Archive for ‘Voice’

September 17, 2017

It’s not where……

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Monday

Thank you for reading my work. Really. I appreciate it.

Allow me to let you in a little.

I live in the USA, in Indianapolis, Indiana, to be precise. If you are reading this in a real newspaper you are probably somewhere in KwaZulu-Natal. I was born and reared in Red Hill, Durban.

If you are reading online you could be in any one of the 180-plus nations where people read this column.

Before you are overly impressed, in several of the 180-plus nations my readership totals 2 or 5 or even 8 people.

I am writing this particular column on the Saturday before you will read it on Monday. I am in a busy coffee shop on the very affluent side of our city. I drive here. We don’t live in this neighborhood. But, where we live is hardly poor. By American standards my sons and I are well off.

There are many days I want to be where you are. I miss the beaches, the weather, your naturally hospitable ways. I miss extended family.

I am sure there are times you’d like to be in the USA.

I’ve had this consistent thought since moving to the USA: It’s not where, but how you live that makes the difference.

July 30, 2017

This week at Chatel…..

by Rod Smith

cropped-e-is-for-enmeshment1Five (very lofty) goals for the week

Teach, facilitate group so students and staff are empowered to find, enjoy, and use their backbones, most creative brains, and voices, each to maximum of his or her current level of helpful, “growthful” discomfort. (Yes, I occasionally make up my own words).

Facilitate each student’s possibility for growth (to get bigger or smaller) into his or her appropriate size (a) as a distinct individual, (b) as a distinct individual in within a variety of contexts (like current or immediate family, family of origin, a class of students, a sub-culture and a broad culture of national heritage), and (c) finally, as a member of the Church, immediate and universal. This means examining contexts, roles, boundaries, skills, talents, gifts, and resources.

https://kona.wordpress.com/2006/04/05/jesus-herds-traingles-and-a-woman/

Teach, model (if it possible) Differentiation of Self by “watching” it in Scripture. We will use three Gospel encounters to illustrate this delicious way of life.

cropped-ladderjpg.jpgGive practical insights into healthy or unhealthy TRIANGLES, GENERATIONAL TRANSMISSION, HERDING, and other usually INVISIBLE pressures that can undermine or sabotage healthy individual, family, and organizational functioning. We will use two, perhaps three, Gospel encounters in order to illustrate.

Give practical tools to minimize individual and group anxiety, to grow and support healthy invisible individual and group loyalties, and to develop the awareness of necessary sifts from REACTIVITY to RESPONSIVENESS, from STEMMING and EMOTING to THINKING, and from AMPLIFYING or IGNORING to EMBRACING and EMPOWERING.

Further reading: Bowen, Murray; Friedman, Edwin; Schnarch, David; Gilbert, Roberta; Satir, Virginia; Framo, James; Minuchen, Salvador

April 22, 2017

Monday meditation / Nine simple truths

by Rod Smith

Nine simple truths –

May they be your first thoughts every morning and may they infiltrate your every move and every relationship:

I am….

  • To be respected and treasured and able to respect and treasure all other people.
  • Capable of expressing my opinions and will do so with growing and greater confidence.
  • Uniquely gifted and my gifts are useful to my immediate and broader community.
  • As unique as the proverbial snowflake and yet part of the human family, tainted with its vulnerabilities, failures, and frailties.
  • Capable of forgiving the worst of offenses I have endured, and capable of seeking forgiveness for the worst offenses I have committed.
  • Able to encourage the discouraged and offer hope to the hopeless.
  • Unafraid of the talents of others and able and willing to help others find their greatness.
  • Capable of becoming the most generous person I know.
  • My own best friend so that I may be a friend to others.
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 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 2, 2017

Celebrating Mondays

by Rod Smith

Mondays – celebrating the first workday of the week:

I love Mondays although I have not always done so. I especially enjoy the first Monday of the month.

Mondays are a reset button. They are an opportunity to set new goals and to reset goals that have lapsed. They are a new beginning, a fresh start and an internal blank slate, a new baseline. Whatever metaphor you employ, I’d suggest we reject the term “blue-Monday” from here on out and switch it for “Magnificent Monday.”

Mondays are an opportunity to love life and to love the lives of those around you and I don’t only mean family and loved ones. Mondays are an opportunity to see the miracle within all people and to affirm human resilience.

Mondays are an opportunity to affirm the spiritual nature of all things, from the most mundane, like getting up and getting ready for the commute to work to the most glorious, like the opportunity to pay debts, thank coworkers, and be part of a vibrant, even conflicted community.

Mondays are a wonderful opportunity to be generous, to be forgiving, and to encourage. They are an opportunity to set the stage for the change you’d like to see in your own life and to measure and assess progress 50-plus times a year.

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.
March 2, 2017

My heart goes out to the….

by Rod Smith
  • My heart goes out to children who live in unsettled houses. Houses where the abuse of alcohol or drugs dominates everything. Houses where rage rips people apart.
  • My heart goes out to children whose parents were once together and now are apart. Although the child may have received loving messages about how they are loved despite what mother and father do it still makes no sense to the child.
  • My heart goes out to children who are fighting a deadly disease and to the siblings who are fighting it with them. The necessary lack of certainty bolstered with statements of faith, all within the same adult sentence, can be confusing. It’s at least as confusing for the child as it is for the adult trying to comfort them.
  • My heart goes out to children whose boundaries are ignored and violated and whose voices are ignored or silenced. Such children might as well be invisible to those commissioned to love and protect them.
  • My heart goes out to the child who must assume a defensive stance because of race, gender, or language.
  • My heart goes out to children who are hungry in a nation of plenty, those born outside the dominant culture, those whose troubles are the fruit of a troubled nation.
February 26, 2017

Pardon me; may I whisper something in your ear?

by Rod Smith

A conversation means we both speak. You speak, I listen; I speak, you listen. We take turns. We build on what each of us has said. We ask questions related to content already shared. It’s really quite simple.

Appearing to listen while you are really waiting to speak is not listening.

The split-second you decide you know what I am going to say or think you have heard it all before is when you stopped hearing.

When I am talking and your eye contact is with your phone you are not listening. And, no, this is not the new form of multitasking. Listening takes focus and respect.

When I tell you something, respond to what I have said. Following what I’ve said with your bigger, better story, related or unrelated, reduces conversations to competitions.

Unless you are genuinely affirming people we both know I’d suggest we leave all others out of our conversation.

Our routine one-liners and well-worn war stories serve as shields. If we are really going to talk we either have to get them out of the way early on in our dialogue or we have to agree to focus on content neither of us has shared with each other before.

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April 24, 2013

I take a counter view…….

by Rod Smith

A man responds to the column of April 22, 2013 about being a stepfather…..

“You are correct. You will never replace you step children’s father. The children did not ask for the divorce or for you to be in their lives. Their mother will never put you ahead of her children, nor should she.”

I hear often that a mother will never place the new husband (in fact even the children’s father) before the children.

This is often touted as “good mothering.” While no counselor would suggest a parent ought to neglect children, there is a distinct difference between being a parent and a partner. It is a very healthy parent who exercises the difference.

There are conditions under which it is a healthy for parents to allow their primary commitment as a spouse to take priority over their commitments as a parent. Yes, you read correctly!

Just as it is a travesty to neglect a child, it is also a travesty to neglect a spouse, especially in the name of “putting the children first.”

I’ve seen parents hide behind “putting the children first” as a means to avoid the bravery required to be a full and functioning partner.

Sometimes it’s good for children to be in second, even third, or fourth place!