I always love the movies when someone sees someone from afar at the beginning of a movie, and they instantly know from that moment on that this one person is really, really special. Then, the rest of the movie is chaos and mayhem as the character tries to figure out what exactly that something “special” is.
A few cases in point: Serendipity with John Cusack and Kate Beckinsdale, (sort of) August Rush with Freddie Highmore, Keri Russell, and Jonathan Rhys Meyers, or While You Were Sleeping with Sandra Bullock, Bill Pullman, and Peter Gallagher.
If you haven’t seen these movies, you really should. They are all fantastic (particularly While You Were Sleeping)!
The story you are about to read, however, isn’t about a movie from 1995. It’s actually about a story from my own life that has a similar element to it (although, sadly, it’s not a crazy Beth style full of mishaps love story. I know, too bad!)
Let’s rewind a bit to Canal Days back at the beginning of June, and perhaps even a bit before that.
When I was planning the Faith & Family Night event for Saturday night featuring Love & the Outcome and the Sidewalk Prophets, I prayed a lot.
A lot a lot.
I prayed for good weather. I prayed that we would somehow come up with all the sponsorships that we needed. I prayed that I would somehow, someway figure out what the heck I was doing and not make a train wreck out of the whole thing.
I think my most fervent prayer was this: that even if it poured down rain and we ran out of money and the Sidewalk Prophets ended up playing an acoustic set in my driveway for 12 people, at least one heart somewhere in the general vicinity of the 46774 zip code would be changed for the better by something they saw or heard at Faith and Family Night.
Well, I’m happy to report that the weather was perfect on Saturday, June 8th. I did not manage to singlehandedly bankrupt the Canal Days Festival Committee (yippee!) By all accounts, the evening was far from a train wreck and an estimated 4,000 people turned out in the park for the show. (Considering that in previous years we normally drew crowds of about 40 for a show, I was happy with 4,000!)
The only thing I didn’t know was who my ‘one’ was—my one person that I had hoped for, and prayed for. I knew it was likely that I would never really know, and I was actually very content with that as I stood backstage with my sound and lighting guru Nate, looking out at all of the smiling faces who were singing and praising the name of Jesus in Schnelker Park.
I watched as one little boy, maybe my son’s age, caught my eye near the front of the stage. He was singing along with Dave of the Sidewalk Prophets to one of my favorite songs, ‘You Love Me Anyway’, with his eyes closed and his green wristband strapped arms raised in the air.
I’m pretty sure my heart smiled.
For me, that was the face and the moment from Faith & Family Night that I won’t ever forget.
(Okay, so maybe I should be completely honest here. Perhaps the reason I noticed the little boy was his t-shirt. He was wearing a completely awesome blue t-shirt that, at first glance, looked like a Superman shirt. I am a lifelong Superman fanatic. If e-Bay had been around when I was 5, I would have sold my little brother online so I could have his Superman underoos. Anyways, the t-shirt the little boy was wearing wasn’t a Superman t-shirt—instead of an S in the middle of the chest, it had a cross. To quote my own son at age 3, “Jesus is the best superhero ever, Mommy!”)
A few days after Faith & Family Night, I received a message in my “Other” mailbox from people I am not currently friends with on Facebook. This box usually has some interesting mail in it; on this particular day, however, I found a message that said the following: “Beth, here is a picture of my son who LOVES Jesus at the Sidewalk Prophets concert.”
Right below the message was a picture of the moment I remembered from Faith & Family Night. The little 6-year-old boy in the blue Superman style t-shirt, arms up in the air was in my inbox.
His name is Parker, and he may very well be my Faith & Family Night one.
Several days later, I made an appointment to go over to Parker’s house to find out more about this little kid who I had been told talks to the kids on the school bus about Jesus. Parker was smiling out thru the window at me, and he was waving a small piece of paper in the air.
“Look what I’ve got!” he said as soon as I walked in the door. Upon closer examination, I realized he had torn off the page that the Sidewalk Prophets had autographed on his ‘Live Like That’ CD cover.
To put it mildly, the autographed sheet was looking incredibly loved.
“Whose name is that?” Parker asked me, pointing at the different signatures. “What instrument do they play?” he wanted to know. I answered his question, to which he replied “Wow! Wow! Wow!”
On a nearby couch, Parker’s mom, Valerie, sat covered up with a blanket, her multi colored medications lined up in dozens of syringes in front of her on the coffee table.
I actually remembered Valerie as well Parker from Faith & Family Night, because she had been in a wheelchair, sporting a freshly implanted medical infusion port on her chest with IV lines racing up and down her arms. While waiting in line for a Sidewalk Prophets autograph, she had nervously asked me, “Do you think they will take a picture with me even though I’m in a wheelchair?”
Without hesitation, I had replied, “Sweetie, you’re in a wheelchair. I’m pretty sure they would do anything you asked them to as long as it isn’t illegal or immoral.” She laughed, and sure enough, got the picture she wanted a few minutes later.
This particular night in Valerie’s living room, however, she began telling me the story of how she is currently battling Lyme Disease, and how she didn’t always attend Christian music concerts; in fact, it wasn’t until Parker was born after a difficult pregnancy and was placed in the NICU that she had her first real encounter with our loving and merciful Savior.
“It was 2 am in the morning, and I had snuck out of my hospital room and went down to the NICU,” Valerie told me, “and the beeping and the noises from Parker’s bassinet was driving me crazy. I didn’t know if he was going to be okay.”
Valerie stopped for a moment, drawing a shaky breath before continuing on. “My Mom had been going to church for several years, and had been asking me to go with her, but I was like, ‘Yeah, I don’t need any of that.’ Then, at 2 am in the NICU, I dropped to my knees because I couldn’t handle this on my own anymore. I prayed, ‘God, if you are there, I need to know. This is too much for me.’”
What happened next, says Valerie, changed her life forevermore.
Parker’s respiration levels immediately leveled.
His heartbeat regulated.
The beeps were silenced.
“There was just silence,” recalls Valerie. “The hairs on my arms literally stood on end. It was incredibly powerful.”
From then on, Valerie said, she was going to follow Christ.
So was Parker.
She remembers a time when Parker, just 3 years old, was playing outside with his Tonka trucks. Parker had lined up the trucks, talking to a broom in his hand as Valerie and her mother watched from the porch, wondering what he was up to.
Eventually, it dawned on them he was preaching the story of John the Baptist to the Tonka trucks.
At 6 (and 1/2!), Parker still knows his stuff when it comes to Bible, and he still has a big heart for Jesus.
Parker remembers when he was 5 years old, driving along in the car he heard a song on the radio and prayed that Jesus would come into his heart and live. That day was so special he can even tell you the exact day it happened: September 30th, 2012.
Of course, I wanted to talk to Parker about music since it’s kind of my thing. Parker says some of his favorites are Skillet and the Newsboys—he really likes the songs “Monster” by Skillet and “God’s Not Dead” by the Newsboys. He also likes Chris Tomlin, and of course, the Sidewalk Prophets.
While I wanted to know more about Parker and his musical favorites, he wanted to know more about the Sidewalk Prophets; for instance, who was standing where on stage? Who was the guy wearing the hat? Who was the guy with the beard? Who was the happy guy playing the drums? Do you think they remember me? Where was the tambourine? (Sadly, I did not have an answer to that question!)
When I managed to squeeze in a final question of my own, I asked if there was anything else I needed to know about him, Parker responded enthusiastically, “I’m a big Christian! And I’ve read the whole Bible!”
He proudly held up his copy of the Beginner’s Bible. I was notably impressed.
Parker’s mom Valerie says that since attending Faith and Family night earlier this June, and meeting the Sidewalk Prophets, Parker is more aware of Christian behaviors and his faith. According to Valerie, the knowledge that everyone around him at Faith and Family Night knew God and knew the words to the songs made a huge and lasting impression on him.
That’s quite a coincidence, since Parker has made a lasting impression on me.
After getting to know Parker, I was pretty sure he might be interested in a career in music. Pair up his love of music with his public speaking tendencies at the tender age of 3 and the fact that he’s super cute, and I think this kid could go pretty far.
Granted, Parker does want to go far in life; however, he wants to go there as an astronaut, not as a musician.
This started me thinking in a roundabout way again about Parker’s blue t-shirt, the one that initially made an impression on me because it reminded me of Superman. In the new Man of Steel movie about Superman, it is revealed that the S on Superman’s chest isn’t really an S at all, but a symbol for hope on the planet Krypton.
I’m thinking that the way Parker’s blue t-shirt is reminiscent of Superman is quite serendipitous because it is replaced with a cross; Jesus is the ultimate hope, the one true hope that we have in this world.
When Parker’s mom, Valerie, was on her knees in the NICU, He was there to give her hope in one of the darkest times a mother can ever face. It’s obvious, at least to me, that His hand has been on Parker ever since.
That same hope now shines in and through Parker. His smile, his laughter are his school bus testimony; my hope has been re-affirmed in the goodness of people because of him.
For this, I am very thankful that Parker is my Faith & Family Night one.
Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.
1 Timothy 4:12