Zeph Daily 83

Morning! It’s Jenny leading Monday’s Zeph@10am.
What did you have for breakfast this morning?

It doesn’t really matter which day of the week (or month, or year) that you ask me this question. The answer will always be the same….. Weetabix. To be fair, I’m not fussy on brand, so they might be generic wheat biscuits. However, there has to be have been a huge calamity for me not to have weetabix. The only exception is on the rare occasions that I’m staying in a foreign hotel, where they haven’t quite got the knack of breakfast yet. UK hotels are usually safe. So this morning I had weetabix, accompanied by a glass of orange juice.

It’s fair to say that my liking for weetabix has become slightly legendary, in that it is often referred to as my ‘weetafix’. I am certainly very unhappy if I can’t start my day with it. I can forego coffee if necessary – but only if I’ve had my weetabix. Even if I’ve had to get up at stupid-o’clock to catch a flight, I’m not leaving the house without my weetabix.

All this means that my boyfriend, Alex, has had to add a box of weetabix to his store cupboard, for the occasions when I stop over at his house in York.

Unfortunately, Alex’s kitchen is organised for someone who is 5’10” and not someone who is 5’2”, (actually, his whole house is, which is why I can’t see into the bathroom mirror without standing on tiptoes), and Alex keeps cereal in one of those shallow, high wall cupboards that are put in so you can have some storage, but not bash your head. In this case, they are above the sink area. When I challenged him why he’d put the box there, he argued that my addiction meant my weetafix supply needed to be controlled!

I’m an early riser. It has to have been a very, very late night for my body to let me sleep much beyond 8am. And once I’m awake, my stomach and brain begin to nag me that there has, so far that day, been a lack of weetabix, and would I mind rectifying that quite quickly. So the first time I stayed over at Alex’s, I ventured into the kitchen to hunt out the weetabix that he had purchased especially for me (sending me a photo in the process to make sure he got the right ones).

After hunting around various cupboards, I finally found the new box in one of these stupid high cupboards. Now, I can just about reach the handle to open the door of these cupboards. I can, if I stand right up on tiptoes, reach an item just on the edge inside. Unfortunately the weetabix was not just on the edge. Having been bought a few days before, the box had been pushed to the back of the cupboard. I couldn’t reach it…… And Alex (it still being before midday) was fast asleep. My weetafix was in sight, but out of reach!

I’m looking at Psalm 63 today. You may want to have a read of it now.

David is currently back camping in the wilderness, after his son Absalom has taken the throne of Israel from him. He’s back being solely reliant on God for provision and protection.

As I’ve been going through the psalms of David, it has been noted that they tend towards the gloomy, and have been a bit ‘woe is me’. There haven’t been many cheerful, happy ones. I think perhaps however, that that is because David and I share a particular tendency. When things are going well, and there aren’t any difficulties in life, God tends to take a back seat. It’s not that I stop believing or worshipping, but I’m not as reliant on God. My need for the love and support He offers is less, and so I turn to Him less. Conversely, when catastrophe strikes, and life becomes more difficult, then my need for God increases, and I turn to Him more. David seems to turn to God, and feel his need of Him more when life gets tough.

Where are you right now? Are you having to lean on God more or less than normal? Take a moment to tell God about it.

David realises his need for God. He equates it to what he knows and has experienced. He has experienced thirst, living in the wilderness – both now and in the past – and he has experienced the richest of feasts, living in Jerusalem as king. He knows that his need for God is greater than his physical thirst, and God’s presence is more satisfying than any feast. If I was writing this Psalm, my desire for God would be greater than my need for weetabix in the morning, and would satisfy me far more than all the weetabix I could eat. God is always more than we need.

Thank God for all the times in your life that He has been more than you needed.

Sometimes, if I wake up in the middle of the night, and can’t get back to sleep, my stomach starts to think that it might be in with a chance of some early weetabix – a bit like Alex’s cat, Houdini, thinking that he can get fed at 4am if he is bothersome enough. A rumbling tummy is hard to ignore when you are trying to go back to sleep.

Sometimes though, when I wake up in the middle of the night, that’s when all my worries can crowd into my thoughts and all thought of weetabix gets chased away, and replaced by those horrible lurching feelings.

David was able able to do what I am not always able to do. He was able to fix his thoughts on God, and remind himself that God is his helper, and always keeps him safe. I’m scared of thunder, and as a child I would crawl into my parents bed if there was a storm. I’d cling to my mum and she would hold me securely. She couldn’t make the thunder go away, but she helped me feel safe. God doesn’t always make the storm go away, but he does keep us safe when we cling to him.

Tell God what’s bothering you now, and let Him shelter you under his wings.

Hear God whisper, “I’m with you” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBj9NLPa2cs

If you are wondering if I ever got my weetabix down from the cupboard – I did! Some wielding of a large kitchen knife allowed me to snag the corner of the box just enough to drag it to the edge where I could just reach it…… Thankfully there was a bowl already on the draining board, because I don’t think that that technique would have worked on the bowls stored in the other stupidly out-of-reach cupboard!

May your week be one where you feel safe under His wings, secure in His hands and full of praise for His unfailing love. I may go so far as to concede it’s even more satisfying than weetabix.

Zeph Daily 82 – You don’t have to like it…

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This morning’s zeph@10 is entitled, “You don’t have to like it…”
John here wishing the best of mornings to you. This is the Naseeb of blessed memory. All closed up. When you can, where will you eat out?

The Naseeb used to be my regular. Useful because they were always open, however late
it was when you got back to Bradford after gigging somewhere, cheap as, and in Asif’s golden days, as Greeny used to say, you didn’t need a menu, you could just point at the waiter’s once-white coat and say, “I’ll have one of them, please”

“You don’t have to like it…” but it’s time for an early song:

Review: Late Nights And Hard Conversations - John Froud | Cross ...

It was in the Naseeb that the subject matter of that song, Late Nights and Hard Conversations, was planted in my brain; here that Steve Brown, then just graduating (http://www.stevebrowncreative.com/ look him up later) took the front cover pic for the album, under pressure from Asif’s successor who knew better than Steve where to set the lighting; here where a uni student wore a chappati like a hat; here where Andrew Dennison left us to pay his bill; here where no-one was ever brave enough to go to the gents.
There’s a lot of my story in the Naseeb.
By the way, if you see a chalice in the picture, you are either already or are soon to be a vicar.

Songs, like stories come from everywhere. You can’t tell them when to come. The germs of ideas float in the air. As Stewart Henderson, ZephAssociate and poet points out, you see/ hear something, that becomes a memory and perhaps links to a memory of your own and then your imagination blends them together. The Gospel writers tapped into their own or someone else’s memories to write about scary moments, about how Jesus always seemed to have time for people (even though he’d run away to find some peace and quiet)
We don’t have to be writers—or Jesus— to have the ability to hear someone’s unwept tears. Thank God for that gift. “You don’t have to like it…”

There are times when you don’t want go there, and wish you weren’t hearing what you’re hearing – some of the things you see and hear, spoken or silent, are disturbing – but you are there to listen—and then you do have to respond, to do something with it. And that requires a judgement. Questions are not always best answered, doing nothing is always an option, but you may have to share the information gathered (see safeguarding). The writer (of songs, stories, sermons, assembly talks, zeph@10) is blessed to be able to shape it all into a story or song which not only helps the writer to process it, but also enables the issue to be discretely raised with many more people.
Thank God for those writers who have opened the eyes of your heart.

We all need somewhere to unload. To be as annoying as everyone else. Thank God that he is always there for us. Crack of dawn, early hours, across meal times; times when we would hesitate to burden our closest friends. He never slumbers or sleeps. You could read Psalm 42.
Thank God for his endless availability. Even when it seems that there’s no-one there.

Listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-qcMeMp4OI

Now go and be available for a needy world (after your tea/coffee), watching, listening, remembering and recycling it all. It’s what we’re called to do. “You don’t have to like it…”


Zeph Daily 81

Morning Zephyrs! Julie here.

A little ornithological quiz for you this morning! Name the bird species spotted in my garden in the photos below…

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Top left is, of course, that festive favourite, the robin.
The little fluffball, top right, is a baby Coal Tit – we’ve watched them fledge from their nest in a hollow in a tree in our neighbour’s garden.
Bottom left is the very beautiful Goldfinch – this one appears to be collecting cobwebs from the gutter, but we also regularly see a pair of them on our bird feeder.
And bottom right is a young female blackbird – if you follow my Storyteller page, you may be interested to know that this is the offspring of Patch and Mrs Patch, who was nearly frightened away by my cat earlier in lockdown! We’ve enjoyed watched their little family fledge and grow over the last few months.

One of my favourite things from lockdown has been watching the bird feeder in the garden. Sitting at the dining room table in the same spot, day after day, for months over the Spring, has given us a chance to watch closely as nature takes its course around us and notice things we wouldn’t normally see.

I’m also rather fond of the less feathered visitors to our bird feeders – the squirrels! Anyone who displays this much dedication to getting their hands on their food deserves nothing but admiration and respect…

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Over the past few months, I’ve watched squirrels come and go from our garden as I’ve sat at my laptop; running along the fences, acrobatically pilfering the bird feeders, and digging up the spoils they had stashed in my lawn. The other day, I was in my kitchen when a familiar flash of grey fur caught the corner of my eye…

That flash of fur was a squirrel running down the bird feeder – and by the time I looked up, it was settled at the bottom, right next to the cage feeder half-full of peanuts. It had obviously just succeeded in knocking it off the hook, onto the floor, and it looked mightily pleased with itself!

Dislodging the feeder in order to eat from it in a more comfortable fashion was not, however, enough for this intrepid visitor. As I watched, like something from a cartoon, the squirrel proceeded to try everything it could to lift the entire feeder up off the ground, small furry arms stretched comedically wide, as it attempted to stagger off with a hoard of peanuts far too big for it to carry.

The squirrel was unbelievably determined. It tried everything – lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling. At one point, it ran up the nearby post and sat atop the fence, surveying the situation from a height to see if it could come up with a better plan. After several dogged minutes, circumstances forced it to change tack. Its efforts to steal the entire feeder and its contents resulted in the lid being dislodged and the peanuts spilling out everywhere. By the time my daughter went out later to refill and rehang it, there were no peanuts left – some gobbled up, no doubt, by the opportunistic pigeons, but most, I suspect, taken and stashed for a later date by that stubborn little squirrel. And bravo to him, I say!

In Genesis 32, there’s a story about Jacob wrestling with God. Faced with reunion the next day, reunion with the brother he had cheated out of his heritage, Jacob places his wives, children and slaves in safety across the river, then returns to spend the night alone. He spends the dark hours wrestling with a man until the sun comes up. The man, seeing he can’t defeat Jacob, strikes Jacob’s hip, putting it out of joint, then asks Jacob to let him go.
“I will let go of you,” Jacob replies, “If you bless me.”
And so the man blesses him saying, “You will no longer be called Jacob; now your name will be Israel, because you have wrestled with God and with people, and you have won.”
Jacob asks the man his name, but he refuses to tell it. So Jacob named that place Peniel, saying, “I have seen God face to face, but my life was saved.”

Sometimes, when we’re faced with a problem that refuses to be solved, when things become intractable, when we can’t see how God will lead us through, or we’re trying to ignore his prodding to do something difficult to solve it, we can feel like Jacob. Like him, we feel we’re hanging on for dear life with no end in sight, clinging with faith to a God who has become both our assailant and lifebelt, all rolled into one.
When that happens, we need to cling onto God with all the stubborn determination of a squirrel who refuses to give up on wrestling a stash of peanuts he can’t carry; we need to cling onto God with all the audacity of a man who, faced with God himself, cries out, “I won’t let go until you bless me!”

Spend a few minutes with God and any current struggles you may be facing, relying on his love for you and on his abundant grace and generosity of blessing…

When God left Jacob, he left him changed; the strike on his hip caused him to limp away from their encounter. Wrestling with God, holding on for his blessing, cannot leave us unchanged; there is a price to be paid, seeking God’s heart makes its mark, such an encounter will leave us challenged – and that can be uncomfortable. But it is a price worth paying…

May your days be blessed, Zephyrs – and if it’s not, hang on – the blessing is coming!

Zeph Daily 80

Good Moaning, Yvonne here! Today’s question: which are you – picture 1 or picture 2 ?

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Like many people, I’m not really one or the other, I’m somewhere in between generally. but I’m not going to lie – I am most definitely less than happy with how July has so far decided to behave, rain-wise!!!

Yes, I know, we need some rain, it’s been a really dry start to the year, but really???!!! This much rain? In July!!! Couldn’t it rain just during the night and then be dry during the day? How am I supposed to get my washing out and dry when it keeps raining?!!!

How is it that I was able to wear my shorts more times in April than I’ve so far managed in July? Why am I still having to wear my jeans? Why am I still having to wear socks? Why am I still having to wear a coat? In July!!! It’s just not fair!

OK, I know in the grand scheme of things there are bigger issues I could get upset about. I know there are far bigger injustices than me not being able to hang my washing out to dry or me not being able to wear shorts every day in July. But sometimes it is the smaller, seemingly insignificant things that make us stamp our feet and decry the unfairness of the situation.

So go on then, now’s your chance. What are those small things that lead you to say, “It’s not fair!”?

Ok, so there are those things. And of course, as we know, there are also plenty of things in our world that we should (and do) stand up for and shout out its unfairness. We know injustice is rife and it is right that we highlight injustice and fight against unfairness.

Right and proper though that is, that’s not actually where I’m headed this morning. I actually want to focus (and finish) on an aspect of unfairness that I’m incredibly thankful for.

How fantastic is it, how amazing is it, that God is unfair?!!!

God loves us. Unconditionally. Faithfully. Completely.
We have done nothing that could deserve that level of love. And yet, God loves us.
The best example of unfair I can think of! And I am so incredibly grateful.
And so I shall go and hang out my washing and then watch and wait for the rain, at which point I will send Thea out to go and bring it back in!! Amen and may you enjoy your day.

Zeph Daily 79

Morning, Julia here.

A while ago, a friend and I developed an excellent game we call a “Fact off”. You have to take it in turns to share a neat bit of trivia you know. The winner is the one who can keep going longest. We never actually got to the end of a game- turns out we know a LOT of irrelevant information!

Today’s task: what is a neat fact you know? I’ll start: warthogs can jump 4 metres.

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Thank you for a lovely mini Fact Off. It’s much better than what I’m now used to – unfortunately I chose to lovingly introduce the game to my family one Christmas, and my partner and brother took great delight in ruining it with stupid facts like “I have a green sock”, or “You are finding me annoying”. At least they enjoyed the Fact Off, even if they enjoyed it wrong.

Anyway, one of my favourite facts is about octopuses. (Octopi?)

You know how you can’t actually imagine a new colour? Which can lead us humans to believe that there are no more colours to imagine. Well apparently, octopuses can see more colours than humans can! They’ve got more cones that detect colour.

I love this fact – I freely admit I am no expert, but to me that suggests there are more colours in the world than we will ever see. There is so much more to the world than we can ever have the capacity to understand. And I love that – I think it’s really exciting.

In the gospels, there are many example the Pharisees and religious leaders thinking they understand the law/Scriptures, but then with Jesus coming along and saying there is more to it, or they have misunderstood. In many places, it can be seen that the Pharisees’ way of life and strict regulations are a product of traditions and long lists of rules being developed over the years, in ways that prioritised the wrong things and misunderstood the point: to love God.

Time and time again, Jesus’ explanation told a different story.

‘You were only told “an eye for an eye” as a first step, to stop the common occurrence of retaliation escalating out of hand – the real message is to forgive.’

‘The Sabbath day of rest isn’t designed to restrict people; it’s to look after their well-being.’

As well as what Jesus said, there was also what he did. His manner of relating to people also told a hugely different story to the Pharisees. As Jesus met with people Pharisees would shun, Jesus approached them with an overt lack of judgement, and abundance of grace. Those who witnessed it were often shocked. Jesus went to a lot of parties.

I would argue that the phenomenon of Pharisees has not gone away. Both individuals and representatives of organisations can be so rigid about rules, theories or opinions, that the message of God’s love is obscured, or even lost. There are times I find myself feeling distant from the Church (capital C) because there are parts of me, and people I love, that people within the Church condemn, in ways that have caused people great pain. The complete opposite of what the Church is intended to be.

My Dave was in a conversation the other day with someone who became very irate. This person had a particular theological view about how the cross saves people, and thought anyone who disagreed with this atonement theory wasn’t ‘Christian’. I am not convinced it works like that…

Actually, whatever theories and rules we might adhere to, God has got it covered. There is way more to the world than I have the capacity to understand. God has far more love and grace than we have the capacity to comprehend.

And I think this is something of great comfort, because it is out of our hands. God’s love is enough for us, for all of us, without the need to explain everything within human limitations.

There is hope in the wonder of not understanding, because it points to something more than ourselves. And as humans, I think we have an inherent talent for not understanding, and therefore we are the ideal archetype for having hope.

Where does that leave us?

Firstly, it leaves us secure in the hope God has given us, that his love and grace has transcended all expectations in the past and will continue to do so.

Secondly, we are released from any perquisite to judge or justify whether people “deserve” it, but just to concentrate on loving each other.

Listen: https://soundcloud.com/johnfroud/04-this-thing-called-love

That’s it from me! Have a good day everyone!

Zeph Daily 78

Welcome to Monday’s Zeph@10am with Jenny. I’m returning to David and his Psalms this week.

Here’s a question to get you thinking. If you had a shield, what would be on it?

It’s strange that an item that, by it’s very definition, is going to get battered by the weapons of the enemy – have nicks cut out of it, dents made in it, holes shot in it – is decorated at all. If I’d spent hours putting a fancy design on my shield, only to find it wreaked after a few hours of fighting, I think I’d feel just a bit down-heartened, and think to myself, “Do you know what, I might just paint it all one colour next time”. Yet, whenever we see pictures of shields, from whatever time period, and whatever shape, they are invariable decorated.

Really, a far more important question should be, “What is my shield made of? Is it up to the job of being battered for several hours of fighting? Is it strong? Does it protect me?”

I’m looking at Psalm 3 today. You might want to have a read of it now.

David’s life is one of real highs and lows. Psalm 3 is written about one of the lows. After getting himself right again with God, following his disastrous relationship with Bathsheba, David’s life seemed to be back on an even keel. That was until his children started to cause trouble. These troubles came to a head when his son, Absalom, tried to take the throne by subterfuge. To protect both himself and family, and the people of the city of Jerusalem, David chooses to leave the city and escape to the wilderness before Absalom arrives with his army. Psalm 3 reflects David’s thoughts as he is once again in hiding, in the wilderness.

Despite the situation, and the slightly ‘woe is me’ start to the psalm, there is a note of positivity that was sometimes missing from psalms I’ve commented on previously. Rather than David asking God to be his shield and protect him, there is a declaration of faith in Verse 3.
“But you, O Lord, are a shield around me;
You are my glory, the one who holds my head high”

If what your shield is made of is the most important thing, then I don’t think that you can get any better than a shield made from God Himself. Any man-made shield, whether made from metal, or solid oak, or other hard wood, is going to be limited in how well it can protect you. Eventually the weapons of the enemy will damage it to the point of being useless. And even if you work with other people to create a shield wall, there will always be a weak point. There will always be a small gap where you are vulnerable.

However, God’s shield has none of those vulnerabilities. In fact David says, “But you, O Lord, are a shield around me”. God’s shield wall encompasses us all the way around. No wonder David was also able to say, in verse 5, “I lay down and slept, yet I woke up in safety”. No sleepless nights for David.

David also says, “You are my glory, the one who holds my head high”.

I don’t know enough about military history to know whether shield decorations always reflected who you were, or who you fought for – your tribe or leader. My experience of re-enactment events suggests that at least on some occasions, the design on your shield denoted your loyalties. Men went into battle proudly declaring that loyalty, showing where they placed their trust, by the design on their shield. Whatever design they chose, it declared to the other side, “This is who I fight for. This is who I believe in”.

In David’s case that was God. It was God Himself that was emblazoned on his shield. He was proud to stand in the battles of life, knowing who he fought for.

The shield analogy is less familiar to us now. I can’t think of any time when I’ve left the house, and thought, “Right, have I got everything? Handbag… keys…. shield….. mobile….? There have been lots of times, however, when I’ve thought, “I’d better take an umbrella”. Well, God is an umbrella around me. With Him, I can walk through the storms of life and even my feet won’t get wet.

But that’s the thing with umbrellas – and shields. The umbrella doesn’t stop the rain from bouncing down. The shield doesn’t stop the battle from happening. They do protect you from the worst impacts. And that’s the same with God. He doesn’t always stop the storm or stop the battle, but He is with us in them, and protects us.

Have a listen, and as you do, ask God to be your shield with whatever is troubling you today.

A shield isn’t just something to crouch and hide behind, in fear, but the thing that gives you the confidence to step out to face whatever the day may bring. May your Mondays not be filled with too many enemies, but lots of friends and fun. Have a good week!

Zeph Daily 77

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Morning ! I’ve been researching this man and his work this week… Any educated guesses? Julie knows ‘cos I told her, but whether she’ll remember…

Born in 1793 in the Scottish Borders and orphaned as a boy, then educated in Ireland, he became an Anglican priest, first in Ireland, then in the West of England, mostly in Brixham, Devon. The 6’2 clergyman was a notable figure around town. He was much loved and gathered a Sunday School of 700 scholars and 80 staff. He also seemed to have an eye on his legacy.
“Some simple straw, some spirit-moving lay,
some sparkles of the soul that still might live when I was passed to clay…
O thou! Whose touch can lend life to the dead,
thy quick’ning grace supply, and grant me, swanlike,
my last breath to spend in song that may not die!”
He had two books of poetry published and wrote hundreds of hymns but is mostly remembered now for Praise my soul the King of Heaven—and Abide with me. How are we doing?

His house at Berry Head was built in 1809 as a military hospital, but by 1823 was not needed as such for the war with Napoleon was over and it came into his possession, possibly gifted by William IV, and was kept in the family until 1949.
The clergyman’s £140 per annum would be not enough to maintain such a standard of living although his wife had inherited money. Rev Henry Francis Lyte (for it is he) took in students to bolster the household income. He tutored “wayward sons of the gentry” including the future Lord Salisbury, later to be Prime Minister to Queen Victoria, and in 1827, two young Africans who had been liberated from a slave ship. His brief was to teach them to be teachers in Sierra Leone, by that time a homeland for freed slaves. (the trade was banned but not yet slavery itself)

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He loved books. His library was famous and after his death it took seventeen days to auction all the books off!

He had always had respiratory problems which eventually became TB. At the age of 54, he preached what turned out to be his last sermon and set off for Italy for his health’s sake. “I must put everything in order before I leave, because I have no idea how long I will be away.” Before leaving, he took a long walk along the coast in prayer, went to his room and gave a draft of Abide with me to his daughter. “Abide with me” were words spoken by his friend Augustus le Hunte as he was dying, looking towards Luke 24: 29 ‘Abide with us, for it is towards evening, and the day is far spent’ The assurance with which he had breathed his last had affected Henry’s whole life. Perhaps Lyte was revisiting notes or ideas from way back. From Avignon, he posted a revision home.

Thank God for the memories that shape our today.

He didn’t make it to Italy but died in the Hotel d’Angleterre in Nice saying, “Peace! Joy!”
The inscription on his grave reads:
Here rests the mortal remains of
the Revd Henry Francis Lyte, MA
for 23 years Minister of Lower Brixham in the County of Devon
Born on the 1st June, 1793,
died on the 20th November, 1847
“God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord
Jesus Christ” Gal 6-14

Henry Lyte had written his own tune for “Abide with Me,” (he was said to be an accomplished flautist) but no-one liked it much and the hymn was not well known until 1861. In that year, preparing for the publication of Hymns Ancient and Modern, William Henry Monk wrote a new melody for Lyte’s words. The story as told by Mrs Monk some 30 years later, was that their 3 year old daughter had just died and as husband and wife holding hands looked out at the sunset, he composed the tune, “Eventide” for Lyte’s hymn, which had been submitted for inclusion in the new hymn book – in ten minutes!

In their bad times, both Lyte and Monk “turned their eyes upon Jesus.” Let’s do that.

Not everyone loved it. Stephen Georgeson Hatherly (who he?) wrote thus:
“We find in bar 3 a double minor seventh; in bar 5 an unresolved fourth-sixth; in bar 7 a minor seventh resolved upwards; in bar 11 a revival of the ill-sounding discord of major third and minor sixth; in bar 13 a strain commencing on a discord, and throughout the tune, wherever a discord will “stick”, there will such be found, viz in 16 chords out of 40.”
(No criticism of Lyte’s words, though !)
Monk’s response is not recorded, though it may have been in his pocket.

Here is the work (to reinforce the learning, you know)

We all have hymns/songs that “point us to the skies” Which ones work for you ?
Thank God for them and those whose sorrows brought them to us.
Remember we have to let him use all things for good.
See you somewhere.

Zeph Daily 76

Morning Zephyrs! Julie again. Today’s challenge – interpret this road sign!

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My assumption when I came across it was that it must surely mean “Watch out for over-excited joyously leaping pigs”; however, it is in fact, a homemade sign meaning “Watch out – free range pigs!” The sign lives on a road in the north of the isle of Raasay. If you are a regular follower of ZephDaily, you may remember Raasay as the site of my mum’s unfortunate otter-spotting trip. It’s a small Scottish island, just off the Isle of Skye. For those of you who like maps, here is one so you can visualise where it is… You’re welcome!

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You may remember, I went there for my summer holidays in 2012. It’s an interesting place – I love small islands with a strong cultural identity and beautiful landscape, and this one fit the bill perfectly. There were deserted sandy beaches and some with cobbled shores, it was warm enough to swim in the sea, there was wildlife aplenty to spot (otters, basking shark, lots of birds), and we stayed in a cottage with a tennis court, table tennis table, and a drum kit in an outhouse! It was an excellent holiday! And, as I always do on holidays, I picked up one or two new stories to tell…

Up in the north of the island, there’s a ruined castle – Brochel Castle. It was built in the early sixteenth century by Calum, first Chief of the MacLeod clan, as a stronghold from which to defend his newly acquired island. Occupation of the castle ceased in 1671 and it drifted into ruin.

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In the mid-twentieth century, another Calum MacLeod (this one Glasgow-born but Raasay-heritage) lived with his wife and daughter in the north-east corner of Raasay, beyond Brochel Castle in the small settlement of Arnish (meaning ‘eagle headland’). As well as being a crofter, he worked as a part-time postman for the north of the island and was Local Assistant Keeper of Rona lighthouse. (Here’s another map, Map Fans!)

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In her early years, Calum’s daughter, Julia, was educated at home by her mother – then later, when more families moved to the area, at school, where her mother was employed as teacher and the number of pupils in the whole school once reached the heady heights of four!

But when she reached the age of twelve, legislation stated she had to finish her education at a specialised secondary school. There was no secondary school on Raasay, so she had to pack up her things and leave the small, Gaelic-speaking island she called home to attend Portree High School on the neighbouring island of Skye, as a boarder.

Getting home to Arnish was almost impossible; there was no daily ferry service, nor was one provided on a Friday evening and Monday morning. And when she did get back – during school holidays – that north-east tip of the island was only connected to the rest of it by a footpath, meaning travel was hard. One winter, in heavy snowfall, she and her schoolmates had to shelter from a blizzard several miles from home; it was three hours before Calum found them.

Calum never forgave the situation which he felt was enforced on his family by the state, effectively causing his twelve-year-old daughter to leave home. Along with his fellow residents, he campaigned for their narrow footpath to be turned into a road, improving access – but after several decades of no progress, he watched the population in the north of the island slowly dwindle away, as their way of life became less tenable. So, he took matters into his own hands…

Armed with a copy of Thomas Aitken’s manual ‘Road Making & Maintenance: A Practical Treatise for Engineers, Surveyors and Others’ (London, 1900 – it cost him half a crown), he set out with a shovel, a pick and a wheelbarrow and began to build the road himself. For ten years – working in his spare time between crofting, delivering post, and running the lighthouse – he worked, constructing one-and-three-quarter miles of road between Brochel Castle and Arnish. Several years after its completion, the local council finally adopted and surfaced it – by which time, Calum and his wife Lexie were the last remaining inhabitants of Arnish…

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It’s a beautiful and bittersweet story. All that effort and finally the north-east of the island was connected and accessible to the rest; but the population fell anyway, and Julia never returned to live on the island. But – I think Calum and his road-building have something we can learn from…

In many ways, faith is more like building a road than reaching a destination. If we feel comfortable that we know, that we have learned and experienced all that we need to about God, then that isn’t because there isn’t more to know, learn and experience – it’s because we’ve stopped seeking it out, we’ve stopped moving, we’ve stopped building the road. If we sit and wait for someone else to build it for us, it will never happen – we have to make the road by walking, by stepping out into uncomfortable territory, challenging what we think we know about God and stepping into whole new worlds of deeper understanding. If we don’t have more questions than answers, we are limiting so much of what God has out there for us.

Are there areas where you have stopped stepping into new territory with God, where you are no longer making the road as you go? Are there ways of thinking or understanding your faith that feel a bit too comfortable and static? Ask God to show you the places where you need a little challenge…

Here’s a song, about roads that go nowhere and faith and stepping out into the unknown – listen and sit with whatever God has said to you…

By the way – there are still people living in the north-east of Raasay, using Calum’s road to access their homes. The pig sign is at the end of it. So his building it was not in vain…

Go Zephyrs, no-hopers, you jokers and rogues – and make the road by walking as you do… May your days be whatever you need them to be!

Zeph Daily 75

Morning! Yvonne here today and I have a question for you – when is a box not a box?

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I was thinking……

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…..when it’s a lamp!

I have a little bit of a confession to make, a guilty little secret to own up to if you will…..I have a bit of a penchant for daytime TV!

Not any old daytime TV rubbish though, I am particular. I’m not a fan of daytime TV dramas, oh no! It’s the daytime reality TV that captures my attention – Homes under the Hammer, Escape to the Country, Garden Rescue (this one has been slightly rescued and moved to early evening sometimes), Money for Nothing, The Repair Shop (another rescue and mover to early evening but started off in a late afternoon slot). There is something about this sort of programme that I really enjoy watching. There, that is my confession; please don’t hold it against me!

I think the ones like Escape to the Country are primarily nosiness-driven – seeing how the other half live! But the others all have something in common – they are all about restoration and transformation and I really enjoy seeing how one thing can be changed either into something else entirely or just revamped, renewed. I find it pleasing.

I like renewal, I like this idea of upcycling (not that I’m any good at it personally) rather than throwing away, I like this idea of seeing the potential in something that might initially seem irredeemable.

And I love that our God sees us in just that way. He sees our flaws, more than that, He knows our flaws and yet He looks right past them and instead sees our potential, sees how/who we were created to be.

2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! God doesn’t just look and see past the flaws but draws us into Himself, promises to fill us with His Spirit and make us new, make us more like Him. We don’t have to be perfect for God to love us. God doesn’t wait around for us to try and fix ourselves so that we’re good enough; He transforms us as we allow Him to.

On Monday, Jenny talked about her coming to faith being a journey rather than any particular one-off moment. I think that’s something that a lot of us will relate to. In fact, Paul himself, in his letter to the Philippians said “There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.”

I can’t turn a cardboard box into a lamp, I can’t turn a windsurfer sail into ponchos (yes, that actually happened!), I can’t repair a broken clock (no matter how many pairs of glasses I wear at once), I can’t transform my garden into a beautiful haven. And I certainly can’t transform myself to be anywhere near good enough to meet God’s standards…..but how amazing that I don’t need to do that! I don’t need to make myself good enough because God loves me for who I am. I don’t need to make myself good enough because Jesus makes it possible for me to come to God despite all my failings. I don’t need to make myself good enough because God sees me in all my potential. I don’t need to make myself good enough because God, through His Spirit in me, will transform me and make me new.

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

Have a good day, lovely people. Be creative, or not! Watch rubbish TV….or don’t! But whatever you do with your day, have a good one!



Zeph Daily 74

Morning, Julia here. Welcome to Zeph daily. While speculating what Zeph Holiday Club might look like this year, I found myself thinking back to past escapades. Here’s last year’s drama team – note the necessity of high vis vests, and the jauntiness of Adam’s hat.

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This photo was taken on the Friday following the grand finale of the week’s drama. As people who were there will remember, this was a finale like no other, for this finale, ambitiously and excitingly, featured – a Rap Battle. It was everything: It rhymed, it was plot relevant, it had mild wisdom embedded throughout, I got to (attempt to) beatbox in the background – there is nothing you could possibly want from a holiday club that this rap did not contain. Goosebumps.

I still think it is a delightful representation of Julie as a person that she is gifted enough to write an entire holiday club themed rap, and perform it, and then think the most appropriate response to the rapturous applause was to curtsy. It brought me a lot of joy.

I very much enjoy moments when people manage to sum up a concept of themselves through a snapshot of their life choices.

The other weekend, my family had a socially distanced meet up in my parents’ garden. My angelic mum suggested they buy us all a takeaway and we could stay for tea, so that we could spend a bit more time together- especially since we’d have separate meals and reduce risk of passing any germs between us. However this was then immediately forgotten after it arrived because her instinct to mother her young was too strong, and she ended up asking if anyone wanted a bite of her pizza. (We declined.) A beautiful portrait of my mum.

A few years ago St Peters youth group Risen was visited by one of our mission partners, Andy Roberts. Andy has set up houses in Brazil to take in children living on the street, giving them an education, opportunities, and a loving environment. Originally it was a house for boys, helping them have an alternative to getting trapped into joining gang culture, and since then they have managed to open a house for girls as well, saving them from the dangers that would otherwise harm them. Young people are given a way out from seemingly inescapable, awful situations, and are instead given a turning point of hope.

Andy talked to the youth group about his experiences working with children in Brazil, and there was something he said that has stuck with me ever since. He told us about building friendships with the young people, and how he’d put the effort in to let them know how valued they are. One day he found himself sitting on a wall with a young person, playing something similar to marbles or tiddlywinks, and in that moment he felt like his life “resonated” with him.

To explain, he talked about tuning forks resonating at a particular pure frequency, and how they help your musical instrument find that same pure note that sounds and feels right.

Andy wanted to encourage us to let God lead us along paths where our lives really resonate with us. Think through moments of your life where perhaps you have felt that you are in the right situation, and experienced clarity or peace, and thank God for them.

Of course, this is not to say that life is made up entirely of right situations and moments of clarity. There can also be long periods that feel like lost, uncomfortable wanderings. Thankfully, and wonderfully, God is a God of both.

“You lead me on paths that are right, for the good of your name.
Even when I walk through a very dark valley, I will not be afraid, because you are with me. Your rod and your staff comfort me.” Psalm 23.3-4

Take a moment to think about what your current path looks like. Are you in a place that resonates with you, that you are at peace with? Is it obscured with difficulties, or obstacles? Are you not sure where it’s gone? Talk to God about where you are, remembering that wherever that is he’s there too.

Wherever we might be, God continues to be with us and lead us. A song to finish off with… https://soundcloud.com/johnfroud/and-you-will-walk-with-us

Amen – have a good rest of the day!