Thursday, September 27, 2012

Sign Here Please

Jim McMahon says he wishes he had played pro baseball instead of football.  The Hall of Fame Chicago Bears quarterback, winner of the 1985 Superbowl and probably the grittiest QB of all time says if he knew that he would end up suffering from dementia in his 50's thanks to all the hits he took while playing in the NFL, he would have donned a Cubs uniform instead.  He's one of many players suing the NFL because he said they didn't warn him about the possible head injuries - like early onset dementia, Alzheimer's, constant migraines and even suicidal depression.
I don't know which is harder to picture --
Jim McMahon in a Cubs uniform OR
Jim McMahon not knowing that getting smacked in the head for a living wouldn't cause brain injuries.

I work with a lady who used to be a bank manager.  She worked at several Southern California banks during her career.  She told me that she always knew, no matter what bank she was working at, that there would be a robbery.  Eventually.  You didn't know when, but you knew it was coming. And she was right.  She said she experienced an armed robbery at every bank she ever worked at and some banks were robbed more than once.  She said she still jumps when she hears certain noises or when someone speaks loudly in a relatively quiet room.  She said it was part of the job, the robbery part, just like counting money and filling out deposit slips.  It was to be expected.

McMahon evidently did not make the connection between his job and the inherent dangers.
OK, so maybe he didn't know EXACTLY what kind of medical conditions could be caused by 300lb men crashing into you at full speed with the sole intent of knocking you into next week, but he HAD to know that it wouldn't make him smarter, healthier or more lucid.  There's a reason why they gave you a helmet McMahon and even with that on, it still hurt didn't it?  Game after game after game, McMahon took hit after hit to the head and now, all these years later, in retirement, he suddenly realizes that Scrabble is a lot harder to play when you can't remember the alphabet.  And somebody has to pay.  Somebody should have told me this was going to happen.  The NFL should have warned me.  They didn't.  So while I still have a coherent thought in my head and can find my way to a court house, I am going to sue the pants off these greedy, heartless, negligent NFL owners! 

Now I do not want to be insensitive to McMahon's pain and suffering.  His early onset dementia is real.  His condition is worsening and it must take a toll not only on him, but on all those who love him.  I hope he can get the treatment he needs to stop or at least slow the worsening of his condition.  He is only 53 for goodness sake!  What I AM saying is that McMahon's  "You should have told me about the dangers of concussions!  You hid the facts!" statements toward the NFL about the dangers of being a quarterback seems falsely naive.  Disingenuous.
I can't imagine my banker friend suing Bank of America (or whatever bank she worked for) because she is now unable to enjoy a quiet room due to her bank-robbery induced jumpiness.  Should the bank have asked her to sign a waiver stating that she understood that 1) Banks get robbed 2) Banks can get robbed regularly 3) Banks can get robbed regularly by scary people with guns 4) Banks can get robbed regularly by scary people with guns who may or may not shout, point the barrel at your nose and threaten to kill you.  5) This can and most likely will make you very jumpy in quiet rooms, semi-quiet rooms, heck almost any room that reminds you of this bank (and some that don't.).  It will also definitely make you paranoid in all banks you ever enter, no matter if you work there or not (another one of her symptoms) and this paranoia and/or jumpiness may cause you to have post traumatic stress syndrome, depression, suicidal thoughts, mistrust of strangers or turn you into a person who may or may not be able to function normally in society. (Not her problem thankfully.)
Please sign here acknowledging that this job could kill you or lead to a variety of premature debilitating conditions, disorders and/or diseases that negatively affect your quality of life!

Oh, oh. Now that I think about it, I think EVERY job needs a waiver.

McMahon says the NFL hid the effects of concussions from athletes.  Who knows if they did.  But it may just be that they didn't point them out.  They didn't state the obvious.  Hey, McMahon, all that diving headfirst for the first down that you're doing?  You might want to stop that.  Go for the feet first slide.  You know, like baseball.  Oh, but wait, before you do that, can you please sign here?  Sliding like that can cause repeat ankle injuries.  Sprains, breaks, twists and tears. Some of that may lead to premature arthritis.  Difficulty walking.  Chronic pain.  Which as you may or may not know leads to depression.  And depression, well, you know where that can lead. Anyway, this job can kill you whether you slide or take one on the chin.  Sign here please.

Then I thought about it.  We may all need LIFE waivers.  Why doesn't God give us a waiver?  He could make sure our parents take it home from the hospital after we're born.  The nurse could pack it in our take home bag right next to our blankie.  We'll need to be old enough to understand it before we sign it so maybe our parents could present it to us for signature after we graduate from Kindergarten.  Right after we learn how to print our name and get that pony we've always wanted.

Attention:______________ (Insert Child's Name)

As you journey out into life please be aware:
1)  The things you do today will come back to haunt you.

2)  When you are young, you won't think about consequences so much, but trust me the things you do today WILL have consequences.  All that eating at McDonald's will catch up with you. And that drinking? (No, not juice from your sippy cup. I mean alcohol.)  Trust me. Avoid overdoing it.  Avoid overdoing ANYTHING.

3)  If you choose to overdo it or do something dangerous or reckless, you will pay a price.  Maybe not right away, but eventually you will.  Very few people escape unscathed from the bad choices that they make. (Some consequences just come WAY later.)
4)  I say this because I love you. I don't want to see you suffer.  I want you to thrive as my child. 
5)  Feel free to ask me for help at any time.

Please sign here acknowledging that you understand the above: (In other words, don't say I didn't warn you!)
P.S.) The Bible shows you how to live to avoid negative consequences.  Start with Proverbs.

P.P.S)  Playing NFL football, especially quaterback, is dangerous.  I don't recommend it.


Hope Horner, 2012
Follow on Twitter:  HopeNote

Friday, September 21, 2012

Looking for Praise in All the Wrong Places!

How is it possible for you to believe (or to learn to believe) when you are content to receive praise, honor and glory from one another and yet do not seek the praise, honor and glory that comes from Him who alone is God?
-Jesus (John 5:44)

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Nothing can cure you of the desire to receive respect from men, except to give yourself over to the honor that comes from seeking God.  Likewise, continuing to honor the glory that comes from God is the only thing that can cure you from the sensitivity, pain and anger that comes when the respect of men is not given!
-Andrew Murray

Who's praise am I seeking?
Just look at my life.
My significant other's?  My family's?  My supervisor's? God's?
I'll go with God's.  Yeah, his happiness with me matters the most.  I am trying to please him first and foremost.
Yeah right.
If I am honest, I will admit that what I really want to hear is "Great job Hope!" from people at work, people I know, love, like, go to church with, work with and for.  Nothing wrong with receiving praise from these folks, but I have to ask myself, is getting an atta-boy, an approving smile or a pat on the back from one of them the focus of my time, energy and talent?
'Fraid so.
Sorry God, you're praise matters, but your voice is so soft compared to theirs.  Plus, they are right here.  You are....there. And you know, now that I think about it, these people in my life don't praise me as much as they should.  I'm really due for a few more "Way to Go's." Especially since I've worked hard, made a significant contribution, gone above and beyond. When this recognition of my efforts doesn't come, I feel let down.  Unappreciated.  Under valued.  Disappointed and discouraged. 

That's when I know I am looking for praise in all the wrong places.

My Mom is great with praise.  She never misses a chance to tell me she's proud of me.  That feels really nice and well, terrible at the same time.  I have a healthy self-image and am pretty confident overall (probably thanks to all the praise!), but when Mom says "Dad and I are so proud of you!" somehow my brain turns to, "Well if you only knew..."  Knew about what?  What would cause her to retract her praise? I don't have a body buried in the backyard.  (There isn't enough room in my tiny HOA sanctioned yard anyway.  Plus, it violates the CC&Rs.)  I'm not writing this blog from prison.  I pay my taxes.  Vote.  Go to church.  Drive close to the speed limit.  But, still, Mom, if you only knew...if you only knew that I am not all you think I am.  I have made mistakes.  Lots.  Most, actually almost all, you know NOTHING about.  Trust me - be GLAD you know nothing about them.  You might not be quite so proud.  Your praise would probably slip down a notch to "We're sorta proud of you most of the time you slightly above average daughter who we like a whole, whole, lot." 
That's because people's praise, (Yes, even Mom's!) is conditional and inconsistent.
Do this - get my praise.
Do THAT, lose my praise.
Do this - oops, forgot to praise you.  Maybe next time.
It can be quite confusing and exhausting trying to please people.  I find that people's praise is a lot like my Internet connection.  Right when you need it most, nothing.
So, I am trying to recalibrate my praise seeking mechanism.
I want to point it in the direction of God.
I want to please Him.  Seek his praise first and foremost.
I want my thinking to be - If I do this...does it please God?  If yes, DO IT, no matter the cost.  If no, DON'T do it no matter how much praise from people it may bring.
Wow, that sounds so cut and dry.  It would be sooooooooooo much easier if I wasn't HUMAN.  Sure, I know that Christian cliche about having a Jesus shaped hole in my heart that only He can fill - that may be true, but when you can't find Jesus, can't always feel his love or hear his praise, shoving someone or something else in that heart hole feels a whole lot better than just sitting around with a holey heart. So, I am trying to let the people praise feel complimentary, enjoy it, but not revel in it.  I appreciate it, but don't want it to determine how I feel about myself.

Wow, have you seen Hope lately?
Yeah, she's really down in the dumps.
Well, duh -- Look at her PRAISE 'O' METER.
Oh man!  No wonder!  It is barely above "0" -
Quick! Give her some praise!  Clap or something!
Ah, there's that smile we know and love!

I want to get rid of the Praise-O-Meter.  I want to feel worthwhile because I am a child of God not because people like me, or Mom is proud of me.  I want to seek God's praise - make HIM smile by living a life that reflects His Son.  Like the title of Max Lucado's book; I want The Applause of Heaven.  I want to focus my time, talent and energy on living a life worthy of His calling so when I see him someday, he says "Well done, good & faithful servant!" That's all the praise I'll ever need. And until then, when I do get people praise, I want to recognize that any good I do is only through Him so the praise I receive for doing good shouldn't go to my head or fill my heart.  Apart from Him, I can do nothing! (John 15:5)
Except, maybe look for praise in all the wrong places.

Hope A. Horner, 2012
Follow on Twitter at HopeNote

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Prayer of the Day!

From Psalm 25

Oh Lord,
Show me your ways.
Guide me in your Truth and Faithfulness.
Teach me.
You are the God of my Salvation,
For You, I wait all day long.
Remember, Oh Lord, your Tender Mercy and Ever-Loving Kindness!
Lord, turn to me,
And be gracious to me,
For I am lonely and afflicted.

Photo by Hope Horner, 2012
Follow on Twitter at HopeNote

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


I need one or the other. Please.
Either free will or predestination.
Either my choices matter or only God matters.
Tell me. 
Am I in control or is God in control?
I need clarity on this matter.

Because I am human.  I am finite.  I am American.  I am individualistic.  I need things, even big, important things to fit neatly into small boxes.  I need to make sense of it all.  Especially what matters.
But wait.
Why can't both be true?
Why can't both my choices matter and God matter?
Why can't I choose freely and God be sovereign?
Maybe both can coexist.
I am not God.  How can I know?
Maybe I need a healthy reverence for the fact that God is God and I am NOT.
My perspective is myopic.  I am not the expert.
So, I know what I am not.  What about God? 
God is not bound by time.
He is not chronologically corralled.
He is not tied to timelines.
My choice to love, to change, to repent, to reach out, to share, to serve or
To NOT --
And God - -
Father of Time, not Father Time,
Mother of Earth, not Mother Earth,
Uncreated Creator God,
Over which gravity has no pull, and time no urgency, no beginning, no end point -
And His will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.

-Hope A. Horner, 2012
Follow on Twitter: HopeNote

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Bits & Pieces

Over the years, the Bible has come to me in bits & pieces.
As a child, in Sunday School and around the family table, I was given the Bible in bits - digestible, easy-on-the-stomach stories about Noah and the Ark, Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors, Jonah and the Whale.  Oh, and don't let me forget the Loaves and Fishes and Jesus Walking on the Water, The Last Supper, The Cross and The Empty Tomb.
Some of these stories had really colorful flannelgraph to go with them.  (What the heck is flannelgraph?) First Baptist Church of Reseda, where I spent most of my elementary school years going to church, had an amazing Sunday School flannelgraph collection.  There was flannelgraph Abraham, a flannelgraph Moses, a flannelgraph Noah and of course, a flannelgraph ark complete with flannel graph giraffes, monkeys, donkeys and zebras.  I used to love to watch my Sunday School teacher position each animal side by side walking up the flannel-graph ramp toward the flannel-graph ark as the dark, threatening flannel-graph sky hovered at the top of the flannel graph board.
Ah, the good ol' days of bits & pieces.
During my morning run today, I listened to the story of Jacob and Rachel in Genesis 29.  The story was being told by New York City Presbyterian Pastor Timothy J. Keller.  He explained how Jacob works for 7 years so he can marry beautiful Rachel whom he desires more than any other woman.  At the end of his seven years of hard labor, Jacob gets tricked by Rachel's father and ends up with her older, more homely looking sister, Leah.  I've heard this before.  While I don't remember a flannel-graph Rachel or Jacob, I do remember this story. But then I heard Pastor Keller explain how Jacob, once he realized he had been betrayed, probably had this paralyzing thought: "Isn't this exactly what I did years ago to my own father?"  After all, he had tricked his own father into giving him a birthright blessing that should have gone to his brother, Esau. What goes around comes around Jacob! You cheated someone out of something they deserved and now Ha! Right back 'atcha!
And I realized I had not made that connection until then.  All I had was the bit about Jacob and Esau and the piece about Jacob and Rachel. 
What I had was an a la carte Bible. 
Ah, yeah, I'll just have the bits and pieces.
One at a time please.
Oh, and no connection from one story to the next, thank you.
I'd never really seen how all these bits and pieces came together to make an amazing full course meal.
And then I thought: How strange and scary!  To have all this Bible teaching growing up, to know all these stories, to practically have flannel-graph coming out of my ears, but not have ANY of it in a coherent, complete, comprehensive manner between my ears (or in my heart). Just bits and pieces scattered about! 
I think it's these bits and pieces that scare people away from the Bible.  They know a story here and a lesson there - Forbidden fruit, a talking snake, cute little animals walking 2 by 2 up a ramp toward a massive wooden ark, a rainbow, "The LORD" smiting this person or that group of persons, warriors rising up and walls falling down, someone being swallowed whole by a whale, a boat on a stormy sea or full of fisherman casting nets, disciples dividing loaves and fishes, turning cheeks, and then finally Jesus on a donkey, turning over a table, carrying a heavy cross...his pierced hands, the empty tomb and then his disappearance into the clouds.
Each story has different flannelgraph characters and settings.  Each has its own separate flannel board.  Each story has a separate lesson:  Trust God.  Have faith. Be good.  Stop doing this.  Start doing that.  Jesus saves.
And when you get older and stop sucking your thumb and believing everything you're told, these bits & pieces just look so...
And hard to believe.  Even for someone like me, who grew up hearing them, believing them, singing about them.  I got into my twenties and suddenly I thought...
I don't really believe all that Sunday School stuff, do I? Some of these bits and pieces are pretty hard to believe.  Others are pretty harsh.  A few are kind of ridiculous.
So I brushed all the bits and pieces aside into a big, disorganized pile of flannelgraph characters -   Moses, Mary and Jesus and Jonah all jumbled together in one colorful heap.  And I left them there.  Then, starting several years ago, God started pulling the pieces together.  Like this morning on my run.  This NYC pastor I've never met says in so many words, "Hey, see that flannel-graph story you got over there?  Yeah! The one with Jacob & Esau on it where Jacob is dressed up like Esau?"
I look into my pile. Yup.  I see it.
"Well, move it over here by this one where Jacob gets duped into marrying Leah.  It goes with this one."
Wow.  You mean this bit goes with that bit?
And I find other bits and pieces lying around, too. 
In my last blog entry, I relayed a very bloody bit:  The story of Passover.  This is another great Sunday School production.  Bloody doors, Egyptian slave masters, Israelite slaves and lots of icky, creepy, ugly flannel board pieces to make the plagues come to life.  I'll never forget the "river of blood" that ran across the flannelgraph board in Sunday School.  Yuck. Passover is a super memorable "bit" for sure.  A "piece" for the ages.
And you can just leave it that way, like I did -- all the pieces sitting there flat on the flannelboard--doors painted in the blood of lambs and fancy Pharaoh, surrounded by wailing women, dead firstborns and utter darkness, finally saying to Moses and the Israelites "Get out of here! All of you!" 
What a powerful story, right kids?  OK, let's pray and go to big church now.  Help me put away the flannel-graph boys and girls.  Next week, we'll watch as Moses parts the Red Sea! 

I heard a sermon recently that helped me connect the Passover story with the rest of the Bible.  The Israelites are told to kill a spotless lamb and use its blood to paint their door frames so their firstborn will be spared...
Wait a minute.  A spotless lamb is slain.
As the sermon went on, all the bits and pieces started coming together to form a full picture.  One that starts in Genesis 22 with Abraham and Isaac, and lambs being sacrificed as atonement for sin, to Passover and the blood of the lamb smeared on doorposts, to John the Baptist in the New Testament who points at Jesus and says  "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!" (John 1) and then Peter's letter to believers in Asia Minor in which he calls Jesus the Spotless Lamb of God (I Peter 3) then finally, on to the book of Revelation, the last book in the Bible, the last "piece", and there is THE LAMB once again. (Revelation 5,7,12,13,21)
Whoa.  That's a big flannelboard.
In Sunday School, "big church" and at Christian schools, I heard all of these stories, memorized some of these verses and would have known what most of them meant.  Individually.  But as a comprehensive whole?  Not so much.  I certainly knew Jesus was the Lamb that John referred to in the Gospels.  But to connect the Lamb all the way through the Bible in a way that makes it an enlightening spiritual pilgrimage, not just a bunch of colorful isolated stories?  Only lately have I started to see these bits and pieces connected together in meaningful ways.

I joined a Bible study a few years ago and was amazed when one of the leading members of the group gave a "timeline of the Bible."  Starting with Genesis and working her way through the epistles, she told the story of the Bible, touching on the major people and events in chronological order.  I was truly impressed.  I couldn't have done that if my life depended on it.  It was probably the first time I heard someone give a brief run-down of the full story of the Bible.  Then, we went book by book through the Bible and discussed what each book was about and the main characters and what happened to them.  Week after week, I was enthralled by the stories and how they all fit together. 
These days I still find quite a few bits and pieces laying around, but God is helping to bring them all together into a full story of who He is and why he sent his only Son to the world for me, for all.  Each story is just a bit or a piece that fits into the bigger story. The hungry whale and the talking snake don't seem so silly when I understand the big picture.  Abraham being asked by God to kill his Son as a sacrifice doesn't seem so barbaric and cruel when I understand ancient culture and how this fits with the stories that came before and the ones that are coming next.  If I look only at the pieces, my faith can fall to pieces.  Instead, God is pulling all the bits & pieces out of my pile and putting them together so I can see the complete, continuing story. So far, I'm amazed at how well the flannel-graph folks all fit together into God's great plan.

Hope A. Horner, 2012
Follow on Twitter - HopeNote

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Stay Inside!

The story of Passover in Exodus 12 is one I've heard many times.  Today, I noticed something about the story I never noticed before. First, some background...

The Israelites are slaves in Egypt.  Through Moses, God tells the Pharaoh of the land to let the Israelites go.  Pharaoh refuses.  So, the Lord rains down a wide array of nasty plagues on the land – from frogs to flies to bloody rivers, and when none of these change Pharaoh's hardened heart, the Lord says he has one final plague that will ensure freedom for the Israelites.  He tells Moses exactly what the Israelites are to do if they want to be spared from the horror that is to come with this plague.  Here it is straight from Exodus 12:

Then Moses called all the elders of Israel together and said to them: 
Go pick out a lamb for each of your families and slaughter it.  Drain the blood…then take a bundle of hyssop branches and dip it into the blood.  Brush the hyssop across the top and sides of the door frames of your houses.  And no one may go out until morning.  For the Lord will pass through the land to strike down the Egyptians' first born sons.  But when He sees the blood on the top and sides of the door frame the Lord will pass over your home.  He will not permit his death angel to enter your house and strike you down.
Wow! Those are very specific (and bloody) instructions.  It's the short line in the middle of it all that caught my attention today. 
And no one may go out until morning.

In other words, Moses tells them: 
If you read earlier in the chapter, you will notice that God didn’t include this line when he was giving the instructions to Moses to pass along to all the Israelite families.  Moses seems to have added that line himself, at least according to what I can tell from Scripture.  My guess is he was concerned.  Very, very concerned.  Yes, he’s Moses – one of the greatest men of the faith, but he was also human.  He was worried.  He didn’t want his people to take any chances -- didn't want them wandering out in the middle of the night or poking their head out to see what was going on and paying for their curiosity with their life.  Therefore he required a strict curfew. Can't you just hear Moses admonish them:
Listen up my people!  Do exactly what God says with the blood of the lamb then get inside your houses before the sun goes down and STAY THERE.  Do not come out until morning - - you hear me?
What a night it must have been.  As the sun begins to set, the Israelite families hurriedly smear blood in long streaks around the outside of their doors. (My guess is they used A LOT of blood, just to be sure that the Angel of the Lord wouldn't miss it.)  There had to be drops of blood on the ground by the doors, maybe even trailing into the house.  Then, as the sun falls lower in the sky, they go inside to hunker down behind those blood soaked doors, holding on to each other, wide-eyed and worried.   Then darkness falls and the Angel of Death comes.  Could they hear the wailing and screaming coming from the Egyptian houses as the firstborns were killed?  Or were they on the outskirts of town left in terrible silence inside their homes to imagine what was happening, with only the sound of their own anxious breathing and worried whispers? I am not sure.  Exodus 12:30 says that the crying was heard all over Egypt.  This makes me think they did hear it all, but either way, shrieks or silence, what a terrible night!  No wonder Moses added the warning to stay indoors until sunrise. 
Death came to every Egyptian home that night.  Pharaoh became so disturbed by what was happening, that right in the middle of all the death and darkness, he called for Moses and Aaron.
Get out!  He said.  Take your stuff, your people, your animals, your God and get out!
And the Israelites did.  All 600,00 of them.  After 430 years of captivity, they were finally free.  
What if they hadn't listened? 
Kill a lamb.  Paint your doors in blood.  Stay inside.
Those who did as God commanded and as Moses warned, were spared.  And they were more than spared -- Before the sun came up, they were free!  I imagine Moses hurrying them out of their houses - -
Come out!  Come outside!  We're free!  Hurry!  God has set us free!
Israelites rush out through blood red doors, shouting, hands shaking, hearts pounding, no sleep in their eyes, their stomachs full of lamb. Over their shoulders are sacks full of clothes and other personal belongings.  Women carry moist rolls of unleavened dough in one hand and hurry along their first-born with the other.
Come on!  Let's go!  Moses said we don't need to stay inside any more. Pharaoh is letting us go! The Lord has delivered us!  Hurry!
They listened.  They obeyed.  They were free.
-Hope A. Horner, 2012
Follow on Twitter:  HopeNote

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

How Will I Get Through Today?


This I call to mind and it gives me great hope and expectation:
It is because of the Lord's mercy and loving kindness that I am not consumed,
Because of his tender compassion, I do not fail.
And they are new every morning!
His stability and faithfulness is great and abundant.
I know in my inner being that my soul belongs to the Lord;
Therefore I will hope in him and wait expectantly for him.
From Lamentations 3:21-24

Need He say more?

Need I say more?

Follow on Twitter:  HopeNote
Photos by Hope Horner, 2011

Friday, September 7, 2012

Eden Restored

In The Believer's Secret of a Perfect Heart Andrew Murray he defines religion this way (paraphrased by me):

I was created to live for God - to show His glory by allowing God to show how completely
He can reveal His spiritual likeness and blessedness in me.
I found this definition to be a blessing and so different from other definitions or even one I would come up.  When "I show His (God's) glory" how do I act?
I am loving.
I care for widows and orphans in need. (James 1:27)
I make decisions based NOT on what brings ME comfort, happiness or glory, but on what will most please God.
And what pleases God?
He wants to bring ALL people to Himself.  He is willing that NONE should perish. (2 Peter 3:9) He sees even when the sparrow falls.  He wipes away tears. (Isaiah 25:8)  He wants all gaps closed, all road blocks removed, all chasms spanned, all to be one in Him, united with him in perfect harmony. (Colossians 1:20)  My acts, if I am revealing Him, should RESTORE.  Not divide.  Not dissuade.  Not discourage.
He wants to restore us to Eden.  He wants us to be in perfect fellowship with Him and with each other just like we were in that epic story of the garden.  Before we thought we knew better and could go it alone.  That's when pride, jealousy, worry, tears, anguish and negativity entered our world and to this day, is still working to destroy it.  Separation from God will do that.  It destroys us and our relationship with each other and with all living things around us.
So if salvation is restoration, than it kind of takes all the emphasis off of me, doesn't it?
I can't restore my relationship with God.  I couldn't tidy up the garden, put the fruit half eaten back on the tree and pretend I didn't notice I was naked.  What was done, was done.
But it wasn't finished.
God stepped in as the the Great Restorer.  The beauty of our religion is that our God COMES TO US!  We don't have to go searching for salvation, for restoration - our GRACIOUS RESTORER sent his only Son to restore us fully into right standing with him.  Jesus, who prays in the Garden, "Lord, not my will be done, but your's" dies to restore us on to himself and in doing so, Eden awaits.  Perfect communion with God can be attained.  God's glory revealed in his Son saved us, now, that same glory remains, abides and is revealed in us - and THAT is RELIGION. 
It is not our church attendance, our gold crosses, our political affiliation, our "beliefs",  our recitation of creeds, our knowledge of doctrine, our stained glass mega-churches or even our fish logo...
In fact, my religion is not about me.
It's about what God did as the Great Restorer.  Any good I do, does not save me.  It is simply God's glory shining through me.  I am only a branch; Jesus is the vine.  He is the one with roots that draw in nourishment and give life.  I am just an extension of Him and without Him I fade and wither. (John 15:5)  Is my religion all about me or all about what God is doing in and through me to restore me and to restore others into communion with Him?
The selfish definition of salvation is this:  I am saved from hell.  Yay for me!
The fuller definition is: RESTORATION.
What Jesus did on the cross brought me into right standing with God.  How I live now, doesn't determine my right standing, it demonstrates where I am in the restoration process.  How restored am I?  How much do I look like my Restorer?  How much do I act like Him? 
Someday, I will join my Restorer in the new heaven and earth and I think the welcome sign over that new world will read:
Eden Restored!

What a great restoration day that will be!
"All things get more beautiful as they move toward God and uglier as they move away."
-A.W. Tozer

Hope A. Horner, 2012
Follow on Twitter:  HopeNote
Link to book:

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Don't Pet the Bats!

Rabid bats are showing up in record numbers around Los Angeles County.  According to my local paper, this year, 38 rabid bats had been "discovered."  The article spent significant time warning people not to touch the bats.
Wow, I'm so glad they warned me.  If I run across one of those furry little monsters laying in a ditch, beady eyes rolled back in its tiny head, frothy white foam still hanging from its tiny bat lips -- well, heavens to Betsy, for a second there, it'll be all I can do not to CUDDLE it.  But I'll know better now.
Something is wrong when we need to be warned not to pet the rabid bats.
Reminds me of another story I saw on the news lately...
A woman is walking her small dog on a nature preserve early in the morning when a coyote sneaks up and snatches her dog for breakfast.   I am a dog lover and found this HORRIFYING to say the least.  I felt so bad for that poor pooch and for the distraught dog walker.  Can you imagine?  Ugh.  Makes me sick to just think about it since I occasionally run with my dog early in the morning and have had a few coyotes get too close for comfort. But then, just as I was feeling really bad for this poor lady, she says to the newscaster covering the story:
"I was just devastated.  My dog is gone.  I see signs all over this city warning about coyotes, but there was no sign here on the preserve. Nothing warned me about them.  I had no idea."
Let me translate her comment as I heard it:  "It is the fault of the city/county/whatever agency is in charge that my dog got snatched up by a hungry coyote because YOU DIDN'T POST ANY SIGNS WARNING ME!!"
I screamed back at the news, "Lady!  You were walking your dog on a NATURE PRESERVE!!  Coyotes were just ONE of SEVERAL ANIMALS that were probably drooling over your dog that morning.  Should the city/county/agency in charge make a warning sign listing ALL the animals that could possibly devour your pooch?  WARNING:  Coyotes, hawks, snakes, lions and tigers and bears (oh my!) live here and may eat your dog. For goodness sake, when you swim in the ocean, do you expect signs warning you about sharks, jellyfish, stingrays...?!" (She probably does.)

So, this is probably what the bat warning in the newspaper was all about -- Better warn the locals or you know what could happen...
Some decent little boy is out for a walk in some decent little town and runs across a dead, frothy bat and pokes it with a stick and then touches it with his finger and then rubs it's fuzzy little belly and then tries to put a gummy worm inside it's mouth and then SUDDENLY the bat will spring to life (Ha! I was only faking it!) and bite him square on the nose and then he'll run home screaming to mommy who will rush him in the Mercedes SUV to Urgent Care where he will whimper and whine while being pumped full of antibiotics, jell-o and anti-venom (I don't know! What DO they give you when a bat bites your nose?) and then while he's recovering, mommy will call her attorney to sue the city/county/agency in charge for not posting warning signs, or atleast, for goodness sake, she'll sputter angrily -Couldn't someone have posted an article in the local paper that warns everyone about all the rabid bats just lying around in wait for little curious, innocent boys who just want to share a gummy worm?!?
Maybe I am just being cynical (A shocking consideration I know), but we are in a sad place when we need to be officially warned not to touch disgusting animals and to watch out for wildlife when we walk in a place that preserves wildlife.
And I am in that place a lot.
Spiritually, I mean. I need the obvious stated.  Often.
Read the Bible and it is full of people like me.  People who have to be warned not to touch (Ark of the Covenant: Exodus 25), not to look (Lot's wife: Genesis 19), not to keep doing whatever it is they are doing that angers God. (That's what all those prophets were for in the Old Testament.)
In the New Testament, Christ warns one of his disciples: Peter you WILL deny me three times before the dawn.
No, I won't Lord.
Peter, I'm warning you.  You WILL deny me.
You will.
And sure enough, despite the warning, Peter DOES.  Three times he says "I don't know this Jesus you accuse me of knowing!" and right on cue, the rooster crows to announce the dawn.
There is some comfort in knowing that I am not the only one who seems a bit thick headed and doesn't always heed warnings.  I have to be told not to pet bats and to watch out for coyotes on nature preserves. And just like in the coyote incident -I'm so ready to blame someone else for my problems, so unwilling to admit - yeah, I should have known that.  It's called personal responsibility and in the spiritual sense it is goes even deeper than personal.  It's interpersonal-- my failure to heed God's warnings affects my relationship with God and with others. I might get away with it for awhile, but sooner or later, the rooster is going to crow and I'll know Jesus was right.  I need to listen to him.  I need to submit to his will.  I need to recognize that he warns because he loves.  And when I don't heed, I need to take responsibility for my mistakes, not blame others or make excuses, but instead confess and come back into fellowship with him.  His forgiveness covers even my most thick-headed mistakes - you know the ones -- the spiritual equivalent of petting a rabid bat or being surprised to find a wildlife on a wildlife preserve.

Hope A. Horner, 2012
Twitter:  HopeNote

25 Verses about Stubbornness:
2 Corinthians 5:18-21 - Reconciliation despite our mistakes!

Monday, September 3, 2012

You Know You're Old When...

Nope. Never. Ever. Well, maybe. OK, yes. Psych! Never.

Wow, it's Labor Day. A day of rest. The day we cease from laboring in honor of all the laboring that went before us.  I could use some rest.  I'm 40.  I don't usually feel old, but today I do.  Forget the emerging aches, the ebbing hormones, the blurry vision...You know why I feel old today?  I feel old because I went on to browse for music and saw the list of the top music downloads of the month. Here are the titles of some of the most popular songs:

Too Close
Blow Me One Last Kiss
As Long As You Love Me
5 Seconds
Slipping Away
Blown Away
We Are Never Getting Back Together
Call Me Maybe
Want U Back

(I'm not kidding! Check them yourself here: Top 20 Music Downloads ) If you do go check these out, you'll notice I didn't list the song titles in the same order as Amazon.  Amazon lists them in descending order - the most popular download is #1, second most popular is #2 and so on.   I started to list them in that same order and then I realized - Hey!  There's a story here! So, instead, I listed the song titles in the order I thought told the story of typical "young love."  Think about your first serious "love" relationship (or atleast what you THOUGHT at the time was "love" and "serious") and re-read the list above.  Does it sound a little bit like your story?

If you're like me, you snickered a little bit as you read the list.  All these songs about flirting and freckles and frolicking and how it all comes on so quickly and then leaves even more quickly and then comes back and then leaves again to run off with the new boy in town or the blond cheerleader. I love you!  No, wait, I hate you!  Young love brings the highest highs and the lowest lows, doesn't it?  It inspires lots of melodrama: bad poetry, weepy ballads, tight jeans, cheap jewelry on sweaty fingers, cheesy photos, and late night phone calls.  Remember the hangouts, hormones and hang-ups (and in some cases hangovers)?  And don't forget the breakouts, breakups and breakdowns.  Ah, yes, young love.  Makes me glad I'm old.  I am glad those dramatic days are over, even if some of the excitement went with them.  The lows can be sooo low, what with all that hormone raging and photo tearing, and that blasted radio DJ who keeps playing that same sappy, sad love song over and over.  That's what these songs on the Amazon list are all about - love found, love enjoyed, love lost.  Mainly, love gone wrong.  And the kids are downloading them like crazy, trying to find comfort.  They want all want to wail together in common, harmonious sorrow over how much love sucks. I had Richard Marx, REO Speedwagon and Journey to comfort me when my young love went wrong.  Now, it's Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift.  I look at those two and I think they're just kids singing about kids.  How can someone who still puts Oxy-10 on their face know anything about true love? 
The other day I was out of town and needed a Red Bull to keep me going.  I walked into a neighborhood market* and inside a classic 90's love song was blasting...
It's just another sad love song wracking my crazy...
There was a slightly drunk man near the front counter as I bought my drink.  He steadied himself on a candy display and sputtered words toward the man behind the register.
"And man, I'm sorry to take up your time you know, but I just wanted to get some stuff** off my chest about things like women and all the stuff** that goes along with them, you know? Stuff**! Man!"
As I paid for my drink and this poor man dribbled on about love lost the song hit it's peak:
Here comes the strings
Then somebody sings
Only takes a beat
And then it starts killin' me darlin'...
For goodness sake, CHANGE THE STATION BUDDY! I wanted to yell at the guy behind the counter.  Toni Braxton is just making it worse for this poor soul!  Maybe classical would be better?  Hurry! Turn it to K-Mozart and put him out of his misery!  It's always safer to listen to music without words when you heart is breaking because of all the stuff* your lover has done to you. Buy hey, what do I know?  I'm old, right? As I type this, Beethoven is playing on my CD player.  Yes, Beethoven. And no, not on my iPod - on my CD player.  For those of you under 25, here's what a CD player looks like:
Well, I think it's time to shut down my PC and turn off my CD player and run a few errands. Just some fun errands - no work stuff today. Then I'll come home, do a little reading, maybe have dinner at 5pm and go to bed early.  I'm not that old yet, but I've earned the right to act like it once in awhile. After all, it is Labor Day.

Best wishes to all the lovers out there - young and old.  Have a wonderful Labor Day! 

* Neighborhood market = liquor store
** Stuff = another 4 letter 's' word

-Hope A. Horner, 2012
Follow on Twitter at HopeNote

Saturday, September 1, 2012

I'm Not Crying Over a Building, Am I?

Would you believe me if I told you that this vacant lot pictured below used to be the "hub of the community"? 

Photo by Rich Hall.

It's true.  What is now a criss-cross of concrete and a mesh of metal fencing used to be the location of a vibrant community center in the heart of a busy neighborhood. Granted, it was never anything fancy, simply an old appliance warehouse the City converted in 1994 into a 7,000 square foot center for homework tutoring, boxing, and summer camp - a place for teens to hang out, to find their way, to stay out of trouble.  Neighborhood kids called it their second home. Teens with gang tattoos boxed out their anger in the ring instead of taking it to the streets.  Younger brothers joined youth clubs instead of following their big bro's footsteps into the local gang.  Five year olds learned to read and add 2 and 2 and share a snack. Ten year olds tore around the place like they owned it, while staff yelled "Walk!" over the hum of fans and timing bells and giggling junior highers.  Girls danced in fancy floral dresses, tapping their feet and spinning to the music of their heritage in a performance that won them numerous awards.  From 1994 until 2006, the Center was the place that kids went to find out what made them special.
Now an empty lot sits where this hub of the community used to be.  Not even one brick remains.
Thankfully, the Center didn't go "out of business."  Not even close.  In 2006, a brand new Center was opened just a few blocks east of this location.  The new place is just as vibrant as the old, if not more so.  While the new Center filled and grew over the last six years, the old Center sat down the street and around the corner like a lonely friend - empty and quiet.  There was a martial arts museum in it for awhile.  Soon it was used as a City construction office for the new state-of-the-art library being built down the street (The big light brown building in the distance in the above photo.)  Instead of kids and backpacks and snacks and soccer balls, the old center filled up with engineers, surveyors, maps and plans. 
Then one day about a month ago, I looked over and it was gone.
Nothing left.
Just the lot you see above.
And I cried.
I was on the way to the new Center to meet with a colleague of mine.  Someone who, like me, had been a part of the Center for nearly 15 years years.  She came to the Center as a recreation leader in 1996 and I came in as director in 1998.  We worked together to build, grow and then eventually move the Center to its new location.  She is now the summer and after-school program coordinator at the new site.  Even though I don't directly supervise her anymore, she asked me to be her leadership mentor and so we meet weekly to go through various leadership books and discuss our challenges and goals.  It's nice to still be able to connect regularly.  We went through a lot at the old Center - no air conditioning in summer, the leaky roof in winter, the year round gang members and pregnant teens who broke our hearts with their stories of abuse and neglect.  We put band-aids on ow-ies, passed out Christmas presents, put away more tables and chairs than we can count, and taught each other how to speak another language.  We have so many inside jokes and stories that we are practically family.
I got to the Center still a little misty eyed and was glad that I was meeting with my colleague.
As soon as we sat down to meet, I said:  "Did you see the old Center?  It's gone!"
"Yeah, I noticed that the other day."  She replied.  "I went down there with a few kids and staff from the old days and we had a little goodbye ceremony.  We found a piece of one of the old bricks from the Center that was laying around.  We brought it back here to the new place and buried it out back."
I started to cry again.
She just looked at me and her eyes watered too.
"I feel so stupid crying over a building!"  I wiped away my tears forcefully and shuffled in my bag for a tissue.  "But there is just something special about that place and to see it gone, it just kind of was like, wow, it's all gone.  Just like that."
"Don't feel stupid, I cried, too."  She said.  "I had my moment for sure."
"We just spent so much time there, you know?  Wow, so many memories.  But I don't have to tell you that.  You know.  You understand why I'm crying."  I dabbed at my tears carefully and tried not to smear my makeup.
She gave me a knowing, strained smile and then looked out her office window.  I took a deep breath to compose myself.
"Anyway, where were we in this book?"  I got out my notes and the leadership book from our last meeting.

Photo by Rich Hall.
As I drove away later that day, I went by the old Center site again.  As I passed, I saw the "No Trespassing" sign on the fence that enclosed the empty lot. I laughed through my tears as I thought of how the signs changed from "Come in!" to "Go away or else!" And how quickly it all seemed to happen! Poof!  There one minute, gone the next.   Tears began to fall again.  I was starting to feel silly for being such a big baby.
Why am I so sad - nostalgic - pensive - pained -- OVER A BUILDING??!! 
The building was a total piece of crap!  The city poured money into it to make it tolerable, but even then it was tough to program.  The outside was brick and corrugated metal which meant no insulation.  The roof was a sprayed-on foam rubber product that leaked better than it sealed.  The walls were chipped cinder blocks in some parts, white, scuffed dry-wall in others.  The windows didn't open and were tinted for safety.  There were only two bathrooms.  One office-slash breakroom- slash meeting room. The rest of the building was one big open room divided up by curtains and partitions used to make cubicles.  Picture August, 250 kids running around and no air conditioning, and only two bathrooms.  I had a few summers like that.
But I loved it.
Because it wasn't about the building.
It was about the people.
About lives changed for the better.  Curious, wide-eyed kids set on a new path.  Tattooed teens heading in a new direction. The Center was about hope and help and getting there each day so you could share, belong, matter and do something that mattered.  It was where you learned something new - a new song, a new language, a new skill, a new friend.  When life went wrong or something from your past reared its ugly head - you could cry on the shoulder of someone who gave a damn.  And I'm not just talking about the kids.  Staff, parents, volunteers, community members - all came here for the same reason.  They said you could literally "feel" the love when you walked in the place.  We were all in this together.  Everyone could tell.  Everyone wanted to be a part of it and it was some of the best years of my life.
The building is gone now.  All that's left is an empty parking lot full of uneven pavement and weeds, but I know only the building is gone.  Not the impact.  There are a million metaphors for this, most reduced to trite cliches, but they really are true - ripples in a pond, setting the ball in motion, planting a seed...
In other words - You can tear down the building, but not the legacy of love.  That lives on.
And that's something that will always bring me to tears.

Photo by Rich Hall.

Hope A. Horner. 2012
Twitter:  Hope Note
Special thanks to Rich Hall for the scenic photos used in this blog.