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Posts Tagged ‘lifesaver’

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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I’ve been told I’m a pretty independent person.  I hate to ask for help, yet there have been times in my life when I’ve been so grateful that others saw my need and gathered around, willing to do what they could.

Many years ago when I was expecting our third child, neither set of grandparents was free to come and help out with the rest of the family.  I will never forget the amazing way all our friends in the Body of Christ rallied round, providing meals, ferrying our two older children to and from school and kindergarten, minding them until my husband was free to take them home.  Truly they were ‘God with skin on’ for us at that time.

Years later, I ended up in hospital for an unexpected operation, just prior to my husband’s sixtieth birthday party.  Invitations had already been sent out – what should I do?  I arrived home from hospital on the day of the party to find my friends from our church had everything in hand.  They rearranged our house and set out all the food, while I sat and watched.  Again, my friends showed me exactly what God is like.  Again, they were ‘God with skin on’.

Over the years too, God has provided people who strongly believed in me, who cheered me on when I studied for my Bachelor of Theology in my late forties and when I later went on to write my novels.  One such special mentor or ‘spiritual companion’, as she prefers to term it, rescued me so often from my confusion and discouragement that I call her my ‘lifesaver’ and dedicated my first novel ‘Heléna’ to her.  She was, and still is, ‘God with skin on’ for me.

We all need such people – even the strongest and most independent among us.  Recently I noticed in the bible how even the great apostle Paul admitted to that.  In one breath, in Philippians 4:13, he maintains the following:

I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Yet in the very next breath, he tells his Philippian friends and supporters how good it was of them to share in his ‘troubles’ and reminds them how they sent him aid ‘again and again when I was in need (v 16).

So whoever you are, may you find ‘God with skin on’ beside you too, when you need help. Yes, God is always there anyway and will never leave us, but it helps so much to see God’s love ‘fleshed out’ before our eyes too, don’t you agree?

And perhaps you – or I – need to be ‘God with skin on’ for someone even today.  What do you think?

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