Author: Ellen Benefield

Can an Old Dog Learn New Tricks? Absolutely.

Can an old dog learn new tricks? Absolutely. My grandma paid for all of her grandchildren to start piano lessons. I enjoyed playing the piano, although my lack of practice left me far behind other music students my age. I quit taking lessons my sophomore year of high school. This year, our family took a summer sabbatical in Illinois this year. Although I hadn’t played in years, we decided to buy a gently used digital piano. If nothing else, we could teach the boys. I happened to hear a pastor play piano at a retreat. She didn’t play perfectly, but she played much better than I ever could. On a whim, I asked if she would give me lessons this summer. We spent an hour together every other week for a few months. Now I’m back in Mazatlán with the digital piano. We wedged it between boxes in the back of our overloaded minivan. I play every day, not because I’m practicing for something, but because I love it! I can’t believe how much I learned and improved attempting piano lessons again. How often do we assume the window of opportunity has closed? How often do we give up before we even start? I’m too old to take piano lessons. I’m too old to learn another language. I couldn’t go back to school. I don’t know the Bible well...

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Living in the Tension

At the church my husband and I started in a low-income part of Mazatlán, Mexico, the worship team makes music. I won’t say good music, although some Sundays are better than others. Thieves stole two bass guitars and one keyboard the church owned but we still have a drum set. My husband plays his guitar. A teenager pounds away on the remaining keyboard. The drummer often speeds up or slows down unintentionally. But worship happens. Two weeks ago, during worship, I had a baby on my hip and my opposite hand high above my head, asking the Holy Spirit to move in me and in the church. A woman standing behind me suddenly grabbed my arm.  “Ellen,” her face looked surprised and confused. “Something just happened to me. I felt… It felt like a bolt of electricity shot through my body. Something happened to me.” “A good thing, right?” Sometimes I need a little clarification. “Yes! Really good!” I don’t know this woman very well. She started hanging around the church when she noticed positive changes in her teenage son—changes he attributed to Jesus and the church. I didn’t know that she struggled with depression, wondering if taking a quiet exit from this life would be a worthwhile cost to dull her pain. The Holy Spirit ministered to her that day. Sometimes bolts of electricity fall from heaven. Thank...

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What Is A Mom To Do When Anger Overwhelms Her?

In an effort to beat the heat, I bought each of my three boys a super squirter. The cheap plastic and foam contraption launches a stream of water with unexpected force several feet. My three-year-old, August, shot several torrents of water through the bedroom window, drenching the bed. Next he aimed through the doorway, watering the tile kitchen floor. I caught his shenanigans when his eighteen-month-old brother, Liam, slipped in August’s puddle and conked his head. I kissed the knot on Liam’s noggin, scolded August, and mopped up the mess. Forty-five minutes later, Liam let out another whooping wail. This kid could be an opera singer someday; he’s got lungs. Sure enough, Liam lay sprawled across the kitchen floor in yet another puddle. Frustrated, I stomped into the backyard to confiscate the offending super squirter. A flake of gold-colored foil caught my eye. No. NO! My eyes followed a terrible trail, chocolate wrapper after chocolate wrapper strewn across the decorative brick pathway. The trail ended at the bare feet of an innocent looking three-year-old holding a super squirter. I looked into his beautiful greenish-blue eyes, ignoring his long black lashes.     “August. Did you get into my chocolate?” “No. Maybe Liam did.” He lied without remorse, staring cherubically straight into my face. My hands shook with the intensity of my fury. I could feel the rage monster inside me screaming. ...

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How Quickly Children Forget

My husband and I are missionaries in Mazatlán, Mexico. Last week, our oldest son, Ethan, started first grade at the public school in the low-income neighborhood where we live. It’s been a rough transition. He loved kindergarten and his sweet Maestra Alma. But Alma teaches in another building, and the elementary kids look huge.   Four out of five days last week, Ethan sobbed when I dropped him off. Two days, I had to drag him through the doors. After crying and pleading Sunday night, Monday morning, I agreed to sit just outside his classroom door for a while to see if that helped.  It didn’t. I spent two hours at school. Ethan cried every time he looked at me. When I tried to leave, he rushed to pack his book bag and refused to let go of me crying, “I want to go home with you!”   I left anyway. I walked out, without looking back, knowing that tears were still spilling down his face.   This incident influenced my whole day. As pastors, our weekends are full. We usually rest on Monday. Instead of feeling rested, I felt stressed and worried.   I prayed. I reminded myself that Ethan knows and adores plenty of kids in school. I considered the alternative—full-time homeschooling. Ethan’s school day only runs from 8:00am -12:30pm, so I already homeschool part-time. But with...

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