Reflections on our home learning journey 11/2

It has been an interesting week for us here. Hormones were something I had on the very far distant radar and mainly in regard to Kanga. Boys and hormones had never really entered my thought process and certainly not 6 year old boys. The past three weeks or so have been somewhat strained as Bob has bounced off the walls and I put it down to a combination of cabin fever and a possible developmental leap, though those seem to be harder to detect than with younger ones even though they are happening. Nowadays developmental leaps are so much more internal and it feels slower to emerge as they are deeper character forming changes. Yesterday he had a much requested appointment with our osteopath. I love that he can read his body well enough even at this young age to know when he needs help. Her conclusion was that he was adjusting to that surge of testosterone that 6 year old boys get. With that knowledge the past 3 weeks makes so much more sense. I knew it was bigger than cabin fever but could not put my finger on it.

Energy, strength, boundary pushing were flowing through his body and mind in copious amounts and we have felt at sea trying to help him navigate it all. It also makes sense of the widening gap between the two boys at the moment. There have been slight occurrences before but then Zog has a development leap and it evens out and so in time this one will too though I suspect we are beginning to enter that season in their lives when age will show itself. So not only are we helping Bob navigate this step in life but also navigating Zog through it as he feels that gap between his hero and himself. He shadows Bob and suddenly Bob wants to go off and play his own older games which at the moment tend to be rougher and revolve around battles in a way Zog does not like and so we have tears aplenty. While it means it is intense I am thankful that we have lots of time at home together to navigate these seasons together and to talk about them and to work through them altogether. For Bob to see with more privileges and opportunities comes a responsibility too, to help Zog and Kanga and others around him. We have some way to go with him seeing and accepting the responsibilities but my prayer is that we are sowing deep seeds that will in turn to fruit down the road. And what I love is that while I am writing this and though getting to bed has not been without push back I can now hear him engaged and eager as he does Bible time with Mark. He loves that time of the day, the two of them considering the Bible, spotting great questions and coming out with deep deep thoughts.

We had a break through with maths this week as we have a large number chart on the wall with the numbers stuck on with velcro and I realised that   he was getting confused with his addition and subtraction as you counted down to 99 and went up the chart to take away. In his mind that was the wrong way round. So we unstuck all the numbers and rebuilt our number chart starting at 0 at the bottom, working our way up to 99.

His reading is crazy and nothing gets passed him now without him knowing. His desire though is that all the world were history and science with no need for writing or maths. Though I am hopeful about the writing coming in its own time as he said to me this week that he wanted to write his own story. In his words he said he would borrow a word from each of his books because to simply copy another story would be stealing their story, never told him about plagiarism, but he thought it would be ok to borrow a word from each book to write his own story. Still waiting for the actual writing but he says it is going to take him awhile to pick all the words to make his own story. At least he has the idea there to write. The need to borrow a word I think stems from his refusal to do anything that is not perfect and so spelling phonetically risks that and so he needs to copy actual words to get them right. That sadly is one of the few things he has inherited from me, along with being a completer finisher.

Zog is hungry for more time with me, doing more lessons. I long to do more constructive activities but evenings where bedtimes have not run as smoothly as I might like or nights as solid as I might desire have meant that there has been no free time to prepare activites that I have filed away for him. Somehow I am going to work out how to carve out more time. Part of this is as we adjust to Mark’s job and the lack of flexibility that comes with it; though I am very thankful for the income it brings.

It is fascinating watching the differences in the boys’ passions. For Zog numbers are something he is very confident of and content with while Bob would rather they were not a necessary part of life. On the other hand Zog is not in any way rushed to spend his days buried in a  book. He loves a story and loves being read to, especially by either Nana or Grandma Jan, but words are extra, external to him, in contrast to Bob’s insatiable appetite for them. Zog loves nothing better than being left in peace with paper and colours and if the paper runs out then he just carries on across the bed or wherever he has squirrelled himself away. It is not uncommon to find our bed sheet, a big wide space, has become a work in progress as he just sees all the space as a big invitation to create, never registering that it is actually just a bed. As with Bob he too can get totally lost in his own world, albeit a visual colourful one in contrast to Bob’s black and white world of words.

From next week we head into Advent and Christmas and so lessons will take on a mix of normal exercises and Christmas focused ones. With lots more creative opportunities which should delight Zog.








Affirming our identity contd.

Thank you everyone for joining in the conversation today and wanting to join in. I had not anticipated such a quick and keen engagement with my first writing but am so thankful for all your voices. And an unexpected blessing of technology is that I am hearing from such a wonderfully diverse and rich number of voices, voices that might not necessarily find themselves around a table naturally. Maybe technology is not so bad after all.

Yes to the impact of culture and media and advertising has had on our understanding of being feminine and what it means to be a woman and for me a daughter of God and how pressures from both inside and outside the church from different corners makes that harder. I cannot say that culture outside the church is the only culprit in making this such a tangled confusing and at times hurtful journey.

In fact for me I think that it has been the cultural/advertising voices that have spoken loudest to me in regard to fashion, make up, shopping, the outer coat so to speak. While the differing voices within the church have in the past created more tension in my identity in regard my role and place.

I don’t want to rule out the place of clothes and make up can have for some with regard their sense of femininity. I remember my own journey with clothes and body image and discovering clothes that acknowledged my body, a body that for many years had failed to be, do what I longed to be able to do and so I hid it. And in doing so behind dark clothes sizes too big for me I also hid a part of my femininity. Not intentionally but over time it happened and I had to once more get to know myself in all my fullness as I bought clothes with colour, clothes my size. Now I love finding a new item of clothing in our fabulous charity shop or at Nomads but it is not what I set out to do every Saturday.

We have all had our own walks and different times of wounding and hurt, the same event impacting different people to greater or lesser degree and wounds that only we along have known. They impact us and if left untended can shape us in ways that are not healthy, though we may not realise that until many years down the road. My concern though in recent months in church circles is the moving aside of God’s word to that which feels like the clothes and make up, the outer coat, without any depth, structure. Invitations to journeys of self exploration, ‘with the Holy Spirit’ but not rooted and surrounded in God’s word which is where we find life, freedom and truth.

At the moment I feel we are letting each other down when we do not embrace ourselves and each other fully as the people we and they are in the light of God’s word, carrying the image of God, made as man and woman to reflect His glory.

Yes we need to tend to wounds and hurts with more than a bandaid, we need to extend healing and life but for those of us in the church is there a better way?  I think Jesus’ approach so often was to name an action, extend forgiveness where needed and move on in fullness of life. I think of the woman at the well, Mary Magdelene, I think of the woman accused of adultery. We are broken people but Jesus does not keep us there. Let’s not be afraid to name our brokenness but then remember who we are and how Jesus sees us and life in that freedom. Maybe then I won’t need to hold in tension my adventurous warrior spirit with the way I perceive feminine to mean.

Further thoughts and may this conversation go on. Keep sharing.

Affirming our identity

A conversation this weekend has had me pondering further some thoughts already going round my head recently. What does it mean to be feminine if that has not been affirmed in us growing up and we grew up as so called ‘tom boys’.  I don’t recall moments of clear affirmation of my feminity and I have found myself wrestling with issues around being a woman, but at present I am in a season where I am very comfortable with who I am in that sense. Yes there are many aspects about my character that I am less comfortable with and know need to change but I don’t get caught up in being feminine enough. And the question made me wonder if we as women wrestle with this issue not so much because that is the real question at the heart of the matter or because the christian self help books tell us that it is without letting us explore our own questions and journeys.  And by offering easy reading they become obstacles in us going to God first. It reminded me of a conversation with a friend about healing and lack of bible teaching at a conference we had recently been too and my friend felt that often people needed healing before they could hear God’s word. For me it is God’s word faithfully and genuinely taught that allows any healing that is needed. That healing comes from God’s word not ours.

I am in a study group using the book Captivating as a spring board to our studies. I read it when it first came out and it offered a helpful spring board for me then but I am in a different place now and I find it pushes all the wrong buttons in me now. At times I find it and other conversations and books I have read want to both describe the questions and issues I should have and offer their response with a nod toward scripture but allowing their voices to shape the answer rather than God’s without allowing us to enter into asking our own questions.

And so this has led me to another question , why do we seek our affirmation from those who have either wounded us or those who have stepped into the empty shoes in our lives? Why if we claim that we believe God’s word do we not allow His words to be the words we hear and allow to affirm us? What holds us back from accepting His truths over us? His word is filled with affirmation and life and yet we often seem to look elsewhere yet claim to say we hold God’s word up as truth.

What is it that we are trying to understand about ourselves when we ask ‘what does it mean to be feminine?’ I realised after the conversation this weekend I was not sure if I knew what I meant by it because I get hung up on the idea of pink and fluffy and danity, but that might come from the fact that I was often referred to as the tomboy, so in some way I was not a girly girl even though I longed always to grow up and be married and be a mum and homemaker and yet I love the outdoors, I love adventure and I hate shopping, especially clothes shopping and make up confuses me totally. So I guess I see feminity being linked to clothes and make up because I was called a tom boy and those were the things I did not like.  So I resist exploring the question because I have this illogical fear I will have to embrace shopping and make up if I am to be truly feminine, but I have a feeling that is not God’s answer and if I was to take some time to stop and look at His word I would find it filled with women who were courageous, strong, cried, doubted, questioned, followed, submitted, led and in that I find my answer along with being called His beloved daughter through Christ. That should be the foundation I build my identity on.

What I have shared is a segment of my thoughts circulating around today and I write this not as a complete piece but what I hope will be the start of a conversation with some of those who read along. It is not about right and wrong but I would love dialogue and thoughts from others. It is a conversation open to any of my friends though I appreciate for those who do not share faith in the same way as me or at all then it may seem rather abstract or just totally random, but I ask that you bear with me in the questions I have asked and understand that there is a context in which they are raised. Look forward to hearing your thoughts.


reflections on our home learning journey weeks 7-10

Where has the time gone. Each week Friday evening would roll round and for one reason or another sitting down and reflecting was not happening. A combination of the needs of the moment and where I am in reflecting on life, the place of waiting and discernment we are in and simply why, what can i write about. Life has been a hard place not because of any specific reasons or events but that desert place of uncertainty, questions about calling, questions of belonging, stay or move, now or later, needs over wants, realities and dreams, longings. And while I do not completely wear my emotions on my sleeve, Bob picks up on any dis-ease, uncertainty in me, even my PMT and takes it on himself. Add in some non solid sleep, though overall sleep is definitely on the way up and no more night walks needed and sparks can fly all to easily and quickly and as with many things my hold on learning, lessons and life becomes ever tighter rather than the long for life giving experience I hope for our days. Also what felt like a complete undermining by a consultant in regard to my parenting has left me doubting all that I do have to offer and can give both to my family and friends.

But we now have a week off stretching a head of us and it will finish with wonderful birthday celebrations for both Zog and Kanga; where have the past two years gone? And so I find myself not with lessons to prepare but some time to sit and ponder while the boys set up their own museum having been given a box full of fossils from a friend at church. I look forward to visiting it later this afternoon.

Its been Fall/Autumn so lots of time for leaf crafts, playing in the leaves with friends and gathering leaves, including for our church’s  ‘Fallen Leaves’ service on 1st November. Nothing like a walk through stacks of leaves to bring a smile to the day.

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As far as lessons are concerned we have been making progress with maths and multiplications and might actually be getting to grips with counting in 10s. Bob just has such a different way of seeing numbers to me that I struggle at times to know if he really has grasped something only for him to be doing something else later and totally unrelated and to say something that shows yet again yes he has grasped it and is able to use that information correctly but in ways i had not even considered yet. Writing continues to be the make or break of entire days and my confidence is rocked as to whether he will ever learn but a dear friend home schooling her children and who has had the same hand writing struggles with her daughter posted the most encouraging picture this week because her daughter who is 9 has finally had a break through with her writing and her hands and brain are now able to work at the same speed. I long for that day but I am motivated now to breathe more deeply and not to fight the battle that rises every time I mention writing. It is funny how my confidence is most shaken with the very basic skills and yet in so many ways our children have all been the same, that they will not do anything until it can be done perfectly and completely. For some reason they do not believe in public practice so to speak, any learning is done out of sight and then they will walk, talk. read, and so on.

Science and History have taken a back seat to some degree as I have had to release the pressure on me as I have wrestled with all that I mentioned earlier. I have had to be gentle on myself and I hope that in doing so the children are learning an invaluable lesson for themselves and for others, that sometimes we just cannot do it all. We live in a fast paced world but I am not carved out for it which often means I feel guilty for not being so crazy busy as so many friends are and even then saying no to things. I don’t believe life was meant to be lived at break neck speed and it seems to be one of my callings in life to live life at a very different pace which I am thankful for, but wrestle with misplaced guilt in that when I see how much others pack into their day. We cannot do everything and our children do not need to do everything either and I would rather they learn that now and learn to establish good boundaries and be aware of the lie behind crazy busy schedules and the need to push ourselves to the limit. I want to them to learn to discern and determine what matters and what they really love rather than trying to go after everything however good and noble all those things might be.

Home learning is not about simply doing the national curriculum at home but about a different way of learning. Yes there are some topics that need to be covered but because we are doing it in a very different setting learning can look very different, but sometimes it is all to easy to get caught up in thinking our days should look more like school days but the joy of learning at home means that in fact it looks very different to a school day as such and looks a lot more like this.

DSCN3309or this DSCN3300

Open the Book!

This week I rejoiced at having finished my job at church, and so I no longer need to get up at 5.30 to clean the church building before coming back for breakfast, and then dashing off to work.  I had tried to cram bible reading into other parts of the day, but all I really proved is that which I already know, if I don’t get up and read my bible first thing I fail to read it at any other time.

So on Monday morning I got out of bed at a luxurious 6.20 or so, crept downstairs past sleeping children (i.e. past their bedroom doors, not that we make them sleep on the stairs…) and opened up my bible excitedly.  Yes, excitedly.  You see I knew in my heart in that moment what I know intellectually all the time: that when we open up the Bible and read its pages we are hearing the voice of the living God.  The living God who not only reigns over all things, who not only created us and every atom of this universe, but who also loves us and desires for us to know Him, the source of all real and lasting joy.

I read the very last section of Revelation 22. which begins with Jesus saying

12 ‘Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. 

My mind went to Isaiah 40

You who bring good news to Zion,
    go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good news to Jerusalem,[c]
    lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid;
    say to the towns of Judah,
    ‘Here is your God!’
10 See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power,
    and he rules with a mighty arm.
See, his reward is with him,
    and his recompense accompanies him.
11 He tends his flock like a shepherd:
    he gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
    he gently leads those that have young.

Jesus is coming soon, bringing his reward with him.  He comes to put things right, and he is coming soon.  The excitement of Isaiah 40 – begun with Jesus earthly ministry culminates with his second coming when he will put all things to right.  We will see the shepherd gather all his sheep.  We will see the King reigning and the fulness of the kingdom.

And he is coming soon.  Soon.  Which always reminds me of this conversation in the Voyage of the Dawn Treader:

“Do not look sad. We shall meet soon again.”
“Please, Aslan”, said Lucy,”what do you call soon?”
“I call all times soon” said Aslan; and instantly he was vanished away.”

The reminder to me, though, was of the reality that Jesus is going to come back.  I’m not sure I believe it lots of the time, but I want to.  I want to live knowing that this life is not all there is.  I want to live knowing that Jesus verdict matters more than peoples.  I want to live free from the fear of not getting it right, and free to live a life marked by love.

It was exciting to be reminded of that on church this Sunday, with these wonderful words from Isaiah 25:

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
    a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
    of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
And he will swallow up on this mountain
    the covering that is cast over all peoples,
    the veil that is spread over all nations.
    He will swallow up death for ever;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,
    and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
    for the Lord has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
    “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.
    This is the Lord; we have waited for him;
    let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

In the centre aisle of the church we did indeed have bread and wine laid out, and cakes and fruit.  All through the service our boys stared longingly, achingly at the cake.  “Daddy, I’m hungry”.  Longing for the moment when we could eat – which did at last come at the end of the service.

We need to linger on these verses, and allow ourselves to be hungry.  To allow ourselves to curl up on our Father’s lap and say “Daddy, I’m hungry”.  To cry, weep and sigh with sorrow at the state of our world, and the state of our hearts.  To thirst for the bread and the wine that bring real and lasting life and joy, as we look forward to the day when we can taste of that food.  When we look forward to this picture from the Last Battle coming true:

Everyone raised his hand to pick the fruit he best liked the look of, and then everyone paused for a second. This fruit was so beautiful that each felt “It can’t be meant for me … surely we’re not allowed to pluck it.”

“It’s all right,” said Peter. “I know what we’re all thinking. But I’m sure, quite sure, we needn’t. I’ve a feeling we’ve got to the country where everything is allowed.”

Or from the Silver Chair:

“Sir,” said Caspian, “I’ve always wanted to have just one glimpse of their world. Is that wrong?”

“You cannot want wrong things any more, now that you have died, my son,” said Aslan.

Stirred by these images our hearts can cry: “Daddy, I’m hungry” – Come Lord Jesus.  And in the meantime help to live as if I believe this, and help me draw others to its truth and reality.

And the way we stir our hearts is by opening the book, and hearing God’s voice – so as we move towards advent I’m going to read Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians and pray for my heart to be stirred so that I live with the expectation of Jesus return as real reality.

reflections of our home learning journey 6/2

Well lets just say the week started off brighter and more sparkly than the end of the week. Mark has begun his new job which is going well and we all did great the first 2 days home.Then they all had to come with me to ladies bible study on Wednesday morning. While that did not in itself present any problems as they got to play in the Little Gem’s room and have a ball doing so, the disruption to routine began to take the week of course. This was followed yesterday by Zog having an osteopath appointment and again the other two needing to come. Again the appointment itself was not an issue as they all love her place and the toys they can play with. Zog made it plain and clear to all on the way home he had no intention of going to Pitville park for our nature walk. Thankfully Emma the star of the day was able to give Bob a lift so he did not there and then fall apart. That has happened today. Zog though of course decided that at 3:15 just before Bob was due back that infact he REALLY DID WANT to go to the park. ARGHH

Our week saw our numbers increase as we included Justinian and Theodora, Emperor and Empress of the Byzantine Empire who changed outfits as regularly as Kanga does.

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The new routine of Mark at work with new fixed hours is new for all of us as a family and is going to take time to get used to. So my pride of how well we were all doing on Tuesday is getting some reshaping. I am also shattered at this end of the week and while we have much to be thankful for in sleep from the children for once, there is still a big adjustment going on for us all. Mark asked me if I was alright with him going out last night to a meeting and I said yes but in hindsight with all that was going on for both myself and especially Bob having him come home and then turn round and go out again was too much this week and we are reflecting that today in the choices we are making.

My intention was to pick up with lessons this morning and keep going but the break in routine and the lack of bread for toast which was on the printed menu on the fridge(to keep me on track not a must do rule)along with porridge was the last straw for Bob and he and I have not only not been on the same page for reading but not in the same book. He needs his routine and if something like a menu is written down then it must be followed otherwise the world itself tilts off its axis as far as he is concerned. We also have some fun trips out planned for the weekend and as so often happens with hopes he then blows off because he cannot believe they will really happen so why risk hoping when you can just mess up big time and lose the possibility of the trip out so you can get on without needing to hope. This breaks my heart beyond words. He is only 6, he shouldn’t need to worry, he should be able to look forward and hope. I remember the first time I saw hope disappear from him. He was two and we had just lost Elisabeth and Noah a few months before that. His friends were all having siblings and he was not and he really wanted a baby. I remember him holding our friends’ second child and his eyes filled with joy and sadness because this was what even in those tender years wanted. And hindsight can tell me all this but sadly in the moment I fight back, longing for reasoning, longing for a way in to his hurt but lashing out desperate to reach him and failing completely.  Along the way other moments of hope not realised have built up and on days like today that shows.

But that little boy who wanted to have a sibling has been amazing this week. Kanga who is very much her Daddy’s girl has gravitated to Bob in new ways this week. It is his hand she holds when we are out walking the in the village and last night at bedtime when they all had a sleep over it was his hand she went to sleep holding. He has taken all this in his stride as though it is the most natural event ever. In the moments of everyday play there can be the usual sibling rivalry but in the moments of security and tenderness sought out then he has been right there for her never questioning it and clearly loving being able to provide for her in those ways.

We didn’t know when this week of Mark starting work was going to happen till just before so there was little time to prepare, to think through and so as with Bob when my plans and expectations get messed up I react, i dive deeper and ever deeper into the routine and schedule that I have drawn up and cling to it desperately while using the other arm to stay afloat by whatever means I can think of. It makes it a hard place to be a small child when the adult is flailing too in a new situation. I heard a single woman recently talking about how she is using this time to prepare herself for her hope of being married one day, sorting out her finances and debts, of going through counselling to reduce the baggage she would bring into a marriage. it was the first time i heard someone so clearly articulate that and I wish I had had the courage to do likewise, as I think it would significantly change I parent.

Next week is going to be another week of disruption with dental and hospital appointments and an interview. I need to take some time this weekend to pray and think through what we can aim to achieve this next week and cut us all some slack. I want to give my children reason to hope, to let them dream, I also know how crucial routine is and work out ways to help them when that is unavoidably disrupted.

In the meantime we come back to the cross, to repentance and forgiveness and taste God’s grace and mercy (bread plaited by the boys) and enjoy the beauty of the autumnal colours caught in Bob’s bowl he made over our break.



God comes down

I’ve been reading through Revelation recently, and have at last reached the glorious words of the start of Revelation 21.  But to get to there you have to go through some tough and bizarre passages.  Revelation 12 tells of a dragon, Revelation 13 of two beasts.  Bowls of God’s wrath follow as judgement ravages the earth.  Finally comes a vision of a woman, a city, Babylon, who rides on the beast, drunk on the blood of the saints.  These lurid visions are followed by chapter 18 where there is a call to rejoice over the fall of Babylon.

It sounds harsh – rejoicing over the fall of human beings.  But Revelation 17-18 tell us of the seriousness of the sin of Babylon.  Of the wealth and riches built on human trafficking. Of the blood of the saints spilt in that city.  For John’s 1st century readers Babylon would surely be Rome.  For us it is any system of human government and economics conducted without reference to God. It is any system which bows to the beast of human power, or to the beast of false religion. It is any system which oppresses those made in the image of God.

These systems are literally beastly.  We don’t have to look far in our land to see the results of abandoning God.  To see the rise in cruelty, the desire for ever more enjoyment now.  We don’t have to look far to see this coupled with false religion which makes it all about our best lives now.  All of that is part of the beastly kingdoms.  The beast can look dangerous and frightening like a crazed dictator bent on wiping out the church.  The beast can look harmless and comfortable like our western wealth built on the oppression and poverty of others.

It is the fall of such beastly systems that we rejoice over.  The fall of all who oppose God and his plan of redemption, his plan of rescue, his plan of making the world right and new.  There is a judgement day coming John tells us through his Revelation, and at its bottom that is fundamentally good news.  It is hard for us to hear because humanity as a whole has chosen rebellion against God’s purposes, and needs to turn back to the living God.  But there is no other way for God to save his world and his people except through the judgement of those who oppose him.  What the beastly visions of Revelation do is give us the correct glasses, the correct lenses through which to see the world in focus and realise the horror of what opposition to God means.  It is literally de-humanising, of self and of others.

The fall of Babylon is followed in John’s vision by a vision of the last battle – John’s vision isn’t always consecutive – sometimes we see the same thing from several angles, or through several images (a good simple guide to this is Michael Wilcox’s The Message of Revelation in the Bible Speaks Today IVP series, or at greater length from a similar angle “Discipleship on the Edge”, a series of sermons by Darrel Johnson – Regent College Publishing). The last battle has all earth’s armies gathered to oppose the white rider (not Gandalf, obviously).  There is no lurid account of an actual battle being fought – the rider, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, wins the battle by the sharp two edged sword from his mouth.  Think Hebrews 4:12 and 2 Thessalonians 2:8 and it is obvious.

Jesus wins the battle simply by speaking.  As he calmed the storm from the boat, so one day he will speak and every storm will be stilled.  Every opponent crushed.  Every wrong righted.  John goes on to describe the day of judgement when the books are opened, and every deed is laid bare. All the dead raised to be judged.  The sea, death and Hades (equivalent to Sheol in the OT, the place where souls were believed to go after death) give up their dead, and all are judged. Then the sea, death and hades are all thrown into the lake of fire.  The sea here is not a nice place to go for a holiday.  It is a place of chaos and turmoil, a place of risk and a place of likely disaster.  A place of monsters.  A place that claims lives.  It needs to go for God’s new creation to come.

And we dare not miss that also destined for this lake of fire are those whose names are not in the Lamb’s book of life – those who are marked with the mark of the beast – those who have not bowed the knee to Jesus as Lord.  Willing submission is needed to Jesus.  CS Lewis put it something like this “There are only two groups of people: those who say to God ‘your will be done’, and those to whom God says ‘your will be done'”. Those who refuse to bow the knee to the King cannot be subjects in his kingdom, and are shut out for ever. (A good place to go to read more on thinking through the issues this raises is “The Great Divorce” by CS Lewis – I don’t think the book is intended to be read as Lewis’ final word on the subject, rather it is useful thought experiment to read with Bible in hand and brain engaged – rather in the way of approaching any  book – or blog post – really!)

Then at last we reach Revelation 21.  We see that there is a new heavens and a new earth.  The chaos has gone, and God’s new work begins.  That is why there has to be a judgement.  And then we see a good city, the right city, the true city.  A city bowed to God’s will.  A city with human input and glory involved (look at Rev. 21:26), but fundamentally a city that is God’s.  A city that is also a bride dressed for her husband.  And then in the midst of the picture John sees comes a voice declaring these words.

“Behold, the dwelling place* of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people,* and God himself will be with them as their God.* 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

The word that caught my attention as I read was “with”.  God’s dwelling place is with people.  He dwells (“tabernacles” – like in John 1:14 where the word became flesh and dwelt among his people) with them.  He himself will be with them.  He is with us now by his Spirit, but then he will be with us in person and we will see him – Revelation 22:4 – We will see his face.

Stop and think about that for one minute. The face of the creator. The face of the Law giver.  The face of the one who, when he came down on Sinai, Israel could not approach, and whose presence was veiled in thick darkness and unapproachable light.  Moses was only allowed a glimpse of the back of God’s glory because “no one can see my face and live”. And yet we will see his face and live forever.

This God of all glory and splendour and majesty will wipe away every tear from every eye.  I set up the church for two funerals this week.  The second was for an elderly great grandmother who died secure in Jesus’ love and knowing where she was heading.   I was almost undone during the tributes read from her grandchildren.  I had noticed her year of birth, and realised that, had she not died of cancer my own grandmother would have been the same age.  At the age of 17 I thought she was old when she died.  At the age of 39 I realise how long she could have lived.  She could have seen our children, could have been at family gatherings with great grandchildren gathered round.  Death once more seemed so unfair.  And yet reading Revelation 21 I remembered my reaction when I realised she was going to die.  I remember reading these final chapters of Revelation with my sister.  I remember highlighting chunks of these chapters and knowing that she would be with Jesus.   That is the peace.  That is the assurance that these verses give. Death is not the end.

One day all of us who have trusted in Jesus will stand before his throne and see his face.  And he will wipe away every tear.  Death itself will be no more.  No more crying or mourning or pain.  The first things have passed away.  God makes it all new.  The day that all creation longs for with eager expectation.  It caught me afresh this morning.  This is reality.  We live in a world saturated with self and saturated with instant pleasures.  A world that promises much, but delivers little.  Reality is set out in the images and pictures of Revelation, and in the words of the one who is seated on the throne.  We need to listen.  And we need, and I need, to re-orientate our lives around the reality that Jesus is coming back.  Around the reality that “we will see his face, and never never sin, and from the rivers of his grace drink endless pleasures in” (Isaac Watts).

The first hymn at the funeral on Thursday was a wonderful reminder of how the one who stilled the storm with a word will one still every storm:

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessèd we shall meet at last.

(Katharina Amalia Dorothea von Schlegel)