Category Archives: life

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

Hop Li Chinatown LA

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

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

spicy pepper beef Hop Li restaurant Chinatown LAI’ve learned to ignore the worn-out red carpets that lead to the bathroom. They look like they were new in the 60s. I’ve learned to ignore the dust on the exit sign. People don’t come to Hop Li for its immaculate interior. The decorating looks like it hasn’t updated since the 70s.

hot and sour soup Hop Li Chinese restaurant Los AngelesNobody cares about that. They only care about taste. When it comes to authentic Cantonese food, there’s nothing better in Downtown LA (Chinatown is just northeast of DT).

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

Hop Li restaurant in Chinatown LANext, if the meal is special, you get Peking Duck. I like the dunk meat best, but the true Chinese way, apparently, is to eat mostly fried duck skin with plum sauce, onion sprigs and parsley.

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

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

Chinese noodles Hop Li restaurant Chinatown LA

Chinese like fresh, fresh, fresh food, so you can get the fish live and placed into the pot.  So Hop Li has tanks of living crabs for you to enjoy.Chinese fish in black bean sauceI always liked the orange pepper chicken but through the years of eating with my in-laws have learned to go along with whatever they order. Another favorite of mine was kung-pao chicken.

honey garlic spare rips Hop Li Chinese restaurant Chinatown LAYou can come here for a quick lunch, simple dinner or a full-on banquet.
historical map of chinatown Los AngelesHop Li is part of Chinatown’s history. They even have a historic map that traces the beginnings of the section in Los Angeles. Some of the history is a stain because racial violence against Chinese is why the Chinese moved out of Downtown and quartered up near Dodger Stadium (which, of course, wasn’t there at the time).
Chinese crab restaurantwhoa

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

Chinese spinach Hop Li restaurant Chinatown LAThe menu is extensive.

Hop Li menu page 1 Chinatown LAHop Li menu page 2 Chinatown LAHop Li menu page 3 Chinatown LAHop Li menu page 4 Chinatown LAHop Li menu page 5 Chinatown LAHop Li menu page 6 Chinatown LAHop Li menu page 7 Chinatown LAHop Li menu page 8 Chinatown LA

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 #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.

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.

What pro-lifers need to do

special needs childrenI was embarrassed. After debating abortion for decades, I heard FOR THE FIRST TIME an important pro-choice argument. I pride myself on listening to other sides. Maybe I wasn’t listening up to the level of my pride. Have you heard it? Here it is: Pro-lifers do nothing to help special needs children and at-risk youth. They don’t let a Mom choose, and then they don’t help her when she’s stuck.

It stung. I was caught. Was I all talk and no action?

But after a day of meditating on this legitimate claim, it slowly crept over me: I AM doing something for the less fortunate. I teach for at a small Christian school where at-risk youth attend. I teach with no pay (although in some years, I have received salary). I am silencing the argument that conservatives ban abortion and shun helping needs.

christian high school los angelesSo I am writing this post, not to the pro-choicer (whose opinion we treat respectfully) but to the pro-lifer: YOU NEED TO PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS and help with special needs and at-risk people. If you can’t volunteer for some program, make a donation. If you don’t know where, I suggest my school, the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica. You can make a tax-deductible, one-time or monthly gift to help teachers like me continue doing what you can’t.

Jordan Sheppard just graduated. His mother left the abortion clinic waiting room, hearing the voice of God telling her He would help her with her child. She didn’t even know God at the time.

overcoming adversity into goalBy his own appraisal, Jordan says he’d been dead, in jail or en route to one of those options. He was falling into all kinds of trouble. His mother walked the streets late at night looking for him when he was in middle school. Then she looked for a place to enroll Jordan where Christians could help her, a single mom, raise her man. Today, Jordan has plans to join the Marines. We are super proud of him. You could be too if you take a stake in this ministry.

600 precious babies saved!

pro life movementIf you only prayed for one hour in front of an abortion clinic as part of the 40 Days for Life campaign, would it make much difference?

Remarkably, this year’s annual pro-life demonstration saved more than 600 babies, according to a video posted by 40 Days for Life.

“Abortion is ending in the United State of America and around the world,” Shawn Carney declared, president of 40 Days for Life.

pro life movement canada“But things are getting worse before they get better on other fronts,” he added. “We’ve begun to see a wave of infanticide sweeping our nations not led by the fringe but by governors and candidates for presidents. It’s absolutely unprecedented.”

Recently, New York approved a bill that would allow late-term, viable fetuses to be aborted on the condition the abortionist believes it would be in the interest of the mother’s health, according to National Review.

Not to be outdone, Virginia state legislator Kathy Tran introduced legislation legalizing full-term pregnancy abortion and partial birth abortion. Illinois and New Mexico are weighing similar laws.

“It’s infanticide in the United States of America in 2019,” Shawn said. “There’s a hardness of heart, a coldness. There’s nothing greater than seeing your beautiful baby girl or beautiful baby boy. They have removed humanity from that beautiful moment of seeing your newborn.” Read the rest: lives saved by 40 Days for Life, powered by Unplanned

Meanwhile, the 40 Days for Life movement — which went nationwide in 2007 and involved 1 million volunteers in street prayer outside clinics — has played a part in shutting down 90 clinics, the video noted.

This year’s drive was energized by the blockbuster movie Unplanned, which documents Abby Johnson’s switch from Planned Parenthood clinic director to pro-life street prayer warrior who pleads with mothers to turn back at the clinic door.

Abby was the 26th out of 186 abortion workers to switch to pro-life, the video says. That switch and the subsequent of shutting down of her old clinic was the beginning of the 40 Days for Life movement.

Steaming broccoli with a bamboo steamer

steamed broccoliIt’s easy to want to eat more broccoli because it’s a superfood packed with nutrients and fiber for digestion. But broccoli is either too tough raw or wilted if boiled. This is where a bamboo steamer comes to the rescue! The steaming takes off the tough edge of the broccoli and keeps in the nutrients you crave. The bamboo basket brings a subtle authentic touch from China and keeps molecules from the metal steamer baskets from contaminating your food.

IMG_9533Here the steps to perfect steamed broccoli:

  1. Cut into bite-size florets. I like to use pre-cut florets from Costco because they save me this time-consuming step. Most people prefer not to eat the stems anyway, but if you do eat the stems, that extra roughage is a windfall for your digestion.
    You can use wax paper liners or parchment sheets, which you can use by loosely wrapping around the vegetables.
  2. Bring water in wok to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Let the steam filter through the cracks between the bamboo slats for 3 to 4 minutes. If you like the broccoli crisper, steam for less time. If you prefer tender florets, then steam for a bit longer.
    Add some pizzazz by adding bullion into your boiling water. Alternatively, cook the broccoli on the top basket with fish or chicken on the bottom. NOTE: If you cook a protein on the bottom, it will take longer, so you may want to remove the broccoli sooner and place the bamboo lid on the bottom basket.
  3. A lot of people put butter or olive oil with herbs on their steamed broccoli. But I like the Chinese oyster sauce for a rich, appetizing flavor that will make you want more of this most healthy of vegetables.

Read about other tips for bamboo cooking.

3 abortions and then pro-life candidate?

31727671_10155418419090924_1092007868938321920_oFrom age 6 to 16, Lisa Luby Ryan was raped by her dad.

Her mom flagrantly committed adultery, inviting numerous men into the home. Her dad was drunk most of the time.

“Everything about my childhood was just lonely, it was hard, it was not what a child deserves to have,” she says on an I Am Second video. “I wanted a different life than the one I had. The course I was taking was a crash course.”

Today, Lisa Luby Ryan is an interior decorator from Dallas, Texas, who lost a bid for U.S. Congress on the Republican ticket in November 2018. She submitted to three abortions before coming to Jesus, repenting of her sins and then later running on an anti-abortion platform.

EUQ42G3OOnly Jesus could straighten out the chaos of her life and heal her of the pain stemming from her childhood.

But with so much trauma and confusion derived from her upbringing, Lisa found it almost impossible to escape the sins of her parents. She dreamed of having a stable family but found she attracted the type of men who would take advantage of her.

“I continued to follow in the life of finding men who were abusive — what I knew, abusive alcoholics,” she says. “All I wanted was to be loved. But being loved for me was to have a sexual relationship. I was willing to do anything to have that.”

She met and married a man but left him for another.

“All of the things that I had promised and wanted to never do to my children, I was doing. I was repeating that behavior,” she says. “I felt dirty, I felt shameful, I felt guilty. I didn’t want the life I had, I wanted to be different.”

She felt like she had hit rock bottom, so she called out to the Lord. “Ok Lord, I’m going to just trust you, and I’m going to share the desires of my heart with You, and we’re going to just walk this out because You are all I’ve got.”

Two months later she met a man, Jay, whom she felt was sent straight to her from God.

“He loved me and he loved my children,” she says.

But God interrupted the engagement.

“How can I heal you if your not willing to heal yourself?” He told Lisa.

That day, Lisa gave Jay his ring back.

“God has spoken to me personally and I have to trust Him,” she says. “I have to let Him be the husband I never had, the father I never had, because otherwise our marriage would have never worked.”

She entered Christian counseling with a woman named Joyce. They prayed together and cried together. Lisa began peeling away all the layers of hurt, guardedness and coping mechanisms

After many sessions, Lisa believed she was done. She had forgiven her parents and her ex-husband.

But she hadn’t forgiven herself.

It turns out that she still hadn’t dealt with her deepest darkest secret. During her senior year in high school, Lisa had an abortion.

As she confessed to Joyce, Lisa thought she was done. But Joyce, sensing in the Spirit that Lisa was not done confessing, just sat there praying.

Then Lisa broke down.

“Ok, I’m going to tell you one last thing, and then I’m finished,” she says. Finish reading about Lisa Luby Ryan overcame abortions.

Almost aborted, Aaron Cole is one of the best Christian hip hop artists currently

aaron coleAaron Cole’s mom and dad nearly aborted him, but the breakout Christian Hip Hop star was too far along in the womb for the procedure to be legal.

“How does it feel to know you was unwanted… to know you was just one good late night pimping,” Cole raps on “Shouldn’t Be Here.” “It makes me asks is there any point of even living?”

Aaron’s dad was 19, his mom only 17, when he was conceived.

Today, Aaron, at only age 20, is a rap sensation signed to Gotee Records with three albums and other projects banging on the charts. His song “Right on Time” with Toby Mac has 7.4 million views on YouTube.

Aaron Tyrese Cole made it out of the womb in Bristol, Virginia, on February 28, 1999. Mom and dad stayed together and another baby was born. They separated and reunited when dad came with another child. Today, Aaron has three full siblings and one half sibling.

Aaron-Cole-abortionDad was a hip hop artist who got saved somewhere in there, and Aaron picked up on his musical ways. The tyke was performing in front of friends and family from age 4. His dad produced an album for the little one titled Fourth Period.

His father had his own recording studio in his apartment and has helped Aaron with his music.

Aaron discovered Jesus for himself as a result of getting bullied for being a good kid.

“I remember in junior high just enjoying being a regular kid, but I would get picked on because I wasn’t smoking, drinking or getting in trouble,” he says. “One afternoon I told my dad what was going on and why, and he shared that he thought I was called for a purpose and that this calling would cost me to NOT be like everyone else.

“It was that moment that I encountered God for the first time for myself,” Aaron says. “And I knew I was born to do this and began writing and putting my own songs together.”

In 2016, Aaron’s parents told him the truth about his beginning, that he was going to be aborted. It was a huge blow. There was rejection but also relief. He owed God his life. Read the rest: Aaron Cole abortion.

Confessions of an ex-junk food junkie

junk foodI have a confession: I love junk food.

I would probably eat it everyday.

But I know that it will kill me. It’s loaded with calories, salt, fat, preservatives. It comes up short on nutrition. So I avoid it.

I’m not so much of a health freak to NEVER eat junk food. But I try to limit it to once a week. The rest of the time, I try to stay health.

Officially, weekends are “cheat days” to not live in dietary misery. I indulge an ice cream on Friday night. I don’t watch my calories.

Ashcraft family

I’m the tall guy in middle. I’m 51.

But Monday through Friday lunch, I’m pretty good about being intelligent about food selection. My tongue doesn’t feel good; my body does. I enjoy the benefits of feeling healthy depriving my tongue of daily delights (those are saved for weekends).

And the benefits I feel in my body are great. I have energy. I don’t get sick. I go to the gym and have strength. I enjoy walking up stairs without struggling. I don’t go to the doctor or the hospital. I do my work with zest and passion and don’t have to lie down and recover. My body delights in health (though my tongue gets deprived of the rush of emotion over super tasty foods).

Here’s what’s amazing and possible: I actually enjoy the healthy food now. I savor the broccoli, the asparagus, the not-fried chicken, the salads, the food without heavy cream sauces and cooking without grease and fat.

Yes, it’s possible.

My experience is that you can literally retrain your taste buds.

I think it takes years. It has taken me years. Right now, I’m actually grossed out by soda if I drink it. As hard as that may to believe.

nutrients flavor bamboo steamerMy journey towards healthful eating and healthfulness has led me to selling bamboo steamers on Amazon. People are absolutely fanatical about bamboo. They conserve nutrients better and absorb some of the steam so that Chinese buns come out right. I have discovered that steaming fish fillets to take into work with me is NOT slower than warming fish sticks in the toaster oven. If you want to buy one and try it for yourself, here’s the link.

Step up your steaming game

asian-food-deliciousFor those who are looking to level up their kitchen skills, a bamboo steamer offers a more natural way to steam fish and vegetables — and it’s not just for Chinese cooking. Steaming conserves nutrients better than most other types of cooking. Of course, it reduces fat content because no oil is needed to keep the food from sticking to the pan.

I’m going to be honest: The bamboo steamer sounded pretty exotic to me, and I imagined it would more difficult to use. What I found was that it really isn’t difficult. Here’s the down and dirty truth: Because I’m addicted to “fast cooking,” I used to throw frozen fish sticks into the toaster oven. They took about 6 minutes. Now I place refrigerated fillets on Napa cabbage leaves in my steamer. It takes about 6 minutes.

The kicker: I’m moving away from processed food.

This is a huge bonus because prepared and package convenient food means “processed.” Every time you eat processed food, you’re taking a hit of salt, sugar and fat.

bamboo steamer with a bowl inside

You can use a bowl to keep the food from sticking to the bamboo. I prefer the Napa cabbage.

My favorite brand of fish sticks said on the label “lightly processed,” so I thought I was doing well. Then I checked the sodium content, and guess what: it was high. Salt is used to cover up a lot of mishaps in the processed food industry. It gets added to create craving and hook repeat customers. You don’t even realize it’s there, but it’s pulling you back to another purchase.

When I steam, I control the amount of salt, which is creating a heart disease epidemic in the United States.

the end of the fish stick

The end of the frozen fish stick

One more thing: washing. Is cleaning the bamboo steamer more difficult than the toaster over tray. I used to soak the toaster oven tray in water with dish soap and then scrub it with stainless steel scouring pad. It took a tool on my sensitive skin.

Now I use a soap-saturated sponge on the bamboo steamer, rinse thoroughly and let dry. The drying is the tricky point on the bamboo steamer. It has to dry thoroughly or mold or mildew and grow. I have found that if you leave the top off and store it on an open shelf after drying, it’s good.

The net time for cleaning? The bamboo steamer is quicker and easier.

This is my experience with the bamboo steamer. Why don’t you tell me your yours in the comments?

Would you like to buy a 10-inch bamboo steamer? I’m selling to supplement my ministry.

President of synagogue accepts Yeshua

steven scrap metal business jewAs president of a Jewish synagogue, Steven decided to divorce his wife when she started attending a Christian church. But later he did some soul-searching to find the truth and made a surprising discovery.

Steven’s first encounter with Christianity as a Jewish boy growing up on the East Coast was when his grade school friend leveled a malicious accusation: “You killed Jesus!”

“What are you talking about?” Steven responded, on a One for Israel video. (His last name was not provided.)

For centuries, American and nominal European “Christians” have perpetuated anti-Semitism by calling Jews “Christ killers” when in fact Jesus willingly laid down his life to pay the penalty for everyone’s sins.

synagogue president comes to JesusIn college, a musician friend introduced Steven to drugs. The sensation induced was like nothing he’d ever experienced before.

“What is this stuff?” he said at the time. “It was the most incredible feeling I’ve ever felt.”

He decided to become a musician and left his Jewish faith behind.

While performing at a club one night, he noticed a really cute girl in the attached cafe, and he asked her out. It didn’t take long for him to decide he wanted to marry Monica.

Steven got into the scrap metal business with a couple named Sam and Louise.

Louise “started talking about the Jewish Messiah, Yeshua,” he remembers. “She was like, ‘You’ve gotta hear about this, it’s changed my life. You’ve never heard of Yeshua?’ I said no, and she said, ‘I bet you’ve heard of him as Jesus.’”

“Stop right there,” he cut her off. “I’m Jewish. I don’t believe in Jesus.”

Nevertheless, she had piqued his curiosity.

“I was intrigued about this Yeshua guy, but this Jesus is a no, no, it’s not for me.”

During the next decade, Steven continued to use drugs. After his father passed away at the age of 52 from cancer, Steven felt intense pain and began to abuse drugs even more.

While driving home one day after taking himself to the emergency room, he decided to commit suicide. He knew that the stretch of highway was frequented at that time by heavy trucks, so he decided to spontaneously swerve in front of one and die.

“I can’t take it anymore,” he said. “I’m history. I just wanted to kill the pain.” Read the rest: President of synagogue accepts Yeshua.

‘Unplanned’: the story of a former Planned Parenthood director turned pro-life

Unplanned-Cable-Networks-Refuse-Tv-Ads“Beam him up, Scotty.”

Saying these words of grim humor, the doctor pushed the vacuum closer, sucking up legs, then torso, then the head.

Abby Johnson had been a Planned Parenthood director but had never seen images of the baby during an abortion. Today, she was pitching in to help the surgeon perform the procedure by manning the ultrasound.

JaredLotz-EmmaElleRoberts-Unplanned-900What she saw made her cry. The baby wriggled and tried to escape the vacuum.

“They always do,” the doctor deadpanned.

Unplanned — in theaters now to coincide with the 40 Days for Life to mobilize prayer warriors outside abortion clinics — is the dramatization of a former clinic director who turned pro-life based on a book of her life.

Abby became the head of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas following missteps in college and out of a sincere desire to help women. She was born into a Christian family, but got attracted to the Planned Parenthood pro-woman propaganda at college club day.

First she volunteered. Then she had two abortions, one surgical, the other chemical. After graduating, she went on staff and worked her way up to director. During her tenure, she oversaw approximately 22,000 abortions.

web3-unplanned-movie-screenshot-youtube

Despite the trauma of her own abortions, she still clung to the ideals of the pro-choice movement — that is, until she saw the baby squirm and try to escape death on the ultrasound screen that guided the surgeon’s aim of the vacuum.

She fled to the bathroom and cried. Later, she walked down the street to the Coalition for Life’s office. She decided to resign. Read the rest Unplanned movie.

Tori Kelly rejected?

tori kelly smileFirst she got cut from a record label. Then she got cut from American Idol.

Tori Kelly was told she wasn’t pretty enough, wasn’t bubbly enough, wasn’t talented enough.

“This wasn’t just one door closing. This was ANOTHER door closing out of all these doors that have closed in my face,” Tori says on an “I am Second” video. “I was so devastated. I was this singer who if I failed, then people would be disappointed.”

Wut? Tori Kelly cut?

tori-kelly christian singerToday, Victoria Loren Kelly, 27, is one of the most heralded singers in pop music. The Capital Records-signed Christian gospel musician has won two Grammys after songs on her two albums “Unbreakable Smile” and “Hiding Place” charted Billboard’s Hot 100.

The painful rejections in her attempt to follow her dreams have led her to some insights valuable to young girls who think they don’t measure up.

“It might take a while but one day your going to grow into your own skin and be the woman that God uniquely made as you,” the star says. “You’re being built into the woman that God wants you to be. And you don’t have to compare yourself to anybody.”

Tori Kelly ChristianBorn in Wildomar, California, Tori had a dad of Jamaican and Puerto Rican ancestry and a mom descended from German and Irish blood. Her parents loved music, exposed her to every genre and encouraged her early interest.

At age 12, she signed with Geffen Records, but that deal fizzled. She taught herself the guitar and began composing songs, which she uploaded to YouTube, getting one million subscribers. She competed in American Idol’s ninth season but fell out before the final 24.

“That’s when I went back into my room and I started to journal a lot,” she confides. “I wrote about confusion, feeling different. I was getting out these emotions that I’ve never been really good at explaining. It was just kind of this messy book of all my thoughts and prayers. (I wrote down:) ‘Lord, guide me. I don’t know who I am without singing.’”

The downtime — the time alone crying with God — was unpleasant. But ultimately, they were good for her. Read the rest: Tori Kelly failed.

Eating to die young. Here’s how.

eating to dieFor decades, Bible-believing Christians have been told and retold that one of God’s promises is they can live to a ripe old age, 80 years to be exact. This “promise” is based on Psalm 90:10 NIV: ” “Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures…:” It was a mantra for decades.

There’s a problem with this thesis though. First off, this psalm was written by Moses, who lived to 120. Secondly, there’s another verse equally valid that seems to have been overlooked. It is Genesis 6:3 (NIV): humans’ “days will be be a hundred and twenty years.”

Why was the promise for Psalm preferred over Genesis? There is no exegetical reason.

So I adhered to 120 years. I started proclaiming in faith, as we Christians are wont to do, that I would live 120 years. “If you want to live only 80 years, that’s fine,” I would tell my friends. “But I’m believing the promise in Gen. 6:3 for 120 years.”

I was onto something. I mean, who wants to die?

But I also understood that I played a part in the fulfillment of that promise. I knew enough to understand that my body is “temple to the Holy Spirit,” as 1 Corinthians 3:16. I wouldn’t “trash” the temple. In Christian terms, I would “steward” by body as a precious gift from God, not to be abused.

Here’s what you need to do if you want to push the upper limits of the Bible’s longevity promises:

Exercise – So much good comes from a vigorous walk through the neighborhood or a trip to the gym! God didn’t design the body for today’s sedentary jobs; they were supposed to labor in the fields. The switch to desk jobs has been a death knell for health: obesity, heart disease, even cancer. Make time for exercise and it will make time lengthen in your life.

Cut down on fat – Nor did God intend for us to eat so much meat. In New Testament times, some sort of porridge was the everyday fare. Only on special occasions did the common man enjoy meat. Modern man has multiplied exponentially its consumption, and the the overload has clogged up our blood vessels and burdened the heart. Saturated fats are loaded into processed foods to improve taste. Is it any wonder that heart disease is the leading cause of death in America?

Read the rest of the tips for longevity.

Confession: I failed to become a vegan. Best thing for my health ever.

transition to healthyNo wonder a huge segment of America simply ignores them.

The health nuts.

They are simply failing you and themselves because they fail on the secret keyword: transition. You don’t, can’t, shouldn’t drop sweetened iced tea cold turkey. Not overnight will you win become the crossfit queen.

There’s something better than a new habit, and that’s a new direction.

Start slow because the key is to enjoy your changes.

Embark on change but don’t rush into the  Army Ranger’s regimen. Your journey to a healthy lifestyle is a just that: a journey. Make small digestible changes.

I once endeavored to become vegan. I only got halfway there. In so doing, I learned that halfway is better than no way. I came short of my full goals, but I learned that the progress I had made was good

Since then, I’ve never gotten off the path to health. And progressively through the years, I’ve continued to get healthier, both in terms of eating and workout.

Here are some tricks to transition to health:

  1. Drown it with salad dressing. They are calorie- and fat-laden. But who cares? You are starting to each lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, broccoli and other ground-born roughage that can be hard for those used to Twinkies.
  2. Spread the butter. While it’s loaded with fat and usually contains a jolt of salt, it eases down the transition to brown and whole grain breads.
  3. Heap on the cheese. Lurking in this delicacy is a buttload of fat (the fat from a whole gallon of milk is used for just one pound of cheese). But it packs and protein punch and help you get over the hot pocket.

Read four more tricks to “transition” to healthy.

Start to live

We all die, not all of us live

The Declaration of Independence enshrined “the pursuit of happiness,” but lately Americans have deified it to the point of banality. In the quest for fun (money, pleasure, entertainment, etc.), almost everybody comes up short.

In the end, Jesus gives greater satisfaction than all the world’s schemes. Don’t arrive at the end of your life, never having started it. Today, receive Jesus and discover true love, true meaning, true purpose.

Take the scenic, not the cynic, route in life

take the scenic route, not the cynic routeIt’s easy to fall into cynicism. There are a lot of injuries, disappoints and heartbreaks in life. Cynicism is a defense mechanism. It only expects bad and judges only bad motives in others.

It is a life devoid of fun. Try to keep a positive outlook, despite the setbacks. Look for joy, beauty and God in everything.

By mistake, her mom brought her a Bible

muslims JesusChaima wanted to join ISIS and kill Christians.

“I loved to see people dying, I loved to see them bleeding,” Chaima says on a Peter Ahlman video on YouTube. “I was seeing videos of decapitation on the Internet and I loved it. I was just blind.”

Her mother was an immigrant from Africa to Sweden and both parents were devout Muslims. Chaima saw life as cruel and wondered, “What am I doing in this world?”

wanted to join isis“I tried to kill myself 3 times. I was doing drugs. I just wanted to destroy myself.”

As a teenager, she contemplated running away to Syria to join the ISIS terrorist group. She had friends who encouraged her and she even arranged to marry a man in Ankara.

“I hated people who were not Muslim. I wanted to kill them. I was bound to dangerous things,” she says. “I didn’t feel loved by anyone. I was weak; she showed me love. I fell in the trap.”

She had a passion for reading, so her mom, concerned for her bouts with depression, brought her library books. One of the books, by accident, was the Bible. Chaima decided to read it and try to prove to Christians that they were wrong.

“I started to read the Bible to prove to Christian that they were wrong,” she says. “But I was wrong. The grace of Jesus Christ started to touch me. I started to read things like, ‘Pray for your enemies’ and ‘love them.’”

baptism of ISIS girlThis cast in stark contrast her own murderous religious ideas.

Everything inside her mind told her to reject the Gospel. “But in my heart Jesus started to do a work.”

She finally let down her defenses against the pure Word of God and the Holy Spirit. She accepted Jesus into her heart and became born-again.

Soon, she felt the need to inform her Muslim family of the change in her heart.

“That’s when the persecution started,” she says. “They stopped talking to me. During months, I was alone in my room. It was like a prison. Because I had a past of being alone and thinking about suicide and feeling depression, it wasn’t good for me.”

But this time she only fell into depression once. Read more about Don’t read the Bible; it’s dangerous.

Advantage of steaming fish

steamed fishHonestly, I was initially put off by steamed fish, but that was mostly because of some unfortunate words.

You see, my in-laws criticized the restaurant I had invited them to. It was my favorite fish food place, and they offered grilled filets.

My father-in-law was perhaps a tad too sincere: “It’s kind of tough.”

So his rejection of my favorite food closed me off to his favorite food.

The years have rolled by. I’ve lost my prejudices. I can now taste steamed fish objectively, untainted by rejection-association. And I must say, my father-in-law was right: It’s tender.

The Bible says we need to tell the truth in love, and there are some “truths” that are better left unsaid. Instead of convincing people, we close them off entirely.

Fish is my favorite food. It’s pure protein (I’m trying to build muscle). It doesn’t have cholesterol. Some actually lowers your cholesterol. It doesn’t have increase your risk for hypertension.

I’ll eat grilled filets still because I’m not against them being “tough.” But I do relish a Chinese steamed fish!

650 scientific articles, 120 patents, 7 companies, several academic degrees, 1 Jewish Messiah

James-Tour Jew scientist christianJames Tour obtained his PhD in organic chemistry, did post doctorate work at Stanford, was voted one of the 50 most influential minds in world, is a visiting scholar at Harvard University, has 650 published scholarly articles, has 120 patents and seven companies with products from everything from medicine to material science, electronics and computer memory.

“But more than that, what means the most to me is that I am a Jew who believes that Jesus is the Messiah,” Dr. Tour says on a One For Israel video.

He grew up outside New York City in a neighborhood so Jewish that he didn’t know there was anything else.

james tour yeshuaHe wasn’t interested in religion. “Once I tried to talk to a rabbi. He just brushed me off. There was very little explanation for me.”

In college he began to meet people who called themselves born-again Christians.

“That was a kind of an odd term,” he remembers thinking. “What’s ‘born-again?’ What do you mean ‘born-again?'”

It began to make sense when, in a laundromat, a man asked to show him an illustration, something of a chasm separating man from God. He labeled the chasm “sin.”

Dr. Tour recoiled somewhat. “I looked at him and said, ‘I’m not a sinner. I’ve never killed anyone. I’ve never robbed a bank. How could I be a sinner?'”

The man encouraged him to read Romans 3:23: For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Modern Judaism never talks about sin, Dr. Tour says. “I don’t remember ever talking about sin in my home.”

Then the man led Dr. Tour to the passage where Jesus warns that whoever lusts after a woman has already committed adultery in his heart.

“Pow!” Dr. Tour says. “I felt as if I’d been punched right in the chest.”

Professor-James-TourSecretly, he’d been looking at pornography in magazines — enough to call himself an “addict.”

“All of a sudden, something that’s written in the Bible, somebody who lived 2,000 years ago was calling me out of it, and suddenly I felt convicted and I realized I was a sinner,” he remembers. “When I read the Scriptures, I knew I was a sinner. How would I get to God?”

As he poured over the Bible, he realized that there is no forgiveness of sin without shedding blood. In the Old Testament, animal sacrifice was stipulated. In the New Testament, Jesus was humanity’s Passover Lamb. Isaiah 53 described graphically how the Messiah would be punished for the sin of the world. He would bear it on the cross.

“The Perfect God comes and gives Himself for us. He is the one that gives Himself for us. I started to realize how Jewish the New Testament is.”

On Nov. 7 1977, alone is his room, he realized Yeshua was the Messiah.

“I said, ‘Lord, I am a sinner. Forgive me. Come into my life,'” he recalls. “Then all of a sudden, someone was in my room. I was on my knees. I opened my eyes. Who was in my room? That man, Jesus Christ, stood in my room. This amazing sense of God, Jesus was in my room. I wasn’t scared. I was just weeping. The presence was so glorious because He was there in my room. I didn’t want to get up. This amazing sense of forgiveness just started to come upon me. That was Him.”

Eventually he stood up. He didn’t know what to do, who to tell.

When he told his cousins, they were shocked. “’How could you do that? You’re Jewish,’” they said. “Telling my mother how I had invited Jesus into my life, she didn’t say much. She was weeping. She told my father. They weren’t happy at all.” So what happened to his family? Read the rest: Jewish scientist James Tour accepts Jesus as Messiah.

MIT prof finds no conflict between faith and science

troy van voorhis MITUltimately, Troy Van Voorhis, a theoretical chemist and professor at MIT, decided his pursuit of science presented no conflict with his “undeniable” experience with God.

Often, college professors counter pose God and science as if the two were irreconcilable. Faith in God damages unrestricted science, they say, and the pure scientist ought to withhold opinions on such doubtful subjects as the existence of God.

But Van Voorhis, who developed the first practical implementation of a Meta-GGA in Density Functional Theory, doesn’t subscribe to the academia-sustained divorce of faith and science.

“I was raised in a Christian household, but like many raised in the Christian faith, there came a time when I had to wrestle with my faith and answer the question if it was really relevant, and I decided it was not,” Van Voorhis says in a Veritas Forum video. “But when I was in graduate school I had an encounter with God that made me rethink my suppositions about how God operated in the world.”

mit professors who believe GodVan Voorhis was raised a Presbyterian in Indianapolis. He earned a BA from Rice University, where he worked under Gus Scuseria to advance the science of Density Functional Theory, a computational quantum mechanical modeling method used in physics, chemistry and materials science to investigate the electronic structure. He continued his work at MIT and discovered applications that have been useful for solar panels.

After attaining notoriety for his work, he went on to UC Berkeley to get his PhD in 2001 in the field of theoretical chemistry.

While he stopped attending church in college, he restarted at Berkeley after he experienced God in an undeniable way.

God “called me to make a new decision about whether I wanted to follow what He had to say or to do other things, and I decided to follow Him,” Van Voorhis says. “I’m the unusual case that I didn’t have any Christian friends at the time and I was not going to church. I was just getting ready one morning, and I felt like God spoke to me.”

But it wasn’t just a “mystical” conversation with the Big Man upstairs, Van Voorhis says. God challenged him to give away “the vast majority of my possessions.”

And that’s how he learned that faith is not just thinking, it’s doing.

“Once you start doing things that reinforce the belief that you hold, that is actually quite important from an intellectual standpoint,” he says. “Things like the Christian faith are intellectual. There is intellectual content to it. But they are not meant to be confined solely to an intellectual discourse.” Read the rest of no conflict between science and faith.

Dave Robbins’ double life almost doomed his marriage

Dave-Robbins brave confession“I thought my life is over. I thought my marriage was over. I would lose my family,” country star Dave Robbins was grappling with his own unfaithfulness in the living room with his wife.

His wife hit him with a surprise question: “Do you think you’re saved?”

He had grown up in church: “I thought I was saved. I grew up in a church, knew about the Bible, knew about Jesus, but I didn’t feel saved. I felt separated, ashamed, full of guilt, full of fear, tormented, just tormented.”

blackhawk membersDave Robbins is a founding member of the multi-platinum country band Blackhawk, but ever-burgeoning success only increased temptation for him.

“I have spent an entire lifetime struggling with temptation. I have struggled with alcohol. I have struggled with sex. I have struggled with pornography.”

For seven years in his marriage he struggled with porn and almost ended his marriage with infidelity.

Dave decided to become sober. “I thought that would fix everything and all the other stuff would stop as well.”

But it didn’t.

dave robbins wifeHe was living a double life.

There was another woman in his life. He tried to keep his wife in the dark. He was sexting random women.

For some reason, he thought the solution was to leave his wife and kids. That way, he would be free to pursue his wantonness. But as he pondered this “solution,” ultimately he felt miserable.

“It was sociopath stuff. It was crazy. I was just a dead person.”

Dave’s wife, Mary Lynn Robbins, finally figured out his secret schemes. Read the rest of how to save my marriage.

Her own dad was her stalker

esther_fleeceShe thought she had overcome the trauma of her childhood through a relationship with God, but then her dad started stalking her again.

Esther Fleece built a successful career as a motivational speaker and writing pro. She had healthy friendships and accepted speaking engagements throughout the U.S.

She was talking in front of an audience of 15,000 when she got the news that made her blood run cold. Her dad had begun stalking her again after a 20 years reprieve. He was at her home.

“I never thought I’d see him again,” Esther says on an I am Second video produced by White Chair Films.

dealing with a stalkerFor many years, her childhood appeared normal enough. For reasons she does not know today, things turned south suddenly. Her mom was getting bruises, and they’d have to go to motels to sleep. Even though they lived in the suburbs, her mother would pick out clothes at the Salvation Army Thrift Store. Young Esther was confused by all this.

Police showed up at her home so often she mistakenly believed they were friends with her father. But then she began to see the violent episodes. “It’s pretty hard to hide blood.”

“It was like my hero is becoming the most unsafe man that I had ever been around.”

While Esther was in school she immersed herself in after school activities and even ran for class president. She’d stay after school to be away from home.

People started noticing her bruises and that she did not have a place to sleep. “It was just awful.”

She’d go home and the locks would be changed. In her mind no one could be trusted.

Esther-Fleece-WeddingShe was called into court and ordered to testify, but had little grasp of what the proceedings were about. Somewhat bewildered, she meekly spoke about the problems. “Our home life was incredibly unstable, both of my parents hurt me, (but in court) I have to pick who I’m going to say nicer things about so I don’t get hit more when I go home.”

Her father was eventually taken away by the police and spent time in and out of jail.

When her father got out of jail, he was fixated with “rescuing” Esther. “He was very dangerous. Numerous times he tried kidnapping me.”

Her mother ended up marrying another man who was unfaithful. Esther discovered the affair and told her mom. The stepdad left.

“And that’s when my mother began hating me.”

At 13, she was forced to make it make it in the world on her own.

Esther graduated and took to writing. She found God and began sharing on how to overcome past trauma. This went on for 15 happy years.

Then in 2010, her biological father showed up and began stalking her.

Esther stayed with friends, attempting to hide herself from danger. She got restraining orders from court, which were all violated.

“The nightmares were terrible,” she says. “None of my coping mechanisms worked anymore. Busyness didn’t work, being performance driven didn’t work anymore. I just didn’t want to get out of the bed in the morning.”

All the old feelings of being unloved by her dad reared up once more. She felt her current successful life was just “plastic. Success could be taken away suddenly. I started hating life again. I didn’t want to get out of bed.”

Esther sought counseling, which she called a “Band-Aid.”

“The path towards healing and forgiveness was more excruciating than the physical threat to my safety,” she says. “How do I feel the full weight of what happened to me and seriously forgive people. How do I redefine what love is.” Read the rest of Her Own Dad was her Stalker.

She almost aborted him

abortion-santa-monica.gifBy Jordan Sheppard, LCA sophomore –

Her Aunt Kerris always took little Monica to Santa Monica’s New Shiloh Baptist Church. Even though Aunt Kerris was not wealthy, she always gave 50 cents to her niece to buy something after service from the local store. Things were cheap back in the 70s and 80s, so you could buy a treat for 50 cents.

Monica loved Aunt Kerris and believed in God and got baptized but never grew close in her relationship to her Savior. Her behavior Monday through Saturday was different than her Sunday church behavior.

When she got older, she went to parties and  starting doing things that were not good for her body. She didn’t really care what happened. She was too busy having fun.

at-risk-youth-westside-los-angeles-schoolEventually, Monica met a man that is not in her life anymore.

Here is where the interesting part happens. She was not ready to have a son. So she went to an abortion clinic.

As she was sitting there waiting her turn, God spoke.

“Monica Sheppard, I know what you have been going through, and I am here to help,” God told her as clear as day. “Even though people have not been there like your other family, friends and or your mother, I am here.”

Monica listened to God and left the clinic.

West-Los-Angeles-Christian-school

God kept his promise and with His power, He brought different role models that acted like fathers to this young man.

Wherever she sleeps, Monica posts her own quote on the headboard to keep encouraged: “No matter how dark the situation is, no matter how hard the problem is, God is with you always and He is with you even in the harshest problems. If God can help me raise my child, he will help you with anything you need.”

The son she had is a well-known kid attending Lighthouse Christian Academy on the westside of Los Angeles. Her son is me, Jordan Dominick Sheppard.

This article originally appeared on the Lighthouse Christian Academy website. I teach there.

Modern massacre

Viewers have called this video “surprising,” “gross,” “informative,” “accurate,” and “inhuman.” Can you bear to watch it? And this goes on regularly in the United States of America. Why do we fight for everybody’s right except for babies’? Why does “inconvenience” trump babies’ right to life?

The answer is not percocet

Jesus bridges the gap

We know pain — all of us. But we don’t know the answer. No, it is not to lose yourself in falling in love or the emotional highs of rock concert. It’s not travel, fashion or achievements.

The answer is Jesus. The root cause of our inner hurt is the inborn separation from God due to sin. The path to joy, peace, love, fulfillment is Jesus.

Lose yourself for the gospel

lose yourself for gospel

When it comes time to teaching my high school students what “paradox” means, I turn to the gospels because Jesus relished using them. How can you lose yourself and thus find yourself? It doesn’t make immediate sense, and the carnal mind will never comprehend.

God doesn’t work by contract. He doesn’t tell us what all the perks are. He expects us to live by faith. Your boss, on the other hand, is probably not going to give you a dime more than what’s in the contract. When you serve God, He simply asks you to lose yourself for the gospel.

Then He blesses you more than you can imagine. Of course, if you scoff at this and don’t try it out, you will never see the spiritual law activated when you give to God.

Enjoy the ride — even the tough parts

puppy dogI was wondering why life is so difficult (finances, health, other issues), and then I was re-reading Genesis 3. And I said, Oh! That’s why life is a pain in the neck.”

As part of the curse of choosing sin, God cursed the ground and foretold that man would toil with hard labor for all the days of his life. So, that’s why there so much difficulties.

This gave me peace because I realized I was in the norm. This helps me to relax and enjoy life, even with troubles. Reading the Bible brings great wisdom and consolation.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern need to live

rosencrantz-and-guildenstern-are-dead-In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are unwittingly betraying their childhood friend, Hamlet, and playing into the hands of the usurper Claudius, who by killing Hamlet’s father and marrying Hamlet’s mother seized the throne of Denmark. Hamlet appeals to them to remain loyal to him, but since they’re sycophants, they fawn over the king and don’t perceive his treachery.

So Hamlet kills them summarily.

They were — unknowingly — escorting Hamlet to his death in England. Hamlet opens the letter sealing his fate while his friends sleep on the boat from Denmark. Needless to say, Hamlet doesn’t appreciate them being his conduit to death (the letter orders England, a vassal state in the play, to execute Hamlet). So Hamlet rewrites and reseals the letter changing the object of execution to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Hamlet himself changes ship and boards a pirates’ vessel and heads back to Denmark while his comrades continue onward to their death in England.

Was Hamlet wrong to kill his buddies? Shakespeare leaves his audience with the sense that they got what they deserved.

But where Shakespeare leaves his audience happy with their death, Tom Stoppard in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead picks up their cause. Because they acted unknowingly, they deserved life.

Of course Stoppard is describing his existential cosmovision, a bleak view that life is meaningless, death inevitable and destiny cruel. I don’t share his vacuum view of leadership, but I heartily applaud his taking up the cause of the anonymous, the defenseless, the voiceless.

Every life is valuable. None should be disposed of because of convenience. One person cannot assign importance — or lack thereof — to another human being. God has instilled incalculable value to every human being.

Tex’s Team | This is the school where I teach and my son studies

Santa Monica Christian high school | footballThen Tex got mad.

In the first half of Lighthouse Christian Academy‘s loss to The Rock Academy of Point Loma on Sept. 4, Tex Hagoski played well.

In the second half, Tex played like Attila the Hun. He scored the Saints’ only touchdown and converted, smashing and spinning his way mercilessly through four defenders to fall across the End Zone line.

The Saints were simply outgunned. For 10 years, the Warriors were in the much more taxing 11-man league. But they voluntarily descended to 8-man football this year, and the they brought with them overwhelming experience. The Saints lost 8-42 on the San Diego gridiron.

Tex’s runs and tackles were a Lighthouse signature. By coaches’ estimates, he carried the ball for 170 yards, made 10 solo tackles and joined five group tackles. It was his reception on a gun sprint pass that brought respectability to the Saints’ loss. Read the rest of the article: Santa Monica private school.

Then all of a sudden, they look like a winning team

constanly improve

A stand-up-and-take-notice-goal. Kelly O’Hara beats her defender to the inside and karate kicks a cross into the net. Wow!

The US Women’s National Team has slogged through its world cup, scraping out scrappy victories. Their play was lackluster. They looked toothless particularly on attack.

Then whamo! Out of nowhere, they send Germany home with a command performance. Yesterday the women of red, white and blue picked their opponents’ pockets. Yes there were two bad ref calls that favored the U.S., but they were by far the superior team.

kelly o hara goal against germany

The Star from Stanford. Kelly O’Hara celebrates the goal that iced the victory.

Pundits credit a formation change-up from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3. But also each player was nearly perfect. Gone were the individual blunders of prior games.

The semi final victory sends the USWNT closer to championship.

The semi final victory sends the USWNT closer to championship.

They had been improving game after game. And when they needed it most against their toughest opponent, they conjured mastery of the game. They won 2-0.

This is a key to life: Keep improving. Keep working to do better. Keep eliminating errors.