Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Gospel According to Traffic Court

Back in June of this year, I was given a ticket for not changing lanes while traveling next to a police car pulled off the road citing another vehicle.  As traumatizing as that was, I had no idea how the fun would continue when I went to traffic court.

My court date was last month, and I'd never been to traffic court, much less to the courthouse downtown, which we affectionately call here in the Ville, "Sixth and Jefferson."  I traveled downtown for my 1pm assigned court date in the extreme heat.  I circled until I found a place to park - the main reason I loathe downtown - horrible parking.  I headed on into the courthouse.  Clearly you could have videoed the people of WalMart or the latest reality show (aptly named "Sixth and Jefferson") given the sights I saw.  Every type of person wearing any type of clothing (or very little clothing) was hanging around the lobby and right outside the door.  

I entered the building and quickly went through security.  I felt like I was dealing with TSA, but without all the hassles.  I've watched enough cop shows to be alert to my surroundings lest some psychopath pull out a weapon and start going crazy.  I checked in at the front desk, interrupting the receptionist from reading her novel.  Aside, good to know my tax dollars pay for someone to read 8 hours a day. She instructed me which courtroom and I navigated the directions to get to the 3rd floor and my specific courtroom.  

When I walked in, I felt like I was on Perry Mason.  The court room looked just like they do on TV, albeit smaller.  I sat in the courtroom pews and waited for my name to be called.  They aren't really pews, but honestly look just like them.  And, quite frankly, I prayed as much sitting in those pews as I do in a church pew.  The first stop on this journey is to talk to a lawyer or "important man in a suit" that is sitting at the desks in front of the judge's bench.  This is the first level of Dante's Hell you have to get through before facing the judge.  My name was called and I went up and he reviewed my ticket.  The first words out of his mouth were, "Well, I'm not sure what to do with you."  Huh?

You never want to hear that in a courtroom, doctor's office or operating room.  He continued by saying that the way the police officer wrote up the ticket, his only option was to suspend my license for six months.  I almost lost it.  "Are you kidding me?" was my response.  He patted himself down trying to find his phone, which wasn't on his person and asked if he could use mine.  Really, at th is point I started to think I was being punk'd.  

He tried calling the Department of Transportation to ask them what to do.  Of course, that was after I looked up the number and called it for him, hoping my gracious groveling would help me out here.  When he couldn't reach anyone, he said, "I can reschedule a new court date, or if you can wait, I can talk to my higher ups to see what options I have."  I told him I'd be happy to wait since I was already missing work to get this handled.  

I sat there for what seemed like an eternity waiting.  I texted some friends and asked them to pray.  What would I do if my license was suspended?  I have to first get home, then how do I get from place to place for the next six months.  Needless to say, I was a mess.  I prayed and I waited.  When the important-man-in-a-suit came back, he said he could lower the charge to careless driving (what in the world was it before!?) and I could pay the fine and court fees.  I wouldn't be eligible for traffic school.  I quickly said yes and thank you.

Then back to the pews to wait until the judge called me up.  By the time that happened, I was half a basket case on the inside and half relieved that this was almost over.  She repeated the violation as amended and asked if I plead guilty or not guilty.  I paused and said, "Well, the police officer said I was guilty."  She said, "You don't have to plead guilty.  You can plead not guilty and then we'll go to trial."  At that point, Miss Resilient Steel Magnolia here, broke a bit.  I told her I'd never been in court in my life and I just wanted this over.  I didn't weep or sob, but she, as a woman, could tell I was about to break down.  She was very nice and explained how I would go about paying my ticket by phone to avoid another trip down to the court house.  

I left there completely exhausted, mentally and physically.  I went home, called in and paid my ticket and hope it goes away.  But I learned a few lessons in the process....

Being in that court room facing the judge because of my violation was humbling and scary all at the same time.  I clearly broke a law, though I didn't think my violation required quite that high of a penalty.  All I could think of when I left that day is how grateful I am for the saving grace of Jesus Christ.  You see, I'm a sinner.  I sin every day, multiple times a day.  And I deserve punishment.  A violation worse than what I received from that police officer.  But Jesus took on that punishment for me.  He, being sinless, gave His life, so I wouldn't have to live eternally separated from God.  The visual I kept seeing was me walking up to the podium before the judge, being condemned, and Jesus coming up, hugging me and gently moving me away and stepping in my place.  Wow.  That's love.  

Conviction came on me that day of my prideful heart, not just about that traffic violation but all the ways I sin daily.  And yet, Jesus' righteousness covers me.  I could never repay the debt I owe, unlike my ability to pay for this ticket and move on.  May I be forever thankful for the love of Christ who always steps into my place to save and protect me.  

Monday, August 15, 2016

My 48 Minutes of Fame

I'm obsessed with reading.  It's a passion that has returned after losing the passion during college and going back for my MBA years later.  I've also carried a long lost dream to have my own radio talk show.  As a youngster, I would use my Dad's recording equipment and make up stories and record myself as if I was on the radio.  I even included commercial breaks by saying, "Thanks for the interruption."  

Marrying my obsession with a dream became a reality when I was the guest on the What Should I Read Next podcast hosted by Anne Bogel.  I decided to submit a request to be on the show and see if I was a fit and I was!  I couldn't have been more ecstatic.  My episode aired on August 9 and I've felt like a star ever since.

Along with Anne's recommendations (which you'll hear when you listen to the episode), I've received oodles of suggestions from the podcast blog post and gotten tons of requests to connect with listeners on GoodReads.  I feel famous!  All because of my 48 minutes of fame.  

If you are a reader, or even if you're not, be sure to have a listen.  One item checked off my bucket list.  Now to really get that radio show....

Monday, August 01, 2016

Picnics, Podcasts and Pokemon Go

Yesterday, our church had a "Dinner on the Grounds" as part of our 100-year celebration.  For those non-Baptists, or people under the age of 30, a "dinner on the grounds" is really a picnic where the church provides the fried chicken (or some other meaty entree) and the church members bring sides.  Our organized picnic assigned salads, sides and desserts by last name so we'd have a more even distribution and not end up eating nothing but chips and dessert with our fried chicken.  And everyone was tasked with bringing a 2-liter, so the drinks were plentiful.  It was hot.  Maybe if you were under a tree somewhere it wasn't, but if you were out long, you couldn't miss the heat.  I was privileged to serve the chicken in one of the serving lines and found myself sweating so much I thought my eyes were watering.  A good time was had by all, and the food was plentiful.  I did learn that KFC-provided serving tongs are not very sturdy.  I broke two in a matter of an hour.  

This morning, I was interviewed by Anne Bogel for her podcast, What Should I Read Next.  I was so excited about this opportunity and consider an item on my bucket list checked off.  I've listened to her podcast for a while and it adds fuel to my already obsessive love of reading.  Though it might sound stalkish, I would love to discuss books with her regularly.  The one thing I realized from the podcast (which I'll link on my blog when it's live), is what I thought would be the theme of the books I love was way off from reality.  I won't give away the content of the podcast, but after analyzing I came to realize and had confirmation that I love historical fiction (what!?!) and stories with a female protagonist (not as surprising).  I left wanting to spend the next three days in a bookstore.  

Pokemon Go is the newest craze in the world these days.  I'll admit I've played the game and it is kind of fun, though I'm out of Poke Balls to continue play right now.  Being in technology, this take on augmented reality will forever shift the paradigm.  Now, everyone "gets" augmented reality and businesses can reach consumers with that technology, maybe easier than they could have before Pokemon Go.  To let you know how much it has infiltrated the world, I was driving down a main road the other night and a local church had on their sign "We're a PokeStop, so feel free to stop by."  I give them credit for creativity and engaging the culture.    

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Gospel According to Zootopia

I recently saw Zootopia and absolutely loved it!  I loved it so much that the Shakira song, "Try Everything" is now my ringtone.  The movie has gotten a lot of flack because of the supposed underlying message of the liberal bent in our country.  Ok, I'm about as conservative as they come, but people, please.  Can we not look at every movie for some political agenda that will warp our children and turn them into raging entitlelists?  Granted, Hollywood is saturated with left-wing thinking, but I prefer to look at movies - especially animated ones - through the eyes of the gospel.  Our country is divided enough these days.

The story begins with Judy Hopps, a vivacious, energetic bunny with big dreams, wanting to leave the comfort of her family's carrot farm to pursue a life as a law enforcement officer in the land of Zootopia.  Zootopia is that big city for animals - the Los Angeles or New York City for creatures - where dreams come true.  Although her parents hate to see her go (even though they have a passel of her siblings still remaining), she heads to Zootopia and does indeed become a law enforcement officer.  I'll save ruining the plot, but Judy comes into her own through a complex situation between Mayor Lionheart and his assistant mayor Bellwether, a lamb.  

In a world where chaos seems to be happening all around us, this little flick truly waves the flag of "All Lives Matter."  From Judy Hopps to the Mayoral Lion, everyone was important.  Nobody cared if Judy was a tiny rabbit, she was a great policewoman!  And her life had a plan.  There may be no better verse in Scripture that screams "All Lives Matter" than John 3:16..."For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that WHOSOEVER (emphasis mine) believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life."  God loved ALL lives so much, He gave His only Son for us.  

I applaud Disney on many fronts.  Yes, they are a secular company so they aren't weaving Christian themes in every movie, but they are hitting home runs with their recent movie messaging.  Inside Out...a child struggles with a major move and life change and we see her real emotions, realizing that Joy and Sadness go hand in hand.  Finding Dory....a fish with a short-term memory can still make a difference, displaying that a child with special needs is still very valuable.  And, now Zootopia, where a small bunny never gives up on her dream and makes a big difference in the world of Zootopia, meaning every life matters. 

In this movie, all animals co-habitate with each other, even those that would normally eat each other in the real world.  One day we will live in a new world where the lion will lay down with the lamb, and it will not only be Zootopia, but it will be Paradise, with Jesus in complete control as we live in this New Earth.  Until then, let's all remember all lives matter....because they matter to God.  

Monday, July 11, 2016

A World With No Color

The news in the last week has been disheartening and sad.  It doesn't matter who you are or the color of your skin, if you've watched the deaths at the hands of law enforcement and the deaths of those retaliating those actions continuing to split the country by color, you should feel sad.  

I have best friends that are black, and I have friends who are police officers.  I love them both.  I don't agree with the actions we've seen in the past week and feel like I want to just live in a world without color.  But how boring would this world be without color?  Yet, if we were all green, then maybe all of this would stop, and the issues at the heart of this would be addressed.  We're sinful people living in a fallen world.  We all need a Savior.

This past weekend, I spent a lot of time with my church family, and as I reflected on the activities I did, I was reminded how "colorless" my world is, or rather, how I don't "see" color.  Saturday morning I celebrated with a woman at our church about to become a Mom for the first time.  This precious little girl is being born to a sweet couple that will raise her to love the Lord and to not see color.  I left that baby shower and headed to a "farewell" gathering for one of my great friends who is heading westward to take on his dream of teaching at the college level.  It just so happens, that great friend is black.  I don't see him as black.  We all hugged him and will miss seeing him regularly, and see him as family, not black.  Both black and white will miss him terribly and thanks to technology can keep up with him much easier.

Last night, our church family had a building community night, which means to us, fun times after the evening service.  We had organized kickball games between teams of young 'uns and old folks, a bluegrass band, and Steel City Pops which seem to be life altering, but I'd say it takes two for that change to occur.  Our church is blessed to have many members of law enforcement as part of our family, and our congregation - black and white - love and respect them.  I couldn't help but look around at all the colors I saw, too.  Families who've adopted children from Africa and Ethiopia.  A church family full of all sorts of "color" of people and, again, I didn't see color.  I did see the cutest little bluegrass dancers and Popsicle eaters around.  By the end of the evening, I'd almost forgotten the way the rest of the world operates.  

If you're like me, you're sick of all the hate, violence and division you see in this country.  I've decided that we need to adopt a new song that this country needs to sing...and the lyrics go something like this....

Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world.  

Jesus doesn't see color.  Nor should we.