What will history write about our version of the 20s?

light up the sky

We are at the front end of a pristine new 20s. Whether we refer to our new decade as the “twenties” or the “twenty-twenties,” we have been handed the opportunity to blaze a new, yet healthier, path by learning from the past.

What will history write about the 2020s one day? What statement will we make? How will we be branded?

We truly can shake off the past, let go of whatever is holding us back and make this our decade. Why not make it our goal to see and live with the clarity of 20/20 vision in the decade of the 2020s?

Read the full My Rashionale piece here.

—Jennifer Davis Rash

Want more wisdom? Absorb a chapter of Proverbs a day and never stop — start back over with each new month

Proverbs 17:22–24

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

“The wicked accept bribes in secret to pervert the course of justice.

“A discerning person keeps wisdom in view, but a fool’s eyes wander to the ends of the earth.”

Proverbs 18:1–7

“An unfriendly person pursues selfish ends and against all sound judgment starts quarrels.

“Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions.

“When wickedness comes, so does contempt, and with shame comes reproach.

“The words of the mouth are deep waters, but the fountain of wisdom is a rushing stream.

“It is not good to be partial to the wicked and so deprive the innocent of justice.

“The lips of fools bring them strife, and their mouths invite a beating.

“The mouths of fools are their undoing and their lips are a snare to their very lives.”

Proverbs 19:16–21

“Whoever keeps commandments keeps their life, but whoever shows contempt for their ways will die.

“Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done.

“Discipline your children for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to their death.

“A hot-tempered person must pay the penalty; rescue them and you will have to do it again.

“Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

Proverbs 20:9–12

“Who can say, ‘I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin’?

“Differing weights and differing measures — the Lord detests them both.

“Even small children are known by their actions, so is their conduct really pure and upright?

“Ears that hear and eyes that see — the Lord has made them both.”

(New International Version)

—Jennifer Davis Rash

What would the world be like if adults could have and share even half the joy the children in our lives bring us?

Carbon Hill 3

Church hopping isn’t my typical routine but Sunday, July 28, provided a fun opportunity to participate, at least to some level, in three different church services.

All were different styles and sizes but each were filled with love, joy, smiles, a buzz of excitement and a warm welcome for all who showed up.

It really does make a difference to sense you are noticed and sincerely appreciated.

I spent most of my time that day at First Baptist Church, Carbon Hill, for their special Children’s Ministry Day — and the kids didn’t hesitate to swallow me up with lots of love.

If only all of us could be that bold to show the grace and love of Jesus.

Pastor Scott McCullar said it best during his sermon: “Children have a great value in the kingdom of God. We can learn lessons from them. They hold nothing back.”

“We adults try to squeeze our experiences into the word of God … but children are bold and full of faith. They have joy and take each day as it comes,” he said.

“Children serve the Lord with everything they have and often times we adults hold back a little bit. We should come to the Lord like little children — joyful, faithful and bold.”

McCullar’s words reminded me of the importance of investing in the lives of the children around us. 

They need us to believe in them, remind them of their value and teach them how to navigate life. 

They need us to model for them how to express love and joy for our Savior in adulthood. 

—Jennifer Davis Rash

Some days are tough, even for the most optimistic and energized among us — even for those who hide it well

My friend recently opened up about his three-year battle with deep depression. A few years on the other side of it now he finally feels confident to share — determined he isn’t going back into the pit.

I’m not around him often so it’s not surprising he was able to hide the debilitating experience from me. But I do remember contacting him once or twice during that time and receiving an oddly cold reception, almost as if he were annoyed at my call.

Instead of checking on him or acknowledging that something seemed out of character I determined I must have called at a bad time and let it go.

An interesting note about this particular friend is that he is the one who many years ago introduced me to the concept of always being kind to others no matter how they behave because we don’t know what’s happening in their lives at that moment.

‘Be kind’

There’s a famous quote about this concept: “Be kind for everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” 

For as long as I’ve know him my friend has used a version of this quote along with a Scripture reference at the end of his email messages after his name.

I haven’t located the original source of the quote. It seems to have been attributed most often to a variety of Greek philosophers and on occasion to a handful of modern-day bloggers.

No matter who first said it the point is clear and a good reminder to all of us. 

And Colossians 3:12 says it even better: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

So when someone in the service industry is rude to us or our friend doesn’t return our calls and texts we should respond with kindness and love, showing grace, rather than getting upset.

If someone close to us chooses not to share about a health concern or difficult situation he or she is facing, we can find other ways to support and care for him or her. We can still pray without knowing the specifics — and we can always be kind.

—Jennifer Davis Rash

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

Border Marker at San Ysidro-JD

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

Difficulty of the darkness hovering around us, pressing in on us has no chance against the Light within us

An endless stream of concerns, debates and ideas circle nonstop in my mind as I attempt to pinpoint the most timely news or life issue to cover. 

Nationally, a fresh and fierce debate over abortion has erupted and Alabama is among states at the center of the strategy.

Statewide, the thoughts of a lottery and other possible gambling expansions have several people and entities wanting a piece of the pie. At the same time opposing forces are working endlessly to remind citizens of the social ills that come with any form of gambling.  

Politically, the rhetoric between the two main parties continues to provide a daily dose of hate and anger — almost as if they think we enjoy the ugliness.

Denominationally, internal conflict is brewing — and unlike the major fight 30 years ago, the current arguments are playing out over social media and blog posts.  

If all of that weren’t enough, then news reports from a variety of faith-based media outlets (including TAB) and the mainstream media have us thinking about topics such as: believers being persecuted for their faith, religious liberty fights nationally and internationally, how to handle illegal immigration in the U.S., how Christians can exist godly and neighborly in a society with same-sex couples and families, strife in the Middle East, random plane and helicopter crashes, flooding, tornadoes, drive-by shootings, college bribery scandals, etc.

I’m confident you can fill in the blank with a dozen other situations happening all around us.

Light pierces the darkness

Some days it seems impossible to push through all the darkness, but for those of us who know Jesus as personal Lord and Savior, we can have confidence that no matter how difficult or discouraging the world around us becomes, we possess the ultimate Light.

And there’s no defeating Him — now or ever. Light will always pierce the darkness. 

If you don’t know Jesus, then let us tell you about Him. There’s plenty of room to join us.

—Jennifer Davis Rash

Walking the lonely path of regret

 

 

Regret — it can be a tortuous wave of despair that keeps on rolling over and over through our lives.

Whether it be one momentary lapse of good judgment or a season of unhealthy patterns that form the perfect storm, the actual event that leads to regret changes everything. And it is rarely ever a solo punch.

Most often the lives of everyone connected to the person suffering from regret are changed in some way — and some forever.

It is more than being disappointed about getting caught or offering false remorse for receiving negative pushback. It is a genuine feeling of repentance that grips us at the center of our soul.

Regret is a true feeling of remorse, deep repentance and extreme sadness over what has happened. You will know it when you see it. The humility, the despair, the brokenness seep from the person’s pores.

Surviving the initial blow, humiliation and blowback is the first step. And while that first step is hard the lonely journey that follows might be even harder for the truly repentant.

Space for grace

But brokenness leaves the regret-filled person with a choice just as it offers those around them an opportunity.

For the person walking through regret, it can provide a space for God to show us His grace in a way never experienced before. When we know more of the depth of our sin and brokenness, we can marvel even more at the unfathomable love and forgiveness offered to us through Christ.

Power in the pain

But we have to make that choice. We have to choose to let those painful memories drive us to worship and experience gratitude for our forgiveness. We have to choose to let our pain push us toward Christ and away from deeper sin.

And for people who are surrounding the person carrying regret, it’s a chance to remember God’s grace and remember our own sins too.

None of us is perfect. We all have the ability to dive headlong into sin. We have to call each other to right choices, but when someone is truly repentant, we can choose to walk alongside our broken brother or sister in love.

That’s who we are. We strive for holiness. We repent with sincere hearts. We bind up our wounded. The key is real repentance — and real love.

—Jennifer Davis Rash

The humbling nature of the fruit

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

“I honestly believe if we would do more praying and less criticizing we would have a better nation,” Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines said Feb. 14.

Speaking to a group of writers, editors and communicators, Gaines shared how at 60 he can look back now and see he has grown in this area himself.

“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten kinder,” he said. “(I want to be) prudent, wise and merciful.

“I used to be a little bit more hard than I am now. … A lot of it is how you see the people you are preaching to. I no longer see them as rebels who need to repent. I see them as people who are hurting and need to be set free.”

Gaines added, “If we are filled with the Spirit, it is the fruit of the Spirit that is going to come out.”

As I listened to Gaines share that day, I recalled how the fruit of the Spirit outlined in Galatians 5:22–23 became a foundational Scripture for me as soon as I chose Jesus fully and completely at 19 years old.

I stray often but the simple, straightforward outline of qualities God desires for our lives to exhibit are always there to keep me grounded and bring me back when I slip — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Essential characteristics

The goal is for all of these characteristics to exist in our hearts.

I’ve heard some note how starting with love allows you to develop each of the traits, one building on the other.

I’ve also heard how they are not individual attributes in and of themselves, that they are all essential characteristics of the fruit and must all be present for there to be fruit.

It’s always humbling to me when I go back to Galatians and recenter on each of the nine and see where some are missing and the ripple effect that caused.

If we were to only consider the first one — love — because it is February, then we might think about the depth of what that means and how we are called to love our enemies as well as our friends.

Real kind of love

Some people are hard to love, it’s true. And even the ones who aren’t hard to love still come with complex natures and baggage that sometimes surface whether intentionally or unintentionally.

No matter the relationship, we aren’t called to a fake, syrupy kind of act but a true, sacrificial, real kind of love.

It’s certainly not possible in our own strength. We must see others through the eyes of Christ.

—Jennifer Davis Rash

Seeking a renewed prayerful heart

Prayer

During this past holiday season, my uncle shared a bit about his recent journey through an in-depth study of prayer.

He’s in his 70s and has been a believer for a long time but the experience of the past two years has renewed his joy and restored his heart in a way he said he has never felt.

I couldn’t help but be captivated by the emotion and authentic sense of closeness to our Lord he expressed.

The freshness of the Word as he reads Scripture, the new authors he has discovered and the books on the topic of prayer he has read have all given him a renewed excitement for communicating with God.

Assessing prayer life

As I processed what he shared, I was challenged to evaluate my own prayer life and asked myself questions such as:

•What does prayer look like in my life?

•Do I honestly and sincerely pray for every situation or person in which I say I will pray?

•Am I able to truly put concerns in the Lord’s hands first and then follow how He leads or do I try to help in my own way first and then pray as a last resort?

•Do I slow down to watch how God works in the situations going on around me?

•Am I in tune enough to notice what God is doing and how He uses us if we are available?

•Do I thank Him and praise Him even in the storms?

•What about the concept of praying without ceasing? Is that really possible? What does it look like?

Seriously, have you ever tried to pray without ceasing? It is hard work.

I experimented with the concept one day, praying for every face I saw, every name that popped in my email inbox, every voice I heard on the phone, everyone that came to mind.

And wow was I exhausted at the end of the day.

Granted, I didn’t pray long prayers but even spending the energy to pray for every single person and situation that passes through your day is an interesting exercise.

It definitely keeps you from fretting over unnecessary items, forces you to weed out frivolous thoughts and conversations and makes you aware of the many, many needs around you.

It also made me aware of just how many things I fail to pray for on any given day.

So as I’m making my goals for 2018 and hitting the ground running following the holidays, I’m working to keep focused, sincere prayer among my “must do” items each day — and remembering what Paul teaches us in 1 Corinthians 3, “only God gives the increase.”

—Jennifer Davis Rash

Why justify less than our best?

Sunset Ecclesiastes 9_10 says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.”chaser

Justification is an interesting action. Have you ever noticed how much you justify to yourself or others why you did or didn’t do something?

My moments of justification tend to focus on why I failed to follow through with a commitment I made. It might be a commitment to myself to exercise routinely or get more rest. It might be a commitment to someone else that I would take care of a project or task by a certain time frame.

Because I’m extremely skilled at justifying my own actions, I always notice when others are justifying their actions as well.

Recently I heard a friend note that he knew he wasn’t giving a client his best work but because he had agreed to do the work at a reduced price he felt justified in delivering less than his best.

The more I thought about his reasoning, the more it bothered me.

The saying “you get what you pay for” is true in many cases, but I would hope that we as believers would always give our absolute best in all that we do, even when we aren’t getting paid what we think we might be worth.

‘With all your heart’

Scripture is clear about doing our best in all that we do.

Colossians 3:23–24 says, “Whatever you do work at it with all your heart. … It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

First Corinthians 10:31 says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

Romans 12:11 says, “Never be lazy in your work but serve the Lord enthusiastically.”

Galatians 6:9 says to never tire of doing good.

Second Timothy 2:15 reminds us to present ourselves to God “as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”

And Ecclesiastes 9:10 says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.”

Keeping our focus on Christ and seeking to be more like Him would demand a pursuit of excellence on our part, especially excellence of character and how we behave.

Soul searching

Representing Christ as a believer should mean we are aware if our lives are truly mirroring Him or not. We should always work to show grace and love while standing on truth.

If we are not able to give our best to all that we do as we journey through this life representing our Lord and Savior, then we really should do some soul searching and self-evaluation — eh hem, talking to myself here.

Certainly there are seasons and times when we have no choice but to give second best — and even to fail — but those moments should be because of situations out of our control not because we don’t care. And they shouldn’t happen because we are selfishly leaving the work for someone else to do.

We must find ways to reduce the demands on our lives so we can be in top form for those depending on us, and we must help each other in the process.

What does it say about our relationship with Christ and the condition of our heart if we purposefully agree to a job or task knowing we never intend to provide quality results or service? How do we justify such actions?

And how easy will it be to make a similar choice next time once we lower our standards and expectations of ourselves?

How far could we go down this path before we don’t even remember what our best looks like?

—Jennifer Davis Rash