First Day at Law School

Orientation done. Assignments prepped. Bus schedule memorized. On with Law School then!

My first class in the morning is contracts with Professor Rice. He stands about five foot ten, has shaved himself bald whilst growing a full beard, and, best of all, he’s got a perpetual twinkle in his eye. He began addressing us this morning, stating he felt a lot of pressure because he remembered his first class at law school vividly. The word syllabus had just left his lips when the fire alarm went off.


He hung his head and smiled, shaking his head in disbelief.

We waited a polite 15 seconds and then shuffled out the door into the misty morning with many second and third year students I hadn’t seen before. It didn’t last long, but it was fun.

My second class was Torts. Lamentably it wasn’t Tortes. Professor Bell set the record straight on that. The morning whisked by and I found myself in Civil Procedure class with Professor Hesch.

Hee hee.

This is where is got fun.

To illustrate jurisdiction, he gave me a plastic crown and made me the queen of England. And from my palace in London I imposed a $1 on EVERYBODY. But the silly French King (my classmate Ridge Fuller) threatened to go to war against me if I sent my mercenaries into his kingdom to enforce the tax. (That seemed most unwise.)

However, be that as it may, if his subjects bought property in merry old England, I confiscated their land if they didn’t pay the tax, and further, if one of his citizens came over here and didn’t pay I put them in the dungeon. So there.

What a way to set up personal jurisdiction and domicile!!

I must get back to the books. Not with a spirit of timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline! (My verse for the week–maybe the year–maybe my life.)

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The Road Ahead

Photo by Sanjoy Ghosh

Photo by Sanjoy Ghosh

The look on my mother’s face was priceless. I stifled the compulsion to snicker at the situation. Yes, my new neighbor had just bragged that he was sober.

Joe, standing about five foot ten with a bushy salt and pepper mustache, had kindly offered to help unpack the U-Haul. As he cheerfully hand trucked boxes and furniture into the apartment, (with rather strong opinions on where the furniture should go), he assured mom that he would kidnap me away to his rock band performances and would “get me on the floor,” which I could only assume means dancing.

Priority became to install a dead bolt and a peep hole. Hee hee.

Oddly enough, I haven’t seen Joe in the last six days. I’ve unpacked in perfect peace, leaving me time to reflect on the last six years and the next three. My entire set of twenty-somethings. It’s been a hike getting to this point, but I do feel as though I’m enjoying a panoramic view.

The road ahead looks…interesting. Like Christian in Pilgrims Progress, I know that a rest lasts only so long. The road winds on through Vanity Fair, the Battlefield of Apollyon, and the castle of the Giant Despair.

In the near future, I will be tempted to compare myself to my classmates, feeding jealousy and vanity. I will be tempted to measure my worth by the yardstick of professorial approval, feeding insecurity and pride. I will be tempted to ignore my spiritual life, forgetting who I am in Christ, relying on the checklists–mile markers in the endless wilderness.

I’m on the mountain top right now, but I want to finish with a degree in my paper cut hand and my spiritual light burning strong. I don’t want to forget that life is about forgiveness. That Kingdom living trumps man’s systems for living. That at the end of the day, it’s about loving people. It’s about the Father. It’s about Christ. And we’re family.

I covet your prayers, and that you would pray for me to seek the filling of the Holy Spirit so He will enable me to hike this trail–and pray for my neighbor, Joe. :-) I’d love to be a good witness to him.


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God’s Spiritual Hospital

MC900439599Sometimes it’s plain to see the gushing wounds–the voice riddled with anguish, the run-on sentences, repeated phrases, insistent demands, begging tones. Most people keep their pain nicely buried, tucked away beneath a hollow smile and a “Hi, how are ya?” But, extreme circumstances tend to burn off the veneer.

At the law office as someone talked to me about their situation, sometimes I could see the hemorrhaging wound inside the person’s soul as they fretted over a legal problem. Often, I felt like an EMT doing patch up work to manage the symptoms until I could get them to a more qualified individual who could treat the underlying cause.

Like legal problems, spiritual wounds run deep, affecting every aspect of life. Forgiveness is the most common medicine dispensed for injuries. But, sometimes forgiveness isn’t once and done, it’s a daily practice, like taking a pill. After staying on the regimen a while you might find you’ll need less and less to fight off the feelings of bitterness.

Many people are walking wounded, they never take the time to address a wound, and it doesn’t go away. It festers. It becomes infected and eats away at healthy flesh. It might even become a contagion, poisoning other people. Yet, without their willingness to seek treatment, nothing will change.

I am not skilled to reach into people’s hearts and remove years of hardened plaque. I can’t put in stints. I can’t transplant failing organs. It’s frustrating to be so inadequate. I want to help. If there’s one thing that makes me tick, it’s this: removing hindrances from the lives of other people so they can get on with what God wants them to do.

Maybe I can’t fix the dark, wounded parts of people’s souls, or even convince them that they’re sick enough to need a doctor, but, maybe I can respond when I get a call for help like an EMT. Maybe I can listen. Maybe I can offer the truth and bring the wounded to the Word of God, to the church, and to counselors who’ve gone through the kind of rehab a particular patient needs. God’s church functions like a spiritual hospital. One week you might be the patient, the next week a nurse or a doctor. Be on call. Be available. It’s an awesome thing to be part of God’s healing work.

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Fluff and Stuff

“Oh gag!” I threw the book away.

My sister-in-law arched an eyebrow. “What?”

Young Businesswoman with Her Finger on Her Lips

“The fluff! I’m choking on this stuff. The girl’s romantic interest is FBI, built, has a British accent, and just calls in a limo when they get stuck. And she’s just prickly toward him, and he can’t get over her! That never happens!”

So, I vowed never to open the book again.

Four hours later, my fingers were itching to crack the cover of the book. To finish the story. To find out if they work out the obstacles and become a couple…(oh, as if there’s any doubt.)

The thing is…I can see a lot of myself in the main character. She’s focused, goal oriented, takes her frustrations out through physical exercise, and she says bone-headed things she regrets later.

That last one especially. I got to thinking about a conversation I had with a group of friends about a month ago about NOT joining an online dating site. I was dogmatic and condemning. And, although some of my snarky comparisons would have been appreciated among denture-wearing AARP members, it didn’t go over so well with my friends. Some of them have chosen to look for their mates online. Looking back, I regret what I said. It was tasteless.

I think I was trying to defend my position, even though it hadn’t been attacked. I was trying to bolster myself while disregarding that I was recklessly trampling on feelings. I’m sorry for that, now. I wish I didn’t feel the need to blatantly condemn something to avoid the reality of my (probably unfounded) fears. I could have at least stayed silent. I need to make peace with the fact I’m not in a dating relationship, not attempting to be in one, and not sure how to encourage a relationship should that opportunity come. In a word: relax.

But, honest to goodness, like the main character in this cotton-candy novel, I want to change. I want to put myself in the shoes of my friends before I speak my mind. I don’t dig hurting people.

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Chapter Break

I think a good writer gives his chapters good conclusions. Something fulfilling, yet intriguing. Something logical, yet unexpected. A good writer builds to the moment, letting the reader taste every flavor of the prose. Time is his tool…how much time he uses to tell the tale directly impacts the content. If he doesn’t have much time, his writing will have to compensate with concise, well-crafted phrases that carry his precise meaning.

In this chapter of life, I don’t have much time. It’s never melted away like this before. Busy, busy days full of decisions and paperwork. As I fight the paper dragons of school, condo, roommates, and of course, getting my files to a good “stopping point” the people I love stand by. I’d rather spend time with them. I’d rather go to the zoo with gramma, encourage my friends to abandon the boring and take a leap of faith, and tell my co-workers how much their lives have imprinted mine. I’d rather….but time is melting away so quickly.

On Friday, I’ll log off my computer, take the office key off my ring, and quit my job. It’s still surreal, this leap. But, for the four days I have left as an employee of Crosswhite, Crosswhite, Ashley & Johnson, I’m going to take every opportunity I can to thank my co-workers for their contributions in shaping my future.

It’s been an amazing job.

In less than a month I’ll move to Lynchburg, Virginia and enter a new chapter…but, I don’t want to leave this one with words unsaid, and scenes unwritten. And this one needs a good conclusion. (Good thing God is the author, and I’m just a willing character.)

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A Bully I Can’t Fight

You might never get another chance.boredom

Do you want to live with regrets?

Where’s your sense of adventure?

You’re tough enough not to be hurt.

If it doesn’t work out, you’ll be fine. You’ll bounce back. You’re strong….

I listened to this voice–and it was wrong.  (Notice, it cleverly used my best attributes against me.) But nonetheless, I acted. I rushed blindly in, and although I’m physically and morally unscathed, I’m not so sure the emotional toll was worth it.

Thrilled with the outcome, my advisor came back for round two.

You’re not really smart enough to be a lawyer. What are you thinking? Applying to law school?

If you can’t be content now, what makes you think you ever will be?

Relationships are the most important thing. Who cares what you do, or what you achieve? Certainly not God.

Achievements won’t amount to a hill of beans in eternity. The only thing that matters is loving people, right?

You’re going to be spinning your wheels, wasting your effort.

You’re ruining a good life. For nothing.

Don’t do it.

It’s amazing how persuasive that line of thinking can be…when it’s contained in your own mind. (There is an abundance of good reasons for going to law school. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it’s the next step for me–but, even so, if I’m pushed to second guess, then I’m not walking in faith, and that’s the end game.) I live with a bully I cannot escape. He’s a fear mongerer who pushes me,  nettles me, and insists that I’m missing out. Somedays he has free rein to push me into the very arms of Christ for refuge. Other days he sits in “time out” plotting revenge. He’s never far away.

He pays attention to what I learn. Good principles. He twists them into carefully concocted lies, laced with justifications and self-preserving platitudes, but the tone doesn’t really change. There’s an underlying sense of panic, and at the root of all the arguments: self, self, self.

My flesh is at war with my spirit.

And I can’t win against it. This bully is twice as strong as me, and smarter too…dash it all.

But, in the fall-out of my failure I learned that Jesus Christ, the Captain of Heaven’s Armies, is more than able to fight this battle for me. I remember running down the road, tears streaming down my face. I couldn’t get a handle. I couldn’t stop the barage of tormenting accusations and threats. “Fight for me!” I asked. “Oh Jesus. I can’t do it. Fight for me.”

Instantly, a switch turned off. All that was left was peace.

But, after a couple days, it slowly started again.

This thing, this sinful flesh, it lives inside of me. But, the Holy Spirit lives there too.

This is the battle for my thoughts, my mind, my will, my actions–and it has eternal ramifications. I have to face it. I know you do too. I want you to know that you’re not alone, and God can silence your accuser, hold you close, and speak the truth over you. The truth?

No weapon formed against you shall prosper. Isaiah 54:17

You are a child of the King. Romans 8:17

You have a destiny to fulfill. I Peter 2:9

You are loved–very loved.  Ephesians 3:18

Even if you do “ruin your life” by contradicting the bully-voice, that’s okay. God makes great things from brokeness–it’s His specialty. Not all of His plans concerning our lives make sense. Looking back, we understand some things, dimly, but, the future is God’s for the keeping, and ours for the trusting.

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Dear Sam…

Any text now it’s going to be news that you’re breaking out and coming to join us humans on the outside. I know it’s getting a bit uncomfortable in your mom’s tummy. Of course, you know, deep down, that there’s more to life than floating along in the womb. It’s just about time to get outside and explore it all, and I can’t wait to help you do it!

(Er…exploring. I’ll leave the birthing to the professionals.)

You are coming at an interesting time–in world history, I mean. You know I didn’t really use a computer until I was like seven or eight? And then I shared it with the rest of the family? (Your grandma loved playing pac-man on that thing.) And, yeahSmiling young doctor holding a beautiful newborn baby. e-mail came along in my early teens. So the technology gadgets you’ll get to play with for all your life will be super cool (barring a weird energy-zapping sci-fi apocalypse that destroys all the gadgets.) But aside from all the advances in medicine and technology, people around the world are super stressed out. America is being reshaped with more laws and regulations piling up per day than all the dirty diapers you will ever make, and a lot of countries are threatening to launch missiles at our country.

Whew. Are you anxious yet?

This is the environment you’re being born in. I won’t belabor (no pun intended) all the evil that’s going on out there, but it’s important that you know.

It’s important because you are special, young man. I know your father. I know your mother. I know your grandparents and your great-grandparents. I know where you’ve come from.

You are the hope of the future, my little nephew. Not necessarily to fix the world, har, that’s really got to wait till the Second Coming, I think. What I mean by the “hope of the future” is that you have a chance to shine the light of Christ’s love in a dark place. Where there is light there is hope. This is your charge: to love God–even when the world and the forces of hell are determined to pull you away from Him. Don’t despair. God will never let you go. God will never fail you.

God saw you before time began. He knew your name. He planned for us to be aunt and nephew. At some point on some level we’re really going to need each other.

So even though a part of me worries about what you are going face in the coming years as evil grows worse by the day, another part of me realizes that you were born for such a time as this–and the world will be a better place because of you. I’m looking forward to meeting you, Samuel Elijah. I love you very much.

Aunt Bea

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Cooper River Bridge Run: Part 2

Important life skill: Reading a map.

 Oh sure, it’s easy enough if you know exactly where you are relevant to your orientation on the map, but drop me in the middle of Charleston and well…

 After basking in the sunshine, recovering from the six mile run, my friend/boss, Joanie, declared it was time to get moving back to the hotel so I could make it to nephew’s baby shower at Myrtle Beach in time. Kim agreed. (Forthright and honest, Kim is one of my dear writerly friends who wears the same kind of running shoes as me. Click here for her deep insights on God, love, and humanity.)

 Joanie, Kim and I climbed aboard a bus and bumped happily back across the bridge into Mount Pleasant. The bus dropped us at the starting line, two miles from our hotel. The van shuttle we’d taken earlier that day was nowhere in sight. We mulled about whether to walk or wait. Grab a taxi?

 Man's hand pointing on street mapI pulled up the map on my smartphone, ignoring the flashing red light that indicated battery loss was imminent. Halfway relying on my sense of direction and halfway relying on the map I pointed us in the opposite direction of our hotel and commenced to hiking.

 At that point mom called in. She was waiting for us at the hotel.

“Can you come pick us up?” I asked.

“No, sorry. The whole back seat is taken up with the crib.”

 So, on we hiked. Further and further and further from the hotel. Dear Kim was footsore, but she soldiered on. Joanie and Kim began to insist that I have mom come pick me up and let them hike back.

 We walked blocks and blocks, making excellent progress. I finally pulled up the map again and realized the truth……

 I knew Joanie and Kim would not kill me. They were kind, Christian women. Still, after getting over the initial wave of shame, I wished I could invent a time machine to go back to my mistake point.

 I called mom. “Mom, I need you to come pick us up! At least pick Kim up. I’m about to lose power but were at PDGNC building on Chuck Dawley Boulevard.”

 “Truck what? Bea, I have no idea where I am in this city, or how to find you.”

 “Chuck Dawley,” I drawled. “Dawley is spelled the southern way. Go to the front desk of the hotel and ask for a map. 2855 Chuck Dawley, please come…BEEP. BEEP. BEEP.

 My phone died.

Joanie’s phone was dead.

Kim’s phone was dead.

But, even so, the ladies didn’t kill me.

We decided to wait for mom. Mom was a girl scout. I had faith in her map reading skills. I knew she could come through where I had failed. We crossed the street to a bank with lovely, park-like landscaping. Kim sat underneath a tree which was draped with Spanish moss. Joanie and I climbed onto a wooden culvert and soaked in some more sunshine. It was an ideal picnic spot, great temp with a light breeze.

 As we waited, I got to chat with Joanie about her experiences in law school, and when mom got there (my hero!) she suggested we play like the civic was a VW bug and we see how many people we could fit in with a crib.

 Kim rode up front and Joanie and I climbed gingerly into the back seat, contorting around the crib. I wouldn’t want to go on a long trip like that, but it sure beat walking.

 “Get down,” mom said. “We’ve got some police officers ahead.” Still sweaty from our long run, we folded down flat, with our heads side by side, inches away from the posts of the crib, hoping to avoid the notice of the traffic detail cops, and I started giggling. I rarely find myself in situations so absurd—I might as well enjoy them.  

 We got back to the hotel, and mom pulled triumphantly up to the front awning, despite my protests about making a scene, and we “gracefully” spilled out of the back seat, rear ends first.  

 At the end of that adventure I can say: Having good friends is extremely important if you’ve got map skills like mine.

 And mom and I did make it to the baby shower in time. :-)

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Cooper River Bridge Run, Part 1

“You did not come all this way to quit!” I told myself as I churned up the Runnerssteep incline of the Arthur Ravenel Bridge. The long sleeved tee I put on earlier that day to stave off shivers in the morning chill now stuck to my hot skin. Face red, and a stitch growing in my side with every step, I kept going.

I like to power up hills. It gets the pain over with quicker…but that’s not true of most Cooper River Bridge runners. 40,000 strong they ran through Charleston, South Carolina, scooping up water, trashing the street, and putting on the zaniest display of athletic fashion I’d ever seen (well, next to the color run) and they didn’t like running up the incline of the bridge. So, I bobbed and weaved around the run/walkers, and tried to make myself small for the gazelle-men shooting past me, not sure if I was going to make it to the top.

In the water below I saw a humongous barge floating toward us. My first thought was that it was like the ferry in the movie De Ja Vu that blew up under the bridge. The barge did have a lot of cargo on it…I could imagine explosive canisters on it. And what better shock factor than in the middle of a 10k?!

By the time I reached the summit of the bridge, I heard, “BWAAAAAHH!” the barge was blaring it’s horn encouragingly, and a flood of runners crossed in front of me to wave back. Dexterity officially challenged, I avoided tripping over them, barely, and huffed and puffed onward. “BWAAAAAAHHH!” Yes, that barge horn was magnificent! And we hadn’t gotten blown up.

I saw the 5k split sign and moaned inwardly. It wasn’t possible. Only halfway? What if there were more hills? There was no way. No way. But hey, I was running down the other side now. There is absolutely no excuse to quit when the course is downhill. So, on I went.

Thankfully, the rest of the course was very flat, and after I passed under the finish line banner, I slowed to a walk, incredibly happy. 6.2 miles. Furthest I’d ever run before. Personal best. New record. I’m glad I didn’t give up.

Sometimes I just have to trust my training. Sometimes I can really handle difficulty.  Sometimes, getting my mind off the immediate discomfort (aka concocting zany terrorist plots) helps me log the time I need to get to the top. (Running is much like life. When we get put through an uphill grinder, faith keeps us running when we want to give up.)

No, I did not drive all the way to Charleston to quit on the bridge…

But getting back to the hotel with Joanie and Kim is a whole ‘nother story.

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What have I done?

11:45 PM and counting. It’s a night when sleep doesn’t come easy and I have time to ponder: What have I done?

If the animal kingdom is any indication, I’ve set myself up for a road of bad luck. Black cat, check. Baby copperhead, check. Fox around theAlarm Clock Showing Twelve O'Clock house (said to mean someone in the household will get sick), check. Coming across the head of a decapitated crow (I don’t want to know what that’s supposed to mean), check….

Er…yeah, it’s been kinda weird. But thankfully, it doesn’t mean anything. I’m glad I’m not superstitious, or else I’d have wrapped myself in bubble wrap and stayed in bed.

Still, I wasn’t very happy today. Why was that?

Fighting allergies? Am I worried that my cat is “off his feed”? Or am I really having second thoughts about law school? Am I really ready for this?

Have I made the right decision? What if Mr. Right was finally going to show up and I’ve chopped off his opportunity? Then again, what if he’s up there at the school?

This is the stuff that can torment you.

Actually, my inner wrestling could just be the stage of the literary model of the hero’s journey wherein the hero logically refuses the call to adventure. Writing geeks will know what I mean. But I laugh at this, because life is not a screen play.

Truth be known, I’m bogged down with the paralysis of analysis because it can be difficult to choose the best among the good.

There is a verse I copied and stuck on a yellow post-it underneath the reception window. It says, “Do not fret–it leads only to evil.” Which leads me to believe that superstitious people really bring about a self-fulfilling prophecy by fretting over what they can’t control…

Hmmmmm….so instead of driving myself crazy (blatant self-focus acknowledged here) I need to stay on my chosen track and take this life-adventure one day at a time and focus on two things, just two: loving God and loving people. Each day has challenges and graces of their own. It doesn’t make sense to live them out analytically in advance…especially without the Holy Spirit’s enablement to deal with those circumstances.

That’s just asking for a sleepless night.

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