March 25, 2023

Ubuntu – seeking your help

by Rod Smith

Help me write about this please, fellow southern Africans…. .. help me capture a concept…… correct me where I’m incorrect.

Of course such ideals are commercialized and misunderstood and misused. Such perverse uses does not render the initial ideals as invalid:

Ubuntu is a Zulu word.

Many Zulus, and descendants of Zulus of southern Africa hold sacred the ancient concept of Ubuntu. It captures a lore of hospitality, openness, and the power of community, the necessity of the individual to live within community. The individual is empowered by the community and does his or her share to empower others.

Ubuntu is an ideal way of life to which a Zulu may aspire.

It means we make each other. I am more who I am when I am connected to you. You are more who you are when we acknowledge our mutual need for each other. We can do more together than we can do alone.

Ubuntu has little room or accommodation for the lone genius. Consensus is valued. As far as possible, all voices are attempted to be heard. Age is deeply respected.  It’s community-above-self, as a way of life.

No one is “thrown away” or written off.

March 22, 2023

What may you hear if you listen to your life……?

by Rod Smith

When you stop and listen to your life  – your emotions, urges, compulsions, complaints –  what may your life be attempting to say to you? Here are some things I perceive my life tries to draw to my attention, and what I have seen clients self-identify as they pay attention to their lives:

  • You are carrying fear. Have you considered finding out where it comes from? It may come from a generation or two before you. Fear can travel from generation to generation. What purpose is it serving for you? What will it take for you to lay it aside for a while or get rid of it completely?
  • You want to reconnect with old friends and several people who have known you for a long time. What is holding you back? Why are you resisting? What memories are you trying to avoid as you re-embrace this beautiful time of your life? You seem to be choosing loneliness when company is available.
  • What grief is tugging at you for attention? What losses are you ignoring that won’t let you off the hook? Uncried tears will manifest, be it through anger or sadness or both. Identify the source of your grief.
March 21, 2023

Listen – to your own life

by Rod Smith

Listen, first, to your own life. 

I know I think and write a lot about listening. 

Listening is among our most powerful capabilities as humans. 

I do try to really listen to others and —pivotal— to myself, to what my own life is saying or trying to tell me.

How will I ever be able to hear others if I’ve given up listening to the person closest to me, the person within me?

Without attempting to be too obscure, if we stop listening to our own lives, really listening, we will distort what others are trying to tell us because our own unheard lives (ignored lives) will not stop trying to break in and be heard. We will “hear” others while aching to be heard, like listening to a radio station with limited and distorted reception.

Let me illustrate with a benign (somewhat) illustration. 

A friend returns from a holiday and wants to tell you about it. When the conversation is over you realize you’ve done all the talking about your holidays and your life and what you’ve been doing and you hardly heard anything your friend tried to say. 

Your unheard life took over! 

Taking over conversations, competing with others for the “best” story, talking over others, reveals an unheard life!

Someone asks you how you are but ends up telling you how he or she is and he or she has heard nothing about you!

You just met a person who’s given up listening to his or her own life.

March 20, 2023


by Rod Smith

What does respect look like? 

Respect is placing high value on privacy, even, perhaps especially, between and among people who are very intimate with each other. The deeper and greater the intimacy, the greater the need for individual space, even opportunities for extended solitude.

Respect is listening, it’s having the willingness to focus on what another is saying without correcting, interpreting, or interrupting. It’s developing an eye for what another may need or want and looking for ways to serve one another. It’s having an eye for mood and occasion, the ability to read a moment and to sense when strong emotions may call for deeper understanding.

Respect is having an ear for what is not said. It’s the capacity to read between the lines, to discern what may be uncomfortable to express. It is developing an ear to honour what another finds painful, the ability to understand that loved ones may hide pain, may want pain concealed, from some, but not from all.

Respect is found in the appropriate use of touch, touch to affirm, the kind of that says “You are not alone,” and expresses warmth, declaring the pleasure it is to share life with another.

[Merc 3/20/23]

March 18, 2023

Blending families

by Rod Smith

Blending families, smoothly and successfully, is not easy. 

Each family imports its own set of norms and expectations into the new family configuration and these norms and expectations will inevitably clash. Each person, too, brings expectations into the new family quite apart from what the rest of what his or her original family brings to the party. There will also be remaining scars from the sequence of events that made blending two families possible in the first place. 

Blending families calls for super-maturity from the marrying or newly married adults. 

They are called to lead in such a manner that all the members of the newly constituted family’s voices are heard and opinions are respected, irrespective of age.

The adults will be wise to avoid blaming others like a former spouse or former in-laws for the inevitable difficulties that will arise. 

The adults will be wise to avoid disciplining other people’s children, even if he or she is newly married to the children’s mom or dad. 

The adults will be wise to avoid believing the children – no matter what they may say when wanting to please the parent – want this new family as much as the newly married adults do. 

The adults will be wise to speak well of the parents who are excluded from this new blended family.

[The Mercury—Monday]

March 18, 2023

Something a little longer for Sunday….. 

by Rod Smith

One thing I notice about the parables of Jesus and other favorite New Testament events, even Jesus one-liners, is that just as soon as I think I understand the parable, the event, the one-liner, it does a number on me.

Refuses to be conquered.

Reveals I’m scratching the surface in understanding, let alone application.

I know this to be true as I study Jesus’ desert trials, His relationship with Peter, betrayals, the terrors of Gethsemane, The Transfiguration, The Woman caught in adultery, “love your enemies,” to name a few. 

For 10 years (at least) these events in Jesus’ life and many of His sayings have refused to let me go and keep offering me more and more opportunities for understanding and for application.

Who really knows what Jesus meant when he said “a seed must die to bear fruit” (John 12:24) and I am not talking botany?

Every believer worth his or her salt has a go at “unpacking” (my least favorite verb I hear in Christendom) this but I think most attempts at interpretation fail to grasp the larger application of the metaphor, let alone how the “death” occurs and how it applies to you and to me.

 Let me know if you think you know. 

Parables, if we are willing to resist the thought that we already know all there is to know about any one of them, will unfold meaning for years and go deeper and deeper into the willing heart with revelation.

Thinking I know becomes a blockage. My blockage. Time after time reading them I go back to what I already know, which keeps new understanding waiting in the wings for an opportunity to get a moment on stage.

Another thing I find blocks my learning is when I become an insight addict and seek insight and more insight into Scripture but resist or refuse to put the insights into the daily-life action.

Insight, without accompanying action, is not only useless, it blocks further revelation. Then, if I get any insight, refusing to act on what I see becomes a ditch into which my insight tumbles and I become another of millions upon millions of Christains who are incredibly insightful who are very willing to talk, often endlessly, about what they see in whatever be the Biblical topic. And that’s about it.

My gosh, have I met some insightful and loquacious Christians?

Certainty, too, seals shut possibilities of growth and learning. 

It stops discovery. Certainty block’s revelation. 

I find embracing ambiguity and possibility for behavior change opens the floodgates to new understanding and new ways to be in the world.

Understanding Scripture requires change. Transformation. Understanding Scripture will demand it be more than an academic exercise and will seek to influence who and how we are as men and women in our various roles in our various communities and within our families.   

I have read the “Prodigal Son” many many times and have often thought I have a reasonable take on Jesus’ point. My perspectives change if I read it as if I am the Older Brother when my default has always been to read it as the younger, returning son, the “good” guy. When reading the parable from the Older Brother’s point of view I have no problem understanding why he has an issue with the upstart’s return and why he avoids the party. If I read it from the perspective of the Father it doesn’t take long before I am reduced to tears. I think I know that kind of love, at least as much as I am able. My sons have been trying to teach me about it since they entered the world and broke into my heart.

Shifting my point of view when I read “The Good Samaritan” also allows for new insights. I start from the perspective of the “questioning” lawyer. Then I move on through Jesus’ list of characters and end up reading it as the victim who receives assistance from the Samaritan.

When I read it as The Samaritan, I am reduced to tears.

In contrast to the “trained” and the professionals, the ones who should know, the rejected one is the loving one, the one who was never considered a neighbor, the “other,” is the one who goes the extra mile and loves his enemy and models neighborliness.

Have a fabulous Sunday.

March 17, 2023

To daily readers…..

by Rod Smith

To all who subscribe to these posts….. 

I want you to know I’m grateful for your readership. 

I’m sure you’re aware that if you “scroll around” you will see there are hundreds of short columns on many topics. 

Your readership is very important to me and I trust you continue to find my work helpful.

Please spread the word – I will never ask you for anything but to disperse to others what you enjoy or find challenging.


Rod Smith

March 16, 2023


by Rod Smith

When facing a crisis

[Kindly pass this post on to others whom you think may consider it interesting or pertinent]

  • Take time to think things over even if the act of thinking things over feels or seems impossible. Get some distance to gain some objectivity. When your thinking is nudged and poked by overwhelming feelings of sorrow or anger you know it is still necessary to take more time before you respond.
  • Reactive behavior is unlikely to do you or any situation you are facing any good. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction which is probably not going to be very helpful to you.
  • No response from you is better than a half-baked response from you. Be aware that your half-baked ideas will be misunderstood and often in ways that are not to your advantage.
  • While you may not feel like it, take care of immediate business in your immediate environment. This will get your wild and wandering mind temporarily off things and you will feel as if you are accomplishing something with your day.
  • Remind yourself daily that you are the one common denominator in all of your relationships, that while you are thinking or feeling like a victim you are no help to yourself or to anyone, and your deepest resource is the valid and authentic and talented person you know yourself to be.
March 15, 2023


by Rod Smith

It’s a Saturday morning. 

I’m 11. 

I am riding my bike on the gravel entrance to E. W. G. Smith, General Dealer, my dad’s grocery shop as I have done for years.

A car eases alongside me and the driver leans his head out of the open window and asks me directions to Parkhill Soccer Club. 

I know where it is but …. but… but everything I know sticks in my head. 

Words fail. 

Arms twitch. 

My neck stretches. 


Not a sound will come out of me but for gasps and whelps. 

Then, I am choking on words. 

Monosyllabic squeaks and squawks shot-gun out of me and I can’t stop. 

I turn my bike to look elsewhere and point down the road. 

The driver mimics my sounds, movements, and laughs and points. He fake-chokes. He spits, jerks his head, playing to his audience, a car full of adults. They all begin to move their arms, spit, copy my rapid repetitions until at last the driver shifts his gears and the car tires rip the gravel and the merciless mockers are gone.

I retreated into the house and into myself. 

Closed all doors. 

I am debilitated. 

For days I want to hide in shame and resist venturing into daylight. 

Yes, I’m 11 and I enter days of dark silence, moodiness, and humiliation. 

I can’t shake this stutter. I can’t shake the shame. 

The memory of trying to give directions to a place I knew so well plays repeatedly in my head and humiliation washes over me everytime i think of it and even when I don’t.

March 15, 2023

Subtle art of Self-care

by Rod Smith

Within each person is a holy place called The Self. It is here, in the deepest recess of who each of us is, that the human spirit, soul, intellect, meld and form the powerhouse or engine room for who and what each of us is. 

The subtle art of self-care — “subtle” because there is a delicate difference between being self-caring, selfishness, and being self-serving — is fundamental to good mental, emotional health, and also relational health.

Appropriate self-care is not selfishness or self-indulgent. It is not self-centered-ness. It is not self-serving. 

It is self-awareness. 

It is self-monitoring with the firm understanding that each person is responsible for the condition of his or her self. 

Each of us is responsible for how we relate to all others (to neither dominate or be dominated). 

Each of us is responsible, when it comes to ALL other adults, for maintaining relationships that exemplify mutuality, respect, and equality.

Part of self-care is the enduring understanding that each person has a voice to be respected, a role to be fulfilled, and a calling to be pursued. 

Every person (every Self) requires room to grow, space apart from others, while at the same time requiring intimacy and connection. 

The healthy Self is both connected and separate all at the same time, underscoring again the subtlety required in the art of self-care.

Greenland from 30,000 feet