Doing Lent in the Fast Lane

Lent 1

How to do Lent in the fast lane?

More to the point, how to do Lent when I’m catching myself running in circles?

This time of year is uber busy, fragmented and exhausting for Oklahoma House Members. How do I find time to pray more than Now I lay me and Bless us oh Lord?

What of the disciplines of fasting, alms and deep examination of conscience? Does all that go by the board when I’m stuck eating whatever is put in front of me and almost never get a moment alone?

I’m certain that I’m not the only person who finds themselves caught in a whirlpool of busyness during these days of Lent. That is, after all, our modern curse.

We are overwhelmed by a tsunami of too much: Too much stuff, too many activities and far too many people competing for our attention.

“Doing” Lent under those circumstances can easily reduce itself down to its lowest common denominator. Tuna sandwich for lunch on Fridays? Check. Grilled cheese for lunch on Ash Wednesday? Check. Confession, whether you need it or not? Check and check. And, oh yes, keep your sticky little fingers out of the candy dish at work.

Here we are, dealing with the fulcrum of history; the moment at which everything changed. We are considering the point at which the hopelessness of vanity, vanity all is vanity before Calvary was transformed into the birth of life everlasting after Calvary. Everything turns on that hilltop with the three crosses 2,000 years ago.

Lent is designed to take us there. It is meant to bring us to our knees before the foot of the cross where we can be born again.

But when you’re being drug by the runaway horse of overwhelming busyness that is our modern life, how do you do more than the minimum? How do you find the space, the quiet, the time to hear that still small voice?

I’ve dealt with this for years and to be honest, I’ve never found a fully satisfactory answer for it. Doing the minimum isn’t so minimum when it’s all you can manage. There is an element of faithfulness involved in those tuna sandwiches and skipped candy.

The trouble with doing the minimum is that it leaves you basically the same as you were before you did it. You don’t necessarily slide back spiritually the way you would if you didn’t try at all, but you won’t grow in Christ by doing the minimum. The minimum leaves you spiritually fed, but at a bare sustenance level.

Doing the minimum is just a step above not doing at all. It’s easy to slide from the minimum to less than the minimum and a deteriorating faith walk that leaves you half Christian.

How does anyone grow spiritually while living the lives we do, where emotional fracturing and distancing from faith seem built into the structure of it?

My advice, which is the advice of a woman whose Lenten practices are mostly a matter of minimums sandwiched into busyness, is to do at least the minimum, no matter what. Even if it means eating really substandard food like a spoonful of banquet carrots with a spoonful of banquet mashed potatoes with some kind of something that’s supposed to be gravy for lunch, do the minimum. Do it even if you can’t for the life of you remember your sins and have to search your memory while you’re standing in line outside the confessional.

I have a completely personal theology for doing the minimum that I call “God supplies the lacks.” What I mean by that is that I trust that if I don’t remember to confess every sin, or even my most important sins, God, Who knows everything about me, will supply the lacks and forgive me my forgetfulness, He supplies the lacks in my confession. God supplies the lacks. I don’t have anything but my own faith to base that on, but I believe it to a profound level.

I am not talking about deliberate refusal to do what you should when you have the opportunity to do it. I mean when you’re grinding metal in your life, God will supply the lacks to see you through it spiritually intact. All you have to do is your part, by which I mean those minimums offered up with the knowledge that the minimum is not really enough to keep you spiritually healthy for the long haul and a firm intention to do more and do better when you can.

This leads me to the “when you can” part of that. If your life is like Marine Corp boot camp 52 weeks out of every year, you really need to re-think your way of living. Otherwise, you’re going to be talking to God face to face a lot sooner than you expect. No one can use themselves up without breaking stride for their whole span of days.

You have to take time outs. It is essential to your sanity, health and purpose as a human being. For a workaholic, time out requires discipline. It is just as difficult for someone who is inured to a life of constant stimulation and overwork to take a pause as it is for a couch potato to get up and get moving. They are two sides of the same self-destructive coin.

Obeying the commandment to “remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy” is your best friend in this. I didn’t know this a year ago. I didn’t even know it six months ago. I had one of those spoing! moments of insight that occasionally come along. I realized that I had been breaking one of the commandments without realizing the significance of what I was doing.

It’s not easy for someone like me to quit working for one full day each week. But I have found it to be my new best friend. I recommend it for anyone and everyone as a bare minimum of Christian living. It not only rests your mind; it opens your heart to God. I was surprised by the effect this simple act of obedience had on my closeness with Christ. If your job requires you to work on Sunday and you can’t get out of it, my advice is take your sabbath rest on another day. Do not cheat yourself of this great gift of the Sabbath.

Sunday rest is another bare minimum of Christian followership. But if you add it to the bare minimums of fasting, confession, weekly eucharist, you will find that they combine to lift you out of the basement Christian walk of maintenance spirituality and into a gentle curve of Christian growth.

Doing Lent in the fast lane is often about doing the minimum. The minimum will starve you spiritually over the long haul. But if you do it with love of Christ, you will be able to make up for it at other times.

That’s how I get through it. I do the minimum, and whatever else I can in addition to that minimum. And I trust God to supply the lacks.

How Do You Do Lent in a Time of Feasting?

Lent

It’s still Lent.

We’ve got a week and a half of the deepest, darkest passage in human history to relive. Jesus arrested, betrayed, beaten, tortured, shamed and murdered; that’s what lies ahead of us in these next days.

We are approaching the depths of Lent; the remembrance of humanity’s greatest crime against innocence in the flesh. And we are almost there. 

But how do you do lent in a time of feasting? 

Last week, the Papal Conclave elected the first non-European pope in 1200 years, the first American pope and the first Jesuit pope in history. That conclave turned the Catholic world upside down … and left it unchanged.

Pope francis

Pope Francis is the continuation of an unbroken line of popes going back to the moment when Jesus said “I will call you Peter.” The Church as a conduit of grace, a connection to the divine and a highway to heaven is untouched, unchanged and unchangeable. Despite the rancorous demands from some quarters that the Church re-write 2,000 years of Christian teaching to excuse the fashionable sins of our day, it will never do that. It has never done that; not for kings and princes, not for tanks and guns. 

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. His Church, despite its human failings, is like Him in that. Nothing that matters, nothing that’s central to what the Church is, changes, has changed, or will change. 

Last week, we elected a pope. Yesterday, he celebrated his inaugural mass. It has been a week of spiritual feasting, a time to get drunk on the Spirit and wave flags, cheer and experience the jubilation of this proof of His continued presence in our lives. 

How do we come down from that to Passion Week and the awful reality of the crucifixion? 

Transfiguration

Perhaps, we do it the same way Peter, James and John did when they came down from the mount of Transfiguration. They saw something that no one had ever seen before or since, at least not in this life. They saw the transfigured Christ in His glory, conversing with Moses and Elijah — the law and the prophets. They saw the promise of what is to come, of the meaning on the other side of the cross that they were to preach for the rest of their days. 

We saw a glimpse of that same promise in this election and inauguration. Not the transfiguration, of course, but the promise of what it meant when Jesus told us “I am with you until the end of the world.” He was promising us that when we are lost, He will call us without ceasing. When we are found, He will walk with us through whatever we must face. He will speak to us through the Holy Spirit in our deepest hearts. He will come to us in the Eucharist and forgive us in confession. In all the years of our lives, he will never leave us without a shepherd to guide us and teach us and show us the way to Him.

This past week of two living popes and one unchanging church has not been the same mountain-top view of the Transfiguration that the three chosen Apostles experienced. But it has been the Transfiguration that the whole wide world needed at this time in history. 

Now, we must, as the Apostles had to, come down from the mountaintop and turn our faces toward Jerusalem. It is Lent, and the way we do Lent in a time of feasting is to face the magnitude of our sins and the unbelievable mercy that God has shown us. 

This year, like no other, we have been given our own view of Transfiguration. 

White crucifixion

Pope Francis: When One Does Not Profess Christ, One Professes the Worldliness of the Devil

Img 606x341 1303 vaticano francis first

Pope Francis’ first homily was a call for the Church and all Christians to focus on the cross. 

My favorite quotes from it are:

  • We can build many things, but if we do not confess Jesus Christ, nothing will avail. We will become a pitiful NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of Christ. 

  • When one does not profess Jesus Christ – I recall the phrase of Leon Bloy – “Whoever does not pray to God, prays to the devil.” When one does not profess Jesus Christ, one professes the worldliness of the devil.

  • When we walk without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, and when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord. We are worldly, we are bishops, priests, cardinals, Popes, but not disciples of the Lord.

  • I would like that all of us, after these days of grace, might have the courage – the courage – to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Cross of the Lord: to build the Church on the Blood of the Lord, which is shed on the Cross, and to profess the one glory, Christ Crucified. In this way, the Church will go forward.

  • My hope for all of us is that the Holy Spirit, that the prayer of Our Lady, our Mother, might grant us this grace: to walk, to build, to profess Jesus Christ Crucified.

The full text of the homily, from the Vatican website is below. I put the quotes I took from it in bold. 

In these three readings I see that there is something in common: it is movement. In the first reading, movement is the journey [itself]; in the second reading, movement is in the up-building of the Church. In the third, in the Gospel, the movement is in [the act of] profession: walking, building, professing.

Walking: the House of Jacob. “O house of Jacob, Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.” This is the first thing God said to Abraham: “Walk in my presence and be blameless.” Walking: our life is a journey and when we stop, there is something wrong. Walking always, in the presence of the Lord, in the light of the Lord, seeking to live with that blamelessness, which God asks of Abraham, in his promise.

Building: to build the Church. There is talk of stones: stones have consistency, but [the stones spoken of are] living stones, stones anointed by the Holy Spirit. Build up the Church, the Bride of Christ, the cornerstone of which is the same Lord. With [every] movement in our lives, let us build!

Third, professing: we can walk as much we want, we can build many things, but if we do not confess Jesus Christ, nothing will avail. We will become a pitiful NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of Christ. When one does not walk, one stalls. When one does not built on solid rocks, what happens? What happens is what happens to children on the beach when they make sandcastles: everything collapses, it is without consistency. When one does not profess Jesus Christ – I recall the phrase of Leon Bloy – “Whoever does not pray to God, prays to the devil.” When one does not profess Jesus Christ, one professes the worldliness of the devil.

Walking, building-constructing, professing: the thing, however, is not so easy, because in walking, in building, in professing, there are sometimes shake-ups – there are movements that are not part of the path: there are movements that pull us back.

This Gospel continues with a special situation. The same Peter who confessed Jesus Christ, says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. I will follow you, but let us not speak of the Cross. This has nothing to do with it.” He says, “I’ll follow you on other ways, that do not include the Cross.” When we walk without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, and when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord. We are worldly, we are bishops, priests, cardinals, Popes, but not disciples of the Lord.

I would like that all of us, after these days of grace, might have the courage – the courage – to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Cross of the Lord: to build the Church on the Blood of the Lord, which is shed on the Cross, and to profess the one glory, Christ Crucified. In this way, the Church will go forward.

My hope for all of us is that the Holy Spirit, that the prayer of Our Lady, our Mother, might grant us this grace: to walk, to build, to profess Jesus Christ Crucified. So be it.

Lent in the Legislature

GreatSeal Next week and the week after, I will become less and less accessible, more and more grumpy, and if you push me, downright mean.

These next two weeks are “deadline” weeks in the Oklahoma legislature, or, as we affectionately think of them, living hell.

We have to vote on every bill that every House member managed to author, get out of the various committees and onto the House agenda. That means long days, longer nights, endless debate and mind-numbing exhaustion. I finish deadline weeks feeling like I’ve been drug by a runaway horse. So does everybody else. By the end of this two weeks we’ll hate our jobs and we’ll probably all hate each other, as well.

That’s how legislators do Lent in Oklahoma.

Once, years ago, I tried to give up swearing for Lent. If Lent happened when the legislature wasn’t in session I would have had a fighting chance. But after the third or fourth time I had to go to confession because I’d broken my penance, my pastor got exasperated and told me, “I want you to forget this and pick something you can do.”

I jokingly said, “Well, I haven’t killed anybody. Can I count that as giving up something for Lent?”

He was not amused.

Ever since then, I’ve tried to come up with Lenten practices that fit into my job. You know; things I can do while driving my car to work or when I’m standing in an elevator. That sort of idle time activity. I literally do not have time to pray during deadline week. When I try to pray before I go to bed, I fall asleep. When I try to pray in the mornings, I’m late for work. If I try to pray while I’m driving … well, I’m already tired and distracted, so that’s not the best plan.

WebJESUS Prayer

One prayer I’ve found that I can actually do is called the Jesus Prayer. It goes: Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on me a sinner. 

That’s an excellent prayer for deadline week. If you reflect on it, it’s sort of a mini Gospel in a few words. Anytime you’re in a pinch for time, or at a loss for words, I recommend the Jesus Prayer. It says everything you have to say in one profound sentence.

Another one sentence prayer I pray a lot during deadline week comes from Scripture: May the words of my lips and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, my God and my Redeemer.

I pray that a lot before debate.

Then, there’s the Hail Mary: Hail Mary, full of grace. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for me, a sinner, now and at the hour of my death.

The Hail Mary is a cry for help and an act of worship, both at once. It, like the other short prayers I use during deadline week, covers all the ground you have to cover to talk to God.

These quick prayers save my soul (literally) during times like deadline week. But there is another prayer that I’ve learned through the years. This one doesn’t have words, and yet it is perhaps the most eloquent. There are many days when my work is my prayer. I know that sounds odd, but I’ve learned that this can be the most profound prayer and act of worship any of us can do.

What I mean by that is that I am convinced that the most profound act of worship is simply doing what God tells you to do. If I can do my work in a manner that follows what God wants, then I am giving Him obedience, which is profound worship and prayer with feet.

I learned this during a time when I was getting blasted and battered in an ugly and personal way for passing pro life bills. (This was the time when I tried to convince my pastor that the simple fact that I hadn’t killed anybody should count as giving up something for Lent.) It was tough for me as a person and as a woman. But with God’s grace I was able to persevere, and in the persevering I experienced the Lord’s presence in a way that taught me an enormous amount about what prayer and worship truly are.

The best worship is doing what God tells you to do. The most profound prayer is obedience to God from the heart. 

All the other worship we do — the retreats, meditations, hymn-singing, scripture reading, long reflective silences — are simply exercises to get us to that state where we can do what He tells us to do with willing obedience from the heart.

Lent

I am looking forward to a real Lent one day. I think it would be most edifying to have time for prayer, reflection and long hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

But this week is deadline week, and my Lenten practice may very well be once again, not killing any of my colleagues. I think that’s a fine goal for a pro life legislator.

Up to Our Earlobes in Alligators: Marriage, Religious Freedom and Fiscal Cliffs, Oh My!

Alligators

We are up to our ears in alligators folks

Trying to respond to all the challenges to faith, sanity and the future of Western Civilization these days is like playing a game of whackamole on speed. 

But there are things you can do. Pick one and do it. Then tomorrow, pick another and do that. 

Here are a few ideas. If you have others, please add them in the comments section.

 

 

Marriage

Now that the president has come out swinging for gay marriage, and Britain and France have heads of state who are doing the same, we appear to be in a losing battle on this one. States are passing gay marriage referendums, poll numbers keep piling up in favor of redefining marriage essentially out of existence, and in Britain and other places where they are further along with this than the USA, the refuse from this change is already piling up.

Christians are losing their jobs, being sued and excluded from public life in those countries because they will not compromise on the Gospels. I’ve been told that Britain is talking about doing away with the legal notion that marriage has anything to do with sexual fidelity, since, (I guess) they think that somehow tracks with gay marriage.

So, what are we to do?

First of all, we are to stay the course. We are to stand our ground. Do not quit on the Gospels of Christ because polls tell you that other people are doing that. Do not ever make following Jesus a matter of what is popular or trendy. 

Second, we need to take good care of our own marriages. Love your spouse. Raise your children. Be there, at home with your family as a true husband or wife; father or mother.

Third, we can pray/fast and offer our concerns about the future of marriage up to the Lord, uniting them with His sufferings. Kathy Schiffer, who blogs at Seasons of Grace, published a post about a suggestion from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. Here is what part of what she said:

The U.S. Bishops have an idea:  With the Supreme Court about to hear an important case on the rights of homosexuals to marry, the bishops invite you to fast today.  Dedicate your penance, they urge, for the intention of marriage:

For the justices of the Supreme Court, that when they consider two marriage-related cases later this month, they would uphold the authentic meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, a good in itself and for all of society.

This is a good idea.  Just publishing their flyer today, on the day of fast, is NOT such a good idea—I’d have told you (and told myself!) yesterday, had I seen anything in the news about it.  (Of course, it may have been pushed aside due to the dramatic news yesterday, namely, the resignation of our Holy Father.) 

Nonetheless, late is better than not at all; so if you’ve already had breakfast and lunch and some snacks (as I have), consider sacrificing in whatever way you can today:  have dinner an hour late; skip the dessert; don’t eat between meals.  Let us join together to offer our minor mortifications in defense of the sacred institution of marriage.

As Kathy notes, it’s too late to skip eating between meals today. But it’s not too late to engage in another simple type of penance. I am going to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet and offer that up. I’m sure you can think of something that will work for you. 

Fourth: We can go to Washington to participate in the March for Marriage on March 26, 2013. We are having our annual Oklahoma March for Life on the 25th, so I don’t know if I can manage to go, but I am looking into it. A reader asked me a couple of weeks ago if I knew how we could manage to communicate with the Supreme Court. I didn’t answer her, because I wasn’t sure what to say. Now I know of one way, and this march is it. 

You can find details at the March for Marriage website here. The March for Marriage Facebook page is here

Frank Weathers, who blogs at Why I am Catholic, has also written about this march. You can check it out here. I got this great logo from Frank’s blog:

Marriage March



Religious Freedom

I already gave you a “to do” for this one. You need to call or email your United States Senator or Congressperson and ask them to make the repeal of the HHS Mandate their bargaining point in the Fiscal Cliff/Sequester fight. You can find who they are and how to contact them here

You might also drop a note to the National Democratic and Republican Parties, letting them know that you oppose the HHS Mandate and support religious freedom. 

You can email the Republican National Committee here.

You can email the Democratic National Committee here.

Do not underestimate the power of these national parties where issues like this are concerned. In a Congress of Puppet People, they are often the ones who ultimately pull the strings. 

Cross flag

Remember: Thou Art Dust

And the Lord God formed man from the dust of the earth … 

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust …

I am going to die.

You are going to die.

Public Catholic has enough regular readers that it is a statistical certainty that at least one of us, perhaps more, will die this year.

Our souls, as the Scriptures say, will be required of us.

We have unbelievers who post on this board who tell us that nothing awaits us when we close our eyes on this world, that we will simply drift into the nothingness of non-existence, go back to the dust from which we came, and cease.

Our ending, according to them, will be our end.

But this, quite simply, is not true. I doubt very much that the nonbelievers who say it actually believe it. They use it as a ruse to hide behind when dealing with the existential miseries that their bankrupt philosophy imposes on them. It is an odd and sad outlook on life that finds its comfort in a studied hope for annihilation.

The truth is, there is no death for us. We are immortal beings who will live on past our bodies. Most of us sense this in a deep and incontrovertible way that can either comfort or torment us, depending on what we do with this innate knowledge of our own natures.

God is real. I have felt and known Him. I experienced His Presence in my life as an inpouring of love that I neither expected or sought.

But — and this is something that so frightens unbelievers that they invariably become angry when you say it — the devil and his evil are also real. It is not fashionable to say that. I’ve had members of the clergy chide me and tease me for believing it. But I do not doubt the reality of a malicious personality that hates the light and craves annihilation. I have felt his presence, too.

“If you eat of the fruit, you will not die” he told the woman, and like all really effective lies, this one was partial truth. You will not die … today. That was the truth of it. Turn your back on God. Defy Him. Do your own thing. And you will not die … today.

God lies, Satan told the woman, just as he tells us today. God lies to you when He says “Thou shalt not kill, lie, steal, commit adultery or covet.” He doesn’t mean it when He says “Put no other gods before Me.”

He lies. Because he doesn’t want you to have the pretty things of this world, to be able to enjoy the sexual pleasures He created for you, to live as you choose with your own free and preeminent will. He lies, and you are a fool for listening to Him.

Because you are not dust. You are the Lord of creation, the master of your fate, the god of your own life. There is nothing to fear because there is nothing that matters. At the end of our days, there is nothing but nothing. We stop. And we rot. We are carrion meat that walks for a time. So we should, again as the Scriptures say, eat, drink and be merry.

Like all effective lies, this one contains a bit of truth mixed in with the untruth. “Eat and you will not die … today.”

“Ignore God now and there will be no reckoning … today.”

Because you are dust, and you will die, regardless of how you live. You can run ten miles a day and your heart will still stop at some unknown time in your future. You can eat spinach and beans and forego fast food and steak, but your arteries will still cease to pump blood on some day you don’t know yet.

You can break every moral precept in the Scriptures, and you will not die … today. You will live for a time and you may even appear to triumph over those who do not indulge their darker natures as you do. There will be no reckoning … today.

But God is real. He gives us every opportunity to turn to Him and live life His way. He lets us choose. He sets before us every day life and death, and He lets us freely choose which of these we want.

That is what Lent is about. It isn’t a matter of giving up candy or foregoing wine for forty days. It is not about wearing ashes on our foreheads like religious jewelry or meatless Fridays.

Lent is about conversion. It is about renewal by means of awareness that we need to be renewed. The penances of Lent are signposts to guide us to a knowledge that we are but dust and we have sinned, but that we are also immortal beings who will one day stand before the God Who made us.

Lent is a time of turning again to the roots of our being. It is going back to the garden and acknowledging that we too “are naked and ashamed” before God. We, too are, to paraphrase St Peter, “sinful men and women.” But instead of crying out as Peter did, “Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.” We can say, “come close to me Lord, for I am your broken child.”

The difference is the cross. The difference between despair and trust is the certain knowledge that we are bought at a terrible price and we do not have to be masters of our own fate. We do not have to feel our way blindly through life with no idea of what is right and wrong. We do not have to die an eternal death. We can have life, and have it abundantly. Because of the cross.

Lent is a time of penance and reflection in which we take an honest look at ourselves and our tawdry righteousness. Lent is for turning back to the One who can save us from ourselves. We are preparing to go to the cross where we will stand in solidarity with the rest of humanity, united in our sinfulness and our great need of Him and His redemption.

Lent is not about giving up candy and meatless Fridays. It is rather our gentle foretaste of Gethsemane.

Okie Snow: Be Careful What You Wish For Girl

I have always loved snow.

Snow in Oklahoma means an automatic unscheduled holiday. Employers close down their businesses, churches and schools cancel services. We stay home from work, go to the grocery store and stock up on food, put the movies on tv and kick back.

Like I said, it’s a holiday.

This happens mostly because we are so totally unprepared to deal with snow and ice. We don’t have the clothes for it, don’t know how to drive on it, and have no clue at all as to how to keep our balance while walking on it.

A glaze of ice means gridlock; I mean people get trapped in their cars in long lines of traffic that do not move for hours. An inch of snow can shut us down for days. Fortunately for us, it usually melts even faster than it came down. We’re lucky if a snow stays on the ground for more than two days. Or maybe, I should say we are unlucky when it stays down because we don’t have plows to take it off our streets and driveways. It basically has to melt off. If for some reason that takes time, the gridlock extends beyond holidaying and turns into major inconvenience.

I’m talking about relatives moving in together to share the one house in the family that still has electricity (which always goes off in ice storms) This one house in the family with electricity on which all the relatives descend invariably is the house with one bathroom and no spare beds. Other people crash and bang into one another on the way to jobs that have reopened, no matter the roadways.

So when I say I love snow, you have to understand that I’m grouping myself with schoolchildren praying for a snow day and not much of anyone else. But it’s true. I do. Love snow, that is. Love the stuff.

Which is why I’ve been sad about our snowless winter so far. Oklahoma, in case you haven’t figured this out from what I’ve said so far, is not big snow country. But we do get an ice or snow storm once or twice each winter. That’s all it usually amounts to, but it does come around like clockwork every year.

However, we’d been snowless so far this winter. There were a few flakes before Christmas, but they weren’t enough to dust the ground. I think this is mostly due to our overall waterless state. We are in a drought cycle reminiscent of the one that gave us the Dust Bowl. We’ve dodged the Dust Bowl scenario this time around due to conservation efforts people put in place after the 1930s’ misery. But no conservation effort can change the fact that the rain has stayed away. It clouds up, but nothing comes down, and that has included snow.

I had resigned myself to a snowless winter. In fact, winter itself was beginning to look like a quickly passing phase instead of a full-blown season. We’ve had shirtsleeve weather a couple of days this past week. Garden supply stores are starting to gear up. And I keep finding seed catalogues in my mailbox.

Snow was the furthest thing from my mind when I got up this morning. I had two bills up in committee today, one of them an important pro life bill. I was excited and happy about the idea of defending them in committee. I am a legislator, and I live for this stuff. Passing a bill you really care about is one of the highest highs you can have on any job. Passing a bill like this pro life bill, that you know will save lives, is … well … it’s reason enough to put up with the guff and grump of public office the rest of the time.

When I walked out of my house and saw the snow coming down, my first reaction, despite my love of the white stuff, was dismay. I broke my foot last October. Yesterday was the first day I’ve been able to go all day with a regular shoe on that foot in all those months. I spent two months in a wheel chair and even more time basically confined to my house. I still don’t walk exactly the way I did and I’m not all that sure-footed.

It’s getting better every day. But the thought of slip-sliding on the ice with the Gimpster really scared me. I do not want to break anything else. I’ve enjoyed that deal just about as much as I can stand.

I took heart in the fact that the snow was not “sticking.” It was coming down, but melting in the puddles on the ground. I hoped that meant it would be an ice free passage when I needed to get out of the car and walk. But I only drove a short way before that changed. The snowfall thickened and I guess the temperature dropped because it started packing on the streets and piling up on the ground.

I got over halfway to work and decided the risk was too great. I called everyone and told them I was bailing. Then I turned the car around and headed home. No trip to the capitol, no committee meeting, no ice walking for me.

This is not something I did lightly. In eleven years, I had only missed two days of work, one because of a death in the family and the other one because of Gimpy. Now, thanks again to Gimpy, I’ve missed three days.

But the thing that really bothered me wasn’t missing a day of work. It was getting that bill out of committee. There’s a timing to these things and the time for this vote was now. I wanted so badly to go in there and present that bill in committee, but the Gimpster has her own rules and I’ve learned the hard, hard way that I’d better follow them.

Long story short, another legislator friend of mine, Representative Mike Ritze, graciously agreed to handle the pro life bill for me in committee and got it voted out. (Bless him.) I am so grateful to Representative Ritze for being willing to jump in there like that.

Representative Mike Ritze

At the same time, I am disappointed that I didn’t get to do it myself.

I mean, really disappointed.

I got the snow I was wishing for. And I did not re-injure my healing-but-still-gimpy leg. On top of that, the bill that matters so much to me was voted out of committee, thanks to an understanding chairman and a kind-hearted and willing colleague. Thanks to good people who pulled together to help me, a life-saving bill made it over the first legislative hurdle.

Kinda hard to feel sorry for myself when I put it like that, so I guess I won’t.

The bill is still a long way from making a new law. I’ll have plenty of opportunities to defend it, I’m sure.

In the meantime, I think I’m going to enjoy this little bit of Okie Snow.

It’s Shrove Tuesday. It’s also two days before Valentine’s Day. If it hadn’t snowed, my husband was going to take me out tonight. As it is, I may make pancakes. We have a bottle of champagne that’s not doing anything.

Champagne and pancakes on Shrove Tuesday.

Sounds like an Okie snowstorm to me.

Have a great evening, my friends. Happy Shrove Tuesday.

And be care what you wish for.

 

Lent: Repentance, Divorce and Your Children

Lent begins this Wednesday.

It’s difficult in our over-scheduled world to reflect. On anything. It is doubly difficult to reflect on something as unpleasant as our own sins.

However, unless the statistics and the evening news are entirely bogus, we have a lot to repent of this Lent, a lot to change.

Most of us, me included, tend to focus on the entirely personal nature of our sins that pertains only to us. We don’t often consider how our personal sins affect others. We almost never think about  how our personal behavior either contributes to the common good or diminishes it.

We’ve had quite a few discussions on Public Catholic about marriage and family. A lot of this discussing has focused on the question of whether or not our society should change the legal definition of marriage. The question is, should we redefine marriage  to something that does not focus on marriage’s institutional purpose of creating, nurturing and equipping future generations of people to become stable and productive adults?

I think the primary reason we have come to the point where we can seriously consider such a thing is that we have become a divorce culture. Divorce and our easy acceptance of it as a solution for almost any spousal grivance has destroyed marriage as a nest for many millions of our young people. So, destroying it absolutely through a redefinition of the law just seems like the next step for many people. We’ve abused marriage so much that we’ve forgotten what marriage is.

One of the questions I’d like all of us to ponder during this Lent is how we treat our own families. In this post, I’m going to focus on divorced parents.

Divorce does not end your obligation as a parent. It complicates it and makes it more difficult to live out, but it certainly does not end it. Your children are still your children.

I see a lot of finger-pointing between divorced spouses. He claims that she won’t let him see the kids. She tells stories of fathers who make dates to see the children who wait eagerly by the door for hours for their Daddy who never shows up. Some divorced spouses move hundreds of miles away from their children and then only see them once or twice a year.

This is going to make a lot of people angry, but I’m going to say it. If you are only seeing your kids once or twice a year, you are not functioning as a parent in their lives. You are functioning, at best, as a kindly uncle or aunt.

Parents are there. Parents put their children first, ahead of their anger and resentment toward their former spouses, and yes, their careers and their new spouses.

I know all the stories about jobs and second marriages and all the other “necessary” reasons people move far away from their children. But, to be honest, I don’t buy it. Your children should come first. I once knew a divorced dad from England who had followed his divorced wife to Oklahoma so he could be near his kids. That’s a father.

The mother who moved her children so far away from their father on the other hand … not so much. I don’t think divorced dads should move away from their kids. I also don’t think divorced moms should move the kids away from their father.

I can hear the anger now over that statement. After all, isn’t divorce about starting over?

In truth, I don’t know what divorce is. I do know what being a parent is. Among other things, being a parent means you put your kids’ needs ahead of your own. So, no, divorce is not about “starting over” and having a “new life.” You are a parent first, foremost and for life. There are no excuses for forgetting that.

If you have kids, you need to put them ahead of yourself. You need to do what it takes to be their mother or father. Your career, your desire to remarry, your “needs” are all second to that.

Too often, divorced parents use the children to punish their former spouses. Also too often, they remarry and put their new spouses and their new children ahead of their “old” kids. After all, babies are always cuter, cuddlier and simpler than your older children with their knobby knees, braces on their teeth and the emotional damage you’ve done to them with your custody fights, attacks on their mother or father and indifference to their needs.

It must seem to children of divorce like their parents stop loving them. Unfortunately, in far too many instances, this is not entirely an illusion.

Divorce is a wrecking ball we take to our lives. It is a ripping apart of that “one flesh” that marriage is. It violates the trust of family, destroys the peace and safety of home.

Divorce hurts people to the core. It inflicts wounds on them that will not heal.

Whatever harm divorce does to the adults who commit it can be raised by powers of ten for their children. Divorce wounds adults. It maims children.

I know there are many experts who will tell you that this is not true. But look at the generations of young people we are producing. They appear to be increasingly unable to form families and nurture their own young. That is a profound, civilization-destroying failure of child-rearng and family that rests on the heads of their parents.

It speaks directly to our excesses and abuses of our marriages and children. Unfortunately, we are not getting the message. Instead of repenting of our societal excesses that have led to this destruction of our homes and families, we are attempting to complete the process by redefining marriage as a social contract in which fidelity, children and stability play no part.

We want to base our understanding of marriage on things like job benefits and inheritance laws (all of which can be changed without touching marriage) rather than its essential function as a cradle for creating and raising our children. It is as if we have fallen in love with our own cultural/societal suicide.

Lent begins Wednesday. Lent is a time when we are supposed to examine our lives, repent of our sins and do penance for those sins. I’m going to suggest that you take a look at how you treat your family. For this post, I am going to focus specifically on divorced parents.

Are you doing your best to be a good parent to your children? How high are your children on your list of priorities? Do they rank somewhere below your job, your dating life, your grief/bitterness/rage over the divorce and your desire to “put it behind me” and get on with a new life?

Do you even care about what your behavior does to them? Are you concerned about the fact that you are shaping people? Have you forgotten that they are your own flesh and blood?

For today, I want to ask divorced parents to consider examining their own lives and how they can do a better job of overcoming the many deficits divorce inflicts on their ability to properly nurture, guide and shelter their children. Think of ways you can be an effective father or mother to the children you have brought into this world. Consider them, and not you.

They are, after all, your children. Nothing else you do in life matters if you don’t take care of them.


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