As Christian as I want to be.

Copy of Copy of Copy of Why I'm No longer (1)

I talk here about Ghandi and why he didn’t choose Christ.

I talk here about why I’m no longer Catholic.

And right now, right here, I want to talk about how people have ruined Jesus.

TGIF, you guys!!

But seriously, a little backstory: We’re going to a new church and the pastor has an uncanny way of having a brain in his head. I love that. Someone who can speak Jesus but also knows what an Oxford comma is.

Hint: it’s not a type of pie.

And so we’re talking after the service because he’s just smacked me in the face with the concept that maybe the point of the Christian church is to help others understand that God is already within them and maybe not to keep church planting in the name of prosperity.

Because when you think about it, there’s a fine line between followers of Christ and followers of YOU.

And dude, he’s just so self-deprecating and humble when he says these things whereas I’d be adding “you fracking losers!” after every statement.

And this is why I need Jesus.

Look: there is a need for community and extending yourself to others. But sometimes I think we miss the pony (auto-correct changed “point” to “pony” and you know I won’t argue with that logic) and instead of looking at the Christian church as a means to an end (the end being a pivotal heart change of everyone on this little planet and an acceptance of Him), we look at it like a really cool club with a jumbo screen, free air conditioning, and a Hillsong cover band.

The point/pony is not a cool, comfortable Sunday experience we’re going to Instagram all over the  pizazzle. The point is talking to that guy you don’t like and smells a little and who sometimes steals your hot pocket from the freezer in the break room.

The point is building meaningful relationships with others so they can see the patience and humility you offer them, even when the day is holding steady at “WTF” on the craptastic meter.

I’m not saying churches aren’t needed or that growing as a church is necessarily a negative thing.

I am saying that your reasons need to reflect HIM and not YOU.

A few others thing I’d like to randomly throw in here because rules are my proverbial jock itch. Ew:

  • Just because someone claims to be a Christian doesn’t mean they necessarily are. And if they are an incredibly evil person who treats you horribly and have never even watched the Simpsons, don’t let that change your opinion of Jesus. People have a knack for ruining things. Just ask the writers of The Office. #withoutMichaelScottthereisnooffice
  • Saying that you don’t like Christians because one was pretty sucky to you is like saying you don’t like doctors because the one you went to wasn’t actually a doctor but a guy who sells half-priced candy behind the movie theater
  • I’m really mad about The Office thing.

People aren’t perfect. But Christ is. Your relationship with Christ won’t be perfect. But Christ is. Every day is going to be some shade of craptastic on the one hand, but on the other hand there is a forgiveness there that sprouted before you and I were even born and keeps winding it’s mercy around us.

And that, my friends, is the ultimate pony.

What happens when my brain splits in two.

dear hearts

Unkept may be the two sides of my brain, but Dear Hearts is the two sides of my heart.

It was difficult to write, not only canvassing the pain that comes when infidelity inflicts a marriage and family, but writing from the perspective of a man who loves said family and adores said marriage yet has an affair with another man? Well, all I can say is life is gritty and Mitch’s life? It ain’t no exception.

Each word sheared away a piece of my heart.

Mitch and Elena are characters that are deeper than characters. They’re a pulse, working together and withering apart. They are victims to their own love story, craving happy endings when understanding what true, devotional, Godly love is has never glimmered on their radar.

They’re the prime example of what happens when life shuffles its cards and you’re left empty-handed.

What can we learn? Appreciate everything you have, even when  life feels like a single grain of sugar boring through a tooth.  Talk openly, honestly. Do no judge but do not blindly accept either.

Love with a sacrificial heart and an expanse of pure dedication.

Know that we only flicker here for a little while. So use every moment.


Dear Hearts is for the over eighteen crowd so please keep that in mind. Also understand that this book is not a promotional platform for any particular viewpoint. It is an examination into the human mind and heart and the struggle life brings when you leave God out of the picture.

You can read Dear Hearts for free here on Wattpad.

Click here for the ebook.

Click here for a paper copy.

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.

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.

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

Three

  
Today, I’m celebrating an anniversary of sorts. Three months since I’ve given my life to Christ and have stopped suffering from a multitude of issues.

Let me set the scene: in November, I was having one of my usual evenings, struggling with paralyzingly night terrors and hoping I wouldn’t wake up again wanting to kill myself (you know, typical girl stuff) when I told God, “I leave it up to you. You guide me and show me the way out of this.” Something weird happened the next night: I slept. Soundly.

I know something amazing happened and I know it’s because for the first time in my life, I prayed for God’s will. Not my own.

I used to like to believe that I was a badass who was in control of her life but I’m pretty sure my depression and crippling anxiety kind of gave away the fact that control was never apart of the equation. I don’t think in terms of control now but in terms of love, and man, this kind of life is so freeing.

Granted, it’s not always easy. People are way more comfortable when I talk nonsense like stalking Dave Coulier and keying people’s cars because the truth is a scary thing, especially if it’s new for you. But don’t be afraid of it. Don’t be afraid to embrace it and speak it. Because people might think you’ve suddenly fallen off your rocker. But little do they know, you’ve always been free falling in the first place.

And now there’s solid ground beneath my feet and my gaze is towards the sun.

Whores

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.