-Pastor Melissa Fain-
"Love should be shown without pretending."
Romans 12:1a CEB
There have been two times where I've thought the Bible basically preaches itself. In both cases they've been Paul writing about love.
The first time was my very first sermon on Youth Sunday my senior year of high school. The scripture was 1 Cor 13- the "Love Chapter." I boldly stood at the pulpit and said, "You should love, that's it! It's that simple.!" I remember how on fire I was sharing this simple message. I remember how graceful the congregants were in accepting it. I've since preached multiple sermons on 1 Cor 13. (You can find at least three on this site.) My words have been trained and honed. I do more than just throw it out there. I give reasons. Buuuuut... I still can just sit in 1 Cor 13 and feel the message stands: Just love. That's it. It really is that simple.
Today marks the second time Paul's words just gets me. In Romans none-the-less! Just a few weeks ago I explained how I started my journey reading Biblical letters (about the same time I gave my first sermon) in Romans. Sure it's the first letter, but it's the most condensed book. Every word counts. It's a tapestry of theological knowledge that needs to be slowly explored to get a full and honest picture. It's a beautifully written letter.
"Let love be genuine." That's how it reads in the NRSV translation. If your not careful you'll miss the power behind that small sentence. It wasn't the NRSV that stopped me. It was the CEB:
Love should be shown without pretending.
Well, if that doesn't speak to my soul right now. We are a tense, pressurized people right now. Pressure can be a good thing, but most have never had to live with it. To suddenly feel it we've gone into the flight or fight mode. I've heard it on both sides:
"I'm shutting down. Not going to engage. I've just got to get away." If this is you, you are reacting to all this with flight. It's instinctual to run away from the problem. Only the problem remains. It's not some saber-tooth tiger that found some other tasty snack. What you've left behind are the others, and they are fighting.
I'm not talking good fighters. I'm talking people who are feeling the same tension and pressure you're feeling and they are barking to look scarier than they are. This is instinctual too. Only the problem isn't something we can scare away with big angry words.
Not easy empty love. Not love that is shown with cards and flowers. That kind of love is like balloons in a pressure chamber in this environment. They simple pop. We need something that can withstand the growing tensions.
Love should be shown without pretending.
Oof! Showing love, sure, but without pretending?
Hot take: We pretend love. All. The. Time. Wanna hear something crazy? It's a form of flight. It's a safe backdoor to quietly sneak out and not have to engage. You get to play nice, without really doing anything.
The whole book of Romans is love without pretending. It's Paul's swan song, the last writing before he was executed for being what God called him to be. It's a love built on the grace of God. A love that seeks out in order to relieve the tension and pressure building up in this world. It's a love that faces the anger and fear, no matter the consequence.
The answer is easy, love. The practice of it is anything but easy. Individually, none of us are called to save the world. All of us have lives. All of us have things we need to save. Including me. That's what makes it so very difficult. If you want to know how we sell the world, this is how. Fake love. Love that doesn't change anything. Love that gives us the easy out.
For me the words are comforting. People will attack you for showing love without pretending. You need to know it is right even when others attack or run away. I can sit in those words. For me it is that simple. Love.
Over the past five months I have seen some amazing articles and misinformed attempts on understanding Covid-19. We are at the restlessness stage of this pandemic, and we just want to get back to normal. I've heard this in relationship to school, church, and general life. In the past month, I've probably heard it 8-10 times.
The purpose of this writing is to pull reliable links, and bring them together in a way to understand how dangerous our restlessness truly is. By the end of this writing, I hope to inform you, and give you an easy resource to share with others.
Pathogens need a carrier
Pathogens are a fancy word for diseases. Some diseases are fungal, some are bacterial, and others are viral.
It's important to know, most pathogens need something to carry it to a host. For example:
Diseases transmitted through poop or food: Cholera, typhoid, Hepatitis A and E, and tapeworms, Ebola and salmonella
Diseases spread through sexual contact: gonorrhea, HPV, chlamydia, HIV
Diseases spread through air: measles, TB, flu, cold, Covid-19
When we think "airborne" we imagine the little virus or bacteria coming out of our mouth, all by itself, flying across the room into someone else's unsuspecting lungs. Viruses and bacteria can't do that. They are dangerously simplistic in their design. Because they are simplistic, their transmission (or how they spread) happens by hitching a ride on something. When it comes to airborne transmission, it happens through our snot or saliva. Our breath is very wet, and we breath out that saliva with every breath we take.
With the flu or cold, most of the danger is in snot. We touch our runny nose, and then touch objects. The snot carries the virus to an object where it waits for someone to touch it, and later bring the unwashed hand to their mouth.
With Covid-19 the danger is in the breath.
Check out this link for more information on carriers:
How a mask helps to stop the spread
There's a great meme going around I want to share with you:
Unless you've lived under a rock, or been in a coma, you've probably seen this meme.
I saw a video the other day that suggested this meme is garbage because the virus is smaller than the holes in a face mask. Pee is liquid, the virus is a virus.
Let me break it down:
Like I mentioned above, the virus needs a carrier.
For Covid-19, that carrier is our breath.
Imagine we were talking people rather than viruses. Of course a lone person can't get very far on their feet. An average person can maybe get 5 miles in a day. You give them a bike and now they can get 15 miles. You give them a car and now they can get hundreds of miles. You give them a plane and now they can get thousands. The bike, car, and plane carry the human further.
Now, let's say you want to keep that human from getting out of their city. You build a 20 foot wall around that city. They can still get in their car and drive, but if they try to drive out of the city, they would run into that wall, and it would stop them.
Is it possible for that person to get out of the car, and try to climb around or through the wall? Sure, but you've taken away what is carrying them, and they won't get very far past that wall.
This is how it is for Covid-19 and masks. The virus is like the human, the breath droplet is like the car, and the wall is like the mask. The mask is not trying to stop the virus, only the vehicle the virus uses to infect others. This is also why it's still important to social distance while wearing a mask. Wearing a mask means the virus can only travel a foot, vs the 6-10 feet without a mask.
Check out this link for more information on how masks stop the carrier of Covid-19:
Why 10 minutes breathing someone's air is enough
A virus needs multiple copies of itself to infect a person.
Think of it this way:
The bigger the army, the easier it is to overtake the stronghold. If you got one person with a gun (even a big gun) it's pretty easy for the stronghold to take out that person and stay safe. If you instead have thousands attacking the stronghold, the stronghold find's itself spreading their resources thin to protect itself.
It's also like ants. An ant bites you, you can smack that ant, and you're done. On the other hand, you step on an ant pile, it's going to be extremely difficult to kill all those ants quickly. They can overtake you, and you might have to take drastic measures to get rid of them.
This is like viruses.
Breathing releases 33 viral particles per minute. You might walk next to someone with Covid-19 for a minute. Breathing in their direct air for that short amount of time is not enough to get infected. That's like the lone human attacking the stronghold.
Talking releases 200 viral particles per minute. One minute talking to an infected person would not be enough of a load to infect you.
You need to take in about 1000 virus particles to become infected. That means, you chat with an infected person for 5 minutes, you've breathed in enough of their infected air to catch Covid-19.
Here's where things become dicey. Someone who is infected coughs. If they didn't contain that cough, they've released enough of a viral load that you need 0 minutes breathing it in. One breath is enough. Also, if you are in an enclosed room with someone infected, all it takes is 50 minutes anywhere in that room to breath in enough virus to catch it.
Check out these links for more information on viral loads:
Air Conditioning: The biggest spreader
Most transmissions are happening in places with central heating and air. To understand why this is happening, we must first understand how air conditioning units work.
Air conditioners are designed to push air down to the people. Velocity, or the speed, the air is going helps quickly cool down a room. It lowers the cost of an air conditioning system, because faster air means fewer vents are required to cool a room.
There are those who believe air conditioning units don't play a role in the spread of Covid-19 because the breathed and spoken droplets are too heavy to be sucked into the unit, and spread back out. For the most part this is true. It's this truth that undermines the real danger of air conditioning and the spread of Covid-19.
(I've gotta go off track for just a moment, but I'll come back around, I promise.)
One of the ways major theme parks keeps guests comfortable is by misting them. These literal water droplets can only go so far on their own. To spread them further parks will put big fans behind the spray. This gives them the most bang for the buck.
We can see these droplets and can avoid them if we wish to.
Back in April we learned something about air conditioning units and Covid-19. In a restaurant in China, someone had unknowingly been infected with the virus. Not only did the person spread the virus to those at their table, they spread it to two other tables in a straight line across the room. These two other tables were more than 6 feet away. How did that happen?
The air conditioning unit picked up the breath and pushed it across the room. Air conditioning vents are like the fans behind the misters as theme parks, only we can't see our breath. It obliterates the 6 ft rule.
Check out these links for more information on air conditioning and viral spread:
What to do with this information
Share. I put this together to be an easy resource to share with congregations and groups. Misinformation is our biggest enemy right now.
Maybe we're all going to get it eventually, but we don't need to all get it at once. Getting it at once puts a stress on our healthcare industry, and it forces them to choose who lives and who dies. Any death is tragic, but when that death could have been prevented by simple steps, it's overly tragic.
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
I feel like there are times a piece of me shines. That piece, by itself, looks like something. It's easy to take the piece out of context, because no one realizes the whole. Also, no one realizes the tools I've collected to bring me to this point in our shared history.
What happens when all those pieces come together? Well, let me lay them out for you:
1. I healed from being a child of brokenness.
I don't talk about my past as much as I want to or used to. I've remained guarded for multiple reasons. Some of those will come out in due time. One of those are important now.
I've learned, we are not defined by our brokenness, but what we do once we've been broken. Most of our villains were created from their brokenness. Instead of seeking restoration and stopping the cycle of abuse, they pushed into their brokenness turning them into abusers. Many of these abusers define themselves by their brokenness, unable to see how their brokenness has begun to break others.
Seeing this encouraged me to find healing to end the cycle of abuse. It helped me see self-care as a way to care for others. My personal healing took away the need for others to potentially go through the same process in their own lives. Self-care is a cycle breaker. In this way, caring for one's self is caring for others.
Brokenness broke me, but it ultimately didn't define me. My path to healing defined me, and it gives me a compassionate view of the world and those around me.
2. I was witness to church brokenness.
I truly feel I was called to be witness to brokenness in the church and the aftermath of its destruction. From 1999 to 2012, it felt like these churches were handpicked for their personal moments of brokenness. (All except Brookhaven, where I still feel it was a bad fit, and I was always called to First Atlanta, but somehow God's plan was subverted until a few years later.) I realize now I was never called to fix anything in these years, but to simply take note.
I now personally know and been witness to:
Ministers breaking a church.
Congregants breaking a minister.
Ministers breaking ministers.
Congregants breaking congregants.
I know the problem is prolific. There are systems that have been built to hide or protect abuse and neglect. There are statements that exist to deny accountability. "Not at my church," being one of them. The Body of Christ is ultimately one church, so if it's happening anywhere, it's happening in your Church.
Because I've witnessed and ultimately felt the brutal sting of Church brokenness, I have eyes trained to see the problem. My compassionate view will not let me take just any church job to fix the problem.
3. Paulding County is my home.
I'm about to blow some teacher's minds here.
I do not like substituting. I'm going on my 5th year in the schools, but I know I'm much more relatable to the students in a youth group setting than I am in a substitute setting.
That being said, I know the implicit power I wield being both a parent, and an employee. I've seen substitutes throw this power around in defense of their specific child. It's a power greater than a certified teacher who is also a parent.
I'm also the spouse of an educator within the county. I've been the champion for the front line, aka the teachers, for years now. If you are not taking care of the teachers, than you are not taking care of my kids, and then I get loud.
I don't like subbing, but I love the people in the system. They know me, and I know them. I've used my power carefully, speaking up for subs in an open letter written in 2018. When I talked with someone from the AP about schools reopening, it was to be the teacher's champion. I only spoke as a parent sending her children back to school, but my view as a parent has a very supportive view of our educators. Most parents are having trouble seeing the humanity in their child's educator. I'm a minister. I see the human first.
Without realizing it, I had placed myself on the front lines of the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. More than that,it was a place I'd already been, for years.
4. Creativity is One of my Talents.
My brain is a hot mess! Seriously.
There are days when I know the information, understand it, but can't say it. I know it's there. I know the definition, but not the word attached to it.
Then there are other days where I can make the connections others are not. (Very helpful when it comes to Biblical interpretation btw.) Most see this in my crafts. I make polymer clay earrings by looking at a picture and recreating it. I make Halloween costumes the same way. My son wanted to be Finn from Adventure Time? Done!
People see a project I do and they don't understand it's a skill set I've picked up from having little to nothing to work with. Stuck in a room with a piece of cardboard, scissors and string? Fine! Turn the cardboard into a loom, and weave. Need a perfect circle for a class but you don't have a protractor? Tie a piece of twine loosely on a one pencil while you tie it tightly on another. Automatic circle maker! Don't have glue? Go to the kitchen and start mixing ingredients until you have something that sticks. (In my case water and flour.)
My brain allows me to put the pieces together in ways many don't consider. My brain allows me to pick up skills as needed. I learned middle school math two years ago. Actually sat down and learned it. Why? Because it was needed. I picked up Adobe Photoshop and Premier on my own and just started using it. Why? Because a photo lab was hiring a Photo Restorationist, and I needed a job.
My brain is both my super power and my kryptonite. I know there are those who see my struggles and write me off. It's because I've had to rewire my thought process, that I can see connections others overlook. Creativity is a gift we undernourish in others. It has made me an endangered species.
I know when someone wants you out, you can't win.
There is something crucial about complete and total failure. Almost all of us have no idea what rock bottom feels like. (In many ways I still don't.) If you haven't felt rock bottom, that is amazing. It's not a fun place to be. You've got nothing, no one, and no where.
I lived it in ministry. I've felt complete and total crushing defeat.
It gave me context.
Now I know there are situations where you are destined to fail. In moments like that, one is defined by what they do leading up to that failure. It is always better to do the right thing, because even in personal destruction, the seed of justice can be planted for the future to reap their rewards.
I also learned when others are out to destroy you there are aspects of your life they have no power over. You sell your integrity. You forfeit your freewill. These are things that can only be handed over if you choose to hand them over. Yes, there will always be consequences for not giving in, but giving into those consequences will always be far more destructive in the long run if you submit.
The biggest gift of rock bottom is I know it. I've felt it. I'm not as scared of it as I was before I felt it's pain. In the biggest picture there is, that's what truly makes me the most dangerous.
All the pieces together means I've been put in the right place at the right time.
I'm an online minister. I have been for 8 years now. That really came in handy 5 months ago when all ministers had to be online.
I live in Paulding County, Georgia (Yes, that Paulding County) and I have for, once again, eight years now. Part of that eight years was used to research the county to prepare for a church plant. I understand this county better than many of her residents. There are two counties living here. Old blood. Cobb flight. Two very different groups of people, who act rather oblivious of one another. I feel it in my gut. There's a reason I'm here.
I know how to build, self-motivate, create and explore.
If the right side gets a hold of me.
We could change the world.