Monday, November 26, 2012

Influence Know No Age

By Carla Foote

Juliet was short and soft-spoken, but she carried herself with a presence of strength and confidence as she stood before our group in her sari, orienting our international team to the complexity of culture and religion in India. I tried to guess her age but didn’t want to be rude and ask. I was already wowed when she was introduced, not only by her past accomplishments, but by how she was choosing to use her influence in her current season of life. She was clearly past 70 but had recently started two distinct and influential ministries in India: a women’s magazine for professional women and a ministry that focused on training and empowering women in shanty-towns. Her women’s empowerment ministry was active in a Hindu area and a Muslim area of the city and she was definitely hands-on with the activities. The emphasis of her women’s empowerment ministry was developing skills in computers, tailoring, literacy and income-generating projects.

I was thrilled that Juliet was part of our magazine training class in Bangalore, India, where the students ranged from 25 to 73, all active in some aspect of Christian publishing. I knew that when I went to India, if I was open and flexible, I would learn as much or more than the students would, even though my role was to go and teach on editorial topics. Throughout the week I felt like I was in a hall of fame, where every encounter was with someone who had an inspiring story. Not all the stories were dramatic, but each pointed to a faithful God and to diligent servants of God, who persevered, often behind the scenes, to fulfill their call to ministry, to use their influence in their appointed slice of the world. There were students from India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Zambia and Nigeria and trainers from India, USA, Ukraine and UAE.

As the week progressed, I learned that Juliet is 73, exactly 20 years older than me. For some reason those 20 years held huge significance for me. I have greatly benefited from mentors in many seasons of my life, but currently my mentors are about 10 years older than me. To get to know Juliet and witness the way she lived her faith on the cutting edge was deeply impactful on my perspective of how to follow God in all seasons of life.

I also realized that I don’t have a lot of interaction with people who are over 70. My current circle of relationships includes many younger people, peers my own age and some great friends who are about 10 years ahead of me. Even in my own family, I am the older generation and I didn’t see my parents live past 64, so I am short on role models a generation ahead of me.

I want to be like Juliet when I am 73. Oh, I might have a different call than hers, but I want to still be willing to follow God and use my influence in ways that he reveals when I am in a season of life when it would be easier to coast into the finish line.

Carla Foote is Executive Editor of MomSense magazine for MOPS International ( She was a trainer for Magazine Training International at a conference in Bangalore, India.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Changing Lenses: The Process of Life Coaching

by Sheri Philips        

The first time I ever had a life coach, I just knew I was going to figure out my true calling and exactly how to walk right into it – at least that was my plan.  With all the excited fiber of my being I stepped into each coaching session looking forward to the expected “to do” list.  Between sessions I quickly conquered the “to do’s” on my action sheet so I could proudly turn them in and say, “What’s next?”  At the end of a year with my coach I was disappointed to realize that I hadn’t achieved my transformational goal even though I was an “A” student (there are no grades in life coaching, by the way). 

What I didn’t realize at the time is that I was functioning as if I could change my life externally just by willing change to happen and accomplishing everything on my lists.  Since that time God has taught me that He is the author of transformation – a miracle that happens internally, in the dark and quiet of our souls that eventually breaks out into the external world

I was catapulted into this realization at a retreat for women leaders in higher education.  During the retreat God spoke right into my heart, “I love you because of who you are, not what you do.”  I knew this intellectually, but until that day my heart had not received it, nor did it fully know it.  From that time until now, my “to do” list has only one item on it: Put down your will and your ways to accomplish and relinquish them and your future into God’s hands! 

I have learned a lot about what it means to be a “human being” instead of a “human doing” since I started on this pathway.  It means that daily I put myself in the presence of my loving Savior with three desires: to know myself as His beloved, to love Him in return, and to receive my assignments!
As a life coach and spiritual director, I have three goals when I meet with people:

11.)     Help them identify their stuck places (where and why they are stuck),
22.)     Help them kindle their passions, skills, and callings, and identify where the “river of life” is flowing for them.
33.)     Help them strategize the pathway to new destinations.

Not so ironically, this is exactly what God does with me when I am in his presence.  He puts his finger on stuck places and reveals where I’m stuck and why and he helps me to see what is bringing me life and urges me to step toward it. And he has taught me if I wait for His timing, he will show me exactly how to do what he is calling me to do.

How have you learned to live out of who you are instead of what you do?
With over twenty years in Nonprofit Management and Higher Education Sheri Philips now serves as a Life Coach. Check out her website: You can reach her at

Monday, November 12, 2012

Saying Yes to the Best Invitations

By Suanne Camfield

UGH. Why did I say yes to this?

I don’t need to know you to feel comfortable making this wager: you’ve said these words, probably more than once—and you’ve hated yourself for doing so. Most likely sitting at your kitchen table exasperated, staring at the seventy-fifth email you had to send for the committee you begrudgingly agreed to lead (because no one else would), depleted of sleep and energy and time and relaxation. 

And you wonder for the millionth time, “Why on earth did I ever say yes to this?”
A few weeks ago, I spent a weekend with a group of women talking about invitations. We were led by author and spiritual director Adele Calhoun. In her book Invitations from God, Adele makes this bold statement: “Invitations shape who we know, where we go, what we do and who we become. Invitations can challenge and remake us. They can erode and devastate. And they can also heal and restore us.”

If you’re like me, your heart lurches at the profound truth lodged in those sentences. Flashes of triumph and pangs of failure crash your mind at once. Failure: the time you said yes to leading the team you had no business leading, the relationship you endured that became a damaging mark on your soul, the opportunity you were afraid to risk that won’t quit nagging at the corners of your heart. Triumph: the job you took that helped you rediscover who you are, the adoption papers you signed that gave hope to new life, the pressure you had the guts to resist and thanked your good senses a million times over. 

As influencers, we have a responsibility to be wise about which invitations we accept and which we decline. Our influence has reach. Our decisions affect the health of our families, our friendships, our teammates, our coworkers and most importantly our own souls.  But we often fall prey to the cultural lie that the more invitations we accept, the more valuable we are.

Adele says, “We think by saying yes to invitations, we prove that we are important, wanted and—of course—busy. The truth, however, is that when we say yes to invitations that keep us compulsively busy, we may be exhibiting a lazy ambivalence that actually keeps us distracted from the invitations that matter most. Squeezing every margin to the max, we are left with less time and space to respond to the invitations from God.”

So how do we make sure we are saying yes to the invitations that really matter? 

Maybe we create space in our lives to listen—close our laptops at sunset, refuse to check our email at stop lights, pick up our Bibles instead of our iPads. Maybe we choose not to pack our schedules so tight that the slightest interruption wreaks havoc on our day. Maybe we open ourselves to the wisdom of trusted friends. Maybe we stamp out the fear of missing out that stems from saying no. Maybe we trust God’s power – in our yeses and our no’s — more than our own.

After all, the invitations that come from God are the ones that really count—the ones that beckon us to rest in his presence, to love our neighbors and to influence others out of who we are. These are the invitations that most shape who we are. And the ones that keep us from sitting exasperated at our kitchen table.

Suanne Camfield is a freelance writer, speaker and the blog manager for FullFillTM. She works for InterVarsity Press, is a founder of the Redbud Writer’s Guild and is continually trying to discern which “yes” invitations won’t drive her completely insane. You can friend her on Facebook, follow her on twitter or check out her blog.  She also highly recommends you check out Adele Calhoun’s treasure of a book Invitations from God.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Stepping Out From The Shadow Pretense

By Gillian Marchenko

It wasn’t my life plan to influence others in the world of special needs. But God saw fit to give me two daughters, Polly and Evangeline, with Down syndrome.  

God reminds me often that I’m not in control. 

So like you, I try to be faithful with the influence God has given me. I advocate for my kids. I collaborate with Joni and Friends, and Key Ministry to promote inclusion for individuals with special needs in the local church. I blog and write articles. I train churches on how to start a special needs ministry. I speak about helping children befriend others with disabilities. I talk about ways to support friends who find themselves on an island of disability. I help lead our church’s inclusive children’s ministry on Sunday mornings and our respite program on Thursday nights. 

I do these things to honor the God given potential and beauty that exist in my girls. But I also do these things in an effort to step outside the shadow of myself.  As I influence, I try to stay away from getting caught up in the grandeur of it all: “It’s awesome, my kids are awesome, life is awesome.” 

At times, it is awesome to parent children with Down syndrome, but there are also times when it’s difficult. Often parents don’t think they can share the struggles of parenting special needs children while still advocating for their kids.  But of course they can, and they should. Christians are notorious for stuffing unsavory emotions and struggles down into our guts. 
Before long we become hardened and fake.
We start to live a shadow of the life God intended for us.
Or at least, I do.
So I try to be honest. There’s a part of me that is a room, and I get locked behind doors of depression, fear, and exhaustion. I fight not to live in the shadow of myself for the sake of my children, for me, and for God’s glory.
Honesty and authenticity helps. I talk about struggling to potty train my six- year-old daughters, days when I would rather stay in bed, and my un-Christian fear of the future that sits better with me when it hangs like a nebulous cloud off in the distance of my life. God has called me to acknowledge and validate the hard parts of parenting kids with special needs. Valuable lessons exist in these parts, much like the Gospel story of Jesus. If only part of Christ’s story were told—for example, his resurrection but not his death—the story would lose its power.
There are godly reasons for struggle and pain. And there is a blessing involved when we share with others, thus coming out from behind the shadow of who we pretend to be.
With God’s help, that’s how and where I want to influence the world. How about you?

Gillian Marchenko is a writer, speaker, advocate for special needs, and a mom to four daughters. Two of her daughters, Polly and Evangeline, have Down syndrome. To find out more about Gillian’s family, check out her website at or go to her facebook author page: