Sermon illustrations


Fires, Earthquakes, Thunderbolts, and Fathers

In his excellent book, The Magnificent Story, James Bryan Smith shares a true story from Japanese culture that illustrates just how demanding strict disciplinarian fathers can be.

The Japanese have a traditional saying that the four most dreadful things on earth are “fires, earthquakes, thunderbolts, and fathers.” The father, in Japan, is supposed to be (and most are) strict, authoritarian, and judgmental, while the mother is suffering, nurturing, and caregiving. As a result, the Japanese—especially men—revere their mothers.

Taken from The Magnificent Story by James Bryan Smith. Copyright (c) 2018 by James Bryan Smith. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

Life After Delivery?

In a mother’s womb were two babies. One asked the other: “Do you believe in life after delivery? “The other replied, “Why, of course. There has to be something after delivery. Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.”
“Nonsense” said the first. “There is no life after delivery. What kind of life would that be?”

The second said, “I don’t know, but there will be more light than here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths. Maybe we will have other senses that we can’t understand now.”

The first replied, “That is absurd. Walking is impossible. And eating with our mouths? Ridiculous! The umbilical cord supplies nutrition and everything we need. But the umbilical cord is so short. Life after delivery is to be logically excluded.”

The second insisted, “Well I think there is something and maybe it’s different than it is here. Maybe we won’t need this physical cord anymore.”

The first replied, “Nonsense. And moreover if there is life, then why has no one has ever come back from there? Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery there is nothing but darkness and silence and oblivion. It takes us nowhere.”

“Well, I don’t know,” said the second, “but certainly we will meet Mother and she will take care of us.”

The first replied “Mother? You actually believe in Mother? That’s laughable. If Mother exists then where is She now?”

The second said, “She is all around us. We are surrounded by her. We are of Her. It is in Her that we live. Without Her this world would not and could not exist.”

Said the first: “Well I don’t see Her, so it is only logical that She doesn’t exist.”

To which the second replied, “Sometimes, when you’re in silence and you focus and you really listen, you can perceive Her presence, and you can hear Her loving voice, calling down from above.”

Wayne Dyer, Your Sacred Self.

“Look at These”

Davon Huss tells the story of a boy who came home one hot afternoon, anxious to take a cool swim in the pond behind his home. He lived in south Florida, so taking a quick dip was a common way to cool off.

He was so anxious to get in the water, he didn’t even go inside to change clothes. He just raced for the pond, dropping his shoes, shirt, and socks along the way. His mother spotted him diving off the dock, and went outside to check on him.

As she watched her son swim toward the middle of the lake, she also spotted an alligator moving from the far shore, toward her son! She began screaming the warnings, and the boy stopped in mid-swim. He finally understood the danger, and began racing back toward the dock. Just as he reached her, the alligator reached him.

It was a tug-of-war from a mother’s worst nightmare. From the dock, she pulled his arms. From the water, the alligator held his legs. The water was quickly stained with blood.

A farmer driving by heard the screams, and ran to help. He shot the alligator and helped the mother call for help. The boy survived, and after several weeks of hospitalization, was ready to talk with a news reporter.

The reporter asked the child if he could see where the alligator had bitten him. With the typical pride of a boy, he showed off his healing wounds to the interested reporter. “But wait,” said the boy, “look at these!” With that, he showed the reporter the scars on his arms. “I have great scars on my arms, too. I have them because my Mom wouldn’t let go.”

Andy Cook

“Mom, You Shouldn’t Have Children If It is too Hard for You”

In her compelling memoir Still Life, author Gillian Marchenko recounts her struggles with depression. In this excerpt, Marchenko shares a funny but poignant moment as she deals with the challenges of battling depression and raising children:

One morning when Elaina was around three years old, she came into our bedroom and crawled up in between Sergei and me in bed.

“Mom, Zoya’s crying,” she said, placing her little hand on my cheek. Zoya had been fussing and making noise for the last fifteen minutes or so in her crib. “Honey, I know. I’ll get her in a minute.” Elaina quieted down next to me, and I sighed into the pillow. What mother doesn’t relish a few more stolen moments of sleep?

“Mom, you shouldn’t have had children if it is too hard for you.” Sergei and I cried with laughter. But years later I still ask myself, Is motherhood too hard for me? Is that what made me fall apart? Although I realized a dark cloud has always hovered over me since the clinical trial, I also nurse a suspicion that I’m a bad mom. My inability to mother my kids is one of the culprits of my depression.

Taken from Still Life by Gillian Marchenko Copyright (c) 2016, p.58 by Gillian Marchenko. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

The Prize Winner

One day the fair was in town and a father of five children decided it was a good opportunity to give his wife a break. When they arrived, the father, who was quite the shot, knew instantly what game he wanted to play. Arriving at the shooting gallery he quickly won a prize-a stuffed animal.

But which of the five kids should he give it to? After a few moments, he came up with a solution. Who does everything mommy asks? Who is the most obedient to mommy? Who never talks back to mommy?” Each of the five children answered at the same time, not without a sense of resignation, “you deserve the prize daddy.”

Source Unknown

“She Knows Now”

A mother ran into the bedroom when she heard her seven-year-old son scream. She found his two-year-old sister pulling his hair. She gently released the little girl’s grip and said comfortingly to the boy, “There, there. She didn’t mean it. She doesn’t know that hurts.” He nodded his acknowledgement, and she left the room.

As she started down the hall the little girl screamed. Rushing back in, she asked, “What happened?”

The little boy replied, “She knows now.”

Joke a Day Ministries Group

Slinging Chow and Fruitless Trees

An empty-nester friend of mine was recently reflecting on the long days at home with a growing family. “You just gotta keep slinging chow,” she said with a laugh. I laughed too . . . but not quite as hard as she did. It hit a little too close to home, you know? As soon as I clean the kitchen, it’s time to cook again.

My people are always eating. Three times a day. It’s ridiculous. Though I’m certain that serving my family is my primary calling right now, there are moments in this season when I wonder what—other than temporarily full bellies—I am producing here. Is there going to be any fruit from all this work? Why can’t I see it yet? When, if ever, will all this labor pay off?

David, I think, must have understood my frustration. He lived in a dry, arid land. Because rainfall wasn’t a guarantee, fruit trees needed to be purposefully planted near a water source. These healthy trees could then grow to produce delicious food for people to enjoy. But it certainly didn’t happen immediately.

Newly planted fruit trees can take years to bear their first crop. Before those blossoms form, trees will appear to be barren and unproductive. Fruitless. This time of barrenness is necessary in the life cycle of the tree. It’s not an indication that the tree isn’t healthy, just that bearing fruit requires maturity. And maturity takes time. Good fruit takes time.

Hannah C. Hall, Thirsty: 12 Weeks of Drinking Deeply from God’s Word, Revell 2022.

Taking Inventory: Essential for Life, Especially While Raising Kids

Parker Palmer’s book Let Your Life Speak arrested my heart a few years back. It begins with a poem by William Stafford, “Ask Me”, that begs this question: “Some time when the river is ice ask me mistakes I have made. Ask me whether what I have done is my life.It was the first book that challenged me to take inventory of my days, to consider my thoughts, actions, and daily routine. I began to ask myself, Is the life I lead the life that longs to live in me?

When I first asked myself this question, my life was consumed with Target returns and Chick-fil-A playdates. It had been a decade swallowed by Pull-Ups and pacifiers and poop. Though these motherhood moments weren’t the whole of my life’s longing, they were largely the makeup of my days. I’d never considered the life that longed to live in me. Fast-forward eighteen years. I’m not only organizing playdates; I’m navigating first dates.

We’ve moved from Pull-Ups to outfitting our kids in sports jerseys and athletic gear for summer camp. Raising four children, three of whom are now teenagers, comes with a boatload of bustle. But no matter the season—whether new motherhood or raising teens—pausing to take inventory has saved my life. When I find myself too busy for it, I’m lost. When I make time for it, I gain critical perspective.

Rebekah Lyons,. Rhythms of Renewal, Zondervan, 2019, pp.26-27.

What One Perfectionist Mother Looks Like

I never considered myself a perfectionist before I had children. Perfectionism was someone else’s problem. It was the affliction of those pasty-faced library moles that haunted the campus stacks on Saturday nights, still cramming after everyone else had left to grab a beer. It was the curse of the hulking workout kings who passed entire spring days pumping and groaning in the mirror-lined mausoleum of the campus gym. 

Perfectionism was what made frazzled mothers stay up all night hand-sewing Halloween costumes and what turned fathers into red-faced sideline screamers or workaholics who missed the game altogether. A perfectionist was that tortured soul who always seems to land in front of me in the salad bar line, the one who inspects each lettuce leaf as if sifting for gold and complains to the waiter about the radish shaving someone dropped in the fat-free ranch. That’s a perfectionist, I thought. And that’s not me.

The Heart of Perfection: How the Saints Taught Me to Trade My Dream of Perfect for God’s, Howard Books, 2019.

See also Illustrations on ChildrenFathersMarriage, Parenting

Still Looking for inspiration?

Consider checking out our quotes page on Motherhood. Don’t forget, sometimes a great quote is an illustration in itself!

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