My granddaughter Amanda graduated mid-June from her high school in Henderson, Nev.
It was a week-long celebration, but the best part was not listening to Amanda deliver a speech preceding the graduation walk, nor was it when she was handed her diploma. Rather, it was seeing what an extraordinary young woman she has become.
Amanda previously had been crowned prom queen and received the lone "Principal's Award," a tremendous honor, considering there were over 500 in her graduating class.
When presented with that plaque, the principal said that he hoped his daughter would grow up to be just like Amanda. The majority of her graduation cards were from friends and relatives who wrote notes about her sweet spirit and Christian character.
Her father, Dave, told us of the evening when he, Amanda and Nikki, Amanda's mother, had a family discussion about Amanda going into debt to go to a college in another state, knowing that was her first choice.
Dave said that in the middle of the conversation, Amanda left the room. He and Nikki had no idea why, but when she returned 20 minutes later, she announced she had prayed and knew she should stay at home and attend a local college -- for two years.
She would save her money to complete her education at the out-of-state Christian college.
Two weeks ago I was blessed to be able to travel to New York City with Amanda and her mother. Watching her go to bed only after reading her Bible and journaling, no matter how exhausted, was a treat. Talking with her about her commitment to Christ was a delight, especially when she said if she had to point to any one thing or person who had helped her walk with the Lord, it was her mom, my step-daughter, Nikki.
I asked Amanda what her mom had done.
"She always made it clear that Jesus needed to be the foundation for each decision I would make. She took us to church from the time we were little and changed churches when she realized I wasn't being fed spiritually, and she constantly said we needed to make choices based on what the Lord wanted, not what felt good at the moment."
At the end of the week, when Nikki, Amanda and I were reflecting and ranking all of our New York experiences, we agreed that our Sunday morning attendance at Times Square Church was the highlight.
Keep in mind we had seen the award-winning Broadway plays "Wicked," "War Horse" and "Newsies," as well as every popular tourist attraction. We had rented bikes to ride through Central Park and had witnessed an Italian wedding at St. Patrick's Cathedral. We had eaten in our friend's restaurant, ranked No. 10 in the world.
My son, Adam, had arrived to play baseball against the Mets, and his wife and two kids had flown in to join him. Having a chance to watch him play is always a thrill, so it was an amazing family time as well as a joy to see life in New York City.
But the church. Ah, the church. Words cannot describe the experience. We didn't have a chance to see the main sanctuary until after the service because Nikki had to have her Starbucks coffee which caused us to arrive right on time instead of early (ahem!), so we were directed to the first "overflow room" which contained six wide screens from which latecomers like us would watch the service.
Their hour of praise and worship was a majestic, unified, uninhibited, yet orderly celebration that involved a choir so alive I thought I was in Heaven.
There's no doubt that the ovation given to Christ during that service was unsurpassed by none we witnessed at the Broadway musicals, and standing alongside my precious granddaughter and her mother while we sang and gave praise to God was a blessing I will forever remember. I'm sure they would say the same.