About the Guest
November is the month for thankfulness. But it shouldn't stop there. Barbara Rainey, wife of Dennis Rainey and creator of the Ever Thine Home® line of resources, encourages listeners to practice thankfulness all year long. Barbara recalls how she and Dennis prompted their own children to be thankful by initiating mealtime prayers, learning Scripture songs, and writing thank you notes to those who had blessed them.
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
November is the month for thankfulness. But it shouldn’t stop there. Barbara Rainey encourages listeners to practice thankfulness all year long.
Bob: Sooner or later, just about every parent has his child memorize Philippians 2:14: “Do everything without grumbling or disputing.” Here’s Barbara Rainey.
Barbara: What was interesting is—I remember teaching our kids to memorize that, and they did. They memorized it, and they recited it back for us; but it wasn’t a magic cure. I really expected a little bit more from the memorization of that verse; but it just illustrates, again, that giving thanks and not complaining is a choice. So, you can memorize the verse or you can memorize the song, but the choice is still one we have to make in our hearts.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, November 4th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. So, could your kids use a little more gratitude / a little more thankfulness? We’ll have some suggestions for you on how to cultivate a spirit of thanksgiving in your home. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition. So, when I say, “‘Tis the season to be…,” what do you answer? What comes to mind immediately?
Dennis: To have your credit card. [Laughter]
Bob: Everybody else was saying, “jolly”—“‘Tis the season to be jolly.”
Dennis: I’m a nonconformist, Bob.
Barbara: No, no, no.
Dennis: I’m not going with jolly on that one.
Bob: Actually, it’s too early to say, “‘Tis the season to be jolly.” This is actually the season to be grateful.
Dennis: I was wondering why you started with that.
Bob: Well, because—
Dennis: Did you get your calendar confused?
Bob: No, but you’re hearing it in the stores already. They forget that Thanksgiving even happens.
Dennis: Oh, it has started, back in August—
Bob: That’s right.
Dennis: —they started playing Christmas music.
Well, we have someone with us—not just anyone—my bride of 43 years—count them. Barbara Rainey joins us on FamilyLife Today. Sweetheart, welcome to the broadcast.
Barbara: Glad to be here, as always.
Dennis: She needs no introduction to our audience; but I asked her to come in here, Bob, because she has a unique passion to help families celebrate the holidays and do it the way God, I think, wants us to celebrate the holidays.
Bob: So, what do you mean by “…how God wants us to celebrate holidays”?
Dennis: Well, Thanksgiving, at the beginning of the word, has the word, “thanks.” I happen to know because I’ve spent a little time with our guest on the broadcast today. She’s done a little study in the Bible about how many times gratitude, thanks, thanksgiving, are mentioned in the Bible—
Barbara: It’s a lot.
Dennis: How many times in the Old Testament?
Barbara: Like over 200 times in the Old Testament, and 60-something in the New Testament.
Dennis: I mean, I think God’s got a point He’s trying to make. He wants us to practice thanksgiving, not just one day a year on the calendar.
Bob: Yes. We shouldn’t really say that November is the season to be grateful or thankful because, really, every day, we’re supposed to be grateful and be thankful.
This is supposed to be a way of life for us; right?
Barbara: Exactly. I think God wants us to be thankful every single day. I mean, there are plenty of verses that command us to give thanks and to be thankful—to be thankful people. I think the month of November reminds us about that; but God is our Father, and He wants us to be grateful for all that He has done for us. When we learn to recognize what He’s done and we become aware of what He’s done, then, thanksgiving is the natural response.
Bob: You are a fan of Ann Voskamp’s book, A Thousand Gifts.
Bob: Did it surprise you that it struck a chord with so many people?
Barbara: You know, initially, I think it did; but when you look at the topic and the kinds of things that she wrote about being thankful for—like the soap bubbles in her sink and just little things—I think it really struck a chord, especially with moms because moms are so overworked and so busy.
I remember, as a mom, wishing that my kids would just occasionally say: “Thanks for dinner,” “Thanks for doing my laundry,” “Thanks for something.” So, I think moms resonated with her book because she found a way, in the midst of her messiness of being a mom to six, to find a thousand things for which to give thanks.
Bob: It doesn’t hurt—you know, I said we ought to be thankful every day—but it doesn’t hurt to have a day on the calendar that kind of draws your attention back to this and to have a season, as we head up to Thanksgiving, where we stop to think, “How am I doing in the area of gratitude?”
Barbara: Yes, I think it helps a lot. I mean, it’s really a wonderful thing that we have the entire of month of November, where people are starting to think about the concept of thankfulness, and gratitude, and gathering together to give thanks. I mean, it really is a benefit to us that we collectively—in our country, anyway—think about the topic of thanksgiving for an entire month.
Dennis: And I think, too, it’s interesting how families need help here. Our family was not necessarily a grateful family. It wasn’t like they were born, saying, “Thanks, Mom, for doing…”
Bob: Well, none of us are. I mean, nobody is born naturally—
Bob: —grateful. That’s why God has to put so many times in His Word: “Be thankful. Be thankful. Be thankful.”
Dennis: And it’s why God gave parents children. He gave children to us to train them. The family is the finest incubator for equipping your children to know how to give thanks in the midst of a lifetime that is going to throw them some curves. They’re going to be facing some circumstances, where they better know who God is; and this is how we learn who He is.
Bob: You mentioned that you wished your kids would just periodically say, “Thanks,” for the meal or something. Is that primarily because you wanted a little appreciation or because you knew how important it was for them to develop gratitude as a part of their character?
Barbara: Honestly, I think it was both. I think, as a mom—I just was thinking back over this—and parents / moms and dads, but especially moms—give their lives for their kids. We’re just naturally sacrificial—denying ourselves, serving our kids, getting up in the middle of the night—all of that stuff. So, I think there is a sense in which I wished for a little bit of appreciation.
But as I’ve thought about it, it’s not just because I wanted to be thanked—although that was a part of it—but it was more because I wanted them to recognize that the reason I was doing everything that I was doing for them was because I loved them so much. I wasn’t doing it out of duty. I did what I did for my children because I desperately loved them, and I wanted them to know that I loved them. So, their recognizing the things that I did would have been a way for me to understand that that they got it.
But I also wanted them to be thankful because I knew how important it was for them to have an attitude that accepted what came into their lives from the hand of God. That has to be trained in our kids because, as we said earlier, being grateful is not natural to any of us. It was a combination of both of those things.
Dennis: And I don’t want our listeners to miss what Barbara just said there: “Circumstances are a natural opportunity to train your children that there is a God. He is the Lord God Almighty, He is the Father of Jesus Christ, the One who sent the Holy Spirit, He is the One who gave us the Bible. He can be trusted in the midst of circumstances that aren’t fun, that are hard, that are difficult—and sometimes, they are ‘the valley of the shadow of death [Psalm 23:4].’”
Bob: There is a reason why this character quality of gratitude is important. It does go beyond manners. It really has to do with how you view life, and God, and circumstances.
Your whole worldview is connected to whether you are a grateful person or not; right?
Barbara: Exactly; because, if you’re not grateful, then, in essence, you’re shaking your fist at God—you’re not acknowledging that He is the sovereign ruler of the universe—but if you believe He is the sovereign ruler of the universe / if you believe He really is in control and He really does love you, then, everything that comes to you is an occasion to give thanks. But we have to make ourselves do that because we don’t always like everything that happens in our lives.
Being grateful is a choice. It’s choosing to acknowledge that God is in control; and what is happening to me is coming from Him, and it’s for my good. Learning to say, “Thanks,”—to be grateful and to express that—it’s a habit, but it’s a habit that has to be practiced.
Dennis: And what we’re saying here is—we’re not just training children to be polite or just to say, “Thank you,” when someone serves them or does something kind to them—
—we are actually wanting to train our children in knowing how to think about life. You think rightly about life when you know who God is.
And it’s interesting—the word, thankfulness, actually comes from another word that we use when we bow our heads to pray over a meal.
Barbara: Yes, the root word for the words, “thankful,” or “thanksgiving,” is the word grace. I didn’t know that until I started working on this. I thought that was really interesting because we all know that word is commonly used when we talk about blessing the food or asking God to bless the food that is set before us—we say, “Are you going to say grace?” or “Will you say grace?”
And it’s interesting that that word is there because it is a part of what it means to be thankful. It means to acknowledge the grace that God has given us.
Bob: Grace is God’s unmerited favor—it’s getting what we don’t deserve. When we are saying grace before a meal, we’re saying, “I’m getting something I don’t deserve.”
To be fed each day is a gift from God.
Dennis: And it’s so easy in America, Bob, to take meals for granted because—
Bob: “I think I do deserve this. I worked hard for it!”
Dennis: You know, we are questioning whether it’s got pickles on it or maybe if they removed the onions. I mean, we’re more caught up with what we have to eat rather than the attitude of our hearts around giving thanks for what we’re eating.
Bob: When our kids were little, there was a verse from Philippians that was put to music that we all sang along and taught them to sing. It’s the verse that says [singing], “Do everything without complaining;”—you know that one? “Do everything without arguing so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God.” And we reminded our kids of that verse somewhat regularly.
Barbara: Yes, we did too—except we didn’t teach them to sing it.
Bob: —to sing it?
Barbara: Well, we don’t have the singing genes in our family like you do. [Laughter]
I’m glad you sang it for our listeners; but we did make our kids memorize it because we really got tired of the complaining and the grumbling about what they had to do, what they had to wear, what they didn’t have.
What was interesting is—that I remember teaching our kids to memorize that, and they did. They memorized it, and they recited it back for us; but it wasn’t a magic cure. I really expected a little bit more from the memorization of that verse; but it just illustrates, again, that giving thanks and not complaining is a choice. So, you can memorize the verse or you can memorize the song; but the choice is still one we have to make in our hearts.
Bob: Here’s what’s interesting to me—is that, in that verse, God ties together—if you are complaining and arguing, that somehow works against you being blameless and pure children of God—but if you are grateful, thankful / not grumbling, not arguing—that somehow conforms you more and more to the image of Christ. I mean, Jesus was not a grumbler/a complainer. He didn’t argue, and He didn’t—
—He was grateful for the mission that God had sent Him on, even though He knew what the mission was.
Dennis: You are talking about something here I wish that, at least, I’d had a better understanding of when we raised our kids. When you do give thanks in a circumstance that is negative—something that hasn’t gone your way—if you could begin to view that as: “This is a tiny, little laboratory, where you are schooling your children in how to view circumstances that don’t go their way to teach them the truth about God.”
And I think most parents—we miss, sometimes, some of the big picture ideas that God has for us / some of the great privileges—we have the privilege of introducing our children to Jesus Christ and the truth about Him. And giving thanks to God, in a circumstance that doesn’t make sense to us, says to God: “You know what You are doing. I’m going to trust You with this; and by faith, I will give thanks.”
Barbara: And that’s what parents need to do. Dennis and I tried to do that—we didn’t do it perfectly, by any means—
—but moms and dads need to realize that they are the model. We have to model it for our kids so that they can see it, catch it, and then, want to do what they saw mom and dad doing.
Dennis: On the other hand, when you don’t give thanks—and you gripe and you grumble / or you have a dispute around something that didn’t go your way—it’s also an opportunity to turn to your kids and say: “Dad blew it. I’m sorry.” And I have to admit, Bob, I admitted that on more than one occasion to my kids—as they watched me, not necessarily process things by faith—instead, they watched me process them emotionally.
Bob: So, they said to you, “Do everything without complaining, Dad—without grumbling.”
Dennis: “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, Dad.” I did get some of those verses back at me. [Laughter]
Bob: Barbara, we said that this is more than just manners; but there is a manners component.
Bob: I mean, training our kids to say, “Please,” and “Thank you,” is a part of helping them cultivate the right view of life and of gratitude.
Barbara: Well, we need to train our kids to recognize that—when someone gives them a gift, or someone hands them a cupcake at a birthday party, or Grandma and Grandpa come and give them something—they need to be trained to say, “Thank you,” because, as we’ve already said, “It’s not natural.”
That was a really big thing for me—was to teach our kids to say, “Thank you,” whenever they were given something, or helped, or served. And there were plenty of times when our kids said, “Uh, thanks”; or they said it, and you could tell it wasn’t really heartfelt. But it just doesn’t matter because it’s the training that matters. Over a long time, they will eventually get it.
One of the other things that I was insistent on with my kids is that they write thank-you notes to their grandparents at Christmas after they got a Christmas gift, or on their birthdays after they got something for their birthday; because I wanted them, again, to learn to express gratitude and thanks to the people who gave them something.
It’s interesting to see, now, that my kids/our kids, as adults, are training their children to write thank-you notes. I love getting these little thank-you notes from our grandkids in the mail: “Thank you, Mimi and Papa, for the present you sent,” because I know that they caught that / they got it, even though they didn’t always enjoy doing it. They complained because I made them write thank-you notes; but now, they are doing it with their children.
Dennis: And it really is fun to see it come back—to hear our sons and daughters and sons-in-law and daughters-in-law training our grandkids to be able to do this. In fact, we recently gave a birthday present to one of our—actually, two of our granddaughters. What we do, Bob, is—we have some fun with this. I don’t know when this happened, when I was a boy; but one of my aunts or uncles gave me a $2 bill for a birthday present. We got the idea of going to the bank and getting some fresh ones that are crisp—
—brand-new $2 bills. A lot of kids—
Bob: They still have them at the bank?!
Barbara: They still have them at the bank.
Dennis: They still have them—oh, yes. Oh, yes.
Barbara: I never see them in circulation.
Dennis: You may have to order them—
Dennis: —may not be able to just walk in and get them, but they can get the $2 bills for you. We tape them—actually, Barbara tapes them. So, you get a child who is ten years old—and there are ten $2 bills taped—
Barbara: —taped together in a long row.
Dennis: —to each other. They were holding these things up, grinning so big and expressing appreciation and gratitude. It really is fun to get the notes in the mail later—they’re getting it. Their parents are training them; and generationally, it’s passed on.
Bob: You’ve worked to really try to develop some resources for parents to help them help their kids become more grateful. What kinds of things have you created?
Barbara: Well, we’ve got several things that are centered on the topic of gratitude. Two of the easiest for me—one of my favorite things to do with our kids is to read to our kids.
I loved reading stories to them.
So, one of the things that we have that will help parents today—help moms and dads—is a book that focuses on gratitude. It’s called Growing Together in Gratitude. There are seven stories in that book that you can read aloud. They cover a wide age range. So, if you’ve got a 16-year-old and a 6-year-old, they can both listen to the story.
The good thing about reading stories out loud is that it takes you somewhere else. It takes you away from your circumstances that you are in; and it takes you into somebody else’s life. It helps you, for a few moments, experience what that person experienced. So, when you read this to your kids and they hear about these people who faced a circumstance that your kids have never faced before—something that really sounds very, very difficult—and yet, they read about how this person gave thanks in the midst of that, someday, they may go back to that in their mind.
They may think, “Oh, if Corrie ten Boom could give thanks, sitting in a concentration camp, maybe, I should give thanks in my situation.”
A very, very easy way to begin to model gratitude at home is to read stories of other people—of heroes of the faith—who demonstrated gratitude. That will begin to give your kids a vision for what being a grateful person looks like.
Dennis: There are seven stories in here. Because Barbara was a history major, she knows where to find the great stories. And here are some the lessons they pass on:
Giving thanks for discomfort. Do kids need to learn that?—absolutely!
Finding the good in the bad. Do kids have bad things that happen to them?—yes, just like we, as adults, do.
Being thankful when you’ve been betrayed.
Another one—being thankful for limitations.
Still yet another one—
—being thankful for providence.
Being thankful for deliverance.
And, finally, being thankful when there is no rescue. A lot of times, you’re not going to be delivered. The purpose of the lesson is: “There’s going to be pain and learning a lesson through pain. You’ve got to learn to give thanks in those circumstances too.”
Bob: Well, you also wrote a book that’s all about the very first Thanksgiving that, again, has, at its core, this whole idea of gratitude in the midst of hardships; right?
Barbara: Yes. I wrote a book because I felt like my kids/our kids weren’t learning the real story of the Pilgrims and their faith in schools. Or if they were getting it, they were just getting little snippets. There was so much more to the story. After doing a lot of research, I put this together. The book is called Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember. It’s the story of the Pilgrims and their first Thanksgiving—how they came over on the Mayflower / how the conditions were awful; but they didn’t complain.
They gave thanks / they praised God—they worshiped God.
I mean, we can’t even imagine the kind of circumstances in which they lived. When they landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620, there was nothing there. There were no hotels. There were no grocery stores. There were no stores to buy new clothes or to buy blankets or anything. I mean, they landed, and there was nothing; and it was winter.
So, when you read these stories to your kids—just like the seven stories in the other book—your children—again, they hear the truth of how someone else went through difficult times and yet gave thanks on the other side. For those moments that you’re reading this story out loud—and we’ve done this for years with our kids / we’ve read this story over and over and over again. I think the beauty of reading stories out loud together is that, for a moment, everyone who is listening to this story is transported to the deck of the Mayflower. You can imagine what that must have been like—
—to be cold, and wet, and sleeping in the hull of a rocking ship—or you’re transported to land, and you’re looking at the rations that we just can’t even imagine staying alive on. And you think about the number of people who died.
So, all of you, together, as you are reading these stories, you are imagining, “What must that have been like?” Then, to know that they gave thanks in the midst of it—I mean, it’s a great lesson for our kids. It’s a great reminder to them that they are sitting in a warm house, with lots of food, they’ve got beds, and they have got clothes. All of a sudden, it puts their lives in perspective. They realize, “Oh, I do have a lot to be thankful for.”
Bob: You know, our team put together an audio version of your book, Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember. I’ve talked to a lot of moms and dads, who—on the family trip at Thanksgiving—when they went back to Grandma and Grandpa’s house or wherever they went over the Thanksgiving holiday—
—they used that story as a part of their drive and got a chance to listen together, as a family, to what the experience was for the Pilgrims as they resettled in America. We’ve got both the hardback edition of the book and the audio book on CD available. If our listeners are interested in either edition, they can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER.”
There are other resources, Barbara—that you’ve been working on—to help encourage moms and dads to cultivate thankfulness in their children’s hearts during November. We’ve got links to those resources on our website as well. So, go to FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can order by calling 1-800-FL-TODAY—1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”
I should also mention—you put together a book that was a devotional book—seven stories to be read aloud to your children or that older children can read for themselves—stories that showcase grateful people. The book is called Growing Together in Gratitude. This devotional book for families is something we’re sending this month to those of you who can help support the ministry of FamilyLife with a donation.
FamilyLife Today is a listener-supported ministry. The cost of producing and syndicating this program is covered by folks, like you, who believe in our mission to effectively develop godly families who change the world, one home at a time. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper right-hand corner of the screen that says, “I care,” and make an online donation to FamilyLife Today. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Make your donation over the phone and request your copy of Growing Together in Gratitude.
Or you can request the book when you mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; our zip code is 72223.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to continue our conversation about how we can help our homes be full of gratitude and thanksgiving during the month of November—and for that matter, all year long. We’ll talk more about that tomorrow. Hope you can be here.
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 tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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