Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Begin Again

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the the desire comes, it is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12

Today was supposed to be the first day of my recovery period from a contentious legislative session. Instead, after completing the constitutionally required 140 days of meetings, the Governor has immediately called the legislators back into a special session to complete the work they did not finish.

Special sessions can only be called by the Governor. The legislature can consider only the items the Governor states are eligible for consideration. And, they only last 30 days. Those are the good things. The bad thing is that the Governor can call as many special sessions as it takes to work out whatever needs to be worked out.

So, rather than sleep until noon - which has been my fantasy for this day for the past four months - my alarm went off as usual and I find myself back in the office. It is an understatement to describe the feeling as disappointment or frustration.

And yet, I find myself inexplicably content with the knowledge that this too shall pass.

Lord, You know our needs in this situation. I pray that Your Kingdom come and Your will be done in the Texas Legislature. Amen

Monday, May 30, 2011

Life is Not Fair

Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world . . . Philippians 2:14-15

Driving in to work this morning, I was engaging in mental murmuring as I digested the news that short of a legislative miracle, we will be adjourning the Regular Session of the 82nd Legislature today and convening the 1st Called Session of the 82 Legislature tomorrow. In other words, instead of having a down time to catch up on sleep and the daily details of life that have been pushed aside for the past five months, we may be coming back tomorrow to complete the tasks we have not finished.

It’s not fair! We have done our part. We passed the bills in the House (even the bad ones). Just because the Senate can’t get their act together we will all have to come back during time that should have been vacation time.

It’s not fair - the three words I never allowed my children to use without reminding them “Mom’s Mantra.” Life is not fair and some people are stupid. That simple sentence explains about 98 percent of all otherwise inexplicable things in the world.

“Can I stay out past my curfew?”


“That’s not fair.”

“Life is not fair.”

Then, there are the arguments for “some people are stupid.” Just read the newspaper and for every instance you can not figure out why someone did something, just whisper to yourself, “Wow, some people really are stupid.” You will be amazed how much time you will save trying to figure things out.

I was convicted in my thinking about fairness when I read Philippians 2. Even though my complaining and murmuring was mental, it was complaining and murmuring.

So, I repent.

And, will probably have to do it more than once.

Lord, thank You that life is not fair. If it were, we could not enjoy Your salvation. Amen

Friday, May 27, 2011

Press On

Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14

It’s Friday! And not just any Friday. It is the last Friday in the legislative session.

Last night our staff gathered in our office for a meal and some end of session fellowship. It was the final day for one of our interns and the last time we would all be together for a while. As we each discussed our plans, it reminded me of the last day of school when i was a kid. Nobody was concerned about homework or tests on the final day of school. They were looking forward to the lazy days of summer stretching out before them. It was not so much an ending of school as it was the beginning of summer.

And, so it is with this legislative session. When the Speaker of the House and the Lt. Governor in the Senate gavel the final session closed, the legislators will go home, staff will all take a well needed rest, and . . . .

And what? Is this an ending for you, or a beginning? Do you think you are you finished with what you have to do? Or, do you have a new appreciation for how much more the Lord has for you to do?

Spend then next couple of days wrapping up the session and a couple of days catching up on sleep. Then, forget those things behind and press on to that upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

You don’t get to stop doing good just because the session ends.

Lord, thank You that You equip us and empower us to do all we are called to do. Amen

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Hold Your Peace

The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace. Exodus 14:14

Like the end of the roller coaster ride, this legislative session is coming to an end. We experienced the slow climb up the tracks hearing the clanking of the chains, made a few loopy loops, and had a couple of gravity defying plunges ending in extreme turns that take you back the way you just came. Now, as the roller coaster is pulling into the station, you can feel those jerky stops as the vehicle slows down. It is time to think about prying your hands off the safety bar in front of you, taking a couple of deep breaths to get your stomach out of your throat, and stepping gingerly out of the car back onto solid ground.

If you are in one of the offices that still has legislation in play, you are waiting to see if the months of work you have put in will prosper or, with the stroke of a gavel or the tick of the clock be yesterday’s news.

Just a reminder.

All you can do is all you can do.

Duty is ours and results are God’s.

Let the Lord fight for you.

Hold your peace.

Lord, only by your grace can I hold my peace in this environment. Amen

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Oopsy Doopsies

But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases. Psalm 115:3

Leaving my office last night after a mere 17 hour day, my energy was flagging. Things only got worse upon my re-entry to the Capitol this morning, a mere seven hours after leaving. My eyeballs are threatening to evict my contact lenses. My brain needs a couple more cups of coffee to remove the haze. And, the really sad thing is, I may be one of the more rested individuals in the building.

Yesterday one of the bills to be used as a key piece of the revenue puzzle to fund the budget was killed on a point of order - again. With tomorrow slated to be the last day the House can hear Senate bills, there is no time to resurrect the bill. So, while we have agreed (in theory) to a budget, we have not passed bills to generate the necessary revenue to fund the budget.

Or, as we say around the office, “Oopsy doopsies.”

The gossip buzz in the halls and around the building are all geared to, “Do you think we will have a special session?” Meaning, for those of you who are wise enough to stay arms length from this process, that the Governor could call the legislature back into session to deal with any issues they have failed to deal with during this regular session.

My response to the question is to shrug my shoulders and murmur, “I dunno.” My brain will not even go there. But, it is comforting to remember that all those uncertainties for me are already known by God. As the scripture today says, “Our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.”

He knows. He cares. And He will not lead us where He cannot keep us.

Lord, give us the peace and grace to rest in You. Amen

Thursday, May 19, 2011


The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression. Proverbs 19:11

Slow to anger and overlooking transgressions. If you have difficulty with either of those issues, have I got a training ground for you!

We have 12 of the 140 days of the regular session of the 82nd Legislature left to go. Looking at the statistics for this session versus last session, it appears we have lost a tad bit of productivity. Now, don’t get me wrong, I rarely think passing more legislation is a good thing. But, it is an indicator of how relationships are on the House and Senate floors and how the two chambers are relating to each other.

Coming into the session there were a couple of really, really need to get done things. The first and most important, of course, was the budget. No budget no state government. While I concede that many government programs fall into that “non-essential” category (my job included), there really are legitimate functions of government we have to fund. And, since the budget is the only constitutional requirement of a session, it would seem to be prudent to get to it before the last two weeks of session.

But, alas, the fiscal matters bills that must be passed to fund the budget have been postponed on a daily basis each day for the past three weeks. Personally, I’m ready to get the six to eight inch stack of papers relating to those bills off of my desk and move on to something else.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes (and sometimes out in public), the Republicans are arguing with the Democrats about budget priorities. The House is arguing with the Senate about budget numbers. And the Governor is telling everybody his criteria for signing a budget. When I count my blessings, being a witness and not a participant in the discussions is one I count twice.

Then, to add fuel to the fire - because we really need more people to get more offended - a Senate committee took a House bill on immigration, removed all language on immigration and inserted controversial language on homeland security. The Senate is allegedly holding the House re-districting map hostage, waiting for the House to move on the budget (or something). The House is slow to move on Senate bills in retaliation.

All in all, it reminds me of The Three Stooges where Larry, Curly and Mo poke each other in the eye, tweak noses and pull hair. Or, if you can’t picture that, just imagine a junior high group of girls.

And, as if that was not enough, everybody has been working 80 plus hours a week with too little sleep and high stress. That makes it a great time to point out what Proverbs tells us: the discretion of a man makes him slow to anger. Discretion is defined as “the freedom to decide what should be done in a particular situation.” Key words: freedom and decide. You can decide not to get angry at the actions of the other party. And glory is defined as “high renown or honor won by notable achievements.”

Put simply, it is an honor for you to overlook a transgressions and decide to control your anger.

Keep it in mind today.

Lord, it is one thing to know what we should do and another to actually do it. Help us today to walk this out. Amen.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Character and Hope

And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance character; and character, hope. Romans 5: 3-4

Fourteen days and 15 hours (give or take a few) remaining in the regular session.

If ever the Lord made a training ground to produce perseverance and instill character, it is the legislative process. Last Thursday was the final deadline for the hearing of House bills. Multitudes of bills languished on the calendar. Some issues which should have been debated were passed without comment, swept along in a frenzy to get to the next bill. Other bills which should have passed with no controversy were debated in minutia, trying to stall the next bill coming up.

Exasperation led some members to engage in conduct that makes you wonder if their mothers know they act that way.

Which brings me to my point today. Romans 5:3-4 tells us that perseverance develops character. It is easy to confuse perseverance with survival in this environment. Survival is continuing to live or exist in spite of an ordeal or difficulty. Perseverance is steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.

We are all likely to survive the session. The question is, will we persevere?

Will our efforts on the last day be as energetic, thorough, and principled as they were on the first day? Will we be able to stand for the same things in the waning hours as we stood for on opening day? If so, then our perseverance will have produced in us character. And, our character will produce hope.

In these final days of the session, ask yourself where your hope lies.

Is your hope in tacking your legislation onto some other measure; in the Senate taking an action; or the Calendars Committee setting a bill? If it is, you may be in survival mode.

If, on the other hand, you recognize that nothing done in the Legislature gives you reason to hope, and that your only hope lies in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, you are probably persevering and not overly worried about the next two weeks.

Lord, it is a dangerous prayer to ask that you help us develop our character. But, that is what I ask today. Amen.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Good Word

Anxiety in the heart of a man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad. Proverbs 12:25

Things are a bit hectic for me this morning. Fifteen extra minutes of sleep, rain (praise God!) slowing traffic, House convening 30 minute earlier than usual - my first thought was to forego the devotional due to a lack of time. The the gentle reminder settled on me, if
I don’t have time for God this morning, chances are I will not have time to accomplish any of the other tasks on my schedule. First things first.

Reading Proverbs reminded me that a good word makes the hear glad. So, here is my partial list of good words for the day.

Basset puppy
Yarn shop
Sine Die

You should keep a list of your own “good words,” but never lose sight of the best word of all.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Breathe in . . . Let it Out

But I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinks upon me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God. Psalm 40:17

Deep breath in. Let it out. Repeat.

Keep it up and you will make it through the session. Just make it through today and you only have two more Tuesdays. But, if you are like me, you are no longer focused on the end of session, survival has become a day to day or hour to hour goal. With each major bill on the calendar I tick off yet another arduous task and praise God we can move on.

But, isn’t it awesome to know that even when we are so busy, poor in spirit and needy, that the Lord thinks about us. Even when we forget to think about Him. Wow!

Breathe in. Breathe out.

We can do this.

Lord, thank you that we are ever present in Your thoughts. Don’t forget us today. Amen

Monday, May 9, 2011

Rule of Law

Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still Psalm 4:4

The Texas Legislature worked on Saturday. Let me rephrase that. The Texas Legislature was in session on Saturday.

We are at the time of session when people are operating with too much stress and too little sleep. Tempers are running high and patience is running low. Watching the activity on Saturday was painful.

To put things in perspective, let’s start with a recap. The Republicans represent 101 of the House seats. The Democrats hold 49. For business to be conducted, 100 members have to be on the House floor. Technically, Republicans could pass anything they wanted to without any Democrat vote. There is an extensive book of House Rules which dictate how the game is to be played. One of the reasons the rules are provided is to establish a clear playing field which does not allow the majority to run rough shod over a minority.

In practice, rules can be a frustrating thing. Just like in a game of baseball. If your team hits the winning run, but the ball goes out of bounds by a hair’s width, it is difficult to understand why the umpire doesn’t just give you the run. But, the solution is not to change the foul lines, it is to keep the ball in the field.

Likewise, the House rules have specifications on every detail of how committees and the activity on the House floor will run. Some of them seem trivial and nitpicking. But, they are the rules everybody adopted at the start of session. The time to change them is when they are adopted, not when the ball is in play.

So, we come to the Texas House. On one hand, Democrats have been frustrated by their lack of numbers to effectively block legislation. On the other hand, as bills have been stopped when a point of order (rule violation) has been called by the Democrats, frustrations for Republicans have mounted. There are some priority bills which are being delayed because of technicalities. But, that’s not just a Democrat tool. Anybody can use it.

Things came to a head on Saturday.

Working with only 116 members on the floor, the rumor all day was that we would drop below a quorum and not be able to continue business. Several times members made a motion for a “call on the House” to ensure enough people were there to conduct business. A call on the House is a procedure where the doors are locked and members who are not on the floor can be compelled to return. (Think nuclear option.) Each time the motion was withdrawn.

A bill was brought to the floor for consideration. A point of order was called. It was overruled. Then, motions were made to suspend all rules. Tempers flared.

It is a common motion to suspend all necessary rules to take up and consider a particular bill. That motion means none of the rules of procedure apply, and it is generally made to bring up simple resolutions that do not need to go through the committee process. On Saturday, the motions were to suspend all rules for everything, meaning there could be no procedural points of order called on any bill on the calendar.

Now, since a motion to suspend the rules is a legitimate motion, I suppose that means that one of the rules is that you can change the rules in the middle of the game. But, choosing to win by changing the rules in the middle of the game because you are frustrated does nothing to improve the climate on the House floor. After several hours of bickering and negotiations, the House adjourned until 10:am this morning.

So, this morning my prayer is that:

1) The players will show up to continue the game. We are not finished yet.
2) Tempers will be checked at the door. We can be angry, but we do not want to sin.
3) The business of the State of Texas will proceed.

Lord, by your grace and mercy our leaders can move forward an accomplish the purposes for which they have come to Austin. I pray that Your presence will be with them on the House floor today. Amen.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Number Your Days

So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

In case you were wondering, it is 25 days, 16 hours, 45 minutes and 7 seconds until the end of session. But who is counting?

Sometimes when I am too tired to think analytically about what scripture to read, it is my habit to just fall back to the old favorites. And so, I found myself reveling in Psalm 91 this morning. Always a picker-upper, I knew that meditation on the verses would encourage me and bring a smile to my face. I wasn’t disappointed.

But while reading, my eyes wandered across the page and the verse “So teach us to number out days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” caught my eye. The verse is true in our lives and never more true than when you are involved in high stakes events that impact the lives of so many people.

I tremble to think that life-changing decisions are being made by individuals who have had less sleep than I have this week. It is beyond human capacity to read and digest all the information a legislator comes in contact with in a single day. With hundreds of bills and thousands of pages of information, it is mind-numbing. Even after condensing the information into tidbits and factoids, there is often not time to verbally brief on each item up for consideration. We do the best we can. And pray for the Lord’s grace and mercy to equip us and to fill in the gaps.

There are now 25 days, 16 hours, 31 minutes and 53 seconds.

Lord, I pray that You will go before me today, equip me to do all You have for me to do, and let me use my time wisely. Amen.