Rob Parsons: But I’m telling you this, write this down. If you want acquaintances, tell them your successes, but if you want friends, tell ’em your fears.
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John Fuller: That is some really good advice from Rob Parsons, and you’ll hear more from him today on Focus on the Family. Your host is Focus president, Jim Daly, and I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: And John, we’re continuing a very winsome presentation today featuring Rob Parsons of Care for the Family in the United Kingdom. Rob is a best-selling author of several books and a great storyteller as well. And if you missed part one of Rob’s presentation yesterday, uh, please get in touch with us. You can get it on CD or get our daily broadcast app for your smartphone.
John: Yeah, uh, we’ve got a number of ways you can listen. Just stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast, or call us, 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY.
Jim: And as we said last time, uh, we are sort of eavesdropping on important conversations that Rob is planning to have with his grandchildren when they become young adults.
John: Yeah, and, uh, so the setting is that Rob is on a stage in, um, a setting that looks like his study, his office at home, and he’s seated in an armchair speaking to each grandchild as he imagines them in the chair opposite him. So here’s Rob Parsons on today’s Focus on the Family.
Rob: Jackson, look at you. Prop forward, 22 years old. Jackson, take a seat. Jackson, I want to talk to you about dreams. You know, psychologists say that most people have three basic dreams. The first is you’ve fallen off a cliff. If you hit the floor, apparently you die, although no one’s been able to verify that. Uh, the second dream is that you’ve got an exam in a month’s time and you haven’t done any work at all. Uh, for me, Jackson, to be honest, that’s not so much a dream as- as a memory. But the third kind, and this is the one they won’t admit to, you are naked in public. You’re in the garden party, the Queen is coming towards you with a tray of cucumber sandwiches, and you are completely naked. (Laughing)
But Jackson, that’s not the kind of dream I want to talk to you about. I want to talk to you about a different kind of dream. You know, the Bible says, “Without a vision, the people parish. We are born to dream.” Jackson, I want you to know you’ve got a right to your dreams. You haven’t got a right to them being fulfilled and you certainly haven’t got a right to trot all over somebody else just to see it fulfill, but you got a right to your dreams. You know, when I was about 14, 15, I had a dream, but we weren’t an academic home. We only had three books in our- our home. We had an atlas, we had a Bible, and something called the Doctor’s Book. It was so written that whatever disease you looked up, you had. (Laughing)
And also, the one on the facing page. It was a- a scary book to look up, to be honest, and- and we weren’t an academic home. I didn’t understand [inaudible] I was lazy. My school report noted the fact that when I was 14 at Easter term, there were 34 children in my class. I had come 34th. My teacher wrote, “He is making no use of what little ability he has.” I remember one day, you know about a year later, we went to an architect’s office as a careers program and as I leave, another teacher said, “Parsons, where are you going?” I said, “Soon I may be an architect.” He couldn’t stop laughing for an hour. People will do that to you. Jackson, even people who love you will pour cold water on your dreams.
I remember rushing home to my dad; I was 21 years old. Dad was a mailman, a postman, and- and I said, “Dad, I met this guy. He says I can be a lawyer. He’s gonna pay for me to go through law school.” Jackson, I remember what my father said as though he was standing next to me now. He says, “Son, people like us don’t become lawyers.” He wasn’t trying to be sarcastic. I think he was trying to keep me from the pain of failure, but he was still pouring cold water on my dream. Jackson, if you’re gonna see your dreams fulfilled, there are a couple of things you’re gonna have to try and put in place. Number one, I think you’re gonna probably need to find a dreamcatcher. I met mine when I was about 15 1/2.
I’m walking down the road, I’m about to drop out of church ’cause I don’t understand church, and I’m certainly about to drop out of school, and all I wanna do is be a rock and roll singer. And I got a guitar on my shoulder and an older man from church comes up to me, Arthur Tovey. Arthur and his wife were poor. They lived in tombs in his mother’s house. Arthur and his wife were told at that time, they could not have children of their own. Arthur had never passed an academic examination. Arthur had a very bad speech impediment, but Arthur and Margaret loved kids. And he said, “Rob, next Wednesday in our home, we’re gonna have a little Bible study for about 10 or 12 teenagers. Would you like to come?” Oh, ladies and gentleman. When all you wanna do is walk onto the stage in Las Vegas dressed in gold lamé, a Bible study on a Wednesday night’s not the greatest offer you’ve ever had, but for some reason, I said, “Yes.”
He was a brilliant psychologist. He taught us the Bible the best he could for 25 minutes, and then they got two bits of hardboard and put them on the dining table. We played ping pong with the bats up against our chest. If the ball went under the table, it was an engineering job to get it out. And with what little money he had, he bought us fish and chips. And as we’re coming back from the chip shop and the vinegar is seeping through the paper, Margaret, his wife, had the tea brewing. When you walked into Arthur and Margaret’s home, you felt like a king. No matter what anybody said about you, especially teachers, Arthur told you, you were special, that God had given you gifts. If you missed that class, he’d come hunting you down. And when I was about 17, he said, “Rob, did you ever take part in debates or drama in school?” I said, “Arthur, I don’t even put my hand up in class.” He said, “Well, I think God has given you a gift of public speaking and I’m going to teach you.” That was scary. He was the worst public speaker you’ve ever heard in your life, but he did teach me to tell stories to children, and later, to give what I called, or he called, my- my testimony to adults in churches.
Folks, I’m not exactly sure how it happened honestly, but by the time I was early 30s, I was a joint senior partner at [inaudible] legal practice. And when I was in my 30s, the Law Society of England in Wales asked me to be a keynote speaker in front of 1,000 lawyers in Vienna. And as I go on stage, I decide to ring Arthur. He lived a little prefabricated house in the north of Cardiff. I said, “Arthur, I’m about to go on stage, a thousand lawyers out there. You taught me to do this.” He said, “Did I?” And a couple years later, I was promoting one of my books in America and the radio host in the studio, got him live on air from Cardiff as a surprise to me, and interviewed him. And at the end of the interview, he said to Arthur, “Well, what do you think of the boy who came to your Bible class?” Arthur said, “I’m proud of him.” I cried on air.
Arthur and Margaret didn’t have much, but they must’ve woken up one morning, said, “Darling, we don’t seem to have much. We haven’t got any money. We can’t have kids of our own right now. We haven’t passed any exams. I’ve got this speech impediment. But you know what, darling? We got two rooms. I think if I put the- the hardwood on top of the table, we- we could play table tennis with them. I could teach them a little bit of the Bible. If we save some money, we can buy ’em fish and chips. Why don’t we give it a shot?” Arthur changed my life. You and I will not have to answer for what we didn’t have, little or much, but we may have to answer for what we did have. He died a couple years ago. I went into the hospital for the last time. He was practically comatose. I put my lips next to his ear and said, “Arthur, thank you. You changed my life.” And I kissed him. Find a dreamcatcher if you can, Jackson, or be a dreamcatcher.
And then Jackson, you’ve got to be prepared to fail. You’ve got to be prepared to fail. You know, Roosevelt said, “The credit doesn’t belong to the man or woman who points out where the strong man or woman could’ve got it better, but- but the man or woman who’s in the arena, whose face is marred by sweat and blood and tears, who even if they fail, at least fail daring greatly. You know, I love poet, you look at this study. Jackson, it’s full of poetry. I love poetry, but about a year ago, somebody gave me a little poem. It’s the shortest poem I’ve ever come across. It will be my favorite poem til the day I die. Would you like to hear me recite it? Okay, well then, I will. It has to do with being prepared to try something.
There is freedom waiting for you, on the breezes of the sky. And you say, “But what if I fall?” Oh, my darling. What if you fly? At 30, Jackson, you’ve got to be prepared to start. You know, in the middle of the Old Testament, Jackson, there’s a quirky book, Ecclesiastes. It has an incredible line in it. Those who watch the wind, never sow. And those who watch the clouds, never reap. In other words, it’s rarely the perfect time to begin anything. Oh, you know what? There’s no point, putting the seed, then the wind will blow it away. No point start the harvest, it’s sure to [inaudible]. You know what, Jackson? Sometimes you have to just stick that seed in the ground. You’ve got to begin.
Itzhak Perlman may be one of the greatest violinists who ever lived, but he contracted Polio when he was eight years old. And he comes into the auditorium, and he takes his seat for solo violin. The conductor’s in place, the audience in place, the orchestra in place, and then he takes the [inaudible] off his leg to begin to play solo violin, but tonight it’s Perlman they’ve come to hear, because at the end of the piece, there’s a six minute violin solo, very, very difficult. They’ve come to hear Perlman. 30 seconds into that violin solo, one of Perlman’s four strings breaks. It sounds like a bullet ricocheted around the auditorium. The audience gasped. The conductor stops and then, Perlman waves him to carry on, and for the next five and a half minutes, brilliantly transports in the music, from four strings to three. He finishes the piece. And then, people went crazy. They’re on the seats. They’re clapping. The orchestra banging their instruments. And then, Perlman calls for silence and a microphone. And when he got it, he shouted into the darkness of the auditorium, “All my life, it has been my mission to make music from what remains. All my life, it has been my mission to make music from what remains.”
And Jackson, you are young and I am old, but neither of us can do anything about yesterday, but by God’s grace in our lives and in the lives of others, we can make music from what remains. I’ll see you a little later, Jackson. Folks, before Evie comes in, the last grandchild, I’ve got to talk to you about her. You know, if you have more than one child, you will have chalk and cheese. That is, particularly golden if the first one is compliant because that’s what allures you into having the second one. Uh, my second one, Lloyd, was- was the tested one. He was driving me crazy, honestly. That little boy used to wake up every day of his life with the same prayer, on those tiny lips, “Dear God, help me drive my mother crazy today.” And every day, God answered his prayer. (laughing)
In fact, he’s grown now with kids of his own, and God is still answering his prayer. I said, if I can see him with a child that stamps her foot and wags her finger, and shakes her head, and says, “No.” You can take me then. And I watch him now with little Evie, she’s six years old. She stamps her little foot and she wags her little finger, and she shakes her little head, and says, “No.” And I think, any day now. Swing low, sweet chariot.
John: You’re listening to Rob Parsons on Focus on the Family, and you can get his CD of this presentation when you make a donation of any amount to Focus. Just call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459 or you can donate and request your CD at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Let’s go ahead and return now to Rob Parsons. He’s on a stage set to look like the study in his home as he imagines his granddaughter, Evie, entering the room as a 24-year-old young woman.
Rob: Darling, I wanna talk to you about seizing the day. Friend of mine is professor of psychology at Oxford University. He said a fascinating thing to me not long ago. He said, “Rob, most people believe a future event will make them happy. If I could win the lottery, if we could move house, if I could get an exam, if we could do this, if we could do that, if I could get that promotion, I’d be really happy.” He said, “Rob, most happy people grasp it now ’cause now is all we’ve got.” I’m a child of the sixties and a couple years ago, my wife bought me two tickets for The Sound of the Sixties concert. I was so excited; I could hardly sleep. We go into the auditorium and it’s packed. I said to Diane, “There’s so many people here but- but why is everybody so old?” She said, “We’re old.” (laughing)
Ladies and gentlemen, the bands were older than the audience. The lead singer of the Blue Jeans said, “I’m sorry, I can’t jump above. I’ve hurt my back.” I didn’t wanna know about his back, and you know, Evie, when I left the concert, I walked to my car. It was raining and I pulled the collar of my coat up and a stunning realization hit me. The music was great, but those teenagers weren’t as great as I remembered. Teachers were sometimes nasty to me. Girlfriends finished with me. Lots of them. Bullies chased me down the road. Life wasn’t as good as I remember. Don’t say, why are the old days better than this? It will rob you of today, but darling, for some, it is not the problem that the past was so good it can never be repeated, it is that it’s so bad, we can never be free of it.
Darling, we have to be very careful not to give simple answers to people’s grief, and I wanna talk to you a tiny bit about suffering. You know what, darling? If I could stop you suffering, you could take my life now in this study, but I can’t, but I wanna take you to a man who suffered at least as much as I think you may have to, to show you how he dealt with it, but for that, my darling, I have to take you to Auschwitz. Viktor Frankl was a Jewish psychiatrist who was in Auschwitz and [inaudible], and he lost his wife, he lost his friends, he lost everything, but he went on [inaudible] reaching out to them. And when the U.S. army liberated [inaudible], somebody asked him this question, “How could you go on doing it? How could you go on reaching out? How could you go on helping other people?” And he said this, “They can take everything from you. They can take your health from you, and your freedom from you, and your dignity from you. They can even take your life from you, but one thing they cannot take, is the choice as to how you will respond to any given set of circumstances.”
Darling, for some, it’s the future. Look at this old armchair. You used to sit on my lap there and I would read to you from the Mr. Men books. Do you remember those? My favorite was, Mr. Worry. He worried about everything. He worried about his hat and his coat and his car and his roof, and- and if he had nothing to worry about, well, that really worried him because he was sure he must’ve missed something. Do you know what, darling? Even though Pops is a bit like Mr. Worry, I wake some mornings with a sick feeling in my stomach, and I worry about health, and I worry about work, and I- I sometimes worry about you kids. I sometimes even worry about your mum and your dad, and- and all, most of it’s a lot of nonsense. My mind just goes running off on things. You know, Mark Twain said, “Most of my tragedies have never happened to me.” The smartest man who ever lived said, “Don’t worry about tomorrow. You have enough to worry about today.” But we can live our lives in fear like that, darling.
You know, the early mapmakers used to get together with the old explorers, and they would say to the explorers, “Tell us what you found,” and then, the old cartographers would draw the maps, and when they got to the edge of exploration, and explorers could help them no further, do you know what they would write on the edges of the maps? They would write these words, “Beyond this, there may be dragons.” Nobody ever seen a dragon, and often, when the explorers got into the new lands, they were beautiful, full of wonderful resources, but right now, it was the future. And therefore, beyond this, there may be dragons. Darling, sometimes we write those words on the edges of our lives. We live in fear. Ask for God’s help. To live not just in yesterday, or tomorrow, but today. Give us today, our daily bread. This is the day the Lord has made. Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. And that’s why we call it, the present.
But darling, if you’re gonna do that, you’re gonna have to do a battle with a great enemy, time. Time is a fascinating thing. You can’t buy it, you can’t mortgage it, you can’t rent it, you can’t save it. People say to me, “I saved an hour.” Oh really? Where did you put it? You can save money. You can put money under the bed, but you can only spend time, and all the surveys in the western world show people want more time. The only problem is, everybody has all the time there is. Tonight, in a penthouse in Manhattan, a multibillionaire will die surrounded by doctors and lawyers, hospital consultants. At exactly the same time, a beggar will die alone in the streets of Calcutta. Those two men only had one thing the same the whole of their lives. At one second past midnight, a big bag of minutes was delivered to the foot of each man’s bed and 24 hours later at one second to midnight, each man’s bag was empty. No amount of money, power, prestige, could buy one more minute. Darling, it truly is the greatest asset. Now, I want you to work hard. I want you to be successful, but as you get older, I want you to understand the power of time. And make sure, my darling, you invest in relationships.
Brian Dyson used to be the CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises, and Dyson said, He said, “When we’re young, we juggle five balls, work, family, healthy, friends,” and what he called, “spirit”, but he said, “When we’re young, we juggle them as though they’re all made of the same material, but they’re not. Some are made of rubber. If you drop the work ball, it may bounce back. Not always, but it may. He said, “Some of them are made of glass. They don’t bounce too well. We’d be wise to take more care of those.” You know, darling, the Bible says, “Number your days, that you may get a heart of wisdom.”
Did you know that using Google could be dangerous? I- I went on Google the other day to find out the fifth president of the United States, and up popped a little box, would you like to know the year you’re going to die? Well, how could you resist it? I said, “Yes.” It sent me a questionnaire. 30 questions. Took me an hour to fill it in. And finally, a little box flashes at me. Calculate. I hit the button, and then it flashes at me. It’s working on how long I’ve got left. And finally, it shows me a number. Oh, darling. Pops has so many years left, and so few. You know, darling, I- I’m not much of a computer geek. I still like those old diaries.
You can make any charity shops, now look, I bought one over there. They’re in paper and they use pens. You remember those things? I- I like them. They’ve got little squares in them, and a month and the date, little boxes and- and every day I am pulled from one box into another. August 19 comes along, and it pulls me through a door into its box. Along comes August 20 and says, “He’s mine now,” and- and pulls me through a door into its box, and darling, so I go on through my life. There is for me, a box that has no doors. Someday I’m gonna die. No amount of money, power, prestige can alter that day at all. Darling, I believe the greatest philosophical question in the universe is this, does that box have no doors because it’s just a coffin and death is the end, or does it have no doors because it has no walls, and it’s the beginning?
Darling, as we end our time in the study now, that gives me the chance to tell my favorite story in the whole world. There was a little boy whose parents owned one of the very first telephones. He lived on the plains, and he said, “I was nine years old when they delivered it, a big wooden box, and my mom would wind it up, and she would say, “Information, please,” and a voice would say, “This is information,” and information please would tell them the weather or get them a number or even tell them the time. And one day said, my mom and dad were out, and I banged my thumb with a hammer, and there’s no point crying ’cause there was nobody in, and then I remembered the telephone. And I got a stool and I stood on it, and I wound it up, and I said, “Information, please.” And a voice said, “This is information.” And I said, “I banged my thumb.” And the information please said, “Is your mommy in?” “No.” “Is your daddy in?” “No.” “Is it bleeding?” “No.” “Could you get to the ice box?” “Yes.” “Hold some ice against it.” He said, “It worked.”
He said, “After that, I rang information please for anything. “Information please, help me with my geography homework.” She told me where Philadelphia is. Information please, taught me to spell disappear, and when my pet canary died, I cried, and said, “Why would God make anything that can sing so beautifully, and let it die?” Information please said, “Paul, you must always remember, there are other worlds to sing in.” And then my parents moved to New York City and I was out of her area, and anyway, I didn’t believe information please could live in this new plastic phone, and I never rang her again, until I was 24 years old.
And I flew into my old town, and I’m in the airport lounge, and I look at the phone and think, I wonder. And I dialed and I said, “Information, please.” And a voice says, “This is information.” And I said, “Could you teach me to spell disappear?” And she said, “I expect that thumb is better by now.” And I said, “Have you any idea what you meant to me?” She said, “Have you any idea what you meant to me?” We couldn’t have children of our own. I used to love it when you rang. Now- now, I’m Sally. You remember that, don’t you? But I’m not very well. I only come in a couple hours a week, but if you’re in my area, please ring me.” And I promised I would, and I used to, and we would often talk. And one day I rang, and I said, “Information, please,” and a different voice said, “This is information.” And I said, “Could I speak to Sally?” And the lady said, “Oh, sir. I’m so sorry. Sally died a couple of weeks ago. She was very ill. She only came in occasion.”
“Oh, I’m sorry to have troubled you.” “No, wait. Is your name Paul?” “Why, yes it is.” “Well, Paul. Sally said if you happened to ring, we must be sure to give you this message. Paul, you must always remember, there are other worlds to sing in.” Darling, I want you to be successful, but I want you to walk through life with your eyes a little higher. At the lowest moment their lives, Jesus said, “In my father’s house are many rules, but one [inaudible] told you.” He wanted to lift their eyes a little higher. And darling, that won’t answer all your pain. Don’t let people, even religious people, give you easy answers to your pain, but it will explain some, and it will bring you hope, and it is real. Now give Pops a kiss.
The problem with writing books is, how do you finish them? And I wrote the Wisdom House book and I wasn’t sure how to finish it and then, I came across some words, which apparently hung on the wall of Mother Theresa’s office, and I finish the book with these words, as I finish my short time with you now, with the same words. “People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are successful, you will earn some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway. If you are honest and sincere, people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway. What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway. If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today will often be forgotten. Do good anyway. Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway. In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It never was between you and them anyway.” (clapping)
John: Rob Parsons on today’s edition of Focus on the Family.
Jim: Wow, what a great message, and I definitely wanna share this content with Trent and Troy, my two boys. These are lessons that are so important for our young people to hear, and they shouldn’t have to learn them the hard way.
John: Oh, that is so true, Jim, and I- I’m thinking of a couple of my kids. I wanna sit down and listen to this with them as well.
Jim: That’s a great idea or if you have our app, it’s easy to share episodes, uh, with your smartphone. Let me just quickly say to our listeners, we need your help to continue providing these helpful resources. Families are still reeling from the effects of the pandemic, and more and more people are turning to Focus on the Family for advice and encouragement, and that’s a great thing because in addition to meeting those needs, we can also tell them about the love of Jesus Christ. So please, help us. Help us help others by making a generous gift, and when you make a donation of any amount, I’d like to send you a CD of this entire presentation from Rob Parsons, so get in touch with us today.
John: Yeah, our number is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459 or you can donate and request your CD at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Well, have a great Memorial Day weekend with your family and friends, and then be sure to tune in on Monday when a former Navy SEAL explains why earthly goals and ambitions didn’t fill the God shaped vacuum in his heart.
Chad Williams: I felt like I was better off not being a SEAL, and looking forward to becoming a Navy SEAL, because then at least I had something in front of me to give me drive to invest into, but now that I’ve arrived and I realize I’m still just the same person, where do you go from there?
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