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  • JP

Guest Speaker - THS Youth Alive


Tecumseh (OK) High School - January 5, 2023 - Some scenes out of the newly released memoir, "I Have A Reason," were set in these very hallways. As a 2018 graduate, it was a pleasure to return to my old stomping grounds and speak about the role of friendships in personal sanctification. Friend-choice was a complete game changer in my teenage life. It is one of the main reasons I turned my life around.


I almost backed out of this speaking engagement, but I'm glad I didn't! It felt good to finally conquer my fear. Public speaking wasn't as terrifying as I anticipated. Thanks to Librarian Kristen Qualls and all of the THS Youth Alive student leadership for having me.

I have decided to copy and paste the speech below. Hope you enjoy!


 

"I’m proud to say that I am a Tecumseh graduate; Class of 2018! One of my drawings hangs near the main office, and my first book called, “Night Racers,” is in the THS library. The response to my new memoir has been overwhelming! Thanks to all of you who supported me at the launch. I'll tell you a little more about that in a second. I want to talk to you about Proverbs 13:20. It says,



What Solomon is trying to tell us, is that your choice of friends matters deeply to God. First Corinthians 15:33 is even more blunt about it.


“Bad company corrupts good character.” - 1 Corinthians 15:33

We know that scripture says this, but we like to think that we’re the exception to the rule. Sometimes we hang with people that aren’t good for us, because we want to be accepted. We desire so strongly to be one of the “cool kids.” I’m not here to poke fun at that desire. The pressure is real; it can almost feel paralyzing at times. I get it, I really do.


At the beginning of 7th grade gear, I was feeling a lot of pressure to fit in with my peers. It always seemed that the loud and obnoxious ones were the most popular. I wanted to dip my toe in the water and become one of these guys without going, “all the way.” I thought to myself, “They’re just doing it wrong! Things will be different when it’s me.”


I don’t know if it’s still like this, but when I was at the middle school, people used words like, “air-ball," "swish," and "player,” in everyday life. If we didn’t wear a Nike or Jordan logo somewhere, forget it! Basketball was everything. With that in mind, I went where the “cool kids” were. At first, it was so much fun.


Something unexpected happened, though. As I got more popular, I started to care more about what people thought of me, not less. It started so innocent, but before I knew it, I was willing to do anything for popularity. I pushed the line just a little further each day to fit in. I slowly changed every aspect of who I am.


My old friends saw what this was doing to me, but I didn’t want to hear it. They tried to get me to come to my senses, but I was too stubborn to. I thought I knew what was best. I wanted to believe that I was my own little island, with no outside influence. That couldn’t have been further from the truth.


Eventually, my cocky ways got me in trouble. I needed someone to have my back. Where were my new friends? They all scattered. In one short week, I went from being a popular sports jock …to a nobody. (snapping of fingers) Just like that! On the way down, I finally learned that there’s a difference between fans and friends. Fans only stick around as long as you’re flashy and popular.


So how do you tell who your true friends are? Answer this: When is the last time your friends told you that you’re wrong about something? I’m not talking about them nudging you and saying, “that’s just wrong, bro! You’re crazy! That’s what’s up, player!” I’m talking about them expressing a genuine, heartfelt concern for your greater good. When you’re struggling with your faith, or in a moral dilemma, these kinds of people are what you need! People who have the guts and care enough to tell you when you’re in the wrong. Friends like that, are what turned my life around.


I don’t have time to tell you all of it, but I’ll leave you with this: Your friend circle and spiritual walk are closely connected; they showcase your priorities. Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future.


 

Before you take off, I’d like to pray real quick. Lord, we need people in our lives who point us toward you during our weak times. I ask that you lay on the hearts of these young people that being the “cool kid,” is not the ultimate happiness. It’s easy to forget that in today’s world. Help us build our life’s foundation on what lasts."

 

I wish I had time to tell every story I've got, but (unfortunately) I don't here. However, my memoir "I Have A Reason" is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble!


Interested in having me speak at your event? Click here.


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