We heard about Jim for the first time from his wife, Dee, late last spring. She had seen something online about Altar Fly Fishing which sent her to our website. Once there, she reached out to us with a note wanting to know if our retreat in Colorado had room for one more because she’d like to surprise her husband by sending him on an Altar retreat. When I saw her note, I picked up my phone and called her.
Dee told me that Jim had recently retired from serving as a career chaplain in the military. His transition to retirement along with a recent selling and buying of a home, a move to a new state, and some family issues he was dealing with, had her concerned. She said he was worn down. She was convinced the Soul of a Pastor Retreat was just what he needed to refresh him and help him move into this new stage of his life’s journey.
I was moved by Jim’s story. He is the kind of pastor we are so passionate about serving at Altar. We want to change the narrative that is so often heard these days of one pastor after another burning out on ministry and life. But sadly, I knew the Colorado retreat was full. I told Dee we’d put Jim on a waiting list and if any of the pastors already signed up had to cancel, Jim would be the first to be added.
A couple of months past and we had a change in our lodging location for the Colorado retreat which opened another spot or two on the trip. It was one of the great joys of my summer to call Dee to tell her there was now room for Jim. She answered my call as she and Jim were going through security at the Denver airport. She was overjoyed! Jim still didn’t know about her plan to surprise him, so we didn’t talk much agreeing to speak more soon. But I could tell in her voice there were tears in her eyes.
Now, a few months after the retreat, Jim could not be more grateful. When asked about what the biggest impact of the retreat on his life was, he said, “First, it has helped Dee and I be intentional about establishing a weekly Sabbath.” (Our content theme this year is healthy rhythms of work and rest, including setting apart one day a week for Sabbath rest.) “Second,” he said, “I so appreciated being with a small group of Christian pastors. Our conversation and time together that week was rich and meaningful.”
Jim went on to tell me that the Altar Retreat was something he wouldn’t have done for himself. It was Dee’s love and concern for him that made it happen. “I ‘married up,’” he said.
It’s stories like Jim’s that give us such joy at Altar Fly Fishing. It is our privilege to see life after life after life deepened and encouraged when fly fishing and faith come together in a beautiful place. God is good!
Steve Ebling | October 2023