-Pastor Melissa Fain-
What is ministry?
That question has taken center stage in my mind as I meditate.
For a decade I have written here on a regular basis. The meditations side has existed like clockwork, as I have been better about keeping up with it than most paid, brick and mortar, ministers. As of late? My posts are starting to slow, as I might write one week, and illustrate the next. The longer I write, the less likely I think you are to read. That means it’s no longer an effective form of ministry. Something about this site has to change.
I have also kept a weekly worship. Even before Covid, there was online worship. It felt necessary at one point. It feels deserted now.
The internet is a very selfish place. I’ve always known that. It’s the piece of the puzzle Mark Zuckerberg fails to see as he thinks Meta will be the next new place for community. A true community gives and takes. It’s reciprocal. The internet just takes. Even those who want to be taken. They, I guess I should say we, want to be taken. We turn ourselves into a commodity in the hopes that it will result in us being “given.” What, you may ask? Perhaps fame or fortune? The more we want to be taken, the more the internet loves us. If we never ask for anything in return, there is no shame in taking, and ideas are stolen and reused without permission. Even though it will destroy the person, the internet is okay with the pillaging. They don’t have to see the remaining husk of the person, and a new person wanting to be taken will willingly take the previous one’s place.
I was intentional with my language. Yes, there are people who go online to give something. That relationship is almost always the internet taking from them and giving nothing back in return until the person must quit before they are destroyed.
It brings me back to my question: What is ministry? Specifically, online ministry.
I know I’m painting a broad stroke here, but I’m going to say it.
Most churches are very selfish on the internet. I’m not saying that, like they are some digital Scrooge that takes from the less fortunate with miserly glee. Their selfishness comes from an antiquated view of the world wide web. Most churches began using the internet back when it was simply an online bulletin board. The whole purpose was to post what was important, and leave. There were no interactions. It was also free advertising, back when many churches were paying $100s to put events in the local paper. The internet was giving churches something! Greedily they gobbled it up, without considering how this introduction to the internet would inform how they would use this resource moving forward.
You would think, after Covid, they would be forced to see their internet habits and learn healthier actions and attitudes online. Instead, they continued to be insular. Once again, I don’t think this is some plot to hoard their resources and take up a miserly duty to be visited by three Spirits every Christmas Eve. It is more like wearing blinders they don’t know they have.
They saw how difficult it was to worship online. Instead of asking, “How do we make this experience more interactive for those unable to come to church?” they thought, “How do we get back to in-person worship?”
Instead of seeing the person who logged on to watch a church’s livecast, they see a possible future donation. The trauma of the person ignored for the number in attendance.
Hardly no one is going on Reddit, and looking at /r/Christianity, a place many broken by the Church find their first home. No one is wondering why they are still losing members, and what that means to God’s call on the world.
About a decade ago, I heard a very important minister yell, “I didn’t stay here to watch the church die!” He meant that specific church, and the words have stuck with me, as I feel many ministers are at least thinking about it as they continue their insular practices.
When I was looking for churches to sponsor us, there was one church that began looking possible. It turned out, they wanted to gobble up the resources and destroy the seed. It would prolong their death, while destroying us immediately. All taking. No giving.
But online ministry!
Look at me! I’ve once again written pages of text for no one to read! What is my problem?
I needed all of that, to explain why part of online ministry needs to be about giving.
I mean, the church needs to give. I don’t mean we need to give to the church. The physical churches are hemorrhaging. Even the ones who think they are doing well, are only taking in the leftovers from the smaller churches who are already dead or at death’s door. There is no growth in the church today, only the illusion of growth.
We also need to be creative, and creativity is severely lacking globally. We need groups of people just shooting ideas, and trying them until something sticks. It’s not rocket science, but it is incredibly difficult when we’ve replaced education with standardized tests.
Right now, that’s what I’m trying to figure out. Not the answers, but how to get the people so we can find the answers together. How to share our resources, and innovate.
I have great ideas. I want those ideas to be real. Right now, I am stuck with the dying word, a few pretty pictures, and worship.
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
Almost every week, I purchase apples for school lunch. Sometimes, a brown spot appears after I purchase, and I remove it, and cut it into slices.
Last week, there were these two apples that didn’t really go brown, but went translucent. They looked so interesting, I took a picture of them before I chucked them, and promised I would illustrate them. I love them, because It’s impossible to see they’ve gone wrong. It requires picking it up for closer inspection.
Then an idea hit me, and I was drawing away. May I introduce Forbidden Fruit.
The Apple and the Age of Reason
About a decade ago I picked up Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason. It is a case against Christianity in particular. I like to read these kinds of books, because it sharpens me, like metal on a whetstone. This particular work was not the whetstone I was looking for.
In any book, there are certain key phrases and words that tip me off that the author did not do his/her research. One of those words is “apple.” There were no apples in the Eden narrative. There was a forbidden fruit, but that fruit remains ambiguous, and I believe on purpose. When the word, “apple” is used I hear that the writer didn’t consult the source material.
This is what ultimately made me put Age of Reason down before I finished it. His problems were often extra-Biblical. That becomes a problem when the target is supposed to be the Bible.
Thomas Paine is actually the reason I chose to read a Ravi Zacharias book. How was I to have any opinion on the man at all if I hadn’t read any of his words? I saw what it looks like when speculation is used to rail against a subject. Speculation can obliterate any self-made strawman. It is only research that destroys the subject at hand, if the subject is capable of being destroyed.
Therefore, the apples in my illustration have become my personal strawman. They are drawn up front, unknowingly rotting away, while the actual subject is tucked away behind them.
Seeing the Garden of Eden like a story a parent would tell their child.
There are a multitude of ways we can look at the Creation Narrative, but two I want to bring to focus. Either you see the Bible as literal or not.
I’m using these words loosely here. There are gradients to these two choices. I don’t want to discount the multitude of belief systems. It’s just if I spent time going through the gradients I’d be writing a book instead of a post. Let’s keep it simple here.
I’m in the “not” camp, because I am more concerned about the events that lead to the story. The Biblical stories exist for a reason. Not every story is meant to be taken literally. The parables, for example. Creation too.
Literalists believe the Creation Narrative is literal and happened around 4000 BC. Then, 2,500 years later, here comes Moses. I mention Moses because the first five books of the Bible are attributed to him as the author.
Going back to Thomas Paine, he found an issue with this. How could a very well educated Egyptian end up being the one who wrote the Creation Narrative? As much as I believe Paine should stay out of religion, it’s not a dumb question. A literal approach says that Moses talked to God, and while with God, Moses wrote down the Creation Narrative. 2,500 years later. More importantly, at least 3,500 years ago.
What did we know as a people 3,500 years ago? God was above. Death was below. The Middle East (to the Ancient Middle East) were the only known people in the universe.
Let’s say Moses is on the mountain with God and asks the question: “How did all this come to be?” You think God is going to talk about cosmic explosions, and atoms?! Do you actually believe God would talk at God’s level today?! God would talk to Moses in a way Moses would understand.
I can see Moses writing Genesis 1. I can also see the Priests coming in behind them, and putting their known creation story in, of Adam and Eve. (There are many reasons to believe Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 were written by two sets of authors, none of which I’m going to go into today.)
Being a Woman taking back Adam and Eve
I’m a human, who has human needs. Maybe that’s crazy to consider. I want to share my opinion, and at least know my opinion was heard.
Eating the forbidden fruit did not bring death, but the knowledge of death. More than that, it was a tree put in a centralized place, and focus was drawn to it. It would be like telling a toddler, “I’m putting these newly baked cookies in the middle of the table. Don’t eat a cookie!” Y’all! I’m a mom, so I know how this ends, but scientists have also run tests on kids. The kids are going to eat the cookie!
In a literal Creation narrative, God implicitly wanted them to eat the fruit, or God was a moron! As for me, I’d like to believe God had more intelligence than I did in my early parenting days.
Eden was a place that was comfort for both Adam and Eve, and eating the fruit (learning the knowledge) they had to leave their comfort and struggle. It was turning their knowledge into shame that was the sin.
Getting to that picture I drew
The books are the subject.
I put the books in the kitchen, because traditionally you are more likely to find a woman in a kitchen over and beyond a man. Also, we’re consuming the Word. Theology and Faith are named like old friends.
Eve must eat it before she feeds it to Adam.
That’s where the story falls apart.
Adam would necessarily need to leave his comfort to eat what Eve is serving. It’s not Eve’s comfort. Eden was created for Adam, and Eve is simply a partner to Adam’s land. To eat what Eve is serving is to know this, and realize they have to make a new land that belongs to them both. The ultimate power is not Eve’s which is what makes this picture so bitter. It’s a beautifully bright possibility. That is all.
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
Happy New Year!
Can you believe we are not even a week into 2023?! It feels like much more time has passed. Did you make any resolutions?
Resolutions are silly in a way. It’s a promise to do something different because the planet made an entire rotation around the sun. Seriously?! Why do we wait until January to resolve to change our ways? Because of December. I’d surmise many of us are not really resolving to change anything for good. We are actually resolving to undo the frivolity of December, and that will take 2-3 months.
I’ve found, as I’ve entered middle age, that I’m not as tied to where we are in relation to the sun. I want to celebrate people on random days. I want to resolve to change when I realize I need to.
The Magi: Journeying after the party was over
The Magi, or more commonly known as the wisemen, were not only fashionably late to the party. They arrived after the party had concluded, everything had been cleaned up, and there had been two more parties since. See, Jesus was about 2 years old when they finally made their way to see him. Either that, or Herod waited years for the Magi to return with the news.
No matter how the events did or didn’t take place, they didn’t just resolve themselves all at once. We’re talking like Peter Jackson’s, Lord of the Rings bajillion resolutions. Mary and Joseph get a resolution. Then the shepherds get a resolution. The angels joyfully pop in like the hobbits to be part of whatever resolution they want. All those resolutions conclude, then another more somber one concludes it all.
In the Christian calendar, Christmas doesn’t even start until December 25th and goes until January 6th, 12 days later. This is where the Twelve Days of Christmas really comes from. (The link is my favorite version of the song. You’re welcome in advance.)
It’s on that 12th day, on the Christian Calendar, the Magi FINALLY get their resolution. After the baubles have been packed up. After you are back to work, and trying to figure out the remainder of your kid’s school year. When you are trying to work off that frivolity, not go back to it: that’s when we are told to remember the Magi’s trip to find Jesus.
That’s also what makes it so special. You have outsiders coming into the story, and God still gives them time, even though they are late. January 6th is a reminder to not forget. Even if you got your frivolity and are ready to move on, maybe others are not. Maybe we shouldn’t leave the story until everyone gets their resolution, even if it appears a little late. The foreign outsider is part of the party. Now the story is complete!
Reddit subreddit /r/Christianity drama
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
Love, when in it, is easy.
Don’t let anyone who just gets love try to teach you love. Either they don’t really get it, and they are living into the simple joy thinking it is love- you know, like the Whos from my Joy week, or they are some sort of love savant- and incapable of explaining what comes to them so naturally.
Still, love, when in it, is easy.
It’s just getting to it, and staying in it that’s hard.
There is a moment. A moment where love just works. Everything falls into place, and that moment is effortless. Then, like a surfer on a great wave, the wave begins to erode.
Love, while easy when in it, is work in every other way.
Don’t think because you have to build and create to make love work, that you are on the wrong path. Love is work. There is no path where love is all easy paths and smooth sailings. At some point, you will have to struggle. There is something that makes love different than any other type of struggle. A healthy love will make the struggle worthwhile when reached. Eventually, the struggle becomes part of being in love too.
Love cannot be achieved alone.
Even loving one’s self is a statement of how you choose to relate with those around you. Every act of love is a statement of your place in a community. When you choose to love someone and someone doesn’t return that love back, that is not love. Hope, peace and joy can all be individual experiences, but once you seek love, you are seeking it with a person or people. It cannot be forced. You can’t force someone to give the same amount of work you are giving. Once you force someone into such actions it’s no longer love, but obedience.
The key to God’s love is our willingness to be part of it.
God’s love is a chord. Like Karl Barth suggested, God’s love is for all time to all peoples. No matter who you are, or what you believe, God loves you.
That’s where the connection to Barth ends. I believe the chord can either be severed or held by us. That’s where our choice comes in. If we choose to hack that chord to bits, well, that’s a choice. If we choose to live in ignorance even though we know the chord is there, well, that’s a choice too. If we choose to love back, that’s a choice that will be work.
Not choosing to take that chord doesn’t mean you are excluded from some fancy club, and I now need to snub you. That’s not how this works. That’s between you and God and no one else. I won’t force you to do anything because that turns God’s love into obedience, and in that, it breaks.
God’s love is free to all, and that’s it.
God’s love is easy, but it’s also tons of work.
Reddit /r/Christianity drama
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
I’m at the point where syrupy faith is just too much. I’m immediately skeptical of worship that is all uplifting, marshmallowey, joy. That’s not how the world works, and in a world where it seems everyone is on an epic struggle-bus, it all seems rather fake too.
I think that’s why this year has been the most difficult to get into the “Christmas Spirit.” It feels fake. I can’t “Go Tell It on the Mountain.” Just, no. I can’t sing, “Joy to the World.” Let’s not. I just wanna survive everyone else’s frivolity, and move on.
In a very real way, this year, I’m connecting to the Grinch.
The Whos Earn Nothing
Have you ever realized the Whos in “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” have no story arc at all? They gain nothing they didn’t already have at the beginning. They simply exist for the Grinch’s foil. The Whos have a naive joy, not grounded in anything at all. Meaningful joy will always be born from hope.
It’s like simple versus complex sugars. Just feeling happy is a simple joy. It’s like getting a piece of candy. It tastes good. You enjoy it while it lasts, but it doesn’t fill you.
Coming from grief and heartbreak with a hope given by God is different. When a person sees the first signs of that hope being fulfilled, it brings true joy. It’s a joy that looks strange because to everyone else it might not seem like something to be happy about. It’s like getting a bowl of pasta. It is filling and the energy lasts. The sugar is still there; it just has to be broken down first to get to it.
The Whos had simple joy. Not bad in small batches, but if it’s the only joy you get, eventually you don’t understand why it’s not filling you.
The Grinch earned a complex joy
This guy was living on a cold, dark, lonely mountain. No one cared about him. No one tried to engage him. More than that, the Whos simple joy was mentally hurting him.
Let me unpack that statement just a little. In a community, we want to believe if an action feels good it must be good. It creates this illusion that if the outsider would only see the system the same way the insider sees the system, they too would want to be part of it.
That phrase, “Taking candy from a baby.” It’s said because it implies doing something like that is easy. It’s not easy. The baby screams, cries and draws as much attention to him or herself as possible. Whenever that phrase is illustrated in a show or movie, you usually see the person quickly giving the candy back by the end of the scene. At the same time, who is giving candy to a baby?! To the baby, it seems amazing! How could all that sweet be bad? Only it is bad, especially for a baby, and in unfettered doses for everyone.
That’s the deception. Those partaking of simple joy at all hours all the time are gaining nothing of substance, but they don’t realize it because it’s all so sweet. Those who finally crashed from the immense joy-high, can actually realize how dangerous it all is, but it’s impossible to tell those who are still living the high. Those who have felt the joy-crash can actually be reliving it when they see others with that joy-high.
Moving on. The Grinch came from somewhere. There have been two movies that have tried to unpack it. No one has suggested that he might just be a Who who suffered a joy-crash. After all, from his mountain, he knows exactly what they do in their houses, almost like he lived there once. He can’t hear the constant singing because it’s a reminder, and eventually that reminder turns to annoyance, which turns to pain.
His hope is to destroy what pains him. His solution, while not a good one, is to take away all the things that remind him of his pain. He wants peace, and he’s willing to silence it all to get it. When his plan still ends in Whos singing joyfully, he suddenly realizes he could have real joy. With that, his real hope is fulfilled, he finds peace in his place, and realizes the true joy. That’s why his heart grows. All those pieces must come into place for the love to be found. It’s that complex joy that allows him to find community again.
It’s a process
I don’t think the Church is doing anyone favors by feeding her congregants simple joy week after week. The Church should be the home for the weak and wounded. It’s a place for all those who are living in the joy-crash. Instead, the Church has become the absolute last place for those people. We are ostracized to the mountain, being told we are choosing the mountain. For the newbies, we are like babies, unable to verbalize what is happening to us, and why we are being pushed away by those we thought loved us. For us seasoned Grinch’s- some of us tried to burn it all down. Some of us simply moved on. Others, like myself, are worried about new joy-crashes, and desire to help those who haven’t crashed, see those on Mount Crumpit.
It’s a process. This year, I’m surrounded by the joy-crash. Not my own. That’s over a decade old at this point. It’s all the ones who just thought they could go back, and are finding the simple joy doesn’t last the way it used to. I want to be the Grinch. I want to take the candy from the baby for the sake of the baby. I want to help others find a more complex joy that leads to real love. But, like I’ve already said- it’s a process.
Reddit /r/Christianity post drama
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
I am not a person who likes to wait or be patient.
I take that back. I am a person who exercises a mountain of patience on a daily basis, but that doesn't mean I like it.
It reminds me of when I was late elementary school age. It was understood, if I put food on my plate, I had to eat it. With that understanding, I never put cooked veggies on my plate. I didn't want them, so it was an easy choice to not add it to my dinner. That was until my step mom saw I wasn't eating any veggies, and amended the house rule:
You have to eat everything on your plate, and that must include cooked veggies.
That's when my eating habits changed. Instead of eating little bits of everything, I ate what I hated first, and then the next hated, and so on and so forth, until I only had what I liked left.
Like I said about patience- I didn't like it, but I did it.
In my high school years I was always willing to share candy or treats . Just, don't ask for some if I had been eating it for a bit. Then you were asking for the best of the best, because I had already eaten the candy I didn't like first.
When it came to treats, I had to change my eating habits again in high school. I would put aside a couple of pieces I didn't like so I could offer them if someone asked.
If this is all beginning to sound a bit extra, you're right. I was extra. I didn't want to look like I wasn't generous. I didn't want to be stuck giving away all the good candy, when I had eaten all the bad pieces first. Let's be honest, it was my candy I was sharing. I was willing to change the rules as long as it didn't change my outcome. I got the good things I started with.
The Wait is on!
I noticed something very interesting during COVID restrictions.
People don't like space. Specifically, people don't like space when standing in lines. There's this anxiety that flairs up that makes the average human desire to draw closer to the person in front of them. It's like standing 6ft will make someone cut, and they'll lose their space.
I was in heaven during social distancing. I don't want to feel someone's breath on the back of my neck. It was good that people were far enough away that I couldn't smell them. Why are we wanting that back? I digress.
I think similar ideas exist with my candy and with standing in line. People in line earned their place in line, and there's this fear of having that work stolen. While I liked all the candy I had eaten, I earned the really good candy by saving it until last.
I mention these examples, because that's what makes peace so difficult. There are those who haven't had, and those who are about to earn. There are no good choices in that formula. Often times, those who are about to earn choose to withhold assistance because of that four letter word: FAIR.
Perhaps, if we are serious about peace, we should start talking about fairness in a new light.
Certain "lines" don't exist anymore. The rules are changing, and that doesn't negate those who put up with crap and feel it's there turn to take the lead. What we may call "cutting" by old standards, might have been a different "line" for that person.
Ultimately, the rules are made by those who have been "in line" the longest. It's nearly impossible to change a system willingly, when the people making the rules, just want equity for what they already paid.
Peace is always an option, but that doesn't make it an easy one.
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
My plant is dying. My literal plant.
A year and a half ago I was gifted a Christmas cactus. I have already told you I have a terrible green thumb. Everything I seem to touch just wilts to death.
Somehow, probably because it's a Christmas Cactus, it has remained alive for over a year.
Only now it is dying.
The week from hades.
Personally, this week has been just fine.
Ministry related, this might go down as one of the worst since the advent of this site.
I had a personal moment. I'm not going to be the widow with her last bit of oil and flour, waiting for God to send someone to make that last little bit hold out. (1 Kings 17:8-16). I'm also done with the phrase, "If you build it, they will come." Actually, no they won't. Not in an altruistic sense, or to put it another way, not in a sense that is selfless or cares for the needs of others. Not on the internet. Finally, I realized I am the brand whether I want to be or not. It was time to start selling me.
These were all good things, and good realizations.
So you know what I went and did?
Well, on the first Sunday of Advent, I got the worship ready extra early. I changed up the colors. I put out the nativity and our dinky homemade advent wreath, and everything was ready to go... until is wasn't. The very first Sunday of Advent! One of the big Sundays in the Christian Calendar Fig Tree failed and I had to quit and admit defeat!
Meanwhile, I have a book I'm trying to sell. Not just any book, but the book that started with an almost decade long writing process. I have five books. Three are written and are partially edited. One is still a draft. The fifth is the completely written, through the beta-testing, and is being queried to agents. (Query is a fancy word for "I'm trying to sell this book and myself, please take me as a client.) I decided I needed to put myself completely out there. I took my secondary site, and revamped it. I put samples of all my creative endeavors in one place. Papercraft, drawing, audio, digital, and knotted art. Everything on the website I did! Then it links back here at the end to see the decade of writing. (Actually, it's meant to loop. The "About the Pastor" tab here jumps to the website over there, and that exists for anyone interested in more than my writing.)
Well, wouldn't you know it? The website failed on that exact Sunday! For days now I've been trying to get someone to help fix the problem.
This lead me here.
This week is all about hope.
Making Time for Hope
Perhaps I'm the most prepared to talk about Hope from an American Advent context. Everything appears to be crashing in December. Fall decorations come down, while Christmas decorations go up. Kids have twenty-two events going on, and older kids have tests to round out the semester. Family comes to visit, or you visit family. Just that alone can completely distract from the entire point. Christmas isn't about any of those things. Well, it is about healthy family structures, but not the other things.
That's why this week, the week my focus cleared and then crashed to a halt, is still a week I have to make time for God. ESPECIALLY THIS WEEK!
Perhaps my hope is coming as a mini-lament, but most hope is born from lament. It's when nothing is working that something new can be born. It's a time to hard stop and ask God what God wants. Perhaps God wants us to wait. Pause. Stop. Perhaps God wants us to act. Go. Affect. The point is, until intentionally make time for God, we can't know.
It's time for hope.
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
I enjoy taking non-quantifiable information and making it visually accessible.
I hate the above sentence.
Let me try again…
I enjoy helping people understand ideas that are hard to understand. I’ve been doing that for the past decade through the written word. I don’t want to show how smart I am by throwing out those impossible to understand words, like the first sentence above. Actually, I feel there is information to learn, and I want to show it anyway I can.
Like through visual art.
Like through music.
Like through the media.
I’ve always been over writing to the gatekeepers of such knowledge. The keys to the kingdom excludes everyone outside of it. The only reason we even approach the kingdom is because they are means to get that information to the masses. Does that sound right to you? The people with the ability to share the information, are the only ones who know what is being said? If the information is important, stop talking like a pompous butt and say it in an understandable way!
There are gatekeepers in the other areas too! While I don’t care about their opinion, I do care that they hold the keys.
It’s also these gatekeepers that gave me the illusion I couldn’t be a minister. It took multiple voices telling me I didn’t need their kingdom to follow my call. (Not my writing. I had to enter that gate, and it was not an easy key to locate and use. I basically became a decent writer after highschool, because I couldn’t get my Masters with poorly written essays.)
Like many before me, I’ve learned I don’t need their kingdom, but I do need their delivery system. There are a tiny drop of people in the sea of people trying to deliver information that have figured out how to deliver their information without entering the kingdom. When their method is discovered, everyone congregates to that location to try it too, destroying the method in the process. (Like a life raft being attacked by hundreds of drowning victims. It will bring the raft down before it can save anyone.)
I have four fully written novels with one polished. I have multiple artistic works. I have been writing here for over a decade. I am the master of creating outside the kingdom. BUT- Going back to original thought:
I enjoy helping people understand ideas that are hard to understand.
I understand it. I’m not doing that for me. I don’t want into the kingdom, but I do want their delivery system.
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
I have countering beliefs and theologies. It’s a dangerous place to be, because it means I say one thing, and act another. I used to not realize what I was doing.
Let me explain.
The theology: God is not a candy machine.
I actually laughed at myself as I wrote that subheading down. Of course I know God is not a candy machine. If maybe not a candy machine, perhaps a wish granter for the ultra-pious? It’s the same thing, but worded differently.
People can get caught up in the “stuff” of the world, and what the stuff means. It’s a trap and we fall into it. We want our faith to equal health and prosperity. I get it. There’s not a payscale to working with God. It’s not like you become a Christian and get tier one blessings, but once you’ve been a Christian for at least, I don’t know, ten years, the blessings increase.
Once again, it sounds ridiculous wording it that way, but I’m confident someone reading this will realize that’s exactly how they hope their faith life works, and now they have it in text.
You don’t grow up in the situations I was in and have a candy machine theology. Not if you are like me, and enjoy digging deep into the text. I mentally knew this was not how life worked, and in turn, it influenced my theological view.
Let me put this out first.
I believe God has answered so many of my prayers. It’s just that many prayers are answered in the negative. Many more were answered in the affirmative. I believe that's because I never prayed for an end result, but for the tools to help me get to that result. I also think there are ways I’ve been placed to grow, learn, and help others do the same.
Now that I’ve put that out there, let me get to it.
For a species that has achieved free-will, we will follow a crowd faster than a pack of raging hyenas to a newly dead zebra.
This leads us to an idea that comes from me. I’m talking about Communal Sin. (Tons of links to me talking about this at the bottom of the page.) This differs from Corporate Sin. Corporate sin is sin that is enacted by an entire group. Think, the Golden Calf in Deuteronomy. These are clear cut events that show sin being acted out by an entire group. When I’m using the term “communal sin,” I’m talking more implicitly. These are actions that not only are still sins, but are so ingrained in society they are social norms.
When thinking of corporate sin, a person can step away from it. Example: I’m not giving you my gold to help you make a false god. We can see the community sinning, and we can choose not to participate in it.
Communal sin, however, cannot be seen or easily walked away from. Well, I'll take part of that back. Each person has their own blind and deaf spots. We cannot see everything, so our brain turns off what happens every day. The more comfortable we are, the more likely we are blind and deaf to whatever draws us comfort.
(BTW- this is where some fuddy-duddy theologians would get all bristly and say that my distinction is still part of Corporate Sin. Fine. Lump it all together, and see how well that goes. If that’s you, just know I disagree, and let’s move on.)
The reason I’m bringing up communal sin is because it hurts people we don’t see.
My whole life is a series of actions where people forget or misplace my worth. I’m easy to forget because I can get things working, and when things are working, it’s something that brings us comfort, so it becomes a place we are blind and deaf to.
That’s what’s so earth rockingly difficult about all this. To see the value in those who suffer from communal sin, means to destroy the thing that brings us comfort. The other way is to finally see the person behind the comfort, and in seeing them, it becomes impossible to be comfortable in that situation.
It’s an easy way to tell if the person actually sees the problem, or just saying they see the problem. It’s impossible to be comfortable once the blindness has been removed.
I have a dual problem.
On one side, people see what I see, but it makes them uncomfortable so they leave for something that gives them comfort, often where they can be blind and deaf once more.
On the other side, people don’t see what I see, and I’m simply forgotten.
None of that is God’s fault.
None of that is happening because I didn’t pray the right way.
I still destroy myself because I try to pray myself out of it.
Deep down somewhere, I still want God to take my gift and give me a treat.
Then I hate myself for thinking that.
Then the cycle starts all over again.
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
As a young adult, there was a stretch of road where angel light was known to break through the clouds.
Angel light is when there are small breaks in the clouds, and the sun spills through and cuts a visible light through the sky.
Seeing angel light always filled me with awe, and was perfect when it happened right before church.
As a youth, there was a sunset that looked like the sky was actually on fire.
The way the clouds flicked up and how the sun hit them in just the right way, created this breathtaking moment on the way back from a church retreat. I swear, there was actual gold in that sunset.
I used to look at sunsets and pretend they were sunrises.
I don’t know. When I was a much younger gal, I always thought sunsets were more stunning, but found them melancholy. I didn’t want to say goodbye to the day. Looking at a sunset like it was actually a sunrise, filled me with hope.
Then my focus changed.
When I was in love with the sky, I also knew the carpets and floors extremely well. In other words, I was incapable of looking people in the eyes. I didn’t have self-esteem.
That might shock my current friends, who see a completely different person today. I cannot express enough to y’all how completely broken I was, and how much work I had to do just to look straight ahead.
In doing that work, it took away my wonder. I had to get real. I had to be in now instead of what could be.
I guess, I found beauty in those around me, and took my head out of the clouds.
I realized that in finding my health, the awe I felt looking at the sky was gone. Sure, the sky was still pretty, but it didn’t fill me with awe in the same way it used to.
Then I stepped in to do art.
I have currently long-term subbed art for 25 weeks, not consecutively. Consider that for a moment.
That time has given me some amazing tools both physically and technically. I already knew how to manipulate images through Photoshop. I’ve created my own fonts, and used my photography to create images. I also, through my earring making, figured out the 3D form. It was my real life 2D work that needed some classes. Now I have it. I was/am paid to learn these things so I can teach them.
It had me looking around again.
There are times that my centering moment is just to look. Maybe it’s the way a shadow cuts across the ground. Perhaps it’s the way something curves. I’m hyper-aware right now of space, form, and range. It’s awesome. Sometimes I find myself sketching, but oftentimes I’m just observing and appreciating.
That has caused me to re-appreciate the sky. There is so much going on in the sky. The clouds, no matter what time of day it is, are filled with depth. When it’s a sunrise or sunset, the way the light is captured just amazes me. Even when I’m stressed and overworked (which I am currently overworked for my paygrade) I can look at the sky and see we all live under that! Our canopy is so stunning, and we all get it.
Just a final note for today: I’m growing ever aware that I’m becoming scary. I understand math. I make sure I understand current and past events. I can read music, and have written pieces. I have acting experience in college, which includes video filming and editing. I can create art with colored pencils being my medium of choice. I’ve written on a regular basis, and have an unpublished but finished book. Oh, yeah, and I’m a Pastor with a Masters in Divinity from Emory University. All these denominations are scared because they want to recreate what’s failing, and I’m sitting here realizing when the people are ready, I am too.