Thursday, May 15, 2014


In Academic circles it is referred to as historical revisionism. It is the attempt to distort or rewrite certain historical events in order to present it in a more ideological way that favors a partisan point of view. It is an interesting and disturbing phenomenon that is the source of much discussion especially concerning what is written and taught from school textbooks.

The idea of writing our own legacy can quickly become a historical revisionism as we fall prey to our own built in biases. We are all prone to revise it to what we wish took place rather than what really happened. It is almost humorous when a President begins to talk about shaping or defining his legacy while still in office. I believe that President George W. Bush was more realistic when he said, “I will leave that legacy stuff to future historians.”

I do not know much about historical revisionism in national and international politics but I am afraid I know too much about people who try to re-write their spiritual history. Let me illustrate what I am talking about with a couple of stories.

Story One

Many years ago I was involved in one of my many church construction projects. Our contractor had been on the scene for over eighteen months meeting with our building committee to help us design a very challenging building. When it came time to execute contracts I along with the committee did our due diligence and visited other construction projects of this contractor, checked out references, etc. We entered into a multi-million dollar contract and construction began. Each month I accompanied our contractor to the bank where affidavits where signed and money was dispersed from our construction loan. When the project was about 85% complete we found out that the sub-contractors were not being paid.

This has an obvious conclusion. A meeting of all parties resulted in the facts clearly displayed. The contractor had committed fraud by signing a bank affidavit for the money and in turn using the money on other personal projects. Accordingly as these things go, the sub-contractors sued the owner (the church) rather than the contractor who had engaged their services and defrauded them The result was lawyers, lawyers and more lawyers and a mess of litigation.

Almost a year later, the church’s attorney informed me that he had contacted our contractor who lived in another state and he was willing to meet with us. Two conditions were given. We had to come to him and he had to be accompanied by his pastor when we met.

I remember very well what happened next. I along with our attorney walked into the country club and met the contractor and his pastor. It was the first time I had seen our contractor in almost a year. Our attorney laid out the facts with several sheets of paper on the table. It was not a matter of judicial interpretation; it was black and white, this man had stolen over five hundred thousand dollars of the church’s money to be used on his own personal projects. He had committed bank fraud by signing his name each month that the sub-contractors were up to date when in fact he was not paying them.

I remember the color slowly draining from his pastor’s face as each fact was placed on the table. I knew exactly what had happened. The contractor was guilty of doing what we all tend to do: rewrite our spiritual history. Over the course of the year he had retold the story and fashioned it to lessen his guilt. The facts have a disturbing way of upsetting our rewriting of our personal stories.

The tendency we all have is a propensity for confessing these failures over time by retelling the story and lessening our guilt and making it look much better than it really was. However, somewhere along the line the facts come out and we are faced with the reality of just how truly reprehensible the act was. We are guilty of rewriting our spiritual history to make us look much better. I believe every one is guilty of doing this at one time or another even if it is only retelling in our mind.

Story Two

I was in interviewing a potential staff member. We had a few meetings and I decided he was not the best fit for the position. I met with him at a Waffle House to deliver the news. I was not prepared when he began to weep. I will readily admit I am a sucker for tears. I began to hedge on my decision and opened the door back up and ultimately brought him on the staff.

Almost exactly one year later we were having staff reviews and he came in to my office. There were several issues I needed to discuss. Issues that I knew would be issues when I reluctantly hired him a year earlier. I was taken back by his posture and words: “You know Pastor, last year I could have gone any where and there were many people who wanted me but I chose to come here and serve with you.” The unspoken words were, “You had better give me a raise because you are lucky I chose you last year!”

I was so stunned I really did not know how to reply. This was a stunning rewrite of history and I wondered if he was the same man who sat crying and begging me to hire him a year earlier.

Re-Writing Your Legacy

All of this talk about re-writing your personal history was spurred when I recently read an account of a person who wrote a book defining their personal legacy. Writing about your own personal legacy is a bit like the man I heard who wrote a book titled, “How I Achieved Humility.” The subject matter kind of defeats the purpose of writing about it. Recently I heard the comedian Martin Short on the Conan O'Brien show. He was pushing his new book, which he comically titled, “My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend.”

In this particular occasion I was stunned when an event was retold that I was personally involved. The author retold an event that used a very difficult day on my part to cast himself as the savior that rode in on a white horse and made everything better. The problem was I was there and it was not at all the way it was portrayed. Matter of fact it was exactly the opposite. I was offended but not surprised. After all, I have the tendency to make myself look good when I really was not in retelling my stories as well.

Lessons Learned
Several lessons are worth noting about the danger of rewriting your personal history.

1. The worst kind of deception is self-deception. The New Testament writer James tells us, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22).  We should be well guarded against the power of self-deception.

2. Ask the Holy Spirit to do a fact check on your story telling.  As a Pastor that preaches and tells many stories this is particularly important. I love to tell the embellished story of my son as a little boy at the dinner table on a Sunday afternoon saying, “Dad, that story you told today in your sermon, was that the truth or were you just preaching?”

Recently, I heard a pastor tell a great story of how he stood and marched in a particular civil rights event of the sixties. Everyone applauded. But I knew how old the Pastor was. He would have been six years old marching in the streets! We must ask the Holy Spirit to give integrity to our story telling especially when it involves making us look better than we really are.

3. Don’t Attempt to Write Your Own Legacy. It is imperative to have goals and a plan to live a life that leaves the legacy you intend. This vision will define your behavior and insure that your habits are consistent with the goals you have. But, do not attempt to write about your own legacy while you are living. I believe it is impossible to wrap up your life story in your own words and put a bow on top of it. Here are a few reasons why:

·      You Simply are not Qualified – We all have a built in sinful tendency to make our actions look more pure and righteous than they probably were.

·      You are Too Close to the Subject Matter – How can a President write His own legacy while he still in office. Harry Truman left the Presidency with one of the worst approval ratings ever, yet a few decades later He is looked upon as one of our greatest Presidents. Imagine if someone wrote the defining legacy of Jesus Christ on Good Friday! He would appear to be a failure.

·      Your Ultimate Legacy is Written by God – As a believer and follower of Christ we believe there is a day called the Judgment Seat of Christ that Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 5:10 where our true legacy will be revealed. Then and only then will it be true.

Writing your own legacy? I think not. We should all get busy loving God and loving our neighbor and leave this legacy stuff up to God.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Bill Clingan Memorial Service

William “Bill” Keith Clingan Jr.

Chattanooga Funeral Home North Chapel
Memorial Service May 10, 2013
Pastor Barry A. Clingan

You can listen to the funeral service by going to the Listen section of my website
or simply by clicking here

As a Pastor, I have stood in this very funeral home and dozens like it all over the country and ministered to hundreds of families in their time of grief. The first funeral I did in this chapel was 27 years ago for William Keith “Jack” Clingan Sr. or as we knew him “Pa,” my Dad’s father. Today I do not stand as a Pastor first, but simply as a son who deeply grieves the loss of his Dad and desires to honor him with his words. I don’t come with any particularly eloquent or inspirational words, I just want to thankfully stand and eulogize a great father.

It is so difficult to choose what to say. There are hundreds of stories and dozens of things I would like to say to honor my Father. If I can only say two things I would want everyone to know about my Dad it would be these:

First, My Dad was Fun. Some people think it is a sin to have fun, not my Dad. Life was an adventure with my Dad. I remember many Fridays he would call home and tell us kids to get the tent out and when he got home we would go camping. We did not have a plan or a place or any money. We would just find a spot and have fun. One time we went to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina on a whim in his 1966 Mustang. There were three of us boys at the time and we drove the entire way in the back seat. It only has two seats and a hump. Kevin was the smallest so he had to sit on the hump. No IPads, IPhones, DVD players, or Gameboys just maybe a comic book and my dad to entertain us. And trust me there was no foolishness in the back seat. My Dad never met Dr. Spock and “time-out” was a foreign concept to him.

Second, My Dad was Smart. My Dad was incredibly intelligent. Now I know that every boy thinks his dad is the smartest man in the world but the only difference for me is that it was true. I found a book that he put together in the eighth grade for a school project. His first choice of a vocation was to be an engineer. That is what he became.

If you asked my Dad what time it was, be prepared to be told how the watch was made. And he knew because he had taken it apart. From his earliest days at 1809 Anderson Avenue when he took apart his first engine all the way to when he took apart his first computer Dad was a lifelong learner. He never stopped learning.

Once when we were kids he loaded us all up for an impromptu family vacation to a State Park in North Alabama, a place we had simply chosen at random on a map. We trailered our first boat a single bench seat Cherokee Boat with a 45hp Evinrude outboard engine on this trip. We loaded all of our stuff in the back of the boat. We had a tent, motorcycles and camping gear. It was so loaded that on the way back near Huntsville, Alabama the single axle on the trailer bent. In the tradition of his father who was a tool and die maker and never bought a tool in his life but always made whatever he needed. My smart dad sent us boys in the woods to cut down a pine tree. We stripped the pine tree of the branches and inserted it on top of the axle and secured it with black tape and we drove back to Hixson. When we got home we took it apart and put the old pine log in the garage (Dad always had a real problem with throwing anything away). He taught us ingenuity and demonstrated his intelligence all of the time.

In the face of death in recent months he lamented the fact that he would take all of his knowledge with him to the grave. He wished he could pass it on. It was a joy to tell him that the modern caricature of heaven as a place on clouds with wings and halos was a fable. The real heaven according to the Bible is a place where we will among other things continue to grow and expand in the gifts God has placed inside of us that have been very limited by sin. We will rule and reign with Jesus Christ through His expanding universe throughout all eternity.

The Most Important Things are The Most Important Things

The Book of Proverbs in the Bible contains a proverb that basically says the same thing in a different form at least eight times.

Proverbs 10:1
A wise son makes a glad father,
But a foolish son is the grief of his mother. 

     The basic meaning of this proverb and all of its variants is that when a child grows up he or she will either bring joy and satisfaction to the parent or great grief depending on the wisdom of their actions in life. This wisdom comes directly from what the parents have passed down to them.

     If Dad told me once, he told me a hundred times in these last years, “Barry, you will learn one day what I have learned that my greatest satisfaction and what brings me the greatest happiness in these days is the simple fact that all of you children are doing well with your families and that you simply come home.” That seems so simplistic but it mirrors the teaching of God’s Word about what is really important in life. I watched my Dad like I have watched many people on their death beds speak about what is most important in life. Death has a way of focusing your thoughts. Dad prayed over and over again that God would take care of his family. I have never witnessed one person desire to work one more day, or buy one more toy. It is always about family at the time of death

     My Dad had great pleasure in his family. Dad had this thing about never bragging on us in person. But, when I called him all I heard about was how great Keith, Kevin and Karla were.

     Keith, you were his first-born and name sake. Keith was the son with the mechanical abilities. Keith shared the same passion for cars, boating and racing that dad always possessed. Keith is one of the hardest working men I have ever known and if I heard it once I heard it a thousand times from Dad; he was super proud of all that Keith had earned through his success.

Last year, Keith took Dad’s 1966 Mustang that had been sitting idle for years and did one of the quickest and best restoration jobs ever. On what would be Dad’s final birthday last October 26th I had he and Aundria come to Keith’s house early in the morning for breakfast and we presented Dad with a photo album that detailed the step by step restoration of the Mustang. We covered up the pages when we got to the point of the finished car and invited him outside. Keith pulled the cover off and a project that Dad never got around to was finished before his very eyes. That was one of the greatest birthday gifts he ever received and Keith made it all possible. I told Dad that Keith and I shared all of the expenses of the restoration: Keith paid for the car and I paid for the photo album!

Dad’s passing may be the hardest on Keith because they were as much best friends as they were father and son.

     Kevin, you were the athletically gifted of the sons. Kevin is the one that is built like and looks most like Dad. One of my favorite pictures is the picture that was in the Chattanooga News Free Press when Kevin accepted his College Scholarship. Dad was beaming in that picture and his pride was abundantly clear. Dad was very proud of you Kevin and in these latter years he was not just proud of your athletic achievements and educational and business accomplishments but he was most proud of the man you have become. Kevin is one of the best fathers I have ever known and to talk to Dad was to be reminded of that fact. Kevin, he was proud of the husband you are to your wife, the father you are to your children and the deacon you are to your church.

     Karla, you are the obvious rose among the thorns. I was thirteen when Karla was born. I remember well an experience when you were a little girl and we were on the houseboat. Dad was talking to me and he pointed at you and said, “Barry, that girl will change my life more than any other person.” I did not know Dad was a prophet because it came true; Karla made a wimp out of our strong Father! He was always doing things for her that he would never do for us boys; washing her car, buying her things, and driving her places among so much more. I sometimes wondered who he was when it came to Karla.
Dad was incredibly proud of Karla. He was particularly proud of her academic accomplishments. I must say Karla that you and Dan gave Dad the greatest gift ever almost five years ago when you gave him Chapman. It was impossible to talk with Dad and not have to hear an extended speech about how great Chapman was. One time I was tempted to say, “Why don’t you just skip preschool and high school and send this girl directly to Harvard.” Chapman is indeed a special young girl and Pop loved her greatly.

Aundria, I have to say a word to you as well. To talk with Dad was to hear over and over how thankful he was for you. Forty-six years of faithfulness is a great testimony. Dad certainly knew, and we all knew, that he would have not lasted three months without your encouragement, care and feeding. I call Aundria the Food Warden because she made sure that Dad ate well at all times and in these last years especially.

Proverbs 31:10, 29-30

Who can find a virtuous wife?
For her worth is far above rubies.
"Many daughters have done well,
But you excel them all."
Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing,
But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.

It is appropriate both practically and biblically that we take the time to “praise” you for your faithfulness as a wife to your husband. Dad was made incredibly rich by your goodness to him.

I guess I could say a word to myself as a son as well. There can be no doubt that I am the runt of the litter. First there is Keith, Kevin, Karla, and Barry – guess which one stands out? They are all tall and handsome or pretty and well I am obviously short and fat. I wasn’t the mechanic, the athlete or the girl. But like David among the sons of Jesse in the Bible, the runt seems to love the most. Although Dad never made it a habit to brag on any of us in person, I think maybe that he may have every now and then said something good about me to the others.

When I was fifteen years old I was driving Aundria’s 1968 blue Chevelle one evening when I made the curve a little too fast in the rain near our home (Keith always reminds me when I tell this story that it was not a curve but a 90 degree turn with a stop sign!). I lost control of the car and careened into the neighbor’s stone mailbox with a gas lamp on top of it. I hit it so hard on the rear passenger side fender that it knocked the whole structure over and the gas lamp hit a tree and bent backward. I could not get the car to start and I could not get the neighbor to come to the door. I went home and told Aundria what had happened. She made sure no one was hurt and the car was out of the road and said Dad would handle it when he got home.

I went down stairs and prayed that the sun would never come up the next day. The Lord did not hear my prayer. I was awakened to Dad shaking me and inquiring as to why the car was parked down the street. I mumbled out that I had wrecked it and he began to clearly tell me to get out of bed immediately. On the eternal walk to our next door neighbor’s house I thought that my life was over. If I was able to drive a car again before I was 25 years old it would be a miracle. If I lived another day it would be a miracle!

When we approached the car Dad began to work on the rear fender prying it away from the tire and he told me to raise the hood and see if I could get the battery connected strong enough to be able to start the car. When I raised the hood I was horrified to see that I had “flipped the breather.” What that meant was I had turned the top of the air filter upside down so when you got into the throttle you could hear the four barrel carburetor sucking the air and fuel down. I knew that if Dad walked around the car and saw that breather flipped he would have the evidence that he already knew that I was out racing that night. Mario Andretti’s pit crew would have been proud of how fast I spun that toggle nut off and flipped the breather back into the correct position before he could walk around the car.

The owner of the house came outside about that time and he and my Dad were talking. The man said, “I had four sons and they all totaled a car before they were eighteen.” Then my Dad said something I will never forget. He was talking to the neighbor but he was looking at me when he said, “That is right, we can replace these old cars but we cannot replace our sons.” I will never forget that moment as long as I live. A fifteen year old boy needed to hear that from his Dad and I will always remember that moment. The discipline came when we got back home. (I was told the 700 dollars I had let him save for me from working for my Uncle Don all summer was no longer owed to me but I was now the proud owner of a wrecked ’68 Chevelle).

Two times Dad directly told me how proud he was of me. Once when I was in graduate school and was sure that Dad thought I had lost my mind pursuing the ministry he wrote me a card and said, “know that I am proud of you.”  The second time was this past year at Christmas when he wrote me a note and said,

                                                   CHRISTMAS  2012

I am so proud to call you SON. You have overcome so many adversities to become a
great father, husband and minister to many ALONG WITH HAVING A GREAT

Keep up the good work as some day you will be able to sit back and watch your
children do the same.
“Love “

My Dad never had as his ultimate goal in life to make a lot of money. Money just did not motivate him. One man who was a millionaire once told me that my Dad could have made ten times as much as him if he had wanted. The end of his life has come and yet the Bible says he has a wife worth more than rubies and he has something many millionaires do not have: his kids come home and they stand up at his funeral and bless him.
The Reality of the Gospel and My Dad’s Life

     If you will indulge me for a few more minutes, I want to share a very important truth. In our modern culture we have so lowered the bar to the entrance of heaven that we basically preach everybody into heaven at a funeral. This is much more an American Gospel rather than a biblical Gospel.

     The simple truth is that my Dad was raised in a home where the Word of God was honored and church attendance was valued. He was as we like to say in the South, “raised-right.” But, we must honestly say that for many years of his life he did not live for God. He lived for himself and for his own pleasure. That does not mean he was not a good man during that time it just means that he was living for himself and not for God.
     It was about fifteen years ago that Dad surprised me. I was back home in Chattanooga taking a rare weekend off in order to take a young Jacob to a Tennessee football game. During the weekend I told him of my plans to “sneak into the church services at Central Baptist and sit anonymously on the back row.” He said, I will show you were to park. I have been going every week.” He went on to tell me that he was ready to find his way back. On our Sunday night conversations over the years I heard him begin to love the Gospel all over again. He loved to tell me the latest “wild” thing Dr. Ron Phillips had said and Dr. Perry Stone was his favorite preacher.

     I only saw my Dad really cry two times in his life. The first was when I was eight years old and he gathered me and Keith on the couch and got down in the floor in front of us and told us that his beloved mother had passed away. He loved his mother and was unquestionably a momma’s boy.

     The second time I saw him cry was a few years ago. It was after the cancer diagnosis and my first opportunity to spend extended time with him. He wept openly when he thought about the wasted years he had spent living for himself rather than God. After the tears he clearly made the conscious decision not to focus on what he had lost but to celebrate what he had gained. Make no mistake it was not the cancer that brought him to God (even though that would be alright) but rather the way he responded to the cancer proved that he had returned to God.

     This kind of grace is scandalous. It always has been. The legalist wants to count and proclaim that it is not fair when someone receives the same kind of saving grace for less good years. Jesus spoke directly to this issue in the parable of the workers in the vineyard.

     It is found in the Gospel of Matthew the 20th chapter and if I may tell the story in modern language it tells the story of a landowner who went out to hire workers in his vineyard. He hired a group to begin work at 8am and agreed to pay them $50. He went out again at noon and hired a group to work the remaining hours of the day and also agreed to pay them $50. Again at 3 p.m. he did the same thing and then he went out one hour before closing time and again agreed to pay the workers $50 to work only one hour. Obviously, the workers who were hired earlier in the day were disappointed and expected more.

Jesus said,
     And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, saying, 'These last
     men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne 
     the burden and the heat of the day. 'But he answered one of them and said, 'Friend, I am   
     doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go
     your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do
     what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?' So the last will
     be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen." (Matthew 20:11-16)

Jesus taught us that as the Master he can set the rules any way he desires. And secondly, he taught us grace is never fair and thank God it is not.

The only hope my Dad had for eternal salvation is the only hope any of us have. The grace of God as found in the willing sacrifice of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, who through His death, burial and resurrection provides a way for all of those who trust Him alone for salvation.

The Lord’s Prayer

     A few years ago, we gathered as a family at Keith’s house for Thanksgiving. Before we ate the meal I was all ready to be called upon to return thanks (I don’t know about Bro. Charles here but I am the “professional” Christian in my family, so I always get called upon). Dad surprised us in a very emotional moment by telling us that he had been contacted by a friend the night before who informed him that he had just found out he had cancer. He asked him, “Bill, how are you handling this so well?” My Dad told us that he went back to a prayer that he had never forgotten. He asked all of us to say it with him. It was The Lord’s Prayer. 

     In these recent weeks at the hospital, one night Kevin and I were there together with Dad. My hearing is terrible and I knew Dad was mumbling over and over. I had heard him singing some before but I did not know what he was saying. Kevin said, “Listen closely; He is repeating the Lord’s Prayer over and over again.”

     In honor of my Dad and to the glory of God I am going to ask you to stand with me and say this prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, as our final prayer for this service.

Matthew 6:9-13

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.


Thursday, December 06, 2012

Judith Ann Charlesworth Meeks

October 19, 1939 - November 23, 2012

On a cold Tuesday afternoon friends and family gathered at the Chattanooga National Cemetery to say goodbye to my Mom who had passed away the previous Friday evening. Before she died my Mom asked me to lead the graveside service. I have had the challenge and privilege of preaching in many venues across the world. Nothing was harder than saying goodbye to my Mother. The following is the notes from my fifteen minute remarks. Many have asked if I would post them online. You can also listen to a recording of the event posted on my website by clicking here.

           How do you summarize the importance of anyone’s life in fifteen minutes? Even if we had two hours it would never do justice to the occasion. So I will attempt to say a few things today. I can assure you that I will not be profound, erudite or articulate. I couldn’t do that if I wanted. Today, I am simply a grieving son who deeply grieves the loss of his mother. I am here for one reason, Moma wanted me to do this and I want please my mother.
            I ask the grandkids, “What do you think of, when you think of your Granny?” There were three words that were consistent in all of their memories.

            Number one, Granny was FUN. She was not your typical Granny. Jacob said, when we went to the arcade she didn’t give you a quarter, she would give you twenty dollars! Many years ago when the grandkids played the arcade at the bowling alley, she would not have her grandkids getting those little cheap toys you usually get with your meager coupons. After playing all summer they had tens of thousands of tickets and they came out with little T.V.’s and Radios.

            They also said Granny was CURRENT. She never got stuck in a previous decade. She knew how to speak their language. She knew that a dollar in the fifties will not buy the same thing today. She was never stuck in the fifties, sixties, or seventies. She understood their world and she could relate to it.

            Finally they said Granny was GENEROUS. Granny was a generous grandmother to her grandchildren. She would take them out to by them clothes before school started and she bought them some real clothes. These grandkids loved to get their birthday card from Granny. You do not have to be a millionaire to be generous.

            I am confident that Katie and Courtney, Jacob, Jordan, Jessie Kate, and Joy, and Patton and Savannah will always remember their Granny as the fun and generous woman that she was.

            My mother loved her daughters-in-law and sons-in-law. Back when I was living with James and Mom while in high school, I brought home some interesting girls. Mom was always diplomatic but I will never forget the time after I brought Amy to meet her. She said, “Barry, this is the one!” She loved you so much Amy. You were the daughter she never had. Amy has known my Mom since she was seventeen years old and she loved my Mom as well. When Jacob was making his way into this world, Amy wanted my mother to be with her and Mom travelled down and stayed with us in Hattiesburg, MS the month before Jacob was born. You were so good to my Mother, Amy and I know you will miss her as well.

            Gail, she loved you so much and you were so good and generous towards her. Thank you. She loved you dearly. To Calvin and Jason I say as well that she loved you and was determined to never show partiality.

            My mother was a very determined woman. What made her determination different is that she always found a way to have fun in the middle of all the inevitable challenges that come to all of our lives. After my brother Keith was born the doctors told her that her body would never be able to take another pregnancy. My Mom always said that she was an only child and she was determined to not raise an only child. So four years after Keith I was born.

            My mother was determined through all of her medical issues. Because my mom was so beautiful and always laughing it is hard for some to believe what all she has been through. We had a funny experience back in July of this year after her surgery for her brain tumor, the Physician who would help with her follow up treatment came in to her room and after looking over her scans was very perplexed and said, “Mrs. Meeks I am confused at what I am seeing or rather what I am not seeing.” My Mother had a complete hysterectomy after my birth, she had no gallbladder, no appendix, no spleen and one kidney and the one kidney had been operated on and only half of it was present. The Dr. said, “Mrs. Meeks you are missing some parts!”

            I wanted to say today that my Mothers biggest challenge was raising my brother Keith! The truth is she loved Keith so very much. I wondered what stories to tell of Keith and I thought most of them would have to wait until we gather at the pool house. I do want to share one with you. When Mom moved back to Chattanooga and Keith and I were still little we went with her to Kingwood Pharmacy in East Ridge one day. Let’s be honest today, my Mother was a beautiful woman. There were two men that began to follow her around obviously to see if they could get a date. When Keith saw what was happening he turned to them right in the middle of the store and said, “Guys, you do not want her, she is thirty years old!” Mom was horrified. She loved her Keith and she was very proud of everything he has accomplished.

            I have so many memories. I remember driving around every weekend in that old 62 Chevrolet Impala. It was so bad that the rust had taken out parts of the floorboard and you could literally see the road passing by from the inside. We had towels down on the ripped seats. But we learned you did not have to have money to have fun.

            I remember being outside in the freezing rain standing upon a barrel and reaching up to take the electric meter off of the back of our little duplex apartment. They had shut our power off because of lack of payment and we were freezing to death. I took the meter off and “fixed it” like poor people had to do from time to time and we gathered our pennies together and went and paid the bill the next Monday (I hope the statute of limitations has run out for that confession).

            The most important story I can tell you about my Mom today happened when I was a young boy, probably a pre-teen. I stayed with Mom on the weekends those days and we would always get up on Saturday mornings and have these wonderful talks about everything. One Saturday she told me that she had something serious she wanted to tell me. She then proceeded to tell me about the worst decision she had ever made: the decision to leave Chattanooga when Keith and I were very little. She took full and complete responsibility for that decision and asked me to forgive her. She told me that she would live with the results of that decision the rest of her life.

            She also always demanded that I respect my dad. She never said one bad word about him to me ever. She did not have to do that because I respect my dad anyway because he is a great man. But what her actions did was make me respect her.

            As a pastor I have counseled with hundreds maybe even thousands of people who have gone through the difficulties of divorce. I have told every one of them the lesson I learned from my Mom – “RISE ABOVE YOUR DIFFICULTIES AND REFUSE TO USE YOUR CHILDREN TO ADVANCE YOUR OWN BITTERNESS.”

            A month ago she took me out on her back porch and wanted me to help her write out her obituary. I didn’t want to do it but she insisted. As we wrote out the details she said I want to thank my best friends, Terrell and Pam Horton. So, we wrote it in her obituary. Last night at the Funeral home Terrell and Pam gave me a beautiful Eulogy of my Mother and their relationship with her. I want to read it to you today:


A book cannot hold the precious memories you leave behind, but our grieving hearts can and will hold them forever.  In our friendship spanning slightly short of two decades, you have brought so much pleasure and happiness into our lives.  Words cannot express the joy we have shared with you, nor the sadness we feel in our hearts todays.  You have been like a mother, a sister, but most of all; you became our closest, dearest friend. 

Thanks for accepting Terrell’s invitation to join his bowling team, sparking our friendship, which only grew stronger as the years have now so quickly passed.  The fun times at the bowling center will not be forgotten.  Our introduction to karaoke produced many hours of enjoyment with both “good” and “bad” singing throughout the years.  From now on your words of  “I’m next,” “Shut up, I’m trying to sing,” and “It don’t matter, nobody’s listenin’ anyway” will resonate each time we crank up our karaoke system.  You must surely be singing “Move it on over, the big dog’s movin’ in.”

Thanks for introducing us to your family, whom we have grown to love.  We now feel they are a part of ours.  We also thank you for the adopted friends, many of whom we may never have known.

Thanks for the vacation times we spent together whether at home or abroad.  Our cruise in particular would never have been taken had you not convinced us to go. Thanks for flying to Texas with Pam after she begged you to go because she had never flown before and wanted you with her.  The birth of her premature grandson and his open heart surgery persuaded you to give you attending your own granddaughter’s graduation ceremony to hold Pam’s hand as she cried in terror when the plane ascended.  Only a true friend could do that.

Thanks for being there so many times for the “dine-out” or “dine-in” the “hanging-out” or “Hanging –in”, the what if’ or “who cares,” the “all-right!” or “huh-uh?” the “dress-up” or “come as you are,” the “themed party” or “no reason at all get-together,” the “come early” and “stay late,” the “foul moods” and the “happy hours,” the “more the merrier” but in particular the “just us.”

Thanks for our first taste of your white chili and jalapeno cornbread, inducing our craving for it quite often.  You leave behind the recipe, missing only one ingredient, your loving, caring hands mixing it just right.

Thanks for the mystery desserts.  Some were “delicious repeats” and others “never again!”  You leave behind a craving from our sweet teeth for “I’ve got a new dessert recipe I want to try.”

Thanks for your idea to leave the Christmas tree standing year-round in the Pool House.  Decorating it each occasion or for nothing special at all brought us many hours of fun and laughs.  A new tree is standing now that will always embrace a picture of you among the various decorations.  Everyone will remember the tree is there because of you.  It will be impossible to arrive and leave without thinking of you.

We know in time our sorrow will subside, but your memory will forever be cherished within our hearts.  Until we meet again, dear friend, we love you

Terrell and Pam

Thank you Terrell and Pam for being such good friends to my Mom she loved you dearly. Thank you to all of you who were friends at the pool house. Mom cherished her times with you.

            Finally I speak to James. James, you have done a lot of great things in your life. You served our country and you are a Vietnam Veteran. I am so proud of our country today that they provide you and Mom with a final resting place. You are rightfully proud of Brooke and Kelly as you should be. But in my eyes the best thing you ever did was making my Mom’s last 36 years the happiest years of her life. If James could stand up here today He would say how much He loved my Mom but I tell him he doesn’t have to because we have seen it demonstrated in the wonderful 36 years God gave them.

            I would be remiss today if I didn’t take a minute at the closing to give glory to God. In the Gospel of John the fourteenth chapter Jesus spoke to His disciples. They were experiencing the same kind of heart trouble we feel today. Not physical pain but emotional pain at the fact that Jesus had informed them that he would be leaving them soon. In these past few days many of you have comforted me and this family by offering words of encouragement. How thankful we are for good friends. Two of my best friends stand here with me today. We couldn’t make it without good friends. But let’s be honest our words of “it will be ok” are limited by our own human power to do anything about it. Yet when Jesus says, “Let not your heart be troubled.” He has the power to back it up. He links our sentiment to His omnipotence.

John 14:1-6

"Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know." Thomas said to Him, "Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?" Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

            The preachers have pointed out for years that Jesus reminds us here that Heaven is a real place. It is not a pie-in-the-sky, imaginary, made up fable. It is as real as Jesus Himself. Jesus told us as well that Heaven is a prepared place. Not prepared in the sense that Jesus is a carpenter up there somewhere hammering and sawing and constructing mansions, but rather prepared in that he did what He alone could do and prepare our entrance to Heaven by dying on the Cross for our sins. Our only hope today is a hope that is supplied in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ in preparing the way. It is as well, a prepared place for prepared people. Jesus said I am the way, the only way to heaven. That is the most dogmatic statement that a person could have ever made. It demands a decision out of all of us. Was He a Fool or was He exactly who He said He was? Today we choose that He was exactly who He said He was. Jesus is Lord!

On behalf of James and the rest of the family, I say thank you for coming out on this cold day to honor my mother. God Bless You.