September 27, 2019

Five things I say to my sons

by Rod Smith

Written rather rapidly (some time ago) but written by request….

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

To the two the boys who continue to turn my life upside down and shake-rattle-and-roll it – on behalf of a God Who I know hopes that my humanity finds its way out into this delicious world……. I love you:

• 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.

• 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. As far as I’m able, I’ve got your back.

• 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. And, of course, I expect you to hold me to these expectations as well.

• 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.

• 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 generally 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, and YouTube. 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.

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September 24, 2019

Have you noticed?

by Rod Smith

• You can “know” some people for years and never have a sense you have really met. They are guarded. There seems to be no gateway, no pass code, to get beyond common pleasantries.

• You can “know” some people for hours and have a sense you have known them forever. They appear open, transparent; common pleasantries are merely a welcome mat to intimate conversations.

• You meet some people and you have the impression that if you give an inch they will take a mile. There appears to be such a hunger for acceptance, for connection, that the slightest indications of welcome will lead to more than you want to handle.

• You meet some people and they have a well-developed shtick, a practiced, often aged routine that everybody gets when they meet someone for the first time. You get the sense that you are just another audience and it’s “here we go again.”

I’d suggest that in the absence of other symptoms you have met “normal.” You have met a cross section of people who can teach you to love and to accept and to understand yourself in new ways.

Listen, learn, take charge of yourself, choose to disclose, choose to remain silent.

You are always in charge of you, no matter how others relate to you.

This is part of what it means to have secure and healthy boundaries.

September 24, 2019

Beautiful people everywhere

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Monday

Look at the beautiful people all around you. You are sharing space and life with living miracles, just as they are sharing life with you.

You are, if you are anything like 98% of the people I know, free, brave, resilient, determined, compassionate, kind, funny, and generous.

Rich, poor, young or elderly, full of young life, or suffering from long-term illness, it is my overwhelming experience that:

• Every human has eternity etched into his or her heart and bears the stamp and resemblance of a loving and compassionate God. He or she is a work of grace and an example of divine, dynamic Art.

Look closely, it is so.

• Every human wants due recognition for his or her efforts, has talents that can be used for the common good. He or she wants to make a positive difference in his or her surrounds and beyond.

Do your part to empower and get out of the way.

• Every human is a convergence of successes, failures, losses, and gains, and is facing or denying his or her struggles. He or she has un-cried tears from abandonments, unwanted events, scars from the selfishness of others, or memories often too frightening to face.

Be the ear, be the shoulder, be someone’s answer to prayer. Be part of the beauty in every manner possible.

September 20, 2019

Friday formula

by Rod Smith

Greet all people with a smile, even if you’re faking it. It’s not insincerity. It’s being polite. It’s refusing to infect others with your inner discontent. Get rid of your discontent in private, when you’re alone.

Be as clear as possible with plans and expectations so possible hurdles and misunderstandings are minimized. Most people like straightforwardness and honesty more than they like complex surprises that could have easily been avoided. Clarity now usually means fewer confusions later. Try it.

Talk less. Listen more. Ask questions that assist others to talk more. Promote other people’s dreams and desires. Move away from shifting every conversation to focus on you and your interests. Other people are very interesting, perhaps even more interesting than you may be.

Do simple things to lessen the load of others. Open doors, stand back, pick up after yourself, and say “please” and “thank you” a lot. Assume a servant attitude no matter how important you or others may think you are.

Work at being the most generous, forgiving, and kind person you’ve ever encountered and you’ll be amazed at how many generous, forgiving, and kind people you will repeatedly encounter.

September 15, 2019

How to spoil a child

by Rod Smith

How to spoil a child:

  • Run interference for your child as much as possible and so reduce all possibilities that your child may learn that actions and inaction have natural consequences. 
  • Get in the face of every teacher, coach, referee your child ever encounters (and do it as soon as possible) so your child and all officials know who is really in charge. 
  • Give your child the impression that teachers, coaches, school authorities, even the police are all idiots so they will always feel above the rules and the law.
  • Ignore common civility so your child will learn to behave similarly.
  • Praise your child excessively – and suggest others do the same – especially where little or no skill, talent, or meeting a challenge is necessary so the pain of having to learn something new or difficult may be delayed, even avoided.
  • Blame the teacher or the school if your child doesn’t do homework. Belittle the way it’s assigned, it’s timing, the lack of access to resources and its relevance – but never, never suggest the child’s homework is the child’s responsibility. 
  • Do your very best to live as though every discomfort in your life is someone or something else’s fault so that your child may project blame as much as you do.
September 12, 2019

Is it love?

by Rod Smith

When asked to officiate a marriage I ask couples to assess their shared experience and to use these points for discussion:

  • You find it easy, or it seems natural, to include many of your long-lasting friendships in your shared activities and find no feelings of control, jealously, or possessiveness within you.
  • You are each more yourself than ever; there are no eggshells to tiptoe around, no topics to avoid, no lies to continually conceal, no facades to perpetuate.
  • You maintain a distinct life of your own while simultaneously becoming closer to each other.
  • You enjoy working through issues that arise, even if the journey is painful, because the process brings you closer to each other and you have the sense of accomplishing something that is important for the future.
  • You enjoy sharing hard earned resources with each other without the thought that you are giving up something or wasting anything.
  • You have talks about faith, finances, career options, and have discussed the hurdles and complexities that accompany such matters.
  • You have fun together and are not preoccupied with the state of your relationship.
  • You speak highly and respectfully about each other always and to all – no exceptions; and you readily affirm each other both privately and in public.
  • You have met each other’s immediate and extended family and are both doing what.you can to embrace and understand how they view life and live life.
  • You’re getting used to each other and life feels better as you think about a future together.
  • You can hardly wait for each new day so that you may embrace the possibilities each new day offers.
  • You are committed to seeking each other’s highest good, no matter what.
September 11, 2019

Crisis in masculinity?

by Rod Smith

Perhaps authentic masculinity is misunderstood.

Reading multiple, glaring and blaring cultural messages a young man may easily think a “real” man is measured in sports abilities, in physical strength, or in demonstrating a lack of empathy. He may think it’s the refusal to reveal “soft” emotions, or to cry, or he may believe masculinity is related to levels of alcohol consumption, the ability to impress women, deceive his parents, or defy authority.

I’d suggest “real” masculinity is reflected willingness and capacity to live by and speak the truth. It’s expressed when a boy requests respected people to help him with his blind spots so he may increase his awareness of how his life impacts others.

It’s the willingness to forgive others and to seek forgiveness from those he has wronged. It’s to learn from past errors. It’s to desire authentic humility and to seek opportunities to serve others.

Masculinity is values-driven, not peer or pressure driven.

Masculinity protects the weak, the helpless, and speaks up for the underdog. It seeks the highest good of all others, female and male.

Masculinity wins without gloating and loses without blaming.

It’s to learn to love art, reading, and writing.

It’s to appreciate the difference between legitimate and illegitimate authority.

It’s to find a voice and to use it wisely.

It’s to enjoy and communicate with parents.

It’s to love and develop skills and talents so that all may benefit.

September 9, 2019

The power of grief

by Rod Smith

The power of grief should never be downplayed or underestimated. Severe loss can leave a person in a state of shock for years and he or she may never recover if recovery means returning to the way things were before the loss. 

  • It is unwise to suggest a person move on, get over it, or has had enough time to grieve.
  • Listening is useful and helpful and can provide tremendous support even if very few words are exchanged.
  • Time passed does not mean grief diminished. A loss endured years ago can seem to rise up out of nowhere and hit a person afresh as the event just occurred. It is as if grief is time-locked, living within the griever, and has a life and power of its own. 
  • A person who has grieved for years is probably an expert at understanding the grief process. Understanding does not mean the griever is on top of it. Insight and understanding do not equate to completion or the diminishing of the power of loss. 
  • Attempts at logic do not usually provide comfort. Grief escapes and logic.
  • The “experienced” griever (who wants that title?) will often develop the ability to detect inner-rhythms of grief and know which days will be better than others.
September 7, 2019

My inner victim!

by Rod Smith

The Mercury – Monday

Questions to quell the inner-victim….

There’s something very powerful about asking myself questions. The process puts me in my place. It quells the budding victim in me, especially when I face difficult circumstances or mistakenly think I’m not being sufficiently honored.

These nine live up my sleeve:

• How can I grow (up) from this? Immaturity is at the heart of victim thinking – at least for me (perhaps it’s also true for you).

• Where do I need to give up a desire to control others or an outcome? Coming face-to-face with my finiteness is occasionally annoying.

• What is (or was) my role in getting myself into this? I’m the common factor in everything I face.

• In a decade or so what about this will I remember? Importance drains with time the more trivial the issue.

• How important is this? Is this worth the energy already spent and are you ok with dishing out even more?

• Am I blaming anyone for anything? Other people are almost always NOT the problem.

• Is there anyone I have failed or refused to forgive? Transference and projection are victim breakfast.

• What is the brutal truth? Come on, you know it.

• What will it take to keep my integrity in tact and for as many people as possible to benefit from this circumstance? Sometimes you have to look over the horizon.

Answering such questions, as tough as they may be, helps me avoid becoming a victim, thinking like one, or turning others into my victims.

They remind me that I am responsible for my life.

When the voice of the closet victim tries to assert itself, these questions shut it down, so the grown, and growing man within me can act, and do what a thinking and responsible man has to do.

********

September 5, 2019

Maxims…… water-cooler chats

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Friday

Maxims …. for Friday water-cooler chat (do people still do that?)

I sat down with a friend last evening to discuss a few maxims worth inculcating:

• Nobody is all good and very few are all bad. The best of humanity are tarnished; the worst possess redeeming qualities.

• Make no heroes, and take no victims; fear nobody, fawn over nobody.

• Stand on your own two feet without pushing anyone else over. (O’Steven Reynolds)

• If you skating on thin ice you may as well dance.

• There are no knights in shining armor unless you sharpen your own sword, so stop behaving like a damsel in distress.

• Quick fixes lead to deeper problems than the original problem you tried to fix.

• All growth requires some loss.

• Always say goodbye well.

• Avoid the F-word unless you know what it means (it’s an acronym) and your intentions reflect the original meaning.

• Nobody needs to curse or swear. There are always better, less harmful ways to deal with the poison in your heart.

• You are part of the problem or part of the solution. Choose. (Dean Sherman)

• Don’t hide the family skeleton teach it how to dance. (Howard Crabtree)

• It’s never a kitty, it’s always a lion. (Hardly anything worth doing comes without challenges no matter how easy or innocent it may at first appear.)

Please, let me have your additions to this list.