42 Years of Valentines


Janet & I celebrated our 40th anniversary this past year and we’ve shared 42 years of Valentines Days together. During an anniversary dinner this past year, we talked to our waiter (who was in his late 20’s or early 30’s) and when he found it was our 40th, he had an amazed look on his face and said “I hope my wife and I can make it at least 10 years”.

As I thought about his words and the surprised look on his face,  I tried to think about the things that have helped us get this far.  A couple years ago I posted 10 things that can help your marriage, so this is a re-post of some of those.  This isn’t “pie in the sky” kind of stuff because we’ve had our share of ups and downs, and times when we didn’t feel close at all. But here are a few of the things I thought about that have helped us.

  • Forgive each other. There are times when we’ve hurt each other and gotten ticked off and said things that we shouldn’t say, but we’ve always come back to the fact the we’re not each other’s enemy and we need to forgive each other just like Christ forgave us. We’ve both made a personal decision to trust and follow Christ, which influences every decision we make.
  • Take regular breaks from the routine. Marriage can easily become routine and difficult; especially during the child raising years. We determined years ago that we’d strive to have a regular date night away from the kids.   We also decided to try and take a vacation together at least once a year without the kids when possible. Yes, most of our vacations in the child raising stage were family vacations, but we tried to find ways to get away by ourselves. Even if we weren’t able to get away for a week, we at least tried to do something special for a few days every 5 years on, or around, our anniversary. We often had to celebrate “around our anniversary” because many of them were spent at Youth Camps when I was a Student Pastor
  • Give each other space. It took some time, but we’ve both grown to the point where we’re good giving each other some space; which includes short periods of time alone or away from the family. For me, I get recharged in nature or away from crowds and where there are few demands on me. Janet likes to be with people and do things. We trust each other to spend some time away; for me it may be a spiritual retreat or hunting trip. For her, it usually meant going somewhere to be with her family.
  • Develop great friendships. We developed great friendships with people who were moving in the same direction as us. Friends who wanted to grow in their relationship with Christ too. That made it easier to talk to our friends and keep each otheraccountable since we’d built relationships of trust. We also learned the value of consistently being in a small group designed for spiritual growth with friends and people we trusted.
  • Be on the same page. We decided that we’d always strive to be on the same page when it came to discipline or making decisions that concerned our children. We didn’t air our differences in front of the kids or let them play us against each other, but rather had a unified front in what we decided.
  • Realize some expectations won’t be met. We had to grow to the point of understanding we are very different (not wrong – just different) and always will be. 40 years into our marriage – we’re still different!  Our responsibility is to try our best to meet each other’s needs and guard our hearts against being selfish. That’s a whole lot easier to write than it is to do. This also means we realize some expectations we had coming into our marriage were unrealistic and we had to grow through releasing these.
  • Recognize marriage is a journey.   There are ups and downs, hard times and good, times of prosperity and times of want. It’s a journey, an adventure, and we’re in it together for the long haul which means we’ll walk through a variety of things that are good and bad along the way.  In the bad times it’s always unwise to make life-changing decisions; especially decisions that are emotionally charged.
  • Remember our impact on our family and others. There’s a type of inbuilt accountability for us because we value the example we set for our children and grandchildren, as well as our extended family, friends and others. This doesn’t mean living a life of hypocrisy, but the desire to set a good example means we strive to work through the problems and issues we face and are honest about our struggles. Note: that doesn’t mean airing all our dirty laundry; it just means we’re real people like everyone else and we realize we have a responsibility to those who are watching our example.
  • Handle Finances Well. We made a decision when we got married to do our best to handle our finances in a way that honored God. We continue to practice tithing to the local church, giving over and above the tithe to build the church, and we continue to support a variety of missions and several children in foreign countries. The only way this has been possible was by building margin into our finances. We learned this the hard way by making a number of mistakes, but over the years we learned to limit debt (we’ll be totally debt free this year!) and be on the same page in how we give. We also learned the blessing of generosity!
  • A common commitment to Christ. We’re both committed to growing in our relationship with Christ even though we mess up time after time.   Striving to keep Christ as the center and Lord of our lives and home has helped us through tough times when it would have been easier to give up. This commitment includes a consistent commitment to involvement in our church, serving in ministry, staying connected in a small group through our church, and having a regular time alone with God in the Bible and prayer. This is one of the key reasons I believe we’ve been able to work through the difficult times and remain committed to one another.  By the way, learning to work through difficulties and hurts in a local church is part of the journey, but being connected and involved in a local church is crucial to your marriage and family!

PS: Yes, that photo is pre-marriage!


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Marriage Resources

The following are some resources I recommend and believe can help you build a stronger marriage. As you consider them remember YOU LOVE YOUR SPOUSE BEST WHEN YOU LOVE GOD MOST.

BOOKS/CD’s – some of these are available in an another audio format.

Love And Respect – Emerson Eggerichs

His Needs Her Needs – Willard Harley

The Five Love Languages – Gary Chapman

Enemies Of The Heart – Andy Stanley

The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages – Shaunti Feldhahn

Covenant Marriage – Dr. Fred Lowery

Sacred Marriage – Gary Thomas

Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts: Seven Questions To Ask Before – And After – You Marry – Les and Leslie Parrott

A Lasting Promise: The Christian Guide to Fighting for Your Marriage –
Scott M. Stanley and Daniel Trathen





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15 Minutes of Silence

It’s amazing what you hear when you get still and quiet.  Early this morning in a 15 minute period of quiet I heard a dog barking in the distance, wind chimes in the breeze, the horn of a train, the distinct sound of the nails of my dog’s paws as he walked across our wooden floor to lay down beside my chair – his relaxed breathing that followed, the creaks & popping noises of our house, the growling of my own stomach and my relaxed breath, sounds of sleep from another room, the starting of the refrigerator compressor and sounds of distant traffic.

While this was going on I was trying to listen for one other sound.  The sound of the Spirit of God speaking to my heart.  One thing I’m doing in my time alone with God is learning to be quiet and listen, so in addition to reading and reflecting on Scripture and praying, I’m spending at least 15 minutes in silence to listen.

Psalm 46:10 has become a life verse for me.  In it, God says:  “Be still, and know that I am God;  I will be exalted among the nations,  I will be exalted in the earth.”   In the Message paraphrase it reads: “Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.”   So as a part of my morning, or sometime during my day if I miss it in the morning, I’m adding 15 minutes of silence to focus on and listening more intently to God.   

Oh and BTW – my mind wanders too.

And as an added bonus, I’m trying to add several times during each day where I do this by finding a place to get quiet for additional 5 minute periods of silence.

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Love Letters

When Janet (my wife) and I were dating, we both spent a summer serving students and children as missionaries.   She was in south Texas and I was in central Florida.  There were no cell phones or home computers then so our communication was through letters.

We wrote each other “love letters” almost every day for 10 weeks.  I guess I’m a hopeless romantic at times because I still have all those letters she wrote me.  Sorry men, guess I just lost my man card.

That summer I lived in a small room off the back of a Pastor’s home behind the church where I served.  I can remember the steam rising off the unpaved road that led from the house to the mailbox on the main road in front of the church because it rained almost every day.  I’d make a daily trip to that mailbox with expectation in my heart because I was expecting a love letter from Janet.

When I’d get to the mailbox I’d almost always be surprised and filled with joy.  My surprise was that junk mail followed me to Florida.  The joy came from seeing a letter from Janet.

You can imagine my excitement as I tore into that junk mail, reading every detail!  No way!  But I did tear into my letter from Janet; opening it before I even left the mailbox.  I read her letter on the way back to my room, again during the day and usually once more before I went to bed at night.  I didn’t want to miss a thing!  I wanted to understand and reflect on every detail as I thought about her.  WHY?  Because I knew the author of the letter loved me, and I loved the author of the letter.

One of Satan’s biggest temptations is to get us bogged down in junk mail while disregarding God’s love letter to us.  I love to read the scripture while trying to understand and reflect on every detail because I know the actual author (who moved men to write it) loves me and I love Him.


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Reading through the Bible chronologically this year.  From my reading yesterday it’s interesting to see the relationship between sin and shame.  Genesis 2:25 says that Adam & Eve felt no shame; however the moment they turned from God & did their own thing (sin), Genesis 3:7 says “they suddenly felt shame”.

Sin still results in shame which causes us to fear God and miss out on who God created us to be.  Shame is a powerful emotion in destroying relationships and its precursor is our choice to sin.

From my reading today, the Lord told Cain (Genesis 4:7) “Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you.  But you must subdue it and be its master.”

If you are a follower of Christ, you have the power to subdue sin.  Ephesians 1:19-20 says the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is available to those of us who have believed in Jesus.

As a follower of Jesus you also have a new identity – you are a new person – 2 Corinthians 5:17.  Live according to your new identity – stay in close fellowship with Christ – surrender to Him daily and you’ll have power to say no to sin.  When you do, you can be set free from the shame the enemy wants to use in your life to destroy your relationship with God and others.

By the way, restoration of closeness and fellowship with God and others comes through confession of sin and asking forgiveness which works against the power of shame in your life.  (1 John 1:9)

Just a few thoughts as we begin a new year.

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One of the best ways to experience more JOY & CHEER is to develop and grow in your relationship (connection) with Jesus.  Jesus said when we stay vitally connected to Him (read John 15) the results are amazing.  In fact, He said: I have told you these things so that you can have the same joy I have and so that your joy will be the fullest possible joy.  John 15:11 NCV

As we began our series Christmas Cheer, we talked about a simple PATH that will help build your relationship (connection) with Jesus and increase your JOY/CHEER.

PRAY – Do not worry about anything, but pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks.  And God’s peace, which is so great we cannot understand it, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7 NCV

APPLY – But the truly happy people are those who carefully study God’s perfect law that makes people free, and they continue to study it. They do not forget what they heard, but they obey what God’s teaching says. Those who do this will be made happy.  James 1:25 NCV

THANKSGIVING –  Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. Psalm 100:4 NASB

HELP – For you, my brothers, were called to freedom; only do not let your freedom become an opportunity for the sinful nature (worldliness, selfishness), but through love serve and seek the best for one another.  Galatians 5:13 Amp

The Underlying Principle:   3“Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” 37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”  Matthew 22:36-40 NLT

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Hope our GF Peeps are reading through PROVERBS – the book of Wisdom this month.

From my reading in Proverbs 6 this morning I came across a passage I’ve read many times, but it grabbed my attention again and contains some significant warnings and a very significant ERROR to avoid.    (see previous post on how to ENSPEC a passage of scripture)

In spite of the fact that the very character of God is LOVE (1 John 4:7-8), there are some things that LOVE can’t tolerate – things this passage says God HATES…

16 There are six things which the Lord hates,
Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him:
17 Haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
And hands that shed innocent blood,
18 A heart that devises wicked plans,
Feet that run rapidly to evil,
19 A false witnesswho utters lies,
And one who spreads strife among brothers.

This passage is tied to the previous verses (12-15) which clearly state there are people whose body language contradicts what’s actually in their heart.  Even though a person may act and seem sincere in what they say, underneath there is what God calls a “perversion” that creates discord, strife and dissension.  They often take some small piece of truth (which may or may not be related to what they’re saying) and weave it into their deception to make their words seem more legit.  This type person may seem very sincere, but is good at crafting words and questions to cast doubt or suspicion on people, organizations, or churches.

The ERROR to avoid — is the PERSON who does this.

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To help me better connect with God and His Word, I started asking 6 key questions over 25 years ago (that I learned from George Mueller).  Using these 6 questions, I came up with the acrostic ENSPEC.  I still use it today; it’s an invaluable tool in helping me understand and learn how to apply scripture in my life.   As Andy Stanley once said: “To understand why, submit and apply.”

I don’t ask God to show me an answer to every ENSPEC question.  I ask Him to help me understand the passage I’m reading and show me what I need to apply in my life.  It’s usually an answer to one of the 6 questions.

There are times when I don’t find any specific applications and that’s fine, but most days there are definite things I can apply to my attitudes, actions or both.

Here are the questions. I suggest you use them as you read Proverbs this month.

E – Is there an EXAMPLE in this passage I should follow?

N – Is there a NEW THOUGHT about God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit for me to grasp?

S – Is there a SIN revealed in this passage that I need to turn from of and confess?

P – Is there a PROMISE in this passage I can claim.

E – Is there an ERROR revealed in this passage that I should avoid?

C – Is there a COMMAND in this passage for me to obey?

There’s a Proverb for every day of the month and that makes it easy to know which Proverb to read each day.  Today – December 3rd read Proverbs 3.  On December 4th, read Proverbs 4.     If you miss a day, don’t get discouraged, just pick up the next day with the Proverb that corresponds to that day of the month!  Satan will do everything possible to discourage you and keep you from reading God’s Word.

Here’s A Sample of What Might Happen Using the ENSPEC Questions with Proverbs 3

VV 5-6 might jump out to me as an EXAMPLE to follow…

VV 11-12 could be a NEW THOUGHT about God for me to understand…

VV 29-31 reveals some SIN I might need to confess

VV 9-10 includes an EXAMPLE to follow and a PROMISE to claim

V 7 reveals an ERROR I should avoid

V 27 may not be a direct COMMAND, but it’s something I should remember that’s not just a suggestion

Added Notes:

It’s always great to share with someone what you’re discovering as you read!

When I’m reading and asking the ENSPEC questions and come across a verse that grabs my attention but I’m not sure I fully understand its meaning I do a couple of things

  1.  I read it in context.  I read the verses around it again to see if they help give understanding.
  2.  I use Bible Gateway and compare the verse in multiple translations ( I tend to look at the NLT  ESV  NCV  CEV  AMP  GNT  NKJV  NIrV and sometimes The MSG Paraphrase
  3.  If there’s a word I’m not sure about I’ll type the word in Bible Gateway under “Word Search” and see how the word is used in other places in Scripture.
  4.  I sometimes use Study Light in looking at the original language of the passage.
  5.  I talk to trusted mature Christians and ask them about it.
  6.  And I have a number of commentaries I read – but this is usually the last resort and used primarily when I’m studying.

If you’re just getting started – you might consider steps 1-3, & 5


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If you use AMAZON like I do, you can take a simple step and bless Grace Fellowship through AMAZON SMILE.  If you select Grace Fellowship Church of Wise County Inc as your charity to support, Amazon will give a percentage of everything you purchase on Amazon back to Grace Fellowship and it doesn’t cost you any extra.

The only thing you have to do is select us as your charity and then log on to amazon by using smile.amazon.com instead of just amazon.com.

It’s so simple and another way to make your money go further to support God’s kingdom work through Grace in our communities, our nation, and in Haiti and Africa.

I hope you’ll consider it!  Have a blessed and merry Christmas!

Pastor BJ

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ALL IN Power Passage – Nov. 19

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;  in all your ways submit to him,  and he will make your paths straight.  Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.  Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.  Proverbs 3:5-10 NIV

To Understand Why – Submit And Apply.

How can you personally apply this in your life?

I recommend you use a journal or notebook as you read and answer these questions.  Write down your response and review it.

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