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Don’t Give Your Kid a Trophy for Losing
Trevin Wax with a shocking confession: “My son will play in soccer tournaments today. And I want him to win.”

Clear Winter Nights
And here’s Tim Challies with a positive review of Trevin’s latest book. I’m looking forward to reading this too in the next couple of weeks.

The Bible Motivates Us In Many Ways
Kevin DeYoung: “As important as justification is for the Christian, it’s not meant to be the only prescription in our pursuit of holiness.”

The Story of the Spirit from the Beginning to the End
Marc Cortez: “We’ve done a good job in recent years emphasizing that you can’t understand the story of Christ without the Old Testament, now it’s time to do the same for the Spirit.”

Hijacking Your Brain Back from Porn
John Piper has written an extremely important article on the body-soul connection in fighting sin.

Teenage Driving Safety Infographic
Teen Driving Safety

8 Ways Thankfulness Boosts Happiness

The world’s most prominent researcher and writer about gratitude, Robert Emmons, defines gratitude as “a felt sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life.” Emmons’ research found that people who are thankful in this way tend to be happier, more energetic, more optimistic, and more helpful, more sympathetic, and more forgiving. They are also less materialistic, less depressed, less anxious, and less jealous.

In one study, some participants were asked to write down five things for which they were thankful and to do so once a week for ten weeks in a row. Other groups were asked to list five problems that they had encountered in the week. The findings?

Relative to the control groups, those participants from whom expressions of gratitude were solicited tended to feel more optimistic and more satisfied with their lives. Even their health received a boost; they reported fewer physical symptoms (such as headache, acne, coughing, or nausea) and more time spent exercising (The How of Happiness, 91).

Sonja Lyubomirsky’s studies on patients with chronic illnesses have shown that “on the days that individuals strive to express their gratitude, they experience more positive emotions (that is, feelings like interest, excitement, joy, and pride) and are more likely to report helping someone, to feel connected with others, and even to catch more hours of quality sleep.”

Lyubomirsky’s team went on to discover eight reasons thankfulness is so directly related to happiness (pp. 92-95).

1. Grateful thinking promotes the savoring of positive life experiences
“By relishing and taking pleasure in some of the gifts of your life, you will be able to extract the maximum possible satisfaction and enjoyment from your current circumstances.”

2. Expressing gratitude increases confidence
“When you realize how much people have done for you or how much you have accomplished, you feel more confident and efficacious.”

3. Gratitude helps people cope with stress and trauma.
The ­ability to appreciate your life circumstances enable a person to positively reinterpret stressful or negative life experiences. Indeed, traumatic memories are less likely to surface–and are less intense when they do-in those who are regularly grateful. Expressing gratefulness during personal adversity like loss or chronic illness, as hard as that might be, can help you adjust, move on, and perhaps begin anew.

4. The expression of gratitude encourages moral behavior.
“Grateful people are more likely to help others (e.g., you become aware of kind and caring acts and feel compelled to reciprocate) and less likely to be materialistic (e.g., you appreciate what you have and become less fixated on acquiring more stuff).”

5. Gratitude can help build social bonds
It strengthens existing relationships and nurtures new ones. “Keeping a gratitude journal, for example, can produce feelings of greater connectedness with others. Several studies have shown that people who feel gratitude toward particular individuals (even when they never directly express it) experience closer and “higher-quality” relationships with them…In addition, a grateful person is a more positive person, and positive people are better liked by others and more likely to win friends.”

6. Gratitude tends to inhibit invidious comparisons with others
“If you are genuinely thankful and appreciative for what you have (e.g., family, health, home), you are less likely to pay close attention to or envy what the Joneses have.”

7. Gratitude is incompatible with negative emotions
“It may actually diminish or deter such feelings as anger, bitterness, and greed…It’s hard to feel guilty or resentful or infuriated when you’re feeling grateful.”

8. Gratitude helps us thwart hedonic adaptation
Although our capacity to adjust rapidly to any new circumstance or event helps us when the event is unpleasant, it’s a disadvantage when the event provides a positive boost. The practice of gratitude can counteract this adaptation and maintain fresh wonder and joy.

Or as someone else put it: “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High” (Ps. 92:1).

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Reformation Art
Reformation Day art sale. 50% off entire catalog.

College’s Identity Crisis
Frank Bruni surveys the ongoing tumult of the college education scene.

Conrad Mbewe’s son, Mwindula, with a tremendously helpful “confession” of envy, together with the “swap clean” remedy.

A Decent Proposal
Dr. Carl Ellis Jr. believes that universal health care is in line with the theistic core values of America, but he also sees the danger of failing to use the market to control prices. “Though I am by no means a healthcare professional, here is my humble proposal to make universal healthcare economically feasible.” It makes more sense than what our brightest and best in Washington have come up with.

Sometimes you Win, Sometimes you Learn
Michael Hyatt interviews John Maxwell about his new book.

The Northern Lights in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Extending the Marriage Boost Beyond Two Years

Happiness does not come automatically to anyone in any area of life. Because of sin our default is sadness, and that can only be overcome by intentional activity. As Benjamin Disraeli said, “There is no happiness without action.”

Take marriage for an example. A German study that followed 1,761 people for 15 years through their single years and into married life found that “people were no happier during the years after marriage than before marriage, and the average ‘marriage boost’ in happiness lasted for only two years.”

Markus and Roland
However, there were some significant differences in some people’s experiences of marriage. In The How of Happiness, researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky highlighted Markus and Roland, two participants who married while the study was going on.

Markus’s happiness increased more than average when he got hitched, and eight years later he is still happier being married (just declining a tiny bit from his high point) than when he was single. Roland, on the other hand, ended up less happy during the first two years of marriage and has become even less happy in the five years since (p. 65).

What made the difference? Lyubomirsky explains:

Markus didn’t want the effects of marriage to “wear off”; he didn’t want to adapt to the rewards of marriage and take it for granted. So he decided to dedicate himself to be the best husband he could be and not take his wife and their relationship for granted. He consciously remembers to say, “I love you,” to bring her flowers, to initiate plans, trips, and hobbies, to take an interest in his wife’s challenges, successes, and feelings (p. 65).

In contrast, Roland was disappointed at the outset that matrimony did not live up to his idealistic expectations and since then has failed to observe the slow and steady deterioration of his relationship.

Gradual Adaptation
Scientists have found that we tend to adapt to every positive change in our lives. Whether it’s marriage, a better job, a bigger house, a sports victory, etc., the initial boost of happiness and well-being fades and the better life becomes the new normal.

However, what Markus and Roland teach us is that although we usually adapt to happy improvements in our lives, we can inhibit or slow down the adaptation process with determined action.

For example, Markus “tried to inhibit adaptation to his marriage by actively and creatively behaving in ways that preserved his and his wife’s love and affection for each other,” a strategy that we can learn from in every area of life.

Newly-weds, beware of this danger, and take action to avoid it. Well-worn-weds, understand what’s happened, and take action to unadapt to one of God’s greatest gifts to you.  By God’s grace, a renewed and ever-renewing marriage can become the new normal.

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Productivity Habits
Scot McKnight looks at the productivity routines of famous creatives and then discusses his own habits.

Consider Jesus – The Savior Who Understand Abuse
Paul Tautges ministers to the abused through the Savior’s experience of abuse as predicted in Psalm 22.

Gerald Bray on Biblical Genealogies
What do the genealogies tell us about God?

Why I am a 6-Day Creationist
Ditto for myself.

How to humbly give and receive correction
Jon Bloom reaches back to Jethro and Moses to learn how to give and receive correction.

5 Stages of a Pastor’s Ministry
Thom Rainer: “For more than two decades I have studied, contemplated, and written about the tenure of a pastor. Why is pastoral tenure relatively brief on the average? Does that tenure contain common and distinct stages? Is there a particular point in the tenure when more pastors leave the church?”

Children’s Bible Reading Plan

This week’s morning and evening reading plan in Word and pdf.

This week’s single reading plan for morning or evening in Word and pdf.

If you want to start at the beginning, this is the first year of the children’s Morning and Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

The second year of morning and evening readings in Word and pdf.

The first 12 months of the Morning or Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

Here’s an explanation of the plan.

The daily Bible Studies gathered into individual Bible books.

Old Testament

New Testament