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Inspire--MontyWilliams

Faith Catapults NBA Coach’s Bounce Back

A cardiologist once gave Monty Williams a crushing diagnosis: an enlarged muscle was making it difficult for Williams’ heart to pump blood. The doctor said the condition meant an end to Williams’ college basketball career, the end of his NBA dream—and possibly the end of his life.

Two years later, the condition known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy vanished. Doctors called it inexplicable; Williams called it a healing from God. A 6-foot-8-inch forward, Williams played nine seasons in the NBA. Chronic knee injuries tested his faith and led to his retirement.

Today, Williams continues to proclaim his faith as the second-year head coach of the New Orleans Hornets, despite relentless hardship. Over the past year and a half, the NBA’s youngest coach has seen his general manager fired, his top scorer blow out a knee (then opt out of his contract), another player arrested, a third player lose two relatives in a fatal car accident and the franchise sold to the NBA. 

“Adversity,” he says, “has a way of getting us to listen to God.”

His second season began with more trouble. The Hornets dealt their best player, Chris Paul, to the Los Angeles Clippers in a controversial trade. Yet through numerous trials early in his coaching career, Williams has shared the source of his strength with media. “No question, it’s my faith in Jesus Christ,” he says. “I read my Bible in the morning and I study in the evening. When tough times do come, it’s not easy. But I realize a guy like me is blessed to be in this position.”

Previous challenges make NBA conflicts seem minor. Williams says he suffered abuse and molestation as a child. He became suicidal when he learned of his fatal heart condition. With God’s help, Williams has emerged with a strong faith and a powerful testimony. 

The Lord is present in our most trying times, Williams says, working all things for our good.

“I’m blessed to be in this business,” he adds. “I pray I can keep this attitude as long as I’m able to coach.”       —Ken Rodriguez  read more

running-race

Integrity for the Race

God wants to develop His character in us so we can persevere for the long haul. Yet how he does it is often anything but easy.

We are not born with integrity. Integrity is something that is developed in our lives through the choices we make every day.

Integrity is an internal standard and conviction. It is having a sensitive conscience before God. The more sensitive your conscience is, the more in tune with the Holy Spirit you will be. As you follow your conscience, you will develop integrity in your life. True character and integrity are revealed in the choices you make when no one else is around. read more

Inspire-Bikers

Bikers Deliver Christmas Gifts, Santa-Style

On a crisp and sunny Saturday recently, hundreds of bikers from around the Carolinas descended upon the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C., with gifts strapped to their motorcycles for the Fourth Annual Bikers with Boxes event. The group is an annual supporter of Operation Christmas Child, an outreach by Samaritan’s Purse that last year alone gave 8.2 million underprivileged children Christmas shoe boxes. 

“We’ve just really been thrilled that this has been an annual event and that the bikers have embraced it,” said Diane Wise of the Billy Graham Library. “Bikers are the most generous group of people.” read more

Inspire-RaisingHerVoice

Raising Her Voice to Change Poverty and Child Abuse

Recording artist and singer Beckah Shae says one of the most underutilized weapons Christians have is their voice. The Dove-award nominee isn’t referring to her soulful crooning; she’s talking about speaking out against injustice. Every day, she notes, children go hungry and young girls and boys are trafficked for sex—not because there aren’t enough people to change that, but because those who are aware of the problems aren’t vocal enough about them. 

“This is the most powerful thing for me—to be a voice. I have a powerful platform right now,” Shae says. She uses her voice in numerous ways, including to create contemporary Christian albums such as Destiny, her most recent. She is also a spokesperson for Kids Alive, which fights poverty, and for A21, which rescues girls from sex trafficking.

The songstress says she was both heartbroken and elated when she visited Kenya to see the work Kids Alive was doing during the drought that has created a hunger crisis in east Africa. She witnessed the ministry helping to rescue orphans who had been physically abused, then meeting the spiritual, physical, educational and emotional needs of the children who had nowhere else to turn.

“It’s more of a family-type setting. They make it like a family so it’s not like an orphanage,” she says. 

Shae and her husband, a music producer, sponsor a child with Kids Alive. She is committed to helping—and using her voice to tell about the injustice and the work being done in Kenya to change it.

“It’s not about everything we do,” Shae says, “it’s about [our lack of] doing anything.”

Beckah Shae’s favorite quote:

“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.”
         —Martin Luther King Jr.  read more

Inspire-TheInvisible

Seeing the Invisible

When USA Today advertising executive Laura Schroff first met 11-year-old panhandler Maurice Mazyck on the streets of New York City, he was hungry and in need of a friend. Compelled to help, Schroff, who was 35, took him to a nearby McDonald’s for lunch. That day began years of Monday-night dinners and a 25-year friendship. 

As their unique friendship continued, Schroff quickly learned that Mazyck’s life was in turmoil. Not only was he not getting enough to eat, his mother was addicted to drugs and he was constantly getting into fights—when he’d occasionally attend school. 

His living situation wasn’t any better. He bounced in and out of homeless shelters, foster homes and one-bedroom apartments inhabited by 20 other people. read more

Inspire-GrowingFaith

Growing Faith on a Farm

 You’ve probably heard of Sunday school classes being the catalyst for mission trips, cell groups and friendships, but have you heard of a Sunday school class spawning a farm? 

Neither had Joe and June Richey—at least not before they started Questfarms, a farm that houses and employs special-needs adults. They were inspired to start the farm after teaching the Christian education class at their church and realizing their students needed support beyond the childhood years.

“When we came here we came with an idea. There weren’t any books that said: ‘This is how you start a farm for mentally-challenged people,’ so we had to just pick along,” says Joe Richey. read more

Smart Ideas to Grow Your Business

Twenty-nine years ago, I was looking for a creative outlet as a stay-at-home mom. Since then God has turned my hobby into a thriving enterprise.

When I was in high school, I thought I was going to be a rock star, but in 1968 God revealed to me that He had other plans. After graduating from the University of Mississippi, I taught school for a while and then stayed home after my second child was born.

I was happy and fulfilled with my family, but there was something missing—something I longed to do—something creative. I began to look for an outlet.

My search led me to begin "fooling around" with ceramics at my kitchen table. Soon my experimenting became an adventure, and I now have a company that manufactures hand-painted dinnerware and accessories in Ridgeland, Miss.—with hundreds of employees!

It was 1979 when I began pursuing my new career. In the 1980s I took a leap of faith and displayed my pottery at the Flea Market in Canton, Miss. Going into this experience, I reflected on Proverbs 3:5-6 and applied this passage to my situation, trusting in the Lord with all my heart and not relying on my own understanding. The result—success—and Gail Pittman, Inc. was born.

By 1986 I had outgrown my work space at home, and my husband encouraged me to purchase an 1,800-square-foot building in Ridgeland as a studio. I read the book of Jeremiah for inspiration, memorizing Jeremiah 33:3, "'Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.'" After only three months, our building was too small, and in February of 1988, we moved into a 7,800-square-foot studio.

The Lord continued to bless me and my small staff, and in 1992 we moved into a new 26,000-square-foot factory in Ridgeland with an increased staff of 80 artisans. In 1994, Gail Pittman, Inc. had the privilege of being named one of INC. magazine's 500 fastest growing private companies. This year, we expanded for the 5th time and now have over 50,000 square feet in our factory.

How did we grow so quickly? What is the secret to our success? The "secret" is not really a secret at all: We submit everything to God. Every time we have to make a decision, whether it is related to design, personnel or a pending expansion, we pray about it as a company—and whatever God tells us to do, we do.

Also, I depend on God continually for wisdom to determine what is important and what isn't. I want to keep my priorities straight, making certain my husband and children come before my work responsibilities.

In addition, I invest spiritually in my employees. I believe it is my Christian responsibility to afford them the very best possible opportunity to grow in their faith. For this reason, every Wednesday morning employees have the opportunity to attend a company Bible study that is led by Jim Doremus, one of the ministers from First Baptist Church of Jackson, Mississippi.

Everyone involved in our company is invited to attend, and for many, this Bible study is the highlight of their week. We sing, share joys, hurts, and prayer concerns, and go to God together.

Serving the community is also important to me and the employees at Gail Pittman, Inc. We helped build a Habitat for Humanity House in Jackson and participated in the Salvation Army's "Souper Sunday," for which we donated soup bowls. We also helped raise funds for the Salvation Army and its local ministries.

Other than listening to God, following His directives, and caring for my family, employees and community, there are a few guidelines I've learned to follow through the years to help my business grow. These are the guidelines, or tips, I give others when they ask how I did it:

Define success. First of all, define what success is for you. Decide what you value, and set your goals accordingly. Keep in mind that the meaning of success is different for different people. You can't set your business objectives by what others consider success.

Success can be defined in a variety of ways—from sales growth to employee retention to having a strong corporate culture. But don't let money be your only measure of success. Many people who make a lot of money never feel satisfied with their professions.

Be true to yourself. Be true to what you really believe. Pray about decisions, and ask God to help you make the right ones.

When I am facing a particularly difficult decision, I depend on my deepest held beliefs to guide me in my choice. I know I cannot compromise on certain principles, and that makes a lot of decisions easier.

Keep your passion. Keep the passion alive that got you started in business. This will help you stay focused.

In my case, when I'm stretched too thin or feel down from the weight of running a business, I experiment with new patterns. Since designing is my passion, it renews my love for what I'm doing and reminds me why I'm in business.

Stay focused. As you grow, stay focused on the dream set before you. Instead of competing with other people, compete with yourself to be better than yesterday. Keeping my mind on what I do best rather than on how many people are trying to copy my patterns gives me the energy and the impetus to improve on everything I create.

Be ready for the next step. If your business isn't growing, it's dying; it's that simple. You must always be prepared to take the next step.

Several years ago we had an opportunity to create a private label pattern for a restaurant, something we had never before even contemplated. But we took the risk, and it turned out to be a wonderful growth opportunity for the company.

As your business grows, you will need to add people to help you. Wise people know where their ability ends and someone else's begins.

Recognize that the hardest place to stay is at the top. Awards and achievements are great scorecards, but don't dwell on them. It's healthy to enjoy them and feel proud of them, but then put them up on a shelf and move on. If winning an award becomes the most important thing, then there is nothing to achieve once the award is won. Besides, next year someone else may be winning it.

Build a support network. Surround yourself with a support network of people who truly believe in you. Even when I was selling my pieces just to friends and relatives, my husband always believed in me and never once laughed at my desire to have my own pottery business, although I had never taken an art or business class. Your support network can be anyone who believes in you and your dream and who will encourage you to reach your potential in spite of the obstacles others see.

Set your priorities. One lesson I learned early is that you can have it all, as long as you remem ber you don't have to do it all.

When my children were young, I decided we would always have dinner together as a family. Many nights we had take-out or went out. Buying dinner cost a little more, but it allowed me to keep my family first.

Now, even though my youngest child is an adult, I still make sure I'm there when one of my children needs me. My daughter was once in a contest at college, and I left a trade show to fly to see her and then flew back to the show when the contest was over. It was hectic, but being there for my daughter was very important to me.

You don't have to choose between family and career, but sometimes you have to be creative in how you balance them.

Maintain balance. Balance your life and your business. It's often hard, but it can be done so you succeed in both.

When my children were small, I stayed home and started my business slowly, designing pottery at my kitchen table. It gave me time to enjoy my children and my pottery. As my children grew, so did my business.

Today, my children are grown and on their own so I've got more time to devote to my business. The result is that my business is taking off at a time when I am able to keep up with its growth.

Have fun. Whatever you decide to do with your business, make sure it stays fun. I often hear women make comments such as, "I work in insurance, but I love to throw dinner parties." If this is your situation, then become a caterer or an event planner!

Realize that you can make money doing what you love. And if you do what you love, then you're going to love what you do every day.

Also, remember to have a life outside your business, with family first and then friends. It takes a lifetime to cultivate friendships, and you could lose them if you don't make time to enjoy them. You may also lose your perspective!

The Lord continues to bless me and my company. We now have showrooms in Atlanta and Dallas and a display at the New York Gift Fair in the Javits Center. I am privileged that my love for painting and pottery has transformed into a flourishing regional business.

I don't know what tomorrow holds, but I do know who holds tomorrow, and I trust Him to do with my business as He sees fit—and to work in me as He works in it. May He do the same for you.

Read a companion devotional.

Gail Pittman is an artist who turned a love for painting and pottery into a flourishing corporation, Gail Pittman, Inc. Her dinnerware, home accessories and collectibles are sold in specialty gift stores throughout the United States and Canada. read more

scared-teen-small

Is Your Teen Getting the Message?

Simple misunderstandings can foster conflict in your relationship with your child. How do you tear down the walls that hinder effective communication?

John stood at our door arrayed in all his black leather splendor. Safety pins ringed his ear lobes; jewelry pierced his nose and lips. Tattoos covered his arms. Both sides of his head were shaved, the hair on top spiked down the middle.

Our daughter had told me her date was coming, but I wasn’t prepared for what greeted me when I opened the door.

My thoughts raced: Should I let this road warrior in? Is my daughter in danger? What will my congregation think if she brings this guy to church? read more

Inspire-TechnologyFamily

How Much is Technology Affecting Your Family?



Though some believers blame technology for helping to destroy the family unit, a recent Barna study shows that most families feel otherwise when it comes to the impact computers, cell phones, video game systems and other devices have on their relationships. Here’s how the pies divvy up: read more

Inspire-MichelleAguilar

Former Biggest Loser Finds Faith

Michelle Aguilar weighed 242 pounds when she first tipped the scales on NBC’s The Biggest Loser: Families in 2008. Aguilar—who eventually won the reality show after she lost 110 pounds—had spent years using food to ease her pain.

And it showed.

The weight gain began after her mother called her to say she’d be leaving Aguilar’s father. “I was devastated to hear the family structure I had always known was going to be gone,” Aguilar says.

Hurt and angry, Aguilar had no contact with her mother for six years until shortly before Aguilar’s father suggested the two women enter the weight-loss competition together. 

It was on the reality show that Aguilar, now 30, finally reached her breaking point. read more

Inspire-GodTornado

Man Hears God in Tornado

Shaun Fanning credits his family’s survival of May’s killer tornado in Joplin, Mo., to the Holy Spirit.

Shopping at a Walmart when the storm struck, Fanning sensed he should stay put when employees urged people to move to the back of the store.

Although he broke his left arm while shielding his wife from debris and she sustained injuries, several people in the back where Fanning would have gone died when a wall collapsed. read more

Inspire-CindyDeVille

Prophetic Insight

As natural disasters such as earthquakes, tornadoes, floods and droughts increase, so does talk of the world coming to an end. What do these events really mean? Here’s a snapshot of what three respected prophetic leaders have to say.

Cindy DeVille
“We must understand that the problems we are seeing in America—such as wildfires, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes and floods—are actually the fruit of a root problem. Changing a law or political party is like putting a Band-Aid on a deep-rooted cancer. God is calling Christians across our nation to their knees, to humbly unite and lead the church in massive repentance.”  

  

 

Inspire-James GollJames Goll
“Will we be prepared? Whether it is adverse, strange weather patterns, global economic recession or America’s materialistic Titanic going under, these times of hardship can become great days of hope. Because the Bible says: ‘For behold, darkness will cover the earth, and deep darkness the peoples; but the Lord will rise upon you, and His glory will appear upon you’” (Is. 60: 2).

 

 

Inspire-Cindy-Jacobs

Cindy Jacobs
“Because of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan many are asking, ‘What is taking place?’ What do we know? God had warned us that shaking is coming. This doesn’t mean it was His desire for it to happen but that it was more of the biblical fulfillment that He doesn’t do anything without first warning through His servants the prophets (see Amos 3:7). Others are asking, ‘Was this a judgment from God?’ I tend to think God is grieved that so many have died. However, if we all pray and act in this crisis, I believe the Holy Spirit wants to breathe a wind of revival in Japan.”  read more

inspire-AidsOrphan

How an AIDS Orphan Found God


Yannik McKie says he and his sister are one of the first double AIDS orphans in the United States. When McKie was 10 he found out his parents were both HIV-positive and that his well-educated, affluent father had infected his mother after living a secret homosexual lifestyle. Both of his parents died by the time he was 15. 

“When I lost my parents I did not understand how God’s love could be reconciled with my situation,” he says. It wasn’t until he was 22 years old in a jail cell on federal gun charges that he began to realize how much God really loved him and that He had a plan for his childhood pain. 

“We learn God’s love for us through our pain because we actually realize that it was Him helping us through it,” he now says.   read more

Inspire-AmazingRace-Sharon

Believers Join Amazing Race Around World


Shannon Meador wanted more in her life. A passionate follower of Christ and lover of adventure, working a desk job in central Illinois just wasn’t cutting it, so she went in search of an exciting opportunity that would allow her to serve God.

“I wanted something more, something bigger, something crazier,” Meador says. “As soon as I viewed the World Race website, my search was over. I was called.” She applied on that same visit.

“My life isn’t mapped out by any means, but my life is always facing God and that’s all I need. When you make a plan you limit yourself to what God could be asking you.” read more

Inspire-ChristianFiction-Authors

Christian Fiction Authors Changing Real Lives


Great fiction writers can catapult readers into fantastical stories of the imagination and guide booklovers into an escape from reality. But a trend is emerging among Christian novelists determined to face life’s harshest realities head-on. Writers are starting humanitarian organizations and some are giving a portion of their book sales to help the needy.

Randy Singer, known for his legal thrillers and Christian suspense novels, announced earlier this year that 100 percent of the proceeds from his book False Witness would go to the Dalit Freedom Network, which helps some of the 168 million Dalits in India experiencing discrimination, dehumanization, violence and enslavement on a daily basis. As members of India’s lowest social caste, few have access to educational opportunities. 

“I’m supporting the Dalit Freedom Network because they are on the ground in India,” explains Singer. “They’ve been effective advocates for the Dalits around the world, but they’re also bringing educational solutions that make a difference right now in real time in this world.” read more

Inspire-911Survivor

Last 9/11 Survivor’s angel in the rubble


Ten years after being the last person pulled from the rubble of the Sept. 11 attacks, Genelle Guzman-McMillian says God has given her a miraculous second chance, which she’s used to remind others that life is not promised.

Guzman-McMillian was trapped under the rubble of the first tower for nearly 27 hours with her leg crushed under debris. She remembers being able to only lift her fingers to the surface of the rubble to signal for help. A man named Paul grabbed her hand, called her name and told her he was there for her. 

But after rescue workers unearthed her, she noticed that there was no way a person could’ve gotten in or out of the area where she was trapped. She believes she had an angelic encounter, and to this day no one has been able to locate the man named Paul.  read more

Inspire-NFLPro

NFL Pro Bowler Humbled in El Salvador


This summer as some NFL players were engrossed in tedious billion-dollar negotiations during the league’s lockout, Pro Bowler Aaron Kampman and his wife, Linde, focused their attention on poverty-stricken children in El Salvador.

Kampman, a defensive tackle for the Jacksonville Jaguars, says he was humbled to find that the children weren’t excited to see him because of his celebrity status, but rather because he was a Compassion International child sponsor.

“A lot of times here in the States I’m recognized as an NFL player, and many think that gives me great value,” Kampman says. “While I love the game, it’s through the eyes of these Compassion children that I can see a greater value and importance for my life beyond the football field and the potential we each have to help a child.” read more

Inspire-BikeTour

Bike Tour Fights Rape

Last month eight college students took to their bikes in the hot summer sun to ride 2,500 miles up the East Coast of the United States. Determined to do more than pedal for pleasure, these young adults set out to raise awareness about women suffering in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)—dubbed the rape capital of the world.   

The cyclists, who came from universities across the nation, stopped in 13 states and spoke to churches about the atrocities. They were inspired by the She’s My Sister campaign that, along with the American Bible Society, is providing practical help, healing and hope to Congolese women.   read more

Inspire-DisabledMasterpiece

A Disabled Masterpiece

Jeffrey Steinberg stands at 4 feet 6 inches tall (“Eat your heart out, Michael Jordan,” he jokes). He has no arms, his legs are malformed and he says he is not handicapped; rather he is a masterpiece in progress.

“I’m not handicapped because I don’t have any arms,” Steinberg says. “A handicap has nothing to do with that. A handicap is everything and anything that keeps me from being all that God’s designed for me to be. And He designed for me to be a masterpiece.”

For almost 40 years, the founder of Tiny Giant ministries has crisscrossed the earth sharing this message and the gospel to audiences in prisons, churches, schools, hospitals and on television. During his presentations he uses humor and songs to encourage people not to let their negative situations stop them from being extraordinary. read more

Inspire-ProSoccer

Pro Soccer Player Doubles As Missionary

Professional soccer player Wells Thompson has tasted glory with the New England Revolution, reaching the 2007 Major League Soccer (MLS) championship game as a rookie before his team bowed to Houston.

However, after that season Thompson resumed a practice started in childhood, taking a mission trip to Kenya and Zimbabwe. The following year he returned to Kenya, and he visited the Dominican Republic last year.

Today, Thompson is contemplating a long-term career in missions, although he says he won’t wait on the opportunities until he retires from his favorite sport.

“A couple years ago I would have been happy to play my career out [first],” says Thompson, now a midfielder for Denver’s Colorado Rapids. “The way I think about it now is, why does it have to be after I’m done playing soccer?”

He witnesses at home, too, through locker room discussions with his nonbelieving teammates and wearing post-game T-shirts emblazoned with John 3:16 and Romans 6:23.

Honeymission

After his upcoming wedding on Dec. 3, Thompson could easily travel to places such as Cancun, Bermuda or St. Thomas, but he hopes to include missions in the itinerary. “We just don’t feel comfortable going on a honeymoon and being selfish,” says Thompson, who proposed to his fiancee last December during a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. read more

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