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Talk from my dad’s funeral

A bit of a different topic for the post today, but as several people have asked here is the text of the talk I gave at my dad’s funeral last week. If you prefer, you can find the audio of the talk on the page with other audio recordings from the funeral.


Looking through some photos of my dad Charles as a child, many people have said how similar we looked. I guess we say “A chip off the old block”. In some respects this is true – we were both interested in computers and work in IT, we both love to travel. In other respects we were very different – I have never liked wine and for the past 8 years we’ve not had any car – I’m not sure those things were ever true of Charles! However in the area that was most precious to my dad – that of following and loving Jesus – he raised all of his children to follow his good example. So, I wanted to share a few words about what my dad taught me about Jesus, and in particular the hope that it gave him as he lived and as he was dying.


I remember my first experience of death. I must have been about 4 or 5 and our family had been given a friends’ pet gerbil to look after while they went on holiday. As my mother Joyce didn’t really like animals this was the first pet we had ever had in the house, and as it turns out, also the last! The first morning I went downstairs to look through the cage bars at it, but I found it on its’ back not moving. I went and asked my mum and she said it had died. I remember we made a small marker and buried it in the back garden – I don’t know what my parents said to our friends when they got home though!

I didn’t really understand death, but I started to be both fascinated and frightened by the idea. Shortly after this incident Charles had his wisdom teeth come through. I remember him lying in bed for a few days in pain and asking my mum “Is daddy dying?” and being scared and fearful of this.


A few years later when I was about 8 years old my great grandfather died. I remember beforehand having nightmares about him dying and was very scared. On several occasions I ran downstairs crying to my dad. He couldn’t explain much, and certainly couldn’t comfort me that my great-granddad would not die or that I would not die, but he read these words of Jesus to me from the gospel of John (14:1)

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. … 6 I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”

As he read those words and prayed for me to know this comfort, I felt the peace of the Holy Spirit come on me even though I couldn’t have described it like this at the time.


For several weeks before Charles died we feared this would happen, and again, following my dads’ example I turned to the Bible for comfort, reassurance and guidance, and thinking about how Charles would understand these verses. Paul writes to the Corinthians:

1 Cor 15:20 … Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.

In the story told by the Bible, God created humans in a world without death, without pain, without sorrow and with the presence and glory of God in every area of it. But because of our natural inclination to disobedience and sin; decay and death – both physical and spiritual – came into the world. This is the first creation, perfected by God but ruined by humans, symbolized and summarized in this passage by our forefather Adam.

But God could not bare to see his good creation continually be ruined by people and sought out people who wanted to follow Him – not those who thought they were perfect, but ordinary fallen people like you and me and Charles, through whom He could display His Glory and Grace. Throughout thousands of years through the people of Israel he showed that no-one could achieve this on their own merit but rather everyone was in need of a saviour. And throughout this time he promised that one day a new creation, a new beginning, a new dawn would be ushered in by the True King of the world. And in time Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man came into the world and redeemed humanity dying, rising from the dead and ascending into heaven. Just as decay and death entered the world through our forefather Adam, so true renewal and life for all who wish entered through Jesus.

Paul says here that Jesus was the first example of new creation – one day God will finally return to recreate and restore this beautiful artwork of a world to its intended state. Charles didn’t believe that we would all sit in heaven strumming harps, he had a sure and certain knowledge that at the end of time God would return and usher in the new creation with no more pollution, no more ill health, no more grief or pain and no more death.


24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

As Jesus died on the cross he dealt the death blow to Satan and evil by turning their own weapons against them. Satan and evil are still in the world until the new creation, however they know are defeated and their time is limited. Their end will soon come.

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” 36 How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body.

Here Paul explains what the resurrection will be like, and why physical death is necessary. It’s like the difference between an apple pip and an apple tree. No-one looks at an apple pip and says “if I plant this I’ll get a giant apple pip” they say “if I plant an apple pip I’ll get an apple tree which will make lovely apples”. An apple tree, an apple pip and an apple itself all have the same essence – they are all the same thing – but how they look is totally different from each other. And Paul continues:

42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.

How can someone come to this more amazing form if they have not been planted, if they have not died and been buried? Charles understood that physical death is a necessary passage – like planting a grain of wheat, an apple pip or some other seed; or perhaps like a caterpillar going into a cocoon and then emerging from the chrysalis as a butterfly leaving behind its shell to rot and decay as it has no more need of it.

In the resurrection Charles will be the same essence of how we knew him in his life but a more perfected and glorious form. In Charles’ final days when he was unable to say more than a few words at a time, unable to move from his hospital bed we were so upset and sad because we remembered a Charles at the peak of his life. But in the resurrection, even the Charles we knew at the peak of his life will seem like this compared to the awesome, amazing, completed, glorified and purified Charles that we shall see then. As my brother read earlier

50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

One day the end will come, one day the new creation will come, one day death will be rendered dead and Jesus will be shown to be victorious, the true King over all creation. Today as believers in Jesus we can look forward at that time and spit in the face of death – yes it hurts now, but this is part of a greater process of renewal of this world and of defeat of evil. Charles realised this – he wasn’t afraid of death – saddened by the thought but not worried or scared by it because he knew it is a necessary step in the great picture of God’s plan for the universe. He knew that death was not a permanent fixture here.

58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

This is what Charles believed in, standing firm, letting nothing move him he gave himself fully to the work of the Lord because he know that this was the one thing that lasts. This didn’t mean he shied away from things of the world – work, enjoyment, relationships – but rather in all that he did wether it was starting his own company and looking after and mentoring his employees, enjoying a good game of Cricket or hosting people at his house and cooking for them; he did this with the aim of pleasing God and as a labour of love to Jesus, living life to the full with Him.

He did not fear death, knowing as he read to me all those years ago that Jesus had said:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

Charles is in this place now, resting from his labours and enjoying the presence of his king and redeemer, Jesus. And one day all who follow Jesus will meet him in the new creation, with a renewed body, and realise that what we saw in this life was but a shadow of the true Charles, and get to enjoy an eternity together with him. We come today to celebrate his life, to say goodbye to this pip, this chrysalis of a body in the ground, and to assure each other that one day we will see him again in the fullness of life in the glorious new creation.

The Potter and the Clay

Ruth’s china decorating class recently had an exhibition in of the town’s local council buildings as a part of the end of term celebrations. Ruth’s course began last September, but many women have been attending for a couple of years. Because Ruth only joined the course a few months back (yes, she snook in despite usually having to wait till September for the new intake!), none of her work was exhibited (she has only been doing practice work to try out the skills needed). However, it was very exciting to see the quality of work that her coursemates are now able to produce. Hopefully one day she will also reach that level… we’ll see…

You can see some examples of the class’s work by clicking on the photo below.

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Hidden Gems of Istanbul

We’ve been enjoying the sunshine and getting around to some of Istanbul’s lesser known (to us) sights. Our latest trip took us to Rustem Pasa Mosque and to the Eyup shrine, both breathtaking and intriguing in their own way. You can find pictures from our trip by clicking the photo below.

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The Rustem Pasa mosque was a jewel in the crown of Mimar Sinan (Sinan the Architect) whose work includes some of Istanbul’s finest historic sights. This tiny mosque is nestled on top of a higgledy piggledy assortment of bazaar-like shops, and, slipping a veil over my head as we entered through a shadowy archway and up some spiralled stairs, it seemed that we could be going back to Sinan’s time. The meydan (courtyard) is small but prettily arranged with plants and some tiled walls that, although stunning in themselves, are actually an aperitif to the stunning mosque interior. Slipping off shoes and entering into the mosque, it feels as though one is entering an Aladdin’s cave; a true diamond in the rough exterior of Istanbul’s bazar district. Every inch of wall was covered in exquisite tiles, and the height of the domed ceiling added a grandeur wholly unexpected in a place so small. Although we couldn’t stay long, I felt as though we should have stayed for hours just soaking in the beauty and paying tribute to the workmanship that had so lovingly crafted this jem-like place. Here are photos of the china tiles from Rustem Pasa Mosque, Eyup and Pierre Loti; click on the photo below to view the album.

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From there we took the halic (Golden Horn) boat to Eyup. The boat journey itself presented a chance to admire Istanbul from a new vantage point, and although the Golden Horn is notoriously more industrial than the Bosphorus, it still has some sights along the way to redeem itself and give interest to the eye.

Eyup is a pretty, leafy little town that gives the illusion of spaciousness despite hugging the base of a clifflike cemetery. The place has a great importance for more religious Turks as it has a shrine to Eyup, considered to be the standard bearer of their Prophet. It is therefore considered a holy place, and going there is deemed to bring blessing to the pilgrim. In fact, there is even a special area dedicated to circumcision, and families often take their young sons there as they believe that such rites of passage are entrance points for either blessings or curses into family life. Above the cemetary there is also a famous cafe, Pierre Loti, named after a French Turkophile writer who, it is supposed, frequented the cafe. Although the cafe only serves beverages, there are also a couple of eateries that also profit from the commanding view back down the Golden Horn. We sat there and enjoyed our Menemen and Manti, traditional Turkish dishes, before taking the steep cable car back down to the town.

It was then time to visit the shrine ourselves, and, entering alongside many pilgrims, it was amazing to see the homage paid to the relics (including a stone said to bear Eyup’s footprint), hear the fervent prayers, and observe the respect as people walked backwards out of the place so as not to turn their backs on the shrine itself. The walls were again lavishly adorned with tiles that showed countless hours of painting and design.

Leaving the shrine, we then meandered through the town and along to another fine mosque the Zalmahmut Pasa Mosque. Although we didn’t enter it, the courtyard provided a welcome rest amidst leafy pergolas, tea drinking locals and one friendly, ‘lazing in the sun’ cat. What a treat to live in such a richly cultured, and intricately woven tapestry of a city.

And About Time Too…

Well, after threatening to become more dormant than Vesuvius, Kata Markon is back! And goodness me, an awful lot has happened since August 29th 2006: Mark’s return from China, moving to Nottingham, getting engaged to Ruth, moving to London (at which point Ruth headed out to Paris), frequent trips to Paris, and planning a wedding! But, there’s still been time to party along the way, not least at the marriages of Richard and Rachel, and David and Felicity! Hurrah! You can find the photos in the gallery, or by clicking on the appropriate photo:

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Back to Beijing

I’m now in Beijing. The overnight train ride was the longest train ride I’ve ever been on, weighing in at just under 17 hours. I slept for a lot of that time as I had a bed – praise God, and I also made conversation for a few hours with a police lawyer who is at college in Beijing, read most of Romans and talked to several other random people. I’ve got internet in my (quite expensive – £10/day) hotel room in Beijing, so I should start putting pictures up soon and back-dating my blog with entries about what’s actually been happening in China this year.

I’ve just added 50 photos from our travels so far, so have a look here: china2006/travel/

Further Insights into Creation, Leg Hair and the Chinese Black Market

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Wow – the national park was really amazing, and as a picture is worth at least a thousand words, I’m not going to attempt to describe it in detail here but rather post some photos and panoramas on my gallery soon. It was so nice and relaxing to be able to sit by the side of the great lake, looking over to North Korea and talk with each other, and meditate on God more deeply – such great times of fellowship; thanks guys!

Anyway, we arrived at about 3pm on the 24th after our 6 or 7 hour train journey. We had some good chats to random people on the train who spoke a little bit of English. There were some students travelling with us, going back to visit their families for a week or two before restarting university elsewhere in China, and they tended to speak quite good English. We also had some fun ‘conversations’ with some Chinese people who wanted to teach us Chinese, but unfortunately we didn’t really know enough Chinese for the purpose, and they knew no English. Many people outside the major cities find white people fascinating because they are seen so seldom. Even as you walk through a town (particularly Tonghua), you can feel the eyes of the multitude upon you and often-times people come up and want to see how much Chinese you really understand. I’ve even had grown men come up to me and stroke my arm and leg hair because no Chinese people have these. It gets quite strange sometimes…

The first person we met when we got off the train at Baihe was a guy called Cao, who was just about the only person there who spoke much English – praise God. It turns out that his family are pretty much the ones in charge of the tourist trade in Baihe and Changbai Shan. We tried to get train tickets for the return journey (I want to go to Tonghua and the others will go to Shenyang and then on to Xi’an to meet up with other people travelling afterwards), however because Baihe is quite a small station (currently being built), they are unable to issue tickets more than a day in advance. Cao was of course interested in having us stay in town and commute to the park each day, however it is only slightly more expensive to live in the park and not pay the entrance fee (150 Yuan = £10) each day, so we chose that option in the end. We stayed in a rather run-down youth hostel place, which, it turned out, gave us free entry into a Korean-style (i.e. naked) hot-spring place for baths. Although it was quite a dump, it was the cheapest place in the park for us to stay (100Yuan (£7) /person/night), the next cheapest was about seven times the price, almost into English hotel prices! That evening, we planned the next day and then went to sleep at about 9pm because we were so tired!

On the 25th, we all went to the Heavenly Lake (Tianche), going past an amazing waterfall and stunning views of the forests stretching to the horizon, and mountains stretching far up into the sky (the highest point in the park is about 2600m, and the air is noticeably thinner than at ground-level, although very fresh and crisp, especially compared to Beijing air). We wandered up onto some of the taller mountains surrounding the lake and spent most of the day sitting there admiring God’s creation. Again that evening, we were so tired we all fell asleep before 10pm.

The next day, Peter was sick several times in the night and spent the day in bed. The four of us went to the ‘underground forest’ (a forest which is in a valley, carved out by the river which runs from the Heavenly Lake), and then went to see some of the less impressive waterfalls (less impressive than the big waterfall; by themselves they would be very impressive elsewhere). I started to feel a bit queasy that morning, and by midday I was pretty faint. Nonetheless, we had to head back into Baihe and so we left the park at about 3:30 and headed back to the town (a journey of about 45 minutes by taxi). We got a youth hostel room at Cao’s hotel (5 people in one room for 70 Yuan (£5.50)) before I started to be sick, and then spent the evening there. We tried to buy train tickets so that I could get back to Tonghua and the others could get to Shenyang, which is a story in itself…

As I’ve mentioned before, trains in China usually have a sleeper section; most trains only have ‘hard sleeper’ (i.e. triple-decker, about 50 people in one carriage) and ‘hard seat’ (like normal British second class trains, but sometimes overcrowded and smelly, especially on 10-hour train journeys). Because China is so corrupt and the rich are so greedy for more gain, only about 10% of these hard sleeper tickets make it to sale to the general public at train stations. The rest, it turns out, are dealt with shadily through travel agents and railway employees, eager to make some mark-up from the demand. Despite knowing some of this, even I had not realised the extent to which the Chinese railways were corrupt before we tried to buy these tickets to Shenyang.

The four people going to Shenyang (about 14 hours by train from Baihe) were naturally eager to have hard-sleepers, which do not cost that much at the train station (about 100 Yuan (£7)). Cao’s brother said that he was able to acquire us those tickets (plus 10 Yuan (70p) per person in mark-up), despite them not being on sale at the ticket-office. We agreed to this and he said he would come to find us at midnight and give us the tickets. At about 9 O’clock, he came to our hotel room and tried to get money from us for the tickets. After about 30 minutes of talking to him in our broken Chinese and his broken English, we worked out that he did not actually have the tickets himself but rather wanted the money to go and buy them. We gave the money to him (the mark-up now doubled) as long as he would allow one of us to go with him to see the tickets, assuming he would simply purchase them from one of the numerous travel agents. He said he wanted me to go with him, and as my strength had returned a bit and I’d stopped throwing up, I agreed. We went out towards the railway station in the pitch-black night with the rain pouring down (yep; the weather was quite English…) but then walked past it and into the car-park which was even darker. At the entrance to one of the hotels overlooking the car-park, he met another man who had obviously stood there for a little while and had been smoking quite a lot. Nods where exchanged, and then they walked a little further, hopping a fence to get into the station and, crossing the railway tracks on foot we entered into one of the stationary trains. We were greeted by two Chinese ladies who worked on the train, one seemed to be the accounts manager and the other the train manager. They took us to one of the smoke-filled hard seat carriages and proceeded to haggle for about an hour with the second man (seemingly a ticket-broker to travel agents) over the price of the tickets. Eventually, a number was arrived at and the broker bought about 20 hard sleeper tickets, all the ones which were left on the train. I don’t know how much of the money which he paid actually went to the railway company, and how much to the ladies pockets, but I’d guess it was about half-half; I had always wondered how the people who worked on the trains had such nice watches given they probably weren’t paid very much.

Leaving the train and crossing the tracks once more, we went to a different hotel where three travel agents were already sitting, cigarettes in hand, waiting for the broker to arrive with the tickets. It turns out that they wanted about twice the number of tickets than the broker had managed to get from the train staff, and so there was quite heated debate between the travel agents as to who would get which tickets. In the end, because I was there in person and taller than any of the travel agents (stature seems to hold quite a lot of sway in China), I managed to get 4 sleeper tickets, rather than the two that the broker initially offered. In the meantime, the others had purchased 5 hard-seat tickets from Baihe to Tonghua in the event that we weren’t able to get the tickets to Shenyang, and so when I left to go to Tonghua that evening I had a row all to myself which meant I was able to lie down and get a bit more sleep than if I had just had a normal hard seat for the journey.

This morning, I arrived in Tonghua and have now spent the day in bed trying to recover from this sickness. I (rather remarkably) managed to find a travel agent here who can get hard sleeper tickets to Beijing, so tomorrow I’ll be getting an overnight train to Beijing and staying there for the remainder of my time in China.