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

Honoring veterans by living lives worthy of the sacrifice

The retired serviceman’s sincere, straightforward approach to his time in the military intrigued me. And the more I thought on his words, the more I realized the depth and intensity of what he was saying.

“When I’ve been in uniform throughout my career, random people have walked up to thank me for my service or buy my lunch,” he said. “There also have been times when applause broke out as I walked through a restaurant or an airport.

“While I appreciate their appreciation, what I really wanted to say was, ‘Don’t thank me. Don’t buy me lunch. Don’t applaud me. Just live a life worthy of living so my service and the sacrifices I made for you were not in vain.’”

Millions have served sacrificially

The U.S. military was officially established by Congress at the urging of President Washington in 1789. 

With hundreds of thousands of people serving in the early days and more than 2.5 million combined active and reserves serving today, my mind can’t quite grasp exactly how many individual people have dedicated their lives during these past 229 years. 

Each of those men and women served sacrificially. Many saw and experienced horrific events that they carried or will carry for their entire lives. Most choose to protect the rest of us from the worst of the details and are hesitant to even admit how heavy the load really is. 

In many cases, those who served are now sentenced to a life of attempting to manage post-traumatic stress disorder, continual nightmares and/or difficulty assimilating back into civilian life. Alcoholism, drug addiction and suicide rates among former military personnel continue to climb. Family relationships and friendships will never be the same for them. Some find a way to push through and quietly battle their internal demons while balancing a loving and caring relationship with family who could never understand. Some do better in isolation or at least by keeping a defined distance from others.

Millions of our fellow Americans stood in the gap for us in past years. Millions more are serving right now or are within days, weeks or months of taking their turn to serve. They have protected and continue to protect the freedoms and way of life we enjoy as U.S. citizens. 

Do we take those sacrifices for granted?

But how often do we really think about the sacrifices so many have made for us?

Military families are typically the best at honoring those in service, caring for those returning and being sensitive to the reality of the situations. And most of us likely have a family member, at least an extended family member, who has served at some point.

It is good to honor those who have served on Veterans Day. We also remember those who died in service on Memorial Day. Most often the 4th of July includes a shoutout to our current military and Lee Greenwood’s famous “God Bless the USA” is sung with sincere gusto.

But outside of those three holidays, how often do we remember the men and women who fought and in some cases died for our freedom? Do we actually grasp and respect the concept of true freedom?

Are we living lives worthy of all those who sacrificed for us? 

Are we making the United States better because we are citizens? 

Responsibility of citizenship

And for those of us who are believers in and followers of Jesus Christ, do we fully grasp the sacrifice He made for us? 

Are we living lives worthy of Him? Do we allow His love and grace to shine through us as He describes in Matthew 5:14–16?

Does our faith journey showcase the fruit of the Spirit outlined in Galatians 5:22–23 — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control?

Being an eternal citizen of heaven along with our current citizenship in the U.S. both bring great privilege and blessings and with both come great responsibility. 

—Jennifer Davis Rash

Avoiding the cynical path

Path

The path leads one of two ways I was told — in our service through Christian communications, the only options are to become deeply pious or doggedly cynical.

I couldn’t quite grasp what my mentor was saying. After all I had only recently stepped into my first position with The Alabama Baptist newspaper and was still warming up to the fact that I did have a calling in the area of communications.

How that would look over time I did not know, but I knew I would give it everything I had at every point. For me, it has always been a calling to the concept and goal of communications — specifically within a faith-based arena — not necessarily to a position.

The positions have been there and I’m always grateful for them, but the heart of what we do in striving to effectively connect people, build relationships and share information is what has kept me motivated. 

Now I can look back and see what my mentor meant all those years ago. 

Danger lies ahead

Developing an attitude of cynicism is a real danger — not only because we work in an area where we often see behind the curtain of ministry life but also because of the endless opportunities to be hurt by others. Of course, this isn’t necessarily different than any other area of work or life.

The fight to keep optimism alive and to stay positive is sometimes hard enough on our own, but when we are called to motivate and lead others to do the same, then it truly requires digging down deep and staying intimately connected to God to make it happen.

Think about how many people in your circles regularly complain, show frustration or spew angry sentiments. And think about how much energy you use absorbing all of it. 

While we can technically be cynical without being ugly, cynicism typically brings a negative attitude and general “what’s the use” spirit. After all, everyone is out for him- or herself, right? There’s no hope left for humanity, right? 

Distrust, suspicion, disgust and frustration are related feelings. When these traits are present, peace and joy get squashed and overshadowed — and our general presence definitely is not winning any popularity contests. 

Grasping the power of peace and joy

Without peace and joy, we start down a path of negativity, selfishness and maybe even ugliness. And without a steady diet of God’s word and connection with Him, our defenses will weaken over time.

Many of us say we are tired of the divisive culture we’ve found ourselves in, but what are we doing to change it? Are we willing to evaluate our own hearts first?

Are we willing to challenge others to be the best they can be by believing in their potential even when they can’t find the strength to do it themselves?

It is sometimes hard to love others and believe in them, but think about the possibilities if we keep trying. 

—Jennifer Davis Rash