Choose. This. Day.

BroadandNarrowWay

Evidently, there was an internet hate-off while I was off unpacking my office and getting acquainted with The Precious.

I won’t go into the details because I don’t know the details, and also because I can see from a distance that the details are rife with petty malice, self-righteous viciousness and lies.

It seems that Pope Francis kissed somebody’s hand and one of my colleagues said something about heresy and, of course, the money changer christians are all in a big kerfluffle because the Pope, once again, spoke out in favor of the poor. What’s more, he did this in direct violation of their true theology.

That theology is the self-serving, greed-driven Ayn-Rand-derived neo-con economic theory/theology that is being put on the altars of a lot of Christians’ hearts these days. It is being blessed and promoted in direct contradiction to the teachings of the law and the prophets and Christ the Lord by sin-sick clergy who are twisting the Scriptures to suit the politics of the destructive wing-nuts on the right of the political spectrum.

I’ve written extensively about the wing-nuts on the left of the political spectrum and their Gospel-twisting clergy. But from what little I know, this particular hate-off was fueled and carried forth by the right-wing-nuts of today’s culture/politics-worshipping fallen (little c) christianity.

I’m quite certain that a lot of Public Catholic’s readers are going to come at me with pitchforks and torches for saying this, but my friends, you have got to choose. Follow Christ, or follow the apologists of your political party. You can not serve them both and you cannot follow them both.

On the one hand, we have the arguments of those who buttress claims that Jesus really supports abortion, gay marriage, euthanasia, etc. They use distorted lying interpretations of Scripture to support what is in fact, anti-Christ. On the other hand, we have those who claim that Jesus really supports transferring the wealth of the people into the hands of a few greedy campaign donors and impoverishing the people of this great nation in the process. They use their own distorted, lying interpretations of Scripture to support what is also and in fact, anti-Christ.

What is the difference between them?

Nothing.

They are two sides of the same coin. And they both are leading people down the wide path that goes straight to a hell that exists on this earth and in the next life simultaneously. We are making a hell of this heaven with our politicized christianities.

You cannot — can not — follow either of these heretical (there’s that word) — self-serving, false and evil wing nut christianities and follow Jesus. It is not possible. It cannot be done.

Choose this day, people. Choose who you will serve. Will you walk down the wide road of political expedience and ez-pz morality crafted by the lying liars of politicized little c christianity? Or will you and your house serve the Lord?

The christianity being taught by the wing nuts on both sides of the political spectrum is not the Christianity that leads to eternal life. This bastardized christianity is from the pit, and it leads straight back to the pit. There is no life in these teachings; no Gospel, no Jesus. They come from people who have sold their souls to the political store. Their words are justifications of evil. They are teachings for and about themselves, their greed, and their fallenness. They are not in any way about Him.

Which is why their fruit is lynch mob carrying-on on the internet and in other places. Their fruit is death, dissolution, impoverishment of the many for the few and destruction. They lead people into self-righteousness and crazy viciousness. They fuel slander, malice, envy and an endless cycle of cruel, hate-filled attacks that resemble a debauch more than a discussion.

The internet is full of what amounts to verbal orgies of hatred, directed in the name of Christ — in the name of Christ — at anyone who disagrees with the gospel of wing-nut political christianity.

I looked over the rim of my week off and saw the destructive hate-off. I saw it and I thought, there they go again. I can tell you that from that safe distance it was clear to me that satan was running the show. We are living in times when our world is falling away from Christ. The exhortations and temptations to fall with it are varied and many. But the most sinister come from fallen christians who try to induce us to live by the world’s lights while proclaiming that we are following Him.

Is that heresy? I don’t know. I’m not theologian enough to say. But it is blasphemy. It is taking the Lord’s name in vain. Of that I am entirely certain.

Here, for your delectation, are a few random quotes, pulled from my rather spotty memory. Read them and think. And stop supporting fallen religious leaders and political demagogues who have the temerity to lecture God on morality.

Cboose. This. Day.

Who said that?

Money is the root of all of evil.

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

Do not store up treasures on earth … store up treasures in heaven … for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

If you have done it to the least of these, you have done it to me.

You cannot serve both God and money.

My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.

But the deceitfulness of riches and desire for other things enter in and choke the word and it becomes unprofitable.

What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his own soul?

Who said that?

Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied.

The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.

Do not be hard hearted or tight fisted toward your poor brothers and sisters.

You have hoarded wealth in the last days. The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you.

If a man shuts his ear to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.

He who mocks the poor shows contempt for his maker.

The righteous care about justice to the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.

He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord.

A fortune made by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a deadly snare.

Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court, for the Lord will take up their case and will plunder those who plunder them.

Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath.

The Precious

I did do one thing during my week off.

It revolved around The Precious.

Photo

I’ve written before about my new-found love of playing the piano. A friend from my church gave me her old piano, a 1984 Wurlitzer, last August. That piano opened a whole new world for me. I started taking lessons, and found that I have a surprising facility for music. More important, I discovered that I love making music.

The minute I sit down at the piano, the world drops away and it’s just me and the sounds I can draw out of those keys. I didn’t even know where middle C was when I began. But I’ve moved on rather quickly since then. I’m not sure why, but it’s like I’m learning a language that in some odd way I already know.

I don’t practice. I just play it. Learning a new piece of music is fascinating to me, like working a puzzle.

As grateful as I was to have the Wurlitzer — and I was very grateful indeed — I was dissatisfied with it almost from the first day. I don’t know the technical language to describe it, but there was no there, there in the tone. I could change the way I touched the keys and change what it did, but nothing I could do could pull real music out of it.

I don’t know how to explain it except to say that it was limited in what it would do and the limitations wouldn’t allow me to make the sounds I could hear. I heard music in my mind that I knew I could not ever get out of this piano.

I spent hours, trolling on-line web-sites, mooning like a lovestruck teenager over the pianos I saw there. I even went so far as to contact one of them and see if he’d take my Wurlitzer in trade. Shipping costs made that a bad deal for him, which I understood.

In fact, shipping costs made buying from him a bad deal for me, as well. It costs almost $1000 to ship a piano from the East coast to Oklahoma. That’s a lot of coin to stack on top of the cost of the piano itself.

During a lunch break at work a few weeks ago, I decided to check out a local piano dealer called Larsen Music. I wanted to check the prices on a new piano to get an idea of how much a used one should cost. I did not have any plans to buy a piano when I went into that store.

But the very nice salesmen told me I could play any piano that I wanted. That’s a little bit like a car salesman offering a test drive. There is nothing like the smooth specialness of a new car with that intoxicating new car smell. If they can get you in that baby, you’re halfway to sold by the car itself.

It was the same with these pianos. I tried three of them that were in my general price range. They all cost more than I planned to spend. A lot more. But each and every one of them put my Wurlitzer in the dirt. They were all wonderful, but as soon as I touched the keys on The Precious, it was swoon time. If buttered honey was a sound, it would be the sound of this piano. If the colors of a sunset were music, they would sound this way.

It had the voice that speaks the language of the kind of music I want to play.

However, it cost a lot of money.

And I don’t have a lot of money.

Fortunately, there was wiggle room in the price. It turns out that buying a piano really is a lot like buying a car. The piano, like the car, sells itself. Then, the process of working out the deal on the piano involves — like buying a car — a bit of bargaining.

I traded in the Wurlitzer and got quite a lot taken off the asking price in addition to that. The bottom line was that I could afford it. I went home with prices and photos for three pianos. But, the one I wanted was the Kawai. I called back the next day and asked for a couple of more discounts, then agreed to buy over the phone.

The reason? I found the piano I wanted at a price I could afford. I had also learned the answer to the question I had when I walked into the store: New pianos are a better deal than used ones, especially when you factor in the expense of shipping. I had been looking at thirty-year-old pianos that, with shipping, would have cost me about a thousand dollars less than I paid for this new one. That’s not a good deal.

My new piano has a 10-year warranty, a complimentary first tuning and Larsen’s offers a 100% trade-in if someday in the future I decide to buy a grand piano.

I paid for it when I bought it, but asked the store to keep it for me until session was over because I knew I wouldn’t have time to touch it, and that if it was sitting in my house and I couldn’t play it, I might stroke out. It rained here last week, which delayed delivery a day.

But last Wednesday, the delivery guys brought The Precious.

That may be part of why I didn’t get much done last week. All I know is that they weren’t out of the drive when I started playing it, and I didn’t stop until my hands got sore.

I love this piano. It is (in case you’re interested) a new Kawai K3. I recommend Larsen’s Music to any Okie who’s looking for a piano of their own. They are good people to do business with. I think the salesman enjoyed my pleasure in the piano almost as much as he enjoyed the sale. He told me, “I saw your face when you played the Kawai. I knew that was the one.”

I stopped my lessons for the past couple of months because there was no time. I’m starting again this Thursday and I’ve got so many things I want my teacher to go over with me, I don’t know if we can fit it into an hour.

I’ll never be a great musician. But I am already a fulfilled and happy one. I am going to ask around my church and see if I can find enough interested musicians of any level of competence to put together some sort of funky Southside Papist band. That would be great fun.

The moral of this story is simple: If there’s something you want to do, do it. Don’t let wiser heads tell you that you’re too old or that it’s impractical or wasteful silliness. Above all, don’t listen when they tell you to grow up. “Grow up,” used that way, is just a synonym for “stop living.”

That advice isn’t wise. It’s an exhortation to waste life. The greatest wisdom about life is to know it and live it as the gift that it is.

I Had 1001 Things I Was Going To Do. I Sorta Did One.

I had 1001 things planned for my first week after session closed down.

I was going to storm the gates of heaven and get flaming arrows of direction in reply.

I was going to clean my house from top to bottom.

I was going to move the garden statue of Our Lady that’s been languishing in my “music room” (Don’t laugh. There is a piano in there.) outside and buy an arbor thingy and plant flowers and create a prayer garden in my back yard.

I was going to get up every single morning and work out like Bette Midler in Ruthless People with the same, awe-inspiring results.

I had 1001 things I was going to do.

What I did instead was collapse into a heap. We went out after sine die and had a wonderful dinner, just me and my family. Then, after almost no sleep, I got up Saturday and putzed around, too tired to make sense of myself. I began a Novena to Our Lady. I did do that. Prayer is the one thing on my list that I sorta did.

My husband and I went to vigil mass and back out to eat again. Then, we came home and I watched tv like a zombie.

It’s always like that after session shuts down. I don’t know what I was thinking when I made all these plans. The closing days of session are intense. And I mean INTENSE.

After it’s over, I’m still jazzed for days, and at the same time, I’m all rubbery and shot through and through. It takes a while to get my mind right and my body rested. Add to that the fact that this was my last sine die, and you’ve got a recipe for crash down time.

My youngest son and one of his friends moved my office home for me on Monday. I spent last week opening boxes and rather listlessly trying to figure out where to put everything. I need more bookshelves. And I am going to give a couple of the paintings away. I have no idea where I’m going to hang the rest of them or where everything will go. I still have a couple of boxes that are partially unpacked and two drawers that are full of things I haven’t found a place for. I also have a couple of boxes of books and posters/awards that are still at the capitol that I need to go get.

As for cleaning the house, nope.

Still needs doing.

Storming heaven? I prayed, but there were no messages wrapped around the shafts of flaming arrows coming my way. The only answer I got was when I rather lazily prayed and asked if it would be alright to skip Sunday mass yesterday (That’s how low my laziness had sunk me.) I definitely got the feeling that I should get up and go to church. So I did.

I dreamed about my constituents several times during the week. They were anxiety dreams, worrying about who is going to take care of them. That’s the hardest part, leaving my people to someone else’s care.

My friends gave me a lovely party yesterday. It was a complete surprise. I had thought they were going to do something when the session closed down, then, when it didn’t happen, I was ok with it. The date of the shut-down had been uncertain right up until the end. So I assumed it was too uncertain to plan anything.

I was totally surprised — astonished — when my husband drug me into a restaurant yesterday. I mean, I don’t do restaurants on the Sabbath. In fact, I thought he’d gone daft. He insisted I go with him back to where the restrooms were, which I thought was plenty strange. As long as I’ve known him, he’s gone to the restroom by himself. Then, he walked past the restrooms and into the kitchen. I wouldn’t follow at first, and he had to insist.

By this time, I was convinced he had lost it. We went through the kitchen and into another room and I walked into a party.

They completely surprised me. I was thrilled. And touched.

So that’s my week off. I need to pray more. In fact, I’m going to start a 54 day Novena, consecrating the rest of my life. I did the St Louis de Montfort thing of consecrating my life to Jesus through Mary a while back. This is just a sort of renewal of that.

I realized yesterday that I already know what I should do. I also realized that God has given me everything I need to do it. I was wanting direction when I already have the road map. As for my constituents, I am going to pray for them and their future as part of the 54 day Novena. I have to let go of taking care of them, and that, as I said, is the hardest part.

So, this letter to my friends, telling you what I did on my little vacation is my first post after my week off. To be honest, I’d like to take another week. I’m just now getting my head above water a bit.

But writing this disjointed post is a good palate cleanser. Telling you all about it wipes a bit of the dust off my mind.

It’s time to get this deal on the road. I think I’ll begin by doing a bit of that working out I more or less skipped last week. You see, I don’t have to get into my car and drive to work. My office is just on the other side of the living room. And my recumbent bike/elliptical/Total Gym (yes, I’ve have all that; not that it’s done me any good) is in the spare bedroom down the hall.

Wish me luck, boys and girls. I’m re-inventing myself.

Wagons, ho!

Last Vote

It’s a done deal.

I’ve finished my last day of my last legislative session.

I had a lovely evening after we adjourned with the people I love. When I came home, it felt so good. I just looked around and thought how much I love being here.

Then, when I went to bed, I couldn’t sleep. I got up, got dressed, got in my car and drove around. I even drove back to the capitol building and did a loop around it.

In the course of that drive, I went over the personal things about this job. I said good-bye, one by one, to the few things I will miss. I said good riddance to the many other things I am glad to be rid of. I said a lot of thank-yous to Jesus.

After all that, I came back home, went back to bed and slept the sleep of peace.

Today, I’m going to take my mother out for the ice cream and the drive that she’s been missing (and complaining about missing) for the past few weeks. I’m also going to go get paint samples to paint a room in my house.

I plan to take a week away from blogging to rededicate my life and to seek God’s guidance for what’s ahead.  I also need rest and healing time. I plan to be back here and at it on June 2.

Several readers have expressed concern that I will stop blogging. That is not going to happen. I know that this blog and writing are a big part of my future. If the way things have worked in the past are a predictor of the future, I’ll come back from this prayer time ready to roll.

In the meantime, thank you for all the wonderful things you’ve said to me the past few days. It’s been a gift, walking this path with you.

Here are a few iPhone snap shots from my last day:

2014 05 23 17 49 36

Legislator’s eye view of the House floor in session.


2014 05 23 18 14 06

Looking across the chamber from my desk. 


2014 05 23 16 15 59

Saying good-bye to the staff. 


2014 05 23 17 47 13

My seat mate, office mate, best bud, Representative Anastasia Pittman.

2014 05 23 18 15 02

Last vote. I don’t remember what the bill was. I do remember that this was a vote on the emergency clause of the bill. 

2014 05 23 18 19 15

View from the podium just before we made the Sine Die motion. The top glassed in gallery is the press booth. 



Last Day

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Unless we manage to tie ourselves in knots, this is the last day of session.

I will still be the representative for House District 89 until November 16 of this year. People will be able to call me “Representative” all the rest of my days. Unless I sign up as a lobbyist (don’t hold your breath) I have privileges of the floor of the Oklahoma House of Representative so long as I live.

We’re a small club, and parts of that clubbiness never go away.

But, barring breakdowns and special sessions, today is the last day that I will drive to the capitol, park my car and walk into the building to go to the House floor to vote on the people’s business. Today is the last day that I will walk on that floor as an active voting member of the House with the privilege and the weight of speaking for tens of thousands of people resting on my shoulders.

At some point today, I will push the button to make my last vote.

I may have already made my last speech. Probably so. But then again, I may find something today that I want to debate. I don’t plan these things, so I don’t know for sure.

There is an energy on the House floor when it is in session that is hard to describe. You walk through those doors and there’s a hum of people working, talking. It has an urgency, even when they’re joking around, that you don’t find anywhere else. Their nerved up emotions hit you almost like a charge of electricity.

I’m so accustomed to this that I don’t feel it anymore. I remember it from when I was new.

On busy days, the rotunda outside the House is so full of lobbyists that it’s difficult to get out of the House to the rest of the building. It’s like weaving through a crowd at Wal Mart on Black Friday. If you’re a House member, lobbyists will interrupt your progress repeatedly to say “Hello Representative,” or some such. People who want to talk to you about this bill or that will stop you as you walk out.

Sitting on the House floor is a bit like being a fish in the proverbial barrel. We’re at the bottom of a huge room, with galleries surrounding us on all four sides. The press is in their own gallery at the top of all the others where they can look down onto us and peer into our laps. They can see what we’re reading and what we’re doing.

That’s why I sit at the back of the room. With my seniority, I can sit where I want. I chose the last seat, the one right next to the door, because the press has to turn their cameras downward in a deliberate fashion to get me. I don’t like being on camera for hours at a time.

I’m extremely tired today. It’s been a long week. I am also unsettled and sad about a vote that I had to cast last night. I wanted to end my time in the House on an up note with the people I work with. Instead, this divisive vote has created acrimony and angst. I am, as so often happens, the odd one out. Now, after sleeping on it, I’m thinking that I should have gone in-your-face with them and helped kill this evil bill. That is the hell of this job in a few sentences.

I’m going to write about the issues surrounding that particular vote in much greater detail later because it goes to the core responsibilities of representative government. It is a case study in how government which is dominated and run by special interests — in this case corporatist interests — fails its citizens, even in the most obvious areas of public safety. It is also a case study in how weak legislators who won’t fight their own party for what’s right end up failing the people and endangering their constituents’ lives.

Now that I think about it, this is a good way to end my 18-year legislative career. It is a highly appropriate way.

I have rules about what I do in office. Two of the most important are: I don’t kill people, and if I can do something that will save lives, I will do it. The cost to me doesn’t count in this equation.

Those little rules of mine got me into what people here in Oklahoma call “a Wewoka switch” last night. They forced me to vote for a horrifically evil piece of legislation that came about because of the dominance of money interests in our state government, money interests who will kill kids to squeeze the last dime out of government for themselves.

In the process, I ended up at odds with people I care about on this last day of my time on that floor as a voting member. And now, I’m thinking I was wrong, that my vote will be used to empower the corporatism that is bankrupting our state and impoverishing its people and leaving our children’s lives forfeit.

How could anything be more appropriate than that? If there is a better way to describe the hell of this job, I don’t know of it.

It’s been my meat and bread for years. Why shouldn’t it be my last legislative supper as well?

I am feeling nostalgic as I write this. But I do not have one shred of desire to come back to that House floor next year and do it again. There is not one atom in my body, not one thought in my head, not one lingering bit of longing to be on the hot seat and make any more of these gut wrenching, wrong and wronger/who-do-we-hurt/rob-from-the-poor-to-give-to-the-rich decisions.

There’s a hum when you walk onto the House floor. The charge of emotions hits you like electricity. Nothing I’ve ever encountered anywhere else comes close to the experience of legislating.

I am feeling nostalgic. This is a big passage for me. A huge change in my life. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I end up crying at some point, simply from the weight of emotions and weakness that comes from being so tired.

I am not looking forward to walking out of those doors for the last time as a legislator. That will be a wrench.

But I am looking forward to the life beyond those doors. I need to pray this through, but the broad strokes of what I’m going to do are already in front of me.

I am so ready for this change.

News Flash for Vatican Mistresses: If He Wanted to Marry You, He Would.

MistressM Card

The Vatican Mistresses, a group of 26 women who either are or want to be having sexual affairs with Catholic priests, sent a letter to Pope Francis asking him to allow their lovers to marry them.

This isn’t the first time a group of women who are having affairs with priests have written a pope. Pope Benedict got a similar letter. 

I could respond to this in quite a few ways, but I think I’ll focus on the fantasy life of these women. Evidently they, along with their sisters who wrote the earlier letter, have bought the lie their boyfriends are telling them. They believe that these guys want to marry them, and are dissuaded from doing so because … well … because they are priests who have taken some sort of vow.

First of all, ladies, if these guys were all that serious about their vows, you wouldn’t be writing this letter in the first place. The reason? You wouldn’t be having an affair with the guy, and neither would anybody else.

Second, if he wanted to marry you, he would.

So far as I know, there aren’t any bishops standing outside parish rectories with AK-47s, keeping your boyfriends locked inside. They can leave any time they want.

They don’t leave because they’ve got a good deal. They have all the respect and adulation that Catholics heap on their priests, the immense authority and freedom of action that is part and parcel of being a pastor, and lots of boys’ nights out and camaraderie with the other priests. Their bills are paid, the health insurance is up to date and gifts and goodies from adoring parishioners rain down on them steadily.

And they’ve got you on the side.

In the words of Dustin Hoffman’s character in Little Big Man, they’re not just playing Indian, they’re living Indian. Or, as we say it here in Oklahoma, they’ve got a bird’s nest on the ground.

The person whose life is truncated is you, girlfriend. The person who is paying the price for this whole affair is, well, you. You are the one who has taken herself off the dating market to languish in the shadows. Your lover is standing at the front of the church, holding the Host aloft while the choir sings Amen. He’s the belle of the ball, and you are the little match girl, looking in.

If he wants to marry you, he can do it. He just doesn’t want to.

Because he’s got it pretty good as things are.

So, ladies, my advice to you is to stop being stupid. Let your collared lover find himself someone else to believe him. Stop gathering at closed Facebook pages to support one another in this waste of your lives. Don’t write any more letters to the Pope.

Dump you boyfriend and get on with the business of looking for a man who is willing and capable of loving you back out in the sunshine, in front of the whole wide world.

Stop thinking that Pope Francis is the reason you’re living like this. Because Pope Francis has nothing to do with it. You’re deluding yourselves ladies, and that alone is the reason for your dilemma.

If he wanted to marry you, he would.

From The Daily Beast:

A group of women claiming to be the secret paramours of priests have written to Pope Francis to urge him to roll back the church’s celibacy requirements.

A popular pontiff, Pope Francis receives hundreds of letters every day—but a recent one, signed by 26 women who would like his permission to have sex with their priest-boyfriends, was undoubtedly not like most of the others.

The letter, published on Vatican Insider website on Sunday, began with a plea for the pontiff to take heart and make celibacy optional for the signatories’ paramours, who happen to be priests. “Dear Pope Francis, we are a group of women from all over Italy (and further afield) and are writing to you to break down the wall of silence and indifference that we are faced with every day,” wrote the women (who signed with their first names and a last initial). “Each of us is in, was or would like to start a relationship with a priest we are in love with.” Their phone numbers were also apparently made available in case the pope would like to call the women.

The women, who reportedly met up on a closed Facebook group, say they represent only a “small sample” of an apparently large group of secret lovers of priests. According to Vatican Insider, the letter noted, “a lot has been said by those who are in favour of optional celibacy but very little is known about the devastating suffering of a woman who is deeply in love with a priest. We humbly place our suffering at your feet in the hope that something may change, not just for us, but for the good of the entire Church.”

The women admitted that they knew it was wrong to enter into amorous relationships with priests, and implied that, at least to some extent the priests respected their vows of chastity, but added, “in most cases, despite all efforts to renounce it, one cannot manage to give up such a solid and beautiful bond. Unfortunately, this brings with it all the pain of not being able to live it fully.”

Pope Francis: If We Destroy Nature, Nature Will Destroy Us.

 

Pope Francis made a few statements on the environment.

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Go Day. Come Day. Lord Bring Friday.

I gave my farewell speech. I’ve been feted and roasted.

But the legislative session is still droning on. We are working long hours, trying to drag this baby across the finish line.

I won’t be a free woman until we make the motion to “sine die.”

We were in legislative session until … I’m not sure, but I think it was around 10:30 pm last night.

When I got home, I couldn’t sleep.

My husband had followed the session for most of the day, texting me a hilarious running commentary. We’ve done that for years. He listens to us and our squabbles and texts me comments about what’s going on that keep me both entertained and sane.

We spent quite a while re-hashing the day’s events after I got home. Then, I stayed up alone, saying my prayers and unwinding. I was so tired that I kept falling asleep while I was praying.

Mama got me up several times during the night because she was afraid that she’d be late for her “job” at the adult day care center. She usually starts this around 4 am. I gave up about 4:30 and got up.

We had several hard votes yesterday. We passed legislation that will harm the people of Oklahoma for generations to come.

There will be more of the same today. And tomorrow. And the day after.

With any luck, we will adjourn this wagon train on Friday. That is not certain. Not by a long shot. I have seen legislative sessions go right down to the day we planned to adjourn, right down to the last piece of legislation, and then get hung up and have to go on for another couple of weeks.

Nothing in legislating is certain until it’s done, and sometimes not even then.

Yesterday was a hard day, and the next three days will be hard, as well. One upcoming vote in particular has me questioning what is the least wrong thing to do.

If things go reasonably close to predictions, it will be a matter of getting through today, then tomorrow and then Friday. We may be in session until quite late Friday, but there is hope that we’ll adjourn.

I got a ripping headache yesterday during the discussion on one bill. My left temple is still tender to the touch because of that headache, so I guess it was a migraine.

I disagree with the legislation in question. But the thing that triggered the headache — and it was one of those ka-pow! type headaches that hit like a hammer falling — was the bald-faced lying by one legislator. Back in the day, if a legislator deliberately lied to the body on the floor of the House, that legislator would never pass another bill.

In today’s world, this legislator has lied repeatedly about big issues on the floor of the House and no one cares. The legislator in question isn’t even embarrassed that everyone listening knows that they are lying. I’m talking about lies as obvious as someone standing in a tub of water and looking you right in the eye and saying, “So far as I know, my feet aren’t wet.”

These weren’t lies about catching a really big fish or how popular you were in high school. They weren’t braggadocio or a weak moment of trying to hide a private humiliation from public view.

They were lies based on other lies that were broken promises given to the entire House as well as the people of Oklahoma that have to do with legislation that will impact many people for generations to come. They were arrogant, on-the-mike, in-public, I-don’t-care-if-everybody-knows-I’m-lying-lies that were told to a trusting public as well as legislative colleagues.

This same legislator had already broken their word on this very piece of legislation with a so-what? attitude. The whole point to them seemed to be that anyone stupid enough to believe them was a fool and deserved what they got. In the course of the discussion, this same person gave other assurances as to what would happen in the future.

And the security and hopes of many thousands of people hang on this. On these lies. On the word of this legislator who evidently just says things so that people will believe them so that they can do something else.

I’m old-school about this sort of thing. I believe that a person’s word is their bond. In my book (to use a phrase from my Daddy) if a person’s word doesn’t mean anything, then the person isn’t worth listening to. I grew up in a world where cattlemen at the Oklahoma National Stockyards would close million-dollar deals on a handshake and that deal was done.

It’s difficult for me to accept that people entrusted with the governance of millions of their fellow Oklahomans would take their word so lightly. That is dishonorable. Reprehensible.

So, I got a headache. And I had to leave the floor for a while to keep from picking up a mike and saying things that I would regret. And the headache stayed with me all day and left me with an achy head that could fire off into another Ka-pow! at any time.

And now I have to go to confession, just like I always have to go to confession after one of these shut-down weeks.

Because of my temper.

Because of my bad language.

Because of my lack of charity.

Because of the unkind things I’ve said and because of my grudges over the unkind things that were said to me.

Because of the votes that I have no idea if I did the mostly right thing or the mostly wrong thing, but I’m pretty sure that no matter what I did, it was the mostly wrong thing because there wasn’t a mostly right thing I could have done.

Because I feel like I’ve been slimed from head to foot.

I got up this morning and had a talk with myself. I am the shortest of short timers in this outfit. My story as a legislator is all but told. All I need to do — all I should do at this point — is what I always do. I should vote my conscience. The only other thing — and this is different — is put my foot down and slide.

Adjournment is coming.

And serious work in a new arena awaits me on the other side of it.

Go day. Come day. Lord bring Friday.

 

 

 

Atonement and the Undoable

Note: This is a re-post of an earlier post. I hope you enjoy reading it again.

Forgive

Eve Tushnet and a friend went to see a presentation at the Jewish Community Center in Washington, DC. The presentation was designed to prepare people for the High Holy Days.

Since the High Holy Days are about repentance, it tracks that the presentation was on atonement. However, Eve finished the evening more bemused that enlightened. As she put it,

All of the stories were interesting and for the most part well-told–but literally none of them followed the form I was most hoping for: “I sinned, I realized I was wrong, and I made amends, here’s how.” Several of the stories explored related questions of conscience: Ritija Gupta turned the story of how a bad-girl friend persuaded her to steal sixty cents’ worth of beads, at age seven, into a sharp little parable on how we misunderstand the gravity of our actions, condemning ourselves for peccadilloes while assimilating huge ongoing sins into our sense of what’s normal and acceptable. The host, Amy Saidman, did a funny shtik about the war between “Citizen Amy,” whose conscience would never allow her to damage a car and not even leave a note, and “Spray-Tan Amy,” who can’t stop because she is receiving an award that night, who is special and above the rules.

… The most powerful story came from the most intensely compelling storyteller, Colin Murchie. He’s someone I’ll be looking out for at future Speakeasy events. I don’t want to tell his story for him, but it was about a night when he was forced to completely reassess the motives which had led him to become a volunteer firefighter in a very tough Maryland suburb.

Based on Eve’s description, I would say that one reason the stories didn’t lead to atonement is that they weren’t about serious sin. I understand why, or at least I think I do.

The evening wouldn’t have been entertaining if the story tellers had talked about their adulteries, abortions, shoplifting and the night the guys all got drunk at the fraternity house and passed the girl around. If the wife-beater among them had confessed to beating his wife, and the woman who was sleeping with her husband’s best friend had told all, the evening might have ended early.

But the truth is that the first requirement for atonement has to be an action that wounds someone else.

Let me give you an example. Back in my misspent youth, I was the NARAL Director for Oklahoma. I referred women for abortions. I helped organize the first abortion clinic in Oklahoma and got it up and running.

In short, I helped kill people.

Lots of people.

Helpless little people that I denied were people while I was advocating for their deaths.

Now there’s something that needs a little atonement.

But how? How does anyone atone for so heinous a crime?

For those of you who are reading this with baited breath, waiting for me to give you an answer, I’ll cut to the bottom line: You can’t. You can not atone for sins as black as the ones I’ve committed.

Can’t do it.

Nothing you can do, nothing you can say, nothing, but nothing, but nothing will ever make right again what you have done wrong.

But if, for reasons that confound all comprehending, God still loves you, even after what you’ve done; if He welcomes you home to Him with joy that defies your ability to find words to describe it, and if He then puts you back into the same place where you committed some of your worst sins in the past –

– If He does all that, then, just maybe, you get the chance to … not do it over, because nobody ever gets the chance to do anything over … but to do it again, and this time to do it better.

How does an adulterer atone for his or her adultery? By being faithful to their spouse.

How does a wife-beater atone for beating his wife? By loving her the way God intended.

But even this kind of living atonement cannot undo the harm you have done. One of the hardest penalties of committing grave sin is that you can’t un-sin it. 

You can’t unadulter, unbeat, unrape, unkill anyone.

Without Jesus Christ you are stuck there in the pit of your sin and remorse forever. You will be a murderer/adulterer/liar/beater all your days. This is why I sometimes get so impatient with people who come on this blog and demand that the Catholic Church change the rules to tell them that their sins aren’t sins. They never do this about eating too many cookies or being a volunteer firefighter for the “wrong” motives.

Nope. They’re ok with those things and the Church’s teachings about them.

It’s the biggies that get them on here demanding a hall pass to heaven. They want the Church to tell them that their adulteries, abortions, disordered sex and lying, cheating ways are not a sin. They claim that anyone, anywhere, who says otherwise is “judging” them.

There are days when I want to put my arms around these lost souls and hug them. There are other days I want to ask, Are you kidding? Where do you get the arrogance to do these things and then demand that the Church — the Church — say that they are not sins?

Do you know what saved me?

The knowledge that I had sinned.

Without that, I would still be lost.

As for atonement, that came long afterwards, when I was mature enough in Christ to survive it. Atonement for me was being given an extra measure of forgiveness I most assuredly did not deserve. God put me in the place and almost coerced events so that I would be given the opportunity to pass pro life legislation. Atonement for me was being pilloried by pro abortion people. I was forced (against my will, I have to admit) to suffer public hazing for the babies.

It was that suffering, that character assassination and constant emotional battering, that finally set me free.

God forgave me, and, after a period of intense grief, I realized that I could not refuse His forgiveness by hanging onto my grief any longer. To do otherwise would be to say that my sins were greater than His mercy.

But it was the atonement — which in my case amounted to a kind of social death — that finally set me completely free of my sins.

I could not undo what I had done. I could not unkill those I had helped kill. I was powerless to rewind the havoc I had wreaked with my sinfulness.

But God could heal me of this grief, and He did. He gave me the chance to suffer just a bit, and the suffering cleansed me in my heart and mind.

I read somewhere — I think it was In This House of Brede, but I’m not sure — that atonement is really at-one-ment. That is a beautiful thought, and I think a true one. Atonement heals the person who atones and allows them to fully rejoin the human race, including those they have harmed, with a renewed self and a new purpose.

Now I, the former advocate of abortion, champion the unborn. I moved from who I was to who I am, from my then to God’s now. In the process, I found a wholeness and forgiveness that only someone who has gone to Jesus in the hopelessness and desperation of knowing that nothing they do can ever undo what they have already done can understand.

None of this belongs in a play, of course. At least not an entertaining one.

But it is the truth.

One Year Ago Today: Until the Sirens Went Off

We were in legislative session when the sirens went off.

For the first time that day, the room fell silent. It was the kind of bottom-dropping-out, free-fall silence that occurs when people face their omnipresent dread.

Tornadoes are an omnipresent dread in Oklahoma. Their unpredictability, coupled with their potential for absolute deadliness are the source of our nightmares.

I don’t personally know a single native-born Oklahoman who does not have tornado nightmares. Fear of these things is drilled into us from birth.

That the room fell silent when the sirens went off was predictable, especially in the Oklahoma House. We know that no matter where one of these things comes down, it will hit people that we are responsible for.

The silence was especially loud, coming as it did in the middle of an exceptionally noisy day. I learned as a child that horses run and pitch when a storm is coming. Any mother can tell you that children are unmanageable when weather is brewing. If yesterday means anything, the same thing must apply to middle-aged adults.

The Speaker gaveled us down repeatedly. He admonished us again and again to take our seats and maintain order so that the legislators who were explaining bills could be heard. Nothing he did affected the behavior on the floor at all.

Until the sirens went off.

That silenced us. One of us was on the mike, introducing a bill. After a moment’s plunging silence, he said, “Get under your desks.”

That broke the quiet as we all laughed.

Not too long after that, we had to evacuate the House Chamber and go to the Capitol basement. Several Indian dancers had been performing in the rotunda when the storm hit. They trooped down and waited with us, amidst comments about rain dances that were too effective.

I watched the tornado form on the screen of the tiny tv in the capital snack bar with everyone else. It dropped at a town called Newcastle. These storms follow tracks, almost as if they actually were on rails. I knew that if this thing stayed together that South Oklahoma City (where I live) and Moore were in for it.

Straight and Wide. Evidence of a killer tornado.

 

There are tornadoes. And then there are tornadoes.The ones that kill and destroy on a large scale stay down, move slowly and get bigger as they go. That’s what I watched this tornado do. I’m not a meteorologist, but I’ve watched a lot of these things and I knew that this one was a killer.

There was absolutely nothing to do. The phones went dead. I sat down in a corner and waited. I knew people were being killed. I had no idea if my house or the houses of my friends were going up. The reports that were coming in over the tv were too confusing to tell. I did know that people I knew, had known all my life, were in grave danger.

I stayed in the basement until it passed. Then, I loaded up and left. It was raining, hailing. I ended up taking shelter at a Sonic drive-in for about 30 minutes. The traffic lights were out and the interstates had been closed, which resulted in traffic gridlock. I snaked around through back ways to get South. It took me an hour and a half to do what would normally be a 15-minute drive. A friend of mine who lived on the far side of the damage told me it took him almost seven hours to get home.

I was out of touch with the larger world for about 12 hours. No power. No water. But nobody hurt, either.

My district didn’t get hit. My family is all ok, although some of them are without power and water. I have several friends who lost their homes, but they all got out of the way before it hit.

After the May 3 tornado in 1999 went through the same general area, we had a lot of orphaned pets — cats and dogs — who showed up. It was impossible to find their owners, so people adopted them and took care of them. I’ve already decided that our home will be open if a battered-up pet wants to come there.

I want to thank everyone who has texted or posted, asking me if I’m alright. Yes, I am.

Sooo Oklahoma: tornadoes, Native-American dancers, all of us sheltering together against the storm.


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