Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat!

I spent most of my childhood Christmases in a tropical country where palm trees were lit up like Christmas trees and geese were nowhere to be found. In fact, my mother had to scour the city to find two small turkeys for our Christmas dinner with the other missionaries. We affectionately called them “Aunt” and “Uncle” and this helped to create a sense of “family” while we were away from home.

Gathering on a screened in patio next to a mango tree to eat turkey and the canned cranberries and black olives shipped to us by a family friend, was definitely different. But every year my mother did a wonderful job incorporating the Christmas traditions passed down to her from her upbringing on a Canadian farm. I can only remember three childhood Christmases where we braved blizzards to get to Grandma’s or Aunt Mary’s farms in Canada, but those Christmases are forever etched in my memory.

Grandmothers and aunts have a way of making the holidays grand, the atmosphere warm and the food mouthwatering. Aunt Mary had spent hours turning baby food jars into smiling Santa’s full of candy with red felt hats and white pointy beards. These sat at each plate – beckoning us to sit and enjoy all that was to come. Aunt Jean made the butter tarts, Aunt Golda made the Christmas pudding, Aunt Adeline made German cookies and Aunt Penny made the macaroons and the cherry jello with the pink fluff. They always arrived with a special something that would make their nieces and nephews smile.

Aunt Mary's Christmas Candy Jars

A turkey, a ham and a fat goose were carved intricately by Uncle John. Uncle Dick thanked God for our feast and the eating frenzy began. Homemade rolls, creamy mashed potatoes, stuffing, vegetable casseroles, jellos, homemade pickles and umpteen pies and squares covered the tables. I was in heaven and visions of beaches and palm trees were long gone as I basked in the camaraderie of the family that I had so often missed. Even though my Grandmothers and two of my dearest Aunts are in heaven, the Christmas candy jars, the recipes and the memories still remain – poignant reminders of valuable family traditions that I carry on with my own growing family.

Yes, Christmas is coming and the choices we have to make it “fat” with happy moments are endless. The extra decorating, baking and cleaning are all worth it when we consider what we are building into the next generation who is watching our every move. One day, they will emerge as the Christmas hosts and we will sit back and enjoy watching them live out the family traditions – smiling as they create new ones.

In Ephesians 5:1 we are told to be imitators of God as dear children. Especially at Christmas, we have the opportunity to show Christ’s love to others by serving, giving gifts, hugging dear ones and remembering that the Bethlehem babe is our loving God come to earth to bring us the greatest gifts of peace, grace and hope so that we can give them away! Many babies have become kings but only one King became a baby!

As December 25th approaches, let’s take a few moments to salute the special people in our lives who have shown us how abundant hospitality and love make every Christmas a glorious celebration of our Saviour’s birth.

May peace, love and joy abide with you and yours this Christmas and in 2012!

Enjoy this Christmas poem written by my dear Dad who was a missionary in Latin America and Spain for 34 years!

The Promised Babe

T’was the night before Christmas, and all through the land,

Men were still under law, but grace was at hand.

No prophet had spoken four hundred long years,

They longed for Messiah to drive out their fears.

When what to some shepherds, Christmas night should appear,

But a band of bright angels who’s singing so clear

Caused them to tremble and shake with alarm,

But the angel said, “Fear not, I bring you no harm”.

“But unto you this day in Bethlehem town,

The Holy Son of God as a babe is come down.”

The shepherds with haste went to see this great sight,

And rejoiced o’er the babe on that first Christmas night.

So this Bethlehem babe who came long ago,

Was given by God to a world sick with woe.

This magnificent gift would now be for each heart,

A way for mankind to make a new start.

Copyright 2008, Donald Stuckless

 

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Good News…

Rose McCormick Brandon from Listening to my Hair Grow at: http://rosemccormickbrandon.wordpress.com/ is one of the gifted inspirational writers that I hope to be when I grow up:)  She has a deep love for her Saviour and for those He brings into her life. I am humbled that she reads my blog and that she has given Marta’s Ponderings, the Liebster Blog award.

One of the conditions of my receiving this award is that I present it to other bloggers of my choosing. After pondering a few of my favourites, I have decided to start by giving the award to the following two wonderful people:

Laura Barnes – a Fun-loving mother of four boys who is still learning in Kindergarten everyday! Laura is an amazing teacher – believing that we learned all we need to know in Kindergarten. Her stories at www.kindergartenstoryteller.blogspot.com will definitely make you smile! Laura’s zest for life and genuine love for the little child in all of us, will make you want to skip, leap, read stories and finger-paint all over again.

Jeff Loach – serves as Lead Pastor of St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church in Nobleton, Ontario where he inspires his congregation and anyone else who knows him to love God passionately. Jeff encourages us at www.passionatelyhis.wordpress.com that even though we may not “see” reminders of God’s grace and love, we can be certain that they remain ever-present with us. Jeff Loach is a gifted communicator who knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is always passionately pursuing the ongoing, deepening relationship that He longs to have with each of us!

Since we’re speaking about awards today, maybe there is someone in your life that would appreciate an award of praise. A simple word, a hug, a smile or an invitation for coffee may be just what they need to keep pursuing their destiny – let’s be about our Father’s business of propelling those on our path into all that He “sees” because the dream of heaven is not to be thwarted!

“Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen”.                          1 Peter 4:9-11


Brotherly Love…

My husband and I just spent 48 hours in Philadelphia. I had no idea what awaited me in this historic city but today, I was interrupted by a “divine appointment” that I will never forget – 15 minutes of some of the most real brotherly love I have ever experienced.

We were here to meet with 20 professionals at a summit about Bible engagement for children. The location – The Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge – a venue so rich with scenery and American history that it brought tears to my eyes on several occasions throughout our stay.

A statue of Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson kneeling to pray over the Declaration of Independence, was the first thing to catch my eye on our way onto the grounds. A monument with the Constitution etched in stone stood tall with a huge flag waving proudly in the background. The words “Fundamental belief in God” stood out and gently reminded me why I was here. Inside, a very talented group from various ministries had gathered to pray and examine research – pursuing the best ways to engage a digital generation with the Bible.

After two packed days of presentations and collaboration, our facilitator asked us to take 40 minutes of solitude for reflection and prayer and to come back with our best ideas from the two days. I grabbed my notebook and began walking around the inspiring grounds of Valley Forge. I came upon a memorial to families from various states and I sat down on the curb to read the stone tablets that told of their costly pledge to freedom through the Declaration of Independence.

I made some notes and I bowed my head in prayer – lost in thought with God. A few moments later, I heard a gentle voice over my shoulder and I looked up to see an older gentleman walking toward me. He said, “Young lady, do you need help – are you alright?” I rose quickly and gazed into the bluest eyes of a white-haired man. He gently took my hand and asked me why I was sitting on the curb. I told him I was praying and enjoying the rich history of this place. He smiled a knowing smile and with tears in his eyes, proceeded to tell me that he prayed too. In fact, he prayed every morning at 5:45 a.m. with a group of men called the “dawn patrol” and that he had done this for the past 23 years. Then he asked me if I believed in miracles – now I was crying too – clutching his warm wrinkled hand as if he would disappear if I were to let go.

He began to tell me about his miracle and about his wife whose oncologist now calls the “miracle lady”. Nine years ago she had cancer throughout her abdomen and she was given little hope. He beamed as he told me that today he had been married to her, the love of his life, for exactly 54 years and 102 days. He said that prayer and God were behind his wife’s miracle. Now it was my turn and he looked surprised when with a cracking voice I told him about Mia’s Miracle and her journey through stage four cancer at the age of seventeen months. I shared how her oncologists still say there is no medical explanation for her to have lived past the age of two and that she is now seven years old and free from cancer.  Together, we wept and thanked God for mercy and love and the power of prayer.

I then told him I was on the grounds for a summit hosted by the American Bible Society and he proceeded to tell me about his nearly fatal auto accident a few years earlier and how some men from the American Bible Society had visited him in the hospital. He recalled their encouraging words, “Russ, you should not be alive after that terrible accident. God spared your life because you have more work on this earth and you have to finish it.”

I shared the reason for our meeting was to find new ways to get today’s kids to become engaged with the Bible. Then I asked, “Wasn’t it at Valley Forge that George Washington said to his men, These are the times that try men’s souls…” He nodded and I mentioned that I felt the same way today and that my soul felt a bit “tried” as I pondered the task ahead. Then he said, “Young lady when you go back into that meeting, you tell your group that I am praying for all of you and for what you are doing here today. You know when I drove past you, I wondered if there was something I could do to connect with that woman sitting on the curb and I wasn’t sure why. So I stopped my car and I felt that I just had to go back down the hill to talk to you.”

I smiled knowing that God had ordained this moment and that Navy Captain Russell K. Schulz, Executive Vice President of the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge, was a real gem. This dear man had backed down the hill to check on me and through this kind gesture God had encouraged both of us.

Russell offered me a ride back up the hill and around the bend to our meeting place. As we passed the statue of Benjamin Franklin and the other founding fathers kneeling in prayer, he pointed to it and I told him that I had stood there wishing for a “kneeling stone” in front of that very statue not 20 minutes before this conversation. “ He chuckled and said, “That’s a great idea young lady and let me tell you if I had passed by and seen you kneeling there in prayer, I would have jumped out of my car to join you.

We arrived at the meeting place and I asked him to wait for a minute while I ran inside to get him the Canadian Bible Society magazine with Mia’s story in it. When I got back into his car and handed it to him, tears began to course down his cheeks as he gazed at her smiling face and once again he grasped my hand. I asked him if I could pray and he bowed his head. Together, we thanked God for our miracles and we talked to our Savior just as our forefathers had done so long ago – it was truly a holy moment.

As Dale beckoned me back to the meeting, I hugged Russell and I left his car with a fresh realization that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are only found in Christ and in following His plan for our lives. I ran up the steps thanking God for Valley Forge, for Russell, for Bible Societies, and for times that really do try men’s souls – forcing them to rely on their Savior!


Humpty Dumpty…

Yesterday, I was reminded of this simple nursery rhyme you will remember. Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. ALL the king’s horses and ALL the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again.

I can imagine that the king had many men and many horses and that they were the finest of the land. This wall must have been high enough to protect their great kingdom and I wonder how Humpty even got up there. Something tells me, he probably wasn’t supposed to be there but he climbed up anyway. (There is a definitely a lesson here for us:)

After his fall, I get a picture of valiant men on horseback riding past broken Humpty – some shaking their heads because he was crazy enough to climb the wall, a few bowing in sorrow at what at happened to him, others dismounting and kneeling gently to try to pick up the pieces, and yet others who came bearing glue and tape and a small stretcher to carry the pieces to the infirmary or the workshop. However, it was all to no avail – they could not do anything to put Humpty back together again.

But the KING, now that was another story. The KING could put Humpty back together again and when his chariot passed that way His plan began to unfold and he gently gathered all of the pieces to himself – already gleefully planning the outcome. This is the same KING that does this for us. We fall and others may try to help but only the KING has exactly the right tools to restore our brokenness. I have been perched upon many walls in my life thinking that cancer and financial and marital strife happened to others but not to me. I wasn’t flippant with this thinking but when these things came into my life, I admit to feeling the sting of surprise.

Today, I am dearly acquainted with the KING who specializes in putting us back together. This is one of the sweetest mysteries of our faith – a KING who every single time that we have fallen off the wall and been hurt, has in the most loving ways knelt at our side and lifted our countenance to begin the process of gently restoring all that the enemy has tried to take.

You see this KING is the great redeemer and while He is putting us back together, He also wants to teach us few things. Because of this, He leads us on a marvelous journey that is part of the healing process – a journey that although difficult at times, shapes us into exactly what He had planned all along. I have learned that in falling we are gloriously restored and by trusting we journey through life always being carried by the KING!

“I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.”  Isaiah 57:15


A Wise Old Saint…

Have you ever received encouragement from someone that is a wise old saint? I use the term “old” carefully here because what I really mean is someone who has been a Christian for at least 20 years longer than me :).

A few months ago, I met a wise old saint and his name is Ralph. I still don’t know him very well, although I sat under his teaching on the tabernacle for the past 10 weeks, I humbly realize that there is much more that I could learn from him.

However, if I never learned another thing about him, I already know the most important thing. Ralph is a valiant soldier of the cross of Jesus Christ! In my world, he is in the same platoon as my grandparents, my parents, my aunts and uncles and others who have dedicated their lives to the master’s service.

I now attend the same church as Ralph and I am not surprised to have learned that almost five years before I met him, he had heard about Mia’s battle with cancer and had begun to pray earnestly for her and for our family, with his men’s prayer group. I never knew this until I signed up for his Wednesday night class and he told me that he felt like he knew me because he had been praying for me. I share this so you can get a glimpse of this dear saint’s heart, which is simply and practically a reflection of Christ’s love and His compassion for mankind.

As we posture ourselves – remembering all that Jesus accomplished for us on the cross –  ponder with me something that Ralph sent to me today. I pray that it will challenge you to be “disturbed” to dream, “disturbed” to thirst, “disturbed” to hope and “disturbed” to believe more boldly.

Our Lord endured the cross for the joy set before Him. WE are that joy folks. Can you even imagine that? It was your face and mine that gave Him the strength to endure until He uttered the words, “it is finished” – freeing us from guilt, fear, inner hunger and emotional want – forever!

Ralph says, “I am greatly challenged by this prayer, penned and spoken by Sir Francis Drake in 1577, just three years before he set out on his epic journey on “The Golden Hind”. He was only the second person to circumnavigate the world. This was a remarkable feat, somewhat similar to those who first dared to travel to the moon and to land there. Let it speak to your spirit; it is never too late to take steps of faith in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

Prayer of Sir Francis Drake (1577)

     Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves,

When our dreams have come true

Because we have dreamed too little,

When we have arrived safely

Because we sailed too closely to the shore.

     Disturb us, Lord, when

With the abundance of things we possess

We have lost our thirst

For the waters of life;

Having fallen in love with life,

We have ceased to dream of eternity

And in our hearts to build a new earth,

We have allowed our vision

Of the New Heaven to dim.

     Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,

To venture on wider seas

Where storms will show your mastery;

Where losing sight of land,

We shall find the stars.

We ask you to push back

The horizons of our hopes;

And to push us into the future

In strength, courage, hope, and love.

In the name of our courageous Captain, the Lord Jesus, Amen.

Today, my prayer is one of thankfulness for the gentle presence of  wise old saints who gently encourage us to persevere – reaching for the highest destiny, alongside our courageous Captain – Jesus!



High Heels…

Even though the skies were grey today, I got up with a song in my heart ready to celebrate life. I carefully applied my make-up, donned my best outfit – complete with my high-heels. On this day, I was headed to McMaster Children’s Hospital but not in my comfy shoes and clothes to sleep in Mia’s hospital room or to pull her in a wagon through the halls. Today, my high heels would click confidently through those same halls alongside my beautiful daughter, brave son-in-law, and smiling grandchildren – as we made our way to a luncheon and a press conference.

This was a day of celebration – a day to meet executives from the hospital and Scotia Bank as they gathered to introduce their new poster child – our very own Mia.  Scotia Bank representatives from Southwestern Ontario banks were there to receive their posters and encouragement to begin the next “Smiles for MAC kids” campaign so that children just like Mia can receive the treatment they need to live long healthy lives.

I couldn’t have been more proud of my children as they stood at the podium and humbly addressed City Mayors, Bank personnel and Hospital CEO’s and Presidents. Jonnie spoke saying, “We believed God for Mia’s Miracle and we followed the protocol outlined by oncologists here at MAC Kids. I have no doubt in my mind that Mia would not be cancer free and sitting here today without the amazing care that she received within these walls from people that you recognize as doctors, nurses, social workers and cleaning staff. However, these are all people that my family recognizes as angels. They see incredible suffering every single day and yet they continue to press on – treating every patient as if it were their own son or daughter.

It took a lot of prayer and an entire team of people here at MAC Kids to bring my daughter back to health and I would like to publicly thank every health care professional and every single donor that has ever given a penny to this hospital. Thank you Scotia Bank for raising dollars to support MAC kids. Because of each of you, my daughter has been given a second chance to live. You have made the celebration of life possible for thousands of children in this region and you have given our daughter, Mia, back to our family.”

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Afterward, the President of MAC Kids, Dr. Peter Fitzgerald, shook his head and told me how remarkable it is for Mia to be doing so well after battling stage 4 neuroblastoma. Dr. Fitzgerald performed two of Mia’s surgeries and clearly recognizes that she is indeed a miracle.

On my drive to the hospital this morning, I pondered the familiar words of Psalm 91 and 121 and I played familiar songs like, Mighty to Save and Awesome God. I remembered how these had inspired my faith on almost daily drives to MAC Kids as my family placed their hope and trust in the living God and in the healthcare professionals assigned to Mia’s case.

As I made my way home this afternoon, I passed familiar pit stops at the side of the road where so many times I had pulled over and jumped out of the driver’s seat to quickly hold the bowl for darling Mia as she was sick. As I passed each one, I wiped a tear and thanked God for His mercy, for His healing power, for His strength and for His peace that passed all understanding on so many of those trips.

I thanked Him that after not eating anything for 10 months and not even remembering how to swallow, today Mia ate TWO sandwiches – yes her mother and I watched as she snuck another one from the food table:) At the press conference, she could hardly contain herself when she saw the cupcake tower and she devoured her cupcake in no time as she hugged “Gilbert” her new 2011 MAC Kids stuffed animal.

Yes, today I wore high heels to MAC kids – celebrating the mercy of God’s plan for Mia’s life – every clickety clack telling the world that my God is indeed mighty to save!


Faith Swims…

Have you ever been in a battle that just wouldn’t quit? Maybe like my friend Linda you worry about a son or daughter that is away at war – their safety always at the forefront of your mind. Or perhaps it’s a grueling recovery from an illness, financing for your business or a long awaited new job that you have been trusting God for.

We all have battles but when they are prolonged that’s when we begin to ask questions – wondering if God is still paying attention.  I too have experienced long battles where I thought God’s provision would never arrive. When this happens, I have learned that relief comes when I get into His Word, spend time on my knees talking openly with him and take time to surround myself with friends and teaching tapes that build me up. Over the past few weeks, I have been studying the life of Paul and this is some of what I’ve learned through a teaching DVD from Rick Renner.

While studying Acts 27 & 28, we see that Paul was on a journey to fulfill the destiny that God had for him to stand before Ceasar and preach. However, on his way to Rome he was…

  • Shipwrecked so he swam to shore
  • Cold and wet so he gathered a load of sticks to build a fire
  • Bit by a poisonous viper snake that attached itself to his hand
  • Surrounded by barbarians who thought he would surely die from the snake bite

I think that most of us when faced with this situation, would be tempted to just lie down on the beach and die – forgetting about ever getting to Rome. I do know that the questions would certainly come fast and furiously. Maybe I didn’t hear God clearly. Maybe it wasn’t even God – now there’s a scary thought! Isn’t this exactly the kind of questioning that occurs when we don’t see God’s big picture in the midst of adversity?

I do know that when the going gets tough the tough either get going or they quit. Believe me, I have been tempted to quit many times. However, if I will stop and submit myself to God’s Word, I am encouraged to press on in faith because…

  • When we are shipwrecked – faith swims
  • When we are cold and it’s raining – faith builds a fire
  • When the enemy latches onto us – faith just shakes the enemy off

Just after Paul shook the poisonous viper off, God began to intervene visibly. He sent Publius the richest man on the island to invite him to his home. Paul was immediately taken care of – having all of his needs met. He entered into Publius’ house and when he learned that Publius’ father was sick, he prayed for him and the man was healed. Paul began to hold revival meetings on the island because he understood his calling as an ambassador of Christ. He knew how to walk in this divine calling and so he shared the gospel wherever he went.

Paul stayed on the island of Malta for 3 months and when he left he sailed for Rome in an Alexandrian ship – one of the most luxurious ships of that era. He also left the island blessed with “all he needed” which would include supplies for the remainder of his journey.

I just love this story because it is yet another example of God’s redemptive power at work. The enemy tried to hinder Paul by using circumstances to distract him from his destiny, but God had another marvelous plan that would bring blessing to many – including the people on the island of Malta.

Just imagine if when Paul was thrown into the sea or when he reached the shore, he had given up or cursed God. He would have missed the provision and destiny that God had prepared all along. We should never be surprised if on our journey to do what God has asked, the enemy  hinders us. I am learning that we can also be hindered by our own lack of knowledge and understanding in regard to the practical application of our faith and I am working on that:)

I don’t have it all figured out but I am learning that our times of shipwreck are always powerful instances where God touches our hearts and intervenes in a bold way. God does not give us sickness, disease, tragedy or other earthly trials but when they come, He uses them for our good – redemptive power at its finest to bring us blessing even when we don’t see it coming.

In Romans chapter 8 (Amplified Bible) Paul says, “We are assured and know that God being a partner in their [labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose.

God is looking for people that He can trust, people He’s given a vision to fulfill – soldiers of the cross who do not have a timid faith.  When He has found us to be tried, tested and true, working outwardly to apply our faith, we can wait expectantly for Him to use us as never before.

Chris Tomlin wrote a great song called “Our God” that I sing every day. “Our God is greater, our God is stronger. God you are higher than any other. Our God is healer, awesome in power our God, our God… And if our God is for us then who could ever stop us and if our God is with us, then what could stand against?” Nothing my dear friends absolutely nothing!

When you feel like you are drowning, just remember that your faith swims and your Savior is pulling you to victory!


Called…

The theme for my ladies Bible study this term is “Called to Do a Great Work!” and Beth and Jayne are doing an amazing job of inspiring women to walk boldly as His workmanship! I don’t know about you but many times in my life I have felt the call of God to do something but I never really knew what specifically. My parents had been called to be missionaries and I was raised as an eyewitness to the great work that they did with God’s help – ministering to the hungry, the broken and the drug addicted. There is no doubt that their example fueled my desire to also do something great for God. Let’s remember that our children are eyewitnesses and imitators of what we do – Yikes!

Over the years, as I raised my children and began to write proposals and scripts for my husband’s business, I realized that God had given me a love for words and a love for penning them. About 15 years ago I started to write for some clients of my own and before I knew it, I was working in the Communications field mostly for faith-based, non-profit organizations. I loved sharing their vision and their passion for hungry feeding children around the world or getting God’s Word to every tribe and every nation.

It is God’s desire for us to live united with Him and to walk out our destiny boldly as His children. When we are willing to follow the path that He has prepared for us a great work will emerge and it will reach far beyond our lifetime – leaving a rich and lasting legacy on the earth.

In the book of Nehemiah, we see that he was called to do a great work for God. He was the King’s cupbearer and he had the King’s ear. He was positioned just where God wanted him – in a place of importance even though he was in exile. When he heard about the state of the people in his homeland of Jerusalem he prayed and he fasted and he wept over them and over the condition of that city. He was moved with compassion and He even repented on behalf of the people who had turned their backs on the God that He now prayed to.

God birthed a great work in Nehemiah’s heart and he was motivated to action. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

A Great Work is…

  • Birthed in our hearts
  • Something we have a vision for
  • Always moving us to act
  • Evidenced through our passion to make it happen

In order to do a great work for God, we must believe that He has designed our uniqueness and that He has given us the ability to get in line with His belief system so that He can really use us. When we allow the vision to start inside of us and believe that we can really make the difference that He’s called us to, our lives are impacted and they will impact others in unbelievable ways.

It’s time for us to see what God sees:

  • When man saw a shepherd boy named David – God saw a King
  • When a dedicated young pastor and his wife saw a small schoolhouse next to a cornfield in Bloomingdale, Ontario – God saw a thriving church and a Christian school where thousands of people would adopt God’s belief system and become equipped to walk into His destiny for their lives
  • When I saw only a homemaker who home-schooled her children – God saw in me potential to share His Word through writing and work as a creator of a Bible-based online world for children
  • When you look at yourself and see limitations – God sees a strong vessel that He wants to use to do a great work in your family, your neighborhood and your world

Let’s catch the vision and realize that we have been created to do good works, which God prepared ahead of time just for us to walk out.


Living to Give…

As a little girl, I remember my mother’s excitement when she would receive a letter from her missionary friend, Gladys Aylward. She would gather us around to hear the powerful yet gentle words from a woman so utterly devoted to an inner vision, that she changed the world for generations of people including me.

Several years earlier, in the fall of 1959, my father took my mother on date in Sarnia, Ontario to hear missionary to China, Gladys Aylward. After a challenging message, Gladys gave an invitation for anyone interested in missionary service, and my father went forward to dedicate his life to missions. My mother waited at the back of the auditorium and was surprised when the small missionary woman approached her and took hold of both of her hands saying, “My, dear, promise me you will serve the Lord and go wherever He leads you.” She then prayed and said, “Bonnie, seek ye first the kingdom of God.” These simple words propelled my mother into a lifetime of service to God.

God specializes in using His people to accomplish the impossible. The stories of Gladys are ones of faith and determination while overcoming insurmountable difficulties. She is quoted as saying, “Oh God, here’s my Bible. Here’s my money. Here’s me. Use me, God.” Gladys was a dedicated soldier of the cross and the effect of her life on generations of people is immeasurable. She was a successful communicator in Chinese – sharing the Scriptures wherever she went. She planted churches, brought about prison reform, and travelled for 27 days over mountains on foot to take 100 orphans to safety during the Japanese war with China. She organized the Red Cross in the bombed-out cities and towns in Shansi province and she raised and educated dozens of orphans.

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In 1968, my mother wrote to Gladys Aylward to thank her for influencing her young life and to tell her that our family had received missionary appointment to Colombia, South America. Here is a portion of my mother’s letter from Gladys dated April 29, 1969: “Now one thing more. This is because you told me you hoped for the field. You just trust for yourself, your husband and your children, for your daily food and everything. 28 years ago I started out from England with very little, no bank account or knowing anyone but here I am. I have brought up over 200 children and helped all sorts of others; I still have 41, a Mission and this small house. Where it all comes from I really cannot tell you. So look up, trust Him and I know all will be well. May He use you and give you all the love you will need to really love a people who are in most cases unlovable. How shall they know of Him unless we show them? All for now then, write again soon and let me know about your news.

Yours with love in Him and for His sake,

Gladys Aylward

This small woman was a giant of the faith and because of her example and encouragement, my parents learned to love the unlovable. Don and Bonnie Stuckless dedicated 34 years to missionary service, and as a child, I was blessed to serve alongside them. After I married, they worked in Spain where they opened several Christian Centres. Their daily goal was to love the forgotten in their city and to search for drug addicts in darkest alleys – bringing them home to have a shower, get clean clothes and to savor a hot meal.

After dinner they would hear these words, “You’ve been so kind to me but I’m a drug addict, what are you going to do with me now?” It was then that they would hear of God’s great love. For most, it was the first time they had ever been told that God had a plan for their lives and that drug addiction wasn’t it. These “dear kids” as mother called them, would usually agree to go to the drug rehab centre and my parents would purchase their bus ticket, and make arrangements for someone to pick them up on the other end.

My heart is overwhelmed when I think that more than 200 heroin addicts were rescued from the streets of Spain because of my parent’s faithful ministry. Today, many of them are pastors and lay leaders in churches across that country – leading others to Christ. Missionaries sacrifice years away from their own loved ones to secure eternity for someone else’s. It is a real privilege to be a missionary kid and to have shared my parents with others who may never have known Christ or the promises found in His Word.

In closing, I’ve heard my father say countless times, “Answering the call to missions is not answering the emotional call of a moment; it is answering the preparational call of a lifetime.” God prepares His people to do His work and today I challenge you with these thoughts.

We are not all called to go; but we are all called to pray and to give. When we support missionaries and ministries around the world, we are supporting an army of soldiers. An army that translates and delivers God’s Word in countries we will never visit. An army that loves the unlovable that we will never see. An army that we have equipped to be His hands and feet on the earth – sharing the Bible’s promises and new life found in Christ – that must be given to those who have not yet heard.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3.16 (NIV)


A Good Decision…

 

Yesterday morning I had the cutest conversation with Mia. She was getting ready to go to school and she came to hug me goodbye. I wrapped my arms around her and when she looked up into my face I said, “Remember Mia – you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you – that means you can be speedy with your school work just like you were yesterday when your teacher was so proud of you.”

She said, “Mam-ma I know I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me and last night I already decided that I would be speedy and pay attention to my teacher again today.” I felt a bit speechless as I bent down to give her an extra squeeze as she ran out to the waiting car.

Since yesterday, I have been pondering her words – knowing there is a nugget of truth to be gleaned. Since the beginning of 1st grade, Mia’s amazing teachers have been patiently working with her to concentrate and to actually do the work they know she is capable of. She tends to be a bit “pokey” and so everyday we encourage her to try not to be the last one done with her work or the last one outside with all of her snow gear on. We’ve dreamed up creative rewards – probably bribery at it’s finest:) but we have seen only minimal improvement until yesterday. How I wish I could have been privy to the little chat she must have had with herself last night – making the decision to repeat her good behaviour today.

Nathan, Mia & Mrs. Nafziger (Teacher)

 

Just like Mia, we have to make conscious decisions in order to change our behaviours – deciding that we are no longer happy with the status quo and that it’s time to reach higher. It is also critical for us to see ourselves as God sees us. When Joseph’s brothers saw a nuisance, God saw the future of a nation. When many saw David as a simple shepherd boy – God saw a King; and when our Lord looks at us, we need to be changing into what He envisions us to be.

We cannot afford to stay the way we are, when just like Mia’s teacher’s, He knows what we are capable of. At any moment, we can decide to become better spouses, parents, employees and friends – taking the first step toward a change that has the power to impact our future forever.

In Romans 7 and 8, Paul teaches us that the spirit and the flesh are always at war.  When we want to do well, evil is also there enticing us to follow its ways. But through Christ, we have the power to make a good decision until positive and lasting change is manifested.

When we are positioned firmly in Christ we are no longer controlled by our sinful nature. We live boldly according to what the spirit desires – knowing that because our minds are set free – we emerge as conquerors. Aren’t you glad that those who are led by the spirit of God decide, just like 6-year-old Mia, that they can do all things through Christ who strengthens them?