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READ: SUSIE Magazine

Normally on READ days, I post book reviews. I’m actually caught up with that task for the moment so I decided to share a little bit more about a unique printed piece. Please see this not as a commercial (I don’t profit from the magazine sales or subscriptions) but a heartfelt endorsement. Long before I began writing for SUSIE or any other magazine, I was a mom of girls—four, to be exact, along with one son. Our children have grown up to share their parents’ love of reading. We’ve encouraged that along the way through countless bedtime books and stories, regular library trips, and years of sharing books through homeschool. We’ve also subscribed to magazines appropriate for our kids’ ages and stages. For a while, five Focus on the Family magazines came to our mailbox each month. Brio, the teen girls’ magazine, was high on that list.  Our then fourteen-year-old had received Brio for only a few months when Focus on the Family dropped all their teen publications in January 2009. At the time, they said the magazine would move to online-only (so far, that hasn’t happened). But my daughter wanted a print magazine—something she could hold in her hand, lie on her bed to savor, and store in a special folder.  That’s how I found SUSIE Magazine—not because I’m a writer, but because I wanted my daughter to have a magazine that could take Brio’s place. What do we like about SUSIE? First of all, the content. Check out Seventeen or any of the other secular teen magazines. You’ll find articles and images that leave little to the imagination and much to be desired. SUSIE  has a strong faith element but also contains articles any teen girl would enjoy. You’ll find columns on fashion, health, and relationships as well as features about popular media stars or teens who’ve made significant contributions.  We also love the design. I’m always amazed at the way the graphics team puts together work to match the words in such a fresh, appealing way.  I love the creativity I find there every month. Finally, we love SUSIE (the magazine) because of our trust in Susie (the writer, editor, and Christ-follower). She spent nearly twenty years making Brio an award-winning product. She’s published more than forty books, many geared toward teen girls and/or their parents. As I’ve come to know her both personally and professionally, I’ve realized how seriously she takes her role. She encourages her writers to think of themselves as big sisters or brothers who whisper words of encouragement, admonition, and hope to their young readers. In a day when many magazines are folding or moving to online only, I applaud SUSIE Magazine....

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WRITE:Guatemala Lessons–The Greatest is Love

(Vera, right, shares the gospel. Photo Credit, Kim Zubke,who captioned this “Evangelism Machine in Action”) I’d prayed for and about my roommate since I knew my summer plans included the SUSIE Magazine Never the Same missions trip. After all, I’ve had the same roommate since I married him twenty-seven years ago. How and with whom would God match me for the trip? During training, God gave me the gift of rooming with Shari Braendel, who also writes for SUSIE Magazine. This fashionista extraordinaire is also a beautiful woman of God who shared prayers, love, and laughter with her less than fashion-savvy roommate. Shari’s new book, Good Girls Don’t Have to Dress Bad (Zondervan, 2010) is the Color Me Beautiful (and more) of the 21st century. Check it out! Once I reached Guatemala, God blessed me with a second roommate and another amazing woman of God. Vera Amaral is tiny, Brazilian, and filled with the love of Jesus. When I first met her in Miami, she told me about a divine encounter with a hotel staffer who later came to Christ. In fact, if you look up “evangelism” in your dictionary, you’ll find Vera’s picture. Vera doesn’t write. A devoted number-cruncher, she works for an insurance company. What could a left-brained, accountant type teach the right-brained, creative one about her craft? Plenty. You see, Vera lives her love for Jesus. Her warmth, hugs, prayers, and conversation reveal her passion for Christ and her genuine concern for people. She shares the gospel not because God commands it, but because she cares so much about those for whom he sent his Son. Because Vera cares, she shares. And because she shares, God uses her to win the lost. Busboys, hotel clerks, hospital patients, street people, and more all came to know Christ because she cared enough to tell them. Because Vera cared, she had stories to tell. As I watched and prayed through some of her divine encounters, I realized that her passion for people must become mine. No matter what creative words or significant stories I may have, without love—genuine love, Jesus’ and Vera’s kind of love—my words become a noisy gong or clanging cymbal. Vera, thanks for the lessons in evangelism. You’ve trained and mentored many as you use the incredible gifts God’s given you. And thanks for the professional tips, too. I bet you never thought of yourself as a writing teacher. But guess what? Jesus knew. I’m so thankful he placed us together for those amazing ten days in Antigua. Because of your example, I’m never the same—and neither is my work. I love...

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PRAY: Guatemala Lessons–Live Your Teaching

I had an extra privilege during the SUSIE Magazine missions trip to Guatemala. On Sunday, July 4, our teams did not travel to do ministry. Instead, we spent much of the day in worship and rest. In the afternoon and evening, various students and leaders offered hour-long E.I.E.I.O.K. (“Everything I Ever Intended On Knowing”) seminars. Participants could choose from classes in balloon animal-making to resume-writing to prayer to spiritual gifts. The only complaint I heard was that there were too many intriguing possibilities! I taught a seminar on Dangerous Prayer, a class I’ve also taught at iGO, the annual missions conference of Awe Star Ministries. Thanks to the promotional work of the Holy Spirit and one vocal Leader in Training (thanks, Jed!), my two identical sessions were well-attended. I had to visit the Business Center and print more handouts than the fifty I’d brought along. One of my new friends (a professional speaker) attended the seminar. She blessed me by saying how much she enjoyed it and gave me some tips for improvement, too. But in a later conversation, this friend had some questions about prayer. As my roommate during our training time, she’d noticed that when my husband called at night, he and I prayed together. She asked me about this and mentioned how it had blessed her. The two of us had a great conversation about what God’s shown me praying for my family and how she could become more active and effective in praying for hers. What amazed me was that my friend, although she learned from the seminar, didn’t ask about the specific points of my lesson. Instead, she wanted to know more about something she’d seen in my life and how she could apply it to hers. This experience reminded me that, in the same way I’d learned to “live the story” (see 7/20 blog posting), I could “live the teaching,” too. Tomorrow, my husband and I celebrate twenty-seven years of marriage (woo hoo!). I’ll share more about our prayer habit in another blog. But as I prepare to teach at the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference next week, I’m asking God to help me live my teaching. The words I say will have little power unless my life (along with my writing) shows their truth. Our words matter. Our lives matter...

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WRITE: Guatemala Lessons–Live the Story

I’ve now taken my longest break from my blog since its inception earlier this year. My two-plus weeks of training and serving with the SUSIE Magazine missions trip to Guatemala were exciting, exhilarating, and exhausting. Blog- and writing-time both suffered during trip preparation, execution, and recovery. Back home, I’m busy writing the trip’s story for SUSIE’s November issue. The article (plus additional online content) will continue in one-page features over the next several months. I’ll also write some short pieces about students who sponsor Guatemalan children through Compassion International and had the opportunity to meet them one delightful, incredible afternoon. That day, I gained new respect for the ministry of Compassion—and for the sacrifices made by the students, too. The beautiful people of Guatemala now hold a special place in my heart. And as I write the story of our trip, I’ve realized an important truth: the best-told story is the story you live. As I traveled with a ministry team the first day, I went as an observer. I’d planned to watch the students serve food to the community, perform their pantomime drama, and share the Gospel. As I watched, I waited, notebook in hand. Almost immediately, God took me from observer to active participant. I met a beautiful young mother whose baby girl arrived days before a volcano exploded above the already-impoverished village. Next, overfilled skies brought torrents of rain and a mudslide that destroyed the tin shack they called home. Maria’s story brought tears to my eyes and a prayer to my lips. As the two of us spoke, God drew me into her story. That afternoon, I waited with a group of students as they prepared to perform their first drama. They stood, joking and nervous, while some made last-minute costume or makeup adjustments. My eyes fell on thirteen-year-old Sammy. As the Evil Magician (Satan figure), his was a pivotal role. How could we help this young warrior prepare for battle? Once again, God called me to become part of the story. The students gathered, and I prayed—for Sammy, for his team, and for those who would hear the message. Later, as I watched him carry out his role with obvious authority, I praised God for giving me a role of my own. My assignment in Guatemala was to capture the story. But I’m so grateful God allowed me to go beyond observation to life—real life and real ministry—in the orphanage, at the cancer hospital, in the Mayan marketplace, and more. The best-told story is the story you live. What story has God given you to...

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PRAY: Praying Through Distractions

“Do you mind the music?” my neighbor asked as I entered the small gym in our neighborhood clubhouse. A steamy June morning combined with hay fever symptoms had prompted an indoor prayerwalk. “Not at all,” I responded. After all, he’d started his workout first, and my walk would take forty minutes. Surely I’d outlast him and his boombox. And surely his songs wouldn’t all consist of Latin pop/rock. Wrong—on both counts. Not only did I not outlast him, but he had an entire CD of the driving Latin beat. Because I seek to concentrate on intercession, I don’t always take my iPod along when I prayerwalk. Now, I faced a new test. How could I pray effectively amidst the throbbing bass and screaming vocals? Although Zumba (an aerobic-style workout set to Latin music) has intrigued me for several months, today’s musical offering didn’t promise much in the way of a prayerwalking experience. Wrong again. I began my treadmill time by confessing my distraction and frustration. I asked God to help me worship regardless. Suddenly, I realized: The following day, my two youngest daughters were leaving on the first leg of their summer mission trips to South and Central America. And in about two weeks, I was traveling to Guatemala and a mission trip with SUSIE Magazine. “Listen, and pray for the people who listen to this kind of music every day,” God whispered. That day, I had no trouble keeping up with the fast-paced treadmill. (Maybe there’s something to this Zumba idea after all). And I had no trouble concentrating on my prayers, either. While I walked, I could see the faces of the people in whose countries my daughters and I will serve. As I heard their music, I prayed for their lives, their hearts, and their responsiveness to the Gospel. I prayed for the teams and leadership who would minister to them. And the more I prayed, the more easily my prayers flowed. God’s grace allowed me to deal with my distractions by turning them into prayers. What about you? What distractions threaten your prayer time? How can God use them for good? Let us pray—and talk about it,...

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