• Personal testimonies

    Black and White Notes – A Poem About Interracial Friendships

    “If you want to play beautiful music, you must play the black and white notes together.”

    Richard Nixon

    This quote from Richard Nixon inspired me to write a poem about my three closest friends, who happen to be Caucasian.

    Black and White Notes

    By Madeline Kalu

    The first hesitant notes of a new composition,

    Fingers running over scales, wrists relaxing,

    Our individual melodies harmonize with each other,

    Humoresque comments synchronized by chords of mirth and laughter,

    Royal excitement of sharing adventures in a foreign land.

    A song is created, a rhythm is established,

    Tapas evenings and girly chats,

    You perform your Friday dance with allegro,

    A weekend salute with a Bombay orignal.

    We attend the Queen Bee’s court and deeply dig the groove,

    And spend lazy summer evenings enjoying Hạ Long Bay.

    I share makeup tricks with you in Antwerp,

    We honor the fallen soldiers at the Menin Gate,

    You teach me new songs in Brussels, Berlin, Liverpool, and Dover.

    As l waltz barefoot on moonlit cobbled stones across the Grand-Place,

    You hold my shoes,

    And compose melodies that make me laugh and inspire me to create.

    We bear the brunt of life’s elegies together:

    The pain of losing loved ones to cancer,

    The fear of missing out on life’s opportunities,

    The fight to be free of our demons,

    The yearning of what it would be like to be happy.

    You make up the major chords and l the minor ones,

    You are the white notes – l am the black,

    Together, we create a symphony that has been playing for many years.

    Our arrangement does not see skin color,

    It does not judge or remember past mistakes.

    Instead, our music is an expression of our respect and acceptance,

    We live our friendship with rubato – with freedom.

  • Personal testimonies

    How fellowship at a German Christmas market helped me fight depression

    Written by Madeline Twooney

    If you live in Germany, or have ever visited Europe during the Christmas period, you have most likely paid a visit to one of the traditional institutions on the German holiday calendar – the Christmas market.

    Open from the 24th November – 23rd December, the Christmas markets take place in multiple locations in every major city, town, and village in Germany. An attraction for both locals and overseas tourists, the markets draw an attendance of 85 million visitors every year.

    Despite living in Germany as an English ex-pat for the past 18 years, the whimsical atmosphere of the Christmas markets, with its fir-trimmed booths, Christmas music, and mouth-watering food aromas, still enthralls me every year.

    However, since being diagnosed with burnout and chronic depression three years ago, l have made an effort to keep my distance from the Christmas markets during the holiday season. Pressing myself through throngs of crowds easily overwhelms me; that coupled with loud noises and an over-stimulation of my senses, can lead to me experiencing a panic attack in public.

    That’s why it came as a great surprise to my husband Solomon last Sunday, when l accepted an invitation from Eddie and Joan, two acquaintances of ours from our church, to visit the Christmas markets in the city of Bochum, where we live.

    Since my husband and l moved from Cologne to Bochum last summer, l have tried to form friendships with people from our church. However irregular attendance due to ill health has made it difficult for me to connect to others thus far.

    For that reason, l was determined to accept Eddie and Joan’s kind offer to enjoy the festivities in the city’s bustling center, even if it meant braving the crowds on a weekend.

    As we approached the first of the wooden market booths, the gentle croonings of Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” was playing over the speakers. Fairy lights festooned every vertical space and lit up the market area like a yuletide fantasy wonderland. I felt a tremor of anxiety about entering the market grounds, yet at the same time, l felt a tingle of anticipation for the delights that awaited us. I was going in.

    The festive ambience of the Christmas market had also clearly infected newcomers and seasoned visitors alike. Families and friends were gathered in groups, enjoying each other’s company over steaming cups of mulled wine. As people passed me by, l caught happy snippets of conversations in German, English and Dutch.

    Upon discovering the food booths, tantalizing wafts of food and spices offered my nose an olfactory bouquet of different delights: sizzling sausages, chocolate drizzled churros, and sugary roasted almonds mingled with the smoky scents of incense, anis fragrant black licorice, and sweet cinnamon. With rumbling stomachs, we ordered spicy hot sausages, deep-fried mushrooms, and sweet potato fries sprinkled with sea salt. The proprietor of a crepe stand exchanged an easy banter with us as she served us hot fluffy crepes filled with gooey marzipan.  

    Bellies finally full, we ambled past vendors offering handmade soap, colorful glassware and dainty silver jewellery. As l was looking at some star-shaped paper lanterns, l was surprised to find myself having fun: I had even managed to forget that l had health problems. Though the market was full of people, l didn’t feel crushed or penned in; I was too busy enjoying our new friend’s company that l hardly noticed the other visitors around me.

    With a new found enthusiasm, l joined Joan in buying some honey scented beeswax candles and thick woolen scarves for Christmas gifts. Afterwards, we all watched a children’s pantomime on the main stage. It felt good to laugh and share an enjoyable experience as part of an audience.

    Upon agreeing to come to the Christmas markets, l had internally steeled myself for any mental fallout. I had been prepared to endure psychological and physical discomfort, as well as unaccustomed social rituals for the sake of making much needed friends.

    What l didn’t expect to feel was a sense of belonging, joy, and an insight into what if felt to be normal.   

     I began to understand more clearly what Paul meant, when he wrote about the importance of fellowship in Thessalonians:

    “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”               

    1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)

    Eddie and Joan’s kindness certainly uplifted me.  It made me thankful that God heard my pleading and prayers to give me the fulfilment of life as He promises in John 10:10. It gave me hope that He was going to heal me permanently from depression and burnout.    

    With the arrival of early evening, the four of us took a selfie to commemorate our special time together under a clear, inky black sky, with a canopy of fairy lights twinkling above us like hundreds of stars.

    As Solomon and l prepared to go home, I thanked God for blessing me with this beautiful day and for bringing him and our new friends into my life. It was a further confirmation for me that with God, all things are possible, especially healing.


    The Christmas period can be a particularly challenging time for those struggling with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental health issues. Our inability to join in the festive cheer, coping with disrupted schedules, and over-stimulation from pre-holiday stress can increase our anxiety and stress levels and leave us feeling more socially isolated and alone than ever.

    If you have family members or friends who are struggling with these health issues, make extra time for them and let them know how much you value them. Your kindness can help shine a much-needed light into their darkness and give them hope of living a fulfilled, healthy life – free of pain, of mental distress, and of fear.

    Merry Christmas and God bless!

    Madeline Twooney

    Co-Founder of Jacob’s Ladder Blog

  • Personal testimonies

    Solid as a Rock – When Life Crumbles

    Written by Sarah Keith

    “Oh Lord, preserve my faith. Preserve my faith, O Lord!”

    I found myself praying that prayer – again. You see my husband Bob, of 32 years, fainted and fell October of 2013; he sustained a traumatic brain injury. Twelve days later my mother died.

    My world crumbled. The grief was unbearable.

    I thought l would die of a broken heart. During those dark days it was almost impossible to think, let alone pray. Most days, l could only utter a one-word prayer, “Jesus.” I pleaded with God to heal Bob, but l also found myself praying, “Oh God, preserve my faith.”

    I wrestled and struggled with doubts about what l believed. Did l really believe all that l had taught or had written to encourage others in their faith?

    But where could l go? To whom could l turn?

    Who else is there besides the Lord?

    And who else has opened the gates of heaven to sinful mortal souls and holds the words of eternal life?

    Then God in His providence preserved my husband’s life, and over the course of seven months brought him back from death’s door.

    Bob still has many physical and mental deficits. He can’t be alone. Even so, he has made much progress, and this gives me hope!

    But it is not clear whether he will be completely restored on this side of heaven. I question, “Are you there Lord? Do you care?”

    My daughter has been urging me to do something for myself. So, l took her up on it. She would “watch” dad, while l went for a bike ride – something normal!

    I took my familiar route to the ocean inlet. It was a beautiful morning with bright, clear blue skies, puffy white clouds, and an easy breeze for biking. As l peddled, l prayed, “Lord, preserve my faith. I need you to help me. I can’t do this!”

    When l reached the inlet pathway, l noticed it had been re-landscaped. It was beautiful but now unfamiliar. At the mouth of the inlet, just before it spills into the ocean, sits my prayer rock. When l stepped onto it, a thought came to me, “Everything else might look different, but my rock hasn’t changed. It’s fim and secure. And is this not what the Scripture says about God?”

    My soul groaned deep within, and l cried out, “Lord, l need to hear from You; I need to know that You are there, and that You care. Please let me hear from You today. Don’t remain silent! Please Lord, speak to me!” Then, as is my custom, l turned to the passage in Psalms that matched the date – Psalm 31.

    I read:

    In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;
        let me never be put to shame;
        deliver me in your righteousness.
     Turn your ear to me,
        come quickly to my rescue;
    be my rock of refuge,
        a strong fortress to save me.
    Since you are my rock and my fortress,
        for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
    Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,
        for you are my refuge.
    Into your hands I commit my spirit;
        deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.

    I hate those who cling to worthless idols;
        as for me, I trust in the Lord.
     I will be glad and rejoice in your love,
        for you saw my affliction
        and knew the anguish of my soul.
     You have not given me into the hands of the enemy
        but have set my feet in a spacious place.

    Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress;
        my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
        my soul and body with grief.
    My life is consumed by anguish
        and my years by groaning;
    my strength fails because of my affliction,
        and my bones grow weak.
    Because of all my enemies,
        I am the utter contempt of my neighbors
    and an object of dread to my closest friends—
        those who see me on the street flee from me.
    I am forgotten as though I were dead;
        I have become like broken pottery.
     For I hear many whispering,
        “Terror on every side!”
    They conspire against me
        and plot to take my life.

     But I trust in you, Lord;
        I say, “You are my God.”
     My times are in your hands;
        deliver me from the hands of my enemies,
        from those who pursue me.
     Let your face shine on your servant;
        save me in your unfailing love.
     Let me not be put to shame, Lord,
        for I have cried out to you;
    but let the wicked be put to shame
        and be silent in the realm of the dead.
     Let their lying lips be silenced,
        for with pride and contempt
        they speak arrogantly against the righteous.

     How abundant are the good things
        that you have stored up for those who fear you,
    that you bestow in the sight of all,
        on those who take refuge in you.
     In the shelter of your presence you hide them
        from all human intrigues;
    you keep them safe in your dwelling
        from accusing tongues.

     Praise be to the Lord,
        for he showed me the wonders of his love
        when I was in a city under siege.
     In my alarm I said,
        “I am cut off from your sight!”
    Yet you heard my cry for mercy
        when I called to you for help.

     Love the Lord, all his faithful people!
        The Lord preserves those who are true to him,
        but the proud he pays back in full.
     Be strong and take heart,
        all you who hope in the Lord.

    Psalm 31:1-24 (NIV)

    Had l ridden my bike the day before or after the 31st of the month, the passages in Psalm 30 and Psalm 1 say nothing about a rock.

    But God in His mercy reminded me that He knows what is happening – and cares!

    He is teaching me to trust that He is the One in whom l can rest and depend! He is working out His plan – in His time.

    Dear friends, if you too are walking an unfamiliar path in life. I urge you to step onto the Solid Rock. Call on the Lord Jesus, take refuge in him; He is our Sure Foundation!


    It is now the summer of 2019. Bob has come a long way in speech, understanding, and the ability to walk. Yet, he still cannot be left alone. These past five years have continued challenging my faith.

    I struggle with doubts, insecurities, fear, and burnout from care-giving. My health has been adversely affected too. Even so, God continues to show up in unique and undeniable ways. He continues preserving my faith when l think l can’t take one more step.

    The Lord continues to prove His faithfulness, even when l am faithless – because as the Scriptures promise, “He cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:13).

    That’s God’s promise to His children when we are weak in our faith!

    This article was first published by Sarah Keith on her website The Sunday School Network.com. Also, check out the website’s vast array of biblical-based teaching resources designed to help children to get to know Jesus.

    Blog banner:  Will van Wingerden on Unsplash

    About the author:

    Sarah Keith is the founder of SundaySchoolNetwork.com. She has been writing Christian adult devotionals and Bible curricula for teachers of children since 1999. In 1981, she graduated with honors from Palm Beach Atlantic University with a degree in Psychology and Religion, and she holds a degree in Fine Arts from Palm Beach State College.

    Sarah is passionate about the importance of teaching children about Jesus, having them memorize God’s Word early and often. She has worked in children’s ministry for over 30 years

  • Personal testimonies

    Be still

    Written by JJ Ollerenshaw

    ‘And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.’

    Genesis 1:3-5 (NIV) 

    Isn’t it interesting that God created light before he created the sun and the moon? Nothing can live without light. Plants need light to turn green, and they produce the oxygen that we need to breathe. We can’t grow without light. Have you noticed how fast children grow in the summer months? Physical life needs physical light. We also need emotional and spiritual light.   

    When I was a fairly new Christian, I attended a women`s prayer meeting in hopes of shedding some light on my inner turmoil. My two children were in school all day and it was time for me to return to work. I had been a legal secretary, but times had changed. Computers were now in use, but I didn’t know how to use one. As well, I doubted that I could sit still all day when I had been so active for the past several years. I did not want to go back to school, but neither did I know what else to do. 

    As I fretted about this, and prayed, my mind going around in circles, it seemed to me that the room was filled with wind. Did someone open a window? I opened my eyes, expecting to see the curtains blowing about. But nothing moved – and no one else seemed to have noticed. All heads were bowed, all eyes were closed. There was a quiet female murmuring beneath the whoosh of the wind.  

    Then I heard the Voice. Gentle, loving, but nonetheless the Voice of authority: “Be still ….”  Years later, I learned that the proper translation of these words (Psalm 46:10) is a reprimand, not an invitation or suggestion. That was exactly how I heard it – a command. 

    I obeyed. The Voice stopped me in my tracks. I have never forgotten it. Awed, I had a new respect for God. He spoke to me! I began to ask, what did God want me to do?  

    Shortly after this, I began a completely new career in home nursing, something I had never before considered. It suited me completely. Ten years later, however, I was burned out from trying to be Superwoman. We had moved and taken up farming while I did shift work in a nursing home. My job was physically tiring and stressful. At home, the livestock needed tending and the house needed renovations. The farm was isolated. Our teenagers vied for my car. And I was so angry with God.  

    I felt that I had done everything “right”, the way I was supposed to. We were active in church and raised our kids in Sunday school. This was not what I expected in return. I was tired, unhappy, and literally had no hope for the future. As I blamed God and did a freefall into severe clinical depression, other voices filled my head. I wanted nothing more than to be in the dark – quiet and alone.  

    Depression is not just a human illness. We had two beautiful German Shepherd dogs, not from the same litter, but born two months apart they thought they were brothers. They roamed our farm at will and delighted in chasing the occasional car. As they grew, one dog became bolder and took to chasing chickens as well. When his nose was on a level with our table, he stole food off our plates. Eventually he got himself into big trouble and had to be put down.  

    His brother moped. Obviously in a dark place, he lay on the step and refused to eat. So, I spent time with him, teaching him to catch a ball and walk on a leash. He became my shadow. I saved his life. And when I fell into the depths of despair, he saved mine.  

    God was the mastermind. Anti-depressant drugs are wonderful but work slowly. Meantime, I had to rouse myself in order to let Jasper in and out of the house. How could I resist those soulful brown eyes and not walk with him and throw his precious tennis ball? He needed me and I needed him. As the saying goes: What goes around, comes around – we reap what we sow. He sighed and patiently rested his chin on my knee when I sobbed. 

    What do we do when morning comes but our life is in darkness?  How to rid the gloom of long grey winter days when so many suffer from SAD? We don’t want to talk. We tentatively part the curtains – and close them quickly. Exercise? We can’t force ourselves. We paint the walls green, blue, and yellow. We bring the outdoors in: flowers, bird houses, pictures of beach scenes and boats. We might head south. But there’s only one solution: turn on the light! 

     “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

    John 8:12

    One day I was startled to suddenly see everything around me as if through rose-coloured glasses. I recognized that as the day I began to heal. Jesus is the light that banishes spiritual and emotional darkness. He calls himself the Light of the World, and actually gives us the same description, saying that we are the light of the world as well (Matthew 5:14). Our job is to let Jesus shine through us. We’re to go and find dark places, and start shining!


    Eventually, obeying that still, small Voice again, I headed back to school and another new career. My faithful canine friend departed this world at an old age, and I have long since retired from work. But whenever I start to fret and worry, God’s Spirit reminds me: Be still, and know that I am God. We can be assured that God is in control. He wants what is best for us, and has a plan. He will shine a light on it when we still our fretful minds and seek only His will for us. 

    ‘For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’

    Jeremiah 29:11

    Prayer: Jesus, shine Your light on our problems and show us the way. Help us to reflect Your light and move towards the people and places that need You. Amen. 

    Blog banner photo credit:  Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

    About the author:

    JJ Ollerenshaw is British but migrated to Canada at the age of 19. She enjoys the outdoors, but only in the summer months, hence her travel destinations have only been to warm countries. She enjoys reading, studying the Bible, and writing. She is an animal enthusiast. 

    JJ’s  writing career is diverse: She has written devotionals, short stories, as well as articles on travel and cattle (Yes, cattle!). Additionally, JJ has written a Sunday School curriculum, pioneered a political party newsletter, and has written an account of her and her husband’s genealogy, going back to the 1700’s.  

    JJ is a retired wine merchant, but still keeps active through renovating the family cabin and spending time in her garden. She has 8 beautiful grandchildren. 

  • Personal testimonies

    Slave no more

    Written by Madeline Twooney

    I don’t know about you, but l have a fantastic relationship with my doctor. When l was living in Cologne, Germany, for 17 years, Dr. Reiner Frenken was not only my physician for this period, he also became a trusted friend.

    Reiner Frenken is a multi-talent: He is a medical practitioner as well as a rock musician, who writes, sings, and produces his own songs. He has brought out four albums Utopia I, II, III, and IV, the proceeds of which all go to supporting “Doctors without Borders”.

    About three years ago, Reiner asked me if l would be interested in writing some lyrics for an album he was working on at the time, Utopia III. I had written reams of poetry during high school and university, so l was interested in discovering whether l could reawaken the dormant bard within. Thus, l agreed.

    One of the lyrics l wrote for Reiner was for a song he had composed titled “Slave no more“. As a Christian, the title evoked my experience of coming to Christ and how He broke me free of the chains of my past. I wanted the lyrics to reflect this.

    This is what l came up with:

    Slave no more

    I’m a slave
    Trapped in chains,
    In the spaces of my mind
    Searching for peace l cannot find
    Won’t let the darkness smother me
    No more
    I wanna break free
    l gotta break free

    No more a slave, no more a slave
    The taste of freedom is what l crave
    I’m no slave, l’ll be saved
    No more a slave, that’s the promise You gave

    I’m a slave
    Head bowed low
    Living in sorrow, bearing the shame
    I need You to take away the pain
    Only Your love is my breakthrough
    I know it’s true
    I wanna break free
    Help me break free

    Take me to a place
    Where the sunlight reaches me
    Where l feel my spirit’s free
    Touch my heart from deep within

    Accept my fall from grace
    Only You can break these chains
    Raise me to my feet again
    Your love is power, l just can’t explain.

    Reiner amalgamated these lyrics to the melody he had written, and the song “Slave no more” became a part of the album Utopia III. You can listen to the song here.

    If you would like to find out more about Reiner Frenken’s music and charity work, then visit him on Facebook or click on his YouTube channel.

    Photo credit:  Grant Ritchie on Unsplash

  • Personal testimonies

    How l withstood the heat -Bushfires and the Holy Spirit

    Written by Madeline Twooney

    When l was six years old, l experienced my first bushfire. I grew up in Victoria, Australia, in a set of low rural mountain ranges called the Dandenongs, about 35 km east of Melbourne.

    That summer had been a real scorcher, with little rainfall and strong winds. The threat of bushfires breaking out was very real: The majestic eucalyptus gums that surrounded our neighborhood were particularly flammable due to their abundant foliage and high oil content. Many houses backed onto steep gullies that could sweep a bushfire upwards towards us at an alarming speed. Everyone was tense with dread and anticipation.

    Then, the threat became a reality. My family and l were at home when we first saw the fire alert on TV, but we could already see billowing clouds of smoke moving towards us from a distant mountain, turning day instantly into night in its wake. Instead of evacuating, we unanimously agreed to stay and defend our home.

    Everyone had their houses fire-prepared as standard protocol. The air was already thick with smoke as my mum hosed down the patio areas and my dad confirmed the levels of water in the gutters on the roof one last time.

    I ran around the garden, checking that the buckets placed around our property were full of water. The fire was near: My eyes were stinging, and l could taste feathery flakes of ash on my tongue. Panic rose in me as my lungs started to fill with smoke, making me cough and splutter.

    Afer we had completed our final inspections, my parents and l went into our house and shut the windows and doors that had been already secured with metal mesh screens. The phone lines had jammed hours previously, and the radio waves were spitting out static. The TV was our only lifeline and we stayed glued in front of it, watching and waiting.

    About an hour later, the bushfire swept through. We remained safe and our house received only surface fire damage. However, the aftermath of that natural disaster had diabolical effects on our community: Many of our neighbor’s houses were destroyed, local vegetation was razed to charcoal, and only a small percent of native fauna survived.

    Afer the firefighters had left, l looked out onto the charred landscape of what had once been my backyard, with big eyes filling up with sooty tears. I may have been a small child, however, l understood that fire was a cataclysmic force of nature. It was a bitter lesson to learn.

    It was only a few years later in a Geoscience lesson in school that l discovered how bushfires play an important role in the rejuvenation and continuation of Australia’s environment. Natural ecosystems are dependent on periodic fire to cleanse out undergrowth, unleash stored nutrients in the soil, and encourage the germination of seeds and pods, which can only be released through heat.

    Sitting in that classroom, it dawned on me, that what fire initially destroys can be the necessary preparation to refine and give re-birth to the new.

    As a Christian, the application of fire manifests itself in the same way when we enter into a deeper relationship with God. Fire is a symbol of God’s presence, where the Holy Spirit is represented as tongues of fire:

    “Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. “

    Acts 2:3-4  (NRSV)

    l experienced this baptism of the fire of the Holy Spirit, after l gave my life to Christ over 10 years ago.

    I recall the encounter vividly.  It was like a thermostat had been turned up, and l experienced a wave of heavenly fire wash over me. Like gold or silver, l was made to withstand the heat, and l felt myself being cleansed of my past, as well as of my guilt and regrets ( Zechariah 13:9). I knew that the fire had purified and refined me.

    Since then, l have never been the same. I feel such a burning in my heart for God – a true passion that has stirred up my entire being. Though l am naturally shy, l have a boldness to talk about my faith – with friends and strangers alike – and l have a burning desire to spread the gospel.  

    I have spent most of my life drifting, with obscure goals and fickle dreams. However, 12 months ago, l started freelancing as a Christian writer and blogger. Furthermore, last month, l started an online ministry through this blog! I am also currently writing my first novel.

    l have the Holy Spirit to thank for instilling all of these dreams in me and for being my source of inspiration. He is guiding me, just like He guided the Israelites through the desert as a pillar of cloud by day and as a pillar of fire by night.

    “The Lord went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day, to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light, so that they might travel by day and by night.  Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.”

    Exodus 13:21-22

    Most importantly, through the fire of the Holy Spirit, God has breathed new life into me through the blood of His son Jesus Christ. When l sat in the darkness of indecision and despair, God’s light set the wilderness inside of me on fire, and l became a new creation, His child. I could start a new existence in right standing with a loving, forgiving Father. Hallelujah!

    All of this was as yet unknown to me at the age of six, as l stood in the aftermath of that bushfire that had turned my childhood memories into a burnt out, blackened wasteland.

    However, in the months that followed the fire, l did witness the bush come slowly back to life. Green shoots began to tentatively burst out of the ground in clusters, pushing the scorched earth behind them as they reached out for the nurturing light above.

    Additionally, I caught the occasional glimpse of a kangaroo with her joey hopping amongst the singed and blistered tree stumps. My ears pricked up at a melodic burst of almost forgotten birdsong.

    Fire, which l had formerly seen as devastating, was a necessary part of the process of living. The season of re-birth had begun.


    You can also read this testimony on shelovesmagazine.com.

    About the author:


    Madeline Twooney is a Christian writer and blogger. She has written articles for SheLoves, Converge, and Ruminate Magazine and is a contributing writer for Crosswalk.com, Christianity.com, and YMI Magazine.

    In her spare time, Madeline gets creative as a freelance Special Effects Makeup artist, and she loves dancing to Sister Sledge and Stevie Wonder whilst cooking. Madeline is British but lives in Germany with her husband and their one-eared pussycat. You can contact Madeline at madelinetwooney@gmail.com or tweet her at @MTwooney

  • Personal testimonies

    Can you see the presence of God in my life?

    Written my Marilyn McAvoy Clark

    I was born in 1947 in Niagara Falls, New York. My mom and dad were 40 and 45 years old respectively when I was born. I have two much older siblings and then my brother who is 4 years older than me.

    My God is an awesome God, and He is always with me and you. However, I didn’t really know that when I was growing up – l only realized it later.

    My family was Catholic, and we went to church every Sunday morning for 7:30 am Mass. Later, we changed to the 5.00 pm mass that took place on a Saturday evening. In the summer we stood for the sermon, as it was 3 minutes long, so we were in and out of church in 20 minutes. I also attended a Catholic grade school.

    My earliest impressions of God the Father was that He was to be feared, because of a very large painting of Him that was on the front of our church. It was maybe 20 feet high, and the Father was portrayed as an old man with a long white beard and looked quite stern. Below the Father in this painting was Jesus on the cross, and below Him was the white dove portrayed as the Spirit.

    Though l was afraid of God the Father, I did, however, love Jesus. What I loved about Him was the feeling I had when l thought of Him – l felt warm, fuzzy, and safe. I still feel these feelings and more now. I finally came to know the Holy Spirit about 15 years ago.

    Can you see how God first touched my life?

    My childhood was a difficult one. By the time l was 5 years old, l had gotten myself into quite a bit of trouble. When I was 2 years old, I climbed up an advertising billboard that had a latticework backing (you won’t see that style anymore). I thought it would be grand to walk across the top, until I fell off and broke my left hip. I spent my third birthday in the hospital because of the injury to my hip, which led to a further complication of a bowel obstruction from the break.

    I used to constantly get lost trying to follow my brother to school, and at least twice l was brought home by the police after searching for pollywogs* in the creek a few blocks from home. You see, my Dad had to work a lot, my brother was at school, and my mother was busy sewing in the basement in order to supplement our family’s income. I have also fallen into empty tar bins, walked through cement and have been brought home by a kind-hearted truancy officer after finding me in a bar.

    Can you see how God preserved me, despite my mishaps?

    When l was 9 years old, everything went further downhill. My mother started going out to work, and my brother started a paper route. l was left alone in the house a lot, so my brother-in-law used to come and visit me. I was 10 years old when he molested me for the first time. He often told me not to tell anyone about his visits or I would be sorry. However, I knew what he was doing wasn’t right.

    Therefore, in defiance, I told my mother. She responded by saying that I would have to learn to protect myself from my brother-in-law’s advances. She didn’t want to tell my dad, as she was afraid that he would kill my brother-in-law. I will never forget how let down I felt from her: It was such a sinking feeling and sense of loss.

    So, in an attempt to defend myself, I took the spare key from its hiding spot so that my brother-in-law couldn’t get in the house, and I listened to him as he pounded on the door. It was totally nerve-racking for me. Therefore, in order to get away from him, I did something else. Our church used to have 7:30 am mass on Saturday’s and that’s where I went. I stayed in church until I thought it was safe to go home. I did this for 2 years.

    Can you see how God rescued me?

    I still had to see my brother-in-law, as he and my sister, as well as their 3 sons, came to visit us every Sunday. Another time, l was left alone with him during a 30-mile car journey. I was terrified the entire time and clung onto the car door handle for dear life. I was determined to jump out of the car if need be, but God kept me safe.

    Finally, when I was 12 years old, l managed to be completely free of my brother-in-law. l became a stock girl at my mother’s place of work, as she needed my help. The job was 30 miles away from home, and l went there every Thursday after school and spent all day Saturday there as well.

    Can you see how God looked after me?

    In my late teens, my life continued spiraling downwards. I discovered how good alcohol made me feel. By the time I was 27, I had cirrhosis of the liver, and I was on the verge of having “wet brain”, which is a form of brain damage that is caused by repetitive and heavy exposure to alcohol.

    Finally, I was hospitalized for 3 weeks in a general hospital and then immediately taken to an alcoholic rehabilitation floor in a psychiatric hospital, where I discovered Alcoholics Anonymous. I got sober and actually celebrated my 43rd anniversary of sobriety this May. While l was in that program l renewed my belief in God.

    Can you see how God freed me from my chains and gave me a new life?

    However, despite my faith, it has been a long road for me to travel spiritually, especially between the ages of 27 and 69. I tried going back to church but it was difficult for me.

    15 years ago, l joined a course which guides you into an introduction of the Christian faith. I asked a few people I knew about this course and since signing up, l have not looked back.

    Can you see how God never forsakes me?

    I have an amazing relationship with my God now. He has picked up this lost sheep, and He has carried me on His shoulders to a new life filled with His joy. He has been with me when I broke my neck and fractured my jaw. He has been with me when my l broke my leg, and I was in a wheelchair for 18 months. He has been with me through 2 alcoholic husbands and the birth of my wonderful son. He has been with me through back surgery on my spine. He has been my refuge and my strength.

    “God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.”
    Psalm 46:1 (NRSV)

    Can you see how good God has been to me all my life?

    He has blessed me with gratitude, peace, patience, and joy. I have a smile on my face now when I greet people – all because God loves me. My hope comes from Him, for He alone is my rock and my salvation.

    “For God alone my soul waits in silence,
    for my hope is from him.
    He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
    On God rests my deliverance and my honor;
    my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.
    Trust in him at all times, O people;
    pour out your heart before him;
    God is a refuge for us.”
    Psalm 62:5-8

    I would like to tell you today, that you too can have all this – and more. Just ask God or like in my case, beg Him for help. God hears you, He walks beside you, and He cries with you. I trust God for everything now. I know I will still face problems but I am not alone. I am His child, and He will never leave me!

    “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
    And l shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    my whole life long.”
    Psalm 23:6


    About the author:

    Marilyn McAvoy Clark is a reformed Christian who has an intense love for the Lord. She lives in Ontario, Canada, although she is technically American-Canadian, as she was born in Niagara Falls, New York. She attends Bethel Christian Reformed Church in Ontario and has a son. If you would like to get in contact with Marilyn, you can write to her at marilynjclark1947@gmail.com.

  • Personal testimonies

    One more step along the world l go

    Written by Madeline Twooney

    Our steps are made firm by the Lord,
        when he delights in our way;
     though we stumble, we shall not fall headlong,
        for the Lord holds us by the hand.

    Psalm 37:23-24 (NRSV)

    Education was always  an important theme for my parents when l was growing up. I was born in England, but my parents, who are Sri Lankan, moved with me to Melbourne, Australia, when l was three years old.  

    From an early age, my parents instilled in me the significance of studying hard and acquiring good grades. It was their fim belief that the only viable career path for me was to become a doctor or a lawyer; not only would these professions assure finanicial succes, but they would also bring prestige to our family.

    However, my dream since childhood was to become a writer. Netherless, parental pressure obliged me to view writing as a hobby and pursue their dream instead.

    When l was 13 years old, my parents took me out of the government-funded high school l had been attending and enrolled me at an Anglican private school. My father was a chef and my mother an artist, so their earnings were somewhat modest.  For that reason, l appreciated their financial sacrifice in investing in my education and was determined to study hard and make them proud.  

    For the 2 years l visited that school l was very unhappy. The other kids in my year level either bullied me or completely ostracized me. What made my time in that school more bearable was the kindness my teachers showed me and the interesting lessons they taught.  

    One subject l particularly enjoyed was Religious Education. The lessons were taught by the school’s chaplain, Reverend Mc Chrioch. The chaplain was funny and entertaining, and I looked forward to his weekly teachings of the Bible.  

    Apart from teaching, Reverend Mc Chrioch fulfilled other pastoral duties at our school. Every Monday, when the entire school gathered for its weekly assembly, Reverend Mc Chrioch would speak a prayer over us and lead us in singing hymns. Over the course of two years, l learned a variety of beautiful hymns such as Amazing Grace”, “Be thou my vision, and Jerusalem.  

    On one particular Monday, Reverend Mc Chrioch asked us to sing a hymn titled “One more step along the road l go”  by Sydney Carter. As soon as the lyrics reached my ears, they resonated with me immediately: 

    “One more step along the world I go,
    One more step along the world I go;
    From the old things to the new,
    Keep me traveling along with you:
    And it’s from the old I travel to the new;
    Keep me traveling along with you.”

    That Monday morning, God became very real to me. He was more than the omnipotent, omnipresent Almighty l had read about in class – the God who had released a great flood upon the earth, made the walls of Jericho fall, and spoke from inside a burning bush.  

    Instead, He was a sympathetic God who knew l was feeling rejected and alone in school. He was my Father who saw how my parents tried to make me into being somebody l wasn’t and could never be.

    And yet, God accepted me for who l was. In fact, He loved everything about me because He had created me and declared that His work in me was good, right down to the last hair on my head.  

    Sitting in that school auditorium, with the hot December sun streaming through the large paned windows behind me, l learned who God was to me: He was my comforter in my pain, my guide through the darkness, and my hope for a better future.  l believe that it was on this day that God sowed the seed that led to me giving my life to Him 20 years later. 

    I left the school at the end of that academic year. Though my time there had been fraught with trials, my parents were content with the extensive knowledge l had acquired through my studies.  

    However, the most important lesson l had learned was the revelation that God had given me about Himself through the words of a song.  That information was life-changing, not the training l received for a life of financial prosperity and prestige. 

    As a further outcome of my encounter with God, “One more step along the world l ago” became my means of seeking Him when l was confronted with change and adversity. During such times, I would sing the song and walk down the street, imagining that Jesus was holding my outstretched hand as l took one more step on my life journey.  

    I ended up finishing my secondary education at another private school, where l was very happy. However, in my senior year, I didn’t make the grades to qualify for a place at a law or medicine faculty at university.  Instead, l ended up studying German, English, and English literature at a university in Melbourne, which l enjoyed.  

    My parents were disappointed that l wasn’t going to become a lawyer or a doctor, so l did a minor in Economics to appease them, but it wasn’t what l was really interested in studying.  

    I never ended up using that Economics minor, though my languages degree proved to be very useful. I moved to Germany where l reveled in immersing myself in a new culture. Additionally, God provided me with a position as a German teacher at an English private school. As l stood in front of my first class, Jesus was by my side.  

    “Round the corners of the world I turn,
    More and more about the world I learn;
    All the new things that I see
    You’ll be looking at along with me.”

    Being a teacher was rewarding, however, 14 years of working 80-hour weeks under immense performance pressure took their toll on me. Three years ago, l had a breakdown and was diagnosed with burnout and depression. I was forced to leave my job in order to convalesce. Again, Jesus was there, comforting me when my life as l knew it irrevocably changed.   

    “Give me courage when the world is rough, 
    Keep me loving though the world is tough;” 

    Today, as l go through the ups and downs of recovery, God is with me. He pulls me out of the dark, miry pits of depression when they want to envelop me; His love is my shield, my glory, and the lifter of my head when l feel overwhelmed and afraid. He guides me through the valley. 

    “As I travel through the bad and good, 
    Keep me traveling the way I should,” 

    Furthermore, God has given me a new direction for my life. He has put it in my heart to spread His Word by becoming a Christian writer and blogger. I may not have met the university requirements to study medicine or law, but God has qualified me, as He has qualified all of us, to be a disciple for all the nations (Matthew 28:19).  

    “Where I see no way to go, 
    You’ll be telling me the way, I know.” 

    Looking back, l can see how God has been guiding my steps throughout my life, to get me to where l am now. My childhood dream of being a writer has come to pass, something that l would never have had the courage to pursue in my own strength. 

    How glorious that God had set my path before l was even born, and neither man’s expectations nor societal pressure could deter me from it! How reassuring to know that all things work out for good by Him! For when God is for us, who can be against us? 

     May God continue to guide me, and may l continue to travel along the world with Him, for He is a good, loving, and merciful Father!  

    “You are older than the world can be, 
    You are younger than the life in me; 
    Ever old and ever new, 
    Keep me traveling along with you.” 

    About the author:

    Madeline Twooney is a Christian writer and blogger. She has written articles for SheLoves, Converge, and Ruminate Magazine and is a contributing writer for Crosswalk.com, Christianity.com, and YMI Magazine.

    In her spare time, Madeline gets creative as a freelance Special Effects Makeup artist, and she loves dancing to Sister Sledge and Stevie Wonder whilst cooking. Madeline is British but lives in Germany with her husband and their one-eared pussycat. You can contact Madeline at madelinetwooney@gmail.com or tweet her at @MTwooney