Category Archives: Santa Monica

Now landing goals, not punches

from-south-central-los-angeles-to-a-christian-school-in-santa-monica

His shots went high and wide.

Junior Abraham Morales, who showed plenty of speed and skill, couldn’t put the ball into the net to save his life.

Then in the second half of the season, things suddenly came into focus for old blurry-shooter. He nailed a shot against Westmark from the left flank.

And on Tuesday, in the highest tension game of the 2017 season, when his team needed him most, Abraham proved in top form. He sunk two torpedoes to unnerve the reigning league champs, Newbury Park, in a game that ultimately Lighthouse Christian Academy lost 3-5.

“As a little kid I would just pass the ball around with my family members. I was a pretty short kid. I used to tell them, ‘One day I’ll make it big in soccer,’” Abraham said.

He’s big in our eyes, now one of the top scorers for the season and officially listed in the Lighthouse ledger of soccer history.

Because of soccer, Abraham transferred to Lighthouse. His middle school teammates jeered and bullied him for his flubs on the soccer field, a habitual provocation that drove him to yelling and even fist fights. The nastiness continued into his freshman year of high school in the public school system in South Central Los Angeles, where he lives.

“I told my mom, ‘Can I go to another school because I don’t feel right here?” Mrs. Morales found Lighthouse online.

Even though he was raised in a Christian home, Abraham thought he wouldn’t fit in at a Christian high school.

“I thought it was going to be super strict and all that,” he admitted. “I knew there was going to be some sort of dress code. I didn’t want to wear a uniform.” Read the rest of the story.

We shook them up

img_4605Since they steamrolled us in our first game, Einstein Academy expected to win handily on the rematch Friday. One player even heckled a Saint: “I guarantee that there is no way we will lose this game.”

Well, Lighthouse Christian Academy made them sweat to earn their win. LCA rattled their nerves and hacked their hubris. And even though the Saints went down 1-6, the Christian kids from Santa Monica could hold high chins by the final whistle.  With only one club player and a former club player, the Saints had stood tall against a high school team of 10 club players of varsity soccer.

“You guys don’t give up,” said Einstein coach Ken Erenberg. “I thought that was great about your team — the whole game they kept fighting through, no matter what the score was. They kept fighting. You got that goal at the end. It was the never die. It was nice to see that.”

Indeed, it took the Rockets 25 minutes to break down the Saints dogged defense.

In the first match, the Einstein players had notched two goals in the first 10 minutes. And then they stepped off the gas pedal and coasted to an easy 0-6 victory.

But on Friday, Coach Erenberg sounded frustrated as his team couldn’t manage to open the deadbolt. The Rockets keeper too scolded his team.

It was a different Saints team. On the first matchup, the Saints were presumptuous. They were on a 3-game winning streak that included the shock defeat of last year’s champs. As they oozed confidence, they lacked concentration. Since they took to the field thinking they’d win without even having to play, the Saints crashed and burned terribly. They committed enough errors to make the discriminating soccer observer turn his nose inward face palms.

The scoreline –0-6 — was a humiliating wake-up call and could have been far worse, except that the Rockets sent on their second string for some practice in the second half.

On Friday, the fierce determination of the underdog Saint was back with a vengeance, and a growing alarm in the voice of the shouts from the sidelines and on the field was evident.

Ultimately, the Saints committed an error, and the Rockets buried the ball in the net for their first at 25 minutes. By halftime, they had three goals, all products of a lapse of concentration and the lack of experience.

As the score crept upward, Coach Jack Mefford noted that Einstein did NOT take off their star player, #43, this time — a move that credits LCA’s improved performance.

“I’ll take that as a badge of pride,” he said.

As the minutes crept towards the final, the Saints refused to cower like a dog with its tail between its legs. They continued to press, and their resilience paid dividends. Read the rest of the article.

Reprise of miserable faces (the 2nd conjugations test)

img_3397

No, I don’t enjoy torturing poor children. I derive no joy in seeing them squirm and cry over impossible tests.

img_3394No. What I want to do is drill in solid Spanish, get kids to pass the AP test, form bilingual students. But sometimes my motivation exceeds theirs.

img_33961

This was try #2 to get these victims pupils to conjure up present, preterit, imperfect and commands — all in one test. 😦  Apparently, I ruined their day at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica.

fullsizerender19

I’m going to stop giving this test and hope they catch it in the future. This time I went blue too.

How to resurrect a volleyball program | Lighthouse Christian Academy excited

christian-school-volleyball-manhattan-beach

Well, that didn’t take long.

Supposedly the reconstruction of the Saints volleyball team would be an arduous haul through a string of disheartening losses. But the resurgent Saints won their first set against a league team Tuesday against Pacific Lutheran 15-11 on the sand of Manhattan Beach.

“What an exciting game!” said Coach Delores Hively. “They won the first set, we killed it on the second set and the third set was close, but they won. We need to focus a bit more on our serves now and I think we might have a chance at winning next game.”

santa-monica-girls-volleyball-private-schoolLighthouse players smashed their serves. They dove for balls. They screamed communication. Hively, who had timidly offered to be assistant coach, has whipped the mostly inexperienced group into a tangible team, with a credibility to re-enter league play next year. For now, Lighthouse Christian Academy is playing only scrimmages.

“We didn’t expect to win,” admitted Lyric Edwards, a freshman. “But everybody played their best game, and we won.”

Indeed, nobody was expecting a win. A prior article bemoaned the lack of club players for LCA’s league re-entry bid. It turns out, however, that there were not one but TWO club volleyball players lurking in the Lighthouse Christian high school — and one of them played Tuesday.

You could say the Saints stung the Stingrays from Torrance.

Morale soared as players dug deep to hit every ball. Read the rest of the article.

Having fun teaching

img_2315

I’m posing with my colleague Kathy Payton.

Why not enjoy teaching? Once a year, the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica holds Spirit Week, every day a new costume theme. Actually, I have all the creativity of a spore, so I usually opt out and wear my normal clothes.

I enjoy bringing motivated kids to the aha! moment. I teach English (literature, syntax and writing) and Spanish. I’m a believer in making things accessible, of focusing on the simplest understanding first and then taking complications that broaden understanding.

Literature is not just art. It is also psychology and helps students empathize with their fellow human, as well as learn not to make the mistakes of engaging protagonists.

Down with the grammarians! They have made it too difficult for too long! We need simple explanations for students. Students can learn syntax!

When it comes to writing, I believe thinking comes first, structure second. I challenge students to take controversial opinions and defend it with passion. You get a low grade with me in you’re Captain Obvious.

Well, then Spanish. I love to explain the why-the-heck of all idiosyncrasies of morphology and grammar. Languages are fascinating, funny and bizarre.

And we do all this in a Christian environment. What could be more fun?

 

3 jobs, 2 happy, 1 tired guy

img_2306Finally, I’m pastoring again. The doors opened — after six years off — through an apartment managing job in Van Nuys. As a gimmick, I called myself the #ValleyBoyPastor, and God brought souls in immediately (cosa rara). So I’m happy.

I’m still teaching at the Lighthouse Christian Academy. That’s always a thrill because I’m constantly either bringing people to Christ or reinforcing the faith of youth at a critical juncture in their lives. I appreciate everybody’s prayers and attribute to y’all the blessings God has poured out starting in June. I definitely need to pace myself to not run ragged. I just need to remember that God is in charge and He never expects me to do more than what is possible. After all, it was God who prioritized rest right into the Ten Commandments.

The tiniest guy on the football field just became the target (Yes, that’s my son)

img_2027

He’s been called Mighty Mouse, a bulldog, a pinball and a Rubik’s Cube (he’s about as tall as he’s wide). Teachers and students have mistaken him for a sixth grader.

Lighthouse Christian Academy‘s freshman center, Hosea Ashcraft, became its predominant running back Friday against Cornerstone Christian of Wildomar. He had 20 carries for about 70 yards and one touchdown in the 12-58 loss to the Crusaders.

LCA’s fearsome football program has been reduced to this: its core is four freshman, its quarterback is a scrawny sophomore, its lone senior is an artist who really doesn’t want to play but goes to games just to help the guys field an 8-man football team with nine players.

Successive lean enrollments in recent years have shrunk the quarry from which they cut their tough stuff. So they resorted to the 5’1″ pre-pubescent fresh meat, Hosea.

img_1958“Defensively, we were terrible,” said Coach Zach Scribner. “We’re not doing what we told the kids to do in terms of making their reads. Everybody’s looking around trying to figure out where the ball is instead of making the read and reacting off the read.”

Indeed, the Crusaders overran LCA’s defense like Fort Apache. By the second quarter, they had racked up 38 points. They may have even stepped off the gas pedal in anticipation of an easy shutout when the Santa Monica Saints surprised them.

LCA players made some key blocks — something coaches are working intensely to improve with the team of football neophytes. The Saints drove upfield, and Hosea crashed through to the end zone to give the electrons on the visitor’s side of the scoreboard some work.

“Hosea keeps his feet running. He has a low center of balance,” observed Lighthouse Pastor Josh Scribner, himself an accomplished football player. Read the rest of the article about Santa Monica Christian school football.

Save

25 years later, I’m still teaching at Lighthouse

lighthouse-christian-schools-then-and-nowI oppose being promoted, even though kids I taught are now colleagues.

Actually, I was principal and owner of a school in Guatemala. But I kept getting out of office work and into the classroom. That’s where the real action is. That’s where people are. That’s where souls are won to Christ. You can have the administration, if you want.

Kids still need love. Where in other schools there’s bullying, we offer a safe place of vibrant acceptance. Where in other schools there’s ONLY college prep, we offer also Heaven prep. Where in other schools there’s ONLY keys to college entrance exams, we offer keys to interpersonal skills and successful marriages and families. We are a family. Where in other schools, a teacher works for his salary, we work for little or no salary. We have a much higher motivation.

It is my lifelong joy to see kids turn from sin to God, choose the path of success, flout the headlong rush of the world towards false happiness and select the enduring joy and peace of wisdom in Jesus.

And when these kids see you 25 years later, they thank you because you helped them at a critical juncture in life, the life-deciding moments of the teenage years. This, I feel, is more gratifying than a fat paycheck.

I’m going to go even further — at risk of dipping into narcissism. When you see kids 20 years later, you see a little bit of you in them. Because you helped their formation. And hopefully that little bit of you is a good thing.

And then you know that you didn’t make a lot of money. You didn’t buy a house. You weren’t the most beautiful or famous or adored.

You made a difference in this world. And so you can continue making a difference until you get your reward in Heaven.

And that is the reason why, after 25 years, I’m still teaching in a small Christian school in Santa Monica that is making a difference one life at a time.

Picture: left 1992, grades 7-11; right Sept. 14, 2016, just the sophomore class, my world lit students.

Coffee is critical

img_1773One urgent matter I brought up twice during our pre-semester meetings at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica was: Will there be coffee this year?

Last year, I lived next to the school and could easily go over to my home for another cup. Not this year. Now I live in Van Nuys, where I’m pioneering a church under the moniker Valley Boy Pastor.

The boss doesn’t drink coffee. Other teachers bring expensive cups of coffee.

Twice the boss tried to dodge my pressing issue with dismissive remarks: The pot used to be around here somewhere. The message: Don’t interrupt important proceedings discussing lofty plans with such banalities.

But no. This was urgent. This was that tasty and needed pick-me-up. I don’t want to become the grumpy, draggy, ugly version of myself when I’m coffee-deprived. The kids deserve my best.

Don’t get me wrong. All the strategic plans, policies and regulations are critical.

I’m just saying coffee is critical.

Serious about studies, willing to efface ourselves

At the Lighthouse Christian Academy, we want to make kids feel comfortable. Gone are the days when teachers could simply command respect by the virtue of their position. Today teachers need to be friends of their students.

The change is not all bad, despite woe-sayers. Teachers were always primordially about others. Respect was just a traditional element that worked for decades (centuries) but doesn’t need to be present under our current zeitgeist. Kids take first place.

We teachers are facilitators of learning. What’s important is not that kids respect their teachers but that kids learn, progress, achieve their goals. In this new change of environment, teachers do well to make themselves relateable. Hence, the self-effacing humor.

It is my experience that kids respect you if you work at understanding and loving them. If they see you make an effort to reach out to them, they’ll appreciate that. So such a video is no loss of teaching credibility. It’s a boon.

Our Chinese students loved surfing at our Santa Monica Christian high school

Chinese international student Santa Monica

The author, left, is a student in my World Literature class and completed this article as an assignment

By Jasmine Zhang, Lighthouse Christian Academy sophomore

The first time Brenda Liu and I, students from China, surfed and felt the crash of the waves, we thought we were going to die.

“I was so scared,” said Brenda Liu. “The big waves almost killed me. I saw how the big waves could whirl people away.”

I am from Yunnan, a highland in Southern China. I had only seen the sea in pictures and video before.

The sea exercised a wonderful attraction over me. I love the sea and swimming. I like surfing, even though I am not very good at it. So when I enrolled at Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica, I opted for surfing elective. Actually quite a few of us Chinese foreign exchange students took the class, which in the Fall semester had seven students.

美国留学Brenda agrees with me about surfing. “I thought: ‘I am young. I should try something new and different and keep learning,’” Brenda said. “I knew how to swim and snowboard, so I thought surfing would not be so difficult.”

It turns out it WAS difficult for us international students. But it is fun.

“At the beginning, I was so excited and felt that I was going to do something very marvelous,” Brenda said. “I was surprised by how the sea is really salty. I basically didn’t even stand on the board the first time.”

Even though at our first outing we didn’t surf too spectacularly, we did see a dolphin, something we had never seen before. “That was the most interesting thing,” Brenda said. Read the rest of the story 美国留学.

More than just a winning streak at Santa Monica Christian school

Saints soccer santa monicaThe significance of this article is for Christians. Previously, the high school I work at (Lighthouse Christian Academy) formed its soccer teams haphazardly, as an afterthought among too many things to do. The new winning streak represents years of effort to actually build the program. This will attract students to our school and, consequently, to Christ.

With back-to-back victories, the Lighthouse Christian Academy soccer team has found its feet to rewrite recent history of missing playoffs.

Without normal forward Will Clancy, the Saints subbed Abraham Morales into the striker position, and the new LCA student rewarded coach’s confidence with two goals, to bring the 4-2 victory over Westmark School in Encino yesterday.

“I never pictured myself making a goal, let alone two,” the sophomore said coyly. “But after I made the first one I was determined to make the second.”

Morales was deadly on the left, scoring his brace within the first 20 minutes.

Lighthouse Christian AcademyWestmark scored next with some brilliant passing between two Lions stars. With the ball at the goal line on the left, one player found unmarked in the box his counterpart, who didn’t bungle the shot. It was 2-1.

In the second half, Turk Erhan Meric, a fleet-footed sophomore, ran up the right on a through ball from midfielder Colby Thomas to get behind the Lion’s defense and shoot powerfully home.

Again Westmark sent the ball to a player in the area, and he punctured the net. It was 3-2.

With the minutes ticking away, Lighthouse kept pressing to bury the match. Senior Shane Berry launched a throw-in into the area on the narrow field, and a Lions defender trying to clear the ball also controlled it with his hand.

Erhan Meric, a magician with the ball.

On the resulting penalty, Senior Adrian Brizuela, a powerhouse in the Saints midfield, blasted the ball past the goalie to remove the match from reach of the Lions. It finished at 4-2.

Coach Jack Mefford, who is also Lighthouse’s principal, credited the Saints’ progress with the time players have worked together. With a number of new students coming from schools other than its feeder middle school (Lighthouse Church School), the teammates needed to learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

“They are working together. Especially this game, we just began to gel,” Mefford said. “They’re starting to know each other play with each other better. We’re growing in confidence.”

Tuesday’s victory came on the heels of a win Monday, improving LCA’s record to 4-1-3. The Saints are beginning to feel the excitement of possibly getting a playoff birth for the first time anyone can remember.

Abraham Morales was deadly in front of goal.

Abraham Morales was deadly in front of goal.

On Monday, Lighthouse beat 2-1 Einstein Academy for Letters, Arts and Sciences from Santa Clarita for the second time. The Penmar Park game put on exhibition the Saint’s powerful defensive line, which has speed, technique and physicality.

Senior Tex Hagoski, at stopper, made crucial saves and passes despite playing with an injured foot. Since his preferred sport is football, he brings a fearlessness and muscle that will intimidate some forwards. Don’t underestimate his speed.

At sweeper, Abraham Kennedy has been a potent defender. Big and strong with a lifetime of soccer experience, Kennedy, a sophomore, doesn’t win balls by hand-crafting them. By mass production, he foils opponents’ attacks.

On Friday in the away game against Einstein, Kennedy led the charge to overturn a 0-2 deficit with a stunning rocket from 40 yards. After seeing the shocker, the Saints seemed moved to believe they could beat their opponents and rallied to finish 3-2.

There’s no surprise the sophomore Alex Cervantes, given his soccer pedigree, holds the left back position impeccably. What surprises is how well senior Shane Berry contains on the right. He’s not really a soccer player. His game is basketball. But his quickness and the similarities between basketball and soccer have helped him adapt.

LCA goals were produced by Brizuela and Meric, locked in a friendly competition to see who scores more by season’s end. They are tied at six goals each. Einstein got a late consolation when refs awarded a penalty kick for a foul in the box.

Also last week, the Saints came from behind to tie Newbury Park Adventist Academy.

With the newfound momentum, the Saints face Concordia in Sylmar Friday, their penultimate season game.

*Photo: Adrian Brizuela goes for goal against Westmark yesterday. Credit: Jamie Roman, who is a sophomore at the Lighthouse Christian Academy. Jamie wrote this article for the Santa Monica Patch here, and I edited it. I always re-post my students’ articles on my blog since I’m heavily involved in the final product.

Getting stronger mentally, Lighthouse soccer comes from behind to tie

Abraham-kennedy-1024x840
From the looks of LCA’s come-from-behind 2-2 tie against Newbury Park Adventist Academy Tuesday, the Saints are getting the mental toughness needed to step up their competitiveness.

“We had a good attitude when we went down 1-0,” said Captain Adrian Brizuela. “I was really surprised we kept our composure.”

Coach Jack Mefford started Brizuela in goal because he’s as brilliant as he is fearless between the posts. Preferring Brizuela over freshman Justin Berry was a strategic decision to lock down the final approach to goal.

Jelove mira Lighthouse Christian academy santa monica soccerBut in classic give-and-take, it also hobbled the Saints’ ability to advance forward with possession. Brizuela is an irreplaceable motor in the midfield, in tandem with new sophomore Erhan Meric, a crack from Turkey.

At half time, the Saints were losing 0-1 from a free kick when the Saints bungled a wall set-up.

In the second half, Newbury again struck on a corner kick when Lighthouse midfielders failed to get back to mark up. The shot sailed over the goalie’s head and was chested into the net on the far post. Newbury was winning 0-2, and they cackled as they sniffed blood.

The last time the Lighthouse Christian Academy faced Newbury in December, the Santa Monica Christian high school conceded four goals in the second half to lose a half-time advantage of 2-0. The meltdown resulted, in part, from emotional weakness.

LCA Saints soccer santa monica
Soccer is, after all, a psychological game as much as any other sport. Since it’s a low-scoring game, even one goal is enough to sink a knife in the heart of players. They slow down, they stop fighting, they stop pushing for goal. They pray for the final whistle to come, and they scurry off the field with their tails between their legs. But Lighthouse mustered a resilience not seen before.

Coach switched Brizuela into the midfield and the balance of the game shifted. Newbury couldn’t find an answer to the reconfigured 11 men on the field. And Berry owned the Lighthouse goal, applying the quick reflex he inherited from growing up in a basketball family.

With 25 minutes to time, Newbury defenders fouled Lighthouse striker, Will Clancy, in the area, and Brizuela didn’t fail on the penalty kick making it 1-2.

Within five minutes, Brizuela again performed his magic. On a throw-in from the left, Brizuela chested the ball expertly, spun and fired with no bounce into the top left corner. Newbury players were shocked.

Lacking the tough and speedy Tex Hagoski (out due to sickness) to hold the defensive line, sophomores Abraham Kennedy and Alex Cervantez worked overtime to stymie the Newbury attack. And the tie score remained.

In Southern California’s Omega League, Lightouse is now 1-1-3.

“Our defense really helped us,” Brizuela said. “Abraham and Alex really stepped up to the plate.”

Editor’s note: This article was original published here. Jamie Roman wrote it, and I edited it.

Look who’s #2 at Lighthouse Christian Academy soccer!

willWill Clancy, an LCA junior, had never in his life touched a soccer ball before high school. Today he’s the second highest goal scorer for the Lighthouse Saints with the season almost half over, an unlikely hero for our Santa Monica private school.

“I definitely feel intimidated by more experienced players and how they do all those weird foot maneuvers,” Will said. “But I did score more goals on them, and I definitely hold it against them a lot from time to the time.”

Being serious is not Will’s forté. Nor is soccer, for that matter. Nevertheless, he’s scored three goals in four games, one behind midfielder sophomore Erhan Meric, the Turkish phenom on the Lighthouse Christian Academy squad. He’s one goal ahead of soccer superstar Adrian Brizuela. He’s sandwiched between soccer magicians, and six games remain.

Will watching“Usually before the game, I get butterflies because it’s just natural,” he said. “I do get nervous before games. Scoring a goal myself is always exciting because – I don’t know – it’s scoring a goal. I’m just one goal behind Erhan.”

Will loves the family-feel and the hype of being on the team. It gives him, as well as the team, so much joy playing on the field and scoring goals.

“Usually, if someone scores a goal, it’ll boost the morale of everybody on the team and everyone gets more confident in the play,” he said. “When I’m in the game, I’m not really that nervous. I’m more just kind of tired and exhausted.”

Will started soccer his freshman year, immediately after playing on LCA’s 8-man football team.

will goes for goal“Freshman year was easiest for me physically-wise because I just got out of my first season playing football, so I was in a kinda ok shape from football,” he said. “So it wasn’t that bad.”

But he didn’t score many goals – just one all season. During his sophomore year, he found the net twice. With so many matches ahead, he doesn’t plan to stay at only three goals this season.

The Saints are currently 1-2-1 in Southern California’s Omega League. Three years ago LCA belonged to the highly competitive Coastal League. Between those two, Lighthouse belonged to no league and free-lanced games.

Lighthouse has only 50 students, so they don’t hold traditional tryouts. Anyone who joins is basically on the team, as long as they’re academically eligible. Well, if the truth can be told, coaches beg students to play. Yeah, if you want a chance to play, go to Lighthouse.

You’ll discover the after-game elation that motivates Will.

“After a game, I usually kind of feel — even when we tie– I feel accomplished,” Will said. “I get a good feeling inside because of the camaraderie you get with the other players and the satisfaction of doing something and the feel, I guess, is always nice.”

Will also enjoys the after-game traditional sharing of In-n-Out burgers. “The food does not hurt, too,” he quipped. “I love getting food after the games.”

Soccer was not his ambition; he wanted to form a tennis team at Lighthouse – a dream that has yet to materialize. “I like sports just in general and, although I really did push for a tennis team and still am pushing, I just thought it’d be a fun experience to try and so I did.”

“Scoring goals makes me feel nice though, it makes me feel like, ‘Hey I’m doing something to be part of the team!,” he stated. “So I don’t need those fancy foot maneuvers!”

Editor’s Note: This article was written by my journalism student at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica and originally was printed here. I’m proud of Petrina Gratton’s accomplishment in journalism class, and I like soccer. Will likes to brag. He’s a funny guy.

Can’t keep Jack in the box

jack and nicoleneJack Mefford, principal of Lighthouse Christian Academy, doesn’t only teach. He preaches, administrates, swims, plays water polo, coaches soccer, makes movies, raises four kids and…

Maybe it would be shorter to list the things he cannot do. Did I say he double-minored and played trumpet in UCLA marching band?

IMG_9010The debonair summa cum laude graduate has a long resume typical of Ivy League graduates who command top pay at top jobs. So what is he doing leading LCA with its (less than) ordinary pay scale?

“Money doesn’t mean anything,” he said. “When I was a youth and didn’t know God and prayed to see if he was real, the first thing I asked Him was for love and the second was a purpose in life. He has given me both – my purpose is here serving the kids.”

lighthouse christian academy“Meff” – as LCA kids call him – accepts anyone who has made a mistake in life and wants a second chance. He believes everyone is entitled to one.

Raised in a farm town called Dinuba near Fresno, California, Mefford learned from his air force dad to work hard, be disciplined, value family and to achieve. He didn’t learn about God until he reached early adulthood.

The early trappings of success didn’t satisfy. “I had everything the world had to offer, and I felt something missing. I was doing everything they told me to do. I was following the script, and it was not enough,” he said. “I felt there had to be something more, something eternal.”

He began attending a church and later got linked up with Pastor George Neos at UCLA. Neos was pioneering a church at UCLA on campus. Mefford received a flyer and decided to attend only because his car broke down.

He was quickly impressed with Pastor George Neos’s over-the-top earnestness and how Christianity affected his life.

The on-campus church migrated to Yale Street, Santa Monica, and Jack came along with his sweetheart, Nicolene. They married and when they graduated, they didn’t go where their careers would lead – they stayed where their God had led.

Instead of scooping up a lucrative job, Jack immediately began teaching in the Lighthouse Church School (which is LCA’s older brother, having kindergarten to middle school). He would also join his pastor on mission trips to Guatemala.

When Pastor George accepted a new assignment as the Hesperia pastor, Jack took over administration of the LCA.

Sadly, Mefford struggled with an inner sadness that he shared with not many; his wife couldn’t have children. His dream of having a large family was floundering from early marriage. Nicolene suffered four consecutive miscarriages until, after a lot of praying, God finally granted a miracle.

He has now been blessed with four kids. Mefford’s first daughter, Emma is six years old, his second, Jackson is four, Ethan is two and Weston is 11 months. He claims all children are miracles and is thankful to God everyday for his offspring.

Man of many abilities, Jack Mefford has done many wonderful things for Lighthouse.

Editor’s Note: This article was first published here. It was written by Petrina Gratton, my journalism student at the Lighthouse Christian Academy.

Led by a guy who likes to sleep

varsity soccer santa monicaWith two ties and a win last week, Lighthouse soccer is surging under a reluctant leader this season.

Adrian Brizuela has played soccer all his life, so it was natural for the LCA senior to be the point man for the ad-hoc team, but it is a role that he has not exactly sought.

“It’s hard for me to take the leadership role because I’m always goofing around,” the Santa Monica student said. “I never take anything seriously. I don’t want to seem like a boring guy. I want to seen as a laidback guy.”

santa monica high school soccerPlaying soccer has always been a way to escape reality for Adrian. “It helps me stay out of trouble and keeps my mind free from all the things going on in my life,” he said. “It keeps my mind clear from any temptations the devil throws at me.”

Although Adrian is seen as the MVP, he doesn’t relish the role. “ I don’t feel like the MVP, I feel like there is always room for improvement and I’m still getting there.”

Brizuela was born with a soccer brain. He’s played since age two. He’s also the highly-prized left-footer who can whip in crosses or strike from range.

Because he’s played club since age eight, Brizuela is the logical choice to lead Lighthouse’s team, which has total beginners and others with a smattering of experience.

He tells teammates where to position themselves, how to body and contain, how to pass. But he never shouts or gets mad. He’s sometimes disappointed with the performance though because he’s used to the high standards of club soccer.

“It is difficult because I come from a team where we have a lot of experienced players to a team where everyone is inexperienced,” he said.

In the classroom, Brizuela sits back and hopes the teacher doesn’t call on him. He’s not the leader. But on the pitch, he’s the frontman.

“I It’s a lot of weight on my shoulders,” he said. “It’s also a little bit fun. It’s cool that people want to see me as a leader, but it’s also like wow, am I read to step up to the plate?”

Soccer motivates him to study, he admits. “It’s helped me to come to school because you can’t play in the games if you don’t come to school,” he said. “I like sleeping in.” Read the rest of the story.

My high school improves its soccer record

Santa Monica soccer

Lighthouse Christian Academy capped an extraordinary week of soccer with a 2-2 tie against Ribet Academy yesterday.

The Saints’ erstwhile haphazard program is taking shape and coordinating better.

“They played hard and were more organized than ever,” said Junior Cervantes, who stepped in to coach for Jack Mefford.

With enrollment at 50, the small Christian school flounders around the bottom of the table. With just one or two club players and the rest of the team coaxed into playing after football season, it’s difficult to drill a championship team.

But with three games this week, the Saints tied Westmark in Encino on Monday, beat Concordia 3-0 on Tuesday and drew against the Frogs Thursday.

At such a busy time, the loss of head coach Mefford, out for emergency family issues, was inopportune in terms of soccer. But Cervantes, an LCA graduate and former club star, filled in without missing a beat.

Senior Adrian Brizuela was up to his old tricks and created danger throughout the game. He gives the impression of being a lackadaisical player to defenders until suddenly a solid opportunity materializes and he instantly pulls out his knife and begins slitting to goal.

Read the rest of the article.

How do you make poetry relevant?

black-hawkCannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.

charge-of-the-light-brigade-header1The assignment was The Charge of the Light Brigade by Tennyson, but the students’ eyes were going dry with boredom at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica. Vain were my pleas to see the danger, to feel the passion, to live the moment. So what do I do? I showed the students Black Hawk Down, which retells the death of 18 deaths and 73 wounded among Rangers and Delta Force operators in Somalia in 1993. Deprived of heavier armored vehicles by a Clinton administration who deemed them “too high profile,” American soldiers were overrun when things started going wrong: Todd Blackburn missed the rope on the drop in, two helicopters were shot down. Throughout the afternoon and night, the U.S. tried to evacuate the wounded and rescue the surrounded. Flower children never do well commanding armies.

Tennyson’s tributes the brave British soldiers who charged — to their deaths — in the Battle of Balaclava against the Russians in 1854 that showed similar incompetent leadership resulting in extraordinary courage and needless death.

You can take your fantasy Star Wars. I’ll take reality; it’s far more exciting.

Maybe procrastination is not all bad

Christian school Santa MonicaWill Clancy was annoyed with Lighthouse at first. They kept talking about Jesus in every subject. From the second grade onward, he had been taught evolution, so he had long ago lost what little faith he might have had belonging to a family that went to Catholic church once in a while.

But while Lighthouse initially peeved him, he also perceived something different in the teachers and fellow students that ultimately brought him to faith and salvation.

“Everybody was happier. It was a closer community,” said Will, 16, an LCA junior. “I thought that was nice. I wonder why everybody was like that. Pastor Rob would always preach that the reason why people were so happy is that they had the joy of Jesus in them.”

Will accepted Jesus in a Harvester’s Homecoming, a Fall Bible conference in which pioneer pastors come back to their launching pad, the Lighthouse Church, to get fired-up about Jesus again. His mom required him to go to church.

One of the breaking points was talking to other youth at the Tucson Bible conference in June. “They were telling me all this stuff about how God was impacting their lives,” Will said. “For some reason, that broke through to me.”

Will enrolled in Lighthouse Church School 2012 in eighth grade. He is now a junior at Lighthouse Christian Academy along with his brother, Chris, a senior. His mom, Lisa Clancy, teaches Classical Literature to the freshmen and works as a counselor for the student body.

When he enrolled in Lighthouse, Will actually regretted it because his brother, Chris, got into Saint Monica’s Catholic School in Santa Monica. “I didn’t get my application in on time. I took too long,” he said. “But now I’d like to thank my procrastination for getting to where I am today.” Click here for the rest of the article.

Fresh Off the Boat actor at Lighthouse Christian Academy

jahdyn faithBy Petrina Gratton, LCA sophomore

As an actor, Jahdyn Brown faces a lot of hate, so she didn’t want to encounter any kind of bullying at school.

That’s why Jahdyn – whose stage name is Jahdyn Faith — enrolled at Lighthouse Christian Academy, where she said “it makes me feel at home.” She chose Faith as a stage name since it’s her middle name.

Jahdyn is a freshman at LCA, whose independent study program (ISP) gives her the flexibility to pursue acting. Currently, she’s a recurring extra on the Fox ABC program Fresh Off The Boat (now on Season 2.) It’s a comedy about an Asian family moving into a white community. Fox ABC means it’s filmed in the actual Fox lot but shown on the ABC network.

JahdynJahdyn was born into a Christian family and baptized as a baby, too. But she made the decision herself to give her life to Christ when she was nine years old.

She started acting seriously at age eight. She had followed her mother’s footsteps in modeling but decided she like acting better.

When she auditions for roles, she competes against 100 other girls. But the real hate hit her online with snide, anonymous comments uploaded on message boards: “How can you be an actress when you have acne?” “You’re not even on TV all the time.” “You’ll never make it.”

“Stuff like that IS hard to hear, but if this is something you want to do and connect with and makes you happy, then you have to do it,” she said. “Of course it hurts, but a lot of times, they’re insecure themselves. So, put people around you that are going to build you up and tell you can do it.”

Jahdyn has a very busy schedule that consists of scene studying, commercial classes, voice lessons, recording in the studio and script-writing classes on a weekly basis. This is why she needed a flexible schedule for her studies. Read the rest of the article.

Editor’s Note: Petrina wrote this article as a journalism assignment in my class at Lighthouse Christian Academy, a private Christian high school in Santa Monica.

Hahaha! Drug-laced cookie sends kid to hospital (Good joke, teens)

journalism class Santa Monica private school

Student reporter Trina interviews an LCA grad who’s now a chef at a hot new French restaurant in LA. (It was another article.)

Editor’s Note: I’m so excited by students’ progress in my journalism class at Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica. Kudos to Petrina who went for a regular crime article. Great reporting and writing!

By Petrina Gratton, Lighthouse Christian Academy sophomore

When they offered Matthew Gonzalez* a cookie, he had no idea it was laced with marijuana, which provoked a reaction in his body that sent him to the hospital.

It was Friday afternoon in September after students of a Santa Monica private high school were dismissed, and Matt wanted to watch some movies at a friend’s with some buddies

“Here, my mom made me a Filipino cookie,” Sarah offered. Without hesitation, Matt loved ethnic treats and devoured it unsuspectingly.

Such pranks have only gotten more common with the legalization of medical marijuana, said Perry Jones, senior lead officer from the LAPD Wilshire Division. “If you didn’t buy it, don’t eat it,” Jones said.

But Matt didn’t realize he was a victim of being slipped drugs. Apparently the other kids were in on the joke because they began to ask questions like, “Who’s our president?” But Matt didn’t realize anything was wrong until he went to the bathroom and saw that his eyes were red – and he realized he was high.

He was scared. Matt told his friends he had to leave and went outside to call his mom.

He began shaking uncontrollably. His mom told him to call 911 because she was a bit far away.

Before the ambulance came, he felt dizzy and sleepy. He looked at his hands and saw rainbows outlining them.

At the hospital that evening, the doctor said he had overdosed. Since this was the first time, the reaction was even more severe, the doctor added.

He felt nothing but vibrations throughout his body and had extremely high blood pressure. Matthew was really sensitive to the light they were beaming on him.

Still at the hospital, he fell asleep and woke up at 9:30 p.m with excruciating pain. He started screaming because his legs were cramped up. He felt pain “radiating” throughout his body. Doctors hooked him up to an IV, which helped him settle down. Read the rest of the article.

He didn’t want to play. Then he scored a touchdown.

Santa Monica private school

Shane at right, with his “little” brother, Justin.

Oh yeah – and there’s also the senior, Shane Berry.

Berry bolted off the Seniors Anonymous list Friday with his first touchdown against Westmark School in Encino.

Seniors are the bread and butter of varsity high school football. Two years ago, Lighthouse Christian Academy smashed into the playoffs because of five seniors. This year, three seniors have carried the team – and two of them are struggling with injuries. At game 7,  the Saints are still winless.

Part of the reason why Shane Berry didn’t figure prominently with his fellow seniors was because he didn’t really want to play football in the first place and only reluctantly joined the team last year. The other part of the reason why he was anonymous on the field was because he missed a bunch of summer practices due to a job.

But on Friday, Shane used his big basketball hands to snatch a ball out of the air and scrambled wildly for a touchdown.

“It was great,” Shane said. “The rush when you get a touchdown is spectacular. I didn’t expect it, but when I caught it, ran right to the End Zone, I was like, ‘Oh my God! My first touchdown.’ It was a great experience.” Read more: Santa Monica football.

The school where I work

Christian school Santa Monica

Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica

As with any love relationship, there is also heartbreak. When the kids give you grief because they just want to be lazy. When your efforts are criticized.

But as with any love relationship, there are also moments of elation. Mine particularly are when kids come into a relationship with Jesus. Those moments even exceed the famous light-bulb moment when they get something that was previously very difficult for them. Those moments also exceed to glowing satisfaction of seeing kids graduate, succeed in the university and triumph in life.

The school where I work is a small Christian school in Santa Monica called Lighthouse Christian Academy. I have promoted it through SEO, and 15 new students were added this year. Previously, they never got outsiders to come in. Knowing that I have been useful is a satisfaction.

I like making an impact. I don´t want to ¨ride¨ on the success of others. I want to be a key member contributing to the success.

Don´t choose a winning team and sit on the bench and pose with the championship picture. Choose a small team, a needy team, a losing team. And then work to make it a winning team.

I’m not playing basketball. I’m break-dancing.

basketball klutz

At this point in the game, I decided to do something very random: practice break-dancing. I have never done break-dancing in my life. And fortunately, I didn’t break anything. Ruby, my opponents, asks, “What are you doing on the ground again for?”

At Lighthouse Christian Academy’s opening of our annual student-teacher mixup 3-on-3 basketball tournament, I spent more time on the ground than on my feet.

Despite the inordinate clumsiness, we still won. One of my teammates, Raymond, a Chinese student who LOVES bball, did just about everything. He scored, defended, hustled, passed, pressured, ran. dribbled, shot.

I fell.

Don't laugh. I'm playing basketball.

Don’t laugh. I’m grimacing to intimidate opponents.

This all fun in the Son. This is what having a small Christian school is all about: good friends, lots of fun, lots of learning.

I’ve been teaching at LCA since I got back from missionary work in Guatemala, where in addition to a church, I planted a church, during almost 16 years. While I was there, I learned soccer.

What am I doing playing basketball?

He shoots and -- he falls.

He shoots and — he falls.

My height — at 6’3″ — should be an asset. My weight too. (Well, I guess my height isn’t going to help much since I pass most of the time on lying on the ground.)

Last year, I was on the winning team. But that was due mostly to Pastor Zach Scribner, who took me. Pastor Zach snuffed his competition in another game today. He looks like the team to beat.

I know, I know. I’m not supposed to ask for prayer to win basketball games. The next one is Wednesday for me. Basketball is game played by talented people.