Monthly Archives: July 2016

In God We Trust

In God We Trust. It has been minted on coins since 1864 and printed on paper currency since 1957. How many of us really trust God?  I admit that I struggle with trusting God completely every day.

When I was a teenager I treated God like a formula.  I would say to myself or others, “I don’t need to pray, it doesn’t work.  If it did, I would believe.”

I came of age during the mid-1980s, a decade that promoted greed for gain.  My goal was to increase my power.  Money gave me the power to control people, so it was a means to an end.

Over the years my life would be spared by a number of seemingly “lucky” incidents.  Even after I quit the life of crime in 2004, I still looked back on my life and thought I was just “lucky” to have survived.  

I had no idea what I should do with my life in 2004 so I reverted to greed to get ahead. I also vowed to be a good person and do the right thing.

I felt I was on the road to success.  I wrote a book, I sold it to a major company.  I wrote a screenplay with an Oscar-winning writer.  I got on television and I was going to be on a reality show. Even with all this, my life was empty and I wasn’t happy.  I was headed toward another major crash in life.  I had recently married a woman who was everything I ever dreamed. Yet, with the way I was, I would have blown my marriage like I had everything else in the past.  In my old life, anytime anything did not go my way, I would just cut my losses and walk away.  Try again.

I felt the need for something different.  The way I was living had let me down again and again.  It was Christmas time, and I felt drawn to the church.  I told my wife I’d like to attend a Christmas Eve service, and we both thought of the same church in San Marino that we had walked by one time.  It was in that church in San Marino that I found God. I didn’t understand it at the time, but he had been with me the whole time, since I was a kid.  I had just never opened my heart to him, I had been trying to do life my way instead.

Now that I made the decision to live my life for God instead of myself, I had a lot to learn.  We began not only attending church and Sunday school, but also any Bible study classes or teaching events the church offered. One day I was listening to someone speak and he said, “My wife and I prayed about it, and then we received our answer from God.”  This opened up my mind to the possibilities of prayer. So my wife and I prayed together about what we should do in our lives.

This was the first time I put my trust in God in many years.  We did get a clear answer to our prayers, God opened several doors and closed several others and we decided to leave Los Angeles.   We set a date seven months away, when our lease was up, and began planning the big move.

Our commitments and jobs paralleled our moving timeline and God provided the things we needed financially and otherwise.

We trusted in God.  Sometimes it was easy to trust because life was going our way.  The next few months would be harder to keep our faith strong, but we worked at it each day.  While things seemed to fall in place when we arrived, times got tougher and it’s still a work in progress.  We have to remind ourselves that God’s timing is perfect and it is not about what we want, but what He wants.

When David wrote in Psalms 23, “The Lord is my Shepherd,”  he was writing from experience because he was a shepherd.  He knew that you must constantly watch out for the sheep, or they would get into trouble.  A good shepherd provides them with good land to graze and clean water to drink. He also must guide them.



Do you trust in God?  Is he your shepherd or are you trying to find your own way? Not sure?  It is when our beliefs are equal to our actions that we are trusting God.


How can we share with others what it means to trust in God?


I Am A Christian

For many years I lived my life the way I felt was best for me.  My choices, looking back in hindsight, were not good choices.  Yet, I felt that I was a good person when I compared myself to those around me.

Deep down I knew I was lying to myself.  I was involved with criminals and we all felt we were a law unto ourselves. Then I had a chance at a clean slate and a new life.  It would take me eight long years to separate myself from that life while working with the FBI.

When it all started, I was promised it would be six months to a year, tops.  As time went on, it was extended again and again.

Those eight years were an extended goodbye to my old life.  By the time I was finished, I no longer wanted any part of that life.  I saw first hand what we had done to society.  

When I was done and starting over, I spent from 2004 until 2014 not really knowing where I belonged. My first thought was to continue my lifestyle, minus the crime.  My goal was to make a lot of money, legally this time.  Then I decided that if I got a TV show, that accomplishment would fill my life with joy.

It was during that period that I began to think about Christianity.  I had associated religion with the people I saw get in trouble in the criminal world. People who were caught and then suddenly found God.  I didn’t want that to be me, so instead I tried being a good person, being spiritual.  I read lots of books on meditation and even converted to Judaism, finding comfort in the traditions, meaning and the history it brought to my life.  

Still something was missing.  

I had lunch with a former criminal compatriot, Jack Rausch.  I was nervous about even meeting him for lunch because I feared he was still a criminal.  The truth is, I didn’t trust myself to say no if he offered me a high paying gig.

I had nothing to worry about because our lunch was at El Pollo Loco. In the old days we would drop big money on meals and pull up to our lunches in Corvettes.  I pulled my Toyota truck into the parking lot as he exited his truck.

We exchanged greetings, ordered some food and sat down.  Then he told me he was a Christian. He had found God during his many years of incarceration.  He had become a minister and changed his life. He was helping others. When he first started talking, I thought to myself, “Okay, here it comes.”  I was bracing myself for the, “You need Christ” speech.  What really happened instead as I heard him talk, is that I felt small, like I was wasting this second chance at a fresh start God had given me, while he wasn’t.

This particular friend was the last person I would ever think would be a Christian.  I had never once thought of him as weak, or needing a crutch.  Yet, I could see he was very happy and had a purpose.  He had his struggles, but he was not alone. He actually said that to me.

I had just trained MMA (mixed martial arts) at Reign Training Center before we met for lunch.  The gym was owned by a Christian MMA Fighter who was at the top of his game in the UFC, Mark Munoz.  Mark also defied my notion that Christians were weak people.  Whenever I trained at Reign, the team circled up for prayers after practice right there on the mat.

It was becoming clear to me that I was wrong about Christians.  It was easier for me to look down on them, because I was embarrassed that I had spent so many years living my own life, thinking of myself as strong as others as weak. The hardest thing to do is to admit to yourself you were a fool.

Over time, I continued to have more interactions with true Christians, and more and more I began to realize that I would only find what I was missing in Christ.  There would never be enough stuff or meaningless achievements to fill the void inside me.

It was not a quick change, but over time I became more interested began asking questions. I decided I wanted to go to church to learn more. Once I did, I was all in.

God used many people in my life to bring me to Him, and I couldn’t be more thankful for each one.  Now I’m one of His and He can use me to do the same for others.

These last couple of years I’ve been working on one thing at a time. It has been a relearning process. I had to stop loving myself the most and make Christ number one in my life, and start putting others before me.  I had to stop trying to control the outcome of my life and let His will be done in my life instead of mine.  I had to become comfortable saying, “I am a Christian.”


To read more about Jack Rausch in his own words. Jack’s book.



The Wall

One particular day in 1989 stands out in my mind.  I was in my Newport Beach apartment, alone. I had just come from the library across the street where I had used the Xerox machine to copy the poem, “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley.


I sat at my table and used an Exacto knife to cut out the last two lines of the poem. They read, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” I took that small paper to be laminated and I then carried it in my wallet for over a decade.


I look back now and I am embarrassed by my naivety.  I had read Anthony Robbins’ “Unlimited Power,” and a slew of other books.  I was using what I learned in the books to better myself. Or so I thought.


That was the story of my life.  I would take something and then twist it until it fit into my life. It made me feel like anything I did was okay, because I was in charge.


I had spent from birth through age thirteen going to church or a church school.  I had been taught better than to believe I was so powerful, but I chose to believe in myself anyway.


I started building a wall between myself and God in my teens. I was twenty when I started carrying those laminated words in my wallet.  My goal from an early age, from 1984 until the mid-1990’s was to be a mobster, just like the ones I had seen in the movie “The Godfather.” By 1989 I was well on my way to realizing my twisted goal.


I had lost a friend and mentor to a murder in 1987. The murder was a classic gangland hit.  I had been with him just hours before. A normal person would have gotten as far away from anyone or anything in that life at that point.  But I didn’t.  What did I take away from his death? I thought he had become soft and slipped up.  He had started going to church and even had a taped sermon playing in his car when he was murdered. It made me think I was one of those lucky people because I was not with him.


I felt untouchable because things in life just seemed to work out for me.  I was arrested many times and but I always skated. They could not build a case, or they dropped it before trial.  


I remember getting arrested for extortion and spending ten days locked up in a cell before I was able to be arranged.  I had what I felt was bad luck by being picked up the Thursday before the Fourth of July weekend.  Then they had a riot in Huntington Beach where they arrested hundreds of people.  I just wanted to make bail, but I first had to be transferred and then go to court.  I was on a no-bail hold until I went before a judge.  


One day when I was in my cell a chaplain came by and asked me if he could pray for me.  I told him to go ahead, I was thinking to myself, “Hey, it couldn’t hurt.”  He prayed and left me a pamphlet.  I just read some Stephen King book instead of even opening it up.


Finally,IMG_0541 I saw a judge.


I was in a cage in the courtroom chained to five other inmates. We were all bad guys, but I looked out of place being the youngest.  The guy before me stood up and took a deal for nine years like he was ordering fries at McDonald’s. Then they started reading off my charges and listing my organized crime ties. Everyone in the cage moved away from me.  I felt proud right then.  My lawyer was there and he argued that I was entitled to bail.  The judge agreed to set bail at $80,000 and I was free that day.


I learned nothing.


I had not thought about that place in my life until Pastor Arol, during a sermon at Minooka Bible brought up people who think they are the captain of their soul. That was me.  It couldn’t be much clearer than the words I lived by in my wallet.


I wasted many years thinking I knew what was best for me.  It was not until I surrendered my life to God that I was able to see myself for what I really was.  What I could not see because of the wall I built between us, I now see with clear eyes.


Have you ever built a wall between you and God, or do you have one now?


No matter where you are in life, I can tell you that what lies behind that wall is far greater than anything you might think you gain by standing alone.  
God’s purpose for your life is greater than any purpose you can dream of on your own.  

The Intersection of Life

The intersection of life is a place we all come to multiple times in our lives. The road you decide to take will dictate your foreseeable future.

Scan 64

I made wrong choices in my teenage years and I continued making them into my adult years.  At the age of 30 I arrived at a very important intersection of my life and for the first time, I chose a different path.


It was not a fast journey and it involved many detours. I learned hard lessons on the road including patience, kindness, empathy, and disappointment. As a person who avoided those lessons in the past, I fought them at first.  Today I am grateful for the hard times.


The first and most important lesson I learned is that there is nobody to blame for my life except myself. Nobody held me back or forced me to do anything.  My family provided a good moral base which I chose to ignore.


So I take personal responsibility.


The second important lesson I learned is that the only thing I can control is the way I react to everything around me. Think about situations in your life for a minute.  Think about how you react. If you had reacted a different way, would the outcome have been different?


More than a decade after all the changes began, I accepted Jesus Christ as my savior and everything up to that point made sense.