Bereavement

My book is helping people...

When Norman Christie lost his wife Doreen after 52 years of marriage he picked up his iPad to write poetry that is now giving hope to others.

Norman and Doreen Christie had been married for 52 years when Doreen suffered a fatal brain haemorrhage on holiday in Spain.

Her sudden passing in 2016 set Norman on a journey of bereavement, heartbreak and deep encounter with God. All of which he has shared in a new book – A Life Lived With Love – that is helping others who are coping with loss.

After five decades of marriage to ‘the girl of my dreams’ and parenting their four children together, Norman found his sudden bereavement devastatingly painful.

“I was heartbroken and desperately lonely. I was in great pain,” he says.

In these dark times, Norman, who lives in Northern Ireland and has pastored several Elim churches, felt God prompt him to celebrate Doreen and express his grief through writing poetry, despite never having done so before.

So he set to work, expressing his loss, his fears and his walk with God through bereavement. “I was afraid of how I was going to cope without my business-like wife, but suddenly there I was writing poetry for the first time in my life on an iPad.”

His first poem, ‘Gone’, was written a fortnight after Doreen’s passing.

“As I wrote I was getting inward pain out,” Norman says.

Another, ‘The Visitor’ describes an encounter with God in church.

“I was worshipping at the front of the church at a communion service one Sunday. I became aware of someone standing in front of me, but there was no one there.

I realised it was the Lord. “I felt two hands being placed gently over mine. I’d never ask God why he had taken Doreen, but in his grace, he told me. He said, ‘I take the best for my purposes.’”

Norman says prayer was essential as he wrote.

“As I prayed and told the Lord how I felt, I had an overwhelming sense of his presence and love which helped me overcome fear.”

Norman penned more than 20 poems which were included in his book. He is thrilled at how they are now helping others journey through loss.

“These poems have turned out to be a blessing and have brought comfort to people,” he says.

Among his readers is Her Majesty the Queen, to whom Norman sent a copy of his book after the death of Prince Philip, receiving a personal note of thanks from Windsor Palace in return.

He hopes the book will now help those experiencing loss at such a poignant time.

Surprisingly, Norman says his writing continues to minister to him too.

“A pastor said to me that when God takes something away he gives us a part of himself, and I have found that to be the case. A whole new field of ministry has opened up to me.

“John Bunyan once said, ‘In times of extremity one commonly meets with the sweetest experience of the love of God.’

That was true for me. He was there all the time.”

Book two in the pipeline

No sooner had Norman published his first book in March, he began to write his second.

‘Born to Live the Story’, which is available this month, tells the story of Norman’s life and faith, and shows God at work powerfully from the outset.

His story gets off to a dramatic start, with a bomb in Belfast during the 1941 Blitz nearly killing him at just six months of age.

“I went into shock and stopped breathing,” Norman says.

“My mother screamed, ‘He’s dead!’ as I turned blue, but my father prayed for me and the Lord restored me.”

Then, throughout his school and teenage years and the 18 years spent working at a BP oil refinery in Belfast, Norman had the chance to share his faith, teaching in his church’s Sunday school and once praying for a colleague to be freed from demon possession.

When the refinery closed unexpectedly, redundancy might have seemed disastrous for Norman as a husband and father of four maturing children, but he says it was an answer to prayer and an opportunity to become an Elim minister.

“It gave me the chance to do something I always wanted to do and serve the Lord full-time,” he says of his move to lead the six-strong congregation of Randalstown Elim in 1982.

He tells of God’s generous provision at this time.

“I arrived at Randalstown with my family of six and my faith was tried, especially financially. At one stage I developed an overdraft of £4,000 and the bank manager sent for me, but thanks to God I received a cheque which cleared the debt.”

After a spell at South Belfast Elim, Norman moved to Lisburn City Elim Church in 1993 and the church connected well with the local area.

“We reached out to the community, involving people of all ages, and saw many come to Christ,” he says.

Here again, Norman saw God’s miraculous provision, not least during a much-needed £1.2m renovation project run during a recession.

Having navigated the challenges of planning permission and doubling the size of the building, the church found itself in financial difficulty.

“The bank had agreed to give us the mortgage we needed but when it came to paying the first instalment we didn’t have the money. It had been spent renovating and opening the building.”

With just a couple of weeks to raise the necessary thousands, we called on God for help and he sent a friend to join the church who hadn’t tithed for six months. His tithes covered our mortgage payments and salaries!”

Norman retired from Lisburn Elim in 2011 and today helps pastor churches of various denominations in Northern Ireland through his preaching and teaching.

The Visitor

He came to me from heaven above,
His hands as gentle as a glove,
Amazed to feel his tender care,
My deepest thoughts before him bare.

How strange that he should visit me,
This Lovely One I could not see!
Yet in his house, strong his presence,
Concern and love, his very essence.

His promised presence he did keep,
To worship him I would seek.
Meeting him in this startling way,
Became a comfort and a stay.

To receive his thought, “I took the best”,
Blessed my soul, imparting rest.
Parting from Mum was such a trial,
In the cross-content, with self-denial.

 

Copies of Norman's book A Life Lived With Love are available from Amazon here.

This article first appeared in the November 2021 issue of Direction, Elim’s monthly magazine. Subscribe now to get Direction delivered directly to your home.

 

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