“Mom/Dad, I’m Not Sure I Want to be a Christian Anymore…”

This post was originally published on the CareLeader resource site on January 17, 2017. not listeningWe asked pastoral counselor Brad Hambrick this question: “What counsel would you give to the parents of a teenage daughter who announces, ‘I don’t think I want to be a Christian anymore’?” We thought his response would be especially valuable to youth pastors or youth leaders who might be having this sort of conversation with a teenager.

Be Sure to Listen to Her Reasons

Here are some thoughts on how to approach a moment like that. The first thing I would encourage you to say is, “Thank you. I know this is a heavy thing to share, and it can’t be easy to come to us when you know that we’re believers and this is important to us.” Then pause and give her the opportunity to talk while you listen.

Ask about How Long She Has Wrestled with This

Second, you might acknowledge the amount of time it took her to come to the point where she was willing to share this with you. So you might say something like, “I know by the time you bring this up to us you’ve been thinking about this for a while. Do you mind sharing with us what that journey has been like, the things you’ve been wrestling with, the kinds of questions you’ve thought about?” Again, just pause and listen. The more she feels heard, the more weight anything that you say is going to have.

Ask about Influences on Her Thinking

In the midst of her comments, if she doesn’t share who some of the significant voices in her life are, you might ask about that. “Who are the people that you’ve talked to? What are the books you’ve read that have influenced you coming to the point where you’re not sure you want to be a Christian?” Again, when you’ve asked that question, pause and listen. Ask her, “Is it okay if I write down this resource so I can read it?” Honor the journey she’s been on by engaging with it and being willing to hear about it.

Ask about the Possible “Burdens” of Being a Christian

Another question that you might want to ask is, “If you weren’t a Christian, is there something that this would relieve you of? Is there some kind of burden that this would take off of you? Is there a problem that not being a Christian would resolve?” Usually, when people decide not to be a Christian, they do so more for emotional reasons than for intellectual reasons. Occasionally it’s about not being sure of creationism or something like that. But more often than not, it is some hardship that they’ve been through. For example: “My friend committed suicide and I can’t imagine how there could be a good God who would let that happen.” Or, “I have some sin that I’m struggling with, and I don’t think I would ever be able to give that up.” And at least at that point parents (and youth workers) can begin to talk about the real issue instead of debating why someone needs to be a Christian. You’re talking to where her heart is. Regardless of how that conversation lands, I would encourage you to extend the conversation.

Ask If You Can Have Some “Processing Time”

Extending the conversation might sound something like this: “You know, you’ve been thinking about this for a while. This whole deliberation is like eighteen months old for you. You just brought this to me, and so it’s eighteen minutes old for me. I would love to be able to talk more about this, and so is it all right if I give some thought to the things that you’ve shared? I think you’ve made your points well, and I’d love to pray about them and think about them so we can talk about this again.” Just phrasing it in the form of a question honors the teen’s deliberations. If you say, “We’re going to talk about this again, young lady,” then you’re invoking your authority so that she no longer has a voice. But teens do have a voice in their personal faith. And when we have conversations about that, we need to honor that voice.

Access Your Resources to Help the Parents Deal with this Issue

Once you’ve landed the plane there, and you’ve created the opportunity to come back to the conversation, there are some things that would be important in helping her parents. One of those would be to pray with the parents for their daughter. Only God can open eyes and give ears to hear. Most Christian parents would acknowledge that they need God in their parenting. However, when they come to a moment like this, what they acknowledge intellectually, they feel palpably in a way that will increase their dependence on Him.

In addition, they need to have support from others. If they’re not talking to friends who know and care for them, they will probably talk to their daughter too much about this subject because it’s on their minds. Supportive Christian friends allow them to have other conversations with their daughter that go beyond this subject area, which is really important. They need to have a broader relationship with their daughter than just this subject, because it can make the parent-child relationship feel more like an intentional project than a loving family relationship. Doing things like going to a movie or going out to dinner at her favorite restaurant will show her that the parents can still relate to her and that they will continue to be her mom and dad.

Finally, from this initial conversation you probably will glean a lot of information that you and her parents can study, which means this can be a moment of growth for everyone. And so pray, offer support, study, and grow. Remind her parents that their relationship with their daughter needs to be broader than her personal faith so that when they have the personal faith conversations, they can have more impact because they haven’t taken all the oxygen out of the room.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Parenting” post which address other facets of this subject.

Council of Counselors: Autism Ministry / Single Parenting / Suffering / Mental Illness Education / Spiritual Abuse

This is a weekly post that highlights resources from other counselors that I have found helpful. The counselors may be from the biblical counseling, Christian psychology, integration, or secular counseling traditions. By linking to a post, I am not giving it my full endorsement, I am merely indicating that I believe it made a unique contribution or raised an important subject for consideration.

5 Steps to Serving Children with Autism, ADHD, and Attachment Disorders by Evan Collier

Recently, our church launched a program dedicated to serving children with behavioral diagnoses such as autism, ADHD, and attachment disorders (common with adoption). Your mileage will most certainly vary, but I wanted to share some possible steps toward serving what seems to be an under-served community in our churches.

  • For more on raising an autistic child, consider the late Lauren Hendrickson’s book. She wrote with the multi-faceted background of a parent of an autistic child, biblical counselor, and psychiatrist. Her book is referenced in the “What I’m Reading” section below.

The Sufficiency of God for the Single Parent by Anna Meade Harris

Six years ago, my husband died of cancer and I became a single mom to our three boys, ages nine, twelve, and thirteen. There’s a reason God involves two parents at every conception; parenting is a job built for partners, too big for any one person to handle alone. Most people would not choose to parent without a spouse: death, divorce, and abandonment add substantial pain to the challenges of raising children. As a mom with her husband, I often felt ill-equipped and unqualified for the task of raising godly young men. As a mom without her husband, well, let’s just say I am in over my head.

How Not to Help a Sufferer by Gavin Ortlund

It’s easy to criticize Job’s friends, but let’s be honest: We can all be like them. In fact, a good litmus test of our heart’s alignment with the gospel—whether functionally we believe in a world of grace or a world of karma—is how we respond when a Job comes across our path. Suffering pulls out our real theology like a magnet. Here are four things in particular to avoid when with a sufferer. Think of them as four ways we, like Job’s friends, can pour burning coals on the heads of those already sitting in ashes.

What Health Class Didn’t Teach Me About Living With My Mom’s Mental Illness by Juliette Virzi

While my ninth grade health class prepared me for avoiding teenage pregnancy, it did not prepare me for inheriting motherhood to my 13-year-old sister when my mother’s mental health took a turn for the worse a few years later. I was 16.

Spiritual Abuse: What it is and Why it Hurts by Phil Monroe

Spiritual abuse is the use of faith, belief, and/or religious practices to coerce, control, or damage another for a purpose beyond the victim’s well-being (i.e., church discipline for the purpose of love of the offender need not be abuse). Like child abuse, spiritual abuse comes in many forms. It can take the form of neglect or intentional harm of another. It can take the form of naïve manipulation or predatory “feeding on the sheep.”

What I’m Reading

autismFinding Your Child’s Way on the Autism Spectrum: Discovering Unique Strengths, Mastering Behavior Challenges by Dr. Laura Hendrickson. Dr. Laura Hendrickson is a trained psychiatrist, biblical counselor–and the mother of an autistic child. She understands the struggles parents face as they try to communicate with their autism spectrum child and manage behavior challenges.

With an approach that is grounded in a deep understanding of the challenges those caring for autism spectrum children face, Finding Your Child’s Way on the Autism Spectrum gives the reader sound, practical tools for understanding how to guide an autism spectrum child to function more fully as the person God created them to be.

Tweets of the Week

Meaningful Meme

john owen

On the Lighter Side

Because, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones,” Proverbs 17:22.

 

Video: Overcoming Codependency (Step Seven)

Below is a video from the presentation of “Overcoming Codependency.” For the various counseling options available from this material visit www.summitrdu.com/counseling.

NOTE: Many people have asked how they can get a copy of the seminar notebook referenced in this verbal presentation. You can request a copy from Summit’s admin over counseling at counseling@summitrdu.com (please note this is an administrative account; no individual or family counsel is provided through e-mail).

“Functionally Relating Within Dysfunction”
IDENTIFY GOALS that allow me to combat the impact of my suffering.

step 7 from The Sam James Institute on Vimeo.

Memorize: Jeremiah 17:5-8 (ESV), “Thus says the Lord: ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.’” As you memorize this passage reflect upon these key points:

  • “Cursed” – Is this how you have felt? Over-relying on people leaves us vulnerable, because the best of us are sinful.
  • “Trusts in man” – This passage is not condemning all trust, but when we rely on people to be our strength and security.
  • “Shrub in the desert” – The result is that we feel perpetually depleted and completely dependent for any “water.”
  • “Blessed” – There is an alternative. This chapter is a practical picture of trusting God in long-term broken relationships.
  • “When heat comes” – Notice the blessing of wise relating does not remove the periodic season of drought and hurt.

Teaching Notes

“Antibiotics have a helpful effect on strep throat, but they didn’t cause it. You can help, but you’re not to blame for the problem and you’re not responsible for the outcome. You’re only responsible for trying in the ways that you choose to try (p. 140).” Foote, Wilkens, Koskane and Higgs in Beyond Addiction

“What often stops us from taking responsibility or ownership in a situation is that we don’t see our choices, or perhaps more truthfully we don’t like our choices (p. 134)… We learn to live differently by living differently, not by thinking about living differently (p. 126).” Leslie Vernick in The Emotionally Destructive Relationship

“The louder and angrier the borderline gets, the quieter and more composed the other person should become, thereby refusing to collaborate in aggravating the emotional atmosphere, and spotlighting the comparative outlandish intensity of the borderline’s rage (p. 129).” Jerold Kreisman and Hal Straus in I Hate You – Don’t Leave Me

“When we remember that our real enemy is Satan, we do not do good in order to get our spouse to change; we do good so that we are not overcome by evil (referencing Romans 12:21) (p. 70).” Leslie Vernick in How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong

“By tolerating what you can’t change right this second, you can avoid adding suffering to what is already painful (p. 105)… Tolerating distress when it is not really an emergency (and staying calm when it is) creates time and space to consider options and act in ways that are more likely to help (p. 110).” Foote, Wilkens, Koskane and Higgs in Beyond Addiction

“Because codependent behaviors protected us, letting go of them can feel frightening at first (p. 11).” Melody Beattie in The New Codependency

“[Forgiveness] doesn’t mean I approve of the person’s actions. It just means I simply acknowledge my feelings, stop replaying the event in my mind, and give up the idea of revenge or punishment (p. 51).” Pia Mellody in Facing Codependence

“The fear of the Lord simplifies life (p. 228).” Ed Welch in When People Are Big and God Is Small

On Diagnosing Mental Disorders: Interacting with a Quote from Allen Frances, M.D.

saving normalI am in-process of reading the book Saving Normal by Allen Frances, M.D. Dr. Frances chaired the task force that produced the fourth revision of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV) and has become critical of the current version, DSM-5.

It is too early to tell what my assessment of the book will be, but I can say it is definitely thought-provoking and well written. In this post I would like to make a few reflections on one extended quote from page 32.

The intent of Dr. Frances book is to “save the concept of normal human struggles” from being over-medicalized. He is not against psychiatric diagnoses or the use of psychiatric medication. Whether he draws the line at the right point in this tension is beyond my qualification to assess. But his aspiration seems like a good and needed balance to me in current Western culture.

The indented material below is from one continuous paragraph. I would encourage you to read all of the indented material first and then come back and read my reflections which are interspersed within.

Mental disorders should be diagnosed only when the presentation is clear-cut, severe, and clearly not going away on its own. The best way to deal with the everyday problems in living is to solve them directly or to wait them out, not to medicalize them with psychiatric diagnosis or treat them with a pill…

This seems to fit well with my attempts to define the concept of mental illness: impairment of functioning and duration of time without relenting of symptoms seem to be the best indicators for diagnoses that do not have a body fluid sample test. In response (unless there is concern for self-harm), the default first step should be to take the non-medical steps that have a probability of remedying or diminishing the life struggle.

… Prematurely resorting to medication short-circuits the traditional pathways of restorative healing – seeking support from family, friends, and the community; making needed life changes, off-loading excessive stress; pursuing hobbies and interests, exercise, rest, distraction, a change of pace…

I greatly appreciate this emphasis on “traditional pathways of restorative healing,” as Dr. Frances calls them. Honesty in authentic relationships is powerful. Exercise and good sleep hygiene have incredible effects on our emotional-cognitive health. Too often we try to obtain emotional health in lives that have unsustainable schedules. When we pursue tolerable emotions without pursuing these “traditional pathways,” we do ourselves a disservice even if medication helps us reach our goal. Our poor life stewardship will have to have more intense consequences before we consider the lifestyle that is creating the consequences.

This is not to say that “traditional pathways” will resolve all problems. I agree with Dr. Frances (as we will come to) that psychotropic medication can be a wonderful tool for health. But when we make these steps first, we are setting the medication up to succeed at what it can do by not asking it to offset what it cannot do.

… Overcoming problems on your own normalizes the situation, teaches new skills, and brings you closer to the people who were helpful. Taking a pill labels you as different and sick, even if you really aren’t…

This seems like a brief, but good, list of the benefits of facing life hardships through the “traditional pathways.” I am encouraged when I hear professionals skilled at alleviating suffering who can articulate the benefits of enduring suffering well. From a pastoral perspective it seems as if this is a value system we have lost. The less we collectively understand and value the benefits of suffering well, the more we isolate and add to the stigma of individuals who suffer long.

… Medication is essential when needed to reestablish homeostasis for those who are suffering from real psychiatric disorder. Medication interferes with homeostasis for those who are suffering from the problems of everyday life.

I am also encouraged to hear someone who is cautious about the over-medicalization of our culture be able to full-throatedly affirm the good use of medication. Medications (not just psychotropics) work by restoring balance to our body. This is good. This has an inverse implication, when we artificially restore balance to an emotional struggle that would have self-corrected, we impair the body’s ability self-correct in the future.

I look forward to reading the rest of Dr. Frances book. In the first chapter I have learned a great deal. More than learning, I’ve been given better questions to ask and categories to consider when thinking about mental health, how to define “normal,” and mental illness. I hope to continue to be stretched in this way.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Mental Illness and Medication” post which address other facets of this subject.

Council of Counselors: Addict as Prophet / Self-Care / Sports Psychology / Mr. & Mrs. Wrong / Sleep

This is a weekly post that highlights resources from other counselors that I have found helpful. The counselors may be from the biblical counseling, Christian psychology, integration, or secular counseling traditions. By linking to a post, I am not giving it my full endorsement, I am merely indicating that I believe it made a unique contribution or raised an important subject for consideration.

The Addict as Prophet: Part 4, Modernity and Arbitrariness by Richard Beck

This is not to deny that addiction existed or was a problem before modernity, just the claim that as modernity exacerbated our feelings of arbitrariness, boredom and loneliness it has caused us to become increasingly drawn to addictive behaviors to reduce the discomfort we experience in modernity.

  • For a resource for addressing addiction, see this seminar. I found the book by Dunnington very intriguing and highlight in the “What I’m Reading” section below.

Self-Care: Your Emotions and Thoughts by Lucy Ann Moll

I’m tired of my own crazy fear of self-care that it is extravagant. This is how I’m changing, a step at a time. You can too. The first step begins with recognizing your emotions.

Six Phrases That Weigh You Down on Game Day by Jim Taylor, Ph.D.

For many athletes in many sports, the competitive season is now in full swing. In other words, the season is getting real and the competitions are starting to really matter. This is the time when you want to perform your best consistently. Yet, this is also a time when you may start to feel weighed down by the expectations and pressure (both self-imposed and from others) to get the results you want.

Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person by Alain de Botton

Perhaps we have a latent tendency to get furious when someone disagrees with us or can relax only when we are working; perhaps we’re tricky about intimacy after sex or clam up in response to humiliation. Nobody’s perfect. The problem is that before marriage, we rarely delve into our complexities. Whenever casual relationships threaten to reveal our flaws, we blame our partners and call it a day. As for our friends, they don’t care enough to do the hard work of enlightening us. One of the privileges of being on our own is therefore the sincere impression that we are really quite easy to live with.

God Wants You to Get Some Sleep by Kate Shellnut

Goodnight kittens. Goodnight emails unwritten. Goodnight clocks. Goodnight inbox… Goodnight worrying about weight loss. Goodnight demanding boss. Goodnight test for which I need to cram. Goodnight Instagram. So goes Goodnight Smartphone, a modern-day rewriting of the classic bedtime story Goodnight Moon.

What I’m Reading

addiction and virtueAddiction and Virtue: Beyond the Models of Disease and Choice by Kent Dunnington. What is the nature of addiction? Neither of the two dominant models (disease or choice) adequately accounts for the experience of those who are addicted or of those who are seeking to help them. In this interdisciplinary work, Kent Dunnington brings the neglected resources of philosophical and theological analysis to bear on the problem of addiction. Drawing on the insights of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, he formulates an alternative to the usual reductionistic models. Going further, Dunnington maintains that addiction is not just a problem facing individuals. Its pervasiveness sheds prophetic light on our cultural moment. Moving beyond issues of individual treatment, this groundbreaking study also outlines significant implications for ministry within the local church context.

Tweets of the Week

Meaningful Meme

beautifulbattle1-1170x780

On the Lighter Side

Because, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones,” Proverbs 17:22.

Video: Overcoming Codependency (Step Six)

Below is a video from the presentation of “Overcoming Codependency.” For the various counseling options available from this material visit www.summitrdu.com/counseling.

NOTE: Many people have asked how they can get a copy of the seminar notebook referenced in this verbal presentation. You can request a copy from Summit’s admin over counseling at counseling@summitrdu.com (please note this is an administrative account; no individual or family counsel is provided through e-mail).

“Narratively Resetting Before Relationally Re-Engaging”
LEARN MY GOSPEL STORY by which God gives meaning to my experience.

Overcoming Codependency – Step 6 from The Sam James Institute on Vimeo.

Memorize: Romans 12:14-18 (ESV), “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” As you memorize this passage reflect upon these key points:

  • “Bless” – Living in healthy relationship patterns is a blessing to others; even if they don’t like it and resist it.
  • “Do not be haughty” – You are not saying you’re “better than” the other person when you relate healthily.
  • “Repay no one” – Part of living redemptively is resisting the desire for revenge.
  • “Honorable in the sight of all” – Regardless of the outcome, you want to be proud of how you conducted yourself.
  • “As it depends on you” – God does not put pressure for the outcome of the relationship exclusively on you.

Teaching Notes

“Your life was intended for more than shame, guilt, fear, anger, and confusion. The abuse does not define you or have the last word on your identity. Yes, it is part of your story, but not the end of your story (p. 17).” Justin and Lindsey Holcomb in Is It My Fault?

“True healing happens as we learn to live holy lives by growing into the identities God has already given us, which is what will make us whole (p. 193).” Leslie Vernick in The Emotionally Destructive Relationship

“The cross doesn’t answer all of our questions about human suffering, but it assures us of God’s compassion for human misery (p. 176)… Those who suffer often feel isolated and disconnected from others. They often feel no one really understands what they are experiencing… The beauty of the cross is that it connects Jesus with our suffering, particularly the suffering produced by abuse (p. 176).” Steven R. Tracy in Mending the Soul

“That belief gets ingrained in me, affecting how I live. So I want to release the emotion and inaccurate belief, then let Life teach me – through a series of experiences – something new, healthier, more enlightened, for instance, that I’m loved by God. But it’s not an intellectual process. It’s discovery, and we integrate it (p. 230).” Melody Beattie in The New Codependency

“The most radical treatment for the fear of man is the fear of the Lord (p. 19)… Our goal is to love people more than need them. We are overflowing pitchers, not leaky cups (p. 179).” Ed Welch in When People Are Big and God Is Small

“We’re more than what we have suffered, and that is the reason we can do something with our memory of it – integrated into our life story, turn it into a junction from which we set out on new paths, for instance (p. 80)…All three elements of the healing of memories – a new identity, new possibilities, and an integrated life story – drew their basic content from the memory of the Passion understood as a new Exodus, a new deliverance (p. 103)… Wrongdoing does not have the last word. If we remember a wrongdoing – no matter how horrendous – through the lens of remembering the Exodus, we will remember that wrongdoing as a moment in the history of those who are already on their way to deliverance (p. 108-109).” Miroslav Volf in The End of Memory

52 Things to Text Your Wife (Hint: That’s One Per Week)

love emojiWhether we nurture or neglect our marriages will be determined by how we steward “small moments.” Too often men fall into the trap of trying to hit a home run on Valentine’s Day, birthday, anniversary, and Christmas because they’ve been distracted for the rest of the year.

Side Note: If you do a good job of nurturing your marriage, two things will happen with those four days listed in the previous paragraph: (1) what you do for your wife will be more meaningful because you’ll know her better and (2) whether you hit a home run will be less important because you’re not making up for anything.

In this post I want to offer one way to nurture your marriage. Send your wife regular texts with endearing  messages. When our wife gets a text from us, she should be excited because she anticipates an affirmation or encouragement; not stressed because she expects something to be added to her to-do list or a change to the family schedule.

Consider the list below a brainstorming exercise. Just come back to this post when you get “writer’s block” and need some fresh ideas.

  1. I love you!
  2. I enjoy being married to you.
  3. Thank you for all the things I never have to think about.
  4. What can I do for you tonight?
  5. I look forward to a quiet evening at home with you.
  6. You captivate my imagination all day long.
  7. Tonight let’s talk about [a subject you know she enjoys].
  8. Let me do [blank] so you can get some extra sleep tomorrow.
  9. [link] here is something I thought you would find funny.
  10. I love you!
  11. Thinking about you is a nice break from the rest of my day.
  12. Ask me about [blank] tonight [event that will prompt a quality conversation].
  13. Why don’t you call [friend] and you guys get dinner? I’ll take care of the kids.
  14. I liked it when you smiled at me this morning.
  15. The more I know you the more beautiful you become.
  16. You are the best wife ever.
  17. I noticed [fruit of the spirit] in you when [action by your wife].
  18. Even on a difficult day, I am glad I get to come home to you.
  19. You’ve always got at least one person who is always on your team – me!
  20. I love you!
  21. [flirty emoji]
  22. You did a great job [task she did well].
  23. [GIF to make her laugh]
  24. I read [article] today about [topic that interests her] and want to talk about it tonight.
  25. I prayed for you today [better if you can connect it with something she’s shared with you recently].
  26. I’m glad our boys have you as the example for the kind of wife they’re looking for.
  27. Your smile will always be my favorite.
  28. How did [event from her day] go? [Shows that you know her schedule and care]
  29. If I could marry you again, I would do it every time I got the chance.
  30. I love you!
  31. Did you know it was [##] days until our anniversary? I couldn’t have known how good that day was going to be for me; thank you!
  32. I’m looking forward to a quiet evening at home with you.
  33. I heard [a song she likes] and thought of you. Moments when you come to mind are the best.
  34. I like writing our love story with you.
  35. You looked amazing this morning.
  36. [meme with one of her favorite movie lines]
  37. I read [Bible passage] and was reminded of how well you exemplify [a particular virtue].
  38. I know today is hard for you because [painful anniversary] and want you to know I’m praying for you.
  39. I look forward to the future because you’re in it.
  40. I love you!
  41. [pick a verse from Proverbs 31 and quote it with #Proverbs31Deluxe]
  42. You make our home a place of rest and refuge. Thank you!
  43. You are my happy place.
  44. An “ordinary day” with you is wonderful.
  45. I’m striving to be the Christ-like husband for you that we want for our daughters.
  46. Thank you for believing in me and supporting me.
  47. “A good day” = a day with you.
  48. You’ve seen me at my best and my worst, and you love me anyway. Wow! What a blessing!
  49. I’m looking forward to our date this weekend. I love time with you!
  50. I love you!
  51. I’m a better, more Christ-like man because you’re my wife. Thank you for the ways God uses you to shape me.
  52. I look forward to growing old with you (even if it’s not as far off as it used to be).

Follow Up Examination: Get out your phone. Review your texts with your wife for the last 3 months. If these interactions are indicative of the functional vs. romantic interactions with your wife, what would that reveal about the health of your marriage? The reality is we are not going to reduce the amount of functional conversation life requires; we can only increase the amount of affirming-flirty-invested communication we have.

Your cell phone text history can be a place where you (a) get a tangible read on how invested you’ve been and (b) where you can be more intentional moving forward.

Another Reflection: Imagine for a moment that your wife’s confidence and identity were built only based upon those things that she heard from you. How healthy and balance would her self-image be?

If this is an area you want to grow, I would invite you to attend one or more of the upcoming Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage seminars. Dates, times, location, and RSVP are provided at this link.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Marriage” post which address other facets of this subject.

Council of Counselors: Normal ? / Smarter Kids / Praying Marriage / Cohabitation Violence / Infidelity Recovery

This is a weekly post that highlights resources from other counselors that I have found helpful. The counselors may be from the biblical counseling, Christian psychology, integration, or secular counseling traditions. By linking to a post, I am not giving it my full endorsement, I am merely indicating that I believe it made a unique contribution or raised an important subject for consideration.

What Is Normal? by Steven Novella

In medicine use of the term “normal” has fallen out of favor, because it is imprecise, and also because it may contain a moral judgment. We still use it when referring to numbers, such as normal blood pressure, but even then it is not conceptually precise. Normal may be different for different people in different situations. When we are making an effort to be clear in our language we will use terms such as “healthy” or “physiological” (which is distinguished from pathological).

Increasing The Mental Ability of Young Children by Dr. James Dobson

Question: We have a one-year-old daughter, and we want to raise her right. I’ve heard that parents can increase the mental abilities of their children if they stimulate them properly during the early years. Is this accurate, and if so, how can I accomplish this with my baby?

Pray With Your Spouse 31 Day Challenge by Mike Leake

I think it’s time to do a new challenge. I’m really excited about this one. When Nikki and I were first married we prayed together frequently. But rather than growing in this grace I think we’ve declined. I’ll chalk all of that up to my leadership. Truth be told, I think I just need the discipline. Committing to 31 days of intentionally praying together should put us in a good rhythm for continued times of praying together.

  • If this prompts you (and I hope it does) to want to engage in more marital enrichment, consider one these resources.

Aggression in Twentysomethings’ Cohabiting, Dating, and Marriage Relationships by Scott Stanley and Galena Rhoades

A number of studies have shown that cohabiting couples are more likely to experience physical aggression in their relationships than married couples. Here, we look at two studies that shed light on this subject by exploring how aggression in the relationships of individuals (mostly) in their 20s is associated with various commitment dynamics.

Sexual Infidelity: The Post-Discovery Longer-Term Aftermath by Robert Weiss

After you discover infidelity, your emotions are out of control. Cheaters are typically OK with that—to some extent, they expect it. Unfortunately, your emotional reactivity will likely remain for many weeks, or even months, dissipating slowly (if it all), and only as relationship trust is re-established. So you and your cheating partner can expect a very bumpy ride for an extended period of time. In therapy, we sometimes refer to this as the emotional roller coaster.

  • If you need guidance on traversing the terrain of infidelity, consider the complementing False Love and True Betrayal studies.

What I’m Reading

angryGood and Angry: Redeeming Anger, Irritation, Complaining, and Bitterness by David Powlison. Powlison reminds us that God gets angry too. He sees things in this world that aren’t right and he wants justice too. But God’s anger doesn’t devolve into manipulation or trying to control others to get his own way. Instead his anger is good and redemptive. It causes him to step into our world to make wrongs right, sending his own Son to die so that we can be reconciled. He is both our model for change and our power to change.

Good and Angry sets readers on a path toward a faithful and fruitful expression of anger, in which we return good for evil and redeem wrongs. Powlison offers practical help for people who struggle with irritation, complaining, or bitterness and gives guidance for how to respond constructively when life goes wrong. You, your family, and your friends will all be glad that you read this book.

Tweets of the Week

Meaningful Meme

This time its in video form.

On the Lighter Side

Because, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones,” Proverbs 17:22.

All I can say is, “Amen!”

Video: Overcoming Codependency (Step Five)

Below is a video from the presentation of “Overcoming Codependency.” For the various counseling options available from this material visit www.summitrdu.com/counseling.

NOTE: Many people have asked how they can get a copy of the seminar notebook referenced in this verbal presentation. You can request a copy from Summit’s admin over counseling at counseling@summitrdu.com (please note this is an administrative account; no individual or family counsel is provided through e-mail).

“Starting a Healthy Relationship with God”
MOURN the wrongness of what happened and receive God’s comfort.

Overcoming Codependency – Step 5 from The Sam James Institute on Vimeo.

Memorize: Zephaniah 3:18-19 (ESV), “I will gather those of you who mourn for the festival, so that you will no longer suffer reproach. Behold at that time I will deal with all your oppressors. And I will save the lame, and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth.” As you memorize this passage reflect upon these key points:

  • “I will” – God is voluntarily involved. You do not have to beg. God is more eager to help than you are desperate.
  • “You who mourn” – God has a special compassion for those who are mourning (Psalm 56:8).
  • “Suffer reproach” – God understands that your grief comes with all the challenges and stigma we’ve discussed.
  • “Deal with your oppressors” – You can trust God with whoever has harmed you; in judgement or redemption.
  • “Lame… outcast… shame” – God knows your experience: feeling powerless, rejected, and embarrassed.

Teaching Notes

“But the denial, obsession with what we lost, guilt, bargaining, controlling, anger, and sadness – if we look close enough we’ll see how similar codependency is to grief. Most people with codependency issues have lost a lot (p. 16).” Melody Beattie in The New Codependency

“One of the surest signs an abuse survivor is healing and coming alive is that, after staring straight into the ugly vortex of his or her past trauma and pain, he or she can mourn the losses and yet look toward the future with hope (p. 154)… Morning loss is an honest response to what has actually happened, and it’s also necessary for thorough healing (p. 154).” Steven R. Tracy in Mending the Soul

“A godly response in the face of abuse is to grieve—for the perpetrator’s sin and for the damage done to our soul; but the natural response is to cower in shame, condemning our own soul for being so foolish as to hope, want, or risk (p. 65).” Dan Allender in The Wounded Heart

“She lost the opportunity to be a child, the knowledge that her parents loved her no matter what, a sense of safety in her own body, a sense of competence, a sense of moral integrity. All of these losses need to be grieved (p. 164)… Hope is a new thing for the survivor. What little has grown up with in her during the course of therapy is usually not strong enough to carry the weight of grief (p. 166).” Diane Langberg in Counseling Survivors of Sexual Abuse

“The survivor needs help from others to mourn her losses. All of the classic writings ultimately recognized the necessity of mourning and reconstruction in the resolution of traumatic life events. Failure to complete the normal process of grieving perpetuates the traumatic reaction (p. 69).” Judith Hermann in Trauma and Recovery

David Powlison on Prayer and Counseling

I was recently reading Growing Together: A Biblical Approach to Fruitful Ministry in the Body of Christ by David Powlison, Ed Welch, Michael Emlet, Aaron Sironi, and Steven Midgley. In Unit 3 of this material David Powlison reflects on the role of prayer in counseling.

prayer-web-image

Here are my notes. I hope you find them helpful. The annotations to the outlines are my own and do not reflect the entirety of Powlison’s chapter, so if they do not make sense, please do not blame David.

Poor Ways to Pray

  • Vague and confusing – words that sound spiritual, but we don’t use them enough in day-to-day talk for them to be meaningful for us
  • Wish list – treating prayer like sitting on Santa’s lap
  • Superstitiously – believing because we pray we’re less likely to face hard times
  • Routine – praying simply because that is “what we do” at certain times
  • Reset or transition – using prayer a means to segue from one part of a meeting to another

Better Ways to Pray

  • Intense honesty – prayers that aren’t vulnerable are more business meeting that conversation
  • Aware of our need – prayer presumes much of life is beyond our ability to control or understand
  • Aware of God’s character – prayer presumes that God cares and is capable of influencing our lives
  • Desiring relationship – prayer seeks to build relationship more than change outcomes

Observation: “The vast majority of counselors do not pray. The designated counselors in our culture, in principle, as a matter of their deepest commitments (and policy) do not pray with the people they seek to help… There is a powerful faith commitment behind the reasons why a counselor does not pray (p. 37).” Prayerless counselors implicitly believe…

  • … insight is sufficient for change
  • … expertise and best practices are all a counselor needs
  • … forgiveness of sin is not a primary concern of counseling
  • … there is no all powerful refuge to which we can run
  • … people do not need a strength that exist outside themselves
  • … faith is not essential for change

Observation: (paraphrase) Prayer is the tangible expression that we realize (a) our understanding of life and its challenges is always limited, and (b) our ability to help is always limited.

“We are still able to do things that matter and say things that are helpful and insightful. But prayer communicates that none of our explanations are complete and none of our solutions can solve every problem (p. 39).”

To conclude this chapter, David Powlison offers three tips for more effective prayer – in counseling or personally. I will share one of them here (for the rest you’ll have to buy the book, for which I get no kickbacks, but is well-worth your investment).

Tip: Be willing to pray in two moods: need (concern) and joy (celebration). “There are two sides to the sacrificial system [Old Testament]. One side of faith is need. One side of the sacrificial system is sin offerings and burnt offerings. The other side of faith is joy, gladness, and gratitude. On the other side of the sacrificial system are peace offerings and fellowship offerings (p. 42).” Our prayer life should be consistently, comfortably (without shame), and conversationally (in our natural verbiage) speaking in both moods.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Spiritual Disciplines” post which address other facets of this subject.