God’s Got Your Back
About the Guest
Dennis and Barbara Rainey, co-authors of The Art of Parenting and parents of six, talk about the joys and hard work of parenting. Dennis shares a heartwarming story from when his daughter Deborah was a teenager, and the lesson she learned through her wandering parakeet, Sweet Pea. Through the week the Raineys will talk about what every child needs: relationships, character, identity, and purpose or mission.
Dennis and Barbara RaineyDennis and Barbara Rainey cofounded FamilyLife®, a ministry of Cru®. Their 43+ years of leadership enabled FamilyLife to grow into a dynamic and vital ministry in more than 109 countries. Together they have spoken at over 150 Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways and authored or co-authored more than 35 books, including best-selling Moments Together for Couples, Staying Close, A Symphony in the Dark, and Barbara’s most recent, Letters to My Daughters: The Art of Being a Wife...more
Dennis and Barbara Rainey talk about the joys and hard work of parenting. Dennis shares a heartwarming story from when his daughter Deborah was a teenager.
God’s Got Your Back
Bob: When you have a newborn or there are toddlers around the house, it’s easy to get focused on the day-to-day and forget what the long game is in parenting. Here’s Dennis Rainey.
Dennis: Children are God’s statement that the next generation must take our place. What we must do is impart to our children the truth about God, the experience of God, and also the gospel of God—how they can know Him—that’s our assignment.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, September 5th. Our host is Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Okay; let’s pull back and look at the big picture: “What is it that we are supposed to do, as parents, as we raise the next generation? What’s the priority? What’s job one?” We’re going to talk about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I think I’ve heard you say—I don’t know if you’ve called it a mistake or not—but you said something about the fact that you wrote a book on parenting teenagers before you were done parenting teenagers.
Dennis: One of the big mistakes—
Bob: Okay; I just wanted to make sure. I didn’t want to put words in your mouth. [Laughter]
Dennis: —of our—of our lives.
Barbara joins us. Would you agree, Sweetie?
Barbara: Well, it was rather brash, I think, to write on parenting when we hadn’t finished.
Bob: The truth is—it’s a great book. The concepts in the book are solid, and I’ve referred to it many times as we were in the process of raising our kids.
Dennis: And we paid the price for many of those lessons, Bob; but we were not done raising teenagers. [Laughter] What we had to do, on numerous occasions, is go back and rip pages out or reread what we’ve written.
Bob: Well, now, here we are—and you have finished the process of raising your children—
—and you decided, “Okay; now, it’s safe to write a book on parenting,”—right?
Dennis: We did. This is something that I’ve wanted to do—actually, we’ve wanted to do since we were a part of starting FamilyLife®, all the way back to 1976. Barbara and I had been working with high school students nationwide, and we saw the need and really wanted to make an impact on teenagers and the next generation. The way we did that was by helping people stay married / have a good marriage; but also, ultimately, one day, I wanted to get to this topic of equipping parents to know how to do—not just marriage God’s way—but do parenting His way as well.
Bob: Barbara, I’ll ask you; and then I’ll ask you as well, Dennis. If you could only speak or write about one or the other—
Dennis: Oh, you’re going to do that to her?
Bob: —marriage or parenting?
Barbara: Oh, that’s a terrible question. [Laughter]
Bob: If I said, “For the rest of your life, you have to either talk about parenting or you have to talk about marriage,” which would you pick?
Dennis: I think—I know the answer.
Barbara: Well, I think I would have to say marriage, because not all couples have children; and if you don’t get your marriage right, you can’t get parenting right. So I would say marriage over parenting if I had to pick one—if you’re going to force me.
Dennis: And I thought she would have said motherhood.
Barbara: That wasn’t an option, though! [Laughter]
Bob: Well, that’s parenting.
Barbara: I’m very precise. Laughter]
Bob: Being a mom and raising kids has been a passion of your life.
Barbara: Well, yes; and I loved being a mom; I loved raising kids. It really was—it was stressful; it was hard, but it was rewarding. It was what I felt like I was made to do in those years that I was doing it. I was very engaged, very committed, very involved—reading things all the time—trying to improve, trying to be a great mom, trying to give my kids what they needed; so I was very invested.
Bob: If you had to pick?—marriage or parenting—and that’s all you could talk about / write about.
Dennis: Well, here’s the thing.
I have to answer the way Barbara did, because that’s where we have been focused over the past 41 years—we have been focusing on marriage. We have done a lot of parenting work—we’ve written a lot of books on parenting; we’ve had a conference that we created on parenting, which we mothballed until recently, Bob. You know that we’re finally getting a chance to roll this out—a parenting conference in a box, which is a small group kit to help folks know how to do the art of parenting, which is also the name of a book that Barbara and I just completed as well.
We’ve been wanting to get after this and do this for some time; and I’m excited, because these are some of the best days for FamilyLife to help families that have ever existed over four decades.
Bob: You have shared this story with our listeners before, but there’s a story from when you were raising your kids that kind of gets to the heart of the parenting issue; doesn’t it?
Dennis: It does.
Our daughter, Deborah, came to me one time—do you remember how old, Sweetheart, she was?
Barbara: No; but I would guess 13/14—early teens.
Dennis: Yes—just in that age that kind of knows it all, you know. She came and she said, “Dad, I want to be able to do what I want to do, with whoever I want to do it with, whenever I want to do it, for as long as I want to do it.” I said, “Really, sweetheart?!” [Laughter] I said, “What if your parakeet came to you,”—and the parakeet’s name was—
Barbara: —Sweet Pea.
Dennis: Sweet Pea—“Sweet Pea came to you and said, ‘I want to be able to do whatever I want to do, with whoever I want to do it, for as long as I can possibly do it,’ and Sweet Pea said to you, ‘I’d like to go out on the porch and play with the cat.’ What would you say?” She said: “Oh, Dad! That’s silly!”
Barbara: “That’s dumb.”
Dennis: “That’s dumb.”
Barbara: She was disgusted with him.
Dennis: She was. And I said: “Here’s the thing.
“God’s given you parents to help—not cage you up—but to create boundaries that protect you. Sweet Pea doesn’t need to play with the cat.”
It was just the beginning of the teenage years for Deborah; in all fairness to her, in some form or another, all six of ours asked a question very, very similar to that.
Bob: Well, every adolescent asks that question. You asked the question—
Barbara: Well, even if they don’t verbalize it, they feel it; and it’s what they want.
Bob: It’s this emerging independence—we want to call the shots—all of us felt it; so I’m not surprised that Deborah felt that way, but she did not respond well to the Sweet Pea analogy that you used.
Dennis: No; and God, in His sense of humor—God is so mischievous, and I mean that in a holy way—not evil—just holy mischievous. [Laughter] He has a way of getting our attention.
Not long after that, we had the opportunity to travel, as a family. We needed to find someone that would take care of Sweet Pea, so we got a nearby family to take care of our favorite parakeet.
Barbara: So a family down the street that we knew well—some of our kids matched up and they played together—we called them and asked them. They said, “Sure,” they’d be delighted to. But we couldn’t make the handoff occur before we left, so we left Sweet Pea in the cage in the house. They came by later that day—after we’d left town, gotten on our plane, and flown off—to pick up Sweet Pea, and keep the bird for the week, and get the bird feed and everything.
One of the younger kids in the family was tasked with the responsibility of taking care of the bird that week. He was going to earn a little money by doing this—we were going to pay him. So anyway, they came to the house, got the bird, got the parakeet cage, and the food and everything, and they were walking out to their car.
It was January, too, by the way, which is an interesting piece of the story; because, as they walked from our front door to their car, the tray on the bottom of the parakeet cage came unhooked.
It dropped open; and the bird saw his chance at freedom, and dropped through, and took off flying up into the trees. He got his freedom sooner than expected.
Bob: I can only imagine those parents in your front yard, looking at the parakeet in the tree and going, “What do we do?”
Barbara: I know. Yes; my friend’s name was Jessica, and she just was panicked. She went, “Oh my.” So they tried to coax it down. They put food in their hands and offered food, you know, trying to get the bird to come down; and nothing worked. They tried for nearly an hour, and the bird was in the tree and was not coming down.
Dennis: So, we’re away on our trip when we get the phone call that the parakeet had flown the coop, literally; okay? We tried to time the telling of the story to Deborah—
—when it would perhaps be a little bit of a shock absorber—but there was no good time to tell her. This completely bummed her up.
Dennis: I mean, the rest of the trip was miserable.
Well, how long passed, Barbara?
Barbara: Just a couple of days—say we got home on a Friday; maybe on Monday morning our neighbor, who lives up the hill—he called. Dennis had gone to work; it was about ten or eleven in the morning—the kids were off at school, and I was home alone. He called and said, “I have something really interesting I want to ask you.” He said, “Do you guys have a parakeet?” I said, “Well, we did have a parakeet.” He said, “Oh, okay.” He begins to tell me this story about how he found Sweet Pea, and I was so amazed that the bird had survived.
Dennis: He found Sweet Pea where?
Barbara: Well, that’s a part of the story. [Laughter] I called Dennis and I told him—I said, “Our neighbor has Sweet Pea.” He said, “You’re kidding.”
Deborah was not happy; so I wanted to go get her at school, and pull her out of class, and tell her. Dennis said, “Don’t you dare go tell her.” He said, “We need to make a big impression on her about what happened and how God spared this parakeet for her.” I said, “Okay; great”; so I didn’t go tell her.
Dennis: What happened was—Bob, our neighbor, was watching TV, and he heard a thump on the window. Bob just walks out, sticks his finger up in the air, kind of horizontal to the ground, and Sweet Pea flies right down to it.
Barbara: He turns around and walks in the house, carrying the bird.
Dennis: Well, that was how we would get Sweet Pea to land on us, just put the finger up horizontally and let the bird fly down. So he put Sweet Pea in a spare cage that they had—
Barbara: They just happened to have a cage!
Dennis: —and went to town to get some parakeet food.
Barbara: Yes; and so while he was in town to get parakeet food, after he got what he needed at the pet store, he stopped at a yogurt place on the way home. It was real busy, so he had to stand in line. Bob’s very chatty/very conversational, so he started talking to the guy in front of him.
As they were talking, the guy said to him, “So, what are you doing today?” Bob said, “Oh, I had to come into town to get parakeet feed for this bird that I found.” The guy said, “Well, where do you live?” Bob told him where he lived; and the guy said, “Is that anywhere near the Raineys?” Bob said, “Yes; I live next door to them.” The guy said: “Oh. I’m the kids’ youth pastor.” He said, “I think they have a parakeet,” because Bob had said—for this parakeet that he found—he had no idea where it had come from.
Dennis: That’s 15 miles from where we live—
Barbara: —that yogurt store; yes.
Dennis: —the yogurt place.
Barbara: Bob goes, “Oh, well maybe that is where it came from.” When he called Monday morning, he was confirming, “Do you have a parakeet that is now missing?—because if you do, I have it.”
Dennis: I told Barbara—I said, “After dinner, let’s just drive the point home with Deborah.” After dinner, I just stopped, and I looked at Deborah, and I said [emotion in voice], “Deborah, God really loves you.”
Barbara: And she was still not happy.
Dennis: No; not happy at all. She wouldn’t look at me. I said: “Deborah, look at me. God really loves you.” She still wouldn’t look. I said: “Deborah, God loves you. Bob, our neighbor, has your parakeet.”
Well, at that point, two things happened. First of all, our daughter, Laura, had been sitting with her head—
Barbara: Well, the very first time you said to Deborah: “I want to tell you something. Can I tell you that God really loves you?” Laura piped up and said, “Do I have to listen to this?” [Laughter] Because she knew that her dad was about to talk to her sister about something—
Bob: —some story.
Barbara: —some lesson, because she was not happy. [Laughter] She’s thinking: “This isn’t about me. Why do I have to be here?” So she said, “Do I have to listen to this?”
Dennis said, “You do have to listen to this,” and Laura went, “Ooh!”
Dennis: So, at the point I told Deborah that the parakeet was up the hill with Bob—
—Laura screamed and said, “What?!” And Deborah slowly—
Barbara: Yes; like an ice cube.
Dennis: —almost imperceptibly, at a point, began to smile.
Barbara: She was real skeptical—she said, “Really?”
Dennis: Yes; we walked up—
Barbara: All four of us marched up the hill to the neighbors’—
Dennis: —reclaimed the bird, put Sweet Pea back in her home, and all was well. But we just said, “Deborah, God really loves you and is looking out for you.”
Bob: So, do you think Deborah every tied together the moral of the story?—that you don’t let the parakeet out of the cage?
Barbara: —to go play with the cat?
Bob: —to go play with the cat?
Dennis: You know, I resisted—[Laughter]—giving the moral of the story!
Bob: I’m a little surprised! Are you a little surprised that he resisted? [Laughter]
Dennis: Keith, our engineer, is surprised! I mean, it was so obvious; it was just so obvious.
Barbara: Well, it was so obvious that it was God—because it was January; the parakeet had been outside for over 24 hours; it was really cold—so that it actually survived the night, and then showed up at our neighbors’ and banged on his window and not ours, where nobody was home—I mean, so many things.
And then, that Bob would run into that youth group guy—I mean, Bob never went to church. He didn’t know where we went to church. I mean, it was so obvious that God was all over this story that I think we knew that somehow this was going to sink in; somehow—whether we said anything or not—it was just too big for her to miss it.
Bob: So, the moral of the story for parents is: “God has your back”?
Bob: Is that it?
Barbara: Yes; that is it.
Dennis: I mean, you know, Deuteronomy 6 comes right after the giving of the Ten Commandments; and right after those commandments are given, God commands the parents of Israel—
—He says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and you shall teach your children to do the same.”
Parenting is God’s idea; He loves our kids more than we do. As parents, so many times we feel so helpless; but God does care about our kids. Now, He may not do it in our timing; but He does have a way of getting our children’s attention, because, really, children are God’s statement that the next generation must take our place. What we must do is impart to our children the truth about God, the experience of God, and also the gospel of God—how they can know Him.
That’s our assignment, Bob; and that’s really why Barbara and I wrote the book, The Art of Parenting. We want to call a generation of parents—and there are some 16 million millennial parents right now—another one million have been added this past year—who are raising their kids according to some kind of plan.
The question is: “Is it the best-selling-book-in-history plan?—is it the Bible?”
What we want to do—and what we’ve done in the book—is break down the Scriptures and give folks some very simple, practical ways—but biblically-anchored—of how to raise the next generation.
Bob: I have found that parents, who are interested in parenting material—whether it’s a video series, or a book, or even what we’re talking about on the radio—if it’s focused on parenting, they tend to be new parents who are aware that they’re in over their head; because it doesn’t take long, after you’ve had a child, before you go, “Oh, I don’t know everything I’m supposed to be doing.” By the time parents are raising teenagers, I think a lot of them think, “Well, if we haven’t gotten it by now, there’s no hope for us.”
You wrote this book with new parents and parents of teens in mind—
—this is for everybody who’s still in the midst of trying to raise their kids; right?
Barbara: Exactly. If you still have children at home, even if it’s one who is 17, there is something for you in this book; because it’s never too late. That’s one of the big messages that we want to send—that: “It’s never too late to impact your kids for Christ. It’s never too late to make investments in their lives for things that will last forever.”
We feel it more acutely, I think, with newborns, and toddlers, and preschoolers; because it’s so new and fresh; and we’re so acutely aware of what we’re missing. We’re much more worn down when our kids get to be teenagers, and it’s easy to give up. But God doesn’t want us to give up, because He’s always available and wants to intersect our kids’ lives at any stage so that we come to Him.
Bob: But you know parents, in the midst of the teen years—they get exhausted / they get discouraged—they think, “If we haven’t figured it out by now, it’s helpless for us to figure it out.”
Dennis: That really is a lie. We know the feeling—we’ve experienced that feeling. In fact, yesterday, Barbara talked to one our children—adult children—who has a teenager or two, and our daughter was discouraged. Just going through the teenage years had just sapped her strength and her courage. What we want to do, Bob, is—we want to give parents courage to hang in there / not quit.
Basically, what we’ve broken parenting down into are really four areas. Number one: relationships—relationship with God and with one another. That’s our assignment—to train our kids to know how to relate to God properly and also how to get along with human beings.
Secondly, character—that’s the Book of Proverbs—being wise and not a fool; choosing right and not wrong. That’s a big part of being parents today—equipping children with boundaries.
The third area is identity.
Listen to me—there is identity theft taking place today that is far more important than somebody stealing your credit card. There is a sexual identity theft, a spiritual identity theft, and also an emotional identity theft that we talk about in the book to help parents know how to raise kids, who reflect who God is.
Finally, there’s a child’s purpose—that’s their mission. We believe a child was designed by God to be raised and then released—released toward the bull’s eye on the target that God has for them. If you’re not sending your child to that destination on purpose, the world does have a plan for your child; and it’s not a good plan.
Bob: These four areas you came to after spending months poring through the Scriptures to say, “What does the Bible say about parenting?”
Dennis: Actually, years, Bob; because I spent the better part of one year studying the Scriptures, and Barbara and I would talk about it.
But over the next 25 years, we confirmed it. Over, and over, and over again, these four areas really were distilled down into the essence of what God’s trying to do in our lives.
One last story before we’re done here. In writing the book, we had to decide how to start the book. We asked Deborah for permission to tell this story, and we were at the Creation Museum with 13 of our grandkids and 5 of our adult children and their spouses. We had a little time each evening where Papa—where Papa would have a little lesson for the kids of what they’d seen at the Ark or what they’d seen at the Creation Museum.
I said, “I have a little story I’d like to read.” I pulled open the manuscript on my computer and I began to read this story. Deborah’s two daughters were in the room—they were all ears.
They were listening, because—one’s about ten and the other’s about six or seven—and they’re just nearing that time when they’re going to want to go do whatever they want to go do, with whoever they want to it with, for as long as they want. Deborah was just grinning, because she’s a great mom and is doing a great job at those kids.
Bob: Well, and hearing you tell that story—and then thinking about what Deborah shared as part of the Art of Parenting™ video series—some of her comments are priceless. I know some of our listeners have had a chance to start going through the Art of Parenting series. It’s available as a free online video series for folks to go through. A lot of people are getting the small group kit and planning small groups for this fall, where they can go through this content.
And of course, your book—we’re expecting it any day now, here, at FamilyLife®. If our listeners would like to pre-order, they can go online at FamilyLifeToday.com; or they can call 1-800-FL-TODAY and get a copy of the brand-new Art of Parenting book from Dennis and Barbara Rainey. Again, you can order, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. That’s where you can also get information about the Art of Parenting course, online, or about the small group kit; or you can call if you have any questions: 1-800-FL-TODAY is our number—1-800-358-6329—1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
We’re going to be talking about parenting tomorrow night. For those of you who are FamilyLife Today Legacy Partners—remember that tomorrow night, at 7 o’ clock Central time, you’ll be getting a phone call from us. You’ll be a part of an event, where we can interact together—you can ask questions.
It’s going to be kind of a big town hall meeting—a virtual parenting Q&A session that we’ll be doing.
Dennis and Barbara will be here; FamilyLife’s new President, David Robins, and his Meg will be here; I’ll be here as well. We’ll be talking about everything from screen time to discipline. If you have questions you want to ask about parenting, be sure to join us for the Legacy Partner Connect event tomorrow night at 7 o’ clock Central time. Again, you’ll get a phone call if you are signed up for the event. If you’re a Legacy Partner, and you’re not signed up for the event—or if you’d like to find out about becoming a Legacy Partner and join us for the event—call 1-800-FL-TODAY and say, “How do I get in on that parenting phone call tomorrow night with Dennis and Barbara Rainey?”
This just a part of the way that we want to say, “Thank you,” to those of you who are regular supporters of this ministry as monthly Legacy Partners. All that we do, here, at FamilyLife Today we couldn’t do without you. In fact, if you’re listening to FamilyLife Today, and you’ve benefitted from this program, you really have our Legacy Partners to thank for all of this—they make this program possible.
So on behalf of our regular listeners, I want to say to our Legacy Partners: “Thank you for partnering with us, and we hope to talk to you tomorrow night.”
And we hope you can all be back tomorrow when we’re going to continue our conversation about parenting with Dennis and Barbara Rainey. We’re going to talk about job one: “What is the big picture assignment for us, as parents, as we raise our children?” 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; a Cru® Ministry.
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