Extended Families

Photo of Dr. Dobson

Dear Friends of Family Talk,

This letter is being written just before the national elections are held here in the United States, which will have occurred by the time you receive it. Shirley and I are praying that God’s people will turn out at the polls in record numbers, and that the outcome will be according to His divine plan. I can’t imagine what this country will be like if those supporting the international abortion agenda are given power, if the traditional definition of marriage crumbles, if religious liberty continues to be assaulted, and if our burgeoning national debt and uncontrolled spending are allowed to take us over the cliff.

An even more serious concern is the prospect that two more extremely liberal Justices to the Supreme Court would be appointed by the current President of the United States. That could give the liberals a majority with which to “create the laws” for the next 25 years or longer. All of these disturbing consequences are up for grabs as I write this final pre-election letter. I hope you and your fellow Christians were praying for this nation as November dawned upon us.

One thing is certain. Regardless of the election outcome, it will remain our responsibility to stand for the family. As I’ll mention later in this letter, there are some very exciting new initiatives and a big vision that I invite you to join us in accomplishing. Since I presently have no additional information on which to speculate about the outcome of the elections, let’s talk about something uplifting.

November is one of my favorite months because it brings the Thanksgiving holiday. This is a time for gratitude to Jesus Christ for His many blessings to us, and for the gathering of families and friends. That brings me to a brand new book, just off the presses, written by my daughter, Danae, and her mother Shirley. It is a delightful publication that would make a perfect gift for this time of year. Let me share a couple of excerpts with you from Welcome to Our Table.

The underlying theme of this book is how your home can be a tool for evangelism, and how you can use it to bless neighbors, friends, family, and lonely people wherever they are found. It begins with this introduction written by my beloved wife.

Thoughts from Shirley

My husband isn’t likely to admit it to you, but he is a very good cook, that is when family or friends can get him into the kitchen. His specialties have become some of our favorites. One of those rare events occurred several weeks ago when a physician friend and his wife joined us for dinner along with two other couples. Jim prepared his wonderful Southern fried chicken. He didn’t need a recipe because when he was a boy, his mother taught him all he needed to know. Unfortunately she didn’t teach him how to keep things clean while he works. He absolutely destroys my kitchen when he fries. Let me set the scene for you on that special evening.

Image of Dr. James Dobson cooking in the kitchen.
Jim was adorned with an apron, and the canola oil was popping all over the stove. Ingredients were strewn everywhere when our guests began to arrive. Jim was up to his elbows in flour, and he trailed it all the way to the front door. Everyone caught the spirit of the occasion and pitched in to help. We were all laughing and having such a good time. Then when everything was ready, we sat down for a marvelous meal of perfectly fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, and all the trimmings. It was soul food at its best. We topped the meal off with apple pie and frozen yogurt. (No, Jim didn’t bake the pie.) The best part of the evening was the warm fellowship we enjoyed, replete with stories and laughter. There is no restaurant anywhere that could have provided the pleasure and unique cuisine of this evening spent together.

I loved it because I have always cherished family, faith, and friends. As a little girl, I didn’t grow up in a loving environment. My father had a severe drinking problem, so when guests came by for a visit, we never knew if my father would show up and embarrass us. I knew very early in life that, above all else, I wanted to have a loving, stable home when I grew up. I also wanted to marry someone like Jim. As it turned out, I had to wait until college to meet him. Other than my relationship with Jesus Christ, Jim has been God’s greatest blessing in my life.

Image of Shirley and Danae Dobson.
I wanted a home that would reflect the values that mean so much to me. I am not a decorator, but I have an eye for beauty and charm. The houses we have lived in have not been large, but they have been expressions of my personality. Having friends join us here in our townhouse for times of hospitality and fellowship is such a pleasure to me. The Scripture teaches that it is fitting and proper for believers to welcome others into their homes. Here are some of the references:

Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality (Romans 12:13).

A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach (1Timothy 3:2 KJV). well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds (1Timothy 5:10).

Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined (Titus 1:8).

Use hospitality one to another without grudging (1Peter 4:9 KJV).

These verses leave no question about the importance of being gracious to others by inviting them into our homes. In 3 John 8, it reads, “We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth.” In short, being kind to others provides an opportunity to introduce the love of Jesus to those who might not know Him. That is not only relevant to adults, but it also applies to children.

I taught Bible stories for years to my kids and to other boys and girls in our neighborhood. Many of them gave their hearts to the Lord, and some, including my son and daughter, have gone on to serve Him diligently as adults.

But what about the art of hospitality? Both Danae and Ryan had a tendency to be messy when they were young, and I wondered if they were absorbing the principles on which home and family are built. During adolescence their rooms were often wrecked, and their clothes were scattered around. (Perhaps watching their father mess up the kitchen while frying chicken had a powerful influence on them.)

After Danae was grown and had a place of her own, I was delighted to see how she kept her apartment. I visited her one afternoon and found everything clean and in good order. I walked over to a curio cabinet that held porcelain animals and other artistic items. I leaned over to take a closer look, and Danae said firmly, “Mom, you are leaving finger prints on the glass!” She gets it, I thought with a secret smile.

I learned years later just how well the lessons of hospitality had taken root. When Jim and I reached our fiftieth wedding anniversary a year ago, our daughter planned and hosted an event to help us celebrate. Our son, Ryan, lives in another state, so he was not available to participate though he helped financially. It was an incredible affair. Danae selected lavender and yellow for the decor, which were the same colors I had chosen for our wedding. The flowers were purchased by Jim’s publisher, Tyndale House, and were gorgeous. They were chosen by an artistic friend, arranged by a local florist, placed into pedestal vases, and set onto round tables. A string ensemble was engaged to play classical music throughout the evening, and every detail of the program was exquisitely planned. Danae asked a comedian to entertain the guests, and a scrumptious meal was provided. More than one hundred and seventy-five guests attended the event, which was held in the California church where we had been members for more than thirty years. The banquet room where we gathered looked like a wedding ceremony was about to begin. It was a wonderful evening, and I couldn’t have been more proud of my son and precious daughter.

And now, as further evidence of Danae’s early home life, she has asked me to co-author this book on Christian hospitality. It was her idea because, to my delight, she too loves family, faith, and friends.

We hope you enjoy the stories, photos, and recipes provided in the pages that follow. If you put them into practice, perhaps your grown daughter will someday implement them in her home. But be careful not to get your fingerprints on her glass cabinet.

Thoughts From Danae

If there’s one aspect of modern life that seems to be missing in our busy, fast-paced society, it’s the provision of hospitality to our fellow travelers. We’ve become so weighed down by all the responsibilities and activities that we’re dealing with that there’s not much time left for friends. Meaningful interaction with others is hard to come by in this breathless world.

My parents have described an era from their childhoods that was less complicated. Back then it was typical for friends and relatives to drop by unexpectedly. My dad talks about the many times when he heard a knock on the screen door as someone called out, “Anybody home?” His mother would welcome the visitor with a cheerful, “Come on in!” and then hurry to put the coffeepot on the stove. After she served her guest some pie from the refrigerator, which was referred to as the icebox in those days, she and her visitor would sit in the living room and chat.

Those more casual days are gone now, or at least they’re not as common. Twenty-first century life is not conducive to unexpected interruptions in the hustle and bustle of nonstop activity. Yet all around us, there are lonely people who desperately need contact and fellowship. Numerous souls are struggling personally or spiritually and may not even know why they’re here.

It is for that purpose that my mother and I have written this book. Hospitality and expressions of human kindness are simply too important to be overlooked. Our objective is to provide ideas and illustrations to help you reach out to others in love and friendship. Whether you are serving a lavish meal with flowers and candles or whipping up a few refreshments for Bible study, God wants to use you (and your home) to minister to the needs of others. Your children will benefit too as they see you model what it means to exemplify the love of Christ.

I have to say that my mother is a class act when it comes to entertaining guests. I’ve seen her host everything from neighborhood get-togethers to formal luncheons for her National Day of Prayer Task Force. She’s all about details! Each event is thoughtfully considered, and she always makes sure Christ is the unseen guest at every meal. Years ago she co-authored the book Let’s Make a Memory with Gloria Gaither. In it she shared many of our family traditions that came from her creative mind. Yes, my mom is a veteran at hospitality, and I’m thrilled to have her contribute to this book. Can you tell I’m a proud daughter?

One of my favorite aspects of my mom’s traditions is the delicious food she prepares in her kitchen. The majority of our holiday celebrations include certain recipes, some of which have been passed down for generations. Of course, having the sweet tooth that I do, the cakes and pies appeal the most to me. Not only do I like to eat them, but I enjoy preparing them too.

Baking has been a hobby of mine ever since my parents presented me with a battery- operated Easy-Bake Oven at the age of five. I remember staring into the orangey glow of that oven’s plastic window and eagerly waiting for the chocolate cake to finish baking. It seemed to take forever!

As I grew older, I would come home from school and bake whatever I happened to be craving at the moment. My mom was not always happy to see her clean kitchen turned upside down when she got home. In fact she’s never let me forget the time she discovered a Crisco smudge on her fabric-covered chair. Okay, so I got a little distracted by the television while baking cookies—it was a junior-high moment.

As the years went by, I became a savvy baker and occasionally surprised Mom with a three-layer cake, presented on a glass cake plate in a nice, clean kitchen. Eventually she even stopped checking her furniture for Crisco stains.

Image of buffet table items.

For me, food is associated with warm memories. I loved to watch my mom and her mother, Grandma Alma, prepare dishes for holidays and other special occasions. There was always a spirit of love and laughter, and I was fascinated by the stories they told from the past.

As I was going through my mom’s recipe box for this book, I discovered handwritten cards that belonged to Grandma Alma, as well as Grandmother Myrna and Aunt Lela. Each was an accomplished cook and often worked their magic without recipes. They could tell if a substance was the right texture by how it felt. I’ll never forget the time I was lying in bed listening to Aunt Lela rattling around in our kitchen. I got up to investigate, and there she was, surrounded by flour, preparing six pies and a pound cake. Not one recipe card was in sight!

As for me, I need instructions, and I’m glad I have them. Throughout these pages you will find some of those recipes along with uplifting words, Scriptures, and attractive photos. My mom and I hope they will inspire you to live out the practice of hospitality (Romans 12). Don’t let our busy world prevent you from making that a priority. Carve out some time to build relationships and strengthen your family by providing comfort, delicious food, and Christian fellowship. By doing so, you will bless people and bring glory and honor to your heavenly Father. 1

Welcome to Our Table is punctuated by more than 100 beautiful photographs like those shown above, and others of gorgeous table settings, and of friends gathered around our table. I think you will find this book to be well-written and useful. I couldn’t be more proud of Shirley and Danae for writing it.

Image of the book Welcome to Our Table by Shirley Dobson and
Earlier, I mentioned Family Talk’s big ministry vision, and invited you to join us in a significant movement to strengthen the family. The ministry is preparing to launch an important initiative on January 1st, which we’re calling 1000 Days of Impact. Our mission will be to impact and invigorate millions of families in the United States over the next three years. You can learn more about this effort in the enclosed insert.

This is a unique time in history. Some might call it a watershed moment. Our biblical values are at odds with our culture, and families need direction. To meet this opportunity, we ask for your prayers and continued support.

We are blessed that a few ministry friends have committed to help reach our critical year-end funding goal. A matching challenge has been designated so that each dollar that you invest will go twice as far towards 1000 Days of Impact and the many important projects that will allow Family Talk to help change more lives than ever. Few things are as important as what we can do together now.

We are grateful for your generosity and willingness to stand for the family. I am thankful to continue serving in new ways towards the same mission to which I was called so many years ago. You are such an encouragement to me to stay in the battle.

May you enjoy the love and fellowship of family and friends this Thanksgiving as we count our many blessings and remember God’s goodness and faithfulness to all generations.


Dr. Dobson Signature

James C. Dobson, Ph.D.
President and Founder


1. Shirley Dobson and Danae Dobson, Welcome to Our Table (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2012) pp. 4-8.

This letter may be reproduced without change and in its entirety for non-commercial and non-political purposes without prior permission from Family Talk. Copyright © 2012 Family Talk. All Rights Reserved. International Copyright Secured. Printed in the U.S.A. Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk is not affiliated with Focus on the Family.

Donate today and
support our mission