Archive for April, 2017

April 17, 2017

No matter how highly functional or not, here are some family challenges worthy of pursuit:

by Rod Smith

Talk about what you would like to do more as a family and what would we prefer to do less as a family. The list may include monumental challenges that take years to address. The list may include things that can be changed in an instant.

Talk about what you would each like to do more, and less, as individuals in the family. As above, some may be really easy and some may take seemingly forever.

Plan something meaningful and unusual (“off the charts”) that the family agrees to work toward. This may be a trip, a building project, or entering as a family into a race.

Discuss (according to age, ability, and appropriateness) topics that are usually taboo like death, sex, finances, and family secrets. Discuss why they are taboo in the first place. When and why and how did the secret become a secret. Who decides what is and what is not a secret?

Consult a professional who is able to construct a Genogram with your family. Request that it span three generations. This will (potentially) alert family members to troublesome trends and urges that pre-exist within the family system and therefore (potentially) equip members to face them if and when they emerge again. Nothing in families is new!

April 16, 2017

My son leads the pack….

by Rod Smith

April 15, 2017

Jesus followers hit the wall….

by Rod Smith

Easter Saturday, a little more than two thousands years ago, the first followers of Jesus hit the wall. His execution was complete. His corpse secure in a tomb. 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. Kaput.

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 only to be abandoned by one who could walk on water, still storms, raise the dead, yet not appear to be able to 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 shed death, 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 Christians. A rebound of this nature from anyone, let alone their beloved leader, would stimulate more than mere 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 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. Let’s consider 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 is 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, forgiving your harshest foes, your bitterest enemies, is 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 with, “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 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.

April 13, 2017

What some children I think are trying to say….

by Rod Smith

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 13, 2017

Gifts money can’t buy

by Rod Smith

Unhindered attention: you have my ears, my eyes, my brain and my heart for this time, this hour, this meal, or this weekend.

Unilateral forgiveness: you have a fresh, completely new start with me even though we have a rich history. This means that, as much as it is possible, at least from my side, our pasts will not disrupt the present or impede the future.

Absolute freedom: you have God-given freedom that mine to honor, and so I will allow nothing in my behavior or attitudes to get in the way of your full enjoyment of the freedom that is divinely yours.

Room to discover: limited only by how much courage you have within you, you have the freedom to explore your talents, develop your skills, and pursue your dreams, and I will applaud you as you do so at every turn.

A safe zone: you may rest with me, be off duty with me, decompress with me. You may succeed. You may fail. You may talk about your worries or be as carefree as you need. I want to be a safe person for you and to learn how to be when I am not.

April 12, 2017

It’s not “outside” – it’s “inside”….

by Rod Smith

There is a woman I know who dates very widely. She seems to be in constant search of a man. Her online searches are almost always successful and result in a relationship that involves moving homes, changing her daughter’s school, and sometimes changing cities.

Three times, at least, I have heard “this is the one” and she has been fully invested in the new relationship. Her zeal is faultless. Her research is extensive. She is very aware of the impact that her relationships have on her young child and waits months before introducing a new man into her life.

The child is happy; she loves his mother. She is a trooper when it comes to moving and re-settling.

Four to five months into the relationship the woman’s control mechanisms kick in. She begins faultfinding and she begins to want to re-arrange the man into someone he is not. As each of the men has stood up to her, she reads resistance as rejection – and from there things plummet.

She knows she visits her unresolved family issues on the men who are close to her.

She is aware that in every case the men were honorable.

The outward search continues when solutions are only to be found is within.

April 10, 2017

The parenting challenge continues….

by Rod Smith

Finding the delicate balance between knowing, being aware, and invading or conquering.

My teenage sons deserve private lives that are quite separate from me. Yet, they need me to be knowledgeable about their difficulties, their confusions, and some of their discomforts. I’ve noticed that when I am comfortable with my own life, my relationships, with setting and achieving my goals, I am quite relaxed about theirs. When I am discontent with my own life I tend to want to meddle with, or invade, or fix their lives.

Finding the balance between serving my sons and letting them do necessary tasks without my help.

I usually do the laundry – but both boys are fully capable of doing their own. When I do it for them I am happily serving them and they are grateful and we are all happy with what is mostly an unspoken arrangement. When my sons are annoyed or picky about the way I do the laundry (and this is quite rare) then they have lost their grateful edge and have moved into entitlement and expectations. At this point my help is not very helpful.

May our struggles in our home, as different as they may be from yours, inspire and encourage you.

April 9, 2017

The company you keep…..

by Rod Smith
  • Embrace people who believe in you. Seek out the men and women who are in your unofficial support group and spend your effort in their direction. It is necessary and acceptable that you define your boundaries with men and women who pull you down and who try to minimize or ridicule your contribution to your family, your work-place, or your broader community. Be cordial, be kind, to such people but limit the power you give to people who denigrate you.
  • Embrace people who have a vision for their own lives. The more you can rub shoulders with people who are “going places” and are invested in building their futures, the greater the likelihood that you will get caught up in similar healthy habits. Drainers and downers and doubters are easy to spot but often harder to avoid. Disillusioned people love a target and are especially attracted to bringing happy and motivated people into their fold.
  • Invest or reinvest in a cause bigger and more meaningful than simply enhancing your family and yourself. There is so much need and suffering everywhere and you are fully capable of reducing some of both for people in your immediate environment.
April 9, 2017

Parenting challenge 

by Rod Smith

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 6, 2017

Before I protest……

by Rod Smith
  • Do I know what I am doing as I protest and do I know why I am doing it?
  • Will I be a conduit of peace, kindness, honesty, humility, mercy, and justice?
  • Will I be demanding a level of justice that is incongruent with the measure I use with those who in my own immediate family and with my neighbors?
  • Am I aware that rallying for justice, if I myself, treat others with unfairness and disrespect, makes a mockery of my efforts and my efforts will be wasted?
  • Am I being authentic, knowing that I am not protesting to maintain ill-gained wealth or ill-gained privilege but rather seeking justice and peace for all, despite our many differences?
  • Am I willing to stay at home rather than take to the streets if I am angry, bitter, or wanting to settle a score or seek revenge?
  • Am I will be stay at home and avoid protesting if I want to join a protest to trivialize the efforts of others.
  • Am I willing to stay home if I seek to divide rather than to unite?