Category Archives: music

When Mark Wahlberg heard the jail door slam behind…

mark-wahlberg-rhea-His parents were always working and left him unsupervised, so Mark Wahlberg took to the streets and found drugs, racism, crime — and jail.

For beating mercilessly two Vietnamese men at age 16, he was tried as an adult for attempted murder. He pleaded guilty to assault and was sentenced to two years in prison. He ultimately served only 45 days of his sentence, but carries a permanent felony record.

“When I heard the jail doors close behind me … I knew that was just the beginning for me,” he says. It was the beginning of a life in crime or the beginning of a fresh start, if he turned his life around.

Wahlberg, famous for acting in Transformers Age of Extinction, turned to God and to his Catholic priest to help straighten out his life.

Mark-Wahlberg-Jesus-Christian“I should be in a lot of places and it should not be here, so trust me, God is so good,” he says. “Thank you Father.”

Wahlberg goes to church for at least 15 to 20 minutes daily and also prays every day, allowing him to begin each morning with a clear outlook and avoid negativity.

“Faith keeps me focused, patient, calm, happy and gives me joy,” Wahlberg said in an interview with Walter Scott. “I start and end my day in prayer. It keeps me grateful, humble, hungry, committed to trying to do more and be more positive. It is the reason for everything good in my life. If I can start out my day saying my prayers and getting myself focused, then I know I’m doing the right thing. That 10 minutes helps me in every way throughout the day.”

Wahlberg, the youngest of nine children, starred in Daddy’s Home, Planet of the Apes and Boogie Nights. In 2006, he earned a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his roll in the neo-crime drama The Departed. Recently, he has served as executive producer of four HBO series: the comedy-drama Entourage (2004–11), the period crime drama Boardwalk Empire (2010–14), and the comedy-dramas How to Make It in America (2010–2011) and Ballers (2015–present).

mark wahlberg the bad boyWahlberg got his start in entertainment in the music industry. He was one of the founding members, at age 13, of the boy band “New Kids on the Block,” which he quit after only a few months. He became the frontman for the group “Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch,” releasing the albums Music for the People and You Gotta Believe. His music is mostly Hip Hop and Eurodance.

Since his initial incarceration prompted a spiritual turn-around, his walk with Jesus has been a continual re-committing daily to the Lord. For Wahlberg, the “journey to redemption” is a “process” of seeking Jesus.

transformers-markwahlberg-biggun“That’s why I start my day everyday by getting on my hands and knees and starting a time of prayer and reading Scripture, and then I feel like I can go out there and conquer the world.

Initially, it was hard for him to break with the other bad boys of the block. He had to walk from his home to the train station everyday, and the guys didn’t like the fact that he’d left them. “If I wasn’t with them, I was against them” in their minds, he says. “So I had that to overcome, but I was committed to turning my life around.”

Eventually he came to the revelation that he belonged to a huge community of believers and dedicated himself to the church, to the people and to God. He saw it as a beautiful thing to have such a support network. “You just have to believe and have faith and know that you can accomplish it and turn your life around.” Read the rest: From racist to Christian actor, Mark Wahlberg.

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Korean? Chinese? American? mother? wife? RAPPER? The many rolls of HeeSun Lee

Heesun_Lee_adopted christian musicianIf there’s anyone who could be confused by her own identity, it’s HeeSun Lee. She’s Korean by birth, Chinese-American by upbringing, a rapper who hangs mostly with African-Americans and Latinos.

But HeeSun Lee — her first name is Korean while her last name is Chinese — sees herself first and foremost as a Christian.

It wasn’t always that way.

Adopted when she was four months old in 1983, HeeSun grew up in a loving family with all her needs met in New York. But when she became a teenager, the idea that her birth parents had “rejected” her sent her reeling. Was she Korean? Why did her biological parents not want her?

heesun lee rap artist“When I got into high school, I felt so different. That was the beginning of my journey of not knowing who I was,” she says in a YouTube video.

Her identity crisis sparked a downward spiral because she couldn’t speak Korean and didn’t even know what kimchee was; her new Korean friends commented in their native language about her and she felt awkward, rejected.

She was drawn to the hip hop culture of Tupac at the time and learned to party, take drugs and sleep around, according to her lyrics and an interview.

“I remember there was a point in my life when I was just completely lost. I didn’t know where I was going. I didn’t know who I was,” she says on a Jahrockn video of her “I’m Supposed to Be” song.

Heesun-lee adopted Mom

HeeSun (she was called Cynthia at the time) with her adoptive mother

At about the same time, she got introduced to Christianity when her grandmother, to whom she was very close, declined in health. A friend invited her to church.

“Once my grandma became sick I thought I’d find comfort in going,” she says. “It completely changed my life. I found God — I found my purpose.”

But her journey toward God wasn’t all smooth sailing. She stumbled.

“Through it all though, God was always with me,” she says. “He was just distant. But He kept me. He reminded me He was there for me. Finally I just realized, this is wrong. This is not where I’m supposed to be. So I just cried out to God.”

HeeSun Lee family

HeeSun with her family today

In college she could have gone either way — the world beckoned but God was fighting for her. Ultimately, she chose Jesus, marriage, and a family.

She also chose rap.

“When I started rapping, I wanted to rap about my own experiences, what I go through,” HeeSun says on a Korean American Story video. “I couldn’t picture myself rapping half naked and talking about sex. I mean, I partied and stuff, but that just wasn’t me. That wasn’t my character. At that time I was in and out of church. I believed in God. He was always helping me in some way. I was struggling. My songs are about my experience” coming to God.

That is how HeeSun became the Christian hip-hop artist who, perhaps, gets the most double takes.

Female Christian rappers are few and far between. So are Asian rappers, not to mention Christian Asians rappers. She’s even rapped while pregnant.

HeeSun married a New York police officer, and the couple have two girls.

Her first album in 2008 was Re:Defined on the Jahrock’n label. She found the definition of her identity in Christ, she says.

“I used to think I was unfortunate, unfortunate to live a life that could never tell me the origins of my story,” she raps in one song. “Most people know how they were born. Unfortunately, I was never given those details on my adoptions papers… I don’t know if I was a mistake” Read the rest: Christian female Korean rapper.

Frank Sontag, LA rock legend, goes from New Age guru to born-again Christian

It wasn’t the car that slammed into his motorcycle at 100 mph. It was a round of golf that brought L.A. rock legend Frank Sontag to Christ.

After he was sent spinning across the highway, Sontag holed himself up in a Tahoe cabin and lived primitively off rudimentary supplies while he poured over Eastern mystic texts in search of the meaning of life. It took years to physically recover from the accident. But he emerged a New Age guru.

“I read the Koran, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita,” he said in an interview with Greg Laurie. “I never would open a Bible.”

For two decades, Sontag interviewed the “royalty of rock” on classic rock station KLOS. He broadcast music and announced sports events. He was part of #1-rated Mark & Brian show, which would mix Aerosmith with humorist rants and raucous call-ins.

On his own highly-rated, thought-provoking program called Impact, Sontag peddled a self-styled “spirituality” that encouraged people to get in touch with their inner selves, discover their purpose in the universe and feel good about themselves. No repentance needed.

“When somebody would call up and try to share the gospel, I couldn’t hang up on them fast enough,” he said. He would shout down and shut down Christians.
Once #1 in LA, Mark and Brian.

Then one of his closest New Age buds got saved. Three years later, the friend and his pastor brother invited Sontag to golf. Sontag was taking his fairway shot when the pastor fired at him: “Frank, is Jesus Christ the Son of God?”

“We’re not going there,” Frank retorted and knocked the ball towards the green.

A few holes later, Sontag was putting when the pastor asked another pointed question: “Frank, who’s God?”

Miffed, Sontag brushed the question off with, “I’m spiritual.”

After nine holes, the threesome decided to have lunch, and that pastor swung a final shot: “If you were to die today, would you be with God?”

Sontag snorted in disgust.

But something inside told him he should consider the question more. Challenged by the pastor, he sat in his car afterwards and asked God to prove Himself. Immediately, he felt strangely hot.

Then a voice said: “Are you ready to submit to Me?”

“It was unmistakable. Call it ‘because He created me I knew His voice.’ I knew Who He was. I felt no coercion,” he said. “And I freely said, ‘yes.’”

Later the voice said: “Take up your cross and follow Me.”

Sontag had never read the Bible. He didn’t have any way to recognize Scripture.

It wasn’t until nine months later that he stumbled across the same phrase – this time in the Bible. Right there, he prostrated himself before God and prayed: “Lord, I’m yours forever.” It was 2009.

Vanity, Prince girl friend, tried to escape pain through fame, drugs and sex

vanity“Kill Vanity.”

Vanity lay agonizing in a hospital bed in 1994 with only three days left to live. With her kidneys shutting down after a crack cocaine overdose, Prince’s ex was at the end of her musical career and wild living when Jesus showed up in a vision and told her that if she “killed” her lingerie-donning stage persona and become a Christian, she would live.

“My blood pressure was 250 over 190. I lost both kidneys,” Vanity told Jet. “I had internal bleeding with blood clots on the brain. I was completely blind and deaf. I had a heart attack and a stroke.”

prince-vanity-rolling-stone-coverSo Vanity died, and Denise Matthews lived. Denise performed a radical 180 degree turnaround in her life going from church to church relentlessly to share her testimony. She pushed Jesus even harder than she had pushed the free sex image cultivated by the “Purple Rain” megastar. “When I came to the Lord Jesus Christ, I threw out about 1,000 tapes of mine — interview, every tape, every video,” she said. “Everything.”

A year ago on Feb. 15, Denise went to her eternal reward after two decades of kingdom service.

Denise was born on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. Her mother abandoned the household, and her dad was abusive. Because of the hurts in her childhood, she hurtled into a hedonistic lifestyle that offered only temporary relief from the internal pain.

vanity-singer-death

She immigrated to America to pursue a career in modeling and music in New York, where she hooked up with “Superfreak” funk legend Rick James, according to the Daily Beast. In 1980, she met Prince at the American Music Awards, and joined his entourage. Prince re-christened her as “Vanity” and set her up as the start in the sultry girl group Vanity 6 which burst on the music scene with “Nasty Girl.” Prince pushed her flaunt sexuality, she said.

“Prince created the whole Vanity 6 image. It bothered me at the time. I lied and said it was the image I wanted. I did it because he told me I had to do it,” she told Jet. “If I didn’t do it, I wouldn’t get paid. I got into it. I wanted the old Diana Ross image.”

But behind the headlong rush into sin there was a little girl still hurting from the abuse of a father and neglect of a mother.

“I always put on a show. I’m a mighty fine actress when it comes to that. I would wear a smile on the outside and come back and cry inside,” Denise said. “I would truly hate what I was doing but I was all caught up in it. It’s like someone caught up in a lie who wants to tell the truth. You put this big façade up and you don’t want to give anyone the idea that you’re weak. I finally let it go and gave it to God. I said, ‘I am nobody. I need somebody. Please help me.’”

Along with the promiscuity came drugs. Denise became highly addicted to smoking crack cocaine. When she parted ways with Prince and Vanity 6, she signed for Motown Records as a solo artist and released two underperforming albums Wild Animal and Skin on Skin. She tried to jump-start and acting career with roles in the movies “The Last Dragon,” “Never Too Young to Die,” “Action Jackson” and “52 Pick-Up.”

Then Denise met and got engaged in 1987 to Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx, who was also addicted to drugs. The couple abused entire nights and enabled each other’s habit. Sixx overdosed and nearly died the year he got engaged. “I can’t believe I did freebase with Vanity all night,” Sixx wrote in his drug memoir The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star. “I threw her out at about 8 a.m. She was getting crazy.”

Then in 1994, Denise had her own brush with death and met Jesus.

“It was drugs, rock ‘n’ roll, that whole sexual thing. Vanity was praying to die because she was lost and hurting inside. God said you have to go through darkness until you find His light,” she said. “Torture was going on in my life and led me to the Lord. For 33 years, I was walking dead. I masked myself in clothes, makeup, anything.”

The fame and the “fun” were all futile attempts to cope with the lack of love in her life. On the outside she exuded delight in the reckless abandon, but on the inside she suffered from the pangs of conscience for the evil she was committing.

“I was extremely wild. I found out that if you are not walking with God, the Devil will possess you. I prayed that God would take me because I was afraid of what would happen to my body,” Denise said. “Demons were coming into my bed and sleeping in my bed. Those things will happen if you’re carrying on like I did. I have a strong love for Jesus Christ. He delivered me from anguish, death and sin. I get excited by God. No man shall enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

So that is how Denise changed her deathbed to a birthing bed. Jesus appeared to her in a vision and offered her life if she would let “Vanity” die. Denise was so thorough with her transformation that she even refused the royalties coming from her entertainment career. She assumed her given name. Finish the article.

In Finland, the Rock rocks

Haka Kekalainen

In Finland, where heavy metal is mainstream, a movement melding the lyrics of traditional hymns with the snarl of hard rocking ‘Metal Mass’ is drawing sinners through churches’ doors.

In 2006, Haka Kekalainen, a pastor with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, decided with four other heavy metal aficionados to do the unthinkable: wedding their passion for rock with their love for the Rock.

“We didn’t change the lyrics of the hymns,” says Kekäläinen, a 50-year-old with a ponytail who drops his leather clothes for priestly garb on Sundays. “We only changed the musical arrangements to fit the rhythms of metal music. The hymns contain some very cruel words. It fits with metal music.”

The first “mass” where metal hymns were played was packed by 1,300 in the Temppeliaukio Church of Helsinki, Kekalainen, according to the website This is Finland. More than 100 similar Metal Masses have been offered throughout Finland since then, and all 8,000 copies of the subsequent album Metallimessu were snapped up. The recording hit #12 on Finnish billboard charts and stayed in the top 40 for three weeks.

Metallimessu

“It was really good,” Akseli Inkinen, a 17-year-old with long, messy hair, told The Washington Times. The pews get packed with teens who pump the air with fists while the lead singers mosh around the stage.

Mika Mäkinen, a 30-something man with his blond hair in a ponytail, eschews normal church services. But since his first Metal Mass, he’s become a regular to the services, the rock and hearing the Word of God. “This is my ninth time,” he told This is Finland. Read the rest

Editor’s note: My student at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica wrote this article as an assignment.

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