The Laughter of Life, Love, Marriage, and Kids (Transcript)

Dr. James Dobson: Well, hello everyone. I'm James Dobson and you're listening to Family Talk a listener supported ministry. In fact, thank you so much for being part of that support for James Dobson Family Institute.

Roger Marsh: Hello and welcome to Family Talk, the radio home of Dr. James Dobson. I'm Roger Marsh and thanks for making us a part of your day. I'm so glad that you've joined us for today's broadcast. We have a very special and unique program that I think you're going to really enjoy. Proverbs 17:22 says, "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." Sometimes we just need a good laugh and that's what we're hoping to provide with today's episode of Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk. We're going to be sharing a presentation by Pastor and comedian, Ted Cunningham.

Ted Cunningham really is a great guy, just full of life. He's the founding pastor of Woodland Hills Family Church in Branson, Missouri. He's also the author of several books, including Fun Loving You, Young and In Love and A Love That Laughs. Ted is a comedian on the popular date night comedy tour and a frequent conference speaker at churches and events all across the country. Ted is a graduate of Liberty University and Dallas Theological Seminary. He's married to Amy and they have two children. What you're about to hear was recorded at an American Association of Christian Counselors gala event. Let's join the fun right now on today's edition of Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk.

Ted Cunningham: I've been in Branson 18 years. My wife's actually with me tonight, Amy, she's sitting over there with our staff from Woodland Hills Family Church in Branson. We meet in an abandoned theme park and we laugh a lot. We have fun together. One of the critiques, our church has received in town is there's too many people and they laugh too much to which we say, if you don't like laughter and lots of people you're probably not going to like heaven. Thank you, where's Lord mercy, right there. Can I get Lord have mercy on that one right there? Okay. But I met my wife Amy on a blind date at Liberty University. Can I hear all the LU grads out there?

The night I met her on Smith Mountain Lake, I told my buddy Austin, I'm going to marry this woman and he said, you can't decide that. I said I already did. And I walked into the kitchen of her six foot, two full blooded Norwegian father. And I said, I'd like permission to marry your daughter to which he responded in his thick Norwegian accent, "you betcha." I said, but only under one condition I had just graduated. She had one year left. I wanted to break all the rules, get married before her senior year. I said, "I'll only marry her before her senior year. If you allow me to pay for her senior year of college," to which she said, "you betcha" and young guys push back on me all the time. They say, how can you afford to get married at 22 and 21 and pay for a senior year of college?

And I say it was this thing called a job. I had a job and more than one job. It is possible to get married and grow up together. Can I get an amen on that one? I don't encourage people to rush marriage, but you can get married and grow up together. We did. And I tell guys all the time that go, bro, I can't get married that young. I can't afford to get married. I'm like, bro. I would believe that if you weren't holding a Venti Caramel Macchiato in your right hand and an iPhone 11 in your left, you need to start thinking Folgers and flip bones, bro.

And I don't believe you started marriage right until you get your parents hand me down mattress. Can I get an amen on that one? The dip already built in. You get in, you roll to the center. That's a good marriage. I tell young people; you don't go to Ethan Allen to get your furniture. You go to Home Depot. You get one by twelves in cinder blocks. That is a great way to start marriage. And so that's my wife, Amy. We have a daughter Corynn who is 16, just started driving and she is the princess of our family. When she was five years old, I had to tell her there's only one queen in this house and you ain't her and she looked at me with those eyes that said, we'll see, we'll see. The next day she told my wife there's room enough in this house for two queens.

I sat her down on the breakfast bar, I said, Ah ah ah, let me tell you something. You are not the queen. I said one day a little boy is going to say the words, "I love you." And I need you to know he's a liar. He is of his father, the devil, and a child of darkness. You stay away from any boy that says, "I love you." But I said, you're not my queen, but you're my princess. And that means one day, I'm going to stand at the back of a church with you and give you a way to become another man's queen. And my parenting plan is simple. I want to show her every day how a queen should be treated to the best of my ability. And one day stand at the back of a church with her and be confident that he loves her as much as me.

I have a son Carson, he's 14 and just started high school and he has always been the comedian of our family. We were at Disney when he was very young, like three years old, fell asleep. He was almost four. He fell asleep like in the middle of EPCOT Center and I held him for about three or four hours back to the hotel. Get there, lay him down in bed, and as soon as my legs are shot, my arms are shot. I'm exhausted. As his head hits the pillow, his eyes open and he says, "gotcha." Now it's at that moment, I don't know, should I spank him or should I be proud of him? Had a lot of mixed emotions going on. So, I want to encourage you tonight as those who serve, as those who pour into others and I thought it is very fitting to start by encouraging all of us to thank all of those who are standing right now, serving us, would you help me thank them for a wonderful meal?

So, I asked the Lord for a prop years ago with my kids. I was so exhausted with the blame game. Anybody tired of the blame game in your home, you come in the family room and you're like, what is going on? There was perfect peace in here 10 minutes ago. "Well, she started it. Well, he licked me first." I'm going, oh, I was, I was drained as a young dad when our kids were small. And I said, Lord, give me something to teach them about codependency. It's hard to teach a five year old and a seven year old about codependency. But I said, I can't handle this anymore. And I believe He did. And I want to give it to you and hopefully you'll use it in your home. Maybe you'll use it in church or in your practice. But I simply call it the love jug.

I keep a $5 banquet jug under our sink and did for years when our kids were young, but this love jug represents the heart, the wellspring of life. And whenever the blame game would creep into our home, I would pull the love jug out and the kids would be like, oh no, they knew a lecture was coming. They so hated the love jug lecture that once my son said, "Dad, would you please give us a spanking instead? Would you? I don't, I don't want the love jug."

Love jug is out, lecture begins. And I set it down on the counter and I would just ask them, "What does this represent?" I'll demonstrate it as Carson. He would go, "It's the love jug." I said, "Yeah, what does it represent?" "It represents the heart." I got a picture of him at five years old. I said, "What verse do we use?" And he goes, "Proverbs 4:23, 'Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.'" And I would say, "Carson, who's responsible for your heart?" "I'm responsible for my heart." "How much are you responsible for your…" "I am 100% responsible for my heart." How much is your sissy responsible? "She is 0% responsible for my heart."

You see why they wanted a spanking. This therapy that young, it takes a lot out of them. And then I'd go over to the sink and I'd start filling it up. I'd say, what does this represent? It represents God's love. That's right. And this is why as a family, we pray together, we do devotions together, we read the Bible together after dinner, we talk about the Lord from the time we get up to the time we go to bed at night, as we sit at home, as we walk along the way, we're wanting to always talk about the Lord. We want to be as full of God's love as possible. And here's where the illustration gets fun. I go over to the cupboard and I just start grabbing all different shapes and sizes of glasses that represent the people that we will be pouring into throughout the day.

And the illustration takes a little while. I'm giving you the condensed version and you see why they want me to rush it at home. But these represent all the people I'm going to be pouring into. And I want to be as full of God's love as possible. And who's the first person I want to pour into? Lord have mercy who is it? Amy, thank you, my wife and this glass represents her. And if women do speak more words than men, I want to make sure I have plenty of words left at the end of the day for her. And then after Amy, I want to pour into my daughter and my daughter has a lot of words and I pour into her and my son, Carson, I pour into him. He's been easy to pour into. He's my man, Bear Grylls man vs wild. He likes the outdoors.

Years ago, I said, "What do you want to do this week?" And he goes, "Oh, let's go into the woods with nothing but a canteen and a knife and survive." And I don't know if you can tell by looking at me, but I don't scream survivalist, but we did. I took my son into the woods and we survived. What he didn't know is we were surviving in the woods, right behind Cracker Barrel. That's kind of how we got through. That's how we got through the weekend. Now this is just an observation, but I've poured out over half and that's just my family. My parents retired to Branson 18 years ago from Lucent Technologies and my dad for the last 18 years has watched Fox News, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

And when I come in the house, I'm like, "Hey dad, how's it going," to which he responds, "Well, we're going to hell in a handbasket, that's how it's going. The world's falling apart. There ain't going to be nothing left for you kids. That's for sure." My dad really knows how to picture a special future for his kids. I told my dad, "You got to start watching more Joel Osteen." All right. You can't. I got…No, let's talk about it for a second, Fox News enthusiasts You cannot watch the news cycle repeat every 30 minutes, all day long and be any sort of happy at the end of the day. You can't. Those are all the CNN people clapping right now.

But I do. I want you to hear the sound, that's what's happening. It sucks the life, same thing with social media. You spend all day on social media, comparing your life to the highlight reels of everybody else, you're not going to have anything left. It drains you. It doesn't fill you up. My mom, she just wants me connected to the family. You just stay connected to the family. All I have to do is come in and say, "Mom, I talked to Andy today," my older brother and she's like, "You did, how is he doing?" I said, "Mom, you talked to him today too. You know how he's doing." And she wants to hear me talk about her other son. Isn't that true? Look at the moms in here. "I do. I just want to know they love each other spend time." So, that's all I have to do to pour into my mom.

This little shot glass here represents my mother-in-law. You do not want to give her too much. My family doesn't really like my talks. I got to be honest with you, but I haven't even been to work yet. Think about it. You haven't been to the church yet. You haven't even been to the office and you know your first appointment is going to suck the life right out of you. And the whole way in you're feeling pretty full. But you know, there's one person.

Roger Marsh: Well, you are listening to Family Talk the broadcast division of the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute. We're enjoying pastor and comedian, Ted Cunningham telling us about some of the funnier moments of parenting and loving his family well. Let's get right back into Ted's presentation right now, right here on Family Talk.

Ted Cunningham: I gave this talk to all the Chick-fil-A owner operators and I encourage them, "Hey, be passionate about your work. Allow Chick-fil-A to be your source of income, but don't allow it to be your source of life." And my mentor, Dr. Gary Smalley, he defined it this way, "Never plug into people, places or things as your source of life." You know why this illustration worked with my kids? Because I think this is at the root of it all. What we do is we pour into people all day long and we're on empty. And then we sit around waiting for them to pour back into us. And we're frustrated. We're stressed. I just said the thing to Amy I know she likes to hear. I just did the thing I know she likes me to do. When am I going to get a little something coming back at me?

You want to know what the most miserable marriage on the planet is. A husband and wife connected to each other is the source of life. The best marriage on the planet, a husband and wife firing each other as the source of life, connecting to the true and only source of life and giving each other the overflow. That's a great marriage. So, let's do that right now. Raise your right hand and repeat after me raise your right hand repeat after me. "I do hereby resign as general manager of the universe and my spouse." Now look to your spouse if you're here with your spouse and point to your spouse and say these words that are going to set you free in Jesus. You're fired. You are no longer my source of life. Somebody's like, you will no longer suck the life out of me. But this is when marriage gets fun when you begin serving one another with zero expectations.

My wife has two love languages, acts of service and quality time, which means I serve her for long periods of time. That's what that means when they come together and in the middle of those two love languages is a hidden love language called decluttering, known as pitch pitch pitch. She lives by a core value. If you haven't used it in a while, you don't need it. Not true. Where does she start with decluttering in our home? It's always the garage. She goes out and gets the garbage can on wheels, flips the lid back and like a grocery cart, around the garage, she starts holding up one item at a time and says, are you still is in that? I'm like, babe, that's a hammer. I think every home is entitled to at least one hammer. Into the garbage it goes. When she's in decluttering mode, I am running around the house, yelling to the children, "Quick, save your stuff, mom's coming. You better hide it, if you want to keep it."

Your spouse is not your source of life. And can I tell you, your children are not your source of life. We pour into our kids. We've fallen for the faulty input-output theory of parenting that says whatever I pour into my child is what I will get out of my child. And the Hebrew for that is "ha", not true in the Greek it's bologna. It is not how this works. This will free you up. You can serve your spouse, your children, your work, your parents, your in-laws with zero expectations of anything being poured back into you because you know who your true and only source is. We have a favorite sandwich shop in Branson called Sugar Leaf. And I got up to use the restroom one day and I look over and there's this old couple, mid-seventies, mad. I mean, they're ticked off and I have a face that screams retail.

I can't explain it, but I go in stores and restaurants all the time and I'm asked, "Excuse me, do you work here?" Anybody else have this problem? Let me just see. We have faces that scream middle management and so I'm so tired of it. I don't fight it anymore. I just say, how may I help you? That's my standard response. Well, I notice on my way to the restroom, this couple mad and I'm like, okay, I got a second. So, I walk over and I simply ask, "How was everything?" And he says, "I got to be honest with you. We're pretty frustrated." I said, I hate to hear that. What seems to be the problem? He said, "Your sign outside said Bratwurst and we stood in line for 20 minutes waiting for Bratwurst. We get to the front, you're out of Bratwurst."

Now I'm only 45, and I know I'm in Branson. We have a lot of senior adults, but I can't wait for the day in my life when the biggest issue of my day. I mean, the thing that really ticks me off is a store being out of, I mean, I'm just going to go off. I can't wait. And some of you are like, he should take this more seriously. This is a big deal. So, I said, "Sir, what can we do to make this right?" It started to change his tune. I said, "Sir, what if I get you a piece of pie?" Now, he is no longer mad. He is no longer frustrated. So I go, I stand in line. I buy him a piece of pie. I bring back, I set it down in front of him and he starts asking me questions about the restaurant.

And I'm like, "hey, whoa, whoa, whoa. I don't work here. That's my family over there." My entire family waves from across the restaurant. I go back. I'm so excited. I'm like something is coercing through me, I'm like, did you guys see that? That was incredible. That was fun. Why? Because you served, you poured wanting nothing from them. Have you ever had anyone leave your church mad? I guarantee it's because they were serving or giving with massive expectations. But what if we do as Jesus called us, as He said, "the son of man has come to serve, not be served." Pour it out. Some of you are stressing over all the wrong. Do we have any parents in here right now with toddlers? Let me just see, you got toddlers. You got toddlers, what are their ages? Two and a half and you're here.

Are they with grandparents? They are with grandparents, two and a half. Do you have any grandparents sitting at your table? You're grandparents, okay. Do you know this couple you're sitting next to? You don't? They're at your table. Listen tonight, I want you to get to know them. I want you to buy them breakfast tomorrow. No, no, I'm not kidding. They're going to help you. You know what? You got antibacterial product hanging all over your purse. All right. She used to let her kids pick up cigarette butts and chew on them. Look at it. She's going. I don't usually get that. I get very conservative Christian women. No, I never, I would never let my kids pick up. She did. Hey and you pal, you go talk to him because he used to let his kids sleep in the back window of the car on long trips. You now strap them in like you're launching them to outer space, right, buddy.

They used to put three kids in one playpen with only one toy. It's where we got the idea for cage fighting. That's true. You can look that up on Wikipedia. I read that on the internet. Raise your hand if you remember drinking out of garden hoses. Yeah, we're all fine. We all survived. Mom, the two and a half year old is going to be fine. Raise your hand if you've ever been shot by a BB gun. How many of you remember when your dad would come out and help you build a ramp to jump your bike over the ditch, then he would rate your jumps. How many of you remember when your dad couldn't figure out which of your siblings was at fault? So he just spanked all of you. How many of you remember that? Those were good days.

How many of you remember when your dad sent you upstairs to wait for your spanking? That was worse than the spanking. How many remember when your dad sent you upstairs to wait for your spanking, then he forgot that he sent you upstairs to wait for your spanking and you and your brother are sitting there. Do we tell him, should we go remind dad? We're still up here. And as soon as you had that thought, you heard your dad coming up the stairs. You heard the belt hitting every loop. I'm going to be attacked by therapists after this session. Ted, can I talk to you? No, I'm fine.

That's what I'm trying to help this mom with. I'm fine. But my brother was stubborn. He'd sit on his side of the bed, oh dad, ain't going to break me. I'm like, are you kidding? I'm screaming on the back swinging. How many of you remember when your mom spanked you with whatever she had handy? Anybody remember that? I still flinch every time I go into the kitchen. I've been spanked with every utensil in the kitchen. How many of your parents told you the bell on the ice cream truck meant they were out of ice cream? Those were good days.

Roger Marsh: This is Roger Marsh for Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk. I hope you've been encouraged by today's program. Our guest has been pastor and comedian, Ted Cunningham. Everyone needs a good wholesome laugh every once in a while. What's the old saying, laughter is the best medicine. Well, I can certainly agree with that and I hope we've been able to provide that for you today. Now, if you'd like to learn more about Ted Cunningham or to listen to any of today's broadcast that you might have missed, just visit That's or give us a call at (877)-732-6825. We'll be happy to answer any questions you have about Family Talk or the JDFI, that's 877-732-6825.

As always, the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute exists to strengthen marriages and families protecting the sanctity of human life and to spread the good news of the gospel. If you've been blessed by the ministry of Family Talk, will you consider making a financial contribution to our ministry? We are completely listener supported and every contribution is tax deductible. Find out how to make a gift online when you go to or give us a call at (877)-732-6825.

Well, thanks again for listening today and please join us again on Monday, Valentine's day for a very special interview with Gary Chapman, the author of, The Five Love Languages. You will not want to miss that conversation. Happy Valentine's weekend from all of us here at Family Talk.

Announcer: This has been a presentation of the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute.
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