Archive for April, 2009

April 27, 2009

No new posts this week….

by Rod Smith

Mr. Smith goes to Washington

Mr. Smith goes to Washington

I am going “offline” and to Washington DC for a few days. I love the city and I love the fact that I get to see it once a year through the eyes of the nicest 8th Grade students you ever did want to meet.

Please keep writing. I’ll post your comments and respond to your letters when I get back.

Rod Smith

April 26, 2009

Three Blind Mice – “L,” a real-life friend describes her “Christian” Internet dating experience

by Rod Smith

Hi Rod:

There are several titles for my story: “The Mickey B. Story”, “Cyber-men Are Dead to Me,” “Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire!” The “Man-or-Mouse-week” sadly revealed a rat. So take your pick, or make up your own title. Let me know.

Thanks, L, for allowing me to run your story.

Thanks, L, for allowing me to run your story.

After years of friends suggesting that I join a Christian Dating Website and me sticking my fingers in my ears and saying, “LALALALALA! I can’t hear a thing you say,” I felt the Lord begin to speak to me about being intentional in my relationships. I signed up on one of the websites. The website has been quite a different experience for me. I “met” 3 men: all married. However, the 3rd guy, “Mickey B.” tried to play with my heart these last 7 months.

I thought that I would be as wise as I could with this by maintaining a sense of humour in it all, keeping my friends and family informed with it all, take my time over it as it is the internet, whilst being open to what I sensed the Lord saying about me being intentional in my relationships.

So, guy number 3, the “Mickey B.”, Emails me just as I was about to give up on it all. He came across as shy, technical person, heart for missions, developing a radio ministry, part of pioneering a church plant. He said he was single, been to Bible college. It all sounded promising. After a month, we exchanged email addresses and I checked out his church website and read that he had moved with his family and saw a contact for a woman of the same surname (last name). I emailed him asking him bluntly if he was indeed married and he said she was his sister. All very plausible for a family moving to help pioneer a church plant it seemed. By Christmas he said did we want to meet up and I said yes. It seemed hard to pin him down to a diary date, but then my upbringing said to let the man do the chasing. I sent a couple of cards to the church address, which he got straight away and said all the right things that a single guy could say that I would like to hear.

There were times that he didn’t email, or not email very much at all. I would email and ask if he wanted to call it quits to just let me know. He would always email straight back with plausible reasons, had a bug, outreach has been crazy, Christmas, new year. He said he struggled with busyness and could I help him with it. Several times he mentioned meeting up saying he would get back to me.

I was beginning to feel picked up and dropped and I would like to be cherished – so felt that even though I have been ill since January, and cant drive to him at the mo, I really couldn’t carry on just emailing a guy indefinitely, when we could meet up and decide that we didn’t want to continue and besides he had several times said he wanted to meet up s o wrote saying we either meet up or call it quits. Strangely the email bounced back, but seemed to go later, so I decided to send a card to the usual church address. I decided to include my contact details with this card, thinking he would have the most possible ways of contacting me. My group decided to call it “Man or Mouse Week.” Didn’t realize that he would turn out to be a rat.

We had quite a list for him to prove himself a man, flowers, chocolates, lots of consistency and making an effort beyond mere promises. He could also prove to be a man by letting me know that he didn’t want to do this. To prove himself a mouse he would need to do nothing. We set the deadline for last Thursday. Thursday the phone rang. His church pastor’s wife, asking me how I know Mickey B. The church pastor had picked up the card and given it to the actual wife who had challenged it to the real Mickey B. He said I had contacted him through the radio ministry and was chasing him. So the church pastors wife had decided to phone me. Did I know that he was in fact already married with 3 children? No I didn’t know that. We had quite a long conversation. This last week I have emailed them what I know and spoken to his actual wife on the phone. She sounds lovely and he was putting his real actual children to bed. Very surreal for me to hear that one! It seems as if I am just the tip of the iceberg to the deception. They said that if I hadn’t sent the card and been as open and honest as I have been, they would all still be hoodwinked – including his loving wife. They seem to have a good structure in place to support him, should he chose it, and then to help them with their marriage. The photos he had put on the website and the ones he had sent to me weren’t even of him. So if we had of met I would have walked straight past him! He doesn’t drive it also turns out so it is very unlikely, that he would ever turn up. I have deleted everything and the church say they will delete everything I sent too. We also reported him to the website and they removed him. A few weeks ago I had emailed him, saying that as I had prayed for him, that I had the words that the lord was asking him to stand for truth at this time.

So I have gone through emotions of feeling sick, numb, reeling and not sleeping well, at the thought of being the other woman and that I have been fed all these lies right from the beginning. It has helped that the photos weren’t of him. As I sent through to the church all that he had said to me these last few months at their request, that I was able to re-read them as all lies in true Psalm 62 and journal-ing style. It has been surreal to be in such good contact with this church this last week, but probably very important to them as they join ranks in uncovering deception. At times this week I have felt quite cross at him lying to me all of this time. He tried to play with my heart and it has felt bruised this last week. He always was a guy that might not work out, so I tried to guard my heart in all of this. But, the truth is, that he never could have worked out, because he is already married. It is only this last week that I have known that bit. Over the last few months the Lord has been teaching me lots of stuff, and those truths I will hold on to as I have been on my own tentative journey of sharing my heart with another after a very long time. Truth is, he never really had my heart. He tried to catch it, but that would have taken more than emails!! I have done all I can to help his church, prayed and chatted with friends and my lovely vicar and emailed my friends – including you – and now I am done with Mickey B.

I am safe, loved, valued and have some very real precious friends and sleep has returned to me. Cyber-men are now dead to me and I am not going to do internet website dating again. I will stick to building intentional relationships with real people – and if that includes a special man then it is a bonus – hopefully for both of us!

So thanks for being one of my very real precious friends Rod.

And for listening too!

Love from L.

Permission email:

Yes. please do remove and change identifying stuff and change names and edit it as you like and post it on your website if you think it may help and bless some men and women. If you need to add in for your readers that his church have a strong accountability structure in place, including counseling and pastoral support and in the meantime they have removed him from all leadership roles then do, and if it helps readers thinking of internet dating to know that the email address I gave him was a hotmail free one, not my personal and usual one.

Thanks for your prayers for me – and also for the man and his family. It would have been easier for me if it had just been a guy that didn’t work out, but the already married bit has been a bit horrid for me to deal with. I don’t like being lied to or being misled. The potential fallout for him and his family and church family as a Christian is still potentially disastrous. However, my name, does mean light bringer, so if I have helped bring this into light for his wife and church and if people are blessed through reading it on your website then God will continue to be glorified. Going into the darkness isn’t pleasant, but necessary to dispel darkness. And no storm is ever wasted is it.


April 25, 2009

Defining recovery…

by Rod Smith

Chime in, please...

Chime in, please...

Think of “recovery” as regaining, restoring, renewing an individual life, a marriage, a family, or even an organization like a church, club, or a family business. It’s working hard to take back. It’s reclaiming that which has been lost or destroyed or ruined or hurt by the pressures of life. The loss or hurt may be the product of our own unwise choices, the irregular and unreasonable demands of others, or a result of the struggles we all face in relationship, no matter who we are.

A simplistic, imperfect, metaphor: Just as builders, homeowners, developers improve, and restore buildings, houses, apartments, parks, and the transportation systems of our great cities, so will a good mental health professional, family therapist, counseling or clinical psychologist, be able to help an individual, a family, a business, or a church do what is necessary to restore, reclaim, and rebuild an individual, a family, a business, or a church – so that all in the context may be empowered to live lives of greater wholeness, usefulness, and purpose. The professional is the catalyst, the work of recovery is always up to the client.

April 23, 2009

Who dictates how mother will be treated?

by Rod Smith

This is a longer post than usual. This is a good example of TRIANGLES. Please read the WHOLE post.

“Three years ago my mother and my husband got into a horrendous fight at a family get together. I was not in the room at the time. If I could have only known that my mother was planning on attacking him over something petty I would have stopped her in her tracks knowing that my husband is the sort that is unforgiving and once you cross him, you are on his list forever. With this being said, from that day forward my husband has refused to let my mother step foot in our house. He wants nothing to do with her. He will allow for my son and me to visit her any time we would like. But since then my mother has tried to apologize and make mends because it breaks her heart and mine as well that she cannot stop in and see me whenever she would like. I tried once to put my foot down and say that I would not allow him to dictate such a decision, but it almost resulted in the end of our marriage. I had never thought it would go that far, so I of course backed down because I would prefer to keep my marriage intact. I try to visit her at least once a week, but it is not enough in her eyes and I am right in the middle of horrible predicament. I want my mom to visit me whenever she wants but I also cannot force my husband to let her come over. How do I handle this situation please? I am torn and it hurts terribly. I hope to hear from you soon.”

Send your thoughts. Be a support to someone you will probably never meet.

Send your thoughts. Be a support to someone you will probably never meet.

Here are some thoughts. I hope you will find them helpful:

You are in a two-choice dilemma (both options seem bad, this is a David Schnarch term), a double bind (both choices involve undesired cost), between a rock and a hard-place (angering your husband, losing your marriage, missing your mother), the classic triangle (being monkey in the middle). I am fully aware that my naming the issue doesn’t help you one little bit. But, YOU are carrying the anxiety for an issue NOT your own, and thus you endure the stressful feelings of being “torn.” You feel torn because you are. You were not in “the room” at the time of the “horrendous fight” but you have been living in that self-same room ever since. He’s left the room three years ago taking all the power with him and left you and your mother staring powerlessly at each other too scared to do anything in case he decides to put you out in the same manner he put your mother out.

So, I’d suggest you begin (slowly) to take back the power both persons (yes, your mother took it too) have stolen from you. While this may temporarily escalate your anxiety and the conflict, it will ultimately (perhaps only in a few years since these matters take time – remember it has taken you three years to write to me!) reduce your stress and give all of you a chance to grow. Let me also say that if the marriage ends it will not be because of this issue regarding your mother. No mother is that powerful. If the marriage ends it will be because your husband and you refuse to grow up. I do not mean that as an insult. Every single one of us faces the daily task of allowing life to grow us up. Your husband has assumed ALL the power in the sense that he has decided, and continues to decide, the shape of your relationship with your mother. If this is acceptable to you, go on walking on the eggshells he has randomly laid out for you to walk on. Your husband only has the legitimate power to decide about his relationship with your mother. He is empowered to make decisions about the shape of the relationship you have with your mother IF you give it to him or if he takes it and you do not speak up and resist it. On the note of power and your husband: I will make the assumption that you are powerless (by his choice) in other areas of your life and marriage. It is unusual for controlling men and women to want to control only one area of their lives.

I’d suggest you:

1. Steel yourself. This means gather your internal resources, count the costs, make a decision, create a private plan. Find the endurance necessary for the growth and challenge inherent in this situation. Remember this has been going on for years and so your husband is used to your compliance no matter how much fuss you made over this in the past.

2. Invite your mother to dinner at your home. Let your husband know that he is invited to attend or to choose to eat elsewhere when his mother-in-law visits. I’d suggest you do this at least once every two weeks. This will help you get out of “the room.” Don’t surprise him with her visits. Just tell him you are not willing for him to decide the shape of your relationship with your mother, but that you will not attempt to interfere with the shape of the relationship he has (or doesn’t have) with his mother-in-law. This is why the choice is his to be at the meal, to be at home and in another part of the house, or to leave the premises completely. He gets to decide for himself how much power his mother-in-law’s visits possess – by how far or near or engaged or disengaged he chooses to be during her periodic visits.

3. Suggest that your mother agree to announce when she’d like to visit at least a week ahead so that you and your husband may decide if her suggested time is convenient – this is “normal” procedure for guests in western cultures, even, sometimes, for family. If he is uncooperative (which means he always says no) then invite your mother anyway. Then let him know when she will be there and then he can get to decide if he will share space with her, create a scene, decide to evict you, or decide to make other plans. Again, he gets to decide how powerful his mother-in-law will continue to be in his life by the manner in which he chooses to allow her presence or absence or even the threat of her presence to dictate his behavior. Presenting him with these choices will challenge him to allow life to grow him up and it will help you get your power back over your own home and over the shape of the relationship you have with your mother. Always refusing is not making a choice. This is what the immature do. Sometimes refusing, sometimes agreeing, is making a choice. This is what grownups do. Again, this is not meant as an insult. I am regularly tempted to be a child in my thoughts and attitudes and actions rather than a grown man.

4. When talking to your husband and mother always use the “YOUR mother-in-law” or “YOUR son-in-law.” This will help you get out of the middle and out of the room. That said, do not be the messenger between them. Pass no information back and forth between them – not even good news. You are not a carrier pigeon and nor should you assume the role. Do not let the other in on the state of affairs with the absent one. This will assist you to NOT gang up with your mother to get your husband “right.” Neither your husband nor your mother is the enemy here, the enemy is the confiscation of power by some (both your mother and your husband) while you stood by and watched. Granted, you did try to make a stand but it is understandable that his understandable tactic of intimidation worked. You get to decide if it has had its day.

You will know your husband and mother (and you) have all grown when not one of you is a “red rag to a bull” for anyone else and when no one of you is emotionally bullying anyone. Write again. Let me know what happens. Do not be surprised if you fail or do not carry it through. The threat of a loss of a marriage is a big one. I understand. I really do. By the way, please read any book you can find by Harriet Lerner.


Rod Smith

A reader (not Rod) responds (while I have posted this, it does not mean I endorse its contents):……

“Your husband’s over-reaction to something your mom said speaks volumes. It is possible that the confrontation was the ‘last straw’. If you love and respect your husband, and if he is considered to be a fair and honest man, I would suggest you take serious note of his current attitude towards your mother. Encourage him to express his opinion of your mother, as well as his opinion of your relationship with her. Listen carefully. Try to hear what is on his heart, without arguing or being defensive. Perhaps he is not as unforgiving a person as you think, but is frustrated feeling his wife’s loyalties lie more with her mom than with him? It is very hard to truly forgive someone who is in denial and has poor boundaries. Take you eyes off your husband’s attitude and examine the relationship you have with your mother. Setting healthy boundaries for yourself is not an act of disloyalty to you mother. You obviously love and honor her, but don’t let this be at the expense of your relationship with your husband. Remember, he chose to marry you, not you-and-your-mom!”

April 21, 2009

Just when you thought there was hope….

by Rod Smith
I love Friedman. I hope you will too.

I love Friedman. I hope you will too.

I have reconstructed one of the late Rabbi Ed. Friedman’s parables which I first encountered as a footnote in his paper entitled “The Challenge of Change and the Spirit of Adventure.” (It’s essential reading, by the way):

A man was getting ready for heart bypass surgery when his organs called a (secret, of course) meeting. Lungs declared they would refuse to participate in the surgery saying the host had no business making them work harder after all they’d done for him for all these years.

Spleen agreed. Pancreas nudged in agreement. Actually Pancreas winked, but it is hard to tell with Pancreas.

Intestine mulled endlessly on the matter and felt (it was rather an emotional moment, actually) it should side, if he sided with anyone, with Spleen.

Intestine, who found it hard to have an opinion anyway, also did everything slowly.

The Kidney Twins, in unison and stony-faced, kidded a just little (they are not given to too much humor) that he had had the audacity to think they’d work any harder on his behalf, “Who does he think he is trying to get all well?” Their comment became a scoff.

Bowel, not given to small talk, churned the over the matter, repeatedly sighed a long conspiratorial, “Nooo. Nooo. Noooo!”

Liver, still seated, said he wasn’t about to change after all these years. Then, standing to address the meeting, said, “Who exactly is he to decide without due process anyway? New lease on life, a new Heart around here will mean new demands. Everyone’s been so worried about old Heart for all these years, no one gave a rip about us! We’ll show him who is boss! He’ll get all active – which means we’ll have to, too. No. No. No. What does he know about taking out the trash anyway? I do the REAL work around here!”

Round the table the organs voted and a decision was reached. “No! No to surgery for our ambitious, unreasonable, demanding, host.”

Just then Brain spoke up, “It’s none of your business. It is not your decision to make. Get back to work.”

(I highly recommend Friedman’s Fables and Failure of Nerve by the same author.)

April 19, 2009

My brother married a sometimes-spiteful woman…

by Rod Smith

My brother is going to live in the UK. I have not seen much of him since his wedding day when he married a rather spoiled, sometimes spiteful woman. I would like to say a few things to him about his wife and explain why I have not been in contact. I know I will miss him. It already feels like he has been gone for a long time. Please help.

Write to me...

Write to me...

Your brother now has a primary covenant relationship that trumps ALL of his other relationships. Do not, under any circumstances, take your brother aside for any explanation regarding your lack of contact. Your attendance at the wedding affirmed the union. If you did not agree with his choice of bride you should have made this clear before the wedding and then not have attended the wedding.

Eat humble pie and embrace your brother and his wife as soon as possible. His wife may well be “a rather spoiled, sometimes spiteful woman” but she is your sister-in-law and he is your brother. It is time for you to create the kinds of memories that will enrich your family rather than give you fuel for future regret.

April 18, 2009

Day planner

by Rod Smith

I'm waiting to hear from you.

I'm waiting to hear from you.

In the rush of the morning I will be an agent of good news. No matter what’s reported on television, what frightful events are in the newspaper, or how trying my circumstances might be, I will find joy this morning, and, on finding it, I will spread it, speak it, and live it with abandon.

At mid-morning, around teatime, I will be a conveyor of compliments. I will find something to praise in several people, especially forlorn souls who appear to least expect it. If perchance, in the course of my search, I encounter an angry man or woman I will counter the anger with honest affirmations, quiet words of encouragement while doing all I can to ignore the symptoms of anger.

Come afternoon and I will make at least a half-a-dozen “well-done” phone calls even if I get a brain-burn* coming up with names and acts worthy of some recognition.

Then this evening I will applaud the universe for its kindness. I will offer a standing ovation to God for the abundance of Grace that allows me to thrive. I will embrace my neighbors for helping me be part of a vibrant community. I will celebrate my children for all we continue to learn and to share. And, oh, once everyone is asleep, I will do the laundry.

* My sons gather great words!

April 15, 2009

Hurting feels like a monumental hill….

by Rod Smith

“Healing a hurting heart is monumental hill to climb. I am almost 50 and have just broken up with my girlfriend whom I dearly loved. I am a divorced man. The sudden guilt of not making the right choices and sadness of all my previous years has rested upon me. I continually focus on where I went wrong and wonder if my own mind is against me because the amount of hurt I do to myself. I tell myself that there are people with incurable diseases, loved ones who have been killed, and billions of people are worse off than I am but it doesn’t seem to help.

I will listen to you, and make time for you if you'd like to talk.

I will read your letters, and make time for you if you if you'd like to talk.

I tend to look back more instead of looking forward knowing that it doesn’t help. Not being a religious person I would feel embarrassed and fickle to head toward religion. If there is any man in the same sad trench and found a way out I would like to know. I know this is trivial as when compared to what’s going on in the world but at the moment it feels shattering.” (Edited)

“Fickle” would be an honorable label in return for the promise of a secure faith. I’d suggest a full medical and several weeks with a skilled therapist. It is possible to give too much to a relationship, to expect it to deliver you from all unhappiness, to meet your every need. Perhaps you invested too much, at the neglect of your personal well-being, and now, in the absence of the relationship your world has indeed fallen apart. There is a future, even after this loss. Really. I have seen others find it and I trust you will do so too.

Reader responds: “Regarding yesterday’s column, I do not think there is anything wrong or ‘fickle’ with seeking religious solace in the face of personal suffering. We live in a materialistic world that puts great store on the concept of the ‘self-made man’ (and women) who are not supposed to curl up and die when things go wrong. However, the reality is that without a strong personal belief system, it is very difficult to face loss and depression. Knowing that there are others suffering greater tribulation certainly does not help the individual to come to terms with his own personal grief – spiritual faith does. Maybe this heartbreak is the impetus this man needs to review his spiritual needs. It happened to me and I have grown as a result, but it has been a slow process. There are no quick fixes in this life.”

Precisely. Thus my comment that “fickle” would be an honorable label in return for a secure faith.

April 11, 2009

Be a healing presence…

by Rod Smith

Thanks for visiting

Through the wonders of technology I am able to access the key words that land readers on this website. I think you’d be surprised at the frequency of combination of the words “how to hurt a man” appear to be the essence of a search. In response, to those who appear to want to inflict damage, I have devised a list of how to participate in the healing of men and women who have been hurt.

1. Be willing to listen, even if what is being said is what you’d prefer to not hear. Try not to re-engineer (re-frame, recast) what you have heard so it is more fitting with what you’d really like to hear.
2. Resist understandable attempts to short-circuit growth by trying to ease necessary pain, by offering false affirmations, and by accepting empty excuses for irresponsible behavior. Pain is a very good motivator for change. Resist the urge to remove it when it appears to be helpful.
3. Offer your presence, not your answers. “I am with you” is more helpful than “let me help you fix it.”
4. Welcome silence. There are ways to talk that do not include words. Resist the understandable urge to chase healing and learning away with the incessant use of words.
5. Avoid minimizing (“it’s not so bad!”) or rationalizing (“What else did you expect?”) or normalizing (“Anyone would have done that!”) the issues that resulted in pain. Do not rob necessary pain of its usefulness.
6. Promote “future thinking.” Ask questions focused on future wellness and success.
7. Try to avoid searching for the genesis (the cause) of what has led to pain. Where something comes from is not nearly as important living your way out of it.

Write to me: / if you want to talk, let me know. I will make time for you.

April 8, 2009

My husband and his friend are inseparable…..

by Rod Smith

“My husband made friends with a guy and now they’re inseparable. I am going mad. I know a man has to have friends but this is ridiculous. He sees this person every other day. I want alone time with my husband and he will say his friend wants to join us. This feels like a threesome. He does have a wife who is not ‘my cup of tea.’ I cannot say anything because it makes a fight. Am I wrong? The other day I said let’s take a drive and sit somewhere. My husband made sure the place was nearby so his friend could meet us. Confused boundariesI was silent to not make trouble. My husband says I am jealous. How can I be jealous of a man? I think maybe he should take his clothes and go and live with him. He must have something I don’t have. When I see him I can scream but I keep my cool. The friend will say, ‘Oh my sister! So glad to see you.’ My blood boils. I know God says you have to let these things go and pray otherwise we don’t have blessings. Give me advice before it is too late.” (Letter shortened)

dsc_0642How much of your husband are you willing to share? How much of a threesome are you prepared to be? These questions must be answered. This issue is not about the friend, his wife, or even your husband. Everything, for you, hinges on you. It is not a matter of jealousy and your husband is employing a sneaky trick to suggest it is. This is about divided, or confused, loyalties. Challenge your husband to grow up, to decide on how his loyalties are expressed from day to day.

From where did you get the idea that you have to be silent and “let these things go and pray,” or you will stop your blessings? This is twisted theology. I’d suggest that your silence, passivity, and continuing to have your blood “boil” will only result in increased suffering for you and your husband. Take a stand. Clearly you understand men need friends, but it ceases to be friendship when others (family members) are not also enriched by the friendship. Make your stand with full knowledge that you might not be your husband’s first choice. At least then, you will know.

Write again, or if you’d like to talk, let me know. I will make time for you.