Australia Christian Living Personal

Letter from Australia 112 – Going Home

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

A well-known Scottish minister who was a great preacher, but sometimes struggled with children’s talks, once invited the children to come to the front of his large church.  He began by asking them, “how many fathers do you have?”.  The response was instant from one boy – “One”.   “No, you don’t, you have two”.  The minister obviously then expected to get on with his talk about the Fatherhood of God, but the wee boy was not to be deterred – “No, I dinne…I have one!”.  “No, you don’t you have two!” …” I don’t…I have one”.  The minister turned in exasperation and looked at his congregation – “some parents don’t know how to teach their children!” ….

That memory came to mind this week as I have been reflecting on the death of my own father – exactly one year ago.    Memories are strange things – some important things we quickly forget, whilst often it is the smaller things that stick in the mind.  I don’t remember much my dad said – but I do remember him teaching me to fish, shoot and drive a tractor!  I don’t have so many vivid memories that stand out as pictures in my mind – but just rather a sense of emptiness – something, someone missing.  That was really evident returning home to Portmahomack this May.  It was great to see mum – but there was just this sense of things not being the same.   I suspect every one of you who has experienced the loss of someone close and dear to you will know that feeling.  They are gone – and even though you may go days and weeks without thinking of them – small things trigger memories, and you realise that they will always be part of your life.

Dad’s family – since his death my uncle Donald has also died…

A good friend observed to me that the benefit of going home was being able to grieve properly.   If he had said that to me before I went home, I might have nodded but not really accepted or understood.  But now I know he was exactly right.  To visit the house, to be at the graveside and to walk the places we had walked, knowing that I would never see him in that house, or walk with him again on this earth – was a profound and releasing experience. It was good to say goodbye.  Finally.

When people say to you ‘you will get over it…time heals’, they mean well – but they are wrong.  Time distances, but it doesn’t really heal.  When your leg is cut off, there will come a time when you no longer feel the intense pain and you have learned to live without a leg – but the leg never returns.  When you lose someone – you get used to them not being there – but there will never be a time when they were not an essential part of your life.

As well as the anniversary, thoughts of my father were triggered by a book I am reading called ‘The Marvellous Pigness of Pigs” by Joel Salatin.  I came across it because I am in the midst of writing (finally) the follow up to ASK – called SEEK.  One of the questions I was asked was whether God was angry at factory farming.  In reading Salatin’s book – I was deeply moved – because so much of it reminded me of dad.  He was a pig farmer, and the experiences and views of Salatin were very similar to his. When I’m finished it, I will write a proper review.

I guess the photo that summarises dad to me most is this of a model we had made for his 60th birthday.  Here he is with his dog, Scruff – sitting at the window overlooking the Dornoch Firth towards Sutherland.  This will always remind me of home – because it is home

As a student at Edinburgh Uni, I used to catch what we called the Orkney train – because the Orkney students were usually on it. Often this beautiful song was played – Going Home by Runrig.

For the Christian ‘going home’ is the accurate way to describe death.  The Christian hope is not just memories or dreams of home – a home that will ultimately disappear.  No – as we were beautifully reminded at the funeral by his grandson – dad has gone to his eternal, permanent home – where the views are even better!  And I am certain I will see him again…in a better place.  The Christian does not just have memories of the past – but real hope for the future.

“Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5)

See you next time,


PS. One of the great joys in my work is being able to teach the Bible. When I do, I am reminded that it is always relevant – because it is the eternal word of God that applies to us at all times. In June I started doing a daily devotion (on weekdays) looking at Revelation.  I cannot say what it means for others – but for me it has been stunning to see how it applies in today’s world, to today’s church and to my own heart.  I have the newspaper, the tv and the Internet in one hand – but I need the Word to make sense of any of it!

Letter from Australia 111 – Why Have We Returned to Australia?





  1. You seem certain that not only will you go to the same place as your father (heaven) but that you will recognise/know him when you get there.
    I have recently heard Christians express the belief that we will not recognise one another when we get to heaven and I find this troubling- not because the main attraction in heaven is being reunited with lost loved ones but because it feels like it won’t really be ‘me’ up there just a sort of ethereal version of my soul. Which bible verses give you hope or provide clarity on this or will we just have to wait and see?

    1. 2 Samuel 12:23 – David says that he will go to his dead son, not his son come to him. Moses and Elijah were recognised by Jesus. I’m not sure why people would suggest we would not recognise one another. There is no indication in the BIble that that is the case.

      1. I would respectfully suggest that there is a very good reason why we may not recognise one another in Glory! I have family members who have died without any suggestion that they were saved. However, in this life, they were people I loved. If I, by the grace of God, do reach Glory, and discover that they are not there, I suspect that I will be very sad. Yet I am told clearly that, in that blessèd place: ” God Himself will be with them; He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev 21:3-4). I am also told, clearly that: “… He who sat upon the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new .” (21:5)

        Now, so my thinking goes, if all things are to be made new, could that mean that I will receive not only a resurrection body that will last throughout eternity, but also a “resurrection memory”, that will not have any concept of my mortal life?

        These are thoughts that have been coming to me for some time but, particularly, as I head towards my 80th birthday anniversary. I would be grateful for the Biblical input of others! I would also add that David was speaking in the context of the Old Testament, and did not claim that he was speaking “a word from YHWH”! John, in the Revelation, is passing on words with which we are not to tamper! (22:18-19).

      2. That is a strange reason….you could just as easily say that if you don’t know they are there, it would make you just as sad. The problem with your thinking is that it has no biblical basis whatsoever. There is no indication that our memories will be wiped! We will never forget what Christ has done for us!

  2. Just over a year ago, I conducted the funeral service for a good friend, here in France. When the time came for the message/eulogy/sermon, I informed the gathered congregation that I had an important announcement to make, and requested their full attention. I then stated: “John H is not dead!” In case anyone doubted that they had heard correctly, I repeated the statement, and then went on to explain that what was in the coffin to my right was merely the mortal body that John had used for about 80 years, but that the John that we had all known – the “spirit” John, the “essential” John – was already with his Saviour.

    This is why the funeral service for a disciple of Jesus is so triumphant. This is why we do not “… grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” (I Thess.4: 13-14). The grief is real, but the certain hope overcomes it. Hallelujah!

    1. Much as I respect you, David, I have to say that you are doing what you sometimes accuse others of doing when they respond to you – putting words in my mouth!

      If I “don’t know” something, how could that lack of knowledge make me sad?! Nor did I say that our memories would be “wiped” – I merely suggested that we would receive what I referred to as a “resurrection memory” which, of course, would be well aware of what the Christ had done for me!

      With no less than three referenced quotations, I don’t think that I can be accused of having been “unbiblical”.

      I was, in no way, being dogmatic. I was sharing thoughts that have come to me over recent years, and that I believe are worthy of, at least, some consideration!

      1. I’m sorry that you think I have put words in your mouth. I was only responding to the words that came out of your mouth! You think that people in heaven have no memory and no knowledge of what has happened to them on earth. They have in effect been erased and reinvented as new people! Or they only remember what Christ has done? Why would I be aware of what Christ has done for me and not be aware of his people or others? What is this selective memory and where in the Bible do you get this doctrine from? Quoting the bible doesn’t make you biblical! It is enormously dangerous to speculate about heaven without biblical warrant…

      2. I still think that you have not fully understood what I am trying to say – and this is obviously not the best forum on which to discuss it. Nothing beats “face-to-face”! For now, I suspect that we may just have to “agree to differ”!

        Blessings, and shalom.

      3. I hope I have understood….You wrote here that we would not know our loved ones in heaven because our memories would have been wiped. I can’t see that anywhere in the Scripture…blessings and shalom…

  3. Reading this brought back many memories of my dad who died in 1990, and my mother who followed 21 days later.

    What you write is so apposite

    Thank you.

  4. Beautiful story. Thank you for your transparency. I’m sure one day I will understand it fuller


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