Archive for December, 2010

December 30, 2010

Final column for 2010 – Thanks, thanks very much…..

by Rod Smith

Attraction is only enduringly poss

Thanks, thank you very much

Thanks for following this column during 2010. I do not take your support or your letters lightly. My only regret is that I cannot respond to every letter. To do so I’d have to employ staff and, as a consequence, I think the column would lose the personal touch I like to believe it has.

Highlights for the year I think have been the “Write Something Beautiful” and the “Give Something Away Every Day” challenges. Reader response to both was nothing short of phenomenal – and in the case of the latter, men and women gave handsomely of their wealth and possessions and participated in encouraging a spirit of goodwill in contexts where it is often least expected.

I’ll close this final column of 2010 not only with wishing you a very happy New Year but also with reminding us all of what have become persistent themes: show up for yourself (it is wise, not selfish); speak up for yourself (this is helpful, not selfish); show up for the underdog; resist all controlling behaviors (manipulation, intimidation, domination); define yourself while resisting the natural urge to define others; and, finally, remember that anxiety is more contagious even than the common cold.

December 29, 2010

She makes my heart sing – but she’s not my wife….

by Rod Smith

“I am married to this wonderful wife for three years we have a daughter. Two months ago I met a beautiful woman and it took a week for us to establish a relationship. The problem is I have fallen in love with her. My wife found out about this. I can’t get her out of my mind. She is what I need. We were recently hi-jacked together and shot with bullets by thugs and we survived together. She makes me happy. My heart skips when I think about her. My wife has been a friend for more than ten years. I respect her but my new love makes my heart sing. I am afraid of the shame of divorcing. I don’t want my children raised by a stepfather. My wife is 7 months pregnant this makes it worse. It’s my happiness or my family’s happiness.” (Edited)

This is dangerous - don't do it!

You might have survived a hi-jack and bullets (together) but it is your marriage that’s being hi-jacked. You are an adult, not an irresponsible teenager. She-who-makes-your-heart-sing should run a mile that you’d even contemplate leaving a pregnant wife and a child for her. Don’t do it. Instead, use this momentary diversion as an opportunity to grow up as both a man and husband.

December 28, 2010

Keeping women “down” must be consistently challenged….

by Rod Smith

Attraction is only enduringly poss

Fully live (women, too!)

I am thoroughly aware that some cultures do not “allow” women to have a voice, make choices, speak up to husbands – having regularly addressed men and women from such cultures for years. I remain convinced that this robs said cultures of half of its creative capital.

Keeping women “down” must be consistently challenged. Thus my suggestion the woman in yesterday’s column (12-28-2010) define herself to her husband. Of course it flies in the face of many cultures – but if she is to give of her best to herself, her husband, to anyone, speaking up to all in her context is the place to start.

What can be so threatening for some men that some are terrified if women (whom they love) makes their full contribution?

Yes. It will more than ruffle the marriage. Rather a ruffled marriage than a life-time of control, submission, manipulation, leading to intimidation, then domination – not that all men in said cultures are this way at all.

If he really “treats her like a queen” he will also grow. If not, he will reject her; even leave her. At least she’d have expressed herself as a woman and be able to achieve, albeit at great cost, her selfhood as a woman and will have discovered she requires permission from no one to BE.

PS: I have delivered lectures in several Asian countries where it seems women are strongly discouraged from expressing their voices. While trying to be as culturally sensitive as possible, I did not water down my message at all and called on all men and all women to encourage all men and all women to find, express, and use their voices. While I have had some strong kick-backs (some rejection and exclusion) I have always been invited back. I’ve even asked leaders and organizers the reasons I am invited back despite my contrary message. I am told, “Yes. Your message is dangerous for us but we still need to hear it.”

December 28, 2010

Sometimes my boys are like the Church

by Rod Smith

My boys, now 12 and 8, seem to tangle with each other about everything – non-stop. It’s over who sits where in the car, and who gets the remote while watching a movie and much else. The tension, the competitive spirit sometimes sours our potentially exciting times together.

On a hike through a forest I have known them fight over a single stick. On a mile-long and deserted beach I have seen them fight over wanting to dig precisely the same hole. While riding bicycles in a very large, vacant parking lot they have repeatedly crashed into each other.

You have guessed it! Of course – and this has not happened in the recent past – they both need the same toilet at precisely the same time when, for hours before, there was no mention of any need for either to use a toilet!

So, sometimes out of sheer exhaustion, I announce the boys need some “alone time” or some “space.” I suggest each goes to his room for an hour or two. It is then that I am met with looks of complete disbelief and pleas to reverse my declaration! Why? What have we done? We’re having so much fun.

Apart from the part about fun, my boys behavior frequently mirror what I’ve seen in the Body of Christ: those are OUR people, that’s MY ministry, WE started that, what are YOU doing here. Warring ministries seldom involve too much fun – at least my kids still get a kick out of each other.

December 28, 2010

This is a love marriage but he doesn’t want to see my parents….

by Rod Smith

“I’m in a love marriage (as opposed to arranged). When we were in love we used to talk about my parents. After our marriage he is treating my parents like slaves or enemies. Since it’s a love marriage I am not able to console my parents. He says my parents are playing a game with me, using me as a source for everything. This is not so. Now I hate my love. He takes care of me like a queen. He gets everything for my parents but he doesn’t want to see them. I don’t want any belongings from him for my parents. I want only his love for them or at least a relationship between them.” (Edited)

Attraction is only enduringly poss

Speak up.....

You have three challenges:

(a) Love your parents AND your husband.
(b) Resist trying to get him to relate to your parents.
(c) Do not let him dictate your relationship with your parents any more than you try to dictate his relationship with your parents.

The sooner you find your voice (as opposed to obeying his) the more you will all be able to love and respect each other.

Defying him (to love your parents) will ultimately enhance, not ruin your marriage, even if at first, it seems to shake every foundation.

December 28, 2010

I’d have found Pythagoras easier to explain

by Rod Smith

Nathanael Steven Smith

In the manner only very little boys and girls appear to be able, seven-year-old Alex asked me (in the cafeteria line) why Nathanael doesn’t have a mommy.

Second grade boys don’t expect men to cry and so I don’t think the child saw the tear I could feel forming.

In that moment I’d have found Pythagoras easier to explain.

It was not that Nathanael does not have a mother that provoked my emotions. I am quite used to that.

It was something anguished in the boy’s tone that did it. It was a contorting of his face, a look of total puzzlement which suggested that not having a mother was indeed a thought too frightful and painful for Alex to even begin to contemplate.

December 27, 2010

Are you, Rod Smith, a Christian or not?

by Rod Smith

Says it all......

I love the Body of Christ – I think. I’ve had mail from real Christians who have decided I have a one-way ticket to hell.

“How can you believe in women in leadership and Jesus? Read the Bible you idiot,” says a letter. “You will fry,” says another, “if you keep being so liberal, you will fry in Hell.”

Nice. How loving. Can you smell the sweet fragrance of grace?

It gets worse. Much worse. But, I think I’ll leave it at that.

Flip through my Email and it is: “I just can’t read you anymore. I feel like you are too preachy. When are you going to understand the separation of Church and State?” and “I don’t buy the newspaper to be evangelized.”

I guess I’m doing something.

Some Christians, and those who claim no Christian alliance, are equally reactive and often over the same piece of writing.

The truth is I am a Christian. Despite the invasive, intrusive efforts of many “evangelists” (I think of them as “meddlers”) throughout my childhood, I did see the love of God expressed through the Life of Jesus. I’ve seen the power of a Jesus-centered life. I have tasted, although I admit in a limited manner, the pain of following the most controversial, radical Person in History.

My life with my children is as direct a Divine Intervention as I have ever witnessed anywhere. I hope you will continue to read my work – even if I get sidetracked into other matters.

And, yes, I will continue to embrace people who are very different from me, despite what many real Christians try to tell me. I must follow Jesus and not those who claim Him for their often conservative, often very hateful, causes.

Oh yes. I remember one Saturday I got two special responses: a death threat from a reader who also said he’d hoped I’d get “sh-t-canned” from the paper (I’d written about how to identify men who are prone to domestic violence) and, flowers. They were sitting on my front steps with an anonymous note saying simply “Thanks” – both were in response to the same column.

December 27, 2010

The King’s Speech? Let me tell you about stuttering……

by Rod Smith

Attraction is only enduringly poss

It's a war of words in your belly

The King’s Speech, the new rage movie, and which I have not yet seen, is about stuttering. But let me, if I may, tell you a few things about it, stuttering that is if you’ve seen the movie or not.

First. I am a chronic stutterer. You might have known me for years and never known this about me. Chronic, yes, because it has been a life-long challenge and it can floor me in an instant. You may have heard me preach, seen me address thousands of people for days in a row, for hours at a time, and never heard even a momentary hesitation in my presentation.

But I am. I am a chronic stutterer.

It can debilitate me in a moment; trip me up like a vicious booby trap – the kind you see explode in Vietnam movies – and leave me afraid, humiliated, withdrawn, as if I’d committed some great, premeditated immorality.

But don’t feel sorry for me. I am used to it. I’ve been handling this recalcitrant, irascible puppy since “mama” wrestled around my throat refusing to come easy.

Really, if I’d known as a 12-year-old boy that there’d come a day when much of my future and income would depend on getting up in front of crowds of three (yes, three people waiting for you to speak when you are a stutterer can feel like a legion) to 5000, I think I’d have ended it all right then. I’d have (unannounced of course – since I might have bungled the delivery) walked off a high rise building in my city. I might have ended the anxiety, sleepless nights, practicing openers, trying to guess when a teacher would put me on the spot, the fear of the giggles, and the avoidance of the benevolent do-gooders who’d say “say it slowly” or “let’s try that again.” I’d have punched the self-appointed speech therapists in the face when I was 12 if I wasn’t also so darn eager to please, eager to be accepted, and, most importantly, didn’t have to explain my actions to anyone later.

So here’s a few tips about stutterers – keep in mind we are all very different:

Stutterers are cunning. They learn to negotiate the text, script, context – they become masters of improvisation. They are escape artists – they see the troublesome words fighting for position down the track (actually deep in the belly) and so they take detours in their own sentences. He or she can call the bluff on that difficult phrase like it was a surly or uncooperative adolescent, and chooses another more compliant, often more complex phrase, and go with that. You, the listener, are usually none the wiser. You’ve not been privy to the re-arrangement, the shifting of verbs and conjunctions for more oiled, more compliant combination to take its place.

Stuttering is pernicious. It goes underground for months then pops up like an angry ex to bark knowingly at your world when you least want her to.

Here’s the thing: I can speak to an auditorium jammed with people for an hour, and then have some adolescent coffee barista shrink in embarrassment as I try to say “small cappuccino” in the food court next door. I can read an entire chapter of a classic novel to a group of literature students and then I can’t get “where’s the restroom” out of my throat a minute later. I can make a flawless appeal to a foundation in London to a poker-faced board and then, even if my life was dependent upon it, I cannot say the name of the station I need to the ticket seller in the underground. It can get so bad that I carry and pencil and note cards for when mute is a more desirable option.

Stutterers are survivors. We go at it again and again. While we may avoid situations and not volunteer for certain roles, we are not looking for sympathy or accommodations.

So how to treat a stutterer? Look him in the eye. Don’t speak for him. Don’t prompt him. He’s probably not having a stroke so don’t immediately call 911.

Relax – that’s what we all need to do more of anyway.

December 27, 2010

Muslim woman; Christian man / Should they marry? You said so little…..

by Rod Smith

Trying to convince the convinced is a waste of effort....

A Muslim woman asked about marrying a Christian man. My response was, that given their circumstances each person should be sure to speak only for him or herself. I got letters from all fronts asking why I had said so little. You might remember the woman was convinced about her relationship and her future. You might know from life (and from this column) that one cannot convince the convinced no matter how hard one tries.

Here’s an enlightening reader response:

“Muslims submit completely to the Will of God. So if God says, ‘Jump’, Muslims do not ask ‘Why?’ or ‘How high?’ They will jump as high as possible. For a believer, divine laws take precedent over personal desires. The prohibition of marriage between a Muslim woman and a Christian man is a divine injunction. We may not understand the reasoning. With our logic and thinking, it may sound unreasonable and cruel. But it is a divine injunction. The feeling of displeasing our Creator can take its toll on the conscience, with challenges from in-laws and the upbringing of children. The latter will have its set of problems. The question for the Muslim woman is: ‘How strong is your belief in God?’”

December 26, 2010

Extramarital affairs are very seductive…

by Rod Smith

Attraction is only enduringly poss

That's what they do -- they seduce you away from your real life.....

Extramarital affairs are very seductive. They appear to offer better, more intense passion than the marriage. Hide and seek will do this, spawning the kind of relationship we wished was possible with a spouse. It’s amazing how “attractive” someone can sound, look and feel when you add large amounts of adrenalin. The secrecy idealizes the other, not love or truth. Deception, the “ducking and diving” past family can give vitality to the stolen hour.

What is so ridiculously seductive (and hurts so badly when the truth comes out) is the belief that affair is about you. Actually, it is about who you are not. It about what you do not represent. You are not the wife or husband; the “routine.” Your name is not the other name on the mortgage, you are not one who owns the other car in the garage. You are not the one whom the children sound like when they are at their worst (and best). It’s not your beauty. It is not your charm (although you might be both beautiful and charming). It is the difference from, the contrast with, what your affair knows. In his or her boredom and selfishness, you become so very appealing in the heat of it all. It’s the contrast he or she “loves.” The secrecy, the chase, the conniving makes it all so surreal and convincing and such a turn on. It is not you. It is not he or she who has met you here in this rendezvous, but the secret itself, the fact that you will share this secret, that’s lighting your fire.

The seductive thing is that for a period of time one or both of you actually believe in the affair as if it is a real and enduring relationship, able to offer you each something you really want. For a time you will give so unreservedly, so wildly, and be sucked in by passion. Every meeting will feel like you were meant for each other and that it is a cruel world forcing you apart. The really sad thing is that even your children will feel, to you, as if they are in the way, obstacles to your freedom, hindrances to your finding true love. When you are with your lover the first hours will slip past feeling like heaven. The approaching absences and those times when you are apart, will begin to fill with suspicion, heaviness and demands that come with cheating. You will think your love is cheating on you (even when with their spouse) every time the cell-phone is off, a call is not returned or a weekend happens without you. The moment the clandestine activity began with you, the scene was set for it to occur around you and to you. He or she who cheats on a spouse will most certainly think nothing of doing the same to you.

The affair itself, born in secrecy and lies, itself begins to lie, making the participants believe they have been short-changed, deceived in marriage and that a fling can offer what’s really wanted. It is not so. Affairs seduce the participants from what is real, what is important, what is enduring and significant. If I cannot talk to my wife, talking with someone who is not my wife (or who is someone’s wife) doesn’t help anything one iota. Learning to talk with my wife is where the real action is, it is not in talking with some other lost person looking for a temporary shelter from her own storm.

Affairs are always a poor substitute for a relationship. No matter how intense, how willing each person is, inevitable pain and suffering lies ahead for each person in the seductive cycle. If this is your dilemma break it off today. Go cold turkey. See a professional. Change locks. Change phone numbers. Quit your job if you have to. Run home to your parents! Get out of it. No, you do not owe him or her an explanation or closure. Everyone you love, or thought you loved, will be better off for it.

Copyright 2002, Rod Smith, MSMFT