Zacchaeus

How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! – Psalm 32:1

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So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a Sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass through that way…Luke 19:4

 

The streets of the city were crowded that day,

The Teacher was coming – He was heading this way.

My heart leapt within at the sound of His Name,

This man who healed lepers, the blind and the lame.

 

But the crowds all around me were blocking my view,

And try as I might, I just couldn’t push through.

There’s not much to be said for my stature – it’s true,

So I ended up right at the back of the queue!

 

Then ahead of the crowds in the distance, I see,

Down the long dusty road

There’s a Sycamore Tree,

I was desperate to see Him,

It had to be done,

So I kicked up the dust and I started to run!

 

My robes snagged on twigs as I scrambled up high,

And I hoped, against hope, that He’d not pass me by,

Still my heart skipped a beat when He stopped by that tree,

And He peered through the leaves,

Looking right up at me!

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What would He say to a man such as me?

What was I doing here?

How could it be?

That this wonderful stranger should call me by name?

In that moment, I knew, I would not be the same.

 

The people were outraged- He was going to eat,

At the home of Zacchaeus, the swindler, the cheat!

But whenever He spoke, all my pride fell apart,

Until something was changed in the depths of my heart.

The tears started falling, my heart overflowed,

I would pay it all back, every penny I owed.

I would give it all gladly,

I would do anything,

For this wonderful Man,

For this beautiful King!

 

The love that He showed me,

The grace that He gave,

Swept over my being, like wave upon wave,

What joy filled my soul, and what gladness within,

When the Son of God cleansed me,

From all of my sin.

 

 

 

 

 

Broken Pieces

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Last week, Nathan and I shared Holy Communion with two others during our church service.

Our dear friend, Matt, brought a fairly conservative chunk of bread over to serve us and carefully broke it into pieces.  One of the pieces that lay on the plate was somewhat larger than the rest.  When offered the bread, our awkward Englishness seemed to take over, and each one of us avoided taking it – I mean, that would just seem rude and greedy, right?

As we bowed our heads to pray, it began to dawn on us – this bread represents the Lord’s body, broken for us.  When we eat of the bread, it’s in remembrance of Jesus’ death on the cross in our place.  Why wouldn’t we want the largest piece?!

Nathan began to pray:  “Lord, I thank you that you don’t give us little pieces of yourself!  When you died on the cross, you gave it ALL!  You gave up everything, and gave your entire self to us!  And You said: “It is finished!”  You paid the price in full!”

It was a real moment of clarity – Jesus didn’t somehow share Himself out, giving each believer a little chunk of Himself.  No!  He gave to each one of us His all.  A real sense of holy joy came over us.

Then Matt, reaching for the wine, accidentally knocked over the communion plate, which somehow slipped through the gap in the chairs and smashed.  Rather embarrassed, Matt started to collect up the broken pieces…all but one…which I will come to later….

The sharp crack of the breaking plate, instantly reminded me of the veil in the temple being torn in two.  Was God saying something here?

My ears were drawn to the song that the worship leader was quietly strumming in the background…it was something to do with bringing our broken pieces to Jesus!  This was a God moment.

Nathan reached down to retrieve the last piece of broken china. For some reason, rather than just gathering the broken pieces into a pile, which is what I would have done, Matt and Nathan attempted to put them back together on an empty chair.  And when the last piece of china was set in its place, we were completely and utterly staggered by what we saw:

Broken Plate (2)

 

“For He was wounded for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes, we are healed.” – Isaiah 53:5

 

 

 

 

 

 

Psalms and Hymns and Teacups

-For a few years now, my sister Kerry has dreamt of opening up a tea-shop, serving delicious cream teas, coffee and cakes on vintage china.  This dream has become so vividly etched in her mind, that some time ago she began visiting auction houses and charity shops and collecting tea-sets.

Kerry has boxes and drawers literally crammed with all manner of teacups and saucers and side plates.  She has scoured the internet, and most of South East London, searching for that particular teacup to complete a set, and has become something of an expert on vintage china.  She has a natural eye for colour and interior design, as this photograph shows:,

Vintage Tea set

But the trouble with dreams such as this, is that so often they are very easy to carry in our hearts, but not quite so easy to carry out in reality.  They come with a cost.  So often, they require our time, our energy, our money and our committment – not to mention a fair amount of risk-taking.

But this is not the only dream that Kerry carries.  There is one that has lingered within her, in embryonic form, since she was a little girl.   Not only is Kerry mad about teacups, she is also a gifted musician and singer.   She learnt to play the piano and flute as a young child and for as long as I can remember has always had the most beautiful, pitch-perfect singing voice.

Around 10 years ago, a visiting speaker who had never met Kerry before, spoke a prophetic word over her, that she would be used by God to lead worship and write anointed worship songs.

The trouble with giftings and promises such as this, is that so often they require our courage and faith to step out and walk in them.  Kerry, although clearly gifted and called, constantly struggles to find the boldness to step into this anointing, particularly when it comes to leading worship.

Isn’t it interesting that God so often chooses people, like Gideon, hiding in the winepress, and Moses, a man slow of speech, for callings that seem so much bigger than themselves?

A few days ago, Kerry was out walking her two boisterous Beagles, Poppy and Daisy, in the local park.  As she walked, she poured her heart out to to Lord.  All these dreams – tea-shops and worship songs – lay heavily upon her heart.  She needed guidance and confirmation about her future.  Questions and doubts went round and round in her mind…Was her dream of opening a teashop ok with God, or was it just becoming a huge distraction?  Was she really called to write worship songs?  Was she even any good at writing songs?   She certainly didn’t feel spiritual enough to lead worship.  Surely she should be reading her bible and praying a whole lot more. ( I wonder how many people can relate to thoughts like these?!)

All of a sudden, her eyes were drawn to what looked like shredded paper strewn all over the grass ahead of her.  She went over to investigate.  On closer inspection, she realised that the shredded paper was in fact pages from a bible that must have been caught by a lawn-mower.

She reached down and picked up the most intact piece that she could find.

Kerry's Psalm

Of all the pages, in all the bible, she happens to stumble across a Psalm – a song written by the biblical King David, arguably the bible’s most well-known worshipper!  Coincidence?…I don’t think so.

“Because Thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee!  

How amazing and wonderful is our heavenly Father?  How swiftly and amazingly He hears and answers our heart-felt prayers!  How lovingly He confirms His word to us – sometimes even in tangible ways: with a piece of shredded bible that you can literally pick up and read!

Okay, so Kerry still doesn’t know all the answers to all her questions concerning her future.  But she does know this:  God loves her enough to speak to her in such a personal way.  And even though she feels unqualified, He really does want her to write those worship songs!

If you’re in any doubt today that God has plans and purposes for your life – then I hope this story encourages you!  We have a wonderful, intimate Father, who knows each and every one of His children by name – who has good works that He has prepared for us in advance to walk in.  Life can be confusing at times – dreams and hopes can seem to lie dormant within us for years.  But at the right time, God is able to come along and breathe His life over these buried desires and fan into flame the gifts that He has placed within us!

Praise His Name!

 

 

 

 

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Garden Song

 

An hour of toil in the garden,
Is always time well-spent,
Tugging out those stubborn old weeds,
Which year upon year won’t relent.

An hour spent tending the garden,
Is never wasted time,
Lungs full of wonderful, fresh Spring air,
Hands caked in dirt and grime.

It’s hard to feel glum in the garden,
Birds chirping high in the trees,
Potting up Pansies so cheery and bright,
Hair tugged about on the breeze.

Cutting the deadwood, and turning the earth,
Allowing the sun to get through,
Seems to clear my cluttered mind,
And lifts my spirits too.

Thank you Lord for my garden,
Humble and small though it be,
It’s a place where so often I’ve felt You are near,
And Your joy surrounding me.

Once You knelt down in a garden,
And in terrible anguish You cried,
“Thy will, not mine be done, Oh Lord!”
Abandoned. Betrayed. Denied.

One Sunday morn in a garden,
The Son of God rose from the grave,
Bringing redemption and mercy and grace,
To the ones He came to save!

 

Toby’s Tale

 

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Toby (left) and Cleo (Right) on the day we adopted them.

 

I’m so grateful to God this morning!

On Thursday night, one of our year-old Grey Rescue Tabbies, disappeared.

I was a little concerned on Friday morning, when I opened the back door, and only Cleo came running in for her breakfast.  Where was Toby?

I had that real sinking feeling when I returned from work, and there was still no sign of him.

My girls and I pulled on our shoes and went off round the block to look for him, searching every little alleyway and the path down by the allotments, calling his name the whole time.

Not a whisker!

We returned home with heavy hearts.

Saturday morning came.  No Toby.  Sunday morning….This wasn’t looking good.

 

I went out for a walk and began to pray – when the words from a Psalm began to buzz around my head:

For You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing – Psalm 145:16

Every living thing!  Not just people…that meant Animals too!

It was a beautiful morning, bathed in warm sunlight.  The trees were alive with the chirping of birds.

I stopped and noticed a Sparrow.

Didn’t Jesus talk about the Sparrows too?

Are not five sparrows sold for five farthings?  And yet not one of them is forgotten by God – Luke 12:6

Not one Sparrow is forgotten!

Wow!

Comforted by these scriptures, I was able to pray with faith.  If God cared about the tiny sparrow, then surely He cared about our Toby!

As the warm sunrays beamed down on my face, it felt like God was reminding me of the sheer magnitude of His faithfulness.  I don’t think we’ve even begun to grasp it!

The eyes of all look to You, and You give them their food in due time.  You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.

If God makes sure the creatures of the earth are fed, then how much more will He take care of us?!

Suddenly it hit me.  I knew that God’s eye was on Toby.  I knew that God was more than able to protect him and bring Him safely home.

 

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Butter wouldn’t melt…

 

It was just before 6:00a.m. this morning, when my husband heard a familiar miaow-ing coming from our back garden.  God had answered our prayers.

The Lord is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His deeds…

I want to remind you this morning, that God is so much kinder than we realise.  He truly is a good, good Father.  He is tender-hearted and compassionate and gracious!  He cares about the things that hurt us.  He cares about our difficult days and our stressful circumstances and our lost Tabby Cats!

 

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He cares so much more than we realise.

 

 

This Is Jesus!

Story-Teller,  (Matt 13:34)

World-Holder,  (Heb 1:3, Col 1:17)

Sky-Painter,  (Psalm 19:1)

Man-Moulder!  (Gen 2:7)

 

Storm-Stopper,  (Matt 8:27)

Star-Breather,  (Psalm 33:6)

He’s The Alpha and Omega!  (Rev 1:8)

 

Wave-Walker,  (Matt 14:25)

Debt-Payer,  (Rom 6:23)

Rock, Redeemer,  (Psalm 78:35)

What a Saviour!  (Luke 2:11)

 

Cross-Bearer,  (John 19:17)

Grave-Breaker,  (Luke 24:2-3)

Key-Holder,  (Rev 1:18)

Earth-Shaker!  (Heb 12:26)

 

Life-Changer,  (2 Cor 5:17)

Truth that frees us,  (John 8:32, John 14:6)

Coming King,  (Rev 22:7, Rev 22:12, Rev 22:20)

THIS IS JESUS!

 

My kids and I had a go at writing a ‘Kenning’ style poem about Jesus a few years ago.  This is what we came up with!  Hope it blesses you today.

Risen!

He is risen

Very early,

Sunday morn,

Grief rising up like a gathering storm.

Day-break,

Hearts ache,

As the weight of it all begins to dawn.

 

Thorns, nails,

Mournful wails,

Laid in a tomb that wasn’t His own,

Laden with spices,

We make our way,

Not even knowing who’ll roll back the stone.

 

Earth quake,

Guards shake,

Heavenly beings in dazzling white,

Our hearts pound with fear,

Too scared to draw near,

We bow to the ground at this dazzling sight!

 

“You needn’t fear!

He isn’t here!

“Why search for the Living among the dead?

Hurry, go!

Let everyone know –

That Jesus is risen, just as He said!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Give Up!

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Beautiful Agapanthus

 

For as the earth brings forth its sprouts and as a garden causes the things sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations” – Isaiah 61:10-11

I’ve been praying and longing to see Revival in the UK for many years now.  Perhaps you’ve been praying for your nation too?  Or perhaps you’ve been praying for years to see someone come to faith.  If so, I want to encourage you today!

One morning, a few years back, I was talking to one of my daughters about how committed I am to praying for revival in this land.  Just before rushing out of the door to school, she looked at me, a little perplexed and said something along the lines of:

“Mum, this world is so awful.  I’m not sure that one person can make that much difference…”

(But more of that story later!)

When I inherited the garden in our current home, it was literally two strips of weedy,  unyielding earth.  The soil was full of stones.  The ‘garden’ had not plant nor flower, just hundreds of very deep rooted weeds.

The only thing it did have, was potential…it was a blank canvass really.

So, determined to have a garden, I began.  Digging, weeding, removing stones.  It was pain-staking, back-busting!  I tried adding sand into the heavy clay soil in order to improve the claggy, ‘stick-to-your-boots’ consistency.  I bought bags of rich compost and literally poured them into the beds, digging and turning the earth again and again, to try and provide a more habitable environment for plants and flowers.  The groundwork took time.

But eventually the condition of the soil improved.

Then came the long job of buying and trying – going to garden nurseries and coming home with car boots full of perennials and shrubs.  I remember placing the plants in the soil – and frankly, being a bit underwhelmed.  These puny little plants would just look so insignificant, so small in all that earth!  They didn’t make much impact.  They certainly didn’t look like the garden magazines I had been browsing through!

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Pretty depressing!

Was all this hard work ever going to be worth it?

Fortunately for me, my mum’s garden is full of flowers!  So much so, that she was able to give me clumps of Geranium and Sedum from her own beds.  Every now and then she’d pop round with a tub full of Iris or Day Lilly – and we’d dot them around as fillers.

All of this activity went on for several years.  Planting things.  Trying things.  Moving things.  If I’ve learned one thing about gardening – it’s this:  No pain, no gain.

But then suddenly…years down the line, you begin to see your garden taking shape.  Suddenly, there’s colour and form.  People start to notice: “Isn’t your garden looking lovely?”  But best of all –  you notice!  One warm summer’s evening, you sit outside,  sipping a mug of tea, realising that all your hard work is starting to pay off.  And you smile…because somehow, the fact that it took time, years even, makes it all the more rewarding.  I tended this garden!  I kept going year after year, even though – to start off with – nothing much seemed to change.

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Yes, it’s the same flower bed!

Looking back, all those years that I’ve spent tending my garden, have run parallel to the years that I’ve spent praying for this Nation.  Isn’t God great?  Don’t you just love the way He weaves the natural and the supernatural together to teach us things?   What a prophetic picture lies within all of this toil!

Because the thing is…whatever you sow into a garden, you’ll eventually reap.

Put in a Climbing Rose and come July, you’ll have Climbing Roses!  Plant a pot full of Daffodil and Tulip bulbs in September, and POP – there’s your first bit of early spring cheer!  Fill your low wall with Geraniums, and hey presto – Geraniums it is!

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Today I want to remind you of the wonderful principle that  God has set in motion.  Sowing and reaping.

“Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting.  He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed, shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him!” – Psalm 126:5-6

I know that if you’ve sown seeds of prayer for your nation, or your loved one’s salvation – perhaps tears at times – then no matter how long, no matter how many years it takes, some day, one day…you will see your reward.

If you’ve been praying – particularly for revival or salvation –  and you’re on the verge of giving up…please don’t!   One fine day, when you least expect it, you’ll turn around and your garden will be filled with beautiful blooms!  And what a wondrous reward it will be – the fruit of all your labours!

Can I tell you the rest of the story about my daughter?   A few days later she came downstairs in the morning and said: “Oh by the way mum, I had a dream about you last night….”

“Go on,” I said, intrigued.

“You were trying to start a fire by rubbing sticks together,” she said.  “At first nothing was happening.  But you didn’t give up.  Then all of a sudden, there was a spark, and then the whole thing just burst into flame!”

My mouth was almost agog as she added:

“And I think it’s to do with you praying!”

So today, here’s God’s message to you (and me):  Keep going!  Don’t you dare give up!