Loved The Movie I Am Not Ashamed, BUT It Made Me Wonder-Can We Christians Talk About The Issue?

I watched the movie I Am Not Ashamed last Friday. It is about the teenage girl, Rachel Joy Scott,  who was the first one shot and killed in the Columbine shooting in 1999. I appreciated that the movie depicted her as the real teen she was. The movie portrayed her as a teen girl trying to find her way, making mistakes along the way, and coming to know and desiring to live for Jesus.

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I would certainly recommend watching the movie if you haven’t already. While her story is inspiring for living for Christ and not denying him in the face of danger, sadly it also made me think about our society today.

There was something else I watched last week. I watched America’s Got Talent and one of the people auditioning was a 14 year old girl. She sang a rap song that she wrote because her father was killed before she was born. I have listened to it again on youtube and must admit that it saddens me that a 14 year old girl,  Flau Jae, has to live in the reality of our culture in America today with so many mass shootings and gun violence. Her song is about her father and not having a father, and also about anyone killed in gun violence.

Here is her video. If you want to know what is on the minds of today’s youth, listen to it. I have and I don’t like rap music, but she communicates something on the minds of our youth. Yes her song is more about her father dying, but she also sings in general terms.

When I was a child and teen, there were no school shootings. Now I teach ESL in an elementary school in the mornings and at a community college in the evenings. It is insane to me that I have to think about what to do if an incident happens at my community college. It sickens me that children worry about school shootings and that parents worry about their children being safe.

The only things students should have to worry about are studying, tests, and homework when they come to and from school and wondering if the cafeteria food will be any good. There should be no other concerns. There weren’t concerns about shootings 30 years ago.

Perhaps this won’t be a post that will be popular, but it is long past time to take steps to prevent mass shootings. I applaud retailers FINALLY deciding to stop selling assault rifles but that didn’t happen until this year. That needed to have happened a long time ago.

It is going to take a lot more than retailers finally stepping up. My time in this life grows shorter by the day with retirement age coming in the not too distant future. My concern is for the children, teens, and young adults. What kind of society are they inheriting? Do we care about now and the future for our youth and care enough to do something?

We need to move beyond partisan clichés and each side has them. As our leaders stand polarized playing to their lobbyists and base back in their districts, nothing gets done and the casualties keep rising.

Yes, our country has told God he is not welcome in our schools and and our society is anti-Christian. However, other western countries have also taken God out of the schools and do not have the problem with violence that we do in the U.S.

One questions is do we care enough to reach out to the troubled teen living in our neighborhood or going to the school our children go to? Do our youth groups really encourage and prepare our kids in school to befriend the ones being bullied, disenfranchised etc.?

I would love to see a for real conversation among Christians about what to do. For sure prayer is first on the list.  But what else with no cliches? Some suggestions I have heard seem ludicrous to me such as arming teachers. What other “modern” country has armed teachers? I teach and have never owned a gun. I don’t know any fellow teacher that wants to carry a gun in school.

This has been bothering me for quite some time. Each time a new story about a school shooting comes out, it makes me think about my students and their safety. You may have guessed I am in favor of stricter gun laws, so if that offends you and you don’t want to follow my blog or read it, I understand.

But it comes back to my question- Can we Christians talk about it? Can we talk about it beyond saying something like- Well, God isn’t welcome in the school- and then throw our hands in the air, figuratively speaking.

 

 

 

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Having The Faith of a Mustard Seed She Achieved Her Goal-My Friend Ko from Burma

Jesus compared a mustard seed to having faith in that the mustard seed is small but grows to be a tree. If we have faith, even a small amount, we can do great things.

God has blessed me with opportunities to meet and help refugees from literally all over the world. It is especially meaningful for me to see how they progress with their new lives in America. I love going to their celebrations such as weddings and birthdays and also experience their holidays. There is special significance for me in going to graduation celebrations. High School graduations are life markers for anyone, but a high school graduation for a young person who came to America as a refugee as a child with his or her parents is HUGE.

Saturday afternoon I visited the home of my friend Ko. She graduated from high school on Sunday, so she had a party with her family/extended family on Saturday.

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me with Ko

Ko came here as a child with her parents from the refugee camp in Thailand. Her parents are from Burma. Her father was in a class I taught the first several months after they came here. With everything her family has overcome through the years, Ko’s graduation is a major highlight. I have spoken with many refugee parents, who like Ko’s mother, work in places like a meat packing plant focusing on the future of their children. For Ko’s parents, her graduation makes their sacrifices worth it.

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Ko with her proud parents

Ko will go on to become a nurse. I joked with her that if she is ever my nurse to remember to bring me ice cream. Her graduation is a major achievement because it means that she learned English to be able to then study regular high school courses in her second language English to achieve her goal. She is a quiet hero in my mind. It takes courage to go to a high school where she was the only student from her language and country. Step by step she trusted in Jesus to achieve her goal. I am so proud of her.

I have had the privilege of knowing many young people from other countries who have come as refugees, gone on to graduate high school and then on to college. I know young adults who came here as refugee children who are now in medical school, nursing school, pharmacy school, and one who got her MBA and CPA and another one who graduated with her Masters Degree in Architecture.

So if you happen to meet an adult from another country with limited English, not dressed the best, living a low income life, don’t be quick to judge. Their kids might be your doctor, nurse, pharmacist, accountant etc someday. I know because I see it all the time. If you take the time to get to know a refugee family, it could be a wonderful blessing for you.

Ko has accomplished a lot in her young 18 years and will continue to accomplish a lot trusting in Jesus all the way. That is the faith of a mustard seed put into action 🙂

Being Vigilant for Our Youth/The TV Series 13 Reasons Why

This is not my usual inspirational post or humorous post. In fact I don’t really have a category to place it in from my normal categories. Today’s post is hopefully a wake up call regarding something in our culture. It may not be a popular post for views, but I don’t care about stats for this except if people read this, perhaps they will take it to heart.

Over the weekend I watched a TV show on Netflix that normally I wouldn’t watch, but a tragedy seven years ago was my motivation for watching the show. The show was 13 Reasons Why 2nd season. The tragedy seven years ago was a 19 year old girl I knew completed suicide. I was alarmed after watching the first season last year. I was EVEN MORE alarmed after watching the 2nd season. It is concerning to me that the release of the 2nd season was right at a time most kids are heading into summer break from school and will have less support.

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There are experiences that never leave us, that get stuck in our memories. When I went to the funeral for the girl and saw how devastated her family and friends were, it was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. She had graduated high school in May that year and completed suicide in September only a few weeks before she was supposed to start college. I called the high school the next morning to express my concern for her friends who I knew from my weekend groups at my church and who were still in the high school. The high school had not heard yet because she was not a student at the time. I was on the phone several times that day with different people at the high school. Some of the young people were upset with me for doing that, but they were okay and others watched out for them, so it was all worth it.

Out of that group of young people that I mentored and helped with English, 1 is in Medical School, 4 are in Pharmacy School, 1 got her MBA and CPA, 1 got her Masters in Architecture, 3 are in Nursing School, and the others graduated from university, all except the girl who took her own life. That still bothers me to this day. She had stopped coming to my weekend groups, so I had lost contact with her the last 1 1/2 years of her life.

Prior to completing suicide she had been listening to a song several times, “If I Die Young.” When I heard about it, I watched the video and was alarmed the video for the song showed a beautiful young woman laying in a boat on flowers and surrounded by flowers portraying a dead person while singing the song. I informed people I knew about the song and to please be watchful for young people infatuated with the song.

I am deeply concerned that a series like 13 Reasons Why is on Netflix. Netflix is great for binge watching seasons at a time which I have done with Spanish shows to practice listening to Spanish. My concern is that teens will binge watch the show 13RW because the story is centered around a teen girl completing suicide..

As a Christian, I am mindful of what the bible says about spiritual battles when it says our battle is not against flesh and blood but against spiritual forces. I think we can tend to think of the battle against darkness as being like the exorcist type movies when what it really comes in like are subtle forms. 13 Reasons Why is spiritually DARK. There is no other way to put it. The only reason I watched it is to know what young people I minister to might be watching.

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After my friend completed suicide in September 2011, I went through suicide prevention training. The concern over contagion, other kids being emboldened to try it, is very real. Teens do not have a concrete concept of the forever aspect of death. If your teen or a teen you know binge watches that show, please check on them. Listen to them and talk with them not at them.

If you are thinking of suicide, or have had thoughts that there is no hope and want to end it, please call- 1-800-273-8255. You have value. There is hope.

Unfortunately we live in a day and age that being vigilant is a necessity if we want to protect the young people in our lives. If you would like to know more about suicide prevention, here is a link –suicide prevention training   Since I went through the training, I have been able to intervene for two teens that were contemplating suicide and both are alive today and doing much better.

If you want to know more about the show 13RW and why it is dangerous for youth but do not have the time to watch it, a blog I follow did an excellent job in a post describing why it is concerning. Here is the link- beautybeyondbones

A final thought is that those of us who are follow Jesus are to be a light in the darkness. A practical way to be a light is to listen and talk with teens. Maybe a teen you know is doing well but perhaps concerned about a friend or classmate. Maybe a pre-teen has watched it. Even elementary teachers I interact with had concerns about the first season. Our youth today need to hear that there are loved, have value, and that we are on their side and that God loves them and cherishes them. There are so many voices pulling them in many directions and filling their spirits with darkness. Let’s love them, listen to them, and pray for them.