I’m hiding in my room today. I actually have the flu, but I’m also hiding from my gardens. I had great plans to write about my fall gardens and the beautiful colors that are coming out. It is time to weed back my summer beds so that my fall mums can bloom. Unfortunately, I believe my mums are going to have to bloom without me this year.
You see, my son found a tarantula this week, and I haven’t recovered. He asked if he could keep it. We have in the past been home to an odd assortment of tree frogs, snakes (hidden in his closet because I had said no to those at some point), hamsters, guinea pigs, lizards, dogs, cats and fish but never a spider, so his request was not unusual. That’s why I’m here in my room and not outdoors. Not because I let him keep his furry friend, but rather because I didn’t and it is now roaming free in my gardens. I hate spiders more than I hate snakes. Over the years we’ve had to edit our pet allowance verbiage. “Must have legs” has now been changed to “no more than four legs allowed.”
I have a tarantula living in my garden beds. And I’ve seen the movie Eight Legged Freaks with my boys and I am freaked out. I think I’ll let him keep the garden.
Charlie is away at college and Dillon is a Junior in high school. I know the day will come when I’ll miss our ad-hoc petting zoo. Well, I’ll miss the boys, that much I do know.
I wrote a song years back describing life with boys — It’s sung to the tune “My Favorite Things.”
There are frogs on the curtains
and snakes in the closet
lizards in cages
and mud on the faucets
smelly old gym socks stuffed in every chair,
is it any wonder I’m losing my hair?
I don’t know what
happened to me
I used to be so calm
now it’s fist fights
and wrestling in my living room
and endless calls…
I wouldn’t have it any other way. Just, no spiders please.
I have a confession to make. I had originally agreed to give away a free copy of Between A Rock and a Grace Place in exchange for posting this interview. I got the book and started reading it and I couldn’t put it down. Not only could I not put it down, this book is so full of wisdom and wonderful nuggets of truth, that I started writing in it. You can’t have my copy BUT if you leave a comment at the end of this post, I will draw a name on October 11, 2010 and one lucky winner will receive a new — unmarked — copy of this book, I promise you. I have also included links at the bottom of this post for other chances to win. Blessings — Deana
Click photo to read an excerpt
Between a Rock and a Grace Place by Carol Kent (Zondervan)
From bestselling author Carol Kent comes a riveting journey of facing the impassable obstacles of life and discovering the last thing ever expected—the sweet spot of grace.
Carol Kent and her husband, Gene, are now living what some would call a heartbreaking life—their son, Jason, a young man who initially had so much promise, is now living out a life sentence for murder in a maximum security prison. All their appeals have been exhausted at both the state and federal levels—humanly speaking, they have run out of options. But despite their hopeless situation, Carol and her husband live a life full of grace. Kent reveals how life’s problems become fruitful affliction where we discover the very best divine surprises, including peace, compassion, freedom, and adventure. Through the Kent’s remarkable ongoing journey, Jason’s riveting letters from behind bars, and true “grace place” stories from the lives of others, Between a Rock and a Grace Place reveals that when seemingly insurmountable challenges crash into our lives, we can be transformed as we discover God at work in ways we never imagined. With vulnerable openness, irrepressible hope, restored joy, and a sense of humor, Carol Kent helps readers to find God’s “grace places” in the middle of their worst moments.
About the Author
Carol Kent is the bestselling author of When I Lay My Isaac Down and A New Kind of Normal. Carol is an expert on public speaking, writing, and on encouraging people to hold on to hope when life’s circumstances turn out differently from their dreams. She lives in Florida with her husband Gene.
Carol Kent is a popular international public speaker best known for being dynamic, humorous, encouraging, and biblical. She is a former radio show co-host and has often been a guest on Focus on the Family and a featured speaker at Time Out for Women and Heritage Keepers arena events. She has spoken at The Praise Gathering for Believers and at Vision New England’s Congress. She is also a frequent speaker at Women of Virtue events across the country.
Questions/Answers from Carol Kent
What are “grace places,” and how can hurting people in need find them?
All of us experience tight spots when life turns out differently from our dream. When we face the overwhelming obstacles of life, we can experience the last thing we ever expect—the sweet spot of grace. Grace places have a variety of forms, but some include:
Receiving love when we don’t deserve it
Finding safety in the middle of a fearful and uncertain experience
Being comforted by friends and family (people who are extensions of God’s love)
Experiencing the embrace of God when we have run out of strength and courage
“Grace means the free, unmerited, unexpected love of God, and all the benefits, delights, and comforts which flow from it.” (R.P.C. Hanson)
How important are contentment and gratitude in finding grace and peace?
My son, Jason, is teaching me that I need to choose contentment and thanksgiving in all things. As an inmate in a maximum-security prison, all of his personal items must fit in one small one-foot-high and one-and a half-feet-deep and two-and-a half feet long steel lockbox. He has learned to live comfortably with very little, which brings him a surprising sense of peace.
When I was visiting him one weekend I asked how he holds on to hope in the middle of a life-without-the-possibility-of-parole sentence. He said, “Mom, I have a gratitude list. Whenever the clouds of depression try to discouragement, I get out a piece of paper and write down everything I have to be thankful for. I’m thankful I have two parents who will be my advocates for as long as they live. The average number of years a lifer gets visits is five years and then no one comes anymore. I’m also thankful I can be a missionary on a compound that houses up to 1,700 men.” I’m learning from Jason that I find contentment when I choose to be thankful and when I invest my time in helping other people.
What are some unexpected gestures of kindness you’ve received in the past, and how did they help you through difficult times?
A couple of years ago Jason’s appendix ruptured and he was rushed from the prison to a civilian hospital. Gene and I were not allowed to know where he was and I prayed for someone to care for him as a mother would. He had two armed guards in his room at all times. Nurse Betty was assigned to Jason’s care. She treated him with respect and extraordinary care—and I knew she was a direct answer to my prayers. A group of people who called themselves our “Stretcher Bearers” received an e-mailed monthly update on how to help with our needs. We were blessed with meals, cards, and financial gifts, often just before we needed extra funds for the next legal payment. These amazing people waited with us for two and a half years through seven postponements of the trial.
Tell us about the Christmas gift you received. How did it help you to find grace in the middle of a seemingly hopeless situation?
Two weeks before Christmas our doorbell rang at 9:15 p.m. It was dark outside and by the time my husband, Gene, joined me at the front door, we were surprised to find no one there. It was already dark, but my eyes fell on a large, exquisitely wrapped gift. The card on top said, “Mom.” Initially, it felt like a bad joke. Nine years earlier our son, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy had been arrested for murdering his wife’s first husband and he was in prison serving a life-without-the-possibility-of-parole sentence.However, I am a “Mom” and the package was left on my doorstep, so I opened it. The note appeared to be in my son’s unique handwriting. The note expressed his deep love for me and his gratefulness for what I had done to help him since his arrest. He said a “friend” had helped him deliver the surprise. Opening the box, I discovered a gorgeous russet-colored silk jacket—and it fit me perfectly.That night I discovered something new about God and something I had forgotten about myself. He loves to interject divine surprises into our lives. His timing is always perfect, but it had been a while since I had been surprised by joy, wonder, and grace in the middle of one of the tight spots of life.
How has your definition of adventure changed over the years, and why is it important to retain adventure in your life, despite your situation?
True adventure is seeing the potential of living for things that matter in the middle of your current circumstances. We had the adventure of launching a nonprofit organization that helps to empower our son to facilitate classes by having books and DVD teaching series sent to the prison. We also have the adventure of reaching out to other people who are in crisis, which brings purpose and deep meaning to our lives.
There is a theme of surprise throughout the book. What is one of the greatest surprises you’ve had?
The powerful story of Tammy Wilson and Matthew Ben Rodriguez is in this book. Tammy contacted me after I spoke at an event she attended because my son is incarcerated in the same prison where Matt, the man who killed her mother thirteen years ago is incarcerated. She had been praying for someone to lead Matt to Christ and asked if Jason would try to meet him. It turned out that Jason and Matt were already friends and this amazing story is one of forgiveness, redemption, and restoration that can only be explained in the supernatural dimension.
Between a Rock and a Grace Place releases 10 years after your son, Jason, was sentenced to life in a maximum security prison and includes excerpts from Jason’s letters. Can you tell us how he’s doing now?
He has just taken his 8th group of men through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University Course and he will be facilitating a biblical counseling class on marriage and family this fall. He has a prayer group of twelve inmates who fast and pray for the needs of each other and their families. Prison is a depressing, dark, and sad place, but Jason is living for things that will outlast him.
When you received news about Jason’s clemency hearing being denied, how did you respond?
I wailed like a baby, sobbed, felt angry, hurt, and disappointed in God. Then we saw Jason a day after this devastating news. He was calm and very much at peace. He hugged me as I wept and said, “Mom, this case isn’t about having the best attorney or about having the favor of Florida’s top executive political leaders. If I am ever allowed to walk in freedom in this lifetime, it will be because God miraculously opened a door that was closed.” My son helps me to develop an eternal perspective and that day he comforted me.
What advice do you have for those who are stuck between a rock and a grace place?
In the middle of your own hurt reach out to someone else who needs help worse than you do. When you involve yourself in meeting the needs of others, you discover an unexpected freedom on the inside. Corrie ten Boom once said, “What did you do today that only a Christian would have done?”
As a result of your journey, you and your husband have founded the nonprofit organization Speak Up for Hope. What are the goals of the organization, and how can people get involved?
Our vision: To help inmates and their families adjust to their new normal.Our mission: We exist to provide hope to inmates and their families through encouragement and resources.Please go to http://www.speakupforhope.org for a list of practical ways individuals, churches, and organizations can help with specific projects. Our goal is to live out the truth of Prov. 31:8-9: “Speak up for the people who have no voice, for the rights of all the down-and-out. Speak out for justice. Stand up for the poor and destitute!”
Where may we connect with you further or to purchase a copy of Between a Rock and a Grace Place?
I would love for you to visit my web site at www.CarolKent.org, browse through the various events and other resources available. You may also join me on my Facebook page, please click here.
This has been a huge thrill, blessing, and honor for me to share Carol with you. When I met Carol at E-Women three years ago, I had no idea her ordeal. She was simply one of the speakers and I was a worker in the Green Room (That’s where they keep the food — go figure) I was struck by Carol’s laughter, intelligence, strength and kindness. Carol lights up a room when she enters. Not in a here I am sort of way, but rather a “there you are.” — she’s always happy to see whomever is there.
I had over heard Carol speaking to someone about a homiletics class she had just finished teaching in Washington and I whispered to another volunteer “What I wouldn’t give to go to something like that.” Carol heard me. She stopped mid sentence, looked me in the eyes and gave me her web address and invited me to Grand Rapids for her next class. Carol didn’t know me from Eve. I was thrilled and signed up as soon as I got home that night. Carol, I discovered is a certified Bible Study Fellowship Instructor, and has an incredible depth of knowledge when it comes to scripture. Granted, this isn’t the time or place to share that story, but I get to share this wonderful woman with you today and that thrills me! Whether you enter to win, or buy the book yourself you will be blessed beyond measure.
Until next time,
Disclosure Notice: A complimentary copy of this book was provided to me as a blog tour host by Zondervan in exchange for posting this interview on my blog. Please visit Christian Speaker Services at www.ChristianSpeakerServices.com for more information about blog tour management services.
“Forgiveness allows you to lead your own life and choose a joyful existence rather than giving it over to the control of others less qualified.” Andy Andrews – This was the facebook status of a friend of mine today.
I have a stack of books in my office by Andy Andrews. I haven’t read them yet, but I plan to. I used to have five different books going all at the same time and I recently discovered something. I cannot accurately glean real content when I read like that. Reading five or more books at one time is akin to sampling a buffet table without savoring the meal. I’ve tasted everything, I’m full, but am I nourished? Probably not.
In eating, I’m learning to savor each bite and focus on that. In life and in reading, I’m trying to do the same thing. Andy’s books deserve more than to be grazed, they were written to be fully enjoyed. They have nuggets of meat that need to be chewed and digested in order to provide proper emotional and spiritual nourishment.
I did add Andy to my buffet table of must-reads and have indeed started two of his books at the same time I was reviewing a third. I’ve gleaned enough to know that he is a far deeper read than I originally thought. I had to put them down and set a better table for myself. Finish the book review first – I owe the author that much and then read Andy’s books.
We all deserve nourishment, don’t we? We miss it when our scope is so broad that all we do is placate our hunger with junk food and rushing. Just look at the above quote. Forgiveness is an active verb that empowers us to lead our lives, and to choose joy. Not forgiving is akin then to giving our lives and our joy over to the control of people less qualified to control our lives.
How profound is that? If I’m busy grazing everything on the table, I miss the meat. I not only need to slow down when I eat, I also need to slow down my living and stay focused on the moment at hand. In my rush to get it all done, I’m missing the real deal.
What joyful nuggets of truth are you missing today in your rush to get it all done?
The fair is coming! The fair is coming! — The Tulsa State Fair is opening one week from today on September 30,2010. I absolutely love going to the fair; the concerts, the games, the rides, the food, the wild life, the animal shows, and everything else. Third Day is coming this year and of course my husband wants to go.
DH thinks I’m a little sheltered on the whole concert tour thing. I don’t understand how he can say that, I mean I’ve seen wonderful performers like Rick Springfield, The Starlight vocal band(Afternoon Delight),The Silver Fox (Behind Closed Doors), Tony Orlando and Dawn, Rex Smith, and who can forget — the Osmonds.
I was ten when they came to the Detroit State Fair. My mom took the day off work — without pay — to take me. I’d show you pictures to prove how close I was to the stage — Donny’s sweat dripped on me — sigh. But a caterwauling ten-year-old and a camera do not mix. I have images of a blurred purple tie over laying a whitish leisure suit on this really skinny – albeit also blurry brunette boy. I can see purple socks as well, so I am going to assume it’s Donny and you are just going to have to take my word for it here. — I did include a Crazy Horses Video from that era for good measure though.
So, what bands do you remember seeing at the state fair? Who was your favorite?
31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
We are weary and in want of a reprieve. A place in the woods where we can enjoy God’s creation and just fish.
200 homes have been rejected so far and my hope really started to fade. And then we find a road called Eagle Lane. There is a cabin there, nestled among trees and gravel roads and hiding around the bend is the most beautiful cove imagined. Why am I not surprised.
While putting together this new blog format and platform, I ran across my Nicole Johnson files. I first discovered Nicole when I was at Women of Faith back in 2004. Most of her sketches were humorous that year and being of the bulimic mindset that if a little is good well then the whole thing must be wonderful, I bought her entire set of videos and watched them all in one sitting.
I do that you know, binge on things other than food. That’s part of what this whole blog series is about, the effects bingeing and purging, and trying to find balance and peace instead of control. I don’t just eat one cookie, I eat the whole bag. I don’t just buy one book, I buy the whole set. If I find a sweater I like, I buy every color in my size. I don’t just join a health club to rehab my knee I, fill my living room with machines and wear myself out.
After a while guilt kicks in and I have a garage sale and purge my home of all evidence of my extremes.
Fortunately for me, I hang to my DVDs.
This particular video is on Nicole’s Fresh Brewed Life You Tube page, and I think it’s very profound. This sketch was written for the Revolve Tour for teens and speaks to the baggage we all carry around with us. Enjoy. Please note that the young woman acting in this video is not Nicole but rather a young woman named Katharine. Katharine Everett is a graduate from Baylor University and is a gifted and I dare say anointed young actress who really brings these sketches to life.
This post written by Deana O’Hara for Confessions of a Spiritual Bulimic, all rights reserved. September 18, 2010. Confessions is not a bible study or teaching, but rather a resting place for the stories of my life as I learn to give them voice. In everything, test the Spirits, go back and look up the scriptures mentioned, read the commentaries and learn for yourself what God’s Word would reveal to you. Disclaimer: No goods or services were received in exchange for this post. I only write about resources that I find encouraging and want to pass on to others.
Pee Wee Herman had a classic kid line in his television shows, “I know you are, but what am I?” Do you remember that chant from the play ground? I do. It was the ultimate comeback, usually spoken by a kid who’d just been called a name. I know you are, is his shield of protection. Hopefully, when we grow up we let go of childish ways. Hopefully we don’t call eachother names and if it happens we have the Grace to let it fall, leaving us unharmed.
Sometimes though, we just come up with a more adult version of “I know you are.”
What are you the Holy Ghost Junior?
Oh yeah, that’s much more mature.
I’d shared a few days ago that someone had threatened to excommunicate a few of us for participating in something they didn’t approve of. I also shared the fear that threat caused, as well as God’s response to my pleas. This particular individual is just being a bully, and is not representative of The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod in any fashion way or form. It is one thing to lovingly come along side a brother or sister (friend) and offer instruction or guidance if that is your relationship and it is quite another to butt in where you don’t belong.
What I like about my experience this week is how God responded. He provided, first Grace and then correction. The Grace came when he let me know He heard me and I was still enough to listen for him. Being still is not a strong suit for mine. Truth be told, I’m not really sure that I give God a word in edgewise during most morning devotions. I’m a bit of a talker really. Even so, good as I am at tattle telling on people I presume to be acting as the Holy Ghost Jr, God wanted me to hear something about myself as well.
A Facebook friend posted a link to a Chuck Swindoll sermon on Romans 14 – I jumped on it and listened with the most self-righteous mindset that I’ve had in a long time. Festering wounds will do that you know, make you self-righteous.
And then something wonderful happened. Another friend emailed me the sermon. And then another. For whatever reason everyone was listening to Chuck this week. He’s doing a wonderful series on relationships and the Christian Life. I’m going to go back and listen to them all.
In the mean time though, Romans 14 really jumped out at me, and I wanted to share an example from my early Christian walk. I’m going to use the message translation here, but you are free to look this passage up in your own preferred translation if you’d like. This is not a teaching, but rather a sharing of how this passage looked to me, as a young Christian 15 years ago.
Romans 14: 1 1 Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.
We’d only been members of Trinity for a few of years before Jeff and I chose to sign up to lead the youth. Our oldest, Charlie, was in third grade and we wanted to be a part of his youth group. This was a huge step of faith for me. I lived in constant fear of doing something wrong – and thus being found unacceptable. Our first event as youth leaders was a collaborative effort with the other youth groups. We were doing an all church picnic with fundraisers for the youth and Jeff and I were in charge of the jail.
People could buy warrants and have people arrested at the picnic and they would be taken by a youth member and placed in our makeshift jail. They could either post bail, serve their time which was fifteen minutes, or if they had a get out of jail free card, they could show that and be released. I was in charge of the get out of jail cards and I wanted to be cute and creative.
I created Grace cards.
And I charged for them.
Grace, a free gift of God any other time, but not today.
That was the point wasn’t it? It was a fundraiser and get out of jail cards cost less than bail so I thought I was okay. The whole indulgences, and grace is free thing had not occurred to me. I wasn’t trying to be theological, I was trying to be cute.
Someone must have said something to pastor because before long he stopped by to inquire on what I was selling. Grace cards I said, they get you out of jail for free, would you like one?
Pastor took a step backwards, looked me up and down, thought for a minute about, weighing in I’m sure my enthusiasm and his probable theological concerns and simply stated, “You do know that Grace is a free gift from God and cannot be bought right?”
I’m sure I was purple as my words came tumbling out at 100 miles an hour, “Oh yeah, I knew that. I was just trying to be cute and this is a fundraiser and I wanted to do a good job and did I do something wrong?”
Pastor smiled, patted my shoulder, and stated, “no, you are fine. Keep up the good work.” and walked away.
The flat thud of grace for a new believer trying to do good. What a wonderful example to follow.
I need to remember not to jump all over someone, just because they don’t see things the way I do. No fair resorting to childish remarks like “Holy Ghost Jr.” I need to learn to extend Grace, because Grace has been extended to me.
So, what about you. Can you remember a time when you were extended Grace or extended Grace to someone? Would you share with us?
This post written by Deana O’Hara for Confessions of a Spiritual Bulimic, all rights reserved. September 18, 2010. Confessions is not a bible study or teaching, but rather a resting place for the stories of my life as I learn to give them voice. In everything, test the Spirits, go back and look up the scriptures mentioned, read the commentaries and learn for yourself what God’s Word would reveal to you.