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.

 

Walking in the Tension of a Quiet End and Exhilarating Beginning

crossroadsA few days before Christmas, my friend, Lucy Haley-Hurn ended her fight with Cancer. Lucy was surrounded by loving friends and family when she met the One she served her whole life on December 21. I’ll never forget the prayers I cried out to God for Lucy and her fiancee Ashley to find suitable property. Or prayers for the details to come together when they found property. And prayers for Lucy when she was in the hospital. I thank God that He answered our prayers by bringing healing from the disease that her spirit refused to succumb to.

The day after Christmas, three young men sang ‘My Girl’ in front of the Melting Pot on the Plaza in Kansas City for a couple, Paul Winters and Briann McDowell. While the melody rose through the cold night air, Paul grabbed the Zales bag with the ring and got on his knees. “Will you marry me?” She nodded yes and I wept through this happy moment.

In one week,  a friend’s life ended and another friend’s life was beginning a new chapter. Celebrating a friend’s engagement and a funeral the same week starkly reminds me of what’s truly important while walking through the tension of a new beginning and an ending. New beginnings and endings strip us of our pretense to reveal priorities driving us and force us to answer questions we don’t want to ask.

Endings are always bittersweet and beginnings exhilarating especially when relationships are redefined. We answer questions that we don’t want to answer such as:

Why am I really doing this activity? Am I involved in this task or activity to please someone, to make myself look good or because I’m too afraid to say no?

Is this person a friend or are they using me to further their own agenda? If I fail or make a mistake, will this person stay in my life or kick me to the curb? I know Paul found a friend for life in his future wife,  Briann. They have an incredible passion for helping children and they are a perfect match. My friend Lucy was one of the few people who would not kick me to the curb.

What’s important in my life? My daughter, D’Andra and her growth in her faith became my number one priority in 2016. Her stormy adjustment to high school forced me to search high and low for a place where she could thrive spiritually. She turns 15 in April and Holy Spirit spoke to me that I would lose her if she didn’t find her ‘tribe’ or youth group now.

As the year comes to a close, the multiple funerals and memorial services I’ve attended in 2016 put a fire in my heart to get on with what God has called me to do. I pray that you will get on with what He has called you to do. Spend some time the first month of a new year answering these questions.

Soak in this Psalm as you answer questions you’ve haven’t been asked in a long time and may Holy Spirit’s wisdom speak to you for 2017.

Psalm 23

A psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd;
    I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
    he leads me beside peaceful streams.
    He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
    bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk
    through the darkest valley,[a]
I will not be afraid,
    for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
    protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
    My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
    all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
    forever.

 

Kansas City Gang Leader Finds Redemption

9781424551927The newly-released Millenial Orphan (Broadstreet Publishing) by Levi Gideon Shepherd is a heart-breaking poignant portrait of God’s redemption while growing up in Kansas City and the failure of the Missouri Social Services system. Levi was raised by a single mom in the rough parts of East Kansas City. After overcoming cancer, his mom died, sending him into a life of chaos, betrayal and abuse. Abandoned by his family, Levi went through a string of abusive foster homes and psychiatric hospitals. His dream of becoming a paratrooper for the U.S. Army was shattered by a medical discharge.

With no hope and tormenting voices of pain, Levi spiralled into a life of becoming a gang leader. There were a few bright lights along the way with adults who saw through the pain and torment in his soul. Mrs. Boyden and Officer Jon Chapman rescued him from his abusive foster father. Ozanam, a treatment center for children with psychiatric disorders, brought several caring adults into his life who saw through the pattern of abuse that sent him into psychiatric care.

What’s disturbing is how the state of Missouri’s social services department let him stay in these abusive homes.

“After that first blow that night by the barbecue, the gloves came off. There was something – from somewhere in his past – that rose like a malovent demon. Perhaps I was a reminder of wrongs done to him in his past or wrongs he’d done to others, because my very presence in that house set him off. From a constant barrage of derogatory swear words aimed my way to random blows, whatever was lurking in his heart found an outlet on me.” p. 94

Levi’s grades spiraled under the constant abuse and torture. He learned that his tormentor was once a youth minister who lost his credentials after trying to molest a boy. This was the second “Christian” in his life who abused him. The first Christian was a woman who taught Sunday School. The shocking revelations of his tormentor’s record caused him to distrust the system that was suppose to protect him.

“Now it all began to make sense. I was a teenage boy, and I must have reminded him of his past, a past he so desparately wanted to hide. But why in the world had the foster care system let him be a parent? I concluded that that they must have not known – or worse, they didn’t care.” (p. 97)

Levi is sent to Ozanam after attempting to run away from his abuser. Mr. Redding, a counselor, learns about Levi’s situation and asks Social Services to change Levi’s placement. Social Services ignores Mr. Redding’s request and Levi is sent back to live with his abuser.

Mr. Redding is the first person besides his mother and grandparents, to show him unconditional love.

“Mr. Redding was the only person who ‘got’ me, and God used him to save my life.” (p. 107)

I couldn’t put the book down, and you won’t be able to either. Levi shares his story with compassion for children and teenagers living in the same chaotic mess who wonder if God cares. He sees the love of God through the people who bring relief in hard circumstances. Everyone who cares about children and teenagers should read this book.

When God’s Purpose in Your Child’s Life Hurts You

Jacob held the blood-stained robe that he carefully wove for his youngest son. The dreams he had in his heart that Joseph told him were shattered. The dreamer father, who told his sons of his dream of angels going up and down a ladder to heaven, treasured Joseph’s dreams.The second dream of his brothers bowing toward him that Jacob kept in his heart also died. The son of his love, Rachel, was dead. Joseph running after his brothers in the colorful coat was gone.

Joseph was dead and the hopes and dreams that Jacob had for him had died. Joseph was dead to his father but starting his destiny in God. His brothers sold him into slavery, yet God was sending him into His purposes.

God doesn’t ask our permission when we want His purposes to come to pass in our child’s lives. Jacob learned that he had no control over Joseph’s future. Just like Jacob, we need to learn that we have no control over our child’s future.

If God asked you, “I’m going to send your son into a hostile pagan country to be a slave and he will go to prison for something he didn’t do. Is that OK with you?”

What would you say? I wouldn’t want to know if that was in my child’s future. Yet how much do we try to control our child’s future when He alone wants control.

Stripped of his person hood and the coat of prominence, the once favored prince of a tribal king was now a slave. I believe the slave Joseph cried out to the God of Jacob for help. The stories that Jacob told his sons and daughters of God delivering him from death came alive for Joseph.

Maybe the God of Jacob could help Joseph just as He helped his father who was a slave to his grandfather Laban. Maybe the God of his father could prosper him as he prospered his father who was lied to and taken advantage of by his grandfather.

Your child needs their own story with God. These stories thrust Joseph into his own story and his own relationship with God. Abba Jacob wasn’t around to tell him how to love and follow the one he wrestled with. Now Joseph had to wrestle with his own destiny, his own beliefs and questions and his own identity.

Just as Jacob’s dream died for Joseph, I believe that God brings us to a point in time when our dream for our child dies. We have prayers folded into hopes, dreams, desires, decrees spoken over them. We spend hundreds of dollars on lessons and training and we construct an agenda and a plan for our child. And then He steps into the plan and messes it up.

God alone wants to form your child and their future. He steps in and challenges you to trust Him with your child. Trust God that He can reach them and talk to them. Trust God to have His way even when His way makes you cry and wonder if God is even on the scene.

I’ve learned in my miniscule 30 years of walking with God that He is a creator beyond our understanding. He will not be bound by your culture and agenda. He is a craftsman who loves to intricately shape a person that He hides until history calls for him or her.

God will not work for your comfort or convenience but for the purpose of something greater and grander than our small dreams. God doesn’t give Jacob any sign that He would send Joseph into slavery. He gave Jacob clues that Joseph had a prominent calling on his life. But beyond those two dreams recorded in the Bible, Jacob had no idea the ordeal his son would endure to save a nation.

As parents, we must trust God with our child. We think we know God’s calling or purpose in our child’s life but their choice and God’s relationship with them are a heavenly mystery. Only God knows how to form a man and a woman for His purposes. Only God the creator knows how to arrange circumstances and people for His glory. For when a man or woman’s purpose is revealed, He alone wants the glory for His craftmanship and design that display His creative splendor and beauty.

I have dreams for my children and I’ve received prophetic words for them but I must lay them down at the altar and trust God with their lives. Ultimately my children must know Him intimately and I need to get out of the way. I can’t control their lives. My children must have their own story in God.

I pray that you release your son or daughter into the hands of the One who can save and deliver them. Of course I believe that you must do everything you know to do to take responsibility for them by providing safety and security for them. I’m a strong proponent of investing in their spiritual foundation and spending time with them.

But after you’ve spent thousands of dollars, millions of hours and poured out your heart and faith and they come of age where they are legally adults in our culture – your job is done. Release control and trust Him. Jacob had to trust God when he thought his son was dead.

The day that he met Joseph as the second in command of the most powerful nation in the planet is the day that God showed His glory. That day Jacob met Pharoah is the day God’s splendor shined when He fulfilled His promise with them that He would provide. The son who he thought was dead was alive and in charge of the nation’s grain. His son, Joseph, was the savior of the known world.

 But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.

So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt. Now hurry back to my father and say to him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; don’t delay. 1You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me—you, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all you have.  I will provide for you there, because five years of famine are still to come. Otherwise you and your household and all who belong to you will become destitute.’ (Genesis 45:7-11)

Joseph tells his brothers that God sent him into slavery to save them. The favor of God sent Joseph into slavery, prison and then catapulted him into the highest office in the land. God’s plan to save Jacob from famine depended on Joseph.

We want our son or daughter to go to college, graduate with a high-paying job, marry and have children. Yet God’s plan may be radically different from your plan. Can you really trust God?

My mom had to trust God when I got kicked out of high school at 16. She had to trust God when I started college at 16 and lived on campus. She had to trust God to protect me and keep me when I wanted to be independent from my parents.

I had a calling from God that I had to answer myself. My mom, my pastor, my counselor couldn’t answer it. I had to answer His calling alone. Release your adult child to answer His call in their own way.

I’ve been going through this myself as I release my 21-year-old son, Chris, and 17-year-old son, Alex, to answer God’s call. I’ve done everything I know to build a foundation of honoring God in their life. Not my will God, but your will be done in Chris and Alex’s life.

Here’s a song that Alex recently recorded call “Purpose,” by Justin Bieber. Justin grew up in a Christian home and although he is a pop star, there is a call from God pulling on his life. Only Justin can answer that call. This beautiful song expresses that sentiment.

What’s the Worst Gift You’ve Ever Received?

babushka

I got a ‘babushka’ as a gift when I was 12-years-old.

My stepmother crocheted a ‘babushka’ for me when I was 12-years-old. The ‘babushka’ is a scarf worn by old Russian women. To this day I had no idea what she was thinking when she spent hours crocheting a navy blue babushka with red fringe. I wore torn jeans, graphic t’s and Converse tennis shoes. I think it was her way of saying that she hated me. What’s the worst gift you’ve ever received?

How A Teenager Shocked Me

Samuel Noel, 18, produced “Mighty King,” a 14-song project with 43 artists and musicians.

Everyday we read headlines about teenagers committing crimes or brazenly living a promiscuous, party-hardy drug pursuing lifestyle. But I believe despite the teenagers you hear about in the headlines that God is raising up a new generation of teenagers who are truly counter-culture by living their faith out loud. One of those teenagers is someone I’ve watched grow up in my church.Samuel Noel is 18-years-old and he shocked me with his extravagant generosity towards the church and God. He worked 3 jobs and emptied his savings account to produce a CD, “Mighty King.” The project includes 14 original songs with 43 musicians and singers. The proceeds of the project will go towards the World Revival School of Worship.

I listened to the CD three times and their are obvious technical flaws. Despite the technical flaws, the message and heart for the church shines through. Most 18-year-old guys would spend their money on a new car, the latest gaming system or music gear. Instead, Noel chose to spend it on a project that frankly isn’t going to win a Grammy or a Dove award.

Noel says that the goal of the project was to “break walls down.”

Noel explains, “We have a lot of good musicians and singers in my church but we were all divided into little groups. I wanted to bring them all together and to spark them to blow the dust off that song they wrote and produce it.” The project includes 14 songs in a variety of genres from rock, blues, acoustic worship to gospel.

Kansas City Christian Music Blues Artist of the Year Daniel Tru Blu Gray plays on most of the trax. Former Integrity recording artist, Eric Nuzum Thomason is also on the project. Noel was mentored by Gray and Thomason as he walked through the challenges of writing the songs, arrangements and organizing 43 musicians and singers for their recording sessions.

“I rewrote the tempo for ‘I Need You Father,’ because Satara (Brown) shared with me some stuff that she was going through,” says Noel. “I had written it for a faster tempo but I needed to slow it down because Satara was singing this from her heart.”

There’s a plethora of technically excellent, polished worship CDs that you can buy. But this project stands out to me because I know the people that sing these songs and their heart for God. One of those singers is one of my closest friends, Shelly Dillion. This was the first time that she sang in a studio although she had led worship in church since she was a kid.

Dillion faithfully serves behind the scenes by making sure the facilities are clean at World Revival Church. She has a heart for God and was once approached by a talent scout who wanted to make her into a black country music star. She turned that offer down. I loved hearing her pour her passion and heart out for God in “Healer.”

“Mighty King” is a compiled anthem from people of different races, ages and backgrounds with the common heart to crown Him in worship. This is not a multi-million dollar funded project by a record label but the work of love from a teenager and his friends and mentors. I urge you to invest in it to show that worship isn’t captive to record labels and million dollar productions.

When you buy “Mighty King,” you’re supporting a school of worship that’s devoted to raising up musicians and singers who are not leading worship to become a celebrity or star, but to give songs to the church to sing. You will be singing these songs because the melodies are easy to follow and the songs are easy to sing. Support emerging worship leaders by buying “Mighty King.”

Order “Mighty King” on iTunes and Amazon Music or MightyKing.org.

A Young Man’s Passion

Sixteen-year-old Alex Haywood is on the keyboard singing his heart out.

Is it possible for a teenager in our culture to bawl  through worship? Not a girl, but a young man to cry as they are overwhelmed by the majesty and glory of God’s presence.  Yes, your son who loves video games and Marvel Comic  superhero movies can feel the presence of God.

Last Saturday night my son, Alex, came home after a REVO  service at World Revival Church and said he bawled through  a whole song. “I felt like God stepped down and that He was  with me mom,” he said “It was amazing!” He bawled as he  was leading worship.

Alex isn’t perfect but the bottomline is that he loves God. His older brother, 19-year-old Chris also came home and  shared about how he loved worshipping God during Young  Adults. He also helped lead worship.

I believe that teenagers and young adults want God. They  want to encounter something that’s bigger and not of this  world. I also believe my job is to make it easy for them to  find Him.

I’ve tried to make it easy for the 2 young men in my house  to find Him by living out my faith in front of them. They  know my struggles, my challenges and my craziness. But they  have seen me run to God over and over again.

I want to encourage you to make it easy for the kids,  teenagers and young adults in your life to find God. They  want Him. You don’t have to be super-spiritual or perfect.  You don’t have to be in the ministry. You don’t have to be  a leader.

You can be a mom, dad, aunt, uncle, grandpa, grandma, big brother, big sister or a friend and clear the way for them.  To make way for His invasion into their life, let Him  invade your life. Let Him be who He wants to be in your  life.

Let Him be king. Let Him be Lord. Let Him move upon your  life. He wants to move in your life.

One super-easy thing you can do is to invest in a young person’s life by sending them or telling them about the  Encounter Conference at World Revival Church. The  conference is on June 22-24 at World Revival Church. Tell  everyone teenager and young adult that you know about this conference.

A young man can be passionate for God. Don’t buy the lies  of the world that all they want to do is watch sports,  party and chase girls. Let’s be an example for them and  clear the way so they can have an encounter with God.