Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Tag: faithful

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.

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!

Wibbly-Wobbly Writer

When I first thought God might be calling me to be a writer, I was excited: a childhood dream come true!

But it didn’t take long for doubt to set in, and those of you who know me can testify to my teetering back and forth.

Who do I think I am trying to do this? Is this really what God wants? Do I even have a gift?

It’s draining.

I even do the ‘right’ thing and take my doubts to God: ‘Are You sure You want me to write?’

It’s kind of inevitable that I tie myself in knots and end up chained by fear. Fear of failure, fear of what people think.

Too often my confidence is affected by how many Facebook likes I get for a blog post or whether it’s retweeted on Twitter. A comment on my actual blog makes my heart sing and dance.

But this is a dangerous position to be in. I’m settling for praise from people, which is nice, but not what I should be aiming for. My aim should be the heavenly ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!’ from Jesus. It’s His opinion that really matters.

While it’s helpful to know if I’m reaching anyone through my writing, ultimately I need to focus on writing for an audience of One.

Love

I love that the Father had adventures planned for me before I was born: things to do, places to be, people He wants me to mother. How exciting is that?! The Father must be pretty passionate about me because He puts these desires in my heart, and is guiding me step-by-step into all He has for me.

So, how ever much I have wibbly-wobbly doubts, my part is to respond to the revelation I have right now.

For me today, this means taking writing seriously and giving it time, energy and prayer. If I’ve misheard, my Father will graciously redirect me.

The Father doesn’t clobber me over the head for getting it wrong. Nor does He operate through fear. He is love and perfect love casts out fear. So when I detect that knot of fear in the pit of my stomach, you can bet it doesn’t come from God.

What if I don’t pursue this dream because I’m scared of getting it wrong or failing? On that day when God is giving out rewards to His faithful ones, is it possible I could miss out because of being scared to go for it?

 

 

Steadfast

The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with Moses,
and proclaimed the name of the Lord:
‘The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness….’

Names mean something. Mandy means deserving of love and my middle name Louise means warrior. I like that combination!

God’s name doesn’t just have a nice meaning, it shows who He is.

I love that when God proclaimed His name to Moses, He said that is slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. This is who God is.

These verses have become very special to me because a few years ago, God tenderly took apart my faulty foundations and began rebuilding my life on truth.  I’ve previously blogged about this.

God is steadfast in His love and faithfulness. This is who He is. I need this truth to hang on to, especially on days like today, when the world is giving a great impression of going completely crazy.

Jesus showed the depths of God’s loving, faithful character 2,000 years ago this Easter. When He died, He became our sin. He took its penalty – eternal death – and He also bore all the hurts and pain it causes. We are a messed up race and this was the only way our mess could be dealt with. Thanks to Jesus’ steadfastness in going to the cross, we can have peace with God. Jesus has done all the work, the only thing we have to do to accept His offer of peace and forgiveness and friendship is to repent. That means making a definite decision to not do things our own way and please ourselves any more, but to decide to do them God’s way and to live to please Him. The gain far outweighs the loss.

Faithful

Jack, my rabbit, had oodles of personality. He had full range of the garden and ground floor of the house. He knew he wasn’t allowed upstairs but had a funny habit of thundering up them if he thought I wasn’t watching and then stamping his hind legs at the top, as if to announce: ‘Mischief accomplished!’

Although he knew his name (something my two retired neighbours Mick and Jack thought amusing when chatting to one another across our back garden), he only came if he felt like it when I called him. Other times, he would race round and round the shed in the back garden with me exasperatedly panting after him.

I loved Jack dearly (as my friends at the time could testify) but I didn’t realise what a faithful friend he was until my dad died. For a very independent rabbit who only ever allowed cuddles on his terms, he lay by my side on the sofa for hours at a time licking my arms. It was the only way he knew to comfort me in my grief.

When Jack himself died, I missed him like crazy. Even now on clear, starry nights I look up at Orion’s Belt and remember my little J-J. One of my favourite things was to hold him in my arms while admiring the night-sky, in awe that the same God who spoke galaxies into creation also made cute, furry bunny rabbits.

Ron

On Sundays Ron was usually at the church door, waiting to welcome people with a firm handshake and shy smile. He worked wonders with the old boiler, knowing just how to coax heat from it, so that we could enjoy warm radiators during the sermon in winter. No one else was ever quite able to manage it. When he was away for a six-week-world-holiday-of-a-lifetime,  we shivered our way through meetings huddled in coats and scarves. Oh the relief when Ron The Master Boiler returned and we had a warm building once more.

Ron arrived early on Sunday mornings to turn on the electric heaters in the cold, damp rooms we used for Sunday School so that when the teachers and children turned up, the rooms were toasty and welcoming. Before leaving, he made sure the timers were set on those self-same heaters to ensure they came on in good time for the pre-meeting prayer time in the evening.

When my keys refused to work in stiff locks, Ron was my go-to guy. Even in the pouring rain, he gave every appearance of being happy to help.

He took charge of filling the baptistery with a hose pipe whenever it was needed (doing his utmost to ensure the water was warm), made tea and squash for holiday Bible clubs and Bible exhibitions, and collected up hymn books and newssheets at the end of the service.

Dependable and stolid, faithfully getting on with the next thing, contentedly chewing his mints, an amused chuckle, twinkling eyes, a well-worn Bible: these are my memories of a special man.

Grateful

Five Minute Friday

I’m joining Five Minute Friday again this week, which is where bloggers from all over the world write on a theme chosen by Lisa-Jo Baker for five minutes without stopping to edit or self-critique their work, and then post the result on their blog. Today, the topic is: Grateful.

BEGIN:

Jack RabbitI’m grateful that God created animals. Jesus took the time and trouble to speak all the different species into being.
I’m grateful for the pets I’ve known: for Jack the rabbit’s comfort when my dad died, for Pickles the guinea pig enjoying our races up the stairs, and the way he stood up on his hind legs with his front paws on my calves to let me know when he wanted to race.

I’m grateful that God is light and there is no darkness in Him.  I’m grateful that His name reflects His character: love, light, beautiful, merciful, gracious, faithful. Jesus’ name is the most powerful name in the universe – darkness and demons flee before His name, and only through His name am I saved.

I’m grateful for my health. Thank You Lord for healing me! And for strengthening me every day.

I’m grateful for the tree outside my study window and for the pigeons that sit cooing on the fence.  I’m grateful for my nephew Stuart weeding the garden for us this week, so that I look out on tidiness and that gives my mind rest.

I’m grateful for Adrian – and for fifteen happy years of marriage. I’m grateful for the memories we share, for his faithfulness to me, for the fact that our marriage vows were more than just words uttered in the front of a church building – they were promises that we aim to keep, and that brings security.

I’m grateful to God because every good and perfect gift comes from Him, and He gives me all that I need. I’m grateful that God’s desire for me is that I have abundant life.

STOP.

 (Photo added afterwards)

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