Thursday, April 14, 2022

Easter Treat: Easter Basket Book Ideas and Author Interview!

In honor of Holy Week, we have a special guest! I am delighted to welcome back bestselling children's book author Laura Sassi, who just released a new Easter treasure for little ones! I asked her some questions so that we could get a sneak peak into her newest book, Bunny Finds Easter. I pray her words enrich your Easter holiday, no matter the ages of your children. Plus, at the end of the interview you will find other Easter basket book ideas to help you ground the holiday in its true meaning—happy reading!


Welcome, Laura. Can you tell us: Why did you write your newest book, Bunny Finds Easter?

As a young child I was confused about what we were celebrating at Easter. I loved coloring Easter eggs and hunting for jelly beans, but it wasn’t until I was a tween that I made the connection that Easter is when we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. Inspired by that memory, I decided to write a board book for preschoolers and toddlers that would celebrate those fun Easter traditions and, at the same time, serve as an introduction to the real gift of Easter—Jesus!

In my book, Bunny is on a quest to find out if Easter is all about chocolate eggs and jelly beans, or if it might just be about a little bit more? As the story unfolds, Bunny encounters many of the fun traditions surrounding Easter, including going on an egg hunt, but it’s not until she arrives at church and they sing an Easter song that she realizes JESUS is the reason we celebrate Easter.


Why does your book begin with a question—is that intentional?

I wanted to begin BUNNY FINDS EASTER with a question because kids love asking questions! I also wanted them to see, in a fun way, that asking questions is a good way to find things out. Thankfully, we have a wonderful God who can withstand any question we might bring him. Indeed, God is always ready to answer. And how does he answer? Through his rich and in-depth word—the Bible. He also uses his followers, us, to point each other and others in God’s direction.

Some questions are tougher to answer than others as parents! I noticed one question in your book reads, "Who died to take our sins away? And rose again on Easter day?" How do you explain the cross to children who are curious?

My approach with little ones who are curious about the cross is to set it in the bigger context of God’s love for us. We don’t want to frighten children, but at the same time, we don’t want to minimize the amazing gift of Jesus’ sacrifice. Through Jesus' death on the cross, he paid the penalty for humanity’s sinfulness once and for all as God’s son, perfect and without sin. And death was not the end of the story! On Easter morning He rose again and we will too—in eternity with God in heaven! As Christians, our hearts overflow with gratitude for this lavish outpouring love bestowed on us. Our response is to believe, accept, and share the good news with others.

I like to tie everything back to God’s word, which I hope plants a pattern in their hearts to seek truth there. Here are two passages that speak to Jesus’ redemptive love at Easter in a way that kid’s can grasp: John 3:16 (this is a good one to memorize) and Matthew 20:17–19 (Jesus predicts his own mission on the cross).

Do you have advice for parents who are willing to tackle tough questions in general?

Think big picture. Have some applicable passages of scripture at the ready so that you can point your little ones directly to God’s word as you work together to tackle tough questions. This, of course, will require that we spend time with God ourselves, asking questions, delving into scripture, and praying for God’s wisdom and light as we navigate through our days and nurture our children to know God.

What are you most looking forward to doing this Easter with your family?

I’m looking forward to going to church together, as a family, and gathering with others. Our church is having a very special service this year under a big tent. And my prayer is that it serves as a revival tent—that it will be just the beginning for our community. And, like Bunny in the story who hears the Easter news when rising to sing, I can’t wait to stand and sing together of the joy we have in Jesus, our risen Lord! 


Thank you, Laura! And thank you to the Christian publisher Zonderkidz for bringing Laura's book to life. For more Easter basket book ideas, check out these titles. Zonderkidz let me preview them for free, and they're adorable!

How High is Heaven? By Linsey Davis—Linsey has been on my show
Easter Egg Board Books, 3 pack, Illustrated by Emily Emerson—my toddler went right for these!
Snuggle Time Easter Stories and 'Twas the Morning of Easter by Glenys Nellist—I love the Snuggle Time series for little ones! Glenys is no stranger to my blog!
The Tiny Truths Bible for Little Ones by Joanna Rivard and Tim Penner—This board book Bible has inclusive illustrations, making the Gospel story approachable for all, since children learn and connect through images.

Looking for more inspiration? Check out my Easter devotion, Easter prayer or Easter dinner prayer, or stayed tuned to Redbud Writers Guild's Facebook page on Saturday, where I will share an Easter video!

Thursday, March 31, 2022

To Thrive and Revive, We Need to Pivot

It was my honor to contribute the vibrant and growing platform at Propel Women again. They are looking to empower female voices in the church, and nothing could excite me more! Perhaps your church has been struggling with numbers since COVID—the statistics aren't always encouraging. If you're discouraged by what you see in the pews or outside of them in our often divisive world, read this. Urge God to show you how he can use YOU to grow the church precisely when it is needed most.

Is the church dying? I am a denominationally-trained pastor, and worship statistics in the United States aren’t always encouraging. My heart breaks when I hear that more churches have closed their doors.

I recently sat down with a few female pastors for lunch. As much as we were excited to catch up, the topic quickly shifted to, “How can we creatively engage our congregation and spur its future growth?” It’s a vital question.

Brainstorming ways to reach new people about old wisdom is important for two reasons. First, God wants the church to continuously reflect the vibrancy of his Being. Second, while numbers might have dwindled in the pew, the need for God’s church certainly hasn’t.

As I look around, cultural pain is both old and new. Widespread social division is palpable. The need that the church can fill still abounds, but many are going to drier and drier wells to drink. In an online age when we’ve never been more connected, we’ve never felt more alone. Plus, we’ve forgotten how to talk to each other.

We’ve been hoodwinked.

FILLING THE “GOD-SHAPED HOLE” IN OUR HEARTS

Faith has always been capable of uniting people. Shared values and goals are more important than differences when people come together for something bigger than themselves. It’s our following of something greater than has the power to fill us in ways that don’t disappoint and heal the cracks in our collective soul.

Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the fullest” (John 10:10). Christ can fill a void that nothing else can or will. Augustine wrote, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in you.”

While the need for God is age-old, the humility that faith inspires is precisely the balm needed today. We’re poised for another revival. There’s freedom in dethroning the self and enthroning God. There’s healing in recognizing our need for God and one another amidst widespread isolation. There’s victory in grounding life in God’s unconditional love rather than our fickle culture.

BE BRAVE. BE BOLD.

I am reminded of Jesus’ observation that the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few in Matthew 9:37. His truth holds true. The harvest is brimming.

Who are the laborers? We are. Fellow women, the church needs our voices too...

Read on at Propel Sophia Here

Want more? You can also read my last article for them. Thank you as always to my fantastic Propel editor and friend, Bronwyn Lea. Check out her newest book, Beyond Awkward Side Hugs.

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Should You Choose a Career Based on Money or Passion?

diverse man and woman at work on touchpad screens

This is the second article in my recent career series, which features a shout out to my interview with author and former Broadway star Kate Battistelli and my life purpose study. It begins:

It's thrilling to follow our God-given passion and make a difference in the world precisely in the way that our Creator intended. Further, experts argue that a career based on passion versus money will be more fulfilling and ultimately even more successful because we're whole-heartedly invested. That said, our need for money is a fact of life. For those who are at a precipice and seeking God's direction for their career, here are some vital pointers to consider as you weigh both money and passion.

Shield Your Heart

The Bible is cautionary when it comes to money. True, we need money for our livelihood, and it's possible to enjoy it as a blessing from God's hand. But Scripture encourages us to keep two concerns in mind. First, it instructs us not to worry about money. We can work hard, save, and plan for the future, but we must not allow the stress of money to steal our joy. In Matthew Chapter 6, Jesus encourages us to trust in God's provision (25-26) and focus on heavenly rather than earthly treasures (19-20).

In addition to not worrying about money, we cannot place money before God in our lives. Jesus teaches, "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money" (Matthew 6:24). God wants to be the driver of our career choice, not money. Further, God wants us to conduct ourselves according to his standards within that God-ordained field. Compromise in position or standards—no matter how lucrative—is not his will for us.

Discover Three More Pointers and Read On Here

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday! Check out my Instagram (@noellekirchner) to see a pic of me back in action. It felt so good to be giving ashes and gathering again! Looking for prayer, scripture, and reflection prompts to begin Lent intentionally? Read my Ash Wednesday resource.

Also, check out my devotion featured on iBelieve and Crosswalk today about persistence—something we all need to run our race!

Looking for more? Read this devotion from yesterday on the refreshment that you can only find in Christ!

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

How Do I Know God's Direction for My Career?

Men and women talking at work

Have you ever heard of a God Dare? According to author Kate Battistelli, a God Dare is choosing to be chosen by God to change the world. Kate would know. She’s a former Broadway star and mother to the Dove and Grammy Award-winning Christian artist Francesca Battistelli. When I interviewed Kate for the sixteenth episode of my show Chaos to Calm, she described her newest book, The God Dare. Each person’s God Dare is unique, filled with its own challenge and victory when we take God at his word and trust. Kate’s advice is to “be brave and be bold.” They’re wise words for all of us who want our lives—including our careers—to be a Kingdom tool.

As a pastor, I believe our career choice fits into God’s larger life purpose for us. Our life purpose is all encompassing—it includes our relationships, family choices, career, and volunteerism—when we seek to honor God with each aspect of our lives. Every choice we make, including our God Dares, have the potential to give God glory. Giving God glory can unlock our greatest joy and fulfillment on Earth. God designed us that way. So, for those who want to impact the world and experience God’s blessing, how can we start by discerning God’s direction for our career? My Bible study on life purpose names three steps that can help: longing, surrender, and an inventory of strengths. 

Longing

We cannot ignore God’s call on our lives, at least, not happily. Longing is an ache that something is missing. It’s an indicator for necessary soul-searching. For some, longing is a subtle reminder that God is hinting at a change. It’s that “ah-ha” moment that hits you repetitively when you least expect it or a goal that keeps you awake dreaming at night. For others, longing is so pronounced that it masks as depression. You feel disconnected and disengaged in your work. You might even hate it to the point of physical symptoms. While longing isn’t pleasant, it’s a hopeful sign that God has something different and better in mind for you...

Continue reading my newest article for Crosswalk HERE

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Dream Big: New Chaos to Calm On-Demand Episode!

* Do you want to dream big for yourself or your children?

* Do you want to fully embrace the plan God has for you and your family?

* Are you longing for an invitation filled with the necessary direction and inspiration?

Then this episode is for you! 

For the sixteenth episode of my faith and parenting TV series, Chaos to Calm, I had the privilege of sitting down with Kate Battistelli. Kate is a former Broadway star, popular parenting podcast host, and the author of two books. She is also the proud mom of Francesca Battistelli, a Dove and Grammy Award-winning Christian singer and actress.

I spoke with Kate about her newest book, The God Dare. A God Dare is choosing to be chosen by God for the great future that God has in store for YOU! Through personal story and Bible-based advice, Kate tells us how to step out, persist through heartbreak, and take the limits off of God!

I hope you will tune to this inspiring on-demand episode!

WATCH HERE

Monday, December 20, 2021

Last Minute Stocking Stuffers!

Every year, I eagerly anticipate a Christmas bundle of books from the Christian publisher Zonderkidz. Like the Christ star, these books help us find Jesus. In exchange for my honest review, I pass along the treasures I find through their pages.

I wanted a devotional to share with my preteen boys at the breakfast table. Rule: Devotions have to be fast and snappy to avoid eye rolls. Surprise! New York Times bestselling author Lee Strobel's The Case for Christ: Devotions for Kids looks promising. 

If you have a preteen daughter who likes to journal, I recommend Margaret Feinberg's God's Power in Me: 52 Declarations and Devotions for Kids. Each devotion is tied to a strength-building truth while engaging the reader's creativity in each lesson.

My two-year-old enjoys Caroline B. Cooney's I'm Going to Give You a Polar Bear Hug! Every animal in the books hugs a different way, which is fun to imagine and mimic. This fun-loving book is now available in a board book version and heading straight to my newborn nephew!

I'll keep The Berenstain Bears' Values and Virtues Treasury for our shelves. It's eight books in one and will be fun to flip through for character-building bedtime story options. Plus, it's fun to share characters from my childhood with my children. (You still got it, mama!)

Watch my Twitter feed for other shout outs, @NoelleKirchner! Merry Christmas!

TODAY Video Clip