Yesterday would have been Granddaddy’s birthday – he would have been 90. Sure do miss that dude. He was one of the coolest guys ever. Seriously. In honor of his birthday yesterday, I wanted to post what I read at his memorial service. I will always miss that guy… but I’m glad he is doing what he loved the most, worshiping Jesus.
The memorial service took place at First Baptist Church, Dallas, where he had been a deacon for many many years. I am so thankful for the opportunity that church gave my Granddaddy to serve as a Deacon, but also as a counselor, and as Sunday School Director. Here is what I read:
Good afternoon – my name is Michael Criner and I am one of the Grandsons of Granddaddy, and I’m representing the thoughts and reflections of James, the oldest on the Criner side, Rebekah the oldest on the Hood side, and Bethany.
I think Granddaddy always wanted me to preach from the pulpit that so many great me have preached from, I just don’t think he meant to die to make that happen.
It is hard to stand and think about what you might say about a man who meant so much to me, and so much to each of the grandkids. I’ve asked each to share with me their thoughts as I will attempt to do them justice.
To Bethany, Granddaddy was always that charming, witty, and loving man, who always made her laugh. She fondly remembers sitting at dinner while, Nanny, his first wife, would clean up the dishes. They would play the “silent game” the loser of course would be the first to crack – but Granddaddy would make faces and cause everyone to giggle.
For all the humor and wit, Bethany most loved that he taught her to be more like Christ, always reminding her that no matter what, God gets the glory in everything. Also, to share the glory of the gospel to every person we meet.
To Rebekah, Granddaddy was her hero. No matter the circumstances that arrived in his life; his faith, integrity, and honesty were always intact. He loved others and Rebekah always admired the way he shared not just his love, but the love of Jesus. He shared the gospel with everyone. But he wasn’t just her hero, or just her Granddaddy, he was her friend – the guy she could share practically anything with. If we were to be living 2,000 years ago, we might have read about Granddaddy from the Bible. He was always asking those he met, “Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus?”
To James, Granddaddy’s passion for memorizing, knowing and living by the Scripture was such a challenge. It would be a rare moment when Granddaddy did not quote Scripture to us, especially when he would discuss with James the evil of Christian Rock N Roll, or if James was walking through the rough valleys of life, a verse, a pray – and comfort would come. For James, Granddaddy was that constant voice of reason. His ability to witness about Jesus to anyone anywhere, along with his generosity that came to the aid of so many will be remembered. All of this exposed a heart that loved others when the least deserved it and when they least expected it.
Now I’d like to share some of my thoughts.
If you can discern from each of the Grandchildren, we recall Grandaddy constantly sharing the gospel. His motivation for sharing wasn’t because he felt obligated to share the gospel, rather it was because the gospel had so arrested his heart, he couldn’t help but share the gospel with all those who he encountered. When Jesus saves you, you can’t help but want others to be saved.
Our Heavenly Father is an adoptive Father, and is always looking for more kids. You could say the same about Ed. Always adopting people with Jesus into the kingdom, but as always with Ed, ladies first. (it is said that he spiritually “adopted” 1,000s of people, most of whom were ladies).
That included specifically to his family. Granddaddy was the guy who led me to Jesus, discipled me in Jesus, and paid for my seminary to learn more about Jesus. He was there when I gave my life to Jesus, and he was there when I surrendered to full time ministry, and he was there when I made my decision to attend seminary at Southwestern Theological Seminary. As a Pastor with an older church, not everyone is blessed the way we were blessed with Granddaddy, nor does everyone have the opportunity to have a legacy like his.
But why? Why did Granddaddy have this legacy? Because Granddaddy is not remembered for what he planned to do, he is remembered for what he did. In my youthful ignorance, I was afraid that Granddaddy’s mind was weakening, and so I challenged him to memorize the book of Ephesians. Long story short, he beat me to it. I shared this at the graveside, but one of my favorite verses in regards to the book of Ephesians is something Paul says in the book of Acts, in Acts 20, Paul will say: “I did not shrink in declaring the whole counsel of God.” This would say this described Grandaddy. It did not matter who he encountered, he proclaimed the gospel.
One of the things Granddaddy would say to me is this, “Does your life, match this book?” If we took Granddaddy’s life, and placed it on the Bible, to see if it fit in here, we could look at him and say, YES!
At the end of his days, he could declare this: “I said everything I was supposed to say. I did and completed the work Jesus sent me to do.” Don’t you want that for your life? Everything God laid out for you to do, you did. All the things that we were called to be part of is what we set out to do.
If you’re sitting there, feeling guilty that you haven’t witnessed to as many, or that your legacy may not be as much, I think Granddaddy would want you to know a very important word, grace. You’re not half as bad as you think you are, and you’re not half as good as you think you are either- you and I are in need of grace.
He was famous for always telling people to keep their eyes on Jesus – why? Broken people need their focus on the fixed on the Savior. Keeping your eyes on Jesus isn’t about more repair; it was about less distraction. It’s about a singular focus in the main thing, Jesus. Fix your eyes on Jesus, it’s okay to stare.
Granddaddy, you can now fulfill what you said so often to us Keep your eyes on Jesus. Sure, I’ll miss him calling me Pal, and the wisdom he would share, but all in all, he did what all of us are called to do, display the glory of God’s grace.
We’ll see you in the morning. (this was something he would say each night to Janie Mary, his first wife)
As you may be able to tell, he was a great man. So, to Granddaddy – the man who was loved by many.