heart lies a lone ember. A stubborn trace of something called faith.

But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” And Jesus said to him, “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”

Mark 9: 22-24 (NASB)

Depression fills me with doubt that God is who He says He is. But even in the throes my darkest times, I wonder if there is a small voice that cries out, “I believe. Help my unbelief.”

When I long to be around people and have conversations, but have no energy to seek them.

I believe. Help my unbelief.

When I lay in bed late at night, unable to fall asleep as the clock strikes 2, 3, 4, because my mind is racing and my fears are stacking.

I believe. Help my unbelief.

When I mourn a soul lost by his own hands and know what he must have felt in those final moments.

I believe. Help my unbelief.

When I weep over a desperate prayer, asking God to come find me in my brokenness because I cannot reach Him on my own.

I believe. Help my unbelief.

There is hope in this paradox. A hope that being weak of faith does not mean I am forever lost. A hope that admitting my weakness allows Jesus to come and save.

It is a misconception in the Church that those who struggle in their faith never genuinely believed in the first place. I am too aware of my own sin to make claims of how “good” of a Christian I am but my instincts tell me that is not how faith works. I think God has long since accepted that His children teeter between moments of conviction and seasons of despair.

David, master musician, wrote psalms of thanksgiving to celebrate the faithfulness of God. He invited nations (Psalm 67:4) and generations (Psalm 145: 4) to join with him in worshiping the Creator.

But he also knew what it felt like to cry for so long you can’t see straight anymore (Psalm 69: 3). He knew fear and horror (Psalm 55:5) and weariness (Psalm 6:6). He asked God how long He would forget him (Psalm 13:1).

David shows us that it is possible to write both songs of praise and songs of lament. It is possible to believe God is able yet doubt if He will.

Depression threatens to rob me of my faith but somewhere in my soul I still say, I believe. Help my unbelief.

I might battle depression for the rest of my life. I wish I wouldn’t and I pray for healing but I know that this may be my version of a thorn in the flesh. And if He could do it for Paul, maybe God will use mental illness to teach me about grace sufficient.

Depression, although it continues to hold me tight, will not ruin me. There is a light in the ashes.

I believe.

Dear America

Dear America,

Up until the early hours of Wednesday morning, I thought I was going to address this letter to Madam President.

Oh, from what lofty heights we fall.

I don’t know what to say, my friends. And yet, I don’t know how to stay silent. The words spill from the overflow of my heart.

Fear. That is the word I hear being repeated over and over today, as we transition to a new presidency. People have come into work crying. Some are questioning whether the things that define them have now made it unsafe to live in this country.

And it seems that a good chunk of the Christian community is a little too quick to brush off such sentiment with hurried reassurances that as long as God sits on His throne, we have nothing to fear.

This is true. He is still King and He is still Lord of my broken heart.

But, America.

Jesus wept.

Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha met Him. Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and consoling her, when they saw that Mary got up quickly and went out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. Therefore, when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept.

John 11: 30-35 (NASB)

As a witness to the unspeakable grief of friends and family, Jesus wept. Jesus wept despite knowing, more certainly than anyone else ever has, that this story, that no story, ends in death. So perhaps grief and fear are not one and the same but ultimately, the tears of Christ remind me that we are entitled to sadness.

Remember that, America. It’s okay to be sad. We can take a moment to mourn the future we had planned and process the reality of the present.

And because He is our perfect example, we can turn to Jesus to show us what to do in the midst of our tears.

So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.”

John 11: 41 (NASB)

I wonder if I’ve been staring at this glass ceiling for so long that I have neglected to look heavenward. Maybe we all have. But if we look to the Lord in prayer, we can say with full confidence that He hears us.

America. Land that I love. God hears us.

And since He hears us, we can go forth and do. Because after Jesus prays, He calls Lazarus from the dead.

Death is not the end of our story.

I do not pretend to have the wisdom to know what will heal the divisive wounds left on this nation but I remember what Scripture tells us: There is no fear in love.

Some of us wonder what exactly people are so scared of today. And of course, much of it centers on policies and promises and potential reforms. But as I watched the numbers pour in last night, the thing I was most afraid of was an environment of hatred. A pervasive and debilitating allowance for intolerance.

But love is a choice, America. And no matter who is in office, we can choose to love.

They say love is blind but I don’t know if that’s true. I think love sees full well the faults and flaws of its beloved. But it chooses to love anyway.

Which is why I think we’re called to love our neighbors, America, even if we don’t agree with them. Our neighbors of color who are afraid of having years of progress erased. Our Muslim neighbors who maybe thought twice before donning a hijab today. Our LGBT neighbors who don’t know if there is enough grace left in this country for them. Our neighbors across party lines. Our neighbors who hate us and what we stand for.

Oh yes, America, even them. It is perhaps the hardest choice we will have to make but if Jesus chose love on the cross for us while we were yet sinners, I think we need to do the same.

And maybe this is too much to include in an open letter to the United States but to the daughters I hope to one day mother. My precious girls. In this life you will see unthinkable evil and experience grave injustice. Fight against it. Stand in the gap with the unwavering conviction that you are dearly loved and uniquely capable. And while I pray that I will be someone you can look to in uncertain times, I know the better bet is Jesus. Fix your gaze on the one who sits at the right hand of your Father in Heaven.

Because there are no ceilings in the kingdom of heaven, my dears.

There are people who want to leave you, America. I will not. I pledge my allegiance to this flag.

But it is God in whom I trust.

God bless you, America.

Love always,



I am twenty-four. My legs are dipped into the pool and the stones against my back are still warm from the heat of the day. The cool night’s breeze is blowing through the palm trees overhead and no, that’s not a cliché, it’s not an exaggeration, because it is really happening. We live on an island. 

The stars are easier to see here than they are in New York. She tells me that you can see them better still where she calls home. I cup a hand along my temple, blocking out the bright lights from the building next door, and look up into the darkness. The longer I look, the more I see. They really do twinkle.

Space messes me up sometimes, she says. She lays in bed thinking about the universe and the stars and where does it end? She reminds me that it is constantly moving outwards. Expanding. Infinite.

As we all talk it out together, I am struck with the realization that the best understanding I have of infinity is God. The infinite nature of the universe represents the very essence of the Creator.

And it makes me think of the stillness before the creation when the Spirit of God hovers over the waters. In the beginning, the Word, who will become flesh, is used to speak the cosmos into existence.

Let there be.

So there is.

At His Word, the light cuts through the darkness. At His Word, the sun is given dominion over the day and the moon governs the nights and the stars are hung. At His Word, there is evening and there is morning.

At His Word.

But there is something special about the sixth day, isn’t there?

Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.  -Genesis 2:7 (NASB)

Adam, crown of creation, is fashioned. Molded from dust of the ground. Breathed to life. As if Daddy God thought, Not just words this time. This one is different.

So it is with me. Woven together in my mother’s womb, the psalmist says, fearfully and wonderfully made.

But I neglect it too often. The reverence of my creation.

I am so quick to make myself seem less than I am. I pass it off as my kind of humor, all the self-deprecation. But when I dig deep enough, I hit a well of insecurity and shame and doubt.

I am so afraid that perhaps my very DNA is riddled with mistake after mistake and I will never live up to the expectations.

But the Word. The Word who is present at the time of the creation reminds me how the sixth day ends.

God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good.   -Genesis 1:31 (NASB)

In my haste to pick apart my flaws, I fail to see His goodness.

This heart of mine, stubborn and broken as it may be, is formed by the very hands of the Creator. He creates me intentionally. With purpose. And when He walks through the walls I put up, His light consumes the dark places in me.

Jehovah Shammah, The Lord is There. The Lord is here. Living in me.

The Father only knows to create that which is good. The Father creates me. And not because of my own doing, but because He is my Father, I am good.

I am so very, very good.

I find myself at the water’s edge again, on the last days of my twenty-fifth year. The sun sets and the dusk appears. They’re not quite as bright as they were on my little island but the stars begin to peek through.

See that bright one?, he murmurs. Look to the left of it, about two inches. We planted Hubble to orbit our planet and let it focus on a piece of our night sky just two inches wide. After a few weeks, an image came back to its lens that calculated more than three thousand galaxies. Each galaxy containing hundreds of billions of stars. All in two inches.

I let the vastness settle over me and humility comes right on its heels.

And they’re so far away, he continues, that the light takes a while to get back to us. It takes thirty-three minutes for light to travel the distance between Earth and Jupiter…

When we look up, we’re looking back in time.

Alpha and Omega.

He is the beginning and end. Past and present. Future.

“Because time itself is like a spiral, something special happens on your birthday each year: The same energy that God invested in you at birth is present once again.” -Menachem Mendel Schneerson

A Rabbi Walked Into a Classroom…

One of the most profound seasons of growth I have experienced as a Christian was when I was being taught by a Rabbi.

I was a couple years into undergrad when I found myself with a few gaps in my schedule and extra time to add some electives. I was indecisive and classes were filling up fast so I kind of chose one at random. The first day of the semester, I sat down at my seat and watched as a middle-aged Cuban man wearing a yamaka walked into the classroom and wrote “Rabbi Viñas” on the chalkboard. I had no idea what I was in for.

Thus started one of the most interesting semesters I’ve ever had. The sheer irony of it, you know? A devoted Christian taking notes on the spiritual teachings of an equally devoted Jew. And it only took Rabbi Viñas about three minutes to figure out I was Christian because I pulled out my Bible to follow along when he started lecturing from Genesis.


To his credit, Rabbi Viñas had no complaints about my Bible.

He also had no complaints about my faith. Or my questions about his.

You see, friends, there is a strange phenomenon that happens in the early days of undergrad. You go in feeling pretty cocky, having freshly conquered high school and sometimes having graduated among the top of your class. And then you have your first university lecture by a professor who is the leading expert in his field and you start to wonder whether you’re as smart as you think you are. You have your first university exam and your fears are confirmed.

So somewhere along that first semester of college, you swallow down some pride and start wearing some humility. But I got lost in the process, you guys, and instead of humility, I got acquainted with passivity. And complacency. And a not-so-healthy dose of self-doubt. I stopped thinking for myself and began to blindly accept whatever my professors taught.

But put a Jesus-lover in a class about Judaism and rusted wheels start turning again. She starts to wonder if the words she hears really agree with the words written on her heart. The Sunday School lessons of her childhood return to her memory. New Testament covenants spill from her tongue.

She starts to question.

It’s been a few years since I graduated with a minor in Jewish Studies. I have a Torah with English translation running alongside the original Hebrew. Unfortunately, I can’t read any Hebrew. Or write it or speak it. Still, I have a deep appreciation for the history of the Jewish people. I embrace it as part of my own heritage because I am an adopted daughter of the King and a co-heir with Christ.

And in the most unexpected turn of events, I learned more than just Torah as a Jewish Studies student. I learned the Gospel.

You see, Christians sometimes get a bad rap for being less intellectual than non-Christians. And you guys, part of me believes there is truth to that. Perhaps we’ve put on this cloak of spiritual complacency and become content with letting the apologetics and the great theologians and the world-famous speakers study the Bible while we just sit back and listen.

I know I’m guilty of it. I spent a long time reading books and listening to sermons as I tried to figure out what I personally believed about Christianity. There’s nothing inherently wrong in doing so.

The problem arises when we start relying on everyone and everything else to tell us what our faith should be and start neglecting the Word of God. We’ve been given this invaluable resource that reveals to us the nature of God and what He desires for us. When we’re presented with different theologies and conflicting ideas, it is only this Bible that harbors the irrefutable truths of God. And the best way for me to know them is to read them for myself.

Let’s be honest, though. Studying the Bible is hard, y’all. It can come off as repetitive on one page and contradictory on another. Some of those Old Testament laws seem outdated and I wonder if they really describe the God I know today, the God who is supposed to be unchanging. Then there are times when I read a portion and know there’s something I need to learn here, something that is relevant to my circumstance, but the essence of it evades me. There are parts of the Bible that have surprised me. And there are parts of the Bible that have broken my heart.

Yet of this I am sure: The truths I proclaim having wrestled with God are so much sweeter than the ones I have been spoon fed.

So maybe we need to start examining the words we hear. Maybe we need to stop accepting them as truth just because they come from someone with a fancier title than us. Maybe we need to stop believing people just because they’re New York Times best sellers. Maybe we need to stop trusting speakers just because they lead super trendy, super hipster mega-churches.

I know, I know. Shots fired. But you know what? The Jesus I read of in the Bible called the Pharisees a brood of vipers and warned against wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing.

Maybe part of being sure of what you believe is having the courage to call people out on their crap.

Jesus, the one they called Rabbi, used Judaism to teach me that.

Rabbi Viñas once gave us a reading on the Jewish traditions of sacrifice and told us to write a response paper for him. I was having a hard time with it so I sat with him after class and tried to talk it out. He listened to me for a few minutes and then asked, “What do you think of when you hear ‘sacrifice’?”

I paused for a moment and remembered a Gospel truth. “I think of a Lamb who was sacrificed for me. But more than that, I think of a veil torn in two. Jesus’ sacrifice means nothing separates me from God.”

Rabbi Viñas smiled and said, “Go. Write about this Jesus you know.”