Another Top 10: At the 4-Month Mark

It’s that time again… a time for a funny/embarrassing/surprisingly touching (maybe?) list of things that have happened to me in the first FOUR months of ministry! (Can you believe it’s been that long? Me either.)

10. I don’t know if you know this, but (surprise!) there was a presidential election that happened yesterday.  In conjunction with this historic event, I got to plan and help lead an election night communion service! Three observations: It was the bomb, I got to write a Great Thanksgiving, and I didn’t accidentally confess my political leanings!

9. After the election night communion, I went to dinner with a friend, went home, put on my PJ’s, and finally settled in to watch the results roll in… and then I realized that I forgot the leftover bread from communion.  I tweeted this:

And then this:

(follow me on twitter! @erinjbeall)

8. Our worship minister showed me all the secrets of worship planning this week: where the skeleton key to the altar cloth closet lives, the secret kitchen filled with secret frozen Hawaiian bread and secret grape juice, and how to turn on/navigate the sound system.  She said gravely, “So if I die, all this belongs to you.” I felt a little like Simba from The Lion King.

7. I was the liturgist at our All Hallow’s Eve service, one of the most meaningful services I’ve ever been to, despite the fact that our incense-smoker-thing (that’s the official term) didn’t make much smoke.  The smell was still pretty solid!

6. I finally got my heat turned on at my little house– which by the way my friend Lindsey says look like Miss Honey’s house from Matilda (**This post is brought to you by nostalgic movies from your childhood**)–  But not before I woke up one morning to the kitty delicately placing her very cold paw-pads on my neck, presumably to warm them up.  Also possibly to threaten death if I didn’t get the house warmed up.

5. I’m speaking at an event in Florida this weekend and I’m using my comedy background to relate improv to ministry.  I’m SO excited! Want to help me out with this? Comment and let me know one (or more!) of the following things:
a. A time when you’ve tried to get the congregation/staff to do something they really didn’t want to do.
b. A time when your congregation/staff tried to get you to do something you really didn’t want to do.
c. The funniest moment you’ve had in ministry.

4. I had to use some bleach cleaner in my house the other day, and all day afterward I kept catching whiffs of the bleach smell on my skin, and I actually got emotional because it smelled just like my old days at Duke when I’d go swimming in the morning and then smell the chlorine on my skin all day.  As a result of this teary, ridiculous nostalgia, I’ve decided to join the YMCA or YWCA regardless of money, ASAP.  I just want chemically-smelling skin, you guys.  Isn’t that worth like $40/mo?

3. I think I’ve been successful at weaning myself to a lower level of caffeine intake. I’m down from 4-7 cups per day to 1-3.  Go me!  Former presidential candidate Mitt Romney would be so impressed. I assume.

2. I’m still happily wearing my collar to work every day.  It is legitimately one of the great joys of this job for me!  I don’t often feel like a pastor, but when I put the shirt and collar on every day, I really do.  Also, it makes me feel freer to be myself, because I don’t always have to be asserting my authority or trying to make sure that people know I’m not just an intern, but a pastor.  The collar does all that (prideful, unnecessary) work for me.  It leaves me free to be whatever God is calling me to be at that moment, but I’ve always still got this little sign on saying, “Hey, if you need Jesus right now, I know the way.”

1. That being said, one of the other great joys of this job is taking the collar off at night.  And I’m still not sure how to navigate the line between the job and the down-time, the ministry and my faith (is there even a line there? I’m open to suggestions).  But I’ll tell ya… taking that collar off and putting on a nice, free-necked t-shirt or sweater is pretty swell.

Some Truths for Election Day and All Days

1. Jesus meant what He said, and He did not exaggerate.

When He said to the rich young man, “Sell all you have and give the money to the poor,” He really meant all, not just some, and He meant right now.

When He said to visit the imprisoned, care for the sick, feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, and give clothes to those who have no clothes, He didn’t mean sometimes.  He didn’t mean “when you get convicted and/or a ‘calling’ to do so.”  And He DEFINITELY didn’t mean, “but only those who seem like they’re picking themselves up by the bootstraps, like they really deserve help.”  No, He meant everyone, at all times, in all places.  No way around it, kiddos.

When He send, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar,” He meant that.  Do your citizenly duty: vote, pay your taxes, don’t evade the law, respect government officials, even if you didn’t vote for them.  But He also meant it when He added, “and give to God what belongs to God.”  Do your duty as a citizen of the Kingdom of God: pray, tithe, don’t evade God’s commands, respect God’s will and Word, even if they’re not what you would have chosen.

2. Neither Mitt Romney nor Barack Obama is the Anti-Christ.

#thingsthatshouldn’thavetobestated

3. Neither Mitt Romney nor Barack Obama will save our country, our economy, or our souls.

#morethingsthatshouldn’thavetobestated

4. America’s issues are not unique to America.

Read the prophets.  There have always been poor people, uneducated people, corrupt leaders, sick people who can’t get healthcare, agitators, foreign enemies, taxes, crime, you name it.

Jesus said, “The poor will always be with you” (Mk 14.7).

These might be the end times.  They also might not.  Who cares?  God’s got it covered.  The message doesn’t change either way: Live faithfully.  Live like you’re dying, because you are.  Live like you will live forever, because you will.  This is the great paradox and the great freedom of Christianity.

5. There is danger afoot.

These are troubled times.

The mainline church is dying.  No way around it: As another pastor reminded me last week, it is dying, and it is dying more quickly than we ever imagined.  It will soon be dead, and that is just a fact.

But we as Christians know that death is not the end.  From the tomb rises something– Someone– all the more resplendent.  So we do not fear death.  When the mainline Church takes her last breath, Jesus will bear up the faithful remnant on eagles’ wings, and the body of Christ will emerge stronger than before– having been tried and purged by fire, refined like gold, she will no longer be bloated with those who are Christian only in name.  She will be made up of only the faithful few.  She will be all the more resplendent in her holiness.

Can we believe the same thing about America?  I don’t know that America is dying, but I know that there is danger afoot.  Neither candidate will save us.  Only God will.

6. I don’t know if America is dying, but we are.

I guarantee that there are poor people within half a mile of you, probably less, wherever you are sitting reading this right now, who are dying.

There are people dying because they can’t afford healthcare.  There are children dying because their single mothers can’t afford food or HIV medication.  There are sick people dying alone in hospitals because their partners aren’t recognized as spouses.  There are people who do not seek treatment for psychiatric and medical issues for fear that it will later be considered a preexisting condition.  They are people who might or might not be trying to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, whatever that means.  They are dying people, and Jesus called us to help them in whatever way(s) we can.

And then there are the people who are dying of the impulse to commit suicide, of loneliness, of faithlessness, of helplessness, of depression, of fearfulness, of hopelessness, of guilt and shame, of emptiness.  Spoiler alert: these people might be rich, and white, and Democrats.  These people might be unable or unwilling to ask for help.  These people might sit beside you in church every Sunday.  They are dying people nonetheless, and Jesus called us to help them in whatever way(s) we can.

I’m bringing it back around to point #1: Jesus did not exaggerate.  He meant what He said.  When you see someone in need, see the face of Jesus.  What would you do for Jesus?  Do it for that person.  Whether they are black or white or Hispanic or smiling or yelling or ugly or handsome or drunk or dangerous or in jail or in a high-rise or a family man or a single mother or a child or an elderly person.  Whether they can suffer the shame of asking for help or not.  Whether they are a Republican or a Democrat.  Whether they are rich or poor.  Everyone is suffering.  We are all dying.  And we are all invited to eternal life in Christ.

Do what you can.  Vote, yes, and then go to the prison.  Call people and campaign for the candidate whose values you believe most line up with those of the Kingdom of God, yes, and then call an elderly widow in your church.  Pray fervently for the election and write letters to your senators and give $10 to the Red Cross, yes, and then pack your backseat full of gift bags that contain protein bars and dried fruit and walmart gift cards to give out to homeless people you see on the street.

Do what you can.

…And by the way, you also have to apply that whole “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” thing here as well as on the soccer field.