Saturday, September 24, 2011

Standing for What is Right

"A man without ethics is like a wild beast loosed upon the earth."        - Albert Carnus

Today, I had the opportunity to attend a wonderful conference on ethics entitled "Doing the Right Thing." It is the product of a video series done by Chuck Colson, Robert George, and others discussing the complete breakdown of morality in our culture. Although the live event was in Virginia, there were webcast showings all over the country.

There were a total of five sessions, answering questions such as "Is there a moral authority?" "What does it mean to be human?" and "How can we affect a transformation in our culture?" I could spend hours writing this blog post, but I figured I would just give you a few highlights to whet your appetite, and leave the heavy lifting up to you. :)

One of the most interesting points I found was the panelist's assertion that we can reason with others without using religious terms. Yes, we are to share the Gospel with others. However, we can begin by appealing to their reasonableness. For example, consider presenting this scenario to a group of people: There is a old woman with her grocery bags trying to cross the street. Traffic is whizzing by, and she is unable to cross. You have three options: (1) Help her across the street; (2) Ignore her; or (3) Push her into traffic. Which one is the right answer? We all agree that it is #1!!! Why do we all agree? Because it appeals to the sense of decency and reasonableness within us.

The panelists stressed multiple times that we are always to present our arguments in a "winsome" manner. I love this word! It means refraining from "imposing" views on others. Rather, we are to "propose" - and invite others to join us at the wedding feast. Speak the truth in love.

The session I found the most interesting was led by Dr. Robert George. The session was titled "A Matter of Life and Death," and discussed the dignity of human life. Did you know that the Nazi genocide began not with the killing of the Jews, but with the killing of handicapped people? Furthermore, this began under a democratic rule, NOT after Hitler had gained absolute power. Contrast that with our current abortion laws...kind of scary, isn't it?

I think the statement that hit home with me was this: "Culture shapes conduct. Law shapes the culture. This is why the law on marriage is so important - because it shapes the culture, which in turn shapes the conduct of those around us."

WOW! This was a lightbulb moment for me. This is why the law on abortion is so important. I have heard many people say, "What's the big deal in allowing people who don't believe in the Bible to have control over their body?" The answer is: because once we open that door, there's no telling where it will lead. The legalization of abortion has led to the view that we can discriminate based on age, size, or stature. Where does this stop? Once we decided that all human life does not have the same dignity, we opened the door to a host of other issues - such as whether assisted suicide is okay, or whether we should abort children with handicaps. Rather than saying we are "bettering the gene pool," we bill it as "a choice," "control over my body," or "compassion" on the sick. No matter how you try to make it look beautiful, it's all the same - murder. That's why the laws relating to abortion, same-sex marriage, etc., are so important - because they shape the culture of the next generation.

I hope that this blog post makes sense. I am still in the midst of processing it myself, but I can guarantee you that you will see more references to this topic in the future as I deal with this in my own life. The legal field presents its own minefield of ethical decisions, as well as great opportunities to influence the law and our culture. After today, I am even more steadfast in my desire to stand for what is right, no matter what the "cost" may be to me on this earth.

Well, in closing, I encourage you to check out the "Doing the Right Thing" website. The 6-part video series is actually on sale through the end of September, and the DVD of today's webcast is only $7.95. I encourage you to invest in them and share them with others - it is a very worthy investment!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Car Saga, Part 2

I gained another stripe in my march towards independence this afternoon. Dad suggested that I unscrew the battery cables and scrape them off, then screw them back on to see if a bad connection was the issue. He gave me detailed instructions over the phone, and I set out to my car with a screwdriver, two pairs of pliers,  and my camera. I figured it was time to resurrect photos on my blog, so I planned to document the adventure. :) (Side note: Sorry for the bad quality - my camera's batteries were dead, so I used the camera on my phone!)

The culprit
After successfully unscrewing the "negative" battery clamp, I sent a photo to Dad and called again. "What do I do next?" His response: "Just pop the clamp off."Back I went...

After almost giving up when the "positive" side screw was a bit of trouble, I managed to get both clamps off and scrape them clean.

Meanwhile, I was holding the hood up with my back because the struts (?) are busted. Note to self: In addition to buying jumper cables, I also need a broomstick to hold up the hood. :)

Makes for an interesting picture, right??? :)

About the time that I finished screwing the cables back on, my new neighbor from downstairs came out. He introduced himself and offered to give me a jump in case I needed it, which I did (sigh). Once I got the car running, I booked it to Auto Zone to purchase a new battery. Thankfully they installed it for me - I have had enough of digging around in the front of my car for a while! :)

Cars = A Necessary Evil

Gertrude (my car - name courtesy of Rachel and Ashleigh) has been so good to me over the past 4 years. When you have a good car, it's very easy to take for granted that it will start every morning when you go to leave for school.

And then one morning it doesn't.

Thankfully, it's merely the battery, and (hopefully!) not something more serious. My first wake-up call was on Friday morning when I got stuck at the gym because it wouldn't start. Thankfully there was an old man sitting in his car in the parking lot, and he was able to give me a jump.

That was an interesting experience - he accidentally crossed the wires (note to self: don't allow someone to have a conversation while hooking up the car batteries!!). I had always thought that cars blew up when that happened. I am thankful to report that this did NOT occur on Friday morning. Is it bad that while MaryLou was concerned about the old man killing himself, all I could think was, "Please don't hurt my car!!!!"???

Notes to self: (1) Buy jumper cables. After needing them twice in two weeks, it's time to stop putting that off. (2) Learn how to jump a car so you can do it yourself. Apparently it's not that difficult. (3) Sometimes being "independent" and living 24 hours from home isn't as glamorous as it's chalked up to be. Like when your car needs work and your dad isn't around to take care of it. :(

Yesterday, I had Auto Zone check the battery, and it is indeed bad. Thankfully, it's still under warranty, so I should get the replacement free!! The only unfortunate part about that is that it's under warranty at Costco, and the closest one is in Fort Worth. I was hoping to squeak by until Thursday when I can head that way...but alas, Gertrude failed to start this morning. And, Costco doesn't install batteries. While part of me is tempted to try and learn, I don't think now is the time to do so. I need my car to continue working for a long time (or at least 2 more years until I have a paycheck).

Plan B: Get it replaced here in Waco, take the old battery to Costco on Thursday, and get cash for it. Fingers crossed that this plan works without too many further complications. :)

In other news, I had another almost disaster last week. I somehow managed to lose my condo key in between the time I locked my door and the time I got to my car. It fell off the key ring, and who knows where it went - probably in the grass, but I don't have a metal detector or magnet to know for sure. :)

The good news is, I already had all of my stuff for the day, and was able to get MaryLou's key while at school to make a copy.

So, two "disasters" in one week that actually happened in the best possible manner so as to cause only the slightest inconvenience. It's times like this when I know the Lord is looking out for me...and boy, do I need it. :)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Life Lessons

Life Lesson #1: Skipping one day of class does not cause the world to cave in. Nor does it cause the professor to call you out the next time you are in class.

Legal disclaimer: DO NOT try this during your first year of law school. I take no responsibility for what may occur if you do.

Last week, I decided to extend my Labor Day weekend by a day. I got home on Thursday night to an empty home (MaryLou was gone for an interview), and my class on Friday was not until 2:15pm. I had been toying with skipping all day on Thursday, but my Type A side had kept a firm hold on my decisions. However, when I walked in the door, I made a snap decision that I was not going to stay that night by myself. So, I scarfed down dinner, threw some clothes in a bag, and headed out the door.

The thing was, I decided not to tell AnnaGrace that I was coming. I wasn't ever able to surprise her last year, so I thought it would be fun to give it a try. The best part was that I even talked to her on the phone while I was driving!! :) She had no clue.

When I arrived at her apartment complex, I asked her whether she had checked her mail that day. When she responded that she had not, I told her to go check it. Then I parked myself outside her door and waited. I think the next 2 minutes were some of the longest in my life. :) (AnnaGrace had decided to take her trash out, so it took her extra long to get to the door.)

When she opened the door, she dropped the trash bag and her keys, and exclaimed, "Oh my gosh!!"

It was pretty awesome. :)

We spent the rest of the weekend getting haircuts, studying a little on Friday afternoon (at a coffee shop), and just enjoying some time off. Well deserved after 2 weeks of classes, right?? :)

On Monday, we ran the Labor Day 15K in Fort Worth again. The weather was beautiful!!! Apparently a tropical storm came through (unfortunately, no rain, though!) that brought a cold front and a good bit of wind. We were actually a little cold at the starting line!!

I finished in 1:36 even, a 7 1/2 minute improvement over my time last year!! I was quite proud of myself, especially considering that I did not feel sick like I did last year after I crossed the finish line. Hurray for figuring out how to properly fuel oneself! I have started using PowerBar's Energy Blasts for runs longer than about 7 miles. It makes a huge difference in how I feel at the end of the run. Before I started using them, it took me a while after I finished to feel well enough to eat. Now, however, I feel great after finishing, and I'm usually hungry within 15 minutes of ending my workout - which gives me a nice excuse to tear into whatever is in easy access. :)

She caught me in the middle of stretching my calves!
The rest of the week was spent in kind of a haze. I ended up getting back late on Monday night due to a friend's car not starting, so I spent the next day or so trying to get caught up on sleep. We did learn, however, how to open a trunk by reaching behind the seats and using an umbrella to reach the latch. Or rather, I watched while my friend learned. :)

Life Lesson #2 (From Trusts & Estates Class): Divorce/remarriage make disposing of property at your death so much more difficult. The best life choice is to marry one person for life (and be faithful)!

We started talking about Marital Property Law on Friday. In Texas, there are 5 classifications of property: his separate, her separate, joint community, his special community, and her special community. I'm still not quite clear on all the ins and outs of this stuff, so I'm not even going to try to explain it. The goal of all of it is to protect the assets that each party has coming in to the marriage. My guess is that it's only really a big deal when there are multiple marriages involved. If you've only been married to one person, and only have kids from that marriage, it's super easy to ensure that the property goes to the people to whom the decedent would have wanted it to go. However, if there are multiple marriages/kids out of wedlock, it gets rather complicated.

It's pretty amazing how we have managed to make life difficult in so many ways by our refusal to live biblically.

I promise to (at some point, hopefully in the near future!) outline the courses I am taking this year. Here's a list to whet your appetite: Business Organizations, Basic Tax and Accounting, Elder Law (LOVE!!!), and Trusts & Estates (again, LOVE!!!!). More on that later!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

An Exercise in Faith

To my loyal blog followers: First, I would like to apologize for neglecting my blog for so long. No, I did not fall off the face of the planet. The last four weeks have been a crazy rollercoaster. While I have thought about writing often, I have not been able to pull my thoughts together enough to put together a coherent post.

Second, if this post seems incoherent (or if I seem completely off my rocker), please bear with me. I am NOT off my rocker – I am simply marching to the beat of Another. Anyway, I am still in the process of sorting things out. However, I am happy to report that I am no longer on the edge of a nervous breakdown! :) I know that those of you who have spoken to me over the past month or so (parents and grandparents especially!!) will be happy to know that I can now talk to you without breaking down in tears. At least for the moment, until the next crisis rears its head. :)

And now, to get to the substance of this post…

Never assume. I assumed that returning to school as a 2L would be a piece of cake. With one year of law school under my belt, I should be a pro, right?!? Unfortunately, the beginning of this school year has proven more daunting than I had anticipated. 2L has definitely arrived with its own challenges that seem even scarier than last year. As Dr. Strange has commented, “last year, it was the fear of the unknown – not knowing what to expect. This year, it’s the fear of the known and of what is required of me.” It all began when I became eligible for Law Review...

Most people would jump at the chance to be on Law Review. It's considered the "elite club" of law school, and is practically a necessity if you want a judicial clerkship or to work at a big law firm (and with a starting salary of $160,000, who wouldn't want to work for a big firm???). Honestly, though, I dreaded becoming eligible. As a member of a Moot Court team, I was concerned about the additional workload that being on Law Review would entail. Additionally, I'm beginning to feel tired after years of cramming my schedule and never saying "no." Secretly, I hoped that my grades wouldn’t be good enough so I wouldn’t have to make the decision.

As I struggled with my decision about Law Review, one thing became very clear. My primary motivation was based on the fear that turning it down would ruin my career. However, I knew that basing a decision on fear was unwise. 

Proverbs 16:3-4 - Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. The Lord works out everything for His own ends - even the wicked for a day of disaster.

So, after four weeks of tears, lots of prayer, and talking to nearly everyone that I trust, I declined the invitation to join Law Review. I based my decision on the knowledge that my God is bigger than Law Review - and He certainly doesn't need it on my resume to accomplish His purposes. So, I put my future career in His hands, and took a direction completely contrary to earthly wisdom. Yes, it's scary, but at the same time it's also incredibly exciting to see what the Lord will do with what I lay on the altar.

With that decision behind me, I faced the beginning of school. I don't think I have ever felt such a sense of dread in my entire life. Law school is an incredibly stressful place – for me, more culturally than academically. Although I placed my career at the feet of Christ when I turned down Law Review, I still struggle with a terrible fear that I will be unemployed. The mentality in law school makes it very easy to be sucked into thinking that if I don’t everything a “certain” way, I will be completely unemployable. Unfortunately, many of my core values are contrary to those of the legal profession, and I'm beginning to realize that I can't blend into the crowd anymore. The fear of being a pariah again (hello, high school) has reared its ugly head.

In the midst of these thoughts and feelings, I have come to the following realizations (similar to my “resolutions” from last year):

1.     I keep reminding myself that I am exactly where God wants me to be. I know without a doubt that He called me into the legal profession.

2.     God did not drop me off in Waco and forget about me. These days, I cling to the fact that He is trustworthy. Even when my life feels out of control, He is still in control. And when He closes doors, He is leading me to another one that is open. While I don’t know what it is right now, it’s out there.
(Now, if I could just get my feelings to cooperate in being patient and trusting His timing…)

3.     Finally, I do love what I am studying. The law is so practical, and impacts our lives in so many different ways. Even if I never make a single dime practicing law, I won’t care – give me a home office and people to write wills for, and I will be content. :) While I may not enjoy the culture all the time, the subject matter is interesting. Additionally, when I graduate, I will have a practical skill that I can use to serve others.

Well, that is all for now…I’m sure there will be more posts on this subject in the future, but I think this one has gotten long enough. For now, I hope you have a marvelous Labor Day weekend! I’m celebrating by getting a haircut, running a 15K, and getting out of Waco for FOUR DAYS!! (I may have skipped a class to do so…and I may be showing up – or by this time, have shown up – on a certain Strange girl’s doorstep unannounced…SHHH!!!) More on that later!
Before I close, allow me to leave you with a departing though
“Our greatest fear as individuals and as a church should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.”                       - 
Tim Kizziar