Daniel, Kenny, and Matt – come up here and sit on these three stools and look at your church family while I talk with you.A few weeks ago Daniel and I were home alone while Pam was out with teachers at dinner. Daniel and I were watching some baseball game or some car show – don’t recall which guy show we were watching. During the show, Daniel asked me out of the blue, “Are you going to miss me when I am gone to Germany?” As he tells it, I kept watching TV, never blinked nor hesitated, and said, “Guys don’t miss guys.” He replied, “Good answer. Man law. Good answer.” We both kept watching TV.
Senior Recognition Day Celebration. It takes a Church to raise a student and child.
Matt, Kenny, and Daniel – here we are this morning.
This church was started for you three. Not many seniors can say that they had a church started because of them. While you were still in high school, you three inspired a group to go do something none of us had ever done before – start a church.
We wanted you to have a church family that loved you, included you, welcomed you each Sunday, and got you through to graduation. We wanted you to have a place to come Home to every once in a while. We wanted you to have a group of people that believed in you, walked with you, laughed with you, cried with you, was always here for you, and wanted the best for you. We wanted you to have a church family that so loved you that you would never forget you are loved. We wanted a place to applaud you and watch you grow up. We wanted a place where you could be good influences on younger ones.
Even some men and women whose children had already grown up and left home wanted to start a church for you three. Look at these people who have started a church for you, paid the bills so that you might have this church family, given you gifts, laughed with you, taken communion with you and from you, cried with you, and loved you.
So, on March 27, 2005 this church was started for you three to get you through high school. Here we are on June 1, 2008. Over three years later. Done. It takes a Church to raise a child.
Matt, when I first met you, you were not smiling much. Of course, not many 14 year-old boys smile much. Too much going on between a boy’s ears to smile much at age 14.
Your mom and dad wanted you to have a church family. This church family is a gift to you from your mom and dad. You smile a lot these days. Your grin is contagious. Oh, you still got a lot going on between those ears and there are lots of things to face in life, but you grin a lot. We love that grin of yours.
I will never forget the day we arrived at the cabin in New Mexico for a week of trout fishing and doing nothing. I figured you would get bored. I did not know you very well then. As soon as we got unpacked, you were the first boy to head to the stream which surprised me.
Within 30 minutes, you came back with a trout, which shocked me. You were grinning from ear to ear. It took me a week of fishing to catch my first trout up there over 30 years ago. When you came back with that grin and that trout, I learned then that you were a capable person who would go into the unknown and conquer the challenge facing you.
Kenny, I will never forget that night at the Church Ski Trip Planning meeting when you quietly raised your hand, waited for me to call on you, and you asked “Can I bring my guitar and play some songs for the group?” I told you that you were welcome to bring your guitar. I thought “Why not let the kid sing one song for us? No matter how badly it sounds, it will be good for him to play for us.”
You opened up our first devotion night in Colorado and shocked us with your voice, your guitar playing, and your love of singing. We changed our entire music plans for the week and you played every night for us during the entire Christian retreat. We could not wait for you to play each night.
I remember well the day your mother stood and thanked the entire church for loving you so much. She loved you so much, as does your father. She celebrates with you this morning from her view in Heaven. She is standing and cheering for you this morning. She did Good in life by bringing you into the world.
Thank you for giving me reason to grin with your voice and love of music.
Daniel, I remember well the night you came into this world. October 16, 1989. The Oakland A’s were in the World Series that night. The doctor and I watched that World Series on the TV…in Pam’s room as she and the nurses were bringing you into the world. It was a memorable World Series. That night you were born was the night the earthquake hit the Oakland area and we saw it on TV. The World Series play was suspended for a few days. I remember it all well…the World Series and all.
I also remember the night we took a drive at midnight in 2005 out Ranch Road 12 in August of 2005. It was a tough year for you that first year here in San Marcos. We were sitting under a big oak tree under a full moon, trying to figure out some things in life. We had always talked before but now we were talking less and having more questions about life.
You asked me a question. You asked, “Dad, am I going to make it?”
Lesson. Every transition in your life will include the moments when you ask, “Am I going to make it?” It is a question I have on every transition in life.
I had it all together, I had “made it” in life, and you were the one struggling with the move to San Marcos. I told you that you were going to make it. I quietly hoped you would make it. But I told you that you would make it.
Then we saw a large rabbit approach us under the brightly lit moonlight. Turned out it was not a rabbit. It was a skunk.
Soon I had my own turbulence here in San Marcos and I was the one not making it so well and you were doing fine. You turned out carrying me for a while. Turned out you made it okay here in San Marcos and I had my own bumps, huh? You carried me some days, huh? Thank you.
In 1989 we had just arrived to our new assignment out in the middle of the desert. Pam was pregnant with you, Daniel. Every transition in life brings big questions about life and our decisions. It was a quiet and lonely time each night. We counted the first 97 days because each day went by so slowly.
For some reason, my dreams and my sermons started having lots of stories in them about my grandpa and about his farm and about apples from Hoople’s Apple Orchard near the farm. I could not figure out why these dreams and stories were coming out of my mind all of a sudden. I had not spent much time in 16 years since grandpa’s death thinking about him or the farm.
One night while trying to go to sleep, I realized what was happening. The desert nights were lonely, quiet, full of questions about the future, and I had lots of time to think, trying to go to sleep. I thought I was a failure of a husband for bringing a pregnant wife out into the middle of the desert. Lots of self questioning.
Then I realized that night that the desert was full of crickets chirping. I would drift off to sleep late each night to the sound of desert crickets. I had been busy too many years to hear the crickets.
The sounds of crickets took me back to Grandpa, to the farm, to the church on Mt. Joy, to things I had not thought much about in 16 years. Cricket sounds took me back home and reminded me of teachings that shaped my life. Simple things like love, crickets, grinning grandpa, and apples from the orchard. Things I missed in life. From back when life was more simple.
This note came to us this week from Kristie McIntire, a family who knew you in Boston when you were 9 years old, Daniel:
Congrats to Daniel! Savannah (who’s now easily taller than me) was remembering him as one of the older boys on the bus on some trip at Hanscom. My best memory of him was when he would help her and her sled back up the hill in the snow at Hanscom. Now he’s a high school grad and a garage band star! What are his big plans?
You would pull her and her sled back UP the hill in the snow at Hanscom Air Force Base. You were always helping others. All three of you are known for helping the younger ones in this church.
Matt, Kenny, and Daniel – you three always came up front for the children’s sermons. Way past the time others in other churches would quit. But you kept coming up front…perhaps for the candy! But this is your church. Built for you. And you spent your time helping and including the younger ones here today.
Some seemingly friendly rabbits approaching you in life will turn out to be skunks. Run fast from them. I did that night. Daniel was on his own. I found out HE could run fast also, as we both darted away from the skunk.
Michael has been putting together three model ships today while I talked to you. He has been sitting beside you, working on your gift from the church, not saying a word. Just putting together your gift for you. That is like God. Even when you were not aware of Michael sitting beside you, he was quietly making you a gift. You do not have to speak or even acknowledge his presence…he just made you this gift. Masterfully. As only a navy seaman can do.
On each sail are these words from Jeremiah – “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”
Like Michael, God has been preparing a Gift called Life for you long before you were aware of His Work. He is putting together a Masterpiece for you. You do not even have to look at Him. He is doing it all on His own. Accept it and enjoy it and treat it with respect and Love and you will please Him.
Go. Listen for the crickets someday. Go. And come home from time to time. Go. Listen for the crickets. Go. Go. And never forget about us. We will never forget about you three. Go. Tackle the world. Love it. Change it. Go. Fish. Play guitar. Help others up the hill in the snow. Go. We love you. Go. Listen for the crickets on your quiet nights alone in life. Go. May the crickets be with you. And keep grinning no matter what you face in life, even when rabbits turn out to be skunks. Life will surprise you like that. But Go anyway. Go. And grin. A big grin. For us. Now just go…after you serve us communion.
Oh, guys do miss guys. You guys take care. Pam said I stared at the television so that I would not show emotion when Daniel asked me if I would miss him. Aren’t girls weird? Amen.
By GARY L. SMITH
Reverend – Christ the Redeemer Church