Lamar Odom gets saved

lamar odom basketball starHe lived fast and punished his body with riotous living. Four years ago, NBA Legend Lamar Odom nearly lost his life to a drug overdose in Las Vegas. Last month, he finally surrendered his heart and life to Jesus Christ in Atlanta.

“I had to show Jesus my appreciation for keeping me alive!” he told People magazine. “Nowadays I’m doing the best I can in walking with the Lord. Thanks to Pastor Vernon @drravernon, I got saved at @thewordchurch this weekend.”

lamar odom and khoe kardashianLamar was named Parade’s national player of the year out of high school in 1997. After playing one season at the University of Rhode Island, he signed for the LA Clippers and was named the NBA rookie of the year. He formed part of the LA Lakers’ league winning teams in 2009 and 2010.

But the South Jamaica Queens native followed his father, a heroin user, into addiction. While on the Clippers he was busted twice by the NBA’s anti drug rules and later he faked urine tests with the help of friends and fake body parts, he admitted.

Lamar, who no longer plays basketball, met and married Khloe Kardashian in 2009 but says he cheated on her innumerable times, and eventually the reality show star divorced him in October 2015.

“I had broken my vows with Khloé so many times it’s just impossible for me to remember them all,” he told US Weekly. “I don’t know why Khloé stayed with me.”

Lamar was a consummate team player on the court, but off the court, his life was a mess. After catching a DUI in 2013, Lamar overdosed two years later after crossing cocaine, cognac and cannabis at a Las Vegas brothel called the Love Ranch.

This was his lifestyle, when days blended into nights surrounded by beautiful women and “a mound of drugs.”

On October 13, 2015, his world came crashing down when his body finally rebelled against the excesses. “I lay on the floor in my room at the Ranch, dying,” he said later. “My body was convulsing. The women who kept me company screamed and called 911.”

Lamar was rushed to the Sunrise Hospital where he lingered between life and death.

“My heart stopped twice. I had twelve seizures and six strokes,” he said. “My lungs collapsed and my kidneys ruptured. I was on life support. Everyone I’d ever loved was looking at me through bleary eyes.”

He woke up the next day confused and disoriented. He tried to pull out the tubes from his body. He tried to speak and panicked because he couldn’t.

“That was the scariest part. And not being able to walk,” he says. “I’m a big athlete you know?” Read the rest: Lamar Odom Christian

Malice becomes No Malice

No_Malice-304Deep down, Malice always knew that staying in his platinum-selling worldly music group would lead to his demise.

But Malice (his real name is Gene Elliott Thorton Jr.) found a new reason to live in 2012. He changed his stage name to No Malice and gave up millions of dollars. Today his career, which hasn’t seen much light since, got a boost with a feature on Kanye West’s new album Jesus is King.

“I was just letting the wind carry me left, right, swing, either which way in my life,” No Malice said in a HipHopDX video.

“I wasn’t fulfilled. To have achieved the American Dream and still not be fulfilled only frustrated me more,” he told CBN. “I wasn’t having a good time. And when I did have a good time, it was only to find out afterwards, I was in more misery.”

Born in 1972 in the Bronx and raised in Virginia Beach, No Malice was drawn to hip hop and R&B as a child. Unlike many kids in his neighborhood, his mother and father took him to church. Still, he managed to get into all kinds of trouble.

clipse-pusha-t-malice

Malice with Pusha T in Clipse

“Even with foundation and having a good head on your shoulders, you can still make some pretty decent mistakes,” he said.

He and his brother, who went under the stage name Pusha T, formed the group Clipse, which brass-knuckled its way into the rap game. At the time hip hop was just beginning to compete against pop with choruses and anthems, but Clipse broached untouchable topics, introducing a sub genre dubbed coke rap, filled with chilling hood depictions of trafficking and addiction.

It caused a sensation and opened new terrain for hip hop. Running and gunning, killing and cursing became the new trend. Lord Willin’ in 2002 debuted #1 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip Hop album. XXL gave its coveted and rare 5-star rating to their 2006 album Hell Hath No Fury. They toured and collaborated with all the top artists.

gene thorton“Clipse blew my brain open in 2006,” wrote Nathan Slavik on DJBooth Net.

In 2009, when he hit the cusp of notoriety, riches and ever growing celebrity, No Malice suddenly pulled the plug and quit secular rap. How could he? How could he leave his brother, leave the fame, leave the riches, leave his fans?

“You can have it,” No Malice told DJ Vlad. He didn’t even let Vlad finish building the question. He cut him off with a tart reply that declared in no uncertain terms that he had no regrets and no remorse about leaving his former path. Read the rest: Malice becomes No Malice.

Where butter is supreme – Eclair Bakery in Arroyo Grande

eclairbakery arroyo grandeEspecially since the sugar and lard cinnamon buns from across town are such an overload, Eclair Bakery in Arroyo Grande is a positive relief for treat-seekers who don’t want an immediate cardiac arrest over a simple muffin.

eclair bakery pismo beach (arroyo grande)My wife and I discovered Eclair Bakery by chance taking a stroll down Arroyo Grande (right next to Pismo Beach). It turns out there are some quaint spots for tourists off the main drag of Pismo that are worth poking around.

huge blueberry scones eclair bakery pismo beachIn this case, it is worth the very short drive OUT of Pismo to Arroyo Grande — or AG, as locals call it. Eclair doesn’t dump sugar and lard on their pastries. But they don’t hold back the butter.

eclair bakery arroyo grande macaroonThe result is that treats are not so sweet but still mouth-wateringly delicious.

cupcakes eclair bakery coastal californiaI  had the blueberry scone. I can never resist a scone. These were HUGE. I couldn’t believe how big they were. With a decent cup of Joe, I was in Heaven.

muffins eclair bakery pismo beachMy wife ordered the coconut macaroons, which must be the biggest on the planet. There are two varieties, simple and covered in chocolate (not a thin layer).

The cupcakes were enticing, but we couldn’t eat everything there in just one day.

This spot has got to be THE PLACE you visit when you go to Pismo Beach.

Eclair Bakery
117 W. Branch St.
Arroyo Grande, CA 93420
805-481-7654
$

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.

Falafel Corner, an undiscovered gem in Koreatown

falafel
Falafel Corner has all the makings of an undiscovered sensation. It’a a tiny hole-in-the-wall hawking Lebanese food in Koreatown Los Angeles. It is so small and unassuming, hidden away in a not-so-prosperous corner mall, that people would be sure to overlook it.
beef kebab
But people discovered it and starting giving it great ratings on Yelp. The undiscovered restaurant gem had been discovered. Word got out, and so we came. It is good.
Falafel Corner Koreatown los angeles menu
Naturally, I ordered the falafel, since I hadn’t enjoyed that for quite some time and since it was the very name of the joint. This was a mistake because my daughter ordered the beef kebab, which was astonishingly tender and seasoned to perfection. Henceforth, I will stick with meat. The hummus was very good. We will be back.falafel corner korea town los angeles menu 2
And it is cheap. This is the place to get really good food at a really affordable price.

I also discovered why it is so good. It turns out the Armenian owner was neighbor in Lebanon and friend with the owners of Zankou Chicken, a veritable sensation in LA. They seem to bring with them a taste for deliciousness. I’m going to have to tell Trump to grant visas to all Armenians from Lebanon because they know how to cook!)

Falafel Corner
689 Irolo St. #103
Los Angeles, CA 90005
213-252-4435
$

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.

It’s over

pummeler 8 man football in santa monica

They call them the twins: Hosea Ashcraft (my son, at left) and David Hutchinson.

They may have wanted the story of the Athenians against the Persians or Charles Martel against the Arabs, but Lighthouse Christian Academy‘s battle — despite a dazzling display of force and finesse — was that of Col. Custer.

“We laid the boom on the other team,” boasted head coach Zach Scribner. “But it was the classic David vs. Goliath. When they were looking at the schedule, probably the other team was happy to play us because we were 2 and 6. But I can guarantee that walking off the field they wished they could have played anybody else because nobody is as physical as us. Nine guys against 40. If we just had a few more guys, we would have been able to beat them. At the end of the game, they were all limping.”

LCA got its playoff spot unexpectedly. The Saints had lost most of their games, but those losses were against high-ranking division 1 teams. In their own division 2, they were 2-2. The surprise playoff call-up also meant they were matched against a top bracket team.

Pat cannon TD Lighthouse Christian Academy football santa monica“We knew what we were up against,” Coach Zach said.

Lancaster Baptist School had both an offense and a defense. Most Lighthouse players played every single down. Given the uneven match-up, the result was nothing to be ashamed of: 27-68.

It wasn’t realistic to believe the impossible dream. Still the Saints played brash ball. Hosea Ashcraft — who has been the team’s enforcer all season — was again at his antics of laying hard hits on key players, sowing misgivings and intimidation in their hearts.

“I felt like I hit the Great Wall of China,” said the battering ram, who was taken out of play in the third quarter because a face guard penetrated and hit his bridge of nose, drawing blood and momentarily impairing his vision. Read the rest: Santa Monica private school sports program.

Kanye’s remarkable journey with Jesus shakes the cultural landscape

kanye-jesus-is-king-1Kanye West’s porn addiction started when he was 5.

“Playboy was my gateway to full-on pornography addiction. My dad left out a Playboy,” he says. “And it’s affected almost every choice I made for the rest of my life.”

That simple fact accounts for why Kanye West — one of the most influential hip hop artists in America — has mired his music with muck and why he married hyper hot reality star Kim Kardashian, who became famous through the release of a sex tape (supposedly “purloined” though some saw it as self-release publicity stunt).

Today, Kanye West acknowledges the damage he has done to American culture and is allowing Jesus to undo the damage, beginning with himself. With the release of his ninth album called Jesus is King — with strictly Christian themes — the former devil’s child has declared himself unalterably God’s child.

kanye-west_sunday-servicePornography “presents itself out in the open (on billboards and such) as if it were ok, and I stand up and say, ‘It’s not ok,’” he says.

In April of this year — after performing at Coachella, — Kanye, who has dallied with God, finally decided to go full bore and become born-again, he said in an Apple Music video interview.

“Now that I’m in service to Christ, my job is to spread the gospel, to let people know what Jesus has done for me,” he said. “I’ve spread a lot of (messages). There was a time when I was letting you know what high fashion had done for me. I was letting you know what the Hennessy (cognac) had done for me. But now I’m letting you know what Jesus has done for me.

Sunday Service“I’m no longer a slave,” he said. “I’m a son. I’m a son of God now. I’m free through Christ. I’m no longer an entertainer. I’m no longer in this for entertainment.”

Kanye was raised in Chicago by a divorced father who was a Black Panther, a photojournalist and later a Christian counselor.

HIs mother had participated in sit-ins in the fight for Civil Rights. When he was 10, he accompanied his mother to Nanjing University in China. A college professor, she was teaching in an exchange program, and little Kanye enrolled in school, readily picking up Chinese (which he has now forgotten).

Kanye was drawn to music from the third grade. One of his earliest raps was a revision of Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham.” After graduating from high school, he received a scholarship for Chicago’s American Academy of Art in 1997 and began taking painting classes, then transferred to Chicago State University.

kanye-west-1572027409But the class load interfered with his music production, so he dropped out of college at age 20, to the chagrin of his mother.

He joined Roc-A-Fella Records and made a name for himself producing for Jay-Z, Ludacris and Alicia Keys and Janet Jackson. He was widely credited in revitalizing Jay-Z’s career.

When he launched his solo career, he tirelessly revised and improved his first album, College Dropout. The perfectionism in craftsmanship paid off; the album went triple platinum, won almost universal critical acclaim and earned 10 Grammy nominations.

He founded GOOD Music label in 2004 and subsequently conquered the industry with pioneering hip hop from eight studio albums that netted 21 Grammys.

20189492-7614449-At_long_last_After_a_string_of_delays_Kanye_West_s_new_Christian-m-63_1572023093625He struck some as a self-aggrandizing narcissist who spouted off wild and controversial rants.

After that, he launched a sports shoe with Nike and also a fashion line.

In 2014, Kanye married Kim Kardashian, the daughter of OJ Simpson defense lawyer Robert Kardashian. Famous for being famous, Kim made money through her reality show “Keeping up with the Kardashians” with her sisters Kourtney, Khloe, Kendall and Kylie since 2007.

Kim eased into celebrity life with the help of her friend, Paris Hilton. Her career catapulted with the infamous “release” of a sex tape with her then boyfriend, Ray J, in 2002, which many saw as a quick and dirty way to acquire notoriety.

Kim was famous for her sultry style and seemed to accentuate her figure with fillings and plastic surgery (she denies having surgery). She was the perfect match for the porn-crazed rapper. He later shared that he liked to see his wife dress immodestly to compete at bod-flaunting in front of the paparazzi. He later admitted that he influenced his daughter North with the same shameless fashion sense.

The couple has four children, and they’ve stayed together for five years — no small feat in Hollywood!

Then on Nov. 20, 2016, Kanye had a breakdown. Troubled by his mom’s death and reportedly using opioids after a surgery, Kanye publicly denounced his buddy Jay-Z, because he did not attend his wedding: “Jay-Z—call me, bruh. You still ain’t called me. Jay-Z, I know you got killers. Please don’t send them at my head. Please call me. Talk to me like a man.” Read the rest: Is Kanye West really Christian?

When in WeHo, do Joey’s Cafe

california burgerI have never been fuller with a hamburger than at Joey’s Cafe in West Hollywood.

I picked my buddy up from the airport, so he treated me. There’s nothing like a local to take you to the best spots.

joeys cafe west hollywoodJoey’s offers omelettes, burgers, salads, Mexican food. It’s continental casual cuisine. The setting is slightly upscale. The servers are friendly.

My California burger was super juicy. It had fresh avocado, bacon and cheddar and jack cheeses. Burgers should NOT be served with American cheese. There ought to be a rule that burgers should be served with cheddar, or some real cheese.

omelette avocado joeys cafeMy coffee was decent, and my buddy enjoyed his peppermint tea. The eggwhite omelette was great.

weho eateries

Joey’s Cafe
8301 Santa Monica Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA  90069
323-822-0671
$$

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.

Socorro’s Restaurant: Authentic Mexican in the San Fernando Valley

family mexican restaurant los angelesWhat are the signs of an authentic Mexican restaurant? For years, I graded them exclusively on their chips and salsa. If the chips were stale or mass-produced and thus bleh, the eatery got a low grade. Similarly, if it didn’t have a decent hot sauce (and I mean “hot” not “mild hot sauce,” which is an oxymoron), then it failed the test.

best cheese enchiladas san fernando valleyBut now that I can’t eat hot hot sauce (because I got old and my stomach turns with the fire), I have to look at other factors. Socorro’s Restaurant has the other factors. They make their tortillas by hand. The cheese on the enchiladas stretches three feet. They have frescos (or refrescos) of fruit in the clear plastic buckets.

frescos de frutasOh man, this is authentic. The green one is spinach juice. Mixed with lots of sugar, it’s very delicious — and somewhat healthy.

Recently, I had a buddy from West Virginia over. In West Virginia, the waitresses in the “Mexican” restaurants don’t know what horchata is. The hot sauce is about as hot as ketchup. My friends, and their kids, were absolutely entusiasmados to savor the flavor.

mexican carne asada LAI was pretty pumped too. I had to get my favorite, cheesy cheese enchiladas. Forgive me for the redundancy, but they were redundant with cheese. If you are a cheese addict, I suggest you go no further. There was more cheese in those enchiladas than in a lasagna.

handmade tortillas mexican restaurant san fernando valleyOne of my sons ordered the carne asada, which he rated highly. My other son got flautas. Our friends got tacos, quesadillas. The rice and beans are very good. The vegetables and lettuce were fresh and crisp.

best tacos los angelesMan, those are big tortillas, patted out by hand by a lady in the back and cooked over a comal. It doesn’t get more authentic.

mexican tacos los angelesI just love the hole in the wall restaurants that serve good food under the radar from the snooty foodies.

mexican food los angelesAnd of course, the kids loved it.

By the way, you can tell the authenticity of the Mexican food by the amount of sugar in the refrescos. There’s a lot. They’re sweet. Enjoy!

socorros restaurant los angelesSocorro’s Restaurant
14853 Sherman Way
Van Nuys, CA  91405
818-785-0505
$

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.

Sk8erpat now is famous in football too

sk8erpatHe could have mangled his fingers, broken his toes, fractured his ribs… any number of ER trauma from high school football.

Pat Cannon — known on Instagram is Sk8erpat with 19K followers worldwide — wants to go pro skateboarding, so what was he doing playing football for the Lighthouse Christian Academy?

On Saturday, the senior scored a touchdown, handed off and passed for touchdowns as quarterback to help the Saints win 34-30 against Cal Lutheran Wildomar in LCA’s season closer.

He gambled with jeopardizing his true passion for somebody else’s.

“I just wanted to help my teammates out. I wanted to help my school,” Pat said. “It was worth it. It was one of the best decisions of my life.”

Lighthouse christian academy football santa monica private schoolThe Saints’ high hopes for its 2019 season were dashed in the first game of the season.

That’s because Levi Photenhauer, a slick runner with unflagging tenacity, went down with a torn ACL. It was as if LCA had lost its queen early in a game of chess.

The Saints still had Seniors Marcus Scribner and Hosea Ashcraft to marshal the defense and ramrod the offense. But their core horsepower was cut by one-third. LCA only won two games all season.

Out of the crater of the first game, coaches asked soldiers to rise up and (attempt to) fill the gap.

Josie Bowen was a notable revelation. The sophomore was a beast on kickoff returns and tackling. He scored a TD Saturday that was called back because of an illegal block.

Sophomore Steven Lahood, who grew like Gulliver over the summer, rose to the challenge and became an offensive threat and a stolid defensive player. He blocked a key pass in the final moments of the game to assure LCA’s victory.

Rob Scribner, an unobtrusive freshman, exploited his unmenacing frame, to surprise with touchdown catches. David Hutchinson, a newbie to football, became a solid lineman and tackler. Brandon Farah learned how to do in real life what previously he had done only on video games, and Luke Mammana performed pinpoint kicks under pressure.

“We didn’t have all the pieces on defense, so we had to decide where we were going to bend,” said Assistant Coach Josh Scribner, father to Marcus and Rob. “Marcus is our backer or end, but we decided to put him deep so there was never a breakout. Our game plan was give them a 5-yard play, give them a 7-yard play, give them a 3-yard play. But we never give up the 60-yard breakout blow.

“For their touchdowns, they had to drive it all the way down, and time went off the clock, and we scored fast. Bam, bam, bam,” Josh said. “We’d get up, and maybe they’d make a mistake, and we’d get the ball back, and that’s when the game was played. I think the key to the game was we had a lot of people that we’re involved. Everybody made great plays.”

In the first five minutes, Lighthouse scored two touchdowns. Rob intercepted a pass, and immediately Marcus caught the pass on LCA’s first play to burn defenders and run for a touchdown. Then LCA came in for hard hits on kickoff, provoking a fumble, which Brandon recovered. On the first play, a pass to Hosea brought another TD. Read the rest of sk8erpat on football.

 

When you Sunday school teachers look like The Addams Family

Jeff fischerJeff Fischer thought the Sunday school teachers of his childhood mainline church resembled the spooky characters on The Addams Family TV series, so he had no desire to go to church or come to Jesus.

But when he suffered a collapsed lung and a painful air bubble between his heart and lung, he grappled with neurotic fear of death and finally relented to accompany a co-worker to a “weird” Jesus People movement church where they asked him, “Have you been washed by the blood?”

He thought it was a cult and dashed for the door.

But he started reading his Bible — and he pasted a “Jesus Lives” bumper sticker on his car. (He didn’t know what the One Way index finger pointed to Heaven sign was about, so he flipped off someone on the road who attempted to congratulate him for the bumper sticker.)

Just got saved--surfer interview 1981“I started with Matthew and read straight through the gospels,” Jeff says. “All I remember is seeing my sin in the pages and seeing Jesus so gracious and so accepting of sinners. My father left when I was 10 years old, so I had real issues with being accepted. I kept reading and kept seeing Jesus accepting all these people.”

Maybe he can accept me, he thought.

The next time Jeff attended a born-again function, it was a Bible study in Woodland Hills, California, taught by a bassist he had seen on The Tonight Show — a “cool guy who knows Jesus.”

What’s going on?” he thought.

“I was thinking seriously about my mortality and my fear of death. I had people talking about Jesus and how He could save me and set me free from fear and that I could know that if I die I could go to Heaven. I didn’t have to live the way I was living and I could be free,” Jeff says. “That was utterly compelling, but I was also scared to death to give up my life because I wanted to continue to sin, to do my life and not God’s.”

He was living his dream life in Manhattan Beach, California — abusing drugs and alcohol, playing in a rock band called “Tyme,” and surfing everyday — but he was miserable and hung over most of the time.

As The Tonight Show musician taught, Jeff’s fears subsided and the Spirit welled up in him. At the end of the Bible study, the leader asked for everyone to bow their heads and close their eyes. “If anyone wants to receive Jesus, raise your hand,” he said.

Don’t put your hand in the air, he told himself, but his hand leaped off his lap. Read the rest: surfer druggie saved in Jesus People Movement pastors in San Fernando Valley.

But it was only $1!

cupcake heavenNeed a treat on a budget? Try Hansen’s Bakery in Little Ethiopia in Los Angeles.

They specialize in custom cakes and have a long list of celebrity clients whose birthday parties they have patronized. The workers are always in the back crafting their latest master works. Out front, they have unattractive tables and chairs with a very beckoning display of cupcakes.

cupcakes in LAI was surprised at the price — a buck each. The frosting was laid on thick.

At least the day I was there, the taste didn’t live up to the looks: it wasn’t moist and fresh, it didn’t taste as sweet and buttery as expected. But ok, it was only $1, so I’m not complaining.

chocolate cupcakeI’m thinking this spot makes a great place for anyone short of cash and wanting to have a little something to eat out. It’s good for people on a budget.

The pictures certainly are tempting.

IMG_3890 (1)IMG_3887 (1)
Hansen’s Bakery
1072 S Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90019
(323) 936-4332
$

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.

Frozen custard and Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers

what is the difference between frozen custard and ice creamFrozen custard, I learned, was slow-churned for a smoother, creamier-than-ice cream delight with no ice crystals because of the painstaking preparation. Custard, a virtually unknown quantity in L.A., was what brought me into Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers when I was visiting my daughter in Salt Lake City. The throwback eatery throttled me: Was there one in L.A.? Yes, but it is far. It is in Thousand Oaks.

It turns out that frozen custard is more than slow-churn. It has more egg white and less oxygen, which makes for a denser product that doesn’t melt as easily as ice cream (the science). In short, it is a significant step up from ice cream (the non-science). You can find it scarcely around L.A., but I’ll only vouch for the quality of Freddy’s. When I was inducted into the wonders of frozen custard with my relatives around East Rochester (who schooled me as to the advantages), I embarked on a quest to find it on the East Coast. I have found it.

freddy's steakburgersFreddy’s, as I discovered in Salt Lake, doesn’t specialize in dietary or healthy. While other burger joints have made strides to cut calories or limit trans fats, Freddy’s wallows in the goodness of the way things were cooked in the 50s. (Quantities of salt and sugar, I think, register on the Richter Scale.) So don’t make this splurge a regimen regular.

I went for the custard but discovered Freddy’s has more than just custard. Originally from Wichita, Kansas. This is part of the swath of America that likes Fry Sauce.

what is fry sauceWhat is Fry Sauce?

I asked. When I was in Idaho visiting my brother.

Fry sauce? Fry Sauce is Fry Sauce.

I’m not kidding. That’s what they told me.

I suppose those Idahoans never imagined life without Fry Sauce. Nor had they ever imagined there might be a barbarian who had never tried or even heard of it.

I’ve been a straight ketchup-and-fries man myself. So the prospect of something new and exotic is tantalizing. Could there be something better — or at least equal to — ketchup with fries? Some people swear by it.

freddy-s-frozen-custard-amp-steakburgersFry Sauce is mostly mayonnaise with a touch of ketchup, vinegar, pepper and seasoned salt. Freddy’s has a variety with jalapeño. The wheel has been reinvented. Break out of boredom and give it a try.

Freddy’s shoe-string fries, which give more surface area for salt to cling to, will force you to fire them fast into your mouth to fill up. There’s no slow-eating those shoe-string fries.

The steakburger, too, is a notable break from routine. The patty is squared and comes with charred edges. It seems to hold together more loosely, giving the perfect circle patties with uniform thickness of other restaurants the feel of rubber hockey pucks, by comparison. The pickles are sliced lengthwise (even that is different from the norm!)

freddys-front_750xx1500-844-0-77To complete the exotic experience, sprinkle on some Steakburger & Fry Seasoning, which is made of salt, sugar, pepper, paprika, turmeric, onion salt, and garlic salt.

After reveling in the diet-busting, throw all restraint to the wind and get what you came for: the frozen custard. Savor it. Admire it. Bite it. Look at the denseness of the cream. I got the chocolate, and my buddy got the vanilla. (He’s not close enough of a buddy for me to ask for a bite of his ice cream.) They have sundaes, shakes and malteds.

Initially, I thought that Freddy, a World War 2 veteran, was the founder of his throwback restaurant. It certainly adds mystique to the experience. But, as it turns out, it was his son, who named the restaurant after his dad. Pictures of dad and his farming and war hero life are featured on the walls of Freddy’s.

When I found out that the nearest Freddy’s to me (in L.A.) was Thousand Oaks, I despaired because that’s a bit far. I was told there are only three Freddy’s in California. When my buddy moved to Thousand Oaks, I began to plot my visit. I will be back with my family.

Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers
Westlake Village, CA
(805) 497-3344
$

bamboo steamer bestThe 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.

Kanye’s ‘Jesus is King’ reviewed

Kanye-Pablo-Tour-800x500Formerly foul-mouthed rapper Kanye West joined a pack of hip hop artists turning to Christ and dropped a Christian album last week, jolting secular critics and enthralling spiritually-minded devotees with plenty of surprises.

He provides a soulful intensity that delivers everything you’d want in Christian rap, interspersed with comedic elements. His beats are exhilarating, a cut above most of his peers in Christian Hip Hop.

Before Christ, his rap was often unprintable even on secular new sites. He’s still not one to mince words, but only now he’s adamant and forthright about his faith. The album’s title could have been from Kirk Franklin: Jesus is King.

Kanye-West-Kim-Kardashian-West-Marriage-to-Kim“Closed on Sunday” is hilarious, a nod to Chick-fil-A, the popular sandwich joint that keeps the Sabbath, to the joy of its staff and the chagrin of hungry patrons.

Closed on Sunday, you’re my Chick-fil-A
Hold the selfies, put the ‘Gram away
Get your family, y’all hold hands and pray
When you got daughters, always keep ‘em safe
Watch out for vipers, don’t let them indoctrinate.

“Selah” is another standout with multiple verses from the Bible. It references the fact that his ninth album was supposed to be Yandhi but got jettisoned when Kanye accepted Jesus and became born-again.

Before the flood, people judge
They did the same thing to Noah
Everybody wanted Yandhi
Then Jesus Christ did the laundry.

Kanye used to be unapologetic about his misogynistic lyrics. He’s still a lightning rod for controversy, only now he’s making a stand for Jesus — and unpopular politics. Read the rest of Kanye’s Jesus is King album.

One kid didn’t cry

dejection football loss lighthouse christian academy santa monicaPretty much everybody of the Lighthouse Saints was crying, or fighting back tears, after their football loss Saturday — everybody except David Hutchinson.

The 14-20 heartbreak loss against La Verne Calvary Chapel, a similarly small school, left Lighthouse Christian Academy dejected.

But David remained buoyant, perhaps because he has experienced worse losses, namely that of his parents, who went MIA. He’s now adopted by his grandparents. He wasn’t doing well in a previous school before coming to Lighthouse.

“Even when we lose, football is fun because it brings us all together like brothers,” the sophomore said after the game. “We played our hardest. It’s made me stronger and closer with all the boys. We know we’ve got each other’s backs no matter what. We have a love for each other.

“At this school, the teachers actually care. In other schools, the teachers don’t care. They’re just doing it for the money. And the students are the best. They’re like a family. It really touches you when the teachers actually care.”

Cue the warm fuzzies.

So not everybody went home dejected. It’s important to keep perspective: the battles won off the field or more important than those lost on the field. Read the rest of winning souls, not football games.

Bad blood among brothers — a football rivalry between Christian schools in LA

bad blood among brothersThere hasn’t been so much bad blood between Christian brothers since the Baptists accused the Pentecostals of being of the devil about 100 years ago.

The last time Lighthouse Christian Academy beat their perennial archrivals Hillcrest Christian in 8-man football was 2014.

That year, Ricky Rand cheekily snatched the ball out of the cocked arm of the quarterback, who was ready to throw, and ran for a touchdown. That snarky steal typified a game of gleeful humiliation.

Hillcrest never forgave Lighthouse and each year since then has exacted new revenge. Both teams are called “the Saints” but appear to think each other “the Satanists.”

On Saturday, Lighthouse lost 25-56, and at the final whistle Hillcrest ran into its corner and gloated and howled while Lighthouse glowered and hurled insults. Coaches stood midfield to make sure words didn’t come to blows.

“Let’s go! Let’s play one more game right now!” Hosea Ashcraft yelled across the field.

They weren’t just hollow words.

Lighthouse tends to compensate its inexperience and lack of execution with pure stamina and hard hits that bring results in the third and fourth quarter. They wear teams down. Even if they don’t win, they send opponents home with some real stingers — and a measure of respect.

In what amounted to the last significant play of the game, Josie Bowen rocked Hillcrest quarterback from his blind side, foiling a conversion attempt.

Hosea hit a kid so hard that he knocked the ball free late in the third quarter for a turnover that the blood-sniffing Saints thought marked their turnaround point.

The crash and kill strategy wore down mighty Milken Community School on Sept 20 and earned the praise of opposing coach of Downy Calvary Chapel Christian School on Sept. 8. He called tiny Lighthouse, with enrollment 45, to the military last stand of the 300.

Read the rest of football rivalry among Christian schools.

Flame International Steak & Kabob House

A delight for trying new restaurants is finding something new. In the case of a Persian restaurant in “Tehrangeles” called Flame, my wife and I discovered sumac salt, which zipped up an already delicious boneless chicken kabob with saffron basmati rice.

My infatuation with Middle Eastern food started when I had a serious falling out with Mexican food. You see, I turned 50 and my stomach turned — with the chili sauce. Without the picante, Mexican fell out of favor, and I needed to move on. I made some friends among the Arabs and Middle Easterners — and the rest is history.

Flame International Steak & Kabob House beckoned me for years on Santa Monica, its flames dancing on the sign. But it either appeared too expensive or traffic was too strong (it’s right next to the Santa Monica Blvd. on-ramp to the 405 freeway — as in “four or five hours to get anywhere on it”). Friday was the day. Here’s what we discovered:

The place has a lush and garish look that the Persians love, but the price wasn’t too bad. They have the absolute best humus, which I thought I wouldn’t be able to finish but demolished with the nan bread. Not sour, like Yankou’s. Slightly accented with some kind of spice. Just perfect.

My wife ordered the lamb shank with eggplant, which was very tomatoey. Tasted like an Italian entrée.

I was  delighted by the pink mayonnaise given as dressing for my salad. The colorfulness of the presentation was inviting, and I accordingly dove in. The pink color came from beet juice. The salad had beets, which I like and don’t often find.

On the walls the restaurant has a four panels showing nature images, presumably from Iran, alternatively waterfalls or thermal waters bubbling up in rivers. This, which the New Agey music, has quite the calming effect.

What really caught my fancy was the sumac. It’s bright red like paprika but provides a strong flavor. Ground into powder from the dark red drupes, the tart lemony herb adds garnish color and flavor to salads, rice, beef or chicken. Where have you been all my life?

Basmati rice with sumac

You go about your life thinking you know it all, and then wham! something totally new and delicious invades your horizon. It causes me to know that Heaven will have limitless new delights for us.

By the way, at least 300,000 residents of Persian descent reside in Los Angeles, many of whom are clustered around Westwood Blvd and Santa Monica Blvd, about a mile from where Flame is. While “Little Persia” is an official nod from the city, “Tehrangeles” is a fun and common reference even recognized by Wikipedia. Tehran is the capital of Iran.

Flame International Steak & Kabob House – $$
11330 Santa Monica Blvd.
West Los Angeles, CA 90025
310-444-0045

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

Cheesecake Factory cheesecake

IMG_4144Special memories for my wife and me. The Cheesecake Factory is where I asked her to marry me — 29 years ago. Dianna and I went for our anniversary.

Don’t go to the Cheesecake Factory for Mexican Food. Or Chinese. Or Italian. Yeah, the food at the Cheesecake Factory is, at best, decent. But the ethnic food is meh.

IMG_4142Go to the Cheesecake Factory for cheesecake. Nobody does it better.

The great danger of the Cheesecake Factory is the calorie count. An entre usually is more than half you daily max, and the the cheesecake is at least half. If you order a soda and an appetizer, you blasting into the 4000 calorie range — IN JUST ONE MEAL! (The menu I saw said “2,000 calories is recommended daily, but intake may vary from person to person.” This is MISLEADING, meant to lull you into lowering your guard with the doubt that you might need more. If you play high school football, are a boy and a teenager, then you need more calories. If not, forget it.

IMG_4143

Looks healthy? It does. But HOW do they get more than 1,000 calories into a salad?

Anyhow, you can splurge once in a while. I skipped the fries because they weren’t fresh, and I saved calories.

But Dianna and I did good with the cheesecake. We ordered the mango key lime. It was mid-range calories — 1280. And it was sensational! The graham-cracker pie crust was laced with coconut. The tart lime was counter-balanced perfectly by sweet and creamy with sweet mango.

I have tried almost every cheesecake they offer. My favorites are the chocolate and raspberry ones.

bamboo steamer bestThe 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

Savory Indian cuisine at Urban India Grill

Urban India Cafe North HollywoodHankering for some quick Indian food but can’t afford the plane ticket to India? Try Urban India Grill on Sherman Way in North Hollywood.

The favorite item on the 2-year-old restaurant is the Chicken Tikka Masala, which we ordered super mild because we’re — without mincing words — getting old and can’t stomach the hot, hot, hot fare we used to love. The thick, sweet tomato-based gravy in which the chicken chunks are generously bathed was so good that we were spreading it on our bread and into our basmati rice. My wife and I couldn’t get enough of that sauce. It is the kind of thing you look for in an Indian restaurant, that authentic Indian flavor.

chicken tikki masala san fernando valleyWe also delighted on the Mixed Tandoori, a smattering of lamb, chicken chunks of the tikka and tandoori style served on a sizzling iron skillet over a thin bed of sauced, grilled bell pepper and onion slivers. They served us two dipping sauces: one a sweet tamarind and the other mint with lemon.

nan prati indian breadThe bread really is something. Baked in house, you have choose either nan or prati, which is a little thinner. The flatbreads have the best of all worlds, crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. You could go to this restaurant just for the bread.

vegetable samosa fried turnover IndiaShireen, the proprietor, works the restaurant with her whole family. An immigrant from Bangladesh, she met and married her husband from Indian in America. Their adult children were both working the night my wife and I visited. They are both working on master’s degrees, he in marketing, she in biology, but they’re making money to pay for their studies. The son has helped establish restaurants in Dubai and Oman for an uncle. With a husky voice, Shireen made us feel like we were in family.

indian food san fernando valley

Shireen prevailed on us to try, insisting we try the vegetable Samosa, which was a deep-fried turnover filled with a pureed paste of an assortment of vegetables, again with the red and green dipping sauces.

On top of all the pluses, Urban India is way affordable. Way affordable. Apparently, before Shireen and family purchased it, the eatery was a teriyaki joint, so they still serve some Asian fusion.

Urban India Grill
12907 Sherman Way
North Hollywood, CA 91605
$

bamboo steamer bestThe 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

Administration 101: A+ Volleybal: meh

Lighthouse Christian Academy Santa Monica volleyball team 2019For administration class, A+. Actual volleyball, a C, at best.

Lighthouse Christian Academy of Santa Monica won four out of nine games this season in varsity volleyball. Girls from all different levels banded together and put forth their best effort. On Wednesday, the Saints limped out of its season against Westmark School of Encino.

“We all got in our heads,” says Sarah Montez, sophomore. Our emotions got to us. When somebody wouldn’t do good, we would think, Oh, well, she’s not going to get anymore. We got frustrated with each other. That was our worst game we’ve ever done.”

But while LCA’s volleyball has fallen off from the years when the slashed their way into playoffs, other skills associated with participating on team soared.

Namely, Sarah Montez became an entrepreneur.

When she found out that LCA wasn’t going to even have a team due to lack of interest among the girls, she spearheaded a move to assemble a team.

“Sarah and her parents were a major driving force in wanting to make sure there was a team this year,” says LCA Principal Josh Young.

Sarah, with the help of her parents and her close friend Laken Wilson, communicated with all the school’s girls and encouraged, cajoled, persuaded, spammed by text until enough players relented from the low self confidence and agreed to integrate on the squad.

Then, having mastered the business strategies of forming “a staff” and motivating them to their optimal performance, Sarah forayed into a search for a CEO. (There was no coach, which is a volunteer position.)

She held brainstorming session with interested parties. She formed a search committee to identify and recruit a ideal candidate. (She got her parents involved.)

They used software to scoure LinkedIn. Just kidding. They thought of who might pitch in from the Lighthouse Church, LCA’s oversight organization.

They zeroed in on Felipe Rodriguez for all his merits: He had time. He liked working with the youth. He was an expert at sports and teams.

There was only one drawback: Felipe didn’t know a thing about volleyball.

But options were few, and Felipe had the will to serve — even if he didn’t know how to serve (a volleyball).

Felipe contacted his good friend and fellow youth worker, Xiovana Moraida, who assists her husband, Lucas Moraida, as youth leaders in the Lighthouse Church of Santa Monica.

X — as she prefers to be called — agreed immediately to be head coach while Felipe was assistant. X had played volleyball in high school and played soccer in college, so she knew about competition and team dynamics. Read the rest: Learning business schools at a small school in Santa Monica.

Ethiopian fare at Messob in Los Angeles

ethnic cuisine LAWhen I got to Messob restaurant in Little Ethiopia, I had no idea what to order, so I got the sampler plate, which I shared with my wife. It was the size of Captain America’s shield.

We sat at a basket weaved table with funny chairs because we wanted the authentic experience. My wife noticed that a few black couples (presumably, Ethiopians) didn’t bother with the hassle and sat at traditional American tables. Another white pair of ladies also opted for the funny table.

ethiopian cuisine los angelesThe platter had a dollop of this and a serving of that, all of it spread over a a thin round flatbread called injera the size of the plate. Except for the airholes in the bread, it tasted like a crepe. I wasn’t used to it with salty items.

The restaurant offers dulet, spicy country style ground beef, liver and tripe and bozena shiro, ground peas in beef seasoned with garlic, onions and ginger. There’s doro wot, chicken stewed in red pepper sauce with an assortment of spices, and yebeg siga alicha, a mild lamb stew delicately flavored with garlic, ginger and other spices.

messob little ethiopia LAThere are steamed peas, collard greens, split lentil and yatakilt alicha, steamed vegetables with onions and seasoning. The menu is mostly in English, but there is Ethiopian for immigrants (or to just assure you the food is authentic).

If you live in L.A., you have to try ethnic restaurants. Aside from making a memorable experience, such restaurants broaden your horizons and get you out of culinary boredom.

Messob Ethiopian Restaurant
1041 S. Fairfax Ave
Los Angeles, CA  90019
$$

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.

10 inch bamboo steamer

 

‘Man of God’ headband gets linebacker Demario Davis busted

5cdc60d960975.imageHe used to get in trouble by dishonoring God. Now Demario Davis gets into trouble by honoring him.

The New Orleans Saints linebacker was busted by the NFL with a $7,000 fine for wearing a headband that says, “Man of God,” in a Sept 22 game against the Seattle Seahawks for violating the NFL’s no-personal propaganda policy. The NFL has since reversed the decision on appeal.

“I was a guy headed in the wrong direction fast and God radically changed me,” he told The Increase. “I get to play this wonderful game of football and I’m blessed to do it but my life is so much more than that in God. That’s what I really want people to know about me.”

Growing up without a father figure, Demario looked up to the older, tough guys who were drug dealers and career criminals in his neighborhood.

“They were my heroes,” he proclaimed on a YouTube video. “I wanted to show them that I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t afraid to be a bad boy. I just wanted to impress them.”

At 14, he was already using marijuana, alcohol and sex. When he tried to steal a wallet from another kid at school, he got expelled.

“Demario, what have you done?” his mother implored on the phone. “You have messed up your life.”

The quavering voice and deeply troubled emotion from mom shook him.

Still he persisted in sin. He and some friends were breaking into cars and Demario punched a window out. The shattering glass gashed his arm severely. He is still scarred today from the wound. Had the cut slit his wrist, he might have died, he says.

That night he heard an audible voice from God: That’s strike number two. The first strike was you getting kicked out of school. The second strike is you almost killed yourself tonight.

“That scared me to the point that the rest of my junior and senior year, I cleaned up my act.” Read the rest of Christian Demario Davis Man of God headband.

Who was #9? LCA football

Lighthouse lossSaints fans spent the whole game Saturday against Meadows School waiting for Lighthouse’s now-typical late game rally.

They thought they saw it when a totally unrecognizable player intercepted a long pass late the second quarter. Who is number 9? fans asked.

The 5’3″, 130-pounder was easily the shortest and smallest player on the field. Saturday’s was his first game because, new to the school, Johnny Flores was ruled out of the first month of games.

Unfortunately, Johnny’s brilliant pick didn’t spark an LCA comeback.

Nor did Marcus Scribner‘s block of a field goal attempt.

Nor did a TD run by the senior Marcus in the third quarter.

Nothing could reboot LCA.

The prince’s kiss didn’t wake the sleeping princess. The glass slipper never find Cinderella’s foot. The frog croaked unheard and unfound in the stream. There was no fairy tale ending.

Lighthouse limped to 7-68 loss to Meadows School, which traveled from Las Vegas because there reportedly aren’t many 8-man private school teams in Sin City so they have to pick up games wherever they can and usually travel far.

Lighthouse Christian Academy looked like the car that keeps stalling out on the road.

Missing was their bulldogish determination to bring the game to bigger players and humble bigger schools. The Saints didn’t run with typical speed or break their opponents with scary hits. They fumbled and ran into each other. There weren’t too many bright spots.

“We made a lot of mistakes. We lacked a lot of heart and effort,” surmised Head Coach Zach Scribner grimly. “We got a lot of work to do. If we don’t want to feel like this, we’ve got to make practice a priority. At practice we’ve got to give 110% so that when we’re in the game, we know what it’s like.”

Read the rest about breakout star in Santa Monica football

Growing confidence leads to win at Santa Monica Christian school in volleyball

santa monica private school girls volleyballOverconfidence preceded lack of confidence.

We would start most games cocky. Then when we started to make mistakes or face tougher-than-expected competition, the false confidence gave way to self-defeatism.

We would jinx ourselves.

But on Tuesday, Lighthouse Christian Academy decided to start the game different: with humility and determination.

As is the case with most sports, the psychological game wins the game.

We won against Hillcrest Christian School of Thousand Oaks in three sets, confirming dominance started in a pre-season face-off.

In the first game, a big hit against our confidence was a ref’s call. We saw the ball as clearly landing in, but the line ref said it was out. Even an opponent volunteered to the ref that the call was wrong, that it was in.

But the head ref ruled it out.

It blasted our momentum. Read the rest of Psychological game wins the game – Santa Monica Christian school.

Not succumbing is overcoming

Lighthouse Christian Academy Santa Monica volleyballHeidi Hutchinson wasn’t too upset by Lighthouse’s loss Wednesday.

That’s because she’s winning, though losing.

Heidi comes from a rough background. So now, not only does she attend a school she says loves her, she’s part of a team actually playing league sport.

“I’m learning about being on a team instead of just working by myself,” says Heidi. “They never gave up on me when I couldn’t hit the ball straight. When I first started, I didn’t know how to do anything, but now we’re playing actual games. I have some real friends.”

Lighthouse Christian Academy lost in three sets to Delphi Academy of Santa Monica 21-25, 14-25 and 17-25. LCA’s record is 3-4.

But Heidi knows that winning has many measures. If you’re a school that regularly churns out batches of Ivy League-bound college kids and draws from club team sports, then congratulations, you’re a winner.

But for others in life who don’t get the supportive, nurturing start of a dual parent home with no financial lack, just making the decision to not succumb is to overcome.

Eventually, Child Protective Services intervened for Heidi and her twin brother David. After years of neglect and abuse, they are now adopted by their grandparents, who enrolled them at LCA.

The last time Heidi saw her mom was 2017. And her dad? When she was 4.

This is not a sob story. This is a story of how people can be winners. All of society is a winner for every kid who chooses to rise above hardship, process and hopefully heal from the trauma and not spiral out of control with some pernicious coping mechanism.

“It wasn’t until the middle of 9th grade when I came to the Lighthouse, and me and my brother finally felt cared about by teachers and friends,” Heidi says.

Good things happened because Sarah Montez and I wanted to play volleyball badly.Read the rest: Not succumbing is overcoming – Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica.

Best (secret) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley #11

partea-boba-400x787Partea Boba –

15355 Sherman Way
Van Nuys
$

Get it? Party, but spelled All the drinks are good. The boba is never stale. My favorite is pineapple mango slushee with boba. It’s not overly sweet and is greatly refreshing for hot summer days. There’s also a great lychee slushee. Their milk tea is amazing.

This is my son’s favorite study spot.

And unlike so many boba joints, this one has wifi! (There are also board games like Jenga, Uno and Connect 4). The people attending our very nice, never rude. They get their drinks out fast.

Read the rest of Best (secret) restaurants of the San Fernando Valley.

S.O. turned tragedy into tunes

seun otukpe fathers deathSeun Otukpe, known as Christian emo rapper S.O., has had a life punctuated by tragedy.

At 15 he was shocked by the sudden death of a friend. He realized he had better stop playing church and get serious about God. S.O. began to question his assumption that he would have years to enjoy sin before getting serious about God.

Then his father died unexpectedly when he was 17. S.O. numbly asked why and felt the pressure to carry his family forward on his shoulders.

He had good friends leave the Christian faith, first an unnamed buddy who was the subject of “memoirs” and then his mentor in Christian hip hop, Jahaziel, who opted for “panafricanism” because he saw Christianity as the white man’s religion.

15658174451033With each album, S.O., now 30, pours out his hurt in melancholic musings that mix vulnerability, despair and Christian hope in astonishing sincerity.

S.O. was born in Nigeria, but the family moved to England when he was nine-years-old to pursue better educational opportunities. As a result of growing up in London, his heavy accent remains even though he now lives in Dallas with his wife of three years.

It was in London that he connected with his lifelong producer, G.P., who gained notoriety producing Tedashii’s Identity Crisis and Lecrae’s Rehab.

Some considered S.O. as nothing more than two-bit church rapper who got his start at Grandma’s birthday when he was 6. But on a chance ride he was given by G.P. associate Prince Adu Poku, S.O. put his best foot forward: “I can rap.” The following bars he spit in the car opened the door for him to meet the master, who was initially skeptical.

“Don’t bring this guy unless he can spit bars,” G.P. recounted to Rapzilla. “I ain’t got time to waste.”

When S.O. arrived, G.P. knew immediately he was pro material. The subsequent Five Solas Mixtape garnered attention and S.O. was signed by Lamp Mode Recordings. In 2011 he released So It Begins, which cracked Billboard charts. Read the rest of S.O. Christian rapper.

Best (secret) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley #10

Weiler’s Nosh & Bakery –

9028 Balboa Blvd.
Northridge
$

witch's brew cold coffee weilers san fernando valley

I was going to present Gayle’s Perks, which offered “witch’s brew” cold coffee with coffee ice frozen into the bottom of the glass. It was novelty, dark and delicious. Tucked away into a corner of the corner mall, this homegrown coffee shop was the perfect hideaway for those burnt out on standardized, automated coffee shops.

avocado toast spanish olives sunny side up egg weilers san fernando valleySince then, the coffee shop merged with its parent restaurant Weiler’s, which lost its lease. The menu has diversified to include sandwiches, deli lunch and avocado toast with sunny-side-up eggs and ground Spanish olives in a paste. Weiler’s is not doing the Monte Cristo sandwich anymore. They made me a similar one. It had 58 layers of ham and 49 layers of chicken deli meat and with some provolone cheese. They covered in egg and fried it. I guess the authentic Monte Cristo is deep fried, and in their new, smaller space, they’ve done away the deep fryer. Best (secret) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley.

Best (secret) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley #9

handel's ice creamHandel’s Homemade Ice Cream –

8850 Corbin Ave.
Northridge
$

The owners of Handel’s tout their constant long line as their best advertising. The wait is worth it.

Try their maraschino cherry in vanilla in a double scoop or the vanilla caramel brownie. What is clear is that they splurge, not scrimp, on ingredients. There are chunks of banana in the banana cream pie and an overload of  Oreos in the Mud Pie

They call it “home made” because the cream is frozen and creamed up on site. And it’s done daily so the freshness is max. They have frozen bananas, ice cream sandwiches made with cookies, shakes and sundaes — if the 106 flavors are not enough for you (I don’t think all 106 are available every day, but imagine enough different flavors for you to try a new one every third day of the year!)

hotfudgebrownie34x46On second thought, that’s not a good idea. I’d wind up as a whale.)

The odd thing about this cold cream hot spot is their location. One would expect to find them in the Northridge Fashion Center or in a busy corner mall within walking distance of CSUN. But no, it’s in a Target center with a huge parking lot. Never mind though, it exercises its own gravity. It pulls customers to Target, not from Target. People flock to this parlor from far and wide and rave about how it competes and beats other, more well-known craft ice creameries. Read the rest of best (secret) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley.

Best (secret) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley #8

papillonPapillon International Bakery –

17305 Roscoe Blvd.
Northridge
$

Somebody needs to explain the rudiments of publicity to these guys. They recently had billboards up saying “Best Ponchiks in Town.” No picture of a ponchik. No explanation. The picture was of some Armenian dude, I think. No idea.

They could have posted a picture of a ponchik, let’s say opened up and oozing out with Nutella. They could have publicized a picture of someone eating one and being transported to Seventh Heaven. No. They didn’t do that.

ponchikFortunately for me, somebody — bless his soul — tipped me off to this Armenian pastry. It is a dough ball stuffed with filling and deep fried. Think of a jelly donut that is deep fried like a churro, and your imagination still won’t scratch the exponential blast of sweet goodness.

What Papillon lacks in advertising savvy, they compensate for with sheer taste bud pleasure. If this is “comfort food,” then you just got one week’s worth of comfort in one mouthful. The effect is about the same as a cream filled chocolate Easter egg.

The only downside to these treats — and the reason why I don’t eat them more regularly — is they probably contain about 50 kabillion calories each. But once in a while… Read the rest of Best (secret) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley.

Indian girl’s eyesight saved

healed eyesight christians indiaShe grew up fatherless in India. Her mother was poor, so they could not do anything when Ishwari started to have trouble seeing.

“I can see things that are very close to me, but far away things I am not able to see,” Ishwari said at the time.

“I took her to the eye clinic; they told me she needed surgery immediately,” her mother remembers. “But with my meager earnings, I could never afford it. I didn’t know what to do.”

medical mission eyesight IndiaIshwari had a case of bilateral degenerative cataracts, a cloudy area in the lens of the eye. This eye problem can cause blurry and less colorful vision.

Without surgery, Ishwari could eventually go blind.

When Operation Blessing — a CBN associated donation program focused on demonstrating God’s love by helping people in need — found out about Ishwari’s eye disease, they gave her family all the necessary money for the surgery to save her sight.

Christian medical missions from Africa to Southeast Asia speak volumes about the love of Christ.

The surgery was successful. Read the rest of Indian girl’s eyesight saved.

Best (secret) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley #7

o (1)It’s all good House of Kebab –

6800 Reseda Blvd.
Reseda
$$

Want to visit Iran? You don’t need a visa. Don’t worry about the State Department’s travel ban. You can go to Iran simply by visiting It’s all good House of Kebab. The decor covering the wall of the small eatery comes from old Persia, such items as license plates, old style shoes and even some scourges used by fanatics to punish themselves to appease Allah (not exactly appetizing, but legit).

But what’s really good in this restaurant is the food. I had the The bread, or nun, is crisp on the outside and chewy and warm on the inside. Had it not been for some Iranians with me when we went, I never would have ordered the deezy, a stew of beans, lamb chunks, cinnamon, lemon, pepper, salt and who knows what else magic goes into it. The Persian have imported and toned down from Indian Beryani, an outstanding curry dish. The rice all comes with saffronRead the rest: Best restaurants in the San Fernando Valley.

Best (non franchise) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley #6

best pastrami sandwich in the San Fernando ValleyHoliday Burgers

15520 Devonshire St.
North Hills
$

Supposedly all the mom and pop restaurants have disappeared off the face of the planet, victims to the tsunami of multinational food franchises. The mom and pop joints can’t compete, we are told. They can’t maintain the consistency or keep prices down compared the economies-of-scale wholesale purchasing power of McDonald’s and crew.

Thank God, there’s Holiday Burgers to prove that Mom and Dad can find a niche and beat the big boys. Specifically, this joint offers a pastrami sandwich absolutely glutted with mouth-watering pastrami that causes competitors to pale. Holiday Burgers is a needle in a haystack. You probably wouldn’t pick it just driving by. No, this restaurant runs on word of mouth. That’s how I found it.

Just forget about the recommendations of other websites purporting the “best pastrami” in LA. Go to Holiday. Read the rest Best Restaurants in the San Fernando Valley.

Brother forgives cop who accidentally killed accountant

brandt-jean-hug-amber-guyger-10-yearsA Christian man said he forgave and loved the killer of his brother in court Oct. 2. He then asked the cop to turn to Jesus and gave her a long hug at her sentencing in a case that is sending goose bumps up and down the spine of the nation.

The extraordinary demonstration of love over hate was a powerful testimony of what Christ can do in our nation if we’ll turn to God.

“I wasn’t going to ever say this in front of my family or anyone, but I don’t even want you to go to jail,” said Brandt Jean in court. “If you truly are sorry, I know I can speak for myself: I forgive you. I think giving your life to Christ would be the best thing that Botham would want for you. I love you as a persona and I don’t wish anything bad on you.”

Brandt then asked state district Judge Tammy Kemp for permission to hug former Dallas cop Amber R. Guyger, 31, right then and there. The hug, which renewed lengthily after almost pulling apart twice, finally ended, and Brandt’s father gave him the a thumbs up. His mother was left in tears.

Guyger burst into Botham Jean’s apartment Sept 6, 2018 in the South Side Flats and shot and killed him while he was eating ice cream. Guyger said she thought she was in her own apartment, and believed she was confronting an intruder. She said a similar red door mat at the door contributed to her confusion. She got off on the fourth floor instead of the fifth.

Because Guyger was white and Brandt was black, the case was seen nationally as another in the long line of racial injustice, but Brandt upended the polarizing narrative by injecting an unusual dose of Christian forgiveness in a scene of outrage and grief.

Judge Kemp also gave Guyger a Bible and praised Brandt for his gesture saying to the mom: “Thank you for the way you modeled Christ.”

Prosecutors had sought a sentence of at least 28 years, a symbolic sentence reflecting Botham’s would-be 28th birthday. Guyger was off duty and in uniform when she arrived at what she apparently thought was her apartment. She failed to follow police procedure, which mandates she first call for a backup in a similar situation. Guyger was fired first and then put on trial.

The tragedy provoked turmoil in the black community. Read the rest Christian forgiveness trumps racial hatred.

Best (non franchise) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley #5

soul food in the valleyLes Sisters Southern Kitchen & BBQ –

21818 Devonshire St.
Chatsworth
$$

You can find Cajun/Creole food far, far away from the South. Here’s New Orlean’s-style smothered chicken, catfish, fried chicken, jambalaya, hush puppies, hot links and corn bread. Their “Muddy Waters” is a house tea and lemonade.

muddy waters southern lemonade tea les sisters chatsworthThe restaurant was started by two friends who argued over everything and couldn’t agree on a name. Someone observed they argued like sisters, so he suggested the hook in a bit of French (since New Orleans has French origins), and the name has stuck for 30 years. Les Sister’s doesn’t have a huge sign or sit on a large parking lot. If you’re driving down Devonshire on the Northwestern corner of the San Fernando Valley, it’s easy to miss. I suggest you follow your nose — or your GPS.

The day my wife and I went here, the waitress sat down at the table with us to take our order. Far from being an “invasion of our space,” the gesture gave us a homey, family feel that took off the professional distance in almost every restaurant. It was a nice change of pace. Read the rest Best Restaurants in the San Fernando Valley.

Best (non franchise) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley #4

oChio’s Peruvian Grill –

7755 Sepulveda Blvd.
Van Nuys
$$

To live in LA is to enjoy exotic food. Now that Mexican food has spread across the U.S., Angelinos are now in a quest for new tastes from the remotest parts of the globe. Apparently over a 1,000 Peruvians call Van Nuys their home, so you can find a cache of Andes-styled eateries. Among them, Chio’s stands out. The restaurant started on Sepulveda Blvd, the grubbery is opening restaurants elsewhere in the Valley.

I can see why they are expanding. I had the Lomo Saltado, which dares to put the French fries right in the savory beef slivers with liquidy sauce. There’s a healthy dollop of white rice too. I was impressed that the serving size was generous for the price — no leftover hunger. The inadequate parking reflects the humble immigrant beginnings of this gem. Let me assure you, it’s worth the trouble to get parking once you’re inside the cozy restaurant watching flames leap up in the kitchen grill. They have Peruvian beer, but being a teetotaler, I can’t opine on its craftsmanship.

The X-Factor in Santa Monica Saints volleyball

X Factor on LCA volleyball teamXiovana Moraida doesn’t even want to call herself a volleyball coach. Her sport was soccer, and she was really good at that. She was team captain of Santa Monica College’s women’s soccer team in 2014. But she was pressed into it.

“I knew that if I didn’t step up and coach that there wouldn’t be a girl’s volleyball team,” says Xiovana, who goes by the easier-to-pronounce “X.”

Nevertheless, Xiovana has become the X factor behind Lighthouse Christian Academy’s resurgence into varsity volleyball after the sport was dropped out of the Saints’ offerings a few years ago.

On Monday, the Santa Monica Saints beat San Fernando Valley Academy from Northridge in five sets 25-19, 13-25, 25-23, 24-26, 15-13. LCA now has two wins and three losses.

Xiovana was born in Lodi but was raised in Lockeford, California.

santa monica volleyball christian high schoolStarting at the ripe old age of 5 years old, she played and loved soccer.

In 2013, Xiovana came to live in Santa Monica to live with her aunt for soccer while attending SMC. She was the captain of the SMC soccer team in her sophomore year (as well as being the captain of her high school soccer team). 

As Xiovana stayed in LA after college, she met her now husband Lucas Moraida. Lucas was from Arizona and was attending the Lighthouse Church. As her and Lucas began to talk more, X became a Christian and got more involved in the church. Read the rest of X-Factor in Santa Monica volleyball.

Best (non franchise) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley #3

crave cafeCrave Cafe –

14505 Ventura Blvd.
Sherman Oaks
$$

Does your husband want a burger and you want sushi? No worries. There’s a place that caters to both.

No, I’m not kidding.

Crave is definitely pushing the outer limits of the envelope of “eclectic.”

There are actually two Craves because the owner sold them to two different buyers. I’m talking about the one at Van Nuys Blvd. in Sherman Oaks is the one that has the Crave sushi house right next to and with a door between the two so that you can order from. So it’s easy to savor both sushi and hamburgers at the same table (not in a Food Court).

As a kicker, Crave has gourmet coffees and pastries. I’ve spent a nice evening spooning in a smooth and creamy cheesecake while watching American Ninja with my wife. The ironies were not lost on me.

And it’s open 24 hours, which is good to know because your options for a late, late dinner are few and far between in the Valley. Read the rest of Best Restaurants in the San Fernando Valley.

Best (non franchise) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley #2

korean mexican tacosCorner Grille –

8261 Sepulveda Blvd.
Panorama City
$

I had a hard time believing this store front eatery — in modest digs, and in not the best of neighborhoods — had 976 reviews on Yelp with a 4-and-a-half star rating. I wouldn’t say it looked from the outside like a dive. I just never would have ventured in had it not been for the ratings on Yelp. That caught my attention and made me want to give it a try.

Good thing.

The place features fusion Mexican tacos made with Korean barbecue beef. The exotic mix sounded enticing and the delectable morsel did not disappoint. You might expect such audacious fusion food from a Michelin-ranked chef at a five-star hotel. But no, it’s right here in the heart of the San Fernando Valley, at the crossroads of Nowhere and Anonymity. This is definitely a hidden gem. There’s also Korean barbecue beef fries to die for.

And it’s cheap.

The Corner Grille is now my go-to for a quick and cheap meal whenever I’m in the neighborhood and hungry. What’s more, it’s the place I surprise my Westside friends with when I take them. Read the rest of Best restaurants in the San Fernando Valley.

Best (non franchise) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley #1

Pita Pockets Northridge mediterranean foodPita’s Pockets –

9127 Reseda Blvd.
Northridge
$

Don’t be put off by the unpretentious name or the low price. For exotic Mediterranean, this joint’s the real deal. For starters, the proprietor Fatin Elmor is a friendly Palestinian Israeli. He speaks a half a dozen languages and combines cultures for some of the most audacious and tangiest fusion food creations.

You’ve got to try the feta fries, which are other-worldly delicious. The lamb gyro transported me to other side of the planet for a lot cheaper than a plane ticket. He bakes his own bread right there on the spot, which means it’s crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside. Try the dessert with Nutella, which is a Mediterranean approximation to a churro.

The joint is located to cater to the students of CSUN. College students are usually looking for good, cheap, exotic food — and Pita’s delivers on all three. The good news is you don’t have to be a college student go there and enjoy the concoctions dreamed up by Fatin.

Read the rest best restaurants in the San Fernando Valley.

Now she’s motivated

lighthouse christian academy santa monica girls volleyball 2019As part of last year’s soccer team, Cece Hang’andu refused to run on the pitch.

There was one moment in which Coach yelled from the sideline: “Cece, run!”

She turned and looked at the sideline with something of a glare. Some people say they can read palms. But that day, Coach could read her face: “I’m not running. I’m going to continue to walk.”

Today, Cecelia, a junior at Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica, is part of the Saints girls volleyball team. Now that she is contributing in this sport, she comments about her lackluster participation in last year’s soccer.

“Running? Heck no. Too much cardio,” she complained to this reporter. “It was too much effort. Too much, too much, too much. They weren’t depending on me. Anyway, the boys were going to get the ball and were going to win. They didn’t need me.”

Cece is not completely wrong in her assessment. Lighthouse soccer last year did not depend on her. She was given the opportunity to participate, thrown on the pitch from time to time. But there were motors driving last year’s successful soccer team, and she was not one. So she walked.

But now Cece has to be a motor on the volleyball team.

“They needed seven players to have a team, and I wanted to be there to help them out,” she says. “They needed me.”

After winning the first set Wednesday, the Saints ultimately fell to Westmark School of Encino 27-25, 16-25, 23-25, 24-26. LCA now has one win and three losses.

It almost didn’t have a team — at the beginning of the year.

Lighthouse is a small school. With limited resources, they’re always trying to squeeze just one more drop out of the grape. First they needed enough players. Cece stepped up. Then they needed a coach.

Lighthouse is not alone among small private schools. As a matter of fact, another team dropped out of the league because of lack of players. This provided LCA a chance to participate in league play (it originally wasn’t going to figure in the league because it didn’t foresee enough players).

Because she stepped up, Cece is discovering a motivation she previously lacked. Read the rest of finding motivation.

Gay, butch, stud renewed in God

wanda jo taylor free from gay lifestyleFor 30 years, Wanda Jo Taylor was gay, butch and a stud.

She grew up rough and tough like the boys — and attracted to girls from a very young age.

At first she thought she was just a tomboy, but she never grew out of it. “I felt like a boy trapped in a girl’s body,” she recounts on a CBN video. “I didn’t understand me.”

When she was caught in sexual contact with a neighbor girl at age 18, she “came out” to the world as gay and proud.

“I told the whole world,” she says. “I lived my life the way I wanted to live my life. I couldn’t live my life like my mother (wanted).”

After high school, she made big money in computer programming and used that money to satiate her desires in gay clubs, gay parades, gay parties. She cycled through relationships, some serious, some chaotic, and sometimes violent.

wanda joy money in world sinful lifestyle“You’re fighting and there’s the jealousy, the envy, the drama that’s in that lifestyle,” she says.

“I was searching for love in all the wrong places,” she adds.

She wisely avoided drugs for years.

But after one of her lovers stabbed and nearly killed her, she turned to crack cocaine to mitigate the physical and emotional pain.

“I was just tired,” she says. “I was so tired. I didn’t know what to do.”

The crack cocaine addiction lasted an agonizing two-and-a-half years. She whittled down to 98 pounds.

Finally she remembered the God of her childhood in Sunday School.

“Next thing you know I was so broken,” she says. “I was so tired. I went home and got on my knees and cried out to God and said, ‘Take this away from me. Jesus help me.’”

God freed her from crack cocaine addiction.

That deliverance gave her a desire to return to church. She found a congregation that accepted her as she was.

“They loved me (even) in my men’s suits,” she says. Read the rest of Gay, butch, stud and Christian.

Stiletto stripper escapes to Jesus

Harmony dust.jpg“I didn’t know a lot about Christians, but I was pretty sure they didn’t like strippers,” says Harmony Dust.

Her mother was a cocaine addict and her stepfather was a drug dealer in Venice, California. They had a very violent relationship, she says on an I am Second video.

Harmony was also sexually abused throughout her life by multiple people starting at the age of 5 and was raped as a teen.

She began to write suicide notes and thinking about how’d she’d kill herself. She also attempted suicide.

When she was 13, her mother’s boyfriend raped her. Her mother did nothing to prevent it, even though she was aware of what was going on.

harmony-grillo“Not because she was horrible or bad but because she taught me what she learned when she was a young girl being abused,” Harmony says. “And that it’s my fault. If you didn’t wear tank tops or shorts that wouldn’t be happening. You should know that’s how men are.”

Her mother left with her boyfriend to Canada for three months and left Harmony and her brother with $20 and a book of food stamps to fend for themselves. Harmony stole from liquor stores so she could feed herself and her brother.

That summer Harmony became involved with an older boy from her neighborhood. “I looked at him and saw this knight in shining armor,” she says. “I no idea his intention was to exploit me.”

When her boyfriend proposed she make money for them both by stripping, she was opposed to the idea. Because he kept pressuring her, she reached out to her psychology professor as someone she could trust.

She thought the psychology professor would give her solid advice. Instead, he steered her toward the unsavory path: “I don’t see any problem with it,” he said.

“By the way,” he asked casually as she was leaving, “which club were you thinking of stripping for?”

Unthinkingly, she told him the truth and the lecherous prof showed up to watch her.

Even with these turn of events, she didn’t realize that her boyfriend was nothing more than a pimp exploiting her.

But once she got into the sex industry, she could never get out. Using the name “Monique” and a fake backstory, she would “hustle” to be the best and make as much money as possible. Sometimes clients crossed boundaries. She defended herself with a stiletto, smashing their heads.

Outside of the club, modesty was her dress code: baggy clothing and sunglasses. Read the rest of stiletto stripper comes to Jesus

It’s Africa Time

Wakanda powerNine years ago, Josie Bowen was the awkward, shy adopted missionaries’ kid from West Africa who didn’t fit in the small private school in Santa Monica.

Today, the sophomore is ready to take over America.

Milken Community School was probably glad they racked up 47 points in the first half against Lighthouse Christian Academy to assure their final victory.

Because a sleeping giant was waking.

In the second half, Josie beasted out. On kickoff return, he ran the full 80-yard field, smashing through Wildcats, to score a touchdown. There were no cuts, no jukes, just Cruise missile launched straight up the field.

This was no fluke. The volcano had been rumbling for three games. On Lighthouse’s fourth game Thursday night, Josie Bowen was in full eruption.

Gentle Jekyll transformed into hideous Hyde, and CIF’s southern section 8-man football won’t ever be the same again.

Josie made seven tackles, three kickoff returns and one run. He appeared to harness the kinetic energy from hits received to increase his speed and power. Or maybe the Vibranium kicked in.

Fledgling Lighthouse suffered a serious casualty in its first game when point man, Levi Photenhauer tore his ACL. Fellow senior Marcus Scribner would be hard-pressed to drive the team forward single-handedly and a dour season was forecast.

But other players stepped up. Sophomore Steven Lahood and senior Hosea Ashcraft delivered on offense, and skater Pat Cannon showed a previously unseen maturity as QB. But the biggest revelation was the kid weened on soccer in Africa.

“I was kind of lost last year. I was crying, like, ‘I don’t wanna be on this team,'” Josie says. “My team did amazing blocks, and I just ran through the hole. I feel amazing. I just feel like I ran 100 laps and I feel nothing. I just ran through the herd.” Read the rest of African missionary turns beast in American football high school.

She had no parents

no parentsAngela had no parents.

Her dad was already married when he got in a relationship with her mother. When Angela was born, her father decided to have nothing to do with her. Her mom, who was very young, similarly gave her up to be raised by a great aunt.

Thank God for “Great Auntie,” but she, from time to time, would regrettably reinforce the rejection by saying things like: “Children like you whose parents aren’t married, they call them bastards.”

“I would ask, ‘Why did my parents not want me?’ There were no calls, no birthday cards,” Angela narrates on a CBN video. “As a child, I would think of parents and feel very alone. There was a deep longing to be part of my family.”

Shame accompanied her growing up.

““If your own parents don’t love you, why would you feel lovable by anyone else?” she asks.

Just once, she met her father. He seemed like a total stranger and Angela felt awkward. Though she wanted very desperately a relationship with her dad, she realized he didn’t want to have anything to do with her, so she didn’t pursue it.

She was taken to church and sang, “Jesus loves me.” But she was troubled by the words: “I wondered if He loved everybody, why He let me be born into this situation. Why someone who supposedly loved me enough to die for me didn’t even love me enough to give me a family?”

She walked to church, but no one ever told her to read the Bible. She learned about the sinful condition of mankind but not about God’s love. Eventually, she stopped going. It was just rules.

“I just said, ‘Forget it.’ I didn’t believe that God really loved me, and I just walked away,” she says.

She joined the military and got married. Her first husband wasn’t “all in,” so the marriage didn’t last more than a few years. Her second husband was emotional abusive and ridiculed her family background.

She found herself all alone and frustrated in her quest for happiness.

At the time she worked for the federal government. On 9/11, she watched with horror as the Twin Towers burned and people threw themselves from the upper levels. Read the rest of Rejected by Mom and Dad.

Babylonian conquest of Israel confirmed by archaeology

shimon gibsonNebuchadnezzar’s siege of Jerusalem represented a watershed in Jewish history, ushering in the era of the captivity. The carnage in Jerusalem was catastrophic and was lamented by generations of Jews.

But the conquest, narrated assiduously in the Bible, was never discovered in archaeological digs and documented by field researchers.

Until now.

Archaeologists, led by a professor with North Carolina University at Charlotte, have uncovered ruins that correspond to the Babylonian attack. The team unearthed layers of ash, carbonized wood, broken pottery and a mansion.

Nabuchadnezzar conquest Jerusalem jewel ornament“What we’re finding is the result of that destruction. It’s the kind of jumble that you would expect to find in a ruined household following a raid or battle,” says Shimon Gibson, professor of history at the university. “Household objects, lamps, broken bits from pottery which had been overturned and shattered and arrowheads and a piece of jewelry which might have been lost and buried in the destruction.”

Every turn of the archaeologist’s spade confirms another page of the Bible.

Jerusalem became a vassal state of Babylon during the Iron Age but rebelled twice — first under King Jehoiakim and then again under King Zedekiah. In 586 BC, Nabuchadnezzar — the “Destroyer of Nations” — set out to make an example of their repeated resistance and, after a two year siege, breached the gate and tore down all “great houses” and burned them with fire.

excavations JerusalemKing Solomon’s temple was stripped of its treasures and razed. The wall around Jerusalem was leveled.

Gibson and his team found that Jerusalem was a sprawling and rich cosmopolitan city, larger than previously thought, at the time of Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest.

“The combination of an ashy layer full of artifacts, mixed with arrowheads, and a very special ornament indicates some kind of devastation and destruction,” Gibson says in a Haaretz news article. “Nobody abandons golden jewelry, and nobody has arrowheads in their domestic refuse.”

The arrowheads have been identified as Scythian, used during the 7th and 6th centuries BC by Nebuchadnezzar’s troops.

“They were fairly commonplace in this period and are known to be used by the Babylonian warriors,” Professor Gibson says. “Together, this evidence points to the historical conquest of the city by Babylon because the only major destruction we have in Jerusalem for this period is the conquest of 587/586 BCE.”

The jewelry piece is half gold and half silver. It consists of a cluster of grapes suspended from a cup-like top that might have been an earring or a tassel and seems to be a bauble for a Jerusalem elite, not a temple decoration, Gibson says.

“Frankly, jewelry is a rare find at conflict sites, because this is exactly the sort of thing that attackers will loot and later melt down,” Gibson says. “(It) is a unique find and it is a clear indication of the wealth of the inhabitants of the city at the time of the siege.”

The finely worked fragment may have been torn from a more significant artifact but not enough of it survives to identify its original nature definitively, researchers think. Read the rest of Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem confirmed by archaeology.

God’s call. To cooking?

christian chefs internationalWhen God called Ira Krizo distinctly and undeniably to ministry, “there was no use waiting any longer,” he says.

So he immediately went to New York… to culinary school.

Yes, cooking.

Ira wasn’t called to the pastorate. He wasn’t called to the foreign field as a missionary. He wasn’t called into worship.

He was called to be a chef — a Christian chef. After all, God’s calling and gifting is to myriad areas of life, not just stereotypical “ministry.”

christian culinary academyToday, Ira is the president of Christian Chefs International, a network of believers who have almost as much gusto for gourmet cooking as the Gospel.

With 14 chapters active or pending in America and abroad, the Cannon Beach, Oregon-based non profit holds annual conferences and boasts a 1-year, non-denominational culinary school where they don’t throw knives at the students.

“In many secular kitchens I’ve worked in, I’ve seen the chef yelling and screaming all day long at people,” writes Ira in a devotional on CCI’s website. “I’ve seen chefs throw things; once even knives. Is that the best way?”

Ira recommends humbly confronting head chefs who abuse their authority. He suggests chefs use the Biblical model: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.” Matthew 18:15-18 (NKJV)

Even reality TV programs depict the outbursts of rage that occur under pressure when chefs are striving to meet the demands of their patrons.

Under the title “Christians in the Kitchen,” the CCI website offers devotions for cooks that include ethics in the kitchen, being content (restaurants typically experience a high turnover of staff) and being “prayed up” for the pressures of the job. One encourages disciples to be “sourdough Christians,” with analogies per ingredient. Read more about God’s calling to cooking.

A spider saved a Marine in WW2

s-l300After intense fighting against the Japanese on Okinawa during World War II, a Marine got separated from his unit amid the explosions, smoke, and chaos of battle.

He was alone in the hills in dangerous enemy territory. The sun was setting, and the stranded Marine heard the approach of Japanese soldiers so he took refuge in one of the many caves on the ridge.

It was no use. As the minutes passed, he realized the Japanese were searching methodically cave by cave for any American soldiers. With grim resignation, he realized his own death was imminent and inevitable. It was only a matter of time before the enemy would approach his cave and find him in the recesses.

But the Marine was a Christian, so he prayed to God.

lossy-page1-750px-photograph_of_a_marine_aiming_at_a_japanese_sniper_on_okinawa_-_nara_-_532559-tif“Lord, if it be your will, please protect me,” he prayed, as narrated on a website by Father Hugh Duffy. “Whatever your will though, I love you and trust you. Amen.”

As he prayed, he observed a spider building a web over the crawl space of an entrance to the cave. He scoffed on the inside.

“Ha! What I need is a brick wall and what the Lord has sent me is a spider web,” the anonymous Marine thought. “Well, I guess the Lord isn’t going to help me out of this one.”

He remained extremely still and quiet as he listened. The enemy was getting closer. He readied himself to make a last stand.

But to his surprise, the Japanese soldiers passed by his cave and didn’t search its interior. Read the rest: prayer saved a Marine by way of a spider’s web.

Kenya terror attack on Christians foiled by Muslims

young Somali fighter on border of kenyaThe latest terror attack perpetrated by radical Muslims against Christians was thwarted by a group of moderate Muslims in Kenya.

On July 21st, a group of Muslims learned of an imminent terror strike in the war-torn northeastern corner of Mandera County. They responded quickly by evacuating their countrymen — all Christians — from a hospital construction site in Kutulo, officials said.

By the time the arms-toting Muslim fanatics arrived, their targeted victims were not to be found.

“They confronted the gunmen, who proceeded to the site and failed to get what they wanted,” Mohamed Birik told reporters. The attackers “opened fire but no one was injured before they escaped.”

The attempted massacre was led by a jihadist al-Shabaab group rampaging through East Africa. Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen, which has executed prior attacks with success, including Christmas attacks last year that killed 14 in Kenya.

In 2012 they pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda but subsequently fell out with leadership over disagreements about their priorities. In 2014, the terror group was estimated to be 9,000 strong. At present, they have abandoned urban centers but control swaths of rural territory.

The group was formed in Somalia when the Islamic Courts Union was defeated in 2006 by the Somali Transitional Government. They like to stage attacks in Kenya, which is a strong anti-terrorism ally and a largely Christian nation in a Muslim region. Mandera County, a triangular territory that is pinched between Somalia and Ethiopia, is particularly vulnerable to such attacks because of its exposed geographical position.

Read the rest of Muslims foil terror plot.

Gamer turns the tide to the (real) game

brandon farah, hero of lighthouse christian academyBrandon Farah hadn’t figured prominently in any play this year. Or last year.

But on Friday, the senior — who’s 99 parts gamer and 1 part football player — came up big in the third quarter with an interception that hammered the nail into the coffin of Beacon Hill Classical Academy. His heroics, in the red zone, preceded a 70-yard touchdown run by Marcus Scribner that left no doubt that tide had turned. Lighthouse Christian Academy won 56-28.

“I didn’t know the ball hit me until I got it, until I looked down,” Brandon said, projecting modesty in his moment of glory.

Brandon Farah, the softie, played hard. The cocoon burst, and the kid who always said he loved football was finally playing real football. Not just on a monitor.

“It was a great game. It was a great four quarters,” said Justin Kayne, offensive coordinator filling in for head coach Zach Scribner who was out sick. “We came out and it was a battle. We scored, they scored, we scored, they scored. We made a few adjustments. Our guys answered the call, and look what happened when we played four quarters of sound, hard-hitting football.

“This was a statement game,” Kayne added. “We made a statement. This is what Lighthouse football is all about. This is one win. We are going to build on this win. We’re going to continue to build on this.”

The Saints now have one win and two losses in CIF Southern Section 8-man football.

No one could have predicted a landslide victory by half time. Both teams seemed pretty even, score for score, man for man, plays for plays. One ref called the high-scoring 1st quarter a “track event” because there was so much running for touchdowns. LCA was ahead by a slim 22-20.

When the Saints fumbled in the 2nd quarter, it gave the Gryphons a chance to pull ahead.

However, the team from Camarillo failed to capitalize on that gift. In response, the Santa Monica boys scored. It was 30-20 at half time.

In the second half, both teams wanted to come out strong. LCA got the upper hand.

Marcus Scribner was running rampant with the ball. He was burning opponents with speed, breaking ankles with cuts and punishing with stinging hits when Gryphons were making tackles. He smashed them, strong-armed them and ground down their will to put up a fight. Every WWF body slam was an injection of intimidation for opponents.

While Marcus was playing the unstoppable superhero, his LCA teammates were stepping up and making contributions.

Senior Hosea Ashcraft, alternating with Marcus, ran the ball to keep the Gryphon defense guessing. Originally a soccer player who never really understood the intricacies of football, Hosea was dashing with speed, power and cuts that he had never made before.

Quarterback Pat Canon was making unaccustomed tackles on defense, and secret weapon Steven Lahood was catching passes when the opponents concentrated too much on countering the “thunder and lightning” attack of Marcus and Hosea.

Even the kid brother, freshman Rob Scribner made a 2-point conversion reception. Overwhelmed with excitement that as a slender and small freshman he had succeeded in varsity football, Rob spiked the football, a violation that penalized the Saints kickoff 10 yards.

The offensive and defensive lines are to be credited. The Gryphons couldn’t make a single sack.

But the runaway surprise was Brandon. Read the rest of Making men out of boys through football at Christian school in Santa Monica.

300 (how a small Christian school in Santa Monica puts up a fight in football)

Lighthouse Santa Monica footballThis was not King Leonidas’ battle. It was Gideon’s.

After witnessing Lighthouse’ undermanned but courageous stand against his team, Downey’s coach Mike Nuño compared his Santa Monica opponents to the Old Testament hero who vanquished the Midianites with an army of just 300.

“You’re like Gideon’s warriors,” Nuño told them after Saturday’s game. “You guys are the 300 that stayed and say, ‘Man, we’re going to go out there and do this thing.’ It takes heart. You guys battle and battle and battle. You guys come out with a small group year after year after year and fight until the end.”

If Lighthouse Christian Academy got compared to Gideon’s 300, it lost like Leonidas’ 300, overwhelmed by the endless swarming hordes of the Persian Empire. Despite a late first-half, valiant but quixotic surge, the Saints lost 21-62 against Calvary Chapel Christian School of Downey in CIF’s Southern Section 8-man football league.

“I coached 16 players one year, and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Nuño said. “You come out with 10 or 12 players. I applaud you guys for that.”

LCA and the Grizzlies were roughly even at the beginning of the game as players sized each other up, identified strengths and weaknesses and sought to exploit opportunities. Realizing their superior firepower, the Grizzlies began to pull away, making the score 6-24.

But then a short kickoff gave Lighthouse a short field to drive for a touchdown. Senior Marcus Scribner caught a pass in the 2nd quarter for a touchdown to make it — with the subsequent 2 point conversion — 14-24.

Downey discovered they could essentially block Lighthouse as long as they needed to make the long bomb pass and quickly added a TD.

When Lighthouse tried to reply, the Grizzlies stymied their advance. Despite a dazzling one-handed catch and subsequent power scramble from senior Hosea Ashcraft, the Saints were unable to capitalize and had to punt.

The Grizzlies shot their effective long pass down the right side to 1st and goal. It seemed they would pull away definitively in the scoring. But sophomore David Hutchinson tackled a running back for a 2-yard loss, and two passes bounced off the receivers hands brought an unexpected stop to the Downey steamroll. Read the rest of Christian school Santa Monica football fight.