FamilyLife Today®

Cultivating Grateful Hearts

with Dennis and Barbara Rainey | October 29, 2007
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How do you cultivate a grateful heart? All this week on the broadcast, Dennis Rainey and his wife, Barbara, author of the book "Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember," talk about thankfulness and the holiday that Americans set aside to remember all of God's blessings.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Guest

  • How do you cultivate a grateful heart? All this week on the broadcast, Dennis Rainey and his wife, Barbara, author of the book "Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember," talk about thankfulness and the holiday that Americans set aside to remember all of God's blessings.

How do you cultivate a grateful heart?

Cultivating Grateful Hearts

With Dennis and Barbara Rainey
October 29, 2007
| Download Transcript PDF

Barbara: It's an easy thing to do.  It's easy to gather your kids around.  You don't have to do it at the table like we do.  You can all sit on the couch.

Dad: When did the pilgrims come to America?

Child: I don't know.

Barbara: You don't have to read it all at one time.  You can break it up and read it over several days.

Dad: That was the Mayflower?

Child: Okay.

Dad: That was a neat story.

Child: That was good, Mom.

Dad: That was neat.

Barbara: Getting your kids around you and reading a story is not a very hard thing to do, and so it's a way that you can begin to teach your children about the holiday and about being thankful in a pretty simple, straightforward way.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, October 29th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  We're gong to talk today about cultivating in your family a heart for thanksgiving and a heart of Thanksgiving.  Stay tuned.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Monday edition.  I'll tell you, I spent part of the weekend just looking out at the backyard, and I thought it just looks pretty.  You know, all of those leaves covering the backyard?  We ought to just leave them there, because it looks so pretty.

Dennis: It's the organic thing to do.

Bob: Yeah.

Dennis: I believe if God intended those leaves to fall in plastic bags, He would have had plastic bags on the ground.

Bob: He would have arranged for that, absolutely, and which really looks nicer?  The leaves covering the backyard with the autumn wind blowing through the backyard?  Or a clean, manicured – no, that looks sterile.

Dennis: Oh, I thought you were going to say – or Mary's Ann's face scowling at you, telling you, "Bob, I've asked you three times this weekend" …

Bob: Oh, yes, well, it is that time of year, isn't it?

Dennis: It is that time of year.

Bob: And, of course, in addition to football and falling leaves, we're also in the month where we begin to focus on an event that I know you think is kind of a hidden holiday, right?

Dennis: That's right, and when you said we begin to focus on an event, even as early in the fall as we are, a lot of people immediately thought you were going to talk about …

Bob: … Christmas …

Dennis: … Christmas …

Bob: … yes …

Dennis: … because the decorations go up, much to my wife, Barbara, who joins us on FamilyLife Today.

Bob: Barbara, welcome.

Barbara: Thank you.

Dennis: That's right.  Glad you're here, sweetheart.

Barbara: Glad to be here.

Dennis: Tell them what your soapbox is about Christmas decorations showing up around Halloween?

Barbara: Yeah, they show up two months ahead, usually, and sometimes more.

Dennis: And you're pleased about that?

Barbara: It really bothers me.  I just feel like they're rushing it, and we don't get a chance to live in the present, because we're always bombarded with what's coming two months from now and three months from now, and I just think it instills a sense of panic that "I've got to get on it," and we really have lots of time, and I think it's more important to enjoy the present.

Dennis: Yeah, in less than a month we're going to be celebrating Thanksgiving, and, Bob, as you mentioned, Barbara and I really believe that this is the one holiday throughout the year that is uniquely a family holiday that I think galvanizes family relationships as few times during the year can.

Bob: Have you always had that perspective on Thanksgiving?  Was it a big deal in the home where you grew up?

Dennis: Not really in my family.

Bob: Was it in yours, Barbara?

Barbara: Hm-mm.  It wasn't in mine.  I mean, we celebrated it, and we always had turkey and …

Bob: … watched football …

Barbara: … dressing and all that, but …

Dennis: … and we did, too, but there wasn't the historical or the spiritual emphasis that, really, Barbara has helped our family enjoy, and I would have to say, Bob, that it's only been over the past decade, after we've done this tradition over and over and over again, that it finally begins to sink in what a rich holiday in terms of our faith, in terms of the historical perspective of our nation, in terms of the courage and the sacrifice of the pilgrims and what they did to form a new nation, and how we can begin to tap into that and not merely relive the past but learn from the lessons of the past, and then, most importantly, I think, do what the holiday is all about, which is give thanks and give thanks as a family.

Bob: Barbara, this year, you have taken a lot of the history of Thanksgiving, which I know you've studied and read about for years, and put it together in a new book that you've written designed for families to bring out at Thanksgiving and make a part of the celebration, right?

Barbara: That's right.  What I've done is, I've gotten the essence of the pilgrim's story and rewritten it in a form that families can read aloud together.  So it's not something that your family – you have to go out and do any work yourself.  You don't have to go do any of the research, you just pick up this book, and it's a read-aloud story, and it's designed to be read to families with younger children or families with older children.  So it's a time that would pull a family together, help everyone focus on our history and on the importance of being thankful.

Bob: It turned out great.  It's a beautiful book.

Barbara: It is beautiful.

Bob: In fact, some of the artwork in here is watercolor work that you did, right, for the book?

Barbara: I did.

Bob: And there's even a watercolor in here that your daughter, Laura, did.  Tell me about that.

Barbara: That's right.  Well, she was in a – I had several of my kids take a little art class here locally, and one of the things that Laura did when she was taking art in the 6th grade was this little watercolor of a pilgrim boy and a pilgrim girl and some corn, and it just was really sweet then, and I've loved it ever since.  In fact, I pull it out every Thanksgiving and hang it up as part of our fall décor – which isn't a lot – but I've just hung onto that for years, because I really like it.  So it's in the book.

Bob: It's right here before the table of contents to the book.  It really is cute.

Barbara: It is cute.

Dennis: And one of the qualities about Barbara that really irritates me from time to time is that she's so self-effacing about her work.  There is probably a dozen watercolors in here – in fact, how many are there in the book, Barbara?

Barbara: I don't have any idea.

Dennis: See, she doesn't even know.

Barbara: I don't think there are a dozen.

Dennis: Well, there are a number of original …

Barbara: … there are a few …

Dennis: … of original watercolors that she's done, and it's been fun, Bob, because this was something that Barbara enjoyed doing before we had six children in 10 years, and the watercolors went in the mothballs along with the paintbrushes and the easel. 

 And as the kids have left for college, slowly but surely, the watercolors have come out, the easel has been re-established, and she's got a spot now in our home where she regularly – well, you'll find her late at night laboring on some piece of artwork, and I'm really proud of her here, even though she doesn't even give herself credit in the book for doing these watercolors.

Bob: And I'll just add this, you know, Thomas Kinkade, if you're listening, just watch out, okay?

Dennis: Yeah, he may be the "painter of lights," Barbara is …

Bob: … yeah?

Barbara: Is what?

Dennis: Words escape me.


Barbara: … is still learning.

Dennis: She's really good, though, she's really good.

Bob: We'll just see how good you are on the fly there.


Dennis: I was really trying to come up with a good, you know, a good play on words, but …

Barbara: … mm-hm, well, it didn't work.

Dennis: It didn't work, and I'll bring home dinner tonight, sweetheart.

Bob: Let me ask about how this holiday kind of popped up to be a bigger deal in your family than it was, because Dennis said you go back a decade or more, and you kind of did what most of us do, and that is you had the turkey and the dressing, and you watched the football, and it was a great day for the family to be together, but you didn't really mark it as a unique day.  What raised it to the surface for you?

Barbara: Well, a couple of things did.  First of all, Dennis was speaking at a conference every year over the Thanksgiving holiday, and part of that conference was a banquet that we all attended, he and I and the children, but it was with about 300 other people or 400 other people.  So it wasn't very private, and I just felt like we needed to do something with our children that was just us over the Thanksgiving holiday, because we had spent all these years with other people.  So that was the first motivation – was to establish some kind of a tradition that was just for our family on Thanksgiving Day.

 The second reason that I got real motivated to do this is because as my children started going to school, I realized that they weren't learning much about the real reasons behind the holiday.  Their information was sketchy.  They learned some correct names, they learned about Squanto and the Indians, and they learned about – they had some of the facts straight, but they weren't getting the real spiritual side of the story, and I knew there was a whole lot more to the story than what they were learning, and I wanted them to know the real story.

 So I found a book that I'd marked just certain portions of, and I began to read that to our kids periodically, and I also began to have our children record what they were thankful for every Thanksgiving Day, and that sort of was my way of pulling our family together on Thanksgiving Day, giving us something that we could do together that would focus on the spiritual side of the holiday.

Dennis: I think there's an additional benefit to our family that, again, Barbara is minimizing.  She was a history major in college, and so she's enjoyed good stories about history and the stories that set the context for our nation, and she had many of these stories, and as she began to read them to our family, frankly, for me, in high school and college, I didn't care for history.  History was kind of boring.

But as Barbara began to read the stories and kind of became like a history professor to our family, I literally began to see a holiday born again, as it were, in my own heart and mind, as I listened to the story of the real Thanksgiving, the real pilgrims, the real holiday, and how it came about. 

And, Bob, there's something about wrapping the Christian faith with some humanity that enables us to get back into that holiday and not just have a tradition that realize – "You know what?  Our country really does have a spiritual heritage that we need to be celebrating on this day."

Bob: We hear about schoolchildren growing up today thinking that on Thanksgiving the pilgrims thanked the Indians for bringing lunch over to the village or something.  They really don't understand that this is a profoundly spiritual holiday and, for that matter, the whole idea of giving thanks, setting aside a day of thanksgiving to God – that's something that is wholly biblical.  We are instructed – we are commanded – in the scriptures to give thanks to the Lord.  It is good for us to give thanks, isn't it?

Barbara: That's right, and that's one of the reasons I wanted to help my children focus on not just the story but also on being thankful themselves.  The good thing about reading the story every year is it reminds them how they gave thanks in all things, and if the pilgrims could give thanks, it helps our kids say, "Well, gosh, if they could give thanks, then I need to give thanks."  And it's and easy thing to do.  It's easy to gather your kids around you.  You don't have to do it at the table like we do. You can all sit on the couch.  You don't have to read it all at one time, you break it up and read it over several days, but getting your kids around you and reading a story is not a very hard thing to do, and so it's a way that you can begin to teach your children about the holiday and about being thankful in a pretty simple, straightforward way.

Dennis: As I'm listening to Barbara talk about this, I'm wondering how people are thinking this works out in our family.  It doesn't take a long time to pull off.  She actually has designed this book so there's three different ways you can take your family into the history of Thanksgiving.  One is through a shortened version that you can read from the book that's, oh, a little less than 30 minutes long.

Bob: A shortened version of the history of Thanksgiving, the story?

Dennis: Right.  And then there's the full version, which is 45 to 50 minutes.  And you may be wondering if your children will sit there that long – well, you can read half the 30-minute version before the meal, the other half after the meal.  That gives them two 15-minute segments to be able to listen to.  But, truthfully, over the years, our children learned to sit there almost for an hour.

Bob: You could even build some anticipation for the holiday itself by using this book each day the week before, couldn't you?

Barbara: That's right, that's right, because it's actually divided into six sections, sort of like chapters.  They're not actually called chapters, but there are six sections to the book.  So you could start out six days ahead and read a section each day so that you had smaller pieces, and they could build on one another, and it would give you something to talk about if you wanted to do it that way.  So there are lots of different ways to use the book with your family.

Dennis: One of the things the kids always enjoyed, as Barbara was reading, were the pictures, and this book is designed as a book of about 65 pages to be really luxuriously appointed throughout its pages with pictures of historical events, documents, and it keeps the attention of the children to hold those up at the time of the reading of the story.

Bob: Every page is in full color, and there are illustrations, as you mentioned, throughout the book and, really, it's a beautiful gift book, kind of a coffee table book.  There's a CD that's included in the back of the book that has songs that are familiar Thanksgiving songs like "Come Ye Thankful People Come," or the Doxology, other hymns that are designed to help remind us of the holiday and the whole idea of Thanksgiving.

Dennis: That CD was designed by Barbara because she really does a wonderful job singing, and she wanted a CD with her own voice on it.

Bob: Why are you laughing about this?

Barbara: Now he's really stretching it.


Bob: It's an instrumental CD.

Dennis: Actually, the reason we included the CD is because our family is musically challenged, and we're not like the Lepine family, which has all the gifts.  Our family is very narrow in its type of gifts, but she wanted this CD in there because it has instrumental hymns that move the heart toward God and toward giving thanks.

Barbara: The other reason I wanted to include music, too, is that all of us have multiple CDs or tapes of Christmas music.  I bet we have two dozen all together.  I'll bet there are very few people out there that can say they have lots and lots of Thanksgiving music.  There just isn't much produced, and I felt like it would be helpful to families to have some beautiful music to play that would, as Dennis just said, call our hearts to give thanks.

Bob: You know, when you're working to try to cultivate, in your children and in yourself, a heart of gratitude, a heart of thanksgiving, you sometimes wonder – is any of this soaking in?  You go through the daily-ness of dealing with sibling rivalry or just selfishness – pure, unmitigated selfishness on the part of your kids, who want the world to revolve around them in the same way that most of us want the world to revolve around us, right?

And yet there are glimpses, there are moments, where you'll catch something, and you'll go, "Maybe something is happening," and it was about nine years ago when your daughter, Ashley, was in college that we were talking about Thanksgiving here on FamilyLife Today, and we decided to call her and just ask, "Ashley, what are you thankful for this year at Thanksgiving?"  And I went back to the archives, and I dusted this off, because I thought it would be fun for both of you to listen back to your daughter nine years ago as she talked about a couple of things she was thankful for.

Ashley: This is Ashley Rainey, and I'm from Little Rock, Arkansas, and I am thankful for both of my brothers, because God has chosen to bless me with two.  I am especially thankful for my brother Benjamin because of the strong friendship we have and just how I've seen that grow, just as we have grown in Christ.  I've seen how we have grown closer together, and he is one of my best friends in the whole world.  And I am also especially thankful for Samuel, because just this past year since I've gone to college, he's been so sweet, writing me letters and being sure and talking to me on the phone and stuff like that, and I'm really seeing that grow as well as he's maturing also, and it's been real fun just to see how close we've become as well.

Bob: You know, I'm sure there were times you wondered if she even liked her brothers, weren't there?

Dennis: Yes, you wonder if they're all going to grow up to just go their own separate way and have any kind of relationship after they're adults, but when you have a holiday like Thanksgiving, and you get them all around the table, and you give them a chance to express what they're truly grateful for – well, all I can tell you – in fact, we'll share some of what the kids were grateful for later on in the week.  It really has become our number-one holiday.  There really isn't another holiday that can compete with Thanksgiving.  It's relaxed, it's enjoyable, we're not rushed.  It is the purest family time we have around a holiday of any holiday we celebrate throughout the year, and that's part of why we're featuring these broadcasts all this week, to help you, as a listener, get this on your radar screen, because nothing just happens.  You've got to plan, you've got to do a little preparation but, I promise, what Barbara has put together keeps it so simple and makes it so enjoyable, I think your family is going to thoroughly enjoy this as well.

Bob: Well, yeah, now that the history professor has given us the family-friendly textbook.

Dennis: And the artist – later on in the week, I will come up with Barbara Rainey is the painter of – not bathrooms – no, that's not it …

Bob: … better not go here …

Dennis: … well, that needs to be done at our house, Bob.  That's kind of a reality right now, and she's wanting me to do it.

Bob: This is a – it really is a beautiful book.  It's beautifully put together, but it also gives families an objective for this holiday, and that is to share with your children the real story, an inspiring story, of Thanksgiving and of all that God did in the hearts and lives of those courageous men and women who made the journey across the ocean and settled into a new land who left family and friends behind and came to an undeveloped area primarily for the objective of being able to worship freely according to their conscience.  You don't meet many people like that today.

Dennis: I'm telling you, there are few stories that in my heart motivate me more than the story of the courage of the pilgrims and how they put their faith into action.

Bob: That story is beautifully told in a brand-new book.  It's called, "Thanksgiving:  A Time to Remember," by Barbara Rainey and, in addition to the book, in the back of the book, there is a musical CD that has some of the hymns you'll recognize that –  I always get mad if we go through the Thanksgiving season at church, and we don't sing those hymns.

Dennis: Mad?

Bob: Yes.

Dennis: You're mad, you're angry?

Bob: I'm ungrateful, that's what I am.  If we don't sing "Come Ye Thankful People Come," and "We Gather Together," I protest outside the church, that's exactly what I do. 

 We have your book available at our FamilyLife Resource Center. It comes with the CD.  It also comes with some watercolor notecards that you've done the artwork on, Barbara.  They are autumn-themed notecards, and there is a Thanksgiving coloring book for the children and the grandchildren, and we're going to include your choice of either the CD audio or the cassettes of this week's programs about Thanksgiving.  So you buy the book – you get the notecards, you get the coloring book, you get the CD, you get the audiocassettes or the CDs of this week's programs.  You can order all of this online at or give us a call at 1-800-FLTODAY and someone on our team can help you place your order.

 Again, the number is 1-800-358-6329.  That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.  We'll send you everything you need to get you ready t celebrate Thanksgiving right this year.

 While we're on the subject of Thanksgiving, we always appreciated hearing from folks who write to us or call us to say thanks for the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  We got a note recently from a listener who is – well, actually a Legacy Partner.  This is one of our listeners who, monthly, helps to provide financial support for our ministry, and the listener lives in North Pole, Alaska.  She wrote to say "The weekend Marriage Conferences we have been to have been a wonderful time for us.  I wish every couple could go to at least one of your conferences."  And then we heard from a listener in Sugar Run, Pennsylvania, who wrote to say, "I support you because you teach on marriage and family and aren't afraid to tell it like it is.  I value your teaching."  Well, we value hearing from those of you who listen to our program.  Let us know that you're listening and give us the call letters of the station on which you hear FamilyLife Today.

 And we also appreciate those of you who are able to help with financial contributions to keep FamilyLife Today on the air in your city and in cities all across the country.  We've tried to make it easy for you to do that.  You can donate online at; you can call 1-800-FLTODAY to make a donation; and if you'd like to become a Legacy Partner and donate on a monthly basis, that's easy, too.  We can have that donation automatically posted to your credit card each month, and you don't even have to worry about it until the bill comes, right?

 If you'd like more information about becoming a Legacy Partner, give us a call at 1-800-FLTODAY or, again, there is information online at  And thanks in advance for your support of FamilyLife Today.

 Well, tomorrow we're going to continue getting you ready for Thanksgiving, as we look at the history of this holiday.  Barbara Rainey will be back with us again tomorrow.  I hope you'll be back as well.

 I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

 FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.


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Episodes in this Series

Thanksgiving Day
Making the Most of Thanksgiving
with Dennis and Barbara Rainey November 2, 2007
Thanksgiving is only one day a year, but what a great day for remembering all God has done!
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Thanksgiving Day 4
A Recipe for Family Traditions
with Dennis and Barbara Rainey November 1, 2007
The Raineys talk about some of the Rainey Thanksgiving traditions that set the day apart from all other holidays.
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Thanksgiving Day 3
The True Story of the Pilgrims, Part 2
with Dennis and Barbara Rainey October 31, 2007
Americans began celebrating Thanksgiving over three centuries ago.
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