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Choosing to be Joyful (Part 2 of 2)

Original Air date 11/06/1996

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Popular speaker and author Luci Swindoll encourages listeners to find joy in life as she shares humorous memories from her childhood and illustrates how her family experiences inspired her to develop a zest for living abundantly and a deep thirst for wisdom. (Part 2 of 2)

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Episode Transcript



Luci Swindoll: Each of us is a mirror fragment. We're not the light. But when we permit the sun to hit our mirror fragment and then bounce off into the life of a darkened heart, there can be change; there can be illumination.

End of Recap

John Fuller: Well, encouragement that your life can have a tremendous impact on those around you and that's Luci Swindoll. You'll hear more from her, some great truths and some humorous stories, as well, on today's "Focus on the Family" with Focus president and author, Jim Daly. I'm John Fuller and last time we began what is one of our most popular broadcasts of all time.

Jim Daly: I think, John, it's her humor. I mean, people, human beings connect with humor and ...

John: It's the key that unlocks the heart.

Jim: It is and you feel, I don't know, there's a vulnerability to it, that you feel closer to another person I think, when they are able to put it in that kind of humorous context. Luci shared last time that mirror analogy, about reflecting the light of Jesus to the world with truth, humor and joy and I so appreciate that. I've seen that in action. I've seen the Holy Spirit crack that heart and I think it's why the Lord said, "Love your neighbor," 'cause I think the way that God has constructed us spiritually, emotionally in our DNA, that when you love another person and they know it's sincere, there's something irresistible that their heart opens up to you. You have to be very cold-hearted not to respond to a loving human being and I think it's the way God has done it.

Life is hard and people around us make bad choices and you know what? We gotta be honest. Sometimes we make bad choices. That's called being a sinner saved by grace. Luci described her upbringing and a major incident that troubled her as a 12-year-old, discovering her father's previous marriage and through that, he taught he the importance of loving those around us who might not be just like us. What an incredible message that we need to hear today--

John: Uh-hm.

Jim: --because we have kind of dug in our heels on all sides and we don't want to listen to other people and I think this message will empower you to be able to open your ears and love your neighbor as yourself.

John: Well, it's a good challenge and as you said, Luci wraps this in some great, honest, authentic communication and if you missed any part of the previous portion of this message, get it on CD or the download. Listen to it; share it with somebody. You'll find that at

Now Luci spent 30 years as a professional, working with the Mobil Oil Corporation and then joined the staff of Insight for Living. It's a ministry that was started by her brother, Dr. Chuck Swindoll and currently, she's with the Women of Faith team, as they do a farewell tour and this is gonna be her 20th year associated with that event.

Now this presentation was recorded at a Women of Faith conference and we're going to roll back just a little bit to refresh you on what we had last time and then get right into the new content for today's "Focus on the Family."


Luci: My father, as I said, was to me the fourth person of the Trinity. He was perfect. He did everything right. He ruled with what I called "a velvet thumb." You know, you knew when he put his thumb down, he meant it, but he meant it with velvet--you know, sort of soft on the edges. He had a marshmallow heart. And by his act of commission, Daddy wanted from us as children certain things. I have an older brother, whose name is Orville, I will tell you about. I have younger brother, whose name is Chuck and I am their favorite sister (Laughter) by their own admittance.

I am the middle child. And so, there were three of us; very verbal, born very close together, very outspoken and so, Mother and Daddy had their hands full.

Now, Mother was very, very different from Daddy. As I told you, she's 15 years younger and everything Daddy was, she was not. Daddy was passive and Mother was assertive. Daddy was very quiet and Mother was just a mile a minute. Mother was like a balloon on a string; you never knew where she might levitate the next moment. (Laughter) "Who was that on the ceiling? Well, it's Mother, you know. Get her down." (Laughter) Oh, when I think about this, I think, "Man, Mother is really in my consciousness."

I wanted some notebook paper to; needed to buy some after school--junior high school, Houston--and I asked Mother for the money and she gave me the money for the notebook paper. Knowing how much it was, she just gave it to me. I bought the notebook paper and in my effort to leave the store, I was paying for the notebook paper and I passed the cookie rack and I was dying for those macaroons sittin' up there, cutest little package.

So I thought, "Well, I don't have any money. I'll just rip those babies off." (Laughter) You don't really think like that. You just sort of do it, you know. (Laughter) Well, actually, I wished I hadn't; they were terrible. I mean, don't ever steal macaroons; they get bigger in your mouth, (Laughter) you know, it's somewhat like chewing rubber bands, you know. (Laughter)

But I got those babies, put 'em in my pocket and I'm out of there and on the way home, I thought, "Well." You see, I felt guilty, because I knew what I had done was wrong, but I still wanted them no matter what. So, I thought, "Well, I'll eat 'em fast." Once I have eaten them fast then I will go home and just confess it to Mother real fast and then my guilt and sin will be exonerated fast, because I'll be through with it all.

And so, when I get home, I am just exceedingly guilt-ridden and sick, too (Laughter)--in reverse order. So, I walk in. I thought, "I'm gonna tell Mother and get it out." I go to the kitchen. I can still see Mother. I came in a little door back here. Mother is peeling potatoes for dinner. There's a window here and light was coming in and it formed kind of a halo over [her] (Laughter); it was kind of going, "Hmm." (Laughter)

And so, I just said, "Well," to myself, you know, "get it out fast, Luc and then it's done." So, I just said [Talking rapidly], "Mother, I bought the notebook paper and when I got through with that, I passed a package of cookies and they were really good and I just stole a package, ate the whole thing on the way home. I am really sick and I think I'm gonna die." (Laughter) And this movement stopped. (Laughter) And I thought, "Well, she heard me." She put the knife down, which was [a] good [thing], (Laughter) a very good start. She put the knife down; she turned to me and she very quietly said, "I beg your pardon?"

So, "I stole the cookies on the way home' [I'm] sick" and everything (Laughter) and well, she never lost her cool. She looked at me straight in the eyes, you know, like bullet holes that go, "Foop!" (Laughter) She said, "Well, the first thing you need to do is confess that to the Lord" and I said, "Well, I did. I mean, they were bad, Mother. They were stale." (Laughter) And she said, "That is not the point."

She said, then, secondly, "What you'll need to do is get your money and I will take you to the store and you need to tell the man what you have done and pay him for the cookies." And I said (Chuckling), "Wait, mom. You want me to go in that store and tell that man I stole those cookies and you want me to pay him?" She said, "That's right," and I said, "Well, I can't." She said, "Why not?" I said, "That guy thinks I'm a Christian." (Laughter) She said, "Well, you haven't behaved like one." I said, "Well, I know that, Mother, but please don't make me go." She said, "You will."

All the time she's fetching her car keys and I'm looking for my coins and getting' in the car and all the time I'm saying, "Mother, please don't make me." And she said, "Yes, you will." I said, "You gonna come in with me?" She said, "No, I'm not going to embarrass you. You know what is right. Go tell him and pay him." She said, "I'll be there in the doorway. I'm not gonna say anything."

So, I walked in; found the superintendent or what would that be called? A store manager. You have to know that I am a day person, and any time after 9 o'clock, I never know what I'm saying. (Laughter) This guy is standing there--about the size of this building, you understand--and I go up to him and I said, "Are you the manager?" and he said, "Yes." And I said, "Well, I was just in here today and I stole a package" and he said, "You'll need to speak up." (Laughter) I said, "I was in here earlier today" and he said, "Yes, I remember. I saw you." (Laughter) And I said, "Well, I stole a package of cookies and I didn't pay for them. I know better. I know stealing is wrong and I have come in to pay you and to tell you I am really sorry."

He held out this enormous hand and I dropped the coins in, 17, 18 cents, whatever it was and then he did the most interesting thing. He kind of flopped them up and down and he said, "You know, we have a lot of kids who come in here and steal. I don't think we've ever had anybody come in and confess that they stole anything and paid me." He said, "You must be a Christian?" I said, "Well, yes, (Laughter) that's correct."

We got in the car and all the way home I said, "Mother, for the first time, I'm hungry." She said, "Good. Let's go home and have dinner." And from that day to this I have not stolen a paper clip (Laughter), because I know Mother's up there ready to zap me, you know. (Laughter)

Proverbs 29:20 [FYI: Proverbs 19:20] says, "Get all the advice you can and be wise the rest of your days." And you know what, now ladies? I am in the rest of my days and I praise God for the advice my mother gave me. And so, when mother let her light shine in me, she did something I could not do for myself. She taught me to give and receive good advice.

Now when you're a child, hearing advice is very hard to hear, but when you are older, I think it is even harder to give, because you better be sure you're right, before God. It is your commission as a parent, as an individual, as a Christian to let that light shine off your mirror fragment.

Now, probably the most colorful family member is my older brother Orville. Even his name is different and Orville is a genius. He really is a genius. [He's] 13 months older than I and my father used to pay him to tutor me in math and it was the kiss of death. There was no way I could learn from this genius. And he came to the table one night and he said, "Daddy, Sis cannot learn" and I said, "And Daddy, Orville cannot teach." (Laughter)

He was the family "brain trust" and there wasn't anything that he did not want to accomplish at least before the age of 12 or 18, you know. He wanted to get it done in his youth and he could do everything. He played piano beautifully and he would practice Czerny exercises up and down the piano, just beautiful piano music, but when he tired of that, he decided he would enter the local science fair.

So, he wanted to raise Mediterranean fruit flies, (Laughter) and they are called Drosophila Melanogasters. And I mean it's longer than the fly--the name. And he grew them in a milk bottle that had agar-agar in it that looked like milk, but it wasn't milk. It was agar-agar and they bred in that in the refrigerator. And he would have signs on the refrigerator that said, "Do not open the door between 3 and 4 because the flies are breeding." (Laughter) And I'm thinking, "Too many words," you know and I'm getting' in there. And so, he had all this laid out, because he had to have these flies fully grown by the time the science fair came.

Well, Daddy worked the swing shift and at night it was Daddy's custom (Audience groans and laughs)--yeah, yeah, that's it--to have cereal (Laughter) before he went to bed. (Coughing) So, one night while the flies were breeding, Daddy came in. He opened the refrigerator. He took out the agar-agar and the Drosophila Melanogasters and he began to pour. Now, mind you agar-agar does not pour. It sucks. It goes "Sluuup." But (Coughing) the flies got out. (Luci singing high note)

Well, I hear Daddy going down the hall (Footstep sound). "Orville," (Laughter) past my little bedroom. He said, "Orville, the flies got out." They come back (Footstep sound). And I honestly heard Orville say this to Daddy. He wasn't upset. He said, "Daddy, look for the males. They're the ones with the colorful wings." (Laughter) To which Daddy said, "Son, I can't see the sofa. It's 1 in the morning. (Laughter) Do you know what time it is?" (Laughter)

But he wouldn't be outdone. He decided, no, he's going to raise dogs. (Laughter) So, when the flies died and the agar-agar turned sour, he began to bring home his first stray. Then he asked Mother if he could breed dogs in the back yard (Laughter)--kind of into breeding. And he not only did that, but he signed up for a full year of a magazine called Dog World. So, we had dogs breeding in the yard, flies breeding in the fridge and Dog World all over the house while he was playing his Czerny exercises (Laughter).

And then Orville got really interested in spiritual things. [He] started dating only Christian girls. [He] started going to only spiritual things that were going on in the city. [He] began to correct all our unspiritual ways. (Laughter) He'd say to Chuck, "When are you ever gonna learn to pray?" (Laughter) That kind of stuff. But you see, what was going on in me was the feeling: "I want to be just like him" and even now Orville is incredible.

Two years ago he built me a $7,000 computer and I will be paying for it 'til the return of Christ. (Laughter) I mean, constantly pursuing excellence. Last night I said, "Orville, I just hate this computer." I love it, but I hate it. You know, I talk to it all the time, like, "Shut up" and things like that. (Laughter) And I said, "I cannot get the printer to print. Then when it prints, it won't shut off." (Laughter) And he said, "Sis, read your manuals," and I said, "Well, I'd just rather phone you." He said, "Well, I won't always be here" and I said, "Oh Orville, why'd we ever buy this computer?" You know, I'm going on and on and then he said something like, "Sis, wouldn't you rather be reading your manuals for the next 63 years than sitting on the side of your bed fooling with your false teeth as your nurse comes down the hall with soft food." (Laughter) I said, "Yes!" (Laughter) You bet I would.

And when he shined his light in my heart, it made me want to pursue excellence. And the verse I think of for Orville--it's so apropos--Proverbs 18:15 says, "The intelligent man is always open to new ideas. In fact, he looks for them." He looks for them. Is that what you're doing? Is that what your letting flash off of your little broken mirror fragment, which is truly you. It's not a metaphor for your life; it is your life.

Program Note:

John: Luci Swindoll, sharing from her heart about her family, her brother, Orville there and in a moment, she'll have a story about Chuck and what a great "Focus on the Family" broadcast this is and I'm gonna encourage you to listen to this program again or get the CD or download. Go to for more and then pass that along to someone in your life that would appreciate Luci's humor and her insights and that great laughter and it'd be our privilege to send a CD to you as our complimentary gift, our thank you for your generosity when you contribute to the work here at Focus on the Family. We appreciate so much your support and so, please donate today.

Let's go ahead and continue "Focus on the Family" now with Luci Swindoll describing her younger brother.

End of Program Note

Luci: So then finally in closing, Chuck, my younger brother, I would be very amazed if there was anybody who is deep into the Christian faith today who has not really heard of Chuck. He is an amazing man--honor graduate from Dallas Seminary.

He has learned so much. He continually has [had] a public practice or a public ministry for the last 25 years and the thing I love about Chuck is--and the thing I've learned from Chuck the most--is his refusal to dwell on the negative. And when he was born, would you believe in his young years he stuttered so badly that he one time asked for something to be passed to him on the table and by the time it got to him, it had already been eaten. (Laughter) And I understand that people stutter like that when they feel they are not really accepted in the family, when they are insecure. And he thought, "I was already born into a completed family--a mother, a father, a son and daughter and then me" and so, he stuttered.

And yet, he overcame that of his own volition. He began to memorize poetry and he would say, "It was the schooner Hesperus that sailed the wintery sea. The skipper had taken his daughter along to bear him company. Blue were her eyes as the fairy flax and her cheeks like the dawn of day. Her bosom as white as the hawthorn buds that open the month of May." And I'd say, "Mom, he said 'bosom.'" (Laughter) And she said, "I know it. Just let him go ahead." (Laughter) "Cannons to the right of them, cannons to the left of them, out of the valley of death rode the 600." And then he started memorizing Scripture, thousands of verses.

He had been in the seminary for six weeks and I had called him and I said, "Babe, how you doing?" He said, "Sis, I love it. I am already one year behind." (Laughter) He said, "The other day in Hebrew class the guy put a test on the board in Hebrew. [It] didn't even look like a language; it looked like a rag rug just hanging up there." (Laughter) I said, "Did you pass it?" He said, "No, I failed it, but I won't always fail." And now he's president of the seminary and you know what? I couldn't do that if I wanted to. (Laughter) Refusing to be defeated.

I can remember going to his house one night; it's Christmas time. I was taking my gifts over there and walked in and Chuck had been sick with the flu and family members had been equally as sick, just one by one, slowly recovering. And so, Chuck said, "Come on in, Sis. I'll make you a cup of coffee and we'll have a little visit." We did that.

As we were sitting there, his younger daughter came down the stairs, Colleen and she said, "Oh, hi, Aunt Luci; Hi daddy. Can I open a gift?" And he said, "Sure." She was feeling a bit better and so he said, "Open that big gift over there," so she began to open up a huge doll. "Oh, look; it talks. It walks; it wets." And Chuck says, "Does it vomit? Because if it vomits, we cannot have one more thing around here that vomits." (Laughter) And I thought, he's supposed to be sick; how could he think of that? (Laughter)

He thought of it, because this Scripture is applicable to his life: "A cheerful heart is like good medicine (Chuckling), but a broken spirit just dries up the bones." You can almost hear the sand in that, "A broken spirit dries up the bones." And Chuck is like being with something that's well oiled. It just moves and flows and fun and funny and I thank God for that legacy.

My mother said one time when we were all standing together just before dinner, she said, "Listen, I got an idea tonight. Let's go to France." (Laughter) I said, "France? I thought we were going to dinner." (Laughter) I said, "Mother, we can't go to France." She said, "I know it. I just want to hear the sound of it in my mouth." (Laughter)

Yes, just something to lift your spirit. All of us are talking about the same thing and that is, find the joy that is in you. Each of you is a mirror fragment. Some of you are a bit dusty. Some of you are down-right dirty. Some of you are like me, kind of cracked. (Laughter) But you know what? God is in the business of taking that, honing is down, cleaning it up and just having it catch the glint of the sun and then shine into that which is dark.

Being tolerant, giving and receiving good advice, pursuing excellence, refusing to dwell on the negative, refusing to do it.

Chuck was running through the house on the way to football practice one night in a little church parking lot where they used to play football and he ran by Mother who was standing there in the kitchen, which was really her most significant spot, I think, in the house. And she stuck Scripture verses in front of her on the tile and she would memorize those. And she was memorizing a verse and Chuck asked her, "Why?" And the verse said--Proverbs 18:16--"A man's gift maketh room for him and bringeth him before great men." And Babe said, "Why are you learning that, Mother?" And she said, "Honey, I am claiming that for you three children, so that someday your gifts will make room for you, so that however God uses you, whether He brings you before great men or not, your gifts will open the door."

So, I think maybe it was my mother's prayer. Maybe that's what started it all, because when we are children, we certainly don't think, "Someday I'm gonna be speaking on this. I'd better take note." (Laughter) We just don't. That's not the way we live. It's not the way we think and yet, on reflection, it is wonderful when things come back to us that make life as sweet as honey, as though God is dripping His grace upon us and giving us this opportunity to shine.

Isaiah says it like this: "Arise My people, let your light shine for all the nations to see for the glory of the Lord is streaming from you. Darkness as black as night shall cover all the peoples of the earth, but the glory of the Lord will shine from you. All nations will come to your light; mighty kings will come to the glory of the Lord upon you."

So, all the Lord asks of us is simply to give Him our mirror fragment, so that the way you live will truly be turned into a joyful journey and wherever we are, to shine.


John: Well, we've been enjoying some unique insights and some great humor from Luci Swindoll for the past couple of "Focus on the Family" radio programs and what a thread throughout her message about the impact, Jim, that her mom and dad have had on her life.

Jim: Amazing and I never met Luci or Chuck Swindoll's parents, but they just must have been great people. I mean, you could see it in the fruit of their kids. It's such a reminder that as parents, we can play a tremendous role in molding our children's character and their very lives. It's not formulaic.

John: No, there's no guarantee, is there?

Jim: No, children have, you know, their own choices to make and so, I don't want to present that for the parent who is anguishing over a wayward teenager. You gotta let God work through those circumstances and hopefully, woo them back and help them come to their senses. But I am saying, when you set the right feast and hopefully, they have an appetite, it will all work out for good and certainly in the Swindoll family, you see that.

Let me say Focus is here for you. Again, not to be formulaic, but we have tools that will help you--

John: Uh-hm.

Jim: --to create the right environment for a hopefully and predictable outcome, to you know, raise children ready to launch into this world with a fervent faith in Christ and we're here for you and I hope you will rely upon us to provide those resources.

And according to recent research done in the last 12 months, we're doing this now annually and I think we've done it, John, for the last five or six years.

John: Yeah, it's been a great tool.

Jim: Think of this. Every three to 3 1/2 minutes we help a family work through a crisis involving their children, here at Focus on the Family. And when you pray for us and you support us, you are participating in that and that's astonishing to me. That's a good thing, every three minutes to be helping a family that's in crisis or in need. We're only able to do that because of you and I hope it is worthy of your giving. I know there's many, many people, many organizations asking for your help. I hope Focus will rise at least in the top tier and that you'd help us touch these families in the name of Christ.

John: Well, no gift is too small and we invite your participation right now. Just stop by or call us. Our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. And when you get in touch, ask about the CD or get the download of this two-part presentation by Luci Swindoll. What a great message to listen to again and again. You know, if you've got a road trip coming up or you just want to have a little better attitude about the traffic you're dealing with right now, get that; listen along and bring a smile perhaps to someone else's face by sharing that. And so, I hope you'll pray for us and support us as Jim requested and that we can send that CD out to you.

Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and made possible by generous listeners like you. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, I'm John Fuller, thanking you for listening and inviting you back next time. We'll have a special message on Monday for grandparents--practical ways that you can connect with your grandkids. It's encouragement to help your family thrive.

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Luci Swindoll

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Luci Swindoll is a popular inspirational speaker for Women of Faith's nationwide conferences. She has also authored numerous books including Simple Secrets to a Happy LifeDoing Life Differently and Celebrating Life. When Luci's not busy speaking and writing, she enjoys photography, music, art and traveling.