Focus on the Family

Focus on the Family with Jim Daly

Filling Your Love Tanks

Filling Your Love Tanks

In this recorded presentation, pastor and comedian Dennis Swanberg encourages listeners to understand and display the love languages of their family, and concludes his talk with words of affirmation for his own mother.

Original Air Date: September 12, 2012


John Fuller: Here’s a classic moment from today’s “Focus on the Family” guest, Dennis Swanberg, as he remembers a Sunday morning at church when he was just a young man.


Dr. Dennis Swanberg: And I remember that preacher was just a’ preachin’ and he said, “What should we do with sin?” (Laughter) I just stood up (Laughter) in the voice of Don Knotts. I said, “Nip it in the bud!” (Laughter) “Nip it; nip it; nip it. Nip it in the bud.” (Laughter)

End of Clip

John: (Laughing)Dennis Swanberg has that great gift of humor and it’s just one of the love languages that he’ll be describing today. And your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly.I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: John, as we continue to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Focus on the Family, we’re gonna take a lighter look at human relationships and what we can do to improve communication in our homes. Dennis is an amazing speaker and he has a lot to share with us, so let’s get rollin’.

John: All right, well, here’s Dennis Swanberg, speaking at a women’s conference with a very important woman, his own mother, sitting in the front row.


Audience: (Applause)

Dennis: All right. Man, I tell you, when I’m in an arena like this and the echo effect and everything, it makes mewant to just break into Billy Graham. (Laughter) (Impersonation of Billy Graham) I just feel like preachin” like Billy. (Laughter) I want to preach and preach and preach and preach and preach (Laughter), forever and ever and ever and ever. (Laughter and Applause) I love to say “forever”. And actually what I’m doing right now is letting these sound men get used to me movin’ around. (Laughter) And then they’ll get it together and (Laughter) God will bless and we’ll enjoy. (Laughter)

Now I tell you what, it’s good to be back in Texas. Born in Austin, Texas to Floyd Leon and Pauline Bernadine. (Laughter) And Idon’t know where my momma is, Pauline Bernadine, but wherever you are, Pauline Bernadine, you need to get an usher to bring you up right down here. I want you sittin’ down here. So an usher bring Pauline Bernadine down here close (Applause), wherever she is. (Applause)

Now theNo. 1little love in my life is my honey-love, my little woman, Lauree–my Sugar Babe (Laughter), my woman. (Laughter) I’m her man. (Laughter) I said, “Baby, do I look like a hunk?” (Laughter) She said, “You’re more of a chunk.” (Laughter) That’ll bless ya. “Thank ya; I love you, Baby. (Laughter)

I love my wife, my little Honey-Love, I do. But ladies, you all know this. I’m gonna share this. Sometimes, my little Honey irritates me. (Laughter) She does. She irritates me. I mean, I love her. I’d give my life for her, but she irritates [me]. (Laughter) I don’t know if we ever irritate you all, but you’ll irritate us. (Laughter)

For instance, I’ll come in off the road, you know,traveling here all the time and there. And I come home; I call home first from the airport [to] check out the temperature of the home. (Laughter) I’ll call and she’ll say, “Hello,” you know, just perky, perky, “Hello.” “Hey, baby, Big Swan.” “Hi.” (Laughter) “Big Swan.” “Hi.” “Everything okay at home?” “Well, you might want to talk to Chad when you get home.” (Laughter) “Is he nearby?” “Hold on, Chad, it’s your father.” (Laughter)

And you know these 16-year-olds, “Humuh, hum uh, um uh.” (Laughter) “Speak clearly, son.” “What? Dad, I ain’t [sic] done nothin’. I ain’t done nothin’.” “You’ve done something. (Laughter) [If] Momma ain’t [sic] happy; she ain’t [sic] happy andnobody’s happy. (Laughter) Son, I’ll be home in 15 minutes.And when I get home, she’sgonna be happy. (Laughter) Do you hear me? Happy in Jesus.” (Laughter) “I don’t care if you have to surrender to foreign missions, she’ll be happy.” (Laughter) Been gone for five days; I want momma happy, happy, happy. (Laughter) Big daddy’s coming home. I want a happy woman. (Laughter)

So I get home and I like to go out and eat. We go out to eat. You know, andI say, “Hey, we ain’t heating up this kitchen, Baby Love,” not that a microwave can heat that thing up. (Laughter) Better not go there. But we get in that Suburban. I had to get her a Suburban. What do you women in Texas especially, you all go through something; you gotta have a Suburban. (Cheers) You want a Suburban. (Cheers and Applause) It’s the “Texas Cadillac,” you know. (Cheers and Applause) Oh, she had to have a Suburban.

So, I get home and weget in the car. And when we get in the car to go out to eat, my daddy, Floyd Leon, 6’2″, 220 in his prime, always told me, “Check your gauges. Check your gauges every 30 seconds when you drive. Check your gauges. (Laughter) Check your gauges.” (Laughter)

We’re driving along. I checked the gauge. Where’s the gauge on it? And that’s what irritates me, ladies. Are you listening to me? On empty. And I’ve been gone five, six days. I shouldn’t have done this, but I just lost it. “Good night, Honey Love. Can you fill the car up with gas? Man, when you get to a half tank, fill it up or a quarter tank. Good night. I’mgonna be on the road somewhere, speakin’ somewhere. You’regonna be on the side of the road, run out of gas. Someone’s going to attack you, kill you, be in the newspaper. ‘Speaker, Entertainer’s Wife Dead on the Side of the Road!‘ Fill it up with gas. Good night!” (Laughter)

I knew I went too far, when she said, “Is there anything else you want to complain about? (Laughter) I try, okay? I try. (Laughter) And you go all across the country and you make your people laugh and have a fun time (Weeping), but I’m at home and I’m trying to be [a good wife].” (Laughter and Applause)

That’s when I put it in reverse and start backing off. (Laughter) “I’m sorry, Baby. Don’t worry about it. I’ll fill it up with gas.” “Okay, I try, okay.” “Okay, don’t worry; don’t worry about it. Don’t worry about it; I’ll do it.” So what I have learned is, when I get home, I hug folks and then I go get in the Suburban and I take it to the gas station and fill it up. (Laughter) It is a ministry. It is a ministry(Laughter and Applause)to fill up her gas tank. (Applause)

Butwhen that gas tank is full, my little woman, I mean, she can go everywhere. I mean, she puts the pedal to the metal. She hooks ’em. She can go here, there and yonder, this mall and that mall. She has a ministry to the malls. (Applause) I mean, when she puts her foot on the foot feed, it’s like Ross Perot saying (Impersonation of Ross Perot), “That’s the biggest sucking sound I have ever heard in my life. That gas is being sucked down through those jets.” I mean, the sheiks in Iran are going, “Yes, yes, yes.” (Laughter) They love it when my wife drives. I mean, whooo, whooo, whooo, I mean, she puts it on there. (Applause)

Likewise, she’s got another tank. It’s called “the emotional love tank.” You’ve heard about it. Everybody’s got a different language, a different fuel. And we all so, don’t we. Someone say “Amen.”

Audience: Amen.

Dennis: And we got all these different fuels that we operate on. And some of your men, they like that low lead. “Honey, just get the low lead.” (Laughter) That’s another thing that irritates me. I say, “Honey, how much are you payin’ for gas?” I said, “Get the low lead.” She gets that premium 93 octane. I said, “Woman, that cost mo[ney].” “Honey, it costs the same. You take the card and you punch it in there and pull it out.” (Laughter) Oh!

But anyhow, she operates also emotionally, on a fuel tank and you all do, too. And everyone uses a different fuel. You know, some use diesel; some are low-lead. Some are just, you know, have to have this additive and that. And so, there [are] all these many different fuels. One of the fuels is humor and I like the fuel of humor, [’cause] I operate well on that. And some of you all like to laugh. You’re already in a good mood to laugh.

And my momma and daddy, Pauline Bernadine and Floyd Leon, found out early on that their child had a problem. (Laughter)We were in church, out there in a little church outside of Austin, Texas, near Maynard, Texas, near Elgin, out near New Sweden, out there in the country. And I remember that preacher was just a’ preachin’ and he said, “What should we do with sin?” (Laughter) I didn’t understand anything like that. But I wanted to help him. ADD people have tender hearts. Did you know that, ma’am? (Laughter) And so, I stood up in the back. I didn’t want to speak out, because it was not our preacher. But I just stood up and I lip synched. “I don’t know.” (Laughter) “I don’t know.” (Laughter)

I mean, I thought, bless his heart, he doesn’t know what to do with sin and he’s a preacher. (Laughter) Well, he didn’t see me, so he comes back a second time. He started cryin’ and said, “What should we do with sin?” I thought, bless his heart, I must reach this man. (Laughter) So, I stood up and with greater intensity, lip synched again, “I don’t know. They don’t know. They don’t know.” (Laughter) They don’t know. You don’t know. On with God. No.” I mean, I’m tryin’ to help this man. (Laughter)

I said to myself, if he asks that one more time, I’m gonna answer him in the voice of old Don Knotts, old Barney Fife on “The Andy Griffith Show.” (Laughter) I was raised with “The Andy Griffith Show,” so sure enough, third time he sorta whispered it. He said, “What should we do with sin?” I just stood up in the voice of Don Knotts. I said, “Nip it in the bud!” (Laughter) “Nip it; nip it; nip it. Nip it in the bud.” (Laughter)

Next thing I knew I was sittin’ between my mama and my daddy. (Laughter) I mean, in the twinkling of an eye, there I was. (Laughter) My daddy would thump me, boom, on the back of the head, boom! I had my first vision. (Laughter) I saw the Crystal Cathedral before Schuller ever built that thing out there (Laughter) in Calif[ornia].

My mama, she’d grab me by the hangy-down part of the arm. (Laughter) Ma’am, are you under conviction about that? Don’t do that. That is a tender part of the body. (Laughter) She’s pinch and twist. I was the first one in our church to raise a hand to the Lord. (Laughter) I wasn’t praisin’ Him, but I was sayin’, “Help me; help me; help.” (Laughter) My mama would pinch me there. Mama, do you remember how you’d pinch me right there on the hangy-down part? (Laughter) You did and she did it all through my high school days. It was so embarrassing.

I went to Reagan High School in Austin Texas, played football there. I remember I was up there at school, walkin’ down the hall and my buddies come up and say, “Hey, Swanee, you got a hickey on the back of your arm.” (Laughter) “Who gave it to you, man?” I said, “My mother.” (Laughter) That’s tough. But humor, that’s afuel. That’ssort of like a language.

Now the apostle Paul, he was really good about it. If you got your old Bible, 1st Corinthians 13, now some of you all have it memorized. (Laughter) It’s the love chapter. (Laughter) When I was a pastor for 20 somethin’ years, they’d always want me to read this love chapter at weddings. I’d have these mommas come up and say, “I want you to read chapter 13 and look at my son-in-law right in the face.”

The apostle Paul, he was pretty sharp, wasn’t he? He said, “Love is patient; love is kind,” but he doesn’t stop there. Now for some of you all, that’d be fine, patience. “Well, I just wish my husband would be more patient with me.” (Laughter) Some of you like kindness. “He is rough as a cob. (Laughter) If he could just be sensitive to me.” Well, but there’s more. He said, “Love is not jealous. Love does not brag. It’s not arrogant. Does not act unbecomingly. It does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth. Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, love never fails.” And isn’t that beautiful?

The apostle Paul, he knew what was goin’ on. He was sharp. He knew everybody’s fuel. He knew everybody’s love tank. He knew their emotions.

Program Note:

John: You’re listening to Dennis Swanberg on today’s “Focus on the Family” and you can get a CD of this program for a gift of any amount when you call 800-A-FAMILY; 800-232-6459 or donate and get the CD at

End of Program Note

Dennis: Now some of you, your fuel tank, your octane may be words. I’m wordy, the gift of gab. I talk all the time. (Laughter) I’m in the two percent of men that talk constantly. (Laughter) My wife’s in the 10 percent of women that don’t talk constantly. That’s why I guess God got us together. When we do marriage enrichment things,I go with the women. She goes with the men. (Laughter) I guess that’s why I’m here today, (Laughter) but I’m wordy.

Now some of your men, you wish they would be wordy and talk to you and tell you things like, “I love you.” I’ve pastored these old boys in Texas. They’d say, “Brother Dennis, I told her when we got married.” You know the boy. I mean, I’m talking the man with the big tummy and a short tie. You know what I’m talking about? (Laughter) “Brother Dennis, I told her (Laughter) when we got married.” And some of them, their pants even curled over. (Laughter) “I told her when we got marriedthat I loved her. I told her if I ever changed my mind, I’d let her know.” (Laughter) If someone likes words, give them words.

There’s a lot of words out there. I guess that’s why I do so many impersonations, you know, because people like words, like I might do a Ronald Reagan (in voice of Ronald Reagan) And when I do Ronnie Reagan, that gets some folks, ’cause they love his words.

Or maybe I’ll pick up on another voice like a, Mr. Haney on Green Acres (in voice of Mr. Haney). (Laughter) And I just come out with his voice and you know, what I mean? (Laughter) Some people relate to that, you know. And so, on and on it goes. Or some just like Jimmy Stewart (in voice of Jimmy Stewart). Or some like Forrest Gump (in voice of Forrest Gump). (Laughter) You know what I mean. I love chocolate.

But anyhow, everybody’s got their different taste, their different words that they like. But some people now, their octane is service and hospitality. My little Honey Love, she likes the service and hospitality. (Laughter) And I tell you what, when you love your loved one with their fuel, with their language, if you understand their love tank, I guarantee you that if you will love them in their language, their fuel, it just fillsthem up to overflowing. They feel good about life. They just come bustin’ out all over. But most of the time, I love my wife and my boys with my fuel, instead of theirs, and oh, that’s where I’ve got to change.

You see, Jesus Christ is our perfect example. He threw aside His rights as God and became a man and dwelt among us. And He says to you and me, “I love you. I love you.” He orchestrates things in your life to say, “I love you big time. I love you.” And as He does that, then when we receive His love into our life, we receive Him, then we’re able to love as we’ve been loved. But we’ll never be able to love our loved ones until we allow Him to love us. But when we allow Him to come in and love us, then we are able to begin loving others like He loves. And I tell you the beauty aboutit, is then people are more likely to reciprocate and love you with your fuel, with your language than ever before.

Let me give you a quick illustration here. I remember when I went to Baylor University. (Cheers) I went to Baylor and it is a church school. I wanted to go to a state school, you know, party, party hardy. Boogy and boogy-woogy. (Laughter) You know, build a testimony, but anyhow, I [didn’t].(Laughter)

But while I was there, I don’t mind telling you, I got a little homesick. But a pastor there, Marshall Edwards and his wife, Doris, they had just come to Waco from Austin. I had known them in Austin. They had been chaplain[s] of our high school football team. And so, when they moved to Waco, I was so glad I knew somebody. And then that spring, they invited a bunch of us Austin kids to come out and eat supper. So we went out there to eat. Doris is a great cook and we’re on the back porch.

And she comes out there and she says, “Okay, dinner is about to be served.” And she looked at Alan and said, “Alan, what’s your favorite meat dish” and he said, “Meatloaf.” Meatloaf, we had so many crackers in ours growing up, I just never got into meatloaf (Laughter). But he loved meatloaf. She said, “I’ve got meatloaf.” “You’ve got meatloaf? All right.” She said, “I called your mother.” “You called my mamma?” “Yeah, and she said you loved meatloaf, so I made you a meatloaf with her recipe.” “All right. All right.”

Then Doris looked at Sherry Dubois and said, “Sherry, what’s your favorite dessert?” She said, “Well, I like that chocolate meringue with the little sweat beads on top of it.” (Laughter) She said, “I’ve got it.” “You’ve got that?” “I called your mother.” “You called my mamma?” “And I got your grandma’s recipe.” “Oh, great, oh, ooh,the little sweat with it?” “Yeah, sweat beads are on top of it.” (Laughter) “Great.”

And she went to everybody and came to me last, because I was sort of like the son in their ministry. She came to me and she said, “Dennis, what’s your favorite dish of all dishes?” I’d never told my momma, little Pauline Bernadine. (Laughter) I was sort of cocky. I said, “I love creamed peas.” “Creamed peas?” “Creamed peas.” I’ll never forget what Doris said. “Dennis, I’ve got creamed peas.” I said, “You’ve got creamed peas?” (Laughter) She said, “I called your mother.” “You called my mamma?” (Laughter) “And she said, of all the foods, you love creamed peas the most.” And I’ll always remember that. It felt so good to be loved with my kind of fuel–creamed peas. (Applause)

She knew me and I hate to say it, but I have no idea what my momma’s favorite food dish is. I think she likes everything (Laughter), but she knows mine. Listen to me, people. Is your love tank full or are you loving on empty? Is your love tank full or are you loving and living on empty? Oh, I know the Lord fills us, but He likes to use spiritual energized flesh to love our loved ones. Speak their language; fill them with their fuel.

You know, it’s been a long time coming. I speak all over the country and I have my own little television show, “Swan’s Place.” I hope you’ll watch that, but you know, my mom and dad don’t get to be with me too often, but I want right now to do something for my mother that I think is special and so, I want my momma to come up here on the stage with me, whether you like it or not, Momma.

Audience: (Applause)

Dennis: And I want the boys to play that little thing I worked up for you, ’cause I don’t think I can do this alone. I love my little momma, Pauline Bernadine. (Laughter) That’s right, Pauline Bernadine.

Pauline: You’regonna make me cry.

Dennis: [There’s] not another one like her in the whole world. One in a million. I take it back, probably one in10 million. No, no, I don’t think there’s another one like her, my little momma. Was it just yesterday that your children were out on the yard at play? You remember, Momma, on Hemlock Street. And you stood at the door with your apron on, watching us all tumble out there on the lawn. I want to say, “Thanks,” for the years now gone by, for I’m no longer a little child just knee high. And I appreciate all that you have gone through and doin’ what to me, seemed so easy for you.

Thanks for cooking those creamed peas, [for] cleaning,settin’ the tone where a boy could feel so secure in his own home. When I was just a little thing, you used to calm all my fears, enjoyed my excitement and yes, you even dried my tears. You were my nurse when I was sick in bed, Mentholatum (Chuckling) allover onthe spread. And you put up with me and my old buddies, when I was in my teens. Watched my ball games, encouraged my dreams.

Now that I’m older, I recall your sweet face across the dinner table, as Dad would say grace. The smile you smiled then, today is just the same, crinkling your eyes, when you call my name. I know much more than I knew as a child and thank the Lord for my little momma, Pauline Bernadine’s sweet little smile,for her tender heart, for her godly walk, that’s right. That’s more than words have so wisely taught. My little momma, though I’m now a man grown, with a wonderful wife and two boys of my own, only you, Pauline Bernadine and not another, can ever be to me what you are, my mother. I love you, Momma. (Applause)

Thank you. Is your love tank full, Momma?

Pauline: Yes. (Chuckling) (Applause)


John: Dennis Swanberg and his momma, Pauline on today’s edition of “Focus on the Family.”

Jim: Ah, man, John, I gotta tell you, that made me tear up, because I wish I could say those things to my mom who died when I was very young and that was a great illustration of taking the time to learn a person’s love language and then using it to make them feel special.

John: Yeah and as Dennis said, we tend to use our own love language, but things really change when we reach out and love that other person in a way that they’re wired for. In fact, I’m gonna try to do something special, some act of service for Dena, because that’s her love language and she really appreciates it when I do something practical around the house to help her out.

Jim: Yep, Jean’s love language is words of affirmation. I think we all have some of each of these, don’t we? And Mother’s Day’s comin’ up next weekend, so I’m tryin’ to figure out what right phrase to say she’s a great mom, a great wife. This is something we can all be thinkin’ about and men, you especially need to be thinking about this.

And I am sure you know someone who needs to hear this message from Dennis Swanberg. So, we’d like to send you the CD for a donation of any amount today, as you help us continue the work we’ve been doing for 40 years here at Focus on the Family and that is, to help families thrive in Christ.

John: Just give us a call at 1-800, the letter A and the word FAMILY; 800-232-6459 or donate online and request that CD at

And if you enjoyed today’s program, please tell a friend about us and be sure to tune in next time. You’ll hear about a great ministry opportunity for your family.


Mrs. Jenn Menn: Foster parenting really seemed like, okay this can fit. We can still keep our jobs. We can still stay where we’re living and we can serve together in a real need in our community, not just something we manufactured as, “Oh, it’d be fun to do.”

End of Excerpt

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