Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Month: November 2017

Comfort

To continue my thoughts in Philippians 2….

The next part of verse 1 reads: ‘So if there is… any comfort from love,…’

When I was a little girl, the Love is… cards with a cartoon boy and girl were popular. Well here, Paul seems to be saying that love is comforting. It certainly is. When my dad was at death’s door, he said his ‘official goodbye’ to me one night as I left the hospital. I held it together until I reached the car park, and then sobbed the entire drive home (from Sheffield to Nottingham). By the time I got to our front door, almost blinded by tears, I was incapable of finding my key in my handbag. But Adi had heard the car pull onto the drive and was ready to wrap his arms tightly around me. Although the circumstances hadn’t changed, Adi’s hug gave me comfort.

In another letter, Paul writes: ‘Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.’

Love and comfort go together.

The dictionary defines comfort as being a state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint, and the alleviation of grief of distress.

In God, I am loved and comforted. Sometimes He takes away pain here and now; I’ve known physical healing from pain as well as healing from emotional pain. But one day, I will be completely free of all pain forever. God promises that when He wraps up this world like an old cardigan and introduces a brand new earth, He will wipe away every tear from my eyes.

There’s a lot I don’t understand…. When babies are stillborn, when friends are diagnosed with cancer, when bad things happen. I don’t know why. But there is still this: in Jesus there is comfort from love. Despite unexplainable and terribly painful circumstances, I am loved by God and I am comforted by Him. When I have no answers, I must hold onto the anchor of this truth.

Loved and comforted. Now, and perfectly in the future.

You Just Never Know….

Isn’t it funny how one thing leads to another?

In June 2016, I went to the ACW weekend at Scargill House with a half-formed resolution to write the homework set by the speaker and maybe even read it out. Scary…. Could I do it?

I teetered and wobbled, then inspiration came.

Oh blow it, I thought, I’m going to do this.

In a moment of madness, I [read more]

Taking Off The Mask

We all have a tendency to wear a mask. There is a need to hide who we really are. Maybe we have been badly hurt by someone we trusted in the past. Or perhaps we’ve been told at some point we were no good. Whatever the reason, we put on a mask to try and fit in and make ourselves acceptable or protect ourselves from further hurt.

As we hide our innermost self from others, we can end up hiding even from our own self.

Taking off the Mask by Claire Musters is a helpful new book dealing with this whole area of hiding who we are from others and ourselves. Claire talks openly and honestly about serious problems in her marriage and church life that arose because of wearing a mask and were made worse by continuing to wear it. Only when she was prepared to let the mask drop and face who she really was could she experience freedom to be the beautiful woman God made her to be.

We need to realise that it is what God thinks of us and says about us that is important, not what others think and say, or even what we think about ourselves. Our own thought lives are often so damaging to us and are indicative of deep pain hidden inside, keeping us trapped behind a mask.

Claire opens the book with her own story before, in subsequent chapters, taking the reader gently step-by-step through a process of learning to see where and in front of whom we hide ourselves and how to work through that to freedom. At the end of each chapter are searching questions designed to help the reader gain insight and benefit from working through the book. It would be possible to read and work through this on your own, though probably better with a trusted friend or counsellor.

I found it helpful to journal my way through the book by making a note of particular points that spoke to me:

Spidergram of Taking off the Mask…too often we can act out a part that we believe is expected of us, rather than truly living in the freedom that God’s love brings.

He [God] delights in us and wants us to enjoy the experience of being ourselves, and yet so often we can be trapped in an unnecessary cycle of pretence.

Let go of the fig leaves of shame and guilt. Accept God’s covering of forgiveness and righteousness.

We need to learn to stop looking to others for validation, and spend more time gazing on our Father’s face.

…sometimes we …can look at the difficult circumstances we are in and allow them to colour our view of God and ourselves.

The adventure of embracing all that He [God] has called me to is really liberating.

I have given Taking off the Mask 4* on Amazon. I was provided with a free copy for the purpose of writing an unbiased review for the book’s launch today.

 

Undivided Heart

Undivided Heart by Lucy Mills is a thoughtful book based on a verse from Psalm 86 in which the psalmist prays: ‘… give me an undivided heart…’

In the first half of her book, Lucy explores what makes us who we are and what motivates our actions. She looks at the many different things that give us a divided heart: our drives and desires, issues, circumstances, boxes we squeeze ourselves into, social media, and labels we put on ourselves or allow others to give us. All of these things can limit us, create unnecessary burdens, and keep us from enjoying the abundant life God has planned for each one of us.

The second half of the book, Lucy considers what has motivated God’s people in the past (from the Bible) and looks ahead to our glorious future with God, and how abundant life is offered right now. Our incentive is to enjoy some of the benefits of knowing God now, not in a ‘health, wealth, prosperity’ way, but in going deeper in our relationship with God and seeing His kingdom come.

If kingdom is about the royal reign of God… then the ‘requirements’ of living under this reign emphasise how we live together under the kingship of God. … being generous… acting with fairness and justice, forgiveness and mercy.

In the kingdom, treasures are found in unexpected places, the poor are considered rich and the weak are made strong.

Somewhere, right now, two people with two different viewpoints are praying together in the name of Jesus, under the banner of love. Such is the kingdom.

Having an undivided heart results in God being so crucial to us that we are able to face suffering that has no answers here. Lucy looks at Job, and how God did not answer his ‘why?’ but gave him a vital encounter with Himself. God didn’t give Job answers, He gave Job Himself. Lucy also considers how Jesus – the Son of God – came to fully identify with us in our suffering. He became our sin so that we could have God’s righteousness. In our sufferings, God gives Himself.

In her final chapter, Lucy sums up what it means to ask God for a united or undivided heart.

An undivided heart is not soft, pink romantic snuggliness. It’s a fierce, focused, even suffering heart, which looks towards its one redeemer. A heart which longs and thirsts and waits.

Each of the twenty chapters is short. Included within most if not all of the chapters is a Bible verse or passage and a poem. Each chapter concludes with a few helpful questions to aid the reader in gaging where their own heart may be divided and how this can be changed.

I thought Lucy incredibly insightful in this book, which is uncomfortable at times and helpfully illuminating at others. I certainly had one or two light bulb moments in reading it.

I have given it 4* on Amazon. I was provided with a free copy for the purpose of writing an unbiased review for the book’s launch this week.

© 2017 Mandy Baker Johnson

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑