My good friend Bob Fox lost his battle with cancer this past week on Wednesday. The news jolted the whole church, took us all by surprise. And as we all grieve with the Fox family, I can’t help but smile at a lot of my memories about Bob Fox. He’d tear off the opening bass line of Boston’s “More Than A Feeling” during worship practice which if you think about it is a pretty good starting point if you are talking about the theology of worship. Every now and then he would slip into “radio voice” recalling his years as a DJ – “WELLLLLLLLLLLCOME to K-R-U-D radio! We play the krud that nobody else plays.” He’d always have a joke. 50% of the time it would be funny. He loved Longhorn Steakhouse, model airplanes (just don’t touch them). World War 2 movies. John Wayne.
But there was another side to Bob as well. In fact, it was this other side that I first experienced when I first met him in the early fall of 2008. He was part of the Pastor Search Team at Western Hills. I was speaking at a conference in Kansas and Danny Payne pushed me to meet with the team.
It was your typical, get-to-know-you, semi-awkward gathering. Having known Danny Payne and Merle Mees very well, I knew much of the history of Western Hills and I was very non-committal to the team making it clear I loved where I was. Bob sat in the circle off to my left with his arms folded in front of him, legs outstretched, looking over the top of his glasses. He was next to impossible to read but I figured I was to young, to inexperienced, to hip, to whatever for him and the team. I was looking for a gentle way to end the interview, say thank you and head back home to Colorado. Everybody would be nice. We’d all enjoy the evening.
But Bob would change all of that with a single question. What made Bob a great lawyer also made him a great friend. Not an easy friend, but a great friend. If he saw something, he’d couldn’t just let it be. He had to poke at it and get to the bottom of it. I would be his victim this day.
“Grant, may I ask a question of you? When exactly are you going to pray about this next chapter of your life and allow God to give you His answer, not what you want to hear?”
I think the term I’m looking for is undressed. Exposed. Filleted.
He was now leaning in with his elbows on his knees, a slight grin on his face – like he knew something I didn’t (which he did). He wasn’t offensive, he wasn’t argumentative. He wasn’t trying to sell Western Hills. He wasn’t trying to impress anybody. He saw a blind spot in me and regardless of how this journey ended, he wanted me to see it. Everybody wins when God gets the last word.
Over the years, we’d talk Bronco football, even those horrific, McDaniels train wreck years. He got me into looking at World War II airplane nose art, I introduced him to From The Earth To The Moon series. We’d talk war movies and fishing. He’d make me come out and fish his pond and tell them what the fish were biting on. We’d commiserate about raising girls. I’d groan at most of his jokes but every now and then he’d get me laughing.
The last few months, our conversations changed. Faith and doubt. The reality of the resurrection of Jesus, the security of our faith in Christ. What our resurrected bodies will be like. We’d share verses back and forth. He’d tell me how much he was looking forward to the wedding of Carissa. How proud he was of Jenni. His feelings for his mom, his love for his wife.
He knew this day was coming. He told me – ‘Don’t go and do anything really stupid when I die like make a big deal of it.’ Typically I’d reply – ‘Well then don’t go and do anything really stupid like actually die.’
To which Bob uttered the classic line – “We’re all terminal, you know?”
He always had to have the last word.
Here’s what I know today. I know there are a lot of people that love him and will miss him. I know he’d punch me in the face for having written a blog post about him. I know he loved his family. I know he wrestled with his faith and it made him stronger.
And I know he loved Jesus.
I know he loved Jesus.
And that gives me comfort. It allows me to grieve with hope. I hope this does the same for you as well.
I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.