Love

Steve's Light, No Fireworks

It was a day just like today. The air was thick with humidity, the sun shinning brightly. Families and friends were making their preparations for picnics, and cookouts, and trips to the beach.

It was summer 2012. I had just graduated from Hampton University and was back home in Maryland. It was the perfect weather to go swimming with friends before the fireworks that evening. I was on my way to do just that when I found myself in traffic heading south on Route 50. I pulled out my phone and went to Twitter, because that’s what you did when no cars were moving on the highway. I probably should have left sooner to beat the holiday traffic.

I saw on Twitter that Steve was in the hospital and he wasn’t doing well. I texted my friend whose tweet I had read to see what exactly was going on. Without a second thought as to the plans I had made for the day, once the cars started moving, I got off on the next exit to turn around and head north towards Baltimore.

The first time I met Steve he walked into our high school youth group lugging an oxygen tank. He had inherited a lung disease from his father. I didn’t know then the impact his light and life would have on mine, the impact we would have on each other’s lives.

I reached the hospital as fast as I could. Wearing shorts and my bathing suit, I was thankful that I always kept a spare hoodie in my trunk. When I entered the waiting room, I found a seat among Steve’s family, friends, and church family. We did a lot of sitting that day, and waiting, and praying. Although the air conditioning caused my bare legs to shiver, there was nowhere else I would have rather been.

After a while, Steve’s brother Jordan took me in to see him. Steve had been placed on life support because his lungs just couldn’t breathe for him anymore. He looked… different, not the animated person I knew, but he was still Steve. Jordan spoke to him on behalf of both of us and although unresponsive, we knew that he could hear Jordan’s voice. I couldn’t say a word. Why hadn’t I come here to see Steve earlier?

When Steve came to our youth group, he came as another one of our leaders. Over time the oxygen tank stopped tagging along and he was healthier than ever. Eventually he became a youth pastor and he was one of the best. Steve made the Word of God come alive to a bunch of high schoolers and showed us how Scripture applied to our everyday lives. He showed us how you could be intelligent, athletic, kind, funny, generous, young and a Christian. That the idea of Christians being boring didn’t exist. Jesus wasn’t boring (see the Books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John). We could still love Jesus with all our heart, soul, and mind, and be cool without compromising our character. That being a Christian, a follower of Christ, was all about our relationship with Jesus the Son of God and not about religious activity. He lived his life as an example of true freedom in Christ.

To me, Steve wasn’t just my youth leader, but also a mentor, a friend, and a big brother. He supported me in the sports I played, told me to stay away from silly boys, tried to pick out my prom date, and taught me about the Word of God. My friends and I spent time with his family, we ate together, we played ball together, we prayed together, and had dance parties at youth conventions. He could preach his heart out, sharing about the love of the Father for all people and then have you laughing later that day. It was truly a gift and everyone loved him.

I knew Whitney was the one for him right away and I was thankful that I was able to fly home from college to attend their wedding in the spring of 2009. I was even happier when I found out they were expecting a baby boy a year or two later.

Steve was on fire for God and he loved him some Lakers. I had and have never known anyone like him. I am so grateful that I was able to meet Steve, learn from him, watch him get married, and begin a beautiful life with his family. I’m thankful that I was able to see him that summer day in the hospital.

There were no cookouts for me, no pool or memories at the beach, and no fireworks. It was a day of praying, and waiting, and hoping, and loving.

Steve died the next day. I had never cried so hard in my life. Up until that point, I had never really experienced the death of a loved one who I was in close proximity with, who I had done life with on a daily basis.

A week later I was honored to speak at his funeral on behalf of all the youth whose lives he touched. For all those who saw the light in His life and surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ. For all the youth who saw how you can still be cool and a Christian. You can pray, and read the Bible, and love people and Jesus, and still have fun. How being set apart isn’t a burden, it’s an honor. I was delighted to share stories of our times together, words that I couldn’t say in the hospital the week before.

I still think about Steve often and the impact he had on my life. After he died, I realized that I couldn’t live my life the same way. I couldn’t say I was a Christian, yet live my life outside of daily relationship with Jesus. There was no more time for that. College showed me that my light wasn’t as bright as I thought it was. Steve’s life, and death, showed me that it’s better to walk in the light than to run in darkness.

By the end of August, I started reading the study Bible I received as a graduation gift from my other spiritual big brother, Jonathan. I began in Genesis and read the entire Word for the first time in my life. I read of Gods grace, and love, and knew it deeper than I ever had before.

Everything changed after that summer and I’m grateful for the light in Steve’s life that helped point me back to the cross. Unlike fireworks that brighten up the night sky for a brief moment in time, Steve’s light will last through eternity.

There isn’t a doubt in my mind that every moment of that day for me was orchestrated by the Holy Spirit - for me to be in traffic, to see the tweet, to send the text, to turn around, to get to the hospital, and see Steve alive on this earth one last time. Even the fact that I was in Maryland that summer and not in Arizona working for my cousin like I had originally planned, was all God.

It took me a while to understand that God has a plan for everything, even death. He knows our beginning, and our end, and He loves us.

The scripture I reflected on and attributed to Steve’s life was what Paul wrote in Philippians 1:20-21:

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.

Steve was 30 years old when he died, the same age Jesus was when His ministry began. July 5, 2012 wasn’t the end of Steve’s ministry, but simply the beginning of another chapter. You see, people who knew Steve came from all over the country to attend his funeral. Some of them met Jesus through the drawing of the Holy Spirit, experiencing His mercy, His peace, His love for the first time ever. Others were awakened to the truth of The Gospel because of the trail of light that Steve left behind him. Some of them now pastors, teachers, missionaries, mentors. His legacy of truth, surrender, and faith will continue to live on through his wife and sons, and their generations. It will live on through the lives he touched, the young people he inspired, and through me.

Grace & Peace,

Raine


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We love you Steve, Whitney, Quincy, Kevin, Mrs. Barbara, Georgia & Jordan

S P R I N G || Come Away With Me

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Winter has gone on far too long. Spring is on its way and I hear Him calling to me, “come away with Me…”

 “The Shulamite

 Listen! I hear my lover’s voice.

I know it’s him coming to me—

leaping with joy over mountains,

skipping in love over the hills that separate us,

to come to me.

Let me describe him:

he is graceful as a gazelle,

swift as a wild stag.

Now he comes closer,

even to the places where I hide.

He gazes into my soul,

peering through the portal

as he blossoms within my heart.

The one I love calls to me:

The Bridegroom-King

 Arise, my dearest. Hurry, my darling.

Come away with me!

I have come as you have asked

to draw you to my heart and lead you out.

For now is the time, my beautiful one.

The season has changed,

the bondage of your barren winter has ended,

and the season of hiding is over and gone.

The rains have soaked the earth

and left it bright with blossoming flowers.

The season for singing and pruning the vines has arrived.

I hear the cooing of doves in our land,

filling the air with songs to awaken you and guide you forth.

Can you not discern this new day of destiny

breaking forth around you?

The early signs of my purposes and plans

are bursting forth.

The budding vines of new life

are now blooming everywhere.

The fragrance of their flowers whispers,

‘There is change in the air.’

Arise, my love, my beautiful companion,

and run with me to the higher place.

For now is the time to arise and come away with me.

For you are my dove, hidden in the split-open rock.

It was I who took you and hid you up high

in the secret stairway of the sky.

Let me see your radiant face and hear your sweet voice.

How beautiful your eyes of worship

and lovely your voice in prayer.

You must catch the troubling foxes,

those sly little foxes that hinder our relationship.

For they raid our budding vineyard of love

to ruin what I’ve planted within you.

Will you catch them and remove them for me?

We will do it together.”

-Song of Songs 2:10-15 The Passion Translation

 

Is anybody else ready for Spring?

Time to go catch those little foxes.

Grace & Peace,

Raine


Around the beginning of each season I hope to share with you my reflections of the previous one, what I’m looking forward to in the current/next season & what my intentions are. Be sure to look out for this section in early Spring, Summer, Autumn & Winter!


LOOKING BACK

Too many cloudy days.


LOOKING AHEAD

I wanna feel the sun on my skin.


MY INTENTIONS FOR SPRING

Begin taking long walks with The Father through His Word

Begin having regular conversations with Jesus over breakfast, while I’m working and throughout my days

Be still and be present to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit

Get outside, even for a few minutes, everyday

Write and read and read and write

Explore my new home here in Florida and learn to appreciate it for everything that it has to offer

Less social media, less tv, less distractions, less clutter, less procrastination and more abiding

I wanna eat more fruit

I wanna dance

What are your intentions for this new season?