Monthly Archives: January 2020

How can a brain tumor be a good thing? Ask Scott Hamilton

Scott_Hamilton_olympicsFigure skating sensation Scott Hamilton owes his Olympic gold medal to… a brain tumor.

It limited his growth as a child and baffled doctors who could never find the cause of the problem. Through an unlikely series of events related to his frequent visits to doctors, he wound up in figure skating.

“Who would I be without a brain tumor?” Scott reflects in a White Chair Productions video. “I could choose to look at it as debilitating, to choose to focus on the suffering. (But) I choose to look at that brain tumor as the greatest gift I’ve ever gotten because it made everything else possible.”

In 1984, the United States hadn’t won a gold medal in men’s figure skating for 24 years. Hamilton’s feat made him one of the top eight most popular American athletes, according to an Associated Press study.

The 5’4” athlete was adopted by two college professors who raised him in Bowling Green, Ohio. Badgered by health issues from childhood, his lack of normal growth caused experts to search in vain for a cause.

“When I came back from being in and out of hospitals, I ended up going to the skating club by accident,” Scott remembers. “I found skating.”

Scott_HamiltonHe excelled on ice. His progress in the sport caused him to move away from home to receive training by better coaches.

His first awareness of a need for God arose after his mother lost a battle to cancer. “Something awakened in me,” he says. “I knew I needed something better. I knew I needed some strength.”

Beginning in 1981, Scott won 16 consecutive national and international championships. He loved entertaining spectators. His signature move was a backflip, a move so dangerous it was banned by U.S. Figure Skating and Olympic competition rules. Because it was risky, it was also a crowd-pleaser.

B9315966892Z.1_20150124003822_000_G7A9OQ2N3.1-0After bringing Olympic gold to male figure skating, Scott won another world championship and retired from amateur competition to the professional, entertainment sector, where he performed until 2001.

In 1997 Hamilton was forced to leave figure skating to undergo chemotherapy for testicular cancer. It was a scary moment because cancer had claimed the life of his mother. With God’s help Scott overcame the health battle, but it was emotionally staggering.

“I survived something that took the most important person, my mother, off this planet,” he says. “My mom died. I survived. Why?”

He started to ask what his purpose was. His soon-to-be wife helped answer that question. Tracie Hamilton introduced him to Jesus and they began to attend church together.

As he was getting to know the principles of Christianity, Scott and his wife prayed to be able to have a child — no easy thing for a survivor of testicular cancer.

But God answered their prayers. Nine months after their wedding in 2002 they were blessed with a baby boy, Aiden.

Anyone would say that Scott had already suffered through more than his share of health issues. But after the growth deficiency and his battle with testicular cancer, Hamilton discovered he had a brain tumor.

His wife took his hands in hers and they started to pray.

“It was in that moment I knew where I was going to put everything, my trust, my faith, everything,” he remembers. “That was the most powerful moment in my life. From that moment forward, we just said, whatever it is, whatever it takes.”

The biopsy was fear-provoking in itself. Doctors drilled a hole through Hamilton’s skull, weaved their way through the coils of the brain, cut out a small piece of the tumor, extracting it for later analysis.

“We seem to have found a safe corridor to do that,” the doctors told him at the time. Read the rest: Scott Hamilton Christian.

Just Mercy explores Christian motives in crusading lawyer

just-mercy-e1576884406168No one on Alabama’s Death Row had ever been released — no one. They all proceeded without hope inevitably to the electric chair

That was the stark reality of the South in the late 1980s until African American lawyer Bryan Stevenson, a Harvard graduate originally from Delaware, rolled into town with federal grant money to establish a center to aid those nobody before wished to help.

Stevenson’s dedication — portrayed by the factual-based movie Just Mercy in theatres now — is a story of David versus Goliath, of the crusader who defies the odds, in face of personal danger and with great personal sacrifice, to rescue the dispossessed members of society.

Just Mercy, based on the autobiographical book with the same title, is not an overtly Christian movie, though there are Christian moments, undertones and underpinnings throughout.

Just_Mercy_Official_PosterBut its story derives from the same inspiration felt by many Christian workers — whether foreign, urban or rural — who forego personal enrichment on behalf of the outcasts of society.

Stevenson is played convincingly by Michael B. Jordan. But the most compelling performance is by Jamie Foxx, who portrays McMillian.

In the movie’s most riveting scene, McMillian faces his only accuser, Ralph Myers, on appeal, with a facial expression that pleads for mercy and the uncovering of the truth. What’s amazing is how Foxx is able to communicate so clearly without words.

Myers, who initially opposed testifying falsely, cooperated in framing McMillan in order to work a better deal for his own pending criminal case.

The story of McMillian’s trumped up conviction was documented by the New York Times, the New Yorker, 60 Minutes, by two books and a host of other news agencies.

Walter “Johnny D” McMillian was a pulpwood worker in a black settlement off a dirt road outside of Monroeville, Alabama. He married Minnie McMillian, with whom he had nine children. He had no previous criminal record but became infamous in town for his affair with a white woman in town. Read the rest of Christian movie Just Mercy

Thomas Kinkade: Idyllic paintings, far from idyllic life

KINKADE_HOUSES_t810On April 6th, 2012, the man known as The Painter of Light, Thomas Kinkade, unexpectedly died in his home at the age of 54.

Kinkade was widely known as one of the most successful artists of his time, famous for painting cottages, homes and churches featuring soft light and Christian themes.

What the paintings lacked in sophistication, they made up in nostalgic appeal. The paintings carried their own charm, with some viewers imagining a simpler life in the bucolic scenes portrayed.

“It’s not the world we live in,” Kinkade told The Guardian, “It’s the world we wished we live in. People wish they could find that stream, that cabin in the woods.

243283“My paintings are messengers of God’s love. Nature is simply the language which I speak,” he said.

Chances are you’ve seen or even own one of his paintings. His work is said to be in a staggering 10 million American homes, over 7% of the American population.

Kinkade’s past is somewhat tragic, involving a broken family and dropping out of art school. In 1980, Kinkade became a Christian. It was at this time that he started selling his paintings.

“Well, it was almost as if God became my art agent. He basically gave me ideas,” he explained to USA Today in 2002.

c2b13bb8eb47f97f2c8c7f21bfc524e3However, during the early 2000’s to 2010’s, Kinkade’s bizarre behavior and financial problems sparked accusations against the well-known artist. The accusations included behaving inappropriately with women and something especially odd, allegedly urinating on a Winnie the Pooh figure at the Disneyland Hotel according to The Los Angeles Times.

Along with that, his company declared bankruptcy, unable to pay its creditors following multiple court judgments. He was ordered to pay $860,000 for defrauding the owners of two failed galleries in Virginia, according to a website associated with the lawsuit.

While he made $53 million, his business expenses apparently exceeded his business income during the recession of the early 2000s, according to news sources.

Kinkade denied some of the charges in 2006, but blamed the rest on overeating, drinking and stress, according to the Washington Post.

“With God’s help and the support of my family and friends, I have returned balance to my life,” Kinkade said in addressing the accusations.

The 2006 scandal was not the end of his troubles. Rest of the article: Was Thomas Kinkade Christian?

Supermodel Kathy Ireland’s journey to Christ

Ireland_CAASpeakers_Photo1God was a yeller, or so Kathy Ireland thought.

At the church she grew up in, the pastor preached a screechy, judgmental message and she superimposed the image of her pastor on God. She thought that God must be like that.

“There was a part of me that was kind of scared of God,” Ireland says on an I am Second video. “The church that I attended as a child, the leader there would kind of yell.”

She jumped into modeling at age 16 and was featured in Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Forbes, Mademoiselle and the racy Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition multiple times.

Ireland flew off to Paris to start modeling at age18. “It sounds so much more glamorous than it was,” she admits.

Her mother, who had accepted Jesus when Ireland was a teen, slipped a Bible in her luggage. She didn’t feel comfortable staying at a home provided in Paris. She often locked herself in her room, and other models who stayed there ominously called it “the dungeon.”

kathy-ireland-business-mogulOne night, lonely, bored, jet-lagged, Ireland found the Bible and began to thumb through its pages, a novelty for her.

“I randomly opened up to the Gospel of Matthew,” Ireland says. “As I read, my life was forever changed.”

Ireland had been a rebellious teenager who questioned authority. She wondered about truth and what was right and wrong.

When she examined the Bible for the first time, she realized it contained the truth.

“I think one of the things that grabbed a hold of me was that Jesus wasn’t anything like I thought,” Ireland continues. “He wasn’t condemning. He wasn’t yelling. Instead, He was loving, and He was leading.”

Ireland discovered that modeling is a world flush with exploitation. “Particularly as a young woman out in the world for the first time, in a world that often times felt dominated by men of questionable character, it gave me such comfort to know that Jesus loves women and honors them,” she says. Read the rest: Kathy Ireland Christian.

Owners of Forever 21 proclaim Jesus

Forever-21+(1)Nothing is forever except Heaven, as the owners of Forever 21 are discovering.

After trail-blazing fast fashion for three decades, Do Won and Jin Chang’s clothing stores made them billionaires but are now in the throes of bankruptcy.

The couple is strong in faith and their brand proudly prints “John 3:16” on the bottom of every bag as a witness for Christ. But now the chain is struggling for its economic existence.

merlin_162717138_d7d472aa-d124-46e0-b194-205896595cbd-superJumboDo Won, or simply “Don,” immigrated to America in 1981 because opportunities in South Korea were limited. Ambitious and willing to work hard, Chang immediately got three jobs in Los Angeles: dish washer at a coffee shop, janitor at office buildings and attendant at a gas station.

While pumping gas, BMWs and Mercedes Benzes caught his eye. “I noticed the people who drove the nicest cars were all in the garment business,” Don told the Los Angeles Times.

He and his wife, Jin Sook, opened their first store in 1984 in a Highland Park neighborhood of LA with the strategy of piling high and selling cheap.

Making it in the fashion industry is about as tough as succeeding as an artist or a movie star, but the Changs perfected the technique of making the latest red carpet outfits show up instantly on their shelves, and their business exploded to 800 stores in 50 countries with $4 billion in annual sales.

“I came here with almost nothing and I’ll always have a grateful heart toward America for the opportunities that it’s provided me,” he said in Forbes.

While they succeeded wildly and moved into Beverly Hills, the couple — with their two daughters — remained steadfast in their Christian convictions. They prayed everyday at 5:00 a.m. at their church and went on mission trips to Afghanistan, India and Pakistan. Read the rest Christian Forever 21.

Chained in basement 11 years, she now offers hope to victims of abuse

cleveland-kidnapper-ariel-castro-sentenced-in-clevelandMichelle Knight was held hostage, chained and raped for almost 11 years by a macabre man. She also endured starvation, lack of sunlight and extreme thirst.

“Almost every day he did beat, rape, and do horrible, unimaginable things to me,” Michelle said on the Today Show. “I just thought of myself as a punching bag because that’s all he did to me.”

Since her ordeal, Michelle has gathered her courage — with God’s help — to forgive her tormentor, Ariel Castro, who hanged himself with bed sheets in his prison cell one month into a sentence of life plus 1,000 years.

ariel castro“He had a disease,” Michelle told Christian Today. “I was able to forgive him. God put us on earth for one reason, to do his work. The situation (he) put me in didn’t define me. I choose to live a meaningful life.”

On May 6, 2013, fellow captive Amanda Berry escaped and fled to police, who rescued Michelle and another girl, Gina de Jesus. Shortly after that, they arrested Castro. Since then, Michelle has married and moved on from the trauma. As part of her new life, she legally renamed herself Lily Rose because she wants to disassociate herself from the ugly past.

Raised in a troubled home, Michelle, 20, was living under a bridge in 2002, upset over losing custody of her 2-year-old son. On August 23rd of that year, she left her cousin’s house in Cleveland and accepted a ride from Ariel Castro, the father of a friend. He took her to his Tremont home, where he chained her in the basement.

Amanda Berry was abducted the following year, and they were joined by Gina DeJesus in 2004.

ariel castro victimsCastro first starved his victims for days to break their will to resist. Then he beat them and raped them. Michelle got pregnant from Castro at least four times, and the beast beat her with his fists and even dumbbells, sometimes slamming her against the wall to induce miscarriage.

Amanda somehow gave birth to a child in 2006.

Neighbors say they reported to police suspicious activity at the home on Cleveland’s rough west side, but police found nothing unusual, even though parts of the home were locked and inaccessible.

In 2013, Amanda managed to escape, catalyzing the subsequent rescue of her co-captives and arrest of Castro. Michelle was only 80 pounds when she was found and taken to the hospital. She had lost the will to live.

“They told me I only had two days to live, I was dying of a bacterial infection. I just wanted to let go.” Michelle recounted. “The first time that I tried to let go (and die), the first thought that came to my mind was my son. I don’t want my son to see me as a person that took the easy way out. That’s the real reason why I didn’t commit suicide.” Read the rest of the harrowing story with a happy ending of Michelle Knight Christian.

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

colorblind artist lance brownBy Nazarii Baytler —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God had other plans.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transformed by glory from gay lifestyle

ECJym7ZXoAEZ4KJBy Laken Wilson —

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

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

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

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

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

The molester came back three times during the night.

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

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

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

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

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

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

He “came out to his parents and family.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gotta keep your cool

IMG_6230Coach poured coolant into the radiators at halftime.

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

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

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

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

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

But its defense leaked.

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

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

He got his life back with God

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

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

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

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

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

On point as point guard

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

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

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

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

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

Fired on at close range, Todd White turned to Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“They kicked my butt,” he says.

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

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

So he ran away again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The emotional wallop caused Todd to entertain suicidal thoughts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Horrible,” Todd responded.

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

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

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

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

Todd wanted to stop but couldn’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shot caller threatened to kill inmate who evangelized

IMG2008133318HI“Today is tomorrow.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bullets through his car window made Young Noah turn to God

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

“Duck,” God told him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the rest: Jarry Manna Christian rapper

Fearless food – Dino’s Chicken, pure manfood

Dino's chicken

The neon orange chicken that made Dino’s

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

In three words: bland, boring, blech.

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

Dino's Chicken Los Angeles hole in the wall restaurants

Manfood, my buddies say.

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

DUI fries Dino's Ultimate Invention

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

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

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

What more could you want?

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

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

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

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