I’ve always been intrigued by faces. As a child, that was basically all I drew…I spent countless hours drawing and coloring faces in church, school, free time. I loved recreating faces, trying to make them as lifelike as possible.

Here on my missions trip to Cambodia, visiting museums and memorials of the Khmer Rouge, the pictures of faces from that time of mass genocide are the things that captured my compassion more than anything else. Seeing each face with its particular identity, its unique personality, its own story…a story that never received the ending it should have, cut off before its time by the communists.

As a writer, I ached for all those incomplete stories. As an artist, I mourned for the stolid absence of hope in each face; the vulnerability in those hollow eyes; the resilience every line portrayed—resilience snuffed out by the ruthless tools of death. I cried for those faces, for those stories that never reached the climax all stories should have—the moment they meet Jesus and realize He is life.

I walked through room after room of photos of men, women, children, all tortured until their spirit and body were irrevocably severed into a Christless eternity. Those faces sobered me, made me think of how similar they are to the faces of those I pass on the streets of Phnom Penh every day. How will this generation be any different from the one that endured such horrors if they still are not receiving the knowledge of Jesus Christ that will save them from the greater torture and death of the Lake of Fire?

Every one of these faces has a story. Every one of these stories needs Jesus. Who will introduce them to Him?


Journey to Mount Moriah


The story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac is quite well known, especially to those who grew up in Sunday school. We remember that God tested Abraham’s love for the Lord by commanding him to offer up his only son, the promised heir. We have read that Abraham packed up for the journey to a mountain God would show him, and took along his son and two servants. We know it took them three days to reach the particular mountain in the land of Moriah where God wanted him to hold the sacrifice.

But what I wonder is what occurred within those three days between home and the altar. I wish I knew what Isaac was thinking throughout that whole experience. Sometimes the Bible seems to be rather cold-cut and emotionless, only providing the facts and not always the feelings behind those facts. I wonder what was happening in Isaac’s soul as he traveled with his father Abraham that long journey to the mountain God would show them where to do sacrifice. Isaac didn’t know what the offering would be. He just knew they were going to an undisclosed place to offer a sacrifice to God.

I suspect this trip had a dual purpose. Of course, it was to try Abrahams love for God and trust and obedience in offering up his promised son. But it could have also served to purge Isaac. Perhaps he was complacent as the Godly Abraham’s heir. Maybe he needed that journey to think about the coming offering and prepare his heart for it. I don’t know if Isaac had ever helped his father gather stones for an altar, choose their best lamb out of the flock and kill it and lay it on the wood and feed fire to that offering.

If he had been a part of a sacrifice before, I’m sure Abraham would have explained the ceremony to his son and taught him the devotion and worship it entailed. Isaac was probably solemnized by the realization that he needed this opportunity of personal fellowship and worship of his father’s God to help him step up into manhood, into his own relationship with God—and later, though he did not know it, as a patriarch of God’s chosen. This could have been his spiritual bar mitzvah, when he crossed the threshold from heir to steward.

I think that journey and the altar he knew he would build at the end of it made him think. Made him purge himself of his privileged childhood bubble and truly turn his face to seek God. I think all of this was happening while they traveled so that when they reached Mount Moriah, Isaac was ready for his father to bind him, not the expected lamb, to the altar. He had been spiritually prepared those three days and nights, discussing God with his father while wandering foreign trails and relaxing around campfires. He would not have been ready to be the sacrifice when he started off from home a boy. But he waked up Mount Moriah a man. And when the hearts of both the father and son were ripe for surrender, God pointed Abraham to the mountain of sacrifice.

And both men found out on that mountain that being willing to give the ultimate sacrifice can mean earning the ultimate miracle. God just wants us to be given to Him…consciously surrendered to whatever He desires, whether life or death. I think Isaac learned that on the way to the altar and never forgot it afterward.

Reading this story in the Bible and ruminating upon it showed me a parallel to my own life. I am embarking on a missions trip to Southeast Asia this week. I know everybody expects their lives to be drastically changed and their morals set straight and their souls lit on fire for God by a missions trip to a third world country. I’m hoping all those things happen to me throughout the course of the next two weeks. But I think the preparation for this trip has already helped me grow spiritually.

I don’t know what I will face on this journey to the other side of the world. I can imagine, filling in the blanks of our itinerary with possibilities of things that could take place. But, like Isaac, I have no idea what will transpire once I reach my destination. And I want my heart to be ready for the unknown. An altar of some sort awaits me there on that mission field. What God will ask me to place on that altar is yet unclear, but I do not want to be shown my Mount Moriah only to turn away in fear and unbelief from the sacrifice He requires. I want to prepare my heart now to be willing to do the unthinkable, as Isaac was.

I don’t know if I was ready to accept the lessons of this missions trip when I first signed up. I don’t know if I am ready now. But I have already learned so much just from the few months preparing for this journey, and I pray God gives me the grace I need the moment I need it, whatever altar I must build there.




I lived with visions for my company, 
Instead of men and women, years ago,
And found them gentle mates, nor thought to know
A sweeter music than they played to me. 
But soon their trailing purple was not free 
Of this world’s dust,— their lutes did silent grow, 
And I myself grew faint and blind below 
Their vanishing eyes. Then THOU didst come … to be, 
Beloved, what they seemed. Their shining fronts,
Their songs, their splendours, (better, yet the same, 
As river-water hallowed into fonts)
Met in thee, and from out thee overcame 
My soul with satisfaction of all wants —
Because God’s gifts put man’s best dreams to shame. 

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

When I was a little girl I made up my share of imaginary worlds and the characters that peopled them. I wrote stories since at least age 8, perhaps before. I still have old manuscripts mouldering away in cardboard boxes on the other side of the world, tropical humidity wreaking havoc on all those fading pencilings and frail notebook paper. My stories were all the companionship I had for many years, and I poured myself into them, relishing the bringing to life of each character, describing each house, plotting endless family trees, surprising myself with snatches of witty repartee for some crucial bit of dialogue. When my powers of invention petered out on one story line, I just birthed another and started fresh in a new notebook (which could explain my inability to finish a story as well as my shameless proliferation of notebooks.)

My mother at some point produced a stack of decades-old Reminisce magazines, and my old-fashioned self promptly devoured them all. Once I had practically memorized most of the stories therein by so many readings, I started cutting out the pictures of people in olden days and pasting them in a huge sketch book, adding captions to identify which of my stories the pictures applied to and which characters they stood for. This brought me hours of the greatest fun ever throughout my childhood. I collected pictures of old-fashioned houses, black and white portraits, anything I could find in our array of magazines that I imagined could resemble my stories. My mom had to make me promise I wouldn’t cut pictures out of magazines she hadn’t read yet.

Of course, these imaginary friends could never be complete substitutes for real friends, and the Lord did bless me with those along the way. As I grew older, I began to write less and live more. Hours of book reading were traded for hours of ministry or housework. And those story characters who had seemed so vivid and delightful before gradually paled in comparison to the real-life characters I was privileged to work for and with — the children I taught in Sunday school, the teens I led in choir, the adults with whom I served and shared deep conversations.

I don’t have to live vicariously through my stories anymore. I’m living God’s story for me. And it is truly a better plot than any I could have written for myself! I have been so immensely blessed by the people and places and subplots and even antagonists God has brought into my story; some I would never have chosen, some I would rather not exist, but they all are what is going to make my story complete someday. And I’m eagerly awaiting the day I will be able to read my finished story in Heaven, through its Writer’s perspective—because God’s gifts put man’s best dreams to shame.


We Shall but Die

“I am living in the midst of the uncertainty and risk, amid things that can and do bring physical destruction, because I am running from things that can destroy my soul: complacency, comfort, and ignorance. I am much more terrified of living a comfortable life in a self-serving society and failing to follow Jesus than I am of any illness or tragedy.” Continue reading “We Shall but Die”



Have you ever felt inadequate? Inferior? Helplessly cornered by your own personality? Faced with a job you feel utterly incapable of accomplishing? Congratulations! You are a normal human being! Or at least you have me as an ally in weirdness. I’ve despaired Continue reading “Personality”