Here are some thoughts to help you stay positive during these uncertain times. This page will contain passages from scripture, poems and songs to help you through your day or night.
The Book of Psalms contains prayers, songs and meditations which have been inspirations for composers over the years. Check out this section each week for a new psalm.
We hope that the writing will remind you that you are not alone.
Broken Vessels by Hillsong is a wonderful song based around the traditional hymn Amazing Grace.
Click the link to watch it.
No matter the bumps
No matter the bruises
No matter the scars
Still the truth is
The cross has made
The cross has made you flawless
Sometimes, we find it hard to be a Christian. In the song Flawless by Mercy Me, they sing about grace.
Click on the photo to play the video. Here the lead singer explains:
I think it (Flawless) kind of sums up the message of the album probably better than any other song. If anybody is like me there had to be a point in your life where you were saying “there has to be more than me playing by the rules, there has to be more than what religion tells me there is. There’s gotta be more than me being good and then following these three steps to being a better church goer-there’s gotta be more than that.” And I think the one thing we miss is that grace says “no matter how beat up you are, no matter what you go through in life, no matter how difficult life is, the cross made you flawless.” The day you came to Christ you were made brand new. It’s all in place for the rest of your life. – Bart Millard (MercyMe) from an article by Abbey Young, Christian News, 27th May, 2014
Graham Kendrick is a prolific writer of songs of worship. Teach me to Dance is an upbeat song. He explains in the 'Stories behind the songs' on his website, 'So the words, “Teach me to dance to the beat of your heart” sets in motion what is effectively a sung prayer to live in a way that is consistent with God’s heart of compassion, love and justice'.
So how are you staying connected to your friends? Do you phone them via WhatsApp; have an old-fashioned phone call with them; a Zoom party or meet them at a distance in the park?
Here at the Bread Church, our friends come from all over the world and our country too. Risma is from Indonesia, Stephanie and Simon are from Hong Kong, Peter and Laura from the Wirral. So during lockdown, we have been chatting on messenger, phoning each other or holding WhatsApp video calls. We are connected by our love of God, love of breadmaking and our friendship begun here at SWE. Most importantly we stay connected when we prayer for each other and with each other on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8 pm, through our facebook page, where a prayer is posted. We may not be together, but we are there for each other. That's part of being church.
They might not need me; but they might.
I'll let my head be just in sight;
A smile as small as mine might be
Precisely their necessity.
by Emily Dickinson
from The Poems of Dickinson edited by Ralph W Franklin (The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press) 1998.
Heather, one of our members, has sent in this link for the video Happiness starts with a Smile.
Do take time to watch it. Something wonderful will happen!
The book of Psalms is composed of individual songs, hymns, or poems, each of which is a ''Psalm'' in and of itself. These works contain a wide variety of themes. Some Psalms focus on praising and worshipping God. Others cry out in anguish over the pain of life. Still other Psalms look forward to the coming of the Messiah. While some Psalms are related, each has its own historical and biblical context. (from https://www.bibleref.com)
Psalm for 25 - 31st of July - Psalm 145
Praising God for who he is and what he does
'Generation after generation stands in awe of your work;
each one tells stories of your mighty acts.
Your beauty and splendour have everyone talking;
I compose songs on your wonders.' v. 4-5 The Message Bible
Praise. This week's psalm is all about praising our mighty God. I discovered that there are different words for praise in Hebrew, which have been translated into English as simply praise. Three of them spoke to me.
There is shabach which means to praise God with a loud voice. Tehillah is about praising God by singing- how we have missed singing God's praise in person in church over the pandemic. Finally, there is halal, which means in Hebrew crazy exuberant praise. Its short definition means shine, like a flash. Where and when was the last time that your praise was bright and flashing, so as to draw everyone's attention to how good God is?
May we this week, shine a light through our exuberant praise of God to tell others of all that He does for us.
Scott Soper has written a reflective praise song based on psalm 145 - 'I will praise your name'.
Image by Edwin Andrade on Unsplash.
Psalm for the week - Psalm 28
Prayer for help and Thanksgiving for it
'O save your people, and bless your heritage;
be their shepherd, and carry them for ever.' v. 9 NRSV
This week, I am leaving the writer of the song - Carry Us, Matt Searles, to explain why he wrote this psalm in 2017.
"I love how in this psalm the psalmist combines strong imagery (fortress) with the tender picture of the Lord as shepherd, carrying his sheep in his arms. This combination of great strength and tenderness is seen most clearly in Jesus, THE good shepherd. I've turned the phrase from the psalm 'you carry us' into a prayer 'carry us!' - not because the Lord needs to be reminded but because when we take these words on our lips we throw ourselves once again into his everlasting arms."
May you feel Jesus carrying you through this week. Lx
Image by FOYN on Unsplash.
Prayer for Victory
"The LORD answer you in the day of trouble!" v. 1 NRSV
Trust in the Lord always. This is the theme of this psalm. In the song by Brad Fitts, he focuses on the words of verse 7 and entitles his song, "Some trust in horses." It could be interpreted as all the possessions (stuff) that we feel we need to own in these modern times to help us gain happiness, rather than trusting in our God.
In the psalm, we are told that God will "grant you your heart's desire", if we depend on him for all things. As Jim Erwin explains (on the Patheos website), it is conditional of us asking God for help.
Perhaps this week, we need to remind ourselves that "TRUSTING GOD WORKS" if we pray for each other and ask others to pray for us. You can use this psalm to pray for someone you know by substituting the word 'you' with their name.
In The Message Bible, Eugene Peterson interprets verse 8 with these words:
" The chariots will rust, those horses pull up lame ---- and we'll be on our feet, standing tall" because we trust in God.
Image by Fabian Burghardt on Unsplash.
Who shall abide in God's sanctuary?
'O LORD, who may abide in your tent?
Who may dwell in your holy hill?' v. 1-2
This week's psalm contains a list of the things believers of God must do if we want to dwell on God's holy hill. Eugene Peterson, in his The Message Bible version of this psalm, translates it as the following.
'God, who gets invited to dinner at your place?
How do we get on your guest list?'
Do you ever think about God in this way? Do you explore how you may enter his Kingdom, or in these strange times, have you turned to God in despair, rather than thanking him as a teacher who shows us how to live our lives.
At this time of year, there are lots of cards in the shops saying, "Thank you teacher."
Perhaps this week, as you read this psalm or hear the uplifting song by Greg Long - "I want to be" - you can set time
aside to thank God - the teacher - who reminds us how to live. You could even make a Thank You card. Have a good week.
from the album David - Ordinary Man, Extraordinary God.
Image by Pars Sahin on Unsplash
"I run to you GOD; I run for dear life.
Don't let me down...
Your granite cave a hiding place,
your high cliff a place of safety." v.1-2 The Message Bible
I don't know about you, but when I think of cliffs; I never think of them as a place of safety? Either they are too high and I won't go near the edge, or they loom dangerously out of the mist when I am on a boat! However, in this psalm, David describes them as a place of safety - up away from his enemies. In The Message Bible version, he then cries to God for him to be his 'safe leader, be my true mountain guide.'
Rocks are seen a symbols of stability - 'the wise man builds his house upon the rocks' springs to my mind - upon which we can depend. We are reminded that God is our rock. He will be our refuge. In the version from The Message Bible, "You won't drop me, you'll never let me down." May we be reminded of this, as we journey through this week.
Karl Kohlhase reminds us of this in his song: "You are my strength."
Image by Benjamin Behre on Unsplash.
Psalm 4 - a David psalm
"Why is everyone hungry for more? "More, more," they say.
I have God's more-than-enough,
More joy in one ordinary day
Than they get in all their shopping sprees.
At day's end I'm ready for sound sleep,
For you, GOD, have put my life back together." v. 6-8 The Message
What an interesting interpretation of this psalm from Eugene Peterson, the writer of the contemporary version of the bible. Over the last few months, as society has opened up more, perhaps you have witnessed people in town with many bags of clothes etc. as they get their "fix" from shopping again. I too like to purchase new things, but as we have become more aware of the damage to our environment from the chemicals needed to make things, to the rubbish sent to landfill and the plastic in our seas, I have felt less comfortable with our consumer society.
In this version of the psalm, we hear the psalmist call for God to answer his prayer and put his "life back together."
Instead of us crying for more, let us be a people who find joy in God alone.
Hear Charles Ciepiel sing this psalm: Answer Me (Psalm 4)
Image by freestocks on Unsplash.
Psalm 148 - Praise for God's Universal Glory
"Let them praise the name of the LORD,
for his name alone is exalted;
his glory is above earth and heaven." v.13 NRSV
Over the last few weeks, I have been enjoying each new flower that has opened in my garden. Yesterday, my 'Bowl of Beauty' paeony came into flower. You can see another two ready to flower too. How can we fail to praise the Lord when we see beauty all around us?
The psalmist also reminds us that 'fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command!' Everything continues because of God's decree. As a result, it is our highest calling to praise God.
Enjoy the Sons of Korah as they sing psalm 148.
Image by Lorraine Howarth
Psalm for the week - Psalm 112
Blessings for the Righteous
"It is well with those who deal generously and lend,
who conduct their affairs with justice."
v. 5 N.R.S.V.
Reading this psalm at the start of the week that the G7 meeting is held in Cornwall; I was struck by the words in verse 5. In this psalm, we are reminded to follow God's commandments: to help, be wise, generous and not abuse the power we have been given.
If we are to ensure that our planet is 'well' for future generations to be able to enjoy bees taking nectar from Cow Parsley, as in my photo, then we must all work together to influence our leaders to protect our planet and improve the lives of people in poorer or war torn nations. That is what we are called to do. That is our blessing.
Listen to a calm rendition of this psalm by the Coram Deo Worship group in Nebraska, USA.
Image By Lorraine Howarth
Psalm 150 - Praise for God's Surpassing Greatness
Praise God in his holy house of worship,
praise him under the open skies;
Praise fhim for his acts of power,
praise him for his magnificent greatness."
v.1-2 The Message Bible
Listening to the Hebrew version of this psalm by the group MIQEDEM with over 100 participants, from 26 countries, across 6 continents - everyone singing Psalm 150 in the original Hebrew - made a great start to my day and my week. Fortunately, a translation is also provided!
Often, when we read the psalms, particularly aloud, we miss the joyfulness of the words. In this rendition of the psalm, we are reminded how it would have originally been spoken. The song transports us back in time and place to the land of the Bible; connecting us over centuries to people praising God. How wonderful is that to know that we form part of a continuing thread of praise to God. HE IS MIGHTY.
Psalm 146 - Praise the Lord
"...Put your hope in GOD and know real blessing!" v. 5 The Message
Yesterday, was Pentecost Sunday. The bible reading from Acts 2:1-11 reminds us of the amazing time when the Holy Spirit came to the Disciples and enabled them to speak foreign languages so that they could communicate the GOOD NEWS taught them by Jesus.
If we put our hope in God, so that we will know real blessing, then we must therefore wait patiently and be guided by the HOLY SPIRIT. As The Message Bible version says at the end of this psalm: "GOD's in charge - always."
May we take time to pause and receive God's Holy Spirit in our lives this week.
Listen to a reading of this psalm.
Psalm 1 - The Two Ways
"God charts the road you take.
The road they take is Skid Row." v. 6 The Message Bible
There is something in our psychi that makes us pause and reflect whenever we hear about or see two roads diverging. Many writers have used this image in their writing. A particular favourite of mine is "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost, which concludes:
"I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference."
Throughout our lives we have many choices to make and roads to choose. Sometimes, we fervently believe that the one we take is the right one, only to 'come a cropper' further down the track. In Psalm 1, the writer reminds us that if we 'plant ourselves in God's word' then we will prosper, as all the decisions we take will have good roots. "All the difference" in our lives as Christians, is our belief in the 'Lord's teaching' which shows us the way.
The Shiyr Poets sing The Way (Psalm 1)
"For the Lord embraces the way of the righteous
And the way of the wicked is lost . . ."
Image by Oliver Roos on Unsplash
Psalm 121 - Assurance of God's Protection
'I lift up my eyes to the hills-
from where will my help come?
My help comes form the LORD,
who made heavens and earth.' v-1-2 NRSV
This psalm is one that is used daily in Jewish households, as part of it is written down v. 5 and 8 and then placed inside a Mezuzah which is put on the doorpost as a sign of the household's Jewish faith. It reminds the people within the household that God is their helper and protector. Originally, it was written for people about to set off on a journey to Jerusalem. The journey might be full of danger along the road, but God would always be with them.
Today, our journeys may not be as physically dangerous as in ancient times, but our life can be full of other types of dangers - physical, economic and spritual. If we look to the Lord and trust him in all things, then we are indeed blessed because He is our protector.
Brian Doerksen sings a haunting version of this psalm.
Image by Benjamin Rascoe on Unsplash.
Psalm 23 - The Divine Shepherd
'And I will trust in You alone,
And I will trust in You alone,
For Your endless mercy follows me,
Your goodness will lead me home.' from Stuart Townsend's song of this psalm.
Yesterday, as I sat in church wearing my mask, unable to sing, but grateful to be with my church family we sat and listened to this meditative version of this psalm.
Back in November, I posted a different version of this, which reflected my emotions of that time. As I revisited the psalm yesterday, I was struck how Stuart Townsend used the words of the psalm "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life" v. 6 NRSV to reflect our lives today. Townsend says that the chorus is the 'active response of faith to what the psalmist is saying'. Isn't wonderful that the same psalm can speak to us in different ways, at different times of our life and was written thousands of years ago? Truly God's word is alive. May you have a week where you walk with God.
Psalm 104 - God the Creator and Providor
"O LORD, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom you have made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures." v. 24 NRSV
In the version of this psalm that was sung at Prince Philip's, the Duke of Edinburgh's funeral service on Saturday, 17th April 2021, the words that stayed with me were the following:
'My whole life I will sing............Give Praise.'
The psalmist describes God the Creator of our planet from the heavens to the winds, the earth to plants and creatures on it so that 'the glory of the LORD endure for ever' v.31.
May we too endeavour to sing praise to God for his wonderful world everyday of our time on this earth.
Listen to the stunning singing from St George's Chapel, Windsor praising God in this psalm.
Image by Photo Board on Unsplash.
Psalm 133 - A Song of Ascents - a song for going up to a high place
"How very good and pleasant it is
when kindred live together in unity!" v. 1 NRSV
Psalm 133 is a psalm that was to be sung when people came together to worship God together, particularly when they went to the Temple on the Mount. It reminds us of God's promise to meet us when we come together for worship and our oneness in faith. Kindred means people who are joined together by God's grace.
Oil for Christians signifies worship, feasting and celebration. This psalm reminds us as 'Easter People' that we are one family in Christ - around the world - united in faith, hope and love.
James Block helps us to learn this psalm with his reflective version.
Psalm 136 - God's Work in Creation and in History
"O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures for ever. " v. 1 NRSV
Psalm 36 has 26 verses, which all end with "for his steadfast love endures for ever." How wonderful to know that whilst we might sometimes 'walk away from God' then as they sing in the version of this psalm, "His never ending love is steadfast and sure".
It is a call and response prayer, where people sing of all the good things that God has done for his and remember his never ending love. May you use this psalm as a way to thank God for all the good that comes to you today and forever.
Pete Crockett worship group sing this psalm using a call and response style. Enjoy the a cappella song of praise.
Psalm 70 - Prayer for Deliverance from Enemies
"Be pleased, O God, to deliver me.
O LORD, make haste to help me!" v. 1 NRSV
This psalm is also a "memorial offering" one to be said again and again when we are going through times of "trial". We are reminded that even if the Lord seems to forget us, we must not forget him.
I like the image of the lens of the camera, that helps us to see things more clearly. As we go to God in prayer, may we too understand things more clearly.
Why not learn the psalm by listening to Daniel James's version, which I first posted last July?
Psalm 119 v.9 -16 - The Glories of God's Law
"How can young people keep their way pure?
By guarding it according to your word." v. 9
Psalm 119 contains 176 verses which remind us to place the Bible and the word of God as central to our lives. We are to seek God with all our heart; hide God's word in our heart and medidate on God's instructions to help us with our moral compass.
Do you walk daily with God and read his word? How many passages from the Bible do you know from memory? Using song to help us to memorise passages is a good way to walk with God. Which psalm will you learn this week, so that God's word is 'hidden in your heart?'
Esther Mui, from Malaysia, sings this psalm. We also heard her version of Psalm 98 a few week's ago.
Psalm 113 - God the Helper of the Needy
"From the rising of the sun to its setting
the name of the LORD is to be praised."v. 3
"He raises the poor from the dust,
and lifts the needy from the ash heap." v. 6 NRSV
How are you feeling this morning? Reflective or upbeat? Depending on which mood you are in, you may enjoy listening to Sandra McCracken's atmospheric rendition of this psalm or the upbeat Samba beats of Denis Campos.
This psalm is part of the 'Hallelujah' psalms (111-118). It is used to celebrate Passover and is recited over the Passover meal. It reminds us that God raises the 'poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap.' God cares for humankind to raise us up.
May we also remember that as good neighbours; we can also help to lift the needy from the ash heap by working for a fairer society.
Psalm 102 - Prayer to the Eternal King for Help
"Hear my prayer, O LORD;
let my cry come to you. v. 1
I am like an owl of the wilderness,
like a little owl of the waste places." v. 6
What an interesting image is contained in this psalm. When you think of an owl, what do you think of? A barn owl, a snowy owl, a tawny owl? I went for a walk last night to our local shop. On the way back, I heard the hoot of an owl, but couldn't quite work out where the call was coming from. It was echoing off the houses. It a haunting sound.
In the Bible, owls are often shown as emblems of gloom and desolation, as they are in this psalm. The little owl in the image is scuttling across the ground. For me, this is like us as we sometimes hurry from place to place, not knowing where we are going or what we are doing in our lives. This is when we feel desolate. Later on in the psalm, we are reminded that God endures. May we remember this as we journey through this week.
Jason Silver's haunting rendition of this psalm reflects the words.
Image by Alex Makarov on Unsplash
Psalm 98 - Praise the Judge of the World
"O sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done marvellous things. v. 1
with trumpets and the sound of the horn
make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD."v. 6
Psalms 95 - 99 which are all part of the lectionary for this week are all songs of praise. So, how did I chose this psalm?
Reading each of these psalms, we are told to sing to the Lord, not just the people, but all the earth. We are reminded of his steadfast love and faithfulness. Having read each psalm a few times, the words 'with trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord - v. 6' stood out for me. This listening for the words to speak to you is known as Lectio Divina - waiting for the Lord to speak through his Holy Spirit.
I have a friend who teaches the trumpet. When he got married, he conducted his friends playing Jeremiah Clarke's Trumpet Voluntary at the start of the service. The church was filled with the glorious sounds of 6 trumpets. An amazing sound. It is this sound that I imagine when I read verse six. People praising God for His faithfulness to us.
Perhaps if you have time this week, then you might read these psalms adn see how God is speaking to you. What migh be be saying?
Esther Mui sings with this psalm. She does indeed "break forth into joyous song and sing praises." v.4
Here is a prayer of Blessing to use at the close of your prayer time.
It is from Stephen Shakespeare's The Earth Cries Glory - Daily Prayer with Creation (Canterbury Press 978-1-78622-288-2)
May the highest light shine within us,
dispelling the fear from our path.
May the deepest warmth flow from us, connecting heart to heart.
And may your blessing be to us a circle of flame,
to inspire and protect us through this day.
The following piece of writing has been a source of comfort to many through difficult times. We’d like to share it with you.
Me: Hey God.
Me: I'm falling apart. Can you put me back together?
God: I would rather not.
God: Because you aren't a puzzle.
Me: What about all of the pieces of my life that are falling down onto the ground?
God: Let them stay there for a while. They fell off for a reason. Take some time and decide if you need any of those pieces back.
Me: You don't understand! I'm breaking down!
God: No - you don't understand. You are breaking through. What you are feeling are just growing pains. You are shedding the things and the people in your life that are holding you back. You aren't falling apart. You are falling into place. Relax. Take some deep breaths and allow those things you don't need anymore to fall off of you. Quit holding onto the pieces that don't fit you anymore. Let them fall off. Let them go.
Me: Once I start doing that, what will be left of me?
God: Only the very best pieces of you.
Me: I'm scared of changing.
God: I keep telling you - you aren’t changing, you are becoming.
Me: Becoming who?
God: Becoming who I created you to be! A person of light and love and charity and hope and courage and joy and mercy and grace and compassion. I made you for more than the shallow pieces you have decided to adorn yourself with that you cling to with such greed and fear. Let those things fall off of you. I love you! Don't change! Become! Become! Become who you were born to be. I'm going to keep telling you this until you remember it.
Me: There goes another piece.
God: Yep. Let it be.
Me: So ... I'm not broken?
God: Of course not - but you are breaking like the dawn. It's a new day. Become!