Saturday, November 30, 2013

You Too, Annie

My Mom calls the GPS system in the car "Annie." I know it drives my Dad crazy. A "woman" who gives directions is probably hard enough for him to swallow, but then to have my Mom give this mystery woman a name just makes things worse. He puts up with it though.  He is just happy that GPS "Annie" gets them and their emerald blue Ford Focus where they need to go, especially when they are out of town. My Dad is pretty good with technology, maybe about a C+ (and I don't mean the programming language for those of you who are A+), but he still uses his keys to tap the screen of the GPS to input data. I am not sure if it is because he doesn't know that he can simply use his finger on the touchscreen or if he uses his keys because, frankly, he uses his keys for everything. He cuts open Frito-Lay chip bags with his keys.He slices open CDs. Saws through plastic zip ties on new purchases. He opens just about everything with his keys because, like most men, they are always jingle-jangling in his front pocket. So he just pulls them out and taps them on the touchscreen until the satellites align and Annie gives her first command.
"Continue on North Harbor Drive for 3.3 miles."
"In 100 feet, turn right on Nibitz Blvd."
"You have arrived at your destination."
My Dad pulls into the parking lot and coasts into the first open spot.
"Thank you Annie!" My Mom squeals.
I can almost hear my Dad mumble in his head,"Annie's not real, honey; Annie's not real. You don't have to thank her."
But he keeps his mouth shut.
Because he is kind.
And it makes my Mom happy.
Oh, and thanks to "Annie" they get where they are going.
And darn it, if that isn't what love is? -- Keeping your mouth shut when your partner is happy over something you think is silly.
And keeping your eye on the big picture.
If my partner wants to name the GPS device after a curly red head who had a hard knock life - fine. She's smiling and we're where we're supposed to be.
I'm glad I'm here.
I'm glad you're here.
I'm glad we're together.
Both of us, ur...ALL of us.
You too, Annie.

-Hope A. Horner, 2013
Feel free to forward and share. Contact author on gmail at hopeh1122.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Painting the Titanic

My great grandfather painted the Titanic. He wasn't the only one of course.The luxury liner was constructed in Belfast, Ireland and he was one of many Irish who spent years hammering, sawing, sanding and painting the boat to life. He ultimately died of a rare form of blood cancer, which my aunt, the family historian, said was probably due to the lead based paint he was exposed to for many years.We can't know for sure if that is what caused his death, but one thing we do know is that he spent years painting a boat that now sits at the bottom of the ocean.
Think about it.
All that painting was in vain--wasted time & energy. The countless hours of aching shoulders and cramped hands lifting a brush to those hard to reach places, ensuring just the right shade, making sure no spot was missed--all for not. He might as well have painted the Titanic bright neon green with orange polka dots or drawn little squiggly lines all over it. Heck, he could have tagged it up graffiti-style with big fat bubble letters. What did it matter? Sure, people would admire it from the harbor as it pulled away and those on  board would eat, sleep and party in it for awhile, but ultimately, that big, beautiful boat was going DOWN. Though he didn't know it at the time, he was basically painting a fish play toy--a giant, fancy metal coral reef. Today, the "unsinkable" Titanic sits at the bottom of the sea near Newfoundland--split in two, it's colors faded, covered in mud and surrounded by total darkness. No one can see the black, red, gold and white my grandfather painted on the stern, the bow, in the Captain's room and on the balconies.
What a shame.
Yesterday, my neighbor and I stood in my garage talking about death. Don't worry, it wasn't the first thing we talked about, but since our dear friend and neighbor is dying of cancer, our conversation eventually headed in that direction. She warned me that she likes to talk about it, not in a morbid way, but in a "circle of life" kind of way. I said I didn't mind. We talked about how this whole world is really meaningless if this is all there is. I mean, if all life is about is getting up every day and trying to make the best of it by acquiring as many toys as you can, isn't that a little bit like painting the Titanic?  Let's say you have all the "creature comforts" this life can give--you have money in the bank, two cars in the garage, a big house on the hill and a tennis club membership. Then you die tragically in Belize in a naked hang gliding accident or you die not so tragically - you die of old age. Whatever it is - YOU DIE. So who cares about all your goodies? As the old saying goes - you never see a U-haul truck behind a hearse.
So trying to make myself as happy as possible in this life is a little like painting the Titanic. My ship is going down. Why am I trying to fill it up with stuff and make it so pretty? If I live for something bigger, better, above all this - then even when I die, my handiwork lasts. This is why we are all driven to make a difference, leave a legacy. We want proof our life counted for something. It's a little bit like scrawling "I was here" on the world. The thought that "my music will live on forever" or "my name is on that building" or "I found the cure for x disease" - is what drives us to do something that will stand the test of time. We want to paint a ship that isn't going to sink.
But it is so easy to get caught up in decorating and furnishing the Titanic.It's so alluring! It seems so permanent! So enormously important! We invest our time, energy and money to make our ship as fun, comfortable and pleasurable as possible. We want smooth sailing! There's nothing wrong with comfort and happiness, but is that the focus of my life? What am I doing that is going to stand the test of time? Who am I living for? Am I talking to people about my faith and giving them hope, or am I just letting them paint the Titanic right alongside me? Am I acting like my ship is never going down? Is my ship the only one that matters? Am I dancing on my party yacht while others are bailing water out of their rowboats? Or am I helping? Serving? Praying? Loving? Sharing? Giving?
Not enough I am afraid.
I'm covered in little wet drips of red, black, white and gold. I have splatters on my jeans, stains on my fingers and flecks in my hair just like my great grandfather. I have made a pretty boat.
It's time to put down the brush.

-Hope Horner, 2013, from
Feel free to forward, tweet and share on Facebook.
Contact author at hopeh1122atgmaildotcom for offline publishing.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Low Down on Bible Downloads

"If you think reading Scripture from an iPad rather than a printed Bible makes it lose it's magical mojo, you might worship the Bible.”
This came out of a recent Sojourner's article entitled "The 10 Things the Church Can't Do While Following Jesus." One of those 10 things the church can't (or shouldn't) do was "Worship the Bible." Click Here to Read Article
In other words, the Bible is not God. The Bible is not supposed to be worshiped.The Bible is not magic. It's just words in print. Some say "inspired" by God, some say God's words. But not something your worship.
I agree.
And I don't.
I agree that the Bible is not to be worshipped. I agree that some Christians can turn it into an idol - treating it as God or as important as God. The Bible is not God, but I just can't feel completely comfortable treating it as "just printed words." And for that reason, I do not feel completely comfortable reading the Bible from my iPad or iPhone. And it bothers me (more than a little) when I see it read from a smart phone during church. Not that I think the Bible loses its "magical mojo" from being on an LCD screen instead of on paper, but I do find it well, irreverent. Slip-shod. Flippant?
Call me Old School. Uptight? Brainwashed by Baptists?
Maybe, but I guess I see it this way...
I don't believe the Bible has magical mojo whether you read it straight from a thousand year old papyrus you personally dug up in Turkey (Although, that would be AWESOME!) or from a downloaded  "Bible App" on your cell phone. But I do think there is a difference.
I just think of the Bible, the actual printed book, deserves at least as much respect as our American flag.
There's no magic there either. Technically, it's a piece of cloth with red and white stripes on it and a blue box full of stars. We make millions of flags every year in various sizes. They come in cloth, plastic, paper, and bumper sticker form. The flag is a thing
But we all know it is much more than that.

The flag is special because of what it represents. People died for what that flag represents.LOTS of people died. And today, having just celebrated Veterans Day this past week, we remember and recognize those who fought and died for our freedom to pursue life, liberty and happiness. So we treat the flag with respect and reverence because of what it represents. We don't let it touch the ground.  We don't like to see it burned unless it is being "retired." We keep light on it at night. We lower it to half staff to symbolize grief. We see it and treat it as more than just a thing.
Isn't the book - The Good Book--the Bible, at least as special as the flag?  Shouldn't it be regarded, respected, admired and treasured? Isn't it more than just a book? I think so--not because it is magic, but because of what it represents - because it is God's words in written form. People took great care to write it down, copy it, pass it along, preserve it, hide if it they had to. Now we have a million ways to read it, but back when all there was was stone, papyrus or leather, you treasured a book. Especially a book that carries God's story inside it.

Look, I have a Bible app on my cell phone and it is great for quick reads when I am stuck in the waiting room of my dentist's office or need to look up a verse quickly on the go.  But when I "read the Word," study it, or when someone in church reads the Bible, I love to see that big, thick black Bible come out, not their iPhone5.
I'm not saying the Bible loses its power when read from a device. It's the words that have the power, not the stuff they are printed on.  I'm just saying I don't think the fact that I prefer to read the "Good Book" as opposed to the "Sacred Screen", means I worship the Bible.  It don't think it loses its magic because I don't believe it ever had any magic to begin with. I just love "The Good Book" and am not going to feel comfortable calling it the "Good App" anytime soon. I love the thin paper that crinkles when you turn the page. The gold lined pages.The pictures of Moses parting the Red Sea or Jesus sitting with children on his lap. The built in bookmark with the gold cross on the end. I love the old editions, their binding falling apart from so many readings, their edges bent. It took me a long time to be able to highlight or write in my Bible and even now, I only have one that I write in.  Why? Because I worship it?  Nope. Because it isn't Huckleberry Finn or Moby Dick.  It's not magical, but it is special.  Would you draw on the flag? Why not?  It's just a piece of material!  
Why does it say Holy Bible on the cover?  Holy isn't magical.  Holy is "set apart" and yes, this book is "set apart" from the rest of the books in my collection. When we hand a war widow the American flag after she loses her loved one, we hand her the ACTUAL FLAG. We don't hand her an iPad with a downloaded flag on it. We don't give her a printout of the flag on 8x11 paper. We give her the real deal. When I go to church, I want to see the Bible. When I read the Bible I want to hold it in my hands.  It doesn't have to be leather, but it does have to be real. It is after all God communicating with us through many people over many years.
That's not magical.
It's a miracle.

-Hope Horner
Feel free to forward and share. Contact author for reprinting offline or for use in your publication:  hopeh1122 at gmaildotcom
Twitter:  @HopeNote

Saturday, November 2, 2013

I'm Burning My Contract With God

I'm canceling my contract with God.
Ripping it up.
Throwing it out.
No, wait. Maybe I'll set a match to it. Burn it up. Yeah, that it's. I'll torch it.
Look at that flame! 
It's over. I am no longer going to obligated to God, nor He to me.

Sounds terrible,doesn't it? Sounds like I am turning my back on God. "Leaving the flock" - as they say in Christian circles.
But don't worry. I AM going to cancel my contract, but I am not turning away from God. I have decided to enter into a covenant with God instead.
No, not a convent. That's for nuns. I mean a COVENANT.
What's the difference between a contract and a covenant?
Love is the difference, my friends.

I did a google search (i.e. research!) on the difference between a contract and a covenant and there were several sites which explained the differences and the similarities. Each talked about how both contracts and covenants are binding, how they require a signature or an oath, how they spell out what each party is responsible for and what is at stake. Several described the difference as: "Contracts are for business and covenants tend to have spiritual or religious overtones." Another said, "A contract is made in my name; a covenant is made in God's name." I could see there was a difference, but it didn't seem that big of a deal. UNTIL, I heard a sermon by Pastor Timothy Keller from Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC.  Listen to Sermon Here
He described a covenant relationship as one built on love. He described the incredible scene in Genesis 15 where God makes a covenant with Abram (Abraham). This involves animal sacrifice and walking "through the pieces" and other ritual languate that is foreign (and slightly disturbing) to me, but in the end, God says "I will be your God and the God of your people." God promises to bless Abram and give him descendants that number even more than the stars in the sky. Pastor Kellar explained how this covenant was built on unfailing love - God loved his people and even though He knew they would not always love him back or walk in his ways, he entered into a binding relationship with them, one that said he would "never leave them nor forsake them."  God's love was guaranteed.

Is it because he expected something from them? I do this, you do that?
No. That's a contract.This was a covenant.
It was because he loved them. He wanted to bless them. He WANTED to be in a relationship with them--to see them flourish in His love. He did ask for something in return - obedience (or love shown outwardly in action), but the covenant would not be canceled if they disobeyed. (If that were true, the covenant would have lasted about 5 minutes! Think of all the times the Israelites turned their back on God, failed to trust him, disobeyed his commandments, even scoffed at and killed the very people He sent to deliver his message!) Sure, sometimes God left them to their own devices - to pay the consequences for their bad choices, but he never truly left them. I get the sense that he was always there, waiting, in sorrow, tears falling, for his people to turn from their ways and come back to Him. He was broken hearted. He was angry. He was fed up. He had entered into a contract - God! Lord! Holy Mighty Creator of the Universe! And these little peons had turned their back on HIM? He was betrayed. His people spit and stomped on the covenant.
And yet, his love remained.
Finally, He sent His son, Jesus.The final sacrifice had to be made to ensure that the people God loved, ALL people, could stay in covenant with him. We needed reconciling. Reminding. Renewal. The old covenant had been dishonored, destroyed. Not by God, but by his people - in the wandering away, the rebellion, the disgrace - the same way we live today. Jesus' final sacrifice on the cross restores the covenant, restores our love relationship with God. We broke the covenant with God and Jesus keeps it. We get the benefits (as though we kept the covenant) and the covenant is good forever. Never expires. Never fades. That's because death's contract is canceled--you know, the one that says, you die and stay that way? The one that says we get what we deserve? Hopelessness and despair are no more.  Death is defeated. The covenant of love remains - the one that was always there, but we ignored. 
How do we enter into this covenant? Accept it by faith. It is a gift freely given by God.  We don't earn it or deserve it. It is given graciously, lovingly, willingly by our Father in Heaven who wants nothing more than to be in a covenant relationship with us. No dotted line to sign on. No lawyers. No fine print. No one reading some legal language real fast at the end of a commercial. And nothing we can do to earn it. Just the greatest gift ever from the God of the world - one that he holds out with pierced hands and says:
So, I am canceling my contract because I don't need it. I wrote up that contract anyway. It came from my legalistic religious upbringing, my misunderstanding of God, my insecurity, my lack of understanding of Scripture - I thought I had to "get right" when in fact God "put me right!"  I was busy trying to fulfill my end of "the deal" and failing miserably, wondering if God was going to give up the contract with me all together when I realized the contract was all my doing. I was so busy working on the contract, I missed the covenant.
Look at the story of Abraham:
"Abraham entered into what God was doing for him and that was the turning point. He trusted God to set him right instead of trying to be right on his own."  (Romans 4, The Message)
And then I read Romans 5 (The Message):  
"By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us--set us right with him, makes us fit for him--we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus.  And that's not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand--out in the wide open spaces of God's grace and glory, standing tall and shouting praise..."

Isn't that beautiful? Contracts make you nervous. Covenants make you feel like singing.
A contract is full of rules about what I must do, what I owe, what I have to commit to - - I better read all the fine print!  There is nothing for free and no one gets to benefit individually. It is quid pro quo, baby.
Not with God.  Not with love. Not with a covenant.
Love says, "I do this for you because I love you."
Love says, " I would do anything for you, even die for you, because I love you that much."
Love says, "Be with me forever."
Love asks for nothing except, "Won't you love me, too?"
To which I respond, "Yes!"as the pieces of my old contract smolder to ashes in my hands.

-Hope A. Horner, 2013
Follow on Twitter at
Feel free to forward and share this article.