If It’s Not Too Late To Say It

I woke up at the same time as always and almost immediately got started on the cooking. While stuff was in the oven Liz and I drove to Vons, Fresh & Easy, and CVS to buy stuff we needed for those fattening desserts we just have to have. We returned and ate a good breakfast. Worked some more in the kitchen afterwards—it was a very busy morning.

And then while chopping a cup of pecans in the kitchen I was reminded of it….

In previous years we would get up early. Earlier than usual. We would quickly shower, dress for church, and went to the special Thanksgiving morning service at our church where many—almost all—of the families gathered to have a special Thanksgiving service: we would sing, pray, share testimonies—all thanking God for his wonderful mercies. Then we would think about breakfast (which by the way, was simple fare, but the bread broken was eaten with joy in the fellowship of our church brothers and sisters). And only until later would we think about preparing for the evening meal.

I think I’ve gotten comfortable in recent years. There’s been many changes as to the circumstances of life: almost all of them have been for the good. And yet, the more I have, the less thankful I’ve been. I am ashamed of this. I remember my humbler past when I would recognize that everything I had was a blessing from God—and nothing was a given, nothing came from a well-paying job or as result of a good college education like it is now. Everything–like today–came from your hand.

There was uncertainty—where would we get our food from and our rent money if one of my parents wasn’t working? Where would I find the money to pay for my education? When life was more uncertain, when I had “less”, I had more. I had a firmer trust in God, and was more conscious of him, and more willing to share with others what he had done in my life.

So Father. If it is not late to say it.

Thank you.

For the home I live in, the jobs you give us to make sure that we lack for nothing when so many are in want. For my family. For my health. For everything I am, and for everything I can ever hope to be. For leading me my whole life with love and mercy.  For the knowledge that you will be with me for ever. For the knowledge that you will never cease to love me, and for your son Jesus Christ.

Thank You.

Thank You, Father.




One-Sided Love

The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee (Jer 31:3)

* * *

It’s him!!!!

Every cell in my body thrilled. I became short of breath as a million tiny pink butterflies suddenly burst into existence inside my stomach and began cavorting inside in a wild and chaotic manner. Crazy, bothersome things. I bet they were to blame for my racing pulse, for I could hear my heartbeat drumming—nay, thundering—in my ears. Deaf and blind to everything around me, I was only conscious of a strange, delicious, weakness. And yet, my fingertips tingled as if charged by electricity.

In my hands I held my cellphone. And in it I read the first text message he ever sent me.

He asked me how I was!!!

He hoped my week was going well!!!

It was poetry! And the best part was at the end when He asked if it was ok to call me!!!!

I laughed. I could not believe my eyes. YES!!! Yes of course you can!

And so began a steady correspondence with Mark. Every text he sent me triggered the rebirth of the crazy butterflies, and caused me to drop whatever I was doing just so I could read it, dwell in every single word—and, of course, to reply to it.

* * *

And yet . . . I knew that Mark did not mean anything romantic by it. I just knew it by what I read in his eyes whenever we would look at each other. If our eyes met he smiled as he would to a good friend. I, however, melted under his gaze.

I was, of course, very conscious of the fact that I was the only one who felt excited over the frequent texting and calling. I was also very conscious of the fact that my love was one-sided, and that the nature of this relationship could very well mean that just as he had capriciously began this habit of calling/texting me because of the big project we were working on together, to tell me what he thought of this or that or to ask me what I thought about something or other, he could very well choose to end it at any point.

And that was my greatest fear. What if that happened? What if after the end of this semester there would be no excuse for that constant conversation—what would my life look like during the winter break if I did not have that to look forward to?

* * *

I have made so many promises about praying more to God to know him better, and seek him and his will….but….I think I am at times capricious about it. Even more than Mark was. I am the one who breaks it off, and despite having some idea of this great wonderful love that is mine for the taking, I break his heart by not realizing its full value.

We all tend to be that way. That is why I don’t think it’s necessary for me to explain it further.

Only let me tell you this: Remember that, above all, God is a Lover.

Already Morning

…Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning (Psalms 30:5)

Yesterday I had a very, very long day. Up at 5, at work by 8, lunch, and then work some more to prepare for an evening event, managing aspects of the event, and cleaning up after event, ‘till 11pm. Went to bed a few hours later, “forgetting” to remove my makeup.

Luckily, today is Sunday, so I was able to sleep in for a few extra hours. But for any adult who works or studies hard all day, and goes off to bed mentally and physically exhausted, the arrival of morning is at times not eagerly anticipated. We wish for a few extra hours of sleep. Holidays are down times devoted to spending half the morning in bed. We don’t really look forward to the next day. How else do we explain our snooze buttons?

I distinctly remember an event in my childhood. Well, if you can call it an event. I went to bed after having played a lot, slept dreamlessly to the sound of falling rain, and woke in the middle of the night, clear-headed, tired of sleep, overly comfortable and much too warm.

I shared my bed with my sister (who is a light sleeper), so I stayed still, very still. But my thoughts wandered wildly. In fact, the longer I stayed awake the more my thoughts roamed, and the more impatient I became for it to be morning. It seemed that hours passed. No, that whole days had passed ….in fact, I began to entertain a notion that the sun had forgotten to rise. I worked myself into a mental frenzy. What if the earth had fallen from its orbit and the sun was now way beyond the reach of earth? Would I never again see the gentle, cold, rays of sunlight (My childhood memories are full of cloudy days, and rainy days, and cold-winter sunlight days) streaming into our house through the large windows?

When we are children, every day holds a new surprise, a new thing to be learned. New experiences—however small. We leap from bed, casting the cumbersome covers aside, eager for the day’s activities.

What happened since then? Aren’t we supposed to feel the Joy coming in the morning? Aren’t we supposed to wake up and give a heartfelt prayer to God thanking him that night has passed?

If it is because I dread going to that job, then maybe it’s time to invest more of my energy in projects that will make me eager to be up and running.  If it is because I am tired, then I need to evaluate which are the day activities that I need to cut from my schedule and fill that time with meaningful and wholesome activities that won’t drain me emotionally, physically, or mentally. Mostly, though, it is because I think I have lost touch of what made life so joyful—the way I saw it when I was a child.

I want to make sure that this week I will be on the lookout for new surprises. If it is not surprises going my way, then making sure that someone else gets a pleasant surprise. I want to make sure that I will learn something new, enjoy something beautiful, and make sure that I don’t saturate life with things that do not add meaning or worth to my days.

Holiness to the Lord

For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building (1 Corinthians 3:9)

We are to remember that God has the ownership of all, and that our pursuits are invested with a sacredness that they did not possess before we enlisted in the army of the Lord. Every action is to be a consecrated action, for it occupies God’s entrusted talent of time.

Holiness unto the Lord is inscribed on all our actions, because our whole being is brought under subjection to God.

–E. G. White (Manuscript 49, 1898)

My first job after graduating from university was at a law firm. It was an experience I’ll never forget, particularly because the nature of the work required that I grow up. I had to step outside of my comfort zone and do things that I had never done before. Serve unlawful detainers? Check. Serve subpoenas and deal with uncooperative receptionists and door men to get it done? Check. Receive all manner of people in the office and call all manner of agencies to get the information I needed (a real challenge for someone as introverted and timid as I was then)? Check.

The legal environment was something I had never experienced before. It’s a fast-paced and demanding line of work. You also encounter in each case so much drama, tragedies, suffering and loss that it seemed to me that one got used to it–nothing was shocking anymore. Maybe only stupid. Oh, they laughed a lot at the stupidity of some of the people who came to us. I think that is why it seemed that the people I worked with seemed to me to be rather cynical.

It was not just that. I’d been a “good” girl all the time, so the environment was rather a shock to me. People swore liberally in their conversations, and as to their–ahem–morals, they didn’t really let them get in the way of doing things that are better not shared here. It was odd to them when I did not laugh at a witty joke full of innuendo, too. In time, however, my boss refrained from saying some types of jokes in my presence because my ears were “virgin” (as he called it), and some coworkers apologized to me whenever the swearing got really bad.

Where did that come from? I wondered. I never preached to them, saying–what you are doing is bad. What you are saying should fill you with shame. Nope. I just did my job–and I did it well, too. And it wasn’t that I was so unapproachable or timid and was living in a silent and isolated little bubble of my own. Nope. After getting the hang of the job I was energetic and friendly with everybody in the office.

* * *

I think that if we are Christians, we must live up to our namesake. Not just in church, or during church activities. Not just among our Christian friends and brethren, but among the people we work and live with. We are instruments, and once committed to God, we are to do God’s work even as we do our everyday labor.

People are not reached by the bullhorn guy who is preaching fire and damnation. People are reached by the Christian friend or the Christian coworker. People like you, and people like me, who live up to their Savior’s name.

The Ruling Principle

What is the ruling principle of God’s Universe?


Love in action. Service.

From the smallest atom to the flaming sun, stars, and the angels in the heavenly court, the main principle of God’s creation is service. Nothing lives or exists for itself only. Everything has a purpose and a place. Think of plants–even the lowly wildflowers in the mountains have a function, if only to gladden the heart. We are the only ones that may choose to follow this principle or not, and often we don’t. We live for ourselves and ignore others. That is why we are wretched, drifting listelessly in search for purpose, seeking to be on the receiving end of things when we are made to be givers–just like anything else in creation.

Worse, humankind has invented a warped way of looking at the universe. It is based on a wholly selfish principle, in which the survival of each creature depends on it seizing the most advantage possible in order to come out better than others.

In this view, there is no further purpose to the things around us except as things to be consumed or used. This appies to the animals and plants, and how we look at each other too. God’s image imprinted in our fellow brothers and sisters is forgotten. There is no service in this warped view. There is no purpose.

If this were the true principle that defines/rules our world and universe, then we should all live in chaos. Worse. We could not even exist for one second on this earth. It would all implode.

No, the universe would be a black hole.

Girlfriend Material

Some time ago my ego took a beating when he looked at me, laughed, and said–as a joke–something equivalent to me not being “girlfriend” material.

I’d always identified myself as the type too independent and busy to care about coming across as attractive to the opposite sex. But I guess I wasn’t, because what he said hurt me, even if he said it in joke. And I didn’t even really know him–much less like him!!

It took some weeks for me to be able to laugh about it, and when I was finally able to shrug it off it was only after I had gone to a beauty salon and cut my hair, spent precious money (that I could have used to buy more books or some new gear) on make-up, beauty stuff, and even more hair products among sundry other instruments of torture. I went through the painful rituals of femininity including having my eyebrows threaded.

* * *

My sister doesn’t even know this: Last week I had a bit of a bad hair day. I looked pretty much like the “old” me. I had been at home, hard at work on a comissioned design, and had emerged after three days of being indoors. I definitely needed to do something about my eyebrows, and I hadn’t put on anything on my face besides mosturizing lotion. I was thus minding my own business at school, when I had the opportunity to help someone find the administration building. We chatted while we walked thither, and after he had submitted some papers we sat together and had a very interesting conversation centered on music (I was carrying around my violin for class)until just before my class began. Just as I was about to leave, this guy (his name was Tony) looked into my eyes, smiled, and asked for my number.

WHAT? Why?

* * *

Sometimes, I feel like that when it comes to Christ. And I can’t get over it still.

One day, I was just walking around idly without anything to do, and I bumped into a stranger. He was kind, irradiated love, and appreciated the little that I could offer. And even though I was so out of his league, He said “I want to see you again. Let’s meet and have a meal together.” I wondered why someone so holy, pure, and powerful, should want to have a relationship with me. But though I was surprised, and humbled, I accepted. I slowly got to know him, and I began to like seeking him out, not just waiting for Him to make the first move. Then one day He said, “Let’s do this again–every single day from here to eternity.”

One of my main goals in life is to be better “girlfriend” material–that I may feel proud to be with God, and not let my shortcomings get in between our happiness. Christ is looking at what is deep inside us–and sees the potential of what we could be. I am humbled that he sees me as I am and he still wants to win my heart.

How does my story end? Well, one day I woke up, looked in the mirror and saw that the girl staring back at me was pretty and charming enough without makeup or the hot-ironed hair. Just Paula–with a good, even complexion, soft and long dark hair, and a ready smile. I found the balance between caring too much about being attractive and just looking nice and feeling confident.

. . . Oh, yes. I also forgave the one who had mortified me.

* * *

She is energetic and strong, a hard worker…her lap burns late into the night. She extends a helping hand to the poor and opens her arms to the needy. She is clothed with strength and dignity, and her words are wise…Charm is desceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised. (Proverbs 31:30)

An Ocean of Grace

How does life look like after we are forgiven? Is it all holiness and close communion with God–a straight, upward-leading road in which we go from glory to glory without experiencing a single fall?

In my walk with God, I’ve had to learn humility. Surrendering my idols and giving up my dark addictions is a struggle I come face to face with daily–and though God has worked in me and made many improvements, I still sometimes fail, and fail disastrously too. Yes, I love God, and want to do good and be good, but I kept failing. I kept questioning myself: whether I really was sincere, whether I really loved God, whether I even wanted God bad enough.

These same questions are echoed in Pastor Matthew Gamble called REBOOT. It is a study on walking closer with God. One of the chapters deals with recovery, and I was floored when I learned that my struggle with my past is not unique. We all live the same struggle with different addictions. I would like to share one of the quotes I read there:

We all swim in an ocean of grace. the church cannot afford to call sin by its true name without calling grace by its true name…. God’s grace asks us to give up our addictions. Augustine once said that God is always trying to give good thigns to us, but our hands are too full to receive them…. On our journey to freedom God jealously guards our dignity. He knows well that addicts are crippled by fear and shame. He lets us make our own decisions even when He would much rather do it for us. But if we hurt ourselves again, He will be there for us –Miroslav Kis

Grasp the hand of our loving Jesus. If you have fallen he wants nothing more than to picke you up and take you in his arms–do the hard work for you. Let us surrender ourselves to him, and let our bodies, our minds, our desires, and all that makes us who we are drown in the ocean of his grace.

Matthew Gamble, Reboot. iFollow Discipleship Series

Miroslav Kis, Adventist Review, July 31 2003, p.4

The Resurrection

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26 ESV)

Liz and I came back home from a long trip, to find that the house was eerily still with a cold, vacant feel to it. Mom and dad were not there.

We set the house in order. Then I think I made some tea while Liz warmed up something for us to eat. After we ate, we sat in the living room, both of us feeling just like the house—silent and sad in the cold afternoon light of a cloudy November afternoon. Soon the door opened, and dad appeared. He looked haggard, and we were so aghast at his doleful air and the way he had aged at least twenty years since we had seen him that we failed to rise to go meet and greet him.

I don’t know how it came out, but he told us: They had had an accident on the 405. He had walked off fine with a few scratches—but mother. Mother had died.

The days after that were a blur. I know that Liz was the stronger of the two, and she had to be strong for the three of us. Father was worse than I’d ever seen him, racked with guilt because he’d been the one driving. I stayed outside of the house, walking around, mad with grief, mourning the death of my warm, beloved, joyful mother.

* * *

I woke up toward dawn. I wondered where I was. Had I not been sobbing in the stairwell of my house refusing the comfort of my distraught sister?

No. It had been a dream.

A dream.

Praise God it was only a dream.

Involuntarily I began to sob in my pillow, first softly, but as my relief intensified with the conviction that my mother was, indeed, still alive, my cries only grew louder. This woke Lizzy up, and she was soon next to me soothing me and comforting me while running her little fingers through my hair.

After we prayed together and she went back to sleep, something told me to read back to what I had last read last night. I reached for my iPod, unlocked it, and saw that the last thing I read before drifting off to sleep had been the book of 1 Kings 17. Yesterday night I as I was drifting off to sleep I had been asking myself what new message—besides that of trusting God and having faith—could the story of Elijah and the widow have for me today.

I re-read the story of the widow. From the time Elijah finds her gathering sticks before cooking her last meal to when Elijah resurrects her dead son. The passage took new life—and I read these familiar passages it with new eyes.

I felt the widow’s grief; it was vivid, it was real. I could see her falling apart on the floor before Elijah, with her limp son in her arms. He had to wrest the body of the boy from her hands, because even so it was precious to her and all that remained in this world that was of any value. As she cried out to him, complaining why he had brought sorrow to the house, I knew that her throat was hurting, and the voice came out only with much, much effort, the way mine had done in my dream when I  cried out to God to do something and save my mother. Finally, I lived first-hand the rush of relief, the overwhelming joy of the resurrection, when I woke and knew that my mother was alive, after all.

God condescended to answer my question in the most amazing and vivid way possible. It was clear and direct. I’ve never had such an experience, and I am humbled by it. Of course, daylight is trying to play off this lesson a bit. The terrors of the night seem to dim a little when the sun is out, but I will not forget. I cannot. I leave it here for you and for me.

Jesus is the life and resurrection. This holds such sweet hope to me for those dear ones that have gone before me—and who may go if he doesn’t return in my lifetime. I thank God that Jesus rose victorious because that means we can all have hope of life even after we die. Until this morning, I never was so thankful for it.

When I awoke again, the first thing I did was run to the kitchen where my mother was rushing about getting ready for work. In that fierce hug I prayed to God. I thanked him she was alive, that she was my mother, and prayed that he keep us all safe. I ask him now that though we have this sweet hope of life everlasting, that He will not tarry.

I don’t know if I could bear parting with my loved ones. So please. Please don’t make us wait any further.

Come, Lord Jesus.

The Unseen

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1)

He was a philosophy major and he wanted me to tell him how I—a rational, intellectual person—believed in God. He caught me off guard (spiritually speaking). At that time I was ill prepared to counter his arguments, and though I spewed out all manner of things (which I still don’t remember) in a valiant effort to prove to him that Christians are not the mindless and anti-science lot he made us out to be, it was a dismal failure. Ultimately I had to fall back on faith: You believe or you don’t.

He rolled his eyes at me, “Well, that is what I want to know. You believe—have this faith that you call it. How did you come about to have that faith?”

I could not answer that then. The basic explanation of faith in the Bible still confounded me, how could I explain that which I never really knew of? I simply believed, and I figured that was the same as having faith, right?

Now I am inclined to think otherwise.

Belief—like I’ve said in one of my previous posts—is nothing special . It is essential to faith, but it is not faith. Belief will only carry you as far as the limits of your comfort zone, that is, up to the point where certainty ends and where faith must begin.

Ok, so I believe. How do I make the leap from believing to having faith so small (the size of a mustard seed) that I get to move the mountains? That, O my soul, is the work of God!—and it’s up to you to let him do his work or not.

God brings us into circumstances in order to educate our faith, because the nature of faith is to make its object real. Until we know Jesus, God is a mere abstraction and we cannot have faith in Him…Faith is the whole man rightly related to God by the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ  –Oswald Chambers [1]

My mercenary self always missed the point of faith. Before feeding the prophet—so to speak—I wanted to know for sure that God would replenish the jar of flour and the jug of oil. In short, I wanted to have the certainty of something happening (of my leap of faith being effective) before I acted upon my faith (before leaping). That, of course, is missing the point altogether. I was a mere believer—seeking certainty and not faith—what else was to be expected?

The ultimate goal of faith is to know and love the Father. Hebrews 11;1 talks about faith being a certainty of what is unseen. For me, the only unseen that matters most (indeed, the only thing I should seek to be certain of) is the Father–the great Unseen– whom one day we all hope to see face to face.

That is the crowning glory and the goal of having faith: to reach the point of not needing faith. To reach Heaven. Healing the sick, moving mountains, having free refills comes as a happy bonus. It’s extra.


[1] Chambers, Oswald, My Outmost for His Highest “Faith” (October 30)