Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Touch Test

Are you familiar with "The Touch Test"?  If you are familiar with Rudy or Juanita Rasmus, then the answer is most likely "yes".  If not, then allow me to introduce you to the touch test and to Rudy and Juanita.

I first heard of Rudy and Juanita last summer at SoulFeast 2010 at Lake Junaluska, NC.  Powerful life stories, powerful speakers, humble lives submitted to God.  This couple is inspiring!  The last day of SoulFeast last summer, in the last minutes, Juanita introduced us to her husband's "Touch Test" from his book Touch.  She went through a list of types of people, asking us to note which ones we felt uncomfortable being able to love... or which ones were difficult to love.... or which ones God was calling us to love at that time more deeply.  I can't remember how she worded it exactly then.  The one that stood out to me though at that time was "mentally challenged adult".  And, with it came a specific name and person, though I'm sure I can expand on that love to others.  I have someone in my life who has a mental denegerative disorder, from birth.  I have been given the opportunity to love this person, to help guide this person, and to deal with this person.  Thankfully, I'm not alone.  We are a team of several that help this person.  But, God let me know last summer that I was to love this person more.  So, I have tried-- to be more loving, to be more understanding, to be more patient.  We ALL can be difficult to love.  I recognize that I am difficult to love too. 

Fast forward to this summer.  Our local Scenic City Women's Network (SCWN) brought Juanita Rasmus in for their annual praise breakfast.  I was excited to learn about that and obtained tickets for my daughter and I to attend.  It was truly a blessing.  Juanita shared many nuggets of truth and jewels of healthy spiritual living.  She also challenged us with the touch test, putting it in the context of someone sitting next to you in church.

Afterwards, I purchased Rudy's book.  After all, I had waited almost an entire year to buy this book.  It should be safe to buy it now.  (Note:  I have a book addiction and have to be careful around books.) 

I just finished reading the book yesterday.  Besides the TOUCH TEST, there are many wonderful things in this book to challenge, encourage, and equip someone in their journey.  Especially if the person is seeking to grow in loving the "other" in their community.

There is a "Going Deeper" section at the end of the book that offers great questions for reflection.  The Touch Test is found here, starting on page 225.   The instructions are under question #4 and say: "Following is a list of different kinds of people.  Indicate which ones you wouldn't feel completely comfortable sitting next to.  When you've finished, look over your list and write an evaluation of your willingness to love people."  WOW!  There are 71 kinds of people listed.  I don't have room to type them all here, but here are some:
  • homeless person
  • illiterate adult male/female
  • man wearing baseball cap or hat
  • convicted sex offender
  • ex-prisoner
  • religious fanatic
  • a heavily tattooed man
  • couple with crying, screaming baby
  • interracial couple
  • a muslim
  • a person who sings loudly and poorly
  • divorced male/female
  • a woman wearing pants
  • recovering drug addict
  • gay male
  • lesbian couple
  • disable person
  • hispanic male or female
  • person with many teeth missing
  • retarded adult
  • smoker
  • political conservative
It would be a great resource to have this "test" available online.  I checked the church website (, and I couldn't find such a resource, but there are other great resources there.

The book Touch includes a guide for beginning a ministry to homeless people as well as a guide for how to lead a study group using the book.  These resources are in the back of the book.

There is a list of characteristics on pages 192-194 that are categorized under "ministries that are intentionally safe" and "ministries that are intentionally spontaneous".  These characteristics can be used to rate a church or ministry to see what it says about where the church or ministry is in its living out the gospel.  There might be some "Amen"s and/or there might be some "Ouch"es, but the comparison is worth reflection.  What is God calling the church / ministry to be and do vs. what it is being and doing?

Pastor Rudy says this: "All of us need to take a good, hard look at how we live God's calling in our lives.  As we look at what Jesus wants us to do, I'm not claiming to have my act together.  I'm still learning, still in process, still in need of God's guidance.  I often ask myself and my team if we're really touching people's lives.  Are we willing to do whatever it takes to touch them, no matter how many traditions we trample, no matter who doesn't like it?  That's what Jesus did." (185)

That resonates within me.  How am I living out God's call in my life?  I know I don't have my act together either.  I recognize that I'm still learning and still in process and definitely still in need of God's guidance!  Am I touching people's lives?  Am I willing to do whatever it takes to touch them? 

These aren't easy questions, but they are important questions.  Questions I'm willing to ask of myself and have others ask of me.  Questions I'd like to be able to bring into dialogue with others in my community.

I know I didn't give you all 71 kinds of people, but take the Touch Test.  Grab a copy of the book.  Read it.  See if it touches you.  Share it if it does. 

Seeking to touch people's lives with the love of God as I travel this adventurous journey,


PS-- Check out SoulFeast 2011( .  Juanita Rasmus will be back.  And, Rudy Rasmus will be one of the speakers at the Change the World conference in October at Ginghamsburg Church (

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Wanting to write, but experiencing writer's block

I feel like I have lots to say, but I can't quite figure out what it is that I want to say.  What is the main thought that has been flowing through my mind the past couple of moments, days, and weeks?  I've been reading several books (The Hole in our Gospel by Richard Stearns and Touch by Rudy Rasmus) that have given me more to think on, chew on, reflect on.  I'm still working on a final paper for my missions class (due on Monday), so there are thousands of thoughts flowing around in my mind related to it and the books I've read for the course (multicultural ministry in society).

So, I find myself STUCK, wanting to write, yet experiencing writer's block.  Instead of keeping it to myself, however, I thought I would share.  :) 

After I finish this soon-to-be-due-paper, I'm thinking the flow of the writing pipe will unclog somewhat.  Or, at least, I hope that it does.  Writing is cathartic for me.  [OK, so I edited. :)  I originally wrote "lethargic".  And, it may be that too.  As in, it causes me to slow down, calm down, become lazy. :)  However, I meant "cathartic"].  It is part of my journey. 

Truly.  I'll confess.  I started writing probably when I was about 5 years old.  And, when we took family trips, I would journal.  I had these tiny little journal books.  I mean TINY.  Little pages with a plastic cover and a plastic binding.  I still have a journal from a camping trip we took to Fall Creek Falls.  I wrote about my brothers and a squirrel as we were driving in the long drive into the park.  I was probably ten or so then. 

I have "Nothing books" (empty journals that were literally titled "Nothing Books") and many notebooks filled with journal entries, poems, a few songs, thoughts, maybe a drawing or two.  When I was young, I thought about writing short stories, and maybe even a book. 

Blogging has been my therapeutic way to write.  Whether or not I'm truly honing a skill, I'm not sure.  However, it has been good practice.  And, for the most part, I've tried to be consistent.

Writing helps release the clogged up pipes inside me spiritually and emotionally.  However, when the writing itself becomes clogged, then what?

Writer's block is part of the journey.  Learning to be and not always do.  :)  

And, since I may be using this "writer's block" as procrastination to not finish my soon-to-be-due-paper, I better wrap up this blocked writing and close it out. :)

For those moments of clogged up pipes on the journey, for when the way seems unclear or confusing, or just not even evident... remember to simply "be".  Stop trying to "do".  This message is for me.  It's an ongoing lesson, on an ongoing journey.

Blessings on your journey,


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Summer rhythm....

So far, I really haven't been able to find that smooth summer rhythm.  You know, the one where the kids are out of school and you adjust to life with them at home and all that summer brings.

Maybe it's because we've not had time to adjust.  It takes time to adjust.  For us, school got out on a Monday, report cards were given out on a Wednesday.  That Wednesday we flew to Chicago for a 5 day trip to visit with the daughter who lives up there.  We had a wonderful time in chilly, windy Chicago!  We went to museums, to Navy Pier, and even to Legoland (which is in the suburbs).  That was at the end of May. 

Legoland's version of Chicago

Then we took an overnighter trip the first of June to see some relatives on the GA/NC border.  Needing to be back for some camp training on that Thursday afternoon, we came back early, only stopping to watch some kayakers and rafters come down the Ocoee River.
Towns County, GA (Hiwassee) Beach area

Rafters on the Ocoee River, TN

Meanwhile, summer swim team has begun.  Evening swim practices started the last day of May.  The following week brought morning and evening practices.  We make all that we can. 

My spring semester ended before the school system's did, giving me a little more time to prepare for the beginning of my summer session.  However, with all the in-between things, I was happy to get 2 of the required books finished before the week long intensive course.  The first full week of June for me was that intensive class, in FL.  The journey down allowed for some great reflection time, but not reading time.  So, I spent morning and evening times when I wasn't in class trying to get the other 3 books read.  I got most of it done, but not without some sleep deprivation on the way.  At least where I stayed allowed for some quiet time and reflection (as I've already written about).

Then it was time to drive home.  I stopped on the way home to visit with some family I hadn't seen in a while and got to see some cool pecan orchards, corn crops, and recent cotton fields (you could see remnants of the cotton on the dirt).
Pecan Orchards, Claxton, GA
Upon getting home, it was back into swim practices, doctor visits, physical therapy appointments.  That is this week.  I'm still wondering when I'll hit the summer rhythm.  But, maybe this is the summer rhythm.

For some people, the summer rhythm may just simply be an absence of the school routine.  For others, it may include travels, time with family, sleeping later (what is that like?). 

Whatever rhythm the summer brings to us, I do know that it is a time to see things differently and to do things differently.  It is a time to take a break, to rest.  Hopefully there are some recreational activities that we can add into our schedules that we weren't able to do during other times of the year.  Maybe there are some folks we can visit or even have over for a cookout (depending on where we live and what the season is). 

If I'm dreaming of lazy summer days where I dangle my toes in the edge of the water and sip a cool drink all day.... well, that doesn't seem to be in my summer plans.  But, I can find a way to slow down, to get the rhythm of my soul to match up with the rhythm of a laid-back summer day.  It will take some intentionality. 

I'm actually going to get the opportunity this summer to have an entire week of getting my rhythm "in order".   I will be attending the 2 Year Bilingual Academy for Spiritual Formation later in July.  That will be a wonderful opportunity to get into the rhythms of silence, solitude, worship, community. 

But, meanwhile.... in the here and now.  What can I do to live in the "summer rhythm"?  Maybe I will pull out my blow up pool and put it up in the back yard.  Then, I can pull up a chair next to it and dangle my toes.... ah.... I can feel it now.  The cool water on my toes.  I can feel my heart beat slowing down already.  When I slow down, I'm in a better position to listen to my Creator.  What about you?  

What is your summer rhythm like?  How does it enhance your listening time to the Creator?  Or, does it distract you?

Blessings on finding that summer rhythm that brings rest, relaxation, and a renewed spirit, mind, soul, and body!


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Losing My Bearings in a Strange Land...

Okay, so Florida is not really "strange". :) But, it is "unfamiliar". Driving back and forth from the place I stay in Oviedo to the campus location in Orlando should not be too difficult, especially with printed maps and a Garmin GPS that doesn't like the way I drive. :)

However, sometimes, even when we think we know where we're heading, we can get turned around, confused, and lose our bearings.

This can happen to me when I'm tired, not focusing, when I get distracted. What happens when I get off the intended path? I tend to be okay at first, until I don't find my way back immediately. Then I get concerned, pre-occupied with getting back to where I was. There isn't much peace in moments like this.
It can take just one lapse of judgment to miss the correct turn. And that can send us on a frenzied journey to get back to the path toward our destination.
I'm talking about getting from my class back to where I was staying. It was the second night of the week and I should have had the journey down by then. But, where I should have turned right, I went straight. Part of the problem for that was that I wasn't in the correct lane to turn right. Another issue was that the surroundings "didn't look right to me". But, how could they really "look right" when I was so new to them and they to me? As I went straight and the road narrowed, I knew I had gone wrong. I turned into the shopping plaza. I got all turned around and couldn't figure out which was the right way. My map wasn't too helpful because I was fatigueed and it was for a particular journey. My GPS kept telling me to make U-Turns, even after I had just done a U-Turn, so that wasn't very helpful.

After "exploring" for about 20 minutes in traffic, I finally figured out how to get back on track toward my destination. I was able to calm back down, to ask for forgiveness for my frustration and a few slipped choice words.

This situation was just journeying from one physical location to another, and having to deal with traffic.

Are you familiar with those emergency broadcast system tests for televsion that are shown every now and then to prepare folks for when there is an emergency? "This is a test, this is just a test of the 'how will you handle getting off track'". Well, I didn't handle it so well. Oops.

What about in other areas of life? We know where we're heading (or we think we do), but then something happens. Maybe we drop the ball on a part of the journey (like my not applying at the appropriate time for my Certificate and having to wait a semester for it) or something happens to us that gets us off the path toward our destination?

How do we respond? How do you typically respond?

How we respond usually reveals our trust level, our faith level, our peace level. There may still be some questions, some uncertainty, some angst. But, if we can let it go fairly quickly, then that is better. We may not end up back in the exact place where we got off the path, but we can get back on the path. All is not lost simply because we get off track.  

There are many aspects to our journey as well. There are many journeys on our journey.

This seminary journey that I'm on.... I don't know where it leads. Sometimes I have a glimpse or an idea. Mostly, I'm just learning to live in the moment and make the most of where I am and what I'm doing. I hope to be faithful to do my part along the way, to stay on the path that I've been called to follow by Christ, and to not take too many of my own routes along the way.

The seminary journey is part of the overall journey. I hope to be living my life by giving it away. I hope that I'm learning from my Creator, my Teacher each day to live, love, and serve likewise.

Ultimately, I desire to be part of bringing wholeness into people's lives and that is accomplished through love. God is love.

May I be able to extend God's love to others in such a way that they recognize and receive this powerful gift that is offered to all and that I have recognized and received.

Blessings on your journey! Make the most of any "off-track" experiences!


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Canterbury Retreat & Conference Center, a peaceful place to stay!

I'm taking my first week-long intensive class this week on the Asbury Theological Seminary FL campus.  It's located about 12 miles from where I'm staying, which is at the Canterbury Retreat & Conference Center in Oviedo, FL.  You can check it out at:

There is a little lake out from my room, "Lake Gem".  At night the cross illuminates and reflects across the water.  During the day, you can see a reflection as well, but not the light (or the light's reflection). :)

Though I haven't had much time to explore or really enjoy the beauty of this place, I have taken moments to have quiet time by the water, to read outside, and to walk around and enjoy. 

It's good for me to be outside.  Being outside helps me to clear my mind, to relax, to "be".  As I've shared before, being outside and in creation is one of the key ways I connect with my Creator. 

But, it is a little warm out plus I do have some reading to do.  So, outside time is minimal.

I'll post some pictures that I've taken so you can see what I've seen.  Of course, you can also check out the website link that I've posted as well.

As for my first on campus seminary class?  It has been incredible!  I couldn't have planned a better first on-campus experience.  The professor is excellent, the fellow classmates have been tremendous. Class discussions, readings, and videos have been thought-provoking and challenging.  I'll have more to write about that later, I'm sure. :)

For now, some pictures.  Then, I must get back to my reading. :)

How is it going on your journey? 


road sign on the way into FL. caught my attention. :)
Lake Gem at the retreat center

baby treelings? stumplings? next to lake
close-up of flowery thingy.  Richard?!!?

     orange in tree outside room                      outside of St. Augustine's Chapel

view of lake from outside eating area