Saturday, July 18, 2015

Join Odyssey Adventure Club for a Summer Challenge

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Summer . . . a time that kids pine for during the school year and parents may anticipate with something akin to dread. Fearing refrains of “I’m bored” or hours spent on the couch playing video games can make moms and dads nervous about the long, hot months stretching before their family. Focus on the Family’s Odyssey Adventure Club offers an answer, encouraging parents and kids to embrace faith and fun with the Take the Plunge Adventures in Odyssey Clubhouse magazine’s Summer Challenge.

Take the Plunge

The Take the Plunge challenge features:
  • Master Mind Monday — commit God’s Word to memory
  • Ways to Play Wednesday — spend active time with your family
  • Faith Sharing Friday — share God’s love with others
The Take the Plunge challenge helps families memorize at least five verses, engage in five activities together and share their faith with five people before the school doors swing open again. Those who sign up will receive an 11-week plan with suggested verses to memorize, activity ideas (such as visiting a war memorial) and ways to witness (such as passing out popsicles at the park with an invitation to your church), making this challenge the perfect tool for parents who want summer to be a time of spiritual and social stimulation for their kids.

"Research tells us that the more senses we involve when teaching children a principle, the more likely it is to stick,” Plugged In editor and Adventures in Odyssey podcast host Bob Smithouser says. “Bible memorization by itself is great, but it becomes even more powerful when put into action. Know it. Share it. Live it.”

Families who sign up to take part in the challenge at will have access to weekly verses to memorize, ideas for family fun and suggestions for service projects that allow a family to share their faith. Additionally, anyone who signs up to participate in the Take the Plunge challenge will receive a free scene from the latest Adventures in Odyssey album, as well as a free story from the book Strange Journey Back.

‘Letters from My Father’s Murderer’ Kindle Fire Giveaway

Can God heal the deepest wounds and redeem what seems unredeemable? Laurie Coombs experiences God's transforming and redemptive power in her new book, Letters from My Father's Murderer. When her father was murdered, Laurie Coombs and her family sought justice―and found it. Yet, despite the swift punishment of the killer, Laurie found herself increasingly full of pain, bitterness, and anger she couldn’t control. It was the call to love and forgive her father’s murderer that set her, the murderer, and several other inmates on the journey that would truly change their lives forever.

Join Laurie in celebrating the release of Letters from My Father's Murderer by entering to win a Kindle Fire!

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One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire HD 6
  • A copy of Letters from My Father's Murderer
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on July 20th. The winner will be announced July 21st on Laurie's site.

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Melissa Jagears’ ‘A Bride at Last’ and a $100 Memory-Making Giveaway

Can Silas and Kate overcome their rocky start and experience healing—and possibly love? Discover the answer in Melissa Jagears' new book, A Bride at LastNeither Kate nor Silas is prepared for the secrets and past hurts that have yet to come to light as they attempt to prove nine-year-old Anthony's paternity to the court. Can their wounded souls bind them together or will all that stands between them leave them lonely forever?

Celebrate the release of A Bride at Last by entering to win a $100 Memory-Making giveaway and RSVPing to Melissa's August 4th author chat party!

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One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A $100 gift card to Netflix (for a family movie night), Shutterfly (to create a family memory book), or TablePlayGames (for a family game night)
  • One copy of A Bride at Last
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on 8/4. The winner will be announced at Melissa's 8/4 A Bride at Last Facebook author chat party. RSVP for a chance to connect with Melissa and fiction fans, as well as for a chance to win some great prizes!

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RSVP today and spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway via FACEBOOK, TWITTER, or PINTEREST and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 4th!

Colleen Coble’s Take it to the Beach Giveaway

Will the promise Emmie makes to her friend mean the end to her dreams of a future with Isaac? Find out in book five, A Heart's Promise, of Colleen Coble's A Journey of the Heart series. Emmie Croftner let Isaac Liddle go to avoid telling him about her past. But Isaac remains determined to win Emmie’s heart and hand. Can she live happily without Isaac?

Take a day off and head to the beach with a new giveaway from Colleen: five books (books one–five in Colleen's A Journey of the Heart series) and a beach bag to tote your new books in!


One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A copy of A Heart's Promise
  • A Lands' End beach tote
  • A copy of A Heart's Betrayal
  • A copy of A Heart's Disguise
  • A copy of A Heart's Obsession
  • A copy of A Heart's Danger
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on July 31st. Winner will be announced August 3rd on Colleen's website.


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

24817626After capturing the hearts of readers with her landmark debut 1960-masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Harper Lee returns with her second and highly controversial book after a gap of fifty-five years much to the delight of Mockingbird fans, and the consternation and skepticism of some. If To Kill a Mockingbird was a book about a racially-inflamed rape trial in Alabama narrated by a young girl named Jean Louise Finch, nicknamed Scout, then Harper Lee’s much-anticipated second book is much more than that – an agonizingly painful yet tender story of growth and maturing, for good or for bad.

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee is set twenty years after To Kill a Mockingbird and follows a grown-up twenty-six years old Scout as she returns from New York City to her childhood home in Alabama to visit her ailing father, Atticus Finch, who is now seventy-two and suffering from arthritis. Scout, who now prefers her legal name Jean Louise, is deeply pained and hurt by her father Atticus who now holds views diametrically opposite to what he once proudly embraced. She found among his reading materials a racist tract called “The Black Plague.” She is forced to confront him though it did little to change him. Ultimately, the novel is about the later lives of the Finch family, including lawyer Atticus, Scout, and Scout’s older brother Jem who has died of a congenitally disordered heart.

What I really adored about the book is the way in which Harper Lee balances the sense of wistfulness, melancholy and longing that is running throughout the book with the cynical views of Atticus, who as a good-hearted widowed single father was a much-loved figure in To Kill a Mockingbird. The transformation of Atticus is revolting but he has his own reasons. Intermittently, there are flashbacks and references to the past. The most telling effect of the transformation and growth into adulthood of Scout is her preference of her legal name Jean Louise over Scout, the nickname with which she was addressed during her adolescent years. The on and off romance between Scout and a newly introduced character, Henry Clinton, gives the story a fillip and much-needed flavour.

Though some readers may find fault with the third-person narrative which is in stark contrast to the first-person account of Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, I feel it syncs well with the tone and tenor of the story. Honestly, I never expected, or for that matter, wanted Go Set a Watchman to be a better book than To Kill a Mockingbird. All I wanted for this book was to showcase the adult life of Scout and Jem, and their father, Atticus. Harper Lee has not only succeeded in that aspect, but delivered an explosive plot twist that no one ever expected. Go Set a Watchman is about a young woman’s disillusionment at the racism that invades her hometown and her family. It is a story about the loss of innocence and the heartbreak at the loss of a brother as much as it is a coming-of-age story. Whatever critics may say and whatever its shortcomings may be, Go Set a Watchman is a worthy follow-up and companion to To Kill a Mockingbird.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Sowing for others... years ago in March, on the 27th, I set foot on the soil of Arunachal Pradesh for the first time, steadfastly set on accomplishing my calling and provide the needs of my family.

Basically, it was a call to duty, and in essence, the fulfilment of the calling of God. It was no small choice but an intricate one involving the relocation of my entire family about 500 km away from home with the grim reality of leaving everything behind, even the prospect of a job, to raise my kids amongst people hitherto unknown and eke out a living. It was a huge challenge, a daunting one at that!

Fortuitously, and by the design of God, we soon adapted to our new setting and God in His grace amply blessed the work we took charge of. What, however, we always felt amiss was the home-grown delicacies and vegetables which were not easily obtainable. My dear “angel” dad and mom (both now blissfully in the company of Jesus) helped in planting a number of tree beans. Tree beans is also known as parkia speciosa (bitter bean, twisted cluster bean, stinker or stink bean) and is a plant of the genus Parkia in the family Fabaceae. It bears long, flat edible beans with bright green seeds the size and shape of plump almonds which have a rather peculiar smell, characterized by some as being similar to natural gas.

Fifteen years on, in the will of God we have moved on but the small plants that we planted are now fully-grown tree beans, producing bundles and bundles of joy to those who savour its taste.

The lesson for us is simple. We may not always reap the fruit of our labour but let us not weary in doing good… There is much joy and happiness in the knowledge that your others are reaping the fruit of your labour…

Monday, July 06, 2015

The Unknowable Path by Cecil Murphey

Photo: Marek Nikodem/Polish Amateur Astronomy Society/The New York Times
Three years before I entered college, I knew I wanted to teach. I assumed I'd be in a classroom for the rest of my adult life. (I did teach in the public school system for two years and later part-time in a college for 18 years.)
However, that wasn't the career path I chose because my life never worked out the way I expected.
I followed what I now call the unknowable path and never regretted it. Or another way to talk about it came from Joseph Campbell, who said there are two paths in life. The first is the right-handed path. "It's prudent and practical. If you follow the right-handed path, it leads to the ladder of success."
He went on to say that if you climb the ladder to success eventually you learn that the ladder is against the wrong wall.
Campbell then spoke of the riskier left-handed path—"that of following your bliss—your rapture—your ecstasy." Others may not understand your choice, he pointed out, and you have no guarantee where you’ll end up and no assurance that you’ll be successful or attain your dreams. But if you follow the left-handed path, "The journey itself is its own reward." 
The fact that your path is unknowable may be why it's the right path. 
For me, the unknowable path has been one of growth, excitement (and disappointment), but so much more fun than following the well-lit, predictable road. Had I taken the prudent way, I wouldn't be writing this today and I certainly couldn't say, "I'm having a joyful life."
by Cecil Murphey | Writer | Speaker | Teacher | Survivor (Taken from his monthly newsletter)

Monday, June 15, 2015

Jody Hedlund’s Afternoon at the Beach Giveaway

Don't miss Jody Hedlund's new book, Hearts Made Whole, a story of loss, forgiveness, hope, and true love set in 1865 Michigan. When Ryan's failings endanger others, he and Caroline realize he’s in no shape to run the lighthouse, but he’s unwilling to let anyone close enough to help. Can Caroline forgive the hurting man who costs her the role she loves?

Celebrate the release of Hearts Made Whole by entering to win an Afternoon at the Beach prize pack and RSVPing to Jody's June 23rd author chat party!

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One grand prize winner will receive:

One second-place winner will receive:

One third-place winner will receive:
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Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on June 23rd.Winner will be announced June 23rd at Jody's Facebook partyRSVP here!

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Thrilling New Read from Richard Mabry | ‘Fatal Trauma’ and the Perfect Prescription Giveaway

Can Mark find out who the shooter is before he becomes the next victim? You won't want to miss the suspense in Richard Mabry's new book, Fatal Trauma. Facing an adversary whose desires are dark and efforts are ruthless, Mark finds himself under suspicion as a killer, yet still a potential victim. When he turns to his high school sweetheart, attorney Gwen Woodruff, for help, Kelly helplessly looks on, as she hides her own feelings for the good doctor.

Richard is celebrating the release of Fatal Trauma by giving away The Perfect Prescription Prize Pack!

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One grand prize winner will receive:
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on June 20th. The winner will be announced June 22nd on Richard's blog.

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Sunday, February 15, 2015

What Makes Men Happy?

Seventy-five years in the making, costing over $20m Harvard study concludes: "Happiness is love. Full stop."

In 1938 Harvard University began following 268 male undergraduate students and kicked off the longest-running longitudinal studies of human development in history.  The study's goal was to determine as best as possible what factors contribute most strongly to human flourishing. 

"At a time when many people around the world are living into their tenth decade, the longest longitudinal study of human development ever undertaken offers some welcome news for the new old age: our lives continue to evolve in our later years, and often become more fulfilling than before.  Begun in 1938, the Grant Study of Adult Development charted the physical and emotional health of over 200 men, starting with their undergraduate days.  The now-classic 'Adaptation to Life' reported on the men's lives up to age 55 and helped us understand adult maturation.  Now George Vaillant follows the men into their nineties, documenting for the first time what it is like to flourish far beyond conventional retirement.  Reporting on all aspects of male life, including relationships, politics and religion, coping strategies, and alcohol use (its abuse being by far the greatest disruptor of health and happiness for the study's subjects), 'Triumphs of Experience' shares a number of surprising findings.  For example, the people who do well in old age did not necessarily do so well in midlife, and vice versa.  While the study confirms that recovery from a lousy childhood is possible, memories of a happy childhood are a lifelong source of strength.  Marriages bring much more contentment after age 70, and physical aging after 80 is determined less by heredity than by habits formed prior to age 50.  The credit for growing old with grace and vitality, it seems, goes more to ourselves than to our stellar genetic makeup."

In Triumphs of Experience, Vaillant raises a number of factors more often than others, but the one he refers to most often is the powerful correlation between the warmth of your relationships and your health and happiness in your later years.

Vallant notes that the 58 men who scored highest on the measurements of "warm relationships" (WR) earned an average of $141,000 a year more during their peak salaries (between ages 55-60) than the 31 men who scored the lowest in WR.  The high WR scorers were also 3-times more likely to have professional success worthy of inclusion in Who's Who.

One of the most intriguing discoveries of the Grant Study was how significant men's relationships with their mothers are in determining their well-being in life.  For instance, Business Insider writes: "Men who had 'warm' childhood relationships with their mothers took home $87,000 more per year than men whose mothers were uncaring.

On the other hand, warm childhood relations with fathers correlated with lower rates of adult anxiety, greater enjoyment on vacations, and increased 'life satisfaction' at age 75

In Vallant's own words, the #1 most important finding from the Grant Study is this: "The seventy-five years and twenty million dollars expended on the Grant Study points to a straightforward five-word conclusion: Happiness is love.  Full stop."