Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Author: Mandy (page 1 of 35)

Coffee with Jesus?

‘God loves you.’
I taught it every week.
But did I really know it?
Sure, He forgave me;
was He just being kind?

I thought the Father didn’t like me.
That Jesus and I could never have coffee together.
And the Spirit lived in me under protest.

But then.

The day the Father came into the room
His eyes fixed on mine,
as if I were the most precious thing He’d ever seen.
He scooped me up
and tossed me into the air.
Arms and legs flailing,
a toddler’s happy laughter:
‘Do it again Daddy, do it again!’

Have coffee with Jesus?
Oh yes.
Anyone can be friends.
Wandering in the woods together,
chilling on the patio,
enjoying a good book,
living the life He’s called me to.
He was once a man who cooked breakfast for mates –
He hasn’t changed.

And the Spirit?
Even when I hit the pearly gates
He’ll stay with me.
He won’t sigh with relief and go off to find someone more interesting.
Not dump me in eternity,
lonely and alone.
He sees me, He knows me.
He tells me truth and makes the unseen real.

God doesn’t just love me.
He likes me.

The Girl at the End of the Road

I loved The Girl at the End of the Road. I completely forgot I was reading, which is the type of book I like best. It’s a true page-turner and keeps you guessing.

The main character, Vince, has worked hard to forget his roots and make a successful life for himself in London. But the story opens as his career comes crashing down, taking his home and an intimate relationship with it.

We follow Vince’s story as he moves back in with his parents in the village where he grew up. It is fascinating to see his reactions in reconnecting with old school friends, one of whom – Sarah – appears quite eccentric.

The reader goes on a journey with Vince as he painfully rediscovers [read more]

 

Refugee Stories

This is seven real-life stories of people who became refugees and sought asylum in the UK. They are written in the individuals’ voices and edited by Dave Smith who brought the book together and adds facts at the end of each story.

I was struck by how normal – middle class even – these seven individuals are. Each one was educated, often very well off in their own country, but ended up having to flee their homes for various reasons. The first six stories are very similar though set in various countries. The seventh story is a little different.

It opens up the reality of the having to deal with the Home Office. After going through all sorts of major trauma in their own countries, often with their lives under threat, and difficult journeys to the UK, the last thing these people need is to deal with endless and – at times – seemingly badly organised bureaucracy.

This book brings the vagueness of thousands of refugees and asylum seekers down to the individual’s story I’m reading.

For anyone wanting to know what it’s really like to flee your country in fear of your life, this is a useful book.

It’s not easy reading. Partly because with the exception of one or two stories I could never forget I was reading and that made it hard work. I think this was because each chapter has a different ‘voice’ and so the writing doesn’t always flow easily.

Instant Apostle provided me with a free Kindle copy for the purpose of writing an unbiased review.

 

Everything You Do

Last Wednesday I went to a dance as worship evening. I’d signed up for it a few weeks previously, then had a minor panic: ‘What have I done? This is my worst nightmare.’ I was always the kid in PE at the back of the room doing as little as possible in a very unco-ordinated, awkward sort of way.

Ladies in graceful, flowing costumes demonstrated and talked about portraying biblical truths in dance. I was drawn even while thinking, ‘But I’m not a dancer, I’m a writer.’

The next day at home I decided [read more]

The Search for Home

The Search for Home is the true story of Beatrice Smith who was ten-years-old when the troubles between the Hutus and Tutsis broke out in Rwanda in the 1990s. She witnessed horrific events and saw scenes no human being should ever have to see.

From Rwanda, her family fled (literally) across the border into Zaire, then onward to Kenya, before enduring a lonely year in Swaziland. They spent four years as refugees, often homeless and hungry, trying to learn new languages and cultures, desperate to stay together against the odds.

At last Beatrice’s father sought asylum in the UK and, after much prayer and many problems along the way, the rest of the family were able to join him.

The family’s faith and prayer life shines out of this book. Their commitment to praying when all hope seemed lost challenges my prayer-life, and I had to remind myself that Beatrice and her siblings were children. But they also saw God answering their prayers in amazing and unexpected ways.

This book is so timely for today. It’s easy to get desensitised to seeing weary men, women and children walking along dusty roads clutching bundles and blankets or even seeing them crowded into flimsy dinghies trying to cross the Mediterranean.

Beatrice’s story makes refugees human again. I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose my home and be forced to flee England because of war. Beatrice makes it a little more real. When you lose everything and are simply trying to survive day to day, how easy it is to wander too far when collecting wood for fire and find yourself in danger. Or when you are desperate and have no options, you become a sitting target for human traffickers.

This book helps the reader to comprehend some of the suffering refugees endure. Even something as basic as having a working kitchen, a shower with running water and a toilet, and then being forced to do without. Not knowing where your next drink of water will come from, never mind anything else. And this on top of all the emotional and mental trauma.

When reading the final chapters, I held my breath as Beatrice shared her hopes for life in the UK. She longed to feel welcome, to be accepted, to feel safe and secure, to know she was home. Would she find that? Having read her story, I really wanted her hopes to be realised.

The Search for Home is a page-turner. It’s very readable. And as I wrote earlier, a timely message for today. It’s not enough to look at people from other cultures and say from the comfort of having known nothing but safety and security that they should be doing this or that. I just want to play my part in making them feel welcome without judging them. In their shoes, what would I do?

Instant Apostle provided me with a free Kindle copy for the purpose of writing an unbiased review.

Wonder

Sometimes I jump for joy,
that Jesus Christ is God and died for me.
Sometimes full of wonder,
how can the very author of life die?

What sacrifice for me….
He took my sin and satisfied God’s wrath.
Now He has made me free!
I am thankful, I exult and praise Him.

I clap my hands and shout.
Jesus is worthy of the highest praise.
 King of kings, Lord of lords:
He beat darkness and He defeated death,

In wonder I worship
Jesus the Nazarene and Son of God.
In awe and in wonder
I kneel at Your feet and give you my heart.

Hope

May the God of hope fill you will all joy and peace in believing,
so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
Romans 15:13

Hope is vital. Adi and I watched George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces when he and Will Hardie followed a WWII POW’s plans to build a caravan. It was incredible. Writing those plans and dreaming of being free again gave that prisoner hope in a very dark situation.

So it’s not surprising that God, in whose image we are made, is a God of hope.

I’m glad that it is He who fills us with all joy and peace in believing. Filling with all – that speaks of generosity, filled up with good things. I like Jesus’ description of a good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over. This is God’s nature: to give in abundance.

He gives all joy and peace in believing.

When God had broken in and miraculously healed me from cerebellar ataxia and ME in 2010/11, I pursued Him for complete healing from migraines (these have lessened in frequency and intensity but not quite gone completely). Initially, every time I asked someone to pray for healing, they asked for me to be filled with joy. I remember one motherly lady saying: ‘You’ve not known much joy, have you?’

I had a normal happy childhood, but that lady was right. I was so fearful in general and busy trying to be in control that there was no place for joy or peace in my life.

As God chucked out the clutter of fear and control and whatnot from my life, He filled those spaces with His joy and peace. The most memorable time was when He’d delivered me of a spirit of fear, that night He filled me with joyful, belly-aching, rolling around on the carpet, snorting laughter.

Joy and peace are daily companions now, I’m thankful to say. That’s not to say life is hunky-dory and all sorted. I still need to discern fear (it can be subtle), or trying to be in control or whatever and deal with it before God. But He is my hope and He restores joy and peace. In fact, He increases it.

I think the more we walk in the Spirit, the more capacity we have for God. The more I allow Him to sweep out the dusty corners of my heart, the more room there is for Him. That’s how it feels to me anyway 🙂

It’s all by the power of His Spirit. Oh that’s such a relief. I couldn’t drum up joy and peace if my life depended on it. But He gives it freely and extravagantly by His great power. Woo hoo!

The God of hope wants us to abound in hope, having been filled with all joy and peace by the power of His Spirit. Hope is a prayer away, and He is generous to those who ask.

Awake

When Jesus woke up on Maundy Thursday, I wonder what was His first thought?

He knew that day was going to bring His last meal with His closest friends, betrayal by one trusted friend, arrest, desertion, rejection and pain. I can’t begin to imagine. On days when something big is hanging over me, I’m in and out of the loo, feeling tense and jittery and wishing I was somewhere else in a different time. Jesus was waking up to the worst day in the history of the universe.

We get a glimpse of how He feels in the Garden of Gethsemane. Three times He begged the Father, ‘If there’s any other way, please take this cup of suffering away from Me. But not My will, Yours be done.’

If there was any other way of dealing with sin and bringing people back into relationship with God, the Father would have spared Jesus. But while other religions may acknowledge our problem of sin, none of them are able to deal with it. The only way was for God the Son to die in our place, representing us, and take the full penalty of what we deserve.

The Father is kind and loving and wise; He would never have asked His Son to die in our place if Jesus was one of many ways to God. He isn’t mean and cruel! No, the only way to deal with sin was through the shedding of blood.

And so Jesus got up and walked into His arrest and a night full of trials and torture before ending up nailed to a Roman cross for an excruciating six hours. Not just the physical agony, but the terrible, terrible spiritual cost of facing the darkness alone and taking an eternity of Hell on Himself so that I wouldn’t have to.

Why did He do it? Because this is how God loves. My place in God’s family is the most costly thing in the universe, and Jesus willingly paid for it. He went to the cross for the joy of having me as His friend.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were an offering far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
Isaac Watts – Hymns and Spiritual Songs 1707

Spirit

On Sunday 18th October 2009 my life changed forever.

A few months earlier, Adi and I had started going to Grace Church.  One of the things I loved about Grace was that people spoke very personally to God and sang lovingly and adoringly about Him. Although we were all Christians, Adi and I could see they had something we didn’t.  They taught about the Holy Spirit and used spiritual gifts in every meeting. They functioned naturally in the supernatural.

It was intriguing. I couldn’t deny that God was among them in a way I’d never seen before. Spiritual pictures and prophetic words spoke to the most secret parts of my heart. When someone prayed or sang out in a tongue, the meeting didn’t move on until the interpretation was given.

Adi and I had never had much teaching on the Spirit and, to be honest, we thought of Him as simply a ticket to heaven. We felt a little like the disciples in Acts 19 who’d never heard of the Holy Spirit.

I had lots of questions, and a good friend advised me to read through Luke and Acts and make a note of every time the Holy Spirit is mentioned. I couldn’t believe how many times that was. He was crucial to the plot. I was gobsmacked.

I was also reading Jack Deere’s Surprised by the Power of the Spirit. Dr Deere came from a similar theological background to me and there was much I could identify with. Through the book, he took me on his own journey from cessationism (believing the spiritual gifts died out with the apostles) to baptism and moving in the Holy Spirit.

SpiritSo on that momentous Sunday morning in October, I was ready and expectant to receive baptism in the Spirit. I invited Him to come while a friend laid hands on me and prayed. Joy bubbled up inside me and I began to pray in tongues. Looking at me, there was little physical evidence that I had received the Spirit. My right hand shook a bit and a few tears trickled out. But I knew He had come.

The next morning I tentatively tried praying in tongues again. Could I still do it? Was it just gobbledegook? To my relief, I could still do it. But I didn’t value this gift for months.

Since receiving the Spirit, it’s like everything is more colourful, deeper, more precious than before. It doesn’t make me a higher class of Christian or better than anyone else. But I’m more aware of God’s presence than I ever used to be. More and more I rely on the Spirit to help me. He is the best Teacher! He opens up the Bible to me, giving me understanding and making it real.

I adore how the Spirit tells my spirit that I am a child of God. I love the prayer language of tongues, what a wonderful gift this is. When I run out of words or my heart is too full for my English to keep up, I can pour out all my desires and longings and praise to God in tongues.

I’m so thankful to God the Father for His incredible gift. Some 2,000 years ago Jesus died so that I could be forgiven and brought back into relationship with God. He has given me a new heart and abundant life. The Father has placed the Spirit of Jesus in me so that I can have full assurance I am His child, and as a first instalment guaranteeing everything He has promised. The Spirit has given me spiritual gifts and makes me a supernatural being on top of all that.

All made possible because of Jesus. Thank You Lord.

 

Deny

Two people have been on my mind today, both of whom participated in the first Easter.

Simon Peter was one of Jesus’ closest friends. I like Peter. He frequently opened his mouth before engaging his brain and generally jumped in with both feet. Peter blurted out deep spiritual truths that could only have been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit, at other times he got it badly wrong.

Peter had an inkling that Jesus was about to walk into a whole load of trouble, and was determined to stick by Him.

Yet when the key moment came, Peter bottled it. He denied he knew Jesus. Peter’s heart must have broken when he realised he’d let his Lord down. I can identify a little bit with him, can’t you?

The other person who has been on my mind is Mary of Bethany. She too was a close friend of Jesus. She, with her sister and brother, showed Jesus warm hospitality whenever He came to their village, and He spent time in their home in the week leading up to His arrest and execution.

Mary used her two ears more than her mouth. She listened to Jesus. She pondered what He was really saying and what was the meaning behind His words.

Jesus had been open with all His close friends about His forthcoming crucifixion, yet only Mary seemed to grasp what He was saying.

A few days before His arrest, while Jesus was relaxing with friends over a meal, Mary anointed Him with expensive perfume (the value was around a year’s wages). She recognised who He was, and knew He was about to die. She may not have understood everything He’d said, but she wanted to pour out her extravagant love for Him.

Jesus loves a loyal, loving heart. He insisted that Mary’s beautiful act of worship be remembered wherever the gospel is taught – even more than 2,000 years later in a blog post.

The wonderful thing is that Jesus dealt with both Peter’s and Mary’s sin on the cross. Peter may have denied Him when He most needed a friend, but Jesus still didn’t turn His back on Peter.

I’m glad that Jesus knows we are prone to stumble along behind Him at times, often getting it wrong, occasionally getting something right. I’m so very thankful that my dearest friend Jesus died so that I could call Him friend, and so that He could call me friend. He is the most magnificent person who has ever lived, and I’m thrilled I can call Him mine.

If you’re reading this and don’t know Jesus, He is inviting you into a relationship with Him. Please leave a comment below or contact me via Twitter if you’d like to know how you can do that.

 

 

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