FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Making the Most of Thanksgiving

with Dennis and Barbara Rainey | November 2, 2007
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Thanksgiving is only one day a year, but what a great day for remembering all God has done! Today on the broadcast, Dennis and Barbara Rainey tell husbands and wives how to make the most of the Thanksgiving holiday.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Thanksgiving is only one day a year, but what a great day for remembering all God has done! Today on the broadcast, Dennis and Barbara Rainey tell husbands and wives how to make the most of the Thanksgiving holiday.

  • 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.

Thanksgiving is only one day a year, but what a great day for remembering all God has done!

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Making the Most of Thanksgiving

With Dennis and Barbara Rainey
November 02, 2007
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Bob: Thanksgiving – it's a day about expressing gratitude to our great God for His many wonderful provisions, and it's also a day about eating.

Woman: One time we made a whole new dish and got to eat part of it before it was knocked onto the floor.  One of the kids was running through the house, and the plate busted, and it was very good, and – but we didn't get to eat very much of it.

Man: I remember one time when I was helping cook, I put some food coloring in the gravy – I don't remember now, I think it was green – and nobody in the family appreciated it.

Man: I grew up in Minnesota.  I went down to – where we moved to, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and was invited over to some people's homes the first Thanksgiving we were there, and I was looking around the table, and they didn't have mashed potatoes.  What they had is oyster dressing, and that scared me, quite frankly.

Man: Oyster dressing is the most delicious dressing you can have.

Bob: And welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us on the Friday edition.  You know, of all that made up my Thanksgivings when I was growing up, probably the one thing that marked it is we never had dressing, never had stuffing.

Dennis: Oh, you're kidding.

Barbara: Really?

Bob: My mom …

Dennis: … let me tell you, Grandma Ray down in Ponce de Leon, Missouri – that's some of my best memories of Thanksgiving.

Bob: Some mean stuffing?

Dennis: I'm telling you.

Bob: Do you call it stuffing or dressing?

Dennis: It was stuffin' – with no "g."

Barbara: Well, that depends on what part of the country, see, I grew up in the North, so it was stuffing, too.  It was bread-based – not cornbread.

Bob: Right, well, was it bread-based for you as well?

Dennis: Hey, that was so many years ago, Bob, I'm just glad to remember it was good.

Barbara: There's two different kinds.

Bob: There were times when my mom would stuff the turkey with rice, and we'd have wild rice that had cooked inside of the turkey …

Barbara: … that sounds yummy.

Bob: It was good – the rice and the mushrooms but, for whatever reason, my mom didn't like dressing or stuffing or whatever we called it, and so she didn't make it, and we didn't have it, and so I just grew up thinking it must be awful – if Mom doesn't like it, it must be really bad, because Mom ate some nasty stuff.  She ate beet greens, she ate stuff that just set your teeth on edge, and if she didn't like stuffing – so, to this day, I've had maybe five bites of stuffing in my life, and I've just always kind of had an aversion …

Barbara: … see, I never like it growing up, because I was one of those kids that was a real picky eater, and if I couldn't identify it by looking at it, I didn't want it …

Bob: … what's that green thing …

Barbara: … and that stuffing was too mysterious.  I never touched it.

Dennis: There has to be a counselor listening to our broadcast today that can help Bob out of his bitterness toward stuffing.

Bob: It's a dressing phobia.

Dennis: It is – it's a serious problem.

Bob: "Dressophobia", I think, is what you call it – or "stuffophobia", depending on which part of the country you're in.

Dennis: It is interesting how much we associate food with Thanksgiving, and, certainly, Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate with a feast, but it's more than a feast.  It is a time to celebrate family and faith and an attitude of gratefulness to God on behalf of what He's done for our families.

Bob: And we've been rallying folks all this week toward a vision of that, in part, because of a brand-new book that, Barbara, you have written, that is called, "Thanksgiving, a Time to Remember."  It's a beautiful book, full color throughout the book, some wonderful illustrations including some original watercolors.

Dennis: And, Bob, earlier this week, you compared Barbara – you said …

Bob: … I said Thomas Kinkade, watch out, the "painter of light" is about to be replaced by – and have you got it?

Dennis: I have it, I have it, are you ready?

Bob: I'm ready.

Dennis: I wrote it down, because this …

Barbara: … I'm not …

Dennis: … Barbara Rainey is the watercolor artist, okay?  And she's created a coffee table book that is magnificent.  Her art is throughout its pages, and this is the new byline for her artwork.

Bob: Barbara Rainey …

Dennis: … painter of memories.

Bob: That's nice.

Barbara: Oooh, now, that does sound nice.

Dennis: Barbara Rainey …

Barbara: … I don't know whether I can do it …

Dennis: … a painter of memories.

Bob: I had "painter of pilgrims," and I like memories better.

Dennis: I was really thinking about Barbara in this book, though.  This is a book that she has wanted to do for the past, oh, I'd say half-a-dozen years.  She has really focused on this holiday in our family and said, "You know, I hope someday the Lord gives me life after children to be able to have enough energy to put some thoughts down about how families can really celebrate Thanksgiving," and I want to tell you, folks, this will not disappoint you. 

Bob: That's right.  It's a beautiful book.  It's really nicely done – full color on every page, and there is also an audio CD in the back of the book that provides instrumental versions of a lot of great hymns, Thanksgiving hymns, and it's something that Mary Ann gets out every year and plays on the CD player in the kitchen throughout the Thanksgiving season, because she just loves the music and because it sets a tone in our home. 

 Our team has also produced this book as an audiobook.  It's a dramatized version of the Thanksgiving story narrated and with some sound effects.  It really turned out beautifully, and this year anybody who gets a copy of the book, "Thanksgiving, a Time to Remember" from us here at FamilyLife Today, we'll also send them a copy of the audiobook at no additional cost, and there is more information about that on our website at if anybody wants to check that out.

 As we've talked this week about how your family celebrates Thanksgiving and all of the activities that you've had the kids do throughout the years, writing down the things they're thankful for on notecards and reading them the Thanksgiving story, I just want to establish the fact that you do have a turkey sometime during the day, don't you?

Barbara: Yes, we do, mm-hm.  Well, we started the tradition and decided to celebrate in the morning with our family because it was the best time that we could just get our immediate family, the eight of us together, and we've continued that tradition.

 We always go to my parents farm on Thanksgiving afternoon, and that's where we have our turkey and dressing, not stuffing, dressing, and all the things that go with it, and we have a wonderful time there with my brothers and their families and my parents, and so we have a big extended family celebration.  But we've maintained through the years our little celebration that we do just with our immediate family, and we do that in the morning at brunch.

Bob: And, again, the design of all of this is to orient our thinking toward cultivating an attitude of thanksgiving, a heart of gratitude not just on this day but throughout the year.  To really have a spiritual focus for the day.  And, Barbara, I remember hearing about a Thanksgiving a number of years back that was, I think for you, a particularly profound spiritually intense Thanksgiving and a powerful time for your family.

Barbara: It was a Thanksgiving that was after a particularly memorable summer training that we had been to in July.  God was really moving in a pretty unusual way during those days, and we were a part of that, and we watched it, and so, anyway, a few weeks after that we had another conference that was a local one.  It was just here with our staff and, again, we had a similar experience where God was at work in people's lives collectively as we met together.

 And at that particular conference, God was showing me something in my life that I needed to work on and that I needed to confess to Him.  And what it was is there was a verse in Psalms that God really used to speak to my heart, and it was a verse that said something to the effect that you loved every hateful word, or you loved every angry word, or something to that reference, and I remember reading it, thinking it's the kind of verse that I would have read and thought, you know, that's probably true about somebody but not me.

But when I read it that day, I read it, and I remember thinking, "Gosh, that's really true about me."  And I sort of pondered it, and I thought, you know when we sin, we really do enjoy the sin for the moment.  And I thought back to all the times when I would get angry with my children, and all of us, as parents, get angry with our children from time to time, but there was a time period when I particularly struggled with getting angry with my children, and I remember thinking back to that as I was reading that verse and sort of meditating on it and thinking, "That really is true about me.  I really loved it when I was angry at my kids, because I felt like they deserved it, and I felt like they should suffer a little bit for disobeying and for not doing what I asked them to do and when I asked them to do it, and God's Word really is right.  That's really true about me." 

 And, at the same time that I realized that it was true about me, it wasn't just an intellectual exercise.  I didn't just go, "Yeah, that's right, okay, we'll move on."  It was more of a, "Yeah, that's right," and it really broke my heart that I enjoyed it, and it really made me sad that when I was angry with my children, even though I apologized afterwards, I always asked my kids to forgive me when I would overstep my bounds and get angry out of proportion to what the situation deserved.  I still felt at that moment that it was really something that I needed to do something about.  It was beyond just, "Okay, this is true," and, yes, it breaks my heart that I felt this way, but now I need to do something about it.

 So I began to think about it in the days that followed – and think what does God want me to do?  And as Dennis and I talked about it on a couple of occasions, I sort of came to the conclusion that God wanted me to tell my children that – not just deal with it personally between me and God.  I mean, they wouldn't know.  I've already apologized, why do I need to go to them?  I mean, it would have been real easy to rationalize that away and say, "I've already taken care of that.  I've apologized.  I've confessed my sin."  But I really felt like God wanted me to do that.  I felt like He wanted me to tell them what I had learned.

And so the first occasion we had when all of our kids were together again was at Thanksgiving.  And so on Wednesday night when they all got home from college, and everybody was gathered together back at home, we got the kids in the living room and sat everybody in a circle, and I had written out something that I wanted to say ahead of time, because I wasn't sure that I would say what I wanted to say in the way that it needed to be said if I didn't write it out ahead of time. 

And so I got them all in a circle and got out my little prepared statement, which was more than a statement, too, it was about two pages long – a little bit more of a speech, I guess – and I read them what I had learned and what God had shown me about my heart – that my heart was really, truly wicked, and it really was a heart that enjoyed the sin when I sinned, and I let them know that I wasn't proud of it.  I was really sorry, and it broke my heart that I had offended them in that way, and that I had hurt them in that way, and I asked them to forgive me.

And that whole process was a real turning point in my life, and God used the process of those couple of months and the circumstances of those days, to do some transformation in my heart, and that's not to say that I never got angry with my children after that, because I did, but it was never the same.  I never got angry in the same way. 

So it was a time of healing, it was also a situation where I could model humility to my kids.  We talk about humility, we talk about prayer with our kids, we talk about a lot of things, but so often they don't see us do those things, and I felt like it was something that God wanted me to model before them.  I felt like He wanted them to see their mother humble and broken and have a contrite spirit before them and before the Lord.

Bob: Dennis, as you were a part of that, did you feel like your children understood that the Lord was at work in their mom's heart, or did they go, "What's going on with Mom?"

Dennis: I think it was more "What's going on with Mom?"  And yet, after it was over, I think it began to sink in – something spiritually is going on with Mom.  In fact, this past summer, our family got together, and that event was referred to at our family get-together, and it was interesting to hear some of the children refer back to that Thanksgiving and to hear them describe their mother on her knees before her children asking for their forgiveness.  It made a mark, and, Bob, I think the lesson here – there's a number of lessons for us.  One, that – the obvious one – is that God needs to be at work in our lives, and Barbara is demonstrating that here by sharing this story.

 But, secondly, that we need to use family get-togethers, like Thanksgiving, for something more than just food and football; that we need to use it for faith and for the formation of faith and the cultivation of faith and the growth of faith and the calling out of our family to realize, you know what?  We're going to be passing off the scene, and you all are going to be the ones with your own families. 

 Now, what kind of faith are you passing on?  Is it authentic?  Are you growing?  Is your heart broken by the things that break God's heart?  And, Bob, I remember that Thanksgiving, by virtue of Barbara's tears, but also a family that rallied around Mom, and one of the ways they described her was they all remember getting around Mom and kind of putting their hands on Mom and praying for her, and just honoring her for her brokenness, for her humility, but also extending grace and forgiveness and understanding heart as children really can best express to us.

Bob: You look at a holiday like Thanksgiving, a time, an opportunity when the family is going to be gathered together, and traditions – we've talked about traditions – those are important during that time, and it's important to have fun together as a family – that marks memories, but I think, as you've said, when we can transcend the surface and move just to a deeper level of transparency and be open spiritually before one another, we really open the door for God to do a powerful work in our family's lives.

 Barbara, I have to think that the fact that Thanksgiving had been set aside as a spiritual day in past years, gave you a right moment – I know it was, in part, because the family was all back together – but there was still a rightness around this holiday to say, "I need to finish dealing with some business.  I've been dealing with it with the Lord, but I need to finish it with you."  There may be a number of families headed toward Thanksgiving, which is about three weeks from now, who need to finish some business with one another and with the Lord and make sure that the expression of thanksgiving to God is not just a perfunctory thing, but it's something that has some depth to it, because you've done the cleansing work of confessing your sin first.

Dennis: And, Bob, if that happens, what results are authentic relationships.  And that's really what the New Testament is all about – it's about Christ in you, the hope of glory, who gives the possibility of selfish, sinful, fallen human beings to have real authentic relationships with one another and not merely gloss over how they've hurt one another but forgive one another just as God, in Christ, has forgiven you.

 One of the children Barbara addressed that Thanksgiving was Benjamin, and I don't know what's all wrapped up in a person's confession as Barbara did and what it releases in the soul of another person, but it was a couple of Thanksgivings later that we gathered around the computer after the Thanksgiving brunch, and we read some e-mails from our son, Benjamin, who wrote some – I would call them "miniature tributes" to each family member.

Bob: He was in Estonia at the time, was doing short-term mission work, and it was really the first time in the history of your family that somebody wasn't there on Thanksgiving Day, right?

Dennis: That's right.  He was 21 years old and was missing Thanksgiving, and I think was really missing his family.  But he wrote this tribute to his mom.  He said this – "Mom, I want you to know that if I wrote all day and night for the next 100 years I would not even begin to say enough thanks and praises to you for all the things you have done for me in my life.  I do want to write a tribute some day.  Ah, what a day that will be.  You deserve much more than I could ever give or say in words, but someday I shall try.

 You know what?  I miss you.  Your warm hugs at the end of a long day, your constant smile, your words of encouragement, your wonderful food, your home, the place of safety from the wars of the world, your love for Dad.  I am so thankful for you.  You and Dad have made me who I am today.  Thanks for all your letters, e-mails, care packages, with Jonathan apples, candy, books, and tapes.  They make me feel close to home though I am so far away.

 I want you to know that you are the best mom in the entire world and you know what?  I know this because I am on the other side of the world, and I know these things now.  No one even comes close.  I love you.  Why the Lord so blessed me I don't know, but I will be forever grateful and thankful.  Missing you and loving you more than you could ever imagine, Benjamin.  Thanksgiving 1997, Tallin, Estonia."

 And, you know, Bob, over this week, we've challenged our listeners to do more at Thanksgiving than just merely have a holiday.  To instead be purposeful, be intentional, to do something that causes your family to stop and build an altar around your Thanksgiving meal that celebrates the Lord's goodness to you and your family uniquely, and to not let the day pass without giving each family member a chance to be able to reflect over the past 12 months and say, "These five things I'm thankful for, and I'm going to write them on this card, and I'm going to share them with my family, and we're going to go around a circle, and we're going to relive God's goodness in our family's life together."

 Those words to be shared at Thanksgiving, I think breathe life into our souls because, you know, a family is tough, and you need to re-read letters like this to be reminded that, yes, you are loved, you are appreciated, and, yes, God has been at work on your behalf and on behalf of your family.

Bob: Barbara, are your new grafted-in daughters and your grafted-in son – they're aware of this tradition?  They're starting to have to write out their own cards.  Are they catching on?

Barbara: Yeah, I think so.  I think they're enjoying it.

Bob: Yeah, and I know you've had some Thanksgivings where not everybody has been able to be back together, although you've told the kids that you'd rather have them come home for Thanksgiving than have them show up for Christmas.  But, still, it doesn't always work out that everybody can come home for Thanksgiving, but they do have memories, and they do have some traditions and some ideas, some things they can incorporate into their own celebration, and that's what you're hoping this book and the audiobook and the resources that we have here can do for a lot of families – give them a template, some blueprints for how to be intentional, be purposeful during this holiday season.

 We've got copies of your book in our FamilyLife Resource Center.  Our listeners can go to our website at  They'll see a red button in the middle of the screen that says "Go," and if they click on that button, it will take them to an area of the site where they can get more information about the book.  There is also an audiobook available and, in fact, our team has decided this year that if you purchase a copy of the book, we'll make a copy of the audiobook available at no additional cost.

 Again, the details are on our website at  Click the red button you see in the middle of the home page that says "Go," and that will take you to the area of the site where you can get more information about both of these resources.

 You can also call 1-800-FLTODAY for more information about the book, 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.  Someone on our team can answer any questions you have about the book or the audiobook or we can make arrangements to have either or both of them sent out to you.

 I mentioned earlier this week that next week FamilyLife Today will be celebrating its 15th anniversary.  We went on the air on November 9, 1992.  It's been exciting to see how God has used the ministry of FamilyLife Today in many people's lives, and we appreciate those of you who drop us a note from time to time and share with us how God has used this program in your family, in your marriage.  It's always a great encouragement to our team.

 Thanks to those of you who have helped support the ministry of FamilyLife Today as well.  We appreciate your financial partnership with us.  In fact, right now, if you are able to make a donation to FamilyLife Today we have a thank you gift we'd like to send you.  It's a book that we published a number of years ago designed to help parents pray more specifically for their children.  It's called "While They Were Sleeping," and each week it gives you a different character quality that you can be praying for in your child's life.

 If you can help us with a donation of any amount this week, we'd love to send you a copy of that book upon your request.  If you're donating online, as you fill out the donation form, you come to a keycode box, type the word "Sleep" in the keycode box, and we'll know to send a copy of the book to you.  Or call 1-800-FLTODAY to make a donation over the phone and mention that you'd like the book on praying for your children or the book called "While They Were Sleeping," and, again, we're happy to send it out to you, and we do appreciate you listening, and we appreciate your financial support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today.

 Well, I hope you have a great weekend.  I hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend in church, and I hope you can join us on Monday.  We're going to talk about something that is starting to happen all around the country – public schools that are introducing a class on the Bible – helping children understand what's in the Bible.  It's completely legal and more and more school districts are starting to do it.  We'll talk about that Monday.  I hope you can join us for that.

 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.  Have a great weekend, we'll see you back Monday 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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