Stories: A Teaching Tool for Truth
About the Guest
Stories, like Jesus' parables, can illustrate truth like nothing else. Barbara Rainey talks about her latest resource for families, Growing Together in Truth, a compilation of seven stories designed to teach children of all ages how to live out God's truth.
Barbara RaineyAfter graduating from the University of Arkansas with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, Barbara joined the staff of Cru® in 1971. With her husband Dennis, whom she married in 1972, the Rainey’s cofounded FamilyLife®, a ministry committed to helping marriages and families survive and thrive in our generation. Barbara is a frequent speaker and guest on FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s award-winning nationally-syndicated daily radio broadcast. She is the author or coauthor of...more
Stories, like Jesus’ parables, can illustrate truth like nothing else.
Stories: A Teaching Tool for Truth
Bob: If our culture is to become even more hostile to Christianity than it is today, are your children going to be ready to stand firm? Here’s Barbara Rainey.
Barbara: Relativism is the mode of the day and, “Believe whatever you want to believe and it doesn’t really matter. If that’s what you believe, that’s good for you.” And I think that parents don’t really know how to combat that with their children. If we, as parents, aren’t imparting the value of knowing the truth to our children, they may not be able to stand strong when the situation calls for it.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, October 24th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I am Bob Lepine. We’ll talk today about how we can use compelling stories to help our children understand there really is absolute truth. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. When you’re at home and you come across an article in a magazine or something in the newspaper that you want to share with your spouse, do you say, “Listen to this,” and then read it to your spouse?
Bob: Or do yousay, “You’ve got to read this,” and hand it to them. Which do you do most often?
Dennis: I don’t know. Let’s ask her. (Laughter)
Bob: That’s a great idea! She is right here.
Barbara: I’m the one that’s giving you things to read all the time.
Bob: Do you do that? Do you give him the stuff to read or do you try to read it out loud to him?
Barbara: It depends. If it’s something that I just think, “It’s so great; I don’t want him to miss a word of it,” I’ll tear it out and say, “Here, you’ve got to read this.” But if it’s just the gist of the story that’s really great, sometimes I’ll just say, ”Here’s what it’s about,” and I’ll just tell him.
Bob: I more often than not will say to MaryAnn, “Come here. Let me read this to you.” Now I could just as easily hand it to her, but there’s something about me saying it to her that it’s like—
Dennis: You just like hearing yourself read!
Bob: Maybe that’s what it is! I’ve been doing radio for so long that just the sound of my voice— (Laughter)
Barbara: It’s comforting.
Bob: That’s sad. Alright, so we begin with that confession here at the beginning of today’s program. I was thinking about that because you’ve been working on a project—a series, over the last couple of years—a series of devotionals for families to use. The idea is that a mom or a dad would read these to the kids; right?
Barbara: That’s right.
Bob: We want to talk about the latest of those. But before we do that, many of our listeners may have been alerted to the fact that you’ve had some recent health challenges. We ought to get an update on how you’re doing. First of all, do you want to tell us about your diagnosis several months ago?
Barbara: Well, I just went in for a routine mammogram; and it was discovered that I had a small calcification, which I have since learned can sometimes indicate cancer cells. So we went through the biopsy, and then we did the lumpectomy. There were cancer cells there; but, gratefully for us, it was not invasive. It was contained and did not spread. It’s all good news.
So we went through that process and then for extra insurance did a six-week course of radiation just to make sure that there wasn’t a stray cell floating around somewhere.
Bob: And everything came through okay on that?
Barbara: Yes, it did.
Dennis: And both Barbara and I are aware of both friends and many of our listeners who have received—
Barbara: Much worse—
Dennis: Yes, in terms of news about breast cancer. It you’re going to have breast cancer, the kind Barbara had was the very best to get. It was non-invasive. It was a zero on a four-point scale. Honestly, with the radiation, her prognosis is very, very good.
Bob: Even with that, though, to receive the diagnosis—to have the doctor say, “Well, we did find...” I mean, as soon as you hear that, was it hard emotionally to process the news?
Barbara: Well, initially, it was just such a surprise. We don’t have a history, or I don’t have a history of cancer on my side of the family at all. So I really have sort of felt like that wasn’t going to be my issue. There might be other issues, but I just figured that wasn’t going to be one of them. So I was really unprepared, not that anybody ever is prepared; but it was quite a surprise to get that information. Even though they said, “It’s small, and it’s contained, and it’s noninvasive,” it’s just hard to hear the word, “cancer.”
Bob: Uh-huh. Was it hard for you?
Dennis: You know, initially, it was difficult to watch Barbara get sidelined emotionally and then have to weigh all that from a physical standpoint.
Bob: Was there fear? Because I know you’ve been through some health issues with Barbara before and wondered what the future held for that. Was there any fear for you with this?
Dennis: There was. When we got the news we were in southern California, visiting with some friends. We just kind of swallowed hard and kind of faced the future together. Barbara’s faced other health issues in our 39 years of marriage together—a heart problem, where her heart would race to over 300 beats a minute—one time for over eight hours. We got that fixed, and now we’ve moved on to a new challenge.
I think what made this kind of extra difficult to process was that within ten minutes of arriving home from meeting with the surgeon, our home was hit by a tornado. It was kind of symbolic in a way. I mean, 27 trees uprooted, snapped in half. A tornado passed right over our house and went on to become an F-4 tornado and nearly destroying a small town in Arkansas.
So, we really felt like her life—our lives—were spared that week. Part of the process, Bob, was realizing our mortality but, at the same time, the sovereign care of God to take some people while He leaves others. If He leaves you as clearly as He has—both in Barbara’s case with breast cancer, and in our case with a tornado—it is clear He’s got a job for us to do.
There’s still work that’s assigned to us and our lives are meant to be lived circumspectly and obediently before God to fulfill the mission that He has for us both as a woman, wife, mother and grandmother and as a man, husband, father, and a grandfather. We’re just acutely aware of that these days. We want to continue to profess Christ and fulfill our mission here as long as God gives us the privilege.
Bob: Well, it was in the middle of that diagnosis and the radiation treatment you were receiving that you were working on what is now the third in a series of devotional books that you’ve written for parents to share with their children. Each of these devotional books is built around a particular character theme; right?
Barbara: That’s right. One of the things that motivated me to do these books for families is my own experience. When we were raising our kids, we had a ten-year age span between the youngest and the oldest. When the youngest was five, the oldest was 15. Finding some material that we could use with a five-year-old that also worked with a 15-year-old was impossible. There just wasn’t anything on the market.
I remember the few things that I did find when the youngest was a little bit past five—the one thing that seemed to connect with my kids the best were stories. The stories that I found that I could read to my kids that gave them inspiration, that provided role models for them, that helped them think differently about life; and it wasn’t just coming from Mom and Dad.
So I’m really enjoying writing these because the stories that I’m finding are—they’re inspirational to me, they’re challenging, they’re hopeful, and they all focus on Christ. I think that they will be very helpful to families as they try to inspire their kids to live for the Kingdom.
Dennis: Bob, it’s been fun to watch Barbara work on these books because she’ll say, “Come in here!” And speaking of whether she reads something to me or hands something to me to read, she’ll say, “Let me tell you about this story.”
The thing that’s really fun in seeing her light up about this, is that it’s not just the story of heroism; but it’s the story and the human life she’s reading about illustrates great principles of faith and of character that she wants to pass on to the next generation, and not merely our children and grandchildren, but she wants to see—
Barbara’s really got a heart that parents are equipped to be able to tell these stories, and then talk about faith in just a normal way with their children, and interact around it, and call parents to be instructing their children, “How to live the Christian life.”
Bob: We did an interview years ago with a college professor and author who’d written a book called Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right from Wrong. I’ve never forgotten. He said one of the ways that you transmit morality to the next generation is through story and history. Kids learn how they ought to act by hearing great stories.
Bob: —and learning it from history, form historical examples.
Barbara: Exactly. I think—and all of us are that way. I don’t think it’s just children. I think adults are too. We think, “Oh, I remember hearing about this person; and if they can remain strong in the mist of what they faced, I can, too, because my situation is not as hard.” There’s something about having those role models, even if they’re not people that we know personally, even if it’s someone who lived 100 years ago or 500 years ago. It really gives us courage to keep going in the present tense by knowing the story of their life.
Bob: And by targeting a particular character quality, like you started off dealing with gratitude, you gave parents a tool there that they could either use seasonally around Thanksgiving or they could use it at any point in the life of a family when that issue emerges.
Barbara: (Laughter) Yes!
Dennis: You think there’s a need for that in families? There was in ours!
Bob: I think that book’s probably been used multiple occasions with a lot of children. And then after, you followed up the gratitude book with one on courage. I was real encouraged when I saw that World magazine had highlighted that book. They gave it a very favorable review and seemed to catch the idea of what you were talking about for how these books could be used with families.
Barbara: I was really encouraged by that, too. Because, as you said, the idea is that these would be stories that could be read over and over. So if you’re going through a season in your family’s life, where your children are particularly gripey, you pull that book off the shelf and, “Let’s read about Corrie ten Boom again and how they gave thanks in every situation, including a flea-ridden barracks.” It will take your kids’ focus on what’s so terrible about my situation and remind them, “Oh, it’s not that bad. I need to give thanks.”
Dennis: What I’ve seen, Bob, is as Barbara’s emphasized this, I’ve become aware of how all of us have stories where God has worked in our lives and we’ve done things that were courageous or we’ve demonstrated an attitude of gratitude in the midst of tough circumstances. We have stories that we can pass on to our children and our grandchildren. But we’ve become such a fast-paced culture—just moving from one thing to the next and everything in front of a screen—to stop, and ponder, and say, “What stories do I have of God working in my life that I can transmit, share, and tell about what God did for me, and for Barbara and I together as a couple, and for our family? What can we pass on to our kids?”
I honestly believe the internet is stealing away from us some of these moments of being able to just sit by the fire and tell a good story; and tell a story of your own humanity, and your own failure, and how God redeemed the situation in spite of you. It’s all a part of, I think, of how we pass on our faith to our children and our grandchildren.
Bob: I have seen the list of character qualities that you’d love to address in this ongoing series of books, and it’s a long list. When you got done with gratitude and with courage and you looked at that list, what bubbled to the top and why?
Barbara: The one that bubbled to the top next for me was to collect a bunch of stories that talk about truth. For several reasons I felt like truth was an important one for me to write about and for families to read about.
I think truth is being challenged in our culture probably as never before. Relativism is the mode of the day. “Believe whatever you want to believe, and it doesn’t really matter. If that’s what you believe that’s good for you.” I think that parents don’t really know how to combat that with their children.
So I wanted to find some stories that talked about the importance of knowing the truth and the importance of acting on the truth because I think our kids are going to need to face those issues. We don’t know what’s around the corner. We don’t know what life will be like in 10 or 15 years. Our kids may need to literally stand on the truth for their very lives. If we, as parents, aren’t imparting the value of knowing the truth—absolute truth to our children—they may not be able to stand strong when the situation calls for it.
Bob: You’re talking about something that goes beyond just teaching your kids not to tell lies.
Barbara: Yes, that’s right.
Bob: You’re talking about your children understanding that there are certain things that are immutable, that are not determined by cultural tides, but are true from the beginning to the end, whether we embrace those as true or not; right?
Barbara: That’s exactly right. I think that understanding that there is a bedrock of truth to the universe that God put in place, and that’s found in His Word, and how we teach that to our kids is really, really important. So, when you read stories of people whose lives were changed by the truth or who acted on the truth and God intervened in remarkable ways, it gives credence to knowing it and you go, “Oh. There really is value in knowing the truth.” It can change lives. It can change the course of a person’s life forever. I think that will help parents have those conversations with their kids as they’re growing up.
Dennis: Bob, one of the things that has been fascinating as I’ve watched Barbara grapple over which one of these to write on next—she really does have a long list. I think potentially there could be one for every week of the year.
Barbara: Oh, wow! (Laughter)
Dennis: I have a lot of faith in you, Honey!
Barbara: Yes, more than I have in myself!
Dennis: But she laid aside some of the gritty issues that a family faces—like writing about forgiveness, or generosity, or love, and she chose truth. I just want our audience to pause for a moment and think about how important this is.
When God formed a nation, what did He start with? The Ten Commandments. He started with absolute true commandments from God to man. Why? Because forming a nation of imperfect people, you needed a standard. You need something to call them to.
I’m going to tell you. I think it’s no different today in building a family. You think about what families need today. They’re getting all kinds of false messages, lies coming from TV, from the internet, from music, from peers. If there’s ever been a time when families needed to return to the truth, it’s today.
I’m thinking of John, Chapter 1, which is speaking of Jesus. Verse 14 says, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only son from the Father…” (Now listen to this—full of two things): “Full of grace and truth.” Really, truth makes grace necessary because there’s a standard. We are going to fail—so, we need grace.
But before you can talk about receiving grace and forgiveness, you first of all have to understand the truth of Scripture, the truth of God’s standards, the truth about God. To the average parent who is listening right now, this is a life and death issue for your family—to teach them and train them in truth, and to tell them great stories—great stories of people who embraced the truth, and it cost them. It cost them their lives. It may have cost them their families; but they still stood strong on behalf of the truth.
Barbara: And many of them were set free because they banked their lives on the truth. So it not only cost them, but it set them free. I think that’s the great hope of these stories.
Bob: We live in a culture today that does value grace. You’re rewarded if you’re full of grace.
Dennis: No doubt.
Bob: But if you’re full of truth—if you say, you know, “This is—I believe this is true, absolutely,” you will be punished for that. We have to address that with children and say, “You can expect persecution, tribulation, for embracing the truth.”
I was thinking about a couple of quotes. One was from—I think it was A. W. Tozer who said, “We need in our day today,” what he called, “a gentle dogmatism.” It is that grace and truth. It’s that standing firm, but with a winsomeness and a smile that’s not harsh, that’s not angry, but that says, “I can’t compromise. Here I stand. I can do no other.”
Barbara: That’s why stories are so beneficial because it allows us to tell the story and to relate it from another person’s life. It’s not Mom and Dad with their finger pointed in the kid’s face. Not that we don’t have to do that from time to time; but the stories allow us to talk about truth, and it’s very graceful.
Bob: The other quote I was thinking of came from C.S. Lewis, who, on July 19, 1940, was listening to the radio with a friend of his—and they were listening together to Hitler give a speech. Lewis later reflected in a letter to his brother. He said, “Listening to him, I was reminded that you can become persuaded that things you know are lies...you can become persuaded that they are true if somebody just says it with enough force.”
He went on to write the book, The Screwtape Letters, based on having heard Hitler and starting to feel like, “Maybe, that’s right.” He knew it wasn’t, but just hearing him say it—
Again, we live in a culture today where we’re hearing stuff said over and over again with force and passion; and people are just going, “Well, maybe, that’s true.”
Dennis: Bob, what you just said is so important today as moms and dads are raising children. How are they going to be able to spot a lie? If they don’t know the Bible and don’t know the truth about God and the truth of Scripture, then they can be seduced. You know what? We can be seduced! C. S. Lewis was feeling the tug of a lie.
So really what Barbara’s put together here is just another tool that FamilyLife wants to produce to put in the “toolbox” of a parent, that they can pull out and they can say, “You know, I want to shape my son’s and my daughter’s convictions. I want to help them not only know what’s right and wrong but have the courage to choose what’s right in the face of a lie and in the face of what’s wrong,”—and, then, to cheer your children on. Boy, there’s no better way to do that than to read a great story about someone who was 11or 12 years of age and who made an unimaginable heroic stand on truth. That’s one of the stories that Barbara tells in this book.
Bob: It’s been interesting, too, because this is the third book in your Growing Together series. People who have gotten the other books have, I know, come back to you and said, “We really appreciated the book on gratitude or the book on courage that you wrote. We read the stories to our children; and they really resonated with those stories, and remembered them, and brought them up months later.”
It may be that some of our listeners have not ordered the previous books in this series. The first was Growing Together in Gratitude, then Growing Together in Courage, and now the brand-new book is Growing Together in Truth. Of course, we have all three books in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Our listeners can go online for more information about all three of these books. Again, it’s FamilyLifeToday.com.
Actually, this week, we have the new Growing Together in Truth book available for listeners who will help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation. All you have to do is go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click on where it says, “Donate,” up on the upper right-hand corner. As you fill out the donation form, type the word, “TRUTH,” into the key code box on the online donation form; and we’ll send you a copy of Barbara Rainey’s brand-new devotional book, Growing Together in Truth.
Or call 1-800-FLTODAY. You can make a donation over the phone. Just ask for a copy of the new devotional called Growing Together in Truth. Again, if you need information about the entire series of devotionals, go to FamilyLifeToday.com or call us toll-free at 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY”; and we’ll get the books you need sent out to you.
Let me just say to those of you who do help support the ministry with a donation, we appreciate your financial support. Your donations help cover the syndication and production costs for FamilyLife Today, and we really think of you as partners and are glad to have you along as a part of the team. So, “Thanks,” for doing your part and making a donation.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to actually talk about a couple of the stories that are included in the Growing Together in Truth devotional. You may want to have the kids tuned in and listening so they can hear some of these stories as we talk about them tomorrow. I hope you can be back with us.
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 tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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