A Jubilee Tribute to Queen Elizabeth II

On 6th February, 1952, a 25-year-old woman named Elizabeth Windsor, received the terrible news that her Father, King George VI had died.

In mourning, she immediately flew home from Kenya, knowing that as the eldest of two sisters, she would now be required to dedicate her entire life to the service of her country and her people.

the coronation

On 2nd June, 1953, people all over the UK crowded around whatever television set they could find, to watch the BBC Broadcast of the Coronation. In fact, more TV sets were bought in the two months prior to the Coronation than in any other period of time since!

Amidst the earthly wealth of glittering crowns and golden carriages, a solemn promise was about to be made:

I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong. But I shall not have strength to carry out this resolution alone unless you join in it with me, as I now invite you to do: I know your support will be unfailingly given.

God help me to make good my vow, and God bless all of you who are willing to share in it.

A HIGHER KING

The Queen fully understood the significance of the role she was taking on and that ultimately, she served a Higher King – Jesus Christ – her Lord and Saviour.

Many of the rituals, symbols and artefacts that were used during the ceremony carried a far deeper meaning than one might first detect.

A golden orb, originally made for the Coronation of King Charles II in 1661, encrusted with over six hundred jewels was given to the Queen. On top of the Orb was a cross, symbolising the rule of Jesus Christ over the earth.

Courtesy of Fine Art of America

A single diamond, the magnificent ‘Star of Africa’ mounted in one of the royal scepters, is believed to have carried a value of £400 million. But when the Moderator of the Church of Scotland stepped forward to present the Queen with a Coronation gift, he described it as: ‘the most valuable thing this world affords’. It was a bible.

faithful

Sixty-one years later, during her Christmas Day broadcast, the ongoing reliance and inspiration drawn from the Queen’s Christian faith remained clearly evident:

I hope that like me you will be comforted by the example of Jesus of Nazareth, who often in circumstances of great adversity, managed to live an outgoing, unselfish and sacrificial life.

Countless millions of people around the world continue to celebrate His birthday at Christmas, inspired by His teaching.

He makes it clear that genuine human happiness and satisfaction lie more in giving than receiving; more in serving than being served.

We can surely be grateful that two-thousand years after the birth of Jesus, so many of us are able to draw inspiration from His life and message, and to find in Him a source of strength and courage.

Words taken from the Queen’s Christmas Broadcast, 2008

JUBILEE CELEBRATIONS

Here in the UK, from 2nd – 5th June, people all over the UK are enjoying a rare four-day weekend in honour of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. No other monarch in UK history has ever reached the milestone of reigning for 70 years!

Red, white and blue bunting festoons our streets and shop window displays. Lanterns are being lit all over the country and street parties are taking place.

Over the next few days, I hope to post some photos of the celebrations!

It’s a joy to join in the wonderful Jubilee Celebrations of a Queen who has so honourably and openly held fast to her faith, often during seasons of great difficulty and testing.

I hope you will enjoy some of the photos and images of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

Queen Elizabeth, thank you for serving us so well!

One Storm, Two Kinds of Fear

On that day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd they took Him with them in the boat, just as He was. And other boats were with Him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing? And He awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still! And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”

Mark 4:35-41

Squalls & Storms!

This morning, as we find ourselves in the grip of a growing global health crisis,’ I believe this is such a word in season.

We know the story well. The disciples and Jesus are sailing across the Sea of Galilee, when all of a sudden, a great wind-storm arises. In the book of Matthew, the word ‘squall’ is used, which means a sudden violent wind, or localised storm, especially one bringing rain, snow or sleet.

Isn’t it strange how suddenly trouble can arise? One minute it’s Happy New Year, and the next…we’re lurching from one crisis to the next. Wildfires. Climate change. Plagues of locusts. Deadly viruses. Storms, both literal and metaphoric, are by nature, sudden, violent and unpredictable. And they seem to be increasing in these days.

Don’t You Care?

The waves were ‘breaking into the boat’, and the boat was ‘already’ filling with water. This was not just a risky situ, this was imminent, life-threatening danger. And where was Jesus? Asleep on a cushion in the stern of the boat!

The disciples on the other hand, were quite understandably, panicking!

They wake Jesus up, seemingly bemused, as to why He isn’t doing anything!

“Don’t you care that we are perishing?” they say.

Now, perhaps Jesus was in such a deep sleep that He genuinely didn’t realise there was a full-scale hullabaloo going on! But the interesting point is, when He wakes up, He doesn’t immediately start trying to bail out the water and join in the panic. Neither does He apologise for being asleep. At no point does Jesus become subject to the storm.

In the Grip of Fear

Have you noticed how quickly fear can spread? Believe me, it can escalate much faster than any virus! When you witness people fighting and screaming over toilet-roll in the supermarket, you begin to understand just how noxious fear can be.

But have you ever noticed there are two types of fear in this passage?

First we witness the fear of the storm. Highly understandable in many ways. The boat was taking a pounding, it was filling up with water. If things didn’t change very quickly, it was only going one way….Down into the depths.

Jesus rebukes the wind and speaks to the sea: “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceases and there is a great calm.

There are no words to describe how awesome this must have been.

And then Jesus addresses the disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

It’s incredible, isn’t it? Jesus doesn’t immediately comfort these traumatised disciples, He challenges them! “Why are you so afraid?” Haven’t you seen enough of My power, of My great love and compassion – are you still not yet convinced?

A Different Kind of Fear

And then the scripture tells us that they are filled with GREAT FEAR, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that even the winds and waves obey Him?”

Suddenly they are gripped with the right kind of fear. It’s called the Fear of the Lord. It’s a reverential, awestruck submission. It’s the kind of fear that realises that God is infinitely Higher, and greater and Holier than I could ever imagine -that everything He says and everything He does is always just and right and true. It’s the kind of fear that caused the apostle John to fall down like a dead man at the sight of the Resurrected Jesus, and Isaiah to cry out, “Woe is me, for I am undone! I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips, for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts!”

Right in this jaw-dropping moment, when all of a sudden the raging sea with it’s high and lofty billows becomes as calm as a millpond, the disciples suddenly SEE. They realise who the real King is.

Sunset over Lake Garda, Italy, August 2018

They see that all along they have been in the boat with someone so powerful, so glorious, so incomprehensible, that they are absolutely undone. All of a sudden, they are filled with the right kind of fear. Internally, they fall to their knees, as they now perceive that the One who stands before them is utterly powerful, absolutely in control, and ultimately worthy of all worship, honour, and glory. Suddenly they are no longer afraid of the storm, because they’ve just locked eyes with the storm-stopper!

So in the midst of this very real crisis, let’s ask God to help us not to give in to fear and panic. Despite the rising water level, despite the numbers of confirmed cases increasing by the hour, despite the chaos we can see all around us & the media overplaying, (or politicians underplaying) things, and despite the ensuing panic and disruption that may well come, let’s press on, rebuking the storm and trusting in the storm-stopper!

In these stormy times, in the face of this sudden squall, I pray we will be governed by the right kind of fear, the fear of the Lord, which so wondrously displaces any other.

Thirsty!

I love a good game of Spot the difference, don’t you?…

Have a good look at these two sets of pictures. They are both photos of the tomato plants that I’m currently trying to grow.

Now tell me…what’s the difference?

Water.

That’s the difference! Set one is a photo of my tomato plants when I got back from my holiday a few weeks back. (What a sad and sorrowful sight!)

Set two is a photo of my tomato plants the following morning, after a great big, refreshing drink of water.

It’s remarkable, isn’t it?!

I don’t think I’ve ever come across plants that are quite as thirsty as these. If you forget to water them for a single day, they literally droop and wilt and look all but dead.

But give them a good old glug of water, and half an hour later, they completely revive!

Thirsty?

Have you ever been thirsty? Have you ever experienced that dryness in your mouth and throat, that feeling of agitation, of desperation, where all you can think about is water?

The trouble is, just like my tomato plants, one drink of water is not enough. We need to keep drinking in order to survive.

The Woman at the Well

Jesus had an interesting chat with a woman at a well once. They were talking about water. I guess when you’re standing at a well, water is a fairly obvious thing to talk about. In fact, Jesus dares to ask the woman to draw him some water.

According to the gospel of John, this rather surprises the woman:

You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink? (For Jews and Samaritans do not associate with one another).

John 4:9

Jesus answers her:

If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.”

John 4:10

Ok, what is Jesus doing here? He’s gone from talking about H2O – literal, physical water- to something entirely spiritual.

LIVING WATER.

The conversation twists and turns like this for a while, with the Samaritan woman still not really seeing, not really perceiving.

Jesus says:

Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again. But whoever drinks the water that I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become to them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Through a series of further interchanges, Jesus lovingly draws this woman out. It’s as if He sees right into the depths of her heart and reveals all the emptiness within. This woman has been desperately thirsty. She’s been searching for years and years – desperately yearning – for a love that lasts – that really satisfies. Jesus sends the bucket right deep down into the depths of her soul. Why? Not to make her feel ashamed. But because He knows her lack. He really, truly sees her. He rightly discerns that she’s had five husbands. And that she’s not married to her current lover. This woman cannot seem to find what she’s looking for. She cannot seem to quench her thirst. She’s placing all her hope in human relationships, going from husband to husband, lover to lover – looking for true love and happiness, where it just can’t be found. It’s like she’s got this desperate, insatiable thirst.

Empty Wells

Whoever drinks this water will be thirsty again…

Are you thirsty today? Are you searching down an empty well?

Money. Sex. Relationships. Fame and popularity. Success. Likes on Social Media. Drugs. Booze. Possessions. Houses. Careers. Ambitions fulfilled. Children. Family. Clothes. Holidays.

All of these things can fill a void temporarily. But the trouble is, they won’t bring lasting satisfaction.

Don’t get me wrong, some of these things aren’t BAD in themselves. Some of these things are gifts from God, meant to be enjoyed. But the point is, sometimes we focus on the gift, forgetting that the most beautiful thing about a gift, is the giver.

There is nothing on earth that can fill the God-shaped void within each one of us. These things may momentarily quench something within our souls. But they will always, always leave us thirsting for more.

Living Water

The good news is, God wants to give us His LIVING WATER – What’s Living Water? The type of water that fully satisfies. The type of drink that puts an end to all our searching. We will never find lasting satisfaction in the temporal, in the carnal, in the things we spend our time and money acquring, the things we try to hopelessly keep stuffing into the empty places.

Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters, and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.

Isaiah 55:2-3

At last, the Samaritan woman finds it! She finds the living Water as she talks with Jesus at the well. She comes to understand that HE is the living water – He is the end of all our thirsting. When we meet Jesus, and fully understand who He is, and the gift of salvation that He brings, we will never thirst again. Rivers of LIVING WATER will flow from our inner most being. If you’re thirsty today, then the following invitation, from Jesus, is for you…

‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’

John 7:37-39

Two Builders

Blessed are they who keep my ways. Heed instruction and be wise –

Proverbs 8:33

Once there were two builder guys,

One was foolish, one was wise.

Built their houses by the shore,

Bang, Tap, Hammer, Saw!

Both their houses looked so grand,

One on rock, the other sand,

Who’s been foolish, can you tell?

Who’s built badly, who’s built well?

Trees are swaying, skies are grey,

Who knew it would rain today?!

Run inside, shut the door,

Looks like it’s about to pour

Thunder cracks – what a din!

A sudden storm is rolling in,

Rain is falling, waters rise,

Now we’ll see which man was wise.

The storm keeps raging all day long,

And the house on the rock keeps standing strong,

But creak, wobble, crash, bang, SPLAT!

The house on the sand has fallen flat!

A Story Jesus Told…

Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house, and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock.

Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.  The rain fell, and the floods came and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell – and great was its fall!

Matthew 7:24-27

Which kind?

Which kind of man did Jesus say was wise?

Everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts upon them

Which kind of man did Jesus say was foolish?

Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act upon them

Both of these guys HEARD.  Both of these men built houses – that’s pretty clever, right?

But only one of them built on the right foundation.  Only one of these houses was founded on the rock.

Hearing God’s word is not enough to make us wise.  We need to obey, if we want our lives to be founded upon the rock.

When the storms came…

It wasn’t until the storms came, that we found out which man had built wisely.

When the storms of life come – our foundations will be tested.  Is your life founded on the rock of Jesus Christ, on His death and resurrection, and on His free gift of righteousness? Or are you trying to build on your own foundation?

What kind of builder will you be?

Anouska’s Story

I’d like to introduce you to a friend of mine.

Anouska and I were childhood friends. We went to church together. I can still picture her back then – a pretty snippet of a girl – a little bit cheeky – always laughing and full of beans. She was named after a character from a book that her mum was reading about a Russian Ballerina.

Years ago…Crystal Palace Park

Sadly, at around age 11, life took us in different directions, and for years, we lost touch. One day, I heard from a mutual friend, that Anouska’s life had taken an extremely difficult turn. At that time, she had all but lost her faith. I began to cry out to God for her. One day, out of the blue, she messaged me on Social Media, and eventually we met up for coffee.

Not long after, I had the privilege of praying for Anouska at her baptism, in June 2017. It was impossible to hold back the wave of tears and emotion as I witnessed her go through those waters, and listened to her testify about her strong faith in Jesus, through the storms of adversity.

I don’t think Anouska truly knows the impact she has had on me, and many many others.

This is her story.

  • Sep, 2011 – Anouska was diagnosed with HER2 Positive Breast Cancer. She was just 35.
  • October 2011-March 2012 – Extensive Chemotherapy (which forced her through early menopause).
  • April 2012 – Double Mastectomy with immediate reconstuction (9 hrs and 30 mins in surgery)
  • April 2012 – Declared Cancer Free!
  • September 2013 – After months of excruciating headaches, doctors discover a Stage 4 Breast Cancer related Brain Tumour.
  • October 2013 – Undergoes surgery to remove it.
  • November 2013 – Ten sessions of whole brain radiotherapy
  • Jan 2014 – Anouska’s beloved Mum, Gill passes away from a sudden massive heart attack, four days after she is diagnosed for the third time with a small secondary breast cancer in the liver.
  • February 2014 – April 2014 – Undergoes Chemotherapy and targeted therapy antibody drugs, Herceptin and Perjeta.
  • April 2014 – Anouska contracts the hospital superbug ‘C-Diff’ and is unable to continue with her chemotherapy.
  • May 2014 – Continues with 3 weekly antibody drug treatment and is told that this will continue for the rest of her life.
  • June 2014 – Full body scans – receives the magic words: ‘Anouska, you’re in remission!’
  • October 2017 – Routine Scan shows up a small secondary breast cancer brain tumour.
  • November 2017 – Undergoes surgery to remove brain tumour, reopening scar from first brain surgery. Developed complications, leaking cerebral fluid from scar. Develops a CSF infection (viral meningitis.)
  • Anouska is hospitalised with severe headaches, dizziness, vomiting and an intolerance to light. She is given intravenous antibiotics.
  • Sent home from hospital on 23rd December 2017 but is still vomiting and dizzy with constant severe headaches. So she is readmitted to hospital for six weeks, until finally she is sent home as the hospital need the bed.
  • May, 2018 – Begins 3 sessions of cranial osteopathy – which are unsuccessful. On fourth session Doctor tries acupuncture. Finally, the room stops spinning, the headaches and vomiting stop.
  • September 2018 – For some time, Anouska has been experiencing weeping from her right nipple. Biopsy reveals Cancer in her right nipple.
  • October 2018 – Surgery to remove both nipples.
  • Jan 2019 – Scan reveals small tumour in brain. Further scan shows 2 more.
  • February 2019 -SRS Radiotherapy treatment.
  • May 2019 – Scans on brain and body ALL CLEAR!

Quite a journey, hey?

Yet if you met Anouska, I’m pretty sure you would have no idea what she’s been through in the past eight years. Instead, you would be met with a beaming smile, and a friend who, time after time, is far quicker to ask how YOU are, than talk about herself.

She’s the type of person that shows up with a pair of Marigolds on and does your housework when you’ve had a busy week- and I’m not exaggerating.

She is unbelievably generous and kind. She bowled us over with this stunning hamper when she came over for Christmas Dinner last year.

Treats Galore!

She is always the first one to wash up, or bake a cake, or help serve at a church event. She recently served on our Homeless Shelter Team.

When Anouska’s mum passed away, Anouska took up full care of her 29 year old foster brother, Christian, who has accute physical needs, due to being born with an extremely rare condition.

I’ve never heard Anouska grumble. I’ve never heard her moan. But I’ve heard her crack plenty of jokes. She sends me encouragements. She cheers me up. She tells me off when I moan about my bad hair day, reminding me that she still doesn’t have any hair to moan about. She rocks a wig better than anyone I’ve ever met – and looks just as beautiful with a turban on her head.

She is positive. She is grateful for the small things. She oozes faith and hope. Her smile lights up the room. She lives life to the full and she never sweats the small stuff.

She lives out, on a daily basis, her favourite scripture verses:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?

Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow, or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you – you of little faith?

So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “what shall we wear?” For the pagans run after all of these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.

Matthew 6:24-33
Cheers…

She sent me these words today:

Before I met with Jesus, I blamed God for all the bad things that happened to me, and I felt like I was facing everything on my own – especially when my mum passed away 5 days after I was diagnosed for the third time.

Now instead of blaming God for letting this happen to me, I thank Him for the world-surpassing peace, strength and positivity He has given me.

My faith in Jesus is everything now. I know that even when I’m sitting in the treatment chair, laid on the radiotherapy bed, or on the operating table, Jesus is with me, I’m not alone and I never worry about what the future may bring.

Anouska, I salute you. It’s a privilege to be your friend, and I love you from the bottom of my heart!

They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings of eagles, they shall run and not be weary, walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:31