HELL OF A FUNERAL

I went back and looked at an old post this morning to see when I first met my friend John Thomas. It was February 7, 2007, because I wrote a post about him. I will never forget the occasion because he made a lasting impression on me. It was following a graveside service that I did for a friend of his, that he strolled up to me. He looked like a worn out old cowboy whose skin was a tough as leather. He waited until I was off by myself, then he walked over with his hat in his hand, struggling a little to hold back his emotions. In total sincerity and with the only words he could muster, he said, “Hell of a funeral preacher, hell of a funeral,” and walked off. Those were simply the only words he knew to say. I remember going home after the funeral and telling Lea, “You’ll never believe the cussing compliment I got today…” and told her the whole story.

John and I bumped into each other over the next few months. I’d shake his hand, ask him how he was, and we’d visit a little. John and I were about as different as day and night. I still don’t know how or why John liked me, but he did. It’s as if he adopted me as his preacher, and better yet, his friend.

Over the next year John did a lot of thinking about his life. He’d lived a hard life, and he knew he needed to make some changes (his words, not mine). I was amazed when John called me and said he was ready to give his life to Christ. When I baptized him, I remember him telling me, “I’ve lived a hard life, so you may need to hold me under a little longer just to make this work.” I smiled and assured him it would work fine. He left the building that day still looking like an old cowboy on the outside, but inside he was as clean and pure as a new born babe.

A week later John amazed me again. What did he do this time? He simply came to church … for the FIRST time … EVER! I saw John while I was preaching. He was in his best “Sunday” clothes, and even his best clothes were what most folks might call their work clothes. I couldn’t help but shake my head in awe thinking about an old cowboy who’d lived a hard life, packed in a pew surrounded by three hundred people. When asked later about his first church service, John said, “Never been around a crowd that big. What few crowds I’ve ever been around were those in dance halls and bars.” He was much more comfortable being on a horse surrounded by a bunch of cows than he was a bunch of people. It’s hard to imagine just how uncomfortable he must have been in his first church service.

Mine and John’s friendship grew over the next two years. Even though John was battling cancer, he would regularly call to check on me when I was sick or just to say hello. One of the things that meant the most to me was when John invited me to one of his family get-togethers… which I gladly accepted. I have been greatly blessed by an old cowboy’s friendship, a friendship that has made me see people in a very different way.

My friend John died early yesterday. This Wednesday, almost 3 years to the day that John gave me the “hell of a funeral” compliment, I’ll do his graveside service. That old cowboy reminds me of the thief on the cross. The thief had nothing to lose and took a chance on Jesus’s ability to save him at the end of his life. 2000 years later, a hard old cowboy took a shot on the same Savior. I think both gambles paid off big. I’ll see you in heaven, John.

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Article by Trey Morgan

I am a Christian husband and father, who moonlights as the minister for the church of Christ in Childress, Texas. My wife Lea and I have been married for 25 years. We are doing our best to raise our 4 boys, who are all growing up way too fast. Read 1182 articles by
28 Comments Post a Comment
  1. jerriann says:

    Beautiful.

  2. Adam Gonnerman says:

    Wow. Thank you for sharing that.

  3. fraizerbaz says:

    What a sweet story!

  4. e3 says:

    Awesome. Thanks for sharing his story.

  5. Les Ferguson, Jr. says:

    Thanks for sharing…

  6. Stoogelover says:

    Those are the people who touch our lives significantly. I'm sure you'll do a hell of a job with his sermon on Wednesday.

  7. kaytlin says:

    Wow. Thank you for sharing. Wonderful story. I can't wait to meet him in Heaven.

  8. Cecelia Tanner says:

    I'm at a loss,Trey.All I can do is cry.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Having grown up in Foard County just down the road from Childress, your post was poignant. I hope you have some drug store cowboys sitting in the pews who give a salute to the stooped back, crooked fingered, leather-faced old cowboy who exemplified humility and being human. So long, John, see you soon on down the trail.

  10. Dee Andrews says:

    Followed you here from Facebook, Trey. Having grown up in west Texas, I know such men.

    You've made me cry at the thoughts of this old cowboy and his good heart!

    Dee

  11. Brian says:

    hope you can share that story at the memorial

  12. Anonymous says:

    The picture on your blog and story reminds me of how you can lead a horse to water – but the rest is up to the horse. Ministers have a lot of "leading" that they do in funerals, weddings, and other areas of their work especially for their flocks/herd/or whatever you may want to call them. What I like most is that you did not judge this bird by his feathers, and he even started out being someone not in your flock. This post also made me think of how so many of us including myself are not genunine both on the inside and out, and we often make assumptions or judgements too quickly. I am so glad you and John's trails crossed. I enjoy your blog, comments from others, and am very grateful of what I learn from others.
    TJs Thoughts

  13. Donna G says:

    I was going to say helluvapost…but Greg kind of beat me to it. Thanks for sharing "the rest of the story" I actually remembered the first part.

  14. Karin says:

    My sympathies in the loss of your friend! What a powerful story! I know I'll be sharing it with others. God bless!

  15. Mistaken Identity says:

    WOW!! I am offend amazed at how people can come into our lives so quickly and even though it's just for a short time,they leave a footprint on your heart forever! Again . . . Wow!

  16. Kevin Rayner @ Highland Church of Christ says:

    Our God is awesome in changing lives. His word is powerful and thank God you are using the gifts you have to spread the Good News of Christ.

  17. nb says:

    Love this story!

  18. Anonymous says:

    I know why he liked you and I know why you liked him. I loved the story about this man. I have had my John Thomas' in my life. gmj

  19. Nelson's Mama says:

    Happy trails to John…

  20. tmarty says:

    Wow… what a tribute to this man.

  21. Coach K says:

    wow….i am covered in chill bumps!!! i do not cry often, but i ALMOST did at the end of this post!! thanks for sharing!!!!

  22. Katherine says:

    Wow, incredibly poignant and beautiful story-thanks so much for sharing with us. What a blessing you are to so many!!

    Happy trails to you, John…

  23. Anonymous says:

    Your blogs touch my heart. Thank you for sharing your encouraging thoughts. The story of this 'ol cowboy brought tears to my eyes. Sue T.

  24. newheights says:

    thanks.

  25. Royce Ogle says:

    I am so glad God loves crusty old cowboys too. I am inspired to not overlook the most unlikely to love.

    Thanks,
    Royce

  26. Dante says:

    Great post. I would say one thing different…instead of "I think" I would have used the words, "I KNOW" because our redeemer lives!

  27. Maggie Beth says:

    My deepest sympathies Trey. I will hold special prayers tomorrow as you speak. I know you won't be alone, I have the feeling your friend will be there. I have no doubt you were amazingly special too him. Just a hunch, but I think he saw that you are 'real'; you don't put on air's. I think he liked your sincerity. Or maybe it was simply a "God thing". Again, my sympathies I know you will miss him. ~ Maggie Beth

  28. David says:

    We never know who is listening to us or viewing our actions nor what their life story is up to that point in time that they come in contact with us. When they do, are they coming in contact with just another person or are they witnessing Jesus' love and life still lived through us as his child. I think John saw a little piece of Jesus when he went to that funeral. Won't it be grand when he's one of those that greets you when enter the gates of heaven!

About Me

Trey Morgan Here are my thoughts about marriage, family, raising children, humor, faith and the life God intended for us all. I am a Christian husband and father, who moonlights as the minister for the church of Christ in Childress, Texas. My wife Lea and I have been married for 25 years. We are doing our best to raise our 4 boys, who are all growing up way too fast.

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