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A Generational Shift in Understanding Life with Down Syndrome
Theo Malekin writes in The Atlantic: “We were also lucky that the head of the pediatric intensive care unit where Hazel spent her first month of life had a positive outlook on children with Down Syndrome. I remember him telling us not to place limits on what she could do, his relief when it became clear we were committed to our daughter.”

Little Chick
Beautiful, beautiful love.

8 Steps to Bring Pastors out of Isolation
Paul Tautges summarizes a section of Paul Tripp’s book, Dangerous Calling.

A Working Class Manual on how to Reach the Middle Classes with the Gospel of Jesus
Have a painful laugh at yourself.

Mea Culpa: Learning from Mistakes in Ministry
Brian Croft: “Kyle McClellan came out of seminary celebrated as a most gifted man and was told by everyone in his life he would conquer the world for Jesus.  But pastoring four churches in ten years left Kyle beaten, battered, and asking all sorts of questions.  With a very blunt, transparency Kyle shares about his journey.”

Need a job? Invent it
Fascinating article by Thomas Friedman: “Because knowledge is available on every Internet-connected device, what you know matters far less than what you can do with what you know. The capacity to innovate — the ability to solve problems creatively or bring new possibilities to life — and skills like critical thinking, communication and collaboration are far more important than academic knowledge. As one executive told me, ‘We can teach new hires the content, and we will have to because it continues to change, but we can’t teach them how to think — to ask the right questions — and to take initiative.’” Related Forbes article here: Why your kid can’t get a job.

Your brain is plastic (and that’s good news)

For those of us who are temperamentally and instinctively on the more melancholic side of things, there’s good news. You can change your brain to think more positively and feel more cheerfully.

Until the 1970’s, most scientists believed that our brain structure and emotional makeup was primarily genetic and more or less set in stone, especially after teenage years. More recent research has demonstrated that we can actually change our brain structures and connections, improving our overall mood in the process.

A pill or surgery?
So how do we change our brains? Is there a pill, an operation, or a one-off intervention? No, we retrain our brains by multiple little daily decisions. That’s good news – and bad news.

It’s good news because it means we don’t need to do anything dramatic, expensive, or invasive.

The bad news is that it involves effort – disciplined and determined effort to increase the number of positive experiences in our everyday lives. These multiple, little, daily positives not only give us a quick squirt of happy emotions and improved performance but, as they become a habit, they raise our baseline happiness. Scientists call this neuroplasticity – yes, your brain is plastic and that’s actually a good thing – to convey how adaptable, flexible, and elastic our brains are.

New Pathways
Let me take you into the forest to explain. My kids love to cycle through the paths in the woods that back on to our yard. But every Spring the forest fights back and grows over the pathways. For a few weeks the kids slow right down, pushing away the leaves and branches that hang in the wrong place. They run over the fresh undergrowth rather gingerly, not wanting to take a heavy fall. But as the days and weeks pass, the branches and undergrowth submit to the repeated assaults and clear the way for our would-be X-games contestants to fly through the forest with the greatest of ease.

Something similar happens in our brains. We create electrical and chemical pathways with our thoughts. As we think our way down these pathways we strengthen the brain connections, As somebody put it, “cells that fire together, wire together.”  The more we travel these mental paths, the faster and easier these paths become, so that eventually our thoughts and resultant action feels automatic.  Harvard psychology professor and bestselling author, Shawn Achor, illustrates:

Just think of how you learned how to type at your computer. With practice it got easier as the pathways got more frequently used and the connections got stronger and faster. So much so that you can now type almost without thinking. Your thoughts and actions have re-shaped your brain roads. Through repetition, a good habit has become engrained and cemented in your brain structures and processes.

One of the most dramatic examples of this is a study of London cab drivers’ brains that showed they “had significantly larger hippocampi, the brain structure devoted to spatial memory, than the average person’s” [The Happiness Advantage, 28].

Renew your mind
I’m hugely encouraged by how this science confirms and explains Scripture. Through the Apostle Paul, God calls us to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom .12:2). Both science and Scripture agree, we can change our brains by retraining them, we can renew our minds, and thereby be transformed.

Although science and Scripture disagree, to some extent, in the details of how this takes place, this “plastic brain” or “mind renewal” possibility opens up tremendous opportunities for personal change, growth, and development. And for Christians, who have the additional resources of the Holy Spirit and Scripture, the potential for transformation is hugely multiplied.

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What Oxbridge can learn from Youtube
The complacent British educational establishment is in real danger of being left behind.

The New Televangelists
“We are not finished with the Televangelists, I’ve realized. We have simply rebranded them. We’ve changed the style but not the substance. When it comes to the habit of elevating certain gifted communicators, and trying desperately to be like them, little has changed”

A post in which I grovel on my knees and ask for help
Stephen Altrogge appeals for readers to review his book on Amazon. All authors want this, but few have the guts (and humility) to ask so directly.

Dear Abused, Remember Jesus
Paul Tautges invites victims of abuse to remember five precious truths about Jesus.

How nature resets our minds and bodies (HT: Joel Miller)

Time to stop hooking up (you know you want to)
Donna Freitas is the author of “The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture Is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Intimacy.”

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.

Jason Henry, a missionary in Mongolia, has very kindly collated and produced the second year of morning and evening readings in Word and pdf.

And here’s the first 12 months of the Morning or Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

Here’s an explanation of the plan.

And here are the daily Bible Studies gathered into individual Bible books. Further explanation of that here.

Old Testament

New Testament

May God bless you and your children as you study the Word of life.

Work, Life, and Guilt: An Interview

Recently one of my all-time favorite bloggers, Trillia Newbell, interviewed me about how to find the balance between work and life and how to deal with the guilt of our failures in that area. My answers are largely based upon learning from my failures in this area rather than any expertise! Her questions include:

  1. Have you ever had a busy season and felt guilty as it relates to time away from family?
  2. How do men in particularly reconcile the need for work and the need for family time? God calls us to work and yet also prioritize family—what are your thoughts?
  3. As a wife, I can’t help but desire for my husband to be encouraged. Though he does not struggle with guilt, I imagine others do. How would you encourage a man who works long hours trying to care for his family but struggles with guilt?
  4. What about a woman who is working outside the home? Would you advise her differently? If so, how? How do we encourage women who feel the pressure to work or work long hours, especially if she’d like to be home?
  5. Practically, what are ways that we can maximize our time that we do have with our kids and spouse when not working?
  6. Anything I might be missing? Gospel truths that might encourage?

You can read the whole interview here.

Weekend Check out

New book exposes the plight of persecuted Christians around the world

No, it actually is more blessed to give than to receive

7 Lessons from my year long spending fast (HT: Zach Neilsen)

5 Gay marriage myths

Unity in the local church

18 Reasons why doctors and lawyers homeschool their children

John Wesley’s Failed Marriage

The State of the Bible in 2013 [Infographic]

Why do (modern) Christians rarely talk about rewards in heaven?

Why should anyone write books?