Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Book I Bought for April: The Sparkle Egg

Throughout 2014 I'm buying a book a month as a show of support for authors and retailers. Partly this is because I am an author and hope people will buy my books. Seems only fair! But I'm also doing this because I desire to connect kids and families with the best of Christian books.

The book I bought for April is The Sparkle Egg, by Jill Hardie, illustrated by Christine Kornacki (Ideals, 2014).

Not an Easter book in the sense of telling the biblical story of Easter, The Sparkle Egg helps children understand the Easter message of forgiveness in a concrete way.

At the start of the book, Sam has failed a spelling test, and he’s worried about what his parents will say. He forgets about it after school while he’s coloring Easter eggs at home. But when Sam’s mom asks about the test, Sam lies and says he got a gold star. His parents discover the lie the next night at open house. They forgive him, and Sam asks God to forgive him too, but he still feels guilty.

On Good Friday, Sam decorates a plastic egg with glitter and jewels. Then his mom has him draw a picture of something he’s feeling ashamed or guilty about, and Sam draws a gold star. He folds up the paper and puts it inside the Sparkle Egg. His mom tells him, “When you wake up on Easter morning, there will be something special in your Sparkle Egg to honor Jesus.”

Sam is quite surprised on Easter morning when the Sparkle Egg is empty–empty like Jesus’ tomb on Easter morning! Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, sins can be forgiven and gone.
“Sam’s dad said, ‘Jesus loves us so much that He died on the cross for us. The greatest gift of Easter is the gift of forgiveness through Jesus Christ. God doesn’t want you to carry around guilt or feel ashamed–He wants you to feel His forgiveness in your heart.’ He said gently, ‘The best way we can honor Jesus’ gift of forgiveness is to fully accept it.’”
I like the modern yet realistic illustrations in this book and the fact that there is an actual story line to follow–the text is not simply a conversation between Sam and his parents. The final page includes instructions for making and using your own Sparkle Egg.

If you read the book with older children, you might want to talk about why Sam lied in the first place, as well as your expectations regarding your child’s success or difficulties with schoolwork.

Like Sam, may your child (and maybe even you!) receive a fuller understanding of forgiveness so you can shine a little brighter for Jesus this Easter!

Read about the books I bought for January, February, and March.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Memory Monday: L Is for "Love the Lord"

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and the first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself." --Matthew 22:37-39

All the Ten Commandments except the Sabbath command are repeated in the New Testament in one way or another. Christians are to love God with their whole being and love others as themselves—Jesus called these the two greatest commandments. The Mosaic Law still instructs us, as does all of the Old Testament (2 Tim. 3:16), but we obey the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2)—the law of love.

This passage from Matthew 22 is a little longer than some other ABC Scriptures, but together, called to mind, they can help us choose the right course of action in any circumstance.

The letter outline for the verses is
L t L y G w a y h a w a y s a w a y m (v. 37).
T i t g a f c (v. 38).
A a s i l i: Y s l y n a y (v. 39).

Looking for patterns within verses can help you memorize. Verse 37 says, "With all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." The repeated phrase forms a natural pattern. Can you think of a way to remember the order of heart, soul, and mind?

ABC Scriptures is a simple way to learn 26 verses in alphabetical order throughout the course of one year. Find all the posts by using the Memory Monday tag. If you are enjoying this memory project, please share these posts with a friend. Thanks! 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Catch Us If You CAN Spring Scavenger Hunt: Stop #23

WELCOME to the Catch Us If You CAN Spring Scavenger Hunt! STOP #23.

Enjoy meeting Christian Author Network (CAN) members as you chase down clues for the chance to win our grand prize: $200 in gift cards from CBD, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon, plus 30 free books, one from each participating CAN author! Second- and third-place prizes: $50 Amazon, B&N, or CBD gift certificate!

Here are the CAN Hunt’s official guidelines.
• Catch us on this hunt beginning at Noon on Friday, 03/21/14 and ending at Midnight on Thursday, 03/27/14. No need to hurry as you search for clues—you have almost an entire week! If you need help at any time during the hunt, check in here
• Enjoy 29 stops, each featuring a different CAN author!
• Gather the clues from each post, beginning at STOP #1 and ending at STOP #29. At STOP #30, follow the directions and fill out the Rafflecopter form. Be ready to provide the complete clue in sentence form, gathered from all 30 stops, within 2 days of e-mail notification or another winner will be randomly drawn. There is no need to e-mail or submit the clue unless you are notified by 03/29/14.

Sorry, due to international regulations and postage costs, prizes will be awarded to US residents only. Individual contests within the hunt may vary, so please read rules presented with each giveaway.
Cheri Cowell
My guest at this stop is author, speaker, and "sidewalk theologian" Cheri Cowell. Cheri's books include Direction: Discernment for the Decisions of Your Life, the Bible study Parables and Word Pictures from the New Testament, and her latest, Living the Story. A graduate of Asbury Theolgical Seminary, Cheri helps others apply biblical principles to everyday life. Besides writing books, Cheri has been published in many magazines and compilations, and in 2009 she was one of six journalists chosen for a 10-day press tour of the Holy Land.

Cheri, what's a sidewalk theologian?

I have a degree from Asbury Seminary, but I most enjoy the faith-talk that happens on the sidewalks of life. So ... I'm a sidewalk theologian.


Tell us about your latest book, Living the Story: Reaching Outside the Church Walls.

The book, both fiction and nonfiction, is about the cultural and relational differences that make traditional faith sharing ineffective with this current generation, and a solution as ancient as the Scriptures yet fresh as today's news. In Living the Story, you will meet eight people just like those all of us long to reach with the life-giving message of Christ. You will hear the Story retold as it relates directly to the needs of these eight and, likewise, to those in your life, and you'll meet six people who speak a new language—the language of story.

This isn't your first book. Tell us about your others.

My first book is titled Direction: Discernment for the Decisions of Your Life and relates how I followed all the popular "God's will ways" right into a messy situation. My Bible study is Parables and Word Pictures, a 13-week workbook-style study. You can check them all out on my website,

You visited the Holy Land in 2009. What was that experience like?

It sounds cliche to say it was life changing, but everyone who goes to the Holy Land has a personal encounter there with God. I've written about a few of those events at my blog. One of them happened at the Church of St. Peter's. When I walked outside the chapel on the Sea of Galilee I could almost smell fish frying … you'll have to read my blog for the whole story!
Cheri would love to friend you on Facebook at or follow on her on Twitter at
Thank you, Cheri (and readers and hunters)!

CAN hunter, write down this STOP #23 clue: work. Got it? Great!

But wait, there's more! In addition to the fabulous prizes for the winners of the hunt, you also could win a copy of the deluxe edition of my book The Sweetest Story Bible, with a copy of the book plus all the stories narrated by Roma Downey on two audio CDs! To enter my giveaway, just sign up for my newsletter using the box above my photo on this page OR "Like" my Facebook page, Diane Stortz Books.

And check out Cheri's giveaway! Make a comment and leave your e-mail AT THE NEXT STOP, and Cheri will enter your name into a drawing for an e-book of Living the Story.
Now, proceed to STOP #24,

Monday, March 17, 2014

Memory Monday: K Is for "King of the Ages"

"To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen." --1 Timothy 1:17

This is another wonderful way to remind yourself of who God is, when things are going well for you and especially when they are not. He is King. Your King. My King. And he's got this.

The letter outline for this verse is
T t K o t a, i, i, t o G, b h a g f a e. A. --1 Timothy 1:17

Writing out the verse and saying (or singing!) it aloud are good ways to repeat.

Recall the verse during a wait in line or at a stop light, or hit mute during commercials on TV.

Review the previous verses each week ... learning them in ABC order should help with this.

What memory technique or resource works well for you?

ABC Scriptures is a simple way to learn 26 verses in alphabetical order throughout the course of one year. Find all the posts by using the Memory Monday tag. If you are enjoying this memory project, please share these posts with a friend. Thanks! 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Book I Bought for March

I spotted this book in a TV ad for the Wounded Warriors Project. A little girl was reading it to her military dad, forever changed by the wounds he experienced in war.

In the book, a young boy explains why his dad is his superhero--even though he doesn't have rocket-propelled boots, X-ray vision, or a cloak that makes him invisible. Instead, this dad wears Army boots, night-vision goggles, and camouflage.

Author Melinda Hardin, working for a US Department of Defense Dependent School in Germany, saw that children can encounter struggles when a parent is in the military.

Her book aims to provide some understanding and comfort, especially to young children. (Although judging from online reviews, older readers find value in the book too.)

I love the simplicity of the text and art and how well they work together. Bryan Langdo's illustrations help children picture their dads' work and service and, even more, identifies their emotions while dad is deployed and when he comes home.

One spread shows dad and two other soldiers with their rifles, with the right-hand page close in on one of the guns. I'm not sure I like that emphasis, given the gun-craziness around us every day, but if that's a concern, the spread could be a good jumping-off place for family discussions.

Hero Dad doesn't directly address less concrete reasons military dads are heroes, such as courage, willingness to sacrifice, and patriotism, which older children can begin to appreciate. But for giving younger children a sense of what dad does when he's away and how happy he is to come home, it's a winner.

Now there's a companion book about moms too!