Archive for January, 2018

January 31, 2018

A note to dads….

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Thursday

In the biblical parable of the prodigal who returns after squandering his inheritance the father runs to meet the now-humbled son and celebrates his return. A massive party ensues. He who was unreachable and in a distant land (no Facebook, no Snap Chat) discovered the harsh truths of diminishing then vanishing resources and his desperation sends him home as one willing to be his father’s hired hand.

The parable, the subject of a million sermons and interpreted by the greatest of artists over thousands of years, is about the father’s love.

He is generous. He is patient. He is forgiving.

He’s spent, we can safely presume, years watching for the son’s return, and when it happens, he is overwhelmed with joy with no a trace of recrimination expressed in his vulnerable, exuberant welcome.

Of course the dad could be hurt again. He could use the return as a “teaching moment” but he doesn’t. He loves with abandon.

I don’t know what went on in his heart (and it is a parable) but I do know what it is like to receive my father’s love after years of distance and rebellion.

Dads everywhere – please reach out to your sons and daughters today – young child, adult, local or distant, and express the love for your sons and daughters that is burning beautifully in your heart.

January 27, 2018

Lies to girls

by Rod Smith

Lies girls are fed and often appear to believe:

  • Your body is more important than your brain therefore focus on your body, not your brain. Your body will get you further than your brain. Your body is bait. Use it well for a fine catch (riches, status – things you can’t get alone). Other people are more important than you. You are on Earth to serve, particularly all males.
  • Once a husband finds you, your greatest calling is to be a mother. If you have other ambitions you will compromise your mothering. Your only worthwhile ideas pertain to cooking, cleaning, and childcare; leave thinking about sciences, technology, and mathematics to males.
  • Once you are in love you will give up yourself for your husband and your children. This is what love is. You are a half. When you meet a man and marry you will become whole. If you suffer in silence and allow others to use you God will reward you.

Having addressed female audiences in the USA, Southern Africa, and in three Asian countries, I perceive these covert and overt messages to girls remain consistent. Perhaps saddest is that when girls find faith, they often expect God to be the ultimate male, issuing similar messages, demands, and expectations.

January 26, 2018

Message for my sons…..

by Rod Smith

Written rather rapidly but written by request….

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

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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 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. 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.

January 25, 2018

Victims abound…..

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Tuesday – re-run, by request of hard-copy readers / Victims Abound

There are victims everywhere – and, here’s the kicker, there may be one within you, or me.

Resist him. Don’t placate her. He’s out to get you. She’ll persist until she gets her way.

Unless he or she is willing to grow, any expectation to grow up, become stronger, to cast aside the victim mode, will be resisted.

Don’t give in, don’t placate, or soften your serve – be kind but treat people as strong and capable.

Perversely there are rewards for being a victim.

Easily offended, rapidly bruised, ever on the lookout for any who may infringe their fragile sense of self, be it for race, gender, sexual orientation, language, or size, victims crave attention, demand coddling and expect social waivers.

The backlash, if you expect someone who trades upon his or her victim status to grow up, is inevitable.

It’ll be tooth and nail. You’ll be called names – the nicest of which may be uncaring or unloving.

But you will potentially spark the best in people.

You will foster growth and see the victim emerge from his or her victim-hood and contribute to your community in helpful, creative ways, rather than suck the life out of everything as victims are often prone to do – even if he or she is living within you, or me.

January 24, 2018

A little insight into life here in Indy….. in our part of the woods:

by Rod Smith
  • A neighborhood team schedules major parties every year. This means your neighbors and their children become people you know and love and they know and love you and your children in return.
  • Sometimes it’s so cold and icy that the city asks you to all stay home. A 5am text from the school system can tell you that school is cancelled for thousands of students. After the winter there are hundreds of huge potholes in the streets.
  • I inadvertently (of course) left my laptop at the coffee shop and three hours later it was sitting exactly where I’d left it. I also left it, on another occasion, on the top of my car (in its zipper bag) and it sat there for at least two hours in a public parking spot with scores of people passing by. It remained untouched. The computer on the car roof is an even more odd and wondrous tale than I have told but I will leave it at that for now.
  • The mail-carrier (the post-man) can deliver mail to your house for 20 years and watch your children grow up and know your name and hold packages for you when he or she knows you won’t be home to sign for them.
  • If you order stuff from Amazon it may be delivered to your house and left at the front door and it’s unlikely it will ever be taken – unless a neighbor sees it and takes it in for you until you get home.
  • I’ve had 7 burglaries in two houses.
January 23, 2018

Free gifts we can all offer….

by Rod Smith

Free gifts we can give to everyone we encounter – intimate or casual:

We can give each other room to move, freedom, space, permission to be different, and separate. No permission is required given that all people are already free. It seems some do not know it or believe it.

We can offer each other a positive attitude, a can-do spirit, an approach to problems and requests with a cooperative, and creative drive. We have all had the draining experience of legitimate requests meeting automatic resistance.

We can give each other the benefit of the doubt, the stance that assumes no malice when things don’t run according to plan. An air of suspicion can kill any relationship, casual or intimate.

We can offer each other a listening ear before leaping to conclusions. It’s discouraging to talk to someone who is not listening or who has decided he or she already knows what you want to say.

We can offer each other hospitality, a welcome, a metaphorical or even a literal embrace, an attitude that says “you are welcome in my life for this moment and I am glad you are here.”

January 21, 2018

Mother-daughter connection

by Rod Smith

“My daughter (12) is almost overnight asking me questions about my past and my habits – and the truth is very painful for me. I know I can’t tell her everything but I am more interested in why the sudden interest. We have been very close as mother and daughter in the past. It seems to have drifted in the past year. Please offer insights.”

You are deeply linked as parent and child.

There’s a flow of awareness, of presence, of exchange, going back and forth between parents and children from before a child’s day one.

This “downloading” and “cross-pollinating” is something many parents appear unaware of or certainly don’t offer it much recognition.

It’s powerful.

I am suggesting your daughter may be aware of the pain embedded in your history as a hunch even though she may be totally unable to detect when it comes from.

Affirm her for her questions.

Tell her you have much in your history that brings you both joy and pain and that when you are ready to let her in you will.

Not all questions have to be answered and not all information is her business.

She is a child.

Your daughter is growing into an aware woman – encourage her in her journey.

Perhaps this is the end of “the drift.”

January 18, 2018

Yes, No: teaching both….

by Rod Smith
Teaching children “yes” and “no” is, in my mind, as important as teaching a child how to read, write, and to count.

I want my sons, according to their respective ages, to…

  • Say YES to opportunities even if they involve risk or if they involve venturing into the unknown, learning new things, and breaking unhelpful habits.
  • I want them to say YES especially if the opportunities involve meeting new people and people other than those with whom they’d usually mix.
  • Say YES to opportunities to travel, to serve, and to build and to assist in mending broken places.
  • Say YES to reading new ideas and to writing responses to them.
  • Say YES when they encounter opportunities to offer hospitality.
  • Say NO to toxic secrets, to behavior that judges or excludes others.
  • Say NO to religious teachings that limit their capacities for generosity and for freedom.
  • Say NO to anything that will potentially delay their formal education no matter how appealing or adventurous the idea may be.
  • Say NO to those who disrespect them or encourage them to treat the adults around them with anything less than utmost respect and close-to-perfectly good manners.
  • Say NO to those who dismiss their ideas and who treat them as a means toward their disclosed or undisclosed ends.
January 18, 2018

What teachers want…..

by Rod Smith

With the opening of the new school year

Things to know about your teachers

Your teachers are on your side even if it feels otherwise. People enter the profession to support, not oppose, students

Teachers want completed work to reflect commitment, love, and care.

Teachers want things done on time. Their deadlines are carefully considered and are often designed around giving you’re the optimum time to get things done well with love and care. If you treat your teachers’ assignments as a priority and do more than you are asked you will be amazed at how much everything about your school experience will improve. Not only will your marks improve; your good reputation will open unexpected doors for you.

Good teachers know that wasted time is exactly that and cannot be recovered. Be an asset to your teacher by behaving well and using classroom time well.

Fine teachers are more invested in you understanding material than they are in expecting you to meet the exact demands of an assignment. Successfully using a formula without understanding it is almost useless. Get to know what’s behind the formula. Counting words to meet the minimum requirement of a written exercise indicates that you want to get the assignment completed more than you want to write well.

January 17, 2018


by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Wednesday

The Genius of Powerful Leadership

• Is not that you, the leader, gets your way. It is that those whom you lead discover their own skills, talents, and beauty and, as a result of your style, they are willing to apply their cache of potential to your mutually declared goals.

• 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 mutually declared goals and are positioned to receive appropriate credit.

• Is not that you, the leader, are the one with all the brilliant ideas. It is that you have created a context where the development and exchange of ideas is a way of life and your shared brilliance becomes difficult to pin on one lone genius or a singular heroic leader.

• Is not that you, the appointed or official leader, lead at everything. You understand that your ability to lead meshes with your ability to follow. You get out of the way, you assist, you encourage those who are better equipped at any task to assume the awe-filled position of leader when it is necessary.

• It is that you, the leader, know that how you handle yourself is pivotal, and far more important to your success than how you handle your charges.