Why I’m no longer Catholic.

Why I'm No longer

A friend of mine wrote a post about doing yoga while Catholic, and I of course had to scour every word because I’m a true blue Christ follower who happens to practice yoga. My comment on her post led her to ask me why I stopped going to Mass, but before I get into that lengthy and layered explanation, let me give you a little insight into how I replied to her post:

Cristina, are we the same person?? Seriously, if I don’t meet you in this lifetime, I’m gonna get cranky. I am a Catholic (although I go to a non-denominational church now) and an incredibly strong Christian and took a hiatus from yoga for the following reasons:

1. Before I committed my life to Christ, I was battling depression, sleep paralysis, night terrors and astral projection (I was going through some serious shiznit) that I feel were all related to demonic activity due to my pushing God out of my life. I was also heavily into yoga and doing it for the spiritual benefits, not just the physical. After committing my life to Christ, I immediately stopped suffering from the above craziness and stopped practicing yoga so I wouldn’t accidentally venture down that path again.
2. Everything I read that was in any way Christian-related told me yoga was a no-no.

So why did I start practicing again? Because, much like you, I enjoyed the physical benefits of yoga and had grown so strong in my faith in Jesus, I knew there was no way I’d be persuaded to leave God’s side again. It wasn’t until we were reviewing 1 Corinthians that I realized yoga was a lot like the “sacrificial meat” issue that the early Christians were dealing with. Followers in the early church were wondering if it was sinful for Christians to eat meat that was sacrificed to the gods. Here is what Paul says:

1. No, it’s not sinful as long as the Christian has a truly strong faith in Christ and is merely filling his belly. To insinuate eating the meat is sinful is to insinuate that we believe those gods exist which would therefore mean the meat is a no-no. And obviously, we don’t believe that.
2. Should we promote eating sacrificial meat to non-Christians or those not as strong in their faith yet? Nope! We can eat the meat all we want but shouldn’t advise others to do the same because they may start venturing down the road of worshipping the gods, not having the same relationship with God we do. Ultimately, we live to love others, and if we mislead them, even unintentionally, we aren’t loving them and doing all we can to bring them closer to God.

I find yoga to be our “sacrificial meat.” We don’t believe in the Hindu gods, so for us, yoga is a fun stretching exercise and nothing more. But if we’re constantly vocal about it and teaching novice Christians that it’s all good in the hood, then we run the risk of changing a person’s heart.

Make sense? Or do I sound like a crazy person? Hashtag wouldn’t be the first time.

So Cristina respectfully asked me what made me stop going to Mass and of course my brain and heart started whirling away into what I hope is a coherent blog post:

Like I mentioned in my reply to Cristina’s post, I used to suffer from depression, night terrors, sleep paralysis and eventually my good friend, astral projection (insert sarcasm here).

I started having panic attacks and depressive episodes once I turned sixteen. I used to go to an incredibly challenging private high school (it was an academy actually and blazers were definitely involved), and our way of life consisted of doing whatever we could to have the highest GPA while all the other girls around town were focused on landing a boyfriend.

Snort. Silly girls.

What I didn’t realize is that I’m not as smart as I thought I was, until of course, I actually started to realize it. All that stress, all that concentrated criticism that started like a soft whisper in my ear had me running miles in the Houston heat and knocking on anorexia’s door before the summer to my junior year had ended. I used to try reading Cold Mountain, the book assigned as our summer reading, only to slam the cover shut each time I started to read a line just so I could cry in my closet.

Loathing grew and never really took a breather. But let’s fast forward a little bit, shall we?

I’ve seen some strange things. Ghosts, I guess, although I don’t believe in ghosts anymore. I believe that evil exists, and I believe he can work our minds like a fine piece of glass. Mine stretched to its limits and there was a deep-seated fear that even that psychic could sniff out when I visited her on my twenty-fifth birthday.

The “Oh, girl!” look on her face was priceless. She could practically taste the possession.

I don’t know what made me so weak to the evil, although deep down, I truly do. I had denied God for so long that the denial set like concrete and broke me apart, inside then out.

I was smarter than everyone else. A feminist. Brilliant. Talented. Better. There was no room for your silly God in my life.

And yet? And yet I was miserable.

I was Catholic but I wore it more like an ethnicity than a transformation of spirit. I think a lot of us who grow up in a church, regardless of denomination, do that very thing. We become used to “a” plus “b” equaling “c,” never stopping to take a good look at “x” in the corner. We check off boxes, consider ourselves a good little religious girl or boy, but sometimes the world wants more than your Sunday morning attendance.

Sometimes the world needs every inch of you, every moment of your life.

So let’s slow down a bit now, focus on “the moment” as I like to call it.

My brother’s sister wanted us to go to their church. We had stopped going to Mass for awhile now and even though this was the case, I would never ever ever ever go to a church that wasn’t a Catholic church because I was a good little religious girl deep down, right? I would never break the rules.

But eventually we went if only to say we did, get this whole shebang over with.  And then the best worst thing possible happened. My heart changed.

I wanted to go again, thirsty for more words, the Word, and during this time the worst of everything was happening:

Night terrors where I could feel the stench of evil on me, my soul ripping out of my body and spinning on the ceiling, paralytic attacks where my body couldn’t move and no sound would leave my lips.

Fear of sleep.

But one night in November, after a rough year of battling my personal hell, I gave my life to Jesus before I closed my eyes to go to bed that night.

And ever since, that hell has been a thing of the past.

I was blind and now I see. I’ve been transformed, born again, made anew. I never in a million years believed in that kind of talk. As a Catholic, I believed in doing good works and holding my breath, holding out hope that one day that would be good enough to get me close to God in Heaven.

As a follower of Christ, I know I’m already accepted and that absolute love and grace is what drives me to share that kind of hope with others. I’ve gone beyond the rules and focus instead on life’s every day moments and the ways I can deliver God’s message through my actions, not my empty words.

What it all boils down to: The way I feel now, the way I feel about Christ and his love doesn’t perfectly align with the Catholic philosophy I used to hold onto, and that’s why I no longer go to Mass. I’d be denying the truth I know now, and that wouldn’t be fair to anybody.

Things I’d like to address:

  • I am in no way insinuating or implying that a Catholic can’t be transformed by Christ.
  • I am insinuating and implying, however, that the Catholic faith for me was a series of rules I forced myself to follow and then felt guilty if I faltered. I think we can all agree that this is no way to live. Not everyone encounters the Catholic faith the way I did, and that is a very good thing.
  • I currently go to a non-denominational Christian church.
  • My beliefs do not align with Protestantism either.
  • My beliefs align only with Christ and his message, and I do what I can to live that message every day.
  • A lot of times I fail.
  • A lot of times I get back up.
  • I don’t believe one religion is better than another. In fact, like Jesus, I’m not a huge fan of religion altogether.
  • I am a fan of people. Of meeting with church friends on Sundays to pray and meditate for about an hour. To check in and see how everyone’s doing.
  • I am a fan of hanging out with non-Christians, getting to know them and their lives. Their stories.
  • You never know who you’re going to meet or why God wants you to meet them. Always, keep an open mind like Jesus.
  • This is all a journey and each one of us is at a different point on the path. Knowing this tends to soften a heart.
  • Keep that heart soft, y’all.

Questions? Comments? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


I just published a new book of poetry online. Click here to read for free.

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Dear Ava,

I’m a horrible mother. And a terrifically good mother. And a no nonsense mother and a spastic, nonsensical type of female who keeps parking crookedly and forgets the word for fork sometimes, and then other times I feed people my brilliance.

I don’t think any of us were meant to be good at this.

But I think that’s okay. I think for the first time ever, there’s no good mother Olympics, no gold to be won.

There are mistakes and bruises and tears and the way she looks at me like she’s known me before she was born and wishes she’d never met my face.

It’s the same way I look into the mirror sometimes.

But there are those other crystal clear moments, a love abundant, a love like Christ’s, where I can feel it all weaving together, broken skin healing and that sound she makes when she breathes.

Step one, we are alive.

Step two, start living,

Step three, write down, paper to pen.

Dear Ava,

I’m sorry.

But dear Ava,

You now know the truth.

Evolution

IMG_3822

Here’s your
March
Of time
And Evolutionary
Progression
But burning
Your offspring
And tasting
The sharp note
Of blood
When nobody
Loves you
Is like a sweet
Reminder
That your
Death
Is the only
Real truth
You know. 

– e.c.

Spoon

I’m
Just
Afraid
My brain
Will
Eat
And rot
Me hollow
So I spoon
It clean
To watch
You glean
All the other
Wings
In me
I never
Gave
Room
To
Grow.  -e.c.

Dear Ava,

running away letter

DEAR AVA,

I hope
This
Finds
You well and
The kids
And Jack
Are safe
And happy
And set
To swimming
In the beautifully
Blue pool.
The picture
Was lovely.
It looks
Like a long
Shard of glass
And that bird
Reflected,
Hovering up high
Reminded me of the one
That swooped
And ate your
Newborn butterflies
That hatched
From that kit
I bought you.
I should have
Paid more attention
But butterflies
Are a nasty thing
To own.
How’s the cat
And that gerbil
That I’m always
Afraid the cat
Will eat?
Is Lucille
Still eating
Her fingernails
Like you always used
To do and might still?
Funny, the dedication
taken
To shredding
And imbibing ourselves.
I’m well.
The postman
Asked the other
Day
About your father
And I said, “Still Dead,”
But no smile on his face.
What a waste because
He looks a little
Like
Dicaprio in Gatsby
And a smile
Would do him good.
Me, too, I guess.
But not to get down
And out.
Have to keep the spirits
Up.
Have to keep on keeping on.

Sometimes, I talk to God
And dare him to listen.

I have to get on
Now
And I know
You’re busy with the
Glass shard pool
And Jack and the kids
And all the minutes
That feel
Like hours
Until your glass has
Spilled
And all you see
Is your damp
Eye hovering
From
above.

Nice to Meet You

img_4207

Let’s start out Friday with an #introduction shall we?

My name is Ericka Clay, and I’m a traditionally published author (contemporary fiction) and long time poet (since like 6th grade, y’all). I oversee a department where I work (no getting specific since this is the interwebs) and love working with people (something I couldn’t say a year ago). What changed? Well, after years of anxiety, depression and night terrors I asked Christ to take the fracking wheel and now I sleep like a baby.

Thank you Jesus!! I was the last person on earth who thought she would ever be a Christian but after this experience, I fully understand that Christianity isn’t combing your hair and pretending your perfect on Sundays. It’s continually being a sinner but knowing God has granted you grace and forgiveness and all you want to do is pour that love out onto others.

So that’s what I’m doing, one word at a time.

Shout out to my amazingly creative daughter and my BFF husband and his super strong faith that builds up my own.

And shout out to you peeps. I know some of us are having a rough week, but have heart, my dears. WE are the change the world needs and YOU have the power to show your kind heart off to the world. ❤️🌎 And I can’t wait to see it shine.

Oh and one last shout out to our veterans on #veteransday! It takes incredible courage and strength to lay down your life for another. We appreciate you!!! #tgif #potd #poetsofinstagram #poetsofig #fridayintroductions #fridayintroduction #poet #thankyou #god #christian #lovegod #loveothers #christianpoet #christianpoetry #christianpoems via Instagram http://ift.tt/2eZ8gN0

Why Christians Should Write Secular Fiction

WHY

Okay, first thing’s first: as a Christian, I don’t believe anything is secular. I feel God and have vibed out on evil in the past and wholly and fully understand both can be felt when you least expect it – even when it comes to literature.

So “secular” fiction is a bit of a misnomer for me. But alas, it’s still a thing, and to keep confusion at bay, I’ll be calling it as such throughout this post.

Secondly, I really don’t think anyone SHOULD do anything, so if you read this post and think, “No thanks,” then it’s all good in the hood, and I’ll still share my Cheetos with you.

Now, let’s get down to brass tax.

Before I became a Christian, writing was easy peasy. I just fired up my inner demons, threw the words they inspired on the page and called it art.

After becoming a Christian, I started to take issue with this process, namely the inner demons part because I suddenly (and luckily) found that I no longer had any. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still human, but the the little thoughts that used to badger me and tear me down were gone, and frankly, I had made those bad boys my friends.

So what’s a Christian gal to do? Keep on keeping on.

Listen, I know I can still write. And I know there’s a fire burning in my belly. But now it’s a matter of using that fire to bring others into the light instead of letting it devour my soul in smoke.

Really, when you think about it, it’s not a bad trade off.

It’s also why I choose to write secular fiction over Christian fiction.

There is a whole audience out there struggling, my friends. There’s a whole segment of our human population that needs someone to send them down a little miracle and make the shitty existence of every day living worth SOMETHING. As a Christian and an author, I intend to do just that.

The way I figure it, you can’t heal a broken heart with rainbows and unicorns. You can’t go up to someone who’s hurting, actually decomposing from the inside out and say, “Isn’t the world such a beautifully golden and God-filled place,” and then start twirling on a hillside a la Maria from the Sound of Music.

People generally don’t like that.

And I mean you may feel like twirling until your wooden clogs go flying off your feet, but remember when you didn’t feel that way? Remember when the only thing you thought about was the exact temperature you needed to set the oven before sticking your head in? 

Look, I’m not trying to be graphic here. I’m trying to be real. There’s nothing wrong with truth even when the truth is a dark and ugly thing. Because truth gives birth to light.

And fortunately, we all have the ultimate guide when it comes to writing this way. It’s called the Bible.

The Bible doesn’t sugar coat the reality of this world. The Bible is up front and in your face when it comes to sin and how it can slowly and methodically deteriorate everything in its path. And I appreciate the Bible for its honesty.

If it wasn’t so darn honest, I wouldn’t believe a lick of it.

So this is why I’m a Christian and write secular fiction. I want to be honest, transparent, and let the world know – the hurting, crying, miserable segment of it that feels like the sun is a burnt out star – that hope flickers through my words, through my waterfall of pages.

It is a light I’ve been given from God, and I love you to the point of setting your heart on fire.

*Inspiration for this post:  The Dilemma of Being a Christian Who Writes Fiction

How to Heal a Broken Heart

prayer

All my life, I knew I was going to be SOMETHING.

Something great. Something wonderful. Something rich and something famous and something so intellectually on point, I would lightly stab the world between the eyes.

“Here I am, World. Eat your heart out.”

You know what I’ve been doing lately? I’ve been praying for people. I’ve been praying for our family.

I’ve completely removed my tumored heart from this ruthless world, and I’ve never felt better.

How does a woman of this world focus less on BEING something and devote herself to DOING something?

Prayer, you guys. It all comes down to prayer.

In the past, I’ve been what you would call a “casual” pray-er. If an anxiety attack comes on, God’s the first dude I call. If my plane is doing the turbulence dance, I’m all over the prayer stuff. If anyone I love has a suspicious looking mole on their cheek and even if it only turns out to be a sprinkle from their cupcake, I’ll pray so hard, I’ll forget to eat my own cupcake. (But then I eventually will eat it because it’s a cupcake. Duh.)

But for the longest time, prayer wasn’t necessarily something I sought to do on a regular basis, nor was it a thing that I believed actually worked. Really, it was just a way to focus my mind on something so worry wouldn’t gnaw a hole in my stomach.

So I never really thought of prayer as something powerful, something that could really change your life because God isn’t some genie in the sky who blinks and grants your every wish. And I’m right, He’s not.

But He’s love. He’s the connection between your heart and mine. And when we pray with intention for another human being instead of our own selfish needs and wants, we’re helping to connect those we’re praying for to God and wrap them in his warm embrace.

I know this because it happened to me.

I went from caring only about MYself, MY accomplishments, MY tush sitting on a chair next to Oprah so I could drone on and on about some bestseller I just penned and the way MY hair would look on camera to caring about others, their lives, their beautiful souls.

How did this change happen??

Prayer.

A few family members prayed for me and kept praying for me even when I insisted The Secret was the true religion, and if I focused hard enough, I’d be able to have more than my fair share of Oprah in my life…and a BMW…and maybe a few more cupcakes. But my family never stopped praying because they understood that His love is what I needed in my life. Not the glittery yet transient things that kept catching my eye.

It’s funny how I gave more credence to people and things and entire ways of thinking than I gave to God.

But when you live in this ill-stricken world, the one that cares more for Oprah, BMWs, and cupcakes than truth, it’s hard not to become a suffering patient right along with it.

So how about a little activity? I heard about an organization called CURE International that would greatly appreciate our prayers. They help A LOT of people and they fully understand that they’re an active representation of God’s love in this world.

Just click here to pray for these people. There’s even a prayer guide that you can download that will help your heart find the right words.

God never abandoned me, you guys. I abandoned him. But he’s in my life now because I’ve finally allowed him to be.

And he’s there for you, too. Just let him hear your heart. Let him hear your prayers.

 

 

 

I’ll Admit It: I’m a C-Word

girl dancing in the rain
Photo credit: Michelle on Flickr

Why is this the hard one to write?

Why is this one freezing up my fingers and slicking my skin with ice cold sweat?

Why is this the one I think you’ll stop reading me over when I have no issues whatsoever talking in detail about my poop, my period or the color taupe. (Gross, man. Taupe is just gross.)

But guys, I have a confession: I’m a Christian.

This is kind of exploding every single brain cell in my skull right now because sometimes when I even say it out loud, I think, No you’re not. You’re a cat glitterer, you crazy woman. You’re a car keyer and avoider of all office situations. You’re the person who lies on the floor in Target and puts nacho cheese in her bra.

You’re Ericka, gosh darn it.

But see, that’s the thing.

I’m still Ericka. I’m still Ericka “What Did Her Mother Put in Her Bottle?” Clay. I still love cats and glitter to the point that I’m not allowed in the state of Vermont anymore. (Spluh, like I need their stupid cheddar…sniff.)

But even more than that, I’ve taken to re-sculpturing my life so that it can support a more loving and open heart. I’m taking steps that have left me less lonely, less dark and more willing to smile and ask you your name than write you off as something you may not even be. Because fear is easy. Fear and misunderstanding is the name of the game in this world.

But I’m learning it doesn’t have to be. And man, does that feel good.

So really, this whole Christianity thing isn’t taking me away from Ericka. If anything, it’s made more Ericka-like, so much so my face won’t stop sticking this way. It’s okay. I have amazing teeth.

And no worries, you guys. I love you for you. There will be no requests to follow me down this journey because everyone has the exact road they need right beneath their feet.

All I ask is that you accept me for me. That’s it. (And to smuggle me some cheese from Vermont.)

Because “me” I fully am now, and I can’t wait to unleash all that I’m on this amazing world.

Cats, I’ll give you a five minute head start.