About Ellie Poole

Ellie is a Wellness Advocate at the Clergy Health Initiative. A native of Durham, she attended Wake Forest University, where she majored in History and Secondary Education. Additionally, Ellie has experience researching the Church's care for those with mental illnesses. She loves reading, running (outside!), NCAA basketball, and good coffee.

Long Expected


Long expected.

It’s a phrase that often escapes my notice, even in a season wholly given to advent and waiting. Yet, I was reminded by this video that Jesus’ being “long expected” was and is, perhaps, one of the most important qualities of his coming. He is the culmination of the Great Story and Good News of redemption and faithfulness in the world. Whole lives were dedicated to pointing to His coming. They were expecting Him.

I was reminded of just how many stories happened in anticipation of Jesus’ arrival when someone showed me this video over the weekend. I hope that you can treasure the visual and audio experience of waiting. I hope it can serve as an encouragement to you as you wait, as you expect, as you count on God to be faithful in this season.

He is the fulfillment. He has come and He will come again.

Ellie Poole



Black Friday. Cyber Monday. Giving Tuesday.

Wait a second…

That last one might be new to you. For the second year, organizations around the country are uniting to begin the holiday season in the spirit of giving.

We were made aware of this by the good folks over at Heifer International, one of the alternative giving sites I mentioned in a holiday post around this time last year. Heifer offers 30 different kinds of livestock, trees, seeds and offers training in environmentally-sound agriculture to families in more than 30 countries, including the United States, Nepal, China, Brazil, Rwanda, and Armenia. Their gifts vary in efforts to give livestock to families, promote women’s empowerment, support sustainable farming, and provide basic needs. Check out this video  if you would like to know more about the good work Heifer is doing around the globe or their Most Important Gift Catalog if you would like to give gifts in honor of loved ones this year. http://vimeo.com/74388606

The amount of time, effort, and money it takes to change the life of an individual somewhere around the globe is minimal. We encourage you to take the chance this Tuesday to be a part of giving goodness to the world in some way!

This Giving Tuesday it's time to give back.

Happy Giving!

– Ellie Poole

“Is there anything quite like a campfire?”


“In the kingdom of God, there are no outsiders…”

So says the leader of Rend Collective Experiment in this explanation and sample of their 2013 worship album recorded on a beach around a campfire.

“Jesus wants to set the church on fire, so the world can warm themselves around us and find light and safety.”

I am especially struck with this message of hopefulness stemming from a part of the world where the church has experienced a deep rift of brokenness. I’ve found myself encouraged and inspired by the spurring on in this video in particular and hope you, too, might be blessed by it:

The Campfire Story

The full album is available on Amazon and iTunes, both re-imagining old songs and offering new ones.

– Ellie Poole


How Geometry, Acne, and Loneliness Gave Me an Appreciation for Snail Mail


LockersI went to a tiny middle school and a massive high school. We’re talking 24 kids at my 8th grade graduation and then… BAM… 620 on the first day of 9th grade come summer’s end. I knew three people in my grade. A building constructed to house 1500 students was brimming with about 1800. I was an outsider in a sea of kids who had been in school together since kindergarten. Seniors stood against the walls to block freshmen from navigating their way to Geometry or World History. I was (seriously) in need of something to be happy about and I was pretty darn sure it couldn’t be found inside the walls of my high school.

Thankfully all of us are past the rough early days of high school, winding through mazes of hallways and trying to make friends, but I still have days or stages in life that don’t feel too far removed from the feelings of frustration, anxiety, or even despair that swept over me when I realized I was on the opposite side of the building, on the wrong floor, and completely alone, looking for Freshman gym class.

My one moment of respite each day came after lunch. I would leave lunch a little early to make sure I could get to my next class before the crowds began their tidal wave through the halls. This meant that I had a few merciful moments of peace in the hallway before 5th period. It was in one of moments that I saw it – a poster – on the AP European History teacher’s door: Things To Be Happy About.

“Perfectly toasted golden marshmellows”

“Fuzzy socks”

“A new toenail polish color”

“Snail mail”

You’re starting to get the picture, I’m sure. The little things. The little things that seemed completely insignificant in the face of hallway confusion, constant strange faces, loneliness, and feeling generally overwhelming. Nevertheless, those things, and others, were worth being happy about. The poster was right.

As I started to make some friends, I began to share my discovery with them. By the end of the year, there was a little crowd outside of that door every afternoon before 5th period, scrolling through the long list, shouting out their favorites.

“The sound a new can of tennis balls makes when you first pop off the lid!”

“Milkshakes for breakfast!”

“Old people holding hands!”

Book CoverOne of my friends, who is now a teacher, keeps the spin-off book, 14,000 Things To Be Happy About, on a table in her classroom. Another made a customized list for a friend’s birthday recently. You can even click here for today’s list.

What’s on your list? How can you remind yourself about the little things to be happy about, even when there are 1,797 unfamiliar, pimply, sometimes-smelly, and maybe-exclusive teenagers threatening to sweep you off your feet and carry you down the hallway?

– Ellie Poole



Grace Active


Grace Active

From The Valley of Vision


Thou hast opened a new and living way

by which a fallen creature can approach thee with acceptance.

Help me to contemplate the dignity of thy Person,

the perfectness of thy sacrifice,

the effectiveness of thy intercession.

O what blessedness accompanies devotion,

when under all the trials that weary me,

the cares that corrode me,

the fears that disturb me,

the infirmities that oppress me,

I can come to thee in my need

and feel peace beyond understanding!

The grace that restores is necessary to preserve,

lead, guard, supply, help me.

And here thy saints encourage my hope;

they were once poor and are now rich,

bound and are now free,

tried and now are victorious.

Every new duty calls for more grace than I now possess,

but not more than is found in thee,

the divine Treasury in whom all fullness dwells.

To thee I repair for grace upon grace,

until every void made by sin can be replenished

and I am filled with all thy fullness.

May my desires be enlarged and my hopes emboldened,

that I may honour thee by my entire dependency

and the greatness of my expectation.

Do thou be with me, and prepare me for all

the smiles of prosperity, the frowns of adversity,

the losses of substance, the death of friends,

the days of darkness, the changes of life,

and the last great change of all.

May I find thy grace sufficient for all my needs.

Summer Reading


Ahhh, summer. Kick back. Relax. Soak up some sun and sleep a few extra hours.

Ok, ok – so summer might not be quite this dreamy, but it is a cultural and seasonal reminder of our natural human need for rest. Maybe you’ll get to head to the beach or the mountains with family. Maybe you’ve tacked a few days onto the front end of Annual Conference to spend time with your family. Maybe you’re not physically leaving town this summer, but you’re looking for some sort of “vacation” from the buzz of fall, winter, and spring.

One of my favorite ways to escape, whether I’m traveling or in my own living room, involves pulling my knees up, propping my feet, and settling into a good book for awhile. Whether I’m lulled by the rhythm of beautiful poetry or fascinated by the winding and weaving of a good novel, the engagement of my imagination in a world that is completely “other” is incredibly restorative!


So, this summer, I’m challenging you to read one good book. Not a book for sermon prep. Not a book for your summer small group. Just a book for fun. You might be amazed at how fun it is to check out of your world for an hour or two and jump into your imagination.

Here are a few book lists to get you started:

  • NPR publishes an annual Summer Books list with a wide variety of categories (also available for 2012, 2011, and 2010)
  • The New York Times regularly adds book reviews of all kinds.
  • Good Reads is a social networking site for readers. Check out some users’ lists for summer reads here.
  • Oprah weighs in here.
  • Christianity Century’s book reviews might yield an idea, too!
  • Think of the last book you truly enjoyed, head to Amazon and see what other users who enjoyed that book chose next.
  • A previous blog post points to some websites that specifically review and/or sell Christian books, so if that’s what you’re looking for, you can find the information here.

Having trouble getting started? Here are a few ideas to get the ball rolling:

  • Call a friend and plan bi-weekly Skype dates to discuss a book over the course of the summer.
  • Go make friends with an employee at the local bookstore.
  • Schedule an hour for three days a week, just for the summer, and devote that time to reading. Or just read a few pages each night before bed!
  • Find a book you want to read with your kids.
  • Find a place at work, outside, or at home that is truly comfortable. This will make the whole experience much more enjoyable.
  • Ask a friend what book he/she has enjoyed recently (we all have those friends who are always reading good books – use the resource!)
  • Have a book you’ve been wanting to read but just haven’t gotten to it? Make it your goal of the summer to read the book.

Happy reading and bon voyage!

-Ellie Poole

Image by flickr user MorBCN, via Creative Commons.

Across a Lifetime


Psalm 30:1-5

“I give you all the credit, God—
you got me out of that mess,
you didn’t let my foes gloat.

God, my God, I yelled for help
and you put me together.
God, you pulled me out of the grave,
gave me another chance at life
when I was down-and-out.

All you saints! Sing your hearts out to God!
Thank him to his face!
He gets angry once in a while, but across
a lifetime there is only love.
The nights of crying your eyes out
give way to days of laughter.”

I meet (somewhat sporadically) with a woman who is both older and wiser than I. We pray, read scripture, and talk about life. These times are filled with laughter, insight, companionship, and sometimes even sadness.

Yesterday, she opened our time together by reading this bit of Psalm 30 from Eugene Peterson’s modern translation on the Bible, The Message. She read it through three times. The tripartite form echoed that of Lectio Divina, so I quietly asked my heart what God’s invitation to me from this passage might be.

 “…once in a while, but across a lifetime…”

“…across a lifetime”


I was smitten. The contrast of “once in a while” and “across a lifetime” spoke peace to me. Because it’s easy to pay attention the “once in a while”, isn’t it? “Once in a while” is usually clamoring and loud, sometimes hard, often demanding. It says that where we are right now is the whole story. And it’s lying.

Thankfully, the Psalmist gives us an alternative promise: “across a lifetime there is only love”. The idea of a lifetime might not be glamorous. Certainly my own has been neither flashy nor loud. But it can be the place of quiet consistency – the quiet consistency of God’s love through many “once in a whiles”.

4840786805_fb81a93963_bHow can I choose to listen to the quiet and steady voice of my lifetime? To cast aside the sometimes-painful “once in a while” in favor of the promises given to me and to generations before me?

By the good news of the resurrection. By grace, the grace of life eternal.

-Ellie Poole

(Image by flickr user kern.justin via creative commons.)

Jesus calls us


Lovely words and sounds for a Monday:

“Jesus Calls Us” by Cecil Alexander

(Listen here)

Jesus calls us over the tumult
Of our life’s wild, restless sea;
Day by day His sweet voice soundeth,
Saying, “Christian, follow Me!”

As of old the apostles heard it
By the Galilean lake,
Turned from home and toil and kindred,
Leaving all for Jesus’ sake.

Jesus calls us from the worship
Of the vain world’s golden store,
From each idol that would keep us,
Saying, “Christian, love Me more!”

In our joys and in our sorrows,
Days of toil and hours of ease,
Still He calls, in cares and pleasures,
“Christian, love Me more than these!”

Jesus calls us! By Thy mercies,
Savior may we hear Thy call,
Give our hearts to Thine obedience,
Serve and love Thee best of all.

-Ellie Poole

image by flickr user christoph.schrey via creative commons

Let’s look at the world a little differently


My favorite Super Bowl XLVII commercial was the one in which retirement community members escape for a night on the town, boogy their way to dawn (including a stop at Taco Bell), and return home the next morning exhausted, tattooed, and mischievously happy.

I’ll have to keep thinking about how I can make a blog post out of that video.

But today, I wanted to highlight Coca-Cola’s contribution to the Super Bowl.


Lovely, right? I saw that video last summer (along with about 6 million other folks), but it has really stuck with me since it aired last Sunday night.

We’re currently immersed in winter workshops for our third group of Spirited Life participants, the purpose of which is to introduce clergy to the foundations, resources, and possibilities of Spirited Life. One of these foundations is the concept of positive psychology.

Positive psychology does not ask people to deny the brokenness or challenges of the world; instead, it espouses the value of training ourselves to purposefully look for the innately good and beautiful parts of life and Creation.

I think that Coca-Cola has given us a great picture of just that. From security cameras that were created to record the bad guys of the world, we’ve received a delightful and surprising gift.

Take a minute today to dwell on some of the unexpected gifts in your life.  And as the tagline suggests, “let’s look at the world a little differently.”

– Ellie Poole



A different kind of giving


It has officially  begun: The scramble.

I bought artful “Noel” Christmas note cards on clearance at Barnes and Noble last January. Post-it note lists of card recipients sprawl across my work station while my bedside table is full of gift ideas for my family members. These tasks are both joyful and celebratory for me and as I anticipate the coming Gift of Jesus’ incarnation, it makes sense to my heart and mind to bless my community near and far with various tokens of my affection and gratitude.

But Jesus came for the world, right? And while I am thankful for my little world, I am caught up in wondering how I can reflect God’s gift to the whole of humanity through my own mentality about Christmas this year.

Back to the scramble: What will I get for my three closest girlfriends from college? This question stumps me almost every year. We all have what we need and most ideas I come up with reduce to a small voice inside my head, smacking “I’m getting you this gift because I have to get you a gift” or “This will end up stuffed in a drawer somewhere – the gesture of gift-giving appreciated, but the actual gift rather pointless.”  And so, my mental shopping continues.

After walking through the gift catalog inside my head, I somehow find myself back where I started: How can I make Christmas about the bigger Gift? My friends and I have so much. Jesus came for the world. Who might need this Gift of good news in a tangible way? How might my friends and I be reminded of Jesus’ wider provision for the world?

Here’s one idea: alternative gifts. Through groups such as Heifer International and World Vision, I can work to reflect God’s provision in the world to those who need material goods the most and I can work to reflect that same provision for my friends (and myself), who have the stuff we need but might be due for a reminder of God’s Gift to us.

So, my three best girlfriends are each getting a rabbit this Christmas. Sure, they’ll never meet their bunnies, but these three rabbits and their offspring will provide nourishment, income, and fertilizer for a family somewhere else in the world who need a tangible reminder of what provision is. In the meantime, my friends here might be reminded of the larger provision, born in a manger, perhaps amidst some bunny rabbits. He is the greatest gift of all.

Happy Advent… and maybe this can help slow the scramble.

-Ellie Poole

(top photo from flickr user Anemone Letterpress, lower photo from flickr user Hugo! Both images licensed via Creative Commons)