Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Month: July 2012

Bees In The Butterfly Garden

‘This was Meggie.  Meggie, whom John had placed on so high a pedestal that it couldn’t be Ian who made a mere woman of her.’

I enjoyed reading Maureen Lang’s Bees in the Butterfly Garden.  The story picked up speed slowly but the storyline aroused my curiosity so that I had to keep reading, and before long I was turning the pages, eager to find out what happened next.

The book opens with Meg, who has been kept in the very best of schools for young ladies, going to her father John’s funeral.  It is not long before she discovers that he was a professional thief who strove to keep the truth from her.  She is told by her father’s fiance Kate and his young partner-in-crime Ian that John protected her out of love, but Meg believes her father never told her where his wealth came from because he didn’t believe she could be a gifted thief.  Meg, therefore, sets out to show that she can be as skilled at crime as her father.

There are two men fighting for top position in New York’s underworld after Meg’s father’s death – Brewster and Ian.  Meg must choose which of them she will partner with to prove herself as a thief.  She is naturally drawn to Ian, but he is determined to protect her out of love for John’s memory.  However, it soon becomes clear that Meg will partner with the despicable Brewster rather than give up the idea of becoming a thief, so Ian reluctantly plans a robbery with her which, if they succeed, will make Ian top dog.

Ian and Meg’s plans are somewhat complicated by John’s fiance Kate who, as a new Christian convert, has inconveniently – for them – developed a conscience.  Kate rather sweetly interfers when she discovers that Meg is planning to betray her kind friends with whom she is spending the summer under the guise of designing a butterfly garden for them.

Notwithstanding Kate, Meg and Ian discover to their cost that the gold is guarded by more than a safe.  They come face to face with Jesus Christ and, like the thieves crucified with Him, must choose whether they will submit to Him or turn away.

After a slow start, this was a very enjoyable read.  I particularly liked the fact that each chapter was headed with an appropriate little quote about the proper conduct of young ladies in society, or on the theives’ code.  I would recommend it.

I am grateful to Tyndale House for providing me with a complimentary electronic copy of this book for the purpose of a review.

Divorce Hurts

After uploading my last post on commitment, I came across this blog post by Tricia Goyer, who I follow on Twitter.  We sometimes think that children will be fine with divorce because ‘everyone does it’, but the truth is:  divorce hurts.

Read Tricia’s post.

Commitment…. What’s That?

I’ve just been catching up with Nick Hewer and Margaret Mountford’s (I just love Nick and Margaret, don’t you?!) ‘The Town That Never Retired’ on BBC iPlayer.  It saddened me and left me feeling that as a society we’re pretty hopeless.

For those of you who haven’t seen the programme, Nick and Margaret investigate whether people are realistically able to work into their seventies (as many are likely to have to do) and whether they are taking up jobs that should be given to younger people who need the opportunities.  A selection of retirees in their seventies were put to work for a week at an estate agency, a restaurant, a building site and a factory.  They mostly did pretty well and their employers chose to keep some of them on for a second week.  But in the second week the retirees faced competition from youngsters in their late teens and early twenties who were looking for work.  That was when things got interesting.

Two lads were set on in the factory.  One – after giving an enthusiastic interview to the camera about all he was going do with his wages – failed to return after lunch.  This was after he’d turned up forty minutes’ late in the first place.  He claimed he’d eated a dodgy burger…. and who are we to disbelieve him?  He was (quite rightly) sacked when he turned up on the second day.  The second lad worked hard for two days but complained that the work was ‘boring’.  He didn’t bother to complete his week.  Maybe for these two lads, living on benefits and dreams suited them better than the commitment of a job.

The retirees were harder working, demonstrating more common sense and a stronger level of commitment than the majority of their younger ‘competition’.

This saddened me.  Why do so many young people struggle with the idea of commitment?  If a job is boring, leave it.  Why do something you don’t enjoy?  If you conceive a baby, destroy it.  Why should you be bothered with raising it?  If a relationship is hard, walk away.  Never mind if there are children involved, they’ll cope.  It’s about your own happiness and looking after number one.

How did the very idea of commitment become so alien?  Is it because divorce became more acceptable and abortion-on-demand was made possible in my parents’ and my generation, leading to it becoming normal – even expected – practice in today’s society?  People marry today with the expectation of getting divorced at some stage.  I know they do because I’ve spoken to them.  The first question practice nurses in some areas of Nottingham ask of newly-pregnant women is whether they want an abortion.  Why?  Because it’s become the norm for parents to have no sense of commitment towards the new life they’ve unthinkingly conceived.  It’s not convenient, so they destroy it.

I’m sure there are other factors as to why commitment is becoming a dirty word in today’s society.  But I think the ones I’ve mentioned are certainly valid.

Is there a solution to the miserable, selfish mess we’re in?  Yes, I think there is:  Jesus.  He created the entire universe by simply speaking and has upheld it ever since by the power of His word, but He willingly died and came back to life for His creatures so that we could get to know Him and His Dad, and experince true commitment.  Someone has to pay a price for all the rebellion in society, and Jesus paid it in full.  The Bible says that God has put eternity in our hearts.  Don’t you sometimes find yourself longing for something more than this?  Wondering what life is really all about and why you’re here?  It’s because you’re made for a relationship with God and to enjoy His friendship for ever.  Deep down, all of us are longing for someone to be committed to us, to love us unconditionally.  Jesus has promised to do exactly that.  Find out more here.

Once we see Jesus’ faithfulness to us and gain confidence in the fact that He never, ever lets us down, we will be able to demonstrate that to others.  There is hope for our society, and that hope is Jesus.

 

 

 

Small Bump

A beautiful song from Ed Sheeran about the pain of miscarrying a little one.

Matthew Henry – His Life And Influence

I looked forward to reading Allan Harman’s new book Matthew Henry – His Life and Influence because I have used Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the whole Bible since my teenage years in preparation for Sunday School lessons and speaking engagements as well as for personal Bible study.  Harman begins by setting the background, giving a brief overview of the Puritans and the society of that time.  He also writes very much about Matthew Henry’s father Philip.  As an aside, I was intrigued to find that the saying: ‘He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose’ actually originated with Philip Henry:  ‘He is no fool who parts with that which he cannot keep, when he is sure to be recompensed with that which he cannot lose’.

The following chapters go through Matthew Henry’s childhood, education, pastoral experiences and his writings.  The final four chapters are, more-or-less, a summary of the whole book but looking specifically at Matthew Henry as a preacher, as a commentator, and as a writer, and the lasting impact he has had.

When I read about Matthew Henry’s home life and childhood, I was not surprised that he wrote such an excellent Bible commentary in his later years.  He was well taught in spiritual things and his father gave him a good grounding in practical Bible knowledge.  Even as a child, Matthew took notes on sermons he heard.  On Saturday afternoons he and his siblings were encouraged to spend an hour in preparation for Sunday, and Matthew as the oldest child led these times.  It was said of his home:

Surely God is in this Place; this is no other than the House of God and the Gate of Heaven.

A lovely thing to be said of any Christian home!

Matthew used his whole education, including a year studying law, in his pastoral work (in applying Bible truths to his congregation) and in his writing.  He studied his Bible diligently and was methodical in note taking/keeping his whole life.

His first congregation was in Chester, and after many invitations and much heartsearching and praying, he eventually moved to Hackney in London because he felt he could serve God better by preaching and writing there.

There was a definite connection between his commentary and his pastoral ministry.  The one was borne out of the other.  His commentary was remarkable for its day, and it is a mark of the man of God he was that it is still in use some 300 years later.  Matthew’s writings have influenced many Christians through the generations including Jonathan Edwards, John and Charles Wesley, George Whitefield, and Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  There are very few other Puritan Christians who are household names as Matthew Henry is.

I enjoyed finding out more of Matthew Henry’s life, learning about the man behind the book, but I did find his biographer’s writing style somewhat dry.

I am grateful to Christian Focus for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book for the purpose of writing a review.

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