Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Cheering on Your Husband

Leslie Basham: Joni Eareckson Tada says you can still encourage your husband even though he’s not perfect.

Joni Eareckson Tada: So girls, find that little tiny Christ-like characteristic that’s barely there in your husband’s heart and start nurturing it, praying over it, blessing, affirming it. And when you see your husband do something that is worth commendation, then, by all means, give him words of affirmation, and tell him how much you respect him for that.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, May 23.

Yesterday we heard part one of a conversation between Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Joni Eareckson Tada. Joni shared very openly about some recurring sins and struggles as a teenager. She showed us how the Lord used her diving accident to get her attention and repent.

If you missed any of that conversation, you can hear it at It was recorded at True Woman '12, the conference Revive Our Hearts hosted last fall. Let’s listen to part two, as Joni talks with Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy: I know another thing you do is sing. I’ve heard you do it many times. I don't know for you, for me that's one of the ways that the cloud sometimes lifts is just by singing until there's a freedom in my spirit. Is that one of the reasons you sing hymns?

Joni: Oh, absolutely. I love singing hymns. May I tell a quick story?

Nancy: Please. May she tell a quick story? May she? (applause)

Joni: Some of you girls may have heard me share this story. But for those of you who haven't, I remember when I was so depressed and I was in the hospital. Back in the sixties, they didn't have rehabilitation centers for people who were spinal cord injured. I was stuck in a state institution on a geriatric ward in a room with five other quadriplegic girls. One night about 2:00 in the morning I wanted so badly to cry, but there was nobody around to blow my nose or wipe my eyes.

It's bad enough being a quadriplegic without being a messy quadriplegic. So I sniffed back the tears, and I am just ready to emotionally crack. I'm praying, "Oh God, if I can't die, You just got to show me how to live. I don't know how to do this."

It was 2:00 a.m., the nurses were on break, all lights were out, my roommates were asleep. I turned my head on the pillow, and I see standing in the doorframe a silhouetted figure. This individual gets down on her hands and knees and begins crawling into our room, past my sleeping roommates toward my bed. I'm panicking. Who is this?

Well, she gets up to the guardrail of my hospital bed and peers through, and it's my girlfriend, Jackie. My high school girlfriend with whom I shared milkshakes, hockey sticks, boyfriends. I said, "Jackie, if they catch you here they are going to kick you out of here." And she goes, "Sshhhh."

She slowly stands up and lowers the guardrail of the hospital bed, and as girlfriends will do at high school pajama sleepovers, she snuggled in bed next to me, put her head on my pillow, and began to softly sing, "Man of Sorrows! What a name for the Son of God who came. Ruined sinners to reclaim. Hallelujah! What a Savior!"

Something happened in that instant. Something that she did, something transformed me. Because I didn't know how to do the James 1:3 thing of welcoming this trial as a friend. I did not know how to do the Philippians chapter 1 thing of inviting this as a gift from God, this suffering. I didn't know how to do the Romans 8:28 thing of understanding how it was all going to fit into a pattern for good. But she made Jesus real to me that night. She helped me encounter, not just the Man of Sorrows, but the Lord of joy, the Lord of possibilities, the Lord of hope. Oh, my goodness, I have hope in my heart.

God longs to give His compassion to those who are wounded and hurt. But He will do it through you, through people like Jackie, through individuals who are just moved and impressed by the Holy Spirit to reach out and embrace.

Last night when we were watching the live stream over in the hotel during the concert of prayer, I saw several video images of women embracing one another in prayer. It brought tears to my eyes. Girls that's what we need to do—be the touch of Christ in the life of that one who is hurting that you know. Reach past the barrier and just embrace and make Christ real to them.

Nancy: I know that the person who probably has done that for you more than anyone else is your husband, Ken Tada. Tell us about the first time you met Ken Tada, how your hearts got connected. In fact, would you like to hear about their first date? (Applause)

Joni: Well, I’ve told this story before, and again, forgive me if you heard this. But I was sitting in church one morning. I was in my mid-thirties. I was enjoying being single; I was enjoying establishing the ministry of Joni and Friends. I had no aspirations to get married. But I was sitting in church one Sunday morning. There was a visiting pastor, and I was bored with the sermon.

And I'm thinking, Jesus, help me. I just can't be thinking these thoughts. (laughter) My eyes fell on the back of this person's head sitting about five pews in front of me, and I felt compelled by the Spirit to pray for this person.

I didn't see his face, didn't know his name. I just started praying for him—praying about his job, praying about his family, praying about resolving conflicts in his life, that if he didn't know Christ that there might be something in the sermon that would win him to Christ. (laughter)

After I prayed, I almost wheeled up to this person to introduce myself and say, "Guess what I just did for you?" (laughter) But I thought that would look very pushy, so I let it drop.

Well, we happened to be introduced to mutual friends who, unbeknownst to both of us, were trying to get us together. The first thing I said to Ken Tada when he was introduced to me was, "Turn around and let me see the back of your head." (laughter)

It was him. I couldn't believe it. I told him the story, and he laughed. But we started talking, and he asked me out on a date. So I brought him up to the house ahead of time to give him the handicapped awareness thing, about how to lift me out of my wheelchair and put me on the front seat of his car, how to put my special spoon in my arm splint so that I could feed myself.

Off we went in his car to the restaurant. I am so nervous. As he's cutting up my shrimp and putting the napkin on my lap and putting the special spoon in my arm splint and I'm eating, but I'm so thirsty; my mouth is so dry. I'm so nervous. So I ask him to keep giving me drinks of water, sips of water. After the second glass of water, I realized, Hello. Duh. Like Joni, where was your head?

So I had to ask Ken. I said, "We didn't cover this back at the house, but you’re going to have to take me to the restroom and empty my leg bag. Honestly, it's very easy. You won't get your hands wet; it won't be any problem." (Laughter)

Well, he was game. He thought it was a bit awkward, but he was game. So he pushes me to the restroom alcoves, and I said, "Well, I'm not going into the men's room."

He said, "You think I'm going to go into the ladies' room?" (Laughter) So we went outside and found a tree. (laughter)

I'll tell you what, my husband is my best friend. When he popped the question, I was ready to say "yes" because here was a guy who loved Christ and who had a real sense of humor about my disability. Even though our honeymoon was a lot like handicapped awareness week, I am just married to the best guy coming down the pike. And he is awesome. I could tell so many stories about him.

Nancy: Now, I know you went into marriage as every woman does with some expectations, and like any married couple, any wife, you found at points that your expectations were not realistic. So this has been a journey for you, not just with a disability situation, but just being a man and a woman and making those adjustments. Can you remember one of the first disappointments or how you had to deal with having expectations that weren't realistic in your marriage?

Joni: Yes. In fact, we married in July and the honeymoon ended the first Monday night in September. Ken had promised me that afternoon that he would serve as my hands to help me with my Kay Arthur Precept Bible study.

So there I am that early evening after dinner. I'm all set up at the table. I've got Kay Arthur's Bible study. I've got my Bible. I've got the pink pen, yellow pen, green pen, purple pen. (laughter) And there is Ken over at the refrigerator loading up his arms with Ortega chili and salsa, and chips, and Coke. He heads into the living room to spend the night with Al Michaels and Dan Dierdorf and Monday Night Football.

I'm sitting there thinking, Oh God, I've married the wrong man. Oh, he is not a man of your Word. He doesn't care about your Word. I nagged, I cajoled, I whined, I complained. I even have to confess I skinned his shins with the foot pedals of my wheelchair. (laughter) Now that's embarrassing—aiming at your husband with a 250-pound wheelchair. That's embarrassing.

Those were the bad old days. We laugh about them now, but it was not pleasant then. Those were some really tough fights. The really awful thing was when we would argue, he would shut the door. And I'm stuck. I can't go anywhere. (laughter) After one or two of those arguments, I thought, This isn't going to work.

So I came across Philippians 2:4 where the Holy Spirit was telling me not to do anything out of vain conceit—"I'm better than my husband"—or selfish ambition—"I'm going to make it my goal to change my husband." But in humility of mind, consider the other person better than yourself. So I decided that from then on out, the rest of the football season, I would sequester myself away in the bedroom and pray for my husband. Every Monday night for about, what, three hours 'til the fourth quarter, I prayed for my husband.

I picked certain psalms to pray over him. Oh, for instance, like Psalm 24: Oh may the King of glory come and reside in my husband's heart. Open up my husband's heart. I mean, let the King of glory come in. I would pray all kinds of things of delight in blessing and encouragement over my husband, over our marriage, over our home. I would just worship the Lord; I would sing to Him. And then a miracle happened.

January, the last week, Super Bowl Sunday, I became a football fan. (laughter) Honestly, like where did that come from? I was so amazed. We always pray for other people, and God ends up changing our heart.

But I tell you, I am married to a man of God's Word. He has memorized the entire Sermon on the Mount, all three chapters in the gospel of Matthew. He has repeated it so often in the car when we are going somewhere—"Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on the mountainside and the disciples came to him and began teaching them saying, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom . . .'"

I never intended to memorize that, but I'm just listening to him all the time repeating it, and I kind of got it in my head. I love it. We're going anywhere on a long road trip, "Oh, Ken, would you just recite your verses for me?" It's just so much fun to listen to your husband recite the Word of God.

One day we had some Jehovah's Witnesses come to our house, and I watched Ken with this, how he was going to handle this. And I thought, Oh Ken. We shouldn't invite these people in; shouldn't get engaged in conversations with them.

But he started it. Finally, they got him with a question he couldn't answer. And he's right there in the doorway, "Well, that may be, but did you know that when He saw the crowds, He went on the mountainside and He came . . ." (laughter) These guys backed down the sidewalk so fast. It was like this jet blast of Scripture just blew them away. They thought, This guy is weird. I mean, he is still quoting it out loud as they are walking down the sidewalk. It was so delightful. Oh, my goodness, I laughed and I said, "Ken, you handled that beautifully."

Nancy: Thirty years of marriage, how do you keep the relationship fresh, growing, deepening, not getting stale? How do you keep it fresh?

Joni:  I let my husband keep his dreams. I let my husband keep his best buddy friendships, and I pray for his friends. I used to be jealous of his friends, because I would hear him on the phone with Pete Lubisich who lives up in Oregon. They would do these Bible studies together over the phone. I’d hear him talk to Pete in really friendly tones, "Oh, that's great. Oh Pete, you've got such a great heart," he would say. And then he'd hang up the phone saying, "I love ya, man."

And I'm thinking, Man, I never hear that. Gee, why don't you say I've got a great heart?”  I used to be so jealous of Pete Lubisich. I could name a couple of other guys, Jan Janora, and others who keep Ken accountable. And where was my head? Like these were the very men who were getting my husband deeper into the Word, and why am I sitting there envious of that? And so, I realized early on in my marriage that I need to let my husband keep his best Bible study buddies. Those relationships are sacred, and they’re good.

I thank God for Pete Lubisich now. I love Pete Lubisich. In fact, once in a while when he calls, and Ken is not there and he happens to get me on the phone, "Pete, keep it up. I love you. You are the best friend of my husband and keep it up."

But also I let Ken keep his dreams. I think it's important that my husband go fly-fishing. In fact, I encourage him to go fly-fishing. In fact, sometimes when things get a little testy, "Isn't it time for you to go fly-fishing?" (laughter)

I'm his best cheerleader. I may not be able to whip him up an omelet. I may not be able to fold his underwear. I may not be able to iron his shirts. I may not be able to make his bed, but you know what? I can cheer him on. I can applaud him. I can extol him. I can praise him. I can pray for him. I can bless him. I can love him. (applause) I can defend his reputation. I defend my husband's reputation. I broadcast his good name. I speak highly of him. I have learned to affirm him.

Girls, do this with your husbands. Now, this is not manipulation. I don't mean insincere sweet talk, flattery. I'm talking about looking into his heart and finding that little bit of Christ-like characteristic that you can nurture, that you can water, that you can encourage.

For instance, we have a neighbor who is dealing with cancer, and my husband went over and spoke with the man and gave some wonderful words of encouragement to him and he came back into the house, I said, "Ken, bless your heart. That was thoughtful, that was considerate, that was Christ-like. Man, I respect you for that. That was really something. Ken, that really speaks to me. I want to do that as well. Thank you for that example."

That's practicing godly affirmation. So girls, find that little, little tiny Christ-like characteristic that's barely there in your husband's heart, and start nurturing it, praying over it, blessing, affirming it. And when you see your husband do something that is worth commendation, then by all means, give him words of affirmation and tell him how much you respect him for that and admire him for that. And then let his example speak to you. I think that's a good way to make a marriage grow. (applause)

Nancy: You wrote a book a number of years ago called The God I Love, and it was something of your spiritual journey. I love the title. That's why we titled this breakout session "The God I Love." We were wanting to hear of your spiritual journey. But what are some of the characteristics of God that you have grown to love that have nurtured you and walked you through this journey? What is it you love about Him and why?

Joni: What a good question. Thank you for asking that question. I love that God is so merciful. He is so merciful with me. I am such a sinner. I will touch on that a little bit when I speak tonight, but I am a stubborn woman. I am highly competitive.

Yesterday when we were in a prayer circle with the other speakers before the conference began, and Dan Henderson invited us all to go around our table and confess our sins, oh, my goodness. I mean, I'm thinking of all the idols that I've got in my life, if not the Food Network, then food. I just have to break myself of these idols.

God is so merciful, and I think that's what I love about Him most. He is exceedingly patient with me, and He hears the cry of the afflicted. That's another thing I love about Him. I mean, sometimes when I'm on my bed paralyzed, it can be so claustrophobic. It really can. It can be so tight and you feel panicky, because gravity is my enemy when I am lying down in bed. I will groan and cry if I'm in pain, "Oh Jesus, Jesus save me."

And He does. His presence is so near and sweet and tender and poignant and personal, where He just gives joy sent straight out of nowhere but heaven. I think I love His mercy; I love that He hears the cry of the afflicted; His heart is toward those who hurt, the wounded. He heals up the brokenhearted.

When I get to heaven, I'm going to be so happy to hold His nail-scarred hands. And He will recognize me—I know He will—from all those times I came to Him hemorrhaging human strength. I'll feel His nail scars, and I'm so grateful that I will be able to say to Him, "Thank You. Thank You for the grace You gave when I was in that wheelchair on earth. Thank You."

He'll know I mean it because I know He'll recognize me from having stepped into the fellowship of sharing with His sufferings and not complaining about it. I just can't wait to say, "Thank you for the grace You gave." I'm so happy to know that this wheelchair has won me that access, that closeness, that sweet personableness.

Yes, we know Christ, but to know His heart, to get that close against His breast, I just cannot wait to—it's going to be a wonderful day.

Leslie: Joni Eareckson Tada has been describing her passion for spreading the message God has given her. She doesn’t let confinement in a wheelchair keep her from embracing life. Her message makes me want to do the same.

Joni recorded that conversation with Nancy Leigh DeMoss at the conference True Woman '12. You’ll learn so much about serving even while suffering when you get Joni’s latest book. It’s called, Joni and Ken: An Untold Love Story.

We’ll send you a copy when you support Revive Our Hearts with a donation of any amount. Your gift will make a big difference to us, especially here in May. It’s the end of our fiscal year. So we’re closing the books and setting budgets for the year ahead.

We’re asking the Lord to help the ministry end the fiscal year strong. We’re asking Him for $350,000 in donations here in the month of May. You can get all the details on our current needs and on Joni’s new book by going to our website, or call 1-800-569-5959. Make your donation and find out about the book at

Today we heard what Joni Tada did when she didn’t approve of her husband watching football. Tomorrow we’ll get more insight into situations like that. What do you do when there’s something about your husband you wish he’d change? We’ll hear the answer to that question tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.


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About the Speaker

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love …

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