FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Advice That Stands the Test of Time

with Carl Wilson | December 23, 2014
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Good advice is worth its weight in gold. Dennis Rainey welcomes his long-time friend, Carl Wilson, the founder of CRU's Student Venture. Dennis recalls Carl's advice to him 40 years ago when Carl advised him to read the Word and pray with Barbara every night, a suggestion Dennis took to heart. Carl talks about how he and his wife of 66 years, Sara Jo, have practiced this themselves and how they have sought to make Christ the center of their marriage.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Good advice is worth its weight in gold. Dennis Rainey welcomes his long-time friend, Carl Wilson, the founder of CRU's Student Venture. Dennis recalls Carl's advice to him 40 years ago when Carl advised him to read the Word and pray with Barbara every night, a suggestion Dennis took to heart. Carl talks about how he and his wife of 66 years, Sara Jo, have practiced this themselves and how they have sought to make Christ the center of their marriage.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Dennis Rainey recalls his friend Carl Wilson’s advice to him 40 years ago when Carl advised him to read the Word and pray with Barbara every night, a suggestion Dennis took to heart.

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Advice That Stands the Test of Time

With Carl Wilson
December 23, 2014
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Bob: Carl Wilson remembers meeting the woman who would become his wife. They’ve been married 66 years now. He says he was interested in dating, but she had something higher—something more significant on her mind.

Carl: I wanted to talk about other things, but she talked about Jesus. It was personal for her, and she talked about Him as though He were alive and well.

Then, one night, I went walking alone—said: “God, what’s this all about?  I’ve grown up in the church—had all these pins in Sunday school and know all the stories—but I don’t know what it means.”  And Jesus’s words came to me—I don’t know where I learned them—Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me.”  That night, I invited Christ into my life.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, December 23rd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine.  



We’ll talk today to Carl Wilson. We’ll hear a love story that goes back more than six decades. Stay tuned.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition. This was kind of an unexpected treat for you this year—to get to sit down with somebody you hadn’t seen in decades; right? 

Dennis: Really; yes. Carl Wilson was instrumental in my life in terms of really setting Barbara and me out on a good, healthy spiritual path within the first four months of our marriage. But I don’t want to steal that story just yet. He’s the guy who had the conversation with me about praying with my wife.

I do want to say something to the listeners—I know it is Christmas week here and you are busy finishing—probably, some of you—gift purchasing, and gift wrapping, and preparation for the holidays.


But I’d like you to just, perhaps, stop and think about what FamilyLife Today has meant to you this past year—perhaps, how we’ve helped you in resolving conflict in your marriage, or with your children, or with your adult children, or maybe with your parents, as an adult. Maybe, we’ve helped you, as a single person, prepare for marriage or, perhaps, give you a healthier perspective of what marriage and family are all about, according to a noble purpose out of the Bible.

Maybe, we’ve helped you develop more of a biblical approach to raising children and tackling some of the touchy cultural issues that are coming at parents today—that, frankly, they are bewildered by / they’re confused by. They are not sure how to answer the question. We’ve tried to help you answer those questions and raise your children to follow Jesus Christ.

If you’ve benefitted, I’d just like to challenge you—I’d like to ask you to join with us, if you’ve not given yet, to our end-of-year matching challenge. We’ve got a large gift that has been established by a number of families, and we’re still short.



We need more donors to step up and say, “I want to make sure we take full advantage of that, and I want to make sure we keep FamilyLife Today on the air on this station and all across the country”—because as you know, Bob, we are touching all 50 states. If there has ever been a time when there needed to be practical biblical help and hope for marriage and family, it’s today.

Bob: Well, and as you mentioned, there is a matching-gift fund that has been established. Every time a listener makes a donation—if you make a $50 donation, it becomes a $100 donation—just like that. We are able to draw on those funds as soon as the gift arrives.

So, would you consider going to—clicking in the upper right-hand corner of our website, where it says, “I Care”?—you can make an online donation that way. Or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY. You can make your donation over the phone, and you can send us a Christmas card with a donation in it if you like.



If you have a few leftover Christmas cards, just send one to us and mail it to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR. Our zip code is 72223. We want to say, “Thanks,” in advance, for your financial support. We appreciate you, and we do hope to hear from you.

Now, we’re going to listen in on a conversation that took place, a while back, as your friend, Carl Wilson, came to Little Rock and spent some time with us.

Dennis: What a sweet guy! 

Bob: And we talked with him about some of his life lessons around marriage.

Dennis: This is a real veteran of marriage. So, listen up.

[Previously Recorded] 

Bob: I don’t know if it’s ever occurred to you that maybe one of the reasons they’ve been married as long as they’ve been married is because they both have degrees in chemistry; huh?  Did you ever think about that—[Laughter]—Carl and Sara Jo, both with degrees in chemistry.

Dennis: Yes. No doubt about it. I didn’t know that about you, Carl.



It’s really interesting to read your—really all your accomplishments—all those grandkids/great grandkids and married since 1948— 

Carl: Right.

Dennis: —to Sara Jo.

Carl: Sixty-six years.

Dennis: Glad you’re here! 

Carl: Good to be here.

Bob: Carl, I’ve been here since 1992—I have heard Dennis tell this story a hundred times. I’m sure it’s been a hundred times—

Dennis: Over a hundred times.

Bob: —because Dennis routinely tells people that right after he and Barbara got married—

Dennis: Well, let’s see if he remembers. Do you remember the advice you gave me when I was starting out our marriage?  We’d been married about four months—I wouldn’t expect you to know that—but it was—I remember it was in December of 1972. I came to you and I asked you a question: “Carl, you’ve been married about 25 years, and you’ve got five kids. What’s the best single piece of advice you’d give me, as a young man, starting out my marriage?” 

Bob: Do you remember this conversation at all? 

Carl: Sure.

Bob: You do?! 

Dennis: You do remember it?! 


Carl: Yes.

Bob: Can you remember what you told Dennis? 

Carl: Yes.

Bob: What did you tell him? 

Carl: I told him that, every night, he should read the Word, and have prayer together, and then kiss each other good night.

Dennis: Well, I got one-third of it right!—[Laughter]—and it’s not the kissing part.

Bob: Dennis—Dennis, for years, has told people/audiences, on radio, live speaking—he’s said, “Best marriage advice I ever got was from Carl Wilson and Sara Jo.”  He said you called him, “Denny.”  You said, “You need to pray with your wife every day”; and he said, because of that advice, that’s what he’s been doing for the last four-plus decades.

Dennis: And I’ve shared with the FamilyLife Today audience, and at speaking engagements, that I’m not sure I would still be married because both Barbara and I are very strong-willed, stubborn, selfish human beings.



What prayer did for our marriage was—it got two broken people to bend their wills before Almighty God. There is something about that spiritual discipline that will change the course of your life, your marriage, your family, and your legacy.

Bob: So, have you and Sara Jo prayed together, read the Scriptures, and kissed every night for six-plus decades?  

Carl: For 66 years, we’ve done it. Now, sometimes, we’ve only had the prayer, but I’m sure that that has been one of the things that has been most strengthening to our marriage in all these years. She and I are both very strong-willed, and we came out of different backgrounds. My father was wealthy—made wealth and lost it all in the Great Depression—became an alcoholic / was unfaithful to my mother.



They were divorced and, later, he committed suicide. So, I grew up without a father. My mother treated me like I was the man of the family—she treated me with dignity. That’s one of the things that led to me having an honorable relationship and attitude toward women and sex. I’m grateful to God that my wife and I have been faithful to each other all these years.

Dennis: Who gave you the advice to pray with your wife every night?  Do you remember?  

Carl: The Lord did, I guess. [Laughter] 

Dennis: I’d say that’s a pretty good source! 

Carl: Yes.

Bob: And what would your prayer with Sara Jo look like, even now as you pray with her at night?  How much time?  What does it look like? 

Carl: Well, it’s not always the same—but we pray for our family, our children, people that I’ve witnessed to in the day and shared with—



—women and men—mostly a lot of women that I talk with are hurting so much now, especially women without husbands and raising children. We read the Word, though, and we do discuss it some; but it’s basically praying for each other / for own needs, for our friends, and anybody that’s come for counseling.

Bob: Dennis says sometimes his prayers with Barbara are, maybe, 30 seconds. Does that count—if it’s just 30 seconds? 

Carl: Yes.

Bob: Okay.

Carl: It’s usually longer than that with Sara Jo—[Laughter]—I can’t get off with that.

Dennis: Well, those are nights when it’s like, “Okay, God, this has been a full day— 

Carl: Yes.

Dennis: “—we’re both whipped. You know us well. You know our needs. We love you. Goodnight.” 

Carl: We have some prayers about like that. [Laughter]  Look, it still keeps Christ—

Dennis: There you go.

Carl: —in the center of your marriage.



There are other things that I do that I think are really helpful. I get up every morning and fix breakfast. Then, when she gets up, I have my time with the Lord. I always kiss her and tell her I love her, every morning and every night—she doesn’t always believe it. [Laughter] 

Dennis: Let’s go back to when you met Sara Jo. How did you two first connect? 

Carl: I went to Maryville College. I enrolled with a plan of going out as a medical missionary. So, I was taking chemistry and biology. She was in an organic chemistry class with me. She was struggling to hook up the apparatus for an experiment—of course, I came to the rescue. [Laughter] 



She was a beautiful, golden-haired girl—brilliant. I found out she was so smart—so, I started studying with her. [Laughter]  That’s how I got to meet her. She didn’t know the Lord at the time, but I had started work on campus and getting—I had a group of many people that were meeting—and she started going with me to that.

Bob: You had not been a Christian very long. You came to faith while you were in the Navy; is that right? 

Carl: That’s correct. It was amazing what God did to me. After I became a Christian, I, fortunately, got to sit under a very good Bible teacher. I met a layman who took me witnessing with him to the jails. One thing led to another and I, ultimately, was made a chaplain of a base—

Bob: Wow.

Carl: —because the chaplain got discharged. They didn’t know who to turn it over to—so they let me run the chaplain’s office.



We had great Bible studies and reached a lot of men for Christ.

Bob: Well, tell the story of the young woman who invited you to church and how that changed everything for you.

Carl: Her name was Barbara Blanton, and she was a Christian. After we had eaten lunch with the family, we went in a room. I wanted to talk about other things, but she talked about Jesus. It was personal for her—Christ was in her life, and she talked about Him as though He were alive and well. Then, she took me to some meetings with some of her friends; and they were the same way.

Then, one night, I went walking alone—said: “God, what’s this all about?  I’ve grown up in church—had all these pins in Sunday school / know all the stories—but I don’t know what it means.”  I said, “I want to know how to know You.”  Jesus’s words came to me—I don’t know where I’d learned them.



Jesus said: “I’m the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me.”  And that night, I invited Christ into my life—that began to change my life.

Dennis: So, back to your relationship with Sara Jo. How did you propose? 

Carl: Well, we had dated for a couple of years by that time—

Dennis: And you had helped her pass chemistry, at that point. [Laughter] 

Carl: Well, we both did well in chemistry. I was better in organic chemistry than she was though. We both were assistants to the professors, and we both got accepted into med school—Bowman Gray Med School. We had to wait a year to go; but anyway, we went on a bus to Knoxville for some reason—I don’t know—maybe, for me to speak at a student meeting or something over there. On the way back, I proposed on the bus to her. [Laughter] 


Bob: You, romantic guy, you—proposing on the bus. But you said, when you met her, she wasn’t a believer.

Carl: No.

Bob: How did she come to faith? 

Carl: She started going to this meeting with me. We had about 125 students that would come and share their faith, and one of us would speak. She says that she came to Christ through me; but it was really at the meeting and seeing Christ alive in people that, I think, changed her. She was a do-gooder. She was going to be a medical doctor too.

One of the things that meant most to her was—she came later to understand that it’s Christ in us that lives a Christian life. We can’t live it—it’s His power. He’s the only superman. He’s the only One that could ever please God.



So, she learned that only through Christ could she live the Christian life. I guess that she needed that to love me—put up with me. [Laughter] 

Dennis: I think we all understand that—not you—but our own selves—realizing we need a spouse who has Christ in his life or her life in the marriage relationship.

Do you remember when you and I first met?  I was on staff, of course, with the high school ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.

Carl: I can’t remember when we first met, Dennis; but I remember you being in staff meetings. I remember you and Barbara invited us to dinner, but I had already started these seminars on family life. I talked to the staff some about it; and I guess, at one time, you and I were talking and this came up—but I can’t remember how.



Bob: When you went to Carl for advice on marriage, you had seen him in a healthy marriage with five kids.

Dennis: Right.

Bob: You also taught classes on this.

Dennis: Right.

Bob: That’s why you sought him out? 

Dennis: Well, I saw a genuine life—who had lived it out for 25 years with five kids. There is a lot of reality with five kids. He had done a great job of leading in an organization, and I’d sat under his teaching on a number of occasions. So, it was only natural to go to him, as a mentor, and say, “What’s the best advice you can give me, as a young man, starting out my marriage?” 

Bob: And Carl, you had never made it to med school. You had actually wound up on the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ.

Carl: I had a year to wait because there was such a glut of veterans trying to get into med school. They accepted us for the following year, and I had two invitations. I had spoken on campuses in five states, while I was still a student at Maryville.


At the same time, university learned about my work with missions and emphasizing going overseas to missions. So, they invited me to work with them on the west coast for that year. My wife was expecting then—my mother lived out on the west coast, and that seemed the best thing to do.

Actually, we went through Wycliffe training in the summer, and she made the highest grades in the class—I made an A+, myself. [Laughter] They wanted us to go out to the mission field, but my burden was evangelism and missions.

Bob: Wow.

Carl: But anyway, when I went to the west coast, I worked out there with IV [InterVarsity]; but I also got familiar with Fuller Seminary. That’s how I ended up going to Fuller and, then, deciding—



—we both decided that was what I should do. And then, she went through Biola missionary nursing school; but she never practiced nursing except with me and the kids.

But my wife feels really satisfied. She said to me last week, “I didn’t get to go to med school,”—she was brilliant and she always pursued high grades and things—but she said, “You know, raising five children and all of these grandchildren have been my life and what God called me to do.”  Of course, taking care of me, and looking after me, and helping me—my wife is brilliant. She knows books better than anybody—and when I’m doing research, I can—she can find it for me.

Dennis: Carl, you’ve written a book called The Power of New Covenant Love.



There are a lot of listeners, who are listening to us right now. When they hear the phrase, “new covenant love,” they aren’t exactly sure what that is and what that looks like. How would you describe this new covenant love that has endured for 66 years with you and Sara Jo? 

Carl: Well, it goes back to the central concept of Christianity. On the last night, Jesus was with His disciples—you remember—they were arguing who was going to be the greatest—and He washed their feet, and He served their supper. Then, He said to them, “A new commandment, I give you, that you love one another as I have loved you.”  Then, He went on, that very night, and talked about: “You can ask anything in My name, and I’m going to send you the helper. I’m not going to leave you as orphans. I’m going to be in you by the Spirit.” 


That statement comes up through all the New Testament—people don’t realize it. Paul constantly comes back to—love, love, love, love, love. And the only way we can do that is His love in us—His Holy Spirit working in us. If we die with Him—which is what the Scriptures call us to do—that’s the only way we can change. We can’t change ourselves.

Of course, the only way that the problem of sin can be dealt with is by dying with Christ. The cross is what gives us the power to love each other; and as we let Christ take over, the first place it needs to be applied is in the family.



Bob: I’ll tell you what—listening back to the first part of that conversation with Carl Wilson—and by the way, we are going to hear Part Two of that tomorrow—I was struck with the fact that, at heart, Carl was all about the Great Commission.

Dennis: He really is. He’s about spiritual multiplication, and it starts at home. He nailed it there, at the end, about Christ being the builder. He is the One who created your marriage—He can make it work. I know you’re married to a broken person. Barbara and I, each, are married to broken people; but it takes Christ to help the ego and the selfishness be surrendered to Him and help two imperfect people go the distance in this covenant-keeping relationship that Carl models with his wife Sara Jo.

It occurs to me, Bob, that there may be one listener who needs to raise his hand—and I’m speaking to the guys now.



I know it is Christmas week, and there are some guys out shopping late. They’ve run into our broadcast—raise their hands and say, “I will begin praying with my wife from this Christmas on until the end”; alright?  Just raise your hand and repeat after me: “I will pray with my wife to the finish line, so help me God.”  If you made that pledge, send us an email or write us and tell us about it. Then, stay tuned because when God shows up, He changes people’s lives and marriages.

Bob: Carl has written a book called The Power of New Covenant Love that we have in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. It’s all about how we can know more about God as we look at the marriage union—the relationship between a husband and a wife that’s designed to be a picture. And it’s a book we’ve got in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go, online, at to get a copy of Carl Wilson’s book, The Power of New Covenant Love.



Click in the upper left-hand corner of the screen, where it says, “GO DEEPER.” The information about the book is available there. Or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to request The Power of New Covenant Love by Carl Wilson.

Again, we want to say, “Thank you,” to those of you who have made a yearend contribution to support FamilyLife Today—Dennis mentioned that earlier in today’s program. Please pray for us over the next week-and-a-half as we close out 2014. If you are able to help with a donation, we would appreciate whatever you can do. Your donation is going to be matched, dollar for dollar, when you get in touch with us. You make a $50 donation, and that makes available to us $50 from the matching-gift fund that has been established for FamilyLife Today.

By the way, that matching gift fund has grown in recent days. We are now hoping to take advantage of a total of $3.5 million. That’s a significant challenge for us—that’s why we need to hear from you. Would you consider—right now, go to—



—make an online donation. Or call 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY,”—and make a donation over the phone and help us take advantage of this matching-gift opportunity.

And I hope you can join us back again tomorrow when we are going to continue to hear Part Two of our conversation with Carl Wilson about life, and love, and marriage, and some sage advice. Hope you can be here for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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