Shutdown News


A few tidbits of news on the shutdown. Caveat: These lists are almost certainly incomplete since the situation is constantly changing.

Which Lawmakers are Giving up Their Pay During the Shutdown

What’s Affected by the Shutdown? 

While We’re Living with This Shutdown, the Big Brains in Congress are Already Planning the Next One

The Real Reason for the Shutdown: They Hate Each Other

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Republicans Blaming the Democrats

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President Obama Blaming the Republicans

Time Out

I’m going to take a couple of days off to tend to some personal concerns.

I won’t be gone long, and I already miss you.

In the meantime, keep up the excellent conversations. You are an impressive group of thinkers.

In Christ,

Rebecca

Book Review: What Are You Afraid Of?

To join the discuss about What Are You Afraid Of?, or to order a copy, go here

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What Are You Afraid Of? by Dr David Jeremiah seeks to provide a workable life theology for believers who are facing the inevitable rough spots in life.

It is a fact of existence that some people skate through life without experiencing overwhelming tragedy. It is also a fact that other people suffer one tragic even after another. Another unwelcome fact is that the course of a person’s life can change from sunshine to tragedy in a moment.

You never know.

It is this not knowing that creates much of the fear we have to live with as we traverse our days. It engenders all sorts of fear in people. Dr Jeremiah focuses his book on some of the most common fears, beginning with one I’ve had some recent acquaintance with: Natural disasters.

Dr Jeremiah not only focuses on natural disasters, he uses a description of the May 20 tornado that flattened a large part of South Oklahoma City (where I live) just a few months ago. People I know are still rebuilding their homes, grieving their dead and trying to put themselves back together from this tornado.

So, why does one person skate through a disaster like this without so much as smudging their mascara and another come out of it permanently paralyzed, or facing the loss of home and loved ones? Is there a balance in the cosmos that makes this right?

I’ve read about people who respond to these things by turning their back on God. But I’ve only known one person who did this in my whole life, and he found his way back to God later. In truth, it’s the people who aren’t suffering who use the tragedies of life to make jibes at God. The ones who are in the throes of the pain are far too busy clinging to God with all they’ve got to find energy or time to denounce Him.

Dr Jeremiah retells the story of the Tower of Siloam, which fell on a group of people in Jesus’ time, killing several of them. Jesus tells his disciples that this didn’t happen to the people who were killed because they were sinful. “God makes his rain to fall on the just and unjust,” he said, which I suppose, was Jesus’ way of saying that stuff happens.

Does that mean that God is uninvolved in what happens to us?

Anyone who has ever walked with the Lord knows this is not true.

That leaves all of us with unsatisfactory answers to these things. I think this is primarily because our perspective is temporal. God sees things from outside time.

What Are You Afraid Of? is an interesting book that seeks to answer one of the deepest questions of humankind: How do we balance the innate, existential fears that are encoded into us with the certainty of God’s promises and eternal life?

All Work for God Begins with Prayer

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I had a small discussion with one of Public Catholic’s most faithful — and interesting — readers the other day.

I had published this post calling for prayer for persecuted Christians. This particular reader said that we need to do something about this and not just pray. It made me smile when I read that because he’s right: We need to do something.

And we will.

If we pray.

Why would anyone recommend prayer in the face of this onslaught of slaughter? One reason is that the persecuted Christians themselves ask for prayer. Every time I talk to someone who lives in an area where Christians are subjected to violent persecution, I ask them how I can help them. Invariably, they ask for prayer.

Why?

You’d think they’d ask for a rocket launcher, or at least a few grenades.

Why prayer?

I think the answer is that these people are people of faith, just like us, only they no longer carry around the burden of the accoutrements of faith that weigh us down. Every person I have ever talked to who has been through violent persecution for Christ has both a strength and a gentleness that sets them apart.

The things we think are so important have been stripped away from them as they come face to face with the question that we all wonder how we would answer: Will you die for Him?

I think that once a person looks into the reality of that question, not as a hypothetical, but as an actual life or death decision that they are making, they are changed. The fires of persecution seem to burn away the chaff of people’s lives and the ones who persist and do not yield learn what sustains in time of grave peril.

I think that is why they ask for prayer.

That is one reason to pray, because the people we want to help have asked us to pray.

Another reason is because entering into this arena of Christian persecution paints our faces on the devil’s dart board. We will be assailed and attacked, slandered and maligned for speaking out for persecuted Christians. This is the natural course of things when anyone defends God’s children. We need prayer for the strength it gives us as we do this work.

The next reason to pray is because we need direction. Not only that, but we need God to raise up Christians everywhere to fight this plague of violence. We need to pray and pray and let God work.

Prayer is the key to doing God’s will. Not that He is likely to put a burning bush that is not consumed in our paths. But that prayer keeps us in contact with grace. If we want to do something about persecuted Christians — and I hope sincerely that every one who reads this does — begin with prayer. I don’t mean one Rosary or some small bit of jingoistic something you learned as a child. I mean walking with the Lord in prayer day after day after day.

Just pray and wait. If God wants active work from you, you’ll know soon enough. If, on the other hand, He wants you to be a permanent prayer warrior, do that.

I was thrilled with what the reader said that day. Excited. Because I think he’s the kind of person who actually will do something. I do not want to stifle anyone in that. I only ask that in all the doing, we pray and wait on the Lord lead us first.

All work for God begins with prayer. That’s a truth of life in Christ as I know it.

Book Review: Making Marriage Work

To join the discussion about Just Married, or to order a copy go here BC JustMarried 1

Just Married, The Catholic Guide to Surviving and Thriving in the First Five Years of Marriage is a how-to book for newlyweds.

What I mean by that is that it’s a real how-to book that provides usable, common sense, profoundly Catholic measures that married couples can take that will lead them into a holy, happy marriage that lasts all their lives.

If you think I exaggerate, read the book. The things it tells you are obvious, but you don’t see them. They’re easy, but you don’t do them. And over time the lack of this not seeing and doing can shred the fabric of your marriage.

It’s clear from the moment that you begin reading it that this is the wisdom of someone who’s actually walked the road. It is co-written by Dr Greg Popcak and his wife, Lisa. The two of them together provide candid cameos into their marital life at its different phases. They talk frankly about the things they had to do and learn to have a happy, long-lasting marriage.

Even though Dr Popcak is a professional psychologist, the book is not a psycho-babble world salad. It gives advice that is simple, direct and do-able. The first thing Greg and Lisa advise is the obvious one I was referring to earlier. They tell newly married couples to make a time of daily prayer together a fixture in their lives.

I say that’s obvious because telling a devout Catholic couple to pray should be as redundant as telling a fish to swim. But in truth, even private prayer gets lost in the busyness of daily life and it’s more difficult to make time for praying together.

The book leads readers through the various stages of early marriage and teaches a bit of what to expect and how to handle each one. My one word of advice on this is don’t be surprised if you and your spouse are a bit different from the stages in the book. I’ve been married 30 years, and I don’t remember going through these stages with my husband. However, I do remember some — not all — of the flash points. We’re all individuals and newly married couples should know that their marriage will be an expression of who they are and no one else.

I think the best component in the book is the emphasis it places on giving newly married couples the tools to communicate with one another even, or perhaps most especially, when they are arguing. It also gives guidance about how to learn to understand your spouse and his or her unique ways of doing things so that you can learn to accommodate one another and grow closer. The Popcaks wisely tell readers that changing yourself to accommodate your differences with your spouse will lead you into deep personal growth.

That is so true. But it’s something you can’t know at the beginning of a marriage. That growth you experience takes time to develop.

I think that Just Married would be a great book to give young people when they are engaged and actively planning their lives together as a married couple. If they read it and learn from it before they take their vows and begin their married life, its clear and practical advice will save them many pitfalls.

Papal G8 Meets for the First Time

Pope Francis appointed a select committee of eight cardinals from around the world shortly after his election last spring. These eight cardinals, all of them Vatican outsiders, were charged with making suggestions for the reform of the Roman Curia.

Their first meeting is today.

From The Guardian:

The eight cardinals picked by Pope Francis to advise him on reform of the Roman curia and the governance of the Catholic church are preparing to meet the pontiff for the first time on Tuesday, in an unprecedented three-day meeting likened to a “papal G8″.

In a move already billed as a potentially critical moment for Francis’s six-month-old papacy, the multinational group of “outsider” cardinals is flying in to Rome from all corners of the globe to present him with ideas for how to reform the Vatican and the church worldwide.

The panel – officially named the Council of Cardinals – was hailed as a revolutionary move when it was formed in April shortly after Francis’s election. One observer said that, in its apparent embrace of a more collegial style of church governance, it was the “most important step in the history of the church for the past 10 centuries”.

Government Shuts Down

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When the buffalo fight in the swamp, the frogs lose.

The morons in Washington have managed to bring the government to a standstill. I don’t know if they’ll turn around and do some quick maneuver to stop the free fall or not. I do know that people I represent, people who have bills to pay and families to support, have already been given notice that their jobs are forfeit because of this.

I knew from jump street that the Affordable Care Act was a goldmine for Planned Parenthood. It was right there in the language of the bill. I am also absolutely opposed to the HHS Mandate. At the same time, I know that the President is correct when he says the economy is fragile (at best) and that the credit rating of this debtor nation is at stake. Think what happens when your credit card company raises your interest rate and multiply that by the national debt.

I haven’t written about this before now because I am conflicted.

All I know for sure is that I love this country and I believe that the people we have put in office — of both parties — are doing damage to my country. I honestly question if they care about this country or the American people. It appears that the only thing they want to do with the power we have given them is play political games, serve their various special interests and try to hype things in an unending quest for power and dominance over the other political party.

I’m going to let you good people discuss this as thoroughly as you wish. Just be kind to one another in the process. Good people can look at the same situation and come away with different ideas. That is part of our strength, because different ideas lead to better decisions.

When the buffalo fight in the swamp, the frogs lose.

In this case, the frogs are the American people.

We deserve better than this.

From The Wall Street Journal:

WASHINGTON—After three years of ducking crises with last-minute deals, Congress finally ran out of ways to patch over its differences. Unable to meet a midnight Monday deadline for funding the government, lawmakers allowed it to shut down.

The White House ordered federal agencies to suspend a vast array of activities shortly before midnight, after a day of frantic legislative volleying left Senate Democrats and House Republicans at an impasse over government spending and the 2010 federal health-care law. The next steps to resolve the stalemate remained unclear.

Markets that have slipped recently face a test on Tuesday morning of how they will view the developments, given that a larger deadline for Congress—over the need to raise the nation’s borrowing limit—is less than a month away.

Many federal workers reporting to their agencies Tuesday morning will undertake a half-day of shutdown preparations before more than 800,000 employees in the government’s workforce of about 2.9 million are sent home. While essential functions such as law enforcement and air-traffic control will continue, a large array of federal activities, among them Internal Revenue Service audits and surveillance for flu outbreaks, will be suspended.

President’s Full Statement on Government Shutdown

President Obama made this statement today on the impending government shutdown. I believe, based on this statement and what I have read, that both sides are misrepresenting one another’s motives.

However, I do think that this whole adventure into brinksmanship is harming the country. I also do not think that the welfare of the American people is a motivating factor in it.

Here’s the statement.

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The Battle of the Bulls

I want to write about the possibility of a government shut down this week, and I will write about it.

But today I’m up to my ears in alligators, family style.

So … I’ve decided that this post I wrote at the end of a legislative session here in Oklahoma might start you off. It doesn’t deal with the specific issues at hand, and the federal stand off is almost breathtaking in its ruthlessness. What I’m describing here is healthy political give and take. However, much of the psychology is the same. Read, and think about it. Then, we’ll take up what’s happening now tomorrow.

We shut down the session Friday and it wasn’t pretty. Oklahoma‘s constitution requires that we end the legislative session by 5 pm on the last Friday of May each year. What that means in the real world is that no matter what else we do, we must pass the budget by that day. Otherwise, all the money stops and the lights go out all over the state.

We did manage to get to the finish line with a budget of sorts, but not without a lot of drama. We skated to the edge of the cliff more than once in the last week, always barely avoiding the messy business of adjourning without funding the government. Egos were bruised, names were called, deals were done and legislators and staff drove themselves past simple exhaustion into incompetent somnabulence in the process.

By the end of session, most of us weren’t fit to drive a car, much less make laws for millions of people.

This annual exhibition of legislative histrionics makes the voters mad. In fact voter anger is why we have to shut it down by 5 pm on the last Friday of May. Back in the day, we used to cover the clock with a towel or sheet or maybe some unlucky legislator’s jacket, and just keep on fighting. We went right around the dial, 24-7, until the deals were done. The people of Oklahoma, in a disgusted pique, passed a constitutional amendment by means of a referendum petition that required us to take at least 8 hours off each day and to end the session on the aforementioned last Friday of May.

It was a good idea, but good ideas are very seldom a match for human nature. That’s the force driving these annual end of session train wrecks; testosterone-fueled human nature. The Oklahoma legislature is run by people with y chromosomes. It always has been. I don’t want to sound sexist, but it’s just a fact that when men who have more ego than brains start shoving each other around, the discussion quickly descends to an unacknowledged battle over who is the real alpha male around here.

All the talk about “the people” and “policy” and “rights” devolves down to who has enough manhood to make the other guy do obeisance.

I may get myself uninvited to lunch with the boys for saying all this. It’s definitely not politically correct. But it is the truth. Decisions are made which affect the lives and futures of millions of people, including people who haven’t been born yet, based on this chest-thumping battle of the bulls.

Those of us who don’t have quite so much testosterone get into it, too. Female legislators are quite as capable of standing our ground as the guys. The difference is we usually have some vague notion of why we’re actually doing it, and we aren’t nearly as likely to offer to “take it outside” and “settle it there.” In fact I can honestly say that in all my 16 years as a legislator, I have never threatened anyone with a right hook to the jaw for disagreeing with me.

Remember: This is Oklahoma. I’ve seen legislators come to blows more than once in my tenure in office. A year before I was first elected in 1980, one legislator brought a gun onto the floor of the House with the intention of shooting one of his colleagues. I met one of the legislators who disarmed him when I was elected the next year and married him a couple of years after that. Two kids and almost  30 years later, we’re still together.

I expect some people will be upset by this view from the inside of the legislative rumbles. But I have to admit, it doesn’t bother me. I don’t mind the yelling. I don’t mind the fist fights. I don’t mind the shoving and threats and bombastic carrying on. I don’t mind because, messy and ridiculous as it sometimes is, it’s also democracy in action.

I would much rather see a messy session shut down where everyone noisily had their say than a well-mannered tea-sipping shut down where only a few powerful nabobs made all the policy. We practiced hard-ball politics this week, but we also stopped some horrifically bad bills from becoming law. I am convinced that we saved lives and protected the state’s economy from ruin by the moves we made. It took both parties and every single one of us to do it.

I was so tired last Friday that I was dizzy-headed and nauseous. I had to concentrate to vote correctly on the rapid-fire procedural votes that we were shooting at one another, something I can usually do on automatic. I saw other legislators start making speeches on the mike when they were recognized to ask a question, debate the wrong bill and repeatedly get befuddled about what they were trying to do.

All of this was exhaustion, and exhaustion to that level when you’re making law is not good. It also wasn’t necessary. We wasted a lot of time twiddling our thumbs in the days leading up to this; time we should have spent hearing bills in a more judicious fashion than this last-minute onslaught.

But I still prefer that to any “reform” that would tamp down on it. When you bring  150 people together from all over a state as big as Oklahoma, from rural folks who live in counties with more cattle than people to city dwellers who worry about gangs, you’re going to get disagreement. The only way to avoid it is for some of them to sell out the people they’re representing.

That’s what usually happens. I’ve seen it over and over. I saw it this session. But something happened this last week and the House members rose up and started representing their constituents. That’s how the bad bills died.

But bad bills which are pushed by powerful people who stand to make a lot of money from them don’t die easily. The resulting fights were why we were all so tired.

Was it worth it? Oh yes.

But I’m sure glad I don’t have to do it again this week.

Pope Francis and the Miracle of Peace

The Roman Catholic Bishops of the Middle East and East Africa said that the pope’s efforts for peace are changing the dialogue in their countries. They call it a “miracle.”

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