The Barbara Rainey Podcast

Barbara and Dennis were good friends, but just friends. And she was content to keep it that way. Find out what changed her mind.

Show Notes

Barbara and Dennis were good friends, but just friends. And she was content to keep it that way. Find out what changed her mind.

What is The Barbara Rainey Podcast?

Barbara Rainey mentors women in their most important relationships. She loves encouraging women to believe God and experience Him in every area of their lives.

Samantha: Barbara Peterson was content to follow Jesus wherever He took her. So when her friendship with Dennis Rainey progressed, she asked, “What does God want me to do?”

Barbara Rainey: “God doesn’t give you multiple choices. He has a will. He has a plan. He has something that He’s trying to accomplish in your life,” and after I got over the shock, it made sense: “Yes, God has a plan. Either Dennis is what God has for me or he’s not.”
Samantha: We’ll hear about their courtship and engagement today!

Welcome to The Barbara Rainey Podcast, dedicated to helping you be changed by Jesus which will, in turn, transform your home. Thanks for listening!

I don’t know about you, but I always love hearing about how God brings couples together. He truly does “move in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform,” and Dennis and Barbara Rainey are no exception. In September of 2022, they’ll celebrate their 50th anniversary. I’ll let you know how you can wish them a happy anniversary in a few minutes.

But how did it all kick off? That’s what we’ll hear today.

Barbara’s personal relationship with Jesus began in her years as a college student. Her faith meant she was pursuing the Lord with all her heart. She was content not to marry, if that was what God wanted for her. At the core, she knew that questions about marriage, family, career, or whatever, had to flow from the center—the hub, if you will—of how her life could be useful to God and his kingdom.

Barbara: And that’s a good way to put it—that Christ needs to be the hub of our life. He told His disciples—and therefore, us—He said, “Come follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” He challenged those men, who followed Him, to be disciples. When you are a disciple, you do what the teacher does.
So, in my college experience, it was really pivotal for me to understand that my life belonged to the King.
My life had been redeemed. I had been changed / I had been transformed, and He was the one who owned me—I didn’t own myself. So, even though I certainly didn’t do it perfectly—I made lots of mistakes because I was young, like a child, and I was green—but at the core, I understood that His plan was the best plan and that doing life the way He designed life to be lived was the best road to follow.
Samantha: As Pastor Tommy Nelson, from Denton Bible Church in Denton, Texas, tells singles…
Tommy Nelson: Whenever you pick a mate, here’s the way you do it. You run as fast as you can for Jesus Christ. Commit your life to Him. Love Him. Sell out to Him, devoted to Him. And you run as fast as you can. And you look on your right and left, and see who’s running the same speed. And you just wave at ‘em! [Laughter] And if they stay up with you, after a while, you say, “Come on over!” and you run together. That’s the way you get married.
Samantha: For Barbara, her “second look” came in the summer of 1972. She was busy helping with logistics for Explo 72, an evangelistic conference that some referred to as the Christian Woodstock. And it happened that her college friend, Dennis Rainey, was helping, too. His job was to coordinate the busing of high schoolers to Explo 72.
Dennis: Forty thousand high school kids.
Samantha: Keep in mind, he was only 22 years old, not that long out of high school himself.
Dennis: Parents—if they had known what was going on—would have been terribly frightened; but yes, that was the summer when both of us were running in the same direction. We both kind of looked out of the corner of our eyes…
Barbara: Well, it started—because, when I moved to Dallas, I didn’t know anybody. I didn’t know how to get around the city—I’d never been there. Dennis offered, very kindly and graciously, to show me around. He said, “I will pick you up and take you to work,”—because we were working in the same building.
Dennis: I have to admit—when she showed up at the office that I was working in, all of a sudden, I noticed her—not as a friend, but it was like, “Wow!” I remember the dress she was wearing. It was like, “I need to help her around the city. [Laughter] I need to help her from getting lost here,”—this just makes real good sense to a single man.
Barbara: We had been such good friends. I had decided that he was a good friend. In fact, I considered him one of my very best friends, and I kind of liked it that way. So, I wasn’t really interested in it being anything other than friendship because it was real comfortable, predictable, and safe as a friendship.
Samantha: Unaware of Barbara’s “we’re just friends” mindset, Dennis mustered up his courage and made his move in the parking lot of a Dallas mall.
Barbara: He did—he did. We were walking—it was nine o’clock at night. The stores were closed. We were looking in the windows, and—
Dennis: The sun was going down—a little soft June breeze.
Barbara: Yes; it was June too.
Dennis: It was.
Barbara: And he reached over, and he took my hand. I thought: “Uh-oh! This isn’t a move friends make with friends. So, what am I going to do about this?” I thought about it for about 60 seconds. I thought, “I really like him as my friend, and I don’t want to mess up this friendship.” I thought, “If I tell him I don’t like him holding my hand, he’s going to think I’m crazy!” Then, I thought: “If he thinks I’m crazy, I don’t really care because I don’t want to mess up the friendship. It’s not worth it if he doesn’t respect what I think.”
Samantha: Barbara’s response to this bold and brash move on Dennis’s part wasn’t exactly a melting heart.
Barbara: I just said, “Why did you do that? We’re really good friends. Friends don’t hold hands. So, why did you hold my hand?”
Dennis: And so, being the man of God that I was, and ready for a DTR— for those of you who don’t know what a DTR is—that’s “Define the Relationship”—I was stunned—I did not know what to say!
I didn’t have an answer for her question, at least, at that moment. So, I dropped her hand right there in the parking lot.
Barbara: Yes, it was awkward. It was really awkward.
Dennis: We continued, over 55 days, for me to show her around town, because she still needed help. Fifty-two out of those 55 days.
Barbara: But he didn’t ridicule me or make fun of me or act in any way like what I said was really stupid. And he asked me if he could pick me up the next day, and I said, “Sure!” because I really respected him. I really liked him as a friend, and I really wanted to keep the relationship. I just didn’t want to muddy it up with the romance stuff.
Dennis: And I wanted to honor her boundaries.
Samantha: Okay, so I’ll admit: maybe the music and my narration makes the telling of that moment more dramatic than it actually was.
Dennis: Truthfully, we were just walking across the parking lot. It was a nice romantic evening. I just kind of reached over to hold her hand. You know, I wasn’t trying to put a move on her or anything—it was just a gesture. So, when she pushed back, it was like: “I am going to honor her wishes.” At which point, I didn’t hold her hand until we were virtually engaged.
Barbara: We just continued to hang out, which was just fine with me. He seemed to be happy with it too. So, we just did. He continued to pick me up—we went to the office. We spent a lot of time together. I mean, we ate all of our meals together. He’d come over to the apartment, where I was living, in the evenings. We spent weekends together. We just—
Dennis: Well, I’d stay—
Barbara: —we were together a lot.
Dennis: —at her apartment. We’d sit out on the steps and talk at night until 2. I mean, it was just one of those deals where we couldn’t get enough of each other—and getting to know each other, and what was going on, and talking about life together, and about what we were learning about Jesus Christ and the mission we were on.
We were all about 100,000 high school students, college students, and laymen, from all over the United States, coming to the Cotton Bowl. Then, close to a million hearing Johnny Cash and Billy Graham in a major kind of a festival kind of experience. So, we were into the moment; and we were on a mission, as a couple.
Samantha: Romantic feelings were still a long way off for Barbara. But she says their relationship was developing in some healthy ways.
Barbara: —because I got to know him—he got to know me. My respect and admiration for him, as a person, and his values and his standards continued to grow—I assume it was mutual with me—because we got to know each other without all the baggage that comes with the physical involvement in a guy/girl relationship.
Barbara: I didn’t start having feelings for him until we were talking marriage. The reason is because I was thinking this was going to take a long time. We were having fun together. We were talking about me coming to visit him at Thanksgiving and doing some things together in six months because I was living in South Carolina and he was living in Denver. So, we were talking about plans for spending more time together.
And then, in late July that summer, we were both in mutual friends’ weddings. I was a bridesmaid / he was a groomsman. We were both in this wedding that was in the evening. That afternoon, before the wedding, a good friend of ours, named Don Meredith—who was our director when we were students on campus—and his wife Sally were at the wedding.
Don said to Dennis, “I’d like to sit down and meet with you and Barbara and have a conversation.” Dennis must have said, “Yes,” because the next thing I know he’s picking me up and we’re driving to Don’s hotel room. We went in to have a conversation with Don.
Dennis: And we should say that Don’s wife, Sally, is the woman who had led Barbara to Christ when Barbara was a sophomore at the University of Arkansas.
Barbara: So, we showed up at the hotel room. We went in and sat down in the two little dinky chairs in this dark, dimly-lit hotel room. Don sat on the bed. He promptly said, at the very beginning—he said, “Well, you two sure have been spending a lot of time together, and people are talking.” He said, “I think you are both old enough and mature enough that you need to decide whether or not it’s God’s will for you to be married or not.” I absolutely could have gone through the floor. I was speechless—I was shocked!
I just—I’d never, in a million years, expected that to come out of his mouth. Now, if I had thought about it, I probably could have figured it out; but I didn’t think about it.
Dennis: We were not dating.
Barbara: No, we were not dating.
Dennis: We were not dating in defined terms—
Barbara: Right, where—
Dennis: —where two people have sat down and gone, “You’re mine. I’m yours.”
Barbara: “We’re boyfriend/girlfriend,”—right—“There’s nobody else.”
Dennis: It was all back to the parking lot in Northpark Shopping Center—Dallas, Texas. This is a friendship that is being fully developed.
Samantha: What Don said stirred something in Dennis.
Dennis: I remember it being a little bit like a challenge. That may sound kind of strange to our listeners; but I remember it being, “You know, I think he’s right. You can’t just spend time indefinitely with each other. Yeah. I think that’s a good thing to explore.”
Barbara: But you were surprised, though.
Dennis: I was surprised.
Barbara: You didn’t know it was coming, either.
Dennis: I didn’t know it was coming. I didn’t say, “Yes, way to go!” or anything like that. What I had no way of anticipating was how quickly the ball would start rolling as a result of that challenge being laid out and how fast this whole idea would pick up steam.
Barbara: We sat and listened to his little speech about marriage, and God’s will, and all that stuff. We left; and we went and got ready for the wedding—did the wedding / did the reception. Afterwards, we got in a car and talked.
And we talked for about two or three hours—probably midnight or after—I don’t know. We talked about it. We decided, that night, that what Don said made sense. Well: “Yes, obviously, either it is or isn’t God’s will.
“God doesn’t give you multiple choices. He has a will. He has a plan. He has something that He’s trying to accomplish in your life.” Yes, it—and after I got over the shock, it made sense: “Yes, God has a plan. Either Dennis is what God has for me, or he’s not.” It made sense to go ahead and decide. “If he’s not God’s will, then, we shouldn’t be spending so much time together.”
Samantha: Within days, Dennis proposed.
Barbara: I said, “Yes,” because I had prayed—we decided we were going to pray about it for a week. It didn’t take me a week. It took me about two-and-a-half—maybe two days—didn’t take that long because I just prayed and I said: “All right, God; You have a will. If this is your will for me to marry Dennis, then, I need You to show me because when he calls and asks, I need an answer.”
Dennis: Ours was not a romantic relationship.
Barbara: —at the beginning.
Dennis: Yes. [Laughter] You know, truthfully, feelings—feelings are not a good foundation. They are the quicksand of a relationship because they come and go. So: “Had we enjoyed each other as friends?” Yes. “Had we had a great time together?” Absolutely; I mean, that’s how we ended up where we were.
And yet, when it came time to look at marriage, it was not a decision based upon emotions. It was a decision based upon two individuals, who were contemplating: “What does God want? What is He up to? Is He bringing us more together or moving us more apart? Are there any counselors in our lives who would advise us against this relationship?”—there were none. So, it was like: “Wow! Yes.” And so, I call her up at 2am—
Barbara: My time.
Dennis: —her time in South Carolina. She says, “Yes.” I wired a dozen roses that arrive the next morning—make sure she wasn’t asleep when she said, “Yes.” And we were married six weeks later.
Barbara: Now, people look at us when we tell this story like we must be from another planet; but once the subject was broached—that night that Dennis and I stayed up and talked—I think we started having feelings for each other then. The next morning, we went to church. Before I flew out, he handed me this little note, folded up in the —the little offering envelope. He said, “Don’t open it until you’re on the plane.”
And so, I waited until I got up and I was looking, out the window, at the clouds. I opened the little envelope. It said, “I love you.” It was like, “Oh, really?” You know—so, it—even though it sounds very factual—and it was—it was very faith-based. Once we entertained the idea that this was of God, the feelings came.
Dennis: If you’ve got two people—a man and a woman—who are sold out to Jesus Christ—they have settled the issue of who the Master is / who owns their lives—secondly, they know where they are headed and are committed to Him in going there—and I’m not saying you have to be in the ministry to determine that. I think there are a lot of people God calls to be in business, and to be in education, and lots of vocations. I think if you’ve settled the issue of Master and mission—then, it goes a long way to helping solidify the last “M”—which is your mate.

Samantha: And THAT’S where the lessons from Dennis and Barbara’s early years can find their application to the rest of us. Get those three M’s in order: First, Master and Mission, then worry about Mate.

Now, it could be that you’re already married, and you’re thinking, “Well, I sure messed that up! When we got together, we were trying to be our own masters, and our mission was pretty self-centered. Is it too late for me?”

And the answer is, of course not! As long as you’re still alive, it’s not too late to turn away from self and to Jesus. Confess to Him the mess you’ve made of things, and ask Him to help you follow Him, obey Him, and live intentionally for Him. He will be faithful to enable you with the grace and strength you need.

I wanted to let you know about a special book where Dennis and Barbara go into more detail about their early years together. The title is Our Story, and it’s something they wanted to bless their children and grandchildren with. And YOU! We’ll mail you a copy of their book, as long as supplies last, for a donation of $50 or more. This book also has a list of 50 lessons they’ve learned after 50 years of marriage. To make your donation and request your book, just head to All the details are there.

Also, their 50th anniversary is NEXT WEEK. So if you’d like to wish Dennis and Barbara a happy anniversary, you can do that at this special page: Why don’t you leave a note of congratulations or well-wishes? Better yet, if there’s something specific you remember Dennis or Barbara saying that encouraged you or helped you in your marriage or walk with God, would you let them know? Again, you can head over to Ever Thine Home, dot com, slash five-zero-feedback, and leave a note of appreciation or congratulations.

That’s all for today. I’m Samantha Loucks, thanking you for listening today, and inviting you back, for the Barbara Rainey Podcast, from Ever Thine Home.