Emily Bonga Posts

Ebenezer: Memorial Stones to Guide Our Children by Sarah Rubio

Tyndale Kids

Monday, we will celebrate Memorial Day. If you visit or drive by a cemetery or war monument, you’ll see wreaths and flowers laid to honor and you’ll remember those who sacrificed their lives while serving in our country’s armed forces. These flowers, and the stones they decorate, serve as memorials—reminders—to those of us who have benefited from that sacrifice.

Thinking about memorials reminds me of my favorite biblical monument, the one Israel’s last judge, Samuel, called Ebenezer: “Samuel then took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah. He named it Ebenezer (which means ‘the stone of help’), for he said, ‘Up to this point the Lord has helped us!’” (1 Samuel 7:12).

The Ebenezer monument commemorates a miraculous victory God won for his people against one of their greatest enemies, the Philistines (see 1 Samuel 7:3-13). Following Samuel’s instructions, the Israelites had gathered at Mizpah to recommit themselves to God. The Philistines got word of this convocation and decided to attack. The terrified Israelites begged God to save them, and the Lord responded in dramatic fashion: “The Lord spoke with a mighty voice of thunder from heaven that day, and the Philistines were thrown into such confusion that the Israelites defeated them” (1 Samuel 7:10). After the battle, Samuel set up the Ebenezer stone to remind Israel of their God’s faithfulness.

I think remembrance is one of the most important reasons we start recounting the Bible’s historical narratives to our children from such a young age—not just because they are entertaining, or an engaging entry point into Scripture, but because of what they help us remember about God. The creation account reminds us that God is our Source, that he is joyful and creative, that he delights in what he has made. The story of Noah and the Flood reminds us that God preserves even as he purifies. In the story of Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac, we remember that God provides (see Genesis 22:14); his provision of a ram to sacrifice in Isaac’s place foreshadows his greatest provision of all—Jesus, the perfect sacrifice and substitute.

It has been my privilege in recent years to edit some beautiful Bible storybooks for Tyndale Kids—books that I use to set up “memorial stones” for my own children, and that I hope and pray will become such memorials for thousands of other parents and children. Here are some of my favorites:


God Made the World by Sarah Jean Collins—Author/illustrator Sarah Jean Collins celebrates God’s artistry with her beautiful geometric illustrations. The fun shapes and bright colors are a feast for grown-up and tiny eyes alike, and the sturdy board-book pages are easy for little hands to turn. This is the perfect first Bible storybook for babies and toddlers. (Releasing October 2017.)


The Faith that God Built series by Gary Bower—These four cumulative rhyming stories (The Beautiful Garden of Eden, A Patch on the Peak of Ararat, The Hurry-Up Exit from Egypt, and The Frightening Philippi Jail) commemorate big moments in the history of God’s people in a fresh way. Each book points the reader back to the Book with a key Scripture verse and a reference to the entire passage the story is taken from.


The Story Travelers Bible by Tracey Madder—This 85-story volume is a great entry into the world of the Bible for young grade-schoolers. Kids join Lana, Munch, and Griffin on an epic adventure to find out more about the people, places, and events of the Bible. The book includes informational features, application points, and memory verses to help kids go deeper, and each story includes its biblical source reference.

It is good and right for us to place or contemplate one of the memorials honoring our fallen soldiers this weekend. But I pray that you will also take some time to place a memorial of God’s faithfulness in the life of a child dear to you. “Up to this point the Lord has helped us!”—and because “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8)—we know that he will help us through every point ahead.

Editor Sarah Rubio grew up as a missionary kid in Ecuador and holds a bachelor of arts in communication from Wheaton College. She joined Tyndale’s editorial team in 2007, working mainly on Spanish books until transitioning to English nonfiction and children’s in 2014. One of the first Tyndale products she encountered was a One Year Bible that her father read with her every year from the age of eight to eighteen. Sarah loves challenging authors to be better writers while they’re challenging her with the ideas in their books. She lives in Chicago’s northwest suburbs with her husband and children.

Clean & Green by Gary Bower

TyndaleKidsQuick! 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.

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!