Well every Sunday here we have a Sunday school program that I wrote about three years ago called Kid Power Plant. And I wrote it because similar to Rosephanye how her husband needed choral music and didn’t want to have to pay royalties, we wanted Sunday school curriculum and we didn’t want to have to pay royalties. So I wrote it here for our children and we’ve been using it. The kids are having fun. And a few weeks ago nine year old David was picked up after Sunday school by his mom and she said to him, she said, “David, what did you learn at Sunday School today?” Well we all know most of us parents ask that, don’t we? We say “what did you learn in Sunday school today?” And David said, “Well mom, we learned today that God sent Moses on a rescue mission behind enemy lines. And he led out thousands and thousands of people. And then they came up against the Red Sea and so he had his engineers design and construct a suspension bridge across the Red Sea. And when the people got over safely to the other side, he used his walkie talkies and he radioed and had the fighter pilots come in and go bang, bang, bang, bang, bang down that bridge so the people were safe.”
“Now David,” mom said, “I have a hard time believing that that’s the story your teacher taught you.”
“You think that’s hard to believe, you should of heard the story she did tell.” Yes, those bible stories are pretty hard to believe aren’t they? Because God’s power is unbelievable.
Well we’re going to look at that story of Moses again for a little bit and of course we all know it backwards and forwards and you can probably help me tell it. But today I want you to look at it through a different lens and that is the lens of plans: writing our plans and counting on God to turn them right side up. Righting them: r-i-g-h-t-i-n-g. Righting our plans, upside down, right side up.
Well Moses was born a Hebrew male baby at a time when Hebrew male babies were all being killed. According to Pharaoh’s plan that he’d written for Moses, Moses shouldn’t have lived. But Moses’ mom hid him in the bull rushes where he was found by Pharaoh’s daughter. God turned Pharaoh’s plan for Moses and turned it, flipped it right side up and there was Moses, prince of Egypt, being raised in the home, in the palace of Pharaoh. Well Moses thought he had it pretty good, had it made in the shade and then God turned Moses’ life upside down. Because when Moses saw the slaves being beaten, he could take it no longer and he went out and he killed one of the taskmasters. Had to flee for his life to the wilderness. And so Moses had rewritten his plan for his life, thinking well now I’m just a shepherd. I’m out here with my sheep and all of a sudden God appears to him in a burning bush that wasn’t burning.
Now I don’t know about you, but God likes to get our attention some how, some way and sometimes I want to say to Him you know God, you could have gotten my attention with a burning bush that wasn’t burning rather than these trials and challenges. But God gets our attention and He got it for Moses through a burning bush that wouldn’t burn. Of course Moses had to see what was going on. He went over to that bush and God says to him “I am who I am and I need you, Moses, to go and deliver My people.” And Moses says “who me? You’ve got the wrong guy. I can’t even talk; I stutter.” And Moses was really willing to limit the plans for his life, to limit the righting of them based on his disability. He wasn’t willing to write his plans big enough on God’s ability. But God said “I will be with you. You will not go alone. I will go with you.”
So Moses went and we all know he had his work cut out for him with Pharaoh with all those plagues. Pharaoh’s heart; how many times did Moses have to say let my people go? God says let My people go. Ten plagues and finally, finally Pharaoh lets them go. And they run smack dab into the Red Sea. Can you just imagine what it was like to be standing on the shore of that Red Sea and have chariots come thundering down behind you with armor and weapons? The people became very afraid and they grumbled and they said Moses what have you done? We were better off as slaves. And Moses said, “Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid. Stand and see today what God can do.” The people were very tempted to limit themselves and limit God and what He could do based on their sensibilities, what they could see, what they could hear, what they could touch. And God transcends our sensibilities. We look to His abilities. So look what God did. He opened the Red Sea, took His people to freedom and He did. He delivered His people. He turned the plans they wrote and turned them right side up.
Well I don’t know if you’ve written a plan for your life yet today. I mean it’s near the beginning of the year and we usually write things like resolutions, New Years Resolutions. But it’s a good time to start thinking what plans can I write for my life? And I wrote plans for my life back when I was an itty biddy little girl because I grew up as Dr. Schuller’s daughter and we were taught to dream big and to plan. He taught us if you're failing to plan, you’re planning to fail.
But I was four when mom and dad moved out here to California to plant a church. We did not have a church office. No buildings. The church office actually was the bedroom in our small little home in Garden Grove. And so mom had her hands full with Robert, my younger brother was just an infant at the time. And they didn’t have disposable diapers; they didn’t have dryers so she was frequently in the back yard. It seems like I always remember her hanging diapers out there on that line back there, that clothes line. Or her hands were in the sink with dishes. When somebody would knock on the front door, and I was four and mom would say “Sheila go get the door.” And I would open the door and there would be a neighbor lady frequently, almost several times a week, crying, saying “I need to see the pastor.” So I would take her in and I would go knock on Dad’s study door, which was the first bedroom right there and I’d go “Daddy someone needs to see you.” I can tell you what that does to a little girl who opens the door day after day after day to people who are crying and saying “I need help.” It changes you and I wanted to grow up helping people who were hurting.
I feel that I had a call in my life when I was a very little girl to be a pastor, to be a minister but you know in our denomination women were not allowed. They didn’t do ordinations for women until I graduated from college. So of course that was unattainable. It wasn’t allowable. But I wanted to help people who were hurting.
So I channeled that in a way where I got a different dream and I read a book called Ten Fingers for God. It was the story of Dr. Ida Scudder who was a surgeon, medical missionary doctor in India. And I was so inspired by her I thought that’s what I want to do when I grow up. But for some reason I thought I think God wants me to be a missionary doctor to Africa. Now my boys think this is all very hysterical because I like my comforts. I will only go camping if we have a motor home that has air conditioning, microwave and a dishwasher. So they think a doctor? You wanted to be a missionary doctor to Africa? Really mom?
Well I did and so I studied, I planned that plan out very, very carefully. I made sure I took Latin; I took my sciences all the way through college. In fact I was the secretary of our pre-medical honors society at Hope College. And I was sure this was God’s call for my life. I had written my plan and I had worked it and I had lived it. And then I sent my applications for med school. Eleven applications, eleven schools and then the letters started to come back. I opened the first one, the first word: “unfortunately.” Second letter: “we regret to tell you.” And so it went letter, rejection letter after rejection letter after rejection letter. When I got the eleventh last one I thought wow Sheila, you have failed. You are a great big failure. I didn’t feel smart enough, I felt lazy even though I had worked very hard, I felt that I had completely misunderstood God’s call for my life even though I had prayed and prayed and prayed “Lord use me, Lord show me Your plan for my life.”
So there I was with a Bachelor of Science degree in organic chemistry. What was I going to do? Since the fourth grade this was all I new I was ever going to think about doing. Well I came home and I did what I always did when I came home. I always volunteered in our youth program. And took those kids, I was a camp counselor, took them to the beach; did all those things as a volunteer. And I came home and went back to the youth ministries office again and this time I ended up going on staff and I ended up being in ministry from that day forward here at the Crystal Cathedral. Except for a short little period of time when God called me to be an educator and I was a teacher, a public school teacher.
Well years went by and I met the love of my life here, had my four boys, was in administration as a private school administrator when all of a sudden my boys were almost grown when across my desk came a flyer that said ‘you can earn your doctorate degree at the University of California at Irvine in Education.’ And I went here’s a chance for me to turn my failure right side up. And I was so excited about it and I thought this is great. So I went and I looked into it, I researched it, then I looked on-line and they had about four or five information meetings here in the vicinity. I told my family. I wanted to get permission from husband and my boys because I wanted their support. I wanted to know that we as a whole family were behind this, and went to the information meeting. A great big lecture hall filled with hundreds and I was one, just one of several of these. And then at the end of the meeting, the information meeting one of us raised our hands and said to the director “how many will you be accepting into this program?” She gulped; she said “five.” Five? Out of hundreds. Meanwhile they’d had on the screen behind her the mission statement of the program, which was, ‘this is a doctoral program for public school administrators.’ I was a private school administrator. I thought well this isn’t for me. There’s no hope. I’m not even going to try.
But the next morning on our way to school my youngest son Nicholas says to me, “so mom, how did that information meeting go last night?” Oh I said “It was ridiculous, Nick. I’m not going to apply.”
“You’re not going to apply? Why aren’t you going to apply?”
I said “well for heaven sakes, Nicholas,” I said, “there were hundreds there and they’re only going to take five.” What I didn’t want to tell him was I’d already had eleven out of eleven rejection slips from a doctoral program. I didn’t know if I could stand a twelfth.
Well my son says to me, he looked at me with disapproving eyes and disappointment all over his face and he said, “you mean you’re not even going to try?” I knew I’d been caught. There was no turning back now because I was not going model not trying for my son.
So I filled out the application, sent it in fully expected to not get in. I was shocked to get an email asking me to interview. But I still didn’t think I was going to get in. But you know what, God opened that door and they accepted me and I had the opportunity to share God’s power, to share God’s love with professors, with colleagues. It was really, really exciting to see and I was like okay God I get it. I get it. I was tempted to limit the writing of my plan based on my abilities versus Your abilities and when it’s Your will, You will open the door.
Well it was after that I found the need to write Sunday school curriculum and I’m so excited because I wrote the first Sunday school curriculum that’s been authored by somebody who has her doctorate in education, and teaching God’s word and knowing how kids learn. And taking all those science courses that I took as pre med, I incorporated that into the Sunday school curriculum to show kids how powerful God is. What an amazing God we have. So through all these twists and turns, God was leading and turning my life right side up.
Last summer when dad asked me to give leadership to this church, to this ministry, to stand up here and to preach in this pulpit, when I was a little girl I was told that’s impossible. But I am here preaching. It’s only by the grace of God. He opens those doors and we never know how He’s going to take our life and He’s going to turn it right side up. And now I was invited just recently to come and to have our ministry partner with other ministries. They want me, they want my knowledge of children and education and in administration to help plant Christian schools, can you guess which country? Liberia, Africa. Yes. God will have the last word, as my father said, and it will be good.
We never know what God is going to do for you when you let Him have His way with you. Write those plans; write them big enough for God to fit in. Write those plans. Don’t limit them like I did on my abilities attainability’s. Don’t limit them, like Moses did, on your disabilities but write them based on God’s abilities and then count on Him to right them and turn them right side up