Friday, May 20, 2011

Two Months and Counting...

Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.  And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.  And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb.
                                                ~Revelation 19:7-9

Wedding planning is insane.  That is pretty much the long and the short of it.  Do not believe anyone if they tell you that it was a breeze.  Every wife with whom I have chatted of late has deeply resonated with this sentiment.  It is such a challenge since Clint and I so very much want our wedding to be a special day, yet we do not want to be in debt for life because of it.  Furthermore, I have never been pressured to be so opinionated in my life!  From the type of cuff links on the tuxedos to the colors of the napkins, a decision must be made, and my preference or whim soon becomes reality.  I must admit that it is empowering in a way, but also rather exhausting!

This journey to the altar is certainly proving to be a test of our faith, hope, and love both in God and in each other.  It is so easy to stress and panic when plans are not progressing as desired, or when you discover a typo on the freshly printed invitations, not that I did that or anything...  It is easy to doubt that God will provide when seeking to create a budget and wondering how to have hope for a future with mounting expenses.  It is easy to question the depth of our love and to wonder if this “being in love” is all just a fantasy anyway.

Getting married is serious business.  Las Vegas may advertize drive-thru weddings, but planning the details of the wedding is simply the tip of the preparations iceberg.  Not only are you seeking to create the biggest and most beautiful event of your life, and house hunting for the first time, and seeking to combine two similar, but very different people, but you are preparing physically, spiritually, emotionally, financially, and in every other conceivable way for a lifelong marriage – 2 becoming 1 flesh.  Talk about a dramatic transformation!

As Clint keeps reminding me, planning for our big day should not be a stressful burden.  Instead, our wedding is meant to be a joyous celebration with friends and family of our love and of our gracious Lord.  With each check mark on the task list, I am slowly learning to trust God, that He is good and that He will provide for Clint and me.  New jobs have come when least expected, friends have volunteered to help in their areas of talent, and we found our perfect little studio.  Throughout all of it, more than anyone, Clint has consistently encouraged me and redirected me from fear and worry to trust and faith.  When the outlook is the bleakest and we have just received disheartening news, he is quick to rebuke my lack of faith, to pray for us, and to gently lead me to our Shepherd. 

July 16th is now less than two months away…We truly hope that our wedding will be a beautiful celebration for all in attendance, filled with special moments and precious memories for years to come, because at the end of the day, the wedding is really about the beginning of the marriage—a glorious glimpse of Christ’s love for the Church and the joyous delight at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Justice for all

"In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence."  ~ Bill of Rights, Amendment VI

"Civic duty."  I have heard the term all my life from my elementary Girl Scouts leader to US Government class in high school.  Growing up on military bases, I have always thought myself patriotic in seeking to serve my community and my country.  The United States of America is a great country after all – "land of the free and home of the brave".  At no other time have I felt the burden of citizenship, however, as acutely as this year, because this past month I have had the privilege, and grave responsibility, to serve as foreman on a murder trial. 

Being an LA County resident, I was summoned to report to the Compton Courthouse on April Fool’s Day.  Ironic, isn’t it?  From there, I sat through four days of grueling, and honestly rather boring, jury selection.  I practically read the entire Divine Comedy in a week during my long waiting periods!   Along the way I learned the stories of my fellow jurors and watched the list of 70 potentials whittled down to 12.  At the end of the week I was sitting in seat # 3 and sworn in as a juror.

Because of Easter, we had a two week break between voir dire (jury selection) and the trial, during which I was instructed to not share any of the details of the case with anyone.  This was especially hard with my family and my fiancĂ©, but legal orders and a sworn oath mandated my silence.  I'm glad that I am free to tell them everything now.  Additionally, knowing that I would return to hear a murder case the day after Easter led to an interesting Easter experience during the afternoon Good Friday service at church, reflecting on the excruciating capital punishment of an innocent man and the release of a murderer in his place.

Easter Monday I reported, as so ordered, to the Compton Courthouse and began hearing the People’s case.  “Innocent until proven guilty”, “burden of proof,” and “reasonable doubt” were phrases that had new meaning when theoretical political philosophy was brought to the streets of Compton.  Over the course of the week, we heard the witnesses’ testimony and viewed the physical evidence.  After the People and the Defense rested, we were led in silence to the jury room to begin deliberations.

I had no idea what to expect of the deliberations.  My goal was to have the discussion organized, civil, efficient, and time-effective.  By this time I was using my vacation time, and did not want our deliberations to stretch on for days unnecessarily or for heated arguments to erupt.  Also, I recognized that a consensus was mandatory to reaching a verdict.  Thus, I volunteered to be the foreman, facilitating the discussion and acting as the liaison between the jury and the court in cooperation with our friendly bailiff (I say that ironically, as I don’t believe he ever so much as smirked, much less smiled).

I was delightfully surprised to find all my jury members quite cordial and open to discussion.  Apparently we had all followed the judge’s orders “to not make up your mind about the case until you have deliberated with your fellow jurors”.  The evidence clearly supported a conviction and after a careful review of the facts of the case and the testimonies given, we had all reached an “abiding conviction” of the defendant’s guilt of murder in the first degree.  Unfortunately, the defendant was a young man, just 19 years old, as was the victim whom he shot at point blank range in the right temple.  It is tragic to see the lives of two young men wasted (both the victim and the defendant) ultimately due to the destructive nature of sin.

This experience certainly gave me confidence in the effectiveness or our system, if not its efficiency.  It is quite difficult to convict an individual of a crime, and the evidence must leave no room for reasonable doubt (quite a steep requirement).  If I was ever charged with a crime, however, I would want a jury like the one on which I served, using their common sense and fairness to evaluate the evidence and to come to a conclusion of the facts of the case.  I pray that I need not serve again on such a case, but I would willing do so in order to ensure justice for all, and I encourage each of you to embrace the opportunity if you too are summoned.

May the Lord have mercy upon us and grant us peace.

On a similar note, I joyfully received the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death, and rejoice that he received the justice due for his crimes. 

“We beseech thee also, so to direct and dispose the hearts of all Christian Rulers, that they may truly and impartially administer justice, to the punishment of wickedness and vice, and to the maintenance of thy true religion, and virtue.  Amen.”  ~Book of Common Prayer