Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Author: Mandy (page 1 of 30)

End It Movement

And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn…,
since no one [will] buy their cargo anymore,
cargo of gold, silver, jewels, pearls, fancy clothes and silk,
scented and costly wood, ivory, bronze, iron, marble,
cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense,
wine, oil, fine flour, wheat,
cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, [expensive cars],
and slaves, that is, human souls.

God hates slavery.

In the Old Testament, knowing that even His own people the Jews would go with the culture of their day and keep slaves, God gave clear instructions on how slaves were to be treated: fairly, well, allowed to earn their freedom, completely freed with their family at set times.

When the Jews were held as slaves in Egypt, God ‘heard their groaning’ and powerfully set them free in such a miraculous way that the surrounding nations were in awe of the Jews’ God for years.

In the New Testament, God called and welcomed slaves into His Kingdom just as much as free, rich people. In the early years of the Church, slaves and rich people were instructed to worship side-by-side in unity because they were all equal in God’s eyes.

The above verse from Revelation 18 is part of a passage about how the world’s system will one day end when Jesus returns and puts everything to right. Everyday trade will finish. But look at the last phrase. It is shocking: ‘and slaves, that is, human souls’.

How can we think it’s okay for another human being to be bought and sold?

God sees the modern-day slaves and people who have been trafficked. He hears their groans and He sees their misery. Yes, God sees the thousands of modern-day slaves forced to work in nail salons, car wash places, building sites, in homes as domestics, in brothels and red light districts throughout the UK.

One day, slavery will end for good. (If you are reading this and are a slave owner or human trafficker, you need to repent. God loves you and offers you abundant life but He won’t overlook the evil you’re doing.)

But I don’t want to sit around waiting for that day. What is important to God must be important to me. One day He will end slavery for good, but His heart is for those who are oppressed and ill-treated now. We are His hands and feet, and we have a responsibility to do what we can.

I want to play my part in seeing slavery end now.

Individuals aren’t for sale. No one should be bought and sold. Children are precious. Women are precious. Men are precious.

Let’s pray. Let’s keep our eyes open. Let’s work together to end the horror that is slavery and human trafficking.

Signs of Slavery

90 Days in John 14-17, Romans, James

I’m excited about this devotional book by Tim Keller and Sam Allberry.

Each short chapter gives the Bible text for the day followed by a few helpful notes. The notes are split up by sub headings, as well as questions which aid the reader to think about the passage and how it applies to your life. At the end of the chapter is a small paragraph with suggestions of how to pray in to what you have just read.

The page layout (it’s on my Kindle) is easy on the eye with lots of white space and clear headings and short paragraphs. It is appealing and draws you in, making you want to read it.

This is precisely the kind of devotional I like to start my day with. I don’t have to work at trying to wake up reading lots of dense text, and at the end of a chapter wonder what I’ve just read because I haven’t taken any of it in. With a book like 90 Days In, I can begin reading and find that my brain and heart are engaging with the subject matter almost at once.

I love Tim Keller’s books. His love and passion for God shine brightly through each page, and he brings fascinating insights from the original Hebrew and Greek.

I’ve read only one other book by Sam Allberry but found him to be a very readable writer with a deep love for God. He comes across as compassionate and sensitive with a wholesome love for the truth.

I’m looking forward to reading and savouring 90 Days In, using it as my morning devotional. I have given it **** on Amazon and am grateful to Cross Focused Reviews for providing me with a free copy to review.

 

 

Refuse to do Nothing

Homeless people are human.

You may think that is obvious but at one time they were invisible to me. They first came on my radar when I read John Grisham’s The Street Lawyer. The idea that they are far more than a vague figure covered by a tatty blanket percolated away for a while, and then God added a little of His compassion to the mix. I eventually found myself chatting with Big Issue sellers and getting involved with social justice.

Francine Rivers in Redeeming Love made prostitutes human. It’s never as simple as just seeing a woman selling herself on a street corner late at night. There’s a whole back story of gut wrenching misery that drove her to that dark place. No little girl dreams of growing up to be a prostitute.

[Read more]

I, Daniel Blake

I’ve just watched a disturbing film I, Daniel Blake.

It’s based on true stories, and reminded me of things I’ve seen and heard – and experienced personally to a certain extent.

My brief synopsis is that Daniel Blake is a 59-year-old skilled carpenter who has worked all his life until having a heart attack. Despite doctors telling him he’s not ready to go back to work, he falls into the black hole that sometimes (often?) exists in our flawed benefits system. He spirals down through frustration, unfair sanctions, and trying to get his appeal heard. Through all of this he meets Katie, mother of two, who is new to the area. She too falls foul of the system through no fault of her own and ends up being unfairly sanctioned. After starving herself to feed her kids and having no electricity or heating, she eventually turns to sex work out of sheer desperation.

I heard similar stories so many times when volunteering at Grace Church’s food bank. I meet women through the Jericho Road Project who feel they have no alternative to provide for their families. These are good people. They are not monsters. They are not undeserving poor. They are people. Just like me.

Me in ChiChiI’ve learned that anyone can end up on the street. Everyone has a story to tell. I’ve met people who were well-off and had their own business, but through various circumstances – including sudden serious illness – have found themselves needing to be referred for a food parcel.

I was briefly in the benefits system myself and although my experience was largely good (a safety net), it was still a scary place to be. What came out tonight was that people on benefits are treated as guilty until proven innocent. That was true in my case, though quickly resolved.

I, Daniel Blake reminded those of us watching tonight of the harsh reality faced by thousands in our country. We were uncomfortable inside. It made some angry. There was emotional pain. We wanted to do something. Because how can such things happen in the UK in 2017? How?

God used the film to reopen my eyes to what I’ve forgotten or become used to.

At the entrance to the car park sat a man wrapped in a grey blanket. He’d given up asking for money. He just sat. And my heart broke for him. I only had 27 p on me. But I couldn’t walk past and do nothing. As I looked into his eyes and touched his dirt-grimed fingers, I saw someone’s son, someone’s brother, someone’s grandson.

My God has a big heart for the poor. Jesus was adored by the homeless people and sex workers of His day. May God break my heart with what breaks His until His streams of living water flow out through me and make a difference.

Forty Years A Gambler

If you’ve ever wondered what life with a gambling addiction looks like, wonder no more. In this easy-to-read book, Ian shares his incredible story of how what started as a seemingly harmless and fun pursuit turned into life-changing addiction, debt, crime and prison. Gambling was ruining his life and stealing his happiness and peace of mind.

But Ian’s life was turned completely around when he encountered Jesus. It’s thrilling to read how he has been set free from a gambling addiction and is helping others in similar circumstances.

Ian’s wife also shares her story of a downward spiral into significant debt through playing Bingo.

Playing Bingo and fruit machines may appear to be harmless, yet can lead to heartache, misery and financial debt.

This book throws light on some of the inner workings of the gambling industry….. An eye opener, though perhaps not that surprising.

In the last part of Forty Years A Gambler, there are helpful appendices from various organisations working with people with gambling problems, as well as the results of a gambling impact survey set up by Ian and endorsed by Birmingham University.

For anyone working with vulnerable people who may be suffering from this secret and little understood addiction, this book is a must-read.

 

Are you in a Service Station?

I’ve been pondering on how life and ministry can feel like driving on a motorway. Traffic is moving, things are good, you can be alongside the same vehicles for a few miles, then they move further on or you speed up and pass them, or one of you turns off. There can be an occasional hold-up, but you’re all in it together and that brings a sense of shared trouble and solidarity. You have purpose, you’re moving with intent, you have somewhere to go.

But after you’ve been on your journey a while, especially a long distance one, you need to pull over into a service station.

Service stations are places to be replenished, rested and refreshed. You leave the busyness of the motorway behind, it almost feels like a different world. When I first enter a service station, I feel dazed and not quite with it after focusing on driving (or dozing while Adi drives). My first port of call is usually the loo, then I head for coffee and food.

Service stations are temporary. They do what their name implies: they serve us so that we can get back on the road feeling strengthened, more alert, and ready for the next stage of our journey.

Service stations are necessary. Without them, journeys would be hard and unpleasant. Some of us would be crossing our legs and desperately hoping for the journey to end. We couldn’t take a break when we’re tired and that would be dangerous for ourselves and others.

In life, we all spend time in service stations occasionally.

There have been times in my life when God has brought me out of ministry and laid me aside for a period. When I was ill for a year, I lost my job and ministry and felt pretty useless. But God kept reminding me that He had a purpose in it, things do to that He had planned just for me, and that I wouldn’t be in the service station for ever.

When Jesus was on earth, He sometimes withdrew with His disciples from the crowds to have rest from ministry. Even He spent time in service stations, like immediately after He’d been baptised.

JeepWhen you’re in a service station, it can feel like you’ve been overlooked by leaders, that you’ve been forgotten or are useless, that you’ve had your day and now there’s nothing. It can be painful. Or you may feel drained and exhausted, as if you never want to get back on the road again ever.

But this season will not last for ever. It’s temporary. God has good plans for you; He has a purpose in all of this. He chose you to go on unique adventures with Him.

God would not take you into the service station without good reason. It’s necessary. Ask Him what He wants you to learn through this time. Let Him heal ministry wounds. Go deeper with Him. Enjoy Him. Rest and be refreshed.  He will take you back onto the road at the right time.

 

Memories of a Billboard

At the beginning of 2017, the church I attend Arnold Road Evangelical Church gave out a Bible verse for the year:

For God so loved the world that He gave
His only Son,
so that whoever believes in Him
will not perish but have everlasting life.
John 3:16

This verse reminded me of more than sixty years ago.

The words – in slightly different English to now – were pasted onto a billboard. Every time I walked along Radford Road on my way to school, there it was staring me in the face, and I read it.

To me, it was a link in the chain of events to me becoming a Christian.

I can still see it in my mind, reading it as I walked past.

It is one of my favourite verses because it reminds me that Jesus died for me because He loves me.

MumJanet Baker

 

Really, God?

Do you believe that your ability to write is a gift from God?

This belief has been a long process for me. I never really dared to believe it for myself until very recently.

I had a huge wobble about writing last spring. It was the latest in many wobbles over the years. This time, I determined to tackle it once and for all.

God, if You really want me to write then please let it bear fruit. And if I’ve got it all wrong, then lop the writing branch out of my life.

A hard prayer to pray, but I meant it. Even though I fully expected God to sigh with relief that I’d finally gotten the message and He could cut writing out of my life.

Within two weeks….[Read more]

Water-Walker

I want to walk on water in 2017.

No, I haven’t gone mad. This desire is based on the occasion when Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples, climbed out of a boat in the middle of a storm and walked on water with Jesus.

There were twelve disciples altogether in the boat that night. But only one had the exhilarating and terrifying experience of walking on water. The other eleven missed out on the walk of their lives. I bet that walk was one Peter remembered for the rest of his life; the others didn’t have that.

I want to be like Peter.

He didn’t take risk for risk’s sake. He made sure this was what God wanted him to do: ‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to you on the water.’ And Jesus immediately invited him to come.

Even then, it must have taken a lot of courage to climb out of that boat. Crazy enough if the water was calm, but these were big waves and a strong wind. But Peter heard Jesus’ call to adventure and stepped out of his comfort zone.

All went well at first. But then he suddenly realised what he was doing. Aaagghhh! I’m walking on water. And the waves are big. Woah, just look at that wind! Oh fiddlesticks, I’m sinking.

When Peter took his eyes off Jesus and looked at his circumstances, it began to go wrong. But as soon as he called out to the Lord for help, Jesus grasped him with His strong arms and lifted him back up so he could be a water-walker once again. Jesus didn’t berate Peter for failing, He lovingly showed him where he’d gone wrong.

toddlerWhat will walking on water look like for me? I’m not entirely sure right now though I have one or two ideas…. It will involve God’s call, stepping out of my comfort zone in obedience, of being in a position where I’m 100% reliant on God to do whatever it is He’s asking me to do. I’m certain it will involve failing too (maybe water-toddler is a better expression than water-walker, I’m bound to end up on my bum at some point!).

Every time I choose to walk on water, I will be more likely to climb out of the boat again. Every time I decide it’s safer in the boat, I lose out and become more likely to stay within my comfort zone next time. Walking on water means a deeper, more intimate relationship with Jesus – something I can only gain by getting out of the boat.

I want to climb out of the boat. I want to go on adventures with Jesus. I’m going to walk on water in 2017.

NaNoWriMo: What I Learned

What an exciting (but exhausting) adventure was NaNoWriMo last month! I had a fantastic time writing my 50,000 words in less than 30 days, and learned a lot during the process.

Getting to Know My Characters

There were surprises in getting to know my characters. This story (orphans Jay, Poppy, Robyn and Blu stand only a few inches high and live in a tree; when their home is threatened with demolition they become refugees overnight) was one I have carried in my head since I was a child.

In my head, Robyn was always my main character and very lovable.

On paper, Jay – in his quiet, unobtrusive way – took centre stage early on and stayed there. And I was okay with that, if surprised. Robyn turned out to be quite selfish and lazy though she had good qualities too.

In my head, Poppy was very much a bossy big sister, a bit stressed, rather controlling.

On paper, I found Poppy intriguing. Like Shrek, she has layers, and I enjoyed the process of her allowing me to peel them back and find the real person beneath. Actually, I think she was quite a lonely and misunderstood character, often taken for granted by her siblings. She also took me completely by surprise with her archery skills when a fox raided their camp late one night. I didn’t see that one coming!

getting-to-know-characters

Just Go With It

A big part of doing NaNoWriMo for me was having fun getting to know my characters and letting them take over the story. For the first few thousand words, I wrote and they did whatever I told them.

But what a thrill for me when they suddenly started to think for themselves and do what they wanted.

The showdown came when they were fleeing the destruction of their tree home. I wanted them to hike through the woods. They thought escaping down river was best. We argued on and off all night. They won. And I’m sure the story is the better for it. From that moment onward, I let them take charge and simply followed where they led.

Leave and Start Mid-Scene

More experienced writers recommend leaving mid-scene when finishing writing for the day so that you have something exciting to come back to. I found this very useful. Initially, I switched off my laptop at the end of a scene, but found it much harder to get going the next day.

When you leave mid-scene, it’s easier to get started and keep going because your imagination is quickly stimulated.

Writers’ Block

A writer-friend recommended giving your characters emergencies and issues to handle when you’re stuck for where to go next with the story. I did this a lot. My poor little fictional family! But it was fascinating to see what they did with the various problems I threw at them and how well they coped.

Thankfully, this prevented me from getting writers’ block and from feeling like the story was flopping in the middle of the month.

Writing Buddies

With all my fine resolutions, I may not have started NaNoWriMo if not for my writing-buddies who spurred me on. On Day One, I wrote nothing. It was pretty daunting being faced with a mountain of 50,000 words in a month. But my friends emailed to ask how the word count was going and encourage me to get started. On Day Two, I began to write.

Thank you Janey, Wendy, Fiona and Angela 🙂

 

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