I’m Going Out on a Limb, Here, And Say It’s Beyond Your Capacity to Imagine!

Did another funeral yesterday (#347). It’s always an honor to be asked to do a service for a family. And even though it’s a day of sadness and grief for family and friends….it’s a great opportunity to give them comfort and to tell the ‘good news’. Over the years I’ve seen a lot of different situations with families going through the loss of a loved one. It’s hard when there’s tension among the siblings, which I see a lot more than I’d like to. I feel for the family members who regret not having spent the quality time with the deceased that they feel they should have. There’s dozens of other scenarios that the passing of a family member brings to light. I’ve tried to be as helpful as I possibly could be in those, sometimes volatile…and painful, situations.

There’s nothing like a funeral to bring people’s thoughts on eternal things. I think that can be a very good, very productive thing in people’s lives. Of course, for me and the performing of a funeral….the one thing that can calm all the fears and uncertainty for the family is if the deceased person had a relationship with God. If so, the service can be upbeat and encouraging. Most of the time at least one of the family members knows the answer to the question…but not every time. In those situations where nobody really knows…I always have peace knowing that the Lord is gracious and compassionate….and a fair Judge.

I have an opinion that I can’t prove….so it’s just an opinion…but I’ve thought about it a lot. I think we’ve underestimated death and our passing from this life to the next one. My opinion is that it’s a whole lot more glorious than we would ever think. If the Father is as good to us in this life as He is….it just makes sense that our passing from here to there would be Some Kind of amazing trip! The problem is that we haven’t had anyone come back and tell us how it is.

You may have a really healthy imagination but my opinion is that the trip is glorious beyond our capacity to imagine!


I Don’t Do All That Much Poetry!

I was doing a funeral in Cheyenne, Oklahoma. It was time for the service to start and a person walked up and handed me a five page poem….five pages! Now, don’t get me wrong….I can appreciate a good poem now and then. But I never just take it on myself to just go and read some poetry. Come to think of it, I never read poetry. Nothing personal to you poets out there….I just don’t do it. This particular poem was penned by a good friend of mine, Jim Merrick. On the back of the last page Jim wrote me a short note; “Andy, this poem is done in a forte to forte roll.” Yeah, ……that’s exactly what I thought! What in the world is a forte to forte roll??!  I had absolutely no idea! He obviously thought I knew a lot more about poetry than I actually did. I didn’t even have time to read through the poem before the family came down the aisle to be seated.

Well, it came the time for the ‘dreaded’ poem. To say I was a little nervous doesn’t even come close to what I was feeling! It was pretty rough at the start but I kind of got in rhythm with it and made it through all five pages. It was a great poem and had a great message to it, as well. But I was never as glad to be done with something as I was that dang poem. So, just for future reference, if you’re thinking of having me read a poem at some kind of function, you might want to keep it on the, “Roses are red, violets are blue”, variety. And, just remember……I don’t do all that much poetry!


The Day I Almost Sang “The Old Rugged Cross”!!

I know…….scary thought, huh?!! You oughta been me! Don’t get me wrong now…..I do sing…..but never, ever where anyone can hear me! Well, maybe if you’re right next to me, or in front of me in church, you might get to hear me. But you’d have to really be listenin’! And I’ll have to admit, nobody does “The Tennessee Stud” quite like I do! Truth is, but she’ll never admit to it, it’s one of the reasons Julie married me in the first place!

Here’s how it went down; I’m in Canadian, Texas, not far from where I grew up, about to do a  funeral. The family is at the door ready to come down the aisle. A long-time friend and deacon in the church there comes over to me and says, “Now Andy, as soon as the family’s seated, you can step up to the mic and lead the congregation in “The Old Rugged Cross”. I know he’s kidding…so I say, “You’re kidding, right?!” He’s got a serious look on his face and says, “No, I’m not kidding”. I said, “You better be kidding!” He said, “I’m not kidding, you can do it.” To which I replied, “I ain’t doing it!!” Well, he’s real serious now and he says, You’ll have to do it or we won’t have a funeral!” About to have a heart attack, I immediately replied, “Well, you decide…..but I ain’t singin’!!”

Time stood still! It was tense…Oh, and did I say that the family was at the door waiting to come in??! I’m telling you it was a ‘standoff’, and the clock was tickin’!  I guess he could see I wasn’t budging so he said, “OK, I’ll do it then.” You talk about a ‘sigh of relief’!! At that very moment they signaled the family to come in. He led them in “The Old Rugged Cross”. The service went off without a ‘hitch’. If I’d had to sing it, I’d venture to say they’d still be talkin’ about it today!! That’s how it was “the day I almost sang “The Old Rugged Cross”!!!


All I Know Is, God Loved John a Lot!

I’ve done, in the neighborhood of, three hundred ninety funerals over the years. I’ve never been able to separate my feelings from the feelings the family of a deceased loved one has. That being said, they are all pretty taxing on me, every one of them. It’s just one of those things that I believe the Lord has wanted me to do.

I had one a few years ago for a dad and his little boy whose pickup got hit by a truck. Another one for a dad and his two kids that burnt up in their house. Those really took it out of me. I clearly remember driving to the gravesite after the funeral service. That day, I’d had all I could take.I told the Lord, straight up, I didn’t want to do funerals anymore. I felt like I heard him clearly; “You don’t have to do them anymore, but if you do I’ll give you a greater anointing to do them.” That was thirteen years ago and I’m still doing them. (did one today, in fact) 

But I had one some months back that was, maybe, my greatest challenge yet. It was a funeral service for an atheist. I had met John (name changed to protect the family) several years before when he and his fiance came by my office for me to marry them. He told me that day that he was an atheist and that he didn’t want to talk about the Lord. I said, “OK, but if you ever do want to talk about Him, I’m your guy.” He agreed. We never had that conversation. I found out later that as a little boy his dad would take the Bible and shame him and condemn him with it. In my mind, it turned John away from the Lord.

I got the call about doing John’s service. His wife’s family is a very special family to me. I met with his wife and we talked about the service and John’s wishes. I thought about it for hours. What would I say? I just kept coming up empty. I didn’t sleep much the night before, still weighted down by the task ahead. As I walked out of my house the next day to drive the 40 miles to the graveside service, the Lord spoke clearly to my spirit. “Andy, John’s life mattered.” He had a bout with drugs earlier in his life and took it upon himself to get free, which he did. He made it one of his life projects to help anyone who was wanting to do the same, which he did. He had three sons who he was a great dad to. He was a good husband to his wife, as well.

There were a hundred people or more at the graveside service. The attitude of most everyone there was extremely somber. I said what the Lord had spoken to me, “John’s life mattered. It mattered to his wife, it mattered to his boys, it mattered to the ones he helped to kick the drugs. His life mattered to God!” I said, “Most everyone here knows that John’s convictions about God were different than most of ours’.” I continued, “I’m glad that I’m not responsible to be the Judge; we’d do well to examine our own selves and leave the judging to God.” “But there are a couple of things I’m a hundred percent certain of, God is fair……and God loved John a lot!”