Shirin Taber is the founder and director of the Middle East Women’s Leadership Network. She is a media producer and the author of Muslims Next Door. With an Iranian Muslim father and an American Catholic mother, she has lived in the United States, Europe and the Middle East. Today she helps women leaders create media for their mission. She partners with United Nations, NGO and faith-based organizations. As result of her network gatherings, training, mentoring and follow up efforts, several collaborative media projects have emerged for the Middle East and around the world. Network participants create TV, film, audio, print and internet projects contributing to the larger movement of developing female leaders and innovative content. The network’s five sectors include peacebuilding, religious freedom, trauma healing, women’s empowerment and faith-based initiatives. The Los Angeles Times, Detroit Free Press, Fox News, NYTimes.com and Christianity Today have featured Shirin’s writing and work among Muslims and Christians alike. Previously, Shirin served with Cru, Jesus Film Project, Visual Story Network and Christian Broadcasting Network. She is a graduate of the University of Washington and speaks English, Farsi and French. She lives in Southern California with her husband Clyde Taber and three children. For more information, contact: www.mideastwomen.org or email@example.com
Kathleen Cooke: You’re a champion of women globally. How do you think God sees women and what has He taught you about empowering them?
Shirin Taber: I am learning that God’s heart breaks for women all over the world. God’s vision for us is to not only focus on our “personal success”, but to champion women everywhere. We must think beyond our salaries and glass ceilings to “setting the captives free”. We must invest deeply in helping marginalized women who are the victims of cultural and religious abuse. We must mentor, coach and empower women everywhere. I am convinced the fastest way to shift norms and inspire women to reach for change is through media. Thus, I believe women need to use the powerful platform of media to advance human rights and freedom for all. When we create great content, women will find the courage and role models to become change agents.
Kathleen: Women are often criticized because they’re overly ambitious – pushing their agenda more than God’s. What have you learned about surrendering what you want for what God wants?
Shirin: I find that the best kind of ambition is Christ-centered and Kingdom focused. In college, I learned the principle of “relational thinking”. In every decision, I ask myself if the “outcome” relates to or advances Christ’s purpose. When I can line up my actions with Scripture, I can ambitiously throw myself into any endeavor or project. I don’t need to fear or make a second guess. I can freely, and evenly stubbornly, move in a direction until God closes the door. Healthy ambition for me is waking up every day and praying “God use me”. And trusting him for the results.
Kathleen: Stepping out into uncharted territory requires new levels of courage. What have you learned about stepping into uncertainty?
Shirin: For me, the process of breaking through fear was trial and error. I found I needed to try a lot of things and make some mistakes until I figured out what God uniquely gifted me to do. Once I developed a clear vision of his calling in my life, I learned I could move in a direction with absolute confidence. I could trust that he would give me the words and skills to execute his will. I use to be afraid to speak in public or lead a strategy session, today I am fearless whether at the United Nations or among a group of trusted colleagues. I now know that I am empowered by Christ and he wants to use me.
Kathleen Cooke: You’re a TV host, world speaker, and influencer why are you passionate and vocal about the message of God’s freedom?
Cynthia Garrett: Being free doesn’t look like what the world calls free. The world says freedom is about the ability to do whatever you want. But real freedom in Christi is about doing the right thing according to the Word of God and knowing that, no matter what, your conscience is clear. What exactly do I mean? Think of the rhetoric today. Most Women would tell you that freedom is about the right to choose to do whatever you want with your body and decisions concerning your body. Sadly, what lies on the other side of this reasoning is incredible bondage, disillusionment, and pain form making choices that are not in line with God’s will for His daughters. The proof of this lies in the fact that, at some point, only sadness and regret follow abortion, pre-marital sex, or any other kind of choice we make that is not according to God’s Word.
I walk in total freedom now because I made the choice to submit to God’s Word 100%. It’s not easy. I fail sometimes. But, since my commitment is there my heart eventually lines itself up with whatever the Word is teaching me and telling me. Recently, I have been taught that the realization of your greatest potential and purpose flourishes when you walk thoroughly in the freedom that comes from submitting fully to the Word. Scripture says; The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, and only fools despise wisdom and instruction. Well, I’ve learned that even if I don’t understand what God’s Word is saying, my healthy fear of the Lord causes me to obey. From the place of obedience, He imparts His knowledge to me so that I understand the ‘why’ behind what He told me to obey in the first place. From here I experience not only freedom but joy!
Kathleen: As women, we’ve experienced injustice at some time. Whether from some kind of sexual misconduct, inequality in the workplace, which may have included financial discrimination, or just quality of life due to health or physical issues. It’s easy to get angry-bitter. What’s God taught you about breaking injustice chains and embracing freedom in forgiveness?
Cynthia: The greatest thing I have learned about forgiveness is the definition of what forgiveness is and what it is not. Forgiveness does not mean the person who harmed me is right and that what occurred was not wrong. Forgiveness is not a Disney movie in which I am expected to live happily ever after with someone who may have abused me or abused someone I care for. Forgiveness is simply taking my right to judge and giving it to Jesus, trusting Him to be the judge. I never look at forgiveness as something I do for the other person. I look at it as the thing I do for myself. Jesus died for the forgiveness of my sin and I need His forgiveness daily. Because this is such an important part of who He is, I understand that it must be an important part of who I am. By walking in forgiveness of others who have hurt me, lied to me, taken advantage of me, or wronged me, I break the chains off my life that would anchor me to their past harm causing me damage over and over again. In breaking the chains of un-forgiveness, I am free to fly as high as God will take me.
Kathleen: You and your family, (singer, songwriter, actor, record producer, Lenny Kravitz is your brother) have spent years working successfully in the entertainment business, how does understanding what influence is change everything?
Cynthia: I have learned that influence is a God-given gift. It is not self-created. It is to be used for others and not for yourself. I have worked in the entertainment business for 20 years. I have learned through my own career, and the careers of friends far more famous than I, that influence is everything. It’s actually more powerful than money. I may not be rich but God has always blessed me with the ability to influence people to go the direction I want them to go. Thinking, as we are taught, that the life was about ‘me’ caused me to use my influence for myself. For many years my focus was my career, my needs my wants.
So I used the ‘tools’ of my influence for myself. Those tools looked like many things- my fun and convincing personality, the people I know, even the friends I have been blessed to have. In not understanding influence as the God given gift it really is, I used it wrongly, encouraging others to follow me incorrectly at times, or for selfish reasons at other times. My inability to understand that influence was a huge gift, wasted many years in which God could have achieved far more impart, through me, on the world around me.
Seeing missed opportunities from God’s perspective has taught me to use my God- given ability to influence others in the right way. Whether through my work choices or through my behavior publicly and privately, today, I use my ability to influence others to get them to know Christ in a real way with real benefits for their life, not mine. We are God’s hands and feet on the earth and He tells us to go influence the world because we actually can. When you begin seeking to see people and situations with God’s eyes you begin to understand and prioritize His will for them and not your will for them. This is when you become a ‘sweet and lasting’ aroma of change. This not only increases your influence with others, and on others, but it increases your confidence and your ability to live a life free of needing others and setting agendas for your needs on others. This is pure freedom! When he can trust you to make it about Him and not yourself, He can bless you in ways too numerous to mention.
Kathleen: Finally, what do you wish you had learned earlier in life?
Cynthia: The one thing I wish I had learned much earlier in life is that it’s not enough to just believe in Jesus. You have to LIVE for him in spirit and in truth. Real abundance and victory come from making every decision according to the will of Christ. This means really knowing the Word of God for yourself, being submitted to doing whatever it says, and living however it prescribes. Period. Zero compromises should be the pursuit. Most Christians I meet today are saved… but not surrendered. I wish everyone understood the power that comes from being saved AND surrendered. You have to go all in!
Cynthia Garrett’s successful career began with hosting MTV & VH1 interviewing legendary artists, Mick Jagger, Prince, Aretha Franklin, Madonna, Elton John, Justin Timberlake and more and then going on to host numerous other entertainment network and cable TV shows. You might have seen her on lots of celebrity Red Carpet Award shows, or THE BUZZ, or Hollywood Insider, or as a guest host on NBC’s Regis Philbin and Kathy Lee Show. She is the first African American female to host a network late-night talk show, Later w/ Cynthia Garrett for NBC and is the creator of the ABC TV series Black Girls. Her writing career includes being the first celebrity columnist for InStyle magazine and a columnist for LA CONFIDENTIAL magazine and she encourages audiences to read her explosive and transparent life story in her new book Prodigal Daughter: A Journey Home To Identity
Cynthia’s a graduate of USC’s Law School, with a certificate in Comparative Law from Oxford University. She is passionate about her Christian faith, and is a sought-after international speaker and Creator, Executive Producer, & Host of TBN’s The Sessions w/ Cynthia Garrett or what she calls a “Walk-show…and not just another Talk-show.” The Sessions was birthed to bring international dialogue on relevant Christian issues affecting men and women together to engage with their faith in thoughtful conversation.
Connect with her at: CynthiaGarrett.org or on FaceBook: @CynthiaGarrettMinistries,
Twitter: @SpiritualChick or on Instagram: CynthiaGarrett
Mary Beth has dedicated her life to telling compelling stories that reveal truth and bring hope to everyone she meets. Striving to bring individual stories of redemption, hope, and truth to the world, she has produced a number of documentary and narrative-style films. Most recently Mary Beth executive produced JUMP SHOT ~ The Kenny Sailors Story, which features Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Dirk Nowitzki and also produced Imperdonabile/UNFORGIVABLE which tells the story of Alice and Emmanuel who were on opposing sides during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. In 2014 and 2015 Mary Beth associate produced IMBA MEANS SING and then produced RETURN TO MOGADISHU: REMEMBERING BLACK HAWK DOWN. In 2016, Mary Beth continued her passion to tell redemptive stories by associate producing MAMA RWANDA, which chronicles two Rwandan women-entrepreneurs who prevailed over extreme poverty in the shadow of genocide. She then went on to executive produce, TOWER, the story of the heroes that emerged from the 1966 shootings at the University of Texas tower and winning an Emmy for Best Historical Documentary in 2018. Mary Beth’s passion is to tell life changing stories that resonate and change the culture. It fuels her heartbeat and her guiding light is God who is the source of her every direction.
Kathleen Cooke – The media and entertainment is challenging. One must fight a battle to get something in production, battle each day on the set to make it come to life and then battle to get it seen. How have you learned to fight these endless battles?
Mary Beth Minnis – It is easy to forget that we are all engaged in a spiritual battle. Recently the Lord has reminded me of the importance of putting on the Armor of God each day. He has also reminded me that I am not in the battle alone. He has provided warriors alongside me, both men and women whose prayers are effective at deflecting the enemy’s arrows. Knowing I am not alone and being aware of the true battle I am engaged in has helped tremendously.
Kathleen – Film production is a collaborating effort of people with various personalities and skill levels. Mistakes are often made on passion projects. How have you dealt with failure and mistakes?
Mary Beth – Many of my films have a theme of forgiveness in them, but it is especially central to the story of UNFORGIVABLE. The two subjects of the documentary short walk through the reconciliation and forgiveness process in one of the most unforgivable situations, the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda. Producing this short and getting to know Alice & Emmanuel and their journeys challenges me on the deepest level. Since making the film and traveling to screen it, I have had many more circumstances arise in my life where forgiveness is needed. Alice has served as an incredible example to me and I hope to emulate her faith, humility and strength in my life and relationships.
Kathleen – Producing your recent film, JUMP, demanded a never ending schedule. What is the one thing you have learned when there is never enough time and meeting deadlines?
Mary Beth – Being a type A, driven person, it is counter to my nature to “be still” and to rest. My tendency it just to keep pushing myself. But as I have continued to work as a producer, I have found it is essential that I prioritize rest. It is a reflection of my faith. When I prioritize rest, I am demonstrating that everything is not up to me and my effort, it demonstrates that I believe the Lord is the One at work through me and He works even as I sleep!
Kathleen – God has placed you in front of influential people and in strategic places within your film career. What would you say to someone about being an influencer?
Mary Beth – I heard it once said that people may not always remember what you said to them, but they will remember how you made them feel. It rang true to me when I first heard it and it has stayed with me. As I think about the various people I interact with in the film industry, I hope that they are left with the impression that I sincerely listened to them. I hope the thing they remember from our interaction however small is that I was fully present and engaged and genuinely interested in them and what they had to say. Eugene Peterson in The Contemplative Pastor offered this question, “How many people have you listened to in Christ this week?” It is a powerful question and one of the ways we can have the greatest influence.
Peggy Rupple – edited Inner View Feb 2020
Peggy Rupple’s early work in television and digital media production fueled her passion to invest in the next generation of filmmakers. She has pioneered a film internship program resulting in student hires at every major studio in Hollywood. As a 9-year adjunct and co-director of a national media conference for Biola University’s School of Cinema and Media Arts, to her current role as Associate Director of the Windrider Forum at the Sundance Film Festival, Peggy continues to shape craft and character in future media makers – most recently speaking at 10 university film programs across the country. Peggy is an ordained minister, frequent speaker, and serves within the entertainment community through her partnership with husband Dan, CEO of Mastermedia International. Married for 40+ years, Dan and Peggy’s love has grown to include three children, their spouses, and seven grandchildren.
Connect with her at:
Kathleen Cooke: You have a passion to see lives restored through our life breathing Savior, Jesus Christ, what has God taught you about bravely responding to God’s voice and to share your faith?
Peggy Rupple: The surprising work of the Holy Spirit happens a lot to me these days on planes and with Uber drivers as God whispers His heart over someone’s pain to me. Then the invitation comes to join Him in the unexpected as I wrestle stepping outside my comfort zone with a hope-filled word. Living aware and responsive to His voice, above life’s demands, is a constant prayer for me. But God’s been showing me that, if I love and long for people’s dignity to be restored, I will connect to His heart for others. And that’s the surest way of hearing His voice.
Kathleen: Dignity restored. It’s what we all long for – to have our hope restored. As a cancer survivor how has knowing our Hope shaped your life and brought Hope to others?
Peggy: Embracing God as the loving author of my life gives me hope for the unseen. And hope to others wondering, “Is there a 3rd act coming in my own story that I can’t see?” When I was a hospital chaplain, I met a 17yr. old attempted suicide patient. In the counterfeit narrative, Satan was telling her, I asked if I could tell her another voice I was hearing. It was a man who felt he’d won the lottery as her husband and children who felt the sun rose in her embrace. All this was held in God’s safekeeping for her. She chose Christ as her living hope that day!
Kathleen: The world offers us momentary happiness, but God promises joy. Where do you find your joy?
Peggy: When I was diagnosed, God impressed on me that the enemy wasn’t after my life, he was after my joy. If hijacked through fear, he’d undermine the redemptive story God was about to tell in me. I was to guard my joy – the joy of His unmerited love that underpins His sovereign good plan in every circumstance. Since then, I’ve met patients who find themselves angry at the robbery of losing one day of this life – a tragedy only when viewed outside of Christ who offers us heaven. The good news remains that we were created for more than this life holds.
Kathleen: You’ve influenced many with your work at Biola, with Mastermedia International and as you continue to influence young filmmakers as an associate director the Windrider Forum during the famous Sundance Film Festival. What has God taught you about influence?
Peggy: I’ve learned that we all have the capacity to influence – it’s a God given gift. But it matters how we steward our influence. We can squander it by not investing in others, minimize it by feeling we have nothing to give or crave it as our identity. But in 2 Cor. 3-5, Paul says our greatest influence comes from being as Jesus was, a servant. “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who made us adequate as servants…” I believe influence is God given adequacy to serve others!
Carol McLeod – Carol is a prolific author who loves digging for truth in the Word of God. She has written 11 books, including her latest Significant, which was released in November of 2019 by Whitaker House Publishing. StormProof: Weathering Life’s Tough Times was released in March of 2019 and Guide Your Mind, Guard Your Heart, Grace Your Tongue was released April of 2018.
Her early books include Pass the Joy, Please!, Let There Be Joy, Joy for All Seasons, Refined, No More Ordinary!, Holy Estrogen!, Defiant Joy! and The Rooms of a Woman’s Heart. Carol has 12 YouVersion devotionals in current circulation, with “21 Days to Beat Depression” reaching more than one million people around the world. Her weekly blog, “Joy for the Journey,” has been named among the Top 50 Faith Blogs for Women and she writes a weekly column for Ministry Today.
Carol is a popular speaker at women’s conferences and retreats and encourages and empowers women with passionate and biblical messages, mixed with her own special brand of hope and humor.
INNER VIEW with Kathleen Cooke
Kathleen Cooke: As the global woman’s movement for equality continues to build what has God been telling you this about empowering women?
Carol McLeod: I recently wrote a book entitled, “Significant: Becoming a Woman of Unique Purpose, True Identity and Irrepressible Hope”. In doing research for this book, I discovered that the top 4 challenges for women are purpose, identity, stress and loneliness. My book, “Significant”, is a Biblical response to those 4 issues. I love to help women live a true life a significant life without the trappings that the world offers. I often say to women, “I am not able to change your circumstances, but I can help you process your circumstances according to the Word of God.” Unfortunately, I have discovered, that we falsely assume that because a woman has a visible platform that she also has power and that is simply not true. Women with political prowess, with recognizable faces and with gargantuan salaries are not the power brokers of our generation. Women of faith are the ones who hold all of the power so we should live like it! Live like you are a woman of power because you are!
Kathleen: Our world seems to be one of greater uncertainty today. How have you found hope when things fall apart?
Carol: I am a survivor! I am a survivor of depression, infertility and cancer. Five years ago when I was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer, I read a quote by one of my heroines of the faith, Elisabeth Elliot. She said, “Someone needs to see you suffer well.” I took Elisabeth’s words as a heartfelt challenge and the next 2 years were among the most joyful years of my entire life. Every doctor’s appointment became a divine appointment, every procedure became a prayer meeting and every surgery became sacred.
When I was just 3 days into my cancer battle, I cried out to God for a fighting Scripture. In my daily Bible reading that day, I was reading in the Old Testament book of Nahum. (Most people don’t even know that Nahum is a Book in the Bible!) This is the promise that I received that day, “And the wicked one will never pass your way again; he is cut off completely.” – Nahum 1:15.
What a promise! I thought about it, I prayed it, I sang it and I shared it. That one verse gave me strength when all that was coming my way was horrific news. God has been faithful to His word.
We cannot underestimate the importance of finding a battle verse for every struggle that we face. God’s will is found in His Word and we must use it as a weapon of warfare!
Kathleen: God never tells us that we won’t suffer, but He does assure us that if we seek His joy we are able to endure. What have you discovered about God’s joy?
Carol: I went through a deep, dark depression when I was in my 30’s. During those years, I lost 5 babies at between 12 and 20 weeks in my pregnancies and I was being swallowed alive by the black hole of depression. Not only was I depressed – but I also developed an addiction. The addiction that I developed was not to drugs or to alcohol; my addiction was to the Word of God! The Bible delivered me from that dark, meaningless place before my circumstances ever changed. Happiness is attached to the happenings of our lives but joy comes from one place and one place alone – “In His presence is fullness of joy!” – Psalm 16:11. All the joy that I need this side of heaven is found in an exciting relationship with Jesus.
Honestly, depression still knocks on the door of my heart often but now I have learned to open that door with a scripture verse ready. My life is still not a perfect life, but joy is a daily reality.
I will live the life that I have been given to teach a generation of women the power of joy!
Kathleen: As you have become a significant writer and speaker and been placed on many global platforms, what has God taught you about influencing other’s lives?
Carol: The most significant influence you can have in a person’s life is simply to live honorably and faithfully. You don’t need a microphone, a publishing contract or thousands of followers on social media to impact your generation. When you love difficult people and are kind to your family, you are leading an influential life. When you pray for your pastor and for the president, you are leading an influential life. When you choose to be a woman who serves in the church nursery or who volunteers at the local prison, you are leading an influential life.
I believe that the most influential people of our generation are not politicians, entertainers or athletes but they are mothers, teachers and neighbors. What happens at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, on Wall Street or at the United Nations is not nearly as important at what happens at your home address.
Bio: Carol is a prolific author who loves digging for truth in the Word of God. She has written
11 books, including her latest “Significant,” which was released in November of 2019 by Whitaker House Publishing. “StormProof: Weathering Life’s Tough Times” was released in March of 2019 and “Guide Your Mind, Guard Your Heart, Grace Your Tongue” was released April of 2018.
Her early books include “Pass the Joy, Please!” “Let There Be Joy,” “Joy for All Season,” “Refined,” “No More Ordinary!” “Holy Estrogen!” “Defiant Joy!” and “The Rooms of a Woman’s Heart.” Carol has 12 YouVersion devotionals in current circulation, with “21 Days to Beat Depression” reaching more than one million people around the world. Her weekly blog, “Joy for the Journey,” has been named among the Top 50 Faith Blogs for Women and writes a weekly column for “Ministry Today.”
Carol is a popular speaker at women’s conferences and retreats and encourages and empowers women with passionate and biblical messages, mixed with her own special brand of hope and humor.
Sue Fries is the host of her own radio show, The Sue Fries Show, and is an author and speaker and owner of Ecola Services.
Kathleen Cooke: What’s the one thing you’d like to share with women that God has recently taught you?
Sue Fries: People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care about them and part of that is being present. Giving the present of being present. Everyone has a ToDo list that is bigger than the day will allow. Prioritizing that list based on God’s priorities and goals that have been predetermined will set the priority order in motion. Each of us was created for a specific purpose. Do what only you can do and delegate what you can. Hold people accountable by celebrating their victories.
Kathleen: What have you learned about making difficult choices?
Sue: Making choices begins with breaking through fear and asking and visualizing the worst outcome possible. Living it, breathing it, and surviving it in your mind gives you power. Also, knowing you have done your homework and gathered all the information needed to make an educated decision. Then, pray about it and remember your goals. Putting the pros and cons on paper and getting Godly counsel for me is essential. Look outside-the-box possibilities will bring discernment and clarity.
Kathleen: What has God taught you about failure?
Sue: When we go through tough times and we find strength in Jesus it helps us draw nearer to him and to our vulnerability. There is a baseline of reality that we face in adversity. It’s like how film develops in the dark. When you are going through tough times you tend to evaluate or define what you are feeling and what you should do. It feels like you are in the dark with no answers but in that search for an answer you find clarity to your reality.
Kathleen: Your radio show is heard by thousands each week in the LA area on KKLA 99.5 FM and you influence many lives. What would you tell someone about how they can influence the people in their world?
Sue: Be the light in the darkness. Ask the Lord to guide your steps, thoughts and words. Listen when He is communicating with you. Pay attention to non-verbals. Love doesn’t judge. Make a positive impact on this world one person at a time.
You have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Listen twice as much as you talk. Ask questions and listen.
If you need help, ASK!!!!
Sue Fries is an award-winning author, keynote speaker, public speaker, and syndicated talk radio host. She’s also a successful business owner, competitive dancer, and still finds time to be a mom. Inspired by her son who suffered from chronic asthma, Sue authored the award-winning book, “Learning to Breathe,” and pioneers her pest control company, ECOLA Termite & Pest Control, which specializes in effective alternative treatments. Sue leads her own weekly radio and TV shows entitled “The Sue Fries Show,” encouraging listeners and viewers alike to find passion, purpose, and connection. Follow Sue on Twitter: @termitelady, Instagram: @termitelady, and FB: Termite Lady, Podcasts: http://suefries.com/the-show/. or her TV Show: http://suefries.com/sue-fries-tv/