Zeph Daily 85

Morning! Yvonne here, heading Into the Unknown (that’s a reference to the picture, in case you didn’t realise!)

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I don’t know if any of you have seen Frozen 2? I’m going to take a wild stab in the dark and suggest that there are fewer of you reading this that have seen Frozen 2 than who knew which 1D member we were looking at yesterday! I might be wrong…..

I had the joy of watching it earlier this week. Our Thea had done as much school work as she was up for that day and decided to see what films we had on our telly. As soon as she saw this, there was no other choice. I happened to be ‘busy’ in the living room at the time and so was aware of it on in the background!

I’m not going to lie….I quite enjoyed it. There are some funny lines in it; there are some funny characters in it; but it’s the storyline that got me thinking.

The beginning of Frozen 2 finds Elsa and Anna living happy lives in the northern kingdom of Arendelle. Elsa has made peace with her magical powers, and she and her sister enjoy the close relationship they always wanted. But something nags at Elsa: a feeling that she’s still not quite where she belongs. Then a strange voice calls her beyond the borders of Arendelle. At first, Elsa doesn’t want to follow the voice. She argues with the call, singing, “I’ve had my adventure / I don’t need something new / I’m afraid of what I’m risking if I follow you / Into the unknown.” But the longer Elsa hears the call, the more it awakens her desire to venture beyond the familiar and find her true place in the world.

For most Year 6 children, they have just till the end of this week and then that’s it, primary school is finished. And normally, their next step, into high school in September, is a little bit like stepping into the unknown

A little bit but not completely.

I would, ordinarily, have spent quite a bit of time over these last few weeks talking to hundreds of year 6s about that next step. We (Zephaniah Trust) would have delivered many Fast Forward sessions, hopefully helping them to think about what September might bring. We will have talked much about Changes, Challenges and Choices that they’ll be facing.

Their primary schools would, ordinarily, have spent quite a lot of time over these last few weeks preparing them for September. High schools also would have been doing quite a lot of transition work with them, all aimed at making this next step for them a little easier, a little less of a step into the unknown.

Now I know that some of this has still been going on, but I also know that some of it hasn’t been able to – no visits to their new schools, no Fast Forward events, not all year 6s are even in school to be able to be sharing their worries, fears, excitement with each other.

We know that stepping into the unknown can be scary but we also trust that we don’t go alone. Elsa followed the voice that she heard calling her into the unknown. When we listen to/for God’s voice, when we follow where He leads, no matter how unknown that may be, we can step that little bit easier. Not completely easily; the unknown can be scary, downright terrifying even sometimes, but we don’t go alone.

Elsa didn’t know who or what the voice that was calling her was. We have the advantage over her there. We know who God is.

So, as we approach the end of this most peculiar of school years, as we look towards the rest of today, the rest of this week, whatever it may hold for us, however known or unknown it may be, rest assured that the voice that calls us on is one of love. And if you know any year 6s out there, maybe take some time to see how they’re doing, how they’re feeling. And maybe even take some time to let them know that this next step they’re taking is not one they’re taking alone.

A song for you to listen to to finish off this morning’s ramblings. Enjoy your day, peeps! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rRwpP7xiF_E

If you’re a year 6 parent/carer or you know anyone who is, you might be interested in an online transition group being run by our friend and Zeph Associate Carol Barwick (of RAISE) – here’s the link!

Zeph Daily 84

Julia here with an exciting magical illusion!
Look at the red dot for 30 seconds… then look straight up.
You should see a member of One Direction on your ceiling!

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Now that we have thoroughly enjoyed this illusion, not so long ago, I saw the film ‘Now You See Me’ for the first time. Like me, the characters are magicians, and do even more impressive tricks than I. They’re crafty enough to be able to pull off things like bank heists through magical illusions and trickery.

The troop of magicians’ success comes from the way they are always one step ahead of their opponents. This seems to be a trait of many inventive heist type films, where it’s exciting to see someone who is unfathomably clever somehow predict and prepare for any situation.

I have yet to meet a real life person who can be one step ahead at all times to a heist-film-standard, but I’ve come across situations where God seems to have worked a little like that.

My friend painted this for the family of another friend, who is currently in hospital. Notably, she found out that’s what she had done afterwards.

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All she knew was that she painted it and had the feeling she “would need to show it to someone”, but didn’t know who. The need came up a few days later, when she was invited to write in a virtual card for this family. We then realised this must be who it was intended for.

Psalm 139 talks about how well God knows us, saying “Lord, even before I say a word, you already know it”. (Verse 4) Thank God that he makes plans to provide for us before we even know we need it.

Whatever movie characters’ questionable motives are, God’s work comes from his goodness, kindness, and love. It is always worth being reminded how much God wants to look after people.

Think of anyone you want to ask God to provide for, and talk to God about it. I would like to pray for my young friend Emma, member of Risen youth group and actor in Refugee Voices, and her family while she is ill in hospital.

Hard times often highlight how willing people are to help or be supportive. Sometimes a number of people might come together to help, sometimes there might be one person who has come along at just the right time to be there for you.

A great way God provides for us is sending people to help. Thank God for the people who have helped you when it’s been needed.

The flip side of that, is that God enables us to help other people when they need it. Thank God for the situations where you’ve been in the right place at the right time to be able to help. Perhaps ask God to help you be there for anyone you might need to support in the coming week…

Whether this week you are a helper, someone who needs help, are praying for help for someone else, or are a mix of all 3… God is always there for us. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBxcspoQAOo

Whatever this week has in store, remember “God watches over you”. Have a good day Zephyrs!

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!