Being Jesus

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cropped-key-and-kelly-in-train-station-oct-20143.jpgAnd the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Matthew 25:40

Jesus said whatever we do for “The least of these,” we actually have done for Him. This shows me that when we reach out to the poor, the marginalized, the prisoners, and the broken, we are not being like Jesus to them; they are like Jesus to us. – Christine Caine

Have you ever given money to a homeless person? Kept a care package in your trunk to hand out on the street? How about serving food at a soup kitchen, shelter, community cafe? What about at Christmas? Made a box for Operation Christmas Child? Or Thanksgiving? Dropped food off at the pantry? Cleaned out your closets and donated? During one of our many, many natural disasters – did you send money? Bought water bottles? Served on a board for a nonprofit? Donated your time, your talent, or your treasure in any way at any time? Heck, did you go on a mission trip or build something? What about Habitat for Humanity? Ever helped with one of their projects?

….

Put a coin in the red tin can so that the guy ringing a bell outside Walmart would think you’re generous? Showing that stranger that your Heart is in The. Right. Place?

I hate to break it to you.

You were Not Jesus in those moments.

You were simply a good and giving person. Another person that made a kind gesture. Maybe a human follower of Christ’s teachings. Not to belittle the gift, as the gift is still significant. It is. But.

You gave To Jesus.

The people drinking those water bottles. Taking your money. Living in those houses you nailed together during that summer in Belize. Opening those Shoeboxes. Eating that pantry food. Using the services of that nonprofit. Holding the cardboard sign you may or may not have answered while sitting at the red light on that corner just the other day.

They were Jesus.

I have had the humbling and overwhelming opportunity to give to Jesus and to be Jesus. Giving to Jesus feels good. Being Jesus, well, that’s a bit more complicated.

Here’s the thing. In the past when I have given of myself, it’s been a source of pride. Thoughts such as – I am blessed enough to give; At least I’m better off than the current person/ disaster/ situation that I am gifting; If I have more than the person in need, then it’s time to consider sharing my bounty – these thoughts flood my consciousness and the invisible compliment in my brain about how Good I am fires off those neurons and the day, well, it just seems more hopeful. Humanity restored for the moment, and all because of some kind act that I did. See how that focus just goes right on me? A kind act I did.

But being Jesus. Well….

That’s humiliating.

Being Jesus means being vulnerable and naked. Often soul weary tired.

Being Jesus means accepting the gifts of others on their terms and in their time. It means often accepting these gifts of soul and body nourishment even when they are wrapped in awkward packages. It means waiting for help from others because on your own is no longer feasible.

It means being open to the calamity of grace.

Being Jesus is one of the hardest parts I’ve ever played in my life. And right now it’s a part I will be playing for some more time to come, and all I can think is that Jesus has put me here on purpose. To humble me. To show me thankfulness. To show me my community. And let me tell you, the amount of support and gifting and lifting up is something I will never in my life forget. It has been tear streaking and breathtaking and beautiful and I will always be forever thankful and grateful to those people God has gifted to me for my life. So yes. He did it to humble me. But maybe, just maybe, also to make me think through all those times when I’ve given gifts myself.

Recently I had the privilege to witness a child receive a gift. Have you ever seen a child receive something precious? Maybe it was your own child on Christmas morning? Maybe it was the face of one adopted? Maybe that face came through mission work or summer camp or just a glimpse of pure happiness in a child’s expression in passing? The most vulnerable and naked and soul sensitive of humanity are the faces that bring us the most hope and joy and simplicity in our ability to love. They are the children of Christ and we, in our identical moments, become those faces of Jesus for others.

Imagine if in our giving, instead of feeling proud of our generosity, we felt anticipation and joy at the opportunity to meet Christ?

And….imagine if in our receiving we could see Jesus in ourselves?

Just Imagine.

 

Why Not Me?

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Last week a student sat in the hard wooden chair to my left, brow furrowed just a bit, focused on the notes, violin under chin, playing away. Her dream is to go to college for veterinarian medicine. Fiddling is her fun hobby. Her mother said she wants to get into a really competitive school. Only certain top students get in.

A few weeks ago, my own son toured Notre Dame University, wide eyed and lovestruck with the culture the school oozes from its very own pores. Notre Dame accepts 18% of their applicants yearly. The current freshman class beat out thousands of other applicants, over 100 of which graduated high school scoring  perfect SAT’s and ACT’s.

What would change if my sweet violinist and my gifted son ask themselves – Why. Not. Me?

Somebody is at vet school. In fact there are lots of people at vet school or it wouldn’t exist. Lots of somebodies make up that 18% that Notre Dame tells YES each year. What if, instead of looking at the wall, we looked at the opportunity?

How could simply changing the dialogue change the outcome?

Where in your life should you be asking Why. Not. Me?

Amen, y’all

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Went to church this morning. Honestly, the whole family barely made it, since at 9:25 am we all of us Hatches sat about the living room, tired and in pajamas, wondering if our presence could be excused this week. 35 minutes til 10 am start time, 20 minute drive….you do the math…

But our church, Allison Creek Presbyterian, decided awhile back to join forces with Liberty Hill AME Zion Church, and it was our turn to go to them. The Hatch family’s first time experiencing a traditionally “black” church. I mean, Liberty Hill had brought some of their worship to us in the past, but this time we got to go worship with them in their sanctuary. Now I’m wondering if anybody from Liberty Hill had their first “white” church experience that day? For many reasons, in the south we still segregate when it comes to religion.  I’m curious if this is a southern thing or an all over thing?

Alas, we both tend to self segregate here.

African American churches have a reputation for being loud and emotional with a tendency to drag their services out past lunch. Hunger pangs, anyone?

White churches have the equal and opposite reputation of being stuffy, reserved, and appreciative of pastors able to summarize quickly. Stand strong and mumble through a few old hymns, right?

Now, when you throw two of our groupings together, it can be quite the experience for everybody.

We hadn’t been there five minutes when my leaky eyes started. It’s a curse all women in my family carry. Easily leaking eyes. First off, right in the front pew sat a mother from our congregation whose son died two days ago. Her daughter died not but a few months back, and this week, she lost her son. Well, seeing her not just at Liberty Hill, but sitting in the front row, made me flash back to going to church for the first time right after my momma passed, and Lordy. It’s a hard thing to sit through a service, composed and holding it together or not, after losing family. Every time I glanced in her direction my eyes leaked.

And the energy in the place. I kept sweating from the very beginning, even though the air conditioning was running. Maybe when a naturally reserved person joins in a lively worship service, the whole body chooses to jump into action. All I know is, now I get why all the regulars carried fans. We sang and praised God and stood up, speaking out, proclaiming, “Amen” with all the good and all the hard and even the funnies. By the time my pastor got to speak, we’d been carried on a wave, swaying to and fro (even some of the ACPC folks joined in) and calling out, showing our appreciation through clapping and singing. Clapped half the service, probably.

Now, just as a little background, our poor Pastor Sam had to follow their Reverend Thelma Gordon with his sermon. She’d preached at our church before, so it was his turn to preach at Liberty Hill. He’d admitted getting nervous earlier in the week, being that Pastor Gordon is known all over the whole York County for her preaching. Yet, honestly, he had no reason to worry. Liberty Hill is nothing if not gracious, and we were all just glad to be worshipping together. And when Pastor Sam preached, he delivered a fantastic sermon, one from his own voice, that spoke to all listening. It spoke of the oppressed becoming oppressors who oppressed who then became oppressors. We travelled from Scotland to Ireland to America to South Carolina to Liberia, this same theme repeating generation after generation. And how hopefully, through our love, we might be able to move past it in our community. How the pattern of sin carried our ancestors away from God and how our two communities, linked through a cruel history, could come together today in love to worship the God who loves us all. A straight arrow kind of message for the day.

Finally, after all was said and done, we fellowshipped. I love how us church people like to call chatting, “fellowshipping”. We gathered in their building and we ate together, a simple lunch of salmon sandwiches and summer tomato salad with fresh baked cakes for dessert. Delicious, made by their hands, again the gracious hosts.

Rev. Gordon told two women joining their congregation that today would be a day they won’t soon forget. We’re home now, back on the couch we left at 9:25am.  And I have to agree.

Amen, y’all.

Amen.

 

 

Soccer Mom Venting

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We’re a soccer family. As in travel soccer. Meaning Oreo cookies, juice boxes, and five minute commutes to games is a thing of the past. No participation medals here. Those ribbons that hang on the wall get earned in this house.

My thirteen year old son started playing soccer when he was five. We did the whole recreational play thing, getting up on Saturday mornings and standing on the sidelines, cheering. Snack sign ups existed back then. (Recreational soccer is feel good.) But then at the ripe old age of seven, a coach suggested Key do a developmental program. Being our first born, we took this as a sign that Key was talented; possibly on a path to scholarships; definitely worth the investment to find out. Since darling actually did want more soccer and the mental benefits to him of running that much were easily visible, we did it. Then the next year, at the prompting of his developmental trainer, we attended the club level evaluations. The coaches promised it wasn’t a big step, given we already participated in the development program. And so our whole club experience began.

At first, we were shell shocked. The jump from Oreo soccer to club soccer is a big one. Yes, it’s just three practices and two games weekly. But those practices are run by professionals, lasting around 90 minutes each, often at locations farther from home. And the two games? Those can be considered local at up to two hours from home, often with start times at 8am and 3pm. Warming up beforehand? Of course! Please be on the fields in matching gear a minimum of 30 minutes to an hour prior to start time. Immediately, the idea of an early cup of joe before a fun little match is over. Whole families are up and dragging toddler siblings around Timbuktu at 5am on a Saturday (and/or Sunday) in order to get to darling’s club game in time. Sound insane? It is.

When we first entered this new realm, it was actually worth it. In many important ways, six years later, it is still worth all this chaos. But along the way, it seems like either I am getting tired, I am gaining perspective on youth sports, the clubs are demanding more each year, or maybe it is all of the above.

The worth in all this is the phenomenal mentors and life lessons and enduring friendships both boys have received. These men (and women on the girls’ side) that coach at the club level, some fathers and some aspiring professional players, offer our boys dedication, energy, character building, training, kindness, and role models. They provide us a positive community of people to coach our boys in much, much more than soccer skills. The coaches my boys have had these past seven years are unsurpassed in their dedication. Plus the training is almost always top notch across the board. I gotta say, in this regard of recreation versus club, you get what you pay  for.  (Not to mention the geography and cultural life learning that comes from looking up the many coaches’ home countries. Seriously. We can check off several US states, plus Canada, Thailand, Uganda, Cote de Ivoire, England, Ireland, Brazil, and Argentina.) The people. The relationships. The superior training in a sport both boys love. The extended friendships for both boys and for us as parents. This is where the worth lies.

The rub comes from the commitment factor. After driving to hundreds of practices and games and giving up family events and vacations with the grands, it gets hard to keep going. Yet when the question of common sense and whether this is all needed in order to build those worthy relationships is raised, the first thing doubted is the commitment. Commitment of the child to the game. Commitment of the parent to their little player’s potential greatness. It has begun to raise in my heart the questions back – When did a nine year old committing all his free time to the game become desirable? Healthy? Reasonable? And when did a nine year old with multiple interests and a need for free play time become undesirable? Less lauded? Requiring excuse or further explanation? And then to take this whole thought process further, let’s trade out the nine year old for the thirteen year old. Why is it unacceptable to only want to play one season per year? Why is year round, meaning both spring and fall, not good enough? Why are players discouraged from taking the winter off? What is the benefit of obsession in sports? When all of our research repeats the dangers of overuse injuries and burn out and anxiety disorders from performance stress, what drives us to ignore common sense? Is it glory? Is it the scholarship? And is that really the reason 98% of them are going to college? For the game?  Can we not develop reasonably trained players, friendships and a sense of commitment to team, without absolute obsession? When my two boys were scheduled for practices thirty minutes apart at overlapping times on the same days and I responded with a concern about our ability to be in two places at the same time, the response from our club? Challenges as described would need to be overcome by more commitment from the parents. When we couldn’t get to an extra conditioning practice or an out of season tournament? Players on this team would need to condition and train during their own free time to be able to continue playing at such a level. Neither of my boys are or strive to be on a premier level team, so is this reasonable? Maybe. But maybe not.

The $4000+ each year it takes to fund two boys in club soccer, the countless hours, the endless driving, the sacrifice of family both in time and in care, the extra volunteer hours – this all is no longer enough. Adding up last year’s fall and spring hours, my then twelve year old (and therefore us as parents as well) spent 320 hours on soccer. I haven’t calculated the then eight year old’s year, but his time commitment was even more hours than his older brother. This means we easily used 700 hours doing soccer last year for a then 3rd grader and 7th grader. And we did less than most families on their teams. Every year, we are asked for more time, more commitment to extended training, more serious focus from our children, and more money from our wallets. All in the name of proving our commitment.

Have we as parents collectively lost our minds? This isn’t enough?

It isn’t enough.

Because it is too much.

And yet, my boys are in the minority (as in the only ones on their teams most likely), because we drew the line this year. No more off season soccer. No winter indoor league. No expensive summer training program. A half day camp for fun because they beg come July? (Miraculously, they still love the darn game.) Mmm, Maybe. But, even that will take some serious thinking. Caving under the pressure that sweet baby will fall behind in skill? Nope. Take it elsewhere. This Chick is claiming back her holidays and her Friday night TV and her Saturday mornings with her cup of joe and her dates with her husband.

Soccer is worthwhile. Sports in general do mimic adult life challenges. The coaches of past and present deserve our utmost gratitude. There is great value in that yearly $4000 investment. (Before y’all balk at that $$, music lessons and all those parents with girls in dance are spending more than me. And to the hockey crazed parents up north, my sports bill is peanuts.)

But rest and care and family and free play and quiet time (AND CHURCH) are also:

worthwhile

valuable

deserving of gratitude

deserving of time

deserving of commitment

And this soccer mom – venting –  needed to get that off her chest.

 

 

The Church with Bluegrass

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When we moved to York, we searched for a church on the internet. Certain needs dictated the types of churches we’d consider attending, with one main issue being the time of service. We found Allison Creek.

Now, Allison Creek sits up high on this hill that’s been there for centuries. Roads have formed and neighbors have popped up in homes and communities around the hill, and for the past 165 years, Allison Creek Church has watched and welcomed from a top its perch. It’s a pretty church and a common marker for those describing the area. You know, the big white clapboard church on that hill that y’all can see from…..

We had obviously seen Allison Creek from the road driving by, so when the search parameters matched the church, we tried it. What we found was a wonderful church home.

After we’d attended for a few weeks, someone invited us to the bluegrass concert that Allison Creek hosts twice monthly. It’s open to the whole community, it’s free, and there are hamburgers and hotdogs and baked goods for sale. Well, we went. And then we went again. And then the boys couldn’t wait to go back again, and again. My youngest asked for a banjo. My oldest asked for a dobro. Then a guitar. Then a violin. The bluegrass there is always quality and the community welcomes my whole family into their folds. Never in a million years would I think that by finding a church on the internet, we’d gain the support of a whole community of people AND bluegrass musicians. (Of course, church is largely about community, but I was mainly aiming for a 10am service and some coffee afterwards.)

It’s been three years of bluegrass concerts and two years of banjo lessons and one year now of violin lessons and I am blown away at God’s creativity. My boys soak up the music and the attention from the old guys and the opportunities to jam with some of the best musicians around. And these people gladly and patiently offer attention and tips to the next generation of bluegrass players. And all the time, God knew we would land here.

I think back to years ago, when my banjo player was at most two years old. My sister plays banjo and she pulled him up on her lap and sat him there with just the two of them and her instrument and I still remember how he stopped fidgeting. He gently reached down and plucked those strings, mesmerized. She grabbed her phone and snapped a picture of his chubby little fingers. It was one of those small quiet moments that ends up staying with you. A pause in a day that can cause pause years later.

I think to the year I’ve spent teaching my older son violin and how much joy it’s brought us both. It’s a unique kind of happy to play music with your child. He’s a natural, catching on quickly and teaching himself new notes before we even practice them.

Yep, God knew we’d go where the music played. God knew because He put the bluegrass here and he planted the music in my boys. And I am so very, very grateful.

The Zoning Board

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I took the kids to another public meeting last night.  This time we went to hear the zoning board.  Lucky for all involved, first we went to the library, so the boys had something to do.

Just to give a little bit of back-story, I was recently asked to join the board for Friends of Historic Brattonsville after volunteering for two years and getting to know several of the long time board members.  Now, Brattonsville is owned by the county as part of their museum system, but Hightower Hall, which sits on a part of the Historic Brattonsville site, is owned by the Friends of Historic Brattonsville.  Since I joined the board, that makes me a Friend, and a representative for the group that owns Hightower Hall.  Hightower Hall is a huge plantation style 150+ year old home on beautiful grounds, and is used for weddings, events, and yearly Civil War reenactments.  The entire operation for all of the combined property brings in quite a bit of revenue and, in 2014 alone, hosted over 26,000 visitors.

Well, right down the road is a landfill/ mining business of sorts.

The current dig and dump site is about five acres and has caused significant trouble for the neighbors.  Back in the day (you know – the 18th/ 19th century and such) Brattonsville Road started out as a trade route, then became a main thoroughfare, and is now a paved country road that was never made to handle dump trucks carrying gravel or logging trucks carrying full loads of timber.  But with the mining operation, that is exactly the kind of traffic travelling up and down the road, which runs right through the middle of the historic site.  The trucks have caused huge pavement issues, and the digging has caused soil degradation and water runoff onto the Friends property already.  This is all not to even mention those 26,000 visitors that cross the road twice on their tour of the grounds.  Needless to say, there is significant foot traffic on a regular basis.  Did I also mention that every publicly schooled third grader in York County is part of the pedestrian visitors crossing that road that the gravel trucks travel?

I am thinking plain sense tells people that these are not ideal neighbors.

Friends of Historic Brattonsville isn’t feeling neighborly love, that’s for sure.

And yet, Mr. Dig and Dump wants to expand his operation.  Double it?  Nope.  Quadruple it?  Nada.  He wants to expand it to around thirty acres.  Six times its current size.  And.  He wants to dig down seventy feet.  And.  He wants to only provide the minimum easements required by the county.

This gets us back to the zoning board.

Apparently only immediate neighbors have to be told about zoning issues and said neighbors are given a week’s notice.  The neighbors including Friends of Historic Brattonsville.  Plus, it is spring break, we just finished a major event, and guess who is the only board member available for Thursday night?  The homeschooling mom.  The one member that has been to one whole board meeting.  The one that has never in her life been to a zoning meeting.  The one that embarrassed herself in a TV interview nine years ago and has not been on camera since.  Me.  (I feel like this would be a good time to mention Jesus using the weak and such.  Just saying.  But I did volunteer to go, so I could also mention the whole have faith and be available part as well.)

So…here we are, sitting in the meeting, and there is of course a TV camera to follow up on the newspaper article covering the dispute, and I am quickly trying to figure out what to say when it is my time to speak, and all I can think of is what I tell my kids when we go to the grocery store.

If your fun infringes on others’ shopping pleasure, you aren’t having fun.  You’re being obnoxious and rude.

The meeting starts, business happens, and then the first item of new business comes up.  It is another company that wants to expand their mine on their land, which is in the middle of nowhere on well paved roads with their only known neighbor being an actual member of the zoning board.  They want to dig twenty feet deeper than they currently have permission to dig.  They want to provide double the minimum easement around their entire three hundred acre farm, and only thirty acres will actually be the mine.  The rest is to remain farmland.  They want to keep the mine as a dig only site.  They want it written in that they will not be a landfill.  No dumping.  Their mining is going to be used in part for state and county road projects.  (Our roads are terrible, so improving them would be appreciative.)

Item one gets approved.

We’re item two.

Representative for Mr. Dig and Dump stands up.

And he asks for his request to be deferred indefinitely.  Item one was beautiful.  And in it’s beauty, his ugly stood out.  Not to mention the entire section of dissenters and landowners and museum employees ready to speak on behalf of Hightower Hall might have been a signal that he didn’t have community support.

In the end, we all stood up and left.  Never did understand what item three was about because the boys and I went for pizza.  We didn’t win last night, but we didn’t lose.  The boys are getting a wonderful education in current local politics, and I am experiencing small town government at work.  It really is quite fascinating when you know some of the players involved.  And the next time, I will feel much more prepared.  (But I may still say what I wanted to say – If your business interferes with our business, you aren’t conducting business.  It’s called being a bully, and even two boys in a grocery store know to be better than that.)

Giving up Walmart

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I gave up Walmart for Lent this year.  Not that hard for some, I would imagine.  But here in small town USA with a struggling downtown and not many choices for shopping, giving up Walmart can be considered sacrifice.  So far, it hasn’t been quite as difficult as I had imagined, but there are a few things that simply aren’t available within reason elsewhere.

1.  Oil changes.  I cheated here and after searching for a place to take my car and get an oil change while I waited, I caved.  One night right before going out of town, I went to Walmart.  Not in my town, but the town where my boys play soccer.  During their soccer practice, I got my oil changed at the only place still open and available at 7pm.  Walmart. The red line danger zone had been crossed, and travel was on the horizon.  Jesus and I talked about it.  Safety won out over principle, especially since the decision was not made without awareness.  I knew I was breaking my Lenten vow, and I wasn’t doing it lightly.  But my family’s safety is common sense.  I don’t want to speak for Jesus, but I am pretty sure he’s cool with that decision.

2.  Canned tuna fish.  Little did I know that giving up Walmart meant giving up my favorite tuna.  We buy a sustainable tuna, Earth friendly and all.  It is reasonably priced at Walmart.  Read = Affordable.  At other food stores, it is $4 for one lone little can.  For my family to eat canned tuna salad, it would cost $20 to make it.  Hence, we have given up tuna by default.  I almost asked my friend, Lynsey, to pick some up for me, but I feel this would be cheating.  So I just eyed her tuna enviously instead.

3. Camisoles.  I love to wear camisoles with the extra lining in them.  I have two or three pitifully old ones that need replacing.  Walmart sells the perfect ones.  They are $5.  I am fully aware this is because of sweat shops that are using poor souls as slaves.  I am not proud, but I really want new camis.  I really, really do.  I miss cheap clothing from Walmart.

Now, with all the confessions out of the way, let’s talk about what I have discovered!

1.  BiLo is a good grocery store.  The ones in York sell organic and/ or quality choices for me.  They have the items I was buying at Walmart, plus others that I thought I had to get at Earthfare half an hour away.  There are still a few groceries I get when I trek over to the neighboring town, but so far, BiLo is working for me.  And it is more pleasant than Walmart.  They have regained my business.

2.  The Big Deal really is a big deal!  I can buy all kinds of fun things there.  The boys don’t like it because I get distracted and wander the aisles looking at gardening tools, underwear, coffee, shoes, and toilet paper.  It is a surprise every time!

3.  Downtown needs help.  I knew this before Lent, but Lent has magnified this issue.  We don’t have a good clothing or shoe store.  I found local options in the neighboring town, but that is, again, a half an hour drive.  We have some wonderful gift shops, but very little by way of essentials.  We have ended up at TJMaxx (next town over) more than once because The Snack Shop didn’t have the clothing we were looking for.  Yes, The Snack Shop sells women’s clothing, along with gifts, ice cream, and hot dogs.

Up until about a week ago, I had avoided Target as well, considering it the upscale Walmart and still mainly off limits.  But with the weather changing and soccer in high gear, I did venture into Target to pick up a few things.  What I have noticed is that the big box chains are convenient, but they really aren’t better deals, and they aren’t necessary on a regular basis.  It was helpful to grab a few fresh (albeit slave trade) t-shirts and some sunscreen for the weekend, but having gone on this journey, Target wasn’t as thrilling as it used to be.  We’ll see how I feel after Easter, but so far, I am enjoying the discipline and discovery this Lenten exercise has provided.