The Problem With Eating People

There’s been an internal damage done within the hearts of people.

And now, we’re hell bent on eating them.

You might have heard about this phenomenon, the one where we’re so angry with rich people, we become inclined to swallow them whole. Or perhaps chopped up into fine little pieces smothered in ketchup.

I’m not sure how the process is supposed to go. I only work here.

I find that sort of thinking completely shortsighted, obviously. And if I have to pile it into any specific category, I suppose I’d go with an old favorite: “the pile of malarky where I have to stop being a human being to others and let my lying feelings determine my fate.”

You know, my favorite category.

There are rich people. There are poor people. There are black people and white people. And straight people and gay people and people who are one day a her and the next day a him.

There are people who can’t see and others who can’t hear and some who do both at the same time like Hellen Keller. There are people who love dogs and people who love cats and people who made an entire childhood out of torturing God’s creatures. And there are people who lean towards the good and others who lean towards the bad.

And guess what?

We’re all sinners.

To ascribe our precious feelings onto another soul buried in a meat sack is a waste of time. Time not wasted would look like this: knowing the truth, knowing what’s bad and what’s good and loving another human anyway. Because we aren’t to judge. We ARE, however, to clothe and feed and humble ourselves even before the ones who spit on us. Even before the ones who are making this life just a wee bit unbearable.

We are not to eat them. Jesus didn’t eat people. Remember that.

Every single one has a heart that beats, and I might be going out on a limb here, but none of them taste very good.

So take your own bleeding heart and wipe it up. Stick a band-aid on it. And realize, it doesn’t look much different than anyone else’s.

Like Marie Kondo, Only Meaner

There’s a very small and beautiful Japanese lady called Marie Kondo who goes into people’s homes, helps them assess what’s needed in their life and what isn’t, and then has them say a deep and heartfelt goodbye to all of the personal items that once had a place in their existence but have long since wreaked havoc on the state of their affairs.

She’s basically me if she came with a set of matches and an affinity for the phrase, “Do you really need that sweater seeing that we’re all gonna die one day anyways?”

Matt and Ava have learned how to hide their things. It really is a glorious art to find that pair of sweatpants with the knee in the hole and the waistband that’s too tight, scrunching itself into a neat little ball in the closet as if I’m some well-mannered Japanese TV host with a penchant for sparing people’s feelings and who doesn’t enjoy the smell of burning fleece.

I just feel that stuff is stuff. To tag a sentimental value to something seems almost foreign to me, save for the few trinkets from close friends and family that actually mean something. But gathering stuff for the sake of stuff gathering is akin to the man storing surplus grain in the larger barn he builds so that he can take a load off, pop open a cold one, and enjoy the feats of his labor (Luke 12:16-21).

Oh but then spoiler alert: he dies.

I have to ask myself daily where my treasure is. I have to light my own match and hold it close to the things I think I own. I own nothing. I am a steward of God’s good graces. I am merely borrowing my home and my car and my dog and my daughter and my husband and all the other things that surround me that reflect an erroneous semblance of safety.

There is nothing safe about this world. Remember that. I’m not saying there is no joy, no hope. Oh gosh no. WE are that joy and that hope to a barren world that thinks it knows better. Which is why it’s so important to burn the mental ties to anything that keeps us from being salt and light.

The more tethered we are to “our” treasure, the less valuable we are to others.

But the more we light the fire to the ties that hold us to worldly thinking, well, we lift up and away, feet dangling, eyes toward heaven.

As It Should Be

The twins are two men I’ve stumbled upon during my daily outings. Well, not literally. They’re always safely stored within the confines of a 1980’s Nissan Vanette and are looking at me like I have no business looking at them.

But let’s be fair about that and break down the facts:

  • They drive a 1980’s Vanette. I know I’ve already mentioned that, but I think it’s worth mentioning again.
  • They are grown men who always sit in the front and passenger side seats. This seems like a non-issue except for the fact that…
  • …they’re twins and wear the exact same outfit.
  • I always see them as they’re going in the opposite direction of me, which means I get a full shot of them practically being the same person, wearing the same outfit, and sitting in a van roughly ten people on this planet have ever actually owned.
  • They wear expressions on their faces as if they are any other people who don’t look exactly the same, roaring through the side streets of our sleepy little area in a machine that takes me back to the days of fanny packs and crimped hair. It was a simpler time.

Another fact: they only ever didn’t wear the exact same outfit just one time. It was the first time I saw them after my dog passed away. I like to think it was their way of grieving with me.

I told Ava about The Twins. She didn’t believe me until she fortuitously saw them cruising towards us one afternoon. She was in disbelief.


“I don’t know, Ava. I just don’t know.”

And then there was Matt who is used to my natural gravitation toward fancy. But Matt being Matt didn’t blink twice the first time he saw them.

“Looks like that thing’s running pretty well,” he choked out, solidly ignoring the fact that two grown men roughly his age were coming at him in matching v-neck sweaters with white undershirts slightly peeking out.

“I’ll say,” I said, stifling a mini panic attack.

I think about The Twins way too much. They’re an anamoly. A weirdness to my day that would only be made weirder if they didn’t exist. I know in roughly a few short hours, I will see them careening toward me on Dixieland as I head to the gym. I am already mentally preparing myself to keep my face straight and eyes somewhat on the road. And I’m ignoring the short conversation they’re probably having with each other this very second:

“Time to go see that weirdo in the maroon Honda Civic.”

And everything is as it should be.

Talk is Cheap

So many people argue about whether abortion is right or wrong.

So many people are wasting their time.

I always go back to this: “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s…” – Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 22:21).

The government’s going to make decisions. Some of them will be vile and poisonous and champion the cause of Satan and present this package with a crisp white bow on top.

We’re not to be fooled. But we’re not to cause chaos because of it. We’re to be in the trenches, loving and aiding those who are bereft and find themselves in a position that they can’t even fathom breaking through.

Because we have the power of God within and us and a host of angels at our shoulders, we KNOW that this moment, this idea of a whole world, a whole life changing is not a mountain that can’t be climbed. But they don’t know that. And that is why the church is to be the church, never to condemn but to sit side-by-side women who have found themselves in a position they never thought they’d be in. We are to pray for those who have been viciously attacked and offer a servant’s heart.

The law will be the law. But we will be the people of God.

And when we sit bickering at one another about what that means, we waste precious time helping those we feel we’re fighting for in the first place.

The second part of that verse? “…and to God the things that are God’s.”

We are to give God what is His, which is us. We are made in His image. If we were to truly do this, give EVERY part of ourselves and aspect of our lives – our sexuality, our bank accounts, our parenting, our jobs, our social lives, etc. – our world would be one in which the idea of abortion would be obsolete.

But we don’t live in a perfect world. We live in this one. And like Christ redeemed the broken, we too, have that opportunity. He didn’t do it by shaking His fists and opinions in people’s faces. He did it by ushering in the Kingdom of God, an upside down kingdom that begins on bended knee.

I will serve the brokenhearted and the scared. The lost. And not because Cesaer requires it, but because God does.

And Then I’ll Smile

At night, near the end, Roxie would come into our room, requesting my pillow. She’d do this by sitting at the end of the bed and look at me silently. Her eyes were my downfall.

She might as well be asking me to give her the moon because I was three pillows in, my back perfectly situated several inches from the wall behind my bed. But I’d do it. I’d remove the middle pillow (admittedly, the least plumpiest one), and put it there on the floor where she’d lay down and breathe heavily for the rest of the night.

One day, I was in the kitchen and I was looking at the picture our daughter had drawn of our family. We are a small family, three people. Big personalities. Not to the outside world, though. To the outside world, we are the Clays. We are small people who are kind and generally seem to have it all together.

We are nothing if not con artists.

I don’t mean that in a bad way. We’re not going to swipe your wallet any time soon (although Ava’s a bit of a wild card, so keep an eye out). I just mean we hold our cards to our chests because they’ve all been defaced with that dubious art of living.

We’ll be honest with you. We’ll love you through unending acts of service. But except for a select few, the curtain will remain closed.

Nothing to see here, folks.

I was studying that picture. I look like a dowdy fraternity house mother who needs to get her roots touched up and Matt looks like the questionable neighbor leering out his window across the street. Then there’s Ava, mouth wide in an excited “o,” (smiles are so last year), holding Roxie who looks more like a horrified meerkat than a dog, and then Rocco, a wild fox/half lemur at her feet.

I remember looking hard at that picture, at Roxie, thinking one day, this picture will be a lie.

And now it is.

I had a conversation with a friend yesterday about how I hate the cold and hate the hot but also love winter but then kind of despise it.

She laughed. And I put up my hands and said, “I don’t even know what I want.”

This over a plate of tacos.

I don’t want the past, necessarily. But there are moments of it I’m still swimming in. The present is too complex for me to think about sometimes, and the future? The future is the enormous rock down the lane that my feet walk towards, but I’m too put off by the fact that I have to walk there myself to realize how much closer I’ve gotten to it.

I think about this. About the universe God created and how much reason and logic has been drilled into it. We don’t go spinning, uprooted off this earth on Tuesday only to be safely spun back down on Wednesday. I think about chaos theory, how there’s an infinite number of ways to lose your mind and break your heart, but at the crux of it is God’s hand, his order, always guiding you home.

He can’t leave me. I won’t let Him. Because without Him? There’s no more honesty. There’s no more unending acts of service.

The curtain becomes a wall, and He’s no longer allowed to live behind it.

So these are the things I think about, and then someone comes up, a new person. Someone who will see me, small and slight, particularly unassuming. They will think, she looks like a nice person, and find comfort in the modest way about me and come to say hello.

And I will want to peel back the surface of hair and pore and skin and skull and brain until they see the workings of my own chaos, how it’s patterned and approaching a reasonable sense of stability.

But instead, I’ll just say “Hi, I’m Ericka.”

And then I’ll smile.

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.


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.

We Don’t Live There Anymore

I’m starting to realize I’ve cried more for a chihuahua mix this past week than I ever have for any human being.

I’m starting to worry about myself a bit.

But I’m also not worried one iota. This week has been the hardest and the best one of my life. For the first time, my toes have edged the threat of death, and I’ve gotten the opportunity to stare it directly in the face.

And I’m still here.

I’m realizing now where the suffering in my heart is coming from. Sure, I’m devestated I won’t see my dog again here on this earth, and there have been a few growing pains knowing life is still moving around me even when my chest feels empty (and that it’s probably less than beneficial for me to wear last night’s pajamas while watching Dr. Phil and eating icecream straight from the carton in bed – but how fun, right?). I have to go out. I have to look people in their faces. But what’s even harder to swallow than that is knowing I have to look back on the gift God gave me and weigh the purpose Roxie put forth in this world.

Love. Unconditional. It’s what she taught me. That, and having a gusto for playing ball and eating until you want to pass out. But I’ll probably take a rain check on the latter.

I’ve made it my life’s mission to do just this. It will look messy and awkward and have a complete Ericka twist to it where you’ll tell me something and then I’ll have you repeat it because I was busy daydreaming what it would be like to zoom through Wal-Mart wearing a jet pack.

I have a lot going on upstairs. Apparently.

But my heart will be in the right place even if I have to keep roughly repositioning it.

I didn’t cry last night. I didn’t have a panic attack, wondering about the void that is death and how it feels like its consuming every inch of me. I slept peacefully.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

It’s what I wholeheartedly believe.

Two things: Horatio Spafford wrote “It Is Well” after his son died in the Great Chicago Fire (which also ruined him financially) and four of his daughters died on a ship he put them on because he was delayed helping D. L. Moody with is upcoming evangelistic campaigns. His ship had to pass the exact location where his daughters had perished, and as his own ship moved past their final resting place, he wrote this:

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

That, my friends, is what true faith is.

People always ask why bad things happen. As a writer, I couldn’t understand a world in which they didn’t. The bad is a dark shadow on a lonely plane and on that lonely plane is a house. It’s where we used to live and wallow in darkness but at the right exact time, the moon comes, and hovers above, it’s great orb of white highlighted by the other side of the sun. And we are bathed in everything good, and we feel it too: the high of letting go and loving until it hurts, bits of us flecking off like dust back to the earth.

And then the door opens and our feet are spurned to move down the path, closer to God.

And at that exact moment, we realize, we don’t live there anymore.