Thursday, August 27, 2015

Just Mercy

"Just Mercy" by Brayan Stevenson

Oh man, this book will get you to really think and ponder our prison and justice system.  I think this is the second book that I've read like this.  The author is a lawyer in Alabama who runs a non profit that helps the "poor, wrongly condenmed, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system."  He also helps individuals on death row.  The story talks about some of the people that he has helped, one being a man on death row who insisted he did not commit the murder he was charged with.  This book brings to light the injustices in our system and the people that it affects, which is all of us really.  We are all created equal in God's image yet some are treated unfairly when they need it the most.  Our prisons are filled with people who were foster children, people who are poor, people who are minorities, people who were abused, and people who are mentally disabled.  How are we intervening in these peoples lives to bring them help before they are incarcerated?  How are we helping them once they are released?  "We have given up on rehabilitation, education, and services for the imprisoned becasue providing assistance to the incarcerated is apparently too kind and compassionate.  We've institutionalized policies that reduce people to their worst acts and permanently label them 'criminal,' 'murderer,' 'rapist,' 'thief,' drug dealer,' sex offender,' 'felon'-identities they cannot change regardless of the circumstances of their crimes or any improvements they might make in their lives."  No one wants to be labeled for the worst thing that they have done, I certainly don't.  "Each of us is more that the worst thing we've ever done."  There are many points in this book that have made me stop and think.  I don't necessarily agree with it all but it did make me look at what I believe and question if I really believed it.  I appreciate a book that can do this.  "One of the country's least-discussed postwar problems is how frequently combat veterans bring the traumas of war back with them and are incarcerated after returning to their communities."  Again, how are we helping these individuals before they get into trouble?  "I know that some have been through more than others.  But if we don't expect more from each other, hope better for one another, and recover from the hurt we experience, we are surely doomed."  Hurt people, hurt people.  Expect more from those around us, hope for it and they just might rise to the occasion.  "Oh, I think we can always do better.  The bad things that happen to us don't define us.  It's just important sometimes that people understand where we're coming from."  Sometimes knowing what someone has been through brings mercy and a differenct perspective.  "For the first time I fully reckoned with the truth that the conviction, the death sentence, and the heartbreak and devastation of this miscarriage of justice had created permanent injuries."  How do you get back years in prison for a wrongful conviction?  How do you overcome the fear and mistreatment?  "Most people released from prison after being proved innocent recieve no money, no assistance, no counseling-nothing from the state that wrongly imprisoned them."  How can this be?  How do we expect them to be good citizens with no resources?  Do these people not deserve some compensation, some therapy, for what they have suffered at the hands of injustice?  "I do what I do because I'm broken, too.  We are all broken by something.  We have all hurt someone and have been hurt.  We all share the condition of brokenness even if our brokenness is not equivalent.  Our shared brokenness connected us."  We need to let our brokenness connect us, then mercy will abound.  "In fact, there is a strength, a power even, in understanding brokenness, because embracing our brokenness creates a need and a desire for mercy, and perhaps a corresponding need to show mercy.  When you experience mercy, you learn things that are hard to learn otherwise.  You see things you can't otherwise see; you hear things ou can't otherwise hear.  You begin to recognize the humanity that resides in each of us."  This is just like the gospel, Christ showed us mercy when we didn't deserve it and this makes us in turn show mercy to others.  "I understood that even as we are caught in a web of hurt and brokenness, we're also in a web of healing and mercy.  The power of just mercy is that it belongs to the undeserving.  It's when mercy is least expected that it's most potent-strong enough to break the cycle of victimization and vicitmhood, retribution and suffering."  The power of mercy really knows no bounds.  The power of mercy can transform even the worst of these.  "...the death penalty is not about whether people deserve to die for the crimes they commit.  The real question of capital punishment in this country is, Do we deserve to kill?"  "Mercy is most empowering, liberating, and transformative when it is directed at the undeserving.  The people who haven't earned it, who haven't even sought it, are the most meaningful recipients of our compassion."           

Monday, August 24, 2015

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

"Between a Rock and a Hard Place" by Aron Ralston

This is the incredible story of a man who was hiking alone and got his hand caught by a boulder.  In order to save himself he had to amputate his hand.  He survived four days trapped with little food and water.  This was an accident, he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Now I will say that Aron obviously had an adventursome spirit and pushed the limits as far as he could, sometimes too far.  He lived many life and death situations.  He had incredible know how, skill and mind set to be able to keep his head and get himself out of the situation.  It is unbelieveable what he had to do to survive and yet he was able to do it and get himself to help.  Truly the hand of God was watching over him.  He has no regrets and with his prosthetic hand, continues to do all the outdoor adventures that he did before.  He is an inspiration that a disability should not slow you down.  If you like a story filled with adventure and life and death, you will like this story.  It is a bit graphic and there is some profantiy, as a warning.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Before I go

"Before I Go" by Colleen Oakley

This was a great book, really great.  Another randomly picked book from the library and so worth it (but it does come with a warning of profanity usage).  A 27 year old woman named Daisy has just found out her cancer is back with a six month to live diagnosis.  With time running out and all her plans for her life taken from her she finds that what is most important is making sure that when shes gone her husband is taken care of.  This will lead her on a quest to find him the perfect new wife.  Her quest will leave her wondering about her love for her husband and his love for her.  The diagnosis will stretch their relationship to the point of breaking.  I like this story as it uses humor to address a very challenging subject and does it well.  "There wasn't enough room in our tiny house to hold all of our sadness, so I did everything I could to alleviate hers..."  You ever feel like you can't all be sad at the same time in the same house so one person has to act happy to help the rest?  "And how these memories act like kerosene on the fire of my love for him.  They engulf me.  Scorch the innards of my being."  "How hollow a tiny house can feel when someone is missing from it." People are what make a house a home.  "Like I'm a quilt with patches of him sewn into me."  "I'm already so self-reflective, introspective, so overanalytical about everything I say and do that there's nothing a stranger could ask me or tell me that I haven't already asked or told myself."  That might be my favorite line, probably because it's totally me.

The Last Promise

"The Last Promise" by Richard Paul Evans

I like this author and have read a number of his books.  He writes feel good, easy read novels.  This novel takes place in Italy with an American girl named Elianna.  Everyone thinks she is living a fairy tale life but in reality her wanering husband is hardly ever home and she is left to care for the severly asthmatic son alone.  Elianna may be lonely but she is happy being a mother until a mystery man, Ross Story, comes to live in the same villa.  Ross has a past he's trying to forget but Eliana might just be the one who can break down his walls.  This story invloves loss, and love.  "If everything I have suffered was the price to bring you to me, then it was worth it."  Such sweet words and I believe that Jesus would say the same.  The cross?  Worth it to have you in heaven. (That's not in the story but I thought I would throw it in there as it sounded like something Jesus would say and it really all comes back to Him anyway.)

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle that Set Them Free

"The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle that Set Them Free" by Hector Tobar

A riveting story of how 33 men were trapped over 2,000 feet underground for 69 days.  This book tells the personal story behind each of these men, how they came to be in the mine that fateful day, how they survived 17 days before being found, surviving a total of 69 days, and the stuggle of being a hero.  The book details these mens lives and what has happened since their rescue.  It is truly a miracle they survived and was a story heard around the world.  It took a nation coming together with many others to complete their rescue.  It took a bond of 33 men to survive in inhuman circumstances for so long.  This is in intimate look into the lives of these men and the tragedy they survived.  It is a book well worth reading and will leave you marveling at the miraculous.