Are you trusting God through the process? The ins and outs of life can take unexpected turns, but read this month’s INNER VIEW with Jodie Swee as she encourages us to grow, view failure through a different lens, and earn our place of influence with others.
Jodie Swee is a spiritual director, dating coach, and founder of Topanga Social, a dating service for imperfect Christians. Jodie has authored four Bible study series and shared her joy and authenticity with audiences for over 20 years. She lives in the South Bay of Los Angeles with her husband of 16 years and their 2 daughters.
Kathleen Cooke:What’s the one thing you’d like to share with women that God has recently taught you?
Jodie Swee: Trust the process! Growth and accomplishment don’t usually happen overnight. If you spend quality time with Jesus regularly, seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and do your best with what you have, then trust that the Lord will take care of you and lead you to where you need to be.
When you trust the process, you discover an invitation to experience things differently. Failure becomes an opportunity to learn, detours become adventures, and the lack of control over external circumstances becomes a chance to surrender your internal perspective to the Lord.
I recently had a conversation with my best friend, and at that moment, I wasn’t trusting the process. Let me share with you what she told me.
She said, “Babies have to grow.” And she’s right. Our babies…our hopes, dreams, and expectations for the future… need to grow. They need to grow so that the Lord can teach us how to take care of them before they become unruly teenagers with their own ideas!
So, my dear friends, trust the process and enjoy the adventure it brings.
Kathleen: Failure today often dismantles us. How have you dealt with failures in your life?
Jodie: I hate failure. I loathe it. It makes me feel all squishy and small inside, and for many years I used to hide from it behind excuses. But not anymore. Instead of running and hiding from my failure, the Lord has taught me to turn and face it. Don’t get me wrong, I still HATE it, and it makes me feel icky inside. My initial instinct is still to run and hide, but the Lord has granted me the ability to pause before doing so (or before getting too far) and embrace my failure.I don’t embrace it for long, but rather than run from my failure, I receive it…and then bring it to the Lord and yield it. When I do that, he transforms it into something else…something beautiful and beneficial to me and/or others.
Twenty years ago, I was speaking at a young adult event in a church. I completely bombed. After I finished, someone in the crowd actually shouted, “That’s it?” I thought I would be consumed by shame. I blamed it on my lack of talent/skill and ended up quitting speaking for a decade. Until the Lord invited me to try again (which is a sweet, sweet story for another time).
Last year, I was speaking at another church event, and once again, I completely bombed. I experienced all the familiar feelings, but then I laughed (a little) and brought it to the Lord. In doing so, I discovered an opportunity to deepen my spiritual practices before and after speaking. The failure became a gift that will serve me and others for the rest of my life.
For a long time, I thought that someday I would be so wise and experienced that I wouldn’t fail anymore. Bless my naive little heart! Now, I am indeed wiser and more experienced…and I know I’ll never outgrow failure (this side of eternity). It’s not something to outgrow or run away from. It’s something to embrace, even with its uncomfortable feelings, and surrender so we can experience more of God’s transformative love in our lives.
Kathleen: You have a deep passion to help others with growing strong, meaningful relationships. What have you learned about developing relationships that last and can be trusted?
Jodie: I have a deep and fierce love for people, and I pastor many. It is my purpose and passion. However, personally, I tend to be somewhat of a loner. Surprisingly, my inner circle is quite small, not by choice but by some intentional design, I believe. Throughout my adult life, I have consistently sought out a steady mentor, but I have never had one. Nevertheless, I have been fortunate to receive bits of wisdom from older friends who have come and gone throughout my journey.
I have ADHD, and I’m not awesome at keeping up with people who live far away. (Out of sight, out of mind is LEGIT for us neurodivergent homies.) I didn’t meet my best friend until I was 42. She was leading worship; I was giving the message…and we bonded for life over the realization that we both experienced the love of Jesus through the TV series Outlander. (That’s weird, I know…but that’s why she’s my bestie.)
My relational experience over the years has taught me to enjoy and delight in what I have, grieve and release what has been lost as a natural part of life, and always be on the lookout for my next kindred spirit to pop up in an unexpected place.
Kathleen: What’s the one thing you’ve learned about how we can influence others?
Jodie: Honestly? I’ve learned that influence can be a sneaky and destructive beast, and it is important for us to be mindful of how we wield it and the individuals we permit to influence us.
Influence should not be won; it should be earned.
I believe that it is earned by faithfully pursuing our calling with our whole lives (public and private), being honest and saying “I don’t have an answer to that” when we don’t, and being intentional about sitting under the authority and influence of God. Any influence we have not supported by a firm foundation in Jesus is just an invitation for that sneaky Satan to twist and misuse. Influence shouldn’t puff us up or make us strong; it should keep us humble and desperately in need of the Lord’s guidance.
Are you attending NRB 2023 in Orlando? If you’re a woman working in media, entertainment, arts, music or leadership, here’s a special Influence Women event you won’t want to miss!
Hollywood Decentralized: Why You Don’t Have to Live in LA to be a Female Filmmaker Tuesday, May 23, 2023 at the Orlando World Center Marriott 7:00-9:00 pm ET Contact us for details at firstname.lastname@example.org
Do you have to live in Hollywood to pursue a career in the industry? In this panel talk, Kathleen Cooke and top Christian women filmmakers and influencers will discuss the pros and cons of living in LA while exploring the options of other production hubs across the nation. The pandemic and valuable tax incentives have opened new film and television production hubs across the nation, and with it, tremendous opportunities for female filmmakers.
Sharing “boots on the ground” insight, attendees will gain actionable steps to pursue their careers outside of the Hollywood system in places like Florida, Atlanta, Nashville and Dallas. Writers, actors, directors, producers and crew members will gain valuable information to navigate their careers successfully in a new decentralized film industry.
Find out more about this special Influence Women event here. For more details and to request an invitation, contact us at email@example.com
Although Influence Women has its roots in Hollywood, this “branch” of The Influence Lab is spreading across the country. With chapters in key production cities like Nashville, Atlanta, Orange County and Hollywood, Influence Women are creating mentoring and supportive communities as they pursue their callings in media, entertainment, arts, music and leadership.
Become a member of Influence Women today! Get more information here.
Your partnership is having a global impact! Phil and Kathleen Cooke traveled to South Africa this month to participate in a gathering of marketplace and ministry leaders as part of the Global Kingdom Partners Network (GKPN).
Through these meetings, they were able to train and inspire international ministry leaders in strategic uses of digital media to help accomplish their missions.
GKPN members open the gathering with prayer.
Kathleen hosted the opening GKPN marketplace session, introducing new delegates and members and praying for their influence, skills, and talents to be integrated into the group for God’s Kingdom purposes.
As an example of the work GKPN is accomplishing, a leader of a Ukrainian children’s rescue organization shared how he has rescued 85,000 orphaned children, many of whom had been exported into Russia after their cities were bombed and their parents killed. Through the help of GKPN, he has brought many of these children back to the Ukraine where they have been placed in church orphanages and Christian homes for safe-keeping.
With many questions on how to use digital media effectively, Phil and Kathleen were able to offer this leader practical advice and specific strategies.
Kathleen commented, “We were honored to be there to help them with their questions so they can tell these children’s stories and share the love of God in a chaotic world.”
“Maximize Your Influence” helps Russian pastors use digital media strategically to share the gospel.
As of today, the book has been put into the hands of 490 Russian pastors and 720 Russian Christian businessmen, with the remaining 5790 copies to be distributed to influencers in the Russian-speaking world throughout 2023. Because of our sources inside Russia, the book has been “legitimately” published, thus avoiding any trouble with the government.
Leading the publishing project is Matts-Ola Ishoel, the senior pastor and president of Word of Life Centre in Moscow and president of Churches of Faith Russian Association of Christians of Evangelical Faith—an organization of 400 charismatic churches in Russia.
Another driving force for the project is Sergey Martyunichev, the deput president and development director for Word of Life Commonwealth Churches with 356 churches in Russia, Sergey also manages Golden Pages Publishing Centre, 14 business schools and a business club in Moscow.
Phil and Kathleen with Sergey, Matts-Ola and his wife Randi, key leaders in the Russian translation project.
With their influence and outreach in Russia, Matts-Ola Ishoel and Sergey Martyunichev were the key players we felt confident in entrusting funds to for this translation project. Phil’s book will have a far-reaching and long-lasting effect, enabling Russian pastors and influencers to be strategic in their communication of the gospel. The Influence Lab been privileged to have a role in impacting this nation for good.
We’re thankful for every Influence Lab partner who has prayed and given towards our global mission of training and equipping pastors and leaders to use media effectively. You share in the harvest of changed lives as the good news spreads in the digital age.
Phil Cooke’s “Maximize Your Influence” now in Russian!
UPCOMING: Through the GKPN meetings, Phil and Kathleen have been asked to conduct strategic training sessions overseas in the coming months. Your prayers and financial gifts enable The Influence Lab to accommodate these international invitations.
Next international outreaches: June: Amsterdam: Phil is on the Empowered21 Global Council, and he and Kathleen will be participating in Amsterdam2023, an international conference to collaborate and innovate with global ministry leaders with a goal to “launch a new era of evangelism.” August: Brazil(Details to come.) September: Chennai, India(Details to come.)
“The need to share our message never changes, but how we share it does.” —Phil Cooke, Maximize Your Influence—How to Make Digital Media Work for Your Church, Your Ministry, and You
We all know pursuing your calling can be challenging, especially if you’re called to the media and entertainment industry. But Sheila Hart gives encouragement for how to stand fast in your identity and overcome obstacles with the Word of God! Read this month’s INNER VIEW and gain fresh inspiration to place your trust, hope and faith in the Lord of Lords and King of Kings.
Sheila Hart is an award-winning writer, producer, director with a hunger for all things creative. From music to theatre to advertising to film, Sheila has dabbled in all the colorful pots of the artistic world. She was a producer on the film Unplanned, the true story of Abby Johnson that takes an eye-opening look at the abortion industry. And she recently produced the thriller Nefarious, set to release late 2023. Sheila is also an award-winning actress, singer, and voiceover artist. Her familiar voice has been linked with such well-known brands as Walmart, Nickelodeon Resorts, and Sea World.
She is currently preparing to release the first novel in her medieval fantasy adventure trilogy: Journey to Abaddon. And is now in development on a biblically based TV series as well as the faith/family feature film On Summer’s Wing, set for production summer 2023. Sheila’s passion is to tell stories that inspire women all over the world to think big, dream big and become world changers.
Kathleen Cooke:You’ve worked in the challenging media and entertainment industry for many years, but what’s God taught you lately about overcoming the obstacles?
Sheila Hart: The Word of God is powerful. When fears and worries creep in due to circumstances that threaten to unravel us, we can find peace and reassurance in verses like…
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” “He will never leave you or forsake you.” “You are my God, and my times are in your hands.”
Well, one day, out of the blue, I heard these words echo in my head: “I am not your God, and your times are not in my hands.” Fear struck me and my first thought was… This is the enemy. But just in case, I reached out to God. I said, “God, if that’s you, I need you to explain this because you’re really scaring me.” And right away, I heard Him say, “Fear and worry have been your gods.” I was stunned. But I recognized the truth in those words. That day, I repented, renounced fear and worry as my gods, and invited God to take control.
Since then, it’s been a battle, but I’ve learned some things. Every negative emotion begins with a thought that, unchecked, will lead you to rehearse every lie the enemy has planted in your mind to doubt yourself and to doubt God. That’s why God calls us to be “transformed by the renewing of our minds” and to “hold every thought captive to the obedience of Christ”. The only power fear and worry have over you, is the power you give them by entertaining the thoughts they plague you with. So, when negative thoughts try to steal your peace, stop, and replace them with the truth. “You are my God, and my times are in your hands.”
Kathleen:The business can toss us sometimes into the wind of wondering who we are and what are we doing? Are we good enough? What do you do when those thoughts happen?
Sheila: Who am I? Have you ever asked yourself that question? I’ve wrestled with identity my whole life…struggling with the labels placed on me, with the physical perfection the world demands, the success I saw others achieving I assumed was out of my reach. And inside raged the battle between KNOWING I had something to offer the world and the FEAR I had nothing to offer. As a writer, God speaks to me through stories. And being the kind Father He is, God gives me stories that whisper the truth of who I am. Through them, He’s taught me that I am not a scullery maid but a daughter of the Most High God! I am royalty, a joint heir in Christ! I am a Princess!
Some people see princesses as privileged women waited on hand and foot who go to royal galas and get spoiled rotten. Though I do think God romances us that way sometimes, it misses the mark. A true princess is a servant. A true princess uses her royal authority to watch over and love on the subjects in her kingdom (her sphere of influence). She is commissioned by her Father, the King, to bring light into the darkness, bring hope where there’s hopelessness, and to lead others into the arms of the Father.
The truth is this: You are your Father’s delight. And you ARE a Princess. God placed greatness in you when he formed you in your mother’s womb. You, with all your personality quirks, and you’re not so perfect facial features or body, were designed for epic greatness. God’s calling you to your purpose. Know how you are…and walk in the power of it, and He will give you the ideas, the resources, and the courage to become a world changer.
Kathleen:Can you tell us about someone that influenced your life and changed your thinking?
Sheila: I will never forget the night I heard Story Mastery expert Michael Hauge speak on developing your hero character. Little did I know how my brain was about to explode with revelation. Here’s what I learned…
Over the course of the story, it’s important to move your hero from functioning out of their identity to functioning from their essence. He described the identity as the façade formed by wounds we experience in life. It’s like armor shielding us from future pain (e.g: people make fun of your clothes, so you decide to wear clothes that make you fit in, even if it doesn’t reflect your personal style). Every wound erects another piece of armor, until we are fully protected. If it’s doing its job, you won’t know this fake identity exists. So over time, you believe this façade is actually who you are. But it’s not. It’s the phony you that seeks to make you acceptable to the world. But for the sake of protection, you lose yourself, your true self.
Thus, it’s essential to put your hero through difficult battles that put a chink in their armor. When glorious light flows out through that break in the façade, it reveals the hero’s essence, and she shrinks back. “That can’t be me!” She’s forgotten the brilliance of her true identity. But once the hero catches a glimpse of the power in who she truly is, she can never fully go back into hiding. And like David who tossed aside Saul’s clunky armor to go out and slay Goliath, the hero is now free to shed the façade and move with courage into victory.
Wow! Life changing! That night, I was gifted a key to unlocking my true self. And since then, I’ve strived to always live in my essence! I would challenge those reading this to shed their façade so they can become the hero God created them to be. Go slay some giants!
Do you hold onto offense easily? How do you navigate relationships when it seems like the brokenness in others (or yourself) continues to get in the way? Dr. Donna Marie Hunter addresses this important topic that we all face. Find out how you can set healthy boundaries, navigating your way to healthier relationships with others and deeper intimacy with God.
Dr. Donna Marie Hunter is an engaging TV show host on her show, Grace & Space, arousing honest conversations that encourages viewers to continue dreaming by building healthy habits and genuine relationships. She has co-authored two #1 International Best-selling books, Women Who Rise and Women Who Empower. Dr. Donna received her BS degree at Pepperdine University and her Master’s in Educational Leadership; she has a Counseling Credential and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Azusa Pacific University.
She is an intuitive coach for personal and professional growth, a knowledgeable consultant in education and leadership, and an inspiring champion for equity, access, and inclusion for individuals with disabilities. With over twenty years of awarded leadership as a counselor and administrator, Donna is a well-respected expert in public education. Her mission is to educate, enlighten and empower individuals with knowledge that transforms thinking and leads to actionable steps toward positive change.
Kathleen Cooke:One of the biggest challenges today is having meaningful deep relationships with those with differing world views without offending each other. What has God taught you recently about standing for what you believe and yet being “gentle as doves?”
Dr. Donna Marie Hunter: Being unoffended is one of the most freeing dispositions to hold. My ministry, Grace and Space, has been my focal point and banner even before hosting a Television Show. I intentionally focus on forgiveness or grace, which lowers the tendency toward being easily offended and judgmental. Giving space allows for time and distance and to gain perspective, enabling us to see our predispositions and biases more clearly toward people, places, and things. God continues to teach me lessons on being unoffended, which produces the “peaceable fruit of righteousness” Hebrews 12:11 invites. Growing closer to God and letting people off the hook has helped me love my brother and sister as myself. It allows me to esteem the individual while recognizing the imperfection of our humanity; it has freed my soul. When we rise above being offended, it elevates our ability to impact and influence others positively. We become light in the shadows when darkness appears. We take on a righteousness that is not of our own and are able to suspend our ranking and judgment of someone else’s motives, intentions, and actions.
Kathleen:How can we choose right relationships? What’s the one thing we should consider in choosing a meaningful relationship?
Dr. Donna: Relationships are God’s chosen method to heal. We are broken in relationships, and we are healed in relationships. Isolation is usually an invitation to offense, creating barriers. Barring times of consecration when God is setting us apart for intentional growth and ministry, we need one another for our health and healing. When choosing to enter a relationship with someone, it’s imperative to hold the mirror up to ourselves and acknowledge our imperfections. Then, we’re more open to connecting with flawed individuals we choose to be in a relationship with. Appreciating the uniqueness of an individual while simultaneously offering grace and holding true to your boundaries (giving space) is the sweet spot of loving thy neighbor as you love yourself (Matthew 22:39). I’m not sure it’s possible to be in a healthy relationship unless we honor the Spirit of God within ourselves. God’s love flows through us first and then to others, touching us first and extending out.
Kathleen:Relationships are also about drawing boundaries. How can we decide where we need to draw them?
Dr. Donna: Boundaries are the language of love. I love you, and I love me; thus, I want the best for both of us. Understanding my limits and limitations allows me to fully love and express unbridled care for another. Boundary setting starts from a place of honesty and authenticity within, recognizing our brokenness and need for a holy God heal and save our souls. Our propensity toward sin, selfishness, and neediness has the potential to invite extremes and may cloud our ability to communicate authentically and avoid unhealthy situations and people. It is both loving and honest to say, “thank you, however, that does not work for me right now.” We offer grace and space by communicating our portion of the wrongdoing, taking responsibility for the mishap, asking for forgiveness, communicating an ending, and giving space or time for God to heal.
Kathleen: Our influence impacts our relationships, and relationships impact our influence. They work in tandem. What have you learned about how we can influence others?
Dr. Donna: Influence, both intentional and unintentional, is a weighty gift. Hence, my goal is to be intentional in loving and purpose-filled in my impact in the communities where I serve and inspirational in sharing my faith and the message of hope that fuels my passion. Influence is the telltale seeds we’ve sown over our lifespan, the fruit that remains after we have passed by, passed through, and passed on. It bears witness to the gravity of our impact. The legacy we desire to leave in this world is a direct result of our influence and interactions with family, friends, and foes. My favorite hashtag is #MyHopesAreUp. These words are indicative of a life, legacy, and influence I desire to intentionally leave upon the earth.