Archive for March, 2013

GCM “Communication” Video 4: Conflict Resolution

This video segment is one of six presentations in the “Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Communication” seminar. There will be four more seminars in this series covering the subjects: foundations, finances, decision making, and intimacy. As those presentations are ready they will be posted on this blog.

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).

GCM Communication Part 4 from Equip on Vimeo.

Evaluation: GCMevaluation_Conflict Resolution

Tool: Conversation Log

Plumb Lines: These are the “sticky” statements that capture the core messages of this chapter.

  • Conflict done well can be the best friend of your marriage.
  • The best outcome for marital conflict is neither avoidance nor victory, but honor and unity.
  • The biggest battle in every conflict is with yourself not your spouse.
  • The surest evidence of idolatry is an over-reaction; be sure not to misname it a need.

Memorize: James 4:1-2a, 6 (ESV), “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel… But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’” As you memorize this passage reflect upon these key points:

  • “Causes” – We often become so consumed with “what” we think is wrong that we fail to ask “why?”
  • “You” – Read James 1:1 and realize the original readers were people willing to face persecution for their faith.
  • “Passions…. desire” – Conflict done wrong ultimately stems from wanting something bad enough to sin to get it.
  • “War within you” – Our desires are not passive. They fight for fulfillment even at the expense of our loved ones.
  • “Proud… humble” – The key to conflict done well is not a strategy or skill but humility.

“The Bible nowhere calls us to grin and bear it for the sake of the relationship. In fact, I am persuaded that our silence in the face of wrong is not motivated by a desire to love the other well but by not wanting to hassle through the difficult process of kind and loving confrontation. We are silent not because we love our spouse but because we love ourselves, and we do not want to put ourselves through something uncomfortable (p. 93).” Paul Tripp in What Did You Expect?

“Conflict, far from being a sign of moral or marital failure, is God’s chosen means of rescuing his people and destroying sin. Don’t lose sight of this fact: God will rescue us, and marriage, through conflict (p. 141).” Winston Smith in Marriage Matters

“The nature of sin, you see, is war. Sin creates war—war with God, war with others, and war within yourself (p. 46)…. Mercy doesn’t change the need to speak truth. It transforms our motivation (p. 82)…. One thing I’ve learned, if I can avert a two-hour argument with two minutes of mercy, that’s a win for everybody involved (p. 87).” Dave Harvey in When Sinners Say “I Do”

“This failure to show respect is a sign of immaturity more than an inevitable pathway of marriage (p. 57).” Gary Thomas in Sacred Marriage

“Buried expectations can poison a relationship. Unresolved expectations often lead to demands, and demands lead to manipulation. One person maneuvers the other to meet the expectation, while the other tries to avoid it. Inevitably, this leads to isolation in marriage, with two people playing absurd but dangerous games in an attempt to establish control (p. 38-39).” Dennis Rainey (editor) in Preparing for Marriage

“Notice that the things that control your life may not be the things that you pursue but the things you avoid. For instance, rejection can be an idol in the same way as approval (p. 30).” Winston Smith in Marriage Matters

“Trait names and exaggerations work the same way and have a similar effect… Both, in effect, reduce a spouse’s identity to his or her sinful behavior. Trait names and exaggeration communicate, ‘You’re no more and no better than what you’ve just done’ (p. 125)… To sin is to treat people as objects (p. 98).” Winston Smith in Marriage Matters

VLOG: When / How to Talk to Your Children about Masturbation

Question: I know my son will eventually learn about masturbation. I don’t like to think about, but in our day it doesn’t make sense to talk to my son about sex and the dangers of pornography and neglect talking about masturbation. When (what age) and how do I have this awkward conversation?


Resources: Here are several resources that can be useful in preparing for of following up with the conversation discussed in this VLOG post.

To review the other questions addressed in this VLOG series click here.

Note: The VLOG (video-blog) Q&A is a regular series on my blog. If you would like to submit a question, it can be e-mailed to 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). Please limit your questions to 3-7 sentences. This is not a forum for to request or receive counseling. No responses will be sent to questions other than those selected for a video response.

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.

Tweets of the Week #Advance13 Edition

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.

And one because it’s funny… 

C.S. Lewis Says “Christians ‘Need’ Less”

A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“They do not draw attention to themselves. You tend to think that you are being kind to them when they are really being kind to you. They love you more than other men do, but they need you less. (We must get over wanting to be needed: in some goodish people, specially women, that is the hardest of all temptations to resist.) (p. 223).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

What is it like to interact with a genuine Christian who is living out their faith? That is the question Lewis is seeking to answer. His answer:

  • They are the kind of people you genuinely want to be nice to.
  • As you are nice to them you find that you get more than you receive.
  • The relationship is free from the “indebted” tone of most sacrificial relationships.

I find that the “over wanting” of being “needed” has more of a gender balance than Lewis implies, but his observation, in my opinion, is an important one. When we understand the gospel we will not find our significance in how many people rely upon us, and we will be so engaged in our relationships that we will naturally bless those who bless us (Gen. 12:1-3).

Let’s turn each of those three bullets into a reflective question.

First, are you caring for those around you as you fulfill your roles with excellence to such a degree that people want to be nice to you? This form of “excellent niceness” would have to be stronger than the people-pleasing activity we often call “being nice.”

Second, are you so gracious and grateful when people are nice to you that their life is better because of their having been with you? It can be challenging to find ways to bless those who bless us without trying to “pay them back.”

Third, after people have been in a friendship with you, are they less prone to score keeping and feeling compelled to weigh what they “need” from the relationship? This is a level of freedom in relationship that is very absent in our day. Some try to attain it by removing any moral constraint, but that only results in more people getting hurt as cultural restraint on sin is removed.

Chances are none of us answer yes, yes, and yes. The more important question, however, is “Are we asking these questions? Are these goals on our radar throughout our day? If married, are we using our home as an experimental laboratory for this style of relationship? Do we brainstorm/ daydream about the implications of these questions?”

If we can answer yes to this latter cluster of questions, then we will be able to, with increasing frequency, answer yes to the three bulleted questions Lewis raised. The answer to these questions will look different for each person who dares to ask them. More than that, they will likely look different in each relationship a person is brave enough to live out their implications.

However, to the degree that we answer them, we will find a level of enjoyment and satisfaction in our relationships that was possible no other way.

To see the first 100 posts in this series click here.

GCM “Communication” Video 3: Day-to-Day Communication

This video segment is one of six presentations in the “Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Communication” seminar. There will be four more seminars in this series covering the subjects: foundations, finances, decision making, and intimacy. As those presentations are ready they will be posted on this blog.

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).

GCM Communication Part 3 from Equip on Vimeo.

Evaluation: GCMevaluation_Day-to-Day_Communication

Plumb Lines: These are the “sticky” statements that capture the core messages of this chapter.

  • Our regular, day-to-day communication is what determines how we “normally” communicate.
  • Good day-to-day communication is both preventative and a buffer for conflict.
  • Enjoying and cultivating common conversation is the life blood of a lifelong relationship.
  • Building a conversationally full marriage can be a key step towards a conversationally full prayer life.

Memorize: Ephesians 4:29-30 (ESV), “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” As you memorize this passage reflect upon these key points:

  • “No corrupting talk” – God created words to serve the purpose of building up our spouse.
  • “Fits the occasion” – Ask yourself, “How would God want me to engage or affirm my spouse in this moment?”
  • “Gives grace” –Christian lives are a “journey of grace.” Your words should move your spouse forward on this journey.
  • “Do not grieve” – When our words compete against God’s purposes in/for our spouse, God is grieved.
  • “For the day of redemption” – In heaven you will see the spouse God has been allowing your words to help shape.

“Because they were not talking these things through with one another, they began to develop individual thoughts about them (p. 103)… So the character and quality of the friendship between a husband and wife always functions as an accurate measure of the health of their marriage (p. 145-146).” Paul Tripp in What Did You Expect?

“I can’t make fun of you in someone else’s home and respect you in our home (p. 97; Kathy)… Early in our marriage my wife and I agreed not to belittle one another in public even in jest. Our agreement came after noticing how often in group settings our friends used ridicule (often disguised as teasing) to get an edge over one another. Remarks about appearance, reminders of a past embarrassment, or drawing attention to a dumb comment are standard ways that couples use the shield of social conversation to jab at each other’s faults and foibles. My wife and I actually enjoy teasing one another, but we do not kid in a way that is demeaning for the sake of a laugh from others (p.137).” Bryan Chappell in Each for the Other

“Because of sin and shame we often hide our thoughts and feelings from ourselves and our spouses (p. 93)… Honesty isn’t just communication free of lies (p. 95).” Winston Smith in Marriage Matters

“If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness, and the willingness to remain vulnerable (p. 143)… Communication is thus the blood of marriage that carries vital oxygen into the heart of our romance (p. 158)… Marriage provides the small experimental laboratory whereby we can learn to engage in spiritual fellowship. Everything that happens broadly in social contexts has a mirror in marriage—disagreements, wounding words, conflict of interests, and competing dreams (p. 162).” Gary Thomas in Sacred Marriage

“The paradox is that friendship cannot be merely about itself. It must be about something else, something that both friends are committed to and passionate about besides one another (p. 113).” Tim Keller in The Meaning of Marriage

Taking the Journey of Grief with Hope (Video for Step 9)

Step Nine: STEWARD all of my life for God’s glory.

Below is a video from the “Taking the Journey of Grief with Hope” seminar of The Summit Church (Durham, NC). 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).

“God has shown me great grace; grace greater than my grief. I am learning what it means to live out of my new identity in Christ. That has pushed me to ask the question, ‘How can I be a conduit of God’s grace to others?’ As I have sought God, examined my life, and consulted with fellow believers, I believe this [describe] is what it looks like for me to steward God’s grace now.”

 

Memorize: I Peter 4:19 (ESV), “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” As you memorize this passage reflect upon these key points:

  • “Those who suffer” – This passage will apply to every person many times in the course of their life.
  • “God’s will” – Hopefully, at this stage in your journey you can read this without hearing it as God’s punishment.
  • “Entrust their souls” – Life is a choice between entrusting our souls to God or seeking to protect ourselves.
  • “To a faithful Creator” – If you made it to this point in the study, you have many evidences of God’s faithfulness.
  • “While doing good” – Without a returning sense of mission, suffering would drain our vitality for engaging life.

 Teaching Notes

“My sorrow now feels less an oppressive weight, more a treasured possession. I can take it out and ponder it, then put it safely and carefully away (p. 79).” Testimony of an anonymous woman in Experiencing Grief by H. Norman Wright.

“After a close partnership and marriage of twenty-seven years, learning to walk alone again was no easy task… It took me many years to learn that no man on this earth can satisfy the deepest longings of a woman’s heart. Only One can do that. He is also the only one who can help me live with that deep hole, that deep pain in my heart… The pain is still there. He hasn’t filled it up yet, but he has made a bridge over it. I can live with it now and I can stand on this bridge and reach out to others (p. 43-45).” Ingrid Trobisch in “Let the Deep Pain Hurt” Partnership

“There is no doubt in my mind that God is right now equipping you for future opportunities when others are afflicted in this way! We are all ‘comforters-in-training’ (p. 64).” Paul Tautges in Comfort Those Who Grieve.

“Suffering reduces us to nothing and as Soren Kierkegaard noted, ‘God creates everything out of nothing. And everything which God is to use, he first reduces to nothing.’ To be reduced to nothing is to be dragged to the foot of the cross (p. 136)… To believe in God in the midst of suffering is to empty myself; and to empty myself is to increase the capacity…for God. The greatest good suffering can do for me is to increase my capacity for God (p. 137).” Joni Eareckson Tada & Steven Estes in When God Weeps.

Job Descriptions for a Christian Husband and Wife

Falling in love is easier than knowing what to do once you’re there. Marriage is similar to your final graduation. As long as you’re going to school, there is a clearly defined “next” (courses to complete, papers to write, tests to take, applications to fill out, etc…). Once you finish and can do “what you always wanted,” it is least clear how to make “it” happen. How do you get from degreed to employed? How do you get from employed to fulfilling work? How do you prevent fulfilling work from leading to burnout and find contentment?

Through the process of dating, engagement, wedding planning, ceremony, and honeymoon there is also a clear “next.” But, what do you do when you get home from the honeymoon? How do you get from being married to having marriage roles? How do you get from having defined roles to having a mutually fulfilling life? How do you find lasting contentment and avoid allowing roles from becoming stereotypes or relational ruts?

We will be looking to answer the following questions: (a) What does the Bible actually teach and what do Christians only culturally assume about gender roles? (b) What are the pre-requisites to the healthy and satisfying implementation of roles within marriage? (c) What kind of process can a couple walk through in order to effectively discover what roles will look like in their unique marriage?

There is an overlooked assumption in these questions – none of us know what we’re doing when we get started. Even if you grew up in a healthy family, there is no guarantee that what worked for your parents will work for you. Even within the guidance of biblical parameters, there is much that must be tailored to your unique personalities, skills, and schedules.

Another complicating variable is that gender mattered very little before marriage. Once you past the “cooties” stage of life, the only functional gender differences were which public restrooms you were allowed to use. Yet once we’re married, then God’s design for making us male and female takes on a significance that was largely irrelevant before.

“Up until then [testimony of a newlywed couple], we had pretty much lived in a unisex world, as students taking the same classes, competing for the same grades on a level playing field, rarely forced into any consideration of what God’s intention may have been in making us male and female (p. 171).” Tim Keller in The Meaning of Marriage

Is it any wonder that gender roles are a frequent point of conflict and confusion? We haven’t even discussed the abuse of gender roles as complicating variables. Fortunately, you are not fighting a culture battle in your home. As you think about marriage roles, you are merely discerning how to honor God’s design and enjoy one another in your family.

The following two job descriptions are meant to do more (but not less) than describe biblical gender roles. They are meant to couch biblical gender roles within the biblical character, biblical friendship, and biblical responsibilities that were meant to make gospel-centered marriage the blessing that God intended.

NOTE: These are interactive documents which will make more sense in light of the verbal presentation at:

CREATING A GOSPEL-CENTERED MARRIAGE: FOUNDATIONS
Part One:  Saturday March 16, 2012
Part Two: Saturday March 23, 2012
Time: 4:00 to 5:30 pm or 6:00 to 7:30 pm
Location: The Summit Church, Brier Creek South Venue
Address: 2415-107 Presidential Drive; Durham, NC 27703
Cost: Free

Tuesday Tweets of the Week: 3.19.13

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.

And one because it’s funny…

C.S. Lewis on Dying Christianity

A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“Again and again it [the world] has thought Christianity was dying, dying by persecutions from without and corruptions from within, by the rise of Mohammedanism, the rise of the physical sciences, the rise of great anti-Christianity revolutionary movements. But every time the world has been disappointed. Its first disappointment was over the crucifixion. The Man came to life again (p. 222).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

Do your hopes for Christianity rise and fall with major events? A celebrity or “big name” athlete professes faith in Christ publicly and we think, “That’s a big boost for our side.” A scandal breaks in the news about popular church leaders and we think, “Who will want to come to church now?”

I don’t want to condemn that rise and fall; partly because I ride that roller coaster, but also because that is the nature of being fully engaged with something. If you are really committed to someone or something, then its gain and losses will affect you.

Admittedly, I feel a bit of a double bind. I don’t want to be unmoved by the good or bad fortune of God’s kingdom, even if it’s only temporal. I want to be moved to praise or pray as needed in every circumstance. But I don’t want to be so moved that my sense of hope ebbs and flows with daily events.

How do we have one without the other? The short answer is (in my opinion) we don’t, at least not perfectly. I’m not going to care as much as I want to care about the things of God and be as dispassionately objective as I want to be in the midst of (at least perceived) challenges to His kingdom.

The better question (again, in my opinion) is how concerned should I be that I won’t strike this perfect balance? The answer to that question would be “it depends” on whether in bad times my instincts move towards prayer or despair and whether in good times my instincts move towards pride/complacency or praise/proclamation.

Sometimes we think God’s sovereignty should make us stoics (emotionally unmoved by the significant events of life); that holiness was the muting of emotion. Other times we think that we can only honor God with the emotions at the pleasant end of the emotional spectrum; that unpleasant emotions (i.e., grief, fear, sadness, etc…) are inherently impure.

These kinds of beliefs make it very hard for us to do anything practical with the kind of truth contained in Lewis’ quote. It is only when we acknowledge that God made us emotional creatures who can honor Him on both ends of the emotional spectrum that we can respond to the kind of dark events that Lewis references in personally-authentic, faith-filled ways.

It is only then that we can pray with the Psalmist, “When I am afraid [honestly acknowledging bad times and having the appropriate emotional response], I put my trust in you [expressing a faith that can be measured a “great” because it is bigger than a real fear].”

So when I watch the Kentucky Wildcats or St. Louis Cardinals, my hope and fears rise and fall with the uncertainty temporal concerns entail. When I observe with the advances and setbacks of God’s kingdom, my hopes and fears still rise and fall (because I am passionately engaged), but with the trust that God’s power and track record deserve.

GCM “Communication” Video 2: Listening

This video segment is one of six presentations in the “Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Communication” seminar. There will be four more seminars in this series covering the subjects: foundations, finances, decision making, and intimacy. As those presentations are ready they will be posted on this blog.

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).

GCM Communication Part 2 from Equip on Vimeo.

Evaluation: GCMevaluation_Listening

Plumb Lines: These are the “sticky” statements that capture the core messages of this chapter.

  • Be a servant-listener: seek to understand before being understood.
  • The vast majority of communication problems would be resolved with better listening.
  • Good listening is simply living incarnationally.
  • Listening is a skill that is most necessary when it is most difficult.
  • The word listen contains the same letters as the word silent.

Memorize: James 1:19-21(ESV), “Know this, my beloved brothers, let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” As you memorize this passage reflect upon these key points:

  • “Know this” – Humorously, James assumes we would be prone to skip over his instructions on listening.
  • “Quick to hear” – We will be quick at one and slow at the other; we choose – listening or speaking.
  • “Slow to speak… anger” – Being quick to speak has emotional consequences; we need to see the cause and effect.
  • “Produce… put away” – The choice to listen well is a choice to pursue godly character and relational unity.
  • “Receive… implanted word” – Salvation began with listening. Marriage also moves from death to life by listening.

“If you want to develop an intimate marriage relationship, you would be wise to speak less and listen more. The person who speaks less is more willing to set his own self-centeredness aside and build oneness in marriage. He is better able to understand another viewpoint. And he is willing to see, the best for his mate (p. 154).” Dennis Rainey (editor) in Preparing for Marriage

“Of all the principles involved in effective communication, none is more important than good listening (p. 68).” Wayne Mack in Strengthening Your Marriage

“Rarely will we agree on all the topics of marriage. Rarely will we agree on the exact proper use of money, or the exact proper amount of sexual intimacy, or the exact proper way to handle the children. God did not design everyone to agree exactly on all these matters. Rather, God redeems and enables husbands and wives to reflect Christ and the Church amidst their disagreements, and to grow in love for one another under every circumstance. This love tends to be expressed through gracious speech, humble listening, eagerness to serve, and longing for Christ to be magnified in our marriages (p. 164).” John Henderson in Catching Foxes

“The idols that you worship erect a filter that screens out information that doesn’t match up with expectations. Idols also amplify other messages that you’re sensitive to. Approach every topic with humility—a willingness to learn something new and correct faulty understandings. Communicate a humility that allows room for more information or a different perspective (p. 109).” Winston Smith in Marriage Matters

“There’s no point moving on to the next idea or responding to what you heard if your spouse doesn’t believe you understand what’s been said (p. 133)… How does your spouse typically feel misunderstood by you? If you don’t know, then ask (p. 135).” Winston Smith in Marriage Matters