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Megachurch pastors Joel and Victoria Osteen criticized for throwing ‘Hook ‘Em’ hand sign

Thousands of students graduated this past weekend from the University of Texas at Austin, flooding social media with photos of proud new alumni and their families.

>> Read more trending news 

For most parents, documenting the occasion with a photo means throwing up the “Hook ’em Horns” hand sign, too, usually without much fuss. But when your parents are the first couple of televangelism, a spirited hand gesture can take on a whole other meaning. 

>> Photos: Longhorns arriving for UT graduation ceremony May 20 

Joel Osteen and his wife, Victoria, draw thousands every week to their massive Lakewood Church in Houston, and millions tune in from across the globe to watch. The pair also head a massive multi-million dollar empire stemming from book deals and tours. Their son, Jonathan, recently graduated from UT, and he posed with each of his parents for a pretty common photo taken during commencement weekend: the graduate and his mom and dad both making the “Hook ’em Horns” hand sign. 

Filet-O-Fish sales surge at McDonald's during Lent

Every March, McDonald’s sees a surge in sales of its Filet-O-Fish sandwiches.

According to a company spokesman, it’s primarily because of Lent.

Nearly 25 percent of the sandwiches sold during the year are sold during Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday and runs for 40 days, ending just before Easter Sunday.

>> Read more trending stories  

The dish’s existence dates back to the 1960s, when Cincinnati franchise owner Lou Groen noticed a drop in sales on Fridays when his Roman Catholic customers were observing Lent. 

Groen convinced the food chain to launch a whitefish sandwich as an alternative menu item to its popular burgers.

>> Related: What is Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday, and how do we celebrate? 

Since its inception, the wild-caught Alaska pollock fish sandwiches have become a McDonald’s staple.

Social media users are jokingly taking to Twitter to express their excitement for “Filet-O-Fish Season,” some celebrating the discounts that many McDonald's restaurants offer on the sandwich on Fridays during Lent. 

Take a look:

Commence Filet-O-Fish season. #Lent— Caitlin N. (@catealli_15) March 1, 2017

It's Ash Wednesday. Which means it's gonna be lent fridays and Filet O Fish are gonna be sold for $1.59 again pic.twitter.com/XXghnR6AQT— HvyMtlLvr (@Artenomics) March 1, 2017

The filet-o-fish is truly a staple in the Catholic community during Lent.— Ally (@allyportz11) February 27, 2017

Muslim man receives heartwarming note from neighbors after Trump's inauguration

A heartfelt letter left on the door of a Muslim man's Ohio home after President Donald Trump's inauguration is going viral.

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news

According to WCPO, Abubaker Amri, who immigrated to the United States from Libya nearly 40 years ago, was concerned about some of Trump's comments on the campaign trail. But on Friday, a surprising letter note from his neighbors in Cincinnati lifted his spirits.

>> Read more trending stories

"Dear Neighbors," the note read. "Today begins a new stage for our country. No matter what happens, please know there are still a lot of people who will fight for your right to practice your religion, to continue your lives without discrimination. You are welcome in our neighborhood and if you need anything – please knock on our door."

Amri's niece, Hend Amry, shared a photo of the letter on Twitter, where it quickly went viral. Her post was retweeted more than 140,000 times and "liked" more than 415,000 times by Sunday morning.

>> See the post here

After the Trump inauguration, some neighbors left this letter on my uncle's door in Cincinnati, Ohio. pic.twitter.com/jnlXewv7ej— Hend Amry (@LibyaLiberty) January 21, 2017 <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

"There's no way I could express my feelings when I got that note," Amri told WCPO, calling it "the best, best, best experience."

Read more here.

Eddie Long death: Memorial service set for controversial megachurch pastor

The metro Atlanta megachurch led by Bishop Eddie L. Long has set a date for a memorial service for the controversial pastor. 

New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia, will hold services for Long at 11 a.m. Jan. 25, Elder Craig Heath said during an early morning international prayer call. Long died Sunday at age 63.

>> PHOTOS: Bishop Eddie Long through the years

The church had said Sunday that an email would be sent to members with further details.

Heath read from the New Birth in a statement Sunday that Long "is now spiritually healed and home with the Lord.”

>> PHOTOS: Notable deaths 2017

“Bishop Long, senior pastor of New Birth, transitioned from this life early Sunday morning after a gallant private fight with an aggressive form of cancer,” the statement said.

Leaders on the prayer call, which opened and closed with music, at times seemed emotional as they talked about how Long had always “sowed seeds” in them and in others. Heath said the service would celebrate his life, sacrifice and service.

>> Controversial Atlanta megachurch Bishop Eddie Long has died, church says

He acknowledged that members were still is the midst of working out their thoughts and feelings considering the life and legacy of Long.

Also on the call was Elder Carla Stokes and Bishop Kenneth Pearman.

>> Men who sued Eddie Long for sexual misconduct address bishop's death

Long was absent at several services during recent months but was present during Christmas and New Year’s Eve services. His last sermon was during Watch Night Services to usher in the new year.

New Birth members were told of Long’s death Sunday. Some sobbed and cried. Others prayed and leaned on those near them in support.

“Even though we don’t know the details right now, Bishop Long wouldn’t leave us in a lurch,” said longtime member Lela Brooks, a member for 29 years. “His legacy will live on. He did a lot of good and we won’t let that fade.”

>> Read more trending stories

Talis Burrell hadn’t been a member as long. Having joined in 2006, she said even though the congregation held out hope that Long had won the battle with his illness, she wasn’t completely caught off guard at his passing.

“He hadn’t really come back physically," she said.

“I’ve been a member here for 34 years and it’s just devastating,” said Keith Crowley. “It’s sad for the world.”

Crowley, like many members of New Birth, found out about Long’s death when it was announced during Sunday’s service.

Mark Zuckerberg no longer atheist, announces revelation on Facebook

The holiday season has brought a religious revelation for followers of Mark Zuckerberg.

The Facebook creator announced on his social media account that he is an atheist no longer, The Telegraph and other media outlets are reporting.

>> Read more trending stories 

Zuckerberg posted a Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah message recently.

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah from Priscilla, Max, Beast and me! Seeing the moments of joy and family shared on...Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Sunday, December 25, 2016

The post prompted questions from followers as to whether Zuckerberg has returned to religion after years of not practicing and posting his religious beliefs as atheist. 

Zuckerberg responded that he was raised Jewish, but didn't follow this upbringing after questioning what he called things. Now he said he thinks religion is important.

His wife Priscilla Chan is Buddhist, and he has praised the religion, The Telegraph reported.

Zuckerberg also met with Pope Francis last year to discuss bringing the internet to developing countries, The Associated Press reported.

Ivanka Trump reflects on 2016, shares New Year's Eve, Hanukkah family photo

Ivanka Trump looked back on 2016 and shared a family photo in social media posts Saturday as she celebrated New Year's Eve and the last night of Hanukkah with her husband and children.

In one post, Trump, Jared Kushner and their stood happily in front of a menorah.

>> Read more trending stories

“New Year’s Eve + Last Night of Chanukah,” she wrote on Instagram.

>> Click here or scroll down for more

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'Leah Remini: Scientology': Ex-church members accuse David Miscavige of physical abuse

In the latest episode of “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath,” Leah Remini and Mike Rinder talked to individuals with formerly strong ties to the church who outlined how they were abused by the church and its leader.

Remini and Rinder talked to former members Jeff Hawkins, Tom DeVocht and Ron Miscavige, father of current leader David Miscavige, who shared shocking personal stories.

“[David] was a mean guy,” said Hawkins, who was a member of the church for three decades. “David Miscavige physically assaulted me five separate times.”

DeVocht, who was also a member of the church for three decades, shared how he forgot to get a permit to tear up the sidewalk outside of the Scientology headquarters in Florida. When he was asked if he had gotten it, he replied, “No,” and before he could say anything else, David Miscavige started attacking him.

>> Read more trending stories

“Before I could even think, he dove across the table, grabbed my [expletive] tie, and shoved it up. And I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t talk,” DeVocht said.

The church refuted DeVocht’s and Hawkins’ claims, writing in a statement, “Lying is nothing new for Hawkins, who has been a discredited anti-Scientology media source for years. His fabricated stories about having been a victim of violence as a staff member were debunked more than a decade ago.”

The church also refuted DeVocht’s claims and said that he is “a violent, admitted liar who left the church in 2005 following an investigation into his extensive waste of church funds. Compulsive lying permeates nearly every aspect of DeVocht’s life. To use him as a source is an indication of how tainted your program promises to be.”

David’s father, Ron Miscavige, a church member for 42 years who left in 2011, also made disturbing claims against the church, sharing that his departure from the church was planned out for six months because he feared what would happen when he did.

“If the word got out that we were planning on leaving, we would’ve been seized,” Ron Miscavige said. “My car keys would’ve been taken away. Becky and I would’ve been separated from each other, and we would’ve done manual labor throughout the day, and when we weren’t [doing] that, we’d be interrogated by an auditor.”

The church, once again, released a statement that attempted to paint Ron Miscavige in a bad light, writing that he has a “decade-long history of vicious domestic violence,” a “long history of anti-Semitic comments and actions” and a “shocking history of racist comments.”

A new episode of “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath” airs on A&E on Tuesday, Dec. 27. Learn more about the show here.

WATCH: Boy 'rescues' Baby Jesus, Nativity scene from cold outdoors

Many people display Nativity scenes in their yard for the holiday season, but one boy was perplexed to see Baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph out in the cold.

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news

>> Read more trending stories

A video posted last week by Rumble user Gregory Hogan shows the boy working for several minutes to carry the three statuettes to his front door. Then he brings them inside.

>> Click here to watch the heartwarming video

Source: Little boy unhappy that Baby Jesus & Family are out in the cold by gregoryhogan on Rumble

Jesus statue still standing after wildfire destroys Tennessee home

Not a day goes by that it doesn’t seem like more bad news comes from the ashes of the recent wildfires in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. While numbers continue to rise, The Associated Press reports that 14 people are dead and 134 injured.

But one sight is giving some residents hope.

>> After wildfires, Dollywood worker finds lone, charred Bible page at park

According to CNN, a television crew was recently on the ground in Sevier County, where several homes burned to the ground. But the crew came across a statue of Jesus still standing among the ruins of a house.

The story touched country music singer Brad Paisley, who recently tweeted a link to the article with the simple words, "Finding some hope within the ashes."

>> Read more trending stories

This wasn't the only heavenly sight amid the rubble. A theme park employee said he found a charred Bible page while cleaning up the mostly spared Dollywood, whose very own Dolly Parton has pledged to financially help the families affected until they can begin to get back on their feet.

After wildfires, Dollywood worker finds lone, charred Bible page at park

After devastating wildfires blazed through Gatlinburg, Tennessee, a worker cleaning up Dollywood theme park in nearby Pigeon Forge found what he believes may be a sign from above – a sole, burned Bible page.

>> Dolly Parton grieves as wildfire tears through her Tennessee hometown

"I just found this while helping our House and Grounds team clean different areas of Dollywood Theme Park," Isaac McCord, a human resources training coordinator at the park, wrote Tuesday on Facebook. "It was under a bench soaking wet. Talk about goosebumps ..."

In light of recent events, the message from the first chapter of the Book of Joel hit home: "O Lord, to thee will I cry: For the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and the flame hath burned all the trees of the field."

>> See the Facebook post here

I just found this while helping our House and Grounds team clean different areas of Dollywood Theme Park. It was under a...Posted by Isaac McCord on Tuesday, November 29, 2016

According to the Knoxville News-Sentinel, McCord, 24, showed the page to another employee, Misty Carver.

"We were like, 'This is unreal; this is unbelievable,'" McCord told the News-Sentinel. "When we had both fully read it, we looked at each other – and I will never forget this moment – we both burst into tears. I was ghost-white, and we just prayed. There was nothing else to do."

Two other workers who later saw the page confirmed McCord's story.

>> Read more trending stories

McCord said the discovery "is something I'll remember for the rest of my life."

"I wanted to share this message because I think that faith and hope is very powerful in a situation like this," he said. "There are hundreds of people that are displaced and that have lost their homes. Most of these people will cling to faith."

>> Gatlinburg aquarium: 'Animals are safe' after devastating Tennessee wildfires

Read more here.

Posted by Isaac McCord on Friday, August 19, 2016

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