|When I Lay My Isaac Down: Unshakable Faith in Unthinkable Circumstances|
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When God calls us to lay down the place, ministry or even the person we love most on the sacrificial altar, how will we respond? When her only son committed murder Carol Kent was forced to lay the person she valued most, or her "Isaac," in the hands of God. Fortunately, like Abraham before her, in the midst of her terrible sacrifice Carol encountered the God who loves her more than she loves her Isaac and she learned, little by little, to trust her Isaac to His caring hands. If you or someone you love is in the process of laying down an "Isaac," you will find Carol's heart-wrenching story and godly guidance absolutely indispensable.
|Christianbook.com: What does it mean for us to "lay our Isaac down?" Is this an experience that all Christians share?|
Carol Kent: Because of the fact that I've lived life for a while, I really believe that everybody at some point or another will have an Isaac to lay down because the world is hard and life is not perfect. In light of that I think we all need to recognize what our Isaacs are. When I think of people laying their Isaac down, or making heart sacrifices, here are the steps I think are involved:
1. Identifying something precious to us.
2. Letting go of our control of the situation, event or person as an act of worship.
3. Embracing God's love in the process of the release.
4. Resting in the outcome, even if in this lifetime we are not allowed to understand the reason behind the need for the sacrifice. We can rest in the outcome when we know that God loves us more than we love our Isaac.
Just as an aside, it's the high value of our Isaac that makes the sacrifice so demanding, because we don't know ahead of time if we'll ever get our Isaac back. I don't know if my son will ever walk in freedom again, but I still believe that his life will not be wasted.
Soon after his arrest a woman who was my friend came to me and she said "Isn't it too bad that Jason didn't just shoot himself after he shot Douglas Miller Jr.? Then you would have suffering and sadness for a while and but you could go on with your life. But the way it is now, it's just an ongoing agony isn't it?" And I thought, she doesn't understand redemption. When we're Christians we can have very purposeful living even in a prison. Whether Jason ever walks in freedom in this lifetime or the next, he can have purposeful living because we serve a God of redemption.
|Christianbook.com: What does the experience of "laying our Isaac down" teach us about the character of God?|
Carol Kent: I think that the more I get to know God, I see that He loves me when I've been unfaithful, when I've chosen to return to a sin I asked forgiveness for before and then go back to. He just loves me. I don't have to earn it. It isn't based on how I've treated him. And when I lay my Isaac down, I am choosing to be like Jesus. It is a step of maturity in my walk with Him. It's a step that says, "Your example means so much to me, Jesus, that I want to be more like you." I don't know if I can release and lay my Isaac down without taking it back sometimes. Our journey has been five years, Jeff, but as you can tell in this interview, I still cry a lot of tears. I know my son is probably realizing today that this is the five-year anniversary and this situation is the pits—it’s horrible. He’s not with his family and they need him so much. But there's a closeness to God that I hadn't experienced at this level before, because there's a preciousness when you're weak and you sense your desperate need of Him.
|Christianbook.com: How did the experience of 'laying your Isaac down' deepen your prayer life?|
Carol Kent: I am so glad you asked this question. One of the things I've taught for many years and wrote about in Becoming a Woman of Influence, is time alone with God. I say that to preface the fact that this was a part of my teaching, a part of my belief system and what I spoke about, but I had never really experienced praying without ceasing before. I now find myself being in a constant state of prayer. I realize that when I see someone I can pray for them. I pray with my eyes open all the time. I am communing with God in a new way because I am so desperate for him. Richard Foster has probably been my mentor through his writing on spiritual disciplines and he says, "There is a solitude of the heart that can be maintained at all times." I feel like this new me, as a result of laying my Isaac down, understands that solitude of the heart can be maintained at all times. I am constantly, not only aware of my son's needs and the needs of his family, but I am also looking out at creation and worshipping God for who He is. For instance, today my husband took me out for lunch. We went to a restaurant that overlooks the St. Clair River, but on the ground, in front of the river, is the jail in my hometown. So as we sat at the table I said, "Gene, we're almost on top of where the jail is. Let's pray for the families who have incarcerated loved ones and for the trials of the prisoners that are coming up.
The new me is very aware of the people who enter my life through the mail, e-mail, phone calls and speaking engagements that have arisen because of this book. Just before you called I received a call from a military wife in Germany who had just read the book and said, "Carol, I just had to call. There is an authenticity in this book that gripped my soul. I had to say thank you. Will you come speak to our military wives?" I know that God is opening doors that never would have been opened in any other way apart from this journey. So that's part of the redemptive quality of what God is doing.
|Christianbook.com: In chapter five you take note of Henry Blackaby's belief that "Every Christian is called by God to be on a mission with Him in His world." Is it possible that "laying our Isaac down" is a key component of our personal mission or purpose in life?|
Carol Kent: I absolutely love that quote. For my entire lifetime I have wanted to live my life to make Jesus smile. I don't say that arrogantly. I was a young person who as a teenager said to Jesus, "I want to do something of lasting value with my life. I want to be focused, disciplined, and do something that furthers Your kingdom agenda" I truly believe that when we look around and see God at work in our circumstances, we have the opportunity to join him. When I stand in line at visitation at the prison, I am joining God where He is at work. I am being a liaison for families that need help. Moreover, through Speak Up for Hope we are providing encouragement baskets to some of those families in which there are Bibles, phone cards, and helpful Christian books. I really believe that when we begin to experience God and we say "I align my will with yours" something happens in us. We see ministry where we never saw ministry before, and we know we are on a mission with God that matters. When we see a need and we meet that need, God reveals His purpose to us.
|Christianbook.com: How can we serve our family and friends who are struggling through the process of "laying their Isaac down?"|
Carol Kent: The first thing we can do is pray for them. But that sounds so generic to me. How we can tangibly do that in a day and age when we have access to electronic mail is to interview the person that you want to help; ask for permission to share their needs with a handful of people who know them well and then ask for very specific ways you can pray for that individual and meet tangible needs. In our case the specific prayer requests focused on the lawyers, the judge, the jurors, and our family’s needs. When God leads you to be a Stretcher Bearer for someone else, you think creatively. Maybe a bag of groceries would be a great help to that family. It might be a house payment that's coming up and due to legal or medical expenses, they really need the body of Christ to stand alongside them and physically, tangibly, financially help them. And someone else can make that need known when they can't. Get a list of e-mail addresses of people who will become intercessors in prayer for the family you are helping.
For instance, I have in my life a woman named Kathy Blume who sends out a monthly list of my specific prayer requests for my son and his family as well as everywhere I am going to speak and every interview I am having. In fact, this interview we are having is right now being prayed over by about 30 people. Using e-mail to make needs and prayer requests known becomes a profound opportunity to pray for people and then help meet their tangible needs. I think the body of Christ is longing for tangible ways to get involved in God's mission! It is a natural part of the Christian life—to be engaged in God's mission.
|Christianbook.com: How has the experience of 'laying your Isaac down' effected the ministry of Speak Up Speaker Services?|
Carol Kent: Oh my! Let me begin by explaining what our ministry is. When my ministry began I was a retreat and conference speaker. Then I had an editor who came to one of the Speak Up with Confidence Seminars, where I taught people communication skills from a Christian perspective, and she said "Carol, I think those principles have book potential." So that's where Speak Up with Confidence, my first book, was born. Now I hold the seminar in cities all over the country about ten to twelve times a year and even in some foreign countries. I am going to South Korea to present the training on a military base in April and last November I was in Beijing, China, and trained over 100 missionaries who live in closed countries in how to communicate their faith more effectively. So that has been a part of my ministry in terms of equipping the body of Christ both through the books and the seminar.
|After a while I was speaking a lot; and I was getting about 300 invitations a year and my dates were already taken. I thought: I know a lot of extraordinary Christian communicators and I need to be sharing some of these opportunities with them! But every speaker is different. Some are great with evangelism, some with Bible teaching. Some use humor to creatively communicate a point. I couldn't have one list for every type of engagement, so we decided to do this in a more organized way through a Christian speakers’ bureau. My husband now runs Speak Up Speaker Services and we help to place about 150 Christian speakers with groups that need their services. In many ways, I think of us as being mentors to one hundred and fifty Christian speakers, some of whom are up and coming and others that are widely known and well-established in Christian circles. These speakers have watched Gene and me go through this experience. There's something about watching people you've worked with endure what we've encountered over the past five years that touches hearts and changes them, too. I hope we've done this in a way that honors God and allows them to see our vulnerability and realize you don't have to be perfect in order to be a communicator for God's glory. When you're real with people, that authenticity is an important part of your ministry. So, I believe our story has been meaningful to them. At least that's what their letters, e-mails, and phone calls have suggested. I hope we have modeled for other leaders what it means to be faithful to Jesus when life isn't easy, even when it's down right hard or nearly impossible. I would never have asked for this job, nor do I want to be the Christian symbol of what it means to be strong in tough times (laughter), but I hope Gene and I are representing Jesus with the dignity He deserves in the middle of this. I know it has impacted some of their ministries in a positive way.|
The other way it has worked itself out is through the interviews that have come as a result of their book. I am now doing a lot of television interviews, some of which have already aired and that are yet to be aired, which provide me with an opportunity to reach a vast audience of probably millions of people who I never would have met if we had not gone through this tragedy. It seems like such an odd way to be known, because I wouldn't have chosen it. But it's a door God has opened and He’s given us a more far-reaching voice than we would have had if life was easier.
|Christianbook.com: Carol, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with us! Is there anything else you would like to add?|
Carol Kent: I’m learning that when God seems the most absent, He is the most present. Eric Liddell, the Olympian, once said, “Circumstances may appear to wreck our lives and God’s plans, but God is not helpless among the ruins.” When we release our Isaac to the God who loves our Isaac more than we do, we experience a spiritual empowerment that can only be understood in the spiritual dimension.
Gene and I have launched a nonprofit organization called Speak Up for Hope and we are helping churches to adopt the prison closest to their location. We are providing encouragement baskets to families of inmates and helping to network Christian educators with chaplains and wardens who can assist them in offering GED and college credit courses within prison walls so we can provide purposeful living to all inmates. For information, contact us at www.SpeakUpforHope.org or call 888.987.1212.
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