This blog has been scintillating these last couple days! So much to enjoy from so many voices.

Talia’s comment about ten pounds of panties was hysterical.

Luke, I enjoyed your story and hope that you take the time to put together a couple more for us! It reminded me a little of how disoriented I felt when I was starting out at college. The first day of classes, I started walking down the hill to get breakfast at the cafeteria with only about 20 minutes to spare before my first class started. I thought I had all the time in the world and was secretly offended when someone suggested that I was cutting it a little close. Of course, by the time I got to the front steps of the cafeteria and saw the line of students inside, I realized that I might as well keep walking and go straight to class. In a few more moments, I realized that I needed to run just to make it on time. In the end, of course, I ended up going to the wrong building, getting lost and was finally about ten minutes late for my first class. I felt like a big dope sneaking quietly into one of the seats in the back.

Jessica, your writing is delightfully energetic and vivid. We’ll be praying that your longest month comes to an perfect end very soon. Your description of Sadie was great. Nessa terrifies me on a regular basis when she is an uncanny echo of my own self-assured self (which has only had to beat a modest retreat since the onset of adulthood). Nessa is incapable of entertaining the thought of being wrong, and delights in noticing every instance in which she was right and anyone else was not. I’m going to have to start looking now for another one of that favorite t-shirt that I wore in high school: “I’m not opinionated, I’m just always right.”

I’ve got a snow day today. I put the automated phone message on speakerphone and Nessa immediately knew what it meant: “That man said that you could have your snow day!”

Nessa has a tank full of critters along with her turtles now. The two turtles are doing well and live with three platies (including two females that should bear live young), a yellow and black apple snail and a big male fiddler crab. (The turtles and tank were free and the rest of the inhabitants total up to less than $10, so it’s a lot of biodiversity for your dollar—although they do have an aerator, heater, float to sunbath on, filter and sun lamp.) The turtles were living with a gold gourami and an algae eater for the past several months, but the gourami was very aggressive so we gave it away. The current arrangement seems quite agreeable to all. (Of course, as the turtles grow, it wont last indefinitely.) Unfortunately, I learned later that the fiddler crab should probably be in a brackish environment (various sources disagree), but they cost less than two dollars and most stores just sell them as relatively temporary novelty critters for freshwater setups. Next time I’ll research the crustacean a little better beforehand, but it takes a pretty hefty crustacean to be safe with even baby turtles. This fellow clearly enjoys sunbathing with the turtles, is active and eating well. His favorite getaway is inside the filter housing where he helps to keep the mesh much cleaner than it would be otherwise. They are in our living room and we all enjoy watching them. The noise of the aerator is one drawback for Elizabeth, but it has grown less annoying and she enjoys the tank in other respects. Nessa, who is sitting with me listening to what I write, would like me to add that if the fish have babies, we will need to put them in our gold fish bowl so the turtles don’t eat them while they are little. (Although a self-feeding tank setup has its advantages. I didn’t read that part to Nessa.)

We started our new set of elective classes yesterday at school. In my storytelling class, I have twenty students in grades 7-12. It is much more than I anticipated. The class is going to develop into quite the story of its own. They got started by tackling Jack and the beanstalk: minimum of two physical details attached to each character (Jack, mother, salesman, giant, giant’s wife), place (house, market, garden, giant land, giant castle) and object (cow, beans, beanstalk, goose, harp, ax). I’m hoping to have them tell many kinds of stories with various stipulations to practice different aspects of storytelling and always have them give each other feedback. I picked a troublesome young guy who is rather a ham to start out. He scored some cheap laughs by creating an ugly old hag of a mother character and one of the older girls really let him have it by saying that only a contemptible cad would do such a thing. Their final project at the end of the year will be to tell a story to one of the grammar school classes.

We lost an upper school teacher over Christmas. He started teaching the same year I did and visited the WV Hakes for the Shakespeare field trip last year and is very much missed. His replacement seems very good though. She grew up in India, graduated from Duke, knows some of the kids well already through one of the churches in the area and through some salsa dancing classes that she taught to young people.

This past Sunday Elizabeth and I listened to a sermon from an old college friend of mine, and we both appreciated it. It was one from a series on Revelation that he preached recently.

We listened to the one on Revelation chapter 4. I was particularly struck by his comment on the glassy sea (4:6). He talked about what a comfort it is to us that everything before God’s throne is fully subdued and orderly.

I think that the glassy sea (in addition to its sheer beauty—in keeping with the jasper, carnelian, and “rainbow like an emerald” that are used to depict God and his glorious presence) reverberates back through scriptural imagery on two tracks: its smoothness and its location.

Its smooth tranquility contrasts with the rebellious ragging of the nations that Satan and his cohorts repeatedly stir up with such ease and delight. Throughout the Bible, the sea and its waves represent the forces of chaos and the rebellious raging of the nations. Psalm 65:7 speaks of God as having “stilled the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of the nations.” Numerous psalms and prophecies echo this image and further connect the great sea monsters with archetypical rebellious nations such as Egypt and Babylon. Later in Revelation, the many-headed beast on which the harlot rides is called up out of the sea by the dragon, and all the people of the earth are amazed by the huge scar on one of its heads. This wound is an image of the ancient and regenerative nature of this perpetual enemy of God. God smote the nations with the Flood, then again at Babel, again when Abraham rescued Lot and received tribute from Melchizedek, again when Moses called down plagues on Egypt, when Joshua destroyed the Canaanites, when the judges and kings slew their enemies, when Cyrus destroyed the Babylonians and finally when the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands, crushed the entire statue from Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. The imagery of this wounded sea beast in Revelation most clearly corresponds to the imagery in Psalm 74:13-14 where God’s splitting open of the sea itself is paralleled with His splitting open the heads of this same many-headed sea monster. (“It was you who split open the sea by your power; you broke the heads of the monster in the waters.”) In contrast to the perpetual rebellion and tumult of the nations, the space before God’s throne in Revelation 4 is described as a sea of glass upon which His people bow to lay down their crowns and stand to sing His praises. We are privileged to stand perpetually in the presence of the one (“What kind of man is this?”) who calmed the storm that so frightened his disciples (“Why are you so afraid?”) (Matthew 8 and Mark 4). But this tranquility comes at a cost. “T
hen they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm” (Jonah 1:15). Unlike the fleeing prophet, the one even greater than Jonah (Matthew 12:40) was not at fault, but He too had to be thrown into the deep so that the cries of “Crucify him!” (reverberating from all our throats) could finally be silenced. That crowd was the most horrible storm that has ever raged and Christ prayed, “Father forgive them.” At the end of Revelation, of course, the new heavens and the new earth have no sea at all (21:1).

I also think that the placement of the glassy sea in Revelation 4:6 is significant. The glassy sea before the throne of God is very reminiscent of the bronze basin (or bronze sea as it is often called) that sat before the entrance to the tabernacle and the temple (Exodus 30:18). To get from the altar into God’s house, one had to pass “through” this sea. This made the cleansing rituals very convenient. In effect, the people and priests reenacted the crossing of the Red Sea and the Jordan (and looked forward to Christ’s baptism and our own) every time that they came into the tabernacle or temple. The ideal temple (never built out of physical stones but certainly out of living ones) described near the end of Ezekiel’s prophesy (to which God’s glory returns after following His people into exile earlier in the prophesy) has an alter described in detail, but the bronze sea is not mentioned. However, Ezekiel “saw water coming out from under the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east)” (47:1). This water flowed through Jerusalem, down into the Jordan Valley, and into the Dead Sea where it brought life and healing to all around. “Every month they will bear, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.” (47:12) It seems to me that the placement of the glassy sea before the throne of God reminds us of the need for Christ to descend into the sea that we might not have to meet the same end as Pharaoh’s charioteers. It reminds us of the cleansing power of baptismal waters as they depict Christ’s death (decent into the water) and resurrection (rising out again). And I also wonder if the Ezekiel passage draws a link between these baptismal waters and the water of life that Christ provides. The salt water of rebellion and death becomes life-giving fresh water through the ministry of Christ. “When it [water from the sanctuary] empties into the Sea, the water there becomes fresh. Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows.” (47:8-9)

So the glassy sea teaches us about what we have as those who enjoy the serene effects of God’s sovereign rule and those who are inheritors of God’s glorious beauty. At the same time, it reminds us of the means by which He achieved these things: the gracious life and death of Christ who provided new life and guaranteed it with his own resurrection.

Well, I had other reflections that I was planning to share, but this one already got out of hand and I better get going!

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