Emily Bonga Posts

Clean & Green by Gary Bower

Quick! Name your five favorite holidays. I’ll bet Christmas made that list, and most likely Easter and Thanksgiving. Kids may think of Halloween candy or Fourth of July fireworks. Perhaps you can picture roses for Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day. Did the environment pop into your head? I doubt it. But April 22 marks the observance of the 47th Earth Day, established in 1970 to stimulate awareness of the environment and to celebrate our natural resources. Two key words are the focus: clean and green. Earth Day is intended as a reminder for us to protect our green forests and to work for cleaner water and air. After all, who doesn’t enjoy the benefits of lush, healthy trees, a cold glass of clear water, and a breath of fresh air?


Writing my new book The Beautiful Garden of Eden took my thoughts back to a perfectly green, clean world. Imagine the celebration that took place in the heart of God our Creator during that first “Earth Week.” Everything that He so joyfully made He pronounced “very good.” Picture the “trees that swayed in the breeze.” Clean air. Pure streams. Of course, how could the environment have been anything but beautiful? It all came out of God’s crystal clear heart and perfectly pure mind.


When God graciously turned over this clean, green paradise to a man to steward, He also gave Adam clear instructions which, we are painfully aware, Adam chose to ignore. As I wrote in my book, the result was a “crushing, calamitous curse that made the world wayward and woefully worse.”


(Does that sound like too tough of a tongue-twister? Don’t underestimate your kids! I’ve heard this phrase effortlessly roll off the tongues of even three-, four-, and five-year-olds with delightful giggles!)


Earth Day presents an opportunity

As traditional media outlets, social media, and community events try to remind people to recycle, reduce fuel emissions, buy locally, and think green, I thought I’d offer some further suggestions you might not hear from these sources. You can use Earth Day as an opportunity and The Beautiful Garden of Eden as a tool to help your child understand the importance of clean and green.

  1. “The earth is the LORD’s and everything in it . . .” (Psalm 24:1, NLT). Every plant, every creature, the oceans, lakes, and rivers, the atmosphere . . . all of it. It’s all His creation, His idea. It’s created for His pleasure (Revelation 4:11) and sustained by His power (Colossians 1:17). Stewardship is not about Mother Nature (whoever she is) or saving life on earth from extinction (as if we could). Help your child understand that being a good steward means realizing that this is God’s world and acting like we truly believe it by acknowledging, appreciating, and honoring God for His goodness and His handiwork.
  2. The environment is not our biggest problem. The earth is not in its present predicament because Adam failed to recycle, plant enough seeds, or reduce his carbon footprint. Our world’s horrible problems (the crushing, calamitous curse) are the fruit of mankind’s pride and rebellion (Romans 5:12). Sin is the biggest toxin on planet earth, and it has polluted the human heart. Perfection came from God’s heart; perversion came from man’s. When we do things our way instead of God’s way, we get our results instead of God’s results. Cleaning your neighborhood or recycling as a family can offer an opportunity to help your child see the cause-and-effect connection between choices and consequences.
  3. Nobody cleans like God can. Children can easily see that some tasks are just too big. Like trying to clean up an oil spill of millions of gallons with paper towels, our own efforts to purify our hearts are hopeless (Jeremiah 17:10). God provides the only cleanser able to do the job—the blood of Jesus Christ. Help each family member try to grasp the extent of God’s love for them, and His plan to “save the earth” (John 3:16; 1 John 1:7-9; Romans 6:23). Help them to really understand what it means to repent, confess, trust, and believe.
  4. Think Green. What comes to mind when you think of the color green? I think of the new life of springtime, a healthy lawn, a thriving garden. The New Living Translation has a beautiful word picture that you might want to share with your loved ones:


    “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat  or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.” — Jeremiah 17:7-8


Gary Bower has written over twenty books for children. A retired children’s pastor, Gary and his wife, Jan, have twelve children and twenty-three grandchildren. They enjoy their own beautiful garden near Traverse City, Michigan, where Jan does most of the work and Gary does most of the eating. Learn more at Gary’s website, or find Gary on Facebook.

Teach Your Toddler to Show Love with Where Does Love Hide?

Children can understand love at a very young age. They know that their parents love them, and they know that they are taken care of and protected. The key is teaching children how to take what they’ve learned about love and express that love to their friends and family.

In Where Does Love Hide by Mary Manz Simon, she teaches children that they can do more than just receive love, they can give love, too! Simon writes about practical, age-appropriate ways that toddlers can show love. Each activity is hidden behind a charming lift-the-flap, and includes a short memory verse that your toddler can understand.

You can teach your toddler even more about showing love with this fun activity!

Finding Kindness Game

You will need…

  • Our downloadable kindness clues (Download them here!)
  • A dozen plastic Easter eggs
  • Scissors
  • Candies or small treats (optional)


  1. Cut out the kindness clues and tuck them inside the plastic Easter eggs. You can write your own prompts in the blanks, or hide treats in the other half dozen eggs.
  2. Hide the eggs around a room. Remember to think like a toddler! Hide the eggs where they can easily reach them.
  3. Help your toddler find the eggs. As they find the eggs, read the prompts and complete the activity. Talk to your toddler about how they can show love through their actions. Explain to them that we love each other because Jesus loved us first (1 John 4:19).


PackagingIn Where Does Love Hide? children are reminded that they not only receive love but have the opportunity to share love. Looking under the fun, lift-a-flap feature, children will see examples of everyday love opportunities. Each page includes a memory verse and an example of a way to share God’s love! Learn more at Tyndale.com.

Easter by Tracey Madder



At twenty-two years of age, I married my high school sweetheart, and a few years later, we welcomed the first of our four children. How we would celebrate Easter with our kids was not a topic we ever discussed. It was assumed by both of us that Easter was, first and foremost, a celebration of Christ’s resurrection. But, it also included the Easter bunny, colored eggs, egg hunts, and chocolate bunnies. We were both raised in Pennsylvania, after all, where the Easter bunny first laid its American roots. Supposedly, German immigrants brought the tradition of the egg-laying hare to Pennsylvania in the 1700s. Over the years, that tradition expanded to include Easter baskets, chocolate bunnies, and additional goodies for children.



My children have long outgrown the Easter bunny, so to debate whether or not to include the bunny in our family Easter celebration is a moot point. But as I read many of the articles about the reasons why Christians choose to include or not include the Easter bunny in their family celebrations, I must admit that I can identify with both sides.


One thing I have always tried to do with my children is to make Jesus Christ the focus of Easter. This week, my children and I will read together from my new book, The Story Travelers Bible. This is a storybook Bible for kids that I was called to write while teaching Sunday School. The Story Travelers Bible follows three modern-day kids as they journey inside the Bible for the adventure of a lifetime. It includes eighty-five fully illustrated Bible stories from the Old and New Testaments.



The chapter our family will be focused on is titled He’s Back (Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-14; Luke 24:1-43; John 20-21). Here is a brief excerpt:


Mary Magdalene runs to find Peter and John. “The tomb is empty!
Jesus isn’t there!” she yells. Peter and John run to the tomb as fast as
they can. John is faster and gets to the tomb first. He peers in through
the doorway and sees the cloths that were wrapped around Jesus’ body.
Then Peter dashes up, huffing and puffing, and pushes past John,
going right into the tomb. He looks at the empty cloths too.
John finally comes all the way into the tomb. “Jesus is alive,” he


As my family celebrates Jesus’ resurrection this weekend, I am mindful that one day my children will grow up, get married, and be faced with the same Easter-bunny dilemma that I am struggling with now. I wonder what they will decide to do with their children. No matter what they decide, we will support them. I just pray that they, also, will continue to make Jesus Christ the focus and true meaning of Easter and not let the bunny seize the holiday.

Tracey Madder began her career in the entertainment industry as a model, actress, and photographer. She has a BA in Communication from the University of Pittsburgh and has also worked in marketing and sales. Tracey is the owner of Super Faith LLC and Bus Stop Bible LLC, companies that create faith-based products for children. She is also the author of a children’s Bible story book and the Super Faith Blog, a Christian blog for families that inspires grown-ups and kids to “Be Super,” promoting character building and virtue.

However, it is the title of stay-at-home mom that Tracey is most proud of. Married to her high-school sweetheart, Tracey has four little monsters of her own. Inspired by her daughter’s bedtime anxieties, Tracey created the Prayer Monsters to help children learn to pray and hand their worries over to God.

Learn more about Tracey, The Story Travelers Bible, and the Prayer Monsters at Tracey’s website, www.traceymadder.com.

Your Magnificent Chooser Giveaway!


The choices kids make play a large part in forming who they grow to be as adults.


In Your Magnificent Chooser, John Ortberg addresses the ability to choose in a whimsical way by inviting children to use their “magnificent chooser” that God gave them to make godly choices daily. Parents will love reading this book to their kids, and kids will enjoy the content while learning lessons that will stay with them throughout their lives.


Use the form below to enter for your chance to win a copy of Your Magnificent Chooser!

Your Magnificent Chooser Giveaway

SPRING by Ellen Elliott

Spring is upon us.

And trust me, I’ve been waiting. I’m not so much a fan of that winter business. In fact, I dislike winter immensely. My spirits in December are usually sustained by the excitement of the Christmas season. But long about January, my patience with dark, cold weather runs out, and I disappear under a pile of fuzzy blankets. It is only after I hear the faint chirping of robins that I emerge from my blanket hole, like a suspicious, cranky groundhog.

There’s just something about the springtime season. Spring has long been associated with life, renewal, birth . . . yes, a fresh start. After fighting through months of frosty windshields and cold toes, there is a certain relief that comes with the sprigs of green grass under our feet, the white dogwood trees blooming on our daily drive, the daffodils peeking their yellow petals up toward the warmth of the sunshine. There is a new joy and optimism that greets our days.

However, as lighthearted as we may feel with our newfound warm weather, we must remember that it’s not spring everywhere. On the other side of the planet, it’s autumn. The weather is growing colder, the days are shortening and the leaves are falling off the trees. Porch flowers are dying, and nature is shutting down for a long winter’s hibernation. That’s the way seasons work . . . there’s always one coming or going.

The seasons of our life can also be full of times of joy and celebration—or grief and loss. In Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 (NLT), King Solomon points out: “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest.” Sometimes in life, we get the blooms. Sometimes, we get the shriveled-up leaves.

But whatever our current life season, we don’t have to go it alone. God is there beside us through our highs and our lows. He also knows that we need each other, no matter what our season of life. In Romans 12:15 (NLT), Paul instructs us to “be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.”

So celebrate the springs of your life! Dance with those who are joyful. Sit in the sunlight. Make clover chains and unabashedly wear them around your neck. But remember those who are in a season of loss and grief. Reach out to those who are struggling. Wrap your arms around those who mourn. Make their load just a little bit lighter.

Remember, whether high or low, warm or cold, happy or sad . . . this too shall pass. But our God is forever constant.

ELLEN ELLIOTT graduated with an art degree from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. She works in a variety of mediums—from acrylic and watercolor to collage and digital—and is continually inspired by her favorite artists, including Mercer Mayer, Tomie dePaola, Jim Henson and many mid-century modern illustrators. Ellen has illustrated children’s books and created gift products for DaySpring Cards and Worthy Publishing. She likes laughter, feeding ducks, obsessive research, baby bellybutton lint, coffee and creating stories. She does not like Brussels sprouts, trigonometry, jerks, diet colas, rejection and cold toes. Ellen remains neutral about Switzerland. She lives in Arkansas with her two well-behaved kids and a rude cat.




Ellen is also author and illustrator for Be Bold, a  coloring devotional for teen girls! Click here to download FREE coloring page samples from this devotional, or click here to purchase your copy of Be Bold today!