I think God loves irony, don't you? I think He smiles every time He twists life events so that the unexpected happens.
I was part of one of His plots last weekend when I joined celebrity Christian author/speaker Carol Kent, comedian Jinny Henson, and radio personality Dr. Joneal Kirby to speak at the "It's a Mom's Thing" conference in Monroe, La. As the least-known speaker there, I had the opportunity to team up with such professionals and work with women like organizer Chrys Howard, who allowed me to learn from the best.
We were there to discuss the importance of motherhood and I found myself mesmerized by the stories of faith shared by my Christian sisters. If you haven't read Carol Kent's book, "When I Lay My Isaac Down," you should. With that as her speaking platform, Carol shared her life story of her son's upbringing in Michigan, his involvement in the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis (and ultimately Special Operations), and his current residence in a Florida penitentiary where he is, short of a miracle, incarcerated for life.
I had read Carol's book and knew Jason's story, but I was in awe of this woman's faith. She and her husband Gene have turned their son's prison tenure into an oasis of ministry. In the moments we had alone, Carol shared that recently Jason's clemency hearing had been denied, in spite of hundreds of letters from fellow inmates who wrote of their friend's love of the Lord and his leadership in turning them to Christ. Faithful in spite of that disappointment, Carol and Gene continue with the ministry they started, aiding the families of inmates who struggle to feed and entertain their children while visiting their loved one in the penitentiary.
We shared a ride to the airport early Sunday morning, Carol and Gene needing to arrive in Florida in time to visit their son. Carol said statistics indicate that, after five years in the penitentiary, most families stop visiting. Not Gene and Carol. They have moved from Michigan to Florida, just to be near their only child and to encourage him in his Christian work.
Jinny Henson was hired to make the women laugh, but it wasn't the humor that captivated me as much as it was her personal story of tragedy. One year ago, her 12-year-old daughter was on a church field trip when the bus in which she was riding flipped, throwing the adolescent out the window. Jinny's daughter died three weeks later, yet here was this mother, 12 months later, telling of her faith in a mighty God while somehow managing to make women laugh.
Two women, bound by painful histories, both using their life-examples to encourage the conference attendees. Who wouldn't see Jesus through their lives? There were others I met whose love for Christ was obvious. Chrys Howard's husband, Johnnie, picked us up at the airport and transported us from one event to another. With mega businesses and holdings in several real estate endeavors, his humility was refreshing. Johnnie bent over backwards to meet our every need. Husbands and children of the vocal team had traveled to Louisiana to sell CD's and participate in some of the skits. Several on staff told us they were there to serve and would do anything to accommodate us. All we had to do was ask. Such sweet spirits, all giving to share in this powerful ministry.
Ironic, isn't it? I attend these events to bless others, yet I always come away being the one blessed. Isn't that just like God?