Kathleen Cooke: We’ve been mandated to “shelter in place” during COVID-19 globally. What has God been teaching you during this unprecedented historic time with little ones at home and the pressure to keep business going to feed and protect them?
Kelsey Guerra: My husband and I are both actors in Los Angeles, and we both have day-jobs as most others do, and now during quarantine, we have been working and auditioning at home. So recently, I’ve been learning how to give myself a LOT of grace. Grace in cleaning up my house and grace in how much work I’m getting done in a day, grace with my kids…it’s been essential to getting by with a positive attitude during this challenging season. Being a mom of two under 6 years old, homeschooling, shifting how we audition as actors, AND being in a particular position where my day job is busier than ever! I’m really blessed to have a “day job” that I absolutely love, that helps me focus on others. As a health coach and essential oils specialist, I’m really helping a lot of people who didn’t know (or care) about natural solutions for their health, until now. And I get to help and empower others while also providing for my family during this time when everything else is so unsure. I’m incredibly grateful to have found that kind of opportunity.
Kathleen: Having time for yourself to engage with God and listen to His direction is challenging during normal – pre-COVID-19 times, how have you adjusted during the pandemic?
Kelsey: This has felt like more of a challenge these last weeks, but I was reminded by a mentor this week that “time with God” looks so different from one person to another. We often put this idea of “time with God” in a nicely gift-wrapped package that looks like getting up at 5 am, sitting on the porch at sunrise with a cup of coffee, and opening up the Bible for 2 hours before our day begins. But as a mom of two kids under 6, that is just not a reality for me, and I have NEVER been a morning person. So, what this looks like for me right now, is turning on worship music in the kitchen while I’m prepping meals or cleaning up, mostly in the morning and afternoon, or sometimes while I’m working, to help me get through my day. When working from home, sometimes our temptation during our kid’s “quiet moments” is to hurry and get as much done as possible. But what if instead we took just ONE of those moments to stop and just be in His presence, worship, and do whatever it is that fills our soul?
Kathleen: Taking a moment is a powerful decision because it allows God to be the boss and not us. We often negate those momentary gifts because we constantly feel like we have to push to reach goals to be significant. What have you discovered about how God sees accomplishment?
Kelsey: My top 5 strengths are: Futuristic, Empathy, Communication, Activator, Achiever. So, ambition is something I’ve got plenty of. I’m always one who would rather shoot for the moon and land among the stars. Being in tune with your God-given gifts and being open to receiving what God has for you at all times, is incredibly important. Although God does put opportunities in our path if we aren’t prepared to grab onto those opportunities when they come, they will fly right past us. I truly believe that God has my entire life in his hands, but I don’t think for a second that I can get by without putting in the work, that it will just “happen” for me because “God has a plan”. Of course, He has a plan! But he created YOU to execute it! You will discover what God wants for you, along the way. In my own way, I have these “check-ins” with God to make sure I’m still going down the right path, because there have been plenty of times, I’ve absolutely questioned it to the point of tears. But that’s really when God can work – when you throw up your hands and stop pushing so hard that you’ve pushed God out of the picture. It’s easy for ambitious people like me, to unknowingly do that sometimes. So, I check-in and make sure I never get too far off the road I’m supposed to be on. Something I also always pray during these “check-in’s” is that God would make is SO abundantly clear, without a shadow-of-a-doubt. Praying for clarity has always been a helpful prayer.
Kathleen: As an actress and a wellness advocate with Doterra Essential Oils you have an outward focus and drive to mentor, inspire and enrich other’s lives, what’s the one thing you have learned about being put in a place of influence?
Kelsey: Anyone can use influence for good or evil. It’s the capacity to have an effect on someone else’s life. That was actually my word this year: influence. And the way I have grown my own influence this year has been to allow the hard work I’ve put in to make me a better person. I often judge myself or compare myself to others, and it’s easy to do in Hollywood, as actors. To see someone (especially someone you know) have, what looks like, overnight success. I have spent most of my entire life as an actor, and I’m not really sure when or if I’ll ever have my “big break”. But it’s not about how long it takes me to get there, it’s who I become in the process, that matters the most in the end. If I can make an impact, and have a positive influence on others, I think that is what really matters most. Taking all the talents, gifts, and drive that I’ve been given, and never giving up. As long as I know I’m on the right path, I won’t ever give up.
Sam Sorbo Edited Inner View
An accomplished actress, author, radio host, and international model, Sam’s acting career spans films such as Bonfire of the Vanities and Twenty Bucks, as well as television, with recurring roles in Chicago Hope, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Gene Rodenberry’s Andromeda. In 2015 Sam won “Best Supporting Actress” from the Utah Film Awards for her performance in the feature Just Let Go. Sam wrote They’re YOUR Kids: An Inspirational Journey from Self-Doubter to Home School Advocate to inspire parents to home educate as the Sorbos home school their three children. She then went on to write, Teach from Love: A School Year Devotional for Families, to encourage Christ-like characteristics in youth. Sam co-wrote, produced, and co-starred in the feature film, Let There Be Light (Christmas, 2017; Executive producer, Sean Hannity; director, Kevin Sorbo). She and husband Kevin published its accompanying devotional, Share the Light, and they are currently in post-production on Miracle in East Texas, due out in 2020.
Kathleen Cooke: Our world seems to filled with lots of people who have short fuses lashing out. Jesus taught us as Christians to be known for the “fruit of the Spirit. One of which is long-suffering. How has he taught you to be patient?
Sam Sorbo: Start each day with a prayer of gratitude. Fill your heart with thankfulness for all the blessings you have, including your life and that you spend it in a free nation, and maybe when you go out into the fray, you can share some of that feeling with others around you, soften the harshness of today’s culture, and invite others to see the love that surrounds us all. This is one way toward a more patient demeanor. It helps, when one is centered on God’s faithfulness and love, to have patience for those who don’t know, can’t see, or won’t feel it. He is patient and long-suffering. Why? Because God lives in eternity. He’s in no hurry. He can wait for you. And He can also afford you a glimpse into that vast haven that is outside time and space.
Despite our best efforts to distract ourselves and fill our lives, God remains, through it all, to offer the perspective of an eternal plan, and grant us the patience we need.
Kathleen: Both you and your husband, Kevin, have had vibrant acting and producing careers. But when you both are pursuing demanding Hollywood schedules keeping it all together can be challenging. What has God taught you about making challenging personal choices that often interfere with one’s career?
Sam: Shortly before I was due to get married, Kevin suffered three strokes and landed in the ICU at Cedars Sinai Hospital. The strokes did major damage, although we had yet to discover their full effects. Meanwhile, I booked a national network commercial for ice cream (my favorite!) As excited as I was to have this amazing opportunity, did he want me not to go? He replied in the affirmative, confessing, simultaneously, that he needed me.
I immediately realized that I faced a binary choice: my career or the man of my life.
My response to that realization was instant and joyful. Give up my career to have everything else I desired? Easy! Done! Sometimes it is that easy, and sometimes it isn’t as clear. Pray for clarity and understand that “having it all” can sometimes mean having nothing at all. Spreading ourselves too thin is a mistake we too often make, but it isn’t necessary. Choosing is empowering and freeing. I call it prioritizing, and it is all-important, in order to be effective in life. If you struggle in decisions, make a pro and con list and don’t get distracted by the details! Just start praying writing, thinking, picturing, and the inclinations will come to direct you.
Prioritize. I’ve used that lesson several times since that day in the ICU, and it has never failed me yet.
Kathleen: You are a tireless woman who home schools kids, writes, produces and acts in films, and you have a fierce determination to influence every life you meet with the story of God’s love. What keeps you going?
Sam: As a home school advocate, my mission is to empower parents to educate their children, because the parent is uniquely gifted by God to do just that. As a filmmaker, I seek to tell stories that uplift and inspire. Jesus spoke in parables because we learn viscerally through stories. Dollar for dollar, horror films seem to offer the best monetary return on investment, but to what end? I would rather get emails like the tons we received when “Let There Be Light” came out, and still continue to receive today when people are deeply moved and changed for the better by the story we told!
Dr. Naima Lett is an award-winning actor, producer, author and co-pastor of Hope in the Hills in Beverly Hills. She loves helping folks find their purpose and follow their dreams while deepening their faith. Her candid and humorous storytelling make her an in-demand speaker, lecturer and performer who cares for souls in the City of Angels and across the globe. She successfully created, produced and toured several one-woman plays internationally while forming Lett’s Rise! Productions with her husband Kevin. They have been married for almost 18 years, having survived his battle with stage-four cancer the first year of their marriage. Studio credits include Fox’s Prison Break, Paramount’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Lifetime’s Living Proof, Lifetime’s Inspector Mom, and BBC’s Wire in the Blood. Naima graduated top honors with a BFA from Howard University, received Dallas Seminary’s first Masters in Media & Communications and became BIOLA’s first female with a Doctor of Ministry in Preaching from Talbot School of Theology. She is currently working on the release of her book series, Confessions of a Hollywood Christian. She loves the beach, movie date nights, dancing and finding great vegan restaurants. If you know any, please a please pass them along:
Kathleen Cooke: You’ve worked in several capacities in the Hollywood industry and now pastor a church along side your husband called “Hope in the Hills” in Beverly Hills. What’s the one thing you’d like to share with women that God has recently taught you?
Naima Lett (pronounced Ni ee ma) Lett: “Laugh more! This is my current life lesson from our loving Father, who laughs a lot. After enduring a ‘heavy-lifting’ season in ministry, business and relationships, I was invited to keynote a Women’s Conference in Colorado. While preparing the “God’s Joy Is Our Strength” message, I was reminded that joy is a choice. Situations didn’t change immediately, but my perspective did. Each day, we can choose paths that lead to joy. Little changes: I’m taking more dance breaks between meetings, enjoying vegan cheesecake when possible, and listening to e-autobiographies or Hamilton’s soundtrack in L.A. traffic. What about you?”
Kathleen: Often in the hurried life we all lead, we can sometimes feel that God’s left us. What’s the one thing you’d like women to know about the silence of God? Is He ever silent or are we just not listening?
Naima: “3:00 AM. First year of marriage. I found myself sprawled on our kitchen floor. Before Hollywood. Before Beverly Hills. Just me and God discussing my husband’s stage four cancer. Honestly, it was only me talking. God went silent. I got up anyway with journal and Bible, and laid there – in awkward silence. One of the hardest times in my life! But that’s when I learned to walk by faith and not by sight, that God is present even when we don’t feel Him, and that He’s always speaking through His written Word. When God feels silent, trust His Word. He promises to never leave us, and that promise reigns true.”
Kathleen: We live in a comparison culture today driven by social media. We want to be bigger, better, and “special.” What’s the one thing you’d like women to know about being unique?
Naima: ‘“Do you!”’ is a mantra we use in entertainment often. Translation: You are extraordinary in your uniqueness; so, don’t dare try to be anybody else. Be you! I had the honor of starting a professional mentoring group with a dozen creative powerhouses this year who’re as diverse as the United Nations. They thrived because we eradicated competition and comparison and encouraged each queen through love and acceptance. They soared in their careers because we celebrated their differences. The one thing that sets you apart, that was probably teased the most, is likely your most precious gift. Embrace and share it!”
Kathleen: We all impact others’ lives, but what’s the one thing you’ve learned about influence?
Naima: ‘”Hold your head up!” I charged a shy, caramel starlet fumbling her way down the long homogeneous hall of our fine arts high school. I don’t remember the conversation; but years later, I was thanked by this beautiful one for changing her life’s trajectory by seeing her and making sure that she knew she mattered. Influence can be just that: one word spoken in due season that causes us to see ourselves and our circumstances differently. Growing up under influential leaders, I learned the God-given privilege of shaping lives. May we each use our influence to fan flames and empower others.”
Lisa Swain is a filmmaker, educator, and media psychologist. She has worked as a production coordinator and supervisor with award winning directors and producers Tim Burton, John Woo, Barrie Osbourne, David Permut, and Bruce Cohen on such notable films as Big Fish, Face-Off and the cult classic Mars Attacks. She began her 2nd career in academia at Biola University in the School of Cinema and Media Studies in the fall of 2005 where she has specialized in teaching production and criticism classes. Most recently, she has completed her doctoral work in Media Psychology at Fielding Graduate University. Her areas of research include the ways in which we negotiate difference and develop identity through our interaction with media. She lives in a loft in downtown LA with her two cats, Thelma and Louise, who graciously allow her to feed them.
Kathleen Cooke: We live in a “busy” world today. Technology has made it easy to do more so we open the tap and often can’t figure out how to stop the flow. The culture demands that if we are to have a career in media and entertainment where competition and being productive never sleeps, we better be prepared to march to the beating drum. What has God taught you about how to prioritize what is important?
Lisa Swain: I confess I worship at the altar of productivity. Which means the thought of play can make my brain short circuit. I mean – what’s the point? There’s too much work to be done! The other day I had errands to run around downtown and decided to try using a scooter thinking it would be an efficient use of my time. Holy Birds! I had NO idea how much fun that was going to be. I totally forgot about the errands and just took off. I wish it wasn’t so easy for me to dismiss the thrill of doing something just for the sheer enjoyment, but I really am a Martha. I’m grateful when God catches me off guard to remind me that joy is in the being, not the doing. Turns out that on a scooter, I’m a total Mary!
Kathleen: You currently mentor young men and women as a college professor of cinema and media arts. They often struggle, as their college studies end, on how to make the right choices as they move on. What’s do you tell them?
Lisa: I think about Mother Theresa’s advice to a young priest who asked her to pray for him to have clarity. Mother Theresa told him you may never have clarity; I will pray you have trust. Sometimes the biggest obstacle to trust is mistakenly assuming I must have clarity first.
Kathleen: Working within media and culture today I have learned that we must bring clarity to this and future generations by how we’ve lived our lives. It is in the demonstration of our trust in God through our life journey and choices and how God has been trustworthy and consistent with us that we are able to bring certainty of who God is to others. Has it gotten easier over the years to trust Him?
Lisa: Madeleine L’Engle said “the great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.” I love that. I have been astonished at how much joy comes with the perspective of age.
Kathleen: You spent many years working on Hollywood sets with big egos and in an “all about me” culture that continues to dominate today, and even more so, because of social media. Yet, Matthew 20:16, tells us that “the last will be first and the first last.” What have you learned about lasting influence and the importance of an unselfish heart focused on God’s will and not on a life and career focused and clamoring for fame and fortune?
Lisa: I’m writing this still in the shadow of Rachel Held Evans’ death. In grieving the loss of her life, one of the themes that recurs repeatedly is how much she shared her platform. It comes up so often, it seems noteworthy to consider why people found it so remarkable. Is it possible that in an era of relentless self-promotion, one of the most influential and Christ-like things we can is hand someone else the mic?
Jackelyn Viera Iloff is a partner at StarLighter Films and Entertainment. As an executive producer she brings a vast array of business experience and knowledge to film making and production. Her skills including strategic planning, marketing, public relations, social media, financing, and production.
She has worked as a consultant on numerous projects in the entertainment industry including the 2018 film Walking With Herb, and the History Channel’s The Jesus I Knew, and the 2016 Houston Ben-Hur Film Premiere event. She has also worked as a producer for content and design with the Channel 55/ Wild About Houston, a local television magazine show. She has served as an Executive Advisor for the 18th Annual NFL Sanctioned Super Bowl Gospel Celebration, and Executive Producer for Lakewood Church for the Houston Recovers with Clay Walker and Friends Benefit Concert in Association with Houston’s Office of the Mayor.
Jackelyn is a Senior Advisor at Joel Osteen Ministries and Lakewood Church. She is a speaker and the author of What if You Could…find faith in the face of fear. She directs a team that implements marketing and social media strategies, event planning, coordination and logistics, outreach programs, and issues briefings. She is an ordained minister at Lakewood Church, the largest congregation in the United States. Jackelyn serves on The Elizabeth Dole Foundation Faith Council, and is Ministry Media Liaison to several entertainment leaders.
Connect with her at: jackelynvierailoff.com, or on social media at:
Twitter: @jVierailoff, Facebook: @jackelynvierailoff, or Instagram: @jviloff
Kathleen Cooke: In our fast pace over scheduled culture women are stretched and challenge. You work in media with one of the top pastors and churches in the world so your schedule must be impossible most days. How have you not let the craziness of life and career work interrupt your personal faith?
Jackelyn Iloff: Your unfailing faith is what connects you to God and His authority. If you could truly understand all that faith allows you to do you would be able to affirm the very presence of God and the very substance of His Spirit would appear right in front of you. Like Moses and others in the Bible their faith allowed them to see God’s very presence.
Kathleen: Some have said that we are presently in a new awakening of women and their significance in the Church. However, with all injustice, there has to be forgiveness before healing can transpire. What has God taught you about forgiveness?
Jackelyn: God will not tolerate unforgiveness or hard-heartedness. He forgives us over and over, no matter how many times we ask, because He loves us. But if we can’t forgive others, we cannot command His power and authority. Jesus explained this through the parable of the unforgiving servant: Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18 21-35). God wants us to operate as He does, and if we can’t forgive, we are not acting in love toward others. Unforgiveness will pollute your heart, your words, and your spirit so you can do no might works. Getting past deep hurt is difficult. On your own and without the power of the Holy Spirit you may not be able to forgive the horrible things that were done to you. But when you seek God, He will give you grace and fortify you. Let Him bring down those strongholds.
Kathleen: One of the constant complaints I hear from women waiting for career direction or how to move forward on a media project is that Gods seems to be silent. Why isn’t He responding?
Jackeylyn: God is never silent; we just are not stopping to listen. He has an answer that we may not want to acknowledge but His answer is always available to us.
Kathleen: You have recently launch Southcoast Alliance to develop professionals and media and entertainment that will affect culture positively. What’s the one thing you’ve learned about being a positive influence?
Jackelyn: You can’t be a candle in the wind. You have to be a lighthouse so full of light that you dispel the darkness and fear, so all are attracted to God’s message. That is influence. It’s changing hearts and minds to a better place. Isaiah 54:2-3 says, “Enlarge the place of your tent…spread to the right and to the left…your offspring will possess the nations…”
Deborah Smith Pegues is a bestselling author of 16 transformational books, speaker, CPA/MBA, and founder/CEO of The Pegues Group, Inc., a boutique church financial consulting firm based in Southern California. Her book, 30 Days To Taming Your Tongue (over 1 million copies sold) has revolutionized conversations around the world. She hosts a weekly TV program, Winning with Deborah, on the TBN Salsa Network …where people turn to learn practical ways to apply the Word of God. Follow Deborah on FB: Deborah Smith Pegues, blog: http://www.confrontingissues.com/blog, or sign up for her book excerpts and “News, Nuggets, and Nudgings” at ConfrontingIssues.com.
Kathleen Cooke: What’s the one thing you’d like to share with women that God has recently taught you?
Deborah Pegues: The Holy Spirit is constantly reminding me to rest my confidence in the all-sufficient God rather than in my experience, intellect, or connections. During my career, I have invested heavily in courses to perfect my technical, relational, and social skills only to find that eventually a assignment or situation was greater than my ability to respond. What a relief it has been to show up in any situation totally relying on the grace of God to prevail. He has never failed me—and He gets all the glory.
Kathleen: What’s the one thing you’d like more women to know about that could improve the quality of their life?
Deborah: Although women are excelling in many areas of society from politics to business, still too many are failing miserably when it comes to handling their finances. Some women have simply resigned themselves to the fact that they just do not “have a head for figures” and put their trust in others to handle this key area. I’d like to see women abandon this mindset and take steps to learn more about investments, and begin to understand financial jargon and other aspects of money in order to make the financial decisions that improve the quality and stability of their future.
Kathleen: What have you learned about forgiveness especially when you’ve been wronged?
Deborah: When my six male siblings turned against me because my father selected me to be the executrix of his Will, I learned that I needed more than a strong resolve to forgive, to let go of the anger I felt when they falsely accused me. I needed Divine assistance. By the grace of God, I stopped rehearsing the offense and chose to become the peacemaker. It worked. Today, my first response to an offense is to immediately say, “I release that.” I cannot afford to wait for a positive feeling or an apology to begin to pray for the offender. I cling to Romans 8:28 which assures me God will bring something good out of all my adversities.
Kathleen: We all impact others lives, but what’s the one thing you’ve learned about influence?
Deborah: What I have learned about influence is that it carries a heavy responsibility because others are watching your behavior to emulate it. I would hate to think that I caused someone to stumble because I fumbled. Further, influence brings a hoard of people who want to “pick your brain” and know the secret to your success. Managing these requests can put a strain on your already limited time. A key strategy is to have answers to frequently asked questions already written or recorded and ready to be shared electronically at the press of a button.