Psalm 88 Sermon Follow Up: “Will Life Ever Get Better?”

QE-1This post is meant to offer guidance to common “What now?” questions that could emerge from Pastor J.D.’s sermon on Psalms 88 and 89 entitled “Will Life Ever Get Better?” preached at The Summit Church Saturday/Sunday August 30-31, 2014.

“Psalm 88 gives us hope in our grief precisely because it has no hope in it! It means that God understands the darkness we face. He is right there in it with us, “an ever-present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1). The Lord of light is your friend in darkness. The Lord of life stands beside you in death. The Lord of hope is your companion in your despair. The Prince of Peace supports you when no peace can be found. The God of all comfort waits faithfully near you. The Source of all joy is close by when death has robbed you of joy (p. 5).” Paul Tripp in Grief: Finding Hope Again

Romans 8:28 Blogs

In his message, Pastor J.D. mentioned two blog posts where I’ve reflected on Romans 8:28 in light of the experience of suffering.

Praying Psalms

Pastor JD also mentioned the practice of personalizing Psalms as a way of praying God’s word. Here are several samples to help you with this practice.

Depression-Anxiety Seminars

Another good follow up to this message would be upcoming seminars on depression-anxiety. These seminars will go into more detail about how to rely on the gospel for hope and peace during dark and painful seasons of life.

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
Sam James Institute Forum

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

For the various counseling options available from this material visit www.summitrdu.com/counseling.

Depression-Anxiety Daily Symptom Chart

This post is an excerpt from the study guide which accompanies the “Overcoming Depression-Anxiety: A Suffering Paradigm” seminar. This portion is one tool from “ACKNOWLEDGE the Specific History and Realness of My Suffering.” To RSVP for this and other Summit counseling seminars visit bradhambrick.com/events.

Identifying the types of anxiety-depression with which you struggle is an essential step towards gaining a clear understanding of the intensity and duration of your struggle. (Note: This is referencing the depression-anxiety evaluation in a previous post.) It is odd that we are not always accurate in our perception of the frequency and intensity of our struggle.

  • We may have intense periodic struggles that we continually brace against so we feel they are “always present.”
  • We may have several different anxiety-depression struggles that we lump together and give them a single name.
  • We may have adjusted to low-grade, background depression-anxiety struggle that we don’t “count” anymore.
  • We may intentionally try to ignore milder symptoms until they arrest our attention in peak moments.

If we are going to be effective in overcoming our experience of anxiety-depression, we will need to be accurate in our assessment of when it occurs and the fluctuation in its intensity. It is an unwise general who goes to war against an adversary he does not know well.

Inductive Bible Study: Go to an on-line Bible study tool (for instance biblestudytools.com) and search for passages that include words like “before” and “after.” Notice how much attention the Bible gives to describing when one event occurs in relation to another. Then search for words like “great” and “more” or “less.” Notice how much attention the Bible gives to the intensity of various experiences. Chances are you will not read every passage listed – they are too many – but you should get a sense of how much God cares about the kind of details you are discovering with this exercise.

The tool below is intended to help you track the frequency and intensity of various symptoms of depression-anxiety across a month. The top row demarks one column for each day of the month. Rows along the side give places to track each symptom. If your counselor or friend wants you to track a symptom that is not included a row is provided at the bottom for you to track this.

As you record this information here are several patterns to look for:

  • Look for symptoms that cluster together – occur or peak at the same time.
  • Look for symptoms that occur before or after a significant event (e.g., tragedy, visit from stressful relative, payday, etc…). When something upsetting or exciting occurs mark the day of the month with a symbol and write what occurred on the back of this page next to that symbol.
  • Look for symptoms that occur before or after other symptoms. For instance, what symptoms occur in the days before you experience a panic attack?
  • Look for similarities in the pattern of your emotions across weeks or months. This may indicate biological rhythms (e.g. menstrual cycle) or logistical rhythms (e.g., work week, shift work schedule, child custody schedule, etc…).

More will be assessed about the story behind (chapter four of this study) and the motive for (chapter three of personal responsibility counterpart to this suffering study) in latter portions of your study. At this point in the process you are merely trying to become more self-aware of the fluctuations in frequency and intensity or our various depression-anxiety experiences.

To download this resource: DEP_ANX Daily Symptom Chart

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

For the various counseling options available from this material visit www.summitrdu.com/counseling.

Depression-Anxiety_Poster

Online Depression-Anxiety Evaluation

This evaluation is a tool from the upcoming “Overcoming Depression-Anxiety: A Suffering Paradigm” seminar. For information about this and other counseling seminars visit bradhambrick.com/events.

Click Here to Link to this Evaluation

This evaluation seeks to help you assess the presence and severity of the following types of depression-anxiety.

  • Generalized Anxiety
  • Situational Depression
  • Major Depressive Episodes
  • Seasonal Affective Struggles
  • Specific Phobias
  • Social Anxiety
  • Mania
  • Panic Attacks
  • Post-Traumatic Stress
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Religious Scrupulosity
  • Suicidal Consideration

A printable PDF version of this evaluation is available here: Depression Anxiety Assessment

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

For the various counseling options available from this material visit www.summitrdu.com/counseling.

Depression-Anxiety_Poster

Tweets of the Week 8.26.14

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.

A Sample Letter to Help Cultivate Community While Struggling with Depression-Anxiety

This post is an excerpt from the study guide which accompanies the “Overcoming Depression-Anxiety: A Suffering Paradigm” seminar. This portion is one element of five from “Step One: PREPARE Yourself Physically, Emotionally, and Spiritually to Face Your Suffering.” To RSVP for this and other Summit counseling seminars visit bradhambrick.com/events.

What is the most painful part of depression-anxiety? Each person will have to answer that question for themselves, but one of the leading answers would have to be “the alone-ness.” Unfortunately, it is hard for us to admit, “I am depressed” or “I am controlled by fear” to those who care about us.

For too many people, the dysfunctional and unspoken rules of depression-anxiety are:

  1. Don’t talk about it.
  2. Everything is fine.
  3. No one will understand.

It is sad that we use the same logic to isolate ourselves in the experience of depression-anxiety that is commonly used to silence an abused child or a spouse experiencing domestic violence. With our silence about our struggles we become the warden to our cell of isolation.

How do we break through the barrier of our own silence? We speak. What do we say? The following letter is a sample you could write in your own words to a friend. It is meant to be a prompt for conversation with those who already care for you. In it, we include the basic requests you might make of a friend at this stage in your journey.

Friend,

Thank you for the ways you’ve cared for me and valued our friendship. That means more to me than you know. It is because of that trust that I feel like I can tell you something that is hard for me to admit. I struggle with depression-anxiety. That may not seem like a big admission to you, but it is something I have resisted telling anyone for a long time.

The worst part about not telling anyone about my struggle is that I have felt very alone with it. For some reason, I have treated depression-anxiety as if it were a secret about which I should feel ashamed. Because of that I have wondered if people would still like me “if they knew.” The implied answer was always “no, they wouldn’t.”

The main thing I would ask of you is that you do very little different when we’re together. It is would be nice if you ask me how I’m doing periodically and show concern for my response (as I trust you would). But the biggest benefit will come from you knowing and still valuing our friendship.

If there are times when I share with you that I am especially down or fearful, it would be great if you would pray for me and find a way to spend some extra time together (i.e., getting lunch, sending a card, offering to do a project together, etc…). I don’t like to ask for those things when I’m down, but they would greatly help me get outside my own thoughts and emotions.

I’m going through a study right now to help me assess how I can best respond to the challenge of depression-anxiety. If you are interested you can look over the study, you can find it at bradhambrick.com/depression (note: this link will not be active until after the live presentation is recorded).

It would be nice if I could share with you what I’m learning about myself and my struggle. I like that this study has structure and provides a process for finding hope and relief for depression-anxiety. In the first step it asks me to be more honest with friends, so I can quit believing that these emotions make me a person less worth caring for.

If there are ways I can pray for you, I would be interested to know those as well. Part of the struggle with depression-anxiety is that I think a lot about myself and my experience. Being able to reciprocate by praying for you would be an effective way for me to weaken that emotional habit.

I’m sure I’ll learn a lot as I go through this study, but, for now, I have a lot more hope that I’ll see it through to the end because I’m not doing it alone. It is probably too much to ask that I will never be down or anxious again, but I like the idea of learning how to make those emotional dips more shallow and how to maintain my trust in God during those times.

Thank you caring enough to listen to my burden. Like I said, I don’t want much to change in our relationship. But it is a big relief to allow talking to you to break the silent sense of shame I was living in. That is a great gift you’ve given me already.

How well would those words capture how you would like a conversation like this to begin? What parts would you change?

You will need to make this your own by putting it in your words. As you think about having this conversation with a handful of friends, between two and five, is it intimidating or exhilarating? How different would your day-to-day emotional experience be if you had a few people you could talk to this way?

Who are the people to whom you would send this kind of letter or have this kind of conversation?

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

For the various counseling options available from this material visit www.summitrdu.com/counseling.

Depression-Anxiety_Poster

My Reflections on the Events in Ferguson in Light of Miroslav Volf

A couple of weeks ago I began reading The End of Memory by Miroslav Volf to better understand how those who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress can deal with the unwanted memories of the trauma they experienced. That is to say, I did not begin reading his book as part of a political or cultural reflection.

But, as I was reading this book, the events in Ferguson, Missouri have come to the forefront of the national conversation. As I’ve read, I believe what Volf has to say could benefit this national dialogue. More importantly, I believe it could benefit personal conversations between people of different cultures as they understand, process, and remember these tragic-traumatic events differently.

A few preface points about what this post is not:

  • I am not implying that Volf himself would agree with my application of his writing.
  • I am not trying to make a political point or implying that I know what “justice” should look like.
  • I make no claim to know how these events and their surrounding social dynamics should be resolved.

A few points about what I am attempting in this post:

  • These are my personal reflections as I try to understand a culturally complex situation.
  • My primary intention is to be someone from the majority-privileged culture who tries to love his neighbor by attempting to listen well.
  • I acknowledge I have many blind spots and ask my readers to be gracious if these blind spots are more evident to you than they are to me.

With that said, I will begin to reflect on Volf’s book. In The End of Memory, Volf’s objective is to help people “remember well” the traumas they have experienced. By “remembering well” Volf means to remember in such a way that it (a) is personally healthy for the victim, (b) contributes to societal flourishing, and (c) desires the redemption of the victimizer (if the tragedy was inflicted by another individual or group) without minimizing the offense or subverting justice.

In describing the impact of trauma Volf says such experiences impact us in at least two ways:

  1. Shatters our assumption that we live in a just world where wrongs will, or even can be, righted.
  2. The wound trauma creates allows us to feel justified in wanting others to hurt like we are hurting.

To illustrate these points Volf draws upon his own experience as a political prisoner in the former communist Yugoslavia during the mid 1980’s. His book is very vulnerable about his own struggle to practice what he advocates. Volf refers to his primary interrogator as “Captian G.” and illustrates these two points in his own battle with memories:

“Consider my possible reaction to my military interrogations. As a person wronged by Captian G., I might deem all military officers or all socialists evil. I might think of them as ‘beasts’ who understand no other language than that of brute force, and I might dream of avenging myself of the mistreatment to which I was subjected (p. 86).”

He then describes how the impacts above contribute to civil unrest when the two parties (individuals or groups) involved in the trauma live in close proximity for an extended period of time:

“The more the histories of individuals and peoples are intertwined and the longer they engage in conflict, the more the lines between victim and victimizer blur. Yesterday’s victims [are] today’s victimizers and today’s victimizers [become] tomorrow’s victims (p. 90).”

Finally Volf draws these points together:

“Belief in the possibility of justice is the condition of the struggle for justice, but the memory of wrong suffered is unable to generate that belief. Even worse, the memory of wrong suffered may strengthen the belief in the impossibility of justice. After all, suffering inflicted by others is an assault against the conviction that we live in a moral universe… It is possible to struggle for justice using unjust means, and it is possible to do so without contradiction if one believes that he lives in a world in which it is possible to know what is just but in which most people do not care about acting justly (p. 91-92).”

The dynamics that Volf describes seem, at least from what I can tell, to be active in the debates that exist around the events in Ferguson. Both sides seem to have lost trust in the other to reasonably pursue, or even desire, justice.

I can understand the challenges both sides face:

  • Nothing that is said or done will bring Michael Brown back to this family. The legal process will not absolve their grief.
  • Police officers regularly risk their life and are asked to make split second decisions of immense consequence. I could not imagine if my daily occupation involved this potential reality.
  • A larger percentage of minority individuals are apprehended by law enforcement and that would create mistrust in me if this were true of parts of my demographic profile.
  • Minority individuals disproportionally live in poverty and this leads to desperate circumstances where crime seems like a more viable option. Having worked for several years in a Boys & Girls Club, I have seen how education can seem like a very long road out of desperate circumstances and offers more hope for the young than the old.
  • Police departments must prioritize their efforts in high-crime areas as a matter of wisdom and stewardship.
  • Police frequently are accused of various biases and asked to see the exception whenever they make an arrest. No one wants to believe they should be arrested.
  • Punishments like incarceration are rarely corrective-restorative for the individual committing the crime and adds a social stigma that makes future employment more difficult. Having led a counseling ministry that counsels individuals in incarceration, I hurt for these “wasted years” that seem to have little redemptive impact.
  • Without strong consequences that inevitably produce stigma, there is no deterrent against the relatively easy, short-term win of crime in hard times. There can be a social good where there is little individual benefit.
  • This back-and-forth spiral could go back much further. In these reflections we have not extended present realities to consider the civil rights movement or slavery.

In many ways, that is the question. How far back do we go? When is tracing a problem back its origin beneficial and when do we need to focus on the immediate realities? How possible is it to identify the origin of a problem with such a long history?

With the follow up question, if we can agree on when to stop the spiral, what do we do now? What counts as justice for the offenses found? What do we do if we cannot agree on which offenses are primary and which are reactionary?

Like I said in my introduction, it is not my intent to try to answer these questions. But my observation is that much of the impasse of the conversation is found in the fact that we’re trying to answer the second set of questions (what do we do now) before answering the first set (how far back).

Actually, more than not answering the questions, we’ve lost all faith in the conversation.

I am not optimistic that we’ll find wide-spread agreement on the first question; which will make the second question perpetually difficult for us to answer at the national-political level. Whenever a complex issue gets compressed into talking points, they become volatile.

I do have hope that trust can begin to be restored at the person-to-person level of conversation, as people give greater weight to the experience that the other person is bringing to the conversation. Whenever people honor one another by providing the space of listening, even hostile conversations can be had productively.

This response must happen in living rooms, ball fields, coffee shops, churches, and work places before it happens on podiums, in legislation, and as crowds response to tragedies. The question for us, if my assessments are correct, would be, “Are we currently cultivating the kind of cross-cultural friendships that would allow for us to create pockets of peace that would help buffer, without silencing, the next culturally-conflicted tragedy that occurs?”

Locally, my prayer is that Summit Church would become a place of so many cross-cultural friendships that our city will never be the same; and that churches across our nation will be places of powerfully-simple, nation-changing, cross-cultural friendships. The more I reflect on this situation, the more I am convinced that only the gospel can reconcile people – marred by sin within us and scarred by sin around us – with long histories of mistrust and offense.

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.

sebts-logo

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.

10. CF

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.

 

jordan 2013 retro NFL Seattle Seahawks Jersey NFL Houston Texans Jersey Air Jordan retro 5 Air Jordan 11 Bred Air Jordan retro 11 Air Jordan 5 Retro Air Jordan 11 Retro Air Jordan Retro Air Jordan 2013 Retro