FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Gifts Worthy of a Parent

with Dennis Rainey | April 8, 2016
Play Pause

Most gifts break or wear out. This year, why not give your mother or father a gift that will last forever? Author Dennis Rainey talks about two of the most valuable gifts our parents are longing to receive from us: forgiveness and honor. In addition, hear two beautiful tributes from pastor Robert Lewis and evangelist RV Brown to their fathers.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Most gifts break or wear out. This year, why not give your mother or father a gift that will last forever? Author Dennis Rainey talks about two of the most valuable gifts our parents are longing to receive from us: forgiveness and honor. In addition, hear two beautiful tributes from pastor Robert Lewis and evangelist RV Brown to their fathers.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Dennis Rainey talks about two of the most valuable gifts our parents are longing to receive from us: forgiveness and honor.

MP3 Download Transcript

Gifts Worthy of a Parent

With Dennis Rainey
April 08, 2016
| Download Transcript PDF

Bob: As an adult, what are you doing to honor your father and your mother as they are making the final laps of life?  Here’s Dennis Rainey.

Dennis: When my mom died, I’ll never forget going back and cleaning out her stuff. You know one of the most convicting things I’ve found when I went through all of her stuff?  It was that she kept all my letters—every one of them. The sad thing was they were not nearly enough.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, April 8th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll talk today about how we can honor our fathers and our mothers all the way to the finish line. Stay tuned.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today.



Thanks for joining us. We are visiting a theme this week that has been something that you have talked about for years. In fact, you first started talking about this with college students, who were on staff with Cru®—with Campus Crusade for Christ®—back in the 1970s and the early ‘80s. You started exhorting them to honor their fathers and their mothers, and some of them were not real keen on the message; were they?  

Dennis: They would stand in line after I would speak about this. The message so resonated with them—both positively and negatively. Some would share great stories of incredible fathers, maybe weeping as they’d be talking about it. I’d be coaching them and encouraging them to go ahead and write a tribute. Then, others would be standing in line—to be crying different kinds of tears, with deep wounds, from parents who hadn’t connected with them, heart to heart / soul to soul—and really/frankly, hadn’t been much of a parent—



—some who had been abusive.

I mean, that’s the hard part of this commandment. There are parents who—it would seem would not be worthy of honor. Yet, the commandment presses us against this subject. It pushes us toward honoring our parents.

And Bob, in an early broadcast, I said there are, really, four gifts that you can give your parents. One is the gift of compassion. Secondly, the gift of understanding—that’s really understanding who they are, and how they became who they are, and why they related the way they did. And the third gift is that of forgiveness.

Bob: And that’s where we’re going to pick things up as we listen to Part Three of your message on honoring your parents. Here’s Dennis Rainey.

[Previously Recorded Message] 

Dennis: Third gift—give them the gift of forgiveness. Release them. Give up the right to punish.


I’ve got to read this to you by J. Wesley Brown—this is a great statement. He said, “Perhaps, the greatest honor we can do our parents is to let them down off the pedestal of our imaginations, where we are inclined to either idolize them or to flog them as gods who’ve failed—as, indeed, they will fail—and to accept them as people—people who need our forgiveness as well as respect, who need honest relationship with their children, perhaps, with more than with anyone else.” 

Not only confess the sin but forgive them—but third, it may be necessary to go to your parents and ask for forgiveness for what you have done wrong.

The fourth area—the gift of honor—how do you honor your parents?  Well, one is you spend time with them on their agenda.


I’ll never forget my dad—I’ve already alluded to it—but every night after work, he would come home and eat dinner. Then, not every night, but I would say more often than not, he would walk a few blocks across town—small town we lived in / in Southwest Missouri—and he would go visit his mom. The nine kids that were left with her kept her alive until she was over 100 years of age. They fed her through an eye dropper, loving her, and honoring her as their mom. I’ll never forget my dad modeling for me this commandment—he spent time with her.

Secondly—a handwritten letter—imagine that in this day and age of emails. When my mom died, I’ll never forget going back and cleaning out her stuff. You know one of the most convicting things I’ve found when I went through all of her stuff? 



It was that she had kept all of my letters—every one of them. The sad thing was there were not nearly enough. She lived to be 91. Handwritten letters owe their value to the personal nature of them.

A third thing that I would suggest you do here by giving the gift of honor is to write a tribute—not just any tribute—but one that you craft the words; and then, to formalize the words, you put it in a frame—not just any frame—but a magnificent mat / magnificent frame. Then, take it to them and read it to them. You say, “I could never do that!”  You know what?  It’s okay. Maybe, you couldn’t today. Shakespeare said, “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child.”



I was that thankless child.

There is another man who wrote a tribute that some of you are really going to identify with because you do not identify with my tribute. You didn’t come from the kind of home that I came from, where a mom and a dad were committed to each other for 45 years. I just remember one argument that they ever had. It was a heated argument, but it was a great home. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a great home. But another man, who has been used mightily in this arena and this movement, wrote a tribute to his dad and mom. It’s entitled “Here’s to My Imperfect Family.” 




When I think of family, I think first of you, Mom and Daddy. I will never understand the forces that drew or held you together all these years. Clearly, it has not been easy; but then, again, I have now learned that few marriages are. Each carries its own crucible. Reflecting back as one of your three sons, it’s not hard to say that our family was less than perfect. The imperfect family would be a much more descriptive term for our home.

To be sure, we never had enough or did enough together. We fell short of many ideals. Those things have little, if any, hold on me now. Instead, I frequently recall particular things that are now forever imbedded within me, things that need to be stated in writing for they are the secret successes of my imperfect family.

I am glad that you never divorced. Today, I do not think of a way out because you never got out.



My children know about divorce from their friends but not from their family. They will grow up caring permanency in marriage in their heritage; and though that, in itself will not insure success for them, it will help as it has helped me.

I am more appreciative than ever for your sacrificial involvement and investment in me. I will never know them all, as my children will never know mine, but I do know some. Your presence at my school programs and Little League games is one. Responding to late night fever, and upset stomachs, and crises like the chicken bone affair, caught in the throat of a frightened third grader. I needed you, Mom; and you were there.

I also remember the genuine compassion I received after being broken hearted that I stood and watched rather than started in my first organized football game. The hours you expended—



—talking with me, exploring and surfacing my thoughts, and feelings, and ambitions—how that helped.

I think of fishing at Kepler’s Lake with Daddy. Boy! Was that fun!  I still enjoy it every time I relive it. And through your help for a young black boy named James, I have a deeper social consciousness toward those not like me.

And thanks, Daddy, for saying, “I’m sorry,” when you wrongfully hit me in anger one day. You don’t remember the incident, I know; but I do. It’s deep inside me now, and it comes back to me every time I need to say those words to my children and my wife. Seeing that day in my mind makes that humbling process easier.

I owe both of you a thousand thank-yous:

For Florida vacations at the Driftwood Lodge,

For all the oysters I could eat at my birthday,

For the constant encouragement during the teenage years,

For teaching me about inner toughness—



   —I can still hear it: “If you can’t take it, you can always

   quit.” Dad, I remember those words.

For struggling in December to give Christmas its real

   meaning— Mom, I get the picture now.

For teaching Sunday school at Trinity,

For traveling to all those ball games,

For standing behind me when I turned LSU down,

For saying, “I love you,” because I needed to hear it,

For the new car in college.

I know some of how that must have hurt now—for not panicking when it seemed your son had become a religious fanatic, for letting me know the financial ride was over after college and I was on my own, for not getting too involved in shaping my direction. There is much more—of course, much more.

I guess, if I were offered one wish, it would be for one crisp fall evening with the smell of burning leaves and a Bearcat game in the air.



I would be outside enjoying the bliss of youthful innocence. Mom, you would be frying those oysters; and Daddy, you would be calling out for my pet, Toddy.

So, here is to my imperfect family—one that fell short in many respects but one whose love makes the shortcomings easy to forget. Here’s to the family that never had it all together but one just perfect enough for me.

Dennis: Robert Lewis of Men’s Fraternity. You don’t have to have a perfect family to honor your parents. So, what is your action point out of this?  Do some business with God around one of the most fundamental, spiritual issues in the Bible—



—one of the Ten Commandments: “Honor your father and your mother.” 

I want you to hear a great tribute that we had on FamilyLife Today, our radio show. It’s by R.V. Brown. He was one of eighteen children—number seventeen out of eighteen children. His dad couldn’t read or write. Somehow, he memorized the Scriptures and quoted it to his son and his sisters. You’ve just got to listen. This is one of the most beautiful forms of poetry that I have ever heard because it shows the power of a man who, even in his simple life, was a life worthy of being honored. Let’s listen to it.




Daddy Fish, I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart, first of all, for loving my momma and, then secondly, for loving me, and kissing me, and rubbing my little round head, telling me to go to school and everything was going to be okay.

Then, Dad, I want to thank you for taking me fishing, July 6, 1959, for the first time. The day my son fished—I took him to the same spot, Daddy; and we stood there until he caught a fish. Dad, I want to just tell you what an awesome leader you were. With no education, Dad, you taught me. You educated me how to love—how to appreciate you, Dad—not only how to appreciate you but how to enjoy my life today because of what you did and how you loved me, Dad. And I wish I could hug you today, Dad.

When I look at your picture and Mom’s picture over my head in my easy chair, I always look at it and say: “Dad, am I doing okay?  Am I loving my wife the way you loved my mom?” 



Thank you for taking me fishing and sitting down, talking with me on the bank, when nothing was biting. Dad, thank you for teaching me how to farm, and take care of other people, and share whatever I’ve got with other people, Dad. I’m the kind of man I am today because of who you are, Dad.

And I just pray for other dads—that they would love their children and love their wives the way my dad loved my momma and loved us. Thank you, Dad and Mom, for being who you are. And you live, to this day, inside of me, Dad. Every day I wake up, I see you, Dad—I see you. I see your smile. I see the way you walk, and I see the way you talk to people. It’s the same thing, Dad, that’s happening all over again because of what you did, Dad.

Willie Fish, you’re a special man. Willie Fish, you’re a godly man. Even though you couldn’t read, you taught me how to love through the Word of God.



And not only could you not read it, but you explained it to me, Father. Dad, thank you for being my dad. I wouldn’t want nobody else to be my daddy but you, Dad. Thank you for loving Momma. Thank you for the leadership and the authority in which you raised us in. Thank you for the discipline. Dad, I love you; and one day, I’ll spend eternity with you. Thanks, Dad.

Dennis: Isn’t that good?—just really pure. And I want you to answer this question if you can answer it.



Some of you may not be able to answer this: “What do you remember most about your dad?  What do you remember most about your dad?” 

Let me just say a couple of things for those of you who have been hurt deeply; okay?—for those of you here who are going: “This is troubling. I don’t like what I’m feeling right now.”  You may need to take a walk this afternoon with your spouse or back when you get back home with your spouse—have a conversation with this. Allow God’s Holy Spirit to do His ministry and healing work in your soul. It’s okay to take time. There are a lot of things that we look at in the Christian life that feels like it has to be instant. Process what God’s got for you here; okay? 

And if you do attempt to write a tribute / if you do something coming up, let me warn you: “Do not look for a response. Make this as unto the Lord: 



“’Do your work heartily as unto the Lord and not for men.’  Let God do His work in there.” 

I’d have to say—for most in here, you’re going to see somethings melt because they’re locked up / they don’t know what to do. I’m convinced this commandment frees the relationship; okay?  And it frees you to love them and to express love to them.

One last word: “Don’t do it like I did.”  I took the chicken-hearted way out and mailed it to my mom. I dedicated a book to her later on—and went and took it, and I completely sobbed like a baby when I read that little blurb of dedicating a book to my mom. I have—one of my great regrets is that I didn’t take my tribute to my mom, drive four hours north, set her down, and read it to her, even if it took me an hour-and-a-half sobbing my way through it.



And I wish, obviously, that I had done it for my father.

I have had a number of people say, “Thank you for encouraging me to say it now while they’re alive,” because someday, more than likely, you’re going to be standing over a casket. It’s really a moment of no regrets—you don’t want to leave it unsaid.


Bob: Well, there’s a challenge from Dennis Rainey to do what the Bible calls us to do—to honor our father and our mother and to do it while they are still alive.

Dennis: There was a guy, who was there, who came up after I gave that message. I’m smiling, Bob, because he told me a story that was unforgettable. I don’t have permission to tell the story here, but I’ll just summarize it by saying this—



—his father was absent from most of his life. He kind of came up and said, “What do I need to do?”  Well, he already knew what he needed to do; but he is a man that is being used by God in a powerful way.

I only had one extra copy of my book, and I gave it to him. I tucked it under his arm; and I said: “Here’s your assignment. Let me know how it goes.”  He looked at me like, “How am I going to do this?”  I don’t remember exactly how I said it, but it’s kind of like what God said to Mary after He told her she was pregnant, “With God, all things are possible.” 

Just like I said at the close of the message: “Don’t leave it unsaid. Don’t be standing by a casket, regretting that you didn’t say it while you had the opportunity.”  Work your way through these four gifts—



—the gifts of compassion, understanding, forgiveness, and let honor be the capstone / the capstone gift. And if possible, write a tribute, frame it, and read it, face to face, with your mom / with your dad—maybe, both of them—and let God’s Spirit do the rest.

There are probably some moms and dads—who, upon hearing this tribute—may be open to the gospel for the first time in their life. They may be open to a relationship with God because God shows up in your face and gives them a gift they could never get from Neiman Marcus, Dillard’s, or any online store. Tributes are not mass-produced.

Bob: They are one of a kind.

Dennis: They are one of a kind.

Bob: Well, we can provide you with help in writing a tribute. We’ve got articles online to help guide you through the process.



I think a great starting point is to read your book, The Forgotten Commandment, and to spend some time just contemplating what honoring your father and your mother looks like. We’ve got copies of the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order a copy from us, online, at; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to request your copy of the book, The Forgotten Commandment by Dennis Rainey. Again, the website,—you can also call 1-800-FL-TODAY to request your copy of the book.

Then, I have already mentioned this week the extra push we’re trying to give to those of you who really care about your community—about the marriages in your neighborhood, in your church, in your workplace. We have a couple of resources, The Art of Marriage® video event kit and The Art of Marriage small group series kit. These are designed to put a tool in your hand so that you can either host an event—Friday night / Saturday event at your local church or in your community—



—or you can have folks over for a small group get-together for six evenings and go through the small group series kit. This material is designed to help strengthen the marriages of the couples who go through it. I think you’ll benefit by going through it, and I think you will be a blessing to others if you invite them to go through it with you.

If you will sign up today to go through The Art of Marriage video event or to lead a small group / order the kits from us, and we will include an additional marriage ministry pack with marriage resources designed to strengthen your marriage and equip you to help others as well. Find out more about the marriage ministry pack when you click the link for The Art of Marriage at or when you call 1-800-FL-TODAY—just ask about the marriage ministry pack that we’re making available this week and next week.

Now, a quick word of congratulations to Phil and Donna Stackhouse from Whitestown, Indiana—



—38 years ago today, they said, “I do”; and they’ve been saying it ever since—“Happy anniversary!” to the Stackhouses. FamilyLife Today is the Proud Sponsor of Anniversaries. We exist to provide practical biblical help and hope for your marriage and your family so more couples will celebrate more anniversaries. And we appreciate those of you who partner with us to make this ministry happen. We couldn’t do all that we do without your support.

In fact, if you are able to help with a donation, right now, in support of this ministry, we’d like to send you a copy of Barbara Rainey’s brand-new book, Letters to My Daughters: The Art of Being a Wife. You can request your copy when you donate, online, at or when you make your donation by phone at 1-800-FL-TODAY; or you can send your donation to us at FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; our zip code is 72223. And thanks again for your support.



We do appreciate your partnership with us.

And we hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend, and I hope you can join us back on Monday. Barbara Rainey is going to be here. We’re going to talk about one of the themes in her new book, and that is: “How does a wife handle a season of suffering?  What do you do when you’re in the valley, as a wife?  How do you keep going, and how do you keep loving and supporting your husband in that season?”  We’ll talk about that Monday. Hope you can be here for that.


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

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas. Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.


We are so happy to provide these transcripts to you. However, there is a cost to produce them for our website. If you’ve benefited from the broadcast transcripts, would you consider donating today to help defray the costs? 

Copyright © 2016 FamilyLife. All rights reserved.