Casey Anthony, Vitamins, and Judgment

I did something really dumb yesterday that cost me thirty bucks. Granted, thirty bucks isn’t going to bankrupt me. It just ticks me off.

I bought a bottle of vitamins at Sam’s Club, along with a a few cases of this and that. The girl at the checkout put that bottle of vitamins in the top of the shopping cart (the part designed for a child to ride in). When I unloaded the cart into the back of the car, I never picked up the vitamins. I guess they were the right color to blend into the cart, because I even pushed the cart over to the cart corral and never noticed the expensive little bottle hiding just inches from my hands. I never even gave it a thought until last night a little before midnight when I went to put them away.

I went back to Sam’s after church today to pick up some cheese that I forgot to buy yesterday, and I asked at the Member Services counter to see if anyone had found my $30 bottle of vitamins. They keep a logbook of items left behind, but my vitamins weren’t there. Left with no other option, I did what I had to do. I accepted responsibility for my dumb mistake and bought another $30 bottle of vitamins—and personally escorted them to their destination.

Casey Anthony Leaving Jail

Oddly enough, my experience today made me think about Casey Anthony.  Everyone and their cat has been talking about the surprise verdict in the Casey Anthony trial this week, and the rumble of dissatisfaction has re-surged today with her release from prison early this morning. The vast majority of vocal Americans believe Casey got away with murder and haven’t hesitated to let their feelings be known. There have been credible death threats, ugly crowds, and lawyers making money helping Casey hide.

I haven’t made a single statement on the issue since the verdict came out, in part because my opinion is a definite minority and I don’t want to get beaten up. I’ve decided to break my silence.

There are exactly twelve people who are qualified to decide whether the verdict was correct. Period. I wasn’t in the jury box. I didn’t get to see all the evidence presented. I didn’t get to debate that evidence behind closed doors with eleven other jurors. I am, therefore, not qualified to pronounce Casey Anthony guilty. I sincerely believe that there were jurors who wanted to find Casey guilty, but the prosecution failed to prove her guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in the eyes of the only twelve people whose opinions count.

It should be noted, however, that the jury didn’t pronounce Casey innocent in the death of her daughter. They said the prosecution didn’t prove her guilty. I know of only one person who knows whether or not Casey is truly innocent, and that’s Casey. Even if she is truly innocent, the jury didn’t set her free. Today, Casey’s in hiding. She may never be truly free again.

My vitamin debacle brought Casey Anthony’s case to mind because I had to accept responsibility for my mistake. I had to accept the consequences of my mistake. I had to pay the price of the replacement. If Casey is guilty, she’s not “getting away” with anything. She knows the truth, and has to live with that knowledge. Eventually she will answer to her creator. Either she will face eternal judgment or Jesus will take her sin and set her truly free, just like he did for me.

Until that day comes, instead of throwing rhetorical (or physical) rocks at Casey Anthony, we ought to pray for her and her family and love her the way God loves us—unconditionally.

Idol Lessons: The FLAP Principle

Allison Iraheta

Allison Iraheta sings Janis Joplin

The blogosphere is abuzz this morning, processing the elimination of seventeen-year old rock-star-to-be Allison Iraheta on last night’s American Idol. The competition is at a point where whomever is eliminated is an outstanding performer and will—if they want it and don’t mind the hard work—have a solid career in the music industry. I think many Idol fans are now voting for their favorite personality, even if their musical performances are marginal. Based on musical performance alone, Danny Gokey’s butchering of Aerosmith’s Dream On should have sent him packing.

Winning American Idol isn’t a golden guarantee of a successful music career.  Anyone who doubts that ought to take another look at Idol’s fifth season. Taylor Hicks took first place, and his flopped first album turned him into “Taylor who?” faster than Simon Cowell can sneer. Like Allison, Chris Daughtry finished the competition in fourth place. After performing live on last night’s program, Daughtry was presented with a little modest wall trinket acknowledging his debut album hitting a phenomenal FIVE MILLION copies sold worldwide. For those in the top ten, Idol opens doors. Once the door is open, they still have to deliver.

Being voted out is an emotional experience, but last night Allison turned all that emotion and heartache inward and delivered a stunning  performance that, if given Tuesday night, could have put her in the top three.

Allison Iraheta's Farewell Performance on American Idol

Watching Allison’s stirring farewell performance last night brought back memories of one of my mentors teaching me The FLAP Principle. Whether it’s losing a job, getting the boot from Idol, or a rejection letter from a publisher, the principle is the same: It’s not the rejection, but how you react to it that counts. Always Finish Like A Pro. In Allison’s case, the emotion and heartache of the moment could have been a disaster, but instead she turned them into the one thing she lacks: the soulfulness that comes with life experience. Instead of a blubbering Tatiana-esque scene, she cut loose and belted out  a rendition of Cry Baby that came from a place far deeper than I’ve ever seen her sing. Who could watch that performance and doubt for a second that Allison will be another Idol success story?

As a writer, rejection is a way of life. It hurts. Sometimes it hurts like fire. Sometimes it hurts so much that I want to quit. In those moments, I recall the sage who taught me the FLAP Principal, and I begin looking for ways to turn the rejection into a growth opportunity. If all else fails, I grab hold of all that angst and grief, tell my dead father he was wrong, and after stuffing all that back into my gut I let it pour out on the page, infusing my characters with newer, deeper levels of reality.

Like Allison, we all have to choose how we handle rejection. How do you handle yours?

Evan Almighty

Evan AlmightyI’ve just returned from a pre-screening of the new film Evan Almighty. I’ve been curious about this one, ever since I saw an ad for it on the back cover of a major Christian magazine. And banner ads on several Christian websites. And trailers on several Christian TV programs. Do I detect a pattern here? Could it be that someone thinks there’s money in the Christian marketplace? That the Christian market is worth the effort?

Golly. Who woulda thunk it.

But the real question is this: Is this movie any good?

My answer is a resounding “Oh, yeah!” It’s a clean family film with a great message and a great storyline. It’s well-produced, well-thought out, and well-written.

Now, if you’re on the far right extreme of Christianity, you might not like this film. After all, it’s not completely true to the scriptures. Noah wasn’t a guy from Buffalo. There is, at one (and only one) point, what might be considered a mildly offensive word (“…I’m gonna be pissed.”) And there’s dancing. If those things produce major offense for you, you probably won’t be going to a theater to watch a movie anyway. For that matter, you won’t be reading my blog, either. 🙂

If, like me, all the buzz has you wondering about this film, let me make it easy for you.

Quit wondering.

Go see Evan Almighty tomorrow. You’ll be glad you did.