Back in the 70s when I was serving in the Merchant Navy all I needed to know about joining my next ship was provided in the joining letter that would land on the doormat towards the end of my leave. The joining letter would tell me the name of my next ship, where I was to join the ship, the name of the agent, and the approximate date that I was expected to travel. The one thing the joining letter did not tell me was when I would next be home.Joining instructions

Joining a ship was very much a case of stepping into the unknown. I might know one or two of the people on board, but most would be new faces. I would have no idea of the ports the ship would visit over the next few months, whether the weather would be kind or unkind, what cargoes would be carried, or more importantly how long I would be away. The shortest trip I did lasted just one week and involved a ship delivery from Rostock in East Germany to Amsterdam. My longest trip lasted almost seven months.

After four months into that longest trip I was desperate to be home. The next three months dragged. I hated the uncertainty. It didn’t help that I was serving on a 100,000 tonne bulk carrier that spent long periods at sea, with one voyage from Baltimore to Japan via the Cape of Good Hope taking two months, as we steamed at ten knots to conserve fuel.

Dunstanburgh CastleThere is nothing worse than being part way through a voyage and not knowing where and when it will end. Wanting only to be home, but having to wait until such time as the shipping company is able to send out a relief. The journey of life is no different. We all know where it began, but none of us have a clue when it might end, or how it might end. Perhaps we should be less concerned about when the journey ends and more concerned about where it ends.

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars – they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulphur. This is the second death.” (Revelation 21:1-8 NLT)

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