Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Category: ACW (page 1 of 3)

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]

 

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]

Voice

When I told Adi that I had a blog post to write on the word prompt ‘voice’ he laughed.

‘Well that shouldn’t be a problem for you, should it? The problem is getting you to shut up.’

Cheek!

But he made me think. I talk freely and easily, arms waving.

Yet sometimes when I sit down to write, I find myself writing what I think I should be saying rather than what is in my heart. If I pause to listen, I then hear the Holy Spirit’s quiet prompt to ‘just write’. Not to be so focused on the perfect opening sentence but to simply jump straight in there with what is on my heart.

When I take those few seconds to listen to Him – usually with a slightly sheepish grin on my face because this is a regular occurrence and you’d think I’ve have learned by now – and follow His wisdom, then writing flows. And sometimes I’m amazed at what has cascaded down from my mind to my fingers and out onto the screen.

But when I’m in a rush or tired (like being in the middle of this Lent word-a-day challenge), I think I haven’t got time to listen to Him and my focus shifts from Him to me. That’s never a good thing. At the end of such posts, there’s usually a feeling of frustration of not expressing whatever it is I set out to say, and even emptiness. Because I’d turned it into a striving, doing-it-in-my-own-strength, I-know-better-Lord thing.

Sometimes when I’m in striving mode, the blog post I end up with bears no resemblance whatsoever to the one I started out to write.

Of course, that can happen when the Holy Spirit is in the driving seat (so to speak) too, but when that happens it leaves me feeling satisfied and awed. Because He is using the writing gift He’s given me to bless others through me. And that’s really what we’re here for, isn’t it?

Trying to Fly

I loved this new book by Annie Try. The first chapter reminded me of a cross between Emma Donoghue’s The Room and John Grisham’s A Time to Kill. A chilling event is seen through the eyes of six-year-old Jenny Drake, whose life is forever changed by what she witnessed and experienced.

From chapter two onwards, we follow fifty-six-year-old Jenny as she works with her psychologist to try and find healing and wholeness by facing her past. The tragedy she witnessed as a child left her with all sorts of problems, probably the most significant being agoraphobia. An important part of Jenny becoming free is to return to the beach where the event took place.

At the beach, Jenny meets Jim, who witnessed the same event as an eleven-year-old boy.

Jim becomes a solid friend for Jenny and he persuades her to join him in a spot of sleuthing to get to the bottom of the mystery. The police had closed the case but there are many loose ends. Together, they begin to search for the truth and to clear the reputation of a good man.

I loved this book and couldn’t put it down. As well as the mystery-factor, my eyes were also opened to the hidden issues people around me may have. As I followed Jenny’s progress in battling the fears that sometimes threatened to overwhelm her, it helped me to see that people act oddly for a reason. She evoked my sympathy, though at times I got frustrated: You’ve come so far, don’t give up now! I also wanted to scream at her not to be so trusting (no spoilers!).

Annie Try is a psychologist as well as an author and she really knows her stuff. Her expertise when revealing Jenny’s mental and emotional struggles shone through, and made this book all the more special.

It’s a gripping read and I heartily recommend it.

Instant Apostle provided me with a free Kindle copy for the purpose of writing a review, but I will also be purchasing a paperback copy that I can lend to friends.

Journey

We were on our way to the ACW weekend at Scargill House. I had picked up my friend Helen in good time that morning and we talked non-stop as I drove north on the M1, enjoying catching up after only ‘seeing’ each other on Facebook for the last year.

We decided to stop for coffee at Woolley Edge services. Still plenty to talk about over coffee and cake in Costa.

I knew we needed to join the A1M for a time before coming off at junction 47 for Harrogate. With this in mind, we headed out of the service station.

For some reason we were convinced we were on the A1M and Helen started counting off the junctions. We came to junction 47 and I drove up the slip road. There were no signposts for Harrogate which was puzzling.

After a couple of turns on the roundabout trying in vain to find a sign saying ‘Harrogate’, we decided to get back on the motorway. I was certain we had come too far north by mistake so headed south.

Thank goodness Helen had the map and a clear head. She figured out we were on the wrong road, travelling in the wrong direction, and redirected me.

We laughed over our silly mistake, and carried on chatting about more important things such as writing and faith and family. We eventually arrived safely at Scargill, ready for a great weekend.

Partly as a result of my encouraging (literally putting courage in me) conversations with Helen, I took the plunge that weekend and not only did the writing task set by our speaker Tony Collins but also read out what I had written. Although this was my fourth visit to Scargill, I had never had a go at the writing task before, let alone had the courage to read out something I had written.

We set off for home, determined not to go wrong. After all, we had both been to Scargill several times. How hard could it be?

We made it all the way to the M1 safely.

But so busy were we, chatting and comparing notes of our weekend, we never even saw the junction for Helen’s home in Chesterfield. We overshot by two junctions before realising we’d done it again….

But when I look back on that weekend, I realise it was as much about the journey as it was about the conference. Helen and I shared life’s trials, disappointments and encouragements together in my car and over coffee. There were little triumphs to rejoice over, and niggles to pray in to.

In writing and in life, let’s not rush to get to a destination. The journey is an important part of the process.

 

This post was first published in the Winter 2016 edition of ACW’s Christian Writer.

 

Rahab’s Journal: Forgiven

What a week. I don’t quite know what to make of it, really. At least we’re all safe and together, me and my family.

Not long after the spies escaped, we saw the Israelites camped outside Jericho. The king closed the gates and prepared for a siege. There was an odd stillness in the air, as if the very presence of God was here. Quite unnerving.

One week ago today, we heard trumpets blowing. My dad and brothers and me ran up onto the roof of my house to see what was going on. What a sight met our eyes. The Israelite army marched along followed by seven priests blowing trumpets, sunlight glinting off the instruments. Behind, was the famous and much-feared Ark of the Covenant as their rear guard.

Aside from the trumpets, there was absolute silence. Not one of the soldiers spoke. It was eerie.

Although I’m a grown woman and a prostitute, I felt for my dad’s hand and held it fast.

‘You’re sure the spies will keep their word, Rahab?’ he said.

‘If they are like their God, they will,’ I replied. I slipped downstairs and double-checked the scarlet sash was visible in the window.

For six days, the same thing happened. The army marched around the city walls once in silence, with the seven priests blowing the trumpets.

Everyone in Jericho was terrified. I wished they would listen to me so they could be safe too, but they continued to pray to the useless gods of Jericho for salvation.

This morning, the army and the priests with their trumpets and the Ark of the Covenant walked in silence around the city walls seven times. I noticed some of the soldiers looking up at the scarlet sash in my window, and my heart beat fast. I was certain something was about to happen.

As they completed the seventh lap, the army let out a great shout. And – I’m still shaking from the shock of it – the huge, thick walls of Jericho went crashing to the ground as though something powerful had struck them.

At once, the two spies I’d hidden, came looking for me and my family. They took us to safety, to their camp.

As I’m writing this, I’m overwhelmed with the enormity of it. My mum can’t stop crying, it’s all been a bit much for her. I know how she feels. The whole city wall collapsed, just like that. But my house and the part of the wall it was built on stayed standing.

The only thing I’m sure of right now is that the God of Israel is my God. I reached out to Him in faith and He heard the cry of my heart. I know I am forgiven, and I’m determined to leave my life of prostitution behind.

 

 

 

 

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]

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]

You Are God’s Poem

I had one of those eureka moments in church the other Sunday.

The speaker said that in the original language Paul used when he wrote to the Ephesian church, we are God’s poem.

In our English translations it says we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which the Father has already prepared beforehand for us.

This passage in Ephesians 2 is one of my favourites. All about God’s grace towards me when I was dead to God and a rebel. How His gift to me was faith to believe in Him so that I can know how wonderful and kind His rich grace is. Wow. Some God!

I also love that He has stuff for me to do which He has planned specifically for me. Wow again!

But that I am His poem. That’s beautiful. Because that means I am His precious work of art. [Read more]

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