Want to Grow?

For the past 20 years I have consumed 3-5 cups of coffee every day. For the past 11 days, I have consumed none. I’m fasting it for Lent. I gave up something I love, in preparation for something I love more.

Does that mean I love Jesus more than coffee? What a weird way to think of it. Usually those two things are kept in separate containers and allowed to mingle only on Sundays.

Three years ago, I decided that separation wasn’t working for me anymore. I wandered as far as I reasonably could before admitting I was lost and should turn back to find another way. I spent years saying and doing whatever I wanted and inventing theology to rationalize my behavior. My life wasn’t bad but my soul was sick. I had fun. Not joy.

There were two reasons Jesus wasn’t part of my life.

1. I didn’t like how many Christians behaved.

2. I wanted to do as I pleased.

IMG_5055Sam and I spent last weekend at our ranch in West Texas. It is the place I surrendered my smart-mouthed wisdom and picked up The Bible. It’s where I learned about discipline and how much better my life works when it’s about Jesus and not me. It’s where I wrote 2/3 of my book with a never-empty cup of steaming, heavily cream and sugared coffee at my right hand.

So, West Texas without coffee, is like baseball without hot dogs, but there’s no way I can cave on this one. I never thought much about fasting or why somebody would bother. But now I get it.

Every morning when I walk by that coffee pot, I experience actual physical longing. So I whine and count the days until Easter when I can have it back.

But every time the longing hits, I imagine the fully divine Jesus, stuck here for 33 years trying to teach limited, harassed, confused, arrogant, stubborn humans like me how to live. How he must have counted the days until Easter.

The fabulous Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan explains what Jesus gave up in The King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus:

The Trinity is utterly different. Instead of self-centeredness, the Father, The Son and the Spirit are characterized in their very essence by mutually self-giving love. No person in the Trinity insists that the others revolve around him; rather each of them voluntarily circles and orbits around the others….If this is ultimate reality, if this is what the God who made the universe is like, then this truth bristles and explodes with life-shaping, glorious implications for us.

My life is not easier now than it was three years ago, it’s harder. But I’m climbing onto new plateaus all the time, taking in views I would have killed for three years ago. They are delightful and surprising because I didn’t engineer them, God did. I just set my crappy, old baggage down and started climbing.

I have many pitches left. Fasting coffee is just one of them.


An Election Season Practice.

photo courtesy of Tulane PR

Vice Chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, Donna Brazile, recently said something interesting about Karl Rove.

I can feel you tensing up…Oh no Erin what are you about to say? Will I have to quit reading your blog?

It’s ok. Relax.

In a column in Oprah Magazine Brazile said this:

When I feel myself getting steamed up over an issue, it really does help to remember the rich humanity of my so-called opponents – even one as formidable as former Bush adviser Karl Rove. Competing against him was blood sport – and yet he and I have a great rapport. We discovered early on that we share a love of history. Karl doesn’t just know dates and facts; he can tell you what people were eating, drinking and thinking in 1896….He’s proof that it’s possible to disagree with someone on just about everything and still respect them.

Brazile reminds herself to see Rove, her opponent, as a human with whom she might have something in common. She might not always feel like doing that, which is why it’s a practice.

Is it really ok to hate people with different opinions, as the current religious and political climate in America would suggest? Are we supposed to isolate ourselves from people with whom we disagree? That’s certainly easier, but does it make anybody safer or more righteous? Timothy Keller author and founder of the fabulous Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan thinks not.

His New York Times Bestseller The Reason for God is a capacious and thoughtful treatment of the typical objections to Christian faith like, “a good God wouldn’t allow suffering” and “why is the church responsible for so much injustice.” In it, he says, the more we separate ourselves from those unlike us, the easier it is to see them as other and vilify them, which makes violence toward them seem defensible.

This is not me in bakasana. Photo by DL Chang.

I’m guilty, especially during elections. So I’m practicing, just like I practice bakasana on my yoga mat. Both are hard.

I told someone yesterday, I am not putting a campaign sticker on my truck this year, not because I’m tempted to bicker, but because I hold a minority opinion in my area; and people seem so angry, I’m afraid of what it could mean for my vehicle. Maybe I’m overreacting, but last election a friend was angrily confronted in a parking lot for this exact thing. There was no debate or exchange of ideas, a stranger just walked up and called him an idiot.

Sorry, but Jesus would not have that. Check Matthew 5:22 if you’re unsure. This is what he wants instead:

You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoys its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor. James 3:18 The Message.

That’s not a platitude or at least it shouldn’t be. It’s a discipline and election season is a great time to practice, no matter what side we’re on.