I'm another year older. My hair is graying (particularly my eyebrow hair) at an alarming rate. This clearly means I'm one step closer to maturity and wise sage status. So as my credentials strengthen, here's my attempt at some advice/reminders/encouragement for 2017 Ben (and maybe 2017 you?). I'm not big resolution guy. But I think some subtle changes will help.
1. Self Care is not selfish.
The only way my family can be well...The only way my church can be well...is if I'm well. I'm an introvert. I used to look down at people who went to movies on their own. Now I am a person who goes to movies on my own. I need to get lost in stories. I'm going to use every vacation day I've got. I'm going to be present for bedtime with the kids as much as possible. I'm not taking my phone in the bedroom (I shall splurge and buy an $8 alarm clock). I'm going to continue to read a good deal. I'm hitting the gym because losing your dad when he is 53 sucks and I don't want my kids to have that be their story. I'm getting away with some pastor buddies twice in 2017 and there will be deep transparency in those times. I don't have time for spin management or putting a good foot forward. I will share what sucks and celebrate what doesn't.
2. My Productivity Often Impedes His
I move the needle. It's my personality. My leadership style. This isn't arrogant. Actually far from it. Though there is great virtue in how I'm wired, there is even far greater vice. The skills and characteristics that made me plant a church are the same skills that could cause me to sabotage the thriving of that church. If I sense that I'm too busy to pray, dig into God's word, or spend time cultivating/pastoring/developing leaders, then I will repent and cancel things that are more about my effort than His. He brought order out of chaos and the 24 hour day, 7 day week, with one day of sabbath rest is exactly as He intended. If I don't believe there are enough hours in the day, I need to repent of doing more than I'm called to or believing I'm something more than what I am.
3. Give more than I Take
Generosity is the way to freedom. Every year, Shaina and I attempt to give away an additional percent of our income. This year will be 14. It's getting harder, especially with a fourth Thompson in the mix, but the less feasible it is, the more we trust God to pull it off. Maybe it's giving financially. Maybe it's saying yes to additional foster placements. Maybe it is spending time with leaders or potential leaders to help strengthen their muscles. Whatever God puts before me, as long as I can honor 1 and 2, I will give. There's always room for one more in the family...one more at the table...one more to be discipled...one more dollar to be given.
4. Thank and Encourage Rather Than Complain and Belittle
I'm generally a pretty lousy encourager. Something about having a driven, task oriented personality that causes me to overlook or devalue people in ways that do not honor Jesus. So I'm going to thank and encourage. Encouragement is oxygen to the soul. I don't want to be suffocating any more. So hand written notes, personalized thank yous, timely texts. More of that. Because people who have caught their breath are way more inclined to breathe life into others. Sure there will be setbacks, disappointments and things that feel like betrayals. I won't lose sight of the miraculous.
5. Take the Calling Seriously, Myself less so
Life has had a way of sucking the fun and joy out of it for me in recent years. Shaina has been the spontaneity to my planning, the light heartedness to my intensity, the practical joker of borderline inappropriateness to my no nonsense, business as usual. Lately because life has been hard, I've seen some of that joy and rambunctiousness fizzle in Shaina. She used to laugh so hard the entire 7 a.m. breakfast crowd in Mount Union's cafeteria would silently stare at the multi-octave combustible laughter. The silver lining through a lot of crisis is we have been able to chuckle along the way. I want to provide space for that in the coming year.
2017 feels like a hugely important year in the life of C3 and in the Thompson Family. I feel both a sense of anticipation and vulnerability. The best thing I can do is align my life to the values God has called me to so I can be ready to Build and Fight.
The verse I sense God has me circling for 2017 is Exodus 14:14...The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still.
What about you? What's your sense for 2017?