Have you ever wished you could hear the voice of God more clearly? A sexual abuse survivor, learning to hear the voice of God was a healing game-changer for Michelle Watson Canfield. Speaker, author, counselor and founder of The Abba Project, enjoy this INNER VIEW as she shares her journey and the emotional stability and confidence she has gained through her relationship with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Bio – Michelle Watson Canfield, Ph.D., LPC
Michelle Watson Canfield is a national speaker, author, professional counselor of over 25 years, and founder of The Abba Project, a nine-month group forum for dads whose daughters are in their teens and 20’s. She writes guest articles for journals and magazines and her own bi-monthly Dad-Daughter Friday blog and has been interviewed on numerous radio and television programs. Her best-selling book, Dad, Here’s What I Really Need from You: A Guide for Connecting with Your Daughter’s Heart, is followed by her most recent field guide for men, Let’s Talk: Conversation Starters for Dads and Daughters. She has also written contributing chapters in Fathers Say and How to Disciple Men…
Do you have trouble setting boundaries and trusting God with your career choices? With decades of experience in corporate America, Dr. Debra Dean is an expert at integrating faith in every aspect of life. In this INNER VIEW, she candidly shares the lessons she’s learned to become a successful leader who influences others for an eternal difference.
Bio – Dr. Debra Dean is a Christian, first and foremost, wife and mother. She is co-founder of His Kingdom Matters, president and CEO of Dean Business Consulting, and adjunct professor at Regent University. Dr. Dean served in corporate America for 25 years. Her most recent position was Director of Business Transformation nested in the Business Intelligence Department.
Dr. Dean is a published author and public speaker. Her TEDx talk Restorative Justice and Disrupt HR presentation Respectful Pluralism: Including Everyone relates to her faith at work passion. Dr. Dean has received numerous awards, including the Colorado Springs Business Journal 2020 Women of Influence Award and the 2020 Global CEO Excellence Award: Most Influential Business Consultancy CEO. She was nominated in 2019 as an operational excellence leader with OPEX Week: Business Transformation World Summit, and in 2018, she won the Outstanding Reviewer Award for Management, Spirituality, and Religion.
Dr. Dean was born and raised in Kentucky, spent nine years in Iowa, and currently resides in Colorado with her husband Steve and their youngest son Gavin. They have six children and four grandchildren. Her mission statement is to “Inspire each person to identify their human potential and pursue authenticity while living a life of eternal focus.”
Kathleen Cooke: We all think we are smart until things flop. What has God taught you about trusting Him for the unknown and seeing failures as opportunities for what He desires for us and not what we thought we wanted for ourselves.
Debra Dean: God is teaching me to trust him. It is so easy to get distracted with self-doubt about my ability or calling, but God is teaching me to trust that He has a plan, and I need to follow His plan. When I left corporate in 2018, I thought I was following God, but I got off track and started my business instead of God’s business. The past few years have been lessons of listening, praying, trusting, obeying, surrendering, and being willing to let God provide and guide me. I’m a hard-headed woman, so this is hard. But, when I surrender and trust Him, everything else works out much better. In December 2020, I had a call from a woman that worked with the White House Faith & Opportunities Initiative. We had planned an agenda for the call, but she started crying. I could hear how overwhelmed she was with work and life in her voice. She asked me, “Where are all the Christians?” She was fighting a good fight in D.C., but she felt all alone.
This gave me fuel to move from my business to God’s business and launch His Kingdom Matters in June 2021. Wow! When I trust God, BIG things happen. I did not want people to feel alone or unequipped with fighting the Christian battle in our world today. I have prayed and asked God for wisdom and guidance, and I trust that He divinely pre-plans all the content in the ministry. We start with Bold & Courageous and move into Revival. In retrospect, there is no way I could have come up with this content. It is God. Trusting Him is still a struggle I face daily, but when I trust Him with all aspects of life, He delivers miraculous works.
Kathleen: You have worked in leadership positions in the corporate business world for many years. What are some key things you have learned in your career journey? (more…)
Ever wonder what the secret to joy is? In this month’s INNER VIEW, I talk with Suzanne Niles, Director of Relationship Development at Broadstreet Publishing and a faithful woman with years of experience in the entertainment industry as an executive producer, actress and publicist. Find out how her relationship with the Lord has impacted her life and career.
Kathleen Cooke: This month’s Influence Lab Journal focuses on JOY. Joy comes when we are confident and contented in our relationships, and specifically, our most important relationship, the one we have with God. What have you learned about the importance of a personal in-depth relationship with God?
Suzanne Niles: An intimate relationship with Christ takes personal deliberate action and faith. Action like that which moved the woman with the issue of blood to discreetly approach Jesus believing, “If only I can touch the hem of His robe, I will be healed.” She didn’t feel she needed to present her case; she didn’t have to say a word, but she determined to have confidence in His miraculous power. She had faith, a faith certain in who He was and what He could accomplish. A faith that persevered without doubt. Make your move towards the savior… He’s more than able and He’s waiting.
Kathleen: You talked about the bleeding woman’s “confidence” in the miraculous power of God. It’s confidence that we often fail at that cripples us from being obedient and acting on God’s direction. What has God taught you about stepping out of fear, embracing His plans and moving forward in His confident arms?
Suzanne: I wished I had understood earlier in my life how to judge the inner motive of my heart and to consider my underlying reasons for my actions. So many times, we do things because we want to please others and the only one we really need to please is God. We should love, not only to have that love returned but because we are loving others for Him. We shouldn’t act to have our good deeds noticed but because we want to be His hands and feet. We should sacrifice for Him because of His great sacrifice on the cross for us. I wish I could say every moment of my life was lived solely to honor Him, but it wasn’t. Yet it has now grown to be my heart’s greatest desire.
Kathleen: Your work keeps you surrounded around influencers, accomplished artists, leaders and authors. How has that impacted your life and the choices you’ve made for your lifestyle?
Suzanne: I learned during a time of financial lack to find encouragement by focusing on my future heavenly dwelling. While others around me were building their dream homes and traveling to exotic locales, I set my eyes on the hope of the eternal dwelling Jesus has prepared for me. Now that the finances have resolved my perspective has remained with the realization that time is short and earthly possessions will not last. All that is eternal are people and what matters is where they will spend eternity. It is not about what I can gain on earth but how I boldly share the gospel with all I encounter so that they may gain heaven. Fulfilling the great commission must be our focus.
Kathleen: I love that. It’s about others, God’s eternal Kingdom and the contentment of God’s eternal love we find in Jesus. What would you tell someone about how they can begin to take on that “sweet aroma” of Jesus’ contentment in their life?
Suzanne: We carry the life of Christ in us… let that sink in… let it amaze you and convict you. We are responsible for how we represent Christ. For a while, after I had given my heart to Jesus I backslid. I don’t ever want to walk a single step outside of God’s will again. My gracious God was waiting with open arms of forgiveness and acceptance when I was done chasing the empty wind. But what if I hadn’t repented or lived to regret my rebellion? I shudder to think where I might be now. Hold Him close and serve Him well. He is the only way, truth, and life and without Him people will perish. Let the legacy you leave be a life lived for the salvation of others to the glory of God.
Suzanne Niles has worked in different facets of the entertainment business for several decades as executive producer, actress and publicist. Director of Relationship Development at Broadstreet Publishing, she is the co-author of “Fast Friends, the Amazing Power of Friendship, Fasting and Prayer,” contributing writer on six published devotionals and enjoys pursuing new authors. Suzanne is also part of Beautifully Flawed Productions founded by Shari Rigby with Claire Yorita Lee.
Follow Suzanne Niles on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.
Kathleen Cooke: Your childhood and teen years were tumultuous, but God had His eyes of love and care on you. What would you tell a young person today who is living in a challenging or chaotic situation?
Gianna Simone: God has recently been teaching me that He is my provider, protector, and source of ultimate love. That He is enough, and in Him, I am never alone. People will love us but also let us down, which really hurts. Yet, He will NEVER let us down, disappoint us or abandon us. He keeps His promises – always has and always will. We will never be more loved than we are right now. He is truly for us and loves us more profoundly than we know or could understand.
Kathleen: Your life was one of constant uncertainty, and the media and entertainment industry is always rocky and challenging. Many might have given up, but you pushed forward. How do you decipher the ambitions you want from the perfect place God wants you to be in?
Gianna: Such a great question! Many years ago, I had an epiphany about this concept. I know God loves me and wants the best for me; therefore, I want what God wants for me. So, I asked God to help me see and desire the very best for my life and make my desires His desires, and vice versa. I want my will to be aligned with His will. If I feel a strong urge toward something that appears to be a good thing, I know to pursue it and act on it. It always seems to work out.
Oh… I still make mistakes. I am still human. There have been times when I have misread a situation and have had to re-assess and re-route and learn something from God that I didn’t see before. It’s all part of learning, growing, healing, and drawing closer to Jesus. I have seen and experienced lots of things in my life that I know I don’t want, which has shown me more of what I do want in my life—empowering me to move in a positive direction with confidence.
Kathleen: Fear is the word, isn’t it? How do you deal with the constant fear?
Gianna: Jesus tells us in Matthew 21:22, “Whatever you ask for in prayer BELIEVE you have received it and it WILL be given to you” Belief is so powerful, and fear can hold us back from accomplishing our mission(s). “Perfect love casts out all fear.” (1 John 4:18) Every single time I have chosen faith/love/belief over fear, it has changed my life for the better. Whether it is speaking at the United Nations (my first ever public speaking event) or jumping out of an airplane (when it was the first time for me ever to have flown in one) or standing on a cliff and bungee jumping off it (my most recent challenge), I love breaking through and overcoming fear. It builds character and strength. The mind is so powerful, and so much of what we want is right on the other side of fear.
Kathleen: Often, we never know how God uses others to influence our lives. Can you tell us about an instance when someone influenced your life and how God used that person to change the direction of your life?
Gianna: When I was in foster care, I had tried taking my life and ended up in a hospital for young girls who had tried taking their own lives, too. I shared a room with another girl around the same age as me – about 15 years old. One night before bed, we were up talking, and I told her about Jesus. I had been attending church, and the messages were starting to make a lot of sense to me, but I hadn’t asked Jesus to come into my heart yet. The next morning, we were in a group setting, all sitting in a circle sharing our feelings and thoughts. She began sharing and started telling the counselor that she had given her life to Jesus the night before, and she no longer felt sad or suicidal any longer. I was in a bit of a shock that my thoughts had influenced her. God used my mustard seed sprouts for her belief.
It delighted me knowing that it had positively made a change in her life, but more profoundly, it impacted my own belief in God and His redemptive power. I soon got out of the hospital, kept attending church, and eventually asked Jesus to come into my heart and be my Lord and Savior. Very soon after I was saved, God blessed me with my modeling and acting career, which have all led me closer to Him and profoundly changed my life. I can attest that once you give your life over to the Lord, He sets you on the most incredibly fulfilling trajectory and mission in life.
Gianna Simone is an actress, model, and producer. Her film credits include, Star Trek: Into the Darkness, Mother’s Day, I Can Only Imagine, Unbroken: Path to Redemption, and God Bless the Broken Road. She has appeared in several national TV shows and on the covers of numerous national publications. She presently hosts Love, Gianna, which focuses on plant nutrition with top doctors and athletes. She serves as a board member for The Plantrician Project and identifies as a Christian vegan.
Originally born and raised in Boston, she was abused and placed in foster care at 13 years of age. Her story is focused on overcoming obstacles in life. She founded The Gianna Simone Foundation, which focuses on bringing hope and positive change to individuals who have been neglected and abused. She worked directly with Kigali University providing scholarships to survivors of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. She was honored to present her work, on behalf of her foundation, at the United Nations. She works tirelessly with numerous organizations that assist foster care youth, sex trafficked victims, and animal rescue agencies.
Visit Gianna’s website here.
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Ruth O’Reilly-Smith – Writer, Radio Host
Ruth O’Reilly-Smith was born in South Africa. She was bitten by the radio bug in 1995 while studying to be a teacher at the University of Pretoria. She began her career working as a presenter on various music variety and talk-based shows and heading up the news desk at a Christian community radio station. Moving to the UK in 1999, Ruth continued in radio, working in the newsroom and as a host of music and talk-based programs for two separate global Christian media charities. She currently hosts a daytime radio show on UCB2, which is part of United Christian Broadcasters. Ruth’s Christian faith is central to all she does, and she is passionate about communicating God’s love through His Word. She has written for the Our Daily Bread Ministries publication for several years and is blessed with the opportunities to preach at churches, ministries and women’s retreats. Her book, God Speaks: 40 Letters From The Father’s Heart, lands in book stores in October 2021.
Ruth and her husband, Paul, have twins – a boy and a girl. They are part of a local church in Staffordshire, England, where she loves long walks in the countryside, great conversation over steaming hot cocoa, and has recently discovered the joy of baking soda bread.
Kathleen: Sometimes we forget how seemingly unimportant small choices or habitual patterns can often become a seed that grows into unwanted fields of weeds in our lives. Has God taught you a lesson on paying attention to the small choices?
Ruth O’Reilly – Smith: I’ve been reading the book of Proverbs and felt a renewed desire to seek wisdom in all my interactions intentionally, and then I had a vivid dream. My 14-year-old daughter started smoking, and for some reason, I didn’t say anything at first but felt compelled to stop her when she got up to go outside and smoke again. It was a horrible dream, but it prompted me to pray earnestly for her, and it made me realize how important it is always to be ready to speak the truth in love, perhaps especially when it comes to my role as mum to twin teens.
Kathleen: When we pay attention to God’s nudging in our soul, it changes how we prioritize our actions. Our mind is alerted, which allows us to change our heart so that we can choose differently. It is a recipe for successful living. What new thoughts changed your heart and, in turn, your priorities and actions?
Ruth: My love for God’s Word started as hard work when I wrote for Our Daily Bread Ministries. The discipline of crafting devotionals based on the Bible soon turned into a longing to read it even when I didn’t have to. I now wake up early just so I can connect with my Maker through His Word. I also enjoy closing my eyes and being still, and when I have a notebook and pen in hand, I write down what I hear Him speaking to my soul. I’ve been challenged to seek God first, above all things, and when I do, He never fails to order my steps. (more…)
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?