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WRITE: Coincidence? Not so much.

“Coincidence: When God does a miracle and remains anonymous.” So reads a small refrigerator magnet I gave my mom many years ago. It still has a place on her refrigerator. And in my heart. Ever since I learned that truth, I’ve taken joy in the many times God puts people, events, and situations together in a way others might describe as coincidental but I call God-ordained. I had one of those such moments as I began training for my recent trip to Peru with Never the Same Missions. I went as the writer for Sisterhood magazine. Since 2010, I’ve had the wonderful privilege of writing about the Never the Same trips to Guatemala (2010), Ecuador (2011), Panama (2012), and now Peru. (Here’s the 2012 article in case you want to check it out.) I’m so grateful to have taken these trips that combine so many of the things I love: missions, teens, writing, and more. But I had a special reason for wanting to go to Peru. When I’m not writing for Sisterhood, I spend much of my time writing and editing books. I’ve served more than one author as a ghost- or collaborative writer. They have the story or message. I have the words. But the first book I volunteered to write—and the one that pulled me into so much of what I do today—is the story of a passionate Christ-follower named Brent Higgins, Jr., or BJ, as his family called him. BJ loved Jesus with all his heart. He loved to share about Jesus so much that, even at the young age of fifteen, he had traveled to Peru twice on 30-days missions trips to tell others about Him. But BJ was not only a missionary in Peru. He used nearly every school assignment as an opportunity to share his love for his Savior. He journaled about Christ. He texted and talked with others about Him. And when BJ went to be with Jesus five days short of his sixteenth birthday, he left behind a loving family and a prolific body of writings that pointed others to Him. God allowed me the privilege of using many of those writings to help his parents, Brent and Deanna Higgins, tell BJ’s story in the best-selling book I Would Die for You: One Student’s Story of Passion, Service, and Faith (Revell, 2008). But what connected me with his family was a blog they began back in 2005 while he was in the hospital battling the infection that would later take his life. I prayed for BJ. I posted. And I bought (for myself and my children) pink T-shirts, created by BJ’s sisters and a friend, to help encourage others to...

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PRAY: Top Ten Reasons to Bee-lieve in the Bee (National Bible Bee)

Next week, my two youngest daughters and I set off on what we know will be an amazing adventure. We’ll join more than 300 finalists, their families, speakers, and sponsors for the National Bible Bee to be held at the Nashville Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee. The girls and I will volunteer in various ways including, for my part, serving as a judge for the preliminaries and collecting Bible Bee stories to share later. Our journey to the Bee began, as have so many of my others, in prayer. More than six years ago, when B.J. Higgins lay fighting for his life in a hospital bed, I kept close watch on his family’s blog,, where I posted prayers and words of encouragement. More and more, I noticed the posted prayers of another warrior, Tammy McMahan.  Could she read my mind? Or did our words flow from similar hearts?  As the weeks progressed, it became obvious that we shared a heart for prayer, for our Father, and for connecting lives with His truth. Tammy and I became off-blog friends, prayer partners, and e-mail sisters. We continued our relationship as I moved into the considerable task of helping BJ’s parents share their son’s story in the book I Would Die for You (Revell, 2008). Not long after that, God moved the McMahans to my parents’ Ohio hometown where, after more months and more prayer,  Tammy’s husband Mark accepted the position of CEO of the Shelby Kennedy Foundation/National Bible Bee. I hope to do a bit of blogging from the Bee itself, but for now, I’ll settle for a quick  TOP TEN REASONS TO BEE-LIEVE IN THE BEE:             10.  Prizes: The Shelby Kennedy Foundation gives away $260,000 in cash prizes at the National Bible Bee competition each year. Top prize in the senior division is $100,000. 9. Speakers: The 2011 National Bible Bee competition features presentations by Dr. Voddie Baucham, Kirk Cameron, John Stonestreet, Doug Philips, and others passionate for the cause of Christ-centered family discipleship, including my friend and writing partner, Dr. Walker Moore of Awe Star Ministries. 8. Family-friendly Environment: The opposite of the typical adults-only conference, the National Bible Bee offers wholesome activities and experiences for all ages and interests. The Bee’s unique curriculum also allows elementary-age students through adults to study the same passages at the same time. 7. Exposure and Experience: The National Bible Bee competition gives young people the opportunity to share their knowledge of Scripture with others in a safe, non-threatening environment. 6. Planning and Preparation: The National Bible Bee is well-planned, well-thought-out, and well-administered at every level. 5. True Fellowship: The National Bible Bee offers families the experience of building...

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WRITE: The Accidental Ghostwriter, Part I

(REMINDER: Read and leave a comment with your email address on my previous post, “READ: Words of Comfort for Times of Loss” for two opportunities to win!)“What kind of ghosts do you write about?” Someone once asked me that question after she heard that I was a ghostwriter. Some of you know that although my business cards say, “Book Doctor/Writer/Editor,” quite a bit of my work is ghostwriting. What does that mean? I write for others. I take their messages or stories (via interviews, printed or audio materials, or a rough manuscript) and turn them into books. Their names go on the covers, mine (generally) doesn’t. I prefer the term “collaborative writer” since I wouldn’t have a book to write without the author’s message, and he/she wouldn’t have a book to sell without my writing. But true collaborators generally share cover credit. So far, I’ve been more hidden than not–hence the “ghost” part of the term. A friend wrote the other day to ask another, more common question. “Why do you ghostwrite? Why don’t you just write on your own?” Because so many people have asked me this, I decided to turn my answer into a blog post. I ghostwrite, first of all, because God has led me to do so. I call myself an accidental ghostwriter because I never set out to become one. I’ve loved to write since my early childhood (I blogged about that in February). After I came to know Christ in college, he told me he’d use my writing someday. That’s why I went to seminary for a theology degree and took as many writing classes as the school offered (one). As a pastor’s wife and homeschool mom of five, I then took a long hiatus from publishing. I kept writing and writing because writers write, but I didn’t pursue publication. From 2000-2005 my writing dream took a more visible form. I wrote and published a number of homeschool articles and sermon illustrations. A dear friend and professional editor mentored me as I took on some editing work. But I knew God wanted more, and I prayed about my next steps. In August, 2005 I became involved in a prayer project for a young man who was critically ill. The day he died, I volunteered to help his parents get his passionate message of surrender to Christ out in any way I could. I had no idea what that would entail, but that offer became I Would Die for You (Revell, 2008). This project is the one that has brought me all the rest. It became a Young Adult bestseller, earned back its modest advance, and is now in its fourth printing. I’m so...

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WRITE: Relationships Matter

Although I’ve written for publication since my childhood, I took a L-O-N-G break after high school. My first homeschool article hit print in 2000. And my venture into the world of collaborative writing began in 2005. I mentioned earlier that God wired me as a word-person who loves to read and write. My tagline makes that obvious. In 2005, when God moved my work from small-time, part-time to full-time professional, I faced a huge learning curve. Much of what I did (which included revamping a book proposal in nine days to ensure its acceptance by Thomas Nelson), I learned as I went. I’ll let you in on a secret. Although I’ve become a student of both the craft and business of writing, the most important thing I’ve learned isn’t a technique or method. It’s not a plan or formula. My most important lesson as a writer is also the most important thing I’ve learned as a disciple of Christ: relationships matter. Jesus demonstrated this throughout his life. Read the Gospels and watch his interactions. He didn’t leverage relationships in the sense of manipulating others to get what he wanted. But he did approach people intentionally. His goals were not his own. He longed to draw people toward his Father, and it showed. What does this have to do with writing? My own relationships have meant everything from a writer friend’s suggestion that I submit an article about a homeschool project to an agent’s recommendation of my work. Relationships have brought me writing projects, speaking engagements, and some much-needed mentoring. But relationships have also allowed me to serve and to bless others. My first book project (third in order of publication) arose out of a relationship with a family I’d never met—a family whose son was critically ill. I’ll speak about I Would Die for You, the story and message of young BJ Higgins, at 1o AM next Friday at First Baptist Umatilla. If you’re a woman in or near the Lake County, Florida area, I’d love to see you there. I covet your prayers whether or not you can attend. Perhaps you’re not a writer. Still, I encourage you to consider relationships as you approach your day. Whose life does God intend you to touch? Whose life will he use to change yours? Relationships matter because everybody matters to God. You matter, too. Thanks for reading. Father, allow our relationships to make a difference today. Show us those who need a word of encouragement or more. Touch those who hurt and grant them your peace. Use our lives and our relationships to carry out your plans. In your name I pray,...

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