Just Mercy

This book is not light. The anecdotes included are true stories of injustice and of redemption. The contents are never graphic, but there is troubling mention of rape, murder, violence, and abuse. 

All said, I highly recommend the book.

Author Bryan Stevenson is a black lawyer whose adult life is dedicated to mitigation and mercy. Stevenson fights mass incarceration, unjust prison conditions (especially for children), and racial injustice. This book exposes much about the legal system and even more about humanity. It is powerfully redemptive.

Samples (taken from page 290) —

“We’ve become so fearful and vengeful that we’ve thrown away children, discarded the disabled, and sanctioned the imprisonment of the sick and the weak . . . we’ve pressured [victims of violent crime] to recycle their pain and anguish and give it back to the offenders we prosecute . . . We’ve submitted to the harsh instinct to crush those among us whose brokenness is most visible.”

“But simply punishing the broken . . . only ensures that they remain broken, and we do too. There is no wholeness outside of our reciprocal humanity.”

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

“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.” (p. 290)

Read, read read.


If forced to rank “inspirational sports films,” I’d place 42 ahead of Remember the Titans and Blindside. Classy films, but 42 is better still. I haven’t met its rival yet.

Image result for 42 images42 tells the story of Jackie Robinson (first black man in Major League Baseball), Branch Rickey, (Brooklyn Dodgers executive), and Wendell Smith, t(he black journalist who chronicled Jackie’s career).

Chadwick Boseman (Marvel’s Black Panther) plays Jackie Robinson, and Harrison Ford (Indy) plays Branch Rickey. I daresay that a crotchety Methodist sports executive suits Harrison Ford perfectly. It was a remarkable performance.

We also love the relationship portrayed between Jackie Robinson and his wife. Realistically emotional and intimate without the usual expose.

The movie is PG-13, mostly for language. Beware the offensive Phillies manager (played by Alan Tudyk). 

We Bought a Zoo

I first watched We Bought a Zoo in dollar theaters because the movie that I went to see was sold out. Now it’s my favorite movie. 

Image result for we bought a zooThe title reveals the plot: it’s about a single dad who decides to buy a zoo. The young family has an adventure, and some hearts are healed. No crazy plot twists, just shameless feel-goods and a lot of animals.*

The sound track is fabulous and the cast is perfect. 

It is rated PG. To my memory, it’s quite clean. Common Sense Media assures me that there is swearing, social drinking, creepy images, and “the implication that the Easter Bunny isn’t real.” If that’s troubling, please avoid this otherwise delightful film. But if you’re not bothered about the Easter bunny reveal, please watch! It’s uplifting and engaging.



*Note: The movie is based on the true story recounted by Benjamin Mee in a book also titled We Bought a ZooThe book is humorous, heartfelt, and very British. Watch out for some colorful language.





Finest Hours

This Disney gem never got much attention, but it is worth revisiting if you missed the 2016 release.

Image result for finest hoursIt is clean, entertaining, and inspiring…our recipe for a worthwhile film.

The plot is based on the true story of a heroic 1951 Coast Guard rescue. Soft love story, strong characters, and intense scenes. Expect an increase in blood pressure–the characters are up against mad odds. 

Enjoy. You might become enamored with the Coast Guard as a result (Andy’s reaction). Or swear to never live in Massachusetts (my reaction). Either way, it’s a win.

*Note: it is rated PG-13. There is some profanity, but I expect the rating is for sheer intensity. No sexuality or gore.