Tuesday, April 29, 2014

I'm Feeling a Little "Loopy"

OK, folks.  I have an announcement to make and it is both good news and bad news.
The bad news (since everyone always wants that first) is I am not going to be able to do my usual blog entries at hopehorner.com for about 12 weeks.
Well, that's the good news.
I recently entered a contest to be a featured blogger on GOVLOOP.com  and well, I won! So, I will be blogging for GovLoop for the next twelve weeks.

What is GovLoop? ( Check it Out Here! )
Think of it as the Facebook or LinkedIn of Government employees. Their motto is "Connect government to improve government." Based out of Washington D.C. and with over 120,000 members, GovLoop provides information, resources and training for government professionals of all levels. Those of you who know me know that my "day job" is working for city government as a Human Services Administrator (overseeing prevention & intervention programs among other things) so this is my field. For the next three months, I will be passing along the things I have learned over the years to thousands of other professionals in my field.
Needless to say, I AM THRILLED.
I have been published before (Faithwriters, Burnside Writers...), but this is a huge honor and validation.  It is also going to take a considerable amount of time, hence the reason that I may not be able to post here as often in the coming months or my posts may be shorter than usual. I will do my best to keep up on the stories and inspiration this blog is known for, but please understand if I am "out of the loop" (urr, in another loop?) for awhile. I want to do the best possible job I can for GovLoop and I hope that it will serve as a platform to launch even more writing opportunities for me in the future.

So far, GovLoop has said I will be a featured blogger on Mondays on the website - so be sure to check in out Here starting on Cinco de Mayo. (That's May 5th for the gringos out there.) Every Monday, there should be another post all the way through July if the schedule sticks. Most of my topics will be about leadership and outreach, in fact, my first article will be a revised version of "How To Turn a Truck Stop into a Home" from this blog, ( Read it Here ) so you won't have to be a government employee to relate to the articles I post. I hope you will follow along with me on this new writing experience! As always, your prayers, support and feedback are appreciated.

-Hope Horner
Contact author on gmail at hopeh1122

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Pass the Peace

Here's a quote I saw recently:

"You want to know where sin and death is?
Follow the violence.
You want to know where the gospel is?
Follow the peace."
Read the full blog post here

My peace I give unto you.
Go in peace.
Peace be with you.
Blessed are the peacemakers.

Jesus said a lot about peace and we still hear a lot about peace today. In some churches, they even "pass the peace" or "exchange the peace." No, it's not a code word for sharing drugs. It means the church-goers are going to get up and give each other hugs or handshakes and say something like "God's peace to you" or "Peace be with you" to everyone in the room. Yes, even the shy folks trying to hide in the back are going to get a dose of God's peace.
Because they are celebrating--commemorating--what Jesus did. He bore the violence of sin & death on the cross--defeating them both so that we can have peace. Not fluffy, rainbow-y peace. Not-two-fingers-in-the-air-barely-visible-through-the-pot-smoke-peace. Peace in our relationship with God. Peace in the face of our own death. Peace in the face of hardship. Peace that passes understanding. Peace that extends beyond feeling into faith and action. Peace that soothes, simmers down, and supports. Peace that forgives and heals. We may seem like we are a long way from peace and we are. But there is a lot of peace out there if you turn your eyes away from the news for a minute. 
To find the gospel, look for the peacemakers...
Those serving Easter dinner to the poor and homeless this weekend.
The family who took in a foster child.
The junior higher who stood up for her friend when he was being bullied.
The co-worker who helped two warring clients find a compromise.
The crisis center volunteer who takes a phone call from a suicidal teen.
The youth advocate who helped a teenage girl through her pregnancy.
The gang counselor who helped a hardened street thug find a job.
The soccer coach who insisted on good sportsmanship from all his players.
The college student who stayed sober and drove his friends home after the party.
The woman who lost her leg in the Boston marathon bombing who helped a child from Latin America walk again, too.

These are just a few of the peacemakers out there.
They are sharing the gospel whether they realize it or not.

True, we will not find complete peace until we are reconciled with the ultimate Peacemaker and he restores and harmonizes all creation - makes it the way it was supposed to be before it was war-torn by the sins of violence, hatred, arrogance and greed.  However, that is not an excuse to just be complacent--to just wait, hope for the best and pray.  It is not enough to "give peace a chance."  We must PASS the peace.

See where you find the peacemaking story of Easter today and let's pass the peace wherever we are.

-Hope Horner, 2014
Follow on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/hopenote
Email author on gmail at hopeh1122

#passthepeace #eastersunday #peacemakers

Saturday, April 12, 2014

How to Turn A Truck Stop into a Home

The other day I was at a community festival in the middle of a large apartment complex. I stood on a grassy knoll and talked with a resident of the neighborhood.
"So how do you like living here?"
"It's OK. I mean, it has it's moments, but I don't want to be here forever. Nobody WANTS to live here. Everybody is just here because they have to be. It's the cheapest place in town. We're just passing through."
He went on to explain that once he starts making money off his new business, he's going to move to a nicer neighborhood. One with less crime, less trash in the streets, less noise--more peace, quiet and scenery. The neighborhood he wanted to leave - the one we were standing in - wasn't horrible. It wasn't riddled with broken windows and overrun by gangs, but it wasn't great either. It was full of small apartments stacked up in huge complexes, multiple families living in close quarters, teenagers with shaved heads and baggy pants hanging out on street corners and men with tattoos and cigarettes working on old cars in garages with music blaring. Trash bags floated in the air and stuck to chain link fences. Graffiti showed up overnight on light poles. Produce trucks stopped in alleys and threw up their back doors signaling they were open for business. Stray dogs ran down sidewalks, crossed busy streets lined with cars and dipped into the wash where they were likely chased by coyotes who use the dry riverbed as a passageway, along with the homeless. "So close and yet so far!" could be the theme of this neighborhood. It was just a few miles from some of the wealthiest places in town. Heck, if you could walk up the dry riverbed with the coyotes, you'd reach the spacious stucco mansions on the golf course in a few minutes. But people like this middle-aged African-American man I was talking with didn't hike up the riverbed. They hiked up their sleeves and worked hard and prayed that someday soon, they could move out of here.

"Nobody wants to be here...we're just passing through." Could this be the Chamber of Commerce slogan for this neighborhood?  Ironically, the slogan for the city where this neighborhood is located is: "Where the Good Life Takes You." So, maybe the slogan for this neighborhood is:
Where the average life dumps you off.
Where barely surviving forces you to live.
Where a turn for the worse leaves you stranded.
Where the good life beckons from the other side of the riverbed.

"Nobody wants to be here...we're just passing through..."
After talking awhile longer, we shook hands and smiled and I wandered off to talk with others and get a bottle of Gatorade donated by a local business. The weather was unusually warm for Spring. I could smell exhaust fumes and hear the whir of vehicles speeding down busy street near the festival. A siren blared as an emergency vehicle went by. Kids were running, laughing and yelling and someone was on the microphone calling out Bingo letters and numbers. 0-72, B3...It was then, I had a "Bingo!" moment of my own.
No wonder this neighborhood has problems.
It's a truck stop.
Think about it...
Nobody lives here. They just stay here temporarily. Like a truck stop - I sleep here, eat here, stay here, but I don't put my roots down here. I don't look out my window and say, "I want to make this the safest, prettiest truck-stop in town."  I just look out and say, "What's here that I need? That I want? Then I get it and get out as soon as I can."
Think about the profound impact this mentality has on a neighborhood...
I don't want to be here. This is only home because it has to be. I wouldn't be here otherwise. I don't take pride in it. I don't plan to be here long so who cares if I trash it? Who cares if I upset my neighbors with my loud music? So what if I don't clean up after my dog or my backyard party? Yeah, my porch is messy and my kitchen is a health hazard. So? I don't own this place. I don't even like this place. I'll be gone soon. Hopefully. I want up and out as soon as I get a few dollars. Then I won't have to look at the bald and baggy kids hanging out on the corner selling you-know-what. I won't smell pot wafting in through my window anymore. I won't have to fight for parking or worry about my daughters walking home from school past old men who whistle at them. I'll leave it all behind.
No ownership.
No pride.
No roots.
No community-mindedness.
No working together, banding together, joining together, making it better together, enjoying our neighborhood together.
Just stopping, eating, sleeping, surviving and then "on the road" again as soon as I got somewhere else better to go.  Next stop? Anywhere but here.
The community festival was a welcome diversion for families on a Friday night. The kids liked having their face painted and the people from the local non-profits who showed up really did want to get the word out about their counseling, health and family programs. There were prizes for the Bingo winners thanks to generous businesses and the large playground structure was mobbed with kids of all ages trying to make it to the top. But this was a truck-stop festival. It would be gone in a few hours when the coordinators packed up all their goodies and drove off.  They were trying to do something good here. Everyone was. But it was a little bit like having a family festival at Union Station.
So I started to wonder...How do you turn a truck-stop into a home?
It's not easy. The simple way to put it is we have to create community.  
Make it a place we want to be.
Where we feel connected.
Where we know people care about each other, look out for each other, even those that aren't family.
Make it a place we can all be proud to call home even if it isn't going to be home forever.
Sure, we may move on someday, but we hope we get to stay more than just a little while. We like it here. We have friends here. It's safe. Quiet. The flowers bloom where there used to be weeds. Mr.Smith fixes people cars when they break down. Ms. Lopez makes the best flan and she shares it with everyone. Johnny just graduated from high school and Martha is going to college to be a teacher. Sure, we see the cops, but they wave, they don't glare. Teens used to hang out on our street corners, but we found someone who helped them get jobs and on Saturday nights, Art from the neighborhood plays basketball with them. We know this place isn't perfect, but we're proud of it. We planted flowers. We painted over graffiti. We made sack lunches for the homeless...
We banded together, bonded together, and turned our truck-stop into a home.
Stay for awhile, won't you?

-Hope A. Horner, 2014
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To print or publish contact author on gmail at hopeh1122.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Still Haven't Found What I'm Waiting For

Diet soda is as damaging to your teeth as crystal meth. 
This is what I heard on the news today.
"Great," I thought as I chugged down my can of Pepsi Max. "It's only a matter of time before I look like a toothless drug dealer." So be it. I gotta have my diet soda. I steer clear of regular soda because of all the calories, but diet soda is my consolation prize.
I have to have the bubbles.
And caffeine.
Water just won't cut it.
So even if it makes me look like one of those "after" photos in the before and after pictures cops use to scare kids away from heroin, so be it. This attitude, my attitude, is one that has existed since the beginning of time. I want what I want when I want it. No matter the consequences. We all share this attitude.
Let's start with Story #1. The Original Story.
Characters: Adam, Eve, Talking Snake, God
Setting: Garden of Eden
Summary: Adam and Eve knew what was bad for them because God warned them about it and anytime a talking snake tells you to do something it should be obvious, but still, they did it anyway. And then they paid the consequences.

Even the age-old philosopher Aristotle warned about choosing what makes us happy right now, compared to what will make us truly happy later. In case you didn't know, Aristotle said this a long, long time ago because he lived a long, long time ago. (No kids, not in the 1980's.) So let's just say that delaying gratification and showing self-control has been a problem for awhile.

Then there's the famous Stanford Marshmallow Experiment from the 1960's and 70's. (See a modern re-enactment of the experiment here on YouTube: Marshmallow Experiment)
Here's how it went down:
Young kids were assembled around a table and one marshmallow was placed before each child. They were told they could have one marshmallow now or TWO if they waited until the teacher returned in a few minutes. About half gobbled up the one marshmallow after the teacher left and the others decided to wait. How did they hold off? They looked away from the marshmallow and talked to themselves.
"Just wait and you can have more than one."
"Hang in there and you get two."
And I imagine more than one of them said:
Then the teacher returned and the ones who had waited, got another marshmallow. Many stuffed both in their mouth they were so tired of being patient. Now was now time for decorum and etiquette. This was the Puff payoff. Yum. (If only she had thrown in a piece of chocolate and two graham crackers, they'd a thought they died and went to heaven.)
Guess what the scientists studying these kids did after that? They followed the kids. For years. (Not literally, that would be creepy. But they did follow up with them years later.) Guess what they discovered? They found out that the kids who chose to wait for two marshmallows had happier lives, marriages and careers. They were more successful than the kids who gobbled up what was right in front of them. The ones who could wait - delay gratification as it is called in the psychology world - were better off.
Ah, yes, delayed gratification.
What I want now vs. waiting for what I really want.
It sucks, doesn't it?

Here's what I want right now:
1. A motorcycle
2. A Gibson Hummingbird Acoustic Electric Guitar
3. Beck's new album
4. A Hawaiian vacation

OK, I can probably get Beck's new album and not break the bank. But the rest? Not going to happen at this point. Why?
Because I want two marshmallows.
I want to help family members go to college.
I want to save for retirement.
I want to take care of people in need.
These are the priorities right now. So my mid-life crisis purchases will just have to wait.
In order to do this, I have to stay away from motorcycle lots, travel websites and Guitar Center. The last one has been the most difficult. I have to confess I went into Guitar Center a few weeks back and just looked. OK, I also touched. Fine, I held. I stroked. Plucked. Caressed. Coddled and cooed. That Hummingbird guitar was a thing of beauty. She looked and sounded great. I had to put her back and walk out. I'm glad I did, but it took some willpower. I had to hit the delay button in my brain. The one right between "Noooooo!"  and "Oh Heck Yeah!" I satiated myself by having a 20 ounce Pepsi Max on the way home.
This is a lesson lost on youth. I hate to sound like a grandma, but for goodness sakes, these young whipper snappers these days don't even wait for the mail anymore. It comes in their inbox instantly. The TV shows they want are at their fingertips thanks to Netflix and HBOGo. No waiting. No delay. Just press play. Get it while it's hot. Heck, steal it if you want. Go online and download that Beck album before it even gets released. Get it now. Get yours. Get while the gettin's good.
I am worried. Will these kids make it?
Will they make it through college?
Their marriage?
Long work meetings with people they don't like?
Rejections from employers?
A book?
This blog?
Are you still reading kids?
If so, congratulations. You've really showed some patience and perseverance. You've hung in there. Now here's the payoff...Here's your "extra marshmallow" so to speak...
Wait for it...
Wait for it...
Sorry. I forgot what your payoff was. That's what happens kids. When you're old enough to wait, you're old enough to forget what you were waiting for.

-Hope A. Horner, 2014
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