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Alas! and did my Savior bleed
And did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?

Was it for crimes that I had done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity, grace unknown,
And love beyond degree!

This, the darkest day in human history, is the one on which my hope hinges. Brilliantly bright hope in the midst of bleak blackness.

Good Friday. How can it be good? What agony my Savior suffered on that cross, in that garden, at the hands of hatred-filled men––bloody, beaten, despised, mocked, and killed.

For me.

I marvel at the glories of double imputation––my sin and just punishment imputed to Him; His righteousness imputed to my hopelessly bankrupt account.

Christ’s death secured for me eternal life. What a grand, incomparable paradox. His triumphant resurrection is the lifeblood that gives me strength to carry on.


I am ashamed of my sin-induced amnesia. I chase after flitters of light on grey, routined walls––fleeting, unsatisfying shadows. I never lift my weary head to the Source of any and all light. “Christ alone” must be my battlecry as I traverse a world so fraught with lesser lights.

My sin lingers, insidiously aiming at the utmost, and I am helpless to save myself. We all naturally wallow in the dark mire of iniquity. But now, His victory in the cross and resurrection give us the fortitude to fight vice relentlessly and chase after that truest light.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.” –Isaiah 53:5

For now, it feels like my flesh, Satan and the world are all triumphing, rejoicing over my prostrate body like bloodthirsty villains. I do not always hold onto Him in this spiritual war. But His is an everlasting grip. All I can do is cling to Calvary and in the power of His resurrection, walk––slowly but steadily––toward the light of a brilliant future:

“According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.” –1 Peter 1:3

My flesh deceives me into thinking sin will have the greater payoff. What a lie. Sin leads to death. There is nothing benign about destructive malevolence. Christ suffered the full wrath of God for that sin. How can I do anything now but live for Him alone, before His face alone, all for His glory.

My blessed Redeemer has saved me from the shackles of sin, from the bondage of my flesh. I am in awe of His sovereign saving grace––an inexhaustible grace. But I must never seek to exhaust that grace by my sin. Christ is the champion Warrior, conquering sin and death, and He reigns now and forevermore.

May His name be lifted high as I sojourn and battle on, seeking the greater light and clinging to Him all of my days.

But drops of grief can ne’er repay
The debt of love I owe;
Here, Lord, I give myself away,
‘Tis all that I can do.

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Dear Mathilda,

When you told me your mom recently died the air in my lungs evaporated.

We were standing in a lengthy line at the bookstore when that sad, haunted smile crossed your face. We had barely known each other a week. I no longer cared about my overpriced textbook––I wanted to leap across the divide of unfamiliarity between us and embrace you.

I wanted to tell you I know what it’s like to scream with the Psalmist: “Why are you cast down, oh my soul?” (Ps. 42:5) Your heart feels such indescribable agony––your throat physically closes off and refuses to inhale oxygen.

Instead of verbalizing my lament, I stammered a shaky “I’m sorry.”

I’m sorry for saying “sorry”––a sad, scrunched-up apology for my inability to cure you of your suffering. A few weeks later, you stunned me. You said I remind you of her––your mother.

I wish I had known Tammy.

Known her when all she loved was being under the trees near your forest home as she cared for outcasts. “The mountains and trees that call you were her home,” you said.

That was before the devastation of cancer.

I haven’t experienced the death of someone so close to me, but I do know something of the pain of loss. At times, it is excruciating when you miss someone that much––your spirit hardly stirs because it is so crushed.

These are the times when you cling to the promises of God with clenched, trembling hands, knowing He is “near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:18).

On Earth, we march to the beat of weary hearts and fatigued steps. But we will one day join all the saints in eternal, celestial song.

“High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my vision, O ruler of all.”

I urged you to meditate on the victory of Christ that one Saturday night when we ate Little Caesar’s under smog-layered stars.

What a joy––that we have a Great High Priest who is able to sympathize with our weakness. “He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25).

In our pain, we know He is intimately acquainted with our griefs, the sorrows over which He has triumphed.

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Ps. 27:13).

There will be a day when we will join Tammy in ceaseless praise, singing a new song to the Lamb––our Redeemer, our Comforter, our Lord.

I love you. But He loves you infinitely more.

–Carissa

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And now she gazes at her Savior. (1959-2016)

Longing for Lion Eyes

Carissa A —  September 10, 2016 — 1 Comment

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You have lion eyes,” my dad said. “Like mine.”

I inherited his eyes – brown and molten gold in the sunlight, and I long for the heart behind those eyes – reflecting both warm tenderness and fierce flashes of fortitude. Instead, I wake from care-ridden nights of fear, tossing and turning the tables on myself.

As much as I long to have lion-hearted valiance, my eyes too often dim with hesitation and weariness. I turn my gaze downward, rather than setting my mind’s eye on eternal things.

I can only be strong in the Lord and the strength of His might (Eph. 6:10). Only then can I “not fear anything that is frightening” (1 Pet. 3:6). This is a faith-driven fearlessness in the face of the most menacing foes – even death itself.

We must have a reverent fear of God, awestruck and speechless in light of His infinite holiness. Through this worshipful fear, we move forward with a bravery provided through our Great High Priest, the Lion of Judah Himself. His atonement guarantees that we can “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).

This mercy and grace will carry us to a place of fearless determination, where our lives are spent for the gospel. It fuels a willingness to “run with endurance the race set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:1-2).

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of Earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.”

Eyes that blaze with lion-hearted courage are only possible as we gaze on Him who redeemed us. Filling our eyes with the Lord’s splendor and majesty, we behold His glory and reflect that glory with the brilliance of unshakable hope in our “sure and steadfast anchor” (Heb. 6:19).

May we run in His strength alone, pursuing lion-like boldness, confident joy, and courageous devotion.

The Fragility of Life

Carissa A —  July 24, 2016 — Leave a comment

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“I was hit by a car.”

There, the answer to my strangulated “Dad?” after muffled voices, road clamor, and the ominous absence of that all-too-familiar voice.

My stomach plunged to the depths of my worst fears. He was alive – that was all I knew. I floated in an eerie numbness from office chair to bedroom door to kitchen.

My mom flew out of the house and into the car, hurtling towards her husband and a mangled road bike. I continued cutting the cantaloupe she left in her wake, because when tragedy strikes, someone must continue the cutting of abandoned cantaloupe and ponder the fragility of life.

I surrender all.

Those words have new meaning when you prepare to bid farewell to the dearest objects of your heart. Am I willing to utterly and irrevocably surrender all to my King, whose reign encompasses my temporal and feeble existence?

When my heart becomes dulled to the life-giving gospel, I forfeit my ability to truly live as I am called to live. There is far too much at stake to waste this fragile life — this frail existence swinging over the brink of eternity, destined to drop away into the depths of infinity at any time.

Can I take the fall?

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17

All is from His hand – a full heart, broken heart, even a halted heart. These are multiplicities and prismatic variations, but in Him there is not even a hint of variation or change. In a vortex of changes, He remains the immovable epicenter. 

Even when life seems to be at its flourishing zenith, it is fleeting. Though awash in golden, ambrosial light, every morning comes to an end, speeding to the next stage of time. The morning of one’s life quickly diminishes as the brilliant light of dawn melds into vibrant tones and shades and flavors throughout the lovely yet fleeting cycle. All too soon, night approaches. 

To whose light will you run to in the eventide of life? Whose light will illumine the dark trenches of dimming day? 

The Lord of light Himself is and must be your answer. He is the only one who can irradiate and eradicate the dungeon of death – both natural, inborn spiritual death and natural, inevitable physical death.

Life is more than gazing upon the sight of green-draped mountainous heights and stunning sea depths. A pursuit of the height and depth of Christ’s magnificence is the only secure light, upon which we may be anchored in the everlasting morning of His love – stronger than death itself.

Abounding Grace

Carissa A —  July 8, 2016

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“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” 2 Cor. 9:8

Grace is remarkable to me. It is the rushing power of God’s grace that drives the past, present, and glorious future. His grace sustains every moment of my existence. As the years progress, I view in greater measure the depth of meaning behind my name – Carissa from charis, “grace” in Greek.

He is able to make all grace abound; therefore, He is far above all itself, attesting to God’s infinitude and omnipotence. When we correctly align our doctrine of God with Scripture, we can affirm that yes, it is indeed in His character to make all the possible streams of grace accessible to us in Christ.

This grace is not merely accessible, but abounding, overflowing, and ever-increasing. Our God is outside the limits of confinement and constraint. He obliterates the floodgates of restraint with the truth of His boundless character. As a result, He is more than capable of granting to us all we need “according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19)

In Christ, we not only have “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3), but we have all sufficiency. The ultimate filling of our cavernous and thirsty hearts is possible through the atoning work of Christ alone, and it is complete for “all things at all times”. Since the rich plenitude of this grace has been lavished on us (Eph. 1:7-8), we are able to abound in every good work as God causes all grace to abound to us. We are conduits of His grace to a lost and dying world.

We can trust that God is magnificently almighty in His lovingkindness and accordingly, we are enabled to joyously abound in the work He has called us to. He has provided an abundant reservoir of His mercy stored up for us in the place of well-deserved wrath, even when our circumstances seem to indicate spiritual scarcity. We can find joy in obedience, an overflow from jubilees of praise, and find fullness of satisfaction in Him alone.

He is more than able to meet every need in Himself, for His grace is far greater than the powerful cascades of any and every waterfall on Earth.

The Weight of Joy

Carissa A —  June 11, 2016 — Leave a comment

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“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him.” –Psalm 103:11

I like cloudy days. Deep cloud banks hold more weight than airy blue skies, and I feel that weight acutely. I empathize with the sky. The weight of both sorrow and joy.

Did you know joy has weight? I certainly didn’t, until I felt the seemingly insurmountable weight of all else. Trapped beneath a collapsing sky. The clouds that appeared so friendly now threaten to close in, suffocating all thoughts of His steadfast love. But regardless of how I feel, the sky remains intact, and His love is from everlasting to everlasting.

True joy is weighty. It’s not all airy, giddy, and light. Joy is weighty because it cannot – must not – rely on trivial things. These things are fleeting, but true joy is unwavering and rooted in eternity.

“Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven.” –Lamentations 3:41

I attempt to lift my heart to heaven, but I’m left gasping for air with the weight of fear and heartache and lamentations. Tears rise unbidden when anxieties fall heavy. I tremble at the thought of change. Blanketed in melancholy, I experience immense weight, but I know a greater, steadying weight that undergirds and supersedes all.

The thundering of the storm brings to mind the thundering power of my Savior. I am safe and sheltered, guarded in the shadow of His wingsthe sovereignty of His reign. The beauty of a life lived in submission to a loving Heavenly Father is that He holds the future in His hands. He has lavished His torrential grace upon me; He is the God of all renown, and He can be trusted.

Lifting my weary eyes to the sky, I watch radiant rays slanting through slits in ominously thick fog banks. I catch glimpses of glowing heavenlight slipping through the darkness. The heights of hope are undaunted by the density of the dark.

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?” –Psalm 27:1

This is the weight of joy.

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I trace the zigzag of sorrowful eyes, darting from ground to eyes to hands, sustaining eye contact and then dropping low to the sidewalk, like the worn-out rhythm of a melancholy jazz tune, sustained notes of sadness melding into hope, because we are called to the greatest hope.

“There are some who would have Christ cheap. They would have Him without the cross. But the price will not come down.” – Samuel Rutherford

We are only whole with the restorative power of the gospel. We must lay aside every distraction and snare in our pursuit of “the unsearchable riches of Christ.” (Eph 3:8) In following Christ and enduring the intense suffering of this life, there is a long, narrow, and difficult road ahead. 

The gospel is worth suffering for and fighting for. Truth is valuable, and truth is costly.

Are you willing to surrender all? Will you live a crucified life for the sake of that truth? Surrendering all is not futile. It is leaving all behind for something greater, something infinitely worthy of wholehearted pursuit. It means fulfillment and purpose found in denying self and focusing on increasing glory given to Christ.

How can Paul say he is content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, calamities (2 Cor. 12:10), all for the sake of Christ?

When the Almighty Creator of the universe calls you by name, redeems you, and seals you for all eternity, it gives pain great purpose. He calls us to a living hope that will not put us to shame, and we can have unwavering confidence in His promises. We glory in weakness, because He is our strength.

We rely on our sure foundation and proclaim Him as the only one worthy of praise – Christ Jesus our Savior. It is in the fiery tempest when we truly see that He is faithful from everlasting to everlasting. We are undeserving recipients of His grace, and we magnify Him in uniquely kaleidoscopic ways through our pain.

We are struck down, but not destroyed. We are never defeated by the darkest forces of sorrow, because Christ is victorious.

We rise. And we fall. But we will indeed rise, just as He rose victoriously from the grave, and we too will rise to be with Him. Now we rise continually, with the cadence of a meaningful life focused on eternity, pressing on toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Our hope is sure. When we totter on the edge of sorrow and anxiety, we can be steadied, knowing “in every change, He faithful will remain.”

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair (2 Cor. 4:8). Despair has no hold on those for whom Christ died.

We rise in His strength alone. We take our stand beneath the cross, knowing we will rise to eternity, to dwell with Him forever.

I am convinced

Carissa A —  November 26, 2013 — 3 Comments

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

These verses leave me thunderstruck. There is such a calming reassurance that never fails to blow my mind. There is great confidence to be derived from the knowledge that “if God is for us, who can be against us?” as the chapter earlier states.

Death has been conquered, once and for all. Life has inevitable heartache and heartbreak, but you know what? The everyday struggles of life do not possess the power to separate us from the vast love of God, either. Angels and demons? Present circumstances and anxieties about the future? You have no reason to worry. God is, and always has been, in control. Paul gives us an important reminder that nothing – nothing that can even be thought to have enough power – can separate us from God’s love.

We neither deserve nor earn that love. It was manifested ultimately at the cross of Jesus Christ; His final payment for sin – the outpouring of God’s wrath on His only son – was what ensured our standing with God as righteous. Sin separates us from God, which should drive us to run from it. It causes a rift between God and the believer, but it does not change God’s hold on that believer.

Our own personal sin, however base and instinctual the desire may be to give in to fleshly desires, cannot remove us from the love secured for us in Christ. If that isn’t a reason to give thanks, I don’t know what is. If you have acknowledged your sin and repented (Acts 20:21), cling to this promise, and have every reason to be as convinced as Paul was about its truth.