2016 Guided Prayer Retreat

Here’s the archive of all 4 sessions from the “2016 Guided Prayer Retreat,” held at The Cove retreat center in Asheville, North Carolina on December 7-9, 2016.

SESSION 1 – PRAYER IS A CONVERSATION WITH GOD (Wednesday, December 7, 7:15 p.m.)


SESSION 3 – ACTING IN FAITH ON WHAT YOU’VE HEARD IN PRAYER (Thursday, December 8, 7:15 p.m.)


Lana’s Hope – A Tribute


by Eric and Lana Elder, their family
and the film 
team of Nouvelle Vie

Eric Elder Family with Hand Print

A few months ago I shared with you some raw footage of a video that a film team had taken of Lana and our family on November 1st, 2012, just two weeks before she passed on to be with the Lord.  

I’m happy to let you know that they’ve put together a short film for us that we were able to enjoy privately on the first anniversary of Lana’s passing, and that is ready now to share with you publicly.  It’s called, “Lana’s Hope: A Tribute,” and it compresses 8-10 hours of filming into a 15-minute tribute to Lana.  In it, the kids and I share with Lana what she has meant to us, and Lana shares her heart on topics like living life with no regrets, looking forward to heaven and living out the unique purpose God has for your life.

One of my favorite parts is seeing what our kids had to say about Lana, which they had secretly filmed that day, and which Lana and I were able to watch together a few days afterwards.

This short film was put together by Candice Irion, who also wrote last week’s devotional  that I shared with you regarding Valentine’s Day.  Candice is the original writer for the upcoming feature film called, Nouvelle Vie, which means “new life” in French, and which was written to give hope to others facing loss.

Candice interviewed us for this project, along with her husband, Josh Spake, and Drew Waters, who spent the day with us filming, laughing, crying, eating brownies and praising God.  Special thanks also to my friend, Russell Pond, and my sister, Marilyn Byrnes, who helped us out behind-the-scenes while we were putting this film together.  Candice also included several songs in the background from my piano CDs Clear My Mind and Soothe My Soul.

It’s a special film from a special day that we’ll treasure forever.

Without further adieu, I’d like to present to you “Lana’s Hope:  A Tribute.”  Click the link or the video below to watch.  I’ve also included a transcript below the video.

Watch “Lana’s Hope”


TITLE SCREENS:  The Nouvelle Vie film presents… Lana’s Hope: A Tribute

LANA:  When they told me the diagnosis, it was very shocking because I had taken really good care of myself.  I called my son Lucas.  Lucas was, you know, tearful on the other end.  I wanted my kids to come home from college, so I have all my kids here with me.  I get to see them a little bit longer.  And yet we’re all still praying for a cure.  We’re still praying that God can miraculously turn this around.  I’ve not lost hope in the fact that God is a miraculous God.

MAKARI: Hey, Momma, I just wanted to say that you’re the most amazing woman in the entire world.  You’ve given up so much so that I can be where I am and so that I can be who I am.  And I’ve learned to be strong because of you.

LUCAS:  I’ve tried to think back what I would have done different or if there was a better way that you could have raised us and I think for sure no, and you just completely nailed it.  And for everything you’ve given us just the whole way, it’s been completely a blessing.

JOSIAH:  She always did what was best for us, even if we didn’t like it sometimes.

BO:  Thanks for taking us to Triple Creek Ranch and skiing and to the Sand Dunes all those years.  I love you.

JOSH (to Kaleo):  If you could hold out your hands to show your Mom how much you love her, how much would it be?  KALEO:  That big?  KARIS:  That big?  KALEO:  This big!  KARIS:  This big!

KARIS: I’m so inspired by you and your faith through all this and the way that you love God.  You’ve taught us to love God the same way.  You have touched so many people and given them hope, and glorified God in everything that you’ve done.  And just the peace that you’ve had that has given all of us peace, I know.  And just to be able to look back on all of this and see how it glorified God, I’m just so thankful to God for you and having you as a mom.  I can’t imagine having anyone else as a mother.

MAKARI:  You’ve given up everything, but you would think that you haven’t given it up.  Even though I know that you’ve wanted other things that you were going to fulfill and I believe that they’re going to be fulfilled through each one of your children.  Because of what you’ve given us and what you’ve given up for us, you would say that you’ve gotten what you’ve always wanted.

ERIC:  For my children, just to say what Lana’s legacy is, I think that her heartbeat is to give.  She wants to give and give and give some more.  So I think that’s her legacy.  I just feel like she’s following Jesus in that she denies herself many times so that she can give.  I don’t think you can get better than that.

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.

For me, as a Christian, I’ve already been given a new life.  Some people say, even if Lana dies, “We’re gonna pray and raise her from the dead.”  And I love that.  I would love to do that and I’ve prayed that for some of my friends in the past, too.  But the truth is, I already 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 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 can pray that Lana would be raised from the dead and that might happen, but the truth is, 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, starting this very day.  And you don’t have to wait to die to be raised from the dead.  You can be resurrected, you can be redeemed, you can be restored anytime you choose to put your faith in Christ, ask Him to forgive you of your sins and 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 really is passing, as the Bible says, it’s “sleeping.”  You fall asleep and 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.

LANA:  I would hope that the people watching this, that they would know that they have a unique calling in life.  Everyone God created so uniquely.  Everybody has different fingerprints, just so unique.  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 keep seeking God and keep seeking the answers to what it is that they feel called to do.

JOSIAH:  Mom, I love you, and I want to say that you’re completely unique and unlike anyone else in the whole world and I love you.

LANA:  I have always tried to live my life with no regrets, just doing everything I’ve wanted to do.  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 and that’s all I’ve done.  There’s not like one place I say I’d like to go see still or anything I still need to accomplish.  I feel like I’ve done everything.

God has been such a loving God to me and I feel like I’ve been so blessed even now as I go through this.  He continues to, I believe, put things on people’s hearts to do, bring a meal, send a card, just call, text message and send encouraging words.  And I believe God prompts people’s hearts to do those things, and when they do them, it’s just so encouraging.  They’re such a blessing.  Even when I don’t even know them, it’s just nice to get a card in the mail, telling me that they’re thinking of me or praying for our family.  I just feel blessed to know that there are so many people around the world that are encouraging us and supporting us.  I just want to say a big thank you to them.  Love just continues to be the greater answer to our situations.

God’s love has never failed me because I just continue to see that love is the greater gift.  That’s why I feel so blessed.  When I was little, I used to pray every day for my husband, that I would have someone who would be like Prince Charming and love me.  And I really wanted him to love Jesus, whoever it would be.  And I wanted them to be like Jesus, because I wanted to marry Jesus when I was little, which I know now doesn’t make any sense!

So I prayed that every day that my husband in the future would be like Jesus, and I got even better than I prayed for, so that’s why I think my dreams come true all the time.  I love him (Eric) incredibly much.  He’s my prince.  I just want him to continue to press on with those things and I know he will and God will use him greatly.  God has a unique plan and I know that if you just keep following Jesus and asking Him for direction, you’ll do well and all your dreams will come true.

ERIC:  They have.  They already have.

LANA:  I know.  Love you, buddy.

ERIC:  I love you, too.

LANA:  When I think about going to heaven, I think about meeting Jesus.  And He has been my friend who I’ve talked to for so long.  I just imagine Jesus being there and greeting me and just meeting the angels and just peace and no more pain or sorrow.  None of that.  It just sounds really peaceful.

I know the kids and he are going to be in great hands.  Eric 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 so peaceful.  But I know it’s hard for 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.

I’ve just had a great life.  My dreams have always come true and I just feel so super blessed by God and I can just go see Jesus at any time, that would be fine.

ERIC (describing the “Tree of Life” painting):  My cousin just wanted to celebrate Lana’s life and rather than focusing on her possible passing, to focus on the life that she’s given to so many people, including our family.  So this is my hand and her hand joined here and our arms being the tree.  And then all of our kids, six kids, putting their handprints on it as well.  And this is just the beginning of the life she’s brought to so many people.  There are so many people represented here, at least in this part, she really has been a tree of life.

ERIC (unwrapping a plaque):  This is really from me and from the kids and from everybody that knows you and it says, “You are loved.”  And you are.

If you enjoyed our recent series on how to keep trusting in God even in the face of significant loss, you can now get a paperback version for yourself or family or friends.  The book is called “Making the Most of the Darkness” and there are 3 easy ways to get a copy:   1) Buy the book directly from Amazon at this link, 2) Make a donation of any size to The Ranch from this link and we’ll send you a copy as our way of saying thanks, or 3) If you’ve already read these messages (as we’ve shared them online during the past year) and want to write a 1-2 sentence review on Amazon from this link, we’ll send you a complimentary copy of the book!  Just email us your name, address and a link to your review.  Your reviews help to get the word out about the book so we can get God’s Word out to even more people.  Thank you!

Making the Most of the Darkness , by Eric Elder

Living Life With No Regrets

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 2 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 a life with 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.

I’ve posted these 3 clips in 1 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…

Watch “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 2, 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 St. 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 St. 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 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. 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 6 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 5 years ago, and then miraculously got to go 2 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 2 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 St. 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.

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.