Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Category: Words for Lent 2017 (page 2 of 5)

Writing a post for every day of Lent 2017 using a word prompt from #rethinkchurch. Some of the posts will be in the form of a fictional diary written by a Bible character.

Hear

When I stop and think that the Creator of the universe listens to me when I talk to Him, wow. It’s beyond comprehension! I’m so small and insignificant; He says the nations are like a drop in a bucket compared to Him. But He hears me. Just wow.

I spent March reading almost daily Isaiah 58. There is so much in this chapter that I’ve made the decision to linger awhile. The Holy Spirit is the best Teacher and I love that He is showing me more and more in this passage and taking me deeper.

But what I really wanted to say from Isaiah 58 for this particular blog post is that when I delight myself in God – truly enjoying Him, not trying to impress Him or strive for His attention – He promises that when I talk to Him, He will answer me. When I cry out, He says: ‘Here I am.’ As comforting as a mum (or dad) taking her young child in her arms and soothing them with the reassurance that she is there when they cry out in the middle of the night.

It’s not just my voice He listens to either. He hears the inarticulate cries of my heart. When I’m unable to voice what I think or feel, He hears the silent plea. So many times I’ve seen my Father answer my wordless prayers, when He’d simply heard the longings of my heart.

Breath

We sometimes say that there’s nothing like a breath of fresh air, usually if we’re in a room that is stuffy and hot, or if we’ve been really busy. To have a breath of air can feel so refreshing.

Spiritually-speaking, the Holy Spirit is rather like a breath of fresh air. He brings the presence of God, and that is refreshing. The Bible says that those who wait on the Lord renew their strength. How many times I’ve dragged myself to home group or a prayer meeting, feeling tired and achey and wishing I could spend the evening in the bath. It’s amazing how much better I feel – refreshed, rested, exhilarated – afterwards.

Even spending a few minutes praising God in my kitchen during the day makes such a difference. Sometimes I bounce into the kitchen, excited and looking forward to meeting with my Father. But on other days, it’s an act of the will. I never regret it and often emotion follows as my will urges my soul to focus on God.

The words of this song express it so well:

Let Your breath come from heaven,
Fill our hearts with your life….

Light

Your light is brighter
than the sun in noon-day strength.
In You, I see Light.

I’m a child of light.
You’re changing me from glory
to glory – whoop whoop!

Darkness

Light is most clearly seen when darkness is at its darkest.

The darkest day in history was one Friday a couple of thousand years ago in the Middle East. A young man in his early thirties was unjustly executed. Talk about the biggest miscarriage of justice. His mangled body was laid to rest in a friend’s tomb.

Saturday was silent, dark and hopeless.

But on the Sunday, light exploded into that tomb as Jesus came back to life. He rose from the dead in glorious might and power.

Jesus went down into the darkness of death and beat it. He emerged as the ultimate victor holding the keys to death and the grave. Jesus defeated the one who has the power of death – the devil – so that He, Jesus, could deliver everyone who is afraid of death. He doesn’t want anyone to be enslaved by fear; He came to set us free.

Jesus is life. His life is light. This light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot – ever – overcome it.

 

 

 

With

Jesus, You are here,
Your Spirit’s presence with me.
My Emmanuel.

Will

This is the last will and testament of me, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, Son of Man and Son of God.

I give to all who will believe in my name the right to become children of God.

To all whom my Father has adopted, we give the Holy Spirit. We want them to know they are beloved children of God, and the Spirit will tell their spirits that this is who they are.

Every child of God becomes an heir of God and a co-heir with me, the firstborn.

I give to each child every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Everything I have enjoyed, I bequeath to them. They are citizens of heaven and my Father’s home is their home. I joyfully share with each one the unending blessing that is mine.

Each child of God is seated in heavenly places with me. The Father will lavish His grace on them for all eternity: showing them how abundantly rich His kindness is to them.

I, Jesus, have died to give them life because I love them with outrageous and extravagant love. Their worth is far above the price of rubies. I have cleansed them from sin with my own blood. I’ve taken all their dirty rags of striving and rebellion, and clothed them in my glorious robes of righteousness.

Open

When I was a young teenager my then church joined up with a church in Derby for a joint youth camp on the Gower Peninsula in south Wales. The Derby youth group were old hands at camping on that particular site: an old army barracks (from what I remember).

The leaders had prayed much for the week of camp and thought that all the young people would become friends.

That first weekend proved them wrong. They prayed desperately on Sunday night for God to move.

He did.

The next day, Monday, the Lord opened the heavens. Literally.

There was a terrific storm with lightning, wind and flash flooding. Rain fell in sheets, drenching everything. Our one road in and out of camp was flooded such that we were cut off from the mainland for a day or two.

At lunchtime the leaders gave up on trying to keep us dry and organised a football match in the rain.

There are some experiences where we can’t help but end up friends with the people with whom we’ve shared them.

God sent rain and changed the atmosphere.

The following summer, we teens eagerly anticipated meeting up again with our good friends for camp.

 

Grace

I heard a lovely quote the other day: ‘Jesus is the Good News.’

The gospel (good news) is a person: Jesus.

Jesus is the One I love and adore. He is my magnificent obsession. He is the only person with whom I can be utterly besotted without feeling empty, as though I’ve been robbed. He gives and gives and gives. He is wonderful. He is love. I’m thrilled that He’s my friend. I’m thankful – so thankful – that He’s my rescuer and saviour. He is the best master. He’s always fair and absolutely trustworthy.

Jesus is full of grace and beauty. He is the most beautiful person I know. His goodness and love shine from the inside out with purity and radiance. When I eventually get to see Him face-to-face, He will be beauty personified.

God is rich in kindness to me: this is called grace.

I know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Though He was rich, yet for my sake He became poor,
so that by His poverty He could make me rich.
2 Corinthians 8:9

 

 

Sign

I attended a women’s conference Outrageously Loved on Saturday. I’d gone expectant to meet with God and for Him to meet with me. And wow, I was not disappointed!

At the front of the room was a banqueting table, laden with all kinds of goodies: chocolates, crisps, tortilla chips, strawberries, grapes, a pineapple, marshmallows, Maltesers, etc, etc. The banner across the table read: He brought me to His banqueting table and His banner over me was love.

While praying and preparing for the conference, the ladies organising it were seeking God for what He wanted for the day. He showed them a picture of a banqueting table with crystal glasses and delicate china as well as lots of goodies and treats.

The first thing the organising ladies did was to offer an invitation to us from the Father, to come up and partake of the banqueting table He had prepared: of the delicious nibbles right before us. It was a picture of how the Father was inviting each of us to meet with Him, to come to his spiritual banqueting table to know Him more intimately.

As part of our worship and as an act of faith, we went forward to help ourselves.

I was thrilled and went forward happily. But my breath was taken away when I saw what was there, and was a sign to me that the Father really was in this and He had planned it with me in mind.

Popcorn.

Popcorn is my latest favourite snack.

My Daddy in heaven had seen that, and gave me popcorn on Saturday as a sign of His outrageous love for me.

The Father’s love is so crazy, unlimited, and extravagant that He doesn’t just want me to believe with my mind that He loves me ‘because the Bible tells me so’. Oh no. He wants me to know with every fibre of my being that He is utterly besotted with me!

WHOOP WHOOP WHOOP!!!!

 

 

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.

 

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