Chris and Niki enjoy a 40 Day Sabbatical

Pastor Chris’s Sabbatical Update | Part 1

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Niki and I are beyond grateful to be enjoying a 40-day Sabbatical, meant to be a time for us to sit at the feet of Jesus, with the aim of being spiritually, emotionally and physically, renewed, refreshed, and recharged. We are about two weeks in, and the experience has been wonderful. I wanted to share a few of the highlights of our past couple of weeks.

The Billy Graham Training Center

On day one of our 40 day reprieve, Niki and I hit the ground running. We loaded up the SUV and headed down to the beautiful mountains of Asheville, NC, where we spent three nights at  The Cove, located at the Billy Graham Training Center. There, we were blessed to attend a 3 day, 2 night Pastor’s Retreat. We lodged in one of their beautiful Inn’s, ate meals with Pastors and their wives from all across the U.S., hiked across their breathtaking trails, and were encouraged by worship services led by author and pastor Mark Batterson.

I really appreciated the amount of free time they allotted us, as we were able to spend ample time in prayer and personal Bible Study. I kept a note book and jotted down what I sensed the Holy Spirit was speaking to me.  

A Claustrophobic Wedding Anniversary 

Our conference ended on Friday, which just happened to be our 27th wedding anniversary. We book a well-reviewed  B & B in Asheville. After settling into our room, our good friends, Doug and Denise Fightmaster, picked us up and we enjoyed an anniversary dinner at a Cuban rooftop restaurant downtown. It was amazing! 

Before I get into this next part of our adventure, you must know something about Niki and I: We have developed hyper-claustrophobia as we have aged. When I booked our room at the B & B, I chose the library room. Unbeknownst to me, it was the smallest room in the house. We returned the Inn after dinner, around 9:30, and everyone else in the large manor had already turned in. As we were getting ready to turn back the bed, Niki stepped on something, and that something happened to be our door knob. The door had closed and we were trapped inside. I tried to break out, but to no avail. Niki tried to call the host, but it kept going directly to voice mail. Our bedroom was the only one on our particular floor. The walls started closing in. And as if that weren’t bad enough, I turned to the bookshelf to see none other than Joel Olsteen’s book staring at me (God must have a sense of humor). No Joel! This is not my best life now!  Panic began to set in (look at my face in the third picture). I opened the bathroom window and was contemplating jumping (I’ve lived a good life), but decided to prayerfully try the host one more time. By God’s grace… he answered! Our night in shining armor (i.e. our host in sweatpants), came to the rescue. There has to be a sermon illustration in there somewhere, right?

Central Church of God, Charlotte 

Chris and Niki attended Pastor Loran’s church in Charlotte, NC.

On Saturday, after enjoying breakfast at our B & B, Niki and I drove just over two hours to Charlotte. On Sunday, we attended Central Church of God, where we were privileged to hear a message from one of my favorite preachers, Loran Livingston. We got to speak with him briefly after service. 

Blue Mountain Mist Country Inn, Sevierville, TN

After church Sunday, we headed to a spot that our Real Life Ladies Group knows well, namely, the Blue Mount Mist Inn in Sevierville. This is where our church’s women’s retreat has been held for the past nine years. 

The inn is owned by a Christian family, and I am so grateful that they offer lodging to lead pastors at a 50% discount. We stayed in one of the private cabins. The accommodations were fantastic, the food delightful (notice the chicken and waffles!?), and the views were majestic. I enjoyed three days of quiet, in which I was able to spend precious time in communion with our great God.

Granddaughter Time!

We arrived home on Wednesday, and—of course—we had to see our beautiful granddaughter that evening. She is grand indeed! Connor and Nadiya came over and we took Ivyanna on her first walk! We are looking forward to spending more much needed time with our family. 

Sunday Service at Ashland Ave.

Over my Sabbatical, my aim is to attend churches from different denominations. So, in an ecumenical spirit, on Sunday,  we worshipped with our friends Brock and Hanna at Ashland Ave. in Richmond. They sang some of my favorite songs and the pastor preached a tremendous expositional and culturally relevant message from Genesis 19.  

Wedding Bells

Chris and Niki attend a wedding on their Sabbatical.

On Saturday, we had the privilege of spending time with the Fightmasters again, as we celebrated their daughter Makayla’s wedding in Midway, KY.

A Historic Night at Kentucky Proud Park

We closed out the first segment of our Sabbatical with an exciting night (into early morning). Dylan purchased tickets to the Kentucky baseball game, where the Cats were victorious over Oregon State, earning them their first trip to the College World Series.