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Choosing to be Joyful (Part 1 of 2)

Original Air Date 11/05/1996

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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 1 of 2)

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Episode Transcript



Luci Swindoll: I just went on and on and harangued Daddy. And he said, "Honey, let me tell you something that you need to learn and you need to learn at an early age. Everybody in life is not gonna be like you." (Laughter) I'm thinkin', "Shoot." (Laughter)

End of Teaser

John Fuller: What a great point and you'll be hearing more of the wit and the wisdom of Luci Swindoll on today's "Focus on the Family" with Focus president and author, Jim Daly. I'm John Fuller and we're returning today to a "Focus on the Family" classic broadcast.

Jim Daly: John, everybody loves this program. We have aired this in the past, but it's a winner and Luci is so funny and it's so heartfelt. And there are things that you're gonna learn by listening to Lucy today. You know, in Proverbs 17:22 we're told that "A cheerful heart is good medicine." I think even science is declaring that now, that they can do research and test it.

Today we hope that this message cheers your heart up and encourages you. Something I especially appreciate about Luci's message is, that it emphasizes how influential our families are on us. I mean, we all have one. We all come from one, right, John?

John: Yes. (Laughter)

Jim: And she reminds us parents that we should pray for our children, empower them to rely on the truth of Scripture. Boy, we need that more than ever nowadays and we should be watching for those teachable moments to emphasize biblical values to them.

And here at Focus on the Family, we want to be that help to you, to help you navigate all the joys and challenges that parenting brings. And we count it as our honor to provide you with articles and resources and tools to be able to do that and to be the best possible parent you could be.

John: Well, it's not an easy journey, but you'll find a lot of encouragement in this particular message from Luci. Jim, she's had an exciting life and I'm not sure I remembered this, but she sang in the Dallas Opera. (Laughter) She was an executive at Mobil Oil for 30 years and she was a vice president of public relations at Insight for Living, that little ministry that her brother Chuck Swindoll started and that we so appreciate.

She's currently in her 20th year with the Women of Faith speaking events and is currently on a farewell tour. And the message we're about to hear was presented at a Women of Faith conference many years ago. Let's go ahead and hear now from Luci Swindoll on today's "Focus on the Family."


Luci: The story is told of a very interesting, well-educated Greek philosopher, whose name is Dr. Alexander Pappaderos. And Dr. Pappaderos, every summer on the island of Crete, taught a class for two weeks. It was about ethics and humanities--the way people would treat other people, these kinds of things--in which we are all interested. And this particular summer, just as he was getting ready to close the class, the last few minutes of the class, he walked over to a large picture window that looked out on the Greek Cretan countryside and he mused over what had happened the past two weeks. He came back to the class, stood in front of the class and he motioned with a broad stroke of his hand, just to almost say good-bye. He said, "Now, are there any questions before we go?" thinking that of course, there would be none.

And people were hesitant to ask a question, because it was rather late in the day. And just as he was getting ready to say, "Okay, then you are dismissed," a little man in the back of the room, a rather timid-looking man, sort of carefully raised his hand and said, "Dr. Pappaderos, yes, I have a question." "Yes, what is it?" He said, "I'd like to know what is the meaning of life?" (Laughter) Well, people did much as you were doing, you know, kind of a "Good grief. I'm trying to go home, here and this guy is (Laughter) bringin' up a really heavy, heavy subject."

Dr. Pappaderos very quickly quieted the group. He said, "You know, if you don't mind, I'd like to answer that question." He reached into his back pocket and took out his wallet. He took out of the wallet a little mirror about the size of a 50-cent piece, honed down on the edges, kind of sparkling. And then he told this tale. He said, "When I was a child, I lived here on the island of Crete and it was during World War II and in our village, down the hill from where I lived, there was a battle one day between a number of our villagers and some Nazi officers. They came to our village on motorcycles and they fought with the men of the village.

"As a child, my buddies and I sat at the top of the hill and watched the battle. As we viewed it, it was quite a skirmish. After the battle was over, we each went down in search of some souvenir that we could take from that occasion. I looked around and I noticed that the rearview mirror of one of those motorcycles had broken apart and fallen on the ground. And in my effort to put it together, I realized there were way too many pieces, so I chose the largest piece, this piece."

But he said, "It was very rough on the edges. I took it to a stone and I carefully honed it down. I began to realize as a child, that I could have so much fun with that mirror. I would simply catch the glint of the sun and shine that mirror into an otherwise darkened place.

"As I grew older, I began to learn that this is no child's toy. This is really a metaphor for my life. Now, I'm not the light. I'm not the source of the light. I am simply a broken mirror fragment. But if I allow the sun to shine on my mirror fragment, it is amazing what light I can bring into darkness and by that I mean understanding, truth, humor, joy."

And then he shined the mirror in such a way, that it caught the glint of the sun from the window at which he had been standing five minutes earlier. Bing! And it shot right out into the face and the hands of the man who asked the question. Then he said, "Ladies and gentlemen, that is the meaning of life. Each of us is a mirror fragment. We're not the light. (Chuckling) We're not the source of the light. We're simply a broken mirror fragment, 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."

I love that story and the reason I tell it is because it sets the stage for what I want to tell you tonight about my own joyful journey. I want to talk to you about my family and my crazy circus growing-up times in my childhood. And I want you, as I reflect on these things from my own mirror fragment, to think about your own life, your own family. I want you to think about what you are doing with your mirror fragment. Are you letting the Son, S-O-N, of God hit your mirror fragment and shine into the light, into the heart of someone else? I want you to think about that as I talk about my own family.

Now, my family was just like any other family. We had our own struggles; we had our own joys; we had our sorrows and my parents were wonderful people. My father [was] 15 years older than my mother when they married and they had by commission as parents, very strong desires that we would grow up and be decent citizens just like you want for your children. They hoped we would stay off the street at night, stay out of jail, you know, stay out of trouble. And so, their commission as parents, was to help us learn certain things in life that would encourage us to be better citizens, better Christians, better people, just like you want for your children.

I learned a lot from the commission of my parents, from what they told me, from what they taught me. By the same token, the greatest lesson that I have ever learned from my parents and my two brothers was through their act of omission, from something that they did, either in a period of time or over a consistent period of time, that they didn't even think that they were teaching me, but by virtue of my watching, letting their mirror fragment catch the light of the Son of God, it had a tremendous effect on me and those are the things that I want to talk about tonight.

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 a 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, Mommy and Daddy had their hands full.

And we were reared in Texas, by very loving Christian parents. Daddy wanted us at the first opportunity to vote. I wanted to vote when I was 4 (Laughter), because Daddy explained it to me and I thought, "This is what I must do." Daddy would cry when the flag would go by or when the "Star Spangled Banner" played, very patriotic. And so, that was instilled in us to be that way and as a result, I am very much that way today. And when people don't cry, I think, "Why aren't you cryin', Dude? Good night. (Laughter) This is meaningful." Laughter) And it was through Daddy's encouragement and his commission as my father, that I learned some tremendous lessons. I loved school because Daddy encouraged me to do that.

One night Daddy and Mother had gone out to dinner with friends, Texas friends; we were living there in Houston. I was about 12-, 13-years-old and I was needing to do a book report on salesmanship. Daddy was a salesman. And so, I asked Daddy if I could borrow a book that he had in a drawer--in a file drawer--and he said, "Yes." Told me where it was and then so, when I went to retrieve it, I took it out. And I was one of these kids who was terribly neat. I mean, I had to clean up after Mother. (Laughter) You know, I'm one of these type of kids that just drove myself nuts, because everything had to be in the right place. And I'm like that today, but I'm a little more patient with myself, but I was nuts about that. (Laughter)

And so, I went to this drawer and I took out the book and I did my lesson. And in my effort to put the book away, of course, as was my wont, I realized, as there fell out a piece of paper on the floor from this drawer, something that I didn't really recognize. But, you know, being kind of a nosey little brat, I read it and it said something about divorce--top of the page--and then it had Daddy's name on the page and the name of some woman I had never heard before. (Chuckling)

And I looked at that and I thought, "Daddy is divorced? Well, that's not possible. He's part of the Trinity." (Laughter) I mean, he's perfect. I was crushed, mad and hurt and I felt, you know, abandoned. I felt horrible. And in my own little quiet, stubborn 12-year-old way, I at that very moment declared a silent moratorium on Daddy, that I would never speak to him again as long as I lived (Laughter) or as long as he lived. I was just so let down, so furious. I mean, why didn't he tell me? (Laughter)

Mother and Daddy came in from dinner and as was their custom, they greeted each of us with a kiss. We're a very affectionate family. And so, Daddy said, "Honey, did you get your homework done?" I said, "Yep." He said, "Did you have any problem finding the book?" "Nope." He said, "Everything worked out okay?" and I said, "Uh-huh." He said, "Anything wrong?" and I said, "No." (Laughter) He said, "Well, something has happened." I said, "No." (Laughter) Don't you hate it when kids do that? you know. (Laughter) (Mumbling) And so, Daddy left.

And after a little while, just after I got ready for bed, he came in. He sat down on the edge of my little half bed there in my little bedroom and he said, "Honey, something has happened that you need to tell me about. Your mood has changed. What is wrong?" And I said, "Daddy, I need to ask you something." "Okay." I said, "Have you ever been married before?" (Laughter) Very quietly, he said, "Yes, I have." (Laughter) "Daddy, why didn't you tell me?" He said, "I was going to tell you when you were older." I said, "I'm old. (Laughter) I'm 12." (Laughter) And I said, "Daddy, why would you marry another woman? Why, I mean, I can't imagine. I mean, what about us?" I mean, figure that out (Laughter), meaning us kids, you know. (Laughter)

And Daddy was so sweet. He didn't collar me or grab me or slap me or anything. He just said, "Well, Honey, I want to explain it to you." And I said, "No, Daddy, I'm not gonna speak to you again as long as I live," which could have come as a relief to Daddy. I've never really known. (Laughter)

Program Note:

John: We're right in the middle of a really funny story from Luci Swindoll on today's "Focus on the Family" and let me just encourage you to get a copy of this on CD or the download. You can pass that along and listen again and just be reminded of the joys of life. And you'll find details about the audio and ways to donate to this ministry at In fact, we'll send the CD to you when you make a generous contribution to our work today.

Well, let's go ahead and hear how Luci describes the resolution of that story she was just telling, as today's "Focus on the Family" continues.

End of Program Note

Luci: After a bit, Daddy turned. He stood in the threshold of the doorway. I can see him now, a very tall, good-looking man, tears running down his cheeks. And he said, "Honey, I just want you to know, I love you." And I said, "Yeah, I love you, too. Love you, too." (Laughter) He said, "And I will always love you." "And I will always love you." (Laughter) For three days I did not utter one word to my dad. And he would sit across the table from me at meals and I'd look at him; he'd wink at me. And I'd think, "Don't wink." (Laughter) I'm tryin' to be mad here, my gosh, you know. (Laughter) [He'd] smile; "Don't smile." (Laughter)

And after three days I needed my allowance. (Laughter) So, I had to go talk to Daddy and Daddy's sitting in there, reading the evening newspaper. And I said, "Daddy, can I talk to you?" And he didn't say, "Ah, she speaks," you know. He just said, "Sure," put the paper down and was real calm. I said, "Daddy, I need my allowance. You haven't given me my allowance." He said, "You know, Honey, I sure haven't." He reached in his pocket and gave me $2, whatever it was that I was due and that kind of broke the ice. And I said, "Daddy, why'd you marry that woman?"

He said, "Well, Honey, let me tell you something. He said, "There are a lot of things that we do in life that we think are right at the time." He said, "I thought it was right." I said, "And do you have any children?" He said, "Yes, I have a son." And later, as a matter of fact, I met the son and loved him, because he was just like Daddy. I was crazy about him. But I just went on and on and harangued Daddy.

And he said, "Honey, let me tell you something that you need to learn and you need to learn at an early age. Everybody in life is not gonna be like you." I'm thinkin', "Shoot!" (Laughter) He said, "You know what? They're going to be like themselves and you're gonna be like you and that's good." And he said, "You cannot get everybody into your mold and you know what you need to be, Honey?" I love this. "Tolerant (Laughter), you need to be tolerant."

He said, "Christians make mistakes. Christians get divorces. Christians do a lot of things that maybe are not becoming at the time, but that is the way we learn. That is the way God grows us up and you need to be tolerant." Oh, my goodness. That little light from that little mirror just beamed in my little heart. And you know since then, one of the greatest things I respect about an individual is, that they are different from me.

I remember when I was datin' a guy once and he was so different from me, I thought I'm gonna make him just like me and I did and I couldn't stand the guy. (Laughter) You wonder why I never married. The guy was just like me. (Laughter)

I think of a Proverb when I think of Daddy, Proverbs 17:9 that says, "Love forgets mistakes; nagging about them parts the best of friends." And I don't know that daddy ever told that to my brothers. I'm sure he discussed it with mother (Laughter), no doubt. You know, they were very intimate together and I'm sure they talked about it and perhaps prayed about it and prayed for me. God knows I needed it, but the truth was, he never nagged me about and to this day,

I would give anything to have those three days back, but I can't do it, because you cannot retrieve what you've already given away, but you know what I can do. I can be tolerant. I can realize that there is beauty in everybody and it is my opportunity to accept them like they are. It is God's job to change 'em. It's not my job and I learned that from Daddy.

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 is that on the ceiling?" "Well, it's Mother, you know. Get her down." (Laughter)

And Mother had a jillion ideas, you know, all these things popping through her head, things that she wanted to do. Three days before she died, she got a speeding ticket. (Laughter) She died at the age of 63—my age. But get this. She got it backing out of the driveway. (Laughter) I mean, really! I am serious. She says to us, "I'm going to the store." Two minutes and she comes back in and she said, "I got a ticket." And I said, Mother (Laughter), you just left." She said, "Well, he was at the end of the driveway (Laughter), waitin' for me." (Laughter) I said, "Well, Mother, were you goin' too fast?" She said, "No, everybody out there's just goin' too slow." (Laughter) I've never figured that out. She's [going], "Listen, I've got things to do." (Laughter)

And my mother's act of commission, she taught me many things. I can remember as a child, going up to her and saying, "Mother, I want to sing." And I love to sing and we were in a singing family. "I'm gonna sing every song in this hymn book, every verse of every song." And instead of Mother's eyes rolling to the back of the cranium, she said, "Great! I'll do the harmony. Let's go." (Laughter) Well, about page six, I'm tired, you know. And (Laughter) Mother's thinkin', "Come on, Honey. I'm just getting' going." (Laughter)

Or have you ever had a child come to you and say, "I'm bored?" "I am so bored, what can I do?" And I would go to Mother and Mother always said to me, "Make something with your hands." She never said, "Watch TV, 'cause we didn't have a TV." She'd occasionally say, "Read a book," but "Make something with your hands." And to this day, one of my favorite things to do is make something with my hands. I'm always sitting around creating something.

About a year ago I made an automated goat. (Laughter) I mean, nobody cares (Laughter), but I do. (Laughter) I mean, you should see this thing. What you do (Laughter), is you get string and toothpicks and this goat and if you turn it just the right way, this goat goes (Laughter) and eats grass and hot water bottles. (Laughter) I mean, people come into my house. I live in Palm Desert. And I say, "Y'all want to see my automated goat?" And they go, "Sure." (Laughter) "Lead us to it," you know. (Laughter) And I learned that from mother. That was her act of commission.

And Mother was always trying to get me to memorize Scripture. And one night she said, "Listen, Honey, I want you to come over tonight and have dinner with us, because afterwards I am doing the floor show." Well, good grief, you know. That could mean anything; she could have been doing a bubble dance with a grape. (Laughter) You know, you never knew. So I said, "Mother, what is it?" "Honey, I'm not telling you. Just get over here." (Laughter)

So I went expectantly. We had a wonderful meal together. And Mother says, "Okay, now, I'm ready to do the floor show." And I said, "What is it?" She says, "Okay. I'm gonna quote 1 Peter," and I said, "1 Peter what?" (Laughter) She said, "The book." (Laughter) I said, "Now, hang on a minute, Mother. You mean to tell me that you're gonna quote the whole book of 1 Peter?" and she said, "Uh-huh. I've been working on it about three weeks and I think I got [sic] it nailed." (Laughter)

I said, "How do you happen to be doin' this?" She said, "Well, Chuck," this is my younger brother, Chuck, whom I call "Babe," 'cause he's the baby of the family, but if he gives me a hard time, I call him "Reverend Babe." (Laughter). Because she said, "Chuck has been encouraging us to memorize Scripture from the pulpit. And they went to his church in, I don't remember; my mind's failing. (Laughter)

They went to his church and he said to the group, he said, "I've just memorized the book of Hebrews," which is a fabulous book—my favorite, in fact. And he said, "You oughta be memorizing." So, she said, "You know, I looked at him. I thought if he can do that, I can do that. I'm his mother." (Laughter)

So at the age of 62 she learned the book of 1 Peter. She brought me the Bible. She knew I didn't know it (Laughter). Set it in front of me and as I followed along, ladies, I'm telling you, she never missed a verse. She never missed a meaning. She never missed a nuance. She never missed a beat. (Laughing) I'm lookin' at that thinkin', "I could do that if I wanted to (Laughter). Maybe I don't want to, maybe, you know." (Laughter)


John: (Chuckling) Boy, what a story that is and I'm so sorry that we have to cut into Luci Swindoll's message right at this point, but we'll have more of this really great presentation for you next time. This is "Focus on the Family" and Jim, we promised our listeners some laughter today. I think Lucy delivered that for us.

Jim: I think she did. Imagine being her brother, like Chuck Swindoll. He must have had his hands full.

John: And they must (Laughter) have so many wonderfully fun moments together when they get together.

Jim: Absolutely, that is a powerful communication family. They are very good communicators and Luci has such a way with words and the way she characterizes her family in such a relatable way. It is a good laugh, but besides that, I've been reminded today how our kids are watching our actions and how they're learning their values based on how we're living, what we're doing, more so even than what we're saying and that's a scary thought sometimes when you lose your temper or you know, you just started being human in that moment and they're watching.

It should challenge all of us to walk our beliefs in front of our children. They know us best and think about that every day when you wake up and every night when you lay your head on the pillow, what can I do to do it better?

You know what? With God's help, you can be the parent your child needs and here at Focus on the Family, we want to help you in that parenting journey. And I gotta tell you, I'm really excited to let you know that we do research here at Focus to talk to you about the last 12 months and how Focus has impacted you and through that research it's been identified that we've been able to help 660,000 households build stronger, healthier and more God-honoring families. I am really thankful for that, John. That's a big number, 660,000!

John: Yeah, I'm thinking that's over a half million families--

Jim: Yeah.

John: --and how many kids in each family, so well over a million people touched by the ministry of--

Jim: Yeah--

John: --Focus on the Family.

Jim: --and you know, we can come alongside so many families because of your prayers and your financial support. I hope being able to touch over a half a million families in the name of Christ and to help them be more stable in their approach is worthy of your support. We can certainly support feeding hungry children around the world; that's important, but keeping marriages together, keeping families together, teaching them the truth of Scripture, hey, there's no better preparation for life than that and there's no cup of soup greater than that and I hope you'll consider supporting Focus today.

John: Well, call us and you can learn more about joining the team and donating. Our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY; 800-232-6459 or online we're at Now when you get in touch, please ask about the CD or a download of this two-part presentation by Luci Swindoll--a great message to listen to again and again and pass along to someone who just might need some encouragement. And let me just note as our way of saying thank you for making a generous donation to Focus on the Family today, we'll send that CD to you as our way of saying thanks.

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, inviting you back tomorrow for more from Luci Swindoll about what her mom taught her regarding stealing. That should be a great story. You'll hear further encouragement to help your family thrive tomorrow.

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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.