Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Tag: praise

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….

Sheer Delight

Interacting with animals is one of life’s good gifts. (Warning: this is a post that only animal lovers will truly appreciate!)

My guinea pig Pickles used to love racing me up the stairs. I showed him how to do it, then initiated us racing side by side. Always me initiating.

Then one day, I felt pressure on my mid-calf. I turned and looked down. There was Pickles on his hind legs, nudging me with his front paws. When he saw he had my attention, he got into the start position at the bottom of the stairs. It was a proud and emotional moment as I took my place on all fours by his side, and then we galloped up together. I forget who won, it doesn’t matter, my little furry boy had come to me to play, and my heart was full.

These days, I look forward to having Truffles the rabbit to stay. He loves cuddles, especially having his head and face gently stroked and his nose kissed. When I stop, he butts me with his head, wanting more. It’s a delight when he responds by licking my nose, and then he sits back expectantly waiting for me to resume kissing and fussing over him.

Animals don’t have to respond. They could just put up with me fussing over them before trundling back to whatever truffles-and-methey were doing prior to me coming along. Sometimes they do just that. But when they respond with pleasure, or even initiate contact, that brings me joy.

I think it’s similar to the way we interact with God. He pursues all of us everyday with His goodness and mercy. But when we respond to Him, that delights His heart.

To be honest, I don’t always feel like praising God or spending time with Him. Sometimes work is busy, life feels pressured and stressed, and I’m tired. But I know that when I do come to Him, it delights and blesses His heart.

For me, this looks like walking or bouncing or dancing (depending how I feel) up and down the kitchen, singing and praying in tongues. I read the Bible with pleasure, as if He had written it just for me. That makes even the hard bits that I don’t understand precious, because my Friend wrote them.

Other times we go for a meander together through the woods or in the countryside. I even go running with Him.

The pleasure I have in playing with a rabbit or guinea pig is nothing in comparison to the sheer delight the Father has in me whenever I come into His presence.

I am the True Vine (Part 1)

When I was small, my dad and uncle used to rent an allotment. They had a grapevine in one of the greenhouses. I didn’t like going in there because the glass was dingy, it was cobwebby and smelled of tomato plants. Overhead grew the grapevine. They got excited when the purple grapes were ripe enough to pick and eat. Dad would bring home a bucketful at a time (he was a classy gardener!) for us to enjoy.

One of the ‘I am’ sayings for which Jesus is well known is:  ‘I am the true vine’. For years, I classed this passage as boring and couldn’t see its relevance, so I ignored it. Until recently. After God got hold of me in the summer of 2013 and turned my life upside-down and inside out, I began learning Bible verses. It gradually dawned on me that I was learning quite a few from John 15. And actually, they were very relevant, and I was thirsty to understand more. So last October when Adi and I were on holiday in London, I spent some time meditating on what Jesus meant when He said He was the true vine.

By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciples.

I started in the middle of the passage because this verse grabbed my attention.

God had already shown me that He has adopted me as His daughter. Now He was showing me His heart: what delights Him is when I bear fruit and show the world that I am a follower of His beloved Son. It’s all about God and what He does in me to make me like Jesus. All I have to do is be willing and yield to Him.

I bear fruit by believing Him – believing God is who He says He is and can do what He says He can do. Believing that what He says about me is true. My thought life or self-talk makes a massive difference. If I choose to think truth and believe it, I am more confident and enjoy peace (another fruit!). The impossible suddenly becomes possible. Like when there were demonic presences in our bedroom that bullied me – when I believed that God was my shield, I would go upstairs to bed confident that I was safe and that nothing would attack me. And I had a good night. But when I gave in to fear and doubted that God was my shield, I would have a terrible night. (Thankfully, all of those demonic presences are now gone, thanks to the power and presence of Jesus – nothing can stand in His way.)

AshamedAnother exciting way that I see God working in me is that I now have a heart of compassion. Not that long ago, I was very judgmental, critical and harsh about others. I had a superior attitude towards them. Homeless people weren’t even on my radar. I blamed the unemployed for not having a job. But then God held up a mirror and showed me myself. It wasn’t a pretty picture. I was horrified by my attitude and hard heart. As I repented, He gave me good things in place of the bad stuff. One of those things was a heart of compassion. He gave me the desire to help out at my church’s food bank; initially I worried that I would do my usual thing of getting emotional about it for a couple of weeks, then slide into cynicism. That didn’t happen – more than a year on, I still have compassion for the people I meet through the food bank. I realise that poverty isn’t black and white. Many of the people who come in have a tonne of issues to cope with. I love getting to chat with and listen to individuals, show them a little of God’s Father heart and pray with them.

Something else I never thought I’d do is have a heart full of love for women working in the sex industry. Being able to practically show God’s unconditional love for these women by giving them food, warm clothes and a hug, as well as praying with them, is one of the highlights of my month. I could never have done this if God hadn’t gotten hold of me first and showed me what I was, and then showed me who I am in Christ. He is one amazing God!

This is God’s heart for individuals:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor:
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
…to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour;
and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;
…to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit:
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that He may display His beauty.

If you are a follower of Jesus, then He says you are an oak of righteousness. He Himself has planted you and nothing can ever uproot you. You are secure in Him. And in you and me, the Father wants to display all the beauty and attractiveness of the most wonderful God-Man ever to walk this earth, Jesus Christ of Nazareth. This is our calling! All we have to do is come to Him with empty hands and say: Here I am, Lord!’

 

Photo credit: Stoonn

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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