Vol. 4 Issue 47 | November 21, 2018

Enjoy this week’s early, shorter newsletter before you enjoy your family and good food this weekend! We’ll be back next week with our regular emails.

Thankfulness vs. Gratitude

We love Thanksgiving but it comes with its own challenges. Every year, we go around the table telling each other and God the things, experiences, and people we’re thankful for. It’s a moment that perhaps satisfies us, at least for awhile. But that moment is usually eclipsed rather quickly by stuffing ourselves to the brim with food, taking advantage of as many Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals as possible, and eventually opening present after present by the Christmas tree. And after that, the humdrum of normal life after the exciting holidays, combined with the short days and cold weather, can be so depressing, it’s hard to even recall that we had something to be grateful for at all.

If you or your loved ones find yourself in this tension, this could be a great year to consider being grateful instead of merely thankful.

Merriam Webster defines thankful as “conscious of benefit received,” whereas it defines grateful as “appreciative of benefit received.” While those definitions hardly seem different, the posture can make a world of difference.

Being conscious of blessings is, in theory, easy. All it takes is recognizing on some level that we are the beneficiaries of abundance. It’s simply a reaction to external circumstances. But being appreciative takes more work. It requires not simply acknowledging something, but recognizing the full worth of it. It’s a habit we have to cultivate because it requires a change in attitude: “Oh, something nice happened, and I’m grateful for it.” We might thank someone for, say, holding a door open for us almost by rote, but feeling the weight of what they’ve done in our hearts and souls is what makes us truly grateful.

As much as we’d all like to think we haven’t succumbed to our consumeristic, individualistic, “more is more” society, it infiltrates all of us to one degree or another if we don’t actively resist it. So this year, add active resistance to the weekend’s itinerary. Talk to your family, then together come up with ideas for cultivating true gratefulness that will last beyond the holiday season.

P.S. We’re hiring!

Do you know any young adults who may be interested in joining our live speaking teams? We have two apprenticeship spots opening in January 2019.

Our Apprenticeship Program is designed to expose young adults to public speaking situations, non-profit-ministry-related responsibilities, student mentorship interactions, and team-centric ministry. We’re looking for people who have completed at least two years of college credit and are passionate about discipling teens and resourcing adults.

If you know anyone in your community who may be interested, send them to apply.axis.org for more info and shoot any questions to apprenticeship@axis.org.


A broader look at the world that teens inhabit.
Skim our summary or click the links to read more.
Engage your teens in conversation about their world.



1. Turns out, notifications affect attention span. Who knew? In the least surprising discovery about our phones ever, a reporter found that phone notifications distracted him. And that turning them off was a joy. He experimented by first turning on all of his notifications for all of his apps. Unsurprisingly, it was miserable. But he did gain some interesting insights.“Weeks of this nonsense wears on you, and through the experiment one thing became abundantly clear: The off days, when notifications were on zero, were a true blessing. They provided not only a relief but also a whole new outlook on life.” “The idea of an ‘attention economy’ is a freakish perversion and the notification itself an assault on humanity.” His final thoughts after the experiment? “Do yourself a favor: Turn all of your notifications down to the bare minimum for a week and see if it improves your attention span and, by extension, your entire self.”


2. Have we ever stopped to consider what role our social media culture plays in affecting some of our favorite places? What we mean is, do we have any responsibility to not share something on social media in order to protect a physical place from being overrun by Instagram-posting “influencers” looking to get a picture at the latest cool spot? Insta-tourists can cause problems for everything from restaurants to natural habitats. Do your teens think they have any responsibility about what they post in regards to how it might affect a place?

Pop Culture


3. And that’s the end! Wait, no it isn’t. Do stories have endings anymore? One writer argues that they do not. We only have sequels of sequels. Or prequels of sequels of sequels. It’s kind of confusing, isn’t it? The writer argues it limits a story’s ability to teach us about ourselves. Not only that, but the lack of ending in our stories is extending into a lack of closure everywhere! News never stops, social media feeds are infinite, TV shows run for 15(!!) seasons. How do your teens feel about the lack of definite endings? Do they see it as a lack of creativity, or does it point to a deeper cultural breakdown of knowing how to cease and truly rest?

Social media

4. Now that so-called nanoinfluencers exist, almost everyone on Instagram can be looking for a way to gain a few followers and promote stuff. What’s a good way to gain followers? Have the right “aesthetic.” How can you get that? With preset Adobe Lightroom filters. So what’s a better way to make money on Instagram than being an influencer? Making filters for influencers to buy! Have your teens seen filter packs for sale on Instagram? Do they think they’re a great way to define their style and add a distinct look to their photos? Or do they think they’re bogus and copycatish?

Teen Culture

Positive Things

5. Knock knock. Who’s there? Opportunity. Finally!! A bookstore’s tweet went viral after they announced that a copy of a children’s book had finally been sold after 27 years. Why does it matter for teens? It’s a good reminder that sometimes things take time to happen. With lists like 20 under 20 and 30 under 30, today’s young people face tremendous pressure to be the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg, making millions or even billions of dollars before they even have a family. But there are just as many others who didn’t become successful until much later in life. Being a teen is hard enough as it is, feeling like you have to achieve something great can be overwhelming. Help them give themselves a break from the pressure by rewriting their expectations about when things are supposed to happen.

Tip of the week

6. Snowballs. They’re a handy thing to have around if you need to put out a fire and you don’t have a fire truck handy. But seriously, what we really want to say is how grateful we are to you as our subscribers. So we tucked a little message into this issue. (Hint: It’s the first letter of each insight.) Have a Happy Thanksgiving!


Keep the Faith!

The Axis Team

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