My Friend Ericka

There’s another Ericka Clay.

I receive her emails from time to time (I suppose our email addresses are pretty close), and I’ve learned a lot about her.

She’s from Chicago. She has a daughter. She’s African American and enjoys martial arts and drives a luxury sedan. She travels a lot and has her own personal travel agent who plans vacations for her, like trips to the Bahamas.

Her two friends, Pam and Melvin, are getting married, and I’m invited to the wedding. Okay, she’s probably the one invited to the wedding but I’m the one who technically received the digitial invitation and can do a killer electric slide.

So you do the math.

It’s strange seeing your online counterpart live life and to take an extreme personal investment in someone you’ve never even met.

Well, maybe for some people.

I pray for her, Ericka Clay.

I pray for her friends, Pam and Melvin, that they have a beautiful wedding and a marriage that is a the true embodiment of God’s never ending love for them.

I pray for Ericka’s daughter and her upcoming parent/teacher meeting, which I’m sure will turn out just fine if she’s anything like her mother.

I pray for the trips Ericka takes and the car she drives, that both keep her safe on the road and in the air.

I pray for a woman I don’t know and will most likely never meet and who looks nothing like me and can’t know the thoughts in my head or the words in my heart.

But I pray for her, because her pulse throbs, and mine does too. She’s a child of God. And so am I.

I have His breath and so does she.

You see, it’s that simple.

We all need to stop making everything so complicated.

Complication is the devil’s dance, and right now, he’s doing it beautifully.

Let’s trip him up, shall we?

Let’s pray for and make friends with and serve those who are nothing at all like us.

And yet, everything we are, too.

The Black Hole of Bitterness

It’s easy to not want to forgive. To slide feet first into the black hole of memory and bitterness.

It’s punishing yourself, over and over again.

People have theories about forgiveness, especially people who lack forgiving hearts. They see it as pardoning someone else, owing a horrible human being a favor because anyone who steps on somebody else’s pride has to be horrible right?

You’re the innocent. A sacrificial lamb. There are no black marks brusing your own heart.

False.

None of us are innocent in this game called life. When I remember that, it’s a lot easier to spot the momentous wall I’ve built up against the world and to smash it to smithereens.

I have a choice: choke on the pure image of I’ve made of myself (an idol that doesn’t actually exist) and my ruinous intent for the person in question or breathe.

Choosing the former is easy. It feels good. It takes no resolve or dignity or internal fortitude to allow yourself to be consumed by bitterness and rage. It’s just a matter of standing still and letting it happen. And then watching the years go by as you turn into someone that doesn’t love and doesn’t receive it in return.

But forgiving someone is an act of worship. It is active and a complete denial of the evil that started this whole mess in the first place. It’s a strong indication to Satan that you are not someone to be messed with. You will not be blindsided by his attempt to stroke the fire of your anger.

You rise above.

Jesus was the ultimate forgiver. He laid His life down for everyone who didn’t deserve it, and he did it with a heart for God.

It wasn’t about Him. It wasn’t about the mountainous work of growing His hatred, an act that never truly affects the person we’re angry with but works like cancer in our own body as well as our relationships. It was about glorifying God and proving that nobody and no thing would ever make the detrimental mistake of believing He’d sidestep His purpose for a lifetime of internal misery.

Forgive. Let it go. You owe it to yourself and your God.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

1 Peter 2:24 

Burn Those Boxes

My experience of following Jesus started with the demonic. It was a black night terror sort of feeling and yet a strong powerful buzz that rushed through every single one of my cells.

God showed me the true darkness that lies beneath the shiny facade of this world. I didn’t know why until I had time to think and pray on it:

  1. I would never have become a Christian unless something drastic occurred (check).
  2. He wanted me to understand the power Satan can have over people (check check).

It’s easy to turn on the television and see skin and flesh and hate it with all your might. And if we go that route, that’s exactly the sort of thing the enemy will enjoy, sitting back to slow clap.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Ephesians 6:12

A lot of you are trying to make sense of all these things and jam them tight into poorly made boxes. It’s a waste of perfectly good energy, friend.

And then, on top of that, once the boxes are crammed and the seams are spent and broken open, we like to go online and talk about what we’ve just done. How we’re right, everyone else is wrong, and ultimately we’ve solved the problem.

No. We are all wrong. Jesus is right. And he already solved the problem by dying on the cross.

You feel itchy, no doubt. Your hands want to do something, your mouth wants to say something. Well, here’s the good news: you’ve already been given a directive and here’s how that plays out:

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

Matthew 22: 37-39

Oh and one more:

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

James 1:27

There are no sides. There are just people. As Christians – let me rephrase that – As TRUE believers (because not everyone who calls themself a Christian actually is), we’re to be medics and help any and everyone who needs our help. We’re to humble ourselves to Jesus and follow His command.

We are not to dole out personal judgment.

Does that mean we agree with the state of the world? No. But the world is the devil’s playground, a mere carbon copy of what it was originally meant to be. The boxes here are warped and won’t carry a darn thing.

So leave them. Walk away. Look at the world with fresh eyes and look at the people as flesh and blood and hurting hearts. We’re here to heal them, not break them. Something to never forget.

It’s Not a Competition

There are too many amazing people in my life.

And I don’t necessarily mean successful ones.

Sunday’s Sermon reminded us that Jeremiah was a “failed” prophet. He never was able to persuade one person to follow the Lord.

But Jeremiah wasn’t a failure. Because maybe the point wasn’t His ability to change people.

Maybe the point was His utter reliance on God.

I think too often we associate our blessings, our financial gains, our business success with God’s favor for us.

But I’m not sure that’s always the case.

We were reminded during that same sermon that nowhere in the listing of the fruits of the spirit is the idea of being successful.

It’s certainly not a bad thing. But it’s not where our hearts and focus should be.

It should be for God and His people.

And I know so many who sacrifice and give because of their strong faith in Jesus.

And sometimes, I feel like I just don’t measure up.

But then I remember a few things:

1. God’s called each one of us to run a different race. I’ve been called in this season of life to write a book that gives Him all the glory. That takes time, effort, and dedication. And even though I take other opportunities to show my love for God and His people, right now, that’s where He wants my focus to be.

2. It’s not a competition. One person’s humble offering will far outweigh the bravado of someone the world deems successful.

3. It’s for Him, not for us. Like Jeremiah, everything we do is for Christ alone. We shouldn’t be in the business of gratifying our own hearts (or even the hearts of our family and friends). Everything we do should be for God alone, and only when our eyes are on Him can we truly serve those around us.

I may never be a New York Times best selling author. And I’m okay with that. Because the measure of my “success” hasn’t been made with human hands but with with a heavenly heart that will always far outweigh my own understanding.