Celebrating 45 Years of Marriage
Dear friends of Vital Signs Ministries, October 2016
As you open this month’s letter, Claire and I will be on our way down to Branson,
Missouri for a long-anticipated two-week vacation. As is our custom, it will be a working vacation but we will enjoy quite a bit of time taking drives in the country, hiking, visiting family, reading, taking in favorite spots like the College of the Ozarks and Dogwood Canyon, having picnics on the shore of Table Rock Lake, and just relaxing our souls in the Word and in the soft, beautiful autumn of the Ozarks.
It has been our habit in the last few years to schedule our Branson getaway to coincide with our anniversary. But, because of the election (Claire has to work the polls) and a couple of other things, we are going a week earlier than we normally do. We do, however, plan on celebrating an “anniversary atmosphere” throughout our stay. After all, this anniversary is one of those milestone moments. November 4th will mark 45 years of our marriage. And I’ve got to tell you, we have had an awfully good time of it!
In this month’s letter, I thought I’d share a few reasons why our partnership has
worked out so well. I once sent along my “Top Ten Hints for a Marvelous Marriage” (still available on our website), but today I’ll come at it from a different angle; namely, describing seven themes that have marked our relationship in these last 45 years. They are not unique to us, of course. Indeed, we can see these same themes played out in the marriages of many of our friends. But reviewing these things can bring to us all fresh appreciation for what the Lord has done in our marriages and remind us of things we need to keep working on.
1) Interaction. Marriage must be a present tense, existential, active thing. For Claire and I, this has involved an ongoing commitment to conversation, prayer together, sharing the responsibilities of home and ministry, participating wholeheartedly in the same adventures, and working to develop gratitude and sensitivity and forgiveness. It hasn’t always been easy…or pretty. We must confess to having lapses in concentration and communication, errors in judgment, and all the other problems created by ignorance and outright sin. Yet the Lord is wonderfully gracious and He forgives, gives an endless supply of new starts, and provides power of the Spirit to overcome all trials. And gratefully receiving these divine gifts, we have moved ever forward.
2) Spiritual growth. It is an incontrovertible fact that the surest way for a couple to grow closer together is to grow, as individuals, closer to Christ. Active sanctification, by biblical definition, changes a person’s character for the good. Maturing Christians love more, serve more, and forgive more. And therefore, they are more winsome and easier to love! But growth as a Christian isn’t automatic. Yes, becoming a Christian is simply a matter of trusting Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross as payment for your sins. But faithful discipleship requires the Christian’s investments of time and effort. Know well God’s commands and obey them. Learn to humbly deny yourself and trust instead the Lord’s graces and power. Develop an intimate relationship with Jesus and allow the Holy Spirit to shine in and through your life.
3) Christian service. For most couples, raising godly children is the first and
foremost Christian service duty, but it was not the will of the Father that Claire and I would enjoy that. Nevertheless, we have passionately pursued service opportunities of other kinds as the Lord opened the doors. Most notably are the duties He has given us in pro-life ministry. We have embraced that together and we are delighted that we are known more as the team of “Denny and Claire” than we are on our own. We have spent countless hours together in front of abortion mills, traveling to speaking engagements, planning, ministering in senior care facilities, leading discussions, hosting conferences, counseling, praying, working on business and writing projects. We also work together in taking care of the house and lawn, serving our family and friends and neighbors, and giving of our common purse to various ministries and missionaries. Also, though most of my international travel has been alone, Claire has been deeply involved in the planning and prayer that has made those trips successful.
Serving the Lord as a team is a terrific honor for us and we are profoundly grateful for all of you whose prayers and financial contributions have made it possible. Thank you!
4) Godly friendship. Like all of these themes, I could go on and on about the
importance of this one but let me keep it short and simple. Our marriage has been deeply enriched by the quality of our friends. From early on, we have been inspired and helped immeasurably by Christian heroes: early mentors, the friends from our home Bible studies in the 1970s, our pro-life colleagues here and around the country, the board members of Vital Signs Ministries, members of our book club, and many more. These friends have sharpened us, helped us, and made our lives more meaningful and fun. It’s sad but true that many Christian marriages are more boring and less fruitful than they need be merely because they’ve failed to find the right kind of friends to hang out with!
5) Hospitality. This is, of course, related to others in these seven themes. It is, for
instance, clearly a part of friendship and Christian service. But, because it has been such an important element of our teamwork, it deserves a spot of its own. I grew up in a very hospitable home and our time at the Christian Brotherhood also showed us how meaningful a ministry of hospitality could be. And so, even though we always had limited resources and limited space, we still committed ourselves to hosting parties and meals, to giving gifts, and to making our home as interesting and inviting as possible. As you can guess, a great deal of our ministry as pro-life activists has been hard and sad and frustrating. But God’s kindness to us has included very pleasant and successful blessings that have come from the ministry of hospitality. We heartedly recommend couples to pursue this area more diligently. You’ll find the effort well worth it.
6) Reading. This theme is also connected with others and I’ve already hinted at its
importance in making our marriage work. But it also deserves a spot of its own because of its very positive impact on us and, through us, to those we have ministered to over the years. The benefits of reading can actually be categorized in two ways: a) in what it has protected us from; namely, the bad influences of television, and b) the positive content of the books we read. From the pleasure reading of “golden age” mysteries, history, and biography to the more complex and spiritually stretching works of Schaeffer, Chesterton, Dickens, Solzhenitsyn, Tolkien, Alcorn, and so many others, our lives have been both strengthened and adorned. For as I’ve written before, good books make a person smarter, more interesting, and a more able communicator. And all those things make for a better marriage.
7) Heaven. The couple who understands that their lives go way beyond this one are much, much better equipped to live above the limitations, difficulties, and sorrows of the present. Just imagine the awesome realities of our eternal life with the Triune God in the new earth -- glorified minds and bodies…all creation reconciled to the Creator…sin and death destroyed…peace and fellowship and happiness forever! These are the blessings awaiting all of those who have trusted Christ as their Savior. And it is these blessings that create the unshakeable foundation for a fulfilling and productive life right now.
Claire and I yearn for that glorious future to arrive. We pray daily for the Lord’s
return. We talk about heaven a lot. We regularly read (and recommend and even teach courses) on Randy Alcorn’s and Joni Eareckson Tada’s books on heaven. Living for the eternal line rather than the momentary dot fuels our intercession and evangelism and willingness to sacrifice. Also, the biblical teaching about those rewards graciously awaiting the faithful disciples of Jesus motivates us to continually invest our time and talents in what I call “the paradise portfolio” awaiting us on the other side. As you’ve read from me before, my firm conviction is that, contrary to the old adage, it is the heavenly-minded Christian who performs the most earthly good. And that applies to marriage too. The couple who find their ultimate excitement and purpose in what God has in store for them in the “better country” is the couple whose relationship is sweeter and more significant in this one.
So, there you have it – seven themes of what we believe makes a healthy and happy marriage. And we’re absolutely thrilled at having been blessed with 45 years of such a partnership. Thank you, Lord.
Would you like to celebrate this milestone anniversary with us? We sure hope so because we are planning the return of a Vital Signs Ministries tradition on Friday evening at 7 on November 11th at Hope E. Free Church located just north of Maple on 93rd Street when we host an Autumn Pie Social. Admission is free but RSVP’s are mighty important --- as are all offers to bring a pie to share with the crowd! Contact email@example.com or 341-8886.
In addition to the sweet treats and fellowship, we think you’ll find the evening
interesting and helpful for a few other reasons as well. Among those will be a fun
retrospective in music and photos of Denny and Claire’s 45 years, some quick updates and previews of Vital Signs activities, and, what might be the most needed item of all, a brief talk entitled “How Shall We Live…With This President in the White House?” Again, that’s Friday evening, November 11th. Please try and come. Claire and I and the Vital Signs Ministries Board members will be overjoyed to have you join us.
In anticipation of that evening of celebration, we share a page of photos of a couple
very much in love. They are a couple, by the way, who are profoundly grateful to all of you who have helped us over the years in holding high the torches of the gospel, of the sanctity of life, and Christ’s love in action in our darkened culture. Thank you so much!