Carol's blog

21 Jan

Fight Back With Joy

Published by Carol

A new friend to me is Margaret Feinberg, speaker and author of the just-released Fight Back With Joy: Celebrate More. Regret Less. Stare Down Your Greatest Fears.

As a young thirty-something woman she faced a great fear—being diagnosed with cancer!  This diagnosis plunged her into a search for the best weapon to propel her to a place of overcoming—and she chose joy.  Margaret says:  “You have joy not in spite of your circumstances, but because of them.  You are drenched in the grace and mercies of God.” 

Most of you know I faced a different kind of fear—the arrest of my son for first- degree murder and a conviction of life without parole.  I know what it’s like to be at a crossroads:  Will I choose joy or will I choose fear?  Will I cling to my faith or will I give up on God?  I understand what Margaret is saying in this book—making a conscious decision to choose joy every day changes everything about the way you live your life.

I’ve discovered a deeper meaning of the word, “joy.”  It’s experiencing God’s peace in the middle of impossible circumstances and sensing His care when life is anything but fun.  It’s discovering that we can delight in what He is doing in the middle of formidable obstacles.  It’s experiencing internal security because we are not alone.  It’s celebrating His powerful hand at work even when we don’t understand why He allows certain things to happen.  A word that is sometimes substituted for “joy” is happiness, which connotes the idea of “well-being and contentment.”[1]  That is the kind of joy I’m beginning to experience, and I’m realizing that Jason (my son) is learning a new definition of joy, too.

In one of his letters I was once again struck by his growing maturity—which includes an ability to recognize joy as the presence of Christ in surprising places and in unlikely people.

Dear Mom,

…Prison is a place few of us would really call “home,” unless we are making a sarcastic joke.  Yet, in this very place I’ve seen God show up in unexpected ways, where few would expect Him to visit. The greatest surprise and joy to me here is when God’s presence is demonstrated in the life of another human being. 

Sometimes I see Him in a tough, violent, street-wise prisoner who has recently experienced Christ as his personal Savior, but he’s still figuring out how to process what’s happened to him as he talks some inmates out of beating up a prisoner with a conviction that incites convicts to respond with violence. Sex offenders convicted of crimes against children are hated in prison.

I find joy in seeing a former addict who unexpectedly finds the strength to turn down a joint for the first time in his life.  There’s a pattern-breaking discipline in him that’s new, powerful, and exciting—because of Christ.

I experience joy when a perpetually angry guy (who we all steer clear of if we don’t want to be contaminated by his attitude) has a personality that’s a pleasure to be around, with laughter accompanying his conversations.

Joy, for me, is knowing as concretely as I know my name and my birthday that God is real and that He loves me personally, and that I’m never alone and He can be trusted with my heart. 

Mom, in spite of the agony I feel on my bad days, I’m grateful for what God is doing in my life.  How I wish that pain of this magnitude didn’t accompany my personal growth, especially the suffering of my victim’s family and my own family.  But I am reminded of something Tim Hansel wrote: “Joy is a process, a journey—often muffled, sometimes detoured, a mystery in which we participate, not a product we can grasp.  It grows and regenerates as we have the courage to let go and trust the process.  Growth and joy are inhibited when we say ‘if only,’ enhanced when we realize that failures and difficulties are not only a critical part of the process, but are our very opportunities to grow.”[2]

I’m discovering that any joy in the midst of this horrendous ordeal is a surprising gift from God.  The only way I can recognize and embrace the gift when it comes is by recalling and practicing what Paul wrote to the Hebrews: “We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, He endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now He is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.”[3]  

Mom, I desire for all of us healing and rest.  I pray that your heart will smile.

Love,
Jason

If you are in the middle of having your own joy challenged, read Margaret Feinberg’s newest book, and better yet, get a group of friends together and do the DVD teaching series as you rediscover the adventure of choosing JOY.  You’ll be glad you did. #fightbackwithjoy

Question:  What is stealing your joy right now and how are you dealing with it?


[1] Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (Eleventh Edition) on-line

[2] Tim Hansel, You Gotta Keep Dancin’ (Elgin, IL:  David C. Cook, 1985), p. 133.

[3] Hebrews 12:2  NLT

28 Aug

What I Wish I’d Known Earlier in My Speaking and Writing Ministry

Published by Carol

by Carol Kent

At the age of twenty-three I attended my first women’s conference—Winning Women in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  I had graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in speech education the year before and I assumed I would be a speech, drama, and English teacher.  However, that weekend changed everything about my future plans.

I was seated in the back of the auditorium at Western Michigan University among 3,500 women who were all excited about attending this event.  Jill Briscoe was speaking and the conviction of God’s Spirit was heavy on my heart as I sensed his voice saying, “Carol, one day you will be speaking for my glory and you need to get prepared by studying the Word of God.”  The message didn’t come in an audible voice, but there was no mistaking it.  From that point on, I began studying the Bible in a determined way.

My ministry began with a small group Bible study that included five neighbors sitting around my kitchen table.  Over the next few years I became the Director of Women’s Ministries in a large church, and eventually I was asked to become a Bible Study Fellowship teaching leader.  Following years of preparation, God began opening doors for me to speak at retreats, conferences, and eventually at arena events.  As I prayed for direction, I just kept walking through the next open door. 

Now, three decades later, these are the things I wish I’d known earlier in my speaking and writing ministry: 

1)  I wish I’d known that all of the small venues in those early years were exactly what I needed.  They gave me opportunities to lead women to Christ, to deepen my knowledge and understanding of God’s Word, and to hone my leadership skills, my public speaking skills, and my coping skills. 

2)  I wish I’d known that every time I opened a door for a fellow speaker or author, God poured more opportunities into my own life. Being generous with recommending others always blessed me in unexpected ways and it gave emerging speakers and authors more possibilities for using their gifts.

3)  I wish I’d known that every time the unexpected happened in a conference or a retreat, the Holy Spirit would give me the wisdom I needed to handle any situation.

4)  I wish I’d known there would be years of plenty—spiritually, financially, and emotionally—when meeting planners would offer me lots of opportunities to speak, and several publishers were intrigued with my book ideas—and  that there would be lean years, when no one seemed interested.

5)    I wish I’d known there would be a sisterhood of authors and speakers who would become like a family to me.  Often, traveling as a Christian speaker can be lonely.  We are often the only people in our city or in our geographical area who make a living by going to different cities several times a month.  I was encouraged and surprised that the speakers and authors I shared platforms with eventually became some of my closest friends.

6)  I wish I’d known that something called the Internet would be invented and that it would make research and communication much easier, but it would also make my life more complicated.  I had never anticipated dealing with hundreds of e-mails from hurting people and from numerous women longing for a mentor.

7)  I wish I had known how important it was to involve my church family in understanding and participating in what God was doing as ministry began to multiply, not after it exploded.  When I began traveling a lot in ministry, one of the deacons in our church said:  “Carol, are you still traveling around speaking at those church women’s meetings?  We’ve noticed you’ve missed a lot of Sunday morning services lately.”  At that time I was beginning to speak at arena events in venues that seated from 7,000 to 10,000.

I bit my lip and said, “Thank you for asking.  I do speak very often to a lot of women who need encouragement from the Bible, and I would appreciate your prayers.”  I realized that Christians who are not familiar with the life of a traveling speaker could seem judgmental and I needed to be more open about what I was doing and more importantly, about what God was doing, as a result of ministry.  I needed to ask for their prayers.

9)  I wish I would have known that having a team of ministry intercessors would profoundly impact what God would do in my personal spiritual life and in my career as a speaker and author.  As ministry began to multiply, a woman I trusted asked me if I was open to having her in charge of sending monthly updates to a team of people who were willing to pray earnestly for my ministry.  I said “Yes” and I saw a visible difference in the powerful way God moved in hearts in direct answer to prayer.

10)  I wish I had known that speaking and writing that furthers His kingdom agenda would be the most fulfilling way I could spend the rest of my life—that it is worth the travel; it’s worth the lost sleep; it’s worth the headaches of lost luggage and inept meeting planners; it’s worth the chicken dinners; it’s worth the sacrifice; it’s worth sleeping in a cabin at a rustic conference center in the middle of nowhere.  It’s worth putting up with editors, publicists, and publishers who are sometimes insensitive, because they are going through their own personal challenges.  It’s more than worth it!

Earlier in ministry, I didn’t fully understand that there is a cost when you are in Christian leadership.  Sometimes the enemy targets our spouses or our children to get us distracted and “off course” in our ministries.  You may know that my son, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate was arrested for murder and convicted to a life sentence.  (Read the whole story in When I Lay My Isaac Down.) It was a challenging decision to “go public” with my testimony and to be vulnerable about our journey, but I have learned that people identify much more with our failures and our frailties than then do with our successes.

I wish I had another lifetime to share the astoundingly good news of the gospel and enough energy to mentor every woman I meet who has the desire to learn, grow, and lead.  I wish every woman reading this blog would commit this year to finding at least three other women to build into who are younger than she is in age and/or spiritual maturity —sharing vision, networking, cheering, encouraging, listening, teaching, and modeling what it means to be a woman on influence for God’s glory.  Accept the challenge from 2 Timothy 2:2 (NLT). “You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.”

As God blesses your ministry and when doors open for speaking and for writing, remember the advice of Dr. A. W. Tozer:

“It’s the first Palm Sunday, and here comes Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey.  The crowds begin to shout “Hosanna!  Hosanna!  The old donkey pricks up his ears.  Some in the crowd throw their coats in the road; others spread out palm branches.

“Well!” says the donkey, switching a fly off a mange patch.  “I had no idea they really appreciated me like this!  Listen to those hosannas, would you.  I must really be something”[i]

When people say:  “You’re the best speaker I’ve ever heard.  Your books have changed my life.”  Just remember all you did was bring Jesus to them.  If you keep that thought utmost in your mind, you’ll be on target for giving God the glory that belongs to him.     


[i] A.W. Tozer, quoted by Anne Ortlund, Up With Worship (Glendale, CA: Regal, 1975), 119-120).

22 Feb

Grow a Wildfire Faith

Published by Carol
February 16, 2014
 
 
Guest Blog, by Diana Pintar

Dear Friends,
 
Diana Pintar and I have been friends for over two decades and we have both experienced unthinkable personal firestorms.  The new book, Unquenchable, was recently released and Diana wrote a blog about it.  She so captured the essence of what I want people to get out of this book, that I asked for permission to post it here: 
 
I have just finished reading Unquenchable: Grow a Wildfire Faith that Will Endure Anything, by Carol Kent. I was eagerly anticipating the release of her new book and I read through it in a handful of days, sometimes responding emotionally as God touched my heart with how he has moved in her life and in the lives of others who have been utterly devastated by the firestorms of life. I plan to immediately take another journey through this book with my personal journal at my side. I need to linger longer in each chapter.
 
In Unquenchable Carol asks, “Why do some people weather such firestorms with their faith intact, able to heal and grow, while others become bitter, turn from God, and find themselves unwilling or unable to ever believe in God again? Why do some cling to or return to faith but merely limp along, while others soar in new boldness and strength?” I have asked these same questions—having, during one sad season, turned away from God when a firestorm burned through my life.” 
 
Carol continues, “These are questions we all ask. Perhaps the reason we feel so much fear when our faith falters is that we are afraid we will be left with nothing but a cold ash heap. Having been on the ash heap and back to a vibrant, bold faith, I have found myself longing to find a way to encourage others not to lose hope, but instead to endure, to thrive, and to once again burn with a wildfire faith that takes our breath away.”
 
Carol says, “I’ve walked through enough life to know better than to offer simple checklists and shallow action steps to transform a waning faith back into a roaring wildfire faith. There are no easy answers to such penetrating questions. But there are truths we can cling to, practices we can turn to, stories we can draw strength from, and God’s mercy that we can fall on. There is hope and help.”
 
Honestly, the last thing a person in pain wants or needs is “simple action steps” or “shallow check lists.” You won’t find them here. You will find a segment at the end of each chapter that Carol calls, “Come to the Fire” and “Fire-Building Challenge” where you are invited to, as Carol says, “pause and consider the implications and applications of the truths we’ve explored.” On my next read, this is where I intend to use my spiritual journal. 
 
So, the question remains—what is “wildfire faith?”
 
Carol says, “A wildfire, by definition, differs from other fires by virtue of its uncontrollable nature, massive size, the speed at which it spreads, its tendency to rapidly change direction, and its ability to leap over roads, rivers, and firebreaks. The intense heat and convection winds it produces can actually change weather conditions or even produce its own weather system, including violent tornados that send embers flying well ahead of the main fire front. These factors make wildfires notoriously difficult to extinguish. 
 
Imagine having a faith with those same qualities—a  faith so powerful, so massive, that it spreads uncontrollably and leaps over boundaries that try to contain or extinguish it. Such faith has the power not only to rise above the circumstances but also to change the “weather conditions” of our lives. Wildfire faith replicates itself, throwing sparks and embers far beyond its own boundaries, creating additional fires of faith that then spread in new directions. 
 
Wildfire faith springs from God’s Word and burns itself into your own story. It reveals the true power of the fire God has placed in you, fans the flames of your faith, stirs your passion, and emboldens you to spark new fires that will spread and forever change the landscape of this world. Such a faith does far more than simply hold on when life tries to extinguish it. It leaps in new directions, finds new fuel to keep burning, turns up the heat of a cold and deadened heart—and is unstoppable! 
 
I need that kind of faith. When life threatens to extinguish my faith, I need a wildfire faith that can endure anything. And I’ve discovered that we can experience that kind of faith! I am thrilled you have joined me in the adventure of living a life of faith that is unquenchable.”
 
I long for that kind of faith!  Unquenchable will reignite our flickering flames!  If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend it.  
 
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