Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Happy

Happiness is sprawled on the sofa reading a good book, nibbling goodies and drinking something nice,
Having a date day with God to enjoy His presence,
Looking round a new city with Adi,
Going for a run by the sea or riding a horse through the woods in summer,
Praying and chatting with my ‘twin’ Elizabeth.

Happiness is devouring a new book by a favourite author, several hundred pages thick (mmmhhhhh),
Playing with Truffles the rabbit and seeing him bunny hop for joy,
Prayer meetings at church when God’s presence comes….
Enjoying fulfilment in a God-given ministry and satisfaction with my work,
Drinking a large mug of tea after a long journey.

These are some of the things that make me happy, inspired by today’s Five Minute Friday prompt. But that set me to wondering what makes God happy? He gave emotions, and feels happiness, just like me. So what makes Him happy? I love Him so I want to know what brings a smile to His face. This is worthy of diving into the Bible to see what happy treasures I find….

What’s That Smell?

When [my daughter] was a baby I used to carry her with her head on my chest and I would breathe in her baby smell and I remember offering her to another family member to sniff because she smelled so beautiful. From the moment I took my first breath as a mummy, it’s my favourite fragrance in the world, matched only by that of her little sister. 

My friend Helen Murray wrote those words and they got me thinking….

To the Father, I smell like Jesus.

What does it mean to smell like Jesus? We’re not talking aftershave here.

Jesus: Scents of Justice and Mercy

Before Jesus came, God’s people had to offer animal sacrifices as a temporary payment for their wrong-doing. The payment for wrong-doing is death but God accepted offerings of sheep, goats and cows so that the people wouldn’t have to die and be separated from Him. Such offerings smelled of God’s justice and mercy and are described as being a pleasant scent to Him.

CrossAll those temporary sacrifices pointed to the one perfect sacrifice: Jesus. When He willingly gave Himself up for me, the Father saw it as a fragrant offering and accepted His sacrifice. Jesus paid for my wrong-doing fully. There’s nothing left to pay. And that smells good to the Father.

Smell Like Jesus: Live Like Jesus

The Bible urges me to imitate God.

Why?

Because I’m His beloved child.

How?

By walking in love. Love looks like what Jesus did, giving up His life. Jesus said that the greatest love is to lay down your life for your friends.

Smell Like Jesus: Love Like Jesus

For most of us, love won’t look like dying for someone. Although it might….

It means thinking and acting more like a community than an individual. This is something my church is focused on at the moment, building authentic community.

For example, between Christmas and New Year our old washing machine died. Aaaaggghhh! What to do? Friends from church had recently moved into the area and happily gave me a key to their house so I could pop round and use their washing machine for the next eight weeks. There was some sacrifice on their part and lots of gratitude on mine.

Washing MachineSacrifice can mean having a little less ‘me’ time so I can focus on others.

Someone said recently that the opposite of love isn’t hate but selfishness. That makes a lot of sense.

When we love like Jesus, it smells nice to the Father.

Smell Like Jesus: Give Like Jesus

Jesus is my treasure. He has generously given me forgiveness, peace, freedom, love, joy. But best of all, He has given me Himself. I know Him and He knows me. I love Him because He loved me first and showed me what love really is. Jesus likes me. Wow! (Whoop! Whoop!)

The more I grasp this, the less I want to hold onto my money and the more I want to give because of this amazing God who loves me.

Yes, it’s important to be sensible and plan for the future.

But when we give joyfully and sacrificially out of an overflow of thankfulness to this wonderful God who loves us, it smells beautiful to Him.

Smell Like Jesus: Be Like Jesus

God says that His children are a fragrant aroma to people around us. Wherever we go, people get a whiff of Jesus.

The next time you squirt on your perfume or aftershave, remember that you already smell heavenly. You smell like Jesus.

 

Hidden

You see the things I try to hide –
Attitudes and what I really think and feel,
old guilt, past shame, a held grudge;
hurts and wounds that can never heal?
Things I’ve pushed so deep inside
that even I don’t know what’s there.

Hidden from me but never from You.
You plummet the depths and raise to the surface
things You want to deal with and heal
when You deem the time is right.

Your thoughts toward me are precious,
more numerous than sand on a seashore.
When seemingly random thoughts float across my mind
they often highlight something not right.

Can I deal with what’s hidden?
No! Too painful, too hard, too scary;
that’s my comfort blanket, I can’t let go.

But You hold my hand
and we plummet the depths together.
There’s nothing hidden in me that You’re not equal to.

You saw my darkness, my emptiness on the cross,
and for the joy of knowing me and setting me free,
You died for me.
You’ve already dealt with all that’s hidden in me
because it never was hidden from You.

30 Seconds

We shuffled into our hotel room with relief, dumping our bags in a corner. I headed for the bathroom to fill the kettle; I’d been looking forward to this cup of tea since London Bridge tube station. Adi stretched out on the bed and was soon dozing.

We’d been up the Shard, enjoying the view over the city. It was perfect: blue sky with fluffy white cotton-wool clouds. Glorious.

It was good to chill in our hotel room.

Oh, nearly forgot. There was something I needed to do. I turfed Adi off the bed and took four photos: two of the whole room from different angles, one of the bathroom, and one of the bed. I uploaded them to TraffickCam. It took 30 seconds. No big deal for me, but it might be for someone else….

Because this hotel room that to me is a friendly, restful, safe haven can mean something entirely different to another woman.

What if I was there against my will? Suppose I’d been lured by false promises and conned by a merciless and skilled manipulator who only wanted to sell me to the highest bidder? Suppose instead of flopping contentedly on the mattress after a fun day sightseeing I was positioned suggestively on the bed and photographed?

I hate trafficking.

I hate that wicked people capture others into slavery and make millions of pounds out of it. This is wrong. This is evil. I want to see human trafficking stopped.

Trafficking takes place in every country of the world. White, black, brown – all races and types of people are affected. White British people are being trafficked by white British people within Britain. The colour of a person’s skin doesn’t make them invulnerable to being trafficked.

And so I took 30 seconds out of my weekend break to take and upload four photos through the TraffickCam app on my smartphone. The police and anti-trafficking organisations can use these photos to trace victims of human trafficking.

If you are reading this post, please go one little step further and download this app to your smartphone and use it whenever you stay in a hotel anywhere in the world. 30 seconds could mean a lifetime to one person.

People shouldn’t be bought and sold. Let’s do our bit to end the horror of human trafficking.

 

Create

I loved making up stories with my teddies and dolls when I was little. I even created a family made from empty toilet rolls at one stage. My imagination was fertile and fun. After Christmas when the balloons were taken down from the ceiling, I made up all sorts of stories as the air slowly leaked from them, leaving them deflated bits of uninteresting rubber.

Growing into adulthood, my imagination remained as fertile as ever but became unhealthy rather than fun. My secret stories were fit more for a cesspit than my mind, and fear became even more embedded into who I was. It was as bad for my soul as air leaking from a balloon. But, thankfully, Jesus got hold of me, gently but powerfully cleaned up my mind, and rescued me from fear.  He blew in life-giving air, inflating me to be more the person He created me to be.

We’re all creative in some way, whether it’s scribbling stories, designing skyscrapers, or finding a better way of using limited space in our kitchen cupboards. Not surprising really, since we are made like the One who created us.

To believe in God as creator is to have the security that life has meaning; we are important to Someone; Someone loves us.

Refusing to believe this, we think, lets us off the hook: if we arrived by accident, we don’t have to answer to anyone, therefore we can do as we like. Life ultimately becomes meaningless and, deep down, we don’t believe we have any value at all. What a sad lie.

God created you because He loves you. He has always loved you, and He has good things planned for you.

 

Prayer for the Government

Give Your love of justice to Theresa May, O God,
and righteousness to her Cabinet.
Help them govern UK citizens in a right way;
let the poor be treated fairly.

May the City yield prosperity for all,
and may the country be fruitful.

Help the Government to defend the poor,
to rescue the children of the needy
and to bring their oppressors to justice.

May they fear and respect You as long as the sun shines,
as long as the moon remains in the sky.
Yes, forever!

May the Government’s rule be refreshing like spring rain on freshly cut grass,
like the showers that (constantly) water the UK.

May all the godly flourish and live in peace under this Government.
May there be abundance and prosperity for all.

Keep our country safe from evil influences,
seeking to destroy all that is good and right.
Keep our people safe from terrorist attack,
and ruthless enemies who show no mercy.

You, God, rescue the poor when they cry to You;
You will help the oppressed, who have no one to defend them.
You feel compassion for the weak and needy,
and You will rescue them.
You will redeem them from oppression and violence,
for their lives are precious to You.

Bless Theresa May and the Government!
May we always pray for her.
Bless our country and pour out Your Spirit,
How we need You!
We long for You, come and revive us, O Holy One.

Praise the Lord God!
He alone does wonderful things.
Praise His glorious Name forever!
Let the whole earth be filled with His glory.
Yes, let it be, let it be.

Praying for our rulers is a command; we are told to pray for them so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. But I must confess to forgetting about this most of the time.

Recent events – it feels as though our country has been tipped upside-down and given a thorough shaking – have brought it to the forefront of my mind.

When reading this psalm (72), I thought it would be useful to turn it into a prayer I can use regularly.

Whatever you may think of Theresa May or the Tory Government, praying people are called to pray for them. No one could envy her this job right now with so many huge decisions to make and implement, and more pressures than I can begin to imagine.

So let’s pray.

Photo by Susie B courtesy of Free Digital Photos used with permission.

Build

God built a perfect world for people to enjoy,
But Eve and Adam’s in-built pride sent everything awry.

Noah built an ark and kept his family safe,
Job built his faith by trusting God through trials,
Leah built a nation, though Rachel was the favoured wife,
A divine architect gave Moses plans to build a place of worship.

Proverbs says that a wise woman builds her house,
But a foolish woman tears it down.
Hmm, easy to give way to anger…. followed by regret
Than to wisely go a peaceful way.

Dear Elizabeth built up Mary’s faith,
Who would have thought a virgin could be pregnant?
And with the Chosen One!

Jesus builds His Church,
She is a glowing Bride,
No spot or blemish in her,
Looking to the day when God will build a brand-new world for Her to enjoy.

Writing: Who? What? How?

Can I write? Should I write? Why am I bothering, it’s all been said before. Who do I think I am? I can’t do this, I’m wasting my time….

After a decade of writers’ angst, I made the decision to just get on with it. To help me, I’ve typed out some statements and pinned them on the noticeboard by my desk.

Write for an Audience of One

I have a bad habit of…..[Continue reading]

 

Loved and Secure

I gazed at the television screen in awe. I couldn’t take my eyes off it. Everyone else in the surgical theatre – and there were a few – was tuned out as I drank in the beautiful sight of our two-day old twins.

The surgeon was talking, nurses and technicians bustling about getting everything prepped, Adi snapping away at the screen with our non-digital camera.

Long before I was ready to stop gazing, the screen was switched off and I was arranged on the edge of the operating table, legs akimbo, for our babies to be transferred back to me.

ZygoteI’d been unprepared for the rise of strong maternal feelings that exploded inside me when I called the hospital the day before to find out whether my eggs had ‘taken’. As soon as the lab technician assured me that both had taken and were dividing well, a lioness inside me lifted her head and roared.

I was a mother, and I would do anything to protect my kids. If it had been allowed, I would have spent the next twenty four hours in the lab gazing at those two tiny, fragile lives in the petri dish. They were mine and woe betide anyone who dared to be careless around them.

I loved our tiny twins, who we nicknamed Two and Three, from the second I knew they were conceived. I still love them and can’t wait for the day I will finally meet them face to face and wrap my arms around them for a lifetime of missed hugs.

It hit me this morning that God feels the same way about me.

Except He loved me long before I was conceived. In fact, He loved me so much before I existed that He made sure my parents met so I could be conceived.

He loves me. Just as I couldn’t tear away my eyes from my little ones, He gazes at me with love and delight. He sits beside me and counts every hair of my head. He watches over me when I sleep and is with me in every activity.

I am loved. And so are you.

Read the full story.

Rest

You may have woken up today rejoicing at the outcome of yesterday’s vote. Or maybe you are disappointed and wondering what on earth is going to happen now.

To be honest, whatever the outcome you were hoping for, it’s all rather unsettling. There are big changes ahead as we go forward; we don’t really know what to expect. What promises will hold true and what were lies?

I’ve been pondering today on various truths, just to anchor myself in all the uncertainty.

I woke up today feeling somewhat overwhelmed. But to God, the nations – the UK and the whole of Europe – are like a small drop of water in a bucket. This comparison puts things in perspective! Yet it doesn’t mean that God doesn’t care, He loves each individual in every nation.

When God promised the birth of the ultimate ruler and deliverer several hundred years before Jesus actually arrived, God said that the government would rest on Jesus’ shoulders. His government and its peace will never end. Jesus will rule with fairness and justice forever.

I don’t know what exiting Europe will look like. I don’t know how it will affect me personally or how it will affect the UK as a whole. But I do know that one day all of this will come to an end. One day, King Jesus will appear in the clouds (it may sound fanciful but this is no fairy tale) and take His rightful place as supreme ruler. He will be the perfect king who will work everything for everyone’s good, and there will be no dissatisfaction or disappointment ever again. His is a kingdom that could not be any better: full of love, peace, rest, light, joy, fulfilment, fairness.

A couple of things before I finish.

Some of us on Facebook are using Friday 8th July as a day of prayer for our nation. Our government needs much wisdom for the days ahead. Please join us: https://www.facebook.com/events/1098981783507359/

If you’re rejoicing today, please be sensitive to friends who are disappointed at the outcome. Rejoice but please don’t rub it in.

If you’re disappointed today, talk it out with someone you trust (and to God if you are a praying person), take time to process it and grieve. Don’t let it eat into you and take root.

Rest in the truth of who God is and the glorious future on offer with Him.

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