The Most Difficult Word

A Women's Leadership Workshop Podcast

Our inability to say “no” can often create tension and limit opportunity. In this episode, I share how this one small word can help us prioritize and protect that which matters most.

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

On The Other Side Of Criticism 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 10. You can read now!

On The Other Side Of Criticism

“I can’t believe anyone would trust you with their kids. The damage you have done is irreversible. Many of those kids will be scarred for life. If you don’t step down immediately, I’m going to take this to the leadership board and it won’t be long until everyone knows you’re a fake.”

I was 19 when I felt God’s call on my life. I was standing in one of the rotundas at NorthPoint Community Church in Alpharetta, GA. My dad, a church planter, had sent me to a children’s ministry conference called Grow Up. I was blown away. Church could be FUN! It was a revelation and I knew in that moment if I could find ways to make church exciting and relevant for the next generation, I would never walk away. It would be my life’s mission.

Man, what a ride it’s been. There have been highs and lows. Events that saw thousands in attendance and those where the only ones to show up were me, my husband and my kids. I’ve coached thousands of staff and volunteers and I’ve led a ministry singlehandedly. I published a book and got rejected ten times before that.

Through it all God has blessed me. He has seen fit to place his favor on my life and my ministry and I will never take it for granted. He has surrounded me with good people to encourage me and keep me focused on the big picture, men and women who support me and offer fresh ideas and insight AND who call my bluff when I feel like giving up.

But…there have also been naysayers. Those who intended to tear me down and thus destroy the work God was doing in and through me. About two years into my ministry I had what I like to call a “thick skin moment.” You’ve probably been there once or twice before. Those times when resilience means you form an impenetrable wall around your heart. You steel yourself for battle, take a breath and pretend to be calm and collected.

It had started out like any other Sunday morning. Honestly, it had been rather uneventful. The kids in my ministry had an enjoyable experience and learned more about Jesus. We were winning!

I was standing in the hallway just outside of our large group theater. Most of the kids had been released to their parents. I looked up, a smile on my face after another great morning of ministry and saw the father of one of the little boys in my ministry storming towards me, red faced and fuming.

“I can’t believe anyone would trust you with their kids. The damage you have done is irreversible. Many of those kids will be scarred for life. If you don’t step down immediately, I’m going to take this to the leadership board and it won’t be long until everyone knows you’re a fake.”

I stood stunned. I could barely speak. At the time I couldn’t even think of what I possibly had done to warrant such a reaction. He proceeded with a very colorful description. Apparently, the clip from an animated movie I had used to illustrate the bottom line of the day was not sitting well with him.

I have to be honest, after the abhorrent words he spoke to me with a tone that dripped with disgust, I didn’t really hear much else. I vaguely remember there being something about animals in another part of the movie (a part we didn’t show) worshipping an idol? Honestly, I can’t remember. But to this day, I do remember the viscous words he spoke.

I stood frozen in the hallway and let this man, this father of children not much younger than I, tear me to shreds. I remember apologizing profusely, locking up my wing of the building and fumbling to my car. I remember sitting in my driveway with tears streaming down my face and I remember the words I spoke to my husband that night. “I don’t think I’m cut out for this. I didn’t even realize I was doing anything wrong.”

Over the next few days I decided to seek the council of my pastor and other parents from my ministry. I needed answers. I needed affirmation. I needed to know that I was in fact still called to children’s ministry.

It wasn’t until the next Saturday that I got my answer. I was at the church, doing some last minute preparations for the next morning when Ann, one of my volunteers at the time, stopped in to check on me. She had heard what had happened the previous week and saw my car in the parking lot. After we exchanged pleasantries and laughed at the twenty foot snowy mountain I was making out of white styrofoam coolers, she looked over and said, “Jessica, are you looking for that dad’s approval or God’s? His opinion is the only one that matters. You’ve done great things here, but you’re allowing this one man’s opinion to destroy your confidence and sidetrack your ministry.”

Negative people are distracting. They will laugh at you and spread rumors about you. As in my case, they may even threaten you. Those that seek to destroy you will try to minimize your calling and diminish your sacrifice.

Even the most effective leaders experience opposition. Today’s scripture comes from the book of Nehemiah. Many people mistake him for a priest, but Nehemiah was actually a businessman. The Israelites had been in exile for 70 years, taken captive by the Babylonians. When they were finally released, Jerusalem was in shambles, the walls destroyed and the people left defenseless. Nehemiah asked the King of Persia if he could return and help to rebuild the city walls. The king named him governor of Judah and sent him to Jerusalem, but Nehemiah’s efforts were met with immediate opposition.

Let’s pick up in chapter six, verse one.

Nehemiah 6:1-4

Sanballat (pronounced san-bah-lot), Tobiah (pronounced toe-bi-uh), Geshem (pronounced ge-shum) the Arab, and the rest of our enemies found out that I had finished rebuilding the wall and that no gaps remained—though we had not yet set up the doors in the gates. So Sanballat and Geshem sent a message asking me to meet them at one of the villages[a] in the plain of Ono.

But I realized they were plotting to harm me, so I replied by sending this message to them: “I am engaged in a great work, so I can’t come. Why should I stop working to come and meet with you?”

Four times they sent the same message, and each time I gave the same reply.

It verse 9 it goes on to say… They were just trying to intimidate us, imagining that they could discourage us and stop the work. So I continued the work with even greater determination.”

Israel had adversaries, and those adversaries wanted to leave Jerusalem in a weakened state. Nehemiah’s enemies tried everything to keep him from rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem and when their schemes didn’t work, they tried to distract him with dialogue, but Nehemiah would not be sidetracked by opposition.

Rick Warren, author and Senior Pastor of Saddleback Church in California says this, “Leaders realize that every opportunity comes with opposition. I’ve never done anything in my life that wasn’t opposed by somebody. Opportunity plus opposition equals God’s will.”

There was a moment in your life when God spoke to you and you KNEW what you were destined for. Opportunity was abundant. The sun peaked over the horizon, a new day dawned and everything looked different than it had before. Your spirit was at peace. Your cup runneth over. The path of purpose is a fulfilling. But somewhere along the journey you stumbled upon the jagged rocks of criticism and you haven’t been able to find your way back to the joy you once experienced.

But I have a challenge for you today. Hold your ground. Stand confident in your calling and keep the “why” clear and present in your heart. Nehemiah kept his calling at the forefront of his mind and refused to be distracted by the schemes of his enemies.

You were designed with purpose, infused with passion and destined for more than the mundane. The calling you felt before the naysayers spoke remains true. You are no less on the other side of criticism than you were prior to it.

As we close today, I want to share a verse that I repeat to myself when the words of my enemies attempt to tear me down and stop my progress.

“The fear of human opinion disables; trusting in God protects you from that.” Proverbs 29:25 (MSG)

This week we will no longer fear human opinion. We will no longer allow it to disable us. Instead, we will find affirmation and protection in the loving arms of our Father.

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.