Easter. It’s the one Sunday a year when the church universal stands together and stares at the same thing. We’re an odd reunion, with our robes and fog machines, our liturgies and freestyles, our suits and jeans, our choirs and bands, our buildings and living rooms, our gatherings and sendings, our rural and urban, our Orthodox and wayward, our old and young. For all that divides us, resurrection forces us together, out on the front lawn, holding Dixie Cups, and catching up with family. And family doesn’t mean sameness, but it does mean oneness. We are adopted, all of us, and adoption is hard. Space in the home diminishes, rooms must be shared, meals have to go around, and unity will be learned, not inherited. We were brought into this family. And though we do our thing in separate buildings in separate towns and often in separate ways, the Easter reunion takes all of that away. If only for a moment in time, we all sit together at the same table, a moment of joy for the Father who prayed that it would always be this way. We come to the banquet Jesus has thrown, and at his banquet we eat and dance with strangers, and strangers become family.

[Thoughts on Easter Sunday, 2014] 

If you serve on a church staff you already know that Sundays can be a blur of information. All sorts of things come your way that you may or may not remember in detail the following morning. The problem with this is obvious: those things will need your attention in the coming week, and if you can’t really recall everything, then the appropriate follow up can’t happen. Simple enough. 

As leaders, we are supposed to keep our eyes on the moving parts of our ministry areas, looking for things that need attention, as well as, the wins that need celebrating. It’s not just the follow up that needs to take place with the volunteer who showed up late (again) or not at all (again), or that the bulletins ran out or that the mic didn’t work or that one of the coffee pots broke. It’s also the volunteer who went above and beyond her role who will need recognition, enough that says to her, “I saw what you did, and it made a big difference.”  

All of these things (and much more) happen in front of us every Sunday morning, and it’s hard to remember them. 

Here’s a tip. 

Carry a small journal with you every Sunday, and use it to capture all the areas of follow-up that you’ll need to attend to in the coming week. 

When you notice a volunteer performing well, or even above her role, write it down.

When you notice that same volunteer showing up late again, write it down. 

When you notice a host team member walking a new person to a seat in a full room, write it down. 

When you notice that the bulletins ran out (again), write it down. 

And so on. 

Your Monday morning routine just shifted. 

My son, my dad, and I were in Athens last night for yet again another Tedeschi Trucks Band show. It was our second this year, with a third one in September on the way. My personal policy is to take only one picture of the show, and it’s when the band first takes the stage. After that the phone goes away. This is that picture. 
One highlight from the evening: When the band covered The Sky Is Crying, by Elmore James (recorded in 1959), the guitar tech brought out a gold-ish Les Paul and handed it to Derek. He normally stays put with his SG, and I had not seen this one before. As the tech took away the guitar after the song, Susan made mention that it was Duane Allman’s old guitar, and that it “was so cool to play it on a song that Duane loved so much.” As an Allman Brothers fan through and through, that was one of the coolest things I’ve seen in the countless shows I’ve been to. Too young to have ever seen Duane play (he died in 1971), to see and hear his guitar was something I won’t forget. 
The Sky Is Crying, Tedeschi Trucks Band at Royal Albert Hall 2013 
The Sky Is Crying, Elmore James 

My son, my dad, and I were in Athens last night for yet again another Tedeschi Trucks Band show. It was our second this year, with a third one in September on the way. My personal policy is to take only one picture of the show, and it’s when the band first takes the stage. After that the phone goes away. This is that picture. 

One highlight from the evening: When the band covered The Sky Is Crying, by Elmore James (recorded in 1959), the guitar tech brought out a gold-ish Les Paul and handed it to Derek. He normally stays put with his SG, and I had not seen this one before. As the tech took away the guitar after the song, Susan made mention that it was Duane Allman’s old guitar, and that it “was so cool to play it on a song that Duane loved so much.” As an Allman Brothers fan through and through, that was one of the coolest things I’ve seen in the countless shows I’ve been to. Too young to have ever seen Duane play (he died in 1971), to see and hear his guitar was something I won’t forget. 

The Sky Is Crying, Tedeschi Trucks Band at Royal Albert Hall 2013 

The Sky Is Crying, Elmore James 

“We are all of us Pilate in our asking after truth, and when we come to church to ask it, the preacher would do well to answer us also with silence because the truth and the Gospel are one, and before the Gospel is a word, it too like truth is silence - not an ordinary silence, silence as nothing to hear, but silence that makes itself heard if you listen to it the way Pilate listens to the silence of the man with the split lip.”

When Jesus arrived at Lazarus’ funeral, it was a done deal. Lazarus was officially dead. It had been four days. Three was within the window of hope, but four closed the door for good. There was no going back. Mourning takes on a different shape at this point. Reflection replaces shock, and sadness settles in for a while. Tears are born deep. No longer surface tears that come from fear and trauma, but ones with roots in a profound sense of confusion and anger. They come from much thought. They are earned. The ordered steps of Jesus’ mourning are such: he was deeply moved, greatly troubled, and found crying. (v.33-34) But why? He would raise Lazarus from the dead soon enough. His friend would live again. So why the tears? Perhaps in this story we find the one of the central clues to the answer of what it means to be both fully divine and fully human. The incarnation is hard enough to understand, much less the “of the same substance” debates of the early church. The mountains of scholarship on this area of theology don’t really help much either. But this story does. Jesus raised a man from the dead, something divine. Jesus cried at the funeral of a friend, something very human.

[Thoughts on John 11:33-36, 5th Sunday of Lent] 

Micki and I will hit 19 years of marriage this May. Before that, we dated for three years. During our second year of dating I started working in the church. So that’s 2 years a pastor’s girlfriend, and 19 years a pastor’s wife. What has that been like for her? What is it like? I don’t know. I mean, I sort of know because we share a home and a family and a church together. But I’m still removed because I’m not her. Simple enough. So I decided to sit down and talk with her about what it’s like to be married to a pastor, and to hear from her on some of the lessons she’s learned through the years. This weekend I’ll start posting these conversations.