Kay is the Chief Knowledge and Research officer at the DXM Institute for Changemaking Innovation. Hailed as the “The Questions Lady,” Kay is a national leader in research for faith-based and mission-driven organizations. For more than 30 years, she has provided customer research, market analytics, planning, collaboration management, and organizational development to both for-profit and nonprofit organizations, including Cru, Chick-Fil-A, and Thrivent. In her knowledge-leadership role for DXM™ Institute, Kay drives the development of the Institute’s platform. She is a frequent speaker on the topics of listening and relationship-building strategies for leaders, understanding what customers value, and how generational change impacts organizations. Kay believes that great leaders don’t have better answers; they ask better questions. Her greatest joy is helping leaders understand what the world most needs their organizations to do.
Kathleen Cooke: Today’s culture is about wanting clarity, so your job as a researcher is vital. The facts tell the truth but not always the whole story. We are bombarded with identity dysphoria today. What has God been teaching you through your work and perspective on why knowing who we are in Him is how we can know the facts and the whole story?
Kay Edwards: That He has called me perfect, not because of anything I have done, but because of what He has done. His finished work is my identity. Too often, women are taught to work hard to be good so that they can be loved. I have lived too much of my life terrified of not getting it right, terrified that God would be disappointed in me.
When I was growing, up my parents taught me that no matter how hard I tried, I could never please God and that He was always angry with me for not being good enough. If I had set out to create a belief system to drive someone intentionally away from God, that would have been it, and I am saddened that that was the best my parents had to offer. How terrified they must have been, too.
I am just now learning how settled God’s love is, how the moment I accepted Jesus, God’s love settled around me like clear Jesus skin that God sees me through. I don’t have to earn His love. I am inside of His love forever. I am inside of Him.
Kathleen: As you began to grasp your identity in Him and knowing that you have been made perfect through nothing you can do but through Christ’s redemptive love, what steps did you take to grow that trust within yourself?
Heidi Rasmussen is the co-founder and COO of Freshbenies – a fresh approach to benefits. She is a communicator, strategic planner, customer service advocate, builder, mentor, defender and coffee addict. Mostly, she says she’s a “gettin’ stuff done and make it happen” gal. She worked for over 27 years in the retail industry having started at JCPenney where she worked her way up the ladder to the Divisional VP at Corporate and led the largest brand launch in JCPenney history.
Seeing the need to make company benefits used wisely, she launched Freshbenies to give employers and employees practical tools to control their dime, time and peace of mind. Freshbenies has been named to the INC. 5000 list as one of the fastest growing companies in America for the past four years and the top 100 companies for two years in a row in Dallas, Texas, as well as receiving two Health Value Awards for their innovation and for providing value-based healthcare. She is a passionate believer that people matter and is an advocate for making life simplified so that they can succeed in all God’s called them to be and do. She serves on the board for, 4WordWomen, where she mentors and encourages women in the corporate business space to live out their faith to the fullest.
Kathleen Cooke – Heidi, I love that you call yourself a communicator. We live in a polarized culture today in which just chatting with someone can be challenging. What has God taught you about how to communicate effectively?
Heidi Rasmussen – So far, 2021 has been another crazy year! With all the racial injustice and political discord, the Lord is showing me how to live out His command to “love one another as I have loved you.” The Holy Spirit is working in me to change my thinking which is changing my actions. Specifically, when I’m speaking about someone on the “other side of the aisle,” I no longer use certain words or phrases (like “What an idiot!”) in casual conversation. He reminds me that He loves that person just as much as He loves me, no matter what their background and, He wants to love that person through me. It’s the main reason I’m on this earth – to love Him, love His people and bring glory to Him.
Kathleen – I have found that having great conversation starts with a relationship foundation. Talk to us about why relationship is at the heart of candid conversations and how it affects good leadership.
Heidi – To build strong relationships, I’ve had to learn to have candid conversations. At the core, candid conversations are about love. If we love someone, we’ll have a hard, truthful conversation because it’s a lot easier to avoid those kinds of talks! When I was a young manager, I was very capable and would just come behind those who weren’t doing their job and fix everything. As I grew in my career, I didn’t have the time to do that, so I had to get good at setting clear expectations and having tough conversations when expectations weren’t met. It is harder and takes more courage to tell someone they aren’t meeting expectations and need to improve their performance. As soon as I realized this and started to master the principles around conflict, I experienced more peace in my life.
Kathleen – Business decisions are often places of uncertainty and risk. What has God taught you about how to trust Him and about taking a posture of obedience in challenging situations?
Heidi – You know that saying, “God will never give you more than you can handle?” It’s nowhere in the Bible and it’s not true. How am I, in my own strength, supposed to love another person as Jesus loves me? That is impossible. In Matthew 19, Jesus says, “…with God all things are possible.” I spent many years working hard for God and asking, What Would Jesus Do (WWJD)? Then, I learned the necessity of working with God and asking, What Will Jesus Do” through me? He’s in me and His Spirit is working through me all day every day. I just need to be available and let Him use me to do His work. I ask Him to help and guide me every step of the way. That includes when I don’t feel Him nearby. I often pray, “Lord, please help me to feel Your presence.” When I’m in a bad mood, I pray, “Lord, please lift me from this funk.” And, when I’m mad at Him, I pray, “Lord, please change me.” I can ask Him anything and be confident that “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13).
Kathleen – How do you view influence in a culture where many strive endlessly today to be influencers?
Heidi – At the risk of sounding like a broken record (if you remember what one of those is), I’ve learned that influence is about loving people and letting Christ work through me. People are influenced positively by other people they love or like on some level. I’ve learned that if I want to influence the world, I have to be salt and light to others and loving (and lovable) in all circumstances. To do that, I have to ask Christ to do it through me and be available to let him shine through me to others.
Find out more about Freshbenies here or connect with Heidi on LinkedIn here.
Australian, Darlene Zschech, is a globally acclaimed composer, worship leader, pastor, author and speaker and is well known for her ministry work at Sydney’s Hillsong Church. However, she claims her biggest success is serving God and His people whom she loves with all her heart. Alongside her husband Mark, and with their daughters, son-in-laws and grandchildren, they lead Hope Unlimited Church (HopeUC) with locations in Australia, India and the U.S. Darlene is perhaps most well known for her worship song, Shout to the Lord, but she has composed numerous other worship songs including Kiss of Heaven, Change Your World, You Are Love, In Jesus Name and the album, Revealing Jesus, which she recorded with Grammy Award winner, Israel Houghton. In 2016 Darlene recorded a live HopeUC worship album, Here I Am, Send Me, where she collaborated with other top worship leaders. In 2018 she released, The Table, and in 2019, she recorded, I Speak Jesus, with Integrity Music writer, Dustin Smith.
Her passion is to train and encourage others in worship and in the Word of God and has penned six books which have been translated into 20 different languages, including The Art of Mentoring, Revealing Jesus (devotional), Worship Changes Everything, and The Golden Thread, as well as an online worship course, Your Ministry Mentor, designed to equip global worship leaders.
She and Mark have a passion to restore Hope globally but especially to Rwandans. Their ministry provided strategic hope and healing following the 1994 horrific genocide and has continued to expand into parts of Africa, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and India. Darlene says, “First and foremost I am a woman who simply and wholeheartedly loves Jesus Christ, and serves Him through loving my family, serving the Church, and speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves.”
Kathleen Cooke: We are all working through recovering from the global pandemic on many levels, but what is the single biggest thing that has God taught you during the challenges that COVID has brought?
Darlene Zschech: The big thing for me over the last 3 years is how God has shown me the importance of The Table. It’s the importance of the gather… that as we break bread together and see and hear each other that we make the time to celebrate Christ together in a way that is personal and intentional. And… that discipleship and authentic community will be what flows from lives that have the table at the Centre.
Kathleen: You have had great successes but lots of challenges too. When those out-of-the-blue challenges came your way, what did God teach you?
Darlene: FORGIVENESS… this has been a big one for me. When I was going through treatment for cancer, I had lots of time to listen to God speak in a new and often challenging way. I had to dig deep on my theology about healing and about God’s plans and purposes. One day, He spoke to me and asked me to trust Him with my heart in a new way. To do this, He asked me to forgive those I had held deep unforgiveness toward… which REALLY shocked me. I thought I was a very forgiving person. So… slowly but surely, the Holy Spirit gently led me through person by person what I needed to set free in my heart. This was a life changing few months for me. Not only do I believe He helped with the healing in my body, but He has literally brought me so much more freedom that I didn’t even know I needed. (more…)
Kathleen Cooke: You’ve been blessed with an amazing talent and great success as a musical artist, but the business is challenging. What has God taught you about lamenting and praying differently which transforms our thinking when things don’t turn out the way we want?
Linda (Peaches) Tavani: I have experienced being at the top of success and trust me, it’s unfortunately very temporary. I know now from experience how important it is to prayerfully consider seeking God first. Pray about the vision you’re being called to and prayerfully ask for the right people in your field of interest to help you along the way. Nothing is worse than the consequences of not doing this. When in doubt, walk it out. Pray. The risks are too great and the time you waste cannot be replaced. There will always be lessons to learn. Remember our loving Father of forgiveness and grace pulls us through our mistakes no matter what we have chosen to do. My advice is to always consult God first. He’ll walk you through. If He says no, let it go!
After numerous questions were posed on the recent Influence Lab Women’s Webinar, EMERGE: Moving from Insecurity to Confidence, Lisa Kai has graciously agreed to answer several more. Read her answers in this month’s Inner View.
EMERGE Question #1 – You (Lisa) inspired me as I am a woman of color and have had challenges throughout my life with being in the minority – many of them I still have to contend with. Do you have a specific scripture you cling to or a promise of God that you have found to be helpful when you feel insignificant?
Lisa – I have two. Isaiah 54:4 “Do not be afraid; you will not be put to SHAME. Do not fear disgrace, you will not be humiliated.”’ And Proverbs 12:19 “Truthful words stand the test of time; LIES are soon exposed.”
Clinging onto these scriptures reminds me that I am perfectly made in His image and that everyone, including myself, is unique. I remember a time while I was at a shopping mall that God showed me that everyone is unique and that God loved all of us the same. I had to believe that no one was greater than the other. This revelation helped me to like myself and not be ashamed of where I came from or who I was. I had to like myself as well as accept who I am and where I came from. Exposing the lies is the first step and receiving the truth over that lie is crucial to you accepting yourself. It’s a daily thing you have to keep telling yourself until you believe it. Keep speaking the truth over yourself and stop feeling intimidated by those people that the enemy keeps telling you are better than you. You are good! You are perfect! (more…)
Kathleen Cooke: As a female producer in Hollywood who is passionate to see women thrive, what do you want women to know that they often don’t seem to comprehend?
Alexandra Boylan: God loves me! God loves you! Everything we see, past present and future, in the way women are treated is not God’s design. It never was, and as we follow Jesus, we see him constantly lifting women up. Jesus is setting the example of how things were meant to be, not the way the fall of man affected the treatment of women. Women don’t get a lot of action in our history books; we don’t see a lot of films from the female perspective. I have chosen to make it my mission to bring stories about women for women to life, with or without anyone’s permission. I pray to someday do a woman of the Bible series! There are so many extraordinary women in the Bible that many of us have never heard their story. But trust me GOD used women all the time. And now it is time to bring those stories to life and into the World. So, we ladies can know we are loved by our GREAT creator.
Kathleen: Talk about ambition. Often our Plan A isn’t God’s.
Alexandra: As an extremely ambitious person I spent my twenty’s chasing after an acting career in Hollywood. I was met with roadblocks at every time. For ten years I pounded the pavement as they say but getting nowhere. At first, I thought God had called me to the West Coast to pursue an acting career, but after so many years of anguish, rejection and pain, I couldn’t justify my own desires anymore. I packed my bags and moved to New Mexico, literally surrendered my life back to GOD. I threw my hands in the air and said LORD, I give my talents to you, guide me where you want to me to go. I spent the next year in solitude with God, praying and surrendering. Well, let me tell you, that when you truly surrender to HIM, your life will come back tenfold. I started creating my own films as a writer/producer and eventually, GOD called me to make movies for HIM. Ever since I began the journey of making female-driven faith based-films, I cannot even begin to describe the blessings GOD has poured upon my life. I pray to never fall out of favor again, always checking my ego at the door. Always asking GOD is this what you want or is this what I want. Because GOD’s plans for our lives truly are better than our own. I did have a lull in my career a year ago where I felt like I was on a dead end street and couldn’t figure out how to get off it. I was praying constantly and asking GOD to show me what he wanted me to do. But for two and a half years, as I persisted to no avail. I kept saying LORD what do you want me to do? Do you want me to stop making films? Lead me, was my constant prayer. Finally, I felt GOD’s call to me to open my home to Christian Women in Entertainment. Once I did that, God blessed me with new friendships and new working relationships. Within that year we were making another female driven faith based film. God just needed some time to bring the right people together, and I was faithful in the call. I think as long as we are searching and seeking GOD’s will above our own, we will eventually be guided to where we are to go. “Seek first the kingdom of heaven, and all shall be added” Matthew 6:33 Sometime it might take longer than we want, but I am learning patience, cause God’s timing is ALWAYS better than my own.
Kathleen: Most people would look at your inability to “make it” as an actress as a failure but God looks at failure differently. What has He taught you about this perplexing word?
Alexandra: I love this question because failure is such a tricky word to define, and I’m excited to talk about my perspective on what that word means. Because in order to know or experience failure you must also know what success is. What is the barometer for success? How do we define success? So really there is no failure if we cannot define success. I spent ten years pursuing acting in Los Angeles, I left LA with my soul crushed heartbroken, feeling like a failure for not succeeding as an actor. But years later as I opened my heart to God in a new way, it was revealed to me that I did not fail at acting, I was just not on the intended path God had for me. We may never know if something is a failure, or it could take 20 years to find out our hearts were being groomed for something else, and all that time we were collecting things along the way that we would need for our future. Having some life in the rear view mirror has really helped me understand the truth about words we try to use to define things that actually probably are not definable. Now mistakes are different. Mistakes are real, and they are definable, especially if your mistake hurt someone else. I am the first person to admit when I’m wrong and to apologize. I use to be petrified of confrontation, and it took a great deal of discipline to train myself to stay calm and be present and deal with it. Like so many things in life it was a process, I had to practice mindfully, because overcoming my terrified state of making a mistake and not being able to address it was crippling. I grew up with a very critical mother, I remember most of my childhood with my head down apologizing, and I had no idea what I was apologizing for. I learned this behavior as a child because to ask what I did not wrong was to fear the repercussions of speaking up. Like so many issues we must learn to address as adults, we learned in our youth. I had a wonderful mother who did the best she could from where she came from. But unfortunately this learned behavior took me years to reverse and overcome in my adulthood, and I am still a work in progress. Mistakes can be fixed, if we have the courage to face them, to learn from it and to rectify it. Then we can turn our mistakes into a great learning experience that we have the opportunity to grow from and become better human beings. And of course, the greatest love of all comes from the one who spoke us into existence, and who forgives our every wrongdoing, if we have the courage to ask him for forgiveness. He never fails to forgive. I also live HIS example and forgive this way. And if we all did this, mistakes would become just little learning curves as we navigate the terrain of life. Be gentle with one another, and yourself.
Kathleen: You’ve become a successful producer in Hollywood. Ever fear backlash and being outspoken about your faith?
Alexandra: I started making faith-based films about thirteen years into my career in the entertainment. I was already an active member of many women organizations in Hollywood. At first, I feared the backlash I might receive from being so open about my faith in God. Which I had plenty of. But one day I was walking across the room of a massive mixer of women in film when I was stopped by a couple of young girls. They told me that they never speak openly of their faith for fear of criticism, but since I was already so open, they felt safe to share with me their faith. I was so moved by this act of kindness from them, and it was the catalyst for me to start my Christian women in entertainment meet up at my house once a month. I thought if these women were afraid to talk about their faith, there must be so many more. I am grateful my work is influencing women to come forward and feel safe to share what they believe.
Alexandra Boylan is an actor and an award-winning writer/filmmaker and was born and raised in Georgetown, Massachusetts. where she first began her exploration into acting. She honed her craft harnessing the passion that fuels her to form her own production company, Mirror Tree Productions and co-founded Mustard Seed Entertainment, www.mustardseedent.com. She’s produced numerous feature films, including “Home Sweet Home,” “At Your Own Risk,” “Catching Faith” (currently streaming on Hulu with the sequel “Catching Faith 2” to be released later this year). and Pure Flix/Universal Studios Home Entertainment’s “Wish For Christmas.”
Her script “Switched” (currently in pre-production) was awarded the winner of the Kiaros Pro MovieGuide award for best screenplay. Alexandra is the author of “Create Your Own Career in Hollywood: Advice From A Struggling Actress Who Became A Successful Producer” (available on Amazon). She’s also co-created “Your Pizza Adventure” an innovative live action; choose your own adventure, style movie/app game. She’s an active member of Woman in Film Los Angeles where she served on the WIF PSA Board. Alexandra is the Outreach Coordinator for Ms In The Biz, and co-collaborator of the book “Thriving in Hollywood.” www.misinthebiz.com