In January of 2013, I was given the opportunity of a lifetime working with some very wealthy, very powerful people. Surprisingly, by the end of that year I'd suffered devastating discrimination, constant harassment, family crisis, depression, and a complete health meltdown. I remember as clearly as if it were yesterday lying inside a huge MRI machine at Mount Sinai Hospital thinking, "What am I doing here? How did all this happen?" By Thanksgiving my entire family had come from Florida to New York to help save me. By Christmas, I'd lost so much weight that I barely recognized myself in holiday photos.

But what God did for me following that debilitating experience was miraculous! He completely changed the course of my life, and it started with a year long study of the Book of Ruth! I began reading Ruth straight through each night before bed. I was desperate to learn about someone who'd made it out, who was saved from an awful situation. I was literally seeking the answers to my life failures in those chapters. And each night God faithfully showed me new things I'd never seen before. While I cannot share it all with you, I've condensed this year-long study about life, passion, pain, and the pursuit of our God-given destiny into a 40-day journey that will inspire and energize you. I know that if we scratch the surface together, God will personally reveal things to you just like He did for me! I speak directly from my heart to you. And I'd be delighted if you shared your stories with me as you read along! 

Day 6: Who Are You Listening To?

(Ruth 1:1-2)

I love that this book begins with famine! I know you think I'm cray-cray, and I promise you that I'm not. The reason I love that it begins with famine is that there's no pretense. Sometimes loss is so deep and so overwhelming in our lives that it doesn't matter what came before. We are in deep. Swallowed whole. Taken captive. I have a friend whose mother had a stroke last year. Miraculously she survived, but because his father and only sibling had passed away a number of years earlier, the responsibility of her full time care has fallen solely on his shoulders. He's 36. He is utterly overwhelmed, and its spiraled him into a devastating depression. You can't tell him that his life isn't in famine. There seems to be no end to the relentless pain. I know that feeling all too well myself. I also went through a very dark depression. So much so that while home for Christmas in 2013, my oldest sister looked at me and said "Who are you? I don't know who this person is." Now, don't get me wrong, she wasn't being mean. As a matter of fact, her words acted more like a wake up call to me. I had grown up as a cheerful, giggly, imaginative child. I'd matured into a confident, intelligent young woman. But the previous year had transformed me into another being altogether. I knew I was depressed. I just hadn't realized how bad it was.

Whoever you are out there, whatever has taken hold of your life, whatever famine you may be suffering through, I first want to tell you that you are NOT alone. You may feel alone. You may feel abandoned. But you, in fact, are not alone. There are a lot of people who have been exactly where you are right now. I have been there. I know what it means to cry myself to sleep repeatedly. To wake up crying. To not get out of bed for days. To scream at God in the middle of the night. I know what its like to drop drastic weight because of stress, and also balloon up to obesity because of stress. And worst of all, I know what it feels like to have no hope at all. You are not alone! There are many of us who understand exactly where you are. And more importantly, God is there. He's in the room with you right now. He has witnessed every moment of your life, and captured every tear. You might ask, "Why on earth would God be there silent while I suffered so badly?" And while I don't fully know with my finite mind the ways of our infinite God, I do know that part of the answer is that He has an incredible plan for you. He has brought you this far, and sat you down to read these words because He wants to remind you that He has never forgotten about you. The turn around you are about to see in your life is going to be so complete, so fulfilling, that you will marvel at His greatness and love.

So do not be afraid. Everyone must face a famine in life, no matter how rich or poor. But face it we will. Head on. We will not be destroyed by it. We will come through it. Your victory, dear friend, is here!!

(Ruth 1:1-2)

So in these first two verses in Ruth chapter 1 we meet Ruth's in-laws. Only they aren't her in-laws yet. She's not even in the picture until a little later. What we do know is that they are wealthy and affluent. But famine strikes and they pretty much lose their shirts. All of the connections and money they'd relied on for so long dried up. The charm, the charisma...nothing could save their family from this famine. With their resources exhausted, the family determined it was better to move on. The things they were used to relying on to get by were now completely useless.

Think now about your life. What have you gotten used to relying on? What crutches do you have? Those crutches aren't really getting you where you want to be, are they? And the funny thing is crutches aren't necessarily bad things. If you're incapable of getting things done on your own, a doctor will give you crutches to help you resume some normalcy. Or if you've suffered some type of injury or fall, the crutches will help brace you from falling again and re-injuring yourself, or risking greater injury. Crutches can be very good if your ability is limited. But the day inevitably comes when you have to learn how to walk on that injured leg again. It will be sensitive, tender, maybe sore. But you have to re-teach your body to take on the risk and function of its potential. If you don't, then crutches become a very, very bad thing.

We all have crutches in our lives that we've been relying on, when we really should be standing on our own two feet. Think about it. Maybe you've relied on your money too much to make up for what's missing in your relationships. Maybe you've relied on your education or position to cover your insecurities. Maybe you've relied on your poverty to keep you from branching out and starting your own business. We use all sorts of things as crutches. And this is a no-judgment zone because I have used them too. I have used my ethnicity as a crutch to keep me from having to face certain facts about my entertainment career. Its easy to do. And it doesn't start off as a deception. Its starts as a necessity. Or a legitimate, useful tool.

But today is a new day! Do you have the guts to take a real assessment of where you are in life right now? Can you see clearly enough to accept what bad decisions you may have made that brought you to this point? What toxic relationships you may have willingly entered into just because you wanted to close your eyes and have some fun? Can you honestly say to yourself, 'the fallout from my own habits have cost me dearly and I'm tired of it'? Its time to put your big kid pants on and make a move to a new place in life. Don't stay where everything around you is withering. You have the capacity to choose something different.

For some of us, God allowed us into this place in life so that He could get our attention. I've experienced losing friends because its the only way I would slow down enough to spend time with God. I've honestly been hard-headed like that! Whatever the reason, your life is speaking to you and this is a great opportunity to stop and really listen. What is your life telling you to let go of? Be honest. Change begins with honesty. What are you supposed to be learning, doing, risking? You may not even need to think that hard about it. You may know exactly what your crutches are, and what areas life is telling you to branch out into. And here is where I remind you that you're a natural risk taker! Oh yes, you! As a baby, your nature was to take calculated risk. You wanted to roll over on your belly, scoot, crawl, stand up, take a didn't know what was going to be on the other side of your effort, but you took the risk anyhow. If at just a few weeks or months old you could be so fearless, why not now?

(Ruth 1:2-4)

Here's where we get into the good stuff! I hope you've enjoyed the first 2 days of this journey. And I hope you're taking time to really consider these words. Let's talk now about the tricky nature of famine, or crisis moments in our lives. One of the most recent lessons I have learned is to not fall into the trap of short term thinking when I find myself in a famine. Some might call this a "fight or flight" response. Something truly awful may have happened in your life, but at the moment when everything around you is trying to make you react with a short term solution, try to think of the long term implications of what you're doing. For me this especially applies when it comes to finances. When a famine occurs in my life, my first reaction is generally to spend my way out of it. Maybe that's the adopted New Yorker in me...we city slickers seem to have a service for everything! Now I try to wait a few days before spending any money. And the result is that I'm happier with the long term result.

Spontaneity can be a good thing. But in crisis situations a spontaneous or knee-jerk reaction can be either really good or really bad. Its a toss up. Phrases like, "Hindsight is 20/20" haven't stuck around for nothing! At the end of verse 4, we see that after the death of their father, the young brothers make long a term decision...they both get married. Few things are more long term than that! Despite the fact that their hearts may be in turmoil, the brothers resist the temptation to be shortsighted. They see clearly that Ruth and Orpah are two amazing young women, so they put their fear aside and make great long term decisions. And they were rewarded with 10 years of faithful devotion from their partners.

Now let's go back to your specific situation. Even if you are not in a famine or crisis situation, think about your life in general terms. Have you mapped out long term plans? Specifically? If not, start on it tonight. Write down where you want to be and how you're going to get there. Spell it out for yourself. Whether its marriage, career-oriented, or restoring certain relationships, put together a strategy. Today, I walked in the park with an old friend and we talked about what our career strategies were. We're both talented actors, but it takes a lot more than that to do well in this business. It takes consistent planning and strategy. Its like a chess game! I have always been a writer and note-taker, but I've only recently started writing out strategies for accomplishing my biggest life dreams and goals. Oh sure, I have journals chock full of details about the dreams themselves, but nothing about how I was practically going to get there. Fear has always held me back. Something about writing it down made it real to me. It made me feel like I could be a loser or a winner someday. And so to avoid possibly losing, I failed to plot any course at all, which made it a near impossibility to win. That's not how a mature, intelligent person reaching for their pinnacle should live their life.

Begin now. Plot your course. Create a long term plan to success. And check back often to track your progress. Hold yourself accountable. Work for yourself as diligently as you work for your boss. You will see progress so rapid it will astonish you!

(Ruth 1:5)

Its usually a few days after you have a wonderful revelation and start down a new path that the floor seemingly falls out from under you. For me, this is always day 3 or 4. Without question, if I decide to start a new diet or workout matter the 3 or 4 will turn the tide. Someone will bring a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts into the office. A family crisis will arise right at the time I'm supposed to head to the gym. And if my new plan is to save money, well, all of my favorite designers and boutiques will have surprise flash sales with special shopping hours for loyal customers like me and additional discounts that I can add on top of the lowest sale prices! Yep, it drives me mad!!! Just as I seem to really be making a significant change for the better, a strategic attack comes from out of nowhere.

That's exactly what happens to Ruth, Naomi and Orpah. Just as they seemed to be getting back to normal, Naomi's two sons die. Now, I don't want to make light of this because this wasn't a run of the mill kind of crisis. Death is serious. And the challenges that you may face as you decide to reach for your dreams can also be deeply disturbing. They can take us by surprise and rock our world. In the fall of 2013, just about the time that my entire life was crumbling, I got a message from a family member as I was working late. The message said "Call me asap." You can imagine my trepidation. I left my desk immediately, walked to a small corner for privacy, took a deep breath, and dialed. What I heard on the other end of that call changed my life.

If you are reaching, really reaching, for your pinnacle it may happen to you too. You get a call, a text, a letter, a pink slip, an eviction notice. Something will happen that has the potential to send you reeling back into your old state of being. Why? Because the enemy doesn't want you to stand in your destiny. Call it what you will (the devil, the status quo, the man, racism, sexism, ageism) there are forces fighting against you. There always has been. You didn't sense them before because you were doing what they wanted you to do. You weren't asking questions, you weren't branching out. You were content to stay right where you were, not rocking boat. Upset the system that puts you in a box and predetermines who you are allowed to be, and the onslaught will come against you with all its fury.

What have I learned to do when this happens? Well, the first thing I've learned to do is acknowledge it for what it is: an attack. Denying what you're up against doesn't stop it or help you. Even if its a family member or dear friend, acknowledge that in that moment they are being used as a tool of the enemy to stop your progress. Listen, I know its controversial to think that someone who loves you and would never consciously try to discourage you could be used as a negative tool. But again its time to put on our big kid pants and think with a mature mind. Sometimes even the closest people to us can put us in boxes, holding us to their expectation of what we should be. No matter who says otherwise, you must stand firm in your right to reach your God-given potential. Even Jesus had to put his family in check once or twice because they did not understand his purpose!

Next you need to make a conscious decision to move forward full throttle. This is no time to shrink back or give up. Dig in deeper. Its going to be hard. Really hard. Its most likely going to seem insane to the people around you. But don't you dare give an inch of territory to the forces that are trying to harm and discourage you. Remember that this isn't about you anyhow. Its about the countless people you will strengthen and lift up by standing in your rightful place. Stand your ground for them! Advance for them!

Lastly, one of the most important things I have learned to do is to go the extra mile and do something special for someone else. Its easy to get distracted in your own problems or troubles. Its easy to cocoon yourself. Resist that temptation. This is the time for action! Keep your eyes on what you can do for others. Make the choice to stand in the gap for someone else when you're under fire. This keeps the windows of heaven open so that you remain a conduit of blessings. Now you're doing it! Now you're acting as someone who IS what they dream of being. You are it! And it's only a matter of time before miracles start to happen!

(Ruth 1:6)

You'll notice along the way in this journey how much life has taught you. You'll see your strengths and weaknesses, and what things are just excess fat that can be cut away. This is a great time to get back to basics. Sometimes we over-complicate things when we don't have to. Naomi decided that rather than trying to get water from a stone in Moab, she would just go back home. Why try over and over and over again to make something work when all you're getting from it is loss? If the extravagant solutions that worked for someone else aren't working for you, chisel away the fat and get back to what the simplest solution is.

Here's the great thing about getting back to basics. It will lead you to who you really are, and that is the magic ingredient. Your own gifts. Your own talents. The things that make you special. I tried for a very long time to be what someone else thought was special. I wore hair weaves and fake nails...all sorts of things that I thought would make me beautiful and noteworthy. And all it did was homogenize me. It doused my own fire. You cannot be someone else's version of special. You cannot squeeze yourself into a mold of what you think someone else sees as desirable. It will always fail. You are a unique, splendid being. You are magnificent all on your own. You have the power all on your own to light up any room you walk into. Don't you owe it to yourself to explore the gifts that reside inside you?

My mom is a school teacher, and every summer she'd take on some fun kid-friendly job that could accomodate her bringing us kids along when needed. Very early on, I remember her working at a summer lake and water park. Visitors could picnic, lay out on the shore of the lake, go paddle boating, fish, etc. It was an amazing place to play and have fun as a kid! On occasion I would find myself fascinated with fishing for guppies, but mostly I would walk around the beach with my tiny Bible and try to pray for people. No one ever told me to do it. No one ever prodded me. It was completely my idea to encourage people and share from my kiddie heart. That gift of sharing was inside me when I was 5 years old, and even now you are reading my words.

What is on the inside of you? When you look at your most basic gifts and talents, what comes to mind? It might be something that you never thought you could bring to market. Well, you can! If someone did not desperately need your gifts then you would not be here. So dig deep. Consider tossing out the formulas that others have tried to burden you with. Remember the Bill Gates and Paula Deans of this world. There is no formula for success except that you bring your whole, powerful, fully-engaged self to the work.

(Ruth 1:6)

Who has your ear? Its a simple enough question, but it's more important to your destiny than you might think. In Ruth 1:6, Naomi determines that she will leave behind the life that she'd tried to make work in Moab in order to get back to basics. What prompted this decision? Surprisingly enough we learn that she didn't come to the decision based on all of the heartache she'd suffered in Moab. I find that shocking don't you?! I mean, if I were to move to another country and then every member of my family were to die, I'd like to think that I might say "This country is bad luck" and head for home. But it's been proven many times over that as people we respond much more powerfully to positive incentives and stimuli than negative. This is why I consistently encourage employers to put into place positive incentives for employee advancement. It just works!

Naomi hears that her home country has been blessed, and she decides to pack up everything and go back to re-establish herself on the land she'd left behind more than a decade before. What's also interesting is that this news not only captured her imagination and moved her to action, it did the same for Ruth and Orpah. You could say that this entire story hinges on who Naomi was talking to. Or better yet, who she was listening to. I'll ask you again, who has your ear?

During 2013 I had many good friends. These friends were people I'd come through storms with, literally and figuratively. They were people I could trust and whom I loved. The problem was this, all of them were at the same place in life. You see, birds of a feather flock together. This old adage has both positive and negative implications. I bet that if you take a look at your inner circle, you'll notice a pattern or two. We all tend to surround ourselves with people whom we understand and feel familiar with. After all, it's risky to become close with someone who is unpredictable or who might dare you to step out of your comfort zone at any given moment. But if you never spend time with people who challenge your complacent lifestyle, how are you to move forward?

Naomi had the good fortune of having at least one person in her inner circle who was interested in advancing out of the status quo. They didn't come to her to commiserate her loss, gossip, or wile away the hours in dreams. No, they spoke to her about what they knew was possible. Moreover, they told her what God was doing! I realized when I was at my worst that of all the people I'd surrounded myself with, I didn't have one friend who could really pray for me. I tried once to pray with a friend. I thought she was a Christian. But when I fell apart and went to her for prayer, I was shocked to find that her prayer was feeble and without power. She didn't know God like I thought she did. I knew then that I had to get around people who were greater than myself or I wasn't going to make it.

If you are surrounded with people who are living on the same level that you are and you're ready to be challenged, I want you to pray this prayer with me:

Lord, thank you for the friends that You've given to me and the many roads we have traveled together. Thank you that they have supported me until this point. Now I am ready to grow and expand. I am ready to step out of my comfort zone and be challenged to reach my pinnacle. Please introduce people into my life that will help me to reach my God-given potential. I want to go the next level, and I want to fulfill the destiny that You have for me. Give me the strength to move forward and never look back. Give me the strength to embrace new friendships and relationships sent directly from You for this special time in my life. Thank you for hearing my prayer and guiding my life with Your love. Amen.

Now when you begin to meet these people, don't shy away from them. Step boldly into your new relationships. Share from your heart, and don't allow fear or intimidation to stop you. You may even want to discuss with them where you would like to go and how you've been stuck. And then listen. Listen closely with your heart. I have shared my dreams with the new friends that God has given to me, and never once have they laughed or scoffed at my goals. They applaud my ambition, and they have helped me to reach higher. I even have one friend that has such a powerful outlook that it truly encourages me to believe that I can be everything that God has destined me to be! Now that is someone worth listening to!!!

(Ruth 1:7)

It's time to start. Whatever your plan, whatever your destiny, I challenge you to start today. Right now.

Even if you have no money and seemingly no resources, you can at the least start with writing an outline or doing some research. Where there is a will, there is a way. I believe that wholeheartedly!

Regardless of your opinion of Paula Dean, her recipes, or business practices, it cannot be denied that her story is remarkable. She began her multi-million dollar food empire by simply making sandwiches in her kitchen. So meek a beginning. And the lesson that her example teaches us is that everyone must (and can) start somewhere.

In 2013, my neurologist sat me down to discuss the complications in my health. She gave me a list of triggers that were causing the trouble. It was overwhelming: Eating poorly, drinking too much, not enough sleep, far too much stress, far too little exercise. But I couldn't be distracted by how much work there was to do. If I allowed myself to be overcome with worry, I would surely die. It was that thought that had landed me in her office one chilly Saturday morning in the first place - knowing that if I didn't get help right away that I was going to die. And now here she was, after a legion of tests, looking me in eyes and telling me a mountain of bad news. But I had to start somewhere, and so I did. Change is not easy. But it is impossible if you never start.

When Naomi heard that God had blessed her home country, she wasted no time. The details are not specific, but from the text we get the feeling that she started moving right away. It's been 7 days since we began this amazing journey together. Yes, it doesn't seem like it but a week has passed. Don't let another day go by before starting on your Pinnacle Project. Going forward we will be doing some heavy lifting and really unearthing the things that have held us back. If you are not actively engaged in moving forward, you will be left behind. What is your dream? What is the pinnacle you aspire to? Have you dared to even write it down? There is power in writing things down and taking action because it creates accountability. And accountability is your friend!

So now in the spirit of accountability, I ask that you begin. Take a step toward your God-given destiny today. And if you have already begun, kick your gears into full throttle. I would even encourage you to write to me at to let me know what project you are working toward. Lets take this journey together! You are not alone. We will succeed and we will win together! Starting today!!

(Ruth 1:8-15)

We've been taking this Pinnacle Project journey together for 1 week now. Congratulations! You've begun the work of reaching your highest potential! Over these next few days we're going to talk about many of the things that have brought you to the place where you were. I know it is difficult to look back and analyze the things that went wrong, but in order to learn from our mistakes and avoid the same traps going forward, we must look deep within. I have asked God for the strength to be transparent with you, so that you in turn have the courage to be transparent with yourself. Lets begin!

As Naomi begins on her journey back to her home country, she realizes that there are things from her past that have attached themselves to her. At first these things may have seemed like positives. But now, as she goes to claim what is rightfully hers, she realizes that these things have no place in the life that she is rising to. Does this sound at all similar to your life?

Sometimes these attachments can be relationships, sometimes its habits. Search your heart now, friend. Because as surely as you are reading this, you have read about celebrities or powerful people who have had secrets from their past come back to haunt them. Things they may have thought were secret and private became embarrassingly public. Let's not pretend that everything in our own pasts are perfect. Let's allow God to deal with our pasts now so that we don't have to relive them in the future.

I have suffered very much with feelings of rejection. It began as a child with my father's rejection. He preferred alcoholism to his beautiful wife and children. And because my mother was a very strong woman and an amazing single mom, I wasn't aware of my deep feelings of loss until I was an adult. But even though I may have been largely unaware, still they plagued my emotional development and decisions. In middle & high school, I frequently felt inferior, rejected and alone. Even amongst my siblings, those feelings prevailed. My sensitive nature and artistic abilities lead me into acting, but one could say that acting chose me as much as I chose it. How else could I have found myself in a profession where you are rejected literally on a constant basis. As my career brought me to NYC, my fears of rejection isolated me romantically. Years would pass between romantic relationships, and when they did come I would defensively reject men before they could reject me.

In the summer of 2013, after a long hiatus from dating, I found myself entangled with a man that I thought possessed all of the qualities I was looking for. I make no mistake in saying that he was my dream man. The problem was that I had been rejected and alone for so long that there was literally nothing in my heart to offer him. What he found in me was an empty shell, a cavern of cobwebs where vibrant love and self-respect should have been. An empty shell is an incredibly dangerous place to offer someone to take up residence. The emptiness and loneliness from my childhood had come full circle, and now the stakes were too high. I tried in many feeble ways to be a part of his world, but there is nothing more repulsive than someone whose soul is empty. And so it wasn't long before the man of my dreams moved on.

I share this story with you because your past may catch up with you as well. And many times it will be at the most inconvenient moment. Naomi could imagine how difficult it would be if she came back home with two destitute daughters in law. She knew the pity and gossip that she'd be subject to, and she didn't want that for herself or Ruth & Orpah. She had to face them, and release them. She dared not carry them with her into the future.

Letting go of your past is not an easy thing to do. In essence, you are daring to do the scariest thing of all, and that is to allow God to move you into the unknown alone. You see, you cannot bring people and things with you on this journey. It is your journey to take. You can't pack everyone you know up and bring them with you. Many times God will call you into a secret place so that He can speak to your heart in ways only you can understand. And what you will find is that your friends and family may not understand what you are doing and why. They might call into question your need to take this path. And so you must be unafraid to let everything from your past go.

I have since uncovered the feelings of rejection in my heart and asked God to come into those dusty, dry areas and fill them up. I want Him to fill every part of me so that there are no vacant areas, open and available to those whose motives are not pure. I don't want to act out of desperation or longing, but from resilience and strength. And because I have given my heart and past to God's protection, I know now that He was my Father long before my earthly father ever was. I know that He loves me wholly and completely, because He knows even the secret spaces within my heart. I know that even when I rejected Him and others out of fear and insecurity, He still accepted me. And so I can move forward into my destiny confident in His love. Friends, if its ok, I'd like to pray for you now:

Lord, I thank you for whomever is reading these words. I thank you that You knew they would sit down at this very moment in their lives to read this prayer. I ask that You make Yourself real to them now, and show them Your love. Lord, there are so many things that can happen in our past that can hurt us deeply. Many times we can carry these things with us through life, allowing others to re-injure us where we are tender and sensitive. I ask now that You give my friend the courage to let go of any habit, experience, or person from their past that has held them back from living out their full potential. Help them to release it so that they can feel the freedom that comes with knowing it's in Your hands. I ask You to give them the strength to forgive those who have injured them. Even if they don't understand how to move forward in forgiveness, I ask that You show them the way, tenderly and lovingly like the Father that You are. Thank you for caring so much for us, God. Thank you for protecting us even when we aren't aware of it. Thank you for hearing and answering our request for help today. Amen.

Thank you for praying with me! Tomorrow we look at another step. Until then, I pray God's peace and rest in your heart.

(Ruth 1:10-15)

Naomi was truly a remarkable woman! So many people read this short passage and ponder the fact that Ruth stayed with Naomi while Orpah left. And while I agree, there is much in their respective decisions that should give us pause, I'd like to talk a little bit about Naomi in this passage. Naomi had been through as much grief as a mother could take. By this point, she'd lost her home, her riches and status, her husband, and both her sons. One could say her loss rivals that of Job, that unforgettable Biblical character that we all ascribe the ultimate patience to. Naomi is utterly alone, and yet she still finds a way to act responsibly and compassionately toward her daughters. I don't see her request that they return to their families as the desperate rejection of a distraught woman, like some people might view it. I'll show you why. Re-read now the first half of verse 11. Naomi doesn't scream at them, rant or rail. If she had, that emotion would have been noted, as it is noted many times in the Bible. Instead, she asks them an incredibly smart question. And the thing that we discuss so often without knowing it is that Orpah and Ruth have 2 distinctly different responses to Naomi's question. Naomi asks them WHY do they want to go with her. And that's what I want to discuss with you in regard to the people that you are in relationships with today.

Why are those people in your life? Think about this not from your own point of view, but from theirs. What are they hoping to take away from having a relationship with you? What are they getting out of the relationship? And as Dr. Phil McGraw so smartly says on his TV show, "What's the payoff?"

Naomi in her wisdom asks both of these women a question that forces them to search out their motives for going forward in relationship with her. Here they were, as different as different can be. They were of a different generation, country, customs, background. And most importantly they were from different spiritual heritages. Naomi knew that she could not bring them back with her if they weren't 100% committed to the life they'd accepted when they married her sons. They would be under pressure, and under constant scrutiny in Naomi's home country. If they rebelled while there, it could be cause for their deaths. So Naomi asks them pointedly why are they following her, and then she gives them a list of things to think about so that they can make an educated decision.

People have attached themselves to your life for many reasons. Some of those reasons may be good and some may not be. We will dive more deeply into how to recognize a positive and Godly relationship tomorrow, but today lets talk briefly about how to recognize a toxic relationship through the lens of this story. Like Naomi, take the time now to consider why the people around you are following you. Are they 100% committed to the elevated life that you are choosing? Have they committed in spirit to standing strong with you? Because pressure will come. Scrutiny will come. And if they aren't of like spirit they could destroy what you are trying to build. Everyone doesn't want to do what it takes to own their own business, or be a millionaire, or start a new career path. Think about it seriously. Your dream may be to go back to college and finish your degree, or to go to a third world country to help with disaster relief. The people around you may think it is a great idea, but are they willing to help you build toward that goal on a day to day basis. Or will they just smile and say nice things, but disappear or distract you when the real work begins.

In the fall of 2013, God started calling me into a secret place of focus on Him. My life was falling apart, but God was using that destruction to guide me back to His heart. My friends who were not like-minded had no idea what to do with the new me. They didn't want to go to church with me, study the Bible, pray, spend time alone with God. I'd started a healthier lifestyle, eating better, exercising, spending my spare time keeping myself inspired and built up. And though it was painful, I had to allow those relationships to depart my life. Not because they weren't good people. They were lovely people. But I was headed in a different direction. I was on a new path and I wasn't going to sacrifice what mattered the most to me to stay behind in those old relationships. I've got the feeling that while reading this, you've been thinking about a person or two (or maybe more) who might fit this description. They love you, but they aren't 100% committed to the place in life that you are rising to. You know it's time to allow them to depart. Have the courage to be honest with them today, like Naomi was with Ruth & Orpah. Some will kiss you goodbye, but the relationships of value will remain and go the distance.

(Ruth 1:16-18)

Here we have one of the most famous passages in history. No doubt you have been to a wedding where these words of Ruth were quoted within the marriage vows. Ruth wants to impress upon Naomi how committed she is to her and to her new life. She literally says words here that have lived on historically as a standard for love and devotion. What was Naomi's reaction? Nothing. You can imagine how beautiful this moment was...and how it was so powerful that it was recorded for history's sake. And yet, Naomi has no response? None! So interesting! Words have power. Words can bring life or destroy. Words can lay waste to years of faith and planning. Think I'm exaggerating? Ask someone how you look in your favorite pair of jeans today. Go ahead! Do it! I bet you wouldn't dare. Why? Because you know as well as I do that someone's negative response could upset years of positive self-esteem and replace it with self-judgement and loathing. Words definitely have power. But actions trump words any day!

Naomi doesn't react to Ruth's words not because they aren't powerful, heartfelt, true or beautiful. She doesn't react because she waits to see what Ruth is going to DO. Ruth is entirely sincere. Naomi responds after she sees the proof of that sincerity. And right now I feel lead to say that anyone who confesses their commitment to you, and then leaves because you don't respond in the moment but wait to see the proof of it, was never really committed in the first place. A person's commitment has nothing to do with your acceptance of that commitment. It entirely revolves around their personal integrity. And now I'm going to really blow your mind and tell you after Naomi proved her, Ruth did not respond. Oooh chills! Yes! Ruth's commitment was not waiting on Naomi's acknowledgement. For Ruth, the commitment was between she and God much more than it ever was between she and her mother in law. It is God's approval that Ruth was after! And so we see that these two women are operating on a spiritual plain that has merited its historical notation. This is where their true journey together begins, spiritually and also in the natural. We see for the first time here that their focus has become one: following this path back to where God is.

Respectfully, I'd like to say the same for you. This journey that you have taken is really about getting to where God is. His heart for you. His purpose for creating you and waking you up this morning. Your commitment to this path is much more about your connection to God and the greater life you know is available to you than it is about just launching a new venture or investment. That's why the stakes are so high. You need this path as much as you need air to breathe and water to drink. And any person who wants to rise with you has to be of like spirit. Words, although important, are not enough. Action is a critical ingredient. Another thing that impresses me most here is that Ruth never mentions her own family, customs, or old life. She is looking forward, thinking forward, planning forward. She basically says, 'Please stop asking me about going back to my old life, because I'm going with you to our new home, our new community, our new people, because that is my place in the world and I'm never looking or coming back to this place again.' I mean, Ruth was the original "Ride or Die Chic"!! She was the prototype!!

There are people around you that prove with their actions and attitude that they are not going back to where they used to be. They challenge you with their faith in action. And when all is said and done, they aren't looking to you for praise, glory, or compensation. These are the Ruths in your life. They speak words of faith and encouragement. And when you hear those words it electrifies something inside you because it is the spirit of God working in them, and your spirit recognizes it. In the winter of 2013, I had an unexpected encounter with a colleague. I was sitting at my desk and she came over and began to speak to me about moving forward into the new venture I was about to start. About half way through her gift of advice, my heart nearly stopped because I realized that she was no longer speaking, but God was speaking to me through her! It took every ounce of strength I could muster not to fall into tears right there at my desk because I was so arrested by the presence of God in that moment.

You KNOW a Ruth when you speak to them. Your heart and mind recognize the spirit inside of them! This is the time to be very selective about who you share your life with. Don't be afraid to guard the journey that you are on. It is precious. Someone with a Ruth spirit will water and nurture that higher calling in your life. Don't be afraid to test the spirit of the people who are around you. If the proof is not in the pudding, let them go.

This study is designed for everyone, because Ruth's story relates to everyone! It doesn't matter if you are Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, or perhaps just a "spiritual" person. Ruth went from utter loss to having much more than she could have ever dreamed. She reached her pinnacle - and that's a story that applies to everyone at some point in life. Its an amazing journey! I invite you to begin this ascent toward your own pinnacle with me. Here's how it works - Read one entry each day and ponder it in your heart. Try not to read ahead if you can. Each day after you read, take time to do something special for yourself (even if its just sipping some tea, going for a walk, listening to your favorite music, or writing your thoughts down in a journal). Allow God to make room in your heart for the wonderful potential that is about to emerge! This is going to be a lovely journey together! Let's start right now!  - Darlene

Day 10: Words vs. Actions

Day 7: Get Moving!

Day 1: Famine

Day 4: Problems On Top Of Problems

Day 8: Shedding Excess Baggage

Day 2: What's Your Crutch?

Day 3: Long Term Thinking

The Pinnacle Project

40 Days of Inspiration to Reach Your Destiny!

"Darlene Hope

is skilled at handling considerable humor!"

-New York Times

Hi there, friends! 

Day 9: Toxic Relationships

Day 5: Getting Back To Basics

"Darlene Hope

is Sly, Wise & Funny!"