Today, I am continuing our message series HA, Hallelujah Anyway! And I’m preaching from my book, my brand new book called Mommy Power; Discovering your Mommy Strength. And the principles found in the book can be applicable to all of us as you will hear, no matter who you are in life, where you are as a mother, a father or none of the above. But I am so indebted to my parents and I think all of us are.
And my parents, they modeled so many wonderful traditions that my husband and I adopted. And one of my favorite traditions is date night. As we were growing up, we saw mom and dad every Monday night they would go off for date night. They would have dinner and a walk along the beach, but they had the time just the two of them away from us five kids. And I thought that’s a great way, it’s a wonderful idea. And so when my husband and I got married we decided we were going to have date night as well. And especially as those four boys came in rapid succession, I got to the point where I was living for date night. One meal a week where I could sit and not have to jump up with spilled milk or navigate the fight over one strand of spaghetti more than the other. And you all know what that’s like. And it was just like meal times were not very restful in a home when you’re a mom.
But date night, those were fun. I could sit and I could have cinnamon coffee, that was my favorite back then, and just sit there and look into my husband’s eyes and talk without feeling like I had to jump up and serve or do anything. I got to be served for a change. And my husband loved date night just as much as I did. Now we were blessed to have family members who would baby-sit for free and they loved it. It gave them a chance to be with their grandsons or their nephews because some of them were aunts and uncles as well. And mother and father did their fair share of babysitting and it was wonderful memories for our boys.
But Nicholas, the youngest of the four, he was sick a lot as a little kid and so one time when mom and dad came over to baby-sit before we left I said to mom, I said “now mom, there’s some medicine for Nick up on top of the fridge.” Everything that I didn’t want the boys to get a hold of went on top of the fridge. And so I said, “Be sure he gets his medicine before he goes to bed” and then Jim and I left. Had a wonderful night, a wonderful walk along the beach, came back home, walked in the back door and dad heard us come in and he said “Uh-oh they’re home, Arvella. Are you going to tell them or shall I?” “Well what is it that we need to know, dad?”
And mom said, “Sh, sh, Bob I said don’t tell them.” I said, “well now you’ve got to.”
Dad said, “Well she just screamed, she screamed and screamed.” And I’m beginning to wonder what in the world happened. And I looked at mom and she goes “Sheila I’m so sorry. You know you asked me to make sure Nick got his medicine before he went to bed?” And I said “yes.” And I’m thinking to myself oh I guess she forgot to give him his medicine. That’s not that big of a deal, but why would that make her scream?
And I said “so you forgot to give him his medicine?” “Well no, I remembered to give him his medicine,” she said, “but I was worried that I may have given him a teaspoon and it was supposed to be a tablespoon or vice versa so I took down the bottle and I checked the label to make sure that I’d given him the right amount.”
Dad said, “That’s when she started screaming.” She said, “Well, it said for Autumn Coleman.” Autumn Coleman was our anorexic Irish setter. “You gave my baby dog medicine?”
“Well he spit and sputtered. I had a hard time getting it down him.” “I bet.”
“I didn’t know what to do so I called the poison control center. The poison control center said ‘well lady we’ve never had anybody call and tell us they gave their grandkid dog medicine before. We don’t know what to tell you.’” So they said call the vet. So mom called the vet. The vet told her the same thing: never had anybody call and tell us we’ve given dog medicine to a child before. And the vet said “don’t worry, it’s just a really strong vitamin.”
But mom was feeling very, very bad about it all and she went home and the next morning she called and she said “Sheila, I couldn’t sleep. I worried about Nicholas all night long. How is he?” I said “Mom I went up and I checked on him and his hair is shiny, his nose is cold and he’s barking orders at me but otherwise he’s just fine.” And that’s a true story. Nobody could make that up.
But any rate, can we laugh anyway when things are tough and we have times of anxiety, can we laugh in the face of anxiety? Can we love in the face of antipathy? You know that’s revulsion. Can we love the unlovable? Can we believe in the face of adversity? Can we forgive in the face of animosity? Well today I hope you will learn how to do these things.
You know, I love the book, the story by T.H. White, Sword in the Stone. You know the story - Disney has taken it and made it into a movie, little cartoons? And there was this sword, Excalibur, in the stone and the inscription said “Who so pulleth out this sword of the stone is right wise king born of England.” So here’s this sword in the stone and of course the knights, the strongest knights in all of the land thought wow here’s my chance to be king of England and they came and they traveled from far and abroad and they went over and they pulled on that sword, they pulled on that sword one after another after another and it did not budge at all. The strongest of them was not strong enough to pull that sword from the stone.
Well today many of us are feeling oppressed, we’re feeling weary and I want to say to you victory can be yours and I want to put some weapons in your hand today - weapons to ensure victory no matter how fierce the opposition, no matter how strong the oppression that you are under. And the secret is this: stop trying to be strong. Stop trying to be strong. And actually the secret is to accept the fact that we are weak. We are weak. Stop trying to do it on your own power. Become less of a self-sufficient adult and more like a dependent child. Acknowledge your powerlessness and acknowledge God’s strength. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” And the principles in my book, Mommy Power, the principles I learned as a young mother, the principles that I use today as a leader are very simple, they’re six words: Love strong, believe strong and forgive strong. Love strong, believe strong and forgive strong. Can we learn how to do that? We cannot do it on our own strength. That’s the secret.
So the first is to love strong. Have you seen the movie Shrek? You know that ogre, that really hideous ogre that comes from a book written by William Steig. And this is what the princess says to the monster Shrek: “Your nose is so hairy, oh let us not tarry, your look is so scary, I think we should marry.” Well that’s kind of strong love, don’t you think? Loving the unlovable, loving those that nobody else could love. That’s strong love. But how do we do that?
The movie The Blind Side, many of you have seen it. If you haven’t, I highly recommend you do. And that’s the movie that Sandra Bullock won her Academy Award for. She played the role of Leigh Ann Tuohy, a true story. Leigh Ann Tuohy, a wonderful Christian woman lived an affluent life with her family, her husband and her two children. Driving along on a stormy night they see a young man walking their way, and the rain is pelting him in the dark and in the cold. And she has her husband pull over and she gets out, she jumps out of the car and she says “what are you doing? Where are you going to sleep tonight?” “I don’t know,” he said, “I don’t know.” He was a big, big boy. Not attractive in appearance, not doing well in school, flunking absolutely everything. He was one of thirteen children, had no parents to speak of. He was somebody that society had overlooked. Somebody that nobody had loved until Leigh Ann Tuohy took him home with her. He slept for the first time in his own bed. She hired a tutor. She got him through school until Michael Oher became a champion NFL football player. Adopted; one of their family. That is strong love. That is a strong love that God says you and I are not capable of on our own, but He can give that strong love to you and I.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I can love strong through Christ who strengthens me. My love is weak but His love, His love is strong.
Can you believe in the face of adversity? How are we going to believe strong, men and women? How can we do that?
I’ll never forget it was 4 a.m. in the morning, I was a young mother with my little boys and the phone rang at 4 a.m. Now we all know what that’s like when that phone rings in the middle of the night. Your heart stops and you know something is really wrong. And I went into the room adjacent to the bedroom with my husband to answer the phone and I heard mom’s voice. She said “Sheila I have really bad news for you.” Dad traveled all the time. We were always worried when he traveled will he make it home okay? We knew he was in Amsterdam on his way to see the Pope and she said “Your father has had an accident. He’s in a coma and he’s undergoing brain surgery right at this very moment. We do not know what the prognosis will be. We do not know if he will live or die. We do not know if he does make it through surgery what his condition will be like.”
I felt like my whole world had come tumbling down and I began to sob. My husband came out to find out what was wrong and as I told him, we both knelt there and we prayed immediately for my father, my strong powerful father who now was lying on a surgical table halfway across the world.
Mom left immediately for Amsterdam and she would call and give us updates on how dad was doing. He made it through the surgery okay. We’re not sure; the blood had pooled on the speech side of his brain. And my father who made his living, not only his living, but his whole gift to the world was through his words and through talk and through speech. We didn’t know if he’d ever regain that. And then I heard his voice on the phone. Wow! I can’t even begin to tell you what that meant to me. My heart leaped with joy to hear dad say “hi Sheila” from Amsterdam.
A week had passed from his surgery, we thought he was doing better and then mom called and she said “Sheila his brain has started to bleed again. He has to go in for a second surgery. Can you come and stay with me?” Well I jumped on a plane and I flew to Amsterdam. I couldn’t wait to get there to be by my mother’s side, to be by my father’s side. I thought I can be a rock for my mom. I can be her strength and her shield. And then she took me straight to the hospital where I saw dad. And I had thought dad was doing much better based on what I had been hearing, but what I saw and what I encountered stunned me. His head had been shaved for the surgery. He didn’t look anything like my father. And he couldn’t talk, really, truly. He couldn’t put two words together. He would try to say “why am I here?” He couldn’t even do that. I had to help him and I thought what in the world? This is not my father and I was so shaken. I was so shaken by what I saw.
That evening we went back to our hotel room, mom and I, and I climbed in bed, my insides just quivering. And I saw my mom, I will never forget it, it’s etched in my mind a picture of this woman, my mom, kneeling at the side of her bed with her book, her prayer book, her Psalms, her bible reading one Psalm after another after another praying. I saw this tremendous woman of God and this strong, strong faith that she had, even not knowing what in the world was going to happen to her husband.
I waited till I thought she had fallen asleep later and I crept across the hall to where I knew there was a phone where I thought I could talk privately and I called long distance. I got a hold of my husband. I could hardly wait. As soon as he said “Sheila, hello?” and I started to cry. I said “Jim, Jim you can’t even believe it. This isn’t dad. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I came here and I’m so scared, I’m so scared” and he prayed with and he calmed me down and I blew my nose and wiped my face and went back and I tiptoed back and climbed back in bed thinking mom never heard. And then she said to me “Sheila, are you okay?” I thought great. I come all the way to Amsterdam to try and be strong for my mom and she was the one who was strong for me. Can you believe strong? Can you? I can’t. But I can believe strong only through Christ who strengthens me. My belief is weak, but His belief is strong.
Forgive strong: You know what do we do when people have hurt us deeply? What do we do? I get e-mails from people and they say ‘Sheila, you talked about forgiveness. I can’t forgive. Do you want me to forgive my husband, my ex. He beat me. He had affairs on me. You want me to forgive him?’ And I say to you ‘yes, but; do not say yes to victimization but say yes to forgiveness. Forgive him not for his sake but for your sake. Yes forgive.’ Forgive strong. How do we do that? How do we forgive when we’ve been so deeply, deeply hurt?
Years ago in the early days of our church, we had a woman who joined our church. We called her Mom Shug and Grandma Shug because all of our extended family lived back in Iowa and Grandma Shug; Bernice was her name, lost her one and only son in World War II to a kamikaze pilot. And she carried that bitterness with her for her whole life. But my dad’s name was Bob and she fell in love with our family and she said ‘will you guys be my new family since I lost my family in World War II’ and we said yes. And we were thrilled to have Mom Shug and Grandma Shug come over after school and make us poppy seed rolls and she was really, truly part of the family. And then one day dad decided to interview a kamikaze pilot who’d given his life to Jesus. At the last minute his mission had been aborted and as a result he survived World War II and he gave his life to Jesus Christ and his life was truly redeemed in all ways possible and he was the interview guest.
And Grandma Shug came to dad and she said to him “Bob, I hope you won’t mind. I’m not going to be able to be at church this Sunday. I just don’t think I can sit there and look and listen to a man who is very much like the man who took my son’s life. Surely you can understand that.” And dad said “I do, I do Mom, I do understand.” Well imagine dad’s surprise at the end of the message when he and the pilot, who gave a stirring testimony, and they were walking down the aisle together and all of a sudden out of the back row stood up Mom Shug. She moved to the middle of the aisle and blocked their way from leaving and dad was wondering what is she going to say. And as they got closer and as they got closer suddenly she threw out her arms and she wrapped them around my father and she wrapped them around the pilot and she said “can you forgive me for thinking ill of you? I forgive you for what you’ve done because Jesus forgave you and Jesus forgave me.” Men and women, that is strong forgiveness. That’s forgiving strong. Wow. What would happen to our world if we all were able to love strong, believe strong and forgive strong? You and I don’t have the strength to do it but God can and will give that to you. Let’s ask Him to do that right now.
Lord God Almighty, we sit here as Your children, weak children, dependent children, but we have a strong, strong God, a powerful loving Father and now, oh God, I just pray that You will put strong love in the hearts of Your children today. Put a strong faith in their hearts. Help them to forgive strong, oh Lord, for Your sake. Thank You Jesus for loving us so very, very much. We are weak, but You are strong. Amen.