Tag Archives: America

Heart-warming and humorous, ‘Growing Up Smith’ provides food for thought about values

GOB_04“Growing Up Smith” is captivating love story about an 10-year-old Indian boy whose parents want to hold on to Old Country values and not become corrupted by the evil customs of American.

Dad wants “Smith” to become a well-to-do neurosurgeon. He wants his son to fit into America, hence he chooses a very American name for him (without realizing it’s a last name). But he also wants his son to conserve the religion and traditions from India. His marriage is arranged from childhood to an Indian girl the boy has never met.

growing up smithSmith, however, gets a crush on a classmate, Amy, who lives across the street.

And therein arises the jeopardy. The movie provides moments of humor, elation and sadness. While it’s not a tool for evangelism, its feel-good content about role models, loyalty and overcoming obstacles provides ample fodder for family values.

In one scene, Smith is made to pray to the Hindu gods for his disobedience — to each and every one individually (maybe just the major “gods”). “For the first time in my life, I realized the value of having just one god,” he thinks.

I never thought of that advantage, but as a Christian I heartily agree.

GrowingUpSmith_midrollWhile the basis for the movie is immigration, it sidesteps all of the controversies raging through current politics. The plot is based in 1979 in upstate New York. The father studied to become a CPA and does very well economically. To his dismay, his kids begin to adopt American customs. Smith wants to be Darth Vader for Halloween, but Dad hears “Dr. Vader.”

barbque.jpgOne of the difficulties facing immigrants are those moments when conversation gets lost in translation. “Butch,” the across-the-street good-ole-boy neighbor, invites Smith to join him doing some “big game hunting.” The father — a strict vegetarian who would never kill an animal — only understands that there is going to be some sort of “game.” Being the typical patriarchal male, dad allows Smith to accompany Butch, overruling his wife’s objections. She has a better understanding of English, but he won’t listen to her.

After a couple hours, the father happens to see a cartoon in which a hunt takes place and realizes what “big game hunting” means. He and his wife frantically drive the family station wagon around the countryside looking for their son, hoping to avert “disaster.”

Meanwhile, Smith shoots a squirrel.

As he picks up his prize, he wonders if what he has done is evil or amoral. Read the rest about Growing Up Smith.

Advertisements

KGB agent who busted up Christian meetings joins them

Kourdakov,_The_PersecutorAccording to his autobiography, thug-turned-KGB Sergei Nikolayevich Kourdakov broke up over 150 secret meetings of Christians in the former Soviet Union. The leaders were arrested, members were beaten and terrorized and all Christian literature was burned or sent to headquarters for analysis.

How did this zealous communist find Jesus just a few years later and then die under mysterious circumstances near Los Angeles?

Kourdakov was born in 1951 under communist tyranny. After his mentally ill brother tried to kill him, he ran away, became a street urchin and was scooped up and taken to state-run orphan homes, according to his book The Persecutor, a dramatic and somewhat controversial account.

For a few years he toyed with becoming a hoodlum, even selling hashish, but ultimately he withdrew from the underworld and instead threw his efforts into the communist party. With intelligence and ambition, he quickly rose to become leader of the Communist Youth League in his area.

Sergei-Kourdakov-3After graduating with honors he enrolled in the Navy and studied to become a radio engineer. Meanwhile, his aptitudes caught the attention of his superiors and he was recruited to a “special-action squad” for 25 rubles a month.

At first the squad was tasked with roughing up drunks and wife-beaters the police didn’t have time for. Such rogues gave a bad name to communism, which was supposedly creating a “utopia.”

As time progressed, Kourdakov and his recruits were assigned to break up underground Christian meetings. In one operation, he hid in the bushes where informants said there would be a baptism.

Shortly after church members arrived, Kourdakov sprang from hiding and beat them down with clubs. The pastor floated dead in the water, and young girls were stripped naked to be humiliated and driven to the police station for interrogation.

Sergei & Mr. LogieBut his decision to make a public spectacle of the Christians was a miscalculation that drew the criticism of his superiors, who wanted these raids to be conducted in secrecy.

From May through December 1970, Kourdakov conducted raids. The “believers” – as they were called – were beaten and intimidated, and the pastors were arrested and sentenced to Siberian labor camps.

It was the height of the Cold War, and religious faith was seen by atheistic communism as subversive, a means by “capitalist oppressors: to keep the masses peaceful and stupid.” Part of Kourdakov’s duties was to document Christians for databases that authorities could use to round them up at any time.

the persecutorIn one raid, Kourdakov noticed a particularly beautiful believer named Natasha Zhdanova and decided she should be smashed against a wall. Kourdakov thought this would intimidate and discourage believers from attending any further meetings.

But just three days later, he spotted Natasha at another raid. He decided she needed more persuasion and so he beat her severely. He even brought her to the police station to threaten her.

One week later in another raid, Kourdakov saw her again. Her persistence was particularly unnerving. Records showed she had once belonged to the Communist Youth League.

This time, Kourdakov defended Natasha. When his buddy Alex Gulyaev moved to club her down, Kourdakov jumped between them and shouted: “Alex, I’m telling you, don’t touch her! Nobody touches her! She has something we don’t have! Nobody touches her!”

The subtitle of Kourdakov’s autobiography is “Forgive Me, Natasha.”

His exploits on behalf of the communist regime made him stand out in the Kamchatka Province. He was awarded a 15-minute speech broadcast on television. Afterwards he met Comrade Orlov, he invited him to a private dining room full of high-ranking communist officials, who were dining on expensive delicacies and drinking vodka like water.

Kourdakov was disillusioned. Supposedly communism fought for the laborer and the farmer. Purportedly, it fought the ruling class. But while the poor of the Soviet Union scraped together a meager living, here were the guardians of communism living like the capitalist oppressors they claimed to eradicate.

Meanwhile, Kourdakov began to notice that his Christian-busting raids weren’t having the desired effect. Instead of decreasing, attendance was surging.

In July, he was asked by his superiors to burn some religious texts for heating. But his doubts about communism were festering and his curiosity about Christianity was mounting. Instead of burning the books, he pocketed a hand-written copy of the Gospel of Luke and took it home to read at the Naval Academy barracks on his bunk.

“Jesus was talking and teaching someone how to pray. This certainly was no anti-state material,” he wrote in The Persecutor. “It was how to be a better person and how to forgive those who do you wrong. Suddenly, the words leaped out of those pages and into my heart… Through the days and weeks ahead, Jesus stayed with me.”

In January of 1971, Kourdakov graduated from the Naval Academy as a radio officer and was assigned to a destroyer. He asked to be transferred to a ship near the United States coast. In June, he found himself on the trawler Ivan Sereda looking for an opportunity to defect to the United States.

But just when he was going to jump ship on a makeshift raft off the coast of Los Angeles, another Soviet elsewhere was returned off the coast of New England in what became known as the Kudirka Incident. He would-be defector was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Kourdakov decided to initiate his escape when they were close to Canada.

Transferred to another trawler, the Shturman Elagin, he found his opportunity in August. During a severe storm, the trawler requested and got approval to enter Canadian waters for shelter. On Sept. 3, Kourdakov plunged into the frigid waters and swam – most of the night – for the shore.

He was found half-naked and bleeding on Queen Charlotte Island by a woman who called a hospital. Nobody spoke Russian, so he spoke German through a translator. In an extended diplomatic fracas, he was very nearly returned to the Soviets.

But a radio talk show host, Pat Burns, heard about him and pressured Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau to grant asylum. Read the rest of Sergei Kourdakov Christian

My journalism student from the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Westside Los Angeles wrote this article. I edited it.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was right

love-will-prevail

Love will prevail.

Don’t forget the pigs

3-little-pigs

Today is an investment for tomorrow. If you goof off, you lose out. America is saturated with the financial future message, but what about the spiritual message?

The first pig lived carefree. He didn’t want to invest time into a costly and time-consuming construction. Preferring the party, he built a house of hay.

The second pig was middle of the road. He wasn’t as reckless as the first pig nor as much as a bore as the third pig. He built a better house, one of sticks.

The third pig invested time, effort and money to safeguard against tomorrow. Sure enough, it paid off. The first pigs were eaten by the wold (in Grimm’s version), and the third survived the onslaught.

three-little-pig-houses-at-pig-crash-sceneIt’s funny that people who take pains to assure their financial future are so careless with their eternal future. You would think that they would understand based on the same principle. Even more, since eternity makes this life pale in comparison, you would think they would work harder to build their heavenly mansion.

The wolf is coming. He will blow your construction down, if he can, and eat you up.

This applies to marriage as well. How much are you investing in your spouse? Are you still wooing her like you did when you were dating? A lot of people these days are saying that a marriage of sticks or hay (not bothering to formalize their live-together union) is just as good. Pay attention to the pigs.

How did we get so much junk?

dumpster move out

Not my move-out dumpster.

It took a couple of weeks to complete our move from Santa Monica to Van Nuys. I let the ladies handle most of the decisions of what to throw out because if left to me, everything goes. I become a vicious minimalist.

But when our deadline came and went, it was time for me to take over and throw out a dumpster full of stuff that — in theory — we might use possibly once in our lifetime given the right conditions. When it comes to junk, I’m not very sentimental. (Why are we saving the wedding dress?)

The Great Purge of the Ashcraft household raised a question: How did we get so much junk?

When we got of the plane fleeing a life as missionaries in Guatemala, we had nothing. Just clothes. The church let us stay in the parsonage. People donated furniture and stuff so we could begin to eke out a life here in the lap of luxury. It’s been six years. Apparently the accumulation and consumerism has progressed unchecked all this time. I am a guilty party: I read, for example, that a water filter made for better coffee. I could never taste the difference.

All this stuff really doesn’t improve our quality of life. It doesn’t contribute to our essential happiness. Why did I buy into the lie that another thang is going to make me happy? How did incessant consumerism possess my heart? We can’t take it with us when we die.

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?

Cam Newton, feared QB, temptation-beset Christian

cam-newton-runWhen Carolina Panthers Quarterback Cam Newton walked away unscathed from a horrible accident that rolled his truck in December 2014, he gave praise, honor and glory to God.

“Somebody had His good hands on me,” Newton told reporters. “One plus one always equals two. I’m looking at this truck. I’m looking at this accident, and I’m like dude, one plus one ain’t equaling two, because I’m looking at this truck, and I’m like, somebody is supposed to be dead. Me being a religious person, God is good. I’m lucky to be standing in front of you today.”

Newton, arguably the NFL’s greatest player of 2015-16 and a Super Bowl contender, is on top of the world. Passing for 400 yards in his debut game in 2012, he bested Peyton Manning’s passing record of 280 yards in Manning’s first regular season game. This year, the Panthers are 15-1. His dual threat capabilities crushed the Arizona Cardinals 49-15 in the NFC finals.

42f07f33873582048e0f6a706700f644_tx600But while his professional trajectory seemed to sail through the air on heaven’s wings, things in his personal life have not always gone so well. He was hounded by an NCAA investigation for receiving payment to enroll at college, and he was accused of stealing a laptop at Auburn University. As a pro, he met and began to live with ex-stripper Kia Proctor.

Newton had grown up with God. His father, Cecil Newton, is a bishop overseeing five Pentecostal churches in Georgia.

But perhaps the intoxicating power of riding on top of the world caused him to momentarily forget the humility and fear of God necessary for a true relationship with the Creator. Then the accident left him shaken, reminding him about his need for God.

6358658538411262881957152712_CamNewtonSmilesOn that fateful day, he was negotiating a confusing intersection in Charlotte when another car slammed into the rear side of his black pickup truck and sent it rolling. He clambered out the back cabin window, and paramedics took him to the hospital where doctors treated him for minor fractures in his lower back.

He only missed one game as a result of the accident.

“I am a prime example of how God can turn something that was bad into something that good,” Newton said after the crash.

At 6’5” and 245 pounds of muscle, Newton is currently the most feared quarterback in the National Football League. Most QBs either specialize in throwing or running, but Newton excels in both, which is why the Panthers made the NFC’s best defense, the Cardinals, look like their fine-feathered namesakes — birds.

When they face the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50 on Feb. 7, they will again be facing a team with a stalwart defense – not to mention legendary Quarterback Peyton Manning.

Newton will be up to his old antics. He performs a celebratory dance for every touchdown — ostentation that football purists frown upon. He also runs the touchdown football over to the fans and hands it to a little kid — a gesture that is hard for anyone to frown upon. His broad, ubiquitous smile shows he enjoys the game.

Newton hopes his gridiron prowess will do for the Panthers, who have never won a Super Bowl, what it did for the University of Auburn. At Auburn, he became the third player in major college football history to both rush and pass for 20 or more touchdowns in a single season. His outstanding performance earned him the Heisman Trophy, and he led Auburn to their second national championship in 2011.

Read the full article here. It was written by my son, Robert, with a little help from his dad.

Can’t we help Syrians?

syrian girlFour-year-old Adi Hudea mistook a photographer’s camera for a gun and immediately surrendered. Her childhood has been stolen by the horrors of war. Her innocence marred by daily scenes of death. She doesn’t know how to play, only to fear for her life.

We must help the Syrians. This, to me, trumps concerns about terrorists sneaking into our borders. The love of Christ must overpower fear for our own well-being, convenience and personal luxury. Christians must not be reactionary but pro-active with prayer, evangelism and, above all, the love of God towards hurting millions around the world.

This sweet but terrified girl was photographed by Turkish photographer Osman Sagirli last December at a refugee camp on the Syrian-Turkish border.

Evil religion

franceIt mystifies me to no end that atheists accuse Christians of being an evil religion. The Bible says, “By their fruits, you will know them.” My church just realized a medical clinic in Guatemala, giving meds, giving life. Meanwhile, the extremists show what their religion has to offer.

Image by min_juny on Instagram.

Drugs are destroying us

drugs destroying us

Artwork per Dan Luvisi. I don’t own the rights to this image, and I’m not making any money on it.

Every empire that has risen, has fallen — and the U.S. hegemony will be no exception. When historians refer to our downfall, surely the rise of atheism will be counted as the motor behind our growing corruption. I pray for revival to break out and return American into right relationship with God.

Thank you, vet

vetI lived under fear. When criminals got our checkbook, I was afraid they would kidnap. So I hid at a friend’s house with my family until new passports could be issued. When I got on the plane in Guatemala, the burden of fear left. I was heading to a safe place. America.

I didn’t fight to keep America free and safe. I just enjoyed the benefits. Thank you, veteran, for fighting for us all.

And then they blame God

Last seen in school in 1962.

Last seen in school in 1962.

When we kicked prayer out of school, we kicked out God. It’s no surprise that the devil showed up instead.

What I don’t understand is: if the atheists hail every extraction of God from our society, when they have succeeded in taking Him from people’s minds, then why do they blame God for

Increasingly seen in schools since then.

Increasingly seen in schools since then.

the result?

My heart grieves for the Connecticut school, and for Virginia Tech, and for Columbine, and for the ever more frequent, ever worsening list of massacres. Our intelligence agencies work feverishly to “connect the images-4dots” to thwart terrorist plots, but we refuse to “connect the dots” about the direction of our society.

Forgive me this post. But I am so distressed, I wish to call people everywhere to turn to God. Our nation will NOT improve until we find Him again.