Faith for Life's Journey III (12/01/02)
By Robert Anthony
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
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.