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.

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.

The Most Effective, Least Used Trick in Parenting!

IMG_9111Here it is: Encouragement! Yes, it’s that simple.

Encouraging the behavior you’d like to see repeated is the most certain way to see it happen again. Encouragement confirms love and drives security straight to the heart of your child.

I know in this two ways, how it affected me and how it affected my daughter.

I Quit!

I quit wrestling when I was a senior in high school. I had wrestled overseas the summer before. I’d already beaten four guys who placed int the top four at the state tournament in their weight classes. And, I quit.

My dad was my coach. To say he was “old school” wouldn’t give the old school enough justice. They watched dad and then defined what “old school” meant. I was enjoying success in matches and in practices. So, he assumed I didn’t need encouragement and spoke not a word of it to me. He gave my teammates plenty of positive reinforcement, but not me.

By thanksgiving, I’d had enough. I took my shoes into the coaches’ room and handed them to him. I told him I quit. It wasn’t worth it to me to work so hard with so little encouragement. To my dad’s credit, he heard me and changed. I didn’t ultimately quit and went on to have a very good year. I gave up my dream for lack of encouragement.

I Am So Proud of You!

Last week I had one of those obligations that makes a pastor crazy. I had to go to a quilting bee and welcome them to our church. It turned out to be a much more interesting event than I expected. Ladies from our church made a centennial quilt with scenes from the town’s first 100 years.

I arrived at 7:00 p.m. after picking up my nine-year-old daughter from her basketball practice. She had not eaten dinner and was tired from practice. I promised her I’d make it as short as possible. But, it dragged on. We left a little after 8:00.  She got a quick bite of dinner and then hopped into bed.

As I was tucking her into bed, I apologetically thanked her for her patience, “You were such a good girl tonight. You took an interest in their quilt and spoke up loudly when they asked you questions. You treated those older ladies so well. I am so proud to take you out with me!”

As I spoke those words, she closed her eyes, as if to concentrate all her powers on listening. Her lips curled at the edges and her cheeks relaxed into the most pleasant, self-satisfied smile I had ever seen on the face of a human being. She soaked it in. I wanted to keep talking just so the sublime smile would never fade!

It occurred to me then. I will never have to worry about taking her on a pastoral call again. Hell will freeze over before that little girl would give herself the freedom to disappoint dad. I’ve never felt so weak and so powerful at the same time before in my life.

“Lord, make me quicker with words of encouragement to everyone I meet.”

The Dance

We’ve been married 27 years. We have a tune that we dance to. It’s not real music. We don’t even really like the dance step, but it is a routine we have created that is the same every time the same music plays.

What if I change the music? What if I refuse to move the way she has grown accustomed to me moving? What will happen then?

I will step on her toes. She will walk on mine. We will bump into one another with the awkward motion of beginners. It will be painful, awkward and embarrassing.

On the other hand, the most fun we had dancing was when we were just beginning. Maybe changing the steps would bring back the fun of the first few times dancing.

I’ll go surprise her now.