Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Ozzy Eye Opener

He looks scary.  Is he?

I'll never forget the first time I heard an Ozzy Osborne song.  I was in my late teens.
I could not believe my ears.
I was flabbergasted.
Completely blown away.
My whole life my parents had warned me about the great and terrible Oz. The Christian books and magazines my parents got in the mail warned about this dangerous rock star who bit the heads off of bats, killed puppies and worshipped Satan. (At least at his better concerts.)  "Ozzy" was the name that came to every good Christian's mind when they thought of how Satanic secular music was getting.  Ozzy was the hood ornament on the Devil-Mobile that was headed over the cliff at Demon's Point.
And I bought into all of it without ever hearing ONE NOTE of an Ozzy song.
So when the first note of "Over the Mountain" started, I expected to hear a really angry, thrashing guitar, and a really angry, screaming man and instead what I got was a catchy melodic riff and lyrics that went like this:
Over the mountain, take me across the skySomething in my vision, something deep insideWhere did I wander?  Where did you think I wandered to?I see life's magic astral plane.  I travel through.What?!  Where is the "I love Satan"?  The "666"?  Where is the anger?  The God hating?  I listened to the next few lines...I heard them tell me that this land of dreams was nowI told them I had ridden shooting stars and I would show them how...Riding shooting stars?  What's next UNICORNS?!?  And why is he singing like he's in a musical and not screaming?  I expected to hear rage instead I get this sing-songy guy?  What is going on?This is no exaggeration.  This was really what went through my head.  I listened to many more Ozzy songs.  (I still think the "Crazy Train" has one of the best rock guitar riffs EVER.)  I listened and listened, but couldn't find any lyrics that had anything to do with devil worship. I could find plenty of lyrics that made no sense at all to me, some that I think Ozzy probably wrote when he was high (Was he ever not high?), but nothing as offensive as his supposed concert behavior.Was that even true I wondered?Evidently, those stories about his bat biting and puppy squashing were really just a bunch of urban legends that Ozzy let run rampant because it helped build up his concert audiences. Nothing sells tickets to angry teens like rumors of mass violence and mayhem.
Bottom line -  I didn't know what I didn't know.  I believed what I had heard about Ozzy without ever examining him or his music for myself.  I have since outgrown his music a bit, but I haven't outgrown the lesson.
I learned it again the other day.  I got Tweet'ed a warning about the "A Beka" books that some Christian and home school teachers use.  The textbooks cover the usual topics - history, science, etc. but are written from a conservative Christian perspective.In other words...The earth is about 8,000 years old.  At most.Dinosaurs and man lived together.  (Cool! Land of the Lost was a reality show!)The KKK was kind of misunderstood.  They actually had some good points despite all the lynchings, cross burnings, beatings and other stuff.I am generalizing above, but you get the point.  Here is a link to the blog that talked about the PBS article: (Keep in mind this is an anti-Christian blog, so don't expect it to be kind.  But still...)I Can't Believe What's In These Textbooks!When I read the blog, I stopped when I got to the part where the author mentions Bob Jones University Press and A Beca Textbooks. My mouth dropped open slightly. My Mom went to Bob Jones.My Dad home-schooled me using these Beka Textbooks.Holy cow, I'm a spawn child of some kind of crazy cult!  I have been brainwashed!  No wonder I though Ozzy was Lucifer himself!  No wonder I no nothing about evolution!  This explains why I have no real concept of history or science or psychology except that everything happened because God wanted it to!  I have DOWNED THE CHRISTIAN KOOL AID!  Why don't I just crawl into a bunk bed with my Nikes on with the rest of the crazies and off myself so I can get to comet Hale-Bopp??!?Ok, so maybe I over-reacted a bit.  I'm not going to off myself.  I got a great education growing up.  My parents are top notch, respected teachers.  True, my Dad did home-school me (and my brother and sister) from pre-school through 3rd grade using the Beka books. From 4th grade on I went to private Christian - mainly Baptist - schools and I can't remember if they used Beka textbooks -- I don't think so, but we definitely used textbooks approved by the American Christian Schools International and Bible believing Baptists everywhere.And my Mom did go to Bob Jones University.  I remember her describing what dating was like at this South Carolina Christian college.  I was an teen and couldn't wait to hear about my Mom dating.  Did she go to a drive in?  A sock-hop? Maybe a Sadie-Hawkins dance?Nope.You and your chaperoned date got to sit on chairs in a room with other chaperoned couples and talk. This was after you walked across campus, not together, INDIVIDUALLY following the appropriate colored stripe that had been marked on the sidewalks to tell boys and girls where they could and could not walk.  Really.I remember my Dad teasing my Mom about going to Bob Jones, because even he recognized that Bob Jones makes most conservative Christian colleges look like Chico State.  But Dad, you still used Beka! I grew up reading from books that say the Great Depression probably wasn't as bad as the liberals made it sound.OK, to be fair, I am sure most of what is in Beka books is just basic stuff that everyone can agree on.  After all, a proton is a proton and the Pilgrims landed in America in 1620 no matter what you believe.  (Please note however that God created every single proton that has ever or will ever exist and the Pilgrims may have battled the Jamestown T-Rex.)But still, I realized both when I read this blog entry and when I heard Ozzy's music for the first time:I don't know what I don't know.So I need to do some thinking for myself.  I need to discover, study, read, ponder, question, struggle, understand FOR MYSELF.It hasn't been easy.  I drank the Baptist flavored Kool Aid for a long time. (It has a lingering after-taste.) And as all children do (until they become teenagers), I took what my parents said as Gospel.  I believed what I read in every Christian book, what I was taught in every Christian class, what I heard in every Sunday School lesson.  I decided I need to find out for myself what this Gospel is all about.  Not what Bob Jones, or Beka or any one else says it is, but what it REALLY is.  It all started with "Over the Mountain."Thanks Ozzy for opening my ears and my eyes.Just go easy on the puppies, please.
-Hope A. Horner, 2012www.hopehorner.comTwitter: @HopeNote

Saturday, January 26, 2013

When God Went "Stephen King"

If you've ever seen a Stephen King movie you know that somewhere in the movie, King is going to show up.  He'll be some inconsequential character--a minister at a funeral, a janitor at a school, but he will show up in his own movie, speaking the words he wrote, playing a bit part in a scene he created.  Alfred Hitchcock used to do it, too. It's rare, but sometimes the artist enters his work.  The creator enters the world he created.
Sound familiar?
"Yeah, Yeah, I know. Baby Jesus. Mary, Joseph. Bethlehem."
But wait a minute. Think about that manger moment --
The God who created the womb, enters one.
The God who created the world is born into it.  
The Master Architect of all that is, puts down his pencil and enters his drawing.  
The Expert Watchmaker sets his watch to the time he created and controls.  
The Master Creator gets his feet dirty in the dust from which he created man.
It's like Shakespeare going into battle with Hamlet.
Michelangelo painting himself into "The Last Supper."
Rodgers & Hammerstein singing "Do Re Mi" with Sister Maria in the Sound of Music.
Only WAY more amazing.
Because Jesus plays no "bit part." He's not an extra.  He is not a stagnant oily image on a canvas.  He is not a character in a play who shows up in some miscellaneous scene.  He is GOD.  And God doesn't come into the world as Jesus to sing and dance. He comes as God on a mission of reconciliation.  He lives, teaches, serves and ultimately sacrifices his life and rises again so all of creation can come into harmony with its Creator. Seeing Stephen King in one of his movies is fun.  Seeing Jesus as Emmanuel (God With Us) is astounding.
OK, so the Creator comes into his Creation.  But who created the Creator? Who Created God?
This was asked at a debate I was listening to lately and the answer was simple:
No one.
God is not created.  He is the un-created Creator. He just is.  He was, He is, He will be.  We can't see him through a telescope, put him on a chronological timeline or in a test-tube.  He created the telescope, timeline and test-tube, just like the play right, artist or movie maker creates plays, paintings or films.  If Stephen King hadn't made it a habit to write himself into his own movies, we would never look for him there.  We wouldn't expect to find him in a scene interacting with one of his characters.  We would watch (or read) Carrie and Kujo and Pet Cemetery and never find him and we'd be OK with that because we know the artist doesn't have to appear in his work. Most artists don't.  They are certainly reflected in their work--experiences, attitudes and creativity are expressed there, but they can't always be found there.
I can certainly see God reflected in the world - in nature, music, loving relationships and the like, but I am not going to fly into outer space like the first Russian astronaut did and come back with this report:  "Well, I was out there, I looked around and I didn't see God."
That's like peering into a tent and wondering why the tent maker isn't inside.
God can't be found in outer space or anywhere else.  According to astronaut Colonel Jeff Williams who spent six months at the Space Station - God can be seen, but not found in outer space. There is evidence for him there in the motion, beauty, order and complexity of our galaxy, but you aren't go to look out of the window of the Space Shuttle and see God and the Man in the Moon having Cappuccino.
The best look we have at God is when we look at the life of Jesus. It's been 2013 years since then--when God went "Stephen King" and entered his work. He'll be back.  There's a sequel in the works.

-Hope A. Horner, 2013
Follow on Twitter @ HopeNote

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Keds & Cankles

Why is it the older I get the less I care what other people think?

Where does the calf end?
I'm forty and I'm starting to lose my need to "be cool" -- whatever "cool" is at 40.  (Probably that I don't talk about shopping at Walmart even if I do, I get my nails done at a salon with a french word in its name and my kids all go to Ivy League Schools.)  I can't wait to be 70 and not give a darn about what anybody thinks about ANYTHING. I figure if I am starting to feel this freedom at 40, that my the time I almost double that, I will be absolutely free to wear my bleach white Keds with my equally white bootie socks with my blinding white polyester knee-length shorts and not feel one iota of shame if I have spider veined calves, double-bubble knees or "cankles." I just won't care.  I will be free to be me.  By then, I'll have had plenty of time in my "younger years" to worry about my butt, my breasts, the way I walk, the angle of my teeth, the way I look when I'm eating, walking, PMS-ing or  breathing.  My biggest worry will be whether or not dinner at the senior center will have mashed potatoes and those awesome sourdough rolls we had last Thursday night.
High school was the height of my self-consciousness which is probably true for most people. I was a pretty confident teenager, but like most, I hated to be seen alone in public.  Go to the mall by myself?  NEVER. (The only thing worse was to have to go with my parents.) Sit in a booth and have a cheeseburger at McDonald's...alone?  HORROR! And I never, ever, ever went to a movie by myself.  Ever.  That just screamed LOSER.  Now at 40, I would KILL to have two hours of free time to go to a movie by myself. Well, not completely by myself.  I would be accompanied by a colossal tub of popcorn with a jumbo bag of M&Ms poured inside all smothered in three extra pumps of liquid gold butter.  I'd plop my lone self down with my 14 dollar heart-attack-in-a-tub right in the middle of the theater.  I'd shush the restless group of giggling, gabbing teenagers in the back row...
Shut up you prisoners of cool! I've got a movie to watch and popcorn to shove down! So what if I'm 40 and this is the the final movie in the Twilight Trilogy?  I can handle a creepy-sexy vampire and shirtless hunky wolf  all by myself.  In fact, I like watching movies all by myself.  Laugh all you want you juvenile tightly wound balls of self-consciousness. I enjoy being with myself.  Alone.  Silent. In a dark theater.  With enough popcorn for everyone in attendance...wearing my prescription glasses, the sweater I brought with me "in case the theater is cold" and my un-scuffed super-white Keds. So what!
Can't wait to get to that moment.
For now, I'm somewhere in between.  I can go to a movie by myself when I am out of town.  Or maybe  in town, if it is a really early matinee and a slow, low-budget documentary about the aquatic migration of minks in Great Britain and it has been out for 2 months.  I won't get popcorn.  I'll rush by it with longing eyes, slip into the dark theater with my head down and sit in the first seat I find on the aisle.  Then I'll stare at my cell phone until the previews start. People will think my significant other is late or a no show.  I'll have on my leather jacket and my Nikes (I got both at a discount store, but no one will know.)  I won't care what the three other people in the theater think.  Sort of.
There is another situation that tests your self-confidence levels.
Eating alone.
If you are a teen - Eating in the CAFETERIA alone is torture. A fate worse than a zit on prom night.  Walking out with your tray into the great expanse of teen faces, the laughing that seems to be directed at you as you pass by table after table then finally sit down somewhere, anywhere.  Acting like you don't care that its just you and your corn-dog is tough.
I never ate in the cafeteria in high school so I avoided this moment of awkwardness.  I slopped through the line, got my corn-dog with the burnt tip, my greasy but delicious tater tots and an Alta Dena milk that was harder to open than my economics book and headed out for the appropriate "lawn."  There was the freshman, sophomore, and junior lawns and of course - the best lawn of all - the slightly elevated, always green, picnic tables galore - senior lawn.  You were allowed on that lawn only if you were a senior, were escorted by a senior, could pitch/hit/throw like a senior or if you had a puppy tucked in your Letterman jacket.  Other than that, you stayed where you belonged on your designated lawn.  No exceptions.  Wait your turn Scrub.  Go to your tiny turf soph.  Step back Jr.  Someday, you'll be allowed in the lush green expanse with the buff boys and beautiful girls, but for now, enjoy your tiny square of crabgrass.

I am to the point now where I can eat alone. If I have to.  I mean, I don't go to Spago's by myself for a fillet Mignon, then take a long walk on the beach and give myself a kiss on the porch, but I can eat a veggie burger at The Habit by myself without feeling like a dork. That's progress.
There is freedom in not caring what others think. I'd like more of this freedom.  I welcome it as it comes with my fluctuating hormones, my creaky knees and my failing eyesight.The teens at the back of the movie theater are not who I am living for anyway.  My peers at work matter, but they are not the ultimate judge.  My parents influence me and matter tremendously, but they word is not the final Word.  The world is not my judge.  People can be my critic, but my worth is not in what they say about me or think about me any more than it is in what I wear, or where I live or how much money I make.  I matter because I am a child of God.  His opinion of me matters the most.

I hope he likes Keds.

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

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Evidence Without Proof

I believe in God and I don't have to prove it.  I don't have to prove there is a God to make my believing in Him rational. God is not a question of rationality. I can no more prove my own consciousness than prove there is a God. But that doesn't stop me from believing.
I heard Rabbi David Wolpe make this point in a debate with an atheist on the podcast Debate God.  He said there is evidence of God, but not proof.  And, strange as it may sound, he didn't have a problem with that.  Why? He said God is not a question of science. God is someone / a being that goes beyond the scientific method, that is outside of it, unbound by it, or at the very least - beyond our own minds' capability to understand.  The fact that we can even ponder the concept of God, and yet not show scientifically HOW we are able to ponder Him is proof that not all things can be proved. Some things are meta-physical.  Spiritual. For example - - what is a thought? The will? A motive? Love?  Hard to say.  Impossible to determine or define completely in scientific terms. But boy, is there a whole lot of evidence for all of those, just as their is evidence for God. Just don't confuse it with proof.  Evidence doesn't emphatically prove, it just shows, points, hints, directs, gives reason for, draws our attention to a possibility, a very, very REAL possibility...

After listening to this Debate God podcast on my Ipod at the gym, I had a lot swirling in my mind.  I came home and as I put away my sneakers, I thought, "Well, I'm with you Rabbi Wolpe.  I can't prove it, but I believe it.  I believe it because I see and feel the evidence.  I see it in nature; I feel it in my heart and I see it and feel it in others both present and past. But yes, it doesn't mean that believing is easy."  Then I lifted up a short prayer to God (one I use often):  "God, help my unbelief."
I went upstairs and opened up the "One Year Bible" I am working my way through and turned to the reading for the day.  Here were the verses:

Matthew 11:7-30 (I included only verses 20-30 below.)
20 Then Jesus began to denounce the towns where he had done so many of his miracles, because they hadn’t repented of their sins and turned to God. 21 “What sorrow awaits you, Korazin and Bethsaida! For if the miracles I did in you had been done in wicked Tyre and Sidon, their people would have repented of their sins long ago, clothing themselves in burlap and throwing ashes on their heads to show their remorse. 22 I tell you, Tyre and Sidon will be better off on judgment day than you.
23 “And you people of Capernaum, will you be honored in heaven? No, you will go down to the place of the dead.For if the miracles I did for you had been done in wicked Sodom, it would still be here today. 24 I tell you, even Sodom will be better off on judgment day than you.”
25 At that time Jesus prayed this prayer: “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike. 26 Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way!
27 “My Father has entrusted everything to me. No one truly knows the Son except the Father, and no one truly knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Psalm 14:1-7
Only fools say in their hearts,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt, and their actions are evil;
not one of them does good!

2 The Lord looks down from heaven
on the entire human race;
he looks to see if anyone is truly wise,
if anyone seeks God.
3 But no, all have turned away;
all have become corrupt.
No one does good,
not a single one!
4 Will those who do evil never learn?
They eat up my people like bread
and wouldn’t think of praying to the Lord.
5 Terror will grip them,
for God is with those who obey him.
6 The wicked frustrate the plans of the oppressed,
but the Lord will protect his people.
7 Who will come from Mount Zion to rescue Israel?
When the Lord restores his people,
Jacob will shout with joy, and Israel will rejoice.
Proverbs 3:19-20
By wisdom the Lord founded the earth;
by understanding he created the heavens.
By his knowledge the deep fountains of the earth burst forth,
and the dew settles beneath the night sky.

I remember hearing that God answers all prayers that are in line with his will for your life.  If he wants you to have it, do it, know it, believe it and you pray for it - it is yours. Evidently, God does not want my knee to be completely healed yet because this morning's "run" was more like a "limp-jog", but he does however, want me to BELIEVE IN HIM. For goodness sake, could the verses above address my unbelief any more specifically?!?  
And that is precisely one of the reasons why I believe in Him.  I cannot tell you how many countless times this sort of thing happens.  If my faith starts to wander into the deep sea of doubt or despair, God fish-hooks me back. Especially, if I pray for Him to help me believe. It happens WAY too often to be a coincidence.  Sometimes it's the Bible verse he puts in front of me or in words from a pastor or podcast, or some entry I stumble upon in a spiritual blog, or the kind words of a friend, a unexpected note from a co-worker I find on my desk...SOMETHING or SOMEONE delivers a message from God directly to my despairing, disbelieving heart: "Hope, believe it!  You are not getting away from me!  I love you and here's proof!"
OK, God, maybe what you're showing me is not proof, but it is definitely evidence that you are real, you are there, you are listening, and you don't want me to wander away.
Don't worry God, I haven't.  I believe.  Help my unbelief.

-Hope Horner, 2012
Twitter: HopeNote

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Belly of A Whale

My faith is not in the belly of a whale;
It does not rest on some unfathomable tale,
Where truth and reason seem at war.
I mean, really. Is Noah's ark worth fighting for?
If not two by two, why is five by five
Heresy enough to be burned alive?
This caravan of creatures to the mighty boat
Possibly a parable of how sin fills our throat
Til we choke and sink to a watery grave
Until the Rainbow comes and we all are saved?
"Nope - just can't be!" Some would say

"It all really happened exactly this way!"
And it's at that point when I start to resist
The dogma and debate over arks and big fish,
Because there's no boat big enough to hold my faith -
No whale belly able to serve as its cave.
Whether you parted seas, spurned furnace flames,
Killed a giant with a rock, it's all the same.

My faith isn't hinged on your story or tale
It's not on a ship or in the belly of a whale.
For its not Jonah, or Noah, nor Adam, nor Eve
In Whom I rest, in Whom I believe.
-Hope A. Horner, 2012,

Follow on Twitter: HopeNote

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Heaven Came Down

Heaven Came Down and Glory Filled My Soul.

I was ten years old and walking back to sit in the church pew next to my Mom and Dad, hair still dripping from my baptism, when the choir belted out this hymn.  I have never forgotten it.  Especially the first line of the chorus -- Heaven came down and glory filled my soul...I can sing the whole song word for word to this day, but that line especially stands out. (Listen to it here on YouTube: )
I haven't always completely understood what that line means.  Certainly not at 10 years old.  Is "heaven coming down" and "glory filling my soul" some kind of mystical, spiritual experience?
For Christmas, I got the book The Reason for God:  Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller of Manhattan Redeemer Presbyterian Church.  I'm only about 40 pages in when, BAM! I run right into that line from the hymn.  It shows up in a description Pastor Keller gives of heaven:
The Bible teaches that the future is not an immaterial "paradise" but a new heaven and a new earth.  In Revelation 21, we do not see human being taken out of the world into heaven, but rather heaven coming down and cleansing, renewing, and perfecting this material world...the biblical view of things is resurrection--not a future that is just a consolation for the life we never had, but a restoration of the life we always wanted.  This means that every horrible thing that ever happened will not only be undone and repaired but in some way make the eventual glory and joy even greater...Everything sad is going to come untrue and it will somehow be greater for having once been broken and lost.

I got goosebumps.
Heaven coming down!  I immediately started humming the hymn from my baptism.  So heaven comes down when Christ comes again to restore the world back to its perfect, God-glorifying state.  When he restores earth to the way it was supposed to be.  The way God intended it.  All the beauty, culture, colors, diversity of humans and nature intact, only without the scars, divisions, pain and suffering that goes with it. I'm not going anywhere.  Heaven is coming to me.  Wow.
Then I got chills a second time because I immediately saw all those little children that were killed in that shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School a few weeks ago...ALIVE.  I saw them back at their desks, their round, rosy cheeked faces smiling.  A few were raising their hands eagerly, others wiggling in their plastic chairs.  Their winter jackets hung on hooks by the door next to their lunch pails full of juice boxes and PB&J. I saw them HAPPY & ALIVE. Unhurt.  Innocence restored.  Peace resumed.  They were back in the classroom, learning.  Only this time, none of them had learning disabilities or glasses, or a stomach ache or ADHD.  They were fully able to learn and filled with the joy that comes from learning something new with a clear, lucid mind un-muffled by early childhood traumas or physical malfunction.  They were perfect little angels. There was no shooting, only shining.  Jesus would hold every one of them.  His glory would come down and cover them with an indescribable peace that could not be taken away.  He would reunite them with their parents.  I saw Moms and Dads running to this new classroom in Glorytown, grabbing their child out of their seats and hugging them so close neither would be able to breath easily and the complete, incredible joy of this reunion would be indescribable.  The kids would wonder a bit what was going on, but the parents would know.  What was taken has been returned.  What was lost is now found.  Things are as they are supposed to be.  The parents' joy would be magnified by the loss they had experienced on that horrible day before heaven came down.  But here, now, there was no loss, no regret, no sorrow, no what-ifs.  Just joy, pure joy.
That's what happens when heaven comes down and glory fills your soul.

-Hope Horner,
Twitter: HopeNote

Friday, January 4, 2013

Pass the Buck

I want to change the world,
But I don't know what to do, 
So I'll leave it up to you.

From the Song "Change the World" by 10 Years After

Change the world.  
The thought is daunting.  I am just one person.  There are so many many problems...  So many places to go and people to help.  The world is so big and so messed up and it is all so overwhelming.  Maybe I'll just leave it up to someone else.  Like the Mormons.  Or the missionaries.  Or Mothers Against Drunk Driving.  Or the monks.  Or the military?  Or the medical experts.  
My job?  
Get out of the way. Write a nice song with a catchy chorus that shows I am at least thinking about it.  Sit cross-legged in a field of poppies.  Smoke weed. Drink hard liquor. Lean back.  Tune out. Try not to worry about it.  Maybe pray a little prayer for peace, if I can get to it before I pass out.
Change the world?
A wonderful idea, but an idealistic one.  An unrealistic one.  You gotta smoke a lot of something harder than pot to believe you can change the world my friend!  You're going to need a whole lot of flower power for this one!  Best to just pass the buck.  Toke and pass.  Toke and pass.

I know a middle-aged man who works in my community on his own dime and time, helping families in need.    This past December he focused on a family who was living in a small, one-bedroom ranch house infested with bed bugs.  The house had a leaky roof, windows that didn't close completely, sheets for curtains and no heat.  The parents slept on a bed in the living room--Open the front door and instead of a flat screen and a coffee table, you walked right into a bed, scattered boxes, and an old floppy couch.  And a dog.  A young pit bull would lick your hands clean and try to do the same to your face.  The two young boys slept in the one bedroom in the house, on the floor wrapped up in blankets and well, bugs.The fridge had bottled water, Tampico, milk and not much else.  Where are we?  Bolivia?  Mexico? Haiti?  Nope, My Town, California, USA.  The man I am describing had just started to work with a local health agency to address the family's bed bug issue, because the owner, who knew about the problem, had been unresponsive.  Just a little over a week ago, the owner didn't remove the bugs, but he did remove the family because he wanted to sell the home (and probably to pass the bed bug buck.) Luckily, the family found another place, and are in the process of moving last I heard.  Meanwhile, my friend is securing a bunk bed from Target for the boys so when they get to their new place, they won't have to sleep on the floor.  He has also reached out to  find help to ensure that the bed bugs don't come along with the family to the new place.  This is what I know he has done, I am sure there is much more I am not aware of.
Is he changing the world?
Yes, he is.  
Wait a minute! You mean, he is changing the big, bad ball of blue and brown that floats in our galaxy?  He's tackled that giant world and made a difference?
No and yes.
He is changing a little world right where he can reach it.
The next time the boys go to sleep they will not itch and scratch.  That will be a whole new world for them.  Their bodies will rest on a mattress, not on top of a thin blanket on a hard floor, and their heads will be on a pillow instead of the crumpled up sweatshirt.  New world.  My guess is Dad and Mom will sleep better too in this new world, knowing that their boys are more comfortable, safe and healthy.  There will probably be an extra Tampico or two in the fridge and some cheese, fruit and meat. If  the roof leaks, large tarps held down with bricks will be placed on the roof to cover the holes.  Sure, the roof will be plastic and blue for awhile in this new world, but it will be dry inside until a local roofer who can do the work for free or next to nothing comes along because he too, believes that he can change the world, this little world, one kind deed at a time.  
Pass the buck.
 It's easy to do -
Avoid the blisters, black and blues
Of charity work, just give a dollar or two
And take the responsibility off of you
To help the poor, the lonely and strange.
You're free to live as you arrange -
Believing the world too big to change.
It's hard work this caring and such, 
So much easier to just
Pass the buck.

God help me not to pass the buck. My money helps, but it is not enough. Make my world smaller so that I can see the need around me and DO something about it instead of just praying and worrying and wishing for world peace.  May I bring peace and love to every little world I find.  You've got the whole world in your hands.

-Hope A. Horner
Twitter: HopeNote
Podcast:  Realistic Mystic on iTunes

Thursday, January 3, 2013

My Favorite Hymn - Hands Down! (or Up?)

“In Christ Alone”
Words and Music by Keith Getty 

In Christ alone my hope is found;

He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all-
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone, Who took on flesh,

Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save.
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied;
For ev’ry sin on Him was laid-
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay,

Light of the world by darkness slain;
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me;
For I am His and He is mine-
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death-

This is the pow’r of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow’r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home-
Here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand.

The gospel set to music!  Whenever I find myself discouraged, I turn to this hymn.  It has made me cry on more than one occasion.  It literally pierces my soul!  The line about the "wrath of God being satisfied" and every line of the final verse are so powerful to me personally.  As someone who has often wondered if I could be plucked from God's hand either because of something I did or who I am, or because of someone else's scheming to rip me from Him by telling me I am not His unless I "change", this verse is a enormous blessing.  I turn to this song over and over to "bear up my spirit" when I feel discouraged and the words never fail to remind me just how blessed I am to have the unwavering love of God as wholly and completely mine through Christ alone.  Nothing, and no one, can take that from me.  That is good news indeed.
May this song bless you with the same gospel encouragement today and everyday.

-Hope A. Horner
Twitter: HopeNote
Podcast: Scroll to the top of this page to listen!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Truth or Consequences!

Some of you may have noticed that since I started my Realistic Mystic podcast about a month ago, I have less entries here in this blog.  Your observation is correct. Hey, the truth is a girl can only do so much! :)  But don't give up on the writer in me yet.  I will try to keep up with both this blog and the podcast in the New Year, but I won't make it into a resolution just yet.  
Why keep them going?  
Well, I feel called.
I feel propelled. Or is it compelled? Both?
I also feel blessed.

Why the podcast?  Just like many of you, I enjoy reading books by Christians of the past like Teresa of Avila, CS Lewis, Thomas Merton, and others (What an amazing faith history we have!) and each podcast features me reading excerpts from various Christian writers some of whom lived over a thousand years ago.  Their insight is just as relevant and inspiring today as it was back in their time.  I find it a blessing just to read their words and I hope you find it a blessing to listen. 

As for this blog...
As many of you know, I have English teachers for parents so writing is in my blood.  My Dad is currently a college English professor and author, and my Mom, now retired from teaching after her stroke a few years back, is an expert in grammar and American literature.  So rest assured, the writing here will continue.  I can't match my Mom's grammar and my Dad's writing ability, but I can and have to...write.  It's what I've always done.  When I was growing up, the Horner family game night didn't feature Twister, Monopoly or Life. We played "Truth or Consequences" - a story-writing game I think my Dad may have made up - where he directed us to write something down on a piece of paper, fold it over (so others couldn't see what you had written) and then pass it to the person next to you.  Everyone would pass their paper round and round the table and each time it came to you, you would have to write down something - a girls name, fold & pass, then a boy's name, fold & pass, then a setting, fold & pass, then a few lines about what they did for a living, fold & pass, then how many kids they had and their names, fold & pass, then, of course, how they died.  Pass, write, fold, pass - you get the picture.  Then after the final pass, you would unfold the paper like a scroll and read the "story" out loud to the rest of the family which for me meant Mom and Dad and my brother and sister.  The stories were hilarious -  a combination of the people and places we knew and the stuff we came up with in our overblown imaginations.  Each one had the random absurdity of Mad Libs.  We played this game many times at the kitchen table at home and in motels, tents and trailers on the road.  
Most of the stories we created sounded like this:
(My sister.  Somehow, she ended up in a lot of them.  Fate of the middle child?)
(Yes, with a "e" on the end.  He was a chubby, rebellious, blond haired kid from our neighborhood who once rode an ATV straight through his backyard fence and into the neighbor's pool...)
Lived in Timbuktu. 
(This just meant somewhere far away. We had no idea where it was.  My parents taught English, not geography!)
Rachel was a Rodeo Drive hairdresser and Caine was a bank robber.
They had 13 children.
(Poor Rachel!) Their names were Cassie, Kip, Sanchez, Billy, Mike, Rico, Bessie, Tom-Tom, Hugh, Tami-Lynn, Butch, Moses and Damien. 
They died riding the Colossus roller coaster at Magic Mountain.  
Evidently, Rachel had grown so large after having 13 children that the lap bar wouldn't come all the way down across her waist.  Caine slipped out from under the bar on the first drop and Rachel soon after.  

Ah, yes, Truth & Consequences.  The game for the family who wants to have fun AND prepare for the SAT at the same time.
All kidding aside, I loved playing T&C.  The stories were wild.  The laughs were sincere.  Whether by the glow of our fake Tiffany lamp over our kitchen table or by Coleman lamp on a weathered picnic table in a campsite, we were writing, sharing, teasing and bonding.  I am sure it helped spur on my creativity and love of writing.  And when you think about it, the game pretty much sums up life, doesn't it?  
2 people, who live in Anytown USA, marry, have babies, work and die. 
Sometimes in that order.  Sometimes a few stages are missing or reversed. It all depends, but you can pretty much count on work and death. Could that be the meaning behind the name of this game -- "Truth and Consequences"?  Truth is - you will WORK.  And the consequences?  DEATH. 

No matter what your life journey looks like in 2013 - no matter the consequences - through the good and the bad, let's all go with God.  The truth is we need Him.  I know I do.  

Happy New Year!
-Hope Horner
Follow on Twitter: @HopeNote
Have you heard the Realistic Mystic podcast?