Karen, you have been a stellar wife for almost 45 years! What a wonderful marriage we have had. Sorry I can’t be with you on this special day. I share some of the highlights, too many to write down. Here goes eight humble attempts:

1  SPECTACULAR WEDDING. I will never forget seeing you walk down the aisle with your father–after you sang the solo verse of “Beautiful Savior.” You were relaxed, glowing, ready for an entirely new life. Then we started living together. Wow!

2  SEVEN CHILDREN. You kept going, even after losing one. Some would have said, “I can’t handle any more,” and I get that.  What courage to keep going! What joy now, because you said yes to having more. Your children rise up and bless you.

3 GREAT DATES. I love that we have managed to keep this up all these years. Something to look forward to every week. Thanks for helping me put it at the top of our agenda. Good talks and good times–face to face.

4  RICH VACATIONS. Love yearly trips to California now, but we made some incredible journeys as the kids were growing up–to Montana, Canada, North Shore. We were making memories–and more memories.

5  MINISTRY TIMES. You went with me on some special trips–across the country and across the world. Which was your favorite, Finland? I have too many rich ones to name the top. Now you have chosen a more important commitment than exciting trips…

6 ENJOYMENT OF 14 PLUS GRANDCHILDREN. You do it so well. You raise the bar for what a grandmother is called to be and do. Maybe you should write a book on how to do it, then tutor young grandmothers. I am learning from you more about grandparenting!

7  CARE FOR YOUR PARENTS. You excel at loving your outstanding dad and mom. Thank you for calling them almost every day so we can stay in touch. When they step over, no more calls. You have honored them well all these years. They love you as their firstborn who helps to watch out for them, wants the best for them, laughs at your dad’s jokes, cherishes your mom’s prayers, sings with them, thankful about being brought up in Japan. Way to go, Karen!

8  LOVE FOR GOD. I have saved the best for last. I am thankful that I don’t have to push my wife to have her devotions. You are consistent in the Scriptures, one of your greatest strengths. And you love to share with me what God gives you in the morning. I, too, love a regular time of feeding in the Word of God. So grateful for a godly, mature, fun wife! Let’s go for 25 more years!


Phil is 95 and Margaret is 94. They have been married 71 years. They are Karen’s parents. They served as missionaries in Japan 38 years. Karen grew up in Japan (3-17 years old).

1 Phil, what were you impressed with in Margaret? 

I could tell she was a solid Christian.  No matter what we talked about, she brought it back to the center of Christ. Her answers to my questions were helpful to me as a future pastor and missionary. 

2 Phil, how long did it take to know she was the one? 

First date I felt strongly. She was not only beautiful but dutiful, sticking with the Lord no matter what. She wasn’t just looking for a husband; she was looking for the Lord’s will.

Margaret: Alma Hagen helped me to realize that marriage was not the goal. The Lord’s plan was the goal. If this included marriage, so be it. No matter how good looking, I would not have married him if he didn’t desire to follow the Lord.

3 Margaret, what qualities did you like most about Phil? 

He was fun to be with. He had a scintillating personality, but I did not want to be blinded by charm or good looks, because I wanted us to serve the Lord together. 

4 Margaret, any disappointments in marriage? 

Only that I could not be more loving and kind to him and to our children.  Phil said, I remember my own shortcomings. She was right on. Her solid commitment pulled me along.  

5 Margaret, did you see your shortcomings?  

Yes, I knew I had to look to my own. Alma taught me not to think of myself. I never thought, “Aren’t you lucky to have me?” I thought, “He is so kind to me.”

6 Margaret, were you ready for children when you married or did you want to wait? Rather than get in a selfish groove, we decided to have children right away.  It was exciting to be a parent. God made us co-creators. He taught us that we couldn’t do it ourselves. We looked to the Lord for our marriage and our family. To be a parent was to me the most wonderful thing in the world.

7 Margaret, was it difficult to send your two oldest kids (10 & 8) away to school for several months at a time? It was the most terrible thing in the world, like having a baby, then sending her away. 

8  Phil, was it hard to travel around the country in the summer in your car with four kids and a bunch of musical instruments?  

I don’t think so. So you didn’t have a lot of fighting among the kids? No.

9 Phil, what was most difficult for you as a parent? 

Being a missionary didn’t give me enough time to be a father. It was a joy to teach the kids about faith. God enabled me to do what was clear in Scripture—raising them up in the Lord. Some missionaries came back because of difficulties. They had a tough time living in Japan and the children couldn’t handle the different style of life. I get that. God gave us grace, for which we are thankful. Karen added this: I remember one time I ran into my room in anger. I knew I was wrong. Dad came to the door and knocked softly and said, “Do you want to talk?” I knew he was not rejecting me. It was a kind and gentle response. Grateful for wonderful parents!



Every week!

You’re thinking, “Unless something more important comes up?”  No. That IS more important. Out of 52 weeks we manage about 50 dates. What’s more important? A funeral. Christmas. But we almost always still have the date, just on a different night. We are flexible on the time, not on the appointment. Why? Because 75 and 70… 

  1. we are still in love;
  2. we have much to talk about, our dreams, needs, problems, kids, grandkids, prayers.
  3. we think generation, not family. We pray for our great-grandchildren who don’t yet exist, because God promises to bless godly parents four generations out. We want each generation to be stronger than the last. You get to the fourth, and they are stopping cancer cold and impacting the culture.

We discovered early on that if Dad and Mom ain’t happy, the kids ain’t happy. They take their cue from us. If we live at odds with one another, that is what they will learn about marriage, family, and us. That does NOT prepare them for their future as partners and parents.  When we are happy, it gives them an “excuse” to be happy. So our dates help our parenting!

A little story that has now become epic in our extended family: Granddaughter Becca in the back seat, Grandpa Phil is driving and Grandma Margaret riding shotgun. They express words with each other that show a small level of tension, nothing close to a shouting match, which has never happened. Two minutes later from the back seat, four-year old Becca says, “We not sad, we happy, wight?” She read what was going on, and it made her very uncomfortable, and that was with grandparents. With parents, it goes to the next power. She was ready to intervene and break up the “fight,” and it was a 3 on a 1 to 10 scale. Imagine what kids go through when they regularly hear a 7 or an 8. Rips their hearts out.

All our kids know we were serious about date night–and still are. Guess what? They all do the same. We are often watching the grandkids so Dad and Mom can have time together alone.


  1. You keep the home fires burning. How high would you rate that for importance?!
  2. You don’t let anything creep in by way of competition. We have all seen it too many times. We are shocked when a mature couple decides to call it quits. It is not sad–it is tragic. Some kids NEVER get over the divorce that may have come because they did not manage their marriage.
  3. One of the best ways of staying close to the kid(s) is by staying close to the spouse.
  4. Karen and I are sometimes surprised when one of us shares something and the other person says, “I had no idea. So glad you shared that.” After 44 years, we are still learning about each other.

How do we do dating?

  1. We go out to eat so we can look at each other face to face. Important!
  2. God told me years ago, “If you spoil her, I will spoil you.” It has happened. 
  3. The whole night is for the two of us. Once in a while, we will share the dinner-time with one of our children and his or her spouse. Always fun! But then we still have plenty of time to ourselves, often watching  a favorite comedian or a great movie–alone. I love Karen. We’re 44 years in and it’s getting better all the time!


I thought it was cool to hit 75 last month. Not sure you enjoy your landmark as much. Do guys think differently about age?

I am grateful that you stayed at Trinity Lutheran when you came to California in 1972. You wondered if you had made a mistake. You went to the Communion Service still in limbo about returning to Minnesota or becoming a missionary in Japan. A prophetic word from Bud Hahn gave you peace. He said, knowing nothing of your situation, “You are in the right place.” You felt that God had spoken. I am grateful, because I married you three years later. I continue to discover rich things about you.


You believe in the power of prayer–and always have. So thankful that as a pastor and leader I don’t have to drag along a reluctant wife. Sometimes you are pushing me, because…


You encourage me to sing in the Spirit. I may be known by a few as the “Holy Spirit guy,” with seventeen years at Lutheran Renewal. Yet you often lead the charge when it comes to the gifts. 


You are not a American. You identify strongly with people from other countries, especially Asian, and particularly Japanese. You imbibed the culture, living in Japan from age three to seventeen, formative years. It shows often. And yet you have embraced a kind of community life very different from your cultural preference. God honors you for that.


You have done a great job of honoring your parents, and I see it reflected in the way you treat other elderly people. You are especially comfortable with them.  You are great with the little ones but just as effective with the older ones. You make them feel important, like they have value. You listen well to them.


I was amazed when I spoke to you three weeks ago the evening after you had your suitcase stolen at the very beginning of your family cruise. You were upbeat, having fun with your siblings. I said, “You let it go, didn’t you?” You said, “Yes.” Most women would have been absolutely crushed. You handled this major setback with maturity. We have our disagreements. So glad that we can always work stuff through to a good resolution, because you let things go.  


We balance each other off. Your strengths are my weaknesses, and vice versa. When I am going too fast, you slow me down. When you are moving too slow, I speed you up (sometimes). We do a good job of making each other laugh.


I don’t know if you have ever turned down your children when they asked for childcare, which is almost daily. You are a master at grandmothering. You define the word. Your children know that you will drop anything for their kids. You far outshine me in the grandparent arena.

So, Mrs. Anderson, my invisible hat goes off to you. I suspect that we may only have about thirty good years left, so let’s make the most of them. Much love and affection,



So, I guess I’m supposed to come up with something real lovey dovey, like, “I loved you when I married you, but now I love you even more.” But I’m afraid if I said this it would be a gross understatement, because I love you much more.

I didn’t know when I married you…

  • how much you would love your children. You think about them all the time, pray for them, serve them unselfishly.
  • how much you would love your grandchildren. I know we’re not in competition, but it sure seems like you love them more than I do. When you come home from caring for them, you sometimes say strange things like, “I felt when I looked at her (or him) that I was seeing the eyes of God.” That thought had never occurred to me.
  • how much you love your parents. You talk to them in California every day. Am I jealous? I am impressed. I would want that kind of care at 94, and you give it freely. I love them in large measure because you have loved them well all these years.
  • how Japanese you are. One Japanese gal said after staying at our home for six months, “Karen-san, you are more Japanese than I am.” Japanese people are private people. It almost makes me laugh (or cry) when I think of how private you are, and yet we have had people staying in our home from the get-go. And we’ve had non-stop ministry. You have given up a lot, when it was not your nature or perhaps your first choice. I know that some women would have said, “Enough is enough.” I think God has rewarded your obedience by giving you a flock of grandchildren. You have always been a happy person, but you seem at your happiest now caring for them. You won’t give up our date for much, but you will for the grandchildren.
  • how much you were a Holy Spirit girl. After serving seventeen years with Lutheran Renewal and doing congregational Holy Spirit weekends, some may consider me the Holy Spirit guy. You are always pushing me in that area, asking if I sang in the Spirit with the grandchildren or over the people I counseled. I love the Word of God and I have my devotional time. But I haven’t been as regular as you. I am grateful that you are a spiritual person who believes strongly in the Word of God and in the Holy Spirit.
  • how little you whine. You sing instead.
  • how much you would believe in me. I feel somehow like you not only love me but you admire me. That makes me more confident, more able to do what I feel called to do. Thank you for believing in me. Same to you and more of it!!

I need to say that I was not your ideal husband. Sometimes I was a jerk, like when I left you and five children because I had to get down to church early on Sunday. All you had to do was get them breakfast and dressed and down to church in 45 minutes. I interrupted family gatherings with “guests,” because they needed counsel, a place to stay, or a meal. But I will also say that I love you more now than when I married you, and I was crazy about you then. Where does that leave us now? I’d say we’re in love! Happy Valentine’s Day, Karen!





We expect what we are good at, what we have grace for, what God has worked in us. To place it on another person and especially our spouse, is unfair and lacks grace. It turns into a demand. It works with the merit system, not the mercy system. A true servant completes what another person lacks rather than placing unkind expectations upon him or her.

When you say that something is not fair, what you are asking for is justice. And justice operates in a legal system, not in an atmosphere of grace. You end up competing with one another rather than completing one another, the opposite of a Christ-centered marriage. We are called to lay down our lives, not to impose expectations in areas that we function well in.


We are telling our partner to be like us, to perform the way we do. Wait a minute. Don’t opposites attract? Don’t we want someone who is different, who comes to the marriage with strengths that we lack, so we can serve one another, so the other person’s weaknesses can be accommodated because we have the appropriate strengths? But to expect our partner to be like us, to perform as we do–hey, are you sure you want to be married? (Crazy–found myself doing it early in our marriage).

Wouldn’t you rather be the answer to your spouse’s dream than create a nightmare? What does your spouse long for? Does he or she have a dream yet to be fulfilled? What if your strengths were able to facilitate that dream coming true? You would be loved the rest of your life for your kindness. If, on the other hand, your expectation turns into a demand, you are killing the dream– and maybe the marriage. Good luck!


It’s all about you, not the team. You become a victim, not a victor. You can only talk about what you need, what you want, what you deserve (whoa! That is a word for people under the law).

A legal system will deteriorate quickly, because it removes service from the relationship and inserts the law–this is what you must do for me. This is what I need from you. This is how you can make me happy. Can you hear how self-centered that is? Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself…” not enjoy himself, coddle himself, or serve himself. Demand is at the opposite end of discipleship. It does not belong in a marriage. That is why I say, “Write down all your expectations, then throw them away.”

Turn civil rights into civil responsibilities. And his or her responsibilities do NOT become your rights. We don’t meet at the table of negotiation and say, “I’ll do this if you will do that.” We simply agree to go the way of the cross. And if our partner is struggling at some point to go that way, we choose to serve even more, to take up our cross rather than demanding that he or she takes up his or hers. It is the Christlike way. And it makes the marriage a romance, like the Romance of the Ages! Grace instead of law, mercy instead of merit!


My recent blog, “7 Ways to Make Her Glad She Married You,” connected. Lots of affirmation. One of the readers asked,  “How about if Karen writes to the women?” I responded: “Great idea.” I quickly wrote her side, gave it to her, and said she could use what she wanted and scrap the rest, hoping she would leave it intact. She took most of the headers but dropped the majority of the content. She wrote in her comments with arrows, circled words, marginal notes, and hieroglyphics. I tried hard to make sense out of each point, which had all been reassigned a new number.

Karen decided to come to my study after 9 PM and talk it through. Big mistake. Halfway into the “discussion,” I determined this was a really bad idea. I had done this kind of editing before. We’re never done. I would call it double-mindedness; she would call it improving. We sat together with her explaining the many new corrections and me getting more frustrated by the minute. I finally pretty much shut down. I was operating in submissive compliance, figuring this project was bombing. With each new addition I inwardly moaned, unable to give verbal hope to what she was less and less excited about, because her husband was a zombie. But she continued to work.

The irony was the name of the blog: “7 Ways to Make Him Glad He Married You.” I had seven current reasons why I wasn’t glad at that moment. Karen was doing what I had seen her doing with me many times before–changing another word, replacing one phrase with a better one, coming up with a fresh Bible verse. I finally announced that I was going to bed. We could finish in the morning.

When it arrived, I felt like I had rebooted my mind. I was thinking fresh and had new hope. I read through what was accomplished through much stress and resistance the night before and decided it wasn’t that bad. I gave her the newest copy and said I thought it could be a go. She said something on how the evening time was about as miserable as it could have been. I told her that I thought it was a bad idea–but not anymore. She again commented on my shutdown-ness. I agreed.

She let the article pass with no more corrections. Major surprise. I thought we might be in for another grueling session. Off it went to the public for their assessment. Three minutes in came the first response. Then others right behind. By afternoon I was wondering if her article would become the biggest hitter in three years of blogging. By evening she had received thirteen verbal responses, mainly from women, but several men chimed in with, “Bravo, Karen.” Many women were grateful to hear wisdom from “the other side.”

Karen and I laughed on our way to Erikka’s house that night about the irony of the subject. It could have been, “7 Reasons Why I Can’t Stand My Husband.” We decided that this thing called marriage takes a lot of work, even more patience, plus the grace of God! Do I hear an “AMEN?!”


I had my chance. Now it’s Karen’s turn to talk about married life. Go ahead, Karen!


Paul is encouraged that I have my own time with the Lord. I don’t rely on him to keep me close to God. I spend time in His Word. I always have loved the Psalms and every Scripture for the day is fresh manna. It is my anchor in life. The Scriptures speak to me, and I often share what I get. I caught on from parents who read the Scriptures daily. Their good example and my husband’s have helped to keep me going.


That was a quote from Alma Hagen, my mom’s best friend. They sure have been a wonderful example to me of joy and cheerfulness. Sometimes couples get way too serious. When laughter goes, so does a healthy marriage. We laugh at ourselves and we laugh together. I love seeing and hearing Paul laugh. It is not only good medicine–it is catchy.


not the worst. My mother used to say, “Put the best construction on all that people say or do.” “In humility count others as better than yourself” (Philippians 2:3). I’d rather believe the best and trust him. His heart is for me. Being positive is so much better than being negative. Thinking negative is insulting to a mate and to the Lord.


Love does not keep account of wrong. When a negative past comes up, don’t use the words, “You always” or “you never…” Remember that the Lord forgives and doesn’t hold things against us. We need to forgive as He forgives. We practice that often. Got to.


even when you don’t feel like it. “It is better to give than to receive.” It’s an honor to be married to Paul and work as a team. I love serving him because he is willing to serve me. When I need him because many people are coming to the house, he steps up. Why wouldn’t I do the same? It is good for us to ask each other, “How can I help?”


God’s perfect love casts out fear. Period! That can work if you don’t allow your own heart to reject that love. You need to receive it and trust Him for the rest.


Expect much from the Lord! Expectations from others easily turn into demands. Lighten up and together look to the Lord! Expectations put upon God are NEVER disappointed!



Many men quit. Creates lonely wives. Glad someone told me to date Karen. Even when we were having kids, lots of them, we managed to get away for a walk. One rule: no talking business. Now it’s a bigger deal. I am careful about spending money. Dates are an exception. Out of 52 weeks we manage 46 dates on the average. Helps to keep the fire burning. One guy described his marriage as a hot bath–just keeps cooling off. Hey Pardner, ever heard of romance?


Champion her cause, even if it’s not yours. She needs your vote. Let her know you are for her. She wants affirmation more than advice. The more you support her the more she will support you. Marriage is not two people doing their own thing. If she doesn’t feel your support, she will quit talking. Not a good thing. Everyone has a cause. Fight for hers. You’re on the same team.


I learned the hard way. I told engaged couples, “Don’t get hitched at the altar if you have the itch to alter.” Then I got married. I didn’t heed my own counsel. It doesn’t feel good for a wife to feel like his agenda is to change her. When I finally realized what I was doing, I acknowledged it, said I wouldn’t do it anymore–and I don’t. I married her to love her, not to change her. What an insult! God forgave me and so did she. Now I change me and love her.


It is not the same as changing, but it feels similar. A lot of controlling people in marriages. I hope you’re not one of them. Even God doesn’t control me. He influences me through love. He is the most powerful person in the universe–and the least controlling. Satan wants to control us. Does that give you a clue?


I finally learned this. It was the best advice I ever received. It came from Jesus to would-be disciples: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” I take it seriously. I die to myself for my wife. Karen is grateful, because I have learned to serve her rather than expecting her to serve me. I have made it one of my highest goals–to lay down my life for my wife. I got a late start, but I’m getting there.


Hard to do but worth learning. I needed to adjust and quit being defensive. It was getting me into difficulty way too often. In my old age I have come to the place where it is hard for Karen to offend me. Not a bad way to live. Can’t say that about the early years. Better than being touchy about everything and reacting rather than responding. To do it well, you need a good forgiver.

Time says, “I love you.” Time says, “You’re worth every minute.” If you are rushing, she knows you are just waiting to get to your own special hobby, and she comes in second. Treat her as an equal and she’ll treat you with respect.  “The heart of her husband trust in her” (Prov. 31:11). So go home and be fun to live with.



Marriage problems are not usually marriage problems–they are character issues. If you take up offenses, you will probably do it at work, in your marriage, at your church. Do you see a marriage counselor for it? You could, but you’d do better to deal with your offendable heart. Most issues that come up in a marriage can be dealt with by surrendering more fully to the Lordship of Christ and asking the Holy Spirit to work His character in you.

Marriage is not for eternity. It is what God has provide for our time on this earth–for relationship, intimacy, and the procreation of the race. No more procreation in the new earth, the Bridegroom of us all is Jesus, and the honeymoon lasts for ever.

That doesn’t mean that we don’t work on our marriage, but the way we do it is important. It is seldom a specifically marriage problem. Almost always it relates to an issue God is putting focus on so we can grow up in God. This helps us not to say, “If he would only pick up his clothes,” or “If she would only quit nagging…” Instead, we can say, “What can I be working on because of this conflict? Where do I need to change?” You probably don’t need a marriage counselor. You more likely need a change in your attitude or behavior.

Does this belittle the importance of marriage? No. It was the first institution created. It answered to Adam’s loneliness. It brought two very different people together–a man and a woman. “And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion…” (Genesis 1:28). Marriage is God’s provision for our days upon this earth.

Understanding this temporal relationship could head off some divorces: “I can’t live with this woman. She is driving me crazy.” Okay, change how respond to her. Learn to forgive. Reconstruct a thankful heart. Like the plaque says, “People aren’t thankful because they are happy. They are happy because they are thankful.”Your issue is probably not related to your marriage; it is related to you. The one constant in all your problems, whether at work or in your marriage–is you. There you are again.

We need to normalize conflict. We are not surprised when the world or a spouse does not treat us like we’re a superstar. A guy comes home and complains about an overbearing boss. Surprise! Is that a work-related problem? No, it is a life-related problem. This guy needs to learn how to live with people he doesn’t like. Peter would tell him that it is an issue of submission, not something he takes to human resources. An attitude needs to change in him, not his boss. Problems are gifts from God to help us develop character, whether on the job or in a marriage. We are training for the new earth.

And just so you know–how we live here impacts how we will live in eternity. There is something called rewards. It gives us incentives to change, to learn how to live above offense, to develop a good forgiver, to practice the art of thanking rather than nagging. Character is worth going after!