Archive for June, 2012

June 15, 2012

When Jesus Went to First Church

by Rod Smith

When Jesus Went to First Church

When Jesus sat between Walter Grumley and his wife, in the fifteenth row of First Church on Sunday morning, for some reason, in all of his infinite wisdom, He did not realize the stir that would arise. This began an unfortunate snowball or wave effect throughout the congregation. At least twelve families were displaced, each by one seat.

As people begrudgingly moved they tried to communicate a welcome to the stranger (so he would be sure to return) laced with enough censure to make sure he would be put in his place (or at least not in theirs) the next time he visited. This uncharacteristic reshuffling moved everyone for the first time in years.

The disruption extended the announcements sufficiently to annoy the choir waiting, fully robed, at the entrance to the sanctuary, hymnbooks in hand.

“I suppose of all people, I should have known better,” mused Jesus, all the while seeing the humor in Mr. Grumley’s polite, yet uncomfortable response after Jesus whispered His name to Grumley during the Passing of the Peace.

Grumley moved side to side, a tad excited with the growing implications at this revelation. Not only did his surroundings take on a new look, he wanted to draw attention to the guest. Wally wanted to let all the disrupted and displaced faithfuls know the inconvenience of having guests in church was worth it.

Alas, Introduction of Visitors was already over and the Congregational Needs were being announced. Besides, the choir was beginning to manifest its annoyance while standing just outside the doors. Unaccustomed as they were to being “out of the loop,” word had already gotten to them (it was usually the other way around) via the deacons, that a Stranger had not only entered the building but had sat right in Wally Grumley’s seat. The choir, usually first on everything, would be the very last to witness this unprecedented incident and, it had ruined, for the fist time in 40 years, the procession.

“Tell them I am here,” said Jesus to Grumley.

“Go on. Stand up. Say I am here.”

“You mean interrupt Congregational Needs?” whispered Grumley with a faint but gentle shush in his voice in an attempt to keep Jesus quiet.

“I am terribly sorry, but I am afraid we just do not do that here,” said Grumley in his library voice.

“What if I am telling you to do so?” persisted Jesus. “After all, the pastor just said, that if two or three are gather in my name then I am in the midst of them? So, go on tell them he’s right and I am here.”

Wally Grumley peered across Jesus to his wife.

“You do it Joy, you always said you would obey Jesus if he said something directly to you.”

“I think he is talking to you, Wally,” said Joy, her eyes fixed on pulpit proceedings, totally unimpressed with her husband’s freedom with strangers.

“Well, actually, I am talking to you both,” said Jesus rather loudly.

“You are interrupting my worship experience,” said Joy with an air of finality.

“I have come here to meet with God if you don’t mind.”

“I am God. And, I am… err, here to be met.”

“Well, God just wouldn’t do it like this,” said Grumley’s wife, her teeth now clenched,  “God just wouldn’t just barge into our church and….”

She was lost for words.

“Do you believe I am here?” quizzed Jesus. “Well of course I believe you are here,” replied Wally.

“Then go ahead and tell them I am here.”

Joy tilted her head a hairbreadth toward her husband: “Will you stop talking during the service. Even if it is to Jesus! If you don’t I am going to a quieter spot where I can enter the spirit of worship without interruption.”

The pastor’s voice boomed from the lower pulpit: “I will be challenging you to treat any stranger as you would treat Jesus, in my message today, which I will preach from the upper pulpit, entitled Church Hospitality.”

Wally and Jesus looked at each other, and, after a moment, they burst into uproarious laughter, embraced like long lost friends and moved into the aisle in a celebratory dance. Wally, catching the pastor’s voice a little above the commotion caused by his newfound joy heard, “And now the choir will lead us, the choir will lead us, THE CHOIR WILL LEAD US in our opening hymn: Stand Up Stand Up for Jesus” as the deacons ushered the exuberant pair out the door.

June 14, 2012

Are you “spiritual”?

by Rod Smith

How to measure spirituality

I hear people of different faiths and denominations proclaiming to “more spiritual” than others. Here’s a checklist list I hope is helpful.

A so-called “spiritual person”:

  1. Accepts and respects all people without prejudice. He or she does not allow creed, age, economic status, sexual orientation, or gender, or national heritage to shape his or her opinions or treatment of others.
  2. Forgives others for real or perceived grievances, yet puts in place necessary measures of protection for the future.
  3. Is good with money; understands money and how it works, and yet, at the same time, remains very generous.
  4. Repairs relationships where repair is possible but remains aware that not all relationships are forever and not all relationship breakdowns can or should be repaired.
  5. Is free of the manipulation, intimidation, and domination of others and expects others to be similarly free.
  6. Cleans up quickly – emotionally, psychologically, and in every other way.   
  7. Takes full responsibility for his or her life.
  8. Has no interest in power and its trappings, yet is invested in empowering others to live as powerfully as possible.
  9. Addresses conflicts and problems head-on and as efficiently as possible.
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June 11, 2012

I did not know he was married……

by Rod Smith

“I had a year-long relationship with a married man. I say ‘relationship’ because I was not aware that he was married. I am grieving. When he confessed it was the first time that he told me he loved me and was afraid to lose me. He admitted he was separated but financial circumstances pushed him to his wife. We tried to bargain for a month. It was difficult because the emotions were strong. A part of me did not want to let go. I realized I was settling for whatever I could take. So painfully, I let him go and cut ties. I told his wife and apologized. I know it was partly an act of vengeance, but also I know that by saying that to the wife, I would keep my word. He wasn’t ready to let go. I did not want to stay trapped. I’m trying to move on but still cry a lot. I don’t know how to vent my anger. I am still hoping I made the right decision. I need more strength to rebuild myself.” (Minimal edits)

The part of you that cut ties, that apologized, that decided you were “settling” is the part of you that will help you thrive. Keep listening to that voice!

June 11, 2012

He slapped me and left……. what do I do?

by Rod Smith

“I have been dating this guy for a year. We are both 30. He is jealous and insecure and would not let me hang out with my guy friends without accusing me of sleeping with them. I started limiting my outings because he used to fight and call me names like ‘characterless woman.’ He saw me texting at dinner and demanded to know who I was texting and when I refused to tell him he started accusing me in front of the hotel staff that I cheated on. He snatched my phone from me and threatened to break it. He would not let me get out of the car or drop me home till I answered his questions even though I repeatedly told him I have not cheated. When he finally dropped me home I forbade him from coming in and asked him leave me alone. He slapped me and abused me and left. Please tell me what to do?”

What to do? Report him to the police, get a restraining or a peace order against him, and NEVER see him again. This is not a “boyfriend” – “friend” suggests pleasure, joy, and freedom, and there is none of that here. He might be insecure and have “control issues” but you are the one dating him.

June 8, 2012

You are powerless over your daughter and her husband…..

by Rod Smith

“I need help with understanding my son-in-law. He is very controlling of my daughter. They have been married three years. I wasn’t allowed to visit them when he was home and then it was very limited to how long I could stay. They only lived 3 miles away. They have a baby. I’m allowed to see them when he is working. They have moved thirty miles away. He works shifts so I can go see them every third day. He thought I wouldn’t travel that far to see them that often but I do. His family will not go more than 25 miles from their house. Now he has decided that I see the baby more than his mom sees her. My daughter said that is her fault because she is welcome to visit. He refuses to go see any family or be around either side. He likes to see his friends. She is older than he is. He is very immature and insecure. He likes to play video games all day. He has to know everything she does, he calls 10 or so times and text her all day when he works. It is hard to visit why my daughter with all the calls and texting. She doesn’t want him to know how much I visit. What is the best way to handle him? Can I do anything that would help? He says if he sees family once a month that is more than enough for him. She had a friend that drove sixteen hours to see her and he had every excuse in the world for her not to see her. See hadn’t seen her in a year and they were best friends. She can’t seem to see he is controlling her live. What do we do?”

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Call me

You are powerless over your son-in-law and your daughter. I’d suggest you gently and repeatedly ask your daughter if her life (marriage, motherhood, relationships with you and her extended family) is how she hoped her life would be – and LISTEN to her answers. Do not judge her answers, comment on what you see, or make any suggestions. Just listen.

Your assessment is that your son-in-law is “very immature and insecure”. While this may be so, your daughter found him sufficiently appealing to go ahead and marry him. People are attracted to those who are equally mature or immature. If you “corner” your daughter about him, it is likely she will side with him and then you will lose access to your daughter and your grandchild.

Change will come only when your daughter sees how much she allows his controlling behaviors to succeed. Until then, you will dance on eggshells in much the same way as she already does – if this is what you choose to do.

June 8, 2012

Enriched is the woman who takes UP her life……

by Rod Smith

1. Enriched is the woman who does not lose herself to her marriage or motherhood. She has a strong spirit of independence while being a loving wife and mother.

2. Enriched is the woman who does not accommodate poor manners (being taken for granted or being victimized) from anyone (not husband, children, in-laws, siblings, or her parents).

3. Enriched is the woman who lives above manipulation, domination, and intimidation. Her relationships are pure and open; her boundaries are defined, secure, and strong.

4. Enriched is the woman who does not participate in unwanted sexual activity. She honors her body as her private temple and shares it, even in marriage, only by her own deliberate choice.

5. Enriched is the woman who has developed a strong, clear, identity. She regularly articulates who she is, what she wants, and what she will and will not do. She is unafraid of defining herself.

6. Enriched is the woman who knows that pursuing her dreams to be educated, to work, to accomplish much, to expect much from her life, are profound acts of partnership in marriage and profound acts of mothering. She knows that the woman who “takes up her life” does more for herself, her husband, and her children than the one who surrenders it.

June 7, 2012

He’s rubbing your nose in his lies…..

by Rod Smith

“My husband had an emotional and physical affair with a woman with whom he still maintains contact. He assures me that it ended years ago and has no feelings for her. I still suffer the post-traumatic effects every time I see that she has called or texted him. I have told him how disrespectful it is that he has not cut complete ties with her; how counterproductive it is to have this third party in his life while we are still trying to heal from the pain and betrayal yet remain a couple, parent our children and rebuild our lives. I am frustrated that he values that ‘professional connection’ more than he values our marriage and family. I know I cannot control his actions or change his thinking. How can I find a way to cope with this feeling of utter disrespect and lack of compassion?”

He’s lied to you before and during the affair. He’s rubbing your nose in his lies every time he relates to the other woman, whether “it” is over or not. It might be “over” for them but it is not for you. Show up whenever and wherever you know they are together. Insist on being with him. Become impossible. Call her. Text her. Become “out of control.”

June 7, 2012

It is anxiety that will derail your family, not something on TV……

by Rod Smith

Anxiety is the killer. It is probably not your children’s school, violence or sex on TV, or the Internet that will potentially derail your children from potential greatness. It’s family anxiety. Often chronic, often hidden or disguised, it is that cumulative cloud of reactions to unresolved conflicts, the worry upon worry, the anger toward unmet dreams and expectations, and the bank of resentment gathered from multiple life disappointments.

Yes. You can send your children to the “right” schools, monitor their organic diets, safe-guard their television intake, pre-read their literature, create intricate computer firewalls, secure coaching and extra-lessons from the finest humans available, and then nullify all your determined efforts simply because your source of “care” and concern is soaked in anxiety and propelled and driven by it.

Family Anxiety is managed, reduced, redirected, when individual family members recognize it and address it individually. It is reduced through meaningful, appropriate connection and reconnection with blood and legal relatives where possible. It is reduced through determined “differentiation of self” (increased intimacy and increased autonomy) on the part of all members of the family (although even the efforts of one will have its rewards). It is reduced when individuals “see” that love and worry are not the same thing.

June 7, 2012

Babies make you ready for children…..

by Rod Smith

“I am in my late twenties. My wife is a few years older than I am. She feels that it is time she has children. I feel unready and unstable to have child. I know that biologically she should have children now. I worry that life could become even more tricky. I very much want to please her but I want to be true to myself. I just can’t stand to see her sad. I also have reservations about bringing children up in the modern world/city and would rather do it in a rural setting. I don’t want life to spiral out of control.” (Minimal edits)

You will never be ready if you wait. Babies make you ready for children and you can’t get ready without one. Increase your tolerance for your wife’s sadness. The presence of another person in your family will pull you both through the full spectrum of emotions and some sadness will be inevitable. Also, you are apparently forgetting that your unborn child may become a crucial key to a better world. As a parent of two adopted boys I’d have no hesitation whatsoever doing it all again. My children have blessed the world far more than it has managed to scare or damage them.

June 6, 2012

My husband left me for my best friend

by Rod Smith

“My husband left me for my best friend. This not only devastated me but caused my children (and her husband and children) a lot of confusion. I don’t want things back how they were but I do want some peace of mind. Her husband has gone off the rails with anger and I have bordered on depression. How am I supposed to forgive two people who have been so close to me and who have done this bitter thing to people, including children, whom they profess to love?”

My response will focus on you and the double blow you have received.

You have lost two best friends and you have lost them to each other. They have together all of what you once enjoyed and you have none of it.

I do not write this to rub salt into the wound or to tell you what you do not already know – I write it so you may see that your loss is real and at least partially understood.

Your anger and depression is justified. Grieve, wail. Express it in any helpful way over the coming years.

At the same time (in sane, healthy moments) begin to rebuild your life.

It is possible to do both: grieve, build, grieve, and build – just not at the same moments.