We had such a wonderful visit in England. If you missed my story about using the wrong word to communicate a major point in one of my sermons, you should pull up the last post. You’ll smile, I promise.
Believe it or not, I’ve made another trip since returning home. This one was to Daytona Beach for our annual ladies’ retreat. We were a group of eleven ladies and two infants who joined the other 1,200 conference attenders from across Florida.
Our state women’s director, Deanna Shrodes, did an amazing job putting together the event called THRIVE, 2018. We spent three days laughing; sharing meals; hearing fantastic sermons; encountering God; experiencing sunrises over the Atlantic Ocean. Simply Resplendent.
Right now, I’m preparing for the final installment of my birthday celebrations. I’m getting ready to meet a group of girlfriends in Asheville, NC. Some of us haven’t seen one another in over seven years.
I’m beyond ecstatic.
Some of you may remember we pastored in the Asheville area our first twelve years of ministry. In fact, all three girls were born in the same hospital there. We formed many strong friendships during those years.
Frank knows how much I value and appreciate all the friendships we’ve made over the years. So when these ladies contacted him about planning a surprise for my 60th birthday, he quickly jumped on board.
That guy is such a gem!
I’m still not sure what all they have planned but a few things are certain. There will be too much food; lots of laughter; hysterical stories; a few tears and even some prayer time. Having friends who share your faith and passions makes life richer.
We moved away from that region over 25 years ago. But no matter how sporadic, we’ve made the effort to stay in touch. I’m most thankful. These are ladies who add value. They can hold a confidence. They know how to pray. They’ve watched my girls change into young ladies and now celebrate them as moms.
One of the first churches we pastored in that area wasn’t an easy situation. We were young and inexperienced. The church leadership had a strong idea of how things should go. Eventually, it became apparent a change was imminent.
While trying to prepare to leave, Frank talked honestly with a trusted friend. “I can hardly wait to leave this place and burn the bridge behind me!”
Up until that statement, Bob had listened patiently. But he suddenly put up his hand and broke into Frank’s tirade. In that moment of vulnerability, Bob taught us a lesson we’ve never forgotten.
“Frank, you never want to be the one who burns a bridge. If you do, you almost always find yourself needing to cross back over at some point in life. It seldom comes quickly, but that moment will come, trust me.”
Frank may have been young and inexperienced but he has always been teachable. So, he prayed over the challenge and decided to heed Bob’s advice. Frank led the final meeting in a civil manner. He offered respect and honor instead of acting on his original emotions.
He chose to leave our side of the bridge standing.
We went on to work with another congregation which was a much better fit for us. We enjoyed nine wonderful years with the new group. The friends gathering this week became connected during those years. We seldom thought of our pain from the past assignment.
In 1993, we were called to leave the mountain community we’d come to love and move to pioneer a church on the coast of NC. This was a Faith Adventure. With only thirteen congregants committed to the work, there were NO funds available for the move.
Faith Adventures will always improve your prayer life. We began to pray diligently.
That’s when Bob’s admonition took form. Two weeks before we were to move, we received a call from one of our former church members. They wanted to meet with us as soon as possible. My stomach was in knots!
We met in Frank’s office and they got right to the point. “We never felt things finished well at the other church. We’ve received a financial blessing that God wants us to share with you to help with the new church plant.”
They slid a check across his desk. The amount was more than enough to completely cover our moving expenses! Needless to say, I began to weep with gratitude.
On the way home Frank quoted Bob’s wise words, “Never be the one to burn a bridge. You’ll need to cross back over it someday.”