We recently celebrated Christmas. Although COVID has brought differences to how we gather and celebrate, some traditions remain - namely watching certain Christmas specials like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. As a child, that special was formative to me. From it I learned that the things about us that are weird or different, those things which make us misfits are quite likely to be just the thing the world needs. Misfits often have a special talent or ability that others lack that can save the day. I also learned there is a special place for the misfit toys, and that Santa would find the perfect and special home for them. From that, I extrapolated that God loved misfits, created them for a special reason, gave them a place to call home, and connected them with their special purpose, To me, the Island of the Misfit Toys was manifest in the real world as the church.
Or it should be, anyway. Unfortunately, sometimes the church casts out the misfits, leaving them to find their own Island For Misfits. In this new year, that's what I'm seeking to do: create a safe space for misfits to explore and discover the love God has for them. Especially for them.
I've always believed that God loves ALL the people and that church was a place for ALL the people. Life tries to say that church is for those who have their "stuff" together and live a Godly life. Can't it be both? Is that not the message of redemption? We are ridiculously loved and valued by God! ALL of us - just as we are. My mission in this next year is to make sure people know how much God loves them. Especially those who:
Have outgrown their childhood faith
Do you feel that faith is for children? Do you feel like the God you learned about as a kid can't address the needs you have as an adult? I want to work with you.
Feel like God doesn't love them/people like them
We do a great job of telling people that are different than some perceived "norm" that they are broken and don't belong and are unloved & unloveable by God. Have you been told that you are not whole? That you are not 'allowed' be who you are? That you are less-than? Don't believe everything you hear. I want to work with you.
Have been hurt by the church
Sometimes people are rotten. Unfortunately, we are all a little broken and often react from our own brokenness in ways that hurt and harm others. The church is made up of people and therefore will embody the quirks and faults of humans. Don't confuse God and God's love with the people who represent God and God's love. We can't do it properly. People always will disappoint. If you've been there, I want to work with you.
Feel like faith and science can't get along
Sometimes we compartmentalize faith because we don't see how it reconciles with other parts of our lives. I often have middle school students approach me when they start learning about biology and evolution. They come to me thinking they they have to make a choice between the two. At such times, I talk about the plant explosion that happened in our town years ago that lives in our village identity and story. I remind them about that explosion and invite them to think about a poet and a physicist both witnessing the event and writing about how they each experienced and understood it. Would their accounts be the same? No. Does that mean that one of them is wrong? No. The same event can be described through differing experiences.
Recently, we had the experience of witnessing Jupiter and Saturn passing 'closely' in our evening sky. As a biologist, I understand how the planets rotate and I understand perspective in viewing orbits. As a woman of faith I understand that God showed up to us in a powerful way when we really needed it. One does not exclude the other; actually science and faith complement each other to give us a broader understanding of how our world works and our place in it. Many have never been given permission to view faith and life in this way. I want to work with you.
Whatever you have been carrying around that keeps you from knowing and experiencing - DAILY - the depth of God's love, I want to help you lay it down and leave it behind. Let's move into this new year with joy and purpose.
Your Partner In Spiritual Health,
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Hi, my name is Melissa Ebken, and I'm so glad you found your way here.
I am at home in the difficult spaces of peoples’ lives, willing to listen and to support those who work to grow themselves. I am a trained coach and have consulted with churches in conflict. Not your stereotypical minister, I embrace the Gospel with joy and laughter as I seek to help those around me grow in faith and understanding, always striving to leave people better than they came. An agent of wholeness, I create a safe space for people, especially those who have been marginalized, where they can understand how ridiculously loved and valued they are by God/Higher Power/Spirit, and to experience the difference that makes in life.
I started the Pursuing Uncomfortable Podcast to share the stories of people who have faced life's most difficult challenges, to inspire you to lean into and overcome your own. It's helpful to know that you're not alone in your struggles and to see how others have navigated similar circumstances. You can listen to it here.
Here's what I can do for and with you.