*Note: It is the author’s desire to dedicate this letter to all who make Vacation Bible School possible, with a reminder: Little ears just may be listening.

“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are his judgments, and His ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33). 

Well, folks, this story is mighty important to me – important enough that I hand it to you with provident care. Sorta like a treasure, hidden in a little boy’s pocket. “What do you have there son?” 

And the lil’ fella looks down at his britches, kind of wishin’ he had never been asked that question. For what’s mighty important to him may not be to someone else, and he don’t want it trampled on. 

Yep, that’s it alright, for this here story is hidin’ in my shirt pocket, the one right over my heart. But the Lord said share it, so that’s what I’m gonna do; and I promise I’ll try my best to tell it right.

Alley Spring Mill was built in 1894. Living here in the Ozarks, what a blessing it is to have it right in your back door; along with other special places, like Topaz and Hodgson. But, I must admit, I am partial to Alley. Very partial, and probably not for the reason a lot of folks might imagine. 

Alley Spring, with her blue water, and the Big Red Mill is beautiful alright – almost beyond words. And that towering Ozark mountain behind her is a sight to behold.  Yes sir, it sure is. But there is another reason, and that reason is where my story will begin, and that is where it will end.   

You see, when I was but a little sprout, the fine ladies of New Hope Church, in the small community of Solo, would hold Bible School every evening for a week in the summer. Why, that little church house wasn’t a whole lot bigger than the one room school sittin’ across the creek from Alley. What memories I have of that time; yes sir, as I am certain many of you folks do also. 

Well, one of the old songs they taught us children, was about a little man named Zacchaeus that lived in Jericho, who pushed through a crowd, and climbed a sycamore tree to see Jesus. Now, I don’t know if you ever tried, but climbing a Sycamore with it’s smooth papery bark is no small feat; no, sir! And I have considered this often when thinking about what Zacchaeus did. 

In saying that, there is a scripture in Jeremiah that I believe fits this story to a tee. 

“And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:13). 

You see, that is what Zacchaeus was doing when he pushed through the crowd and climbed that sycamore; he was seeking Christ Jesus with all his heart (wiping a tear.)

But why?  Turns out that Zacchaeus was a very wealthy man, with a burden in his soul that money couldn’t fix, and it ate at him like a canker. Some of you will know what I am a talkin’ about – I know you will. 

Well, Zacchaeus had heard about this miracle worker named Jesus, who could fix a man’s heart and make it right. So, up the tree he went, just like a ringtail runnin’ from a hound; and, don’t you know that he meant business! Now, as a lil’ boy who knew all about climbin’ trees, I was a takin’ that in when a learnin’ that song. 

And what happened to this Zacchaeus fella? Well, Jesus, who was walking by, saw him up there in the tree; and knowing his aching desire to be set free of his burden, called him down, and fixed his heart. Changed him from the inside out, Jesus did; the true mark of a Christian. 

Now, if that story in the Bible ended right there it would be good enough; plenty good enough. But it don’t. No sir, it don’t…(lowering my voice)…for there is a secret.  And that secret…is what I have hidin’ in my pocket. 

“The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him, and He will show them His covenant.” (Psalm 25:14)  

Jesus said something concerning all who would believe on Him, and it’s a very important point to this story.

“He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). 

Now, why do you suppose it is, that everywhere there is natural water (if man leaves it alone), sycamore trees will grow there?  And why is it that the sycamore is specifically mentioned in the story of Zacchaeus?  Why not just say he climbed a tree?     

The reason is because God had a plan; a secret. He who made everything, placed the sycamore with its white branches, right next to water as a testimony of His covenant, to all who will believe. That not only did rivers of living water flow out of Zacchaeus, but they will for you also, if you seek Him with all your heart. Yes, sir, He will clothe you in white, just like He did Zacchaeus, and the sycamore branches where he sat; a testament of his struggle to find Jesus (Rev. 3:4,5).  

And here my story ends, that grand ol’ sycamore standing right there in front of Alley Spring, with pure waters just a gushin’, and flowin’ behind it; 80 million gallons per day. 

An Ozarks monument of God’s secret, and what He did for a man long ago…who climbed a sycamore tree.

Michael Everett Jones is a Texas County native, old fashioned historian and purveyor of traditional Christian values. Email ozarksgrandpajones@gmail.com.

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