October 14, 2019

The most powerful impact on your children’s futures……..

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Tuesday

Powerful impact on a future……

The “right” schools, and carefully considered and monitored diets, guarded vocabulary, regular affirmations from attentive parents, and monitored internet activity are all very well but none of these solid parenting disciplines will shape a child’s life as powerfully as the ongoing presence of parents who are each living a mature life.

The mature parent:

• Has interest, passions, pursuits, and ambitions unrelated to the children. The children know they are one of several family priorities. The children receive divided attention.

• Loves the children without being unusually worried about, or preoccupied with them. The children are free to explore childhood without constant reminders to “be careful.” Mom and dad know “love” and “concern” and “worry” are not synonyms.

• Gives priority to a spouse or peers who are equipped to be in adult-to-adult relationships despite the natural pressure to defer to the children and their many demands. Adult-to-adult appropriate connections help keep the parent-child connection as free and uncomplicated as possible.

• Does not regard parenting as a path to redemption or proof of success as a person or parent. Mom and dad understand that redemption parenting is far too heavy a burden to place upon any child.

• Intentionally recruits multi-generational family involvement as much as possible.

• Is now, today, as much as possible, being the adult she or he hopes his or her children will one day be.

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October 13, 2019

Emotional wellness

by Rod Smith

TheMercuryRSA – Monday

Emotional wellness

I am doing well when I can think ahead, despite immediate pressures. When I am reactive, humorless (within reason – some things are never funny), my emotional-wellness requires some adjusting. If I persist in being reactive, and refuse to reflect and get matters into context and perspective, I am headed for trouble. Not good.

I am doing well when I regard all other men and women to be as fallible, fragile, and flawed as I am. Of course, there’s value in respecting people who handle life and responsibilities well, but I am better off in a world without pedestals. When I repeatedly elevate others (no matter who they are or what positions they hold) I am headed for trouble. Not too good.

I am doing well when I am involved in the lives of the people in our community, whether it is at work, at church, or in the neighborhood, where the bonds are not binds, and the relationships are not traps, and the hallmark is freedom, respect, and equality. When I become controlling or lose my identity to the group, I am headed for trouble. Tough times are ahead.

I am doing well when my first response to others is to listen and to be generous with my time and resources. When I am repeatedly tightfisted, I am heading for trouble. Generosity is the backdrop of emotional wellness. If I’m mean, repeatedly, where mean and stingy are my default positions, watch out brick wall, I’m headed your way.

October 10, 2019

Lessons from my father

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Tuesday (repost)

Nine things I learned from my father or things he tried to teach:

• “There, but for the Grace of God, go I.” This he said when seeing anyone in a tight spot, self imposed or not.

• “What if it was us, Mavis?” This was his appeal to my mother who tended to want to watch expenses a fraction more than he did.

• Radical hospitality. Stories of our father opening our home to strangers are legendary. Some remain friends decades later.

• “Make your words soft and sweet in case you have to eat them.” He used this when I was judgemental or harsh.

• “Don’t carry your fish in a violin case.” My father despised pretension.

• “Build bridges; don’t burn them.” My father feared cut-offs. As do I.

• “A man who is going the wrong way down a one-way street already knows it – he needs help turning around.” Forever benevolent, my father championed the underdog.

• “Rather be fooled because you trusted too much than because you trusted too little.” And, sadly, he was frequently duped.

• “If the child needs milk the child needs milk – milk is more important to that child than the money is to me.” He’d open his grocery shop at all hours of the night and give milk to the mother of a hungry baby.

What did you learn from yours. Let me know.

E. W. G.Smith / HMS Dorsethire

October 9, 2019

No communication

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Thursday

“There’s just no communication!”

I’ve heard versions of, “the problem in this relationship, family, business, school, church, charity, hospital, whatever, is that there is no communication” quite frequently.

This is usually the mantra of those on the “outside” of the decision-making process. It is especially repeated when those who are on the “outside” of the decision-making are either supposed on the inside, according to their roles, or those who think, correctly or incorrectly, they should be.

There is never “no communication.”

Individuals, groups, are constantly communicating.

The breakdown is often a failure to hear, to “read,” discern, or believe what it is being communicated.

Discerning what is being communicated in a “living system” where there is said to be “no communication” takes a mix of courage, honesty, and risk. It takes the capacity to realize that what is being communicated may not be a preferred message.

An unwanted or tough message is often interpreted as there being “no communication.”

“No communication” communicates volumes.

The challenge lies in responding in such a manner that illuminating dialogue may occur so the “no communication” may be understood.

What is this person, family, charity, school, and so forth, saying by saying so little or by shutting people out of the process of what is or not going on?

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Do you have the ears and the courage to hear what’s not being said……?

October 7, 2019

Short course in listening

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Tuesday

Listening is an art, a gift to another, of love and care.

If you try it, even if you don’t do it too well, you will be offering another person an act of love, warmth, and care. If you embark on learning this seemingly endangered art form you will have many opportunities to practice. I don’t know a single person who doesn’t want to be heard and there are many who have never had the privilege.

Of course you will never break a confidence except under legally required circumstances.

Preparation:

• Turn off your cell phone and thinking about it.

• Imagine you have a smartphone screen in your head and slide your inner-mode settings from “self-focus” to “other-focus.”

• Whisper preparation thoughts like, “this is not about me; I will offer my full attention; I will listen a lot and speak very little; I will resume my life soon but now it’s time to listen and be present.”

When face-to-face:

• Aim your ears, eyes, heart, your body, actually your every corpuscle, in the direction of the person to whom you are listening. This takes concentration.

• Allow silence. Quell your instinct to jump-start the conversation. Forget time.

• Offer no interruptions or anecdotes even if they are related to shared content. Speak only to request clarification and to invite the speaker to go deeper or to tell you more.

October 5, 2019

I want to be happy

by Rod Smith

The Mercury – Monday

“I just want to be happy.”

I hear it over and over again – usually with a little whine in the tone.

It’s often whimpered as if happiness is some sort of award or something that may descend upon a person who is in the right place at the right time.

I hear it uttered as if happiness is being doled out somewhere and it’s just so unfair that others somewhere are getting it.

Truth is, you have more chance of being struck by lightening or winning the lottery than you have being struck by happiness.

Happiness has no victims.

It’s a by-product.

It grows out of purposeful living.

Happiness is out of control – even to the rich and powerful. That, surely, is obvious? You may have noticed its penchant for playing hide and seek with the rich and powerful.

It’s progressively yours when you fight and win the good fight over trying to be happy. It’s yours when you engage purposes greater than yourself, your pleasures, and appetites. Even then, it can be elusive.

The road to happiness is often paved with difficulty and things you may think will never deliver any joy.

It hides from the lazy, from the self-indulgent, the entitled, spoiled, the whiner, but embraces those seeking justice and authenticity and mercy and doing what is good and right by others.

Ironically happiness often escapes the rich and makes its home more permanently with the poor, the humble.

Oddly, it’s one thing that doesn’t, as it is said, “follow the money.”

October 4, 2019

Morning mantras

by Rod Smith

The Mercury

Morning mantras – take your pick – I will be using them all this weekend….

• I will use every encounter to learn and to grow as a person. Anyone, of any age and of any background may be my teacher. I can learn from all other people no matter what their age or status or level of education.

• I am neither inferior nor superior to anyone on the planet no matter who or what they are.

• Every action has an equal and opposite reaction especially among people who are emotionally connected through love or rejection. My response to what occurs is more important than what occurs.

• Rapid reactions to the actions of others usually fuel later regret. I shall try to be thoughtful and intentional about my actions.

• A rigid reaction is usually unnecessary as almost everything within families and communities has room for negotiation.

• It is almost always possible for a “win-win” to result in all relationship dilemmas and I am going to help people move towards that by doing so myself.

• Healthy people willingly engage in necessary conflict in order to better understand each other, better love each other, and create circumstances for all to enjoy greater freedom.

• Love and control cannot coexist in the same relationship – if you have to manipulate and control, it is not love even if you say it is.

October 2, 2019

If you’re young……..

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Thursday

If you are between 12 and 20 and apply these principles, in a few short years you will reap quantum, life-long benefits:

• Save a fixed amount of money in a reputable financial institution every month and let it stack up. Increase the monthly amount annually.

• Talk to your parents or guardian(s) about things important to you and important to your parents. Be very intentional or it won’t happen. Two or three device-less “check-ins” a week is probably sufficient. By the way, if you don’t know what are matters you parents find important, ask them.

• When it comes to friends and to romance trust your parents. If your parents are uncomfortable with the time you spend with any particular person honor and respect their intuition. Accept it without adopting an oppositional stance. The people who’ve known you longest and loved you from before you breathed your first breath will probably have uncanny insights into what’s really good for you.

• Commit to keeping “clean” habits. Don’t begin activities (smoking, vaping, drinking, gambling) other people are currently in rehabilitation facilities struggling to stop.

• Find and use and your voice (understand who you are and who you are not), your creative mind, and your backbone (courage and determination). Employ all three in concert as you make a decision to always defend the weak, speak up to evil (bullying, demeaning others, using others) when you encounter it.

If any of these points seem impossible, finding the courage within you and beginning somewhere will reap almost immediate benefits and the courage itself will become the fuel that empowers your further growth.

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October 1, 2019

Becoming a parent?

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Tuesday

New baby?

From the minute you are aware your child is conceived, or becomes a reality to you through adoption:

• You will not think another thought or plan anything that does not also have your child and his or her wellbeing in mind. This is not limited to when your child is a newborn or a toddler, it is almost forever. This is not a preoccupation (hopefully) but a mindset. Your challenge is to live with this so it does not annoy people for whom your children are not a priority.

• Everything you own and earn and will own and will earn will be shared with your child and you will (hopefully) share it all wisely, willingly, and generously. This is not limited to when your child is a minor but will continue as you empower your child to become financially proficient and financially stable.

• Your life will be quantumly enhanced if you allow it. Children are “adult-making machines.” It’s not their job but they do it rather well. They teach willing adults how to love, how to be responsible, how to be adults. Some parents resist these vital lessons and then everyone misses out.

• Everything will change and for the better if you will allow it.

I seldom post pictures but here are my sons:

September 27, 2019

Five things I say to my sons

by Rod Smith

Written rather rapidly (some time ago) but written by request….

Five things to say to my children… (well, according to age, of course)….

To the two the boys who continue to turn my life upside down and shake-rattle-and-roll it – on behalf of a God Who I know hopes that my humanity finds its way out into this delicious world……. I love you:

• I like to think that nothing you do or don’t do will ever diminish my love for you – but – given that I am human, tainted, and “fallen,” it’s not impossible. This cuts both ways. While I hope you will always love me, I understand that our mutual imperfections may get in the way. Nonetheless: I love you. I will seek your highest good as much as I am able. When my love for you is challenged, I will try to always give you the benefit of the doubt.

• We are separate people. You are responsible for you. I am responsible for me. I try to give you the most advantageous position as far as I am able, and according to our (limited) resources, but ultimately making your life successful is your responsibility. I will support you. I will encourage you, but essentially who you are and what you become is firmly in your hands and will live and grow within your unique dance with God, your community, your skills, talents, dreams, and desires. As far as I’m able, I’ve got your back.

• I will never measure your success by wealth or possessions or fame or any one of measures commonly associated with success. For me it will always be measured in the manner in which you treat people, all people, people who are weaker, stronger, richer, poorer; people who are different from you, people who love you and those who don’t. If you hobnob kings but you cannot treat those who serve you as if they themselves were royalty, I’ll see you as having a lot of growing to do. This, too, by the way, cuts both ways. And, of course, I expect you to hold me to these expectations as well.

• Life has an odd and gracious ways of giving us (you and me) second, third, fifth, even sixth chances. Take them. Screwing up here and there is expected and human – but at least have the wisdom, unlike me, to learn from your mistakes. I’ve learned from a lot of mine (apparently not all) but my deepest regrets are attached to the fact that it usually took me such a very long time to do so. Do better than I have done at this – please.

• While it is convenient, resist making decisions about what kind of Person Jesus is and what kind of Being God is from what you see generally in the church. It’s a travesty, really, that God and Jesus and the Beautiful Holy Spirit have been reduced to the Sunday Hymn sandwich or the antics of a “modern” worship leader prancing with a guitar, or a cool pastor who has mastered the pulpit and PowerPoint, and YouTube. None of that, none of the best of all of that, ever comes close, even nears (and I don’t care where you are told “it is all happening”) the Creative and the Dangerous and the Enthusiastic Nature of the All Powerful God and the Humble and Edgy, Inclusive Person of Jesus and their Playful and Powerful and Unsettling Representative in the form of the Holy Spirit. Together, and separately, They are ALL nicer and more and more and more than I have ever known any church anywhere to be able and brave enough to portray. This said, find a community (church or not) – serve it, be a part of it, and play your part. You’ll never become fully who you are unless you are committed to a group of people whom you can love and will love you in return.

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