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.

Image may contain: plant

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

Image may contain: 1 person, close-up

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)

Image may contain: ocean, sky, outdoor, nature and water

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!

Image may contain: shoes and outdoor

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!

No photo description available.

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.

Image may contain: cloud, sky, ocean, plant, outdoor, nature and water

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!)

No photo description available.

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…

Image may contain: grass, outdoor and nature

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?

No photo description available.

I was thinking……

No photo description available.

…..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.

Image may contain: 7 people, people standing, hat and child

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!

Zeph Daily 73

Good morning from Jenny! I’m taking a break from the Psalms of David today, and shamelessly recycling what I prepared for our church youth group yesterday. As it was an in-person, socially-distanced meet up…. outside….. in the pouring rain, I’m not sure how much of the study they absorbed. I strongly suspect they absorbed more rain and pizza than anything else.

Anyway, here’s a picture of me as a baby. And here’s a question to get you thinking. What traits, features or habits have you inherited from your parents? My serious, thinking face…. ? That comes from my mum.

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting, child, table and indoor

I had decided (ambitiously) to look at John 3: 1-21. You might want to have a read of it now.

The passage starts with Nicodemus, who waits until after dark to go and speak to Jesus. From his statement in verse 2, its evident that he’s seen Jesus about, heard his teaching and seen some of his miracles. Yet he didn’t choose to speak to Jesus in public, in the temple courts. While seeing Jesus as someone sent by God, it seems he doesn’t want his mates – the other Pharisees – to know he thinks that. So he goes to see him late, and alone. The resulting conversation gives us the bedrock of our Christian belief. We have to acknowledge the Son, step into the light, be born again, and that puts us right with God.

The conversation, however, doesn’t result in any great conversion event in Nicodemus’ life. When Jesus said to the disciples, “leave everything, follow me”, they did just that. Each of them gave up his life and his job, and went with Jesus. It was single moment of decision for each of them. This passage in John just stops – seemingly mid-discourse. We see no moment of decision in Nicodemus.

However, that’s not the last we hear about Nicodemus. He pops up again in John 7:50, trying to ensure justice for Jesus when the Pharisees are discussing their failed attempt to have him arrested. And then, after the crucifixion, when the disciples had fled, and Peter had denied knowing Jesus, Nicodemus crops up again, accompanying Joseph of Arimathea to ask Pilate for Jesus’ body, so they could bury it. Just when the known followers of Jesus are hiding away, Nicodemus sticks his head above the parapet.

Was Nicodemus a follower of Jesus, in secret? Had there been a point of conversion? Or was he on a long journey to becoming a follower of Jesus? He must have, at the very least, had some communication with John after the resurrection for these stories to have appeared in the Gospel narrative at all, so I’m hopeful.

I find stories like Nicodemus encouraging. When I was born, I was not a follower of Jesus. By the time I was 14 I was certain enough in my faith to want to be baptised. There was no single point of conversion anywhere in those 14 years. No single moment when I metaphorically put down my nets to follow Jesus. I sometimes worry that I’ve missed an important step, and when I pop my clogs, God’s going to look in His big book, and say, “Sorry, you missed a step. You can’t come in. It was clearly stated as a requirement in the terms and conditions.” It’s sometimes good to see that coming to faith is a slow journey, taken step by step, stage by stage, rather than a single, thunder-clap revelation.

I think one of the reasons that we place so much emphasis on this single moment of conversion in talking about becoming followers of Jesus is because of this passage. You must be ‘born again’. Being born is a single moment in time. It can be pin pointed down to the minute. I was born at 9pm on the dot. There must be a moment at which we ‘become’ a Christian.

When I was preparing this passage for the youth group, a thought struck me about that. In verse 6 Jesus says, “Humans can produce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.” When I was born, I had indeed been born, and was a whole human……. But I wasn’t the human that I am now. I couldn’t walk, talk, sit, eat solids, read, cook, sew……. The process of becoming me didn’t happen in a single event. It has been happening slowly for the last 40-odd years. Much of who I became was as a result of my parents and my upbringing. Some of those things were due to genetics. My small hands and feet? Thanks Dad! Others had more to do with the environment I grew up in. If I didn’t have a mum, and a grandmother and an aunt who were always busy with some kind of craft, whether knitting, embroidery or dressmaking, would I now be someone who has huge pleasure in craft herself, even training in textiles? But growing as a human doesn’t stop when we reach adulthood. Only last year, I learnt to ski. Not well, but I can get down a very shallow slope with only mild terror and a lot of encouragement. I’m still growing and learning. I’m still becoming me, as a human.

If that’s what it’s like when humans reproduce human life, perhaps that’s a more accurate picture of what it’s like when the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. Somewhere in those first 14 years of life, there must have been a moment of ‘birth’, but it was so small, so insignificant, I didn’t notice it at the time. The process of becoming the me that follows Jesus, becoming the person who God wants me to be, the person that lives in the light so that others can see what God is doing in my life….. Well, that’s still ongoing. Just as the genetics my family passed to me and the upbringing that they gave me shaped much of the person I have so far become, so the Holy Spirit passed on the genetics of God to me in that moment I was born again, but then continued to ‘bring me up’, and still continues to ‘bring me up’ as a follower of Jesus.

Being ‘born again’ is both a single moment of conversion, and a life long journey. I may not remember the single moment, but I am still in the process of being born again.

I hope Nicodemus also carried on that journey of being born again. His discussion with Jesus has blessed us with the best known verse in scripture. “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” I was encouraged that at least one of our young people knew that one before we even started looking at it.

Just for a moment, reflect on your journey, and thank God for your spiritual upbringing. And just as we asked our parents for help – or still do – ask for help with the bits you’re finding tricky.

I’m VERY glad that I don’t have any outdoor meetings to try and lead today. Stay warm and dry Zephyrs, as you go about your individual journeys of being born again today. I hope its a good one.

Zeph Daily 72

No photo description available.

John here wishing you a good Arty Morning ! I take it you spotted the story from the painting?
Eularia Clarke’s “Storm over the Lake.”

Many years ago in a fit of ecumenism, I volunteered to write some songs for the Methodist Collection of Contemporary Christian Art if I could do a concert in the middle of the Exhibition at Saltaire (part of the Festival). This painting leapt out of the catalogue at me. I think it was the not unreasonable fear in the faces. But then fear keeps us alive. It stops us being run over by the proverbial bus, burned by the gas cooker, eaten by next door’s Rottweiler.

Listen to the song https://soundcloud.com/johnfroud/drowning while you read the story. Luke 8:22-25 Being in Luke it won’t take you long. He’s not like Julie is he? Luke takes all of FOUR verses to tell a big story.

I like to identify with the dramatis personae. Jesus is tired. He goes to sleep. I can do that.
The disciples panic. I can do that.
He does the teacher bit, gives the wind a good telling off and everything returns to calm. I used to be able to do that. (mostly!)
He’s a bit short of patience having been woken up. I can do that.
“Where is your faith?” He asks. I feel his exasperation.

What Jesus had said was: “Let’s go over to the other side of the lake”(v22)
Things Jesus didn’t say:
“Looks like a stormy crossing, we’d better not go”
“Let’s get out there and see what happens.”
“Let’s get into the middle and drown”
He said, “Let’s go over to the other side of the lake”

I can do scared. I loved taking kids on school trips (see yesterday’s Zeph@10) but there were moments of cold sweat.
When there was a lot less of me I was scared of getting stuck crawling in a cave underneath the Ribblehead viaduct. Richard Lewis tweaked a knee that day, so perhaps not unreasonable of me. As we were walking from Ravenscar to Robin Hood’s Bay along a fossil-rich beach, with kids excitedly finding huge numbers of interesting specimens, I was anxiously looking alternately at the tide galloping in under the north wind and the sheer cliff that we couldn’t possibly climb. Or above Ingleborough Hall when the mist came down (or we walked up into it), and being back for tea depended entirely (?) on my map-reading skills.

“Where does my help come from?”
Prayer here remembering when that promise, “I am with you always” has been demonstrably true for us.

The disciples actually did the right thing. They went straight to Jesus. It’s not like they had far to go. But that’s always true, isn’t it ? He’s always right there, whether we want to remember his presence or not.

I trust your day will go peacefully… but in those occasional moments of buttock-clenching fear, I pray you’ll remember where to go first. Amen ?

Zeph Daily 71

Morning Zephyrs! Julie here. Here’s a heart-warming video for your morning in case you’re missing school sports days…

That video clip has been around since at least 2016 and I still remember the first time I saw it because it made me smile. It’s a classic School Sports Day scenario with a lovely little twist of kindness. The boys in one class agreeing together that their classmate with Downs’ Syndrome should win the race while they run behind him, cheering him on! What a lovely moment!

I remember when I was around 9, going on a school trip to the Colne Valley Museum in Golcar. We dressed up as Victorians for the day, the girls in mob caps and shawls and the boys in waistcoats and flat caps, and we worked in groups to make firelighters and corn dollies and cook lunch. It was all done in character – we were the new workers for the Victorian owners and had to do what we were told.

The build-up to it was monumental. The trip was in year 4, which was the last year of first school (we had middle schools back then) and we’d been looking forward to it for years. As it drew closer, our parents had to source our costumes, the teachers put us into groups, then started sowing the seeds of the story we would role-play for the day. The anticipation well-and-truly built, we were excited! Then disaster struck…

Robin, a boy in our class, broke his leg. He missed a couple of days of school while the bone was set and the cast put on – and we all started talking… How would he manage the bus? How could he be a servant with a broken leg? What if the story got ruined? WHAT IF HE HAD TO MISS THE TRIP???

Luckily, our teachers were problem solvers of epic proportions (as most teachers are) and they had this in hand. Robin returned to school, in plaster and on crutches, and the teachers did some behind-the-scenes collaboration with the museum. The story was adapted and the trip went ahead – with Robin, the new chimney sweep, who’d fallen down a chimney and broken his leg. Genius!

Inclusion, done well, is a beautiful thing. Like the boys in the video, or my year 4 teachers, inclusion done well communicates “We see you. We value you. You belong to us and we belong to you. And because of that, we will adapt to enable you to fully belong. No question.” And to those of us watching, it says – “Look what you are part of – there will always be a place for you here, we value and include you too.”

Jesus was good at inclusion. He saw those who were excluded from society and he valued them, he stood with them, he let them know that he belonged to them. Fishermen, tax collectors, lepers, women and children, widows, the ill, the ostracized, the forgotten, the marginalised. He reached out and gathered them all in. Or rather, he didn’t. Rather than gather them in to the place that had already failed to embrace them, he went to where they were and gathered himself in with them. Inclusion, done well, changes lives.

As lockdown rules begin to ease and new regulations come into play, I’ve seen lots of little conversations all over my newsfeed about what will and won’t be allowed and how we can remember those who won’t be able to easily access the new normal. Conversations about how church has been done and new options opening up – those who have enjoyed accessing Zoom calls and those who have hated it, those without technology – and different ways of reaching out to them, those who will still be shielding. And I have seen lots of gentle consideration of different needs, different preferences, and gentle pointing out of those who may be at risk of being forgotten. And those conversations have cheered me because when we communicate gently and from a place of love, with respect and humility and an understanding of good intention, we can keep on learning to be more inclusive and do things better.

There are so many opportunities now to do things differently, to do things better, to do things more inclusively. To think through and ask tricky questions about what we want to pick up again and what we need to change.

How can we follow Jesus’ example and be instinctively inclusive by drawing ourselves to those the world forgets rather than trying to tempt them to come to us?

The real challenge lies in reconciling inclusivity with rules and regulations – to reach out to others like Jesus did, to include them as he did, means having flexibility, being relational before regulating – and that doesn’t mean throwing the rules out, but it does mean scrutinizing them to creatively adapt and apply them in a way that communicates love first.

What an opportunity to talk together, to communicate, to discuss, to hear and to learn from perspectives that are different from our own, as we are gifted a chance to remake things new – we make the path by walking and the path will lead us home…

Here’s to collaboration; to cooperation; to compromise; to inclusivity; to finding new ways of being that echo the old ways – may God open your eyes to new perspectives today, Zephyrs! Enjoy the sunshine – and may you find ways to stay cool!

Zeph Daily 70

Only 184 sleeps to go!!!!!

Image may contain: 1 person

Exactly 6 months and it’ll be just 1 more sleep!!!

So, on a scale of The Grinch to Buddy the elf, how excited do you get about Christmas?

Let me try a different question then – what do you love most about Christmas?

I love Christmas and most of what comes with it. I love my chocolate advent calendar – chocolate before brekkie; what’s not to love?! I love seeing houses all trimmed up, I love Christmas trees (especially the smell of a real one), I love all the food (mmmmmmm, sprouts!), I love thinking about what gifts to buy people. I even love wrapping presents!

I love Christmas movies; it wouldn’t be Christmas in our house without watching Muppets’ Christmas Carol at least once. There are some films I’ve watched so many times, it feels like I pretty much know them word for word.

But of course, Christmas wouldn’t actually be Christmas without THE story. The story that gets told year after year after year after year all around the world. The story that is absolutely the best, most exciting thing about Christmas. The story that tells of God coming to live among us, actually coming to live among us, as one of us, born as a baby in the most humble of circumstances.

Only 184 sleeps to go!!!

It’s a story of such utmost importance to us and even though some of the details of how we tell it are undoubtedly different to the reality of that night, that doesn’t matter. Did Mary ride from Nazareth to Bethlehem on a donkey? We don’t know. Was Jesus born in a stable as we imagine a stable to be? We don’t know. Do these details change what lies at the heart of this story – God coming to live among us? No!

I love Christmas. Have I mentioned that already?

And do you know another thing I love about Christmas? It’s the names we give Jesus, that for some reason, seem only really to be brought out at Christmas. Wonderful Counsellor, Prince of Peace, Emmanuel.

That’s what Christmas is – Emmanuel – and that’s why I love it. Christmas is God with us. And you may (?) have been sitting there 25 minutes ago tutting at me and feeling all Scrooge – “Christmas? It’s only June!” But if Christmas is God with us (and it is!!!) then that’s always, not just in December. That’s why I love Christmas. And that’s why, in the words of Scrooge himself, I will honour Christmas and try to keep it all the year round.

And so, in keeping with this morning….https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YPqCP0UiPI0

Emmanuel is for life, not just for Christmas!!! God is with us always, every day. God’s love and hope and light lives in us and He calls us to let it shine out from us every day. And so, I bid you a Merry Christmas and a Happy Today and…….God bless us, everyone!