You must read this one – “Just Mercy”

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Maybe it’s because he walked free on Good Friday after nearly 30 years on Death Row.
Maybe it’s because it’s a story in my home state of Alabama.
And maybe it’s because I read Just Mercy in January.

Whatever the reasons, this story of Anthony Hinton has me.

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What did he want to do first? One thing was visit his mother’s grave (she died 13 years ago). His attorney Bryan Stevenson said, “Of all the things he has endured (on death row), the death of his mother caused the most pain.”

After years of battling for a new trial to prove his innocence, Hinton finally was granted the opportunity by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2014. But after several months, the prosecutors dropped the case altogether, citing lack of evidence.

Stevenson, executive director and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, hopes this will encourage Alabama to establish a conviction integrity unit to investigate claims of innocence like many other states are now doing.

And when Stevenson talks, we need to listen.

Closely.

“‘You can’t understand most of the important things from a distance, Bryan. You have to get close,’ she told me all the time. . . . how easily we condemn people in this country and [create] injustice when we allow fear, anger, and distance to shape the way we treat the most vulnerable among us.”

“Proximity has taught me some basic and humbling truths, including this vital lesson: Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.”

Hear him in Just Mercy, his best-selling non-fiction book published in 2014. His stories will dig into your soul and won’t let go.

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And when you listen, in your own brokenness, find yourself drawn too to those least likely to be heard: the poor, the mentally-ill, the weak, the hopeless.

And the broken.

“I told myself that evening what I had been telling my clients for years. I am more than broken. In fact, 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.

And then show more mercy. More justice. More compassion.

“I turned off the radio station, and as I slowly made my way home 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.

I thought of the little boy who hugged me outside of church, creating reconciliation and love. I didn’t deserve reconciliation or love in that moment, but that’s how mercy works.

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 victimhood, retribution and suffering. It has the power to heal the psychic harm and injuries that lead to aggression and violence, abuse of power, mass incarceration.

I drove home broken and brokenhearted about Jimmy Dill. But I knew I would come back the next day. There was more work to do.”

May we all keep coming back one more day.
There is always more to do.
Including praying—Anthony Hinton needs it as he readjusts to life on the outside.

“I told those gathered in the church that Walter had taught me that mercy is just when it is rooted in hopefulness and freely given. 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.”

* * *

I’m certain of this: Just Mercy will be in my top 10 list of most impactful books I read in 2015. I hope you’ll find a copy and read it too.

Watch Bryan Stevenson’s TED talk here

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And how timely! The Red Couch at SheLovesMagazine is hosting a book club for Just Mercy that is starting now.

Join The Red Couch Book Club Facebook group for discussion all month long.

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21 thoughts on “You must read this one – “Just Mercy”

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I think you’d appreciate this book, Bill. So much about mercy mixed in with justice. It’s not a “religious” book, but there’s definitely many spiritual implications we can make.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Awesome! I hope you like it as much as I did, Michelle. I checked it out via Kindle from my public library so I didn’t get to keep a copy but it’s one I wouldn’t mind keeping on my shelves permanently.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I agree with you, Joanna. There is definitely a problem with our punitive system in the U.S. I don’t know the answer for it, but I do know we need to keep working together to find a better way.

  1. ~ linda

    Just looked this up at the library and hope to pick it up tomorrow. Thank you for pointing this author and his merciful ways out to us, to me. I am most grateful I came by, Lisa. Most grateful and I am sure I will be after reading this book. I listened to part of the video and will go back and finish up. I saved the link in my bookmarks to get to tonight!
    Caring through Christ, ~ linda
    ~ linda recently posted…Caught But Not Trapped in New Age ReligionMy Profile

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      This makes me happy, Linda. I pray that this book will be as moving to you as it was to me. I’ve got a strong feeling it will. 😉

      1. ~ linda

        Lisa, I am close to the end of Bryan Stevenson’s book and find it beyond my comprehension that so many are put into prison with so little defense, if any in some cases. I am stunned that we imprison so many in this country. I am appalled at the way prisoners are treated. I am just blown away, Lisa, by some judicial ways. Tears have welled up a number of times in the reading of the powerful book. Oh, that we would each and all come under the love of Christ, loving one another as He wants us to, that we would treat each other as unto Him. So much…so much here!
        Thank you for sharing this book. I have two chapters left and just had to share this with you, even before I am done.
        ~ linda recently posted…Rejoicing in TrialsMy Profile

        1. LisaNotes Post author

          Yay! I am very glad that this book is touching you like it touched me, Linda. I’m not surprised though; I know you have such a sweet, tender spirit. What continues to amaze me even months after I finished this book is how I continue to hear stories almost weekly that relate to this. Things I wouldn’t have noticed before. 🙁 I’m grateful for open eyes; now I need to figure out how to have open hands to do something about it all.
          LisaNotes recently posted…If you can’t do it every timeMy Profile

  2. Pamela

    I always love getting a book recommendation from you, Lisa. I’ve been watching all the news about Anthony’s release. My heart aches over his lost years. “The people who haven’t earned it, who haven’t even sought it, are the most meaningful recipients of our compassion.” Like the mercy I receive from God.
    Pamela recently posted…Printable 5 x 7 VerseMy Profile

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You likely know more about Anthony’s story than I do, Pamela. I’ve only watched one short clip online; everything else has just been newspaper articles. I do pray that people will be patient with him as he readjusts and will flood him with mercy. We all need it; yes, so grateful we receive it daily from God!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I think I first heard of this from another blogger and added it to my TBR pile from her blog. I love that we pick up so many great books from each other. Thanks for stopping in, Candace.

  3. Ceil

    Hi Lisa! I wrote down this man’s name and book title. You know, I see stories like this a lot in Illinois where I live. There is a local college that has a dedicated team that researches court cases with the aim of freeing those who are innocent but found guilty. I never really thought much about the mental process they must all go through just to live without wanting to lash out at anyone who got the conviction.

    Talk about mercy! Thank you for pointing out this book. I’ll check out the TED talk too.
    Happy Weekend!
    Ceil
    Ceil recently posted…A Winter’s AfternoonMy Profile

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      How interesting about your local college, Ceil! I imagine you do hear quite a few interesting stories come from there. They could probably write several volumes themselves about the subject. Hope you’re having a great Saturday!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Just to be clear though–this book isn’t about the Anthony Hinton case (although I wonder now if he was mentioned in it?). But it includes another case that is similar that threads throughout the whole book. It really is fascinating (and sad and happy).


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