Preparing to Honor Your Parents
About the Guest
On today's broadcast, Bryan Carter, the senior pastor at Concord Missionary Baptist Church in Dallas, and his wife, Stephanie, tell Dennis Rainey how Bryan struggled to mend his strained relationship with his father by writing him a special tribute.
Bryan Carter talks about how he struggled to mend his strained relationship with his father by writing him a special tribute.
Preparing to Honor Your Parents
Bob: Pastor Bryan Carter wanted to honor his father. He knew that was biblical. He says one of the obstacles he faced was looking at the world from his own self-centered perspective.
Bryan: It's so easy as a child, even as an adult child, to think about how things should have been. But I had to learn how to love my dad for who he was. He did so many things right, but they were eclipsed by my own selfishness about what I deserved.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, November 20th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Today we'll hear how Bryan Carter moved past his selfishness and learned to honor his father.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. I've heard you describe speakers or pastors as having a life message from time to time. What do you mean when you talk about somebody having a life message?
Dennis: Oh, I think there are unique circumstances that God works in our lives, and He – I think He embeds messages in our lives. I don't think you have to be a preacher or a writer or a host of a radio broadcast to have a life message. I think most Christians, if they kind of pull back, maybe to a 40,000-foot level and look at their lives and kind of think, "Now, what has God done in my life and what unique message has He given me?"
I think by the time you're 30 it begins to emerge.
Bob: You would describe what we're going to be talking about today as a life message for you, wouldn't you?
Dennis: I would. I kind of stumbled on this through speaking to high school students a number of years ago. I would speak to them about honoring their parents and in the process begin to do a better job of honoring mine and finally wrote a tribute to my mom that hung on her kitchen wall right above where she ate every meal for the better part of 20 years. And that tribute now, because she's in heaven, hangs in my office alongside the tribute I wrote to my dad after he had died, which I'd have to say is one of the greater regrets of my life is that I didn't get a chance to write and read that tribute to my dad before he went to heaven.
Bob: You wrote a book on this subject a number of years ago encouraging other not only to honor their parents but to take some practical steps and to write a tribute to our parents as a way of expressing honor for them, and it was one of the great flops of a book that you've ever written.
Dennis: That was interesting.
Bob: Tactfully put, do you think?
Dennis: That was an interesting way to put, Bob. Our guests are trying to keep from laughing out loud. Bryan, you and Stephanie feel free to just go ahead and laugh, because some of the listeners are, I promise you.
Well, actually, the reason you say that, Bob, is because both you and I were surprised when the book, "The Tribute," came out that readers didn't respond to it in quite the same way that we expected them to. We heard of a lot of anger, a lot of resentment, a lot of people who would start reading the book, and they'd write me, and they said they threw the book across the room, it hit wall…
Bob: It was not a feel good kind of tickle-your-ear book.
Dennis: Yeah, but it wasn't a bad book. It's not the kind of book you think you'd throw across the room where it lands like a little tent, you know, and stays there. But I just checked some of the letters we've received over the years. I literally have hundreds if not thousands of letters that have come along with an actual tribute of what people have written to a mom, a dad, a brother, a sister, an aunt, an uncle, and just the stories that accompany them, Bob, are wonderful.
Bob: The book has since been retitled, "The Best Gift You Can Give Your Parents," and you really feel like the gift of honor and the personal expression of that in a tribute is the best gift we can give our parents.
Dennis: I do, and it's why I still challenge people to pull back and say, "How can you best honor your parents?" And we have a couple of friends here in the studio with us today who – well, they've done that – Bryan and Stephanie Carter join us from Dallas, Texas. Stephanie, Bryan, welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Bryan: Thank you.
Stephanie: Thank you for having us.
Dennis: Bryan is a pastor of a little church down in South Oak Cliff called Concord Church and about 3,500 members. He was selected by the late E.K. Bailey to be his successor at the age of, what, 28, 29?
Bryan: Twenty-nine, 29.
Dennis: Those are big shoes to fill.
Bryan: Big shoes.
Dennis: E.K. Bailey was one of the get exegetical Bible teachers of our day; built that church from scratch in 1974, and Bryan is the second pastor of that church and is doing a great job of leading it. I had the privilege of coming into a relationship with Bryan a number of years ago through a mutual friend, Crawford Loritts, who hosted a mentoring conference. And Bryan and I were paired up, Bob, to be a mentor and a mentee, and we have hung out with each other now for the better part of five years, and have developed a relationship, and Stephanie as well, and it was because of that relationship that, at some point, my life message rubbed off on Bryan.
Bob: And do you remember, Bryan, when you first head Dennis talking about this idea of honoring your parents and writing a tribute?
Bryan: I remember very well. It was four of us in the group, and his job, as our mentor, his responsibility, was to give each of us a quest, a very strong word to challenge us as young men. And my quest was to write a tribute to my dad. Dennis had – he gave me a copy of the book, signed it, put my assignment inside the book, told me to read it.
Now, he told me I had six months to plan for the tribute, and I didn't even know what a tribute was. He told me a little bit about it, and I wasn't that excited about it, to say the least.
Dennis: Hold it, hold it, hold it – Stephanie is about to bust over here. What happened from your perspective, Stephanie, as you saw me give that quest to Bryan?
Stephanie: Well, when he came home from the conference, he was – I was, like, "Oh, what happened?" He was, like, he was so excited talking about who his mentor was, and then he said, "I have an assignment." I said, "Oh, what's your assignment?" And when he explained it, "Oh, that's good, when are you going to start on it?" "Oh, I have six months."
And so each month, or each time something went by I would think about it, it's, like, "Oh, have you started on that?" "No, I haven't. I'm still praying about it and still working on it."
Dennis: He was procrastinating.
Bob: Were you procrastinating because you were busy or were you procrastinating because you didn't like the assignment?
Bryan: I think I struggled with the assignment. I read the book, and it was a great book, but like many, my dad and me did not have the best relationship in my adult years. But I think the best chapter in the book for me was "The Gift of Understanding." That chapter, which described understanding my father as a man; as a man who went to the Vietnam War and returned; as a man who had me as a child nine and 11 years after his first two children; as a man who had a high school diploma but didn't have a chance to go to college.
As I began to walk into his world through the book, it helped challenge me to honor him. I mean, I also understood the scriptural background for it, but emotionally I had to see my father through a different light. I had always looked from a child and how he had let me down in some areas, but I had not taken the time to say, "What did my father do right?"
Dennis: Bryan, you just mentioned a couple of moments ago that your relationship with your dad as an adult was – I don't think you used the word "strained"…
Bob: "Not the best" I think is what you said.
Dennis: Yeah. Describe that relationship just briefly, because I have a feeling there are many who are listening to our broadcast who may be experiencing a similar relationship.
Bryan: My father was a great dad through my younger years. He supported me in high school, but it was when I became a college student that process of becoming a man whereby there was a struggle. In my house, when a man became of age, it was his belief that two men couldn't stay in the same house. And so I saw my two brothers get put out of the house, and they left the house with their belongings in a trash bag. And so …
Dennis: Now, wait a second – your dad would stuff their …
Bryan: No, he didn't stuff their – they stuffed their own bags.
Dennis: And he asked them to leave?
Bryan: Asked them to leave because they had disagreed about something, and so he said, "You can stay here, or you can take your stuff and leave, but you can't live here and not follow my rules."
Bob: So you'd seen that happen twice with …
Bryan: I'd seen it happen twice.
Bob: And now you're in college, and you and your dad are starting to disagree on some stuff?
Bryan: Yes, yes. I didn't want to stay at home. I would do whatever I could to stay away from home, because I knew we would clash, and I had prepared for my independence day, per se, so I had already made arrangements so that when that day came, you know, I wouldn't have to pack much because I'd already prepared, which was sad, but I knew that day was coming, because the lectures, the – it was like you were five and you were 20, and it was just tough to deal with that.
Bob: Stephanie, you met your husband-to-be when both of you were in college. Did you realize the tension that existed between Bryan and his dad?
Stephanie: Yes, it was like he was – like how he described, like he was 5. When we would be sitting there, his dad would sit in the recliner, and even his older brothers, who were 9 and 11 years older than him, it was like they all were little children again. So you would be sitting there as the girlfriend, fiancé, and you're just like, "Wow." And the lectures would last not just like 10 minutes, not 20 minutes, but it could go on for an hour, and they wouldn't say anything, and he would just be talking about his views on their life, their family, their wives, everything, in one of them.
Bob: So that's where you learned to preach, isn't it?
I'm thinking, "Well, it went on – not 20 minutes, not 20 minutes, but for an hour."
Stephanie: Well …
Dennis: As you began to press into the possibility of getting your honor, what kind of things besides understanding him as a man, did you find yourself having to press into and press through to ultimately forgive him? And then to be able to take honor home to him?
Bryan: Understanding was critical, but then I had to really focus on what he had done right. I had to press through my selfishness because it's so easy, as a child, even as an adult child, to think about what should have happened and how things should have been. But I had to learn how to love my dad for who he was. He did so many things right, but they were eclipsed by my own selfishness about what I deserved and so I had to press through that.
Bob: You know, a lot of people would look back on that past and say, "Rather than pressing through it, just box it up, put it away in the attic, and ignore it. Just kind of seal off that part of your life and move on.
Bryan: And I would have done that had God not sent Dennis into my life.
I was really upset at Dennis.
Bob: I understand.
Dennis: Stephanie, was he angry with me?
Stephanie: He was upset. He was honored to be your mentee, but he was upset.
Bob: He did not like the assignment.
Dennis: He never shared that with me.
Stephanie: He was upset.
Bryan: I didn't like the assignment. I didn't like the honoring process.
Dennis: You know, and I have to tell you, I knew when I pressed you into it, I knew this was going to be one of the most difficult things you had ever done in all your life. Is that true?
Bryan: That's true, because the relationship was getting worse, and as the relationship got worse …
Dennis: You had more ammo.
Bryan: You came here to challenge me to do the honoring when the relationship is at its worst.
Bob: You contacted your brothers after you had read the book, and you said, "Let's do this together."
Bryan: I did, I did. I have two older brothers.
Bob: You figured, "If I can deal with the pain, you can deal with the pain?" That kind of …
Bryan: We're going to share this together.
Bob: So were they warm to the idea of writing tributes to their dad?
Bryan: They were about as excited as I was when I first got the book.
Bob: And here's their baby brother stepping up and saying, "Come on, let's do this." They had to think, "You know, listen, son, we'll do it if we want to. You're not going to tell us what to do."
Bryan: Yeah. I became Dennis to them, and so I began to call them monthly. Periodically, we'd have conference calls. I'd say, "Okay, do we have a draft yet? Are we making progress yet?" And, finally, we were able to get everything together.
Bob: Tell me about the process of actually sitting down and starting to write out what you wanted to write to your dad. What was that like for you?
Bryan: It was very helpful, because part of it involved just going down memory lane and recalling what are your childhood memories? And so I kept a tablet nearby, or I'd jot down little notes, and it took months. Over those months, I would just write down memories that I had from my father taking me to feed the ducks when I was around five; my father building a basketball goal that – he was handy with his hands, so he built a small goal for me while my brothers played on a larger goal.
I remembered my father – he started the Neighborhood Watch Association, but what happened, as months went by, I just began to write down some of these images, some of these memories that I saw him do that I had forgotten. But it was a helpful process just to go back down memory lane and think, "Okay, what did my father do right? What are the memories that I have that are lasting even to this day? What did my father go through?" And I just – for probably nine months to a year, I just began to take notes and write down all of those ideas.
Dennis: Stephanie, as you watched Bryan do this, what did you watch occur in him as a man, a husband, and a father?
Stephanie: When he was recalling some of the memories, I remember one trip, in particular, we were on our way to Hot Springs, and we drove, and he had me writing down some of the memories that he was recalling, and it even helped me, as a wife, to view his father in a different way. Because at that time it was just a strained relationship between everyone, and when he was recalling memories of feeding the ducks and how much he saw his dad love his mother to the point where anything she wanted, like, he would say, "Okay, now we have to plant these flowers, because your mother likes these type of flowers," and just showing that type of love. That was just really refreshing and encouraging.
Bryan: She had some forgiving to do on her part as well. Even during the dating years, my wife was not the expectation that I would marry. There were some characteristics – she didn't play the piano, she didn't wear hats, she didn't teach as most preacher's wives are expected to. And so there was some forgiveness that had to occur on her side as well.
Bob: So you felt like you were not warmly received into the family?
Stephanie: In the beginning I was, but his dad had a vision for Bryan to be in Oklahoma City at that church, and I think as long as he thought Bryan was going to be there, it was fine. And, over time, it became evident that we were not going to stay there. And then he did a sermon on pants – because that was very traditional, traditional Baptist …
Dennis: Hold it, he did a sermon on pants?
Bryan: That was just one of the points.
Stephanie: No. It was one of the points but it was basically his view, a role, of what a godly woman should be like and …
Bob: And wearing pants doesn't go with being a godly woman?
Stephanie: Wearing pants and, at that time, I had a pantsuit on.
Bob: You were wearing it that day in the service.
Stephanie: And it was the pantsuit that his son had bought me.
Dennis: As in your husband?
Stephanie: Yes, yes.
Bob: You're sitting out in the congregation going, "He's just preaching at me and both of us," really, right?
Bob: He's rebuking us publicly from the pulpit.
Bob: Now you're trying to write words of honor to this father in that context. Did you not feel like you had to include, "Dad, you did these things right, but I've got to tell you, Dad, there are a few things I need to get off my" – you know, "I don't want to just paint a rose-colored picture, Dad." Did you not feel like you needed to unload a little bit as you wrote this?
Bryan: I did. But I had to remind myself of what this was really all about, because it's easy. I mean, I could run a list on what was wrong, the mistakes, but I had to keep reminding myself that this is about me honoring him. And that's why it took me so long. Even when I talked to Dennis with that first assignment, it said, "Six months for planning," and I reminded Dennis of that. I said, "You didn't say I had to have it in six months, but I've got six months to plan it."
And so I took the time because it just doesn't happen overnight. It takes time for God to work on your heart, to soften your heart, to condition you to where He wants you to be. It just takes time.
Dennis: And I want to just underscore what you just said, Bryan, because this is not something you just go do and just throw some words on a piece of paper. This has to be written on the tablet of your heart first. And then it spills over to the paper, and if it's not in permanent ink in your heart, you're not going to forgive; you're not going to be able to move on. You're going to end up saying the words and then taking them back within 15 minutes or 15 miles, whichever comes first and, to your credit, you recognized that, and you took your time in crafting the tribute because you had all that stuff to work through.
And I think, Bob, people who look at this commandment, the Fifth Commandment, to honor your mother and father, and they look at a practical way of applying this, and they think about writing a tribute, it's why they need to take some time, that's why they need some help in doing it, they need to be coached, they need to be encouraged.
Bryan and I probably had 10 to 15 conversations on the phone in the 12 months he was going through the process, and that's why the book was written.
Bob: And we've heard from a lot of folks who have read through the book, and it has been a tough process for them, and yet they've persevered. They have finished the assignment, had their tribute matted and framed and have presented it to a mom or a dad, and it has been a significant event in both the parent's life and in the son or the daughter's life.
We've got copies of your book in our FamilyLife Resource Center. It's called "The Best Gift You Can Ever Give Your Parents." You can go to our website, FamilyLife.com, there's a red button in the middle of the home page that says "Go," and if you click that button it will take you right to the site where there's more information about the process of writing a tribute to your mom, your dad, information on how you can order a copy of this book by Dennis Rainey.
And if, for some reason, your relationship with your mom or your dad has been a difficult one, and you find the idea of writing a tribute, something that seems out of reach, you may want to consider getting a copy of David Stoop's book called "Forgiving the Unforgivable," because, I think Dennis, for a lot of adult children, they cannot get to the point of writing this tribute until they have dealt with issues of bitterness and unforgiveness in their own heart.
Again, go to our website, FamilyLife.com. Click the button that says "Go" on the home page, and that will take you right to the area where there is information about these books, other resources available, and we hope you'll start making plans – some people may be able to do this between now and Christmas, others may need to wait until Mother's Day or Father's Day, but we hope there will be a lot of tributes written this year to moms and dads.
You can also call us for more information about these resources at 1-800-358-6329, that's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY. As we were talking this week about showing gratitude, expressing thankfulness to our parents. Of course, it's Thanksgiving week here in the United States, and one of the things that we're thankful for, frankly, is those folks who not only listen to our program and who pray for us, and we got a note recently from somebody who wrote and said, "We pray for you guys every day," and that is very humbling to hear that from listeners to our program.
And we're also thankful for those of you who believe in what we're doing enough to help with the financial support for this ministry. We're listener-supported, and so it's folks like you who do more than just listen. You contact us either on the Web or by phone and say, "We'd like to help with a donation for the ministry of FamilyLife Today. This month, if you are able to help with our financial needs, we'd love to send you a prayer guide for parents or for grandparents to use praying specifically for God to cultivate certain character qualities in the lives of your children or your grandchildren.
This prayer guide is actually a hardback book called "While They Were Sleeping," and it's our gift to you this month if you are able to help with a donation of any amount for the ministry of FamilyLife Today. As I said, you can donate online at FamilyLife.com, or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY to make a donation. If you call just mention that you'd like the book on prayer that you heard us talking about on the radio. Again, it's called "While They Were Sleeping." Or if you're online making a donation, when you come to the keycode box, type in the word "pray," p-r-a-y, and we'll know to send this book out to you. Again, it's just one way we can say thanks for your participation with us. We appreciate your partnership, and we are thankful for you.
Well, tomorrow Bryan and Stephanie Carter are going to be back with us. We're going to hear about how Bryan actually presented his tribute to his father and what took place on that day. I hope you can be with us as well.
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'll see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.
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