Entertaining Angels, God with Skin On

Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2

It is important to have friends you can be 100% yourself with. I have those. We try our best to be there for each other whenever we are needed. Life happens sometimes though and our friends are not always available. Those are the moments I take to God. Sometimes he sends me someone, and sometimes it’s just us. He must have known I needed an angel this week.

Well, not literally, I don’t think anyway. I can say one thing, they did not come in the neatly wrapped package I usually prefer (ie well known to me and female.) They are part of a group I am in and I believe they use a nom de plume. People I trust know them and therefore I talk to them on occasion. 

Don’t get me wrong, I know that blind trust is a sin and we don’t discuss anything deep or too revealing – safety rules and all – but we do talk sometimes, mostly about comedy, sometimes about faith. I like the whole no preconceived expectations aspect of that and I enjoy talking with them. They know more than I and I love surrounding myself with people further down the path. It’s how I grow.

I also set boundaries because they appear to be male. I’m not above temptation and will not replace things I should tell my husband with a stranger. There is no lure in that for me. I’m in ministry to serve God. Even so, I am fully aware of my own potential pitfalls and watch for those slopes.  The fact that He (meaning God) can even use me astounds me sometimes. I don’t want to mess that up.

I find it interesting how willing we are to let down our masks with strangers, more so than with friends. While I reveal a lot here for you, I do strive to keep the private out of the personal. I only share that which I think might benefit someone else because we are not alone in our daily struggles. Some things are universal. While it is true there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, not everything is everyone’s business nor do I wish to glamorize sin.

I’m a sinner saved by Grace, through faith. No more. No less.

Even so, I caught myself telling him things I don’t typically share with people in my comedy group. Like how I wasn’t raised in a church. I don’t talk about that. Must have needed to.

 I caught myself wanting to know who they really were and even tried to trick them at one point. The Holy Spirit tweaked me on that one and I apologized.  I finally gave up the ghost.  I believe that God puts people in our lives for a reason. This weekend I needed a prayer partner. I was genuinely upset about something and had requested prayer for a person. I failed to explain that I was on the ceiling myself over the situation but somehow talking with them calmed me down.

Ministry can do that. So many people are hurting in this world and I’ve yet to find a channel or way to listen to their hurt without drowning in it myself. I never want to become so cold-hearted that I feel nothing when someone shares pain. Even so, balance is good.

 I needed someone to talk to and this person was there and I appreciate that.

Truth is, knowing me, as much as I’d like to believe I’d be fully myself I’d probably try to impress them with my brilliance or baffle them with my BS and neither sounds satisfying. 

God gave me an ear to listen, and heart to hear and prayers when I needed them most.

Not knowing who he really is, keeps God’s face ever before me. — And for that, I am thankful.

“I will not wish thee riches nor the glow of greatness, but that wherever thou go, some weary heart shall gladden at thy smile, or shadowed life know sunshine for awhile. And so thy path shall be a track of light, like angels‘ footsteps passing through” — Words on a church wall in Upwaltham England

Fully Alive Coming to a Theater Near You.

"Fully Alive is the opposite of partly alive and a wonderful alternative to totally dead!" - Ken Davis CLICK PHOTO TO FIND A THEATER NEAR YOU.

Where are you in life right now? Are you Fully Alive or semi-conscious? Or are you where I was nine years ago – mostly dead?

Some of you may wonder, what in heaven’s name would prompt a 46-year-old women to start riding a bicycle, do stand up, audition for movies, and write a book. That’s easy. It isn’t a midlife crisis.

These changes in my life are brought to you by Grief. Failure. and Grace.

Never in my wildest imagination did I think God would have more in store for me than PTA, Bible Study and Carpool. There was a time when my life could be described as super busy and super disconnected, whether I wanted to admit that or not. Fortunately for me, I’ve met wonderful people over the last nine years – Ken Davis is such a person.

I wanted to learn how the be a better teacher and speaker. Pursuant to those goals, I signed up for Ken’s classes on communication and performance management. Through his stories, blogs, and classes he has shared this journey to becoming Fully Alive with all of us, step by step and mile by mile. I received far more than I bargained for when I went to his seminars.

Before she passed away last fall, my friend Tiffany used to say that between her anxiety and control issues, she was pretty much a hot mess of crazy. I can relate. Hanging with comedians has changed me in great ways. Instead of just learning a craft, I’m learning how to lighten up and live Fully Alive. I owe these men and women a lot.

Fully Alive is Ken’s newest comedy DVD. This is a movie you can watch with your friends and family. It is hilarious, inspirational, life changing and not to be missed by anyone.

Edited: April , 2012 – while the Movie Fully Alive was a special showing only on March 22 and 23 – see kendavis.com to find out more about this wonderful DVD.

This post written by Deana O’Hara for Redemption’s Heart. No goods or services were given in exchange for this endorsement. I only share resources I believe my readers will enjoy as much as I do. 

I’m Sorry + I Forgive You should = Peace but does it?

No sweat…just send me your best cash love offering and we’ll call it all good. – the dude I insulted last weekend after I apologized. (see Medusa Face)

I think his response is hilarious – and frankly God’s way of telling me to lighten up just a scoshe and breathe. It took about 48 hours for him to see my apology and respond to it. The dude is not on twitter that much. I died a million deaths in those 48 hours let me tell you.

Honestly, I stink at receiving forgiveness. If I were to walk this out, I’d take him at his word and then avoid him for the rest of my life. Which is self-defeating really, but again. it’s how I roll sometimes even with God. I have a lot to learn. If you want to know more about that see Can You Give Me Three Days?

I’m not different from any of you. We all need forgiveness even if we aren’t willing to admit it. I have this hole inside of me sometimes that craves to be filled and rather than receive the right things, like forgiveness, I’ll fill it with fear and overachieving perfectionism and call it good even if it isn’t.

My abandonment issues can be so bad that I catch myself jumping up and down causing great internal injuries just to prove I’m loveable. It’s annoying at times I’m sure. Failure and Forgiveness are not part of my family tree. Not only do we never admit fault when we can blame someone else, we never forgive others even if they do try to make amends. Forgiveness has always been that carrot we hold out to each other while we make the other person jump through hoops to “earn it.” not that they ever do of course.

It took me years to unlearn those teachings.

While I’ve learned the difference between I’m sorry and I was wrong and how to forgive others who are asking for forgiveness, I’ve yet to fully learn how to receive forgiveness in the right spirit. I don’t trust it really. I’d much rather buy my way out of a bad deal than receive grace any day. Which is why I thought his response is so funny.

I noticed a lot of you (over 1,000) found my blog this last week looking for how to say I’m Sorry and Letting Go. No one came to my blog this week looking for forgiveness per se, but that’s really what they were looking for when they searched “I’m sorry.”

Something interesting happened this week. My elder pulled me aside after our Sunday School class and asked if I’d teach on Luke 21. The whole chapter. We are on 19 right now and I’d have roughly two weeks to prepare. I immediately said yes, and then excused myself to throw up.

Yep, that’s how I roll. I say yes to God and spend as much time praying to the porcelain god as I do the real one. Hope that doesn’t offend, I’m just trying to keep it real.

I’ve taught before. I’ve spoken a lot of places, acted in some movies and have done stand up and yet again I’m giving  God my list of “why I can nots” and He tells me “Just read it will ya?” The very first paragraph caught me right between the eyes.

The Widow’s Offering

 1 As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. 2 He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. 3 “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 4 All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

All of my reasons of why I can’t, courtesy of the evil committee that lives rent free in my head.

1. I’m not good enough – did you not see what I did to that man? A stranger yet!

2. He hasn’t even forgiven me.

3. What if I’m not forgivable?

4. Why are you wasting your time on me?

5. I’m a neurotic mess, isn’t there someone more qualified?

The God I worship for whatever reason doesn’t seem to want someone who can give out of the wealth of their gifts. He sees my two copper coins for what they are – and calls it beautiful. My poverty: My sinful nature,  my pride, my fears, my needs for forgiveness even when I don’t know how to receive it yet, my ego, my low self esteem, my neurosis and bad attitude, my warped sense of humor and my willingness to be humble – all of it matters to him.

 I have no confidence (as the world would define confidence) in my own gifts and / or abilities, but I am in confident in this – “Being confident in this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 1: 6 (NIV) –

And I have confidence in knowing that He will indeed bring people into my life who continue to model true forgiveness and that I will eventually find peace that lasts .

Now, if you think that God would just leave me here – you would be wrong. Click on the photo below to hear His answer to my doubts. Thanks!

Happy Thanksgiving

From my house to yours, I wish all of you a very happy Thanks Giving Day — even my Canadian friends. Blessings Deana

Thomas Merton on Gratitude.

Gratitude is more than a mental exercise, more than a formula of words. We cannot be satisfied to make a mental note of things which God has done for us and then perfunctorily thank Him for favors received.

To be grateful is to recognize the love of God in everything He has given us — and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is grace, for it brings with us immense graces from Him. Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder, and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference… Gratitude is therefore the heart of the Christian life.

Blog Tour: Between a Rock and a Grace Place, Carol Kent

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

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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

 

   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.    

Please leave a comment on this post for a chance to win a free copy of Between a Rock and a Grace Place.Other Chances to Win include: FACEBOOK VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR , The Tour Itinerary,as well as  Christian Speaker Service Blog.     

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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,   

Deana    

    

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.