Not Everything. Just Something.

Every night for the last few months, I’ve crawled into my king-sized bed, slipped under the covers and thought about wet Syrian children shivering on a rocky beach somewhere. Then I pray.

Lord Jesus, thank you for my warm, safe bed, but WTF?

Most people I know don’t pray like that, but I do because it is exactly what I mean, and I’d rather show up as my grateful, confused self with the bad filter, than try to tidy up for the Infinite Omniscient, who discerns my thoughts from afar anyway.

Like we’re capable of tricking the One who names the stars. Please.

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The Pleiades

Worse, every time I try to write about it, I choke on the following question:

Why Lord, do some of us get trapped with our hungry families at a filthy, frozen border while others get king sized beds and yachts in Florida? 

I can’t square it, and so for months I’ve been paralyzed into total radio silence.

Whatever can be said by those born on third base?

But in Madagascar this fall, after an evening spent with 150 orphaned and foster kids, one of my friends stood in our crowded, little room with her hands on her hips, staring at the floor.

“Erin, I’m not handling this very well,” she said, and burst into tears.

I figure her American self was trying to square it, but she never will and I told her that.

“The world is unfair and the best we can do, is what we just did,” I said. Don’t run. Get in and wrestle with it. Keep engaging it until it’s clear what part the Lord has given you to play and what resources you have to do it.

Not everything. Just something.

That is how WE change, and isn’t that ground zero for changing the world?

So I was thrilled last week, when five authors I read and love, Liz Gilbert, Glennon Melton, Rob Bell, Brene Brown and Cheryl Strayed, did something for the refugees flooding into Europe.

Each of them, using their considerable social media sway, asked their followers to give $25 or less to help volunteers on the ground in Europe buy blankets, shoes, shelter and food for the refugees.

They raised one million dollars in 31 hours – in $25 increments. 

Pause and calmly consider that.

As a fundraising model, it’s wild because you couldn’t donate more than $25 – unless you logged in all over again. Therein lies the genius. Five unrelated people, who don’t work for NGO’s, used what they had in their hands – friendship and social media clout – to ask a lot of us to do a little bit. And who could be overwhelmed by such a tiny ask?

refugees

The fact is, this world is never going to square, ever, not until Jesus comes back, but rather than skulk away from that reality, feeling overwhelmed and guilty, why not stare it down; then take whatever’s in your hands and start shoveling uneven playing fields.

If the Compassion Collective’s story teaches us anything, it’s one person x 40,000 others can move an awful lot of dirt.

Be not overwhelmed friends! Happy New Year!


Need a place to dig? Here are five I love besides the Compassion Collective.

  1. The Los Angeles Dream Center – L.A. California
  2. Mercy Ministries – International
  3. The Preemptive Love Coalition – Iraq
  4. Mercy Ships – Currently – Madagascar
  5. For the Silent – Tyler, Texas

 

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Choose A Cape – Not A Cardigan.

When I was 16, I worked as a counselor for a Christian day camp, at a leafy summer spot across the lake from my house. Although I liked singing every morning in the round theater that smelled like old milk and cedar, I kind of faked it because I didn’t want to become the churchy weirdo who misses out on every bit of teenage fun.

Photo Credit: shenamt

Photo Credit: shenamt

Because as far as I could tell, the Christians were selling cardigans, and I wanted a cape. It looked to me like people would take a deep breath, step to the front of the line, pull on their scratchy, over-tight synthetic sweater, and promptly start dying.

But the world is huge and I was hungry. I didn’t want to get married. I wanted to date inappropriate men and lose my shoes in a bar in Cancun. I wanted a big job where people knew my name, and to drive across country listening to EmmyLou Harris. I wanted red deserts and empty coastlines, art and chaos, perfect liberty and rapture.

And I thought Jesus wouldn’t let me have that, so I played along, picking and choosing. Maybe you’re doing the same.

But nobody ever told me, perhaps because they didn’t know either, that Jesus is all about capes, and he wasn’t the only one who walked on water. Peter did it too because Jesus told him to.

He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. Matthew 14:29

I want to walk on water and I want you to come too. Forget the bumper stickers and election season rhetoric. If I lose 100 lbs you’re going to ask me how I did it. Well, I lost 100 lbs of shame and rejection. Fear doesn’t sit on my chest anymore. I no longer burn endless heaps of mental garbage and have imaginary arguments with people before meetings.

Yes, I absolutely had to quit losing my shoes in bars and running around with bad men, but what I got in return so thoroughly eclipsed those amusements, I can’t believe I ever chose them over Jesus. And if the proof’s in the pudding, here are a couple of things happening around here lately:

I quit my lucrative job in corporate insurance sales and became the writer I’ve wanted to be since I was 12. Though I have a lot less money now, I seem to always have what I need, so I give some of it away, which makes me happier than anything else I do. Surprise!

Last month, I spoke from the back of my horse, to an arena full of East Texas cowboys. I talked about how proud we are of the leaky cisterns we build, and how Jesus just wants to smash them and start over with us, building something that can actually hold water.

I leave Tuesday for West Africa, a place I never imagined going. Not only does my new job at Mercy Ships send me around the world, but it gives me unfettered access to people who are  groping their way toward the light too. They are also known as friends.

Look out world!

The fabulous Lisa Long, author Bob Goff and me.

And I’ve finally met the Christians I didn’t know when I was 16 – people like author Bob Goff who wears his cape like a freak flag and swoops into people’s lives and makes them better.

The Bible says God is no respecter of persons, so if he’ll do it for me, he’ll do it for you. It’s a process but if it’s one you’ve considered, here’s me cheering you on.

Wondering where to start? Try the Gospel of John. It’s refreshing to see what Jesus actually says, not what people say he says.

In Which I’m a Jesus Feminist Too.

You have to own what you’re doing here. If you’re wanting to give people a new way to see this, then you have to give people a new way to see this. Don’t tuck it in…People get a book because they want to hear what this person has to say. So if this person turns all the knobs down to the left and sort of says, I don’t know, I just sort of have a couple of thoughts, that’s not interesting. –  Author Rob Bell

Author Sarah Bessey is interesting. And so is her little yellow book, Jesus Feminist, which dropped yesterday. The title alone promises her entree into hot water with just about everybody, but good for her. She did her homework, took the stage and turned her volume up.

Whether I agree with her is premature and frankly kind of irrelevant. Since when do we only read books we’re certain to agree with? Bessey’s moving the conversation in an interesting direction, much like Rob Bell did with Love Wins – the book that earned him the title “heretic.” So let ‘er rip Sarah, I’m already stomping my feet and cheering you on for saying things I think, but can’t yet muster. Things like this:

“We are among the disciples who are simply going outside, to freedom, together, intent on following Jesus; we love him so. We’re finding each other out here, and it’s beautiful and crazy and churchy and holy. We are simply getting on with it, with the work of justice and mercy, the glorious labor of reconciliation and redemption, the mess of friendship and community, the guts of walking on the water, and the big-sky dreaming of the Kingdom of God.

So if that’s what it means to be a Jesus Feminist, count me in.

Because at this very moment, more women are exploited and enslaved on this planet than any other time in human history. One in three American girls is sexually abused before age 18. The average age of a child sex slave worldwide is 11. Why? Because among a thousand other poverty and gender-based reasons, there is demand, or to put it bluntly, there are lots of men who like having sex with women and children against their will.

And THAT is an abomination.

So, if ever there was a time for educated, resourced, liberated women of God to stand up and bang the drum for the lives of their sisters who can’t, this is it. Because if not us, who?

Can you tell God’s been dealing with me about something lately? Open your mouth Erin. Open it.

Open your mouth for the dumb [those unable to speak for themselves], for the rights of all who are left desolate and defenseless; Open your mouth, judge righteously, and administer justice for the poor and needy. Proverbs 31:8-9

When I was just a feminist – no modifier – I would have considered the phrase “Jesus Feminist” an oxymoron and maybe even rattled off some caustic remark. But I didn’t know then how much Jesus loves women, how he defended them, listened to them, corrected them and healed them. I didn’t know everything he did was a model for the rest of us, including occasional, chair-tossing, whip-cracking outrage. Don’t forget, Jesus didn’t just carry baby lambs around, he flipped over tables in the Temple too.

And for all the things I’ve heard about women and the church, I’ve heard the following point made exactly once. It was said by a powerful woman of God, who 30 years ago was kicked out of her church for preaching the gospel.

Q: According to the Gospel of John, who was the first person to see the resurrected Christ?

A: Mary Magdalene.

Q: What happened next?

A: Jesus said to her, Do not cling to Me [do not hold Me], for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to My brethren and tell them, I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God. Away came Mary Magdalene, bringing the disciples news (word) that she had seen the Lord and that He had said these things to her. John 20:17-18 (emphasis mine.)

Q: Do you know what that makes Mary Magdalene?

A: The world’s very first gospel preacher.

Pause and calmly consider that. I’ll wait.

Maybe my volume’s up a little high for you today. Believe me when I say, I don’t mean to raise your blood pressure with theological debates. I’ve wasted enough time arguing, so you’re welcome to disagree with me. As Bessey says, there’s room for all of us.

I’m just saying there’s work to be done in this beautiful disaster and we need all hands on deck. Let’s not tie up half of them, especially those who can galvanize and lead others into battles that desperately need fighting.

**As ever, the views expressed herein are my own and not that of my employer.