On the National Day of Prayer

I am blogging just once a month during 2018.

I don’t think there could be more perfect verses for the National Day of Prayer, and every day.

“Pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.” 2 Timothy 2:1-3

Praying with you,

– Diane

Help Little Ones Learn Bible Verses—5 Fun Ways

I’m blogging once a month in 2018. This post is an update from 2015.

My youngest grandboy, 18 months old, is learning to sing “The Wheels on the Bus.” He knows when to chime in with all the sound words—up and down, beep-beep-beep, swish-swish-swish, waah-waah-waah, and shh-shh-shh.

Children, even toddlers like my grandson, have an amazing capacity for learning and for memorizing! Shouldn’t we make sure, then, that God’s Word gets placed in those little hearts and minds too? Those words “hidden in their hearts” will lodge there for a lifetime.

Here are five ways to make memorizing Scripture effective and fun (at any age—you might want to try these out yourself). Repetition is key, but it doesn’t have to be boring!

1. Put the words to a beat and chant them together. Add claps, taps, and foot-stomping if you’d like. Not sure which verses to learn? Check an age-appropriate Bible storybook with verses correlated to each story.

2. Sing the words. Make up your own tunes, or try some of the excellent Scripture songs available from children’s artists. Try music from Yancy, Steve Green, the Seed Company, Twin Sisters, and Scripture Lullabies (great to play as children drift off to sleep).

My absolute favorite Scripture music for littles, though, has been the CD in the book My Sing-Along Bible by Steve Elkins. Verses through the Bible are set in short, singable songs in a variety of styles. No one gets bored, and God’s Word gets in!

3. Make reading and repeating the verses aloud together a family activity. (This is one strength of the Charlotte Mason Scripture memory system.)

4. Make verses visible. Post them around the house where children will see them often. Write a different verse each week on a chalkboard in the kitchen. Let children copy a verse themselves and choose where to post it.

5. Make verses tactile. My oldest grandson enjoyed verses I made magnetic for him to assemble and stick on the dishwasher, fridge, or a cookie sheet.

Just print out the words in large type on colored paper with extra spaces between each word. T hen back the verse with magnetic strips and cut the words apart. Printing different verses on different colors helps children sort and assemble the verses too.

   

 

– Diane

Children’s Books for Your Easter Baskets

I’m blogging just once a month in 2018, on the first Wednesday of each month.

Easter comes early this year, on April 1. To help you plan how you’ll fill a basket for your child or grandchild, here are three books that have caught my eye.

I haven’t seen them in person yet, so take that into account. But these are three I’ll be looking to check out soon!

That Grand Easter Day, by Jill Roman Lord (Worthy Kids/Ideals)

This is a cumulative picture book—that means it builds throughout the text to a grand finale with the kind of repetition children love (and learn from). It opens at Jesus’ tomb, with the stone rolled in front, and ends with His glorious resurrection. I think this one would be great fun to read through with a little one! Here’s how it begins:

This is the place where Jesus first lay
before he arose on that grand Easter day!

Ready, Set, Find Easter (Zonderkidz)

Part of a series from Zonderkidz, this board book about the Easter story features 48 different labeled objects for kids to find in the illustrations.

365 Trivia Twist Devotions (B&H Kids)

George Washington’s birthday? National Waffle Day? Ingenious inventions? Yes, and every daily devotion in 365 Trivia Twist Devotions based on the historical and the wacky will keep kids interested and reveal truths from God’s Word in a fun new way.

Will you add a book to an Easter basket this year? What will it be? One of these or another favorite of your own?

Leave a comment to let me know!

– Diane

World Read-Aloud Day 2018

Make plans now to be sure to read aloud to your child or grandchild tomorrow! February 1 is World Read-Aloud Day, a day to enjoy reading aloud with children and to develop awareness of literacy needs around the world.

Did you know, for example, that

o A child born to a mother who can read is 50% more likely to survive past the age of five than a child born to an illiterate woman. (UNESCO)

o According to the latest report (2016), 758 million adults – two thirds of them women – lack basic reading and writing skills. (UNESCO)

o Poorly literate individuals are less likely to participate in democratic processes and have fewer chances to fully exercise their civil rights. (UNESCO)

o Reading aloud to children every day puts them almost a year ahead of children who do not receive daily read-aloud time, regardless of parental income, education, or cultural background. (Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research)

One of my favorite stories of reading aloud is found in the Book of Nehemiah, in the Bible. The Jewish people had been exiled in Babylon for 70 years. They rebuilt the temple when they were allowed to return to their own land, but the walls of Jerusalem remained in ruins. Then Nehemiah came on the scene. He made a plan and organized the workers, and despite opposition and harassment from enemies of the Jews, the wall was completely reconstructed in just 52 days.

Then the people gathered inside the walls and asked Ezra the priest to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, “which the Lord had given for Israel to obey.”

“So on October 8 Ezra the priest brought the Book of the Law before the assembly, which included the men and women and all the children old enough to understand. He faced the square just inside the Water Gate from early morning until noon and read aloud to everyone who could understand. All the people listened closely to the Book of the Law. … When they saw him open the book, they all rose to their feet.

“Then Ezra praised the Lord, the great God, and all the people chanted, “Amen! Amen!” as they lifted their hands. Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.

“The Levites … then instructed the people in the Law while everyone remained in their places. They read from the Book of the Law of God and clearly explained the meaning of what was being read, helping the people understand each passage. …

With understanding came weeping. But Nehemiah and Ezra and the Levites comforted the people and encouraged them to be joyful instead.

“So the people went away to eat and drink at a festive meal, to share gifts of food, and to celebrate with great joy because they had heard God’s words and understood them.” (Nehemiah 8)

Reading aloud to children benefits them in so many ways, as I often share about on my Facebook page DianeStortzBooks. Teaching them to love books and reading is one of those, and that just might be part of the key that unlocks a lifelong love of reading and understanding God’s Word.

So find a child, find a book, and get ready to read aloud. Tomorrow is World Read-Aloud Day!

World Read-Aloud Day is a project of LitWorld, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded by literacy expert Pam Allyn in 2007. LitWorld works with a broad coalition of national and international partners to ensure that young people worldwide can experience the joy and transformation of reading, writing, and storytelling.

– Diane

Into All the World …

I had no idea this was going to happen, or even that it could. (Oh me of little faith!)

I have a publishing background. I’ve been to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in Italy and other stateside book shows where foreign rights to English-language books are bought and sold.

My publishing contracts have clauses about foreign-language editions.

But I still didn’t see it … the reach my books could have.

So far I have books in Afrikaans, South African English, Spanish, Korean, and Arabic. There are more to come—Finnish, Swedish, Slovak, and Portuguese!

“Send Anyone Else”

I’m prepping this month to start on a new project. It feels overwhelming. I feel a little like Moses when God called him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. “Moses again pleaded, ‘Lord, please! Send anyone else’ ” (Exodus 4:13 NIV).

But then I glance over at the shelf where my foreign editions are lined up.

I feel like they are sort of smiling at me. “Moses didn’t lead the Israelites out alone,” they say. “You’re not sitting there alone at your desk either.”

Oh right.

God can, and does, do so much more than we ever ask or imagine!

What About You?

Now, you might not be writing books, but I know you’ve got challenges.

Here’s the thing. No matter what the voices in your head say, you do have abilities. You can face the situation, take action, make progress.

And no, you’re not as talented or as educated or as energetic or as connected or as able as somebody else. But that’s OK. (Just remember Moses!)

And whatever it is you need to do, maybe you can’t do it all by yourself, but you don’t have to.

Because God hasn’t left you all by yourself.

And the results? Well, they’re just likely to be waaayyyy bigger and better than anything you have ever imagined!

    

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think (Ephesians 3:20 NLT).

– Diane

Just the Facts—A Bible Story Quiz

While I was deep in finishing up a new preschool devotional last week, my editor and I were also going over the final proofs of a Bible storybook for toddlers (coming out in June).

On the third time through the proofs, she discovered a simple factual error that we had all missed previously, a question of who made a particular statement.

Ack! Writers and editors alike hate it when that happens. But at least we caught and fixed the error before the book went to the printer.

I had to look back through other books I’ve written, of course. The story is in two other books. Right in one, wrong in the other.

Hurray for reprints!

This episode got me thinking about the importance of handling biblical details carefully. I have always believed this matters. Why teach children—or adults, for that matter—something they’ll need to unlearn later? And didn’t God preserve the details he thinks are important for a reason? Why would I want to change or ignore them?

The challenge for me as a children’s writer is to be true to the details of Bible events while still communicating to children the real message of the event. It’s not always easy to do.

Sometimes details must be left out.

If you’re two or three or even five, the point of the story of Noah’s ark is that God kept the people and animals safe and dry in the ark, not that everyone else outside the ark perished.

Sometimes details can be included but not in a too-specific way for children.

I can say that Joseph was thrown in prison after getting in trouble for something he didn’t do, for example, not because Potiphar’s wife accused him of attempted rape. And it doesn’t matter how many pairs of clean and unclean animals went into the ark—“pairs of every kind” will do just fine.

Sometimes details must be combined.

The Bible has more than one account of some events, sometimes with slightly different details in each. (Which makes sense, because eyewitnesses never all see things the same way, and writers of all kinds include and leave out details according to their purpose for writing.)

Check Your Bible Story Facts

We’ve often heard a Bible story told a certain way so many times that we believe all the details are true even when they’re not. For me as a writer, at least, it pays to check. But if you’d like to test your knowledge too, here’s a little 12-point quiz.

1. Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating an apple from the tree of life. True or false?

2. Noah closed the door of the ark when everyone and all the animals were inside. True or false?

3. David fought Goliath when he was still a young boy. True or false?

4. God sent a whale to swallow Jonah. True or false?

5. Mary rode a donkey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. True or false?

6. Angels in the sky sang praises on the night Jesus was born. True or false?

7. The wise men followed the new star to Jerusalem. True or false?

8. The star led the wise men as they journeyed from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. True or false?

9. The wise men found Jesus in the Bethlehem stable soon after his birth. True or false?

10. A boy brought his lunch to Jesus for the feeding of the five thousand. True or false?

11. How many angels did the women at Jesus’ tomb encounter—1 or 2?

12. When some of the disciples had fished all night without catching anything, who recognized the man standing on the shore calling to them, Peter or John?

Let me know how you do. But I’m not going to give you the answers. Instead, I’ll encourage you to do some fact checking on your own. Enjoy!

– Diane

10 Reasons We NEED the Bible

This week I’m immersed in revising and editing my manuscript for a new devotional for preschoolers. I’m also doing preparation work for writing a through-the-Bible devotional for women! (More about both of these projects later!)

I found this list that I posted a number of years ago, and decided to share it again.

So why DO we need the Bible?

1. We need, for starters, to read it (or hear it). All of it. It is a whole.

2. We need to know what it says so we can talk about it with our families (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).

3. We need to know what God has done throughout the history of his people so we can tell the generations to come about his power and wonders (Psalm 78:4-7).

4. We need to hide his word in our hearts to give us strength when we’re tempted (Psalm 119:11).

5. We need to let the word of Christ dwell in us so we can teach one another with his wisdom (Colossians 3:16).

6. We need to let God’s word renew our minds so we can be transformed (Romans 12:2).

7. We need to understand the training and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4) so we can raise our children in ways that please him.

8. We need to keep the sword of the Spirit sharp so we can wield it when Satan attacks (Ephesians 6:17).

9. We need God’s Word to mature us and get us ready for the good he’s prepared for us to do in the world (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

So that’s 9 reasons. I have more. But I’d like your help to make this a “10 Reasons” post. What
would your 10th reason be? Let me know in a comment!

– Diane

Recommended: Fire Road

Fire Road: A Memoir of Hope, by Kim Phuc Phan Thi (Tyndale House Publishers, 2017)

The cover sold me; I knew I had to read this book. I had just finished watching all episodes of Ken Burns’ PBS documentary of the Vietnam War.

And I remembered seeing the photo on the cover years ago.

June 8, 1972. Kim Phuc Phan Thi was nine. Napalm hit her village, burning off her clothes and much of her skin.

She was left for dead in a hospital morgue, where her mother found her days later.

This girl had survived? Become a Christian? Written her story? A story of hope?

Yes.

Despite constant pain because of her burns …
despite being used as propaganda by the government after the war …
despite being denied the opportunity to pursue an education …
despite being rejected by everyone in her family for leaving the CaoDai religion …
despite living as a refugee before becoming a Canadian citizen …

today Kim speaks around the world about forgiveness and finding peace.

And she glows.

I loved this book. I loved learning about Kim’s faith, her reliance on Scripture, her prayers for her family in Vietnam and the amazing answers to those prayers.

I graduated from college right around June 8, 1972, the day the napalm hit Kim’s village. I was clueless about the war. But now at least I am not clueless about this remarkable woman who survived it.

Kim Phuc talks about her journey to freedom, and how she came …

She sustained 5,000-degree burns from a napalm bomb.She was sent to the morgue. But, this was only the beginning of her heroic story.In this video, Kim Phuc, the Napalm Girl, talks about her journey to freedom, and how she came to faith. Learn more about Kim's amazing story in her book Fire Road – http://fireroadbook.com/

Posted by Tyndale House Publishers on Wednesday, November 8, 2017

– Diane

Merry Christmas, All Year Long

Something about the days right after Christmas puzzles me. Have you noticed it too?

Photo, Morguefile

Christmas trees and outdoor lights don’t seem to shine as bright as they did during Advent and on Christmas Day.

It’s only my perception that’s changed, of course. I think Christmas is over.

But I’m wrong.

If Jesus is Immanuel, God With Us, well then … He’s still here. He’s been here all along.

Right here with you. Right here with me.

Oh, how I want to remember this truth every hour of every day! (And how easily I can forget.)

A wise woman of the Word I know shared a prayer with the class she teaches, and I want to share it with you.

As 2017 slips away, make it your own, and let it guide you as the holidays end and the Christmas lights actually do go dark.

Because the true Light of the world never will. He’s Immanuel, and He is with us.

So Merry Christmas, all year long!

Father God, not only at Christmas but as I live out my life:

Just like the baby Jesus, may I
_________________________________________________ .

Just like the growing boy Jesus, may I
_________________________________________________ .

Just like your grown Son, may I
_________________________________________________ .

Just like your crucified Son, may I
_________________________________________________ .

Just like your risen Son, may I

_________________________________________________ .

Amen.

If you’d like to share the way you personalize this prayer with me and other readers, let us know in a comment.

– Diane

You Can Do This! Tips and Encouragement for Reading the Bible in a Year

This is the final post in a 3-part series. Find part 1 and part 2 at these links.

Are you thinking about reading through the Bible in 2018? I know you can do it! Let me offer some tips and encouragement to stay with it that I’ve picked up in my years of reading through.

This Isn’t Speed Reading

First, you might hear the criticism that reading through the Bible is just speed reading to check off a box every day, to be able to say you read your Bible. That’s not the kind of reading through the Bible I’m talking about.

On the best of days, you’ll know God spoke to you in what you read. Some days—in the genealogies or the laws in Leviticus or the historical records in the book of Numbers, for example—you might think you are just checking off a box that day. On the other hand, you could be really surprised by what you learn on those days too!

New Habits Take Time

Life can be hectic and unpredictable. There may be days you are just reading to say you did. But here’s the thing—you did do it. You set that time aside to spend with God in his Word. You did it today, and yesterday, and the day before that. You’re forming a habit that can change your life.

One woman in our group always spent her mornings before work with the newspaper and TV news. Eventually, the TV stayed off and the paper lay unopened. Jan found that she only wanted to spend her mornings with God and His Word.

Any new habit takes time and repetition to form. You will miss days. I still do. So then what? Don’t worry about trying to catch up. You can if you want to, but don’t worry if you can’t. Just dive back in at the first opportunity. Don’t beat yourself up. Just keep going.

Keep Reading

And that’s another tip. Keep reading. Even if what you’re reading seems confusing or raises lots of questions. Keep reading and discussing, and clarity will come, especially if you are willing to read through more than one time. The whole story of the Bible becomes more clear with every reading.

What’s also great about reading through more than once is that you see different things each time, depending on what’s going on in your life at that time.

My first year, I badly needed connection, and what jumped out at me were all the promises about God being with us and for us. Another year when I was doing some counseling, all through my reading I saw that God’s ways for us to live are the ways that make life work well—and also that God is the poster child for having good boundaries!

What’s Your Time to Read?

My next tip is that when you read is up to you. Any time is the right time.

I think it does help to choose a time and a place to read and stick to that plan as much as you can. I’ve been successful doing that at times.

But I also tend to be somewhat unorganized—or as I like to say, more flexible—so I often read at different times from day to day. You can decide which approach is best for you.

You might be someone for whom reading anything is not a favorite activity. So maybe you listen instead. Maybe you use a Bible app on your phone and listen as you drive to work, or cook dinner, or go on a run. Or listen and follow along in your Bible or on your phone while you eat lunch or before you fall asleep at night.

What About Those Study Notes?

Another tip is to try to skip the study notes in your Bible, at least in the beginning. If you’re using a study Bible, half of most pages is commentary written by Bible scholars, or it could be application written by a popular Bible teacher. These can be a great help to understanding, and a little historical context is good too. But the whole point of reading through is to read the Bible, not what someone else says about it. So especially if your reading time is limited, and in the beginning, try not to read the study notes.

Choose Your Translation

It’s also important to choose a Bible version you enjoy. Some have a literary feel. Others sound more contemporary. It’s up to you. And it’s good to have several versions in use within a group. When you read the same verse aloud in a variety of translations, each one adds something to your understanding. You might also want to change the version you read from time to time.

For Busy Moms

Last tip. If you’re a busy mom or caretaker of little ones, you might feel like you don’t have any time to devote to reading Scripture. When do you have even 15 minutes alone? One idea is to do your reading aloud as your children play nearby. I promise you that they will soak up much of what they hear, and just seeing mom reading her Bible every day will make an impact.

Be Encouraged, You Can Do This!

I want to leave you with this: God wants you to succeed at reading His Word, and you will. How do I know?

God’s Word always achieves His purposes. The prophet Isaiah tells us that God says:

The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry. It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it (55:10-11).

And did you know that small beginnings please God? When there was trouble during the rebuilding of the temple after the Jewish exiles returned from Babylon, God gave the prophet Zechariah a message about Zerubbabel, the man who was leading the rebuilding effort.

The message said, in part,

Zerubbabel is the one who laid the foundation of this Temple, and he will complete it. … Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin (Zechariah 45:8-10).

At this time of year, with all the extra holiday activities on top of whatever concerns or issues you’re dealing with, it can be hard to feel strong and able. I don’t know what’s going on with you as you’re reading this. But the prophet Isaiah said this about Jesus:

A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench (42:3).

Maybe you’ve been feeling like a bruised reed or a faintly burning wick and you’re just not sure about reading through the Bible, or maybe you’re bursting with excitement and resolve. Either way, take a step or two toward trying it, and know that your heavenly Father is rejoicing to see the work begin.

Your Turn

Need some friends to do the read-through with? Join my new Facebook group, Women Reading through the Bible. I’ll be posting the weekly reading plan from A Woman’s Guide to Reading the Bible in a Year on that group page every Monday morning beginning January 1. The group is also a place where you can comment or ask questions about each week’s readings.

– Diane

Freebie

You CAN Read the Bible in a Year … Here’s How!