Friday, November 20, 2009

The Power of Gratitude

Robert Emmons, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, and psychology professor Michael McCullough of the University of Miami, have long been interested in the role gratitude plays in physical and emotional well being. They took three groups of volunteers and randomly assigned them to focus on one of three things each week: hassles, things for which they were grateful, and ordinary life events.

The first group concentrated on everything that went wrong or that irritated them. The second group honed in on situations they felt enhanced their lives, such as, "My boyfriend is so kind and caring—I'm lucky to have him." The third group recalled recent everyday events, such as, "I went shoe shopping."

The results: The people who focused on gratitude were happier. They saw their lives in favorable terms. They reported fewer negative physical symptoms such as headaches or colds, and they were active in many ways that were good for them. Those who were grateful quite simply enjoyed a higher quality of life.

Emmons was surprised. "This is not just something that makes people happy, like a positive-thinking/optimism kind of thing. A feeling of gratitude really gets people to do something, to become more pro-social, more compassionate." Such was not the case in either of the other two groups.

In 1 Thessalonians 5: 17-18, we have a wonderful little triplet: Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. The Apostle Paul seems to think we can be thankful despite the challenges. We can't always be "happy"; but we can always choose to be thankful and joyful whatever the circumstances. This is God's will for us.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Reformed Worship

In part, Reformed worship comes from an Augustinian understanding of salvation and God's irresistible grace. Left to ourselves, Augustine believed that humans do not possess the moral capacity to willingly and freely seek after God. Our natural inclination is to see after what we find pleasing in our own eyes. We accept this portrayal of our condition as accurate and biblical. We were without God and hope in this world, but now through Christ Jesus, we who were once far off, have been brought near through the blood of Jesus Ephesians 2: 12-13. Furthermore, the hallmark of Reformed worship is the appeal to the authority of the bible over Church tradition. Ultimately, we worship not for mutual edification but to give glory to God. Worship, in this tradition is not for our good, tastes, likes, dislikes, styles of music, but for God and God alone Psalm 115:1.

The following is Augustine's prayer after being lost in sin and then found by God. Don't miss his ardent focus on loving God!

"Too late have I loved you, O Beauty so ancient, O Beauty so new. Too late have I loved you! You were within me but I was outside myself, and there I sought you! In my weakness I ran after the beauty of the things you have made. You were with me, and I was not with you. The things you have made kept me from you - the things which would have no being unless they existed in you! You have called, you have cried, and you have pierced my deafness. You have radiated forth, you have shined out brightly, and you have dispelled my blindness. You have sent forth your fragrance, and I have breathed it in, and I long for you. I have tasted you, and I hunger and thirst for you. You have touched me, and I ardently desire your peace."

St Augustine, Bishop, Writer, Doctor

Our chief work

As you prepare yourself to worship God this Sunday and everyday, I offer to you the insightful words of Augustine of Hippo. May the thought of worshipping God as your highest calling fill each heart with unspeakable joy!

"Your chief work is to praise God. And He in turn will satisfy your deepest desires by his beauty, inspiring you to praise him with ever greater devotion. If you dislike priaing God, and find excuses for aoiding it, it is becuase you love yourself too much. Be dissatisfied with yourself. Seek satisfaction in him who made you, and only then find satisfaction in yourself as part of his creation".
Augustine 354-430
Select Readings by Robert Van De Weyer

Friday, November 6, 2009

What Would Jesus Do?

What Would Jesus Do?

A movie worth seeing

Some of you know that I enjoy watching movies that are engaging and push me to think about life, faith and culture.

Inspired by a true story, The Blind Side, depicts the life of 15 year old Michael Oher (pronounced oar), abandoned by his crack-addicted parents, seemed doomed to a life of imminent destruction, but was rescued and adopted by a wealthy, white, solidly evangelical family, played by Sandra Bullock

I plan to see this movie when it comes out November 20 because it addresses issues that matter to me: race, adoption, faith in action, rich Christians in an age of hunger, compassion, and the difference caring Christians can make in a troubled, broken world.

Sandra Bullock, who played the role of Leigh Anne Touhy, shared her concerns about Christian people:
One of my biggest issues has always been people who use their faith and their religion as a banner but don't do the right things, yet still go, 'I'm a good Christian and I go to church and this is the way you should live your life,'" said Bullock. "And I'm like, you know, do not give me a lecture about how to live my life when you go to church every week but I know you are still sneaking around on your wife. And I told Leigh Anne in a live interview, one of my largest concerns getting involved with this project was that whole banner-waving thing because it scares me, and I've had experiences that haven't been great with people like that. I don't buy a lot of people who use that banner as their shield. But she was so open and honest and forthright with me I thought, wow, I've finally met someone who practices but doesn't preach."

Bullock's next comment suggested that the Touhy's newfound fame has provided them fresh opportunities to impact others with the hope that they have. "I now have faith in those who say they represent a faith," Bullock commented. "I finally met people who walk the walk."

To read the rest of the article go here

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Trusting in the Lord or trusting in self?

On Sunday, I have the privilege of leading our congregation in an exposition of Psalm 115: 1-18. I am calling the message, "Trusting in the Lord." During my reading I found this wonderful quote from Lloyd Ogilve in 12 Steps to living without fear.

"Our need to be in charge of ourselves, others, and situations often makes our relationship with Christ life's biggest power struggle. We are reluctant to relinquish our control and allow Him to run our lives. We may believe in Him and be active in the church and Christian causes, but trusting Him as Lord of everything in life can be scary.

Even though we pray about our challenges and problems, all too often what we really want is strength to accomplish what we've already decided is best for ourselves and others. Meanwhile we press on with our own priorities and plans. We remain the script writer, casting director, choreographer, and producer of the drama of our own lives, in which we are the star performer."

Monday, November 2, 2009

Count it all Joy

I have a friend who radiates joy, not because his life is easy, but because he habitually recognizes God's presence in the midst of all human suffering, his own as well as others'. ... My friend's joy is contagious. The more I am with him, the more I catch glimpses of the sun shining through the clouds. Yes, I know there is a sun, even though the skies are covered with clouds. While my friend always spoke about the sun, I kept speaking about the clouds, until one day I realized that it was the sun that allowed me to see the clouds.

Those who keep speaking about the sun while walking under a cloudy sky are messengers of hope, the true saints of our day.

Henri J. Nouwen in Here and Now: Living in the Spirit.