Things I Learned from Les Miserables

Top 6 things I gleaned (from a theological/pastoral care perspective) from Les Miserables:

ALL THE SPOILER ALERTS. Also, you should know that I had 0.00 concept of the plot of this movie/play/book before I saw it in theaters with my mother last week. I knew two things: 1. Anne Hathaway plays a prostitute (this turned out to be not necessarily the truest fact in the world, in my humble little opinion) and 2. It’s set after the French Revolution.  So I went in with about zero in knowledge RE: the plot, characters, music, or ending.

6. There’s a lot to be learned about being a pastor from the Bishop. If someone stole from, desecrated, or otherwise negatively affected your church (or the institution as a whole….), would you offer them yet more? Our M.O. lately suggests not, organized mainline religion. Just saying.

…That being said, don’t ever say to anyone, “I have saved your soul for God.” Did you do the saving, Bish, or did God? GET IT TOGETHER.

5. I recently read an article on how the average person hates Anne Hathaway’s guts. I loved her unconditionally from the moment she did the robot in The Princess Diaries, but I will admit to being frustrated with her lately.  Too much nudity, girlfriend. Cover those things up (insert other things a grandmother would say). But anyone who could watch the raw emotion and unabashed passion of her “I Dreamed a Dream” and the song she sang before she died…… There’s nothing about pastoral care or theology in this one. Just stop hating on her. Because that performance was pure truth and beauty. (Also, pixie cuts unite!)

4. I was so terribly disappointed with the death of Javert. That was the only thing about the movie that I didn’t like. He had terribly flawed theology, but then so do most (yes, I said most) Americans today. Is there no redemption for those who can’t grasp the full concept of redemption? No grace for those who misunderstand grace…?

Could we as clergy do more for the spiritual and mental health of those wounded by fallacious theology? The rehabilitative power in the United Methodist’s doctrine of grace has saved more than one life I know of…

3. Jean Valjean– why have I never known this character?  What a vision of a saint. And also, how did they make Hugh Jackman look SO BAD? In SO many different ways?!

2. Anybody else think young Cosette’s song about her “Castle on a Cloud” was a beautiful vision of the already-but-not-yet Kingdom?

How could we make little girls’ dreams like that one come true? When was the last time you told that (those) lonely or sad person (people) in your life that you love them very much?

1. Speaking of that, the best line in the whole thing is clearly: “To love another person is to see the face of God.” Truth. Gospel truth.

It’s so easy to see ministry as a job.  It’s hard to not think of it in terms of conventional scheduling– i.e, when you think about doing hospital visitations, you hate it but you start thinking, “Alright, 4 people in 3 different hospitals. If I can get Ms. So-and-So to not be so chatty, I can be in and out in 15 minutes each…….”

But I don’t think that Jesus went to Lazarus’ tomb with the thought, “Ughhhhhh how long is this going to take?”

Nope.

He wept, out of love.

Lessonsssssssssssssssss.

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.