Tools To Help Think It Through

It is no secret depression, anxiety, and fear are rampant in our culture and those in the church are just as likely to deal with these same things. There are three categories of tools to work through these issues, spiritual, practical, and clinical.

We encourage those in tough places to doctors and therapists for the clinical relief that may be need. We preach the condemnation-free grace of Jesus and empowerment of the Holy Spirit for the spiritual. And we seek healthy patterns of life when it comes to the practical.

So we find strategies to process our feelings and emotions, the thoughts we find consuming us.

To that end I just finished “The Coddling of the American Mind” by Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff. It is a stirring reflection on the current state of our culture full of anecdotal and statistical data.

Presented in the book as one practical (and clinical) approach to healthier thinking is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This is what they say: “Cognitive behavioral therapists treat trauma patients by exposing them to the things they find upsetting (at first in small ways, such as imagining them or looking at pictures), activating their fear, and helping them habituate (grow accustomed) to the stimuli. In fact, the reactivation of anxiety is so important to recovery that some therapists advise their patients to avoid using antianxiety medication while undertaking exposure therapy.”

In the appendix of the book they give some steps to CBT that I thought were worth sharing.

“1. When you are feeling anxious, depressed, or otherwise distressed, take a moment to write down what you are feeling.

2. Write down your level of distress. (For example, you could score it on a scale of 1 to 100.)

3. Write down what happened and what your automatic thoughts were when you felt the pang of anxiety or despair. (For example, “Someone I was interested in canceled our date. I said to myself, ‘This always happens. No one will ever want to go out with me. I’m a total loser.’”)

4. Look at the categories of distorted automatic thoughts below, and ask yourself: Is this thought a cognitive distortion? Write down the cognitive distortions you notice. (For example, looking at the automatic thoughts in number 3 above, you might write, “personalizing, overgeneralizing, labeling, and catastrophizing.”)

5. Look at the evidence for and against your thought.

6. Ask yourself what someone might say who disagreed with you. Is there any merit in that opinion?

7. Consider again what happened, and reevaluate the situation without the cognitive distortions.

8. Write down your new thoughts and feelings. (For example, “I am sad and disappointed that a date I was excited about got canceled.”)

9. Write down again, using the same scale as before, how anxious, depressed, or otherwise distressed you feel.”

Chances are once we do this the scale will be lower and we will be finding relief.

The key is to keep pressing on. Find the places you need someone to stand with you, where you need help, and keep going.

Worthwhile September 20, 2019

Is Fall actually upon us? In SoCal that means overnight temps in the 50’s and 60’s with daytime temps between 75 and, well 100. Ha. I occasionally miss a Midwest autumn with the smell of falling leaves and chill in the air. It smells like football season and Thanksgiving. Ah, nostalgia.

This week I have a trio of phenomenal articles and a video, all worthwhile. Take up and read, and watch.


First out of the gate was a stirring piece by Jared C. Wilson on the recent suicide of Jarrid Wilson. No relation just the same name. “There Should Be Two of Us” is honest and a reminder to all of us that our friends, the people we associate with and those around us can all suffer from depression. Maybe we become more equipped to love, stick with, and care for those in pain.

I am doing well now, and have been for a long time, but I know the feeling of everything being too much, the weight of the fear of never getting better, the emotional drowning of all those breakers and waves. I have heard the lies that nothing will change, that nobody really understands, that people would be better off without the burden of me, and all the rest. And in brief doubtful moments I believed them.


That is the enemy speaking. I don’t know what brought me back from the brink, really. A different kind of fear, I suspect. The fear of missing out on what might happen tomorrow. More than likely, tomorrow would be just the same as today. Every day seems to bring the same pain, the same worry, the same hopelessness. But what if tomorrow’s different? Do I want to rob myself of finding out? And do I want to hurt those I love? A residual curiosity about what might happen if I don’t give up thankfully proved slightly stronger than the despair.


For seriously depressed persons, I know these thoughts don’t come easily, if they come at all. For those seriously struggling with suicidal thoughts, the illness crowds out rationality and logic, as well as sentimentality and hope.


But it is in these moments, perhaps, that faith is most faith. If you cannot see the light, as the saying goes, cast an anchor in the dark. Doubt your doubts. Believe what you can’t. 

Read the essay on For The Church.


Next a call to weak leadership by Darryl Dash. It’s not what you think but a call to biblical leadership fully aquainted with weakness and the need for the Spirit’s power to lead.

“I’m convinced our most common leadership model within the North American church resembles that of the Corinthians. We long for the so-called super-apostles. We want the gifted, the successful, the articulate, the men and women who get things done. Our leaders are allowed to suffer, but only in the past tense. We want winners, people who’ve beat the odds…It’s time to rewrite our leadership playbook. It’s time for leaders who’ve learned the power of weakness.”

Dash looks at Paul in 2 Corinthians for guidance and I think he is on to something. This last week I have been meeting with groups in our church to discuss a new network partnership for us. These talks have also brought on questions of the church’s future and I was quick to share that like Paul I am often “burdened beyond my strength.” And that is exactly where I want to be so I keep trusting Jesus.

Think of how you lead, and give it a read here.


Thirdly, this bit from the last book written by David Powlison shared by Justin Taylor. In it Powlison gives a front row view of a heart given to Christ. What it means to suffer and have hope. Ultimately hope in our Savior.

In the midst of my confusion, unbelief, and fear of death, God used Ezekiel 36:25–27 to bring me to faith. It was my first encounter with the belt of truth that Jesus gives his people. It was my first encounter with the sword of the Spirit that exposes and heals. At that moment, I knew the truth of what Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). It was God who shone his light into my heart and awakened me from the slumber of sin and death.


Now more than four decades later, I am staring death in the face. Instead of my faith failing, the promise of a new heart holds true. God is still shining into the darkness of my heart to give me the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. The reality of death has made the truth of God’s Word come alive to me. 

Read the rest here.


Lastly, here is a short video description of discipleship that is spot on and might spur something in us.


Have a wonderful weekend. Stick close to your people, breathe deep, go for a walk, and go to church. You are loved. You are worth it.

Worthwhile September 13, 2019

It’s Friday the thirteenth. That’s bad right? Maybe something fun will happen today.

I took a week off so today there are four bits of goodness for your weekend reading. Be encouraged, perplexed and try to keep rhythm.


The week began with the sad news that a well-known pastor had taken his own life. Jarrid Wilson was a Southern California mega-church associate pastor and author. He also was a vocal and active advocate for raising awareness of mental health issues as he shared of his own struggles with depression.

In light of this loss Justin Taylor shared snippets from Mark Meynell’s When Darkness Seems My Closest Friend: Reflections on Life and Ministry with Depression.

Three things you can do to help friends with depression are be present, persist, and reassure.

Read the list here. And if you find yourself on the edge please reach out to the Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255.


Next from Tyler Braun, a piece on the reluctant leader. Braun shares how he has questioned his own calling and finds a general reluctance from those that are truly called. In fact it is something that has kept him humble in ministry.

While it can be a good sign, it can also be a negative if it hides laziness or fear etc.

This is why reluctance can be powerful in leadership. From the start there is a sense of unknowing: is this the right fit? These questions keep the leader from believing they are bigger than the task.


There is also a great sense of hard-nosed tenacity toward the responsibility of leadership because reluctance never allowed the task to become too glamorous. Letdown is far less likely an outcome because the reluctant leader never believed it was going to be glorious.

The piece resonated with me because i have often noticed a soft reluctance in a leader indicates more preparedness for the role, at least in the church.

Read Braun on his blog Man of Depravity.


This week I also noticed this article on the STEM education and the waste it is. Of course I am interested because I have kids in STEAM (they have to include arts again) programs and am keenly interested. And it doesn’t appear to be a hit job from a classical education advocate.

The point is that technology corrupts education. Let that stew.

I need to finish it but wanted to share it with you. Especially given that the proven most effective piece of technology in the classroom is an overhead projector used by a competent teacher.

Read Jared Woodward’s article on American Affairs.


Lastly, a newsletter from John Starke on being rhythm oriented rather than goal oriented. It has me thinking.

As my wife says though you may not be either, it isn’t black and white.


That’s it homies. Listen to some George Clinton and the P Funk Allstars. Enjoy the weekend. You matter. People love you. Reach out. Breathe deep and experience the grace of Christ.

Contending Over Commenting

I have been reading the latest book from Mark Sayers on renewal in the church through a remnant of discontents seeking Jesus. Reappearing Church: The Hope of Renewal in the Rise of Our Post-Christian Age. It is stirring some good thoughts and hopefully refining me as I attempt to lead such a ragtag remnant.

This weekend though one line really put a pin in something I have experienced in leadership. In a chapter calling the church to move away from consumerism Sayers says this: “Consumer Christianity is a form of cultural Christianity that compromises the cross with self rather than flag, mixing the worship of God with the worship of options, personal autonomy, low commitment, and opinion over responsibility.

First, we have to recognize our penchant to be consumers. Even those of us in the Christian subculture that prefer hymns over fog machines, we are likely to pursue church, and dare I say, community as a consumer. I do it, you do it, we all do. From that point we recognize a major problem.

We prefer to maintain our own kingdom rather than surrender to Christ’s in a community of believers (meaning my time, my hobbies, my Netflix binges that interfere with mission and the life of the church.) And we prefer to add comments rather than sweat or contend for mission and discipleship in the church.

Too many wanna-be leaders are well equipped to opine on the health of a church or lack of forward motion while neglecting to take any action themselves. Maybe we think the people paid to do ministry should handle everything or maybe we are just stuck in our consumer mindsets. We convince ourselves that our schedules are too full or life is too busy to take up the work. So we keep our options open, commit just a little more than the next guy so we can feel like we are the most righteous, and then miss out on mission because we refused to contend for the church.

We refuse to contend for renewal in Christ.

There is hope. Repentance and realigning our priorities and lives around the mission Jesus has given us, move us beyond consuming. Giving our lives away for the glory of Christ breaks the hold of autonomy of self.

Will you pray with me toward this end? That the Lord would refine us, renew us as we contend together? There is a place for you to contend. Step up and pursue Jesus with abandon and find a family of believers to do it with.