Friday, September 20, 2013

Oppurtunity, misspelled.

Oppurtunity, misspelled.

I’ve always struggled with the word opportunity.
It just seems to me that second letter “o” should be the letter “u.”
And to the vexing disappointment of Mrs. Williford and all those teachers who deluged into me my love of language, I say there are no rules in the English language. (If so, read and read wouldn’t be reed and red…and eight wouldn’t be ate…but they didn’t ask me.)
But in those dark, dark days before spill cheek, you always got an extra u from my in opportunity. (See what I did there?)
But today…today I’ve been thinking about that beautiful way I used to misspell oppurtunity.


So often, we think of opportunity as a favorable experience.
Brightly colored, glittery and sparkling…
     …Happy gardens, with pinwheel-spinning breezes…
            …Red carpets escorting to open doors.
But sometimes…
So often times…
Our opportunities are misspelled.
We get oppurtunities instead.
Often times, we only see the thing needing correction…
When what we need is not to correct, but to dive in to.
To dive right on in.
Sometimes, our oppurtunities to be blessed will not be neatly packaged in the perfect three-pieces-of-cello-taped packaging.
What the heck am I saying??
Permission to rephrase?
Rarely will our oppurtunities to be blessed will be neatly packaged in the perfect three-pieces-of-cello-taped packaging.
Most often, we’re going to find our greatest blessings, knee-deep or deeper in the dung of someone else’s doing. In that, “what have I gotten myself into?” moment of doubt and self-doubt and God-doubt.
That smelly, stinky place of why did I pull over? Why did I say you could come in? Why did I invite them here? Why did I agree to meet?
But that’s so often where we find our greatest blessings. That’s where we find it.
Check this out...I had to come to Emory this morning for treatment...on the way up, I saw a homeless man by the road and called him over to my car to give him some money. I said, "God bless you, bro!"
He said, "he already did! He sent you to Atlanta today to bear the name of Jesus. Just like you always do!"

Maybe we shouldn’t always look for the perfect opportunity.
Maybe we should be really cool with the imperfect oppurtunity.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

It’s All A Gift.

(I'm not at Starbucks at this actual moment...I just finished typing this into the computer from a beautiful journal. The journal and I were at Starbucks earlier.)
I’m at Starbucks…my heart is kind of aching at this particular moment in the whole space and time ‘where do we go from here’ wilderness of life.
And you know a weird thing about that location?
It kind of sucks…with a ‘Wow! This could be amazing Daddy! Take me on the adventure too!’ sort of sucky way. You know? The kind of thing that you know will be great on the other side, and there’ll be great stories about the incredible adventure. I mean, yeah, it sucks…but it’s so worth every bit of it!
Anyway—I’m at Starbucks. I’m writing as fast as I can—like a wild-eyed, rabid space monkey experimenting with high potency crystal methamphetamines—in a red journal embossed with ornate design and the reminding words “God is Love.” But just like every other journal I’ve ever owned (by the way, did you my favorite book genre is a blank journal?), but anyway, just like every journal I’ve ever owned has been a gift given in love by someone.
No, for real, of all the cherished, loved, insane-idea laden journals I’ve ever brought to life by marrying them to ink (preferably 1.0mm thickness), not a single one was purchased from the funds of the feeble financial account of the insane One, Ollie (with the exception of those journals Madame Hawt Mama Cristi purchased—but all I have is actually hers—I claim no ownership. So still, I’ve never purchased a journal.
I have bought a couple spiral-bound notebooks along the way—but the only ones I’ve embellished with any words of consequence were those given to me by my sister K Carla. She gave me a couple of really cool spiral bounds, with 3D images of Phineas and the words “He Thinks Big!”
But see—all these treasured, precious, priceless books—where my brain and heart place my crazy ideas—my plans—my schemes—my manifestos for loving, brightening, changing the world—the safe keepers of my insanity—were all given as GIFTS to me.
Someone, or someones, people, people in and out of my life—people who have, who do, who will—LOVE ME, me, this frail and failing, inconsistent Ollie—undeserving of title—inadequate of pomp—have loved me enough to have transferred to my care…BLANK PAGES!
Oh, and…
Did I mention I’m at Starbucks? Yeah—I know I did. (I just really don’t why I always ask these kind of questions, I guess to make sure people are awake or something…or, maybe its just like an Ollie-ism that you have to accept since you’re required to love me! The Bible says so!)
But anyway, yeah…I’m at Starbucks, and I came in with a heavy heart, my phone, my ear buds, a Starbucks gift card (that someone gave me) and this journal, of which I’ve already written…but, I was missing a pen. (You’d think by the fact my poor car looks like a mobile scene from Sanford & Son’s Junk Yard, I’d surely find a pen in all those mounds of refuse, but no—nothing.)
So I came in, ordered my venti Pike’s Place in a “for here” cup, and set about forming my beggar’s countenance. I asked the barista (I love the word barista—I’ve often times considered filling out an application, just so I could be “Ollie…the Barista”) but I asked the barista, if by chance, she might have a spare pen I could borrow. I told her my heart was a little heavy and I needed to write it out.
She was kind in the shadow of her Starbucks cap. She checked around the counter area, held the Bic Ultra Round Stic Grip towards me and said, “You can use my pen.”
I asked, “What if I forget to give it back?”
She said, “It’s okay! It’s a gift!”
It’s a gift!
A gift!
It was a GIFT!
I started thinking about what’s “mine.” (Here’s another Ollie-ism, maybe –ism #8, or maybe #12, I’ve lost count.) But I actually DETEST possessive words like “mine” and “my,” etc.
But like I said, I started thinking as I held this journal, this pen, this coffee, then I started thinking about all the gifts and abilities and every other thing in my life—my gifted, on-loan life…every bit of it—this breathing in and out—this beating heart—these tears that sting my eyes—this obnoxious laughter that embarrasses my family—these friends and family I hold so dear—the arms that wrap around me, and let a 6’4” man be a crying child—these gifts. The words I stand and speak in love. The passion I feel for loving the world. Even the words I scribble of on this gifted-to-me journal, with this gifted-to-me pen—the all of the all.
It is all a gift on loan—
This whole life, and all it entails, is a gift, on loan—
And I will manage it well.

I love you…I love you how?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Trust. (A Gift I Opened.)

(Before you start reading this, I must start by offering my standard apology: this is about that silly little season of my life I'm sure you're sick of hearing about. If so, hit the back button now. I really don't mean to be melodramatic, or wear it on my sleeve like some "poor Ollie" sympathy thing.
It's just purity is transparency...and I want to use every aspect of my story to help others, well, not just "others," but to help you! Maybe it's not cancer, but maybe you can identify something in my stories with something in your life...that's part of my dream.
So, this is the part that may sound melodramatic, but I don't give a crap: I'd take a hundred more cancer diagnoses, if someone could be inspired to live.)

People say, "I battled cancer." Or, "He lost his battle with cancer."

I had cancer.

It was in my brain.

It was stage 4 brain cancer.

But, I did not battle it.

(Standardized Ollie Preface: I'm talking about me, myself, Paul Ollie Horne, Sr. I'm not speaking on behalf of all cancer patients and/or the otherwise terminally ill*.)

I've battled to recover from its effects, but...I did not battle the lemon-sized glioblastoma tumor, which manifest itself by causing me to have seizures on a plane in Nigeria.

I couldn't battle the tumor.

I had no training, no education, no equipment, no expertise, no degrees.

I had no sterile environments. No scalpels, no medical-grade Craftsman circular saws.

I had not a single item in any arsenal imaginable with which to wage this battle for my life.

Well, okay, I did have one thing.

One thing debated to be either foolish or wise...and the thing I personally hold out to be both: foolishly, even ridiculously wise.

That thing?


I only had one thing with which I could fight my battle: I had to give up my battle to the care of others.

Of course I had faith and trust, and I had those in copious doses. But that faith was not a possession to which I could lay claim. All faith we ever know is on loan to us, we're never its owner. We're never its manufacturer.

So all I could do was trust, and believe, and pray. (Now, I used to get indignant at the hokey movie line of the wise old doctor, who'd half in care/half in callousness, tell the anxious family, "All we can do now, is pray." I wanted to ask why not START there? Why not start with praying? Anyway.)

But I learned this amazing thing during this amazing thing!


I learned trust.

My neurosurgeon was the best of the best neurosurgeons.

My radiation oncologist was the best of the best radiation oncologists.

My medical oncologist was the best of the medical oncologists.

They explained things in unnecessary detail. When they weren't in the office, they were traveling the world teaching their colleagues their life-saving expertise. They weren't cocky, but they had the steady confidence you so desire in a person who is literally holding your brain in their hands.

(My greatest comfort came when one the oncologists described my neurosurgeon as a genius artist. A scientist, a genius, who performs art while removing unwanted lemons from the parietal lobe.)

I trusted.

I trusted the doctors and their staff.

I trusted Nurse Mark (free willy) when he made me do my predawn walk of the ICU.

I trusted the MRI techs when they assured me I wouldn't spontaneously combust in their tube of doom.

But you know what else I learned, or, well, I guess I should say my years of learning were tattooed onto my heart through this overwhelming blessing?

I learned that I really do trust God, my Daddy.

Some people have referred to this time in my life as a storm...but for me this has been so far from storm-like! It's been more like the kind of refreshing rain shower where country kids go outside and splash around in the mud...and throw their heads back, open their mouths wide, drinking raindrops straight from the clouds!!

Anyway, in all honesty, I've been given a gift. A super power, that's renewed every time I wake up.

It's called trust.

Trust is what carries us through the fear of the unknowns. Trust is what reminds us everything will be okay. Trust says, "It's okay if I don't understand, if I don't get how this all works, because I trust the one does know how all this works."

His name is God...but he prefers a more trustworthy name: Daddy.

Much Love!

*I had to "asterisks" this, because, short of the return of Jesus, we're all facing the same beautiful terminal disease: life. Congrats!

Friday, April 19, 2013

I still think about that bird.

I still think about that bird.

Why is it, I still can’t get the image of that bird out of my head…out of my heart?

Lunacy? Did I ever deny that fact?

But still, by now, under this care, why do I still see that bird?

She was beautiful that overcast day.


Beautiful…and sad.

Beautiful and sad and land based.

It had to have been fifteen years ago, when I witnessed what was to me the most tortured, tragic and seemingly insignificant event sadly unfolding along the backside of Statesboro, Georgia’s Main Street business district.

I saw a bird…walking down the…

Oh, wait. Lunacy, remember? Told that one already.

(Maybe a couple times…or maybe a couple times more than I should’ve.)


But the thing about it is…

Well, I still think about that bird.

I don’t know much about birds. I don’t know her particular species or anything.

She was a kind of charcoaly-grey, occasionally white and then dark black. And she didn’t have that nervous shifty head movement thing birds usually have. She just walked along, moving her head in slow, almost deliberate movements.

When she looked my way, and I saw first one eye, then the next, they were jet black, like you dripped glossy black paint on a sunny day.

But they were sad.

I kept thinking she was going to fly away. There was a tree or two and plenty of utility cables for perching.

But she just walked.

Even, even when a car, I think it was a light blue Vega like my sister used to have when I was seventeen, drove very closely…she just walked by.

(I couldn’t sleep tonight…too much raw desire, emotion, passion, pain…which for me, renders itself out as love expressed in words…and deep, deep memories…)

When that car came rumbling down the street, I just knew she’d raise her wings, display her authority over such petty constraints as physics, and fly away.

But again, no.

She walked.

The original story for just a minute…

She walked the entire length of the city block, turned and continued walking.

I never once saw her fly.

I never once saw her again.

And, I still think about that bird.

I wonder what happened to her in the days after the day she walked down the street.

I wonder if she just stayed low. I wonder if kept a strict rule: park benches and under!

I wonder if she just spent whatever could’ve possibly been left of the life, of a walking from grassy place to grassy place, trying to muster up some food.

I wonder if she felt the way so many feel, when they feel they don’t measure up? (I hate to even allow this word to travel across my scarred brain!)

I wonder if she felt insignificant.

That word.

I am ashamed of myself for even letting it flutter across this QWERTY keyboard!

It is profanity in the highest ranks of all that is profane.

Reluctantly, I will again use my previous obscenity…insignificant.

I don’t know for sure if insignificance banished her from flight, but her feelings of such certainly seemed to keep her on the ground.

Feeling insignificant can be the most swallowing, overwhelming feeling. I’ve known the feeling. I’ve known it well. I’ve known it recently. I’ve known its weight.

This bird, this bird that walked down the street, she’s been in my heart and mind so much. I’ve been thinking about her for over fifteen years.

In other words, she has not been insignificant to me.

And I was just a bored guy, looking out a door.

Just a human.

If she wasn’t insignificant to me, can you imagine how God feels about her?

If she wasn’t insignificant to God, can you imagine how God feels about you?!

I can imagine.

God feels like you are significant.

(Well, actually…he knows it.)

So go fly!

(Oh...and don't be afraid to fly!)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I've got a calling...I don't need a title.

Please read this carefully.

I want to say this as kindly and gently a way as possible. 

Also, I'm saying this about ME, not anyone else...this is a personal request from me, not a commentary on any person or organization.

I've known, and walked in, my calling and gifting as a pastor for over 25 years. Whether I was shepherding in the capacity of a church staff member...or as a friend, co-worker or simply a passer-by in everyday life. My calling is who I am, not what I do. It's my life, not a position.

My calling is to pastor. To teach, to be a visionary, and to lead people to seek Christ. That's what my calling has always been…it's what I've done. Position or no position. This calling to lead at Lifepoint is just a natural progression, but it doesn't make me any better than anyone else and it CERTAINLY doesn't make me any closer to God! (The curtain in the temple was torn in two for YOU just like it was for me!

So, please, don't hold me in any higher esteem than any other Christ follower. Please don't put any titles on me. My name is Paul Ollie Horne, Sr. I prefer Ollie, by the way. (Interestingly, "Paul" means humble…"Ollie" means peace. I think my name speaks all the title I need.)

"They love to sit at the head table at church dinners, basking in the most prominent positions, preening in the radiance of public flattery, receiving honorary degrees, and getting called 'Doctor' and 'Reverend.' "Don't let people do that to you, put you on a pedestal like that. You all have a single Teacher, and you are all classmates. Don't set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do. Save that authority for God; let him tell you what to do. No one else should carry the title of 'Father'; you have only one Father, and he's in heaven. And don't let people maneuver you into taking charge of them. There is only one Life-Leader for you and them—Christ. (Matthew 23:6-10 MSG)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Could...but didn't. (A bird took a walk down the street.)

(I've told it before.)

One day, it was a rainy day; I saw a bird walking down the street.

A bird, complete with wings & feathers, walked at least a full city block and a half.
I thought it was strange, in consideration of such amazing capabilities...this bird walked...with the ability to fly.

I still wonder why the bird didn't fly.

Maybe he was never encouraged to fly, and didn't know he could...
Maybe he was waiting for the right time, (the most stale of all excuses)…
Maybe he was never pushed, and became lazy...
Maybe he flew into a window, and adamantly decided to never be fooled again...
Maybe he tried to fly, but failed…and fell...
Maybe he just didn't want to fly...

Whatever the reason, this bird reasoned to not use his most enviable gift...


Can you imagine? 


Think about the time, maybe decades ago, when you dreamed of lifting off and freeing yourself from these "surly bonds,” spreading your arm-wings and soaring above cars and playgrounds and the mortals of terra firma!

No more stuck in traffic.
Your friends in utter awe.
With basketball skills to die for.
And how would you clear your mind? 
Oh...yeah...go for a little flight around the subdivision!

We wish. 
We dream. 
We fantasize. 
For this thing...this AMAZING thing...
That is the natural, innate ability...
Of a bird...
Who had the audacity...
To walk...
When he could fly.

It's enough to almost make you angry...
Plenty enough to make you wonder...
And beg the question "why?"

Why, bird?!


I saw that bird in 1998.
And I’ve lived almost fifteen years with this apparitional memory.

(Breathe for a second.)
Okay, honestly my deep concern isn't really for this unfilled feathered failure not living up to his potential.

What concerns me is the image I see here.

I'm haunted by the metaphor!

I'm haunted because I see myself...walking in the rain...afraid to fly...

Afraid to, refusing to, use that thing so bestowed upon me, others strain to restrain their envy.

And still I think of a thousand excuses…
I realize a thousand fears…
I focus on a handful of discouragers…(instead of the thousand of you who encourage.)

I know I can fly.
For me, my wings are words.
Spoken, written, crafted together.
In my gift of being a word-crafter, I HAVE THE SUPERHUMAN ABILITY OF FLIGHT.

I know this. It's what is true of me.
It is my delight and joy.
It is the means to my passion.
It is the means to my dream.
It is the means to my calling.
It is the manifestation of my calling.
It IS my calling.
It is the breath my Daddy uses, to breathe life into this pile of dust, held in Divinity's palm.

It is my brick in this eternal building.

With the haunting memory of that bird's walk, and his un-utilized gift…
I allegorically step to the edge…
Spread my arms,
And kick fear and denial where it hurts!

It's what I must do, to do what I must do!

And so now I'm asking you…
With bitter tears and a fear of making you feel judged…
But an even greater desire to see you live FULL…FULFILLED.

Why are you walking…beautiful bird?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Dear Church...are we?

John 13:33-37 (The Message)
"Children, I am with you for only a short time longer. You are going to look high and low for me. But just as I told the Jews, I'm telling you: 'Where I go, you are not able to come.' 34 "Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. 35 This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples - when they see the love you have for each other." 36 Simon Peter asked, "Master, just where are you going?" Jesus answered, "You can't now follow me where I'm going. You will follow later." 37 "Master," said Peter, "why can't I follow now? I'll lay down my life for you!"

I love this. 

The deal has been made. Judas sold him out.
Jesus is really just hours from the end of his natural life. 
Jesus has some very important information to impart.
Something new. (Remember, "new." Okay?)
Something Jesus has basically been waiting his whole life (not just the thirty or so he's been on earth…but the eternity before "earth" was even ever spoken) to lay out his plan and share it with humanity.

So, yeah…new.

Jesus said, "Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another."
"Let me give you a new command."
Jesus said "new."
But not new like the marketing department's ploy to make you think their product has been made better (but actually contains the same product, now just in a sexier package) when they post on the package "New Look…Same Product." (This is what I call "deceptive honesty." Um…yeah…okay...)
Not that kind of new.
But the kind of new synonomous with words like unprecedented, uncommon…wait, try this one…unheard of. Remember when I said to remember "new"?
Well, it seems to me, Jesus is talking to the Disciples, with this kind of wide-eyed, hold-on-to-your-seats, this-is-going-to-blow-you-away and shake-up-what-you-believe kind of new theology (doesn't "theology" sound completely inadequate?)
But that's exactly what this word "new" meant.
Jesus is about to be arrested, endure the most brutal, multiple beatings, falsely accused, wrongly convicted, and shamefully executed…and is trying to impart the most important thing he's ever said, and set forth the command for the church…and the identity obeying the command would confer.
Here's what he said, again.
"Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples - when they see the love you have for each other."

Two words: Earth Shattering!

Can you imagine?
You've spent your whole life trying desperately to follow an impossible to remember list of laws and commands.
Then you spent about the last three years with the man who claims to be the one who gave Moses those laws and commandments and those commands you had to obey to make sure you obeyed the other commands.
Commands on top of commands, on top of commands.

And Jesus comes along and says he's got a new command. 
Love people.

And not only that, but this. 
If you obey this command, people will know you're learning from me. 
People will know you're my disciple…
…Not because the robe you wear.
…Not because the tassels on your robe.
…Not because of any other thing…
…But showing love.

This was, even compared to all the crazy things they had ever heard from the mouth of the Messiah, in redundancy: earth shattering.

But you know what gets me?

In over 2000 years, the Church really hasn't changed that much.

Jesus says I'm outta here, 'kay? You won't be able to find me when I leave...and before I go and leave you to finish, you need this important order: love.

And what did Peter do/say?
Peter completely ignored Jesus' command and started freaking out about Jesus leaving.
"I wanna go with you!!"
"I promise I'll be good!"

Peter completely disregarded Jesus' command.
Peter was looking for something else in the Messiah…and sometimes it seems that's all he could see.
Peter was looking for a position. (That's what I used to look for.)
Peter was looking for prosperity. (That's what I used to look for.)
Peter was looking for power. (That's what I used to look for.)

But Peter wasn't looking in the mirror. (Me either.)

Peter was looking for something new, but Peter wasn't looking at Jesus "new command."

Dear Church…are we?