Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Category: Personal Stories (page 1 of 4)

Personal stories

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.

 

Blessed

For years I struggled to sing the worship song Blessed be Your name by Matt Redman. I’ve discovered I’m not alone in this. It takes the words that Job, a man in the Bible, said to his wife when they had just received the horrific news that all of their children had been killed in a freak accident. Job’s famous words were: ‘The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.’

On the terrible Friday afternoon when I lost our tiny twins, I was unable to face what was happening. It was too final. This was our only chance, barring a miracle, of having a baby of our own. I was unable to deal with the deep pain of loss, shattered dreams, and the finality of it. There was an unacknowledged sense of this particular pain never ending. Babies were delightful creatures that other people conceived. But not us.

And so for several years, I was unable to sing Matt Redman’s song without tears. Maybe for others they were just pleasant, biblical lyrics. For me they spoke of heartrending reality. God had given my life-long dream of twins and a few days later had taken it away.

But God is good. He really is. People say time is a great healer. Maybe. I’ve found God to be the best healer. He saw the grief I’d buried and the reality I’d felt unable to face and, when the time was right, He gently brought it to the surface. Together we turned and looked at the pain head-on so that He could bring emotional healing and wholeness.

I don’t know why He hasn’t given us children. I don’t know why He gave and took away. But I do know that He is good and trustworthy and loving and utterly faithful. The Bible says God works all things together for good for those who love Him and are called by Him. I can question and scream and cry but I’ll probably never know why. Certainly not this side of the grave. But I hang on to the fact that God is good. Because He truly is.

Blessed be the name of the Lord. Amen.

I’m dedicating this post to our beautiful twins Two and Three, to my sister Gina, and to all little ones who have slipped away in the womb or been born asleep or whose lives have been far too short.

Afraid….

I was a scared, wimpy sort of child. Almost as far back as I can remember, I was afraid.

In the days when petrol stations closed on bank holidays (yes, I’m that old!), a four-year-old little girl in pig tails was afraid of the ancient church minibus running out of petrol when my dad took the youth group hostelling.

If my infant school teacher was away and my class was overseen by the fearsome Miss Plummer from class five who slapped the legs of naughty children, I was fearful.

During the six week holidays before going up to secondary school, I prayed frantically for the Second Coming to happen so that I wouldn’t have to go to the new school.

As I got older, my fear increased. I tried to keep it hidden; people often think ‘quiet’ is ‘good’, when sometimes ‘quiet’ means ‘afraid’.

I was scared of spiders, not being near a loo in a strange place, of being attacked, of being rejected, meeting new people, dancing in public, etc, etc. I actually had secular counselling in my early twenties for a spider phobia that was getting out of hand.

But then in 2013, God happened 🙂

We had an extraordinary move of the Spirit at church. As a direct result, I underwent prayer counselling and deliverance ministry. One of the many things from which God set me free was fear. One morning, a couple of trusted friends and I prayed for the spirit of fear to leave me, and it did. That evening in a prayer meeting, God gave me joyful laughter which filled up all the empty spaces left by fear (talking belly laughs and snorts, rolling around helplessly on the floor).

Since then, there has been no more fear of spiders. Before, I couldn’t even look at a drawing of a small spider and if I saw one through the television I’d have to close my eyes or – preferably – leave the room. I’d shake and sweat. Since God delivered me from fear, I can touch pictures of spiders and deal with eight-legged visitors around the house myself. No more shaking or sweating.

ToiletI’m learning that God can be trusted with my needs, which means – in part – no longer worrying constantly about whether there is a loo nearby.

I’m free now to raise my arms and dance in worship in church. Who cares if I have no rhythm? God loves exuberant worship spilling out of a thankful heart.

God has accepted me and calls me daughter. I know I go on about that a lot on my blog but it’s because knowing who I am has made such a difference. Being accepted by God takes away the fear of being rejected by people. It’s a process and one I’m still working out with Him.

There’s no God like Him. I’ve got the biggest smile on my face and happy tears in my eyes typing this, because I am loved. God has given me joy in place of fear. How can I not love Him?

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
2 Timothy 1:7

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.

Have

What do I have?

A magnificent friend who adores me and can do anything.

Since knowing Him, my life has changed almost beyond recognition. I’m not the woman I was a few years ago.

Then, I didn’t think God was willing to heal today.

Then, I wasn’t sure what He had to offer other people. I wasn’t even sure what He had offered me.

Then, I had little confidence in myself and amoeba-sized faith in God if you squinted very hard through a microscope.

I’m thankful to say that that is changing 🙂

God has healed me from cerebellar ataxia and ME/chronic fatigue. I had one significant breakthrough when friends prayed for me ten months into the illness, and Jesus completed the healing four months after that, just me and Him in my living room. I have confidence that God is willing to heal today.

I know my God offers Himself to other people, just as He has done to me. That gives me confidence in telling them about my wonderful friend.

My faith is now fractionally bigger than amoeba-sized. I’m trying things I’ve never done before. Let me tell you a story.

When I started helping at my church’s food bank three years ago, I was too scared to offer to pray with clients if they were ill or in pain or feeling low. My team leader gently encouraged me and for weeks I longed to offer but was too scared. Then one afternoon with my team leader eye-balling me across the room, I finally plucked up the courage to offer prayer. The client accepted and I prayed. Probably not well, but I did it. From then, offering to pray into difficult situations became more normal for me.

Right up to this afternoon at our church’s community Easter Party in the local pub. I prayed for healing for a lady with a chronic illness. She sensed God’s peace as I prayed. We’ll wait to see the outcome.

It feels good, taking baby steps of faith and going on an adventure with Jesus.

All because I have a magnificent friend who adores me and can do anything.

 

Heal

For years I didn’t believe God healed today. Now I do.

For years, I didn’t see miracles so I didn’t think God did them any more. But stories like the one I’m about to tell changed my mind.

About a year ago, a man visited our church one Sunday. During the worship time, an invitation was given for anyone needing healing to go forward for ministry. This man had a damaged knee. It was painful and he’d been struggling for months. He was due to have major surgery that week. He decided to go forward for prayer. Adi went to him, laid hands on his knee and prayed for healing. The man said it felt better and they both went back to their seats.

The following week, our pastor had an email from the man. He had gone to see his orthopaedic surgeon as planned but when they did pre-operative scans, they could find no damage at all. In fact, the surgeon was astonished to see that the knee was in such good condition, it looked as if it belonged to someone twenty years younger.

One of the names God uses for Himself is: God your Healer (Jehovah Rophi). He hasn’t changed. He is still able and willing to heal, far more than we are willing to ask.

Rights

Face down on the dusty carpet while Adi prayed for me to be freed from a spirit of hatred I realised I had no rights.

I’d always known hating was wrong but I’d metaphorically shrugged my shoulders at God anyway and chosen to please myself. And now I was in a desperate situation, longing to be free, and not entirely sure I would ever rid my life of hatred.

In that awful moment, the Holy Spirit reminded me that God loves me with an everlasting love and is determinedly faithful to me. Years before, I’d chosen to hate even though I knew it was wrong. With my face in the carpet, I knew I had created the problem and that I didn’t deserve to ever be free of it. Jesus knew all about my sinful choice. He was well aware of my rebellion against Him. Yet He chose to die for me – to take away my sin and to pay the full price of committing it – so that He could set me free from the consequences of my wilful wrong choice.

LoveFor many people in our society, ‘Jesus’ is just a swear word. But God has given an invitation that anyone who believes in Jesus’ name has the right to become a Child of God. To believe in Jesus’ name is to believe that He is who He says He is – and He says He is God the Son. Some 2,000 years ago, the Son of God became a human being. He knew all about the restrictions of having a body. He felt hungry, thirsty, tired and probably was desperate for the loo on occasions. Just like us. Jesus experienced rejection, pain and death. He did it because it was the only way we could know who God is, and so that we could have true freedom and abundant life – to enjoy peace, love, security, acceptance.

John, the man who wrote about God’s invitation to believe in Jesus’ name, also wrote about God being light and shining in the darkness. When God’s light shines into situations, there is nowhere for darkness to hide. When you walk into a dark room, you don’t waste time chasing the darkness out of the room, you simply switch on the light. That is what happens in our lives when we accept God’s invitation to turn to Him and live to please Him. Darkness goes and God fills us with His light.

God’s light versus darkness and God’s love versus hatred seemed to be a theme of John’s life after He had met Jesus and become a follower. John wrote that we can have assurance that we have eternal life – eternal life is simply to know Jesus and the abundant life He gives that is full of joy, peace and hope – if we believe in Jesus’ name.

As people who deliberately choose to please ourselves and don’t really give a toss what God thinks or wants, we have no rights. Yet God is so bursting with love for us that He gives us the right to become His children if we believe in the name of Jesus.

Jesus: there is no other name through which to know God and to experience real freedom.

Linking up with:

Renewed Daily - Recommendation Saturday

Facebook Fast

This is my last post for six weeks. My church is having a forty day fast and depriving myself of social media, among other things, is my way of joining in. Facebook will be a tough one because I check in at least once a day. But I am looking forward to the break. Let me tell you why.

A couple of years ago, Adi and I were visiting the south of France. While there, the Holy Spirit highlighted to me that I was addicted to Facebook and Twitter and my smartphone. I had had some prayer counselling and deliverance ministry in the couple of months prior to this where it felt like God had been having a good rummage in my life and bringing unhealthy stuff and dark secrets to the surface. So in some ways the revelation that I had an addiction wasn’t a surprise, but at the same time it was. I hadn’t seen that one coming.

But when I thought about it, I had to agree with God that there was a problem. Most nights, I would check email, Facebook and Twitter on my smartphone over and over again compulsively. Word game apps were also a big downfall for me. Nothing wrong with them if you have self-control, but between the apps and the social media/email it could easily take me sixty to ninety minutes to put the smartphone down long enough to get to bed. I hadn’t seen the issue, but God had – and He wanted so much more for me than being chained to a bit of plastic technology.

And so I told God I was sorry and renounced my unhealthy dependence on the technology. He set me free from a spirit of addiction and filled me with His own Spirit. I deleted all the word game apps from my smartphone and took steps to not allow myself quite such easy access to Facebook and Twitter.

During that period of prayer counselling and deliverance, Jesus set me free from so many things that were like heavy chains weighing me down. I am so grateful to Him for what He has done. He is one amazing Saviour! WOO HOO HOO – HE’S BRILLIANT!

This verse has become my life motto – I want to show and tell the excellencies of the fantastic Father God who called me out of darkness and into His marvellous light. One way of doing this is through writing a book to share the wonderful and exciting story of Him healing me from a horrible illness and then turning my life upside down by setting me free from all kinds of oppression and filling me out to be the woman He always meant me to be. So one of the things I will be doing during my six week fast from social media is to concentrate on the editing of my book. Watch this space!


Picture3

 

God Still Does Miracles!

Four years ago, I didn’t know how to deal with the (completely flat) paving in this photo. The different coloured bricks were confusing: should I step over them? If so, how high did they go? Should I walk round them? I felt as though I was on a tightrope and might fall off at any moment. It was all too much, my brain gave up, and my longsuffering husband had to come and rescue me.

Crazy Paving P&RTwo weeks ago, I parked the car and jumped out, walking briskly across the car park to catch the park and ride bus. In my memory, the bricks were very jazzy and – even four years on – I half blamed the council for laying such a busy pattern. But in reality, the pattern is gentle and not jazzy at all. The pedestrian area is spacious.

I sat on the park and ride bus in a daze. It hit me just how ill I’d been, that I couldn’t cope with such a simple, non-intrusive pattern. And my heart overflowed with thankfulness at God’s kindness and generosity in healing me.

Last Sunday, I had a wonderful opportunity to share the five minute version of my healing testimony at St Mary’s in Leamington Spa. Listen here.

He Rescued Me – Woo Hoo!

I will praise You enthusiastically, O Lord, for You rescued me
and did not let my enemy triumph over me.

O Lord my God, I cried to You for help, and You healed me!
You brought me out of sin and darkness and
transferred me into Your Kingdom of Light.

Sing to the Lord if you know Him!
Gush over Him and give thanks for His name is Wonderful!
He isn’t angry with us, and His favour is forever.
Weeping may last through the night,
but joy comes with the morning – He has promised!

When I was prosperous and arrogant,
I thought nothing could touch me.
But then for a year I was ill – and You showed me
that it’s You who makes me secure and Your favour will never end.

I cried out to You, Lord:
What would be gained if I died?
And You showed me Your faithfulness,
These light troubles are nothing compared with the eternal weight of glory
to come.
You are my helper and my shield and my strength.

You turned my tears of sadness into such joy and gladness!
You called me out of darkness and into Your marvellous light.
How can I not sing and raise my hands to You?
How can I keep from dancing and shouting in Your presence?
I will give thanks to You, my Jesus, forever.
You are my Saviour, my Deliverer, my Hero, my Lord!

Adapted from Psalm 30. This is my testimony.

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