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FLEX THE COURAGE MUSCLE

 

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A gecko  lizard.  This little critter was far out of his comfort zone, he was ready to run and hide. But he froze hoping danger would pass and he could escape with his life.  This little lizard lives ‘within the shadow of the Almighty, sheltered by the God who is above all gods’ Psalm 91: 1. LB

When travelling through the Australian outback, our convoy stopped at an abandoned Afghan campsite.  After decades of non-use there was still evidence of habitation such as a broken-down goat yard, the lid off a can, glass bottle stoppers.

Curiosity prompted me to lift the lid of a milk can lying amongst the salt bushes. A tiny lizard reared its head in defiance at me.  Several others came to look at this tiny, courageous critter.  I could have snuffed out its life with my fingers, yet it stared into my face, it’s mouth open wide, daring me to attack.  I lowered the lid and left the little creature alone to live another day.  It was the personification of courage.

DAVID VERSUS GOLIATH

Very few people would think of themselves as a David pitted against a Goliath, yet when their back is to the wall, they turn into a David, rescuing people from certain death, sometimes at the expense of their own. Speaking-up boldly for a cause they believe in when everyone else is silent.

Several years ago, my husband Bruce was called to visit a home at 2 am to deal with a drunken man.  The guy was brandishing a gun and threatening to shoot anyone, including himself, who dared to try to take it from him.

Did Bruce feel like a David?  No!  Inside, fear made him feel like a jelly bag.  But someone had to face the man and try to save him and his loved one’s lives.

ACTION – REACTION

Wondering how the man would react, Bruce took slow steps, one at a time, toward the man seated on a bed in a bedroom.  Finally sitting down beside him, putting his arm around his shoulders, he took possession of the gun.  What Bruce was doing, was it madness? an emotion that pushes him into acting without thinking? An adrenalin rush? Is courage an inbuilt trait … a response of self-preservation?

Some people are trained to face danger as in warfare, firefighting and ambulance attendants.  We expect these people to be brave.  Yet when questioned they deny being courageous.  They claim to have saved their mate because he was just that – their mate, and that they were scared stiff.

Training certainly holds a person steady in a time of crisis but even ordinary, untrained people become courageous in a time of emergency.

WHAT MOTIVATES

What about Bruce, what was his motivation?  Firstly, his response was governed by his acceptance of his call by God to serve his fellow man, and secondly, by his desire to prevent tragedy.  Bruce went fuelled by the hope in Christ that this unhappy man could be delivered from his bondage.

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‘Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the humn mind can understand.’Philippians 4: 6-7.  LB

Having met Christ in his teens, Bruce was now, after years of experiencing God’s faithfulness in all walks of life, completely sure that God was well able to do anything he promised. Even though he was scared stiff, he responded to the 2 am call because he believed that God was able to keep him.  The roots of courage are sown in our past experiences and the history we have with God.

When Bruce arrived at the home of the drunk, he couldn’t just barge in and demand the gun be dropped.  No, it was soothing words, then a slow step by a step march across the room to sit beside the man

Courage is like a muscle, the more we dare to use it by taking risks not just in the ‘big’ moments to save lives, but also in the ‘small’ ones like speaking to the neighbour, inviting someone to church or home to a meal – it can be doing something that we have never done before.

TAKE A RISK

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His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Jesus Christ. Philippians 4: 7. LB

If we dare to take a risk, we are flexing the muscle of courage.  By so doing, we grow as a Believer and as a person.  If our fear is not challenged then we remain weeping violets.  Should we continue to be afraid to say boo to a goose, we will not achieve very much.  Without daring we are not living.

Take one step at a time and flex your muscle of gallantry, move forward as people who have faced their fears and overcome them.

Through the Biblical writings of Joshua, God urges us to, ‘Be strong!  Be courageous!  Do not be afraid … For the Lord your God will be with you.  He will neither fail you nor forsake you.”  (Joshua 1: 6 – 9. LB)

 

 

 

 

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FLOWERS IN DROUGHT

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There was no illustration for the red gibber plains. However there is animage of waterless salt bush plains.

At first glance the desert seemed empty except for red gibbers as far as the eye could see.  Not a tree or a bush, just red gibbers.  Yet a closer look showed the wasteland was alive with flowers.  Tiny pink, blue, yellow, and white blossoms, their faces uplifted to the sun.

A thunderstorm a couple weeks ago had unleashed showers over the plains and these tiny plants had sprung up among the gibbers.  Only the discerning eye would see these miniscule desert dwellers.

FILLED WITH PURPOSE

Each plant only had one purpose and that was to flower and produce a seed so that the species would continue when the next rain fell, this week or five years later.  The conditions these plants thrived in were harsh in the extreme but still they grew and blossomed.  Their beauty was even more jewel like because of the conditions in which they lived.  They made the red gibber plains a hidden Eden

Many people fail to learn and what the plants take for granted is that growth and beauty are produced by harsh conditions.  We try to dodge the harshness of life.  We expect to only bloom in good conditions. Often this inability to cope is what makes us sick and weak. It is a rebellion against we know not what? or a refusal to face life?

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A class of childfren had filled this sock with seeds and watered them.  The green shoots can be seen sprouting as hair.  This was a fun project to demonstrate how seeds shoot.

OUR NEW DNA

However, the plants accept the circumstances and flower because they must or they become extinct.  God placed in their DNA a determination not to become extinct.

If the situation in which we live is untenable maybe it’s because we have not allowed God to water us and so have not grown, bloomed and seeded and scattered our seed to produce life in others.  When we believed in Jesus and became a new person, God wrote into our DNA the purpose, like the plant, to grow and sow even if our place was a waterless, red gibber plain. In all circumstances we can live courageously and progressively, because as the Bible says, ‘that out of his ( Christ’s) unlimited resources he will give you the mighty inner strengthening of his Holy Spirit.’(Ephesians 3: 16.LB)

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An Eremophila bloom.  This group of plants only grow in the deserts of Australia. They turn a wasteland into a beautiful place.

A BEAUTIFUL FRAGRANCE

When we rise in faith and live, we will bloom and reveal the beauty of Christ and we can, because as the Bible says, ‘As far as God is concerned there is a sweet, wholesome fragrance in our lives. It is the fragrance of Christ within us, an aroma to both the saved and the unsaved all around us.’(2 Corinthians 2:15).

The desert places around us become beautiful places.  People are drawn to Christ in us; their lives are enriched because we have been their friend or just an acquaintance.  God is able to reach them because we have bloomed with all our might right where we live.

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A Ptylotus magnificus. It loves the deserts but does not do well in a pot in a backyard – well not for me anyway.
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THE MAGIC OF LOVE

 

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‘God does not give grace in proportion  to our needs, but in accordance with his riches.’  Paul Ellis

WHAT IS LOVE?

 Our first love is magical and wondrous, goose-bump material. My first love was an exploration of romance. We were both fourteen. He was short and tubby, I was tall, slim and gawky. He was not a prince on a white charger, I was no Barby doll, but we were attracted to each other.

Our first kiss was heart-stopping, a stolen moment at the primary school Christmas break-up party.  Not the practised film-star passion but a wet fumbling.  Our relationship never grew, my parents moved to another district and we never met again.

 

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When ever you read the word grace in the Bible, you can substitute the name of Jesus and vice versa. Jesus is grace personified.  He is Mr. Grace.

MY SECOND LOVE

was my prince on an iron horse or bicycle.  He was too poor to own a car, the car would come later. Dark, handsome, average height. The chemistry was there from the start. Cupid’s arrow found its target and we married.  Sixty-six years later we still fizz with the magic, though age has taken its toll.

MY THIRD LOVE

Is Christ, Son of God. This is not an Eros or romantic love but an agape love.  The love of God for man and of man for God, a self-less, sacrificial love.

God’s love for us is beyond magical, it is jealous, possessive, transforming, redeeming, healing and freeing. There is no end to his love for us, no bottom, no height or width.  We are the apple of his eye. D L Moody once said, ‘If you ask me why God should love us, I cannot tell. I suppose it is because he is a true Father.’

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‘Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the L<ord forgave you.'(Colossians3:13)

Such unconditional love is known as the grace of God, the unearned favour of God given to us not for what we have done or haven’t done, not for who we are or aren’t. Philip Yancey wrote, ‘Grace means there is nothing I can add to make God love me more, and nothing I can do to make him love me less.’ Such love is the sacrificial love of agape. ‘For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son so that anyone who believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life… There is no eternal doom awaiting those who trust him (Jesus) to save them.’ I have no concept of such love, it is beyond my understanding that anyone could love me so much.

 

 

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‘There is nothing within us that can save and sanctify us.  Everythng we need has to come from above. Everything we need is found in Jesus.’ Paul Ellis

                MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME

When this wonderful truth of God’s unearned favour dawned on me the colours became brighter and prettier, I felt clean and new, I had a purpose to live.  I felt I wanted to dance for a million years. I had been floundering, searching for what? Suddenly I was found and I had found Jesus, my third love, a self-sacrificing, agape love. This Agape love, this unmerited favour of God, does wonders for the self-esteem.

I want to close with this thought expressed by Paul Ellis, ‘he who has Christ lacks no good thing. In him we are fully, completely, and totally sanctified.’  Another quote from a  letter by an early believer, ‘So you have everything when you have Christ, and you are filled with God through your union with Christ.’ (Colossians 2: 10)

 

 

 

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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!