‘To God Be The Glory”, the theme for The Celebration of Life Service for my dear husband, Jim, was underlined many times in his Bible and characterized how he lived. As I reflected on family, church members, guests, variety of music and solos, prayers, heartfelt sharing, and messages for some unknown reason, I recalled the depth, unique and colorful configurations of a Kaleidoscope. You remember, don’t you, of peering through a movable tube to the awesome variety of exotic colors and designs?
For those who could not attend, view the precious pictures and sounds of that marvelous celebration.
The first picture shows daughter, Kay Ward Baldwin at the piano, Son, David Ward at the sound board and son, Roger, the MC, on the platform. Grandson by marriage, Kurt, mans the camera and directs the livestreaming. I’m seated in my former, regular pew near the piano. To worship again in the beautiful auditorium of the former Temple Baptist Church, that Jim pastored and we all served from 1967-2001 kindles an emotional avalanche of precious memories.
The Baldwin Ensemble, with Kay accompanying, begins the program by playing several of Jim’s favorite hymns. Grandchildren: Douglas (violin) and Katy (clarinet); Greatgrands: Susan (flute) and Josie (violin)
Roger greets the congregation and the unseen viewers on line mentioning Jim’s and my sibs who could not be physically present--Jim’s sister, Mary Landrum, and his brother, Ken and Charlene, cousin/adopted brother, Don Judd and Martha; my sister, Jane Reed, brother, Mac McRoberts and Eileen and brother, David McRoberts and Joyce.
A slide show of pictures that granddaughter, Laura Baldwin Gordon chose and arranged is moving throughout the service. Roger shares with the congregation that each family will receive Jim’s Tribute booklet as they leave which granddaughter, Katy Baldwin DiVirgilius and compiled from family, church family and friends from all over the US.
Nephew, Jim Reed leads in prayer followed by two marvelous vocal numbers by our dear friend, Diane Susek. Niece, Leslie Jacobs, nephew Doug Albracht, Granddaughter, Kara Ward, Nephew John Reed share their memories about Uncle Jim/Grandpa Jim’s influence in their lives.
Following my brother, John McRoberts’ singing ‘The Love of God’, greetings are brought by David Waltz, retired Executive Director of PASJ Baptist Convention, our present pastor of Faith Fellowship, Dixie Ford and Connie Sohnleitner, President of the Optimist Club where Jim worked on community outreach for youth for many years and she shares, “Jim grilled thousands of hotdogs and rarely missed a meeting.”
Before Grandson, Douglas Baldwin, reads the scripture, he shares about yelling “Jim, ’rev’ it up” and the ensuing wild donut ride on an inner tube being pulled by the boat Grandpa Jim was driving.
Lynn Clayton, our seminary friend, delivers a heartfelt message from Romans 8. A few excerpts follow:
When Jim fled the bonds of this earth to be totally with his heavenly father whom he knew so well, Ruth asked if I would help with his memorial service. I knew immediately that I was incapable of saying anything that would remotely reflect Jim’s goodness and love of God, family, and church…. The words of those who have spoken have brought to mind for all of us countlessly wonderful memories of Jim. We could all come forward to match these great memories. Jim was a truly humble, unpretentious person. I never saw him seek the limelight. I never heard him blow his own horn. I never heard him brag on himself, only others and God. He loved everyone. He did not favor people of worldly status over others of lesser note. He told me once about some church member giving him a bad time. And then he would laugh about it and go on. Don’t we all wish we could do that, and did that? When Jim and Ruth felt led to come to York to serve an infant church, they didn’t just go to York, but stayed.
I think if Jim were here today, he would have that great smile beaming and he would be laughing and crying and loving and encouraging everyone here. He would say, “Forget about me. Love on each other and praise God.” The bottom line is, we don’t know much about what happens to us when we experience death. Here is what we do know for certain. For believers in Christ Jesus the same God that has been with us through all of life’s experiences is with us a’ we travel through death. Jesus has been to heaven and back and he is the way and he will be with us and guide us through.
The Wards are some of those people. Jim was and will remain one of those. I loved him and was always energized by the presence of the Holy Spirit that was in him whatever time I could spend with him. For us, temporarily Jim is away from us. He has made his journey to God’s side. But it is only temporarily. Marking time is an invention of humans. In God there is no time, and in heaven there is no time. What a timeless day that will be. Jesus and Jim meeting us at the gate. Thank God.
Jim’s pastor friend, Darnel Bowman, representing Thursday morning pastors’ prayer group prayed. Niece Beth Reed sang What a Friend We Have in Jesus. Roger closed the service with this comforting preface to the benediction. A few excerpts:
In the year since dad died, we have been planning this day. So, his death and death itself has been more toward the front of my thinking this year than at any other time in my memory. The reports of the COVID dead in Kentucky were a further and daily reminder. This litany of death reminded me of my loss but more, it placed the reality of loss and death of loved ones right in front of my face, like a Jewish phylactery on my forehead. Dad died early in the list of what would be the COVID dead, and although his cause was brain cancer, he still took that leading role. For me his death set off this long brutal time we have been through as a nation, as a people.
Jonathan Edwards preached on I Corinthians 13.8-10 titled ‘Heaven is a World of Love.’— “it is the place where the cause and fountain of love is God. The world is full of God’s love”, Edward says, “But charity remains in heaven. There the Spirit shall be poured forth in perfect love into every heart.”
Heaven is the place, the palace room, where God gathers all the objects of love now in their perfected state- the saints, and all those who lived holy lives. Christ’s love flows from heaven into the world, and the love in that place is always mutual between those gathered. It is never interrupted, there are no clogs, he says. I like that. No obstruction to the flowing of love. The ‘effects and fruits’ of this idea of heaven as a world of love leads us to excellent and perfect behavior as we look forward to our unification with the holy ones.
But here is the passage that really made me think of dad: [in heaven] are those objects upon which the saints have set their hearts and loved above all others while in this world. There they will find those things which appeared lovely to them while they dwelt on earth far beyond all they could see here, the things which captivated their souls, and drew them away from the most dear and pleasant of earthly objects. There they find those things which were their delight, upon which they used often to meditate, and with the sweet contemplation of which they used to entertain their minds
I have not experienced deep sadness at dad’s death, I think, primarily because I am pretty certain he is with the things he loved, those he loved in the spirit of Christ, the church. Many of those things are in this very room – they are you. The church spread out in time from our perspective is loved by God and by dad, and as a worker of that love, dad is there in God’s love joined with it. So, in light of heaven as a world of love we have tranquility in the midst of sorrow and struggle. And we know that those who love God in life will be united with him; God gathers them up as objects of love, and everything that we love with a holy love on earth will also be there. It is our chosen country. Dad is in a world of love, his chosen country. That gives me great joy and comfort, and I hope it gives you joy too.
I’m confident Jim was smiling, thankful to know his life and ministry glorified God. All that has been shared about Jim is accurate. After a year, I still sorely miss him every minute. If you have access to the Internet, these links will connect you to the service, slideshow and tribute booklet. https://youtu.be/kURRLwMn0oA https://tehkurt.com/slideshow https://tehkurt.com/tributebook