Tag Archives: Jesus

Uncle wrestles shark to shore, retrieves arm

Go get it back. Fight for it.

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Vance Flosenzier dashed into the water after a shark bit off his nephew’s arm in 2001 at a beach near Pensacola, Florida. He grabbed the 7-foot bull shark by its tail and hauled the wrangling monster to shore. There, a ranger shot the shark in the head and paramedics extracted the arm from its gullet.

Jessie Arbogast passed into coma because of loss of blood, but surgeons were able to re-attach his arm, and when he woke up, it worked. Recovery has been long and slow. But he has his arm, thanks to the guts and courage of an angry uncle.

There are times when the devil rips you off. He steals your joy, your purity, your marriage. Whatever. Don’t cry and wring your hands by the shore. Go and fight, get it back!

ISIS brainwashes boy captives to be suicide bombers

cubs-of-the-caliphateEleven-year-old Nouri refused to train to become a suicide bomber with the other boys at an ISIS-controlled camp in northern Iraq, and due to his insubordination, the terrorists broke his legs in three places.

Ironically, the inhumane treatment saved his life. Unable to walk or run normally, he was deemed “useless” by the team of brainwashers turning kidnapped Yazidi and Kurdish kids into suicide bombers.

Because of his pronounced limp he was freed, taken home by his grandmother, and now resides in a refugee camp. His 5-year-old brother, Saman, was released with him. Repeated beatings traumatized him so badly that he asked CNN reporters if they were there to beat him. He often wakes up screaming from nightmares.

cubs-4The parents of both boys remain in captivity.

“They asked us to come with them for the training,” Nouri said. “At first we refused to go because we were afraid. They asked me to go to the mountain and I refused again, then they broke my leg. That saved me. The other children were taken by force.”

The use of captive children to perform suicide missions is not only the latest evidence of ISIS savagery. It is also the most terrifying.

That’s because when the boys are sent into the No Man’s Land between ISIS soldiers and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, the Peshmerga never know if the children are truly escaping or if they will detonate a bomb.

“Many times when we are facing ISIS, we see the children at the front line and they’re wearing explosive vests. They are brainwashed,” said Aziz Abdullah Hadur, a Peshmerga commander. “When they make it through our lines they kill our fighters. It’s an unbelievably hard decision. You don’t know what to do because if you don’t kill them they’ll kill you.” Read the rest of the story: crimes of ISIS.

This article was written by Cindy Gutierrez. I was her editor and teacher at the Lighthouse Christian Academy journalism class. It is a Santa Monica Christian high school. Cindy is a senior. The fall semester, in which she took the class, just ended.

‘The answer to my guilt was not denial but forgiveness’

Intellectual atheist from France comes to Christ. A sticking point was “Why did Jesus have to die?”

I supposed it would be a lot of fun to be an atheist, all that sin with no guilty conscious. But once you know the truth, you can’t run from it. Plus, knowing God is better than any sin.

Don’t get me wrong. I sin. I’m human. I’m not a Christian because I don’t fall into temptation. I am a Christian BECAUSE I fall into temptation. I need a Savior. So do you.

Art out of food

food artJessie Bearden plays with her food.

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

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

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

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

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

jessie bearden

Jessie Bearden

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

I bet the artists continue doing their art in Heaven.

More than just a winning streak at Santa Monica Christian school

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Erhan Meric, a magician with the ball.

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

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

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

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

Abraham Morales was deadly in front of goal.

Abraham Morales was deadly in front of goal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bombings made him a good tennis player

novak-djokovic

By Michael Ashcraft and Mark Ellis

To win the Australian open, a tennis player needs composure – something Novak Djokovic, 28, developed when his city was bombed by NATO for 78 consecutive nights in 1999.

A Christian of deep faith, Djokovic – also known as Super Novak – made use of his poise under pressure to take the Jan. 31 open by storm. He slammed contender Andy Murray 6-1, 7-5, 7-6 in a display of dominance proving why he’s tennis’ new #1 ranked player.

Djokovic grew up playing tennis in Belgrade when NATO imposed an embargo and bombed the city during the Kosovo War in 1999, causing great shortages of food.

us open 2015“We started the war living in fear, but somewhere during the course of the bombings, something changed in me, in my family, in my people,” Djokovic wrote in his memoir, Serve to Win. “We decided to stop being afraid. After so much death, after so much destruction, we simply stopped hiding. We decided to make fun of how ridiculous our situation was. One friend died his hair like a bulls-eye, a target.”

Young Djokovic himself stumbled and fell while scrambling to a bomb shelter one night. He looked up and saw a fearsome F-117 bomber release its cargo upon a hospital, he said.

If you can play tennis while dodging bullets and standing in long lines for bread and milk, then nothing can unnerve you. After facing the hardships of war, the psychological games played by opponents on a tennis court are relatively tame to Djokovic. His inner resolve has resulted in many come from behind victories.

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His opponents seem befuddled next to his highly-trained concentration level that screens out distractions of any form.

When Djokovic did the unimaginable and recovered from a breakdown in the fifth set to beat Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open of 2013, the Australian news.com.au proclaimed it an act akin to turning water into wine or opening up the Red Sea.

“No one does that,” the reporter wrote. “Djokovic wins a lot of matches he should lose.”

Djokovic, jubilant over a triumph that made the world stand up and notice, tore off his shirt to celebrate. The wooden cross around his neck bore visible testament to his faith.

Other players choke. Djokovic brings out his best tennis when the heat is on. At the 2011 U.S. Open he played 16-time major winner Roger Federer and returned a mind-boggling ball on match point  that seemed impossible to retrieve – now memorialized as “the shot” – that shocked Federer and the entire tennis world. Federer was reportedly upset about it for months.

Once upon a time, Djokovic was the upstart among tennis champions. He was the “third man” behind Federer and Nadal. Now, he stands alone. He has won 11 Grand Slam singles titles – four of the last five. In 2015, he won 82 of 88 matches – a 93% win percentage.

Read the rest of the article: click here.

Ha ha ha! Orange marmalade has ‘wires’

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

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

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

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

Getting stronger mentally, Lighthouse soccer comes from behind to tie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can Christians dream?

Elon Musk figured it would be better to build his own rockets after the Russians offered to sell him a retro-fitted ICBM for a sky-high price (yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, the pun is bad). Then Musk — who owns Tesla electric sports cars and is making lithium batteries for your home that charge at night when electricity is cheaper — decided he would still save more money by landing the first stage booster (to be re-used). He almost landed it on a floating barge this month, as you can see from the video.

When I read about the technological advances (Musk is contracting for NASA), I see men and women who dream.

Can Christians dream to do great, unthinkable things for God?

All you need is a little bit

P8112143A little light can be seen in much darkness.

One drop of blood is enough for a shark to smell a quarter of a mile away.

Don’t ever discount your impact or potential for Christ. God can use small things to overcome huge things.

The darkness doesn’t quash the light. To the contrary, the darker it is, the greater the light is seen.

Ted Dekker, best selling author who grew up among cannibals

TTCulture-blog427

Ted Dekker

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Cam Newton, feared QB, temptation-beset Christian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not once but kidnapped twice by jihadists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now she has been kidnapped again.

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

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

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

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

A Florida missionary among 30 killed in Burkina Faso terror attack

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

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

splendid hotel

The Splendid Hotel charred by car bomb explosions

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

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

french forces also attacked the attackers

French forces participated in the counter attack.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Small Christian high school in Santa Monica gets a boost from a Turkish student

IMG_8948An unexpected boon to Lighthouse Christian Academy soccer came from Turkey: Erhan Meric, a sophomore and magician whose feet perform tricks.

His life is just pure soccer, nonstop trying, for every Saints soccer match. The fleet-footed diminutive midfielder is making his mark. In four games, he has scored four goals. After four games, LCA is 1-2-1.

“I just picked up a soccer ball and played with my dad when I was young,” the wunderkind said. “From that point on, I’ve been practicing every day in order to get better and better.”

small christian school in santa monica soccer programErhan came from Turkey to study in an American high school two years ago with his mother, a businesswoman, in search of a better life.

“The first school I went to,” Erhan remembered, “wasn’t that good. Sure life was easier and soccer was fun, but dorm life was terrible and after my two friends left the school, I went in search of finding a better one. That’s when I came across LCA.”

Erhan came to have a look at the Santa Monica Christian private school.

“What I saw was amazing,” the quiet Turk observed. “Almost everyone was good friends here, and people were so nice, I thought this could be the school for me.”

Christian college prep and varsity soccerAs he joined the school and got to meet new people, he started talking out more and got out of his “bubble”.

Erhan joined the LCA soccer team and so far is one of our best players on the field, as he was on the #1 soccer academy in Turkey, Galatasaray S.K., and was practicing for all his life. Unfortunately, his twin sister, also at Lighthouse, didn’t go for soccer.

His goal is to become a pro soccer player. He said, “ Yes, I would love to become a pro soccer player. Why? Because you can make big money, meet nice girls, and overall, just play soccer.”

In order to achieve his dream, he has to work hard and motivate himself to win.

“Soccer is very tiring and a little risky, but all you need is motivation. You know what I do for motivation? Every time I wake up on the weekends or whenever I have free time, I sit by the TV and flip through all the channels until I find a soccer match going on. I watch them kick the ball, make goals and I just get so inspired by them. I say ‘Yes, I will achieve that goal, and I will win another game! I will try to my best and even when I fall, I will always get back up again’ ”

So as Erhan keeps playing soccer and trying harder and harder to achieve his goal, he will remember a quote in Turkish that keeps him from failing “Ben futbol seviyorum ve benim rüya vazgeçmek ASLA!” Find out what that means at the end of: high school soccer.

Editor’s note: This article, written by my journalism student Anthony Gutierrez, was originally posted on the Lighthouse Christian Academy‘s website. It’s a small Santa Monica Christian high school. My son is graduating from there this June.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can’t keep Jack in the box

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Iraqi kid loves Messi

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

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

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

David Bowie became a Christian?

david bowieIn the months before he succumbed to cancer, David Bowie, the moré-smashing hedonist who resonated with a generation of young people, reconsidered the God he flouted most of his life as a rocker iconoclast.

As his life ebbed away quietly in the grips of end-stage liver cancer, there were signs the 69-year-old titan of rock and rebellion found peace with the Creator.

“He reassessed everything when he was terminally ill a year ago,” a family friend told the Sun UK. “He concluded there was something greater than all of us, and that may be some version of what others might call God. This was probably quite comforting. He certainly wasn’t scared of death.”

david bowie christianWhile he mostly abused drugs and lived like a libertine, Bowie searched through Buddhism, Satanism and Nietzsche’s existential philosophy for the balm to the raging angst in his soul. At one point he quipped that he had even tried to make a religion out of pottery and finally settled on singing as his faith of choice.

Still the London-born glam rock pioneer was searching. In an interview in 2003, he recognized he could never utterly reject faith. “I’m not quite an atheist,” he said. “I’m almost an atheist. (But) all the clichés are true. The years really do speed by. Life really is short as they tell you it is. And there really is a God.” Found out if it’s true: David Bowie Christian?

Led by a guy who likes to sleep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern need to live

rosencrantz-and-guildenstern-are-dead-In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are unwittingly betraying their childhood friend, Hamlet, and playing into the hands of the usurper Claudius, who by killing Hamlet’s father and marrying Hamlet’s mother seized the throne of Denmark. Hamlet appeals to them to remain loyal to him, but since they’re sycophants, they fawn over the king and don’t perceive his treachery.

So Hamlet kills them summarily.

They were — unknowingly — escorting Hamlet to his death in England. Hamlet opens the letter sealing his fate while his friends sleep on the boat from Denmark. Needless to say, Hamlet doesn’t appreciate them being his conduit to death (the letter orders England, a vassal state in the play, to execute Hamlet). So Hamlet rewrites and reseals the letter changing the object of execution to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Hamlet himself changes ship and boards a pirates’ vessel and heads back to Denmark while his comrades continue onward to their death in England.

Was Hamlet wrong to kill his buddies? Shakespeare leaves his audience with the sense that they got what they deserved.

But where Shakespeare leaves his audience happy with their death, Tom Stoppard in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead picks up their cause. Because they acted unknowingly, they deserved life.

Of course Stoppard is describing his existential cosmovision, a bleak view that life is meaningless, death inevitable and destiny cruel. I don’t share his vacuum view of leadership, but I heartily applaud his taking up the cause of the anonymous, the defenseless, the voiceless.

Every life is valuable. None should be disposed of because of convenience. One person cannot assign importance — or lack thereof — to another human being. God has instilled incalculable value to every human being.

A lot of confusion

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

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

Keep praying

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

Who popped up recently?

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

The power of a whistle

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

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

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

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

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

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

I always keep a whistle and a prayer handy.

How do I pray? Just do it.

My high school improves its soccer record

Santa Monica soccer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the rest of the article.

It doesn’t matter where you are but where you’re going

pathChristianity is a journey towards better. We pray, hear sermons and do works, not to earn our salvation but to align ourselves with the blessings God wants to pour out on us. By pleasing God, we discover happiness.

I’ve been a Christian for 36 years. I’m still not perfect. Sometimes it gets discouraged when sin raises its horrible self in my heart. I find the flesh a persistent adversary.

What I have learned to start over 50 kabillion times, to get back on the path to right, to persist in trying and to keep doing good things.

Maybe you’re at a low point in life. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and set yourself once again (for the millionth time!) on the path towards God. Keep striving to be and stay in God.

‘Impossible fossils’ puncture evolution

delk_cretaceous_footprint

The Alvis Delk Cretaceous Footprint

A handprint, a finger, a footprint and a hammer are part of a smattering of “impossible fossils” – so called because they upend the evolutionary timetable and puncture the theory of evolution.

A handprint in limestone from the Cretaceous Era – 110 million years ago – was found near Weatherford, Texas, in the 1970s. It is on display at the Creation Evidence Museum in Glen Rose, Texas. Either human-like creatures were on earth much earlier than thought, or the dating methods are flawed and the earth is much younger than most scientists will admit.

finger_1

From the Cretaceous Era by dating methods — long before man was believed to be alive.

A fossilized human finger also from the Cretaceous Era was found also in the 1970s in the Commanche Peak Limestone formation in Texas and is on display at the Creation Evidence Museum. The fact that flesh has been fossilized (normally only bones make it through millennia as fossils) could result from instant entombment in mud (from a huge flood, for example).

london-hammer-2

The London hammer

A footprint – known as the Burdick Track – was found again in Cretaceous limestone in the Cross Branch stratum, a tributary to the Paluxy River in Glen Rose, Texas.

Staunch evolutionists have worked vigorously to poke holes in the credibility of these discoveries – with good reason, because they poke holes in the theory of evolution. The extent to which they defend a pet theory in spite of discrediting discoveries reveals a lack of scientific integrity, many believe.

bill-nye-650x433

Ken Ham debates Bill Nye the Science Guy about evolution in 2014

“These amazing fossilized imprints/remains have left the scientific community scratching their heads,” said Mihai Andrei on ZME Science, himself no creationist.

Another footprint – called the Alvis Delk Cretaceous Footprint – is even more intriguing because it is intersected by the footprint of an Acrocanthosaurus dinosaur print. This suggests that dinosaurs and man walked the Earth at the same time. The infrequency of such intersections in fossils makes sense: humans tried to stay away from the fearsome animals. Read the rest of the fascinating story.

The lonely

loneliness

My son plays Javier foosball

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

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

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

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

Prayer is a journey from pain

tree tunnelIf we didn’t feel pain, I don’t suppose we would pray. Not until we hit anguish do we remember our limitations and God’s limitlessness. So prayer, then, is a journey from pain to pleasure, from bruises to blessings, from hits to happiness.

If pain is the starting point, however, the journey doesn’t have to be painful. After all, we leave pain behind.

We need to see prayer less like instant answers and more of a pathway. Some hikes are short and easy, others long, still others strenuous. I don’t know about you, but I like hikes of all sizes and shapes. In fact, I haven’t met a hike I didn’t like yet.

Regardless, it is the destination that makes you forget about the process of getting there. Once you reach happiness, all previous pain is pretty much forgotten. Part of knowing how do I pray is staying on the path towards happiness.

How do you make poetry relevant?

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

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

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

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

Don’t miss Jesus

road-to-emmaus-2Circumstances can get you down to the point where you miss Jesus altogether.

Consider the case of the two disciples walking with Jesus on the Road to Emmaus. They are so bummed out by the crucifixion, they’re blinded by the crushing of their hopes for a Messiah to throw off the hated Roman Empire and restore Israel’s glory. Jesus walks with them but the depression blurs their vision so badly that they don’t recognize Him.

Now maybe other factors played a part. Maybe Jesus’ resurrected body was different (See 1 Cor. 15:44 at foot of this blog). Maybe he was shrouded by a turban (just because the Bible doesn’t say anything about it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen). But these factors seem to come up short.

What is sure is that these disciples were kicking themselves for not recognizing Jesus quicker. Discouragement played huge in missing Jesus.

As you go through trials, re-calibrate your vision to discern Jesus. He has not failed you or forsaken you.

1 Cor. 15:44 My paraphrase: The earthly body is sown a natural; the resurrected body is spiritual.

Smiling at death

Stjepan_Stevo_FilipovićWith a noose around his neck on the scaffold, resistance fighter Stjepan Filipovic defied his Nazi captors. “Death to facism! Freedom to people!” the Yugoslav jeered.

There is a cause that is worth more than conserving your life: it is fighting evil. There are men who are unafraid to pay the ultimate price for the highest good, whether they be our armed forces or missionaries in remote villages. They are unafraid because they realize if they don’t live for something valuable, they don’t live.

Old-fashioned marriage still the best

IMG_8895My New Year’s resolution lasted 2:34 hours, and then my wife woke up. She wasn’t talking loud enough for me to her, so I got mad. Oops.

The good thing is that can I re-take the resolution to be patient, loving and appreciative. I have the best wife in the world, so why do I get peeved over insignificant stuff???

Actually, I feel awkward lavishing praise publicly over my wife. It’s not that she doesn’t deserve it. But I don’t want to hurt people who have been hurt. I don’t want wives to get mad that their husbands are “unappreciative,” and I don’t want husbands to become envious. But a blogger friend said the internet needs more content eulogizing marriage. People need to know that good old-fashioned marriage, though it requires much work and sacrifice, can work very well. The cases where it works well are not isolated. To be sure, they are declining because of the insidious barrage of negative comments. Contrary to the constant bad press, marriage is still the best thing out there.

I refute the both the singing singles and the moaning marrieds. Your single life is NOT better. Your married life just needs work; stop griping (you studied years for your career, how much have you worked on your marriage?).

If you are divorced, try again. Do it right this time. Get God involved. Just because marriage is risky (both have to put in 100%) doesn’t mean it’s not worth a second try.

As Liam Neeson said: Everyone says love hurts, but that is not true. Loneliness hurts. Rejection hurts. Losing someone hurts. Envy hurts. Everyone gets these things confused with love, but in reality love is the only thing in this world that covers up all pain and makes someone feel wonderful again. Love is the only thing in this world that does not hurt.

Once you’re divorced, you can’t fix it. If you’re married, you can fix things. I can still fix my New Year’s resolution.

Artists reflect God

artists reflect GodWhen the Bible says humans are made in the image of God, it does NOT mean God has a body (with armpits, boogers, ingrown toenails, etc.) It means we have the potential to imitate His superior attributes.

Today I want to praise artists and challenge everybody to create. Among His qualities, God is Creator. Whether it be music, photography, painting, sculpting, dancing or (my favorite) writing, be like God and use your imagination. Delight, tantalize, surprise.

At the same time, I want to say there is no artist as good as God. Whether it be a sunset or a canyon, human beauty or animals, God is the artistic winner.

Image: something that inspired me from pinterest.

One coach is chill, the other, read to kill

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

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

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

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

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

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

Startled tastebuds

terroni restaurant

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

My tastebuds were startled.

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

pizza terroni

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile we throw away a stadium full of food every day

food waste

The Huffington Post reports that Americans dump daily enough food to fill a stadium. What wasters we are.

Meanwhile, malnutrition plagues Africa, Asia and Latin America. Ugh. I hate waste. Yes, I’m one of those annoying people who tells his kids to eat everything on their plate. And the wise-alecks who tell me to send it in the mail to Africa, I wana sock ’em. (Yes, my faith goes on hold momentarily).

We don’t have a lot of money, but I always try to have plenty of food on hand in case anybody is hungry. We live on the same property as our Christian high school in Santa Monica, and most of the time that means hungry teens can traipse into my house, open up the fridge and help themselves — the only requirement for them is to clean up afterwards and NOT waste.

What can we do to eliminate waste and help the hungry?

Photo: Pinterest.

Don’t worry about the foundation

All foundations are equal, they say. Don’t worry about what the Bible says, they say. Morals are relative, they say.

Jesus says: Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock — Matt. 7:24 NLT.

In 2016, I’m still sticking with the Bible. I’m not joining the downgrade crowd, those who want to “move on” from the Bible to “better things.” Because when your life gets swallowed up by the uncertain foundation, it’s too late to change.

New Year comes regardless if you want it. New you, only if you want it

Michael-Bernhardt-1-810x508The New Year grinds forward. You may long for it or try to hold it off. You may think it augurs a new beginning, or you may be fretting for 36 things still to do in 2015. It’s forward progress is unstoppable.

But a new you doesn’t proceed forward in the same manner. A new you comes only if you change existing habits. If you set new goals — or maybe just goals, then you can pursue. A new you requires effort.

This is why I am a Christian. I want a better version of myself. I want to resolve not just once a year but daily for it and strive for it. Christianity is all about looking forward, embracing change. Christianity is about idealism and yet it is practical.

I encourage you to seek the new you — and, yes, I highly recommend you find it where I think it can only be found, in God.

Image: Michael Buehner on Pinterest.

Humanism worships us

humanismHumanism cuts God out of the equation: We don’t need the supernatural any more. We can engineer our own solutions. We have done good, not God. Humanism points to humanity.

Amid the constant carpet-bombing of the humanist message, I point to God. We Christians are not opposed to science or using the wisdom and talents God gave us to achieve. But we recognize our limitations and mortality. Science may continue to advance but ultimately will come up short.

Don’t look inward, look upward. There is a God who loves you and beckons you into relationship with Him. This is not superstition. This is common sense recognition that we, as much as we can create, ultimately cannot create creation. God made the raw materials which we use to make things.

Image: Pinterest.

Don’t ditch it

marriageMarriage is worth the work, the heartache, the pain.

We study thousands of hours for our careers. But we don’t want to spend any time preparing or repairing our marriage — and yet a good marriage is by far a better source of happiness than a career!

Some are so impatient they are floating alternative models: shacking up, equality marriages. The message is always the same: it’s just as good.

It is not.

One has the solid foundation of the Bible. The other has no foundation. It is a hastily-erected hut on dirt. It will stand and look pretty but won’t withstand an earthquake.

Love is worth it.

Many of my blogging friends have faced divorce. In order to succeed, marriage requires 100% of both — and yours collapsed because only you were giving 100%.

Remarry. Give happiness another shot. Give your 100% to another person.

The first “institution” was not the church. Nor was it government. God instituted marriage from the very creation.

Don’t ditch it.

Image from Pinterest.

Speak life

speak life

It only takes a few words to destroy a fellow human being. And some are actually proud of blandishing their words like a caveman his club. Meanwhile, the sensitive among are committing suicide — some only to their self-belief, their self-worth, their dreams. You will be held accountable by God for the words you uttered, and there will be no justification.

Why not speak life to those around you instead? As much as words can hurt, they can build up, encourage, spark genius, give the impulse to carry out success. You can make a person smile. You can make a person beautiful just by your words. You can save a life.

Use your words wisely. Here is a great secret of wisdom: not everything that occurs to your head needs to occur on your tongue.

Original image: Huffington Post via pinterest.

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions

resolutions

They only last three weeks. Then the gym empties out, the fridge fills up, and the checking account empties out. It’s sad.

I believe in church service. At the end of each service, we have the chance to go forward to the altar and “repent.” For the unchurched, that means, we make resolutions. No, were not a bunch of hypocrites. We’re just human. And humans need to constantly redirect their paths for the good.

We receive exhortation to forgive, to avoid pratfalls, to put our family first, to not waste our money, etc. I go to church at least three times a week. I make resolutions to be a better man at least three times a week.

This actually helps me to be a better human being. The constant forming of resolutions works better than the once-a-year grandiose life-changers, at least in my opinion.

Have you ever succeeded at at New Year’s resolution? Maybe I’m wrong. Share in the comments your experience.

The only basis for pastoring

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

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

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

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

‘Black Hawk Down’ hero found a better way to transform the world than ‘kicking in doors and slinging lead’ with enemies

MAJ-Ret-Jeff-StrueckerWhat impacted Jeff Struecker most was NOT the thousands of hostile Somalis swarming his Humvee, nor the hailstorm of bullets and RPGs as he attempted to rescue fellow Rangers in the ill-fated 1993 raid of Mogadishu made famous by the movie Black Hawk Down.

What impacted him most was the next October morning back at base when his buddies one by one asked him about death and afterlife.

“It changed my life forever,” Struecker said. “I would still be a sergeant in the ranger regiment today if it wasn’t for what I saw the morning after the firefight. It wasn’t really the blood and the bullet holes that had an impact on me. It was back at the base the grown men, some of the toughest warriors on the planet, with tears in their eyes. They said, ‘Jeff, what happened to my best friend who just died last night? Jeff, what happens to me if I get on a helicopter or a Humvee tomorrow and I don’t make it home?’

fast rope“Almost all of them were saying, ‘Jeff, there was something different about you last night, and I want to know what it was,’” he said. “For the next 24 hours, I had guys lined up to ask me about Jesus Christ because they could see the difference that He makes when you’re getting shot at and when the bullets flying.”

Tom-in-Black-Hawk-Down-tom-guiry-25144097-853-480So 24 hours of giving advice did more than the extended, intensive Ranger training to direct Struecker’s career. Seeing a chance to impact the lives of men, Struecker became a chaplain for his same Ranger buddies in the 82nd Airborn Division, a post he’s held for more than a decade.

black-hawkThe Ranger/Delta Force mission code-named Operation Gothic Serpent on Oct. 3 began to go awry when Ranger PFC Todd Blackburn failed his fast-rope drop-in and fell 70 feet to the ground headfirst While other Rangers secured the perimeter and Delta Force operators seized two of Mohammed Farrah Aidid’s top lieutenants, the subsequent efforts to rescue the fallen ranger led to two helicopters being shot down and 18 deaths. Click here to read the rest of the article.

I’ve cut down on sarcasm

sarcasm“Sarcasm” comes from “sarx” in the Greek, which means flesh. It is cutting someone up.

It’s telling someone he’s stupid and you’re superior, more intelligent. You resort to sarcasm to show how obvious something is (but wasn’t to the first person who made the statement or asked the question — hence he’s dumb.) It is a humiliation.

Of course, sarcasm has plenty of attractiveness. It makes people laugh. It makes you look witty. People like to hang out with winners. You’re the winner if you use it quickest and cuttingest. It’s a pride thing.

I’ve cut down on sarcasm because I’ve been cut up by sarcasm. I’ve decided that I don’t need it to attract friends. I’ve realized that true friends are what I want, and they won’t be coming around for my barbs and witticisms. They’ll love me if I love them. The only love the sarcasm knows is self-love.

Don’t place a halo on my head yet. Sarcasm comes out more frequently than I’d like to admit. I’m not totally sincere and humble. I’ve still got my flesh.

Sarcasm is delusional. You begin to believe you are superior to others just because of quick tongue.

Maybe procrastination is not all bad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She forgave would-be killer

immigration attorney los angelesWhen the gang-banger was on trial for nearly killing her brother, Cynthia Santiago wrote a letter to the court asking for leniency.

“We are Christians. We believe in forgiveness,” said Santiago, 31, now an immigration lawyer based in El Segundo. “We prayed for him (the shooter). We prayed God transform his life. I’m not the person to pass that kind of judgment on another human being.”

Santiago said her brother got involved in a race-based altercation at 20th St. and Delaware in Santa Monica in the early 2000s, and he was shot with a 22-caliber gun from close range. One bullet shattered his jaw and another pierced his heart and lung, she said.

He was rushed to St. John’s where he lay unconscious for nearly three weeks. When he woke up, he asked about his kids. After months of physical therapy, he returned to normal life.

Santiago’s extraordinary plea for clemency is part of the troubled past of a Santa Monica once beset by gang violence. Part of the reason she chose law is because she saw her own parents, as working class residents, struggle to get sound legal advice for her troubled brother. Read the rest of the article.

Editor’s Note: Cynthia Santiago was the flower girl in my wedding 25 years ago. My wife and I lost track of her when we spent 16 years in Guatemala as missionaries. When I found her on Facebook 24 years later, I’m surprised to see her all grown up and a lawyer! I praise God she, coming from a family without college students, had the wherewithal to study and achieve a dream. It seems to me that her choice to forgive is extreme and compelling. Her choice to help the neediest who need help only makes me admire her more.

Thank you for friendship

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