know God promises not to give me more than I can handle. I just wish he didnt trust
me so much." Mother Teresa.
One Saturday morning our multi-band kitchen radio was tuned to the
local airport control tower. That day, the tower operator was grouchy and short-tempered.
He snapped at one hapless student pilot, "It sure took you a long time
to make that approach!"
A short pause. The would-be flyer replied politely, "Well-------it
takes time to learn these complicated things."
The controller would have none of it. Sarcastically, he shot back:
"Like how to make a left turn?"
A long pause. Finally the fledgling pilot spoke:
"Nooooooo--------like how to stay right side up!"
Is "staying right side up" in your family life difficult?
Youre not alone!
A sales trainer once told me, "Selling is simple. But its
not easy. Its hard!" Loving our families is that way. The principles may
seem simple. Applying them isnt!
The nearest person I ever had to a sister was a cousin with whom I
fought constantly! I loved Pat, never understood why we argued, and always resolved to act
better next time. But each visit set off a new round of battles. Then, a few months before
her college graduation, she was murdered by a paroled convict. We never learned whether we
could have resolved our differences as adults.
Am I a family-relations expert? No. This chapter
simply shares experiences my familys found helpful.
Do you treat your family as youd treat Jesus?
The airport limousine was late reaching the Hotel Vancouver in
Vancouver, British Columbia, where our Pacific Northwest Library Association conference
had just ended. Finally a taxi offered five of us a ride for less money each than the limo
would have cost. Gratefully, we piled in.
On the way to the airport, the man beside me chatted with each of us.
Learning I was a librarian, he asked if Id heard of the book Reality Therapy,
then a best-seller. I told him "yes." He replied, "I wrote it." He was
Dr. William ("Bill") Glasser, heading home to California from lectures in
Canada. We were on the same flight to Seattle, so we continued our talk in the airport and
on the plane.
Bill told me the heart of Reality Therapy was that everyone has
two needs: to love and be loved, and to feel self-worth. Those needs are fulfilled when we
treat our families as wed treat Jesus.
"When you did it to these my brothers you were doing it to
me!" (Matthew 25:40). That means the way we treat our wife, husband,
father, mother, brother, or sister is the way we treat Jesus!
Do you have a bratty brother? A snotty sister? Super-strict parents?
Rebellious kids? Fault-finding in-laws? Is it impossible to love them? The Bible tells us
to act with love, whether we feel it or not!
"Love my dumb brother? No way! He isnt anything
Well, Jesus loves him anyway! Jesus died for him. And Jesus still
tells us that the way we love that brother is the way we love him!
Do you yell at your family? Youre yelling at Jesus. Do you beat
your wife or kids? Youre beating Jesus. Are you patient with them? Youre
patient with Jesus. Do you hug them? Youre hugging Jesus.
The simple sketches in a former Los Angeles Times cartoon series,
"Love Is," showed ways a husband and wife loved each other:
"Love is letting her have the last of the suntan oil."
"Love is starting her car on below-zero mornings."
"Love is taking turns with the midnight feeding."
"Love is cleaning the fish he caught."
Notice the themes? Thoughtfulness. Selflessness. Patience. Caring. And
"To love and be loved is to feel the sun from both sides."
Are you givers, not takers?
Its natural to "take." But when we mature we
learn to give. That simple difference can make a marriage work if both
parties are givers.
A young woman we knew was pregnant with her fifth child. She collapsed
at work one winter day with severe chest pain, difficulty breathing, and a 103-degree
temperature. The hospital diagnosed pneumonia.
Her boyfriend didnt care. He was furious because she hadnt
done the housework, pneumonia or not! When she came home from the hospital all her
belongings, and her childrens, were outside in the snow. Hed kicked them out!
Was that "man" a giver? Hardly. He was a taker. He
hadnt learned Matthew 20:26-28: "Anyone wanting to be a leader among you
must be your servant. And if you want to be right at the top, you must serve like a slave
... I, the Messiah, did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give my life as a
ransom for many" (Also see Matt. 23:11; Luke 22:26; and Mal. 2:16).
Any good partnership has two strong partners.
Men, God may have made you the "senior partner," but she is
your partner, not your servant. You cant be "master and slave" and
still be "one body." And youre responsible for helping her develop the
gifts and talents Gods given her. In the judgment, how youve treated her will
be the way youve treated Jesus!
Matt. 19:30; 20:16; Mark 10:31; and Luke 13:30 all teach
that "many who are first now will be last then; and some who are last now will be
first then." I cant help wonder if one meaning of those Scriptures
isnt that, if you make your wife your slave in this life, in eternity youll
Luke 6:31 sums it up: "Treat others as you want
them to treat you."
Jesus was a giver. He gave his life for us, by his free choice. He gave
out of strength, not weakness. When husbands and wives give to each other, by their
free choice and out of strength, their relationship has an excellent foundation.
More Scriptures: Prov.31:10-11; 31:15-21; 31:26-29; Mark 9:35;
Do you love each other as you are?
God loves us even though he knows every one of our faults and
limitations. Do we do the same? Or do we try to force-fit our partners into preconceived
When Yvonne and I married, I assumed shed do most of our
shopping. But her sinuses were so infected that she couldnt drive safely. Even one
"glob" of drainage going down her throat could cause her to pass out at the
wheel. Not good! Finally, I accepted the fact that Id shop and run most errands.
That wasnt easy. My day was already full. It took adjustments. But I loved her. I
did it. It was worth it.
"Dwell on the fine, good things in others" (Phil.
Do you consider each others needs?
"Yvonne, youre 27. Do you want to live to be 30?" her
doctor bluntly asked her.
She had severe chronic bronchitis, progressing into emphysema. Her
lungs were scarred. She had toxic sinus infections, worsened by Chicagos cold, damp
winter weather and pollution. To even live to 30 shed have to move to a much warmer
Stunned, Yvonne went to the landing leading to the basement of her
grandmothers home. There she prayed, "God, if youll help me climb this
mountain, Ill be your servant for the rest of my life!"
That fall she moved from Chicago to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and
joined the young adult group at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. Six months later we met.
In another three, we were married.
She was still far from well. If she so much as laughed or climbed a
flight of stairs shed have to stop and gasp for breath.
But she wanted children. So, a year after our marriage, she was three
months pregnant with our daughter, Yvette. But as the pregnancy progressed she began to
have trouble breathing in the dense, humid South Florida air.
That wasnt good, especially since aids like portable oxygen
bottles werent yet available. I might have just promised "Well do the
best we can." But, instead, I said, "Ive lived in San Diego. The air there
is drier and easier to breathe. Why dont we see if itd help you?"
So we moved, all the way across the country. It was a challenging step
of faith. We had little money, and no job waiting. But that choice profoundly affected our
futures for the good.
That began unexpectedly very early one morning, in our small San Diego
beach cottage, when Yvonne had an experience none of the rest us have ever had. (Nor have
I ever met anyone who has.) That morning, like Samuel (1 Samuel 3:1-18), she audibly
heard Gods voice.
Id taken my two older boys fishing at the nearby pier. At about
5:30 Yvonne was in the shower, alone in the house, when a voice called
She thought, "Wait a minute! Whos that? No ones
here!" Then, very tentatively, she called "Lord? Is that you?"
The voice replied, "Yes!" It continued:"Daughter, I
dont want you and Pete to buy any furniture. Build it all. Tell Pete to bring
home all the "burn" wood he can from the construction site where hes
(Yvonne, whos nothing if not outspoken): "Lord, are you
crazy? How am I supposed to do that? I dont know anything about building
(God, patiently): "Get a book. But remember, dont buy anything!
Build it all."
We were awed but puzzled. Why would God choose such an extraordinary
way to give us such ordinary directions? We didnt know, but we obeyed. We began
making the furniture, using a few simple, unpowered hand tools and pieces of scrap wood
never more than 4 feet long. While I was at work, Yvonne cleaned the dirty wood with a
tiny hand sanding block. Sawdust filled the air in our small garage and made her sneeze.
That was the turning point for her lungs.
Drainage from Yvonnes chronically infected sinuses had caused
most of her lung problems. But now, as the sawdust made her sneeze, those toxic sinuses
drained out of her nose, not into her lungs. And her lungs began to heal!
We realized it slowly. I loved to tease Yvonne and make her angry
enough to chase me. I did so one night while we were walking, and began running to keep
away from her pinching fingers. Four blocks later, still jogging, realization struck me.
Yvonne couldnt run four blocks! She couldnt even
laugh without gasping for breath!
But she had run four blocks, and
wasnt even puffing badly!
Since then, shes never had any breathing problems.
And that move to San Diego brought us a long series of other blessings.
They began when I was hired by Computer Sciences Corporation as a senior technical
librarian, and later transferred to Kennedy Space Center. (By that time Yvonne had no
problems in Floridas air.) Later I worked as a "master planner" on what
was meant to be a West Coast Space Shuttle launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base. I
even got to drive the astronaut van, though minus astronauts, in a parade.
In all I met some 80 astronauts, including five of the original Mercury
Seven, one to two men whod walked on the moon in every lunar mission, two of
Apollo 13s three crew members, every flight crew member on the first eight Space
Shuttle missions, and at least one from all of the first 25. My family met most of them
Still later, back in Florida, I helped plan advanced night vision and
Our hand-made furniture grew to fill a three-bedroom house, and gave us
the collateral to clinch approval of the loan for our first home.
And Yvonne has more than doubled the life span her doctor predicted for
I never dreamed of asking for those blessings, but God gave them all to
us thanks to one step of love and faith taken to care for my wifes needs.
"Dont think only of yourself. Try to think of the other
fellow, too, and what is best for him" (1 Cor. 10:24).
Joseph even considered Marys feelings and reputation when he
believed shed been unfaithful:
"But while she was still a virgin she became pregnant by
the Holy Spirit.Then Joseph, her fiance, being a man of stern principle, decided to break
the engagement but to do it quietly, as he didnt want to publicly disgrace her"
Also read: Prov. 13:10; Col. 3:12; James 3:17.
Do you live the "fruit of the Spirit?"
Paul tells us our human nature fights against God. Galatians 5:16-26 describes
the "works of the flesh," including:
- Impure thoughts
- Eagerness for lustful pleasure
- Hatred, fighting, jealousy, anger
- Always trying to get the best for ourselves
- Complaints and criticisms
- Drunkenness and wild parties
Lying is destructive too. (Some verses: Ex. 20:16; Ps. 34:12-13; Prov.
30:8; Col. 3:9.)
In contrast, Paul lists the results of asking the Holy Spirit to live in us daily:
- Goodness and faithfulness
- Gentleness and self-control
Which group creates better marriages?
A door-to-door sales job taught me to watch for something I honestly
liked about each home I approached, then praise the owner for it. Those compliments opened
many doors! And sincere compliments do not just win sales! They make friends and encourage
"neighbors." Thats one way to love them.
Yvonne and I met when my new roommate, Charles, invited her and a
friend to a spaghetti dinner. Charles was legally blind, yet a highly gifted painter,
photographer, and radio announcer. During the meal Yvonnes date began criticizing
him. Yvonne cut Drew off, took Charles aside, and began telling him all his good
qualities. I thought "thats someone worth knowing better!" So, the next
week, I called her at work (despite the phone seeming to weigh 500 pounds). And, yes, she was
well worth knowing better!
Yvonne and I try to communicate openly and frankly. We talk over both
sides of each issue. We respect each other and listen to each others thoughts. We
always learn. And we usually reach agreement.
Some Scriptures: Ps. 119:28; Prov. 10:12; 12:4; 12:18; 12:25;
13:18; 16:24; Matt. 5:21-22; 18:21; Mark 3:25; Rom. 12:15-18; 15:1-2; 15:5; 1 Cor. 14:26;
14:31; Gal. 6:2; Eph. 4:29-32; Col. 3:8; 3:13-15; 1 Thess. 5:11; Heb. 12:14-15; James 5:9;
1 Pet. 3:8.
Do you make time for your family?
"Your children need your presence more than your presents" - Jesse Jackson.
Our family lifes been enriched by that bit of wisdom.
When Bill and Yvette were very young, our television wore out. Instead of buying
another, Yvonne gave the kids her time. Together, they read books, listened to tapes,
played games, did crafts, and built furniture. By the time we got another TV, the years of
"togetherness" had formed our kids characters and done it well.
We also held simple family devotions. Wed read one chapter from
the Bible; talk, and pray. Those devotions helped us appreciate God, the Bible, and each
other. They helped us weather many storms that could have "shipwrecked" us.
Even today, when Yvette and Bill are grown and have their own
devotions, we still take time to pray as a family every day. It makes things go better.
Weve met families who hold devotions in unique, beautiful ways.
Once Yvette and I were stranded with car trouble fifteen miles from the nearest phone. We
were rescued by a Christian couple whose habit was to drive to some beautiful, peaceful
spot out in the country, read their Bibles, and pray amidst Gods creation. That day
they chose Firehole Canyon, found us, and became our "ministering angels" by
driving us home.
My job at Vandenberg AFB began with 12-hour days. The grueling schedule soon wore me
down. Worse, I left for work before my family was awake, and often came home after
theyd gone to bed.
"We need family time, and I need exercise," I said. "Lets try to
walk together out in the country for a few hours each weekend."
We did. It worked. Visits to the library told us what we were seeing. We learned about
Spanish land grants, ranchos, missions, plants, animals, and even barbecues. We began to
collect agates, jaspers, and quartz crystals, and make simple jewelry. Our family life
took on new freshness.
Do you practice being sensitive?
Sensitivity, to family members and to God, can pay rich dividends.
"Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other. . .Try
always to be led along together by the Holy Spirit and so be at peace with one
another" (Eph. 4:2-3).
How can we be sensitive to each other? "Listen" to
expressions, body language, and feelings. Put aside pride, jealousy, anger, and criticism (Gal.
To God? Search his Word. Ask him to speak in his "still, small
voice." Listen quietly, carefully and patiently. Often he simply answers with
ideas or impressions. They may come immediately, overnight, or much later.
Learn to judge whether the replies are his voice or yours. Pride,
anger, or jealousy are just us. His voice reflects love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. It never disagrees with Scripture.
Practicing sensitivity to God changed me. Id always prayed for
him to bless my plans. Then I noticed John 12:26, "For my servants must be
where I am." Was I Gods servant? Then shouldnt I ask what he
wanted done, and ask him to bless that?
Is it easy? No, it often takes great strength. Albert Schweitzer said,
"The most difficult thing I have ever had to do is follow the guidance I prayed
It was an Episcopalian priest who first urged me to be sensitive to
Gods Spirit and listen for his leading. I tried it, on a small scale, as I left that
chapel. Sensing a quiet prompting to walk back to work a different way (was it just my
imagination?), I did, and ran directly into a student who was looking for me with a
But I was used to following my logic, not my spirit. At times God had
to "hit me over the head" to remind me to practice Father Bennetts advice.
He did so one day as I started home from downtown Seattle to suburban Kirkland.
I was headed for the right turn that led to the Evergreen Point
Floating Bridge before the I-5 freeway was finished. Several blocks before I got there,
that "still, small voice" unexpectedly said "turn right, right here!"
Instead of obeying, I asked God "Why?" By then I was in the middle of the
intersection, and it was too late. So I continued as Id planned.
I reached my turn. The street was closed for construction! I had to go
back and turn at the exact street where Id heard that "still, small
I learned. Well, to be honest, Im still working on it. But
I see hints of progress. Several times now my kids have asked me "Who are you, and
what have you done with our father?"
My wife and youngest daughter have been much more sensitive. When we
moved into each of our Rock Springs homes, we invited God to show us how he wanted that
place to look. Yvonne and Yvette then tried to be sensitive to Gods quiet
impressions. Both places steadily grew to reflect Gods beauty. Large hand-made
flower arrangements gave color, warmth, joy, and peace. Glass and crystal added light and
Its still hard for me to be as sensitive as they are. Ive
only been successful once in my life the most painful one, right after my first
marriage ended. I still dont understand why. But I was emotionally numb. I operated
by feeling more than reason.
Wed lived at the base of a low mountain in El Cajon, densely
covered with tall chaparral brush. I stayed there briefly after the divorce. At night, to
cope with the hurt, Id walk through the brush and up the ridge. I carried a
flashlight, but rarely turned it on. I could see nothing, but somehow "sensed"
where openings and trails would be. It was as if Id become part of the mountain.
Dangerous? Yes, yet amazingly, always successful.
One night I was walking back down the gently sloping ridge-crest trail.
A faint glow from the city lights below silhouetted the clumps of tall brush, making it
even more impossible to see anything within them.
Suddenly I sensed clearly - that I should point the flashlight
straight ahead and turn it on. There seemed to be no reason why. Id seen nothing;
But that time I obeyed.
The light showed I was standing at the upper edge of a small clearing
in the chaparral, perhaps twenty feet across. The trail led across it, then entered more
heavy brush on the other side.
And there, just emerging from that lower brush, walking up the trail
straight toward me, was an small, innocent-looking animal with a very surprised expression
on its face. A black animal with a broad white stripe down its back and tail.
We came within a very few steps of an unforgettable meeting.
Sensitivity to others and to God will change your life. In good
Do you remember special days?
One summer, while Yvonne and I lived near San Diego, I often
drove the 2½ hours to UCLA for budget-priced work on my teeth.
Starting home one afternoon, I realized that the next day was our
anniversary, and I hadnt bought Yvonne a present! Whoops! Wheres the nearest
mall? I exited at the sprawling South Coast Plaza. Now, what store out of the hundreds
here? Too many choices! Finally I picked JC Penneys.
Even then, the store was huge. What to get? Like occasional other
husbands, I had no idea. The perfume counter caught my eye, but once there I was still
clueless. Trying to be helpful, the clerk sprayed some fragrances on my wrists. All were
nice, but none gave me any idea what Yvonne would like. Finally I remembered one of her
favorites and bought a bottle. Mission acccomplished I thought!
At home, I pulled into the parking lot. Yvonne came downstairs to meet
me. She bent to kiss me through the open car window. Then suddenly I heard:
SNIFF! SNIFF! SNIFF!
"WHERE have you BEEN?" she demanded.
Id never once thought about how long those sample scents might
last! Needless to say, she got her present then and there!
Do you love, yet make hard choices?
My divorce profoundly affected my four older children. Expecting it
would, Id stalled for years, hoping things would improve. They never did. And when
the split finally happened, the effects were even worse than Id feared.
One of my sons was especially strong willed. He and I had
many battles of which Ive long been ashamed. With the wisdom of hindsight, I wish
Id dropped all those fights and simply given him a big hug!
After the divorce, he and his mother had increasing conflicts. Four
years later she asked if Yvonne and I would take him. We did. He came, but unhappily. He
refused any help we tried to give. We clashed constantly.
Yvonne was five months pregnant. The discord began causing labor pains.
Both her doctor and a counselor told me forcefully that I had to end the problems, even if
it meant moving my older son out of our home. If not, the counselor said, God would hold
me responsible as the babys murderer! I knew I had to act. Yet I loved all of
them: my wife, my son, and the unborn baby!
Our boss had already offered to let my son live with him at the
construction site where we worked. Now I accepted. But the "clang" of the
sites metal gate closing behind him that night pierced me more sharply than any pain
Ive only seen him a few times since. Were far from
reconciled. I wish that was different. Yet every time I see my daughter, born healthy
except for lack of depth perception, Im reminded that that supremely difficult
choice was the right one.
Do you show affection?
During a sermon on the family, my pastor encouraged husbands
and wives to show each other affection in front of the children.
Few, if any, Scriptures illustrate that point. So he read Gen.
26:6-11, where Isaac and Rebekah were guests of the Philistine king Abimelech. Rebekah
was so beautiful that Isaac was afraid someone would kill him to get her, so they claimed
she was his sister. It worked - until they showed each other affection!
The pastor read from the King James Version: "King Abimelech
looked out his window and saw Isaac sporting with Rebekah."
A more modern version explained: "King Abimelech saw Isaac
Another stated "King Abimelech saw Isaac petting Rebekah."
In the Living Bible, Abimelech "saw Isaac and Rebekah making
The minister paused, leaned forward, grinned at his highly conservative
audience, and asked:
"Now, how many of you want to know what the Amplified Bible
Showing affection is natural for some of us. Not for all. For me,
overcoming shyness took many years of hard, determined work. And Im not fully there
Why? Partly my environment. I was an only child. My mother died when I
was two months old, and her parents raised me. They loved each other deeply, but rarely
showed it around others. In the 19 years I lived there, I saw them kiss exactly once!
But mostly? Heredity. My father and I were identically shy. And his
grandfather, a Mormon polygamist, was too bashful to even ask his first bride-to-be for a
date. Instead, his parents asked her parents to propose for him. (She accepted.) Later,
when he decided that two wives were better than one, he was still too shy to
propose. Can you guess what he did? Yes! He asked his first wife to do it for him!
Unbelievably (to me), both women agreed!
"Kiss me again and again, for your love is sweeter than
wine" (Song. 1:2).
Do you laugh?
Humor shrinks problems and defuses tense situations. While building our
furniture, Yvonne and I once varnished several pieces of wood wed set on newspaper
laid over our carpeted office floor. The nearly full can of varnish sat nearby on another
paper. I finished, stood up, and stepped back - directly onto the can! It flipped,
spilling most of the gallon of varnish our onto our carpet!
I braced myself for one of the most well-deserved chewing-outs of my
life. But to my amazement, Yvonne began laughing; a doubled-over, side-holding,
best-joke-in-the-world laugh! I still dont know what was so funny! I certainly
thought it was more disastrous than amusing, even after wed poured "tons"
of paint thinner onto the carpet trying to save it. But in that moment I knew what a gem
"Always be joyful" (1 Thess. 5:16; also Prov. 15:15; 17:22).
Humor even exists in trivial incidents. Once, facing a two-hour drive
from San Diego to a morning business meeting, I stopped at a 24-hour drive-in for a very
early breakfast. I was the only customer, and the clerk was eager to talk. She told me her
boyfriend, an Iranian pilot being trained by Pacific Southwest Airlines, was teaching her
his language. I asked, "for instance?" She quoted several phrases, and I
The meeting was dull. It needed livening. It didnt seem that
telling the group Id had breakfast at Jack-in-the-Box would help. But perhaps if I
reworded it, gave it more "class?" So I spoke up: "You know, at 5:30 this
morning I was learning to say "I love you" in Persian, and the day hasnt
been the same since!"
Everyone woke up.
Many ministers Ive met have had wonderful senses of humor. While
we lived in Orlando, a new pastor moved from Atlanta with his family. A banana tree was
growing just outside their rented homes kitchen window. It blocked the sunlight, so
his wife wanted him to cut it down. He disagreed. "That trees tropical, exotic,
beautiful! Lets enjoy it! Leave it there!"
But though banana trees grow close to full height in one season, they
cant tolerate cold at all. And one frosty winter morning, when the pastor entered
the kitchen, bright sunlight was streaming through the window. "What happened to the
banana tree?" he asked. He went outside. There was the tree, lying puddled on the
ground, frozen and dead.
The pastor stared down at the withered foliage. He looked skyward. Then
back down. Finally he looked heavenward again - and spoke:
"Thats right side with the woman!"
While I worked at Northwest University near Seattle, friends gave us an
old down comforter. After some thought, my first wife decided to remove the feathers, wash
them, and use them in pillows. She stored the newly cleaned feathers in two large plastic
bags in our living room.
Our fun-loving two-year-old daughter came in. Her eyes lit up. How
exciting to jump on those bags!
Enter my wife, to find the room completely filled with tiny down
feathers suspended in the air!
Though not happy, she responded creatively. She sucked the
feathers out of the air with the vacuum cleaner wand, then put them back in the bags.
While she worked, our now-thirsty daughter went into the kitchen, found
a glass, and got out the milk. Starting to pour was easy, even for two-year-old hands.
My wife finished the feathers, came into the kitchen, and found both
the table and floor covered with milk!
Feeling just a little out of patience, she set to work cleaning
Meantime, our daughter wandered back into the living room, found the
newly rebagged feathers, and delightedly jumped on them again with exactly
About then the telephone rang. It was the university presidents
wife. "Put the kettle on, dear. Im coming over!"
My wife, bless her heart, answered "You might as well. Everything
else has gone wrong today!"
"Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face."