Tag Archives: inspiration

Jordan Payton and Kate Sommer: record breakers, classmates, friends


Jordan Payton thanks God after a touchdown.

They were born together, played together, studied together and competed against each other. Whether it was Olympic Day or dodge ball, Jordan Payton, growing tall and strong even as a kid, always beat Kate Sommer.

Now at age 21, Kate finally beat Jordan.

Both students playing Div. 1 sports have broken their respective universities’ records – Kate for digs on women’s volleyball and Jordan for receptions on football. And though they broke records almost at the same time, Kate hit the new high first.

kate sommer on court

“She got me on this one,” Jordan said after practice recently. “She definitely did.”

Kate hit gold in mid-October with four years of digs for Washington State University, spiking the previous high mark of 1,744.

Jordan caught his 194th pass on Nov. 21 – about three weeks later.

“It’s crazy that we both broke records at the same time,” Kate said. “I would always some in second. He would always win. I was always behind him. I actually wanted to beat him.”

Jordan Payton Kate SommerThe feat is indeed extraordinary, in part, because both record-busters came from a tiny school, Lighthouse, which averages 100 enrollment with its primary, middle and high school combined.

But not only did they both go to the same school, they were in the same classroom, which oscillated between 10 and 12 students year-to-year. After middle school, Jordan attended Oaks Christian for its high profile football program – and so inseparable friends started to wend separate paths into the world.

The story of Jordan’s and Kate’s friendship literally started in the womb. Both are youngest children, so their parents became friends as their older brothers and sisters played together in sports, in the Lighthouse Church and in the schools. Read the rest of this fascinating account about record breakers in this Christian school Los Angeles.

Fear or faith?

unexpected-guestsPerfect love casts out fear — 1 John 4:18.

Running away from evangelism is what has made things run amok in the world. We Christians have abdicated our responsibility for too long. We can blame ourselves, not the politicians, for the problems of the world. Now we should not run to them looking for solutions that only we can provide.

Love is a choice. Fear is a knee-jerk reaction. We must choose to follow the Spirit lest we follow the flesh. The first Christians risked being thrown into the arena to be eaten by starved savage animals. We cannot expect a riskless Christianity. There is no drone Christianity where we direct evangelism from afar without putting boots on the ground. We haven’t wanted to go to the souls; now we don’t want the souls to come to us.

The days of isolationism are over, like it or not.

Unselfishness wins


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.)


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.

Truth, not trends

truth not trendsAssail it all they can, the Bible stands as God’s unaltered message to humanity. Science advances, societies evolve, morals change, fashions come and go. But the Bible remains unchanged.

Its message: We are sinners, but God loved us so much that He punished His Son in our place. We must come to Him in repentance and gratitude.

God’s code of conduct doesn’t evolve. We can’t improve upon it. The very thing people hate about the Bible is its strength, its eternal nature.

Original image by Tom.

Pay a scholarship for at-risk students for soccer


Levi shows why he’ll be midfielder.

This blog has always been about people. Even more than writing, I love interacting with and helping people. I’ve seen through the years how our school’s soccer team is another way to reach out to kids: to teach them discipline, excellence, respect and teamwork. Actually, I’m amazed at sport’s power to assist in the transformation of youth.

So I’m ask you, my loyal readers, if you can chip in for a scholarship for kids to play. Some kids can’t even afford the paltry $100 sports fee. Additionally, we need new penny jerseys and money for parents to drive kids to practices. There are park fees, game fees and referee fees. Pretty much everybody charges a fee except me. I do it because I love soccer and I love helping people. You can help too! Here’s my GoFundMe account gofundme.com/9tb5ehjw.  (Sorry, looks like you have to cut and paste it due to WordPress’ refusal to transfer the link.) I’m trying to raise $750 for the benefit of the team. I need your help because I don’t have this money myself.

I’m excited for a new season. Thanks for helping!

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

journalism class Santa Monica private school

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

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

By Petrina Gratton, Lighthouse Christian Academy sophomore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Because I believe in giving thanks

Veterans DayThe freedoms I enjoy, the prosperity, the trappings of America — someone fought for those. They didn’t just drop out of the sky.

Somebody fought for those and gave them to me. Should I not say thanks?

We need to be grateful, not entitled snots. We should recognize and appreciate what soldiers have done for America — from the American Revolution onward. If you don’t think it important to appreciate the soldiers who made America great, try living in just about any other country in the world for a while (like I did: 16 years as a missionary in Guatemala). It will help you to appreciate the Home of Brave and the Land of the Free.

Soldiers: THANK YOU!

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.

Tom Curren, surfing legend, came to Jesus

Tom CurrenHe patiently watches the wave come closer and closer, then turns his board, jumps to his feet and rides the wave back home, cutting alternately graceful elliptical lines and quick power turns that send a water wall spraying.

This is Tom Curren, surfing legend and decisive Christian.

“The ocean is a sign of God’s power,” he told 40,000 people at a Christian rally in Anaheim Stadium. “It’s really good to live for Jesus Christ.”

But the three-time world champion wasn’t always stoked for Jesus.

Tom-Curren-3In the sixth grade he was already drinking cocktails, and in the seventh grade, getting high on drugs, according to the online Encyclopedia of Surfing. His surfer dad left his born-again mom when he was 17.

At the height of his career, Tom fell out of all competitions because of alcoholism. Photos in surfing magazines contrasted the winners with Tom boozed up and lying inert on a beach in Mexico.

“He became the laughing stock of the surfing tour,” said Pastor Jimmy Papik, a surfer from Venice, California.

But he was not to be counted out. Tom got straight with Jesus and returned to competitions to cement his legacy.

“To be honest there were a few years there where I really wasn’t doing much of anything. I was pretty lost I guess,” he confides to Surfer Magazine. “For me, it’s just Jesus is there and He’s free, and He’s all I need. It’s something where I know I’m not the only one to struggle with alcohol. I’m doing really well at the moment.”

Tom_CurrenTom, now 52, began surfing when he was two years old in Santa Barbara, where he perfected his records-smashing technique on the long ride of idyllic waves at Rincon.
His father, Pat Curren, pioneered big-wave surfing in Hawaii. He made boards and wetsuits for his son. He loved skateboarding, but after age 13 the waves drew him away from the wheels.

In 1978 he won the Boys’ U14s Western Surfing Association title, and the following year he became the Boy’s National Champion. He was gifted, it would seem, by God to follow in Jesus’ footsteps and walk on water.

In 1980, he snatched the World Amateur Junior Championship, and in 1982, he pocketed the Men’s title.

Then he went pro.

At the time, three Australians were dominating everything – Mark Occhilupo, Gary Elkerton and Tom Carroll. And South African Martin Potter was dazzling the world with the sport’s first aerials.

But in his first professional competition, Tom Curren won – the 1982 Marui World Surfing Pro in Japan. What the ballet dancer does on the stage, Tom did with mesmerizing, pulsating brilliance on water. His inexorable victory sweep culled consecutive world titles in 1985 and 1986.

His reputation was etched with the other surfing legends, Duke Kahanamoku and Kelly Slater — according to some sources.

“He has a surfing style that combines smooth, rhythmic, seamlessly-linked maneuvers with blinding speed, raw power, and unique check turns and body English,” says his entry in Wikipedia.

Then just as suddenly he exploded on the surfing scene, he slipped out of view. The surfing lifestyle often goes hand in hand with the party lifestyle, and the drinking and drug habits he started as a teen were beginning to sink him.

It was his devout Christian mother, Jeanine, who rescued her prodigal son. A surfer herself, she took him to ride boards. She preached at him, loved on him and prayed for him. Everyone had basically written off the phenom who got stung by addiction, but Tom was slowly grinding out a recovery. The rest of the story here.

Don’t be mad

grumblingDon’t be mad for what you don’t have. Be glad you don’t get what you deserve.

We deserve Hell. But we get salvation. Why be upset over insignificant things.

Note: Original image not mine. Not making any money on it.

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.

I get energy off this guy

BuddiesZach Scribner works odd jobs to be able to teach at our Christian high school, which is small and resource-stretched. He prefers to save souls. He cleans the church (for free, I think). I help him occasionally. He inspires me.

I get energy off this guy. While others in the church emanate cynicism, you can never get a negative thought out of this guy. I want to be like him.

Is it a funny thing that a somewhat old guy (me — I’m 48) looks up to and wants to emulate a young guy (he was a little boy when I was a pastor-missionary)? Yeah, I have a lot to learn in my Christian life, and I can learn it from him. It doesn’t matter that he’s a million years younger than me.

I can thank God to have him as one of my best friends. I thank God for people who inspire.

Patch man

sports injury

The doctor extracted the blood that caused the painful swelling.

My son Rob keeps smashing his body to pieces in sports, and he keeps going back to the orthopedist to be put back together.

Keith Brookenthal (quite a name for a man who deals with broken bones, right?) is an sharp and optimistic doctor. He emanates confidence and allays fears with his smile.

You might as well and try to finish your season. See how much your leg can support you. The right ACL was partially torn Sept. 11. Since it was Rob’s senior year, he ought to go for the glory and not play it safe.

On Saturday, Rob finished tearing the ACL. But he made a touchdown, threw a touchdown pass and helped his team to their first win.

Come Monday morning, we’re back in Dr. Brookenthal’s office. The knee is swollen. He has pain. We are worried about further damage done. He tests the leg, smiles and orders another MRI. (Dr. Brookenthal successfully repaired Rob’s left ACL tear two years ago. Now, he’s doing the right ACL.)

Something about this doctor — whom I call Patch Man because he keeps patching up my son — reminds me of Jesus. We go out into the world and get smashed up. We come back to Jesus, and He heals us. He beams with a smile and inspires confidence.

When I  put my son into Dr. Brookenthal’s hands, I know everything is going to be all right. When I put my soul into Dr. Jesus’ hands, I know everything is going to be all right.

A sacrifice of praise is not a sacrifice

sacrifice of praiseThe Bible calls it a sacrifice because we offer it to the Lord as an expression of our gratitude. But it brings such joy that it is hard to think of it as a sacrifice. While it pleases God, it transforms the person who is praising.

*Original Image: Jason Ashimoto. I don’t own the rights. I’m not making any money on it.

Christ on the football field?

varsity sports Christian school Santa MonicaLike Christ, he hazarded his life to help his buddies win.

And the Saints won 54-15 against Concordia High School of Sylmar, their first win of the 2015 season – thanks to a 200-pound senior who was already injured.

The Cougars were the first to score.

“They were just moving the ball. We couldn’t stop them,” said Coach Zach Scribner. “I don’t know what it was. They had too many beefy guys. They just kept pushing the line. Rob (Ashcraft) basically stepped up and said, ‘I’ll go in, and I’ll play on the line.’ And we stopped them.”

Rob – named after Lighthouse schools founder Pastor Rob Scribner, the former LA Rams kickoff returner – had been injured on Sept. 11 in a game against Rolling Hills Academy. The risk of further injury was high to step out of the field.

But this was his senior year, a last chance to grab glory and make memories – and his team needed him. So Rob, with a torn ACL, gave it all. He made one touchdown reception and threw as quarterback another touchdown pass.

In the third quarter, his leg gave out, and he collapsed.

“Fuuuuudge!” he shrieked in pain. To continue reading click varsity sports Santa Monica.

Paul, William Blake, evolutionary morality and you

good and evil | William BlakeFor Paul, good and evil are at war in his heart. He longs to please God with his entire being, but fleshly temptations assail him and make it impossible. Only because of grace, only because of Christ’s sacrifice, is he saved. And freed from this war, he rejoices that Christ has done what he could not do. He rejoices to be in right relationship with God and thanks God for unilaterally removing the barrier that separated him from God.

William Blake doesn’t put evil and good at war. They are both poles of the same reality. In his “Songs of Innocence and of Experience,” he even changes the name of evil into “experience.” When we are innocent children, life is wonderful. But when we grow up, we become aware of temptations and begin to sample them and “experience” life. Ultimately, it was God who made us to grow up in puberty and “wake up” to other realities, according to his view. Blake seemed to revel in the role of an iconoclast, asserting heresy for shock value, much like Edgar Allen Poe did when he forged the horror genre.

What’s your conception of evil and good? A popular theory from evolution dismisses entirely the idea. And since the notion of a completely amoral society is untenable (not to mention denying the obvious inborn conscience we all have), lately theorists have forwarded the notion that we “evolved” morals as “communal” animals. It will be interesting to see what sort of evidence scientists assemble to support this theory. It will be even more interesting to see if they can agree on what sort of behavior is morally acceptable or condemned. In the meantime, it seems that this notion is a frantic attempt to shore up evolution, which fails entirely to account for the intellectual and emotional complexity of humans, which corroborates better the Biblical version than man is separate from the animals, not evolved.

Image from New York Times

Image from New York Times

But while intellectual concepts are floated into public discussion and enjoy moments of popularity and then die out, be careful what concepts you choose for your own life. Because you will be held accountable for your choices. If you reject God because His system conflicts with your personal pleasures, you could wind up in hot water.

Don’t be a Lilliputian

lilliputiansWe can be so small. Jonathan Swift satirizes the politicians of his day by making parallels called Lilliputians, six-inch high mini humans, who benefiting from Gulliver’s help in a war, order Gulliver to annihilate their enemies. Gulliver demurs, and the Lilliputian king orders his eyes out for treason.

Even though he’s only six inches tall, his ego is gargantuan.

Not forgiving is being small. Being full of yourself is being small. Narcissists are small. Don’t be small (I’m talking to myself).

Peter Hitchens on atheism, faith and the relationship with his brother, anti-theist Christopher

Peter Hitchens at right.

Peter Hitchens at right.

I set fire to my Bible on the playing fields of my Cambridge boarding school one bright, windy spring afternoon in 1967. I was 15 years old. The book did not, as I had hoped, blaze fiercely and swiftly.

Only after much blowing and encouragement did I manage to get it to ignite at all, and I was left with a disagreeable, half-charred mess.

Most of my small invited audience drifted away long before I had finished, disappointed by the anticlimax and the pettiness of the thing. Thunder did not mutter.

It would be many years before I would feel a slight shiver of unease about my act of desecration. Did I then have any idea of the forces I was trifling with?

In truth, it was not much of a Bible. It was bound in shiny pale blue boards with twiddly writing on the cover, a gift from my parents and until that moment treated with proper reverence, and some tenderness.

In front of a statue of Lenin

In front of a statue of Lenin

But this was my Year Zero. I was engaged in a full, perfect and complete rebellion against everything I had been brought up to believe.

As I had been raised to be an English gentleman, this was quite an involved process. It included behaving like a juvenile delinquent, using as much foul language as I could find excuse for, mocking the weak (there was a wheelchair-bound boy in my year, who provided a specially shameful target for this impulse), insulting my elders, and eventually breaking the law.

The full details would be tedious for most people, and unwelcome to my family. Let us just say they include some political brawling with the police, some unhinged dabbling with illegal drugs, an arrest – richly merited by my past behaviour but actually wrongful – for having an offensive weapon and nearly killing someone, and incidentally myself, through criminal irresponsibility while riding a motorcycle.

There were also numberless acts of minor or major betrayal, ingratitude, disloyalty, dishonour, failure to keep promises and meet obligations, oath-breaking, cowardice, spite or pure selfishness. Nothing I could now do or say could possibly atone for them.

I talk about my own life at more length than I would normally think right because I need to explain that I have passed through the same atheist revelation that most self-confident British members of my generation – I was born in 1951 –have experienced.

We were sure that we, and our civilisation, had grown out of the nursery myths of God, angels and Heaven. We had modern medicine, penicillin, jet engines, the Welfare State, the United Nations and ‘ science’, which explained everything that needed to be explained.

The Britain that gave me this self-confidence was an extraordinarily safe place, or at least so it felt to me as a child. Of our many homes, I was fondest of a modest house in the village of Alverstoke, just across the crowded water from Portsmouth.

It is almost impossible now to express the ordered peace which lingered about the quiet shaded gardens and the roads without traffic, where my parents let me and my brother Christopher wander unsupervised.

Dark green buses with conductors wearing peaked caps would bear us past a favourite toyshop to the Gosport ferry, from which we could view the still substantial Navy in which my father had served.

Then we made our way to the department store where my mother took me and Christopher, neatly brushed and tamed, for tea, eclairs and cream horns served by frilly waitresses.

There was nothing, however, peaceful about my relationship with Christopher. Some brothers get on; some do not. We were the sort that just didn’t. Who knows why?

At one stage – I was about nine, he nearly 12 – my poor gentle father actually persuaded us to sign a peace treaty in the hope of halting our feud. I can still picture this doomed pact in its red frame, briefly hanging on the wall.

To my shame, I was the one who repudiated it, ripped it from its frame and angrily erased my signature, before recommencing hostilities. In a way, the treaty has remained broken ever since. Our rivalry was to last 50 years, and religion was one of its later causes.

My own, slow return to faith began when I was 30, in 1981. By this time, I was doing well in my chosen trade, journalism. I could afford pleasant holidays with my girlfriend, whom I should nowadays call my ‘partner’ since we were not then married, on the European continent.

I no longer avoided churches. I recognised in the great English cathedrals, and in many small parish churches, the old unsettling messages.

One was the inevitability of my own death, the other the undoubted fact that my despised forebears were neither crude nor ignorant, but men and women of great skill and engineering genius, a genius not contradicted or blocked by faith, but enhanced by it.

No doubt I should be ashamed to confess that fear played a part in my return to religion, specifically a painting: Rogier van der Weyden’s 15th Century Last Judgement, which I saw in Burgundy while on holiday.

I had scoffed at its mention in the guidebook, but now I gaped, my mouth actually hanging open, at the naked figures fleeing towards the pit of Hell.

These people did not appear remote or from the ancient past; they were my own generation. Because they were naked, they were not imprisoned in their own age by time-bound fashions.

On the contrary, their hair and the set of their faces were entirely in the style of my own time. They were me, and people I knew.

I had a sudden strong sense of religion being a thing of the present day, not imprisoned under thick layers of time. My large catalogue of misdeeds replayed themselves rapidly in my head.

I had absolutely no doubt that I was among the damned, if there were any damned. Van der Weyden was still earning his fee, nearly 500 years after his death.

At around the same time I rediscovered Christmas, which I had pretended to dislike for many years. I slipped into a carol service on a winter evening, diffident and anxious not to be seen.

I knew perfectly well that I was enjoying it, although I was unwilling to admit it. I also knew I was losing my faith in politics and my trust in ambition, and was urgently in need of something else on which to build the rest of my life.

I am not exactly clear now how this led in a few months to my strong desire – unexpected by me or by my friends, but encouraged by my then unbelieving future wife – to be married in church.

But I can certainly recall the way the words of the Church of England’s marriage service, at St Bride’s in London, awakened thoughts in me that I had long suppressed. I was entering into my inheritance, as a Christian Englishman, as a man, and as a human being. It was the first properly grown-up thing that I had ever done.

The swearing of great oaths concentrates the mind. So did the baptisms first of my daughter and then of my wife who, raised as a Marxist atheist, trod another rather different path to the same place.

Word spread around my trade that I was somehow mixed up in church matters. It was embarrassing. I remember a distinguished foreign correspondent, with a look of mingled pity and horror on his face, asking: ‘How can you do that?’

I talked to few people about it, and was diffident about mentioning it in anything I wrote. I think it true to say that for many years I was more or less ashamed of confessing to any religious faith at all, except when I felt safe to do so.

It is a strange and welcome side effect of the growing attack on Christianity in British society that I have now overcome this.

Being Christian is one thing. Fighting for a cause is another, and much easier to acknowledge – for in recent times it has grown clear that the Christian religion is threatened with a dangerous defeat by secular forces which have never been so confident.

Why is there such a fury against religion now? Because religion is the one reliable force that stands in the way of the power of the strong over the weak. The one reliable force that forms the foundation of the concept of the rule of law.

The one reliable force that restrains the hand of the man of power. In an age of powerworship, the Christian religion has become the principal obstacle to the desire of earthly utopians for absolute power.

While I was making my gradual, hesitant way back to the altar-rail, my brother Christopher’s passion against God grew more virulent and confident.

As he has become more certain about the non-existence of God, I have become more convinced we cannot know such a thing in the way we know anything else, and so must choose whether to believe or not. I think it better by far to believe.

Christopher and I are separate people who, like many siblings, have lived entirely different lives since our childhood.

But since it is obvious much of what I say arises out of my attempt to debate religion with him, it would be absurd to pretend that much of what I say here is not intended to counter or undermine arguments he presented in his book, God Is Not Great, published in 2007.

I do not loathe atheists, as Christopher claims to loathe believers. I am not angered by their failure to see what appears obvious to me. I understand that they see differently. I do think that they have reasons for their belief, as I have reasons for mine, which are the real foundations of this argument.

It is my belief that passions as strong as his are more likely to be countered by the unexpected force of poetry, which can ambush the human heart at any time.

It is also my view that, as with all atheists, he is his own chief opponent. As long as he can convince himself, nobody else will persuade him. His arguments are to some extent internally coherent and are a sort of explanation – if not the best explanation – of the world and the universe.

He often assumes that moral truths are self-evident, attributing purpose to the universe and swerving dangerously round the problem of conscience – which surely cannot be conscience if he is right since the idea of conscience depends on it being implanted by God. If there is no God then your moral qualms might just as easily be the result of indigestion.

Yet Christopher is astonishingly unable to grasp that these assumptions are problems for his argument. This inability closes his mind to a great part of the debate, and so makes his atheist faith insuperable for as long as he himself chooses to accept it.

One of the problems atheists have is the unbelievers’ assertion that it is possible to determine what is right and what is wrong without God. They have a fundamental inability to concede that to be effectively absolute a moral code needs to be beyond human power to alter.

On this misunderstanding is based my brother Christopher’s supposed conundrum about whether there is any good deed that could be done only by a religious person, and not done by a Godless one. Like all such questions, this contains another question: what is good, and who is to decide what is good?

Left to himself, Man can in a matter of minutes justify the incineration of populated cities; the deportation, slaughter, disease and starvation of inconvenient people and the mass murder of the unborn.

I have heard people who believe themselves to be good, defend all these things, and convince themselves as well as others. Quite often the same people will condemn similar actions committed by different countries, often with great vigour.

For a moral code to be effective, it must be attributed to, and vested in, a non-human source. It must be beyond the power of humanity to change it to suit itself.

Its most powerful expression is summed up in the words ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends’.

The huge differences which can be observed between Christian societies and all others, even in the twilit afterglow of Christianity, originate in this specific injunction.

It is striking that in his dismissal of a need for absolute theistic morality, Christopher says in his book that ‘the order to “love thy neighbour as thyself” is too extreme and too strenuous to be obeyed’. Humans, he says, are not so constituted as to care for others as much as themselves.

This is demonstrably untrue, and can be shown to be untrue, through the unshakable devotion of mothers to their children; in the uncounted cases of husbands caring for sick, incontinent and demented wives (and vice versa) at their lives’ ends; through the heartrending deeds of courage on the battlefield.

I am also baffled and frustrated by the strange insistence of my anti-theist brother that the cruelty of Communist anti-theist regimes does not reflect badly on his case and on his cause. It unquestionably does.

Soviet Communism is organically linked to atheism, materialist rationalism and most of the other causes the new atheists support. It used the same language, treasured the same hopes and appealed to the same constituency as atheism does today.

When its crimes were still unknown, or concealed, it attracted the support of the liberal intelligentsia who were then, and are even more now, opposed to religion.

Another favourite argument of the irreligious is that conflicts fought in the name of religion are necessarily conflicts about religion. By saying this they hope to establish that religion is of itself a cause of conflict.

This is a crude factual misunderstanding. The only general lesson that can be drawn is that Man is inclined to make war on Man when he thinks it will gain him power, wealth or land.

I tried to present these arguments to Christopher in April 2008, at a debate on the existence of God and the goodness of religion before a large audience in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Normally, I love to argue in front of audiences and we had been in public debates before. We had had the occasional clash on TV or radio. We had debated the legacy of the Sixties, in a more evenly matched encounter than Grand Rapids, 11 years ago in London.

Not long after that, there had been a long, unrewarding fallingout over something I had said about politics. Both of us were urged by others to end this quarrel, and eventuallyif rather tentatively, did so.

When I attacked his book against God some people seemed almost to hope that our personal squabble would begin again in public. No doubt they would have been pleased or entertained if we had pelted each other with slime in Grand Rapids.

But despite one or two low blows exchanged in the heat of the moment, I do not think we did much to satisfy them. I hope not.

Somehow on that Thursday night in Grand Rapids, our old quarrels were, as far as I am concerned, finished for good. Just at the point where many might have expected –and some might have hoped – that we would rend and tear at each other, we did not.

Both of us, I suspect, recoiled from such an exhibition, which might have been amusing for others, because we were brothers –but would have been wrong, because we are brothers.

At the end I concluded that, while the audience perhaps had not noticed, we had ended the evening on better terms than either of us might have expected. This was, and remains, more important to me than the debate itself.

I have resolved that I will not hold any more such debates with him, because of the danger that they might turn into gladiatorial combat in which nothing would be resolved and enmity could be created.

I am 58. He is 60. We do not necessarily have time for another brothers’ war.

Here is another thing. When our Grand Rapids hosts chose the date of April 3 for this debate, they had no way of knowing that it was the 63rd anniversary of our parents’ wedding: an optimistic, happy day in the last weeks of what had been for both of them a fairly grim war.

Not all the optimism was justified, and with the blessed hindsight of parenthood, I cannot imagine that our long fraternal squabble did much for their later happiness.

They are, alas, long gone but my brother and I had both independently become a little concerned at how we should conduct ourselves on such a day. We had each reached the conclusion, unbidden, that we did not want this to turn into a regular travelling circus, becoming steadily more phoney as it progressed.

Something far more important than a debate had happened a few days before, when Christopher and I had met in his Washington DC apartment. If he despised and loathed me for my Christian beliefs, he wasn’t showing it.

We were more than civil, treating each other as equals, and as brothers with a common childhood, even recalling bicycle rides we used to take together on summer days unimaginably long ago, which I did not even realise he still remembered.

To my astonishment, Christopher cooked supper, a domesticated action so unexpected that I still haven’t got over it. He had even given up smoking.

I am not hoping for a late conversion because he has won the battle against cigarettes. He has bricked himself up high in his atheist tower, with slits instead of windows from which to shoot arrows at the faithful, and would find it rather hard to climb down out of it.

I have, however, the more modest hope that he might one day arrive at some sort of acceptance that belief in God is not necessarily a character fault, and that religion does not poison everything.

Beyond that, I can only add that those who choose to argue in prose, even if it is very good prose, are unlikely to be receptive to a case which is most effectively couched in poetry.

My brother and I agree on this: that independence of mind is immensely precious, and that we should try to tell the truth in clear English even if we are disliked for doing so. Oddly enough this leads us, in many things, to be far closer than most people think we are on some questions; closer, sometimes, than we would particularly wish to be.

The same paradox sometimes also makes us arrive at different conclusions from very similar arguments, which is easier than it might appear. This will not make us close friends at this stage. We are two utterly different men approaching the ends of two intensely separate lives.

Let us not be sentimental here, nor rashly over-optimistic. But I was astonished, on that spring evening by the Grand River, to find that the longest quarrel of my life seemed unexpectedly to be over, so many years and so many thousands of miles after it had started, in our quiet homes and our first beginnings in an England now impossibly remote from us.

It may actually be true, as I have long hoped that it would be, in the words of T. S. Eliot, that ‘the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time’.

Editor’s Note: This piece was written entirely by Peter Hitchens and was published in the UK Daily Mail. I post it for my new friend, Vel, to hopefully answer some of the many questions she poses in my comments. It also may assist and encourage anyone struggling to understand why some of us believe faith is, in fact, the most rational world view. Read it here.

A demon skull basher in Magna, Utah

markell taylor utahThirteen-year-old Markell Taylor wanted to be just like his stepdad, who was a pimp, a rapper, a womanizer and a drunk.

“I idolized him,” Markell says. “People thought he was cool. My own father was not in the picture and my mom was in and out of prison. He was the one male figure in my life. He had money, so he would buy expensive cars and expensive clothes. So he would buy them for me. You’re a little kid and you’re getting hooked up. I thought he had something going on.”

In response to this role modeling, Markell became a runner for a drug dealer. He dropped out of school. He used methamphetamines and he took advantage of girls. “I had all these insecurities because I was hurting and lonely and I didn’t know why I wasn’t worth it for my real dad to stick around,” he said. “But I put on a mask of confidence to get in girls’ pants.”

pastor markell taylor magnaFrom middle school onward, Markell was the life of the party. He had the drugs, so he got it started.

But while he was admired for his swagger and brazenness, his future began to dim. He variously lived with his stepdad in Wendover, Nevada, his grandmother in Las Vegas — and homeless shelters. He was arrested for domestic violence against his mother and police were investigating crimes he had participated in.

“I was out of control,” he recalls. “One time I told my mom I was going to kill the guy who sold me some bad drugs. I wasn’t really going to do it, but I acted like it. She tried to take me to the police, but I jumped out of the car while she was driving.”

At age 14, his mom and stepdad wanted to escape their reputation at Wendover and move to Salt Lake City to get a fresh start in life. Markell didn’t last one day there without his arrest.

Again it was a case of domestic violence. He hit his mom with a pillow, he says, and she freaked out and called the cops. When the police handcuffed him, they asked if there was a gun. Markell stood up to show them his arm, but the police thought he was going to attempt a fight, so they tackled him again.

markell taylorThe cops hauled him off to jail.

“As soon as I got into the back of the patrol car, I started crying like a little baby,” Markell says. “Up until then, I had pretty much gotten away with everything I did.”

The tears in the back of the patrol car and the three days in jail were a starting point for change. He started thinking his life was on a collision course.

Upon his release, he tried to change. Living in a homeless shelter with his mom and stepdad, he enrolled in school. He tried to avoid the hard drugs – meth, coke and mushrooms – though he still smoked cigarettes and pot and still drank vodka and beer.

His parents couldn’t find a job and after weeks of frustration decided to return to Wendover.

“I knew if I went back, I was going to either die because I was running with the wrong people or end up in jail for a long time,” Markell says. “Believe it or not, I prayed that God wouldn’t let me go back to Wendover. I had gone to Vacation Bible School and knew about God.”

As he and his parents were driving out of Salt Lake, he was still praying.

“Two minutes later, the car breaks down,” he says.

They called a friend, towed the vehicle and wound up staying with a Christian family who invited them to church. Seeing that God answered his prayer to stay in Salt Lake, Markell didn’t think twice in agreeing to go.

The visiting preacher talked about conscience, and Markell was panged in his heart.

“I got radically saved. Jesus just touched me,” he says. “I went to the altar weeping like a baby – snot and everything. It was an event – something happened in my life. I got up from that altar not knowing what was going to happen, but I felt that it was all going to work out. My situation was chaotic. I had burnt so many bridges with my family. But I had a peace that Jesus would take care of everything.”

The preacher also felt inspired to give Markell a special message from the Holy Spirit: “You’re going to be a demon skull basher.”

It was in a slang that Markell could relate to.

The young people at the Door Church swarmed him, shaking his hand, making introductions and congratulating him on his decision. Soon, the pastor arranged housing for him so he could get off the streets. He moved in with a family in the church.

He threw himself into all the church’s activities. He used his rapping skills to draw crowds and delivered the gospel in the streets. He cleaned the church. He led Bible studies and preached at youth group. For seven years, Markell was a living example of God’s transforming power. This article was first published on God Reports. See here.

Lilliputian Lighthouse takes on Gulliver rivals in flag football

Lighthouse Church School

The boys from the Lighthouse Church School in Santa Monica

Gregory Heffley, the anti-heroic protagonist of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, thought middle school should be divided by height and weight instead of academic ability to avoid bullying.

His observations have been pointedly spot-on for Lighthouse Church School flag football this season. Drawing on a miniature school population of 60, they have stitched together a team to face towering muscle-bound opponents.

So the Lilliputians from Lighthouse took on another set of Gullivers and lost Tuesday 20-26 against Turning Point School at McManus Park.

“We had a great game. We stopped them on defense,” said LCS Coach Nate Scribner. “We lost by one touchdown, and that touchdown was my fault. They scored on an interception that was my fault. We made better blocks today. We have sixth graders playing against all these older guys.”

Lighthouse is just this year re-starting its flag football program. With inexperienced players jumbled together, it’s been difficult to get everyone doing their job proficiently. Sometimes kids run the wrong play. Blocking has been a downfall.

But through the patient work of the coaches, the team has slowly improved. In a game against Westside Neighborhood School on Sept. 29, the Saints strung together their first progression of plays leading to a touchdown.

Then on Oct. 6 against Crossroads B, they won.

Before half time, the Saints were marching in towards victory 12-7 when coach tried to score just more touchdown to fortify their lead. The fateful pass got picked, and the Saints were trailing at the half 14-12.

In the second half, the Tornadoes — with one player at 5’11” and two players almost as tall — were the first to score, but the Saints responded with a TD and with extra points tied the game at 20-20.

Turning Point scored and then time ran out on the Lighthouse push to counter the score.

“The kids should hold their heads up high,” Coach Nate said. “They pulled a lot of flags. Our guys are just beginning to grow and just beginning to figure out how to run. They played great. I hope they had fun. We should only remember those plays that worked right.” This story originally appeared on the Santa Monica Patch here.

25 years of marriage today

25th anniversary | marriageMaybe I DO have a perfect marriage.

They say: the perfect marriage is two imperfect people who refuse to give up on each other.

Well, I know that I am certainly imperfect, and thank God that Dianna hasn’t given up on me.

Divorce was never an option that we entertained. Some people use the D-word as a threat, a manipulation, an escalation of words that one stupidly hopes will make the other side back down.

We’ve had our bouts, our rough edges, our clash of personalities. Incompatible? Who is compatible? You work at it because it’s worth it.

At the end of the day, the guys who stick it out are happier than the guys who figure they’ve suffered too much and are unwilling to keep trying (on the other hand, there are cases of intransigence and abuse that sometimes necessitate divorce, so I’m not trying to make a blanket statement),

No, no, no, I’m not bragging about how I’ve been better than anyone else. No, I’m stating here that I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have been blessed with such a wonderful woman. And I want to be a better man.

I can only thank God for 25 years and pray for 25 more (at least).

This happened by chance, of course

forgiveness at 9/11

From the New York Times.

Of all the pages in the Bible, the one on forgiveness was “fossilized” in steel at World Trade Center Towers at 9/11. No, there’s no God, and He wasn’t giving a message to America, an erstwhile Christian nation. Missionaries should not take up the call to bring love and forgiveness to the languishing lost in Islam. It is all a coincidence, according to non-believers.

I have copied the article from the New York Times without altering a word, which if you were so inclined you can find here:

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

So many chapters. So many verses. But these were the words — from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, in the Gospel of Matthew — found permanently exposed at Ground Zero after the Sept. 11 attacks. The pages of the Bible in which they were printed had fused to a chunk of steel as the World Trade Center collapsed, to be found only months later.

The artifact is to be shown to Pope Francis when he visits the National September 11 Memorial Museum. It was given to the museum by the photographer Joel Meyerowitz, whose book “Aftermath: World Trade Center Archive” is the definitive pictorial chronicle of the months following the attack.

A firefighter found the fragment in March 2002, under the Tully Road, a temporary truck route that covered the last remnants of the south tower. He called out to the photographer, who happened to be nearby.

“This shredded, burned and rubble-covered Bible came to me from the loving hands of a fireman who knew that I was the record keeper of ground zero,” Mr. Meyerowitz said Thursday in an e-mail from Italy, where he now lives.

“My astonishment at seeing the page that the Bible was open to made me realize that the Bible’s message survives throughout time,” he said, “and in every era we interpret its teachings freshly, as the occasion demands.”

Why does God always get the blame?

act of God?They call it “Act of God” insurance, and it covers unforeseeable natural disaster. But I wonder why they blame God for bad and give no credit for the good. Why are 1,000 beautiful things in nature considered accidents of evolution?

In fact, God doesn’t exist for the atheist until he needs someone to blame for wars, massacres and disasters. Then He exists and gets blamed. But He gets no credit for the blessings of life, for love, for beauty, for bounty.

They turn God on like a light switch when evil happens. Then they turn Him off during years of wonderful things.

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

Santa Monica private school

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The school where I work

Christian school Santa Monica

Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica

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

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

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

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

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

A new sheriff in town: Lighthouse Church School’s flag football

Christian middle school West Los Angeles

My son, Hosea, hikes the ball. The losing streak snapped.

After a stinging loss the day before, the Lighthouse Church School flag football team bounced back to beat Crossroads B 22-14 on Oct. 6 – the first victory of the season for the recently rebuilt program.

“The team is improving daily,” said Coach Josh Scribner, whose son Marcus plays on the Santa Monica team. “We’re on a very fast learning curve. Most of our players have no previous experience. But they are committed to each other and working hard.”

Suddenly a 5-game winless streak broke to the jubilation of kids and parents. Learning how to block was a key, coach said.

Lighthouse has been something of a football powerhouse. With its senior pastor a former NFL player and a former principal a Dartmouth champion, you would expect domination in the Pacific Basin League.

But changes in coaching and a drop of student enrollment combined to sack Lighthouse’s program. The middle school has gone three seasons without a team.

That all changed when Pastor Josh Scribner returned from a 10-year pastoring stint in Utah. His son was a Pop Warner star, and he was an accomplished football player. His brother, Nate, a former quarterback at Santa Monica College, also offered to coach.

There’s a new sheriff in town. Read the rest of the article.

Want God’s presence? Try praising Him.


Psalm 22:3 says God inhabits the praises of His people. There is nothing to take away pain better in our lives than a loving embrace from God. Losing yourself in worship is an exhilarating, restorative experience. The next time you are in worship service, forget about the person who’s judging you. Forget about the argument you had with your husband coming into church. Lose yourself in praise.

*I don’t own the original image, and I’m not making $ on it.

What’s everywhere?

wash your hands say your prayers cause Jesus and germs are everywhereWash your hands and say your prayers because Jesus and germs are everywhere.

A world without racism

a world without racismThis is the world I inhabit, a place free from hatred, from discrimination. Hearts could be judged, not skin color. People would join hands in a universal recognition of Jesus. Differences — rich, poor, educated, uneducated — would matter squat.

It is with much anguish that I see our world convulsed by racists. It is upsetting to receive messages from whites who justify their hatred. I unfriend them on Facebook. I am fighting for equality, fair treatment, for love.

About this painting: I got it off Facebook and could not determine the original source for this credit. If you know who it is, please let me know. Furthermore, I would be very much interested in using more of his/her paintings. His/her genius inspires me.

Can’t clean trash with trash

trashThis may sound silly, but people try to clean up their mind, heart, anxiety, conflicts with — trash! What the world gives you is trash, through its sin and temptation. Inevitably, this brings problems to your life. Then going to the worldly therapist, or blocking out the world with worldly music, or drowning your sorrows in liquor, or self-medicating… you get the idea.

Only Jesus can clean your trash — and my trash. Let us return to the Bible, for therein we will find true answers and solutions.

A quixotic effort to deny God

Don QuijoteDon Quixote got his head full of medieval adventures. So enamored was he of the books he read, that eventually he crossed the line from reality to fantasy and decided to embark on a quest to live the knight’s life.

He got a pathetic horse and a pudgey “page” and went forth searching for wrongs to right. At one point he battles with his sword a windmill, hallucinating that it’s an evil giant. Naturally, he lost badly.

I can’t help but think that the quest to prove there’s no God is equally quixotic. To assume that everything come from nothing without anything working upon is the quintessence of absurdity. Science can only track what is measurable, but what is unmeasurable lies outside of science’s ken. To deny the existence of something outside your experience is the height of arrogance.

To think the universe exists without a Creator is like saying a building built itself without an architect or construction worker.

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.

Spieth cometh | Golf’s new darling is a quiet Christian

Jordan SpiethAccording to Esquire magazine, Jordan Spieth is the new “savior” of golf, but he probably would shy away from such journalistic hyperbole: He knows there’s only one Savior.

The wunderkind, who just dethroned golf’s #1 ranked with a win at the FedEx Cup, is a quiet Christian who attends the PGA Tour Christian group with flamboyant buddy Bubba Watson.

“He goes to Bible study with us on the Tour here,” says Watson, who in April put the traditional snazzy green jacket on Spieth to symbolize his joining the ranks of The Masters winners at Augusta.

with ellieOn Sept. 27, Spieth dead-shot putted everything from anywhere on the green to win the $10 million Tour Championship, showing why golf legend Ben Crenshaw called him Wyatt Earp. On the 11th hole, the Texan curled in a 45-foot put, a “dagger” that cut his closest competitor’s hopes, and he took the FedEx Cup.

His five wins this year include two majors and a $23 million haul just on the links – and he’s only 22. Spieth’s youth and dominance are strikingly similar to golf’s last and now-fallen Titan, Tiger Woods.

But while Woods was a vicious competitor, a golfer who would swear profusely on camera and frolic with with ladies off camera, Spieth projects a clean image of good sportsmanship and Christian conduct.

While other champs flaunt pictures with hot girlfriends, Spieth likes to pose with his autistic sister, 15-year-old Ellie.

“She’s my inspiration,” Spieth told the UK’s Telegraph. “She’s the funniest member of our family. I really love spending time with her. It is humbling to see her and her friends, and the struggles they go through each day, which we take for granted. They are the happiest people in the world.” Read the rest.

Holdout helper | Why she didn’t go on medical missions for so long, and why she’ll be on more

medical missions | Africa and elsewhere

Andrea at far left, took to the clinic like a duck to water

For 22 times, her boss and mom pressed Andrea Campos to go on a Lighthouse Medical Mission – and she always declined.

“I just didn’t have a passion for Africa,” the Santa Monica native said.

After almost two decades of them wheedling her, Andrea, 37, finally relented. She is now in Guatemala, translating and writing prescriptions on 10-hour shifts with no breaks and only a half hour lunch.

But, if she was the holdout in a family of big LMM volunteers, this week she has plunged into the labor-intensive clinic with a vengeance.

Some volunteers are awkward, squeamish around blood, befuddled by Latin jargon, duty-dodgers who wanted the applause, not real work. Not Andrea. She’s totally in her element, holding her own like a pro.

“This is definitely NOT my last mission,” Andrea said. “You just see the hope in their eyes of getting better. I’m seeing people with their eyes fill up with tears.”

On its third day of clinic in Guatemala, Lighthouse Medical Missions attended to 125 patients in Villa Nueva, a small municipality on the outskirts of Guatemala City. Today is expected to be the busiest day.

Andrea has worked as a receptionist on and off since 1998 for Dr. Bob Hamilton, a Santa Monica pediatrician who will pleasantly pester patients and friends to help the medical missions he founded and leads.

Not only has Andrea put her medical familiarity to good use in Guatemala, she’s also taken over much of the administration. She’s re-organizing hotel and food for the volunteers with her keen business acumen. From age six, she’s been money-shrewd when she lived in Puerto Vallarta and charged school mates to use her eraser because it was “from America.” Read more about participating in Christian 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.

Don’t be greedy teaching others to not be greedy

pardoners tale canterbury

Chaucer’s Pardoner’s Tale is a genius of irony. The Pardoner tells of three drunks who go off to kill Death, a hilarious over-personification. An old man tells them they’ll find him resting under some trees up the road around the corner. When they get there, they find eight bags of gold and immediately forget their original purpose. Instead, they propose to cart the gold off at night. In the meantime, one goes in to town to get bread and win. The others stay and watch the loot.

But then one suggests they kill the third, thus dividing the treasure between two instead of three. For his part, the guy getting win buys poison to kill his buddies and get all the gold for himself. When he comes back, they kill him. Then they drink the wine — and die.

There’s plenty of irony in this story but the ultimate irony is the fact that it’s told by a Pardoner, a guy who goes around selling “indulgences.” What better way to get people to give him money than by urging them not to be greedy with a hard-hitting story. In telling others to not be greedy, the Pardoner shows his greed.

Forgiveness: it’s beautiful

forgiveIf it is hard to forgive, if it is necessary, we must also understand that it is beautiful.

It is a release of pain, thus a relief from pain. In theory, it is strange that we would retain pain. In theory, we want immediate relief, whether it’s a headache or a heartache. But such is the human condition that we hold onto the grudge, we remember the wrong suffered — even more, we sickly savor the memory.

I’m not pointing fingers. I myself struggle.

Think of that moment when you were speeding and a cop car lights up and blows its sirens behind you. Instantly, you sweat and start to pull over. But no, the cop goes on and pulls over somebody else. You feel joyful relief.

Forgiveness is even better than that.

Christianity is portrayed as condemning (sometimes we are to blame for this). In fact, we ought to be portrayed as forgivers, albeit imperfect forgivers.

Image source: google

Forgiveness: it’s difficult

ForgivenessThe most difficult thing on the face of the Earth is not proving string theory. It is not harnessing fusion energy. It is not finding a cure for cancer.

It is forgiveness.

Jesus cried out, in the midst of unimaginable pain on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” I tend to think the knew very well what they were doing.

Stephen was being pelted unto death with stones. He did the same. “Don’t take this sin into account against them,” he prayed as he was being struck.

Can I forgive? Can you?

Christianity is not based on works. It is based on forgiveness. We are forgiven of our sins only for the asking.

Jesus asks us to forgive as best as we can those who have wronged us, and he does so most emphatically.

I think that all the rigmarole that blasts around the internet about how bad Christianity is misses its central tenet. Why is nobody talking about forgiveness? It is the most beautiful thing in the world. It is also the most difficult.

It is necessary. If you are going to have any semblance of human relations with people, you are going to need to master forgiveness.

Image source: Google

They deliberately threw themselves back into the battle

King arthurKing Arthur and his knights had earned their freedom after 15 years of service to Rome, in the movie. But a massive army of Saxons was at Hadrian’s wall to take over the island, so Arthur realized he couldn’t make use of his new freedom. And his knights, weary of danger, wanted to leave but reluctantly decided to stay with their leader and fight.

King-Arthur-Christianity is too easy here in America. We busy ourselves seeking prosperity and insisting that its all about us feeling happy.

In Indonesia, you take your life in your hands by becoming a Christian. In Egypt, it is a crime to evangelize. You will be thrown in jail for talking to a Muslim about Christ.

king-arthur-movieHow can we ignore the plight of our brothers around the world and adhere to a soft Christianity that doesn’t require much of any adherence at all?

Want vs. need

wants needsOne good thing about God is that He gives us what we need, not what we want. As human beings, we are destruction-bent. It’s part of our sinful condition that humanists vehemently denied but is being shown more and more in the news (look at the proliferation of massacres in our secular society).

Our generation is one that can’t distinguish want from need. Want is a right. Want is good, justified, unassailable. How dare you question my desires?

As Christians, we sometimes miss God’s best because we interpose our desires. It’s such our pursuit of wants that we miss needs. We pursue blessing more than the Blessor, the creation over the Creator. We miss destiny for dinero.

God just smiles. We pepper him with petitions, and He gently, patiently demurs. Thank God that He does. We would kill ourselves.

Original image source: Google.

When the world is in crisis, God is about to move.

world crisis | prayWhen the upheavals are great, when wars abound, when plague multiply, when evil is rampant, when good is called bad and bad is called good, don’t run off with your guns to hide in the wilderness.


The greatest revivals have been born out of the most trying times.

This ice-breaker is a gut-buster | Santa Monica Christian High School

This is how we welcomed students today to the family of Lighthouse Christian Academy, a small Westside college prep with a strong Biblical base.

This sort of thing is not my specialty. The donut-eating race was promoted by the student council, of which my son is a part. It seems like the new kids really felt welcomed. Now it’s time to roll up the sleeves and get into studies. As always, I’m teaching English literature and Spanish. I’ll keep y’all up to date, and I thank you for your prayers for our school.

Getting to winning

Autobahn BU14

Fueling between games at the OC Kickoff Classic tournamente in Orange County.

Hosea’s club team has lost some games pretty badly. As a matter of fact, they hadn’t even scored since Hosea joined.

That all changed Sunday. The 13-year-olds from Autobahn Soccer Club in Santa Monica came from behind to win 2-1. It was a thrill and a confidence booster for the kids.

But how did they get from losing to winning? Competent coaching plays a large role. Winning soccer games consists of fitness, technical and tactical knowledge, pure talent and the right attitude. The coaches, Herve Roussel and Pierce Maher, have been patient teachers. They don’t yell at the kids and apparently don’t get frustrated.

Coaches aren’t everything. Parents play a role. They encourage the kids to believe in themselves. I’ve seen discouraged kids slog out onto the field. Before the game starts, they believe they’re going to lose. And they do.

soccer club in Santa Monica

Coach Pierce goes over some of the positives of a loss the day before their Sunday victory.

Kids play a role. They are improving practice after practice. They need to believe in themselves. They will perform at a higher level if they play with confidence and passion.

The funny thing is that this team’s “best players” left the team looking for a winning team. A hemorrhage of talent can discourage anyone, and yet the coaches, parents and kids have remained encouraged.  I guess the “stars” didn’t believe in the newcomers, among which was my son Hosea, who hasn’t been playing with confidence previously. As the older stars leave, the new stars have to rise up.

This has everything to do with your and my life. We have to get to winning. We can be on a long losing streak. But if daily, we work to improve one of these areas:

  • fitness (think emotionally or spiritually)
  • technical and tactical ability (grow intellectually daily)
  • pure talent (there isn’t a person on the planet that God hasn’t given some special gifting)
  • believe in yourself (the psychological battle is perhaps the toughest).

Keep believing in your dreams — and get to winning!

Neophytes learn how to fight in Santa Monica Christian school football

Christian school Santa Monica | football

Tex Hagoski, with Coach Justin Kayne

One jittery kid forgot to put in his mouth guard. Another contracted a last-minute mysterious disease that incapacitated him. A bunch of kids missed tackles.

And that’s how the newbies got the heebie-jeebies at the Saints 2015 opener of 8-man football on Aug. 28 in a 20-34 loss to better-financed Crossroads Christian School of Corona.

“I’m always nervous before a game,” admitted LCA senior Tex Hagoski. “But then I either hit someone or get hit by someone and I remember that it’s not so bad.”

Hagoski gave and took plenty of hits. He ramrodded through the defensive line on punishing run after bruising run. Plenty of pain was dished out for everyone. A Crossroads player broke a leg. The Saints walked off the field battered but proud — they had given all.

“It hurt,” said Abraham Morales, a sophomore. “I was afraid when that kid messed his leg up. But I had to keep going because their team was going to come back stronger.”

It was Abraham’s first game, along with about half the squad. He’s been hard-working and faithful in practice. And on Friday night, he proved a critical element in the chemistry for Saints football.

Fellow sophomore Alex Cervantes felt much more at ease this, his second year. He came up with a touchdown-scoring reception on a long pass that surprised the Crossroads Cougars. They left him completely unguarded as they mistook the play for a run and all players swooped in for the kill. Read the rest of the story: education and sports.

The meaning of the long hug

Iglesia Cristiana La Puerta | Guatemala zona 1

Joe and me at the Door Church in Zone 1 of Guatemala City.

Joe hasn’t been to church.

He was once a stellar disciple in our missionary church in Guatemala. His mom enrolled him in our school, and he got saved. He had a spectacular voice and led worship. But then I had to leave Guatemala. Joe went from a delivery job to a bank job and married his high school sweetheart. I guess he got busy and also maybe a little discouraged. To my great sadness, he stopped being a leader.

On my trip to Guatemala recently, I visited him with a bunch of church members. We wanted to show him he’s still super important. He still has a call of God on his life. He still is useful in the Lord’s service. As we left, he gave me a long hug.

I thank God for that hug. It was full of meaning. It wasn’t a short, customary thing. It communicated years of love and appreciation and maybe a little bit of hurt.

I hope Joe can find his way back to church. I love the dude. He’s like a son for me.

Superman gets charged by the Sun. Christians get charged by the Son.

superman sus Christians SonSo I guess I’ve been in a humorous mood of late. I’ve been posting some funnies. But I always try to include a small message. This one is worth a chuckle.

I think you’d do well to be charged by the Son.

Ha ha ha! Shakespeare modernized. Modernity Shakespearized.

hamlet shakespeare

Ok, so where can I find the whole play in Piraro comics? I love Hamlet and teach it to my students every year! I can’t wait to figure out if Hamlet will ever figure out what to do (his fatal flaw is paralysis by analysis).

It seems to me that modernity has thrown (tried to throw) so much doubt upon the Bible and Christianity as to induce indecision among the masses. Why accept Christ and life my life up with the Bible, if God doesn’t exist? if the Bible isn’t more than just literature? Etc?

Don’t be caught, like Hammy, undecided before it’s too late.

What does “onomatopoeia” sound like to you?

Sorry again for the sorry puns, but the English literature major in me can’t resist.


After all, I’m getting ready for Fall classes. You don’t have to be offensive to have fun. You don’t have to be risque to enjoy life.

On the importance of family

Aunt Fanny far left. Dianna at right.

Dianna at right with her cousins

As a kid, I picked up an every-man-for-himself outlook on life. So when I met Dianna’s relatives, it was to learn some new lessons.

Aunt Fanny showed us that Dianna and I were important. She let us crash at her place and took us around San Francisco. She was both funny and fun. This was different for me: I was only a workhorse.

This weekend we went to her 85th birthday. The workhorse in me drove up five hours and back all in one day. But it was the fun that drew me.

Her daughters are very dear to us. Julie sort of adopted us when Dianna and I were newly-weds living in the San Francisco Bay Area. We rejoiced when at one point she came to Christ. There isn’t a thing we wouldn’t do for them. They are family, and it’s every man for every man.