Why You Should Watch ’13 Reasons Why’

13-reasons-why_0While I was walking towards the edge of Stagg High School, my blond friend, Wanda, breathlessly ran up to me. “We heard you were getting jumped today so I brought Janice and Terry with me.” Janice was a beautiful Hispanic girl who I knew since I was 10-years-old and Terry was a stunning strawberry blond 25-year-old woman who I babysat for.

I was stunned. “Who told you that?” I asked. “It was going around school,” she said. “You’re not going back.”

That was my last day at Stagg High School. I transferred to Lincoln High School until we moved to Hawaii. I was a Freshman in high school. I started my Sophomore year at Waiakea High School hoping for a fresh start from the girls who wanted to fight me. Within a few months I left that school after getting into 3 fights in one day.

I was bullied and this is why I could so relate to Hannah Baker’s ordeal in “13 Reasons Why,” the latest Netflix original and controversial series. My son, Alex, and his best friend, Dominic watched it. The series centers around Hannah who committed suicide after being bullied.

Social media, smartphones and texting didn’t exist when I got bullied. I believe that social media, smartphones and texting have actually amplified bullying to another level that I fortunately never experienced. I remember being grabbed and groped at 12-years-old by boys who thought I would like it. I also remember cussing them out but the objectification, leering, cat calls continued to bombard me.

Although 13 Reasons Why has profanity and some sexually graphic scenes, I highly recommend that parents or anyone who works with youth watch this series. After watching a few episodes, I instantly felt a burden to pray for ministries that I know work with youth such as Reach a Generation, International House of Prayer Kansas City, Every Nation and Victory Tulsa Youth.

This is why you should watch ’13 Reasons Why’ despite the f-bombs and explicit scenes:

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for teenagers.

Fifty-percent of teenagers have reported being cyber-bullied. If you don’t know what cyber-bullying is, you need to click here.

If you’re over the age of 35, you are really clueless as to the extent of social media usage by teenagers. This series will open your eyes to the wild wild west of social media usage via SnapChat, Instagram as well as group texting.

Bullying is way more prevalent than schools will disclose. The schools job is to cover their behinds by protecting the school instead of the student. Forty-nine percent of students in 4th through 12th grades have reported being bullied. The main character, Hannah, disclosed in a tape that she never felt safe and felt constantly alone. Schools are not safe and everyone needs to take responsibility for this situation.

You really really really don’t know what it feels like to be a teenager in our culture right now. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that things haven’t changed that much. Life is much harder for our teenagers today.

If you don’t have a burden to pray for teenagers, you will have one after you watch this.

Maybe churches would make youth ministry a priority following the footsteps of Reach a Generation, International House of Prayer Kansas City, Every Nation and Victory Tulsa Youth.

I believe “13 Reasons Why” should stir a heart cry in you to intercede and reach out to teenagers like you’ve never had before.

 

What Churches Can Learn From the United Airlines Debacle

United Airlines has lost $1.4 billion, been the subject of countless memes and outrage on the social media after a video of a forcible removal of 69-year-old David Dao went viral. United CEO Oscar Munoz initially applauded his staff’s handling of the ‘belligerent’ passenger and then reversed his position to an apology to the passenger after the company lost $250 million.

The airline was overbooked and offered 800 sky miles to passengers who would voluntarily give up their seat for four United Airlines crew members who had to get to Louisville, KY. Dr. Dao considered giving up his seat until he learned that the earliest he could get on another flight would be the next day. He told airline staff that he needed to get back to work. You would have thought the airline staff would have just picked another willing passenger or increased the incentive.

Instead, airline staff called airport security who dragged Dr. Dao off the plane. Dr. Dao’s nose was broken and he was hospitalized after the incident. United CEO initially said Dr. Dao was belligerent and out of control. Really? Would you get belligerent and out of control Mr. Munoz if you were forced to get off the plane when you paid for the ticket and went through the security procedures?

Mr. Munoz and his staff at United Airlines failed to see that their system or policy created their problem. The message sent to customers is: #1 Our employees are more important than you; #2 Your plans, your health condition and commitments don’t matter to us. In fact, you don’t matter to us because we have a policy we need to adhere to. #3 Our policy is a priority, not the customer.

Here are some lessons churches can learn from this crisis that erupted within hours.

Don’t call the person the problem. Demonizing customers as being belligerent when your system created the rebellion is a common tactic for clueless people in authority. Stock prices drop and everyone else can see that your system or structure is wrong but you continue to justify the policy by blaming the customer. I’ve seen this scenario play out over 20 years of being in different churches where attendance spirals.

In one church that I attended, over half of the members left in one year. Some of them left for legitimate reasons such as moving to another city for a better job. But I soon learned why their was a massive exodus. The church was anti-women working outside of the home which mystified me because one of my best girlfriends had a very thriving home-based business.

I was made to feel like their was something wrong with me because I worked outside of the home. In face one of the leaders that I asked for help with a troubled niece told her that I was a bad parent because I worked outside of the home. That piece of advice for a troubled teen just made things worse for us.

The church was hemorrhaging members because of this tactic of saying the member is the problem instead of trying to help them.

Say your sorry. United Airlines CEO Dan Munoz said he was sorry after the company lost $250 million and the social media outrage that sparked disapproval from President Donald Trump, and a host of government officials and high-profile celebrities. The apology is suspect and prevailing public opinion speculates that he apologized after being caught. An aviation lawyer representing Dr. Dao says he wasn’t impressed by the apology. “I thought it was staged,” Thomas Demetrio said at a press conference.

Apparently most people think it was staged as well. If Munoz would have apologized to Dr. Dao in the beginning instead of calling him belligerent, the scenario would have been much different. Munoz chose to protect a broken system instead of reaching out to someone who was broken by it.

If your system created the problem, fix it. Dr. Dao was kicked off because of an industrywide practice of ‘overbooking.’ Common sense dictates you would let Dr. Dao stay on the plane and pick a willing passenger instead of forcing Dr. Dao off the plane. I understand that overbooking system benefits consumers. That message of how overbooking benefits consumers didn’t play into this because of the inhumane application of this practice in Dr. Dao’s situation. United Airlines legastically adhered to this practice instead of executing it with kindness and humanity.

Now that the video of Dr. Dao being dragged off the plane has generated public outrage, the U.S. Department of Transportation is investigating the incident. This incident is forcing the travel industry to re-examine this practice. I hope they listen to their customers and fix it.

The church hemorrhaging members shut down and was absorbed into a larger church which was a smart move. The pastors and I have reconciled since then and we are friends today. I respect them for their honest assessment that the church needed to be absorbed into another thriving ministry. They also apologized to me right after those incidents.

Sometimes you need to tweak your system or shut it down if it is not producing good fruit. Churches can learn so much from the United Airlines fiasco. The bottom line is to treat people with kindness, humility, love and mercy. The system should not dictate how you treat someone but your faith and value of people should be the standard. When your system is flawed, fix it. Don’t blame the people, fix the system.

Other excellent posts I recommend for this issue:

Why United’s PR Disaster Didn’t Fly by Michael Hyatt

United Airlines and the Firestorm of Social Media by Phil Cooke

Why Christians Need to Stop Silly Fights

“What are the benefits of public school,” a person asked on Twitter.

I answered, “You learn how to get along with people who are different from you.”

Instantly without any notice I was ambushed on Twitter by home schoolers who thought I said ‘home-schooling is Satanic.’ I said nothing about home-schooling. I answered a question about public school.

Unfortunately I innocently stepped into the middle of a conversation launched by a blogger pitching his pro-home school post. The Christian blogger had an agenda and he used me to launch his crusade against public school. I quickly bowed out of this accidental argument and called out the blogger’s agenda.

The home-school versus public school is one of those silly fights Christians tend to get into in the name of God. My friend Lee Grady posted an article about how Christians misuse the Bible. One way we pervert the Bible is when we attack each other with scriptures. We think we’re defending God’s honor and the truth when we’re justifying our position at our friend’s expense.

The home-school versus public school is one of the many silly wars we fight. I’ve seen these battles as well:

  • Moms with children who work outside of the home versus moms with children who stay at home
  • Purposefully single versus marrieds
  • Purposefully childless couples versus marrieds with children

And the list goes on and on. I was in a church where the pastor’s wife wanted to debate me about my decision to work outside of the home. My mom just died and I had a baby. I was not in the mood for an open debate about my decision to work.

I respectfully told the pastor’s wife that the decision to work was between me and God and my husband. We believed the job was a financial blessing and my children were being taken care of. “I think you’ve crossed some boundaries here,” I said.

A week later she called crying and repenting for her mistake. I was thankful she responded but my guard was up in that relationship. That was the beginning of the end for me for that church.

While I’m a firm believer in seeking wisdom and counsel from respected, trusted leaders, I believe these issues, among many, are between you and God:

  • Taking birth control
  • Have kids or not have kids
  • Get married or stay single
  • How you date
  • Where you live
  • What you do for a living
  • How you spend your money
  • How you decide to educate your child

Some people can’t afford to send their child to a private Christian school or lose income from a working adult. Instead of judging them for their decision to send their child to a public school, why not pay their way to a private Christian school? Paying for their tuition is a more constructive way of addressing your conviction about private Christian education instead of berating the parent for subjecting their child to the ‘liberal agenda.’

Christians who fight silly wars are at-risk for breaking this scriptural guideline for relationships:

Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters.[a] If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God’s law. But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you.  God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor? James 4:11-12

Who are you to judge your neighbor because….

  • They send their child to a public school
  • They home-school
  • He/she doesn’t want to get married
  • He/she doesn’t want to have children
  • He/she wants to have a big family
  • She has children and doesn’t want to work
  • She has children and wants to work
  • He/she drives an expensive sports car or an older vehicle
  • He/she is a different race, gender or economic class

Who are you to judge?

Instead of judging, let’s love by praying and caring for one another. Let’s fight for another, stand with another and respect each other’s decision. Help an overwhelmed parent. Bring a meal. Take care of their kids. Celebrate life!

Tell me about a silly war you may have accidentally stepped into.

 

An Open Letter to the Women Who Marched

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I applaud your exercise of your first amendment right to free speech. I thought of joining your cause and several of my friends marched with you. I had some friends who marched in Washington, D.C., another friend who marched in New York City and my cousin who marched in Kansas City.

I wanted to march with you on January 21, 2017 but I couldn’t fully buy into the pro-abortion platform. The reason I wanted to march with you was because of my pro-life values that drove me to not terminate the pregnancy of my daughter with a disability. I understand that many protesters were taking a stand for the disabled, immigrants, refugees, the poor and marginalized.

I feel very torn between my friends who are pro-life and pro-Trump and could not support your march. I wanted to march for my daughter because frankly I’m concerned about her future under Trump’s administration. I watched the news coverage all day and prayed.

I prayed that you would be heard. I prayed that God would heal the division in our nation. I prayed for peace.

One of my friends texted me and said she would have loved to march but couldn’t because of the pro-abortion stance. There are millions of women like my friend and I who are just as passionate as you are about the defending the plight of the immigrant, the poor, the refugee, the disabled and the marginalized.

But we will not shed our stand for life. While I’m pro-life, I’m pro all of life. I believe that the pro-life movement has been weak to advocate for ALL life, for the single teenage mom who decides to keep her baby, for the baby who ends up in foster care or an orphanage, for the homeless, for the immigrant and marginalized. I believe God is pro ALL of life. He is pro-people, pro-freedom and pro-truth.

I’ve never voted on one issue like most of my pro-life friends. I’ve tried to keep an open mind because I have people who I love that had several abortions. I refuse to condemn or judge them. My heart is to reach across political issues that divide us and bring us together.

I pray that we can truly hear each other instead of shutting each other down because of our own perceived stereotypes. I refuse to stereotype you as a rude, profanity-speaking f-bomb dropping woman. By the same token, don’t stereotype me as a militant right-wing, pro-Trump, Republican pro-lifer that doesn’t care about social justice issues.

We share a common history of struggle for our rights and dignity. Can we stop screaming at each other, caricaturizing each other and listen to each other? Please drop the labels and let’s talk. My friend, Lee Grady, wrote a column about the Christian foundation of the suffragette movement.

Lee wrote: “It was Christian suffragette leader Lucretia Mott (1793-1880) who said: “The world has never yet seen a truly great and virtuous nation because in the degradation of woman the very fountains of life are poisoned at their source.” Mott did not live to see American women win the vote in 1920, but she laid the foundation for that victory.

If we truly want to stop the poison of injustice and elevate the dignity of women in the Trump era, we will need more than sassy outrage from Hollywood stars. We need a gutsy, courageous, grassroots Christian women’s movement that is not afraid to stand for both gender equality and sexual purity; we need compassion for pregnant women as well as a mother’s heart to protect unborn and unwanted children.”

Let’s come together and pray for our nation. More than ever, we need peace and wisdom. May God bring healing to our nation and wisdom for all us to become the solution instead of looking to the government for the answer.

Bridging the Racial Divide in the Church

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Martin Luther King, Jr. once said,

“It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.”

Progress is slow on racial reconciliation in this country, particularly given recent events. But why do lingering divisions exist in the Church, the very communities built on the promise of forgiveness and reconciliation? Finding racial unity in a congregation is a complex task that requires a deep recognition of racial differences in how Christians understand and practice their faith. In a recent study that builds upon our research on racial tension and the Black Lives Matter movement, Barna examined the divergent ways in which black and white Christians approach discipleship, individually and collectively, revealing insights that may contribute to the realization of King’s dream of an unsegregated hour of worship.

What Is Spiritual Progress?
The term “spiritual progress” is open to interpretation, and when asked to define it, differences in perspectives begin to emerge between black and white Christian leaders Black Christian leaders are more likely to describe the process of spiritual progress as “spiritual maturation” (31%), while white Christian leaders prefer the phrase “spiritual growth” (21%). The language of “maturation” implies more of an internal transformation and the development of wisdom through life experience, whereas the word “growth” tends to suggest an approach that entails reaching key milestones.

When both groups define “discipleship,” white believers are more likely to refer to it as a “process of learning to follow Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, seeking to observe all that Jesus commanded, by the power of the Holy Spirit and to his glory.” Black Christians instead commonly refer to it as “The process of transformation that changes us to be increasingly more like Christ through the Word, the Spirit, and circumstance.” For black Christians, spiritual progress tends to focus more on life experience rather than achieving goals, about maturing into a Christ-like character as they weather life’s storms. Read more.

Confessions of a Bad Girl

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(Photo Credit: Wonography)

I was the girl that dads didn’t want their sons dating.

I was the girl that moms told their daughters to not hang out with.

I was the bad girl.

I didn’t know how I got the label because I went to school, I babysat in my free time and tried to be a ‘good girl.’ But being a ‘good girl’ was boring. Even though I was labeled as a ‘bad girl,’ secretly I took a vow to not sleep around. Despite my vow, plenty of guys told stories about sleeping with me. I was a virgin in the closet because purity was not ‘cool.’

I didn’t want to be a bad girl and even had a touch from God when I was 12. I started going to a small Pentecostal church and loved it. I read my Bible. I prayed and even had prophetic dreams.

Then one day the girls who brought me to church cornered me behind an apartment building and threatened to drop me as a friend unless I smoked a joint with them. They were my only friends and smoked the joint. That was the last time I talked to God or went to church. The good church girls turned me off from God.

I didn’t want to be a bad girl but I was a thief because my parents couldn’t afford to buy clothes or shoes for me. I bought my own clothes, shoes and paid for my own food or admission fees into movies, skating etc. I was a self-funded bad girl.

I started smoking Marlboros at 11-years-old. At 13-years-old I hosted my first party with alcohol. At 16-years-old I was going to night clubs.

Many years later a good girl invited me to church. I went to her church and had an encounter with God. He turned me into God’s girl. From that day forward, I wanted to serve Him.

I joined a long line of bad girls in the Bible who had a place in God’s story despite their mistakes and shady past. Eve, the mother of all living who is blamed for the fall of mankind. Sarah who deceived her husband into sleeping with her maid in an attempt to fulfill God’s promise. Bathsheba who slept and married her husband’s murderer.

Rahab, a prostitute who was named within the genealogy of Jesus and became a great great grandmother to King David. There are so many other women who were forced into being defined as a ‘bad girl’ by circumstances or bad choices. Yet God chose them to be part of His story.

My past as a thug and thief has put a well of thankfulness in my heart to God. I’ve followed God for over 30 years and I still weep in gratitude that He let me join His family. He has taken a bad girl and put her in front of presidents, kings, celebrities, professional athletes and many other people.

He turned a bad girl into His girl, a vessel of honor and dignity instead of shame and reproach. For every woman reading this who has been defined by harsh circumstances as a bad girl, God is calling you to His story. He is calling you to a story of love, grace and freedom from your past. I pray that you will hear Him loudly and clearly as I did at 18-years-old.

The Surprising Way God Sees Success

Yesterday I was driving and I asked my 18-year-old son Alex what does he think Jesus looks like. While he was thinking of an answer, I told him what I thought Jesus looked like. “I think Jesus is an unassuming, ordinary Arab or Jewish man. I don’t see Jesus as a Hollywood glam hunk but someone that we would be blown away by the ‘ordinariness’ of his appearance. I think of Jesus as someone who could have been easily overlooked or dismissed until he got on the religious leaders radar when he started teaching in the temple. I think of Jesus as a short Jewish man with thick curly black hair.

Jesus is the pinnacle of success yet consider that he never owned a home, never married or owned a business. His very life contradicts our worldly idea of success. Of course He was the son of God and could have called down angels anytime yet He lived on earth in His fully humanity.

I told my son that I’m concerned how obsessed our Christian culture is with worldly success. Prosperity preaching entwined with American Christianity can make you feel ashamed for having a job and trying to make ends meet. I’ve even heard ministers preach that your house or car is an indication of your faith. I’ve always been appalled when I hear this because what do you say to the Chinese Christians who lose everything for the cause of Christ or Christians being persecuted for their faith whose homes are taken? Does that mean they don’t have faith because they lost everything for the sake of the Gospel?

Another person who lost everything – his identity, his family and his wealth was Joseph in the Bible. Despite his brothers selling him into slavery, God was still with Joseph.

“When Joseph was taken to Egypt by the Ishmaelite traders, he was purchased by Potiphar, an Egyptian officer. Potiphar was captain of the guard for Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. The Lord was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did as he served in the home of his Egyptian master. Potiphar noticed this and realized that the Lord was with Joseph, giving him success in everything he did.” Genesis 39: 1-3

Joseph was a piece of property in the eyes of Egypt yet this did not stop God from being with Him and blessing Him. A slave who owned nothing and not even his own life, was called a success by God.

Joseph’s fortunes end when Potiphar’s wife accuses Joseph of rape. Joseph is sent to prison and God follows him there.

Potiphar was furious when he heard his wife’s story about how Joseph had treated her. So he took Joseph and threw him into the prison where the king’s prisoners were held, and there he remained. But the Lord was with Joseph in the prison and showed him his faithful love. And the Lord made Joseph a favorite with the prison warden. Before long, the warden put Joseph in charge of all the other prisoners and over everything that happened in the prison. The warden had no more worries, because Joseph took care of everything. The Lord was with him and caused everything he did to succeed.” Genesis 39:19-23

Joseph is a slave and a prisoner and yet God calls him a success. Joseph didn’t own a mansion or have millions of dollars or a following. Joseph had God.

What God calls success is a slave who can influence his master with his relationship with God. An influencer who has a relationship with God which impacts their boss’s business or makes life better for those around them, is a success according to God. You don’t have to own a mansion and be a high-powered CEO or famous celebrity.

You can be a slave and be a success.

You can be a WalMart cashier and be considered a success by God.

You can be a stay at home mom and considered a success by God.

Success is having God with you. When God is with you, you have everything.

Don’t let American culture dictate your definition of success. Set the Bible as your barometer of a successful life.

(Disclaimer: I was influenced by Kris Valloton’s message called “Cultivating Prophetic Families” where he mentions Joseph’s life.)