Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Tag: friends

Ordinary Miracles

Challenging, exhilarating, faith-raising, adventure-stirring, full of ouch moments.

Ordinary Miracles: Mess, Meals and Meeting Jesus in Unexpected Places by Chris Lane is about making friends and being church on an inner-city estate. The author is open, honest and real, telling it like it is. Sometimes you are blown away by what God does, other times there are no happy endings. It’s messy and complicated but heart-warming.

I was struck by God being at work in every place at all times. So often I pray asking him to be at work in this and that. This book opened my eyes to the fact that He is already at work and it’s we who need to tune in to what He is doing in any given situation. I find this really exciting: being able to show people where God is already at work in their lives (I’ve already been able to put this into practice with a lovely woman I met in the red light district). Chris writes:

I now get offended when I hear a place or a person being described as ‘godless’, because I think it is an offence to our God who is always reaching out, always seeking the lost, always bringing His light into the darkest places. He asks that we follow Him to those people and places.

I think this makes life more challenging (in a good way) because we can’t just write off people of whom we disapprove. If our God is already reaching out to them, we need to be big-hearted enough to follow Him. Challenging!

This book also raises my faith for miracles to happen. Chris is open and honest about how hard it is to step out of your comfort zone to offer to pray with strangers in the pub or in the street. Yet when he made the effort, things happened. People were healed physically and emotionally, and situations changed. God’s presence fell on the least likely people and they were astounded to discover He loved them.

Your church may run a food bank,
but who sits around your dinner table?

Finally, I was hugely challenged by the need to share life with people different to me. It’s not enough to do a few acts of charity, and retreat. Jesus didn’t work that way. He shared life with people. As Chris points out in the book, a lot of the Gospels is about Jesus eating and spending time with ‘sinners’. He didn’t have projects, He had friends. Chris’ church is based around a dinner table and everyone is welcome. Not just a nice ideal, but a messy reality. This particular passage has stayed with me:

When all our connections with those different to us are based on the modern idea of charity, we are able to hold people at arm’s length, while easing our consciences that we are making a difference in the world. Jesus goes much further than this, and challenges us to do the same. Your church may run a food bank, but who sits around your dinner table?

Ouch. That last sentence makes me deeply uncomfortable…. And it’s right that it does. But what are Adi and I going to do about it…?

Ordinary miracles should come with a health warning. If read thoughtfully, life may never be the same again….

Instant Apostle provided me with a free Kindle copy for the purpose of writing an unbiased review.

 

 

A Little Help From My Friends…

There is an Arab proverb that says something along the lines of if you want to go fast, go alone but if you want to go far, go with others.

I think it applies to writing as much as anything else in life.

When I started [read more]

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.

Love

It’s day ten of Lent and the word prompt is LOVE.

It reminded me of the verse that talks about keeping ourselves in the love of God, probably because I’m trying to memorise it at the moment. But it got me thinking. How do I keep myself in the love of God?

It’s rather like abiding in Christ. Sounds great. But how does it happen and what does it look like?

What is love?

When I was struggling with this a while ago, I asked Adi, ‘How do you know that I love you?’

‘Well, you tell me,’ he said, ‘You’re interested in how my day has gone. You go out of your way to do nice things for me. You’re supportive when things go wrong and I’m feeling rubbish.’

Love is words and actions.

Understanding what love looks like between Adi and me helped me begin to grasp what God’s love looks like.

At the heart of it, God’s love looks like Jesus dying for His enemies so that He could invite them to be His friends. Not that God is sad and needs us. But the Father’s heart blazes with love for the Son, whose love overflows for the Spirit, who utterly adores the Father. It was out of an overflow of red-hot, blazing love that caused God to go so such extraordinary lengths to invite me into His family.

I was nothing and He gave me worth. The Most High calls me friend.

He has given me a new heart and is growing in me love and compassion. The outworking of that is that I’ve begun to see people as He sees them. A homeless man is someone’s son. A prostitute is someone’s daughter. We are human and we have worth. Love raises up.

God gives me security.

So how do I keep myself in God’s love?

I like the way this version puts it:

But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith,
pray in the Holy Spirit,
and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life.
In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love.

Gather

Rethinkchurch has suggested a photo challenge for each day of Lent, using set words as prompts. Some of my Facebook friends and I thought it would be fun to adapt this and use the word prompts to write reflective posts. The first word prompt is GATHER.

Last summer, my friend Elizabeth and I planned a holiday together. We were excited at the prospect of having a few days without home and work commitments to talk non-stop, chill out and pray. The times we share with God are vibrant and thrilling, and we were giddy at the prospect of unhurried time with Him.

We thought we had planned that holiday and we were the ones inviting Jesus to join us.

Right.

Think again.

Sea ThistlesAlmost before we’d finished breakfast on the first morning, the presence of God fell in the room and we had to race to the loo so as to be ready for whatever He wanted to do. We realised that Jesus was the one who’d planned that holiday and He was the One inviting us to join Him.

When Jesus died, He did so willingly because of the joyful outcome He was anticipating. He is a God who gathers people to Himself and makes us His friends. A tiny part of that joy He was looking forward to was being able to invite Elizabeth and me to gather to Him for a few days in a chalet on the Norfolk coast.

 

The Lord builds up and raises us high above our status;
He gathers the outcasts –
the ones picked last for netball and hockey,
the lonely and invisible,
those addicted to social media or alcohol or drugs,
the prostitutes and trafficked,
the pimps, brothel-owners and traffickers –
Daddy God heals the broken-hearted
and bandages their wounds.
He calls us by name and brings the outcasts into His family.

My adaptation based on Psalm 147:2-6

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