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

To the fathers out there — sometimes it’s the little things, the routine moments that make the biggest difference

Sometimes things don’t work out like you planned. You can pitch a fit, get angry and pout about it — or you can adapt. 

That’s a lesson my daddy has modeled for me my entire life.

It might mean an obstacle like a flat tire causes you to miss an important appointment. 

Or maybe a team member fails to carry his or her weight and you have to pick up the slack.

It could be any number of unexpected events that disrupts your day. The best way forward is to assess the situation in front of you, adjust to take care of it and work to get back on track as best you can.

It also may mean changing your plans entirely if the derailment is severe enough — but if that’s what you need to do, then that’s exactly what you do, says my dad.

Living on a farm in rural Alabama offers a special opportunity to be surrounded by the beauty of God’s world, experience a calmer existence and participate more fully in the daily moments of family.

But farming and working acres and acres of land also brings with it consistent problems — equipment breaks down, tools wear out, the weather doesn’t cooperate, people get sick, the community experiences a tragedy, etc.

I can remember many times when I would be so frustrated because something didn’t work out right and dad would be frustrated too, but he didn’t waste time being upset like I did. He would calmly and quietly figure out what all needed to be done and do it without any drama.

Sometimes it meant dealing with a serious issue in the chicken house in the middle of the night; sometimes it was taking a break from the plowing he had planned for that day to rescue me from a broken-down car.

There’s always a way

Whatever it was then and whatever it might be today, I am better because my dad chose — and continues to choose — not to let the disruptions of life defeat him. I sense that same calmness in myself even in my weakest moments when I want to cry, scream or pull the covers over my head.

Thank you, daddy, for teaching me there’s always a way through the problems in front of us, disruptions are temporary and a calm spirit steadies the environment for everyone involved.

—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

Two coins made everything OK

matt-borsic-636767-unsplash

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

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

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 

Is it basic economics with human trafficking — law of supply and demand?

Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal activity in the world — estimated at $150 billion annually. It’s second only to drug trafficking.

Reports indicate 27 million slaves currently exist worldwide and up to 800,000 victims are trafficked in the U.S. annually.

Alabama is not immune with Birmingham being among the six hotspots for trafficking in the Southeast. In fact I-20 is called the “super highway for human trafficking in the United States” and I-85, I-10 and I-65 are other major corridors for trafficking.

The Alabama State House observed April 24 as Human Trafficking Awareness Day following a string of arrests in multiple Morgan and Madison County massage parlors in mid-April.

Legislation introduced

During a special news conference that day Rep. Merika Coleman (D-Birmingham) and Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur) introduced four bills aimed at combatting human trafficking.  

Three bills (HB 261, HB 262 and HB 264) passed out of committee unanimously. They all received their second readings on the House floor April 25 and are eligible for debate. HB 260 received a public hearing and was to be voted on by the committee May 1.  

HB 260 and HB 261 would mandate human trafficking training on victim identification and trauma-centered care for all health care professionals and new commercial drivers respectively.

HB 262 and HB 264 clarify existing law to ensure potential victims receive the most protection possible.

Reps. Coleman and Collins were joined at the news conference by more than 30 entities involved in combatting human trafficking.

All but traffickers oppose it

While human trafficking is not a new issue awareness has developed slowly, according to David Pinkleton of End It Alabama. 

“Unless you are the trafficker you are against human trafficking but there is still a lot of work to do to combat it,” he said.

The faith community has been a great help in the fight against trafficking, Pinkleton told The Alabama Baptist (TAB). 

To learn more about the issue and the new legislation listen to this week’s TAB News on iTunes or anywhere you get your podcasts. The podcast also is archived at www.thealabamabaptist.org/explore/podcasts. 

— 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