Rob Lacey remembered

Rob Lacey died one year ago today. So many people looked up to this Welshman with a flare for the dramatic. To me, he was a good friend… and one of my heroes.

For two years I was Rob’s editor at Zondervan. Actually, I was one of three editors who worked with him over the years. Rob was the kind of person everyone wanted to be around.

He was also the kind of person who could change your life without even trying. Not because his vivid performances of scripture brought the Bible to life (though they did). And not because of his moving story about being dragged by cancer to the brink of death, only to receive what at the time seemed like a miraculous reprieve.

Rob believed in a God who is infinitely creative. It was Rob’s mission in life to be made and remade each day in his Maker’s image—always creating, always exploring. Rob shined his light on the whole Bible—the good bits as well as the ones we’d rather not read—and he made them his own.

But it was more than that. Rob was not content to do all this while others looked on and applauded. Rob wanted others to join him on stage, to express themselves and discover, with wonder, that creating something is part of what it means to be made in God’s image.

Whenever I saw Rob, he didn’t just want to talk about his next project. He wanted to know what I was creating, what I was writing. He was keenly interested to know how I was expressing myself… if I was giving voice to the artist within me.

Even when my wife and I visited him in the hospital just weeks before he died, he wanted to know if I was writing anything. He loved to see that divine spark of creativity in others.

I think it’s because Rob was fully convinced that our Creator dances with delight whenever his creation dances, sings plays, writes…

I suppose that, in a way, Rob is the inspiration for this blog… because when I see him again someday, and he asks the question I know he’s going to ask, I’d like to be able to say, “Actually, I did write—quite a lot.” Not because it means I’ve “accomplished” anything, but because I will have experienced what it means to be created in the image of God.

That may have been Rob’s greatest gift—enabling others to see the image of God in each of us.

I could go on, but Gerard Kelly has already said it so much more beautifully than I could. So I’ll end by quoting from Gerard’s tribute to Rob last year:

Rob loved people, and he loved to see people enjoying and expressing their God-given gifts…

Even if there were nothing else, that would be enough. But there is something else… Rob had a glorious, generous, Technicolor, sky-wide picture of the character of God. The God Rob had come to know was so beautiful, so gracious and loving and kind and forgiving and good. Rob wanted more than anything that we should know how good God is…

It was this that sustained him in his battles, one-on-one, with the terrors and pains of cancer. It was this that gave him hope and comfort; it was this that kept him going: The God who weaves himself into the joys and pains of scripture was and is Rob’s God—and he is good. This was Rob’s discovery. This was his joy. And nothing—not pain, not cancer, not even death—could rob him of it.

Rob stumbled upon the most remarkable secret of them all. The curtain was held back for him. He saw the beauty of God. That was his gift, and his legacy.

We miss you, Rob.

bad friday

from The Liberator, by Rob Lacey…

The macabre scene moves slowly up Skull Hill. They get there and the Roman Death Squad shove a cocktail made of wine with myrrh into Jesus’ face. He takes a sip but spits it out, flat refusing to drink the stuff.

They pin Jesus to the rough crossbar leaving him to die. Him and the two hardened criminals — one on either side. Jesus says, “Dad! Don’t hold this against these people — wipe their slates clean. They’ve got no idea what’s going on here!”

The Death Squad rip his clothes off and start playing gambling games to see who “inherits” the clothing mementos.

Time check: Friday 9 AM. One of the soldiers grabs the multi-use Offence Placard, writes up Jesus’ “crime” and then pins it just above his head. It reads, “Jesus: King of the Jews”.

The other two victims with him — the terrorists — one on either side of the central focus point, Jesus… bite back their excruciating pain and add their jibes to the mix… “Aren’t you supposed to be The Liberator? Get liberating, won’t you? You need it and we need it!”

But the other guy calls across, “Don’t you have no respect for God? You’re getting what you had coming to you, but this guy’s done nothing wrong. So shut it!”

The second career criminal turns to Jesus and says, “Jesus, don’t forget me when you sit on your throne, okay?”

Jesus answers him, “I’ll tell you today — no lie — you and me, we’ll be in paradise together.”

Time check: 12 midday. It goes dark, totally dark, for three full hours right across Judah. Nothing except the chilling sound track of three men inching toward Death. Later, about three in the afternoon, Jesus freaks those still left there by shouting, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” Translation: “My God, my God, why’ve you abandoned me?”

Some of those within earshot hear the “Eli, Eli” bit and get the wrong end of the stick, saying, “Listen, he’s trying to connect with Elijah!”

Knee-jerk reaction for one guy was to offer some soured wine to the sufferer, hoisting a soaked sponge of the stuff up to Jesus on a stick. Others are going, “Whoa! Hang on. Wait to see if Elijah’s going to turn up like a one-man SWAT team and rescue him.”

Jesus shouts on out one more time and finally allows his spirit to be torn out of his broken body.

He cries out, “Dad, I trust you with my spirit!”

His last words.

He dies.