Archive for November, 2013

Simple Counsel; Complex Counseling

How hard can counseling be? Really, “healthy” doesn’t change that much. Honestly, 90% of counseling problems could probably be remedied with this prescription.

  1. Get 50 hours of sleep per week
  2. Don’t spend money more than you earn
  3. Don’t consume more calories than you burn; which means exercise a few times per week
  4. Treat other people like you want to be treated
  5. Don’t engage in long-term relationships with people who won’t follow this rule
  6. When you are offended, forgive instead of harboring bitterness
  7. Take yourself less seriously without surrendering your personal dignity
  8. Don’t do things you would tell your kids not to do
  9. Invest in the relationships that are closest to you (spouse, kids, parents, friends)
  10. Invest your time in the things that will matter a decade from now

Secular or sacred, those ten points cover the basics of counseling. Meaning, if people would actually follow those basic principles, they would not find themselves with many life-dominating problems. Regardless of what the counseling issue may be (i.e., emotional, relational, identity, etc…) some combination of these recommendations is given in most cases.

This brings me to my first point:

Solutions are usually less complex than problems; that’s why we dismiss them.

Most people prefer a pyramid scheme to a family budget and a fad diet to a gym membership. Somehow we feel like it “honors” the mess we’ve made if the solution requires advanced math or a confusing diagram.

But here’s what we must remember:

Solutions must be simple to be sustainable. There’s not much hope in complex change schemes.

So does that mean advanced degrees in counseling are a charade? I don’t think so. While counsel (that content of good advice) must be simple, counseling (walking with someone in the process of change) is often complex.

Pain is complex – the nightmares and flashbacks of PTSD, the phone call from creditors and difficult decisions of bankruptcy, the battle with your own loss of hope and motivation in depression, the looming unpredictability of panic attacks, or the mixed allegiances and priorities of a blended family.

The counsel above does not change, but the ability of a counselor to understand a counselee’s experience, win their trust, help them see the relevance of “healthy” for their particular struggle, and maintain focus when life resists the changes that are needed is the hard part.

For instance, take the example of panic attacks. My “ten points of healthy” would be immensely beneficial for anyone who has experienced high levels of anxiety or panic attacks. But to start a “just do this” conversation with someone who lives bracing against the next time their mind/body is going to revolt on them would likely be dismissed and (rightly) viewed as simplistic, uncaring, and “missing something important.”

However, if you can help this person

  • identify the areas of their life that are creating the most stress,
  • understand how stress can accumulate to the point of panic,
  • eliminate, if not present, other possible causes (i.e., PTSD or drug reaction),
  • weigh the alleviation of stress with medication with its side effects, and
  • see the priorities and values that undergird their unhealthy lifestyle,

then you are in a position to give them counsel (practical steps to change their life, which will sound a great deal like the 10 simple points above) that is much more likely to be both heard and implemented. Their trust in you and understanding of themselves will have gained a hearing for living a healthy life and considering how their priorities and value (those things that emanate from the heart) revealed a lifestyle that was trying to seek comfort or identity outside the person of Jesus Christ.

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

Tweets of the Week 11.26.13

There is great value in saying something in a memorable, concise manner. Twitter has caused us to make this viagra pfizer uk 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.

http://www.bradhambrick.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=7122&action=edit

GCM “Intimacy” Video 4: Sex as One of God’s Gifts for Marriage (Foreplay)

This video segment is one of five presentations in the “Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Intimacy” seminar. There will be four more seminars in this series covering the subjects: foundations, communication, finances, 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-Intimacy04 from Equip on Vimeo.

Evaluation Three: GCM_Intimacy_Eval_Sex

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

  • Sex is a celebration more than recreation
  • Your sex life will never be better than your overall marital health
  • The brain (imagination), skin (touch), and ears (listening) are the sexiest parts of our body.
  • The purpose of this chapter is to heighten the God-intended bonding effect of sex by accentuating every aspect of the spouse and marriage you are celebrating in sex.

Memorize: Proverbs 5:18-19 (ESV), “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.” As you memorize this passage reflect upon these key points:

  • “Rejoice” – The Bible does not want us to be embarrassed about enjoying sex; God wants you to enjoy His gift.
  • “Of your youth” – This history you share together should add to the enjoyment of each other in sex.
  • “Lovely… graceful” – A wife may not be a ballerina, but God calls you to see and speak of her with these qualities.
  • “Breasts” – The Bible is not bashful about the delight a husband and wife should take in each other’s bodies.
  • “Intoxicated always” – The sensual delight you take in each other should not be restricted to your young bodies.

Teaching Notes

“Another mark of this community should be free and open discussion about how the Bible’s perspective on sex plays out in life and relationships. The more often singles and married Christians reflect on the Biblical teaching about this, the more support singles will feel for abiding by it (p. 228).” Tim Keller in The Meaning of Marriage

“The task you face is not getting rid of all of your expectations, but basing them realistically on biblical principles…. It may seem like strange advice, but the quality of your sex life may depend on turning off the television, picking a good fight, becoming independent of your parents, setting up a budget, or taking regular vacations (p. xi).” Doug Rosenau in A Celebration of Sex

“In the busyness of life, lovers forget to make eye contact when they’re talking—or for that matter, when they are making love. The eyes express so much: acceptance, excitement, a longing to understand, and sexual desire (p. 122)… Every mate who wants to be a passionate lover must practice the discipline of growing up and becoming a confident person (p. 180)… There is nothing sexier than men or women who are comfortable in their own skin and can confidently launch into new adventures in wild and unique ways (p. 181).” Doug Rosenau in A Celebration of Sex

“In order for romance to deepen, you must touch the heart and mind of your wife before you touch her body (p. 28).” C. J. Mahaney in Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God

“To be sexy is fast dilivery viagra to canada to be aware of your body as an instrument of playfulness and delight, to be able to communicate this awareness to your husband and give him the gift of your body for pleasure, delight, variety, and playfulness. We’re going to tell you a secret. It’s better to be sensuous than to have a perfect ‘10’ body. (p. 59)… One of the quickest and best ways to feel good about your body is to have a rewarding sexual relationship with your husband. Good sexual experiences breed high levels of body satisfaction (p. 64).” Linda Dillow and Lorraine Pintus in Intimate Issues

“Making love needs to be based on an intimate marital partnership. Without the playful, loving companionship, sex becomes another buzz or rush that loses its perspective and has increasingly diminishing returns (p. 8)… You cannot work at creating better lovemaking; you and your mate have to play at it (p. 13)… Sexy lovers take the time to develop the sensual, romantic part of their minds and personalities (p. 18)… Sex is perhaps 80 percent fantasy (imagination in mind) and about 20 percent friction. Granted, pleasuring erogenous zones (friction) is fun, but what truly creates the excitement is your mind (p. 74).” Doug Rosenau in A Celebration of Sex

Sex and the Church: 10 Resources for Families & Churches

For too long the church has allowed culture to own the discussion of sex. God created sex and declared it good. When we distort sex, God can redeem our guilt (if we have sinned) or our shame (if we have been abused). In a culture that is obsessed with sex – any honest assessment of modern marketing would have to concede we’re obsessed – the church must engage the conversation of sex and sexuality.

Below are ten resources that seek to address the subjects of sex and sexuality from a highly practical and thoroughly Scriptural world-view. Some are full-length seminars designed to launch pre-marital mentoring or recovery group ministries; others are as brief as a few minute introduction to important conversations with your children.

To access each resource just click on the heading with the title of that material.

1. Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Intimacy

This seminar examines God’s design for the romantic and intimate aspects of marriage. The fourth and fifth videos seek to provide a thorough sex education to facilitate a vibrant and satisfying sex life for married couples.

2. Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Foundations

This seminar explores God’s design for marriage. The fourth video looks at the responsibilities that are shared in the “job description” of a Christian husband and wife. The fifth and sixth videos look at the responsibilities that are unique in the “job description” of a Christian husband and wife based upon gender.

3. Cohabitation: A Conversation Starter

This six minute video seeks to answer the question of many dating couples in our day:

My fiancé and I are getting married in a few months, but have been living together for a while. When we were doing our pre-marital counseling we were told living together before marriage was wrong and that we should live separately until we’re married. We want to honor God, but don’t understand why this is a big deal if we love each other and will be married in a few months anyway. We’re not trying to be rebellious, but we want to understand why a change like this would be necessary.

4. False Love

Many people in our day face the pain of their sexuality out-of-control. “False Love: Overcoming Sexual Sin from Pornography to Adultery” is a seminar that facilitates a recovery group or counseling relationship built around 9 steps that are meant to represent how the gospel provides freedom from sin-based struggles.

5. True Betrayal

Many people also face the pain of a spouse’s sexual sin and they are not sure how God would speak to their suffering. “True Betrayal: Overcoming the Betrayal of Your Spouse’s Sexual Sin” is a seminar that facilitates a recovery group or counseling relationship built around 9 steps that are meant to represent how the gospel provides comfort for suffering-based struggles.

6. Hope & Restoration After Sexual Abuse

At least 20% of people (1 in 4 women; 1 in 6 men) experience sexual abuse. This is an intense and traumatic form of suffering which is often exacerbated by silence and shame. This seminar seeks to provides guidance for how the gospel provides hope and restoration for those who have experienced sexual abuse.

7. A Guide for Churches to Address Sexual Abuse

One of the reasons so many suffer the effects of sexual abuse in silence is because we (church or culture) have not found a way to bring the subject into conversation. On the weekend of May 18-19 The Summit Church (Durham, NC) addressed the subject of sexual abuse in all of our weekend services. This series is a reflection of those services, the preparation that went into them, and the aftercare that was provided.

8. Same Sex Attraction

The subject of homosexuality, gay identity, and same sex attraction are increasingly important counseling subjects as evangelicals engage the cultural conversations of our day. If someone does not choose to be attracted to the same sex, can they chose not to be attracted? What influence does an absent or distant father have upon one’s sexual identity? What influence does being sexually abused or experiencing premature sexualization have upon sexual identity? Sam Williams addresses these questions and many more with grace, truth, and the insight of an experienced counselor in his faculty lecture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

9. Talking to Our Children About Masturbation

Most parents dread having “the talk” with their child about sex. Too few parents consider how to have a talk with their children about masturbation. This 6 minute vlog makes the point, “If we do not talk to our children about masturbation, our culture will be happy to take our place,” and then provides guidance on when and how to have this conversation. Here is another blog on “Pre-Sex Talks with Adolescents.” Here is an excerpt from an interview I did with Covenant Eyes on this subject.

10. Lust and Grief

Here is a vlog post I created in response to a question from a Covenant Eyes user who was asking hard questions about lust after the death of his wife.

Do We Pray to Our Sins?

What is so bad about sins of escape? After all, they provide relief from a stressful life and they don’t hurt anybody but ourselves (so we are prone to think). What is the big deal about finding solace in alcohol, pornography, or some mindless video game (I am not implying these are morally equal activities)? If they help me get done the other things that need to be done, why does God care?

Before we answer the moral question, let’s examine the intrapersonal dynamic that exists in these activities (i.e., what is going on inside of us). Life is hard. We turn to something we believe can make life better. We are seeking to unburden our soul with the activity in which we engage. We build a relationship with this activity in which we begin to view it as “reliable” and “understanding” in a way that nothing else in life is.

In light of this reflection, consider I Peter 5:17:

“[Cast] all your anxieties on him [God], because he cares for you.”

Can you begin to see how sins of escape are a betrayal of the relationship God desires with each one of us? We are doing with our sin what God is inviting us to do with him.

That is why James 4:5 says,

“Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, ‘He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us’?”

God becomes jealous for two reasons:

  1. These sins of escape replace God’s role as comforter (John 14:26) and refuge (Psalm 46).
  2. God knows that these sins of escape cannot fulfill their promise and will hurt his beloved.

God is not jealous because we are breaking some arbitrary rule he created, but because we are breaking relationship with him. When we commit sins of escape we are giving away what God considers precious to things are dangerous, vile, or inconsequential.

Consider the good husband who considers it an honor and privilege to care for his wife when life is hard for her. How would he feel if she sought the support of unhealthy friends because she thought he didn’t care, wouldn’t understand, was unwilling to listen, or was less capable of helping than these unhealthy friends?

The most compelling appeal this husband could make would not be to the 10 Commandments or I Corinthians 15:33 (NIV) – “Bad company corrupts good character.” The most compelling appeal would be his character – “I committed to love you in good times and in bad. This is when my role as your husband should be most relevant.”

Similarly, we should realize our sins of escape offend God in the same manner. They misrepresent God as uncaring, unable to understand, and incapable of helping. By minimizing God these sins make themselves seem all the more “essential.” Soon anyone who tries to “help” is seen as “just not understanding.”

So as you finish reading this post, I would invite you to consider three questions.

  1. What is your sin of escape? We all have at least one we are prone towards. Many are not inherently wrong beyond the fact that they short-circuit our relationship with God.
  2. What would it look like to turn to God with the stresses you normally escape from? The answer should begin with prayer and continue on to your answer to question #3.
  3. What legitimate pleasures does God offer? Like a good husband doesn’t want to be his wife’s only friend, God is not possessively jealous. What are the relationships and activities that God wants you to have to relieve the stresses of life? Also consider the things he wants you to cut from your schedule to relieve stress and enjoy life.

Remember the key phrase of why we pray to God instead of our sin, “because he cares for you (I Peter 5:17b).”

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.

Tweets of the Week 11.19.13

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.

GCM “Intimacy” Video 3: Living in THE Love Story

This video segment is one of five presentations in the “Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Intimacy” seminar. There will be four more seminars in this series covering the subjects: foundations, communication, finances, 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-Intimacy03 from Equip on Vimeo.

Evaluation Two: GCM_Intimacy_Eval_The Story

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

  • Encouraging your spouse will change you more than it blesses your spouse.
  • We tend to be most selfish with the things bring us the most joy; this includes the romantic aspects of marriage.
  • “We replicate what we celebrate.” Be on the lookout for the fruit of the Spirit in your family.
  • Neither a powerful romance nor a great sex life can exist outside a story captivating enough to contain them.

Memorize: Philippians 3:1 and 7 (ESV), “Finally, brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is not trouble to me and is safe for you… But whatever gain I had, I count as loss for the sake of Christ.” As you memorize this passage reflect upon these key points:

  • “Rejoice in the Lord” – When you say “This is good” does “good” mean “has some Godly or heavenly quality?”
  • “Same things” – If we’re repetitive about what annoys us (we are), let us be more repetitive about God’s blessings.
  • “Not trouble to me” – Paul cultivated a character that enjoyed rehearsing God’s blessings, so should we.
  • “Safe for you” – There is great soul and marital safety in contextualizing our struggles within God’s blessings.
  • “Gain… loss” – This perspective changes how we think about the “things that are really important.”

Teaching Notes

“It is vital to understand that the biblical story is the only story that can make sense out of the story of your life and your marriage (p. 208).” Paul Tripp in What Did You Expect?

“Only if you maintain your love for someone when it is not thrilling can you be said to be actually loving a person (p. 97).” Tim Keller in The Meaning of Marriage

“The way I live out my relationships with people is one of the clearest indicators of how healthy my relationship with the Lord is (p. xxi)… Encouragement is far more important than we often realize. It’s an attitude that focuses more on the reality of what Christians are becoming than on where they are presently failing (p. 125).” William P. Smith in Loving Well: Even If You Haven’t Been

“I do not want to live. I cannot live without my husband. I love him so much.” And when I respond, as I frequently do, “You are mistaken, you do not love your husband.” “What do you mean?” is the angry question. “I just told you I can’t live without him.” I try to explain, “What you describe is parasitism, not love.” Scott Peck in The Road Less Traveled

“Romantic love has no elasticity to it. It can never be stretched; it simply shatters (p. 15).” Gary Thomas in Sacred Marriage

“Take careful note, men, that these complements are not merely physical (p. 64).” C. J. Mahaney in Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God

“When two people speak honestly about their burdens, they come to a deeper understanding and love for one another. This is intimate stuff, the fine china of your spouse’s life (p. 17)… When two people sorrow together, rejoice together, and join together in a life task, the result is intimacy and closeness (p. 19).” David Powlison in Renewing Marital Intimacy

A Portrait of Christ-Honoring Wisdom

Stupid. Gullible. Naïve. Short-sighted. Impulsive. Impressionable. People-pleasing. Foolish. Timid. Double-minded. Inconsistent. Undependable. These are the labels that are often used (by themselves and sometimes by others) for those who lack wisdom.

“I never seem to do anything right… I regret so many of the decisions I’ve made… I don’t trust myself to know what to do in difficult situations… It feels like everyone else got a copy of the ‘unwritten rule book of life’ except me… Hindsight is a synonym for shame in my world…” these are the thoughts of those who dislike or mistrust themselves due to a lack of wisdom.

Wisdom may be the least intuitive synonym for self-esteem in this series. Confidence, identity, security, and purpose are more obvious things people want when they say they have a low self-esteem. However, for many people, it is a series of unwise choices that cause their low self-appraisal. They will not feel better until they choose more wisely; nor, in many cases, should they. To feel good about chronic bad choices would be a worse condition.

This chapter is intentionally last. In order for it to be anything more than a series of proverbs (generic wisdom principles) it must come at the end of discovering one’s identity in Christ and purpose in life. In order for it to have any lasting impact it must come as an extension of possessing the confidence to face failure and the security to endure rejection.

The reality is that we do not tend to make bad choices because of a lack of information. Sure, we may buy a car with a bad track record because we failed to consult Consumer’s Report or Car Fax, but the kind of lifestyle, relational, and impulsive decisions that most frequently damage our self-perception are related to our character more than the need for additional research.

There are many whose experience of low self-esteem is actually regret, guilt, or shame from the inconsistent application of wisdom in their daily choices and relationships. The solution, therefore, is not rehearsing self-affirmation statements, but beginning to organize their life around the values and principles of Scripture. As this is done, the encouragement that is produced will be more sustainable and real than the artificial boost of motivational statements without actual change.

When depression is rooted in poor decision making or inadequate skills, offering encouragement without addressing the decision making approach or skill training has two effects: (a) short-term there is a boost in morale from the pleasant statements, but (b) long-term the despair is intensified as life reinforces negative messages more intensely than the words of another person can counter. This parallels what it is like to try to correct low self-esteem without equipping someone to live in biblical wisdom.

Defining “Biblical Wisdom”

Biblical Wisdom refers to the principled pursuit of pleasure, not to fill a void, but to fulfill a calling. Wisdom requires fearing (seeking the approval of) God more than fearing (seeking the approval of) man. The restraint of wisdom does not diminish the intensity of pleasure, but prolongs the time frame in which pleasure can be savored and the freedom of conscience with which it can be remembered.

Wisdom cannot be reduced to a set of principles or propositions because it is an expression of God’s character in the midst of relationships. Wisdom is a virtue that allows all other blessings to remain good rather than spoiling into burdens.

Wisdom does not belong to academia and does not require a high IQ. Brilliance is, in many ways, capable of more folly than ignorance. Wisdom, in its essence, is simple. It is often because solutions are less complex than our problems that we dismiss wisdom. No one wants to hear that finances boil down to spending less than you make or dieting is only burning more calories than you consume. But we’re glad to get into a complex pyramid scheme or fad diet.

Wisdom is not against action, passion, speaking, and ambition, but wisdom is willing to forego these without feeling cheated and does not consider them “higher virtues” than their alternatives. Wisdom requires things like patience, self-control, listening well, and contentment. The absence of these virtues will destroy whatever can be created or obtained through the strategic implementation of massive quantities of knowledge.

“There are three classes of men—lovers of wisdom, lovers of honor, lovers of gain.” – Plato

Wisdom allows the “risks” we take in confidence to fulfill our purpose to be “acts of faith” instead of blind folly. Wisdom allows us to adapt to the preferences and culture of others without surrendering our identity. Wisdom allows our sense of security to withstand the criticism or misunderstanding of others without us giving way to being calloused or closed-minded.

To continue reading this article: WISDOM_article_Hambrick

A Portrait of Christ-Honoring Security

Matthew 11:28-30
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Have you ever noticed how insecurity takes some of the most common, innocent, and pervasive components of our life and transforms them into relational weapons or instruments of emotional self-mutilation? That might sound like a flamboyantly worded melodrama unless you have lived with insecurity.

Questions, silence, clarifications, pauses, compliments (of you or others), words of gratitude, and any other aspect of the fabric of relationships get filtered through the lens of suspicion and self-doubt – “What did they mean by that? Are they upset? Why did they choose that word? Why did they say nothing? Did I say too much?”

  • Questions begin to mean that you don’t think I know the answer.
  • Silence always infers that you are upset with me or I have offended you.
  • Compliments send the message that I am this way today, but you only noticed because usually I am not.
  • Gratitude means I usually overlook these kinds of details or that I am awkward enough that you were just looking for something to be able to say in conversation with me.

Nothing can just be what it is. Everything has a deeper meaning. If only I were normal, popular, intelligent, or something; then people would not have to play this game with me. But I am not, so I get stuck in this game and I hate it. But that is who I am and I’m sorry… O-KAY! Sorry, I didn’t mean to go off on a tangent. I just get worked up sometimes. I know that’s weird. I hate that it made reading this chapter awkward for you. I will try not to do it again. But if you don’t want to continue reading, I completely understand. I probably wouldn’t either. But I have said too much already. I’m sorry.

Do you ever think like that? Does an unreturned phone call or e-mail get you spinning with scenarios of relational turmoil? Do innocent questions (if you believe there are such things) sometimes hit you with the force of an insult? How many times do you replay and consider the possible reactions to a comment in small group or a joke with friends? For what kind of events, challenges, opportunities, or roles do you write yourself off out of fear?

Hopefully we can begin to see that insecurity (or the fear of man as it is more commonly referred to in Scripture) is something we all struggle with to some degree. It goes by many names in our culture: peer pressure, codependency, social anxiety, timidity, being “sweet,” people-pleasing, etc… The goal of this chapter is to walk you through the three big pieces of insecurity, so that you can target and reduce the pieces that most influences your life most.

Defining “Biblical Security”

Biblical security is a disposition of stability that allows for a patient and an increasingly accurate interpretation of personal performance, interpersonal interactions, and circumstances in the midst of situations that are as yet uncertain, incomplete, challenging, or negative. Biblical security acknowledges that failure, criticism, and personal sin will occur; however, it does not allow the legitimate guilt, disappointment, or embarrassment of these events to create instability or dash hope.

To continue reading this article: INSECURITY_article_Hambrick

Tweets of the Week 11.12.13

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.