You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘faith’ category.

My heart feels heavy today.

I woke up to heart-breaking news. I looked out and saw heavy clouds, weeping in the distance–and I felt like weeping with them.

Today, I am reminded of how much I want You to be real. I don’t care about logic and reasoning. I only care that You see these tears and feel our sorrows. I am not asking why suffering happens. I simply want to believe that You suffer with us.

How many more grievous moments are happening in this very moment, even as we grieve for this one moment at hand. And it seems so supremely unfair that each loss–of hope, of peace, of life–only becomes diluted in the flood of time. I don’t want to believe in a world in which even the smallest injustice is lost to some meaningless void, because every story and every tragedy deserves its own infinity.

Today, I want to believe in Your promise of redemption. Not of reversal, but of redemption. That You would restore to us more than what was physically lost–the parts of ourselves we’ve forgotten had existed. I want to believe that there is a place for our voices to be heard. To know that the collective force of humanity’s pain and sorrow is felt.

Why should it matter that You share in our trials and tribulations? What do I get from You that I cannot find in the comfort of family and friends?

Because no matter how much I try, I cannot adequately pen my every thought and feeling. I cannot make anyone perfectly understand my story just as I cannot even begin to graze the surface of another person’s narrative. So if You exist–if You see and feel the very depths of our souls–then it matters, oh how it matters, that you perfectly understand the feelings I cannot articulate, the anguish I cannot release, the despair I cannot express, the sadness I cannot describe, the heaviness I cannot carry, the brokenness I cannot repair, and every facet of our humanity I cannot even begin to grasp.

Today, I want to believe that You will do for us what no one else can do. That we can share the burdens that we’re too afraid to release. And You won’t be overwhelmed, nor will You turn away. But You will wipe every tear from our eyes, even as You weep with us. Waiting, until the old order of things has passed away.


“I’m afraid that everything I’ve done in the past two years will go unacknowledged.”

Today, my friend turned to say these words to me. I recognized the tired sadness in his voice, because I heard it not too long ago, from myself. And the funny thing is, on that particular day as I was moping outside the door to my lab, my friend was there to share my sorrows as well. Today, I get to return the favor.

red velvet cheesecake

D-, it’s sobering to hear your disillusionment. Because you’ve always cheered me on when I’ve expressed my doubts with science. Your optimism was refreshing, especially when so many of our peers, including myself, have long since lost that optimism. But I guess, nobody is immune to fears.

This is the problem with doing something that you love. You start to be afraid. Afraid of falling short. Afraid to be disappointed, in others and in yourself. Afraid that after pouring out heart and soul, you wake to find that none of it mattered.

And some of these fears, you know they’re irrational. But fears don’t have to be rational to be real. Fears don’t need to make sense to be felt. They exist not because we don’t have the fortitude to beat them down. Sometimes fears are borne precisely because we care so much about this thing that we love. And maybe that’s good, because if we were indifferent, we wouldn’t have these fears at all.

red velvet cheesecake

Why should it be so damn hard to do the thing you love to do? There are always unexpected complications, technical challenges, interpersonal conflicts, experimental setbacks–and as if that weren’t enough–our own insecurities. It’s so easy to lose ourselves in the frustrations and complaints we have against everything and everyone.

I’ve realized though, the things we hate about our work–the imperfections and road blocks that we like to blame for our misery–these are also the things that drew us here in the first place. I chose my lab because the people there are passionate about what they do; even if it means that strong opinions lead to conflict. You chose your project because it’s never been done before; even if it means there’s a good chance you might fail. We chose science because it is challenging; even if it brings out everything we fear about ourselves.

Everyone. Including those who seem to stand obnoxiously in our way of doing the thing we love to do, are simply trying to do the thing that they love to do. Affirmation, we all seek it. But there’s a difference between finding affirmation by what you do, and finding affirmation in what you do.

If I defined myself by what I have done, what impact I will leave in this field, what lasting contribution will I make in this career, how paralyzing would that be? You decide whether you love something because it elevates you, or whether you love something because it’s above you.

I’m going to switch gears right now and speak about God. Because everything I have just written, I learned from my faith.

I may not call myself Christian anymore, but this quote still speaks to me:

“If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
– 1 Corinthians 15:19

If I believe in You, then the greatest fear I have is to find out–after running madly and desperately after You–that You don’t exist.

I can let that fear stop me from running. Maybe I can prevent all this wasted energy and fruitless effort. But I choose to believe that if You are real, then You are larger than my fears.

So I’m still running. Madly, desperately, running with You.

Red Velvet Cheesecake from 17 and Baking

Seven years ago, I started going to church. I remember asking myself what the hell I was doing as I walked to my first bible study. Religion was never something that I found attractive. I didn’t consider myself the type of person who needed to find strength in a higher power. Certainly, I could never be one of those Campus Crusaders for Christ, who went around asking unsuspecting students trying to enjoy their lunch in peace whether they’ve ever thought about Heaven and Existence. I did not go to church because I was persuaded by some well-meaning, starry-eyed evangelist. I’m going to be really honest here: I went to church because I was trying to get over a guy.

Seven years ago, I met a someone who I only knew for three days. I don’t know what it was about him that I found so intriguing. He spoke of his faith with a passion that I found charming. Charming, probably because I was flattered by his attention. And because our interaction was so fleeting that it made the connection I felt all the more dramatic and intoxicating. So when he said that knew I could believe, that I was meant to believe, I drank up every word. It really doesn’t take too much to captivate the mind of a twenty year old girl.

I went to church because I wanted to understand his passion. I wanted to understand the person who claimed to understand me. So I learned to speak the words and to act the part of the Christian girl he saw that I could be. It’s such a foolish thing to do, isn’t it? But I’m not the first young and naive girl to put some guy on a pedestal.

It’s taken me a long time to realize that I’ve let someone else define me. Not him, really. But the version of him that I’ve built up in my mind. An imaginary person whose approval that I inexplicably sought. I’m not mad and I’m not bitter. Because even though I ventured into the faith for all the wrong reasons, I have found in myself, a genuine, deep-seated desire to believe.

red wine chocolate cake

I have not gone to church for a long time. Nor do I plan on going back anytime soon. Not because I’m reacting out of spite or anger. Not because I finally came to my senses. Rather, I left because I’m trying to extract the part of my faith that is my own. I can’t say that I believe everything in the bible. That is an intellectual struggle that I suspect I will always face. But I can also never say that I don’t believe in God.

Some people probably think that I’ve fallen from the faith. Fallen, as if failed to live up to some standard or arrived disappointingly short of some ideal. But I don’t think that I want to know God any less. If anything, I want to know more. I just know that I don’t want to claim that I believe in Him because I think it’s the right thing to say.

Others might say that I’ve wasted the last seven years of my life. That is absolutely not true; it is anything but. I’ve had the good fortune to meet people in church whose faith astounds me. They have shown me that faith isn’t a product of weak-minded people desperately trying to find an escape for their fears. These are people whose struggle for belief is a reflection of tremendous courage and strength. And it has shown me how the desire to know God can be a beautiful expression of humanity.

Last night, a friend asked me how I pray to God. Yes, I still pray. I used to fret over the right words and phrases to say during group prayers. Prayers like that were always such self-conscious and forced ordeals. But I’ve found that my favorite way to reach out to God doesn’t involve any words. I simply close my eyes and imagine myself standing in front of the ocean under a star-filled sky. There are no resounding pleas or desperate cries; there is only the weight of what I am feeling in that moment, matched only by the weight of existence that so profoundly surrounds me. And in this wordless prayer, I am not asking for words in return. Only that I am not alone as all these feelings pour out.

Smitten Kitchen’s Red Wine Chocolate Cake

I’ve posted about this cake before, but it’s worth posting again. It’s the cake I dream about as I slog through a tough week. And there has been many tough days lately. It doesn’t take too much to cheer me up. Just the aroma of red wine, creamy mascarpone frosting, and some Margaret Atwood.

Today I stopped to admire the high-rises awash in the golden hue of the setting sun. There was no need to capture the moment with my iphone. Because what I really want to remember is not just the beauty of the image before me, but all the thoughts running through my head as I stood at the intersection of 2nd and King, oblivious to the cars whizzing past me and lost in that dreamy, dusky glow. It’s so hard to define this moment, or any other moment for that matter. Because it has less to do with what is happening right then, and everything to do with all the conversations, actions, and interactions leading up to this very particular moment.

There was a time in my life when watching the sun set over the city would fill me with melancholy because it would remind me of how very single I am. And all I would have thought about was how the beauty of this moment would be so much better if I had somebody to share it with.

But tonight, I’m watching the sun set over the city, and I feel so free because I am single.

I can’t say that I’ve been in terrible relationships, because they were not. I’ve been very fortunate to be with guys who were caring and supportive. But now I realize it was the person I became in a relationship that I don’t want. I played the girl who wants to be coddled; I made excuses for my failings; I demanded attention and comfort to cover my own insecurities; and I expected too much of the other person to bring out the best in me.

It’s so easy to stay in one place when you know what to expect. It’s so easy to let another person define your life when you don’t know who you are. But I’ve discovered that I am so much more than I expected, so much more than anybody can ever know. And I don’t want to fit nicely into a category that somebody has placed me in or even the one that I put myself in. For the first time in a very long time, I know what I want. And it’s not the arms of another guy that I could fall into. What I want is to finally be me.

If I have the good fortune of finding somebody in the future, it will be because I love myself enough to share who I am. But it won’t be because I am looking for somebody to save me from myself.

Tonight I am reminded of all the other people in this city illuminated by the waning afternoon light. I’m not wondering whether Mr. Right is out there waiting to be found; I’m thinking that somewhere out there, I’m waiting to be me. And I am comforted by the fact that my story is one in thousands of other stories being lived out right now, in this moment, in this city, as we all navigate our own way.

My friend invited Juan and I to go rock climbing at Planet Granite in July. I agreed, reluctantly, buoyed more by Juan’s enthusiasm than my own affinity for thrill-seeking, physically exerting activities. As I strapped myself into the harness and surveyed the beginner’s wall, I told myself that it was okay if I don’t reach the top. Halfway would be respectable. Except that I’ve seen six year olds dauntlessly and effortlessly scale these routes.

Juan belayed me as I hoisted myself up the wall. The first few feet were easy. The rocks were easy to grip, and there were plenty of them. But my nerves failed at the halfway mark. I peeked down, nauseated by the seemingly enormous distance between the ground and myself. I desperately clung to the rocks, elbows contracted as I fought to keep my body as close to the wall as possible. I was really glad that Juan and Vicky were out of earshot, because something like a whimpering whine escaped from my throat. They were chatting down there with each other, oblivious to my physical and mental anguish. I could give up. I could shout for them to lower me down. I could tell them that I’ve tried it, and it just wasn’t my thing. But I looked up at the endpoint, so tauntingly close, and I knew that I didn’t want to take the easy way out.

meyer lemon chiffon cake

It’s been four months and I’m still climbing. There’s so much I’ve learned. How I should hang from my arms, instead of bending my elbows. How to step up with my legs, instead of pulling up with my arms. How to balance with feet apart, instead of standing with feet together. I have come to love the smell of chalk on my hands. The way the rocks feel under my fingers. The scraped hands and bruised knees. I love the triumph that comes with every conquered ledge, the exhilaration with every successful climb. But more than anything, I love that when I’m up high, there is nothing left except for me and my fear.

meyer lemon chiffon cake

A few weeks ago, I found myself stuck in one spot on a particularly difficult climb. I needed to step right with my foot, so that I can grab the hand-hold that was out of my reach. I needed to trust that this rock would catch my weight as I made this lunge. I knew what I had to do, but I didn’t want to do it. Or rather, I didn’t think I could do it. So I clung tight to that spot for a good 20 minutes, straining to keep from slipping. I felt my grip loosen from the rock as it became slick with the sweat pouring from my palms. I called down three times for Vicky to let me down. But she wouldn’t let up. She told me, do it even if you fall. Try something even if you slip. Just don’t do nothing.

What if every instance we had accomplished something that surpassed our own expectations and self-estimation was not a fluke nor a stroke of luck. What if every time we break out of the box we put ourselves in, we were meant to see a much greater truth. What if those are the moments when God breaks down the deprecation and the doubt, so that our real selves can shine through. What if this is His way of showing us that there is a presence in our hearts that cannot be contained, deeper and more powerful than we can ever fathom. What if this presence is what determines how we fall on the precipice between victory and defeat.

meyer lemon chiffon cake

For the past month, I have struggled with writing my qualifying exam proposal. For a long time, I had no idea what I wanted to study for my thesis. Didn’t know if anything I did was going to amount to anything. Every day, I found new ways to tell myself that I didn’t belong. I wasn’t smart enough, or as thoughtful and driven as my classmates. I feared that somebody would see through my guise and discover my mediocrity. I spent countless hours re-reading the same phrases and sentences in my proposal. Second-guessing every point that I put down on paper. Suspended and frozen in my fear of failure.

Rock climbing wall

Sometimes the hardest part about climbing is trusting that the harness will catch you when you fall. I know that the rope will hold. I know that my knots are good. Yet I can still imagine myself plummeting to my death. I am terrified that if I don’t fight with every muscle to keep from letting go, then there would be nothing there to hold me up. So I waste so much energy, put myself through so much pain, until I realize that the easiest way to move forward is to let go. And every time I do, every time I get back up on that wall, I believe a little more. I don’t want to be afraid to try, I don’t want to be afraid to fall. I know, and I believe, You will catch me.

Triple Lemon Chiffon Cake with Meyer Lemon Curd from Notes from my Food Diary

IMG_7684 copy

If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

IMG_7688 copy

I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die. 

And whoever lives by believing in me will never die.

Do you believe this?

IMG_7686 copy

IMG_7690 copy

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

IMG_7691 copy

Where, O Death, is your victory?

Where, O Death, is your sting?

IMG_7699 copy

You have seated us above the fall.

IMG_7704 copy

Oh, to be like you

Give what I have just to know you

My dad and I, we have never been close. We moved to California when I was four, but he chose to stay in Hong Kong for work. I say “chose,” because despite what he may say about the lack of job opportunities here, he made a choice to live away from us so that he could pursue a career that never went anywhere. I never knew if he intended for this arrangement to be permanent. But for as long as I can remember, we have always been a family of four minus one.

I used to picture my dad, selflessly driven to support his family financially while sacrificing the comforts of home. But I’ve seen the look of relief on his face as he leaves for Hong Kong after each short visit. I’ve seen it enough times to know that, maybe, he actually prefers living without us.

I remember the few weeks that my dad had spent here once. It was possibly his longest stay yet, I don’t know. I was in middle school. He had just lost his business. With creditors breathing down his neck in Hong Kong, he had flown here to ride out his bankruptcy woes. My mom didn’t take it very well, of course. And between the fights and screaming matches, I’d sit with him at the table offering my quiet comfort. I helped him scour the newspaper for jobs, secretly glad that his unemployment meant the possibility of him finding work here permanently. During a particular somber moment, he turned to me and asked, in a way that I knew he really needed to hear what I’d say, “Am I good father?”

I looked him right in the eyes, and I said yes. Because who’s going to kick a man when he’s down? But even as I assured him, I knew that I would look back years later and wish I could have said something different.

A few weeks later, he left for his new job in Hong Kong.

IMG_7557 copy

I remember the day when I found my mom in bed, crying. I climbed into the covers with her, and listened to her cry. For the years lost. For the years spent alone. For the trust that my father had broken. And in that moment, I had no more excuses I could make for him, no more words I could use to defend him. That was the day I lost my faith in my dad.

I write this post not because I want sympathy. This isn’t intended to be some self-pitying sob story of my “daddy issues.” But I share this because I believe that, at some level, my relationship with my dad affects how I relate to God. I used to think that sounds like bullshit. I’d tell myself that it may be true for some people, but it certainly wasn’t true for me. Because I turned out just fine without him. Because I don’t need a relationship with my dad to be who I am. Because his absence doesn’t matter anymore and hasn’t mattered for a long time.

But when you walk with God, He reveals all the things in your heart. Even the ones that you thought you had laid to rest.

IMG_7598 copy

Recently, I shared a phone conversation with my dad. One of the few ones that we make when we remember to call each other. I asked him, after all these years, if he still thinks he could achieve his dream of being CEO of his own company. After the countless attempts and failures, if he had learned anything about his purpose in life.

He told me that there was no doubt in his mind that he can and will be CEO. That despite everything, he still firmly believes that he is meant to to be rich and successful. But I know, even though he wouldn’t say so himself, that he’s not pursuing fame and fortune for his family. It was never about making the money to take care of us. But it was all about making something of himself to prove to the world that he can.

I hung up because I didn’t want him to hear me cry. Because, despite how much I say that it doesn’t matter, I still wanted to hear him say he’s sorry. I wanted to shake him by the shoulders and scream, Don’t you feel regret? Don’t you feel bad? Look at what you’ve done. Look at where it’s got you. Say you’re sorry. Say you want to make amends. Say that our relationships matter more than your dead-end career. Say you wish you had the courage to share the daily struggles of being part of a family instead of cowering behind the 6,910 miles between here and Hong Kong. Say anything but this load of crap.

And even though I sat there, intensely hoping that he would never fulfill his stupid dream, a tiny part of me still cares that he would lose himself if he didn’t. And that tiny part of me sincerely hopes that when he loses himself, he would find his way again with God.

I will not deny that loving and forgiving my father is probably one of the most difficult things I have ever done, and is still trying to do. There are times that I don’t think I can, nor want to, embrace the person who fell so disappointingly short of my hopes. But the only way that I have found to do so is through my faith.

God is not a distant father. He will never be so blinded by his own pride that he cannot see me. He will never be so deafened by his own voice that he cannot hear me. He does not fall short. He does not break promises.
And he will not leave me.

We have received the spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘”Abba, Father.”

Red Wine Chocolate Cake from Smitten Kitchen

I love testimonies. I loved them before I was even a believer. I love the ones that talk about some dark, desperate moment in the speaker’s life that led to the discovery of God, self-transformation, and a happy ending. Most skeptics, I think, would agree that there is beauty to these stories, even if they don’t believe in the existence of God. I know, because I was a skeptic who found the stories of vulnerability and hope deeply moving.

But these testimonies, as raw and emotional as they can be, always made me wonder whether those life-changing events were really acts of God or just a turn of fate. Whether your recovery from addiction/self-destructive behavior was motivated from above or brought about by self-determination. Whether God was really there in your time of need or just an imaginary presence fabricated out of a profound desire for hope. I don’t think there is an answer to that if you are outside of the faith.

photo copy

But maybe the question we should all be asking is, “If there were no happy ending to your story, if there were no redemption, if things hadn’t turned out, would you still believe in God? Is your story still a testimony of the glory of God?”

Our stories of overcoming hardships aren’t meant to be validation for God. We don’t celebrate God because he saved us from illness, unemployment, or broken relationships, even though these things are worth rejoicing over. Our stories exalt God not because they end with victory, but simply because they demonstrate the tenacity and strength of our faith despite our circumstances. That even when we are caught in the midst of pain and heartbreak, we will still acknowledge something higher than ourselves. We do this because our faith saves us from being consumed by our circumstances. We worship because we refuse to let ourselves be defined by what happens to us. We are more than what others label us, more than what we can make for ourselves. Our hope isn’t in a happy ending or earthly salvation, our hope is in the promise that we are meant to share in something much greater than anything we could imagine.

photo(2) copy

This is one of my favorite stories in the bible:

King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, ninety feet high and nine feet wide, and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon… Then the herald loudly proclaimed, “This is what you are commanded to do, O peoples, nations and men of every language: As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.”

But three Jews, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abenego, refused.

Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego…and said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? Now…if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?”

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king,

“O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Daniel 3

“But even if he does not.” Even if God does not come through. Even if He does not answer our cries. Even then, we will still believe. And God is still God, and nothing that He does or does not do will change that truth. We aren’t Christians because we want to be protected when the going gets tough. We are Christians because we believe, someday, when the old order of things has passed away, He will wipe every tear from our eyes, and there will be no more death or mourning or pain; and we will be His people, and God will be our God.

Apple Cider Caramels from Smitten Kitchen

I used to be embarrassed if I cried during church.  Actually, I still am.  I hate the sting of tears welling inside my eyes, the way my gut clenches and my jaw tightens.  I hate the telltale sniffle and the way I bring my hand up to brush away that stray tear.  I tell myself no, because I don’t have any tissues.  Because I don’t want to be a slobbering mess.  But mostly because I don’t want anybody to see.  I don’t even like to let my parents see me cry, let alone the stranger standing next to me.  But what is it about these tears that I fear so much?  Is it so terrible to let slip that your’e human, or is it the work of God in me that I want to hide?

It’s so easy to think that you can keep God behind the four walls of your bedroom.  Because that’s where you should shed those tears, right?  That’s where you can speak to God, clean and quick.  And yes, I do this all the time.  Because when I go out, whether it’s at work, in a restaurant, or in a conversation that veered too closely to religion, I find myself downplaying my faith.  I make excuses, smile apologetically, deflect probing questions.  I care more about earning my peers’ acceptance than receiving the acceptance that God already gives me.  And no matter how subtle you may be, no matter how innocuous those acts may seem, is it so very different from Peter’s denial?

IMG_6359 copy

I have not seen God for a long time.  I spent awhile asking others if they hear God’s voice.  What does he say and what does he sound like?  And yea, it sounds crazy, but I wanted so much to hear Him speak.  Because I thought, if I can just hear Him say one word–please, just one word–I would never have to struggle with my faith again.  I wanted my encounter with God so that I can believe in Him, wholly.  But maybe it doesn’t work like that.  Maybe you have to believe in Him, wholly, before you find Him.

A rich man died and begged Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his family.  Abraham replied, “They have Moses and Prophets; let them listen to them.”
“No, father Abraham,” he said, “but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.”
He said to him, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” Luke 16

IMG_6355 copy

I tell you, when you shut God behind the walls of your room, you will find less of him.  And less of anything to pray about.  Your requests and wishes will be about you and you alone.  What is there for Him to say even if He were to speak to you?

I’ve spent almost a year trying to find the right church.  And even though I’ve stayed at my current one for half a year now, I still feel incredibly disconnected.  I tell myself, the church is too big, I hate socializing, there’s no point in making an effort if I choose another church later.  I realized that it was never about choosing a church that serves me; but it’s all about choosing a church that I can serve.

I’ve put myself in a place where the only way I can see God is in the tiny confines of my room.  And I suspect, the way out of this bubble isn’t more quiet time or more prayer.  It means more risks and putting myself in situations that challenge me–financially, socially, and spiritually.  Because I think, the more I need to trust Him, the more I allow Him to work in my life, the more I will see and hear Him.  it’s not quite what I meant when I asked to hear God.  But maybe that’s how He speaks–in the ways that we choose to share our lives with one another.

When I cry, it’s because I am floored by God’s grace.  Not just by His sacrifice on the cross, because as amazing as that story is, let’s admit that sometimes Jesus’ death seems like an abstract idea.  It’s hard to remember that God’s work doesn’t just end at the cross.  He’s been walking with you your whole life.  So when I look at where I am and where I’ve come from, the prayers I’ve prayed and the blessings I’ve received, when I think about times I’ve been lost and the times I’ve been found, and all the ways that He’s pursued me, I cry.

IMG_6352 copy

Hot Milk Cake from Kirbie’s Cravings.  Possibly the best chiffon/pound cake that I’ve ever made.  I would use this to make the bases for a double or triple layered cake.

IMG_5564 copy

Lately, I’ve been doubting my faith.  It’s always troubled me that, if asked point blank to defend my faith, I wouldn’t know how to.  Yea, I could say stuff about how God changed my life, lifted me from darkness, endowed me with a spirit of rebirth, etc etc.  And I bet you that 90% of the Christians you ask out there will give you some variation of this.  It would sound like snippets of Christian song lyrics that make you seem enamored with God without really justifying anything.  But it seems silly to reduce God to a feeling, doesn’t it?

When I hear words like that from my mouth, I question myself if I really “feel” God is there.  I’m not saying that these feelings can be false or that they can’t be legitimate indicators of your experience with God.  But how can you base the beliefs, which fundamentally define who you are, solely on emotions?  Because if you do, then faith is a temperamental thing; inconsistent and unreliable.  And I realize, more and more, that I need to be able to say something more concrete, something close to rational.  I need that reason to cling onto when the feelings pass away.  Otherwise, I would live my life always hiding a fear that my faith can be shattered by the next mood swing.  And the possibility that maybe, just maybe, I’ve convinced myself to love a God just like how I can convince myself to love Football if I really wanted to…by thinking about it real hard or surrounding myself with football fans or forcing myself to watch a hundred games, whatever.

The main thing is, I need something more to support my faith.  Because where I am right now is not enough.  I can do my morning and night prayers, praise God for his blessings or cry out for his grace in my affliction, and still wonder in the times between despair and joy whether there is a God who hears.  Whether the things that I claim to see him do in my life are actually his works or just the desires of a mind too afraid to admit the alternative.

IMG_5590 copy

I am not denying God.  I don’t believe in him any less; if anything, these doubts mean I care about my faith so much that I will fight for it.  And because I am responsible for my faith, I cannot ignore these doubts and just hope I’ll be in a better mood tomorrow.  This is the season where I question my faith, question God so that I can understand why I believe in him.  But I would be lying if I didn’t say that I am scared of what I will find, or not find.  That is another fear, the thought that I could seek and lose heart; or seek and find myself right where I started.  And there is nothing I can do about that except to trust that God would bring me back.  He will pursue my heart even when I am too tired to pursue his.

This past Sunday, I spoke with a 70-something-year old retired youth pastor.  It was refreshing to speak with someone who was so seasoned in his faith.  In our conversation, he told me a story about his spiritual encounter with God.

I smiled and said, “A burning bush kind of encounter?”
He said yes.  And it was a story that I didn’t know whether to believe or dismiss.  But the point isn’t whether I did or did not want to believe; the question is whether I wanted it for myself.
So when he finished, I said, ruefully, “I wish I could have that too.”
“Ask him for it.”
“What if he doesn’t answer?”
“Keep asking him.  Don’t give up.”
He looked at me and I wondered if he knew that I was close to tears.

People always talk about having a relationship with God; but what does that mean, what does it look like?  What is that intimacy they talk about?  If I could have anything, it would be to know God.  I’m not talking about being able to recite all the verses in the bible.  But to know him, personally.

To know that my prayers are not one-way conversations.  To know the ways in which he speaks with me.  To know the ways in which he is undeniably, incontrovertibly true.  So that when I speak to him and when I speak of him, my words will carry the force of my conviction.  I don’t know how or when I will find that encounter, but I suspect it would start when I begin to know him.

Conquer me, overwhelm me in mind and heart.

IMG_5555 copy

IMG_5537 copy

Sara Lee Pound Cake

I usually don’t like to eat pound cakes.  But I do, however, love the Sara Lee ones.  My brother and I used to devour those dense little cakes, fighting over who gets to scrap the remaining soft brown crust from the aluminum tin.  I tried to find a recipe that would re-create this and ended up with this one.  It’s not quite exactly a Sara Lee cake, but it’s delicious (actually, it’s quite unlike the store bought brand).  It’s the lightest, fluffiest, softest pound cake I ever made.