Colorblind artist paints Jesus Christ to worship music in live church services

colorblind artist lance brownBy Nazarii Baytler —

Lance Brown has always been a skilled artist. Since a young age, he had the ability to draw nearly anything. However, he has one unusual quality for an artist — colorblindness.

“That has always been a struggle,” Lance says in a testimonial video from 2015. “However, my wife and kids help me out a lot.”

When Lance graduated from an art institute in 1999, he got a job in graphic design. After years, though, Lance decided he was wasting his talent.

“That’s when I started painting,” Lance continues. “I just went to the art store and bought a bunch of paints.”

garden-of-gethsemane-jesus-praying-lance-brownHowever, Lance was not quite sure yet what he was going to do with his new supplies.

“I just decided to start the painting. And so, through that, God showed me that I was pretty good!” Lance says.

It wasn’t long before Lance had set up a side business for freelance artwork.

“About six years ago, I made a painting for my church, Arlington Fielder Road Baptist,” Lance recounts.

Lance was then asked to do the same painting, but on stage. However, surprisingly, Lancer refused the proposal.

“However, what I found in stepping out of my comfort zone, there were blessing prepared by God that I didn’t even know was there,” Lance continues.

The Holy Spirit led Lance to eventually get up on stage. However, what Lance had in mind was going on stage, painting, and leaving as soon as possible.

God had other plans.

“Once I got up there, it totally caught me off guard,” Lance recalls. “It was such a worship experience for me personally, which I did not expect.”

To this day, Lance still gets emotional when making his trademark Jesus paintings. Creating something from nothing is very personal to him.

As soon as Lance did that fateful first painting, he thought to himself, “I want to do that again.”

“I went to my Bible study group and asked for the guys to pray for me,” Lance says. “I started a website, Painted Christ, put myself out there, and started introducing myself to churches in the area.”

Lance’s opportunities were few and far between. A year later, he got laid off from his previous job. Lance was convinced that painting was God’s plan for him.

“I fell flat on my face. It just didn’t work at the time,” Lance admits. “It was only a year after starting. I just wasn’t ready.”

Lance got a different job, but he persisted with his painting.

In 2013, a tragic turn of events led to Lance’s house flooding. Later, it caught fire during the process of repairing the flood damage.

“We were in a hotel for five months. At the time, it was so depressing,” Lance continues. “I just said that I couldn’t do it anymore.”

Lance took down his website, and officially quit. However, he soon found that if God wants you for something, he is going to find a way to get your attention no matter what.

“I had some YouTube videos out there that I forgot about,” Lance recounts. “And He (God) showed those videos to somebody. That somebody was a little church called Watermark in Dallas.” Read the rest: colorblind Christian artist ‘speed paints’

Transformed by glory from gay lifestyle

ECJym7ZXoAEZ4KJBy Laken Wilson —

Becket Cook lived a dream life as a set designer in the fashion world. Flaunting an openly gay lifestyle, he swam in Drew Barrymore’s pool and vacationed in Diane Keaton’s vacation home.

But the luster lost its shine at one party: “I can’t do this anymore,” he realized.

In his book Change Of Affection, Beckett documents his identity transformation, as well as a peace and freedom previously unimaginable.

Becket’s demise into homosexuality began when he was 10 at a sleepover with a friend in Texas where he grew up. The friend’s dad molested him at midnight.

becketcook2-8b38574“It was very shocking and scary, and I had this image in my mind that if I didn’t allow him to do what he was doing, I had a picture of him with a knife,” Becket recalls on a 700 Club video. “He was going to stab me or kill me.”

The molester came back three times during the night.

“I did not tell my parents because I knew my father probably would of had him killed,” he said. “I didn’t want my father going to prison over this.” He was the youngest of eight and didn’t want his siblings to be fatherless.

“Also I didn’t want people to know,” he says. “It was a shameful experience.”

gay no moreSo he locked up the horrors in the safe deposit box of his heart.

“Living as a gay man, I never really thought that affected me,” Becket said. “I didn’t want my identity as a gay man to tied to such a scary, weird, gross night. After I became a Christian, I realized, that night had a huge impact on my sexuality. It cemented it.”

He was popular in high school with the girls and went to dances, but when he got older, he had gay bestfriends and went to gay bars and explored the gay life.

“I kind of felt like this was home for me, these are my people. But it wasn’t until after college when I had my first relationship with a guy,” Becket says. “We fell in love and that is when homosexuality as my identity was known.”

He “came out to his parents and family.

His parents were Christians and believed it was a sin, but they were very loving about it. His father asked him if he did anything wrong and if he was angry towards him about anything.

“No dad, I’m fine,” Becket responded. “This who I am, and it’s not your fault.”

Over the years in LA, he went through five serious relationships.

He was at Paris Fashion Week March 2009 at an after-party when he looked over the crowd and remembered asking himself: “This is not it. This is not the meaning of life. What am I going to do for the rest of my life?”

He went to a coffee shop where he came across people with Bibles, and he and his best friend ended up having a conversation with them.

They invited him to their church the next week. Becket asked them what they believed in about homosexuality. They replied it was a sin. Becket ended up going to the church the following Sunday, and while he was listening to the sermon everything was resonating as truth to him and heart.

“I was processing the sermon and worship music, and all of a sudden the Holy Spirit just overwhelmed me.” he remembers. “God was like, I’m God, Jesus is my son, Heaven is real, Hell’s real, the Bible is true and you are now adopted into my kingdom. Welcome.”

Becket started bawling and was able to see the truth for the first time in his life — and the new meaning of life for the first time. He knew in that moment that that was no longer the gay man he used to be.

“The curtains just parted,” Becket said. “I knew instantly in that moment that this was no longer who I was. Being gay was not who I was. It was over. I was done with it.”

Laken Wilson is my student at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica and wrote this for extra credit in literature class.

Rockstar JT, one of the sincerest Christian rappers, appeals to the church to use compassion with homosexual members

rockstarjtWhen his sin was exposed in 2017, Jaterrius Johnson felt church leaders over-reacted in their approach to church discipline.

“I’ve been scarred by the church,” the Christian rapper says on a DJ Wade-O video.

His sin was homosexuality. He believes it if it had been fornication with a girlfriend, treatment would have been gentler.

Jaterrius, who is better known by his hip hop handle Rockstar JT, survived the discipline and stands today as a shining example of repentance, forgiveness and restoration. And he is openly asking the church to treat sin as sin, without stigmatization or discrimination.

“A lot of Christians, we struggling,” he says. “A lot of Christians, we depressed. On social media we all pretending it’s all good, when it’s not. My philosophy on that is that it’s ok to not be ok.”\

rockstar jtJaterrius was raised by a single mom in Birmingham, Alabama. In poverty and without a dad, Jatterius fell into fighting and the streets. He broke into homes, used guns and became violent with his own family.

“I was doing so much things that I know did not glorify God,” he says on Jam the Hype. “I punched my sister in the face my eight-grade year.

Mom was worried about the direction her son was headed, so she enlisted the help of Kevin King, who runs a Christian non-profit called Common Ground that reaches out to wayward youth.

Kevin began visiting and ministering to the young Jaterrius, who described himself at the time as “lukewarm.”

Kevin “wouldn’t let me go. He said, ‘JT, you gonna be mine.’” he recalls. “Kevin, that’s my dog. He wouldn’t let me go. He said, ‘I know you aint saved but you still not going nowhere. Just loving on me, not preaching to me every time, but hanging around me, taking me to concerts and taking me to different conferences.”

At 16, Jaterrius converted to Christ at a 2015 Impact Conference. His mentor, Kevin, urged him to use his obvious talent for rap in the kingdom.

“You gonna need something to do. You know you’re a talented rapper. You need to use your gifts for the Lord,” Kevin told him.

Jaterrius saw no compelling reason to change his stage name, so he remains “Rockstar JT.”

He broke through ceilings with “Getcha weight up,” which in addition to being catching was picked up by HBO’s Euphoria.

When he first started rapping he wouldn’t even listen to worldly music because he was nurturing his relationship with Christ. As he felt more solid in his faith, he allowed himself to take a peak at his secular counterparts and decided he needed to update his style to keep abreast of trends.

He also decided to write music for the streets, not for the church sanctuary. His intention was outreach, not inreach.

“I’m finally being who God wanted me to be and that is a trapper,” he says on Rapzilla. “They dope dealing but I’m hope dealing.” Read the rest: Rockstar JT and compassion for same-sex attracted Christians

Gotta keep your cool

IMG_6230Coach poured coolant into the radiators at halftime.

Down 5-18, Lighthouse Christian Academy performed better in the second half, though not good enough to beat its amaranthine rival Hillcrest of Thousand Oaks in a foul fest of a basketball game on Friday.

“These guys have to learn to handle their frustrations with referees, with contact in these games,” said coach David Horowitz. “I’m trying to remind them that when you play with the power of God, you answer to that. You don’t have to get fired up about it.”

Senior Marcus Scribner was bringing competition to Hillcrest with speed and physicality. He was beating players and putting up shots. Others on the Lighthouse were missing and misunderstanding passes.

After the half time pep talk from coach, others calmed their nerves and began to score, including the ever-calm Pat Cannon, who uncharacteristically reacted a ref’s call in the first half, resulting in free throws for the opponents.

Senior Zachary Brewer found his rhythm, and Daniel O’Neil, the tallest player in the court, lurked into the key to receive passes and score. The Santa Monica Christian school hit 25 points in the second half.

But its defense leaked.

“We definitely played better in the second half. Our energy was better,” said Coach David. “But we didn’t have the defense we wanted to be able to shut (them) down. Our defense didn’t hone it down.

“We had no business being that ugly early. We’re just better than that,” he added. “We put ourselves in a hole, and you start playing the other team’s game and you give them confidence. We had the ability and the skill to not only compete with these guys but to overcome it. Read the rest: Gotta keep your cool to win basketball.

He got his life back with God

God and basketball Lighthouse Christian Academy Santa MonicaSince he got his life back, Daniel O’Neil has got his academics back on track and something even more meaningful to him: basketball.

Lighthouse Christian Academy has to be grateful. The 6’3″ center won almost every rebound in LCA’s 36-68 loss to AGBU Vatch and Tamar Manoukian High School of Pasadena, last year’s league runner-up.

“I’m not used to playing this good. I’ve always been real hesitant with the ball but I’m getting confident with boxing people out on rebounds and stuff,” Danny says. “I was sent to wilderness (rehab camp) over the summer, and I really got connected with God.”

Danny’s loved basketball since the fifth grade, but when he started to get in trouble in his sophomore year, he dropped the sport. When he got his life back on track, basketball rebounded too.

“Basketball means a lot to me. I stopped playing in my sophomore year because I got into a lot of trouble,” he says. Camp was a lot of hiking, therapy and work. It was hard and only God helped he get through, he says. He enrolled in Lighthouse which looks out for spiritual side in forming maturity in young men and women. LCA offers a three strand cord: academics, sports and Christianity. Read the rest: God in basketball Santa Monica school.

On point as point guard

zach brewer Lighthouse Christian Academy Santa Monica basketballJerry Ballard’s buddies rued his absence on the football team this year, but he’s making up for it by starring at point guard on Lighthouse Christian Academy’s basketball team, which won yesterday against Highland Hall Waldorf School in Northridge.

It wasn’t the successive concussions from boxing that kept him out of football, he says. It was the wrist and ankle injuries from the year prior.

An uninjured Jerry was darting nimbly all over the court, stealing balls, pressing forward, firing off passes, shots and layups. He led LCA to 55-20 victory Tuesday.

Marcus Scribner Lighthouse Christian Academy Santa Monica basketball“We expected to be a little rusty coming out of the (winter) break,” said Coach David Horowitz. “We didn’t have any practices. We focused on working together, getting our team chemistry early. The guys executed the play well. They didn’t get upset if they made a mistake. They learned from it, recovered from it. I saw them grow over the course of the game.”

The Saints dominated on rebounds and snuffed Highland Hall on defense. They stole balls and made fast breaks for layups. Read the rest: Lighthouse Christian Academy Santa Monica basketball.

Fired on at close range, Todd White turned to Jesus

todd-whiteTodd White joined the Marines to prove to his stepdad he was a man, but on break after boot camp he partied so much with drugs he forgot to report for duty.

“I went home and I stole a bunch of money in a drug deal, went out West and hid in the Rocky Mountains,” Todd says on a YouTube video. “A little while later I got busted and put in jail, extradited across the United States and put into the military prison.”

Today Todd White is a pastor helping myriads of people tripped up by Satan’s snares. But his past was beset with foundering and failure.

He was born out of a hookup when his father came back “messed up” following service in the Vietnam War. Two other siblings arrived from that union and his parents eventually married. It was perhaps inevitable that what started wrong wouldn’t end well, and his parents divorced when Todd was 11.

todd white ministryHe was thrown into the foster care system and raised by Free Masons. Frustrated by the breakup of his family, Todd turned to drugs.

“I was rebellious, angry, bitter, so mad,” he says. “I was fully addicted to anything I could get my hands on. It started with weed and it just escalated more and more.”

On a dare from his step dad, he joined the Marines to become a man — and to straighten up his life. Boot camp saw him drop 83 pounds and transform into a lean, mean, fighting machine.

“They kicked my butt,” he says.

Granted leave before he had to report for duty, Todd reverted to partying, drinking and drugs. He fled to the Rocky Mountains, where he eventually got arrested. In the computer system, cops found he was an AWOL Marine and shipped him back to the military to be tried and punished.

After five and half months in a military jail, Todd told his superiors he wanted to quit the Marines. But he had signed up for a period of service and they refused.

So he ran away again.

“I ended up getting arrested again,” he says.

todd white familySo now the Marines court-martialed him and gave him a dishonorable discharge, a black stain on his record. “Boom. Kicked me out of the military. This is the way I started out my life,” he says. “That’s not too good on a resume.”

Drinking and clubbing, he met a girl and tricked her into thinking he was an amazing guy.

She got pregnant and gave birth to a baby girl. Sadly, Todd was repeating the cycle of hopelessness and broken family that he inherited from his own dad. But the tiny baby in his arms melted his heart and sparked a motivation to seek change.

“When I held my little daughter I was like, I don’t know how to be a dad. I have a lifetime subscription to issues,” he recounts.

No one in Todd’s family was Christian. They were all atheists, not theoretical atheists who think up all the reasons to not believe in God, but practical atheists who live out the consequences of not having God.

“I am lost, and I’m floundering, and I’m hurting, and I’m hurting people,” Todd recounted.

When Todd’s daughter was a couple months old, the mother said she was leaving.

The emotional wallop caused Todd to entertain suicidal thoughts.

“Those thoughts have always been there at times more and more, but now it was like everyday. I became massively depressed and suicidal. Mixed with all kinds of drugs in my body. It was just a twisted life.”

Then his girlfriend announced she was going to leave Todd for another man and he went crazy.

”That’s it,” he responded furiously. “I’m taking them out. I’m taking you out. I will make you watch and then I’m going to take myself out. And then we’re going to leave our daughter with no one.”

Out of fear, his girlfriend stayed — for a time.

When she finally got up the nerve, she left when Todd was out.

”Finally one night I come home and she’s gone,” he recalls. “I said to myself, ‘That’s it. I’m done.’ I drive to her stepdad’s house because he has rifles. I’m going to end my life. I head over to the gun cabinet on the way to the gun cabinet I pass by this ledge with a phone book on it.

Then something remarkable happened. When Todd randomly flipped open the phone book, in God providence it opened to a page displaying churches.

“I’m thinking, this is stupid, yet I drove to the church,” he says. “I needed to talk to somebody.”

“Praise Jesus!” a man said heartily when Todd walked into the church. He began to share Jesus with Todd.

When the man asked Todd to give his life to Jesus, Todd thought, Who would want my life?

“If He wants my life, fine, then, here, He can have it,” Todd told the man, as if his life were a recycled can. Obviously the man was more enthusiastic about Todd’s “conversion” than Todd was himself.

When Todd went home though, he noticed that he no longer wanted to kill himself.

He got his little girl to beg her mother to come back home.

“When she came home, man, was she mad,” Todd says. “I put my daughter to bed and that same night I’m out on a cocaine bid.”

The next morning Todd called the man from church and confessed he’d stumbled into cocaine again. “ Your Jesus didn’t work,” he said.

“How did the cocaine make you feel?” the man replied.

“Horrible,” Todd responded.

“Good for you because that means there’s a seed that growing inside of you,” the man said.

For five and a half months Todd continued to struggle with his addiction to cocaine.

One night, Todd was making a call to his dealer. He didn’t answer. As soon as Todd finished the call and turned around, there was his daughter and girlfriend looking distraught.

“You promised you would never do it again, daddy,” his daughter cried. ”You say it every night you promise and every night you do it again.”

Todd wanted to stop but couldn’t.

That same night, Todd went down to a place where people deal drugs. He planned to steal drugs from someone. He found a young guy in his car, took his cocaine and then “reads him his rights,” as if the kid was being arrested and he was a cop.

“The kid gets out of the car and when I hit the gas he pulled out a nine millimeter gun and unloaded at me,” Todd recounts. Read the rest: Todd White Christian.

CHH pioneer T-Bone saved out of gangs, dealers and pimps

80536418_1410315875758739_1248071643146747904_oHis best friend was lying twitching on the grass, dying as a result of two bullets fired in a drive-by shooting. His last words: “Just tell everybody to wear red at my funeral.”

As Ralphie slipped into eternity without Jesus, T-Bone decided to “flip” to his parents’ side. The son of pastors in the Mission District of San Francisco, T-Bone lived a double life: he carried his Bible to church on Sunday and a knife in his pocket every other day as a Blood gangster.

61085953_1111468262310170_3756676850064031744_o“I was raised amongst the gangs, drug dealers and pimps,” T-Bone told CBN. “I was left for dead. I had 15 gang members break into my spot at three in the morning and try to kill me. I know what it’s like to have a gun drawn on me, what it’s like to deal with some stuff and jump folks.”

Today T-Bone is one of the longest-standing Christian Hip Hop artists, but when Rene Francisco Sotomayor was born to a Nicaraguan dad and Salvadoran mother who together pastored a church, he wasn’t particularly moved to serve God.

What drew him was the flash and danger of the streets glamorized by shock rap like N.W.A., Public Enemy and 2Pac. He was skinny, hence nicknamed “Bones,” and started with clubs and house parties but progressed to anger and violence. He rapped from age seven.

T-BoneAlmost getting killed himself was not enough for him to choose the undivided life of serving Jesus. But his buddy’s death brought him to a crossroads.

“What did he die for? For this ignorant color?” he asked.

When a guest speaker at his parents’ church urged listeners to accept Jesus, young T-Bone went to the altar.

“As soon as I went, I began to cry. The presence of God was there,” he told CBN. “The Holy Spirit hit me. I said the sinner’s prayer. And that’s when I became what I named my first album: a redeemed hoodlum.” Read the rest: T-Bone Christian rapper.

Leader of L.A. Rescue Mission lost leg in fight against homelessness, willing to sacrifice the other if it would make a difference

union rescue mission changes livesAndy Bales’ leg was amputated in 2016 after he contracted an infection related to homeless people defecating on LA’s Skid Row.

“I’d give my other leg if they would actually do something” to get people off the streets, he declares.

While politicians dicker about who’s to blame for the city’s acute homelessness crisis, Andy, CEO of Union Rescue Mission, believes they have the answer that manifests Christ’s love in a pragmatic way. It’s called a Sprung Structure, a cheap and durable fabric tent that can house 120 people.

andrew bales ceo union rescue mission outside city hall“The answer is IMMEDIATELY getting people off the streets so they are not continuing to be devastated,” he says. “The longer we leave so many people on the streets, the worse it gets for them and for all of us.”

In 2014, Andy participated in a triathlon and scraped open a sore on his foot. He was wearing a “wound boot” when he walked around with staff handing out bottled water and invited people to take advantage of Union Rescue Mission’s services.

“I got an infection from human waste outside on the sidewalk on Skid Row,” he says.

Andy Bales CEO Union Rescue MissionRight now, there are only nine public toilets to service 2,800 people on Skid Row. The numbers don’t add up and actually fall short of toilets available for refugee camps in Syria (the refugees have it better). He calculates 184 toilets would be needed to keep the homeless from defecating and urinating on the sidewalk.

He describes a dangerous situation with grave infections happening to people all the time. Aside from cleaning the street every two weeks, the City hasn’t done much, he says.

Los Angeles’ homeless crisis is worse than New York’s or San Francisco’s. Last year, there were 41,000 on the streets. This year, there are 44,000, Andy says.

Andy, 61, is no Ivory Tower theorist. He’s a man of the trenches.

To remind himself and draw attention to the plight of the homeless, Andy spends New Year’s Eve on the streets every year. He denies himself his bed, his warm room, his shower, his bathroom, and his dinner. He spends the entire night outside, with whoever volunteers to help him, on the streets.

The first time he did it many years ago, he did it alone. Throughout the night, he broke up fights and fought off rapists — five physical altercations in total, he says. Never again would he brave the streets alone. Sometimes he’s accompanied by Bible college students, sometimes by staff.

So he experiences firsthand the horrors of homelessness. When the news reports of violence and even murder perpetrated by the homeless, Andy knows what goes wrong.

“I don’t know how anyone continues to sleep on the streets night after night without beginning to think in a wrong way,” he says. “I’m still recovering two days later. You can see I have a shake in my hands. And that was just one night. I can’t survive one night on the streets. How can I survive two. Or how could I survive weeks or months or decades on the streets?” Read the rest: Homelessness Los Angeles.

Nigeria: ‘Open season’ of killing Christians, 1,000 massacred in 2019

Nigeria massacre of Christians 2019Muslim militants in Nigeria brutally executed 11 Christians on Christmas, capping a year-long “open season” that saw more than 1,000 Christians killed by Muslims who considered it their right and duty to do so.

Donning orange jumpsuits reminiscent of the Libyan Muslims who killed 21 Christians on a beach in 2015, militants from the Boko Haram-related Islamic State West African province either shot in the back of their heads or slit their throats on video. Targeting of Christians on Christmas is common in the Muslim world.

nigeria militant“The message is to the Christians of the world,” a spokesman for the group says in both Arabic and Hausa in the video, according to Christianity Today. “Those who you see in front of us are Christians, and we will shed their blood as revenge for the two dignified sheikhs.”

Those two are Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the former ISIS caliph killed by US troops in an October raid in Syria and Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir, his purported successor, killed the next day, Christianity Today reported.

These types of attacks occur because many Muslims can’t conceive of a secular government and therefore think America is a “Christian nation.” According to the Koran, a nation must be governed by religious leaders.

With a population of 200 million, Nigeria is evenly divided between Muslims and Christians, but with the advent of al-Qaeda and ISIS, extremists have been agitating in marginalized zones to take over semi-secular governments through Africa and Southeast Asia.

In its report, Britain’s Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust estimated that 6,000 Christians have been killed by Boko Haram and Fulani Herdsmen since 2015. Another 12,000 left their native areas and sought safety elsewhere as refugees.

“Islamist Fulani militia continue to engage in an aggressive and strategic land grabbing policy in Plateau, Benue, Tarab, Souther Kaduna and parts of Bauchi state,” the HART report stated. “They attack rural villages, force villagers off their lands and settle in their place — a strategy that is epitomized by the phrase: Your land or your blood.”

The Nigerian House of Representatives has classified the slaughter as a genocide but has failed to employ meaningful measures to halt it, according to reports.

“Every day we carry new corpses to the cemetery,” a Nigerian pastor said. “They kill farmers. They destroy our homes and churches. They kidnap and rape women.” Read the rest: killing of Christians in Nigeria.

Shot caller threatened to kill inmate who evangelized

IMG2008133318HI“Today is tomorrow.”

The words didn’t make any sense to Chaplain Dan, but he could see from the face of the inmate at LA’s North County Correctional Facility that something was very wrong.

As it turns out, the shot-caller had told him he would “deal with him tomorrow.” The shot-caller, the Alpha male for 70 inmates in one dorm, didn’t like the fact that the Mexican Mafia was losing traction and the Gospel was gaining traction.

“Who is inviting y’all to the Christian meetings?” he demanded one day. He needed recruits. He needed sway. He needed foot soldiers to join the ranks of one of California’s most powerful crime syndicates. And Christianity was getting in the way of his purposes.

Later that night, the inmate approached the shot-caller.

“No disrespect to you, but I’m the one inviting all the guys to the Christian meetings,” he said.

“I’ll deal with you tomorrow,” the shot-caller warned.

He knew what that meant: either he or one of his minions would brutally attack him. Read the rest: Christianity in Jail.

Bullets through his car window made Young Noah turn to God

young noahYoung Noah was succeeding wildly in the secular rap game while his life was going down the drain, but he turned things around after he nearly got shot to pieces.

“Duck,” God told him.

“I ducked down in the car and pushed my buddy’s head down into the steering wheel,” he says on a 2016 Testimony Stories video. “The next thing I knew there were shots fired and glass was just flying everywhere,” “It was at that moment I realized that I was about to die.”

He had been trying to help some girls escape a college party, and “a hundred football guys, drunk and high and out of their minds” chased him down because they wanted the girls, he says. He had pulled out a non-working gun to scare them off and keep from getting beat up. They had run off but returned before Noah and his buddy could escape in their car. They had at least one gun, and it worked.

Young Noah and V. RoseWilliam Noah Bohannon aka Young Noah was born in Neunan, Georgia, into a family so Christian that he wasn’t hardly aware of the world. He accepted Jesus at a young age and got baptized. He was being home-schooled, but when he attended secular high school he got involved in hip hop, alcohol, marijuana, gangs and robbery.

“It was weird to grow up in church and end up so far away from God,” he says. “Church and growing up in church can’t save your soul. It kind of shapes you, but eventually you have to make a decision whether or not you’re going to allow God to live in you and cause you to do good works. Church can’t save you. You need to accept Christ. You need to have a regeneration in your mind. You have to be born-again.”

Winning a rap contest, he was given the chance to record in Los Angeles. By the time he got there, however, God had already orchestrated events to the point that he was already questioning his great breakthrough.

“I found myself succeeding in this dark industry,” he says. “At the same time I began to wonder if God really approved of my lifestyle. I knew that if I was really going to be a Christian, I was going to have to let this music thing go. I told my manager, I told the record company, I told everybody that I couldn’t continue. Read the rest: Young Noah’s testimony

Pot made Jarry Manna a Darwinist, but paranoia made him turn to God

anime jarry mannaChristian Hip Hop star Jarry Manna used to be a “pothead” Darwinist who thought the church was a scam to get people’s money.

“I was allowing dark things to take over my mind,” he told JamTheHype. But he also always “thought someone was coming to get me. My spirit was just open to any type of darkness, anything to tamper with my mind. There was something deeper going on there, at the point of thinking about killing myself.”

The paranoia, a product of his cannabis addiction, was taking over his brain. He remembered a cousin who had a gun.

“I was gonna go get his gun and off myself,” he recounted.

jarrymannafeatureBut then he remembered his grandmother, a devout Christian, and called her. Her wisdom that day saved Jarry’s life and gave him a new direction.

“She kind of allowed for me to come back to Christ,” he said.

He returned to church and quit rapping. That’s what his pastor wanted him to do.

But a friend, Quincy Howard, kept bringing him back to rap. He knew that Jarry was good and didn’t want to see the gift squandered. But when he returned to hip hop, this time it was Christian lyrics.

Read the rest: Jarry Manna Christian rapper

Fearless food – Dino’s Chicken, pure manfood

Dino's chicken

The neon orange chicken that made Dino’s

The trouble with franchise food is it is standardized to the average taste. To appeal to the largest number of people, it must be salty but not to salty, savory but not too savory, sweet but not too sweet.

In three words: bland, boring, blech.

And so I’m on the quest to try all non-franchise food in LA. My quest brought me to the heart of LA’s gangland, where your stomach needs to be a strong as your courage, to Dino’s Chicken & Burgers. This neighborhood is defined more by the Playboy gang that dominates here than by the cartographers, who have dubbed it Pico Union.

Dino's Chicken Los Angeles hole in the wall restaurants

Manfood, my buddies say.

Pay no attention to the hyperbole: the danger is fake news. The real news is the unique zing of prison-jumpsuit-neon-orange sauce charbroiled onto chicken that makes almost everything else on the menu irrelevant. Called pollo maniaco (maniacal chicken), this is the one-of-a-kind concoction is the 1968 maniacal brainchild of Greek immigrant Demetrios Pantazis, which makes it at least partly Greek in origin.

DUI fries Dino's Ultimate Invention

DUI Fries at Dino’s Chicken & Burgers in Los Angeles.

As this was my first time to Dino’s, I was instructed what to do: get extra sauce on the fries. I watched from the window of this prodigious hole-in-the-wall wonder as they slopped two splashes of the chicken sauce on the fries (with a thick and wide paint brush from Home Depot) that made for the soggiest fries I’ve ever eaten. Normally, soggy fries are a disaster, but Dino’s has flouted conventional wisdom and conjured up one of the Seven Wonders of the Culinary World.

The portions are huge. The price is small. It’s served in foam boxes. The seats are hard. Who cares?

What more could you want?

But there is more. I had to try the DUI Fries. A plate of fries is covered in a layer of cheese, a layer of carne asada and a layer of pastrami. They christened this mouthwatering mess “Dino’s Ultimate Invention.” And I drove home under its influence, a tad of indigestion.

This is pure madness manfood, as my buddies said. Sure girls are welcome, but be warned: this type of gluttony and sensory overload and gut-busting has a price tag. Entirely worth the pilgrimage.

Dino’s Chicken & Burgers
2575 W. Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90006
213-380-3554
$

bamboo steamers[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

Tamales Liliana’s in East Los Angeles

tamales liliana's pescado fritoFor some reason, one would expect more options for Mexican food in East Los Angeles (a neighborhood dominated by Mexican-Americans), but we always only seem to find Tamales Liliana’s, which gets the job done but doesn’t seem to register the highest marks.

tamales liliana's tamaleWe went for my daughter-in-law’s pining as a nurse, a whole group of us. Only my daughter wanted to try the house namesake, the tamale, which graded as somewhat dry. Maybe this is because we got there very late, at the end of the day, when the tamales are on their last living breath. Or maybe she’s just used to Guatemalan tamales, which are wet. She grew up on Guatemala.

tamales liliana's pozoleI broke with my same-old same-old of enchiladas and tried the pozole, and it was appropriately spicy. The hominy was outstanding, and the cabbage fresh and crispy. I definitely recommend it.

Tamales Liliana's enchiladasI like how the enchiladas come with drizzled cream like they do in Mexico.

Of course, my wife went for the fried fish, which comes whole, with scales, head, fins and tail — the right way. She was content.

Tamales Liliana's wet burrito

Dee ordered the wet burrito. It was too salty. That’s normal for Mexican restaurants.

Of course, there were people who ordered the regular burrito, the taco, the quesadilla.

This restaurant is recommended, though not highly. If you’re in the area and want Mexican, it pretty much won’t disappoint. But I would not drive far to go to this restaurant.

Tamales Liliana’s
4619 East Cesar E Chavez Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90022
323-780-0989
$$

bamboo steamers[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

Joey Vantes, suicide rapper

62335bc62cfb6ff575a23f9280507c1b.1000x1000x1“Sending love and prayers for all those facing loss, depression, or heartache this season. DM me if you need someone to talk to and to pray with you.”

That’s what Christian Hip Hop sensation Joey Vantes wrote on Facebook Dec. 14th. He knows that Christmas, for many, heightens their isolation, depression and thoughts of suicide. He has a heart for more than just music or stardom. He has a heart for the hurting.

joey vantes suicideThat’s because Joey Vantes (formerly Joey Jewish) tried to commit suicide himself. He was trying to quit the partying and drugs from his days at the University of Arizona. But he kept lapsing back into drinking, and the cycle of failure detonated depression.

“It was just a mess. I couldn’t break free,” Joey told Rapzilla. “I was so depressed. I was so bound to this thing that I just wanted to die to escape what I was feeling on a daily basis.”

One day when his wife sent him for groceries, he decided to end his life. He would drive off the road down a steep embankment.

“I jerked my wheel to the left to pull off at this ramp and right when I [did] it, my wheel locks, my car shuts off and I slowly just kind of fade over to the left side of the road,” Joey said. “Immediately, the Spirit of God just hits me right where I am in my car.I feel this intense love come over me and say, ‘I love you and I forgive you. Just call out to me.’” Read the rest: Suicide rapper Joey Vantes

But how do I deal with the pain? A book explores options

Dawn Forman human sufferingOne woman’s husband died at war while she was pregnant. Another lost 198 Jewish family members during the Holocaust. A man witnessed the sexual abuse of his sister and withdrew into himself, drinking excessively to deaden the memory.

How do you move beyond life’s pain and suffering? Between the Lines, Beyond the Pain examines that question and weighs why some people never recover from the injustices of our fallen world.

The author, Dawn Forman, personally experienced her own torment when she was raped by her step-dad.

Dawn Forman's sistersRemarkably, she makes the case for compassion — and empathy — for everyone. She urges her readers to stop judging others or writing them off. She exhorts them to greater understanding, valuing everyone.

“The stars cannot be seen until they are set against ebony background of the night sky,” Forman writes. “So it is with people… (they) shine as stars (when we learn) what they have endured or overcome in their lives.”

Forman is a poet and includes some of her poems in the small volume. In the process of overcoming pain, poetry can be part of the healing journey, as evidenced by David in the Psalms.

Forman was born in the San Fernando Valley to an angry, distant father, who never processed his childhood trauma and lashed out at those around him, including his three girls.

Dawn and Charlie Forman“Though I have found much healing,” she says, “I still bear scars.”

Absent a loving father, Forman became promiscuous. Sex, drugs and the under-21 dance club “The Sugar Shack” were part of the equation.

“Emotionally crippled by my formative years spent with my father, the choices I began to make as a teenager reflect my aching soul,” she narrates in the autobiographical volume. “Unworthy, unloved and unequal to those around me, I was always searching for a place where I felt I belonged. This left me extremely vulnerable. Male attention became like a drug itself. I was gouging multiple, deeper scars into my already wounded heart and soul.”

Her parents divorced when she was 16. She started spending more time with friends as lost as herself. Quaaludes, cocaine, barbiturates and angel dust became her thing, all to the beat of David Bowie’s “Rebel, Rebel.”

She went from hanging out with drug addicts to hanging out with drug dealers. Once she got accused of being a narc at a satanic party in San Francisco. Several times she had brushes with death.

After a three-day drug binge, she overdosed. Only then did she think of the Jesus freaks she ridiculed when she passed them on the sidewalk. They told her Jesus loved her and had a plan for her; she sneered and moved on. But when she overdosed, she remembered.

“My life was a miserable mess,” she recalls. “In my eyes, I was a pathetic waste of flesh, a failure, unlovable wretch, full of anger and pain.”

As she lingered close to death, she cried out. “Jesus, if you are real, I do not want to die.” Read the rest: No easy answers for emotional pain Between the Lines, Beyond the Pain

‘Fat slob’ boxer beat reigning champ, credits Jesus

0_BOX-JOSHUA-RUIZRidiculed as a “fat slob” in the boxing world with 1-25 odds against, Andy Ruiz Jr. shocked the world when he defeated the heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua eight months ago.

On Saturday, the first Mexican-heritage heavyweight champion rematches in Saudi Arabia against the Nigerian-born British boxer who’s taller, more muscular and has a longer arm reach. (He lost the rematch.)

“God’s everything,” Ruiz said on a Seti Afoa video on YouTube. “I don’t think I would be here without Him, without His help. He’s always been in my life since I was a little kid. I’m a Christian, and I believe in God. I fight for God. On my fighting shorts, it says, ‘God is real.’ When I win, I’m going to give all the glory to God. If you believe in God, everything is possible.”

Andres Ponce Ruiz, now 30, grew up in the sparse desert town of Imperial, California, just 10 miles from the border of Mexico, where much of his family got swept away in the drug- and human-trafficking prevalent in the region.

A hyperactive kid who liked to get into trouble, Ruiz fell into street-fighting; even then he was always underestimated as a chubby kid. The streets learned that behind the baby face was a fast and furious succession of brutal blows that laid rivals flat.

“I was always hanging around with the wrong crowd and crew. There are a lot of gang members out there where I live. They’re all druggies. Some of my family members are gang or related to the gang,” Ruiz said in the UK’s Telegraph.

“I’ve been in many street fights. I fought street fights for my friends to protect them. My dad would go and look for me everywhere: alleys, houses and knocking at the doors to get me to go to the gym. I’d be hanging around with the wrong crowd. Thanks to boxing and my dad, I was steered in the right direction.” Read the rest of the article: Andy Ruiz Christian.

Apparently being good at chemistry helps you in basketball

Lighthouse Christian Academy Santa Monica basketball team.pngAfter winning its third straight basketball game, Lighthouse Christian Academy credits for its breakout success its science program, specifically, chemistry class.

“A young team playing their third game together is going to have to go through some growing pains every time a game starts, so the first quarter is going to be a little rough,” says David Horowitz. “But as we play, the team chemistry, the cohesiveness, begins to show up on the court and in the second, third and fourth quarter, the team bonds and does nothing but get better and stronger.”

Pilgrim School just west of Downtown Los Angeles of was fired-up. With a couple of towering players (one was 6’4″, another was 6’1″), the Patriots looked to notch their first victory against the inexperienced Saints, who debuted this year.

But Lighthouse tightened up its game by the end of the first quarter, down 13-17. In the second quarter, LCA took the lead with Pilgrim close behind 26-22. In the critical third quarter the Saints pulled away 45-35. Read the rest: the importance of team chemistry for basketball.

LOL! Babylon Bee roasts everyone with Christian perspective

snopes vs babylon beeIn 2014, Adam Ford quit his day job to write satire news and The Babylon Bee, the “most trusted source of fake news,” was born two years later.

Stylistically similar to secular The Onion, The Babylon Bee, which clocks 9 million monthly views, has laughed its way through hallowed halls of mega churches and Congress.

Its writers lampoon everything from pro abortion forces to repetitive Chris Thomlin choruses (Headlines: “Planned Parenthood Honors King Herod With Lifetime Achievement Award” and “Chris Tomlin Finally Wears Out His Computer’s Copy, Paste Shortcut Keys.”)

Katy_Perry_IsisSometimes, its roasts resemble reality so closely that even Snopes has been duped into “fact-checking” its articles. Cue the endless eye-roll.

“Satire is a powerful, effective and Biblical tool for conveying ideas,” Ford wrote on Adam4D.com when he launched the Bee. Satire has “belong(ed) almost exclusively to the anti-religious view. The Bee aims to change that. Christ-centered news satire is now a thing.”

With the endless stream of negativity in your news feed, some laughter provides much needed stress release.

Babylon bee humorBut The Babylon Bee (note the alliterative disharmony of the ancient Biblical capital city with the quirky newspaperish “Bee”) aims at more than just making fun of people. It shoots for reflection.

“It’s important to look at what we’re doing, to ‘examine ourselves.’ Satire acts like an overhead projector, taking something that people usually ignore and projecting it up on the wall for everyone to see,” Ford told Christianity Today. “It forces us to look at things we wouldn’t normally look at and makes us ask if we’re okay with them.”

It has ridiculed the ongoing impeachment against Trump: “Santa Claus Accused Of Quid Pro Quo For Giving Children Gifts In Exchange For Good Behavior.” It has lampooned Trump: “Donald Trump’s Ego Most Fragile Element In Known Universe, Scientists Confirm.”

It has poked fun at atheist physicist Stephen Hawking for postulating the multiverse (multiple universes) to by-step the insurmountable improbability of life spontaneously generating: “Atheist Accepts Multiverse Theory Of Every Possible Universe Except Biblical One.”

ome of the parodies are theological. Calvinists bear the brunt of the Bee’s beatings: “Calvinist Dog Corrects Owner: ‘No One Is A Good Boy’”

Other spoofs slam mega churches. Joel Osteen seems to good-naturedly ignore the incessant onslaught. One headline: “Joel Osteen Opens Church Cafe That Only Serves Lukewarm Beverages.” Read the rest: Babylon Bee vs. Snopes.

Even with few players, Lighthouse of Santa Monica wins

Saints basketball 2nd game 2019Lighthouse Christian Academy was missing three starters for Tuesday’s basketball game because the seniors went to Six Flags Magic Mountain for an unauthorized ditch day and were disqualified from league play.

Naturally, players were glum. Having won its first game, LCA didn’t expect — with only six players (half the roster) — to be able to muster much.

But Highland Hall also showed up with only six players, and so the Santa Monica Saints won 43-22 in the Northridge game.

Merry Christmas.

At the first quarter, Lighthouse was sloppy. The score was 7-7. The Saints gave up easy turnovers.

In the second quarter, LCA picked up the pace and recovered its game somewhat, but still the score at half time was tight: 14-12. Read the rest: Santa Monica basketball private school.

Drew Brees feared he never play again after tearing his ACL

drew brees super bowlWhen Drew Brees tore his ACL, he felt his very life was torn from him. He was only a junior in high school, at a time when he wanted to attract the attention of recruiters.

“I’ve seen friends get that injury, and they would never come back quite the same,” Drew told Sports Spectrum. “What I thought was going to be my life, I felt like it was being stripped away from me.”

On his 17th birthday, Brees wallowed in self-pity and mounting depression as he sat in church. He listened to the pastor for once instead of goofing off with his brother. The preacher said God was looking for a few good men to carry on His kingdom. For the first time ever, the sermon struck a chord in his heart.

“It was at this moment that I accepted Jesus Christ into my heart,” Drew recounted. “I knew that there was something bigger planned for me than just playing sports.”

drew brees familyOf course, Drew did make it in football. He played college ball at Purdue University and was picked by the San Diego Chargers in 2001.

In 2005, Brees was enjoying a relatively successful season when Broncos tackle Gerard Warren hit him on the ground recovering his own fumble. The late hit caused a shoulder dislocation on his throwing arm.

“I had never dislocated anything in my life, but I knew exactly what happened,” Drew recalls. “I knew that besides a broken neck, this was the absolute worst injury I could ever ask for” as a quarterback.

I’m probably never going to put on a Chargers uniform again, Drew thought grimly as he walked off the field. I’ll probably never play football ever again in any uniform.

However, Drew had a remarkable recovery of the torn labrum and the New Orleans Saints expressed interest in hiring him. He signed in 2006.

In 2009, he led the Saints to their first Super Bowl win. He earned the moniker “Cool Brees” for his presence of mind under pressure. He has continued to play for New Orleans.

Drew married his college sweetheart Brittany Dudchenko in 2003. The couple has four children together: three sons and one daughter.

Just this year, the well-loved quarterback found himself maligned after he encouraged kids to participate in Bring your Bible to School Day in conjunction with “Focus on the Family.”

Leftist Louisiana-based Big Easy Magazine accused Focus on the Family of being anti-LGBT and supporting “conversion therapy.” Because LGBT are often bullied, they said Drew was joining “haters” and undercutting his lifelong campaign against bullying. Read the rest: Drew Brees Christian.

Refreshingly humble foot soldier of the Lord rapper YB

spotify+coverBrandon “YB” Farris is a soldier.

While other Christian rappers seek to be titans of hip hop, YB approaches music from a different perspective. He doesn’t aspire to be the superstar or super-celeb in the spotlight. He’s happy being the unpretentious, humble, and effective foot soldier for God’s kingdom.

The braggadocio common in Christian rap MAY be excused as a sine qua non of the hip hop genre. Or it may be simply the sin of pride.

Whether we condemn CHH or overlook its faults is moot for the moment. What we can say is that YB is a breath of fresh air.

YB Christian rapper“I believe God still has soldiers in this generation and in the generations to come,” YB says on Alysia Paige’s blog. “As long as I’m breathing I’m in full pursuit to gather soldiers to build God’s army.”

YB grew up one of eight children of a single mother in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. From the age of eight, music was his escape from the harsh realities of poverty. Growing up without a father caused him as a 13-year-old to have many unanswered questions, according to Top40 Charts.

“It was being surrounded by a tough environment, and you were being forced to make something from the environment you were coming up in,” YB told the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. “A lot of my story was in the valley.”

He idolized Ludacris and Eminem and got serious about music in high school. He honed his craft breaking curfew, staying up late writing and playing the music too loud. Ever sympathetic, his mother pardoned his peccadillos.

From a young age, YB knew the presence of God, but he kept God at a distance, leery of the level of commitment required. He did music for himself, not ready to enlist in God’s army. But he found self-glorification and self-promotion hollow at the end of the day.

“When I did music for me, I truly had nothing to offer people,” he observes. “In reality, people walk through life looking and hoping for ‘something’ but sometimes it’s hard to articulate your needs in darkness.”

All that changed when he went to Southern Arkansas University Tech in East Camden. He ran across so many on-fire, sold-out Christians it turned his worldview upside down. Instead of seeing the commitment as daunting, he was drawn to God.

At a college “Passion Conference,” he came to terms with God and decided to serve Jesus unreservedly, like a soldier.

He dropped his freshman album in 2014, aptly named “Salvation.” Four years later… Read the rest: Humble Christian rapper YB a soldier of Jesus.

He threw bricks of cocaine out the window of his car

CJ BlairAll CJ Blair wanted was to make enough money so that his mother could stop selling her body to abusive men on the streets of Washington D.C.

“When you offer the opportunity for me to make $3,000, $4,000, $5,000 a night,” he explains, “then I’m connecting that to my mother being able to stop selling her body and getting beat up by men.”

Growing up in the projects with a single mom, CJ only knew the father figure that was her pimp.

Only his great grandmother was a believer, and he saw her praying during the summers when he went to visit.

“My great grandmother believed God for everything, I mean, everything,” he remembers. “If it was rent money, whatever, she believed it. I was like, ‘Wow, this woman is serious.’”

In all the family, CJ was the most prone to get into trouble, but Grandma always spoke positively about him, unlike other family members who criticized him.

“She would say I was a man of God,” he recalls.

owed money to drug dealerTwo paths were in front of young CJ, the wild life of the streets that he was accustomed to or the way of Christianity.

“I was scared of Hell,” he admits. But he didn’t want to “play with God,” as he saw it, to pursue God in a half-hearted way.

CJ dropped out of school at an early age. At 13, authorities arrested him for assault. For the next 12 years, he was in and out of jail.

After a 6-year stint in jail for robbery and malicious wounding, CJ emerged from prison and decided to start a musical career in the hip hop industry.

“I was in the studio one night, and the studio engineer began to talk about Jesus,” he says. “If there’s a Jesus and you haven’t accepted Him and you die, you gonna be short.”

“God began to start dealing with me at that point,” he says.

Two weeks later after making a major drug deal, he was driving home listening to a rap group talk about driving a platinum car with the mark of Beast.

“When I heard that, something triggered in me,” he recalls. “All that talk that my great grandmother was talking about back then when I was like 8, 9, here it is now. He knew he was headed to hell if his life didn’t change.

His hands popped off the wheel. Moved by the sudden realization of God’s existence, he exclaimed, “Hallelujah. Hallelujah.”

Then Jesus spoke — audibly.

“CJ,” He said. “Take it out.”

Accordingly, CJ popped out the cassette tape. This automatically switched to radio. A man’s voice came through the car’s speakers.

“Do you know what miracles are?” the voice said. Read the rest: Drug dealer turns to Jesus.

Baja-California style fish tacos with Brazilian-Chinese twist at Wahoo’s

Wahoo's Gringo Bandido hot sauce

Zoom in. Does the guy in the logo look like me? I’m taking a vote. Did they steal my image without paying me royalties?

Wahoo’s is my go-to for quick food. It is super-tasty and healthy.

You may imagine my consternation when the West Los Angeles/Brentwood one closed, since it was the closest to my work at the Lighthouse Christian Academy.

Wahoo's fish tacosWe recently went to the Marina Del Rey Wahoo’s with the full squad, even the terrible teen who unleashes his fury easily, to evaluate a spread of items. Naturally, Wahoo’s earned top marks, though not universally.

My favorite is the citrus taco with grilled Mahi Mahi. I like to zip it up the the Gringo Bandido hot sauce, which has a nice vinegar flavor and not too hot. I am struck by how much the logo appears to my likeness and have even considered a suit for using my image without paying me royalties, but that hasn’t got off the ground.

Wahoos fish tacos

With the whole crew of evaluators.

What did get off the ground, was our appetites. Dianna ordered the fish salad, and she says she could have done better herself. Dee ordered the quesadilla because she adores cheese and said it was fantastic. She liked it more than the fish tacos, which she got last time. This sparked an intense debate with me because I am a virulent defender of Wahoo’s. As a matter of fact, I’ve only had one fish taco ever come close to competing in my entire life.

wahoo's interiorRob ordered the burrito, which he flunked for being small and expensive. Hosea ordered by accident the wrong thing and said he usually is a huge believer in the Wahoo’s burrito.

Wahoo’s exudes a skater-surfer ethos. Founded by three Chinese brothers who immigrated from Brazil (where the family had escaped to initially to escape the Maoists taking over China). And that’s how they concocted the tangy unique flavor for the sauces in their eatery.

They opened their first in Costa Mesa, to the South and have quietly taken over Southern California. They’ve expanded into Hawaii and Japan and opened one in New Jersey.

Wahoos Tacos menuWing Lam can still be see driving around Los Angeles in his Ferrari. Invariably, he dresses surfer garb and wears long hair. He’s the face of the company.

Wahoo's shangri-la teaWahoo’s distances itself from fastfood culture; a server will always come to your table to make sure everything is OK.

Wahoo’s Fish Tacos
4716 Lincoln Blvd Unit C
Marina Del Rey, CA 90292
310-821-0300
$

bamboo steamers[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

One-third of abortion clinics close since 2012

pro lifeMerry Christmas! The gift to America this year is life.

According to a 2019 report from a pro-abortion group, one third of independent abortion facilities have closed since 2012, limiting access to the nefarious practice that pro-abortion forces call “health care,” a LifeSite news article reports.

The 2019 report titled “Communities Need Clinics” by the pro-abortion group Abortion Care Network blamed new state laws that restrict abortion, such as “heartbeat” legislation or tougher safety requirements to open or maintain an abortion facility.

But other factors may come into play, including the role of education in preventing pregnancy through contraceptives or the increasing use of the abortion pill, which can be ordered via mail and administered at home thus making it impossible to track abortion statistics in America. Also, the role of internet and the available of videos online showing the horrendously graphic nature of abortion may be a factor.

ultrasounds save livesRegardless of the cause, abortion advocates lamented the closures and seem to want to marshal the report as a tool to spark funding-raising in support of the abortion industry.

“Anti-abortion politicians have long used onerous restrictions to try and shut down independent abortion providers,” said Nikki Madsen, executive director of the Abortion Care Network, on CBS News as quoted in LifeSite. “Since 2010, anti-abortion politicians have passed more than 400 laws that attempt to make it too expensive or logistically impossible for abortion clinics to operate.”

The Abortion Care Network is not associated with Planned Parenthood and accounts for about half of the abortions in America. Read the rest: decline in abortion clinics

Habanero Mexican Grill in Thousand Oaks

sopes Habanero Restaurant Thousand OaksIt turns out, the Aztecs weren’t the only ones capable of building pyramids, as I found out at Habanero Mexican Grill in Thousand Oaks. I ordered the sopes, and the piles of beans, chicken, rice, lettuce, cheese and salsa.

Mmm.

I was impressed by the creative twist of serving the beans in a small fried tortilla shell.

My friend took advantage of the fact that we arrived on Taco Tuesday. He ordered three for a very favorable price. They were oversized and delicious in crispy shells.

oBig portions is what Habanero specializes in. The vegetables are fresh.

The tortilla soup is recommended, as are the fajitas.

I haven’t yet tried the desserts, but I can see from the pictures that I must.

bamboo steamers[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

The exterior of Habanero belies the interior, which is double in size. The restaurant occupies two locals, but the frontage only shows one. The interior decoration is NOT typical Mexican but modern, sophisticated, urbane, designed to attract the well-heeled patrons and nouveau riche of the region.

The chips came without any salt, which I consider a blessing because some might be trying to cut down on sodium. You can salt to taste, always preferable to having the kitchen staff salt it for you to their taste.

burrito Habaneros Thousand Oaks Newbury ParkWhen I first saw the restaurant, I thought it was Cuban food because unconsciously I associated “Habanero” with the people who live in Havana, Cuba. Obviously, it is associated with the habanero chili, which is pretty darn hot. I used to indulge chilis but can’t anymore. It doesn’t seem like Habanero is trying to be so authentic that they risk “burning” their customers.

sarahzing-100

Habanero Mexican Grill
520 N Ventu Park Rd
Thousand Oaks, CA 91320
(805) 375-0755
$$

stocking stuffer mini[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

He loved to intimidate people until he despaired of life itself

Brian Cole, pastor and bikerBecause of his buck teeth and because he was short, Brian was the kid who got pushed around at school, but the nightmare of being pushed around at school paled in comparison to the emotional and physical abuse meted out by his father.

“I hated my father,” Brian Cole says in a CBN video. “I had this idea all through life, till I got to the age where I could take my dad on fist to cuffs that I would never be right with him.”

Eventually some kids from high school, outcasts and trouble-makers themselves, extended to Brian friendship — and cigarettes. Brian quickly realized that the tables had turned for his tormentors. With older kids sticking up for him, it was now his turn to terrorize them.

satanist bikerBrian began picking fights everywhere — in school, in church. He started stealing and using drugs regularly. Instead of finding compassion at church, he found condemnation and finger-pointing that only turned him away from God. He became

Brian began breaking into churches, stealing their sounds systems and vandalizing them. He trafficked drugs and porn at school

“Here I was 10 years old, and I didn’t want to be at home, I didn’t want to be in school, and I didn’t want to be in church,” he says, now with tears at the painful memories.

Only his mother, Dorothy, gave him unconditional love and prayed for him continuously.

“I loved that people looked up to me,” he says. “I loved that people were scared of me. I was the man.”

Brian Cole and his abusive fatherAt age 14, Brian got turned over to police for selling pot — by his own father.

From there, he cycled through the police system, the judicial system, treatment centers and psych wards. He never stop using drugs and stealing.

At 18, Brian caught a case for breaking and entering 250 homes that landed him with 10 years in a maximum security prison. While there, he turned to Satanism because it offered him a way to generate even more fear in others. He was taking speed and LSD heavily.

“Seeing the fear in people’s eyes — even the guards’ eyes — boy that really fed my ego,” he says.

After being released in 1994, Brian got a girlfriend. When she cheated on him, he hunted down the offending man and shot him point blank. Miraculously, the man survived. Read the rest: Satanist biker saved from drugs by Jesus.

Used to outwitting the KGB in Ukraine, immigrant outwits rabbis in the Yeshiva

persecuted christians in ukraineBy the time the KGB showed up, the Torahs were gone, stowed safely with their Ukrainian neighbors.

This the game of cat and mouse of being a Christian or a Jew under Communist Soviet domination in the 1980s. Foer her part, Andrew Scokovsky’s mom was born ethnic Jew but had decided to convert to Christianity after a lifelong search for truth.

My mom always searched for the meaning of life,” says Andrew*. “So she turned to socialism and communsim to see if it had the truth. She read Marx and Lenin and she couldn’t find it there. She was looking all theese places. Finally her friend said, Hey why don’t you read the Bible? It changed her life. Then she told it to my father and then he accepted Jesus too.”

Little Andrew grew up in the underground church of Odessa, always dodging the KGB and the communist authority.

“Whether Jewish or Christian, persecution was the same,” Andrew says. “According to socialistic creed, you’re supposed to believe in Lenin, so there is no higher authority than the communist party, there is a higher authority. They couldn’t allow that.”

persecuted christians in ukraine 2So when Andrew’s neighbors got wind that the KGB was planning to raid their house on a certain day, they spirited away the Torahs to Andrew’s house just in the nick of time. When the KGB — the feared security apparatus that propped up the communist dictatorship — arrived, agents found nothing.

Andrew says there were officially sanctioned churches but that you couldn’t hear the full gospel in them.

“We were part of the underground church,” he recalls. “You could not go to the regular church because if you went to a regular church, the KGB made a list of what you could preach. If you want to preach the whole Bible, you have to go to the underground church.”

As a young child, he was brought to church and dedicated to God. Accordingly, he grew up always wanting to pray, read his Bible and pursue a relationship with Jesus, he says.

At age 14, his parents were granted asylum to the United States under the religious persecution clause, and they settled in Brooklyn, NY, 1989.

“At the time we left, revival was going on,” Andrew says. “Just before communism fell, they opened up the region to foreigners, and Americans would come and preach. It was like a voice of angels in the late 80s. A lot of people converted during that time.”

In New York, his parents enrolled him in a public high school. But the fights — even with knives — frightened them, so they switched him to a conservative Jewish school, called a Yeshiva. They were not Jewish but resorted there because it was a “safe place,” he says.

Andrew knew he couldn’t talk about Christianity.

“Teachers taught us you only worship God and that Christians worship a man who claimed to be God, which is idolatry, the worst sin,” he said. Read the rest: Ukrainian persecuted Christian.

Gambling addiction broken after man sees in Bible what God told him

john simmonsJohn Simmons first entered a dingy poker room where guys were smoking on his 21st birthday in Vegas.

“There’s no better feeling than putting in a wad of money in your pocket knowing you didn’t really do anything to earn it,” says Simmons on a CBN video. “There’s a lot of adrenaline that builds up in your heart. The feeling of chasing that moment is intense.”

It was the start of a decade-long gambling addiction that saw John, from St. Louise, Missouri, fall into more than $200,000 of debt, depression and hopelessness.

IMG_5510His demise began with a celebration for his birthday, when it was finally legal for him to go into a casino.

“The guys at the tables got their sunglasses on and they’re bluffing each other,” John says. “It’s just filling me up with all this joy and i’m like I love this.”

John decided to pursue poker as a career. He got a job as a casino card dealer and he made good money.

‘Gambling gave me a sense of purpose. It gave me a sense of identity,” John says. “I would be a person that could be seen by others as a multimillionaire. If I wasn’t working, I was playing. If I wasn’t playing, I was sleeping.”

IMG_5509But when gambled on his free time, he lost.

After three years at the poker table, John was more than $200,000 in debt and had to declare bankruptcy. As part of the court settlement, he still had to pay off some debt. So John worked overtime to scramble the money.

“In my mind, it wasn’t that I was failing. I just needed to keep going and figure out how to fix it,” he says. “If only I could win the next thing, none of these losses matter. I would spend my entire paycheck over the course of a weekend trying to chase my debts. A lot of times, I had zero dollars in my pocket.

“It was such a terrible way to live,” he adds. “I couldn’t stop though. I kept thinking, ‘If all I do is win this one tournament, if I win a million dollars, no one will be mad at me anymore.’”

At age 30, he was again hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.

He decided to survey the debris of his life. Read the rest of gambling addiction.

Juicy Dumpling Restaurant in San Gabriel (greater Los Angeles)

Juicy Dumpling restaurant San Gabriel, CA

Juicy Dumpling Long Xing Ji in San Gabriel, with viewing room to watch them form dumplings like origami

This will, no doubt, leave some people SMH and others will laugh outright, but one of the ways you can KNOW you are in a legit Chinese restaurant is you enter in-between hours and the staff is napping on the booth couch.

Yup, Chinese workers in a REAL Chinese restaurant — ones run by Mom and Pop — work long hours. They take a nap between meals.

juicy dumpling san gabriel menu page 1

Juicy Dumpling San Gabriel menu page 1

That’s how I knew Juicy Dumpling in San Gabriel, which has become a huge ethnoburb for hua qiao. Outside China, where are you going to find more Chinese? For more than two decades, the Chinese have been moving in to Alhambra, Arcadia, Rosemead, San Marino, San Gabriel, South Pasadena, and Temple City.

juicy dumpling san gabriel menu page 2

Juicy Dumpling San Gabriel menu page 2

Juicy Dumpling Restaurant is located in the 12-acre San Gabriel Square, known affectionately as the “Great Mall of China.” I expected to find authentic Chinese food here. Immediately cluing me in to success was a waiter napping because I got there at 4:00, too late for lunch and too early for dinner. I expected great Chinese food. I didn’t expect a viewing window through which you can spy into the kitchen, especially the dumpling maker. This is quite fascinating, since dumpling folding is on par with origami. It certainly gives you an appreciation for the labor of love they pour into your soup dumplings.

juicy dumpling san gabriel menu page 4

Juicy Dumpling San Gabriel menu page 4

Andrew and I didn’t get dumplings. He wanted barbecue pork ribs with a hearty portion of meat hanging from them. They were fabulous. Since Andrew lives mostly in China, I let him order, and he also got shrimp fried rice. It was out of this world. As in, out of America and in China.

Juicy Dumpling San Gabriel menu page 5

Juicy Dumpling San Gabriel menu page 5

Juicy Dumpling San Gabriel menu page 6

Juicy Dumpling San Gabriel menu page 6

Juicy Dumpling San Gabriel menu page 7

Juicy Dumpling San Gabriel menu page 7

One day I will try this Chinese cola:

Jia Dua Bao soda
Juicy Dumpling (Long Xing Ji)
140 W. Valley Suit 211
San Gabriel, CA 91776
626-307-1188
$

bamboo steamers[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

Single dad CHH star reaches out to people lost in the streets

benjamin broadway CHHHe thrilled to strap up a Glock, flex a gold chain and fancy car and gangbang in the streets, but when Benjamin Broadway stood over the casket of his close friend Johnny Talyor, God interrupted the thug life fantasy he was living.

“That can be you,” the Most High told Benjamin. “God just attacked me.”

The dark reality of mortality combined with the stark prophecy from God prompted Benjamin to straighten up. He cut off his street friends and went to the local Vineyard Church.

Today, the South Bend, Indiana, native spearheads of subgenre of Christian Hip Hop called Gospel Trap that is oriented more for sinners than saints.

benjamin broadway single dad CHH rapper“I’m trying to save the hood,” he says in a 2016 Rapzilla video. “Gospel Trap is putting God where He’s needed. People that’s in church every Sunday God got them some way somehow. But people in the streets don’t have Him. I’m trying to give music to the streets”

The Tupac-influenced artist came under fire from Christian circles when he dropped “God in the Bando” (a bando is an abandoned house that has been taken over by dealers and addicts) by saints who want to maintain a high holy wall of separation between the church and the world. Benjamin employs ghetto language to entice sinners to listen, but he redefines the words out of the Bible. A lot of Christians don’t get the strategy.

“I’m using a lot of key words that the hood knows, and I’m putting them in a gospel perspective,” he says. “You’re going to hear stuff like ‘plug’ — all different types of keywords that no other Christian artist is using. When I put out ‘God in tha bando,’ people was attacking me. I mean, attacking me. I’m like, how come people don’t know that I’m trying to put the message out on the streets? I want to save a million souls.”

His lyrics come short of an R rating. Some parents may want to steer their Chrisitan kids to more sanitized raps. But the older youth from the suburbs would do well to approach Benjamin’s music as a sociological study of the ghetto and sensitivity training.

He’s quite the wordsmith. In one song he reflects on how it’s not easy to make a living in Christian Hip Hop even if you strike it big. “I know you broke CHH” he raps. It’s an expression of making a sensation that shuts down others because of the explosion of attention to you. He goes on to reflect on how the artist can still “be broke” financially.

Benjamin got away from the faith of his parents in high school. Everyday his dad would nag him to serve Jesus and would read him his favorite verse, which he hid through secret combination of numbers in his album “Gospel Trap 2.”

“I felt like my friends were my family; we started our own clique and ended up getting in a lot of trouble. Did a lot of things,” he told God Reports. “I think the reason why I did it so long was the friends that were around me, we were close. Plus not only that, you get addicted to the street life, you end up glorifying it, and continue to think it’s right. But in reality it’s harming you.”

He got kicked out of high school for fighting rival gang members but still managed to graduate. For some of his shenanigans in the streets, he would up locked up in jail, though only for a week.

“That made me realize — being locked up in a cell like an animal — that is not the way I wanted to live,” Benjamin said. “I didn’t want the government being in charge of my life (through prison officials and judges, etc). I don’t like jail or the police (no offense to the good officers that protect america in a good way).” Read the rest: Benjamin Broadway Christian rap

Reinhard Bonnke, powerful evangelist to Africa

reinhard bonnkeReinhard Bonnke, called the Billy Graham of Africa, died Saturday at age 79.

The German-American pentecostal evangelist recorded 79 million conversions to Christ in a lifetime of ministry that started in 1967.

Most of his outreach was in Africa, where he saw many miracles to help usher in souls to the Kingdom of God. No other Western evangelist spent more time in Africa.

“Those who knew him off-stage can testify to his personal integrity, genuine kindness, and overflowing love for the Lord,” said his successor, Daniel Kolenda, in Christianity Today. “His ministry was inspired and sustained by his rich prayer life, his deep understanding of the Word, and his unceasing intimacy with the Holy Spirit.”

billy graham to africaKenyan politician Esther Passari thanked him, at the announcement of his death, for his life of service.

“I spoke in tongues for the first time at Rev. Reinhard Bonnke’s 1988 crusade,” she said. “He picked me from the crowd and arranged a meeting where he prayed for God to use me. I send my condolences to his family and his congregation.”

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who is Muslim, also eulogized the beloved evangelist, saying he “joins Christendom at large in mourning the passing of renowned evangelist, Reinhard Bonnke, 79, describing his transition as a great loss to Nigeria, Africa & entire world.” Read the rest: Reinhard Bonnke dies.

Triad gang member scraped with death before finding Jesus

ChobySiau3As multiracial dyslexic at 11 years old, Choby Siau was an easy target for bullying at his new school in New Zealand.

“Because of that, I started to fight. I started to fight to defend” my brother and me, Choby narrates in the video he made documenting his salvation.

Choby grew up in a church, but he never had a personal relationship with God. He felt hurt by the church.

“I knew He was real, but I just really thought, ‘How can God let abuse happen to me and my brother?’ I had a distrust of God, and I blamed God for what I went through,” Choby continues.

At 13 years old, Choby and his family left to Penang, Malaysia, where he joined a local Triad, a Chinese mafia.

ChobySiau2

Choby in his gang

“My goal was to raise in the ranks,” Choby says. “I wanted to become a boss in the Triad.”

Choby got kicked out of school in the 8th grade.

“Choby, because you’re out (of school), I’m going to teach you about the ways of the Chinese Triad,’” Choby’s boss told him.

Choby was hooked for life.

Choby started as a fighter. Anytime there was a problem for the Triad in Penang, he was called upon to settle scores.

At 17, he and his family moved to America, far away from his girlfriend. Through his connections in the Triad, he learned she was cheating on him.

“Listen,” he threatened his girlfriend over the phone, “I want you to tell that guy that I have a present coming for him.”

But before he could board the plane, his mom had a very serious talk with him.

“Son, I don’t know if I’ll ever see you again,” she told him ominously.

“God spoke to her that I was gonna die in Malaysia,” Choby explains. Read the rest of Triad gang member comes to salvation

Sinking shots in Santa Monica as smoothly as he skates

christian school santa monica basketball teamFirst skating. Then quarterbacking. Now shooting hoops.

Is there anything Pat Cannon can’t do?

Lighthouse Christian Academy won its basketball season opener against Summit View School 48-33.

Calm, cool, collected, the senior sunk shot after shot after a shot. Pat’s better know as Sk8erpat on Instagram where’s his magic with the skateboard has ranked up 19.6K followers.

Then, he was throwing around the football on LCA’s river rafting trip, and coach saw he had an arm. He got tapped for quarterback, where he led the Saints into playoffs this season.

Turn in football gear. Receive basketball uniform. Continue the same smooth execution. (Pat also golfs, but that’s another story.) He scored 15 points.

Lighthouse previously had a soccer team, but after almost a decade, the guys who kick the ball disappeared like the biblical transitory vapor.

Basketball, suddenly, was born at LCA. There were no coaches able to continue the soccer legacy. Instead, coaches stepped forward for basketball, and there was ample interest in the student population. Read the rest Lighthouse Christian Academy Santa Monica basketball team.

Lamar Jackson shows biblical principal ‘last shall be first’

ravens quarterback lamar jacksonThe Ravens quarterback is not out to win. He’s out to destroy his opponents, to bury them under so many points, both passed and rushed. His mindset is insanely competitive.

He’s been compared to Mike Vick, but he passes more, and he’s been hailed as a prototype revolutionizing football for future generations of QBs, who ought to be both athletic like a running back and precise passers. The 22-year-old, who outgunned both Tom Brady and Russell Wilson in double digits this season, is charging madly into the NFL’s MVP.

On top of all that, Lamar Jackson is a Christian, who credited his faith when he won the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore in 2016 at the University of Louisville.

passing and running lamar jackson“First and foremost, before I go further along in my speech, I want to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,” Lamar said. “Without Him, none of us would be here right now.”

Lamar Jackson lost his dad in an automobile accident when he was eight. From then on, his single mother raised Lamar and his siblings in poverty in Pompano Beach, Florida. He credits Mom with doing her best to fill the role of Mom and Dad.

And the role of football coach.

lamar jackson heisman speechFelicia Jones was a passionate athlete herself and pushed her son into football. Even at eight, he outran and outpassed all the other kids in Pop Warner football. Felicia watched intently from the sidelines and then took little Lamar home to give him more drills, either ones she saw or ones she made up. She even tackled him roughly so that he would intensify his game to beat bigger people.

“People don’t believe me,” Jackson said on ESPN. “She was an athlete. She used to play basketball. She saw what we were able to do, and she’d go back there and play football with us. She was just making us tougher because she’s older, so she’s bringing power that we’re not used to feeling. We didn’t take it like anything different.”

In addition to intense workouts, she drilled Lamar with a code of moral principles called The Super 8: God, prayer, faith, family, education, sacrifice, character and discipline.

By the time Lamar got to college he was a football machine, chewing up opponents and spitting them out. In his opening game during his sophomore year, he established the school record scoring eight touchdowns, all in the first half. He went on to become the youngest ever recipient of the Heisman trophy at age 19.

But when it came time for the NFL draft in 2018, 28 teams overlooked him in their picks. He was the last pick of the first round.

But the snub only inspired him. Lamar and his mom, who acted as his agent, remembered and repeated Matt. 20:16: “The last will be first, and the first last,” according to CBS Sports. He wasn’t a first in NFL draft; he came in last. Now on the football field, he determined to finish first. Read the rest Lamar Jackson Christian

Pink Pepper Thai food in Hollywood

Pink Pepper Restaurant HollywoodFamous for movies and music, Hollywood is great too for munchies. It turns out all those stars — and would-be celebrities — like foreign fare, evocative entrees, daring dainties.

Pink Pepper fits the bill. Its memorable moniker hails its Hollywood heritage.

Thai yellow curry Pink Pepper HollywoodThe Thai food eatery is aptly decorated with Thai Buddhas — thinner than the Chinese versions — and golden furbelow. The interior decorating is tasteful, the food even more so.

pad thai Pink Pepper HollywoodMy friend Andrew ordered and we shared yellow curry chicken and pad Thai noodles with ground peanuts. This is the sort of stuff you look for in a Thai restaurant — a clean break from meat and potatoes.

Pink Pepper beef entreeThere are entrees that beckon: Crying Tiger Angus ribeye  with spicy dipping sauce, Siamese Fish crispy fried in tamarind-chili sauce, Lamb Curry  stewed in Mussamum curry, Tom Yum spicy hot and sour lemongrass soup, Rot Paratha for dessert.

pink pepper entree 2It’s an intimate eatery on the west edge of the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Pink Pepper
1638 N La Brea Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90028
323-461-2462
$$

bamboo steamers[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

Pink Pepper entreePink Pepper Hollywood menu page 1Pink Pepper Hollywood menu page 2Pink Pepper Hollywood menu page 3Pink Pepper Hollywood menu page 4Pink Pepper Hollywood menu page 5Pink Pepper Hollywood menu page 6
bamboo steamers[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

A mountaintop experience at Central Grille in Glendale, CA

Monster burger and tortilla soup Central Grille GlendaleAfter climbing Mount Watermen, we three men were hungry. “Monster” burgers were the order of the day.

As famished as we were, probably anything would have satisfied. But instead, we pulled into one of those destination restaurants that you drive miles for because it’s that good.

Monster Burger Central GrilleMy serendipitous discovery came as it usually does, by way of a local. Wanna find good grub without Yelp? Ask a local.

Andrew had lived nearby when the hipster joint was an oldster joint called Shakers. The owners smartly revamped it for the changing demographics of influx of professionals. Not only did they update the interior and exterior, they crafted a new menu that combines traditional classics with enticing twists: white America cheese on the burger with sweet caramelized onions to offset the salty burger and house aioli.

Central Grille Glendale hipster restaurantCrispy asparagus fries. Deviled eggs with bacon. Truffle fries. Fish and chips with jalapeño tartar. Chilled gazpacho. Burrato-tomato caprese. Sesame-almond crusted salmon. Short rib street tacos. Popcorn curry chicken.

Central-Grille-2-82(Whimper. I’m growing hungry as I write.)

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Like heaven yeah! When can I get an excuse to jet over there again?

Central-Grille-2-15I’m normally a fries guy, but Nathan Williams was from Salt Lake City where soup is the thing, and he had a picture from the last time. He showed me. That was that. It looked more mouth-watering than the fries.

bamboo steamers[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

Central-Grille-242Mercifully, the menu is one large page. Just one. If it were more, I would probably need to go this restaurant for the rest of my life to sample all the goodies.

central grill saladCentral Grille has one-upped the competition. They’ve shown that you need to do more than just an “e” to the end of “Grill” if you want first-timers to become faithful.

Central Grillle Glendale CA exteriorWaterman Mountain in the Angeles National Forest, about an hour north of Glendale, was an exhilarating hike with snow and ice. I won’t need to be a famished mountainman to seek the eatery again.

hike Mount Waterman

Nathan Williams on Mount Waterman (not the peak)

Final tip: Grab some zucchini bread on your way out at the cash register. Goes great with butter on it and a cup of coffee for breakfast.

Central Grille
801 N Central Ave
Glendale, CA 91203
818-246-4994
$$

Central Grille menu Glendale, California

After a mountaintop experience on top of the mounain, we had a mountaintop experience at the base of the mountain in the restaurant.

Central Grille Glendale dinner specials menu

bamboo steamers[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

Brutal or bomb? A 17-year-old reviews Dinah’s Family Restaurant in Culver City

dinah's chickenSeventeen-year-olds are merciless, so when I took my son with me to help review Dinah’s Family Restaurant, I knew he would cut through all the nonsense and deliver either a brutal or bomb grade.

Hosea didn’t like it. The chicken sandwich was overpriced and underflavored, according to him.

I thought my “monster burger” was stellar, and Kevin said his pulled pork sandwich did not disappoint. Perhaps we misfired. We arrived on the all-you-can eat Southern fried chicken night and didn’t.

chicken sandwich Dinah's Family Restaurant

The unimpressive chicken sandwich

Everybody agreed that the restaurant, which offers Southern comfort food, was overpriced, maybe banking on its historicity, old faithful clientele or its location in hipster Culver City. This restaurant has survived a 1000 remakes and trends in the restaurant business with the same menu from 1959 when it opened.

Dinah's Family Restaurant interior Culver CityIt even boasts that its bucket sign was the first of its type in Los Angeles. (Such was the trademark of Pioneer Chicken, which didn’t keep up with Kentucky Fried, which is struggling against an infinity of healthier options.)

Pulled Pork sandwich Dinah's Family Restaurant Culver CityThere’s not too much on the menu that borders on “ethnic” or “exotic.” The retro interior speaks throwback.

I’m a sucker for a burger called “monster,” so much so that I could distracted from the all-you-can-eat fried chicken.

Monster Burger from Dinah's Family Restaurant Culver Cityu

The Monster Burger (side view) at Dinah’s Family Restaurant in Culver City.

Somehow or other, I didn’t notice from the menu that it had not one but two huge patties. When the bulky burger came, I couldn’t fit my mouth around it. I actually had to give one of the patties to my son; he plays football and consumes mega quantities.

Monster Burger Dinah's Family Restaurant Culver City

Monster burger (top view, open) from Dinah’s Family Restaurant in Culver City

It had two onion rings in it, bacon, lettuce tomato, and a huge slab of cheese. The size of the pickle even fit the descriptor: monster. I surrendered the raw onion to brother Eric, since pungent onions make my stomach acidic.

bamboo steamers Chinese thumbnailThe fries were impressively thick but otherwise nothing special.

[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

Breakfast looks good.

There’s a same-logo Dinah’s Chicken in Glendale, but it appears they severed business relationship many years ago.

Dinah's Family Restaurant menu page 1Since the restaurant has been opened, it has served a lot of food. Its website provides the accounting:

More than 20 million customers.
More than 1 billion pieces of  fried chicken.
Dinah's Family Restaurant menu page 2More than 5 million apples to make apple pancakes.
45 million eggs to make breakfast.
Dinah's Family Restaurant menu page 32 million pounds of bacon and sausage.
1.5 million pounds of fish.
Dinah's Family Restaurant menu page 48 millions pounds of potatoes.
20 million pancakes
500,000 pies
More than 2 million pounds of beef.
15 million cups of coffee.
27 million dinner rolls.

I don’t think I will come here again unless invited. The grub is good, but the prices are not.

Dinah’s Family Restaurant
6521 Sepulveda Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90045
310-645-0456
$$

bamboo steamers Chinese thumbnail[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

Greek for lunch in Downtown LA at George’s

George's Greek Grill downtown Los Angeles

An Athens painting adorns the wall giving a cool feel to the hipster/professional lunch place.

The gyro made my tongue do cartwheels. It was that good. There’s nothing like Greek food to excite your tongue.

I met my wife for lunch in Downtown at George’s Greek Grill on Figueroa. This place is definitely the lunch spot for professionals.

chicken gyro at George's Greek Grill downtown los angeles

Chicken gryo

Greek food combines frequently with tzatziki — yogurt spiked with cucumber  — that provide an intriguing offset to the spicy and salty lamb and beef.

Roasted-Pepper-Hummus-2

Fried pita chips with roasted pepper hummus

I got the chicken. I wish I had gotten the beef and lamb, which my wife got.

lamb and beef gyro at George's Greek Grill in downtown Los Angeles

Lamb and beef gyro

George’s takes the traditional Greek and puts hipster twist on it. Hummus gets zipped up with jalapeño and cilantro. Fries come with feta cheese and protein.

Calamari_019

Calimari salad

There are salads and falafel. There are wraps and pita chips. The menu is pretty long for a mostly lunch place.

Kale-Salad-1280x1071-1

Kale salad with mango chunks and cranberries

George’s Greek Grill
735 S Figueroa St #131
Los Angeles, CA 90017
213-624-6542
$$

bamboo steamers Chinese thumbnail[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

 

My wife swears by Go Greek, and I’m pretty convinced too

Go Greek Santa MonicaIf I were a frozen yogurt sommelier, I could tell you why Go Greek is superior. But since I can’t place my finger on it, I’ll just say Go Greek tastes healthier. Supposedly the ingredients are all imported from Greece. There’s no corner cutting. And yes, it tastes a bit more tart, a bit more yogurty, a bit healthier.

My wife swears by it.

Go Greek toppings naturalActually, I’m a bit of a cuisine curmudgeon. Just because something is more expensive does not mean it tastes better in my book. Hence, I frown upon her notion that Menchie’s (more expensive) is better than Yogurtland. They taste exactly the same to me.

Go Greek convinces me, the cynic.

Go Greek natural yogurtThey have nontraditional flavors: peanut butter and jelly, passionfruit, rose, hazelnut, carrot. Greek honey is a perennial. They have rotating flavors.

The toppings are noticeably different from your traditional frozen yogurt joint. Chocolate goes in the form of dark chocolate cacao nibs, dark chocolate espresso beans and unsweetened carob chips. There are raw, sliced almonds and fresh fruit. No sprinkles, no whipped cream, no other cheap American unwholesome frills.

Go Greek Santa Monica interiorThey don’t offer chocolate syrup, which apparently is too sugary for their healthy pretensions. Instead, they have sour cherry syrup, which is spectacular; Greek honey and rose petal sauce (which I haven’t tried).

Go Greek yogurtThere are three Go Greeks in Los Angeles and one in Las Vegas. No doubt they will expand across that nation, at least to places where sophisticated tastes prevail. They need more in L.A.

Go Greek frozen yogurt toppingsIf we are in Santa Monica, we usually stop in there.

1431 Ocean Ave
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 310-2167
$ (more expensive than the average frozen yogurt place)

bamboo steamers Chinese thumbnail[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

The Emperor of Ice Cream at POPS in City of San Fernando

ice cream sundae in half coconut Pops Artisanal Creamery City of San FernandoIce cream specialty shops abound. So when you find something special, it’s a rare gem.

spicey cucumber ice cream POPS Artisanal Creamery City of San FernandoThis is POPS Artisanal Creamery in the City of San Fernando. They offer a sundae in a half coconut. They make their own ice cream with some rocking originals.

Yeah, I’m talking hibiscus (rosa de jamaica) ice cream. And spicy cucumber. Watermelon.

hibiscus ice cream rosa de jamaica Pops Artisanal Creamery City of San FernandoThe exotic flavors are Latin variations. You don’t have as many options as competitors La Michoacana, but the ice creams are made to the American taste, not according to the Mexican formula. Which means, I like them better.

specialty ice creams POPS Artisanal Creamery City of San FernandoI learned a thing about exotic ice creams when I went to BAE, which offers unthinkable flavors like Coco Puffs Chocolate and Charcoal Cleanse. Only problem with BAE is that they don’t taste good.

Pops Creamery City of San FernandoTo be fair, I didn’t try the spicy cucumber, so it would be wrong for me to endorse it here. But I did the sweet cream corn ice cream, which Martin said was his grandfather’s recipe, and it was delicious.

Snapseed__4_The proprietor, Martin Ken, is a handsome guy with light eyes from Belize. He’s slightly chubby, proof that he is a connoisseur of creams. He gives an individual attention and care to every customers, talking freely, answering questions, giving samples.

Ample samples.

20190805-162405-COVER_3_0819As a matter of fact, it was me who called it quits on the sample porque me apené. (Sorry for the Spanish, but I thought it might be apropos given the Latin neighborhood and the Latin flavors.) I think I sampled four separate creams before deciding, with my wife, for the super nutty walnut and the sharp coffee. (I say “sharp” because the coffee flavor is quite strong and tastes like a legit cup of joe — way better than your average coffee ice cream.)

downloadMartin shaved the inside of half coconut and left the shavings in the bottom. Then he scooped in our two flavors, sprayed on whipped cream, gingerly applied chocolate syrup and topped it off with a mascherino cherry and a little parasol normal for cocktails. That parasol was a little bit of fun, an attractive, playful touch that shows signature caring.

It gave you the impression that he was executing a work of art and not just slapping the 104th order of the day to clock out. I thought to myself, Here is the Emperor of Ice Cream.)

IMG_6692-sidepopHe talks knowledgeably of creams from around the Caribbean. He talks about his family history with creams-making. He talks about his plans to open a second store in New Hall, to the North. He talks…. He talks friendly.

At Pops Artisanal Creamery, you are a friend.

We’ll be back.

POPS Artisanal Creamery
450 N. Maclay Ave.
San Fernando, CA 91340
818-371-3538
$

bamboo steamers Chinese thumbnail[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

Hot! Hot! Hot!

bizmati rice Pakistani style Nihara House Arleta Los AngelesNihari House is pure fire — and it’s not a rap flow.

No, it’s spicy, spicy, spicy.

Nihari House ArletaIn my quest to try all the most exotic ethnic food in Los Angeles, I wound up in Nihari House in Arleta (in the Central Northern San Fernando Valley.)

Never having sampled Pakistani food before, I asked the waitress, who runs the joint with her husband, the chef. She was very personable and welcoming. Instantly, I felt part of the family.

Nihari in San Fernando ValleyBecause of her no-non sense recommendation, I tried the nihari, the house specialty. It is beef shank slow-simmered in chili oil for seven hours or so. The gravy is hot, hot, hot. There was no need to throw in the chopped jalapeño on the side. To squeeze in lemon juice would have pushed the acidic levels into radioactive. (Excuse the hyperbole, but I’m 52 and can’t take too much spicy anymore. Fortunately, there was a remedy.) It was delicious.

Lamb Karahi Pakistani food Nahari House ArletaMy wife got the lamb Lamb Karahi, which came in its own Pakastani wok (I didn’t know they had their own woks!). And that was just as hot. It wasn’t until the chef, an affable slightly overweight guy, came out to check if everything was up to our satisfaction. He explained that we could have ordered a less spicy version. It certainly gives me confidence in a restaurant if the chef himself comes out to check on our enjoyment.

mango yogurt Pakistani drink Nihara Arleta Los AngelesFortunately, there was an answer to the chili power. It was the mango yogurt drink to neutralize acids in the stomach. Even if you don’t need to chill the heat, this drink is absolutely worth the experiment. It’s delicious and different.

If you are tired of ho-hum meat and potatoes like me, then Nihari House is a hotspot to excite your palate.

bamboo steamers Chinese thumbnail[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

Nihari House restaurant menu Arleta Los Angeles page 2

Nihari House restaurant menu Arleta Los Angeles page 1

Here’s a big tip: try to hit the Sunday buffet 12:00 – 3:00 p.m. That way you can sample so many different flavors for one low price. Unfortunately, I missed the buffet because it didn’t coincide with date night with my wife.

nihari house Los Angeles pakistani foodI thought that Mexicans were the hot chili pepper-eating champions of the world. (I remember in Mexico City seeing a 4-year-old eating a jalapeño all by itself as if it were a banana. He didn’t cry until he accidentally wiped his eyes with his fingers.) Now I know that the Pakistanis are right up there competing.

pakistani buffet in LA

Nihari House
13920 Van Nuys Blvd.
Arleta, CA 91331
818-302-6291
$$

bamboo steamers Chinese thumbnail[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

Want Indian food in Hollywood? India’s Tandoori Hollywood

green coconut curry chicken indias tandoori hollywoodRumor has it that the time to hit India’s Tandoori Hollywood is for lunch. That’s when the buffet goes for $12.00. So you can sample every taste of India for a paltry sum. I was told it was Punjabi food, from Northern India.

Indian food hollywoodMy friend and I came for dinner, so we only got one entry each. I got the Green Coconut Chicken with mild curry, and my buddy ordered Chicken Tikka Masala.

lentil paste bread Indias Tandoori HollywoodWhile we waited for the food, the waiter brought a super thin cracker-like bread made of lentils. Yep, lentils. I wasn’t expecting it to be salty. Perhaps because it was salty, it gave me the impression of being the Indian equivalent of Mexican chips as an appetizer.

Indian condimentsI was quick to try each of the condiments: mint (not sweet), diced carrots and chili (not too spicy) and plum sauce with sesame seeds (which looked like it was spicy but wasn’t).

indias tandoori hollywood inside restaurantThis is what you go to Indian food for: a slathering of thick gravy spiced up with the herbs that made the Indies the destination for traders in the Age of Exploration. There are curries, green sauces, red sauces, brown sauces, yummy sauces, hot sauces and ones that will send you to the bathroom.

chicken tikka indias tandoori hollywoodAhem. Excuse me. I shouldn’t talk about such an unappetizing topic while discussing the appetizing concerns of this restaurant.

bamboo steamer thumbnail sizIn any case, Indian food is my new Mexican food.

[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

indias tandoor hollywood interior decoratingBecause we ordered it a la carte, we didn’t get rice. We should’ve gotten rice to sop up the sauce with.

Indias Tandoori Hollywood set up insideBut the naan bread did not disappoint. As I have said previously, I don’t like bread. Period. But naan bread, I like. It is slightly crispy on the outside, warm and chewy on the inside. Mmmmmmm.

We could scoop up the extra sauce with that and revel in all the tastiness.

There was plenty of chicken in the entrees, and I left full enough.

Indias Tandoori Hollywood menu page 1Indias Tandoori Hollywood menu page 2Indias Tandoori Hollywood menu page 3
The restaurant is tastefully decorated. The fresco on the wall appears to be of India in rough brush paint strokes that is more in line with Hollywood than India. The servers appear to be Indian. On the whole, the night out was very enjoyable.

I’m just going to have hit this restaurant for the lunch buffet 12:00 noon to 4:00 p.m. next time so that I can sample more widely of the delicacies of India.

India’s Tandoori Hollywood
7300 W. Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90046
323-874-6673
$

bamboo steamer thumbnail siz[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

First dyslexia, then cancer, Mark Hall has gone through some trials

Mark-and-Melanie-Hall-Feature-2His doctor said, “You’ve got cancer,” but John Mark Hall, lead singer of Casting Crowns, heard, “You’re going to die.”

It was 2015 and the Grammy-winning Christian worship band was approaching 10 million sales of its albums. Mark was youth pastor in Georgia, happily married and fulfilling his call in God. He consulted a doctor friend about what he imagined to be acid reflux.

After getting the results of some scans, the doctor texted Mark: Dude, you need to call me.

308650In a subsequent phone call he told Mark there was a mass on his kidney. “It looks solid. I think it’s cancer,” he said.

Mark was thunderstruck.

“I hung up and walked to my car in a daze, wondering how I was going to break the news to my wife, Melanie; our four kids; our church; the youth group; the band,” Mark recalls in Guideposts. “The idea of telling them all made my head spin.”

God felt far away.

Two weeks before his surgery, Mark was singing with Casting Crowns at the Carson Center in Paducah, Kentucky, wondering what would happen. The band’s next song was “Just Be Held.” Unlike most of their songs, there was no story behind the song – until that night.

At that moment he had the stunning realization that God had inspired him to pen lyrics that would speak to him later in life, in the midst of his cancer.

Hold it all together
Everybody needs you strong
But life hits you out of nowhere
And barely leaves you holding on

Casting-Crowns-press-photo-2016-billboard-1548“It was as though I was hearing those words for the very first time. Suddenly I knew who this song had been written for, and why. God in his infinite wisdom had given it to me two years earlier, knowing how desperate I would be after my diagnosis,” Mark explained. “I didn’t need to hold it together. I needed to be held, to accept his love from as many people as wanted to share it with me, to receive their prayers, all the prayers I could get.”

Doctors removed his cancerous kidney and later told him it was an aggressive form of the deadly disease, but mercifully, it was self-contained and had not spread.

The weeks following the surgery were sometimes difficult. The band cancelled a week of shows before Mark could rejoin them.

God has helped the band continue to reach hundreds of thousands with their inspirational music. Casting Crowns has won Dove, Billboard and American Music awards. The group is one of the only American bands to ever perform in North Korea., playing at the 2009 Spring Friendship Arts Festival in Pyongyang. Their single “Slow Fade” was included in Kirk Cameron’s blockbuster movie FireproofRead the rest: Dyslexia, cancer, Mark Hall.

Hop Li in LA’s Chinatown, the hot spot for locals

Hop Li Chinatown LA

My lovely wife, at the restaurant she grew up most eating

Forget about the big fancy expensive Chinese food restaurants in Los Angeles’ Chinatown. Locals get their authentic grub at Hop Li, an unpretentious eatery that would necessarily stand out as a hot spot.

Peking Duck Hop Li Chinese restaurant Chinatown LA

Peking Duck in super-white flour buns with sprig onion, parsley and plum or hoisin sauce.

I was introduced to Hop Li, when in the 90s I was dating the lady who is now my wife. It was the most frequent place we went to.

spicy pepper beef Hop Li restaurant Chinatown LA

The pepper beef was my favorite of the day.

I’ve learned to ignore the worn-out red carpets that lead to the bathroom. They look like they were new in the 60s. I’ve learned to ignore the dust on the exit sign. People don’t

stocking stuffer mini

come to Hop Li for its immaculate interior. The decorating looks like it hasn’t updated

since the 70s.

Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

hot and sour soup Hop Li Chinese restaurant Los Angeles

Hot and sour soup is a traditional favorite.

Nobody cares about that. They only care about taste. When it comes to authentic Cantonese food, there’s nothing better in Downtown LA (Chinatown is just northeast of DT).

sweet and sour chicken Chinatown Los Angeles Hop Li restaurant

The kids always love sweet and sour chicken

Having married American-born Chinese, I learned you always start with soup. My in-laws used to honor me (many many years ago) by ordering shark’s fin soup, which cost $100 and tastes fibrous (nothing special for my American taste buds, or bitter melon soup (which they cherish but tasted to me like the name, bitter). But on my recent visit we were treated to the more American-friendly hot and sour soup.

Hop Li restaurant in Chinatown LA

Hop Li’s decor is traditional old style.

Next, if the meal is special, you get Peking Duck. I like the dunk meat best, but the true stocking stuffer miniChinese way, apparently, is to eat mostly fried duck skin with plum sauce, onion sprigs and parsley.

Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

Chinese crab restaurant

Crabs in the fish tank assure you you’re getting really fresh seafood.

Then the entrees start coming out to be served on the white rice: honey garlic spare ribs, asparagus, baby Spinach, fish in black bean sauce, pepper chicken, spicy beef and bell peppers, noodles, sweet and sour chicken. There is more than we can finish, which is the Chinese way for a banquet.

Chinese asparagus Hop Li Restaurant Los Angeles Chinatown

Delicious asparagus, one of my favorites.

There are a lot of exotic items for the truer Chinese taste buds, deep fried squid in light crunchy batter, crab and fried tofu in creamy curry sauce, whole steamed fish (my in-laws, to honor me years ago, offered me the fish eyeball, which is a delicacy, and which I dutifully ate. It was mushy like a pea, though harder.)

Chinese noodles Hop Li restaurant Chinatown LA

Chicken and vegetables in the noodles

Chinese like fresh, fresh, fresh food, so you can get the fish live and placed into the pot.  So Hop Li has tanks of living crabs for you to enjoy.

Chinese fish in black bean sauce

The black bean sauce is the bomb on the fish.

I always liked the orange pepper chicken but through the years of eating with my in-laws stocking stuffer minihave learned to go along with whatever they order. Another favorite of mine was kung-pao chicken.

Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

honey garlic spare rips Hop Li Chinese restaurant Chinatown LA

Honey garlic spare ribs

You can come here for a quick lunch, simple dinner or a full-on banquet.

At some point, Hop Li, which started in Chinatown, expanded with two restaurants on the West Side of Los Angeles, aiming to capture the well-heeled crowd. Reportedly, even the best chef moved there. But here in Chinatown is where the legend began, so I’m not following the best chef.

historical map of chinatown Los Angeles

A historic map of Chinatown

Hop Li is part of Chinatown’s history. They even have a historic map that traces the beginnings of the section in Los Angeles. Some of the history is a stain because racial violence against Chinese is why the Chinese moved out of Downtown and quartered up near Dodger Stadium (which, of course, wasn’t there at the time).
whoa

Hot mustard sauce to add some zing to vegetables. Alternatively, oyster sauce makes the veggies delicious.

Chinese spinach Hop Li restaurant Chinatown LA

Baby spinach, savored for being tender

The Chinese apparently appreciate the baby vegetables, such as the spinach above. They say they are more tender. Not hailing from Chinese descent, I grew up learning that stocking stuffer minitoughness was roughage, which was good for your digestion, so I don’t think I savor it quite like they do.

Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

The menu is extensive.

Hop Li menu page 1 Chinatown LA

Hop Li’s menu page 1

Hop Li menu page 2 Chinatown LA

Hop Li’s menu page 2

Hop Li menu page 3 Chinatown LA

Hop Li’s menu page 3

Hop Li menu page 4 Chinatown LA

Hop Li’s menu page 3

Hop Li menu page 5 Chinatown LA

Hop Li’s menu page 4

Hop Li menu page 6 Chinatown LA

Hop Li’s menu page 5

Hop Li menu page 7 Chinatown LA

Hop Li’s menu page 6

Hop Li menu page 8 Chinatown LA

Hop Li’s menu page 7

Hop Li Seafood Restaurant
526 Alpine Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
213-680-3939
$$

stocking stuffer miniAdvert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

Hair-raising ‘Harriet’ includes positive portrayal of Christianity

LMKEBRX3HYI6THQCDVC4WPP2R4(spoiler alert) After several hair-raising chase scenes, armed runaway slave Harriet Tubman gets the drop on her former slave master.

Aiming her revolver, she steps out from behind a tree and demands Gideon Brodess, riding on horseback, to drop his rifle, which he does. But he tries to surprise her and pulls his handgun.

Harriet shoots his hand, walks over and grabs his rifle and trains it on him.

TEAZJN2ZXBDCPHCGKYDSIV7POI“God did not make people to own people,” she declares.

The fact that the biopic Harriet, in theaters now, portrays Christianity in a positive light is refreshing and rare from a secular production company from Hollywood. It would have been so easy for them to gloss over the ‘Black Moses’ connection to God in a rewrite that could have highlighted only feminism and race equality.

Harriet (played by Cynthia Erivo) decided to flee slavery in Maryland rather than be sold “down the river” and parted from her husband. Despite being illiterate, she successfully made the dangerous 100-mile journey to anti-slavery Pennsylvania.

A year later, she made the dangerous incursion back into Maryland to free her family. This became the mission of her life. Harriet Tubman, born Araminta “Minty” Ross, disguised herself, often as a man, to lead more than 100 slaves to freedom. She became notorious among white slave owners, who kept increasing the bounty on her head. Several riveting chase scenes are the fodder of this movie. Read the rest: Christianity in ‘Harriet.’

The ‘War on Christmas’ and other Christian click bait

holiday-cups-starbucksCheck your coffee cup because it’s time for the war on Christmas — and other click bait controversies.

Four years ago, provocateur Joshua Feuerstein stirred up more than a coffee cup of controversy when he posted a YouTube video claiming Starbucks “hates Jesus” after the company unveiled a plain red seasonal cup devoid of Christmas symbols and the word “Christmas.” Hundreds of Christians rolled their eyes, but the video racked up more than one million views before being mysteriously taken off YouTube.

download

Joshua Feuerstein.

Such are the ways of a segment of Christians, who make waves — and money — spreading Christian controversy on the Internet. They may think they are sincerely warning fellow Christians about the evil of leaders or ideas — or maybe they’re just taking advantage of the Internet phenomenon called “click bait.” (Hosting services like YouTube pay content creators for viral material, so they entice people to click with tantalizing, sometimes polemical, headlines.

If Christians want to win the world for Christ, should they consider a different approach than rants or boycotts directed against Target because they don’t say “Merry Christmas?”

Other online provocateurs allege that Lecrae belongs to the Illuminati, that Joel Olsteen doesn’t preach Jesus and that Kanye West didn’t really get saved. Perhaps it would be best to not click on such stories because it affords traction in search engines.

article-5155-1Of course, there IS a sustained effort by secularists to eradicate Christmas from public life. In 2012, Santa Monica banned nativity scenes from its public park. The ACLU has tried to ban Christian displays on government land arguing it violates the “establishment clause” of the First Amendment. In 2017, President Trump pushed back against these attacks, tweeting, “People are proud to be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again.”

And some retailers have come under fire by the American Family Association and the Catholic League for preferring “Happy Holidays” over “Merry Christmas,” ostensibly to include Jews, Muslims and other customers who may not observe Christmas. An AFA boycott of Target in 2005 got the retailer to reincorporate “Christmas” in its publicity.

But many of the online attacks seem more like wild conspiracy theories, having just as much credibility as tabloid news. Just because the person who uploads the criticism claims to adhere to the Bible doesn’t mean his attack has the same authority as the Bible.

Online you can find accusations that Christian rapper Lecrae has sold out to the Illuminati and become an undercover agent. And you can find accusations that Joel Osteen is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Read the rest: War on Christmas and other Christian click bait.

He met the devil in the psych ward

JephHoagland5When an 18-year-old was sent to a psych ward and encountered Satan, a surprising series of events led him from darkness into the light.

As a teenager, Jeph Hoagland smoked weed and used psychedelics.

“I realized now that it’s wrong, and I really don’t support that way. It led me to nowhere,” Jeph says.

While he was still in rebellion, God was trying to get his attention. One day Jeph came to work drunk and was instantly sent home. Driving home, he raced around a turn too quickly, veered off the pavement, and crashed into a tree.

“The airbag went off. I got out of the car, I was fine, but the car was totaled,” Jeph recounted in a video.

After a few days, he went back to the tree where the crash happened. What he saw there was shocking.

JephHoagland1“I saw on the tree my initials, J.H. I was like, ‘Wow, this is insane. I didn’t put that there, no one put that there.’ It wasn’t like it was carved in, it was engraved in the tree,” Jeph recalled.

Did God do that? he wondered.

Jeph instantly thought there must be a higher power calling him. From then on, he started to believe God is real.

However, as he considered the reality of God’s existence he still continued to abuse drugs.

‘’I had these experiences searching for God. I had experiences on acid, where I thought I was enlightened. I felt good, and I was still feeling this void, this God-sized hole in me,” he explained.

In the process of searching for God, Jeph gave up drinking. But even without alcohol in his life, he still used mushrooms and LSD.

Then he moved to Florida and lived on his own. He was invited over to party at the house of a friend, an “angry drunk.” Jeph brought his own mushrooms.

“I felt that there was this negative presence in the room. This was the time God revealed himself to me,” Jeph recalled.

His friend suddenly got angry and demanded, with others, that Jeph drink alcohol.

“I got up and I got into a fighting stance. I saw where I was going without

having my eyes open. It was like an out-of-body experience, and I felt like I was being taken over by something,” he said.

Jeph got hit by someone. He threw the person off, and everyone started attacking him. He eventually passed out after being choked.

“When I opened my eyes, there were people circled around me. All of a sudden I felt this amazing peace, this incredible peace in me,” Jeph said.

Due to the mushrooms, Jeph continued to act erratically. He removed his clothing and began to hug the friends who had beaten him.

In response, they called the police and reported him for possessing psychedelics. Read the rest: He met the devil in the psych ward.

Urban Plates, a notch above prepare-in-front-of-you concept restaurants

urban plates sandwich makingsThe secret to Urban Plates, a new concept chain exploding in Los Angeles, is not the taste, the natural ingredients, the decor or the super friendly staff. The secret is the food’s preparation.

urban plates wild line caught ahi tuna sandwichLike pioneer of the concept, Tendergreens, Urban Plates has all the food out in front of the customers. There is no need for menus hardly, no need for pretty pictures or enticing words. The enticements are right there in front of your eyes.

urban plates sandwich menuYou get in line with your train and pick the most succulent, the most inviting items you see. It’s not prepared in the back. Right there, in front of your eyes, the foods are put together in what you order.

urban plates interiorYour hunger grows as you wait AND WATCH.

I went to the Urban Plates in Thousand Oaks. It’s a new concept restaurant like Tendergreens and Lemonade. But it transcends these in its depth of menu and attractive interior decorating.

urban plates grilled grass fed steak sandwichI ordered the “Grilled, grass-fed steak sandwich with slow-roasted tomatoes and chimichurri aioli.” I had loved chimichurri in Latin America as part of the parrilladas, but wondered how it might be added into a sandwich.

The menu items use all the right key words for health and woke culture (there is “anti-oxidant” salad and “line caught” ahi tuna, not farmed or fished in nets).

urban plates fruit juicesI was quite taken aback that the steak was cut into thick slices for my sandwich. It was steak, like it could have been served on a platter with asparagus and mashed potatoes for $19.95, and here generous slices were being cut before my eyes to go into the sandwich.

stocking stuffer mini[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

urban plates dinnersNo ordinary bread was used, but baked in their own oven.

urban plates soupsOnce you get your sandwich, salad, soup or entre, you pass by — and are inevitably tempted by — a display case of pastries and cookies. Nothing is ordinary or regular. Everything could have come from an expensive hotel or pricey restaurant for the well-heeled.

urban plates teasThere are exotic teas and wines. Forget about going to the local juicery. You will get natural juice mixtures here with no added sugar to pique your palette and keep you slim. I got the acai apple beet & carrot while my buddy got passion fruit coconut lime. His was too tart for me.

urban plates makings of dinnersUrban Plate Thousand Oaks took pains for their interior decorating. No corner cutting, everything is done by a pro, impressive and attractive.

urban plates acai apple beet carrot and passion fruit coconut limeBy the team we received our sandwiches, “Chef Rosendo” showed up at our table and chatted friendly about the decoration (he noticed I took pictures). “I will do anything to make sure your experience here is enjoyable,” he said.

urban plates cakes and pastriesOur eyebrows rose.

urban plates desserts cookies pastriesOf course we knew about Chik-Fil-A’s custom — and Wahoo’s Tacos’ — of sending personnel around to proactively make sure customers enjoyed their meal. But this was “the chef” — and he took the welcoming to a higher level.

urban plates thousand oaksWhich is Urban Plates does. It takes others’ successes to a higher level.

urban plates menuOn another date, I will have to try to the dinner platter, the soup, the salad and the tempting desserts.

urban plates saladsurban plates thousand oaksurban plates decor

Urban Plates
162 W. Hillcrest Dr #100
Thousand Oaks, CA 91360
$$

stocking stuffer miniThe author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.