He has told you, O man, what is good;

and what does the Lord require of you

but to do justice, and to love mercy,

and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:8

What does it mean to “do justice?” What does it mean to “love mercy?”

This week we discussed justice, mercy, and forgiveness – primarily in the context of crime and punishment in America. We had a really fruitful conversation, and even managed to avoid high-school-English-class flashbacks to the book Crime and Punishment (alternate title: That Really Long Russian Book I Totally Did Not Get, to the Supreme Disappointment of Mr. Favino).

First off, we discussed a recent podcast with Bryan Stevenson, a well-known Death Row defense attorney and leader of the Equal Justice Initiative. In the podcast, Stevenson told numerous compelling stories, including that of Walter McMillen, a man falsely accused of murder who was exonerated years after. In his short career, Stevenson has gotten over 100 people off of Death Row. We discussed our feelings on the death penalty amongst the group, with many of us expressing conflicting opinions: on the one hand, none of us can relate to victims and victims’ families who have been subjected to terrible crimes. It hard to say what we would or would not feel. On the other hand, we brought up the issue of the (hopefully) rare occurrence of a false conviction, such as McMillen’s. Moreover, is not God’s forgiveness and saving grace accessible to all? Who are we to say who deserves it and who does not?

We also discussed racial disparities in our prison system – African-American men are disproportionately imprisoned in America, and our imprisonment rates in the US are the highest in the world. Racism is easy to spot when it is person-to-person, less so when it is caused by institutions and systems and government policies. Nevertheless, it is important we try to empathize – one person in the group told a story of how their views on the Black Lives Matter movement changed when they realized the point of it is to say black lives are equal, and deserved to be treated equally.

Building on that, we then moved to the story of Billy Moore, a convicted murderer who found God on Death Row. After his conversion, he wrote a letter to the family of the man he killed and apologized. To his surprise, they wrote back, saying that they forgave him and were praying for him. After years of struggle, Moore finally found the peace in his heart to forgive himself and move on. In 1991, years after his conversion, he was released from prison and now he travels around ministering to those in prison. Everywhere he goes, he asks this question: “can you forgive like they forgave me?”

Link to Bryan Stevenson podcast: http://thisiscriminal.com/episode-45-just-mercy-6-17-2016/

Link to USA / international prison statistics: http://www.prisonpolicy.org/global/2016.html

Link to Billy Moore story: http://www.myajc.com/news/news/forgiven/nW6tj/

Prayer requests:

  • Jensine: niece Claire and her eye procedure; brother-in-law Earl is deployed and taking military tests; mother Jill recovering from ACL surgery; peaceful election
  • Jay: grandmother Susan having physical and mental ailments
  • Taylor: younger brother got some playing time in football!


Greetings from JI. How about the weather in Charleston this week. A chill in the air makes me thing of many things… one of them pumpkin🎃. This time of the year I will eat pumpkin in anything from Cake to (thanks to Stuart) Mac-and-Cheese. I’ll lead with a bit of housekeeping, we will not be holding court on Monday night as we celebrate the Eve of the All Hallows Feast💀🍗, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed. Be safe out there and remember, if you dress up, pictures must be taken and brought to Church next Monday night. Sorry, but rules are rules😇

On Monday night, we discussed the dreaded S word…Stuff. We started with how we feel Charleston is a great example of New-Urbanism. A new approach of sharing, experiences and space, that is spreading across the nation, thanks in large part to the Millennial’s approach to being “Green”. We then discussed how places like Ikea can lead to our homes literally busting at the seams. We closed, thanks to Jay, with a thought provoking discussion on how we can be a faithful Christian and enjoy our Earthly possessions at the same time; by simply choosing to see God in the joy that some of our “stuff” can provide.

Join us on Monday November 7th as we discuss Forgiveness.
Zach Adams

Prayer Requests:

Brooke (and her fellow Gerbrahts) as she continues in the final stages of her pregnancy.

Stuart’s cousin and spouse – We pray for discernment as the they contemplate having another child after suffer heartbreak a short time ago.

Jensine’s Mom Jill Jernigan – health and healing after a successful knee surgery.

Jay’s Grandmother Susan, and his family, as she continues to suffer with dementia and the struggles that accompany.

 Taylor’s brother Harrison as he is busy learning some tough life lessons early in life.


Cheryl, Jensine, Zach, Jay, and I (Justin) had a great time talking last week about relationships, what makes them successful, difficult, rewarding, and how our faith comes into play.  The backdrop for our discussions were the three articles linked earlier in the week.  We identified 4 elements of healthy relationships that we pulled out of the themes of the articles.  They are Communication, Understanding, Selflessness, and Self Awareness.  I promise I did my best to temper my sarcasm and cynicism =).
The Questions That Will Save Your Relationship
I couldn’t resist the perfect Seinfeld reference with the author’s disdain for the question “How was your day?”  While it may paint a less than rosy picture of marriage, the bit at the end is priceless!  Kramer on Marriage……
This article is all about Communication.  While we only get the author’s side of the story and her feeling of being unappreciated, what we see is that both her and her husband were not communicating effectively, both their own thoughts and feelings as well as considering those of their spouse.  We all felt that the questions her and her husband learned to ask seem pretty obvious as ways to show true interest and understanding of friends and loved ones, but also acknowledged that at times we all fall into that trap.  We also went back to our previous discussion regarding new methods of communication and social media and how at times that caters to a more superficial relationship, my old curmudgeon ways coming through!
Those Aren’t Fighting Words, Dear
This article truly shows how deep understanding of a loved one can help when they may lash out when they are unaware of personal problems.  That being said, most of us felt like we wold have a difficult time facing the same junk her husband threw at her for 6 months.  This is where we saw the importance of both understanding and self-awareness.  At time we all lash out at those who love us and at God, both when we lack insight into our own thoughts and emotions and when we fail to understand the actions of others.
Understanding which ‘love language’ my husband speaks changed our relationship
5 Love Languages – Words of Affection, Acts of Service, Gifts, Quality Time, Physical Touch
Zach and Jensine helped flesh out the details of the book referenced in this article.  Basically, we all have both sending and receiving love languages.  The challenge we face in our relationships is figuring out and communicating these effectively with others and recognizing their languages as well.  Cheryl and I luck out in that our primary language is quality time, while Zach (gifts) and Jensine (quality time) had to learn to mesh theirs and pointed out that this book really helped.  While discussing this article, we talked about many relationships where we felt slighted or failed to see someone’s love language.  It was a real eye opening chat!
Prayer requests:
 – Brooke, Brett, Brinkley, and the soon to arrive Baby Br……
 – Justin’s friend Erica Phillips
 – Jay’s grandmother Susan who is dealing with dementia
 – Jensine’s family friend Sally and the Shaw family who are dealing with the death of her sister Barb