Zeph Daily 52

JF

It’s Friday morning. It’s John bidding you welcome to it. If you would care to enter the prizeless caption competition for the picture above, please feel free to do so.
While you’re being creative…  https://soundcloud.com/johnfroud/let-me-always-remember

I’d like to say it was a deliberate photo fusion, but that would be a lie. I was looking for an image to fit the lyrics for the “Standing in line” song and it wasn’t until I happily placed these two together that I realized what a good fit they are: heights, windows, floor, a “conversation piece.” Where this was fluke ( I can’t really say I was “led” to this composition), looking back I see that much of my life has been built, brick by considered brick.

I get to work with the most amazing people. Not just the zephteam—but, yes—them too. I often thank God for the people he has put round me at different times in my life. When I was little (I was, relatively), growing up in the manse, as well as my parents, there was a steady stream of ministers, university students and my big sister’s friends whose every educated word I would hang on and who all had some input into my growing up.

Via the conversation about cake on here the other day, I was reminded of my Sunday School teacher Edna Moxon who would invite us into her home. It wasn’t just a love of Battenburg that I took in there, but another angle on the Kingdom of God and my part in it.
I read on facebook yesterday that it would have been Ladderbanks teacher Mike Pollard’s 85th birthday. For those not knowing, he was beaten to death in 1997 while on holiday in Hungary. He and his wife Jo had been taking Bibles and food into Eastern Europe for 30 years. Back at home Mike used to run Christian events where children could be told about, but also see and feel God’s love in action.
Thank God for those who helped steer us in the right direction when we were young… …and put some names here, if you wish…

I began (and continued) my teaching career at Wycliffe CE Middle School in Shipley, working for a Headteacher, Tom Austwick, who said things like, “You can’t stop children learning—you can only hope to influence what they learn”. And who taught me important lessons like learning to see your classroom as a child walking in, and remembering that an angry parent would be upset about something else. Although sitting the smartest child nearest the door where visitors might ask questions to which they would get good answers was my idea.
Thank God for people who have taught us how to be better at what we do…Inspo

Apart from the wonderful zephteam, I have worked with musicians who have made me sound better than I am (recycled quote from Bryn Haworth; comedians who have made me laugh—sometimes t my embarrassment as I remember the gags at awkward moments; poets who have lit up my mind; storytellers who have hooked me on their storylines; artists who have released that childhood sense of “awe and wonder;” clergy who have blessed me with their ministry, non-specialist Christians who have moved me with the depth of their love.
Thank God for people who have shown us God’s love in what they are as well as what they do.

Comin’backatcha…We are not often aware of the impact we have on others. One of this year’s ordinands told me recently how the PKs were involved at the beginning of his faith journey. Who knew ?
“I am, like an old cow in an evening meadow, chewing the cud of memory and our joyous times trundling around the beloved schools of Shipley and beyond .“ So wrote Stewart Henderson this week, before going on to say how much he appreciated the support we, at Zephaniah have given him !!!
Thank God for using you to help others along the way: small children sitting on the floor in assemblies, adults round the edge, fellow workers, random adults who stop to chat or read your posts. Some of these you may never know about…

Although I/we can be serendipitous, God does it on purpose. You’ve got to be impressed. Enjoy being, and appreciate his builder’s skill…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cX6GH7CWpu8

and so it begins…have a good one!

 

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!

freeimages.com

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.

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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…

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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!”
“What?”
“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…
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dHl5I9l2lSw

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 17 – Good Friday

Good Friday (2)

Greetings! John here, ready to lead Good Friday’s Zeph@10 …

Listen: Were you there?

Be there as you read the Gospel:
“Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with Jesus  to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals – one on his right, the other on his left.  Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”

The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar  and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”

There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews.

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Luke 23:32-42 

 

Good Friday

Pontius Pilate, selfish, stares;

Soldiers, strong, evilly laugh;

Children, moany, scream;

Dogs, scared, hide;

Women of Jerusalem weep;

Mary Magdelene, broken-hearted, is distraught;

Rubbernecks annoyingly barge and shove;

Barabbas, fortunate, smirks;

Disciples, worried, pray;

Priests, important, smile;

Jesus, holy, dies.

– Year 5 group poem, East Morton CE Primary School, Easter 2019

 

Last Easter at East Morton again. I get to be a poet there. We made this class poem after compiling the Dramatis Personae of Good Friday.

We wondered who might have been there, and then what they were like (the adjective) and then what they were doing (the verb) Because looking at Jesus on that cross, we have to do something: if it’s to watch, or weep, or deny, or run away, or to feel guilty –  whatever. Even doing nothing is an action of inaction.

Back to the poem. Picture the characters. We know them. Our friends, our family, our neighbours, our politicians, ourselves. Pray for them this Good Friday as they make their own response to Jesus’ death. Pray for ourselves, with thanks that we, too, are part of the story.

Last time back to the poem: “Jesus, holy, dies”. There’s the paradox again. God is holy. He is immortal. He can’t die ! We wonder at the mystery. How does he do that?

We stand, in our wonder and receive the blessing that the death of God’s son brings us. And then we pass that blessing on. One way or another.

Listen: Mary Stood

And if you’ve not been there yet, Julie’s Good Friday piece…

 

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)

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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…

Watch…

 

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

Zeph Daily 14 – God is Good

Hello and good morning to you. It’s Julia doing Zeph@10 today.

Here is the design of an encouraging hoodie my sister used to have. Fun fact: fish do actually have teeth! I looked it up. Some even lose baby teeth and get new ones through. Anyway, I mainly wanted to look at the words under the fish.

smiling fish

“God is good.” It is a simple phrase, which can almost be taken for granted because we’re told it so early on, so it’s often easy to forget its importance. Fortunately, now and then (often when we remember to look) we get a reminder.

The other day, I was getting annoyed at a friend’s post on Facebook whose views I disagreed with. As I was getting wound up, I remembered Jesus’s words about loving your “enemies” and praying for those who hurt you (Matthew 5.14). In this passage, Jesus talks about not just loving your friends, but loving those we find hard to love- after all God doesn’t discriminate about who he loves, as he “sends rain to those who do right and those who do wrong” (verse 45).

So I prayed for the friend, thinking that while I strongly disagree with his views, I absolutely hope for God’s love and light in his life. As the tension I felt eased a little, I realised again that God’s way of doing life, with its radical and sometimes counter-intuitive responses, had broken through the negativity with goodness. God is good.

The task at the moment is to look around our hurting world and figure out where we can find God’s goodness.

God’s goodness does not stop with God. It is reflected back in anything he is involved in. The Bible tells us that people are made in God’s image- having something of God’s character within us is the foundation of who we are. In this way, we are wired to care for each other, show kindness and connect.

I have found that when you choose to show kindness to someone, that act/thought/intention somehow lifts you up and gives you life as well. When what we choose is aligned with God’s goodness, we resonate with the heart of God- we as people are in tune with God’s love.

There is a lot of sadness and hardship in the world at the moment. They say that when you watch bad things happening on the news, you should look for the helpers- there will always be people trying to make things better. When I’ve watched the news recently, alongside the bad things, there have been so so many reports about the things people have been doing to help each other. SO many helpers! People want to use their gifts and their time to find ways to connect, and to help each other, simply out of the kindness of their hearts. God is good.

However big the hardships are, the helpers don’t give up. The helpers don’t mean that the sadness isn’t there, and it wouldn’t work to pretend it isn’t. But amongst the sadness, goodness is so worthwhile. Here is a quote from Doctor Who, in the episode where they met Vincent Van Gogh, which I think sums it up beautifully:

van gogh

The idea that God thinks goodness is important, that our kindness matters, is a beautiful thing. It also does us good to remember that when we choose to care for others, we don’t have to do it alone- God is with us.

Let’s pray and thank God for his goodness, and all the goodness he gives to us.

Let’s thank God for all the good people are doing to help each other.

Let’s thank God for all the good people are doing to help each other.

Amen! Well done to us on a productive morning. Go make a brew as a reward.

 

Zeph Daily 12 – Remain in me…

They can't cancel Spring

 I think it’s Friday and I think it’s me, John. Good morning!

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“Accepted wisdom is a contradiction in terms” – J.K. Galbraith.

I like a good paradox—or an oxymoron… the counter-intuitive.

Hope – Keep your eyes on the prize, take the long view, like the sprinter, fix your eyes on a point beyond the finish line… live each moment, celebrate the now—but watch where you put your feet!

Don’t worry – be happy; you’ll have enough; seek out the things of God first and everything else will follow.

Isolated – but in touch with people across the country, if not the world. Hello Phil and Ros if you’re reading this in New Zealand

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Now hear some Nashville session singers working from home:

WATCH: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nDIJz6zzHNU

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Hear Jesus speak as you read his words:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? … But seek first his Kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Matthew 6: 25 –27, 33

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William Carey (famous Baptist) said, “Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.” What does he want us to want?

Now pray, listening first to the God who already knows what we need. Know that when we’re in line with God’s thinking, Jesus says, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given you.” (John  15: 7) Wow!

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On a Sunday, we might have a prayer of dismissal about “going in to the world”. Go virtually into God’s world, worrying not, but seeking His Kingdom. Amen.

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Thanks for joining us for Zeph Daily this week! Enjoy your weekends – see you on Monday…

 

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?

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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…

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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.

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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

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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…

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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.

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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…

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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.”

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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

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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…

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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 10

Morning all! John here again today!

Ok, so it’s actually Yvonne writing today but, as John has spotted, today is April 1st! It doesn’t feel like a usual April Fools Day though, no usual pranks on the front pages of newspapers. But despite the lack of pranks, it did set me to thinking about my own general foolishness!

I have been known to do the occasional foolish thing over the years. What about you?

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When I was little, we used to go on holiday to a farm in North Wales every year. And every year, we’d get there, I’d get out of the car and run across the farmyard to where there was a big stone wheel with a handle attached. It was for knife-sharpening and I thought it was so cool! Unfortunately, it was in a small pit in the ground, surrounded by nettles. Every year, I’d run to this wheel and every year I’d fall in and get loads of nettle stings all over my legs! Every year! I mean, what kind of foolishness is that? To do it once, careless; to do it every year though!!?????

ZephDaily10

It looked a little like this but even older! It really was cool!

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My foolishness has continued through to adulthood, though I haven’t fallen in a nettle patch recently!

Now I suppose I could get depressed at the level of my foolishness (which sometimes really seems to know no bounds!) or…..I could turn to my Bible. I love, really actually love the number of people in the Bible who do foolish things.

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The list seems almost endless and, like me, some of the foolishness was repeated foolishness, not just a one-off. But, despite people’s foolishness, still God used these people, still God loved these people.

We all (even you, Jenny!) do foolish things sometimes but I love that no matter what we do, God is still going to be there loving us as much as ever, still wanting to use us to be His light to those around us.

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So whilst there may not be very much pranking or merriment about on this traditionally foolish day, why don’t we just take a bit of time out to be thankful that despite our own foolishness, we are loved by the most seriously awesome God. And do you know what, why not also, while we’re on it, take some time to thank God for some of our foolishness – after all, it’s in our weaknesses that God is strong. This morning, let’s just praise our God because we know He loves…whatever we do, wherever we go. We know He’s always got something for us…..

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Thanks Yvonne! Julie will be back tomorrow morning at 10am over on Facebook– see you then!

 

 

Zeph Daily 9

Autumn ZephDaily

Morning! It’s Julia at Zeph@10 today. Hello to you.

Question: what is your favourite season? I have a theory that people tend to like the season their birthday is in best – maybe subconsciously they associate it with something good. Mine is autumn.

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Traditionally my least favourite season is spring, because I feel like it’s pretty wet but without the cosiness of winter. However, in recent years I’ve realised that’s a pretty miserable way of looking at it (especially last year when we seemed to skip spring, and I found I missed it and felt disorientated for half the year!). There’s loads of things I realise I love about spring, like evening light, the scent of the air and flowers. Really I think each season has its hardships and its blessings.

I wanted to look at Ecclesiastes 3.1-14 this morning, where the author talks about there being a season for everything in life. Have a read if you like!

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There’s a few things I take from this passage. We’re currently in a very strange season- just a season, so it won’t last forever, but it is different and disorientating all the same. It brings with it various levels of hardship depending on the person and the situation.

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In saying that everything has a season, the author encourages us to accept our current situation first, acknowledging it for what it is. Even though we might naturally have “a desire to know the future” (verse 11), the task we face is the here and now, without having to know the whole picture, and that’s enough for the time being.

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The book of Ecclesiastes, where this passage comes from, is impressively, splendidly, miserable. Everything is useless and/or bad in some way. For a disillusioned reader it is either cathartic or going to make things MUCH worse – there is a time to read Ecclesiastes and a time to absolutely NOT do that.

This passage, in the midst of misery, is the author finding meaning in the idea that God is in control. I also found that the author seemed to keep returning to the same idea: the best thing is for people to eat, drink, and be happy in their work, which are gifts from God. Whatever your opinions on eating, drinking and working might be, my interpretation of this is that enjoying the small, “trivial” things matters.

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In other words, whatever season we are in, within that time God can give us the gift of peace, even through the smallest means. Most evenings in my house recently, we tend to go a small walk. If I’m honest I can rarely be bothered to go before we’ve set off, but once we’re out I’m always grateful we did. Peace can be a moment, watching the sunset reflect off the still waters of the canal. It can be spending time with people who mean a lot to us. It can be getting stuck into a long forgotten hobby – the author later says it is good when people don’t have time to worry because God keeps them busy with what they love to do.

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These moments of peace are important. And when we find ways to share this peace with other people, it becomes strength. Ecclesiastes 4.12 says a rope that is woven of 3 strands is hard to break.

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Let’s pray that God will be with us during this season. We pray for God’s help for those who this will be a particularly hard season for.

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Let’s pray for God to help us have peace within this season. We pray for glimpses of God today.

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And finally, let’s pray for God to give us enough strength to give light to others in any way we can.

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Amen! Enjoy the rest of your Tuesday!

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Yvonne’s up on Zeph@10 tomorrow – see you there!

 

Zeph Daily 8

Morning!
It’s Jenny’s turn to lead Zeph @10am today.

I have decided to give myself a framework to pin my weekly reflections onto. A few years ago I bought a chronological Bible, where the books are all jumbled to follow, as closely as scholars can discern, a coherent timeline. It means that the Psalms attributed to David are dispersed through the stories of David that appear in the first book of Samuel. I have decided to focus on these psalms, in order, and in the context at which they appear. The first is Psalm 59. I’m not going to focus on all of it, but you might want to read it before we get started. Verse 9 says, “You are my strength; I wait for you to rescue me, for you, Oh God, are my fortress”.

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masada

For a moment, think about a fortress – perhaps one like Masada, in the picture, with its position on top of a steep hill, surrounded by walls – or perhaps the more familiar motte and bailey-type castle we see in the UK, with it’s keep, high up surrounded by defensive walls and embankments, designed to ‘keep’ the inhabitants safe under attack.

Now, think about the place, or situation, in which you feel most safe, most secure. It may be a familiar place, like your own home, or even a specific place in your home. Perhaps your duvet is the ultimate shield against whatever life might throw at you.

Or it might be about the person or people you are with. Perhaps there is someone who, no matter where you are, has the ability to make you feel safe and secure.

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Bible verses

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The word translated as ‘refuge’ in this translation is variously translated as ‘fortress’ or ‘high tower’ in other versions.

This Psalm has been placed at a point in David’s life when he is hiding at home, knowing that Saul has sent his troops to kill him as soon as he steps outside his front door. He is neither in a fortress or a high tower. He has no physical earthly protection. However, his wife Michal (Saul’s own daughter) warns him and helps him to escape out of a window during the night. She puts an idol in his bed, disguising it to look like its him sleeping, and then lies to the soldiers saying that he is ill in bed. David is able to escape to safety. As suggested earlier, sometimes God gives us someone else who makes us feel safe, no matter where we are.

David recognises that ultimately God is his refuge, his fortress, his high tower, his place of safety, his means of escape and salvation, his source of strength. This turns the end of what is quite a grim Psalm into a song of joy and praise to God.

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Let us give thanks and praise that, no matter what life throws at us, God is there and he is our refuge and our strength. Give thanks that he protects and guards us. Give praise that his love is truly unending and unfailing.

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Let us give thanks and praise for the people that God has put around us – either physically or remotely at the moment – to help provide us with a safe place. Those who support and help us. Those who lift our spirits.

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Let us pray for those who we know who are feeling vulnerable right now, or who don’t feel they have anyone to turn to. Let us give thanks for those who are going above and beyond to reach out and help others at this time.

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Let us pray for ourselves, that we will hold fast to the knowledge that we are safe in God’s care and in his unfailing love. May we be inspired to sing songs of praise in the darkness.

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Just like it was for David, singing praise in the midst of difficulty can be tough. I hope that today you get a chance, not just to dwell on the difficulties of life right now, and the stuff we’re facing in the world right now, but to also to sing with joy about God’s unfailing love.  Have a good day!

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Thanks Jenny! We’ll be back with Zeph@10 tomorrow, when Julia will be taking the reins… See you then!