April 20, 2019

Give your boss a gift

by Rod Smith

A gift for the boss

• Offer loyalty, not blind or unquestioning loyalty, but in accordance with your mutually understood employer/employee agreements. Do not speak poorly of your boss within the organization or to outsiders. If you are unhappy with his or her performance talk directly to the boss or to those empowered to act on your behalf. Such talk ought not be with peers – when you do this you are a source of toxicity in the organization and are part of the problem, whatever it (the problem) is.

• Offer trust, not blind or unquestioning trust. If an employee cannot trust a boss, something deeper needs to be (efficiently) addressed.

• Focus on your work during work hours. It’s not time for you to catch up on Face Book or to be glued to your phone. It’s not time to plan your child’s birthday party. Advance only the purposes for which you have been hired.

• An eye for how to improve the organization and the gift (tact, nuance) of when, how, and with whom to express such observations. Much at work may not make sense but an employee must earn the platform to point them out before he or she becomes a self-appointed troubleshooter.

• Offer honesty. Be brutally honest about finances, expense reports, vehicle usage, and reimbursements. NEVER take a cent that is not legitimately yours no matter who else may be doing so. You alone are always responsible for your honesty.

April 19, 2019

Followers hit the wall

by Rod Smith

I’m intentionally getting a little ahead of my Midwest self because for some friends it’s almost Easter Saturday already:

Easter Saturday:

Easter Saturday, a little more than two thousand years ago, the first followers of Jesus hit the wall. His execution was complete; the corpse secure in a tomb and the courageous teacher was gone.

He, who had done no harm, who’d loved so intimately, lived so passionately, challenged everything so profoundly and, like none before or since, practiced what he preached, was finished.


There’s little doubt that depression and dejection hung heavily in the air for his followers.

They had traded all they’d had and known, to be abandoned by one who could walk on water, still storms, raise the dead but not avoid his own death on a criminal’s cross.

Then……..somewhere between midnight tonight (two thousand years ago) and early the following morning, Christians believe that Jesus, if you’ll excuse the cumbersome phase, stopped being dead. He cast death aside, walked from the tomb, embraced life in an eat-fish-and-walk-through-walls body.

Believe it or not, you’ve got to give it to them, Christians that is; a rebound of this nature from anyone, let alone their beloved leader, would stimulate celebration.

This pivotal weekend, Easter weekend, rekindles so much for Christians: grief, loss and grief, then exuberance.

Believers, of every background and representing every cultural extreme and every ethnic diversity in every country on earth will flock to church to worship their risen Lord and proclaim death defeated. On Sunday morning they (we) will greet each other with, “The Lord is Risen,” to hear in response, “He is Risen indeed.” What they are really saying is, “On Friday I was horrified at what was done to my Lord. Yesterday I grieved his loss. Today he’s alive and there’s hope for us all, so let’s have a party.”

Great things can be learned from Easter: deep reflection, acknowledgment of grief, fresh beginnings, unreasonable generosity and partying with abandon.

Let’s all do it, Christian or not. Let’s grieve deceased family members, relationships strained or severed, our possible role in the atrocities of greed, prejudice and plundering committed across the globe.

Let’s acknowledge opportunities missed and misused and deliberate to see the impact we have on others. Let’s evaluate where and how we are a part of the world’s problem rather than the solution.

The uncanny thing about Jesus is that even if you don’t, as Christians do, believe he was the Son of God, doing the things he said is still good for people. Making a fresh start with someone you haven’t seen in a long time, like a brother, sister, and an in-law who gets your goat or an estranged business partner, is good for the soul, rejuvenates communities. Reconnecting with people, offering grace, space to others, letting forgiveness emerge for your harshest foes, your bitterest enemies is a movement in the opposite spirit of what is expected. It disarms explosive, stressed or polarized relationships and empties our tombs of unbelief.

Call your debtors and say something like, “I’m canceling your debt. I cannot afford to have you owe me anything.” They might not deserve your generosity but Easter is not a do-or-do-not-deserve-it time. It never was, never will be. Besides, who among us can want what they deserve without experiencing feelings of fear and trembling? It’s about getting what you do not deserve. It’s about not getting what you do. It’s about grace, about being unreasonably forgiving, wildly extravagant with kindness.

Finally, celebrate your humanity. Dance with delight at the human capacity to reflect, repent and be revived. I’ll peek into my tomb today and do what it takes to clear it of resentments, self-pity, unrighteous anger and all else that keeps me from dancing. I trust you will peek into yours, find it wonderfully empty and join me in a rich and loud celebration.


1. View from our front yard, and. 2. A view of the south and “main” entrance of First Presbyterian Church New Castle Indiana…… ALL WELCOME…… to keep up with our events please befriend F Pres Church:

April 19, 2019

You have to see it first…….

by Rod Smith

The Mercury – Friday

If you want that healthier family, university degree, professional credential, dream job, or to travel the world……. you have to see it, whatever it is, first in your mind’s eye.

Possibilities are born first in your fabulous* imagination.

Once the dream or vision has time to germinate and gain shape within you, a shape you are able to put into words and onto paper, it has a starting chance to survive, thrive, and become a reality.

Every great achievement was first an idea, and this is the very private part of the journey.

Healthy people (of all ages) are usually dealing with several competing such visions and walk a tightrope of concurrent ambitions while having a lot of fun (mostly) while doing their part in making them happen.

This is just one small part of the wonder of being human: we are able to dream great dreams, break our dreams and desires and visions into steps or goals, couple them with the hard work of plowing our efforts into making them a reality – and hurt no one, including and especially ourselves, along the way.

* How do I know your imagination is fabulous? You are human! It comes with the package.


To the boys (young men) who have shared life with me for the past 21 and 17 years…… go, go, go, into all the world……let nothing and no one hold you back:

April 18, 2019

Two letters today made me blush……!

by Rod Smith

“I  have read and kept your newspaper articles on Mercury and coincidentally they are always words I need at a particular moment. With all due respect, Sir, what are the chances of obtaining the articles you have written in the past? I can organise a memory stick and save them. Have you ever thought about compiling them in a form of a book? I what I like they are sweet and short but the quality of information is rich and informative. The article titled, “Ditch Self Lies” made me inspect myself deeply and it yielded positive results.”

“Please can you tell me what line of work you do. Your advice is so helpful and to the point in some editorials. It would be nice if someone could be an advocate for single moms in South Africa.”

Most of my columns are available at http://www.DifficultRelationships.com. You may fill as many memory sticks as desired. I do not have a book; daily columns are my first love. I am a Family Therapist with particular interest in Family Systems theory. I am the pastor of a Presbyterian Church in a smallish town in the Midwest of the USA – but, and this is very important to me, I was born at Mothers, overlooking Greyville Racecourse.

April 16, 2019

Prayer for the cities

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Friday

Whatever your faith persuasion or the decision to have none, you may or may not agree that it is time to pray for the residents, legal or illegal, of the cities across this land. Please pray, even if it is to a God in Whom you do not believe!

Oh God, our differences in faith and differences in our approach to you, divide those whom they ought to unite and incite those whom they ought to calm.

May this not be true for me.

Help us to love, embrace, and understand authentic humility. Help us to honor mercy and to seek justice even if it personally inconvenient and costly. Help us to live lives of love and truth and to seek the greater good of the community. Help us to place aside the desire for revenge and to seek rather the growth that comes with hospitality, acceptance, and forgiveness.

Help me to understand that peace begins with me, that hospitality and kindness and generosity begin with me.

May violence end. May leaders, official and unofficial, learn to embrace love and justice rather than be or become intoxicated by their limited powers.

April 15, 2019

Who do you say I am?

by Rod Smith


Easter challenge remains


Buy it or not (and I do), the New Testament’s account of what occurred over what we call Easter, two millennia ago, is dramatic. It is at least as dramatic as the Christmas story with the baby, the crib and the procession of worshippers who came to greet the Christ child. Easter places the baby – now a guileless but powerful miracle-performing 33-year-old man – on the executioner’s cross, the the electric chair, or the hangman’s noose of the day.


There’s every element of drama in the brutal saga that unfolds. Love, betrayal and denial. Unprecedented cooperation between superpowers of government and temple.


This man, who says he is God’s son, is paraded before the rich and powerful, then mocked and scorned. At the zenith of his need, a friend walks away, claiming Jesus to be a stranger to him. 


Then, he who healed the masses and raised the dead is himself dragged through the city for public execution.


His death on “Good” Friday is grueling and gruesome. 


Yet, at the moment of his greatest pain, he considers his mother and makes plans for her care. He provides comfort to a common criminal also facing public execution. While fixed to the cross with nails through his limbs, he prays forgiveness upon his executioners, then yells out in pain because the God and Father he has loved since before the beginning of time is absent, has abandoned him. Then he breathes a final breath, and it is finished.


On the Saturday, his followers confront the reality of his death, the death of their dream and the end of a shared vision. Men and women who had ventured all on his behalf are now abandoned, leaderless. They have lost all. They who had forsaken all are now the forsaken. The leader of the sometimes unruly and diverse mob is dead, entombed with the door to the tomb sealed shut with a rock of considerable size.


Sunday comes and the tomb is open and empty. 


A crucified man is up and walking. 


He appears suddenly here and there presenting himself, sometimes in private to individuals and also to masses of people. Within days, he’s making breakfast on a beach, calling the one who ran away from him and denied him to join him for a meal that he has already prepared, having made the fire himself.


What landed Jesus in trouble was that he lived a life that supported and endorsed his claims. 


His life, not only his words and his teaching, challenged the ruling religious order. Few religions enjoy being challenged, let alone do they tolerate when a person making the challenge so completely “walks the talk.”


My faith doesn’t land me in hot water like Jesus’ faith did for him. This is not because I am not sometimes zealous about my faith, but because I am a hypocrite. I am not always who I say I am. I’m often not myself. I often fail to display integrity. 


Jesus was always who he claimed to be. 

He was thoroughly authentic, and it was this authenticity, this integrity, that angered people and upset governing powers. It rocked the status quo at places of worship and made him a sufficient threat so that his critics would take his life in the most barbaric manner their righteous minds could conceive.


The world can deal with my claims about myself. 


They are as fragile and empty as most people’s claims about themselves. 


Most of us, zealous or not, can tolerate the dreams of the guy next door. 


But it was not empty claims that got Jesus in trouble. Many had come claiming to know, be, or represent God. 


His life, his deeds gave profound evidence to the fact that he was who he said he was. 


It was this that authorities could not stomach.


At every Easter, we are each challenged to take the time to answer the question posed by Jesus to his outspoken friend: “Who do you say that I am?”

April 14, 2019

What kind of person do you want to be?

by Rod Smith

While there are so many factors over which none of has control, it is usually a good idea to have somewhat of a plan, a vision, of who you want to be.

Perhaps you want to be:

  • An honest person, one who is able then to live with a clear conscience
  • A growing person, one who learns from mistakes and does all that it possible to not repeat them
  • A kind person, one who is at least aware of the needs of others and who tries to see the world from the perspective of others
  • A loving person, one who loves without being possessive or jealous
  • An educated person, one who is aware of the world and its fabulous beauty
  • A forgiving person, one who initiates forgiveness even when it is not necessarily deserved
  • An outgoing person, one for whom no one needs to remain a stranger
  • A self-starting person, one who seizes opportunities, especially those that enhance the common good
  • A reflective person, one who examines his of her life and makes necessary changes for the betterment of all
  • A well-mannered person, one who knows how to treat others, even, and especially those who can do nothing in return.
April 13, 2019

Is this your child?

by Rod Smith

What I believe some children are trying to say…..

Dear Parent,

Please. Relax. Let go.

Open your hand so I can grow.

I want the freedom all children deserve.

Please, emancipate me from the expectation of meeting your adult, ginormous needs.

Your need-to-succeed as a person, a parent, all centered on me, is a burden far too heavy for me to carry.

I am a child.

I cannot deliver you from the pain of the unfulfilled expectations of your own childhood.

My childhood is not a recovery act for yours.

When you regard me as proof that you, the adult, have made it, we get entangled in ways that trip both of us up, and confounds us both.

Such covert expectations kills the joy that can unite us.

We are separate people.

It’s been that way from the very beginning. I know it and I’ve known it almost from the very beginning.

How come you don’t?

Why is this so much more difficult for you than it is for me?

While you regard me as an attachment, an extension of yourself, a banner announcing your success or declaring your failure, things get rough for both of us.

I am your child. I am not a trophy. I am not a ticket to greater happiness – although I do want you to be happy. I am a child. I am not endowed with special powers to make your life meaningful.

Of course I am special, and I am special to you, uniquely gifted, endowed with a God-given calling – but I am also, in many ways, just like millions of other children.

We both must remember this. Please don’t make me into something I am not and cannot become.

I am as unique as a proverbial fingerprint, AND, as common as any child ever born — ALL AT THE SAME TIME. I am a unique painting, a loving product of the Divine Hand – and yet, and yet, I am baptized into human condition, and as much like all humans as any – ALL AT THE SAME TIME.

While you expect more than I am designed to deliver – we both feel the pressure and miss out on the real miracle we can know as parent and child.

With deep, appropriate love,

Your Child

April 12, 2019

Daily parenting challenge

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Wednesday

My daily parenting challenge which I hope you will also adopt…

Be the adult you’d want your child to become.

Negotiate deals, resolve conflicts, compromise on disagreements, in exactly the manner you want your child to emulate when he or she is an adult. The most powerful learning happens by watching – and by much more than watching. Such living will transform you, and the transformation you undergo will transform your family.

Use money, save money, leverage all your resources in exactly the manner you hope your child will one day utilize resources. Attitudes leak. How you behave becomes the norm.

Treat your parents in exactly the manner you hope your children will treat you in your advancing years. Modeling endures.

Love and serve your brothers and sisters so your children will have absolutely no ambiguity about what love looks like in immediate and extended families. Authenticity prevails.

If you want your child to be a reader, be one yourself. It might not “take” in the immediate, but chances are it will in the future. Some things take time, not nagging.

If you want your child to be well-mannered, courageous and kind, allow your every interaction with lover, friend, or foe, to be well-mannered, courageous, and kind.

April 8, 2019

Inside out……

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Tuesday

I stumbled upon a powerful cartoon some years ago.

Its message has stuck with me long after the cartoon has disappeared* into the mass of papers that occupy our home.

“If you’re ugly on the inside,” the character said, “eventually it shows on the outside.”

This helped me frame why some people are mean-spirited, foul-mouthed, and can’t seem to find good in the world no matter what their circumstances.

It helped me self-monitor. It helped me ask myself why harshness or sarcasm or bitterness appear to be my first options on a particular day.

“Rod, what’s going on inside you today that sarcasm is so near the surface when you could choose kindness in its stead?” asks the persistent inner-voice.

Sometimes addressing the question helps me be a better person.

The cartoon helps me filter what I write online. I manage my vocabulary because of it. I filter how I respond to gibes and jokes that turn some people or groups into victims.

I think the cartoon struck such a deep chord because it strongly echoed the sentiments of one who said that everything that comes out of a person’s mouth reflects what’s going on in the heart.

* found it.. …. all credit to the artist if I could read the name….. (perhaps someone can assist):