Why Three Seminars on Depression-Anxiety?

People and counselors debate how much responsibility or control people have over the emotional experiences of depression and anxiety.

Are depression and anxiety sin (i.e., the result of misplaced beliefs, wrongly prioritized values, and poor choices) or suffering (i.e., response to hardships and degenerative biology)? 

Too often these become either-or, all-or-nothing debates. In these tandem seminars we will look and how the gospel provides guidance and hope to individuals when their emotional experience is the result of suffering and when its rooted in personal responsibility.

In the process of exploring each those in attendance will learn how to “sort their emotional laundry” in order experience the peace and hope God offers for both sin and suffering.

OVERCOMING DEPRESSION-ANXIETY: A SUFFERING PARADIGM
Date: Saturday September 27
Time: 4:00 to 7:30 pm
Location: The Summit Church, Brier Creek South Venue
Address: 2415-107 Presidential Drive; Durham, NC 27703
Cost: Free
RSVP Here

TOWARDS A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE ON MENTAL ILLNESS
Date: Tuesday September 30
Time:  7:30 to 8:30 pm
Location: The Summit Church, Brier Creek South Venue
Address: 2415-107 Presidential Drive; Durham, NC 27703
Cost: Free
RSVP: Link will be posted at www.bradhambrick.com/events

OVERCOMING DEPRESSION-ANXIETY: A PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY PARADIGM
Date: Saturday October 18
Time: 4:00 to 7:30 pm
Location: The Summit Church, Brier Creek South Venue
Address: 2415-107 Presidential Drive; Durham, NC 27703
Cost: Free
RSVP: Link will be posted at www.bradhambrick.com/events

 Depression-Anxiety_Poster

Summit, SEBTS, & Bridgehaven Partner to Offer Biblical Counseling Certificate

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) is committed to providing more than excellent education for aspiring pastors. SEBTS also wants to be a part of equipping the entire church to become more excellent at their non-vocational ministries.

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This is the purpose of SEBTS’s certificate programs and why they are excited to forge this partnership.

Each one-week intensive qualifies you to receive one of seven credits necessary to receive a certificate in biblical counseling from SEBTS.

While everyone is welcome to attend all of the seminars for free, if you want certificate credit there is a cost of $236 for each credit and a one-time application fee of $30. These fees are paid to SEBTS for enrollment and course credit. You would begin the process earning a certificate by applying for admission at SEBTS.

The first two classes available in this one-week intensive partnership between Summit, SEBTS, and Bridgehaven are (seminar schedule available here):

  • Marriage and Pre-Marital Counseling (Fall 2014)
    • Foundations
    • Communication
    • Finances
    • Decision Making
    • Intimacy
  • Counseling Problematic Emotions(Spring 2015)
    • Anger
    • Anxiety
    • Depression
    • Grief
    • Identity in Christ

BRIDGEHAVEN’S ROLE

bridgehaven logo-b&w_sm“But what if I get in over my head? What if I learn of struggles that are larger than I feel equipped to handle?” These are the questions that often cause individuals and churches to shy away from these types of training.

Too often we fall into the trap of thinking, “If I can’t do everything, I won’t even do the parts that I can do.”  The result is people’s struggles become more overwhelming as their lives become more isolated.

The reality is, these struggles existed before you “discovered” them. People were just hurting in silence. Now there is hope, because a conversation has started.

Bridgehaven Counseling Associates is a parachurch, pastoral counseling center that exists for these occasions.

Bridgehaven provides clinically-informed biblical counseling and seminars, not to replace the caring relationships within the church, but to multiply their prevalence so people are more willing to be purposefully involved in one another’s lives.

EQUIPPING EVERY PERSON

Change that last impacts our day-to-day relationships. Our beliefs, values, and habits are constantly shaped and reinforced by those we call “friends.”

These seminars are designed to facilitate meaningful conversations about change with those you already know. Scripture is clear; our friends should be involved in our efforts to pursue the peace and hope God offers.

Galatians 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

While these materials can be used in more formal counseling contexts, their most wide-spread impact will be realized when they are used to facilitate intentional friendships and mentoring relationships.

Each seminar is comprised of five to nine segments and comes with a study guide to facilitate discipleship or mentoring relationships. Videos and study guide request forms for these seminars can be accessed here.

Tweets of the Week 8.19.14

There is great value in saying something in a memorable, concise manner. Twitter has caused us to make this a near spiritual discipline. For my own growth (as a generally verbose individual… that’s a long way of saying “wordy”) and for the benefit of others, I highlight tweets each week that deliver a big message in a few words.

#ManTrip5: A Lone Star Father-Son Adventure

One of the things I have found most satisfying as a parent is setting aside time each year for a memorable trip with my two sons. In previous posts I have discussed

(1)   the kindergarten right of passage trip I took with my first son,
(2)   a trip we took when he was especially discouraged at school,
(3)   the kindergarten right of passage with my youngest son, and
(4)   the first before-school-starts joint trip we took as this tradition took on life.

In this post I want to reflect on our latest special trip (last week), now known as “Man Trips.”

Note: I realized language was becoming more important when I slipped and called a donut trip a “daddy date” and was corrected by my son. Now we exclusively call these “donut adventures” and the naming of other outings follow suit.

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As we drove on the first night of our trip I asked the boys if they knew why we took these trips. They could quickly give me three of the four reasons we do these.

  1. You love to spend time with us.” It was good to hear them say this first and without hesitation.
  2. You want to instill a sense of adventure so we won’t be afraid of new things.” We talk about this frequently as we brainstorm potential trips. I do not want my boys to back away from anything God would call them to do because of fear. They enjoy thinking up possibilities. Right now deep sea fishing is the leading candidate for our next trip.
  3. You want our family to be an example of others.” If I am going to encourage them to be more of an influence on their friends than their friends are on them, then I think it important for them to know the things that I am doing to serve as a positive influence in my relationships.[1]
  4. You want to set the tone for each new stage of our life” (the one they, understandably, couldn’t verbalize). At this point, they know I plan to take an individual trip with each of them before they start kindergarten, middle school, high school, and college; and take trips with the three of us on the other years. Beyond that I’m not sure they understand “stages or seasons of life.”

This was encouraging to me. They didn’t just know our itinerary of fun; they knew why we had set aside this time. They even gave the answers in the order I would want them to weigh them.

My strategy for these trips has remained pretty consistent:

  • Have enough fun that the boys will always remember the trip and don’t realize I’m trying to shape their character.
  • Do at least one thing that they find moderately frightening (so far: camp in the woods, climb a mountain, ride down a waterfall, and – this time – fly on a plane).
  • Have a couple of key lessons to instill which we talk about at key points on the trip

This time the key lessons revolved around the theme of “life as quest: an introduction to God’s will for elementary school age kids.” We unpacked this in three conversations:

(1)   Reviewing what the gospel is and what they need to do with it.

A. Understand the key truths of the gospel summarized in the phrase “Jesus in my place.”
B. Believe the gospel as being necessary for them personally.
C. Publicly live out the gospel beginning with baptism.

(2)   Study Ephesians 2:1-10 to tie the first and third conversation together.

A. We discussed verses 1 through 9 to recap the conversation from the night before.
B. Then, after a little explanation of verse 10, I asked them to think about how they would discover what God created them to do as a teaser for the next night’s discussion.

(3)   Discussing what they can do to discover God’s will at their age.

A. Be willing to try new things to find out what they’re passionate about and good at.
B. Expect that God will use them to change the world around them.
C. Guard their character as what is most important in any situation.
D. Make sure their closest, trusted friends are people who seek to honor God.

Right now I believe both of my boys understand the gospel (1A). They’ve both told me about conversations they’ve had with friends at school about the gospel and were pretty clear in how they described it.

But my youngest does not yet sense the weight of his need for the gospel to fully grasp why believing the gospel is vital, rather than merely “a good thing good boys do” (1B). And my oldest son is wrestling with the idea of publicly displaying his faith through baptism (1C). In our conversations I wanted to gauge again where they were and help orient them to what the “next step” would be for them individually.

Here are a few of my other reflections on this trip. I won’t rewrite things that I mentioned in previous posts about these trips (you can read those in the links above; I review those posts before each trip).

  • By the term “Man trip” I am not capitulating to a particular stereotype of masculinity. Even with the theme of adventure, I am more seeking to eliminate fear-motivated passivity than force them into the mold of a medieval knight. My goal is that when my boys wonder, “What does it mean to be a man?” and “Am I a man?” I, as their father, will be the primary voice that comes to mind and their friends daring them into juvenile or dangerous activities that often are counterfeit entryways into manhood will not.
  • I could tell these trips were beginning to affect the identity of my boys because they wanted to recreate scenes from previous trips; seemingly little things like getting a ball uniform for their stuffed animals or getting Outback cheese-fries and taking them back to our room on the last night. The strong desire to repeat these events indicated they were memories that were taking root and becoming part of their story.
  • My youngest went from being afraid to fly (i.e., for a few months I was afraid his aversion to flying would ruin the trip) to saying he wanted to fly over the ocean. I’m not predicting he will be a missionary, but at least he’s looking for a reason to go overseas.
  • Each “man trip” gives my wife a stay-cation. After keeping up with the boys all-day, everyday for the better part of a week I have a renewed appreciation for how valuable that would be. Giving her this time to rest and be off-duty is a valuable part of this investment for me.
  • The value of several days of uninterrupted time with my boys cannot be over-stated. Being a father who works full time it is so easy to become an event-oriented father. Even when it’s not coaching their sports teams, the increments I am available (i.e., couple of hours in the afternoon, Saturday, and Sunday afternoon) can begin to feel very event-ish. There is just a different style of relating with uninterrupted time.
  • I do minimal reading on these trips, because there is little time. I did read a few chapters of Live Like a Narnian by Joe Rigney on the plane. I would heartily recommend the book and anticipate as my boys reach a middle school reading level we’ll go through this together; drawing upon our years of listening to Narnia at bed time and identify some of the gospel lessons in the characters Lewis developed in the Chronicles.
  • I think reading in from of my boys is important but it is something I seldom do. I’ve heard it said, “If you want to teach your children to love to read the Bible, first you have to teach them to learn to love to read.” I believe there is merit in this statement. Having them see me read a “non-nerd” book with the emblem of a red lion on the cover (something that would interest them) I hope is a step in that direction.

The itinerary for this trip was a little more robust than most (if you care to see picture, click here). My missions travel and the boys visiting grandparents meant that #ManTrip5 became our summer family vacation. Whether long or short, this is a tradition I would strongly encourage every father to pursue in some form. The boys and I come home from every one of them thinking about what we’ll do on the next one.

 

[1] If they began to feel pressured to live up to a certain standard because of this purpose, then I would not verbalize it. But at this season, from what I can tell, they appreciate that we intentionally do things together that they realize their friends would want their fathers to with them. This objective is seen as a “perk” of living intentionally; not a burden to have to carry.

How to Find Joy “In” Suffering

When Scripture indicates that Christians should be able to rejoice in their suffering (Rom. 5:3-5) because of the hope we have in the gospel, it can be difficult to accept. Some try to make the teaching more palatable by offering a variant definition of “joy;” others try to promise that the outcomes of how God redeems suffering will be so significant the pleasure will be greater than the pain.

There are times when either approach can be accurate and helpful. Yes, there are times when our expectations of happiness are so temporal that we need to be challenged. And, there are also times when God does amazing things in our hardships which we would never change.

But these two options, by themselves, seem incomplete. I would like to offer a third possibility through a metaphor emphasizing the word “in.”

misty-rainbow-diane-greco-lesserThere is a rainbow “in” every drop of water. When light passes through a water droplet a full spectrum of colors are revealed. Depending on the source of light, shape of the water, and location of the surface on which the rainbow appears different variants of colors show up. The full ROY G BIV spectrum is there, but the thickness of each color varies.

Here is how the metaphor plays out:

  • Water represents the suffering we experience.
  • Light represents the redemptive work / truth of God.
  • Colors represent the various religious affections that can be demonstrated; for the purposes of this blog, the expectation that we should experience joy.

Joy is not the only “color” that can express faith (light) in hardship (water). There is also courage, hope, honesty, authenticity, love, etc… Too often in these suffering-joy discussions we get hung up on one color in the rainbow. There are times; perhaps frequently in the early stages of suffering, when “joy” may be the skinny color in the rainbow.

Consider, “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted (Matt. 5:4).” In this case the dominant color of faith is authenticity – being vulnerable about the nature of one’s loss. God’s light takes the form of comfort in this context of loss. The result is the capacity for joy, a very skinny color in the immediate moment, is a slowly returned as precious memories you loved one can be savored again.

The reality is that various forms of suffering (water – pure, salted, colored) will produce different emotional experiences. How God cares for and speaks to each of these situations will be different (light – sun, florescent, colored). In return the emotional form our faith takes (color – full emotional spectrum) will be different and may initially be “dark” or “dull” colors.

But the promise is, as we cooperate with God’s redemptive work in the midst of our suffering, the “joy color” will be restored to our emotional experience. Suffering cannot remove the capacity for joy from our experience.

God does not call us to be emotionally fake – the equivalent of adding food coloring to the water to force the “appropriate-Christian” color change. Instead, God calls us to trust him that the capacity for joy is not removed from our life by the pollution of suffering.

While I know this is stretching the metaphor even further, I believe it is another important point to be made, sometimes God restores the capacity for joy by wiping away the droplet in the form of a tear and collecting it as a tender treasure (Psalm 56:8). God often choose tenderness as his “light,” even more than explanation, as the way he restores our capacity for joy.

Any post built on metaphors runs the risk of being as confusing as clarifying. My attempt has been to help those who are suffering see that God does not expect you to force a pleasant emotion on these experiences. God can comfort you in this moment and still bring forth the “color of joy” in the experience while honoring the genuine emotional turmoil of your suffering.

Biblical Whining

no-whining-sign-2I cannot tell you how many folks come in and start a counseling session by saying, “I don’t want to come in and just be a whiner,” or “I feel like I am just whining about my circumstances.”  Then they begin to talk about legitimately challenging situations in an awkward tone of embarrassment. When they are finished they apologize again.

This strikes me as odd. First, why would people schedule a counseling appointment and then apologize for discussing their struggles? I don’t think I apologize to my doctor when I am sick. Although I did when  I got a bad case of poison ivy while doing something stupid, but that’s another story for another post and I should have apologized to my wife not my doctor.

I fear that the answer to this first question is rooted in how disinterested and detached our culture and (too often) our churches have become. This leads me to my second question.

Second, why do we feel like discussing our struggles is whining? By this definition of whining large portions of the Bible would have never been written.

  • Job would have been gutted
  • Psalms, which discuss suffering, would be omitted
  • Proverbs would not contain many verses on getting counsel or listening to others
  • Ecclesiastes would be unnecessary
  • Lamentations would be unbearable
  • Paul would have had little information to trigger the writing of his letters
  • James would have never known of the suffering of the dispersed Christians
  • I Peter would also be missing

Consider Galatians 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” The implication of this verse is that if we are not bearing one another’s burdens, then we are not fulfilling the law of Christ (strong charge!). This requires knowing each other’s struggles.

A quick definition of bad, unbiblical whining – sharing a problem, not wanting another perspective on the issue, with no intention of doing anything differently, hoping the other person will fix it for you or just be miserable with you.

My burden is that this is NOT what the people in my office are doing, but they still feel like they have to apologize for sharing their burden. This is wrong! Many of our struggles become so intense because we do not share them with others while those struggles are more manageable. By the point of sharing, they may be so overwhelmed that they either only feel like whining or need the help of a well-trained counselor.

THE POINT: The Bible does not expect change to occur in isolation or privately. Actually, the Bible seems to assume that the more private we keep our struggles (both sin and suffering) the more intense our struggles will become. Therefore, let us “whine” like the Bible models. Let us discuss our struggles within our community of faith seeking hope, encouragement, and direction from those God has given us to share life with.

Tweets of the Week 8.12.14

There is great value in saying something in a memorable, concise manner. Twitter has caused us to make this a near spiritual discipline. For my own growth (as a generally verbose individual… that’s a long way of saying “wordy”) and for the benefit of others, I highlight tweets each week that deliver a big message in a few words.

7 Marks of Enduring Accountability Relationships

Accountability is not just for life-dominating struggles. It is part of God’s definition of “healthy.” People who do not have relationships in which they are honest about their struggles, seeking accountability and encouragement are people who are becoming “unhealthy.”

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The seven points below are meant to guide you in the kind of relationships you that facilitate this component of healthy relationships and rationales for why small groups are a natural place to forge these kinds of relationships.

  1. Voluntary – Accountability is not something you have (a noun); it is something you do (an active tense verb). You must disclose in order to benefit from the relationship. If you rely on the other person to “ask the magic question” or “just know” what is wrong, you are sabotaging the opportunity for accountability.
  2. Trusted – The other person(s) is someone you trust, admire their character, and believe has good judgment. Part of the reason many of us react negatively to the idea of accountability is that we have not gotten to know people well enough to build the trust that facilitates this kind of relationship. Small group provides the time and space necessary for trust to grow.
  3. Mutual – Relationships that are one-sided tend to be short-lived. In the small group you will hear the weaknesses and struggles of others as you share your own. You will help carry their burdens as they help carry your burdens (Gal. 6:1-2).
  4. Scheduled – Accountability that is not scheduled tends to fade; even when we have the best of intentions. This is why small groups that meet on a weekly basis are an ideal place for accountability to occur. Everyone knows when to meet and has a shared expectation for how the accountability conversations will begin.
  5. Relational – Spiritual growth is a lifestyle not an event. This means that we invite accountability to be a part of our regular conversations not just something that we do at a weekly meeting. It should mean that there are times when we are doing accountability and don’t realize it.
    • Caring for people and wanting to know how they’re doing with things they asked you to pray for is a form of accountability.
    • Hanging out together, casually hearing about life challenges, and offering advise / encouragement is a form of accountability.
    • Getting lunch and remembering to ask about an area of struggle is a form of accountability
  6. Comprehensive – Accountability that exclusively fixates on one subject tends to become repetitive and fade. It also tends to reduce “success” to trusting God in a single area of life.
  7. Encouraging – Too often the word “accountability” carries the connotation of “sin hunt.” When that is the case accountability is only perceived to be “working” when it is negative (i.e., it catches the particular sin in question). However, accountability that lasts should celebrate growth in character as fervently as it works on slips in character.

The key questions to ask yourself now are:

  • Who are the people in my life with whom I do or could have this kind of relationship?
  • Which of these characteristics are strongest in our relationship?
  • Which of these characteristics would require intentionality for fortify a weakness?
  • Am I willing to take the next step to begin or improve my accountability relationships?

Brief Video Sample from New GriefShare Curriculum

This video was created by GriefShare to allow you to get to know each of their new contributors more personally and gain a better understanding of the resource they provide.

I am excited to have contributed to the new GriefShare curriculum and hope this post allows my readers to become familiar with this and other excellent resources from Church Initiative.

GriefShare Expert Brad Hambrick from Church Initiative on Vimeo.

 

Counseling Triage: Where to Begin with Complex Struggles

triageIn life and counseling, finding the starting point can be difficult. Life is fluid enough that identifying where to begin with a life-dominating or complex struggle can feel like finding the beginning of a circle. In order to help you with this very important question, a five-level triage progression is outlined below.

A struggle in one of the higher categories may have many expressions or contributing causes in the lower categories. For example, someone who is suicidal (level one – safety concern) may need to learn to manage their finances better (level five – skill concern) because pending bankruptcy fuels their sense of hopelessness.

However, unless the upper level concerns are addressed first, efforts at change have a low probability of lasting success. The individual above needs to be stabilized before they would be able to implement a budget or debt-reduction plan. Similarly, a person with a substance abuse problem (level two – addiction concern) may have anger management issues (level four – character concern), but until the abuse of a mind-mood altering substance is removed attempts at learning emotional regulation and how to honor others in times of disappointment will be short-lived.

This is why the higher concerns are recommended to be addressed first and significant progress to be made in those areas before beginning to focus on the lower level concerns.

One final point before we examine five levels of triage. In the higher categories denial is likely to be stronger complicating factor. For example: abusers (level one), addicts (level two), and those who have been traumatized (level three) are very prone to deny or minimize the impact of their struggle. The benefit of this tool is that it provides a reasonable system to appeal to in order help these individuals see why it is not sufficient to just “be nicer” (level four) and learn to “do better” (level five).

1. Safety

When the basic requirements of safety are not present, then safety takes priority over any other concern. Safety is never an “unfair expectation” from a relationship. If safety is a concern, then you should immediately involve other people (i.e., pastor, counselor, or legal authorities).

This category includes: thoughts of suicide, violence, threats of violence (to people or pets), preventing someone from moving freely in their home, destruction of property, manipulation, coercion, and similar practices.

 2. Substance Abuse / Addiction

After safety, the use of mind or mood altering substances is the next level of priority concern. Substance abuse makes an individual’s life situation worse and inhibits any maturation process. The consistency and stability required for lasting change are disrupted by substance abuse.

This category includes: alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription drug not used according to instructions, inhalants, driving any vehicle with any impairment for any distance, and similar activities.

3. Trauma

Past or present events resulting in nightmares, sleeplessness, flashbacks, sense of helplessness, restricted emotional expression, difficulty concentrating, high levels of anxiety, intense feelings of shame, or a strong desire to isolate should be dealt with before trying to refine matters of character or skill. Trauma is a form of suffering that negatively shapes someone’s sense of identity and causes them to begin to constantly expect or brace against the worst.

This category includes: any physical or sexual abuse, significant verbal or emotional abuse, exposure to an act of violence, experience of a disaster, a major loss, or similar experience.

4. Character

This refers to persistent dispositions that express themselves in a variety of ways in a variety of settings. Because both the “trigger” and manifestation change regularly and hide when convenient, it is clear that the struggle lies within the core values, beliefs, and priorities of the individual. Skill training alone will not change character.

This category includes: anger, bitterness, fear, greed, jealousy, obsessions, hoarding, envy, laziness, selfishness, pornography, codependency, depression, social anxiety, insecurity, and similar dispositions.

5. Skill

With skill level changes there will usually be a high degree of self-awareness that change is needed in the moment when change is needed. However, confusion or uncertainty prevents an individual from being able to respond in a manner that it is wise and appropriate.

This category includes: conflict resolution, time management, budgeting, planning, and similar skills.

Hopefully, after reading these five points, you will have less of a “jump in anywhere and try anything” mentality towards your struggles or those of your friends. Change is hard but knowing where to starts helps to establish confidence. Remember, you are not alone. Christ will meet you and the church will walk with you at any of these five points.

 

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