After faith, my family is runner-up on the list of blessings for which I am most grateful to God. It's no coincidence that many of these spiritual columns feature my parents, my wife Jo Ann, and my siblings, their spouses and their children.

My gratitude to God was enhanced when I ran into an old friend whose circumstances as a preteen and teen were much different from the ones I write about.

When he was only 10, his mom died. His father never got over the loss and died shortly before my friend's 18th birthday. A month or so away from his high school graduation, he was an orphan and was without siblings to share in his loss.

But he was blessed to find the love of his life, resulting in a happy marriage that has lasted 40 years and counting. They had two children whom anyone would be proud of. Their children's spouses were a natural fit into the family. Now, my friend and his wife are enjoying watching their grandchildren grow up.

My friend and I have lived much different lives. Our family albums would tell a much different story, but we have learned the most important lessons as we have gone through life.

Family is more important than fame or fortune. My friend and I have been richly blessed by God's love with our families and in countless other ways.

Best of all, we know how much we are blessed and what we owe God.

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As God's family,

we are heirs to His love.