Zeph Daily 51 – Keep your eyes on the prize…

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


Source: freeimages.com

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

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

Otter Book

Copyright J. Wilkinson 2020

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

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

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


Copyright J. Wilkinson 2012

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

0516 DSCF2896

Copyright J. Wilkinson 2011

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

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

Mum's Otter

Copyright C. Slaney

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

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

Keep your eyes on the prize…

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


Zeph Daily 16 – The Last Supper

Morning Zephyrs! It’s Julie today – and also Maundy Thursday when we remember this story…

Have a watch…


I love the story of the Last Supper. Usually I tell it lots of times in the run-up to Easter, to school groups as part of our Re:wind events. I’ve missed it this year.

A while ago, I came across this quote I liked:
“We need to look hard at the stories we create and wrestle with them. Retell and retell them and work with them like clay. It is in the retelling and returning that stories give us their wisdom.” (Marni Gillard)


I think it’s an idea that also applies to stories we didn’t create but that we revisit because they mean something to us – though it’s not something we’re always very good at in Christian circles, just letting the story be enough. It’s like we think we already know it so well, we have to wrap it up in lots of other stuff to make sure we don’t get bored.

In retelling it over and over again, I feel like I’ve broken open the story of the Last Supper, worked it like clay, and the more time I spend with it, the more it reveals its wisdom – and the less I understand it! Often, the wisdom comes with a growing sense of mystery, one question leading to another.


Last year, I spent a day working with classes in East Morton Primary as part of their Easter Week. We spent time together diving into this story, finding its hidden spaces, asking it questions, wondering about the answers, talking about the different people and perspectives involved, and then rewriting it. It was one of my favourite working days I can remember; it was so good just to spend time with children whose curiosity made them open to working with the text, pulling it apart and putting it back together again.

We thought about the man carrying the water jar – why he was carrying the jar when usually women would do it, why he let them use his house, whether he attended the meal or not. We thought about Peter and Judas – how they both ultimately let Jesus down, how Jesus gave Peter the opportunity to repair things after his resurrection, and whether the same opportunity would have been available to Judas if he’d stuck around. We talked about why Jesus let Judas come to the meal when he knew what he was going to do – would Judas have known where to find Jesus later if he hadn’t been there? We looked at the different gospels and thought about why certain details were in all of them and some only appeared in one.


And in every class that I visited, like every time I tell this story, I was brought back to the same thing. What a confusing evening this must have been for Jesus’ disciples. This was a pivotal moment. At that meal, gathered together as friends in celebration of the Passover, things changed. Shadows gathered. Uncertainty loomed. Jesus broke bread, shared wine, told his friends he would die, that they would need to remember him.

In the midst of the Easter story, comes this moment when time hangs. Jesus’ friends know that what is coming next will be dark and difficult and hard. They know it will hurt. But they don’t really understand it; they don’t know exactly what will happen, or how, or how awful and gut-wrenchingly painful and frightening it will be.


When our emotions are turbulent; when we feel frightened or confused or anxious about what is to come; when we feel lost and untethered, like everything we know and depend on is slipping away. Remember – Jesus and his friends have been there before us.

Remember too that, when they didn’t know exactly what would happen or the force of grief that would hit them, nor did they know that the fear and uncertainty wouldn’t be where it ends. They couldn’t know that in the quiet filtering dawn three days later, death would be broken and perfect love would cast out fear. Sunday was coming…


At that Last Supper, in the midst of the turmoil and gathering dread, Jesus didn’t reject any of them. He looked Peter in the eyes and said, “You will deny me” – and he was welcome at the table anyway. He looked Judas in the eyes and said, “You will betray me” – but he was welcome at the table anyway. Jesus knows that, in times of turmoil, emotions can be overwhelming and hard to handle and people can get things wrong. But he welcomes us to the table anyway…


If you’ve got some handy, you might want to grab a piece of bread or a biscuit or something else to eat, and something to drink. Eat, drink, and remember…


Now give thanks that Jesus and his friends have been there before us; give thanks that he understands what we feel and where we are; give thanks that all are welcome at the table; and give thanks that, after the darkest night comes a dawn that will change everything.

When we are in a time of waiting, waiting for that dawn, it is easy to feel powerless. But we can choose where to fix our eyes in the waiting; there is power in that…



Fix your eyes, and have good Thursdays, Zephyrs! Sunday is coming… Amen!

Zeph Daily 11 – Everything Beautiful in its Time…

Morning Zephyrs! It’s Julie here – and I’ve got a little challenge for you…

I’m fascinated by mudlarking – hunting for hidden historical treasures on the Thames foreshore that have been preserved by the river mud. I’ve never actually been, but it’s on my bucket list! Here are three examples of the kinds of things mudlarks have found – any guesses what/how old they are?



Some answers for you! Top left is a fossilized sea urchin and could be hundreds of millions of years old.

Top right is a genuine Roman lamp discovered in the Thames mud a few years ago – and almost thrown away as the mudlark assumed it was a forgery!

Bottom is a wooden shoe patten and buckle, also from the Thames mud, c.1710-1720 – correctly identified by Jenny as a thing to keep your feet out of the mud and dirt (and correctly dated too!) – ironic that it should end up preserved in the London mud!

Amazing that such fascinating, ancient things should be so well-preserved and, all these years after they were made for use, have a new beauty all of their own…


When Julia led Zeph@10 on Tuesday, using the passage from Ecclesiastes 3, a line jumped out at me that I’d never noticed before, in verse 11:

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.”

That same day, I came across a post in my Facebook memories. It was five years since I took my eldest daughter to visit our friend, Heidi, at Wakefield Cathedral, where she worked. We spent most of the visit collecting discarded candle wax at my daughter’s insistence – all the bits that had melted, dripped off the candles, then re-solidified at the bottom of the metal holders. The bits that would normally eventually get thrown away.


I don’t know what made her notice and want to collect all those broken pieces of unwanted wax. She saw something in them that I didn’t. I didn’t see any beauty in them; but she did…

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.”

Sometimes, we all feel a bit like those melted, discarded, re-formed pieces of unwanted wax; and when we do, God looks at us the way my daughter looked at the wax, he sees something in us that we don’t, he sees the potential for beauty. He doesn’t wait for us to be perfect.

WATCH: Anyway – Nichole Nordeman

Or read the lyrics here… https://genius.com/Nichole-nordeman-anyway-lyrics


We’d gone to visit Heidi because she was getting married. And when we got home, my daughter announced that she wanted to use the wax she’d collected to make Heidi a wedding present.

So, we dug out my candle-making kit and set to work.

We melted the remnants of discarded wax and died them red. Set the wick. Poured the melted wax into a spherical mould. There wasn’t enough Cathedral wax to fill it, so we melted some new wax to top it up. Then we left it to set…


The finished candle was a perfect sphere of two halves – the lower part smooth, new, bright red wax; the upper part perfectly, beautifully imperfect, reclaimed wax made new.


We wrapped it up, popped it in a gift bag, and gave it to Heidi on her wedding day. And, although we occasionally remembered our Cathedral visit with a smile, we never really gave the candle much thought. Until a couple of days ago…


You see, on Wednesday, five years to the day since we’d collected the wax, the same day I noticed that line in Ecclesiastes 3:

“He has made everything beautiful in its time”

– That same day, our Cathedral memory popped up in Heidi’s Facebook too and she left a comment:
“We just finished burning this the other day! It’s been lit on our table at tea time as we pray for and remember key workers and those who are ill.”


What a beautiful destiny for that unwanted, almost unnoticed, discarded wax! When we collected and melted and poured and set and wrapped and gave that wax, five years ago, we had no idea that now, in these times, it would be giving light and shining strong as prayers were said for those who are suffering and those who are helping in these troubled times.

Everything Beautiful


When the words we have and the prayers we say and the actions we take seem too small, too insignificant to be worth anything, may we remember this:

God can take the least wanted, the most useless things and turn them into things of beauty in his world, in their time.

We pray, now, for our world, for our communities, for those people and situations on our hearts, in faith that God can turn our small prayers into something beautiful. Add your prayers…


Now go, like the repurposed old wax candles you are, and let your lights shine – “He has made everything beautiful in its time…”

WATCH: This Little Light of Mine – John Froud

Zeph Daily 6

Morning Zephyrs! It’s Julie on Zeph@10 today.

I’ve got myself a coffee and I’m good to go this morning. How’s everybody?

coffee cup


When you’re a storyteller, sometimes you have to grab a thought as it flutters through your brain and follow it down the meandering paths to see where it takes you. It may be it goes nowhere, drifting eventually into a hollow tree trunk in your mind and bedding down under some leaves, when it realises it should never have been out in the first place. Then there are those thoughts that trip lightly on the breeze until you arrive at a sparkling stream and there, beneath the rippling waters, spy a nugget of pure gold…

You never really know which one it’s going to turn out to be until you pay it some attention.

For today’s Zeph@10, I thought I’d give you an insight into that process and take you on a thought journey.


And the deep and meaningful thought that begins our journey, is this…

I like my glasses.

Arran 4 (2)


That is the thought that flashed into my mind yesterday. And I really mean it. I like my glasses. I mean, I really like them. I’m short-sighted and, without them, everything is blurry – even my laptop screen. WITH my glasses, the world is transformed. Rather than just being able to tell vaguely what something in the distance is, I can see finer details – colour, pattern, facial features. With my glasses, I can drive safely, I can read subtitles when I watch Scandinavian crime drama, I can pick my child out of a crowd in a school performance or on the football field. I can look further ahead and see things more clearly. They’re great. I mean, I REALLY, REALLY like them.


But… There are times when it is nice to take my glasses off and let the world blur. Times when I need to lie down and rest but the glasses press into my face. Times when dirt has built up on the lenses and looking through the filter of the immediate grime to see further ahead makes my eyes hurt. Times when I’m tired or stressed and the effort required to focus threatens to bring on a migraine.


Most of the time, I love and am thankful for the ability to focus on what’s ahead of me, to see as far into the distance as I can and know what’s coming. But occasionally, I need to stop, take my glasses off, let the distance blur, and focus just on what’s right in front of me, now. On this moment.


When things feel uncertain in our house, if one of us is worried or stuck and isn’t sure what their next move should be, we have a mantra – “One thing at once.” And in those moments, God is there, guiding us, lighting up each step of the way, one at a time…

“Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a Light to my path.” (Psalm 119: 105)

Your Word is...


It’s great to look into the distance, to focus on the future, to make plans; and God takes an interest and is present when we do that. It’s also great for our wellbeing and very necessary to look beyond whatever struggles are right in front of us and remember that these things shall pass. But we also have another, different opportunity, and now seems a perfect time to grasp it. Today, slow down. Pop your future plans somewhere safe. Take off your glasses for a few minutes. Pick up a Bible. Spend some time with God. Let his lamp light up your next step. One thing at once.


Father God, we pray for calm today, calm enough to slow down and stop and spend some time with you, so that you can light our next step. One thing at once.
We pray for those who are feeling wobbly this morning. Draw close to them and let them know that you are near.
We give thanks for those who can offer us wisdom and point us to you.
You are here. And we choose to recognise that today.


Remember, God’s got the bigger picture covered…


Have excellent days, Zephyrs – may you find peace, sunshine and lots of God in them!

See you tomorrow at 10am when John will be taking the helm…

Zeph Daily

We may not be able to visit schools or churches for a while, but more than ever, we want to reach out to our Zeph Community, our ZephKidz and ZephFriends – and that includes you!
When life changes, we need to find new rhythms, new routines, new touchstones. So, from tomorrow, we’re starting a virtual Zeph Daily Prayer/Community Gathering.
At 10am, every weekday (Monday to Friday), one of our Team will be on our Facebook page for half an hour of prayer and community. We might post images or Bible verses, songs, or anything really, but we’ll let you know we’re there. You can join us in the comments, posting prayers or requests or just letting us know you’re there.
If you can’t join us, know we are there, praying. At the end of the gathering, we’ll publish the day’s content as a separate blog post here, so you can work through it in your own time whenever you get the chance.
Love from
John, Julie, Jenny, Julia and Yvonne

Read on for Day One’s reflections…

I am with you

Hey Zephs!

Welcome to the first online daily prayer and community gathering.

It’s Julie here (the one with the glasses, not the long blonde hair…).

If this were a collective worship or assembly in a school, I’d start by saying the magic words…

“Good morning!”

…and you’d reply, in beautiful unison, “Good morning Julie!” (You’d likely as not forget my name and some of you would call me ‘Julia’ or ‘Mrs …’ or look at me in weird silence.)

If you want to let me know you’re here, post a greeting below!

In a couple of minutes, I’ll be telling you the story today’s Bible verse comes from…

When everything feels a bit unsettling, it’s good to focus on that which doesn’t change – have a listen to some ancient words…



The verse in the image above is from the first book of the Bible and, to be honest, things weren’t going well for the family involved…

There were four of them: two parents (Isaac and Rebekah) and their twin sons (Esau and Isaac).

Esau was the oldest (and Isaac’s favourite), Jacob the youngest (and Rebekah’s favourite). When Isaac was growing old, Rebekah knew he would have to bless one of of his sons to hand on the family name and all that went with it – their inheritance. Esau, as the eldest, should have been the one to receive the blessing. But Rebekah wanted it to be Jacob.

So, she and Jacob played a trick – while Esau was out hunting one day, they dressed Jacob up as Esau and sent him in to his father. Isaac’s sight had failed him and he could no longer see. He was taken in by the trick and blessed Jacob instead of Esau.

When Esau returned and the trick was revealed, the family was torn apart – and Esau was livid!

Jacob had to run away, leaving his home and his family and everything he knew, to keep himself safe.

He set out on his journey, alone, and on that first lonely night, with no clue of what lay before him or whether he would ever see all that was familiar and loved again, he fell asleep, and God came to him in a dream, and this is the promise he made him…

“I am with you and will watch over you,
Wherever you may go,
And I will bring you back to this land.
I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

“I am with you and will watch over you wherever you may go.”

God’s promise. Whatever happens, whatever changes, he is with us and will watch over us.

I’ve got my window open and I can hear the birds tweeting away out there. The sun still shines. God is there.

Take a couple of minutes to connect with the world around you, what can you see or hear or smell or feel or taste that is familiar, that reminds you God is with you?

God is with us. That’s worth being thankful for.

And he is present in his world through the hands of those he made.

Let’s give thanks for all those who are being God in his world – for the doctors, nurses and NHS staff who are working so hard to care for people; for the teachers, headteachers and school staff who are providing care for our children; for the supermarket staff who keep us fed; for those who provide care and company and comfort.

Know someone you want to be thankful for? Name them below. May God hold each one of them in his hands.

The second part of the promise:

“I will bring you back to this land.”

Jacob didn’t know how long it would take for God to fulfil that promise – he only knew that it was a promise made and he could choose to trust it.

This shall pass. Uncertainty shall pass. Worry shall pass.

And God will be there at the end, as he is there at the beginning and throughout.

Do you know someone who is ill? Or worried? Or lonely?

Pray for them now, name them if you like. Pray that they will know the comfort of God’s promise – this shall pass.

“I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

He doesn’t leave us. Ever.

Is there someone you can get in touch with today who may need to hear that? Write a letter, send a message, make a phone call?

Claim God’s promise as your own and pass it on to someone else who needs it. Make a note of their name.

“The Lord is the everlasting God.”

(I don’t have the extensive repertoire of Mr Froud on my guitar but this one I can play so it’s an assembly staple!)


That’s it for this morning’s content, but feel free to stay around, chat, revisit it later, add your own thoughts/reflections – none of us are far away, digitally if not physically!

I’ll be hanging around for a while now and we’ll be back here and there throughout the day.

Thanks for being here and for joining in, you’re all brilliant!

John will be taking the lead tomorrow at 10am.

Today, claim God’s promise:
“I am with you and will watch over you wherever you may go and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

Wishing you peace, Zephyrs.

– Julie