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Posts Tagged ‘Blue Mountains’

This past week, I received the news that my lovely ‘soul friend’ of previous years, Joy Crawford, had passed away at age ninety-one. On my last visit to the nursing home where she had been for some time, she did not stir or recognise me. Wondering what to do, I wrote her a little note which was eventually found on her bedside table by her daughter. And I sat and prayed and remembered, just as I have this week, after hearing of her death.

Joy and I met together once a month, first during my time at theological college when I needed a mentor—or spiritual companion, as Joy much preferred to be called—and then on into my years in local church ministry. After that, we kept meeting when we could, until she became too frail and unwell. Joy made a huge impact on my life, so much so that the dedication in my very first novel, Heléna, published in 2007, reads: ‘To Joy Crawford—my lifesaver’. I still also have a card Joy sent the day I finished the very first draft of that novel where she wrote: The Book! Well done, dear Jo-Anne. Congratulations—and my prayers and love for the next phase. Joy. Joy always believed in me, encouraged me and supported me in prayer and practical ways—and it was an absolute delight when, in 2012, she was able to share in the launch of what we called ‘our’ book, Soul Friend: The story of a shared spiritual journey, an account of our years of meeting together and the many ways Joy helped and encouraged me in that time.

Joy was doubtful at first about putting parts of our many conversations into print, but I think she would be delighted to know Soul Friend is still selling today and ministering to those who read it. Just last week, a friend told me how much Soul Friend had impacted her and how glad she was it had been written. I am so thankful Joy’s voice can still be heard in this way and that her gracious wisdom can go on blessing others.

On occasions, Joy would email me, although she was much more comfortable sharing face-to-face in her beautiful study at her home in the Blue Mountains. I included some of these emails in Soul Friend and have just glanced through them again. Even her greetings there speak such love and grace to me—‘Very dear Jo-Anne’; ‘Dearest Jo-Anne’; ‘Dear friend’.  What a privilege to be called a ‘dear friend’—especially by someone who we know truly means it. Joy would also use these words often as we parted at her front door. ‘Go well, dear friend!’ she would say in her gentle voice, as she gave me a warm hug—words of blessing, words of comfort, words of love.

Yes, Joy was my lifesaver, in the midst of some choppy seas in my life. But above all, she was my dear friend—a friend who truly mirrored to me the deep friendship Jesus offers each of us.

Lord, may I be such a friend to others too.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. 1 John 4:7

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. I John 4:11

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Whenever I look out over those rugged ranges in the Blue Mountains that seem to stretch forever, I often wonder how the early explorers felt when faced with such a formidable barrier. But while visiting the Botanical Gardens at Mount Tomah last week, some words on a plaque at a lookout gave me a little more insight. They were originally written by an early explorer who stated how he could not find words to describe how incredibly difficult it was to traverse the mountainous terrain around him, except to say it was akin to ‘climbing across the steep roofs of houses, one after the other’. That poor man—how intrepid and tenacious he must have been! And how his heart must have sunk when, after congratulating himself on reaching the top of one unforgiving mountain range, he was faced with another … and another … and another!

Sometimes our lives can feel like that, can’t they? We may manage to fumble our way through a demanding week or month, only to discover an even more demanding week or month around the corner. Or perhaps you have a relative or friend for whom life never seems to be straightforward. Instead, they seem to face one huge challenge after another, only just managing to get their head above water before the next onslaught comes. Perhaps that may even describe your own life at times. So when that happens, how can we stay in that place of peace we know God can provide for us?

IMG_20191107_121153435These thoughts were in my mind when we went on to visit the Jenolan caves area. While having lunch there, I happened to glance at the rock wall nearby. It had quite a sheer surface, but here and there in the small crevices, various ferns and other plants had managed to find a foothold and were flourishing. How had they survived there? It hadn’t rained much of late and the snow season was over. Then I noticed a small waterfall flowing down one side of the cliff face. No doubt some of this water at least was finding its way along the crevices and enabling those tenacious plants to survive, as they clung to that rocky surface in such an exposed position. In that moment, I sensed God prompting me to see that, here before my eyes, was a clear picture from nature of how to weather the challenges of life in the best way possible. Just like those plants, we must all cling onto the Lord, our strong, unshakeable rock, who will sustain us with the lifegiving water we need to survive—and, in fact, even to thrive.

For who is God besides the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights. Psalm 18:31-33

I hope I am never called upon to be as intrepid and tenacious as those early explorers must have been, to tackle those rugged mountains one after the other. But I hope and pray I always remember, whatever challenges life brings, to cling to the Lord, hide in those rocky clefts with him and rely on his strength to see me through.

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