-Rev Melissa Fain-
It doesn't take much digging to get the message today's females are being given. If you want it done, go do it! Our Disney princesses are bold, strong and empowered. Our Barbies are anything they want to be. Our women seek answers; not wait for solutions. In an age where girls can join Cub Scouts, the song "Anything you can do" has new meaning.
And this is why it's really difficult for me to sit through many contemporary worships. Outside of church, I'm being taught to fight for what is right, stand up against what is wrong, and be the action. Then I go into almost any weekly worship and hear the exact opposite. God will provide. Just wait for the Lord.
This is faith divorced from action! Our sermons need to be more than "Do you love me?" It needs to continue with "Then feed my sheep!"
These churches have picked up the mantel of the Damsel in Distress. That's why it doesn't surprise me they all have men at the helm. They've were never told the dangers of this trap. The truth is, nothing gets done if you cloister yourself away in a tower waiting for someone else to do it. Sure, Prince Charming is our Lord and Savior, but the bible is like a messenger pigeon sending the message. "Meet me." Our salvation is directly tied to our understanding of that message!
This all might seem innocent to you. Who are the damsel Christians hurting but themselves?
The problem is two-fold.
I'm personally angry at the ministers. Picking up the mantel of ministry has serious ramifications if not done correctly. Encouragement should always come with preparations. Jesus didn't tell the disciples their road was going to be easy. No! Their path often lead to death in horrific ways. They were ready for that, because Jesus prepared them. When a minister sets up personal issues, it doesn't solve anything to give the congregation the symbolic cat hanging from a limb. "Hang in there! God's coming!"
Ministers also get the point of view wrong. Gird up your loins, boys! Sometimes we don't need our situation to change; just our point of view. There are people living with little food, dirt floors, and no stable income. Those people still find God in this world. How arrogant of us if we spiritually struggle when the air conditioning goes out in our car! Then point of view is always understanding how God was already there. Sometimes we need to understand just how bad it could have been, and so we need to reflect on situations as the happened. Things could have been worse, but somehow they were not. That's often God's hand in the situation.
I'm also scared for those who could be helped by a better theology. I'm not talking about the congregants sitting in the seats. I'm talking about the need that is not being met while they remain seated. We are always pieces of the Body of Christ. Our actions are always speaking God's love into the world. It is when that well in Africa needs to be built, but it doesn't magically stop when that project is done. There are ways God is calling you right outside your front door, and we are incapable of hearing it because of the horrible theology, "It will all work out in the end."
No! Sometimes it doesn't, because sometimes someone is called by God to stop it, and they didn't act. Not words. Not tweets. Action. #BringBackOurGirls did not really bring back anyone. In those cases, we are merely an outsider stating an opinion, not making the change in the world.
Tell me that the phrase "It will all work out in the end," saved those girls. Bad things happen. Bad things happen to good people. Now go be the God's hands and feet, and change that.
Faith-Hope-Love, and a Mustard Seed
-Rev Melissa Fain-
When I was a child I sat in awe as I heard a congregant tell of faith and mustard seeds. Then, I looked with awe as she passed out a tiny mustard seeds, attached to a small cards to all the kids. That was hardly any faith at all! When I got home, I sat it with my plaque of the Lord's Prayer. Then I began to dutifully pray for things. "God, please make me more popular at school." "God, I could really use that new toy. Everyone else has one. I need one too." "God, please tell my sister I'm right." (We used to fight constantly. We get along great now.)
Nothing happened. Did I not believe enough? I began to say those prayers directly at the seed, like it was some magical conduit to God. Still nothing. What was I doing wrong?! Giving up, I used the seed card like a bookmark for my bible, and left it alone.
My childhood self didn't realize that faith is always tied directly to hope and love. Faith is like a mustard seed, in that you plant it. It's not good enough to wish it to be something else. It can only become one thing, the thing built into it's DNA from it's creation. My childhood prayers were empty because they weren't leading anywhere, and if they were, it most surely was not God's love.
I have seen faith in action. I have experienced it. Usually, those prayers look different too. I'm not praying for empty things like cars or houses. I'm praying for a true need out in the world. Then, I see that need and ask God for tools to fulfill it. I've learned God is much more accommodating when asking for tools to help with the already in motion plan.
In other words, faith, hope, and love abide these three. You plant the seed of faith in fertile, God chosen soil. Basically, you see a need in the world, and you have faith that God is going to help you meet that need, which gives you hope it will be better. Then your action is God's love working through you. That can move mountains. That is an unstoppable force that can completely change the landscape. .
The Age Of Deborah
-Rev Melissa Fain-
Last week I watched my daughter become the first female Tiger Scout at her district Day Camp. This is something she has wanted to do since tagging along on her brother's events and camps. Last Summer, we went caving with the Webelos, and she was crawling and climbing with the best of them. Everyone was shocked she kept up, never complaining even once. Myself included.
At Day Camp I couldn't stop from staring in awe as she picked up bows and shot them, hit targets with BB Guns, and completed the basic task of hitting a hammer to a nail. When she received a special patch for her BB skills she was joyfully shocked. The fact that she came home and put on a pink tu-tu and became a pretend princess did not negate her experience. It didn't make her magically love her Day Camp experience less.
What is wrong with me? I never stopped her when she told me she wanted to be pretty and fierce. I never questioned when she played caregiver and protector. Then when she shows me how easy it is to be both I'm dumbfounded.
It's those outside voices that have seemed to grow pretty loud recently. I've patiently listened as commentators and those old school Boy Scouts tell everyone that boys and girls learn differently. You can't have girls in a program created for boys without the program degrading. They told me the girls would take something away from boys.
Shame on me.
I went in the week ready to help the girls push. Shame on me. I listened to those voices.
Guess what? The girls were amazing. They were strong, and stood right beside the boys in projects.
Shame on me. None of the boys had less of a experience because there happened to be a few girls at camp.
Listen, this is the age of Deborah. Deborah was the only female Old Testament Judge and Prophetess. God called her to be fierce, and even with God calling her those close to her questioned her call. We are raising future Momma Bears, fiercely protective, while also becoming gentle caregivers. This isn't degrading anything. It's amazing, and awe inspiring.
I may doubt my daughter's words in the future, as some of the things she suggests are just imaginatively bizarre, but I will not doubt her potential. That's the key. We are not making the assumption of what our children are capable of. We are stepping back and giving them to opportunity to let them test out their inner Spirit. If we believe our girls can't do something, we should probably test that theory out before we go withholding their chance to try it out. I'm anxious to see these girls become women, and you should too. The age of Deborah has begun.
- Rev Melissa Fain -
Last Sunday afternoon I found myself scrambling from Fig Tree Christian, to my home to pick up my son, so we could help set up for Cub Scout Day Camp that is happening this week in my district. I'm a tour guide. Behind the scenes we are called Den Leaders. Along with another adult, I've been tasked with guiding fourteen Wolves (Rising 2nd grade) and my one Tiger (Rising 1st grade) through an explosion of fun and learning. It's a blast! These kids, the boys and girls, want to get out there and shoot bows and arrows, and BB guns. They want to stamp leather, and learn about the 6 essentials every Cub needs to go on a hike. They are excited about earning belt loops for their new rank. More than that, I know what they are doing and why they are doing it. For the past four years, I was my son's den leader, walking him through Wolf (2nd grade) to Arrow of Light (5th grade). Now I'm doing it again with my rising 1st grade daughter this Fall, as I step up to be a girl Tiger den leader.
How did I get here? Back at the beginning of my son's second grade year, he had just finished his first and only season of baseball. We were trying to find something for him to do on our super slim budget of nothing plus a few bucks. This was during the time I was counting pennies to purchase groceries. We couldn't afford expensive equipment, and neither of us could take off for crazy schedules or travelling. That's when Cub Scouts came in, and boldly stated: Your boy can have a full experience for only $12 a month. We had to look at our finances and figure what we had to move to make that work, but somehow we did. My son was in. Then, during orientation, the Committee Chair said something else: We are short a few den leaders. We have a new wolf den in need of a leader.
Have you ever been called to something secular in nature? I'm sure there are tons of Christians that are called to secular positions and jobs. I felt I needed to take on that leadership position, but I approached it as Jonah approached Ninivah, in the most Eeyore tone possible, I told the Committee chair I'd take on a leadership position. Part of me was relieved when a month or so afterwards, the den turned out to be too small and we were melded with another den. Relieved because rank advancement was serious business even for the Cubs, and it was like looking at a foreign language I had to learn and teach!
But then, that summer, the Cub Master sat me down, with my son's Den Leader and asked the question: "Will you take over this den?" The current Den Leader was moving over to the den where all of her son's friends were. It left a hole that no one wanted to fill. (There was that call again.) I said yes, and the next thing I knew I was in charge of eight boys and their advancement.
Now, as I walk around with those little kids at Day Camp, something has been given to me that I didn't think I'd see in this setting. Honest to goodness community. I was starting conversations with people I haven't met in months, like I just saw them last week. I feel a core connection with those who I don't even know around me, as we all understand the Scout Oath and Scout Law, and try to live by it. I get the other Wolf leaders, and understand the wide eyed terror as it's like they've been thrown in the deep end without a life vest. These are my people. I am there's. It frankly scared me, and I had to step away to reflect.
I was scared because Scouts is giving me something vital that church has stopped supplying. (At least the physical brick and mortar churches.) Real community in Churches is quickly becoming the spiritual source that is drying out and disappearing. Just like one doesn't consider finding an oasis in the desert, even if they yearn for one, Scouts have quenched my need for communal relationship. Realizing I was getting that from a secular institution caused me to recall a scripture: "Where two or more are gathered in my name, there I am also." (Matt 18:20)
Church is made for a communal connection with God. It's necessary, and I submit, primary to being called a Church. When two or more gather, it's not good enough just to put two Christians in the same room. I've been in a room with fellow Christians where I would not call that interaction, "Church." It's the "in my name," part that has to stand for something. Are you gathering because you are trying to keep people inside a building or because you are worshiping God? I believe the prior becomes like a millstone around all the congregant's necks, dragging them down into the abyss..
I know BSA has been in the news recently with their inclusion of girls. No matter what you think about their choices for Cub Scouts and BSA, they get community. As my Tiger Daughter begins her journey in Cub Scouting, I know exactly what she will be taught, I know the BSA has some of the best rules for boundaries and safe spaces, I know myself and the leaders around me are well trained. I am connected in a visceral way to those around me, and that connection will be for the rest of my life.
Why is it so hard now to say the same of church?