#7 Building Faith for Life's Journey III (12/01/02)

The Message

By Robert Anthony Schuller

Thank you very much for remembering me in your prayers. I've been traveling a lot lately because my latest book just came out and I've been meeting friends across the country. Traveling commercial airlines all the time, and let me tell you, when I came home last night from an autograph party in Tampa, Florida, and I stepped into the concourse heading for the exit there was a feeling in the concourse I have never ever in my life felt before and it shocked me. I felt totally safe because any and every human being in that concourse had gone through very careful security check. There were no relatives seeing people off at the gate. Totally safe. A lot safer than you can feel when you step out the front door and you're on the sidewalk. Or when you're in a mall. When you go to fly commercial today, you'll feel safer than you do in the mall or in a coliseum or a sports event or on the sidewalk. So, dare to live again.

You know, it's possible to be thankful in terrible times. And that's really the question I started with. Because Thanksgiving...you know it's really only few days away and we have to ask, "Is it possible to be thankful in terrible times?" There will never be in our memory a Christmas and a Thanksgiving season like 2001 that's coming up. And in Tampa, Florida, at the autograph party, it was astonishing. It's the longest lineup I've ever seen in my life for one of Schuller's books. The line went all through the store, out the front door, half a block down the road, when I pulled up before the time to start. And I looked into the eyes of people, the old and the young, the hurting and the hopeful, the dreamers and the doers, and little children. I wish I could describe all of them to you but the one that stands out is a beautiful young girl probably 20 years of age who was Down Syndrome, very noticeably so. She came right up, she looked at me and she said, "This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it." Isn't that wonderful? And then her gorgeous mother said, "Come, Honey. We've got to go. We don't have time to visit." So she was pulled along by her mother and she waved at me and she said, "God loves you and so do I."

Now I tell that because how can I thank you in a Thanksgiving season for this ministry? I am just a talking head. I am an ebullient heart. I am a vociferous lip. My son is agreeing with me finally. But you are the ministry. You make it happen. Never before has there been a ministry of such a size, such a scale, such a spirit, such a global outreach, at such an expense and you make it happen.

And as we come to the year-end you will do it again, for we need it. I'm telling you and you know it and I thank you in advance. For never has this ministry been more needed in America or the world than today, because we come from the Marble Collegiate Church, where Norman Vincent Peale was my mentor. And we have added to historic faith and to the historic Christian religion the dimension of positive thinking. Guess what happens if you become a positive thinker, addicted to thanksgiving, you will always be able to be thankful for something in the worst of times.

The party lasted long autographing, hundreds, over 500 people. Well, through the eyes of all of these people that I have been looking at as I'm in this autograph parties, my goodness. I saw tears but they were all tears of joy. Even the gorgeous young girl who could have been a Miss America and she has a cane and I said, "Why do you use a cane?" "Oh," she said, "I've had eight cancer surgeries in my hip." And she says, "But thank you, life's wonderful." If you are committed to possibility or positive thinking, you look for the best in the worst of times. And that's the only way to get through sensibly and sanely. And at dinner, the waitress came so enthusiastic, she knew who I was, thanked me for our ministry. This I think was in Atlanta, Georgia. And I said, "Well thanksgiving is coming." She says, "Yes and I have so much to be thankful for." Obviously a hard working woman. She said, "I have 4 wonderful children; 2 are teenagers." And she paused, "I still have my job." But then only two people later said, "I got laid off. I lost my job but I've still got my freedom. I'm thankful I live in America." Wow. Is it possible to be thankful in tough times? Yes, it is. Now, hear where I'm coming from. The true story, "My Journey." I was invited to give a motivational lecture in Chicago maybe 25 years ago and I accepted the assignment, 3,000 people all in the ag industry, agricultural industry. Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois. I arrived just in time, as I plan it. And there was a curtain that separated my arrival back stage from the audience. And the president of the corporation said, "O Dr. Schuller, so glad to see you. I never miss you every Sunday and boy you don't know what the Hour of Power does for me and" etc. But he said; "Now I've got to tell you something. You've never spoken to a crowd like this before. They're all in the ag industry and we are in a recession. I would call it," he said, "a depression." He said, "At least half of these 3,000 people sitting here will go into chapter 11 before the year is over." So he said, "I must give you this advice as a friend. When you get out there, don't smile like you always do on television." He said, "One other thing, I love your stories. You're a great story teller and some of your jokes are the best I've ever heard, but don't tell any jokes today."

So that means I can't smile, I had four terrific new jokes to tell that I knew would win the audience. I had a great motivational lecture planned. Now what do I do? He just blew my whole act. And through the curtain, I heard the voice, "And now let's welcome Dr. Robert Schuller," and they're applauding and I'm walking around, up the steps in front of the curtain, I thought my God, reverently, what am I going to do? And I pray reverently and into my mind comes something from my memory system, over 30 years ago that I had never thought since I heard it in the class at Hope College, in Holland Michigan. When Dr. Schrier my speech professor said, "Now what do you do if you are caught off guard in a debate? Or what do you do if you lose your train of thought and you're on stage in the middle of a speech? What do you do," he said. "Don't ever forget what I'm going to tell you. Play the dramatic pause for all it's worth." And he demonstrated. "Raise you're hand or they'll think you had a stroke, but don't say a word. Then you'll remember." "Dr. Schrier, what if you don't remember?" "Good question," he said. "Since you've been pausing so long, you can come out of left field with anything. And if you don't know what to say just say let me tell you my story. Everybody's life is a story."

This book that I'm talking on is my journey, that's my story. Tell your stories. So here I am walking across this platform, 3,000 people going into bankruptcy, half of them, and I'm playing the dramatic pause and I'm walking slowly, stalking like a tiger. Staring them down. Eye to eye. They got quiet. And I stopped and said, "I hear you're having tough times." And they nodded their head. "Let me tell you my story." So I start telling my story, I tell about the sandstorms, the drought. I tell about the tornado. I tell about my daughter's leg being amputated. And I talk about my wife's mastectomy. Now I'm through with my tough times when out of my mouth came this line, "Let me tell you what I learned about tough times." I didn't know what I'd learned. I had no idea what I'd learned. Out of my mouth came the line, "Tough times never last, but tough people do." I'm standing the middle of a; the podium's 20 feet away. I say, "Just a minute. That's a good line. I don't want to forget it." And I ran over here and I wrote it out. A year later it was published as a book and sold over a million copies in hardcover and it was the first book I wrote to make the New York Times Bestseller List. Oh, this has just made it on the extended thing.

Can you be thankful in tough times? Yes! Yes, you can. You have to look ahead. Tough times never last, tough people do. Out live the tough times. Where'd I learn that lesson? This picture was taken when I was 7. And I was 7 years old when the drought hit Iowa. That was the most horrible time in my dad's life. Northwest Iowa, the drought was terrible. Of the 120 acres there was nothing. Oh, my dad had a half a wagon load of ear of corn, which is really nothing. I said, "Dad you got nothing back. All of the corn, all of the oats, everything was just cut off by the driving wind storms and the dust of South Dakota landed in our ditches and they were filled as if it were snow. To go from the house to the barn we had to put a cloth over our mouth. And half a wagonload of ear corn's nothing. Should have been 40 loads of corn. Nothing. Total disaster. I said, "Dad you lost it all." I think I tell the story here, yeah I did. And he said, "No Bob, I got my seed corn back. That's all. And I can plant the whole field next year. I got seed corn." You look at what you have left, you don't look at what you have lost. Listen to me, now you know where I'm coming from.

Then Thanksgiving came and always in Newkirk Reformed Church there was a big deal. The church was usually full, and people, they would give offering. The farmers would all take a look at their crop and take calculate about what a tenth of it would amount to and give that in dollars. Thanksgiving offering was always the biggest offering of the year in that country church. All went for missions. But this year, the big drought, this year they thought they would skip Thanksgiving service this year. But the consistory, that's the church board, said, "No. No. We got to have Thanksgiving, anyway." Okay, they said, then we shouldn't take up an offering. And that was the debate in the church board but they said, "NO, we should take an offering anyway." In fact, they all said, yes. It's when you've lost a lot, that's when you've got to be most thankful. Amazing. And I remember sitting in that little country church Thanksgiving morning and it was packed, biggest crowd they ever had, all poor farmers. And the offering plate was filled with paper, usually it was a lot of coins. And for years it was the biggest record offering ever taken in the Newkirk Reformed Church. I name the place. You can check it in the minutes. It's a true story

Now you know where I'm coming from. Times are tough it's time to be thankful. Thankful for what you have. Thankful for who you are. And today I salute all the veterans that are here. And I want to thank you. You come to Thanksgiving and I'm sure that every veteran comes to Thanksgiving and he has memories. What a collection of memories! Some are horrific. My brother who was a litter bearer in the terrible times of World War II wasn't able to share what he did until only a few years ago when he passed 70 years of age. A friend of mine sent me this story, says it's true and I think you'll like it.

Two Marines, USMC, United States Marine Corps, 2 Marines and they were getting a little tummy by this time and a little creaking in their limbs but they were still in the service, still wore their dress uniforms and the 2 of them had charge of the USMC cemetery. Getting ready to close the front gate when they saw this big Cadillac come up and it was old, big, looked brand new. And they thought oh gee, here goes another 15 minutes before we can lock up.

And she pulled her car in the curb and she got slowly out and she said, son, I said ma'am can I help you? Took a long time to answer, she said, yeah, can you help me carry some of these flowers, and she had five little bouquets of flowers. She said I move a little slow these days. She said, son where were you stationed? I said, Vietnam ma'am, ground pounder; '69 to '71. She looked at me closer, wounded in action I see. Well done marine. I'll be as quick as I can. I lied, No hurry ma'am.

She smiled and winked at me and said I'm 85 years old, I can tell a lie when I see it. My name's Joanne Weiserman and I met a few marines and I'd like to see them one more time. Yes ma'am, at your service.

She knew exactly where she went. She headed for the WWI section, stopping at a stone, she picked out one of the bunches of flowers out of my arms, laid it on the top of the stone, murmured something I couldn't hear what she said. But I read later the name on the marble was Donald S. Davidson, USMC France, 1918. And she turned away and made a straight line for WWII section, stopping at one stone, and I saw a tear streak down her cheek. She put more flowers on the stone. The name was Steven X. Davidson, USMC 1943.

Then she went up the row a way and laid another bunch on a stone, and on it, it said, Stanley J. Weiserman, that was her name. USMC 1944. Paused for a second, two more son, then we'll be done, you can go home. Almost didn't say anything. Yes ma'am, take your time. She looked confused, where's the Vietnam section, son? I seem to have lost my way. And I pointed, that way ma'am. Oh, she chuckled quietly, she said, tell me and my age, we don't get along too well once in awhile. And she headed down the walk and stopped at a couple of stones before she found the ones she wanted and then she placed a bunch of flowers on Larry Weiserman, that's her name, USMC 1968. And then near it, the last cluster of flowers on a stone that said, Darryl Weiserman USMC 1970. She murmured a few words I didn't make out. Okay son, finished, just get me back to my car and you can go home. Yes ma'am, if I may ask you, were these your kinfolk? She paused, yes. Donald Davidson, 1917, France, was my father. Stephen Davidson, was my uncle. And Stanley, you recognized the name, it's my name, he was my husband. And Larry and Darryl were our sons. All killed in actions. All marines.

Didn't say anything more and she just kept walking to her car, opened the door, closed it. And I watched, I waited, and I quickly rushed to Kevin, my little overweight Marine Corps buddy in his dress uniform. I said get to the front gate quick, she'll take the rotunda out. We can get to the front gate before her. I've got something got to do, and you just do what I do, don't ask any questions. And he could see I was very urgent so he rushed ahead and I behind him we got to the front gate before her car rounded the rotunda and aimed for us. Kevin stood at this post, I stood at this post, we tried to pull our stomachs in and as the car came slowly to the gate, I shouted: Attention! Post arms! We both saluted as she drove through. And I thought I saw her salute back, from the Cadillac. Duty, honor, service. None of those whose graves she visited had given more than she did.

You can be thankful in the toughest times, if your heart is right. Yes you can. Your journey what kind of a journey are you on? I have never been more proud and more humble of any book that I've written than I am of my journey. Now you'll begin to know where I'm coming from and why I have the passion I have. And why we built this church and why we have this television ministry. I have been on a journey, I've seen the pain, I've heard some hurts. They're in here. If you've got the faith, you'll understand why St. Paul said it in Thessalonians chapter 5, verse 16. Hear the words, I close with them: "Rejoice, always. Pray constantly. Give thanks in all circumstances." Wow. And you'll be living with the attitude of gratitude. Hallelujah, anyway. Happy holidays upcoming.

Let's pray: Lord, thank You for coming into our lives, first through a Bible 2000 years ago. And then through missionaries and pastors. Through Christian grandparents and parents. And through the church, through the ministries in the world. And O God, in this time we pray that You will ride over the minds and hearts of the people in this United States of America and create a revival of classic faith, hope and love, that'll take us through the holidays with the sound of a trumpet, with the ringing of a bell. Amen.

Now may the Lord bless you and keep you, may the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. And may God give you His peace in your going out and in your coming in, in your lying down and in your rising up, in your labor and in your leisure, in your laughter and in your tears until you come to stand before Jesus in that day in which there is no sunset and no dawning, Amen.

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