Archive for ‘Voice’

October 17, 2017

Will you be my friend?

by Rod Smith

I am very aware that people don’t analyze their connections in the manner I’ve described below. We’d have healthier communities and families if we did!

  • Will you search with me when I am searching, stand with me when I am standing, and drop to your knees with me in prayer if and when I need it? I will try to do the same for you.
  • Will you stand up to me with firmness and kindness when my many blind spots are blocking my thinking? I will try to do the same for you.
  • Will you join me and examine our connection (as casual acquaintances, colleagues, neighbors, partners, or spouses) so that we remain mutual and equal and respectful no matter the degree or significance of our connection?
  • Will you take time to listen to me? I will try to take time to listen to you?
  • Will you allow me my quirks and eccentricities and try to regard them as interesting rather than regard them as things you wish were different about me?
  • Will you seek my highest good as far as you are able given the knowledge we have about each other? I will try to do the same for you.
  • Will you try to be as unafraid of me as I try to be unafraid of you?
October 5, 2017

Weekend superhero

by Rod Smith

The world is disturbed by threats of nuclear war. There have been horrific mass shootings, race riots, and re-emergences of violent extremes.

Entire regions of the world have been destroyed by hurricanes and earthquakes. Millions are homeless because of severe weather and millions more live as refugees fleeing oppressive political circumstances.

May we (you and I) deploy our most powerful individual forces. As limited as we each may be, the world needs a few superheroes and we can each in our own way be one:

  • Design and commit specific, routine acts of kindness and generosity. Make them pointed, uniquely tailored for someone in need. If possible, make your target an enemy and make your act anonymous. The “routine” will help us form healing habits. The “enemy” element will transform us into fine-tuned agents of grace

  • Extend your immediate community by embracing the stranger, the sojourner, the person on the fringe. Resist the urge to create him or her into your own image by expecting your guest to conform to your ways or to convert to your ways. Superhero hospitality accepts people exactly as they are.

  • In the spirit of St. Francis, indeed a superhero, may we seek to console and to serve rather than to be consoled and to be served. I know, I know – it wasn’t supposed to be a direct quotation.

September 24, 2017

Fine acts of parenting

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Monday 9/25/2017 / I have witnessed many fine acts of parenting:

  • The mother who sends her adult sons and daughters Mother’s Day cards with handwritten lists of joyous memories about what it has been like to be their mother. She has done this for so long that it was some years before the children (when they were children) even knew they were the ones who were supposed to send her cards.
  • The dad who traded in his own car and settled for a used car so he could give his son the sports car his son wanted.
  • The parents who each worked two jobs so the two sons did not have to assume significant debt to attend university.
  • The single mother who has the wherewithal to leave her daughter’s academic struggles up to her and who encourages her daughter to speak up about what she needs to her teachers.
  • The dad who packs his son’s lunch each day for school and who adds an extra pack for his son’s friend who once expressed to the boy that he wished that he too had a dad.
  • The dad who taught his son to share without ever saying it but by showing it at every turn.
  • The parents who never let drinking distort or shape the way they reared their children.
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.