Thursday, June 17, 2010

Thursday June 17 2010 - Day 220 - Graduation Day

Well, hi-di-ho, people! This is Stephen filling in for Loriann tonight, partly because I had an honor bestowed on me today and Loriann thought it would be nice for me to get to share it with you. Today Our Savior's Lutheran School, where all three of our kids have gone, held their second eighth grade graduation (for forty years or so the school only went to sixth grade). The principal, Don Gillingham, asked me to speak at the graduation ceremony. Loriann wanted me to share with you some of what I shared with the young people who were graduating, as well as the family and friends who had joined them. I started off by telling them how honored I was to get to speak at the graduation, and then this is most of what I said:

"The reason I said that most of you know that I was in a car crash last year is simple. All of the young men and women who are graduating today, along with the other students here at OSL, prayed for me here in the school, and I’m sure at home as well. As word of the accident spread to the parents of these young people, most if not all of you prayed for me as well. I was very blessed to have two large groups of people praying for me – the people here at Our Savior’s – the students, their parents and the people who work here - , and the people that I go to church with at Delmar Full Gospel Church. One of the great things was that people didn’t pray for me once and then just leave it in the hands of God – they brought me before our Father many times; many people did it once a day. Many people still are. They weren’t just praying for me, either. My daughter, Hannah, was in the car with me and she was also injured, and all the people I just mentioned were continually bringing her before the Father for prayer as well. She’s only a freshman in high school, and she was in the first 8th grade graduating class of Our Savior’s last year. Modestly as a father forbids me from pointing out that she was valedictorian of her class.

After I was in the hospital for a couple of weeks I went to Sunnyview Rehabilitation Center and was there for almost a month. I was blessed to be discharged three days before Christmas, so I was able to attend the Christmas Eve service at my church and to be home for Christmas. One of my most cherished memories took place right here at this wonderful school. It was December 22nd, the day I was going home, and my wife and I stopped here before we went home. I was still in my wheelchair, since I wasn’t allowed yet to put any weight on my right leg. We came into the building here and there was the excitement in the air you would expect in a school just before the Christmas break is going to start. There were also tears and laughter as I got to meet with friends who were here and who had been praying for me. The thing that really struck me, though, and the thing that meant so much to me, was the fact that children kept coming up to me and telling me how they had been praying for me, and praying for Hannah. It wasn’t one or two kids, either – there must have been twenty-five kids or more who came up to tell me that. Some of them came up kind of timidly, some with more boldness and confidence. And I was able to tell them, truthfully, that the reason that I was here was because of those prayers. I was able to tell them that if they hadn’t been praying for me I might have died, or I might have lost one of my legs, or I might have still been in the hospital and looking at being there for months before I could go home. It was the prayers that went up for me that got me out of Sunnyview in time for Christmas. Some of the teachers have told me of students in the classrooms getting down on their knees to pray for my daughter and me. I’ll never have the words to adequately express my appreciation for their faith and their faithfulness to praying expectantly for our healing.

You students have been very blessed to go to this school. God is not ignored here, and He’s not just talked about in a vague, undefined way. In this day and age not enough children are taught about God in school, and taught how to pray to Him. By learning about Him at this age you are being given a foundation that you will be able to stand firm on for the rest of your life. By learning how to speak to Him – and, just as importantly, how to listen to Him – you are setting yourself up to have a fulfilling prayer life going forward into high school and adulthood. Believe me when I tell you that nothing is more important than that. I wish I had had a foundation like that when I was your age.

The Bible tells us that God can work all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. That can even include major car crashes. Now, I can’t honestly stand up here today and say that I’m glad the crash happened, or that I wouldn’t avoid it if I somehow had the ability to go back in time to November 8th. But that doesn’t stop me from seeing the good that God has brought out of it. It brought my church closer together in prayer and in action as people prayed for Hannah and I and sought out ways to help my family. It brought people here together in praying in unity. The car that Hannah and I were in has been donated to Choices 301 and will be brought to different high schools so that young people can see the kinds of consequences that come out of drinking and then driving. Some of you might see it in the next couple of years. I know that it was at Bethlehem High a couple of weeks ago. The crash and its aftermath have strengthened bonds I’ve had with some friends and some family members who perhaps had started drifting away a little bit. My wife has blessed many people with the blog that’s she’s been writing faithfully ever since she began writing in the middle of November last year, and she has come to a deeper relationship with the one she calls 'The Great One'.

Possibly the best “good” that God’s brought out of this crash, though, was that many people – including you students here at this school – have gotten to see prayer answered in a visible, real way. I’m praying that God uses this to keep in the front of your mind the fact that He wants you to seek His face, and that He delights in giving us His best. He delights in you, too – in every one of you. Never forget that God is with you in all the places in your life. My daughter Hannah – you know, the one who was the valedictorian of her graduating class last year, but you didn’t hear that from me – has always been a wonderful writer, creative and witty. If you don’t believe me you can ask the teachers who’ve had her. Well, when she was a little girl she made up an imaginary dinosaur friend named Tiny. He was blue and purple, but you couldn’t see that because he was also invisible whenever he wanted to be, which was usually whenever anyone else was around. Hannah told me that he was as big as a regular brontosaurus, so I asked her once how he managed to fit into her bedroom in the house. She explained to me that he ate “squeezable soup”, and that after he ate it he could adapt to any size he wanted.

Well, except for needing to eat squeezable soup, God is like that. God can be in really big places with us, like in a hospital after a major car crash. God can be in small places with us, like when we have a chance to do a little sin that nobody else will ever know about – but you will. And He will. You ladies and gentlemen are going to be going off to high school in a few months. During your four years there you’ll come across temptations and opportunities that you haven’t had to deal with up until now. Remember that God is there with you at those times. Not in a scary “God’s going to catch you” way, but in a comforting way, reminding you that you’re never alone. He can give you the strength to resist any temptation, and to walk the path that He has for you, a path filled with life and beauty. There will be pain there, too, but if you’re walking it with Him it will never be too hard to manage. Remember always that He loves you and that He wants to spend time with you. Spend time with Him. It will always be worth it."

Hi again. Sorry that was so long, but I did try to cut out most of the stuff that didn't really relate to our relationship to God. (I also cut out a joke in which I talked about my injuries, and said that if people were interested in seeing the skin graft they could for $1.00 a view, but that if they didn't want to see it it would cost $3.00.) It was an honor, though, not just to address them but also to get to talk to them about what a precious thing we have - a chance to have a real, personal relationship with our Savior and with the Creator of the universe. That wasn't available to ordinary people before Jesus came to earth and used His death to tear the curtain that separated us from God. It's available to us today, though. Just writing that kind of staggers me how I don't take advantage of that gift as often as I should. God is never too busy for us and wants to spend time with us. I hope - and I know that Loriann hopes - that this blog has helped at least one person spend some extra time with Jesus.

Tomorrow I promise Loriann will do a post. In the meantime, love God and love people the best that you can. Thanks for reading tonight/today. Loriann and I keep you in our prayers as we know you keep us in yours. God bless you.


Mary Louise said...

Boy, I wish you were the speaker at MY 8th grade graduation. Of course, you were probably 3 years old at the time.....

Anonymous said...

Great job last night - you had me in tears and giggles. Every time I see you, I see the grace, mercy and love of God. You are a living reminder of His miraculous power; a forceful display piece of His great haniwork - inside and out. I can't thank Him enough for sparing your life so that you could bring glory to His Name and keep my beautiful friend from a life without you. XXOO Mar

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Steve,for an inspiring message.Thank you for showing us your faith,courage,perserverance,and ,of course,your great sense of humor.We applaud you,as we give thanks to "The Great One" for you and your family.-In Him-Joan

Anonymous said...

Steve (and Loriann),
I so wanted to get to the graduation last night, just only to hear you speak (and for my pre-teen boys to hear you)... When I wasn't able to go... I was so anxious to get to my computer this am hoping to hear something about last night! THANK YOU (your WITNESS IS SO SOOOO POWERFUL (and all of your family's witness as well)! I now can't wait to share/read your testimony at our Family time tonight. What God Has done and Is doing in your family HAS SO HELPED us (individually & as a family) in countless ways you could never imagine; thru you His Power IS changing us. God is using you mightily. Thank YOU for being open to His calling and being a vessel to be used by Him. Be Blessed Smith Family - we Thank You and Love You all. L.D.