Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Author: Mandy (page 1 of 37)

Rush

When I’m surrounded by rush and stress,
Do this, go there, see to that, don’t forget….
My heart thumps, breathing gets shallow,
head in a spin.
Draw a deep breath.
Go outside, look at the sky:
Clouds ever changing in patterns across the blue,
Never in a tearing rush,
Always moving to an inaudible symphony
of the Creator.
Five minutes to shift my focus from things.
I pick up my yellow bottle and blow bubbles.
Childish maybe? I don’t care.
Bubbles are fun.
They bounce high in translucent colours of faint purples and golds.
Only those who take time to look
see the beauty of these simple things.
In the stillness, I hear an invitation to come.
Come and be with the One who is never in a rush
except when I’m hurting and He races to wrap me in His arms.
He brings comfort and peace and quiet joy.
Stillness in the rush of life.

Scamper Says ‘Hello!’

Apologies for having gone a bit quiet on here lately. There’s a lot going on personally and I haven’t felt up to blogging. But my childhood-teddy-friend Scamper has started his own blog and you can read his first post here.

The Gardener’s Daughter

Motherless nineteen-year-old Ava has always believed brilliant botanist Theo Gage to be her father. But when a chance discovery reveals she is not his daughter, her world falls apart. Determined to discover her true identity, Ava impetuously runs away and enlists the help of inexperienced private detective, Zavier Marshall. Pursued by shadowy figures, she takes on a new name and follows in her dead mother’s footsteps to work at the mysterious Fun World Holiday Camp. Penniless and cut-off from everything she’s ever known, and trapped in a deadly game of cat and mouse with a ruthless criminal gang, will Ava survive in a world where she s more valuable dead than alive? Will she discover the shocking truth behind her mother’s death? And will she find her real father before it s too late?

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is intriguing and kept me guessing right to the very end with its twists and turns. The characters surrounding Ava are not necessarily who they seem to be, whether from her past or in her present.

The Gardener’s Daughter is cleverly written and is a satisfying read. I had been looking forward to this next book by K A Hitchins and I wasn’t disappointed. She is right up there as one of my favourite authors. I’m giving this book 5* on Amazon and can highly recommend it.

New Life: Reflections for Lent

I’m absolutely delighted to be part of a brand new book that has just been released: New Life: Reflections for Lent. Conceived by the committee of the Association of Christian Writers, they invited and accepted contributions from different members. Each contributor has written a devotional, poem, or story for every one of the forty days of Lent.

It’s a joy and honour to have been a part of this project and I can hardly believe that my dream of being published has now been realised twice. I co-authored Drawn from Words (another Lent project!) in 2016, and now New Life. Yesterday afternoon, I was kept busy posting out copies to friends. I can’t quite believe this is happening!

I have a few copies at the bargain promotional price of £5 plus postage. If you would like to order one, please leave a comment below with your email address and I’ll get in touch. UK only I’m afraid.

God is amazing isn’t He?! He puts dreams in our hearts and then fulfils them as we press on with Him. Wow. Just wow.

 

One And The Same?

Paul writes verse 1 of Philippians 2 as if it’s a done deal:

If there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy…

The assumption is that we have these beautiful and lovely things in Jesus. So with that truth as a foundation, Paul urges all believers to be united:

.…complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord, and of one mind.

Hmmm…. does it complete my joy when believers are united? I like it, it’s a nice thing. But in all honesty it doesn’t get me bouncing around. I need to grow in this area. I so want it to be more than a nice thing to which I pay lip service. Because it’s important.

When I’m facing something challenging, it pretty-much becomes my sole focus and my prayers reflect that. What about Jesus? You can’t get any more challenging that being the Son of God facing unjust death by crucifixion and the horror of becoming the sin of the world. Yet what was Jesus’ last recorded prayer hours before He died? That His followers be united and that we would see His glory.

Wow.

Unity. It’s vital. It’s a God-thing.

When a group of people are united, others take notice. There’s a beauty about it.

When believers are united, we display God’s wisdom and glory. It’s attractive.

To follow Jesus is the highest calling. To be a child of God is the highest status.

I wonder… if we realised what we have in Christ and who we truly are, surely we would be much more likely to make allowances for one another and be loving and kind without being critical and judging. There are times when the truth needs to be spoken, but in a loving way that builds up rather than destroys.

If our gaze was completely taken up with Jesus, I’m sure we wouldn’t be so quick to tag people and write them off because they do things a bit differently to us.

We’re all works in progress. None of us have got it together. And that’s okay: our Daddy-God has promised that the work He has started in each of us He will complete.

So look at our amazing gracious wonderful God and be thankful. The more we appreciate His grace in our hearts, the more we will show grace to others.

Thankful hearts are united hearts.

 

 

*Photo by William White on Unsplash

Affection and Sympathy

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy

In Christ there is affection and sympathy. What does that mean?

Affection is showing love: a hug, a smile, a hand on the shoulder, holding hands. Every school day afternoon I see from my window a mum striding briskly ahead of her small son. I long for the day when they will walk side-by-side with that little boy enjoying his mum’s attention, secure in her love as she shows him affection.

Affection is warming and affirming. It makes you feel secure. You know you are loved.

This verse says God is affectionate to me. How?

  1. Every time He brings truth alive in my heart, giving me assurance and making me feel loved.
  2. When I have a supernatural encounter with Him and I enjoy His presence.
  3. By a hug or prayer or prophetic word or blessing from a friend.
  4. When He whispers to my heart to come outside because He has something to show me, He directs me to look up and see golden clouds at sunset, and says: ‘I thought you’d enjoy it.’
  5. Each time He reaches down into the depths of me, healing and restoring what had broken into a thousand tiny pieces.

God also has sympathy for me. Jesus knows precisely how I feel because He was human too. He understands my weakness and my needs because He has been there.

Am I childless? So was Jesus.

Am I tired at times of sin and temptation? So was Jesus.

Have I been hurt in unspeakable ways? So was Jesus.

Do I get tired and achey? So did Jesus.

Because He sympathises with me, I draw near to His throne of grace with confidence, knowing that He will meet me right in my need. It’s real. When I’m dealing with situations and feelings too big for me, I know that Jesus is enough to handle them. He sympathises in a way that no one else ever can. He is real and authentic and strong.

Look at all I have in Him: encouragement, comfort, love, fellowship and participation, affection and sympathy. There’s no one like Him.

 

 

 

Participation

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy….

To participate is to be involved with or take part in, or to possess a particular quality. So participation in the Spirit is a big deal.

I both engage with and have the Spirit of God. He lives inside me. The Father has lavishly poured the Spirit of Jesus into my life.

…and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Cor 13:14).

This is an active thing on both my part and the Spirit’s. We engage and enjoy fellowship with one another.

I have a relationship with God!

I have what the Old Testament saints could not have: participation in the Spirit. He came on some of them on odd occasions, but He didn’t live with them like He does in me. They had the tabernacle and then the temple where they could experience God’s presence. But – thanks to Jesus’ mighty work on the cross – God now tabernacles or lives in me. I am a temple of His Holy Spirit. Wow.

I love the Holy Spirit. He opens my eyes to what God is doing (in me and in others) and He opens my spiritual ears to ‘hear’ what He is saying. He makes me see the unseen so it becomes real to me.

For years I read in Romans 8 that I am a child of God. And for years they were just words on a page. My mind acknowledged they were true but it made no real difference to my life. But then, at a low point one summer I noticed that it is God’s Spirit who tells my spirit that I am a child of God. In desperation I cried out to Him to tell this truth to my spirit. He did. He made this unseen truth a glorious reality in my heart and I now know with certainty that I am indeed a child of the Most High. Wow, wow, wow!

I have participation with the Spirit. This truth makes my heart skip a beat and my body tingle all over. What an honour. How beautiful and generous is the Father to pour out the Spirit of Jesus into my life. Whoop!

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.

 

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