a feeling you can’t shake.

Walking into the execution room, I immediately got chills.  Terry, our guide is casually talking about the procedure.  He mentions a viewing lottery.  More chills and misty eyes.  I ask a clarifying question because that seems inhumane.  Nope, I heard correctly.  People pay to see others die.  I bite the corner of my lip and bounce up and down a bit to distract myself from crying.  Is this real life?  Did I really just hear him correctly?  This happens in our country and it’s legal?  But why?

I look at the table.  the straps. the little room in the corner where the doctor administers the drug.  I picture the scenario.  A distraught man is escorted in, looking hopeless.  The guards strap him to the table, his trunk, arms, legs, and lastly his head.  He lays still, a tear runs down his cheek.  He’s resigned to the fact that he ate his last meal of cornbread and crawfish with a couple Dr. Peppers.

A doctor, lawyer, victims family, and a strange face sit next door viewing the morose scene.  They watch the procedure with a slight smile feeling like justice is being served.  A life for a life.  

I block out what Terry is saying.  I don’t care anymore.  My energy is going towards fighting back tears and comprehending what I’ve been told throughout the tour.  I feel like Jonas when he sees his father Releasing one of the twins.  He is mortified that he’s been lied to all these years.  He’s distraught, thinking that a simple procedure that seemed so acceptable has now been made real.  He questions what he has known as truth for the first twelve years of life.  His trust has been debunked in the Community, with his family, and any Elders he’s depended on.  release.png

As I walked out of the little execution chamber, that’s what I felt.  My life was a lie. I experienced an overwhelming amount of empathy, grief, sadness, disappointment, anger, and hurt.  I was naive, deceived, and lost.  I wanted to run but I was literally locked in a prison.  I was surrounded by friends but I felt alone.  It seemed like the depths of despair and I didn’t know how to process.

It was the last straw for Jonas.  It changed me.  At a pivotal point in my life, it helped me see the truth…and from that truth, I started to see things differently.  My family, faith, justice, grace, and the value of life.

Maybe it’ll take you seeing a Release or walking into an execution chamber, maybe not.  I don’t know…but I hope you have a moment.  One that changes your life, opens your eyes, and makes you realize the value of life.  Something like this can rock your world and it’s a feeling you just can’t shake.  Don’t ignore it.

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the green mile.

A weekend away was supposed to be spent reading and blogging…yeah, that didn’t happen.  Instead, I got sucked into the movie vortex and watched The Longest Yard, Forrest Gump, and The Green Mile.  Tom Hanks and prisons…what more could a girl ask for?

I only caught the last half of The Longest Yard, but what I saw was great.  My favorite line was from Baby Face Bob.  After “commentating” for the big game of guards vs. inmates, Bob looks at Chris and says, “Remember Chris, criminals are people too.”  Yes, yes, they are.  As much as people would like to dehumanize them into monsters, we need to remember that their bad decisions don’t change their humanity.  Like I’ve said before, they’re people with stories, families, friends, and a piece of something greater.  We can’t devalue them based on a bad decision.

I’ll save my feelings for Forrest for another day.  This post can’t handle all the love.

So, The Green Mile is a new favorite of mine.  It makes me misty eyed for sure.  John Coffey (like the drink, but not spelt the same) is endearing.  What happened to Eduard Delacroix is heartbreaking.  Percy Wetmore is infuriating.  Paul Edgecomb, Brutal, Dean and Harry treat the inmates with respect which makes my heart happy and make me appreciate Tom Hanks even more.


If you’re familiar with the movie, you know that the execution is cringe worthy.  If you’re not familiar with the movie, you should watch it and know that this isn’t the first time something of the sort has happened…

The poor, unfortunate soul of Mr. John Evans had a botched execution via electric chair.  Here’s the story as told by eyewitness, Russ Canan, through Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy.

At 8:30 P.M. the first jolt of 1,900 volts of electricity passed through Mr. Evans’s body. It lasted thirty seconds. Sparks and flames erupted from the electrode tied to Mr. Evans’s left leg. His body slammed against the straps holding him in the electric chair and his fist clenched permanently. The electrode apparently burst from the strap holding it in place. A large puff of greyish smoke and sparks poured out from under the hood that covered Mr. Evans’s face. An overpowering stench of burnt flesh and clothing began pervading the witness room. Two doctors examined Mr. Evans and declared that he was not dead.

The electrode on his left leg was refastened. At 8:30 P.M. [sic] Mr. Evans was administered a second thirty-second jolt of electricity. The stench of burning flesh was nauseating. More smoke emanated from his leg and head. Again, the doctors examined Mr. Evans. The doctors reported that his heart was still beating, and that he was still alive.

At that time, I asked the prison commissioner, who was communicating on an open telephone line to Governor George Wallace to grant clemency on the grounds that Mr. Evans was being subjected to cruel and unusual punishment. The request for clemency was denied.

At 8:40 P.M., a third charge of electricity, thirty seconds in duration, was passed through Mr. Evans’s body. At 8:44, the doctors pronounced him dead. The execution of John Evans took fourteen minutes.

Watching Del die on The Green Mile was one thing, but reading this and realizing that it actually happened was devastating. And it’s not over.  Most states primary form of execution is lethal injection but hanging and electrocution are still allowed in a few select states. The thought of this is haunting to me.

I’ll say more on this tomorrow…in the meantime, check out The Green Mile.  It’s well worth your time.

 

 

just another day.

It’s a day for love.  Generally this means dates, flowers, chocolates, bitterness, rom-coms, and obscenely unecessary teddy bears.  Not for me.  I was surrounded by friends that I love dearly, but some aren’t so lucky.

After my trip to New Orleans this summer, I have a heart for those in prison, specifically, those there for life or on death row.  The ones locked up for something they did or didn’t do.  The ones who have been away from their friends and families for years because of a bad decision.  The ones who don’t get another chance.  The ones who get forgotten, disowned, condemned.  The ones who are isolated.  The ones who don’t feel the love on this day.

This doesn’t just apply to inmates.  It is true for elderly people in nursing homes, retirement communities, and assisted living residencies.  Those with mental and physical disabilities living in group homes may not get to see their families and friends on a regular basis either.  The homeless, immigrants, refugees, and displaced individuals. It’s sad and heartbreaking.  Don’t believe me?  check out this video.  so. freaking. sad.

February 14th is just a day, my friends.  But we can love others, whoever you have a heart for, everyday of the year.  Our words, smiles, time, and talents can be used to love others.

Love does, people.  Do something with your love.

pro-life

Another issue I’ve heard much more about recently is pro-life versus pro-choice.  Most people think it means life starts at conception and abortion is wrong.  Though I agree with that, there was a more thought provoking argument that came up last week before the caucus.  What does it look like to be pro-life…in all aspects of the term?  Well now, I dunno.  I hadn’t ever thought of it this way.

I suppose pro-life means to be against abortions and the death penalty and euthanasia.  It means to look on immigrants and those of lower socio-economic status with dignity and respect.  It means seeing people as individuals.  Human beings with stories trying to live life.  People who struggle and celebrate small victories because sometimes baby steps are all that they can muster.  People who make bad decisions, feel remorse, and want a second chance.

“I don’t want to just be an anti-abortion or anti-death person. I want to be pro-life. For far too long, we Christians have been known more by what we are against than by what we are for. I am ready for a Christianity that is consistently committed to life and all about interrupting death everywhere it raises its ugly face.”  –Shane Claiborne

What does this look like?  How does it change the way I live?  How does it change the way I view others?

Check out this post for another view.

 

I choose to believe in second chances.

I participated in my first caucus this week.  Living in Iowa, is a big deal this time of year.  This election seems to be an even bigger deal with a record-breaking attendance in Storm Lake.

As I prepared for it, I researched the candidates, I read up on the issues, and did my best to ignore the overwhelming number of attack ads all over the place.  The experience itself was kind of intense.  And I felt like my vote mattered.

11501354666_5ec4c5023b_bOne thing I was disappointed in was people’s stance on the death penalty.  This is a big issue for me and it didn’t seem that way to many candidates.  While visiting the Louisiana State Penitentiary this summer, my view on the death penalty changed.  We toured the lethal injection room, I saw the table where inmates eat their last meal, walked down death row, and stood in front of the table.  I pictured someone strapped to the cot and no matter what they did in my imagination, I couldn’t get their family, friends, and lives out of my head.  They’re people who made stupid decisions.  But I can’t justify killing people.  I choose to believe in second chances.  In grace.  In redemption.

Check out this article for more of where I’m coming from.   Here’s a sneak peek.

Grace shines bright in the face of evil.  But grace can be a scandalous thing, as we can see Jesus forgiving those who kill him – and as we see the stunning stories of murder victim’s families who stand against execution, many of whom are fueled by their faith.

We dare not forget the story – of a God who so loved the world that Jesus was sent, not to condemn the world but to save it.   We must not forget that much of the Bible was written by murderers who were given a second chance.  Moses.  David.  Paul.

The Bible would be much shorter without grace.  And our churches would be empty if we killed everyone who was deserving of death.

 

Samwise Gamgee, a brave, hopeful soul.

the-two-towers-lord-of-the-rings-2318728-960-406It’s a snowday here in Storm Lake.  A blizzardy, blustery, whiteout.  It’s beautiful and it makes me really thankful to have a warm home to hole up in.  We’ve spent the day curled up in sweats and blankets watching Lord of the Rings.  It’s been lovely.  So, in honor of these great movies, I want to share a quote from Samwise Gamgee, a brave and loyal friend.

Frodo: I can’t do this, Sam.

Sam: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.

Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?

Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for.

No, I’m not on my way to Mordor with an evil ring…but I can relate in some ways.  Frodo and Sam are on this impossible journey.  They are seeing the world for what it is.  There is evil outside of the Shire and that’s news to them.  But what keeps them from sinking into a depression and giving in to the ring?  The hope and good in the world.

So, afer graduating, I jumped into real life and saw all sorts of issues first hand.  life, political, criminal justice, faith, friendship, service, ministry, educational.  The world is messed up and that’s frustrating and depressing, but there’s hope out there.

There’s some good in this world and it’s worth fighting for.

seeing beyond

red-apple

I’ve felt very much like Jonas the last six months or so.  If you don’t know who that is, you make me sad.  Jonas is the protagonist from The Giver, one of my all-time favorite books.  He lives in a distopian society that has controlled and witheld from the citizens for generations.

One day, Jonas sees a red apple…which doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it is, considering everyone is genetically altered to be colorblind.  Jonas is different and is selected for a special and honored position.  With The Giver, Jonas sees the world through a new set of eyes.  Everything he thought to be true was upturned.  His family, friends, education, community, and system.  Nothing is as he thought and he’s at a loss with no one to turn to but The Giver.

My life hasn’t been that dramatically changed as Jonas’s was, but adulthood has certainly rocked my naive view of the world.  I plan to spend the month of February focusing on my experience “seeing beyond.”  For my sake and maybe for those of you out there trying to figure out this adulting thing too.