This week we launch a new Influence Lab Women chapter in Atlanta. As we embark on this new adventure starting June 10th, I was reminded of Jesus as He told His future disciples to throw their nets to the “other side of the boat”. They had been fishing all night and had not caught one fish because they were casting their nets to the wrong side of the boat. Jesus wanted them to learn how to cast their nets in the right direction, and in partnership with Him.
We often miss opportunities because we keep throwing our nets out to the same place, where most fish aren’t swimming anymore. When talking about Hollywood, most outsiders think that you have to live here or in New York to make it in the industry as a professional. This might have been true in the past, but not today. These past hubs of media and entertainment and the arts have spread to many new and thriving media cities. Many longtime Hollywood professionals are moving out and into these new cities – Atlanta being one. Seeing this change has stirred my heart and I am thrilled that The Influence Lab is casting its net outside of California.
As a Christian industry professional for over 30 years, I have worked and supported many different Christian ministries and groups in Hollywood. I moved to Hollywood in the 1990s when most Christians were “in the closet” with their faith. We were an unwelcome remnant of believers. But we were called to make a difference and see lives changed by bringing God’s love to those working in the business. Over the years, I have seen the few grow to be hundreds, and now even thousands of believers in Hollywood. Today, I am seeing more top celebrities affirming their faith and it’s exciting. Those of us who committed our lives to not only our industry careers, but to the lives of others, grew stronger in the ability to “defend our faith”, as the Bible calls us to do. When COVID-19 shut down Hollywood production, the Christians ramped up and ran into the storm by producing and creating more content than even secular media and entertainment at one point.
But now Hollywood Christians are moving out. We have seen a vast migration out of California and across the U.S. in the past few years, which ultimately opened the door to launch The Influence Lab Women chapter in Atlanta. We are joining other Hollywood ministries that have also launched chapters in Atlanta—like our friends at The Hollywood Prayer Network and Master Media, both of which I have served and supported for many years. The Hollywood Christian remnant community is launching into deeper waters. They are bringing the light of Jesus to production sets and offices throughout the U.S. I invite you to pray for us and God’s remnant in the industry, support the work of The Influence Lab, and join us in-person at our upcoming events!
Cast your net with us on the other side of the boat!
If you are in the Atlanta area, join us for Influence Lab Atlanta Women on June 10th!
Creative work is challenging and has the potential to deplete you. How can you most efficiently sustain your career and life?
Sustainability is the buzzword today. By 2035, California and the nation are charging forward (no pun intended) to outlaw all gas-powered cars in the United States. Benjamin Franklin would be elated if he were alive today. Electricity has never been more in demand! We are consumed with media messages pushing us to be more sustainable, to consume food, fuel, and building materials from renewable resources.
How can we electrify our souls more efficiently to sustain us in our daily lives and work?
Remember the song “Manic Monday”?
It’s just another manic Monday
I wish it was Sunday
‘Cause that’s my fun day
My I don’t have to run day
It’s just another manic Monday.
Monday mornings always hit hard. Our to-do lists can be daunting after a weekend of diversions that usually consist of family time, sports activities, hobbies, and media consumption. We are forced to confront the tasks that weren’t completed the week before, on top of more tasks already planned for the upcoming work week. It can be depressing and overwhelming if we haven’t been refueled with Jesus, our renewable Source.
Here’s how we can refuel and refill our soul’s energy tank to sustain life on planet earth:
First, remember who God says we are in Him and stay filled with God’s renewable energy – the Word.
We can’t do everything or be everything to everybody, so be mindful of your time choices. Make sure you keep the schedule that’s best for you, and not the one that the culture touts as most fulfilling. After Covid shutdowns face-planted us, we were forced to examine what we had been spending time on and then re-prioritize what we should be spending time on. Now that we have finally gotten back into the rhythm of work and life, we’re ready to change it up. We’re ready to change our time-wasting and destructive habits. But that “desire to change” window will only be open briefly. If you don’t determine how you will spend your time, the culture will, and you’ll be back fueling your life with all the stuff you don’t want. Refueling must include the intentional infusion of God. God’s sustaining fuel found in His Word can’t be denied.
Research has proven if you aren’t engaging with God four or more times a week, you’ll make no significant positive changes or choices in your life, and you’ll be no different from someone who never reads the Bible. The research went on to say that the number one reason we don’t engage with God is that we’re too busy. Don’t keep denying it. You need to plug into God’s everlasting life-force, the Bible, and engage with Him. Like Aaron and Hur who held up the arms of Moses in Exodus 17:9-13, God’s Word and time in prayer with Him will be the arms that sustain you. He never gets tired and His strength for you never runs dry. He is our sustainable Source.
Second, know that the devil‘s army seeks to unplug us from that Source. So, “seize the day”. God’s fuel running through your soul is powerful.
The question is… what scripture verse or promise will you use? To put fuel into our cars, we need a pump. To put fuel into your soul, you need to have a pump. It’s the armor of God. Ephesians 6:11 says, “Put on God’s complete set of armor provided for us so that you will be protected as you fight against the evil strategies of the accuser!”
Our power source will fail every time if our pump fails, so keep your armor on and in working order. Stay prepared. You make yourself vulnerable if you get distracted by the busyness of life, with unimportant diversions or media distractions. We are to turn not to the left or the right, but focus our eyes on the promises and truths found in scripture to sustain us.
Keep your eyes on the horizon of what God’s promised you specifically for your life and work. For thousands of years, sailors on the seas focused their gaze on the horizon and not the water below the boat. We become vulnerable when we aren’t keeping the sustaining power of the Holy Spirit flowing through us. The faulty world-empowered sources that promise us sustainability are actually unsustainable. The world seeks to fuel itself with temporary happiness, but it’s a substitute for God’s eternal joy.
Finally, never forget that God’s love has conquered it all – Romans 8:37-39.
On the cross, Jesus became the fuel source that will never run dry. His resurrection power is all we need to overcome daily challenges. Nothing and no one can ever separate us from His powerful reservoirs of sustainable love and energy. Not only does He have great plans for you, His plans are perfect, and He won’t let your fuel tank run dry – even on Monday mornings!
Here’s what you need to ask yourself:
Who or what will you put your trust in today?
Will it be science, the stock exchange, a political leader, a pastor, a friend, or any other seemingly reliable sources of wisdom and strength?
Will you plug into the Word and trust in God’s plans for you?
Will you allow the most sustainable renewable energy force in the Universe–the Holy Spirit–to flow into your life and, most importantly, flow out of your life to energize and sustain others?
He is our Power Source, so hook up and let your life be run on the miraculous.
Some powerful insights from Influence Lab Atlanta’s Coordinator, Anna Oakley…
This month we are zeroing in on something rather uncomfortable (at least, for me) – our egos. As a believer, I’m accustomed to hearing “die to yourself” and themes of sacrifice, living for God and not ourselves, and thinking of others. So naturally, I thought to myself, “my ego problem was solved when I accepted Christ”. In fact, I’ve struggled with what I thought to be the polar opposite – being a “people pleaser”! Surely, there’s no ego there, right? (More on that in a moment)
What I’ve realized about ego, like many things in my sinful nature, is that if I ignore or suppress it instead of addressing it, my life will unconsciously express it. These roots of ego grow, unchecked, and are fueled by a self-absorbed culture and career path. They then begin to show up above ground where I least expect it.
What is the root of ego? (more…)
While raising two daughters, I often reflected on how they were so different in approaching challenges. Kelsey, the oldest, was initially fearless and would jump at something new without ever giving it a second thought. One time, it even cost us a trip to the hospital for stitches; however, many times Kelsey would take the first leap and fail, which frightened her so much she wouldn’t attempt it again. It often held her back from pushing through challenges and being successful.
Our youngest daughter, Bailey, was different. She wanted to think about it first. Maybe because she was younger and had a confident older sister, she would watch before acting. Many times, we had to coax her into attempting challenges; however, once she found success, she would push forward like a bull and become more confident. Bailey grew to love competitive sports. As a six-year-old in a karate tournament, she overpowered and brought down an eight-year-old boy twice her size to win the match. I remember feeling terrible for the little boy who walked away in tears, but his mother came running up to me and asked how I got Bailey to be so bold and confident. I laughingly told her, “She has an older sister!”
Leadership requires that we lead with confidence.
Yet confidence often has to come through experience and repeated failures. It requires us to be vulnerable and face challenges. It was the subject of our Influence Lab Women webinar, Emerge. We explored aspects of building personal confidence in careers and relationships. For the Church to find unity today, God requires that we be confident in who He says we are and what He has called us to become – willing leaders in scary and uncertain situations. When we become this, our faith grows and we can trust God more fully. It is especially powerful for those working in media and entertainment who are influencers with social media megaphones.
Confidence begins with mindset.
Scientists tell us our brains are complex. Because of the neural plasticity of our brains, neurotransmitters guide our actions and reactions through a multitude of experiences. These experiences educate and inform us, and either lock or unlock our confidence. Scientists go on to explain that changing the memory of bad experiences requires us to make new and different mental choices and adopt different postures in our heart. This then allows us to choose actions that activate the reward centers in our brains. When we experience the presence of God in our lives, He emboldens us. Each time we rely on Him, our renewed confidence feeds our heart’s desire that then allows us to act and take risks because we know we aren’t out there on the ledge alone (Matthew 28:20). Thus, we engage and trust God more.
Knowing your personality and how to react is key to overcoming insecurities.
We become better leaders when we know ourselves and know who we are in Jesus, who emboldens us. We can respond under pressure and stress to make the positive changes needed. Our natural tendency is to stay in safe places, but God has called us into the deep – into the world and unsafe spaces. To be effective in today’s culture, we must escape our “safe bubbles” if we are to grow ourselves and God’s Kingdom. We need diversity and discomfort to stretch our thinking and bolster our confidence to succeed. When we feel unsafe and insecure, we often run back to our safety zones, each time disallowing our brains to make new positive associations, connections, and choices. As we have learned from science (and what Jesus gently urged us to do), when we purposefully force our brain to think differently (think of His power and strength in us), it changes the actions of our hearts and passions. We can then boldly step into new challenges with a calm assurance that it isn’t just about us, but about others and achieving lasting Kingdom goals.
During The Influence Lab Emerge Webinar, special guest Lisa Kai shared how her Asian cultural past had influenced her, keeping her withdrawn from people and taking risks. It had affected her friendships and career. Her life changed when she realized that God saw her as intelligent and beautiful and that others withdrew, not because of anything she did or what she looked like, but because they felt insecure. So, Lisa embraced the vision of who God said she was in Him and overcame her negative mindset. It emboldened her to walk up to strangers and introduce herself confidently. Each time she did, it reinforced a positive change and vanquished her insecurity.
As my older daughter grew, she learned to make more mindful decisions and not quick, thoughtless ones before she acted; my younger daughter learned to step out of her fear and boldly try uncomfortable things. As adults today, they both evaluate situations more maturely, learning from their varied experiences. Most importantly, they have learned to trust God’s guidance and rely on Him when challenging decisions must be made. They have learned to breathe in Jesus’ strength and power, knowing He is the one “who always causes us to triumph.” (II Corinthians 2:14)
Write this down and keep it in a place where you can see it daily.
We stand confidently with grace, gratitude, and a mindset re-wired to react like Jesus. Philippians 4:12-13 (TPT)
I moved to Los Angeles in 1991 to work in the Hollywood film and media industry. The community of believers working in the industry was hidden and suffering from an onslaught of protests done by well-meaning Christians who felt that the programs and content produced in Hollywood in movies and on TV were immoral and evil.
However, there was a remnant of dedicated Christians working in Hollywood. We felt a calling to be here and work within the secular industry and do so with love, care, and excellence even if we had to work in the shadows. God has always left a remnant of His believers to bring light and hope in dark places when others have chosen to run away. As Hollywood industry Christians worked on the many challenging stages, production studios and in offices, things began to change. Relationships were established and rebuilt on the foundations of love and care. Nonbelievers saw Christians as talented, hard-working professionals willing to go the extra mile. They didn’t fall apart when disruptions and challenges happened but instead loved and cared about them personally. The walls of mistrust fell as caring relationships were built. Many began to see God for who He was – a God of love, peace, kindness, and accepted Him into their lives as “The Author and Finisher of their faith” (Hebrews 12:2). There are now Bible study and prayer groups firmly established on studio and production lots and communities of Christian industry leaders who are changing the landscape within Hollywood.
Christian industry professionals began by choosing to pray. Over the years, their numbers grew into multiple groups of writers, musical artists, students and women’s groups who came together to learn to be leaders of God’s love. Most importantly, these groups allied together and stayed connected to the larger community through events like the National Day of Prayer, the Biola Media Conference and other significant community events.
We saw our individual job placements in the industry as more than just a paycheck. We saw ourselves as God’s lanterns of light and His salt of the earth. We labored to rebuild the walls of love, hope, and friendship. Through the efforts of many groups like the Hollywood Prayer Network, Master Media, The Influence Lab, and many others, Christians in Hollywood have become a large, vibrant and active community that is respected and trusted to intelligently and gracefully engage on moral and cultural questions without condemnation.
It was how Nehemiah led.
Nehemiah prayed and then rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem in 52 days when others had failed. The walls he built were for protection, but they were also necessary to create a united faith community. Nehemiah understood he was an enslaved person within a foreign culture (Hollywood’s culture is often alien and not agreeable with Christian values, morals and beliefs). Yet, he became a trusted and mindful leader. His account of the journey of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem is a book to be studied for all Christians wanting to rebuild their communities where God has placed them. His leadership is a lesson on how today’s Church – the body of Christ needs to lead in a world that disdains the word “Christian” because of its history and past poor leadership practices. Just as Nehemiah did, Christians working in the Hollywood industry recognized that it must start with prayer and personal engagement with God and those they work for and with. It begins with building individual relationships at their places of work and learning to be compassionate, mindful leaders.
How do we lead today in Hollywood and the world?
We continue to love, care and live authentic lives. I love what U.K. evangelist Canon J. John says, “None of us have it together, but together we have it.” First and foremost, it’s about how much we care, because people don’t care how much we know or what we believe until they understand how much we care. “
Each person in Jerusalem rebuilt their personal wall first. They accepted their leadership role and rebuilt their relationship with God one stone at a time. Then, they physically rebuilt the walls, not outside of their neighborhoods or places of work, but at their own home. They weren’t trained construction workers but were priests, merchants, jewelers, masons, craftsmen, artisans, and women who cared. The words “next to him” were used 20 times in the 3rd chapter of Nehemiah. It takes the whole body of Christ to rebuild the walls of our culture. There are lists of responsible leaders who worked on the walls and repaired the gates written in the book of Nehemiah.
Today each person in the Church is indispensable. Each must share the responsibility to repair the walls around them. Covid has changed and disrupted the physical places we are living and the places we work in many ways. Atlanta is now the new “Hollywood South,” and new media and entertainment hubs are in Austin, Dallas, Nashville, Vancouver, and Canada with lots of production still happening in New York, England, Germany, Australia and India. God is enlarging the tent of Christians working in media and entertainment. We each have our place to build the walls of unity and love as never before, and those places are people who are sitting across the desk from you or standing next to you on a production lot.
It takes one person at a time. It takes you!
It is easy to become a victim of empty promises and lies in the media and entertainment industry. It’s often not a question of “if” you’ll be cheated or taken advantage of; it’s “when.” Anger is an easy button to push, but when the root of bitterness is bitten, it can cause irrefutable damage.
Stories can help us forgive, keep our integrity and move on.
I frequently look at classic fairy tales to find lessons hidden in them. Like parables that Jesus told, many fairy tales have lessons and wisdom to learn from as we examine them more closely. They can teach us about choices and circumstances that occur in our lives, many of which can happen beyond our control.
The story of Rapunzel is one. It was made famous by the Brothers Grimm in their fairytale book for children, but it’s believed that its roots lay in the third-century Italian story of Saint Barbara, whose father thought her so beautiful that he locked her away. The story through the centuries has had many versions with many different storylines. Most recently, Disney retold the story in their animated version entitled, Tangled.
One of the lessons most popularized from the story is that you can’t keep children from the world’s evils. But I think many have missed other hidden lessons. It’s a story of choosing to take risks and make life-changing choices. It’s a story of being set free from bondage caused by sinful acts done to us, whether intentionally or not. Most importantly, it’s a story of climbing up and down the ladder of forgiveness and love and our ability to maintain our integrity and move on despite what’s happened in our lives.
We often see unforgivable acts that cause pain and suffering as singular actions – “the straw that breaks the camel’s back.” However, if you examine unpardonable offenses, one finds that they are usually caused by more profound issues of repeated and layered actions. One of the many versions of Rapunzel’s story tells of her mother, who refuses to eat and yearns only for a root growing in the witch’s garden during her pregnancy. Out of love and concern for his wife’s health, Rapunzel’s father repeatedly steals the witch’s magical root, gets caught and must surrender their child to the witch who locks her in a tower. The love of the prince is Rapunzel’s only escape from her bondage.
Unconditional love is the healing balm for repeated offenses.
Rapunzel’s beauty and eventual saving grace are revealed in the power of her hair. Her hair, like God’s unconditional love, is never cut off but keeps growing longer and stronger year after year. It is her hair that the prince uses to save Rapunzel. It is God’s never-ending unconditional love for us through Prince Jesus that rescued us from our eternal separation from Himself. Jesus was God’s ladder of love used to reach and free us from sin’s bondage. Rapunzel’s hair was woven – braided in three substantial sections of hair which allowed her to be rescued. God’s love and forgiveness are also interwoven with the strength of three – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit which provide us with an unbreakable bond.
It’s our inability to escape our sins that requires God’s never-ending forgiveness.
Jesus, our ladder of love and forgiveness, is thrown to us daily so we may escape the entrapment of sin. As long as we’re entrapped in this world, we will never be able to stop making sinful choices. Our only hope is to recognize our need for God’s escape ladder – Jesus.
The book of Hosea in the Bible tells the story of God’s unconditional love and forgiveness for us. Often misunderstood because of its sexual themes, Hosea is far from a tale of sexual lust and fantasy consequences. Instead, it is the story of God’s unrelenting forgiveness for our continual sinning. He may allow our deserved punishment, but He’ll never abandon us.
Stories make us think and hear God’s voice.
God used the parable of Hosea and his marriage to a prostitute for us to understand the height, length and depth of His love and forgiveness, and the reason why Jesus came and sacrificed His life for us. Prince Jesus scaled sin’s tower to reach the depths of our hearts. Then God commands us to forgive just as He forgave us. He urges us to fix our eyes on Jesus, who empowers us and allows our eyes to be opened to those entrapped in the bondage of their sin and to forgive those who have caused us pain and suffering. It enables us to turn from anger and the root of bitterness we may have eaten and then clasp onto God’s powerful, forgiving love. Like the voice of the prince whom Rapunzel heard while in her tower, God allows us to hear His unique voice and the heart song of Jesus.
On February 24th, The Influence Lab will host producer Cindy Bond of Mission Pictures International in a free online event. Her newly released film, Redeeming Love, from the best-selling novel by Francine Rivers, was inspired by the book of Hosea. I will interview Cindy, and we will examine the challenges of making the movie and how its story of forgiveness and love is so needed in our culture today. Redeeming Love, like the story of Rapunzel, reveals the effects of evil, choosing to obey God’s direction and not our own, and how His plans for us bring renewed life and a way forward.
Can you hear the Prince of Peace’s voice in your life? Don’t let unforgivable acts keep you entrapped. God desires you to be set free and to live happily ever after.
Don’t miss the Influence Lab webinar featuring Cindy Bond on February 24. Sign up today for this free on-iine event! Register here.