Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Category: Five Minute Friday (page 1 of 3)

Writing for five minutes flat on a subject chosen by Lisa-Jo Baker

Five

I got quite excited when I saw Five Minute Friday’s word for this week:¬† Five. I immediately scribbled ideas of everything I could think of in five minutes to do with ‘five’. Here is the result – enjoy!

I’ve always preferred even numbers to odd ones. This applies to all sorts of things: I’ll make myself six crackers with cheese for supper; I love symmetry. Having said that, I’ve always liked the number five.

When I was younger and made up stories in my head, I would often choose names with five letters (and preferably only two syllables): Chloe, Robin, Bella, Poppy.

I used to love reading Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series. For an animal lover, it was great that someone else would count a dog as part of the gang. Except that I don’t like ginger beer and the idea of eating tongue out of a tin does nothing for me, I thought it would be fun to hang out with Julian, Dick, George, Anne and Timmy. I wanted to be a George but suspected I was an Anne (I’ve had a hard time coming to terms with all things pink but I think I’m there now).

When I started my first ‘proper’ job at eighteen, there were five of us medical secretaries in the Ear, Nose and Throat Department. We were a great team and most of us are still in touch today, a couple of decades later.

And here ends my five minutes on ‘Five’ for Five Minute Friday ūüėČ

 

Listen

Yesterday I treated myself to a day in Derbyshire. Just me and Jesus. I wanted to take time out to be with Him, to listen and see what He would say.

On the drive to the beautiful village of Hartington, listening to worship music and pondering on the lyrics that reminded me that I am a child of God who is accepted for who I am, I invited Him to be with me. I know in a sense He is always there – He lives within me and has promised never to leave me. But I wanted to welcome Him like I would any good friend.

hartington-path

I set out along the path with anticipation. The whole day was ahead of us, me and Jesus in the beautiful countryside. There were no distractions, I had no phone or internet signal.

He led me beside rippling waters, the soothing sound washing away the everyday tension of the last few weeks.

I meandered through green pastures. My soul was restored.

I sang softly in tongues and English. Several times I stated: ‘The Lord is my shepherd,’ and recalled how He had led me through dark valleys at times. He has anointed me with the oil of His Holy Spirit and my cup of joy overflows. He has indeed prepared a table for me in the presence of my enemies. He is a good, generous God.

I couldn’t keep from smiling as I reminded myself of how His goodness and mercy pursue me every single day. His mercies are new every morning. His steadfast love will never fail me. And I will one day live with my God in His house. His home will be my home. Wow, wow wow.

still-waters

Jesus reminded me yesterday that He is my shepherd. He is the Living Water and I need to continually drink in the life He gives. He is completely satisfying while making me thirsty for more. And as I unpacked my tomato roll for lunch, I was reminded how He is the Bread of Life. Jesus is all I need. I wish I would remember that more often.

Jesus ūüôā¬† I took time out to listen to Him yesterday, and my soul was restored.

Path

Life is like a path, you never know what’s around the next bend. It leads through dark valleys and takes you to exhilarating mountain-tops.

It can be scary, not knowing where my particular path of life is leading next.

I don’t much like being the leader on the path. I much prefer having someone to follow.

Last summer while on a prayer retreat with my friend Elizabeth, I had a powerful picture of walking along a beach. I felt alone and vulnerable, out in front. I didn’t like it. But then I looked again and saw Jesus just in front of me, glancing back over His shoulder, beckoning me forward with a smile. He made me to be a follower.

Within four days of arriving home, mine and Adi’s path took an unexpected turn through a short valley. Adi was given notice from his job. Suddenly Fear and Anxiety leapt onto the path determined to be my companions.

But I remembered that I was following Jesus along this path of life. And He has promised to provide for all my needs, including peace in place of anxiety. So I cold-shouldered Fear and Anxiety whenever they got too close, and fought to keep my eyes on Jesus. There were times when ‘what if we can’t keep up with the mortgage?’ filtered through my mind. Then there¬†were moments of real peace when I actually managed to trust God.

Within two and a half weeks, Adi was offered a new job with a great firm. We never even missed a pay cheque. It was his one year anniversary in the firm yesterday.

God knew what was ahead of me, and gave me a powerful experience of Him mere days before I would need to lean on Him completely.

Loyal

‘What’s the first thing that comes into your head when I say the word loyal?’ I asked Adi.

‘Dog.’

Strangely enough, it was the first word that came into my head too.

The most loyal dog I can think of is Greyfriars Bobby in Edinburgh. If I remember the story correctly, Bobby was so loyal to his master that even after the man had died Bobby remained by the grave and had to be fed by the kind people of the city.

I googled the meaning of loyal: giving or showing firm and constant support or allegiance.

Synonyms (other words meaning the same thing) for loyal are faithful, true-hearted, devotion.

Those words describe the loyalty of a dog, who is often called a man’s best friend. Certainly my brother’s dog Ben had eyes for only one master, my brother. Even after my brother married and passed Ben onto me, whenever he visited Ben would leap around him barking and yelping, tail wagging till it nearly came off. We were left in no doubt where Ben’s true heart lay.

Change the letters of the word dog and you get God.

Loyal, faithful, true-hearted, devoted: all words that describe God’s character and the way He feels about us.

He is devoted to us long before we’re aware of Him. I read a beautiful story online recently of how a girl suffering with anorexia bulimia was aware of Jesus’ presence beside her as she was sticking her fingers down her throat over the toilet. This was before she knew Jesus the Person who loved her.

I had the amazing privilege of being able to tell a group of women in the sex industry how Jesus is crackers about them and how He would have chosen to hang out with them when He was a man on earth (not to use them or get anything from them but simply to be with them because He saw precious people made in His image).

The more I realise how intensely faithful God is to me, the more I fall in love with Him. He’s the Best. Whoop!

Happy

Happiness is sprawled on the sofa reading a good book, nibbling goodies and drinking something nice,
Having a date day with God to enjoy His presence,
Looking round a new city with Adi,
Going for a run by the sea or riding a horse through the woods in summer,
Praying and chatting with my ‘twin’ Elizabeth.

Happiness is devouring a new book by a favourite author, several hundred pages thick (mmmhhhhh),
Playing with Truffles the rabbit and seeing him bunny hop for joy,
Prayer meetings at church when God’s presence comes….
Enjoying fulfilment in a God-given ministry and satisfaction with my work,
Drinking a large mug of tea after a long journey.

These are some of the things that make me happy, inspired by today’s Five Minute Friday prompt. But that set me to¬†wondering what makes God happy? He gave emotions,¬†and¬†feels happiness, just like me. So what makes Him happy? I love Him so I want to know what brings a smile to His face. This is worthy of diving into the Bible to see what happy treasures I find….

Hidden

You see the things I try to hide –
Attitudes and what I really think and feel,
old guilt, past shame, a held grudge;
hurts and wounds that can never heal?
Things I’ve pushed so deep inside
that even I don’t know what’s there.

Hidden from me but never from You.
You plummet the depths and raise to the surface
things You want to deal with and heal
when You deem the time is right.

Your thoughts toward me are precious,
more numerous than sand on a seashore.
When seemingly random thoughts float across my mind
they often highlight something not right.

Can I deal with what’s hidden?
No! Too painful, too hard, too scary;
that’s my comfort blanket, I can’t let go.

But You hold my hand
and we plummet the depths together.
There’s nothing hidden in me that You’re not equal to.

You saw my darkness, my emptiness on the cross,
and for the joy of knowing me and setting me free,
You died for me.
You’ve already dealt with all that’s hidden in me
because it never was hidden from You.

Create

I loved making up stories with my teddies and dolls when I was little. I even created a family made from empty toilet rolls at one stage. My imagination was fertile and fun. After Christmas when the balloons were taken down from the ceiling, I made up all sorts of stories as the air slowly leaked from them, leaving them deflated bits of uninteresting rubber.

Growing into adulthood, my imagination remained as fertile as ever but became unhealthy rather than fun. My secret stories were fit more for a cesspit than my mind, and fear became even more embedded into who I was. It was as bad for my soul as air leaking from a balloon. But, thankfully, Jesus got hold of me, gently but powerfully cleaned up my mind, and rescued me from fear.  He blew in life-giving air, inflating me to be more the person He created me to be.

We’re all creative in some way, whether it’s scribbling stories, designing skyscrapers, or finding a better way of using limited space in¬†our kitchen cupboards. Not surprising really, since we are made like the One¬†who created us.

To believe in God as creator is to have the security that life has meaning; we are important to Someone; Someone loves us.

Refusing to believe this, we think, lets us off the hook: if we arrived by accident, we don’t have to answer to anyone, therefore we can do as we like. Life ultimately becomes meaningless and, deep down, we don’t believe we have any value at all. What a sad lie.

God created you because He loves you. He has always loved you, and He has good things planned for you.

 

Build

God built a perfect world for people to enjoy,
But Eve and Adam’s in-built pride sent everything awry.

Noah built an ark and kept his family safe,
Job built his faith by trusting God through trials,
Leah built a nation, though Rachel was the favoured wife,
A divine architect gave Moses plans to build a place of worship.

Proverbs says that a wise woman builds her house,
But a foolish woman tears it down.
Hmm, easy to give way to anger…. followed by regret
Than to wisely go a peaceful way.

Dear Elizabeth built up Mary’s faith,
Who would have thought a virgin could be pregnant?
And with the Chosen One!

Jesus builds His Church,
She is a glowing Bride,
No spot or blemish in her,
Looking to the day when God will build a brand-new world for Her to enjoy.

Rest

You may have woken up today rejoicing at the outcome of yesterday’s vote. Or maybe you are disappointed and wondering what on earth is going to happen now.

To be honest, whatever the outcome you were hoping for, it’s all rather unsettling. There are big changes ahead as we go forward; we don’t really know what to expect. What promises will hold true and what were lies?

I’ve been pondering today on various truths, just to anchor myself¬†in all the uncertainty.

I woke up today feeling somewhat overwhelmed. But to God, the nations – the UK and the whole of Europe – are like a small drop of water in a bucket. This comparison puts¬†things in perspective! Yet it doesn’t mean that God doesn’t care, He loves each individual in every nation.

When God promised the birth of the ultimate ruler and deliverer several hundred years before Jesus actually arrived, God said that the government would rest on Jesus’ shoulders. His government and its peace will never end. Jesus will rule with fairness and justice forever.

I don’t know what exiting Europe will look like. I don’t know how it will affect me personally or how it will affect the UK as a whole. But I do know that one day all of this will come to an end. One day, King Jesus will appear in the clouds (it may sound fanciful but this is no fairy tale) and take His rightful place as supreme ruler. He will be the perfect king who will work everything for everyone’s good, and there will be no dissatisfaction or disappointment ever again. His is a kingdom that could not be any better: full of love, peace, rest, light, joy, fulfilment, fairness.

A couple of things before I finish.

Some of us on Facebook are using Friday 8th July as a day of prayer for our nation. Our government needs much wisdom for the days ahead. Please join us: https://www.facebook.com/events/1098981783507359/

If you’re rejoicing today, please be sensitive to friends who are disappointed at the outcome. Rejoice but please don’t rub it in.

If you’re disappointed today, talk it out with someone you trust (and to God if you are a praying person), take time to process it and grieve. Don’t let it eat into you and take root.

Rest in the truth of who God is and the glorious future on offer with Him.

Cheer: When Jesus Jumps For Joy

There was a time when Jesus the man jumped and skipped with ecstatic, exuberant joy.

He had sent out seventy two of His friends on a mission trip. He told them to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse disfiguring skin diseases and set people free from evil spirits.

When His friends returned, they excitedly told Him how they’d done these supernatural acts in His name. Wow. No wonder they were thrilled.

It’s easy to miss Jesus’ reaction when reading the Gospels because of how our English translates it: ‘He rejoiced in the Spirit.’ Yeah, He definitely did. The word used for rejoice is agalliao which means to exult, leap and skip for joy, physically showing excessive and ecstatic delight.

Jesus rejoiced because they were grasping the truth of who they were: children of God and secure in Christ.

It’s easy to nod my head to Bible truths. Yes, I believe I’m saved by grace and don’t need to strive for God’s attention, and that I am accepted and beloved. But when that knowledge starts to slip into my heart, I rejoice because it becomes real and changes me.

And that’s when Jesus jumps for joy.

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