The motivation for writing this post is my son, Kyle.

I know if he was still alive, Kyle would have already composed an insightful, thought-provoking Facebook and Instagram post for the movie, “Just Mercy”, a real life story of our broken humanity.

Kyle’s words would have undoubtedly spurred us all to dig a little deeper into our consciousness, to stir us out of the recesses of our mostly comfortable lives, compelling us to confront the painful reality of the struggle we face in our society for justice and mercy.

If not for Kyle, I don’t know if I would have ever heard of Bryan Stevenson, lawyer and author of the book “Just Mercy”, and the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative.

There are probably a great many other things I would not have known about, or thought about, if it were not for Kyle. One thing that marked Kyle was simply that he was a “Mercy”. In fact, my friend, Linda, texted me a few days after Kyle’s memorial service saying that she saw Kyle as a “True Mercy”. It is still a bit incredible to me that “Mercy” is the name that Kyle and Hope picked out for their unborn daughter – before they knew their little baby was a girl – and before Kyle died. Given all the circumstances that surrounded his death, and her birth – and the weeks and months that have followed – her name almost seemed to be somehow supernaturally chosen.

Kyle had first mentioned the book “Just Mercy” to me back in early 2018, after I had sent him a news story that ran on Bryan Stevenson’s National Memorial for Peace and Justice.

After I read the book, I sent him a message him saying, That book changes your life.”

He messaged me back and said:

Thank you so much for reading it. The world would be a pretty different place if everyone one read that book.”

I then posted the book on my FB page:

“The real life stories in the pages of this book will change you. Please consider reading it and then sharing it. Humanity needs it.”

The dilemma for how mercy needs to be given, and yet justice upheld, in so many areas of life, are the conversations that kept Kyle and I up until late in the evening, for so many years.

On January 10, the movie “Just Mercy” was released nationwide. When I sat down to write this post to review the movie, the first thing I did was go looking for a copy of the book on one of our bookshelves…to peruse through all my underlined passages. I had bought several copies so my kids could all read it, and so we could loan it out to others. And apparently we did, because I could not find any of our copies. My daughter also gave two of her university professors each a copy.

Click here for more info.

The basic synopsis of the book and movie show the work of Bryan Stevenson, who has dedicated his life defending the poor, the incarcerated, and the wrongly condemned.

Just Mercy” tells the story of EJI, from the early days with a small staff facing the nation’s highest death sentencing and execution rates, through a successful campaign to challenge the cruel practice of sentencing children to die in prison, to revolutionary projects designed to confront Americans with our history of racial injustice.

One of EJI’s first clients was Walter McMillian, a young black man who was sentenced to die for the murder of a young white woman that he didn’t commit.

I am not a movie critic, thus will let you review it for yourself by clicking on the photo below for the trailer:

I few poignant quotes from the book reflect the heart of Stevenson’s work:

 “Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.”

 “We are all implicated when we allow other people to be mistreated. An absence of compassion can corrupt the decency of a community, a state, a nation. Fear and anger can make us vindictive and abusive, unjust and unfair, until we all suffer from the absence of mercy and we condemn ourselves as much as we victimize others. The closer we get to mass incarceration and extreme levels of punishment, the more I believe it’s necessary to recognize that we all need mercy, we all need justice, and-perhaps-we all need some measure of unmerited grace.”

 “There is a strength, a power even, in understanding brokenness, because embracing our brokenness creates a need and 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 you can’t otherwise hear. You begin to recognize the humanity that resides in each of us.”

 “The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned.”

 As with many movies, and is true of ‘Just Mercy”, it is difficult to capture all that is written in a book. The book is filled with so many stories – true heart wrenching stories – and that is what makes it a very hard read at times because you just don’t want to believe that this is the way things are. The movie does an excellent job in focusing on the main story of Walter McMillian.

This is a book I would encourage you to have all your high school kids read, in addition to watching the movie. Go together with your family. Suggest to your kids to have a group of all their friends go together. There is so much that needs to be discussed. And if you are anything like my family, you may not all agree on what the best solution is, but I think we can all readily identify the problems, and know for sure that some things absolutely must change.

In the cinematic world of over-hyped and idolized superheroes and Hollywood superstars, it is a welcome relief that “Just Mercy” shows a real-life, flesh and blood ordinary man in Bryan Stevenson, who has awoken every day for many years to fight real evil and heinous injustice. His work has produced extraordinary super power results in taking 125 men off death row – truly life-saving power.

We all have an opportunity to do the same thing.

This movie, and even more so the book, will encourage you to do so.

In all of this, I was reminded of a message I heard years ago by author and apologist, Ravi Zacharias:

“When you can see horror and grace side by side, you realize there is no place, humanly speaking, where we can find an absolute way to understand these things.

• We pervert love.
• We distort justice.
• We multiply evil.
• We fail at forgiveness.

Only on the cross of Jesus Christ do love, justice, evil, and forgiveness converge.

The good news for every child of God in Christ is that God’s mercy toward us will triumph over His judgment of us (see Romans 8:1). Our sins may argue against us, but Christ is our loving Advocate who argues for us and prevents us from receiving the judgment we deserve. We, in turn, display God’s type of mercy toward others.”

“Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment

James 2:13

 As I expressed at Kyle’s memorial service, he would encourage us all to show up and “do something.”

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Matthew 25:40

#justmercy

While my son, Kyle, was alive, we spent many hours, over many years discussing a wide swath of theological questions. However, after his death, and the subsequent events of his new baby daughter, Mercy, almost dying, followed several weeks later by the death of his and Hope’s close friend, Eric, (also Max’s Godfather)…those questions discussed in Kyle’s living room, over text messages and late night phone calls, have had to be answered and lived out in the reality of daily life.

I have been a skeptic most of my life…always asking question after question…followed by more questions. Before I make a decision on something, or gain trust with someone, I need a lot of questions answered. That has been true of my worldview as well.

Every one of us has a worldview, or in other words, a “religion”. A worldview is, in a sense, the lens through which you ultimately look at reality. Every worldview has to answer these four foundational questions:

Origin – How does your worldview explain the origins of the human race and creation?
Meaning – Where  is meaning anchored within your worldview?
Morality – What is the moral foundation of your worldview?
Destiny – What is the ultimate destiny of your worldview?

Faith in a worldview – really in anything, or anyone – is built on the gathering of facts. Most of us want some sort of surety that we have enough evidence that will hold up that which we base our decisions, our relationships and our lives on.

 “Faith is a foot bridge that you don’t know will hold you up over the chasm until you’re forced to walk out onto it.

I’m standing there now, over the chasm. I inspect the bridge.”

Nicholas Wolterstorff “Lament For a Son

I have been inspecting the “footbridge” – Christianity – for many years now. I am certainly not alone in those who have questioned, and wrestled with, the claims of the Christian faith. Do claims of Christianity correspond to reality? Are they logically consistent? Are they experientially relevant?

After all these years of examination, I concur with many others who state, “I am convinced that Jesus Christ alone uniquely answers the deepest questions of our hearts and minds.”

The 6-part series I am posting here addresses all of the above questions, and the challenges that come with the Christian faith. The series lays a solid foundation where further studying and examination can continue to be expanded upon.

After listening to these, I hope, that you might consider the evidence that Christianity offers the best explanation of man’s condition, and Christ is the healing balm for man’s maladies. He brings forth the abundant life – through both the coalescing of unfathomable sorrow, and ineffable joy.

The footbridge of Christianity, that is holding the weight of all humanity is…I have found to be…firmly established.

 May you have a truly blessed Christmas knowing what love was born into this world – for you.

Related blog post:

Related Books:

Fact or Feeling? Clarity or Confusion?

Fact or Feeling? Clarity or Confusion?

Is it possible to know truth? Does the current culture even care about facts and logic anymore? How are your kids navigating through all the societal mores they are confronted with?

 

My daughter was recently working with several students on a project at college. She was explaining to the group the requirements for the project. One of her classmates responded, “Kristen, what you say is 100% truthful and correct, but I don’t care… I don’t feel like doing it that way.”

 

That is a simplistic example of a “Post-Truth” response.  A post-truth culture is one that elevates feelings and preferences over facts and truth. People acknowledge truth exists but subordinate it to their preferences. There are tremendous implications in a society where the natural out workings of this mode of thought is lived out. We can see those implications all around us. We now live in what author Abdu Murray calls, “A Culture of Confusion.”

 

The compilers of the Oxford English Dictionary annually select a word that captures the culture’s current mood and preoccupation. In 2016, they selected ‘post-truth” as the “Word of the Year”. That got the attention of lawyer and Senior Vice President of RZIM, Abdu Murray. His thought was, “If that is where we are, we are in trouble.” He thus put pen to paper to author “Saving Truth: Finding Meaning and Clarity in a Post-Truth World”.

What do you when people know that truth exists, but simply don’t care? You give them facts and arguments, and they say they understand, but their preferences matter more? How do we navigate and affect the culture around us when logic no longer matters?

 

Our ability to reason becomes significantly impaired once we start putting personal preferences over factual truth claims, and indeed, causes our culture to become increasingly confused.

 

Abdu addresses all these questions, and answers them in a way that upholds that no matter our differences, we are all made in the image of God. He cares deeply on how people think and how they come to their beliefs and is sensitive to those differences throughout the book. Being an attorney, he has a love for how logic, evidence and solid argumentation can help the reader examine some of the most pressing issues in our culture, and come to a logically consistent tautology.

This interview gives a great overview of the book:

#Forti-fy

s.
Wake to the Wonder

Wake to the Wonder

I just posted last week that Ann VosKamp’s devotional, One Thousand GIfts, has been one of my all-time favorite books – it is very well worn!

This morning, I saw she is starting a free online bible study on Novmeber 18

I just wanted to spread the word, as I am fairly confident that it will be an encouragement to all us to put our minds and hearts into a place of thanksgiving – as we seek the wonder all around us.

“Awaken to the wonder of now – the wonder of the small. Staying awake to this one wild and beautiful life.”

Consider checking it out!

#Forti-fy

What Am I?

What Am I?

Am I just my brain?

Are our minds nothing more than a biological computer? Are we just clusters of cells and chemical reactions?

Are we “Human Algorithms”, as best selling author Yuval Harari has suggested? And just dancing to our DNA, as atheist Richard Dawkins asserts?

If that is the case, do we have free will?

Is personhood dependent upon having a fully functioning brain?

Do we believe certain things just due to our brain activity?

What ultimately makes us human?

There are huge implications on how you answer these questions. If you and/or your kids get into deep philosophical questions about science and faith, these interviews with Dr. Sharon Dirckx discussing “Am I Just My Brain?” will provide some thought provoking insights.

Dr. Sharon Dirckx knew she wanted to be a scientist from a very young age. Starting out at university studying biochemistry, she did not believe that one could be a scientist and believe in God. However, she did find out that, yes, indeed you can, and she ultimately did!

Am I just My Brain? Ask Away Podcast

by With Sharon Dirckx

Sharon joins Michael Davis and Vince and Jo Vitale on this episode.

In the video below, Sharon is speaking at at an RZIM “Trending Questions” event.  She begins her talk at the 35 minute mark and speaks for about 45 minutes. Afterwards, there is a Q & A.

You can also check out Sharon’s new book:

How Can Christianity Claim to Be THE Truth?

How Can Christianity Claim to Be THE Truth?

Ravi Zacharias has traversed the globe as a Christian apologist for over 45 years, speaking to religious and political leaders representing many nations.  He and the RZIM team are often found in packed forums on college campuses from Stanford, Yale to Harvard answering the foundational questions of life raised by students on topics from: “How can a good God allow pain and suffering?”, “Are science and faith at odds?”,  “Is there really such a thing as objective morality?” (more…)