Season 1 | EPISODE 6

Does God Really Love Me?

57:07 · April 11, 2023

In this episode of Grace at the Fray, Jim Lovelady has a meaningful conversation with Laurel Kehl, a Serge Renewal team member, about her life of overseas ministry and trusting in God’s love amid life’s trials and suffering. Despite Laurel’s unmet desire for marriage and children, she shares inspiring stories of encountering the love of God in unexpected places and how those encounters have not only helped her persevere but thrive and serve as a light to others, encouraging us to seek Jesus in all circumstances.

In this episode of Grace at the Fray, Jim Lovelady has a meaningful conversation with Laurel Kehl, a Serge Renewal team member, about her life of overseas ministry and trusting in God’s love amid life’s trials and suffering. Despite Laurel’s unmet desire for marriage and children, she shares inspiring stories of encountering the love of God in unexpected places and how those encounters have not only helped her persevere but thrive and serve as a light to others, encouraging us to seek Jesus in all circumstances.

In this episode, they discuss...

  • How the Gospel Reorients Our Understanding of Who We Are, Who God Is, and What God is Like [06:50]
  • Trusting Jesus Through a Life of Singleness [18:30]
  • The Intimate Experiences of God’s Love as a Single [27:10]
  • Asking God to Help Our Unbelief [33:03]
  • How We Can Live with Confidence in God’s Love [39:25]
  • The Expression on God’s Face as He Looks at Us [51:33]

Thank you for listening! If you found this conversation encouraging or helpful, please share this episode with your friends and loved ones. Or please leave us a review—it really helps!

Referenced in the episode...

  • Experience the personal transformation Jim and Laurel talked about by joining us for Sonship Week this October in Hollywood, FL or through Mentored Sonship. Both options provide the opportunity to work with a mentor who can help you apply the gospel more deeply to your life and relationships.
  • Laurel mentioned the Czech ministry called In-Life  during the episode, while the international ministry she served with overseas is known as Cru.
  • Jim referred to Dallas Willard’s book, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God.


This episode was hosted by Jim Lovelady. Production by Anna Madsen and Sunny Chi. Music by Tommy Leahy. 

Our guest for this episode was Laurel Kehl, who serves on Serge’s Renewal team as the Mentored Sonship Program Leader.

𝑮𝒓𝒂𝒄𝒆 𝒂𝒕 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑭𝒓𝒂𝒚 𝑷𝒐𝒅𝒄𝒂𝒔𝒕 is produced by SERGE, an international missions agency that sends and cares for missionaries and develops gospel-centered programs and resources for ongoing spiritual renewal. Learn more and get involved at serge.org.

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Questions or comments? Feel free to reach out to Serge’s Renewal Team anytime at podcast@serge.org



Welcome to the Grace at the Fray—a podcast that explores the many dimensions of God’s grace that we find at the frayed edges of life. Come explore how God’s grace works to renew your life and send you on mission in His kingdom.


Jim Lovelady 00:25 Hello, beloved! Welcome to Episode 6 of Grace at the Fray, and Happy Easter! He is risen! Christ is risen, indeed. 

I’m really excited about this week’s episode because it’s a conversation about love. When I say, “God loves you,” you’ll probably have some mix of these three responses. The first is, “Meh, I don’t really care about that. And it certainly doesn’t affect my life.” The second is more doubtful. “I don’t feel like God loves me.” And you could probably point to all sorts of ways in your life where you have evidence for that feeling. And a third response might be theologically confident, “Of course! Of course, God loves me. The Bible tells me so. But either you’re constantly haunted by the meh, and the doubt, or your confidence is actually in your theological knowledge about God rather than an intimate experience with God Himself. 

Well, my guest today is passionate about helping folks not just understand but actually experience God’s love for them. And this isn’t just a warm and fuzzy kind of love. It’s a love that meets you at the frayed edges of life and propels you outward into God’s kingdom so that your life is marked by love. So let me introduce you to my dear friend, Laurel Kehl. She oversees the Mentored Sonship program here at Serge. 

Okay, timeout for a quick promo. Sonship is a one-on-one mentoring program designed to help you truly live out the power of the gospel in your daily life. I’ll have a link in the show notes for how you can get more information about it. And I should probably do an entire podcast episode on this because it is such a fundamental part of the DNA of Serge. But for now, I want to invite you to join me and the rest of the Renewal team at this year’s Sonship Week, coming this October at Park Road Presbyterian Church in Hollywood, Florida. It’s right by the beach; just saying. This conference is an extended retreat to bathe your heart in the Father’s love. It will include transformative teaching, deep worship, honest small group discussions, and personal mentoring, all based on the Sonship curriculum. Join me. It’s going to be fantastic. Go to serge.org/sonship-week for more information. 

Okay. All right. Time in. I know Laurel would approve of that message. Before joining Serge in the Renewal department, Laurel served as a missionary with Cru for 38 years. Fifteen of those were overseas in communist Poland, and then 14 in Moscow. She first met Serge staff at a Sonship conference in Moscow, which impacted her life at one of her lowest points in ministry. From there, she used her furloughs to study at Philadelphia Biblical University, where she got her master’s degree in counseling. Laurel loves developing people, especially those serving in difficult parts of the world. She is wise and full of joy. And it was a pleasure, such a pleasure, to hear her talk about God’s love. 

But as we jump in, I want you to hear a passage from Isaiah 54 that she refers to throughout our conversation. And I want you to find yourself in this passage, to take a deep breath. This is God’s word:

Sing, O barren one who did not bear; burst into song and shout, you who have not been in labor! 

For the children of the desolate woman will be more than the children of her that is married, says the LORD. 

Enlarge the site of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; 

do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. 

For you will spread out to the right and to the left, and your descendants will possess the nations and will settle the desolate towns. 

Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed; do not be discouraged, for you will not suffer disgrace; 

for you will forget the shame of your youth, and the disgrace of your widowhood you will remember no more. 

For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name; 

the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called.

Jim Lovelady 04:41 You nervous?

Laurel Kehl 04:42 Oh, a little bit. 

Jim Lovelady 04:44 Isn’t that funny.? 

Laurel Kehl 04:45 Yeah. 

Jim Lovelady 04:46 It’s like, you put a microphone in front of someone… or someone will say, “Hey, play a song. You play guitar, play a song.” I’m like, “I don’t know any songs anymore. I don’t know any songs.” They’re all gone. They’re all gone. You put a microphone in front of somebody, “Hey, talk about stuff.” 

Laurel Kehl 05:06 Yeah. Boy. I know. 

Jim Lovelady 05:09 Yeah, there’s, so you know this.

Laurel Kehl 05:13 Well, you’re easy to have a conversation with.

Jim Lovelady 05:16 Thanks. Well, hey, welcome.

Laurel Kehl 05:19 Thanks, Jim!

Jim Lovelady 05:20 Welcome to the… It’s under construction, but it’s getting there still.

Laurel Kehl 05:26 It looks great.

Jim Lovelady 05:27 Yeah. It’s got your favorite painting in it.

Laurel Kehl 05:29 Yeah, it does—Rembrandt’s Prodigal Son.

Jim Lovelady 05:33 Yeah. It’s got one of my favorites; well, I guess that is one of my favorites. That’s why it’s in my office. And also, Starry Night, which I’ll tell you that story some other time why that’s one of my favorites. I stood in front of it in the MoMA. 

Laurel Kehl 05:47 Nice.

Jim Lovelady 05:49 Every time I go, I’ll just kind of stand there, and Lori just makes fun of me. And she takes pictures of me as I stare. And she’s like, “Look at yourself.” And I’m like, yeah, it’s, anyway.

Laurel Kehl 05:58 That’s what art does.

Jim Lovelady 06:01 I love how you use art in your Sonship appointments. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Who are you? What do you do for Serge?

Laurel Kehl 06:10 Hi, I’m Laurel Kehl, saying this to my longtime friend, Jim Lovelady. I work with Serge. I head up Mentored Sonship, which is taking the gospel from here (points to her head) to here (points to her heart), helping people do that. And I head up the team of about 20 mentors, Jim being one of them. 

Jim Lovelady 06:35 You’re my boss. 

Laurel Kehl 06:37 Yeah. 

Jim Lovelady 06:38 You’re one of my bosses. I have so many bosses around here. 

Laurel Kehl 06:41 Poor Jim. But I really love what I do because I get a front-row seat to transformation in people’s lives.

Jim Lovelady 06:50 Yeah, the Sonship coaching is what changed my life back in 2006. And I mean, when I came off the field, it was the Sonship curriculum that reoriented my understanding of who I am, who God is, and what God is like. And so I look forward to talking about a lot of those things because what you are heading up has had a significant impact. And now both of us get to do that with soon-to-be missionaries, potential missionaries, coaching burned-out pastors, coaching missionaries.

Laurel Kehl 07:29 Front row seat. It’s fun. 

Jim Lovelady 07:32 Yeah. So where have you recently been doing Sonship coaching?

Laurel Kehl 07:37 Yes, we had Sonship Week with some partners called, In-Life, in the Czech Republic.

Jim Lovelady 07:45 I love the stories. In a short amount of time, so much happened while you were doing Sonship coaching, doing Sonship Week. What is Sonship Week? And what does it look like? Because we do it all over the world.

Laurel Kehl 07:59 Yeah, Sonship Week is just the basics of what we share in the Mentored Sonship course, combined, and put into five days, the 16 lessons, not all the lessons, but the major ones. And then, there are small groups where you process what you’ve heard in the talks. And you can sign up for one-on-one mentoring with a mentor who has been through Sonship and taken people through Sonship. So our friend Emily and I went and were mentoring people during the week. And we each spoke once one of the main messages. So I was the first one up, and Emily was the last one up. So the first one was on God’s confident children, just about the lavish love of the Father for His children and learning to live as beloved sons and daughters. He joys over us with great and loud singing because He’s delighted in us much more than we understand. And so a part of why I love doing Sonship is like Tim Keller says, “If you want a soda and you put some money into the soda machine, and it doesn’t come out at the bottom, what do you do? Well, you hit the side of the soda machine.” And we all have good theology in our heads, like, we would never say, “God doesn’t love me.” We would know He does, but we functionally live out of something else. And so what Sonship Week is, it does this (gently bangs the side of her head with her hand) to help the coin drop, our good theology coin drop, to our heart and then out from us. So that’s why I love mentoring people through Sonship. It’s why I love doing Sonship Weeks and Discipleship Lab, which we won’t talk about today, but I’m sure you will sometime with Marc and others.

Jim Lovelady 10:19 Yeah, these are all the various things that the Renewal team does to continually try to connect the truths of the gospel with our experience. And that disconnect is so real on a regular basis. But then when you really pause and you go, “Okay, well, let’s actually explore.” If I said, “Does God love you?” you would say, “Well, yeah, of course, of course, God loves me.” Well, our lives don’t always live that out. And the way my emotions will get ahead of my theology so often that my emotions are actually communicating the things that I really believe in at this moment. Even though if I paused, I’d be like, “Oh, yeah, I don’t believe that.” So Sonship is very much this. “Hey, let’s pause and look at that moment. What is that? What were you believing at that moment?” So you were doing that with 90 folks in Czechia, where Serge has some church plants?

Laurel Kehl 11:27 Yeah. And we were working with this other group that we’ve worked with, I think, for five or six or seven years. And they have a national ministry with college students and young professionals. So we were working with some of the people that they work with. And there were some people there who probably weren’t believers. And maybe… we heard that the babysitter doing childcare came to Christ that week, which was just really, really cool. 

Jim Lovelady 11:56 That is amazing.

Laurel Kehl 11:59 I know because they needed childcare. And so they just hired somebody. And she was mixing it up. The Czech Republic is really highly atheistic—a rich Christian history there over the years. They had the first reformer, Jan Hus, but… 

Jim Lovelady 12:22 The Moravians come out of there. 

Laurel Kehl 12:23 Yes, yes. The Hundred-Year Prayer Movement. So yeah, now the legacy of communism is really strong. And that’s what’s so thrilling about these young people who are coming to Christ; they really are on fire. And God did something very specific in a lot of their lives. We always end the week with a prayer time for people. And we split into two large groups. And then somebody would ask for prayer about something specific that they wanted to see God transform in their lives, then you put them in the middle, and we’d gather around and pray for them. That went on past midnight. I mean, they were just really confessing their sin and asking for prayer. And it was really fun to be a part of that, to see the Lord work.

Jim Lovelady 13:24 That’s amazing. I love that, when people are like, “Hey, let’s get together and pray,” oftentimes, it’s kind of like, “Okay, all right.” But when the Spirit really begins to move, and people start to just open themselves up to what the Lord is doing in those moments, and… How can you tell? Well, people are confessing things openly and publicly that’s like, “Oh, wow. Wow.” And at that moment, maybe in some other contexts, you might be like, “Oh, I’m going to be judgey on you.” But at this moment, when the Spirit’s moving, it’s like, “Oh, no, I’m like that, too. Oh, that’s me.” And then suddenly, this one person becomes us. And we’re all confessing our sins together. And the Spirit moves. There’s been a lot of conversation about revival lately. But basically, what you just described is a little 90-person revival, and who knows what kind of work the Spirit can be doing?

Laurel Kehl 14:25 That’s exactly right. You know, one of the things that really, I think, touched me the most because I love Eastern Europe and have lived in parts of it. And one of the things that touched me the most…

Jim Lovelady 14:43 You’ve been a missionary for a long time. 

Laurel Kehl 14:46 A long time. Yeah. 

Jim Lovelady 14:47 I’ll say it that way.

Laurel Kehl 14:48 Yeah. That’s right. Thank you. Several single women came to me afterward and said, “You are the only older single woman who is walking with Jesus that we know. 

Jim Lovelady 15:11 Why, like what? 

Laurel Kehl 15:13 Yeah, that’s the legacy of communism. I mean, it’s atheistic year upon year where their grandmothers in Eastern Europe who walked with Jesus are now all gone. And so it’s their children who may or may not have ever come to know Jesus and their children and children’s children, so it’s been passed down. So, the Holy Spirit really needs to stir things up, and that was what was so fun to see. But what, you know what it was, for me personally, being single for all these years, never married, was to hear those young, lovely Czech women, who are really doing a wonderful job, discipling people, seeing people come to Christ—they’re giving their lives to that—and to have them say, “You’re the only older single role model we have—” it was really humbling. And it was like I said, “Okay, Lord, I’m in. I’m in with all of the pain it’s been to be single for years and years. You know, this is one of the things… one of the fruits of what You’ve done that helps the next generation, so….”

Jim Lovelady 16:42 Yeah, it’s remarkable how that was even a thing that was said, “You are the only single woman who we know.” Because the attrition, I guess, has been so significant. That as they’re trying to walk with Jesus, they don’t know anybody. Who do they look up to? 

Laurel Kehl 17:06 Yeah, exactly right.

Jim Lovelady 17:07 So there’s that. But there’s also this beautiful, and I love this, because I’ve known you for a long time, and there’s something so glorious about how the stage in life you’re in, people are lining up, lining up to ask your advice about everything.

Laurel Kehl 17:26 You’re so sweet to say that.

Jim Lovelady 17:29 It’s because there’s data to prove that. Pastors are coming to you. The pastors of your church are coming to you and asking for your wisdom. And I feel like there’s so much fruit from… you told me the idea of singleness has been a significant source of suffering throughout your life. And then so for this to be the fruit is just… there’s such satisfaction. But I love how you’ll say in a conversation, “Yeah, they asked me about what I thought about this.” And you’re shocked, which is like, “Of course. Of course, you are.” So talk about what that has been like because I am getting to see the fruit of a long life of trusting Jesus. So talk about that long life of trusting Jesus in this way.

Laurel Kehl 18:30 Yeah, the big theme over it all is… being single, I only wanted to be a mom and have a lot of kids. That was my goal in life. And the Lord had different plans. And the big theme over all of that is that I found Jesus at a probably much deeper level than if I had had my way and had a husband and many kids. And, when you’re in suffering for a long time, the same old, same old, “Lord, aren’t you going to bring somebody or not?” That’s a place of suffering. And yet, in suffering, we find Jesus. Because where else can we go? So yeah, I kind of smiled when those young women said that to me because when I was in my 20s, I remember sitting on a hill in Polond reading Isaiah 54, which talks about the children of the single woman will be… or the unmarried woman will be more than the married woman. And your Maker is your husband, and it was like the Spirit whispered to my heart, “This is you. This is going to be you. Your children will inherit nations and will be more than the married woman.” And I’m like, “No, I don’t want to be single all my life. No, please.” 

Jim Lovelady20:02 No, thank you.

Laurel Kehl 20:02 Anything else.

Jim Lovelady 20:04 Which is crazy that Isaiah 54 comes right after Isaiah 53. 

Laurel Kehl 20:12 Oh, that’s a great point, Jim.

Jim Lovelady 20:14 The suffering servant. 

Laurel Kehl 20:16 Absolutely. 

Jim Lovelady 20:17 If you’re reading through, Jesus entered into suffering in this profound way. Well, good for Him. I’m glad for Him. I’m glad. I’m glad that I get to enjoy that. Keep reading, Laurel. Go to Isaiah 54. And you’re like, “No, thanks. No, I don’t want that. I don’t want this to be my suffering. I don’t want that.”

Laurel Kehl 20:40 As I look back at my life, I mean, it was hard at 29 because I knew 30 was coming; it was hard at 31 because I’m past my 20s, you know, the clock is ticking. And then 40—39, 40, 41—was really hard because I’m like, I’m not going to be able to have children; my biological clock is over, or almost over. So then it got a little bit easier. But there have been moments where… one that was very surprising was when my closest friend started having grandkids. It threw me for a loop. I was not expecting to struggle with that. But I didn’t have any pictures to show of my grandkids to everybody when all my friends were showing their pictures. So yeah. But I really wanted to say to those women that came to me and said, “You’re the only older single woman we know walking with Jesus,” that Jesus has a great adventure that He’s writing in your story. I don’t know what that looks like. And I pray He gives you companions along the way, whether that’s a husband or a church who will love you well or close friends. But there is life after singleness. It’s not a second-rate life. It’s a great, great privilege to be able to be totally undistracted. And one of my young friends, one time she was in high school and she has kids of her own now, she’s married and has kids, but she said to me, “You know, Laurel, if you were married, I wouldn’t get so much of you, as I do now.” And I’m like, “She’s right. She’s right.” 

Jim Lovelady 22:42 One of the things I really love about this conversation is that the church doesn’t have a really great theology of singleness. And so whenever I get to sit with someone who has, so going back to your talk, “Confident in God’s Love,” you’re so confident in God’s love that I can talk about this thing that’s very intimate in my life. My struggle with being single is a very intimate thing. And so that you would share that, I feel honored that you would share that. But I think this is just another fruit, an Isaiah 54 fruit because it’s like, “Hey, there are a lot of people who need to hear this.” There are a lot of people who need to be encouraged, not just these single women in Czechia who are coming to you going, “You’ve become this icon for what it could look like to follow Jesus.” That’s what your life is, and they see that. And it becomes this beautiful example, icon, the demonstration of you get to be an Isaiah 53 “suffering servant,” lowercase s, lowercase s.

Laurel Kehl 24:03 Wow, that’s really humbling. You know, it hasn’t always been something where Laurel’s doing great with their singleness. I mean, it’s easier now. But there were moments when, as you intimated just now, there was great shame in being single. To everybody else, I was an oddity. If there was seating at a table with a lot of people, I had to make sure that I wasn’t taking one space for a married couple who could sit there. 

Jim Lovelady 24:43 Okay, pause. Because you don’t think about those things and how you had to think about not just yourself, you also have to consider that there might be a married couple. So there’s a burden at that moment that is profound. And then you take that one little moment and multiply it by a lifetime. Okay. Yeah, yeah. I’ve never thought about that.

Laurel Kehl 25:14 Yeah, yeah. Well, I’m glad I can help you with that.

Jim Lovelady 25:18 Yeah. You got to see… you saw married people in a way that married people didn’t see you. And that’s suffering. That’s a little bitty piece of suffering.

Laurel Kehl 25:32 Yeah, I will say, I have some friends that have walked with me for 40, 45 years. These three married couples—the men have really affirmed me by saying, “I don’t know why the heck you’re still single.” The women have loved me well and brought me into their families. So I kind of show their kids that I’m their aunt. Every single needs that, I think, families who will say, friends who will say, “Just come hang out. Be part of our group. Can we call you aunt? Can you come over for dinner? Just come anytime.” We need people like that to really help us. So, I’m cheering churches on and married couples to do that, to have courage.

Jim Lovelady 26:29 Well, that’s a great example of, “Hey, this is what… you really can do this. And that’s part of being the church together. So hey, you can see a single person, go see them, look for them, and then see them.”

Laurel Kehl 26:43 I think singles crave normal life, you know. So going into what a married couple might think is absolute chaos. Maybe not every single loves that. But I would love that because I would feel like, “Well, this is what I always wanted, and I can just be a part of it. But then, I can go home afterward.” So I mean, it’s a special kind of thing. Just coming into the mess, just like God does with us in our lives. He comes into our mess.

Jim Lovelady 27:10 Yeah. Tell me some stories of experiencing the love of God as a single person. And it’s not just like, as a single person, as someone who’s wrestled with and struggled with the calling that you got, the Isaiah 54 calling. Okay, well, that doesn’t mean that this is going to be a walk in the park. There’s hardship. So tell me stories of how you’ve experienced God’s love in the middle of all that.

Laurel Kehl 27:40 Yeah, that’s been the gem in the suffering, is finding the Father’s delight in me or believing it more and more deeply. And finding Jesus, the man of sorrows, who was also single, who knew what it was like to be lonely, who knew what it was like to face every temptation a single would face, or a married person, or both. And, there have been some times, especially when I was on the field, the mission field, where I was in danger or potential danger. And suddenly, I was out of danger. One time, this is kind of a funny thing, but I was outside Moscow at a conference, and I had to go back to leave the conference venue and go back to where we were sleeping.

Jim Lovelady 28:55 Because you were serving there. 

Laurel Kehl 28:57 Yeah, because I was serving there. Yeah. And so I started to walk back, and Russia has these packs of wild dogs.

Jim Lovelady 29:09 Okay. All right, keep going. All right.

Laurel Kehl 29:12 And I was by myself, and this pack of wild dogs found me, surrounded me, and started coming in closer and closer. Well, at first, I yelled at them in Russian, then I yelled at them in English—neither of those worked.

Jim Lovelady 29:27 Neither bilingual nor…. 

Laurel Kehl 29:32 Right. Yeah. So then I picked up a stick and tried to threaten them, and that made them come closer. And I had this long fur coat on with hide outside. So they were literally nipping at my coat. And I was like, “oh,” and finally I just threw my hands and said, “Jesus, help me!” and they started backing off.

Jim Lovelady 29:58 Oh my Lord. It’s Laurel in the lion’s den.

Laurel Kehl 30:02 And they opened up a way, and I just walked through, and I was shaking, but I made it back home to where I was going. Then I told people later, “Don’t travel by yourself on these roads in this forest because….”

Jim Lovelady 30:19 Oh my goodness.

Laurel Kehl 30:22 So I mean, there have been times like that.

Jim Lovelady 30:23 I could totally picture this: this petite woman who’s yelling at dogs in multiple languages and waving a stick, and then you cry out to Jesus, and it’s silent. And the sea of wild dogs parts. And you walked through it.

Laurel Kehl 30:47 That’s exactly the way it happened. Yeah, it was. It was crazy.

Jim Lovelady 30:52 And there is your Savior. There’s your husband to protect you. You know, that’s profound to me. You know, the stories that you’ve told me before where it’s like, this is where Jesus meets you were in your greatest need. This is where Jesus becomes your rescuer. You know, it’s just, it’s profound.

Laurel Kehl 31:16 Yeah, yeah. Yeah, one other time, more recently than that one, and this has had a real deep impact on me. It just happened in the last couple of years. When COVID first started, there was nobody living in my house. There have been single women living with me periodically on and off. But there was nobody at this time. So I was by myself. And my young friend said, “You’re not going out because we’re worried about you with the pandemic. So we’re going to shop for you, we’re going to bring you food by.” And so they were, and I was really grateful for that. I could see people… 

Jim Lovelady 32:00 From a distance.

Laurel Kehl 32:01 Yeah, from a distance, six feet. There were no hugs. We were masked. I was on Zoom still for my job for what I do, mentoring. So the only contact I had with anybody face-to-face was when people brought me food—they brought groceries. And then there were no hugs, there was no touching, and so I was starved for somebody to hug me and touch me. And I realized how much that means to me. So I hadn’t really been in touch with that. But anyway, so of course, I was complaining to God. And I know families are having, they’re having all kinds of difficulties living in a closed space. And they’re all kinds of family fights and marriage arguments. But I just want somebody here that I can yell at.

Jim Lovelady 33:02 Yeah, I’m all alone.

Laurel Kehl 33:03 Yeah, I’m all by myself. So I was complaining for weeks about this. And then it was like the Holy Spirit whispered to my heart once more: “You don’t really believe that I can love you the way your heart longs to be loved.” And I’m like, “Yeah. You’re right.” I mean, I had nothing else to say. He was true; I mean, His words were true. And so I said, I started to pray, “Then You’ve got to help me. Take what I know in my head deeper into my heart so that my unbelief more and more becomes belief that You really do love me. I can’t do that. I can tell myself and rehearse it and rehearse it, rehearse it, but to really take it deep into my heart, You have to help me. You have to show up to help me.”

Jim Lovelady 34:02You think that I love you in a way that you longed to be loved. But you don’t really believe it.” 

Laurel Kehl 34:09 Yeah. Yeah. 

Jim Lovelady 34:11 “You don’t believe.” It’s profound. You didn’t say, “I realized that I didn’t believe.” It wasn’t that. It was… How does this work? It’s mysterious, right? It’s not like there was an audible voice from heaven, “You don’t believe.” No. It was, “You don’t believe that I can love you in the way that you longed to be loved.” Woah.

Laurel Kehl 34:36 That was my reaction. I mean, all I could say was, “You’re right. You’re right. But You’ve got to help me because I can’t believe any deeper than I’m already believing. So You have to help me.” So I began praying that for weeks or whatever, and one day I had to do laundry, so I took a basket of dirty clothes down to the basement, where my washer and dryer are. And I turned the corner, and there in the middle of the floor was a dead mouse.

Jim Lovelady 35:09 So you’re not a fan of, like…

Laurel Kehl 35:11 Animals? 

Jim Lovelady 35:13 Rodents and wild dogs.

Laurel Kehl 35:14 And wild dogs. That’s right. So, of course, I dropped everything, screamed, and ran upstairs. “Oh, no, no, I’m the only one here, so I have to go take care of this mouse.” So I got the broom and dustpan, went downstairs very carefully, swept it up, grimacing the whole time, carried it out grimacing, complaining to God the whole time, took it outside, got rid of it, and went on with my wash. Well, a couple of days later, I had to do some more wash. So I went down to the basement, turned the corner, and there was another mouse in the middle of the floor.

Jim Lovelady 36:01 Of course.

Laurel Kehl 36:02 And I’m like, “No! Really, really God?” So I dropped everything. And I’m like, “Okay, I’m going to go get the broom.” So I did and started sweeping it up, and it was still alive.

Jim Lovelady 36:17 So “Waaah,” and you flip out.

Laurel Kehl 36:19 More. So I flipped out, dropped everything, ran upstairs, and thought, “I’m just going to wait an hour until that thing dies, and then I’m going to go take care of it. There’s nobody to do this except me.” So an hour later (I timed it), I went down to the basement, and I couldn’t find the mouse. It was nowhere to be seen.

Jim Lovelady 36:43 Still in the house somewhere.

Laurel Kehl 36:47 Now I really have to figure out who to call, so they will help me find this mouse because it’s going to start stinking, so I’ve got to find it. So I turned around to go back upstairs. And the Maker of heaven and earth had ordered that little mouse into the dustpan where it died in the dustbin. And I started to weep. “You see me. You love me. And You are the best husband I could ever, ever have. I believe more deeply now that You love me, from two mice—two dead mice.”

Jim Lovelady 37:40 Yeah. It’s a beautiful story. I love that story because it’s where God goes, “I’m going to be the husband.” What is it in Isaiah 54?

Laurel Kehl 37:54 Your Maker is your husband.

Jim Lovelady 37:56 The Maker of heaven and earth is your husband. And He’ll take care of it. He’ll take care of it. Is there a man around here who can take care of this stupid mouse? And God’s like, “I’m that man. Oh, and by the way, I love you. And I see you.” Stupid animals. It’s kind of funny. And you told that story in Brno.

Laurel Kehl 38:34 Yes, yes. That’s what I kind of close that talk with: God sees us; God loves us. He absolutely knows where we’re weak, where we’re needy, where we’re bankrupt. We can’t pull ourselves up by our boot strings. So He wants us to be that desperate—that we cry out to Him, and He loves those prayers.

Jim Lovelady 39:04 And it is a funny place where the Lord brings out our desperation. It’s not like He forces desperation. He just kind of lets it happen, right? As you’re walking through a forest in Moscow, as you’re trying to do laundry in your basement, and you discover these different places of desperation. But you titled your talk “Confident.” 

Laurel Kehl 39:23 “God’s Confident Children.” 

Jim Lovelady 39:25 There’s a response there, inherent in that word, “confident.” It’s “I am going to be a certain way” versus “God’s Beloved Children,” which is true; we are God’s beloved children. And there’s something warm and fuzzy and settling to that. “I love being your beloved.” I’m kind of making light of it. But I don’t want to make light of that very real, true thing. But you titled it “God’s Confident Children.” So what is it about God’s love that makes you confident?

Laurel Kehl 39:55 You know, just the fact…. I mean, there’s a lot that goes into that. But He sees me, and He sees every one of us, which, when I start to think about it, blows my mind. I can’t even understand that. But that’s God. That’s our God. That’s our Father. And as He has, over the years, shown up time and time and time again to be there in a way for me that nobody else has been able to, that builds my faith so that I am not worrying so much about how am I going to have money to pay the bills? Will this relationship work out or not? All those things I’m able to say more and more, “My Father is going to take care of it.” I don’t know what it’s going to look like. I may or may not like it. But He’s going to take care of it in such a way that if I saw what He saw, I would want the same thing. My Father is good. He sees me. He’s loving. He is very personal, very intimate, to use your word. And there are some things actually, that they’re so intimate between my Father and me, Jesus and me, that I can’t find words to talk about. But it’s that intimacy that I long for, and He shows up and shows me over and over and over in different ways, “I’m the best husband you could ever have.”

Jim Lovelady 41:47 And then the fruit of that is when, not just stories of when you find yourself dependent, but an opportunity to go be bold shows itself, there’s this whole kind of prayer that turns into, “Jesus, I don’t want to do this,” or, “Jesus, I feel like I don’t want to do this by myself.” I’m thinking, in particular, you called me a couple of weeks ago, and you’re like, “Hey, do you want to go to this conference with me?” In Maryland, was it? “I’m already going to be in Maryland for a conference. Sorry. Maybe so and so could do it.” And it ended up just being you. And that’s exactly what they needed for that conference, for you to go in and do your thing. It’s like, you know, we don’t feel bold. We don’t feel confident. But everyone around us is just like, amazed and blessed and humbled and convicted by your confidence to follow Jesus wherever. He says, “Hey, I want you to go to Maryland.” “All right. I’ll take some friends.” “No, no, just you.” “Well, and some friends.” “No, just you.” “And no friends? “No, just you and Me.”

Laurel Kehl 43:05 Yeah, yeah. 

Jim Lovelady 43:07 And let’s go. 

Laurel Kehl 43:08 That’s good. And that makes me think about my call to Moscow. Because I had made some trips to Eastern Europe and lived in Poland for one year, but there was one day I was living with some friends and loved living with them and their family. They had three little kids, and I love them to this day and love their kids. But I was sewing new bathroom curtains, and my phone rang. And it was my Cru supervisor (Campus Crusade, or Cru). And I knew what she was going to say. And she said, “Laurel, we are putting a team in Moscow, Russia, because the wall has just fallen, and the Soviet Union is disintegrated. And so we’re going to put a team in Moscow and want you to help lead it.” And I was so scared. I said, “I’m not going anywhere because I’m sewing new bathroom curtains. I’m not going anywhere. I’m staying.” And I hung up the phone. 

Jim Lovelady 44:10 You hung up on her?

Laurel Kehl 44:11 A great missionary call. 

Jim Lovelady 44:14 That’s hilarious.

Laurel Kehl 44:15 So anyway, I called back and said, “I’m sorry. I just, I don’t want to go by myself. I don’t really know the team, and I really don’t want to go.” And that’s what He’s done over and over and over. He said, “No, you’re going to go by yourself. I’m going with you. I will never leave you or forsake you. I’m going with you. Be of good courage.”

Jim Lovelady 44:40 Yeah. The way that the promises of God come in is,” I will never leave you or forsake you.” And it’s like, your head knows that all the while, it’s not like you’re going, “I believe that wholeheartedly.” It’s “No. I’m going to obey this calling while I’m telling You, ‘You’re never leaving or forsaking me, right? You’re not going to leave or forsake me, right?’” Just this mantra, this continual prayer to the Lord where I say, “I believe. Help me in my unbelief.” That’s basically what it is. Right? And then you find yourself in Moscow.

Laurel Kehl 45:19 Yeah. “Sure, I’ll go for 18 months.” Fourteen years later, I came home. But you know, as I was packing up and getting ready to go, because I had finally said, “Yes, I would go,” I went because I knew that God wanted me to go. He had promised to be with me. And I knew if I didn’t go, I wouldn’t be punished because Jesus has already been punished for my sin. But I wouldn’t have the sweetness of that intimacy with Him. There would be something between us. And I didn’t want that. He had become so sweet to me then that it helped me push through that fear and hold on to that belief, “Okay, He’s gonna go with me.”

Jim Lovelady 46:11 It reminds me of something Dallas Willard said in describing what it means to grieve the Spirit. He said it’s like if you walked into a party, and the life of the party was over on the other side of the room, everyone’s surrounding Jesus, the Life of the party. Everyone’s surrounding Him. And when you walk in, He sees you. His eyes light up. He goes, “Hey, you get over here. Get in this. Give me a hug. Get over here.” And you go, “No.” And you turn away. The life of the party goes, “Oh, bummer.” That’s grieving the Spirit. You’re missing out.

Laurel Kehl 46:55 You’re missing out.

Jim Lovelady 46:56 You’re missing out. And you have tasted enough where you’re like, “I don’t want to miss out on this party. I don’t really foresee a party being in Moscow, but if that’s where the party’s at, okay, let’s go.” 

Laurel Kehl 47:08 I’m in.

Jim Lovelady 47:09 You’re in. 14 years later.

Laurel Kehl 47:10 Yeah, for sure. Yeah, that’s a really good picture, Jim.

Jim Lovelady 47:16 Yes. Dallas Willard, man. Yeah, that’s beautiful.

Laurel Kehl 47:19 Because that’s really what it’s been, becoming more and more convinced that the party is with Jesus. And I don’t want to miss it.

Jim Lovelady 47:28 Yeah. So there was one other beautiful thing that happened while you were in Brno. We don’t talk about Brno, but we’re talking about it. There’s one other beautiful thing that happened. All of these little stories you tell are so pleasing to me because I get to see the fruit. I get to bear witness to the fruit of a life lived following Jesus into the party. So tell us about that.

Laurel Kehl 47:58 Yeah. So this group, In-Life, that Serge has been partnering with, the founders of it were there the first day, and we met them. I met them within a couple of hours of being there, and the wife had heard that I speak some Polish. And so she greeted me in Polish. And I had this deja vu feeling of “I know this woman. I’ve met this woman before.” And I just kind of tagged it because I couldn’t really put the pieces together. 

Jim Lovelady 48:35 You’ve been all over. 

Laurel Kehl 48:36 Yeah. But later, when we were talking… I spent 1986 or 1987 in Poland for one year—that was under communism. And so I was there teaching English at Jagiellonian University. That was my cover.

Jim Lovelady 48:58 You do that not because you want a good English teacher. 

Laurel Keh 49:00l Yeah, because that was my cover. Yeah. But I was really training Polish Cru staff women, and really helping them get grounded in ministry. So we were doing this secretly behind the secret police’s back and all that. And there were some Czechs who had come to Christ, and they would sneak over the border to come to our training times. And this woman was one of the ones who sneaked over the border. 

Jim Lovelady 49:38 So amazing.

Laurel Kehl 49:39 So when we started saying, “Do you know so and so?” she would say, “oh, yeah, we were there at the same time.” And she was one of the ones who kind of, you know, sneaked over, and then she went back. She and her husband founded In Life, which was really birthed out of our Cru work in Poland.

Jim Lovelady 49:57 That’s amazing. 

Jim Lovelady 49:59 That’s amazing. 

Laurel Kehl 50:00 So for the Lord to give me that little picture, I was like, “Oh my gosh,” 

Jim Lovelady 55:05 Exactly, 

Laurel Kehl 55:06 I would have never known that. But years later, this is how You bring everything together in such a beautiful mosaic.

Jim Lovelady 50:16 Yeah. Right. Yeah. The kind of party that the Life of the party is making is beyond our comprehension. And if we decide, “I don’t want to spurn the Spirit. I want to follow the Spirit.” When Jesus calls me into the party, He’s calling me into something. “Hey, hold this while I do this, or just watch.” He does some sort of magic trick, right? “Hey, Laurel, pick a card.” I don’t know, just some sort of like, “What are You doing? What are You doing?” And then every once in a while, He gives you a glimpse of what He’s been up to, and like, “Hey, keep going. Keep going. You saw this. You saw me do this. You’ll see all the things, the mosaic, the tapestry I’m weaving, the beautiful things I am making as I’m making all things new. And You get to be with me. You get to participate with Me as I’m making all things new.” 

Laurel Kehl 51:19 That’s so cool. 

Jim Lovelady 51:20 Yeah. It’s amazing. Well, when someone says, “I don’t know. I don’t know if God loves me.” What do you say to them?

Laurel Kehl 51:33 I’ll usually ask another question, something like, “Well if God were looking at you right now, what would the expression on His face be?” They might say different things. But I would use that to kind of jump off and say, “You know, He does love you. And I understand what it’s like to have a disconnect there from our good theology to our heart. And you need to start talking with Him about that. You need to start asking Him to really show you what it is that’s under that expression, whatever it is. What are the currents, the deep currents in your heart? Where are you looking for love in all the wrong places? Where are you running? Where’s your heart running when the only place to be deeply satisfied with our longings the way we longed to be satisfied is in Jesus?”

Jim Lovelady 52:45 Yeah. Yeah. Psalm 124, I think, is what it was: “Let the morning bring me word of your steadfast love. Show me that you love me.” And so often, when He begins to show us His love, He shows us what we’ve been loving instead. And when we go, “Oh, I do love that,” because he pierces into our hearts. We could so easily fall into cynicism, whatever kind of argument we might have with the Lord. But to really sit with that question, “Do You love me?” “Well, you know I love you. Below all the stuff that doesn’t love you, Deep, deeper in the deepest recesses of my heart, you know, where the Spirit has kindled a fire, You know that I love you.” And, then, He just begins to work this, “Okay, I’ll show you. You haven’t been loving me in this area and this area.” “Oh, yeah, you’re right. But I love you. I still love you.” “You really love me? Even when I’ve been making a mess of my life and all these ways.” “Yeah. Hmm. I think I do love you.” “So, you love me?” “Yeah. I’ve always loved you since….” How did your pastor put it?

Laurel Kehl 54:11 Oh, God is eternal. So He will never stop loving you because He never started.

Jim Lovelady 54:19 He always did. 

Laurel Kehl 54:20 He always did. 

Jim Lovelady 54:22 Yeah. Time is no consequence for an eternal God who has always loved you. I’ve always loved you. Oh, I think I love you too. And so there’s this kind of climbing out of this hole that we’ve dug for ourselves—dry and cracked cistern that holds no water, as we go back and find living water. I mean, it’s just so beautiful.

Laurel Kehl 54:48 Yeah, it is. And walking with Jesus is a great adventure. You never know what He’s going to do, where the party is going to be. 

Jim Lovelady 54:56 You have so many stories. I want to hear more stories, but we’re kind of out of time, so I guess I’ll just have to hear more stories later. 

Laurel Kehl 55:02 Okay. 

Jim Lovelady 55:05 Thank you so much.

Laurel Kehl 55:07 It’s been delightful. Yeah. And if I can be that older single woman walking with Jesus to help younger generations… 

Jim Lovelady 55:16 Well, and me. 

Laurel Kehl 55:17 I’m all in.

Jim Lovelady 55:18 And pastors all over. It’s just really… it’s an honor. 

Laurel Kehl 55:23 Thanks, Jim. 

Jim Lovelady 55:24 Thank you.

Jim Lovelady 55:29 You know, it takes time for a tree to bear fruit. Sometimes the really abundant harvest takes a lifetime to cultivate. And at harvest time, people come from all over to experience the blessing of that harvest. Well, with Laurel, I feel like I’m witnessing a bountiful harvest of a lifelong love affair with God. Laurel is bearing much fruit, and it’s so fun to watch. You’d be amazed at the number of pastors and ministry leaders who are coming to her for advice. And it’s such an honor to get to do ministry with her. And I hope you were encouraged by her stories of discovering the great love of God in the unlikeliest places. 

And as you go, may you experience the love of God in a profound and mysterious way so that you can be a blessing to a world that is in desperate need of generous friends. So May the Lord bless you and keep you, make His face to smile down on you. May the Lord be gracious to you and turn his bright eyes to you and give you his peace. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, one God, life everlasting. Amen.

Laurel Kehl

Laurel Kehl serves as Serge's Mentored Sonship Program Leader. She grew up in NE Ohio but went out of state in order to study music therapy at Western Michigan University. The Lord intervened in that career path to lead her to CRU, where she served 38 years, 15 of them overseas, one in Communist Poland, and 14 years in Moscow, Russia. She first met Serge staff at a Sonship conference in Moscow, which impacted her life at one of her lowest points of ministry. From there she used her furloughs to study Christian counseling at Philadelphia Biblical University, where she earned a Masters’s Degree. Laurel loves developing people, especially those serving in difficult parts of the world. When she’s not doing that, she enjoys teaching ESL, reading great stories, feasting her soul on beautiful music, and playing with children!


Jim Lovelady

Jim Lovelady is a Texas-born pastor, musician, and liturgist, doing ministry in Philadelphia with his wife, Lori, and 3 kids, Lucia, Ephram, and Talitha. He is passionate about the ministry of liberating religious people from the anxieties of religion and liberating secular people from the anxieties of secularism through the story of the gospel.

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