On The Other Side Of Criticism

A Women's Leadership Workshop Podcast

If you’ve been leading for any length of time, you’ve probably experienced criticism. In this episode, I talk about how criticism affects us all and how we can learn to push past it.

If you enjoy today’s Podcast, I would encourage you to subscribe and share so that you and your friends can experience a challenging and inspiring word every Wednesday morning.

To listen to other Women’s Leadership Workshop Podcasts, click HERE.

Jess Bealer

Unexpected FAITH Transcript

A Women's Leadership Workshop Podcast

The goal of the Women’s Leadership Workshop Podcast is to bring practical insight and relevant leadership lessons to women. We want to help ladies everywhere learn to lead better. You can listen to all the latest podcasts now by clicking HERE. If a blog format is more your style, we’ve got you covered. Below you will find the transcript to Episode 9. You can read now!

Unexpected Faith

“Jess…I’ve got something I need to tell you, but first I want you to know that everything is going to be okay. You and your mom are going to be taken care of. I promise. Baby, the doctor’s told me I have cancer. It’s not the kind they can do much with. I have about 8 months to live. It’s not long, I know, but we’re going to live. We’re going to travel. We’re going to spend time together. It’s going to be the best 8 months of our lives.”

I was 13 years old when I found out my dad was dying of cancer. I was sitting at our breakfast table, the one with the pine top and the white spindle legs, staring at the Tennessee mountains just outside the nook of our bay window. I remember the grey diamond pattern of the linoleum floor in the kitchen where we sat. The sweat from my morning basketball game turning cold as I sat devastated by news that a little girl should never have to face. And yes, at thirteen I was still a little girl. An only child, the apple of my father’s eye. An awkward new teenager who had just hit her growth spurt and was struggling with her own self-confidence. A child who just wanted her daddy to live longer than 8 months. It was one of the darkest moments of my life. And yet looking back, I wouldn’t change how it all played out. The heartache I experienced, the numbness that clawed at my brain and body would soon transform into endless hope and a faith that could and would move mountains. As an adult, I often look back and yearn for the blind faith of my childhood.

It was two days later that I encountered God in a way that to this day still seems surreal. I was standing in front of the mirror fixing my hair for school. I was literally holding my curling iron when God spoke to me. Not a still small voice, but a strong audible declaration. “Your dad will live.” It’s all I heard, four small words that changed me forever. I stood stunned momentarily and then spoke out loud. “God?”

There wasn’t a reply. Why would there be? He said what needed to be said, and it was my turn to believe, to put my trust in the Creator of Heaven and Earth and just believe. Have you ever noticed that God gives you what you need exactly when you need it, but it’s rarely in excess of what’s required and it seldom comes prior to the moment it’s needed most.

I walked down the hall with a smile on my face and a bounce in my step. I looked at my mom and dad and said, “Dad’s going to be okay. He’s going to live. God told me. He’s going to walk me down the isle one day when I get married.”

That last statement was more of an assumption on my part, but I had just heard God’s voice and believe me I was relishing in His promise. Honestly…my parents were a little skeptical. But it was okay. I decided almost immediately that I would have enough faith for all of us. I can genuinely say following that bathroom, hair curler moment I never doubted that my dad would live. It wasn’t even a consideration in the back of my mind. Trepidation was replaced with tranquility. Heartache with hope.

I could tell you story after story of the miraculous events that led to my father’s complete and utter healing. I could tell you of the doctor friend who connected my dad with an oncologist at Vanderbilt hospital. I could tell you of the special trial that was being conducted for cancer patients under the age of 40. I could tell you of how my dad, despite receiving the highest dosage of chemo and radiation that was allowable never lost his hair. I could tell of you the encounter my dad had with an angelic being while in recovery. I could share how my mom collapsed on the floor in tears when the doctor called after 8 hours of surgery and whispered in an awestruck voice, “Mrs. Potter…we got it all.”

And yet…the miraculousness of the entire situation can be summarized in the four words that were spoken aloud to me, “Your dad will live.”

Faithful. Our God is faithful.

He keeps his promises. AND he calls us to believe, to trust in his unfailing mercies.

At church a few weeks back I heard my pastor, Andy Stanley, say this, “When our faith intersects with God’s faithfulness big things happen.” I can attest to this fact. I have stood witness to the wondrous power of our Savior, the inexpliable and all that was required of me was my faith.

In Matthew 8, we see a man whose faith was so great it served as a catalyst to the miraculous. Let’s pick up in verse 5.

When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help.“Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”

Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”

The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.

It goes on to say in verse 13…Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.

Are there situations in your life in which you feel desperate? The definition of desperation is a state of despair, typically one that results in rash or extreme behavior.

The centurion was desperate. He needed an infusion of supernatural power to better his circumstance and heal his servant. It seems outrageous doesn’t it, that this commander in the Roman army, a man who enforced discipline upon his legion of soldiers and dealt daily with reports and logistics would seek a higher power, one that could not be defined or explained.

Do you need a miracle? Are you so desperate for God’s power that you’re willing to throw logic and reason out the window and just believe that our Heavenly Father can restore life, heal a broken body, mend a shattered family, or reinstate a lost job?

It has been my experience that when I’m at my lowest, God is at work. When all hope seems to be lost, relief is imminent IF I will choose to believe. Jesus acknowledged the great faith of the centurion and then moved mightily on his behalf. Is your faith strong? Are you ready to request a miracle?

If so, here’s today’s challenge: Choose to believe. Allow your desperation to amplify your faith. Ask God for a miracle and then exhibit the same radical faith of the centurion and trust that God is in control, whether you can see it or not.

“Jess…I’ve got something I need to tell you, but first I want you to know that everything is going to be okay. You and your mom are going to be taken care of. I promise. Baby, the doctor’s told me I have cancer. It’s not the kind they can do much with. I have about 8 months to live. It’s not long, I know, but we’re going to live. We’re going to travel. We’re going to spend time together. It’s going to be the best 8 months of our lives.”

It’s been 23 years since my mom and dad sat me down at the kitchen table. My father still stands in the pulpit every Sunday proclaiming God’s Word. Oh how I wish I could have the faith of my childhood. A faith characterized by unbridled hope and unwavering trust.

Don’t get me wrong; my dad’s illness was one of the most difficult seasons of my life. My faith didn’t make it any easier to watch my hero suffer in pain. And yet…I wouldn’t change a thing because those unforeseen circumstances led to unexpected faith.

God doesn’t guarantee a life without hardship. He also doesn’t promise healing and restoration in every circumstance, but I have to believe that our faith makes a difference. I have to believe that when our faith intersects with God’s faithfulness…big things happen.

Unexpected FAITH

A Women's Leadership Workshop Podcast

At one point or another we’ve all found ourselves in a desperate situation, pleading with God for relief or restoration. In this episode, I share how unforeseen circumstances led to unexpected faith.

If you enjoy today’s Podcast, I would encourage you to subscribe and share so that you and your friends can experience a challenging and inspiring word every Wednesday morning.

To listen to other Women’s Leadership Workshop Podcasts, click HERE.

Jess Bealer

The Habit Of Hard Work Transcript

A Women's Leadership Workshop Podcast

The goal of the Women’s Leadership Workshop Podcast is to bring practical insight and relevant leadership lessons to women. We want to help ladies everywhere learn to lead better. You can listen to all the latest podcasts now by clicking HERE. If a blog format is more your style, we’ve got you covered. Below you will find the transcript to Episode 8. You can read now!

The Habit Of Hard Work

“I’m sorry Micah. I don’t have good news. I wish I had an extra slot on the team, but I’m forced to make some cuts. You’re a good player, but we’ve already got our big guys for the season and right now I don’t have a place for you on the Wolverines Basketball Team. Keep working hard and try out again next year.”

A few years back my oldest biological child, Micah, was seeing some success in swimming. He was on a winning team and was slowly, but surely, pushing his way through the ranks. Meet after meet he would beat his previous best, and by the time he was in sixth grade, he qualified for state in the 50 Meter Fly.

He never went to state. Instead, at the end of the regular season, Micah looked me square in the eyes and said, “Mom…I really hate swimming. I did enjoy it for a while, but now I dread the pool. Please don’t make me do it anymore.” I was stunned, shocked, and resistant. But after a couple weeks, I realized I couldn’t make him love swimming. His passion for the sport was gone and with it his drive to succeed.

For the next couple years Micah floundered about, trying to find a sport or activity that interested him. He tried baseball. He was great at fielding the ball, but couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn when it came to batting. In 7th grade he wanted to try wrestling. He didn’t win a match…not one. Honestly, he didn’t even come close. That was a rough season for this mama. Watching my son slammed to the ground and tangled into positions that looked unnatural and then walking to the car and forcing out the words “you’ll get ‘em next time” felt like torture.

But then it happened. The summer before his eighth grade year, Micah started to grow and grow and grow and grow some more. By the end of middle school, he had grown nine inches in 18 months and was nearly six feet tall. You know what that means…basketball. As a former basketball player and state champ myself, I was ecstatic at the idea of sitting in the bleachers cheering for my boy. There was just one glaring problem. Micah was terrible. He couldn’t dribble to save his life. His knowledge of the game was not existent and despite the fact that he was closer to the goal than everyone else his age, he couldn’t make a shot to save his life. The only thing he seemed to be good at was rebounding. He looked at me after a particularly bad day of practice and said, “I think I’ve found my sport. I love basketball.” I smiled and nodded. “That’s great!” All the while wondering if the swimming team would take him back.

For the next nine months, Micah went to the gym every day. Oftentimes he would ask me to drop him off and leave him for four or five hours at a time. He would shoot, dribble, run and play pick-up games with guys who were bigger and stronger. And…he got better. When he made the team his Freshman year, no one was surprised. He had earned it. When he broke his foot during the first practice of the season, my heart broke. I distinctly remember looking at the ceiling and crying out to God, “Why? Why did you let him go through all this just to take it away from him?”

When we moved to Atlanta the summer before his Sophomore year, Micah joined a summer basketball league. He did well. He also asked his dad and I for a personal trainer that would push and challenge him. We agreed and Micah continued to improve. He befriended the high school basketball coach and kept his grades up. He had worked hard and his dad and I were confident that it was FINALLY, his time to shine.

We were sitting at my daughter’s dance studio, waiting for her class to conclude when the phone rang. Micah smiled, rushed outside and took the call.

“I’m sorry Micah. I don’t have good news. I wish I had an extra slot on the team, but I’m forced to make some cuts. You’re a good player, but we’ve already got our big guys for the season and right now I don’t have a place for you on the Wolverines Basketball Team. Keep working hard and try out again next year.”

He came back in and sat down next to me, a 6 foot 1 giant with the heart of a teddy bear and red streaked glossy eyes. He was trying not to cry when he relayed what the coach had said. He asked to go sit in the car and compose himself. Ten minutes later when I climbed in the car, he had made a decision.

“I get it. I didn’t have the best try-out. I think I’m actually a better choice for the team, but it’s too late now. I’ll just keep working hard. Can I keep practicing with the personal trainer? And I know it’s past the deadline, but do you think you could get me in the local rec league? If I’m going to make the team next year, I’ve got to keep getting better.”

Fortitude. Fortitude is defined as the strength of mind that enables a person to encounter danger or bear pain or adversity with courage.

Have you ever looked at someone and wondered, “How do they push through? How is it that when everything falls apart, they can find the strength to move forward?”

I believe the answer can be found in scripture. In the gospels, we see Jesus speak to hundreds of crowds, we see him heal the sick and raise the dead, and all the while, his disciples stood by and observed. They listened and learned and served when called upon, but up until this point the disciples had not propagated the teachings of Jesus on their own, but the time had come.

In Mark chapter 6, Jesus sends the disciples out. We’re going to read verses 7-13.

And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts— but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. 10 And he said to them, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there. 11 And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” 12 So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. 13 And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.

The disciples had been attentive and obedient. They had left their old lives behind and found a new purpose. They had served the Son of God tirelessly, and their hard work and dedication had brought them to this point. But Jesus was clear, they would face adversity. There would be those that doubted their claims and rejected their faith. Yet, Jesus still said, “go.”

You and I have not been promised ease of success. God never guaranteed victory. He did assure us that “those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31.

God is with you. Always. He is your strength and your confidence. And why would you need strength if God didn’t have a purpose for you, if there wasn’t a mission he has set you on. But first, you must set about the business of hard work. The disciples were prepared. They had been on this journey with Jesus for quite some time and their faithfulness and fortitude had given them resolve. They were willing to sacrifice without the promise of success

Have you reached that point? Are you willing to be faithful without the assurance your dreams will see fruition?

Many of the circumstances in your life are beyond your control, but hard work increases determination and creates a resilient spirit. Willpower and resolve lead to confidence and that is a pretty incredible recipe for success, but even if your goal is never reached, your dream is never realized, the habit of hard work is the victory in and of itself.

So here’s this week’s challenge: Get a good night’s rest. Eat a healthy meal. Reinforce your heart and mind with nourishment from God’s Word, and GET BACK TO WORK. Your commitment and dedication may not guarantee results, but the lack thereof will ensure your failure.

You know, I was able to wrangle up a spot for Micah in the local rec league this season. It took a lot of quick work, maneuvering and a passionate plea from a distraught mother, but we made it happen. I’m happy to report that Micah is having a stellar season. Just last week he had ten rebounds; six assists and he scored more than twenty points. He’s having fun, but he’s still working hard. He goes to the gym and practices four or five times a week and he’s added resistance training to his routine. I’m not sure if he’ll make the team next season or not. And while I would love to see him in a navy and gold jersey, I’m thankful for this season, this challenge, and I’m blessed by his response to it.

I believe our Heavenly Father looks down at our fortitude and smiles. I believe when we tighten our bootstraps, realign our focus and labor in His name, He is proud.

In the end, the habit of hard work is victory in and of itself. Maybe not today, maybe not in this situation or circumstance, but eventually your hard work combined with God’s benevolent nature will produce results.

If you’re enjoying the Women’s Leadership Workshop, I would encourage you to text a friend or family member and let them know what you’ve been learning or take just a moment to share this episode on social media. Thanks for tuning in and I hope you’ll come back again next week.

The Habit Of Hard Work

A Women's Leadership Workshop Podcast

Sometimes, despite hard work and dedication, our dreams are never realized. In this episode I share how a heartbreaking experience actually resulted in unforeseen results for my son.

Listen now.

If you enjoy today’s Podcast, I would encourage you to subscribe and share so that you and your friends can experience a challenging and inspiring word every Wednesday morning.

To listen to other Women’s Leadership Workshop Podcasts, click HERE.

Jess Bealer

Control Creates Crisis Transcript

A Women's Leadership Workshop Podcast

The goal of the Women’s Leadership Workshop Podcast is to bring practical insight and relevant leadership lessons to women. We want to help ladies everywhere learn to lead better. You can listen to all the latest podcasts now by clicking HERE. If a blog format is more your style, we’ve got you covered. Below you will find the transcript to Episode 7. You can read now!

Control Creates Crisis

“You know what…We’re done. We’re just…done. I don’t know you. I’ve never seen you before in my life. But you just walk right in here and tell me how to do my job, AND you insult my daughter. If you think you can do it better, then have at it. I’m leaving. Hope you enjoy the chaos.”

My first year of ministry at Elevation Church was spent as the Rock Hill eKidz Director. I had the opportunity to launch the campus, recruit volunteers and develop teams and systems to help us minister to families in my community. It was an exciting time. I loved my position and the teams I led. However, most of our campuses were experiencing significant overflow and it seemed the best solution was to expand. So with two new locations on the launch schedule, I was asked to move into the role of Children’s Director. I would oversee systems, standards, staffing, atmosphere and volunteer training. I had only been in the position of Children’s Director for a few weeks when I decided to take a trip to a new location that had only been launched for a couple months.

My goal for the visit was to encourage the volunteers, evaluate the systems and atmosphere and help the campus kids director find ways to increase efficiency and effectiveness. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting many issues. The kids director was phenomenal. She was a visionary with a sweet spirit and a penchant for organization.

I remember thinking on the car ride there how easy this first campus evaluation would be. Looking back, it was probably that overconfidence that set me up for such an epic fail.

When I arrived, I was met with a warm welcome. The check-in team was all smiles. The volunteers obviously loved what they did. The preschool environments were beautiful and the elementary age small groups had employed several creative ideas to make small groups more engaging. I was impressed, to say the least.

My last stop was Clubhouse. Clubhouse is the environment reserved for volunteer and staff kids. We were committed to families; especially those that helped us execute our ministry week after week. Clubhouse was an area in which staff and volunteers’ kids could go if they would be onsite for more than one service. It was a relaxed environment with movies, videogames, toys, crafts, boardgames and of course…snacks.

Because the campus was non-permanent, this particular Clubhouse ran out of a large school gymnasium. As soon as I walked in, my ears fell under assault. Kids were definitely having fun. In fact, they seemed to be having a blast, at least that’s what the shrieks of excitement told me. There was a somewhat confusing mesh of kickball slash dodgeball being played out at the center of the room. Toys were strewn across the gymnasium floor, adding a new layer of peril to the unusual sport. A movie was playing on a big screen that up until this point had somehow survived the onslaught of playground balls. To make matters worse, there were crumbs and snack time remnants everywhere. It was a debacle. I began to look around frantically for the adult in charge. The only person I saw of age to assist was a teenage girl sitting on the bleachers staring at her smart phone.

Looking back…I could have handled the situation a hundred different ways…and all of them would have been better than what I did in that moment. I turned on my “mom voice,” shut down the strange kickball/dodgeball game, and began to pick up the toys. I instructed the teenage girl to kindly get off her phone and help me reign in the crazy and then I put every kid in time out…indefinitely.

When the gym door swung open and the volunteer who was clearly supposed to be in charge walked in with a line of kids behind her I let out a frustrated huff and began to instruct her on an appropriate and safe Clubhouse environment. I only got about ten seconds into my lecture before I was cut off.

“You know what…We’re done. We’re just…done. I don’t know you. You’re not my boss. I’ve never seen you before in my life. But you just walk right in here and tell me how to do my job, AND you insult my daughter. If you think you can do it better, then have at it. I’m leaving. Hope you enjoy the chaos.”

Technically…I wasn’t her boss. I was her boss’s boss, but the fact remains that I was a stranger to her. She had never seen me before. She didn’t understand my passion for excellence or the fact that one of my highest priorities was the care and development of staff and volunteer kids. She didn’t know my heart…and I didn’t know hers.

What made matters worse was that in my attempt to “clean things up.” I had undermined the authority of the campus kids director. Not only was she down two volunteers, which was the immediate problem, but I had unintentionally shamed her efforts.

I remember hanging my head on my way to the car. How had I screwed it up so badly? My intentions were pure. I just wanted to help, but my need for control had reared it’s ugly head and I had jumped straight into “fix it” mode. And if I’m being honest…that’s just a nice way to say I turned into a control freak and I made a mess of the situation

Ever been there?

Let it be a comfort to you, Christians have been trying to wield control since Biblical times. Not much has changed.

Simon Peter was one of the first followers of Jesus Christ. He was the outspoken disciple, one of Jesus’ closest friends, an apostle and “pillar” of the early church.

Peter was also enthusiastic, strong-willed, impulsive, and at times, brash. And for all his strengths, Peter made many mistakes. One of those mistakes came during the final days before Jesus’ crucifixion.

In Luke’s account of the Last Supper in Chapter 22, we see Peter react and try to take control of a situation in which God was already at work. Jesus was about to be betrayed by Judas and seemingly without thought, Peter reacts. We’re going to start in verse 47.

47 While he (Jesus) was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him,48 but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”

49 When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” 50 And one of them (Peter) struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.

51 But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.

In Matthew’s account of the incident in Chapter 26, scripture reads…

52 “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”

God had a plan. From the opening manger scene in Bethlehem, to a hill called Golgotha just outside the walls of Jerusalem, our Heavenly Father was absolutely aware of each miracle and every teaching that Jesus would share in his 33 years on Earth. And he knew that Judas’ betrayal would set the stage for the greatest sacrifice the human race had ever seen. Jesus’ destiny was thought of and designed before Abraham, before Noah, before Adam and Eve. This was always God’s intention.

And Peter…almost screwed it up. Okay, not really, I mean I refuse to believe that a fisherman with a sword could have thwarted the gift of salvation for generations to come, but you understand my point. This was the master plan from the creator of heaven and earth and Peter’s aggression was reckless and without forethought.

This type of behavior was typical for Peter. Still, the Lord who chose him continued to mold him into exactly who He intended Peter to be. Jesus himself reaffirmed Peter, calling him “this rock on which I will build my church” and promising him the “keys of the kingdom of heaven.”

It’s reassuring really. Peter was loved by Jesus and used to accomplish great things in His name, but he was also human and struggled with many of the same issues we face daily. If the Savior not only offered Peter redemption, but also commissioned him to establish the early church, then surely he can use you and I.

So here’s today’s challenge: Stop cutting off ears. We all have a metaphorical sword. It’s called our tongue. When things feel as if they’re spinning out of control, when everything within you is screaming to step in and step up to the challenge, breathe. Before you react, prior to lashing out, preceding your missteps. Just breath, and look to Jesus.

Do you think Peter would have cut off the servant’s ear if he had taken a breath and put his eyes on the Son of God? I don’t. I think the passionate man that Jesus called to His ministry would have read the situation for what it was, a bittersweet necessity.

As a leader, you’ve been gifted with many valuable skills. Maybe you’re an incredible visionary that can motivate people to move. Maybe you’re a strategic thinker who creates systems that streamline processes and increase efficiency. Or maybe you’re relational with the gift to connect with people on a deeper level and call out hidden potential. All of these things qualify you to “take control.” And your natural inclination may lead you to wield the power you have force change. But control often creates crisis. Just because you can insert yourself into a situation, doesn’t mean you should. Discernment is a skill developed over time by navigating difficult seasons and experiences. It is rarely granted spontaneously. Many times, the answer to the problem you face is a good night’s rest followed by a collaborative brainstorming session.

When I think back to that first campus visit, I often wonder what would have happened if I had just stopped talking. What could I have accomplished if I would have taken a deep breath, said a quick prayer and saw the situation through the eyes of God. Would I have offered assistance? Showed appreciation? Maybe I could have connected with the volunteer and her daughter and offered encouragement. I am certain with just a few more moments of consideration, the outcome would have been drastically different.

The best leaders bring their team alongside them every step of the way. They teach them how to think and they lead them through change without creating crisis.

Growing up in church, I learned the answer to most questions asked during Sunday School was, “pray and read the Bible.”

As an adult I realize it’s not a coincidence that the answers I seek are most often revealed when I spend time in the presence of God.

The next time you’re faced with a frustrating situation and you switch into “fix it” mode. I want to encourage you to stop, breath and fix your eyes on Jesus.