An Inspirational Teenager

An Inspirational Teenager

It’s easy to look at today’s generation of teenagers and say they are babied, selfish to the point of entitlement, disrespectful, and oversensitive. Perhaps some of that is true. But I’d like to prove to you, there are still many, many absolutely fantastic teenagers! Today I have the privilege of sharing some of seven-teen-year-old, Matt McHenry’s story.

When Matt was a sophomore, he knew he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps of military service. The trouble was, Matt’s school didn’t offer the typical programs such as ROTC or Cadet Corps designed to help prepare students for service in the armed forces. But this didn’t stop Matt.

He decided to do something about it.

A part of ASB since Junior High (VP), Matt knew he would need support if he wanted to accomplish getting a military program started from the ground up at his school. He spoke with interested students, teachers, and school leaders—one of which is now a superintendent. He pointed out how his school offered different career pathways like medical and engineering, so why not something for those interested in serving our country?

Matt was told there was a ten-year standstill to get a military program like ROTC started. Rather than give up, he chose to keep pressing on.

There was desire and need. He was determined to make it happen.

The school’s Vice Principal rewarded Matt’s tenacity by introducing him to a teacher, Mr. Bravo who decided to help. Together they established an after-school program that began as a Prep Club. Forty-five kids showed up to the first meeting. Mr. Bravo, having served in the military himself, introduced the kids to their first PT (physical training) on the spot. The next meeting only ten students showed up. Of course, these were the students who truly were looking for military preparation.

Around this same time, Matt’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.

He and his family watched her go through chemotherapy and surgery with positivity and bravery.

“She’s a fantastic person with a golden philosophy for life. And that was even before going through breast cancer,” Matt said. “Few people are like her. She’s incredible and a fighter. She’s inspired and encouraged me.” Much to Matt’s relief, his mom remains cancer-free and still very much a driving force in his life.

Today Matt is a senior and the commander of the Prep Club. He and Mr. Bravo have continued to expand the program they started from scratch. Each of the 60 members now has uniforms, a chain of command, and an Operations Hand Book which Matt himself just finished writing.

“My goal is to leave this school better than I found it.”

Outside of school, Matt is working towards the qualifications for his pilot’s license. He either wants to join the Air Force or the Navy. He’s looking into all of his options including what it takes to get into the prestigious United States Military Academy West Point.

“My dad served in the army. I feel obligated to serve and do my part for my country to help make this world a better place,” Matt says.

Who would know better than a teenager himself, how difficult it can be? Matt sees the struggles his peers face and considers himself fortunate to have great parents and support from his school. When I asked him for some words of advice for teenagers, this is what he said:

“Keep going. Don’t give up. There’s brighter days ahead past high school. Find the thing you’re passionate about, that fills you with joy. What inspires you?
Find out and do it.”

Inspiring words from a seventeen-year-old that can help anyone no matter the age.

I hope this article was as inspirational for you to read as it was for me to write. 

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Serrano High School’s first Military Prep Club



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I can’t help it. I love teenagers. For better or for worse—I love ‘em. There’s something that endears me about that stage in life where one day you feel almost like an adult and the next you’d rather just be a kid. Honestly, I still kind of feel that way at times. Don’t you?

But would you want to be a teenager today?

It’s easy to look at today’s generation of teenagers and say they are babied, selfish to the point of entitlement, disrespectful, and oversensitive. Perhaps the criticism is accurate in some ways. But how did they get that way? And more importantly, what can we do about it? There is no quick or simple solution, but if we understand their world, we will certainly have a lot more influence. They are living in a world that is completely different than the one we grew up in. Let’s take a peek into some of today’s teenage challenges that are tougher than in our day.

Living in a Fishbowl

It’s not just celebrities who are concerned about paparazzi. Imagine having a photographer and filming crew document your everyday activities. Think back to some of the ridiculous and immature things you did in your teen and college years. The internet has provided a public and permanent venue to display, expose, and judge mercilessly. Someone is always pulling out their phone, taking pictures and videos. Privacy is nonexistent. Now, that’s pressure I’m grateful I didn’t have growing up.paparazzi-quote-meme

Non-stop Exposure

The internet is constant—always available. Of course, there are some positives to this. If you need an answer, just google it. There’s a world of resources only a tap or click away. Unfortunately, for a teenager, the negatives may outway the positives. A bullied kid cannot even find sanctuary in his own home. Cyberbullying follows him everywhere.

9 out of 10 boys and 6 out of 10 girls are exposed to pornography online before the age of 18. Kids today are exposed to violence and pornography on the internet before they are even able to process what they’re seeing, robbing them of innocence long before adulthood.

Yes, teens can choose to avoid the internet, but it’s not realistic.

Unhealthy Pressures and Expectations

The bar has been set high. But are they being asked to do so many things that nothing gets done well? Sports, advanced placement classes, college applications, FASFA, loans, and the list goes on.

With the current culture of social media exhibitionism, unhealthy sexual expectations, and pressures are at an all-time high for teens.

Rise of Single-parent Families

According to the United States Census Bureau,

Today in the U.S., around 30 percent of all families with children are headed by a single parent (versus nearly 20 percent in 1980)

Parenthood is a challenging under the best of conditions. With one parent those challenges are multiplied. Single-income, responsibilities, demands of work, housework, homework, can be overwhelming. When a parent is stretched thin financially and emotionally, the family dynamics suffer.

Decline in Biblical Morality

I included this last, but certainly, it is not least.

According to a recent Barna Group survey, regardless of what demographic one looks at, (Millennials, Gen-Xers, Boomers) Americans 18 years of age and older are worried that moral behavior is becoming a thing of the past.

However, when it comes to the agreeing on what determines right and wrong, Americans are far from standing in unison. The poll revealed most Americans rely on their own reasoning power — above God’s wisdom — to determine right from wrong. This is extremely dangerous for our teenagers.

Those whose moral compass is grounded in the Bible view morality in a much different light.

Practicing Christians (59 percent) are nearly four times more likely than adults with no faith (15 percent) to believe moral truth is absolute, the statistics show.

Christians today have an opportunity and responsibility to teach and lead by example the truth and relevance of God’s morality found only in the Bible.the-next-generation-quote-meme

The next generation is hungry for truth and real love and we must lead the way. But in order to do so, we must be able to have a level of understanding of their world along with compassion for the pressures they are facing today.

Although it is tougher than ever to be a teenager, I have had the opportunity to meet many who rise above the unfortunate stereotypes, and pressures. I will be dedicating a bi-monthly (or more) column here on Spotlight to teens and teen issues. I hope it will be enlightening and inspirational for teens as well as adults. Even if you’re long past the season of teens, we all owe it to the next generation to pass on our love and wisdom.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28: 19-20

Stay tuned for more about Teen Tuesday on Spotlight. In the meantime, will you join me in prayer for the next generation? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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I have a confession to make—I have experienced seasons when I don’t hear from God. Yes, I mean complete silence for an extended period. At first, it was disconcerting, especially when other Christians seemed to have a direct hotline to God at all times. What’s wrong with me? I questioned.

Have you noticed that Christians are quick to share stories of answered prayers ladened with all the feel-goods and warm fuzzies?  But we’re not nearly as vocal about the desperate times we persisted in prayer and are met with a wall of silence. However, I think these stories might be just as important. So, if your prayers seem to be echoing off the walls, don’t lose faith. if-your-prayers-are-echoing-meme


You are among good company. Job was well acquainted with God’s silence. We read 37 chapters of how this faithful man cried out to God but was met with deafening silence. Abraham was met with silence as he planned to sacrifice his son. There’s no mention of Joseph hearing from God while in prison either. In my own life, God’s silence has tempted me to doubt. I think most of us can relate.

What Can We do During the Periods of Silence?

Examine Your Life

Make sure nothing is blocking you from being able to hear God’s voice.We must begin with asking ourselves this question: Is there any unconfessed sin in my life?

“If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, my Lord would not have listened.” Psalm 68:18

  • Is there someone I need to forgive?
  • Do I have wrong motives?
  • Have I put anything above my relationship with God?

As God brings things to mind, be quick to ask for forgiveness.

Remember, God, delights in restoring our fellowship with Him. There is no shame in repentance.

Please understand, God’s silence does not always mean we have unconfessed sin. We read that Job was righteous and yet he went through many trials while God remained silent. Checking our heart and motives is always a good place to begin when experiencing silence from God.

Accept God’s Sovereignty

God doesn’t have a responsibility to answer us or communicate at all, for that matter. And yet evidence of His mercy and great love are on display in creation, in His word, and through the life and death of His son.

Sovereignty means realizing He is in control and can be trusted.

Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” Job 2:10

Keep Talking

God’s silence doesn’t mean we should turn our backs and stop praying. Don’t give up! The Psalms are a great example of crying out to God.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me,  so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,  by night, but I find no rest.” Psalm 22:1-2

“I love you, Lord, my strength.The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.” Psalm 18:1-2;6

Recognize that Silence Creates Hunger

When God is silent, it can lead us to a richer, deeper experience and hunger for more of Him. gods-silence-meme-quote

Let’s relate this concept to our diets. Last summer I did a dietary cleanse, eliminating refined sugar, processed foods, bread, grains, and red meat from my diet. The cleanse was very restrictive and specific in what I could and could not eat. After several days, I was allowed to slowly add certain foods like grains back into my diet. I cannot tell you how great that quinoa tasted! If we allow it, spiritual hunger can cause us to be grateful for every opportunity to hear from God.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:6


Remember for 37 chapters in the book of Job, God is silent. But then in chapter 38, God speaks and questions Job.

“Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man;  I will question you,   and you shall answer me. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?  Tell me, if you understand.”

In chapter 40, Job responds to God. “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth.  I spoke once, but I have no answer—  twice, but I will say no more.”

Then finally in chapter 42: “The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part.”

Waiting means trusting. Can we trust God even during the silence? Job did, Abraham did, Joseph did, Mary did, Paul did—and so can we!gods-silence-meme

Silence does not mean absence. We must trust God’s promises to “never leave us” and that “nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate us from His love.” (Hebrews 13:5, Romans 8:38-39)

“But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31

So, if you are in the midst of a season of silence, remember that God has not left you. In fact, if you are a Christian, His Holy Spirit lives within you. He is as close as your breath. God is all about relationship. From the beginning with Adam and Eve, He walked and talked with them in the garden. Throughout the Bible, we see God’s desire to be known through relationship. We must trust if He is silent, He has a good reason because He is good!

“God you are good and you do what is good; teach me your decrees.” Psalm 119:68

Hold on beloved, the Lord is near to those who draw near to Him!

LET’S CHAT: How about you? Have you experienced times of silence in your relationship with the Lord?

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