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'River Monsters' Hooks Viewers With Mysterious Creatures

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

Must Prune to Bloom

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

Brother White

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

Entering the Highway of Healing

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

Faith In the Games

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

Darryl-Husband

Obama Must Repent Over Same-Sex Marriage Support

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

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Seven Steps to 'Sex-cess'

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

Another Chance

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

'The Secret World of Arrietty'—A Little Movie With A Big Heart


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

happy-couple-beach

Seven Steps to 'Sex-cess'

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.

Our society so bombards us with sex. With our male fascination for visual stimulation and our often-adolescent mindsets, this is very disconcerting.

It is easy to empathize with the early church father, Origen, who made himself a eunuch in a desperate step to achieve greater purity. But, God has also given us a wonderful gift in being sexually alive with exciting potential for deep, passionate intimacy.

The following are practical skills, actually disciplines, men need to practice as they grow up into sexual maturity and intimacy. "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline" (2 Tim. 1:7, NIV). read more

'Man, Woman, Wild': Survival, Romance in Faraway Places

by Alan Mowbray

He's a tough and resourceful former Special Forces survival expert. She's a refined and articulate TV journalist. Together, they are husband and wife, teacher and student, warrior and fair maiden, hunters and (sometimes) hunted.

Mykel Hawke and his wife, Ruth England, take on some of the most forbidding and remote locations in the world in Man, Woman, Wild—a Discovery Channel reality show.

Dropped into each spot with only a knife and the clothes on their backs, Hawke and England attempt to survive as a team for four days and nights. As they test their will and marriage, the two find common ground standing up to nature as husband and wife in the wildest places on earth.

I'm naturally skeptical of reality shows. They seem so scripted. They're so cliche. They're so ... not reality. read more

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Mama's Praying for Me

I knew my mother was in heaven. Although I missed her terribly, what I missed most were her prayers.

For several weeks I'd felt mounting tension and nervousness in my stomach as Mother's Day, the day I dreaded, approached. Most Sundays, I travel to churches to sing and minister, but I had asked my husband to try and avoid booking this day because I didn't want to be in front of a congregation on the first Mother's Day without Mom.

Of the 12 children my mother had, I was the baby. She was 45 years old when I was born, and we were close up until the time she died. read more

God Is Able to Keep You

Many people admit that it is a sacred duty and a blessed privilege to abide in Christ but shrink back continually before the question: Is a life of unbroken fellowship with the Savior truly possible?

Eminent Christians, to whom special opportunities of cultivating this grace have been granted, may attain to it; but for the large majority of disciples, whose lives, by divine appointment, are so fully occupied with the affairs of this life, it can scarce be expected. read more

Outside the Box

After Mother went home to be with the Lord, the family held an estate sale of her possessions that had been sitting in boxes for years.

As I rummaged through the boxes of elegant china, laces and linens, one box in particular caught my eye. This one smelled musty, and a piece of straw was poking through the top. I pried it open with scissors and began to sneeze. read more

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Your Special Child's Destiny

Don't lose hope if your son or daughter has special needs. God has a great plan for both of you.

When a child is diagnosed with special needs, it can be an overwhelming, even devastating event in a parent's life. My husband, Jack, and I know because our son Nicholas was diagnosed with autism in January 2001.

If you are the parent of a special-needs child, you've experienced the agonizing pain, shock and even hopelessness that can grip your soul with such a diagnosis. In the midst of what seems to be a "dark night," one question may be burning in your spirit: Where is God? read more

Stop, Repeat and Clarify

Beth Moore and Betty Robison discuss how important communication is in a marriage. Watch as they take a page from the book Living in Love, and explain how stopping, repeating and clarifying can help you and your husband communicate well.

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