Wednesday, April 30, 2008


The funeral is over. I've come home. Now the biggest problem I face is my own grieving process, and trying to re-enter normal life. Being part of a week like that is a huge rush. Everything matters. Everything is extraordinary. It's very fulfilling to be able to minister to a family and be needed constantly. On the other hand it's very draining, and that all sunk in when I got on the plane. Suddenly I was no longer "on duty" but rather now was alone with my thoughts. Whooo boy. Completely...utterly...spent.

I had absolutely nothing left. I have never been so exhausted. I basically just sat on the plane and cried. It was a very difficult trip home, even though the travel part was actually pretty easy. This whole event has profoundly impacted me. It's an odd thing, death. I deal with it far more frequently than most, working at a church. I have known many people who are now with the Lord, but none of those have affected me like this one.

And so I try to re-engage life, but I have to admit, real life is hard to get excited about after such an amazing week. But I need to remain faithful to the tasks God has for me here as well. Thanks for indulging me in this rather personal segment of my blog. Hopefully soon I'll feel up to writing something interesting again...


Monday, April 21, 2008

The Funeral

Friday was the funeral. It went really, really well. A number of people got up to say some very nice things about Steve, including his old friend Greg, Renee's friend Shannon, and Steve's mom. Then Renee got up and gave "A Tribute to my Matchless Man" which was amazing. I choked up just listening to her, but she didn't... Talk about a tough act to follow for the message!

I spoke of Steve's life, shared a few personal stories, and talked about the importance of reflecting on our own lives as we remember Steve's. I then focused on a few points that really seemed to sum up Steve's life. I will share them here:

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” - John 10:10 ESV

Live like there is no tomorrow. Steve never complained about anything. I had no idea he had started life with heart surgery until we went Jet Skiing one time and he took his shirt off to reveal a big scar. I asked him what it was and he began quoting lines from Jaws and claimed it was a shark bite. He broke down laughing and explained that he was born with transposition of the great vessels and that scar was from his surgery.

Steve rode motorcycles, atvs, jet skis, drove his truck in the baja 1000, played baseball, chased his girls around and did all of it without any complaint or excuse. Steve went after life full throttle and never let anything hold him back. When his body began to wear out, Steve didn’t sit home and watch tv, he continued to work and play and laugh and live. Sure, he simply had to scale back some of the physical activity because he had no choice, but he didn’t let it stop him from having fun with his friends and family. Steve’s life was too short, but it was abundant. Live like there is no tomorrow.

Laugh until it hurts, and then laugh again. You all heard story after story of steve, and how much he made us laugh. Renee has said to me probably a hundred times in the last week “He just made me laugh!” When I think of times with Steve & Renee, they were always fun, they were always filled with laughter and joy.

Steve’s sense of humor was never far from any occasion. Patty and I took a trip with Steve and Renee up to the San Francisco area shortly after they got engaged. Somehow while we were driving Steve and I got singing old songs related to whatever we were doing. If we saw a bridge, Steve would launch into bridge over troubled water. If we were driving fast, he was singing a line from Joe Walsh about how fast his maserati drives. All four of us were in stitches with every song. If the lyrics didn’t fit, Steve would change them on the fly. He was creative and imaginative, and always made everyone laugh and feel at ease.

1 Thessalonians 5:17 is a well known and often cited verse, although usually without reference. Do you know what it says? Pray without Ceasing. Pray continually. Does anyone know what verse 16 says? The one right before it? “Be joyful always.” Where there is joy there is laughter. Where there was laughter, if Steve was around, he was right in the middle of it all. Laugh until it hurts, and then laugh again.

In Ephesians it says “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,” - Ephesians 5:25 ESV

Love like it’s your last moment on earth. It’s hard to know where even to start. Steve lived these verses every single day. He was really struggling towards the end of his life with health issues, but he continued to work because that was what was best for his family. He loved them and he provided for them and he lived for them. Steve gave himself up for what was best for his family, and they did the same for him. That’s one of the really great things about love. It goes both directions. When we love like the bible commands us to love, the world is a beautiful, marvelous place to be. Steve loved his friends, he cared about us, and he was always there to help when we needed him.


You can view the photo presentation that was shown at the service here.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Burial

Today we buried Steve's remains. Renee wanted it done today so she didn't have to think about it after the funeral. This morning as I was getting ready I heard Marty & Stephanie singing happy birthday to Steve's dad Ev. It really hit me hard that we were burying his son on his birthday.

The burial was a very small, very private service. The pastors of Ebenezer Baptist Church were there with the combs family, marty and ev, and myself. We watched as they placed the box in the ground, and then the pastor read a few scriptures. After a prayer for the family, we sang together. We began with It is Well, then we sang My Jesus I Love thee, and we closed with When We All Get to Heaven.

What a day of rejoicing it will be.

But right now, it hurts.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Encouraging Days Indeed!

Every month I have to send a board report as part of my job. I filed one today. Here is the very first line:

I write to you from one of the most emotional exhausting and exhilarating times of my entire life.

Watching God work is simply beyond awesome. There were so many questions when Steve died, and God has answered them day by day, hour by hour. How he divinely orchestrated everything that is happening is just incredible to watch.

I can't really share details, but suffice it to say that God has provided for Renee & the girls in amazing ways. Today we went to the district office to discover that she is eligible, as a surviving spouse, to purchase medical benefits as part of the group plan. For life. We had no idea. God has provided joyous moment after joyous moment, daily surprising us with his provision and grace.

““Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” - Matthew 6:25-34 ESV

All of us who knew him miss Steve. That is a fact. But none of us miss him as much as Renee does, and each of these incredibly precious girls has lost their earthly father. Steve worked hard to provide for his family, indeed he worked on the day he died. But now that he is gone, God has clearly taken over to fulfill His promises. We stand in awe of how He fills those promises at times. God is truly amazing.

There have been tears, but there has also been laughter and joy. And if you knew Steve, he was all about laughter and joy. I am so grateful to be here. I don't deserve to be receiving the blessings I am receiving by being allowed to minister to this family in this time. It is a gift from the Lord.

Rejoice in the Lord always!


Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Body of Christ

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,” - Ephesians 5:25

Why would Christ die for the church? What is the church? The church is the Body of Christ, alive and active today. Jesus didn't just take everyone back to heaven when He left, He started something great here on earth. He taught us how to live, and how to act, and how to serve, and how to have a rich and full life. Today I saw the church be the Body of Christ to Renee and the girls and it brings me to tears. In James we are instructed to look after the widows and the orphans. The people of Ebenezer Baptist Church have been absolutely fabulous to this family. I am honored to be in their presence.

With a funeral a lot of people come to the house and are here to support the family. With the focus on the preparations it is difficult to deal with the day to day matters of life. Today an army of men showed up at the house and mowed the lawn, cleaned out the rain gutters, and got the outside looking great. Another family came inside and helped me cleanup the public areas of the house so that they will look good when people begin arriving.

I can see why Christ was willing to give Himself up for the church, because when the church is living and actively serving Him, it is an awesome thing to behold.


Friday, April 11, 2008

Suddenly everything changes

This photo was taken in 1998 or so. This is the good friend that was the purpose of this trip. Steve was born with a condition known as transposition of the great vessels. He had a surgery done forty years ago that was successful and gave him forty years of life. The procedure he had done was old, but it worked.

I first met Steve in 1989 when I went to school at Biola University. Steve was one of those people that you take an instant liking to, and we quickly became friends. I soon got to know Renee, his wife to be. We were at their wedding on August 1, 1992. Patty and I were married a year later and as young married couples we used to go places together on vacation.

In 1999 we moved from Orange County to Victorville, and although we didn't see them as much, we stayed in touch. In 2002 we were able to go to the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City with Steve, Renee, & the girls. We had a great time as our two families (+ our Utah friends Dave & Terri Butts) enjoyed the salt lake valley and attended events together. It was one of those unforgettable experiences that was made so much more full by our friendship with Steve & Renee.

In 2005 they moved across the country to Durham, North Carolina. We were sad to see them go, but they quickly endeared themselves to the people around them and have made Durham their home. Although Steve had always had health issues related to his heart, he never complained about them and only talked about them when pressed for information. Steve's health began to decline, and over the last year he has suffered one setback after another. I came out to be sure we had the opportunity to spend time with Steve in case his health took him before we were able to come out during a vacation time.

Today was a normal day like any other. Steve went to work, came home, we had a nice time talking, we looked at pictures, we laughed at youtube videos, we just hung out like friends do. Then we went to dinner at a great North Carolina Barbeque restaurant. After dinner, we were heading to a Durham Bulls game when everything changed. Steve collapsed on the sidewalk and went home to be with the Lord.

I miss him, but I am SO grateful that I was able to see him one last time. I am even more grateful that I was able to be here for Renee and the girls. Watching Renee break the news to her girls was one of the saddest moments of my life.

God is sovereign and perfect, and His plans are perfect. God knew when He would take Steve home, and arranged my trip so that I would be here for Steve's family in this time of need. I grieve for my friend, and rejoice in the provision of the Lord!


Thursday, April 10, 2008

A day in ... Kentucky

Fred and I got up early to beat the sunrise and headed out to Red River Gorge. When in "photo safari" mode we stop wherever we feel like we can get great photos. Our first stop was at a 700 foot long tunnel that was dug out by hand as a railroad tunnel. The first load of logs got stuck in the tunnel, and they had to dynamite them out. Our passing wasn't quite so eventful, but we tried to capture a little bit of the flavor of the tunnel on film.

Yes, film. I still shoot it, and I still love it. I have a little Nikon 10MP camera as well, and the shots you see in this blog entry are all from it as I haven't developed the film yet. I have one camera loaded with black and white, and the other loaded with color. I've been shooting a mix of slides and prints. Slides are almost impossible to get processed these days, it's very frustrating.

We also stopped at a really cool bridge that just screamed out for photography. After leaving the gorge we made our way through Kentucky for most of the day. We took "Little Shepherd Trail" which winds its way above pretty much everything. Anywhere there was a twisty road, we took it. We tried to stay off of the interstate and away from traffic as much as possible.

Coming from California, it's easy to forget that there are parts of the country that simply do not have the material resources we take for granted. In the parts of Kentucky we drove through there is virtually no industry (and thus, no jobs) except for coal mining. We saw lots of people home during the day sitting on their front porches.

The roads in Kentucky are a mixed bag as well. The interstates are in pretty good shape, but as the numbers get higher, the road quality gets worse, a lot worse. Towards the mid-afternoon we went through a big tunnel into Tennessee. I was astonished at how different the two states were, even though they border each other. Tennessee is greener, and just seemed...prettier. No offense to any of my friends in Kentucky!

Once in Tennessee we headed for the Great Smokey Mountain National Park, where we went up to Look rock to shoot the sunset. Unfortunately, that was very anti-climactic. The sunset was really rather ordinary. We have better ones out our front window almost every night.

We then made for Cherokee, North Carolina by some very twisty, very fun to drive roads. Gotta love heavy braking and cornering followed by hard acceleration! Thankfully, Fred's WRX has very sticky tires, so we didn't actually have to use the brakes that hard :-)

Thus endeth day two of the North Carolina Road Trip & Photo Safari.


Monday, April 7, 2008

My (Quality Inn) Kentucky Home

A good friend of mine is experiencing some very severe health issues, and so Patty and I decided that it was time for me to make my way to the east coast to see him. So today I flew into Indianapolis, where another friend of mine picked me up and we are driving down to North Carolina. Why the indirect route? Well, first off it was like $300 cheaper from a plane flight perspective, and secondly it gives Fred and I the chance to hang out and take pictures for a few days.

Tonight we made our way into Kentucky, and tomorrow morning we will head to the Red River Gorge and other cool sites around Kentucky for round one of photography. You can see examples from some of my prior photo safaris with Fred here and here.

I will probably blog daily on this trip because, well, we don't take many pictures when it's dark, and hotel tv isn't even worth turning on...


Air Travel

My first ever plane flight was to Brazil in the 1970's. It was all very exciting. It was the only time I ever flew on a Boeing 707, one of the planes that made commercial jet travel possible and affordable for the masses. I have vivid memories of the pain in my jaw as we landed, unable to clear the congestion. As a six year old, it was agonizing.

I have many memories of that trip, but the novelty of air travel for the first time is something I will never forget. AIr travel for me now is a necessary evil. I don't mind doing it, but I hate the lines, the cramped spaces in airports, the lousy overpriced food and waiting for a delayed aircraft. As I write this, I'm sitting in the Las Vegas Airport waiting for the plane to arrive that we will travel on. We were supposed to leave minutes ago, and the plane hasn't even arrived from it's first flight of the day.


And so I sit, waiting, and writing. I miss the days of walking across the tarmac to the plane. I loved the old Boeing 727's where you could exit out the back stairs instead of everyone going to the same door. That plane was designed with passenger convenience in mind. It seems that is all but forgotten in these heady, unregulated days of air travel.

I guess you can categorize this blog entry as "sappy memories of days of yore"


Tuesday, April 1, 2008


Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly. - Proverbs 14:29

Every parent should have this verse seared in their mind. Raising kids is great, but it's also very trying at times. It is for those times that God gives us this directive. I have a great father, and I believe he exemplifies living this verse out. I have seen my dad mad, but I did not live in a house filled with yelling.

Yelling is easy, but not effective. As a parent, I disappoint myself when I yell. Kids need discipline, and there are plenty of times for that, but it's important to be of gentle spirit, even in discipline.

Slow to anger has many applications outside of just parenting as well. Our world expects anger, and when we are kind it often takes people by surprise. I'm always amazed at how anxious customer service people get when things go wrong. Those poor people must get chewed out day in day out. Life would be a lot less stressful if people would relax and look for understanding instead of anger.

Maybe Bill & Ted had it right with their motto. "Be Excellent to Each Other"

Not bad advice, when you think about it.