-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.