Category Archives: blogging

Bullies, Suicide and “13 Reasons Why”

I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I decided to take a peek at “13 Reasons Why” on Netflix. And yes, I am well aware of all the negative commentary surrounding it.

However, one thing I will say, is that I thought the series was well done. The writing, story, acting, and cinematography is superb.

“13 Reasons Why” is about a smart, pretty teenager named Hannah Baker who begins attending a new school, and becomes a target after a guy she liked took a photo of her coming down a slide. He decides to show the revealing photo to his jock buddies, and one of them thought it was a perfectly good idea to text it to everyone in the school.

Credit: Bully | by Jonathon Narvey | Flickr Creative Commons

It was disheartening to watch how these teenagers relentlessly bully her after that photo was sent. She did her best to cope with the cruelty that bombarded her on a daily basis. But things took a turn for the worst, when the same guy who texted the photo, raped her.

After this occurred, as a last resort, she visits with her school counsellor, which unfortunately, made matters worse. It was after this meeting, she decided to take her life. But before she does, she records 13 cassette tapes, leaving messages for everyone she holds responsible, except for one, her friend Clay Jensen.

The critics say “13 Reasons Why” glorifies rape and suicide. But I disagree. I believe the producers intention was to shock people into awareness and create a conversation to propel change.

I understand why some people wouldn’t want their small children watching it. However, I believe it should be viewed by parents and teenagers alike because of its important message.

I understand all too well about triggers, however, there is more violence in “The Walking Dead” than there is in “13 Reasons Why.” So, is it perfectly okay for kids to watch stuff like “The Walking Dead,” but not okay for them to be educated on a real and prevalent issue, such as bullying, rape and suicide?

Statistics say, suicide is the third leading cause of death in America between the ages of 10 to 24. Did you know every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted, and every 8 minutes, it’s a child?

The story of “13 Reasons Why” reminds me of a YouTube video I watched several years ago of a girl who was being bullied. She made this video before she ended her life. Her name was Amanda Todd. She was just one of many who kill themselves because they see no other way out of their situation.

Just recently, I came across a story on Facebook of an eight year old boy from Ohio who committed suicide because of the relentless bullying he endured. Why hadn’t the school stepped in and stopped it? Why is bullying allowed or ignored in our public schools? Why aren’t changes being instituted to insure the safety of our children attending school?

Yet, the critics are up in arms about “13 Reasons Why.” I don’t understand. Don’t they see what is going on? Aren’t they aware of the epidemic? Aren’t they paying attention to what is happening to our children in schools across America?

Yes, the content is graphic, but so is the reality. Parents and victims of bullies need to see and understand the damage it causes. Not turn a blind eye or pretend it isn’t happening. No one can afford to ignore this problem anymore.

Parents, children, principals, teachers…everyone has a part to play. Parents can’t leave parenting up to the schools, because the schools can’t do it. However, I do believe schools need to send a strong message that bullying won’t be tolerated. There needs to be accountability and a better security system in place.

It is a shame our schools have to turn into a juvenile detention center instead of being an institution for learning.

Awareness and knowledge is the first step, and I believe “13 Reasons Why” accomplished that. Now the rest is on us. Instead of protesting, debating and disagreeing about this series, why not use the energy to be proactive in spreading awareness and helping to stop bullying which is claiming the lives of our youth.

What Side Are You On?

How many times have you heard… “I’m a Christian,” “I believe in Jesus,” “God speaks to me.”  But when you look closely, you see no evidence of Him.

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They profess Christ. They pray. They attend church faithfully, or not. They post Scripture memes on Facebook, and have all their Christianese down pat. Yet, somehow, they carry on as if He doesn’t exist.

They live in outright sin, but think because they were born with gifts and talents, that makes them special and gives them license to do whatever they want. No holds barred. Never once bending their knee and recognizing Jesus as Lord.

They have made a god of their own understanding.

For a couple of years, I went in a different direction. I had stopped reading my Bible and attending Church to assuage my conscience. The deeper I got, the more convicted I felt, until I came to the end of myself.

Whatever you let in, or surround yourself with, will influence you.

I had to make a choice, either I was going to do things my way or God’s way. It wasn’t about what people thought of me, it was about what God thought, and I knew what I needed to do. I needed to break away from all of those associations and influences that had me walking the opposite direction.

Bad company corrupts good morals. (1 Cor. 15:33)

Was it easy? Absolutely not, because I am back at square one. I pressed the reset button and started over again. But this time, I’m doing things God’s way.

The Bible is clear, we can’t live on both sides of the fence. Either we are serving God or the devil, there is no in between.

Some “Christians” will justify what they are doing with a million excuses, which may even sound plausible, but they are deceiving themselves.

This world is governed by the spirit of rebellion.

Ironically, the ones with all the excuses, are the first to criticize those who are actually trying to follow the Bible.

One thing is certain, they may be successful at whatever it is they are doing in the world, but there won’t be any evidence of Jesus in their life. Because they are not pursuing Him, they are chasing after their own worldly pursuits. They made their dream an idol.

Personally, I’d rather be criticized and called names, however unpleasant that is, than bear no fruit in my life.

What about you? What side are you on? 

Christianity Today

I don’t know about you, but lately, I see so much confusion within Christianity. What happened to the simplicity of the gospel? Where did it go?

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I was one of those Christians who never read their Bible, but in the past couple of years, I have been reading it diligently. To my surprise, I am slowly becoming aware of things I used to passed over, and not pay attention to.

Some Christians get offended when you speak on various pastors who preach a false gospel. They call you judgmental or negative. However, what they fail to understand is how contrary their messages are to the Bible. And yes, I’m deliberately not calling them out.

What I have analyzed is how certain groups of Christians will focus on key scriptures as their premise or basis of doctrinal belief. When they spout these particular scriptures, it does sound exactly as it’s being conveyed. However, that’s the deception. The scriptures are being taken out of context and not going along with the entire theme of the Bible. This is why I say it’s so important to read the Bible.

There was a time I bought into the lie of seeking Heaven on earth. Where everyone will be as one and in unity. Where there is unlimited grace and favor, no matter what you did. A god who supports gay marriage, adultery, murder, child pornography. Anything goes, because God is a loving God and He doesn’t condemn people to hell.

I’m sorry, but that’s not true. God loves the sinner, but hates the sin. He loves the homosexual, prostitute, pimp, drug dealer, murderer, child molester, and adulterer, but He doesn’t love their sin. He doesn’t condone any of these things that specifically go against His very nature and Word. No, He doesn’t accept it, and yes, there is a hell, and it’s real.

Christianity today is do it your way. Where grace abounds, no matter what you do. A feel-good Christianity, where they worship a Jesus who laughs all the time and slaps you on your back, and says, “ata-boy or girl”.

Yes, God is a merciful, and forgiving God. He rains on the just and unjust. (Matthew 5:45) However, He doesn’t accept everything. We shouldn’t abuse or take His grace for granted either. (Hebrews 6:6)

As Christians, we have to make a choice. Either we are all in or all out, but there is no in-between. He hates lukewarm and spews it out of his mouth. (Revelation 3:16)

What kind of Christian are you?

Another Gospel

They tell you to ignore and deny your sickness, depression, and pain. And when you pray, and nothing changes, it’s YOUR fault, because you don’t have enough faith.

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How many of you know that’s a bunch of hogwash?

For whatever reason, some people have a hard time wrapping their minds around the fact that depression and anxiety is an illness and disability. Much like someone who lost an arm or a limb.

However, there are some in Christendom who believe if you are struggling with any kind of illness or disease, it is either a result of unrepentant sin, demons, or a lack of faith. So, on top of suffering, there is the guilt, blame and shame added to the mix for good measure.

I happen to be an open minded person, but I have a real problem with this false teaching being purported as truth. I have been exposed to a lot in my life, and have learned a great deal in my search for God. The one thing I can tell you is that these so-called faith healers are fake, and if they do exhibit any so-called power to heal, you must question the origin from hence it came, because not everything “supernatural” is of God.

I am here to tell you, that if you are a Christian who struggles with any kind of illness or disability, you are not alone and are no less a Christian for it. Jesus never said we wouldn’t be sick or suffer here on earth. He said we will have to pick up our Cross and follow Him.

I read this morning in Matthew 10:18, “And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.” Hmm, did you catch that… “not worthy of me.”

Jesus said it like it is. These fresh revelations, or new insights of the Word of God that these self-proclaimed apostles and prophets tell you is not biblical doctrine, but another gospel.

Today, the Church has strayed so far away from the truth, it’s sad. They have a distorted, confused and mixed up doctrine. What makes matters worse is that Christians don’t like to read their Bible. They’d rather be spoon feed, than dig into it themselves. What they fail to realize is they are doing themselves a huge disservice.

I do believe God heals. However, I no longer believe in those who claim to be used of God to heal others. God is God. He doesn’t need intermediaries. All God desires that we pray, have faith, and follow Him, whether we get healed or not.

The Day I Deleted 3,000 Friends

From 2014 through 2015, I went from blogging and reviewing Christian genre, to crime fiction and urban literature. I enjoyed it, and in the process, learned a great deal about myself, and others.

However, once I rededicated my life to Christ in the beginning of 2016, I had to reevaluate things. What I was doing, where I was going, and mostly, what God wanted for me.

Courtesy of Creative Commons

My deleting over 3,000 “friends” wasn’t personal, it was something the Lord impressed on me to do. He wanted me to put the past behind me, and start anew. As it was, not all of my decisions were lining up with His, and something needed to change.

The Bible says, in Hosea 4:6a, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.

Life is a journey, and the road can either be smooth or tumultuous based on our decisions. Our choices have to be aligned with His for things to go right in our lives.

The devil likes to confuse us and take us on rides, to get us off course, so that we get frustrated, give up, and abort our calling. This is what happened to me. So, I had to repent, recalibrate and get my life back on track.

As an artist, I do appreciate all art forms, however, I had to reconcile with the fact that a lot of what I was reading and reviewing was no longer feasible. The books I read were well-written by some talented authors, however, the genre was no longer one I could indulge in as a follower of Christ. So I had to make a decision, I was either going to follow Him or do it my way. And trust, that doing it my way didn’t result in anything good for me.

Thus, I am returning to blogging about my faith, reviewing Christian books, and classical literature. My goal is to continue to do my best and provide you with a variety of relevant content; full of substance, meaning and depth. Thank you for traveling on this journey with me.

Ta-Ta 2016… Hello 2017!

2016… what can I say? You were like a bad marriage on steroids. Lots of downs, and not enough ups. But like any other commitment, we trudged along together through every obstacle with gritted teeth. But boy did you hit us with some doozies.

There were a lot of disappointments, shedding, and letting go of people, places, and things. Which is why, I’m not sorry to say, ta-ta, arrivederci, and good riddance!

Courtesy of Creative Commons

In 2016, I learned to surrender, obey, pray, and trust Jesus. He taught me how to stand in the midst of each relentless and incessant storm. As a result, my faith got stronger. My Comforter gave me the courage, and strength of a lioness to confront things without fear.

Through every wind and wave of adversity, He taught me not to cower or give up. I am determined to walk with Jesus every single day, every step of the way, with no turning back. Ever again.

This verse became real and personal to me,

“No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise up against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.” (Isaiah 54:17)

When others turned against me, Jesus never did. He never left me nor forsook me. He showed me His faithfulness, and showered me with His unfailing love, grace and mercy. He truly is a good, good Father, which is why I will follow Him all the days of my life. No matter what. Even if I must walk it alone.

No, I didn’t like you very much, 2016, however, I would be remiss not to thank you for every lesson, test, trial, tribulation, storm and adversity you’ve sent my way. My circumstances may not have changed, but gratefully, I have.

Happy New Year!

A Spectacle of Glory by Joni Eareckson Tada

Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (October 4, 2016)
ISBN-10: 0310346770
Price: $11.72
Purchase: CBD | Amazon | BN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Description

Do you ever wonder why God created you? The Bible spells it out plainly: God created you to showcase His glory—to enjoy it, display it, and demonstrate it every day to all those you encounter.

After nearly 50 years of living as a quadriplegic, and dealing with chronic pain on a daily basis, Joni has learned firsthand the importance of glorifying God through the toughest of situations. Through this devotional, Joni will help you discover how to put God’s glory on display—how to say no to complaining and say yes to daily following God down even the most difficult paths. Along the way, you will find great comfort and encouragement by focusing on the one who longs to lead and guide you every step of the way, every day.

Don’t ever think your life is too ordinary, your world too small, or your work too insignificant. All of it is a stage set for you to glorify God.

Review

Many years ago I had the pleasure of reading When God Weeps by Joni Eareckson Tada. So, when I was offered the opportunity to review her new devotional, A Spectacle of GloryI gladly accepted.

Just as her book spoke to me, so is her devotional. She writes from a deep place. Her words are rich and full of substance. There is no fluff or superficiality.

I relate to her, in that she knows what it’s like to suffer, and not get healed. She had a diving accident which left her paralyzed, and she has been a quadriplegic now for forty-nine years. She prayed that God would heal her, and went to several healing services, but was never healed. Yet, she never lost her faith, which is why she is my hero.

I read A Spectacle of Glory every morning and it ministers to me. I highly recommend it.

In conclusion, I want to thank Handlebar Publishing and Zondervan for sending me a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.

Joni Eareckson Tada is founder and CEO of Joni and Friends, an organization that accelerates Christian outreach in the disability community. Joni and Friends provides practical support and spiritual help to special needs families worldwide, and equips thousands of churches in developing disability ministry. Joni is the author of numerous bestselling books, including Joni, Diamonds in the Dust, Heaven, When God Weeps, and A Step Further, winner of the Gold Medallion Award. Joni and her husband, Ken, have been married for over 30 years. For more information on Joni and Friends, visit www.joniandfriends.org

 

 

 

Life’s Unfamiliar Terrain

I can’t believe this year is almost over. I apologize for not blogging, but this year has been full of changes. I seem to be in the process of transition and walking in unfamiliar terrain.

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You may have been wondering of my disappearance, and this is an attempt to fill you in.

From 2014 through 2015, I sort of fell away from my Christian faith. There were many reasons for it, which I won’t go into. But what I learned from the dabbling, experimenting, and indulging, is no matter who I was with, where I was, or what I was doing, God was with me.

If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.¹

At the time, I was making bad choices, which grieved the heart of God as well as the people that care about me. Unfortunately, I wasn’t thinking much about this while I was out there, painting the town, and being self-indulgent.

The lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.²

I was a faithful, fervent and zealous Christian prior to falling away. So you could just imagine the amazement to all those who knew me.

Sin is like being on a raft that gradually drifts out to sea.  One minute you are near the shore, and the next, you are in the middle of the ocean.

Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away.³

All the things I was choosing to do, weren’t the things God wanted me to do. I was refusing to die to self. I still didn’t want to surrender ALL to Jesus. It wasn’t His will be done, it was my will be done. Until everything came crashing down on January 2, 2016, and a light bulb went off. I suddenly realized what I was doing, and immediately repented.

Through it all, I learned how much God loves me, and how faithful He is. He never gave up on me, and kept pursuing me.

Today, I am grateful for all that God has done in my life. I am still in an unfamiliar terrain, a place of a transition, and in a process of restoration. But I can honestly say, that I’m at peace. Jesus saved me, rescued me, delivered me and set me free. Praise Him! No one could have done it, but Him.

If He did it for me, He can and will do it for you. He is no respecter of persons. He loves us, which is why He died for us. There is nothing you or I can do that will make Him ever stop loving us. He is a good, good Father.

¹Psalm 139:8
²1 John 2:16
³James 1:14

Setting Goals

Happy New Year! I don’t know about you, but I was glad to kiss 2015 goodbye. 2015 was a difficult and challenging year for me. It wasn’t all bad, as there were a lot of good moments. I learned a great deal about myself.

Growth doesn’t always feel good though. It reminds me of growing pains we experience as a child; it hurts like hell. However, we have to embrace the pain to grow. If not, we will remain stagnant and complacent.

Pain tells us something is wrong, and needs to change. It pushes us to reevaluate ourselves, our decisions and lives. It also allows us the opportunity to recalibrate and set new goals.

Courtesy of Creative Commons

For me, it’s not about making new year’s resolutions. It’s more about setting goals and sticking to them. Right before the start of a new year, I sit back and do an overview of what I’ve accomplished and didn’t accomplish. I analyze the things that worked and didn’t work. I do a complete assessment, and then I begin to think about my goals for the new year.

What I’ve learned is a stumbling block for me is that I get distracted and lack focus. I also get tripped up on doing too many things at the same time, that I wind up not accomplishing a bloody thing! Does this sound familiar?

I have several goals for this year, and they are all run along the same line. But what I need to be able to achieve them is the proper focus, dedication, discipline, perseverance, and persistence. My natural stubbornness needs to kick in.

It really does come down to setting our minds on doing it, instead of talking about it. We have to set small, and realistic goals at first. If we set the bar too high, we won’t stick with it. If we set our goals in small increments, it won’t feel so overwhelming. The procrastination comes from being overwhelmed, it paralyzes us. This is why it is easier to do things in small increments and then build up momentum.

This is basically how I’m going to approach my goals for 2016. What about you? How are you planning to achieve and accomplish your specific goals for this year?

Temporary Fixes

When we’re not getting our needs met the human tendency is to search for a temporary fix. I’m not saying everyone does it, but the majority do. We substitute one thing for another.

We fantasize, run and chase what we believe will fulfill or satisfy us. If you are an artistic person, with a vivid imagination, you will come up with a lot of creative ways.

Courtesy of Creative Commons ~ Bewitched by Paula Ferrary

We tend to build a fortress of lies, believing if we get this one thing, it will be the answer to our happiness.

What I’ve discovered from various and random conversations how dissatisfied people are. Whether it is with their jobs, careers, families and marriages; people are unhappy.

No wonder romance novels, movies and love songs do so well. Deep within us is a longing to be loved. I believe it is deeper than being loved. There is this inner yearning for a real connection. Who doesn’t want a love story with a happy ending?

Unfortunately, there aren’t many happy endings. People are walking around with broken hearts, relationships and marriages. People are losing hope, and settling for temporary fixes to assuage their wounds.

I see a bunch of lonely, disconnected people walking around, having sex, and nothing more. They claim this is all they want, which I can understand. I’ve entertained this kind of thinking, only to realize how empty it is.

There are single people looking at married couples, and secretly envying them, but what they fail to realize is that they are only watching a snapshot in time. Granted, there are those few exceptions of happily ever after couples who still hold hands and kiss at eighty, but they’re rare.

So, for those who are single and dreamingly looking at married couples, thinking they’re blissful; relationships require work. But instead of working, they want easy, they want temporary fixes. They buy into cheap fantasies to fill the void. Hollywood does a good job in feeding us a *feel good* dream, and who doesn’t want to feel good?

However, what feels good, may not necessarily be what is best for us. What we think we need, may not be what want and what we want, may not be what we need.

There are many in dead end marriages who cheat on their spouses thinking that’s the answer in alleviating their misery. Unfortunately, those who do, come out more empty than when they went in.

The answer is not another person, job or thing. People, jobs and things aren’t going to fulfill you because they are only temporary. You must focus on you.

Value who you are and know your worth. Don’t settle for breadcrumbs, when you deserve the main course. Don’t lessen your standards to meet someone else’s expectations. Don’t betray yourself in the midst of trying to please others. Get to know who you are and what you want. When you love, embrace and accept yourself for who you are, you won’t feel the necessity to chase after temporary fixes.

Do you chase after temporary fixes? What has been your experience?

Guest Post: “Black Lives Matter” by Author Dutch

This is between you and me Black sisters, so lean in. Stop coddling Black men. I know your motherly instincts and your womanly proclivities make you want to bring, confront and care. I know you want to support him, but trust me on this, it’s time for tough love.

Challenge the Black man’s manhood. Not in regard to yourself, as his woman or the woman in his life, respect that, but what I say is challenge him on what he is doing in the community or for his community? Put your hand on your collective hip, look the Black man in his eye and say “stand your ass up and fight, stop marching in circles and lead us somewhere!”

If you beautiful Black sisters would say, “I know my man is not going to let nobody hold him back, because if you are going to protect me, what I need with you?”

Do you know what would happen?

Have you ever been to the club and a sister screaming on her man like, “I know you ain’t going to let him talk to me like that!” No matter how big the man or the fight in him, if he is any kind of man, somebody is getting knocked out. That is what will happen, but in a meaningful, constructive sense. Force him to use the brain and body he has to get his people to a better standing. Whisper in his collective ear “win” and watch that Rocky music anthem light up in his eyes. But, if you keep mourning his death, justify his weakness and coddle his insecurities, then he will forever remain your baby… are we clear?

Boko Haram is using little black girls as human bombs. The press is calling them, “suicide bombers.” They are not doing this of their own will or their own accord or based on their beliefs. It is murder. If they resist, they are tortured and killed. The same little girls the First Lady marched and tweeted about are now being strapped to explosives and blown to bits. Where is the outrage about this? Where is our outrage about this? Do you have children? Could you imagine your ten year old daughter being strapped with dynamite and then her being nothing but a mist? If that doesn’t move you to tears or to anger or to action, then you are only human in appearance.

Black lives mattering is not limited to the United States. Globally, the treatment of Blacks is not on the up and up.

To the Black Muslim Brothers, I am calling all Black Muslim Brothers, Sunni, Shia, Nation of Islam, Moor or Five Percenters, your Nigerian daughters are being slaughtered in the name of Islam. When are we, as Muslims going to hold the International community accountable for their silence in the face of such horrors?

If Syrian is a tragedy and Palestine a tragedy, then Nigeria is the very face of evil. When are we going to stand up and call Boko Haram a coward, disgusting and a bitch for hiding behind children in the name of Islam?! When? Because if you don’t, if you remain silent, then you are a coward and disgusting also. Straight like that. Black lives matter? Really? Show me. Save those babies if you don’t there is nothing Black about you, but you are sick at heart!

Hailing from Newark, New Jersey, Kwame Teague is the award winning, critically acclaimed, and Essence #1 bestselling author of the street classic Dutch trilogy. His other novels include Above The Law, the Dynasty trilogy, ? (pronounced Que), The Adventures of Ghetto Sam and the Glory of My Demise and Thug Politics under the pseudonym Dutch. With a passion for writing, Kwame is hard at work on his next novel.