Friday 27 June 2008


With Christ
12 December 2005

"We have all, no doubt, been moved to various contemplations over the past months of Liz’s illness. In my case I have the custom of writing verse, and what is below is what I have put into verse in that period. As I would be glad to see the fruit of others’ thought I have set my own out, trusting that there will be comfort in them. Some explanations may help. Although it has come from various sources I have put it more or less in the order in which it was written. The period of Liz’s illness overlapped with the year from my fiftieth birthday onwards, and when I was urged to count my blessings I started writing one 'haiku' each day showing a blessing. The way in which Liz impinged on that counting comes through below. I was not to know that the only day on which the best I could do was to ask was precisely one year before the day on which, if the Lord will, Liz will be buried. But the year has given answers to the question. I have also engaged in an endless setting out of random thoughts in what may be verse, but is not poetry, “To Gislebertus”. This is in sprung rhythm, with four beats per line. One piece is an extract from other thoughts about Paul. I cannot really recall to what extent Liz was consciously in my mind in this writing. Then there are the distinct pieces of verse written in thinking of Liz. It is important that from what we have experienced there should be fruit to God. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all."

Written to the family in December 2005, following the home-going of my sister-in-law, Elizabeth, aged 41

Lord, what is to be
The blessing to come specially
From today’s sorrows?

God is in control
Measuring both the blessings
And the sufferings.

Grief is a blessing
When in it God touches me
In His own sweet way.

Words fail, poetry fails,
Art fails, Christ remains.
Grace suffices. All, all is well.

If it were my personal cancer I could (27/12/04)
Address it in sonnets, converse with it
Even thank God for it. (The facts may
Test that.) But how have I a right to
Accept Liz’s suffering? Yet I have
No more right not to accept it -
For Liz, Mark, the family, for Rosie
This circumstance is best, for it is God’s.(29/12/04)
I have developed a horrifying metaphor -
Gestation. As in the ways of God a bundle
Of cells, formed as perfectly as sin allows,
Made Ingrid, so a bundle of cells
Replicated within Liz’s skull to form
Her tumour. God’s hand was with each;
As by a strange collusion of physical forces
The Aceh epicentre developed. All time
Is the gestation of eternity; all time past
The gestation of the present. Time present
Is, under God’s hand, the birth from the past.(30/12/04)
But Liz’s tranche of cells is unbearable.
Yet we go on in hope, encouraged by
The new generation. Ingrid Ellis
Has spent all of her existence in 2004;
But its griefs have not grieved her - and she
Is centre of joy. And over all things
The bow is in the cloud; underneath are
The everlasting arms; around us a wall of salvation.(31/12/04)
It’s nearly the end of January now, Gislebertus,
And I haven’t written. What has occupied my mind
Has ranged from the tragic to the trivial, the blessings
And the irritations. Even as we think of Liz the reactions
Change. The invasive force within her head
Pervades more consistently. The assurance of
Future well-being is sometimes fogged by
The present. The bitterness of today’s medicine
Drives the health it is for from thought.
All will be well, said the saint, and all will
Be well. The test to the spirit is to know (29/01/05)
Consciously that all, all is well - that this
Is the best circumstance which divine love,
And wisdom, can provide. (That’s a little easier
Since I’ve just been handed a free brandy
In the Buckhurst Hill Italian restaurant! Is that
Today’s blessing?) But it is easier to accept (22/02/05)
With illness, which is clearly God’s hand,
Than when pressure results from my own error -
Only as I have done what is amiss
By mistake, it points up the excellence of the Man
Who did nothing amiss, even by accident.

If your way is fresh and bright,
If your way is dank and strange,
If you move from gloom to light
His compassions never change.

Though the way ahead seems dark,
Though the foe seems to prevail,
Or you’re buoyant as a lark
His compassions never fail.

When oppressions press the brain,
When you need a heavenly Friend,
When your heart is full of pain
His compassions never end.

I told Alan that the work of God
Would not be complete in him without
Liz’s illness. For we are in the hands
Of such a skilled Sculptor - One who
Uses each stroke with such efficiency
That not one but a multitude
Of carvings are formed, little by little.
For some, close, a deep cut opens
A shadow; for others there is a shading;(26/03/05)
And for others a groove, subtly greying. (27/03/05)
One stroke serves for all in God’s deft hands.(08/04/05)
How does a man treat his dog? Cruelly,
It would sometimes seem, subjecting him
To needles or commands, training its will,
Holding it by a leash where its nature would bolt,
Holding it by a leash where its legs would revolt,
Opening its body with surgery, if needed;
By this harshness he attains for his will
A workdog, or lapdog, or even a companion.
But however little the dog may understand
His benefit lies in the power of a greater mind.
May we have the dog-like trust as Liz
Tholes what the power of a Greater Mind (08/04/05)
Doles her! Thus He trains each one of us
That more in this time He may have
Companionship. And for the future to have
Eternity with us at His feet, companionable
As well as worshipful.
And it is not all harshness
Even now. For the dog’s master caresses,
Fondles, speaks encouragement, and becomes
All that the puppy growing to maturity needs.
He provides it with food, warmth - and company
Long before it is truly amenable to him.
And what a Master is ours! He rescued us
From destruction, purchased us, and now
The caresses of His love! The fondlings
Of His fondness - the words of ineffable grace!
May I be helped to be trained in the enjoyment
Of my Master’s will and company.

As the subject of
God’s work, gold to the smith,
Liz is a blessing.

As the instrument
Of God’s working in others
Liz is a blessing.


As the reason for
Many turning to God in prayer
Liz is a blessing.

Liz is a blessing
As one who has supported
Christ’s testimony.

(from PAUL)


Winds lamming the sapling,
Hail like slingshot,
The frost imposing its grasp on the soil,
Survivors flourish;
Tribulation works endurance.
Roots strengthened, trunk resilient,
The tree grows, drinking
Sun, air and water,
Fresh weathers and seasons;
Endurance works experience.
Greenness fringes the tree,
Blossoms pink or white out,
Life fruits and seeds;
Experience works hope.


The potter wrought a work upon the wheel,
Forming the clay according to his will,
And every perfect curve served to reveal
The consummateness of the potter’s skill.
Fingers made lumpishness attain a form
As thought and eye gave guidance to his hand –
How touch and pressure caused it to conform
The bystander could barely understand.
Sometimes, perhaps, his fingers seem to press,
Narrowing the vessel as he has conceived;
Sometimes, perhaps, his hands seem to caress
Until a broader form has been achieved:
Thus we trust God who holds Liz day by day
Because we know His hand is masterly.


Using our human faculties we wrestle
With thought of Liz and death’s impending fact –
But God asserts this is His earthen vessel,
On which He has a sovereign right to act.
In every day and hour He works His pleasure
With love and skilfulness that are divine,
Since in this earthen vessel is a treasure
Which, when the days of sorrow cease, will shine.
But even in the days of preparation
He has an answer to His sovereignty:
A vessel which is held in separation;
A vessel which is held in sanctity.
And in the eternal setting we’ll behold
A vessel far more valuable than gold.


The vessels fit for use that he could bring
Into the treasures of the house of God.
Were cast in Jordan’s clayground by the king
– Near where the priests who bore the ark once trod.
Thus all God’s people have this origin
Under the hand of Jesus in the place
Where He died – in His raised life they begin
Their risen life under the power of grace.
Thus we can think of Liz, who had the start
Of her enduring vessel at that source;
And of the vessel where she has her part
With saints in light beyond that watercourse.
And she will be forever at Christ’s side
Perfectly merged in His celestial bride.


The Lord is full of
Compassion, the Lord is good,
And the Lord is near.

For a while soft sun
Lightens the weeping willow
In Rashwood garden.

As one of my hands
Held Rosie’s live hand, and one
Liz’s dying hand
The Shepherd’s hand embraced us
And the Father’s hand clasped us.

The greatest wonder
In the world is the work of God
In the Christian soul.

As we droop round her
Our Sleeping Elizabeth
Waits for Prince Charming.



Dear Ingrid, you will never know
Your dear old Auntie Liz,
You’ll have no chance for her to show
Her sparkle and her fizz.

You’ll see her figure and her form
Fixed in a photograph
But you will never hear her warm
Reverberating laugh.

You will not have the chance to share
The days when she is glad;
Nor need to join with us in prayer
In days when she is sad.

You will not laugh along with her
At her own quaint behaviour;
His grace has taken her to where
She’s with her Lord and Saviour.

The One who promised He would keep
Her safe from fears and harms
Has gently nestled her to sleep
Within His tender arms.

Dear Ingrid, in this world of sin
To travel without scathe
Trust in the Lord she trusted in
And imitate her faith.


  1. oh wow! Sir, this is absolutely awesome and so beautiful! Wow. God indeed is a good God.
    I'm speechless. I pray that our time spent on earth is as beautiful and useful vessesl, used constantly to present God's goodness to the world! This indeed is awesome.

    Thank you so much for sharing this. Its emotional, beautiful, but at the same time - absolutely peaceful.

    God bless you. I pray you are doing good. I love your magazine too. Is there a way to subscribe to it?

  2. Remi, Thank you for your kind remarks.

    If you let me know a postal address for you I will arrange for the magazine to be sent.

    Grace be with you,


  3. Wow, indeed, this is such an emotional and beautifully drafted piece of poetry. Trusting that all is well with you and your beloved family. Blessings Nicky

    1. Many thanks; and in many way all is well with us, but we do need prayers!


I'm glad to hear how this strikes you!