Just like I'd told you, I left my house and headed straight for Starbucks. With my Non-fat Black tea latte (with vanilla sweetener) in one hand and my pumpkin scone in the other, I skipped back to my mini-van. The drive was pure heaven. I cranked up my Chris Tomlin CD and praised God for the hundreds of blessings in my life.
My next stop was to visit my little brother at his work. My little brother is thirty years old. He is a public defender. My mom must have dropped him on his head. How else could he have made that career choice? I told him that if I ever sat in his courtroom I wouldn't sit anywhere near him. I would sit on the victims side!
I greeted my brother outside of the court room. He was busy speaking with families and clients. I walked up to him in front of these people and pretended to be one of his clients, "Is my case going to be heard today?" I asked. My brother played right along, "Yes, I believe it is. Could I have a word with you?" ushering me aside so we could talk brother to sister. I kept the joke going and loudly said, "Did you read my whole case? The officers who arrested me wouldn't listen. There is no video tape of me taking anything...."
After three hours sitting and watching criminal court, my heart just about broke. You have to understand, I have had a one-sided view of criminals. I work for a police department for pete sake. I hear the first few moments of the most critical experiences for many people. It is so easy for me to paint an ugly picture of all suspects of a crime.
While in the courtroom I witnessed grandmothers silently praying, mothers and fathers - faces marked with pain as they watched their young sons and daughters handcuffed and shackled in their prison attire, escorted into the court room for their one last hope of grace.
Yes, I still believe that if you do the crime, you do the time. Except now the true suspect in need of a life sentence came into focus. In every case presented that morning, the true perpetrator was sin. I could almost hear the enemy of our souls hateful laughter echo in the courtroom as he used his razor sharp sword to pierce the hearts of the families there and slash at the lives of the prison bound. His heinous tool of choice for the carnage at hand was drugs.
The very last young man escorted in walked clumsily to the defense table. His faded grey and white striped prison uniform hung on his frail body. With his head stooped and shoulders slumped, he hung his head in shame - never once looking back at his family who had gathered there. Something written on his shirt caught my eye. "God is in me." in cursive lettering was penned accross his back.
Tears welled as I prayed the enemy would not win the battle of this man's soul. Not today, not ever.
"Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering." Hebrews 13:3
...oh wait, I told you that I was going to talk about the writer's conference didn't I? Be patient, that story is coming. It's a good one too!