Today marks a monumental day for someone I hold very dear. A young woman I have known and loved since she was the age of my sweet Mercy leaves the comfort of friends, family and home to move into a tough New York City community where she will, for two years, serve as a teacher through Teach For America. I am blown away by her courage, her steadfast commitment to what she values, and the way her belief in God compels her to go and dwell among the least.

Jessica has been an intimate witness to my own life and struggles in pursuing God in difficult places. Her home in Naperville was one of my places of rest and recovery during tough years of ministry in Chicago. She has had her own share of challenges and heartache in her years, and I know that she enters the inner city as one who knows the language of suffering; she thus enters as one capable of deep compassion which will be her greatest weapon against the injutice and oppression she will most certainly encounter.

We often laugh about the uncanny similiarites between Jess and me, and I know I get blamed (and probably rightly so) for many of them! I can only hope that Mercy will have many Jessicas as role models for how a young woman can boldly walk in God’s calling.

We love you, Jess. May the Lord bless you and keep you, on this journey and always.

Quotation of the Week

“When Jesus opens the table to all, the table begins to tell a new story. But it is a story unlike the story of his contemporaries. The observant person’s table story: You can eat with me if you are clean. If you are unclean, take a bath and come back tomorrow evening. Jesus’ table story: clean or unclean, you can eat with me, and I will make you clean. Instead of his table requiring purity, his table creates purity. Jesus chooses the table to be a place of grace. When the table becomes a place of grace, it begins to act. What does it do? It heals, it envisions, and it hopes…

The table of Jesus talks by envisioning a new society, a society of grace, of inclusion, of restoration, and of transformation. We need to ask what, at the physical level, our churches are saying.”

From “The Jesus Creed”, by Scot McKnight (pp.36, 39)


This past year I have been on a mission. I am determined to eliminate a bulk of the clutter that Doug and I each brought into our marriage as well as the unnecessary things we have collected here in L.A. My husband and I can both be sentimental creatures so this has not been an easy task. So much so that I have turned to an outside source for help in how to think about my attitude toward “stuff”.

This past week I read one of her essays that described how things are not necessary to represent relationships: in other words, that statue or vase or sweater from your great-aunt whoever doesn’t really need to sit in a corner of your house for you to honor your relationship with her. This is where my sentimental butt gets a good little kick!

I am reminded, though, of a promise I made ten years ago to a fourteen-year-old boy.

Ivan was a kid in my neighborhood in Chicago, one of the original “crew” who won my heart and led me into God’s calling for my life. One night I took him out to dinner. Now kids in my neighborhood didn’t “go out for dinner” anywhere. McDonalds was a treat, as was the walk-up Chinese restaurant. But I had told Ivan that I would take him out for dinner as a treat–I don’t even remember now for what. So we went to this little Italian restaurant next-door to the Cubby Bear where I used to work in Wrigleyville.

I remember that the tables had white paper coverings, and each table had little packages of four crayons along with the centerpiece. I remember us coloring on our “tablecloth” and laughing a lot that day. I remember the look on Ivan’s face as he sat in this “fancy” restaurant, ordered a nice meal, and told me that he would never forget this day for the rest of his life. I remember getting ready to leave and having Ivan look me soberly in the face as he held one of the boxes of crayons: “I am going to take these home and I will never throw them away and I will always remember this day.” I looked at him, picked up the other box of crayons and promised him I would do the same.

Six years ago, Ivan’s best friend, another young man I deeply loved, was murdered. I will never forget knocking on Ivan’s door, his grief-stricken face, the way he collapsed in my arms. I will never forget his anger, his despair. And I will never forget walking into his room where he had dumped out a box that held all of his “treasures”. Photos of him and Jamar, most of which I had taken over the years, covered the bed. As I picked up a photo and strained to look through my tears, Ivan reached down and picked up a little white box and held it out to me: it was the box of crayons from the restaurant. “I told you I would always keep these, Erika. I will never, ever throw them away.”

I still have mine too: they have moved with me from Chicago to Spokane to Portland and Los Angeles. I don’t care if that box of crayons is just “stuff” and isn’t necessary to honor my relationship with Ivan. I will never, ever throw them away.

What do you mean?

I made an amusing discovery this past week. Mercy is generally a very good talker. She knows a lot of words and her pronunciation is great (except for blanket which is “biktet”, “bagdhad”, or “biltlek”, or some composite of the three). However, there have been two words that she uses with great frequency that have remained a mystery to us: “thank you” is “meeeenaaaak” and “spoon” is “muuuuuunsch”.

A couple of days ago I was reading the perennial classic, “Goodnight Moon”, to her and we came to the page that reads: “And a comb and a brush and a bowl full of mush” and as I looked at the picture I realized that what you see is a bowl with a very large spoon in it. Suddenly it made sense why Mercy just may believe that the proper word for “very large spoon” is mush.

This past week we had a congregational visioning meeting for our church. It was one of those meetings where we reflect together about the past, accomplishments and disappointments, as well as what we have learned and hope for our future together. There was a fair amount of emotion in the room at various points, and during one such moment, a dear individual grew quite passionate and said, “Maybe we need a new theology of neighboring.”

It was one of those O.J. Simpson verdict moments where half the room nodded vigorously in agreement while the rest looked on in confusion. I can imagine some people puzzling: “a theology of neighboring? What is that?????”

Now any self-respecting Southern California Intervarsity graduate knows exactly what that term, taken from the writing of Bob Lupton, means, as does someone like myself who owns all of Lupton’s books. Any first or second generation Latino, however, would not have a clue how a word they thought was a noun is suddenly working like a verb.

Language is so potent. And it can be so divisive. And sometimes the best you can guess is that “mush” simply must mean “spoon.”

Because we live in L.A.

I guess that everyone who lives here has their big star-sighting story to tell. Doug and I laugh because we NEVER see anyone famous and there are very few people we would actually be interested in seeing. But having Jack Bauer walk up to you while you are playing with your daughter at Manhattan Beach and strike up a conversation–now that is something.

Special Day


Top ten things we love about our Daddy
by Mercy and Aaron Emmanual Haub

10. He loves taking us to the beach
9. He’s the best mango cutter in the world (Mercy)
8. He’s always willing to listen when I have really important things to say, even at 5am (Aaron)
7. He lets me pick out my own clothes (Mercy)
6. He always convinces Mom to let us buy the totally overpriced nectar at the Aquarium so we can feed the birds
5. He makes great Puff
4. He works really hard to make sure we have food to eat and a place to sleep
3. He reads us lots of stories
2. He makes Mommy happy
1. He is ours


I realized in writing my last post that I have never explained the source for the name of my blog. Some have asked, so here it is…

I recently spent three years as a student at Fuller Seminary earning a Masters in Divinity. I have never been one of those students who sits though class busily typing away on their laptops (or playing solitaire, which I saw a LOT of in my classes). I have always been the old-fashioned pen and paper type. In every class I would take thorough notes, and as I was provoked by ideas or questions, as I was stirred emotionally, as I was troubled, I would scribble my musings in the margins of my paper. I have never been a talker in class. I was the student, in both undergrad and in seminary, that got notes from her professors on the papers she wrote that read: “You have great insight! We need to hear your voice in class.” But the shyness that marked my childhood actually does continue in many ways.

My husband used to go nuts sitting next to me in class at Fuller. Some discussion would be going on around us and I would scribble in the margins of my notebook my thoughts on the issue, and Doug would do everything short of actually lifting my hand in the air to get me to make my comments aloud. But I would opt for the anonymity, the silence, the privacy of my thinking instead.

So when I first considered starting a blog, I was motivated by the idea of having an outlet for the things relegated to the margins of my notebooks. And that is where the title originated, and I liked that it held a double meaning for me as well: I live in South Central, Los Angeles and I share my life with people considered by most around me to be “marginal” for a host of reasons: race, economics, nationality, citizenship status, culture. A lot of what I write about is my experience of life in this community, so the title seems a perfect fit.

So there it is…

What’s in a name?

I just stumbled across a collection of blogs from folks in my denomination. As I scrolled through the list looking for any familiar faces/voices I came across a blog named “Marginal Thoughts” . Intrigued by the similarity with my own blog name I clicked on the link. To my delight I found a blog belonging to a woman I have known since I was in college. She and I went on a mission trip to Mexico together when she was a youth intern in Mercer Island. I was a last-minute add-on to the trip, primarily because they needed someone who could speak Spanish to join them. I was on crutches at the time following foot surgery and one of my funniest memories is wearing this ridiculous sock on the tip of my open toed cast so that scorpions wouldn’t crawl into my cast at night.

I didn’t see this friend for a few years until she and I later overlapped at North Park Seminary in Chicago. It was great to be in touch once again.

Many more years have now gone by and so my heart is warmed to “see” her again through her blog, and to share a kindred spirit of blog names with her.
Blessings to you, Jo Ann.


Yesterday Doug and I celebrated four years of marriage. Someone asked me tonight if we had a good time celebrating and I told them that it was the best date I had ever had. My husband is very very good to me. Thanks, baby.

Erika Carney Haub’s musings on life and God from South Central, L.A.