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The Marriage that Laughs Together: Ted Cunningham

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
March 11, 2024 5:15 am

The Marriage that Laughs Together: Ted Cunningham

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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March 11, 2024 5:15 am

Remember the days before kids, work, and pets, when it was just you and your spouse? Can you ever get that feeling back? Well, on our Love Like You Mean It Cruise, Ted and Amy Cunningham, celebrating 27 years together, are talking about how to keep laughing together and liking each other. Join us as we hear their stories and snag a few pointers.

Show Notes and Resources

Connect with Ted Cunningham and catch more of his thoughts through his church website at, and on Instagram @whfc and Facebook @woodhills

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Want to hear more episodes by Ted Cunningham, listen here!

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Family Life Today
Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
Family Life Today
Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
Family Life Today
Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
Family Life Today
Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
Family Life Today
Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
Family Life Today
Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

Do you have a marriage, mom, dad, grandma, grandpa? Do you have a marriage worth repeating? Do you have a marriage you want your children and grandchildren to have?

Because guess what? They're watching, they're listening, remembering, and repeating. They see everything you do, they hear everything you say, they forget nothing, and then they repeat. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at

This is Family Life Today. Today we get to listen to a talk we heard on the Love Like You Mean It cruise. Yeah, you were pretty excited about this talk. Yeah, I mean, first of all, the Love Like You Mean It cruise was pretty amazing. It always is.

Yeah, it really is. I think we're hoping that you, our listener, will sign up for next year. That's one of the reasons we wanted you to hear what happened this past cruise, because I think you're going to be like, why am I not sitting there in the Caribbean on a boat with thousands of other people that love Jesus? And today you get to hear from Ted Cunningham, one of my favorite, by the way, of this past Love Like You Mean It cruise, because I don't know if I've laughed this hard in a long, long time. He really drives them some great points about marriage, but you laugh along the way.

Oh, yeah. I mean, his whole message was about joy and laughter. And even when you're struggling and going through something really, really hard, and many couples on the boat were struggling, this was a message that really lifted your eyes up, brought a little joy to your heart.

And I think you're really, really going to enjoy it. Ted Cunningham is the founding pastor at Woodland Hills Family Church in Branson, Missouri. He and his wife, Amy, have been married over 20 years, have two kids. In fact, he talks about kids in this message, so you don't want to miss that. He's written a bunch of books, but he's also, this is a fun one that he talked about. He's the author, Fun Loving You. And that's a lot of what he talks about in this message. Yeah, so enjoy.

Well, my wife and I, we celebrated 27 years of marriage recently, and I brought our 25th wedding anniversary picture. And I want to ask this question. How many of you remember Olin Mills? Would you raise your hand? Olin Mills.

Okay. Now, this is going to blow your mind. How many of you have never heard of Olin Mills in your life?

Would you raise your hand? All right, I always have to go to the newlyweds. Olin Mills, here's what you got to do. Pretend your entire family just got arrested and you need a group mugshot.

That's Olin Mills right there. We all walked down into the basement of our church and stood there, and we replaced them in the 90s with glamour shots. Raise your hand if you had a glamour shot. Raise your hand if you regret your glamour shot. I've never seen anybody that's like, oh, I love it, but one day your grandkids are going to be going through your stuff, and they're going to see that picture and be like, what was going on with grandma?

And you won't be here to defend yourself. We don't have Olin Mills. We don't have glamour shots. We have outdoor photographers, and they've got a lot of energy.

I cannot for the life of me understand these people. We showed up to this park, and the photographer goes, Amy, you stand right here. Ted, you run back there 30 feet. I want you to sprint up. I want you to grab her, pick her up, spin her around, set her back down.

I said, should we stretch first? I did not come prepared for this photo shoot, and I'm not an athlete. I've never been athletic.

I like skill, balance, coordination, strength, everything athletes need, but I took the challenge, and I sprinted up. And at about the 180 mark, I lost my balance. And for our 25th wedding anniversary picture, I body slammed my wife to the ground with a force and with a passion.

And I'm at that age, you don't get up right away after you fall down. Photographer comes over, you guys are right. I'm like, tell me you got that. She did not get that. All that worked for nothing, but this is about two minutes after, and this is the story of our marriage. Love walking side by side with Amy Cunningham through the grind of life. She has what I call a silent patriotic laugh. When she finds something funny, she places her hand over her heart, she leans forward, and nothing comes out.

And my goal is to get that laugh out of her every day. I'm married to a strong woman. Raise your hand if you're married to a strong woman. Raise your hand if you love being married to a strong woman. I love being married to a strong woman. Everything in my wife is passion. Like, I mean, she's always fired up. I can come home from a bad day at church and be like, whew, it's been a rough day. And she's like, fine, let's quit, move to Africa, be missionaries full time. I'm like, hey, let's bring it down a notch.

Let's pray about it a little bit before we go moving continents and changing callings. She's just passionate. And she loves to walk. She has a Fitbit. How many of you got a Fitbit?

Let me see the Fitbit. Yeah, and everything about Amy, everywhere we go is getting our steps. And I'll come home from church and be like, can we just stroll casually through the neighborhood? She's like, no, we're getting our steps. But she loves this show on TV with Chip and Joanna Gaines called Fixer Upper.

And I have said, if I ever meet Chip Gaines, he's ruining our marriage is really what's happening with Chip Gaines. I come home and Amy's in the dining room like this and I'm like, what's going on, babe? She goes, you know, I think after dinner we should get rid of this wall. Can we get rid of this wall right here? And I had to go online and find a term to save our marriage.

You know what the term is? Load bearing. Every wall in our home is load bearing.

You can't touch one or the whole house comes down. My wife has two love languages, acts of service and quality time, which means I serve her for long periods of time. And in the middle of these two love languages, she has decluttering. She's passionate.

A core value in her is if you haven't used it in a while, you don't need it. And she always starts in the garage with this passion. She cuts the garbage can on wheels. She flips the lid back and like a grocery cart around the garage, she's just looking for stuff to throw away. And she'll pick up one item at a time. She'll go, hey, are you still using this? I'm like, babe, that's a hammer.

When's the last time you used it? And if you don't have an answer, it's getting tossed. She once held up the car charger, the battery charger for the car. And she goes, I've never seen you use this. She throws it away. She says, when we need one, we'll just run and get one.

I'm like, well, you don't know what the premise of that piece of equipment is because we won't be running anywhere. My goal in life with Amy Cunningham is to get that silent patriotic laugh every single day. I go for it every day.

I'm not successful every day. Our daughter Corinne, I brought a picture of her. This is an older picture of Corinne.

She's married now, but this is from years ago. She's my pioneer girl. She loved everything, knitting, sewing, crocheting. She loved like even raising the animals to harvest the fur and spin the yarn herself. This was a little fawn. A neighbor raised sugar and Corinne would want to go over there every chance she had to spend time with sugar. This is my son Carson.

He loves deer, too. Now, good. I'm in safe company because I'm in about 60, 70 churches a year and every year one or two pastors will tell me I can't show that picture. And I ask family life, can I show that picture?

They're like, yeah, you're good. Yeah, you're good. That's like half the profile pictures of the people who'd be on the boat, Ted.

You go ahead. I grew up outside of Chicago, a fishing family. We didn't hunt, but a buddy of ours years ago, Carson was 11.

He's now a freshman at Liberty University. And I just remember getting dropped off in this stand with my 11-year-old, a loaded gun. My friend goes with his grandson about a mile away and this 11-point buck comes walking out of the woods. I've experienced adrenaline catching big fish. I've never experienced this kind of adrenaline. I started shaking. I lean over and whisper in my son's ear, I don't think I should be handling a firearm right now. And my son goes, Dad, I got it.

And he drops this 11-point buck. Look at that. There's Virginia, at least. We go Creekside.

This isn't for Johnny Morris and Branson. Did we take this picture? This was coming out of us. We were high five and having the time to relax. I'm so proud of you, son. This is going to be a moment we remember for the rest of our lives. After about five, ten minutes, Carson goes, Dad, Dad, Dad, what do we do now? What do we do now?

I'm like, I have absolutely no idea. But I think, according to the movie Red Dawn, you have to take a bite out of its heart. That's like the next step with this thing. Well, I rub blood on your face and yell Wolverine. So that's my family.

I'll be talking about them a little bit. But I'm here tonight and I'm here this week because my passion in life is helping couples enjoy life together and not make marriage harder than it actually is. And if you're looking for a good winter devotional read, I would encourage you to go to Ecclesiastes. It's dark. It's pessimistic.

Very much fits my personality. Chapter one, life is hard. Chapter 12, then you die. These are the bookends of Ecclesiastes. And in the middle of life is hard and then you die, you get Ecclesiastes chapter nine, verse nine, which reads, endure life with your wife. All your miserable days. I love being in churches when Bibles are closed and it's not on the screen. And in a preacher voice, I'll go endure life with your wife.

All your miserable days. And all throughout the congregation, you'll hear. It's good.

That's good. And I get to say that's not what it says. And this this is one of my passions is to correct this. If it's not taught, it's in the tone of a lot of churches that I visit. It's this marriage message.

It goes something like this. God gave you your spouse to beat you down and to suck the life right out of you. So you can be more like Jesus. That theology has crept into the church and we got to get back to teaching people that God didn't give you your spouse to be the grind of life. He gave you your spouse to go through the grind of life with. He gave you your spouse to enjoy life together. He says enjoy life with your wife whom you love all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun. All your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun.

The word toilsome there means grueling. Life upon this earth, raising a family, providing for a family can be very challenging. And I am grateful to have someone to walk side by side through all of that with. God did not give me Amy to be the grind of life.

He gave me Amy to walk through the grind with. I tell the guys in our church all the time, stop looking for greener grass. Where there's greener grass, there is a septic leak.

Stay home and water your own lawn. Can I get an amen? We're listening to Ted Cunningham on Family Life today from the Love Like You Mean It cruise. Part of that laughter you heard was me. That is just funny. As you've already heard, the guy is almost like a comedian. And I found out he actually does some comedy work around the country, but he had us in stitches. But it was laughter with a purpose. It wasn't just jokes.

It was real life marriage material that will enhance your marriage. And I tell you what, there's times in our marriage where it's really hard. Where it's a grind. You need to laugh.

Yeah, because it is a grind. And so he gave us some chances to do that. And we're going to take you back. That was just part of his message. But you're going to keep laughing in this next section. You're going to learn a little bit about how to parent as well.

So it's marriage and parenting help. Here's Ted. Who here met online? Let me see the hands of all those that met online. It's always a slow lift.

Raise your hand. It's legal. They're always worried about it. The seniors are going, is that legal?

It's totally legal. Meeting online is a great way to meet. But a good match is a good start. But it's not a guarantee of a thriving marriage. So I don't care if you met on eHarmony,,, I don't care how you meet. It's what you do after you meet that matters. And every time I share that, the online couples are the biggest ones to go like this. That's right. Because you're not going to find a thriving marriage and enjoying life together online through a test.

It's a decision you have to make every day. Our mentor who started the church with us in Branson 22 years ago, Dr. Gary Smalley, walked alongside life and ministry and marriage with Amy and I for years. He went to be with the Lord about eight years ago. And his passion in life was helping couples take everything irritating, annoying, and frustrating about the grind of life and finding a way to have fun with it.

And I remember we were having lunch at the fish house in Branson. And he gave Amy and I homework. He always loved homework. And so he'd give you a homework assignment. You worked on it for a week, came back to the next lunch. And he'd want to know how it went.

And so this is what he said. He said, I want you to find just one thing this week, one thing that's been irritating you, annoying you in life. And I want you two to choose to have fun with it and then come back next week. Tell me how it goes. I've already told you I'm married to a strong woman.

And she takes these assignments very seriously. We get in the car and she's like, OK, marriage boy. I want you to tell me something bugging you right now. I'm going to show you how we're going to have fun with it. And it'll never bother us again.

This is the power of decision, the power of choice. And so I told her I was honest with her. I had it.

It was fresh on my mind. I said, babe, there's not a lot of adventure left for men in the world anymore. Would you please let me find my own parking space? I want to do it all by myself.

I want to provide this for my family. You know what my wife said? Game on. This is 20 years ago. And can I tell you something?

This is true. You can ask her. We have not fought in a parking lot since, because now we have fun every time we pull into a parking lot. She still points out three spaces from the door. I completely ignore it.

I cannot see that spot. I drive 20 spaces down to my own spot. We used to get frustrated with each other 20 years ago, but you know what she does now when we pull into that spot? She leans over and she starts massaging my bicep. And she'll say, you did this all by yourself.

So proud of you. Your dad's really good at this. You know what I caught her doing a couple of years ago? She knows those Andes candies at the end of an Olive Garden meal are like crack to me.

I can't explain it. I love Andes candies. Well, she bought a bag of them and she keeps them in her purse now for when I do something good. And it was in a parking lot. She handed me my first one and I ripped that thing out of her hand. I'm open enough and I realized my wife just gave me a treat. She is rewarding my goodbyes. I'm a dog. I opened it. I committed and I went with it.

You get nothing out of tonight. Just pick one thing that's been bugging you. You've been at each other for years maybe and say we're no longer going to let that part of the grind of life stand in the way of us enjoying life together. We're going to find a way to have fun with it. Here's what we know about marital satisfaction. Marital satisfaction is based on factors and skills couples can do something about in any situation. They can do something about in any season or stage of life. And a lot of times when I work with couples at the church, they always want me to help them out of the season of the stage that they're in. And I'm here to tell you if you're right now a week away from a 7, a 9, and an 11 year old, you're going back to a 7, a 9, and an 11 year old. We can't get you out of that stage. So we have to go through seasons and stages and look at the factors and skills. I remember when the pandemic hit March 2020 everything about life came to a halt and Amy and I for two weeks at the end of March we sat on lawn chairs in our garage looking out at 11 chickens on the Cunningham farm.

And I don't know if you've heard a chicken lay an egg lately but we spent four hours a morning listening to all 11 of our chickens lay their eggs for four hours we just sat there drinking coffee not knowing what to do listening to. I remember Amy looking at me saying we're spending more time together than we've ever spent. And quality time is an important factor in skill and having a thriving marriage.

She goes, but would you consider this quality time? And we had to get back even in that difficult season we had to make decisions. And here's something else we know what was natural early on you need to be intentional with later on. Who here has been married less than five years? Let me just see your hands.

Less than five years. Okay a lot of what we're going to be talking about is like breathing for you. No one has to look at a newlywed couple and be like hey you guys touching enough? You guys touching enough?

Yeah it's natural early on but after you've been married 10, 20, 30 years you need to be reminded as Dr. Gary Smalley reminded us all the time the research shows us your wife guys needs 12 non-sexual touches a day and it's not 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12. You know what a non-sexual touch is? It's the hair over the ear. It's a hand on the small of the back. It's a hand on the thigh. It's a kiss on the cheek. It's a kiss on the forehead. It's holding your wife's hair back today so she could throw up without getting it in her hair. That's non-sexual touching. You know what I've always loved about this at 27 years of marriage?

Like if you'll be intentional with it, it can feel natural again. Making Amy laugh, this factor and skill we're going to look at a little bit tonight isn't something I have to work all that hard on. We're looking for our shared sense of humor all the time together.

All the time. I want to take you now to Genesis 2.24 and look at this very important factor. Eradicating the kid-centered home. Prioritizing your marriage in the home and often when we read Genesis 2.24 we see a marriage verse. But I want you to see the parenting implications of the very first half of this. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother. We've been teaching this to our kids since they were very small. When our son was five you could ask Carson, what's your dad's definition of maturity according to Genesis 2.24?

And Carson would go, I will not be with mom and dad forever so plan accordingly. That's right. We told our kids this all the time. We love you. You're a welcomed addition to this home.

You're not the center of it. And your mom and I, we got big plans after you leave. I remember they would go, what are you going to do? Well first of all we're going to Disney World. That's how we're going to kick the whole thing off. But you have to leave. Unite to his wife.

They will become one flesh. And I have a question for you. Do you have a marriage?

Mom, dad, grandma, grandpa. Do you have a marriage worth repeating? Do you have a marriage you want your children and grandchildren to have? My children have spent their life seeing me chasing Amy to get that silent patriotic laugh.

That's why this enjoying life together is so important. You want them to, because guess what? They're watching, they're listening, remembering and repeating. They see everything you do. They hear everything you say. They forget nothing.

And then they repeat. My son and I, one of our love languages is we send reels back and forth. But before we had reels we just had YouTube and when he was five I showed him the German Coast Guard. If you haven't seen this clip, when you get good internet, go to, type in German Coast Guard.

My son fell over in laughter the first time he saw it. Guys being trained. Day one on the German Coast Guard when a mayday comes in. Mayday, mayday, we are sinking, we are sinking. Hello?

This is the German Coast Guard. Mayday, mayday, we are sinking, we are sinking. What are you sinking about?

Carson at five years old, got it, falls over in laughter. We move on with our day, move on a couple of weeks. A few weeks later we're driving down the road. I start singing a hymn from my childhood that goes like this. I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore. And from the backseat I heard, and what were you sinking about? I looked at Amy, said they see everything, they hear everything, they forget nothing.

And then they repeat, you want a marriage worth repeating. We've been listening to a message that Ted Cunningham gave on the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise that we were on a few weeks ago, and this guy is pretty remarkable. He's insightful, he's funny, he's real, and we've learned a lot from him. Yeah, I personally enjoyed him as much as anybody on that cruise, except you, of course. Your message was amazing. But mine was to women.

I know, but I snuck in there. No, really, Ted was truly life-giving. But as you caught there right at the end, you know, the stuff he was saying about our kids is so true. They see everything, they hear everything, they forget nothing. That's scary. And then they repeat.

And it's really true, you know, when we were writing our book about parenting, one of the biggest things we said is the greatest thing you can do, if you're hoping that God will raise up your boys and girls to be men and women of faith, is to live it. To model it. Because they're going to repeat what they see. And Ted basically said that with humor, but it's a challenging thought.

I remember walking out of there thinking, you know, I laughed a lot, but I also got to look in the mirror and think, how am I living? And I think that's a good question for us. Like, how are we living in front of our kids? What are they seeing? And are we representing Jesus? Do they see us praying? Do they see us praying together as a family and as a couple? And are Bibles out?

You know, I think those are good questions to ask. Yeah. And also, you know, the theme through his whole talk was laugh, you know, and he had the whole place in stitches. And I think sometimes it's like hard to laugh because I was really looking around the room. I mean, there's 1600 people in that theater.

And so there's a lot of people, and I thought, you know, what percentage of this audience right now can't laugh because they're in such trauma or hardship. And even in that, there's a smile that can come to your face. I think where God says, I'm going to give you joy in the middle of a valley. It doesn't have to just be on a mountaintop.

It can be in a valley as well. And I know what I want to do. I want to go home and I want to laugh more.

Yes. But you're saying it's a choice. We have to choose joy. Joy is a choice, and it's not dependent on circumstances.

Obviously, circumstances can help that, but it's a choice we make on the mountain and in the valley. But here's what I want to say. If you were not part of this Love Like You Mean It cruise, I'm just telling you, you just got a little sliver of a taste of what it's like. I would go to right now and sign up for next year because it's going to sell out quick. Come and join us.

Yes. I'm Shelby Abbott, and you've been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson on Family Life Today as we've been hearing a message from the Love Like You Mean It cruise. Well, Dave and Ann talked a lot about it. They hyped it up, and no doubt you are excited to go. And so we're booking rooms right now where you can have an eight-day, seven-night reconnection with your spouse. The link will be available in the show notes if you want to make your reservation. You could just go to and click on the Love Like You Mean It banner, or you could give us a call with your reservation at 800-358-6329.

800, F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. We're sailing from February 8th to the 15th, so head over to and make your reservation for the 2025 Love Like You Mean It cruise. Now, tomorrow we're going to hear more from what happened on the cruise this past year, and we get to hear from our very own Ann Wilson who gave a talk there. She's going to be exploring the power of vulnerability, unity, and positive thinking in marriage. As you think about your husband, are you someone who goes, boo, or are you speaking life into your husband? Ann is going to talk about that tomorrow, and I'm super thrilled to hear from her. On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a donor-supported production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-03-11 07:44:17 / 2024-03-11 07:55:38 / 11

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