Ted Cunningham: Your children are not your source of life. Don’t find your strength from ’em. (laugh) You’re like, “Oh no, my kids fill me up.” Yeah, give it a while, you’ll find out nothing sucks the life outta you faster (laughs) than a child.
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John Fuller: (Laughter) Pastor Ted Cunningham has some hope, encouragement, and laughter for busy parents today on Focus on the Family with your host, Jim Daly. Thanks for joining us. I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: Well, John, we all love our kids, right? (laughs)
John: Mm-hmm. Totally, yes.
Jim: But if we expect them to be our source of joy and our reason for living, we’re bound to be disappointed. Only God can truly fill our hearts that way. And that’s the message Ted Cunningham wants to share with you today, especially if you’re getting stressed out by all the details involved in parenting a child. Uh, Ted is going to encourage you to de-stress with laughter, and I know you’ll, uh, get a kick out of his presentation. It’s based on his book, A Love That Laughs, published by Focus on the Family.
John: Right. And you can get a copy of that book from us. The proceeds go right back into the ministry when you do. Uh, look for A Love That Laughs at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Well, Ted really is a favorite on this broadcast. He’s so entertaining and he’s a comedian at heart, you can hear that. He’s also a pastor at heart. He’s the, uh, lead pastor at Woodland Hills Family Church in Branson, Missouri. With that, here’s Ted Cunningham speaking at a Sparkle Women’s Conference at River Valley Church in Minneapolis on Focus on the Family.
Ted: It is great to be here. There have been a lot of moments where we’ve been told to turn to our neighbor and say, and I really haven’t been comfortable with any of them. I gotta be honest with you. (laughs) Turn to your neighbor and say, you know what? She’s feeling. Uh, yeah, I don’t, I don’t really know what’s going on. (laughs) Love y’all. It’s so good to be… I’m like, what am I doing at a women’s conference?
Ted: And then it hit me, uh, this theme is, is… I’m gonna focus on the last part. And she laughs without fear of the future.
Audience: Laughter and applause.
Ted: And we just heard that the sixth love language is working out. (laughs) Wrong? No, I’m just… That’s what I get it. It’s my wife’s love language, is working out, long walks. She walks me and the dog every night, right before a sunset. (laughs) She wants me to live to 90. And uh, I believe the sixth love language could also be laughter, the way we give and receive love. I just finished a book on laughter called A Love That Laughs, and we studied laughter for the last year. And I’ve been watching it in my wife. And my wife has a silent patriotic laugh, is what I call her laugh. When she finds something funny, she places her hand over her heart, leans forward, and nothing comes out.
Ted: So ladies, I’m glad you’re laughing. Sometimes I go to churches that aren’t used to laughter, that’s why I love coming to River Valley, y’all love to laugh.
Ted: But I go to some churches they don’t laugh at all. (laughs) And I’m like, “Ladies, let the laughter out. You hold it in, it turns to cellulite. I need you to let that laughter out.”
Ted: Don’t hold it in. I believe the reason I am here today; I want to tell you who your source is and where you find your strength, but I also wanna encourage you to lighten up. So as you start at the first part of Proverbs 31:25, which is where, when I got this verse and I got this theme, my heart leapt, I was so excited. I started to pencil some things down and just I’ve been meditating on it for the past few months and asking the question, where does a woman find her strength, her hope, her confidence? Psalm 1:18 in verse 14 says, “My power and strength come from the Lord. And he has saved me.” Psalms 28:7 says, “The Lord is my strength and my shield, my heart trust in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy and with my song, I praise him.” I wanted to tell you; he is your source of life today. He’s your source of life. And be careful what you do, uh, with people, places, or things. Be very careful not to turn people, places, or things into your source of life. We say it around our home often, my source of life is Jesus not you. I receive from him and pour out to you. What you receive from me should be the overflow of my relationship with the Lord. Your strength, your hope, your confidence, it’s not an outward appearance. 1st Peter 3 versus 3 and 4, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold, jewelry, or fine clothes.” Is this prohibitive of that? No, it’s saying don’t let that be your source, but it can be overflow. Don’t let it be your source, rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. Wear nice clothes, wear makeup, do your hair, that’s not at all what this is teaching, it’s saying it just shouldn’t be your source of life. It’s not money. 1 Timothy 6:17, “Command those who are rich in this present world, not to be arrogant, nor to put their hope and wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” We lose strength and lack confidence when we turn the blessings of God into our source of life. And we start worshiping the blessings rather than the one who blessed us. Where is your source today? I wanna talk to you in the time that we have remaining just about laughter as a barometer of strength. Laughter is a barometer of strength, not perfection, but strength. Two other areas that you should never find yourself looking to as your source, your source is not in your children. They’re not your source of life. And some of you right now, your children have become an extension and you find your value in them. Vanity parenting uses the child’s attributes and accomplishments to try to impress other people. Let your strength, let your confidence, let your hope, let your beauty come from that inner beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. I have to talk to the moms for just a second, ’cause, I… Everything I do is marriage and parenting and I can’t get away from it. Mom, you’re stressing out over the non-essentials in parenting. And you need to know what the essentials are, and the essentials are hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, and strength and impress these. These commandments are to be upon your heart. Impress them upon your children. Bring your children up in the, the discipline and instruction of the Lord. That’s the essentials that we’re going after. But I see parents today stressing over the non-essentials, why? Mom stressing over the non-essentials because the children have become the source. Your family’s not perfect and you’re gonna do okay. I’m gonna show you a few things. Just give you an example of what I see parents stressing out over today. How about this one right here, formula. Passionate people, you gotta nurse, you got nurse as long as you can. Nursing didn’t work for us with Corynn. She’s like, “Thanks for sharing that with all the women of Minnesota dad.” But it didn’t. I- I’ll never forget it. Six weeks, her six-week appointment, we went into the doctor and I’m sitting by Amy, and he comes in, he’s going over all of her charts. He starts looking at her head, head’s good, length good, gets to the weight chart. His back has turned to us. He’s one of these doctors that doesn’t have great, uh, bedside manner. And I’ll never forget him saying these words, “Good night. What are you doing? Starving this baby?” I look over at Amy, the tears start flowing. This is why it’s so important. If you’re not in a life group, a home group, a small group, if you don’t have community get into community, ’cause that night we had home group. That night, we had home group and we’re new parents trying to figure it and we ain’t doing that well. And we’re an emotional wreck, we’re not sleeping well, Corynn’s never slept a night, you know, in those first six weeks and we’re exhausted. We start telling all our struggles. And one older lady in our group gets up and she walks over to the kitchen, and I follow her.
Ted: I said, “Uh, excuse me.” Said, “What are you doing?” She reaches up in the cabinet she grabs that formula they give you free at the hospital. She puts it down and she starts making a bottle. And I go, “Oh whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, hey, what are you doing?” Because I’ve read all the books, right? I know what the books say. And there’s somebody in here right now really passion about whoa I hope he’s not giving a message that formula is okay.
Ted: That’s the whole point I’m trying to make. And I got really all up in arms with this lady, “You can give her formula.” She goes, “You give me one good reason why I can’t give Corynn formula right now?” I said, “Well, first of all, I don’t want to go into community college, that’s where I’ll start with the whole thing.”
Ted: That usually gets about 75% laugh, and I’ll explain to you why. 25% are super gggrrr right now, you’re stressed.
Ted: I think your kids are gonna be fine, lighten up mom. Focus on the essentials, let go of the non-essentials a little bit. Your children are not your source of life, don’t find your strength from ’em. (laughs)
Ted: You’re like, “Oh no, my kids fill me up.” Yeah, give it a while you’ll find out nothing sucks the life outta you faster
Ted: than a child.
Ted: How about this one? Oh, let’s keep going there since we’re having so much fun. “Oh binky? No, you did not give your daughter a binky.” We did until she was two and a half.
Ted: Sure she can’t pronounce her s’s,
Ted: but she has nailed the other 25 letters, I need you to know that.
Ted: She’s got ’em down. Let’s keep going. How about this? The family bed. I people get online debating everything. Oh, you shouldn’t do that, you should… I’m, I’m very eradicating the kid centered home. But I wanna explain something right now to every mom in here. And this is serious this is not a punchline right here. You are under no obligation to explain or defend your parenting choices.
Ted: None… I’m over there. I hate all my Facebook friends.
Ted: I hate ’em all. They’re all of their father, the devil and children from darkness. I can’t stand them.
Ted: Do you have the family bed, and somebody go, “Oh it’s now… Look at all those kids, the dog, the cat. I have no idea how they have so many kids.” But,
Ted: if that’s your choice, no one’s here to tell you otherwise. oh then this one stresses parents out, the school picture, right? What school? Public, private, home, Christian? You’re under no obligation to explain or defend your choices. The bus. I’m seeing parents today stress over the bus. Do we send our kids on the bus? Ha, ha, ha. I grew up on the bus.
Ted: How many of you grew up on a bus? I want… Those of you stressing about this decision right now, I want you to look around. I do, because I’m gonna ask this question, you’re gonna be shocked at how many hands go up. How many of you remember back in the day, bus drivers kicking unruly kids off the bus in the middle of the route? I’m in Minnesota now (laughs). It’s 10 below zero, get off the bus. Audience: (laughs)
Ted: We did though. If you met… Listen, the bus driver would drop you off a mile and a half from home. I grew up in the corn fields of Illinois. I remember getting dropped off. And you’d see a line going through the corn fields to get home. So long as you stayed out in front of the combine, you were fine. (laughs) But we all survived.
John: You’re listening to pastor Ted Cunningham on today’s episode of Focus on the Family. And you can get his book, A Love That Laughs, as well as the CD of this entire presentation when you call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. 800 232-6459, or donate and request those resources at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Let’s go ahead and return now to more from Ted Cunningham.
Ted: How many of you remember when your mom couldn’t figure out which of your siblings was at fault, so she just spanked all of you? How many of you remember that?
Ted: Yeah, those were good days. How many you remember when your mom sent you upstairs to wait for your spanking?
Ted: That was worse than the spanking. How many of you remember when mom sent you upstairs to wait for your spanking, then forgot she sent you upstairs to wait for your spanking? (laughs) You and your brother are like, “Do we tell her, do we need to remind her what we’re doing up here?” (laughs) I had a brother four years old and he’s totally stubborn. He’d sit on his side of the bed, “Oh dad, ain’t gonna break me, mom ain’t gonna break me.” I’m like, “Are you kidding?” I’m screaming on the back swing.
Ted: Let’s see how quick we can do this, but we’ve already enjoyed laughter, again, understanding that laughter is a barometer of strength. If you ever gotten to the end of the day and you’re like, I haven’t laughed once today. Is it a sign? I need to find a way to laugh, or do I need to take a deeper look?” What’s going on that I’m so stressed that I’m so focused on all of these, what I’m gonna say non-essentials that I need to get back to it. And so I want to just shared that, I know this seems like a lot, but I think we got time to plow through it. Uh, I have a, a chapter in the book called 38 Benefits of Laughter. And uh, I wanna give you 42 of them,
Ted: uh, before we go to lunch. No, I ain’t keeping you from lunch. But I’d like to give you 15 of them because Proverb 17:22 says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine.” And we’ve been taking that medicine since this day began. I’ve been laughing since I walked through the doors at 8:00. I, I gotta tell you something, laughter is a great way to know where am I right now? With strength, with confidence, with hope. It’s a great barometer. Number one, laughter is therapy, it’s therapy. We’ve been taking some of this today. Pastor Chuck Swindoll says, “Laugh out loud, it helps flush out the nervous system.” Laughter is the most beautiful and beneficial therapy God ever granted humanity. Laugh. Number two, humor helps us learn and hope opens us up for the truth. I always love telling people, yes, laughter is a medicine, but it also helps other medicines go down. And sometimes I get criticized, “You use too much laughter, too much humor when you preach.” I said, “Yeah, but if you just would pay attention while you’re laughing, I’m cramming truth down your throat.”
Ted: And I do it Sunday after Sunday. Three, humor helps us cope. A person without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs, it is jolted by every pebble in the road. “Good humor makes all things tolerable,” Henry Ward Beecher. I love the fourth one, laughter is free. No memberships, no subscriptions. Number five, when we laugh, we breathe in oxygen, rich air. Dr. Sophie Scott, neuroscientists, I’ve been studying her for the last couple of years. Her, her… I’ve been studying her research. That sounded really weird the way that came out. Audience: (laughs)
Ted: Laughter is a deep breath figuratively and literally. When you laugh your ribcage expands and contracts more rapidly than it does when you breathe or talk. And that leads to the sixth one laughing burns calories.
Ted: I did, I just to make a point when Julia started talking, I looked at my calorie count, by the end of her talk, this is… I was sitting there. We were sitting there. I burned 43 calories
Ted: during her talk. According to Vanderbilt University, you can shed 40 calories with 10 to 15 minutes of laughter. So laugh and put away the jogging suit, that’s what I say.
Ted: Put away the jogging suit. Number seven, laughter reduces tension throughout your entire body. Laughter reduces tension throughout your entire body. I love… I do date night comedy events around the country. And I just… My favorite comment to hear when people walk out is my face hurts or my side hurts. I can’t remember the last time we laughed three to five laughs per minute. And you really are exhausted at the end of the time. If you ever watch Comedy Specials, that’s why they only go an hour and five or an hour and 10 minutes. You’ll, you’ll rarely see a comedy show go to an hour and 15 or an hour and 20 because you just don’t have any more laughs in you. You’re exhausted. That’s a good thing to exhaust yourself with laughter. Here’s my favorite one number eight, your body can’t tell the difference between fake and real laughter. Your mind can, but your body can’t. So if you’re not feeling it fake it.
Ted: So I that’s an important lesson for wives, (laughs) okay. I don’t know where your mind just went with that. (laughs) But I’m talking about laughter. The next time your husband tells a joke that ain’t funny, fake it. Go home from this, he says something funny or does something funny. (laughs) Your body is reaping the benefits of that laughter, let it go. Nine, humor grows two people closer together. I heard somebody tell me, uh, I think it was last year, I think live events are on their way out. And I went, “What?” I said, I, I don’t think… Because you know what you’ve been doing, you’ve been laughing together. You, you can’t… When you’re in a… You can laugh at something when just you, but it’s not nearly as much fun and as this and as contagious as this. Like watch this, I’m gonna show you something. Tickle yourself right now, see if you can make yourself laugh. (laughs) Yeah, you can’t do it. You cannot tickle yourself to make yourself laugh. Now, turn to your neighbor. (laughs) No, don’t turn to your neighbor. I didn’t… No, hey. Do not turn to your neighbor. (laughs) I don’t even know this woman, but (laughs) she’s with another church. Laughing says I’m with you. It says I’m on the same page, I get it. 10, laughter diffuses social tension and awkwardness. Humor is a great tool to break the ice with strangers and new friends. It’s an indicator. It immediately helps us identify other people that get us. This is a big one. 11, big, laughter makes you more attractive. That online dating sites are trying to figure out how to get this into the algorithm besides just the question, do you have a sense of humor? Do you want somebody with a sense of humor? And again, tell the guys in our church, you don’t need the looks of Brad Pitt, you don’t need the body of The Rock, and you don’t need the confidence of Tony Stark, okay? You need a paycheck (laughs) and a couple of jokes. (laughs) A paycheck and laughter is great for relationship and chemistry. 12, laughter humanizes me. Laughter is a shake of the head acknowledging I can’t believe I just said that. I can’t believe I just did that. Ethel Barrymore said, “You grow up the day you have your first real laugh at yourself.” Pastor Mark Batterson says that “The happiest and healthiest people in the world are of people who laugh at themselves the most.” You’ve got to take God seriously, but you can’t take yourself seriously. Honestly, I think we are grossly underestimating God’s sense of humor. I believe the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. We tend to ignore the second half, maybe we need to take fun more seriously. Three more. 13, laughter pleases God. Randy Alcorn says, “Laughter is not only human, it’s explicitly biblical and pleasing to God.” It’s therefore inconceivable to think that Jesus didn’t laugh. Laughter ministers to others. “The best way to cheer yourself is to try to cheer someone else up,” Mark Twain. And it’s one of the things I love to do when I go into a hospital. I’ve visited folks from our church in hospice care and their spouse says, “Ted, we’re so glad you’re here. You need to make him laugh. Let’s just have fun together.” And there have been plenty of people in their final days where we just stood around, we sat around, we told stories, and we laughed enjoying the fellowship of one another. The last one, laughter reminds us of the hope of heaven. I like what Randy Alcorn says, “Jesus says, blessed are those who weep now for you shall laugh.” In context, he’s talking about people having great reward in heaven. In other words, he’s saying you will laugh in heaven. Surely Jesus will join in and the laughter and be a source of much of it. And when Jesus laughs, it’s always the laughter of both God and man. One of the criticisms our church receives in Branson, and one of the reasons people will say they stay away from our church is because there’s too many people and too much laughter to which we say, you’re probably not gonna like heaven.
Audience: (laughter and applause)
Ted: Heaven’s gonna be a pretty rough place for you. Martin Luther actually put it this way, “If they don’t allow laughter in heaven, then I don’t want to go there.” If the earth is fit for laughter, then surely heaven is filled with it, heaven is the birthplace of laughter. If I can just encourage you with this last image, it’s uh, on my phone, it’s my alarm section. (laughs) 3:40 was to get to Minnesota, but 5:22 in military time, 1722, which is a reminder of Proverb 17:22, let that alarm go off and just ask yourself the question, did I even laugh today? How much laughter? What was my conflict to laughter ratio? A. W. Tozer said, “The people of God ought to be the happiest people in all the wide world. The Christian owes it to the world to be supernaturally joyful.” Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord. Always, I will say it again, rejoice.” Thank you Sparkle for allowing me to share a little bit with you this morning. I love y’all very much. Thank you, thank you.
John: Ted Cunningham on today’s episode of Focus on the Family. And with Mother’s Day coming up on Sunday, I’d say this message was well timed. Don’t you think Jim?
Jim: That is great timing. And we wanna wish all the moms in our audience a happy and blessed Mother’s Day. Moms you really are special. And you know, I have a lot of great memories of my mom, even though I, I lost her when I was only nine. And I especially remember her great sense of humor. She really loved to laugh, and it just lifted the entire family. It makes me smile just thinking about that. And as Ted pointed out, laughter is something that we all need in our lives. And I’d encourage you to get a copy of his book, A Love That Laughs, published by Focus on the Family. When you request a copy through us, rest assured that the proceeds are going into ministry, not the pockets of shareholders. And please consider supporting us with a monthly gift. Jean and I do that with the ministry. It doesn’t have to be a big amount, it’s the consistency that really helps us month to month. Join us as we provide resources to strengthen marriages, empower parents, and protect pre-born children. And when you make a monthly pledge of any amount, we’ll send you a copy of A Love That Laughs as our way of saying thank you. And if you can’t make a monthly, uh, commitment right now, we understand. We can also send you the book for a one-time gift of any amount. Simply get in touch with us today. And remember whenever you’re shopping for books by Christian authors and other Bible related resources, check our online store. We only stock items that have earned a seal of approval from Focus, a ministry you already know and trust. We also offer top-notch customer service, and you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing that your hard-earned dollars are benefiting a ministry you believe in rather than going to a secular corporation. I hope you’ll shop first with us.
John: Follow up at our website, it’s focusonthefamily.com/broadcast, or when you call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY, 800-232-6459. When you’re online with us, look for a link to our Focus on the Family parenting podcast, which is a great source of ongoing encouragement and support for your journey as a mom or a dad. Have a great weekend, uh, with your family and your church family as well. Be sure to be back with us on Monday, we’ll have Amber Lia and Wendy Speake explaining why moms need a better response oftentimes when their children misbehave.
Wendy Speake: And yet every day we wake up and we go at it again and come evening and you’re crying about how you we’re blaming, and shaming, and negative with them and having a nasty face at them, and you’re surprised.
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John: On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team here, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller, inviting you back as we, once again, help you and your family thrive in Christ.