2018 Kick-Off: "Power-filled daughters of the King"

This week at J4 Leaders our founder and Chief Encouragement Officer, Lisa Schultz facilitated a dynamic discussion around the topic of power as we launched our 2018 theme: Power-filled daughters of the King. During our time together we explored types of power displayed in the workplace, how it manifests itself positively and negatively, and what the Bible says about power.  We reviewed examples of God’s power displayed in scripture and gleaned practical application for our own leadership roles. 

We had fun emulating “power poses” while recognizing that what matters most is our spiritual posture before the Lord.  We acknowledged that our access to power is through our relationships with Christ and that he intends for us to use it with wisdom and for the greater good.

If you missed the forum, rest in the blessed assurance that you are a beloved daughter of the ultimate power source - the King of the Universe!  So straighten your crowns and use your power in a way that glorifies our Father.

"Loving Your Neighbor Generously"

At our October Forum, Candice Blomeley was our encourager and shared on "Loving Your Neighbor Generously".

When you think about being Generous, what is your greatest fear? Rejection? Being taken advantage of? Not doing enough? Looking stupid? Insulting the recipient? Will it make a difference? Failure? These are things all of us fear at one time or another when considering being generous, especially to a stranger.  If you obey God's instructions for you to be generous, you will often find that you are in fact an answer to someones prayer.

Sharing - To give a piece of the pie to someone VS Generosity - Giving out of abundance or excess that you have.

When you feel that God is prompting you to give:

Face FEAR: 1. Is it from God? 2. Is it enough? 3. Answer Yes or No4. Is it worth making a mistake?

When the Lord prompts you to do something, do not give into your fears. Be the answer to prayer.

"God's Perfect Love"

At our September Forum, Lori Luedtke shared with us about "God's Perfect Love" in her life. She asked us to share her testimony with you . . .

Miracles DO happen; you just need to look for them.

On December 31st, 2011, I married the man of my dreams, Danny Aranowitz. Although he is not a believer in Jesus Christ I knew I was in his life for a reason. I was to show him the way. In February we had a wedding celebration at our home. In March we went on our honeymoon, highway 1 in California. My husband planned such an amazing and romantic trip, beautiful scenery, great food and great wine tasting, and simply enjoying each other.

At the time, I had been studying Revelations at home with a group of girls. It was very hard for me to study this and know that my husband would not have eternal life. One night, as Danny and I were talking, I prophesized to him that he was going to wake up one day and I wouldn’t be laying next to him. Of course he said, “Don’t be ridiculous!” I told him that something very serious was going to happen to him and he was going to drop to his knees and ask for the Lord’s help. Little did I know.

In May of 2012, my life turned upside-down. Mid May I started to have severe headaches. I found myself unable to complete or process my thoughts. There were times when I was just standing in a room with no realization as to how I got there and wondering just how long I had been there. It was very scary, but I didn’t go to the doctor. I just “chalked it up” to being over tired or over stressed. To the best of my memory, this went on for a couple of days. My husband had been traveling for business during this time. He got home late on a Thursday evening. I hadn’t mentioned any of this to him because I didn’t want to worry him. Friday morning I got up as usual to go work out. My husband got up shortly after I did and found me lying on the sofa. This was very unusual for me. He sat beside me and asked,” What is going on?” I told him I had another headache and that I had been having them for a few days. I explained that I was having a hard time completing tasks and processing my thoughts. He said, “Get up; we’re going to the doctor.”

1st Miracle - He was home.

I said, “What doctor?” He said, “A Neurologist.” I didn’t even have a primary care doctor at the time, much less a neurologist, but Danny is in the medical field and he instantly knew something wasn’t right. “We will go to the emergency room,” he said at my worry of not having a doctor. ”Just where I want to spend my morning!” I thought.

At the time I had a client, Randy, who had become a friend. He also happened to be a doctor. I decided to call him.

 2nd miracle - I had a doctor friend I trusted.

3rd miracle - He wasn’t working and answered.

I had worked for him a couple of years and he knew my personality quite well. I began to tell him I wasn’t feeling well. He asked me questions. After we spoke for about 30 minutes he said, “I want you to go to Florida Hospital South. I am not working, but I will call my partner so they will be expecting you and will take you right back to triage.”

He added, “ Lori, I don’t know what is going on, it could be a stroke, an aneurism. I do know, however, if you were my wife, I would want you to be seen immediately. At the hospital we have all the testing to rule out what it is not. You will have some answers by the end of the day. How quickly can you get there?” Danny had me in the car immediately.

When we arrived they ordered blood tests and a CAT scan. My husband of only a few months was in the lobby pacing and making phone calls while I was being tested. It was truly the beginning of being tested in more ways than one.

When I came out to the waiting room to wait for the results of my test, Randy walked into the waiting room. I said, ” What are you doing here? You’re not working today.” He replied, “I don’t know what kind of decisions you are going to have to make today, but you are not going to have to make them on your own. I will be right here with you and Danny.”

4th miracle - A friend who understood and was there to comfort us.

He asked if he could review my results first and of course I said yes. He told me he would let the doctor on duty come and talk to me, then once he left my room, he would come in and we would discuss whatever options available. I prayed and prayed, ”God I know this is a part of your plan, but I certainly do not understand this.” The doctor called Danny and me back. He said the blood work was fine and so was the CAT scan. They now wanted to do a spinal tap to rule out the following: meningitis, multiple sclerosis, and cancers of the brain or spinal cord. That was super scary to me, but all I could think about was my son. We had already been there most of the afternoon and it was time for my son, Connor, to be home from school. It was the 8th grade dance and he didn’t know how to tie a tie. He was texting me asking where I was, why I wasn’t home helping him get ready.

5th miracle - Texting. I didn’t have to talk to him.

He would have heard the fear in my voice. I explained I was at a doctor’s appointment and would be home shortly. Randy came in and gave me the reasoning as to why a spinal tap would be beneficial; it could rule out more. I was worried about Connor and told Randy that I had to get back home to my son. He needed me. My ER physician and Randy made a follow-up appointment for me with a neurologist later that week in her office. At that point, the current diagnosis was severe migraines and this happy momma was able to get home to take her son to his 8th grade dance. As scheduled, later that week, my husband and I went to the neurologist. She did numerous physical tests, similar to the DUI test. She concurred that she thought it was migraines and they were going to prescribe a medicine for me to take. She also said she wanted me to have an MRI. She scheduled the appointment for the following day. I am very claustrophobic, so when I arrived at the imaging facility they gave me valium.

6th miracle - Valium

The MRI was very loud, but thankfully went by quickly. Upon completion, I was told they would call me in a week to ten days for results. My husband took me home, because I was very sleepy. When we arrived he tucked me in and I was out like a light. Two hours later he woke me. The results were back and we needed to go to the neurologist office. I was so confused. I asked him how long had I been sleeping.

He said, “The results are back and they want us in NOW.” My initial thoughts were racing all over, thinking this can not be good. Why do we have to go back in there? Why can’t they give us the results over the phone? What is wrong with me? Can it be fixed? How serious is this? Oh God, please help me through this!

Back at the neurologist office, they escorted directly back to a room. The PA came in and began with, “there is no easy way for me to tell you this, but you have a brain tumor.” I replied, “You must have the wrong MRI.” She suspected that I might say that and proceeded, “I am sending your films to this computer so you can view what we are seeing.

As I stared at the computer I saw a very large white mass that looked like the shape of a tooth. I looked at the side of the screen, it did in fact have my name and my birthday.

7th miracle - the valium had not worn off.

She told me they need to get me in front of a neurosurgeon right away. Scary! She recommended Dr. Melvin Field and said he was the best, then added that the quickest way to see him was to be admitted to the hospital now. Now? That just did not fit into my plans. It was Memorial Day weekend and my step-kids were on their way to the airport to come visit for the weekend. I asked her to give us a few minutes to process all of this. Danny was on his phone calling the kids before they got to the airport, telling them to turn around and not come. He told them that we were not sure what was happening or when it was happening. At the same time, I called my parents. They were hosting a wedding shower in their home. My daddy said, “We can come tonight”. I told him, “Let me get to the hospital, meet with the doctor and find out how much of an emergency this brain tumor is, then we will make necessary arrangements.” I still had not fully digested the gravity of my situation. Then I had to make sure I had someone responsible to care for my son. I text one of his teachers, “911-call me.” Thankfully she had become a friend and tutor for Connor.

8th miracle - Someone Connor and I both trusted to take care of him.

She called immediately and I explained that I was headed to the hospital and I was not for sure for how long, could she please keep Connor for me until my family from Texas arrived?” She replied, “Anything you need. Consider it done.” The neurologist came back in and told us to go home, pack a bag, and wait for the hospital admitting department to call. She said they would call when a bed was ready. We waited, pacing for about six hours. We made phone calls to make arrangements and let people know what was going on. A friend told me that she had a friend that worked at that hospital and she was going to find out who the best brain surgeon was.

9th miracle - Dr. Melvin Field was the best brain surgeon.

I had another friend who ran with Dr Field’s wife, she personally called him and told him I was checking into the hospital and to treat me with VIP care.

10th miracle - Friends making sure I was well taken care of.

My next door neighbor said that another neighbor’s granddaughter worked for Dr Field in the control unit. She highly recommended him.

11th miracle - Dr. Field was highly recommended.

At this point we knew Dr Field was our man. We decided just to head to the hospital. They didn’t have a room available on the neuro floor, so they put us in an old room on the other side of the hospital. My friend called me and said Dr Field was back at the hospital looking for me. It was late. We never saw him that night. My girlfriend had called the church to let them know I was in the hospital and to pray for me. Pastor Matt came to the hospital to look for me. He asked the nurses station where the Luedtke family was. He went where they directed him for the Luedtke family and introduced himself and asked if he could pray with them. They held hands and he said a beautiful prayer for Lori Luedtke. After the prayer, they said, ” Who’s Lori?” He was with the wrong family. They had a boy in the hospital. Pastor Matt said, while I’m here can I pray for your son. They said absolutely, we have just moved here and don’t have a church home.

12th miracle - Mistaken identity lead to a potential church home.

Dr. Field found us the next morning. He walked in and said, “I don’t know who you are, but I have had five phone calls in the last 24 hours telling me about you and asking me to take good care of you!” He told us he had come by the night before and had looked all over the neuro floor for us, but I wasn’t checked in. He continued by saying that he wanted to look at the films before we talked. When he came back and told us, “Well we have some good news here!” My husband and I were looking at each other thinking, ”Good news?” He said, “If you were going to have a brain tumor, you got the right one. I believe it is an Astrocytoma (not cancerous) and it is located in the frontal lobe, which is very easy for me to operate on. I think this is something we need to do soon, but I wouldn’t suggest it this weekend. It is Memorial Day weekend and we will be short staffed. Why don’t you go home make the arrangements you need and I will operate later this week. Florida Hospital South has just revamped the Neuro Wing, Neuro Institute, and has added a new operating facility that offers neuronavigation and an intraoperative MRI. The physician can scan patients during surgery and after the craniotomy is complete.”

13th miracle - A great state of the art facility right in our own backyard!

Because my brother had passed six years earlier of Melanoma, I knew my parents were going to be a wreck. I thought it might comfort them to meet the surgeon, so that he could explain the procedure and give them some sort of peace of mind. Over the next few days, the family began to arrive. My mom and daddy, my youngest brother, Chris, and my Godparents all flew in from Texas. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law drove up from South Florida.

On May 28th, my family had an appointment in Dr Fields office to discuss the procedure that would be taking place the following day. As I suspected everyone felt comfortable with Dr. Field and what he had to say.

On May 29th I checked into the hospital at 10:00 am to be prepped for surgery and the preoperative MRI, scheduled at 2:30. Because I was having surgery, I had not had anything to eat or drink since 6:00 pm the evening before. Just before they were supposed to wheel me back, Dr. Field comes in to say the previous surgery was taking much longer than expected. He wanted to use that particular operating room and he wanted the Neuropathologist to review his findings post surgery. However, the other procedure was not going to be completed any time soon. He strongly suggested we postpone until 10:30 the next morning. The first thing I asked was, “Does that mean I can eat?” I stayed in the Neuro step-down unit with Danny that night through early the next morning when they began to prep me again for surgery. The surgery itself, we were told, would take approximately two hours. When it was said and done, I heard it took 7; I was sound asleep. Dr Field told my family he was able to get most of the tumor, approximately 97 percent.

Miracle 14 - 97 percent of the tumor was removed!

Miracle 15 - Having such a loving and supportive family and network of friends that REALLY pulled through for me and my family.

I was in the hospital for about a week; I really just wanted to go home and get a good night sleep in my own bed without someone taking blood or checking vitals all night long. Several days after being home we received the call from Dr Field that said that he had met with numerous other Neuro-Disciplines, otherwise known as the tumor Board (tumor does not deserve a capital letter) about my findings. Unfortunately, it was a Glioblastoma. CANCER. Grade 4. I needed to start radiation immediately. Everyone, except me, began researching. I stayed calm knowing GOD was in charge and in control.

Miracle 16 - I kept repeating what has always been my favorite verse, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” Philippians 4:13.

Miracle 17- My husband, an avid researcher and having worked in hospitals gaining many contacts, was determined we were going get the best treatment, no matter the cost, no matter the location.

We started visiting Radiation Oncologists. We started at Florida Hospital, then MD Anderson Orlando, Duke in North Carolina, then Moffitt in Tampa. We decided on MD Anderson. I was prescribed 30 consecutive radiation treatments as a part of standard of care as well as oral Temodar five days for one week, every month. Concurrently we were looking for Clinical Trials. We decided on a clinical trial at Moffitt Hospital in Tampa. It is called ICT-107. It is a randomized double-blind study. My entire family felt good about this trial because it used my own blood. The vaccine works by doctors separating the dendritic cells, part of the body’s immune system, from the patients own blood. Dendritic cells help introduce to the body’s defense system, antigens, molecules that kick start the body's immune response. Once the hospital removes the dederic cells from your body, through an apheresis process, it is sent to the lab. They combine the dendritic cells with human made antigens, similar to those found naturally on GBM ( Glioblastoma) cancer cells. The goal is to kill the remaining GBM tumor cells after surgery and chemotherapy. I started radiation on July 10th. During radiation, I had to wear a mask that was affixed to the table. It was very tight, and I couldn’t open my eyes. My forehead was always sore, from the mask being so tight. My table literally flew around the room to get radiation beams from various different angles. Because the tumor was in my brain, all my senses were extremely heightened. I could see bright lights, even though there were no lights; it was my optic nerve. I could smell a chemical like smell, but they said there were no smells. I could even hear the laser beam pulsating. Nonetheless it wasn’t a pleasant experience, but one that I had to face everyday, Monday thru Friday.

I ended up with a staph infection and was admitted back into the Florida Hospital. I was told no chemo or radiation until the staph infection cleared. I was in the hospital for several days. As anyone who has been in a hospital can attest, rather than being able to rest, people are in your room night and day. There was no rest for the weary. I just wanted to go home and get some sleep. My Infectious Disease doctor wouldn’t let me leave the hospital until I got a PICC line, a peripherally inserted central catheter. It was an extremely tough decision for me. I felt as if I had been through enough. At midnight, someone from the PICC line team came to talk to me, to answer any questions I might have. I had thought and prayed about this all night. The next morning Pastor Matt came in to talk to me and pray with me. I realized I was scared of the unknown. I knew that the PICC team worked 24/7, just like the rest of the people at the hospital, and just like the night before, they could wake me up in the middle of the night and tell me they were ready to do the procedure right then. When Pastor Matt left, I talked to the nurse and said if the PICC team could put it in tonight before 8:00 pm, I would approve the procedure. I also wanted a sedative to calm me. At 5:00 pm the PICC team came in; she knew I was scared and said she would talk to me through the whole procedure. They did it right there in my hospital room as a bedside procedure. I didn’t have to go anywhere! The person doing the procedure was so compassionate. It didn’t take very long and she talked to me through the entire process, just like she told me she would.

The next morning I got to go home! I had to do daily saline and heparin flushes and had weekly dressing changes from Home Health Care at the house. We soon found out that I was allergic to tape, making the dressing changes miserable. Before heading back to radiation, I had one more MRI; this seldom happens mid-treatment. At this point Dr. Field saw another, “Area of enhancement,” that he felt was another tumor forming closer to the center of my brain.

Miracle 18 - Because we had the opportunity to have one more MRI at this point, we were able to redirect the radiation beams to hit the “enhancement area” that was just discovered.

I continued with radiation treatments until September 18th, 2012. I had to make up for the one’s I missed while I was out with the staph infection. During my treatments, the radiation techs would place my iPhone in an iHome and my praise music would play throughout my room and the technicians watch room. I was able to count the number of songs played to know how much longer I was going to have to be strapped down to that machine. Towards the end of my treatments the technicians would come in singing and humming my Praise music.

Miracle 19 - Spreading the word of GOD through music and my positive attitude!

On my final day of treatment, my husband and my auntie got to watch me ring the bell & receive my “Certificate of Completion.” It was a big deal. The plaque above the bell says, “ Ring this bell…three times well…it is told to clearly say…my treatment is done and I am on my way”

Miracle 20 - I actually finished radiation treatments.

On Monday September 24, we went to Moffitt for my first round of vaccinations. These are given underneath the arm in the lymph node. I assumed it would be one shot each time. I was wrong. Each round of shots consisted of four to six shots each time, under your arm. They were very painful! These shots are subcutaneous, so they are given just under the skin to separate the first two skin layers. This is where the vaccine is injected. Because you are separating the skin layers it is very painful. Because you are pushing through a very thick vaccine it is very painful. This trial at Moffitt required me to alternate arms each visit. The first four appointments were weekly. I was miserable and wanted to quit! Once again I put my praise music on, and held my clinging cross in my hand; my sister-in-law, Barbara, had sent it to me from Texas to help me with my journey.

Monday October 15th was the last of my first four weekly appointments. I had an MRI that same day. It showed the tumor was stable, a mini victory. On Tuesday my husband and I flew to upstate New York to see the foliage change. The weather was so beautiful, cool and crisp, and the colors were such an inspiration, not something you see in Florida. I was still very sore from the previous day’s shots, but just driving to our hotel with the windows down was such a nice and welcome change.

While there I started to question if these shots were right for me. I didn’t even know if I was getting the real thing, for all I knew it was a placebo. It wasn’t the quality of life I was looking for. They were painful and kept me down to the point where I wasn’t able to move my arm for days. To my family, this was a sign that it was not a placebo. I began to pray. I could not hear GOD, he wasn’t listening to me. I typed a long and detailed text message to my friends and family, asking them to pray for answers. Maybe someone else could hear Him. I began to cry. For the first time since all of this has happened, I cried. My husband said, “Honey you just need your praise music.” I had no reception in the hotel, so I couldn’t listen to it through my phone. He logged on to his computer and typed in “praise music lyrics for someone feeling lost, questioning, feeling hopeless.” He began to read the lyrics. We both recognized the song and began to sing I Will Praise You in the Storm, by the Casting Crowns.

Miracle 21- My husband knew just where to turn to help me.

He then opened bible.com and we read scriptures. Trust in the Lord. Trust in the Lord; those who trust in the Lord shall not be disappointed: Jeremiah 17:7, Isaiah 49:23, Romans 10:11. Then we prayed together. God spoke clearly to both of us. I had to stick with it.

My vaccines were now just once a month, so they weren’t as frequent, however, we figured out that I was having an allergic reaction the whole time. I began taking Benadryl which helped me cope, though the injections were still very painful. The December MRI showed the tumor stable and a slight decrease in size.

Miracle 22 - It appeared the vaccine was working!

During December, my family came from Texas to celebrate the Christmas early, because I was going to be on chemo Christmas Day. What a blessing to have everyone here! Though, we did not celebrate December 25th, Christmas Day, we had a beautiful meal together with presents, and celebrated the birth of Jesus. The February MRI showed an even more decrease in the size. Alleluia!

Miracle 23 - The vaccine was definitely working!

We were taking a family cruise for spring break and I wanted to be able to get into the ocean, start exercising again, go back to a little more “normal” life. I missed all last summer and the water activities that I love so much. So, we pulled the PICC line out. No more dressing changes! We went on the cruise with all three children. I was able to get in the pool, the Jacuzzi, and the ocean. I was so happy.

March 31st was Easter Sunday. My husband was going to go to church with me. This in itself is a rare occasion as he is Agnostic. While we were having coffee he says, “He has risen!” I looked at him in shock and said, “He has risen indeed. Alleluia!”

Miracle 24 - He is risen!

April 8th and 9th was a two day appointment at Moffitt. I had a port placed under my skin replacing the external PICC line. This would enable me to still get medicine, give blood, and get contrast during MRI’s, but without out the constraints of the PICC line. I had another round of vaccines in the same area. I also had another MRI. The PA read it and told us that it was a significant reduction. About 50% to the one in February! We were so excited my husband cried.

Miracle 25 - A significant reduction!

Friday April 12th, I had my follow up with my Brain Surgeon. He read the films and he saw no active brain tumor. No active brain tumor! He told me, “It looks as good as the day I operated and took it all out.” He said what they had seen at the previous appointment on the 9th was necrosis from the surgery and radiation. Praise the Lord! He told me, “I’ll see you again in 6 months!”

Miracle 26 - We were excited with 50% reduction…but to say it is gone! I have been healed. Wow! Only God can do this. Praise be to our Lord Jesus Christ!

My husband was traveling again. I called him and told him the news. I said you know you have just witnessed a miracle before your eyes. I knew this was going to happen. God is good! Psalm 21:2-6. He said, “Lori, I’m on board”.

Miracle 27 - He was on board!

I am still continuing with my “standard of care” treatments of chemo and vaccines through September 2013. We are continuing to look for the miracles as they happen each and every day.

I am truly a walking Miracle. Praise Be to GOD!  John 15:7, Matthew 13:58, Hebrews 11


Below are some links to articles and videos that Lori has done:

"Say Something" 

 Team Lori Luedtke Facebook Page

Moffitt Video

My Glioblastoma Journey


Actions Speak Louder Than Words

On Tuesday night, Cindy Price was our encourager on the topic of "Actions Speak Louder Than Words".

Love in Action can be carried out using the instructions Paul gave to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 13:3-8 and the final verse says Love never Fails. We discussed the instructions as a garden wall of protection around all our relationships. We need to check ourselves. Are we being patient, kind, content, encouraging, humble, honoring, selfless, gentle, forgiving, truthful, protecting, trusting, hopeful and persevering?. If so Love Never Fails. For more information on Love Defined, like the page on FB, download the app, or go to the www.lovedefined.org.

"Love Like Jesus"

At our June 6th Forum, Anne Taylor shared with us about how to "Love Like Jesus" . . . 

I’ve learned that in order to love like Jesus we must believe we are loved.
Do you seriously believe Jesus loves you more than anything else and created you to be the person you are – right now at this very moment?
There are always people who like to tell us we’re not worthy of God’s love and sometimes the loudest voice is from inside our own head. We are all good at dwelling on the negative in our lives we’re also pretty good at putting Pintrest pressure on ourselves. Not being clever enough, smart enough, organized enough, pretty, skinny, rich enough, you –fill-in –the-blank-enough!
But when we love like Jesus we don’t have to be enough – because he is enough!
One of the most important keys to loving like Jesus loves is to believe Jesus really loves you! No matter what he is cheering you on, pursuing you as his beloved daughter, and drawing you into his arms.  
When you have the love of Jesus in your heart you can let that love spill over into every relationships and encounters you have each and every day. This is where loving like Jesus has to start – by accepting his love and allowing it to wash over us each and every day. 

Go forth and love like Jesus - we need more cheerleaders and encouragers in this world! 

"Love is Hard - Love Your Enemies"

Claire Fournier shared with J4 May Forum attendees her recent career change journey. Bolstered by peace from the Holy Spirit, Claire walked through her painful emotional journey leading to ultimate GRACE and acceptance. Though not part of our plan, sometimes sudden life changes can become the beginning of a growth season in our lives. Transparent of the ups and downs of the journey after hearing the 5 dreaded words in corporate America today, “your role has been eliminated”, Claire shared how her faith taught her a new life skill of truly living in the present.
Here is an excerpt from her speech:
"It took time to heal but God’s joy and love continue to fill my heart and lift me past what I now consider a normal life event and thankful growing season. While I hope to never experience those 5 words again, I now realize there is a Claire beyond the workplace. She is someone guided by faith, abundantly blessed with devoted friends and family who had the “gift” of time off to reset life priorities. I am so thrilled about what lies ahead because I am certain God does not make mistakes, he has a new path for me and I can’t wait to see what he has in store."

"Loving Our Neighbors Through Our Work"

At our April 4th Forum, we had Penny Jones come and share about "Loving Our Neighbors Through Our Work."  Penny shared about how her former boss, Des Cummings, always told her to remember to "Lead with Love" in both your professional and personal life. This is something that she reminds herself of often.  She also shared about her years of foster parenting experiences, both good and bad, and how God transformed her through these experiences.  One experience in particular involved the death of a foster daughter (Tariji Gordon) by the girl's biological mother.  As a result of this, Penny vowed to change child-welfare laws and therefore created "The Penny Project".  

Please click on the video titles below to see more . . .

Tariji Changed Me Video

"I got adopted" Video


"Love in Action" March Forum Recap

At our March 7th Forum, we heard Dr. Falecia Williams, President of Valencia College West share about "Love in Action".  Falecia openend with one of her favorite quotes from Author, Elie Wiesel, “The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.” 

We can choose a path of indifference or we can choose a path of action.  We are all called to love if we are followers of Christ.  Falecia learned at a very young age the power of Christ.  She grew up living in public housing. It was there she learned the importance of community and the need for collaboration - to work together for a greater goal. This is something she implements daily in her position at Valencia College, especially as they work on the new downtown campus plan with UCF.  

We can do so much more when we are not trying to do it alone. Core value are important for everyone on your team to embrace.  We have to remember to be selfless and have a sense of commonality and respect.

"We are the greatest beneficiaries of love and therefore we need to share it!"


"What's Love Got To Do With It?" February Forum Recap

At our February forum J4’s Founder and Chief Encouragement Officer Lisa Schultz responded to the question about leadership: What’s love got to do with it?  

Lisa shared her personal career journey as she wrestled to reconcile the world’s messages regarding what it takes to be a successful business leader with what she had learned from the Bible.  Lisa said that the world would have us believe we have to use force, grab power, and aggressively seize opportunities regardless of the impact on others in our path to be successful.  However, the Bible teaches that we are all made in God’s image and that God is in control of everything, including our careers.  Further, the Bible says that we have access to the power of the Holy Spirit and gives us the second greatest commandment is to “love our neighbors as ourselves.”  

Lisa challenged us to think about what loving our “work neighbors” could mean in terms of living out the gospel there.  What would happen if we actually treated coworkers, bosses, staff, peers, and clients as we want them to treat us?  Could we be successful AND live out the “action love words” found in 1 Corinthians 13?   What would happen if we really were patient in listening to others,  showed kindness to everyone regardless of how different we are, were slow to anger and more effectively managed our emotional reactions at work?  These are just a few of the actionable love words and direction given in the Bible!  This does not mean that we should be a pushover at work either.  The word of God also tells us to confront one other with truth and "rebuke” in a loving manner.  Her testimony included personal lessons learned that convinced her we can be successful living out the gospel of love in our leadership.  

Lisa created her own personal management philosophy which is modeled after her life verse in 1 Timothy 1:7 "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but one of power, love, and discipline".  Lisa defines this model as “Gracious Leadership” and she holds herself accountable to live it out as a leader in business who is passionate about following Jesus.

We encourage you to join us this year as we continue to explore how we “Love our neighbors” well at work, home, and in the community.

"Love Our Neighbors" January Forum Recap

We kicked the year off right at our January 10th Forum at Camping World Stadium.  We had a great turnout of J4 Leaders, as well as many friends from LIFT Orlando and Grace Medical Home. 

Lisa Schultz opened the event by sharing her excitement about the coming year and about our theme for 2017 of Love Our Neighbors. When Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment he declared (Matthew 22:37-40) "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments.”  We look forward to examining this text and discussing what it means for us as leaders at work, community and home.  

Dr. Marvin Hardy, Founder of  Grace Medical Home, shared about  and their mission . . . "To be a medical home reflecting the heart of Christ by offering the highest level of health care to those in our community who need it most."  Currently, almost one in four in Central Florida lacks health insurance. The visionary leaders of Grace Medical Home sought to fill a void in our local healthcare system and developed a solution to remove the burden from the current healthcare community, including hospitals, ER’s and urgent clinics.  They wanted to create a home base where a patient’s medical history is known and their medical care is coordinated.  Patients have an ongoing and personal relationship with their physician and a place to turn for their healthcare needs. To learn more about Grace Medical Home, please click here.

We also heard from Eddy Moratin, the Executive Director of LIFT Orlando and their focus on the revitalization of the historic neighborhoods of Lake Lorna Doone and Lake Sunset, which surround Camping World Stadium.  These neighborhoods are among the lowest income neighborhoods in the nation. Their plan for this neighborhood is to create mixed-income housing, Cradle to Career Education, Community Heath & Wellness and long term economic viability.  To learn more about LIFT Orlando, click here.

Bob Lupton, Founder of FCS Ministries in Atlanta and Author of "Toxic Charity" shared with us about the importance of giving people in need a hand up instead of a hand-out. "When we do for those in need what they have the capacity to do for themselves, we disempower them.”  Through FCS, he has developed two mixed income subdivisions, organized a multi-racial congregation, started a number of businesses, created housing for hundreds of families and initiated a wide range of human services in his community. He also shared about the importance of being a good neighbor by helping our neighbors out.  This also includes using any influence we may have to help others get connected.  There are so many programs out there to help people, but they will only take them so far.  “Community transformation is about the quality of neighbors, not the quality of programs.” To read more about Bob, click here.

The evening wrapped up with a bus tour of the neighborhood narrated by Eddy Moratin.


"In Case of Emergency" November Forum Recap

Last week at the November Forum, we talked about God's promise of Protection.  Christina Walker, former Executive Director of Samaritan's Village came and shared about how God keeps his promise to protect us . . .

I can look back on my life and see God’s presence and protection even in my earliest years, and how his protection did not be necessarily prevent or protect me FROM calamity, trauma, chaos and despair, but it protected me TO be a conduit and minister of His story and His Grace and His mercy. He protected my ministry- before I even had one. 

My life was an absolute mess. The trajectory of my life was the same as the many generations before me- despair, godlessness, brokenness. It was during one of these seasons of deep depression that a friend saw my hopelessness and offered to pray for me. We sat outside a Starbucks and she simply said- can I pray for you? And I thought- “eww” “awkward” but said o.k.- as I was pretty hopeless and resigned. She prayed that a fire would rise in me for the LORD. She prayed much more than that, but that is all I remember from the prayer. 

Over the next few weeks my heart softened. I began attending church by myself. Read the Bible and this hunger for God just grew. I was baptized about 4 months later. I was all in for God. 

That was about 13 years ago. Honestly- that doesn’t feel so long when I say the number- but it feels sooo far away when I think of who I have become. Honestly I often forget who I was. Where I was headed without the Lord’s great providence. Without His pursuit and His protection. 

As I said at the beginning of my time, in my story I see God’s providence is not in protection from, but protection to. It was protection to be called according to His purpose. Protection to find my hope and rest in Him. Protection to count it all good. If he had protected me from the sufferings of this world, would I have been as prepared to serve Him in the capacities He has called me to? Would I have sought Him? Would I have been open to His Lordship over my heart… through which he would he have then protected me from the hope of eternal life?

I believe God is fully in control of my life. In Job 42:2 Job says to the Lord, “I know that you can do all things, that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” 

But also that God does not prevent us from experience affliction. Paul during his ministry experienced much persecution as he spread the gospel, but also that pesky thorn in his side… something that he asked God to remove multiple times to no avail. 

Romans 8:28 promises us that God uses all things for our good. ALL THINGS. Not just the good things. ALL things including the thorns. Paul saw this in the scripture passage 2 Cor 12 where he says the messenger sent by satan to harass him, the thorn in his side was there to keep him from being conceited. 

I acknowledge, my will, my sinful nature led me to many of the wounds I have experienced and also to much suffering I experienced. But I can see God’s protection and provision woven throughout my life in the form of thorns such as Paul describes. Thorns that keep me close to God. Keep me at the foot of the cross. Keep me aware of my sinful nature, my foolishness, and my deep need for God’s grace. The trajectory of my life is completely different today with Christ as my Lord than it was 13 years ago outside that Starbucks with the world as my Puppetmaster.

God’s protection now seems most often to keep me close to him. Ever aware of my dependence on Him. Protecting me from pride, idolatry, and self-sufficiency. He protects me from complacency in my faith, but not from pain.

Since becoming a Christian, I have still faced loss and suffering. Suffering will continue. The Bible speaks directly to the provisions and meaning in our suffering, not if we suffer, but when we suffer. 

Romans 5: 3-5 More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope and hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. 

Though heartache and loss are inescapable and some wounds will never be healed this side of heaven, I am now grounded in the hope of WHO OUR GOD IS- what He has promised us as his children, and the future we have in heaven.  I didn’t have that in my childhood or early adult years.

He has protected me for my good but more importantly for His Glory. He has given me a deep fire in my gut to live a life that serves Him. He has given me a testimony that can be used to speak of His grace and His love. A testimony that illustrates both our need for His forgiveness as well as the hope that can be found in Him. 

I like to live very transparently. Actually I just sorta can’t hide who I am and my story. I know what is professionally appropriate to share in the counseling room as I counsel women, or when I served the residents of SV. But I also know the vital importance of sharing imperfections with those around. To share our testimony and God’s pursuit and love of his children. 

I had one of the most meaningful interactions with a friend who struggles with shame, despair and hopelessness. I shared my life story… in more rated R details, with her over lunch one day. The good, bad, and the very ugly. She told me she had no idea what I had been through in my life. That she couldn’t picture me before I knew Jesus. It wasn’t the first time I had a moment like this when sharing my testimony, but it was a great reminder of why sharing the way God has pursued and protected us, both before our faith and after our Christian life began, is so important. 

God has comforted me, and that comfort has enables me to love and encourage, and sometimes comfort others. The blessing of participation in sharing the love of Christ with someone hurting gives meaning to my life story- and the suffering I had and will likely continue to experience.  It has given me not only an incredibly testimony, but a beautiful opportunity to minister to others. 

2 Cor 3-10
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our afflictions so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort which we ourselves are comforted by God.

I think of Joseph in the bible. What others intended for evil, God will use for His Glory and His purpose. When Joseph is speaking to his brothers- whom sold him into slavery- Gen 50:20 : As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good”

God has used all that I have been through, and that my family and parents have been through, to mold me into the woman I am today. To create in me a heart that longs to serve Him and to be used according to His purpose. 
Romans 8: 28- and we know that for those who love GOD all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.

Let us never forget that the ultimate protection that God has given us is the death of his son, that we would be protected from the judgement of our sin and have eternal life with Him. He has not granted us protection from death in this world. But instead from eternal death. 

Romans 8:18- For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us. 

Romans 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
No in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

It has been my testimony, I believe, that has made me as effective in ministering to other women. Meaning, the work that God has done in me—the wilderness he plucked me out of, the promised land he has brought me into. 
Because I have seen great darkness and despair, I am not afraid to sit in it with others. Because of the sin I have committed, I am not shocked by the sin of others… and I judge far less. (Well, on a good day.)
Because of the life I was living, I am sooo grateful for my God’s great love for me that I long to share the new life I have in Christ, with others who feel hopeless… and alone. 

Because I have experienced joy even in the midst of deep pain and fear, I can testify to the hope and the provision found in our great good and loving God. 

My advocation to serve women, comes from feeling beyond blessed by our great God. It is an overflow. It is a blessing, and in many ways, an example of God’s great protection. I still struggle with shame, self-doubt, and anxiety. But God has given me the blessing of His comfort to sustain me and a calling to share that comfort and the Hope found in Him with others.


November Forum: "In Case of Emergency"

November 1, 2016 | 6:00 - 7:30 PM (Registration begins at 5:30)

First Presbyterian Church of Orlando | 106 E. Church Street | Edington Ministry Center | 3rd Floor, Sterchi Conference Room | Parking Garage located at Jackson/Rosalind - Bring parking ticket for validation.

This year at J4 Leaders, we are learning to stand on God's promises! God promised that his children will not be overtaken by temptation.  In fact, he assures us that an escape route will be provided.  James MacDonald said that we should make little red boxes with glass doors that say "In Case of Emergency - break glass".  Inside the box we should have noted God's promises to review and cling to in the current situation.

Please join us on Tuesday, November 1st to hear Christina Walker share about God's promise of protection in our lives!

Christina Walker joined the Samaritan Village team in May of 2014 as Executive Director and recently transitioned to the Board of Directors in September of 2016. She has a masters degree in Mental Health Counseling from Rollins College in Winter Park. Her passion for excellence in therapeutics has helped to establish best practices for the Samaritan Village residential program. As a Board member of Samaritan Village she continues to engage in the fight against of human trafficking through public speaking engagements and other advocacy opportunities in our local community. When she’s not busy with meetings, vision-casting, and volunteering at Samaritan Village, she enjoys traveling with her husband and two kids, and providing leadership as a home-school mom. She is also active in her church, Grace Winter Garden, in their children's and women's ministries.

Grace Works Here? October Forum Recap with Lindsey Staton

Last week at the October Forum we talked about God's promise of grace. Life Coach, Lindsey Staton shared how God's grace enables us to be used by God, especially in the midst of our weakness.

In 1 Corinthians 12:7-10, Paul urges us to boast in our weakness. Who wants to boast in their weakness? Those who want to see God glorified more than they want to look like they have it all together. "My power is made perfect in weakness." In verse 8, Paul said he asked the Lord three times to remove his thorn. Lindsey shared 3 different times in her life that she told the Lord, "I don't have it. I can't do this."

1. Becoming a parent - She wrestled with God during her pregnancy asking Him how she could be a good parent. God answered her by telling her that her daughter is HIS. She is God's daughter first. Secondly, she is her own. She doesn't belong to her mom. She belongs to God.

2. Leading a Bible study in her home during her divorce - She thought surely she would be disqualified by her divorce. But at the same time, God increased her bible study to ten women, by far the biggest she'd ever had. She asked, "Why are you giving me the largest Bible study group I've ever had when I'm at the lowest point of my human existence? I don't have it. I can't do this." God answered "Because now you're ready. You've got nothing to give and all your well-meaning efforts are out of My way. Anything that happens from here on out will be all Me." The group grew from 10 to 12 to 15 to 18 to 21 and finally 24. Her weakness had set the stage for God's power to be made perfect. And it was. 

Immediately following her divorce, she committed a major moral failure that she was certain would disqualify her. She called a friend in the middle of the night to come over. Lindsey's been a Christian her whole life but suddenly she needed the cross like never before. She asked her friend to preach the gospel to her like she had never heard it, to promise her that what she had done was on Jesus' shoulders when He died. God's love and grace overwhelmed her. He restored her, and now she is even more 'qualified' to teach His restoration.

3. Launching her coaching business - She thought it's fine to not have it all together when you're just a blogger and speaker. But why would anybody hire her to help them with THEIR lives if she can't even perfect her own? Having full knowledge of all the issues remaining in her life, she thought "I don't have it, I can't do this." But the stage is set for God's power to be made perfect in her weakness.

Her stepson played baseball when he was younger. Her favorite cheer was after the hitter's first swing and miss: "NOW you're ready!" When we are at our smallest, God is at His biggest. The weaker we are, the stronger God shows Himself. And we are never more prepared, never more qualified for ministry than when we have nothing to offer.

In Judges 6, God calls Gideon to fight against the Midianites, calling him "mighty warrior." Gideon asks, "How can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family." The Lord answered, "I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive." (v. 14) God chose the least of the family of the weakest tribe in Israel. Even after Gideon gathered his army, God sends most of them home, purposely outnumbering His people in battle. And when they won, there was no doubt Who had done it.

So prepare yourself, mighty warrior. God may be about to ask you for more than is humanly possible. All your failures, limitations and weaknesses have made you the perfect candidate for His plan and purpose. Get out of the way and let Him show Himself strong through You. It'll be all Him, just like it is supposed to be.

Lindsey Staton, Certified Life Coach

Lindsey Staton, Certified Life Coach

Lindsey Staton is a certified life coach, blogger and speaker. She graduated with a journalism degree from Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama and has worked for several different publications including Southern Living, Southern Lady, HomeLife and RELEVANT magazine. Originally from Ocala, Florida, she is a fifth generation Floridian and has held ministry positions at several churches, including 20s-30s director at First Presbyterian Church of Orlando. Her other professional experience includes occasionally dabbling in various aspects of the field of law, which is the family business.

She blogs weekly about faith, marriage/remarriage, parenting/step-parenting, identity and purpose. She also speaks at conferences, retreats, corporate events and was even recently invited to speak to a men's Bible study group! Driven by God's redemption of her own story, her passion is to help people recover lost identity, survive transition, live proactive/intentional lives, discover their purpose and get them living it. Visit Lindsey's website here! 

October Forum: Grace Works Here?

October 4th, 2016 | 6:00 - 7:30 PM (Registration begins at 5:30)

First Presbyterian Church of Orlando | 106 E. Church Street | Edington Ministry Center | 3rd Floor, Sterchi Conference Room | Parking Garage located at Jackson/Rosalind - Bring parking ticket for validation.

This year at J4 Leaders, we are learning to stand on God's promises! God promised that his grace is sufficient for us.  Whatever we face, God is more than enough. We may feel weak or ill-equipped to do something but thats great, because that's when we can surrender the project to God and He is glorified even more so! Please join us on Tuesday, October 4th to hear Lindsey Staton share about God's grace in our lives!

Lindsey Staton.jpg

Lindsey Staton, Certified Life Coach

Lindsey Staton is a certified life coach, blogger and speaker. She graduated with a journalism degree from Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama and has worked for several different publications including Southern Living, Southern Lady, HomeLife and RELEVANT magazine. Originally from Ocala, Florida, she is a fifth generation Floridian and has held ministry positions at several churches, including 20s-30s director at First Presbyterian Church of Orlando. Her other professional experience includes occasionally dabbling in various aspects of the field of law, which is the family business.

She blogs weekly about faith, marriage/remarriage, parenting/step-parenting, identity and purpose. She also speaks at conferences, retreats, corporate events and was even recently invited to speak to a men's Bible study group! Driven by God's redemption of her own story, her passion is to help people recover lost identity, survive transition, live proactive/intentional lives, discover their purpose and get them living it.

September Forum Recap

In J4 Leaders this year, we are discussing promises we can cling to, as Christian women leading in the marketplace. On Tuesday, Julie Colombino, CEO of Rebuild Globally discussed her personal journey of God leading her to Haiti to fulfill an important mission . . .

August 14, 2010,  is a day I will never forget.  Only 7 months after the unforgiving earthquake that claimed countless lives and left millions homeless and jobless. This is the day, however, we opened the REBUILD globally training center and workshop. This is the day that marks the beginning of the bravery of our Haitian craftsmen and women, Board of Directors, international and local volunteers and many friends and family. This is the day the people of REBUILD globally took the plunge to turn found objects into fashion and the impoverished into entrepreneurs.

“Integrity” is the word that rang in my head every moment after the earthquake. How can REBUILD globally make a significant and long term positive change in Haiti after all it had suffered?  I decided to listen to those who were most affected and to act with integrity no matter how scared or complicated the situation became. People asked for jobs….simple as that. We worked hand in hand in order to create a system that would provide dignified living-wages and livelihood opportunities. On that day, August 14, 2010, that was all we could conceive: four people, four lives.

Employment and empowerment have effects that extend into generations. Our craftsmen and women are financially secure, which empowers them to send their children to school from their hard earned paychecks. Each one of our staff members is even able to support orphans or others who are vulnerable in their own community because of their own fiscal health. Some have contributed to local micro-finance projects. Some have become leaders of their community groups. Some have taken in children to help support other family members. It is through this kind of chain reaction that these towns, cities, and eventually the world can be rid of poverty once and for all.

By providing dignified living wages, our craftsmen and women not only become leaders in their community; but they are turning waste tires into beautiful, high-fashion sandals. Employment and local ownership are the game changers in developing countries. When charity dries up, those in poverty need a means to sustain themselves and support their families. Employment means parents can educate and feed their children; it means they can live in safe dwellings and not tent cities.
We have transformed the traditional methods of charitable aid with a business model that provides a dignified solution to economic injustice while producing a desired product. After years of working on the ground, we have found the most impactful way to respond to a disaster and lessen the effects of poverty is to combine the efforts of our non-profit with the for-profit sector.  In 2015, we incubated a locally owned for-profit social business, deux mains designs, Haiti’s first social impact factory that handcrafts high-fashion sandals and accessories from genuine leather and upcycled materials. REBUILD globally and deux mains work hand in hand to change the system that keeps poor people impoverished. deux mains designs is our paradigm social impact business that empowers and employs Haitian citizens to handcraft unique products from up cycled materials.

Nearly six years later, I am honored to say we have over 25 full time craftsmen and women, 3 of whom are managers and who also have ownership in the local business we have created, deux mains designs.  We also employ 6 part-time tutors and teachers who work with our 30 vulnerable students in the Elèv Program.  

REBUILD globally was born is a disaster, but it has thrived in its wake as a result of the compassion each individual donor and customer has shown throughout the years. Thank you for being a thoughtful buyer, conscious giver and educated global citizen. It is people like you who inspire others to be the best they can be when situations seem dire and hopeless.

To learn more about Rebuild Globally and to shop from their on-line store, please click here.

Thank you for choosing to walk a mile in our sandals.

In solidarity,

August Forum Recap

In J4 Leaders this year, we are discussing promises we can cling to, as Christian women leading in the marketplace. On Tuesday, Secily Wilson, Director of Community Relations & Financial Development for YMCA of Central Florida discussed her personal journey of God leading her through the the trials in her life.  

The grace of God is the favor of God. The grace of God causes good things to happen in our lives through the channel of faith. Here’s what you need to know: divine favor can come and overtake you. Divine favor comes by God’s anointing and is triggered by faith. Divine favor is not the result of luck but of obedience.

Psalm 84:11 "For the Lord God is a sun and a shield; THE LORD WILL GIVE FAVOR and glory; No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly"

Psalm 5:12 For You, O Lord, will bless the righteous; with favor You will surround him as with a shield. 

Psalm 23:5-6 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. 

The truth is that if we just concentrate on pleasing God, HE will give us favor with others when we need it most.

Women with Favor:

Hannah in Hebrew is Favor, Grace. Mother of the prophet Samuel.

Mary, Mother of Jesus. 

Then there’s Ruth a Moabite and another example of a humble, contrite woman who had been separated by God but received God by grace. 

Esther had abundant favor. 

The definition of ‘grace’ is unmerited divine assistance. It includes approval, favor, mercy, pardon and privilege. 

God has granted you privileged status. You’re His child, a child of the King! 

Proverbs 16:7 (NIV) says, "When a man's ways are pleasing to the Lord, He makes even his enemies live at peace with him”.

All God’s power is available to you through His Word, His grace and His favor. You know the saying…..membership has it’s privileges. American Express doesn’t have anything on the benefits you receive through the gift of His grace. You might have great benefits through your employer, Florida Blue, United Health Care…..But I can guarantee you….God’s benefits are far greater AND there is nothing that is not covered!

SOME of his Grace and Favor Benefits:

Grace blesses. The Bible says the Lord blesses you continually….more and more. When the blessing of God comes, the favor of God comes with it. 

The blessing is the empowerment to prosper. The favor produces the opportunity to prosper. You can have the ability to do something, but if you never have the opportunity, it’s not likely the ability will benefit you.  Every person who has accepted Jesus has the blessing of God on their life.

You’ve already been given the blessing. Now you have to start believing God for his opportunities. I thank him daily for divine connections and opportunities opening up on my behalf.

Grace gives. Psalm 68 says the Lord daily loads you with benefits! Psalm 103 lists some of those benefits: forgiveness, healing, lovingkindness, renewed youth and protection. Don’t take my word….it’s in the book. 

Psalm 103:2 Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits.  He who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good thing so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

So think about your own life and where he “gave” you some these benefits. While you’re thinking let me tell you what he gave me. Forgiving me of my sins of being judgemental. Don’t act like I’m the only one. I KNOW we have some JUDGE JUDY’S in here. But don’t worry, he’ll forgive you. He healed my heart of 2 strokes and restored my my voice giving me the ability to speak again. He restored my career, my finances and gives me good things so that my youth is renewed like the eagles. I’m 51 years old and I feel like 25. He gave me my good genes and good looks! Thank you BIG DADDY!

Grace is merciful. Mercy is defined as lenient, compassionate treatment, an act of divine favor. The Bible describes God’s mercy as ‘plentiful’, ‘new every morning’ and ‘from everlasting to everlasting’.  Mercy holds no grudges and stops punishment. God treats you as if it never happened.  Grace and Mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. It is God’s eternal grace. Cece Winans wrote a song that I love. Mercy said no!  ….when sin demanded justice for my soul……mercy said no. I’m not gonna let you go, I’m not gonna let you slip away, you don’t have to be afraid, Mercy said no, sin will never take control….life and death stood face to face. Darkness tried to steal my heart away…..thank you Jesus, Mercy said no.

Grace protects. Psalm 91 details the many protections available to those who make God their source. It says ‘surely’ He will deliver you, be your refuge and fortress, and that nothing can in any way harm you. No weapon formed against you shall prosper, not even the weapons we form against ourselves. A VERY clear example of his protection yesterday morning.      

Grace gives favor. Repeatedly, the Bible says that God ‘gave favour’ or ‘shewed favour’ to His people.  Ephesians says He ‘raised us up to sit in heavenly places’. Having a place in the throne room of God is pretty prestigious, don’t you think?  That’s like being in VIP all the time. He adopted us into His family and told us to call Him ‘Abba, Father’. I call him Daddy.

Well, God is your ‘Daddy’ and He wants to show you His favor. He told you to ‘come boldly’ and ask Him for whatever you need (Heb. 4:16) so you ‘obtain mercy and find grace to help’. God wants to show you favor! That’s grace – love in action.

As women God favors us more! It’s true. He said in Proverbs: 18:22 He who finds a wife finds a good thing AND obtains favor from the Lord. You need to go and tell your husbands…..you know you are successful because of me. Without me, you would have a hard life! 

As for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord. As mothers, when our home obeys the Lord and operates in his principals we gain generational Favor.
You see, when your relationships feel like they are totally off their equilibrium and causing tension in your emotions.... use your words.
When your business seems stalled and everywhere you turn there is delay...use your words.
When your creativity has waned and you feel like access to the very thing that makes you you, has been limited... use your words.

Here’s the deal. life and death is in the power of your tongue.
What I know for sure, is that none of us get to make it through life without encountering mountains and when you do, your instruction is to SPEAK to the mountain and it shall be removed.
Don't try to scale the mountain,
Don't try to go around the mountain,
Don't try to go through the mountain.
No matter what mountain tries to rise up against you today, the instruction is the same...

Let me encourage you to Use your faith and the power of your words to access His grace and favor. Refuse to talk about the problem when God’s grace has already given you every answer in His Word. Refuse to let this world’s system dictate your life. Take your place in your home, in your marketplace, in your community;– the place He created for you. Stand in your power. YOU Choose what happens by your faith and the words you speak.

His words say, "You are the apple of My eye. You are My favorite child" Deut. 32:10. Because you are his favorite…….you better get ready. Your future is so bright, You have to wear shades!

A special thank you to Secily for sharing her story with us!


September Forum - Working with Jesus – #travelbuddy

September 6, 2016 | 6:00 - 7:30 PM (Registration begins at 5:30)

First Presbyterian Church of Orlando | 106 E. Church Street | Edington Ministry Center | 3rd Floor, Sterchi Conference Room | Parking Garage located at Jackson/Rosalind - Bring parking ticket for validation.

This year at J4 Leaders, we are learning to stand on God's promises! God is always with me- He promises to never leave me or forsake me.  He is my companion at work therefore I am not isolated as a leader.

There is no need to fear the future- no matter how bad we imagine, we need to remember that God will be in that situation and He will give us peace, comfort, provision.  We can enjoy peace in his companionship at work and even when traveling “alone”.  

Don't miss Julie Colombino sharing about God's promise of Omni Presence in our lives!

Julie Colombino is the Founder and CEO of REBUILD globally, a Kingdom business fighting poverty in Haiti. Since its inception, she has been a champion for impact-oriented business that are leading social change. From their global headquarters in Orlando, REBUILD globally has been making an impact in Haiti through education and job training, while developing a Haitian owned and operated business and fashion brand, deux mains designs. Under Colombino’s leadership, the past six years has been a dramatic evolution from earthquake recovery to a sustainable business that was quickly propelled into the world of ethical fashion. REBUILD globally has created partnerships with The United Nations, Kenneth Cole, supermodel Heide Lindgren and Ron Jon’s Surf Shop to fight poverty and strengthen families in Haiti.

Julie received her Master of Nonprofit Management from UCF and is the proud recipient of the 2014 Credo Social Business Award, the 2013 Rally Award; the 2013 Young Leaders for Haiti Global Humanitarian Award; the 2012 Business Innovation and Growth Award from the Chamber of Commerce; the 2011 UCF's Alumni Community Service Award; and the 2011 Public Administration New Professional of the Year Award.
Julie's book, From Death to Dollars, will be available in 2017. It is based on her real life encounters post earthquake and documents the growth of the social business ecosystem she created to instill dignity and financial security for the most vulnerable in Haiti.

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August Forum - The Future's So Bright, I Need New Shades!

August 2, 2016 | 6:00 - 7:30 PM (Registration begins at 5:30)

First Presbyterian Church of Orlando | 106 E. Church Street | Edington Ministry Center | 3rd Floor, Sterchi Conference Room | Parking Garage located at Jackson/Rosalind - Bring parking ticket for validation

Future's So Bright, We Need New Shades! with Secily Wilson - There is incredible promise for you as a woman living and leading for Christ. As J4 Leaders in 2016 we are exploring the promises that God has made to us, His daughters. What would He have us do as His women in the marketplace? Which of His promises can we cling to as we face the challenges of everyday living? Join us as Secily Wilson shares about God's Promise to Give us Favor!

Secily currently serves as the Director of Community Relations for the YMCA of Central Florida. She is the mother of 2 daughters, a Telly Award winning broadcast journalist, media communications professional, Mrs. Florida International 1999 and founder of her own non-profit WOW Legacy Group Inc. which supports women in transition. For more than 20 years Secily delivered hard hitting, inspiring and entertaining reports in news, lifestyle, art and entertainment. Over the years Secily has interviewed notables like Oprah, Civil Rights icon Andrew Young, former NFL coach Tony Dungy, former CNN anchor Soladad O’Brien and many others.

She is passionate about issues like stroke awarenessand domestic violence. Secily is often found giving back to her community, spreading awareness and volunteering. She received her broadcast journalism degree from Valdosta State University, is a member of  Jack and Jill of America Inc., National Association of Black Journalist and a leader in the Central Florida community.

June Forum Recap - 'The Ultimate Delivery Man!' with Amanda Ober

In J4 Leaders this year, we are discussing promises we can cling to, as Christian women leading in the marketplace. On Tuesday, Amanda Ober, reporter for WESH 2 news and J4 Leader Board member, discussed her personal journey of God leading her through the storms of life. 

Amanda has always loved stories. In fact, when she was in the 4th grade, she confidently told her parents she wanted to be a news reporter. Because she loves stories so much, God often uses them to speak to her.  

Amanda explained that she is not known for being athletically gifted. She thinks she must have been doing her hair the day that God gave out the athletic gifts! In her 20s, she had a lot of very athletic friends, and joined them to climb Mt. Washington, the highest mountain peak in New Hampshire, where they lived. During this climb, the group leader, Brian was keeping a special eye on her, knowing this may be a bit of a stretch for her, physically. When they were nearing the top, a huge storm came and she started fearing for her safety. Brian grabbed her, looked her in the eyes and said "Amanda - Just follow my every step. Whatever I do, just copy me." He led her in the 'Step.Rest' method, alternately giving each leg time to rest after each step, allowing for more control and avoiding exhaustion. This was a method that she knew well, but had forgotten to use in the panic of the moment. Step by step, she followed him. 

Wouldn't it be great if we could make it to the top of the mountains without any storms? In John 16:33, Jesus says, "In this world you will have trouble, but take heart. I have overcome the world." 

What trial do you face today? We all need to be delivered from something. 

Psalm 34:4 says "I sought the lord and we answered me." and in verse 17, : The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles." When we seek God and cry out, God's word says that He will hear us and answer us and deliver us. 

In 2014, Amanda was enjoying a season that seemed as though God had given her a gift that had long been a desire of her heart. As quickly as it came into her life, however, it was taken away, leaving her devastated. Her heart was utterly broken but she was in a place in her walk with God where she knew that He was the only one who was going to catch her heart so she turned to Him. She sensed God asking her to devote 10 weeks fully to Him. All the time she had, she gave to being in His presence. Sometimes that looked like just weeping to the lord, other times she would read scripture and books, or journal or listen to sermons. Her condo became a holy place where she experienced the presence of God.

When we set our desire to seek God with all of our hearts, He honors that and makes a way. 

God delivered her through her storm, one step at a time. 'Step. Rest. Step. Rest.' She followed Him step by step. It was not instant, but slowly hope entered her soul. While the enemy went after her mind saying she was rejected. God revealed to her that she was being protected.

Since then, God has allowed Amanda to use this storm that He led her through to minister to others experiencing heartbreak and longing, causing them to question if God really cares about them. She now has confidence in God's love for us and ability to make broken hearts whole again. God turns the storms He delivers us from into our ministry. We can reach out to others and let them know they are not alone in experiencing the storms of life. 

On Mount Washington, as she followed Brian, step by step, eventually, the storm subsided. When she got to the top, it was one of the most beautiful views she had ever experienced. When God delivers us, there is joy and there is laughter.

When we seek Jesus in the trials of life, He will deliver us either from it or through it. When He leads us, out we can look back and remember His faithfulness and we can run to people who's hearts have been broken and show them the way out

A special thank you to Amanda for sharing her story with us!

Amanda Ober is a general board member for J4 Leaders. She joined WESH 2 News in August 1997, moving to central Florida from her home state of New Hampshire where she was the morning and noon anchor at WMUR-TV in Manchester. She earned a bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism from Troy State University in Troy, AL. She has received several professional awards, including the Associated Press Best Spot News award for tracking down two of New Hampshire's top 10 deadbeat dads. Amanda is an accomplished political reporter, part of the WMUR-TV team that covered New Hampshire's presidential primaries in 1992 and 1996. Amanda was also part of the team that won a Columbia Dupont award for coverage of the Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy, as well as an Edward R. Murrow regional award for her reporting on the Casey Anthony trial. Amanda has volunteered on the board of several faith-based non-profits including the Christian Service Center and Samaritan Village. She currently serves on the Governing Board of Summit Church as well as the board of J4 Leaders. She also volunteers as a coach to small group leaders at her church and as a mentor to several young woman. Amanda is a proud graduate of Lifework Leadership Orlando.

May Forum Recap


Calling on God at Work... What's His Extension? with Natalie Hamer - There is incredible promise for you as a woman living and leading for Christ. As J4 Leaders in 2016 we are exploring the promises that God has made to us, His daughters. What would He have us do as His women in the marketplace? Which of His promises can we cling to as we face the challenges of everyday living? At the May Forum, Natalie Hamer shared about God's Promise that He has a perfect plan for us.

Forum Recap:

We've all had times in our lives when our circumstances don't seem to add up and we wonder what God's plan is. Those seasons of life can be major growth opportunities if we let them! Here are a few things I've learned through seasons of waiting:

1. God truly does care about the desires of our hearts. He puts them there for a reason. It’s important that we believe this because it helps us to wait for God’s best for us instead of settling for less. We really can trust Him. A good thing at the wrong time is really not a good thing for us. God’s timing is perfect and we have to wait for God’s best.

2. He’s always taking us somewhere. We don't serve a static God; We serve a God who’s alive and who is always moving on this earth and in our lives. And when he’s taking us somewhere - there’s always a preparation period.  God sees the big picture, he knows every detail, every circumstance, everything that will happen in the future and we have to be prepared.
"My ways are higher than your ways, my thoughts are higher than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8.

He also uses these periods of time to tests us: Does our faith only work when we have the things that we want? Because that means our faith is actually in the things themselves and not in God. If we can follow Him and be obedient during hard times, when we don’t have the things that we want - He knows He can trust us when we do get to the 'promised land', so to speak. 

3. God’s perfect plan is about so much more than our jobs and our circumstances and what we want. As daughters of the king we can be confident that God has a good plan for us.
Matthew 6: 31-33 says: "Do not worry saying what shall we eat, or what shall we drink, or what shall we wear? For the pagans worry about these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well."
God’s greatest purpose and plan is for us to seek the kingdom of God right where we are. I don’t have a ton of huge regrets in my life, but I regret every second I spent worrying about my life! Looking back, every moment I spent worrying about how things were going to work out and what was going to happen next, was a complete and waste of time. 

God’s plan for our lives is that we would grow in the knowledge of the word and in the character of Christ. That we would have integrity as we carry out our daily duties. That we would care about those around us. That we would be prayerful and listen to the Spirit each day. God’s perfect plan for us is that we would know him, experience his presence and bear much fruit.
We all have gifts and a calling and things God is calling us to do each and every day right where we’ve been placed. There is a world around us that needs us to listen to the Spirit and dig into the place God has put us for today. All of us, regardless of our circumstances, have the most perfect calling – to bring the kingdom of God to earth. To be a part of restoring a broken world. Let’s let this be our first priority in all that we do. 



Natalie Hamer is the Community Partnerships Coordinator for LIFT Orlando and Executive Assistant for J4 Leaders.