Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Tag: sinners

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.

 

 

Keziah’s Diary: Injustice

That encounter with Jesus intrigued me. I couldn’t get the way He’d treated me out of my head. There was definitely something different about Him, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

I asked around a bit and found out Jesus is a travelling teacher. 

When I wasn’t working (I don’t know how else to earn money so I can eat), I made a point of going to hear Jesus teach. He was so interesting. He told everyday stories that I could identify with and which made me think. I’ve never heard anyone else teach like He does. And what I really love about Him is how He doesn’t avoid ‘sinners’. He welcomes people like me. Crazy, but true.

The more time I spent hanging around with Him and His friends, the more I felt convicted that I shouldn’t be working as a prostitute. That’s wrong and while I’ve never sensed Him condemning me for it, I just know that He doesn’t like what I do. He gives the impression that He sees me, Keziah the person, not Keziah the prostitute. I think He grasps the injustice I’ve been through.

I only got into sex work as a way to survive because I couldn’t see any other way forward. My childhood wasn’t especially happy and when one of my uncles showed me his own particular brand of ‘love’, my parents went mad. They said I was dirty and threw me out of the house. I had to learn the hard way how to survive on the streets. When you’re in the dust and you haven’t eaten in days, you do what you have to do.

The best of it is, the ‘respectable’ people who go to the synagogue every week are judgmental and look down on me.

‘There goes a bad girl,’ they say, with their haughty looks, perfect families and nice homes.

They think I’m not worthy of God’s love – and I’m not. This isn’t all my fault, yet I’m made to feel that it is. All they see is the woman on a street corner selling herself. They don’t see the abused and frightened child or the circumstances that put me here. Yes, I’ve made choices, but they weren’t really choices. It’s not like I enjoy what I do.

But Jesus is special. It’s like He seeks us out. I sometimes think sinners like me are His favourite kind of people. He spends enough time with us! I dunno, when I’m around Jesus I feel like God has come to earth or something….

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