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Angels are God's messengers, created to minister to us and help fulfill His purposes, but most of the time we forget they are only a prayer away.
Hanging in my grandmother's house was a picture that has left a lasting impact on me. It was titled "The Guardian," and it featured a very large angel with a comforting expression and outreached hands hovering near a small boy and girl as they walked over a precariously dangerous bridge.
The simple framed print brought great comfort and security to my heart when I was a little girl and propelled my imaginative mind into the awesome arena of angels. In recent years the study of angels has continued to bring me much comfort and encouragement. read more
The time you spend in interaction with others can dramatically affect your physical health.
One evening I was called to an old, ramshackle home out in the country to examine a home death. When I arrived at the house, a deputy met me at the door. "Doc, sure looks natural. The old lady's been up here, all alone, for years. Never left the house. Never had any visitors. Never went to the doctor—not that I can blame her."
He looked rather suspiciously toward me as I ducked to enter the undersized door, ignoring his slight to the medical profession. He continued his soliloquy: "She had a friend who brought her food and supplies. Her friend found her here this evening and called us." read more
Think serving God is complicated? Here’s how easy it really is—and why that simplicity matters.
Someone I know who’s gone to church for many years asked me, “Don’t you think being a Christian is really hard?” Years ago, I would have said yes. But that was before I learned that serving God is not complicated at all.
We can be complicated and we can complicate serving God. Before I realized this it was easy for me to complicate things, no matter how simple they were. read more
by Alan Mowbray
The follow-up to the 2008 hit, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island copies the same "what if?" scenario of the original: Is it possible that Jules Verne's books weren't just concoctions of the author's imagination, but a chronicle of his scientific discoveries?
In the sequel, Sean Anderson (Josh Hutcherson) discovers a coded distress signal from his grandfather Alexander (Michael Caine), which only a true Vernean—people who believe that Jules Verne was writing nonfiction—could decipher.
The message leads Sean and his new stepfather Hank (Dwayne Johnson, taking over for Brendan Fraser, who played Sean's uncle in the original) to a mysterious island located where none should exist. With the help of rogue helicopter pilot Gabato (Luis Guzman) and his mechanic daughter Khailani (Vanessa Hudgens), Sean and Hank set out to find the island and rescue Alexander before it's too late.
If you're looking for a movie that you and your kids can enjoy, Journey 2 fits the bill. It's full of the gags, jokes, oddities, visual twists and other ingredients that kids love. Although it has a bit of a predictable storyline, the CGI and associated imagination that went into its creation is enough to satisfy a grown-up as well. To put it another way, Journey 2 is a fun, enjoyable movie, but you won't be discussing its literary qualities when the credits are rolling.
The movie offers some teachable moments. Sean's father died when he was young, and his mother has remarried. Hank is the outsider here, and it's frustrating for him because Sean doesn't really want to do anything with him. Admirably, Hank has a long-term, nurturing father-style; he is just waiting for the right opportunity to connect with his "new" teen son. Hank's patience and understanding in love is evident. read more
Wedding bells may be ringing this time of year, but statistics reveal that all too often the beauty of a wedding day turns into the disaster of divorce. With the average wedding costing $27,021—according to a survey from theknot.com—it’s important for couples to know how to make that honey moon feeling last longer than it takes to pay off the wedding.
Follow these five tips for a marriage that can last a lifetime: read more
As a child, I grew up under the strong hand of a wonderful, loving and godly father. (Sometimes I felt his hand was a bit stronger than necessary, but looking back, I can see why he had to be so firm with me.) Whenever Father’s Day came around, I was always happy to either make or buy a card for him, give him a token of my love and make his day special. It was a day I looked forward to.
As an adult, I appreciated Daddy even more and, with a husband and family of my own, came to understand more fully the need to be firm but loving. When we moved to Florida many years ago, it seemed that Arkansas (Daddy’s home) was continents away from ours. We spoke on the phone quite often but were able to see each other only a couple of times a year.
When Daddy died, I felt alone. Although I had a husband and family, there was nothing like having my daddy to talk to. I knew he loved me no matter what my faults or failures were and always wanted the best for me.
Even after Daddy died, I still loved Father’s Day. It was always a special day in our home. I enjoyed watching our three daughters make or buy cards and gifts for their daddy. We would fix his favorite foods and make him “King for a Day.” read more
by Alan Mowbray
There is just something so cool about a show that can combine danger, science/biology, fun and fishing—Animal Planet's River Monsters easily fits the bill.
Jeremy Wade is a one-man guide to the dangers that lurk below the surface of freshwater rivers and streams around the world, including Germany, Australia, India, Brazil, Ethiopia, Uganda, South Africa, the Republic of Congo, Alaska, Florida and Texas.
In the same spirit as those crazy guys at Mythbusters, Wade—biologist and extreme angler— investigates what can seem to be outlandish fishing stories, mysteries and folklore of man-eating river predators to see if they're true or just legend.
Sometimes it's about finding just how vicious a certain species really is. Other episodes, Wade searches for a purported "man killer," which turns out to be a pussycat with gills—although it generally has a mouthful of ridiculously sharp teeth. But whatever the quarry, he almost always lands his catch, including piranha, goonch catfish, alligator gar, Wels catfish, bull shark and arapaima.
Since I dabble in fishing, I enjoy River Monsters because it offers a fun and informative behind-the-scenes look at finding, understanding and catching the "big one." Even for those who are not even remotely sport fishing inclined, Wade makes each episode a riveting mystery that must be solved. In minutes, you find yourself hooked by his story—pun intended and much more easily than the creature he's looking for. read more
A weeping, flowering cherry tree is one of the most beautiful of all of the ornamental trees. We bought my mother-in-law one for Mother’s Day many years ago. She was so excited. Being a certified nurseryman, I planted the tree exactly the way it should be done. The next year it bloomed nicely—and even better the next year.
However, after about four or five years, my mother-in-law called me right after the tree had bloomed. She expressed concern because the tree barely bloomed at all that spring. In fact, she said it was pitiful. The next time we went for a visit, I took my pruning clippers and small pruning saw. While she watched, I got the ladder and went to work. Several times I heard her say, “O my,” and “O dear.”
Correct, effective pruning is different than just “shearing” the tree to look like a lollipop. There are two basic types of branches that need to be removed. The first is a branch that is growing the wrong direction. These branches rub the other branches and can cause disease. They also block out the sunlight that is needed for flower buds to form.
The other type of branch to prune is a “sucker” branch that shoots out beneath the graft. These branches are incredibly dangerous to the life of the tree. They will draw all of the strength and energy from the tree into themselves, and the tree will often die—but only above the graft, which is where the blooms grow. read more
Pure Flix Entertainment
David A.R. White stars in the fish-out-of water comedy Brother White as an associate pastor at a wealthy California megachurch who finds himself the pastor of a poor inner-city church in Atlanta. Though neither White’s family nor his new congregation are enthusiastic about this move, everyone quickly learns that their superficial differences pale in comparison to the enormous task of saving the church. And though faced with a life-changing dilemma, the pastor discovers the true meaning and value of ministry and family.
The cast includes Victoria Jackson (Saturday Night Live) as White’s wife and Reginald VelJohnson (Family Matters) and Jackée (Sister, Sister) as parishioners who show the new minister the ropes while providing the movie’s comic relief. Though the film’s story suffers from predictability, its takeaway message includes a refreshing, biblically centered view of ministry—even while dealing with issues both serious (e.g., parenting rebellious children) and comical (e.g., showy, entertainment-driven churches). As an added bonus, gospel singer BeBe Winans makes a guest musical appearance on what is overall an enjoyable family flick. —Felicia Abraham read more
In April of 2001, my pastor solemnly announced from the pulpit that he’d had a vision and in it I was healed. I didn’t believe healing was “for today,” but my face lit up and I smiled back at him from my pew. The Lord showed him that He was going to open me up to hear the truth.
At the time I was sick with an incurable disease called multiple sclerosis. I felt hopeless and helpless. Seismic tremors wracked my body. There were multiple malfunctions on every front. I was in a losing battle.
Later, Pastor “Doc” asked if he could come over once a week to show me what the Bible said about healing. He was a Class A+ worshipper, and he told me two things were required before I could enter the highway of healing and he wouldn’t begin working with me until they were done.
He said, “Here’s the first thing. Are you right with God? Do you willfully disobey Him?”
Hey, what kind of question is that? I go to church. I believe in Jesus. Though briefly offended, I knew I needed to pray. That night, I lay on my bed, alone, and I timidly asked, “Lord, am I right with you?” I heard no answer. read more
Bryan Clay – Track & Field (Decathlon)
Bryan Clay is quick to admit that he didn’t know he could be an Olympian until the first time he actually qualified for the 2004 American track and field squad in the decathlon: “For me it wasn’t much different than a kid saying, ‘I want to be in the NFL.’ It was just a dream.”
Not only did Clay’s dream come true, he scored the second-highest number of points (8,820) ever by an American and won the silver medal. That’s when he realized he just might be one of the best decathletes in the world. At the 2008 Beijing Games, Clay bested his effort and joined a notable list of American gold medalists such as Bruce Jenner and Dan O’Brien. Along the way, Clay’s steadily growing faith has been a significant part of the journey.
“Without my faith, I think it would be very easy for me to have a family that’s in disarray, to have my priorities out of order, to make decisions that could derail my path to success. But because I have this foundation of faith, I like to believe that it’s my compass. It keeps me on the path that I want to be on. It allows me to make good decisions that bear good results. Without my faith, I think that I’d be lost and I don’t think that I’d be as successful as I am today.”
Ryan Hall – Track and Field (Marathon)
From the very first day Ryan Hall started running at age 14 he instinctively knew it would require everything he had inside himself to be successful. It took him a little bit longer, however, to fully understand God’s role in the arduous process of becoming the fastest American-born marathoner.
After briefly dropping out of college during his sophomore year at Stanford, Hall realized the results-based lifestyle he was leading was nothing but a recipe for self-loathing and depression. Since that time, the All-American long-distance runner has scored three top-four finishes at the Boston Marathon and a 10th place finish at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
Though he hasn’t captured that elusive high-profile victory yet, Hall stands firm on one of his favorite passages of Scripture, Proverbs 24:16: “For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again” (NIV).
“I have found that it’s not the ability to never fail that makes an Olympian, but the ability to get back up. I have found that the ability to get back up comes from my ability to stay close to God and to see myself as He sees me,” Hall says. “God has always given me the grace and strength to get back up after I have fallen. I have found that He has given me everything I need to accomplish what He has created me to be and to do.”
Jonathan Horton – Gymnastics
If prescribing the attention deficit hyperactivity disorder drug Ritalin had been popular when Jonathan Horton was a kid, he might not have found his affinity for gymnastics. To help control their 5-year-old’s chaotic energy, Horton’s parents enrolled him in a training program instead of medicating him, and a future Olympic medal-winner was born.
After watching the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta Horton was hooked, and his top goal became making it to the Games. He qualified for the Olympic Trials in 2004 but finished seven spots out of a place on the team. In 2008, however, Horton would not be denied. And not only did it make the team, he came home with a silver medal in the horizontal bar event and a bronze medal in the team competition.
Most recently, Horton has dealt with two broken bones and a torn ligament in his foot that he injured at the 2011 World Championships. It’s been the biggest test of faith for a young man who was raised in church, but didn’t get serious about God until attending college at the University of Oklahoma.
“Without my faith, I think I would be panicking,” Horton says. “But sometimes I think that this could be a blessing in disguise. This could be something He’s put in front of me to see how strong my faith really is. Sometimes I question if this was really necessary, but then I realize that this is God’s plan and I have to overcome it and keep my faith in God. His plan is always greater than my plan.”
Jesse Williams – Track & Field (High Jump)
Jesse Williams likes to joke that his Olympic journey started as a baby. In an ironic sense, it’s true. He attended the 1984 Los Angeles Games with his family at the young age of 7 months. It wasn’t until 1992, however, after watching the Barcelona Games on TV that his dream truly took hold.
That’s also about the time Williams discovered he was a natural jumper—so much so that he would make up games where jumping was a key component so he could win. Williams gravitated toward the high jump event, for which he has captured 2010 and 2011 USA Outdoor Championships and most recently claimed his biggest prize yet with a gold medal at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, South Korea.
Williams says that his youthful commitment to Christ has helped him deal with the inherent ups and downs of competition and the lonely moments that accompany international travel.
“I know that God has a plan for me and no matter how many times I fail I know its in Gods plan,” he explains. “I never let myself get down when I have a bad performance. I use it as inspiration to work harder. I always fall back on the Word when I am feeling lonely or when something is not going well.”
Tamika Catchings – Basketball
It’s been an eventful 12 months for Tamika Catchings. Last season she was named among the top 15 players in WNBA history and later league MVP for the first time in her career. Catchings is also making her third appearance as a member of the USA Women’s Basketball Team and hopes to claim a third gold medal.
“The Olympics is one of the most exciting things,” she says. “It’s almost one of those things that even when you talk about it, you can’t fully describe the feeling—just being able to be considered one of the best in your nation.”
Catchings has overcome many adversities to get to this point. As a child, she faced hearing and speech problems, and her parents’ divorce during the sixth grade. Those struggles have given her an opportunity to share a message of hope with young people through her Catch the Stars Foundation, based in Indianapolis.
“God has taught me about patience and about accepting myself for who I am and knowing that He formed me and made me unique,” she states. “He made everyone uniquely wonderful. Every single cell, every single muscle, every single thing about my body, He created and He formed—even my personality. I never thought I’d be able to speak in front of hundreds of people and have a story and a testimony. I’m extremely blessed to have all of these opportunities.”
Missy Franklin – Swimming
Ever since her mother took her to a “Mom and Me” swimming class when she was 6 months old, Missy Franklin has proved to be a natural in the water. Now, at the ripe age of 17, Franklin can already point to her name in the U.S. and world record books. Most noted as a freestyle and backstroke specialist, she says her faith has steadily grown since attending Regis Jesuit High School.
“God is always there for me. I talk with Him before, during and after practice and competitions,” the Pasadena, Calif., native says. “I pray to Him for guidance. I thank Him for this talent He has given me and I’ve promised him that I will be a positive role model for young athletes in all sports.” read more
I must admit: I was reluctant to publicly share my views on President Obama's recent same-sex marriage statement. His presidency has caused separation within the ranks of African-American leadership too often.
And yet, what does an African-American pastor do when his African-American president makes a decision that eventually will destroy the foundation of not only the African-American community, but the nation as a whole?
Does that pastor take a risk that he will be misunderstood and labeled as an "Uncle Tom," a Republican Party pawn, or someone "the white man has bought out?" If I do not take the risk, knowing that mentality in itself is as discriminatory as it gets, I become a co-conspirator in keeping us in bondage to our culture; suggesting that none of us is free to think or speak outside of what we are told. read more
Live in a sex-charged culture, without getting zapped!
Jim is in my office one Saturday morning crying over the lust, guilt and terrible sexual choices that are destroying his life. I don't know whether to empathize with his pain or kick his butt for going to sleep on his watch!
I remind him that the battle for sexual integrity demands constant vigilance. It's a wrestling match with Satan, and any time you let your guard down, you get body-slammed. read more
If we humbly confess our sins and failures, the Lord faithfully forgives us and immediately restores our fellowship with Him: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). But He doesn’t stop there. He immediately schedules another chance for us to obey, providentially arranging another situation spiritually similar to the one in which we failed.
Why? To punish us further by cruelly reminding us of our failures? No, His kind purpose is just the opposite. He wants us to be able to forget our failures completely. So He provides us with another chance that we might avenge our spiritual defeats and live thereafter in the joy of overcoming rather than the frustration of failure. He wants us to be more than forgiven; He wants us victorious! Joyful! Soaring!
Not surprisingly, our Creator understands our deepest thoughts. He knows that even when we believe that we’re forgiven, the memories of our past failures tend to linger and vex us. Like David, we sometimes feel as if our sins are always before us (see Ps. 51:3). read more
by Eric Tiansay
I didn't get to see The Secret World of Arrietty when it landed in theaters earlier this year, so my four boys—5-month old baby Blake still too small to care—were excited to catch the movie about little people.
The Secret World of Arrietty is based on British author Mary Norton's children's book series "The Borrowers," which tells the story of 4-inch tall tiny people who live under floorboards and swipe what they need from the Beans (what they call humans) upstairs.
The movie was the year's top grossing film when it was released in Japan in 2010, winning the Animation of the Year award. Translated, dubbed by an American cast and distributed stateside by Walt Disney Pictures, The Secret World of Arrietty was made by legendary Studio Ghibli (Spirited Away and Ponyo).
My wife, Tammy, had read The Borrowers to two of our older sons, Alex and Andrew, so they were obviously excited to watch the film version.
Arrietty (voiced by Disney TV star Bridgit Mendler) is a plucky 14-year-old Borrower who is eager to go on her first "borrowing" with her father, Pod (Will Arnett), on a night-time expedition into the Beans' house to get a sugar cube and one tissue.
Despite angst from her hysterical mother, Homily (Amy Poehler), Arrietty goes with her dad, but is seen by sickly 12-year-old Shawn (David Henrie), who tries to befriend her. Arrietty (AIR-ee-ett-ee) slowly trusts Shawn. However, after they have been seen, Borrowers must leave their home and relocate to a new one. Meanwhile, the suspicious housekeeper Haru (Carol Burnett) makes it her mission to nab the Borrowers. read more
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