Tom Elliff
Oklahoma City, OK

After pastoring for forty-two years, Tom Elliff served the International Mission Board, first as Senior Vice President for Spiritual Nurture and Church Relations from 2005-2009, then as President from 2011-2014. Tom served pastorates in Arkansas, Texas, Colorado and Oklahoma and as an IMB missionary in Zimbabwe. Tom also served as president of the SBC Pastor's Conference and two terms as president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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Jeannie…and a Glorious Adventure in the Gospel

By on August 20, 2015

This week Jeannie and I celebrate our 49th wedding anniversary. Notice that I didn’t say, “would have celebrated.” So let me explain. While it would be easy to only lament Jeannie’s graduation to Glory exactly one month ago, that would be sorrowing “as others who have no hope.” Instead, I am reminded that in a remarkable and totally authentic fashion, Jeannie and I are now together more intimately than ever before. Don’t get me wrong, I terribly miss my sweet Jeannie. I’m still shocked when those emotional tsunamis begin rumbling deep within only to violently crash moments later on the shores of my heart.

It was God’s grace that first brought Jeannie and me together in 1965, and then to the marriage altar a short nine months later on August 20, 1966. Those who know us well know that Jeannie and I have lived and loved passionately. Our love for one another was only exceeded by our love for the Lord. Together, as far as we were concerned, the past forty-nine years have been one glorious adventure in the Gospel!

Like everyone else, our life together has not been without its pressures, calamitous events, illnesses and upheavals. But God has given us grace upon grace. No issue has ever seemed utterly devastating…not even that moment four weeks ago when Christ gathered Jeannie into His arms and took her home. You see, in His faithfulness, Christ provides us grace to live, grace to die, grace to let go, and now…the grace to go on.

Jeannie is in Heaven…in Christ. And I am  on earth…in Christ. So in a very real and totally biblical fashion, Jeannie and I are still together in Him. Like so often throughout the previous forty-nine years, Jeannie is at home and I’m headed there!

It may be difficult for you to grasp, but I am still learning new things about Jeannie and loving her even more. No, I haven’t erected an altar to Jeannie in my heart. I certainly would not want to love or esteem her more than the Lord who makes all things possible. It is simply that by loving Jesus more, I have come to love, appreciate and cherish Jeannie more as well. (That same formula, by the way, worked for almost forty-nine years on earth…and it will work for you in your marriage!)

I simply cannot comprehend the vastness of God’s grace in allowing me, through Jeannie’s passing, to love both Jesus and Jeannie even more! I agree with Tozer who stated, “I will never get on my knees and say, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’ to that which I can figure out.” All I know is that, on this special day, I am thrilled at the privilege of being so intimately acquainted with Jeannie. She magnified Christ on earth…she now magnifies Christ in Heaven…and she continues to magnify Him from her cherished place in my heart.

I know that Heaven brings with it a different and glorious view of both time and marriage. But for what its worth, and just because this earth-bound mortal desperately needs to say it…

Happy Anniversary, Shug!

I love you!



  • ClaireMilstead

    We continue to pray for you, Tom!

  • DebMills

    Tom, I knew your anniversary was coming…and it’s now here. Will be praying for you tomorrow…in this strange season.

    Love what you wrote. “She magnified Christ on earth…she now magnifies Christ in Heaven…and she continues to magnify Him from her cherished place in my heart.”

    So grateful God brought the two of you together and the two of you to us.
    Dave & Debbie

  • What an utterly beautiful tribute concerning God’s amazing grace, a totally committed love for the God of the bible, your precious bride, holy matrimony, and seeing true reality with God-given spiritual eyes. The “living alter of sacrifice” is the only place to find completeness in this life, because that’s where we become one with Christ in all phases of life. God’s Holy Spirit abides permanently within our hearts as a surety, a certainty, and we are never, ever alone! 
    Praise His Holy Name forever more! 
    Much love to you both always, Brother Tom and Sister Jeannie, and Happy anniversary!

  • Ushep1

    Bro Tom, what a great encouragement. You and your wife (now home with the Lord) have been and continue to be a great example of trusting in the grace of God no matter what. Love ya, brother. God bless. Praying for you.

  • Hilma Herron

    Thank you Dr. Ellif for always giving us the real reason for the hope that is on us, our Lord and Saviour Jesus. Jeannie and you thought so much to all of us through your love and this beautiful communion with Him! You are always in our hearts and prayers, so thankful that God gave me the opportunity to know both of you! In His Love, Hilma Herron

  • Tom, thank for these sweet words about your “Shug”! Happy anniversary! I remember well when you were married and the wonderful memories we have from Ouachita!
    I have been blessed to be able to share Jeannie’s story and great influence she was as she touched lives for eternity. A dear, precious saint!.
    I have watched the posting of you driving her home to see all your kids and grandkids there many times. I was so touched, especially when you all sang around the kitchen table together! What a blessing.
    Thank you for your kind note; it meant a lot to us. We will continue to pray for you and your exceptional, Godly family.
    With love and prayers,
    Jenny Waller

  • Annette E Turner

    Precious! Just as the love you share! Thank you for living well, and loving well, before the Lord and for us all to witness. What a gift! Just as your children affirmed~ an example of Christ’s love toward His Bride~ lived out for so many to see. Praising the Lord you continue to know her sweet presence through His. What a blessing He gives to those who have sweet fellowship with Him. NOTHING can separate us from His love! 
    Rejoice Evermore!

  • billhenwood

    Beautiful. Blessed. Christ-centered. Graceful. Life-affirming. Precious. Uplifting. Encouraging. . . . and heartbreaking too.

    I sooo appreciate your teaching and example, Bro. Tom, and I continue to lift you to Him who is the purpose of your life.  I look forward to following your continuing adventures in the Lord.  I can’t wait to see what He intends.