I can fix that, but should I?

19855989 - young woman laborer holding her head

How has life been this week? Working through any disappointments?

It’s hard for me to watch anyone be let down. I tend to take responsibility for reversing such situations even when it’s not my responsibility to bear. I also will carry an unhealthy level of guilt if I discover there was something I could have done but didn’t do to prevent someone in my life from experiencing disappointment.

The desire to serve others in this way includes everything from helping co-workers with daily responsibilities to being there for friends in need to keeping up with all that happens with extended family.

My hubby, Jason, and I have been known to drive five hours one direction to spend Christmas Eve with one side of the family, stay until everyone goes to bed, and then drive seven hours over night another direction to make it to Christmas morning breakfast with the other side of the family.

Difficult decisions

I know, many of you are shaking your head right now and scolding me for that kind of nonsense. But ask any young married couple about the struggle over where to spend various holidays during the first few years of marriage — it can be a difficult season of life transition.

In our case, we couldn’t dream of disappointing either side so we found a solution that kept everyone happy — at least we thought. We soon realized we actually caused anxiety for both sets of parents because of all the travel we were doing with no sleep.

And while it has been almost two decades since first facing those kinds of family-related decisions, I continue to fight an internal battle every day about how I can best serve those around me. The difference now comes with tough life lessons teaching me to work with the information and resources I have to determine what is best for everyone involved, not necessarily what prevents disappointment.

God moments

I still hurt when others are unhappy and I always want to “fix” things but I’m learning to step back, assess the situation and pray for guidance about my proper role. So many times I have rushed to take care of something or someone without working through it with God first.

God has provided several life-altering, face-on-the-ground-grateful-to-Him opportunities to serve since I gave Him my heart and life atage 19. The most profound opportunity revolved around Belle, my precious niece who snuggled her way into countless hearts during her courageous five-and-a-half-year battle with cancer.

So when I can evaluate such impactful seasons such as what God gave me through Belle, why would I dare snatch every random opportunity to help as if they were really all for me? Could I be swiping another person’s chance to serve and thus be stealing his or her blessing?

Internal battle

And why would I not strictly follow Him to the specific areas of service He has in store?

I’m sure part of it is because of the desire to prevent unhappiness in others. Another aspect is likely a need to be needed or the fulfillment that comes with making others happy. And then there is the extreme need for efficiency I have as well as the ability to quickly assess a situation — these two traits allow me to solve problems quickly.

But as one of my mentors always reminds me, “strength overdone becomes weakness.”

Another lesson I’ve learned in recent years is to be mindful of each person’s tolerance level related to frustrations and what is really a call for help versus a verbal processing of anxiety.

My typical response to being overwhelmed or experiencing distress is to focus, prioritize and get to work. I will attempt to chip away at each item, starting with the most urgent and maneuvering my way from there. I intend to handle everything put on me without ever asking for help. Granted, this is not necessarily the right thing to do nor is it always possible but it is where I start.

Built differently

So a lesson I learned the hard way is that while I personally will wait until it is nearly too late to be rescued before I will dare ask for help, others aren’t built that way.

Some are much healthier in their approach and know the proper time to request assistance as well as specifically what is truly needed from others and what they can handle themselves. They know the right thing to ask from the right person at the right time.

However, there are others — none I know of course (eh hem) — who start expressing fret, disappointment, unhappiness, fear, etc., the second anything changes in their day or something doesn’t work exactly right. Combine their immediate screams for help and my innate desire to take care of others and I’m forced back into an internal battle.

How do you react?

For me it is about setting boundaries and learning to hesitate unless I know it is a serious issue in which I need to assist.

For others, if you are one who reacts quickly, loudly and with anxiety to frustrations in your day, please know you are likely taking others down around you without even realizing it. Finding a way to cope through calmer and more productive methods could be your way of truly serving and improving the quality of life for those around you.

—Jennifer Davis Rash

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Called for a specific moment

“We built this city, we built this city on rock and roll.” When I read Nehemiah, Jefferson Starship’s 1985 Grammy Award-winning song “We Built This City” pops in my head.

I wonder how the lyrics might have been written in 445 B.C. during the 20th year of King Artaxerxes in the Persian city of Susa (capital city of Elam), specifically as they would have applied to the king’s cupbearer, Nehemiah.

Brokenhearted over the broken walls of Jerusalem, Nehemiah was granted leave from his position of managing, protecting and serving the royal family’s wine. His heart was full of compassion and desire to help rebuild the walls around the Israelites’ holy city.

Grief and prayer

Even though Nehemiah was born during the Babylonian captivity outside Jerusalem, he still loved his people and their home city. The lyrics might have gone something like: “We built this city, we built this city on grief and prayer.”

After much grief over the situation, Nehemiah turned to prayer as he prepared for his journey to Jerusalem, organized the work to be done and watched the walls come together. Prayer became the foundation for every move he made.

Nehemiah and Ezra

The Book of Nehemiah is thought to be a collection of his memoirs, which leads many to believe he is the author. However, some believe Ezra could be the author because the two books were originally one book in the Hebrew Bible.

Together they tell the story of the restoration of the returned remnant from exile in Babylon. Ezra deals with 2 of the 3 parts of the experience — returning to Jerusalem and rebuilding the temple. Nehemiah deals with the third part — rebuilding the city walls, something he accomplished in an astonishing 52 days.

Related to the Christology of the book, we see Jesus portrayed in the restoration act of what Nehemiah does with rebuilding the city walls.

Just as Nehemiah was the restorer of the walls for Jerusalem, Jesus is the restorer of communion with God for mankind. Nehemiah also was committed to the goal and stayed focused on it despite the ridicule and opposition that came, just like Jesus did during His earthly ministry and ultimate sacrifice to pay the sin debt owed by the human race.

Leadership skills

Nehemiah’s leadership and organizational skills are what draw me to this book. Here is a respected layman already demonstrating his character and work ethic by achieving a role not allowed for just anyone and taking it to the highest level by earning the trust and confidence of the king.

It would have been easier and much more comfortable for him to continue in his position and ignore the yearnings of his heart. After all he did not seem to have an extraordinary experience or explosive vision from the Lord. It reads more like a sense or call, so no one else would have known if he did not answer the call.

Heart and soul

But Nehemiah knew he was the one chosen to help the others and he could not get away from that quiet yet powerful tug. His resolve is inspiring. His energy and unselfishness can only happen because of his total dependence on God. His integrity, his humility, his love — they are models for how we all should live.

Nehemiah had a heart for the people and the project. He believed in it, cared for them and kept the faith. He knew God had called him to this moment and he gave the credit back to God rather than taking it for himself.

“He built this city, he built this city on heart and soul.”

—Jennifer Davis Rash

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Introverts living in extroverted world

She bounced into The Alabama Baptist student intern role with no hesitation, blending right in with the staff in such a way that we felt as if we had always known her.

We’ve been blessed with a great number of high quality interns passing through our ministry and she was certainly among the group.

It has been several years now since she served in that role but the positive contributions she made to the team and the work being done can still be seen.

Along with assisting us at the office, this particular student intern also taught me some helpful lessons about life and interacting with people.

Time to revive

While her personality was extremely outgoing and she was involved in just about everything she could be at school, she would periodically crash and end up hiding away from the world for a few days. She would call in sick and skip her classes but then in a day or two be back attacking everything at full throttle. And then a few weeks later, she was out again.

Once I noticed a pattern, I became concerned and talked to her about it. Surprisingly, she seemed to have more self-awareness than I expected from a 20 year old.

She shared with me how she enjoyed being active and participating in everything she could possibly squeeze into her schedule. She also loved being with and around people but somewhere along the way she always hit a wall, she said.

Overwhelming level of activity

The pressure, the demands, the deadlines would finally overwhelm her and her escape was sleep. She could sleep for days when she got overwhelmed, she said.

As she talked I recalled my own insane level of activity in college and how Saturday mornings (except during football season of course) were spent sleeping in and catching my breath to gear up for the next week. I’m sure I would have found myself collapsing periodically like she did if I had not scheduled that weekly downtime.

RT-introvert copy

While I imagine all would agree I’m an extrovert, I’m not sure about her. Maybe she is and truly just pushes herself too hard all the time. But I also think she might be an introvert who figured out how to live and succeed in an extroverted world. Still she couldn’t ignore her innate need for periodic isolation even though she tried.

Navigating through a world of extroverts

I have several introverted friends who have maneuvered a similar path and are now careful to guard their much-needed alone time. It isn’t something to hide or be embarrassed about. It is a real part of their world but we extroverts may not understand and end up stomping all over their sacred ground.

The time alone, processing, regrouping and gaining the energy to re-enter the sea of people and embrace them with the often-required extroverted style is vital.

‘Staring at the wall’

One friend likes to call it “staring at the wall.” She will avoid any human interaction for a day or so after an intense few days with people and then be ready to go again.

Another friend strategically isolates herself at the end of each workday, only interacting with her husband after that time so she can reset for the next day.

Both of these friends are successful at what they do and I believe they will be able to maintain that success because they know themselves well and what is needed for proper care. They have friends and family who support those needs as well.

How often do we try to force ourselves or someone else into a mold that isn’t made for us or them? And how often do we refuse to even try to understand a different approach and different needs merely because we’ve convinced ourselves that the world inside our head is the only logical option?

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Helping carry their pain

It’s been four years since I wrote this particular Rashional Thoughts, but I wanted to share it again because of the number of people I’ve encountered lately who are carrying loads and loads of pain.

The man carried himself with confidence and purpose. He walked into the church and up to the welcome desk without hesitation.

“I’d like to go to your singles Sunday School class,” he said.

“No problem,” one gentleman said and pointed the man my way. “She will help you find your class.”

As I moved toward the gentleman, I noticed several people walk by and greet him, speak to him, pat him on the back, etc. Our church is a friendly church and the members are good about welcoming guests, but in this particular case no one spent more than a few seconds with the man before moving on.

When he turned to look at me, all I could see was pain in his eyes. He said all the right words and knew what to do in a church setting but something wasn’t right. I purposefully didn’t take him to a class right away. I spent some time trying get to know more about him.

Within a few minutes he was sharing his real story with me and he definitely needed to talk. He also needed a different class than the one he came in requesting.

Being intentional

The more I heard his story, the more I could narrow down which class would be best for him. I also knew exactly which leader would connect with him and personally located the class leader so that I could introduce them immediately.

The experience that Sunday shook me a bit. What if I had not slowed down long enough to really look into the man’s eyes? What if I had not noticed the pain? What if I had not shown compassion and truly cared about him as a person?

Of course the next person may have done all the right things and taken even better care of the situation, but it reminded me that we shouldn’t leave these opportunities for the next person.

What if the next person isn’t paying attention?

Not always convenient

God gave me the opportunity to encourage a fellow believer who was in a world of hurt that day. It meant I had to rearrange my schedule. It meant I didn’t finish a project for one of the ministers when I said I would. It meant I missed catching up with many of my friends. But it also meant receiving a tremendous blessing.

As I drove home from church, I thanked God for allowing me to participate in the experience.

I also wondered how many other hurting people had walked up to the welcome desk and received a friendly greeting but nothing deeper. How many others had I not noticed?

What about in everyday life outside of church? How many people do we see every day and never slow down long enough to read their eyes, observe their body language or notice their words?

And if we are honest, how many times do we sense someone needs to talk or needs a friend, but we don’t want to invest the time, change our schedule or deal with it in general?

How many times have we been so focused on talking and sharing everything on our mind that we missed noticing the sadness in the eyes of the person listening to us?

As Christians and church families, what difference could we make if we all slowed down and served others through the gifts of awareness, listening and encouragement?

—Jennifer Davis Rash

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Life lessons from ‘The Sender’

A review of The Sender: A story about when right words make all the differenceimg_20170311_092500.jpg

Admittedly a fan of leadership books in general, I was certain to like Kevin Elko and Bill Beausay’s The Sender. But what I didn’t anticipate was the wave of emotions I would experience while bonding with the characters in the story.

My friends Diane Covin and Larry Byrd of The Sterling Group shared the book with me, noting they thought I would enjoy it — and they were right. There are a few editing slips that distracted me for a second but nothing that confuses the content in any way.

Not only does the book have valuable leadership and personal motivational tips based on Scripture but it also presents practical and strategic concepts in clear, everyday, manageable steps — not necessarily easy but simple. It all comes down to our choices each day, the authors explain.

And despite the adversities that come with life, we can still choose to fight rather than be defeated and flourish on the other side.

University of Alabama Head Football Coach Nick Saban said in his recommendation of the book that “Dr. Kevin Elko has certainly contributed to our success in providing a new twist on focus, attention to detail, team work and grit.”

Elko’s background and work with numerous college and professional football coaches and teams leaves no surprise that the main character in The Sender is a football coach.

Maybe my love for football, especially SEC football, made the book even more endearing or maybe it was because of the engaging storytelling ability of co-author Beausay. Then again it could be because the story was set in Alabama, specifically the Birmingham area.

And while all of those reasons certainly made the book appealing, I’m pretty sure my strongest attachment to the story resulted from 10-year-old Max’s amazing attitude and influence on people despite his heart-wrenching battle with cancer. My precious niece Belle would have turned 10 this coming May. Max’s resolve, joy, peace and overall character remind me of Belle. He is a rock star at the fictional pediatric cancer center much like Belle was in real life.

The section on fighting weary also made me think of Belle and how she mastered the ability to live life to its fullest every second when we all knew she had to be truly depleted. She could always dig deep and pull from this amazing reserve of something — something all of us around her clung to with everything we had.

When the motivational letter writer in The Sender addresses the concept of fighting weary, he says: “It’s easy to fight when we are fresh. But how you have success in parenting, success in business, success with our health, overcoming the condition of cancer, is we learn how to fight weary … and survive the assault. Here comes your opponent’s assault but it was just an assault. It wasn’t a victory. Your energy stayed even. … Every relationship has an assault to it. … When you start to feel tired and when you start to feel frustrated, it is a sign you are getting close.”

—Jennifer Davis Rash

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‘So You Love a Prodigal’

“So You Love a Prodigal: What You Can’t Do, What You Can Do, Why You Can’t Quit” by Rita Aiken MoritProdigal

I’m only one-third of the way through Rita Aiken Moritz’s “So You Love a Prodigal” and I’m anxious to consume every word. I can already tell Rita’s transparency about her own pain, the lessons she’s learned along the way and a consistent thread of biblical truths make the book a “must read” for anyone who has experienced, is experiencing or will experience a broken heart.

Before I begin reading a book I typically flip through all the chapter headers and skim the subheads, sidebars, pull-out quotes, etc. My skimming of this book indicates I will learn and grow from every chapter. The chapter “Who’s to Blame?” reminds us that the choices a prodigal makes is not our fault but is related to the condition of his or her own heart.

Several chapters deal with practical ways to and not to respond “when the roof falls in.”

And the chapter where Robert Smith Jr., beloved preacher and the Charles T. Carter Baptist Chair of Divinity at Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, shares how God moved him to forgiveness of the man who killed his son — there are no words to do it justice. Just be ready for God to move as you read.

—Jennifer Davis Rash

 

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Jen Jen and Jay Jay’s year in review with a few seasonal selfies

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Just for fun — Jen Jen and Jay Jay — February 2016 through February 2017

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