Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie: Karen Loritts had just gotten married, and she was . . . scared.

Karen Loritts: I looked into the mirror, and I just started crying. I said, “What in the world have I gotten myself into? This poor man does not know what he’s marrying!” I was ready to be a bride, but I was not ready to be a wife.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Choosing Forgiveness, for July 22, 2019.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Well, I have been looking forward to this day for a long time. The conversation we’re going to be having this week with Crawford and Karen Loritts. Crawford and Karen, you guys are really busy, and I guess I am too, so it took us a while to schedule this, but I’m so glad that you’re finally here at our studios in Michigan.

Crawford Loritts: Oh, we’re just thrilled that it worked out, Nancy, to be with some of our favorite people here.

Nancy: I’ve often said that Crawford and Karen are two of my favorite people, and now that Robert is a part of my life, you’re two of his favorite people. We just had a lunch date with both couples. We go back a long way. 

Karen: How long ago?

Nancy: I think, Crawford, you met my dad, like, many years ago.

Crawford: Oh yes, many years ago. Oh my goodness, yes, over forty years ago.

Karen: Right, yeah.

Crawford: Oh my, let’s not give dates here!

Nancy: So when you became a part of what was then Campus Crusade for Christ, I know my dad was a part of your support team very early on.

Crawford: He gave us our first support check, my very first one. I’ll never forget it! I was there with your uncle. He invited me to a meeting where they were talking about what they were doing with missions and that kind of thing. 

Your dad turned to me and said, “Well Crawford, I hear you’re going to be on staff?” 

I said, “Yes.” 

He said, “Follow me.” I went into the library, and he wrote a check to help pay for our staff training expenses. Our first investment!

Nancy: Wow! Well, that was so his heart, and he loved your heart.

Karen: Yes he did.

Nancy: You all were on what’s now called “Cru”—Campus Crusade for Christ—staff for how many years?

Karen: Twenty-seven years. Wonderful years, twenty-seven years! Now Crawford gets to be on the other side, on the board, and God’s doing some amazing things.

Crawford: Yes, absolutely. 

Nancy: You’ve supported and encouraged what we’re doing through this ministry. I’ve watched your lives, and your marriage, and your family from mostly afar. I’ve been so grateful for just your steadfastness in the work of the Lord and your faithfulness in marriage. 

And you’ve written a book now, your most recent book, called Your Marriage Today . . . and Tomorrow. You have a vision for marriages, not only how they can function in a wholesome and healthy way today, but also the seeds that they’re planting that are going to reap a harvest for generations to come. I know that’s a big part of your passion.

Crawford: It certainly is. One of the things I think in our culture that we forget is that we’re so concentrated on the relationship side of marriage—two people coming together and celebrating their love for one another. That’s absolutely marvelous, that’s wonderful! 

But the very nature of marriage is that it’s an enduring institution that takes us some place. So it’s not just about today. Our relationship with one another is to forecast what the future is all about. And whether we like it or not, we are making an impact on the time that we cannot see.

Nancy: And that’s the subtitle of your book: making your relationship matter now, and for generations to come. 

Crawford: Yes.

Nancy: So for better or for worse, the seeds that marriages are planting in the culture, in our churches, in our neighborhoods, in our kids and grandkids, it’s going to have impact even after we’re long gone. 

Crawford: Nancy, I’m glad that you just phrased it the right way. Sometimes we think about, Suppose I don’t have children? Am I impacting future generations? Absolutely! Because the culture is watching us. Succeeding generations will be impacted from us and the relationships that we have. That’s a whole reason for marriage.

Nancy: And it really takes it away from just being about us, to being about a picture and a message that is bigger than us. And really, that’s the gospel which our marriages are intended to tell the story of. 

Crawford: Absolutely. I sometimes think that when we read Ephesians chapter 5, we focus so much on the roles that we have in marriage—the husband and his job, the wife and her responsibility—that we really forget the picture that is there. The picture there is that marriage is to tell the truth about the gospel, it’s to tell the truth about Christ’s relationship to the Church, and that marriage is the ultimate illustration of what the gospel should be about in all of human history. So our marriage has to tell the truth about Jesus. That’s what we give to the culture, and that’s what we give to succeeding generations. 

Karen: I know that was one of the things that as part of our wedding ceremony on May 22, 1971 at 2:37 in the afternoon, when I said, “I do.” I remember that.

Crawford: Do you remember the time?

Karen: 2:37 on May 22, 1971. I stood there with my family and my friends and our colleagues from church, and I looked into Crawford’s eyes and made that vow that I was going to love him and honor and keep those vows. My family, they weren’t Christians, were looking to me to see would this really work. 

And so every time I look at what God has done in our marriage, that can be a drawing card to my family members. Some of them still aren’t believers, but I took a vow, and I really meant that, because I had never seen that before in our family. I grew up in a dysfunctional type of environment with my cousins, my aunts, and my mamma and all that. But that God would bless me to keep a vow, and it’s all of God. 

Crawford: And by God’s grace, and I say this purely by God’s amazing grace . . . We’re not the fourth members of the Trinity. We haven’t done things perfectly here. But by God’s amazing grace, he’s used our marriage really to be a model and example to so many, not only in Karen’s family, but . . . A number of her relatives have come to Jesus, and a lot of that in large part because of seeing the transforming power of Christ in Karen’s life and in our relationship it’s been amazing. 

Nancy: One of the things I love about your story is that you brought two very different backgrounds into marriage. That’s not unusual I suppose, but you both had parents and grandparents and great-grandparents who impacted your lives—some not in positive ways. But as you came into marriage and into Christ, He was able to redeem and to overrule the past. I think that’s a word of hope for people who are maybe younger married couples today, or even contemplating marriage. People who say, “Wow, I have this horrendous background.” In fact, Karen, you told Crawford years after your honeymoon that on the last night of your honeymoon you had a little bit of a meltdown.

Karen: I had a meltdown. We were at this great place out in a little village outside of Philadelphia. I was getting ready to go out for our last night together having dinner, and I looked into the mirror and I just started crying. I said, “What in the world have I gotten myself into? This poor man does not know what he’s marrying!” I was ready to be a bride, but I was not ready to be a wife.

I called on God. I said, “God, you have got to help me because this is going to be a hard situation. You know, Crawford comes from this great legacy of godliness, his mom and his dad they loved Jesus and were married for years and years. And I come from a single parent, living under poverty, in the streets of Philadelphia. But God saved me, and now I’ve married this man and said those vows days ago, and now I’m gonna have to live it. I was scared to death. And looking in that mirror I asked God, “God, you have got to show up and help me.” 

Nancy: So what was it you were scared of?

Karen: I was scared I wasn’t gonna be able to do all the stuff I promised to do in those vows: to love, honor, cherish, obey. I meant all those vows, but now I have to go down and live it, and I had no models for that, I had no models in my home. My mother was a single parent, all of us had different fathers, and it was just a mess. But God took my mess and made a message of my life. 

Crawford: A friend of mine, and Nancy I think you know him too, H. B. Charles, who’s a prominent preacher said something at a conference: Your past may explain you, but it doesn’t excuse you. Meaning that all of us have dysfunction in our background. One of the things that I think is a little pet peeve with me is that I think in our desire to be sympathetic and merciful and gracious and kind, we so elevate the dysfunction that we come from. It sort of diminishes the power of the cross to give us new beginnings, to change everything, including where we came from. 

I think of my bride here, and sometimes the tears will fill my eyes when I see the mother she has become, and to see how she’s imprinting our children, and how the Word of God has been dear and near to her. That’s the transforming power of Christ, because the cross changed everything in Karen’s life. It did the same thing in my mother. 

If you’re listening to us right now and you’re struggling in your marriage, and you’re wondering, Oh, how can I get over my background and all of these things? Second Corinthians 5:17 is in the Bible, “If any man or woman be in Christ they’re a new creature. Old things are passed away; behold all things become new” (paraphrased). Now, that’s not “Pollyanna.” It doesn’t mean that you won’t have to deal with the residue of bad feelings and all of that. But if God could raise a dead Jesus, He can change everything in our lives—including giving us a new beginning to help us overcome our backgrounds.

Karen: I was so afraid of disappointing God, because I had taken a vow, and God’s reputation was at stake. If I couldn’t live up to what I believed God to do in my life, then my family would say, “Well, we don’t want to know the God that Karen knows, because he’s just like us.” It’s been really amazing.

Crawford: Yes. It’s the hope and the power of the cross there. You know Karen’s story, and my story is so very different. I mean, I’m blessed beyond measure, and no one can ever boast with what God’s given to you. In fact, I feel this incredible responsibility because of the favor of God in my background.

My great-grandfather Peter was a slave. My dad remembered him. And you say, “Dad remembered him?” My father was born in 1914, and Peter lived to be an old man, and my dad remembered Peter. He was illiterate. He prayed and sang and had memorized portions of Scripture—the stories that he would make his children and grandchildren read him, these familiar passages over and over again. 

I don’t know where Peter got this from, but he had a passion for his family. He had a passion for his wife and his children. He passed that down to my grandfather Milton. He and my grandmother Anna had fourteen kids—seven boys and seven girls. They loved the Lord Jesus, and they prayed for a time that they couldn’t see. My dad loved the Lord, and then forging these generations. 

So I had that growing up: I had a mother and a father in the home, and I never wondered whether or not they were going to be together or that I’d come home and one would be gone. I never had that vision. That impacted me greatly. 

But my mother, interestingly enough, comes from a similar background as Karen does. My mother never knew who her father was. And yet as a young lady, a young teenager, she gave her heart and life to Jesus, and that changed everything for her. And my mother, just like Karen, had an amazing passion for her children. I suppose it was Christ, and also to compensate from where she came from. She felt, “This is not going to happen to my family.” She made a decision, and so that’s how things got turned around for us. 

Nancy: So you saw in your family—your dad and your mom—a lot of character, a lot of integrity. That’s in your DNA. 

Crawford: Yes. Yes.

Nancy: And you’ve passed that DNA on to your children.

Crawford: Hopefully!

Nancy: Well, I know some of your children. I have seen that in them, and of course, the last chapter hasn’t been written on any of us, so you keep praying for your kids and your grandkids. Karen, one of the things I love about your story is that in spite of the broken relationships and dysfunction, God brought some people into your life who were good role models who planted some seeds of grace.

Karen: Oh, he sure did! There came a point when my mother, she was married briefly, and so we had a little brother now in the home. So it’s myself, my younger brother, and then the baby brother. My mother wanted us to go to church on Sunday. She didn’t go, but we were able to walk around our neighborhood and find a church to go to. 

I stayed at the church for a little bit, and I had a Sunday school teacher named Miss Green. I loved Miss Green because she was always dressed from head to toe, I mean, she was always. She gave me this Bible that had a white cover, and in the back of the Bible it had little red words and black words, I didn’t know what it was. 

Crawford: Honey, how old were you at the time?

Karen: I was about twelve years old. My little brother tagged along. So I always went to Sunday school. But at that church, they stayed too long. I wanted to find a church that got out a little bit earlier. So I found a church where I had to cross this big street with my brother tagging along with me. I went to this church because it looked like a church. It had a red door and stained-glass windows. 

There in this church everybody didn’t look like me. My brother and I were the only, you know, black children. But the pastor came, Pastor Peter Kuwalcha, and met me at the door. He was a little, short man from the Ukraine. He shook our hands and gave us his bear hug and just loved on us. And that became my church family. 

And those people, even though the neighborhood was demographically changing, that group of people stayed there and loved on me. God brought his wife into my life. Then China Inland Mission moved their headquarters a couple blocks away from that church, and the staff came and joined our church. So I had some godly women—four godly women—that loved me through elementary, through junior high, high school, and then college when I was going to college. 

In fact, my college Sunday school teacher introduced me to a guy named Crawford Loritts. She just dragged me one time to this concert. So life began there at Memorial Baptist Church in Philadelphia.

Crawford: That wasn’t so bad, was it?

Karen: No it wasn’t, but, you know, I was on a mission to be this social worker, but God had other plans. He put women into my life that modeled to me what godly women looked like, and what godly wives looked like, and they became my family.

Nancy: And what a word of encouragement that is. We talk a lot on Revive Our Hearts about Titus 2, about women mentoring women, the message of the Adorned book, “living out the beauty of the gospel together.” And I think about how many girls, teens, young women there are around us who come from horrific backgrounds, dysfunctional backgrounds, broken homes, broken lives. God puts them in our path for us to be the hands and feet of Jesus in their lives.

Karen: And those four women did not intentionally point out and say, “I’m going to take Karen ( I was Williams at the time) Williams, and I’m going to change her life.” No, they just did it because they loved God, and they wanted to model what godliness looked like. So they loved sacrificially, they took me on different things. They showed me not only how to cook, how to dress properly, how to pray, but Miss Nickles taught me about evangelism, Miss Kuwalcha how to serve your husband. I could go on and on and on, but they just did that out of the overflow of their lives. I was a much-blessed woman.

Nancy: So then after you got married and you had your meltdown there on your honeymoon, were there some other women that God used in your life in those early marriage years?

Karen: In the early marriage years I was a little on shaky ground, because I just figured I knew everything, and I didn’t know everything. We moved to Atlanta, being involved in ministry. He gave me in my life Mrs. Margaret Ponder. 

She was a woman that had six kids. She was abandoned by her husband, and she was raising these children by herself. She was a businesswoman, and she loved the Lord. She zeroed in on me when I came into church, just looking in my eyes. If either I had a bad day or whatever, I wasn’t talking to my children properly, or the way I looked at Crawford, she would always just talk to me, and give me scriptures, and pray for me. So Mrs. Ponder was my spiritual mother through all those years, and she just modeled that to me. She would not let me cower away and do the wrong thing. She was always checking on that. 

I always called her my “Elizabeth” in life. I think every woman should have an “Elizabeth” in their life—an “Elizabeth” is the older woman. Then you have the “Martha” who is a person your same age, season of life. And then a “Mary,” a younger person that you can even informally, just give out. Like is in your book, Nancy, in Adorned, about that Titus 2 woman. We all have something to do, and Mrs. Ponder was that for me—my spiritual mother.

Nancy: So you’ve had all three of those kinds of women in your life and you’ve been those various women in other women’s lives.

Karen: I have, I sure have. Sometimes not on purpose, but sometimes God brings it into your life and you have something from the overflow, and you just do that. I have some women now. They’re all my “Marthas.” We’re helping each other through the seasons of life, especially the age that we are now. 

Nancy: Ok. I want to go back to how you guys met. We actually went to the same Bible college.

Crawford: Yes, we did.

Nancy: A few years apart. It was called Philadelphia College of Bible when I was there. Not sure what it was called back in the day.

Crawford: Well they’ve had some different iterations. They still have “College of Bible,” it was the same thing back when we were there.

Nancy: Now it’s Cairn University.

Crawford: Cairn University, that’s right.

Karen: Great school.

Nancy: So, Crawford, do you remember the first time you saw Karen? 

Crawford: Yes, actually.

Karen: Here we go Nancy, these are going to be different stories.

Nancy: You have different versions?

Karen: Yes. 

Crawford: Yes different versions, but, you know, hers is always right . . . Actually, we first saw each other, I don’t remember, at a concert.

Karen: At that concert where my mentor, Miss Mary Entwhistle, dragged me to hear the singing.

Crawford: I was singing in the college choir, and so she drug you there?

Karen: She did! It was April of 1969.

Crawford: Yes, so it was a chore to meet her. 

Karen: No!

Crawford: But anyway, so, Nancy, the story is that I had broken up with my high school sweetheart.This was in the summer between my freshman and sophomore year in college, so actually it was probably a week or two before I got back on campus. I was devastated. I really was. I was in my dorm room praying. 

This is actually a true story. I was on my knees, praying. I said, “God, no more women, they mess you up every time. I’m going to stay focused on Jesus this semester and not going to date anybody, or whatever.” Well, I got up off my knees and walked out to the main administration building with my mind filled with this deep-seated stalwart prayer. And people who knew me even back then, I can be fairly focused when my mind is made up, so I wasn’t going to be distracted at all. 

But I opened the doors of the main administration building and, honestly, this is what happened: There was the 1800 Arch Street building.

Nancy: Downtown Philly . . .

Crawford: They had the stairs that went up. And there at the top of the stairs were these two brown legs. I said, “Lord, what have we here?” I was just healed immediately . . . 

Nancy: . . . of your focus!

Crawford: . . . of my focus! 

Nancy: New focus.

Crawford: New focus. So I introduced myself to Karen. She was new on campus.And my mother taught me to be hospitable to strangers, and that was how we first met. 

Karen: But that was the end of it until months later, until almost the end of the school year, in March.

Crawford: Yes, this is where there’s a little bit of a disagreement in our stories.

Karen: No no no! Because I was seeing someone else.

Crawford: Yes, you were. But she was a commuter, and she used to sit with her girlfriends at this certain place. I would get out of class where she could see me coming past her, but she denies that to this very day.

Karen: Crawford Loritts, I’d say forty-seven years. But anyway . . . so we never really had any conversations because I was a commuter, and I was working at a law firm and helping out in clerical things, and then I was just busy. It wasn’t until March that I’m home and I get this call at 9:30 in the evening. It’s Crawford Loritts calling me! And I say, “How did you get my phone number?”

Well the guy that I was dating, who was a senior . . .

Crawford: Let’s tell the rest of the story. 

Karen: The guy I was dating was a senior, and he had given Crawford my phone number. And so I just went ahead and kept talking to him. And Crawford went on and on and on, probably we talked for about two hours. And what I thought was a person who was a little bit much . . . he ended up being a nice guy. 

Crawford: Well, thank you.

Karen: So we talked that day, and over the weekend we started dating. I mean, it was crazy! It was crazy, wasn’t it?

Crawford: Yes. We were still in college when we got married. I just finished the end of my sophomore year. And in my junior year when we got married.

Karen: Oh, yes. Yes.

Nancy: And forty-seven years, four kids, and eleven grandkids later . . .

Crawford: Yeah, it’s amazing.

Nancy: You have a book with a message out of your lives. We want to make that book available to our listeners this week. It’s called Your Marriage Today . . . and Tomorrow, by Crawford and Karen Loritts. At the beginning of this book there are pages of beautiful endorsements about this book from various Christian leaders. I had a chance to write some words for this as well; I was honored to do that. 

But I think the four most meaningful endorsements (I’ve never seen this in another book) is from your four children. 

Let me read one from Heather, one of your two daughters. She says, “I’ve been to the conferences, and I’ve heard the talks.” That’s because you all have done a lot of talks at a lot of conferences. She said, “However, nothing beats having watched the truths in this book lived out in front of me. Blessed beyond measure to have these examples.” Now that’s from somebody who grew up in this family and who knows that you’re not perfect a husband and wife or parents. And you acknowledge that throughout this book. 

We want to talk over the next couple of days about some of the gifts that every wife needs, some of the gifts that every husband needs, and how to build a marriage that not only goes the distance but plants seeds of grace and godliness that will reap a harvest for generations to come. 

That book is available to any of our listeners this week. If you make a donation of any amount to the ministry of Revive Our Hearts, then we want to say “thank you” by sending you a copy of this book, Your Marriage Today . . . and Tomorrow, by Crawford and Karen. It’s our way of saying “thank you” for your support of this ministry. Just give us a call at 1–800–569–5959, or you can visit us online at ReviveOurHearts.com

And when you make your gift, be sure and let us know that you want a copy of this book. I’ve read it twice now . . .

Crawford: Oh my word!

Nancy: . . . and I rarely do that with a book, but I still consider myself something of a newlywed, and I was like a sponge, taking in. What could I learn? How could I grow to be a better encourager and support to Robert? How can God make our marriage one that better tells the gospel story? So I’ve been blessed, encouraged, and challenged, and I know our readers will be as well.

We’re going to talk tomorrow about what gifts every wife needs in her marriage, so you might even want to get your husband and ask him if he’d listen to this broadcast or podcast with you, so you can get it from two . . . Well, I don’t know if you’d consider yourselves experts, but I think you are. You’ve gone the distance. You’ll hear from this couple some things that I think will be really practical help for any marriage at any stage.

Be sure and be back with us tomorrow for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants you to experience the blessings of a Christ-centered marriage. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.
 

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