Tag Archives: Christianity

Art out of food

food artJessie Bearden plays with her food.

I was always taught not to play with my food. Maybe that’s why I never became the artist I aspired to be as a child.

Actually I was discouraged from being an artist because I was told you can’t make any money at it.

food-art-1But I rebelled and became a wordsmith, an artist with words.

food art 2God tells us to be like Him; He created. As much a I admire art around the world, none compares to the daily painting God spreads on his canvass of a sunset. None equals the beauty of a flower. Consider the lilies of the field…even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these — Matt. 6:28-29.

I’m going to be a fan of Jessie Bearden, who create surprising portraits out of food. And I’m going to keep writing.

jessie bearden

Jessie Bearden

But I can’t wait to get to Heaven to see the wonders of God’s art there. I admire His beauty everywhere here on Earth.

I bet the artists continue doing their art in Heaven.

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.

Ha ha ha! Orange marmalade has ‘wires’

Orange-marmalade1The pungent and sweet taste of orange marmalade is one I missed as a missionary in Guatemala. So when we got back to the U.S. a few years ago after 16 years abroad, I got it, and I shared it with my youngest son. To put it mildly, Hosea didn’t like it.

“Dad! It tastes like it has wires!” He was somewhere between aghast and livid. He believed it was his duty to inform me what I didn’t know. The rind gratings — um — were grating to his palate.

Of course, I cracked up. For his ingenuousness, thinking I didn’t know it had rind gratings. For his descriptiveness.

This is how I feel when newbie leaders want to give me a lecture on spirituality. When does the senior ever let the freshman tell him how to play varsity football? You have to take things with humor or it can be a discouraging thing coming back into your mother church. And you gotta enjoy the orange marmalade despite what people say.

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.

Ted Dekker, best selling author who grew up among cannibals

TTCulture-blog427

Ted Dekker

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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.

Not once but kidnapped twice by jihadists

beatriceMuslim extremists allegedly kidnapped Beatrice Stockly, a missionary from Switzerland in Mali, for the second time in the last four years.

Stockly was snatched from her home near Timbuktu Jan. 8 by armed men in pickup trucks. Though no group has claimed responsibility, it is believed that the perpetrators are one of the militant Islamic groups that operate in the region.

In April 2012, Stockly was kidnapped from her home in Abaradjou, a district of Timbuktu frequented by armed jihadists. Neighboring Burkino Faso negotiated her release after 10 days. She returned to Switzerland for a while but ultimately felt called by God to return to Mali, despite the dangers.

“It’s Timbuktu or nothing,” she said to family, according to a report by the World Watch Monitor (WWM).

Stockly first moved to Timbuktu in 2000 when she worked for a Swiss church. More recently she has worked alone, unaffiliated with any church. WWM reported she led an austere life, selling flowers and handing out Christian literature. She focused mostly on women and children, talking to them and sharing about Jesus.

Christians have suffered persecution in the region from Islamists. In the last three months, two separate attacks have been staged against Christians. A brutal assault on a Christian radio station just before Christmas left 25 dead. A month earlier, 22 people were killed at the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako.

In 2012, extremists effectively banned the practice of any religion other than Islam. They desecrated and looted churches. Many Christians fled the region, but Stockly remained undaunted.

Now she has been kidnapped again.

“We are shocked to see what happened,” Dr. Mohamed-Ibrahim Yattara, President of the Baptist Church in Mali, told WWM, speaking about the spiraling violence and uncertainty. “We are trying to find out what happened, but for now we don’t have any explanation.”

In effort to bring security and peace to the region, the Mali government signed a peace treaty with the main Jihadist group, the Tuareg, in June 2015. But the accord appears to have been fruitless, WWM reported, noting that security forces and UN peacekeepers have been targeted.

Stockly’s abduction is believed to be the first against a foreigner since the kidnapping and killing of two French journalists, Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, in the northeastern town of Kidal in November 2013, WWM reported.

This article, originally published in God Reports here, was written by my journalism student, Anthony Gutierrez, at the Lighthouse Christian Academy.

A Florida missionary among 30 killed in Burkina Faso terror attack

mike ridderingA Florida man who went to Burkina Faso as a missionary to dig wells and care for orphans was killed with 29 others on Jan. 15 when heavily armed terrorists from an Al-Qaeda affiliate attacked two hotels and a cafe.

Mike Riddering, 45, described as an amazing father and pillar of faith, found himself ambushed at the Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou where he was to rendezvous with a group of short-term missionaries on their way to an orphanage 70 miles from the capital.

splendid hotel

The Splendid Hotel charred by car bomb explosions

“Heaven has gained a warrior!” wrote his wife Amy Boyle-Riddering on Facebook. “I know God has a purpose in all things but sometimes it is a complete mystery to me. My best friend, partner in crime and love of my life. The best husband ever. An amazing father to his children and a papa to everyone. My heart is so heavy and I am having trouble believing he is gone. Mike was an example in the way he lived and loved. God be glorified! Mike Riddering I will love you always! You left quite a legacy here. I can only imagine the adventures you are having now.”

A boat-builder from Hollywood, Florida, Riddering felt called to move to the deserts of Africa along with his wife, with whom he had four children: Haley, 23; Delaney, 19; Biba, 15 and Moise, 4.

french forces also attacked the attackers

French forces participated in the counter attack.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb sent the young attackers to kill and take hostage as many tourists and foreign aid workers as possible, in “revenge against France and the disbelieving West… the enemies of the religion,” a statement issued by the local Al-Qaeda branch said.

Some of the attackers infiltrated the luxury hotel at night while others wearing turbans arrived later in four-wheel drive vehicles. They exploded car bombs outside the hotel and stormed the site killing and taking hostages. Burkina Faso forces helped by French soldiers counter-attacked the next day in order to free the hostages and killed four extremists after an intense gunfight.

Mike’s brother Jeff told 7News, “He really felt that he’d heard the Lord say, ‘Go dig wells in Africa.’ He said, ‘Well, Lord, I might not be good enough to do anything else, but I can dig wells.’ When he got there, not only did he dig wells; he did everything else. Besides the orphanage, he adopted two children and started a women’s crisis center.”

The short-term missionaries scheduled to meet Mike were not at the hotel at the time of the attack and were spirited away to Niger to return to the United States.

“I’ve never met anybody who didn’t like Mike Riddering,” said Pastor Brian Burkholder of the Hollywood Community Church. “We’ve lost a hero. Mike lost his life doing the work of Jesus, doing what he thought God had called him to do. We will greatly miss him.”

Editor’s note: This article, published originally on God Reports here, was written by my journalism student, Anthony Gutierrez, at the Lighthouse Christian Academy.

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.

Don’t pass over to the dark side of the force

star warsSometimes I tune out the movie-maker’s message and get my own. Such was the case of Star Wars. I’m a middle-aged pastor, who’s between churches right now. I’ve gone through some tough experiences, disillusions, etc. I can see how it would be easy to grow bitter, to rack up the negatives experiences and to snipe. So God spoke to me about the danger of passing over to the dark side of the force, as the movie says. It would be easy. I could be very effective. BUT, I would be in darkness.

This post goes out to all the aging pastors who have lost of the sense of romance when you’re young and starting ministry. Maybe you’ve been removed from ministry, suffered financial hardships, gone through unfair circumstances. Don’t pass over to the dark side. Renew yourself in the Lord, rejuvenate, refresh. Let waters flow into the desert and make it a lush garden again.

This Iraqi kid loves Messi

messi bag jerseyToo poor to buy the real thing, this Iraqi boy turned a plastic bag into the jersey of his favorite soccer player, Leo Messi from FC Barcelona. How do you show your love for God?

Thanks to the internet, Messi saw it and is going to send him a real jersey. This will probably thrill him for 110 years.

The Bible says that Jesus was so impressed by the Roman centurion’s faith that He granted the miracle. Lesson: You can impress God (though we should distinguish: you can’t “earn” his favor — ok, it’s confusing, but the two truths work together in tension much like a guitar string is tightened across two frets). How do you show your love for God?

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.

A lot of confusion

path forwardThe trials, the “reversals,” the difficulties all make sense when we look back over our lives to see how God has blessed and used us. In the middle of the tempest, you’re tempted to throw up your hands in despair.

But Christianity is not a backwards-looking religion. We are to pray for a better future, invest time in relationships and Bible study, work hard — all to see more of God in our lives. While we strive for better things ahead, we keep faith and remember the promise of Psalm 23:6: Surely your goodness and love will FOLLOW me all the days of my life. I may not understand today what God is doing, but eventually I will.

Keep praying

keep prayingIt’s been more than a decade that Eddy visited us in Guatemala. Since then, my wife, kids and I were forced to return to the States and have been serving in the local church. His sister and mom remained faithful; Eddy was off doing something else.

Who popped up recently?

Yeah, it’s another motivation to keep praying for those people even when years are grinding on, even when you don’t see any tangible hope. The Spirit moves in invisible realms.

God reminded me why

coaching soccerIt had been a frustrating day — criticisms of my efforts to get people saved and discipled. (It seems like the church is full of people who don’t save or disciple others, but they are experts to let others know what they’re doing wrong.)

As I prayed, God reminded me that I’m not working for the critics. I’m working for the kids.

I teach at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica and I coach for the middle school soccer team. We took some bruising losses this week, but I love the kids, and they seem to appreciate me. We have fun — all in Jesus’ name.

These are the powerful Saints! We have won only one game. But their enthusiasm, their joy, their love of Jesus, their positive energy makes them powerful in my book (quite a few players missed practice this day)!

The power of a whistle

IMG_8992We won because I had the whistle. Coach Mefford and I split reffing duties while playing, but he doesn’t like to carry a whistle. We were winning 5-4, and the other team kept pressing for the equalizer. I was really tired at central defender. It was 12:15, and I had told parents we would be done a noon. Some parents were craning their necks at us as if to say, When are you guys going to be done?

But mostly I wanted to win. So I tweeted the long, plaintive toot that marks the end of the game. That’s how I made sure when we won.

That was the day I learned the power of the whistle. It is authority. It is a way to guarantee your calls are obeyed. Nobody can argue against a whistle.

Such a small thing, but 21 players obeyed and walked to the parking lot to clap out mud from their cleats.

Do you realize the authority you have as a Christian? Humanity lost authority in the Garden of Eden. Then Jesus came to get it back. Incredibly, He gave it back to us. But many Christians don’t use prayer or faith. They let the devil bully them around. There is the whistle, promises in the Bible, hanging around their necks. All you need to do is pinch it, pucker and puff.

Hey, to pray, you don’t have to bow head or knee. You don’t have to fold your hands. You don’t have to shout or break a sweat. You can pray in your head. And God will respond — always. Maybe He doesn’t act WHEN or HOW we want, but He responds in our benefit — invariably.

I always keep a whistle and a prayer handy.

How do I pray? Just do it.

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.

The lonely

loneliness

My son plays Javier foosball

Inviting the lonely over is my joy. For Thanksgiving and Christmas, we hosted people from the church who had no where to go. My heart goes out to the hurting. All throughout junior high and high school, I was lonely.

Now it is richly rewarding to ease others’ pain. Human beings need contact, friendship, acceptance, affirmation. This is the way the church works and builds.

When rejection takes the place of acceptance, the church becomes dysfunctional. Jesus dined with the hated and the outcasts — with prostitutes and tax-collectors. He touched the untouchables — the lepers. He condemned the Pharisees, who condemned everybody but themselves. We should take a note from the Bible and not become like the Pharisees.

At Christmas they gave me a mini-foosball. (To me!? A 48-year-old man, they gave a toy??) And you know what? It’s pretty fun. Who’s up for a match? Come on over. You are welcome here.

Prayer brings down Heaven

prayerPrayer transports you to other worlds, and it brings other worlds to you. It takes you to God’s throne and brings down God’s power to Earth.

The progress of the gospel in Japan

a-japanWith less than 1% of the nation Christian, Japan has been called the “missionaries’ graveyard.” In Africa missionaries died from exotic diseases, but in Japan Christian workers often face burn-out and leave with very few conversions after major commitments of time and money.

And yet, one missionary has hopes that recent events bode well for revival.

“The Japanese are not antagonistic toward the gospel at all,” said Gary Case, pastor of the Potter’s House Church in Tokyo. “If anything, they seem mildly avoidant and politely skittish.”

jack garrot baptism

Jack Garrott baptizes a believer

For months, Case met with Mr. N., an atheist retiree who attended his church to learn about being a better person. The two studied the Bible together over coffee, discussing God, Jesus and salvation until Mr. N. finally accepted Jesus as his personal Savior and Lord.

Japan is one the most secularized nations in the world, according to a World Values Survey. Because loyalty is one of their core values, Japanese see leaving their traditional Buddhism and Shintoism as a family betrayal. The average church has only 30 members. A brief revival after World War II netted significant converts, but many of those are graying, and some of the churches left behind are dwindling.

The Japanese wear crosses as a fashion statement but have no idea what the cross signifies. They celebrate Christmas with Santa Claus and gift giving but ignore completely the story of Christ’s birth.

Jack Garrot's churchAmid the bad news, many see cause of hope. Japanese Christian leaders point to the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear plant meltdown of 2011 as a time that began to soften the self-reliant Japanese character and open the Japanese to the need for the gospel.

“There’s a sense of hopelessness for the future. You can see it in their faces,” said Stephen Matsumura, pastor of the Mizuba Community Church, in a Billy Graham Evangelistic Crusade video. “There’s a high suicide rate here in Japan – issues of loneliness and isolation – which is a huge indicator of a bigger need.”

If natural disaster brought greater openness, so too is gospel music. The 1992 movie Sister Act starring Whoopi Goldberg popularized the musical genre. Since then, there have been workshops and gospel choirs formed, attracting non-Christians. In 2011, CBN reported that some 50 churches had formed gospel choirs.

“It opened the church to the community,” said Pastor Masahiro Okita. “And it’s a very unique ministry because the target of the outreach are the choir members themselves.”

In the 15th Century, Portuguese traders brought priests, based in the port of Nagasaki. These Catholic Christians won converts but eventually were expelled by the ruling class who reverted to isolationism. Many converts became “hidden Christians” and worship Christ in their hearts while at the Buddhist temples. They passed their faith on to their children, a UCAnews video on YouTube reveals.

Japan Tsunami Relief and Rebuild

Some 40,000 Christians who failed to hide their faith were boiled to death in many of the nation’s scalding thermal mudpots, the video says.

Jack Garrott’s dad was part of the missionary movement in 1930s and 40s, landing in Fukuoka, Japan. In 1981, he returned to Japan as a missionary himself in Omura, Nagasaki.

“I am told that the number of committed Christians is growing, but that appears to be in metropolitan centers, where people are perhaps more loosened from their traditional roots,” Garrott said. “There are growing, vibrant churches in major metropolitan areas like Tokyo and Osaka, but they are virtually nonexistent in the ‘boonies,’ which could be described as the ‘soul’ of Japan.”

Editor’s Note: This article, originally published in God Reports, is special to me because two of the men interviewed, Gary Case and Jack Garrott, are friends. I follow Jack’s blog. Please pray for their churches and for revival in Japan.

One coach is chill, the other, read to kill

Christian high school coachesIf you mess up on the football field, one coach is forgiving. For the other coach, that’s the end of you.

“I’m probably too soft,” admits Coach Zach Scribner. “And Justin is maybe a little too intense. We sometimes disagree on strategy and how to push the players to their potential, but I always stand behind him”

When it comes to coaching style, Justin Kayne and Scribner, who tag-team train LCA‘s 8-man team, could hardly be more of polar opposites. Though they are inseparable friends from high school, they are not Rosencrantz and Guildenstern on the sideline or on the practice field.

Scribner is an easy-going guy who likes golf. Kayne revels in the testosterone proofing of this American iteration of Roman gladiator sport.

When things go bad, Scribner is unflappable, while Kayne throws his clipboard down and growls about writing letters to league organizers for a bad call from refs.

Scribner perfected his coaching technique by playing Madden. Kayne credits his coach, former LCA Principal George Neos, a Dartmouth star, with smelting steel in his heart. Read the rest of the article here: Christian sports.

Startled tastebuds

terroni restaurant

It’s a hipster restaurant, so the bread comes in brown paper bags. Rebekah and Hosea show the best way to eat the bread.

My tastebuds were startled.

I always avoided Italian restaurants. Why pay for pasta and tomato sauce when you can do that at home? But Dianna’s company party dashed my mantra. It was at Terroni in Downtown Los Angeles.

pizza terroni

I’d never tasted anything like it, and we followed up with a family outing to the one in the Melrose District. (We usually don’t go to pricey restaurants — or much to even restaurants because of our family budget, but this was time to celebrate.)

Rebekah described the tiramisu as a spoonful of Heaven, and, yes, delightful spoonfuls is what I am expecting in Heaven. (You should too. Make your reservation in Heaven today by accepting Jesus into your heart.)

terroni pastaThe pizza is super-thin crust thick on ingredients. The pasta surprises with tantalizing taste. Yummy salads and beef. The ingredients are from Calabria, Italy, where the founder is originally from (his restaurant chain is based in Toronto). I had never heard of Calabria.

Anytime I learn something new or try something new, I experience delight. I think this is a key to my writing and my outlook in life. There will be endless delights in Heaven.

The only basis for pastoring

basis for pastoringA pastor holds a delicate position in society. His job is to get his people into right relationship with God. He must not confuse his will with God’s will. Because he speaks the word of God in the name of God, he can mistakenly think everything he says is of God. He can abuse the trust given him by insisting on his way, by wanting always to get the credit, by injecting self into ministry.

If you love others selflessly, you’ll do well in the pastorate. If you love God above all else, you’ll do well. Beware if you love self intensely. You are going to hurt the flock of God.

I still have one day to fulfill 11 of 12 resolutions for 2015

new-years-resolutions1

Last night, I finally fulfilled my first of 12 resolutions for 2015. Yippee! Now I have 24 hours to carry out the other 11!

Thank you for friendship

AshcraftsTo all my followers who have been with me through the ups and downs, exchanging encouragement and exhortations, thank you. Some of you are dear friends. Others of you I would like to get to know more.

Difficulties at Christmas

difficulties ChristmasSometimes I have to remind myself that God has everything under control. He’s permitting the difficulties. He’s shaping me. I don’t understand. I can’t see the big picture. Job didn’t know about the cosmic bet between Satan and God. All he could see was a completely unfair and incomprehensible situation.

If you are going through tough times at Christmas, remember: they might be a gift from God. Of course, you wouldn’t want this kind of gift. But you’ll like the results when God has finished His product. So hang in here, don’t lose heart. Thank Jesus for the difficulties.

Every child wants to have an adorable monster friend

adorable monster friendQuite accidently, I’ve discovered the formula for Disney. As a joke, I got pictures of me, made up as the Ghost of Christmas Future, with the happy little kids in the play with fearful faces.

It seemed the kids were drawn to me, playing high-five-down-low-too-slow and what not. Every kid wants to have a friendly monster as a friend. I was the monster.

IMG_8702But here’s the flipside. If kids like it, so do monsters. The beast gets turned into a prince. The bad guy becomes good. Innocent love executes a transformation.

Who wouldn’t want to restore to the pristine innocence and untainted joy his monster soul? That’s why Jesus was was “without sin.” His love is pure, uncontaminated, simple childlike glee. Jesus says we must come to Him like children. We can shed the burdensome cynicism of being an adult. We can leave behind sin like a snake its skin. This Christmas, accept the best gift you could ever receive, the Giver of gifts.

Of course, our church Christmas play was very much along the Scoorgian lines. While I was waiting my role backstage, my mind was running through a completely different plot.

Happy winter solstice in Santa Monica

winter solstice in santa monica

In effort to oust nativity scenes from the bluffs, the atheists posted this display. They caged their sign because supposedly Christians were going to vandalize it.

The atheist nuts here in Santa Monica actually think that they can supplant Christmas with the shortest day of the year, which ancient ignorants imbued with superstitious meaning.

Now this sounds like it could really upstage both Santa Claus and Jesus with an abundance of warm fuzzies, doesn’t it?

Christmas is about love. If you can downgrade love to a simple scientific question of neuro-chemical synapses (as some scientists are trying to do), then you might also be able to deconstruct Christmas. Love is at the center of Christmas — whether it is the family meal, gift-giving or decorations.

The foundation of Christmas is Christ. God so loved the world that He gave His only Son to save it. You won’t be eclipsing love any time soon — nor will make Christmas drop off the calendar.

For Christmas, give forgiveness

forgiveness

The greatest gift you can receive comes from the Father in Heaven: It is forgiveness. The greatest gift you can give on Earth is forgiveness.

You may not be able to wrap it up in red paper with a bow. It doesn’t go under the Christmas tree. It goes into the heart.

Forgiveness restores love. When things “don’t work out,” people think that “moving on” is the solution. They find “true love.” Only too late do they realize they trade one set of problems for another; no one is free from baggage. Instead of dumping love, give forgiveness a try. As much as our society has “advanced beyond the antiquated norms of the Bible,” we still have need of eternal wisdom.

Give communication

communication

Look people in the eye. Speak from your heart. Let gentleness govern your tongue. Do more than just synchronize agendas. Provide meaningful communication. Say the words you fear most: I love you. I appreciate you. Thank you. Forgive me.

Give more than gifts this Christmas. Give words that value.

Banned from baking, she bounced back to a hot business

sweet laurel bakesDepression loomed for Laurel Gallucci when her doctor forbade three years ago her favorite indulgence, cakes, because she contracted a rare autoimmune disorder.

Instead of succumbing to sadness, the Lighthouse graduate sought healthy alternatives and parlayed her delectable discoveries into a Venice-based business, Sweet Laurel Bakes, that is the latest rage in the paleo diet fad.

“I was on a personal quest to find health,” the 29-year-old said. “I wanted to bake things that I and other people could enjoy that would have positive and healthy outcomes.”

The second of seven children, Laurel was part of the Czer clan that joined the Lighthouse Church from Pastor Rob Scribner’s popular conservative Republican bid for congress. Though Scribner ultimately was not elected, he attracted to the church a contingent of people who liked his sharp thinking on politics and the role of God in American history.

yumLaurel’s mom, Kari Czer, became the cornerstone of the only Christian kindergarten in Santa Monica. Lighthouse Church School‘s kindergarten boasts reading proficiency before Christmas.

Her dad is the quiet and steadfast Dr. Lawrence Czer, a cardiologist who leads the heart transplant program at  Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. He’s an internationally-respected pioneer in stem cell research for heart disease is a regular on the Lighthouse Medical Missions to Africa.

Laurel enrolled in the Lighthouse Church School as a sweet smiling tyke who excelled at pretty much everything she did. She graduated from Lighthouse Christian Academy in 1984 and then from UCLA with a degree in history and then got a masters in education from Pepperdine University.

SweetLaurel-11When she was 26, Laurel married Nick Gallucci, an engineer who recently joined Lighthouse Church. As she was a passionate baker, they fell in love over banana bread.

Then for reasons unknown, she started experiencing problems that led to her diagnosis of autoimmune disorder. The doctor blacklisted all of Laurel’s favorite foods.

Instead of going glum, she bounced back with a quest to find palatable replacements to her baking savories.

She tinkered with the paleo diet, which theorizes that humans should eat like hunter-gatherers, avoiding processed, refined and sugary foods. They also do cross-fit training to replace fat with muscle.

“I don’t like to say that I’m paleo,” she said. “A paleo diet means you eat a lot of meat, do cross fit, have big muscles and that’s not really who I am. I like to say that I eat grain free, refined sugar free, and dairy free.”

In her quest for tantalizing treats that unfrown her doctor’s face, Laurel discovered a niche in L.A.’s ever-evolving health crazes. She’s been featured on popular blogs and healthy-eating articles. In the online magazine Chalkboard, she was called a “kitchen goddess and a real life mermaid” for her exquisite cuisine and her slender figure. Read the rest of the article: cooking class.

Dr. Viral

Dr Bob skateboardSupposedly, doctors halt viruses, but local pediatrician Robert Hamilton just went viral.

His charming video on how to get a 1-month-old to stop crying hit 14.5 million views in little more than a week. It got picked up by Inside Edition, Mashable and True Feed. From there, the Huffington Post featured it. It moved to Buzzfeed and USA Today and was topping Reddit. Now, Dr. Bob — as locals affectionately call him — will talk on the Dr. Oz Show.

Dr. Bob, originally from Eureka, has struck gold.

Widely known and loved in Santa Monica, Dr. Bob has attended for 30 years to children of celebrities and soccer stars. He’s administered injections, checked newborns and calmed jittery parents.

“This is where God has put my wife and me and where we were meant to labor,” Dr. Bob said. “We have seen good times and challenging times. We have seen triumphs and heartbreaks.”

Dr. Bob has also led medical missions for over 20 years to Africa, Kyrgyzstan and Central America. Lighthouse Medical Missions have brought doctors and free medicine to some of the remotest parts of the planet on about 25 separate occasions through the decades.

Early on, Dr. Bob was especially impacted by what he saw in Sierra Leone, once the world’s second poorest country according to United Nations rankings. In post civil war time, there was appalling need unmatched by the nation’s scarcity of doctors and medical infrastructure.

“I am haunted by the image of a woman beating on our car’s window as we departed our compound en route to the airport,” said the owner of Pacific Ocean Pediatrics. “The mother was pointing to her son with a huge abscess on his leg. I thought, We need to get this kid antibiotics. But we were late and we couldn’t stop.”

He broke down in tears. Did the child live? He felt compelled to return to Africa.

Africa1

Dr. Robert Hamilton in Africa on medical mission for Lighthouse Medical Missions.

To help where need is great bestows its own rewards. It has added to an already enriched life. He is happily married to Leslie Hamilton. They both have six kids and six grandchildren.

His daughter Noel also studied to be a pediatrician and now works alongside her dad in his business on Santa Monica Blvd across from St. John’s Health Center.

Lighthouse Medical Missions (LMM) has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for its medical missions. They take all their own medicine and equipment. They have built four schools/ churches in Sierra Leone – in Lungi, in Lunsar, in Jui, and in Kenema. Two full-scale water projects have been funded.

Dr. Bob, a born-again Christian since age 13, attends the vibrant and historic Lighthouse Church, from which he borrowed the name for his medical mission. LMM is open to just about anyone going and donating, even if they don’t share the Christian values of Dr. Bob.

Dr. Bob studied his undergraduate at U.C. Davis, where at age 20 he also married his childhood sweetheart. Then it was off to UCLA Medical School.

Regarding his fund-raising, Dr. Bob clarifies that money has flowed. “I’m pretty ambitious. But I’m NOT that ambitious about Africa. God has brought the money in. I’m not breaking people’s knuckles to give to Africa. It’s amazing what God has done.”

His latest venture – into the online world – started as a rather unambitious attempt to help parents calm fussy babies. He recruited talented film-makers from the Lighthouse Church and posted it on Sunday. Several church members shared it on their social media.

Dr. Bob – whose wildest dream was for 10,000 views – was disappointed with only 80 the day after posting.

But somebody of influence spotted it and re-posted it. It exploded like a nuclear bomb: by Tuesday it had 570,000 views. The next morning, 1.5 million. At last check last night, it hit 8.7 million.

“This is just phenomenal,” said a surprised Dr. Bob.

Meanwhile in his clinic, he’s prescribing to stop viruses.

*Picture: Rarely does Dr. Bob skateboard outside his office. Note: Since I wrote this article for the Santa Monica Patch, I am including it here on my blog. I hope you enjoy.

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.

Anonymous ministers

anonymousWhen I was head pastor, I romanticized being an anonymous servant. I even prayed to be one.

Then I became pretty much an anonymous member of the church. No more high-flying ministry. Honestly, I didn’t like it too much.

God had to remind that I had prayed to become anonymous. If you’re not on the kudos list here on Earth, don’t despair. Just praise Jesus because you’ll be getting your reward in Heaven.

Why my son got injured

IMG_8402When Robert said he wanted to play football for the Lighthouse Christian Academy, a small Christian high school in Santa Monica, I responded no, no, no. NO WAY, JOSE!

But the school didn’t have enough players, and he really wanted to play. So I told him to work out hard, build up his muscles and terrifyingly signed the papers for him to play.

Eventually, I caught on to something much more important than sports. Football was a draw. It pulled people into our school and church — and hence also to Christ. Since it was evangelism, I could no longer front reservations because we give our all for Christ.

Actually, his first injury, over two years ago, came from soccer. His recovery was long. He got back into sports and was a key member of LCA’s football team. As a senior, he injured his other ACL. As I write this, the surgeon just told me that the operation went well.

Playing high school sports create lasting memories. But something more important is at work at our school. Students are being brought to salvation and discipleship (they learn discipline, effort, team work, responsibility and other biblical characteristics).

How can you say no to your kid participating in Christian school sports — whatever the sport?

Crazy easy way to calm a fussy baby


Dr. Bob Hamilton shows in the video a simple hold that calms the crying infant right down. The video shows babies who just got shots. They immediately settle down.

Dr. Bob always helped me when I was on the mission field. He saw my kids for free when we came to Bible conference in Santa Monica. His Pacific Ocean Pediatrics attends to a lot of people, including the kids of the stars.

He stages clinics twice a year in Africa and elsewhere. His Lighthouse Medical Missions has done some 20 such free clinics in 20 years.

This technique for calming babies is so easy!

Unselfishness wins

barca

Unity won the day for Barca.

Barcelona left eternal rivals Real Madrid in shreds Saturday 4-0 in a game that showed that individual prowess doesn’t win games.

The Catalans have not one but three superstars. And those three — Neymar, Messi and Luis Suarez — share the goals unselfishly.

Usually teams are built around and for one superstar who won’t stand for competition on his own team. (Kobe Bryant infamously ran Shaquille O’Neal off the Lakers years ago.)

suarez

Luis Suarez scored two and made assists.

Barca works because it works like a team.

Not Real Madrid. Marcello took a shot when his best option was to pass. The ball went wide, and his teammates got mad. He sought individual glory but brought collective disgrace.

By contrast, Brazillian magician Neymar shared as many balls as he fired. And Suarez, who pretty much defines goal-making precision, foots off as many or more killer assists. Messi, recovering from injury, came on as a late substitute and set up the fourth goal with a pass that would have made a brain surgeon taken note for its precision.

lionell messi and iniesta

No rivalry between players. Messi left and midfielder Andres Iniesta

The Bible says: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If you want passes to you, then follow the Golden Rule. That’s what Barca did, and today the followers of the Golden Rule are the Golden Boys of soccer.

Note: I don’t own the rights to these images, and I’m not making any money on them.

100% Native American 100% Christian: Angie Behrns West Los Angeles hero

100% Native American 100% Christian

Angie Behrns at the Keruvungna Springs on University High School in West Los Angeles. She fought to save the springs.

When her sister died of cancer, Angie Behrns locked herself in the bathroom and smashed perfume bottles on the floor.

“I was angry at God,” she cried. “I said, ‘God, what did you do? Out of all of us, she was the strong Christian. She worked with underprivileged children. If You are real, where are You?’”

As she worked out her questions over time, Angie eventually arrived at acceptance – and resolved to not become mired in passivity.

“The devil took somebody who was a hard worker, who worked with the children no one wanted to work with,” she said. “I decided I was going to step up to the plate. The devil took out one soldier, but I was going to be another. What my sister did, I was going to do, and I was going to go full speed ahead.”

photo(187)

Angie in front of Dal Basile, her daughter, both Tongva Native Americans, both uncompromising Christians.

At 78, Angie shows no signs of slowing. In addition to leading a Sunday school ministry for years, she has served tirelessly with her Native American brothers and sisters to conserve springs in West Los Angeles where a Tongva village once sat.

For Angie, there’s no conflict between faith and heritage. “You don’t ask whether I feel more Native American or more Christian,” the tribal elder said. “One is my culture and the other is my religion. It would be like asking if someone feels more American or more Christian.”

When asked to perform blessings at civic and cultural events, Angie dons her regalia and prays like all Native Americans to the Creator – or also called “Grandfather” – whom she identifies as Jehovah, the God of the Old and New Testament.

She also doesn’t feel any of the antipathy that many Native Americans harbor towards the church. “A lot of Indians are still angry at the Church. They hate Christianity because their ancestors were beaten, tortured and killed. They were treated as slaves to build the missions. I forgive them for what they did in the past. There is only one God.”

Angie’s daughter, Dalphina Basile agreed: “We are Native Americans who love the Lord. We’re not involved in witchcraft or New Age ideas. Each time I go to the springs, my spirit begins to praise God for His provision and beauty. We become aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit.”

Angie’s faith in God began with her mother. Her father was an incorrigible drunk who hated the church but always made the sign of the cross. Read the rest of the article.

Editor’s Note: I wrote this article. So I feature it here also.

As an underdog, she beat everybody | Native American saves springs in West Los Angeles

angie behrns

Angie Behrns in her Tongva regalia at the springs on University High in West L.A.

She fought to save the Tongva sacred springs at Uni High when a developer threatened to cut off the water supply. She fought to establish a museum with Native American artifacts on site. She fought to keep LAUSD from “mismanaging” grant funds to clean up the site that once was a village and burial grounds.

Now after 23 years of fighting, Angie Dorame Behrns, 78, a tribe elder, is quitting. The local Native American hero retired last month as president of the Gabrielino Tongva Springs Foundation, which helps administer the Southeast corner of Uni High where two springs bubble up the precious water that sustained the Tongvas before any white settlers came to the region.

“She’s been a one woman show,” said Ron Andrade, director of LA’s city-county American Indian Commission. “She has run that foundation. She did all the work to get that land set aside. She’s been a tremendous leader. I’m very pleased to see she is being kind to herself, but I’m very sad to see her go.”

Thanks to Angie’s efforts, anyone can visit the springs – named the Kuruvungna Springs after the village that has been built over – every first Saturday of the month from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m free of charge.

“We’re going to miss her. She’s done a tremendous job,” said Tongva Chief Anthony Morales. “It’s kind of sad that she’s leaving. We thank her for keeping it going all this time.”

Kuruvungna springs West Los Angeles Uni HighThe Spaniards called them Gabrielinos, but they called themselves Tongva. Their official name now is Gabrielino/Tongva band of Mission Indians of San Gabriel.

Angie always enjoyed the springs when she attended University High School in the 1960s. There were pine trees around them, and the students turned lunch time into a picnic around what was a natural wonder and beauty on campus.

Angie was reminiscing at a 1991 alumni reunion and wanted to show her husband, Don Behrns, the beauty of the springs. As they walked down the gentle slope towards the south side of campus, what she saw filled her with horror.

The lower springs were filled with garbage cans, school benches and trash. The site was completely overgrown. Tree trunks were defaced by graffiti.

“I felt like a knife had been plunged into my stomach,” Angie said. “I was totally sick at what I saw.”

For many years, the southeast corner, with the large “lower” springs — had been used for horticulture classes. But years of disuse and neglect had destroyed the site that Tongvas considered sacred and is registered as a state historic site.

Wondering what to do, Angie called her brother Dan Dorame, and he told that the springs were destined to an even worse fate. The developer of the Barrington Plaza luxury highrise apartments on Wilshire Boulevard just north of the campus was planning a second phase to add three levels of underground parking that would block the flow of water to the springs, Angie said. Read the rest of the story.

Editor’s Note: Although this article on the Santa Monica Patch is not a Christian testimony per se, Angie herself is born-again. I found her story inspiring.

Rebellion is fun, right? Lord Byron provocateur extraordinaire

prometheusThere is a certain attraction to being a provocateur. Lord Byron intrigues with his idea of the Satanic Savior in his poem Prometheus, in which he describes the human condition as suffering.

To his own peril, Prometheus violates Zeus’ command and gives fire to humanity to help him on Earth. The parallels are obvious: It is the Serpent who gifted mankind with what God, the Great Party-Pooper, selfishly denied to humanity (in the Biblical account, knowledge of good and evil).

lord-byronBut the comparison breaks down. First, Prometheus truly wanted to benefit mankind; Satan wanted to destroy mankind. Second, Prometheus wanted to give mankind what was beneficial; Satan, what was harmful. Third, Zeus feared an uprising of mankind much like he led against the Titans and thus wished to deprive man of fire as a weapon; God, only loved mankind and wished for voluntary corresponding love.

Students go giddy as they drink the intoxicating idea that rebellion is not only fun but right. However, it might be good to 1) consider the dissimilarities and 2) examine Byron’s life and fruits to meditate on the wisdom of following his life philosophy.

Whisked from the Gambia River shore, they now play football on Christian middle school in Los Angeles

Christian middle school los angeles

Mosie and Josie pose with coaches for the Lighthouse Church School team in West Los Angeles area.

They were born in The Gambia, the sliver nation centered around the mighty West African river by the same name. Adopted by missionaries, they knew only soccer.

Now, twins Mosie and Josie Bowen are playing football – flag football – as sixth graders at the Lighthouse Church School. After 20 years abroad, their adopting parents returned to Santa Monica to the church that sustained them on the mission field.

“In football you can block, you can catch balls,” said Mosie, who caught his first pass during a game on Oct. 20. “In soccer you just use your feet. Only the goalie can kick it and catch it.”

At first, both Bowen boys struggled with football’s roughness and toughness. They played both defensive and offensive line. More than once, they found themselves shoved to the turf or bulldozed.

Learning has been both physical and mental. Continuing reading about junior high flag football.

Suspicion is not proof

It looks like this was a production in England. I gather this is the part where the conspirators smear Caesar's blood on their hands to celebrate their

It looks like this was a production in England. I gather this is the part where the conspirators smear Caesar’s blood on their hands to celebrate their “victory over tyranny.” But Brutus got it wrong.

Brutus broods. He strongly believes power corrupts. So he worries his friends, Julius Caesar, has given way to ambition. Brutus believes to save the Roman Republic, he must kill his friend in Shakespeare’s play.

Never mind that Caesar thrice has refused the crown. Never mind that when the Brutus and the conspirators bow before Caesar supposedly making a petition (really, they just want to get close to knife him), Caesar begs them to rise and speak as equals. Never mind the facts. In the mind of Brutus, Caesar is guilty, so the noble thing to do is kill him.

Brutus believes too much in his own character. He believes he is invariably right. So from accusing his friend, he passes to conviction, without bothering to trifle with evidence.

This hurts.

It is normal to be suspected of wrong-doing at any given moment. But if the authority doesn’t bother with evidence but simply convinces himself and lashes out at you, it hurts.

If you are in Christian leadership, you should exercise much wisdom:

  1. Always use the lightest correctionary discipline possible, not the heaviest.
  2. Be suspect of “revelation or confirmation of the Holy Spirit.”
  3. Be aware of your own personality and flesh and how that might color your judgement.
  4. Use grace. Forgive others.
  5. Don’t insist on having your way but look for God’s.
  6. Allow the Holy Spirit to rule the church. You are not the Holy Spirit.
  7. Know that the Pharisees exceeded their authority and punished the innocent (Jesus). Don’t join the company of the Pharisees.

Hope these tips are helpful.

* A word about this image: Not mine. Not making $ on it.

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.

Helen Shapiro, star from yesteryear, comes to Christ out of Judaism

Shapiro-and-dressOnce more popular than the Beatles, Jewish-born singer Helen Shapiro believed all Christians were anti-Semitic after a boy at school accused her of crucifying Christ.

Shapiro got an early start in music fame as a teen and stormed through England’s top rankings in the 1960s. In 1961, the 14-year-old released her first hit “Don’t Treat Me like a Child,” which peaked at number three on British charts, according to an ASSIST News story by Charles Gardner.

In 1963, the Beatles were actually an opening act for her when they played together on tour. The Beatles’ first big hit “Please, Please Me” hit number one on that tour.

Shapiro-today-300x213Shapiro also rose to the top of the charts with “Walking Back to Happiness.” Though she sang it, she didn’t really find true happiness for another 28 years.

As she rose to fame, she felt empty and cast around for something to believe in. Dabbling in New Age philosophy, she visited clairvoyants and spiritists.

By her late teens, her career as a pop singer began to decline. As beat music rose in popularity, along with newer female singers such as Dusty Springfield, Cilla Black, and Lulu, Shapiro seemed old-fashioned and characteristic of the bee-hived, pre-Beatles, 50s era.

In the 70s and early 80s she performed in stage musicals and jazz concerts. She played the role of Nancy in the musical, Oliver! in London’s West End and made appearances on British television.

By age 40, Shapiro stopped believing New Age notions and doubted the existence of God.

Then someone gave her the book Betrayed by Stan Telchin. As a leader of a Jewish community, Telchin was aghast when his daughter became a Christian. Feeling “betrayed” by her, Telchin embarked on a mission to demonstrate Jesus was a fraud by using the Old Testament.

Instead, he proved to himself beyond a reasonable doubt that Jesus was the genuine Jewish Messiah. The prophecies in the Jewish Scripture, he discovered, pointed invariably to Yeshua-Jesus.

“Isaiah 53 was about how He took our sin. I was gobsmacked,” Shapiro told Assist News. “And Daniel prophesied that the Messiah had to die before the temple was destroyed. It all seemed to point to Jesus.”

Read the rest of the story.

What God does IN us

God's work in usis more important than what He does THROUGH us.

This is sometimes important to remember in our Christian life. Especially when things aren’t going well.

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.

A whirlwind nurse keeps Lighthouse Medical Mission spinning

Lighthouse Medical Missions | GuatemalaAt the center of Lighthouse Medical Mission is a whirlwind named Alison Hagoski who performs triage, dispatches minor cases, tames the maelstrom and keeps the clinic cranking out patients efficiently.

The registered nurse doesn’t count how missions she’s been on. She counts the ones she’s missed: three of the 30 or so in almost two decades.

On Tuesday, Alison whipped through the pell-mell barking orders and sending patients to doctors or to pharmacy. The Guatemala clinic attended to 190 patients, about 50 of which she handled personally.

She’s an old school nurse who keeps her shift in order. She ministers with Christian love and a smile but with a firmness that lets you know who’s the boss. “What is this man doing here? He was here yesterday.” (Faced with poverty, more than one patient tries to get free medicine twice).

“This person needs to leave the clinic. She’s already received her meds.” “You’re blood pressure is fine. You’re medicine is working. Do you want some more medicines?” “You need to lose 10 pounds. No sodas. No rice. No bread. No tortillas.”

Her translator hustles to keep up with her in the school patio-turned-clinic. She interjects words in Spanish, with her thick New Zealander accent, sometimes correctly, sometimes erring. The words tumble out, even in French or Swahili or any random language of the nine countries she’s be to in Africa.

It is evident she enjoys working with people. She calls everyone, even grown men, “Doll” or ”Darling.”

Alison is 58 years but she works at a frenzied pace of someone much younger. Retired from UCLA, she practices privately rehab and nurse training. She lives with her husband, a cabinet maker, and youngest son in in a comfortable surfer’s house in Santa Monica. Read the rest of the article.

Medical Mission Impossible

Dr. Bob Hamilton on the medical mission in Guatemala of Sept. 2015.

Dr. Bob Hamilton on the medical mission in Guatemala of Sept. 2015.

Forget about Tom Cruise. The new star of Mission Impossible is Ludving Navarro.

The pastor coaxed a medicine shipment through Guatemalan Customs – a week-long process of frustrating and tedious paperwork that led to a heart-attack arrival at the church at 8:00 p.m. Sunday – literally just in time Monday morning clinic.

“We always have a challenge getting our medications out of Customs,” said team leader Dr. Bob Hamilton, a Santa Monica pediatrician who founded Lighthouse Medical Missions. “We literally got the medications the night before our clinic. We thank God for His perfect timing. It was last minute.”

Read the rest of the article about medical missions.

A developmentally disabled angel on a medical clinic

Lighthouse Medical Missions | Guatemala

Michelle in front, and Dr. Bob behind. Her sisters Christy (left) and Andrea (right) with their mom, Dal (far right).

Michelle Villasenor for 17 years has packed the meds but never been able to go on a medical mission with Lighthouse. That’s because she’s developmentally delayed. Her academic level is 2nd grade and her language skills are low.

Her mom, Dal Basile, has been one of the biggest supporters of Dr. Bob Hamilton’s medical missions. She works as a vocational nurse on the clinics, most of which have gone to Africa. And she does something incredibly important: she painstakingly packs millions of pills, hygiene kits, dolls, and other gifts to be handed out free of charge at the clinics.

Taking her daughter, who could get lost or suffer a migraine, has been simply out of the question — until now.

The trip to my church in Guatemala is closer to Santa Monica. It’s not as intense as Africa.

So to the delight of the other 18 team members, Michelle is here. She’s smiling and teasing her friends. Her mom calls her an angel, and I agree. Tomorrow we open doors and take care of patients. I thank God that my little friend will be helping.

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