Teachers need our prayers, support

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The buses are rolling and those new backpacks won’t be crisp and clean for long now that school is back in session.

With the start of a new school year comes a combination of excitement and nerves for both students and teachers. And in many cases the exhaustion has already set in for teachers — exhaustion from burnout, discouragement and endless frustrations.

Think about the school teachers who made a difference in your life. 

Also think about those who had lost their joy for teaching by the time you were in their class. How many opportunities to change the life of a child for the good did they miss? Did their lack of energy and enthusiasm for the role end up holding students back in life at some point down the road?

I’ve known several people who truly wanted to make a career out of teaching. They love kids, enjoy teaching and embrace the milestones that come with watching a child learn and grow.

But the overwhelming administrative requirements, overcrowded classrooms and the volume of difficult life issues impacting so many around them finally beat them down.

Making a difference

While the school boards and governmental leaders debate the structural and financial details of how to improve schools and teachers’ salaries, church groups and community members can continue helping in small ways such as sending notes, volunteering and donating. We all can help in a big way by praying for the teachers in the school near us by name.

It’s not hard to find out what a school district or individual school needs most. From there, follow the proper channels to help and encourage others to join the effort.

After all, teachers are molding the minds and lives of our children as much as anyone. 

Shouldn’t we want teachers at their best?

—Jennifer Davis Rash

Anyone else tempted to drive to the U.S.-Mexico border to find ways to help, assess the situation for yourself?

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Line of demarcation on the U.S.-Mexico border at San Ysidro, California. (Photo by Josh Denmark/www.cbp.gov)

I’m not properly equipped to outline a solution for the humanitarian crisis taking place at the U.S. border but I do know the situation pulls at all of our hearts no matter our stance on how best to deal with the overall issue of illegal immigration.

I’m confident none of us want anyone’s child to be afraid or lacking basic securities, care and love. It’s one thing to be in the dark about sufferings happening around us; it’s another to know about it and choose to sit back and do nothing.

After all with knowledge comes responsibility — but then there’s the problem of determining exactly what it means to be responsible.

Reconciling levels of responsibility

We know we should be the ones responsible to care for ourselves and our families which also means protecting them.

We know we are called to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength” and “love your neighbors as yourself.”

But how do we reconcile these specific responsibilities when it comes to the border crisis?

We may be able to help with immediate actions to alleviate some of the suffering but we can’t stop there.

Our country’s leaders must set aside their political agendas to find a workable solution. They’ve done it before and are more than capable of doing it now, but I do think they need to know we will not punish them for sitting across the table together to figure it out.

We also must remember to pray for all involved and find ways to help.

While U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities currently are not accepting any donations of supplies to help migrant families and children, we can look for other ways to assist current ministry efforts.

For instance, West Brownsville Baptist Church is one church ministering in the Texas Rio Grande Valley. The church recently began serving as an overflow respite center to shelter migrants and has lots of needs related to that role.

Purchase items from the church’s Amazon wishlist for Iglesia Bautista West Brownsville Respite Center here.

Other Baptist organizations accepting relief donations include:

San Diego Southern Baptist Association: Choose “Juvenal Gonzalez-Tijuana” fund (church planting catalyst missionary in Tijuana serving migrants) and give online at https://app.easytithe.com/App/Giving/sdsba.

Baptist Convention of New Mexico: Choose “Disaster Relief” fund and give online at https://bcnm.com/give/.

Southern Baptists of Texas Convention: Choose “Disaster Relief” fund and give online at https://www.shelbygiving.com/App/Giving/sbtc.

Arizona Southern Baptist Convention: Specify an amount, then choose “AZSBC Disaster Relief” to give online at https://azsbc.org/give/.

The Alabama Baptist staff will continue researching appropriate ways to contribute, send supplies and provide teams to help.

If you are interested in assisting the efforts or have information to share, then reach out to us at news@thealabamabaptist.org or by calling 1-800-803-5201, ext. 103.

—Jennifer Davis Rash

Two coins made everything OK

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Edited version of photo by Matt Borsic on Unsplash

Circling the block one more time, I decided I might actually make it to the meeting on time when I saw the car pull out of the spot directly in front of the building.

It meant I would have to parallel park though — not my best skill. The other option was to drive another four blocks to the lot with my kind of parking spots — straight on.

Parallel parking won out and I actually pulled off a respectable parking job.

Right on time, I bounced out of my car and headed to the meter, only to discover I had no change to feed it. Not one dime, nickel, quarter, nothing. 

How could I have forgotten the meter?

My momentary win with the parking saga quickly faded into frustration as I hurriedly plundered the console in my car, looked between the seats and scanned the sidewalks.

How could I have not thought to bring change for the meter? Why did I not give myself more time so I could have walked from the free parking area? 

On and on I went scolding myself until a man with a gentle spirit passed by me on the sidewalk. 

Two quarters would make everything OK in that moment so I swallowed my pride, got his attention and asked if he might cover the price of my meter.

He didn’t hesitate nor did he linger. He put the two quarters in the meter, turned the knob and challenged me to do the same for someone else in need.

Challenge accepted

I thanked him and accepted his challenge — but I also determined I would take it one step farther.

Instead of having to be asked, I determined I would strive to be so aware of my surroundings and those around me that I can sense when there is a need. 

My friend Janet advocates for this type of kindness as one way to share the Light inside us. 

It might be letting the person with only two items go in front of you in the grocery line or allowing the car stuck behind the stalled vehicle back over into the flow of traffic, she says.

Maybe it is leaving a larger than normal tip. Or maybe it is feeding two quarters into a stranger’s meter. 

Whatever it might be, our simple, kind gestures will always leave a lasting impression.

—Jennifer Davis Rash

Simple gestures make a difference when a friend is overwhelmed

We’ve all heard the reminders to give people who come across angry, grouchy or distant a break because we don’t know what they might be going through at the moment.

It’s true that life gets heavy sometimes, and when it does we can choose to carry the load alone or share with others who are willing to help.

We also can make someone else’s load lighter by simply being present, staying positive and offering a listening ear. 

But our attempt to help can actually pile on our friend’s load if we turn the conversation back to ourselves and exhaust his or her energy with too much venting about what is happening in our lives.

It’s a hard balance because it seems more and more people are overloaded and stressed. More and more people need rescuing, but the pool of rescuers seems limited.

Lonely journey

I wonder how many people are working through life’s difficulties, pressures and to-do lists in their heads without talking it out with someone else. 

It might be they don’t want to burden others; it might be they have a hard time trusting. And in many cases it is because of the confidentiality of the matters at hand. 

Either way carrying heavy loads and attempting to navigate difficult issues alone is more than a lonely journey. It also leads to mental, physical and emotional fatigue.

I sometimes wonder how those called to the counseling profession handle all they have to carry.

The same is true with pastors. Think about all the families in a congregation and the burden of concern and care the pastor has for each of them and what is happening in their lives.

More people than we realize are balancing a tremendous weight mentally and emotionally as they work through each day.   

Praying should always be our go-to response for those we know tasked with — and thus attempting to manage — major responsibilities.

Choosing to share a positive word of appreciation will go a long way in the midst of the heaviness, especially if they are receiving a large dose of complaints or negative feedback from others. 

And finding a way to help relieve some of the pressure your friend is under might just be the best gift he or she receives all year.

—Jennifer Davis Rash 

Welcoming Doug Sweeney as Beeson Divinity School’s new dean

Beeson Divinity School

Dr. Timothy George and Beeson Divinity School are one and the same for me. 

As an alumna of Beeson, I have had the highest respect for Dean George since first meeting him in 1996. 

Imagining Beeson without Dean George leading the school is difficult but I admire him for determining the right time to transition from the dean role to a research professor position.

Beeson’s interdenominational set up and strength of theological training developed by Dean George allows the school to maintain an elite position among divinity schools. 

Newly elected dean, Dr. Doug Sweeney, describes Beeson as “the best-conceived and cultivated divinity school in all of North America.”

Doug Sweeney

Dr. Doug Sweeney

In the coming days, you will hear much about Dr. Sweeney’s seasoned experience as an academic leader and his reputation among top evangelical scholars. 

You will discover he is indeed among those who are able to sit with theologians and thinkers like our own beloved Dean George and contribute at a high level. 

Dean George has known Dr. Sweeney for many years and holds him in high esteem as a friend, scholar and theological educator.

“He is a person of wisdom, humility and spiritual depth,” Dean George said. “His appointment is a cause of rejoicing for all who know and love Beeson Divinity School.”

Getting to know him

There’s no question Dean Sweeney will represent Beeson well among top evangelical scholars, but I also believe he will quickly win the hearts of Beeson and Samford faculty, staff and students as well as churchgoers across the state and nation.

Alabama Baptists will want to know more about his previous experience in Baptist life and what led him to migrate to an evangelical Lutheran denomination. The Alabama Baptist will be sharing more about that soon.

Along with Dean Sweeney’s scholarship and leadership qualities, he also brings a steady confidence and peace about himself and the role to which God has called him at this time. 

He understands the need for fundraising and the importance of relationships when leading an interdenominational Christian seminary that is one of 10 schools on a Baptist college campus in the South.

Dean Sweeney is a solid evangelical and theologically sound leader who is ready to tell the world why students interested in seminary should consider Beeson first.

Jennifer Davis Rash

What hanging out with a few thousand chickens can teach you

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A persistent push for immediate action, consistent determination and keeping the important responsibilities as top priorities — all of these are ways to describe urgency.

Maintaining and modeling a sense of urgency is important for us as believers because of our mandate to share Christ and make disciples.

It also helps those of us who want to stay sharp, be productive, streamline routines and live efficiently and effectively.

An intense focus seeking quality results regarding a crucial situation might be another way to explain it.

But no matter how you describe it, the hurry and haste associated with urgency does not equate to chaos and carelessness.

Calmly making progress vs. rushing around in a tizzy

I remember moments when I’ve rushed around in a tizzy, attempting to make up a few minutes of lost time only to create more problems for myself. Instead of gaining time, I actually lost time because I spilled water on my project or took the wrong exit off the interstate and got stuck in traffic or tripped and hurt myself — all from rushing rather than concentrating.

I learned this lesson the best when my dad was teaching me how to gather eggs in our family layer (chicken) house. I was 15 years old and a bit scared of both the hens and the roosters.

Dad taught me to move with a smooth, calm motion through the large housing facility filled with hundreds of individual hen houses, slipping my hand carefully but quickly into the nests to grab the eggs.

Maintaining a steady, focused pace and not over reacting to every peck or screech helped settle my feathered friends down.

It also meant fewer broken eggs and a successful contribution to the day’s overall results.

—Jennifer Davis Rash

Implementing a few basic systems saves time, energy

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Cracking open a crisp new calendar with 12 months worth of life yet to discover is always one of my favorite moments of the new year.

Smartphones and digital calendaring options don’t provide the same satisfaction as pen in hand filling in schedules, appointments and plans.

While I do use a hybrid organizational system between the two worlds of digital and paper, it is still the hardcopy calendar and my endless lists that clear space in my mind to be able to think, dream and rest.

Decluttering

I’ve lost count of the number of years my goals going into a new year included simplifying life, creating more margin and decluttering at home and work.

But this year I’ve decided to surround myself with a team of friends and co-workers who have similar goals. We are working together to manage the chaos.

At the office and at home we are determining bite-size steps to declutter one drawer, one closet and one room at a time.

Streamlining routines

We also are streamlining systems in a way to avoid recreating daily, weekly and monthly routines multiple times. 

By slowing down one time to think through exactly what needs to be done on what schedule and then creating a checklist and/or routine with a timeline, there’s no more wasted energy.

Think of it like creating routine schedules and actions similar to brushing your teeth, getting ready for bed, etc. We do these things without thinking, without having to make new decisions.

One of the hardest areas to tame is always the pull and demands from others on our time. No matter how organized we may be, we can’t control every life moment.

We can continue working to create enough margin, however, so when those moments surprise us and we want to be available to help others or need to adapt to an unexpected situation we actually have room to adjust.

—Jennifer Davis Rash