In 1944, second grade teacher Donald Yetter Gardner asked his students what they wanted for Christmas. Almost all answered with a lisp because they were missing at least one front tooth. He wrote the song “All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth” in 30 minutes, never dreaming that it would become a hit, sung by such well-knowns as Nat King Cole, Ray Stevens, George Strait, Danny Kaye with The Andrew Sisters, The Platters, The Three Stooges, and The Chipmunks!
Children all over the western world are still asked this question as part of their classroom writing assignments, while sitting on Santa’s lap at the mall, or by frantic grandmothers trying to decipher what is meant by Shopkins and Minecraft and drone video cameras.
In those same families, parents and grandparents strive to balance their deep love for the little ones that inspires gift-giving, with the glaring reality that most of these children don’t really need anything. And truth be told, within hours or days, many of the new gifts will become part of an ignored pile of discarded toys.
Does this mean we should skip the gifts? Or feel guilty for giving to our loved ones? Of course not! But each family might want to evaluate what is best for their situation. Here are some thoughts to consider:
• Try not to give out of guilt. Presents can never make up for time our children want to share with us.
• Consider the simple trend to give to the child just one thing from each category of “something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read.” And let’s be honest, they don’t need this from their parents and grandparents on both sides and aunts and uncles!
• Give the gift of time spent together. Last year we started a new tradition with our older grandchildren. We still gave them stockings, but we took the northeastern kiddos to an indoor water park and took the Kansas kids to the bowling alley with the arcade. We loved the laughter and memory making! In the past, we’ve given our married children gift cards to a hotel, restaurant, and movie so they could enjoy a break from their busy schedules to just be alone together.
While we struggle with this first-world challenge, we all know that children in third-world countries have a much different list of what they desire. When I asked our Swaziland friends how they celebrate Christmas, the one answer repeated most is that in good years, the children are allowed to “dish for themselves” when eating that day. In other words, for this one special meal, their food isn’t portioned carefully by the adults. They can put as much as they want on their plates and eat until they are full.
More than Christmas presents, orphaned Swazi children long to live with a “forever family” where their daily needs will be met. We hope to complete Angel’s Rest Orphan Home before the end of the year and move children in while I’m there in January, so we’re working on getting the furnishings provided. Last week, a little girl around 10 years old was shopping in Grand Staff Ministries Play It Again Thrift Boutique with her mom and grandma. She noticed our trees with ornaments showing what is needed to furnish the home, and asked her mom if she could give up one of her own presents so they could provide something for a Swazi child. Her mom helped her choose a towel set for one of the children for $25. Heart-warming! We’ve enclosed a page showing what is still needed.
We know that most of you already give at this time of year to many worthy causes, near and far—bless you! If you’re all given out, we understand. But I have to ask, because all I want for Christmas is to see the dreams of these Swazi children become a reality. So if you have the resources and the desire, we will welcome you joyfully to the team that is getting the home ready for them!
Can you, your family, or your small group help us furnish the home to make it ready for move in day?
Tracy and I wish you a very Merry Christmas that is “all you really want”—and a fruitful New Year!
Much love—Becky Spencer and Family
(We’ve included short blurbs below about our growing family, followed by updates on Angel’s Rest Orphan Home–we hope you’ll enjoy this part of our annual greeting–and share the ministry with your family and friends!)
Sara and her family moved back “home” to Kansas in February, making this grammy and grandpa very happy! Danny is the worship pastor at Crosspoint’s Sterling campus and manager at Ricoh, a printing company contracted with Kroger. Sara sings on the worship team when she’s off work as the salon manager at Hutchinson Mall’s new Ulta Beauty. Judah (6th grade) plays baseball, basketball, and trumpet. Nora (4th grade) continues to win first place in art competitions, including a blue ribbon at the KS State Fair, and loves to sing. Silas (the 2nd grade fella missing two front teeth) plays baseball and soccer, has a great singing voice, and is always the family entertainer!
Polly and her family are still in Haven, Kansas. After back surgery, Josh is working for the city of Haven. Polly continues driving a school bus and working at Carriage Crossing Restaurant in nearby Yoder, and Dec. 10th she’ll take her state boards to become an EMT. This girl literally never quits! MacKenzie (7th grade) was ready to go back to public school, so she’s at Yoder. Ethan (7th grade) loves sports and currently plays basketball, and Savannah (5th grade) keeps both of her siblings entertained, as you can see here. They all attend the little Baptist church in Haven.
A lot can happen in a year. The interactions we enjoyed with Jeri last year were short-lived. Before 2015 was a memory, she pulled away from all of us. Of course, we know she’s hurting, and hurt people, hurt people. Her sweet little Claira Mae, born with so many birth defects, was relieved of her suffering in May, when she passed into the arms of Jesus. Jeri left the safe haven a family member had provided for her little family, returning to her boyfriend. Junior (12 yrs.) is in a school for special needs, and Luressa (5th grade) seems to have caught up with his height. The older children are now 16 and 14, and we continue to put them in the Lord’s faithful hands as they blossom in their adoptive family. We also wait patiently as He works behind the scenes to bring healing to Jeri’s heart—His lovingkindness is the only thing that can truly soften one that is so embittered by a hard life.
Nathan and his family have enjoyed their home in nearby Hutchinson. He is still in management at Sunshine Meadows Retirement Community here in Buhler, where Diana remains the capable head nurse in the memory care unit. Nate continues to work on his business degree with certification for long term care so that he can eventually serve in nursing home administration. He is still serving as an associate pastor at Victorious Life Church, where he and Diana keep providing amazing leadership to the youth. He’s been free from addictions for over 12 years now. Thank You, Lord Jesus!
Gabe (9th grade) has adapted well to high school. We can hardly believe he’s already been to his first formal—and he’s so active, it’s hard to catch him with the family long enough for a photo! He’s passionate about playing his trumpet for the band (marching band took state!), and he’s also singing in the choir and playing basketball. Caleb (5th grade) is tackling—and solving—more sophisticated rubik’s cubes, loves singing, and played football this fall. Jordan (3rd grade) is one of the “smiliest” kids we know, and extremely happy to have her BFF/cousin Nora in the same school with her. Josiah (2), better known as JoJo, is happiest when he has a ball in his hands—and doesn’t mind improvising with pumpkins, glass spheres, balloons–anything he can find that’s round! He also loves reading books and singing.
Benjamin and his family are still living in Michigan, near Amy’s family. Ben continues his service as the Worship Arts Minister and remains active with Amy’s help in youth ministry at Southpoint’s Huron campus. Amy is still a part-time x-ray technician at the hospital. Moriah (just turned 3 yrs.) is outgoing, smart (she’s been saying her ABC’s for months), and funny. She’s an awesome big sister to Selah Grace, who was born April 1st—and of course, we had to tease Benjamin, our family’s biggest April Fool’s jokester, for having a baby born on that date! Little Selah shows signs of being quite a talker (okay, you know you’re thinking it—yes, it runs in the family!), and she sure loves her big sissy!
Our Ashley and her family live here in Buhler; God has answered so many prayers for her! She’s been clean and sober for 18 months, and Brian has been sober for about 5 months. He works for Gregory, a sign/graphics company, and she still has her job in housekeeping at Sunshine Meadows Retirement Community, both in Buhler. Ashley is thrilled to finally have joint custody of her son Ayden again (3rd grade). He, Alyssa (1st grade), Alex (kindergarten), and London (2 years old) will be joined by another baby brother or sister sometime next year, bringing our total grandchildren to 26! This picture was taken the day they dedicated their children to the Lord at the Mennonite Brethren Church where they worship. The service included a loving mention of baby Honor, who would have been four years old Nov. 12th.
Justin is struggling. He and Jessica are getting divorced, both trapped by bad choices and the chains of addiction. Her mom, Tammy, has custody of Addisyn (3rd grade) and Nathan Wray (kindergarten), and we’re thankful for the stability she provides for them. Addi is playing basketball, loves to draw and sing, and made Principal’s Honor Roll. Nathan is all about Star Wars and soccer, and just mastered riding his bike without training wheels. They live in Norman, Oklahoma.
Justin is in nearby Purcell, OK, and has worked at Silver Star Construction for 8 months. He’s found a church with a pastor that checks up on him. What I said last year bears repeating: the lifestyle that accompanies addiction robs everyone, not just the addicts. Too many of you know firsthand what this battle is like, but let’s all keep fighting on our knees, alongside our loved ones trapped by this vicious enemy. The innocent children affected are worth it, but so are the addicts. Don’t give up!
Anna and her husband Ben live here in Buhler, which of course, we enjoy. They attend Kalos Christian Fellowship with us, and Anna helps me lead worship. He is working with his dad at MidWest Ford, learning to be a mechanic. Anna is staying at home to better care for herself, especially because her prayers have been answered: she is expecting a baby girl in March! They’re naming her Eliza, and carrying this little gal has already taught Anna something about the sacrifices we make as parents. She is giving herself the best diabetes care she’s ever given previously. We still appreciate your prayers for her, because she doesn’t sense when her blood sugar is low as well as she used to; she’s had seizures three times, which is always scary. But we are very proud of our girl for making such a valiant effort, and for the growth we see in both of them as they prepare to be parents.
This year Tracy and I celebrated our 40th anniversary, 8 years operating the bed and breakfast, 10 years since founding Grand Staff Ministries, and 22 years of his work at Takako America. Grand Staff Ministries Play It Again Thrift Boutique in downtown Buhler has been so blessed, we’re expanding into the building just south of us! Kalos Christian Fellowship meets in our home for now, and we’re grateful to see how close-knit our small group has become. We haven’t “broadcast our existence” because 1) we don’t have anyone to care for the children, 2) the Lord hasn’t sent us co-pastors yet, and 3) it seems that we are in exactly the season God has for us as we form a base of Jesus-followers committed to the Lord and each other. 2016 rings in the big “6-0” for both of us, and frankly, we’ve been pushing so hard that serious illnesses took us by surprise. Read what our precious Savior, Jesus, miraculously did for us in the previous post.
What’s Next: As you can see, Angel’s Rest is nearing completion. We hope to dedicate it and move children in this January. The vision on this site in the village of Sipete will proceed as funds are available:
- Start the church
- Launch a feeding program for children in the village
- Plant crops and add livestock
- Construct a small office for GSM
- Build a preschool
- Build additional orphan homes
In Feb., the Lord led us to our first house parents, Patrick and Siza. They have an obvious call to care for orphans, and they are well-equipped/trained also to pastor the church, manage the preschool, implement sustainability projects, and mentor future house parents in the other orphan homes we’ll build. And our Angel, now 15, is already staying with them, where she is safe, wanted, loved, and doing much better at school. Praise the Living God, as soon they will move into the home where other children will also find a safe haven in the form of a family!
For in You [O Lord] the orphan finds love and compassion and mercy.” ~ Hosea 14:3b, AMP
Abandoned, orphaned, and vulnerable children in Swaziland are lost lambs.
The Good Shepherd’s staff is grand enough to care for each one—through me . . .
. . . and through YOU!
Do you want to:
Go? Swaziland Winter Mission Jan. 8 – 28
Swaziland Summer Mission July 22 – Aug. 12
Long-Term Missionary in Swaziland (2 – 3 yrs)
Give? See below what’s needed to furnish Angel’s Rest so kids can move in this Jan.!
Help? 5 – 8 volunteers needed daily at the thrift boutique in Buhler, KS
Pray? God’s leading as we select children
A couple to serve long-term in Swaziland
Grace, strength, and health so we can keep going!
Save the Date: Sat., April 29, 2017
Swaziland’s Heartbeat of Hope:
Silent & Live Auction and Free Banquet in Hutchinson, KS
Contact us at: PO Box 321, Buhler, KS 67522
Play It Again Thrift Boutique: 215 N Main, Buhler
(620) 543-6518, email@example.com
Like us on Facebook: Grand Staff Ministries, Inc.
Grand Staff Ministries Play It Again Thrift Boutique
Grand Staff Bed and Breakfast
Becky Spencer Ministries, Becky Yates Spencer
All I Want for Christmas . . . Is to have Angel’s Rest Orphan Home furnished
so I can move into my forever home in January!
This is the desire of the children in Swaziland, Africa, who are waiting to become part of a loving family. The house will become home to twelve orphaned/vulnerable children.
Grand Staff Ministries Play It Again Thrift Boutique will help with ongoing monthly expenses of the home, and we invite you, your family, church, small group, or organization to consider choosing something from the list to provide for the kids!
If you would like to participate, you may mail your check with the description of which item you want to provide, go to the donate page on our website, or bring it into the thrift boutique:
GSM Play It Again Thrift Boutique (620) 543-5298 or 543-6518
PO Box 321
215 North Main
Buhler, KS 67525
Here are the specific things still needed:
6 bunkbeds @ $225 each
5 twin mattresses @ $60 each
10 sets twin bedding @ $95 each
7 wardrobes @ $375 each
5 towel sets @ $25 each
7 trash cans @ $15 each
Iron @ $15
2 corner sofas @ $650 each
Another sofa @ $600
2 end tables @ $140 each
Coffee table @ $100
Shelving/storage @ $500
Welcome/mud mat @ $25
Stove @ $375
Refrigerator @ $900
Silverware @ $70
Mops/Buckets @ $20
Stock Pots @ $275
Pots and pans @ $200
Baking pans @ $65
Large trash can @ $25
42 backpacks (prices vary—you can purchase and bring to us and we’ll take them with us)
School supplies ($25 per child; we purchase there and fill the bags)
4 Goats @ $80 each
Thank You for Your Support!
Tracy and I have had a challenging season. Such is life, and we feel it as we age. (Yes, we have to admit we’re wrapping up the autumn “middle age” years and entering the first stages of winter.)
Tracy’s trouble showed up May 7th. He was putting up slat board at our ministry thrift boutique, when he started having chest pains. Tracy’s not a complainer, so when he told me what he was experiencing, I went on high alert. Even more so when he described the pain as a “6” on a scale of 1-10.
I wanted to call 9-1-1, but he became agitated and insisted he’d be fine. Adding that he didn’t have time for that, because when he finished my project at the store, he needed to put a new carburetor in his truck. He was so cantankerous about it, I wasn’t sure what to do. Naturally, I didn’t want to take a hit on our budget if he was really okay, but neither did I want him to postpone life-saving treatment.
I gave my kids a quick Facebook call for help and prayer. Our oldest, Sara, immediately said she was going to call 9-1-1 if I didn’t. When I told Tracy to prepare himself for a visit by the paramedics, he angrily called Sara and talked her out of it. Our daughter-in-love Diana is a nurse, and she suggested that if he refused to be seen, we should at least give him some aspirin. He took it and grudgingly agreed to let me know if the pain continued or got worse, and also promised to see his doctor on Monday.
Because Tracy naturally tends to be persistent (which sounds much nicer than stubborn), I didn’t recognize that becoming resistant or even belligerent is one of the symptoms of a heart attack.
He got through the weekend okay and finished his to-do list. Then worked all day Monday before meeting me at same day care early evening.
And was immediately sent to the ER, where they determined he’d had a heart attack that Saturday. They look for three things:
- chest pains
- heart enzyme elevated
- changes in the EKG while in the hospital
Tracy had all three. They kept him overnight and scheduled a heart catheter, promising that while they did it, they’d be able to insert stints to open up any blockage.
I gave Tracy a pep talk about how well he’d do since he was otherwise in good health. I thought I was trying to help him, but I didn’t realize until later that I was reassuring myself. My daddy died the day he had his heart cath. All these 18 years, I thought he got the stints, but as we went through this with Tracy, Mama clarified that Daddy didn’t even get them; there was too much damage. But I was comparing Daddy’s poor health, since he had emphysema and leukemia on top of his heart damage, whereas Tracy only had the heart issues.
The cardiologist explained that the procedure would take about an hour and a half. Mama met me in the waiting room, so I scooted out to get a drink of water. Before I could even get back, she had called me, saying the doctor needed to talk to me.
I panicked! Why was he needing me after less than twenty minutes?! I raced back to the family consulting room, fearful of dreadful news.
The doctor was calm as he explained there was no blockage or heart damage. I was in shock! What?! Are you sure? He seemed almost amused by my response, and pulled up the video of Tracy’s procedure. Sure enough, his arteries were clean as a whistle!
I didn’t know what to make of it. Did he really have a heart attack? This cardiologist said that a “regular” doctor would call it one, but cardiologists would not, since there was no evident cause for it.
A couple of weeks later, I had to meet Tracy back at the ER because he was having chest pains again. This time, there was no evidence of a heart attack. I knew the medical bills were piling up, so I asked the doctor in charge how to know whether or not to come in. He said it’s always prudent to come in with chest pains. I asked him his opinion as to whether or not Tracy really even had a heart attack, and he went over the three criteria again. He definitely had one, but the doctor said they call it a type B heart attack when they don’t know why it happened. He explained that there might be a tiny bleed somewhere that they couldn’t find.
A few weeks later, a trauma nurse who specializes in cardiac told us that she knows exactly what happens in the type B heart attacks. Her answer: God healed the patient between the heart attack and the heart cath.
I can’t say for sure that Tracy had a miracle. But he was sick, and then he was well. Without stints. We’ll take it!
Fast forward to mid-Sept. I’d had several bouts of diverticulitis over the last few years, but this was my second round in less than two months. So Dr. Jackson ordered a CT scan of my intestines. (Diverticulosis is a condition where you have “pockets” in the intestines that can become infected. It’s extremely painful and requires two strong antibiotics since the gut has so much bacteria. Not fun and I was about to find out, damaging.)
The scan revealed a thickened place in my intestine, so he scheduled an appointment for me to see the surgeon on Sept. 29th. I went in ready to fight for any other options than surgery. But the doctor told me there was no negotiation: the thickened place was likely scar tissue from the repeated bouts of diverticulitis, and it was nearly blocked. If I put off surgery, I would end up in an emergency situation that could be life-threatening.
I cried in his office, and while the nurse handed me a couple of tissues, he tried to assure me that most people come through this surgery just fine.
I said between catches in my throat that it wasn’t the surgery that most concerned me; it was the overwhelming to-do list. I’m already behind on everything, and while we have amazing volunteers at Play It Again Thrift Boutique, we don’t have enough of them yet. I was picturing the nightmare of finding enough help for my absence during recovery, plus still having enough people for when I’m in Swaziland in January and on a much-needed family vacation in February.
He told me people would just have to come up to the plate, and I’d just have to get this done. He ordered a barium enema for the following Thursday so he could see where the diverticulosis was worst so he could also remove that part during the surgery.
For the entire week, I felt overwhelmed. Several people told me that maybe this was God’s way of getting me to slow down and get some rest.
But honestly, have you ever felt rested after recovering from surgery? Nope, me neither! And if I’m already so behind on what needs done, how would it help to be even further behind? I just couldn’t believe that God would want this for me. It would take a toll on my physcially, plus give us another huge hit in our finances.
I kept saying that if God wanted me to rest–and He does–then He would send more volunteers to the store. He didn’t need to accomplish that by making me have surgery.
Admittedly, I had some fears. For months, I’d become more tired, to the point where I could hardly lift my arms at times. It was different from any weariness I’d ever experienced–total exhaustion physically. I had to push myself every day to keep up with the very basic requirements of life.
In addition, even though neither doctor had uttered the “c” word, I knew that colon cancer could also cause the thickness in my intestine, and that, coupled with the deep exhaustion, had me concerned that I would get bad news. So don’t get the impression that I was tower of faith, any more than Tracy was. I had to choose to trust the Lord, through my many concerns.
And the bottom line was, I knew God would take care of us, no matter how it turned out. Tracy fasted and prayed, many of our loved ones prayed, and I just did my best to keep giving it to the Lord. I remembered what He had done for Tracy between the heart attack and the heart cath. It wasn’t like Tracy was a great giant of faith for his own healing; he was still in denial that anything was even wrong! Smile. So I took comfort that even in my weakness and fear, God would bring good out of it all and do what was the very best for me. My belief and the confession of my mouth was that He is my healer, and He is good in all His ways.
I endured the humiliating preparation and procedure, then headed upstairs to wait for my turn to see the surgeon. When he entered the examining room, he seemed extremely uncomfortable and wouldn’t make eye contact with me. Fear gripped me–was he trying to figure out how to tell me that I had cancer, since I was alone at the appointment?
He finally looked at me and said he didn’t see what he expected to see in the xrays. (“Okay, okay, is that good or bad?!” I screamed inwardly.)
With a baffled expression, he explained that there was not a thickened area anymore. And the diverticuli was so small, it didn’t require surgery. Note that my two previous colonoscopies did not suggest small diverticuli, nor did the repeated bouts of infection!
He said I did not need surgery, after all! I broke out into a huge smile and proclaimed that to be very good news. He told me that it wasn’t necessary to avoid nuts, seeds, popcorn, etc., but that rather I should eat high fiber and low fat in order to keep the gut healthy.
Yes, sir! Both Tracy and I have made changes in our diet. When God gives you a second chance, you want to do your part. Tracy’s has lost about 25 pounds and is at the weight his doctor wants him at. I’ve been eating the high fiber, low fat diet my surgeon recommended, too, since last week’s good news.
Every day in this week since that wonderful news, I’ve regained more of my strength and energy. I didn’t even realize how sick I’d become until now, when I’m feeling more like my old self! I’m so grateful!
Does this mean for sure that I had a miracle? I don’t know for sure, but if it looks like a duck and sounds like a duck and smells like a duck, it’s probably a duck! Just like with Tracy’s end result, I’ll take it! And I’ll give God glory for the very-best-news outcome!
A few people who claim the name of Jesus Christ believe miracles have all passed away, and they’re not for today. Most of us believe He still heals sometimes. Our issue isn’t whether or not He can.
It’s whether or not He will.
I can promise you that Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. (1) He said that when the people saw Him during His life on earth, they were actually seeing the Father. (2)
Jesus didn’t turn away anyone who came to Him for healing. (3) There were times people didn’t get healed–like in Nazareth, where they focused on His humanity instead of His divine nature. They didn’t have much faith there, so He couldn’t do much, other than heal a few people. (4)
But never did someone ask for His powerful touch, only to leave disappointed. Even the Canaanite woman, who had no “right” to the promises of God, still received healing for her daughter. Her faith was tenacious! Jesus told her that healing was “the children’s bread,” to which she replied that even the puppies under the table get the crumbs. She knew He had the power to heal her daughter, and she wasn’t going to leave without it! Jesus loved her faith, and He granted her request. (5)
When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He instructed them to ask that His will be done on earth, just like it’s always done in heaven. (6)
Too often, we’re afraid to believe that His will is to heal us. We hide behind the safe, “if it’s Your will” then please do it.
But He already showed us what His will is. Jesus was and is the express image of His Father, so the way He treated sick people is the way God the Father wants to treat them.
We realize we don’t always get the miracle. Nobody completely understands why.
But when we read the entirety of Scripture, it becomes clear that it’s always something on our part, not on God’s.
Some try to explain it away by saying that His ways aren’t our ways, nor His thoughts our thoughts.
But keep reading. The next part says that they are higher than ours, not lower! (7)
If any earthly father purposely harmed his child in order to teach a lesson, such as breaking his arm or giving him something bad to eat or drink, he would be prosecuted–and rightly so!
Why would we think that our good, heavenly Father would be worse than that? That He would bring sickness or pain on us in order to teach us a lesson?
The Word of God is our manual for learning His nature and ways. Yes, He sometimes allowed or even brought physical punishment on people, but only on those who opposed Him. Never on His precious children who loved Him. Just as a loving earthly father might have to give consequences for willful disobedience–and even a spanking where there is padding, and it will sting, but not cause harm–so also, our heavenly Father sometimes has to allow us to have the consequences of our choices so we will learn and grow.
But never in ways that will actually bring harm to us instead of help.
I’d love to go into the Scripture about Paul’s thorn in the flesh, but that will have to wait for another day. Or maybe even until my next book is completed. Time constraints often win against my desire to share what He’s taught me.
For now, suffice it to say that Tracy and I are rejoicing in the goodness of God towards us. We can’t thank Him enough for what He has done!
He didn’t do it because He loves us more or because we have more faith than other people or anything thing like that. As you’ve read above, neither of us were towering pillars of strength and faith when we were facing our challenges!
All we could do was keep asking and putting our trust in our faithful God. It kept coming back to His goodness, not anything about us. On the times in our lives when we didn’t get a miracle, it didn’t make us second-class Christians. Nor does it make you one if you don’t get the supernatural answer. It just means that we aren’t going to understand everything, nor will we always come to that place of faith and trust. Sometimes we’re like the father with the demon-possessed son who said, “Lord, I believe; help Thou my unbelief.” (8)
My encouragement to you is that He is no respecter of persons. (9) The same God who healed us also wants to touch you.
We know He would have proven faithful, even if we’d had to go through the longer process of medical attention and surgeries and recovery. We would never tell anyone to stay away from the doctor! God uses them every day, and we are grateful that we live in a country with such amazing health care!
But our trust must always be in our good, faithful God, no matter what life throws our way. Don’t err on the side of caution; err on the side of faith! Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of lights! (10)
And today, I knew I needed to be a witness to His wonderful, miracle-working power.
Praise to the God who can–and will–and does!
(1) Hebrews 13:8
(2) John 14:7,9
(3) Matthew 4:24, 8:16, 12:15; Luke 16:19
(4) Mark 6:1-6
(5) Mark 7:25-30
(6) Matthew 6:10
(7) Isaiah 55:8-9
(8) Mark 9:24
(9) Acts 10:34-35
(10) James 1:17
(Over the hills and everywhere!)
View from the mountain where Walk by Faith
Church is located in Bhunya, Swaziland.
If you’re like me, you probably just started singing to fill in the admonition of what we’re to tell: that Jesus Christ is born!
At this time of year, it’s easy to do that with Christmas cards, yard art, and programs that proclaim His birth.
But in recent years, in some parts of the United States, non-believers have pushed to remove nativities from public view, insist on employees wishing only “happy holidays” to their customers, and strip the kids’ programs of any songs about Jesus. Some would like to force us to keep our “Christ in Christmas” behind closed doors—not even visible in our own yards or church signs.
How much more do we get a push back if we dare to share of the Savior who outgrew the manger?
Let’s be honest: sharing the Good News of the Kingdom of God goes way past telling people that Jesus was born. To be effective, we need to get to the part about how He came to take away the sins of the world, right? I mean, isn’t that why we used to order cases of the little booklet “The Four Spiritual Laws” years ago? The very first point was to get people to agree that they were sinners so they’d recognize they owed their lives to pay for that sin, and we could move on to the good news that Jesus died in their place.
But where do we start in a world that doesn’t even believe their actions are sinful—in a country where mentioning sin labels you a hater, where laws are passed to legislate immorality, where evil-doers froth at the mouth to actually harm us instead of just muzzling us?
I believe we must start with prayer. We invite our supernatural God to show us those He wants to reach through us, then ask Him to get involved in the lives of the people He has placed in our paths for His purposes. We ask Him to guide us and soften their hearts. Then we prepare. That might include reviewing Scriptures, baking cookies to share, studying a culture, or applying for a passport. Finally, we propel—we actually go!
I live on the prairie, but sometimes sharing Jesus still requires me to climb over a mountain of fear, rejection, and judgment. We all might face an uphill battle trying to find the right way to reach a hardened heart.
It won’t come through browbeating anyone to convince him he’s a sinner. That’s not good news, and deep down, he already knows he’s a mess. What he’s aching to know is that he’s still loved, in spite of how ugly his heart has become. When we listen with the goal of understanding a person’s pain, rather than just to strategize our next speech, he is convinced we truly care about him. And that kind of love opens his heart to the love of God that birthed it in us. We can then proclaim the wonderful plan of salvation that brings peace and joy and life—while there is still time to receive it.
“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” (Isaiah 52:7)
What mountain is God asking you to climb in the coming year so you can share
the love of Jesus with someone desperate for Good News?
Tracy and I wish you a very Merry Christmas and an adventurous, mountain-climbing,
Good News-proclaiming New Year!
Much love—Becky Spencer and Family
Sara and Danny are in a season of transition. They’re still in Virginia, but they sold their house and are now in Colonial Heights. Judah (5th grade), Nora (3rd grade), and Silas (1st grade) all received awards at their new school and will be playing basketball this year. They love their nanny, Mr. Kris, who manages to move them through their homework, take them to their appointments, get them to practices, and feed them all. (Move over, Mary Poppins!) Danny is still leading worship at Destination Church, with Sara’s help, and she continues to minister to women at her salon, Beauty from Inside.
Polly and Josh are still raising their crew in Haven, Kansas. MacKenzie (7th grade) and Ethan (6th grade) are homeschooling, while Savannah (4th grade) is attending public school. The girls don’t have any interest in sports, but Ethan keeps everyone at games year round, since he plays all of them! Polly is still driving a school bus and working at Carriage Crossing Restaurant in nearby Yoder. Josh is off work right now because of some physical and personal challenges, so they’re staying at his sister’s for the time being. Polly is a real trooper and one of the hardest working mamas around!
We have been thankful to have some time with Jeri and her children in recent months after many years of distance. She was blessed to be able to move onto land some of her birth family owns, giving her space for her goats and a safe place for her and her children to live. Junior is 11 yrs. old and in a school for special needs, and Luressa is in 4th grade. Jeri’s new baby, Claira Mae, was born in October with many birth defects, so she’s still in NICU, but there’s a possibility she’ll be home for Christmas. The older children are now 15 and 13, and we continue to put them in the Lord’s faithful hands as they blossom in their adoptive family.
Nathan and Diana were able to find a bigger house in nearby Hutchinson, but their children are still in Buhler schools. Gabe (8th grade) played football and now basketball, and he plays trumpet in the band and sings in the choir. Caleb (4th grade) is great at solving rubik’s cubes, still loves singing, and is, by his own admission, the class clown (he certainly knows how to make me laugh!). Jordan (2nd grade) seems beyond her years in her ability to filter what she hearts and sees, carefully determining whether or not it matches up to the Truth she’s been taught. Josiah turned one in July; we just learned he’s allergic to eggs and peanuts, so that’s keeping everyone on their toes. But oh, what a sweet little guy!
Nathan is still in management at Sunshine Meadows Retirement Community, and Diana is now the head nurse in the Alzheimer’s unit there. Nathan continues to work on his business degree with certification for long term care so that he can eventually serve in nursing home administration. He’s now an associate pastor at church, but he’s still serving the youth group. He’s been free from addictions for 11 years now. Thank You, Lord Jesus!
Benjamin and Amy are still living in Michigan, where Ben transitioned from Student Minister to Worship Arts Minister at Southpoint’s new church plant in Huron. They’re still involved in student ministry, and Ben leads worship and uses his creative side making videos to use during services. Their little Moriah Joy just turned two years old, and she’s going to be a big sister in April! We’re so excited to welcome our 24th grandchild soon, another girl, that they’ve chosen to name Selah (say-luh) Grace. Amy is doing great, balancing her mommy and ministry duties as she continues her work as an x-ray tech at the hospital.
Tracy and I are so grateful to tell you that our precious Ashley is now seven months clean and sober. She and her husband Brian moved in with us in May, along with three of her children. She truly came home, not only to us, but also to the Lord. It hasn’t been an easy road since Brian’s sobriety didn’t last, and he hasn’t come to that place yet of being willing to take the help available. But we all continue to trust him to the Lord’s care while she juggles being a single mother with her job in housekeeping at the Sunshine Home here in Buhler. She and Alyssa (kindergarten), Alex (pre-K), and London (1 year old) just moved into a little house this month, which is one more huge step in her faith journey. We’re so proud of our girl! Now that she’s so settled, we all hope she’ll have more time with her older son Ayden (2nd grade), who is living with his birth dad in nearby Hutchinson.
Ayden had eye surgery that wasn’t as successful as hoped, so looks like he’ll have another one in the future. Meanwhile, he likes to peek over the top of his patch and glasses! J
Justin has just finished his job custom cutting crops for a company based in Kansas, which means he should be able to join his family in Norman, Oklahoma, in the next couple of days. Addisyn (2nd grade and enjoying Girl Scouts) and Nathan Wray (pre-K) still live with their other grandma there, where his wife Jessica is working in retail.
We hope and pray that the coming year will bring them closer to being together as a family, but again, the lifestyle that accompanies addiction robs everyone, not just the addicts. Too many of you know firsthand what this battle is like, but let’s all keep fighting on our knees, alongside our loved ones trapped by this vicious enemy.
The innocent children affected are worth it, but so are the addicts. Don’t give up!
Anna surprised us by throwing together a quick wedding in September to Ben Harper, a young man from our home school group she’d been seeing for almost two years. They’re living nearby in Hutchinson, where he works with disabled adults. Anna cooks at The Bull’s Eye Diner in Yoder. She seems very content making their little house a home. Ben’s wedding gift to Anna was a guitar, which was evidence of how much he understands her passion for music. They would very much like to start a family, which of course is challenging for type 1 diabetic mothers, and she no longer senses as well as she used to when her blood sugars are dangerously low. We greatly appreciate your prayers for our “baby” who understandably wants a baby of her own.
This year Tracy and I celebrated our 39th anniversary, 7 years operating the bed and breakfast, 9 years since founding Grand Staff Ministries, and 21 years of his work at Takako America. Even with all that “steadiness,” it’s been a year of transition for us. First, Grand Staff Ministries finally opened Play It Again Thrift Boutique in downtown Buhler, so by God’s grace, I’ve added working five days a week to the mix! And second, after much prayer and soul-searching, we are answering the call to make disciples by starting a non-denominational church in Buhler. We will officially start meeting in February, and some dear friends are praying about joining us as co-pastors/planters. We’re so happy for the privilege of serving God together! J
We are overflowing with gratitude for everyone who has helped raise funds for the orphan home in Swaziland. In April, we’d raised about 40%, and in May, my precious writer friend, Barb Haley, was moved by the Lord to commit to the rest it will take. We will need an additional $25,000 (approximately) to get water and electricity installed for the home, and by the time it’s built, the thrift boutique will be bringing in enough to cover ongoing expenses.
The picture above is Angel with me in July, the girl whose plight urged us to build the home sooner, not later. She’s just one of many who cry out to God at night . . . thank you for helping us show them His love in tangible ways!
- Tracy can’t go with me to Swaziland in January (est. 15th – 29th), and I am concerned about driving alone. Please pray for at least one person to accompany me—either another woman or a couple. We will enroll children in school, distribute book bags and school supplies, and finalize decision on where to build the orphan home. Contact us immediately if you’re interested in going!
- Grace, strength, energy, and health to keep up with ministry/work demands
- Wisdom as we select land for the orphan home to be built on.
- Full-time missionaries for GSM in Swaziland
- More volunteers at the thrift boutique (we need 3 – 4 per day)
- 65 back packs to take in January, plus $20 x 65 to purchase school supplies in Swaziland
- 1 sponsor of 8 children had to discontinue because of a change in her finances; we still need sponsors for 5 of those children.
- Construction of the home will require me to make more trips to Swaziland; it’s about $3800 to go each time, so we will need additional funds for those mission trips, plus teams of people to help us build.
Abandoned, orphaned, and vulnerable children in Swaziland are lost lambs.
The Good Shepherd’s staff is grand enough to care for each one—through me . . .
. . . and through YOU!
Save the Date: Sat., April 30, 2016
Swaziland’s Heartbeat of Hope:
Silent & Live Auction and Free Banquet in Hutchinson, KS
Play It Again Thrift Boutique, 215 N. Main, Buhler, KS
Picture credit to Hutchinson News Reporter Kathy Hanks
Contact us at: PO Box 321, Buhler, KS 67522-0321
(620) 543-6518, firstname.lastname@example.org
Like us on Facebook: Grand Staff Ministries, Inc.
Grand Staff Ministries Play It Again Thrift Boutique
Grand Staff Bed and Breakfast
Becky Spencer Ministries
Becky Yates Spencer
(If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, please scroll to the bottom and start there. Thanks!)
Since Gene had just declared his love for me, I’m sure my reaction surprised him. Through angry tears, I spit out that he couldn’t throw around the word “love” without actions to follow it. I challenged what he planned to do about the love he claimed.
We went from ecstatic to miserable as realization dawned on us that we were making a mess we might not be able to crawl out of. I insisted that he needed to go back home before we did something drastic. He agreed to go, but begged me to pack suitcases and go with him, bringing my children along.
I ached to escape with him to pursue the happiness we were sure we could give one another. But the fear of God finally gave me the strength to send him away–without me.
Not only because my heart was ripped in two, but also because I felt completely betrayed by God. I felt like He had tricked me into marrying someone who could never make me happy, adding salt to the wound by sticking to His “rules” that wouldn’t permit my being with the one man who did.
I thought that obeying God meant resigning myself to a miserable existence the rest of my life. But the thought of being judged for all eternity sounded even worse, so I surrendered to what I knew was right.
It took me seven years to get Gene completely out of my system. And longer than that to get free of the guilt of my sin.
Because even though we hadn’t had sexual intercourse, I knew my desire for him–the lust and unfaithfulness in my heart–still condemned me.
Jesus said that just harboring the evil desire makes us guilty of adultery in our hearts. (Matthew 5:28)
I have to be honest; Gene isn’t the only man I’ve been attracted to, even since marrying Tracy. I never acted on the attraction with anyone else. Before Gene, I judged others who fell into that kind of sin. And after Gene, I didn’t want to ever again experience the separation my guilt put between God and me.
But it’s an area of weakness for me that I eventually realized I needed to run from. Paul told young Timothy to flee from youthful lusts, and I learned to do the same.
I act differently around men now. I will never become close friends with a man again. I don’t flirt–I know now it’s never harmless. I keep my distance and refuse to entertain even the idea of being with anyone else besides Tracy.
See, I learned that when God determined what is right and wrong, He did it with our best interest at heart. At the time of my temptation, I falsely assumed He didn’t care about my happiness. But through the years, I’ve discovered that all of His “rules” are formed from His deep love for me–and for you.
It would take an entire book to share the story of the surprise God had waiting for me as I finally discovered that Tracy was actually exactly the man I needed. (And I wrote that book! When Prince Charming Falls off His Horse . . . and you’ve become his nag!)
But for now, let’s just go back to the original question: am I an adulteress?
Some people would say yes and condemn me forever. Others would say no and point out I’m no worse than others.
But what does God say?
As defined by Scripture, I used to be an adulteress. But one of the main things that makes this Gospel of Jesus Christ such good news is that I don’t have to be that person anymore! And neither do you, no matter what your area of weakness is.
“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.”
And then two of the best words in all of the Bible: “But God . . . .” (Ephesians 2:1-4a) Talk about words changing everything! Paul goes on to explain how, because of God’s great love for us, He made us alive in Christ, saving us and changing us into people who now fulfill the good works He created for us to do. (from Ephesians 2:4b-10)
By His grace, I have a new identity. I will never go back to being that woman with a weakness for men. I’ve been translated from the kingdom of darkness into the light of His love and grace, changed into someone who serves Him and others.
Such joy! I can hold my head up in gratitude, free from shame.
And so can you!
Please let me know if you would like help to find this new identity in Jesus Christ or to ask for prayer.
I was more vulnerable than I’d ever been in my life.
It was the summer of 1986, and it wasn’t just the Kansas sun that was heating up.
So was my hidden passion for Gene*, a man I was falling in love with . . . a man who was not my husband.
Our friendship started innocently enough two years before. Both of us were singer/songwriters, and we got to know each other well while we worked together on music projects at church.
It really didn’t take very long for the friendship to grow into attraction. At first I enjoyed the seemingly harmless flirting. We had so much in common, and it felt right to spend hours at the piano, sharing our songs, encouraging each others’ gifts. He seemed to understand me so much better than my husband Tracy did. And since he didn’t have a full-time job, he had the time to devote hours of attention to me.
I found it easier and easier to compare him to my husband, finding Tracy lacking in the areas Gene seemed to meet my deepest needs.
And when Tracy started his new job in Kansas while I stayed in the south so our children could finish the last three weeks of school, Gene and I took advantage of our last few days together. But I was still just playing a fantasy game with no intention of pursuing our relationship.
Until the day he told me he was attracted to me.
Spoken words change everything.
I admitted that I was also attracted to him, and we became desperate about the upcoming move. I begged him to come for a visit. And the day our moving trailer pulled away, we clung to each other in a final embrace, only able to pull away because of the promise of his visit as soon as possible.
I spent the two months before he came preparing as if I were about to have a first date. I sunbathed to get a tan and worked to lose a few unwanted pounds. I tried different hairstyles and played with my makeup. We talked on the phone and planned for his vacation in my home.
And when he came, he swept me off my feet. While my husband was hard at work, Gene and I took my children to the library, danced in the kitchen while they napped, sang love songs to each other, and stole kisses when no one was watching. No sex, but we were playing with fire, ignorantly assuming the flames wouldn’t burn us.
One night about three weeks into his stay, while my family slept, he sat near me while I folded the laundry. He gently placed his hand over mine, over the washcloths, and waited for me to look into his eyes. Then he tenderly spoke the words we had avoided until that moment: he told me he loved me.
More spoken words that could change everything for us.
Would they drive me down a path that ended with a scarlet “A” tied around my neck?
Part 2 coming soon.
* Name changed to protect innocent parties.
(This is the first of at least two articles I feel impressed to write on homosexuality. Before I start writing, I want to express my deep compassion and love for people from all sides of the issues. While I realize there is much debate and disagreement, even among those who call themselves Christians, I also believe with all my heart that God wants us to know what He actually intends for our sexual conduct. While anyone is welcome to read this, I’m primarily speaking to those who are confused, but still want to please God. I humbly and lovingly submit what He has shown me on this topic.)
Disclaimer: this post is sexual in nature and might not be appropriate for some readers. Parents, be aware and read it in its entirety before allowing your children to read it.
A few hours ago in Wichita, Kansas, about twenty same-sex couples were legally married, the first to do so in Sedgwick County. (*The legal road that led to today’s marriages has had many twists and turns, and it’s not over yet. For more information, see the notes at the end of this article.) During the group ceremony, one protester cried out, “God says, ‘No!'”
He was quickly drowned out by many supporters calling back, “God says, ‘Yes!'”
And one prominent banner had the words, “Wichita Clergy Supporting Marriage Equality,” emblazoned on the backdrop of a rainbow.
Credit for picture given to Mike Hutmacher, The Wichita Eagle
So who is right? Where does God stand in this issue? Can we even know for sure? If more and more of God’s servants support same-sex marriage, does that mean God is also in favor of it?
If we want to know God’s will on the subject, it makes sense to look first at the Bible. Many people are familiar with Scriptures outlining what God had to say on the topic of homosexuality. (In case you aren’t, or if you want to review, here they are: Genesis 18:16-19:25; Leviticus 18:22; Leviticus 20:13; Judges 19:16-24; Romans 1:18-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Timothy 1:8-10; and Jude 7.)
But I’d like to take a look at the institute of marriage to help explain why God’s opinion and intent is clear.
A quick google search turns up almost 5 million results describing marriage as a covenant with God. Most Christian churches teach that it’s far more than a mere legal contract; it’s a binding covenant promising fidelity for a lifetime. Most churches merely teach covenant as a promise before God.
But they seldom go into what seals a covenant, at least not as it applies to marriage. Particularly about what seals the covenant.
Want to know what it is? Blood!
This is true of other Jewish customs that required the blood of an animal to be shed in order to seal a covenant. Other cultures have also used blood to finalize the serious agreement between two or more individuals.
Those of us who were children in the 1950’s and 60’s likely remember pretending to be “Indian blood brothers,” making a small cut in the palms of our hands and mashing them into each other so our blood mingled to seal the deal.
That might seem too gory for a discussion on marriage. But stay with me while I explain how God actually made this an integral factor of this most precious covenant.
In the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 22:13-17), rules were explained about what to do if a man accused his wife of not being a virgin. How could he possibly know whether or not she was or wasn’t? By whether or not she bled when they had sexual intercourse for the first time.
The medical explanation is that the woman has tissue circling the vaginal opening; it’s called the hymen. When she has sexual intercourse for the first time, the hymen is ruptured, and a small amount of blood is shed.
In today’s world, the hymen can also be ruptured in other ways–for example, by riding a bike or another sport, or by inserting a tampon into the vagina. So intercourse isn’t the only way for blood to be shed. (1)
But we are looking at God’s intent in creation, not the other possible ways this could happen prematurely.
Likewise, someone looking for a loophole might try to claim that blood can be shed during a homosexual act, but again, if we compare that to God’s intent, it’s apparent that there is no “seal” waiting to be broken in that kind of sex. The way God designed our bodies prepared a man and a woman to make a covenant with each other in marriage, promising fidelity for life, sealed by blood.
Even if a lesbian couple tries to manipulate the hymen to break it in order to try to seal a covenant, they’re only forcing an unnatural imitation of God’s intent between a man and a woman in which the penis penetrates the vagina, breaking the hymen naturally.
Of course, a majority of couples who marry in the USA today are no longer virgins, so they miss out on the somewhat mystical covenant God intended for married couples to enjoy. Does this mean their promise to each other is negated or impossible to keep? It doesn’t have to. But many–and in fact most–won’t ever enjoy the sacred joy that comes from knowing just one partner for life.
Those who choose to wait for marriage and remain faithful would be the first to tell us we don’t know what we’re missing. And God’s grace can extend to people who didn’t wait for marriage to become sexually intimate, because the marriage they’re finally committing to is of the nature He intended.
Likewise He makes allowances for those who divorce within the parameters He allows and those whose spouse has died and they are remarrying. In these instances, obviously the hymen was broken long before their marriages, but because they are engaging in a relationship He gave guidelines for within His approval, He still counts their commitment as a covenant before Him.
All the Scriptures that outline sexual behavior–for heterosexual and homosexual behaviors–show us not only God’s holiness, but also what behaviors are best for us. He truly desires our happiness. And as the one who created us, He knows best what will accomplish that long-term.
God’s issue with homosexuality isn’t with the marriage; it’s with the act itself. He calls it sin–missing the mark of His holiness.
It’s sad that this sexual sin is quickly condemned even by people who are engaged in other sexual sin, such as adultery or premarital sex or pornography. Because any sex that takes place outside of a marriage between a man and a women is sin.
But when we see what constitutes and seals a covenant, it’s obvious that it’s impossible for same-sex couples to seal a blood covenant unless they are stubbornly enacting a poor substitute for what God intended.
So can God smile on same-sex marriage? No. It’s like an oxymoron. He can’t bless what He has prohibited–an act that goes directly against the way He created us for covenant relationships.
I’ll follow this post with at least one more on the topic of homosexuality.
Until then, I am praying for those who are feeling conflicted in this lifestyle. There is help and hope–and a life of blessing waiting for those who are willing to surrender to God’s loving ways.
Until next time . . . you are worth fighting for.
* In a nutshell, here’s the background that led up to today’s events: 1) in 2005, Kansas voters overwhelmingly approved a ban on same sex marriage. 2) Same-sex couples continued to apply for marriage licenses. 3) Last month the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal suit on behalf of a lesbian couple that had been denied a license. 3) Because the federal 10th Circuit Appeals Court struck down same-sex marriage bans in Oklahoma and Utah, the Johnson County chief district court judge authorized same-sex marriage licenses, stating that since Kansas is part of the same federal circuit, the ban can’t be enforced here, either. 4) State Attorney General Derek Schmidt filed a petition with the Kansas Supreme Court last month to block the marriage licenses until a ruling could be made on the constitutionality of the state’s gay marriage ban. 5) The United States Supreme Court ruled last week that the state had to lift the ban on same-sex marriage until the federal case is decided. (1) http://howshealth.com/how-to-tell-if-my-hymen-is-broken/ © 2009-12 Howshealth.com