Zeph Daily 51 – Keep your eyes on the prize…

Morning Zephyrs! Julie here. Yesterday was World Otter Day – so here is a picture of an otter for you to enjoy!


Source: freeimages.com

I love otters – and one of the reasons I love them is because they come with so many interesting facts!
Did you know that sea otters tangle themselves in kelp when they sleep so they won’t float away? And sometimes they hold paws with another sea otter while they snooze, so they don’t lose each other?
Or that many otters have a favourite rock they carry in their little underarm pockets for when they need to open seafood shells?
Or that they have particularly smelly poo that some scientists describe as smelling like violets? Otter poo is so unique it has a special name – spraint.

I’ve loved otters for a long time because someone close to me loves them even more than I do – my mum. I’ve had a book about them on my bookshelf for as long as I can remember, which I think she must have bought me…

Otter Book

Copyright J. Wilkinson 2020

In adulthood, myself, my siblings, our families, and my parents have spent many a summer’s week on extended family holidays, often to the wilds of Scotland – Fort William, Inverness, Skye, Arran, Mull, Raasay, Orkney to name a few. And on many of these trips, my mum has brought along a fervent hope of seeing an otter in the wild.

We’re quite a wildlife-y kind of family – we’ve seen deer, seals, dolphins and porpoises, basking shark, sea eagles, osprey. Spending some time as amateur Springwatch presenters is a traditional part of our holidays. And so, many of our trips would include dusky evenings looking over bays and rivers to see if we could spot an elusive otter.

I can still remember the first time we saw one, on Raasay in 2012. We’d set off as the sun was beginning to set, arriving at the harbour where my oldest brother did his best Steve Backshall impersonation and gave us some tips on how to maximise our chances of spotting one. We hung around the harbour for a long time, eyes peeled, but – nothing. So we wandered up to where the road wound along the edge of the sea and walked along it, stopping regularly to stare out at the increasingly darkening water. One thing my mum doesn’t have in abundance is patience – she kept muttering things about “not being able to see one tonight”, until eventually she gave up and wandered away from the rest of us to “look somewhere else”. And as soon as her back was turned and she was out of range, what should pop up in the sea? An otter! We tried to get her attention, but to no avail, so we stopped and watched it for a bit – here it is in this, admittedly not very clear, photo.


Copyright J. Wilkinson 2012

Eventually, my brother went to fetch her but, by the time they got back, it had gone. After that, it became a standing family joke that my mum – who most wanted to see one – was always looking the wrong way when an otter would appear. We joked that the otters would wait for her to look the other way or wander off, pop out to show off to the rest of us, then disappear as soon as she looked round. Or we’d pretend we’d seen one – “Look! An otter!” – then when she turned round to look, we’d say it had gone. Or we’d send her a text or report back on our trip out – “Mum! We saw an otter!” “Really?” “Yeah – wanna see a photo?” And there would be my niece holding a cuddly otter in a shop…

0516 DSCF2896

Copyright J. Wilkinson 2011

A couple of years later, we were on Arran, staying in a house right on the waterfront. My mum and dad had been there a few days longer than us and had been – unsuccessfully – looking out for otters at dusk. One beautiful sunny day, we set out for an afternoon trip, around noon. We were sitting in the back of the car, messing around with our phones and a pair of ridiculous heart-shaped sunglasses, when my mum suddenly exclaimed, “Look!”
“An otter just ran right across the road in front of us, didn’t you see?”
Sensing that the trickster tables were turning and she was playing a similar ‘not really’ prank on us, we replied, “Yeah, right…”
“No – look!” She said and pointed to her right – where, disappearing into the undergrowth on an overgrown path, we could just make out the furry bottom of an otter. After all those times of missing out and being made fun of, she’d finally had an otter sighting – which the rest of us had missed!

She’s become something of an expert since then, buoyed by her success! A couple of years ago, she came back from a trip to Mull with my dad and put a framed photo up on her wall, one that she took herself while they were there…

Mum's Otter

Copyright C. Slaney

Perseverance. It can be a tricky quality to master. Whether it’s turning out again and again to spot an otter when all around you have already seen one and you think your day will never come; or whether it’s continuing to follow God’s call on us to think beyond ourselves, love our neighbour, and act for the greater good even though it costs us, when we see others not bothering to do the same.

“I have not yet reached my goal, and I am not perfect. But Christ has taken hold of me. So I keep on running and struggling to take hold of the prize. My friends, I don’t feel that I have already arrived. But I forget what is behind, and I struggle for what is ahead. I run toward the goal, so that I can win the prize of being called to heaven. This is the prize that God offers because of what Christ Jesus has done. All of us who are mature should think in this same way. And if any of you think differently, God will make it clear to you. But we must keep going in the direction that we are now headed.” (Philippians 3: 12-16)

Keep your eyes on the prize…

Keep going Zephyrs – fix your eyes on the prize and follow the call that God makes on us. We will get there! Amen.
Have great days, all!


Zeph Daily 50

Aloha! Bonjour! Bore Da! Buenos Dias! Good morning! Yo regulates! Kalimera!


Any other languages you fancy ‘Good Morning’ me in? (😂😂 I’ve just noticed that Facebook seems to have auto-corrected one of my languages whilst it was posting – Jo Reggelt!)

Many years ago (so many now it makes me sigh deeply 😔), I used to live in Hungary. I don’t know if you know anything about Hungarian but, let me tell you, it is a Ridiculously Difficult Language to learn!

There were many, many times when I felt a little like Manuel – que??? I managed to learn some and was able to get by in the shops and stuff, but never really made it past beginner level.

And so, when one day I was on the tram and spotted a group of tourists looking lost and confused (we were at a tram stop and they got on, got off, got back on, got back off and then got on again, huddled around a map and pointed lots), I decided to step in and see if I could help.

The tram had, by this point, set off again (not surprisingly). I had heard them talking and had ascertained that they were Australian, so I somehow managed to get the attention of one of the group and asked, “Are you lost?”

She looked at me blankly so I repeated my question. She continued to look at me blankly so I repeated my question…again. She continued to look at me blankly so I repeated my question…..AGAIN!! 3 words, that was all I was saying, just 3 words – “Are you lost?” There was nothing complicated or difficult in that question and yet……blank!

She then turned back to her group of dithering, seemingly lost friends, muttered something and then another one of them turned to look at me. I took a deep breath and tried again. “Are you lost?”

Finally, a glimmer of understanding, followed by this (spoken Very Slowly and Quite Loudly): “Oh, no, we’re just stupid!” 🙄

How do you respond to that??!!!!

I was utterly baffled as to how the first one I’d been asking had so spectacularly failed to understand me. I mean, I was used to people struggling to understand my accent, that was not something new. But these were people whose first language was English and I only said 3 words. 3 words!! How can you not understand 3 words?!!! But then, as I thought about it some more, I wondered whether maybe she’d not understood me because she was not expecting to be spoken to in English. They were in Hungary, land of the ridiculously difficult language; they weren’t entirely confident in their situation. And then I spoke to her in her own language. And it may only have been 3 words but she was not expecting it and so completely missed that those 3 words were actually words she understood.

And I guess that can be the same with us and God. Sometimes we can be so caught up in this and that, that we miss what God’s trying to say to us, or what God’s trying to show us. God loves us so much, He has so much He wants to share with us and say to us. Let’s, as we go through today, do our best not to miss (or misunderstand) what God’s got in store for us.

Amen and a szep napot to you all! 

– Yvonne


Zeph Daily 49

Welcome to Zeph Daily – Julia here. People who know me well may have got an inkling that I have a great love for Julie Andrews.

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Not that I usually need an excuse to bring Dame Julie into conversation, but there is in fact a reason I mention it. Tomorrow, 27th May, is the anniversary of the most important day of my life: the day I met* Julie Andrews! My wonderful friend Adam alerted me that Dame Julie was doing a tour, so I managed to arrange to see her.

*from a mere 100m away

And so I thought it only right to look back on a past assembly featuring the wisdom of Dame Julie.

It all started when I met a friend at a coffee shop. It was an independent little coffee shop, and had some homemade cakes for sale. I am a big fan of cake.

Favourite cakes anyone? I think mine might be battenburg…

The cake that most caught my eye in the coffee shop was some mouth-watering homemade brownies. They were thick and chunky, but also had the look that they would melt in your mouth like you were eating an angel’s harp. My friend seemed to be thinking the same thing, as she turned to me and said, “That looks nice doesn’t it. Shall I get us some?”

I was very excited!

To my great and terrible dismay, the next words to come from my friend’s mouth were not the ones I wanted to hear.

“Could we have 2 slices of carrot and walnut cake please?” WHAT.

I was distraught. In my opinion carrot cake is the worst thing you can do to cake, and the only thing that could possibly make it worse is putting some wrinkly brown walnut on top of it.

However, it had kindly been bought for me, so I thought I’d better pretend to like it. I took a small mouthful and was surprised – it was actually pretty great! I finished it off with unexpected enjoyment. What’s more, on the way out of the coffee shop, they were now giving away free samples of the cakes – so I got to try a bit of the brownie after all. To my surprise, it was not nearly as good as the carrot and walnut cake. I was very almost converted that day.

There are many times in life where we don’t get what we want. There are many times when we find ourselves having to deal with disappointment. As painful as those times can be, that doesn’t need to be the end of the story.

A wise Julie Andrews once said, “God never closes a door without opening a window.”

When we’re in the middle of dark times, God does not leave us. He finds us a way through, when we thought there wasn’t one.

Take a moment to thank God for the times he has led you through impossible situations in the past.
Take another moment to bring to God the situations now that are not what you wanted, and ask for his help.

Something I love about the way Dame Julie puts it, is that she doesn’t say it’s another door – this time it’s climbing through the window! It makes me think of ‘bending the rules’ – or not being restricted by rigid expectations. A bit like Jesus healing people on the Sabbath day of rest; the religious leaders were aghast and shouted about rules, while Jesus understood the point. And loved people.
For me, it really reminds me of the idea that God is about grace and abundance. The idea that God so exuberantly wants the best for us, and will never give up on us, means that we don’t need to give up either.

Let’s thank God for the excessive nature of his love.

However dark our situation is, God will help us. God loves us, and finds ways for us to have joy and hope again. Think of the things that bring you happiness, and thank God for them. Here are a few examples…

Amen – Hope your day is as full of schnitzel with noodles as you could wish for!

Zeph Daily 48

Good morning, on this sunny Bank Holiday Monday. (And for those loosing all track of time, it is a bank holiday, and it is a Monday). It’s Jenny bringing you Zeph@10am today. Last week I promised Yvonne that I would be more cheery – hopefully by the time you get to the end of this you’ll agree that I delivered on my promise.

In the meantime, here’s a question for you to ponder. When is a psalm not a psalm?

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The answer to that question is when it’s a psalm that’s not in the book of Psalms. Just like last week, I’m straying out of the book Psalms to 1 Chronicles. Unlike last week, this is definitely a psalm – a full on song of praise of/to God. Perhaps you’d like to have a read. It’s in 1 Chronicles 16: 7-36.

Sometime last year, I embarked on crocheting a blanket (obviously it’s still not finished, but we won’t go into that). I have a fairly broad base of textile knowledge and skill, and have dabbled in most craft techniques – including crochet in the distant past. Knowing that I was planning to do this, I had picked up a simple book on crocheting granny squares for £1 at a car-boot sale. I’d chatted to someone who knows how to crochet really well (although not necessarily about how to crochet).

So I was all set – I was armed with knowledge………

Except I didn’t actually apply the knowledge I was armed with. I had a general understanding of crochet – you pull loops of yarn through other loops of yarn to make chains, right? I’d skimmed the book I’d bought to get an idea of what I wanted my granny squares to look like. So I charged in thinking I knew what I was doing.

But it didn’t look right. I couldn’t work out how to avoid long threads stretching between chains. It certainly bore very little resemblance to the pictures in the book. Much undoing and restarting occurred.

Finally, I stopped… and went back… and actually read the book I had bought. I looked carefully at the instructions. I followed the step-by-step diagrams. And lo, I had a perfectly formed granny square! For anyone who understands crochet, I failed to comprehend that a ‘triple’ stitch is not just a chain of three loops.

Just before this song of praise by David, he’d had a similar experience….. although not with crochet. (So far, the Biblical texts have been surprisingly silent on his crochet abilities).

There is no doubt David wanted to please God, and to place God at the centre of everything he did. Now he has been anointed king of the whole of Israel, and has taken the city of Jerusalem as his capital, he wants to bring the presence of God – represented by the Ark of the Covenant – to Jerusalem. What better thing could he do than place God in the centre of his capital? What could possibly go wrong?…….

Except it did go wrong. David took his strongest warriors, and they put the Ark of the Covenant on a new cart. Unfortunately the cart had to go downhill from where it had been kept, and as it did so, the oxen stumbled. One of the men – Uzzah – put out his hand to stop the Ark of the Covenant from sliding off the cart and was immediately struck down dead, because no one was to ever touch the Ark of the Covenant.

David had to stop. He had to rethink. He had to see where he went wrong, and try to do it the right way. He prepared a place for the Ark – a special tent for it in Jerusalem. He then followed the rules. Instead of warriors, he called all the priests and Levites to carry the Ark. Instead of placing it on a cart, and relying on the sure footedness of oxen, it was carried on its poles, as was commanded to Moses. And lo, the Ark of the Covenant was safely brought to Jerusalem amid joy, celebration and dancing – led by David himself.

This psalm-that-is-not-a-Psalm is David’s response of praise and thanks to God for, not just helping him get the Ark to Jerusalem, but for everything that He’d done for his people through history. It seems that this one act of failing to follow God, suffering the consequences, then going back and getting it right with God’s help, reminded David of all the other instances of God’s faithfulness, and it results in this complete outpouring of praise. Unlike the Psalms I have looked at in the last few weeks, there is no negativity here at all. David is shouting from the roof tops how great God is. He’s literally dancing in the streets in praise.

Take a couple of minutes to thank God for the times He has helped you, especially the times that He helped you sort out the mess you’d got into because you hadn’t listened to Him in the first place.

Thank God for the times in your life that you have seen His faithfulness, guiding your path, showing you what you should do and where you should go.

Pray that, in the dark and worrying times that we’re going through, we have a chance to tell someone – anyone – how great God is and just how much He means to us, and that we’ll be able to do it with all the enthusiasm of David.

On this sunny Bank Holiday Monday, the weather seems to be in tune with this psalm, especially verses 32-33:

Image may contain: plant, outdoor and nature, text that says "Let the sea and everything in it shout his praise! Let the fields and their-crops burst out with joy Let the trees of the forest rustle [or sing] with praise, for theLORD is coming to judge the earth."

There are so many songs that echo the words of David’s song. Perhaps, our language is lacking in enough breadth to encompass how amazing God is and be original. I’ve gone with this one as a final focus for today, but if you’ve got another one running through your head, then feel free to sing that one instead.

Listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9jiI0GwWc8

I hope I delivered on the ‘cheery’, Yvonne. May you see the fields bursting with joy and hear the trees singing God’s praise today. And enjoy your bank holiday!

Zeph Daily 47

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Good morning! Welcome all and sundry (a special good morning to Sundry) to Friday’s Zeph@10 with John.

You can look at yesterday’s picture as you listen: https://soundcloud.com/johnfroud/08-look

The photo today is the stained glass window in Bethel Baptist Chapel, Macclesfield, dedicated to my grandfather, SHD Froud (known as Douglas), who died as minister there in 1950 (before I was born). He hadn’t been there long. Was it guilt that produced such an extravagant memorial? The church then called my dad, an unqualified local preacher, who was married with a daughter and working in an office in Stockport, to be the new minister. Mum’s parents were not pleased. “They killed him—they’ll kill you,” but he recognised the call, left his safe job and went. That’s why my birth certificate says “Macclesfield.” Dad, still a Reverend, died in Halifax at the age of 55 when I was 23 and teaching at Wycliffe. My little brother (qv Rev Andrew Froud, vicar of Clitheroe) was 10 at the time.

There’s a lot of bereavement about just now. Pray for those who are grieving.

.Luke 5: 12-14 Luke (the master of detail) takes all of three verses to tell a really important story about Jesus healing a leper. As you read it, you may have questions such as:
– How did the guy get “in one of the towns?” He was excluded from society because of his leprosy which “covered” him so he would be conspicuously unacceptable.
– What was the disciples’ reaction as they allowed him, an outsider to the outsiders and dangerous, to get so close to their boss?
But he has faith. “You can…” And Jesus touches him. He could have just pointed from a safe distance. Is Jesus making a point here? To get close and personal, in spite of the risk?

Prayers here for people you really don’t like – remembering that there’s no-one outside God’s love.

This is the section of Chapter 5 before the man through the roof story, where friends demonstrate the strength of their belief in Jesus’ ability to fix their friend. The section before that is where Jesus calls his disciples to leave everything and follow him. That’s the context. Jesus is saying early on in his ministry, “Follow me” and showing how that may mean dealing with people who are not always, “nice” or helpful, and sometimes you might wonder about their motivation, but as Julie was saying, and as Jesus demonstrates, there are no boundaries to God’s love.

More prayers here for people you really don’t like – remembering that there’s no-one outside God’s love!

When I was teaching I used to do an exercise with the kids where we would work out all the choices open to a character (historical or literary) Doing nothing is always an option. There may be a price to pay, but every option carries a consequence. Amazingly if we ignore God’s call, he still loves us. If we do a Peter and deny him, we are the worst for it, but he still loves us. If my dad hadn’t gone full tilt into ministry, God would still have loved him. If Jesus had taken the safe option with the leper, God would still have loved him. Even if we still don’t like those people, he still loves us.

Let that sink in. And thank him

Some years ago I had a series of phone conversations with a young lady who knew she was dying (cancer). She had been referred to me by my friend Danny (Fox). She was asking how to “access” (her word) this love of Jesus. “Are you saying I just have to believe? I don’t have to do anything ? I don’t need to get clean? I don’t have to put everything right ?

Pray for those who find the idea of God’s grace so hard to accept

The imperative is to believe in his ability to love us (whatever we think of ourselves) to look after us (whatever the mess we get ourselves into) and to fix us—for the present and for eternity.

Listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7oVoOHeChU

So… go into whatever parts of God’s world you’re allowed this morning and spread a bit of his love…

Zeph Daily 46

Yesterday, Yvonne asked us what lifts our spirits – well, this window once lifted mine! Any guesses where you’d find it?

No photo description available.

It’s the huge east window in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel at Buckfast Abbey in Devon. Buckfast is a working Benedictine monastery set in a beautiful wooded valley beside the River Dart – and in non-pandemic times, it’s open to visitors.

I’ve only ever been there once, a long, long time ago – I must have been about 7. We were on a family holiday at Pentewan Sands and visited Buckfast for a day out. I don’t remember much about it, other than this window. It’s set at one end of the chapel and takes up the entire wall. The walls on either side of the room are also set with stained glass, as you can see in this tiny photo. It was a glorious sunny day outside and the sun was streaming through all the stained glass, and the chapel was cool and calm and peaceful.

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I was awestruck. I sat in one of the wooden pews and just gazed at it. Something about the window – the colours, the kindness in Jesus’ face, the open hands – drew me in. I felt like I’d walked into the room and found him there, waiting for me. I sat there for the longest time – eventually my mum had to make me leave as everyone else was bored of waiting for me. I bought a postcard of the window in the gift shop – I used to carry it round in my Bible, now it’s in a frame in my house.

I don’t know whether you noticed, but just in front of the window – the image of Jesus with open hands, bread and wine – is the altar or Communion table. It’s a funny thing, Communion, isn’t it? Different Christian traditions have different names for it, different rules about how to take it and who can take it and who can give it. Different sets of guidance on how the theology of it must be interpreted and understood. Yet in its first incarnation, it was ‘just’ Jesus, sitting round a table with his friends, and inviting them to take part in something and remember him in a way they didn’t yet understand…

Then there’s the story of the Great Banquet which has so much to tell us about who God’s table is open to. God’s feast is a feast of open invitation – it is not for us to decide whether it is important enough for us to give it our attention; nor is it for us to decide how widely the invitation should be thrown open – “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame. … Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.” The table is indiscriminate, open to all.

Then there’s the image of the Body of Christ, which Paul writes about – “The eye can’t say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” … the parts of the body will not take sides. All of them will take care of one another. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part is honoured, every part shares in its joy.”

And then there’s Ascension Day, when Jesus prepares his disciples to take his good news far beyond the borders of their comfort zone… “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth…”

However hard we try, there is always further to go in developing our understanding of just how open God’s table is; of just how wide Jesus’s hands reach out. It is always worth reminding ourselves that it is not our place to decide where lines should be drawn, who is worth keeping in and who can be kept out without it making an impact.

Listen… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7O1SdVUNDs

Who does God want us to reach out to today? Who do we need to remember to include, to open up to, to see the value in? How can we challenge our own thinking about who is in and who is out – and whether there even IS a boundary between in and out? Take a moment to hear God now…

I’ve never forgotten the Jesus that I found in that window… Before the story of the Great Banquet had even entered my frame of reference; before I was old enough to be allowed a taste of Holy Communion – there he was. Jesus, with open hands, inviting us to a table that is far more open than we could ever comprehend… May he always be with us.

Have a great afternoon, Zephyrs…

Image may contain: text that says "When you have more than you need, build bu a longer table not a higher fence"