How we define ourselves

 

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March 16, 2018; Charlotte, NC, USA; Virginia Cavaliers head coach Tony Bennett during the first half against the UMBC Retrievers in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament at Spectrum Center. (Jeremy Brevard—USA TODAY Sports)

No excuses, no whining — Coach Tony Bennett of the University of Virginia Cavaliers calmly and respectfully gave props to the UMBC (University of Maryland, Baltimore County) team and coach for taking care of business.

“We got thoroughly out played,” Bennett said in the March 16 post-game interview about the Retrievers’ historic upset of the top-ranked Cavaliers. UMBC won 74–54 and became the first-ever No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1 seed in the NCAA men’s tournament.

Hats off to UMBC

Definitely the Cinderella story of this year’s March Madness, UMBC’s victory was the unlikely event that put the school on the map despite losing the next game in a nail biter to Kansas State on March 18.

Thousands of us became Retrievers’ fans, even if just for a weekend, and cheered for the obvious strength of character, pursuit of excellence and never-give-up attitude brilliantly showcased by this honors’ university team.

Our hats off to Coach Ryan Odom and the UMBC Retrievers.

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(Jennifer Davis Rash screen grab of UMBC’s Twitter page on March 18, 2018)

Making history

And on the other side of the court, kudos goes to Bennett in the way he handled the historic loss in the first round of the tournament.

“[This was] a historic season in terms of most wins in the ACC. A week ago we’re cutting down the nets and the confetti is falling,” he said March 16. “And then we make history by being the first one seed to lose.

“It stings,” he said. “I told the guys, ‘This is life. It can’t define you. You enjoyed the good times and you gotta be able to take the bad times. When you step into the arena, the consequences can be historic losses, tough losses, great wins, and you have to deal with it. That’s the job.’”

Bennett not only showed good sportsmanship, but also a well-rounded perspective on life — and he modeled this for the young men on his team as well as a nation of basketball fans watching it all play out.

That one moment

“It can’t define you,” he said.

How often do we allow one moment to define us — good or bad, win or lose — rather than the sum of all the moments, and how often do we do this to others?

In the movie “Sully,” Captain Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger, played by Tom Hanks, says, “I’ve delivered a million passengers over 40 years, but in the end I’m going to be judged by 208 seconds.”

He’s referring to the true story of his forced water landing on New York’s Hudson River on Jan. 15, 2009, when he saved the lives of all 155 aboard U.S. Airways Flight 1549.

In the end Sully’s legacy was untarnished and he was catapulted into American hero status but for about 48 hours he wasn’t sure how it would play out.

When life-changing moments occur

Every day we all move through our routines, doing what we are called and trained to do, making decisions to the best of our abilities (at least I hope we are all giving our best). And at any moment one of those decisions, or even a routine task, could put us in a win or lose situation.

Some moments are minimal and cause few waves but others are monumental and change life for everyone involved.

How the leader leads when those times come sets the tone for all who are following, and how the team responds influences the level of dignity, perseverance and value each individual maintains on the other side of those moments.

Summing up the slices

But they are still separate slices among an entire lifetime of countless slices. If we define ourselves by that one great achievement, then that is likely all we will ever be. And if we mark ourselves as a failure because of that one historic loss or bad decision, then we certainly won’t have the strength to move past it.

We must take the good with the bad, the wins with the losses, and learn from each experience. And in all situations we can hold on to the promise from 2 Corinthians 12 that in our weakness, the power of Christ is made perfect. We merely need to trust Him to work in and through us.

—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

Peace amid the sparkling lights

DSC_0251May you truly experience peace, hope and love from the One who is Peace, Hope and Love on this Christmas Day and every day … “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16 NKJV).

—Jennifer Davis Rash

Reflecting on marriage

Jason and I mark 19 years of marriage tomorrow (July 12). I remember poring through so many books and articles on marriage that first year and trying to do everything exactly right to have the perfect marriage. What I didn’t understand early on, what actually took years to understand, was that I couldn’t manufacture enough of the tips and how-to suggestions to develop a marriage like what was in my head. It wasn’t something I could control. It would take total sacrifice for Jason and seeking God above all else (and vice versa on Jason’s part). While I finally understand marriage in itself is a lifelong learning journey, I would like to share some of what I have discovered along the way. More about sacrifice can be found below and a little on forgiveness can be found by clicking hereJ and J 2-14-16

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When my nephew, Jared, was a little bitty thing, he would get all over his 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 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. … Because at the heart of it, real love is all about sacrifice. About the giving of yourself, in ways big and small.”

It’s about sacrifice

I agree with Fileta. Real love truly is all about sacrifice.

The seasons where my husband, Jason, and I focus sacrificially on each other at the same time bring such great blessings and richness to our relationship.

When one or the other decides to be less other-centered and more self-centered, frustrations mount and life is more strained.

And the times we decided to focus on ourselves rather than the other — simultaneously — it basically led to confusion, insecurity, disappointment and pain.

Being married long enough to have a variety of seasons (19 years tomorrow) also has given us the opportunity to truly start learning and growing in the process. And we both agree we prefer the sacrificial model hands down.

I do know that putting Jason’s needs before my own and sacrificing for him in big ways and small ways brings tremendous fulfillment and allows me to demonstrate real love, true love.

And I learned through the precious five and a half years we fought alongside our niece, Belle, in her cancer journey that the purity of the love received in return is worth all the pouring of yourself into another.

Ultimate model

It seems so obvious to me now but it took years for me to get to this point. I’m not sure why because we were given the ultimate model of sacrificial love to follow — Jesus Christ.

It seems silly to not figure it out sooner. The example is so powerful.

But if you, like me, struggle to focus entirely on Jesus in everyday life, then how much more will we struggle with giving of ourselves to ordinary humans?

My friend and colleague, Grace Thornton, reminds me often that we are to desire God first, before ourselves and anyone or anything else. And from that place we are to let our lives flow outward.

“His heart is for us to know Him,” Grace says, “making that the entire goal of our life and then trusting Him no matter what happens.”

—Jennifer Davis Rash

Autumn is on the way

Friday night lights and Saturday college game days always turn my mind away from summer and toward fall. And as the nights begin to cool down and the first hints of color peek out of the sea of green leaves, then I know autumn is truly near.

Wednesday, Sept. 23, is the official first day of fall, the Autumnal Equinox if you will, and the Wednesday prior (Sept. 16), I spent the day with sweet friends from the missions field and beyond looking for more hints of fall and breathing in the relaxing air only found in Mentone, Ala.

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Holding the ropes

Katelyn stood before our church this past Sunday as we had a special time of prayeIMG_20150714_121448r for her before she leaves for a new season of life — life in another part of the world focused on missions.

In early June, Mallory also stood before our church as we prayed for her summer in Ecuador. A Sunday in late May, Bryce stood before his church in northwest Alabama as he prepared to leave for his summer missions work in Uganda.

And countless congregations across the state have held similar prayer moments recently as they sent out their young adults for a missions experience.

It is not only prayer for the summer missionary and the work he or she will do, but it also is prayer for his or her family. It is a prayer for peace as they release their child into the hands of missions and ministry teams in faraway places. Even a location across the state can seem faraway for parents sending their young adult child out for the first time.

A church “holding the ropes” for those serving in short-term and long-term missions experiences truly can make a difference for the missionary and his or her family.

No matter how strong your call to serve, there will be moments of loneliness and discouragement. And even the most excited of young adults are sometimes shocked to discover the difficulties and frustrations that come with adapting to a new culture, adjusting to the new area and feeling overwhelmed when they see the enormity of the work.

But knowing their church family is back home praying for them truly makes a difference when those weak moments surface.

Facetime and Skype had not been invented when I served a two-and-a-half-year term with the International Mission Board back in the mid-1990s, but a phone call here and there, an email on occasion and definitely cards in the mail became welcomed touches from home that kept my spirits lifted. I also remember the banner Pastor Sammy Taylor hung at Mountain View Baptist Church, Phil Campbell, that said “Mountain View holding the ropes for Jennifer.” I knew their prayers continued throughout my term and weren’t only spoken that Sunday I stood before the congregation to be sent out.

As special as the prayers prayed over you as you leave are, the ones that are consistently being  lifted during your missions service are the ones that sustain you.

Alabama Baptist students and young adults are serving in a variety of ways in Alabama, through ministries in many states across the nation and on missions fields around the world. They may not send back regular reports of their work while they are away, and it is easy to skip days and even weeks of praying for them without a consistent reminder.

Prayer cards, email notes and social media posts are good ways to keep the need in front of church members and others who would like to pray for those participating in summer missions. Posters, banners or other types of visuals in the church also are good reminders.

The Alabama Baptist regularly reports on students and young adults doing missions. When those stories appear, it is another good reminder to pray.

The prayers really do make a difference. I remember many times feeling a sense of strength, peace and focus I knew came from the prayers of those holding the ropes for me. I also remember the confidence and courage I felt with the love and support of family, friends and an amazing church. If someone inquired deeper about the experience, then my enthusiasm grew as I shared my story.

The privilege of praying for Katelyn, Mallory and Bryce provides an opportunity for me to give back by supporting the next generation of young adults following God’s call. Who will be your Katelyn, Mallory and Bryce?

Jennifer Davis Rash

Happy Birthday, sweet Belle

Belle’s Ball

May 24, 2015 — Belle would have turned 8 today.

By Catherine Williams (friend of Belle’s Aunt Jen Jen)

Belle my sweet girl we still miss you soBelle dress up Aug 2014
You are with Your heavenly Father, this we all know
Your smile brightened our day, bravery inspired us too
We were always amazed by the things you could do
You loved the Disney Princesses, for a princess you are
God loaned you to us, but He is never very far
Belle on your birthday we miss your sweet smile
For you have been the Belle of the ball for quite a while
We miss you sweet Belle, this fact is true
And although you are in heaven we still miss you!
One day in the future we too will dance at Belle’s Ball
But for now may our love be a beacon of hope for all!

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We shared a sIMG_20150524_222514pecial weekend together as a family celebrating Belle’s birthday (for the first time without her here). Along with lots of sweet memories and laughing at so many fun Belle stories, we did a few things in her honor such as wearing (temporary) tattoos of characters in Disney’s Frozen. She would have gotten so tickled to see her Daddy with an Elsa tattoo on his hand. Of course, she would have picked out each of ours for us as well as where they would have been placed if she had been with us.

To learn more about Belle’s story or to read Belle’s birthday post by her Mommy visit  www.caringbridge.org/visit/bellemitchell.

—Jennifer Davis Rash (aka Aunt Jen Jen)