Archive for June, 2012

June 28, 2012

Competition for children under 12…….

by Rod Smith

My great-niece and superb writer, Amy Arthur of Durban, triggered an idea.

If you are under 12, please submit, using your first name and initials only via your parent’s or guardian’s email address) a 200-word paragraph entitled: What it means to be a South African child in 2012.

I will be the sole adjudicator and I will publish what I deem to be the best piece.

The writer will receive a R200 gift card for Exclusive Books. 

(Closing date for entries: July 6, 2012)


June 27, 2012

The slow murder of a woman……

by Rod Smith

“My husband is controlling, jealous, and an alcoholic. He has me so scared that I can’t even look another guy in the eye. I love my husband but I can’t stand living like this any more. He drinks 9-12 beers a night. His controlling is causing us to fight all the time. I always tell him that if he would relax our relationship would be happier. I hate to come home from work and walk around on eggshells. What can I do? I want out yet I know that he is a good man. He can be very loving when he wants to be but the next second he can change. I am so confused. I don’t know what to do. Can someone help me?”

You are an expert in his habits and blind to yours. Your husband is a troubled man. He is an alcoholic. He has a disease. Trying to reason with him is a waste of time. While you cooperate with his drinking and controlling ways and “walk around on eggshells” you will never be free and his deplorable ways will intensify. Secretly secure support from friends and family and move out while there is still a smidgeon of you left. You are supporting him as he slowly murders you.

June 26, 2012

She is not a stupid woman

by Rod Smith

“I am in love with a married man. I am married. He is married with children and grandchildren. We love each other very much. We won’t leave our spouses. My lover and I met at work and began our affair. It has been going on for 8 months. Of course, our married relationships aren’t perfect. We are filling needs not met at home. We are in love. The sex is intense and incredible. We are getting a secret flat together to save on hotels. His wife suspects but he told her what ever was going on he would end. That was about five months ago. She is not a stupid woman. He goes home with my hair on his sweater and in his car. She is willing to allow him to lie to her as long as he stays with her. He is a good man. He loves his family and doesn’t want to destroy her. I don’t want to hurt my husband. I know we are both lying and could cause destruction. We are academics and have reasoned this all out.”

You are probably correct – “she is not a stupid woman” – but look a little deeper at who might be. Academics or not, this is a selfish plan, from which nothing of long-term good can result.

June 25, 2012

The Genius of Great Leadership

by Rod Smith
  • Is not that you, the leader, get your way. It is that those whom you lead discover the power of fully understanding their valued and vital contribution to your declared, shared, and treasured goals and get to use as many of their inherent gifts and skills to help reach them.
  • Is not that you, the leader, are recognized. It is that those whom you lead are empowered and sufficiently “free” to make their own mark on your declared, shared, and treasured goals and are positioned to receive all due credit as if you yourself, did not even exist.
  • Is not that you, the leader, are the one with all the good or brilliant ideas. It is that you have created a context where the development and exchange of ideas (of all sizes and quality) is a way of life and your shared brilliance becomes difficult to track or pin on one lone genius or one heroic leader.
  • Is not that you, the appointed or official leader, lead at everything. You understand that your ability to lead is enmeshed with your ability to follow. You get out of the way and assist and encourage those who are better equipped at any task or project to assume the awe-filled position of leader.


June 24, 2012

Before you say “I do”……

by Rod Smith

Planning a wedding? Resist engaging a wedding planner until you take a look at these pointers to see if you think it’s worth proceeding….

  1. Examine finances. If money is an issue with one, but not for the other, turbulence lies ahead. Nothing can stir love woes like money woes. If both are financially challenged, and I don’t mean poor, I mean poorly equipped at managing money, run a proverbial mile. All the love in the world won’t impress the bank or keep a financially stressed marriage going.
  2. Assess the source of the energy behind the wedding plans. If the bride is the powerhouse and the groom is tagging along because it is “her” wedding – guess what is unlikely to change? If it is his or her mother, run hard, fast, and soon.
  3. Honestly assess the bedroom (metaphor for sex and all things intimate). The person who least desires sex, is the one driving the relationship. Note, I said, desires. I said nothing about acting on the desires. Also, many a really hot pre-marriage bedroom cooled to polar temperatures soon after the honeymoon. If intimacy is used to gain power, it will soon cease.
  4. Examine integrity. Cheats, liars, and addicts can change, but usually not very much.
June 21, 2012

I don’t know how much more I can take of him being aggressive

by Rod Smith

“How am I supposed to know I’m in a bad relationship? I’ve been with this guy for two years and been through a lot. He has done damage to me and himself. My family does not like him. He is a good dad but can be a bad person at heart sometimes. Our son is now 1 and he does not help me but a diaper (nappy) change here and there and a bath when I ask him to give our son one. He has cheated along with me cheating. It was a big mistake. He still brings up my last ex as this guy treated me so right but I did him wrong. It was my fault that I broke his heart I apologized. He hates me as a friend. I deal with me having to yell as far as me getting a point across to him he still don’t listen. I could see myself with him but I don’t know how much more I can take of him being aggressive with his words and how I’m treated. What should I do?” (Almost all punctuation added)

Take it from me, you’re in a bad relationship.

Until you work on your integrity you will attract losers.   

Grow up – your son needs an adult parent.

June 20, 2012

It’s not SPIRITUAL to burn-out…..

by Rod Smith

In not-for-profit circles I quite regularly hear about burnout. It’s often framed as some spiritual trophy.

It’s admired rather than seen for what it is: a failure to recognize and function within one’s callings and gifting.

“She’s got such a servant-heart she burned out,” a man will sigh about his wife.

“Our pastor is such a loving man. He carries the world on his shoulders,” which will inevitably be followed by a woeful tale of indiscretion and “burnout”.

Burnout results when you fail to mind your own business – and get caught up in someone else’s.

It is a symptom of over-functioning.

It means you are doing things that do not fit within your role, calling, skill-set, or gifting.

It is not taking on too much. It’s taking on what is not yours to take on.

There’s nothing “spiritual” about over-committing, about taking on impossible challenges.

Trying to “fix” others, convince the convinced, reason with the unreasonable, are just a few “impossible challenges”.

Hard work doesn’t lead to burn out. The “wrong” work does. If you carefully optimize your skills, do what you love to do, mind your own business, hard work will energize and sustain you.

Mess with other people’s jobs, roles, and functioning you will crash before you know it.

June 19, 2012

Three requests

by Rod Smith

“You and Me” will be a little different today. You have three invitations:

1. Please send me the names of the 10 books you believe every English speaking child should read by the time he or she is 15. Please don’t refer me to website. I want your personal list of essential children’s and young adult literature. Kindly indicate “m” of “f” if necessary. Skip Potter, “Vampire” books, and anything with Chicken Soup in the title.

2. I received this yesterday from Kayise Maphalala, producer of Three Talk, SABC Television. If interested please contact Kayise at

“Three Talk is doing a show on forgiveness and one of the areas we would like to also look at is forgiveness in relationships. Would you be so kind as to recommend a couple who has gone through a difficult patch to come in and talk about the importance of forgiveness. This is for a show next to be aired on Tuesday, 26th June 2012.”

3. I have “pushed” Passionate Marriage (David Schnarch) and Failure of Nerve (Edwin Friedman) for years as the best books on (respectively) relationships and leadership. What books am a missing on these two topics? Please send me your suggestions. It is summer in the USA. I have vast amounts of time (I am on three months leave) for reading.


June 18, 2012

Guidelines for all new relationships

by Rod Smith
  1. The clearer you are in the beginning, when you first meet, the less you will have to clarify when the relationship attains necessary traction.
  2. If you move slowly, clarifying perceptions and listening to the perceptions of others, you will lessen your own pain or disappointment and when things don’t develop as you may initially want. Few relationships, if any, work exactly as we’d like.
  3. If you understand that most people are deeper and more complex than they first appear, and you understand that this is also true for you, it is more likely that you will modify your expectations of others and be a little easier to relate to yourself. People who find others difficult are usually difficult.
  4. If you enter all relationships with care and caution you are unlikely avoid glaring inconsistencies in another. You are more likely to establish healthy boundaries and expectations. Relationships are often ruined, not only because things move too quickly but also because people are often so desperate for meaningful relationships that glaring red flags are denied or ignored.
  5. It is inevitable that the unresolved issues of past relationships will surface in any new relationship. Don’t torment Joe for what happened with Jim.
June 16, 2012

Is that Really You, God?

by Rod Smith

Rather than be present in spirit only, one Sunday, Jesus decided it was time for him to preach at First Church and so he woke Pastor Larry in the early hours of Sunday to inform him.

“Is that really you God?” Larry questioned.

“Yes,” said Jesus, “it’s Me. You have heard correctly. Shelve your sermon. I will preach today.”

The pastor tossed and turned so much so that his wife said in soothing tones, “You know how you need your rest, honey.”

Half dazed, Larry explained that Jesus had just met him in a dream in which He requested the pulpit.

“But the PAC, the ‘Pulpit Approval Committee’,” appealed his wife, “Have they approved Jesus to preach?”

Larry shushed her backed to sleep and then wondered how Jesus would show up and deliver the sermon.

That morning, after the hymns and the general announcements Larry anticipated a miracle that would really put First Church on the map. He imagined Christians traveling from all over the world to see the church where Jesus preached. He saw himself, the keynote speaker at conferences all over the world, telling of the night he trusted his dream, of the night Jesus talked to him and of the Sunday morning Jesus showed up and took over his pulpit.

Larry sat in their family pew while the confused congregation waited for the sermon.

The silence was deafening.

Larry trusted his dream and refused to preach.

“Well, this is quite the most unusual service I have attended,” said Elder Crabb as he made his way slowly into the pulpit. “Since no one is preaching, I have something to say. Last month when my wife died,” he started, “the world seemed to end for me. But you were there, Mrs. Jones, Johnny, Sid, Pastor Larry, and I wanted to thank you,” he said, making eye contact with each of the persons he mentioned. “Thank you for your constant love, the food, cards and gifts. Thanks also, all of you, for being at the funeral.”

He sat down. Quiet sobbing spread throughout the congregation.

“Well since we’re thanking others,” said Miss Betty, tottering to the front of the sanctuary, “I wanted to say how much I appreciate the yard work done at my home by the youth group. I can no longer get myself out to do it. Oh, and, I would also like to apologize for the way in which I have resisted young people in the past. I struggled with your music and youth sermons, but your help with the lawn was all I needed to show me I was wrong. You mow lawns better than you preach.”

The congregation applauded.

This was better than Pastor had ever anticipated and soon a line of people waited at the pulpit and every thanks received a warm applause.

Members began to hold hands across the congregation even though the sermon had run much longer than the expected twenty-one minutes. No one was clock-watching.

To everyone’s surprise a young child found his way into the pulpit, and, as if he had done it many times before. He moved Larry’s pulpit chair into position, and stood tall upon it.

“I do not really have anything to say,” he said with confidence, “I just have a few questions.”

Larry and congregation moved expectantly in their seats toward him, every person willing to address the theological quandaries of the young.

“How come some of you are rich and yet you do not give to those you know are poor?”

People coughed nervously.

“Why do you spend so much money on yourselves? There are poor people in every direction that could use your help? Why are some of you fighting amongst yourselves? What are you doing about AIDS, injustice, racism and world hunger?”

“The Lord started out so well,” reflected Larry, peering at his shoes, “and then a child goes and ruins it by asking political questions.”

“I am not done preaching yet,” said the Lord to Larry.

“Oh Lord,” said Larry, “I am sorry your sermon was interrupted by this child.”

“No, no,” said the Lord to Larry, “It’s me. This is the sermon. I am preaching, Larry. You have all done quite well at caring for each other. Now get busy, rid the world of injustice and prejudice. And by the way, keeping loving each other while your are at it.”