I love the sounds God’s people make when they are praising him, when they are living in him, when they are being shaped by him, when they are giving their all to him. I love listening to God’s people. I love to hear the 14 children in our small group sing “Sanctuary” together in our living room. I love the sound of Bible pages turning in the worship center. I love listening to groceries being boxed and car trunks being slammed shut in the parking lot outside our food pantry and benevolence center. I love listening to Jimmy and Bill trade English and Chinese with their Let’s Start Talking students out in the concourse and in the library.
The sound baptismal water makes when a body is slammed into it and brought back out again. The giggles and sighs of joy from the newly-baptized. The audible smiles of all those participating.
The high-pitched squeal of Kent’s squeegee up and down all the windows. Muffled sounds from Jim and Gary in the next office discussing the finer points of one of Paul’s letters. Lance and Jason teasing teenagers in the hall. Jackie’s pleasant voice warmly greeting visitors at the door. Loud and abrubt sounds of tables being moved for the quilting ladies. The tap-tap-tap of Suzanne’s keyboard as she works on the church website. Laughter from the teacher’s workroom next door. Tara and Pam encouraging Tim and Collin to behave as they practice for VBS. The constant whir of the copier cranking out more bulletins and brochures and announcement sheets. Duane buffing the upstairs floors. Howard humming the pitch of the next song as he sings, “please be seated.” The banging of communion trays against rings and buttons. Manuel’s impossibly-fast Spanish. Bonny’s clanging key ring as she unlocks another door for another busy church member.
The quiet roll of Mike’s wheelchair as he takes his spot halfway down on the right side of the center aisle. The hum of Angela’s breathing devices. The dull thud as Howard sets his oxygen tank down on the floor beside him. The scooting and sliding of Retha’s walker.
And Quincy’s knees. I love the sound of Quincy’s knees.
Quincy’s knees crackle and pop when he kneels down to pray. Sounds almost like a ten-year-old with a yard of bubble wrap. It’s unmistakable. It’s hard for Quincy to get down on his knees like that in our worship center. It’s even more difficult for him to get up. But down he goes, submitting himself to God, bowing before his Lord and Master, acknowledging his place before the Creator of Heaven and Earth.
I kneel down beside Quincy, this humble servant of God. And I listen to him praise God. He thanks God for all of creation, recounting all six days in order. He thanks God for bringing Israel out of Egypt and through the Red Sea into the Land of Promise. He prays the Prophets and the Psalms back to the God who gave them to us. He quotes Jesus in his prayer. He boldly calls on God to be true to his Word. He reminds God of his promises to his people.
And then Quincy prays for me. And Carrie-Anne. And Whitney and Valerie and Carley. And my sisters and my brother and my parents. By name. Like he’s done every single morning up here since last December. Then Quincy prays for every single one of our Legacy shepherds, by name, and thier wives and children, by name, just like he’s done every morning up here for the past eight months. He prays for every name on every page of the bulletin, lifting those brothers and sisters up to the Lord, begging him to take care of them and bless them. He prays for every young person in our youth group. By name. He prays for every missionary connected to this church family. By name. Quincy prays for church secretaries and custodians and deacons and shut-ins, by name, every morning.
And then he finally gets around to praying for himself. He thanks God for the massive stroke that nearly killed him in 1993. This stroke that has so debilitated Quincy. This stroke that makes it more than difficult for Quincy to even walk. This stroke that’s left his legs and arms weak, his eyes crooked, his mouth twisted, and his speech slurred. He thanks God for it all. He recounts to God the ways God has delivered him through his physical pains and emotional setbacks. He praises God for redeeming him through Christ, realizing if he had not been humbled by that stroke, he never would have given his life back to his Creator.
HE. THANKS. GOD. FOR. HIS. STROKE.
And when our sweet hour of prayer is over, Quincy puts his hands on the pew and pushes himself up. And his knees pop again. I get up with him. My knees are sore and my back hurts. Quincy smiles and looks at me and says, “I appreciate you, Allan. I’m so glad you’re here.”
And I realize how small and selfish and stupid I am.
Quincy, I appreciate you. Your faith does move mountains. Your trust in our God puts mine to shame. Your commitment to his Church is unwavering. Your love for his people is unconditional. Your submission to him is genuine in every sense of the word. You bless me, brother, more than I can ever tell you. Being with you, praying with you, moves me to grow up. It moves me to give. It moves me to trust. It increases my faith. It erases my doubts. You are a giant, Quincy. You are a man of God. And I’m so grateful that he put you here at Legacy to help us, to teach us, to show us what faith looks like.
This is a busy place with a lot of busy people. It’s a loud place with a lot of loud noises. And I’m a loud person. I like noise. Turn it up! I’m starting, though, to appreciate more and more the quiet sounds. The unnoticed noises of faith and perseverance. Wheelchairs and walkers and oxygen tanks and tubes.
And I love the sound of Quincy’s knees.
There are 53 days left until the Cowboys kick off the 2009 football season in Tampa Bay. And we’re getting there together by honoring the second-best players in team history according to jersey number. We call it the Red Ribbon Review because these are the also-rans, the almost-weres, the second-place finishers.
Today’s #53 is laid-back long-haired conspiracy theorist and activist Mark Stepnoski.
Stepnoski was a third-round draft pick by the Cowboys out of Pitt in 1989. Jimmy Johnson took him as a center right after he took Troy Aikman and Daryl Johnston. Probably the smallest offensive lineman ever employed by the Cowboys during the Jimmy Era, Stepnoski made up for his lack of size with great speed and agility and smarts. He went through that 1-15 season and became a locker room leader and true stabilizing force on those first two Super Bowl title teams in ’92 and ’93.
Stepnoski left for the big free agent money the Oilers threw his way in ’94, playing two years in Houston, one in Memphis, and one in Nashville before re-signing with Dallas in 1999.
He was elected to five Pro Bowls, three of them with the Cowboys. He played in 133 games with Dallas over nine years. And he was named second-team center on the NFL’s all-decade team of the ’90s.
Stepnoski’s more notorious now for his role with the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. He serves on the national advisory board and was once president of the Texas chapter for the decriminalization of marijuana efforts. Anyone who knew him as a player isn’t surprised. The long hair. The half-opened eyes. The “yeah, dude, whatever, man” attitude. Funny guy. But he always seemed half asleep. He’s also, just in the past two or three years, become a very vocal member of the 9/11 truth movement, questioning the mainstream explanations of the events of September 11, 2001. He’s a conspiracy theorist all the way on that one, which makes for pretty interesting reading. There’s no proof that his views on that are connected in any way with his participation in NORML. None.