Know Thy Limitations

Over the years, I’ve had several “do-it-yourself” car repair disasters. Once,

I left all the nuts off the bolts in a rear tire on our old Buick. We miraculously drove it over 30 miles at up to 70 MPH without it falling off, but still—whew!

Then there was the time I removed the wrong bolt when trying to change my own oil or the time I tried to rust-proof my car by sticking my arm up inside the rusted door panel only making it worse…

You get the picture….

Now, when things break, my wife says, “Really honey—please don’t fix it—I like it better this way!”

I used to feel self-conscious about this. After all, my father-in-law can fix anything. He’s as handy as they come. My wife would comment about how they never had to worry about spending a ton of money on cars because Dad would fix them and keep them on the road–forever!

But now I’m at peace with the idea that I have other skills and some of them are fairly unique. I may not be able to fix my cars, but I can make money to pay someone else who knows what to do to free myself up to do the things I’m good at and the things I’m needed to do.

At Peace With Your Limits?

What about you?

Are you aware of your limitations and your strengths? More importantly, are you at peace with them? Coming to terms with this can be the KEY to success in life, in relationships, at work, even in your service to God.

My book, “Whole 4 Life,” can help you understand yourself in term of Passion, Personality, Perception, and Power. If you’d like to learn more and get your own copy, just CLICK HERE.


Pastor Joel

Saying “NO” to Good Things….

By age 25, I was making a six-figure income selling software in Western NY. By age 27, I had two little kids, a house, two cars, and way too much to do!

At the end of a very successful sales year, my company offered me a Regional Manager’s job—something I had pursued. It would have meant a significant salary increase, managing a team of about 12 reps, and a move to Pittsburgh. My boss had fought for me to get this based on the aspirations I had shared with him a year or two before.

I turned it down.

I had several reasons for saying no. My family would have been taxed in the move since we’d be far from grandparents who were helping my wife while I ran all over selling—sometimes overnight and normally from 7 AM till 10 or 11 PM at night. I also knew that the job would be brutal—demanding almost perfection from me in order to make my quota through my reps in order to keep my own position. I’d be away from home even more than I had been. I’d also have to leave our local church—a place where I was serving and being groomed for ministry.

I said, “No thanks.”

Honestly, there have been times when I’ve looked back on that and wondered, “Did I do the right thing?” Still, each time I’ve questioned it, I come back with the same answer. “Yes.” My wife has cuddled up to me many times over the years, looked at me with her pretty eyes and said, “I’ll never forget how you took a lower position so you could be home with us more often. I know that was hard, but I’ll never forget it. I love you!”

Worth it! Yes…very worth it!

The Good Things…

In my experience, the hardest things to say, “No” to, are the good things. You know, the things that have value and are positive. All of us know that we’re supposed to refuse or reject bad things. It’s when we have too many good options that we struggle.

This is why having a clear priority list is vital. God first, family second, job third, others fourth…etc…. Listing those values and priorities can hep us sift and sort–sometimes saying “no,” even to good things. Like a promotion, for instance.

So…my advice is to put your marriage above other things that might be tempting…even the good things. You won’t regret it!



Pastor Joel

Avoiding “Foot-in-Mouth” Disease

I’ve had a few encounters with the mafia over the years. One was with a man who was an accountant for the mob. He and his wife started coming to our church but she came to me with complaints about him being abusive.

I met with the two of them to confront him. “This needs to stop,” I said, “Or, you’ll need to stop attending our church.” I had heard rumors that he was mafia-connected. Still, I didn’t take those rumors seriously until he said, “Wait a minute! Do you know who I work for?”

Before I had time to think, I leaned over and pointed upward toward heaven while shouting, “Do you know who I work for???”

He backed off…and that was a good thing because I would have needed a change of pants had he challenged me.

By God’s grace, it worked out great because he was more afraid of God than he though I was of him….

Opening the mouth before engaging the brain…

Most of the time, speaking before we think doesn’t work out as well as it did for me with my mafia friend. Normally, it leads to disaster.

So how do we avoid that?

James tells us that we should be, “swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath…(James 1:19).” What he actually does here is give us a formula for staying out of trouble. Here’s the truth:

  1. IF we are “swift to hear,”
  2. We WILL be “slow to speak.” And,
  3. IF we are “swift to hear and slow to speak,” we’ll be “slow to wrath.”

I have found that focusing on listening keeps me quiet when I should be quiet. It also helps me avoid imputing motives and jumping to conclusions which may be false. It works–try it! You might like it.

So…if you’ve been guilty of “foot-in-mouth” disease, try the James 1:19 formula. And, let me know how it works for you!


Till then,

Pastor Joel



Unequally Yoked?

It’s not too popular today, but the Bible is powerfully relevant. Take for instance, the idea of being equally yoked based on 2 Corinthians 6:14. It says, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?”

Most would agree that this is speaking of the wisdom of avoiding committed, legally-binding partnerships with people who do not share your faith, values, priorities, moral convictions, and vision. Marriage would seemingly rise to the top of this list of relational “yokes.” Still, people–even solid Christian people–summarily and frequently ignore it.

Life Innovations, Inc., the makers of Prepare/Enrich did a study several years ago where they proved that the number one predictive index for marital success was a couple’s level of agreement on spiritual beliefs. This was not a Christian study, nor did it only evaluate couples where one or both were Christian. They simply found that when couples agreed on spiritual issues, they were more likely to endure in marriage than others (visit for more information).

Now, I must remind readers that the Apostle Paul made it clear in I Cor. 7 that those already married to a non-believer should stay that way. This isn’t an excuse for divorcing a non-Christian spouse. But for single folks, Paul’s teaching about “unequally yoked” relationships should be obeyed as from Christ himself. Furthermore, it’s proven, solid, wise truth that can save you a load of heartache.

To that end,

Pastor Joel



Wedding Vows Revisited

I recently did a destination wedding in Bermuda. The husband was a Regional Director for Geico and the Bride was a Bank Branch Manager. In a foreign country, you need a local official to do the vows, pronounce them “husband and wife,” plus sign the license. Still, the couple wanted me to do as much of the ceremony as possible.

So, I did the welcome and prayer plus a message on the biblical foundation for marriage. I then explained that the local leader would be taking over, “But first,” I said, “I have some special vows to administer…

“Do you then David, faithfully promise in the presence of God in front of these witnesses to follow all of the instructions found in the ‘Banking Diva Maintenance Manual?” The groom stared at me speechless…his eyes as big as softballs. “I didn’t hear an answer,” I asserted. “Oh…I do—I DO!” he affirmed as everyone chuckled. “And to the bride, do you Leanne, faithfully promise in the presence of God and these witnesses to save a ton of money by switching to Geico?”  People roared. “I DO, in fact I DID!” she said while laughing.

“Good,” I said, “I’ll now turn the ceremony over….”

To Vow or Not to Vow?

We’ve enjoyed watching the video of this little tease over and over. It has been quite popular on Facebook. Still, I’d be remiss if I didn’t emphasize the importance of the actual vows in a wedding ceremony. It has become quite popular to rewrite them and create our own. A lot of couples do this. I allow that in my ceremonies, but always include more traditional, biblical commitments as well.


Well, first I’d ask why as well…why do we want to change or delete them? I would argue that the very reason for deleting/editing them is the purpose for having them! The CHALLENGE and maybe even FRIGHTEN us.

The Traditional Vows

Here’s a sample of the vows I use in my traditional service:

Do you then, __________________ (his FIRST name), faithfully promise and covenant before God, in the presence of these witnesses, to take ______________ (her FULL name) to be your lawful, wedded wife for as long as you both shall live, to love her cherish her, honor her, respect her and provide for her? (Goom’s answer)

And do you, __________________ (her FIRST name), faithfully promise and covenant before God in the presence of these witnesses, to take __________________ (his FULL name) to be your lawful, wedded husband for as long as you both shall love, to love him, cherish him, honor him, comfort him and respect him? (Bride’s answer)

Have the couple face each other and join hands.

Beginning with the bridegroom, would you please repeat after me:

“I, __________________ (his FULL name), take you __________________ (her FIRST name) to be my wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish till death do us part. Thereto I pledge you my faith” [or, “I promise you this”]

And now the bride:

“I, __________________ (her FULL name), take you __________________ (his FIRST name) to be my wedded husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish till death do us part. Thereto I pledge you my faith” [or, “I promise you this”]

A Promise, Covered by a Promise

This is heavy. Let’s not minimize it!

In the presence of God and perhaps hundreds of witnesses, we’re saying we’ll care for, love, protect, serve and stick together till death!! No WONDER we want to change or eliminate this stuff! Wow!

But here’s the thing. These vows are Biblical. A survey of Jesus’ words in Matthew 19 or Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 5, etc., shows us that this is exactly what God expects. The good news is that He helps us fulfill them and honors us when we submit to that. As scary as they are, these vows are a promise covered by another promise from Jesus that he would always be with us (Matthew 28:20, etc.).

So if you’re married, refocus on your commitment and ask God to empower you as you live it out. If you’re not married, approach the possibilities with a sober reality of the serious nature of the vows you may take someday. In both cases–recognize that God has made the same commitment to you–for all eternity.

In His Love,

Pastor Joel

Relationship Rules

Our church had a plethora of problems moving into a more permanent space in Newington, CT. The Zoning and Planning office had giving us no end of grief with regulations—some I think contrived—and rules which cost us hours of labor and over $15,000 in architectural drawing fees.

When we finally moved into our current space, they refused to give us a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) because our bathroom sign was “too high.” I asked if I could move it and they said, “No,” but rather would have to schedule a follow-up inspection. (Great use of taxpayer $.)

I moved the sign down 6” or so and they came back. After they gave me the CO, I asked the inspector, “So, may I ask, respectfully, why did we need to lower that sign.” “Obviously,” he said, “so that a blind person in a wheelchair can read the braille.” “Hmmm,” I replied, “What about the ambulatory blind person who now can’t find the sign—let alone the braille—since it’s now down around his knees?” “I don’t make the rules,” he retorted, “I just enforce them.”

Wow…and we want the government to handle our healthcare?!

Ah, but lest I digress into a political diatribe, let’s ask, “What does this have to do with marriage and relationships?”


As couples, we have rules in our relationships. Some of them written or at least clearly stated–others, just “understood.” For example, there are normally “rules” about who mows the lawn or who does dinner dishes, who pays the bills, and who does the grocery shopping, etc.

These things are necessary. Without clarity on who’s responsible for what, there can be chaos. Still, like our government, some of us like to add rules on top of the necessary rules–creating a minefield of potential problems.

My advice to couples is that rules in a relationship are like budgets or bed sheets. They are important, but need to be changed from time to time. That’s why I suggest having an open, regular discussions about these things with a constant openness and flexibility toward adjustments.

For example, a job and travel schedule change might necessitate a change in responsibilities at home. The point is to be flexible and help each other through it! The question to ask is, “Does this rule need to be maintained or am I resistant to change due to a lack of personal comfort?” If it’s for personal comfort, maybe let it go… Rules are supposed to provide support, not hindrance to your marriage…as long as they’re functioning that way–you’re in good shape!

Having a balance of structure and freedom is the key…


To that end,

Pastor Joel

Saying the “Right Thing” at the “Right Time”

I did a funeral a few years ago for a real practical joker. His family loved him dearly and his son had “picked-up the mantel” of pranks and teases. So, it was only fitting that when Dad died, his son attached a whoopee cushion noisemaker to the bottom of the casket. The machine was operated by remote control so that he could “let it rip” from anywhere in the room.

People would somberly walk up to the casket, peer in, and as they were contemplating Dad’s mortality as well as their own, “Rrrrrrrrrttttttt!”

Reactions differed. Some gave an embarrassed poke to their spouse next to them. Others stood in shock with their jaws on the floor wondering how it was biologically possible for a dead person to pass gas. Some just laughed and searched the room to find the guilty party giggling hysterically in the corner with his remote control in hand.

My favorite part of the morning was the Governor’s Honor Guard. The deceased had been a member of this elite troop such that they marched in uniform up to his casket, did an about face and with their backs to the casket, stood at attention for a brief presentation. That was the moment my friend pushed the button.  “Rrrrrrrrippppptttttzzzz!”

The soldiers tried to stare straight ahead, but their searching eyes said it all. Each of them was trying to figure out which of their comrades had eaten a burrito before the funeral. They tried to analyze what had happened, while trying to maintain composure and decorum.

While crass, it WAS funny…

When it came time for me to preach the funeral message, I made a detour on the way to the pulpit. Instead of walking straight to the front, I first walked down the aisle to my prankster friend, leaned over to him and gave him the following comfort in his time of grief.

If you touch that button while I’m preaching, you’re going to join your Dad in that casket—do you understand me?”

Sometimes you just have to know what to say to those suffering a loss….

Seriously, knowing what to say and when to say it is difficult–seemingly impossible at times. Speakers, preachers, sales people, all of us struggle with this issue. I find the toughest scenario regarding communication and timing to be int he day-to-day interaction between husbands and wives.

It seems that married people often are silent when they should speak or they speak when they should be silent. Often it’s the wife’s challenge in saying something that’s encouraging versus inflammatory.

So how can we “fix” this problem? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Before you speak or choose to remain silent, ask this simple question–“What would this person find most encouraging or helpful right now?” If you can’t answer that question, pray about it and maybe ask someone else for advice before you act or speak.
  2. Consider the personality of your partner. My book “Whole 4 Life” looks at this in detail, but if you know the personal style of your partner, you also know how he/she communicates.
  3. Stay positive and hopeful. Even if you must give a criticism or suggestion, couch it in positive, forward-looking terms. Nobody likes to be beat-up and left lying there. Make even the negative points in the context of positive improvement you believe is possible.
  4. Use scripture or encouraging quotes. Sometimes you don’t have to say anything original, you just need to let someone else do the talking for you.
  5. Most importantly, ask questions. Often, what your partner REALLY needs isn’t your mouth–it’s your ears. If you’re in doubt about what to say, it may be an indication of your partner’s need to be heard first. Stephen Covey put it well in his book, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” He said we should “Seek first to understand…then, to be understood.”

We offer helpful resources on communication on our resources page. These include my book, “Communicate to Lead” as well as the aforementioned, “Whole 4 Life.” Click Here to learn more.


Pastor Joel

Prepare-Enrich: Attitude & Marriage!

As a Prepare-Enrich Trainer and Coach, I get their regular newsletters. I felt this month’s was particularly fantastic so I’m reprinting for your benefit. Enjoy, PJ

We know that life can be hard sometimes and that it can take a toll on your relationship – but can positivity play a role in your marriage?
What is your attitude towards your marriage?
Imagine this: It’s a Tuesday morning; you forgot to set your alarm last night. You wake up half an hour late and no longer have time to shower before work. Scrambling to get in on time, you forget to grab an orange – which you have every morning for breakfast. Once you get into work, ten minutes late, you find you are scheduled for a morning meeting … again. Bewildered by the audacity of your supervisor, you reluctantly accept the scheduled meeting on your computer and start to prepare for it.

Ten thirty rolls around and you walk into the meeting. Everyone is laughing, smiling, having a general good time and you roll your eyes to yourself – it’s a Tuesday, why is everyone so cheerful. Twenty minutes into the painfully “fun” meeting you sputter out a chuckle.

What. Where did that come from?

It’s almost as if your coworkers’ positivity had an impact on your mood.

Believe it or not, the people you spend your time with can affect your attitude towards your day, your week, and even your life in general. When you have a positive outlook, it can help your mood which has been shown to affect your health. Here are some things that a positive outlook can do to affect your life:
  • There’s more laughter
  • A valuable source of motivation
  • Attracts other happy people
  • Reduces stress
  • Lowers risk for heart-related health problems
If we know that a positive outlook affects your mood and your health – what if we think about it in terms of your relationship? If you have a poor attitude at work, school, or in general about your life you may be projecting that attitude onto your marriage without knowing it. If you know having a positive outlook on life can lower your health risks, think about what having a positive outlook on your relationship could do for your marriage’s health.

Take some time each day to remember the good in your relationship, even when you’re running late because your spouse couldn’t figure out which tie to wear, or bitter that you missed the bus because your partner was having a bad hair day, or stressed that your partner forgot to pick up more milk for the recipe you are making tonight.  What is your marriage attitude?  A little grace, empathy, and thankfulness might give you the boost you need.  Healthy, happy couples have healthy, happy relationships.

And lastly, remember to smile, it actually won’t kill ya!
April Social Media Recap 

Did you check out our blog series last month?  We interviewed four couples from the PREPARE/ENRICH family to see their insights on marriage.  It’s worth a read!

This is part one of a mini interview series the team at PREPARE/ENRICH conducted during the month of May to celebrate anniversaries with couples like you. As we approach the month of June, wedding season is upon us.  With weddings come anniversaries – many, many anniversaries.  Relationships are our priority here at P/E and we […]…»
Trending on Facebook :

Losing Weight…Together!

Karen and I decided to pay $3,000 to lose weight. Sounds like a lot, but we figured that, compared to the cost of treatment for strokes or heart attacks—things we were statistically headed toward–$3,000 was a deal! Also, the emotional cost of being sick or hospitalized, would be FAR worse than other costs.

I won’t say it was easy, but ultimately, I lost 60 pounds and she lost more than 35. It was /is great, except that people think she’s my daughter.

The keys to this are simple:

  1. Eliminate sugar wherever possible. Use Stevia or go without with coffee, etc.
  2. Cut excess fats and focus on lean meat, vegetables, and lots of salad.
  3. Eliminate carbs because they turn-into sugar (thus see #1 above).

I’m glad we did it…and, I’d be happy to share details of the program we were in with anyone who’s interested.

The thing I’d like to emphasize is that we did it together. That’s huge. It’s amazing how powerful something couples do together can be. It’s not just that we help each other be successful. It’s not that we go to the gym together as a “cheap date,” (although it is). It’s the fact that you have this shared experience.

Face the Tough Stuff–Together!

We often think of shared experiences as positive things like a vacation. The truth is, some of the best ones are–not necessarily negative like an accident or tragedy–but things that are challenging.

I think this is why people tend to remember the vacations where the car broke down in the middle of the desert, etc. The challenge of it and how you “survived,” draws you together.

So, I’m not suggesting that you all need to lose weight (although most Americans DO), nor am I suggesting that you look for tough things to endure. What I AM encouraging is that you not run from the challenging things or try to “tough them out” solo. I think that when couples intentionally tackle things together–it can actually make them healthier and improve their relationship.

The Prepare-Enrich program has been an instrumental part of this process for many, many couples I’ve worked with. If you’d like to find out more, visit our RESOURCES page and click the appropriate links. You can also call me at 860-938-2725 to discuss this “live.”



Pastor Joel

Fun With Dad

(NOTE: Some of our readers are forming step families with children from a prior marriage/relationship. This weekend, we dedicate our post to all Dad’s wishing them the happiest of Father’s Days! To all kids–here’s how to have fun with Dad…)

I loved my sixth grade teacher. His name was Mr. Wesner and he was a riot. He was tough, but fair and we learned a lot from him. I remember that he enjoyed playing “mum-ball” with us weekly.

Mum-ball was a game he made-up where we’d sit on top of our desks in absolute silence. Then, he’d chuck a rubber ball—the same kind we used in dodge-ball—at one of us. If we caught it and didn’t talk or make any noise, we got to keep playing. If it bounced off us or if we yelped, we’d be out and have to sit in our seat until the game ended. The last person sitting on his/her desk won.

There were a number of cases where one of us would dive off the desk to rescue a ball or where we’d be hit so hard that we, the ball, and our desk would topple over. Today, he’d be sued for child abuse. Back then, it was just pure fun!

Then there was Dad. Dad loved stuff like baseball, shooting, hunting, fishing–good old fashion outdoor fun. Still, again, the gun-related parts of this would be considered “taboo” in much of today’s culture.

So, on this Father’s Day, let me suggest that we take a break from political-correctness and hyper-vigilance over some progressive idea of “safety,” and have some fun, REAL fun with Dad. Sure, get him a card (click here for info on a great source for those), but…let’s get adventurous shall we?

Here are some ideas:

  1. Take him shooting. Yes. That’s right. Let him use a weapon to blow holes in something. It’s fun and, if done at a range with proper instruction, it’s safe too.
  2. Go to a paintball range. Welts and all, paintball is a great “Dad game.” It’s relatively inexpensive, messy, and might provide a good workout too.
  3. Play touch football in the yard. Or, just play catch. Yes, old school I know, but still fun.
  4. Wrestle with him. I remember family wrestling matches with my kids when they were little. They can all beat me now so I have scratched it off my list. Still, for some, it’s still OK.
  5. Take him to a ballgame. Hot dogs, popcorn, baseball…need I say more?
  6. Do an intense hike. Most local or state park associations maintain a list of great hikes of varied intensity. Dad might like some outdoor nature and family time.
  7. Try an extreme sport. I’m not a fan of skydiving, etc., but some are. Ask Dad if there’s one he’s always dreamed of trying and then–go for it!

If you survive this adventure into past masculine intensity, I’d love to hear your comments…I suspect, just like Mr. Wesner’s sixth grade class, you’ll have some good times and great memories to share!

Oh, and if you’d like to find some great gifts for Dad, check my review of Dayspring here. They offer some specials Dad might just love!

To that end,

Pastor Joel