Life’s Next Chapter
Pro bass fisherman, Hank Parker, talks about his life. He also shares what he's learned from the current season, which includes being a husband to his wife, Martha, and father to his children and stepchildren.
About the Guest
Hank Parker shares what he’s learned from the current season of his life, which includes being a husband to his wife, Martha, and father to his children and stepchildren.
Life’s Next Chapter
Bob: When Hank Parker’s marriage dissolved, he was hurting. When we’re hurting, we can do or say things we wish later we hadn’t done or said. Hank remembers getting some very wise counsel.
Hank: I had a great Christian friend that came to me. I was living with Hank, Jr. When you’re hurting, you tend to vent. This man came up to me and put his arm around me; and he said: “I know you’re hurting, and I know you’re living with Hank, Jr. I’m not accusing you of anything, but I just want to tell you—if you are venting anything about your marriage to your son, that’s his mom; and you’re making a horrible mistake.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, June 9th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll talk today to world champion fisherman, Hank Parker, and hear some of the lessons life has taught him as he has learned to walk with Jesus.
Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, we have some listeners who have been tuned in—and we’ve been talking about hunting and fishing this week—and really talking about family and—
Dennis: Yes; I have to say, Bob, there have been some pretty gritty conversations with Hank Parker.
Bob: It has been, but I know we have listeners, who are going: “I’m just not an outdoor fish-and-hunt kind of guy, and I’ve just never been into that kind of thing. Can a guy just go do it by himself?” They’re wondering whether this is something they ought to give a whirl to; and if they should, how do they do it?
Dennis: Well, they just need to find someone who can mentor them a little bit, because no one just walks in the woods and becomes a hunter. And frankly, being a fisherman as well—it helps to find somebody who knows how to do it. Would you agree, Hank?
Hank: Well, we live in a unique time. It is incredible how much information is on the Internet—so you can get it all.
You can go to any of the archery companies: “How to,” “Where do I start?” “What do I need?” Any of the boat companies can tell you how to get started fishing. You can go to the game and fish sites, and they can tell you where all public fishing is at. It’s all out there; so it’s so easy to find if you’re an Internet searcher. That doesn’t fit me very well, but for most people they go for that. [Laughter]
Bob: But if a guy’s a novice—he’s never done any of this before—and he’s thinking: “Well, maybe this weekend we should go do something. Maybe I should take my sons fishing.”
Hank: Absolutely, without a doubt. You could go and you could hit your local fish and game website. They tell you where there’s public fishing / where there’s public access to launch boats—anything you want to know, it’s all there.
Bob: Well, if anybody should know, the guy we’re talking to this week should know; right?
Dennis: No doubt about it.
He’s won the national championship of B.A.S.S. fishing twice / in the Hall of Fame of bass fishing as well—and has his own outdoor show called Hank Parker’s Outdoor Magazine.
Hank: That’s it.
Dennis: I’ve had a chance to be a guest on his show.
Bob: In fact, how could people watch the episode of you and Dennis? Is there some way they could see that?
Hank: You know, I don’t know—that will air on Pursuit Network next year / it aired this year on the Outdoor Channel—so I’m really not positive. You can go to our website, HankParker.com, and you can get information on where that show will air or how to obtain a copy of that show.
Dennis: Yes; there you go / there you go.
So here’s my question for you, Hank—and by the way, Hank Parker’s married to Martha, has four sons and a daughter, eleven grandchildren. I saw them all on Hank Parker’s Outdoor Magazine—he took them fishing together. It looked like a man in an anthill with all those kids fishing.
Hank: I have to clarify also—Martha has a wonderful daughter and two sons—so we’re a blended family. I have five and she has three; collectively, we have eleven grandkids—how awesome is that?
Dennis: Oh, that’s great. I’m glad you did correct me there.
So, if I said to you: “Hank, you had one place to go fishing. Conditions were going to be perfect—you could go anywhere in the world—where would you go and why?”
Hank: Oh, man, that is so tough. I have those decisions that I have to make each year. [Laughter]
Dennis: —because you can go wherever you want to go!
Hank: I do; I literally do. This year, I chose my favorite place to fish in the whole wide world—is Venice, Louisiana, on the Gulf of Mexico. You guys went on a cruise and left from the port of Louisiana. You went right by my fishing hole at the southwest path, where the Mississippi river meets the Gulf of Mexico.
Dennis: So are you fishing for red fish?
Hank: Big, giant red fish on bass tackle—it is unbelievable.
Dennis: I think I’ve seen one of those shows.
Hank: Oh, it’s so much fun.
Dennis: You caught a lot of fish doing that.
Hank: Oh, we caught 200 on top water one year. I took a group of guys from the FCA down there—Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Man, we had so much fun catching fish. We caught over 200 in the group.
Well, let’s talk about family for a moment. You’ve kind of broken your life into three chapters: One, the family you grew up in—where you had a dad who struggled with alcoholism / had a dramatic conversion to Christ—which ultimately led to your conversion, as a young man, later on. And then, you began a career in fishing. Ultimately, your success cost you your marriage.
You turned a corner, though, upon that point and headed toward the third chapter in your life, which you’ve said has been remarkable—15 years of walking with Christ, and serving Him, and seeing Him at work in your marriage and your family.
Take us back to that turning point, the divorce; and help us kind of find our way through this third chapter in your life.
Hank: Well, you know, I learned, early on, when I went through all those hard times, I had a great, great Christian friend that came to me. I was living with Hank, Jr. When you’re hurting, you tend to vent. This man came up to me and put his arm around me; and he said: “I know you’re hurting, and I know you’re living with Hank, Jr. I’m not accusing you of anything, but I just want to tell you—if you are venting anything about your marriage to your son, that’s his mom; and you’re making a horrible mistake. You need not lean on him, as a friend; because he is not your friend—he is your son. He still needs a dad. He needs a strong father figure—he needs a man that has respect for his mother. You need to be on your game to be able to have an influence that will be positive on that young man.”
It was some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten. It was at a very low point in my life, and I was guilty of what he was assuming I may be doing. It changed everything about the way I started behaving and prioritizing—trying to be the dad I needed to be—even though things were not the best in my life at that period of time. I just started trying to be the godly father that I needed to be, in spite of my condition.
Dennis: You shared with me about your sons and your daughter—and just how well they seem to be doing and walking with Christ. You know, there are a lot of things we, as parents, can do in terms of our failures; but in the end, if they’re doing well, all is well with us.
Dennis: You agree?
Hank: Yes; that is absolutely true. Hank, Jr., has always been the model kid. He and I raced together—we were best friends / he’s my firstborn son, and we just had this incredible relationship. Spiritually, I watched him grow.
I have five children, and every relationship I have is completely different—it’s amazing. But Billy—you know, we got into racing. I was good buddies with Dale Earnhardt. We were down at the farm one weekend, and the following Monday, I had to go pick up a race car that Earnhardt [sold] to Hank, Jr., that belonged to Dale, Jr. So, we got involved in the racing business.
We started out—we just started racing Late Model at the little local track right out of Charlotte, North Carolina. Then, that grew to NASCAR® and NASCAR’s All Pro Division. That went from NASCAR’s All Pro Division to NASCAR’s Grand National Division. Hank, Jr., ran a couple of events; but primarily, raced in what was called the Nationwide Series last year. I’m not sure what it is this year—the [Xfinity] Series, I think.
Dennis: But there was a moment you described in your son’s life, where he had a chance to go big-time. I remember just sitting on the edge of my seat, listening, as you—as a dad—shared about a choice that your son made. I think, in order to share the story, you need to share a little bit more of the context for your family and kind of why this choice was heroic.
Hank: Well, I’ll kind of try to disguise—keep the names of the innocent out of it—to keep from discriminating against the race owner. Billy was just an incredible NASCAR All Pro driver and Late Model driver. He built his own cars. One of the NASCAR former heroes of the sport had a son that was racing. He went to several of the races and saw Billy run. He was starting a Grand National team of his own, and he asked Billy to be his driver.
It was just a dream come true. Everything was just unbelievable for Billy, and he was excited. He loved racing and was very talented at it—very, very talented.
Dennis: This was one of the top racing companies on—
Hank: It was one of the top racing personalities who started a brand new team. But he worked with one of the top four of all NASCAR teams—the driver did. He took Billy—and this is funny / I’ll have to tell this story really quickly—Billy asked me, before he was going into the meeting with him—he said: “Dad, I think he may offer me the job to drive the car. How much should I ask for?”
I said: “Well, don’t ask for anything. Let him make an offer.”
He said, “Well, what do you think?”
I said, “Well, I wouldn’t drive, Billy, for less than $50,000.”
“Ah, I don’t know if he’ll pay me that.”
I said, “I would demand $50,000 if I have to win it.”
“Ah, I don’t know, Dad.”
I said: “Billy, don’t say anything. Let him make the offer.”
Man, I was on pins and needles waiting for that meeting. To make a long story short, when it was over, I think he paid him a $150,000 plus half the winnings, you know. Of course, the driver volunteered that. That was a big deal. You know, you come from working in the garage, and eating bologna on white bread, and all of a sudden, you’re making enough money to eat filet mignon. It was a big deal for Billy. We were all excited for him, knowing that he was going to really make his mark at NASCAR.
Hadn’t been racing very long and this driver said: “I’m going to take you over and introduce you to the big boss. We’re going to have a little meeting.” Well, when they get there, they’re in a room that looks like a galley of a billion-dollar yacht—all teak wood and gigantic office. They have this sheet over something in the center of the room.
They pull the sheet off of the easel that it was covered with the photograph—or the drawing—of Billy getting the [word muffled] handed to him by the other driver, and it was an alcoholic beverage. Billy said, “I can’t accept this.” They said: “Well, you know, we’ll give you time to think about it. We didn’t mean to spring this on you.”
He said: “No; I don’t need time to think about it. My grandfather was a drunk; and my dad is very much against alcohol, and he’s taught me,” and he said, “I just—I’m not comfortable doing this, and I never will be. So it’s not about time. It would be unfair to you guys to say, ‘Well, give me a day or two,’ because I don’t need any time.”
Billy didn’t volunteer all that to me, and I may not have it exactly the way it all went down; but from what I got from the meeting was—of course, it ended his career—and I later did talk to him, one on one, on the phone and I said: “Billy, I can’t believe that this has happened to you.
“It’s unfair that you’re going to get pushed out because you—”
He said: “Dad. Dad, Dad, wait. It’s not unfair, and it’s not anything to do with the race team. It’s not anything to do with the alcoholic company. It’s a God-thing. I have a decision to make, and I’m going to make the right one. It doesn’t have anything to do with anybody but me and the Lord.” He said: “I know what I’m going to do, and I’m not sad about it. I’m going to move on.”
That was pretty much the end of his racing career. He did have a wreck two weeks or three weeks after that occurred, and that ended him for sure; but he was doomed by rejecting that. And of course, he knew he would be when he did it; but he did it because it was, in his heart, the right thing to do.
Dennis: One of the top sponsors in NASCAR—
Hank: —one of the top teams.
He walked away and walked out of the meeting, where there was the ultimate, in my opinion, in peer pressure.
Hank: No doubt about that. He is the one son that I would not have expected that from. I would not have been surprised—Hank, Jr., had had a similar circumstance and had already stood tall; but I didn’t really know Billy would be that strong. It just—I cannot tell you, as a dad, how proud I was of his decision.
Bob: Have you had to face similar situations? I mean, when I think of B.A.S.S. fishing, you take a cooler out when you go B.A.S.S. fishing; don’t you?
Hank: All these B.A.S.S. fishermen face this. Just several years ago, when ESPN bought B.A.S.S., you had to wear a beer sticker on your jersey; and you had to put one on the windshield of your boat. There were several guys—Jimmy Houston for one, and I’ll give Jimmy a shout-out—Jimmy refused it.
But he had sponsorships to fish the tournament. So, he fished the tournament without the patch and without the sticker and didn’t get points. But he had made a commitment to his sponsors that he would be there, so he participated even though he got no points for the Classic.
Dennis: Wow. What would you say would be the thing you did to contribute to your son’s character to making a courageous decision like that, Hank?
Hank: That is the most flattering part of all of it—is I think that my son knew my heart. He cared enough about my convictions / that he respected them enough that it became his convictions.
I’ve always tried to be transparent with my kids. I never, ever wanted to be a fake. My kids know my good, my bad, and my ugly—they know I’m real. They know I’m real, and that was the most flattering part; because I wasn’t sure—
—he’s a young man with a lot of ambition, and a lot of crossroads, and you’re eager to make a mark in life, and you love the sport so much—I just wasn’t sure that he was there in maturity, and I wasn’t sure that he had those respects. I think, if it’s all said and done, I think all I was with him was real; and he saw that.
Dennis: Well Hank, I’ve really enjoyed our conversation we’ve had this week with you. There’s been one other assignment that I’ve been wanting to give you. It’s something you’ve done a good job of as you’ve told your stories about your mom and your dad—it’s the fifth commandment—that we are to honor our mother and our father.
A number of years ago, God placed a burden on my heart with my parents that I needed to write a tribute to them. I waited too late with my dad; he died suddenly at the age of 66; but I didn’t wait too long with my mom.
I wrote my mom a tribute. The only mistake I made was not taking it to her and reading to her, face to face.
But I think what I’d like to do is—if I had the ability to seat your dad, right now, across the table from you—and I said: “Hank, I want you to turn to your dad, right now, and give him a tribute—not for the years that were wasted—but for how he redeemed, ultimately, what he was given when he placed his faith in Christ and turned away from alcoholism—and not being much of a father, or a husband, or a citizen—he became God’s man.” Could you give him a tribute?
Hank: I could. I sure could.
I would say to my dad:
Dad, I know you were bogged down with and shackled by an addiction that you didn’t want to be; and when you had the chance, you accepted Jesus Christ and you turned your life around. You cared more about my soul than you cared about anything else, me and my brother. I’m so grateful to you that you prioritized our salvation above yourself / above anything that you wanted in this whole world.
And I thank you so much for living the life, those five years, for living the life—having the attitude, the spirit, and being patient with me. I thank you that you loved me enough. You prayed for me, you were patient, and you were so incredibly persistent. You never let up; and I’m so grateful, Dad.
I would not be the man I am and I would have no hope. I was destined for hell—I had a bad attitude. You knew it all, Dad; but you loved me enough, you stuck with me. I have two great fathers that I’ll spend eternity with. I thank you, and I love you; and you’re awesome.
Dennis: I don’t know if folks in heaven can hear things; but I have a feeling, if they can, your dad has a big grin on his face right now. I’m confident, Hank—just on the amount of time you and I have spent over the past year together—there are a lot of reasons for him to be proud of you. You’re about the King’s business, representing Christ and proclaiming Him. I really admire your heart for introducing other people to Jesus Christ—the person, the Redeemer, the God-Man—who died for you and your father and who made a difference in your dad’s life and yours as well. I’m grateful to God for you and the man you are. Thanks for joining us on the broadcast.
Hank: Man, I just appreciate the opportunity to be here. What an awesome program you have and what a beautiful facility. If people have never seen this before, they need to come to Little Rock to tour. This is awesome.
Dennis: They sure do. I hope you’ll come back and bring Martha next time. I’ll treat you to my blackened salmon out on my deck.
Hank: I may just hold you to that. [Laughter]
Bob: It’s worth a trip—I’ll vouch for it; okay? [Laughter]
And I’m glad you mentioned tours, because we would encourage folks: “If your summertime plans have you coming anywhere near Little Rock, swing by and just let us know that you’d like a tour of our headquarters. We have tour groups who tour the office regularly—get a chance to see the studios and see all that’s happening, here, at FamilyLife. If we’re around, we’d love to say, “Hi!” to you. So, if you’re coming this way this summer, stop by FamilyLife headquarters and ask for a tour. Or call ahead if you’d like—just call 1-800-FL-TODAY and let us know you’re coming. We’ll make plans to welcome you when you get here. And there’s no cost for the tour—we’re always glad to have folks stop by.
And I mentioned earlier this week about dads and sons going through the Stepping Up® video series together. We’ve heard from listeners, who said, “That sounds like that could be a good idea,” especially if you have teenage sons and you’re looking for a way to connect with them and with their friends this summer. Our recommendation is that a group of dads and a group of sons just plan to get together once a week—have a cookout / do something fun together—and then watch a 30-minute video from the Stepping Up series / spend some time talking about what you watched. We have workbooks that’ll help guide your discussion.
I think what you’ll find, if you do that—a lot of lessons that your sons / your young men can learn by going through this series with you. And you’ll learn a few things yourself, no matter what your age is.
Find out more about the Stepping Up video series when you go, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or give us a call if you have any questions at 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Now, this weekend, in Houston, Texas, and in Austin, Texas, we have FamilyLife Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways taking place—hundreds of couples from all over the state of Texas, and actually, a lot of folks flying in for the weekend—a great getaway for husbands and wives to relax, refresh, laugh together, and be reminded of what the Bible teaches us about how to build a stronger, healthier marriage relationship. That’s what the Weekend to Remember is all about.
I would just like to ask you, pray for these couples who are going to be going to a Weekend to Remember.
Just take a minute, right now, and just say a prayer for them—that they will sense God’s presence this weekend and that they’ll hear Him clearly as we seek to present what the Bible has to say about marriage and family. That’s our goal, here, at FamilyLife. We want to effectively develop godly marriages and families—we believe that can change the world.
And we owe a special “Thank you,” to FamilyLife listeners, who do more than just listen—those of you who go, online, or give us a call, or mail in a donation—we’re grateful for you. You really make the impact of this ministry happen. You enable us to take this message to more people every day in more ways because of your financial support.
If you’ve never made a donation to FamilyLife, and you’re a longtime listener, how about today being the day you join the FamilyLife team with a donation? You can do that, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Or mail your donation to us at FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; our zip code is 72223.
And we hope you have a great weekend this weekend. I hope you and your family are able to worship together in your local church. And I hope you can be back with us on Monday. Next week is all about dads, with Father’s Day coming. We’re going to talk about how important / how powerful a dad can be in his family’s life. I hope you can tune in 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 will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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