Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Tag: thankful

1,000 Gifts

When my friend Elizabeth and I went away earlier this year for a prayer retreat, we started our week by writing a list of things for which to thank God. These could be anything from salvation and deliverance to blowing bubbles and chocolate biscuits. We set ourselves a target of 50 each and laughed a lot as we called them out to each other. We lost count at around the 200 mark and jumped right in to praising and thanking God.

More recently, I’ve read Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. Ann started to write in a notebook all the gifts – large and small – that God was giving in each situation every day.

I purposed to do the same. Because every single day God gives gifts. The Bible says that every good and perfect gift comes directly from the Father. But if I’m not looking out for them I miss them.

For instance, Adi and I were on holiday a few days ago near Battle (East Sussex). We fell in love with the wooden lodge we were staying in. Before going I’d been praying for peace and quiet, I was desperate to get away from the noise of everyday life. God gave peace and quiet in abundance. And lots more beside.

View East Sussex

We had a front row seat to a wonderful view of trees and greenery, and could see as far as the South Downs. From my comfy two-seater (Adi took possession of the other two-seater), I simply had to lift my head to enjoy the sunset. If you know anything about me, you know I love hills, trees and sunsets. This view felt like a gift-wrapped package from my Father. ‘There you go, thought you might enjoy this,’ as He dropped it into my lap.

The psalmist urges us not to forget all God’s benefits, to thank God always because His love lasts forever. God hates grumbling, moaning and ingratitude. And to be honest, it’s not nice being around people who are negative and ungrateful.

I believe that looking out for the lovely things God gives and does for us can help with getting a healthy mind and more positive attitude. During a tough period of heartbreak in my early twenties, I made the decision to look for two or three good things that had happened that day and write them down. I could easily have gone under with my grief but focusing on the positive that God was doing/giving helped me through.

So now I’m scribbling down and thanking God for the gifts I’m learning – with His help – to spot each day:

A squirrel in the garden.

Chilling on the swing-seat.

Spotting Becky and Ellie Downie in Tesco.

Sunlight on wet grass, making it sparkle.

Fresh coffee.

That Jesus’ Dad is my Dad.

 

Spirit

On Sunday 18th October 2009 my life changed forever.

A few months earlier, Adi and I had started going to Grace Church.  One of the things I loved about Grace was that people spoke very personally to God and sang lovingly and adoringly about Him. Although we were all Christians, Adi and I could see they had something we didn’t.  They taught about the Holy Spirit and used spiritual gifts in every meeting. They functioned naturally in the supernatural.

It was intriguing. I couldn’t deny that God was among them in a way I’d never seen before. Spiritual pictures and prophetic words spoke to the most secret parts of my heart. When someone prayed or sang out in a tongue, the meeting didn’t move on until the interpretation was given.

Adi and I had never had much teaching on the Spirit and, to be honest, we thought of Him as simply a ticket to heaven. We felt a little like the disciples in Acts 19 who’d never heard of the Holy Spirit.

I had lots of questions, and a good friend advised me to read through Luke and Acts and make a note of every time the Holy Spirit is mentioned. I couldn’t believe how many times that was. He was crucial to the plot. I was gobsmacked.

I was also reading Jack Deere’s Surprised by the Power of the Spirit. Dr Deere came from a similar theological background to me and there was much I could identify with. Through the book, he took me on his own journey from cessationism (believing the spiritual gifts died out with the apostles) to baptism and moving in the Holy Spirit.

SpiritSo on that momentous Sunday morning in October, I was ready and expectant to receive baptism in the Spirit. I invited Him to come while a friend laid hands on me and prayed. Joy bubbled up inside me and I began to pray in tongues. Looking at me, there was little physical evidence that I had received the Spirit. My right hand shook a bit and a few tears trickled out. But I knew He had come.

The next morning I tentatively tried praying in tongues again. Could I still do it? Was it just gobbledegook? To my relief, I could still do it. But I didn’t value this gift for months.

Since receiving the Spirit, it’s like everything is more colourful, deeper, more precious than before. It doesn’t make me a higher class of Christian or better than anyone else. But I’m more aware of God’s presence than I ever used to be. More and more I rely on the Spirit to help me. He is the best Teacher! He opens up the Bible to me, giving me understanding and making it real.

I adore how the Spirit tells my spirit that I am a child of God. I love the prayer language of tongues, what a wonderful gift this is. When I run out of words or my heart is too full for my English to keep up, I can pour out all my desires and longings and praise to God in tongues.

I’m so thankful to God the Father for His incredible gift. Some 2,000 years ago Jesus died so that I could be forgiven and brought back into relationship with God. He has given me a new heart and abundant life. The Father has placed the Spirit of Jesus in me so that I can have full assurance I am His child, and as a first instalment guaranteeing everything He has promised. The Spirit has given me spiritual gifts and makes me a supernatural being on top of all that.

All made possible because of Jesus. Thank You Lord.

 

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.

Celebrate: Women

It’s Mother’s Day.
I think I prefer the phrase Mothering Sunday.

There are many who ‘mother’ without ever having the official title.
If we use it as a verb, the term means to bring up a child with care and affection.
Millions of women do this.
Every day.
They mother those who don’t have mums.
They care for others without necessarily having a biological bond. They’re no less mothers, nor would we think of them as less.

Some ‘mothers’ are grieving today. Some because they wish they’d had a chance to own that title.
Some, because their children aren’t alive anymore. Others because their children are estranged or in other parts of the world they can never get to.
Some of our ‘missing’ is because our mums aren’t here anymore, and that hurts to our very core.
Mothering Sunday is important; a chance to say thank you to those that mother us.
Be thankful for your mum. Be grateful for those who mother you.

Look out for those today who feel the day more keenly and need a little care and love.
I’m so thankful to God for my mum, and also those that care for me with mothering skills.

Spare a thought right now for those who will smile today, but behind that smile are 1000s of tears. Weep with them if you need to, but show them you care.

Mothering Sunday is for us all.

Keren Baker

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