Tag Archives: Jesus

Loneliness and suicide

marriageNew York Times says Julie Phillips, a professor of sociology at Rutgers who has studied suicide among middle-aged Americans, said social changes could be raising the risks. Marriage rates have declined, particularly among less educated Americans, while divorce rates have risen, leading to increased social isolation, she said. She calculated that in 2005, unmarried middle-aged men were 3.5 times more likely than married men to die from suicide, and their female counterparts were as much as 2.8 times more likely to kill themselves. The divorce rate has doubled for middle-aged and older adults since the 1990s, she said.

So much for “increasing acceptance of co-habitation.”

Marriage is still the best option, just like God said in his word. Please don’t hang yourself just because you flouted the Bible and then the results of your life turned out bad. The manufacturer’s manual is THE guide for optimal results.

I realize that marriage fails for many. I don’t mean to make light of what has turned painful for you. I don’t mean to sound snotty, but this causes me great sadness. Someone has to tell the world the truth. I’m aiming only at those who would downgrade marriage as an institution and a goal. The downgrade is destroying us, and the evidence is in.

Don’t fret for perfection

Paper Plane

Just let her fly.

Step up to the edge and give the paper airplane a gentle launch out into the vast expanse of air in the cliff.

Too many never throw the plane. They worry about wind, design, durability, humidity, and so they choke with overthinking. Remember Hamlet. Waiting for the perfect moment, the perfect plan, he never could exact revenge of the killer of his father. He froze from fear.

This is one lesson I’ve learned. You’ll never get your life gliding if you don’t try to fly. Hey, if the plane crashes, you can get another piece of paper and re-fold. Try again. What’s the loss?

Perfection is never achieved on the first attempt. It comes after 1,000 attempts.

Sometimes leaders are afraid to delegate, to release disciples into ministry. They’re too afraid they’ll mess up.

I’ve never thought of myself as having great talent or intellect. But I certainly can try to compete against the best. And in so striving, I’m aiming for a great flight.

 

The road to utopia

utopiaIn case you didn’t know, they are setting up the ideal society, one based on justice and harmony. As long as what they say goes.

Human history is rutted with human attempts to establish utopias. The reason why these fail and fuel massacres is that humans can’t agree on what set of rules. This band thinks radical Islam. That band says communism.

So long as sin remains in the heart of man, there will be no ideal society. On this earth, the best we can do is give rights and freedoms to everyone. In Heaven, there will be an ideal society in which we give to each other (and not take from each other), in which one no longer imposes on another and musters his own leadership by killing all opponents. Until that day, my job is to get people there.

Fear and loathing in Los Angeles (and Guatemala)

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I conquered fear for 16 years. As a result, there’s a church and Christian school in Guatemala.

It was a contest of scary stories, but these were real — about assaults. The people one-upping each other were pastors in Guatemala. As the only gringo in the group, I begged them to stop since they worked worse in my mind. The Guatemalans gave accounts of the times they were held up at gunpoint or at knifepoint sometimes out of humor. I never got the joke.

Eventually the terror of the reigning insecurity in Guatemala got the best of me, and I high-tailed it to the U.S. Guatemala is nation dominated by drug-traffickers. Government officials are too busy stealing from the country. Police officers join the fray. You never know who to fear more, the crooks or the police officers.

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By the time I succumbed to fear, God had raised up leaders to take over and keep the work going.

I held out in faith for 16 years, but when I got held up by pros, after exchanging money at the bank, I was afraid for my kids. They would rapt them and demand ransom.

Please don’t be glib. You can spout scripture (“perfect love casts out all fear” comes to mind) from here in the United States where you face virtually no threat. But I’ll listen to a person who has been through worse things than me.

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The smiles are worth whatever fears I had. People have come to Christ.

Not all fear is bad. As David Bowie observed grimly: There are no atheists on the battlefield. Those who face death daily don’t have the luxury to flout their intellectual pride and declare themselves free-thinkers. Those who face fear hold to faith. I believe David Bowie, after promoting so much sin during his musical career, came to God at the end. Selling records and making money was cool, but it was useless to solve the death problem. Only God can do that.

Have you conquered all fears? Maybe you just haven’t had a big enough trial yet. You don’t fear God? Some go into eternity sticking to their pridefulness and insisting they don’t believe in God.

 

Motivation

IMG_0120People give more of themselves if they are given realistic goals over the short and long terms. Leadership does a great disservice by classifying some church members as untouchables. Or whatever, maybe they just don’t fit in the leadership clique.

I observe former bad boys straighten up their lives because there’s a Christian girl in the picture. He wants to be worthy to marry her (short term). He also wants to go to Heaven (long term).

But for others, the goals seem simply impossible. Why study and do boring and hard homework if I’m not going to go to college anyway (short term)? Better to live for short term pleasures than strive so hard for nothing. If he doesn’t buy into the dream, he’s not going to be motivated. The key is that it must be realistic — for him.

I’m not unaffected by this basic psychological need. So it is with great rejoicing that I am moving out of seaside Santa Monica into the sweltering San Fernando Valley with the opportunity to start a Bible study. Van Nuys has all the allure of the Promised Land because what thrills my heart most is ministry. Thank God my pastor is giving me the chance.

I’ve been a Christian for 36 years. I think that it’s easy to get bored. At some point, you know the scriptures, you know the songs, you know the sermons. What has kept me excited has been doing, not sitting and listening. It has been bringing others to that initial knowledge of Christ. Are you bored with Christianity? You are in danger of backsliding. Get involved in expanding the kingdom, getting souls saved and establishing them in His truth.

You’ll never be bored again. Getting involved in ministry will motivate your heart to give your utmost for Him.

Pursuit of ‘happiness’ got you burned out?

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More.

If only you had more money, more vacation, more fun.

So you work hard in the unmeditated pursuit of happiness. But it’s got you burned out. If only you knew the way to peace.

The way of peace they know not; and there is no judgment in their goings: they have made them crooked paths: whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace. — Isaiah 60:17.

Does it seem odd that the Bible, unceasingly maligned by the world, should possess the secret to unceasing peace? And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.– Isaiah 32:17.

What brings peace? Righteousness. And they told you that the pleasure was fun and brought happiness. Well, yes. God made pleasure, but sinful pleasures bring torment to the soul and rob us of peace. There is no happiness outside of God.

The promise of multiplication

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Kids today from the school I started 20 years ago, the Liceo Bilingüe La Puerta in Guatemala.

You don’t need talent, money, beauty, charisma. You just need God.

A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation: I the Lord will hasten it in his time. — Isaiah 60:22.

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I created a stir on Facebook when I announced I was a grandpa. But I was only Joe’s spiritual dad.

While oodles don’t believe in you, God does believe in you. All you need to do is believe in God.

When I went to Guatemala 20 years ago, I was riding on euphoria. But I was filled with all kinds of uncertainty. Despite this, God brought multiplication to the little guy, me.

 

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Teachers and kids at the Liceo Bilingüe La Puerta. God has brought the multiplication.

Jesus multiplied breads and fish. In fact, God likes multiplication more than addition. Expect the impossible.

When I lose peace

IMG_9445I was in Guatemala. The call didn’t come through but the voice message did. They were discharging my dad from the skilled nursing facility because the insurance didn’t want to pay any more time there.

All I could do was worry. I couldn’t hardly sleep. When I finally did sleep, I was awakened a by a dramatic dream. A pastor friend of mine went to pray for my dad, and my dad got healed! I felt like it was a mild rebuke from God. I was letting worry, not faith, run my mind.

I’ve been back from Guatemala for almost a week now. And things are working out fine. Why did I lose the peace God promised? God will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is stayed on Him. — Isaiah 26:3.

If there is something that can be worried about, I do.

The High and Mighty dwells with the lowly of heart

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After going 16 chapters of pure encouragement (40-55), Isaiah retakes the issue of Israel’s sin: His watchmen are blind… they are greedy dogs… Come ye, say they, I will fetch wine. (verses 10-12). In the previous chapters, Isaiah has lifted his prophetic vision beyond the immediate future to a time of a return from exile. But now it seems he looks even further into the future, into the time when Jesus is born and the Jewish leadership is corrupt.

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Then comes what is arguably the greatest gem of the entire book: Thus says the High and Lofty One that inhabits eternity, whose name is holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, and with him of contrite and humble spirit to revive him. — Isaiah 57:15. This verse is more than just a passing comment. It seems a crowning moment for a book that has been fascinated with up and down from Isaiah 6 onward (in which the prophet sees God high and lifted up in His heavenly temple). The paradox of dwelling on high and on low at the same time works the power of the sonnet’s concluding couplet.

All this is to say that humility is crucial in Christianity. You must be humble to even receive salvation, to believe in Jesus. And we must remain humble ever afterward. If we go prideful, we go without God. Stay humble, and He stays with us.

The little guy

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I was the little guy who couldn’t do anything significant for God. Twenty years later, there’s a church and a Christian private school in Guatemala.

I like the word “hewn.” Look at the rock from which you were HEWN, and the to the quarry your cut out of… Abraham your father… I called him when he was alone and blessed him and increased him. — Isaiah 51:1

The present tense of hewn is “hew.” I’d never heard that before. “Hewn” means to be cut out of.

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This is Ibis and his wife. He was so shy and quiet. Now he is making big decisions for Christ.

God encourages the Israelites (who see Abraham as HUGE) to regard Abraham as SMALL in his beginnings. Indeed, Abraham didn’t have any children until he was 100 years old (and his wife was 90). Yet God had promised to make a nation out of him. Talk about feeling small. And not up for the task.

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With some “little guys” at the Liceo Bilingüe La Puerta.

Despite such an inauspicious beginning, Israel did become a great nation. It still is with Jews scattered over the world.

God is encouraging the Israelites — at a time when they are rebuilding their nation and are small and insignificant — that they will be able to do the impossible, to re-start their nation.

In God, small things lead to big. And you should never flag in faith because you are looking at your circumstances. Look at Abraham.

Free from trauma

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I believe I’m 98% free from the the fear that seized me when I was assaulted at gun point by four armed men in Guatemala. That was six years ago.

Six. Years.

All they got was a few thousand dollars — and my checkbook (which made me think they would come back for a kidnapping). No, they stole something else. They stole my confidence.

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With one of the students in the Door Bilingual School we founded with the church.

On every subsequent visit to Guatemala, I was weighted by irrational fear. I wouldn’t go anywhere without a member of the church as a “body guard.” (I had planted the church during 16 years, so people we’re quite willing to serve.) I stayed inside. I tried to keep a low profile. I didn’t even want them to make flyers announcing the revivals with my picture on them. In my mind, the same criminals would get a flyer and swoop in for more money.

The thing that strikes about this is how really insignificant was my “trauma.” I wasn’t raped or beaten as a child. I didn’t suffer the scathing burn of emotional abuse from a parent. No. I was simply robbed.

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Here’s the junior high and high school after Bible class.

And yet it has taken me six years and God’s help to recover.

So who I am to judge people who have suffered true trauma and spend the rest of their lives floundering? In fact, I have a friend who suffered all three — sexual, physical and emotional abuse. He still struggles to overcome.

If you would have told me to simply shake it off, get over it, I would have been deeply hurt by your insensitivity and cut you out of my friends list. How much more so a person who has really suffered.

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A sixth grader in the Door Bilingual School.

It is my observation that people who have never suffered are generally insensitive.

There’s a inscrutable irony in this: God helped me out, but as many sufferers ask: Why did God allow the suffering in the first place?

I have friends who became atheists because as children, they experience a loss of innocence that never should have been perpetrated on a child. My friend has worked his way back to God, and God is helping him.

I hope God can help you too, because He was the major factor helping me. So I recommend Him. Maybe you can work your way back to Him?

Atletico de Madrid believed in themselves

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Antoine Griezmann had the sparkle that Barca lacked.

There are reasons why the best team in the world lost the Champions League quarter finals today to an upstart. Barcelona played flat, with no one showing flair. Atletico were sharp, precise, technical and quick.

They were outmatched in skill, but they compensated with belief. Most teams are so intimidated by skills-rich Barca that their objective is to limit the humiliation. But Atletico brought a greater work ethic to the pitch. While Messi, Neymar, Suarez and Iniesta lacked their typical flair, Antoine Griezmann showed up with sparkle.

Don’t worry about what you lack. You can make up for it with self-belief.

Sometimes the hardest thing is to believe

believeWe pride ourselves on being rational beings, well adjusted to reality. We are scientifically minded, and therefore what is impossible get ruled out. Miracles are a moonshot best avoided.

But miracles prove God, and God is interested in proving Himself to humanity to show humanity His love. So he drops us in impossible quandaries and waits for us to turn to him.

If you can believe, all things are possible for him that believes. — Mark 9:23. Jesus spent more time developing faith, but we Christians spend more time developing personal perfection. Jesus sought faith while we seek programs. Jesus encouraged Peter to walk on water, and the church is busy building boats.

Maybe you’re in financial trouble — believe to tithe. Maybe you have an incurable disease or disorder — believe for healing. Perhaps you don’t dare take on a ministry — believe and do it. Perhaps a long time has passed without any sign of hope — keep believing.

The art remained

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He used to like two things: to beat people up and art. (Si quiere leer en español, haga clic aquí)

Now a Christian, Mario Ajcip helps people out. And he has become a true artist — something he never would have achieved in his old street life.

Mario teaches at the Liceo Bilingüe La Puerta, a Christian school in Guatemala, where he’s helping youths to get out of gangs and into God. He doesn’t make money with his art (at least not yet), and his unfinished mural is part of a community revitalization project where the city buys the pain and the artists work for free.

IMG_9947Countless youths can point to Mario for having given them a reference point to seek God and not sin. A lot of things have changed for Mario, but the art remained.

Simple faith

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My son and I pose with the pastor and his wife.

When their daughter was admitted to med school, the got on their knees and thanks God. It was the fourth and final round of exams in Guatemala for the public university (affordable). They’ve had so many things work against them, and yet the plug on for Jesus and reach blessings.

I’m their pastor, but at times I learn from them. I yearn for a simple faith, uncluttered by the prosperity gospel, unmoored by cliques and church politics.

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Accepted to med school, she poses with her sister.

It is my experience that Christians in the Third World nations have a much more unadulterated faith simply because they don’t have hardly anything else. Their hope is placed on God alone because outside of God, they have virtually no hope. I have seen the poor praise God with sheer joy that makes you wonder how can they do that when they are suffering hunger and they have no future.

Burned out or bored out (of your mind)

IMG_9853It seemed like I teetered on burn out for many years in Guatemala. I always asked God to take me home before I burned out. I think that’s what happened.

But now that I have been serving in the mother church for six years, I’m bored to tears. I’m aching to get out on the field and play (and not sit on the bench). Maybe you can relate:

Then I said, I will not make mention of Him nor speak any more in His name. But His word was in my heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not hold my tongue. — Jeremiah 20:9

IMG_9875He who is called can’t escape the call. Any other life will only reap frustration and misery. Are you tired of ministry? Consider the alternative. Are you running from your calling? You’ll only be miserable.

My recent trip to Guatemala only confirms the urging in my heart.

Make a stab at redemption

IMG_9804One problem of “falling out” of the moral code of the church is that you feel you don’t belong to the cadre of brethren. Churches do great wrong in continually passing judgement on its fallen members because they get discouraged and think they can never return (2 Cor. 2:6-11). The devil plays in their minds: Once a failure, always a failure. The church should make the path back to salvation easy — as easy as the original path to salvation.

Without going into details, this is what Fanny did. She formalized her marriage yesterday. She had been a goody-goody as a student in our school and church. But when she left the safe harbor of the school and the church, she found the wide, wide world was full of temptations. Discouragement coupled with temptation can be overpowering.

IMG_9809She wasn’t attending church not because anyone kicked her out. It was the devil that was condemning her (Rom. 8:1). By showing her love, we shed light on the way back. Forgiveness is for sinners, not saints — and we are all sinners.

I’m so proud of her and happy for her. And you who read this, please say a pray for her.

If you have fallen out of the moral code of your church, make a stab at redemption. You might be surprised how easy it is to climb back into fellowship and blessing.

Far from my wife on her bday

IMG_9800There wasn’t a good time to come to Guatemala. First we determined Hosea would come with me, so we had to renew his passport. Then we looked for cheap tickets. The result? We are missing Dianna’s birthday?

We celebrated it early. Di likes Chinese, Rebekah Japanese, I Mexican, Rob red meat and Hosea Idk. So we opted for middle ground: Italian. That’s how we celebrate at the Ashcraft house.

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Italian food was the compromise.

I am currently in Guatemala, preaching the gospel. There are sacrifices for serving God. But these sacrifices are better than the sacrifices in the world: parents who sacrifice their kids for money, for example.

Still, I’m missing her.

Meet Camila, born to parents who couldn’t have kids

IMG_9784Prayer brought her into the world, and from the looks of it she is now learning how to pray.

Her parents, Gunter and Yara, were among the best disciples in the church. Medically speaking, they couldn’t have kids. Evangelist after evangelist prayed for them. Then my friend, Isaias Campos, came to preach for me. Ironically, he himself couldn’t have natural children. But God told him he would pray for somebody to have kids. That did the trick.

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My son, Hosea, among the kids of the Door Christian Church in Guatemala City.

I left Guatemala six years ago under duress. I am currently visiting, and I’m blown away by the revival I’m seeing. It’s been packed, and people are hungry for God.

If it tastes bitter, spit it out, don’t swallow.

forgiveness

We must master the art of moving on. Humans hurt each other because of selfishness and self-promotion. Don’t let yourself be pushed down by others forever. They may push you down, but it is up to you to pick yourself up.

Fun, fellowship and discipleship at a Christian school in Guatemala

Christian school Guatemala

Hosea with Teacher Banner.

Whenever Pastor Michael Ashcraft visits Guatemala, he wants to play soccer with the private school, and this time he won with Teacher Banner Ajcip’s team 10-8 over Teacher Mario Ajcip’s.

The sporting event included the visit of Pastor Mike’s son, Hosea, who was born in Guatemala and studied at the private school until third grade. Hosea, who had an innate skill for goals as a kid, hit the inside of the net three times. Father and son played together on the team of Teacher Banner.

Liceo Bilingue La Puerta zona 1 ciudad guatemalaPastor Mike realized two assists before moving to the defense to stop the attack of superstar opponent, Carlos Marroquin, a 9th grader. With 200 pounds weight and 6’3″ height, Pastor Mike presented a formidable defense. Nevertheless, the youth broke his ankles various times. Even so, Pastor Mike limited his goals and contributed to the victory.

While the guys played soccer, the girls preferred basketball and indoor soccer adjacent to the soccer field.

soccer guatemala christian school capital city

After two hours of straight playing, most of the boys got tired and left. These are the survivors.

“I can learn a lot from Guatemala,” said Hosea. “I want to return to the United States much better than everybody because I played here in Guatemala.”

The field trip and sports event is important because it allows the students to make friends and inter-relate. Everything the Door Bilingual School does is focused on an integral formation of youth: mind, body, emotions and spirit. The Guatemalan Christian school has maintained this focus in Guatemala City since its beginnings when Pastor Mike started with only three students in the Colon neighborhood.

Now, the Door Bilingual School is located on 6th Avenue 2-34 Zone 1 in front of the San Sebastian Park in the City of Guatemala. The original story appeared in Spanish here.

Comfort after an extended period of difficulties

comfort my people

I got stuck at Isaiah 40 and following. The prophet shifts gears and focuses on the future when Israel is exiled and comes back to the promised land. They have punished for more than 70 years of captivity for idolatry and rebellion. The consequences of sin is enough to drive them to despair. They are ready to obey God now. And God speaks tenderly to them.

He offers them comfort.

In verse 4 God says barriers are going to be removed: Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill shall be made low.

The nations, which have served as God’s instrument of discipline over Israel, are no longer to be feared. The nations are as a drop of a bucket, as the small dust of the balance. (verse 15).

The grande finale comes at the end of the chapter — verses that just about every Christian has memorized: He gives power to the faint, and to them that have no might, He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and grow weary. But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall rise up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not grow weary; they shall walk and not faint. (verses 29-31)

Part of the good news? The disappointing time may be God testing you like Job or may be the result of your own sin. But when you get to the end, He brings refreshing, so hang in there.

I was arrested, meditating on what I had stumbled upon.

Back to what God has for me

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Then I said, I won’t talk about God anymore. But His word was in my heart burning like a fire in my bones, and I couldn’t bear it. — Jeremiah 20:9

I don’t know how people get out of ministry and manage to forget it. They move on to making money. They compromise their morals. I got a good look at this sort of thing when I rested from being a pastor for six years. I left the mission field and haven’t started a new church. Hopefully I will soon. It has been a more or less miserable time.

Right now I’m ministering in my old haunts. I had been a missionary/pastor/founder of a Christian school for 16 years. I’m visiting once again. My three kids were born here, but only Hosea, my youngest, is with me, seeing his childhood buddies. It is a blessing to see everyone again. There is no greater life to live than to speak God’s word and help people come to Him.

Back in Guatemala

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Six year ago, we quit Guatemala after 16 years of ministry. It looks like God is opening doors for me to start a new church in the U.S. (more to come later). But for now, I’m in Guatemala visiting, preaching, reinvigorating, helping. And I have my son, Hosea, with me. So I guess this post, I’ll just be asking for prayers. Thanks! It’s great to see everyone again!

Reinvest in a bad investment


way of GodYou wouldn’t? Jesus did. You and I were bad investments. But He believed in us — again. He forgave us — again. He gave us another chance we were demonstrated repeatedly that we weren’t worth it. This is what Christianity is.

Heaven is real

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One day I´ll be there. Will you?

My dad is in a transitional care facility. He had fallen and broken his hip. He was transferred from the hospital to here. He was in a lot of pain last night. He’s 88.

I’m face to face with our body’s breakdown and mortality. We all expect a long life, but no one has a guarantee. Are you ready to go to the Heaven God made for you because He wants to enjoy friendship with you for all of eternity?

They’re not really “stressed out.” Twenty One Pilots is reaching out to lost youth

twenty-one-pilots-stressed-outTop Ten Christian band Twenty One Pilots declared its musical manifesto three years ago in the song “Car Radio,” “I will try with every rhyme to come across like I am dying to let you know you need to try to think.”

Twenty One Pilots’ hit “Stressed Out” is currently played on secular radio stations across the country and in Europe, and the duo is selling out concerts at every venue. Even though they are open about their faith, the band continues to sneak like a hacker through the world’s default gospel-rejection mechanism.

While the dialectic voice confuses secular reporters, the message of salvation carries through to their listeners.

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Tyler Joseph SAYS the black makeup on his hands symbolizes oppressive stress. But it’s likely more a symbol of sin for his adopted touring persona “Blurryface,” who is a representation of the Romans 7 alter ego.

“When I first listened to their music I was like, I’m not alone. I thought I was the only one,” wrote Mattie on a fan site in August 2015. “Twenty one pilots really did save my life in more ways than one.”

Twenty One Pilots is a genre-melding duo composed of vocalist Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dun, both 27-year-olds from Ohio. They attended Five 14 Church (as in Matthew 5:14 — “You are the light of the world”) in New Albany, just outside Columbus. Josh now lives in Los Angeles.

The band was formed when Tyler ditched basketball in the eleventh grade to become a musician. He tore through learning piano to bass and ukulele.

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“I had identity issues. I didn’t like being the guy who played sports,” he says in a YouTube interview. “So I set up a microphone and a little studio. My mom’s trying to do the dishes and she hears her son screaming his head off down in the basement trying to record vocals, and she’s gotta be thinking, ‘What the heck is going on with him?’ So they were really confused.”

Tyler’s crazy dream is today paying big dividends, not just in terms of downloads and crowds, but also in terms of souls. Their angst-riddled lyrics are resonating with Gen-Y’ers and Gen-Z’ers, showing them a way to hope and faith.

While “Stressed Out” is an innocuous ditty about young adults yearning for the carefree days of childhood, other songs on their two albums – Vessel and Blurryface – pack plenty of gospel punch.

The duo signed with a secular label (Fueled by Ramen) and gets played mostly on non-Christian radio. But make no mistake. Though subtle at times, they are unequivocally Christian. Read the rest of the article.

Sometimes I wanna explode

Isaiah 30at the outrageous unfairness.

Then God leads me to Isaiah 30:15: In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.

He calls me to exude peace, to trust and be unperturbed. The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. — James 1:20.

Don’t panic or rant. God will have His way. Stay and pray.

God is slow to anger

God slow to angerSo should we be.

The War of Words is on!

FullSizeRender(2)I called her “Munchkin Punchkin.” She called me a “Monkey Pumpkin.” I guess that’s what she thought I said.

I was preaching revival services in Bakersfield for a pastor. I played soccer with the kids between services. And I was teasing the pastor’s kids.

I should follow the presidential’s example. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are exuding such civility and dignified debate.

Kidding aside, I would like to address the real War of Words. Every time we get someone to say the sinner’s prayer, we are stealing a soul from Satan — and that is war. So we should wage a war of words; we should use our words to pray, to evangelize and to lead people to Christ.

This War of Words is on and should be on. Always.

Lighthouse Medical Missions is off to Tanzania at a time of terror strikes

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Dal Basile and the meds she packs for shipment in the plane. She is joined by actress Katelyn Myer, who is going on the trip.

Once they almost drowned from tipping canoes trying to reach the medical clinic in the deep inland. Another time, Ebola broke out a scant couple hundred miles away from operations. Then, rockets were launched on the capital just a day before the team left on another trip.

Now, Lighthouse Medical Missions is traveling to Tanzania at a time of terrorist activities in airports – their medicines were being shipped out of Brussels and will now arrive two days late.

“We’re all ready to do our clinic and then bam! terrorism hits Brussels, and right away we know we’re in trouble because our medicines ship out of Brussels,” said Dal Basile, medicine coordinator for the team. “That’s two days without medications. So I’m scrambling around trying to see what I can send with the doctors.”

Dr. Bob Hamilton’s Santa Monica-based charity outreach to Africa has for 20 years braved some hair-raising misadventures to provide free attention and medicines to people who otherwise rarely – if ever – get a chance to see a doctor.

Twenty-six fly out today and are scheduled to arrive Sunday in Mwanza, the capital. Dr. Hamilton is a beloved pediatrician in Santa Monica. His video on how to calm a crying infant went viral four months ago because of the apparent ease of the little-known technique of folding the baby’s arms and rocking his bottom. The internet dubbed him “the Baby Whisperer.”

It seems their standard operating procedure is navigating chaos and brainstorming plan B’s based on developing risks. They’re real Indiana Jones, not in search of archaeological treasure, but the treasures of the human heart inside suffering human bodies.

“You can’t compare God-loving people to Indiana Jones. These are people who care about people they don’t even know,” Basile said. “These Americans are taking time off from work, their vacation time, to go and work. They work to pay for their time. They’re making a big sacrifice. They work their butts off. It’s hardcore.” Read the rest of the article.

Don’t underestimate your impact

little groupsLittle groups have always been the ones to change the world.

The disciples were 11 — and they made the world largely Christian. How many people were on the original Apple team? — and now they are one of the world’s most profitable. The Wright brothers were only two guys — and they flew the first plane.

Maybe your church is small. Don’t count yourself out.

Did Spaniards cheat the Taíno of Cuba trading brass for gold?

tainos gold for brass

A Taíno museum village in Cuba today.

Value is arbitrary.

Each person assigns the value he wants to whatever item. Of course, there is an international value assigned to gold and brass, and so you could argue the Spaniards took advantage of the naivete of the Taínos. But since brass was the scarce and beautiful metal for the Taínos, they were willing to trade gold for it.

Today, some people value brandname clothes. Others value attending their favorite band’s concert. Others treasure their pets and deprive them of no extravagance. And dumping boatloads of money on it is well worth it.

Some people value their family. Some people value cheating. Some people value faith in God.

Are you trading brass for gold?

Hubble telescope corroborates Genesis account of creation, scientist says

Cedric-Johnson

Cedric Johnson, who worked on the Hubble Telescope, discusses how it has corroborated the Genesis account.

A former CEO of the firm which built a critical Hubble telescope electronic subsystem believes the latest in cosmology and quantum physics substantially confirms the Genesis account of creation.

“It is not at all surprising to read the works of modern cosmologists and to discover that the book of Genesis provided such comprehensive insights thousands of years ago,” W. Cedric Johnson said. “Those first 27 verses in Genesis 1 [that talk about creation] are far, far more likely given contemporary scientific research and findings, than unlikely.”

Hubble-Mystic-Mountain

Hubble has produced stunning images of far away space, like this one. It has also listened into the cosmic noise of the universe, which has helped scientists peer at the origins of the universe.

Johnson, 64, an applied scientist, (mathematician) who is currently advancing the field of cryptography, has long been on the cutting edge of computer- and network-facilitated technology, having worked for Rockwell International as a high school student, a firm he joined full-time after completing undergraduate studies.

In addition to the Hubble work, Johnson’s firm oversaw design and development of critical electronics for the Space Shuttle, worked on Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, as well as the Global Positioning Satellite system, and worldwide communications systems engineering for the Air Force Communications Command.

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Johnson worked on electronics in the Space Shuttle.

Johnson grew up in a Bible-believing home and never doubted Jesus, he said. But at age 29 he says, “I came to the Lord by simply changing my mind. I said, ‘God, I believe that completeness resides only in a life in You. I believe that purpose and truth comes from You.’ From that moment forward, I renounced any competition.”

He says the Hubble Telescope reveals the universe has a tempo evidenced by the cosmic background noise of the universe. Carried to its rational and scientific conclusion, this lends tremendous credibility to the presumed discrepancy between Genesis’ six-day creation account and the apparently contradicting geological and anthropological conclusions, he said.

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Cosmologist Stephen Hawking has famously doubted the existence of God. Johnson wonders what Hawking’s missing.

Much like a song can be played at a faster or slower tempo (not recorded and sped up or slowed down) but still corresponds 100% to the relationships of harmony and rhythm, so too the first “day” of creation was not confined to the reference of a 24-hour period tied to the rotation of the planet. “This was given for man’s perspective, as God, who is eternal, had no such use,” Johnson said.

The tempo of the first “day” indicates it was actually millions of 24-hour periods, the second “day,” 87 million 24-hour periods and so on. Even now, the cosmic background noise of the universes indicates “ongoingness,” he said.

“Many previous inconsistencies with other scientific timelines have found scientific bases for reconciliation,” Johnson said. “The loss of obvious aberrations between trying to make six 24-hour reference periods fit geological and the palentological timelines, is no longer so certain; they fit!”

With regard to the Big Bang as the origin of the universe, cosmologists substantially agree: The universe is the progeny of an intelligent beginner; the universe came into being from a first cause event, and everything came from great nothingness.

Even though these conclusions corroborate Genesis, many cosmologists do not agree that the intelligent beginner is or was transcendental, nor remains connected with the universe, a long answer for “we can’t confirm a God,” he said.

Cosmologists are not the only ones being forced to revisit the God question, Johnson said. “Quantum theorists are facing a new line of questions and potentialities,” he said.

He spoke of the phenomena of “entanglement.” Were two entangled photons entrapped separately and moved as far apart as New York is from Los Angeles, modifications in their states would be mirrored instantaneously, with no explanation and theoretically faster than the speed of light, he said.

“This is an awesome field of study, yet nevertheless startling stuff. For many, entanglement has ‘Oh my goodness moments,’” Johnson said. Some quantum physicists are quietly saying, “You know that book that says, ‘Let there be light?’ I think we need to look at that book again.” Read the rest of the article.

Effortlessness

SLCD-Bg-Hotel-Exterior(1)I’ve worked hard. I continue to work hard.

But the greatest things that have happened in my ministry have come without virtually any effort. They came when God moved sovereignly. They came as a result of prayer. Definitely, God can do more than any human minister.

When the Door Bilingual School got a band, it came together with no effort of my own. When we acquired a building, it came together with basically no effort of my own.

I still work hard, but I’m willing to wait on God to do His work. I’m going to pray.

Do less. Pray more.

Enjoy the ride — even the tough parts

puppy dogI was wondering why life is so difficult (finances, health, other issues), and then I was re-reading Genesis 3. And I said, Oh! That’s why life is a pain in the neck.”

As part of the curse of choosing sin, God cursed the ground and foretold that man would toil with hard labor for all the days of his life. So, that’s why there so much difficulties.

This gave me peace because I realized I was in the norm. This helps me to relax and enjoy life, even with troubles. Reading the Bible brings great wisdom and consolation.

My dad is not afraid to die

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Me at the hospital.

He fell and broke his hip yesterday. He’s 88.

I was thunderstruck by his declaration today when I came to the hospital. He’s never been a gung-ho Christian. He didn’t even go to church. But he confessed to be a Christian. He said he was envious of Mom, who died quickly, suddenly of a massive heart attack. He said he was ready to go — even, he wanted to go.

Of course, I argued that such feelings were foolishness. We — my brother and I and our wives and families — don’t want him to go. But he sees no point of lingering with the body breaking down. He says he never imagined living for so long.

A year ago, he was hospitalized, and it was a wake-up call for me to neglect my professional duties some to dedicate more time to him. I started visiting once a week. I’ve learned things I never knew: about his time in the Army in Korea post WW2, his studies at Berkeley, his previous girlfriends. He’s tipped me off to great stories about Christian golfers and tennis players that I’ve parlayed into articles for God Reports. The man I didn’t have much of a relationship with since I was a youth and he didn’t talk to me began to figure centrally in my life.

When my mom died 10 years ago, I had an incredible peace, not just because she was a Christian but because I felt I had learned so many lessons from her that I was putting into practice in my life. From Mom, I learned to love and serve God above everything. She was a chaplain in the Sylmar juvenile hall, and I was a missionary in Guatemala.

For the first time ever, my dad seems to have gotten excited about the service I render to the Lord. I was telling him (before his fall) about a student in my class that came to our high school from the public system, where he was a trouble-maker, a fighter and who knows what else. Now, he’s reading the literature and making intelligent contributions to the class. My secret educational tool is to believe in the kids. Maybe no one ever believed in him before. Now he is responding.

This is the first time I’ve ever seen it register on Dad’s face that this work, though miserably remunerated, is gloriously valuable. Could it be that facing eternity, the man who hammered financial stability is finally understanding true value?

No doubt, my dad will recover from this second hospitalization. He won’t like the transition for physical therapy at the nursing home. But he’ll probably get home.

But he won’t be with us forever. Will I have learned from him everything I needed to?

 

I killed myself at the gym today, so…

killing yourself at the gym…I wasn’t surprised when the homicide detectives showed up at my door later.

Ok, this picture is not me. I’m more of a (bad) punster than a muscle man. Actually, I’m the pencil-necked kind of guy with spindly arms and legs.

But I enjoy going to the gym. I have lofty, unattainable goals. In the striving, at least I’m staying healthy. And a healthy body is will be useful for the Lord’s service longer than a sick or frail one. I like the gym almost as much as the church; both are focused on goodness, healthiness and improvement.

Granada Hills methane leak and people who are not good at math

Porter-Ranch-Gas-Leak-Image-Location-1-MapSouthern California Edison decided in 1979 it would be CHEAPER to remove instead of replace a safety valve at the bottom of a well in a methane storage facility just north of Granada Hills of Los Angeles because it wasn’t close to homes, according to LA Weekly. After an estimated 97,000 tons of pressured gas (stored in preparation for winter) escaped into the atmosphere, Edison is facing cleanups and lawsuits — not to mention the loss of their product — that will total into the millions of dollars.

The site, the second largest such storage facility in the U.S., is a huge underground cavern that was left over after oil was pumped out by J.Paul Getty. It has about 115 wells, once used for oil, that can pump in and out methane for distribution to 21 million customers and 14 power plants. As a public utility, Edison must argue rate increases in order to pay for refurbishment. Sometimes, it’s just easier to scrimp.

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Or so Edison officials thought. The aging wells leak regularly, but when well SS-25 was found leaking on Oct. 23, 2015, they couldn’t stop the gas from barreling out — until February  when a parallel well was drilled and they intercepted it at the point of leakage and stopped it up. Meanwhile, neighbors moved out as the poisonous benzene in the methane wafted through the community provoking bloody noses, nausea and pet deaths. Edison was forced to pay hotels for 100s of people and now is paying clean up of the homes (a toxic film was left on everything inside and out of the houses). The lawsuits will be, doubtless, awarding millions of dollars to the plaintiffs.

So much for finding the easier, cheaper way of doing things.

This disaster, which is near where I grew up in Chatsworth, reminds of others who are bad at math: namely, people who can’t calculate eternity, people who think they have cast enough doubt on the afterlife to justify the gamble of living for self and sin in this short existence on earth.

Actually, Edison’s fiasco will be absurdly insignificant compared to your miscalculation if you don’t make Heaven.

When good guys fight each other, something is very wrong

batman-vs-superman

I admit: I’m not schooled in the intricacies of superheroes fighting among themselves, but the core of my being finds this repulsive Good guys are not supposed to fight good guys

So too, when the church fights among themselves, it’s a tragedy.

Some Christians fight over ministry. Others let personality conflicts prevail. These are wrong-headed approaches to church. First, God describes the church as a physical body without redundancy. Every part of the body has its valuable function They eye cannot say to the nose that it is superior.

Secondly, you can always go out and CREATE new ministry. As long as there are unsaved souls on the planet, there cannot be a limited number of ministerial positions.

Thirdly, Christ told us the greatest among us should be the servant of all. Usually, there are ministries in the church that need workers. I myself have taken up the cleaning ministry.

Fourth, church members who believe they have the gift of criticism are more Pharisees that Christians. Stop finding fault with what your brother is doing, and do something yourself to build up the church or add members.

I’m sure someone somewhere can explain to me the plot of Superman fighting Batman and how this makes sense. But can anyone anywhere explain why Christians fight in the church?

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

Chinese international student Santa Monica

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

By Jasmine Zhang, Lighthouse Christian Academy sophomore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cross the bridge of Christianity

chengduChristianity is not prohibitions. It gets you where you want to go. To bliss and peace. To stability and security. To acceptance. To eternal life.

So cross the bridge.

#Hero

IMG_9350David Wainwright was the gentlest human being. He oozed the love of Christ.

He was a member of Lighthouse Church in Santa Monica long before me, so I always looked up to him. It was he who got me into coffee on a long, overnight drive to Prescott, Arizona, to pick up a van our church had purchased from the Potter’s House Church. He taught me how to outreach, how to care for people, how to clean the church. He showed me Jesus was first in everything.

David got set free from every addiction except cigarettes, which remained his nemesis for 10 years after getting saved. Then, he called on the children of the church to pray for him, and, finally, he was free. He never smoked again.

I went off to Guatemala to pastor a church. He stayed behind and worked in the J. Paul Getty Museum in the hills above Brentwood. Later he moved to Hesperia, CA, where he helped successive pastors lead the pioneer work there. Whenever I came back from Guatemala, I would seek him out to share a coffee. It was our particular fellowship.

Then six year agos, I came back from the mission field for good, and the coffees were more frequently. He was a big bear, a teddy bear, who would give you hugs that communicated the love of God.

The last time, he saw me first, came over and gave me a hug. I didn’t even see it coming. Who would have know that would be my last David Wainwright hug? He died Sunday. He graduated with high honors to Heaven.

The irony? He passed away while visiting people — up to the last breath of his life, he was living for others, encouraging others.

That’s what I call a hero. That’s what I want to be.

David, I won’t miss you because I have you inside of me. I will strive to be like you — gentle, humble, servant-hearted. It is no easy role model to follow, but I have imbibed of your spirit, and I know what I need to do.

The genius of pioneering

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The band is called California Aftermath, and the guy on the drums is my son.

In our group of churches, all new church plants are called pioneers. And there’s genius in it. For one, the onus on the pastor to get new people saved in tremendous. Usually, these are net gains for the kingdom of God and not church transfers.

Secondly, it forces the pioneer pastor to go out to the harvest field. There’s no time to talk about it. You have to do it.

Christians should spend less time in the safety of the church and more time outside sharing the good news with those who do not know it.

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Pastor Jacob Salas at left. Jenna, at right, did all the driving.

This past weekend, my son and I went to Bakersfield, CA, to knock on doors and invite people. He performed in the concert in the park in the evening. Then we drove two hours home, exhausted by happy. Through the efforts of various area churches converging on Bakersfield, 20 people said the sinner’s prayer.

I know of no more satisfying work, no greater joy, than to wrest souls from Satan. I believe that fighting political battles is valuable, but less valuable than simply getting people saved.

Hoarders of bad memories

hoarders

Some people hoard newspapers and trash. They just can’t decide what to throw out so they don’t throw out anything. Their house becomes a trash dump.

Others hoard hurtful memories. These endanger us of turning bitter, grudging, inward, suspicious or anti-social. Everyone needs a sewage system connected to the heart to flush out the wrongs suffered, else we lose the joy of each day.

This is why Jesus urges his followers to forgive. From the cross, in excruciating pain, Jesus forgave his crucifiers. It is the model for us.

Want more

want more

We are the “want more” generation. There are those fighting the uphill battle of the simplified life counter culture movement.

And we think we are simply entitled to whatever luxuries and blessings free of charge because we are Americans — or whatever the basis is.

Meanwhile, the free gift of salvation is despised and ignored. We don’t want Heavenly riches; we want earthly ones! We can’t be happy without them, and we have someone to blame if we don’t get them — because the whole society was “set up to benefit” only the richest. Or so they say.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not Trump supporter.

*Picture from Pinterest.

Body builders and Christians

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Body builders understand things like Christians. They sacrifice. They discipline themselves. They put in effort. The forgo delectable but unhealthy treats. Results are what they’re after.

To be sure, there are many body builders who are so into themselves that they are far from Christian. No doubt, many are narcissists. Others are hedonists. But the principal they understand is the same of the Christian: A greater good is attained by forgoing sin.

Of course, we are not saved by behaving saintly. We are saved by confessing we are sinners and asking Jesus to be our Lord. This is the first sacrifice, the sacrifice of our self-sufficiency and pride. From there, there is a need to continue growing, setting goals and attaining them Go to the gym is not a New Year’s fad; it must be a lifestyle change, just like Christianity.

The analogy is not 100%, as no analogy ever is. But it seems to me that it wouldn’t be a major shift in thinking for gym rats to become church rats.

This frail nurse helped Gen. Stilwell’s group march 140 miles to escape Burma during WW2

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Gen. Joe Stilwell’s storied retreat out of Burma.

With the monsoon ahead and the Japanese in pursuit behind, Lt. General Joe Stilwell trekked 140 miles through steamy jungles and over 7,500-foot mountain ridges to escape an overrun Burma during World War 2.

His party of 117 carried money and Tommy guns, but their secret weapon was the singing voices of Than Shwe and 18 other Burmese nurses. Despite battling tuberculosis, Than Shwe, a devout Christian, led the hardy ladies in “Onward Christian Soldiers” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” to boost morale in the flagging marchers.

“All the way on the retreat we were singing. ‘Sing, girls, sing,’ Uncle Joe would say,” said Than Shwe, as quoted in Stars and Stripes.

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Than Shwe with Dr. Gordon Seagrave

She was still teaching English in Lashio, Myanmar, at 89 years of age when she was interviewed two years ago. Although she shares the name with the ex-dictator of Myanmar (Burma’s new name), Than Shwe has nothing else in common with the repressive military general who handed leadership over only recently.

Than Shwe is remembered for being peppy and cracking jokes. She was hardworking lady who offered her services as a nurse during World War 2 despite fighting her own battles against TB.

Stilwell’s retreat on foot out of Burma in May 1942 is the stuff of legends among history buffs. The no-nonsense general who wore no military insignia to show solidarity with his troops was charged with the Allies’ China-Burma-India theater. He sent much of his staff out on planes but refused the luxury and security for himself. Instead, he led the on-foot retreat personally.  “I prefer to walk,” he said.

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Than Shwe at 89 two years ago teaching English in Lashio. Photo: Stars and Stripes

When Stilwell – known to his soldiers as “Vinegar Joe” for his acid personality – found his forces disintegrating, he was obliged to retreat. On May 6 leaving Indaw, the group headed west into the impenetrable jungle, tramping a minimum 14 miles a day through mud and zig-zagging up and down switchbacks to India.

“The jungle was everywhere,” wrote Donovan Webster in The Burma Road. “Its vines grabbed their ankles as they walked. Its steamy heat sapped their strength. And every time they reached the summit of yet another six-thousand-foot mountain, they could only stare across the quilted green rain forest below and let their gazes lift slowly toward the horizon. Ahead of them, looming in the distance, they could finally see the next hogback ridge between them and safety. They would, of course, have to climb over that one, too.”

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Than Shwe as a young nurse in World War 2

Stilwell was committed to assuring that every member of his party – Americans, English, Indians, Chinese and Burmese – escaped alive. Japanese troops, trying to cut off Chiang Kai-Sheck’s supply line through Burma, were chasing him from the South, the East and the Northeast.

“By the time we get out of here, many of you will hate my guts,” Stilwell said. “But I’ll tell you one thing: You’ll get out.”

The nurses looked frail, hardly apt for such a rigorous journey, and Stilwell urged anyone incapable of completing such an arduous journey to stay behind and seek refuge in town. But instead of slowing up the group, the gospel singing nurses turned out to the godsend, constantly injecting enthusiasm with their lively songs. Follow the rest of the march.

How to score a signed Messi jersey if you live in Afghanistan

Aghan boy Messi jersey

Be exceptionally cute. And poor. Living in a dangerous part of the world. Murtaza Ahmadi’s brother took this picture of him and posted it on the internet. While death via the Taliban has hit most families around them, it still has not struck them directly, the brother says.

messi jersey

He was just a 5-year-old who loves soccer. The family, which subsists on farming, watches soccer as a distraction from the horrors that surround them. And Murtaza decided his favorite player was the Argentinian star who plays for Barcelona. So he wanted a jersey. He even cried.

But those jersey are too expensive for the poor (heck, they’re even too expensive for me). So his brother hooked him up with a plastic bag hand painted with colored sharpies. The kid was content. The kid was cute. His brother took the picture and posted it.

The internet went crazy, reposting and proliferating. People were asking: Who is this kid? Even Messi saw it and wanted to give the kid a real one. As a spokesman for Unicef, Messi through the charitable organization tracked him down and handed over the jersey (not personally).

Now my heart is warmed. I love Messi all the more for his kind gesture. I love this kid. The only bummer is that I still don’t have a Messi jersey myself.

Don’t put too much “I” in Sunday

sunday.jpgDon’t put too much “I” in Sunday — else it become SInday. Keep the “U” in Sunday.

Afterall, Sunday is about others. Put God and others first on Sunday.