FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Mom as Spiritual Leader

with Dineen Miller, Lynn Donovan | March 12, 2014
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When your husband won't lead spiritually, it's disappointing. Lynn Donovan and Dineen Miller, who both experienced a spiritual renewal after marrying outside the faith, coach moms on how be the spiritual leader in their homes. Lynn and Dineen also talk about showing their husbands love and respect, despite their faith differences. 

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • When your husband won't lead spiritually, it's disappointing. Lynn Donovan and Dineen Miller, who both experienced a spiritual renewal after marrying outside the faith, coach moms on how be the spiritual leader in their homes. Lynn and Dineen also talk about showing their husbands love and respect, despite their faith differences. 

  • 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.

Lynn Donovan and Dineen Miller, who both experienced a spiritual renewal after marrying outside the faith, coach moms on how be the spiritual leader in their homes.

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Mom as Spiritual Leader

With Dineen Miller, Lynn Donovan
March 12, 2014
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Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, March 12th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll provide some help today for believing parents in a spiritually-mismatched marriage who are trying to raise believing children. Stay tuned.


And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You—from the earliest days of your marriage—recognized that you have, as a husband, a responsibility to provide some level of spiritual leadership in the home; right?

Dennis: That’s correct.

Bob: And—

Dennis: Been reminded of my responsibility. [Laughter]

Bob: By your wife?

Dennis: On occasions.

Bob: That’s right.

Dennis: On occasion, by my lovely bride of more than four decades.

Bob: And, of course, the two of you have kind of a common understanding about that. And this week, we’re talking about spiritually-mismatched marriages and about a scenario where—instead of a husband and a dad providing spiritual leadership in the home—mom has to step in and figure out, “What do I do if he’s not going to take that responsibility?”


Dennis: Yes—and still be supportive, in the process, of him, as a man. In fact, I’ve got a tough question coming for both of you ladies; but first of all, I want to welcome you back. Lynn Donovan and Dineen Miller join us again on FamilyLife Today. Ladies, welcome back.

Dineen: Thanks for having us.

Lynn: Thank you. Glad to be back.

Dennis: Notice I didn’t call you, “You guys,” like I did earlier. I’m sorry. I apologize. They have written a book together called Not Alone. It’s about how you raise children in a spiritually-mismatched home.

And here is my question for you—I’m going to read this passage, and I’m going to ask you, “How do you fulfill this passage from Scripture when you take into consideration what Bob just said—that the husband has been charged with leading his family spiritually?” And that’s more than just bowing over a meal in the evening. Here’s the passage: “However, let each one of you love his wife as himself and let the wife—



“see that she respects her husband.” How do you maintain a respectful attitude for your husband when he’s not in the game in this area?

Dineen: It’s a very important area. That’s part of the reason why—in our book, at the end of each chapter—we have a section there about the topic and how to play this out with respect to dads.

We wrote this book—not just for the mismatched home—because we see it as there are so many moms, out there, that are walking alone—whether they are mismatched, whether they are separated, divorced, or even a single mom—because it’s the message of: “We have the Creator of the universe backing us up.” He’s our partner in this, ultimately. But in that situation—where Dad isn’t part of that spiritual leadership—it’s very important that we, as the mom, step into that place. And we can do that.



It doesn’t mean we have to stand into complete leadership of the home. And we’re best not to do that. It’s important that Dad still has that place of leadership in the home. But as far as our children are, spiritually, we need to step in and we need to be that leadership for them because we—as you said before, Dennis—we do have an assignment. It’s very important because it’s not just about us and our relationship with God—it’s also about the generations after us.

Dennis: The passing on your faith.

Dineen: Right.

Dennis: And Lynn, I want to ask you the question, in just a minute; but I want to come back to Dineen, at this point, and ask you, “How do you do that?” because you are taking responsibility to lead your family, spiritually. How do you support him in his leadership of the family in other areas? How do you respect him in that?

Dineen: By seeing that that’s his place, whether it’s a decision to be made in the family—it’s, “Will we need to do this?” Sometimes, even now, my girls will come and ask me a question.



I say: “Well, I think this; but let’s talk to Dad about that and make sure that this is his desire for this, and that’s what he wants to do to. It’s important that we’re all onboard here.”

Bob: One of the things you have to do to be able to do that is you have to be able to separate the biblical essentials—

Dineen: Right.

Bob: —from some of your biblical preferences because there are things that you’re going to have to say: “Well, I would prefer it this way, but that’s a personal conscience issue. I can’t necessarily impose that on everybody else. So, I’m going to have to learn to flex here.”

Dineen: Right.

Dennis: Illustrate what you’re talking about, though, Bob.

Bob: Well, a biblical essential would be something like—if your husband said: “I don’t want any praying in this house. I don’t want anybody to pray and never talk to God at all.” Okay, you can’t agree with that; right?—because God commands us to pray. God commands us to—

Lynn: Right. That’s right.

Bob: —to follow Him.

Dennis: And you can pray silently.

Bob: You could figure out ways that you can do that. This is what Daniel faced when the king said,—



“Eat this meat.” Daniel said, “I’ve got to do what God says.” He negotiated a deal; and Nebuchadnezzar said, “Okay.” So, there are ways we can learn from the shrewdness of a guy like Daniel in that situation.

But it might be that your husband would say: “You know, I think it is okay for you guys to stay out until one on Sunday morning. You don’t have to—don’t worry about your curfew. Stay out as late as you want.” You’re thinking: “Well, they are not going to be ready for church the next day,” and, “They’re not going to be this,” and, “I wish it was this way.” This is not a hill you can die on. This is where you have to say, “Okay, that’s what Dad said; and that’s what you are going to be able to do.” Am I right?

Lynn: That is correct. Yes. You have to—I believe that’s where your faith and your living out your faith in front of your children, every day, helps them to make good decisions when they are given opportunity that maybe you wouldn’t want them to have. And being the spiritual leader of your home doesn’t have to be:



“Like in your face, Dad,” or you’re not quoting Scripture to them and saying, “I’m going to make this decision because of this.” It’s in you. You have God’s Word in you. It’s what you believe; and it comes out in every day conversation, especially with my husband.

You know, if we had conflict about different ideas, it comes down to love and honor. I mean, it goes both ways. My husband honors me and loves me, and I honor him and love him. We have conversation. And on a curfew kind of issue—like you were talking about, Bob—we would probably talk about that beforehand instead of him making a blanket statement. But I do know that that happens—

Bob: Sure.

Lynn: —and those are times where you go, “Okay, I have to flex a little bit.”

Bob: Right. So, Dad sits down at dinner and says: “Hey, kids! I’ve got something fun for us to do. I got tickets to go to the haunted house for Halloween; huh?!” The kids are going: “Cool! Alright! My friend at school said it was really cool.”



And you’re just sitting there going, “Oh, man, the haunted house.” What do you do?

Lynn: There are times when you’ve had to say, “Okay, I’m going.” When they come back, frightened out of their mind—“Well, maybe, we don’t want to do that again,” and, “See,” you know? and, “Dad—maybe, that’s a conversation you and I need to have next time.” I know we have lived through that a million different times with decisions on how we make—

Dineen: Right; and I think—

Lynn: —with our husbands.

Dineen: —yes, and I think also—and I don’t say this to take God out of the conversation, but we don’t always have to make it a lecture. We don’t have to—

Lynn: Exactly.

Dineen: —make it a sermon. I think, when we’re on the heart level, and we say, “I understand that you want to give them this freedom, but I don’t think this is good for our daughter or our son.”

I went through this with my youngest daughter. She’s a very sensitive person—even in a movie—that the buildup of tension, through the music, would just send her behind a couch and hiding before anything happened.



She would easily have nightmares. So, I was able to say: “You know, I understand you want her to watch this with you; but remember, she’s the one who has nightmares at night. She’s very sensitive. This is just going to kind of wreck her world for a while. I don’t think it’s worth it,” you know?

Bob: You’re not playing the God-card—

Dineen: Right; right.

Bob: —every time there is a—right.

Dineen: I mean, there are times we do have to stand on moral ground; and we do need to stand on God’s Word. I mean, that’s important—when we know what we know, and we know what is true, and we have to stand on that truth—but I think it’s important, too, that we help our spouse to understand the heart level and the big picture.

Bob: Right.

Dennis: Okay, so, the haunted house is a great illustration. We’re going to move the cookies just a little bit lower on the shelf with this next question.

Dineen: I feel like I’m back in school. [Laughter]

Dennis: Yes.

Dineen: Here comes the test!

Dennis: Now, I just want to know how you’d coach a woman to handle this because there has to be a woman, right now—she’s either in a marriage with a man like this or she’s cohabiting—



living with a guy who is like this—single-parent mom—and the guy is bringing pornography into the home, on the screen, in front of the kids.

Dineen: That’s bad!

Dennis: So, now, what are we talking about here?

Lynn: That’s a deal breaker.

Dineen: Yes.

Lynn: That’s crossed a boundary. From everything I have known about pornography in a marriage relationship—any kind of relationship—it is destructive. It is hurtful. We have hundreds of women that write to us, who are dealing with this in their marriage, right now. It is so brutal and destructive to the woman and her heart. Absolutely—to put a child in that mix—is a boundary that has been crossed. I would say: “Immediately—immediately—you need to seek counsel to help you walk through this.”



And if it was happening right in front of me—for me and my home—I would be the first person to go unplug the computer—unplug it and say, “We need to have a talk, right now.”

Dennis: Yes. I think what both of you are illustrating here is a passage that we read earlier, from 1 Corinthians, Chapter 7, where it talks about how a believing wife sanctifies her home—sanctifies her husband and her children. She sets them apart as holy. You can’t drop your standard. Even as you respect your husband, you can respect him; but you don’t have to embrace the sin.

Dineen: Exactly.

Lynn: That’s exactly right.

Dineen: Well-said.

Bob: I want to ask you guys about the discipling you’ve done of your kids because I guess both of your husbands have been—they’ve been okay—they’ve said to you, “I want my kids to be able to make their own choice when they get to be at the right age,”—



but they’ve still let you spiritually train your kids, as they were growing up. You’ve used the holidays to do that. In fact, you were talking about the fact that you’ve used FamilyLife’s Resurrection Eggs® with your kids, as a discipleship tool; right?

Lynn: Right; absolutely. My daughter loved that tool. It’s one of the very simply ways to bring the resurrection story to a small child and tell it. It’s non-threatening—I mean, they are opening up little Easter eggs—that have got little emblems of all of the resurrection week. Every year, we pull the Easter box down; and that’s the first thing we would open up. What a beautiful moment.

I just remember my daughter, as a young girl, opening these eggs, and the delight on her face, and we were telling the story of Jesus. She got to the very last egg, and she opens it up, and it’s empty. Her little face looks up, like, “Well, there’s nothing in this egg.” “The grave is empty!—that’s why the egg is empty.” So, there are so many really fun, neat, little ways to share our faith, every day.



And the Resurrection Eggs was one of them. In fact, I think I told you earlier, that she’s 18 now. I got the eggs out the other day to look at them. She goes, “Oh, the Resurrection Eggs,” and went to them and had to open them all up. Her girlfriend was there—and, you know, teenagers opening up the eggs.

Profound and very simple ways—it’s not, “In your face,” to Dad. It’s respectful. Those are stories that live with them, and they take them with them into their adult life, and they take their faith with them into their adult life.

Bob: I think we need to acknowledge, here, the fact that your kids have embraced Christ. There are a lot of moms, in a spiritually-mismatched marriage, who don’t have that story. There is not a recipe you can pour into a bowl and mix up a believing child. And some moms have watched their kids embrace dad’s values and dad’s way of thinking—

Dineen: Right.

Bob: —and it’s still breaking their hearts.

Lynn: Yes, absolutely.

Dineen: That happens. I think that happens in a matched marriage, too.



Our children—we do our part; but in the end, it’s still their choice.

Bob: But here’s the difference—when Mom and Dad are on the same page—Mom and Dad come together and pray for that child—

Dineen: True; very true.

Bob: —and want that child to come back to the faith; but now, here’s the child going, “I’m going Dad’s way,” and Dad is going, “Good for you.” And Mom is alone—isolated over there— going, “I’m the only one to do spiritual battle in the life of my child.”

Lynn: Yes.

Dineen: Yes.

Lynn: I think they feel like that, but they’re not alone; and we serve the great God of the universe.

Bob: Well, wait, you said, “Not alone.”

Lynn: We are not alone.

Bob: That’s the title of this book that you wrote about raising kids in a spiritually-mismatched marriage.

Lynn: Right. When we pray—I mean, ordinary moms—man, we can rattle the heavenlies;—

Dineen: Right.

Lynn: —and we move God’s heart for our kids. You know, I was a prodigal. My mom prayed for me for many years, and I’m so glad.



She prayed, “God, just don’t let go of her.” So, I don’t care how old or how far gone you think your child is—

Dennis: Now, how old—

Lynn: —there is always hope.

Dineen: Right.

Dennis: —how old were you when the spiritual lights finally came one?

Lynn: I was probably 27/28 when I really—and I remarried, actually, when I was 30. So, it was right after that that I really had a reawakening—when God wooed me back home.

Dennis: Here’s what I want to say to the woman who is in a marriage and it feels hopeless: “It’s not all upon you.”

Lynn: That’s correct.

Dennis: You just—you don’t realize—maybe, the best thing you can do is to raise those kids to follow Christ. Maybe, God will touch their hearts and they will be a light on a hill.

Dineen, your daughter had a bout with depression and also cancer.

Dineen: Yes.

Dennis: And you’re husband watched all this.

Dineen: Yes, he did.


Dennis: I mean talk about the practical application of faith against life.

Dineen: Yes, it doesn’t get more real than that. We walked through it very differently. I’ve had friends express their amazement that, that alone, wasn’t enough to help my husband see the truth of God’s presence in our lives and things that happened. I mean, there were outright miracles that happened through that process.

One story that is just my absolute favorite is in our book about—of all things—a video tape/a movie that I was trying to find for my daughter. She was about to go through her big surgery to remove the tumor. She wanted to watch Oliver & Company. This movie was not to be found. It was in the Disney vault at the time. The library at the Children’s Hospital didn’t have it. I finally located a copy of it from a friend at church. She brought it up the next day so we could have it ready for Leslie so she could watch it in her room.



And I kid you not—as I went up to that player, it was a combo VHS/DVD player. I had a DVD in my hand of Oliver & Company and noticed there was a tape in this machine. I popped it out, and that VHS tape—what do you think it was? It was Oliver & Company.

Bob: Wow!

Dineen: And I turned around, speechless. I looked at my daughter. She’s just sitting there with the biggest grin on her face. I asked her later, “What does that tell you?” “That tells me God’s looking out for me.” God does these things, and He is right there with us. We are not, by far, alone in this journey.

And if I can also, again, bring home the point that—one, we need community. Going to church, I know, is hard—been there; done that—when you have two little ones and you’re doing it on your own—but our churches need to step in and help fill the gap when we are there, as single moms and dads.



Our churches need to step up and fill the gap. We don’t all have to look alike. This is an opportunity—partner with us. Help us raise our children to know Christ. We can do this together. We don’t have to do it alone.

Dennis: Two things, in closing—number one—thank you all for having the courage to write this book. Thank your husbands on behalf of tens of thousands of listeners, who have benefitted from you going public on a real private matter, frankly.

But I recall the last time you ladies were here—we concluded the broadcast with the following exhortation: “If you are in a spiritually-mismatched marriage, come to the Weekend to Remember®. Do what it takes to get your spouse to that conference to hear a fun, entertaining, romantic message for a weekend that could change his or her life—



they’re going to hear the gospel.

And for those Legacy Partners who support us—you just need to kind of pump out your chest a bit and go: “I’m a part of that! I’m a part of that ministry.” We’ll have somewhere between two and three thousand people, a year, receive Christ at these conferences. And I’m convinced—it is wives promising, dragging—who knows how they get—

Bob: Respectfully dragging.

Dennis: —of course. [Laughter] Of course—getting their husbands to the conference so they could hear a winsome presentation of how God designed Christian marriage to be. And in the process, meet the Redeemer—the One who came to forgive sin, and give people a hope, and put the peace of God in individuals’ lives, marriages, and families.

So, I’d say: “If you are listening and you are in one of these marriages—and you’ve been identifying with these ladies—



and what’s going on in their homes—do what you have to do. Don’t break any of God’s laws; but get them there—whatever the cost.”

And thanks, again, ladies, for writing Not Alone. This is going to be used by a lot of people. I’m convinced.

Lynn: Thank you.

Dineen: Thank you.

Bob: We do have information about the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway on our website at and still have several dozen of these events taking place this spring. So, if you’d like to find out when a Weekend to Remember is coming to a city near you, go to and click on the link for the Weekend to Remember.

We also have information about the resources we talked about earlier—the Resurrection Eggs that you talked about, Lynn—using those with your daughter, as she was growing up, and you were introducing  to her the story of Easter—and some of the resources that Barbara Rainey has created for families, around the holidays, as well. You can find out about those resources when you go to


Of course, we have copies of the books that Lynn Donovan and Dineen Miller have written. The one we’ve been talking about today is called Not Alone: Trusting God to Help You Raise Godly Kids in a Spiritually Mismatched Home. Then, we also have the book we talked about, a while back, called Winning Him Without Words: 10 Keys to Thriving in Your Spiritually Mismatched Marriage.

You can order any of these resources we’ve talked about when you go to, or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY. That’s 1-800-358-6329—1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”

You know, we always hope that programs like today’s program will be helpful to listeners—whether you are in this situation yourself or whether you know somebody else who is. Our goal is to provide practical, biblical help for your marriage and for your family, day-in and day-out, on FamilyLife Today.


There is a team of folks who share that vision with us. They have a real heart to see this program continue to thrive and to be heard by more and more people—not only here in the United States—but now, around the world, via the internet and using the FamilyLife Today mobile app. These folks are folks we call our Legacy Partners. A Legacy Partner is somebody who makes a monthly contribution to help support FamilyLife Today to provide a solid, regular foundation to help cover the cost of producing and syndicating this program.

And the truth is—that while we’ve got a great team of Legacy Partners—honestly, we could use more. In fact, our team has been hoping and praying that this year we might hear from 1,000 people during the month of March—that’s about 20 in every state where FamilyLife Today is heard—1,000 families who would step up and say: “We want to join with you. We think what FamilyLife Today is doing is important, and we’ll help support the ministry with a monthly donation.”


If you would do that this month—be one of the thousand to step forward—we’d like to say, “Thank you,” by sending you our Legacy Partner welcome kit. It’s got some CDs and some other resources, along with the brand-new Legacy Partner Family Cookbook. I’m pretty excited about this because it’s got some recipes from Dennis and Barbara. It’s got some recipes from Mary Ann and me. It’s got some recipes from our staff; but most of the recipes come from listeners, like you—Legacy Partners who have submitted recipes to be included in the cookbook.

So, go to and click on the link that says, “I CARE.” Find out about becoming a Legacy Partner; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and say: “I’m interested. I’d like our family to be one of the 1,000 that you’re praying about this month.” As soon as you do that, we’ll get the welcome kit out to you, including the brand-new cookbook. Our toll-free number is 1-800-FL-TODAY. The website, again: Click on the button that says—



 “I CARE,” to sign on as a Legacy Partner.

And we hope you will be back with us again tomorrow. We’re going to meet a dad who checked out on his marriage and his family until God got a hold of him and brought a wake-up call. We’ll hear from Brad Mathias tomorrow. We’ll hear the story of how God put his family back together again. Hope you can tune in 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. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.

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