How I’m Going to Make My Holiday Meal More Interesting!

The most important questions in life can never be answered by anyone except oneself. — John Fowles

AreDeathtoStock_Food7 you anticipating drama as you gather with family for the holidays? Want to avert the drama without walking out of the room? Want to preempt the worn-out fish story you hear every year? Can your family do better than the same old, “What are you thankful for this year?”

Try asking questions. Everyone needs help talking to relatives they don’t see very often. Questions like these will help you steer the discussion where you would like.

Here are some to get you started…

  • Would you like to know the day you were going to die? If you did, what difference would it make?
  • What one thing, if it were to happen, would make you happier? Why?
  • Where would you like to go?
  • What historical figure would you like to have dinner with? Why?
  • If you had a time machine, where (and when) would you go?
  • If you could change anything about the past that wasn’t personal to you, what would it be?
  • In what ways did your life turn out like you thought it might? In what ways is it different than you planned?
  • What do you think life (maybe one aspect of life) will be like in 10 years? in 20?
  • Would you rather live by the beach or the mountains? Would you rather vacation in the beach or the mountains? Why?
  • What do you think is the best age to be? Why? (This is especially fun to ask kids).
  • What superpower would you most want to possess? Why? What superpower would you be most likely to abuse?
  • What piece of technology would you most dread living without?
  • If you won “A year’s worth of ____________”, what would you most want it to be?
  • What book did you most enjoy this past year? Why?
  • How does who you are today reflect who you were when you were 12?

Not every question will work with every person. But a good question asked at the right time could transform your Thanksgiving meal and make it a lot more fun!

(I tried this last night. I asked if you would like to know the day you would die question. My daughter said, “No. I’m not good with deadlines!”  Have fun.

Seven Deadly Sins of the New Year

No one sets out to sabotage themselves in the new year. No one says to themselves, “Self, I think I’ll make this year a terrible year…” Why then, do people end up having terrible years when they could have better ones. Here are a few reasons, sins that will sabotage your new year.


This is most obvious half-way through January. Gyms stand empty again. The scale stays in the closet. They books gather dust on the night-stand. It is simply easier NOT to make the changes that will make the year better. So they don’t get made.


This shows up at the worst times in the worst possible ways. It ruins relationships. It drives compulsive habits. It requires medication or explodes in angry outbursts.


Lack of attention to detail, or simply not caring is a cousin of laziness. If I don’t care about other people, or don’t start caring and noticing pretty soon, my relationships will never improve. If I don’t really care about how much things cost, I’ll never save.


The mother of all other vices, this one reinforces every other bad habit. Thinking more highly of one’s self than is warranted promotes excuses, blaming, abuse, bragging, false humility, a sense of entitlement and all kinds of other things that are unpleasant to be around…and we can’t figure out why things aren’t getting better this year.


Foolishness takes all sorts of forms: incessant talking, boasting, being angry, choosing poor friends, and dishonesty. A fool and his money are soon parted…so are a fool and his friends. The pursuit of wisdom can prevent a lot of pain in 2015.

Lack of Self-Restraint

If you can’t postpone spending, you’ll never save. If you can’t limit eating, you’ll never lose weight. If you can’t stop yourself from watching TV, you’ll never read those books. When you cannot be your own master, someone else, or something else will be. And, that is usually bad.


Sometimes the problems with the New Year don’t come from what we do that we can’t make ourselves stop. Sometimes it comes from the things we don’t do because we are afraid. If fear is the saboteur, you may not even recognize the New Year got away from you until after its gone. And that is the saddest of all losses.

While you may not set New Year’s Resolutions, maybe you can avoid these things that will sabotage your success in the new year.

Why Would Anyone Judge Someone Else?

This morning I read Matthew 7:1, the most quoted verse in the Bible: “Judge not, that you be not judged.”

It occurred to me to ask, why would anyone judge someone else? What is it that makes this instruction necessary? I can think of a few reasons:

  • Because I’ve been faced with the similar choice and chose otherwise. When faced with the same information, I acted differently than you did. Our different response to the facts bothers me.
  • Because my conscience requires something yours does not. I have judged myself as unable or unfree to enjoy your liberty, so my first reaction is that you shouldn’t be free either.
  • Because I have the same problem, but it is secret. If you are “out there” I am going to be “out there” and I don’t want to be. Maybe you won’t be if I condemn you.
  • Because I am afraid of what will happen if you are right. What if your choice, which is different than mine is right and mine is unsccessful?
  • Because I will look better if you are shown to be wrong. At the heart of most judgment is pride. Whether it’s true or not, I ‘m inclined to believe I’ve taken the high ground.

Can you think of any other possible motives for judging someone else?

Getting People On Your Side

Did you ever have the feeling that the whole world is against you? Well, sometimes it is! I’ve learned that people oppose you for one of two reasons, one good and one not so good.


That’s a Bad Idea!

They oppose you because you have a dumb idea. People legitimately oppose weak proposals, bad ideas, mistakes, wrong opinions. You wouldn’t want your friends to humor you if your idea falls in that category. They are doing you a favor by opposing you. When someone lets you know you are wrong they are acting as your friend. Early in my ministry one of our elder meetings was going to fall on April 1. The chairman of the board had wonderful (read devious) sense of humor. We conspired to create a plan to show appreciation to the ministry workers by inviting them to come to the elders meeting. We were, however, going to invite them with something like this, “It has come to the attention of the elders that there are some issues in your ministry that we need to talk about.” Our intent was to get them a little nervous, have them come to the meeting and then say, “April Fools! It has come to our attention that we need to express our heartfelt thanks to you. I asked my dad on the phone what he thought of the plan and what he would do if he received a note like that. He simply said, “I’d quit.” Nothing more. I realized he was not on board with my idea because it was a foolish one that certainly wasn’t worth the risk. People oppose good ideas, though, for yet another reason. People will oppose good ideas and bad ideas if they are not brought into the process. When they are simply told the way things will be, normal people take time to adjust. Or, they don’t adjust. Either way they push back. Deliver the news and expect trouble.

Involve me!

How do you involve people in the process? How do you preempt that natural resistance? How do you get people cheering for you instead of rooting against you? Here are a few simple ways.

  • Vote early and often. As soon as you realize you need to change, as soon as you recognize you have a decision to make, start talking about it. Give people as much lead time as possible. Bring it up frequently so no one can complain that they’ve never heard of this.
  • Ask questions. Solicit feedback. “What do you think I should do?” “What would you do if you were me?” How would you recommend I do this?” “Do you know any resources that will help me?”
  • Take the extra step. I think the reason not to involve other people is that it takes longer. It is more work. It slows you down. I would suggest, however, that it isn’t as much work as dealing with the opposition you might get because you didn’t take the extra step to involve them earlier.
  • Give them responsibility. The fastest way to get someone on your side is, well, to ask them to be on your side. Give them something they can do to help you. Not only will it help you, it will give them some investment in the success of the outcome. They will pull for your instead of against you.

It really doesn’t matter if you are changing a multi-million dollar corporation or changing plans for your family vacation, taking a few extra steps to get people on your side will pay big dividends.

Why I Hate the “Husband of the Year!”

I just watched a video of the “Fittest Man on Earth.” Wow! He’s a beast! I admire him. I respect what he can do. But, I don’t hate him. I’ll never be the Fittest Man on Earth and I’m okay with that.

I marvel at what LeBron James can do on a basketball court. I don’t envy his MVP status. He deserves. I don’t. He can do things I’ll never do. Husband of the Year

But I do hate the Husband of the Year.

Last week I was talking with my wife’s aunt and cousin. Her aunt began bragging on the cousin’s husband. “All the sisters compare notes and Tom wins ‘Husband of the Year’ every year. ”

Then she explained why. “He takes the kids so she can have a weekend away. He cooks dinner. He does the dishes…”

That’s when I realized I hated the Husband of the Year. Because unlike LeBron James or the fittest man on earth — I CAN do the things the Husband of the Year does. I just don’t.

That’s why I hate him.

Lessons to Learn from Somone Else’s Leadership Pitfalls

We recently had a remodel in our children’s ministry, space. The team had been in place longer than any children’s ministry team I’ve ever heard of. They loved each other and loved the kids.

In the remodel, the crew took years worth of posters off the wall. They covered murals that had been there since before any of the children in the class were born. The classrooms got state-of-the-art, and I mean art literally, magnetic chalkboard paint (I didn’t even know there was such a thing and can vouch that it smells terrible!).

Within a couple weeks, however, of the completion some of the staff was struggling. They felt left out. They didn’t really want all the upgrades. Some of the work they had previously done had been discounted. Finally, this all came to a head. They had a “summit” meeting and got the air cleared. Everything is now as good as it was or better.

After talking with the primary leader, here are some lessons she learned that I hope you won’t have to learn on your own!

Speed Kills

A budget year was ending. The team recognized the window would quickly close on their funds. And, they wanted to disrupt the smallest number of Sundays, so the whole remodel took less than two weeks — from final plan to implementation. Everyone was consulted. But, the painters had to take down the posters and put them in a pile. The teachers found themselves scrambling to get their room workable in time to teach.

The primary takeaway is that speed kills. This same change, done over two months, would have been nothing but positive. Rational people take time to adjust to change and new routines. When we take time, we can bring them along. When we rush, they will rightly protest.

Over-reliance on Email

Because this change had to happen quickly, emails exploded. Everyone was kept in the loop with every email. The leaders discovered, that while the email was good for information, it wasn’t good for emotionally connecting with the change. Phone conversations or face-to-face meetings, though time intensive and emotionally exhausting, perhaps, would have been much better preparation for a change of this magnitude.


The first few days gave a hint that not all was well on the team. At first there were scattered sarcastic or snarky comments. A couple workers had talked with each other about their frustrations and let it leak to the leaders. It would blow over, the leaders thought to themselves. And, many times it does. It is not a bad strategy generally to let things run their course and see what happens. It became obvious, however, that something needed to be done when the teachers began to tell the kids about their frustrations. It affected the ministry then and a summit meeting was called.

Confrontation Is The Pathway to Peace

One of the hardest things to believe, for those new to Christian leadership, is that confrontation will actually resolve conflict. It feels like confrontation escalates conflict. And, for a short time, it does. It also says, “You are important to me and I cannot bear what has come between us.” That message combined with the forgiveness of Christ wins the day almost every time.

How To Write A Sensitive Email

You've Got Mail!I remember talking with my wife about the purchase of our first computer connected to the internet. She said, “What’s the internet? And why do we need it?” I tried to explain that we were going to need to email somebody sometime. “What’s email,” she replied!

While that seems like a distant memory it’s not that long ago. Email has been the bane of my existence ever since! Moral of the story: Always listen to your wife!

The first principle of using email for sensitive information is this:


Email may be the worst form of sensitive communication, but sometimes you have to write a sensitive one anyway. On February 18, 2013, an email leaked from a Walmart executive that caused their stock price to plummet. That was one expensive email! Chances you will write an email that will cost you, too, are pretty high!

If you absolutely must send an email that includes sensitive information, here are principles to remember:

  • Every email has a life of its own. You never know who will forward it.
  • Names live on. Don’t say something about someone that could harm them if it fell into the wrong hands.
  • The context of the reader is not the context of the sender in time, place, thought. Every person will have a different take on the information. They will receive it without any external input. They will have had a bad day, maybe.
  • Your email is a permanent record. It is searchable, recoverable and someone will be able to use it in the future whether you want them to or not.
  • Not all the intended recipients will read it. Email will never be a fail-safe form of communication because not everyone you expect to read will actually open it and read it. Yes, you may be able to track who did and who didn’t, but it will never match eye contact and Q & A for delivery confirmation.
  • Make sure the people who may be affected by your email see it before it is public. Let them have a chance to speak into it for clarity and safety.
  • Let the email sit for a day.
  • Expect it will be misread. Provide a feedback loop. Make sure a follow-up plan is in place when people need to talk about the information you sent.

When in doubt, find a different way to communicate the information. Or, go back to a computer that isn’t connected to the internet…