Saturday, June 28, 2014

5 Sassy Things YOU Said as a Kid That Your Kids Can't

Remember those snappy phrases we used to throw around as kids? The ones that went along with someone sticking out their tongue or taking their ball and going home? Well, sorry moms and dads, we used them, but your kids can't and here's why...

"Take a picture. It lasts longer!"
OK, sure hold on. Let me just change apps on my phone. THERE! GOTCHA! Hey, guess what? You're right. It does last longer. It can last a long, looooonnng time. I can save it to my camera roll, upload it to Instagram, make a keychain out of it on Shutterfly, add a caption to it and then send it to my best friend or the girl next door or a teacher or maybe your mother. What? You don't want your mom to see you wearing that skimpy outfit and holding up the one finger anti-peace sign? Too bad I didn't use Snapchat, huh?

"I know you are, but what am I?"
Dumb question dude, just plain dumb. What are you?  I know EXACTLY what you are.  I can view your Facebook profile. You're always sending me Snapchat vids of you, like every ten minutes. I even saw your prank video on YouTube. I can go in Instagram and see all your family photos. I can jump on Twitter and FOLLOW you. I know what you had for lunch, who you think is a hottie and who you twerked at the dance last Friday. So that line really doesn't work, now does it?

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me."
Oh yes, they do! In fact, I KNOW they do because as soon as I posted on Tumblr and other places that you were a big "$#^#!!$#", everyone read it and LIKED it, and FAVORITED it, and HEARTED it, TWEETED it and REPOSTED it, then you started BLOWING UP MY PHONE telling me to STOP OR ELSE!! IN ALL CAPS. I kept it up because I thought it was funny, along with everyone else at Central High! Now your mom told my mom (on Facebook?) and now we have to have a meeting at school with the vice principal because you are so depressed you just hole up in your room all day. So evidently, names do hurt you and everyone knows it. No need for sticks or stones.

Here's a quarter, call someone who cares!
What!?!? Why do I need a quarter? I got unlimited minutes. Duh. Stop trippin'.

NaNaNaNaNa (Usually followed by "I can't hear you! I can't hear you!")
Ok, so you can't hear me NOW, but you WILL hear me later. I have SOOOO many opportunities to get to you. So many ways I can make sure you hear me once you stop with that fingers-in-the-ears yelling nonsense. I can call you, tag you, text you, friend you, tweet you...and you can't keep up that NANANA thing forever. Text you later, man. Fo sho.

Ah, the good old days, when you could just stick out your tongue, pick up your ball and walk away from the sass. Go home. Hole up in your room with your Walkman or play Donkey Kong until the next day, when, with rare exceptions, it would all be forgotten. I guess the sass today is just 2Good+2Be 4-Gotten.
Poor kids.

-Hope Horner, 2014
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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Is That 'Raca' I See In Your Eyes?

During a discussion about "giving others the benefit of the doubt" one of my co-workers said he had heard it put this way:
"Investigate before contempt."
I said, "Contempt? You sure you mean contempt?  Maybe you mean 'investigate before convict'?"
He said, "No, no, contempt...I think."
I raised my eyebrows. "Wow. Contempt is a pretty harsh word." Everyone just kind of looked confused about the whole thing, and we went on to the next topic, but the word stuck with me.
Later that day, I was reading Dallas Willard's book The Divine Conspiracy where he describes Jesus' Sermon on the Mount.  Read Sermon Here 
You know "Blessed are the (fill in the blank) for they shall (fill in the blank)?" Well, there is more to this epic sermon than those famous lines. Jesus goes on to say this:

21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,[a] and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister[b][c] will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,[d] is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. (Matthew 5)

Dallas explains that the word "Raca" is a word filled with contempt. It is the modern day equivalent of calling someone a "f'-ing bastard." It is a term of reproach. It means that you not only hate that person, but you could care less what happens to them. They are discarded trash to you. A loser. Disposable. Dead to you.
I could hardly believe the word contempt was popping up again.

Then I was reading the short story "The Partridge Festival" by Flannery O'Connor (The best short story writer EVER!) and I am not ten paragraphs in and the word contempt comes up. It was used to describe the look in the townsfolk eye when they talked about the local "drunk" who was shot to death at the town festival along with four others. They said the shooter "did everyone a favor by taking out that drunk." Wow, now that's contempt. The word contempt was also used to describe the look the main character gives these townsfolk when he hears them describe the local drunk as "not deserving of being honored at the same funeral as the rest who were shot."
Popping up a lot lately.
I think about it in the morning when I am watching the news and the local traffic comes on. It always bothers me when they describe a fatal accident as a "real inconvenience to drivers."
"Sorry folks, we had a fatal on the 405 this morning and so there's a real bottleneck near the Getty Center. It's going to be a tough drive out there for quite awhile until they can get this cleared off the road."
Poor people are going to be late for work.
Meanwhile the dead man in the mangled car in the breakdown lane is never going to go to work again.
Or go home.
Or go to his daughter's wedding.
Or his son's first football game.
But gosh darn it, I'm going to be late to my advertising meeting!
It's like we don't even see the humans in humanity anymore.
Think about all these immigrant children who are escaping Honduras, Guatemala and other Central American countries.  They are walking hundreds of miles with just the clothes on their backs and crossing the border in Texas. We just see them as "immigrants" and "ones who need to be sent back" or "kids who parents are using them as pawns" - what?? These are PEOPLE.  KIDS. HUMAN BEINGS. Take off your political glasses for one minute and see them with your heart. They are fleeing drug violence, hunger, poverty and hopelessness.  Can we not at least temper our comments about dead people on the freeways and the walking dead to at least try to sound like we actually notice that they are people, just like us?  They matter. Maybe not to you. But they matter to God.  Try to set your busy commute and your politics aside and let your heart get in the way. It's a short step from "those people" to "those contemptible people."

There's contempt all over the place.
Remember the young man who shot, stabbed and drove his car over those students in Santa Barbara not long ago? He thought of others as "raca" because he felt that is how they viewed him. His feelings of rejection became fuel for his anger which fanned his firestorm of revenge. His actions were not justified, of course, but there was 'raca" all over that terrible incident.

And there is nothing worse than feeling like a raca.
Like you don't matter.
Don't belong.
Like an outcast.
Like you serve no purpose other than to be a burden on society or the butt of the joke.
Like you could die and no one would care.
It's why solitary confinement is so torturous. Why isolation is so dangerous to the mind, body and soul. We were meant to belong. We were meant to matter. We wither like a plant without sunlight if we do not receive love and assurance that no, we are not raka, we are real - we are friend, family, we are human and we are loved.
Let's give people the benefit of the doubt.
Let's remove contempt from our eyes, words and heart.
Picture a sign on each person's forehead that says, "I want to matter" and find a way to assure them they do, not only to you and to others, but to God.

Hope A. Horner, 2014
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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Remember to Breathe with Your Lungs

TV is depressing.
When you get your cable hooked up, the installer should hand you a prescription for Prozac, or at least a credit for a free download of Pharrell's song "Happy." Two commercials I watched this past week really brought me down. Maybe you've seen them, too?

One showed parents holding babies, singing, laughing and reading books to them. The tag line of the commercial was "Remember to sing, read and talk to your baby." The next one featured only dads playing with kids and encouraged fathers to "Take time to be a dad."
I sat and watched, in shock, with sadness in my heart, and thought, "Wow. We need commercials for this?" What's next? A commercial reminding us to breathe with our lungs? Or one where teens are encouraged to sleep until noon?"
We have to REMIND people to interact with their babies?
We have to REMIND fathers to "take time" to be a dad?
How incredibly sad.
I'm not naive or "out of the loop."  I know why these commercials are airing.  In fact, the one about singing and talking to your baby, showed a kid propped up in front of a television while mom played on her cell phone. We all know that in those first few years a baby's brain is developing, and parent-child interaction is critical. So even if I wasn't aware of the problem, the commercial made it clear why parents needed to hear it. Put down the cell phone and pick up your baby. Still, sad.
And with Father's Day coming, I guess the other commercial is trying to address the problem of absentee fathers - those "baby daddies" who are not active in their child's life. That, I know, is a sad reality for many. I have worked with youth for over two decades and can tell you--I can almost pick the "Dad is not in my life" kids out of a crowd. The dysfunction caused by not having a father around is hard to hide. It comes out in angry outbursts, self-injury, addiction, and promiscuity, just to name a few. There is a hole in every child's heart that only a father can fill and when it doesn't fill up with dad, it fills up with something else. For fatherless daughters, beer and boyfriends are in endless supply and make great filler-uppers.

So I guess we are at the point where we need to make commercials to promote the basics of parenting:
Be there.
There is nothing wrong with trying to be a BETTER parent, in fact, there are some great classes and resources out there that can help parents deal with bullies, prevent drug use and help a child who suffers from depression or other issues. These are great and helpful and an unfortunately needed because the world is not an easy one to migrate for young people or parents. But when we have to tell parents on national television to do something as simple, and seemingly natural, as "talk to your baby", I get a pit in my stomach and a pain in my heart. When we have to tell dads to "take time" to be a dad, I feel sad, especially this close to Father's Day knowing that so many kids will not get one minute of dad's time this Sunday or any day. (And by the way dad, you don't "take time" to be a dad, you are always DAD, every minute of every day. Your kids watch how you talk to Mom, how hard you work; they hear what you say about the gay neighbors, religion, and politics and until they become teens, they want to be just like you.)
So, yes, please DO be a Dad.
Please DO talk, sing and read to your children.
And don't forget to breathe with your lungs, too.

Hope A. Horner, 2014
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This blog entry is dedicated to my Dad with thanks for being there, talking, reading and singing.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Singing Into Our Navels

There are a few reasons why I don't like most Christian music. I won't go into all of them here, but lately I have heard a few songs that have reminded me exactly WHY I don't always find Christian music inspiring. Here are a few sample lyrics I heard recently:
All is well! All is well!
Praise the Lamb! All is well!
He holds the keys of Death and Hell!
Jesus reigns, and all is well!
My first reaction to this?
WHAT ARE YOU SINGING?!?! THINGS ARE NOT WELL! Are you living on Mars? Have you watched the news?  One man just shot, stabbed and used his car to kill six people in Santa Barbara.
Another woman killed her three young children in their home.
Forget the news...just look around you ---
I just lost my neighbor to Hodgkin's Lymphoma.
A co-worker of mine has a brother who's cancer just keeps coming back.
My Mom just lost her sister.
California is having a MAJOR drought and we are entering fire season.
Oh, and have you been to downtown L.A. lately?  I have. I couldn't get over the sea of homeless encampments, mountains of trash and endless graffiti.


I can live with the hymn, "It is well with my SOUL", but I cannot live with the simple statement that all is well. I know what the author means - he/she means that in the big scheme of things all is well (see the line about "holding the keys to death and hell" = Big Picture). His/her point is that all is in God's control and therefore ultimately, all IS well (even the wrongs will be righted by God), but I can't imagine saying that when we live in a world where "all creation groans..." (Romans 8:22) as greed, selfishness, dysfunction and sickness rule.
Don't get me wrong.
I am not a Debbie Downer, nor do I stay locked up in my house all day holding my knees and rocking because the world outside my window is not well. I am, in fact, perversely positive and optimistic. Most know me as funny, upbeat and friendly. It is not an act. I really am, but I am also realistic and tired of Christian platitudes about how "all is well" especially when they are said within earshot of someone who is suffering, or lonely, or in need. Nothing brings hurting people to Jesus like telling them all is well. Really! Jesus gotchurback. (Read that again with sarcasm in case you missed it.)

Here's another lyric I heard recently that made me cringe:
I think I'll let God be God
Givin' up control
Think I'll relax, step back
It's time for letting go

Well isn't that great? You're going to let God be God. How thoughtful and wise of you! Thank goodness you made that decision otherwise he couldn't be God! There you go, nice and easy, good boy, let go, c'mon-you can do it...let God have the's OK there big fella...
You are going to LET God have control?
This song is actually a hilarious contradiction.  If you you are "letting" God be God, aren't you still acting like you are in control?
How about this instead:

I think I'll stop playing God
Think I'll step back and say
The world is not in my hands
Never was anyway

Just a thought. I cringe to even say the words that I am going to let God be God.  Makes me want to ask myself, "Who do I think I am anyway?"
And that is the problem I have with most Christian music today.  Besides the trite platitudes -it is ALL ABOUT ME.  About my pain - my journey - my desires - my love - God rescue me, God help me, God come to me, God be with me, God take this away, God I feel this, God I want that, God give me this...
What about taking the focus off ourselves and singing about God?  
With Love and Life for All
A Light in the Darkness
A Comfort to the sick and struggling--
A respite of PEACE in this weary world
This world--
That is NOT WELL.

Maybe if we stop singing about our own needs and desires, we might find ourselves a little less miserable---and a little bit more, well -  WELL. It's amazing what happens when we let go of that false sense of control, that self-obsession, that self-analysis, that "selfie" mentality. Maybe we'll feel better if we take off our rose colored glasses and focus our eyes a little bit higher than our own navels. It's better to sing with your head up anyway; as any good vocal coach will tell you--it lifts the diaphragm. You never know, this might help us stop singing in that super-soprano old-lady-in-church voice.

-Hope Horner, 2014
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