Monday, January 31, 2011

Hammock Day

This is the day that the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

We are now at day 21 of the 140 day legislative session. Unlike state employees, our constitution does not contemplate weekends and holidays when it decrees that this august body convene for 140 days. Each new state holiday we add to the calendar subtracts a day from the work schedule. And, this early in the session the weekends are actually used for down time - getting away from the office and issues. It won’t be long until a weekend is just the “timeout” period you get to catch up. Then, alas, weekends will be just another work day.

Generally, the first 60 days of a legislative session are designed to be rather slow. It is the time when committees are formed and legislation is referred. Only measures designated by the Governor as an “emergency” are eligible to be considered in the first 60 days. The Senate came out of the gate running when the Governor declared voter I.D. an emergency and has already passed a bill and sent it over to the House. On the House side, we are waiting for committee assignments (expected this week) so that we can begin to look at that issue and others. To date 1,371 bills have been filed - a mere drop in the bucket to the 6,190 bills filed last session, but there is still plenty of time for more to come.

However, this weekend I was not thinking about the goings on at the Legislature. I didn’t dwell on how large my “to read” pile has become or think about either the defensive or offensive positions to take on policy issues. Sunday was one of those rare days in Central Texas where the Lord sandwiches a delightful “hammock” day right in between two cold fronts. Not wishing to miss the opportunity, I hung my hammock out under the oak trees, grabbed a good book and a glass of iced tea, and along with the basset hound happily stretched out beneath me, proceeded to take a nap. It was the best hour of my week.

The weather forecast has temperatures dropping into the twenties this week. My glorious hammock day will be only a memory as I once again pull out my longjohns and winter coat and get back to the drudgery of session.

Ah, but what a memory!

Lord, thank you for the reminder that we are to rejoice and be glad in each day you give us. Amen.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Be Careful What You Pray For

When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.” Psalm 27:8

This is my tenth legislative session. My circumstances have changed over the years. I started out as a volunteer.

Our family had moved to the Austin area for my husband’s job. Shortly after the move the company reorganized and Jerry became responsible for the sales staff in the northeastern United States. He left home on Monday mornings and came home on Fridays. The time in between left me in the exclusive company of three children and the dog. Upon leaving Houston, I had declared that with this move I had no intentions of getting involved in any community activities because we would just be moving AGAIN in a short period of time. I was not a happy camper.

But, my personality only allows me to pout for so long. One day I prayed, “Surely, Lord, You can use me for something.” That same day I made two phone calls. One was to the woman who later convinced me to run for the local school board and the other was to the executive director of the organization I volunteered for here at the Capitol. He surely answered my cry.

Several months passed. One day my husband called to tell me that his company had gone bankrupt and that he would be out of a job at the end of the week. My response was, “Praise God! That’s an answer to prayer.”

His response was one that should not be repeated in a daily devotional, but the general gist was to ask me what I had been praying.

I had been recruited to run for the local school board and was in the midst of a rather nasty campaign. My volunteer position had morphed into a part time job at the Capitol. And, I was juggling those responsibilities and the schedules of three children - two in elementary school and one in middle school. I had been praying that Jerry would be home more often to help me out.

No, I did not ask God to take away Jerry’s job. But, this was one situation where the Lord immediately showed me He was responding to my prayer. In that case, Jerry took over the campaigning for me and was the single most significant factor in getting me elected to the school board - a fact he would regret on more than one occasion over the next three years. Jerry remained out of work until things settled down on the home front and then the Lord provided another position for him.

God answers all of our prayers. Sometimes we just have trouble seeing how His answer fulfills our request.

Lord, open my eyes to see Your answers to my prayers. Amen

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Teach the Children

. . . teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the Lord has spoken to them . . . Leviticus 10:11

This is a unique legislative session for me because I am working with a new legislator and an entirely new team of staff. Because of the vision of the legislator who chose me for this position, we are a working laboratory to equip young people to tackle the future. We have five full-time staff, four regular part-time interns, and several interns who will be working with us for a week at a time during spring break. If you factor out me and our district director, the average age in the office is about 18.

That makes my mission training.

We have only 140 days to impart some serious life lessons to these young people. So, training in public policy is just the tip of the iceberg. We get to cover everything from answering phones and general etiquette at receptions to how to analyze legislation and navigate the politics of the day. And, woven into the fabric of every lesson is the requirement to “. . . teach the children all the statutes which the Lord has spoken. . ..”

Now, do I have a cool job, or what?

Lord, open our eyes to see the opportunities to impart Your statutes to those around us today. Amen

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him, and He will show His covenant. Psalm 25:6

Don’t you just love secrets - to know you have been trusted with something special that others are not privy to? As a mother I always tried to share a special secret with my children. That secret was that each of them was my favorite. When they got older and tried pulling the “I’m mom’s favorite card,” my secret was out. But, as any mother of multiple children knows, it is possible for each of your children to be your favorite - all at the same time. I find the same magic works with grandchildren as I tell each of mine that I love them best.

In conversation yesterday I hit upon a secret of God. It is a truth my head has known, but which I had not thought to apply to current circumstances. The legislator I work for is a man who chose to support a candidate who ran against the current speaker of the house. A frequent question I am asked is, “What do you think they will do to him because of that?”

Yesterday, almost as a throw away answer, I replied, “They can’t do anything to him. He serves at the will of God and will be successful regardless of where they place him.”

The guests in my office looked surprised at my response. Then, I realized the absolute truth in what I had said. (Yes, sometimes I even surprise myself.) It does not matter what position we hold, what committees we are assigned, what events we are invited to, or anything else. When we are on an assignment of God, our success or failure depends entirely upon our dependence on Him. That cannot be taken away from us by man.

If God is for you, what can man do to you? That, my friends is a great secret of God.

Oh, and I’m HIs favorite. (That’s our little secret.)

Lord, help us to walk in the understanding that You are for us. Nothing man can do will change that. Amen.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Dancing With the Lord

Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would go onward in all their journeys. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not journey till the day that it was taken up. Exodus 40:36-37

The Lord gifted me in many areas. Dancing is not one of them. While all of my children share the gift with their dad, mom just got left out. Oh sure, I’ll break down and dance at the occasional wedding, but other than that, no thank you. Maybe I’m just not a good follower, but someone leading me around on a dance floor makes me feel awkward, uncomfortable and clumsy.

And, in a lot of ways, that was how I felt as a new Christian trying to learn to walk with the Lord. He made it relatively easy for the Israelites. Cloud - stay. No cloud - go. How hard could that have been?

It is a little more difficult when you have to listen for that still small voice. In my enthusiasm, there were many times I would get out in front of the Lord. My intentions were good. My results were questionable. Other times hesitation for lack of understanding caused missed opportunities. Both of those situations are regrettable. But, the worst case scenario is when “the dance floor” of life is so crowded that I never even hear the voice of God. It is drowned out by the barking dogs, the ringing phone, the endless emails, the busy schedule, the TV, the . . . . I’m sure you share my pain.

God isn’t going to send up a smoke signal or give you a billboard. (I’ve asked.) So, you have to learn to de-clutter your life, clean out your ears, and take the time to listen. There is no substitute for spending time with the Lord.

Lord, as the schedule of session gets more hectic, help me to jealously guard the spot I have for you on my dance card . Amen.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Good Reminder for a Friday Morning

Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips. Psalm 141:3

Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles. Proverbs 21:23

The Lord has blessed me with a quick wit, a sense of humor, and a tendency to say that thing that everybody else was thinking but was smart enough to not articulate. I generally say what I think, am direct enough for there to be no question about what I mean, and try not to say anything behind someone’s back that I would not say to their face. That is a skill set that works well in this environment.

Except when it doesn’t.

The years have taught me to incorporate some wisdom and tact in expressing my observations and opinions. And, over the years, the Lord has been so good to show me His mercy and grace that I finally realized my responsibility to extend that to those around me. (Yes, what you see these days is the kinder, gentler me.) But, that hasn’t stopped my bluntness from setting some people aback.

So, reading in Psalms and proverbs the admonition to “watch the door of my lips” and “guard your mouth and tongue” reminds me that I remain a work in progress.

Lord, it is easy to remember to watch what I say when there is nobody in the room. Help me to remember the rest of the time. Amen

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Rules to Play By

“You shall not circulate a false report. Do not put your hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness. You shall not follow a crowd to do evil; nor shall you testify in a dispute as to turn aside after many to pervert justice. You shall not show partiality to a poor man in his dispute.” Exodus 23:1-3

With the recent shooting of the congresswoman in Arizona, the speaker’s race in Texas, and the Republican majority in the US House, there has been a lot of commentary on the rhetoric about politics and policy. On one hand you have those who would blame bad things that happen on what the other side is saying. On the other hand you have those who staunchly defend their right to say whatever they want, damn the consequences. Both sides have some merit to their arguments. Rhetoric can cause tempers to rise. Angry people do not do always do rational things. On the other hand, being angry does not justify inappropriate behavior. It is a personal choice to make bad decisions.

Having said all that, scripture does give us a good set of rules to play politics by. They are found in Exodus 23: 1-3.

  1. Do not tell lies. Trust me, there are enough bad things going on around here to make your point without having to make up stories.
  2. Do not tell lies about what you have seen or heard. [Don’t gossip about them either.]
  3. Do not follow a crowd to do evil. Think riots in Greece. Or, protests with rock throwing. Or, angry groups with legitimate concerns who make their point by not telling the truth about their opposition.
  4. Do not allow your testimony to pervert justice. Winning the issue is not worth the battle if justice does not prevail.
  5. Do not show partiality to a poor man. [This may merit an entire devotional on social justice at a later date.]
So, as you engage in the lively debates that are sure to go on this session, remember these rules. Make your point on issues with facts and opinions. Concede that the other side has a reason for believing what they do - they may even be correct in some circumstances. Remember that someone who disagrees with you is not necessarily your enemy.

Most of all, remember that you represent Christ here on earth. Session lasts for 140 days. The Kingdom of God is for eternity.

Lord, give me a Kingdom perspective in my day to day activities here on earth. Amen.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Search Me . . .

Search me, O God and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24

It is a relatively big day in legislative land. The preliminary budget is being released this morning. Let the games begin.

In reality, the preliminary budget is little more than a starting point for the rhetoric to begin. Like many other things here in Austin, we don’t know what the final bill will look like, but we can assured it will not be what they give us today.

Most people are confused about the budgeting process and believe it is merely a discussion about dollars and cents. In reality, the budget has little to do with money and a tremendous amount to do with our state’s resources and how we choose to allocate them. The allocation is pure policy. What do we spend the money for? Is that a legitimate expense for government to be making? Who gets what and why? Before you appropriate a penny, you should first determine the purpose. And, since the penny does not, in fact, belong to the legislators (it belongs to the people), there is an increased fiduciary responsibility to ensure that funds are spent wisely.

But, alas, that has not always happened. Our governments - local, state and national - have grown with the prosperity of the times until it has assumed responsibilities far beyond its original scope or purpose. Government has assumed the responsibilities of husbands and heads of households with welfare benefits to unwed mothers; parents with government education which seconds as child care and subsidized child care for students too young to enroll in school; and adult children with Medicare and Medicaid benefits to care for their elderly parents.

We are all asking others to pay for things which are our personal responsibility. And, one of the fears many law makers have in cutting the budget is that it will cause unemployment in those who we decide are doing things better left to someone other than government. Does that make doing the right thing a cold and heartless thing to do? Do you figure out a way to allow a “controlled crash,” backing off some, but not all the way? What will the political outcry be when the cuts in state government begin to hit the legislator’s constituencies? Will you understand if you do not qualify for all of the benefits currently available?

I don’t know the answers to all of those questions. But, I do know that my personal desire and my desire for our elected officials is that they do the right thing. And, that will only come about with the help of God. So, I pray today for the Texas House of Representatives;

Lord, search them and know their hearts; try them and know their anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in them, and lead them in the way everlasting. Amen.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Now What?

“Tell the children of Israel to go forward.” Exodus 14:15

Have you ever wondered what a dog chasing a car would do if he actually caught it? Take a minute to run that little video in your head. In my mind the dog gets a good grip on the tire and then flops around in circles with the turning of the wheels. Perhaps that is what goes through the mind of each dog as they race toward a car, only to veer off and give up the chase every single time. How frustrating to always chase and never catch.

As a conservative in politics, I know the feeling. Of course, if I were a liberal in politics I would know the feeling, also. It seems each philosophy races toward its objective, only to veer off at the last moment, short of the goal. When it happens with liberals, I rejoice. (And, I am perfectly comfortable with knowing they rejoice when it happens to me.)

When it happens to me, I murmur. I accept that we are gun rights proponents, making us uniquely equipped to shoot ourselves in the foot. My observation has been that we are never so far ahead that we cannot snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Not a pessimist, just a realist.

Apparently, God has had to deal with people like me for a really long time. Take, for instance, the people of Israel when Moses led them out of Egypt. The Lord had just performed miracle after miracle after miracle on behalf of the Israelites. He had put His hand of protection over them and given them favor in the eyes of the Egyptians. So, of course, you would think when they came to a difficult spot they would trust Him to bring them through. But, no. Instead they murmured and whined. “Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, ‘Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness.” (Yet another day in history that it was a good thing I am not God.)

Modern day conservatives / Republicans are having a similar experience. There has been a political mandate set down by the electorate for change in our governing habits. Representatives have been sent to Washington and to Austin to make the change, only to be confronted by a system of doing things that is the statesman’s equivalent of the Red Sea. The sea before them, the voters at their back. Some of them are succumbing to the pressure by conforming their expectations to those of the status quo.

But, when the Israelites came to an impossible situation - the Red Sea, the Lord did not tell them to turn around and go back into captivity. His word was, “Tell the children of Israel to go forward.”

It did not look easy. It did not even look possible. And yet, the Lord provided a way.

Lord, regardless of our political philosophy, give us the courage to follow the call You have put on our lives. Do not allow us to be swayed by our circumstances but, with wisdom and trust, to follow You and, once we have begun, to follow through.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Just for Me

My defense is of God, who saves the upright in heart. Psalm 7:10

Just so you know, this devotional is not targeted at anyone but myself. I trust the rest of you have mastered this principle and I am just playing catch up. So, enjoy as I lecture myself on what I know I ought to know.

The Speaker’s race we have just seen play out in Texas politics has been a difficult time for me spiritually. My loyalties have been divided as I have watched good men and women who love the Lord disagree on issues that many of them consider to be foundational issues. Friends have attacked friends, causing estrangements that will only heal by the grace of God. And, at the end of the day, the issue is not ended. There are fears of retaliation and retribution over positions taken.

To make it even worse, one of the candidates for speaker was a man whom I have known and admired for years for his faithfulness to do the right thing. And, it is that friendship which has brought me to the topic for today’s devotional.

When the discussions surrounding the speaker’s race begin to turn to would have, should have, and blaming I find myself picking up an offense on behalf of the candidates who challenged the sitting speaker - especially the one I know personally. Both of those men are godly men who were doing what they felt the Lord called them to do. Neither of them need me to defend their character or their motives - the Lord is their defense.

As is always the case, the Lord gives grace to those whom He calls into difficult situations. But often, I find that the same grace does not extend to those who are watching the events. So, once again, I remind myself today to put down any offenses I have picked up on behalf of others, and to commit to prayer those who are struggling with the outcome of the speaker election.

Lord, remind me today that You do not need any help defending those whom You have called to take a stand. Amen.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Turning Aside

Then Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.” Exodus 3:3

Two weeks before the legislative session began I was still uncertain as to whether or not to commit to the writing of this devotional this year. The new office, new workload, new employees all point to more hours in the office and less discretionary time. My husband, who knows me better than I know myself, was encouraging me to take the plunge. His l ogic? “You have to get up and read scripture every morning anyway.”

He hit the nail on the head. He knows I know that the only way I make it through the session is by prioritizing my time to put first things first. And, he knows I try to start every day with some quiet time with the Lord. Truly, the devotional is merely writing down what the Lord shares with me during that time. And, of course, I know that the Lord always multiplies my time to accommodate any task He assigns. Time writing the devotional does not subtract from time needed for any other project.

Reading in Exodus this morning, I was reminded that we have to intentionally turn our attention away from where we are to see the things the Lord is doing. Moses was out tending the flock on the back side of the desert when he saw a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. The fire was not consuming the bush. Not being familiar with tending flocks in the desert, it would seem to me that something of this nature would surely get your attention. Watching sheep eat couldn’t possibly be all that exciting, and what else was there out there to distract Moses’ attention?

But scripture tell us that Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, . . .”. Moses had to purpose to stop what he was doing, change direction, and see what the Lord was doing. It was only after he turned aside that the Lord, from the midst of the bush, called him by name, “Moses, Moses.”

And Moses said, “Here I am.”

Whether we think our schedules are more hectic than Moses’ or not, the point is that we have to make the decision to turn aside to see what the Lord has to say to us each day. It is when we turn His way that He is able to call us by name and give us our marching orders.

Lord, Help me to remember to turn aside each day to seek Your face and hear Your voice. Amen.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What Man Means for Evil

One of the unfortunate realities about my preparing for a legislative session is that I totally lose track of what is happening outside the realm of the Texas Capitol. On Saturday, as we were setting up the office, one of the employees noted the alert he had received on his cell phone that a U.S. Congresswoman had been shot at a political event. Our cable was not functioning so, not privy to any additional details, we prayed for the congresswoman and carried on with our duties.

Briefly over the weekend I heard various snippets of information. Six dead - including a federal judge and a nine-year-old- little girl. Fourteen wounded. The congresswoman was shot in the head. The blame game is already in full swing, complete with pointing fingers and rising tempers. The political right makes people angry and angry people shoot people. The political left is trying to end political disagreement by blaming the right.

It would behoove us all to keep a few facts in mind during this and other disagreeable situations.

  1. The man who opened fire in this scenario did not do so because of his political persuasion, he did so because he was mentally deranged. He did not, in fact, have any right leaning political beliefs. But, even if he had, it would have been the mental illness, not the political belief that prompted him to pull the trigger.
  2. God’s ways are not our ways. We simply do not have to capacity to understand why or how the Lord allows some things to happen. If I, as a created being, believed I could understand all that God knows and does, it would make my God small indeed - no larger than my comprehension. I am okay with not understanding everything.
  3. God can use evil for good. In Genesis when Joseph was sold into captivity by his brothers, they were relieving themselves of a pesky brother. God, on the other hand, was preparing for the salvation of an entire race of people. Go figure. Who knew?
Things will always happen that exceed human comprehension. Why the senseless killing? Why the death of a loved one? Why the outcome of a political race? Why the failure of a grassroots campaign? Don’t fret over these things. Your circumstances do not change the character or nature of God. And, no amount of worry on your part will change the outcome.

Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” Gen. 50:19-20

Lord, help me to look for You in the circumstances surrounding me. Do not allow me lean on my own understanding. Amen

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Yet I Will Rejoice

My daughter, a lover of books, always turns to the last page in a new book to read the ending when she first picks up a book. It is a habit I do not share in reading, but the principle applies in life. It is good to know how a situation is going to turn out.

At the Texas Legislature, the 82nd Legislature will be sworn in today. Over the next 140 days there will be “wars and rumors of wars.” There are hard decisions to make about re-districting, the budget, and a plethora of other issues to cause legislators to line up on one side or the other. In representing their districts, members may disagree with friends on how to vote on an issue.

It might be best for legislators and staff to settle in their minds today what the outcome will be in 140 days. We cannot know the results of the votes to be taken. But, like the prophet in the book of Habakkuk 3:17-18 we can declare:

Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;T
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls -
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.

There is no way to know what battles or circumstances will come our way this session. It doesn’t matter. As for me, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.

Lord, help us to remember that nothing happening around us is a surprise to You. Remind me to rejoice in You, regardless of my circumstances.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Value of Wisdom

The 82nd Legislature commences tomorrow, and so I find myself beginning my third series of devotionals regarding A Session of Prayer. Little did I know in January 2007 that this would become as much a part of my legislative experience as reading bills and making coffee. In the beginning this was just a way to get what the Lord was teaching me through this process down on paper. I have come to realize that the Lord is multi-tasking and is teaching us all the same things. It is amazing (though it shouldn’t be) how often the lessons being taught here in the Capitol apply elsewhere.

For those of you not tuned into the process, the Texas House is going through some transitional growing pains. The election in November resulted in a super majority of Republicans. There has been a heated race for the position of Speaker of the House since November. Today the Republican Caucus will meet to discuss the issue. Without going into the who, what or whys of the issue, let me just say that all three candidates are republicans. It is an issue that has friends and colleagues disagreeing with one another - in some cases vehemently. I am not disappointed that it is a meeting to which staff will not be invited to attend.

So, rather than pontificate on what the members should do, it may just be best that we all remember the first nine verses of Proverbs 2 which discuss the value of wisdom.

My son, if you receive my words,
And treasure my commands within you,
So that you incline your ear to wisdom.
And apply your heart to understanding;
If you seek her as silver,
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
Then you will understand the fear of the Lord,
And find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding;
He stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
He is a shield to those who walk uprightly;
He guards the paths of justice,
And he preserves the way of His saints.
Then you will understand righteousness and justice,
Equity and every good path.

Today as you go about your business, remember to pray for wisdom for your elected officials. The decisions they make affect every aspect of your daily life.

Lord, I pray for wisdom and understanding for the decisions the members will be making about their leadership today. May your mercy and grace fill that meeting room and allow them to communicate and disagree with one another without becoming disagreeable. Amen.