2015 A-to-Z Blogging Challenge: Reflections

This was my fourth A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. I had such fun writing flash fiction last year, I decided to do the same for 2015. One of the lessons I learned from the first two years I completed the A-to-Z (2012 and 2013) was that short is good. I wrote a some stories for those two challenges, but they were over 1,000 words long (and some of them were rather good, if I say so myself–e.g., “Hourglass“). But as I hopped around visiting blogs I found myself spending less time on long articles, and going back to those who kept their articles short. It’s not that I’m impatient, but when you’re trying to visit as many of the 1,500+ participating blogs in 26 days, you tend to prefer the ones that are entertaining, informative, and less than 500 words long. So for last year and this year, I kept the stories to 100 words.

Why flash fiction? It’s a creative challenge. And I like writing stories. Another lesson learned over the past few years of A-to-Z: pick a theme and make it one you enjoy, one that will sustain you for the duration of the challenge. For me, flash fiction fits the bill.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to as many other blogs this year as I would have liked to. I was still writing articles after the challenge started, which is not good. Ideally, you want to have all your articles written and scheduled in advance so you can concentrate all your time on replying to comments and visiting blogs. That’s one thing I want to do better next year. Here are some of the blogs I visited more than once:

Dena’s Ramblings: Dena, a lawyer by trade, gave us an entertaining and informative A-to-Z of legal terms.

Letters from the Land of Cherry Blossoms: Romi taught us Kanji.

A.J. Blythe’s Cozies: A. J. posted inspirational writing quotes.

Elodie Nowodazkij: Elodie provided an A-to-Z of self-publishing.

Patricia Lynne: Patricia also wrote 100 word flash fiction.

Scarlet Embers: Scarlet’s theme was fairy-tale-related terms.

I’m not terribly mathematically inclined, but I am interested in statistics and charts (as in rankings)–things to do with data analysis, which I do a bit of in the day job.  So I looked at each of the articles I wrote this year to see how many hits each received, how many likes, and how many comments. One thing I found was that few people visited a post more than a day or two after its original publication. I wonder if in future I need to provide links to previous stories with each article? Something to consider for next year.

Here’s how my articles rank from “Most Popular” to “Least Popular” (Popularity = unique visits + comments + likes):

  1. Crab
  2. Lima Beans
  3. Dead Guy
  4. Zero
  5. Gold
  6. Iceman
  7. Balance
  8. Air
  9. Easter Egg
  10. Numb
  11. XXX
  12. Obsolete
  13. Faith
  14. Parchment
  15. Twitter
  16. Restroom
  17. Heretic
  18. Kale
  19. Magician
  20. Jeopardy
  21. Unique
  22. Waterfall
  23. Yahoo!
  24. Substitute
  25. Velvet
  26. Quart

Just to show how subjective taste is, my favorite story was “Yahoo!” which is number 23 on the list. And I thought “Crab” might be a little too nasty (in fact, the version I posted was a toned-down version of the story I wrote originally), but it’s number 1! If we rank the stories just by number of direct hits, the order doesn’t change too much:

  1. Crab
  2. Lima Beans
  3. Dead Guy
  4. Zero
  5. Gold
  6. Iceman
  7. Balance
  8. Numb
  9. Air
  10. Obsolete
  11. Easter Egg
  12. Restroom
  13. XXX
  14. Twitter
  15. Parchment
  16. Faith
  17. Unique
  18. Magician
  19. Yahoo!
  20. Jeopardy
  21. Heretic
  22. Velvet
  23. Waterfall
  24. Kale
  25. Substitute
  26. Quart

As you can see, “Yahoo!” moves up to #19, but “Crab” is still #1.

So there are some reflections on this year’s challenge. Thanks to the A-to-Z Challenge team, the hosts, the co-hosts, everyone who visited my posts, and everyone who helped make this year’s challenge fun. I plan to be back next year. What about you?


Sunday School Notes: Revelation 7:3-8

[2 And I saw another angel coming up from the east having the seal of the living God, and crying out with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was given to them to do harm to the earth and the sea,] 3 saying, “Do not do harm to the earth nor the sea nor the trees until we should seal the bond-servants of our God upon their foreheads.” 4 And I heard the number of those who were sealed: one hundred and forty-four thousand, those sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel. 5 From the tribe of Judah, twelve thousand having been sealed; from the tribe of Ruben, twelve thousand; from the tribe of Gad, twelve thousand; 6 from the tribe of Asher, twelve thousand; from the tribe of Manasseh, twelve thousand; 7 from the tribe of Simeon, twelve thousand; from the tribe of Levi, twelve thousand; from the tribe of Issachar, twelve thousand; 8 from the tribe of Zebulon, twelve thousand; from the tribe of Benjamin, twelve thousand having been sealed.

We finished last week at the end of verse 2 which is a bit of an awkward place to stop, so I briefly recapped what we discussed to make sure we remember the context (I’ve provided verse 2 in the quotation above for the same reason). In verse 3, the angel from the east tells the four angels to delay doing harm to the earth until the bond-servants of God are sealed on their foreheads. This angel was carrying a seal indicating authority to act, but the “sealing” mentioned here is more than just the receipt of divine authority. In context, it is clearly a sign of God’s protection, like the mark given to Cain in Genesis 4:15 to protect him from would-be attackers. Also, in Ezekiel 9, a mark is put on the foreheads of those who lament over the abominations taking place in Jerusalem to protect them when the idolaters are put to death. But this seal also conveys a sense of ownership, as with the seal on a document (or the seven seals of the scroll we’re in the midst of studying in this chapter!). Looking ahead, Revelation 14:1 and 22:4 say that God’s people have His name on their foreheads, which suggests that’s what the seal is: we are the Lord’s. In a similar way, Revelation 13:16 says that those who serve the Beast have his mark on their foreheads–the infamous number 666 (or 616–we’ll discuss further when we get there!). Whatever that number might mean, it surely parallels the name of the Lord on the foreheads of God’s people, declaring to whom the people belong. So this seal declares to the world that these people are the Lord’s, and as such they have divine privileges, and divine protection. That doesn’t mean they will not suffer physical harm; it does mean they will not succumb to the enemy during times of trial and tribulation. Their salvation is secure in the hands of their Savior.

I think this supports the idea expressed last time that what we’re seeing here is an answer to the question posed by those hiding in the rocks in 6:17, “When the Day of Wrath comes, who is able to stand?” This is who, and this is how. God’s people, those sealed are able to stand, and it is the fact they are sealed that enables them to stand. God is the one who gives them that ability. What we have here is a peek behind the curtain into eternity. Before any of the calamities of the four horsemen (6:1-8) can come to pass, we need to understand that despite the persecution and tribulation they bring, God’s people will not fall; they might die, and they will undoubtedly suffer, but they will remain steadfast in the Lord. We are tempted to place this temporally (e.g., just before the horsemen ride out, just after Christ’s resurrection), but that would be a mistake. Chapter 7 is a glimpse into eternity, where time isn’t relevant. The Lord places it in a context for us: the turmoil and persecution that has been part of the world and the church since Christ rose from the dead. But this context only serve to show us why He seals us–to claim us as His own and protect us from all that will come to pass. If we remember that Revelation is a letter of hope to a suffering church (not just in the first century, but in every century since), it makes sense why He would want us to understand this. (Jesus’s word in John 17:12 are interesting in this context. Speaking of his disciples, he says that while they were with him, he kept them in the Father’s name “which you have given me.” He guarded them so that none would be lost, except for the son of destruction–i.e., Judas. I believe we have a similar kind of “keeping”/”guarding” going on here in Revelation 7:3.)

John could have left his discussion of the sealed there. We understand these are those that the Lord has protected. But John wants us to understand exactly who these people are, and to spell it out in no uncertain terms. First, he numbers them: 144,000. And then he tells us where they’re from: they’re taken from every tribe of the sons of Israel. He then enumerates how many from each of the twelve tribes: 12,000. Unless my math is horribly wrong, 12 x 12,000 = 144,000. How are we to understand these numbers? Are they literal? Are they solely Jewish? Is this saying that only Jewish Christians are sealed, protected and owned by the Lord?

The first thing to note is that 144,000 is a number, and if we’ve learned nothing else about Revelation so far, it’s that numbers always signify something. John doesn’t just give us numbers for the sake of it. The number 7 signifies spiritual completion, or fullness. The number 4 we’ve seen applies to physical completion or fullness (e.g., four corners of the earth = the whole earth). The 24 elders are made up of 12 + 12, representing the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 Apostles–the fullness of the people of God, Jew and Gentile together. So why 144,000?

Let’s consider first the fact these believers are related to the twelve tribes of Israel. Both in Revelation and in the rest of the New Testament, we frequently come across promises and titles that were given to Israel now applied to the church. In Revelation 2:17, the church is given a “new name,” a promise first given to faithful Jews in Isaiah 62:2 and 65:15. The people of God are described in Revelation 5:9 as being from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation, who are made into a kingdom of priests forever. This is language straight out of Daniel 7:18 and 22, speaking of Israel. Throughout Romans, Paul argues for the unity of Jew and Gentile in the gospel, and the fact that the promises made to Abraham find their fulfillment in Christ and His church (see, for example, Romans 11). I noted last time Ezekiel 40ff., and how the allotment of land surrounding the “new temple” is according to the twelve tribes. We’ll come back to Ezekiel’s vision further on in Revelation, but if this appears to be another promise to Israel that finds its fulfillment in the church.

One of the most persistent problems faced by the early church had to do with clashes between Jewish and Gentile believers. We see this reflected particularly in Romans and Galatians. Christian leaders were constantly trying to communicate the fact that in Christ, there is neither Jew nor Gentile. The Jews are precious because God gave them the promises, but the Gentiles are precious too because they are grafted in and are co-heirs of all those promises. There is no Jewish church and Gentile church, only the church.

It seems to me by numbering the sealed in terms of the twelve tribes of Israel, the Lord through John is drawing attention to the fact that His people are His covenant people. This sealing is not a new thing that started in 30 AD; but its foundation is in the promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God’s plan has always been to choose for Himself a covenant people. That plan began with the Old Testament patriarchs.

But it’s not simply the 12 tribes that are sealed. Remember, it’s 12 x 12–again, we bring in the 12 Apostles, signifying the joining of God’s new covenant people to the old, forming one united church that spans not just decades or centuries, but millennia. Why does he multiply the 12s, not add them? And why is it not simply 12 x 12, but 12 x 12,000? I think this is to indicate magnitude. Certainly, multiplication corresponds to the Abrahamic promise that God will multiply his seed so they will be as numerous as the sand on the shore or the stars in the sky. The number 1,000, however, also carries a similar significance. Consider:

  • Psalm 50:10: God owns the cattle on 1,000 hills. Is this literal? Does He not own the cattle on the 1,001st hill? Of course He does! The point is that God owns ALL the cattle on EVERY hill.
  • Psalm 84:10: “For a day in your courts is better than 1,000 elsewhere.” But not better than 1,001 elsewhere?
  • Psalm 90:4: “For 1,000 years in Your sight are like yesterday”–a passage alluded to in 2 Peter 3:8, speaking of the return of Christ. The idea is not that there is a literal correlation between 1 day and 1,000 years for the Lord. Rather, that time is meaningless to the eternal God. Thousands of years may pass, and to God it’s nothing, like the passing of a day.
  • Psalm 91:7: “1,000 may fall at your side, 10,000 at your right hand…”
  • Psalm 105:8: “He remembers His covenant forever, the Word which He commanded to 1,000 generations.” But not to 1,001 generations?

There are other passages I could cite (e.g., Hosea 8:12 and Micah 6:7), but I think this gets the point across. Numbers in Revelation always signify something beyond the literal, and there is overwhelming evidence that traditionally, the number 1,000 signifies a large quantity–perhaps even an innumerable quantity. So why is it 144,000 and not just 144? Because the Lord wants us to understand the magnitude of the number of His people. Yes, we are given a number: 144,000. And in his vision, John literally sees 144,000 people. But that number only serves to tell us two things:

These people are made up of Jew and Gentile, and not just according to some new promise, but according to the promises given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

There will be a lot of them. A whole lot of them. More than you could possibly imagine.

Revelation is a letter of hope, and what greater sign of God’s faithfulness could John receive than to see the multitude of God’s elect stretching all the way back to the days of the Patriarchs, standing around the throne, clothed in white, washed in the blood of the Lamb? But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. That’s coming in verse 9…

We noted the absence of Dan and Ephraim in the list of the tribes. This shouldn’t bother us since, as we’ve just discussed, the list is not representative of literal Israel. It is symbolic of God’s old covenant people, and moreover, the old covenant promise fulfilled in the gospel and the church. But we might also note that these two tribes are often (not always) associated with idolatry (see Judges 18:16-19; 1 Kings 12:28-30; Hosea 4:17, 5:3, 5:9). As I mentioned earlier, the 12,000 from each tribe is a portion of that tribe (for the Greek geeks, John uses the preposition ek, as in ek phulês Iouda), suggesting that only a portion of each tribe was sealed (i.e., were truly believers). It’s possible the intention is to convey a purified people, in which case it makes sense to omit the two tribes most associated with a sin to which the churches in Asia Minor were particularly susceptible (see the seven letters).

We’ll be taking a break from Revelation next week, but we’ll return to it the week after, Lord willing.


Music Monday: Wuthering Heights

WutheringHeights_SingleKate Bush was about nine years old when she caught the last ten minutes of a BBC adaptation of Emily Bronté’s WUTHERING HEIGHTS on television. The image of Katherine’s ghost outside the window pleading to be let in haunted her for years, until one day, after reading the book, she wrote this song.

Seventeen-year-old Kate had been touring pubs with her brother’s band, playing both covers and original songs, when a family friend and industry insider passed a rough demo to Pink Floyd guitarist Dave Gilmour. He then paid for studio time so Kate could record something a bit more polished. He played this new demo to EMI executives who immediately signed her. “Wuthering Heights” was Kate’s debut single, released in January, 1978. It was so unlike anything else in the British chart at the time, it caught the public imagination and quickly raced up the Top 40 spending four weeks at number one that spring.

I hated the song. It was played so much, and to my 8-year-old sensibilities, it was just plain weird. Kate sang weirdly, danced weirdly, and the words were weird. Not that I had a problem with weird. But I couldn’t wrap my head around this one, so whenever it would come on, I’d roll my eyes and ignore it.

Then I grew up.

This song is a masterpiece. Certainly one of my all-time favorite songs. How do you know a song is an all-time favorite? If  you could put it on repeat, listen to it 24/7 and never get tired of it. Kate’s high-pitch, ethereal vocal is perfect for a song sung by a ghost. From the first line you get a sense of almost manic desperation, that moments later turns to yearning and pleading.

Musically, the song shifts keys and uses odd progressions to add to the sense of mystery and spookiness. When it falls into more regular chord progressions, the song builds from the simple piano/vocal and organ, layering on guitar, then bass and drums, and finally strings. I don’t know how involved Kate was in the arrangement, but it works extremely well for the piece. To sum up, this song is aural candy. Like chocolate for your ears.

If you’d like to have a go playing it, I’ve transcribed the piano/vocal part for the first verse and the chorus (again, remember, I’m not trained in music transcription–this is my best effort at writing down what I hear):


The image above is just a picture of the first page. If you click on it you’ll download the complete 2-page pdf.

Here are the words and guitar chords:


Again, click on the above image and you’ll get a 2-page pdf, this time with the chords in the recorded key, and then the chords if you capo the 6th fret. Since the majority of the song is in C#-major, it sounds better on the guitar if you play with the capo. In fact, that may well be what the guitarist is doing on the recording.

This is the music video:

And here’s 19-year-old Kate Bush making her television debut singing the song LIVE, with the Top of the Pops house band:

Finally, here’s a subsequent Top of the Pops live performance, this time with Kate at the piano:


Flash Fiction Friday

I hope you enjoyed the A-to-Z Challenge posts last month. You might think I’d take a break from writing flash fiction, but no! It’s Friday, so let’s see what the Random Word Generator has for us this week:

  • worm
  • desk
  • knife
  • kitten
  • chip

An interesting collection of words. Since I’ve just written 26 100-word stories, I think I’ll keep to the 100-word limit:

Jeremy sat at his desk with a bag of potato chips, his eyes fixed on the others engaged in some activity. He didn’t know what. He didn’t care. All he knew was he wasn’t invited. Never was. Like the runt of the litter, the kitten no-one wanted.

He dipped his hand into the bag and took out a chip.


None turned a head.

He tried to look scary, but they didn’t fear him. They ignored him.

Soon they’ll notice Peter missing. And the knife from the Art Room.

Then they’ll understand how the worm can turn.

Then they’ll fear.

Have a great weekend!



Today is Day Twenty-Six, the last day of the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. Click on the letter picture to the right for more information about this blog hop. Like last year, I’m writing 100-word flash fiction stories/poems/scenes for this year’s challenge. Today’s is:


“Operator, how can I help?”

“Yes, I can’t get through to a number. 555-1294. The line’s dead.”

“Hold please.”


“Hello, sir? As I thought, that line is no longer in service.”

“How can that be? She gave it to me last night.”

“Sorry, sir, but… um… it wouldn’t be the first time a girl has done that.”

“But she was so sincere, honest. Striking blue eyes.”

“What was the name?”

“Genevieve. Genevieve Mary Holden. She gave me her full name.”

“That’s impossible.”


“That number. It was my grandmother’s.”


“Her name. Genevieve Mary Holden. She died ten years ago.”

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this year’s A-to-Z, and I hope you have too! If you’ve liked my flash stories, there are plenty more on this blog (see under “Writing” or search for “Flash Fiction”). And every Friday I post a new story for my Flash Friday feature, so come back and visit! Thank you for stopping by.



Today is Day Twenty-Five of the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. Click on the letter picture to the right for more information about this blog hop. Like last year, I’m writing 100-word flash fiction stories/poems/scenes for this year’s challenge. Today’s is:


Mary pulled up Messenger and drew a deep breath. She had to do it sooner or later, but something in the pit of her stomach held her back.

That conversation only last month. A mundane back and forth.

“How was it today?”

“Not so bad, Mary. How about you?”

“Good. John’s getting a promotion! :)”

“Wonderful! Send him our love.”

“You’d tell me if things weren’t okay, wouldn’t you Mom?”

“Don’t you worry, Mary. Everything’s just fine.”

“I love you.”

Mary stared at the account name. ProudMama89. An account that would never be used again.

Delete: Are you sure?


Come back tomorrow for the last day of the challenge: Z…



Today is Day Twenty-Four of the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. Click on the letter picture to the right for more information about this blog hop. Like last year, I’m writing 100-word flash fiction stories/poems/scenes for this year’s challenge. Today’s is:

“Does anyone know what those marks mean?”

Tammy’s hand was fastest. Mr. Jedson nodded.

“XXX—it’s her signature, Mr. J.”

“No, Tammy. See, here’s her signature above.” There was silence. “These symbolize kisses. You know what a kiss is?”

The class stared at him. Mr. Jedson sighed.

“It’s when one person presses their lips onto another person, maybe onto their cheek, maybe onto their lips.”

“You mean, in real life?” said Tom. “Isn’t that dangerous?”

Mr. Jedson smiled at the wall of faces on his monitor, his virtual classroom, and brushed a withered finger over the signature.

Perhaps it was.

Come back tomorrow for Y…



Sunday School Notes: Revelation 7:1-2

1 After these things, I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth so that the wind might not blow upon the earth, nor upon the sea, nor upon every tree. 2 And I saw another angel coming up from the east having the seal of the living God, and crying out with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was given to do harm to the earth and the sea…

Our 2014/2015 Sunday School season will finish at the end of May, so it is my intention that we will finish up the seven seals (7:1 – 8:5), and start the seven trumpets (8:6ff.) in the Fall. So we started this week with an overview of chapter 7. We read 7:1 – 8:5 and went over the main points of what happens in this vision:

  • Four angels stand at the four corners of the earth holding back the wind.
  • An angel rises from the east holding a seal and telling the four angels not to harm anything until God’s servants have been sealed.
  • John gives us the number of the sealed: 144,000–12,000 from each tribe of Israel.
  • A multitude for all nations, tribes, and people stand before the throne, clothed in white and holding palm branches, declaring the Lord’s salvation.
  • Angels, elders, and creatures fall down and worship God.
  • An elder identifies the multitude in white as those who have come out of the “great tribulation” with robes washed in the blood of the Lamb.

We might have expected this chapter to begin with the opening of the seventh seal, but instead we get what appears to be a break in the action. Something different is happening. This, along with the other things going on in chapter 7 leads to a number of questions. Over the course of the next few weeks, I want us to at least address, if not also propose answers to, the following questions:

  • When are the events of this chapter happening? Is this something that happens after the events of the sixth seal, or is it giving further insight into what’s happened before?
  • Who are all these angels?
  • What does it mean to be “sealed”? What is the significance of the “sealing”?
  • Who are the 144,000? Are they Jews, Jewish Christians, martyrs, or something else?
  • Who are the multitude? Are they the same as the 144,000, or different?
  • What is the “great tribulation”? Is this something that has yet to happen, or something that happened, or something else?

As we study, we mustn’t forget that what John sees is a vision, so we need to be prepared for the fact that the events are not necessarily happening in sequence (though it’s equally true that they might be). Also, we mustn’t lose sight of the symbolism in what John sees. As we have seen, the key to understanding Revelation lies in the symbols, and what they mean–particularly from an Old Testament context. This is what his original readers would have understood, and so must we if we are to appreciate what God is telling us in this book.

John says this next vision happens “after these things.” We’ve seen this phrase a few times before, and we must remember that this is not a reference to the order in which the visions will come to pass. Rather, John is saying “after these visions, I had this vision.” In other words, he is indicating the order in which he had the visions, not the order in which the visions will be fulfilled. This new vision opens with four angels standing at the four corners of the earth holding back the winds. In the Greek there is no definite article (“the”), so I presume these are not angels we have encountered before. What’s initially striking is the fact there are four of them at the four corners of the earth. There’s the number four again, symbolizing worldly completeness, or material fulness and totality. These angels are about to let loose complete and devastating destruction upon the whole earth.

We looked at a couple of Old Testament passages that reference the “four corners of the earth” and the use of wind as a means of judgment: Ezekiel 7:2, Daniel 7:2, Zechariah 6:5, and Jeremiah 49:36. The Zechariah 6:5 is of particular interest since this is the passage behind the four horsemen of Revelation 6:1-8, so it is within recent memory. In Zechariah 6, the chariots go out essentially bringing God’s judgment to the nations. In 6:5, the ESV says that the chariots go out to the four winds of heaven, after presenting themselves to the Lord. This is not what the either the Hebrew or the Greek Septuagint says:

Hebrew: ‘êlleh ‘arba` ruchôt hashshâmayîm: these are the four winds of heaven

Greek: tauta estin hoi tessares anemoi tou ouranou: these are the four winds of heaven

Why does the ESV translate it this way? I’m not sure. Perhaps they felt the change necessary to make sense of the verse? But to read that way, they have to add at least a preposition to the text which, as far as I’m aware, is not supported in the manuscript tradition. If anyone has insight into this, I’d like to hear it! If the chariots are the “four winds of heaven,” then, aside from the change to “four winds of the earth,” which is not unreasonable in the context, we have a connection here between the four horsemen of the initial seals, and the activity about to take place in this vision. These four angels are about to let loose the four horsemen.

This suggests a temporal location for chapter 7: right before the four horsemen are unleashed. So why not mention this before chapter 6? Ultimately, we can’t answer that–only God knows. But a further clue to this is given at the end of chapter 6, when those hiding in the rocks recognize that the day of the Lamb’s wrath has come, “and who is able to stand?” Perhaps chapter 7 is an answer to that question. In this chapter we not only see who is able to stand (i.e., those who belong to the Lamb), but how they are able to stand. Before the post-Resurrection calamities were let loose upon the earth, the Lord sealed His people, ensuring that they would not be harmed spiritually (there is never any promise of physical protection) from all that was about to happen.

John says the four angels had been given the ability to harm the earth and the sea; this was not an ability they claimed for themselves. Once again, we see God’s hand at work in the commissioning of all that happens for His glory and the ultimate good of His people. The angel rising from the east tells them to wait, and his authority to say this comes from the “seal of the living God” he holds. We will discuss the meaning and nature of seals in a couple of verses. For now, we can look at this seal as a sign of God’s grace, mercy, and love for His people.

The fact that this angel rises up in the east shouldn’t go unnoticed. Why the east? John doesn’t give such detail without a reason, and it usually has symbolic meaning that his readers would have understood. Elsewhere in Revelation, the east is associated as the direction from which bad things come. However there is a strong tradition in Scripture for God’s blessing coming from the east (e.g., Genesis 2:8; Matthew 2:1). Someone in the group pointed out that the new temple in Ezekiel 40ff is in the east–and this will have great relevance to what’s coming in just a few verses since Ezekiel goes on to describe the division of the surrounding grounds in terms of the twelve tribes of Israel. If the four angels holding back the four winds represent God’s judgment upon the earth, then perhaps this angel in the east signifies God’s mercy upon His people. What we have here is, then, a picture of God’s grace in the midst of His justice, which is a picture of the gospel. Our sin deserves judgment, but God grants mercy in Christ. The Lord gives grace to His people, but extends justice upon the rest of the world.

Verse 2 was a bit of an awkward point at which to stop, but we ran out of time so we’ll pick up with verse 3 (after a brief recap for context) next time.



Today is Day Twenty-Three of the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. Click on the letter picture to the right for more information about this blog hop. Like last year, I’m writing 100-word flash fiction stories/poems/scenes for this year’s challenge. Today’s is:


Adam didn’t even stay. He just handed her the note and drove off. That broke Emily’s heart more than the words on the paper.

She sighed and gazed out beyond the rail to the river as it tumbled over the cliff’s edge, water cascading into a beautiful mess of foam and spray, only to be carried off to some other place, some other stream, some other waterfall. Or evaporated by the sun to become a cloud, to turn to rain, to join another river.

Emily crumpled Adam’s note and tossed it over the rail.

She smiled.

Life’s just another waterfall.

Come back tomorrow for X…



Today is Day Twenty-Two of the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. Click on the letter picture to the right for more information about this blog hop. Like last year, I’m writing 100-word flash fiction stories/poems/scenes for this year’s challenge. Today’s is:


The velvet felt so luxurious, Annie had to try the dress on. It was a little big, but it looked splendid. She walked in front of the mirror watching it trail behind her like a wedding gown.

There was some nail polish on the dresser. She wasn’t sure if it matched so she brushed a little on the hem, where no-one would see. She still couldn’t tell, so she brushed some more. The bottle spilled. Annie scrabbled around on the floor trying to clean it up with her hands…


“I’ll just check on Annie,” said her mom. “She’s awfully quiet.”

Come back on Monday for W…

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