Pray Often

Whoa . . . it’s been so long since I’ve posted on this blog, I discovered that WordPress has changed things up a bit.  Since I’m not savvy about technology, we’ll see whether this actually makes it into cyberspace.

This past week, one of my friends ordered a dozen Simply Refreshing books.

Image

Because I’m busy with other things these days, I’d almost forgotten about this book I’d written a few years back.  Simply Refreshing is a little book in a line of One-Minute-Devotional books – published by Christian Art in South Africa.  I pulled a copy of the book off my shelf, read through a few devotionals, and thought, Why not post a few of these on my blog?  

I’ll begin with one on prayer.

Pray Often

“God knows how often I pray for you.  Day and night I bring you and your needs in prayer to God, whom I serve with all my heart by spreading the Good News about His Son.  Romans 1:9 (NLT)

How often do you eat?  How often do you collect your mail?  Things we do often are things we do frequently, regularly, again and again.  We tend to make time for things that are important to us – like eating and hobbies.

Prayer is more than important – it’s our lifeline.  Paul, a New Testament apostle, prayed day and night.  Daniel, an Old Testament prophet, prayed three times a day.  Prayer was their source of wisdom, guidance, and strength – things that each of us need daily.

Prayer doesn’t cost money, we don’t need to make an appointment, and there are no limits to how much we can pray.  We can start early and pray often.

God, To know that someone cares about us enough to pray for us touches us deeply.  May we show the same care for others.  Amen.”

Thought: This week, I’ll choose one person/family to pray for, write their name/s somewhere where I’ll see it often, and pray for her/him/them several times each day.   

Blessings,

Ellen

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John Stott’s U.S. Memorial Service – my reflections

“Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties.  After all, everyone dies – so the living should take this to heart.”  Ecclesiastes 7:2, NLT

One of the most meaningful things I did this past week was attend the U.S. Memorial Service for John Stott, former Rector of All Souls Church in London.  He was a true ambassador of Christ.  Four things in the service stood out to me.

1.  During the prelude, I paged through the bulletin, which was appropriately lengthy .  A lot of people had been asked to take part in this service – Sara Groves, Michael Card, Timothy Keller to name a few . . . The most impressive thing in the bulletin, to me, was printed on the back cover.

John Stott’s Daily Prayer:

Heavenly Father, I pray that I may live this day in your presence

and please you more and more.

Lord Jesus, I pray that this day I may take up my cross and follow you.

Holy Spirit, I pray that this day you will fill me with yourself and  cause

your fruit to ripen in my life:

Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness,

Gentleness, and Self-Control.

Holy, blessed and glorious trinity, three persons in one God,

have mercy upon me.

Almighty God,

Creator and Sustainer of the universe,

I worship you.

Lord Jesus Christ,

Savior and Lord of the World,

I worship you.

Holy Spirit,

Sanctifier of the people of God,

I worship you.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,

As it was in the beginning, is now, and shall be forever, Amen.

2.  Part of this hero of the faith’s remembrance in the bulletin read: “John Stott loved Scripture, and for over 50 years he read the whole Bible through annually.  It became a pattern to rise at 5:00 am daily to read and pray.”

[Personal reflection here.  Do any of you remember that old television commercial where a few young boys, watching Michael Jordan –  famous Chicago Bulls basketball pro – shooting baskets, said: “I want to be like Mike!”?]           

Well, I want to be like John.

3.  During the memorial service, someone shared one of John’s Stott’s [mischievous] quips:

The English love the Gospel because it gives them something to talk about

The Welsh love the Gospel because it gives them something to sing about.

The Irish love the Gospel because it gives them something to fight about.

The Scottish love the Gospel because . . . it’s free.

4.  One of the last things in the program was a brief and thoughtful message by Tim Keller.  He spoke about the example of John Stott, referencing Hebrews 13:7: “Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God.  Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith.” 

Tim Keller encouraged us to be:

A.  Convicted by John’s Kingdom vision.

B.  Cautioned by John’s cultural learning curve.  As John traveled, taught, and invested eternally around the world, he was a man who listened, not a man who was myopic.

C.  Chastened by his leadership controversies.  Tim mentioned that although John was a humble man, not everyone agreed with him, and John – like anyone else who stands up for what they believe – sometimes became involved in controversies of one sort or another.  Tim emphasized that even in a controversy, John was always gracious, diplomatic, and irenic.  [That word irenic was new to me.  I came home and looked it up in the dictionary.  It means peace-loving and conciliatory.]

D.  Instructed by John’s great innovations:

– John reinvented expository preaching.  [I remember going to Urbana, 1970 and hearing John Stott preach on John Chapter 13 from the Bible.  Powerful.]

– John was willing to create and organize institutions.

– John forced evangelicals to deal with social injustices.

– John created evangelicalism – seemingly halfway in between fundamentalism and liberalism – being orthodox in doctrine, abreast of scholarship, and accessible to all.

5.  Empowered by the knowledge of his present glory.  [I’m reminded of Hebrews 12:1-2 – Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.  And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.  We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.  Because of the joy awaiting him he endured the cross, disregarding its shame.  Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.”]  Based on what the Bible teaches about heaven, I’m sure that John is worshiping Christ around that throne.

I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to attend the memorial service for John Stott – a hero of the Christian faith to many.  In the days to come, I’ll be pondering the things I heard . . .

Blessings,

Ellen

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Faith in Christ: How do we begin? How do we continue?

Faith in Christ – How do we begin?

This morning, I read:

” . . . it might appear that there is nothing you need to do, or can do, to make salvation a reality for you.  And that is true.  Jesus has done it all.  Nothing you do can improve his work.  Nothing you do adds to God’s acceptance of Jesus’ sacrifice.  So how do the benefits of Jesus’ sacrifice become yours?  You accept the gift of salvation by faith, trusting entirely in Jesus for salvation.  You can do that now through a simple prayer: “Dear God, I trust in Jesus alone.  Please forgive my sins through him, and give me the eternal life secured by him.  Amen.”” 

[from the Life Application Study Bible, Hebrews 7:28]

I read those words from the Life Application Study Bible this morning – after I read from Hebrews 7 in my One-Year-Bible, New Living Translation.  Anyone who knows me well knows that I love using the One-Year-Bible.   Each morning, it’s the first thing I read – it’s part of what gets me out of bed early.  My One-Year-Bible has an attractive green and brown cover.  It’s an actual hard-copy Book (also available on eBook) that takes the whole Bible and breaks it up into daily readings.  No hemming and hawing, wondering where will I read today?  All I have to do is open to the particular day of the year – today it was November 6 – and read what’s there.  (Each day there’s a passage from the Old Testament, one from the New Testament, one from Psalms, and a verse or two from Proverbs.)

Right next to my One-Year-Bible sits a well-worn copy of the Life Application Study Bible, which happens to be the World’s best-selling Study Bible.  I love using it, too, because after I read in my One-Year-Bible, I like going the next step and asking – What does this mean for me?  What does this mean for my life today?  How does it help me put my life in perspective – in terms of what’s happened in the past, what’s happening now, and what will happen in the future?  Reading in the LASB helps me deal with those questions, and helps explain the verses I’ve just read (for example, Hebrews 7 included verses about how Jesus lives forever, is able to save those who come to God through Him, and intercedes with God on their behalf).  The LASB also helps me think about how those concepts make a difference in my life.

Faith in Christ – How do we continue?

“How can you draw near to God?  The Bible makes it clear that your own body is God’s temple.  Your spirit needs and wants closeness with God.  You want to know the living God personally, not as an idea or concept, not as a distant monarch.  You can draw near to God through prayer, worship, and Bible meditation.  You need not live like a monk, but you probably need more prayer in your life.  The habit of worship has become a convenience to be wedged between sports and other recreations.  Instead, make worship your top priority.  Bible meditation may include verse memory, songs, and quiet personal reading.  The Bible is the word of God for you.  Use it every day and you will draw nearer and nearer to God.” 

[from the Life Application Study Bible, Hebrews 7:19]

Once again, the Life Application Study Bible took some of the verses I’d just read in my One-Year-Bible and helped me to think about them in a personal way.

The initial faith in Christ that I began with, many years ago, is the same faith in Christ I need to continue with today.  I began my relationship with God based on faith in what Jesus had already accomplished – His sacrifice on the cross for me, forgiveness of my sin, and the hope of eternal life with Him.

Today, I continue growing in my relationship with God the same way.  It’s still based on what Jesus accomplished on the cross and what He continues to do today.  Today, seated up in Heaven next to God, Jesus intercedes with God on my behalf.   To think that He does that on my behalf is amazing.  Being reminded of what He has done for me and is presently doing encourages me to continue to live by faith in Him.

Blessings,

Ellen

 

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It’s been so long since I’ve written in my blog that I couldn’t remember my password.  After (finally) recalling where I had written it down, I felt motivated to blog again.  The happy feeling of looking at photos from the business trip Jim and I recently took to Ukraine, England, and Germany was yet another motivation.  It’s fun to share our warm and wonderful memories through photos.  And, of course, when we use photos, we don’t need to use so many words.

There were a couple of things I liked about the subway trains in Kiev.

(1) In spite of the fact that they’re old, they’re cool.

(2) You can ride the subway for $.04!  Yep, that’s right – 4 cents.

One of the beautiful Cathedrals in Kiev.  We are pretty sure the gold on top is for real . . .

Even though most of the letters in the Cyrillic alphabet looked somewhat familiar, the language was still ‘Greek’ to us.

The publishing conference we worked/spoke at was held about 45 minutes outside of Kiev, in Irpin.  We walked down the street to the local grocery store to buy bottled water, paper products, and chocolate.  In spite of the fact that the grocery store was so small, they asked us (through sign language) to pay one lady for the water, a different lady for the paper, and yet another lady for the chocolate.   On the way out . . .

this lady would have been happy to sell us some of the Vodka that Ukraine is famous for . . . if we’d wanted it.

On the way back from the grocery store, this was a typical house along the way . . .

as well as a typical car.

.

This is Jim and I with our interpreter, Nadiyka, a very bright young woman who is presently translating George W. Bush’s book, Decision Points, from English into Ukranian.

After Ukraine, we flew to Frankfurt, Germany, for the Frankfurt Book Fair.  Here at the Tyndale booth, Jim, myself, and two of our colleagues spent some very busy days meeting with delightful customers and publishing partners from around the world.

The day after Frankfurt Book Fair (Saturday), Jim and I drove up the Rhein towards Dusseldorf, where we had meetings the next week.  We stopped for several hours in Rudesheim, a lovely little city with lots of vineyards – and delightful cafes.

Rudesheim was so charming that we didn’t want to leave, but we needed to get up to Dusseldorf by Saturday evening.  Sundays in Germany everything closes down, which was good as we needed a day of rest.  On Sunday, we listened to a sermon from our Pastor, Josh Moody, via the internet, spent time reading, and took a long walk along the River.

Sunday evening, we went into Dusseldorf to have dinner.  After dinner, we stood on a bridge over the canal . . .

and captured this photo with my trusty little Coolpix camera.

All day Monday, we met with one of our German publishing partners, Hans-Werner from Haenssler in Witten, where they have now published more than 15,000 copies of Tyndale’s Life Application Study Bible in German.

Driving out of the town of Witten, Germany, this was a rather unusual-looking house we saw along the way.  Whoever lives inside must be very artistic.

There you have it, friends – not a lot of words, but an update on a few of the things we’ve been up to lately.

Blessings,

Ellen

 

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Psalm 23 . . . All that I Need

I was reading the 23rd Psalm this morning in my One-Year-Bible.

It’s so familiar.

It’s so refreshing.

I thought of other times I’ve read it.  I thought of how I memorized it as a child.  I thought of how encouraging it was to one of my friends, Marty Daily, in the months before she died – 14 years ago today. 

Why is Psalm 23 selected so often to be read at funerals and printed on memorial programs, I wondered.

Maybe because it speaks both to life and to death.   It assures us that with God as our Shepherd, we have all we need for both.  That’s mighty encouraging for family and friends of loved ones who have passed away –  not only in processing the death of people who’ve gone before, but also as we give thought to our own mortality.

“Death casts a frightening shadow over us because we are entirely helpless in its presence.  We can struggle with other enemies – pain, suffering, disease, injury – but strength and courage cannot overcome death.  It has the final word.  Only one person can walk with us through death’s dark valley and bring us safely to the other side – the God of life, our shepherd.  Because life is uncertain, we should follow this shepherd who offers us eternal comfort.”  (Life Application Study Bible, Psalm 23:4)

While reading Psalm 23 this morning, I listed some of the things our kind Shepherd does for us throughout our lives:


~ He leads us

~ He renews our strength

~ He guides us

~ He is close beside us

~ He protects and comforts us

~ His goodness and unfailing love pursue us all the days of our lives (I remember Dr. Daniel Block saying that he imagines two hound dogs here – (1) goodness, and (2) unfailing love – running after us and nipping at our heels for all of our lives.  I love that picture.)

~He assures us that we can live in His house forever

I’m regularly impressed with how perfectly the whole Bible fits together, and I was impressed all over again this morning.  I’ll explain.

Earlier this week, as I read through the end of the book of Genesis, I came across some tender words that grip me every time I read them.  They’re found in Genesis 48:15.  It’s the scene where Jacob knows that he has come to the end of his life, and he offers blessings to his family members as they gather around him.  Not long before he draws his feet into bed, breaths his last, and joins his ancestors in death, he says, “May the God before whom my grandfather Abraham and my father, Isaac, walked – the God who has been my shepherd all my life, to this very day, the Angel who has redeemed me from all harm – may he bless these boys . . . “

Hmmmm . . . there was that Shepherd providing again.

As if that wasn’t beautiful enough, the Psalm for that same day (January 25 in the One-Year-Bible) was Psalm 20, which included a verse about Jacob’s God:

“In times of trouble, may the LORD answer your cry.  May the name of the God of Jacob keep you safe from all harm. May he send you help from his sanctuary and strengthen you from Jerusalem.”  Psalm 20:1-2, New Living Translation

Cool, huh?

I like the verses above for several reasons:

~ They’re encouraging

~ They speak to real life – and the reality of death

~ They were spoken by imperfect heroes of faith (David, Jacob) who understood (eventually) how needy they were.  In their neediness, they exercised faith and looked to God.  And God helped them.

~ They leave me with a helpful pattern to follow

The Lord is my Shepherd; I have all that I need.

Are there times that the 23rd Psalm has been especially meaningful to you?

Blessings,

Ellen

Life Application Study Bible, copyright 2004.  Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.  Carol Stream, IL 60188.  All rights reserved.

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Way behind on my blog . . .

Yep, definitely behind.

In my last blog, I said I’d be making a post on a recent trip to Europe and the UK.  One advantage of having waited so long is that I now have two trips to Europe and the UK that I can tell you about.  One was in the fall, and one was a few weeks ago.  The first trip was for work, and the second was to visit family.

 

Working at Frankfurt Book Fair (Oct 2010)

Riding the UBahn in Vienna with family (12/2010)

People sometimes ask if I keep a diary of my trips hither and yon.  No, I don’t, but I do take a lot of photos.  The photos help remind me of where I’ve been, who I’ve spent time with, and things about the trip that I don’t want to forget.  I’ve never regretted taking a photo, but there are a few times I’ve regretted not taking a photo . . .

Like the time – about ten years ago – when Jim and I were in London and wanted to get a shot of us in front of a group of UK telephone booths.  We were close to the financial district that particular day.  As a middle-aged gentleman came walking down the street, I held up my camera and asked him if he’d please take a photo of us standing in front of a group of phone booths.  He seemed happy to help.  After he snapped the photo, he said, “So you like these red phone booths, do you?”  He proceeded to tell us that his great-great grandfather, Giles Gilbert Scott, was the architect who designed the red phone booths.  Out of all the people in London we might have asked to take that photo, it was one of Giles Gilbert Scott’s relatives!  Ten minutes later, when we were riding the tube to our next appointment and I was pondering what had just happened, I had one of those “DUH!” moments.  Why hadn’t I taken a photo of Giles Gilbert Scott’s great-great grandson in front of those phone boothsAnd why hadn’t I captured his first name? I’m still kicking myself for that missed opportunity.

One of our many UK phone booth photos

Our October trip to the UK and Europe was a business trip.  We began in London, making visits to the headquarters of several Book Store Chains in the UK, one of which was Waterstone’s.  We always enjoy wandering through Waterstone’s Bookstores, and we’re grateful to be making progress in getting more NLT (New Living Translation) Bibles onto some of their shelves.

One of the Waterstone's Bookstores we visited

 

small Bible section at a big Waterstone's

After our meetings in London, we headed up to Carlisle (almost to the Scotland border) to visit publishing friends at one of Tyndale’s largest accounts – STL.  On our four-hour-or-so drive headed north, we saw the English Countryside,

English countryside

and we got our first glimpse of the Lake District, where we stopped for dinner.  We had – you guessed it – Fish n’ Chips.

Lake District at sunset

After a full schedule of meetings and presentations at STL (Carlisle) the next day, our publishing friends took us out to a wonderful Thai Restaurant.

Dinner with STL friends

After finishing our business in the UK, we flew over to Frankfurt, where we had over 60 appointments in 3 days at the Frankfurt Book Fair.  It’s always a marathon, and it’s a marathon we love.  What a privilege – to meet with publishing friends from all over the world.

Frankfurt, Germany

After working three days at the Frankfurt Book Fair and going strong from 5 in the morning till 10 at night, it was fun to be quiet and drive north up the Rhine on the way to our next appointment in Witten, near Dusseldorf.  At just about every bend in the river, we seemed to spot another castle, vineyard, or interesting structure.

driving up the Rhine

We stopped at a vineyard along the way and bought a bag of what I thought were huge grapes . . . only to find out that I had purchased small plums.  Mmmmm-mmmmm.  So sweet and juicy.  It was a pleasant surprise.

plums that I thought were grapes

We were in Dusseldorf for only a day and a half, and wish we could have stayed longer.  It’s a beautiful city along the river.

the river in Dusseldorf

We spent Sunday afternoon walking around the old part of the city.

Dusseldorf

Dusseldorf, Old City

Monday, we enjoyed our meetings with Hans-Werner Durau from SCM, our partner in publishing the NLT Bible in German (known as the NLB there).  They first published it a few years ago, and have already sold almost half a million copies.

with Hans-Werner Durau after our meetings

Just before we left Dusseldorf to fly home, it seemed appropriate to capture a photo of this sign:

Oh my . . . this is getting to be a very long post.  Now that I’m into it, I’ll just keep going.  Are you ready for the next trip?

Our second trip to Europe was to see family – yeah!  Our oldest son, Chad, teaches in Vienna, and back in 2009, he asked us if we would travel there for Christmas in 2010.  Although it didn’t work out for us to actually be there over Christmas, we used our frequent flier miles and found flights from Dec 28 until a few days after New Years Day.   We were also able to use FF miles to get Jordan over to Vienna from South Korea, where he teaches.  Given all the snowstorms that were halting air traffic in Europe around Christmas time, it was a miracle that all of our flights flew at exactly the times they were supposed to, for which we were incredibly grateful.  We were sad that Nate and Brit and Jensen couldn’t be with us – they are expecting baby #2 any day, and couldn’t travel.  We visited them a couple of weeks ago, and look forward to seeing them again soon when little Bella is born.

We spent our first day and a half in Vienna with Chad, as Jordan’s flight hadn’t yet arrived.  We began making visits to some of the famous Vienna cafes – we aimed to do one a day.

Coffee and pastries at a Vienna cafe

Just to clarify, the Santa Claus in the photo was a leftover decoration from Christmas – no person inside those red pants.

That first day in Vienna, we visited the National Library, which has an astounding collection of old books of all shapes and sizes.  It looks a little like the amazing library in the movie Beauty and the Beast, except it’s for real.

National Library, Vienna

On the morning of December 30 – the day after Jordan arrived – we rented a car and drove to Salzburg, where we spent one night and half of the next day.  On our way to Salzburg, we stopped for a few hours at one of the WWII Concentration camps, Matthausen.  It was so sad and sobering.  I took no photos of that visit, yet the haunting images remain . . .

We arrived in Salzburg in the evening, and this is what our walk in the city looked like:

Salzburg, along the river

We thoroughly enjoyed our dinner that evening at a typical Austrian Restaurant – Eulenspiegel.

dinner in Salzburg

close-up of delicious Viennese food

the drive back from Salzburg to Vienna

Back in Vienna on New Year’s Eve, we continued our visits to some of the well-known cafes.

Cafe Ritter

the coffee is served on fancy little trays

Sometimes we ordered apple strudel or pastry - lots to choose from

one cafe still had their gingerbread house on display

During our week in Vienna, we spent one afternoon at the aquarium, which used to be an anti-aircraft building at the time of World War II.

cool to see our Creator's handiwork up close

This guy's (gal's?) colors were amazing

first time I'd seen a yellow snake with turquoise markings

We had such a good time being with Chad and Jordan, and were sad that the week passed so quickly.

waiting for the UBahn, the night before we had to say good-bye 😦

Our frequent-flier-flight back home routed us through London, which was fine with us!  We took advantage of the opportunity to ride the tube into the city and enjoy tea and scones.

Tea, scones, clotted cream, and jam

another UK phone booth shot, minus those crazy Elwells

We headed back to Heathrow before returning home to Chicago.

Grateful hearts full of wonderful memories

There you have it – our most recent escapades.  One of the reasons I’ve had time to document our trips is that Jim and I both picked up some kind of hacky bronchial cold somewhere in our travels, which forced us to slow down a bit.  Cold winter days aren’t such a bad time to be inside with lots of hot tea and a few good books.  Last week, I read The Brotherhood, a new Tyndale novel by Jerry Jenkins, set in Chicago – a story about a Chicago cop/detective.  It was a fantastic read.  I think it has great potential to sell internationally, too.  After all, gangs and gangsters are part of what the Windy City is known for, right?

Another book I read this past week was Tim Pawlenty’s book, Courage to Stand. Pawlenty is the former Governor of Minnesota, and I hope that he runs for President of the United States in the next election.  He’s smart, principled, funny, wise, courageous, and persevering.  If you can get your hands on a copy of the book, I highly recommend it.

Well, friends, that’s all for now.  Hope your new year is off to a good start.

Blessings,

Ellen

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Getting rid of old clothing

If anyone is wondering where my blog about our recent trip to Europe and the UK is, it’s coming!  I’m working on it . . .

In the meantime, it’s been great to be around the house for awhile.  My house needs for me to be around a while.  After our trips to Asia and Europe, I had more stacks of this and that around the house than Heinz has pickles.  So the last couple weeks I’ve been going through some of those stacks, weeding things out, and putting them in their proper places.  I still have more to do, but I’m making progress, and making progress feels good.  The hardest part for me is getting started.

Last week, I went through my bedroom closet and dresser drawers – to set aside things I don’t need.  My usual rule of thumb is that I give away – or get rid of – anything I haven’t worn in a year or so.  Then, I bag up the items I want to give away and take them to Twice is Nice – a neat place my church runs.  There, they go up for sale (for a very reasonable price), and the proceeds are donated to a local Christian community center.   It’s a win-win situation for everyone.

So what was in this pile of things that I cleared out of my closet?

– Long underwear (Don’t need it . . . I’m always warm . . . I carry my heater everywhere I go)

– A belt (I’m a matron now – I like to wear my tops out)

– Warm slippers from New Zealand (Being that I’m always warm, I like to wear flip-flops in the house – even in the middle of winter)

– Christmas socks (The last two years I thought I might wear them, but alas, I haven’t)

– Earrings I wore once.  Those earrings I bought in the Singapore airport . . .  the ones with the little orchids inside . . . I guess they weren’t as great an idea as I originally thought.  [Note to self:  When considering a purchase, make sure it rates around a 10 – or I might not use or wear it much later.]

– Skirts, pants, blouses and sweaters that I haven’t worn in a year or two

While I was working on this project of going through my closet, I read the following New Testament verses from my One-Year Bible (Oct. 30):

“In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundation of the earth and made the heavens with your hands.  They will perish, but you remain forever.  They will wear out like old clothing. You will fold them up like a cloak and discard them like old clothing.  But you are always the same; you will live forever.”  Hebrews 1:10-12

As if that wasn’t curious enough, I turned to the Old Testament reading for that same day and read: “Long ago you laid the foundation of the earth and made the heavens with your hands.  They will perish, but you remain forever; they will wear out like old clothing.  You will change them like a garment and discard them.  But you are always the same; you will live forever.”  Psalm 102:25-26

At first, I thought – wait a minute – didn’t I just read those verses? Yes, I had. I double-checked.  The verses in Hebrews are a quote from the Psalms, and those same verses appear twice in the One-Year Reading for Oct. 30 – once in the OT and once in the NT.  Very cool . . .

One of the many things I like about reading from the Bible each morning is that there are so many references to things in real life that are easy to understand.  (As Mark Twain said, “It ain’t the parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it’s the parts that I do understand.”)

Clothes wear out.  Yep, we know that.  Some of us wish we had purchased two of those favorite pants that fit us so well . . . God, however, never wears out.  He is always the same.   That is good for us to remember all the time.  It is especially good for us to remember when things around us are changing – which it seems is most of the time, here on earth.

Blessings,

Ellen

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I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth

I have been exploring several parts of it, though . . .

These last few months have been so busy, I almost forgot that I  have a blog.

Since I’m not sure where to start, an old phrase comes to mind – A picture is worth a thousand words. I think I’ll post a bunch of photos about places I’ve been and people I’ve seen.  

In July, we spent a wonderful week in Hilton Head, South Carolina with Chad, Nate, Brit and Jensen.  We were sad that Jordan wasn’t able to be with us – he was teaching in Korea at the time – and we missed him a lot.  Thankfully, we were able to see him in September – I’ll include those photos further down.

During our time in Hilton Head, we rented bikes and Jim and I enjoyed riding in the evenings.  One  night at dusk, I almost rode over a Copperhead snake that was slithering across the bike trail in the woods . . . Eeewww!

In August, we left for a three-week business trip to Beijing, Seoul, and Singapore.  First we had meetings in Beijing.  Later on that week, when Jim and one of his Tyndale colleagues got stuck in Shanghai during the typhoon there, I covered for Jim and hosted a few more business meetings in Beijing by myself!  Thankfully, Jim returned in time for us to keep our scheduled flight to Seoul, where we participated in a publishing conference and got to spend a weekend with Jordan.

Starbucks in Seoul is pretty much like Starbucks here in Wheaton – except for the sign.  During our weekend in Seoul, we were grateful to spend time with Jordan and tromp around parts of that big city together.

Unlike anything you’d see in Wheaton, this was one view from the Gyeongbokgung Palace grounds.

Korean Barbecues are not for the faint of heart!  Whoa, baby . . .  the food was so spicy that my face began sweating the minute we walked in the door!   It was a fun evening, and I was grateful for the big orange bib they provided with the meal.  We invited Harry Kernitz – one of Jordan’s friends from Taylor University days – to come along.  Harry teaches in a different part of Seoul and is enjoying his experience there as well.

During one of the conference days in Seoul, we met over lunch with some of our friends from Duranno Press.  We feel blessed to meet with such special people around the world.

One evening, we stopped into a YP Bookstore and were pleased to find a bunch of Tyndale’s NLT Bibles in Korean/English.  These are fun discoveries, since that’s one of the things we’re there to license and promote!

Here we are at work in Singapore, where we gave a 2-hour presentation on “Trends in Christian Publishing”, and met for a couple of days with customers from various parts of Asia in regards to rights and exports.

Some of our publishing friends from Campus Crusade Media in Singapore –  Hui Lin and Mui Ing – took us out to dinner at a lovely Italian Restaurant.

In order to get back to Chicago from Singapore, we had to fly back through Beijing and stayed overnight at a hotel close to the airport.  After grabbing a quick dinner, we walked around the neighborhood and came upon a grocery store.  I’m glad we went inside – I had fun taking photos!

Would you like to buy a fish or two?  You pretty much get the whole thing . . .

Or, you can buy it in pieces . . .

Or, you can take some critters home alive . . .

Maybe some of you gourmet chefs have used these in your recipes . . . I’m not familiar with them, though.  I found them in the produce section.  If anyone knows what they are and whether they’re a fruit or a vegetable, I’d be pleased to hear your take on them.

Now these looked familiar to me.  It’s pretty easy to spot an Oreo cookie just about anywhere in the world.

I like the unique way they package their eggs . . .

And if you come out of the grocery store with more things than you can easily carry (which we didn’t because we were flying back to Chicago the next morning), you can hire one of these to drive you and your purchases home!

Well now, that brings me up to late September.  I think I’ll wait until the next blog to post more photos of a few other places we’ve visited between then and now.

I won’t wait three months to do it, though.

Blessings,

Ellen

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Toddler’s Songbook ‘Give-Away’ Winners . . .

This past week, I featured The Toddler’s Songbook and had a ‘Give-Away’ here at CrissCross Connections.

I’m pleased to say that there are 3 winners!

Lilla, Carolyn, and Cathy will be notified shortly by email.  I’ll send them each one copy of the book when I receive their mailing addresses . . .

Thanks to all who left comments – there will be more give-aways down the road!

Blessings,

Ellen

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Toddler’s Songbook/CD: Give-Away

If you’d like to enter a drawing for a free copy of The Toddler’s Songbook, please keep reading . . . .

Leave a comment on this blog between now and midnight, Friday June 25, and you’ll be entered in a drawing to win a copy of The Toddler’s Songbook. It’s a fun CD/book for young children to listen to/read in the car (great for car trips), at home, in the morning, or at bedtime.

On Saturday, June 26, I’ll randomly select one person who has left a comment, announce who won over the weekend, and send a copy to the winner next week.

Want to listen to a couple of the songs? Click on the links below.

Old MacDonald:

He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands:

Want to see a couple samples of narrative from the book?

Old MacDonald

God made the animals.  Do you know their sounds?

God made the chicks.  Cluck-cluck, chicks!

God made the ducks.  Quack-quack, ducks!

God made the pigs.  Oink-oink, pigs!

God made the cows.  Moo-moo, cows!

God made the animals.  Can you say their sounds?

He’s Got the Whole Word in His Hands

God takes care of the whole wide world.

He takes care of the monkeys in the tree.

He takes care of the wind and the rain.

God takes care of you and me!

Want to see what the artwork is like? Find the cover photo for The Toddler’s Songbook on the right hand column of this blog (a little further down on the right) and click on it.  You’ll get a flavor of the delightful artwork, done by Caron Turk.

Other songs (with narrative) included in the book are Rise and Shine, Praise Him Praise Him, Jesus Loves Me, If You’re Happy, Mozart’s Lullaby, Hallelujah, Praise the Lord, God is so Good, Who Did? Zacchaeus, Mary Had a Baby, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Oh Be Careful, Little David Play on Your Harp, Oh How Lovely Is the Evening, and All Through the Night.

I had fun selecting the songs and producing the product, and Crossway did a great job of publishing the CD’s/books.  Most of the songs are sung by children, a few are sung by adults, and listeners get to enjoy a wide variety of musical instruments throughout the CD.

I hope you enjoy the samples . . .

Blessings,

Ellen

Taken from The Toddler’s Songbook, by Ellen Banks Elwell (illustrations by Caron Turk), copyright 2009.  Used by permission of Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.

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Red Velvet Cake? Chocolate Cake? Or both?

Our son and daughter-in-law, Nate and Brit, recently visited us in Wheaton with their little son.  Jim and I loved every minute of it.  While they were here, we invited our family members who live in the area to come over and visit with them as well as celebrate Brit’s recent graduation – she completed an MA in Organizational Leadership from Regent University.

Since I love to bake, I planned a Sunday afternoon cake (recipes and photos below) reception.  After looking through several recipes in a Southern Living magazine,  I decided to try a pink strawberry cake – pink is Brit’s favorite color.

Nice idea, but the strawberry cake didn’t turn out so well – and it wasn’t the fault of Southern Living.  I followed all the directions on the recipe – that wasn’t the problem.  The problem occurred while the cakes were baking.  Shortly after I preheated the oven and slid the three cake pans in there to bake, I set the oven timer and went outside to water my flowers.

When I came back inside to see how many minutes of bake-time were left, I realized that the oven had shut off for some reason.  I’m glad that doesn’t happen very often!  I turned the oven back on and guessed how many minutes I should continue baking the cakes.  The timer rang, and the cakes looked like they were done.  They even sprang back when I touched the surfaces.  After taking the cakes out of the oven and giving them a little while to cool, though, I discovered that they were only half baked.  The oven had apparently shut off sooner than I thought.

Thankfully, I was baking a couple days before the event and I had some wobble room to deal with my problem.  I don’t always do this!  (Note to self:  planning ahead IS a good idea.)

After viewing the half-baked strawberry cake – not too appetizing – I decided to try a couple of other options: Red Velvet Cake and Sour Cream Chocolate Cake.  Thankfully, my oven cooperated and they both turned out great!  I’ve included the recipes below.

In the Bible, Hosea 7:8 explains that if God’s people mingle too much with godless ways and godless thinking, we can become as worthless as half-baked cakes.  Warren Wiersbe describes it as religion that doesn’t get deep into our lives but is just a surface thing.  As my recent experience in the kitchen proved, half-baked cakes aren’t useful; completely-baked cakes are.

Here are a couple photos of the two (completely-baked) cakes I prepared for Brit’s celebration.  They received wonderful reviews from our family!

RED VELVET CAKE

SOUR CREAM CHOCOLATE CAKE

RED VELVET CAKE (from Southern Living magazine)

1 cup butter, softened

2  1/2 cups sugar

6 large eggs (yes, 6!)

3 cups all-purpose flour

3 T. unsweetened cocoa

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1 (8-oz.) container sour cream

2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 (1-oz.) bottles red food coloring (that’s right – 2 one ounce bottles)

Recipe for Cream Cheese Frosting (below)

1. Preheat oven to 350.  Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.  Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.

2. Combine flour, cocoa, and baking soda.  Add to butter mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture.  Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition.  Stir in vanilla; stir in red food coloring.  Spoon cake batter into 3 greased and floured 8-inch round cake pans.  (After I grease and flour them, I always line the bottom of each pan with wax paper cut to size.)

3. Bake at 350 for 18 to 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  (It was a little longer than 20 minutes for me!)  Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes.  Remove from pans to wire racks, and let cool 1 hour or until completely cool.

4. Spread cream cheese frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

2 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 (32 oz.) pkg. or bag of powdered sugar

2 tsp. vanilla extract

Beat together until well blended, and ice cake.

SOUR CREAM CHOCOLATE CAKE

2 cups flour

2 cups sugar

1 cup water

3/4 cups sour cream

1/4 cup softened butter

1 1/4 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 tsp. baking powder

2 eggs

4 oz. melted unsweetened chocolate

Recipe for Sour Cream Chocolate Frosting (below)

Preheat oven to 350.  Mix all ingredients for 1/2 minute on low speed, then 3 minutes on high speed.  Pour into 2 (9-inch) greased and floured cake pans.  (After I grease and flour the pans, I line them with wax paper cut to size.)  Bake for 30-35 minutes.

Sour Cream Chocolate Frosting

1/3 cup butter (softened)

3 oz. melted unsweetened chocolate

3 cups powdered (confectioners) sugar

1/2 cup sour cream

2 tsp. vanilla extract

Mix butter and cooled chocolate.  Blend in powdered sugar.  Stir in sour cream and vanilla; beat until smooth.  Frost the cake.

Please let me know if you try the recipes – I’d love to hear what you think!

Blessings,

Ellen

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Morning Glory, Day Lily, One-Year Bible

What do a Morning Glory, Day Lily, and One-Year Bible have in common?

All three of them yield new delights for me each day.   Here are snapshots of the beauty I saw in all three this morning:

MORNING GLORY (from my backyard garden)

DAY LILY (also from my backyard garden)

ONE YEAR BIBLE (from Tyndale House Publishers)

Psalm 125:1 – “Those who trust in the LORD are as secure as Mount Zion; they will not be defeated but will endure forever.”

For any of you who follow this blog, I apologize for more lag time than usual in between posts.  We had lots of travel in April and May, and one of our sons and his family visited (Yeah!) last week.  I hope to get back to a more ‘normal’ blogging schedule . . .

If you happen to know how to keep morning glory leaves from getting eaten by bugs, I’d welcome your advice.  I’ve been finding some signs of pests the last few days . . .

Blessings,

Ellen

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Not enough . . . More than enough

Not Enough

Ever had times when there was not enough time, patience, money, energy . . .  whatever?



More than Enough

Or times when there was MORE THAN ENOUGH? Like this delicious dinner we recently enjoyed with Rick Iles at Hanul Pescarilor, a Hungarian Restaurant near the border of Hungary in Romania . . . I could only eat half of my tasty Hungarian Goulash.

A couple of weeks ago, my husband Jim and I traveled to Eastern Europe to speak at a publishing conference for Christian publishers and booksellers in Romania.  We hoped to be an encouragement to the people who attended.  We ended up coming home encouraged ourselves – on several different fronts.

We were excited to see the good work that Christian publishers in Romania are doing in spite of significant challenges and obstacles.

We enjoyed hearing their individual stories – especially accounts of how they came to faith in Christ.

We were intrigued with just how young Christian publishing in Romania is – most of these publishers have been in business less than 10 years.

Rick Iles of LINKS invited us to speak at this conference, and we enjoyed presenting at four different sessions over the course of the days we were there.

One extra presentation I agreed to came as a (pleasant) surprise to me.  The first day we were in Romania (Monday), I was asked if I would be willing to share some devotional thoughts on Wednesday morning.  What made this request a pleasant one was that early that  same morning I had been reading from my One-Year Bible in John Chapter 6 – the account of Jesus multiplying the five loaves and two fish to feed five thousand people.  As I was reading, I had this fleeting thought: ‘This passage seems like it would be encouraging to the people we’re going to be spending time with this week . . .’

So when Rick asked me – later that day – if I would give a devotional on Wednesday, it didn’t take me long to decide what passage of the Bible I would read from.

In John 6, when Jesus asked Philip where they could find bread to feed all the people on the hillside, Philip replied “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!”  (John 6:7)

Not enough

Andrew spoke up and said, “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish.  But what good is that with this huge crowd?” (John 6:8-9)

Still Not enough

Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks to God, and distributed them to the people.  He did the same with the fish.  When he asked for the leftovers to be gathered, the pieces filled twelve baskets. (John 6:11-13)

More Than Enough

Many of us have times in our lives when it seems that there’s Not enough.  Maybe it’s a health crisis.  Maybe it’s a challenging marriage.  Maybe it’s the loss of a job.  Maybe it’s a time of depression.  Whatever it is, we have no clue how God will provide for our needs.

I clearly remember the first time I was aware of God’s provision for my Not Enough.

I wanted to attend an Urbana Missions conference over the winter break of my freshman year at college, but I didn’t want to burden my parents for the money.  They were already paying for my college bills.  So I decided to ask God to provide the money if he wanted me to attend.

Several weeks later my mom called from home.  She said that I must have forgotten to cash one of my summer paychecks because the company I worked for had inquired about the outstanding check.  I explained to my mom where I kept my pay stubs, and when she looked in the shoebox in my closet, sure enough, there was the uncashed check sitting on top of all the pay stubs.

Not only did the check pay for the Missions conference, but it also covered my transportation there and back!

That was one of my early More than Enough experiences, and there have been plenty since.  I continue to be grateful that God sees and God provides.  He did it for characters in the Bible.  He has done it for me and for people around me.  And as for the future . . . He has left us these assuring words in John 14:1-2.  “Don’t let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God, and trust also in me.  There is More Than Enough room in my Father’s home . . . “

Blessings,

Ellen

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Romania, Books, and Belief

My husband and I just returned from a 10-day publishing & speaking trip to Eastern Europe.

Out for a walk in Oradea, Romania

Women we greeted on our walk

Romanian and Hungarian currency in our pockets

A jug of drinking water we purchased from the local mini-mart

A man from the village just outside Oradea

Visiting a gypsy village in Rontau, where Dwight DeLong loves and serves the people

One of the sessions Jim and I did together

Saying ‘good-bye’ to one of our excellent interpreters – Elly

As representatives of Tyndale House, my husband, Jim, and I had been asked to speak on the topics of Company Vision, Branding/Marketing, Couples Working Together, and Time Management.  Jim spoke on the first two topics, and we addressed the last two topics together.  We’ve worked together in Christian publishing for many years, but this was the first time we had spoken together.

The opportunity to visit with Christian publishers from Romania was a rich experience for us.   We traveled there to encourage them, and came away encouraged ourselves.

Throughout our time in Oradea, Jim and I each had memorable conversations with the publishers there.  They are conversations we’re still talking about.  One, for me, was a connection I made with a young Romanian editor, Cornelia.  After dinner one evening, Cornelia and I sat in the hotel lobby and talked for over an hour.  As I listened to her story of coming to faith in Christ, I was reminded of why I feel so passionate about Christian publishing.

When Cornelia was about 13, she began reading books that had been loaned to her mother.  The books had been sent home to her mom by Cornelia’s brother’s teacher.  The school teacher, Iulia, was a Christian woman.  Although Cornelia’s mother had no interest in the books, Cornelia started reading them – and couldn’t put them down.

Cornelia had been going through a stage when her life seemed aimless – she wondered why she was on this earth and what the purpose of her life was.  At one point, someone had suggested to her that she go to a local cathedral and make a wish with a coin.  She decided to go, and found the cathedral to be a beautiful, quiet, and solemn place.  She wondered if perhaps that was what she was looking for.  But when she discovered that the people there were cold and stand-offish – not warm and welcoming – she realized that the cathedral wasn’t for her.

“It was about that time,” said Cornelia, “that I began reading the Christian books that had been loaned to my mother.  As I read the books, I believed.  I realized that God’s grace wasn’t just for a select group of people, but that it was for everyone, including me.”

Cornelia’s mom, who was not interested in the books, asked Cornelia to return the books to her brother’s school teacher.  When Cornelia went to Iulia’s (the teacher’s)  home to make the return, she ended up staying and talking about God with Iulia for several hours.  “My time with Iulia,” Cornelia said, “was catching.”

When Cornelia returned home, her mom was not happy.  But . . . as Cornelia put it, “It was too late.  I’d already believed!”

Cornelia began going to church.  Sadly, there were very few young believers Cornelia’s age.  So . . . she decided to invite her friend, Alina, to come to church with her.  Alina came, and ended up asking her friend Cristina to come as well.  Over time, Cornelia’s friends believed in Christ too, and some years later all three girls were baptized together.

As I sat and listened to Cornelia’s story of searching for the meaning of life and coming to faith in Christ, I realized again how books can be missionaries that take the gospel to places we might never go. 

That is one of the reasons why I am so passionate about Christian publishing!

Blessings,

Ellen

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Gone to Ghana

I made a few young friends in Ghana while Jim and I were working at Marketsquare Africa . . . Ethel, Christiana, and Freda – pictured above with their parents, Linda and Francis.  They are bright young girls, and their parents are doing a fine job of raising them.

We traveled to Ghana to represent Tyndale House at Marketsquare Africa – a publishing conference sponsored by Christian Trade International.

I usually assist Jim, but when he has separate  meetings, I’m happy to hold down the fort . . .

At Ghana’s Marketsquare Banquet, we heard and met Rev. Prof. Emmanuel Asante, Presiding Methodist Bishop of Ghana.  If you have time, you can read his thoughtful address about Christian publishing in Africa here: Emmanuel Asante, Marketsquare Ghana

In April, we traveled to Africa with other Christian publishers from around the world.   This particular evening, the electricity went out about eight times during dinner – it brought new meaning to the concept of eating by candlelight . . .

Jude Hama – President of Scripture Union in Ghana – graciously took Jim and me out for ice-cream one night.  He drove us to the Ghanaian Village, right on the western coastline of Africa.  Jude told us that former President George Bush stayed at this seafront resort when he visited Ghana.

Being the ocean lover that I am, I had to take a photo of the beach, even though it was late at night.  The photo isn’t the greatest (that’s an understatement), but if you look closely you can see sand and some ripples of water beyond the sand.  It was the best I could do.  Hey, when you’re traveling on business, sightseeing happens when you have time!

Jude drove us past the Freedom Arch – built after Ghana declared their independence in 1957.  Ghana is a peace-loving nation, and the people there are gentle folk.

I took this photo when we were flying out of Ghana, on our way to Lagos, Nigeria.  At the bottom left is the piece of coastline we had visited and photographed (in the dark!) the night before.  The photo reminded me of Psalm 104:9 – “Then you set a firm boundary for the seas, so they would never again cover the earth.”

Photos and stories of Nigeria and Kenya are coming soon . . .

Blessings,

Ellen

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Flying with Four Kings

If you don’t have time to read all of this post, scroll down to the bottom to see photos of the four Kings.

My recent trip to Africa was off the beaten path . . . at least my beaten path.

Which was probably a good thing for a Type A person like me.

Good?  Yes.

Easy?  No.

Was I flexible?  Not enough.

While I was in Africa, I can’t tell you how many times I thought of a quote I’d read on my friend Shelly’s blog“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered.  An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered.”  – G.K. Chesterton

My husband and I traveled to Africa with a small group of Christian publishers.  Each publisher was there to represent their particular company at conferences in Ghana, Nigeria, and Kenya – the event was called Marketsquare Africa, and it was sponsored by Christian Trade Association.  Jim and I represented Tyndale House Publishers, and it was our goal to further the publishing of Bibles and Christian books in Africa.

We were supposed to have been in Africa for two weeks, after which we had plane tickets to travel to the London Book Fair.  But alas . . . the Volcanic ash from Iceland erupted, and we ended up staying in Africa longer than we thought and totally missing the London Book Fair.  We eventually got a flight out – that’s a story for another blog post.

Missing the London Book Fair was a big disappointment.  The  journey to the London Book Fair is familiar to us.  It’s a well-worn path.  We know most of the clients we see there, and we look forward to meeting them each spring in April.  We hit the floor running on the opening day of the Book Fair, meeting clients at our booth for 30 or 60 minute back-to-back pre-scheduled meetings from 8:00 am until 6:00 pm each day of the Fair.  Meetings continue in the evenings over dinner.  It’s demanding work – especially as we listen to and decipher the varied accents of people from all over the world – but we absolutely love it.  We relish the challenge of trying to help our publishing partners find just the right books for their lines and their purposes.  We  enjoy catching up with them about their families and their companies.  And we enjoy giving them chocolates or home-baked cookies that we bring for them.  This year, though, we missed all that.

One thing that helped my perspective on those events was part of April 26th’s One-Year Bible reading, a few days after the volcanic eruption.  “For the Lord is a great God, a great King above all gods.  He holds in his hands the depths of the earth and the mightiest mountains.”  Psalm 95:4

Hmmmm . . . . I thought.  Great reminder of who’s in control here – even in the depths of the earth.  And God is never surprised about anything.

Our trip to Africa – a location that up until now has been off my beaten path, left me with plenty of new stories to tell.

Today I’ll write about one of them.

After we finished our second publishing conference in Nigeria, we left Lagos’ airport for Kenya.  While we were waiting to board the flight, I noticed that there were a few important looking people sitting off to the side – people with long, flowing robes and official looking hats, etc.  Early in the flight, when the stewards came around to ask us what we wanted to drink, I asked one of the stewards, “Who are those important people up in first class?”

“They’re Kings from Nigeria,” he replied.

I smiled and said, “Now, this request is a little unusual, but if I gave you my camera later in the flight, would it be possible for you to snap a photo of the four Kings?  Could you tell them that a lady from Chicago would like their picture?”

The steward smiled and said that he would get back to me.

I settled down to read for the rest of the flight, thinking that nothing more would come of my out-of-the-box request.  But an hour later, the steward stopped in the aisle by our seats and said, “Madame, the four Kings are waiting for you up in First Class!”

Oops . . . that wasn’t what I had expected.  I had envisioned myself handing the camera to the steward and having him take the picture of the four Kings.  But now I had to get up, walk up to first class, and take the photos myself.

I might have chickened out . . . but I thought of how nice it would be to have those photos!

So I took a deep breath, walked up to first class, pulled back the curtain and looked for the first King.  He and his wife – who later identified herself as the Queen Mother – were friendly and gracious.  I shook hands with both of them and introduced myself.  The first thing they asked me was where I was from.  When I told them I was from Wheaton, IL – a little west of Chicago – the King asked me if I knew where Bensenville was.

“Bensenville?”  I said.  “Oh my, yes!  That’s very close to where I live!”

“Well,” he said, “my sister lives in Bensenville.”

Whoa!  Now if that didn’t make it seem like a small world . . . . . the second King said that he has a sister who lives in Chicago, too!

What I thought was going to be just a few photos turned into almost a half-hour-long conversation with four Kings and one Queen Mother.

Here are the photos I took, as well as some of the information they gave me about themselves:

King of Okpella Kingdom, Edo State, Nigeria.  His Royal Majesty Alhaji (Dr) Andrew Yesufu Eshioramhe Dirisu, JP, Okuokpellagbe of Okpella.  (This is the King whose sister lives in Bensenville, IL. )  His wife, seated to his left, is the Queen Mother of Okpella.

This is the King of Ikare-Akoko N.E., and he also has a sister who lives in Chicago!

HRH Ehizogie Eluojerior, JP, Onogie of Igueben.

His Royal Majesty, Igwe (Dr) Elias U. Nneli, Traditional Ruler of Umueje Town, Anambra State, Nigeria.

After I took the photos, business cards were exchanged, greetings were given, and I walked back to my seat in Economy Class Row 10 – all excited to tell my husband about the Royalty I’d just met.

Flying with Four Kings and a Queen Mother was definitely an off-the-beaten path experience!

Blessings,

Ellen

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The Winner of the Give-Away . . .

A Drum Roll, please  . . .

The winner of a copy of One Year Devotions for Moms is CINDIE THOMAS

Congratulations, Cindie!

Cindie wrote a sweet tribute to a woman who was like a mother to her, and I decided to make it the post for today on this blog.

She wrote, “A friend of my mother’s took me in when my parents divorced.  I was 13 and scared of what the future would hold, and I needed someone in my life who could show that they loved me.  Mary was battling breast cancer at the time, but gave me not only a home but the belief that Jesus loved me and heard the cries of my heart.  I watched her struggle with cancer, and her faith in God never wavered.  She mothered me and taught me by example to have faith in God and trust Him for all of my needs.”

I will send off Cindie’s copy of One Year Devotions for Moms today.

The rest of this week, I will continue my posts on my recent trip to Africa!

Blessings,

Ellen

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Moms Devotional Book ‘Give-Away’

Mother’s Day is coming!

In honor of the celebration, I’d like to give away one copy of One Year Devotions for Moms.

To enter the give-away, just leave a comment on this blog sometime between now and midnight on Sunday, May 2.

If you’d like, mention one thing that you appreciate(d) about your mom . . . or whatever . . .  it’s that easy.

On Monday, May 3, I’ll announce the winner and put a copy of the book in the mail.

Blessings,

Ellen

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Doing laundry and loving it!

I’ve never been so excited about doing laundry!

My husband and I just returned home from a three-week trip.

We represented Tyndale House at publishing conferences – sponsored by Christian Trade Association –  in three African countries: Ghana, Nigeria, and Kenya.  After the conferences in Africa, we were scheduled to fly to London to work at the London Book Fair – one of the biggest publishing events of the year.

We never made it to the Book Fair, though.  As everyone in the world knows, Iceland’s volcanic eruption brought travel in Europe and the UK to a screeching halt.  My husband and I waited out the halt in Nairobi, Kenya.  The original plan was for us to have been in Kenya for 3 days, but we ended up staying there for a week.

Thankfully, the group of publishers we traveled with – as well as the gracious people hosting us – were a warm-hearted bunch.  We got to know them all better than we had expected and had a lot of laughs in the process.  We worked at the publishing conferences together, ate meals together, traveled around to bookstores together, and even got sick together.  (I’ll spare you the stories about the getting sick part – I promise.)

Jim and I eventually made it to the UK (via Belgium), where we had plane reservations  to get us home, but I’m getting ahead of myself.  I have so many stories to tell about this trip that I might be telling them for the next couple of months.  If you happen to like travel stories, stay tuned to this blog.

Back to the laundry.

Three weeks without a washing machine and dryer is a long time.

Being that we were so close to the equator in Africa, the weather was hot for a good part of the trip – especially in Nigeria.  When we humans are hot and sweaty and we wear the same clothes over and over, it’s nice to wash them, right?  We tried to wash some things out in the sink, although none of the sinks in the places we stayed had stoppers that worked.  (There were other things that didn’t work at times, too – like electricity, internet, and water – more of those stories later.)  Anyway, we tried to stop up the sink with ziploc bags pressed over the drain.

Then there was the challenge of drying the clothes.  It was in the nineties and humid, so when one batch of my husband’s socks still hadn’t dried after three days, we bagged them up in those same ziploc bags and toted them off to the next guest house we stayed at.  With a little help from my hair dryer, my husband’s socks finally dried enough for him to wear them.

We tried sending a few items of clothing out to be laundered, which was not expensive to do.  When we noticed how they were dried, though, we decided not to try that plan again.

Since I never wore the three ‘cold weather’ professional suit-type outfits I had packed for the London Book Fair, I was thankful I had thrown a pair of black and white checked capris into my suitcase at the last minute.  I wore them almost all of the days we were in Nairobi with one of the two white blouses I’d taken  – until I sat under a tree one day and ended up with a juicy purple berry exploding across the back of one white blouse.  Not a person to be easily defeated, I thought, “I’ll figure out a way to get that nasty stain out!”

Off I went to the local Nairobi grocery store – the NAKUMATT (pictured below – their slogan is, ‘You need it, we’ve got it),

purchased a small bottle of bleach with some Kenyan shillings,

and poured straight bleach over that yucky stain – and poured and rubbed and poured and rubbed some more – until it was gone.  It’s amazing what a little bottle of bleach from Nakumatt (they lived up to their name – they had what I needed) and a lot of elbow grease can do.  My hands smelled a little strong, but that blouse was clean as a whistle.

As I was bleaching out the stain that threatened to ruin a favorite blouse, I thought of the words in Isaiah 1:18 – “Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord.  “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow.  Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.”

After I returned home, I was never so excited to use my Arm and Hammer detergent, generic bleach from Jewel, and fabric softener sheets.  I didn’t mind folding the clothes and I’m even looking forward to ironing some of them.  I don’t deserve the conveniences of my life here, but I’m sure grateful for them – and one of them is doing laundry in my home and having clothes that smell clean and fresh!

More stories in the days to come . . .

Blessings,

Ellen

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Encourage one another daily

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.  Hebrews 3:13

To understand the encouragement we are taught to give to one another, notice what the author of Hebrews wrote in Hebrews 3:8: “Don’t harden your hearts against [God] as Israel did when they rebelled, when they tested God’s patience in the wilderness.” The children of Israel had contempt for God, and this displayed itself through negativity, grumbling, quarreling, and disobedience.

Early on, the Israelites were ready to follow God anywhere.  Coming out of 430 years of slavery, they had a strong leader, and they had witnessed spectacular miracles.  When things got difficult, though, they cried, “Is the Lord among us or not?” (Exodus 17:7).  Grumbling, complaining, and blaming are very human reactions to difficulty, but they are not a good place for us to camp.  It’s healthy for us to voice our honest feelings and questions as the psalmist does (Psalm 77:7-9), but then we must move on by remembering God’s mighty strength and his wonders of the past (Psalm 77:11-15).

So how do we encourage each other?  To begin with, we support each other.  We come alongside a fellow struggler with listening, understanding, and help.  Sharing God’s Word and praying are other ways to stimulate and inspire one another to have hope and courage.  When my children are going through difficulties, I sometimes jot down for them specific Bible verses I am praying regarding their circumstances.  This can also be helpful for husbands, for friends, and for ourselves.  In our concern, we can pray that we’ll have an appropriate balance of honesty and praise.  How can we encourage someone today?

Father, Thank you that you listen to our questions.  Thanks for the encouragement we have received from fellow believers in times of personal discouragement.  Thank you that the influence of your Word helps us with reality checks.  Please help us to be an encouragement to those around us.  Amen.

My prayer is that God, who knows all things, will send us the encouragement we need, and that we in turn will look for ways to be an encouragement to people around us.

Blessings,

Ellen

Taken from One Year Devotions for Moms, copyright 2005.  Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Carol Stream, IL 60188.  All rights reserved.

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Best-Ever Brownies

Here’s what happens when I bake Best-Ever Brownies for my friends at Tyndale . . . or set them out for my kids and their friends . . . or serve them for dessert with a scoop of chocolate-chip ice cream and hot fudge sauce:

Would you like the recipe?

Best-Ever Brownies


1 stick butter and 1 stick margarine (1 c. total)

2 cups sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

4 eggs

4 squares (4 ounces) unsweetened chocolate, melted

2 cups flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 chopped nuts, optional

Cream butter till fluffy.  Add sugar and vanilla and beat well.  Add eggs and beat for 2 minutes.  Blend in melted chocolate.  After stirring flour and salt together, blend into the batter.  Stir in nuts.

Turn into a greased 9 x 13 pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 33 minutes. Cool and cut.  (Small pieces if served as a snack, larger squares if used as a dessert.)

Sometimes I frost them with vanilla icing, sometimes I sprinkle confectioner’s sugar over them, and sometimes I serve them as a dessert with ice cream and hot fudge on top.  It’s a great dessert for company.

Enjoy!

Blessings,

Ellen

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Stones of Remembrance

“Then Joshua said to the Israelites, “In the future your children will ask, ‘What do these stones mean?’  Then you can tell them, ‘This is where the Israelites crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’  For the Lord your God dried up the river right before your eyes, and he kept it dry until you were all across, just as he did at the Red Sea when he dried it up until we had all crossed over.  He did this so all the nations of the earth might know that the Lord’s hand is powerful, and so you might fear the Lord your God forever.”  Joshua 4:21-24

“I make it a point,” says my friend Marge Gieser, “of painting a small stone with some sort of identifying symbol or figure commemorating amazing events in our family life that speak of God’s mercy and power on our behalf.

A few examples are the three-month premature birth of our twin grandchildren, a four-year-old who somehow swallowed a needle that thankfully lodged in his appendix instead of his bowel, and a three-year-old who miraculously saved his one-and-a-half-year-old brother from drowning in our backyard twenty-four-inch deep pond.  (At that time, the three-year-old was badly delayed in speech, but that night, he clearly and distinctly said, “Jesus helped me.”)

Another time, when an eleven-year-old grandson was seriously injured on a canoe trip, there was an amazing and sudden assembly of people to help us – a miracle of God’s grace evident to us all, most of all the eleven-year-old.

I expect that the stones will slowly pile up in years to come as there are more incidents of God’s amazing grace and mercy.  They will be there so that the children can ask, what is the meaning of these stones?  Then, we can all recount the stories.”

Marge Gieser submitted this story for The Christian Grandma’s Idea Book by Ellen Banks Elwell copyright 2008.  Used by permission of Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187.

Blessings,

Ellen

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How precious are rubies?

Wisdom is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her.  Proverbs 3:15

Just how precious are rubies?  Along with diamonds, emeralds, and sapphires, they are considered one of the four precious gems and are exceptionally rare.  Not found just anywhere, rubies are unearthed most often in Burma, Sri-Lanka, Kenya, Madagascar and Cambodia.  If we were to purchase one of these gems to be set in a ring or hung on a necklace, we might pay anywhere from $500 to $5,000 for the piece of jewelry.

Wisdom is even more valuable than rubies, and we don’t need to travel to Asia, Africa, or our local jeweler to find it.  Wisdom is unearthed in God’s Word, with the help of His Holy Spirit.  The only tools we need to acquire it are a Bible and a receptive heart.

Blessings,

Ellen

Simply Refreshing, by Ellen Banks Elwell, copyright 2009.  Used by permission of Christian Art.

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Encouragement

“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.”  I Thessalonians 5:11

Encouraging words stimulate our spirits.  They give us a boost, brighten our day, and strengthen us for our tasks.  Wow!  All of that can be accomplished with a few encouraging words.

Recently my husband told me how much something I said had encouraged him.  I’d said, “I never take it for granted that we can talk about anything and everything.  Our relationship feels as comfortable to me as a favorite pair of slippers.”  Apparently, those twenty-or-so words meant more to him than I had realized.

When Moses’ leadership over the children of Israel was coming to a close, God asked him to encourage Joshua – God’s choice for a new leader.  Part of God’s plan for equipping Joshua for leadership was accomplished through Moses’ encouragement.  That is still God’s plan in our families today.  What abundant opportunities we have in our homes to encourage our husbands and our children.  Does your husband travel?  Tuck a few cards in his suitcase – one for each day he’ll be gone, with an encouraging verse from the Bible.  And don’t be fooled by age – even high school boys enjoy getting notes in their lunches!  “Kind words,” said Mother Teresa, “can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”

Father, Thank you for people who have encouraged us.  Help us to be encouraging to our families and friends.  Amen.

Blessings,

Ellen

One Year Devotions for Moms, by Ellen Banks Elwell, copyright 2005.  Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Carol Stream, IL 60188.  All rights reserved.


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Gentleman from Fiji

After posting a devotional about Fiji earlier this week, I decided to post a story about a man from that far-a-way place who I met a few months ago.  

Dr. Naroyan Nair – a kind and gracious gentleman – is the National Director of Ambassadors for Christ in the South Pacific.

My husband Jim and I met Dr. Nair in January when we were working at Marketsquare Atlanta – a Christian publishing conference.

Dr. Nair quietly walked up to Tyndale House Publisher’s booth on the last day of the conference, just as we were about to close.  He told us a moving story that we’ve heard from people literally all over the world.

Each time I hear a similar story, I get goosebumps.

This is how the account typically goes.  In 1974, Dr. Nair wrote a letter to Ken Taylor (the now deceased founder of Tyndale House Publishers), saying that he would like to start a Christian bookshop in Fiji – would Ken be able to send him some money?  Ken Taylor, in his typically generous fashion, sent Dr. Nair a check for the amount requested, apologizing that he wasn’t able to send more.

Fast forward to 2010.  There are presently two Christian bookshops in that area, along with a Bible College that includes a graduate program, where Dr. Nair teaches.

Whenever I hear versions of that story from places far and near, I’m grateful.  Grateful that God sees and provides, and grateful for generous people like Ken & Margaret Taylor.

If any of you are aware of other stories like this about Dr. Taylor, I’d enjoy hearing them . . .

“The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.”  Proverbs 11:25 NLT

Blessings,

Ellen

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Fiji Islands

If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there Your hand will guide me, and Your strength will support me.  Psalm 139:9-10

If we could actually do what the Psalmist suggests and ride the wings of the morning to the farthest oceans, we might end up in Fiji.  Situated directly east of the north coast of Australia, Fiji is made up of about 300 beautiful islands.

Because the International Date Line passes between some of these islands, Fiji is one of the first countries in the world to welcome each new day.

Most of us won’t have the opportunity to visit these islands, but if we did, God would be every bit as present there as He is anywhere else in the world.  We can experience the love of God and the comfort of His presence no matter where we are.  He is present everywhere.

Father, I’m grateful that your strength and guidance are always available, ready to refresh me wherever I may be.  Amen.

What’s the farthest ocean/place you’ve visited?  How were you impressed by God’s handiwork there?

Blessings, Ellen

{Taken from Simply Refreshing, Ellen Banks Elwell. Used by permission of Christian Art Gifts.}

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Easter Solution

Very early on Sunday morning . . . they went to the tomb.  On the way they were asking each other, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?”  But as they arrived, they looked up and saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled aside.  Mark 16:2-4 (NLT)

Before Mary Magdalene, Salome, and Mary even knew there was such a thing as Resurrection morning, the women thought their immediate problem was how to roll away the stone in front of Jesus’ tomb.  What they discovered, though, was that the problem Jesus had just solved was much bigger than the problem they thought they had.  Jesus had just dealt with the problem of sin and death.

By taking our sins upon Himself and conquering death, Jesus made it possible for us to receive forgiveness.  Like the women at the tomb, we see our problems differently when we realize what Jesus has already accomplished on our behalf.

Father,

Because You have dealt with our biggest problems – sin and death – we can trust You for the smaller problems we face today.  Amen.

Have a blessed Easter – HE IS RISEN!

Ellen

PS – I took the photo above at  Gordon’s Garden Tomb in February 2008, when Jim and I were in Israel for the Jerusalem Book Fair.  We didn’t have much time to see sights, but squeezed in a visit here late one afternoon.  Although Gordon’s Garden Tomb may or may not be the actual place where Jesus’ body was buried, it probably looks a lot like it.

Taken from Simply Refreshing, by Ellen Banks Elwell, copyright 2008.

Used by permission of Christian Art Gifts Inc., IL.

All rights reserved.

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And the winners are . . .

Throughout this past week I featured the One-Year Bible for Women, which is a huge favorite of mine.  {FYI, The text of the One Year Bible for Women is the same as other One Year Bibles. It’s the package, the color of the ink, the design, and some of the quotes included that appeal to women folk.}  I mentioned that I would give a copy to two of the people who left comments on this blog.

The winners were chosen this morning through a highly scientific process.  I asked my husband if he would please choose two numbers between 1 and 17. Being a man who likes to make simple decisions quickly, he immediately offered “3 and 10.”  I retrieved the running list of (17) names I had compiled – in the order I received them – and the third and tenth names on the list are Kristina and Michael.

For those of you who are surprised that a man would enter a drawing for a One Year Bible for Women, Michael mentioned in his comment that he’d love to give a copy to his wife.  A thoughtful husband, indeed.  Michael, I hope your wife likes The One Year Bible as much as I do!  Kristina and Michael, I’ll email you for your mailing addresses and put your bubble mail packets in the mail.  (It’s interesting that three of the women who entered this drawing have names that begin with Kris – Kristina, Kristinia, and Kristine.  Popular name.)

Thanks to all who entered.  Please visit again, as I’m planning more give-aways . . .

Here’s an excerpt from today’s reading in The One Year Bible for Women:

Luke 10:25-37 (NLT)

One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say?  How do you read it?”

The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’  And ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

“Right!” Jesus told him.  “Do this and you will live!”

The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus replied with a story.  “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits.  They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.

By chance a priest came along.  But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by.  A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.

Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him.  Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them.  Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him.  The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man.  If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’

“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.

The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”

Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

Most mornings, after my husband and I have read from our One Year Bibles individually, we talk about things from the passages that jumped out at us.  If you were in on our conversation about today’s reading, are there any thoughts that you would share?

Grateful that He is risen!

Ellen


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One Year Bible for Women – Last day of Give-Away

There’s still time to enter the Give-Away for two One Year Bibles for Women. Just leave a comment on this blog sometime before midnight tonight, and two names will be chosen in a drawing over the weekend.  The Bibles have been packed into bubble mailers, and they’re sitting in my front entryway, waiting to be addressed . . . I’ll contact the winners by email for mailing addresses, and will mention their names in an upcoming blog.

For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and by him God reconciled everything to himself.  He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of his blood on the cross.  – Colossians 1:19-20 NLT

I reserve one drawer in my dresser for papers and notes that hold special meaning to me.  Recently I noticed that the drawer was getting a little messy, so I decided to sort through the contents, getting rid of whatever I could and tidying the rest.

As you might imagine, I got caught up in reading the notes and appreciating the memories.  One item that I’ll never part with was given to me by my oldest son, Chad, when he was six.  It consists of several small pieces of notebook paper that Chad cut, fashioned, and taped into the shape of a cross.  On the cross, Chad drew a stick figure of Jesus, with nails through his hands and feet – – and a smile on his face.

“The cross,” says Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “is God’s truth about us, and therefore it is the only power which can make us truthful.  When we know the cross, we are no longer afraid of the truth.”

Embracing the truth of the cross has made a difference in Chad’s priorities.  Because of the cross, Chad finds service to Christ more important than money, power, or pleasure.  {He’s presently teaching at a Christian School in Austria.} Because of the cross, Chad cares about other people’s hearts.  I’m grateful the cross of Christ had an impact on Chad’s young heart at the age of six and that it continues to have an impact on him today.

Father, Thank you that we can have peace with you because of Jesus’ death on the cross.  Thank you that the truth of the cross is life changing.  In the precious name of Jesus, Amen.

Taken from One Year Devotions for Moms, copyright 2005.  Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Carol Stream, IL 60188.  All rights reserved.

May each of you have a meaningful weekend – pondering Christ’s death and resurrection.  How deeply loved we are.  What a wonderful Savior He is.

Blessings,

Ellen

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One Year Bible Give-Away

If you visited earlier in the week, you’re aware that I’m giving away two One-Year Bibles for Women. Up until Friday midnight, you can be a part of the drawing simply by leaving a comment anywhere on this blog.

To read more about my enthusiasm for the One-Year Bible, click here.

If you’d like to know how the One-Year Bible came to be published – well, almost didn’t come to be published – click here.  It’s an awesome story.

The devotional I’m including today is from One Year Daily Insights with Zig Ziglar and Dr. Ike Reighard – pondering Christ’s amazing sacrifice of love for us.

“Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”” Luke 23:34 NLT

We need to remember that when Jesus said, “Father, forgive them,” it was after He had experienced excruciating stress during the previous week.  The authorities had been looking for a way to kill Him.  One of His followers had betrayed Him, and another one had denied he even knew Him.  All the rest had fled when He was arrested, leaving Him completely alone.  He had been beaten in the face so that He was unrecognizable and had been whipped with a cat-o’-nine-tails until His back was a bloody mess.  On the streets of Jerusalem, He carried the timber that would be part of His cross until He stumbled and fell from exhaustion.  When he arrived at the hill, guards drove spikes through His wrists and His feet, and He was hoisted up as a spectacle to the world.

If anyone ever had reason to be bitter, Jesus did.  And if anyone ever had the power to execute vengeance on those who hurt him, Jesus did.  One account says that He could have called down legions of mighty angels to slay the entire human race – which we deserved.

But there he hung, between two common criminals, to be executed like a slave or traitor though He had done nothing deserving of this fate.  As He looked at the scene – angry, self-righteous leaders, disinterested Roman guards, masses of people who had come for the spectacle of blood and death – He turned instinctively to the Father and prayed for all those people.  Has God’s grace ever been more evident than at that moment?

“Forgiveness is a beautiful word, until you have something to forgive.” – C.S. Lewis

Taken from The One Year Daily Insights with Zig Ziglar and Dr. Ike Reighard, copyright 2009.  Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Carol Stream, IL 60188.  All rights reserved.  (April 2 devotional.)

As promised, I’m also including a verse from today’s One Year Bible reading:

“You, O God, are my king from ages past, bringing salvation to the earth.”  Psalm 74:12 NLT

Blessings,

Ellen

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One-Year Bible, ‘Give-Away’ Week

Just a reminder that this week I’m giving away two copies of the One-Year Bible for Women. If you leave a comment somewhere on this blog before Friday midnight (April 2), you’ll be entered in the drawing.

In yesterday’s blog, I shared how The One-Year Bible almost DIDN’T come into being.  It’s an amazing story.  If you’d like to read about it, click here.

After the One-Year Bible had been out for a while, Tyndale began a new line of One-Year Devotion books.  Over the next few days, I’m going to feature a few devotionals from some of those books . . .

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has appointed me to preach Good News to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the downtrodden will be freed from their oppressors, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”  Luke 4:18-19

When Jesus taught in his hometown, he chose to read a passage from Isaiah’s prophecy (see Isaiah 61), demonstrating salvation’s balance between grace and truth.  Since we moms desire to point our children to Christ, it’s good for us to think about the balance ourselves:

1. The truth is that we’re all poor, but the grace is that God has given us his riches.

2. The truth is that on our own we’re all prisoners to sin, but the grace is that there is freedom in Christ.

3. The truth is that left to ourselves we are spiritually blind, but the grace is that God can give us sight.

4. The truth is that we are oppressed, but the grace is that by faith in Jesus’ death for us, we can be released from oppression.

Imagine a poor orphan child discovering that his parents had left a special bank account for all his needs.  Image a child locked up in a room but then being freed by the one person who had the key.  Imagine a child being chased by a bully until the police officer arrested the bully.  We are all that child!

The truth is that we’re very needy, but the grace is that Jesus loved us so much that he provided for our needs when he died on the cross.  God’s salvation makes us very rich.

Father,

Thank you for the best gift in the world – the gift of salvation through Jesus’ blood.  Thank you that when we place our faith in you, you bless us with spiritual riches, freedom, sight, and release from oppression.  Amen.

Taken from One Year Devotions for Moms, copyright 2005.  Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Carol Stream, IL 60188.  All rights reserved.

Tomorrow, I’ll include a devotional from One Year Daily Insights with Zig Ziglar and Dr. Ike Reighard.

Blessings,

Ellen

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