Tag Archives: hope

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***

 

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Author Interview: Antoine ‘Inch’ Thomas

Me with 848 Web Series Team

I have been following Antoine ‘Inch’ Thomas for quite some time now and I think he is an exceptional man. I had the pleasure of meeting him for the first time last month. It was a real treat, because I got to spend time with him and the rest of the 848 Web Series team. Inch is one of the most down to earth and humblest men I know. Besides being incredibly talented as a writer, actor and filmmaker. If you haven’t read any his books, or watched the 848 Web Series, I highly recommend it.

1) Where did you grow up? How was your childhood?

I grew up in the Northeast Bronx, New York City, a housing development called Edenwald Houses. My childhood was fair…my mother was a single mom raising six children on her own. My older siblings were dipping and dabbing in drugs. Mom was on welfare, no real male role model around…just my mother, mostly.

2) What was your dream or aspiration?

My dream was always to own my own business. Nothing in particular..a store perhaps, but something that I could call my own and run it how I wanted to run it.

3) Who did you look up to or admire? Who was your greatest influence?

I had no one that I wanted to be like except the neighborhood drug dealer. There were a few, but one or two stood out to me for various reasons. For those reasons, primarily materialistic reasons, and me growing up poor, I wanted what they had. I wanted to be them.

4) What has gotten you through hard times in life?

My faith in the almighty Creator has gotten me through the times when most people were expected to crack or break. I am a practicing Muslim and I have been so for 23 years. Islam the religion, is perfect. People ruin it!

5) What kind of music do you like or listen to?

I listen to hip hop and R&B music.

6) What is your favorite movie and why?

One of my favorite movies of all time has to be “Scarface”. The story of a Cuban immigrant who made something out of nothing. According to him, all he had was his balls (courage) and his word (honor). Sometimes that’s all that we need.

7) Who are your favorite authors and books?

My favorite authors are different from my favorite books because an author can write an awesome story, but once you get big headed and appear as if your shit doesn’t stink, Fuck You! But a few of my favorite stories are: The Coldest Winter Ever, True To The Game, Dutch, B More Careful, Block Party, Do or Die, Standing At The Scratch Line (My all time favorite), Gangsta, Kiss The Girls, and Flower’s Bed.

Some of my favorite authors are: Treasure Blue, Al-Saadiq Banks, James Patterson, John Grisham, Thomas Long, T. Benson Glover, and Michael Whitby.

8) Tell us a little bit about the books you’ve written? How did you come up with the ideas for them?

No Regrets, the first book that I’ve ever written was inspired by my own childhood. Flower’s Bed, the novel that set off my company is a story about a young lady and domestic molestation. I wrote that book to grab the attention of the readers. Unwilling To Suffer is a hood love story inspired by a personal experience and That Gangsta Shit, an anthology was created to introduce my authors on a level smaller than debuting a full length novel.

9) How long does it take you to write a book?

I wrote my first book in eight days, it’s first draft. Flower’s Bed took me three weeks. Black Rose’s took sixteen days and Unwilling To Suffer took me six months to complete.

10) What are some of the things you learned from writing books?

From writing stories, I’ve learned how to read and write better, I’ve enhanced my vocabulary and I’ve also learned how to improve on story line.

11) What inspires or motivates you?

My will to succeed and win motivates me to reach for the stars. I feel like I have so much potential that I almost wasted running around in those streets that now I try to be an example for the ones headed down that same route.

12) What would you do differently if you had a second chance?

If I had a second chance, I wouldn’t do anything different because everything today for me is the way it is because life was the way that it was.

13) How did you come up with the concept for the 848 web series?

I am a huge fan of “The Wire”. I enjoy the tv show “Power”. I was intrigued by how so many people were so excited about, the following week’s episode of “Empire”. I absolutely admired the show, “Money & Violence”. So I grouped all of those elements together along with incorporating my preparation for writing a novel and boom, 848 was born. I always say, nothing too ratchet, something easy on the tongue, something familiar, easy to remember and something unordinary.

14) What do you want people to take from your books and 848?

I want people to know that the man behind my books and 848 had one time given up on society and life. There was a time when I thought that I would never be shit, so why even try. And here I am today, with maybe not much financially but I am so happy that I made it this far and how other people can see me as a source of encouragement. Hope, for lack of a better term.

15) Do you enjoy acting or writing more?

I enjoy acting and writing equally. I really enjoy coming up with the ideas of how a scene should be played out, camera angles etc.

16) What are you most grateful for?

I am most grateful for a loving family. I love my children with all of my dear heart.

17) Where do you see yourself five or ten years from now?

In five or ten years, with enough hard work, determination, sacrifice and consistency, I see myself on the big screen.

18) What advice would you give the youth today?

To the youth of 2015, although it may sound cliché, never give up. Never give up hope because God is real. We cannot enjoy the rainbow without first enduring the storm. We must experience hardship in order to truly appreciate success.

19) Are you currently working on a new book or project?

Right now, I am still in the production stages of rounding out the end of Season 1 of 848.

20) Lastly, what advice would you give a novice writer?

When it comes to being an author, the READERS, MAKE you, or they break you, figuratively, of course. NEVER, release material that you aren’t 100 with, from its title, the cover, down to every page, every chapter, every paragraph & every sentence. Begin EVERY story with some action, or over the top drama. Be descriptive in your sex scenes, & graphic when there’s action or violence. Exaggerate, but make everything believable & imaginable. Be unpredictable with your story & lead folks to believe one thing, then give them something they wouldn’t expect. Make your readers sympathize with your characters, show compassion… many will empathize automatically with them (when one actually went through it as well). Make them connect with your character, the best way that you can, then bring your character to a low point. Once you’re there, your readers will begin to have hope of a rise. Once YOU feel that way, drop your character into some deeper shit, where the only way out, IS, up…then you give him or her a triumphant rise.

Give your character issues (health, education, family, financial & morals), within the story itself. Make folks LOVE your character and write your narration, and most of your dialogue in correct English. Proper English. Everyone speaks different, but we understand what we read, and interpret it, the way that we talk. So a country nigga and a bitch from Boston can read the same story, & identify exactly the same understanding as the writer, from their experiences, but will actually be hearing it, in their own lingo.

Most importantly, appear to be tangible. Many authors are arrogant and seem surreal so readers look at them as fake & don’t want anything personally to do with them. That creates a barrier, a gap, or a form of distance, between reader & writer, yet the idea is to be on one accord, so the overall understanding of a story and the author behind it, is fundamental and very simple to connect. Be as friendly & sociable, literary wise, as possible. You never know what a simple smile, a wave, handshake or response to an email or inbox, can accomplish.

Be available & WILLING, to do signings. Every signing may not be advantageous, financially, but it can be filed as a learning experience, it can be deemed a rehearsal for future events, and it’s also a form of promotion. Folks may not have the money at that time but they’ll remember your presence and when they return and you aren’t there, they’ll purchase your material because you were kind. Be open minded and patient. Stay hopeful. Believe in yourself and your work. Forget anything negative that anyone has to say, be thankful for the compliments you receive, and be appreciative for any constructive criticism. Without it, we’ll never know where to improve!

Wow! What an incredible and generous interview. Thank you so much, Antoine ‘Inch’ Thomas.

Antoine ‘Inch’ Thomas was born and raised in the Bronx. He’s talented, impulsive, and a passionate writer who thrives on being creative. You can fallow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Be The Church

In 1995, I had the pleasure of traveling to India. It was a dream come true for me. I had this romantic view of India, until I stepped off the plane and faced the reality of what real poverty looked like.

Courtesy of Creative Commons

When I arrived, I went from being ecstatic, to sad, to depressed in a matter of minutes.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was such a disparity between the poverty and opulence I saw. What especially broke my heart was seeing the children, dirty and living in shacks made out of garbage.

I stood there dumbfounded. I whispered under my breath, why God? Why must these children be so poor? They didn’t ask to be born into hunger and pain. Why such a cruel fate? My heart was faint.

I was despondent for the rest of my stay there. I walked around like a zombie, going through motions. It seemed like everywhere I turned, I saw poverty, hunger and suffering.

In India, I learned that no amount of religion or theology could reach the heart of the poor and hungry. The country is filled with people who believe in religion and worship a multitude of gods. Religion is part of their spiritual infrastructure.

But religion doesn’t give life, and it certainly isn’t the answer. Do you know what the answer is?

Love.

But not the sappy, sugar coated nonsense being propagated from the pulpits across America today. No.

Do you realize we are the Church? It’s about demonstrating love to those you wouldn’t necessarily show it to.

It’s about getting out of our comfort zone and doing things we wouldn’t normally do or going places we wouldn’t normally go.

I don’t refer to myself as a Christian anymore, because saying I’m a Christian holds a different connotation to whomever you are speaking to. Some people call themselves a Christian, but they are “religious”. They tithe and go to church regularly. But they never stop and love others.

How many Christians are bringing the church to the outcasts and rejected of society? The porn stars, strippers, murderers, gang bangers, drug addicts, drug dealers or satanists?

What Christian steps out of their safety net to be the church to those who are hated, rejected or despised? The poor, the suffering, and the sick? Those who are shunned, isolated and ignored by people.

I personally know Christians who don’t want to associate with those who have problems, who are depressed and walk around with dark clouds over their heads. They are afraid it might rub off on them.

But if we are the Church, we shouldn’t shun or avoid those who are suffering or struggling. How will they ever know that hope and love exists?

The true love that Jesus exemplified and demonstrated when He walked on this earth.

Folks, it’s much deeper than religion or religious acts that appease our own conscience. We must be willing to be the church and bring the love and compassion of Jesus to those who are broken, rejected and despised. If we don’t, who will?

In James 1:27, it says, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (KJV)

In Hebrews 13:3, it says, “Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.” (NLT)

This is not to boast, but even with my limited time between home, work, college, and writing, I’ve decided to use the gift God has blessed me with and write to those who are in prison. I also try to minister to families who have loved ones who are incarcerated. Families do the time along with their loved ones. It’s heartbreaking.

I’m not saying you need to do what I’m doing. All I’m saying is to be the church in whatever capacity God is calling you.

It’s no longer enough to preach or try to bring people to your Church. It’s time to be the hands and feet, and be the Church to the lost, the hopeless, the poor, the rejected, the shunned, the outcast, the incarcerated, the abused, and the sick.

Have you felt a burden to serve in your community, your neighbor or co-worker, but have been afraid to do so? Why not step out of your comfort zone and reach out? Why not take a step toward making a difference in someone else’s life? If we all do our part, we can bring hope to those who really need it.

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Conversations With A Black Hebrew Israelite

It all began while at this billboard.

Of the HBO award-winning series called “Boardwalk Empire”.

What struck me was the photo of these gangsters. I’ve always been fascinated with the Italian mob.

While observing the billboard, there was a tall, well-dressed African American man to my left.

He says, “Those were the original gangsters and now there’s the Crips and Bloods.”

I say, gang violence makes me sad and mention how a friend in Chicago witnesses the youth dying from gang violence every day.

“That’s because my people don’t know who they are.”

I stop (big mistake), turn around and asked him what he meant by that.

He tells me his people, the American blacks (not the African Americans) and Latinos, are the real Jews and not Jewish people.

Somehow I made the second mistake by mentioning that my husband is half black.

There’s no half black!  He’s either black or he isn’t. Is his father white or black?

I tell him, black.

He’s black then. Period. End of story.

I proceed to bury myself even further by asking him a question.

I asked him what his thoughts were on inter racial marriage.

He responds, there is no hope for me. But there is hope for my husband if he repents by divorcing me.

Is this guy for real?

He says, I’m white and there is no hope for rednecks. White people are from the lineage of Esau. All white people are of the devil.

At this point, my head is spinning.

He continues with his rant about New York City being like ancient Egypt. The buildings like Rome. And all white people will become slaves or destroyed by fire.

He criticizes black women passing by, saying they dress like whores, and they learned it from white women.

He then spots a group of Jehovah Witnesses’ and shouts for them to come over.

They see me, I’m sure with a forlorn expression and asked if I was ok.

I told them that according to him, I have no hope of salvation because I’m white and if my husband, who is black, doesn’t divorce me, he and my children will be destroyed for eternity.

They immediately whip out The Watchtower and Awake magazines, plus their New World Translation bibles.

He quickly bends down, unzips his black duffel bag and takes out his marked-up Apocrypha and King James Bible.

The four Jehovah Witnesses’ were black, so he was on a mission to open their eyes to his truth.

But what I was able to see in their exchange was that he was getting bible verses wrong.

I didn’t have a bible with me (I know, shame on me), but when the Jehovah Witnesses showed up, they were going through their bibles as he was quoting scripture and calling him out on his mistakes.

They all were smart, kind, educated and respectful.

I’ve always been impressed with the Jehovah Witnesses’.

I don’t concur with their theology, but I do respect their dedication.

I personally know of a few and their work ethic is impeccable. They are more dedicated than most evangelicals I know, myself included. They put us to shame actually.

I digress, what an experience.

I actually felt bad for the guy. I mentioned to him that most of my friends are black, so he called me a nigger lover.

At that point, I realized there was no reasoning with him. He was completely convinced white people are the enemy and can’t be trusted.

I walked away feeling helpless and sad. What a disappointing experience.

Have you ever encountered something like this?

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It’s Time to Fly

It’s a new year, faced with new challenges and new possibilities… it’s time to fly…

Courtesy of SkyDiving Masters/Creative Commons

I don’t know about you, but for years I’ve been trying to fly…

It’s been a constant struggle… every time I turn around there’s something happening. Situations pop out of nowhere and obstacles get in the way of reaching my full potential.

Awhile ago, I resigned myself to the fact that “one day” I will do this or that. I found myself sitting around… waiting, hoping, praying, wishing and dreaming.

As if something magical would happen to get me to where I wanted to go without doing the work or going through struggles.

I had everything I needed… except belief in myself. Mostly, belief in God.

I limited God, therefore I limited myself.

We do have a choice. We can either choose to believe truth or listen to lies.

*********

I played footsies with the devil for years… we kept dancing the same dance. As time went on, I started to believe this was my life.

I listened to his lies, his whispers and his seductions… luring me here and there like a puppet.

I was at his mercy, controlled by the puppet master… believing in the goods he was selling me. Thinking it was all I deserved, all I was worthy of.

He showed me his kingdom and I believed that’s all life had to offer… Yeah, sure, I read the bible, I went to church, but deep down I felt like an outcast, lurking behind the shadows with his minions.

I wanted to fly, but I was trapped… like a bird in a cage… set free only to do his bidding… manipulated, deceived, used and abused… lost and in utter despair…

He convinced me that I would never fly again. His words echoed, “You are damaged goods baby, who’s gonna want you now…”

I can still hear him, with each step I take and risk I make. The only difference is that now I know he has no power.

My belief in Jesus is stronger and His voice is louder.

He thought he had me… and he did for a while. But, praise God, those days are over.

This year I’m not going to limit God or myself. Even when it gets tough and challenges sneak up (which they have already)… I will continue to focus on Him, believe and not give up.

It’s your time to fly too… will you soar with Him this year?

 

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Letting Go by Dayna Bickham

“In the moment.”

I love that phrase. It makes me feel like twirling around and around like a little kid. Why? Because it is so freeing to live “In the moment”. It means I have let go of the constraints of others. It means I have given up trying to control everything. It means that I am not living full of anxiety or worry over the future. I am in the moment.

In this moment I can choose to rest. I can choose to risk, I can choose to reach. I can choose to create. I can choose to pray. I can choose to listen. I can choose to serve with an ordinary life in an extraordinary way.

There are times in our lives when planning and working toward goals are necessary, but we cannot let our lives become overcrowded with “to-do’s” that we forget that our lives are not our own.

Bought with a price, we now belong to God. His vision for us is far reaching and He has plans. Our job is to live in the moment: obedient to Him.

His ways are perfect, and by living for Him in the moment, and exchanging my plans for His, I live and breath in His freedom. I delight in His ways.

So I will live in the moment. I will let go of my plans and my ways and I will follow His plans and His ways. I will choose to delight myself in Him. I will not be a self-obsessed control freak and I will go where my Father leads me.

What is your favorite “live in the moment” memory? 

 

P.S.

Hey ya’ll, (yep I am a Southerner)

I have a new book out! Actually, it is my first one! I have never been so happy and so scared all at the same time! The reason I am telling you this is because I know how much you and Pilar love books! The Purpose of Chosen is a fresh look at the story of David and Goliath. There is so much to learn about our purpose in this world, and this book explores these themes:

1) Who You Are
2) The Value of Preparation
3) The Value of Work
4) The Value of Your Testimony
5) The Importance of Knowing Your Camp
6) Learning to Recognize Opportunity
7) How to Build Your Arsenal and Overcome any Giant

Filled with 30 insightful and heart searching questions, this short book is perfect for book clubs and small groups. It is available in paperback and in Kindle formats. This full color book is illustrated and easy to read. Perfect for younger people and for people who have a hard time reading a longer book, The Purpose of Chosen is designed and written to encourage and challenge you.

What you believe about yourself affects ever aspect of your life: often in ways you don’t even realize. You may be convinced that “this” is all there is, but there is more for you. You were made for more than a mundane life, you were made to live with purpose. You have been chosen, like David, for more than even you know.

When you discover who you are designed to be you can see that life is not just a random stream of evens, but opportunities for greatness– in the moment–and you will also see that if you arm yourself properly, no giant can stand in the way of what God has for you.

Click here to buy my new book, and be sure to drop me a line at ayearinthespirituallife@hotmail.com  to tell me what you think!

 

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