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LES WAS A FOSSIKER

 

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The brooch above is opal and zircon. Jesus told a story about the Kingdom of Heaven how it was like a pearl – very valuable – and anyone discovering the Kingdom valued it so much they gave up everything else to gain a place in the Kingdom. To me Jesus is like a perfect pearl – when I found him I was more than happy to follow him at the expense of everything else.

 

Les was a fossicker.  He had spent the day digging fruitlessly among the rocks for amethysts. The clang of spades on rocks sounded loud in the drowsy somnolence hanging over the scrub.

‘I might be onto something here,’ Les’s voice broke the quiet afternoon

Carefully he scraped and brushed away the dirt and was able to lift a huge crystal from its hiding place. It lay in his hand winking at him. His joy knew no bounds.

Somewhere in the long ago, the crystal had formed in a cataclysmic upheaval.  It had lain hidden for countless eons, a treasure formed in the dark until Les found it.

Isaiah recorded the word of the Lord to Cyrus, ‘I will give you the treasures hidden in the darkness, secret riches; you will know that I am doing this – I the Lord God of Israel, The Lord found me the one who calls you by your name.’

I often wondered what this verse meant.  It has slowly dawned over time that the treasure spoken of was learning to praise the Lord in all situations.  Learning the power of intercessory prayer, learning to believe in God in the face of opposition, leaving behind grudges, forsaking pride embracing the humility of obedience.  These attributes were formed, like the crystal,  in dark times.

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Prospecting can become a consuming obsession.  God has prospected for each one of us, he has called us by name. To him, we are beautiful gems.  Why reject such love and esteem? Why not embrace Jesus by faith and live for eternity.

Milton, the great poet of his time, lived in a world of darkness, he was blind.Despite that darkness he wrote immortal poetry.  Likewise Fanny Crosby, also blind, wrote hundreds of hymns that are still sung today, precious crystals of praise and insights about the Lord. They learnt that in times of physical darkness and the darkness of circumstance, the person of the Lord is formed in them.

C.S. Lewis was devastated by the death of his wife.  He described his feelings as though God had slammed a door in his face and double locked the door from the inside.  Later, when his grief subsided he recognised that his walk with God plumbed new depths.  Out of the darkness of grief he was able to write a book that gave hope and life to its readers – a treasure from a secret place.

Paul the apostle was no stranger to the dark places.  From those places he wrote most of the New Testament.  His writings have spanned 2000 years and are treasured and enriched by all who read.

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In Australia, precious opal is found in Cretaceous age sandstones and mudstones. These sedimentary rocks were deeply weathered and this weathering released silica into the groundwater. Small faults and joints in the rocks formed pathways for movement of the groundwater as it penetrated downwards.

I may have been formed in the kingdom of darkness but I thank God that he searched for me and brought me out of that kingdom into the kingdom of light as Les the fossicker exposed his crystal to the light. I also praise God that he has taken me through the dark times so that I found the secret richness of him in my life. More and more over the years I can say with Paul, ‘We rejoice when we run into problems and trials for we know that they are good for us – they help us to learn to be patient.’

 

 

 

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THREE STRINGS

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A free image of guitar strings. String instruments are disadvantaged when a string breaks.  You and I are disadvantaged by our imperfections.  God took us and through his Son Jesus, made us beautiful people.  We are no longer disadvantaged by sin.

 

On Nov. 18, 1995, Itzhak Perlman, the violinist, came on stage to give a concert at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Centre in New York City. 

If you have ever been to a Perlman concert, you know that getting on stage is no small achievement for him. He was stricken with polio as a child, and so he has braces on both legs and walks with the aid of two crutches. To see him walk across the stage one step at a time, painfully and slowly, is an awesome sight. He walks painfully, yet majestically, until he reaches his chair. Then he sits down, slowly, puts his crutches on the floor, undoes the clasps on his legs, tucks one foot back and extends the other foot forward. Then he bends down and picks up the violin, puts it under his chin, nods to the conductor and proceeds to play.

By now the audience is used to this ritual. They sit quietly while he makes his way across the stage to his chair. They remain reverently silent while he undoes the clasps on his legs. They wait until he is ready to play.

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Let Everything That Has Breath Praise the LORD
…Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; praise Him with the harp and lyre. Praise Him with tambourine and dancing; praise Him with the stringsand flute. Praise Him with clashing cymbals; praise Him with resounding cymbals…

BROKEN STRING

But this time, something went wrong. Just as he finished the first few bars, one of the strings on his violin broke. You could hear it snap – it went off like gunfire across the room. There was no mistaking what that sound meant. There was no mistaking what he had to do. We figured that he would have to get up, put on the clasps again, pick up the crutches and limp his way off stage – to either find another violin or else find another string for this one. But he didn’t. Instead, he waited a moment, closed his eyes and then signalled the conductor to begin again.

The orchestra began, and he played from where he had left off. And he played with such passion and such power and such purity as they had never heard before. Of course, anyone knows that it is impossible to play a symphonic work with just three strings. I know that, and you know that, but that night Itzhak Perlman refused to know that. You could see him modulating, changing; re-composing the piece in his head. At one point, it sounded like he was de-tuning the strings to get new sounds from them that they had never made before.

WORKING WITH WHAT YOU HAVE

When he finished, there was an awesome silence in the room. And then people rose and cheered. There was an extraordinary outburst of applause from every corner of the auditorium. We were all on our feet, screaming and cheering; doing everything we could to show how much we appreciated what he had done. He smiled, wiped the sweat from this brow, raised his bow to quiet us, and then he said – not boastfully, but in a quiet, pensive, reverent tone – “You know, sometimes it is the artist’s task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left.”

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Psalm 144:9 (ESV)
I will sing a new song unto thee, O God: upon a psaltery and an instrument of ten strings will I sing praises unto thee.

What a powerful line that is. It has stayed in my mind ever since I heard it. And who knows? Perhaps that is the definition of life – not just for artists but for all of us. Here is a man who has prepared all his life to make music on a violin of four strings, who, all of a sudden, in the middle of a concert, finds himself with only three strings; so he makes music with three strings, and the music he made that night with just three strings was more beautiful, more sacred, more memorable, than any that he had ever made before, when he had four strings.

So, perhaps our task in this shaky, fast-changing, bewildering world in which we live is to make music, at first with all that we have, and then, when that is no longer possible, to make music with what we have left.

Author unknown

 

 

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THE KEY

 

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The key is in the door ready to open it.  What is behind the closed door?  Turning twenty-one opened the door to being free of parental control. So different from today. Parents lose control at a much younger age.

As a girl growing up, I longed for the day when I would turn twenty-one.
Turning twenty-one meant I reached adulthood. I would be given a stylized and decorated key  a big party. It meant being able to enter the pub, vote, and be independent.  It was a tradition looked forward to with anticipation by the rich or poor.

The Second World War turned that tradition on its head. Families and their observances were broken up and the practices never resumed when the war ended.

Only my sister, the eldest and possibly my elder brother celebrated their twenty first birthdays. My two other brothers celebrated their twenty first fighting in the front line of the Pacific Islands.

By the time I turned twenty one, I was both wife and mother of a daughter and expecting a second child with a home of my own. My girlish dream of a twenty first party to launch me into adulthood was a forgotten dream. Marriage and motherhood saw to it that I entered the adult world.  I and my siblings had been fast forwarded into adulthood, as had every other family when war was declared.

AT THE CROSSROADS

The first and second world wars broke up centuries of traditions. We discovered many rituals were merely folklore and were hypocritical, empty, false, and held no value. However, traditions do stabilize our society. They give us a sense that the world is secure and changeless. Change, when too sudden, can destabilise us and our world. Make us anxious and fearful.  We cast about for security, we search for an anchor, finding that anchorage in things, religion, sex, love, and creating new traditions.

There is a key to societal changes, broken traditions, and anxieties and fears.  The key is Jesus Christ, God’s son.  He is constant and unmoveable, an absolute.  Jesus is a person not a tradition.  You may think religion is judgemental, full of do’s and don’ts, lacking in love and understanding and you would be right.

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Car keys, a mobile and a purse are very intimate items of a person’s life.  When we invite Jesus Christ into our lives, we are opening up to a new and very close relationship with a person who is larger than life.

INTIMACY
Religion is a tradition or a philosophy devised by humankind to fill the void in our lives. Different forms of religion have been around since man walked this earth.  We have replaced intimacy with Jesus with traditions created to meet our needs.  Where one must strive to perform, to earn one’s goodness, to appease an angry God.  The harder we try to be good the more we fail, no amount of effort will change our spots. We can never reach that standard of perfection God requires.

We are rescued from the treadmill of self-effort by Jesus. A close intimate relationship with Jesus brings the security and stability needed and craved for in a war-like and ever-changing world.  In believing in Jesus, we are acknowledging our inability to meet God’s standards and are willing to accept the goodness of Jesus as a gift to cover our failings.  There is no effort needed on our part, just faith in Jesus.

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Faith in Jesus is the key to life and eternity. Jesus bought for us salvation, forgiveness, healing, eternity, when he died on the cross  and rose again. He is the key to life.

THE KEY
God’s love and favour can’t be counterfeited, it is unearned, unchangeable, and free. We have been made by Jesus, the apple of God’s eye. The grace and favour of God is ours by faith in Jesus. We become new people in Christ Jesus. ‘Therefore if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creature, the old things are passed away, behold, new things have come.’ (2 Corinthians 5: 17)

We are warned not to ‘let others spoil our faith and joy with their philosophies, their wrong and shallow answers built on men’s thoughts and ideas instead of on what Christ has said.’(Colossians 2: 8)  Religion is all about earning our position with God.  A true relationship with God is based on the faith and acceptance of our position in Jesus.

Tradition is not the key, Jesus Christ is the unalterable, unvarying key to life here and eternity.

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ALL I WANTED WAS TO BE LOVED. Sue Rodda, guest writer.

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JUST LOVE ME
Let me begin by painting you a picture.  I came from a broken family.  My mum and dad divorced before I was four.  I lived with mum while my older sister went with dad.  I saw dad once a year for two to three weeks, and that is the only contact I had with him up to eleven years of age.  Then he disappeared and I never heard from him again until just before my 18th birthday.

My mother was abusive.  She struggled emotionally for many years after the death of her brother.  She suffered frequent bouts of rage, and either my dog or I regularly bore the brunt of these outbursts.  I used to hate the sound of my name when she called because nine times out ten, there would be some form of abuse waiting for me.  Several times as a child, mum sent me into a ‘foster home’ type of care.  Some stays were only for a couple weeks; some as long as a year.  A few carers took me in as part of the family; others treated me worse than a dog.

Abuse was meted out to me by teachers, nuns, a dentist, employers and from family friends.

Mum was a high-profile media personality.  She worked irregular hours, which meant I spent prolonged periods alone.

Mum dabbled in witchcraft, attending séances and using the Ouija board frequently.  Negative spiritual activity often occurred, loud unexplained noises, and the feeling of an evil presence.  I found myself in a state of extreme anxiety and panic.  At these times, I used to cower in a corner of my bedroom.

I had a set of Children’s’ Bible Stories which contained the story of Jesus.  I used to sit hour after hour looking at the pictures.  While doing this, I had the sense of being wrapped up in a warm presence like a big blanket, and I would feel safe.

WORTHLESS
I grew up feeling worthless, and struggled with depression from a very young age.  As a young girl, I used to get physically sick at the thought of someone seeing me if I went outside of the house.  I often had suicidal thoughts.  I even thought of killing my mother.  I was a young adult before I had enough self-confidence not to be plagued by thoughts of self – hatred and suicide.  I experienced violent outbursts of extreme, blind rage from a young age. However, all I really wanted was to belong to a loving family.

Much of my life was spent in searching for love and the sense of belonging.  But I ended up mixing with the wrong people, doing the wrong things, and going to the wrong places trying to find that love.  I fell in and out of numerous relationships.  I drank and smoked heavily.  Drugs only made me feel more depressed, and so I didn’t become involved.

After the breakup with one partner I entered another relationship with a biker.  We had been together for two years, when another biker began to witness to us about Jesus Christ and invited us to church.   I attended church a few times and even accepted Christ but it was a verbal commitment and not from the heart.

 

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This biker was a generous, kind man. He shared his image with the photographer. However, abuse kills the perpertrator. Each time they abuse someone, they die a little more regardless of the adrenalin rush they may experience at the time.

MORE ABUSE

When a young man whom I knew committed suicide I became enraged and directed that anger at the Lord.  I walked away from him and back into my old life – in and out of live-in relationships, mainly with bikers, and practicing witchcraft.

I have been raped twice in my life, once when I was six courtesy of a family friend and secondly when I was twenty-four.  It happened at the train station.  I was caught from behind and dragged onto the track and into a tunnel.  After the rape, I was bashed and thrown onto the tracks with my face in the dirt, with the attacker kneeling on my back, his hands around my throat strangling me to death.  I felt the life draining out of my body.  In that instant I called on the Lord, asking for his help.  Within seconds, the attacker ran off.  I don’t know if he saw or heard something.

What I do know is that the Lord Jesus Christ heard the cry of my heart and truly saved my life.

I was so full of guilt for the way I was living and behaving that I still didn’t return to the Lord after this attack.  I didn’t believe He could possibly forgive me for all I had done.  During the next three years, I moved interstate with another biker to Ballina in Northern NSW.  During those three years after the rape, the Holy Spirit hounded me at every opportunity.

When I moved to Ballina, I discovered the street I lived in was full of churches.  Every time I passed a church it would draw me like a magnet and I found myself pulling away, which took a great effort.  I became very exhausted by this battle.

One day I got wise and walked into town by another way and was surprised to find yet another church.  I can laugh about it now, but at the time I didn’t think it very funny.

At this time a Christian began calling by regularly and talking to us.  I would become very angry and wanted to throw a brick at her because every word she spoke pierced my heart.  One Sunday my partner was out on a bike run and I was alone in the unit.   Suddenly a powerful presence came into the lounge room.  It was the Lord and He challenged me to choose whom I would serve.  I chose to serve the Lord Jesus Christ.

THE VISITATION
After the Lord’s visitation my legs were like jelly and I could hardly walk.  I managed to get to the phone box and ring the woman who had been talking to us and ask her for a ride to church.  At first there was a stunned silence.
I shared with her my experience and she was ecstatic.  That night I publicly accepted Jesus as my Saviour and Lord and was filled with the Holy Spirit from that moment.

I have been walking with the Lord for twenty-two years.  I found that healing for my wounded heart came through God’s amazing love, grace, and forgiveness and through my willingness to forgive others.  I now have a good relationship with dad and a positive relationship with mum for which I praise God.

 

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These bikers are enjoying a holiday and the great weather. They are enjoying a certain cameraderie within the group. Intimacy with God goes far beyond the human conception of comradeship.

THE PROMISE IS KEPT
It hasn’t always been easy, but the Lord’s promise to me is that He will always be with me and that nothing can separate me from His amazing love and grace.

That is His promise to you as well.  He is the only one who can satisfy your hungry and thirsty soul and meet your every need.  How do I know?  Because He has done this for me, praise the Lord!

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THE FALLEN BALLERINA

 

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This flower reminds me of a ballerina. The flower has grown old and fallen.  Age may take its toll of our bodies but our spirit should cause us to rise and live above aged bodies until we leave this earth.

The dancer pirouetted across the stage, she leaped, spun and posed with arms above her head. Her grace was as fluid as a bird on the wing. Her beauty is as undeniable as Dresden china.

As she danced a pain shot up her leg, she gasped and strove to complete the pas de deur. Instead, she crumpled into a heap on the floor in agony.  The crowd gasped, their star was down. Would she rise again?

OVERCOMING ABUSE

God loves you and I the fallen Ballerinas, with a white hot love that is beyond our wildest imagination.  We have no way to measure God’s love for us. All we have is Jesus as the yardstick of His love.

We, who have been abused physically, verbally and sexually,  we who feel ashamed as if it was our fault. We, who feel unclean and no amount of striving to assuage that feeling of unworthiness even by taking our abuser to court and winning, will appease that guilt and uncleanness. We, the fallen Ballerinas, are the chosen of God, he has sent Jesus to take the effects of that abuse from us and cleanse us, purge as deeply as our conscience from the consequences of violence through his death on the cross.  “How much more, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit…  cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God.’  Heb. 9: 4. Let’s commit ourselves to the love of God and claim that deep cleansing from the effects of the abuse. We can rise to dance again on life’s stage, whole.

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The Chorus line of fuchia flowers. The Bible says we believers are surrounded by a greatt cloud of witnesses. God has stressed time and again he will not leave us or forsake us.  That is a proven fact.

NOT ALONE

Ballerina, you are not alone, you have a dance partner, Jesus. He is more than just a dance partner; he has made you the joint heir of his dance company. Jesus has given you everything the Father has given him.  As the Father’s child, his DNA is coursing through your being.  “And since we are his children, we will share his treasures – for all God gives to his Son Jesus is now ours too.’ Romans 8: 17.

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The ant is addicted to the aphids on the fuchia.  Ants milk the aphids, the aphids milk the fuchia.  The flower provides a rich source for the aphids.  The Bible says God provides beyond our wildest imagination.

STOP

Stop what we are doing, striving through drugs, alcohol or whatever we’re hoping will take our pain away, look God in the eye, he loves us without reserve.  He has invited us to ‘sit at his table in the wilderness, in the face of our enemies, wander in green pastures, and though we have been through the valley of death, we will fear no evil.’  Psalm 23.

TO DANCE AGAIN

God has committed himself to a relationship with us. ‘God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the Heavenly realms…’ Eph. 2: 6. We have risen like the Pheonix from the ashes, we who believe. Jesus, the embodiment of God’s love invites you, me, to rise as the Pheonix and dance whole and free on life’s stage.

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Get into the frame of God’s salvation by faith in Jesus Christ.
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IT’S FINISHED.

 

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It is finished! What’s finished? Sin is finished. You mean we can indulge in all kinds of base and anti-social behaviour and know we won’t go to hell?  On the other hand, we can strip off anything that slows us down…especially those sins that wrap themselves tightly around our feet and trip us up…’ (Hebrews 12: 1-2) and believe and accept that Jesus killed off sin on the cross, giving the believers a new start.

THE CLOTH

I am currently hand embroidering a linen table cloth. The pattern comprises twelve peacocks forming a ring in a stylized design.  The embroidery is call Richelieu because much of the pattern is worked in bars and later the linen is cut away just leaving the bars.

I have stitched at it every evening and have completed eight birds.  I began the project in February 2018 when I traced the pattern and ironed it on to the linen and sewed the first stitches.  I estimate it will be June 2019 when I say, ‘It is finished!’

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Embroidery is an art form.  It should not be consigned to Grandmas’only.  Being a Christian should not be judged on church doctrine but on what Jesus himself taught.

NO STRUGGLE

I have kept working on the cloth constantly – two hours every evening. When I first became a Christian I started working on being good. Remaking myself to please God, so I believed. After failing very badly I gave up trying to be good, admitted it couldn’t be done. God, then, stepped in and revealed he had done it all for me. When I had become a Christian, Jesus filled me with himself. When I accept him he lives through me. That is why it is not up to me to struggle to live the Christian life.  My part today is to believe Jesus as Saviour and receive from him God’s abundant favour and the gift of goodness.

Jesus famous last words while hanging on the cross were, ‘It is finished!’ He meant he had taken our place, replacing our self-effort with his life indwelling us. Jesus has made us as perfect as he is perfect in spirit. We no longer have to struggle with sin.

Sin is not the issue any longer. Rejecting the finished work of Jesus is the issue. Do we accept Jesus, trust him with our life? or do we trust ourselves and our ability to be good and please God.

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Embroidery is a great way to relax after a hard day. The lifestyle of a Jesus follower is subject to ridicule, but the unearned favour of God more than makes up for being the butt of jokes and cruel comments.

 

 

THE PLAN

The plan is to work at the cloth until it is finished.  It is my greatest piece of embroidery, my ultimate work of art, my ‘piéce de résistance’. For Jesus, hanging on the cross was his greatest moment. He saved the world all we have to do is believe and accept him as Saviour and receive from him God’s abundant favour. However, I cannot make me in the same way as the cloth.  Only Jesus can renew me. I have accepted Jesus, ‘I am a new person,’ ‘It is no longer I that lives but Christ Jesus in me.’(Galatians 2:20. What appears to have been lost in one sense is more than gained in another.  Jesus has given me ‘more than we ever dared to ask or even dream of – infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts or hopes.’ (Ephesians 3: 20)

 

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JUST AN OLD STOVE. Raylene Pearce, guest writer

 

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Once I thought I was an old stove.

You know the kind you see on the back veranda of old houses.  There they stand, gathering cobwebs, rust and the neighbour’s displeasure.

I remember just such a stove at a house on the main road into Coromandel Valley.  As I drove past, I would quickly look to the left, and there it was for all to see – an old stove, plunked beside an old sofa with the stuffing falling out.

I used to think, ‘Yes, there you are, just like me. I bet there’s a new model where you once were. A shiny, clean, sparkling stove, probably fan-forced and…self-cleaning!’

This happened twenty-six years ago, at the time I was traded in for a new model wife.  I truly thought I was like that old stove.

But I want to bear testimony to the One who is my Redeemer – Jesus.  He rescues and reconditions old stoves.  Not only that, but he restores them so completely that the inside is as sparkling clean as a brand-new model straight from the warehouse.

All he wants from us is a repentant heart and a willingness to be changed into something new, something the Father can use for his glory. God never wastes anything.  Nothing from the past is beyond restoration.

God cannot change the past, but he can change the way we respond to the past – now!  We are not victims!  We are Overcomers! How are we Overcomers?  How do we overcome those things that torment us, that rise up and make us remember the dark things?

Three thousand years ago a young man called David sang a song and it’s recorded in Samuel 2 and I want to look at the opening verses.  ‘The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer.’ I’d like to replace the four-letter word ‘rock’ with another four-letter word – ‘love’. ‘The Lord is my love, my place of safety and restoration.’  Because God is love, he brings us into his embrace and restores all the old stoves and all the young stoves whose shiny surfaces can be so easily scratched.

And who is this God of love, this loving ‘Rock’?

THE GOD WHO IS LOVE. GOD DOES NOT HAVE LOVE, OR MAKE LOVE, OR DO LOVE LIKE A HOBBY – HE IS LOVE AND ACTS OUT HIS LOVE WITHIN HIS VERY BEING – BEING GOD.

I want to paint you a picture of perfect love. There never was a time when the Father was not the Father and there never was a time that the Son was not the Son. There was never a time when the Father did not love the Son and there was never a time when the Son did not love the Father. The third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit is equally placed in that love relationship of the three in One: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit all in the community of love. There is a continual dance of love between them. The whole reason for their being is to love.

What is absolutely wonderful about all this is that the Triune God – that is, the Holy Trinity – has chosen to include us all in this wonderful overflowing love relationship. So as we believe in Him we are taken up into this embrace.

That’s what being a Christian means, being in relationship with God the Father, with Christ the Son, through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Perfect love.

Raylene Pearce is a woman with a thousand stories.  This story is just one of those many stories that she loves to share.

Before the world came to be, the God of love had already set up the plan, the great rescue plan that would include every person.

Two thousand years ago on a rock outside the city of Jerusalem, in the rubbish dump, no less, a young man of thirty-three years hung on a cross and took into himself all that separates us from God and separates us from living a totally fulfilling life in Jesus – now!

What happened on the cross, releases us from being tied to the dreadfulness of past things.

Jesus has taken into himself all the sin and suffering; all the abuse and loneliness, all the grief and sorrow.  All that has hurt each one of us, all that has broken us and our families, all that continues to hurt us and keeps us from living the abundant life. All this Jesus has taken away.

Like a sponge he soaked up all the sin for all time, for all people, and declared it defeated, ‘It is finished,’ the young man cried out in triumph.  He had completed the work he had been sent to do: to defeat the works of the evil one, who tries to have control of our lives. His completed work releases us all from the tyranny of the past, the present and the future.

Something else he does, once we have committed to his loving hand, He remodels us.

It means that all old stoves can be restored and remodelled and that all young stoves can find the only safe place to grow in.

PRAYER

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Let me close with the prayer of St Paul to the Ephesians: 3:20 … ‘Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to the power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.’

Raylene Pearce, Coromandel Valley, S.A.