Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Join Us

M has quickly gone from foster kid, to permanent custody of the state, to on a trajectory to be adopted by the end of 2016! It's been a crazy fast, uncommon experience. But he is normalizing in our family and Lord-willing is going to become a Thompson in November and have a forever family. The little lullaby I sing him when I'm putting him to bed simply says "You are loved. You are safe. And you are home." I'm praying that will continue to sink in.

As I think about our foster son and the hard road he's been on and the hard road still to come, I start to get fired up.

520,000 children in foster care nationwide.

Over 23,000 in Ohio.

The county with the most children in foster care in my state is my county, Franklin County.

Studies suggest that 1/3 of the homeless population in the country spent time in the Foster Care system.

Not only that, but 1/4 of all those incarcerated in the country spent time in the Foster Care system.

Not only that, but the case workers who are meant to be advocates for these children from vulnerable places are quitting in droves. Annually 20% of the case workers are leaving their jobs.

Now we can gripe and complain about the system...about what it keeps producing. Sometimes, I feel like that is what the church does best. Identify a problem and then yell at it or boycott it and then get louder when the problem doesn't evaporate.

The government can not fix this. Annually, we are throwing north of 5 billion dollars toward this foster care system that is clearly not solving much. That equals out to about 40,000 per kid in the foster system.

So we can shake our fists in hopes that proper legislation gets passed or we can stop waiting God or on government and own up to the fact that God is waiting on us. We pray, "God fix the system." And I'm growing increasingly convicted that God's response is, "I'm asking you to do the same thing."

I was talking with a colleague and friend today and he said the same thing I said for a long time. "We just haven't felt God's call for us to do this." My life changed because of one line in a book. It said something along the lines of "People are waiting for a neon sign for adoption and foster parenting. The Bible is your neon sign. It says to look after orphans and widows in their distress." In other words, we need to stop waiting on God to give us the green light and instead go confidently and courageously toward the things that are close to God's heart until he gives us the neon sign to stop.

You want to change the world? Reduce homelessness? Keep people from going down a road that leads to prison?

Offer the gift of stability. You don't have to have it all figured out. You just have to have a conviction that children matter deeply to the heart of God. And if that is true then they must matter deeply to His people. Foster. Adopt.

I'm not sure I can fix the system. Many who are smarter and more strategic than me have tried and failed at that. But I think I can move the needle in my city. Maybe you can help me knock Franklin County off the top of the foster care charts. I am going to lead City Campus Church toward that end.

We should be the ones singing over the scared, the lonely, the abandoned and the unwanted: You are Loved, You are Safe, You are Home.

Because we have a God who sang it over us first.

Join us. We can laugh together, cry together, support each other. It is brutally hard. Most things of value are. We are going to have a Next Steps opportunity in October. If you're wondering what options are out there, where to begin, what's the best fit, is it something you are capable of, then I encourage you to take your next step and join us in singing a better song.

Change Starts Here.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Rest

"He refreshes my soul." Psalm 23:3

I'm a pastor. My week, according to some is sitting around reading a Bible and then coming up with something to say for 20-30 minutes on Sunday to get people to behave.

I recently went through a little exercise with our C3 Resident processing all the hats a church planter wears in the first years of the church.

It encompasses everything from

CEO, Vision caster, Vision protector, Vision champion, CFO, fundraiser, counselor, pastor, leader of leaders, lead evangelist, one who models the way with predictable patterns of Up, In and Out, host, teacher, preacher, website overseer, social media strategist, pre-marital counselor, post-marital counselor, hirer and firer, discipler, fireman (always going to be some kind of fire to put out), systems and logistics overseer, venue search team leader, liaison between church and the city, custodian, first one there, last one to leave. And all this is with people who are essentially volunteers, who could abandon ship, seek greener pastures, be relocated because of career in a heartbeat.

And the national average for success rates in church planting is about 1 in every 2, still with open doors 5 years into the process. The infant mortality rate of baby churches is significant.

It's a grind. An absolute blast...but undoubtedly a grind.

Shaina and I have been on the ground In Columbus since 2012. We've watched loved ones die, the miracle of a dead heart beating again, the family addition of a little guy who is still not convinced he can trust our love because his previous track record has had trust sabotaged every step of the way.

And I'm tired. Not in a give up and throw in the towel kind of way, but in a "this isn't sustainable to keep going this way" kind of way.

My management team (think elders) has graciously understood this weariness and the need to recalibrate and revitalize. They granted me a 6 week sabbatical. Rest. Taking my hats off and staying awhile. They gifted Shaina and I a trip to Blessings Ranch (a place that pastors pastors) and have embraced the idea that in order for me to run the race for the long haul, I have to take strategic pit stops.

So July 1-August 15 I am out. Off of social media. Off my phone. Off my email. Hats off.

It's a win-win-win. C3 gets a better version of me on the other side of this break. Shaina and I get a window to catch our breath and figure out how to be a family of four with a couple of kids from hard places. And the C3 Resident gets to lead everything for 6 weeks to get his feet wet on leading the day to day operations of a church plant.

I would appreciate your prayers. For vitality. For rest. For restoration. For vision. For the land to produce a greater harvest because it had a chance to rest.

I believe it with all my heart: Change starts here.


Sunday, June 19, 2016

More than Game 7

I was 5 or 6. Wearing my Bernie Kosar jersey (with helmet!)

We were playing the Broncos. I don't remember much of the game. I do remember that we had gotten my sisters' Barbie horses and hung them on the ceiling fan. Probably so moral question marks there, but we were going to beat the Broncos, political correctness be damned.

So we lost. In heartbreaking fashion. Again the next year. In ways that cause people to make documentaries and deem a city and sports franchises cursed.

And that was how my dad and I forged a bond. He took me to an Indians game against the Mariners in 95. We beat them and advanced to the World Series to get smashed by a ridiculous Braves team. Then in 1997, we lose the 2-1 lead in the 9th inning of game 7 of the World Series and the best team in Cleveland in my lifetime came up short. And my dad and I talked sports virtually every day on our lunch break when I worked with him in the summers. That bond translated into him showing me how to throw a curve ball, coaching my little league teams, teaching me the ins and outs of basketball, going with me at 9 in the evening to the gym to work on my shot in high school.

I remember him coming up to me before the first game of my junior year of high school basketball. He found me in the hallway right before we were going to run on the floor for warm ups. He told me, "Make this your coming out party." I was so pumped. I went out and missed my first 8 shots. We lost. NBA career was decisively put on hold at that point.

But my dad taught me sports and it was through the lens of the Browns, the Cavs and the Indians.

And 11 years ago in June, he had a massive heart attack. I spent 10 minutes performing CPR to try and keep him alive. He died.

And now I have two kiddos. And Chaia is to the age where I can start to tell her about what my dad told me about. She knows the Cavs need 4 wins to be champions and that they have 3. I let her go to Buffalo Wildwings for game 1 with me and we got slaughtered and I couldn't decide if it was a terrible or terribly perfect introduction to Cleveland sports fandom.

And we fell behind 3-1 in the series and there was this odd feeling in me (I even posted it on Facebook) that either we would have the most monumental turnaround in NBA history and have the most amazing story of curse reversal for Cleveland sports...or we would lose game 5 by 30 points. In my mind there was no other option.

And we started winning.

And now it's Father's Day, and I know it's merely a dumb sport and there are so many more important things in life than if Tristan Thompson can get a double double and defend adequately when they screen and roll him into mismatches or whether JR Smith can get it going offensively or if LeBron can continue to play at the insane level he has played at in the last 2 games.

I miss my dad. And the thought of the Cavs taking a crack at history tonight makes me excited and nostalgic and sad all at the same time. I'm invested in the game because if we win it will bring some sense of closure and satisfaction to a bond that my dad and I had that was taken away too soon. If we lose, it will give Chaia her first taste of the bitterness of Cleveland fandom.

I had my plans all laid out to go watch the game in Cleveland and then had a change of heart Saturday night. It's Father's Day and I want to be with my family. And share this thing with Chaia.

So enjoy the moment Cleveland. Savor it Ohio.

I need to go find a couple mouthguards to hang from my ceiling fan.