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Practicing Intentional Gratitude As A Pathway To Joy (via Gavin Ortlund)

The really challenging seasons are those when you know nothing is wrong, but nothing feels right.
Gavin Ortlund writes about practising intentional gratitude as a pathway to restoring balance and experiencing joy.

There are things we have, and things we lack. Blessings and disappointments. And our default seems to be for the bad things, the disappointments, to get all of our focus. So we have to be intentional to focus on the blessings.
I’d been feeling pretty low in the season of life we were in, so I started giving this idea a try: practicing intentional gratitude as a pathway to joy.
I thought it would make a small difference: maybe a 2-5% bump in my emotional well-being on any given day.
Instead, I’d put it closer to 30-40%. Gratitude is powerful. Its easy to underestimate.

Read the whole post at Soliloquium.

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The Slave Driver Named Pettiness (via Mark Buchanan)

Mark Buchanan writes about the way in divisions in churches start small…

I don’t know what the Apostle Paul’s thorn in his side was. But I know one of mine: the will to be a slave to my own pettiness.
Sometimes entire churches fall prey to this temptation. Pettiness becomes their governing principle. Their ethos. The results aren’t so much disastrous as ridiculous: the church start making decisions and embracing practices that are blatantly self-serving, and they stop being the fragrance and presence of Christ. Which, actually, is a disaster.
A pastor friend of mind told me about an argument that erupted in his church. The issue? The “right” way to load toilet paper on a dispenser – over, or under? It was dividing the church. The board resolved the issue by installing two roles in each stall, one for each preference.
This is not a joke. It may be a caricature, but it’s not a joke: a church actually did this.
Most churches don’t descend quite to this level of silliness. Actually, often it’s worse: their pettiness is, not silly, but vicious. But all of us know of churches deeply damaged, and sometimes split, over squabbles about things that should never have even risen to the level of discussion. Someone should have had the wit and wisdom to dismiss the issue before it ever saw light of day. Simply, those of us called to be ambassadors of reconciliation should not squander a single breath on debating trivialities. We have better work to do.
I think the Apostle Paul may have been dealing with this issue in his letter to the Philippians – not toilet paper, but pettiness. Near the end of that letter, he addresses two women, Euodia and Syntyche, whose friendship had turned bitter. He pleads with them to resolve it, and for others in the church to help (Philippians 4:2-3).

Read the whole post here.

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“Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics” – (via David Cook)

Another post from David Cook, current Moderator-General of the Presbyterian Church Of Australia. This timely message encourages us not to fall into the trap of mistaking statistical increases for growth. I fall into the tendency to look not only at what blessings we have, but also how they measure against last year. There is a place to observe growth, but not if it causes us to feel we’re in a constant competition to better some previous measure of blessing:

From David:

Occasionally I watch Parliamentary Question Time and the truth of the above quote from Mark Twain impresses me again. Both sides of politics can use the same statistic and reach precisely opposite conclusions.

Having been a College Principal for 26 years, I know the power of statistics:

How many applicants do we have this year compared to this time last year?
How many graduates are going to serve overseas?
How much has been given compared to donations for the last five years, can we have a spreadsheet?
Every year may bring a new record number, but it is sobering to remember this year’s record is next year’s bigger challenge.

In business, this year must show an improvement on the last and this applies to the world of church attendance, offertory level and college intakes. The pressure for us can come from Councils, Boards, Sessions, Parish Councils, supporters and from within oneself. We all like to know we are part of a successful enterprise and the measure of success is the higher statistic.

But the real threat of the statistic is that it can drive us to compromise and underhandedness. How about a bingo night to raise more money for missions? How about cutting down on Bible readings and sermons to give a church a more contemporary feel and build up numbers in the congregation?

Every Bible College Principal knows that the pressure of the statistic may drive us to accept the student with little aptitude for ministry, for the sake of the statistic, the applicant is accepted and may well have a harmful influence in the College community and the ministry placement.

Beware of putting pressure on one another requiring new records every year.

How refreshing to hear of a College where applicants have been on the rise, yet enrolments on the decline, because proper standards are being adhered to.

We must resist statistical pressure at congregational level. We may willingly recruit the willing, simply because it’s been a long time since our church has sent anyone to College or to the mission field. The reality is we need more candidates but they must be of the right kind.

The letter to the Galatians teaches us, among other things, that not all missionaries are good missionaries, of those who came to Galatia from Jerusalem, Paul says, “I wish they would emasculate themselves” Galatians 5:12.

Statistics can be an indicator of healthy growth, but they may not be such an indicator.

All those in leadership and those who receive the leader’s report, need to recognise both the value and the danger of the statistic.

When it comes to Christian training Colleges, the most valuable statistic may be, what percentage of applicants to the College become students. One hundred percent may well be the most dangerous statistic of all.

David Cook.