Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Easter Prayer and More!

Almighty God,
The reminder that you are Almighty is hope-filled this Easter.
So much has passed that’s beyond our control due to the pandemic.
Yet we as believers can rest in the firm and certain knowledge that you will work all things for our good.
Scripture promises us that you are the good Potter.

We ask you to take the broken pieces of our lives and form something good,
Something to startle and amaze us—
Like you startled the women at the tomb!
The women came to the tomb,
A place of decay and death, ready to meet you.
They went away instead with good news!

You had conquered the grave,
And you graft us into that moment, that promise, as your people today.
Transform us today through your power.
Forgive our sin,
Redeem the dead places in our lives,
And plant new seeds of life and hope.

May we live as an expectant people,
Bolstered by your grace.
Lord, where we are afraid, bring peace.
Where there is anger and division, bring humility and unity.
Where there is lack, bring your abundance.

We confess as your people:
Your spirit is alive and active—
Give us the eyes to see it and the willingness to be used by it!
Christ, when you were on Earth, you said,
“Blessed are those who believe, yet have not seen.”

While we are not face to face with you like the disciples of old
We affirm that you are working, even now, to redeem your creation.
We affirm as your people:
“Christ is risen! He is risen indeed.”
Could it be that we are uniquely poised to see you move in big ways
At such a time as this?

Release your Spirit and let it blow through our needy land.
Bind us together as one people in your service,
Use us as agents of your grace, and
Move mightily through your church.
For the world is hungry for what only You can provide.

Only You offer enduring peace.
Only You offer victorious hope.
Only You offer unconditional love.
And scripture promises that those you seek you will find you,
When they seek you with all their heart.
Hold our tender heart in Your strong hand.

Let us experience your Easter promise,
Face to face with your grace.
May your victory be our victory,
As we await the promise of all your glory,
Face to face in heaven. Amen.

This prayer was part of an Easter article I wrote for Crosswalk. To read 10 Easter Bible verses, the meaning behind the holiday, and an Easter challenge, click here. Stay tuned on my social media channels this week for cute Easter book pics I'm highlighting!

Empty tomb photo by Pisit Heng on Unsplash.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Make Easter Come Alive: Guest Post on a New Kidlit Treasure

I took a hiatus from the blog for my boys' spring break. We went to Philly for a hockey tournament...check out my Instagram for my son's clutch save as a goalie in a game! I was the mom screaming on the sidelines, though thankfully you can't hear me. ;-)

It's a delight to welcome my good friend Laura Sassi back onto the blog. Laura and I have worked together on numerous occasions—if you haven't seen her appearance on my show, tune in! Here is the scoop on her new book, a playful tale that brings the Parable of the Lost Sheep to life in an endearing way...right in time for Easter! (P.S. Stay tuned on my Instagram for a sweet pic of my little one, who MIGHT be dressing up at the book's main character soon!) Here is my interview with Laura:

What inspired you to write this story?

Little Ewe: The Story of One Lost Sheep is inspired by a combination of my love for the biblical parable found in Luke 15 and a desire to make it engaging for my own little lambs—my children—who, when they were young, loved nothing better than a day of outdoor exploration. Like Little Ewe in the story, they even sometimes became momentarily “lost”—though not really, because I was always just around the bend, keeping a loving eye on them—just like Little Ewe’s Shepherd. And on deeper level, I was inspired to write this creative retelling as a way of sharing with others—young and old—the joy and comfort of being found by God. I hope the book serves as a delightful reminder to all who feel lost that, God, our Shepherd, is waiting eagerly to find us wherever we may be. 

What makes this metaphor particularly powerful for you given what it teaches us about God?

The image of God as our loving Shepherd is infused throughout scripture. I remember as a child memorizing Psalm 23, probably the most famous God/Shepherd passage in the whole Bible. And even as a young child this beautiful metaphor grabbed me because it was so relatable. I’d seen sheep grazing, read stories with sheep, and seen adorable little stuffed toy sheep. I knew how vulnerable they were and how much they needed their shepherd. And I pretty quickly connected the dots in understanding that’s how my parents loved me too. And, then, WOW! My young eyes opened and I understood just how deep God’s love must be—much deeper even than the love of shepherd or parent—for God’s love is perfect! I hope that sense of wonder comes through in the pages of Little Ewe.

Is there a favorite tradition you have for celebrating Easter with your family? 

My kids are older now (20 and 16), but they still like to have an Easter egg hunt in our living room before church on Easter morning. When they were little, this took place at the crack of dawn. After all, who can sleep in when the Easter Bunny has paid a visit! I know in some family traditions, this event takes place outside, but it’s too cold here for that, especially at 6 am! The silver lining of this indoor event is that sometimes, months later, a jelly bean is discovered—and do we eat those? Hmmm… what do you think? ;) Of course!

What other books have you found that successfully point children to God?

Over the years, both as a mom and Sunday school teacher, I’ve kept my eyes peeled for books for children aged 3–8 that I think do a beautiful job of pointing kids to God. Here are six great choices that you may, or may not, have heard of: 

Picturing God, written and illustrated by Ruth Goring (Beaming Books, 2019). This beautifully crafted picture book explores the many metaphors for God found in the Bible, providing a wonderful spark for faith-filled conversation. 

Nothing Can Separate You From God’s Love, written by Natalee Creech and illustrated by Joseph Cowman (Worthy Kids, 2019). This richly-illustrated, gently rhyming picture book, inspired by Romans 8:38–39, offers readers a kid-friendly start to pondering just how amazing God’s love is. 

Does God Take Naps? written by Crystal Bowman and Teri McKinley and illustrated by Ailie Busby (Tyndale Kids, 2017). The book cleverly addresses the kinds of questions littlest ones might have about God. The questions, which include things like “Does God have pets?” and “How old is God?”, are answered by referencing the Bible and can provide a springboard for even more questions. 

God’s Protection Covers Me, written by Amy Houts and illustrated by David Creighton-Pester (Beaming Books, 2019). It explores the concept of God’s protection over us using similes with concrete examples. I’ve used it in Sunday school several times and even have a lesson plan for it on my blog.

I AM: 40 Reasons to Trust God, written by Diane Stortz and illustrated by Diane Le Feyer (Thomas Nelson, 2016). This storybook/devotional is great for K–3rd graders. Each illustrated “chapter” includes a story from the Bible that exemplifies one of God’s names plus thoughtful questions for discussion. 

Everything A Child Should Know about God by Kenneth N. Taylor and illustrated by Jenny Brake (10 Publishing, 2014). It is a wonderful primer on who God is and what faith in him is all about. Each spread features a kid-friendly illustration, a simple biblical truth, and a question to ponder together with your child. 

I know you'll want Laura's book, Little Ewe, which is ideal for little ones up to age 5 too...Here is a FREE activity kit to accompany it! I predict my little one's favorite will be the coloring pages! 

Here's more on Laura: 

Laura Sassi has a passion for telling stories in prose and rhyme. She is the author of five picture books including the best-selling Goodnight, Ark, which was a 2015 Christian Book Award Finalist; Goodnight, MangerDiva Delores and the Opera House Mouse, which won First Honor Book for the 2019 Best in Rhyme Award; Love Is Kind, which was a 2020 Anna Dewdney Read Together Award Honor Book; and Little Ewe: The Story of One Lost Sheep. Her next book, Bunny Finds Easter, will release in 2022. In addition to books, she’s published over one hundred poems, stories, crafts, and articles in various children’s publications. A graduate of Princeton University and UCLA, Sassi had a successful teaching career before becoming a children’s author. She’s been a homeschool mom, children’s ministry director, historic museum interpreter, and more. She writes daily from her home in New Jersey and finds special joy in sharing her love of reading and writing with the next generation at school visits and other book events.

Friday, March 5, 2021

From Sickness to Comfort in COVID

In my newest article, I share the story of my husband's diagnosis with COVID. The Healer met us in more ways than one. He met us through our gift. "Even as we grappled with the pandemic and our own storehouse felt empty, we gave in honor of Jesus. Doing so allowed us to open and share the gift of his grace."

Read the story HERE

This piece is my first one featured on Propel Sophia, Propel Women's publication. Have you heard of it? It's an honor to join the amazing women's voices of scriptural insight and encouragement there. I encourage you to check it out!

TODAY Video Clip