Three years ago today Sue, my wife of 32 years went to be with her Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. I have absolutely no doubts about where she is, so she isn’t lost. She has joined that happy holy Blood Bought throng to praise God without the burden of a sinful nature. I hesitate to say she has died and I still balk at saying j have lost her.
I’m thankful to my friend Pastor Robert Briggs. He told me three years ago that ‘my own personal walk with God would get me through.’ He was absolutely right. Not that I take credit, but rather give glory to the keeping power of Christ.
I have a small group of friends that have stuck by me over the years. I’m thankful for them.
And I give thanks to God for my children, grandchildren, and family and for Sandra.
My testimony is that God has been utterly faithful and has continued to bless me, unworthy as I am, over these past three years. He has kept me and has preserved me. His Mercy’s are new every morning. Great is Thy faithfulness Lord to me!
The fact is we will ALL leave this life and enter eternity. That eternity will be a world of unutterable joy with Christ or a world of unutterable misery without Christ, again in the presence of Christ, but Christ the Judge. As Joshua said ‘…. choose this day whom you will serve…. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15.
This hymn came to my mind this morning about the death of Sue and for every Christian.
It is not death to die,
To leave this weary road,
And midst the brotherhood on high
To be at home with God.
It is not death to close
The eye long dimmed by tears,
And wake, in glorious repose,
To spend eternal years.
It is not death to bear
The wrench that sets us free
From dungeon chain, to breathe the air
Of boundless liberty.
It is not death to fling
Aside this sinful dust
And rise, on strong exulting wing
To live among the just.
Jesus, Thou Prince of Life,
Thy chosen cannot die:
Like Thee, they conquer in the strife
To reign with Thee on high.
H. A. Cesar Malan, 1787 – 1864 (?).
Translated by: George W. Bethune, 1805 – 62 (?).
Dad didn’t say too much about the war. I understand that. But I do wish he’d said more. I should have asked more. When I bought a Poppy this year I said my Dad served in WW2. I was asked if he came through it (WW2) unscathed. He didn’t lose a limb if that’s what was meant. But he did have health issues (bronchial problems) throughout his life because of it. He lost all his teeth as well because of it. I can also remember him having awful nightmares. As a young boy, I would hear him wailing in the night. So no, he didn’t come through it unscathed. And I doubt many, if any, did.
He served in the Reconnaissance Corps and two requirements (apparently) to be in the Corps were intelligence and aggression. I reckon those two characteristics served him (and others) well. The motto of the Corps was ‘Only the enemy in front.‘ Four stories he did tell me were these. No details. He told me how on one occasion a patrol went out but only one person came back. The man that came back was a Christian. I don’t know what that (Christian) meant. But it obviously affected him quite deeply and he never forgot it. Another time he was due to go on a troop ship but for some reason, he didn’t make the boarding. The ship was sunk and everyone on board died. Then he was on his bike (he was a dispatch rider) going from one side to another and had to ride across a ridge. Enemy artillery had targeted the ridge and as he went along shells were exploding behind him but he made it without being hit. One other incident was how he rescued an officer on the back of his bike. No details just the fact of it.
He always bought a Poppy and would watch the Remembrance Day service on TV but never attended any reunions and never joined the Remembrance Day parade. I think it was all too much for him. The memories were so awful. His medals were in a box in the cupboard. But many years later as a Christian, a serving soldier (weapons Instructor) in the Church encouraged him to get his medals mounted and join the Remembrance Day parade. And he did. So thanks Ian Fraser for encouraging him to do that. I was able to watch him march with other WWII veterans. I watched him with pride. I guess I didn’t think too much about it when I was younger but today I’m thankful for his service. And all those that served – many paying the ultimate price. Thank you for your service Dad.
Whichever way you look at it, war is a terrible thing. A necessary thing sometimes maybe, but terrible all the same. As veterans die there’s a renewed realisation, it seems, that we ought not to forget their service and the horror. The war to end all wars (WW1) left the door open to another one. And so conflicts continue around the world. There will be wars, and rumours of wars, until the end said Jesus (Matthew 24:6). And so it is until The Prince of Peace Himself comes to reign.
A New Command
A much more significant event, even than the war, happened to Dad as an older man. I think in his late fifties. This was when his life came under a new command, The Lord Jesus Christ. When the Lord Christ appeared to Joshua,
Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” (Joshua 5:13-15)
My Dad, by the Grace of God, bowed the knee to Christ. Not an easy thing for him to do as a very self-sufficient man. People say ‘look at all the suffering in the world, I could never become a Christian.’ This is just an excuse to not bow the knee. My Dad saw a lot of suffering. He saw friends blown up and lots of death and destruction first hand. And yet, my Dad came to see that he was a sinner in the sight of God. He came to know the Christ he had rejected for most of his life. My Dad’s favourite hymn was:
‘I have a friend, whose faithful love
is more than all the world to me,
’tis higher than the heights above,
and deeper than the soundless sea;
so old, so new, so strong, so true;
before the earth received its frame,
He loved me – blessed be His Name!
C A Tydeman
You might have seen the following words, or similar, on a War Memorial. But did you know they were from The Bible? ‘Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.’ John 15:13. Jesus laid down His life. But Jesus laid down His life to take it up again. Only Jesus could say this, and then do what He said. ‘No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father (John 10:18).’ He also said in John 10:27 ‘My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.’
Before they died, my Dad and Mum came to know and follow this risen Lord Jesus Christ. Have you?
This year I have two books to read on The Gunpowder Plot. This is the first of the two. The full title is Gunpowder, Treason and Plot: The gruesome story of Guy Fawkes. Published by Day One.
The author (Clive Anderson) ‘leads tours to the British Museum, Greece and the Middle East.’ I’ve been on one of his British Museum tours, and it was absolutely brilliant.
Remember, remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes,
‘Twas his intent
To blow up the King and the Parliament,
Three score barrels of powder below
Poor old England to overthrow
By God’s providence he was catched
With a dark lantern and burning match. (Page 9)
So goes the rhyme.
On page 11 Clive tells us ‘This was to be the greatest terrorist conspiracy in British history, for its aim was the destruction of King and Parliament.’ I remember the Brighton bombing where an attempt was made to kill the Prime Minister (Mrs Thatcher) and her Cabinet. They missed their main target, but even so, the IRA bomb killed five people and 34 were injured. The Gunpowder Plot would have been far far more destructive (See Blast Map Illustration, page 96). The author spends a few pages discussing religiously motivated terrorism (Chapter 7).
I’m old enough to remember ‘penny for the guy’ and burning an effigy of Guy Fawkes on the bonfire. We don’t do either of these anymore (unless its President Trump). In fact, we don’t really remember the 5th of November at all – including William III landing at Torbay, Devon in 1688. Other than we set off a few fireworks and maybe have a burger in a bun. Christianity still doesn’t get its own history.
He gives a good overview of the background (from Henry VIII to James I) about why in 1605 the plotters would want to blow up the Houses of Parliament and with a ‘what if’ scenario (pages 110 – 113) had they succeeded. In between, we get profiles of all the main characters. Unless I missed something it seemed a bit strange for the author to speak about Elizabeth I and then we are suddenly introduced to James. Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading the book. It was quite easy reading, apart from all the typos, of which there are many! Perhaps the publishers could do something about that at the next printing.
He reminds us that it was a Catholic Plot to blow up and plunge into chaos a Protestant government. Thus, returning England to Roman Catholicism. He doesn’t go overboard on detail and didn’t go much into what the authorities actually knew, although he alludes to it. The gruesome bits were about how the plotters were dispatched. And it was very gruesome, and quite literally a spectacle.
He includes, in table form, a summary of all the plotters referencing how and when they died. Not all were executed. The leader, Robert Catesby (Not Guy (Guido) Fawkes), was killed in a Butch Cassidy style shootout at Holbeach House.
Chapter 11 (an appendix really) is a sermon by Spurgeon. Yes, it was good to read Spurgeon but I wasn’t sure if it added anything to the book. It did remind us that we don’t corporately remember much at all. Reformation Day, for example, is totally lost on most Christians it seems to me.
There’s a brief glossary of terms at the beginning, and with lots of headings throughout the book, an index is probably unnecessary. And at £7.00 it won’t break the bank.
1 year ago today (1.30 PM) Sue passed into eternity to be with Christ which is far better. Frankly, I try to avoid the word died because if the Christian faith means anything at all, in a very real sense she hasn’t died. Yes, her body, her earthly remains are dead and in the ground. I know that only too well. I will be visiting the cemetery today. I still balk at the word loss or lost as she is neither. I do admit it is difficult to avoid using them. When I sing hymns that speak of heaven or being with The Lord Jesus I still well-up because in my minds’ eye I see her there in that happy and holy throng. It’s with a sense of great thankfulness to God mixed with the gut-wrenching desire for her to be here with me. I miss her so.
It’s a remarkable thing marriage. If we try to do it right and truly become ‘one flesh’ as Jesus tells us to, we invest everything into it. (That includes the Bank account. We only had one account and our salaries were paid into that one account.) It’s a physical thing. It was that. Of course it was, otherwise, we wouldn’t have our three wonderful children. But it’s so much more that as well. Our wife or husband sees us in our vulnerability, at our worst, sees our body get old and flabby, sees us in our sin, in our failures, in our weakness and yet learns to love and care all the same. And, what a blessing it is to enjoy one another’s company, to like being with each other. And so often, to say so much, without saying anything. She used to wear my sweatshirts especially when decorating.
Given the oneness of marriage, please don’t think I’m over it because a year has gone by. I was recently speaking with a widow. She still has those times when the grief is raw after many years. I have to tell myself and realise the sadness isn’t going to be over anytime soon. I am learning to have part of me missing.
A lot of our marriage investment is done unconsciously at a deep deep level. It has to be so if the marriage vows are taken seriously. When we enter into that covenant; I don’t think we fully realise quite what that means. I wonder that in some supernatural way God fuses us together even deeper than the atomic level. God does this at the spiritual level. Something unseen that cannot be probed. Something that can’t be touched. We mess with marriage as our society is doing, and we mess at a level where the consequences are huge. And we are seeing the consequences. Marriage is for one man and one woman – that’s it. ‘Gay’ marriage is deeply sinful and rebellious. (I’ll have to do a separate post on this)
More than one person has told me I was punching above my weight with Sue. She was stunningly beautiful to the end, she was wise, nearly always right, ok, always right and incredibly capable. She loved me and the kids more than life itself. Above all, she was a Godly woman of prayer. Yet so disparaging of herself. She wasn’t perfect. I hope where she lacked I took up the slack as it were and the other way round too. We often said to each that we were a team. So despite her being way above my pay-grade, God had other ideas. I have heard it said that as long as your betrothed ticks the relevant boxes the person you marry could be anyone. We didn’t believe that for one moment. We believed and I still believe God brought us together. (Though I guess the means could be different) She could have done a lot lot better than marrying me. And when I told her that she would tell me off. We used to say to each other, we would do it again. We wouldn’t swap each other. She was the best thing that ever happened to me. God kept us together too. And however long I have on this earth I will have to deal with the parting every day. I’m told over time you do learn to live with it. But it never goes away.
Today, Wednesday is when she left for heaven. Friday would have been her birthday, then it will be my birthday, then the first funeral anniversary (7th Dec), then Christmas. It’s been quite a year. I left work, moved to another part of the country, left several friends, left Church, sold the house, put most of our stuff in storage, started attending another Church, moved into rented accommodation, brought some stuff out of storage, searched for and looked at loads of houses and I’m now in the process of buying a house. So there will be the move, then getting all our stuff out of storage, sorting (again) through the things we shared together, settling into the new house, and breathe (that’s for you Jilly. Thank you).
I have a lot I would like to write about. Please pray I would get on and do it and that it would be helpful and profitable to others. I am reading a few books that I will comment on. Some very helpful stuff out there. But in the end, all praise is to God and our Lord Jesus for keeping us from falling. Where would we be if it were not for the Grace of God! We daily raise our Ebenezer and say Hitherto has the Lord helped us. I do anyway. And I know many of you do as well.
Speaking of investing all, isn’t this exactly what Jesus did for us! We don’t really invest everything do we, but Jesus did and does. His providential dealings are remarkable. There are many many references to marriage in the Bible. It’s no accident the Church is called the Bride of Christ. Jesus invested His blood into us poor faltering failing sinners. He doesn’t cast us off. No. He has vowed to keep us, to forgive us and cleanse us. Sue liked me holding her, she felt safe. O how much much more are we His people safe in His mighty arms. My dear non-Christian friend, how I long that you might be safe and know the love of Christ, that He is mighty to save and mighty to keep. O call upon Him for Salvation and safety, and love, and forgiveness, and then eternal joy with Christ which is far better.
I have written some brief book reviews on bereavement and a few other posts but this is the first ‘Grieving Update’ since 21st December 2015. Has it really been that long? Quite a bit has happened and I got heavily sidetracked into Facebooking.
Today is 6 months since Sue departed for Glory. The ‘literature’ suggests 6 months is significant. Because of that ‘suggestion’ I’ve no idea if it really is significant or whether society has encouraged me to think that way. But either way, I believe it might be appropriate to bring some thoughts to you.
I don’t write with any sense of triumphalism. As a friend said when I told him of Sue’s departure ‘Sue has triumphed, for her the battle is over, but we are still in the battle’. We do triumph for sure, but I’m not triumphalistic. I think even in our Reformed circles there’s a desire to be triumphalistic. We cover it up better. Being scared of dying as a believer doesn’t sell in the heartland. It doesn’t preach so well does it? And the unsaid expected triumphal death irritated me. I’m thankful for a Saviour that understands so well. Sue can now bless the hand that guided and the heart that planned. Dear Sue. It wasn’t easy for her to die and to leave us. We talked one-on-one as you do. She knew it wasn’t easy for me to watch her go. She knew it wasn’t going to be easy for me to live without her either. She really did know me so well.
Six months down the line, it’s unbelievably hard. Harder than I could ever have imagined! Everyone is so different, and those differences give rise to a myriad of variables. So don’t expect your situation to be a ‘carbon copy’ of mine, or of anyone else’s either. I was recently over in Northern Ireland to hear Dr James White speak and we sang a hymn that spoke of raising our Ebenezer. He gave a brief explanation of what raising an Ebenezer meant. I said to myself, ‘O yes, Dr White, I know what an Ebenezer is’. I’ve been raising one regularly for the last year or so.
I’ve learnt a lot. I don’t try and help get God off the hook by using some Biblical hocus pocus. God is Sovereign or He is no God at all. That means He knew Sue would die on that very day. He knew about me too and how I would respond – not always very well in my private moments. More than that, He decreed it.
To understand The Cross and suffering I think in some way you need to understand marriage and what it represents. I often find my emotions are on the edge. I have discovered an empathy with people that have suffered that rarely exists with others that can only sympathise. As a society, we marginalise death. That’s what we are told from many a pulpit anyway. But you know, our churches don’t deal with it very well either. I believe this needs to be addressed.
Three challenges for me.
1. I need to concentrate more on Sue’s gain rather than my pain. At the same time acknowledging that the pain I feel is also from God. And for a good reason. The Sovereignty of God and doctrine isn’t theoretical, it’s immensely practical.
2. I need to realise my all in all comes from God alone. This is hard to learn. In death, there is only one that saves. His name is Jesus Christ. I know the theory. Now I’m having to learn the practice.
3. Will I be able to comfort and help others with the comfort and help I have received. It’s all very well saying this and that, but will I be able to minister to others in similarly straitened circumstances. That’s the question.
We remember this day that Jesus was ‘born that man no more may die’. The lovely trees that adorn our homes are the antithesis of the Cross of Christ and remind us that he bore our sins on that tree. ‘You shall call his name Jesus for he shall save his people from their sins ‘. Therefore, we Glory in the Cross of Christ.
Praise God for His ‘indescribable Gift’. May all your Christmases be truly blessed and Christ-Centered.
Here is the Order of Service for my beloved Sue. I have adapted it slightly to post it here. It’s quite close to how it was printed so you can read the wonderful hymns. The full service audio link is also at the end of this post.
Sue Iliff 25th November 1955 – 23rd November 2015
Funeral Order of Service Led by Pastor Paul Watts
WELCOME AND OPENING PRAYER
1. The God of Abraham praise,
who reigns enthroned above,
ancient of everlasting days,
and God of love.
Almighty, great I Am!
by earth and heaven confessed,
I bow and bless the sacred name
2. The God of Abraham praise,
at whose supreme command
from earth I rise and seek the joys
at God’s right hand.
I all on earth forsake,
its wisdom, fame, and power,
the Lord my only portion make,
my shield and tower.
3. Though nature’s strength decay,
and earth and hell withstand,
to Canaan’s bounds I urge my way
at God’s command;
the watery deep I pass
with Jesus in my view,
and through the howling wilderness
my way pursue.
4. The goodly land I see,
with peace and plenty blest,
a land of sacred liberty
and endless rest;
there milk and honey flow,
and oil and wine abound,
and trees of life forever grow,
with mercy crowned.
5. There dwells the Lord our King,
the Lord our Righteousness;
triumphant o’er the world and sin,
the Prince of Peace
on Zion’s sacred height
God’s kingdom still maintains,
and glorious with the saints in light
6. The whole triumphant host
give thanks to God on high;
“hail, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost”
they ever cry.
Hail Abraham’s God, and mine!
I join the heavenly lays;
all might and majesty are thine,
and endless praise.
TRIBUTE 1 Chris
TRIBUTE 2 Adrian
1 IMMORTAL honours rest on Jesus’ head;
My God, my Portion, and my Living Bread;
In him I live, upon him cast my care;
He saves from death, destruction, and despair.
2 He is my Refuge in each deep distress;
The Lord my strength & glorious righteousness;
Through floods and flames he leads me safely on,
And daily makes his sovereign goodness known.
3 My every need he richly will supply;
Nor will his mercy ever let me die;
In him there dwells a treasure all divine,
And matchless grace has made that treasure mine.
4 O that my soul could love and praise him more,
His beauties trace, his majesty adore;
Live near his heart, upon his bosom lean;
Obey his voice, and all his will esteem.
PRAYER – Pastor Geoff Thomas (Aberystwyth)
BIBLE READING – Trevor Thomas
Romans 8:18-39 (New King James Version; NKJV) From Suffering to Glory
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy
to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the
earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the
sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly,
but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation
itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious
liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation
groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only
that, but we also who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves
groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption
of our body. 24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen
is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25 But if we
hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.
26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know
what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession
for us[a] with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He
who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because
He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. 28
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love
God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom
He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His
Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover
whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He
also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. God’s Everlasting Love
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be
against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up
for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33
Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34
Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also
risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession
for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation,
or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or
sword? 36 As it is written:
“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”
37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him
who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor
angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to
come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able
to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
1. Come, let us join our friends above, who have obtained the prize,
And on the eagle wings of love to joys celestial rise.
Let saints on earth unite to sing with those to glory gone,
For all the servants of our King in earth and heaven are one.
2. One family we dwell in Him, one church above, beneath,
Though now divided by the stream, the narrow stream of death;
One army of the living God, to His command we bow;
Part of His host have crossed the flood, and part are crossing now.
3. Ten thousand to their endless home this solemn moment fly,
And we are to the margin come, and we expect to die.
His militant embodied host, with wishful looks we stand,
And long to see that happy coast, and reach the heavenly land.
4. Our old companions in distress we haste again to see,
And eager long for our release, and full felicity:
Even now by faith we join our hands with those that went before;
And greet the blood besprinkled bands on the eternal shore.
5. Our spirits too shall quickly join, like theirs with glory crowned,
And shout to see our Captain’s sign, to hear His trumpet sound.
O that we now might grasp our Guide! O that the word were given!
Come, Lord of Hosts, the waves divide, and land us all in Heaven.
MESSAGE – Paul Watts
1. I saw a new vision of Jesus,
A view I’d not seen here before,
Beholding in glory so wondrous
With beauty I had to adore.
I stood on the shores of my weakness,
And gazed at the brink of such fear;
‘Twas then that I saw Him in newness,
Regarding Him fair and so dear.
2. My Saviour will never forsake me,
Unveiling His merciful face,
His presence and promise almighty,
Redeeming His loved ones by grace.
In shades of the valley’s dark terror,
Where hell and its horror hold sway,
My Jesus will reach out in power,
And save me by His only way.
3. For yonder a light shines eternal,
Which spreads through the valley of gloom;
Lord Jesus, resplendent and regal,
Drives fear far away from the tomb.
Our God is the end of the journey,
His pleasant and glorious domain;
For there are the children of mercy,
Who praise Him for Calvary’s pain.
Maybe a couple more and then I’ll probably get back to the usual posts interspersed with things I’ve learned over the last year or so or a ‘kind of’ diary entry. Waking up today (Tuesday 8th December 2015) in many ways is far worse because I now have to think about life without Sue, and move on as they say. But I don’t want to ‘move on’. Although I’ve talked about ‘moving on’ I have no idea what that means without Sue. For now, I’ll walk through Sunday and the day of the Funeral – yesterday Monday 7th December 2015. The whole Service was recorded. And I think it was just such an amazing service. The church was pretty well full. The Gospel was clearly proclaimed. The singing was wonderful. Without a doubt, God was in that service! And to bless!
So on Sunday I stayed at home all day. I planned on going to the evening service but in the end just couldn’t face it. Instead I joined Robert and the folks at IBC in Sacramento for their morning service on-line. I seriously wondered how I would get through the Burial and the Service on Monday. I was dreading it. I even thought about not turning up. Monday came and I started the day by lying awake worrying if the burial would be in the right place and a number of other things I seemed to only just be thinking about. Didn’t people throw roses or something into the open grave? What an idiot – I just hadn’t thought it all through and now it was too late to do anything about it. I read my Bible and prayed. Then I got up.
It helped that the family were here. Ruth and Adrian were on their way with the kids. I was hoping my suit would fit. It was horrible not having Sue making sure I had dressed myself correctly. I came downstairs, saw myself in the mirror and just felt so sad that Sue wasn’t with me – we did everything together. Rhodri & Sybil also arrived and we gathered in the living room because I wanted us to pray before leaving. Chris and Adrian prayed. As we stood to leave, I said, ‘remember, as Sue would have said, her body is there, but she isn’t’. We then got in the cars and made our way to the cemetery.
One of the first things I noticed when we arrived at the cemetery was that Ruth came with a bunch of single Roses. Dear Ruth. I wasn’t sure how many would be at the burial. But I soon realised there were a lot more than I expected. All waiting for us to approach. Everything was in place. The grave was where I had hoped it would be (but worried about). I felt calm and at peace. Julie from the Funeral Directors briefly explained what would happen and directed us to the right spot – right in front of the grave with the coffin ready to be lowered. Everyone gathered round. Paul (Pastor Paul Watts) spoke beautifully, movingly and with much conviction. As Christians we can speak with conviction the truths of the Gospel even when death is quite literally right before our eyes.
My dear, dear, darling Sue’s body is now in the ground waiting for the resurrection at the final day, when Jesus will be revealed in all those that have believed and those that have rejected Him will call upon the very rocks to cover them from the face of the Lamb of God who will now be their Judge.
One of the things that stood out as testimony was the diversity of people that came to the burial or the service or both. People she had worked with from 30 years before, others from more recent times, friends and even girls from where she had her hair done. She touched a lot of people, all sorts of people, not all from the church either, but couldn’t see it in herself as you will hear.
I needn’t say too much about the funeral as the whole service was recorded (link above & below). But once we were all there and seated Paul began to lead the service. (Our Son Chris and Ruth’s husband Adrian gave tributes. Our friend Trevor Thomas read from the Scripture and Chris’s Pastor Geoff Thomas prayed.) The church was well-nigh full. Sue endeared herself to a lot of people. I don’t know what I thought throughout really. But the Gospel was faithfully preached and very clearly. We pray for fruit. There were a couple of times my emotions nearly got the better of me but I hung in there. Afterwards it was a case of trying to meet and thank as many people as possible. Sharon the lady that first spoke to Sue about Jesus was there with her husband and ‘naughty boy’ Paul. My Best Man Mike was there. It was lovely to see so many. By the end of the service I was shattered. So many people at our church (Lower Ford Street Baptist Church, Coventry) helped make the day happen. I am so thankful to God for all the people there that have prayed and helped and supported. ‘See how they love one another’.
The day(s) after is another story. Now what do I do?
Sue’s testimony to the Grace of God was mentioned in the service and copies were made available for people to takeaway. I’m pleased to say they all went. I remember Sue agonising over writing this, so concerned was she to get it right. Several times she asked me to read it and make sure everything was as it should be to Glorify her Saviour. It’s a powerful testimony to the SAVING power of the Gospel of the Grace of God. But not only that, it’s a powerful testimony to the KEEPING power of the Gospel of the Grace of God. He SAVES & KEEPS. I think as Christians we can so easily neglect the latter.
I grew up in a non-Christian home and although I never attended church, I did go to a Church of England school where I suppose I must have received some sort of religious instruction but as far as I am aware I did not hear the gospel. However I grew up never doubting the existence of God, and as I look back I can see that the process of coming to faith in Christ started all those years ago.
When I was eleven, the local vicar came into school seeking to drum up candidates to attend confirmation classes. My friend and I decided to go along. However I had never been baptised and as this was a requirement of attendance I had a problem. I desperately wanted to be confirmed and can remember being consumed with the need to be baptised. As a result I dragged my bewildered parents along to the village church to be ‘sprinkled’.
I did go on to be confirmed, and even took communion on a couple of occasions, but this early attempt at being a Christian was not to last and as I look back I can see all I had was ‘religion’, there had been no true work of grace in my heart.
Gradually the world, together with painful personal circumstances, began to take their toll. Over the next few years the cracks that had begun to appear in my parent’s marriage began to worsen and the effects of their constant warring and final separation profoundly affected my emotional state of mind.
Over the following years I continued to fall deeper into sin and to also bear the consequences of it. By 23 my parents had separated for good, and I was working. I think that it was at this time the Lord began in earnest his work of salvation in me, and I once again began to think about God and began to be concerned about the way I was living.
At the time I was working in a residential hostel for children with severe learning difficulties. One day when on duty with a colleague that I knew to be a Christian I had the desire to instigate some sort of conversation about God. In order to do so I can remember bringing up the weather and saying that ‘not even God can control the weather.’ My comment had the desired effect and from that day a door was opened never to be shut again. During the course of one of our many conversations I learnt that she was married to someone I had gone to primary school with. The lad in question had been a really naughty boy, always in trouble – a real ‘rum’un’ as they say. I found out that he too had become a Christian and this astonished me. How could someone like him change so radically?
Over the next few months Sharon gave me a booklet about the Ten Commandments, together with books by David Wilkerson (The Cross and the Switchblade) and Nicky Cruz (Run baby Run). These in particular were to have a profound effect on me, and for the first time I began to think about Jesus. I was reading how he was able to work in the hearts of seemingly hopeless cases and give them the power to live transformed lives. For the first time I had begun to consider my own relationship with Jesus, and to be truly concerned about my eternal soul. There was a growing realisation that because of my sins I actually deserved to go to hell and not to heaven as I had always assumed.
For many months I remained under conviction of sin and once again I (capital I) sought to reform my life. Over time though it became apparent that nothing had really changed, I was still unable to conquer my sin and the power to live a transformed life like the people I had been reading about was completely absent. As a result when faced with a situation that I should have walked away from, I did not, and it was to cause me to descend into such depths of despair that I believe if the Lord had not intervened, it would not have been long before, at best, I would have been committed into a mental institution, but more likely be dead. However the Lord knew what he was doing and he had His hand upon me; He knew that I needed to get to that desperate state before I would truly turn to Him.
This indeed was the turning point in my life. I knew God was saying ‘enough is enough’ and I needed to repent and turn to Him, but where did I start? Amongst the literature I had been given there was a small booklet or tract and at the back there was what I think would be called ‘the sinners prayer’ I can remember writing it out and praying it – that was the start.
As an aside-
Up until now when ever I have been asked, I have always said that I don’t know when I was converted, but that it happened over a period of about eighteen months under the ministry of Peter Jeffrey and Clive Gouldon. However there were several things that happened after I prayed that prayer that have always puzzled me and have caused me to ask if I wasn’t converted at this point, how come they happened?
I believe the things that I experienced over the following months cannot be explained in any other way than miraculous.
For instance I was a very heavy smoker, practically a chain smoker. I knew that smoking was wrong, so one night I threw away all my cigarettes together with a gold plated lighter and prayed that the Lord would help me to stop smoking. The next morning my prayer was answered, and for the first time in many years I did not want a cigarette. He had completely delivered me from all my cravings; they had totally been taken away – and other than a small relapse a year later, I have never smoked again. There was also a transformation in my emotional well being, the gnawing sense of insecurity that had always eaten away at me vanished and I felt a strength and a security I had never known before and there was real joy in my heart. I no longer sought security in other people and I was given the power to say no to things that previously had complete control over me.
I knew that I needed to go to a church, previously Sharon had taken me to a house group fellowship but I felt it wasn’t for me. I also tried going back to the village church but that didn’t seem right for me either. I then remembered Sharon had said that I should get a Bible and that I could get one at the Christian bookshop in Leamington. So one day I went along, and there I met the owner who some of you may know – David Arnold. I can’t remember anything of the conversation other than he must have asked me if I was a Christian. I can remember saying ‘yes but I know I don’t look like one’ and then promptly bursting into floods of tears. Poor David he was so kind.
At the time he and his family were travelling over to Rugby and attending Railway Terrace Church, he must have asked me if I would like to go as well. From then on I began to attend Railway Terrace regularly with them.
Although as I say many things changed, and my life was nowhere near what it had been, it was however not what it should have been. I had been given power to conquer many besetting sins, but after a while when temptation came I chose to cling to things that I should not have.
Therefore I think the conviction of sin and lack of assurance I felt when I heard the gospel preached at Railway Terrace, was because I was grieving the Lord in not walking wholly with Him. God wanted all of my life not just part of it. Consequently the joy that I had initially felt left me and the next 18 months were hard and unhappy times. Well the Lord did not give up on me and eventually over this time He dealt with the things that were grieving him and I at long last came to gain the assurance that my sins were forgiven.
As these dark days came to an end I was granted a token of great blessing by the Lord by way of going to live with David and Fi Arnold and their family. It was as if the Lord was saying to me ‘right I can trust you now’ and all the joy that I had experienced during those first remarkable days returned.
I have only even given my testimony once publicly and until now have never written the events down. Although I have found the process of doing so very difficult, the Lord has enabled me to finally get everything down and in so doing perhaps make sense of what happened. But when all is said and done all that really matters is that I know that I am His now and that my name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. And although He knew me before the foundation of the world, perhaps when I reach glory I might be permitted to see the date of entry when I was born again in time.
By nature I am an anxious worrier and the Lord knew that I would need something to hold me through further times of doubting. Although the process of coming to faith in Christ was an extremely painful one I am so thankful for it because over the years when I have been tempted to doubt my salvation I have been able to look back at the person I was before Christ met with me and know that that person would never have been capable of living the life that He through his grace has enabled me to live.
Over the past 27 or so years He has steadfastly kept me, He has graciously borne with my many faults and failings and has been my rock through times of trial and distress. There have been many times when my love for Him has grown dim but mercifully His love towards me has ever remained constant and over the years He has granted me many blessings, not least my dear husband Mike and our three wonderful children Christopher, Philip and Lydia.