Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Your tax dollars at work-Is that an oxymoron?

If you want to see your tax dollars at work, I encourage everyone to go to the Capitol while the legislature is in session.  I don't care where you live, I have a feeling what you see will be similar to what I witnessed when I sat in on a committee meeting earlier this week.

I will admit to be faintly excited at the thought of attending a committee meeting where testimony would be heard by several panels on a topic that I was interested in.  And not only interested because I was being paid to be interested in it - but as a citizen as well.

Let me paint the picture for you .....

Maybe not quite this crowded...
Standing room only.  Everyone who knows me KNOWS I don't do standing room only, very well. Not in overcrowded bars for musical groups I love and certainly not for only God knows how long in a windowless room shoulder to shoulder with people ambling about, texting, talking in stage whispers and not being respectful of the speaker up front.  

I maneuvered my way to a section of wall behind the last row of seats and proceeded to lean in for the long haul.  And we were just getting started.   My luck took a turn for the better when I saw that the panel I was interested in (being paid to be here for) was up first).   I knew that collectively they would be speaking about 15-20 minutes and felt certain that I could shuffle/slouch my back into tolerance for that long.  

People watching was at a premium as our paid officials (12 in total)represented in one of a few fashions: 1) The "all-in" group.  This group- (about 5 on the committee) were paying strict attention, taking notes and were totally HANDS OFF the phone or other devices.  They even made appropriate facial expressions.  2) The "sorry I'm late" group was represented by 3 of the group.  They came fluttering in, made a show of getting settled, checked their phones and I don't know that they ever really dialed in to our group.  3)  Another 3 were in and out.  They liked to interject and pay attention part of the time, but they also liked to whisper and smile at others.  I half expected them to wave at any time.  (I would have waved back).  And then there was the ONE.  He could not sit still.  He was up and down, in and out, so busy that he couldn't be bothered to respectfully listen to the panel that had been invited to speak.  You know the type.

When the panel was finished they ended with  the typical opportunity for questions.  Let me tell you what, there were many questions.  And I did not mind any questions asked by Group 1.  But when Group 2 starting asking them, I began to get a little irritated.  It reminded me of a certain senior executive I used to work with that always prepared questions to ask BEFORE he heard someone speak.  This was at our officer's meeting.  He just wanted to be seen AND heard.  Know the type?  Group 3 didn't have any questions - I really think they were waving by this point.  And then there was the ONE.  And wouldn't you know it - his question was TOTALLY OFF TOPIC.  I thought he was in the wrong room.  It had nothing to do with anything we were discussing and was quite inflammatory.  Later I found out he had a personal grudge to nurse and that was what was behind that drama.  Glad the citizens of Texas paid for that.

The questions went on for almost an hour.  I was slithering down the wall by this point.  The only thing holding me up was my interest in the folks sitting comfortably in front of me.  One guy had been busy looking at potential housing opportunities in Austin the entire time.  Glad he found a seat.  If you have a house for sale in Central Austin in the $400-$600k range, I have a buyer.  The other guy was just reading his emails IN THE BIG PRINT FOR TIRED EYES.  I will protect his private messages (for now).

Lots of interest in that room.  Always something to learn.  Just not always what you expect.

Until next time,

your pal,


Wednesday, February 18, 2015


Lent has really crept up on me this year.  It seems early (or maybe I say that every year) but I feel I haven't probably prepared myself to give something up for the season.  Over the years I have given up many things.  There has been candy, desserts, chocolate (specifically), diet coke.  Yes, one year I even gave up my beloved Sonic.  And as I was reflecting on all "the regulars" was when it hit me.

Lent had lost its meaning for me.  Everything listed above was really all about me.  Most every item listed had a "bonus" besides my suffering.  Forgive me, Jesus for making a mockery of the sacrifices you gave for us by my going without peanut m&m's for 40 days while I hoped to lose a few pounds along the way.  There was certainly no reflection of God's word or gaining a deeper understanding of my faith by giving up any of those things.

In the "old days", this penitent season was an opportunity for fasting.  Obviously fasting could be counted as "giving something up".   Just as it is today, fasting had a set time that one would go without food.  As you became hungry for food, the thought process was you also became hungry for God and His word.  And during that time of fasting, rather than going about all the normal activities of the day, a person would dedicate himself to reading Scripture and praying.  Remembering all the while that one doesn't need to make a public spectacle of himself while fasting (Matthew 6:16-18)

Now people didn't fast FOR God, but as an opportunity to re-focus and eliminate things that didn't have the proper place in their life.  I think about this as redefining boundaries.  It was used as a time for important decisions to be made.  Like hitting a pause button on their daily living, and as the fast begins, only then can the focus begin on studying what is important, giving thanks and praying for guidance.  

I don't know how old I was before I realized that the word breakfast literally meant break fast, but I was much older than I should have been.  And on Sunday's, I never "break the fast, until after I have heard God's word spoken and I have communed at the Altar.  It is something I have done for many years without really considering how it could be applied at other times.

Ash Wednesday, which commences the 40 days (sans Sundays) of moderation and spiritual discipline is today.  I started a devotional study for Lent by Pastor Phil Ressler entitled 40 Things to Give Up for Lent and Beyond.   It looks like I will be challenged to give up so much more than candy this Lenten season.  

And isn't Beyond what we all should be focusing on?  

Until next time,


your pal,


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Trying to create an epidemic - of Grace!

I was talking about a program we administer at work the other day with an industry peer and I made the comment as I was describing it "the way we apply it now, there is no Grace. No one can be successful without a little Grace,"  He looked a little puzzled.

As I was leaving and driving home, I started thinking about the overall importance of Grace in our lives.  When I think of Grace, notice I capitalize it because to me, it is that important.  It is my belief, that none of us can survive the cruelties of this world without the hope of Grace.

Grace has many meanings.   As a noun it can mean a simple elegance or refinement of movement, an elegance, poise or finesse.  As a verb it can mean to do honor or credit to someone or something by one's presence.  It is also a beautiful name.  As a noun, I can claim no fame to grace, and only sarcastically do I dare use it as a verb.

But that isn't the type of Grace I mean.  As as Christian, I have learned the biblical meaning of grace with an acronym to help me remember...There is nothing we have done, nor can ever do to earn this favor (of God's grace).  

So I like to use Grace in everyday life as a favor rendered by one who need not do so.  Some may call it an indulgence but I don't think so.  I believe it is an choice that we make as a means of helping others learn life's lessons in a positive rather than punitive manner.
Opportunities for Grace are everywhere.  I challenge parents, kids, teachers, politicians, leaders, friends, sisters, brothers, grandparents,,,whatever title you wear; before you react to whatever circumstances are happening, is there an occasion for Grace?   

I love showing Grace (it's a beautiful thing)  I love receiving Grace (it's a humbling thing)  I love SAYING Grace (it's a joyful thing)!

I don't know about you, but Grace has saved me.  
#share it

Until next time,

your pal,


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Keeping one foot in reality - it shouldn't be this hard

There is something wrong with my family's perception of reality.  This isn't a new dawning to me, nor is it limited to any one generation of the four we have running right now.  It's an equal opportunity defect that tends to spread rapidly once the swan song of doubt begins playing in our mind.

Let me set a simple stage for you.  Hind sight makes it so clear that it may seem difficult to see the sinister implications as they played out.  I ask you to take my hand and step into my world.  It all started when I arrived at Madi's basketball game.  Terry was there but Tyler hadn't arrived.  I asked Terry if he had heard from him and since the answer was no, I texted him to see if he was coming.  Some time passed before Mr. French asked if I had heard back from the boy (aka 32 year old grown man).  Since I had not, I shot him another text.  NOTHING.  This is when the seed of doubt was first planted.  Let it be known that these seeds sprout into full grown plants VERY QUICKLY.

The next text was "why are you ignoring me?"  No answer.  Well, by now you can see that this train had totally jumped off the track.  After asking Terry if he had even talked to Tyler that day (he hadn't) I was thankful the game was over so I could forgo supper and head straight home (to deal with whatever tragedy awaited me once I arrived).  I prepared myself as best I could for the household accident that may have happened, the inevitable crime scene (and reviewed my afternoon schedule since I do watch Dateline and knew that the police would be asking questions).  I made it about half way home before the burden became too heavy to bear alone.  I did what any mother would do in this type of emergency.  I called my daughter.

Because she is her mother's daughter, when I explained everything to Marissa, her response was appropriate.  In my family, it wasn't "you watch too much TV or why do you respond so negatively".  No, she hopped on the bus with me and said something to the tune of "but wait, you mean you aren't home yet and don't have the rest of the story with a happy ending?  Mom, now I am all tense. How much farther do you have to go?" 

Can you imagine pulling up to that dark house and seeing his truck there?  Mentally reviewing who I should call first, how to do CPR (the new way) and trying to decide whether or not I should use my cell phone or house phone (in case I was too hysterical to get my address out), I slowly got out of my car.

When I opened the door, I was immediately hit with the strong odor of BUTTERED POPCORN.  I felt weak with relief and indignant with rage.  TYLER!!!!!!!   The rest of the story involves a cell phone that wasn't working until it was reset and a few head shakes over my scenarios.

I would like to say I will have learned from this but in reality (and that is where I am operating from now), I just think I dodged a bullet.  The next time the phone rings and the time is off; or I call/text someone and don't hear back from them in a timely manner, if my life isn't flashing before me - someone else's might be and instead of "hello" I promise you, I will answer "what's wrong"? 

Until next time,

your pal,

It's never too late to do the "right" thing

Even this is my opinion! What is "the right thing"?  Many times over the years, I have heard people say "I want to do the...