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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IMB’s Platt apologizes to Southern Baptists

Read story under Latest News at www.thealabamabaptist.org

platt

David Platt, IMB president, speaks with Will Hall, editor of Louisiana’s Baptist Message, after giving a report to Baptist editors in Ontario, California, Feb. 15. (BP photo)

 

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Is the team better with or without you?

team

I’ve always been taught to leave a place better than I found it. While this well-known saying most often refers to a physical location, it also can play out in relationships and team experiences.

Am I pulling my weight on the team? Is the team better because I’m a part of it? Am I willing to help others when they need extra assistance?

Do I make a positive difference in another person’s day? Or are my attitude, actions and apathy bringing others down?

Super slow

Consider Person A who preceded me in an internship role when I was in my early 20s.

I was confused why she had not made any progress on our assigned project. I even wondered if she had actually worked at all when the supervisor told me after my second day on the job that I had accomplished more in two days than she had done in weeks.

Super speedy

A few years later I met Person B who was super speedy and ran circles around the rest of us on the team but 9 out of 10 things she did had to be redone. She was fast but she had poor results when it came to quality of work. She ended up costing the rest of us time having to go behind her to correct her mistakes.

Super lazy

And then there was Person C who spent more energy trying to avoid doing the job he was hired to do than it would have taken to just do the job. I’m still perplexed how he slept at night knowing the extra weight he caused us to carry because he wasn’t doing his part. And it wasn’t only during the time he was on the team but his dishonest and sloppy job affected various parts of the work for years to come.

You might have guessed that my patience wears a bit thin when it comes to purposeful dishonesty, sloppiness and slacking — in any situation.

But I’ve also learned that while some people know exactly what they are doing and purposefully mistreat the team or relationship, it is not the case with everyone. Sometimes there is a deeper concern at play. It might be a health issue or an emotional problem. The person could be overwhelmed with a personal crisis.

It could be as simple as lack of training, poor communication or negligence on the part of the team leader in establishing clear expectations. And sometimes people merely are promoted beyond their strengths — the Peter Principle, a concept made famous by the late Canadian researcher Laurence J. Peter who wrote a book about it in 1969.

If we discover that any of the above scenarios have occurred, then we make the place better than we found it immediately by owning up to what is happening.

Team leaders: lead

Team leaders, slow down long enough to know your team members and understand their struggles, their situations and their needs. Your job is to empower them to do their jobs. You are responsible to provide the training and resources they need. Create an environment that allows for achievement, confidence and security.

If you recruited them for your team, then protect them while also pushing them.

Team members: step up

Team members, take responsibility for yourselves. Be willing to ask for help, seek proper medical or psychological attention and figure out what you need to do to be a cooperative and contributing team member.

Everyone on the team can be part of the solution. Along with determining to be the best you God has created you to be, encourage and challenge those around you to do the same.

Why waste your time — and that of everyone around you — being part of something if you aren’t willing to contribute toward making it the best it can be?

—Jennifer Davis Rash

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