“I just wanted someone to hug me.” This was the comment I had from one of our Influence Women members on a Zoom webinar as the pandemic was coming to an end. We had been discussing why relationships matter and why Influence Women is essential. She was single and, during the pandemic, had been left for weeks without much outside conversation or actual physical touch – a hug. “It was one of the most difficult times I have ever had to experience in her life,” she said.
Touch is essential to humans.
Many studies have been done on the effects of babies left and never touched or picked up, of people who were left untouched in nursing or care homes, or even for long periods on deserted islands. The result is often irreversible trauma emotionally, physically, and sadly even spiritually. God created us to be in relationships. Jesus touched the people He healed. Thomas required Jesus to show him his hands and feet after He had been resurrected. Jesus said to him, “… “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” John 20:27 (NIV). The reason God sent Jesus to our broken, sinful world was so that we could touch, see, and hear God physically through the flesh of Jesus. In today’s 24/7 access to information and emerging AI technology, physical touch is becoming more important than ever to knowing and experiencing real truth and love.
I’ve been blessed to be married for many years (more than I was ever single) to a loving husband who likes to touch things. I do too. He sometimes laughs at me when I shop because I touch things. But I have had to stop him from time to time when he talks to someone he doesn’t know because he, with his caring manner, will lightly touch their elbow or back when he stops to talk to them. People today don’t like to be touched because they aren’t touched anymore. It can unfortunately feel offensive instead of caring. My children and grandchildren don’t live near me, and I miss their physical touch, and not being able to squeeze them regularly makes my heart ache. “Facetime” is great, but it’s just not the same as hugging their necks.
We can still feel God’s touch on us today.
God wants us to touch Him and longs for our engagement with knowing Him intimately. He doesn’t require anything of us but to love Him and spend time with Him. He is love – perfect love. We feel His touch through our personal encounters. It’s a mystery to me still, but I feel God in my prayers and meditations when I read the Bible. I feel Him through the arms and hugs of other believers. Sometimes it is just the squeeze of a hand in a prayer circle or a pat on the shoulder, or a high five. Sometimes I feel God in a crisp Autumn breeze or in the sound of ocean waves pounding. Sometimes it is the aroma of flowers or pine trees or the smell of a baby’s cheek. I sense God’s joy in the sound of children giggling, a dog’s wet nose-nudges, or in the expressions of praise, song, music, and worship as believers gather together.
God touches you when you touch each other.
My heart leaps for joy at Influence Women’s gatherings when you come together at events, and I see you touch others’ lives. When you hug each other, the room explodes in a deafening noise of love. It’s why the Influence Women community of women touching each other needs to grow more. We need to gather others so that we can touch the world with our stories, projects, music and art, and ultimately share God’s loving touch with a depressed and lonely world. Our culture needs to touch each other through our artistic and creative work. When we collaborate and intimately connect, the darkness in our world is changed by the Light of the World.
I hope you will make an effort to schedule the Influence Women event dates in your calendars when they are announced and show up to touch others. Join the relationship-building INspire gatherings and bring a friend to the larger professional events. Register for the online Bible study or a mentorship series. Come and volunteer. Your touch matters to someone, even if it’s just a smile on a screen, a caring prayer you give, or an encouraging word about something you’ve learned. We grow stronger and more powerful when we touch each other. You have touched me, and I am forever grateful. Keep touching others – they need you. We need you.
Register for the in-person Hollywood Chapter Professional Brunch, and bring a friend – We want to see you there and hug your neck!
I moved to Los Angeles in 1991 to work in the Hollywood film and media industry. The community of believers working in the industry was hidden and suffering from an onslaught of protests done by well-meaning Christians who felt that the programs and content produced in Hollywood in movies and on TV were immoral and evil.
However, there was a remnant of dedicated Christians working in Hollywood. We felt a calling to be here and work within the secular industry and do so with love, care, and excellence even if we had to work in the shadows. God has always left a remnant of His believers to bring light and hope in dark places when others have chosen to run away. As Hollywood industry Christians worked on the many challenging stages, production studios and in offices, things began to change. Relationships were established and rebuilt on the foundations of love and care. Nonbelievers saw Christians as talented, hard-working professionals willing to go the extra mile. They didn’t fall apart when disruptions and challenges happened but instead loved and cared about them personally. The walls of mistrust fell as caring relationships were built. Many began to see God for who He was – a God of love, peace, kindness, and accepted Him into their lives as “The Author and Finisher of their faith” (Hebrews 12:2). There are now Bible study and prayer groups firmly established on studio and production lots and communities of Christian industry leaders who are changing the landscape within Hollywood.
Christian industry professionals began by choosing to pray. Over the years, their numbers grew into multiple groups of writers, musical artists, students and women’s groups who came together to learn to be leaders of God’s love. Most importantly, these groups allied together and stayed connected to the larger community through events like the National Day of Prayer, the Biola Media Conference and other significant community events.
We saw our individual job placements in the industry as more than just a paycheck. We saw ourselves as God’s lanterns of light and His salt of the earth. We labored to rebuild the walls of love, hope, and friendship. Through the efforts of many groups like the Hollywood Prayer Network, Master Media, The Influence Lab, and many others, Christians in Hollywood have become a large, vibrant and active community that is respected and trusted to intelligently and gracefully engage on moral and cultural questions without condemnation.
It was how Nehemiah led.
Nehemiah prayed and then rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem in 52 days when others had failed. The walls he built were for protection, but they were also necessary to create a united faith community. Nehemiah understood he was an enslaved person within a foreign culture (Hollywood’s culture is often alien and not agreeable with Christian values, morals and beliefs). Yet, he became a trusted and mindful leader. His account of the journey of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem is a book to be studied for all Christians wanting to rebuild their communities where God has placed them. His leadership is a lesson on how today’s Church – the body of Christ needs to lead in a world that disdains the word “Christian” because of its history and past poor leadership practices. Just as Nehemiah did, Christians working in the Hollywood industry recognized that it must start with prayer and personal engagement with God and those they work for and with. It begins with building individual relationships at their places of work and learning to be compassionate, mindful leaders.
How do we lead today in Hollywood and the world?
We continue to love, care and live authentic lives. I love what U.K. evangelist Canon J. John says, “None of us have it together, but together we have it.” First and foremost, it’s about how much we care, because people don’t care how much we know or what we believe until they understand how much we care. “
Each person in Jerusalem rebuilt their personal wall first. They accepted their leadership role and rebuilt their relationship with God one stone at a time. Then, they physically rebuilt the walls, not outside of their neighborhoods or places of work, but at their own home. They weren’t trained construction workers but were priests, merchants, jewelers, masons, craftsmen, artisans, and women who cared. The words “next to him” were used 20 times in the 3rd chapter of Nehemiah. It takes the whole body of Christ to rebuild the walls of our culture. There are lists of responsible leaders who worked on the walls and repaired the gates written in the book of Nehemiah.
Today each person in the Church is indispensable. Each must share the responsibility to repair the walls around them. Covid has changed and disrupted the physical places we are living and the places we work in many ways. Atlanta is now the new “Hollywood South,” and new media and entertainment hubs are in Austin, Dallas, Nashville, Vancouver, and Canada with lots of production still happening in New York, England, Germany, Australia and India. God is enlarging the tent of Christians working in media and entertainment. We each have our place to build the walls of unity and love as never before, and those places are people who are sitting across the desk from you or standing next to you on a production lot.
It takes one person at a time. It takes you!
Heidi Rasmussen is the co-founder and COO of Freshbenies – a fresh approach to benefits. She is a communicator, strategic planner, customer service advocate, builder, mentor, defender and coffee addict. Mostly, she says she’s a “gettin’ stuff done and make it happen” gal. She worked for over 27 years in the retail industry having started at JCPenney where she worked her way up the ladder to the Divisional VP at Corporate and led the largest brand launch in JCPenney history.
Seeing the need to make company benefits used wisely, she launched Freshbenies to give employers and employees practical tools to control their dime, time and peace of mind. Freshbenies has been named to the INC. 5000 list as one of the fastest growing companies in America for the past four years and the top 100 companies for two years in a row in Dallas, Texas, as well as receiving two Health Value Awards for their innovation and for providing value-based healthcare. She is a passionate believer that people matter and is an advocate for making life simplified so that they can succeed in all God’s called them to be and do. She serves on the board for, 4WordWomen, where she mentors and encourages women in the corporate business space to live out their faith to the fullest.
Kathleen Cooke – Heidi, I love that you call yourself a communicator. We live in a polarized culture today in which just chatting with someone can be challenging. What has God taught you about how to communicate effectively?
Heidi Rasmussen – So far, 2021 has been another crazy year! With all the racial injustice and political discord, the Lord is showing me how to live out His command to “love one another as I have loved you.” The Holy Spirit is working in me to change my thinking which is changing my actions. Specifically, when I’m speaking about someone on the “other side of the aisle,” I no longer use certain words or phrases (like “What an idiot!”) in casual conversation. He reminds me that He loves that person just as much as He loves me, no matter what their background and, He wants to love that person through me. It’s the main reason I’m on this earth – to love Him, love His people and bring glory to Him.
Kathleen – I have found that having great conversation starts with a relationship foundation. Talk to us about why relationship is at the heart of candid conversations and how it affects good leadership.
Heidi – To build strong relationships, I’ve had to learn to have candid conversations. At the core, candid conversations are about love. If we love someone, we’ll have a hard, truthful conversation because it’s a lot easier to avoid those kinds of talks! When I was a young manager, I was very capable and would just come behind those who weren’t doing their job and fix everything. As I grew in my career, I didn’t have the time to do that, so I had to get good at setting clear expectations and having tough conversations when expectations weren’t met. It is harder and takes more courage to tell someone they aren’t meeting expectations and need to improve their performance. As soon as I realized this and started to master the principles around conflict, I experienced more peace in my life.
Kathleen – Business decisions are often places of uncertainty and risk. What has God taught you about how to trust Him and about taking a posture of obedience in challenging situations?
Heidi – You know that saying, “God will never give you more than you can handle?” It’s nowhere in the Bible and it’s not true. How am I, in my own strength, supposed to love another person as Jesus loves me? That is impossible. In Matthew 19, Jesus says, “…with God all things are possible.” I spent many years working hard for God and asking, What Would Jesus Do (WWJD)? Then, I learned the necessity of working with God and asking, What Will Jesus Do” through me? He’s in me and His Spirit is working through me all day every day. I just need to be available and let Him use me to do His work. I ask Him to help and guide me every step of the way. That includes when I don’t feel Him nearby. I often pray, “Lord, please help me to feel Your presence.” When I’m in a bad mood, I pray, “Lord, please lift me from this funk.” And, when I’m mad at Him, I pray, “Lord, please change me.” I can ask Him anything and be confident that “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13).
Kathleen – How do you view influence in a culture where many strive endlessly today to be influencers?
Heidi – At the risk of sounding like a broken record (if you remember what one of those is), I’ve learned that influence is about loving people and letting Christ work through me. People are influenced positively by other people they love or like on some level. I’ve learned that if I want to influence the world, I have to be salt and light to others and loving (and lovable) in all circumstances. To do that, I have to ask Christ to do it through me and be available to let him shine through me to others.
Find out more about Freshbenies here or connect with Heidi on LinkedIn here.