This August Patty and I are celebrating our 50th Wedding Anniversary. It is hard to remember every year, but I can confidently declare that the intimacy, the love, and the unity in our marriage has grown steadily every year. Our marriage has gotten better and better the older we get. It takes a lot of conscientious work to grow a marriage, it doesn’t just happen because you live together in the same house and sleep together in the same bed. It seems logical that it would get easier and easier as you get more experience to have a growing marriage, but that isn’t true, it gets harder and harder. It is like climbing a mountain, the higher you get the harder the climb becomes. A principle of intimacy is that if a marriage stops growing and plateaus, after being plateaued for awhile it will go backwards. Therefore it is essential that a couple works very hard to keep their marriage growing in the quality of their relationship or it will plateau and it will go backwards. A lot of married couples who have been married for many years are just going through the motions. There are a number of great tools to help jump start our marriages into a new season of growth. Reading a good book on marriage together and discussing what you read is a great way to foster communication especially if efforts to talk candidly about your relationship tends to create conflict. If you are going on a long driving trip you can get an audio version of the book, or you could purchase a marriage seminar on CD’s and listen to it together as you drive. Another awesome tool that very few people take advantage of is Marriage Counseling for the purpose of fine tuning a good marriage so that it keeps growing. Good marriages become stale marriages if you keep doing what you have always done even if it has worked. In order for growth to continue and even accelerate it is important for new things, new methods, new experiences, new challenges, new learning to happen. Boring marriages aren’t necessarily bad, but boring isn’t fun even when you are old. Another powerful tool is to go on a marriage retreat with other couples where there is good teaching on marriage and a good time is experienced because of the surroundings, the environment, the fellowship and the food. The accelerated growth that often takes place as a result of the retreat makes the cost of going a bargain. Jefferson Baptist Church is having a Marriage Retreat at Odell Lake Lodge On three separate weekends, April 5 – 7, 12 – 14, and 26 – 28. Patty and I will be the speakers during the 3 sessions. If you would like to go or get information go to our church website at http://www.jbc.church and you will see the retreat logo which you can click on or touch and register on line or get information. Don’t settle for mediocrity or boring, and certainly not plateaued.
When I graduated from High School I really didn’t want to go to college, I wanted to stay on the farm, but the Vietnam war was in full swing and if I didn’t go to college I for sure would get drafted and end up over there for 3 years. I also wanted to get married, and my pastor told me that if I wanted to find a good Christian wife go to a good Christian school. I decided on a small Christian Liberal Arts College in north Portland because a friend who had graduated a year ahead of me was going there and highly recommended it, he even had a couple of girls lined up for me to date. So I went to College wife hunting, and I knew what kind of girl I was looking for, because I had gotten some counsel on how to find a good wife, and they said look for a girl with good, strong character, and they gave me 7 things to look for. The first piece of counsel was to keep my eye out for a girl that was nice to people that no one else or at least very few others were nice to. There was a guy on campus who had a stroke at a young age, and as a result he acted strange, had very poor relational skills, he dressed shabbily, and he rarely took a shower. As a result he had no friends, and very few people would spend much time talking to him. One day I saw him walking toward me, and he had a very nice haircut, was wearing nice cloths that were clean, he was walking with a bounce to his step, and he was smiling. I stopped and commented on his new look and complimented him his haircut. He said, “Yeh, Patty Burtner gave it to me, she is really nice!” I asked why, what was the reason, had he asked her to give him a haircut, did she charge him? He responded with a smile and said, “Nope, she just said that she bet that I would look really handsome with a haircut, and that she would give me one if I liked, so I said, ‘sure!’ ” I asked about the clean cloths and he said, “I thought it would be a shame to waste this nice haircut so I just decided to dress up and look nice,” and off he went. As I walked away I thought of my number one criteria for a girl with character, “Look for a girl that is nice to people that most others are not nice to”. Patty Burtner, I think I will see if I can get to know her.
A few people accomplish a lot with their life that really matters, that changes other people for the better, that blesses other people, that lasts many years past their own life. There are many reasons that the few are able to make it happen, but there is one reason that is most common amount those who seem always to be getting it done. These few people have a strength of character that never casts blame at other people when they fail at something, and they never make excuses when they fail. Instead of complaining about challenges or setbacks, or failures, they develop solutions and solve problems. They figure it out with determination, persistence and patience. Failures are not seen as failures, but as a source of information on what to change, failures don’t discourage, they do just the opposite, they motivate and give resolve to conquer and to win.
I have often pondered on the questions, “What happens in life that shapes a person into a champion, can any person be trained to become an overcomer or are some people stuck in mediocrity, and if a person can be trained, taught, encouraged, and coached into being a bearer of much fruit, how, what’s the strategy and the content of the training materials?
One of my main ministry’s now as a pastor is to teach my leadership classes. I teach a men’s Leadership I and a Ladies Leadership I, I also teach a Leadership Class II, and a Leadership III. The goal that I have as I teach these 8 month long classes is to train champions, winners, high producers, and overcomes. I am always thinking about how to make the content more relevant and more effective in accomplishing my goals, how to improve my methods, and my teaching. One of the most rewarding things in life for me is to train a person in such a way that they become very strong in their inner person, and become a person with character of a champion.
Patty left today to go to Mexico to one of those resort places with a couple of other families from JBC. Sitting in our bedroom by myself tonight I got to reminiscing about our 50 years of marriage. They have been good years filled with adventure, love, and accomplishment. In the early years when I was trying to be successful as a dairy farmer she worked right along beside me putting in the long grueling hours with me. We couldn’t afford a tractor so we cleaned the barn with a snow shovel, and Patty did that while I milked. She would open up the drain on our big water trough, and the water would run down the concrete alley between the cow stalls and she would push the cow manure with the water out the back of the barn into the manure pit. She had to go pretty fast or the water would run out and leave all the cow manure behind still in the barn, so she would be in cow manure over her ankles (she had on rubber boots) pushing as hard as she could sloshing down the ally with a big wave of cow poop and water going in front of her. A number of times as she was pushing hard and going as fast as she could she fell down, and would come into the milking parlor where I was, to have me squirt off the manure with the hose. She was so beautiful🤪! When our cows got sick we had to give them these sulfur pills that were the size of my thumb. They would go into this thing we called a balling gun which was a couple feet long. We would lock a cow into this chute and I would grab ahold of the cows head and lift it up in the air holding her mouth open, and Patty would shove the balling gun down the cows throat and push the plunger which pushed out the big pill into the cows throat. If it wasn’t down far enough the cow would cough it back up. The cow didn’t particularly like any part of this deal so they would buck and shake their head and blow cow snot all over everything and everybody, and because Patty was at mouth of the cow she got most of the snot on her. Patty was a bit timid about pushing this long metal thing down the throat of this bucking cow that I am straining every muscle to hold, so I got to yelling at her to hurry up! That didn’t go over very well with her, and a couple,of times I thought she was going to push that balling gun down my throat😖! Over the years there isn’t much she hasn’t done, and she has done it with toughness, enthusiasm, and joy, making her a very fun person to live with.
Once walking on the beach I came upon a fellow painting a picture of the ocean and the beach that was in front of him. I stopped and asked if I could watch him paint, and he said, ” I would be honored”, so I stood behind him and watched for 20 to 30 minutes. He was very good at painting, and I was reminded again of a life principle of mine, “God has created us with the amazing ability to learn and to acquire great skill in whatever we set our mind on and practice diligently”. We are easily drawn to those things that we have some natural and God given talent or giftedness in, but in order to be highly skilled much practice and learning is still required. Very few people are willing to give the time and effort in practice and learning to become one of those really skilled people. There are key parts of our inner person, our soul, and our character that are developed as we pay the price to become very, very good at something. I have a goal of learning a new skill every year, and I think about what the new skill will be that I will learn, all year long as read about people, and meet people who have extraordinary skills that have obviously been developed to a very high level. Most of the new skills I learn I don’t pursue much more than a year or two as I move on to new things to learn, but a few things I stick with, working at becoming excellent at. One of those is, “speaking to people in such a way that they understand the message clearly, are powerfully motivated to put it into practice, and that it changes their behavior and character”. This Bible verse expresses my desire in this area,
Proverbs 16:23-24 “The heart of the wise instructs his mouth and adds persuasiveness to his lips. Pleasant words are a honeycomb sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”
I have a list of disciplines that I faithfully practice over and over to inch my way to greater mastery in this skill. I am always reading a good book on speaking, teaching, communication, and preaching, taking notes of those things that I need to work on. I listen almost daily to the best preachers and public speakers there are, and think and evaluate about what makes them good, and I write those things down, I listen to myself and become my own worst critic of my weaknesses and things I need to improve on, and I write this blog almost daily, recognizing that the better I get at writing the better I will get at speaking. I want to learn to write in a way that is captivating, that is the reader can’t quit reading until finished, I want to learn to paint pictures with words so the message or idea can be seen clearly in the reader’ minds eye, and I want to stir the soul of the person reading so that they are compelled to grow, pursue, and change.
Here I sit at home in my recliner trying figure out what I am going to write in my blog tonight, and how to make it clear and understandable. It is 12:00, midnight, and my brain is starting to go into deep sleep.
That was last night, obviously I didn’t get any farther than that before I fell asleep.
My schedule is always full, but “doable”, but lately my schedule has been such that I am not getting some thing done each day, and I have been giving into the urgent instead of doing the important. I have been for the last couple of days not getting all the basics disciplines done such as spending time at memorizing Bible verses, or reading in a good Christian book each day, and I even missed praying through the “prayer letter” last week. When I miss one of the disciplines I feel really guilty for a couple of days, and resolve to do better at managing my schedule, but haven’t done very well the last couple of days. It is frustrating how susceptible I am to losing my momentum by a little hiccup in my schedule. I can go for months cruzin along with great faithfulness reading the Bible, praying, memorizing, writing and then out of the blue I get entangled in a project or event and then a little compromise, and then a little bigger one, and then …. you know how the story goes. One of the bad things is that my energy comes from God, and when I begin to neglect the spiritual disciplines I have less power from God, and therefore can do only part of what I once was doing, thus beginning this downward spiral, sort of like a duck getting shot.
Our family was given a Holstein cow that wasn’t much good for producing milk anymore. We butchered it on the farm and brought it home in the back of my pick-up in quarters. We put a piece of plywood covered with a sheet on the dining room table, and brought the cow in a quarter at a time and plopped it on the table. Everyone, grandkids included, gathered around the table and cut all the meat off of the bones in fairly small pieces. Then we ran it through a small meat grinder twice and made it all into hamburger. The hamburger tasted delicious, but the highlight of the butchering was the liver and onions that a Patty fixed me, whooooeeeee that was good. That cows liver must have weighed close to 20 lbs, and nobody in my family likes it except for me. People don’t like liver because of the texture but if you soak it for 2 hours in lemon juice the texture changes and it tastes just like a really good steak, really, and with the onions and mushrooms it is better than a really good steak. I know, I know, you don’t believe me. That’s alright, it just means more liver for me.
I like and I dislike are words we all say a lot. I like liver and onions, you don’t. I like Fords and you like Chevy’s. I like the rain and you hate the rain. Those likes and dislikes don’t matter much, but if I said, I like him but I don’t like you, that is a bit more serious, especially if it affects the way I treat and honor you. Is it possible for me to purposely reduce the fervency of my likes and dislikes to the point that I have a high level of tolerance for just about everything, and a high level of acceptance for just about any person. If the purpose is unity, peace, and wanting to positively influence someone toward faith in Christ, I can do that. Some would say, that is pretending, no, pretending is when we are trying to hide who we really are from others in order to look good. Tolerance and acceptance are all about the other person, wanting them to feel accepted and loved.