Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Wait



Tonight I laid on the couch and did nothing. Nearly 4 hours. Just laid there. No TV. I had the Indians radio broadcast on, but was barely hearing it. I just laid there.

This came on the heels of the Labor Day Monday from hell. I had just wrapped up the paternity leave time and I am chomping at the bit to dig back in with C3. And I have a freaking holiday. Don't get me wrong. Days off are nice. Days off with three kids, one of whom is in the completely dependent for everything phase, while also being in contract for a new place and trying to sell our current place? They are less nice.

I put the labor into Labor day. Packing boxes, sorting stuff, getting a yard sale ready for the weekend. Hustle and bustle. Meanwhile the kids were losing their ever-loving minds. Chaia is obsessed with screens. We have very limited TV and tablet times, but she thirsts for it like water. "Go play outside." "I don't want to. I want screens." She eventually gets some screen time and her go to right now? Pulling up youtube clips. Of what you might ask? Kids. Playing. Outside. Naturally. Why go enjoy a beautiful September Ohio day, when you can let someone else enjoy it for you?

Marquis is in the "I-understand-the-difference-between-right-and-wrong-and-know-the-expectations-of-me-to-do-right-but-still-choose-to-jack-the-whole-thing-up-and-purposefully-and-defiantly-choose-wrong" phase. It's one of my favorites. It is on full display with potty training. The dude is potty trained. He gets it. But he won't tell you if he has to go. "You need to go potty?" "No." "Why don't we try going potty?" "No." "Bud, there is urine coming out your eyes and ears, lets go potty." "No." Take him to the potty? Pees for days. He's still up there peeing from when I took him up there yesterday afternoon. Like a fountain.

Then there is Sloane. She's great. Two weeks old. Sleeps most of the day and and is awake most the night. That's fine if you don't have the aforementioned Watch Kids Play kid and Urine Fountain kid sleeping at night and up all day.

And then my wife. Seriously the best human in the world. Underslept. Over-depended on. Every couple of hours, basically putting a rabid dog to her boob to feast...consistently wondering if any part of her body is ever going to work again the way it did before the pregnancy.

And there I am...packing up a house...virtually by myself. I'm not pitying myself. I'm in uber-nesting-hero mode. There are tasks to be accomplished. I shall accomplish them. And after I walked past the couch where Shaina and the nocturnal spawn are sitting for about the 15th time, with boxes or tape or labels or whatever it was, my wife said the words that I needed to hear.

"Why don't you just hold your daughter?"

Damn.

Confession time. Productivity is like a drug to me. I operate off of a Get Stuff Done grid. And sitting with Sloane, taking in her little features, learning her cries and expressions and likes and dislikes? Especially during moving month? And back to work month? And big stretch for C3 month? That is the opposite of productivity. That is inactivity. It doesn't move the needle. It doesn't take the ball down the field. These are the 'virtues' I'm known for. These are the traits that people celebrate in my profession.

But the words Shaina said, the timing of which she said them, and the way she said them, not manipulatively but innocently, cut straight to the heart.

Activity is not synonymous with Productivity. In fact in the things that matter most, (Jesus said these things were "Loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and loving your neighbor as yourself.") activity is at times the antithesis and adversary of productivity.

We just finished a series at church called WAIT. It is one of the Bible's most important words and I was absolutely broadsided by it.

I can't love God and I can't love and be loved by others if my pace is frantic, helter skelter. I have to have margin to be. To spend time with God. To richly connect with others. Yesterday, I got the older two kids to go out and play basketball with me. We laughed and giggled and chased and tickled. There was no defiance or disobedience...just enjoyment and thrill. There was no youtube clips or video games. Nothing virtual...All reality.

And today I had my monthly haircut. I just recently made the move from the 7 minute slightly better than a bowl cut hair cut at a $10 haircut chain place to a traditional barber shop. For haircut, beard trim and neck shave (with a hot towel, please and thank you!) it is an hour experience. The dude Dave who was my barber today? As we talked and were just occupying the same space, he opened up about 3 miscarriages in the last year, about the last one nearly killing his wife, and how he is on the fence about the whole faith thing because it feels like God has abandoned him. I was able to share a bit about how I have experienced God's presence in the midst of intense suffering. It was a sweet time. I was his last cut of the day and he let it go for an hour and a half because it was good conversation.

My inactivity sometimes puts HIS productivity on full display.

He can do more in my waiting than in my doing I can do.

And the same is true for you. What would happen if one hour a day...one day a week, you replaced hustle and hurry with intentional delay and delight? What if you chose to linger in a conversation/relationship knowing full well you were sacrificing your to-do list? Don't hear what I'm not saying. I'm not saying neglect responsibility. I'm not saying be lazy and disengaged. I'm not saying netflix binge some waste of space series (you may as well watch kids playing on youtube). I'm saying rest. Rest in the liberating truth that apart from Him I can do nothing. Rest in the grace and productivity that inactivity affords us. It doesn't need done. It already has been. Pace. Space. Cadence. Rhythm.

I laid on the couch tonight with a little two week old snuggled securely into my chest. We listened to the Indians (14 in a row!) and gave mommy some space to rest and recover...one part body mind and soul...the other part food processing factory. Sloane's breathing was in sync with mine, we both phased in and out of snoozing. Nearly 4 hours.

It's the most productive thing I've done in weeks.

Where do you need to wait?

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

A Letter to My New Daughter

Little Lady,

I wanted you to know I am thrilled that you are here.

Your mom and I want you to know that names are really, really important to us. Just ask your sister, Chaia or your brother, Marquis.

So we named you Sloane Promise Thompson.

One of the first times your mama preached, she helped me to reclaim the Hebrew word Ezer that is often translated as helper or helpmate and is used to describe what Eve was for Adam. Your mama pointed out that most every other time that Ezer is used in the Old Testament, it is referring to God and it is in the context of battle. It doesn't refer to the one who ties up loose ends for the husband or exists solely to serve, support and sustain her husband. Eve was designed and crafted to be a warrior alongside Adam. To fight alongside and go after this life with purpose and focus and grit and fierceness.

That sermon changed my life in a really good way and it helped me see what your mama has always been with me. Not someone who is along for the ride, but is meant to go with me in tenacity and resolve, in good times and in bad. When I lost my mom and dad and really lost my drive and passion to live, your mama fought for me. When your sister was fighting for her life, your mama fought with me to see her become a life of joy.

Sloane, your name means warrior. We pray that you embody this name and that there is a relentlessness in you that is this great mixture of resilience, conviction and beauty.

But we do not want you to fight for just anything. Your middle name is Promise. There are so many promises that God has spoken to His people. He will not leave us or forsake us. He is making all things new. He has reconciled us to him and wants us to be reconciled one to each other. He wants to revive all things, redeem all things and restore all things. We want you to fight for that. We want you to fight for justice and peace and grace and hope. These are the promises that Jesus points us to.

Sloane you are a gift sweet girl. Our family is better with you in it. And when we look at you and recall your name, I pray that we recall our own invitation to fight for hope to join God in restoring this world and bringing love and joy back to the song we sing as a world.

That, my love, is worth fighting for.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Charlottesville Reflections

My social media feeds are filled with public outcry denouncing white supremacy and the haunting images of torch wielding marches in Virginia.



It should be.

But let's be honest, our social media solidarity does little to nothing. Me protesting the protesting of something like this doesn't end racism. It doesn't solve anything.

Now, changing the way we live? That changes the story. Protest with your life. The way you live.

The reality of this is its costly and most of us white folks are naive, oblivious, or worse, indifferent to what so many people in our country have endured and are currently enduring.

Here's 10 things we could do do if we want our life to reflect our posts and tweets (by no means exhaustive).

1. Have a coworker or neighbor or friend or classmate of color over to your house for dinner and ask them to tell you their story and how all that is happening in Virginia and with police shootings is impacting them. How do they feel? What are their fears?

2. Eat and shop at black owned locations. A friend of mine recently sent this list of 21 black owned restaurants in Columbus. Shaina and I have made it a bucket list item to visit all of them. Some are in parts of town we go to all the time. Others are in places we have made conscious or unconscious notes to not go to because they are in "the bad part of town". Regardless, we are going to each.

3. Be discipled by African-Americans. I read a lot but found that most of the authors I was reading were white men. I just recently felt the conviction that I am not being taught, empowered, educated or discipled by African-Americans or women. So I've changed that. Jo Saxton and John Perkins and Howard Thurman are three voices I've just begun to let influence me. There are many more places you could start. The important thing is that you start somewhere.

4. Engage the Foster Care System. African-Americans make up roughly 13 percent of the population and yet somehow make up 25% of the children in the foster care system. Disproportionality is a thing. And there are a ton of kids in need of safe and stable homes either for a brief time or for a long period of time. The county I live in has issued an announcement that they need 200 homes immediately for placements because of the influx in kids in the system. Kids who cycle through the foster system end up with increased likelihood of teen pregnancy, high school drop out and incarceration. The system is unstable because the people who have stability and safety in their homes are locking these kids out. It's one of the clearest things in scripture and simultaneously one of the largest areas of neglect in the church. A primary goal of providing stability and support to these foster kids is that hopefully, reunification can happen with increased stability and safety being provided by the parents. This doesn't happen all the time, but it doesn't mean it isn't worth fighting for. The main thing is show up. Show up in the lives of kids, regardless of race and say that regardless of baggage, regardless of race, regardless of everything, every kid deserves a shot at being loved and valued and finding safety and stability in their life.

5. Move. If you are like me and you have had any inkling of an awakening to the effect that economic segregation has on systemic racism, then you can't really use or leverage your voice until you relocate. Some friends of mine who are heroes in this went to a neighborhood where they were clearly the minority and went in dreaming of a 20 year plan of incarnating the good news and seek revitalization and the prosperity of that neighborhood alongside their neighbors. It's messy and you can't do it with stars in your eyes, but it feels right.

6. Repent. There is a Wendys about two miles away from our house and a Wendys about 1.5 miles away from our house. We go to the one that is further away because it is on the right side of the tracks. We do this without giving it a second thought. The church that Shaina and I started nearly 5 years go is largely homogenous. We are white. We don't represent the city we live in. We don't represent the school we gather in. My staff is white. The people who most often grace the stage of the church...the worship teams...the communicators...white. I have to at least consider that the decisions I make or don't make are not pure. One of the more powerful things I've experienced in recent months was when our church combined with 4 other churches in town for a Good Friday gathering. It was the most diverse expression of worship I have experienced and during that time a white pastor and an African-American pastor, both of whom I love and respect a ton took turns confessing their sins to each other with the church as a witness. It was holy ground and if I'm honest, I need the courage to own that racism and white privilege that fester in me both knowingly and unknowingly. We need to name the cyclical hell that we have put people of color through in this country. And we need to grieve it. I have no idea what it is like to have distrust in the police force because of things that have happened for centuries in regards to those who exist to protect. I don't know what its like to feel the need to be protected from the ones enlisted to protect. I don't know what its like to be deemed 3/5ths of a person. I can say I protest much of what has happened. But the only way this issue changes is if I protest with my life and my actions.

7. Hire the Unhirables. I love the spirit of Hot Chicken Takeover in my city. They make great chicken and hire people who are often deemed unhirable. Their website says: "It’s about our people. Beyond an amazing community of customers, HCT provides supportive jobs to men and women who need a fair chance at work. Be it homelessness, previous incarceration, or another barrier to employment, HCT employees are wildly ambitious and have set their sights on what’s next. Once hired, we support their financial stability, personal growth, and professional development with an array of benefits." Having this approach in our businesses can drastically interrupt or break the cycles of poverty, crime and incarceration. Give a man a fish and they eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and they fish for a lifetime. Fish alongside a man and you may just change the world. The latter is about relationship and partnership and mutual benefit. It tells a different narrative than the heroic haves reaching out to bestow their blessings on the have nots.

8. Acknowledge that abortion is part of the systemic racism and classism we need to address. Yes, we're stepping on all the toes today. African-American women make up about 6% of the US population and yet account for between 30 to 40% of the annual abortions. If we're going to say that Black Lives Matter, then we have to be willing to say that the disproportionality of abortion clinics in poor, often largely black communities is exploitative and unjust. I don't care where you land on the the abortion issue. You can't escape that there is something wrong with this picture.

9. Identify, support and vote capable, competent African-Americans into political offices. There have been 10 black senators out of nearly 2000 senators in our history as a country. Ten. And a few of those weren't even elected. They were appointed. It's hard to say that racism isn't a thing when the white people with all the money get elected to all the positions of power and influence and continue to make the rules that govern the land. Hard to hear the voice of a group of people if the elite white guy has control of the mic.

10. Laugh together. I know a lot of these are heavy, complicated, costly journeys to go down. Most things worth doing are costly. Most things that are right are costly. But if nothing else, find common ground where you can be silly together. It's really hard to carry a torch against someone you laugh with and genuinely enjoy.

Probably not realistic to do all of these, but what if we all picked one and let our life be a protest to the bigotry and intolerance that we've seen on shocking display?!

Live your life as a protest. If we can't lean into these things, then we'd probably be best served to shut up. The African-American community deserves better than lip service and us continuing to control the mic.

Hope this is a platform to jump off from. Which one are you feeling called to try this week?