Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Tag: life

Lessons From Truffles

I sat on the stairs on Tuesday feeling grumpy. It had been a long, busy and frustrating day at work, and my back was aching.

Lord, I know I haven’t spent time with You today but I don’t feel up to it right now. I just want to collapse and read. We’ll spend time tomorrow, I promise.

But I couldn’t just collapse and read as I longed to do because of a small furry visitor called Truffles. This was his usual play time, a chance to get out of his hutch and enjoy a little freedom. He’d be expecting to play and I couldn’t let him down.

I opened the hutch door and began rolling his current favourite toy around to entice him out: a wooden ball containing a bell. There’s normally an immediate response but not on Tuesday night.

Truffles sat in his hutch ignoring me.

Truffles 3

So I sat on the stairs trying to read and keeping an eye out in case he changed his mind. I was hopeful; playing with Truffles is a fun part of the day.

Why is he sitting in his hutch? Silly bunny…. it’s a lot better for him out here. I’m sat here waiting for him and we always have fun. So why is he stuck in his hutch?

Then it hit me.

I was like Truffles. The door was open with a better invitation and here I was sat in my circumstances refusing to meet with the Lord because I didn’t ‘feel up to it’.

Oh.

Then I heard the gentle invitation to ‘come’.

With a sheepish smile, I got up and went to get my Bible. Jesus and I enjoyed some time together; my achey back eased and the frustrations disappeared as I saw them for what they were: small and unimportant in the grand scheme of things.

Feeling tonnes better – refreshed and restored – I went back downstairs. And Truffles and I played together.

 

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.

 

 

 

Love

Seven years ago, I had a chronic illness that was worsening despite the best efforts of the medical profession. I wondered if I was in the valley of the shadow of death. It felt like my body was beginning to shut down and there was little hope, physically speaking.

But then I had a significant breakthrough healing, followed a few months later by Jesus meeting with me and completing what He’d started. It was just me and Him in my living room, when He restored my health.

I’d made the decision to follow Jesus as a child but I didn’t really begin to comprehend His love for me until He healed me. I was stuck in a hopeless and, at times, very dark situation that I couldn’t get out of. My best efforts on my ‘good’ days got me nowhere and mostly made me worse. No one was able to help.

But Jesus came to my rescue.

I will always be so thankful to Him. He gave me back my life – and this time with a new sparkle in my eyes because I know He loves me. I no longer just believe it with my mind. It has become a reality in my heart, something I experience.

For me, the illness and healing are a physical picture of what Jesus had already done for me spiritually.

My soul wasn’t dying, it was dead. I was alienated from God. I was a good child, but just like a corpse can’t help itself, I couldn’t help myself. I was in a hopeless situation.

But the Father loves me. In fact, He loves me the same way He loves Jesus. I was dead, but He brought me to life. He dealt with the baggage that I’ve collected since conception: bad thoughts, wrong reactions, rebellion, white lies, etc, etc. 2,000 years ago Jesus took all my baggage on Himself when He died on the cross, paying the full price for my wrongdoing and in exchange giving me His goodness instead.

This is real love—not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
1 John 4:10

What is love?

Love looks like a King dying for His rebellious subjects so that they don’t have to pay for their wrong thoughts and actions, and to make them royal sons and daughters.

I love this song, written and performed by a friend, Chris Barton: This is Love

Grow

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord,
you must continue to follow Him.
Let your roots grow down into Him,
and let your lives be built on Him.
Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught
and you will overflow with thankfulness.

When we feed something, it grows.

When I eat food, especially now I’m in middle age, my tummy grows. Sad but true! But when I exercise, my fitness level increases so that I can do more exercise. Hopefully, if I keep running, my muscles will develop and my tummy will stop growing. Hopefully….

It’s the same with my spiritual life. These verses urge me to keep following Jesus.

How do I do that?

I need to put down roots in Jesus. That means learning more-and-more to rely on Him, to be settled in Him. I want to get to know Him well and the only way to do that is by spending time with Him like I would any friend. My Bible is full of Jesus: His character, what He does, what He likes and doesn’t like. When I read it and pray, my roots are growing .

Building my life on Jesus is being secure in Him and in who He says I am. He gives me the freedom to be the person He made me to be.

And then I find that my faith grows as I get to know the truth. Jesus said that the truth sets free, and it really, truly does. When I think of how much Jesus has done for me it brings a huge smile to my face. I do overflow with thankfulness.

YEEE HAAAAH! YAY JESUS!! WHOOP!

Let me finish with a story.

When I was thirteen, my parents and I went on holiday to the Norfolk coast. It was a last minute booking because my dad had just come out of hospital. Amazingly we found a chalet near the beach that was available.

Hmm. It had been closed up all winter and we were the first people in. It hadn’t been cleaned. And it was full of spiders. Big, small and every size in-between. There was a monster under the kitchen table that even my dad wouldn’t tackle. They were literally everywhere.

Somehow we stayed in that horrible chalet for a week.

But I came home with a fear of spiders. It got so bad that I wouldn’t enter a room without quickly checking out floor, ceiling and walls first. I almost crashed the car when I spotted a tiny money-spider on the rearview mirror.

I had secular counselling which helped a little.

But the fear was still there. I never even prayed about it because I was scared of not being afraid. And if I’m honest, I didn’t think God could handle it anyway. Not even He could do the impossible, could He?

Three years ago, God stepped in. I was going through prayer counselling and He set me free from fear.

The result is that last Monday, my mum had a biggish spider in her kitchen that I was calmly able to deal with. No hyperventilation, no screams, no shaking.

This is truth: God’s perfect love casts out fear. My roots are in Jesus and I’m building my life on Him. My faith in Him is growing. The truth is setting me free and I’m so grateful.

Restore

Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about locusts. They are destructive pests, ruthless in devouring every green thing and leaving a land bare and desolate.

I believe we can have the equivalent of locusts in our lives sometimes: wasted years of dreams shackled by fear or inertia, addictions.

I had locusts in my life. A good friend prayed that God would restore the years the locust had eaten, and He is doing. God has brought restoration in different areas of mine and Adi’s lives.

God is able to restore and He loves us so much. Even when we don’t feel like He loves us, when we feel unlovely, it doesn’t alter the facts. He loves us.

Jesus promises abundant life. He doesn’t want us limping through life, struggling alone. He offers all that we need – peace, joy, love, hope. These things are priceless and He begins to restore us from the inside out as soon as we turn to Him for help and salvation.

Path

Paths are exciting. I love wandering off the beaten track, whether it be in woods or a city. Side paths can be so alluring, I wonder where this leads to...

In Lord of the Rings, Gandalf tells Bilbo that setting foot outside your front door is an adventure. You never know where you might end up.

That’s true, isn’t it?

A path can lead to a dental appointment, a university degree, a first date, a wedding, a funeral, shopping, a job interview, redundancy, coffee with a friend.

The path through life has twists and turns, goes uphill and down. I never thought I would be someone who lost her job through illness. But that was where my path led. I dreamed of working for myself from home, and this is where my path has brought me. For now.

The Bible says that it is God who makes our paths straight, and I believe that. He is the One who can make the mountains low – or move them out of the way altogether – and raise up valleys to make a straight, level road. There is a verse that says His Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.

I don’t believe in fate. But I do believe in Someone who loves me like crazy and has good plans for me. He is the One who orders my steps, steadies me as I walk along, and guides me along this path of life.

Jesus’ path led Him up a hill to a Roman crucifix so that He could become the Way to His Father for me. This is the One I love.

 

Celebrate: My Life

Adi and I have just been watching the documentary He named me Malala. It made me realise again how much I have for which to be thankful.

I had an education. Maybe not the best (my senior school has since been bulldozed), but I got my GCSEs and went to college.

There is freedom of speech in the UK.

I’m free to be a follower of Jesus and to pursue His present calling on my life to write and to work with women in the sex industry.

I’ve never been in a war or had to flee my home in fear. There is a scene in the documentary where Malala meets Syrian refugees on the Jordanian border. She could relate, having become a refugee inside her own country before seeking asylum in the UK. It’s so far out of my experience that I can’t begin to imagine what they are going through. But Malala knows, and it showed through.

So today I’m celebrating my life, thankful to God for the generous benefits He’s given me. I am who I am by His grace alone.

Live

What do you live for? What’s your motivation?

It might be family or your career or cats.

Jesus came to raise our expectations. He invites us to abundant life.

When I was ill with ME/chronic fatigue and some days all I could do was breathe, I knew abundant life inside. Jesus gave me an impossible joy that had nothing to do with circumstances and didn’t take energy. He gave it. While I would never want to go back to being ill, I wouldn’t have missed knowing the nearness of God for anything.

Abundant life is all about knowing Jesus. He invites us to follow Him and to put Him first in our lives. I’ve found asking myself this question helpful: ‘If Jesus were living my life right now, what would He do?’

Jesus said that if we seek first His Kingdom, the Father will provide everything we need. We don’t need to worry about what will happen because we have a Daddy in heaven who has endless resources, is richer than we can begin to imagine, and has promised to take care of all of our needs. In the last couple of years, I’ve been daring to believe this is true. It is. It may not always look like what I expect, but He does provide.

Seek first His Kingdom. What does that look like?

When Jesus sent out His followers on a preaching trip, He urged them: ‘Proclaim as you go saying the Kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received with paying, give without pay.’

His commission hasn’t changed. God still wants us doing these things. How else can people see Him? In some parts of the world, seeing the dead raised is normal. I can testify to God’s healing power in my own life. I’ve also had demons cast out of me.

If God is who He says He is, why wouldn’t He do these things?

He loves us, He reveals Himself to us, He is the one who pursues us. It’s not the other way around. We know love because He shows us what it looks like. We live because He is the source of life.

Hand2,000 years ago, Jesus’ friend Peter saw Jesus walking on water and said to Him, ‘Lord if that’s really You, call me to join You.’

With a smile (I’m sure), Jesus said, ‘Peter, come.’

Peter scrambled out of the boat and walked on water. Just like Jesus.

But then he saw the waves and freaked out. What am I doing?! Aaaaggghhh! Peter began to sink and yelled for help. Immediately Jesus grabbed his hand and pulled him up, back onto the top of the water.

Jesus offers us abundant life and He invites us to get out of the boat and go on Kingdom adventures with Him. Are you up for it?

 

 

That’s Some Author Bio!

Blogging at More Than Writers today:

I’ve spent the last couple of days printing out seemingly endless copies of my manuscript and handing over my precious baby to the Chosen Few for feedback. No one prepared me for the thumping heart and sweaty palms that goes with it.

What if they think it’s rubbish? What if – heaven forbid – it bores them? I’ve been pretty honest in it, have I been too honest?

ACW

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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