Dennis Rainey’s Legacy
As part of his farewell week, and in honor of Dennis Rainey's friendship and influence, Bob Lepine remembers their history, things Dennis has taught, and the legacy he has passed on to so many.
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As part of his farewell week, and in honor of Dennis Rainey’s friendship and influence, Bob Lepine remembers their history, things Dennis has taught, and the legacy he has passed on to so many.
Dennis Rainey’s Legacy
Bob: And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us, Thursday, May 27th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I’m Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. You know, you cannot spend the number of hours/the number of years—I mean, if you put them in hours—it would still be years I’ve been in this studio, for 26 years with Dennis Rainey; and then for the last two-plus years with you guys. You can’t spend that much time together with people without influencing one another.
Ann: They mark you.
Bob: Yes; rubbing off on you.
We’re spending some time this week looking back at the last 28-plus years, because we’re wrapping things up this week for me. This is the last week that I’ll be on FamilyLife Today as a co-host with you guys; you guys will take it from here. We’re looking back at the last 28 years and the many lessons—honestly, I wish I could have put a list of about 80 lessons over the—
Ann: I bet.
Bob: —I had to say, “What are the things that have really marked me over the years?”
I wanted to share with listeners—those of you who have been along with us for an extended period of time—I know you’ve been marked by some of these things. You just need to know I have, too. If you were tuned in, going, “Those guys have got it together, and I need help,” you just need to know: “We need help, too.” As we have guests come in—I mean, how many days have you left the studio, after we’ve had a guest and gone, “Boy, I needed to hear that”?
Dave: Oh, almost every day.
Ann: Every time, we’re done recording, we think, “I have grown and learned so much.”
Ann: It’s so inspiring.
Bob: We can’t let this week pass without thinking about the impact that all three of us have experienced from—
Bob: —Dennis Rainey, the founder and then president of FamilyLife®, who sat here in this room with me for 26 years. Both of us learned and grew; but he was—Dennis was—he is eight years older than me; okay? So his kids were always like six grades ahead of our kids.
Ann: —a step ahead.
Bob: His marriage was always one season ahead of our marriage. I’m just soaking it in, every day, hearing what he is going through and going—“Oh, yes, the empty nest will come for us. We better be ready for that,” “Oh, yes, teenagers/they are going to be like this. I better get ready for that,”—all of these things I was learning from Dennis through the years.
I thought, today, I would go, “What were the core things from Dennis that have marked me in the 28 years?”—because that’s been a big part of all of this. It all goes back to before we recorded our very first radio program. I’ll tell you the story; okay?
Dave: Yes, let’s hear it.
Bob: Dennis called me in May of 1992. I was living in San Antonio. I had interviewed him twice on my call-in talk show in San Antonio, where I said, “Welcome to Cross Currents. We’ve got on the phone line with us the president from FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey. Hey, Dennis, how are you doing?” I interviewed him. I hung up from the interview, thinking, “He was a pretty good guest.” He hung up, going, “He was a better-than-average interviewer.” We had that; that’s all we knew of each other.
He calls me one day in May; and he said, “We’re thinking about starting a radio program. We need some help.” I said, “Are you looking for a consultant?” He said, “No, we’re looking for somebody full time.” I said, “You want to move the ministry to San Antonio.” He said, “No.” I said, “Well,”—I said—“we’re happy here. We like what we’re doing.” I said, “I want to be open to whatever the Lord has, but I can’t see us moving.”
Well, fast forward five months, God made it clear to Mary Ann and me this is where we were supposed to be. I remember sitting in a conference room with Dennis. Dennis said, “I’ve got a question to ask you; it’s kind of a job interview.” I’m really thinking, “I’m not coming to Little Rock; I’m staying in San Antonio.” I wasn’t treating it like a job interview/like, “I’ve got to get the questions right.”
He says, “Let me ask you: ‘Does marriage and family/does it make you weep and pound the table?’” I thought, “Okay; do I weep and pound the table about marriage and family?” I said, “Here’s what makes me weep and pound the table. Theology makes me weep and pound the table: understanding God, understanding the Bible—getting that right—that makes me/that’s what keeps me up at night.” I said, “To the extent that marriage and family is on the heart of God, then, yes, I am passionate about it.”
Here is what I didn’t realize when he asked that question. I did not realize how much marriage and family is on the heart of God; Dennis did.
Bob: I don’t know if he understood it instinctively, or if he understood it from reading the Scriptures, or some combination—
Ann: —or if it’s just his call.
Bob: —He knew that marriage and family is central to God’s purposes for humankind being lived out and for human flourishing. I saw it as kind of an important thing but not as essential as he saw it.
I remember, years later, looking at the Great Commandment in Matthew 22, where it says, “The greatest commandment is love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” I thought, “That’s answer number one for me: ‘What makes me weep and pound the table is theology/knowing God.’”
“The second is like unto it, love your neighbor as yourself.” We always think about your neighbor being the next door person or the guy at church. What I realized, over the years, is I’m married to my neighbor. My closest neighbor is my wife. My next closest neighbor is down the hall, my kids. Everything that the Bible has to say about how we get along with one another in the horizontal plane is really about marriage. So when the Bible says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another,” that’s a marriage verse.
When the Bible says, “Encourage one another”/when the Bible says, “If your brother is in need,” those are marriage passages. I didn’t see that as being as central as it was. So when I said, “Yes, we’re coming to FamilyLife,” in August of 1992, Dennis sent me a cassette album of him and Barbara teaching through Building Your Mate’s Self-Esteem. The book had come out a few years before that.
Mary Ann and I and the kids/we were headed on a family vacation to Colorado before I’d even come here to start my first day of work. I take the cassette album; and we’re listening to Dennis Rainey tapes. “This is my new boss; I’ve got to do a radio show with this guy. I’d better know what he is all about.” Well, it was either tape 3 or tape 4 in that series on Building Your Mate’s Self-Esteem, where he takes this little excursus and talks about the power of honoring your parents, which I’m thinking, “What does this have to do with your mate’s self-esteem?” He explains it has a lot to do with everything about your relationship; but I remember listening to this idea of honoring your parents and going, “Nobody is talking about that for adult kids.”
Bob: We tell our little kids, “Honor your mom and your dad”; but Dennis—I remember him saying, “There’s no expiration date on the Fifth Commandment. It’s not like you turn 21, and then you don’t have to do that one anymore.”—I thought, “That’s right!”
Ann: We remember hearing that for the first time, too. We kind of/it stopped us.
Ann: We thought the same thing.
Bob: —so listen; here is him explaining how this became a life message for him. This is amazing.
Dennis: I want to venture back to the summer of 1966. I had just graduated from high school, and I stood on the white gravel chat driveway. My mom and dad were standing there; my mom seemed awfully small that day. I was saying goodbye to my parents as I was leaving for college.
It had to be God; He prompted me to look my mom and dad in the eye and tell them—I think for the first time in my life—“I love you.” I backed out of that driveway and headed out, and looked over my shoulder at my mom and dad standing there. It was an incredible moment. So much so, it took almost a decade later before I reflected on that and began to realize that I had been a neglectful son, assuming their love/assuming their presence.
Some years later—in fact, a decade to be exact—my dad died. I had spent those previous ten years in a very baby step way of attempting to honor my dad: let him know that I loved him, appreciated him, and just sought him out to let him know how much I cared about him.
Still, as they summarized his life in a 30- to 35-minute ceremony, life didn’t seem very fair: “How could you summarize such a great man’s life in such a brief period of time?” So I set about to write a tribute to my mom. I’d like to say that I finished it that year in 1976; I didn’t. It was 1982 before I finished my tribute to my mom. I sent that tribute to my mom instead of taking it to her and reading it to her. When she got it on a cold February day, she called me on the phone; and she said, “Is this about your mean, old mom?! Is this about me?!” I said, “It sure is, Mom.”
She hung it right above where she had breakfast every day. She made the mailman read it, [Laughter] the repairman, the plumber. There were a lot of captive people, who had to ultimately read that tribute. Why is that?—why?—because parenting is hard work/really hard work.
Why do you think God wants us to honor our parents? Well, I think, first of all, because honoring our parents is foundational to any nation or society.
Bob: Thinking back to the summer of 1992, and hearing Dennis for the first time talk about keeping the Fifth Commandment, even as an adult: “This needs to be talked about. I needed to hear it.”
Ann: We all do.
Dave: Yes; I mean, I ended up getting the book—
Dave: —when Dennis ended up writing the book called The Tribute, at the time—now called The Forgotten Commandment—but I wrote a tribute to my mom. Just like Dennis’s mom, she put it right there. I mean, I had given her a lot of gifts; that was the most precious gift she ever got.
Thank you, Dennis, for inspiring us to do it.
Ann: I ended up writing tributes to both of my mom and my dad. I put it in a scrapbook for their—maybe, their 60th wedding anniversary—but I had my brothers and my sister write in it, too, as well as all of their grandsons. I’m telling you: I bet they went through it hundreds of times.
Ann: They left it out on their coffee table, so everyone would look at it when they came in.
Bob: I would say to our listeners—who weren’t around in ’92 or in the years when we’ve talked about this—this idea of honoring your parents, and you go: “But you don’t know my parents,” “You don’t know my story.”
Bob: Dennis’s book is still available. Get a copy of The Forgotten Commandment. Read it, meditate on it, figure out how you can speak words of honor to your parents.
Ann: Pray about it.
Ann: Ask God, “How do I do this?”
Bob: The thing that I saw, over and over, again about Dennis is that, when it came to marriage and family, I was much more reactive; Dennis was much more intentional. He was purposeful about his marriage and family. I was kind of like, “Well, I’ll adjust.” He came in with a game plan. I came in in the middle of the game and said, “Okay;—
Ann: —“what are we doing?”
Bob: —“what are we doing?”—yes. “What play should we call this time?” His intentionality spoke volumes to me about the need, not just to be reactive, but as a husband/as a father, to have a game plan: to know where you are going, to be purposeful, to be intentional.
I don’t know that I had that word assigned to it—I don’t know that intentionality was the word that I put to it immediately—but I remember Dennis talking about the word that his kids would use to define him. That was the word; in fact, he shared this story at one point. This is kind of fun to listen to. Listen to him tell this.
Dennis: A number of years ago, I had the privilege of watching my baseball team, the Cardinals, play in the World Series. [Audience response] Yes; alright! [Applause]
Unfortunately, we weren’t doing too well in this one day. I had my son there with me, Benjamin. The guy who had hosted us turned to me and Ben—and he turned to Ben—and he said, “What one word would you use to describe your dad?” I listened, and Ben said, “Oh, that’s easy!—intentional.” [Laughter]
I looked at my son; I said, “Son, you come from better stock than that. You can do a better word than that; can’t you?” He goes, “No, Dad, that defines you. That’s who you are. You are intentional as you’ve raised us kids, as you’ve loved Mom, as we go about our family. You are very intentional about what you do.”
The next time our family got together, I got them all together; I said, “Now, what do you all think about this word that Ben used to describe me?” They all started nodding their heads, so I decided I had to learn to like it. [Laughter] Actually, it is a good word; because being intentional for the right thing can make a huge difference.
Bob: It’s a fun story; right?
Dave: Oh, yes.
Bob: But the point that it drives home is that intentionality matters. How much different would marriages and families be if husbands and wives would say: “We’re going to be intentional about this. We’re going to have a game plan. We know where we are going; we know what the goal is. We know what we are trying to accomplish in all of this.”
That’s not how we started our marriage. That’s been an evolving process for me. I wish I could go back to the beginning and have that sense of purpose in year one; but just to have it dawn on me, and to have it start to creep into what our marriage and family has been, it’s one of the ways Dennis has marked my life by making me more intentional.
Dave: It would be interesting to know what your kids would say—
Bob: —what word?
Dave: Well, what would it be for you?—for us?
Ann: I had never even heard that concept about family until Dennis Rainey. I had heard it about our walks with God, but not about family. I think Dennis and Barbara have probably shaped us more than almost anything besides Jesus.
Bob: You go back to what you talked about earlier: marriage and family is huge in the plan of God.
Bob: I want our single listeners to hear this, too: singleness is a gift from God—in fact, we’re going to hear more about that this week—but most people are going to be called to marriage. This is central to God’s design for humanity/more central than we realized. If it’s that important: “Be intentional about what is important,” which really goes to the last thing. This is something that you guys have talked about recently in your book, No Perfect Parents. You’ve talked about the significance, the importance, the power of legacy.
That was a big word for Dennis. It’s not a word that I came to FamilyLife focused on or thinking that much about. Yet, I began to realize—as Dennis says, “Everybody is leaving a legacy,”—it’s not a question of whether you’ll leave a legacy. The only question is: “What legacy will you leave?” That’s when I started thinking, “I better think more about this.”
Ann: “I better up my game.” [Laughter]
Bob: That’s right.
Listen to what Dennis shares as he talks about the power/the importance of our legacy.
[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]
Dennis: I believe the family is a legacy factory. It is the incubator where relationships are forged and where the truths from one generation are passed down to another. It is the most powerful place where a legacy can be shaped and given to the next generation.
That’s why I’m afraid—as we talk about legacy, the word that we instantly go to is inheritance—we think about how much money we want to leave the next generation. I don’t think that’s the right question. Now, I don’t think it’s wrong to leave an inheritance to the next generation; the Proverb says, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children.” But I think the most important legacies that are left are those in the heart: character, fun, memories, people who loved each other; and there were relationships that were meaningful; a life that was lived on purpose/that had a sense of mission. I think those are important parts of our legacies today that we don’t talk enough about.
Bob: That’s a big word. Dennis helped me/he really did call me up to say, “Okay; what’s my legacy going to be?”
Michael Easley—in The Art of Marriage® video series—he said, “You know, most people aren’t going to remember you; but your kids will. The question is: ‘Are you making the deposits there you need to make? Are you investing where you need to invest? Are you leaving a godly legacy?’” The psalmist says, “Behold, my heritage is beautiful.” You can look back and say, “I’ve been given a great gift; I’ve been given a heritage that is beautiful.”
We leave legacies; we inherit heritage. I want my kids to be able to look back and say, “My heritage is a beautiful heritage.”
Dave: Yes; you know, as we’ve been talking, Dennis inspired me/us to think, “Legacy.” Bob Lepine has inspired us to think, “Legacy.” You guys have a legacy; we’re part of it. Part of FamilyLife Today is: “We hope to carry on that legacy—
Dave: —“of life-changing legacies around the world that we could be spreading the Word of God and God’s heart for family and helping, literally, change, maybe, ungodly legacies to godly legacies.
Ann: I think that we’re all hoping to point people to Jesus. Bob, you’ve done that. You really have done that for 28 years, alongside Dennis, and Barbara, and Mary Ann. You guys have continually taken us back to the truth of God’s Word and the importance of what a family is.
Bob: Well, you guys need to know how thrilling it is to know that, when you step away, things don’t get different. The same focus, the same purpose, the same passion, the same goals are still in place.
I ran relay races in track in high school.
Ann: I did, too.
Bob: To know, when you hand off the baton, that the person who is running the next leg is running just as fast and just as hard as they can to run the race just like you were doing before them; and like the person before was doing before them.
That’s what I’m thrilled about as I think about the baton hand-off, and stepping out of the lane, and letting you guys run. I’m just thrilled; it’s going to go faster, and better, and farther than ever.
Dave: We’re going to run as fast as we can, as scared as we are. [Laughter]
Ann: Yes; exactly. I was thinking, “The thing that we all have in common is we are all pointing people to the same place—
Ann: —“and that is Jesus and the hope and the help that He brings.”
Well, I imagine there are a lot of listeners who, like me, are thinking today, “Dennis Rainey had a significant impact in my life, as well, over the decades that we all listened to him.” I imagine some of those listeners would like to have a copy of this conversation we’ve had today. We’ve taken this week’s conversations about “The 28 Lessons I’ve Learned in 28 Years of Co-hosting FamilyLife Today”/put those conversations on a flash drive, along with the original programs from which these lessons came/what has been seminal in my life, helping me develop as a husband, a father, as a follower of Christ.
We’re making that flash drive available this week to FamilyLife Today listeners, who can make a donation to help extend the reach of this ministry. Your donations help us take FamilyLife Today to more people, more often. You make this program possible in your community and for listeners all around the world—hundreds of thousands of listeners every day—who are being impacted with practical biblical help and hope on FamilyLife Today.
Right now, we’ve got some friends of the ministry, who have agreed that they will match every donation we receive, during the month of May, up to a total of $350,000. They are matching it dollar for dollar; so you make a $25 donation today, and we are able to withdraw $25 from the matching-gift fund they’ve established. Whatever you do, we can withdraw an equal amount from that matching-gift fund. We’re asking you to be as generous as you can be so that we can take full advantage of this matching-gift fund. It expires the last day of May.
It’s important that we hear from you today, if possible. Along with the flash drive, we’d also like to send you a couple of books from Aaron and Jamie Ivey—books called Complement—Aaron wrote a book to husbands; Jamie wrote a book to wives—these books have the same title and the same chapter headings, just one is for men and one is for women. We’ll send you the books and the flash drive when you make a donation.
Then let me say a word to those of you, who are long-time FamilyLife Today listeners—you’re a regular listener to this program; you’ve heard us talk about our monthly Legacy Partners, people who will donate $25 or $50 a month/whatever the amount is—to help provide the financial stability for this program on an ongoing basis. We could not do this without our Legacy Partners. If you’re a long-time listener, let me challenge you to become a Legacy Partner today. Make an ongoing investment in your family and in your community.
When you do that, in addition to the flash drive and the books I just talked about, we’re going to send you a certificate to attend an upcoming Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway. The getaways are back. We still have a few of those this spring, and then we have getaways happening this fall. The certificate is transferrable: if you want to give that as a gift to somebody else, you can do that. In addition, your donations, month in and month out, are going to be matched, dollar for dollar, for the next year until the funds in the matching-gift fund are gone. You will help us take advantage of the matching-gift opportunity when you become a Legacy Partner.
There is a lot I’ve covered there. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com; all of the information about making a one-time gift or becoming a month Legacy Partner/all of that’s available online at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call us at 1-800-FL-TODAY. We look forward to hearing from you. Thanks, in advance, for your financial support of this ministry.
Now, tomorrow, we’ll just kind of go through—we’ve got a little potpourri/just a mixed bag of key principles/key ways that guests on this program have marked my life over the last 28 years—we’ll dive into some of those as we wrap things up tomorrow. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch; got some extra help from Bruce Goff and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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