Daily Grat: Billy and Laura

This morning, I had a 9 am meeting in Frisco.

As an aside, this violates the terms of one of my own core life values:

“Rarely does anything good happen before 10 am.”

“Rarely” allows me to include the occasional outlier, and still get at the meaning. Lot’s of stuff *happens* before 10 am. Just rarely is any of it “good.” Most of it’s a lot of hard work and slogging.

Anyway, I fought through a northbound traffic accident on the tollroad (proving my point, of course…) and got to the meeting late.

The meeting was at Grace Avenue UMC in Frisco, where we’ll be doing our next Connections show a week from Friday. The meeting was with my old and dear friends, Billy and Laura Echols-Richter, who have been copastors there since the church’s founding ten years ago.

Back then, we were all in a study group together and used to see each other semi-regularly. That group disbanded as we moved different places over time. But I still remember those early years for them…how they were basically sent out to an area with nothing but promise and dream. I remember seeing their early space, how it was little more than an office building.

Now, it’s a established and fast-growing church, with four worship services and thousands of members.

Amazing stuff. It was great to walk around the building with them, and recall when it was all just a dream.

And, just yesterday, a member of Northaven told me an amazing story about Billy. This member told me that, years ago, a friend of hers wandered into Grace Avenue at a time of great need. Billy took the time to talk to her and counsel her. The woman eventually turned her life around in a major way and is now incredibly active at the church.

Knowing Billy, it didn’t surprise me.

So, for old friends like Billy and Laura, for the chance to know folks long enough to see such dreams born and grown, I am thankful.

(During this year, my goal is to find something new to be thankful for every single day, and to add that thanksgiving as a blog entry, under the title “My Daily Gratitude.” I started this kick back around Thanksgiving, and it’s already resulted in a favorite new song of mine. The goal of this ongoing spiritual exercise is to see if doing such a thing might inspire even more gratitude within me, and to foster general awareness of life on a deeper level.)


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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He is Senior Pastor of The Woods United Methodist Church in Grand Prairie, Texas. For seventeen years, he was pastor at Northaven UMC in Dallas, Texas. Eric is an avid blogger and published author. Eric is also an award-winning singer-songwriter, who performs throughout Texas and the Southwest. He's won honorable mention in both the Billboard and Great American song contests; and he's been a finalist in the 5th Street Festival and South Florida Folk Festival songwriter competitions. Eric is also a leader of Connections, a unique band comprised of United Methodist clergy and layfolk from throughout North Texas. Connections performs "cover shows" of artists like Dan Fogelberg, Chicago, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and others. Their shows draw crowds of between 300 and 1,000 fans, and they have raised more than $240,000 dollars for worthy charities. Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He's a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named "best judge" by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County. She was re-elected for a third term in 2010. They have the world's best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy.

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