"After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.'
"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' "
Dedicated. Bob was a dedicated man. He didn’t do anything in half measures. When he restored a car, it was done, it was restored. Pristine. It purred. He raised (with Jenny of course) his children, making it clear that they were the most important task he would do in his life. As a husband he made certain that when he was with her, he was with her. When they were standing side by side it wasn’t Bob and Jenny. It was BobandJenny. And when he talked about the christian life it was based on solid scripture, not vague references, but exact passages.
His work was all about the Lord. He traveled all over the nation, all over our world, and I believe every task he put his hand to was about how it may glorify God.
One lenten season he got us together to walk the surrounding neighborhoods of our church just to leave a little gift and tell folks they were loved.
Another time he stepped before our congregation and told us we needed to show the people of our community love; that the first step in that direction was to make sure no one in our town is hungry. So we started a food pantry in our church. And though the fire shut it down for several months, it recently started up again. That ministry did not fall away. In a way, every sack of groceries carried out to a car from our church is an echo of those challenging words from Bob.
He taught classes, he spoke with neighbors, and friends, and strangers about the Lord constantly. I was at his house once, shortly after he began his first round of chemo (he looked so different without hair!); he was out in his garage working on a car. There was a rather tall, rather rough looking fellow helping Bob with something. After a while the guy left and Bob told me about this man. This embittered widower told Bob he had learned new things about christianity, just by working on cars. Bob had shown him love and companionship. Bob lived the christian life.
Bob was dedicated.
Bob knew the Bible. I’m a rather strange sort of guy. My ideas don’t always fall within the box. (A friend once introduced me as a guy who has trouble finding the box.) So it is no surprise that a few times Bob told me he thought I had gotten off track scripturally. I never felt attacked. I felt that he had good reasons to talk to me, and almost every time I changed my point of view because he was so grounded in the Word.
Once he invited me onto his radio talk show. We did a show on the intersection of faith and science (I am a real science buff). I felt like an honored guest. And during that chat I was impressed at how quickly he saw the implications of things I said. He had a sharp mind.
During that show he told the listeners he had a sore throat and that is why his voice was a little raspy. He'd had the sore throat for over a week and maybe he would go to the doctor in the next day or so and get it checked. That was the first indication of the cancer.
Bob’s cancer did not deter him from doing everything he could in working for our Lord. He kept up all of his projects. My favorite "Bob project" was the Classic Car Show at our annual General Canby Days. He and his wife opened their craftsman style house to the public and the street in front (and around each corner) was filled with the coolest cars. BobandJenny showed the love of Christ by being good neighbors. One year he even let me take his '55 Chevy pick up out of the line up so I could use it in the parade.
On “Fat Tuesday” 2003, as New Orleans was hitting its frenzied peak of Mardi Gras, Bob and his family were a few seats away from me while we watched The Passion of the Christ. I remember their reactions clearly. There wasn’t any conversation in the theater afterwards, but I think we all walked out into the cool Portland evening with the sense that we had shared a significant experience.
Those are just a few of the things that come to mind when I think about Bob. I wish I could tell you everything about him. About his dogs (bassetts and later a daschund) and the cat he befriended despite his allergies and his love of God-centered worship and the church camping trips and his love of John Wayne movies and his Bible classes and his sermons...
I prayed a lot that last week of Bob’s life. And to be honest I felt frustration when he died. Didn’t my prayers count? I know, I know, that isn’t how it works. God is not at my beck and call. But it seems that if I pray earnestly, if I am living as a Christ follower, then He should bend the rules now and then if I really, really, really ask. I know this reveals a little immaturity.
I’m reminded of Job 37 (Job is whining to God and then for the next four chapters the Lord sets him straight). I wanted Bob to be around for a while. I told my Lord (respectfully) that I thought that Bob could still do a lot of good if he were given a few more years. I was trying to make some sort of bargain with what I thought Bob could yet do for God.
Isn’t that like us? I don’t think God is offended by such requests. Probably more amused. When Abraham is pleading for the cities of Sodom and Gomorra in Genesis 18 there is a sense of playfulness in God’s replies. And that same amusement is echoed when the Lord tells Jonah to lighten up.
So perhaps I’m a little stubborn. But, in my defense, Bob was a powerful servant of our Lord. And I love his family. I taught his youngest for a year in my language arts class (she just graduated last year). I didn’t want them hurt.
Well, I'll be honest, I didn't want to hurt. I don’t want to put off any conversations with Bob until the afterlife.
Perhaps I’m just plain selfish. I loved listening to Bob teach. He had such a great voice, one of those “radio” voices. And he had a way of interacting with people that made them feel close to him.
The Lord gave him four people, his wife and three children. And he gave the Lord thousands. I know folks usually need many encounters before accepting the Lord, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Bob helped place thousands of names into the Book of Life.
So, in terms of the parable of talents excerpted at the top of this post, Bob gave back far more than the four (his family) he was given.
I have no doubt that among the first words Bob heard when he opened his eyes to glory on Tuesday are “well done good and faithful servant.”
See you later, Bob.