Author Archives: Tonya Whitaker

Gerard to fellow entrepreneurs: Trust Him, great things will occur

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Jennifer Gerard, founder of Whitening Lightning

By Jennifer Gerard
Special to Inside The Pew

Why did you create your business?

“After getting saved in 2009, it became increasingly difficult to be around all the negativity, cursing and substance abuse of my previous career as a sales manager for a carJennifer Gerard, founder of Whitening Lightning dealership. I prayed and asked God to help me. Several months later, a friend suggested I start a teeth whitening service and I did. The products I created for the service were a huge success and Whitening Lightning was born.”

What is the one scripture (or two) that you draw strength from?

“Philippians 4:13 is such a simple reminder that there is nothing too tough for our almighty God. I am reminded to put my trust in Him. I can and will accomplish ANYTHING He needs me to.

“I also love Isaiah 45: 6-7 which reminds me that every single action and event in my life is guided by the Lord Jesus. Therefore, no consequence or reaction is unintended. It is my reminder to look for what I am to learn from every situation and not spend time worrying about the future or being disappointed when I encounter an unwanted outcome.  It is all part of His plan.”

Share the best advice you can share with an entrepreneur?

“I have 3 pieces of advice for any entrepreneur:

  • Trust your instincts. The Holy Ghost is always there to guide us if we will only listen.
  • Believe in yourself. God made us all perfect in His image.
  • Respect yourself in business if you expect others to do the same. Others will only value us and our products or services if we value ourselves first.”

Have an interesting tidbit about your business or yourself that you would like to add?

“God can truly do ANYTHING. I started this business with $3,000 and in our first year we sold over $1.2 million. Trusting Him can lead to GREAT things!”

Jennifer Gerard is founder of Whitening Lightning Inc., a manufacturer and distributor of innovative and easy-to-use teeth whitening products and other beauty products. Want to have your business featured on our Pew Business spotlight? Send us an email expressing interest to

Goodwill Industries names Houston man 2013 Achiever of the Year

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By Tonya Andris
Inside The Pew

Tyres Dickson’s dream of becoming a college football star at the University of Texas ended when an accident with a drunk driver left him paralyzed from the chest down. Life after the 1998 accident has had its ups and downs. But, a chance opportunity of securing employment with Goodwill has helped him rebuild his confidence. The Houston native was recently named Goodwill Industries 2013 Achiever of the Year for his efforts to redefine what makes a successful work life.

Dickson, 35, will be honored during Goodwill Industries’ annual Delegate Assembly meeting in June in Grand Rapids, Mich.

“I was either going to end up on government assistance or make a way for myself,” Dickinson said. “This award validates the struggle. After I got out the coma I decided that I would stay with God and persevere through the adversity. I have many solitary, heavy moments. Then, I made it to Goodwill to see there are good people. Working for Goodwill has been good for my soul and spirit.”

For the past four years, Dickson has worked as a traffic dispatcher for Goodwill Industries of Houston.

After the accident, Dickson spent 18 months of recovery in the hospital and eight months learning life skills to deal with limited mobility. He then re-enrolled at UT to continue his education, but was unable to attend classes due to difficulties related to his paralysis and he moved back to Houston, to live with his mother. Compensation from the accident allowed him to pursue his own audio and sound mixing business, but the theft of his audio equipment in December 2008 left him without the means to earn a paycheck.

Dick Taylor, a UT alum and football booster who’d met Dickson almost a decade earlier, heard about the theft. Taylor was a friend of Steve Lufburrow, president and CEO of Goodwill Houston, and called him immediately and set up a meeting between Dickson and the CEO.

Lufburrow saw promise in the young man and hired him as the agency’s transportation dispatcher. When he learned Dickson didn’t have a way to get to work, LufburrowDicksonWork enlisted help from others at Goodwill, including Emily Conner, who worked in the Goodwill’s human resources department and was paralyzed in a diving accident. She helped Dickson access the job readiness supports that helped him succeed on the job.

Dickson has also used his experience as a platform for speaking engagements. He said he has spoken to several business groups, Christian schools, and Camp LT, a preparatory academy established by former NFL running back LaDainian Tomlinson

Interestingly, Dickson said his job allows him to use quarterbacking skills because he has to strategize and dispatch trucks to Houston-area stores.

“The job gives me a sense of accomplishment. I help send the trucks that are delivering products to destinations intended to help people who otherwise would not be able to afford items.”

Goodwill Industries International’s Achiever of the Year is a person who has shown great progress and accomplishment in overcoming challenges to finding employment, and who still benefits from the Goodwill work environment or receives services to support employment at a community site.

‘Send your prayers this way’: Rescue effort near completion in Moore

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Onlookers watch as children are pulled from the rubble of the Plaza Towers Elementary School following a tornado in Moore, Okla., Monday, May 20, 2013. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

By Grelan Muse Sr. and Tonya Andris
Inside The Pew

Twenty-four hours after a massive twister hit Moore, Okla., rescue crews have nearly concluded their search for survivors and victims.Onlookers watch as children are pulled from the rubble of the Plaza Towers Elementary School following a tornado in Moore, Okla., Monday, May 20, 2013. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

The Associated Press reported Tuesday at least 24 people were killed when the tornado ripped through the suburban city, which sits just south of Oklahoma City. At least 9 of the dead are children, seven of which attended Plaza Towers Elementary School.

“I’m sick to my stomach,” said Jayme Shelton, a spokesman for the city of Moore, told the Washington Post. “Send your prayers this way.”

Amy Elliot, coroner with the Oklahoma medical examiner’s office in Oklahoma City, told The Associated Press at least 40 more bodies are expected. She didn’t elaborate as to how many of the deceased were children from Plaza Towers.

The 2-mile wide tornado, which hit Moore the afternoon of May 20, packed winds of up to 200 miles per hour and churned as it sat on the ground for an estimated 40 minutes. Homes in the path of the twister were leveled, and vehicles sat on top of one another.

This is the second tornado to touch the ground in Oklahoma in many days. On May 19, a tornado hit east of Moore killing two people.

Joel Reynalds, son of ASSIST News Services senior correspondent Jeremy Raynalds, lives in the area, said the devastation was “unreal.”

“(I’ve) never) seen anything like it. It looked like a bomb went off,” Joel Reynalds said.

Efforts to help victims of the tornado poured out immediately. According to Jeremy Raynalds, chaplains with the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team have been deployed to Moore to offer support.

“Our hearts are breaking for all of those in the path of this horrific tornado. Words can’t do justice to the pain that is being experienced in and around Moore,” said Jack Munday, international director of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team.

“Please pray continuously for all of those who lost loved ones, and for those who may still be trapped amidst the rubble.”

The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team is deploying in coordination with Samaritan’s Purse, headed by Franklin Graham, who is also president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Together the two ministries will seek to meet the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of those impacted by the storm.

The threat for severe weather continues Tuesday as severe thunderstorms containing hail, damaging wind gusts, and tornadoes. According to the Weather Channel, areas that should prepare for the severe weather include Dallas, Shreveport, La., St. Louis, Chicago, and Columbus, Ohio.

Ellis: Becoming a nation of jugglers

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Bill Ellis

By Bill Ellis
Special to ASSIST News Service

SCOTT DEPOT, W.V. (ANS) — To juggle means to keep thingsBill Ellis “continuously in the air.” I tried it with green apples, tennis balls and once with three croquet balls. I was doing well until two of those wooden balls collided and went separate ways enough to allow the third ball to hit me between the eyes. After that headache, I lost my desire to be a juggler.

We all may have been warned, “Don’t try to do too many things at the same time.” We are advised to keep our minds on what we are doing.

There was a time in which parents and grandparents lived a very scheduled kind of life. The father was expected to earn money for the upkeep of his family. Mothers had the primary role of taking care of the family.

We may remember singing, “Monday is wash day, Tuesday is ironing day”David Cain juggler and on it went for every day of the week. Little girls were taught about cooking, cleaning and sewing. Little boys had their chores and learning experiences. Our first teachers were before we started to school.

America’s beloved poet, Robert Frost, had it right when he wrote, “It takes a heap of living to make a house a home.” My friend, Charles Swindoll, brilliant speaker and author of many books, was on target with these wisdom words, “You know what’s helped us in the Swindoll home? To think of where we live as a training place, not a showplace.”

We find many things to do at work, in the community, the home, school or at church. We become like, Martha, the sister of Lazarus, and of whom Jesus said, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things” (Luke 10:41).

It seems like men and women have been in the juggling business since the creation. We always have too many things going at the same time.

Financially we juggle bills. At work, we try to put in more hours than there are in the day. In some communities, there are more volunteers than people able to work.

Mothers and fathers can be busy doing things at the school where their children attend. The pastor is always looking for volunteers to serve in the church. Hospitals get much of their work done by volunteers.

I was the speaker for a Tri-State fund raising rally for the Boy Scouts of America. Two of my all-time favorite Boy Scout executives were Don Berg and Bud Trigleth in Decatur, Ill. Contractors and thousands of volunteers are busy at work to prepare the gigantic new national Boy Scout Camp, not far from where I live in West Virginia.

A piece of paper just dropped from my desk. On the front staring back at me were these big bold words, “WE’RE COUNTING ON YOU!”

We are all in the juggling business to get everything done for ourselves, our family, our school, our church, our neighborhood. My pastor is Dr. Melissa Pratt, one of the most talented young pastors in the nation. She scheduled David Cain, world champion juggler, for special events for our mothers and children the weekend of Mother’s Day.

I and a few other men sat on the back row for one of the most amazing programs I have ever seen. Cain would thrill those at any youth convention, family camp, high school and college audience, award ceremonies. He deals with faith, evangelism, spiritual warfare, Christian living and to demonstrate it he uses balls, rings, boomerangs, a bullwhip and has them all in continuous motion.

His web is and his e-mail is Be a winner in the juggling business. Learn how to juggle successfully.

The WIN motivates women to live their best lives

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By Paula Fellingham
Special to Inside The Pew

The Women’s Information Network (The WIN) is an online educational andimage003 social network and an on land global community of women in 152 countries. The WIN motto is: “We Are Women Helping Women Live Our Best Lives.”

Why did you create your business?

I created The WIN because there is a rising and awakening of the women of the world that is more fast moving and far reaching than anything ever before experienced in the history of the world. The women are ready and yearning for our help. Experts worldwide are ready to share solutions for the challenges in women’s lives and we give them the global platform to do that, online (e-TV for Women) and on land (1,000 Global Women’s Summits being presented right now).

What is the one scripture (or two) that you draw strength from?

John 13:34, “As I have loved you, love one another.”

Share the best advice you can share with an entrepreneur?

Find your passion, learn how to monetize it, and share it with massive numbers of people.

Have an interesting tidbit about your business or yourself
that you would like to add?

The WIN is the fastest-growing global women’s network in the world. We have “Women of The WIN” in 152 countries.

For more information, visit . Want to have your business featured on our bi-monthly Pew Business Spotlight? Send us an email expressing interest to


Three secrets to effective communication in a relationship

Published by:

Ahmad Davis

By Ahmad Davis
Special to Inside The Pew

Scripture of study: Proverbs 2:2″ So that you incline your ear to wisdom, And apply your heart to understanding” (KJV)

When my wife Regina and I first got married, we had our biggest argument, not over money, not over kids, in-laws or something common like that, it was over how to communicate with each other. So my biggest lesson out of our first argument was the money fights were a symptom and not the problem. The problem was establishing a best practice for communicating. So here are some of those best practices I discovered.

Step 1: Listen and Repeat

One of my strengths from the beginning of our relationship is that I am a strong listener. Yet, if I do not take the time to engage the conversation back, it can and will be perceived as I do not care about what is being discussed. So my strongest and best suggestion is to repeat back what was said with your input. This method shows that you were listening, have an opinion, and you are engaged in the solution.

Step 2: Repeat and Review

As I mentioned, after you have listened and got a good understanding, then you make sure that your spouse knows you understand them first before you try and seek understanding. In Stephen Covey’s Book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” he expertly explains that most people are continuously seeking to be understood. As couples, we have to be very intentional in a discussion to NOT try and just explain our own point of view, instead repeat back what was said and make sure you ask if you understand what they said. Most people are more receptive to your feedback if they know that you respect their train of thought.

Step 3: Review and Do

Now that you have effective dialogue going. The most important factor is to act on what you said. Nothing says I love you like action. Up to this point, you have listened intently, communicated your understanding of their point of view, and had your point of view heard. The best way for me to close this type of conversation is to agree to do ONE action that will SHOW you understood what was said.

KEY POINT: It is usually better for me to ask the other person to choose the most important action, that way I am not guessing and missing the mark.

Just in case you did not catch it, but the most important part of communication is listening, not talking. So strengthen your listening skills with effective an engagement system.

Ahmad Davis is a coach with Victory By Design, a firm based in Beaumont, Texas, serving clients locally, nationally and internationally. Ahmad provides solutions for individuals, couples, and businesses who are overwhelmed and stressed financially. Ahmad’s typical clients’ are pastors, single parents, lawyers, couples, doctors, business executives, newlyweds, business owners, and others who want a simple solution with remarkable measurable results. For more information, visit To get your questions answered on the Inside The Pew Forum, email Ahmad at

VeggieTales Prize Package giveaway begins today

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Inside The Pew

Big Idea Entertainment, creators of the popular VeggieTales ChristianVeggieTalesCover entertainment products for children, have teamed up with us to give one lucky reader of Inside The Pew a Veggie Tales Prize Package. The package features five DVD’s: “The Little House That Stood,” released in March, “The Ultimate Silly Song Countdown,” “Sing Alongs “I Can Be Your Friend,” “A Very Veggie Easter Collection” (two discs) and “The Little Ones Can Do Big Things Too.” Also included is “150 All-Time Favorite Songs,” a 3-disc compilation of Sunday school songs, Veggie Tale favorites, and lullabies. The retail value of the package is $100.

To enter the contest, contestants must become an email or comments follower of Inside The Pew between June 3 and June 21. Entrants who follow us on Pinterest and repins “The Little House That Stood” pin in children’s Christian literature board, are given a double entry into the contest. Therefore, each entrant can enter his or her email address into the contest no more than three times. Current email subscribers of Inside The Pew begin with two entries. If the entrant is already an email subscriber, the entrant is welcome to follow us on Pinterest for an additional single entry. The winner will be chosen on June 24 at 5 p.m. CST. On Friday, June 28, the winner of the contest will be emailed and the winner’s name will be announced on our Twitter page. The winner will have 36 hours to respond to our email from In the event the winner doesn’t respond in a timely manner, the winner will forfeit the prize and a new winner will be chosen. The prize will be mailed to the winner, and upon entry the winner must provide a mailing address.

The contest is open to residents in the United States. Contest is not open to employees, guest columnists, nor the immediate family members employees of Inside The Pew, Pew Talk Radio, EMM Network or Emmanuel and The Mainline Ministries.

Good luck!

Mother figures’ love rests in their day-to-day walk with Him

Published by:

Tonya Whitaker

By Tonya Andris
Inside The Pew

In today’s society, there are many mothers who need role models. These

Tonya Whitakerwomen have been in the trenches as parents, wives, and grandmoms. For many mother figures, the world is a different place from when they reared their children. But, they can still provide the frame for parenting that crosses generations. The church and my work with Inside The Pew is where I clung to the women who inspire me and help me as I go on the journey of motherhood. The greatest aspect about these women is they lead by example. To me, that is the greatest way to go. I watched, learned, and listened. Solomon writes in Proverbs 30:26, “She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue” (NIV). In return, they encouraged, prayed, and inspired. It doesn’t take a woman to have a self-prescribed label to mean something to a younger mother. Mother figures should make the sacrifice without waiting for a young mom to ask. Even if she doesn’t ask, just continue to live your life the way God want you to. While I feel I have a long way to go, I would like to take on that role one. Who knows? Maybe God has always blessed me with that role. For your love and kindness on Mother’s Day, I issue this prayer for all those pure in heart mother figures out there:

“Dear Lord, I thank you for placing women in my life who encourage me as a mother and Christian. Please be with them as they continue in their walk to live a life in Your image. May they always be a blessing to others. Give her strength to maintain her loving life and home, and provide the deepest knowledge in her hear that You love her. Amen.”

Hughes: Giant in the land

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Dallas Willard

By Paul Hughes
Special to Inside The Pew

Dallas Willard revised his affairs May 8, moving to the headquarters of theDallas Willard Kingdom of the Heavens to live slightly nearer to God, whom he spoke of, served, embodied.

The life he continues to live today.

Unceasingly infused, this life was and is. For these ideas and Our Lord were everywhere in what Dr. Willard said and showed. For instance, revised his affairs, is from this comment —

A disciple is a person who has decided that the most important thing in life is to learn how to do what Jesus said to do. … Disciples simply are people who are constantly revising their affairs to carry through on their decision to follow Jesus.

— and in that, it’s in the larger reality, that Christians don’t die; and in that, it’s in the still larger reality, that such a life (indeed, life itself) is simply what happens when one walks after and near and with Jesus.

These things, too, he said and showed. We who were simply readers and listeners — he would not want us to say “followers” — could know little of what he daily did, and even less about what he thought and felt. We affirm those distinctions.

Except that in stronger measure such distinctions — thought, felt, said, did, showed — are erased when all are part of the seamless garment of after, and then near, and then with.

He separated them to better consider them — here and here, say — but knew we don’t live that way. We can’t.

And this, finally, is what he said and showed —

that heart, soul, mind, strength, and showing to others are simply one’s life
that living our lives is done by intentionally and integrally pursuing Jesus
that as we do so Christ’s conquering of death becomes real in us, each day

— and we will never die.

Big Stuff, and somewhere Dr. J.P. Moreland uses “giants in the land” to refer to Dr. Willard, and the latter would rightly demur and the former would rightly insist and both would be right.

And both would be showing us God, so then it’d be time for the really big stuff.

To in Him we live and move and have our being.

That is, to continue to.

Paul Hughes is a writer in Southern California, author of The Columbo Case Files: Season One and The Columbo Case Files: Season Two. His website is here and his books are here.


Texas court rules in favor of Kountze cheerleaders in Bible banner lawsuit

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Photo courtesy of KHOU

By Tonya Andris
Inside The Pew

Hardin County District Court Judge Steven Thomas entered an order on

Kountze High School cheerleaders display a banner at a football game.

Photo courtesy of KHOU

May 8 that will allow a group of Kountze cheerleaders to display banners with Bible messages during school-sponsoring sporting events.

Thomas’ ruling states: “The Kountze cheerleaders’ banners that included religious messages and were displayed during the 2012 football season were constitutionally permissible. In addition, neither the Establishment Clause nor any other law prohibits the cheerleaders from using religious-themed banners at school sporting events. Neither the Establishment Clause nor any other law requires Kountze ISD to prohibit the inclusion of religious-themed banners at school sporting events.”

Kountze, a town of 2,100 residents 95 miles northeast of Houston, made national headlines in September 2012 when an unknown person filed a complaint with the Freedom From Religion Foundation that the banners, produced by middle- and high-school students, were unconstitutional because they advocated a particular religion.

After learning of the complaint, Kountze superintendent Kevin Weldon banned the cheerleaders from displaying the Bible-inspired messages on the banners. Then, in September 2012, Beaumont attorney David Starnes and Liberty Institute filed a lawsuit, Coti Matthews on behalf of her minor child, Macy Matthews, et al., v. Kountze Independent School District, on behalf of Kountze ISD cheerleaders and their parents.

On Oct. 18, 2012, the court granted a temporary injunction allowing the student-made religious banners to continue until a final decision in the case is made.

“We’re excited, relieved, and glad it’s over with,” Coti Matthews, mother of one of the cheerleaders, told ABC May 8.

“We especially appreciate the efforts of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who intervened into the case in support of the cheerleaders,” said Hiram Sasser, Liberty Institute’s Director of Litigation. “The extra efforts of Deputy Solicitor General Adam Aston were instrumental in the successful resolution of this case.”