The Turn-Around Trip

04 Feb
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?
 

Comments

Though I imagine you get hundreds of emails, messages, tweets etc from people who you have directly and indirectly touched through the grace you exude, despite what you've gone through, I hope you know the number of people who are actually affected is exponentially more. I have to tell you, and I am sure this has probably occurred to you before, that your witness is a million times stronger because of the pain that you have experienced. Its not just non-believers that tell themselves that Christians that bubble over with the joy of the Lord only are like that because nothing bad has ever happened to them--sometimes a Christian like me says that to herself whenever she is trying to make excuses. But I always think of Carol Kent and how she has demonstrated that our joy as Christians doesn't come from the fact that God makes sure we never face adversity. It comes from the fact that God has given us the gift of His presence in our lives that can never be taken from us no matter what we face. And though this truth is immutable and visible to all who are willing to see it--it sure is nice to have an obvious and living example in you. You inspire tens of thousands more than even the may hundreds who write you emails and comment on your posts. So thanks from a Christian like me who has been inspired by you for a long time and finally decided to become one of those hundreds of people who you hear from directly. Thankyou to you for the encouragement you deliver simply by how you live your life.

what a great reminder Carol, of why we do what we do in ministry every day. Thanks for sharing!

Just recently I began a conversation with a woman after a yoga class that had just moved into our area. As we closed our conversation I handed her my ministry card and she immediately recognized my name and picture and proceeded to tell me that she had attended our Contend Conference the previous year and that I had prayed with her after one of my messages. She shared how God used that weekend to truly minister to her deepest needs. She told me she received the counsel the Holy Spirit gave her through our conversation and is passionately pursuing The Lord and making some huge growth steps.
This last season has been a tough one for me personally and to he honest I was beginning to struggle with discouragement in ministry. God used this precious woman to encourage me to continue in the race and know that there is fruit pouring fourth as we continue to serve Him through our ministries and with our lives.

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