I was late and had run to my college dorm room to grab a book for my next class when the landline phone rang (no cell phones back then). He said his name was “Phil” and he had a couple of tickets to a concert that weekend and did I want to go? When I heard the name of the rock band performing, I couldn’t say “yes” fast enough. But I was in a desperate hurry and told Phil to call me back with the details and quickly hung up. As I did, a sinking feeling suddenly hit me.
I had gotten to know a Phil during college registration day, and it was only after hanging up that I realized what I had done. That wasn’t the Phil I knew. He was a different Phil! I had sat next to another Phil at a chapel service the week before, and it was that Phil who called! Horrified, I turned to my roommate standing there and said, “Oh no, I think I’ve just accepted a date with a guy I don’t know.”
Little did I know this blind date would be my forever husband, my prince, and the love of my life. God knew it, and I believe orchestrated my lack of attention to insert Phil Cooke into my life. (more…)
Should I stay or should I go? It was a 1982 punk rock song by the Clash. It originally never made it to the top of the charts until it was re-released as a Levi commercial in the 1990s and subsequently was re-released in 1991 making the Rolling Stone’s 500 greatest song list in 2004. As we continue to move through the fallout of a global pandemic many are asking this question. Some people have moved to other cities and jobs and even relationships, and others are still pondering their next move. However, as 2021 comes to an end, the pressure is on to make decisions and set goals.
Should I stay or should I go?
Have you been pondering this question? When the angel came to Mary to tell her she had been chosen to bring the Son of God into the world Mary never doubted. She never pondered should I stay or should I go. She didn’t say, “No, I can’t do it I’m not qualified, I am only human and don’t have the skills to raise a divine son of God.” Nor did she ask, “Why me?” She only asked how. How would it happen? She was only curious.
God gave us a curious mind.
Curiosity drives us to explore who Jesus is and His truths and when curiosity is paired with a courageous heart it can create profound acts. Curiosity takes risks, steps into the deep and can transform lives. Mary was curious. She just wanted to know how this unknown, unusual, miraculous event was going to happen. She didn’t respond with “Thanks for asking but let me pray about it,” or “I am not old enough, wise enough, or worthy.” She didn’t push back with, “I will be shunned since I’m not married, and Joseph and my village will toss me to the gutter and then what will I do?” She was all in from the very beginning. Unlike Moses who had to be asked three times at the burning bush to lead God’s people to freedom, or Jonah who ran and had to be swallowed by a whale before he would act, Mary never wavered. In fact, she never had to say, “yes” because God already knew her heart. It was why He chose her.
Does God know your heart? How quickly will you go when God speaks?
Mary of Bethany in John 11:29 heard that Jesus was asking for her and “she quickly” went. She was grieving deeply with her friends over the death of her brother Lazarus. Jesus hadn’t come to heal him. One might think she’d be a bit discouraged and shattered. But when Martha told Mary that Jesus was asking her to come, she didn’t hesitate. As women, I think God must admire our grit. We are known to be emotional, but it is our willingness to follow our heart when it’s in the right place and go without questioning that He desires. We don’t stop to ask how much it will cost or the sacrifices and pain that might take place; we step into the unknown. We place our lives on the line because of love. Women do it daily in childbirth. Mary loved God fully. There was no hesitation.
God has empowered us to be passionate wholehearted people who are willing to go forward when the way is difficult and uncertain. Through the infilling of God’s Holy Spirit, we are given His supernatural power to move quickly and set aside natural, practical, and earthly minds and act. When He calls us to task, He provides the wisdom and ability.
Rabbinical literature equates salt with wisdom.
In Matthew 5:13-15, Jesus speaks of salt and then refers to lighting a lamp to increase its brightness. Jesus told us that He was The Light of the World and the source of all wisdom and knowledge. We are to be His salted wick. In ancient times salt was put on the wick of a lamp to increase its brightness. When you are engaged with God and immersed in consistent disciplined Bible reading and prayer, you are putting salt on your wick. God’s wisdom embedded in you allows your actions to shine bright with the aura of His love to others. That wisdom radiates into the lives of everyone you meet through the acts of your heart.
In a recent conversation with me, a businessman shared that he had come to know who Jesus was late in life, after the age of 50. He said, “Somehow, I always found a reason to reject Jesus throughout my life, yet interestingly, I found myself being drawn to Christian businesspeople. They were different. I couldn’t help being curious as to why. What made them radiate peace, love, and a steadfast confidence? What was it that Christian businesspeople possessed that allowed them to live with life’s constant struggles, suffering, and uncertainties and still be confident and content?” He desperately wanted what they had but couldn’t reconcile that it was as simple as knowing Jesus. He was drawn to the Light of their salted wick. It was the Light of Peace and the Lamp of Love that kept drawing him in and that led to his eventual commitment to follow Jesus. The Light couldn’t be denied.
It is from the heart that we act.
As Christmas approaches and as we bathe in the joy of the celebration of the Festival of Lights and The Light of the World coming to earth to redeem us, can we start responding wholeheartedly without hesitation? God is whispering His voice into our minds to come and go with Him. Will we let it immediately soak into our hearts and be obedient to what He is calling us to accomplish in the upcoming new year? You may want to ask Him how: how can I help – how can I go? But don’t say “won’t,” “can’t” or “I’m not enough.” Begin now to step into next year with courage and fearlessness and be ready to run with Him and experience crazy joy.
Will you salt your wick with the wisdom of God and go in 2022?
“Salt is good for seasoning. But if salt were to lose its flavor, how could it ever be restored? It will never be useful again not even fit for the soil or the manure pile!” Luke 14:34
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.
In 1843, John C. Fremont, an explorer (and the namesake for the junior high school I attended), set off to explore the unknown once again. He had just returned from an expedition to Wyoming but was driven to see what was then called Oregon Country. He ended up exploring what is now known as Portland, Oregon, but his journey took him through the Sierra Nevada mountains then south and east to the desolate deserts and the Great Salt Lake in what is now known as Utah. However, this passion for exploring almost cost him his life in the Sierra’s where he and his mate, Kit Carson (who would gain fame in Nevada and whose capital city is named after him), were forced to eat their horses to survive. With Kit’s instincts and keen sense of direction, he would be Fremont’s saving guide. Without him, things would have turned out much different. (more…)
Australian, Darlene Zschech, is a globally acclaimed composer, worship leader, pastor, author and speaker and is well known for her ministry work at Sydney’s Hillsong Church. However, she claims her biggest success is serving God and His people whom she loves with all her heart. Alongside her husband Mark, and with their daughters, son-in-laws and grandchildren, they lead Hope Unlimited Church (HopeUC) with locations in Australia, India and the U.S. Darlene is perhaps most well known for her worship song, Shout to the Lord, but she has composed numerous other worship songs including Kiss of Heaven, Change Your World, You Are Love, In Jesus Name and the album, Revealing Jesus, which she recorded with Grammy Award winner, Israel Houghton. In 2016 Darlene recorded a live HopeUC worship album, Here I Am, Send Me, where she collaborated with other top worship leaders. In 2018 she released, The Table, and in 2019, she recorded, I Speak Jesus, with Integrity Music writer, Dustin Smith.
Her passion is to train and encourage others in worship and in the Word of God and has penned six books which have been translated into 20 different languages, including The Art of Mentoring, Revealing Jesus (devotional), Worship Changes Everything, and The Golden Thread, as well as an online worship course, Your Ministry Mentor, designed to equip global worship leaders.
She and Mark have a passion to restore Hope globally but especially to Rwandans. Their ministry provided strategic hope and healing following the 1994 horrific genocide and has continued to expand into parts of Africa, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and India. Darlene says, “First and foremost I am a woman who simply and wholeheartedly loves Jesus Christ, and serves Him through loving my family, serving the Church, and speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves.”
Kathleen Cooke: We are all working through recovering from the global pandemic on many levels, but what is the single biggest thing that has God taught you during the challenges that COVID has brought?
Darlene Zschech: The big thing for me over the last 3 years is how God has shown me the importance of The Table. It’s the importance of the gather… that as we break bread together and see and hear each other that we make the time to celebrate Christ together in a way that is personal and intentional. And… that discipleship and authentic community will be what flows from lives that have the table at the Centre.
Kathleen: You have had great successes but lots of challenges too. When those out-of-the-blue challenges came your way, what did God teach you?
Darlene: FORGIVENESS… this has been a big one for me. When I was going through treatment for cancer, I had lots of time to listen to God speak in a new and often challenging way. I had to dig deep on my theology about healing and about God’s plans and purposes. One day, He spoke to me and asked me to trust Him with my heart in a new way. To do this, He asked me to forgive those I had held deep unforgiveness toward… which REALLY shocked me. I thought I was a very forgiving person. So… slowly but surely, the Holy Spirit gently led me through person by person what I needed to set free in my heart. This was a life changing few months for me. Not only do I believe He helped with the healing in my body, but He has literally brought me so much more freedom that I didn’t even know I needed. (more…)