I was late and had run to my college dorm room to grab a book for my next class when the landline phone rang (no cell phones back then). He said his name was “Phil” and he had a couple of tickets to a concert that weekend and did I want to go? When I heard the name of the rock band performing, I couldn’t say “yes” fast enough. But I was in a desperate hurry and told Phil to call me back with the details and quickly hung up. As I did, a sinking feeling suddenly hit me.
I had gotten to know a Phil during college registration day, and it was only after hanging up that I realized what I had done. That wasn’t the Phil I knew. He was a different Phil! I had sat next to another Phil at a chapel service the week before, and it was that Phil who called! Horrified, I turned to my roommate standing there and said, “Oh no, I think I’ve just accepted a date with a guy I don’t know.”
Little did I know this blind date would be my forever husband, my prince, and the love of my life. God knew it, and I believe orchestrated my lack of attention to insert Phil Cooke into my life. (more…)
I remember seeing my first augmented reality (AR) movie years ago. It was a Michael Jackson ride – Captain EO at Disneyland. But somehow, it didn’t have the same effect on me as the one I saw at the Sundance Film Festival years later. The first ever AR documentary produced, Cane Toads: The Conquest, brought to life an invasive amphibian species in Australia. They were swarming the country, killing dogs and cats, and literally covering the ground by the thousands. There seemed no way to stop them. With AR glasses on, we sat in the theater and had frogs pop out at us. We were jumping out of our seats! It was just a little too real for me.
Today, we’ve gotten more use to it. AR is rapidly becoming the choice of escapism. Movies and TV entertainment have matured, and our appetite to immerse our minds in another reality is growing.
We think about virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) differently.
As I travel to exotic and historic sites, I’m constantly observing “selfie models” taking pictures of themselves, wanting to be seen and to become “influencers” online. The Bible calls it our “flesh.” but we call it “selfie” in today’s language. It’s a visual reminder of how much social media has affected the culture and how it feeds our insatiable egos.
The bottom line is that we are all afflicted with self-centeredness.
None of us are exempt. It’s part of living in our fallen world because of sin’s entrance. Paul tells us that our “flesh” is often in conflict with our spirit, which wants to break free from selfishness but continues to see it rear its ugly head (Romans 7:15). As we mature as believers in Jesus, we become more aware of how our egos get in the way of becoming all that He wants for us, and how our self-centeredness separates us from knowing Him more deeply. Confronting our ego issues can be excruciatingly painful, so we deny our selfishness or make excuses for it. Overcoming self-centeredness requires facing ourselves honestly, choosing to change how we think, and sometimes changing whom we associate with. But if we want to know God deeply, which is His greatest desire for us, it’s a must. This is why the many self-appraising personality tests, including the Enneagram, have become so popular. In many ways, though they seem enlightening and beneficial, they can be dangerous and self-elevating.
Our “flesh” hates change. (more…)
It’s our privilege to introduce the new Influence Lab Chief Operating Officer Jean Christen! Read below as Jean shares the life journey God has helped her walk, what compelled her to dive head-first into volunteering with The Influence Lab, and what’s next on the docket for mentorship programs, events and building the IN Lab community.
Kathleen Cooke: As the new COO of Influence Lab Women, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Jean Christen: I come from a long line of determined (stubborn) but forward-thinking women. My grandmother, a Buddhist, gave my mother the freedom to choose her faith. My mother chose Catholicism, and while she took my sister and me to mass every Sunday, she refrained from baptizing us as babies and passed on the gift of religious freedom.
Through my upbringing, I knew of a distant God, a “force” that was good. I felt He cared about me, but I never wanted to bother Him when there were more important people and more significant problems that needed His attention. With my background in Eastern religion, I was more open than most to the philosophies and practices of the New Age Movement. As a result, I not only adapted various beliefs and thoughts but propagated them. My father passed away while I was in college and the depression that visited me drove me deeper into an awareness of my spiritual emptiness. Having explored every major world religion, I finally decided to give Christianity a try. With no expectations or trust in its belief system, I said the Sinner’s Prayer with abandon because I didn’t think it would affect me. I was wrong. Not long after saying that prayer, I experienced physical manifestations and a spiritual attack, but along with this attack, I also had an insatiable hunger that only the Biblical Word could satisfy. I had been ‘born again.’
I was later ‘baptized in the Spirit’ at a Catholic retreat during my first experience with Taizé prayer. As we chanted, I began to recognize the depths of my unworthiness as the recipient of His love and grace, and I wept like I’ve never wept before in my life.
I met and married my college sweetheart, who was a believer at the time when I was not. He evidently was not blessed with the gift of evangelism but had an abundance of unconditional love for me (that’s a story for another time). God blessed us with six daughters and a home in Palos Verdes (CA).
Professionally, God led me into the business world. I was head of product development and global sourcing for Thomas Kinkade, “the famous Painter of Light” and a brother in Christ. I then went into the publishing world as the managing director of gifts and children’s books for Harvest House Publishers. I needed a break from the corporate world to take care of my family and unexpectedly found myself leading several community nonprofit boards. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I felt called to enter the media/entertainment business. I initially ran away from God’s leading and calling, like Jonah. But God kept bringing me back. Within a year, I found myself working with companies like Mandeville and the Gotham Group, producing projects with Emmy-winning producers, Oscar-nominated crews, and celebrated directors. I’ve since formed my own company, 8C Entertainment, to acquire and produce content that I would want to watch with Jesus.
Kathleen: Why have you gotten involved with The Influence Lab and Influence Lab Women?
Jean: As a new implant in entertainment, I actively sought spiritual encouragement, inspiration, and fellowship with other believers in the industry. After vetting several “Christian” organizations, I settled on following the Hollywood Prayer Network, where I learned about The Influence Lab. I attended a couple of webinars and wrote in after the one with producer Cindy Bond. She was so encouraging and inspiring, and I got so much out of that webinar that I decided I would give more than a donation. I wrote in and offered my time and talents, too. Two months later, I got a reply from you, Kathleen Cooke, the founder herself!
You graciously offered to meet for coffee, and our delightful meeting (God’s ordained meeting) lasted well past three hours and would have gone on for hours more had I not needed to pick up my kids from school. You asked me to be the COO (Chief Operating Officer) for Influence Lab Women on the spot. I think you saw that I was a little taken aback because you said, “Jean, there have been a few times in my life where I feel God tap me on the shoulder, and this is one of them.” You didn’t know this then, but one of my life Scriptures is “judge the tree by the fruit that it bears.” As I considered that scripture in my head, your request, and the decades of good fruit you and Phil have produced in ministry, I felt a peace that was not humanly possible given my daily “to-do” list. I knew I had to come alongside you like Aaron did for Moses and hold up your arms as you lead. So, I immediately said yes. That was the Monday before my first in-person Influence Lab Women event on Friday, April 29, 2022. It’s only been a couple of months, but we have already put together exciting new programs and initiatives that I cannot wait to roll out to our Influence Lab family!
Kathleen: I am over the moon blessed with you saying yes, too! You have been such a gift and an answer to my prayer that God would bring me my “Aaron and Hur” to hold up my arms and enable me to fight the cultural battles “for such a time as this.” Moses needed a priestly hand – that was Aaron (who is also represented by Jesus in our lives), and He needed an administrative/business hand that was Hur.
I find it so beautiful and encouraging that God somehow always inserts women into the stories in the Bible. Hur is said to have been the son of Miriam, the sister to Moses and Aaron. Women wouldn’t have been allowed on the battlefields then, so I believe God sent a woman representative – her son.
So, what’s happening and coming up that you have been working on for The Influence Lab and Influence Lab Women?
Jean: Oh, my goodness, so many good things! I want first to thank everyone who took the time out of their day to complete and turn in the Member Survey. It’s because of their input that we’re finalizing our mentorship/ life coaching program; setting up personal prayer partners with our ministry partner, the Hollywood Prayer Network; selecting teachers for a 6-week Bible study program; and changing up our Friday night in-person events to Saturday brunches to give ourselves more time for fellowship and networking. The master calendar with webinars and in-person events for our Hollywood and Atlanta (soon Nashville) Chapter groups will be posted shortly.
Attention Readers: be sure to save the dates and check in regularly for updates and exciting new events! By the way, we are extending the survey collection window for those who want to share their thoughts and ideas and haven’t yet.
If you haven’t filled out our survey yet, click here to answer a few quick questions!
Have a heart for arts and entertainment, media and leadership? Let us know if you would like to get involved with The Influence Lab! We are expanding our reach and we have new roles and leadership opportunities waiting for your unique talents. The best part of volunteering is getting to serve with other like-minded women. We need to hold up each other’s arms in the challenging careers and culture we’re engaged in. I am beyond excited to uplift and build up our Influence Lab community TOGETHER!
“While we were still under arrest, my father, out of love for me, was trying to persuade me and shake my resolution. ‘Father,’ said I, ‘do you see this vase here, for example, or waterpot or whatever?’
‘Yes, I do,’ said he.
And I told him: ‘Could it be called by any other name than what it is?’
And he said: ‘No.’
‘Well, so too I cannot be called anything other than what I am, a Christian.’
At this, my father was so angered by the word ‘Christian’ that he moved towards me as though he would pluck my eyes out. But he left it at that and departed, vanquished along with his diabolical arguments.”
– Account from a prison diary of Perpetua and Felicitas martyred in Carthage in 202/203 B.C.
Perpetua, along with her infant son and maid, friend and fellow believer, Felicitas, were unmercifully starved and brutally tortured. She was given one last chance to recant her faith before being thrown into the Roman gladiator arena. Wild animals were released into the arena to kill the prisoners, but when the animals were unsuccessful in their task, the huge crowd became bored and chanted for blood. Prompted by the mob, the gladiators entered the arena with their swords drawn. As they approached, Perpetua guided a gladiator’s sword to her throat in a final act of willingness to die for her faith in Jesus.
Reading Perpetua and Felicitas’ story of martyrdom reminds us that we’re called to a high purpose and one that will include sacrifice, suffering, and even perhaps death. We are called to embody the life of a follower of Jesus, not just embrace Christianity in name only. As world and cultural views change, “The Truth” –God’s presence and His Word– aggravates those who resist it, and evil grows more robust. I am convinced we will see and experience more suffering and martyrdom. It’s predicted in the Bible. The godless will continue to be relentless and attempt to fast-track their beliefs into every aspect of our lives to increasing degrees. Choosing The Truth and His truths will become steadily more difficult.
This is not “breaking news.”
Just as air slowly leaks out of a tire due to a small nail puncture and is initially undetected by the human eye, so too are we seeing the deflation of God’s truths on the earth and in the lives of people. Our world is losing the Breath of Life. Evil is increasing and is creating an irreparable path of destruction. It’s not difficult to see the enormous effects of our culture’s brokenness and sinful choices.
Are you ready for what’s coming? Is God dead?
In 1882, well-known atheist Friedrich Nietzsche cynically wrote The Parable of the Madman, in which the Madman makes a profound statement: “Whither is God?” he cried; “I will tell you. We have killed him – you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how did we do this?”
It’s still a relevant question today. How did we get so off-course and deceived from The Truth? It’s one thing to disagree with a truth and another to disagree that there is A Truth. We know the very existence of planet earth depends on the sun’s gravitational pull (it’s a proven scientific truth). If we lose the sun’s connection, the planet will instantly go spinning out of control ending all life on earth. Our connection to the sun is foundational and nonnegotiable.
When we lose the foundational truth of who God is in our life, we too spin out of control.
That is precisely what is happening in our culture today. Award-winning author Eric Metaxas interviewed documentary filmmaker Matt Walsh on his recent feature film, What is a Woman?. They discussed the incredible inability of those pushing for a gender-neutral world to define one simple term: Woman. Those who were supposed to know –scholars, doctors, and even other women– could not define who or what a woman was. Matt Walsh (very comically, I might add) was able to show that those pushing for this agenda had to deny the foundational scriptural truth that God created us “male and female.” Genesis 1:27
There is no confusion or gender dysphoria in God’s eyes. When you accept foundational Biblical truths, you are anchored (like the earth to the sun) in God’s unchanging gravity. When you’re not fastened to truth, you are left spinning out of control, lost in complete confusion. And you in turn cause irreversible damage to others, as Abigail Shrier writes about in her book of the same name. Perpetua and Felicitas stood in the gladiator arena, anchored to truth despite the atrocities happening around them and to them. They refused to recant the one thing they knew to be true. In the same way, our grounding foundational truths are and will always be in God and His son, Jesus.
Will you stand on The Truth, or will you deny Him?
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!