Carol's blog

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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03 Dec

In Everything Give Thanks

Published by Carol

December 3, 2013

This would be a different Thanksgiving Day.  I carefully selected the clothes I would wear that would meet all regulations for a prison visit—nothing with Spandex in it, no sleeveless blouses, no fabrics that were thin enough to reveal the shirt worn underneath.  The forecast was for cold weather, so I placed my coat in a place where it could easily be accessed on the way out the door.  The wait outside before getting through security could be up to two hours. I set the clock for 5:30 a.m. before falling into bed.  My plan was to get to the prison early enough that my son would be surprised by getting into the visitation room earlier than he expected.

Thanksgiving Day has traditionally been my favorite holiday of the year.  My family has always made a grand occasion out of this special day.  I’m the oldest of six children and all of us are married with children of our own.  Every Thanksgiving Day as many of us as possible gather in Michigan from all over the U.S. to spend time together around a table filled with turkey, mashed potatoes, strawberry delight, sweet potato casserole, freshly baked rolls, and all of the trimmings.  After we celebrate at the table and enjoy the feast, we take a break to clean up the table. Then we gather in the family room with dessert and coffee and spend the next several hours taking turns sharing what we’re thankful for. These testimonials begin with the youngest cousin who is able to talk and move on up to aunts, uncles, and finally to the oldest, which is my 91-year-old Mama.  Some years these testimonies have included highlights of the past year; at other times there have been confessions of failure and requests for prayer.  It is always a deeply meaningful time that bonds our family together in a unique way.  We end with prayer and with singing “To God Be the Glory.”

But this year Gene and I were home, forty miles from the prison.  The plan was for me to spend the morning with Jason.  Gene would come in at 1:00 p.m., and I would then go home to cook our Thanksgiving dinner for our step-granddaughters and for Gene’s 84-year-old mother.

My son was thrilled to see me so early and the time flew by as we caught up on his activities on the “inside” and on our fall ministry in various places around the country.  But on this day, clouding Jason’s usual optimistic attitude I sensed a sadness in his demeanor.  Administrations change at prisons very regularly—and a new warden has made major changes on the compound.  Instead of getting to exercise in the yard three times a day, the inmates are only getting exercise time about twice a week.  They are “locked down” in their cellblocks for much longer periods and many educational and Christian programs have been cancelled or interrupted as newer, harsher restrictions are being put in place in the name of making the prison more “safe.” These changes have been disheartening.

Gene arrived and we enjoyed some time together as a family and then I left through the heavy double doors and started for home.  Tears welled up in my eyes as I realized the hopelessness of my son’s sentence—life without the possibility of parole.  Then I remembered what my precious Mama always asks me when I am feeling the weight of despair:"Have you thanked Him yet?" Then she points me to 1 Thessalonians 5:16-23. “Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live…May God himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole, put you together—spirit, soul, and body—and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ.”  That scripture was a good reminder of how much I have to be thankful for.

What do you need to thank God for at this time in your life? 

04 Feb

The Turn-Around Trip

Published by Carol

Carol with the producer of a TV show that will air in the Pacific Rim.It had been an intense season of ministry and I knew I was behind with getting back in touch with meeting planners, e-mail, social media responses, with three endorsements for author friends, and with a writing deadline of my own.  Why had I accepted the invitation to fly across the country from Tampa to Los Angeles for the television interview?  I needed to be at home in my “writing cave” working on my looming deadline.

But it was too late to cancel.  The interview was being taped for a program that would later air in the English speaking countries in the Pacific Rim (I am pictured on the left with the producer of the program).  I had not traveled to that part of the world and at the time I said yes to the invitation, I thought I could squeeze in time for the trip.  I knew this opportunity would give me a chance to minister via television to people I might never have the opportunity of speaking to in person.  It seemed like a wise decision at the time, but I left for the airport reluctantly.  To save time, I opted to get up at 3:30 a.m. for an early flight to Los Angeles, and I planned to return to Tamps on the “red-eye,” the overnight flight that would arrive at 5:30 a.m. the following day.

I had high energy for the five and a half hour outbound flight.  Arriving in L.A., I rented a car and drove for an hour to the studio in Simi Valley.  The interview went well and I sensed God’s sweet blessing on the taping with the charming host from Australia.  With the show wrapped up, I said my goodbyes and began driving back to LAX. Ten minutes into the trip, I hit rush hour.  For the next two hours I was in stop-and-go traffic, with rude drivers cutting me off.  I made three wrong turns with the assistance of the GPS I paid extra to rent, and wanted to throw it out the window every time I heard a relaxed female voice say, “Recalculating.”

By the time I dropped the car off on “rental row,” rode the shuttle to the airport, waited in line through the TSA screening, and finally made it to my gate, I was frazzled, and not looking forward to the all night flight ahead of me.  I opened my computer and turned to my Bible reading for the day.  These words jumped off the page:  “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.  (Matt. 11:28-30 MSG)

I felt tears welling up in my eyes.  There was a time in my early years of ministry when doing God’s work was a joy and a privilege.  When did it start feeling like so much work?  When did I start viewing opportunities to share my faith with others as a burden instead of a privilege?  I felt the dichotomy of needing to have the appearance of a Christian on fire with passion for God, but feeling like an ash heap on the inside.  I still believed everything I spoke about to be truth, but the passion I once had for God was starting to feel more like an obligation.  

As I read the scripture again, “…Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace,” I wondered what that would look like.  I bowed my head and talked to God.  “Lord, I’m tired.  I’m about as worn out as I’ve ever been. Help me to get back the passion I once had and to relax in your “unforced rhythms of grace.”  I had come to the fire and I sensed the Holy Spirit breathing fresh oxygen into my flagging passion.

It was finally time to board the plane.  The flight attendant was friendly, a bright and shining light after a long day, and I enjoyed a brief exchange with her before settling into my window seat. Many hours later we landed in Tampa and I headed for home.  That afternoon this note arrived in my e-mail box.

Dear Ms. Kent,

I had the pleasure of being your flight attendant during your flights to and from LAX yesterday. I was surprised to see you back on our evening flight and asked what you had done in the eleven hours we were in LA.  

You told me you had done a TV interview. You radiated such grace and peace, I was compelled to Google you. I was surprised to see the challenges you and your family have been through. I do wish you all the wonderful things God has provided and will continue to provide to your family. I hope to see you on another flight soon.

Sincerely,
Debi M.

The note surprised me.  So soon after I had asked God to warm my cold heart and teach me how to experience “the unforced rhythms of grace,” a flight attendant noticed “a little spark of holy fire” on my face and took the time to write her observation.  

I knew in that moment that God uses the people around us to fuel the flame within us, to stoke the fire, and remind us that the journey is worth the effort, and that our decision to be God’s woman in this world really does matter—a lot!

Question:  How has God surprised you when you were tired or discouraged?
 

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