Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Reminder about Susie!


The new SUSIE! Magazine will be coming out in May. So for all you fans of Brio out there - be sure to check it out.



Monday, March 30, 2009

Num8er5 For Thought

This past week I took a trip with my grandparents to a Christian conference. To pass the time, my grandpa, more affectionately known as Paw-Paw, pulled out the newspaper to do the crossword puzzle and handed me the Sudoku puzzle. Despite the recent fad, I had never done Sudoku previously. While I understood the basic concept -- use numbers 1 through 9 without any repetition to fill in rows, columns and cubes; I had no clue where to start nor had any strategy! Up for the challenge, I decided to give it a go.

As I started getting into it, I began seeing similarities between how I was solving the puzzle and how we, through God’s help, solve the problems in our daily lives. I noticed that if I focused on the problem, which was a mysterious blank square surrounded by other blank squares, it would be impossible for me to have any idea which number to use. It was as I began to look at the squares that I had filled in, as well as using the few numbers that were already filled in at the start, that I was able to solve the problem with confidence.

I don’t know about you, but there have been many times in my life when I’m faced with an issue or problem and have had no idea where to begin. In fact, at times the very notion of initiating the problem solving process seems overwhelming. I felt as if God was giving me His strategy for problem solving, which is to not focus on the problem but to begin to see all the squares that have been filled in – to focus on the truth that I do have and to use all the other problems that I have overcome to help give me the perspective I need to overcome the one I’m faced with!

The other strategy I saw was even more important – I needed to use the numbers that were filled in by the creator of the puzzle as a guide. God, the creator and author of our life stories, has given us His Word as a guide to aid us in conquering life’s challenges.

There were many times while working on the puzzle when I didn’t know the right number to use to fill in the square, but I did know which numbers did not go in the square. Sometimes knowing what not to do can prove very beneficial in helping you figure out what you should do!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Into the Game

I’ll admit I don’t usually watch basketball much, but I’m getting into at least keeping tabs on the NCAA championship playoffs. Friday night, hanging out with about a half dozen teens (mostly girls), ended up including a fun mix of game watching and conversation. All our eyes were on the game as we downed brownies and mint chip ice cream, then a couple of us started talking about books we were reading.

One, a 17-year-old, had a finger holding her place in Shaunti Feldhahn’s book, For Women Only. Someone had just recently given that book to me as a gift, so I asked her what she thought. We were having a great discussion about the differences between men and women when someone across the room joined the conversation and shared about a similar book she had read. She slid onto the floor where we were and showed us another book she had: Velvet Elvis, by Rob Bell.

They had books with them? Guess they didn’t expect to get that into the game. Or maybe they just liked reading. Anyway, I thought it was great.

Soon we began to discuss questions of theology and faith. One, an 18-year-old, said a friend and mentor who had given her the book she had with her hoped it would challenge her thinking about God. I asked how that was going. She was making her way through it, but she was frustrated with some of the perspectives of the writer.

I thought, Frustration can be good. In most cases it means we’re thinking and grappling with the ideas—whether in the end we agree or not.

The next hour we’d watch an amazing play in the game, be genuinely impressed (if it was made by the team we were cheering for), and then we’d turn back to our discussion. The girls talked about the different ways people seem to be interpreting Scripture and living out their faith, the ideas of church and community. They had great comments and insightful questions. Clearly they wouldn’t easily accept anything they heard or read. They were pretty adamant about making sure God stayed powerful, real, and holy.

Great night. The team we were cheering for won. I went home cheering for the girls.

Jan
author of the Live Free series, Standard Publishing

true stories, true hope

for teens, young adults,
and those who care about them.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Book giveaway - ANGEL OF WRATH by Bill Myers

Camy here, giving away another book! (No, not mine)

The winner of
It’s a Green Thing
by
Melody Carlson
is
Adrienne
Congratulations!

To enter to win today’s book, leave a comment on this blog post, giving your name and saying you want to enter. International readers are welcome to enter!

Please leave an email address or website where I can contact you (please use this format--you [at] yourmail.com--or something like that to prevent spammers from trolling for your email address). It is the winner’s responsibility to check to see if you won and to email me if you haven’t yet heard from me.

I always email the winner and give them a week to reply, but if I don’t receive an answer, I will pull another person to win the book. I am not responsible for a lost opportunity if you leave an email address you don’t check frequently.

Only one entry per person. The winner can expect their free book in 4-6 weeks.

You have a week to comment--I'll pick a name out of a hat on April 14th. (BTW, you can post a comment and NOT enter, too.)

Today I’m giving away:

Angel of Wrath
by
Bill Myers


Thirteen-year-old Jazmin, her ex-Special Ops uncle Charlie, and former FBI agent Lisa are reunited in the second of the Voice of God series to stop a an assassin driven to murder members of a megachurch led by Lisa's brother. This assassin has drawn in a coven of teens toying with satanic practices to support his efforts. The naive youth engage in ceremonies that appear to usher in the death of each of his victims. When their rituals open a portal into the spiritual realm, a terrifying and mysterious entity crosses over to our world. The battle culminates with the capture of Lisa's father as the next target and a Black Mass requiring both their deaths as a sacrifice. The team will, once again, have to rely on all their wits, strength, and faith to survive in this action-packed, unearthly warfare.

Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Her novel Single Sashimi is out now, and she runs the Story Sensei critique service. In her spare time, she is a staff worker for her church youth group, and she leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service. On her blog, she gives away Christian novels every Monday and Thursday, and she ponders frivolous things. Sign up for her newsletter YahooGroup for monthly giveways!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Long Walks & All The Rest

Hello everyone out there in Blog Land!

My name is Shannon Beveridge, and I am so excited to have the opportunity to share my life and my thoughts on life with you; hopefully you'll be half as excited to read about them! I am 24 years old, and I have to say that at times that sounds older than I feel!

I was raised in a Christian home, for which I'm so grateful, by my dad who was and still is in full time ministry, and my mom who home schooled me, my older brother and my younger sister. I currently work part time at Grace Church as the Sr. High Youth Director. Which means I get paid to hang out with teens which is really awesome! I also teach several Hip-Hop dance classes and coach Gymnastics. Needless to say I was a gymnast for 12 years and I love dance! A little known fact about me is that I have always loved to watch Ice Skating, and 2 years ago I decided to take it up! It's never too late to try something new.

My other hobbies include: hanging out with friends, especially in Downtown Fredericksburg - being with my family and my boyfriend, all whom I love very much - Ice Cream!! Any time of day or night and everyday of the year! - Alternative music - My favorite movie is You've Got Mail, it's so witty and well written, and as far as Chick flicks go, just the right amount of Chickage (definitely a word I invented). I love roller coasters - the Washington Red Skins - going to the beach - I'd love to learn to surf one day! The shows I'm currently into include 24- Go Jack Bower! The Biggest Loser, because it changes people's lives, and American Idol, but honestly who has time to watch a show that comes on 3 nights a week? - my favorite books include: Mere Christianity, The Hiding Place, & Blue Like Jazz - I also love reading children's books, Roald Dahl books are my favorite! - I love watching sunrises and sunsets!

I've decided that introductions are awkward because it feels like you're trying to make yourself sound good, or they start sounding like a personal ad... did I mention I enjoy long walks on the beach? :)

I love missions and traveling. I lived in South Africa for 3 years from age 18-21, attending and then leading at a Christian discipleship program called Year of Your Life. While in the program those 3 years we did missions in South Africa, Botswana, Malawi, Zambia, and Mozambique. Other countries I've done missions in include Kenya, England, Dominica, and Mexico. I love Jesus and telling others about what He's done in my life.

I'm so very excited to be on this journey with all of you as we discover who we are called to be as girls, who God is, and as we allow Him to reveal the good life He has for us!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Knowing the One In Charge

When I was in college my laptop was my lifeline. Like seriously--if I didn't have my laptop, I couldn't write my papers. I couldn't research for classes. I couldn't type out my Spanish homework. I couldn't do my web design homework. And I couldn't IM my boyfriend, which was of the utmost importance. The freakishly cold computer labs on campus just didn't cut it for all the things I had to accomplish.

Which is why it was so absolutely awful when my laptop developed some sort of wacky virus as a result of the school's wireless network. Within minutes it shut itself down and ceased to restart, no matter how many times I jabbed the power button.

I took it to the Res Techs on campus and begged them to see if they could fix it. I had a huge test on Tuesday and my study guide was on it. I also had a partially written paper due the next day. And I had, of course, not backed up anything anywhere. These were desperate times.

They told me there wasn't a whole lot they could do, but they took it anyways. They had it for what felt like an eternity. I called every hour just to ask about their progress. I walked over just to see it, hoping it would magically heal itself. I had this nervous, sick feeling in my stomach all the time because I just didn't know if I was ever going to get my computer back again. I just didn't trust those Res Techs. I didn't know them. Why should I trust them? I would try to find someone, anyone, who knew more about computers than the Res Techs. I didn't trust the people who had my laptop in their hands...thus, I worried. A lot.

That was a couple years ago. Now I have a new laptop. A few weeks ago...I dropped it. While I was watching a DVD. For some reason this is a very bad thing. The next day it wouldn't even start up. I was sad. But I took it and handed it off to my fiance. He's a computer technician. And when I handed it to him, I didn't worry even a tiny little bit. Cause I know him and I trust him. If there's a broken computer out there, he can fix it. I trusted the one in charge...so I didn't have to worry.

Crazy how that works, huh? When you trust the One in charge...you don't have to worry. So what are you worried about? Don't you trust the One who holds the entire universe in His hands? :-)

(PS: In case you're wondering...my last computer didn't make it. Apparently dropping it is bad for it. But I was able to get a really great deal on a new one...on the recommendation of a really great fiance.)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Distractions

I finally joined Facebook on Sunday. Within minutes I found friends from church, fellow members of Girls, God and the Good Life, and friends from writer’s conferences. Three long lost cousins contacted me. I found my son (we aren’t friends yet—I’m respecting his unspoken desire to not have Mom’s face on his profile). I also found something else. A new distraction!

Suddenly I want to check in every time I sit down at the computer. When I check e-mail and see that someone has posted a comment on my wall, sent me a message, or confirmed my invitation to be friends I want to click right over. Now I understand why Christian seems addicted to MySpace and Facebook. It IS addictive. By Tuesday I had to verbally forbid myself to look at Facebook until I’d finished my work for the day. I fell off the wagon after fifteen minutes. Then I got back on.

It’s easy to make excuses for why we should give in when temptation hits.
“If I don’t reply to her message now, I’ll forget and she’ll think I don’t care.”
“It’ll only take a few minutes.” Yeah, a few minutes times how many times per day?
“I’m socializing with my brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s fellowship!”

Not that these social networks are bad. I just found that I already need to be careful. I need to choose to NOT check my e-mail if I think it’ll lure me somewhere else. I need to remind myself that if I don’t open a message it’ll remain “new,” so I won’t forget to answer it once I do have spare time. I need to focus on my goals for the day and how I think God wants me to spend it.

Life is so full of distractions—social sites, television, the phone, hanging out with friends when we have work to do. What are some of yours? How do you fight against them? Today, ask God to keep you tuned in to what He wants you to get done.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Do You Have a Spiritual Eating Disorder?


Sometimes we develop spiritual eating disorders. We binge and purge on Jesus or fast from Him altogether and our souls quickly become malnourished.

Matthew 5:6 says, “ Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

Do you hunger for Jesus? Are you thirsty for the touch of His hand on your life? Or have you developed a spiritual eating disorder? Let’s do a quick checkup.

Spiritual bulimia

Do you binge on Jesus? Do you get filled up at camp or weekend retreats or on Sunday morning and then purge so that you can live the life you want to live? In stead of getting a steady dose of Christ through His Word, do you cont on filling feasts of God every once in a while?

Read Matthew 13:5-6 and see if you are like the shallow soil. Without the constant nourishment of consistent time in the Word and fellowship with other believers, your heart will get sick.

Spiritual anorexia

Do you starve yourself of Jesus altogether? Do you go weeks and months without seeking Him in prayer, fellowshipping with other Christians, or digging into the Word? It is impossible for your spirit to stay healthy when it is cut off from the source of life and strength. Anorexics delude themselves by thinking they can avoid food and still stay healthy, but it doesn’t’ work that way.

In the same way, you cannot grow spiritually without the nutrients God offers.

In Colossians 1:9-11 Paul writes, “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might.”

Growth and strength come from being filled by God. Don’t starve yourself of His teachings. Feast regularly. Get filled up. It is simply the only way to grow in Him.

Spiritual stress eating


Are you a crisis pray-er who runs to Jesus only when the going gets tough? Do you neglect Him when life is smooth but seek Him with urgency when the road gets rocky? He is certainly able to provide for us during times of trial. Nahum 1:7 promises, “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.” But He calls us to seek Him at all times, not just when troubles hit our lives. First Thessalonians 5:16-18 teaches us to “be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Did you catch it?

Always…continually…in all circumstances. We are to ingest a steady diet of Christ, rather than just running to Him when we are stressed and afraid.

Do a spiritual checkup. If your spiritual life has developed some disordered eating habitaq1s, pull up a chair and feast and the banquet table of God. Allow Him to fill you and nourish your heart.

This segment was taken from Erin's book, "Graffiti: Learning to See the Art in Ourselves." You can learn more about this book at www.graffitiministries.com.

The Whole Facebook Thing


I've been on Myspace for a while. I decided to join Facebook. I'm doing this mostly to connect with the teens I teach and work with at church. Communication doesn't happen the way it did when I was a teen, sorta sad to say. Many teens(not all) are either on FB or MS.

Note*(I understand the safety concerns. I had them too but am discovering privacy settings. If you're a parent feeling cautious, I've been there.)

I started stumbling my way through it. As soon as I posted my usual self picture, my twenty-something daughter called. "Mom, don't use the curly hair picture. Use the straight hair one." So this involves going back through the intricate system, often cropping a new picture, removing the old one, and praying you did it right. Believe it or not, for some of us, this is HARD.

But I did it!

The other twenty-something daughter emailed from work within seconds. "Everybody posts family pictures--you don't have any up." I asked how how to add photos. "You'll figure it out. Gotta go."

When I started working through the pic posting system, my seventeen-year-old son, sitting in the room with me, remembered he had to do his homework. "It's not hard, Mom. You can do it. Just keep playing around with it."

Well, guess what people? I FIGURED IT OUT ALL BY MYSELF. And I feel pretty smart.

What I'm afraid of now--is posting this blog and having my face come up the size of a planet.

But I learned something. Sometimes it's okay to go ahead and try things that seem impossible. Silly as it sounds, FB seemed impossible for me to do alone.

Does anybody have anything you want to do, but it seems too hard?

P.S. My next thing to learn is how to take great pictures. Maybe I need a new camera? Photography lessons?

Love,
Julie

www.juliegarmon.com

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Wearing of the Green


We read The Night Before St. Patrick's Day  by Natasha Wing today. I have young grandsons. One is a musician ( has been capable of humming Star Wars since he was two). The other is a storyteller, taking after his Mom and Grandma.
The storyteller's imagination has been fired up by the book and the concept of leprechauns. He's taken my golden stuffed dragons and planted them around the house as Leprechaun Traps. He figures the little men are attracted to gold and dragons are a match to any wee folk.
St. Patrick, like St. Valentine and St. Nicholas, has origins in historical figures. Patrick was a son of a wealthy man in Britain. He was kidnapped and forced to work as a slave in Ireland. After seven years, he escaped. He hopped a ride on a pirate ship and returned home. Christ changed his life more than the slavery. He became a priest and returned to Ireland to evangelize those who had mistreated him. A great story. True.
I have to giggle at the pictures that spring to my mind. I see a monk laying traps for the Irish. His bait? The golden rule. The cost of being caught? A Gift, really--an eternal life with God.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Book giveaway - IT'S A GREEN THING by Melody Carlson

Camy here, giving away another book! (No, not mine)

To enter to win today’s book, leave a comment on this blog post, giving your name and saying you want to enter. International readers are welcome to enter!

Please leave an email address or website where I can contact you (please use this format--you [at] yourmail.com--or something like that to prevent spammers from trolling for your email address). It is the winner’s responsibility to check to see if you won and to email me if you haven’t yet heard from me.

I always email the winner and give them a week to reply, but if I don’t receive an answer, I will pull another person to win the book. I am not responsible for a lost opportunity if you leave an email address you don’t check frequently.

Only one entry per person. The winner can expect their free book in 4-6 weeks.

You have a week to comment--I'll pick a name out of a hat on March 27th. (BTW, you can post a comment and NOT enter, too.)

Today I’m giving away:

It’s a Green Thing
by
Melody Carlson


For the first time that she can remember, Maya Stark is beginning to feel like a “normal” teenager. Even with her mother in jail for drug possession and her pop-star father away on his comeback tour, Maya’s new life with her uncle Allen and cousin Kim is coming together. Summer vacation’s just beginning, and with a new job, a new boyfriend, and a new car (hybrid, of course), things are finally starting to look up.

But that doesn’t mean life is about to get any easier. Maya’s still devoted to living Green, and her uncle offers her a Green column in his newspaper. With the opportunity to make a difference in the town’s attitude toward the environment, Maya wonders how this fits with her newfound commitment to Christ. And if she can really consider herself a Christian when her feelings toward a fellow youth group member are anything but loving…


Excerpt of chapter one:

June 9



My cousin Kim gave me a new diary yesterday. She received it for graduation, but she prefers to journal on her computer. “With a security lock, of course,” she confessed. Anyway, this nicely bound book (a green product made of recycled materials) seems to be enticing me to write. Especially since I already filled up my old diary, which is safely hidden away in one of my suitcases tucked into the back of the guest room closet. Okay, as both Kim and my uncle keep telling me, “It’s not the guest room, Maya. It’s your room.” I’m trying to see it that way. But it’s not easy. So much about my life is not easy…but I must admit that it’s getting better. And I do have hope.



Anyway, since today was rather interesting and the beginning of summer vacation, I will start here. Although to get “here,” I need to go back to before the school year ended. I’d been attending Harrison High for several weeks when Mr. Fenton challenged our art class to volunteer for a community project. We’d been invited by the park district to create a mural on a downtown youth center. A lot of kids signed up, and everyone seemed supportive and interested. But today, the first day of the project, Marissa Phillips and I were the only ones to actually show. “It figures,” she said as the two of us stood gazing up at the big, boring wall. The paint was splotchy looking, with random beige smears that resembled a bad case of psoriasis. Probably someone’s attempt to hide the graffiti and tagging, although a few offensive words still showed through.



“What do you mean?” I asked. “That no one else would come.” “Why’s that?” I adjusted the twisted strap of my Osh Kosh overalls. I’d gotten dressed pretty quickly this morning, barely managing to catch the downtown bus. “Because people are basically selfish.” I turned and looked at her. With hands planted on her hips, Marissa stared at the ugly wall and frowned. For some reason, when I first began attending Harrison High, I felt drawn to this girl. Like we shared some commonality. And I suppose we do have some physical similarities. We’re both tall and have long hair, although hers is straight and mine is curly. And because she dyes it black, her hair’s a lot darker than mine. I think that’s why her complexion looks so pale. Whereas mine (thanks to my dad) is the color of café au lait.



But our looks aside, we are similar in other ways too. Or maybe we both just have an attitude. She’s not afraid to speak her mind and has opinions that not everyone shares. She’s two years older than I am. In fact, she just graduated with my cousin Kim. Not that she seems older exactly. Or maybe I just feel older than sixteen. Sometimes I feel like I’m in my thirties. But a hard life can do that to a person.



“So if that’s true,” I asked Marissa, “if people are basically selfish, why are you here?”



She laughed. “I thought you knew.”



“Knew?”



“I’m doing community service.”



“For what?”



“Oh…something that happened a couple of months ago. I guess you hadn’t moved here yet.”



“What did you do?”



“I got caught with alcohol in my car.”



“Driving under the influence?” I knew Marissa was kind of a wild child, but I thought she had more sense than that.



“No.” She shook her head firmly. “I wasn’t under the influence. I was underage.”



“Well, obviously.”



“It didn’t really help much that my dad’s a cop.” She made a face as she reached into her bag and retrieved a pack of cigarettes. She shook one out, quickly lit it, then blew out an exasperated



puff.



“Your dad’s a cop?” Now this caught me off guard. Of all people who might have law enforcement officials in their family, Marissa just doesn’t seem to fit the profile. I can only imagine how frustrated her father must feel.



“Oh yeah…” She peered back at the wall. “In fact it was his recommendation that I spend my summer vacation performing community service. If dear old Dad hadn’t been in court that day, I probably would’ve gotten off a lot easier.”



“You’re doing community service for the whole summer?”



“Yep.” She blew another puff of smoke over her shoulder.



“And you’re okay with that?”



“It was either that or give up my car and move out of the house. And I wasn’t financially ready for that…not just yet.” She took in a slow drag, then looked curiously at me. “So what’s your excuse?”



“Excuse?”



“For being here.”



“You mean because I must be basically selfish too?” She shrugged.



“I just wanted to do it,” I admitted. “I mean, when Mr. Fenton described the project, it sounded kind of fun to help someone else, and he made it seem like it would only take a week.” Marissa laughed sarcastically. “Yeah, right. Think again.” I frowned back up at the wall. “With just the two of us, this mural could end up being your entire summer of community service.”



“I wouldn’t mind so much, except that it’s going to be scorching out here before long, and this wall is in the sun most of the day.” She reached in her bag again, and this time pulled out her cell phone.



“Who are you calling?”



“Friends…Hey, Spencer,” she said warmly. “What’s up, dude?” Then she winked at me. “Well, Maya and I are downtown right now. We volunteered to do this mural project, and we sure could use some big, strong guys to help out.” She smiled knowingly. “Oh yeah, for sure. Maybe you could get Jake to come and help too…No, it’s no big hurry. I mean, we need to kind of figure out



where we’re going with this mural and get the paint and stuff. Maybe not today. But how about tomorrow? First thing in the morning?” She got a catty smile now. “Oh yeah, totally.” Then she hung up.



“Help on the way?”



“Sounds like it.” She slipped her phone back into her bag.



“Spencer is such a pushover when it comes to good-looking women.”



“I hope he didn’t get the wrong impression.”



“We’re talking about Spencer, right?” She laughed. “Of course he has the wrong impression. It’s just the way that boy’s brain is wired.” And I was fully aware of this. Spencer had begun hitting on me as soon as I started going to HHS a couple of months ago. I’d been flattered at first, but as I got to know him better, I realized that I needed to draw some boundaries. Even so, I wasn’t going to admit that Spencer wouldn’t have been my first choice for help. “So…do you think I should call anyone else?” I offered. “Sure. Do you know anyone else?” I kind of shrugged.



The truth is, I still don’t know that many people in this town. Kim and her best friend, Natalie, already have summer jobs. But I was thinking about the kids in Kim’s church youth group—particularly Dominic. Any excuse to spend time with Dominic seemed like a good excuse to me. But I didn’t know his number, so I called Caitlin. She and her husband, Josh, are the youth leaders, and she’s been sort of mentoring me since I committed my life to God a couple of weeks ago. She answered, and I quickly explained the mural project and our lack of volunteers. “It was supposed to take only a week,” I said finally. “But with just Marissa and me and this great big wall, well, it’s a little overwhelming. She’s already called a guy to help, but—” “What a cool project,” Caitlin said. “That building is a real eyesore. It’s great that someone wants to make it nice, and I’m sure that’ll be a blessing to the kids who use the center. Why don’t I call around and see who might be willing to help out?”



“That’d be awesome, Caitlin.”



“When do you want your helpers to show up?”



“We have to figure some things out first. We probably won’t need anyone until tomorrow morning.”



“I’ll see what I can do.”



“Thanks.” I hung up and smiled hopefully. But Marissa was frowning at me now. “Why are you calling in the church people?”



“Why not?”



“You want me to make you a list of reasons?”



“Are you willing to turn away free help?” She dropped her cigarette butt to the pavement and ground it out with her heel as she shrugged. “I guess not. So what’s the deal, Maya? Are you one of them?”



“One of what?”



“Are you a Christian too?”



I took in a deep breath, then slowly nodded. “Actually, I am.” She shook her head in a dismal way. Like this was really unfortunate.



“I’ll admit it’s still kind of new for me,” I said.



“Why?” Her dark eyes narrowed as she studied me closely. I started to feel like a bug beneath a magnifying glass.



“Why?” I repeated, confused. “You mean why is it new for me?”



“No. Why did you do it?” The way she said this made a woman walking through the parking lot glance nervously at me, like she assumed I’d committed some horrendous crime.



“Become a Christian?”



“Yeah.” Marissa made a sour face. “I mean, I can understand girls like Kim and Natalie… They’re such goody two-shoes. But you, Maya? I thought you were different.”



“I am different.”



“Then why?”



“Because I was unhappy and lonely and hopeless and depressed and just really, really lost.”



“And now you’re found?” I could hear the teasing note in her voice.



“Actually, I do feel kind of found.” She rolled her eyes.



“Look, Marissa, if anyone had told me just a few months ago that I was going to make a life-changing commitment like this…well, I would’ve reacted just like you. I would’ve said they were



crazy. Seriously, I never would’ve believed it myself.” Her countenance softened ever so slightly, and she didn’t question this statement.



“And like I said, it’s still new to me. Basically, all I can say is that I was totally mixed-up and messed up and just plain lost…and now I have this real sense of peace. Honestly, it’s something I never had before.”



“Peace?”



I nodded eagerly. “Yes. It’s hard to describe it, but it’s like my life is in good hands now, like I feel hopeful.”



“You sound like Chloe Miller now.”



I smiled. “I’ll take that as a compliment.” The fact is, of all the Christians I know, which aren’t that many, I can relate to Chloe best. I mean, Kim is cool and takes her faith seriously. And Caitlin is sweet and sincere and helpful. And Nat… Well, don’t get me going there. But right from the start, I seemed to get Chloe. And she seemed to get me. Maybe it has to do with the whole music thing—a kind of artistic, outside-the-box sort of thing.



“So what do you think we should paint on this wall?” Marissa seemed eager to change the subject, and I felt relieved.



“I’m thinking we should get some sketches going.” I unzipped my pack and retrieved a sketch pad. “We’re not supposed to do anything out here without Mrs. Albert’s approval.”



“Who’s that?”



“The superintendent. But if we can get her okay, we could probably start putting the drawing on the wall before our other volunteers show up. That way we can put them to work.”



“Yes sir.” She gave me a cheesy grin. “You the boss.” Before long we were sitting there on the curb, discussing ideas and playing with images. Unfortunately, Marissa’s ideas leaned toward the dark side, and when I challenged a particularly frightening image, she seemed slightly offended.



“So what do you want to paint?” she shot back. “Sunshine, flowers, and sweet turtledoves?”



“No, not exactly. But something more cheerful than a dragon burning a gnarled tree stump.”



“I was just trying to come up with something that graffiti artists would respect,” she said defensively. “Something they wouldn’t make fun of and want to deface.”



“That’s a good point. We don’t want it to be too childish.”



“But I suppose a dragon might be scary to some of the little kids who come here.”



“What exactly is the purpose of this building?” I ventured. She shrugged. “It’s a youth center. Duh.”



“So it’s a place for kids to come…for what purpose?”



“To hang. To play. For kids who need something like that.”



I kind of frowned at her. “Why?”



“You know, it’s for kids who might be kind of underprivileged, or maybe they’re unsupervised. The center has a day-care program and all kinds of classes and activities for after-school programs. Stuff like that.” Now she laughed. “Oh yeah, I guess you wouldn’t have had anything like that back in Beverly Hills, little Miss Rich Girl.”



Sometimes I wish I hadn’t told Marissa so much about myself. But at the time, when I needed a friend a couple of months ago, it seemed right. And I thought I could trust her. Not that I



can’t.



“I’m not a rich girl.”



“Says you.” I just rolled my eyes. The truth was, I would’ve appreciated a center like this when I was a kid. Not that I plan to admit that to Marissa. But despite her misconceptions, my childhood wasn’t exactly ideal or nurturing, and I certainly never felt rich. Of course, Beverly Hills isn’t the sort of town where people are terribly concerned over the welfare of the younger generation. Like Marissa, people just assume that if you live there, your parents have lots



of money, and you’ll be just fine.



“So it sounds like it’s a place that’s meant to encourage kids, to help themgrow into better people, to give them hope,” I finally said. Marissa laughed loudly. “Hey, maybe you should go into politics or public relations or advertising or something.”



“Come on. The sooner we figure this out, the sooner we can get some serious sketches going. And the sooner we can get started, the sooner we can get done, and we won’t be out here



baking in the sun all summer.”



“You seem to have it all figured out, boss. Go for it.” Marissa pulled out another cigarette. Now I was tempted to point out the risks of emphysema and lung cancer, as well as how smoke makes your hair stink and yellows your fingernails, but I figured she was probably already aware



of these facts.



“Fine. I think we should create something that feels hopeful.” I squinted up at the blotchy-looking wall again. “Something colorful and cheerful and happy.”



“Maybe we could paint a pwetty wainbow?”



Just before I made a smart retort, I stopped myself. “Hey, maybe you’re right.” I grabbed my sketch pad and began to draw.



“But we’ll design it in a more modern style. Sort of cubist.” She looked over my shoulder as I drew a series of sharply angled shapes, working them together to make an arch.



“Interesting…,” she finally admitted.



“Really?”



“Yeah. I can kind of see it. And it would actually be fairly easy to put a team to work on it since it’s mostly shapes.”



“Exactly. We’ll draw them out, and they can paint them in.”



“We’ll need a lot of different colors.”



“So you can see the rainbow?” I asked. “I mean, since there’s no color in my sketch?”



“Yeah. I get where you’re going.” She snuffed out her cigarette, then reached in her bag for a tin of colored pencils. “Here, add some color.”



By midmorning we had a final colored sketch as well as Mrs. Albert’s approval. “Very nice, girls,” she told us as we were ushered out of her office. “And anything will be an improvement over what’s out there now.”



“Well, that was flattering,” Marissa said as we headed down to the storage room to meet the janitor and check out the ladders and painting supplies. “At least her expectations aren’t too high.”



Marissa laughed. “Yeah, I’m pretty good at meeting people’s low expectations.” I wanted to ask her why that was, but we needed to get busy if we were going to put more volunteers to work tomorrow. And to my relief, Marissa actually knew how to work hard. By the end of the day, Marissa had gotten the paints, and I had managed to get a fair amount of the sketch onto the lower part of the wall.



“Nice work, boss,” Marissa said after we’d put the supplies away and stood looking at the beginning of our mural. “Same back at you.” And I have to admit that I was kind of excited to see how this whole thing would turn out. And hopefully more people will show up to help tomorrow.







Maya’s Green Tip for the Day



Don’t pour harmful wastes down public waterways.



Storm drains on public streets are for rainwater to run off



so the streets don’t flood. They’re not a convenient way



for people to get rid of chemicals or solvents or even the



bucket of soapy water after you wash your car. Unless



you use bio-friendly car-wash detergent, which I highly



recommend. You need to respect that the water that runs



off our streets eventually winds up in streams and waterways



and can harm innocent fish or other marine wildlife.



So don’t use your street drain as a dumping spot.



Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Her novel Single Sashimi is out now, and she runs the Story Sensei critique service. In her spare time, she is a staff worker for her church youth group, and she leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service. On her blog, she gives away Christian novels every Monday and Thursday, and she ponders frivolous things. Sign up for her newsletter YahooGroup for monthly giveways!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday the 13th!

"Superstition is to religion what astrology is to astronomy; the mad daughter of a wise mother." Voltaire

I am not superstitious. 

But I used to be. Superstition can become a way of life for those struggling to understand why the world works the way it does. That was certainly the case for me. There was no rhyme or reason to why things happened, so it was natural for me to think that maybe "if I behave in certain ways, then good things will happen."

Here are a few common superstitions. Recognize any?
  • Friday the thirteenth is an unlucky day
  • A rabbit's foot brings good luck
  • An apple a day keeps the doctor away
  • To find a four-leaf clover is to find good luck
  • If you walk under a ladder, you will have bad luck
  • If a black cat crosses your path you will have bad luck
  • To break a mirror will bring you seven years bad luck
  • To open an umbrella in the house is to bring bad luck
  • To find a horseshoe brings good luck
  • Step on a crack, break your mother's back
  • You can break a bad luck spell by turning seven times in a clockwise circle
  • Garlic protects from evil spirits and vampires
  • Our fate is written in the stars
  • At the end of a rainbow is a pot of gold
  • Clothes worn inside out will bring good luck
  • Wearing your birthstone will bring you good luck
  • If you blow out all of the candles on your birthday cake with the first breath you will get whatever you wish for
  • To have a wish come true using a wishbone, two people make a wish, then take hold of each end of the bone and pull it until it separates. The person with the longer end gets his or her wish
  • An itchy palm means money will come your way
Some superstitions are just silly. The pot of gold thing, we all know it's not true:-) But there is a side to superstitious thinking that can be dangerous. And that is having a "superstitious faith".

Superstition means "A belief that some action not logically related to a course of events influences it's outcome." In other words, "If I do X, then Y is likely to happen." 

If I do good things to others, then good things will happen to me (this is that idea of karma)
If I pray only for others, then God will see me as selfless and give me what I want.
If I become thinner, then I will be loved.
If I do everything 
right, then I will be accepted.

Do you see the trap in that kind of thinking? We give ourselves all the power - and pressure - when truthfully - God is the one with all the power. The only "if" involved in being God's, is "if" you will go to Him. He's not s
ome fickle being that doles out goodness and favor based on what you do or don't do. That's the idea of works that Paul talks about.

We can't "earn" God's favor - we already have it.
We can't "win" God's love - we already have it.
We can't "earn" God's acceptance - because we already have it.

We can't "do" anything to be more loved, more accepted or more favored than we already are. So it also stands to reason that we aren't going to lose those things by walking under a ladder or opening up an umbrella inside the house. Life isn't about good luck or bad luck. Yes, we all have bad days and good days, but they aren't because of what we do, it's just the way things are. I am so glad that God is in control, aren't you? That is not up to me to memorize a list of things or perform rituals to earn something I can't earn anyway.

So here is to a happy Friday the 13th! Have fun today:-)
~Sarah~

Author of Becoming Beka: a five book series for teens.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

What I've Been Learning

Have you ever looked back on a few months' time and realized that you learned more those months than you normally do? About life, about God, about yourself?

I'm definitely having a month like that. So, I decided to share some of this knowledge.

Things I've Been Learning:

* Using a self-tanner the same week there's a cold snap doesn't really pay off very well.

* Just because you don't like doing something doesn't mean you don't have to do it.

* The part in 1 Corinthians 7 about having more time with God before you get married is definitely true.

* Enjoy every moment because life passes quickly. We are "flowers of the field" - here one day and gone the next.

* Live as though Christ could appear any minute.

* An inch doesn't seem like that much distance until the hairstylist cuts one inch too much.

* The same is true with straying one inch from the Truth.

* Puppies grow up. But they also become housetrained. There's always a good side to everything!

* Friends move away, grow apart and become distant. But there is a Friend who is closer than a brother.

* Wasting time is not being careful how we live.

* Concealer only works on the surface.

*And finally... burning a candle in a closed-off room will set off the smoke alarm even if nothing has caught on fire.

I once heard someone say that praying for God to grant you wisdom before you read the Bible was the best way to start your devotion time. I think we should take it one step further. Let's also pray every morning that God will teach us something new today - more about how to live, how to love, and how to serve Him.

What have you been learning lately?

Monday, March 09, 2009

One-Month Challenges

I know March is only about one-third of the way over, but I have two great one-month challenges to suggest for April. Both may take some prep to get them going, so it's not too early to get started.

First, I want to suggest a fall, 2008 fiction release to you: Stepping Into Sunlight, by Sharon Hinck. Along with reading a great book, you can follow the example of the main character, Penny: One act of kindness for someone new each day. I asked Sharon to give us some background:


Do you ever feel like the needs of the world, or your family and friends, are so huge that nothing you do could make a difference? I'm sure the boy with a few fish and loaves of bread thought that when he saw thousands of hungry people. Yet Jesus took the small gift and multiplied it. I recently wrote a novel about a woman who was at her weakest point and had almost nothing to offer others. Yet she found ways to offer small acts of kindness - which changes the lives of those around her, as well as helping her on the journey toward healing. You can read about her adventures in Stepping Into Sunlight, and also join her interactively at the Penny's Project blog, where folks share their own creative ideas for small kind acts.

Okay, here's another challege. How about a writing frenzy?

If you like to write scripts or have wanted to give it a shot, how about completing one in a month? Script Frenzy begins officially on April 1st, and you need to sign up to participate. If you're age 13 and above, go to Script Frenzy's site for details. 12 and under? No problem. Check out Script Frenzy Young Writers Program.

So to recap, here are the challenges:

Challege #1: Read Stepping Into Sunlight, by Sharon Hinck, and create your own Penny's Project for the month of April--one act of kindness for someone new each day.
OR
Challege #2: Write a script in a month.

Choose your challenge and plan to begin on April 1st. Do it with your family. Do it with friends. Whatever you decide, be creative. Remember, you were made in the image of God. Talk about creativity. So no excuses!

Have fun.

Jan
author of the Live Free series, Standard Publishing

true stories, true hope

for teens, young adults,
and those who care about them.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Shoot for the Moon

So I'm sure you've all heard the quote that says something like, "Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars."

I used to think this was a pretty great idea. I may or may not have written it across a couple of notebooks back in the day just to serve as inspiration.

And then I realized...the stars are great and all. But God has huge moon-sized dreams for me. Why would I want to stop short when He's brought me so far?

God likes to do BIG moon-sized things. Like
use a kid to end slavery
. And bring justice to those who've been treated unfairly. And end poverty by helping kids. And cure diseases like AIDS and cancer. And rescue young girls from lives in the sex trade. And bring peace to war-torn countries.

And He likes to use His people to get stuff done. So dream big moon-dreams. And when you end up with a handful of stars, keep going because you're not there yet. Even when it gets hard and it hurts. Even when you fail a couple (or a couple hundred) times. Even when you really question why in the world God gave you your particular moon-dream because it may as well be impossible. Even when people say that you should maybe think about finding a new dream that isn't quite so hard to reach.

Keep going.

What are some of your moon-dreams? Email me at anmblogs@gmail.com and tell me, or leave a comment!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Not Perfect but Fun

I had a friend over for lunch after Bible study today. What fun! But last night wasn’t so fun. I went to the store and discovered that they were out of the main ingredient for the dessert I planned to make. The house was a mess and I didn’t have time to tackle everything.

I felt a little better when I found a recipe for a dessert that topped my original plan. Best of all, I had all the ingredients in the cupboard and didn’t need to beg my husband for a second trip to the store. But the house still plagued me. That is, until a gentle voice reminded me, “Jeanette, having a friend over for lunch is supposed to be enjoyable. Karen does not expect perfection. She knows you work, are busy, and have had a crazy life lately. She just wants to spend time with you. Lighten up!”

A line that I’d heard from many women at church echoed in my mind: “She’s coming to see you, not your house.”

So I ran a mop over the kitchen and dining room floors, dusted areas that she would actually see, and tidied up the living room. She didn’t need to know that I’d tossed stacks of laundry and baskets of toys into the bedrooms and shut the doors. Letting go of my need to impress put the fun back into getting ready for Karen’s visit. When we sat down to eat, we cared too much about the food, talking and laughing to worry about anything I’d let go.

How often do we take the fun out of an event by striving for perfection that nobody is concerned about but us? This lunch experience reminded me to focus on what matters most—people. Obviously it’s polite to bring a friend into a clean room but if a stray magazine is going to offend her . . . Praise God that I have a friend who is NOT thrown off by such things. She didn’t even mind the cat jumping on the table.

When have you caught yourself getting so consumed by details that you risked erasing the enjoyment? How has God helped you lighten up? Your stories are always fun to hear!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Allow Me to Introduce...Me

Hi girls! I am so thrilled to be the a blogger for this great site. Sarah has assembled a fantastic team of authors, speakers, and teachers just for you. I can't wait to see how God is going to use this blog to challenge you (and me) to live more like the women He's called us to be.

Since this is my first time writing to you, I thought I'd take the opportunity to introduce myself. Here are the top 10 things that make me, me!

1. I became a Christian at age 15. I've been enjoying the thrill of romance with my Savior ever since.
2. I live in Springfield, Missouri with my handsome hubby, Jason and adorable baby boy, Eli.
3. My husband and I have been involved in full-time student ministry for nearly a decade.
4. I am the author of "Graffiti: Learning to See the Art in Ourselves." It's a book about true beauty and identity from God's perspective. You can read more about it at www.graffitiministries.com.
5. Last year I joined forces with Dannah Gresh and Nancy Leigh DeMoss to work on "Lies Young Women Believe." I did the research for the book and also wrote the companion guide.
6. I also write for the "Lies Young Women Believe" blog. You can join hundreds of other girls participating in the conversation about the impact of lies at www.liesyoungwomenbelieve.com
7. I have a twin sister named Nikki. She's married to youth pastor too!
8. My favorite food is sushi.
9. I also have a complete addiction to Milkduds. I can't get enough of that carmely, chocolaty goodness!
10. Writing and pointing young women toward God's Truth are two of my greatest passions. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to do both here on www.girlsgodgoodlife.blogspot.com

How about you? What are the top 10 things I should know about you?

I'm looking forward to getting to know you.

Erin

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

I Needed this Today

I've always loved this song. It catches you in the throat--makes me tear up every time. But today I watched the video that goes with it. Wow.



How does it speak to you?

Love,
Julie

www.juliegarmon.com

Monday, March 02, 2009

to buy or not to buy, that is the question

I don't need a Kindle2. True I don't have a Kindle from the first go round. But really, I've done without a Kindle so far, I can probably do without the Kindle2.
But I do have bad eyesight and one can enlarge the font on the Kindle2 until it is comfortable for my eyes.
But I have coped with bad eyesight without the Kindle.
True, I can upload my manuscripts and work on them at all sorts of places where I am stuck waiting. 
But I have coped with carrying around manuscripts and a laptop, etc.
It is tax deductible as a business expense.
But it is over $350.00. Much more because if I was going to be insane and buy one, I would also buy the fancy leather case.
Next year the price will probably go way down.
I don't need a Kindle2, I just want one. Sigh. The answer is NOT TO BUY.
Sigh! Sometimes I hate making mature, responsible choices.