Happy Belley Birthday

Happy Birthday, sweet Belle. You would have been 9 today. We love you and miss you so much. We loved being part of the big celebration in your honor this morning with several hundred of your closest friends! And what a fun way to honor you with your very own garden at India Hook Elementary School. You are still touching lives!

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What I Am Reading

Crosson

I love reading books on leadership, management and organizational skills. While I always learn at least a few tips from each book, some books are better than others. There are those that leave you longing for and imagining a world in which what was described in the book could be true, but we all know it is totally unrealistic. And then there are some that are realistic but too complicated and complex to embrace. When you find one that combines a realistic view with manageable concepts, then you know you have a winner.

“What Makes A Leader Great” by Russ Crosson is one of those winners. It not only is realistic about what is possible but also has the most clearly articulated concept of the importance of the “why” of leadership that I’ve read to this point.

Russ Crosson says, “We lead in order to replace ourselves.”

And he is speaking to all forms of leaders, not specifically to business leaders.

“At some point all of us will have opportunities to make decisions that can potentially change the course of a situation or the life of another person. Men and women from all walks of life are asked to lead but few have the tools or the motivation needed to teach others to do the same.

“Great leadership isn’t about the leader at all — it’s about the mission of the organization, church, business or even family to be a great leader. And it is about who will replace the leader when he or she is gone.”

With only 153 pages, the book is a relatively quick read and is packed with rich nuggets and challenging concepts I plan to implement.

—Jennifer Davis Rash

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‘It’s not all about you’

When my nephew Jared was a little bitty thing, he would get all over his big brother with a consistent reminder, “It’s not all about you, Jacob!”

The boldness of his approach and the intensity behind his words always made me smile, but the clear truth behind his appeal has stuck with me since the first time it rolled out of his mouth.

The key to strength in any relationship points back to whether the two parties are going to be self-centered or other-centered. This is true with friends, co-workers, all formulas of family relationships and especially in marriage.

“It’s not all about you” was the focus of a recent article in Relevant magazine, “Marriage Isn’t About Your Happiness.”

An excerpt from the article written by Debra K. Fileta says:

“Marriage is not about your happiness, it’s not even about you. It’s about love — which is something we choose to give time and time again. It’s about sacrifice, serving, giving, forgiving — and then doing it all over again. … often, we’re choosing ‘personal happiness’ over real commitment, over real love.

“They say marriage teaches you more about selflessness than you ever wanted to know. I have definitely found that phrase to be true in my relationship with my husband. Because at the heart of it, real love is all about sacrifice. About the giving of yourself, in ways big and small.”

Read the full article here.

—Jennifer Davis Rash

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Finding our way back to Him

Parable of Lost Son

Luke 15

He knew he had walked away from God — far, far away — and he couldn’t imagine God would take him back, much less forgive him. His hands were dirty and he convinced himself he would need to figure out how to become clean before seeking forgiveness from God.

But without God he could never be purified.

With the help of a persistent group of prayer warriors and friends who refused to give up on him, the young man eventually found his way back to God. He is growing in the Lord now and helping those he hurt heal from the intense pain he caused.

Shea Lowery, executive director of Lives Being Restored, shares a similar experience about her life story and how there was a time she truly believed God would not want her. With God’s tugging and the love and care of a group of accountability partners, she found her way back to Him and now leads a ministry to help other believers in need of restoration (www.livesbeingrestored.com).

Finding renewal and restoration

Both of these restored believers are teaching me as I watch them maneuver through their faith journeys. The richness of what they are learning and experiencing in the Lord, the depth of their renewed faith, the incredible turnaround in both their lives — it is inspiring.

It also reminds me that we all play a vital role in each other’s lives as believers. We need each other as accountability and prayer partners.

None of us is immune to being attacked by the enemy nor is any one of us strong enough to avoid the various temptations of the world on our own.

It might be alcohol and/or drugs for one person while another struggles with lustful thoughts and actions. Still another may be tempted with greed and personal possessions while the next person battles busyness and ambitious goals outside the calling of God. And then there is laziness, selfishness and other seemingly benign actions that actually hinder our growth in the faith and possibly harm others along the way.

Attacks will come but there is One who is greater

Believers, just like nonbelievers, are attacked by the enemy at our weakest point. The difference is we have the power of the Holy Spirit within us. And if we allow Him to take charge, then we have the ability to fight.

It doesn’t mean any part of the journey is easy nor does it mean we won’t slip up from time to time, but it does mean we have the answer to defeat the enemy if we are truly walking with the Lord and seeking His face.

We can always come home

It is when we take our eyes off Jesus, stop meditating on the Word and spend too little time in prayer that we leave ourselves vulnerable. When we stop guarding the door to our hearts we will find ourselves walking on the wrong path. At some point we will realize we’ve gotten off track. And while “the sooner the better” definitely applies for the purposes of the people we will hurt along the way, the mercy of the Father is consistent no matter how far we’ve strayed.

He will be right there with open arms ready to take us back, cleanse our dirty hands and restore us fully to Himself, exactly how Jesus describes in the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15). When we finally come to our senses and see clearly, we realize God never moved. We were the ones who walked away, drowning out the sound of His voice and the drawing of His Spirit with the gleam of whatever worldly temptation caught our eye.

—Jennifer Davis Rash

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What I Am Reading

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I’ve never been interested in reading much more than a few paragraphs about how a particular organization or group got its start but Rosalie Hunt’s new book Her Way: The Remarkable Story of Hephzibah Jenkins Townsend has stretched my interest in this area.

While only a third of the way through the book, I already feel a connection and admiration for the main character. I love her spunk and determination. Yes, the book certainly achieves the goal of helping share the history of national Woman’s Missionary Union because Townsend was founder of the first missionary society in the South but it does so much more. It also reminds us that our true strength comes from the Lord and, despite the difficulties life brings, we can all make a difference for the Kingdom.

Hunt showcases a true storytelling ability that has me anxiously awaiting the events described in the next chapter. And I love how Hunt developed Townsend’s voice and personality by piecing together the available historical documentation and then basically “becoming” Townsend for a season as she wrote the book.

For more information on Her Way, click here.

—Jennifer Davis Rash

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Read the directions carefully

Rashional Thoughts artIt has happened more times than I care to admit and each time is just as embarrassing as the others. You may have done it a time or two yourself especially if you communicate via email and/or text messages on your smartphone.

And I know better, I really do, but I continue to do it — failing to read a document, an email, a text or how-to instructions carefully.

You know the drill. We know we should slow down and read all the words and make sure we understand what is being communicated before we respond or act, but for some reason we tend to skim the text and then take action.

The dreaded life lesson

And many of us can remember that particular exam given to us by that one teacher or professor determined to teach us a life lesson. He or she handed out the test papers and said, “It is important to read through all the questions first, then take the exam.” The top of the test paper also stated, “Read all questions before answering any of them.”

But what did we do? We answered the questions as we read them because we thought it would take less time. We didn’t want to read through all of them and then come back to the first one to start answering them.

Of course, the disappointment hit hard when we reached the last question and realized why one or two students got up fairly quickly and turned in their exams. The final question wasn’t a question at all. It stated, “Do not answer any of the above questions. Sign your name here, turn it in now and you will receive an A. All others will fail this test.”

Ouch — if only we had followed the instructions.

Repeating the same mistakes

And yet still today, I find myself failing to read carefully through correspondence and other forms of communication.

I’m not sure if it is because my full-time work requires such careful reading, editing and fact checking that I get a little slack when it comes to other content or if it is merely a result of going in too many directions, but it happens more than it should.

When others do it to me

The one good thing about realizing what I’m doing is that I am reminded to be kind and gracious to others when it happens to me. And it does happen — often.

I might send an email or text asking three questions and the reply comes back with only one question answered. Or I might provide an outline for what all needs to be in a story and 75 percent of what I noted is written but the other 25 percent is overlooked.

It happens at work, at home, at church, in the neighborhood, at school and anywhere else we interact with people.

The deadline was clearly marked in the notice but somehow we didn’t see it. The change of plans was tucked inside the other three paragraphs of information but we stuck with the original schedule because we missed that note.

Take the challenge

If you are still with me and are truly reading through the column rather than skimming it, then I would encourage you to take the challenge I’m giving myself — slow down and read carefully. I believe we could save a lot of time, missteps and apologies by doing it right the first time.

I also wonder how much of the habit of not slowing down to read carefully could spill over into our biblical studies. How many times do we skim the Scriptures rather than carefully and thoroughly read every word? What are we missing if that is the case? Could God be blatantly showing Himself to us in a life-changing way that we are sadly missing because we’ve chosen to skim rather than absorb?

—Jennifer Davis Rash

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Shockingly speechless

Yes, the rumors are true. I can confirm I was indeed left speechless earlier this month — not only once but twice. Many were shocked to witness the historic events.

Editor Bob Terry and The Alabama Baptist staff get all the credit as they found a way to surprise me with a feature article and a party celebrating my 20th anniversary with Alabama’s state Baptist newspaper. And if that weren’t special enough, I also received calls, emails, letters, texts, Facebook posts, tweets, video messages, gifts and personal appearances by friends and family from various parts of the state, across the nation and around the world.

It is still hard for me to believe all of that was done for me. I remain speechless and thank all of you for honoring me the way you did.

I know that finding me speechless once, much less several times, is hard to believe, especially for the number of you who referred to my “gift of gab” in the notes you wrote. And you know me well, I do like to talk — a lot.

But 2016 has discovered a more contemplative version of me so far. Along with the celebratory moments, another anniversary struck other emotions.

Marking the date

January 17 marked one year since my young niece and goddaughter Belle Mitchell left us for heaven (to read more about her cancer journey, visit the “Snapshots of Belle” category here on rashionalthoughts.com).Belle with Aunt Jen

It is true what the grief experts say — you do adapt and learn to live without the person you are missing — but the ache of missing him or her lives on. I’m not sure I realized the degree of how much I missed Belle would actually increase with time but it is happening. I find myself continually needing a hug from her, wanting desperately to hear her laugh and/or wishing for one more silly moment with her.

Still I hold on to what others have shared with me — each day we live is one day closer to being with her again. And each day we have an opportunity to do great things for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We can choose to tackle each day and make a difference for the Kingdom or we can fall into a pit and let the enemy convince us we are not able to keep moving.

Believe me, I’ve fallen into the pit a few times and some days I might have been easily convinced to stay there, but every time a friend or family member came along and pulled me out, reminding me to keep my eyes on Jesus.

Again, I am overwhelmed with the love surrounding me, and I am convicted to not take it for granted nor overlook others who might slip past our gaze and be falling further and further into their own pit.

The lyrics in Sidewalk Prophets’ “Save My Life” touch on this point:

“… You come here every Friday night; I take your order and try to be polite; And hide what I’ve been going through;

“If you looked me right in the eye; Would you see the pain deep inside; Would you take the time to;

“Tell me what I need to hear; Tell me that I’m not forgotten; Show me there’s a God. …

Belle taught me how to love unconditionally (consistently showing grace, mercy and forgiveness while also showing others there is a God), live life to its fullest (despite the obstacles that undoubtedly will appear in your path) and laugh as much as possible (even amid the pain and fear). She knew how to celebrate life — and I want to be like Belle when I grow up.

—Jennifer Davis Rash (aka Aunt Jen Jen)

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