Kiss and Tell – An Emmaus Counseling Marriage Seminar

Kiss and Tell – An Emmaus Counseling Marriage Seminar

The couple stood at the altar with eyes locked on each other. They were just moments away from becoming man and wife. Nothing mattered more in that moment than the love they shared for each other. 

Fast forward 11 years to a different time. His eyes are downcast and hers are filled with tears of sadness. He has just admitted to an affair. The vow they made on that day 11 years prior seemed to all of a sudden feel like an empty promise. 

Fast forward a few years more. Their eyes are locked on each other once again. This time, there is a sense of trust and peace that flows between them as they share their hearts and lives together. The gospel is central in their marriage and it has everything to do with the rebuilding of their relationship. “To God be the glory” they gladly proclaim for indeed, it is only through his grace that they can look each other in the eyes with a love that is rooted in something much deeper than what they found on their wedding day.

This couple is not just some fictitious example of how marriages can be destroyed. It is not an attempt to scare engaged couples on their way down the aisle. We tell you this story because this is a true story from one of our own.

An Emmaus couple has walked this difficult road. While their marriage is well on the way to renewal, the main issues that led to the downfall of their marriage mostly centered around communication and sex.

In our very first Emmaus Counseling Marriage Seminar, “Kiss and Tell,” you will get to hear from this couple as well as our Emmaus Counselors and a small panel of married couples. 

It is our hope that you will walk away with a renewed sense of how the gospel deeply impacts your marriage, day in and day out. However, we also want you to walk away with some practical tools and insights so that your marriage can flourish for the sake of the gospel. 

Will you and your spouse consider joining us? 

Our counselors, Tish Hedger and Jesse Masson, will be presenting on intimate topics of communication and sex. God designed marriage to be enjoyable, intimate, and to reflect His glory. Since these issues continue to be primary reasons for marriage counseling, this seminar will focus on professional views, biblical truths, and practical steps to help build (or rebuild) the necessary foundations for your healthy marriage.

This marriage seminar is open to the community, for engaged or married couples looking to improve their intimacy. The seminar format will allow opportunities for questions and interactions. 

**REGISTER HERE**

When: Saturday, March 11 (9am-12:30pm)

Where: Emmaus Church (NO childcare provided)

Cost: $5/couple (Registration closes March 6)

How Gratitude Helps Grief

How Gratitude Helps Grief

 

My grandma just died over the Thanksgiving holiday. She was my last biological grandparent and 89 years old. Although my family could long foresee this coming due to her declining health, her death casts a new reality that will take time to adjust for many. Thankfully I was able to travel and visit her this past summer and say my “goodbye” to her then. Maybe I am still processing my emotions, but I currently do not feel like weeping. My feelings may reflect a healthy outlook as I know she proclaimed her love and faith in Jesus Christ as her Savior.

 

I am aware of how I feel in this moment. I also realize that others may feel differently about the same situation, so I must not project my emotions onto them. However, I think that it is possible to bring a healthy balance of grief and an “attitude of gratitude” into any difficult moment. In those many moments of loss (death, job, relationships, etc.), here is how to healthily join grief and thankfulness together:

 

  1. Realize it’s okay to grieve. Psalm 31:9 is a prayer to God noting the physical distress of grieving. This is a natural reaction God gave us (which I am learning for myself!) as part of a healthy process. So don’t try masking your healthy grief by pretending you are not sad in moments of sadness. Proverbs 14:13 warns that “even in laughter” the heart may be grieving! So be aware of how you (and others) are truly feeling.
  2. Quiet your inner rage. Grief and anger are two different feelings. Be discerning to not allow yourself to sin in anger just because you lost someone or something you loved. Proverbs 15:18 warns that a “hot-tempered man stirs up strife” but being calm quiets contention.
  3. Be still and know…your limits! Psalm 46:10 reminds us that we are not God, so we must trust in the One who is God. We can take hope and be grateful when we realize that situations are out of our control and in the capable hands of our Creator and Lord.
  4. There’s hope! First Thessalonians 4:13 proclaims that there is no grief for those of us who have a hope in Jesus. Good news for all of us who have lost fellow Christians here on earth as we know that we will be united again for all eternity. We can be grateful for the hope in Jesus, no matter the current woes!
  5. Blessings are gifts, not rights! I am not entitled to have a certain job, make a certain salary, have family near, or evade death. Instead, I do have the right to rejoice in all things as I know that God graciously gives good gifts (Matthew 7:11) and there is nothing to my merit which earns goodness or adds days to my life. The apostle Paul makes this clear from his dire dungeon when he writes, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Philippians 4:11).
  6. “Attitude of gratitude” is infectious. With my wife’s help, I am learning to not be a curmudgeon when simple expectations don’t go the way I want them to happen. When I can express joy, I find my attitude is more selfless and grateful (not to mention my wife enjoys being around me more).

 

I think I am able to see the blessings my grandma was to our family, and how God worked throughout all circumstances. Ultimately I believe my grief can easily be subsided and healed by looking onward to the residual path of God-given blessings of His goodness. Thank you Jesus!

If you are interested in receiving clinical and biblical counseling, please contact myself or Tish Hedger at Emmaus Counseling

 

jesse massonJesse is one of our Biblical Counselors at Emmaus Counseling.  He received his Masters of Arts in Counseling from MBTS in 2014 and is a LPC in the state of Kansas.  Jesse and his wife Julie have 3 children and have lived in Kansas City, Spain and Iowa. 

How porn strips more than clothes

How porn strips more than clothes

I don’t know of anything that has ever been more blatantly immoral yet continues to increase exponentially in usage, than the epidemic of our porn industry. (Even the CDC reports that abortions are lessening in frequency.)

So what’s the big deal? It doesn’t hurt anyone.

Is this just a “religious” argument for morality?

What if porn is used to enhance my partner’s and my sex life?

Great questions. But they’re horribly skewed and illogical at their core. For there is not a single, selfless, good reason that porn exists. Porn does not even suffice one’s “sexual frustrations,” as some may argue. In fact, the viewing of porn does the opposite; it sets one up for future failures.

I do not have a single reference that summarizes all the ethical and mental health reasons to abstain from porn, but there are ample sources that provide such data. From a professional view, I can tell you that I clearly see a link between porn use and the negative effects on an individual’s mood, self-control, self-image, discipline, productivity, view of others, and sexual identity issues.

Pornography is designed to be visually (implicitly or explicitly) tantalizing by revealing more than the acceptable norms and mores in place (i.e. naked bodies are arousing because we are used to the norm of clothed bodies in public life). But does porn strip away more than the object’s clothes?

Yes. In fact, porn changes our neurological pathways in the brain’s functioning to see the person as an object for gratification purposes only. So we no longer see that (human) image as a person, but we then start to objectify real life people as a means to satisfy perverted desires.

The beginning of this detrimental direction is the thought, “What happens in privacy, does not hurt anyone else.” Not at all true. This is not a sin or maladaptive behavior that is simply a vice on a personal level. Porn transcends the visual screen into the mind as a false sense of comfort and you’re trapped thinking that it’s a personal, manageable issue. Here are some ways that porn hurts more than just you:

  • Sweet little lies. Porn gives you what you want (sexual arousal) without asking anything from you (such as responsibility, commitment, morality, etc.).
  • It’s addictive. Like any chemical dependency, porn kick-starts a rush of endorphins in the brain which gives you a boost of pleasure. However, it will soon leave you wanting more, and you will seek it again once you come out of your chemical slump. Addiction takes place as you need it more frequently – or potently (i.e. “hard” porn, BDSM, child porn, etc.) – to suffice your cravings. Porn ultimately dictates your mood, whether you recognize it or not.
  • Porn is your new pet. It will soon take your thoughts and energy away from other important responsibilities and relationships (friends, spouse, family) as you will try to get as much consumption whenever possible, justifying your neglect of other duties. Your productivity in daily activities will wither away.
  • Other as objects. With porn, you get used to seeing others as “objects of pleasure,” rather than human beings. You readily “auto-jump” to the sexualized scenario that porn has previously placed there in your brain with visual cues. Only this time, your neurological pathways are trained enough to conjure explicit images of others (for your sexual arousal) without the prompting of pornographic material.
  • Devalues your sexual being. It does not matter how you identify sexually, but porn does diminish what God created you for sexually (either celibate or sex within marriage). You think that you have the potential to express yourself to the fullest, but porn reduces you to a cheap (virtual) trick.

God did not create us as sexual beings to torment us with what we cannot have. Instead, we are fulfilled in obedience to his outlined plan in how we conduct our entire being – for his glory. Your or my sexual frustrations do not merit the right to find sexual release in deviant ways (via porn). But the discipline of reigning in sexual urges – whether married or single – is a discipline that puts others first and God’s glory ahead of your own pleasure. Our culture tells us that happiness is the indicator to our health. That is false, as it conveys infallibility of feelings.

On a personal level, I can also attest to how my past porn addiction was detrimental; to my mood, self-control, faith, productivity, and family-life. I have hurt my wife in the past with my porn use, but I am extremely grateful to how she has graciously shown me selfless love. Porn caused me to be selfish in the marriage bed and mental playground. Now I find greater joy in how I experience life without that addiction, and the ability to love my wife better when I think of her, not my perverted desires.

If you struggle with pornography, be educated, and seek accountability and counseling. If you know someone who is struggling with porn, be an empathic listener who can encourage the appropriate steps for change.

What are successful ways you have dealt with past pornography?

jesse massonJesse is one of our Biblical Counselors at Emmaus Counseling.  He received his Masters of Arts in Counseling from MBTS in 2014 and is a LPC in the state of Kansas.  Jesse and his wife Julie have 3 children and have lived in Kansas City, Spain and Iowa. 

An Interview with the new Emmaus Counselors

An Interview with the new Emmaus Counselors

This week, after months of prayer and work, we are pleased to announce that Emmaus Counseling is now officially open! I asked our two clinically trained, biblical counselors to sit down with me and share a few insights into how they counsel and what someone can expect when they attend a counseling session. I’m pleased to introduce you to Jesse Masson and Tish Hedger.

Emmaus Blog: So why did Emmaus Church decide to start a counseling center? Aren’t there already a lot of counselors in Kansas City?

jesse massonJesse: Yes there are a lot of really great counseling centers in Kansas City, but Emmaus Counseling meets two needs that we feel are underserved here in the Northland. The first is professional mental health care in the Northland is not as readily accessible. Secondly, we see the benefit of combining a Christian worldview with professional counseling. Research shows that the spiritual element in counseling is not only desired by a large percentage of clients, but it also aids the healing process. Emmaus Counseling is unique as it serves the needs of its church body, as well as counseling clients here in the Northland.

Emmaus Blog: It sounds like people may be willing to consider counseling from a church. Are there some things that make counseling at a church unique from a regular therapist’s office?

tish circleTish: You can trust at Emmaus Counseling that our primary goal is healthiness not only of your mind but in the integration of your mind and spirit. We are going to look to the Bible and the Holy Spirit for the primary source of strength and guidance in our counseling. We believe that Jesus Christ is the ultimate counselor. We will be seeking him on the client’s behalf for any help and wisdom given.

Emmaus Blog: Jesse, you’ve been seeing clients since 2012. Where did you work before and what are some lessons you’ll be bringing to Emmaus Counseling that you feel will benefit your new clients?

Jesse: I worked for another great organization called New Leaf Counseling in Kansas City. During my 4 years there, I saw clients with a variety of issues. While walking alongside a couple on the brink of divorce, I watched them find perspective in their marriage as they began to refocus on the gospel while gaining respect and hope in each other. When I see a client addicted to pornography move from self-hatred to a deeper understanding of his worth in Christ, I’m reminded of why I counsel with such a holistic approach. As someone who has also spent a year in counseling as the client, I understand the benefit of having sound, biblical counseling to meet the need of real life issues. My counselor helped me pinpoint the source of my own personal issues and I trust that God will use me in the same way as I meet with future clients. 

Emmaus Blog: Tish, I know you see a lot of women dealing with a variety of issues from past abuse. What piece of advice would you give to women who have also suffered abuse in the past and want help?

Tish: Often times women don’t come to me for the abuse they experienced but for some other reason. They are looking for symptom relief for depression, anxiety, stress management, or relationship problems. The advice I would give is to be patient with yourself and realize that when it comes to matters of the heart, mind and memory the whole problem is usually entangled with different factors. But if there is unresolved abuse, it will almost certainly be one underlying factor that can bring much clarity and healing when resolved. Although the abuse happened, perhaps many years ago, do not be surprised if it’s still affecting you.

Emmaus Blog: Why don’t you both tell me a little bit about what a typical session looks like with you as a counselor. What can people expect?

Jesse: At the beginning of the session, I usually let the client share with me what is going on in his life. I let the client direct the conversation. I don’t just ask him to tell me what he is feeling, but rather we dialogue to dissect various sub-issues that are causing points of distress. Because I use a holistic approach, I also want to be very clear on what I don’t do:

This isn’t a time when the client is just going to come and ramble while I sit and take notes in a stoic manner. Nor is it a time when a client sits while I lecture him. Rather, counseling is a time to build a therapeutic relationship where the client can say what’s on his mind to an empathic listener in a safe environment. We exchange ideas to get to the root of the issue so that healing can take place.

Tish: The counselor is not a teacher, judge, or coach. But rather a sojourner on a journey towards healing. The path of healing for each individual is unique. The journey towards healing must be based on the personality of the client and their individual circumstance. The counselor’s role is to tailor a journey as unique as the individual.

Emmaus Blog: What is one thing you want people to know if they are considering counseling?

Jesse: Because issues are often built up over time, counseling is normally not a quick fix. It will take time and effort if you truly want to get better. Clients must understand they must be vitally involved. The client can expect to get out of counseling what he is willing to put into it. For example, a husband that attends sessions half-heartedly without being open and honest about his own issues will likely not see his marriage improve.

Tish: Like Jesse said, understand that it is not a quick fix. A counselor is really there to support, encourage and offer comfort and strength in the difficulties of life when there is sorrow and confusion.

It is our hope that those who need help dealing with issues will reach out and get help at Emmaus Counseling. Our fees are income based so that all can get access to gospel-centered counseling. To schedule an appointment, contact one of our counselors here.

6 reasons to choose counseling

6 reasons to choose counseling

Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone that you are reading this post. It’s understood that you are only inquiring to help a “friend” that you know who is experiencing emotional pain (*wink*). So here is some information that you can take with you to ensure the right decision to move forward in counseling.

Actually, before I get to that, let me say that I’ve “been there, done that.” Even after obtaining my counseling degree and professional license, I wasn’t readily willing to go to counseling myself. Whether it was my childhood scars, emotional calluses, or pride – I would rather offer the advice sooner than declare my need for it. But I can honestly say that after being in counseling as the client, I have a better understanding of my past and present, and how it affects my relationships with others (especially my wife). So if you are anything like me, there is great benefit to seeking out counseling.

Despite the declining negative stereotype people hold against mental health, it is still important that we understand why counseling is beneficial. Mental health practice can be likened to medical practice; not only do you go to the doctor when something is (bio-medically) wrong, but also for your annual check up – to ensure your normal health. Similarly, counseling is strongly utilized not only when emotions are dysregulated, but it can also be a healthy way to “check in” every so often for the sake of your mental health maintenance.

It does not mean that whoever reaches out for counseling is on the verge of a nervous breakdown, nor that a secret intervention camera crew is about to walk through the door. It does mean that the individual seeking counseling has a lot more courage than most of us. Think about the last time anyone bragged to the office co-workers about his upcoming counseling session because he doesn’t feel in control of his emotions. It can be scary to admit to someone else that you don’t know why you feel a certain way, that you’re addicted to porn, your marriage is no longer functioning, etc. Here are some things that may encourage you to choose counseling:

  1. You’re confused. Sometimes our life has us up-side-down without us realizing it. It’s difficult to navigate what exactly we are facing or how its even affecting us on a daily basis. This is a good time to choose counseling.
  2. You’re not Superman. Despite feeling like it some days or having a successful business career, that doesn’t mean that you are able to navigate healthy mental/emotional steps all by yourself in your personal life. Don’t struggle alone, choose counseling to help yourself out.
  3. Your daily life is not the norm. Do you feel low, have irregular sleep patterns, or have atypical thoughts consume your mind? This can be a clue that your mental health is suffering. Get back to your normal health with counseling.
  4. Your relationships are suffering. Are you easily agitated with others whom are normally close with you (spouse, friends, etc.)? Are you atypically withdrawn from social relationships? If this is your pattern, then it may strongly suggest that you should seek out counseling to regulate your daily relationships.
  5. You don’t have fun anymore. When your favored activities no longer hold pleasure for you, then that can indicate your moods are dysregulated. Finding a way back to your happy self again is a good reason to see a counselor.
  6. You’re addicted. Whenever there is something (gambling, sex, porn, alcohol, drugs, etc.) that you find yourself preoccupied by or pouring your resources into, that is reckless and unsustainable. You cannot be healthy when simultaneously not taking care of your present or future well-being.

Although these are valid reasons to choose counseling, it is always easier to have excuses for turning away from mental health. Time, money, projects, and work – all will slide into valuable priorities, but managing your mental health will lead to better management of your resources in the long run. Remember that it takes courage to seek out help. When you find yourself in counseling, it is not a moment of weakness, but rather the epithet for holistic health. You’ll thank yourself later.

jesse massonJesse is one of our Biblical Counselors at Emmaus Counseling.  He received his Masters of Arts in Counseling from MBTS in 2014 and is a LPC in the state of Kansas.  Jesse and his wife Julie have 3 children and have lived in Kansas City, Spain and Iowa. 

Beyond Survival

Beyond Survival

I did not know I was depressed until I got married. Over time I would see that depression had been present since I was a child. When I walked down the aisle ten years ago, I had never said the words out loud. I was ashamed of my depression, and in absolute denial.

After I came to Christ as a teenager and ventured into young adulthood I had more to fight than my own rebellious sin. There was a war I would fight against the effects sin had inflicted on my heart. My heart was diseased with lies and in pain. I was broken and sick from the pain of my experiences.

There was a war I would fight against the effects sin had inflicted on my heart.

The freedom God has graciously granted in my life in the area of depression is for another time and post. But as we live in this world that has been infected with sin, everyone experiences the crossfire of sin in different ways. The crossfire showed itself in my life through childhood trauma. I know what it’s like to feel left, scared, weak, and used. I know what it’s like to stuff and stuff the pain for years believing that survival was the bookend of those years. I know the condemnation that comes when you wonder why you keep struggling. “I must not love God enough?” “My faith is too weak.” “I need to pray more. Read the bible more. Be better. Be stronger.” It was my fault that I couldn’t fix it.

But as we live in this world that has been infected with sin, everyone experiences the crossfire of sin in different ways.

The heart is the well-spring of life. We are to guard it. What happens when the heart is trespassed by the sins of others and caught in the crossfire of sin in the world?

Recently one of our pastors preached on Hebrews 1:3b
“After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high..”

Christ made purifications for our sins then he sat down. My pastor explained that he sat down because the work of defeating death and sin had been accomplished. Jesus sitting down at the right hand of his father declared to every being in heaven and earth, “It is finished.”

I was struck by the hope and my heart cried out “YES!” There is hope as we overcome our sin and reflect Christ more and more accurately. But there is also hope as we face the brokenness caused by this sinful world and the captives living in it. Christ won against sin. He beat the power of sin. He wins over every way sin has played out in this world, and every way it is afflicting our minds and hearts.

I limped around for years spiritually, not able to even imagine myself without the sadness of my past. I looked to the return of Christ as the finish line, trying to simply survive in the mean time. I would grit my teeth and I would limp on, truly happy for the hope of eternity. I had befriended despair and did not recognize the prisoner I had become.

Christians, do not believe hopelessness in anything.

My obedience required going to counseling. It felt counter-intuitive to my preservation instincts to run towards the pain. But we can run towards the pain knowing it is hemmed in behind and before with the cross.

As we behold our Savior sitting down at the right hand of the Father on high, it is a call to pursue healing and wholeness in the land of the living. It is a reminder that there is hope for our pain today. There is present healing for our afflictions.

To our finite hearts and minds this can feel complicated and wearisome. It does not matter how intricately sin has been weaved into the fabric of our psyche and soul, the power of the cross is wise enough and strong enough to separate the truth from the lies and then to heal the torn bits of us the separation will cause.

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. Ps 43:5
O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. Ps 30:2
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy. Ps 103:2-4
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Ps 147:3

tish circleTish is one of the counselors at Emmaus Counseling. She is married to Joshua and they have 2 children. Having grown up in a broken family, with addict parents, and an unstable home-life, Tish has experienced pain both of her own decisions and from the decisions of others. She has experienced the life-giving wholeness that comes through a combination of hope in Jesus and high-quality clinical counseling. It is her desire to help others find wholeness as well.

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