FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Thankful Family Life, Part 2

with Dennis and Barbara Rainey | November 7, 2014
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Every parent knows that gratefulness doesn't just happen. It must be nurtured by example. Join us as we help parents nurture their children's gratitude by their own practice of gratefulness during the upcoming holiday.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Every parent knows that gratefulness doesn't just happen. It must be nurtured by example. Join us as we help parents nurture their children's gratitude by their own practice of gratefulness during the upcoming 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.

Dennis and Barbara Rainey encourage parents to nurture their children’s gratitude by practicing gratefulness during the upcoming holiday.

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Thankful Family Life, Part 2

With Dennis and Barbara Rainey
November 07, 2014
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Bob:  What time does the Thanksgiving celebration get started at your house?  Years ago, Barbara Rainey decided, for her family, things were going to get started early. 

Barbara:  The only time that we could pull away and just be the eight of us—the six kids and Dennis and I—was on Thanksgiving morning.  It just sort of grew into a more and more meaningful celebration; but I did it, initially, because I wanted the eight of us to have some time together alone, without extended family / without friends.  I wanted us to have a little bit of time on that day to be together and to focus on what we were grateful for. 

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, November 7th.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine.  How do you get a family to focus on the things they are grateful for, at least, one day of the year?  We’ll talk today about what the Raineys do at their house on Thanksgiving Day.  Stay tuned. 


And welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us on the Friday edition.  I think it was from the two of you that I first learned that Thanksgiving is not just about food and football.  I mean, I’d always kind of considered—that’s what—now, I knew in elementary school / we learned—in fact, in elementary school / in public school, we learned, [singing]“We gather together to”—

Barbara:  Really, you sang that in school?! 

Bob:  —“to ask the Lord’s blessing,”—in public school. 

Dennis:  We would sing that as well. 

Barbara:  Oh, I love that song. 

Bob:  And Come, Ye Thankful People, Come—do you remember that? 

Dennis:  Yes, I do. 

Barbara:  Yes, both of them. 

Dennis:  We’ve come a long way since then; haven’t we? 

Bob:  Yes. 

Dennis:  Let’s welcome Barbara back to our broadcast.  Welcome back, Sweetie. 

Barbara:  Thanks.  Glad to be here, as always. 

Dennis:  And she’s back because we are talking about traditions at Thanksgiving. We have one in our family we are going to talk about today that every family can adapt and use in their family in a meaningful way. 

Bob:  Actually, what we are going to do is go back and hear how you guys celebrated Thanksgiving—



—back when the kids were still at home—because we came across a FamilyLife Today program—this is from the year, 2000.  Now, I remember when 2000 sounded like it was out there in the future—now, it’s way, way back there; right? 

Dennis:  It is. 

Bob:  This was Y2K. 

Dennis:  I was getting ready to call that—

Bob:  You were getting ready to fire up the generator—[Laughter]

Dennis:  Yes. 

Bob:  —for Y2K.  But we were talking about how you guys celebrate Thanksgiving and giving families a glimpse inside your home.  There is a lot that is still the same at your house—a lot of traditions that remain—but a few things that have changed over the years.  You’ve added some things to the Thanksgiving celebration; haven’t you? 

Barbara:  We mostly added people.  [Laughter]

Bob:  Yes, that’s true.  That’s true because—

Dennis:  Yes, really, the tradition has not changed.  It’s just the number of seats around the table. 

Barbara:  It’s mostly people. 

Dennis:  I don’t know how many tables it took on our deck, here a couple of Thanksgivings ago, where we read the Thanksgiving story that Barbara has written in her book, Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember, and—


Barbara:  Well—

Dennis:  —the parents conveniently all collected at one end of the table and put Barbara and me down with all the children—

Bob:  Yes. 

Dennis:  —the grandchildren.  Here I was—attempting to read—

Barbara:  You were standing up and walking around to keep their attention so they would hear a few words. 

Dennis:  I was using every professional skill I have ever developed around speaking to keep my grandkids’ attention. 

Bob:  And how long did that last? 

Dennis:  It didn’t work. 

Barbara:  It didn’t work—maybe, five minutes.  [Laughter] 

Dennis:  But the point is—we all wrote down on cards—and you’ll hear about this in a moment—what we were thankful about during the past 12 months.  I think, Bob, that spiritual discipline ought to be a part of every family, every Thanksgiving. 

Bob:  Yes, we’re really hoping that families will stop to consider that the day can be about more than just food and football. You can have some spiritual significance on that day. 



In fact, Barbara, folks ought to go to your website at—it’s—because you’ve been working on resources—home decorations—things that families can use that will make the holiday more meaningful.  But we thought it would be fun for folks to kind of jump back in time when you only had one grandchild, only one child who was married—you still had kids at home—and hear how you handled Thanksgiving back then. So, this is from 14 years ago.  This is our conversation about Thanksgiving back with Dennis and Barbara. 

[Previously Aired]

Bob:  We’re a couple of weeks away from celebrating Thanksgiving. We wanted to take a few days, here on the broadcast, just to encourage parents to recapture this holiday and make it a significant day in the life of your family and use it for spiritual purposes. 

Dennis:  In fact, Bob, I’m going to change your wording there a bit.



I’m going to say, “No, we want to challenge parents—just challenge parents and grandparents alike—to take back this holiday for your family for Jesus Christ.” This holiday is one about praise to God / thanksgiving to God—reflecting upon what He has done. There’s a biblical principle that’s found in Psalm 78, Psalm 103, and Psalm 106.  It’s called the Landmark Principle or the Milestone Principle:  “God has made His works to be remembered so that we might remember what He’s done so that we might praise Him for who He is and so that we might trust Him for the problems that we’re facing today.” 

When we forget what God has done and we don’t give thanks to Him for what He’s done, then, we forget to trust Him today.  Thanksgiving ought to be a day that rivets us back to our Creator.


Let me just read Psalm 103 here quickly.  “Bless the Lord, oh, my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name.  Bless the Lord, oh, my soul, and forget none of His benefits.” 

Thanksgiving and the word, “thanks,”—both have within them the idea that they need an object.  If you give thanks for your food before you eat it over a meal, you’re praying to God.  If you thank someone, you’re taking an attitude of gratitude to that person—expressing it.  It’s acknowledging that which you feel in your heart and you want to confess to the other person. 

That’s what Thanksgiving is all about—is getting our eyes off the horizontal— it’s getting our eyes off of ourselves; and it’s focusing on God and saying, “Thank you, God, for our spiritual roots.  Thank you for the Pilgrims who gave their lives and who took a great spiritual risk to establish this nation and give us the spiritual freedom that we enjoy today.”



Bob:  There were many hardships suffered by the Pilgrims.  In fact, it might seem incongruous to gather together and give thanks to God when you consider some of what was suffered onboard the ship—as people died / as children died through long, hard winters—the same kind of situation.  And yet, the Pilgrims understood that we are to give thanks in all things

Barbara:  In everything.  Yes, they endured an enormous number of trials because there were so, so many of them who died through, as you said, the process of sailing to the New World. But those first few years they lived in very desperate conditions, and many, many of them died.  The ones who didn’t die were sick, and they were worn out for caring for the others.  They didn’t have good shelter.  They had very little food.  All of that was a huge sacrifice because they were willing to stake their lives on religious freedom. 


Bob:  As we bring those things to mind with our children / as we reflect back on the Thanksgiving story, they can see the parallels with what we ought to be thankful for today.

Dennis:  One of the things I’m grateful to Barbara for is bringing history alive in our family.  As Barbara was talking about—the trip over on the Mayflower—I quickly opened to one of the devotionals around Thanksgiving. Just listen to this: 

As the journey grew long, the Pilgrims became weary with many suffering from seasickness.  Oftentimes, they were at odds with the strangers, those passengers who were not Pilgrims.  All 102 passengers shared cramped quarters in the ship’s cabin—which was about the size of a volleyball court”—102 people! 

On a few sunny days, the children might have been allowed to play on the deck.



Some of the older children would entertain the younger ones, reading them stories, playing games, and working puzzles.

Right!—for how many weeks?  All of a sudden, that story of the Pilgrims, coming over, has flesh and blood wrapped around it.  These are families—these are moms and dads who were sick in the hold of a ship, who risked their lives to establish this nation. 

Let me just read you this one: 

During one storm, a man named John Howland began to panic.  He couldn’t stand another minute in the damp, crowded cabin.  He desperately wanted to go above deck to get some fresh air, but the captain had forbidden anyone to leave the cabin because it was too dangerous.

But John felt as though he would suffocate if he stayed.  So, he disobediently climbed the stairs and went out on the wet, slippery deck.  That was a big mistake. 



The huge waves tossed the little ship about so violently that John was thrown into the raging sea and nearly drowned.  After he was miraculously saved, John never disobeyed the captain’s orders again.”  [Laughter]

Barbara:  Which is a great story to read to your children because it illustrates the whole principle of obedience, and why we have rules, and why we expect the things we do out of our kids.  My kids have never forgotten it.  Every time I read that part of the story, they remember that vividly because they can so relate to that passenger who just thought he had to disobey.  It was more important to get out on the deck than to obey. 

Bob:  Anybody, who has ever ridden on a roller coaster, might have some idea of what it must have been like.  The kids had to be screaming—

Barbara:  Oh, sure. 

Bob:  —and the parents had to think: “This is it for us.  We could die, right here at sea.  Did we really do the right thing in leaving England?” 

Dennis:  Yes. 

Barbara:  Absolutely.  I mean, think about the questions we ask ourselves: “Gosh, I wonder if I did the right thing by putting my child in this school,” or “…letting him play with that friend.”



Then, you think about what they had to question, being out on that ship—I can’t imagine. 

  Dennis:  Let me continue to read. 

During another storm, rough waves caused the ship to sway so far over on its side—[Picture that]—that some of the passengers worried that it might turn over.  They were very afraid. [Understatement] 

Suddenly, a loud, terrifying noise rumbled through the ship.  The beam that supported the main mast had cracked and was in danger of collapsing at any minute.  As the Pilgrims prayed to God for help, William Brewster remembered that he had packed a large iron screw for his printing press.  The crew hauled it into place and began to crank—it worked.  The screw raised the beam back into its original position.  Everyone, including the sailors, thanked God for His protection. 


There are so many lessons of faith for our children—for them to learn from these men and women who had to trust God in the midst of very real, frightening circumstances, where they could have lost their lives and their children’s lives as well.  I think it’s helpful to paint those pictures vividly for them, and take them to those scenes, and then interact around it. Let them recall how this nation was formed at great cost and at great price and sacrifice.

Bob:  You use these stories and these spiritual lessons as a part of what you do in celebrating Thanksgiving. 

Dennis:  Barbara—when we first started doing this—would read for about an hour /  hour and 15 minutes—

Barbara:  Don’t exaggerate.  [Laughter] 

Dennis:  Two hours? [Laughter]

Barbara:  It was not over an hour—but I agree it was lengthy.

Bob:  Did you have to waken him during the—

Dennis:  No.

Barbara:  Well, we, every once in a while, would stop and go: “Okay, we’ll take a break.  Let’s do this or do that.”  Then, I’d pick back up again.  I usually never ended up eating, but—


Dennis:  She had all these—

Barbara:  —there were just too many good things—to leave out!

Dennis:  Oh, they were great stories!  There were all these little snapshots of stories that needed to be told; you know?  Squanto—or whatever his name was—the Indian who had been trained in England, who spoke English—and how he was the key to their survival. 

Barbara:  Well, and you have a captive audience.  I mean, how often do you get everybody listening at one time?  So, you’ve got to take advantage of it.

Bob:  That’s right.  That’s because you’re holding the turkey hostage until—

Barbara:  That’s right.  That’s right.  [Laughter]

Dennis:  No, you’re holding the Company French Toast—

Barbara:  Well, that’s how we do it.

Dennis:  That’s how we do it.

Barbara:  Somebody else might do the turkey.

Bob:  Well, really, what’s become the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving celebration for you has been to encourage your children to write down things for which they are thankful.

Barbara:  That’s right.

Bob:  And you shared some of the things they wrote when they were younger; but you said, as they got older, some of that has become richer and even more meaningful. 

Barbara:  That’s right.  Well, after we read the story, which sets the context for them and being thankful, it’s much easier for them to be thankful after they’ve heard what the Pilgrims went through.



We have everyone write five things that they’re thankful for. 

In 1997, our son, Benjamin, spent a year in Estonia—overseas.  About a month before Thanksgiving, I packed up a little Thanksgiving goody box for him and sent it. I included a card, just like the ones we were going to have on Thanksgiving Day.  When he came home from Estonia, at the end of the year, he brought his card—I think we probably called him that day, and he may have read it to us—but anyway, this is the card he wrote while he was in Estonia.  He was—what?—21 years old or something?  He was a junior in college—

Dennis:  Right. 

Barbara:  —and was gone, obviously, for Thanksgiving because once you go to a place like that you don’t come home.

He wrote: “I am thankful for:  Number one: my family—being away for this long certainly increases my appreciation for each one of them.  Number two: being in Estonia—yes, it is hard; but knowing I am following God, there is no place I’d rather be.  Number three: the Lada,”—that’s the kind of car they drove while they were over there.  He said, “Yes, she ain’t much to look at, but she is wonderful and dependable.  



“We can even depend on her to break down every month.”  [Laughter]

Dennis:  He used to say it was the finest car Russia ever made—it was the only car—

Barbara:  Only car.

Dennis:  —Russians ever made.

Barbara:  So, that was really especially fun.  He has two more, of course, on there; but it was really a sort of bitter/sweet Thanksgiving because we were all together, obviously, except for him. 

Everyone had things to write that were related to that.  Laura put on her card:  “I am thankful for Benjamin that he has the courage to go to Estonia and tell people about God.” I think pretty much every one of us put something like that that year because that was very important to all of us that he had taken a year of his life to go minister to people. 

Bob:  And it was the first time in the history of the Rainey family—

Barbara:  That’s right.

Bob:  —that one person—

Barbara:  That one person wasn’t there.

Bob:  —wasn’t home on Thanksgiving? 

Barbara:  That’s correct.

Dennis:  Actually, what he sent us was a lengthy email—that we all went to the computer and read—

Barbara:  And read together—that’s right. 

Dennis:  And we wept.

Barbara:  Yes, we stood there and cried—all of us. 


Dennis:  We wept. 

Barbara:  It was incredible. 

Dennis:  And I’m not going to read all of these for our listeners, but let me read a couple of them: 

“To Samuel—my little brother I used to beat up all the time. He would go crying to Mom and, then, I’d have to re-stripe the parking lot out front or [indecipherable] dirt and leaves for a month for it. He has turned into a mighty man of God.  You are simply the man, and I truly and honestly look up to you.”  There’s more than one reason for that—Samuel is 6’3”.  [Laughter] My feeble words fail me trying to let you know how much I love you.  So, I’ll use someone else’s.  John 15:13 says, ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’  My life is yours.  I would do anything for you.”  Read that and not get choked up; huh? 

 “To Mom:  I want you to know that if I wrote all day and all 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.



“You deserve much more than I could ever give or say in words; but someday, I shall try. 

“I miss you—your warm hugs, your constant smile, your words of encouragement, your wonderful food, and your love for Dad.  You and Dad have made me who I am today.  I want you to know that you are the best mom in the whole entire world.  I know this because I am on the other side of the world, and I know these things now.  [Laughter] I love you, Benjamin.”

You know, Bob, I think this tradition—this is why, at the first of the broadcast, I wanted to say, “We want to challenge you to recapture this holiday.”  Start now—regardless of the ages of your children—you may say, “But my kids are all old.”  You know what?  It doesn’t matter if they’re adults! You get back together again—pass a three-by-five card / one per person—and ask everybody to write down five things that they’re thankful for.  The exercise alone, I promise you, will be priceless. 


Bob:  In the first few years of it—maybe weak attempts at expressing thanks because, frankly, it’s not a muscle we have exercised very well in this culture.

Dennis:  No.

Bob:  But if you discipline that muscle, and if you practice the discipline, what’ll happen is—you’ll come to a point when you’ll get this kind of statement of thanks from a mature, young man, who has had a heart of thanksgiving cultivated in him through a regular practice.

Barbara:  Yes, and I just want to say a word to all the moms—that this is not that hard.  Now, the first year you do it, you may feel some resistance.  You may feel that it’s a little difficult, but it’s not a big project.  It’s not a huge thing.  It’s something that, I think, is very do-able.  So, I just want to encourage the moms because, so often, we hear all these great ideas—and all this wonderful stuff we can do in our family—and it can feel very overwhelming.  But I don’t think that this is an overwhelming thing. 

So, I want to encourage the moms that it can be done.



You can initiate it / you can orchestrate it. You’ll be glad you did.


Bob:  Well, we’ve been listening back to a conversation that took place almost a decade-and-a-half ago—back a long time ago—back 19 grandchildren ago, for you. 

Barbara:  That’s a lot of grandkids! 

Bob:  That is a lot of grandkids. 

Barbara:  How did that happen?  [Laughter]  I’m not sure how that happened. 

Bob:  That—when you have six kids—

Dennis:  I know how it happened.  [Laughter] 

Barbara:  Yes, I know. 

Bob:  But it is fun to go back and to remember what Thanksgiving was like and how you have been purposeful about that holiday for a long, long time in your family. 

Barbara:  Yes, I’m really glad that I did it.  It was born out of my love for history. I started watching some of the things that my children were learning in school about the first Thanksgiving and about the Pilgrims.  I thought, “I don’t think that sounds right.”  So, I started digging to find out if what I was thinking was right or if what they were learning was correct.



I began to find out that they weren’t learning the story exactly the way it happened. 

So, I was motivated, as a mom, to make sure that my children understood the true story of our beginnings in our country and, especially, that they understood the spiritual foundation—the biblical basis upon which these people, who came on the Mayflower, based their lives.  It just was very staggering to me the sacrifice they made and their faith in some pretty difficult circumstances. 

And I knew that—if my kids understood that / if they began to hear these stories—they might help them say: “Oh, my life is pretty good.  Oh, maybe, I should be grateful.”  So, that was the genesis of the story. It has become an important part of our Thanksgiving celebration ever since. 

Dennis:  We’ve almost made the Mayflower story out to be some kind of fantasy land—easy ride from England to America—and it’s anything but that.  



As you read what you’ve written in your book, Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember, you’ll be there in the lower decks—with the smells, and the seasickness, and the storms, and the moments of crisis that demanded faith among the Pilgrims.  You’ll realize that they were heroic—they were people of faith—and God was with them for them to be able to come to America and found this country. 

Bob:  Well, and of course, we’ve got copies of your book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center.  Listeners can go to to get more information about how to order Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember

We also have a link to your website—a lot of our listeners, over the last month, have received the chalkboard that you now have hanging—where is it hanging in your house? 

Barbara:  Well, I kind of move it around.  So, I can’t really answer that right now.  [Laughter] 

Bob:  You move the chalkboard around? 

Barbara:  Well, it’s small, and it has a rope.  You can hang it anywhere.  So, I’ve had it on my front porch to say, “Welcome,” to somebody who is coming home or coming to our house for dinner.



I’ve had it propped up in the kitchen against the backsplash on a kitchen counter and written thanks.  So, it does kind of move around in my house. 

Bob:  It’s in the shape of a house. 

Barbara:  House. 

Bob:  At the top, it says, “In this home we give thanks for”—then, you can write things you are thankful for. 

Barbara:  That’s right. 

Bob:  You can see the chalkboard and some of the other things Barbara has been working on when you go to our website,, and click in the upper left-hand corner of the screen, where it says, “GO DEEPER.”  There is a link to Ever Thine Home®—Barbara’s product line available there.  There is also information about her book, Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember. You can order, online, at; or you can call 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY,” and order resources, over the phone, if you’d like. 

Speaking of some of the resources you’ve designed, we’re making one of those resources a thank-you gift today to anybody who can help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  We are listener-supported / we are donor-dependent. 



If it weren’t for guys, like you, pitching in, FamilyLife Today could not exist.  So, we’re grateful for those of you—who either go online, or give us a call, or mail in a check to support the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  Your donations are what make this ministry possible. We are very grateful for those of you who pitch in to help support FamilyLife Today

We want to express our gratitude today, when you make a donation, by sending you a spool that has napkin ties on it.  Each napkin tie has a question printed on it.  So, it’s designed to make your Thanksgiving table look a little prettier, but also give you something to talk about during the Thanksgiving meal.  It’s called “Untie Your Story.” We’ll send it to you when you make a donation today to support the ministry. 

Donate, online, at  Click the button in the upper right-hand corner that says, “I Care,” to make an online donation; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY.  Make your donation over the phone.  Or you can mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO

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And our zip code is 72223.  Be sure to ask for the napkin ties when you get in touch with us so we’ll know to send those to you. 

And we hope you have a great weekend.  Hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend.  On Monday, Ted Cunningham is going to be here. We’re going to talk about how to make marriage fun again.  He’s written a book called Fun Loving You. He’ll share with us some of the ways he and his wife inject a little fun back into their marriage relationship.  So, 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

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

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