This NYTimes article claims that will-power was never meant to be the force for change in our lives. Intellectual attempts at producing lasting transformation fall short are what science is proving over and over. We were wired, per the article, for relational and emotional forces to be that which shapes us. The three social emotions listed are pride, compassion, and gratitude. I am a bit leery of including pride in this list, but I wholeheartedly agree with the last two. If we want to produce lasting change in our lives it normally comes out of a heart overflowing with gratitude and compassion for others. For instance, I’m willing to make sacrifices and change for my children much more readily than simply for myself. And acknowledging the tremendous gifts I’ve been given helps keep me focused on the natural responsibility which wells up to give back and do for others. Again, I am more likely to follow through with something if others are going to benefit and are involved.
The writer doesn’t acknowledge it, but this is the heart of the Christian message of transformation. I’m convinced that belonging comes before believing. It is the relational aspects of faith where the Holy Spirit does great work. That is why it is so important to not only attend a church but to belong to a group of people with great regularity in attendance and sharing of yourself.
#2 – The Divide Between America’s Prosperous Cities and Struggling Small Towns
I don’t have much to add to this article. A striking reality that we are a divided country and often that divide stems from where we live.
#3 – “I doubt that there is such a thing as a measure of spirituality, but if there is, gratitude would be it.” from “The Pastor as Minor Poet: Texts and Subtexts in the Ministerial Life (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship Liturgical Studies)” by M. Craig Barnes
This quote goes well with #1 above. If there is one metric to measure our faith journey, I am with Barnes that it is gratitude. The level of gratitude in our lives points toward an inner realization of what we have received. Little gratitude indicates a self-dependence and an “I deserve” or “I earned” this mentality. Great gratitude shows the inner posture of humility stemming from the realization that all we have is a gift from God (often through grace bearers God places in our lives.
I also believe gratitude stems from a life well-examined. It’s not that we don’t want to be grateful, we often just rush to the next thing in life and don’t take the necessary time to reflect and allow the gratitude to swell. I added a gratitude reflection in my morning devotional routine exactly for this reason. Maybe that is something you would consider for 2018 too?