A Valentine Bouquet: Seven Ways to Improve Your Marriage

Jo and I were so poor when we got married in March of 1962 that we couldn’t afford a lifetime marriage license. We opted for the cheaper 50-year short-term marriage license instead. I am pleased to say that a few years ago, when our 50-year-term license expired, I was able to persuade Jo to sign up for another 50 years.

J&J wedding car copyNow to be serious for a moment. It’s Valentine’s Day and an ideal time for you to think about your relationships. Since Jo and I are approaching our 54th wedding anniversary, and presumably know something about staying married, younger couples sometimes ask us for advice.

We usually respond by asking, “Do you read the Bible to each other and pray together?” That’s basic. After all, God invented marriage and He wants yours to prosper. But here are six more bits of marital advice for you all:

2. Ask for advice. Ask long-marrieds how they handle the kind of problems you are struggling with currently.

3. Read books on marriage. There weren’t many up-to-date, helpful ones when we got married. Later, as Jo and I read and discussed books on various aspects of marriage during our last decade in Brazil, we often exclaimed, “Where was this book twenty years ago?”

4. After returning to Canada, we participated in a prayer soaked weekend marriage enrichment seminar. It resulted in putting us on a high plateau of marriage. Jo and I both felt loved and cared for by each other as never before.

5. After nine months of bliss, however, we made a fatal mistake. Three unexpected, high-stress situations impacted us almost simultaneously. Coping with them drained our energy and diverted our attention. We were foolish; instead of keeping these emotionally exhausting stresses outside our relationship, we allowed them to come between us and our marriage deteriorated. Eventually we made those stressful pressures push us closer together and our marriage improved. The whole experience, however, left me wondering.

6. We get thorough medical checkups every year, we take our vehicles in for routine maintenance and inspections, and we ask financial advisors to look over our financial situation. Shouldn’t we routinely go to a marriage counselor and ask him for a marriage checkup? So we did.
“What’s the problem?” the counsellor asked.
“We don’t know.” I said, “We want you to tell us what our problems are and how to resolve them.”

He asked us a number of questions, and got us talking about ourselves, and each other. He then recommended a course of a dozen or more actions. For instance: I needed to tell Jo, not just my thoughts, but my feelings. Jo needed to be my coach to help me get in touch with my feelings and share them. When Jo had something she wanted to talk over with me, I needed to “vacuum my mind” clearing it of all ideas and thoughts, and, with full eye contact, focus on Jo and listen to her.

7. The counsellor also recommended a new book by Dr.GaryChapmanThe Five Love Languages, now a classic. It speaks to relationships of every kind, not just to people in a marriage relationship. The basic idea is that every person has one or two ways in which he or she receives love.

For some people Words of Affirmation make them feel loved.
Others respond best to Acts of Service,
still others to Receiving of Gifts,
others to Quality Time,
and others to Physical Touch.
Each of these is like a language. The lover must speak the language his beloved understands. No use giving gifts to someone who wants to hear some affirming words. No use hugging a wife who would prefer that you showed your love by doing the dishes.

These are the seven ways Jo and I stayed happily married.

What are yours?


A Couple’s Most Important Day

Jo and I are about to celebrate our 52nd wedding anniversary on March 31. We can attest that a successful, long-lasting marriage means falling in love many times, (most frequently with the person to whom you are married!)

52 Years Ago

52 Years Ago

I remember our wedding, held in my home church in Red Deer, AB—a small white, wood frame building that accommodated perhaps one hundred packed in tightly. The reception was in the basement which held maybe fifty, probably fewer. It was an extremely simple affair. My younger sisters helped Jo and me to decorate the basement the night before the wedding. The reception meal was salad and buns provided by the ladies of the church. And that was about it.

It was a small, plain, and simple; an almost insignificant beginning—a mere acorn wedding compared to some of the watermelon ones we have attended since.

Compared to the early 1960s, Canadians today are much more affluent. We also have better credit ratings and thus more money to spend. No wonder the business community invented the popular slogan, “Your wedding day is the most important day of your life.” They spread this lie because they need people to spend lots of money on the wedding.

Wedding Debt
Many couples, unfortunately, swallow this lie and spend themselves into debt for the wedding. They should get some advice, not from their newlywed friends, but from some oldyweds. They will be reminded what they already know deep down inside—what’s more important than the wedding is the marriage that follows.

In spite of this deep down knowledge, and in the face of the advice from oldyweds, some couples just don’t get it. I have heard several stories from pastors who during pre-marital counseling heard the couple say, “Oh, we can’t afford to attend a marriage seminar,” yet spend ten times the amount on flowers. Some won’t even buy a good book on marriage.

Why Get Married?
Here’s one aspect of marriage that Jo and I have proven true many times over the past 52 years of growing our acorn wedding into a sizable marriage tree. Judith Viorst, one of my favorite philosophers said it this way, “One advantage of marriage is that, when you fall out of love with him, or he falls out of love with you, it keeps you together until you fall in love again.”

Newlyweds have the aura of youthful beauty, enthusiasm, vigor, sex, fun, future. Oldyweds have the quality of inner beauty, wisdom, joy, history, stamina, endurance. Newlyweds become oldyweds, and oldyweds are the reasons that families work.

That’s why the day-to-day work of becoming oldyweds is vastly more important than the romantic event of becoming newlyweds.

Oh wait, I think I said that already. . . . four or five times.

Important notice for you who live in northern California
I will be traveling and speaking at Wycliffe Associates banquets in 25 cities in northern California and Nevada for the next six weeks. I didn’t include the URL links in this emailed column since spam blockers might react. So I will send the URL links in a separate email. If you are in the area, please come to a banquet, it would be great to meet you.

At Last, A Blog Post From Jack

I usually take a break over the Christmas season, “I’m extra busy,” I think to myself, “it’s hard to make time to write, and my readers, also, have little time for reading.”

Here Comes the HouseOn top of that, this year we bought a prefabricated home that was due to arrive some time in January which would mean a move with all the sorting and packing that entails. So I added on another four weeks to my break. The arrival of the new home, however, was delayed, and so were the utilities hookups so . . . add another week! Then two writing jobs popped up that I had to do right away, and I needed to prepare a banquet speech for the California tour using all new stories.

You can see where this is going, can’t you?

Eventually, however, we did get caught up and we were in the new house, putting things away which had its own challenges with the new place being much smaller and having far fewer storage cupboards and closets than the old one.

Now here it is, a full ten weeks since I last posted on my INsights and OUTbursts blog.

So much for the OUTburst, here are the INsights.

  • Once you stop doing something you have done regularly, the momentum is lost and it is much easier to stay stopped than to start again. In fact, it is downright hard to get started again, even when it is something you love to do!
  • On the other hand, when you are in the midst of major changes, it is smart to know your physical and emotional limits, and to think long and hard before you stretch them too far.
  • A major move, in the middle of a colder than usual winter, to a new house that is still without electricity, heat, and water, could negatively affect your marriage relationship.
  • If you and your spouse let problems come between you, they will drive you apart; if you face them together, they will strengthen and solidify your relationship. I’m delighted to report our relationship is better than ever! (Yes, I checked this line with Jo and she agrees.)
  • I  received insights into some numbers too.
    • 25 – The number of houses we have moved into and lived in for a year or more since we married.
    • 52 – The number of years Jo and I will have been married by March 31.
    • 104 – The number of years of combined married life plus 104 years of combined fulltime Christian ministry.
    • 110 – The approximate number of times we have moved, counting places we have lived in for at least two months. (I didn’t include six-week-long speaking tour trips.)
    • 123 – The number of combined years Jo and I have been followers of Jesus, our Saviour and Lord.
    • 151 – Jo and my combined age (by March 19).
    • ??? – The number of people who came to know Jesus as a result of our lives and ministry, or who were influenced to follow Him more closely, or who were inspired to new levels of obedience. Jo and I have no idea what this number could be, and I’m not sure that God is all that interested in it either.
    • ??? – So what is the most important number? The number of times Jo and I obeyed God’s voice, giving up our comfort, personal goals, and private longings in order to love and serve Him. Here’s hoping this will be the largest number!

The neat thing is that all you and I have to do is turn our lives over to Jesus’ Spirit to live through us. He does it all. His power has no limits. He never needs a break, not even when He is super busy, like over Christmas or while preparing a home in heaven for us.

The One Thing That Trumps Commitment

A song popularized long ago by Dean Martin has the lines,

Try standing on a corner, watching all the girls go by.
You can’t go to jail for what you’re thinking,
Or for that wooed look in your eye.

True, you won’t go to jail for mentally ravishing those girls, but you may go to hell.

An Amazing Gift From God
We human beings, in contrast to animals, are the species with the ability to think, to imagine, and to visualize. We have the amazing God-given talent to picture in our mind something that does not yet exist, to mentally create situations that have not happened.

The problem with all of God’s gifts is that Satan perverts them. He tempts people to misuse every good thing God provides. For instance, God gave us the capacity to use words to praise Him and speak the truth, but Satan turns that to cursing and lying.

The Power of Imagination
Nowhere is that more clear than in the use of our imagination. Every kind deed, every self-sacrificing action anyone has ever done on earth started as a thought in someone’s head. So did every evil deed.

That is why Jesus warned his male hearers to stop looking at women and imagine having sex with them. “Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” he said. And He could have added, “If you keep on thinking that way, you will eventually commit the actual, physical act with her or someone like her.”

Over time, we human beings tend to accomplish the things we think about imaginatively. The stronger and more emotionally we respond to our focused thinking and visualizing, the more sure the eventual outcome will match our mental picture.

Scientific Proof
Researchers showed that our imagination is even stronger than our will. They drew a vertical and a horizontal line on a square sheet of paper dividing it into four equal squares. They asked each subject to hold one end of a half-metre long piece of string with a small weight at the bottom, extend their arm and commit to holding the weight directly above the intersection of the lines in the centre of the paper.

The researcher then told him, “Close your eyes while holding the weight steadily over the intersection, but imagine it is swinging back and forth from left to right.”

In nearly every case, the weight would soon start to swing in whatever direction the researcher told the subjects to imagine it was moving.

ringA Firm Commitment is No Match for Undisciplined Imagination
Imagination and fantasizing trumps firm decisions and commitment. Marriage is an excellent example. A couple will make a firm decision to be faithful to each other and make a public commitment during their wedding ceremony. But if either of those spouses consistently fantasizes about being intimate with other people, that marriage is doomed. Over time, the tendency is for that fantasy to become real. As the poet Emerson said, “A man is what he thinks about all day long.”

So what should you and I think about? Here’s the apostle Paul’s advice: “Whatever is noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Phil. 4:8.

A Disciplined Imagination
Imagination can also strengthen and confirm commitment. My wife and I committed ourselves to serve the Canela people of Brazil by translating the Word of God for them. We used our God-given imagination constantly as we mentally pictured Canela villagers reading the Bible in their own language and applying its truths to their lives. Decades later our dream became a reality as Canelas read the Scriptures and started cleaning up the negative, messy things that Satan had introduced into their culture.

Some Personal Questions
To build enduring, satisfying marriages, both spouses need to commit to spend the rest of their lives with each other. That is a given. But how many of us married folk make the commitment every day to fantasize, dream, and imagine intimacy only with each other?

And do we keep that commitment even when we are standing on a corner and happen to see an attractive person of the opposite sex going by? Or do we watch and imagine?

Five Decades of Marriage, Family and Ministry

I wanted to post this column celebrating our fiftieth wedding anniversary on our March 31 anniversary date, but I decided to keep my priorities straight and posted the April Fool column instead. The next weekend was Easter so during Passion week I posted an Easter column. I began traveling on my current speaking trip immediately after Easter, and I posted a column I had in reserve.

Now, finally, Jo and I invite you to celebrate and praise God with us by galloping over the sunny green hills and stumbling through a few dark stony gullies of our five decades of marriage, family and ministry.

Starting the ride of our life.

First Decade: 1962 – 1972 (Jack’s Age 24 –34)

°         Married March 31, after 8 month engagement.

°         Pastored Innisfail Baptist church 3 years.

°         Local newspaper published Jack’s first article.

°         Valorie, Leanne and Cheryl born. Valorie diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.

°         Linguistic studies in Washington and Oklahoma.

°         Jungle survival training in Mexico. Joined Wycliffe Bible Translators, moved to Brazil.

°         Studied Portuguese, managed office and guest house in Rio de Janeiro.

°         Assigned to Canela project and moved to Belem.

°         Two half-year sessions in Canela village. Language learning and medical work.

°         Furlough in Calgary, AB. Raised more financial support.

°         Cheryl’s eyesight saved just in time. All three daughters made commitment to follow Jesus.

°         Returned to Brazil on a freighter from New York. Jack’s Dad & Mom came to Brazil to help build our house on Belem centre.

Life Among the Canelas

Second Decade: 1972 – 1982 (Jack’s Age 34 –44)

°         All three daughters in boarding school in Belem during multiple work sessions in the village.

°         Jo survived appendicitis attack in village. Surgery in the city later.

°         Translated and published Life of Christ book in Canela. Translated Acts.

°         Furlough in Kelowna, BC. Postal strike, no income.

°         Valorie treated for latent tuberculosis.

°         Return to Brazil, Luke, 1 & 2 Thessalonians translated. Luke, Acts and 1&2 Thessalonians published.

°         Valorie outgrew juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.

°         Political pressure, start of five-year exile away from Canela village.

°         Jack chairman of SIL Brazil, interim field director.

°         Jaco, first Canela who decided to follow Jesus.

°         Valorie graduated, started Biola University, Los Angeles, CA. Leanne graduated.

°         Jack severely depressed during furlough in Edmonton, AB.

Third Decade: 1982 – 1992 (Jack’s Age 44 –54)

°         Valorie and Leanne both in Biola University, Los Angeles, CA

°         Returned to Brazil. End of exile, returned to work among the Canela.

°         Cheryl graduated and attended Capernwray in Germany.

°         Translated rest of New Testament and the partial Old Testament.

°         Thirty-five young Canela men asked us to start a Bible class.

°         Valorie graduated from Biola University.

°         Leanne and Arnold married.

°         Jo’s father passed away.

°         Partial Bible in Canela published, project completed! Distribution and dedication celebration.

°         Returned to Canada, bought mini-motor-home, traveled two years in North America to visit supporting partners and speak in churches and promotional banquets.

°         Valorie and Kurt, Cheryl and Keith marry. Leanne and Arnold have twin sons.

°         Sold motor-home and bought house in Carstairs, AB. Worked in Wycliffe office.

Post Canela ride in leadership

Fourth Decade: 1992 – 2002 (Jack Age’s 54 –64)

°         Spoke at hundreds of promotional banquets and other events in scores of cities all across Canada and the USA.

°         Jo’s mother passed away.

°         Served six years as Executive Director of Wycliffe Canada, and three years as Executive Director of Wycliffe Caribbean.

°         Wrote 350 articles and weekly news and teaching columns.

°         Numerous work trips to Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, South America.

°         Jack’s father passed away.

°         Six more grandchildren born. Wrote two serial books of stories for the grandchildren.

The writing and speaking part of the ride

Fifth Decade: 2002 – 2012 (Jack’s Age 64 –74)

°         Sold house in Carstairs, bought house in Sunrise Beach, Sandy Lake, AB.

°         Spoke at about 350 banquets and other events in Canada, and the USA.

°         Published three books of columns.

°         Youngest grandson started suffering seizures and had brain surgery.

°         Jack’s mother passed away.

°         Spoke at overseas conferences in Malaysia, and Indonesia.

°         Made major vacation trip to Brazil and Canela with all children, grandchildren, 15 persons.

°         Jo had multiple hip replacement surgeries, revisions and repairs.

°         Sold house in Sandy Beach, moved to rental apartment in Spruce Grove, AB.

°         Twin grandsons graduated and started university, one engaged to be married.

°         Writing two more books of columns, to be published as ebooks.

°         Celebrated 50th wedding anniversary by writing this column.

(By Faith) Sixth Decade: 2012 – 2022 (Jack Age 74 –84)

°         More speaking tours and other speaking events.

°         Move to the Okanagan, British Columbia.

°         Continue weekly blog posts.

°         Publish five more ebooks.

°         Six graduations from high school, up to eight graduations from college.

°         Five to nine weddings.

°         Five to ten great-grandkids.

°         Possibly retire from Wycliffe.

°         God only knows what kind of age related medical problems for both of us.

°         Much continuing joy in marriage, in family and in ministry.

Thanks for joining us on this celebratory gallop through our lives. God has been soooo good to us!

Ten Actions That Will Ruin Your Life

When God made us in His own image, He gave us the ability to choose among options. Satan immediately perverted this ability resulting in Adam and Eve choosing to disobey God. And Satan continues his evil work, tempting us to make bad choices, and thereby limiting our options to live the full and productive lives God wants us to live.

To keep our options open and make wise choices, here are ten things to avoid doing.


  1. Kill yourself. This really limits your options for the future! Satan succeeds in leading people to kill themselves at a rate of one every 40 seconds worldwide. In North America suicide is the second leading cause of death for 25-34 year-olds, and the third leading cause of death for 15-24 year-olds. Someone in Canada and the USA commits suicide every 16 minutes, or 91 per day.
  2. Damage yourself physically. Disfiguring burns, a broken spinal cord, a damaged brain or amputated limbs, slam shut the doors of a thousand opportunities currently open to you. Avoid thrill seeking activities that could result in serious physical damage.
  3. Fry your brain or ruin your body through drug or alcohol abuse.
  4. Commit a criminal act. You not only lose money through fines and years of your life through jail, but having a criminal record will keep you from getting a passport to travel to other countries and keep you out of many job positions.
  5. Get yourself or someone else pregnant outside of marriage. A baby severely limits your options. Even if you or the other person decide to legally murder your baby before it is born, neither one of you will be unscathed emotionally and spiritually.
  6. Borrow to live a lifestyle you cannot afford. Consumer debt will drastically constrict your future. It is like an amputated foot. It will cost you many of the best years of your life to get out of debt and do what you really want to do.
  7. Be careless of what kind of people you hang out with or what books you read. People and books are the two most influential forces in your life. Instead, make winners, not losers, your peers. Read books that build you, educate you, develop your interests and make you think.
  8. Live only for the here and now, doing it because it feels good with no thought for the future. Instead, use your God-given ability to imagine a better future, then work towards it using the abilities, talents and interests God has given you to make you unique. A life dream or goal will be a steady guide as you choose among options.
  9. Waste the opportunity to get a good education. Instead, choose an institution for higher education for what it can give you to help fulfill your goal, not just because a friend goes there. Save your money to get an education. You can even borrow money for education as it is more an investment than a debt, but only if you suck every bit of benefit out of your opportunity.
  10. Fall in love and marry someone who is not excited about your dream or life goal. One of you will lose out and your marriage will not be a happy one. Don’t even go out with someone who doesn’t share your dream. Have you noticed? People tend to marry those they hang out with.

The daily newspapers are filled with stories of people who are ruining their lives by doing one or more of these things. Don’t do them. Please God by living a productive life. Frustrate Satan. And stay out of the newspaper.


If you received this post via email, or if you read it on the blog but want to comment privately, please email your comments to me: jack_popjes@wycliffe.ca

© 2011 Jack D Popjes

Ph: 780 948-0082

Website: www.thewordman.ca