FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Capturing a God-sized Vision

with Rob Rienow | October 17, 2011
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Who gets the best of you? Your employer? Your church? Perhaps your kids? Pastor Rob Rienow recalls a time in his life when God showed him his backwards priorities, with his church usually getting his best and his family getting the leftovers. Rob explains what he did to get his priorities back on track and how it has changed him--and his marriage, for the better.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Who gets the best of you? Your employer? Your church? Perhaps your kids? Pastor Rob Rienow recalls a time in his life when God showed him his backwards priorities, with his church usually getting his best and his family getting the leftovers. Rob explains what he did to get his priorities back on track and how it has changed him--and his marriage, for the better.

  • 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.

Who gets the best of you?

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Capturing a God-sized Vision

With Rob Rienow
October 17, 2011
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Bob: Rob Rienow was a seminary graduate.  He was working as a youth pastor, trying to equip and encourage parents to have an impact in the lives of their children and to build strong families—when all of a sudden, he had his own wake-up call.

Rob:  Basically, the Holy Spirit zeroed right in and said, “Rob, you have not woken up a single day of your married life with the front-burner thought that Amy’s spiritual growth that day was your responsibility; and you’ve never had the thought—not one time—that you shouldn’t expect anything out of your wife that you’re not intentionally investing into her.”

I expect her to be happy, and pleasant, and kind—I mean, I like a happy wife as much as the next guy—but if I, as her spiritual head, don’t have a plan to nurture those things in her, how can I possibly expect those things out of her?

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, October 17th.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  Today, Rob Rienow joins us to talk about the difference between being a Christian husband and having a vision for your marriage.  Stay tuned. 

And welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us.  How long after you’d been married did you start to have a vision for your marriage?  I mean, you didn’t when you said, “I do,” right?  You had a vision for the honeymoon!  (Laughter)  Did you have any vision for anything beyond that?

Dennis:  It was a two-week vision for the honeymoon.  Our honeymoon was one of the best of all time.  I wish I could say that starting out our marriage I had the best vision for my marriage of all time, but I didn’t.

Bob:  So when did it come?  Did it come when you were sitting in Dr. Hendricks’ classes at Dallas Seminary?

Dennis:  I would say it started then.  I would say Dr. Hendricks mentored me, coached me.  There’s no question about that.  I think Don Meredith—Don and Sally, who helped start FamilyLife back in 1976—contributed to it.  But I think it was really, Bob, when I got into the Book, the Bible, and began to take a look at the blueprints of Scripture and realize that marriage was not designed by God just so we could have our needs met.

Bob:  Yes.

Dennis:  There were noble, holy purposes for marriage that God had in mind when He created the institution.

Bob:  I think most people don’t really understand how foundational and fundamental marriage and family is to God’s purpose and plan for humankind on earth.

Dennis:  Well, the book of Genesis starts with a marriage, and the book of Revelation ends with a marriage.  All throughout the Scriptures you see God’s truth and His favor being passed down through generations—or evil being passed down through generations.  So, marriage and family are really important to what God is accomplishing on planet Earth.

Proverbs 24 makes it clear, “By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established.  By knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.”  We need wisdom to build our homes; we need understanding; we need knowledge.  All of that comes from the Scriptures. 

We have a friend here in the studio who—well, I think he’s a kindred spirit, Bob, what do you think?

Bob:  I would say so, yes.

Dennis:  He has written a book called Visionary Marriage.  His name is Rob Rienow.  Rob, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.


Rob:  Thank you.  It’s a pleasure to be with you.

Dennis:  Rob and his wife Amy have six children.  They are the founders of Visionary Family Ministries.  They live near Chicago, and he has written this book that is subtitled Capture a God-sized Vision for Your Marriage. 

I’ll just ask you what Bob just asked me.  Did you have a God-sized vision—I know the answer to this, by the way—I read your book.  Did you have a God-sized vision for your marriage, Rob?

Rob:  Absolutely not.  Both my wife and I came to Christ when we were kids.  I was in seminary and working at a church, and she was a committed Christian; but neither one of us had any sort of big-picture vision for why God created marriage and how the institution of marriage and this family-thing and children—how any of that connected to His plan for the world.

Dennis:  And the result of that in your marriage and in your family was—?

Rob:  Well, the end result of it was that we started to build independent lives.  I had a life and ministry and she had a life and ministry.  Yes, we began to have children after three years and raise the kids, but we were not one-hearted.  You know, in Genesis 2 you get the “leave, cleave, and become one.” 

So you move out of your parents’ house, you build a life together, and then you become one in mission and purpose.  Now, of course, the world says you do it the other way.  You become “one” first—

Dennis:  Right.

Rob:  --and then you build a life together, and then you move out of your parents’ house. 

Dennis:  Sure.

Rob:  But that’s beside the point.  We did the first two.  We didn’t live at home anymore, and we began to build a functional life together; but we were not unified around a single, Kingdom purpose.

Dennis:  Even though you were in full-time ministry and proclaiming the truth about the gospel.

Rob:  We had really disconnected.  I was thoroughly ignorant of the connection between God’s creation of the family and His plan for the world.

Bob:  And you would say, working in a local church (and in a good local church) for a number of years—most of the people in the local church don’t have a big vision for marriage and family, do they?

Rob:  Well, even with the word “ministry.”  Let’s say someone comes up to you and says, “Hey, Bob, how’s ministry going these days?”  If you were to say, “Well, let me tell you the ways I’m trying to love and bless my wife,” they would say, “No, no, I mean how are you volunteering at church?  What are you doing with FamilyLife, or what’s going on?”

That word “ministry” has been hijacked away from anything related to married life and family life.  Or if someone says, “How are you doing making disciples and being a Great Commission Christian?”  If a father says, “Well, let me tell you how I’m reading the Bible with my daughter,” it’s almost like that doesn’t count.

Bob:  Yes, I remember Josh McDowell being on FamilyLife Today.  He liked to say it in this provocative way.  He said, “My ministry is more important than my family,” and then he said, “and my number one ministry is with my wife and with my kids.”  (Laughter)

Bob:  It was a way of kind of getting your attention but saying the same thing that you’re saying.  When did you have your “Aha” moment around this idea that your marriage and your family needed to be, not just notched up a little bit on the priority level, but you really needed a recalibration of your whole life?

Rob:  Yes.  It was the summer of 2003.  I had been serving as the youth pastor at my church for about ten years or so.  Amy and I had been married nine or ten years at that point.  We had four children. 

If you had asked me at that time, “Rob, what are your priorities in life as a Christian man?” I would have told you, “Number one, my relationship with God—top priority for me; number two, my relationship with my wife; number three, my relationship with my children; number four, my ministry at church and other people in my life.”

Not only that, in fact, I remember teaching and preaching on those priority lists—saying, “This is the right way to live your life.”  The reason why I knew I lived that way—I wasn’t just preaching it.  I was living it out—because if my Senior Pastor called me on the phone and said, “Rob, I’ve got a crisis;” and the other phone rang and it was Amy and she said, “I’ve got a crisis,” where would I go?

Come on, it’s not a hard question—crisis at work; crisis at home.  Where am I going to go?  I’m a man of principle and priority here!

Bob:  You’d go where the pastor told you to go—

Rob:  No, Bob.  Dennis, come on, help us out.

Bob:  I know that’s not the right answer, but is that where you—

Rob:  No, I would go home!

Bob:  Would you?

Rob:  Absolutely!

Bob:  Alright.

Rob:  If I’ve got a crisis at work and a crisis at home, there’s no question in my mind.  I’m going home!

Dennis:  So you played the part.  You looked like you had the priority in place. 

Rob:  Absolutely.  And over the course of that summer, God brought a lot of different things into my life.  There was a question that the Holy Spirit kept needling me about related to all these priorities. 

The question was, “Rob, what if there’s no crisis?  What if it’s a normal day, normal week, normal month?  What gets the best of your heart?   What gets the best of your passion, and your energy, and your leadership, and your vision, and your calling, and your calendar, and your checkbook?”

Those four really great-sounding priorities—right—God, spouse, children, others—completely flipped.  If there was no crisis, the best of my heart and the best of my life went to other people.  As a pastor at a church, it went to the young people, and the marriages, and the families that I was caring about.  Followed by my ministry at church, came my kids.  I wasn’t an absent dad.  I was physically around my children, although I can remember a time when my teenage son (he was three)—we were walking to church; and he said, “Is this where you live, Daddy?”

Bob:  Oh.

Rob:  Not good—funny—I mean, we look back and laugh at it now, but it was a dagger—just a dagger to the heart.  The truth was that I had absolutely no plan whatsoever to disciple my own children.  If you were fathers at Wheaton Bible Church, I had plans to disciple your children but zero spiritual leadership in the home.

Bob:  So when this dawned on you, when that question kept coming back—which was, “What if there’s not a crisis?  What’s getting your attention and your focus?”  There was a point where that question kind of crushed you, didn’t it?

Rob:  Yes.  I can remember it very specifically.  We were getting some work done on our house.  So, we spent three or four months living at my wife’s parents’ house while this construction was getting done.  I was listening to a message on fatherhood and cleaning a bathroom.

Dennis:  It was FamilyLife Today wasn’t it?

Rob:  Absolutely it was!  (Laughter)

Dennis:  I thought so.

Rob:  All of this came crashing down.  I just broke down on that bathroom floor, on my knees and wept.  I repented to the Lord and said, “God, would you please”—it was a strangely-phrased prayer—“Would you turn me into a Christian man?”  It wasn’t that I wasn’t saved; but,“that my heart would first be with You, then in my ministry to my wife, then in my ministry to my children, and then whatever is left over, I’ll give to everybody else and serve the way You want me to serve.”

Since that time, God has been answering that prayer in fits and starts.  I keep turning my heart away from mission one and priority one.  So, I keep repenting and keep turning back, and keep bumbling, and keep repenting, and keep turning back; but God has been so gracious.  He has just transformed our family!  He has transformed our home, transformed our marriage, and transformed our ministry.

None of the things that happened then through our family ministry at church and through our Visionary Family Ministries would have ever happened. 

Bob:  The initial wake-up call for you got you focused in on discipling your kids, but it took a little while longer before you started to address your relationship with your wife in the same level of priority, right?

Rob:  That’s right.  As He turned my heart to my children, some things started to happen for me.  I started to wake up in the morning with the front-burner thought that my kids’ spiritual growth that day was my responsibility.  “What was I going to do that day to nurture faith in them?”

Another thought that God kept bringing to my mind was that I shouldn’t be expecting anything out of my children that I’m not intentionally investing into them.  In other words, I expect them to be happy, and pleasant, and joyful, and obedient.  I don’t know about you, but my kids didn’t get that stuff at the factory.  Maybe yours did.  (Laughter)

I expect those things out of them—Right?—which is ultimately unfair.

Dennis:  Yes.

Rob:  To expect things they don’t have.

Dennis:  Right.

Rob:  How can I expect those things if I’m not investing those things in?

Well, it was at a men’s retreat for our church about three years after that—where God took that level of repentance that needed to happen with my children and turned it to my marriage.  Basically, the Holy Spirit zeroed right in and said, “Rob, you have not woken up a single day of your married life with the front-burner thought that Amy’s spiritual growth that day was your responsibility and that you needed a plan to encourage her— that you needed a plan to bless her and you needed a plan to nurture her.  And you’ve never had the thought—not one time—that you shouldn’t expect anything out of your wife that you’re not intentionally investing into her.”

I expect her to be happy, and pleasant, and kind—I mean, I like a happy wife as much as the next guy—but if I, as her spiritual head, don’t have a plan to nurture those things in her, how can I possibly expect those things out of her?

It was revolutionary!  I don’t know about you; but over the years, you know, God brought me to different places of repentance and brokenness.  I’d oftentimes come home with an announcement, “God changed my life, and things are going to be different around here.  Here’s the way it’s going to be!”  More often than not, frankly, a couple days later—that would go by the wayside, and my wife would be doubly hurt—hurt that I wasn’t doing “x, y, z” before; and now I’ve announced that, “I am,” and I’m not doing it.

I came back from that retreat, and I didn’t say a word.  I wanted to see if something genuinely had changed in my life—if Ephesians, Chapter 5, and Deuteronomy,

Chapter 6—had really changed me.  I wanted to see if there would be some different behavior.  It wasn’t until five or six weeks later—she kept asking me, “How was the retreat?  How was the retreat?”  I just kept saying, “It was fine.  It was good;” but God really did change my heart.  He turned my heart to my wife.

Bob:  So was there a point when Amy started to notice that something had changed with you?

Rob:  Well, there were some very basic Christian practices that I rarely had us do before this time.  You can probably know what those basic Christian practices were—most importantly—prayer.  This wasn’t a newsflash to me, you know, “Christian husbands should be praying with their wives.”  We just didn’t do it.

Occasionally, if there was some problem or whatever, but nothing regular.  So, the first thing that happened is that I just made a commitment that I needed to be praying with her each night before we went to bed.  Sometimes it would be 15-seconds long or 5-minutes long.  It doesn’t have to be 30 minutes or an hour, but that was the first thing that changed.

That introduced supernatural power into our relationship.  You know, there’s a reason why your pastor keeps telling you, “Pray and read your Bible.  Pray and read your Bible.  Pray and read your Bible.”  It’s because God, in the Bible, says there are two things we can do in our homes that supernaturally transform our minds and shape our character, which is—

Bob:  Pray and read your Bible.

Rob:  --pray and read your Bible.  So, it’s like—until the new version comes out—the two things to do in your house are, “Pray and read your Bible.”

Bob:  Pray and read your Bible.

Dennis:  There’s nothing more dangerous, by the way, than a couple who are praying together and reading the Bible together.

Rob:  Absolutely.  Exactly—because it changes—

You know, family worship—when the family gets together for prayer or the couple gets together for prayer and Bible reading—your two most important relationships in the whole world are coming together—your vertical relationship with God and your horizontal relationship with your spouse or with your children.

Those 30 seconds or those five minutes, those ten minutes, have transformational power!  I view family worship as the engine that powers the marriage and that powers the family.  We were like a Flintstones couple.  We watched Flintstones growing up.

Dennis:  Sure.

Rob:  You know, how did they power their vehicle?

Bob:  With their feet.

Rob:  With their feet, yes.  Amy and I powered our marriage with two things—good intentions and willpower.  We meant well—both Christian people, both took family very seriously.

Dennis:  Yes.

Rob:  And we wanted to do right.  We kept trying harder to deal with our problems in our marriage—to deal with the issues with our family, and our finances, and communication, and all of that; but we never turned the engine on.  It’s kind of like a family pushing their car everywhere they go—push your car to school, push your car to church, push your car to the grocery store.

Dennis:  Right.

Rob:  It can be done—takes you forever to get anywhere.  You’re exhausted all the time.  We needed to start that engine.

Dennis:  So what you’re saying is that a Christian man and a Christian woman who are married to one another don’t necessarily have a Christian marriage.

Rob:  It sounds strange to say it, but that would be a fair description of where Amy and I were—two people committed to Christ without a distinctive Christian marriage, driven by the Bible toward Kingdom purposes. 

Bob:  Okay, so you’re saying that the fuel for your marriage—four years ago there was a turning point—prayer and the Bible.  Now, that’s pretty simple and pretty basic.  Most people listening would say, “In fact, it’s probably too simple, too basic.”  Most people listening who are Christian men and Christian women, married to one another, aren’t praying together and aren’t reading the Bible.

Why aren’t they doing it if it’s that simple, and easy, and if it’s miraculous—supernatural?  Why aren’t they doing it?

Rob:  Well, I think it’s because of spiritual attack.  I’ll ask men, “How many of you believe that it is important to pray with your wife?”  Everybody raises their hand.

I’ll say, “Okay, how many of you think God actually wants you to do this?”  Again, they raise their hands.  “How many of you think this is easy to do?”  In other words, “If you can pray aloud—if you can pray before a meal, saying, ‘Dear Lord, please this or that—and Amen,’ how many of you say it’s easy?” 

“Yes, that is easy.”  Then, “How many of you struggle doing it?”  Everybody raises their hand again.  So it’s important, it’s divine, it’s easy, and we pretty much don’t do that.

Bob:  Yes.

Rob:  That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  The reason is because you’re missing an ingredient.  It’s important, it’s a divine command, it’s easy, and Satan throws everything at you to prevent you from doing it.

As crazy as this is, it’s been now a 1,500 nights that Amy and I have prayed before bed.  Now, that’s after ten years of failure.  So, we’ve got a lot to catch up on here, but that’s beside the point.  We’ve got a little bit of a pattern.

Dennis:  You’re making headway, though?

Rob:  Making headway, praise God; but here’s how crazy as it is.  Most nights, I lie down in bed and the Holy Spirit says, “You know, you need to pray with Amy, kind of like you’ve done 1,500 nights in a row.”  And I will have awkwardness in the pit of my stomach.  “Oh, I don’t know.  It’s late.  I’m tired.”  Now, she’s never rejected me.  I’ve never once said, “Honey, you want to pray with me?” and she said, “I’m not praying with you, you jerk!”

She’s never said that to me.  She might have felt that sometimes, but she’s never said it.  So, I have no fear of rejection; but here I am—spiritual attack—spiritual attack—“Don’t do this!  Don’t cross that line.”

That gets into Ephesians 5, where you get this job description for the husband.   “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy.”  You get “love, serve, lead—love, serve, lead.”  In my marriage, the first two—loving my wife and serving my wife—are very difficult.  They require tremendous sanctification, but I didn’t feel like I got a lot of spiritual resistance trying to love her or trying to serve her; but, boy, if I tried to cross that line into any sort of spiritual relationship with her, that’s when the fireworks and nuclear bombs went off.

Dennis:  I love speaking to a group of men about this topic.  As I conclude my message, I love to say to them, “Any man here who’ll come up to me, look me in the eye, shake my hand, and say, ‘Tonight will be the first night of the rest of our marriage where we will pray with one another’—come up, and shake my hand, and commit—make a commitment to me.  I’ve had men do that; and I’ve said, “In two years, your marriage, your family, and your lives, corporately, are going to be dramatically different,” because you can’t invite Almighty God into your marriage and into your family night after night, or day after day, and be the same.  You’re going to change. 

I wish right now, Rob, there was some way the men who had heard your testimony could reach out and take you by the hand.  We don’t have that capability yet from a technology-standpoint; but I’d almost encourage a man, if you’re willing to shake Rob’s hand and do what he just challenged you to do, basically what he’s done—if you’re willing to start praying with your wife—as silly as it may look, reach your hand out toward the radio.

Rob:  My hand’s out, guys.

Bob:  Just tap on your radio.  That’ll work.

Dennis:  That’ll do it.

Bob:  Just tap on the dashboard there.

Dennis:  You know what?  “I’m going to do it tonight, and if I forget in a week or in a month and miss a night”—you know what? You begin again tomorrow night.  It’s not a legalistic deal, but it is a commitment that you make to begin to champion the discipleship of your wife and bring her before Almighty God together as a couple.

Bob:  Have you missed any nights in the past four years?

Rob:  I’m sure there have been some that we’ve missed, maybe if I’m on the road or something like that; but I’m always reminded—my  wife—one of her favorite quotes is from G.K. Chesterton, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly.”  (Laughter)

Dennis:  Yes, sure.

Rob:  See, the thing is—I mean—let’s call it “couple’s devotions,” doing devotions as a couple.  This wasn’t the first time that it dawned on me that we ought to be praying and reading the Bible; but in my mind, “couple’s devotions” meant that Amy was going to be reading during the week, and I’m going to be reading during the week, and then we were going to come together for this rich hour or hour-and-a-half of spiritual conversation, and discussion, and prayer. 

Dennis:  With six kids!

Rob:  Exactly.  Lo and behold, years were going by when we couldn’t do that or didn’t have the time to do that. 

Dennis:  Sure, sure.

Rob:  So I just plead with guys, “Look!  Even if you walk in the door—you come home from work—walk over to your wife, take her hand, ‘Honey, let’s pray.  God, thanks for bringing us back together tonight.  Bless our family.  Amen.’”

That’s like three seconds.  Now the advantage—let’s say you start doing that each day—one of the great advantages of praying at that moment of the day is that a lot of the conflicts for Amy and I happen when our worlds collide.  She brings the stress of her day; I bring the stress of my day and, “Pow!”  So, if we can insert a little prayer in there, we get that engine started and God helps us.

But there is a side benefit to this.  Some of you guys, maybe you go to men’s ministry or you’re in a men’s accountability group.  If you start doing this three-second prayer, you’re going to have some guy ask you, “Hey, are you praying with your wife?”  You can say, “Oh yes, we pray together every day.”  You don’t have to tell him it’s just three seconds.  (Laughter)  Just leave it at that.  You get the points for your men’s group, too.  (Laughter)

Dennis:  The three seconds will last longer as you begin to experience this, I promise you.  That’s how it has worked with Barbara and me as well.  I’d like to recommend your book, Visionary Marriage.  This is going to lift men’s eyes up about their marriage and realize there’s something bigger at stake in your marriage than just your happiness.  There is something magnificent in play—it is God’s character; it is His glory.  You’re reflecting something to a fallen world that is really important.

To those men, who may need some help in praying with their wives, Barbara and I wrote a little book—and it’s a little book, Bob—

Bob:  That’s right.

Dennis:  It is a little book called Praying Together as a Couple.  Actually, Rob, what I’ve done in this book is write out some sample prayers to get started.  Some guys say, “I don’t know what to say to God!  I’ve never prayed out loud with anyone, let alone my wife.”

So we’ve written the prayers out for guys to start; and by the time you finish 30 days, you won’t need the written prayers.  You’ll be taking, not a solo flight; but there’ll be two of you in the plane, and you’ll be flying together.

Bob:  As a matter of fact, this week any listener who gets in touch with us and can help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation, we’re sending them a copy of your book, Two Hearts Praying as One.  So, if a listener would like to get that, all they have to do is make a donation online at or call us at 1-800-FLTODAY and make a donation.

If you donate online, be sure to type the word “ONE” (O-N-E) into the key code box on the online donation form.  We’ll get a copy of the book, Two Hearts Praying as One, sent to you.  Of course, we have Rob Rienow’s book, Visionary Marriage, in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center.  I’d encourage listeners—get a copy of this book and start talking together about what the right vision for your marriage ought to be.  Then develop a plan for how that’s going to work out in your relationship.

Again, the title of Rob’s book is Visionary Marriage.  You can find out more about it when you go online to  It’s; or call toll-free, 1-800-FLTODAY.  That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”   Ask about the book, Visionary Marriage, when you get in touch with us; and we’ll let you know how you can get a copy sent to you.

Again, if you can make a donation to help support FamilyLife Today, ask for a copy of the book, Two Hearts Praying as One, by Dennis and Barbara Rainey.

Now, tomorrow, we’re going to talk more about having a vision for your marriage.  We want to talk about whether part of that vision should be a desire to help change your spouse.  We’ll talk more about that tomorrow.  Hope you can tune in.

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 tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.


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