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.
Connect with Jodie:
Book a free intro session at: JodieSwee.com
Instagram: @jodieswee and @topangasocial
Our culture is volatile. Just observe what often happens when a car accident occurs. In our present era of social media, it happens so easily for unintended or accidental incidents to “go viral.” Out come the cell phones. With social media, what might have been a simple local incident fifty years ago, can now incite a passionate global response. We were created by a passionate God to be passionate people. Jesus definitely was. We often refer to His life, death, and resurrection as “the Passion of Christ.”
What happens when our passions are not understood and they incite a wrong response?
I am reminded how often I have almost hit the car in front of me because it suddenly stopped, only for me to eventually realize there was something was in the road I couldn’t originally see. Perhaps it was an animal running across the road or debris that was in the way. The only thing I could see was my coffee cup or purse go flying in my car as I came to an abrupt stop. And I confess… my verbal responses haven’t always been pleasant ones! Similarly, social and political issues most often happen when we aren’t present. And our screens usually only show one perspective and not the whole picture. Yet, because of our human passion, we respond with an instant reaction that can ignite others’ views like a wildfire causing unrest and destruction.
Passionate responses cause disruptions.
In Luke 12:49, Jesus revealed His human nature and the burden of living in our broken world. He was both fully God and fully human and He was passionate to save us. He knew He would be “baptized” in suffering and wished He could just get on with it – be “kindled.” Yet God’s passion for us wouldn’t let Him until all that needed to be fulfilled in prophecy was done. It required Jesus to wait and walk the walk and talk the talk and trust in God’s perfect timing. And, I might add, it wasn’t easy. It required that He bring truth, and the truth is volatile. His passion would bring division. The truth of Jesus brought would pit one against the other – families would be divided because of their inability to see clearly who He was and God’s plan.
Our humanness limits our sight.
Jesus continually spoke clearly but He had to also use stories and ask questions that brought clarity and understanding because the hard truth stopped people. His mission was to enlighten us on God’s plan for our redemption. God saw what had to be done from the inciting incident of sin in the Garden. He knew how to solve the problem because He’s God. Yet, from our blind perspective, we only saw the punishment and not God’s redemptive plan for us. Our “car” (freedom) has been forced to stop and our personal stuff is flying. For those who have allowed themselves to believe in the truth of Jesus and whose eyes have been opened, we see differently.
We don’t have to know “the why” because God sees the why.
Instead of confusion and fear when challenges happen, we’re able to relax in the uncertainty and it’s unnatural. We weren’t at the inciting incident of sin in the Garden of Eden, but we don’t have to be. The Word of God is enough to trust that He’s got us. He sees us when we find ourselves suddenly stopped in our career or in life.
But we must choose.
We can become confused and frustrated when life’s disruptions happen, or choose the “peace that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). The difference? Confident rest. There’s a clarity and assurance that permeates our being, knowing that in the unknown and “the wait,” God’s perfect will is ideal, and His vision for us is best when we let Him control our gas petals.
In Luke 12:57-59, Jesus challenged those who were listening to pay attention to the time they were living in. It was the most significant time that had ever happened on Earth. He had come to save us. Today, we even document time as before Christ (BC) and after Christ’s death (AD) because His life, death, and resurrection stopped the clock and then restarted it.
The times we’re living in seem to change at light speed with unintended incidents – stops that we never could have anticipated, but still manage to disrupt our lives. Yet, God never changes. His plans will be accomplished even if they unfortunately divide families and cause disruptive “fires.” Jesus knew He was the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Jesus was confident in what He had been called to do on Earth by His Father. He willingly and passionately completed His mission, even if it incited division and disruption.
Are you willing to trust God’s plan and perspective for your life even if causes a fire?
Navigating your path can be challenging. Learning to let go of idols, offenses and hurt (especially from the Church) isn’t easy, but it’s incredibly necessary. Read this month’s INNER VIEW with award-winning writer Sarah Sumpolec as she shares about the speed bumps she’s had to overcome in her walk with God.
BIO: Sarah Sumpolec is a writer and producer who is particularly passionate about the tween, teen, and family markets. She’s a traditionally published, award-winning novelist with seven teen novels. She began writing for TV and film in 2004 after graduating from the Act One Hollywood Program. She worked in development alongside Vonda Skelton to launch the teen intern program at the Gideon Media Arts & Film Festival and worked on short films and major features in a variety of capacities refining her career. She has a nurturing heart and a passion to mentor writers to see them develop award-winning content. Her family has been involved in the entertainment industry for a long while; two of her three daughters work as professional actresses, and when her youngest was 12 years old, she toured the country on the National Broadway tour of Annie. The family has recently moved to Los Angeles to continue their careers, and Sarah remains passionate about writing and producing content that allows teens (ages 8-18) to flourish and discover their identity and purpose.
Sarah will be leading an Influence Women Mentorship track on writing this coming April. Register at influencewomen.org!
Kathleen Cooke: How has God walked with you through the roller-coaster of a career as a writer?
Sarah Sumpolec: Oh, I could write a book. Quite honestly, I’ve been in a wilderness season that has dragged on far longer than I ever anticipated. I’m still very much in it. But as painful as it has been at times, it has also been precious. I recognize how God has been by my side to transform me on the inside, even as I walk through a barren landscape. How He gently but persistently calls me to keep my eyes fixed on Him alone. Even when everything falls apart and nothing looks the way you had hoped or imagined – He is the treasure. But keeping my eyes on Jesus, abiding in the truth of who He is, means I must ignore all of the things that come at me from the world that try to paint a different reality. It means I must choose joy when grief threatens to flood me. I must choose joy when I face yet another rejection. I must choose joy when yet someone or something else tries to tell me I don’t belong. Because if He didn’t say it, then it’s not true.
Choosing joy is no small thing and I feel like I’ve had increased opportunities to choose joy at ever-deepening levels. Because “everything falling apart and nothing looking the way we had hoped or imagined”? That’s been our journey. Joy can’t wait until things have changed because then my joy is because of that external thing that has changed. No, I have to choose joy here and now, when my hands are empty, and I’ve got nothing to offer except myself. I will “praise before the breakthrough” because He truly is enough.
Kathleen: It takes grit and ambition to carve out a writing career. How do you live in the “wait” and the writing and re-writing and more re-writing, knowing God’s got you?
Sarah: As a young teen, before I met Jesus, I started working in the theater and assistant directing in my local theater. In college, I continued that journey as a double major in Theater and Psychology – I dreamed of being an actor, director, and playwright. Enter Jesus. By the time I was a senior and had grown considerably in my walk, God showed me how the theater was an idol in my life, and that it needed to go. I quickly dropped my major with just one class left to take and walked away from it completely. I didn’t want anything between Jesus and me! And in many ways, that set the tone for my walk with Jesus. When we lay down our own ambitions and dreams, it is only then we can make room for Him to plant new ones in our hearts. I always think of Abraham and Sarah – and how – in their urgency to “help” God’s promise come along, Ishmael was born. But he was not the son of promise. If you try to get things your own way, circumventing God’s plan, you could end up with something that God didn’t mean for you to have. His way is always better. The things He has planned for me will come in my pursuit of Him – not in my pursuit of those “things”.
That allows me to let go of things whenever He nudges me that I’m holding something too tightly, or something that I shouldn’t be holding at all. I used to want the lights shining on me, and now I’m content to be invisible. Being invisible is a weird place, too, but because I know that I’m not invisible to Him, I can be at peace even in this place. Anonymity can become a comfort zone, too – for example – I was recently invited onto a podcast, a live radio show, and asked for this interview!! Because God has had me hidden for so long, doing interviews makes me uncomfortable! So I have found we need to find a balance to be willing to go when He says go, and let go when He says let go and seek to be sensitive enough to His voice to know the difference.
Kathleen: The industry is rotted with promises that are often never fulfilled and people who say and do damaging things which affect creative and artistic endeavors. What has God taught you about forgiveness and moving forward?
Sarah: I didn’t grow up in the Church (I have a wild testimony!), and I think one of the things that surprised me most about Christianity early was seeing how badly some Christians treat other Christians. Over the years, some of the hardest things I have had to endure came at the hands of people who called themselves believers. I learned very early on – thanks to an amazing discipleship group where I was truly healed and set free – that I can never use God’s people as a measure of who He truly is. Sadly, they just aren’t always a good reflection of Him.
But the second piece of that is that forgiveness is a choice. Unforgiveness is a sin that will hurt us if we don’t deal with it. It will choke us like an out-of-control weed if we don’t cut it off. It must be dealt with swiftly. The beauty of choosing forgiveness is I can choose it even if my feelings aren’t there yet. The feelings will catch up eventually. Choosing forgiveness, then praying blessings for those that have wronged you helps your heart line up correctly. I find this is something I go back to over and over in my walk, because, well, offenses happen, don’t they?
Kathleen: God tells us more times in the Bible to “go” and influence the world than He tells us to stay put. Why is this important for someone working in the industry to learn?
Sarah: Right before the COVID shutdown, our family received some surprising direction from God. We were on a completely different path, merrily walking along, thinking that the path we walked made sense. Then everything changed; all because a college kid looked at us and said, “Why would you do that?” Little did she know that her question prompted some deep prayer and soul-searching for us all. And strangely, the idea of “We are all moving to Hollywood” didn’t seem so strange anymore. It seemed like it is what we were supposed to figure out all along. But when I say our lives were upended, it’s not an exaggeration. And it’s been hard. Really hard. I think too many Christians believe following God should be this smooth, even road, and I’ve found that to not be the case. Sometimes your promised land has giants, but when God leads, nothing is impossible.
Teaching in the public school system taught me long ago that we are all constantly influencing people around us. Whatever is in us oozes out into the world around us. Our internal world and personal deep and abiding connection with Christ is the most important thing to care for. Because it is from that core that all influence happens.
The question for me really is – what kind of influence am I? Am I bringing words of faith and hope into the world around me? Sometimes that is all you can do, and that is enough.
Connect with Sarah:
Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/what-do-i-do-with-my-life/id1502924500 https://open.spotify.com/show/1XtoNofXO49HaEGyFbL5LA
The grip of the eagle’s claws dug into my gloved hand, and it took every ounce of my strength to hold up his 20+ pound body on my outstretched arm. Within just a few minutes, the eagle’s trainer, who was standing by, came up behind me to help me hold up my arm as its claws dug in. I was in Mongolia shooting a project on how Christianity spread to the ends of the earth and the stories of the many missionaries who had made unthinkable sacrifices by giving their lives and sacrificing the lives of their spouses and children so that God’s story and light might be made known. Holding that bird became a teaching moment for me. One I’ll never forget.
In Luke 17, Jesus is trying to provide some understanding to those listening of what the end times on earth will look like. Many throughout history have speculated on when Jesus will return for the final time and what life will be like. Jesus shares a few examples and then tells us that it will be like the days of Lot in Sodom and Gomorrah, when there was much debauchery. To those living there, it was normal and nothing new. They had accepted the culture into their lifestyle. (more…)