Saturday, January 25, 2014

Saving Captain Jack

Captain Phillips wasn't in my neighborhood this past week, but Captain Jack was. He looked like a dachshund-pit bull mix and at first I thought he was dirty, but then it turned out he was a smeared brindle color. He was short and stocky with the broad pit bull head.
I was driving out of my neighborhood and there he was running down the street. He made a sharp right toward a flowerbed on the side of the road and as he looked back over his shoulder he glanced up at my car (probably to assess the threat) and then threw me what looked like a smile.
"What are you doing there little fella?" I said aloud in my car as I rolled down my window.
I looked over my shoulder and out my passenger side window to see where his owner was. I didn't see anyone. I checked my rear view mirror for someone running after him. No one. I kept driving. His owner is probably just around the corner I thought. Or watching him from their front door. Or not?  Maybe I should stop? But what if he's a vicious stray. He does, after all, have pitbull in him. He doesn't look menacing, in fact, I think he just smiled at me, but....
Then I had this distinct thought:
What if this were your dog?
I would want someone to stop. I would want someone to rescue my dog and keep him from becoming a speed bump.
By this time he had stopped sniffing the rosebushes and was running down the road in front of me, out of my neighborhood toward the school. The first place he would reach at the end of my street would be a small grassy park, then a busy road. Then if he made it across that busy road and kept going for about a hundred yards to his right, he would be on one of the biggest and busiest roads in my town. He would be roadkill.
I pulled ahead of him carefully and parked my car on the side of the road. I popped open my glove compartment and grabbed my leash. (I keep one in my car because I have dogs of my own and never know when I am going to need it.) He was trotting along at a good clip, his tail raised high in the air like a flag, his tongue hanging out of his mouth.
I walked a few feet out in the road, bent down and called him over. At that point, I did not know his name, so I just said, "C'mere boy!"
He trotted up to me with a big "Oh my gosh am I going to get a treat?!?" look on his face. I hooked him up on the leash and patted his wide head. He was a lovebug. I walked him out of the street and over to the side of the road near my car. I bent down and tried to get a look at the tag hanging from his collar. In between slobbery kisses, I managed to flip it over and read:
"Cap'n Jack"
and a phone number.
I used my cell phone to call the number. It rang quite a few times. I started to worry that no one would answer. What would I do with Cap'n Jack? I couldn't take him home - my dogs would have a meltdown and a massive doggy brawl would ensue. (My dogs aren't aggressive, they just wouldn't take kindly to me bringing home a stranger. Especially one who likes to be referred to as Cap'n.) I couldn't stay here with Jack all day - I had to get to work. Finally, someone answered on the other end of the phone.
"Hello, yes, I live in the same neighborhood as you and I just found your dog."
"You found Jack?"
"Yes, I found Captain Jack. He was out here running along the road and I uh.."
"Oh wow. I am all the way in Glendale. Let me call my wife and have her come get him. Thank you so much!  I will have her call you right away. Thanks so much. I really appreciate it.  What is your name?"
"Thank you Hope. My wife will call you soon."
I hung up and bent down to pet Cap'n Jack who was now getting a little restless. He probably didn't like being held at the side of the road when there were still so many great smells to smell, bugs to eat and dead things to roll in.  I sweet talked him a little bit.
"Whatcha doin' Cap'n?" He wiggled. I bent down and gave him some pats.
"Don't worry little Jackie, someone is coming to get you." He didn't seem worried. He wanted to get off this leash and head out into the great wide open. I walked him around a little bit to keep him moving and then my phone rang.
"Hello?" I answered on the first ring.
"Hi!  You found my dog?"
"Yup. I am down near the park with Captain Jack!"
"Oh, the park just down the street?"
"Oh my gosh. I was babysitting and he just walked out the door and by the time I got out there he was gone and I didn't know which way he went. Thank you so much for stopping him."
"Yeah, he was just trotting down the road and then he took off running toward the busy road and I decided I better grab him."
"Oh my gosh! Thank you so much. I will be right down there."
We hung up and a few moments later, a woman with a stroller appeared down the street. She was pushing it quickly and Cap'n Jack saw her and immediately started to pull. The leash I had him on was an embarrassingly feminine one - thin, pink with hearts and I thought it was going to break as he pulled and pulled to get to her. I was in heels and had to run-trot behind him like a runaway bride.
"Oh my gosh!  Jack! What are you doing?" She bent down and he jumped up on her.
"Thank you so much for stopping and getting him. You saved the day. We would have been so upset to lose you Cap'n Jack!" She patted him and he jumped down, apparently over the reunion and ready to get back to squirrel hunting.
"No problem." I said. "I am just glad he came when I called him and he was easy to catch. It's pretty busy out there right now and I was worried he was going to run out into traffic."
"Oh, I know. I was trying to watch my grand kids and next thing I know it he is out the door and I am looking around, wondering, where is Jack? Thank you so much. You are a hero!"
"No, no, you would do the same thing. I am happy to help. I am just glad he is OK."
She smiled and then bent over and picked up big hulky Jack like he was a five pound Chihuahua. Wow, babysitting sure makes you strong I thought. She held him with one hand and pushed the stroller with the other.
"Do you want some help?" I asked.
"Oh no. I got it." She smiled and pushed the cart while Jack struggled a bit in her arms.
"You can keep the leash if you want to use it."
"No, no, this will work. Thank you, though."
"OK, well have a good one!" I headed back toward my car.
"You too, and thanks again. You really saved the day!"
I smiled, got in my car and headed off to work.
No, I didn't have to go into a phone booth to change my outfit.
I wasn't a hero.
I wasn't even an official dog catcher.
I was just someone who's conscience reminded her of the golden rule.
"Do unto others as you would have done on to you."
I would want someone to save my dog if she got out.
Wouldn't you?
Often times, the golden rule gets twisted around. It turns into, "Do unto others as they do on to you."  In other words, treat them the way they treat you. This is NOT the golden rule. The golden rule says, "Treat others the way you want to be treated." Sounds so simple, but it is not. It goes right in line with the other hard command of Jesus: "Love your enemies. Do good to those who mistreat you."
Really?  Do I have to? I prefer to love those who love me. I prefer to pray for missionaries and mama and my mentor.
Are a you a Democrat who prays for the Republicans you can't stand (or vice versa)?
Are you praying for the in-law you can't stand? You know the one you wish would miss family get togethers?
Are you praying for the neighbor who mistreats you?
The boss who dismisses you?
The co-worker who disrespects you?
And I don't mean pray that they get what they deserve.
Our prayers for those we don't like should not sound like: "And Lord, help Lorraine to stop being such a pain in the a** and be more the person you created her to be and less like the devil's best friend."
Or, "God, please strike down my supervisor with your mighty hand."
Or, "Dear Jesus, please make John fall flat on his face once and for all so that he might be humbled and the rest of us can get on with our lives in peace."
As tempting as it is to pray this way, sometimes the best I can do is just pray that God will soften my heart or open theirs. Amen.
Treating others the way I want to be treated is tough. It is easy to save the stray dog of a stranger because I love dogs and have dogs and would want someone to stop and help if they saw one of mine jogging down the road toward a busy street. But in other circumstances, if the dog belonged to someone I couldn't stand ...would I stop?
I hope so.  I pray so. I don't think the Golden Rule is supposed to be subjective. I am supposed to save Cap'n Jack even if he belongs to the one guy in the neighborhood who blasts his music from his over sized truck late at night, drives too fast, smokes and never smiles.
Saving Cap'n Jack was easy. Who will be out there today that needs help? Someone that might not be so easy to love? I'll keep my eyes open and my leash ready.

Hope A. Horner, 2014
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Saturday, January 18, 2014

God Didn't Burn Your House Down

There's a fire raging in Monrovia, California. So far, more than a thousand acres have burned, five houses have gone up in smoke and several firefighters have been injured. The fire is only 30% contained as of last night, so it rages on.
The fire in me rages on, too.
An angry one.
The other day I was watching news coverage of the fire. A reporter held out a microphone to a young woman in Monrovia who was in the fire zone. At that point, evacuations were recommended, but not mandatory, and she told the reporter she was not going to leave. He asked her why.
"Well, I just believe that the firefighters have this under control and they know what they are doing and well, God knows what he is doing too. He is in control. He's got everything under his control and he protects us all."
I didn't know whether to barf or scream.
I chose scream.
Really lady?!?! 
Tell that to the five families who just lost their home!
Tell that to the firefighters who sit with scorched skin and singed lungs in the emergency room right now!
Tell that to the countless animals who got BBQ'ed!
Tell that to me again, live, in person and I'll tackle you!
The reporter pointed out into the canyon behind the woman's house to a white wooden cross which was the only thing that wasn't burnt. I guess he thought it was some kind of divine symbol or something because he hinted that it might be a sign and she ran with it.
"Yes, look at that. Like I said, God is in control..."she repeated her mantra once again and I couldn't keep in my snort of repulsion. I secretly hoped the cross would burst into flames behind her. I walked away from the TV in disgust and since that interview, I have had a smoldering fire within me. I knew I would have to come to my blog to put out the flames. Here's what's got me all fired up:
I am tired of Christians saying these things. I am sick of God getting the "credit" or the "blame" for everything crappy that happens in this world.
It reminds me of the classic movie "Monty Python's Quest for the Holy Grail."  There are so many scenes in the movie that crack me up, but one of my favorites is "The Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch." The movie pokes fun at many things, but in this case, it is God's "merciful wrath" that gets some play. Please read the following snippit from the movie with a British accent for maximum effect:

...And Saint Attila raised the hand grenade up on high, saying, "O LORD, bless this Thy hand grenade that with it Thou mayest blow Thine enemies to tiny bits, in Thy mercy." And the LORD did grin and the people did feast upon the lambs and sloths and carp and anchovies and orangutans and assorted breakfast cereals, and fruit bats and large chu... [At this point, the friar is urged by Brother Maynard to "skip a bit, brother"]... And the LORD spake, saying, "First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin, then shalt thou count to three, no more, no less. Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who being naughty in My sight, shall snuff it."[7]
Watch It Here
Even reading it now it makes me laugh. A holy hand grenade. Perfect for smiting. In Thy Mercy. What else can we chalk up as holy? Holy typhoon? Holy drunk driver? Holy birth defect? I've heard of God's holy fire, but what is going on in Monrovia is more than a burning bush.

To address this issue, I would like to create a Christian Public Service Announcement. It would go something like this:
(Opens with Saint Olaf Lutheran choir humming Amazing Grace...Then a record screeches and a loud voice breaks in:)
Attention Christians or anyone calling themselves a Christian! 
This is a warning. Listen up! You must, I repeat, MUST stop attributing bad things to God. Stop saying that is was HIS WILL that someone died, or a baby was born dead, or that an earthquake hit or that the school shooting happened. Stop saying he is controlling all this. You are calling him a murderer, an arsonist, a and making him look like a heartless, pompous, fickle God! Of course, God is all powerful. Of course, ultimately, he is in control. However, we have choices. The world has bad people in it. There are laws of nature. Speeding vehicles. Weather patterns. Tectonic plates. Fault lines. Off shore winds. Alcohol. Matches. Guns. Disease and reckless fools. We can't understand God. We can't understand his ways. Stop acting like you saw God's daily planner. Moreover, when you say that God "caused" these things you sound like a religious jerk and you make God sound like a monster. Especially when you are standing next to a home that survived the fire/flood/earthquake/tornado. Or when you are holding your healthy kids hands while someone else is putting their child in the ground. Or when you say it from a calm, quiet neighborhood a thousand miles away from the school where a shooter just fired bullets indiscriminately into children as they prepared for their spelling test.
He hates murder. His heart breaks when people suffer. When a child dies, he cries, he doesn't check off a box on his to-do list.
So please, STOP IT!  
Saint Olaf choir resumes singing and fades out.

It is tough to understand why bad things happen and to find the right words when something goes terribly wrong. We're standing next to someone who just lost a child or their home and there is an awkward, anguished silence. A reporter is jabbing a mic in our face and asking us about some atrocity or natural disaster and...we don't understand. We are scared. Sad. We feel vulnerable. Anxious. Angry. Upset. Perplexed. We wonder where God is in all this. Instead of saying how we really feel, we just pull out the first church-y sounding thing we can find, say it in a soft voice with a wry smile and rub the gold cross around our neck.
And we make God into a murderer or at the very least, an angry ogre.
Here are some alternate things you can say when something bad happens:

"This is really, really tough. We are going to need to lean on God and our friends and family to get through this."
"I am so sorry you lost your child. How incredibly heartbreaking. I can't even imagine. Please allow me to pray for you and what can I do to help?"
"There are people who are suffering who need our love and compassion. We're going to meet at the local community center and figure out what we can do to help them get back on their feet."
"Wow, this fire is really out of control. I am going to pray that no one loses their life and open my home to a family down the street who has lost everything."
Or if it's easier:
"Wildfires suck. God help us."
Remember, they will know we are Christians by our love. Not by the trite Christian platitudes we spew at news conferences when sucky things happen. In fact, we are scaring people away from God with our comments. Who wants to love a God who just spent the last week burning down Monrovia?

I don't pretend to understand the mysteries of God's will or why he does or doesn't do some things or even what his "perfect plan" is. I know he loves us. I know he is a healer, a reconciler, a life-giver and a peacemaker.
He does not burn down houses.
Two immature, reckless, twenty-something year-olds did that in Monrovia. They thought it was a good idea to feed paper to the smoldering campfire they made in a dry wooded area that hasn't burned in 50 years. In the middle of a drought. 80+ degree weather. And high winds.
They are fools.
God is not.

-Hope A. Horner, 2014
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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Running in the Dark

I love running before the sun comes up. It's just me, my music, and my knee brace on the dark open road. I run every day except Sunday. Not fast, mind you, but I run 5 to 6 miles a day and I enjoy every minute of it, except for maybe the first five minutes when my knee, lungs and hips scream, "What the heck are you doing?" You're too old for this! Stop right now!" but after that, things go well. I get into a rhythm and just cruise along, usually with some audio book or class in my ear (I love to listen to "The Great Courses" while I run -- Check It Out Here) or the new iTunes radio station "Indie Rock." This time of year, running gets very, very cold. Most mornings, it is somewhere in the 30-40 degree range for my morning run. If you are reading this in Minnesota, you probably will laugh at my definition of "cold", but as a pure bred California mutt, anything below 80 degrees is cold. It's also very dark--only streetlights and headlights most of the way. I wear my reflective vest in order to be more visible to anyone else that might be out there with me. It makes me look a little bit like a Cal Trans road worker on the lam, but it beats blending in with my surroundings and becoming road kill.
I started wearing the reflective vest after a bicyclist hit me as I was running over a narrow bridge. It was early morning--pitch black, he was dressed in all black clothing including a beanie, and riding downhill over the bridge at a high rate of speed on the sidewalk toward me. I saw him at the last second and turned, but it was too late. There wasn't enough room on the sidewalk for both of us. He ricocheted off my shoulder, flew off his bike on to the sidewalk and then bounced into the roadway. Luckily, it was around 5am in the morning, so traffic was light and no one was on the road when he went into it or he would have been a hood ornament or a speed bump. He was very hurt and lay on the roadway moaning. After I processed what had just happened and caught my breath, I dragged him out of the roadway, all the while he apologized profusely and asked me in a breathless agonized voice, "Are you OK?" I was fine. He huffed and puffed and moaned and whimpered as I pulled him up and on to the sidewalk that ran over the bridge. Luckily, he wasn't a big guy. He was young, maybe early twenties, a slight build and shorter than me. My shoulder was sore from the impact and I was shaking, but I was standing and not in any pain. I was in a state of shock and worried about him. He could not stand up, so he just lay in a heap face down on the sidewalk for a few minutes after I dragged him up there and continued to moan and apologize. He said he was on his way to work. He hadn't seen me. He knew it was his fault. He was so sorry. Then he would alternate between complaining about his back or his leg. I was upset that he could have killed us both, but how could I yell at him now? His decision to ride his bike on a sidewalk in the dark at full speed had cost him a lot more than it had me and he was truly sorry. But it could have been ugly. He literally could have killed me -- or at least hurt me very, very badly if he had hit me head on. I realized his bike was still in the road and dragged it up and on to the sidewalk next to him. The front tire looked a bit bent, but it was hard to tell in the dark if his bike had other damage. Awhile later, a friend picked him and his bike up. I hope he went to the hospital and got looked at by a doctor, but I doubt it.  He insisted I not call an ambulance. I told him I would take him to the hospital (I lived only a block away from the accident site), but he said, "No, no, I'll be fine" and called a friend to come get him. After he left, I continued my run with a new surge of adrenaline, wider eyes and when I got home I ordered the reflective vest from Amazon.
That was one of the most interesting and disturbing moments out on the open road, but I've had some other "running adventures" out there over the years. Keep in mind, I always run very early in the morning, usually when it is dark. I am blessed to live in a town where I can do that and be relatively safe. Once, I was chased by a guy in a dark blue Dodge Durango and had to run to an Albertson's supermarket to call the police. This was after he pulled off the side of the road, tried to hide his car behind a burm and waited for me to approach, but I spotted him and ran the other way. I have never run so fast in my life. I am sure I could have beat Jessie Owens at his best. I had tears of terror streaming down my face as I ran. The employee "Paula" who let me in the store before it opened so we could call the police was a hero and I came back the next day to thank her with movie tickets. I also placed another order on Amazon. This time, it was pepper spray.
Another morning, I was chased by a coyote and finally had to stop and stand my ground, yell and lunge at him. He kept coming. I unclipped my cell phone from my running pants and waved it at him. He ran away. (Maybe he thought I had a gun? Knew about the radiation they omit? Or he was camera shy and was afraid he'd end up on YouTube?)  I used to run with my dog, but that really brought the coyotes out of their dens. I might as well have had a bloody slab of meet on the end of a rope. One time, I had to pick my dog up and run with her because a coyote wanted to have her for breakfast and wasn't afraid of my iPhone. I stopped taking her just one week before I got hit by that bicyclist on the bridge. I don't even want to imagine what that accident scene would have been like if I had had her with me.
Another time a little later in the morning, right before school started, I ran under a bridge near the local high school and there was a man, not of high school age, in jeans and a white T-shirt who was leaning against the wall and holding a large wad of cash. He shoved it in his front pocket and tried to look casual. My guess is if I needed a little something special to speed up my run or something to smoke and relax to later, he could have hooked me up. I notified the Sheriff's Department and have not seen him there since.
I am not the only one out there most mornings. There is an older gentleman, appears to be in his 70's (no joke) who jogs nearly every morning.  He is tall and lanky, bundles up like an an Eskimo and always runs the same route I do, only the other way, so our paths cross twice and we wave each time.  It always seems a little bit funny to wave at him the second time, but it also seems like the courteous thing to do, so we wave. Some mornings I have wanted to stop him after our first wave and say, "If you don't see me the second time, call the police. I have been abducted, eaten by coyotes or I am buying drugs under the bridge."  I have even pondered asking him, "Hey, you want to run together?" But I am worried he will want to.
There is another lady who I used to pass all the time at the same spot--a road that cuts through a quiet neighborhood. It was like clockwork. As soon as I got to that road and started to run up, I'd see her running downhill on the other side in her gray sweatsuit. She never waved. In fact, she never even looked at me. She is not running to lose weight because she probably weighs 80 pounds soaking wet and she shuffles along without hardly lifting her feet off the ground and always has her gray hooded sweatshirt up over her head. I haven't seen her in awhile.  She probably thought I was stalking her and is running a new route.
I have also crossed paths with bunnies, deer, stray dogs, jack-rabbits, skunks, possums, raccoons, owls, rats and bats. I am fine with all those. It is humans, especially those on bikes and in cars that seem to cause me the most trouble. The hungry coyotes are disappearing because evidently, they are not interested in the new 4+2 solar powered single family houses with a view on the hill.
So even with near death experiences, wild animals and frozen fingers, why do I still love running in the wee hours of the morning?
Because it's my time. I can go into my own little world with my music and my breathing and the pounding of my feet on the concrete and just disappear until I come to another runner coming the opposite direction and we both break out of our worlds to wave or say hi (or not) and then put our heads down and move on.
So much of my work involves being around other people and don't get me wrong--I love people, but this is MY time. I also love music and learning and this is my time to plug into the world of new music or listen to a good audio book or the lecture of a professor from some university I can only dream of going to. This is when I come up with ideas for songs, blog entries, poems and programs. It's when I remember that I haven't called "so in so" in awhile, or really should finish that book, or should book a flight sooner rather than later. It's like my brain uses the time to organize itself, think things through, plan, ruminate and remember and yet, it is relaxing. I am not sorting and organizing, just picturing and pondering beneath the stars as I chug along. It's relaxing and invigorating at the same time. I look forward to the natural high it gives me (sorry, guy under the bridge), even if it means I have to dodge downhill bikers or out run hungry coyotes to get it.

Hope A. Horner, 2014
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Saturday, January 4, 2014

Stop Chasing Me God (I'm Winded!)

God is chasing me right now. I have been running away from Him and he is not letting me get away. He keeps catching me. Here's how I know...

He's had a friend from church call a few times over the last few weeks and say words of encouragement I needed to hear.

I found a book at a Thrift Store I really needed to read. Click Here to See What It Was

Right before Christmas, someone at work gave me a thank you note that inspired me and reminded me of God's purpose for my life.

I had a dream where an important person said some very healing words. (Read About it Here )

Then my great uncle, who I rarely hear from, sent me a book which arrived yesterday, one written by his daughter called Growing Down (Get The Book Here) The book is about, you guessed it, running from God's grace. My uncle also put a little note inside the package that said he was going to pray for me. He's not some hyper-religious Bible-thumping uncle I grew up around who knows the details of my spiritual life. This was the kind, generous uncle who put me through college. A proud Dallas Cowboys fan like me and a very successful business man. He is a Christian I respect and like.

I am sure all this chasing is not over. I am sure today, something else will happen or someone will say something or I will read something that will remind me that no matter how fast I run, God has on his Nikes and he has trained for this race and I might as well be trying to out run the world's fastest man times one trillion-billion-million. (I made up that last number. Go with it, I am not good at math.)

Why am I running even when I know I can't out-run a speed demon, ur, a speed-Dios like God?
Here's why I run...

I do not truly believe in my heart that God loves me.  It sounds pathetic and whiny and I hate the way it sounds because it seems like I am fishing for compliments or desperate and by now you would think I would understand the concept that GOD IS LOVE. By now I should be growing in God's love, not worrying about it. Right?
It sounds like: Please, tell me you love me! 
But that is not it. It doesn't come from a need to be loved place, it comes from a help me get rid of the voices in my head that tells me you don't place.  No, not voices that require medication or straight jackets. The voices of the past. The ones that told me when I was a young impressionable student at a conservative Christian college that I needed to "change" in order to be loved by God. The ones that told me I needed to DO certain things a certain way in order to be saved. The ones that made hurtful comments as they looked at me in disgust when I couldn't get right with God as they saw it. The ones who went to great lengths to try and manipulate me into who they thought I should be and then finally gave up and kicked me to the curb. Those voices of the past keep me from fully believing that God loves me as I am. They reverberate today.  And they keep my feet moving.

I also run because...
I hate religion.
Over the years, I have followed the proper order of things as set out by the Baptist church:
First - Accept Christ.  (Or as my parents used to put it - Ask him to come into your heart. I did this at age 5. Probably right after I ate my Cap'n Crunch or Mac 'n' Cheese. I know it was at the kitchen table, but I don't remember the exact moment.)
Second - Be baptized (but only after a 4 week class where you learn exactly what you believe, what the water dunking is all about, oh, and get to do arts and crafts with Popsicle sticks and cut-out paper figures of Jesus and John the Baptist.)
Third - Attend Christian schools for the next 15 years.
Fourth - Go to church every Sunday.  Memorize verses. Go to Christian camps. Vacation Bible School. And Wednesday night Bible study. Tithe. Meditate. Visit Christian bookstores. Have a "quiet time" "personal devotion time" "spend time with God" or whatever it's called, but just spend time with God everyday on your own reading the Bible and praying. And while you're there don't forget to confess your sins and pray for the missionaries!
I can't keep up with all this. I don't want to. I feel like I am in some kind of training camp, pyramid (or Ponzi?) scheme, seminary class or leadership club, Cookie-Lee for Christians, and every once in awhile I have to take a test, or shake hands with the CEO, push something shiny on someone who doesn't really want it, perform a club ritual, or take a workshop to stay fresh. Then I think, what am I doing?  The God these people serve doesn't want me anyway, so why bother?  Who am I kidding?
So I fact, most of what I listed above I either a) haven't done in many years b) avoid doing more than a few times a month.

Here's another reason why I run (or shall I say several reasons:)
At first I had listed names and groups here. The list began with the words Duck Dynasty.  Then I decided not to post the names because I really don't want to disparage/judge anyone. Let's just say there are a lot of "Christians" and "Christian" organizations in the public spotlight that make it embarrassing to be a Christian. As I'm running from God, they serve as those little "energy gel packs" you can eat on the fly to boost your stamina and speed.

Here's another reason why I run:
I was born to run.
We all are. Why should I be any different?  The easiest way to live is entirely for yourself.  In fact, that makes us feel smart, independent, self-sufficient - the American way. We want to be like Frank Sinatra and get to the end of our life and say, "I did it my way!" I am no different. I have an independent streak a mile wide. I love to be alone, go it alone, do things on my own, make it on my own.  Why do I need God anyway?  People who need God just need a crutch. They are feeble minded. Unstable. Backwards. Weak. I actually saw these words posted in the comments section after a Sojourners article about "Loving Christ: Hating Christianity."  I thought - I'm not weak. I'm not backwoods stupid.  Why am I a Christian?  I want to be a smart atheist!
No I don't.
I want to be free. Free of the voices, the requirements, the biases, the compulsion to run.  I am tired of running.  I am tired of being chased by those who love God.  Tired of running from church to church hoping someone will let me in "as is."  Tired of being ashamed of Who I believe in because the other folks who say they believe in the same thing scream really loudly about how much this or that group is "wrong" or "going to hell."  I want to be able to separate the believers from the belief.  I want to have faith despite the faithlessness that I feel.  I want to walk, not run.  I want to walk in the openess and freedom of God's grace.
OK, so I am not even done with this blog and God has already caught up with me again.  I was searching for a picture to put at the end of this blog, went to google and typed in "religion" and clicked "images."  I ran across the photo above with the list that tells you whether or not you might be religious. I stuck it in the middle of this blog instead of here at the end.  Then I noticed the webpage listed at the bottom of the picture:  I wondered if this website was going to try and talk me out of being a Christian. Encourage me to step away from all the Jesus hullabaloo and join Richard Dawkins & Company on a hike back to reality.  Nope.
Exactly the opposite. (Of course.)
Saw this on my jog this morning. Hmmmm...
The first thing I read was "Exploring the Wide Open Spaces of God's Grace."  And how I don't even need to confess my sins to be forgiven of them. God has already forgiven me. The confessing part is pure religion.
I stopped running for a minute. I sat down in the grass. I clicked on a link that asked "What Keeps Christians Tired and Unproductive?" Here's What I Read

OK, God, you caught me. Your grace chased me down even though I have been running at a pretty good clip. (Thank goodness I have a bad knee so I never really get that far away.)  I am sitting in the grass now and my running shoes are off. Can you stay awhile?

Hope A. Horner, 2014
Contact author on gmail at hopeh1122
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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Crosswalks & Crucial Conversations (2013 Lessons Learned)

I've learned quite a bit in 2013. Learning is a good thing and God knows, even with all I've learned, I still have a lot more that needs to get through my thick head! As the new year begins, I thought I would share a few of my "moments of enlightenment" from this past year:

1. Saying "moments of enlightenment" instead of "lessons learned" just makes you sound like a pompous ass (or a writer).

2. You don't leave a job. You leave a supervisor. (Good leadership is SO important.)

3. Saying "hi" to people you pass on the street is a lost art. Let's bring this art back.

4. If you have a job where you are paid to make a difference, it is a dream job. Be thankful for it, even when it gets tough.

5. Stop trying to BE right and instead, DO what is right.

6. Stephen King writes really good books that don't involve horror. (Try 11/22/63 and On Writing.). I wish he would write more.

7. Bananas last longer if you keep them in the refrigerator.

8. Hummingbirds love plain old sugar water.You do not need to buy the fancy red stuff.

9. Sometimes the best way to show someone you love them is to "call them out" when they are hurting themselves even if they think what they are doing is "no big deal."

10. Having a "crucial conversation" with someone means saying something that is hard to say in a way that the other person will hear you. In other words, it means saying it with love and humility.
Highly recommended book:  Crucial Conversations on

11. "As Seen on TV" means "Use it Once, Then Toss."

12. There is a way to be unique at work, heck, just about anywhere. Say "Thank you."

13. Flannery O'Connor is a genius short story writer. Where have you been all my life, Flan? If you read nothing else in 2014, Read This!

14. Even if we don't acknowledge His presence, God is there. He's like a compassionate stalker who wants to ambush you with blessings.

15. Most of what we see with our eyes is actually "inferred" by our brains. This is scientific, not philosophical. Take the course "Understanding the Secrets of Human Perception" at to learn more.  Take the Class Here!

16. The word people like best is their name.

17.  It takes courage to do the right thing. It is much easier to just go with the flow, but the flow is usually the "river of regret."

18.  The reason why there is so much show-boating in sports is because we have lost appreciation for team-work, sportsmanship and class and decided to reward those who show-off with a TV clip, a "like" and endorsement contract.

19. The older I get, the more thankful I am for my childhood and all my parents did to help me on my way.

20. People do not seem to understand that you do not need to push the crosswalk button more than once. Pushing it impatiently over and over does not make it change any faster!  (Spread the word.)

Thanks to those of you who have read my blog this past year and shared your comments and encouragement. I've had over 9,500 hits and written over 200 entries since I launched Here are the Top 5 most popular blog entries from 2013:

1. Shockingly Pink

2. Why Worry? (It's All Under Control. Mine.)

3. Hawk Squawk

4. The Law of Friendliness

5. The Forgotten Love Letter

Wishing you all the best in 2014!

Hope Horner, 2014
Feel free to forward, post and share this blog!
Contact Hope on gmail at hopeh1122