Personal Testimony

I was recently asked to write a personal testimony. This is what I wrote:

I was born just two years after my parents became Christians. They had both been raised around the church, but they did not know the grace of Christ until they were recovering from a time of great personal turmoil. One night after they had become engaged, my hippie aunt shared the gospel with them, and they began to follow Jesus. They immediately became members of my aunt’s OPC church, where they were married a few months later.

I was born into and baptized at that same church, where we were members until I was about 13. Along the way, my dad became a deacon and then an elder. He has continued to serve as an elder in OPC and PCA churches ever since.

By God’s grace, I am a child of the covenant: I don’t remember a time when I didn’t believe Jesus was my Savior. I used to think my testimony was boring, but now I am thankful that I never went through the kinds of grief and pain that make for an “exciting” testimony.

Anyone who walks with Christ over time will be taught the depths of their sin and reminded of their need for Jesus, and I am no exception. He has humbled, corrected, and encouraged me innumerable times. I have seen his faithfulness, and even though I am unfaithful, I love him and will follow him through death and into the life to come.


Funeral Sermon — Hubert Gene Douglas (1923 – 2015)

The day after my Grandad died, my parents asked me to lead the graveside and funeral services. I said yes, but they asked, “Are you sure?” They knew it would be difficult as I was very close to my Grandad. I told them I would, and I had three reasons in my mind for wanting to do it even though I knew it would be one of the hardest things I have ever done.

1) What’s the point of having a pastor in the family if he “can’t do it” when he is most needed?

2) What better tribute could I give my Grandad than doing something difficult in his honor? After all, it was from him that we all had learned how to do hard things.

3) What would better ensure that these would be gospel-filled services than for the gospel minister to lead them?

This is the sermon I preached at the memorial service. I wanted it to be simple, accessible, honest, and honoring to Grandad but Christ-centered.

Today is one of those days we hoped would never come. I know I’ve been dreading it for years and years. But we knew it was coming; death is even more inevitable than taxes. Yet somehow it always felt like it might never come, didn’t it? How can something be such a surprise and not a surprise, all at once? And yet that’s how I feel today.

Grandad was huge, larger than life; there will never be another like him. He was not even close to a perfect man — no one in this room or anywhere is going to nominate him for sainthood. But he loved us, and we never doubted that.

I think this is one of those times in life to pause and think about our own life and death. Someone once told me: “never waste a wedding” — use each wedding as an opportunity to think about your own love and vows. I think there should be a similar saying about funerals (if there isn’t one already): use each funeral as an opportunity to think about our own lives and deaths.

Grandad’s passing has made me think about that, and I’ve kept coming back to one very strange thing Jesus said in John 11.25: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live…”

Those are really bold words! How would you react if someone stopped you tomorrow and said that to you? In John 11, Jesus’s close friend Lazarus had died & was buried. Those words were what Jesus said after hearing about Lazarus’s death. “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live…”

This of course raises one very obvious question: Can he actually do it? I mean, that’s a pretty bold claim. Anyone can say it, but could he actually back it up? Then Jesus raised Lazarus to prove he can do it. And then Jesus was himself raised to prove once for all that he is more powerful even than death.

Maybe you think: Yeah, that’s the kind of story that happens in the Bible, but it doesn’t happen in real life. I’ve never seen it.

But that’s just it: I believe God gives us all glimpses of his resurrection power in our own lives too. Have you ever experienced a time when you were torn down, it felt like completely to the ground? But then when you look back on it, you realize it was good for you. You realize, you weren’t being torn down, you were being built up! Maybe you even reach the point where you say something like this: “I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

In the Bible, those kinds of circumstances are always times when God is demonstrating his resurrection power. For example, Joseph: after all he went through, he said, “What you meant for evil, God meant for good (Gen 50.20).” The greatest example of this was the cross: how could this terrible event of a human being leveled to the ground also be the moment in which God saves the world?

But that’s always how God works. He takes the worst things, what this broken world means for evil, and uses them for our good. Jesus is a redeemer of people, places, and circumstances. And his promise is that if we follow him in faith today, then he will be with us through death to resurrection also.

That was Grandad’s hope; that’s what he said the night he died. And it’s ours too. Let me finish by reading from Psalm 30. Listen to how it describes the shape of life:

I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up
and have not let my foes rejoice over me.
O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me.
O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol;
you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.
Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints,
and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment,
and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may last for the night,
but joy comes in the morning…
You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to your forever!

Memorial Service — Hubert Gene Douglas (1923 – 2015)

This was the order of my Grandad’s memorial service, as written by my dad & uncle Stanley:

Prelude [a medley of Grandad’s favorite songs]: Allan Douglas

Welcome and Video Presentation: Stanley Douglas

Opening Prayer: Rev. Brian Douglas, Assoc. Pastor, All Saints Pres. Church, Boise ID

Our God, who has helped us many times in the past, help us again today. Be with us as we both grieve our loss and celebrate the life of one of your children, our own father, grandfather, great-grandfather, hero, and friend. Please encourage our hearts today and draw us together in the name of Jesus, our resurrected Savior. Amen.

Hymn: It is Well with My Soul

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Refrain: It is well with my soul;
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And has shed his own blood for my soul.

My sin–O the bliss of this glorious thought!–
My sin, not in part, but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more;
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

O Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll,
The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend;
“Even so”–it is well with my soul.

Message: Rev. Brian Douglas

Life Reflections: Gene Douglas, Stanley Douglas, Dan Mason, Others

Hymn: Great is Thy Faithfulness

Great is thy faithfulness, O God my father,
There is no shadow of turning with thee;
Thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not;
As thou hast been thou for ever wilt be.

Refrain: “Great is thy faithfulness! Great is they faithfulness!”
Morning by morning new mercies I see:
All I have needed thy hand hath provided–
“Great is thy faithfulness,” Lord unto me!

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.

Closing Prayer: Rev. Brian Douglas

Jesus our Savior, comfort us today we pray, as we grieve our loss and celebrate the life of Hubert Gene Douglas. We praise you for your faithfulness, which is more powerful even than the grave. Be with us as we go from here—fill us with memories of our Dad & Grandad. Give us encouragement, peace, and joy even as we mourn. And renew our confidence in your love for us. Amen.

Postlude [again a medley of several of Grandad’s favorite songs]: Allan Douglas

Graveside Service — Hubert Gene Douglas (1923 – 2015)

The graveside & memorial services for my Grandad were on April 25, one week after his death. My dad & uncle wrote the order for the memorial service, but it was left to me to prepare the graveside service. I believe in keeping the graveside simple and open. This is what we did:

I opened in prayer.

I read Ecclesiastes 3.1,2,4 — one of Grammy’s favorite passages.

We are here to remember, honor, mourn, and rejoice. If you are like me right now, you’re doing all those things at once. That’s hard, but it’s good, and it’s what this time is for. So let’s remember, honor, mourn, and rejoice together today.

Open time for anyone to speak memories, reflections, and verses of comfort — I had prepared several verses on slips of paper and given them to some people in the crowd to read throughout this section: Ps 34.18; Ps 46.1; Ps 61.1-2; Matt 5.4; 2 Cor 1.3-4; 1 Thess 4.14.

After everyone had spoken, I read Psalm 25, then closed in prayer.

Two airmen, present on behalf of the Air Force, folded the flag, played taps, and offered their condolences.

My uncle Stanley had asked if we could finish by singing a song together, something Grandad liked that seemed appropriate. I chose this one. My dad & uncle agreed that it was a perfect choice. We printed it on slips of paper and everyone sung it together:

That Lucky Old Sun

Up in the morning, out on a job,
Work like the devil for my pay.
But that lucky old sun got nothing to do,
But roll around heaven all day.

Fuss with my woman, toil for my kids,
Work till I’m wrinkled and gray.
While that lucky old sun’s got nothing to do,
But roll around heaven all day.

Good Lord up above, can’t you hear my crying?
Tears all in my eyes.
Send in a cloud with your silvery lining,
Lift me to paradise.

Oh, show me that river, take me across,
Wash all my troubles away.
Like that lucky old sun, give me nothing to do,
But roll around heaven all day.

After that, he was lowered down, and we threw flowers into the grave. We began to slowly disperse, but some joined me in lingering until the end. The groundskeepers cleaned up the service; the bulldozer came, and with a single bucket of dirt, he was buried, like a seed in the ground awaiting the day of resurrection.

Obituary of Hubert Gene Douglas (1923 – 2015)

My grandfather passed away on April 18, which has led to a whirlwind of grief, traveling to Florida to officiate at his funeral, and other repercussions from which my family is still reeling. It’s been a difficult couple weeks for me personally, but much more so for my parents. Pray for us as you think of it.

The official obituary from his funeral is below. I will post a few other related things in the coming days. RIP, Grandad.

 Hubert Gene Douglas
February 27, 1923 – April 18, 2015

Hubert Gene Douglas was born in Charleston, West Virginia, and moved with his family (which ultimately included 12 siblings) to Ohio. He was enthusiastic about life and its experiences, learning how to drive before he turned 10 and how to fly an airplane at age 13, and he was independent, living essentially on his own from his early teen years.

He was strong and tenacious in meeting life’s struggles and overcoming its obstacles. In WW2, he was a B-25 pilot who suffered near-fatal injuries and was hospitalized for eleven months. His service injuries left him in almost daily pain for the rest of his life, but he didn’t often mention it.

After the war, he married Virginia Jane Barker and began raising his family, Hubert Gene Douglas II, Stanley Clayton Douglas, and Alice Renee Douglas Mason. In 1964, they moved from Charleston, West Virginia, to Wilton Manors, Florida.

He was a caring husband to his wife for over 54 years and was a loving father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. With a great sense of humor and many stories, he was always larger than life to his family.

He was a hard worker, serving a full career as a union carpenter and builder in West Virginia and South Florida. He was giving, quietly serving and helping those in need so many times, providing an example to his family and friends while making a positive impact on the lives of so many.

He showed by example how to work hard and taught his family and friends that even very strong, yet imperfect men should love tenderly. He lived 92 full years, and there will never be another like him. He will be missed.

Mr. Douglas is survived by his 2 sons, Gene (and wife, Daneen) and Stanley (and wife, Jackie), 17 grandchildren, and 13 great-grandchildren. He is preceeded in death by his wife, Virginia, and daughter, Alice Renee.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in his name to “Operation Heal Our Patriots” at Samaritan’s Purse, P.O. Box 3000, Boone, NC 28607 or, noting the family’s name and address (2909 NW 10 Ave, Wilton Manors, FL 33311).

4 years ago today…

Happy birthday to my beloved daughter & miracle girl, Elinor Joie!

What an immeasurable blessing our Nora has been to us. Spirited, energetic, joyful, loving, and compassionate. She loves adventure, surprises, singing & dancing, and caring for her people. Since she was tiny, I’ve called her “The Bear” because of both her fierce & fiery nature and her gentle side. We have shared more love and adventures in her short life than I could recount.

Elinor, I’ll love you to the day I die.

The Bear at the zoo