Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Month: December 2014

One Of Us

‘The Word became flesh and lived among us’ – what does that actually mean?

Jesus became human and moved onto the estate.

Jesus was once the single cell of a fertilised egg – fully God and fully human.

As an embryo, Jesus didn’t just take up space in Mary’s womb, He was her Son.

Jesus was a real baby, born into the human race, with grandparents and a family tree. Just like me.

But Jesus is 100% God. Not like me.

Imagine God breathing air with lungs He had created….

One of His most precious names is Emmanuel – God with us. This is what we celebrate at Christmas, it’s all about Jesus and the wonder of God becoming man and walking among us. Jesus had friends and people who didn’t like Him; He was a son, a big brother, a cousin, an uncle.

Christmas can be so stressful – squeezing in time to write cards, buy and wrap presents, going out for Christmas dinners and drinks with work colleagues, friends and family, trying to keep an eye on the budget and seeing how far you can stretch your finances – by the time you get to the day itself you can end up feeling a bit frazzled. For many people, it’s fun to spend time with family. For others, there are family tensions to contend with, or loneliness, or worse.

Jesus knew all about family life. He was part of Mary and Joseph’s family. He had siblings. And it wasn’t all plain sailing. His family disbelieved and rejected Him, they thought He had mental issues, and they tried to manipulate and control Him.

But Jesus knew who He was. He was more than Mary’s son. He was more than the brother of James, Joses, Judas and Simon.

Jesus was the Son of God. And He had a purpose in life. He was headed for the cross so that He could defeat death and set us free from the fear of death. Jesus knew who He was and so He was able to be Himself and do what He was meant to do.

He offers that same assurance to us if we trust Him. For me, knowing who I am in Christ has literally changed my life. I am secure in knowing that I am loved and accepted. I love that Jesus was born into a human family so that I could be adopted into His Family. Amazing! There is confidence, peace and joy in knowing who you are.

When life kicks off, as it does from time-to-time, and I have a wobble, feeling rejected and worthless, I now repeat these five truths aloud to myself:

I believe that God is who He says He is.
I believe that God can do what He says He can do.
I believe that I am who God says I am.
I believe that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
I believe that God’s Word is alive and active in me.

Let’s celebrate JESUS this Christmas – He is so much more exciting than Santa and reindeer and tinsel and turkey and smellies. He is Son of God and Son of Man, willing to be our Emmanuel.

Renewed Daily - Recommendation Saturday

Barbie Swihart

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Keep Reflecting The Son

A minute felt like an hour, an hour like a day. A day seemed like an eternity. The nights were even longer – dark, lonely, slightly alien.

When I was ill, time seemed never-ending. By lunchtime, I had completely forgotten breakfast, and by mid afternoon, the morning seemed to belong to another day in the far distant past. And night was another creature entirely. The night had a strange feeling all of its own, as I wandered aimlessly from room to room in the darkness, peering out of windows – was anyone else awake at this unearthly hour? Oh, the relief when dawn finally began to break in silver streaks across the sky!

Through it all, I don’t recall losing sight of the fact that God was with me and that He was in control. He was the One who, on my weakest days, gave me strength to breathe and faith to keep trusting that He was working it all out for my good. I didn’t think I would ever get better; I assumed I would always need a wheelchair when out and about, and was accepting my ‘new normal’ of being physically and mentally restricted. As my body and mind disintegrated, my hope in God grew stronger. He was my strength. There were tough moments when I felt I couldn’t go on, times of sobbing out the pain and distress to Him, of grieving for the life I’d lost, but He never let me go.

I didn’t know when the night-time of my illness would end but I trusted God to keep working in me, using the circumstances to make me more like Jesus. And then one wonderful day, dawn began to break in my life as God broke through and dispelled the illness.

As the moon reflects the sun, God promises the same for His children. It is the Father’s deep desire for us to become more and more like Jesus. He often uses the night-time circumstances of our lives to do extensive work in us. I look back over my life and see how I grew in God through various horrible things happening that I would never have chosen for myself but which my loving Creator used for my good.

ClockThe endless wait of a life-saving organ transplant for my dad who was slowly dying before my eyes.

The heartbreak of a close relationship ending.

The news that we could never have children.

Long-term illness.

Maybe you can identify with some of these.

Perhaps it feels that dawn will never come, that your night – whatever that means for you – is never going to end. But it will end and dawn will come. The darkest hour is just before dawn, but dawn is coming. The moon shines most clearly and brightly against a dark sky. It keeps reflecting the sun, even during the longest night (which is coming up in a few nights’ time). Be encouraged to keep trusting God. It is a choice and one that only you can make. Keep trusting Him so that all His loveliness can be reflected in your life.

Keep reflecting the Son.

Linking up with The Sunday Community.

 

Clock picture credit: freedigitalphotos.net and Suat Eman.

Christmas Party

I received an invitation to a party. Was it really meant for me? The people inviting me seemed certain they wanted me there. Not sure I should go, it’s not my thing, I don’t think I’d belong….

It was bitterly cold today and I couldn’t get warm. That party to which I was invited began looking like a good idea. Maybe I should go for a bit, just to get warm. I didn’t have to stay.

As soon as I walked through the doors, I was met with big smiles – not cheesy or weird, just friendly. I accepted some mulled wine and sat in a corner to people watch but someone joined me, chatting and drawing me in so that I wasn’t just watching but a part of what was happening.

We all moved through into a long room with a tall Christmas tree at one end and twinkling fairy lights strung from the ceiling. We sat at large round tables, still chatting, while being served a delicious, hot Christmas dinner with all the trimmings: turkey and stuffing, sprouts and pigs in blankets. This was followed by Christmas pudding or chocolate gateau with cream. We sang carols and laughed a lot.

In laughing till my sides ached at the ridiculously funny audience-participative nativity, I forgot that I didn’t think I belonged and simply enjoyed being part of this fun family atmosphere.

Food Bank Christmas BagsThere were even party bags to take away with important Christmassy food items: mince pies, chocolate coins, tinned soup, cheesy nibbles. We were each given a beautifully wrapped gift for Christmas. Tears blinded me for a moment when I unwrapped mine. It wasn’t some second-hand tat that had been set aside for someone like me, but was a decent gift that had been generously bought for someone like me. I’d done nothing to deserve it, I’d simply turned up and accepted all the love and generosity showered upon me.

Grace Church held our first Christmas Party for Social Hub users this afternoon. It was an absolute joy to be able to host Christmas dinner for some of the people who have used our food bank this year. It’s something the Social Hub team have been looking forward to for months, and to see our guests relaxing and enjoying themselves was really special.

As someone said in the pre-party prayertime, Jesus knows how to party. His enemies made snide comments behind His back and called Him a drunkard and a glutton. Not that He was ever greedy or got drunk, but He didn’t hesitate to spend time with people who were looked down on and called ‘sinners’. We wanted to be a little bit like Him.

Food Bank Christmas PresentsAs I gazed at all the presents and Christmassy food parcels to be given out, I was struck with the similarities between me and our guests.

I, too, have received an invitation to a party. I, too, have been welcomed in, and given a gift.

Jesus has invited me to a party that He has promised to host at the end of time. It’s a major event on His calendar – He died and came back to life to make sure this party will happen. And everyone is invited. For everyone who accepts His invitation, Jesus welcomes us. He brings us into His Kingdom and into His Family; in fact, His Dad adopts us and makes us His heirs. He provides for all of our needs and He sets us free to enjoy Him more and more. He has given us the most astounding gift of eternal, abundant life.

And that gift is something that we can start enjoying right now.

 

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Oh Dear….

A friend recently blogged about her experience of a workman coming to the house, and it reminded me of a few traumas of my own. Like babbling nervously – as if they care when I last cleaned or if I missed a bit.

I think one of the most memorable incidents was when we were having the loft and cavity walls insulated a few years ago. A nice chap came to the house and I put the kettle on while he set up his laptop. He took a sip of tea and said to me, ‘I need a power point.’

I gaped at him. Why on earth would a workman need a PowerPoint?

‘A power point?’ he repeated.

I continued staring while frantically trying to make sense of what he’d asked for.

Realising the lights were on but nobody was at home, he pointed to a row of power sockets.  ‘Can I use the power point?’

‘Oh!’ The penny dropped. He just wanted to plug in his laptop. Doh!

Possibly the reason I confused power point with PowerPoint was that I had recently started a new job which involved me preparing lots of PowerPoints – though why I thought the insulation man should feel the need to start using one in my kitchen is beyond me.

Oh dear….

Sadly, workmen don’t need to actually enter the house for me to embarrass myself.

A few days ago, I was letting rip at the top of my lungs a new song by Chris Barton (it’s a fab song with great words, perfect for exercising the old vocal cords):

Again I was in my kitchen, which is very close to the front door. Too close. There was a knock, a man stood outside, come to read the meter. While I figuratively curled up and died, he did a credible job of keeping a straight face while taking the meter readings.

Oh dear….

And then there’s the whole dilemma of what to do when the window cleaner turns up… Silently creep from room to room so he doesn’t spot me? Or open the back door and cheerily greet him? Hmmm……

God Still Does Miracles!

Four years ago, I didn’t know how to deal with the (completely flat) paving in this photo. The different coloured bricks were confusing: should I step over them? If so, how high did they go? Should I walk round them? I felt as though I was on a tightrope and might fall off at any moment. It was all too much, my brain gave up, and my longsuffering husband had to come and rescue me.

Crazy Paving P&RTwo weeks ago, I parked the car and jumped out, walking briskly across the car park to catch the park and ride bus. In my memory, the bricks were very jazzy and – even four years on – I half blamed the council for laying such a busy pattern. But in reality, the pattern is gentle and not jazzy at all. The pedestrian area is spacious.

I sat on the park and ride bus in a daze. It hit me just how ill I’d been, that I couldn’t cope with such a simple, non-intrusive pattern. And my heart overflowed with thankfulness at God’s kindness and generosity in healing me.

Last Sunday, I had a wonderful opportunity to share the five minute version of my healing testimony at St Mary’s in Leamington Spa. Listen here.

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