Category Archives: blogging

Critique versus Criticism

One of the things that happens as a writer is you are subject to other people’s comments and opinions. Those opinions can either be positive or negative, constructive or destructive.

If you want to be a writer, there is no way around the critique process if you want to grow and improve.

However, I’ve discovered there is a significant difference between critique and criticism.

Courtesy of Creative Commons ~ NiKol

The Difference between Critique and Criticism*

  • Criticism finds fault/Critique looks at structure
  • Criticism looks for what’s lacking/Critique finds what’s working
  • Criticism condemns what it doesn’t understand/Critique asks for clarification
  • Criticism is spoken with a cruel wit and sarcastic tongue/Critique’s voice is kind, honest, and objective
  • Criticism is negative/Critique is positive (even about what isn’t working)
  • Criticism is vague and general/Critique is concrete and specific
  • Criticism has no sense of humor/Critique insists on laughter, too
  • Criticism looks for flaws in the writer as well as the writing/Critique addresses only what is on the page

I have experienced both. Thankfully, the critiques I have received thus far have been helpful whereas criticism has had the opposite effect.

Critiquing is positive and constructive while criticizing is negative and counterproductive. We must be thoughtful in our approach in critiquing others. We must be mindful of the spirit behind what we say as well as how we say it.

We all have opinions. We all have our likes and dislikes. However, we must be responsible as writers when we are critiquing people’s work. We must be able to step back and read the work from an objective standpoint.

We also have to keep in mind there are ways to communicate and get our points across without being curt, mean or snarky.

I cringe when I think of novice writers who possess talent and have potential but give up because of receiving a nasty critique. It shouldn’t happen.

The whole purpose of critiquing is to help the writer along in developing their story, not to tear it down or criticize it.

Critiquing is a skill that every writer should be required to learn how to do properly and effectively.

*Taken from Writing Alone, Writing Together; A Guide for Writers and Writing Groups by Judy Reeves

A Slow Death

As I gazed at the landscape that was once plush green, thoughts ricocheted like bullets in my mind.

I wondered how leaves changed from being green to brown, orange, red and yellow.

They change and transform by a slow death.

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The result is from the breakdown of chlorophyll, due to the changes in the length of daylight and temperature. The leaves stop their food-making process. The chlorophyll breaks down, the green color disappears, and the yellow to orange colors become visible and give the leaves part of their splendor.

God is the master artist weaving a beautiful tapestry in nature with the ebb and flow of leaves, seasons, tides, births and deaths.

Watching the leaves turn reminds me of God’s power and my fragility, His strength and my weakness, His immortality and my mortality.

In reality, we are all fallen leaves, dying a slow death.

For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” James 4:17

Blind Spots

One of the biggest challenges for Christians is the ability to see themselves. It reminds me of the blind spots while driving.

Blind Spot by Nimish Gogri | Creative Commons

Blind spots are areas of the road (or vehicles) that cannot be seen while looking forward or through either the rear-view or side mirrors.

What do I mean by blind spots in our Christian walks?

Here are some examples:

Example 1: A father who has been a Christian for many years, graduated Bible school, did missionary work and is a worship leader. He is known to drop everything to do “ministry.” Yet, when his son was down and out, lost his license and vehicle due to a DWI and needed a ride to work, his father told him that he couldn’t give him a ride because it was too much for him.

Example 2: A woman receives a negative health diagnosis and is waiting to have a procedure done. She is alone and anxious. She decides to text a sister in Christ and ask for prayer. She never responds. The following day she texts her again to ask if she had received her text. She responds by saying yes, but that she didn’t have anything to say.

Example 3: A son gets kicked out from where he was living. For all practical purposes, he is homeless. He reaches out to his father and asks if he could stay with him temporarily until he can get himself together. His father says, No.

All three people are believers, who are either doing ministry or serving the Lord. However, when the rubber meets the curve (I’m trying not to use cliches, lol), their words and actions are incongruent. There is a disconnect.

This is what I refer to as blind spots and what others call hypocrisy.

Blind spots are deceptive, dangerous, and destructive. We all need to face the truth about our blind spots. They need to be dealt with, and not ignored, denied, justified, deflected and excused.

How do we face our blind spots?

  1. By accepting that we have them.
  2. By praying, repenting and asking God for awareness, assistance and forgiveness.
  3. By reading and studying the Bible daily, which helps in examining (2 Corinthians 13:5), and judging ourselves. (1 Corinthians 11:31).

Thank the Lord for your truth, love, forgiveness, mercy and grace.

“Amazing Grace, How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
T’was blind but now I see”

#MeToo

I wasn’t going to write this, I really wasn’t. But, the thoughts kept nagging at me, to the point that I couldn’t sleep. My writing friend and mentor Andi says that when this happens you must write the story that gnaws to be told.

This is going to be difficult for me to write for various reasons. Mostly, because my story will not coincide with many in the #MeToo movement.

The purpose of a writer is to tell the truth and that’s what I am going to attempt to do. For better or for worse.

Around this time in 1983, I was raped by my boyfriend. I was 16 going on 17. I remember it like if it happened yesterday. It changed the trajectory of my life. I was never the same. A part of me died. I fell into a deep depression, was suicidal and started to drink a lot to cope with feelings I didn’t understand.

I was naive as I didn’t even know that what had happened to me at 16 was rape until 10 years later while I was in therapy.

Now that I have told the whole world (I’m exaggerating), I feel so much better now (I’m joking). Actually, telling you or the whole world will not make an ounce of difference nor will it ever change what happened to me.

I am not minimizing any woman’s experience and their needing to come out and speak up about their violation.

There have been several stories I have followed: Dr. Larry Nassar, Bill Cosby, Harry Weinstein, Corey Feldman, and Kevin Spacey.

I was especially touched by Rachael Denhollander’s moving statement.

However, I’m not Rachael or any of these Hollywood celebrities coming out in protest against something that unfortunately happens all the time, especially in high school. Again, I am not minimizing or dismissing their or my experience. I am just stating a fact.

There are various reasons for rape which doesn’t make any of it right, but it does happen. Young boys who are under the influence and go too far. They don’t exhibit the proper self-control. I’m not saying every incident of rape is like this. But, a boy’s raging hormones mixed with alcohol is a dangerous combination. Young boys already struggle with self-control and if there is no male figure in their life to teach them, well, a whole bunch of stupid things can happen at that age, which includes rape.

My coming out and speaking the truth about my experience does nothing to change it. The two men who raped me (yes, unfortunately there was a second time by another “boyfriend”) are six feet under. I can’t go back and undo what happened to me. Even if they were alive and I was able to press charges against them (which I didn’t and wouldn’t), punishing them wouldn’t do anything to change what happened and the damage it caused.

In my case, it doesn’t matter. I am a nobody. I have no influence. I am no one of importance in the big scheme of things. My #MeToo story doesn’t matter and won’t change a single thing.

My point is who cares if I was raped. What difference is it going to make if I told my story? How is my experience actually going to revolutionize some else’s life?

However, for people like Rachael and others, it does matter. Especially given their abusers are serial rapists. Unfortunately, sexual predators will continue to victimize and sexually abuse until they are caught and stopped. It’s an illness. Nowadays, they define help as prison time, which I don’t wholly agree with. But, that’s different topic for another day.

I don’t mean to come across as cold or callous. I have been in rooms with others who were sexually abused much worse than I ever was which made my experiences look petty and insignificant. We all talked and cried until we were blue in the face, and it did nothing to change what happened to us.

Yes, rape is wrong. No one should ever be sexually violated. Yes, it was bad. We were young and innocent. However, there comes a point where we can’t focus or linger on what happened to us.

The pain of our pasts can only be healed by the One who created us, and it comes through forgiveness.

This is why I admire and respect Rachael Denhollander. She did not come across as angry, vengeful and with something to prove. She was peaceful, you could see it in her demeanor and countenance. The peace she possesses comes from her faith in Jesus Christ. She forgave Dr. Larry Nassar. That’s huge.

My healing did not come by fighting or speaking up about my experience or lashing out at men because I was raped. There was a time when I was angry. However, my anger didn’t dissipate by talking about my experience, it came by drawing close to Jesus and through forgiveness. Forgiving them and myself.

I am sure many reading this will think I sound trite and religious. After many years of suffering and not getting answers no matter how many rooms I sat in or how many hours of therapy I had or how many journals I’ve filled, I realized the answer to my pain and suffering was surrender and forgiveness.

The complete opposite of what this world will tell you. This world’s philosophy is to fight back, and shake our fists at whomever goes against what we think or believe.

There are times when justice needs to be served, and God will allow it. Not always though. When all is said and done, as believers, earth is not our home. The ultimate justice will be served when we stand before Jesus Christ and give an account for everything we have said and done.

 

Good Riddance 2017…

I don’t know about you, but this year was probably the most difficult one for me. I won’t get into the details, but suffice it to say, it was hard beyond words.

To be honest, I am a bit apprehensive about 2018.

Courtesy of Creative Commons

But, even though it was a tough year, there was still a lot to be thankful for. And three things come to mind: faith, family and friends.

Faith

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” (Romans 5:1-5)

I drew closer to God this year. I believe it was the hardship that brought me closer to Him. Which reminds me of this verse…

That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.” (Philippians 3:10)

Our faith grows not when everything goes right or our way, but through suffering. Pain, loss, suffering helps us grow and mature as Christians. Pain certainly doesn’t feel good, but sometimes it is necessary for us to see things clearly and change our perspective and priorities in life.

Family

…but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15)

One of the things I am most grateful for is my family and that we are serving the Lord together. I am also grateful for my family in Christ, the few close sisters who have stood by me and prayed for me.

Friends

There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24 NLT)

A man of too many friends comes to ruin, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24 NASB)

I have been blessed to know many people in my life, and to call them friends. However, this year has taught me who my real friends are.

First and foremost, it is Jesus Christ. Second, my husband, who has had a million excuses to leave, but chose to stay. He is my example of strength, character, integrity and tenacity in the face of difficulties, obstacles and opposition. He is loyal, committed and a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

I realize that sometimes it takes falling and failing to distinguish truth from lies. To recognize who is actually for you, not just when the sun is shining, but when the sky is grey for days. The gift of being able to see beyond the smoke screens, fakes, phonies, and politically correct, the ones who only know how to smile in your face, and stab you in the back

I have had plenty of those kinds of friends. More than my fair share. But I thank God for all of them, my dear frenemies, because they taught me so much. So many valuable and priceless lessons. They have no idea how much they’ve served me.

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result…” (Genesis 50:20 NASB)

When you are told so many lies… they begin to sound like the truth. Until the facade evaporates, and the ugly truth remains.

I’d rather know the hard truth than believe a bunch of lies. Those saccharine laced words, so sweet at first, leaving a nasty aftertaste. I thank God for delivering me from the web of deception, and for the pain I’ve endured at the hands of people I’ve cared about and loved, because I am no longer enslaved to them. I am free. Thank you, Jesus.

So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36 NASB)

This is my prayer for you:

That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:16-21)

Happy New Year!

 

Drain The Swamp

Have you ever found yourself in a hopeless situation? A dark and lonely place? Where everything around you lacks color and is grey.

Haunted by memories, hounding you like a hungry wolf. Lost in a swamp, walking aimlessly, looking for a way out.

Courtesy of SJ Carey | Creative Commons

No matter what you do, or how much you walk, you are trapped with no escape. Lost and desperate, you look up and all you see are dead branches.

You look down at the murky water, with the hopes of finding life, only to be met with a distorted reflection of someone you once knew, looking back at you.

* * * * * * * * *

Our hearts are preoccupied with self, and our minds are polluted with the cares of this world.

The swamp is our souls.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Matthew 5:8

“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Romans 12:2

How do we drain the swamp?

It’s simple, but requires a commitment. That is, reading the Bible every day without fail. Not only reading it, but praying, studying, journaling and meditating on it.

This is how the excavation begins. The draining, digging, cleaning out of the old and replacing it with the new.

When negative thoughts flood your mind, like a tsunami, and you feel hopeless, think of Jesus.

When the pain suffocates you, and you feel like giving up, cry out to Jesus.

When nothing makes sense, and there are no answers, pray to Jesus.

When you feel lost, alone, and no help can be found, call on the name of Jesus.

Only Jesus can save us from ourselves. He is our only hope in the midst of whatever we are going through.

“Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.” John 14:6

“But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Luke 12:31

We must seek Him like hidden treasure.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.” Matthew 13:44

Jesus is the answer. He possesses the keys to any problem or situation we face. He alone can drain our swamps and set us free.

***May this song encourage you today: https://youtu.be/ADuWzd7x25c***

 

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.

Courtesy of Creative Commons

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.

Courtesy of Creative Commons

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.