Joy

Practicing Gratitude: Grateful Heart, Grateful Life

By Diane Scallon

Did you know that practicing gratitude can rewire your brain? Yes, the brain, this amazing creation of God, can be rewired! Gratitude is a heart change that leads to behavioral change, ultimately improving your physical, mental, and spiritual health and even cultivating a delight for life.

A Neuroscience Lesson

Our brains are composed of many parts. The limbic system is responsible for our emotions. It consists of both the amygdala (looks like an almond) and the hippocampus (looks like a seahorse). Both of these regulate emotions, as well as other things like memory and body function. In addition to these beautiful parts of our brains working together on our emotions, the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin play vital roles as well. For example, when these are released, we tend to feel joyful. This happens both when we are practicing gratitude and receiving gratitude.

Let’s talk for a moment about the brain healing itself, a phenomenon called neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity—essentially, the brain’s ability to rewire itself by forming new neural connections—is involved when someone has to create new ways of functioning due to a brain injury or another health issue. The brain learns! When we practice gratitude, we train our brains to make new neural connections, leading to physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits.

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From the Archives – The Neglected Power of Christian Joy

Paul lists three great virtues, “faith, hope and love” in 1 Corinthians 13:13, yet he informs us that “love” is the greatest of the three. Two books of the Bible are devoted to the virtue of wisdom: Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. How can anyone underestimate the importance of wisdom in light of this? But the fruit of the Spirit (Gal.5:22-23) and the armor of God (Eph. 6:14-18) are two more examples of “virtue lists” found in God’s Word—and there are many more.

With all these virtue lists floating around, we can end up dizzy. What do I pursue: love, faith, holiness, graciousness, zeal, knowledge, joy, peace, goodness, gentleness, or self-control? The answer is “yes.” These attributes are complementary, but they can be examined individually. After examining them, we need to integrate them into the whole package of who we are. In a sense, being a balanced Christian means being a complete Christian; we attain balance by including all these virtues and excluding none. None of us attains this perfect balance; indeed, we probably cannot even agree as to what that perfect balance should be.

Jesus and joy

Jesus obviously lived out the perfect mixture of attributes for His calling as Messiah, but even that is not enough information for our lives. Jesus never addressed pesky salesmen on the phone, nor did He decide what options we should expect on our cell phones. Still, His character gives us the supreme example and starting point. One attribute Jesus cherished and repeatedly discussed is joy.

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“It might cheer you up to know there’s a good reason for Christians to be of good cheer”

"...there’s a phrase in the King James Bible I was looking at recently: 'Be of good cheer.' In Greek, it’s just a single word (θαρσεῖτε). But as our English language has changed, Bible translations have changed to keep up with accurately communicating the sense of this word. What does it mean? How is it used?" - Brent Niedergall

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What does the Thanksgiving season reveal about the human heart?

"If I foolishly assume that I’m a good person, then I’ll arrogantly assume that I’m a deserving person. I’ll place myself in the center of my world and live with an “I deserve” attitude. Because I live with such a sense of entitlement, I’ll develop an inflated and unrealistic sense of personal need." - Paul David Tripp

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Synchronized Sinners: Joy Is a Team Sport

Reposted from The Cripplegate.

The Olympic Games is a dignified affair. The athletes who are selected to compete represent the most physically and mentally dedicated, talented, and trained people on the planet. The various events serve to put on display the prowess, agility, strength, and determination required to perform at such an elite level of skill mastery. Which is why it is amusing to consider some of the odder sports to have snuck onto the roster for a time, only to expose their unsuitability for Olympic attention. 

In 1900, the Paris Olympic Games saw the inclusion of equestrian long jump where a horse named Extra Dry made a splash in the news by winning the world’s first and last Olympic long jump for horses with an underwhelming distance of 20 feet. To fully grasp how insignificant that achievement is you need to know that this is nearly 10 feet less than the world record held by a human. 

Another sport to make a short-lived appearance at the Olympic level, in 1906, was pistol dueling. You might think you know why pistol dueling would be short-lived, but I was surprised to learn that the downfall of the sport’s popularity was that the duel occurred between a contestant and a dummy with a target embroidered on its chest. Yes, the dueling opponent couldn’t shoot back. 

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