Practice Resurrection with Micah Thompson (Hinesburg, VT)

Welcome to the first guest post in a new-and-improved version of the the Practice Resurrection series!

I’ve invited several friends and acquaintances to share a snapshot of their lives during the weeks of Eastertide (between now and Pentecost Sunday, June 9th). As in other series of guest posts, I pray about who to invite and for this series I was contemplating the ways these women and men consistently invite us through their social media presence to regularly consider restoration, beauty, and goodness even, and maybe especially, in the face of difficulty. I invited these friends to share snapshots from a day or week in their lives inspired by Wendell Berry’s  poem. To help us all get a bit more familiar with the masterpiece, I asked each contributor to include a simple recording of themselves reading the poem out loud to us.

Today’s guest and his family represent resurrection in the very fact that they’ve welcomed Brian and me into friendship. There’s a bunch of reasons that they could have chosen otherwise, but that’s a longer story for another day. Knowing Micah, Jen and their children has deepened my understanding of audacious hope, hospitality, and faith in the midst of God’s mysterious economy. I’m delighted to introduce you to Micah today, and hope you’ll be encouraged by his description of a God is making all things new in his family, church, and community.

Here’s our friend Micah to get us started…

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(don’t) Be afraid to know your neighbors

We’re probably the weird ones anyway.

We lived in one house in CT for about twelve years, and in those years, we had only a handful of conversations with our neighbors. The houses weren’t far apart, we just preferred to keep to ourselves. I think (I hope?) everyone did. When we moved to Vermont, we made an intentional decision that things needed to be different. We needed to find or build a community in which we knew and cared about each other.

We’ve had meaningful conversations and interactions with all of our neighbors circled in this photo. The houses aren’t that close.  We have hosted and been hosted over the past three years. We borrow things, observe wildlife, and give variances for town permits. Today, our chickens wandered into a neighbor’s yard, and it resulted in a delightful conversation.

The false promise is that we can be sufficient; that technology can replace interaction as a means of gathering information about our surroundings; that we can avoid uncomfortable situations by avoiding all situations.  Our family is learning, bit by bit, that being the image of God to our neighbors means being seen by them, and doing the work of being worth seeing.

(don’t) Be afraid to die

Lydia Eileen Thomspon, August 2009  Jen shared more here about Lydia’s beautiful life a couple of years ago during Holy Week. You can read the post  here .

Lydia Eileen Thomspon, August 2009

Jen shared more here about Lydia’s beautiful life a couple of years ago during Holy Week. You can read the post here.

John Calvin wrote, “For we must hold that our mind never rises seriously to desire and aspire after the future until it has learned to despise the present life.”  Many of the old writers talked about the miseries of this world as the grace of God that sets our eyes on a better world.

This picture is of our daughter Lydia, four days old, under medical support, as I prayed for her.  She would live 8 months, and change our faith and lives forever. Because of her, I live daily with a promise to hope for.

The Lord has blessed me with many joys: two additional healthy, amazing, adopted children (adoption is a remarkable and commendable practice of resurrection that’s not in this post, but please ask me about it!), a wonderful wife, and a hospitable and generous church. None hold me in this world as they “should”.  I’m not afraid to die. In fact, I’m looking forward it. I love this life, but the next one will be better. We cannot have resurrection without death. The way to resurrection is through death, and the practice of resurrection requires us to live with the reality of death. Fear avoids: Faith looks beyond.

Love the Lord.

The altar at St. Timothy, set for the Easter Season.

The altar at St. Timothy, set for the Easter Season.

It’s hard to capture what loving the Lord means for me in one photo. So much of my time, heart, effort, learning, and most of my relationships are entangled in those three little words.  From the cross of Christ, the grace of his body and blood, and life in the Holy Spirit flow purpose and promise. There are mystical, spiritual realities that surround us whether we acknowledge them or not.

The rhythms of life that attend intentional faith are the practice of resurrection.  Daily time with the Lord, weekly gatherings for prayer, study, and worship, cycles of work and rest, seasons of feasting and fasting: all proclaim to us that we are not our own. We are part of a resurrected people, and the pace of heaven supersedes the pace of Earth.

Love the world.

Our hens on a Monday.

Our hens on a Monday.

When we moved to Vermont, our house came with a flock of hens, and we finally dipped our toes into the world of animal husbandry (Chickens are about as easy as it gets.)  How surprising to discover that our town in CT would permit residents to have no more than six hens, and you can’t buy fewer than six chicks in VT!

I have come to believe that people should care for animals, especially for animals that provide food. I understand it’s not always possible. In a world of major supply chains and frankenfood ingredients and ready-made grab-and-go meals, it is corrective to go to the henhouse and gather eggs. We are connected back, even a little, to our call for creation care when we celebrate the joys and grieve the losses of our food supply. We understand the precipice we live on when we forget to close the “girls” up, and a raccoon gets in (Raccoons love chicken), or when one of the flock is gone without explanation, and the partnership of mutual feeding that animals and people experience is instantly dissolved.

It isn’t different in the food chain at large.  A rain at the wrong time, an infestation, or a bad year can suddenly bring disaster. The loss and degradation of soil from overuse practically guarantees it. Global trade, insurance, commodity markets, and subsidies make it so that we only feel the disaster in slightly higher prices.

These absurd, adorable birds remind me daily to rely on the Creator and to hear more loudly the calls for us to care for His creation - because our welfare is tied up in its welfare.

Love someone who does not deserve it.

A day at our local food bank.

A day at our local food bank.

None of us really deserve it.

As an act of outreach, I began volunteering a few months ago at our local food bank. It is run by a remarkably dedicated group of people in our town, who run several community support resources. I’m really in awe.

This photo is one I took as we prepared for the school lunch vacation program. Many students in our town rely on the school system for free breakfast and lunch, and this program provides food over school breaks.

Most times when I’m there, I walk people through the food shelf aisles, help them find what they are allowed to take, and help them load the bags into their vehicles. Many of their stories could be guessed, and they often share. Some are in need because of unemployment or underemployment. Some have medical situations. Some have substance abuse issues. The food bank is there to aid anyone who walks in the door, without assessing their worthiness.

It reminds me that ambition can poison the soul. When we only deal with people in ways that benefit us, we distort the image of God in us. Since so much of my life as a priest (and church employee) is wrapped up in the advancement of the church, it has been very healthy for me to have a space to love people in a way that cannot meaningfully advance any personal or church ambition.

Invest in the millennium.

“Don’t mess with my piles” - Me to my son, at least once a week.

“Don’t mess with my piles” - Me to my son, at least once a week.

The old saying in the North Country is that firewood warms you twice - once when you stack it, and once when you burn it. I like heat from a wood stove better than furnaces or boilers. There is something beautiful and homely about it. But, this post is about practicing resurrection and not my nostalgia.

In CT, I got my wood from a friend who had it dropped off for free by tree removal companies. They were happy for a dumping ground, because if they didn’t have one, they would need to drive a forty mile round trip through traffic to an incinerator, and pay to have it burned. What a tremendous waste of resources - diesel fuel, manpower waiting in traffic, and a useful product. To divert it from that fate and use it to keep our family warm in the winter was a way of declining high-cost convenience.

The market for firewood is different in VT - people love their wood heat here, and there is a culture of sustainable forestry. So far, in two years of wood heat, I haven’t yet purchased wood. It’s all been storm wood, dead trees, and overgrowth. I’ll probably need to buy logs this year. I will, and do what I can to keep our house warm with a renewable source, though it costs me time and effort.

As I write this, a crew is putting in the footings for a huge solar array in the yard.  I hope we’ll be here long enough for it to pay for itself (that’s about an eight year projection). It’s another way that we are doing what we can to move away from non-renewables. The grand plan is to stack my wood under the solar panels, and make use of the old and new together.

Cost and price are related, but they aren’t the same thing. When we consider the things we consume, it is worth taking into consideration the cost (to the earth and to vulnerable people especially), which may not be reflected completely in the bottom line.

Go with your love to the fields.

My wife’s very favorite of all of the fields.

My wife’s very favorite of all of the fields.

We drive by this hay field nearly every day, and maybe a hundred more like it that are visible from the road. It’s just really getting going after the snow has melted, and it will follow a very predictable pattern.  The grass will grow, get cut, raked, left to dry, and baled up. The grass will grow again and be gathered again. The hay will be brought in for the cows through the winter. Snow will cover the field until spring, and the grass will grow again. This has been the cycle on this bit of globe for probably a hundred years (The barn has a big 1931 on it).

Every part of that cycle has its own beauty.  Hay laod in rows, snow cover, long grass waving in the wind, round bales or square bales, a nice stack of bales safely put away against the cold months.  You can’t drive through here without being reminded of the beauty of creation and the slow progress of time. On no one day will you see anything change - you could lie in the field for as long as you like, and it will be gloriously monotonous.

But new life will come, and you can’t stop it. What is today won’t be next week.  The short grass will be long grass. The snow will come and go. Today’s beauty must be reveled in today or lost forever. This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it. And again tomorrow, which the Lord shall make. And the next day, which the Lord shall make - none ever the same, and each beautiful enough to warrant our awe.

Practice resurrection.

One angle of our labor of love.

One angle of our labor of love.

When we bought our farmhouse, our real estate agent told us it would be a labor of love.  Old houses are old. They have rot, rodents, weird stairs, and bad windows. We love it anyway.

The listing said the place was built in 1815, and the newspapers I found in the “new” section were from the 1890s. I had to explain to our son the other day that the bits of old machinery we found were probably not from tanks, because the house was already a century old when the first tank came into being (among a million other reasons).

My daily practice of resurrection is the restoration of this place. We are bringing her back. I have developed enough skill to rebuild what farmers once built (I’d never try a renovation on an old victorian or something with grand woodwork - I’m not up to the task!)  We built in a lovely kitchen, and I’m turning the old shop (horsebarn?) into an office. We poured a concrete floor in the basement and put in proper support columns. Eventually, we’ll level the floors and rehab the main house.

I like the character of old things. I am absolutely certain that there is nothing cookie-cutter about this place, and I love that. No doubt it would be easier, and maybe cheaper, to buy something newer - something that already is in good shape. There’s nothing wrong with doing that, and many people should, but this post is about me. It reminds me that I need to love the place that Christ has sent me. It’s not perfect. In fact, it’s often a disaster. It is worth saving - the house, the community, the town, the state, the nation, the world. The fix is not easy.  It requires custom care - and that means time, effort, and cost. I often tell people that my renovation habit is nice because I work mostly in ideas, and something concrete is refreshing.

It’s not all that different, though. The practice of resurrection means finding something or someone that is run down and weary, to understand the hope of what they could be in their unique character, and to embark on the slow, painful, challenging process of moving toward the hope of glory - because they are worth saving.

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The Rev. Micah Thompson lives in Hinesburg, VT with his wife Jen, two kids, 14 chickens, and puppy. He serves as the vicar of St. Timothy Anglican Mission in Burlington, part of the Anglican Diocese of New England. Micah and Jen both grew up in Connecticut.  They are passionate for the gospel, scripture, and discipleship, and love seeing the love of God transform men, women, and children into passionate ambassadors for Christ.

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(You can see Practice Resurrection posts from 2017 here.)