This Week’s Sermon- Living Life With No Regrets

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Living Life With No Regrets
Part 6 of “How to Keep Trusting in God, Even in the Face of Significant Loss”
by Eric Elder, featuring an interview with Lana Elder

We had a wonderful “Night of Worship” here at The Ranch last night!  Thanks to those of you who came and to those of you who prayed for the night to be a blessed one.  It was!

Thanks, too, for your gracious notes from places like the Philippines and South Africa, saying you wish you could be here.  We hope to make this an annual event, so perhaps in the future we can meet many more of you in person as well.

During the night I shared 3 video clips of my dear wife Lana that were filmed last year on November 1st, 2012, just two weeks before she passed away.  She had a message that I felt was perfect for the evening.

So as we were worshipping outside by the bonfire, under the stars, and with a half-moon shining, we projected the video of Lana onto the side of the barn and enjoyed hearing what she had to say to us about “living life of no regrets.”

I’d like to share those 3 clips with you today as well.  I believe they’ll be particularly helpful to you if you’re wrestling with a big decision and don’t know what to do, or if you’re just wondering how you can make the most of the life God has given you.

This video was shot by a film team who heard about our situation and offered to spend the day with us at our home, just to capture some memories for us and to offer hope to others who might face a similar loss in the future.  Lana agreed, and we spent an amazing day with Drew Waters, Josh Spake, and by Skype, Josh’s wife Candice.

Although the film team will be putting all the footage they shot that day into another format, editing it for their own purposes as background for an upcoming movie called Nouvelle Vie (which means “new life” in French) they’ve graciously allowed us to use the raw footage for other purposes like this that I’m sharing with you today.

I’ve posted these 3 clips in one video on our website at the link below, or you can read the message in the transcript below that.

Here’s the link to the video…

Lana Elder – Living Life With No Regrets

And here’s the transcript…

Candice:  A lot of people in your position are very fearful, very scared, very worried, but you have come at this from a whole stance of hope, which is very, again I use the word profound.  Because it’s unusual, and it’s so–you can just see how God is working and continues to work in your life.  And so, describe what that peace is like for you and how it’s helped you battle fear, anxiety, being scared and stuff like that.

Lana:  Well, I’ve always tried to live my life with no regrets.  And so, whenever I had a big decision to make, I would think–obviously I would pray about it and ask God what’s best, and then I would just have to say, “Will I regret having made this decision?”  Especially ones like–I went to college, I met my husband Eric in college and we got married shortly after college and I was pregnant with my first child and had to decide whether I would stay at home or work, and staying at home meant a severe cutback in pay.  But I wanted to live a life of no regrets, so I decided I would rather stay home and be with my child, than have the money and have some other luxuries.  And it’s a decision I’ve never regretted.  So I’ve been a stay at home mom all my life–or since college.  I know at times some people would wonder why I would get a college degree and then not even use it and stay home.  But I remember thinking, even as I was making that decision, if something were to happen to me or one of my children–a death–I would have regretted going to work.  So I was really glad–I mean, not glad, but when I found this out–it just made me glad that I hadn’t taken my life to go to work and missed seeing my kids grow up.  It just changes everything.  My kids, I just love to be around them.  And so, having made that decision gives me great hope for situations like this that I made the right decision.  It made some impact on our finances, but the other impact is, I think, much greater–the impact it had on my kids’ lives, because I wouldn’t have been able to take them to a lot of the programs like AWANA scripture memorization.  I would have been too busy.  And my kids, I love them, and they have great hope in God as well and love Jesus, and I think that’s because of the way they were brought up.

Candice:  How do you describe the peace that passes all understanding in your life?  What does that feel like?  Describe that from your perspective.

Lana:  The peace that surpasses all understanding is just really being with God.  And when you’re reading scripture, or in worship, it’s so wonderful to have that peace.  And even having made decisions, and seeing how they impact your life over the years, how that decision that impacts your life, and you know that it’s a good decision, that just gives you great peace, knowing that you did the right thing.

Eric:  Can I just have her clarify one thing, too, that not everybody chooses to stay home, if she just could talk about that, that this was the vision for what you [Lana] wanted to do, but other people are called to do other things, because she believes that strongly.  I just don’t want to give the wrong impression.  So maybe you could just say something about that.

Lana:  Absolutely.  Yes, I do want to clarify that.  Not everyone is called to stay at home.  There are certainly many instances where women are called to go to work, or both parents can go to work, but for me, it was really just what I was called to do.  That’s just how God created me, just to be a mother and stay home with my kids.

Candice:  I think that’s wonderful.  The reason it’s wonderful is because I think you mentioned a couple things:  One is that you would have been too busy to go to AWANA or scripture memory class and that greatly impacted your kids, and two, you mentioned that, in situations like this, you’ve been able to spend your life with your kids.  That’s what you wanted.  And I think it just makes it perfect the point that you are in God’s will and right where you need to be, where He has you in this pursuit of what you’ve dedicated your life to, and so I commend you for that.    I think that you have fulfilled that calling beautifully.  Another question I had for you is, I wanted to see what some of the messages are that you have for Eric and your kids, so let’s start with Eric.  What is something that you would like to share with him?  What is a message you have for him?

Lana:  Eric is just incredible. He’s incredibly talented and can play the piano, write music, do carpentry work, he knows everything about the computer, and he’s incredibly gifted.  So I just want him to press on, keep going with a lot of the projects he’s already started.  I know he has a couple that he and I have been working on together–the Saint Nicholas project, talking about the life of Christ and how much he [Nicholas] was a believer in Jesus and that’s how he became so famous as Saint Nicholas, our Santa Claus right now.  So I just want him to continue to press on with things.  I know he will and God will use him greatly.  I love him incredibly much.  He’s my prince and he takes incredible care of me and the kids.  So I’m not worried.  That’s another thing that makes passing into heaven at this time just so peaceful, because I know the kids are going to be in great hands, with Eric taking care of them.

Candice:  Thank you for sharing that Lana.  What about for the kids?  What message do you want to tell the kids?

Lana:  My kids have been just wonderful.  I was blessed, again, to be able to homeschool, and Eric encouraged me to do that as well [because Lana had the idea and wanted to try it].  He was a great encouragement, and my kids, I just know that they love Jesus.  That’s been great comfort to know that they’re going to do great in life in whatever God has called them to do.  I don’t know what they’re called to do, each of them yet, but I just know that they’ll do well, because everything they do, they do so well at.  I have no fear of anything going wrong, I just know they’re going to be blessed for the rest of their lives.  I had six blessings.  They’re awesome.  I’m going to miss them.

Candice:  What dreams do you have for your kids?

Lana:  My dreams for my kids is just that they would love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength.  And they do that, and so whatever dreams that they have, I know that God will help them fulfill them, whatever it is.  Because if they keep seeking God, they’re going to be on the straight path.  They’ll do what God’s called them to do and so that’s my dream, that they would do that, they would just keep loving Jesus, and loving each other and loving their neighbors.

Candice:  Lana, what dreams do you have for Eric?

Lana:  Pretty much the same thing.  Like I said, he’s incredibly talented, and gifted and can do anything, and he has great dreams for some projects that he’s working on, and I just pray that he can just continue to fulfill those dreams and do what God’s called him to do.  I know that God has a unique plan for my family, but for everyone, God has a unique plan, and I know that if they just keep following Jesus, and asking Him for direction, they’ll do well.  And your dreams [Eric] will come true.

Eric:  They have.  They already have.

Lana:  I know.  Love you, buddy.

Drew:  I’ve got a question for you.  What do you hope that people watching this get from it?

Lana:  I would hope that the people that are watching this, that they would know that they have a unique calling in life.  Everyone God created so uniquely, like everybody has different fingerprints, just so unique.  So I would hope that people watching this would know that God created them uniquely, that He has different dreams for them as well.  But if they keep following God, or asking God for direction, that God will show them what their unique place is in the world, what they’re uniquely designed or created to do, that they would just keep seeking God, and keep seeking the answers to what they feel called to do.

Drew:  Lana, I’ve got another question for you, and this is a very direct question, so I apologize for it, but you don’t seem fearful of death.  Why is that?

Lana:  I’m actually not fearful of death and I believe, the only thing I can attribute it to, is just having followed God for so long, waking up and talking to Him each day, throughout the day, He’s helped me through many things.  And since I am talking to Him all the day long, death will be just like meeting Him and talking to Him all day long–but without my kids and family [laughter].  I don’t know why I don’t fear death, but God has been such a loving God to me and I feel like I’ve been so blessed throughout my life, like I said earlier, about living my life with no regrets, and just doing everything I’ve wanted to do.  Even the past years, I’ve gone everywhere I’ve wanted to go.  I wanted to go to Israel and see the Holy Land and I got to go there five years ago, and then miraculously got to go two years after that.  So I’ve been to Israel twice and I’m so blessed to have done that.  So I’ve done everything I’ve wanted to do, and I don’t have–there’s not like one place I’d like to go see still or anything that I still need to accomplish.  So I feel like I’ve done everything, and I can go see Jesus at any time.  It would be fine.  But I know it’s hard for people who I’m leaving behind.  Since my diagnosis, I’ve tried to live my life like I’m going to live.  I didn’t want to live like I’m going to die.  I wanted to live like I’m going to live.  So that’s all I’ve done, just keep going on with the normal day.  But I know it’s hard for the people that are left behind, because I feel their pain.  I feel sorry for them, because I would like to be with them as well.  But also, I just love Jesus, and I’m looking forward to that day, too.

Eric [later that day]:  They just asked me to say a few words to you, and there’s just not enough words to express what you’ve meant to me.  I remember on our wedding day, I just said to you that you were a gift from God to me, and I wanted to treat you as a gift.  You’ve been just a super gift, and I feel like I’ve unwrapped layer after layer of you.  You’ve just given yourself to me in everything.  You have sacrificed so much for me, for the ministry, for the kids–just everything.  You’re a giver, and you’ve just given your life away.  And I can’t think of anything better you could do with your life.  You don’t just live your life, you give your life.  That means so much to me, and I know that’s going to mean a lot to our kids, just to know that your life was not lived in vain, and that your death won’t be in vain if you do die.  If you’re healed, hallelujah, that won’t be in vain either.

I gave this to Lana–it’s a little plaque–for our anniversary back in April this year, and it says, “And they lived happily ever after.”  It just reminds me of the joy that we’ve had together.  You know, I’m going to cry a lot, if you pass away.  But I felt like God said, “Tearfulness is OK.  Fearfulness is not.”  So I think it’s OK to be tearful, but I’m not fearful either.

And this just came in the mail today.  I just got two more tiles for your collection here and I just wanted to unwrap this with you.  This is a quote from Alfred Lloyd Tennyson.  It says:

“If I had a flower for every time I thought of you, I could walk through my garden forever.”

It’s so true.  I’m sure there won’t be a day that goes by that I don’t think about you.  And this is really from me, and the kids, and from everybody that knows you, and it just says, “You are loved.”  And you are.

Lana:  You’re really good at expressing your love to me all the time.  You’re just always so kind and so generous.  He [Eric] makes it easy for me to love him because he’s so much like Jesus, always thoughtful and kind and he puts me above himself all the time.  He wants to make sure I’m taken care of.  So I just appreciate these things, too, his gracious, kind gifts, thoughtful gifts, just incredible.

Eric:  Thanks.  And I’m not like Jesus, but I was thinking just last week as you were just laying in bed and the pain was on you, and even in your pain you were writing a message to our subscribers in different countries and giving them hope and encouraging them with your hope.  And I was just thinking of Jesus on the cross, just going through the pain and suffering for each one of us, and I thought, “Wow, you’re like Jesus!  I’m married to someone like Jesus!”  So I’m just so thankful to you and I just love you so much.

Lana:  Thanks, thanks a lot.  I love you.

Josh:  Let me ask you a couple questions.  To your children, what is your wife’s legacy?

Eric:  For my children, just to say what Lana’s legacy is, I think her heartbeat is to give.  She wants to give, give and give some more.  And I think it’s hard for her to do.  I think she’s struggled with it because we have so many needs.  We all have needs.  The kids have needs, and Lana has needs, and yet she’s just given so much.   We give money away and we give things away and she gives food away and she just gives away.  I feel like she’s a giver.  I know that’s her heart, even for some of the projects we’re working on now, just to tell, for instance, the Saint Nicholas story, of a man who gave his life away, too, because he was following the One who gave His life for all of us.  So I think that’s her legacy.  I feel like she’s following Jesus and that she denies herself many times so that she can give, and I don’t think that you can get better than that.

Josh:  How long have you all been married?

Eric:  We’ve been married 23 years, and we’ve known each other 28 years, and they’ve been super, all super.  I have no regrets.  I can’t complain that she’s being taken now.  How could I complain to God and say, “God, why did you take her?”  All I should be able to do is say, “God thank You!  How could you possibly love me so much that You would give me 28 years with her?” So I’m sad. I’m disappointed if you go.  But I cannot complain, for one single day.

Josh:  How is she not replaceable?

Eric:  How is she not replaceable?  I can’t think of how she is replaceable.  I can’t imagine anything–I mean there is nothing that could replace her.  She’s a unique creation of God–one of a kind.  There’s no replacing any one of us.  We’re all here for a reason, we’re all here for a purpose, just like Lana.  There are lots of people that we love, lots of people that are friends, lots of people that do a lot for us and we’re really close to, and I don’t think any of us are replaceable.

Josh:  I’m going to ask one more question.  So the heart of the story of Nouvelle Vie is finding life.  And we don’t know what’s going to happen, right?  You know God is a miraculous God and God could really pull through, or He may choose not to, and whatever it is, He’s glorified in all things.  If God chooses to take your wife from you, how do you persevere?  How do you go on?

Eric:  Nouvelle Vie means “new life,” and for me, as a Christian, I’ve already been given a new life.  And some people say, even if Lana dies, we’re going to pray and raise her from the dead.  And I love that.  I would love to do that.  I have prayed that for some of my friends in the past, too.  But the truth is, I know what being dead is like, and I’ve already been dead, and Jesus has already raised me from the dead.  I’ve now got a new life and now I’m going on.  I’m going to have a new life forever because of Jesus and what He’s done for me.  So we could pray that Lana would be raised from the dead, and that might happen, but the truth is that she’s already been raised from the dead.  She knows what a dead life is like and she’s been given a new life already, and that’s going to continue on for eternity.  So to me, that’s part of the hope of Nouvelle Vie, that it speaks about the new life that we can have right now, today, starting this very day.  You don’t have to wait till you die to be raised from the dead.  You can be resurrected.  You can be redeemed.  You can be restored, anytime you choose to just put your faith in Christ, to ask Him to forgive you of your sins.  He will take you to be with Him forever in heaven, and give you a whole new life here on earth.  So that’s the hope that I have, and the courage that I have, that your passing [Lana] really is “passing.”  As the Bible says, it’s a sleeping, you fall asleep, then you’ll be woken up by Jesus when He comes back for us.  It’ll be a short sleep for you, and maybe a long few years for us, but in the light of eternity, it’ll just be a blink of an eye, and I can’t wait to see you again.

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As a thank-you for your donation of any size to our ministry, we’d be glad to send you our DVD, “To Lana, With Love,” featuring the Celebration of the Life of Lana Elder, who passed away on November 15th, 2012.  Lana was the wife of Eric Elder and co-founder of The Ranch. “To Lana, With Love” also includes the short inspirational video, “Eric’s Hope,” to give hope and encouragement to others facing loss.
Click here to learn more or to make a donation.

To Lana, With Love

You will reap a harvest, if you don’t give up!

Here’s my Video Devotional for the week of September 15th…

And here’s the transcript…

Hi, this is Eric Elder and welcome to The Ranch.  I heard from someone who was talking about planting trees.  He was asking, “Do you know what time is the best time to plant a tree?”  And his answer was: “Twenty years ago.”

Of course, he’s right.  If you want a whole yard full of trees or a whole city full of trees, then the best time to plant a tree would be twenty years ago.  But then he asked, “Do you know what the second best time is to plant a tree?”  And the answer to that question is: “Today.”

Time goes so quickly that what was once twenty years ago, all of a sudden is today.

I’m actually standing here at The Ranch and I’m in front of a tree that my wife and I planted nineteen years ago.  It was our Christmas tree in our house and we brought it in in a ball of dirt for a few days for Christmas, and we brought it back out here to the farm – my Dad was living out here at the time – and we brought it out here and we planted it.  And now, here it is, nineteen years later, and we have a beautiful tree.

Well, it was great that we planted that tree, but we’ve been planting more trees throughout the years, because every year I keep thinking of that phrase, and I keep thinking, “You know, I should try to plant a tree, or another tree, or another tree, because if I keep planting trees now, someday we’ll have a beautiful garden.”

And this past December, we planted another tree.  In case you don’t know, my wife passed away in November, and so we bought a Christmas tree for her.  That’s over here, I’ll show you this one if you’ll follow me over.

So this is one that was just planted in the past 10 months.  This is our brand new little pine tree, and we’ll just see, we may have another tree that, twenty years from now, will be another beautiful tree, and we might have a tree that looks like this tree.

My point in telling you all this today is that I want to encourage you to keep planting.  Keep trusting God that He can take things in your life, and over time, He can make them fruitful.  Again, as I had mentioned that my wife had passed away, I was surprised that we had been planting some apple trees and plum trees and cherry trees out in a small orchard here.  And every year I’ll buy a tree or two and we’ll plant it, and together we’d go out and with the family we’d plant a tree.

Well, none of those trees have been producing.  It takes several years for those to get going.  And oddly enough, this year, for the first time, we’ve got some apples on the trees.  Not only that, but we have had cherries on the trees, and we’ve had plums on the trees, and we’ve had some peaches on the trees.  And even some of the newest apple trees, that normally don’t take root and don’t produce until, like seven years.  But these are just maybe three years old and we’ve got some apples already growing.

And it’s a great reminder to me – I feel terrible about my wife dying – it’s affected us, my family, like nothing else I can tell you.  But when I came out here this summer, and I started seeing fruitfulness, and these trees, they’re bearing apples, and they’re beautiful apples.  They taste great, and it’s the first time they’ve ever produced.

And I just think of the work that Lana did in her lifetime, and she’s borne fruit.  Not just here in the orchard, but in our lives and with my children, and in the lives of other people.  I just want to encourage you, don’t get weary of doing good.  If you’ll keep planting, God will produce a harvest for you.

The Bible says, “Do not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time you will reap a harvest if you do not give up.”

God will bring fruitfulness out of your life.  I want to encourage you in that and bless you today, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Lana’s Sweet Salsa

Here’s a little fun we had in the kitchen with my kids making “Lana’s Sweet Salsa,” from our home grown tomatoes, peppers and parsley, with filming by Karis and video editing by Bo and Kaleo!  A transcript and complete recipe follows. (Recorded September 15, 2013)

Here’s the transcript…

Hi, this is Eric Elder, and here’s what’s cooking at The Ranch!

We’re going to make some homemade salsa.  We’re going to turn these garden tomatoes and wonderful peppers, jalapeño peppers, and onions — Bo is cutting up some great onions, crying over here.  Poor Bo, but he’ll be all right. And we’re going to turn them into “Lana’s Sweet Salsa.” We’ll check back with you in a minute.

All right. Now we’re taking the tomatoes, and we’re going to take the skins off and the seeds out. So we do a process called blanching. Bo is going to put them in the boiling water, put some tomatoes in there. And then it takes only about a minute in the boiling water.

And when they’re ready, he’ll take them out and put them in this bowl over here. And then we just take them out, and you can see how the skin just peels right off. And Josiah is over here, and he’s taking skins off. We run them under some cold water because they’re so hot to handle.

So then he will take the top off. And to take the seeds out, it’s easy to just cut the tomato right in half across the middle so it’s sort of a star shape. You can show them the star shape there. And then he can just use the back of his thumb and just pop the seeds out. You don’t have to get them all out. But if you get some of the seeds out, that makes the salsa taste better. And then when he’s done, he’ll pop them in the tray over here where later we’re going to crush them up when get them ready for salsa.

Now we’re doing the chopping of the tomatoes. We’re just taking the whole tomatoes. We put them in this pan, and then he’s using a little Pampered Chef chopper to chop them up. You can cut them with a knife, but this makes it really easy and just little bite-size pieces so you have them. And I want to separate the water from the tomatoes so I’m pouring it into a strainer because I want some of that water drained off. And I’m actually going to save some of that water for later, and we’re going to put that on the stove and reduce it.

So you just simmer it on the stove for a long, long time. You just let it simmer, simmer, simmer until it gets a nice thick paste in there, and then we’ll have that and it will give us extra bulk and put the tomatoes into the pan. We have about eight cups of tomatoes or more.

Over here we’re doing peppers and just cutting up the peppers. We’ll do the same thing to chop them up. We’ve already done the onions. And we’ve got about 15 jalapeño peppers, and we use plastic gloves when we cut these so I don’t burn my hands. That happens sometimes. And we’ll add the peppers, onions, and tomatoes, and then we’ll start cooking.

All right. We’re getting ready for our next step. While this is boiling for about 20 minutes just bring it to a boil and let it simmer down for 20 minutes. This is reducing nicely. It’s still cooking there. And it’s getting a little thicker. And then we’re going to add all these things. We’re supposed to add some cloves of garlic, but instead of chopping it up we buy it already chopped. So add some garlic in there, some salt, some cumin, some oregano. This is apple cider vinegar. And then we add — it seems like cheating, but it just helps out — a can of diced tomatoes, which you strain them again, put the juice in that one. And then two cans of tomato paste. That will give us a little extra thickness for us.

Joe’s doing some limes over here. We’re squeezing six limes. So that juice will go in the mix too. Put this all in. And Kaleo is over here. She just picked some fresh parsley from the garden, and she chopped it up with the food chopper. And you have to be careful when you pick fresh things. These are beautiful little caterpillars she found, but you make sure you don’t want those in your salsa.

We are now cutting these jalapeño peppers and I can barely talk. They’re really strong. And so that’s why I’m using the gloves, because you really don’t want to burn your hands. They really can burn you. I’m sort of cutting the middle out and then washing the seeds out. It’s the seeds that are even extra hot. So if you want more you can add some of the seeds, but these are already pretty hot. I’m going to put that in, and we’re going to chop them up.

All right. We’re ready for the last step before we get to eat it. This is two cups of the peppers, onions, and tomatoes that were raw that we put in at the beginning. We took out two cups and saved it for the end. It will give it a little fresh flavor. We’re going to pour that in and add more two tablespoons of brown sugar. This is what makes it extra sweet. It’s already been cooking with the other brown sugar. And then that reserved tomato paste we just put in. And so it’s all ready. We let it simmer for five more minutes and it will be time to eat.

And here we are with our final salsa. It’s all ready. We’ve stirred it up and we’ve just been enjoying it. And I am so glad that you watched this and to see how it was made.

I just want to remind you the Bible says, “Do not become weary in doing good, because at the proper time you will reap a harvest if you do not give up.” Sometimes you have to wait years for things like apples to grow. (Click here to watch our apple video). Other times, just a few months ago we planted some tomatoes, some peppers, some parsley, and today we’re enjoying the fruit of all that with our salsa.

Thanks for coming. We’re glad you were here to see “What’s cookin’ at The Ranch!”

Recipe for Lana’s Sweet Salsa:
(This recipe originally came from Eric’s sister, Marilyn Byrnes, but it was Lana’s favorite!  Hence the name, “Lana’s Sweet Salsa!”)

8 or more C. tomatoes, blanched, peeled, cored and chopped. (Drain off extra juice and reduce it in saucepan for use at the end.)
4 C. assorted green-type peppers….seeded and chopped (anaheim, passillo, hungarian wax, green)
2 C. jalepeno peppers, chopped (16 peppers = 2 C.)
1 1/2 C. onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 can diced tomatoes, drained (reserve liquid and reduce for the end)
2 cans tomato paste
1 1/2 C. apple cider vinegar
6 limes, squeeze for the juice
3 t. ground cumin
4 t. salt
2 t. ground chipotle pepper seasoning
4 T. fresh oregano
4 T. fresh cilantro
6 T. brown sugar

Mix tomatoes, peppers and onions. Hold out 2 cups for the end.

Combine remaining tomatoes, peppers, onions with the rest of the ingredients. Bring to boil, stir frequently and reduce heat
immediately….simmer 20 minutes.

Throw in the reserved raw onions, peppers, tomatoes & additional 2 T. brown sugar. Add reduced tomato liquid. Simmer 5 more minutes.

Put in pint jars, with 1/4″ headspace, in a hot water bath for 30 minutes.  Makes 10-14 pints.

To Lana, With Love

To Lana, With Love

You’re watching TO LANA, WITH LOVE: A Celebration of the Life of Lana Jane Elder. (Also available on DVD from our bookstore for family and friends or those have slower or more expensive Internet connections.)

A Celebration of the Life of Lana Jane (Olivero) Elder

Hi, this is Eric Elder, Lana’s husband.  I just wanted to say thanks to everyone who came out for the visitation and celebration of Lana’s life last week.  It was one of the most beautiful services of any kind I have ever attended in my life.  While the service was filled with tears, it was tremendously uplifting as well!

I’d love for you to watch the whole service online, which I’ve posted at the links below. To encourage you to watch, here are just a few comments from those who attended, including a friend who rededicated her life to God and asked one of my kids to baptize her right after the service!

“Wow. Feel like I have so much to say and no words at same time. Witnessed arguably the most beautiful event I’ve ever seen today…a true worship service celebrating the life of a mother of six who WON the battle with cancer. Permanently. A funeral is a very different event for those who understand this world is not their home.”

“Of all the events I’ve ever attended where the Holy Spirit was really moving, never, in my entire life, have I seen God more glorified than He was at the funeral service for Lana. Thank you and each and every one of your children for reminding me of that, even when sorrows like sea billows roll.”

“I was so heavy hearted at Monday’s visitation and upon entering the celebration of life on Tuesday. But I left that beautiful service UPLIFTED. You and the kids were able to bring us into His presence and share in the beauty of Lana’s life and her desire to share Jesus. It effected me profoundly.”

“Recently I have been questioning whether God is even real or whether we just made Him up in an attempt to answer the unexplainable and to give us comfort when things are out of our hands. I prayed that God would show me a sign that He was really here. I was hoping this sign would come in the form of Lana being healed….. A week ago, Makari texted me telling me that her mom had died. I didn’t know what to do. I just cried. I started asking the same questions I had asked when my own mother died six years ago. God did the opposite of what I was hoping for. So on Monday, I drove to Bloomington, Illinois to be there for the services for Lana Elder. It was during the funeral/celebration of Lana’s life that God gave me His sign. Looking at Karis and Lucas and Makari and Josiah and Bo and Kaleo and Eric… There is absolutely no way that there is not a God…  At the end of the service, Karis had an invitation, and I went down and talked to her about what had been going on, and I rededicated my life to God. After the dinner, Makari and I were talking and we decided that I was going to be baptized right then and there because there’s no better time than the present. So on Tuesday, November 20, 2012, I was baptized in the well/waterfall by Makari in Eastview Christian Church in Bloomington, Illinois.”

Praise God! Even in death, Lana is bringing people closer to Jesus. Nothing is wasted when we give it to God. Hallelujah!

Special thanks to Russell Pond, our good friend and film maker who came up from Houston to be with us for the service and filmed part of the visitation and all of the service for us. I’m so glad he did!  I think you will be too.

Lana Elder's cover for Memorial Service

Click the image above to view the program for Lana’s Memorial Service.

I’ve posted the service below in 6 parts, plus a montage from the visitation (recorded the night before).  I’ve also included the program from her service at the right if you’d like to read it here or follow along.

Here’s Part 1 of 6, which includes:

Welcome and Opening Prayer: Pastor by Jason Sniff, friend

Songs of Worship: led by Gary Marini, friend, Lucas Elder, son, and Makari Elder, daughter

Song: “Hosanna (Praise Is Rising)” written by Brenton Brown
Song: “Everlasting God” written by Chris Tomlin
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 40:28-31, read by Makari Elder, daughter
Song: “How He Loves” written by John Mark McMillan

Here’s Part 2 of 6, which includes:

Scripture Reading: John 14:1-3, by Mark Olivero, brother

Expressions of Love: by Laurie Landsman, sister, and John Paul Olivero, brother

Here’s Part 3 of 6, which includes:

Scripture Reading: Revelation 21:1-5, by Josiah Elder, son

Dance: “I Can Only Imagine,” by Kaleo Elder, daughter, and nieces Shana, Tara and Erica Olivero and Rebekah Landsman

Here’s Part 4 of 6, which includes:

Eulogy: by Pastor Eric Elder, husband

Eric’s Hope: Video by Neuvelle Vie

Scripture Readings: “What God Says About Fear,” Recorded by Lana Elder, with music by friends Brent Mitchell and Chuck and Lynette Giacinto

Here’s Part 5 of 6, which includes:

Invitation to follow Lana’s Savior: by Karis Elder, daughter

Invitation Song: “It Is Well With My Soul” written by Horatio Spafford, sung by Lucas Elder, son

Part 6 of 6, which includes:

Closing Songs: “Happy New Life To You” and “O Come Let Us Adore Him,” led by Bo Elder, son, and the family

Closing Prayer: by Mark Dossett, friend

And here’s the Visitation Montage, which includes:

Piano Music: by Marilyn Byrnes, Eric’s sister

Eric’s Hope

A friend of mine was producing an action movie in Dallas this summer and asked if my daughter and I would want to be extras in one of the scenes.  She said, “Yes!” so we took a road trip to Dallas.

The first night on the set, one of the other producers asked if I’d be willing to share our story of Lana’s battle with cancer, as we were still in the midst of it.  They wanted to use it as part of an upcoming project they were working on to give hope to other families facing cancer, called  Nouvelle Vie (New Life).  With a bit of fear, but a stronger desire to give hope to others as God had given us hope, I said, “Yes.”

So the next day we were filming again, but this time a different kind of film.

Here’s the 5-and-a-half minute video they shot that day, powerfully captured and edited by the talents of Reidland Tucker and Candice Irion.

I have watched it many times since then myself, and have been encouraged each time that as long as we still have breath, God still has a plan for our lives.

Eric’s Hope

Conclusion: Making A Chance

Thanks for joining us on this devotional tour of the Holy Land. To see a few highlights of our trip together, take a look at this short video below, as our worship leaders from the trip, Lucas Elder and Gary Marini, lead us in a closing song.  Then read on to hear a touching story of God’s faithfulness to those who put their faith in Him.

I was telling a group one time that they should try to go to Israel if they ever got a chance.  My son Lucas added:  “Don’t just wait till you get a chance.  Make a chance!  Do whatever you can do to get there.  It’s worth it!”  He’s right.

So I’d like to tell you just one more story as we close, a story about “making a chance.”  While I usually try to shorten stories to make them as concise as possible, I think this one is best told with all the details in tact.  I believe God has several things He might want to speak to you through this story, so I pray that you’ll be blessed as you read it.

As we began talking about going on this trip to Israel, a woman from Malawi named Esther had written to me, saying that she wondered if I thought God would ever make a way for her to visit Israel someday.  She said she simply began crying every time she read the word “Israel” in some of the devotionals I had written and shared over the Internet.  Knowing that she lived in Malawi, and knowing the situation for many who live there, I wasn’t sure what to say.  I began to pray about how to respond to her email, thinking that I’d say, “I believe that God can make a way, but I’m sorry I can’t help you myself.”  As soon as I said those words in my mind, however, I felt God say, “Yes, you can help her.”  I said, “No, I can’t.”  He said, “Yes you can.”  I said, “No, I can’t!”

I had been planning this trip to Israel for the past 3 years, and our whole family had been working and saving money so that my wife and I and our four oldest kids could go with us.  We barely had enough money at that time for just one of us to go, let alone six.  So when God said I could help Esther get there, too, I really didn’t know what to do.  So I wrote back to her and said simply that I believed God could make a way, and I’d be praying along with her.

As the summer went on, I kept reading the words of Jesus to His disciples  from Matthew 14:13-21, when 5,000 people were gathered together on a hillside at dinnertime.  Jesus told His disciples: “You give them something to eat.”  I could imagine what the disciples must have felt. They said that not even eight months wages would give everyone even one bite, so how could they feed them?  All they had was five loaves of bread and two fish from a boy’s lunch.

Yet I was puzzled why Jesus would ask them to do something impossible if He didn’t think they could do it. didn’t think they could possibly do. Unless, of course, they could do it, and they just didn’t know how.  I kept asking God, “How?  How did Jesus do it?  And how can we do it when You ask us to do something that seems impossible to us?”

So I studied that passage over and over, trying to see how Jesus did it.  He simply gave thanks to God, broke the bread, and had the disciples start passing it out.  Somehow there was enough food for all 5,000 to eat till they were satisfied and still have twelve baskets full left over.

As I shared this dilemma one week with a youth group, some of them came up to me afterwards and said they’d like to help with Esther’s ticket.  I tried to decline their money, because I didn’t want them to think I was telling them the story in order for them to give money for the trip.  I was just sharing with them the puzzle of how to do what God asks us to do when we think it is impossible. Several of them insisted, however, saying that they felt God really wanted them to give the money to help with Esther’s trip.  By the end of that week, I had received just over $300—enough to make the deposit on the trip for Esther to come with us.  But I still needed more than 10 times that amount to pay for her whole trip, plus I still had to pay for my own family to go.  I didn’t tell Esther about the money yet, nor the deposit.  I just told her that I was still praying for her, and asked if she could get her passport information to me in case God were to make a way for her to come with us.

As the trip got closer, I just couldn’t let go of the idea that God wanted me to help Esther get to Israel, but I still didn’t know how.  So I sent out a note to some others who also read my weekly devotionals on the Internet, letting them know about the situation.  We received about a third of the total needed for her trip from that appeal.  Another man donated about a third of the cost to  cover her airfare from Malawi, and Lana and I put in the final third, as God was also working at the same time to help the six of us going from our family to pay for our trips, too.  I told Esther the good news, that God had made a way for her to join us.  By the time we left, everyone’s ticket was completely paid for! This was astounding!

But then we got to Israel.  We were supposed to meet Esther at the airport, as she was to arrive on a flight about twelve hours earlier.  But when we got there, we couldn’t find her.  We paged her several times over the airport intercom, we checked for phone messages and email messages, looked in all the waiting areas, but couldn’t find anything about where she might be, or if she even made it on her flights.  We finally had to leave the airport, knowing that I had at least sent her the names of the hotels where we’d be staying at before we left, and hoped that she would catch up with us.

But she didn’t. She called us the next day from an airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  Although she had made it all the way to the airport in Israel, they had denied her entry into Israel, saying that it was too questionable about how she came to know us through our Internet ministry, and why the rest of the group wasn’t there to meet her in Israel when she arrived.  Although she tried to explain it to them several times, and she was even still in the airport when our flight finally landed twelve hours later, she wasn’t allowed to call or email or make any contact with us.  (To the credit of the airport security in Israel, they run a very tight ship and for very good reasons.  We appreciate that they take their job so seriously or otherwise no one would be able to travel in and around Israel at all.)  But since Esther did not travel together with us into the country with the group, she was questioned more strictly and finally put on a plane, headed back to her home.

I couldn’t believe it when she told me the story over the phone and I began trying to think of anything else I could do.  We had come too far in getting her to this point that I didn’t want to give up on it, even though she was already headed on her flights back home, now waiting in Ethiopia to change planes back to Malawi.  I called the immigration office at the Addis Ababa airport to ask if she could be put back on the plane to Israel, that we would meet her at the airport when she arrived and try to provide whatever documents they needed to verify that she was on our tour, but they said there was nothing they could do for her.  She had been officially deported, and they were to put her on a flight back to Malawi the next morning.  After several calls to several different people at the immigration office, I couldn’t get any farther.  I went to bed that night wondering why God had brought her so far, only to have her turned back in the end.  It was 4 in the morning by this time, and I couldn’t think of anything else to do, so I finally slept.

When I woke up a few hours later, I updated my wife Lana on the situation, and asked if she could think of anything else we could do.  She remembered that a friend of ours had a daughter who had just come home from serving a year in Ethiopia as a missionary, and maybe she would have a contact who could help us out.  I didn’t know what they could even do, but I felt I had to pursue any possible option that was still open to us, as I felt it was the Lord who had put it on my heart to try to get her there in the first place.  So we texted our friend’s daughter back in Chicago, who texted us back with the phone number of a pastor she knew in Addis Ababa.  I was astounded that we knew someone who knew someone who lived in Addis Ababa at all!

And I couldn’t believe it when we called him and he immediately said that he would do whatever we needed him to do, just let him know.  It was such a surprise that my wife and I both cried at the thought that someone would take a call from complete strangers and would be willing to drop everything and go to the airport right away.  He was a busy man with a large congregation and they had just gotten out of some special weekday services they were holding.  It was beyond what we could have imagined someone doing for us in this situation.  It still makes me cry to think of it—a brother in Christ willing to help out another brother, simply because we have the same Father. So he went to the airport that night, along with a pilot friend from his congregation.  Unfortunately they weren’t able to find Esther there.  We were all disappointed, but we didn’t know what else to do.

In the mean time, I had also talked to the tour company who helped us arrange the whole trip, and they said they could try to fax a letter to immigration in Addis Ababa, saying that Esther was indeed part of our tour, and that she was an invited guest as part of our group.  I called the immigration office again, saying that we’d try to get a letter to them if they could just let Esther stay at the airport another 5-6  hours, as it was the middle of the night back in the States, and the tour offices wouldn’t be open yet for another several hours.  They granted our request and didn’t make her get on the next-scheduled flight to Malawi.

So we got their fax number and the tour company tried several times to fax the letter—but the fax wouldn’t go through.  As the day went on, the rest of our group in Israel continued on with our tour, now sitting in a garden in the city of Capernaum, a site where Jesus had done some incredible miracles.  I updated the group on Esther’s situation, and we all prayed that someone would be able to get that letter through to the immigration office.  I didn’t have the heart to call the pastor in Addis Ababa again, but Lana did, so she tried to call him.  None of her calls would go through.  We sat down again and prayed.  Our time was running out.

At the very moment that we sat down to pray, my phone rang.  It was the pastor from Addis Ababa!  He said he had just been to the airport again to try one more time to find Esther, taking some of his church members with him, this time one who worked at the airport.  They had found Esther!  They were calling us to see if there was any possibility we could fax him a letter from the tour company saying that she was with our trip!  It was the very thing we were trying to do, but he didn’t know it, and I didn’t know he had gone back to the airport again! I called the tour company who found a way to finally email to the pastor, who printed it out and took it back to the immigration office at the airport.  I also instructed the tour company that if they needed to buy another ticket for Esther to get back to Israel, to go ahead and buy it and charge it to my account, up to $1,000, withhout having to try to call me.  We didn’t have time to wait for any more calls.  I just wanted the ticket waiting for her at the airport if she needed it.  I didn’t have $1,000 to spend on her ticket, but that’s the number that came into my mind while I was on the phone, and what I felt I should say.

The pastor was able to get the documents to Esther, and the immigration office said she could get on a plane back to Israel.  The tour company agency found the cheapest ticket they could—it was $992, just $8 under the limit I had given them, so they bought it and had it waiting for her at the airline counter.

As I went to bed that night, exhausted not only from the recent days’ activities, but also from the months leading up to this moment, I went to lay down and felt God said, “You passed the test.  Enjoy the rest of the trip.”  I wasn’t sure exactly what test I had passed, but I was thankful that it was all working out.  Even though Esther wasn’t yet back in Israel, I felt like I had done the utmost of what I could possibly do to get her to Israel, as God had called me to do.

The next morning, our first stop on our tour “just happened” to be the site where Jesus multiplied the loaves and the fish to feed the 5,000—the place where Jesus had told the disciples to give the people something to eat, and the passage which had so inspired me all along.  There we were standing on the same hill where that miracle from God took place.  As I was looked up the passage again to read to our group that morning, I saw that it was told in several of the gospels, so I looked at each version to see which one to read.  When I read John’s version of the story, I couldn’t believe it!  In his version, when Jesus asked Philip where they could get food for all these people to eat, John added:

“He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what He was going to do” (John 6:6).

It was a test!  And just as Jesus had tested the disciples by asking them to give the people something to eat,—when it seemed utterly impossible—God had tested me to help someone else in need when it seemed impossible, too.  And God had told me the night before that I had passed the test.  Hallelujah!  And now He had brought me to the hillside where Jesus had given the disciples their test!  God couldn’t have spoken more clearly to me if He had appeared in front of my eyes!

Later that afternoon, Esther arrived again at the airport in Israel, and this time she was allowed to enter the country.  (The security people at the airport had asked her, “Why have you come back again when someone who is deported isn’t allowed to attempt to come back into the country again for five years, and now you’re trying to come back after only three days later!”  Had I known that, I don’t know that I would have even tried to get her back in.  Only God could have opened that door for her to return!)  She met us at the hotel for dinner that night.

Over dinner with our group, Esther and I shared with each other all that God had been doing to make this moment possible.  And that’s when the real clincher came.

Esther told me that from the very first day that I responded to her email, saying that I felt God could make a way for her to visit Israel someday, she said God spoke to her and told her she’d be coming this year, with us.  Even when she was being turned away at the airport, she said she was praising God, that those had been the best few days of her life so far.  Her mom had even called me during all of this to say that she wasn’t discouraged, that they were just going to thank God in all things in order to shame the devil.  Esther said that from the very beginning, when she first started thinking about the trip, she wanted to pray that God would make a way for her to go, but that God had stopped her from praying.  She said that God told her not to pray for the trip, but to simply give thanks for it.  She was puzzled, but did what God said.  In fact, as time went on she was tempted to ask others to start praying for her to be able to go on the trip, too, but that God had stopped her from telling even one person about the trip or to pray for her, but simply to continue to give thanks for it.  She said she didn’t feel she was supposed to tell anyone about the trip until it was set.  When she got my email asking for her passport information, and before I had even told her that people had begun to give money for her to come, she said she knew on that day that everything was set, and she could finally begin telling others about it.

I was stunned by what she said.  Wasn’t that exactly what Jesus did on the hillside when He multiplied the loaves and the fish?  He simply gave thanks to God, broke the bread, and asked the disciples pass it out.  He didn’t plead for it, He just gave thanks for it!  I looked at Esther and thanked her for being obedient to what God had told her to do.  It had spoken volumes to me, answering a question that had been on my heart for months as I studied that passage trying to see what Jesus had done.  I told her what God said to me about passing the test, and that I felt that she had passed her test, too ,because of her obedience.  We both knew that while God would still use the rest of the trip to speak to us in many ways, that He had already done His greatest work in us already, that of increasing our faith in Him.

As if to confirm all that had just happened that day, when I got back to my hotel room that night and having shared all of this with Esther—even the part about authorizing the purchase of her second ticket for anything up to $1,000 when I didn’t know how I’d be able to pay for it—I checked my email before heading for bed.  In my inbox was a note saying that a friend of ours back in the States had unexpectedly made an online donation of $1,000 to our ministry while we were at dinner that night!  It was as if God were putting the icing on the cake, covering even the final detail of her trip.

I still don’t know how to interpret it all.  On the one hand, it seems it wouldn’t have happened had we not prayed fervently and worked feverishly towards the goal, even day and night near the end.  But on the other hand, God wanted to teach us something through what He called Esther to do:  to simply give thanks for what He was going to give her.  Or as my wife said while we were going through the whole ordeal, she felt that we were like the workers who helped to dig Hezekiah’s tunnel to bring water into the City of David.  One team started digging from one side, and the other team started digging from the other side, and miraculously both teams were able to meet in the middle to complete the tunnel!

In any case, I hope that God will speak to you through at least some portion of this story.  And for some reason, I don’t think this is the end of the story.  It could very well be the beginning of some new ones!  Thanks again for joining us on this incredible trip to the Holy Land!

Let’s pray:

Father, thank You for all the remarkable things we’ve learned from this trip to the Holy Land, and all the remarkable things you still want us to learn in the future.  Give us the faith to step out and trust you completely for everything in our lives, giving You thanks, even in advance, for Your love and faithfulness to us.  Thank You for sending Your Son to lead us in Your ways, and keep giving us the faith we need to follow Him every day, until one day He leads us on into heaven.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

You're reading ISRAEL: LESSONS FROM THE HOLY LAND, by Eric Elder, featuring thirty inspiring devotionals based on the land where Jesus walked. Also available in paperback and eBook formats in our bookstore for a donation of any size!

You’re reading ISRAEL: LESSONS FROM THE HOLY LAND, by Eric Elder, featuring thirty inspiring devotionals based on the land where Jesus walked. Also available in paperback and eBook formats in our bookstore for a donation of any size!