“God has created each of us to live in fellowship with one another, seeking His will for our lives…”
Throughout my life, I have learned that we are relational beings. People are made to form relationships. Outside of our relationship with Christ, there is no relationship more important than the ones you share with family. And the secret to having a strong family is a healthy marriage.
My parents continue to be the greatest example of this in my life, and I will forever be grateful for their influence on my own marriage and family. My Mom and Dad have been committed to each other for 62 years now, even through many challenges along the way. Dad will tell you, though, that there are no perfect people and therefore no perfect marriages. But they have set a pretty high bar, and I strive every day to live up to their example.
I fell in love with my wife, Cindy, when I was 15 and she was just 13 years old. Cindy was good friends with my sister, Trudy, and they would sometimes get together on weekends to ride horses or play make-believe around our family farm. Cindy was around a lot when we were small, but at that time she was just another one of my sister's friends.
All of that changed, however, when we went on a church youth outing to Callaway Gardens. Cindy's brother was on the trip, and he suggested that Cindy and I sit together on the bus. That's all it took. Sparks flew, and we fell in love almost immediately. We committed early on, however, that we would not date exclusively so that God might have the opportunity to put someone else in our lives.
As it turns out, God divinely placed Cindy in my life and He has kept her here for more than 40 years; 34 of which we have spent as husband and wife.
I am a very selfish person. It's true. My definition of "selfish" is that I want to live a life full of joy and peace, and I want the people around me to do the same. True joy and peace comes from following God's will, and by doing so, I believe He wants us to enjoy and have peace with our spouse. God has created each of us to live in fellowship with one another, seeking His will for our lives.
For me, joy means sweet fellowship. It's about having fun and enjoying your relationship with God and others.
I have tasted the goodness of a loving God and a great marriage, and it is my great passion and privilege to share these blessings with others.
Along the way, we have found support and accountability from other couples and organizations to help keep our marriage focused and strong, but none more impactful than the Maday's. My good friend, Bob Maday, and his wife, became our "marriage buddies" for many years. Just like He does with marriage, I think God puts friends in our lives to strengthen us and make us more capable of serving Him. Through this friendship, and the experiences we collectively gathered through more than 20 years of teaching Sunday school, WinShape Marriage emerged.
WinShape Marriage is an organization that assists couples in maintaining and growing their relationships with special programming that is designed to strengthen a couple's prayer habits, worship experiences, fellowship and accountability.
Through our love and devotion, God has richly blessed Cindy and me with six amazing children. And just as my parents were to me, I hope that Cindy and I can be a good example of a Christian marriage in the eyes of our children. And as our family continues to grow (now we have two beautiful daughters-in-law and two wonderful grandkids), I pray that we are a strong influence on how they choose to raise their families.
That's joy. That's peace. That's my passion, and that's what I pray God reveals to you in your own relationships.
Four Tips on Marriage and Family:
- Establish your eternity: Ask God to be Lord and Master of your life (John 3:16)
- Be spiritually grounded & create good habits: Go to church, pray, read God's word, tithe.
- Find your marriage buddies: Identify and work hard at building relationships with accountability couples with whom you can be transparent.
- Invest in your marriage: Keep it interesting. Do not ever stop "courting" each other. Go on dates. Find new activities to do together. Get away from the kids. Listen to each other. And above all, pray together.
“To me there are very few things more enjoyable than being outdoors enjoying God's remarkable creation.”
If you don't know me well, the word "adventurer" might not be the first word you'd use to describe me. True, I don't necessarily fit the mold one might relate to a man of adventure, but there are very few things more enjoyable for me than being outdoors enjoying God's remarkable creation.
Growing up on a 250-acre farm, I fell in love with the outdoors at a very early age. Some of my earliest memories had me working on the farm, galloping bareback on a pony, playing hide and seek with Dan and Trudy in the woods and challenging each other to feats of skill and strength (and now that I think about it, sometimes stupidity, like climbing to the top of a pine tree and letting your "friends" chop it down).
My Dad bought us all minibikes when I was about 12 years old. I've never had as much fun as we had in those early days racing around, riding our motorcycles on the farm, through the woods and fields and along the dirt roads near our house. I have always had bikes around, and Cindy and I actually spent a lot of time dating on a motorcycle.
About three years ago, I bought Cindy a bike and now we enjoy riding together every chance we get. Riding a motorcycle might not be the safest form of therapy, but nothing is more freeing and empowering than being out in the open - in nature - with my bride behind me, or riding alongside.
Nothing, that is, except sailing! The first time I ever went sailing, I was 25 years old. I remember being amazed at the power of the wind in our sails and how dependent we were on it to guide, direct and pull us through the water. I found a great spiritual lesson in that experience and realized how much sailing parallels our walk with Christ.
Sailing is fun work. It's strategic. And we are certainly responsible for managing the sails and maneuvering the boat… But the wind is in control. Without the wind, all of our work is futile, because you can't get from one waypoint to another without it. In sailing, as it is in life, we must rely on a power outside of our control to direct us.
Nowadays, I go sailing every chance I get. Cindy and I take sailing trips together, and we even take other couples on spiritual and marriage enrichment trips several weeks out of every year on large 100-couple trips as well as more intimate 3 or 4-couple trips.
We go sailing, not to escape life, but so that life does not escape us! Sailing gets me outside of my role at Chick-fil-A and out from under the day-to-day responsibilities that take my energy and focus. It takes me to another time and another place, and I think we all need those times of adventure to keep us fresh and energized for what's next.
God's Word reminds us that, a cheerful heart is good for your health and good for the soul (Proverbs 17:22), and I absolutely agree. Adventure makes me happy, and therefore I am better able and even more willing to invest in the happiness of others. Having a sense of adventure means that I work hard at my play. I'm intentional with my "playtime," because it makes me a better family man and businessman. My Dad says that "if you're not having fun, you're not doing it right," and I think that applies to ALL areas of life.
To that end, one of my favorite quotes is by James Michener. He says that, "the master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he's always doing both.";
“When our time is up in this life, the most significant things we leave behind will be the impressions we have made on others…”
I think that everyone is a leader. Whether we realize it or not, we are all making impressions - positive or negative - on the people around us. Some people, like my Dad, lead by example. They simply go about life, making good decisions and impacting the lives of others in positive ways by following their heart and God's plan for their life.
Others are gifted teachers and motivators, like my brother, Dan. These leaders are able to impart wisdom and relay observations that inspire and motivate followers to succeed. Still others are great organizers and facilitators, creating opportunities for individuals to take the lead and move ahead.
I love putting people together and introducing them to new and exciting ways to solve problems together as a team. It's such a gratifying and satisfying blessing to be able to observe and recognize the gifts and strengths of other people, because I think God puts people in our lives on purpose… with a purpose. Proverbs 4:23 tells us to "guard your heart, for out of it flows the springs of life." I take that to mean that we are to constantly be aware of our opportunities to lead and inspire others.
We all have a role to play, and finding more meaningful and memorable ways to live and work together is a great responsibility. We are all imperfect, but we also all have gifts given to us by our Creator. I like to call those gifts and talents out in others and allow them the space to use them.
There are no coincidences in life, and it is up to us to recognize and use our influence to lead people well. God's Word says that we are to "carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." (Galatians 6:2 )
We are stronger together than we are apart. That's a fact. We are created for fellowship, and we're called to reflect God's glory in all that we do. That's how I approach my role in leadership, because I know that each person God puts in my life changes my life in a remarkable way.
Cindy and I have been teaching Sunday school to young couples since the early 1980's. Our goal has always been to focus on individual strengths (and weaknesses) and help couples choose the areas of life that they need to bring into their marriage as they acknowledge their specific roles in their relationships with each other and with God.
Teaching Sunday school has provided us with the necessary tools to invest deeply in the WinShape Foundation and offer grace-based hospitality to individuals, businesses and ministries - enabling them to come together to grow and restore their covenant with each other and with God.
Whether I am teaching Sunday school, spending time with family and friends or fulfilling my role in business with Chick-fil-A, I am constantly looking for ways to bring people together to be more successful.;