Archive for ‘Leadership’

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 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

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 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?
April 6, 2017

Driving lessons for my sons

by Rod Smith

It is helpful to think of every other driver as drunk, unpredictable, and crazy. This approach kept my father accident-free for more than 50 years (although it is unsure how many he caused). This attitude will keep you alert and will go a long way to securing your safety and the safety of others.

Never ride in a car with anyone who is under the influence of alcohol or any legal or illegal substance or substances even if this person is not the operator – and I don’t care if it is your favorite aunt. While I am on that subject, it’s not your job to transport drunk or drugged people.

Don’t drive any vehicle, not even a golf cart or ride a skateboard or bounce on a pogo stick, for goodness sake, if you have consumed anything that distorts, or potentially distorts, your judgment. If you have been drinking or even if you feel you have been out too late, call me, use a taxi or Uber.

I will NEVER refuse your call for help.

Don’t compromise your safety – even if it a very short ride in a very safe car in a very safe suburb. Cars are dangerous missile in the hands of sane, experienced drivers, and the danger quotient radically spikes in the shaky hands of anyone under the influence of anything – even anger.

Treat cars and the privilege of driving (it’s not a right) with great respect. If, from the minute you may legally drive and for at least the first five years, you never enter a car without humbly bowing for three to five minutes at the hood (bonnet), and then for three to five minutes at the trunk (boot) in quiet, humble reverence, with your hands folded in a typical stance of a person at prayer, you might develop the necessary awe cars and driving deserve.

Cars are like pulpits. They should be entered into in a spirit of humility and avoided by the proud, the angry, and blowhards. Driving is for getting from A to B. That is it. It’s not for the music, or texting, or eating, or watching movies. The journey is not the party Don’t make car ride into a party – there’s no quicker access to an ambulance.

March 12, 2017

I remind myself of these things….

by Rod Smith

When it comes to my sons, I remind myself of these things:

  • Their lives are larger at their ages than mine was at their ages. Of course, they’re starting late and the world is a very different place. Their platforms are more complex, and more dynamic than mine was and, I admit, I am somewhat limited in my ability to identify with it. This means I should not be taken aback when I am blinded to possibilities and experiences they see and want to embrace. Rejecting an idea or a possibility simply because I couldn’t envision it is a good way to widen a gap than is mine, and not theirs, to bridge.
  • While the world is a very different place than it was in my formative years, some things remain unchanged. Good manners, using please and thank you, looking people in the eye, standing up for adults, dealing honestly with money and time, working hard, and displaying empathy in the face of those who are suffering – are values that cannot be discarded just because the world is faster paced than it once was. One of my jobs as a parent is to encourage, even enforce some of these things if necessary.
  • I am enough for my sons and the only dad they will ever need.
February 27, 2017

Spirituality and spiritual abuse…..

by Rod Smith

Ten signs of the presence of spiritual abuse, manipulation, domination, or intimidation.

Spiritual Abuse (always on a continuum) is occurring when a pastor, leader, or even a friend:

  • “Hears” God for you. God apparently “goes through” him/her to speak to you. This requires a sense of superiority – from him or her and is often framed as being “more mature,” and a sense of being “less” from you.
  • Alienates (shuns, ignores) you if you do not adhere to his/her guidance, leadership, or authority. This is usually VERY subtle – so it is easy to deny.
  • Suggests that rejection of his/her “higher understanding” is done so at your spiritual or even physical peril. You will hear things like, “Be careful. You will move yourself from the covering and protection of God if you don’t listen to me.”
  • Rewards your obedience with inclusion, and punishes your questioning or resistance with withdrawal. Compliance gets stroked; resistance gets struck.
  • Demands “cathartic” honesty. Unless you spew out every detail of your life you must be hiding or withholding something and that “something” will, of course, impede your spiritual development.
  • Lavishes you with praise, acceptance, and understanding when you are “good” and “pushes” you away when you are “bad.”
  • Is apparently fixated on the use of titles like reverend, pastor, elder and cannot appear to relax in the company of “ordinary” mortals. The issue is not in the use of legitimate titles (or robes or religious garb) – it is that identity seems impossible without the titles or the trappings.
  • Leaves a trail of cut-off relationships. Usually in the trail are those who refuse to bow, to submit, to stand in awe of, to be thoroughly entranced by, the will of the pastor, the leader or the friend. Always regard with suspicion or caution leaders who are cut off or alienated from members of their family, especially their parents.
  • Lives from a “for me/or against me,” “black/white,” “all/or nothing” platform of “relationships.”
  • Genuinely sees God’s Call so zealously, so fervently that any signs of resistance are seen as the expressions of The Enemy or an enemy – thus, relationships are expedient (disposable) in the light of getting on with God’s work.

The perpetrators of abuse apparently fail to see that reconciliation, and forgiveness, “space,” and room to move, and room to respectfully disagree (boundaries, morality) are all part of the glorious work of the Gospel.

Freedom begins with recognition. Recognition must result in action.

Stand up to those who misuse their positions of leadership. Spiritual abuse serves the welfare or neither the perpetrator nor the victim – quite apart from the disservice it does to the church.

All authentic holiness, spirituality, Godliness, is LOCAL. If it’s not present and respectful in the most immediate one-to-one relationships (spouse, child, secretary, mail-carrier, in the traffic, at the airline check-in, with the dog) it will not be authentic in the one-to-many relationships, no matter how many thousands or tens of thousands make up the many.

July 17, 2012

The joy of our humanity

by Rod Smith

Is found in our connection with others (a connection sufficiently powerful so that we are not alone) and can therefore give and receive strength to and from each other. It is yet separate enough so that we not drain each other of the adventure of being unique and distinct beings. This is one of the greatest blessings accompanying our humanity and, when it fails, it becomes the source of exceedingly powerful pain.

July 14, 2012

Indications of becoming healthier in an intimate relationship

by Rod Smith

1. You experience greater OBJECTIVITY and can “see” your most important relationships as if looking at them through someone else’s eyes.
2. Despite any pain, any trauma, any uncertainty, you can see some HUMOUR in what you are experiencing even if it is short lived.
3. You are progressively gathering a small community of friends who know everything (or almost everything) about you and their SUPPORT is becoming easier to trust.
4. You are seeing with greater and greater CLARITY what are and what are not your responsibilities within your most important relationships.
5.”No” comes easier and it is not accompanied by guilt. “Yes” is your response when you really want what you agree to. You begin to BELIEVE the words you say. Your words reflect you, your desires, and are not said from guilt or the impulse to keep the peace or make others happy.

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 kayisem@urbanbrew.co.za:

“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.