Tag Archives: people

Out of poverty in Detroit, to lauded surgeon, now presidential candidate, Ben Carson

ben carson for presidentAs a teenager, Ben Carson and a friend were arguing over a choice of radio stations. Things got heated and Ben took out a pocketknife and lunged the knife blade toward his friend’s stomach.

The blade hit his friend’s belt buckle, broke in half, which saved his friend from harm and Ben from becoming a murderer. Frightened by what nearly happened, Ben ran home and locked himself in the bathroom with a Bible.

Ben turned to the wisdom of Proverbs, reading “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (15:1); or “An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins” (29:22), and a final admonition, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (16:18).

Humbled by the power of God’s Word, Carson realized that if left to his own devices, his anger would drive him toward ruin. Instead he prayed that God would help him control his temper instead of letting it control him, and God answered his prayer.

“When I came out, my temper was gone and I’ve never had a problem since,” Carson revealed in a talk he gave to the LifePoint Assembly of God in Osceola, Iowa, as reported by The Des Moines Register.

He chose instead to live by the words of James 1:19-20 which says, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”

The retired neurosurgeon – who has inspired millions to overcome adversity with his book and movie Gifted Hands – is now campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination – the only African American running in either party this voting season.

Read the rest of the incredible story.

Running from death squads, he fell in with ‘Satan himself’

Iglesia Cristiana La Puerta zona 1 ciudad de Guatemala

Ismael Rodas (right) with Tino, whom he won to Christ after Tino was a homeless drunk for 40 years. They pose in the Door Christian Church of Guatemala City.

With one wrong turn, Carlos Rodas found himself wrenched between university protesters and gun-wielding police forces of the most repressive regime in the Americas at the time, that of Guatemalan president Romeo Garcia.

Police riddled his car with bullets and arrested him. The next day, Carlos was dead, after having been accused of being a communist subversive. He had $3,000 in his pocket at the time of his arrest, but now the money was gone.

Carlos’ brother, Ismael, was infuriated. Both he and Carlos had run a thriving bakery business and steered clear of politics.

“In the cemetery, I expressed my rage and my pain to my other brother,” Ismael says. “I wanted to know who the killers were and kill them and myself. I wanted to buy a machine guy. In those days you could still buy a machine gun. I wanted to waylay the chief of police because I knew where he passed every afternoon. I knew they would kill me, but that’s what I wanted to do.”

But Ismael worried about his wife and children, so he never executed his desperate plan.

Then the phone calls started coming in. It was always a stranger’s voice threatening him roughly. He had to leave the country within one month or he would be taken by a death squad. Suddenly severe anxiety mixed in with his anger and grief.

Ismael had studied with the Rosacrucian esoteric society and had also availed himself of Alcoholics Anonymous. But in this new crisis, these networks offering various mental and psychological tools were absolutely useless.

Ismael consulted experts in the occultic arts. A palm reader told him, without knowing his circumstances, that he was condemned to death. A “doctor” of yoga inquired supernaturally on his behalf but could offer no solution.

“You’re problem is very serious. If I place you in the North, there’s no room for you. If I place you in the South, there’s no room for you. Neither is there a place for you in the East or West,” the yoga man said, referring to metaphysical concepts. “You should leave the country, but it’s going to be difficult.”

But Ismael, was wary about leaving the country, even though he had U.S. residency. He worried that the military might ambush him en route.

The days passed and a death squad actually showed up at his home, but he wasn’t there. They ransacked the house. Security forces broke into his bakery, but fortunately Ismael had left. They tied up all the bakers and stole his money, Ismael recounts.

Seeking solace, Ismael turned to a warlock named Saoquin in the Florida neighborhood of Mixco, a city contiguous to the capital.

“He was Satan himself,” Ismael says. Read more about the warlock and ultimately freedom from sin the the rest of the incredible testimony.

Goodbye, Guatemala!

Door Christian School | GuatemalaI got all kinds of annoying chores done, like paperwork and government requirements. But the highlight of my five weeks in Guatemala was the people. The kids at the school broke my heart.

Some of them are going through rough times at home. We try to show them the love of Christ. If, because they prefer sin, their parents show them they’re not important, we at the Door Christian School try to show these kids that they are, in fact, important for Jesus.

And my summer is gone! I teach in a private school in Santa Monica. How did I spend my vacation? Teaching.

I guess I love people.

Please pray for Ricardo

Richard in GuatemalaHe’s my dear brother, who, because he slipped up with drugs, believes there’s no hope. He won’t even come to church.

Ricardo is the nicest guy. God transformed him once, and he was attending service. But he gave into temptation at some point and has been bottom-dwelling for about five years now. I know God has great things for him.

On this blog, I’ve asked for finances on my gofundme account. But today, I don’t need your money. I need your prayers — for my dear son in the Lord.

‘I married the guerilla’

I married the guerilla

With an old student at the Door Christian School in Guatemala City.

When the funeral hearse pulled up at 5:00 a.m., Gladys Barrios knew what it meant. She was a Christian teacher in Guatemala, but her husband fought for the guerrillas. He espoused atheistic communism.

“I lived constantly with the possibility that someone would come and tell me, ‘I’m sorry, but they just killed your husband,’” she said. “When I saw the hearse, I thought, ‘Well, that’s it. He’s dead.’”

Guatemala’s civil war lasted from 1960 to 1996. Just like America’s Civil War, it divided families. It was a bloody conflict of betrayal and treachery as the CIA and the former Soviet Union resorted to dirty tricks and massacres in their attempt to wrest control.

While the communists fought to win the hearts of the people, evangelical Christians made huge gains as people, fearful of death on all sides, considered their eternal state. Today, the country is one-third evangelical, according to some estimates.

For Gladys, the clash of ideologies took place in her household – but with a peculiar pre-marital agreement. “I knew he was in the guerrilla before we married,” she said. “So we agreed that I wouldn’t interfere in his activities, and he would let me go to church and raise the children Christian.

It turned out that the night the hearse arrived did NOT coincide with her husband’s death. Her husband, Luis Ernesto Donado, had been drinking with other high-ranking revolutionaries, and they had crashed due to intoxication. A friend died, and they asked Gladys to visit the morgue, identify the cadaver, and advise the wife who had just become a widow. Read the rest of her incredible story.

The adventures continue

Mike Ashcraft to Guatemala

My brother at left is an engineer. He likes to smirk.

Pathos is my passion. Wherever there are humans involved in a titanic struggle to alleviate the evils of our world, that’s where I’m helping and writing. God has given me a gift for communication.

Now, I’m going to Guatemala, my old stomping ground. I raised up a school to help the poor in the Capital City. They pay only a fraction of costs. Recently, the government has cited an audit, and I need to hurry down to  take care of paperwork.

Of course, while I’m there, I’ll be bringing to this blog some of the great stories of struggle and triumph, of the humans spirit almost breaking under pressure, like I’ve always done.

Why am I telling you this beforehand? I need a little bit of help. Fund my trip to Guatemala. Whatever you can pitch in is greatly appreciated. I’m “scheduling” this post ahead of time because I don’t think I’ll have internet access. So far Carmen Lezeth Suarez has very graciously donated. I want to encourage you too to pitch in. Click the link to go directly to my campaign. Thank you! http://www.gofundme.com/MikeToGuatemala

Faith is overrated

faith is overrated

This is a tough one because Jesus spent most of his time upbraiding his disciples for not having enough faith. So faith was very nearly the characteristic he most cultivated.

So to dismiss faith’s importance borders on heresy. Faith is not unimportant! It is just lesser important than love.

Paul is resetting Corinthian theology, which was heavy on the sizzle and bang of show-off spiritual gifts. He forms a chaismus with chapter 12 and 14 talking about spiritual gifts. Then he says: But I will show you a better way. In the middle, he talks about love.

The ancients didn’t have all caps or highlight to draw attention to their writing. They didn’t have exclamation marks. So they made up the chiasmus, a rhetorical device that repeats a them twice, with the highlighted material in the middle. (It’s kind of like a hamburger. It’s not the two breads on top and bottom. The tasty important part is in between the breads.)

In the middle, then, Paul says, Though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing. — 1 Cor. 13:2.

In Christianity, love is the pinnacle of perfection. Holiness is not so much resisting temptation as it is having compassion on those who have fallen into temptation.

Go ahead, have an affair (with your spouse)

rekindle romanceOnce the rush of falling in love, the anxiety and thrill of finding out its shared, once it’s gone, if you’re human you may be tempted to feel it again.

Go ahead. Just feel it again with your spouse.

I lavished my fiance with 1,000 little details to show her my love. Once she was conquered, I turned my energies to other conquests. I didn’t mean to abruptly turn off the romance. Actually, I thought she would understand. Actually, I thought she would be proud of my next achievements.

Women, it would seem, don’t work that way. After 1,000 signs of affection, they want a steady diet. And that’s sometimes tough for us men to remember. Please try to understand: most men turn into ogres out of ignorance; honest, we’re not con men. It’s just our hardware. Once a trophy is attained, we look for the next trophy: in business, sports, wherever.

Guys, we need to do what we first did when our wives were girlfriends or fiances. Ladies, do the same: those oooo’s and ah’s you rained down on your man, bring them on again. Complaining and b witching won’t get anything good. A couple where both sides refuse to take the initiative to rekindle romance is headed for troubled waters.

So take the initiative: Strike a match. Don’t be surprised if your spouse doesn’t automatically warm up with just one. You may need to strike matches repeatedly before the fire rekindles. Give it time.

Friendship is the bomb!

friendsThis side of eternity, the greatest thing is having friends.

Don’t get frustrated with the people around you

frustrated with peoplePeople are either a blessing or a lesson.

That is beautiful because it almost rhymes and expresses profound truth. So we should not despise the people who are lessons to us — the frustrating ones. It appears to me that is generally cute to despise others: “I don’t hate people. I just feel better when they’re not around,” one T-shirt says. And thus we families that fall apart. Since we can’t get along with others (we are unwilling to work at building relationships and blame others, not ourselves), we wind up with loneliness.

This is my plea for you to work at relationships, to restore, to forgive, and to give without expecting in return. Demolition is much easier than construction. To tear down feels pleasurable. But the rubble left is no fun. It is better to build, even if it is costly. Build your family, your friendships, your church.

Welcome to the Hotel Prayer-ifornia

from Pinterest

from Pinterest

Marie Colantoni Pechet from adventuresinspiritualliving points out a common failing: prayer is our last resort. We try everything else, and when nothing works, then and only then we finally turn to God. It shouldn’t be that way. We ought to seek God first.

Instead of being a last resort, God should a five-star resort. Hahahaha! Why not? Being with God is better than a sumptuous buffet! His rest is better than the king-size bed! The panorama of the Bible is prettier than any Caribbean view. Etc.

But we allow so many distractions to pull

from cloud lounge (where I always find the best photos)

from cloud lounge (where I always find the best photos)

us away. The good-old-do-it-yourself spirit of America is strongly ingrained. And often we simply don’t believe until we have no other option: the doctor gives us six months, the bank forecloses, I go 10 years of virtually stagnant ministry until I finally get it. AHA! I should have started with what I ended (prayer).


Prove ’em wrong

Silence the naysayers. Pic from Pinterest

Silence the naysayers. Pic from Pinterest

I wanted to do a creative writing magazine in high school. One classmate told me I wouldn’t be able to do it. She didn’t believe in me. That piece of discouragement inspired me to carry out the project.

Every time I hit roadblocks and her got frustrated with lack of progress, her memory kicked in and gave me the energy to keep working. I had to prove wrong. Thanks for the demotivation!

Criticism hurts. But it can be turned into a help. The fact of the matter is doing good is taxing. It requires stick-to-it-iveness, boring hard work, and self-denial. What keeps you in the uphill battle? It could be someone encouraging you. And — strange as it may sound — it could be someone discouraging you.

Don't let them put out your fire! Pic from Pinterest

Don’t let them put out your fire! Pic from Pinterest

The human psyche is marvelously complex. Downers can pump you up. You can pull-off a fantastic reversal. You can’t stop people from mouthing off. But you can turn their poison into your passion.

I was very happy to see my couple of poems featured in that magazine. So were other kids. I didn’t hear anymore from the girl who didn’t think I would finish it.

No room in my home

WinpyChristianLast night at church, the pastor issued a plea for a new couple, Jose and Mary, who were evicted and needed a place to stay until they get back on their feet. They are just recently moved here, and she’s pregnant — nine months. Can you believe that?

Why would they get pregnant without lots of dough stashed away in the bank? They no doubt don’t have health insurance, so it’s a typical case of taking advantage of the system. People need to be more responsible and stop looking for handouts.

I am voting for our family to NOT pitch it. We can’t simply help every time there’s a need. The way I see it, every  dime that goes to charity is one less for my Christmas presents, and I’m hoping for the biggest haul ever this year!

Why don’t Mary and Jose go to THEIR parents. I’ll bet not even Santa Claus will give them anything. They probably didn’t behave themselves.

But the worst thing is that Mom and Dad talked about letting them stay at our house, at least on the couch. That’s creepy! Can you imagine running into the living room to open my goodies bright and early Christmas morning — and these strangers are there. What if they run off with the gifts during the night and disappear? Let them go to some homeless shelter to give birth there.

**** “Manual,” the fictitious persona of the Wimpy Christian, thanks the Wimpy Kid for his attitude and applies it to the church.


Beyond the Mayan Long Calendar and Carmaggedon

At Stonehenge, an end of the world party, yesterday

At Stonehenge, an end of the world party, yesterday

Even though I used to live in their mecca, the Mayan catastrophe yesterday failed to materialize. Now, would Roland Emmerich* please give everybody back their ticket money? We weren’t warned. We were swindled.

images-4When crews widened the 405 FWY  they shut it down for a full weekend in July 2011 and predicted traffic snarls all the way to Paris. Telling everyone to stay home, they said it would be “Carmaggedon.”

Ancient_Mayan_Ruins_Chichen_Itza_MexicoI had an outreach to drive to, and the freeways were entirely empty. The next day the newspapers stated that Angelinos, by NOT using their cars for the first time in their lives, had made the “ultimate sacrifice.”

apocalypse-30I took exception to that. The “ultimate sacrifice” no one I know would be willing to make: to die for a friend maybe, but to die lovingly, givingly, for an enemy, who would? The Christ of Christmas did.

IUltimateSacrifice16x20f you stockpiled food, water, gas and bullets for the much-vaunted Mayan cataclysm, give it to the poor (not the bullets). Because the real end of the world is coming, but it’s not Carmaggedon. It’s Armaggedon. What you’ll need most stockpiled is Jesus in your heart.

* Emmerich directed 2012, a special effects phenom that grossed $770 million. It was based on speculations of a Mayan Long Calendar-predicted apocalypse.

Friendship and coffee

images-2I posted a challenge to the existentialists. No one every responded. Maybe they don’t think I exist.

When I posted a challenge to the atheists, they responded with fury. They are a jolly group of friends, nice guys, all of them.

I have discovered that WordPress is a great place to make friends. I am impressed by the sincerity of people. Y’all are so heartfelt.

holiday-coffee-topimages-3One of the things I enjoy with friends is sharing coffee. The Native Americans smoked the peace pipe. Some people share a beer. I savor coffee. It’s my way of bonding, a ritual for communicating how much I value the person.

christmas-coffee-03Throughout 2012, I have had some wonderful conversations with you blogger friends. We have shared in struggles and triumphs, joys and depressions. But I’m afraid inviting you to coffee in Santa Monica would be seen as creepy, so have a coffee in wherever you are to friendship!

Once you start, how do you stop?

The man behind the MustardSeedBudget ravenously devouring Christmas cookies.

The man behind the MustardSeedBudget ravenously devouring Christmas cookies.

IMG_1727These cookies my daughter bakes are soooo good. I never eat them; I flee them; they’re dangerous. But she insists that I must try. Reluctantly, I relent. They have more than chocolate chips: marshmallows and crackly red and green sugar crystals. Needless to say, the exquisite ecstasy produced instantaneous addiction. I threatened to NOT stop with the broken cookies. I would need a 12-step program to break off gobbling them up

I bet my friends of the photo blogs could take a much better picture of these delights.

I bet my friends of the photo blogs could take a much better picture of these delights.

One menacingly look from Rebekah was enough to deter me. When she was younger, she obeyed me. It’s biblical. But now that she is 16 years old, I have to obey her. No one warned me this switcheroo would happen. She’s enough for anyone to go cold turkey. As Rob’s friends know well, you don’t mess with Rebekah.

IMG_1730Becky has been making me feel less Grinch-like. When I was missionary in Guatemala, I was a gringo. But now, I’m a Grinch. Making the transition from belt-tightening missions to spendthrift USA has not been intuitive. She plays Christmas carols incessantly and prevailed on my wife to get a Christmas tree. So the effects have been to put me in the mood. And now, I just wanna wish everybody a Merry Christmas! My Savior was born (probably not on this date), and He could be your Savior too!

I guess I had better read my morning blog about exercise, now that these tantalizing temptations are beckoning. Where's Rebekah? I need to sneak another one!

I guess I had better read my morning blog about exercise, now that these tantalizing temptations are beckoning. Where’s Rebekah? I need to sneak another one!

Maybe we should report those cookies to DEA. You might be dreaming of a white Christmas, but I’m dreaming about green and red sugar crystals.

Stay in the trenches

images-4 imagesThe newspaper profile said that a certain Guatemalan guerrilla refused promotion because he preferred fighting in the trenches over office generalship. His sentiment resonated with me.

In fact, I wonder why so many Christian leaders are actively seeking promotion to get out of day-to-day, gritty, face-to-face discipleship. Maybe, they want acclaim over the hard-but-rewarding work of forming disciples. Even when I was “general images-1pastor” in the Guatemalan churches and K-12 school, I taught 5th and 6th grade. Why? Because it kept me close to disciples.

Jesus ministered to the masses but discipled the dozen. It appears to me that a lot of Christian leaders just want the hoopla of the masses. images-3It may be more gratifying, but the masses did NOT carry on the work after His ascension. It was the 12.

Now, I’m not a higher-up, and I’m loving it. I teach high schoolers. It is sheer joy to see images-2some escape the headlong rush to Hell. It fills me with unending satisfaction see some decide to serve Jesus. However small my part, I know that I am doing what God wants.