A 7 Step Checklist for the Best Thanksgiving Ever


Want a guaranteed better Thanksgiving? Perhaps even the best Thanksgiving ever?

I actually believe Thanksgiving may be one of the most “Christian” holidays we can celebrate. As believers, we are to give thanks always – in every situation. And, we have reason to be thankful. Our God is on His throne – Jesus is alive – and we are loved with an everlasting love.

That’s enough, right?

But, let’s face it – Thanksgiving is hard for some people. They’ve lost loved ones. They are lonely. Another day off watching everyone celebrate how wonderful their life is online only makes it harder.

Others are so caught up in having the perfect meal and the perfect table setting – the house decorated just right – they get distracted with busyness and end up disappointed rather than enjoying some of the greatest blessings around them.

And, then there are those of us who simply take things for granted – and fail to stop and truly be thankful.

Here’s a checklist of activities, which will make your world look brighter and your holiday grander. I’m convinced. You may not be able to do all of them. I would encourage you to complete the ones you can.

Here’s a 7 step checklist for the best Thanksgiving ever:

Read Psalm 136. Slowly. Maybe even aloud. Maybe a couple times. Let the words dwell in you a while. Trust me.

Make a thankful list. I wrote about this in a previous POST, but one of the best ways to fill your heart with gratitude is to make a list of things for which you are thankful. When you reflect on the things you do have – rather than the things you don’t have – your heart grows in appreciation.

Spend time with family and friends. You may not be able to be with them in person – and that’s one of the harder parts of holidays for some – but even exchanging a text with someone you love can brighten your day. Reach out to some you haven’t heard from in a while. And, if you’re mourning over someone special this year – spend some time remembering why they are special to you.

Smile often. Smiling does something inside of you and always makes an impact on people around you. The ability to smile or not is almost always a reaction to a perspective. How’s your perspective this year? Sometimes a perspective check can change your attitude – the way you feel – everything.

Donate something. Not only can you do shopping online – you can give online to most churches, charities, and non-profits. Giving is a catalyst for an internal smile.

Exercise, take a nap and drink some water. This one may seem out of place, but this year I’ve learned whenever I don’t feel well many times it is because I’m partially dehydrated. And, we all run at a fast pace of life. Taking some time to relax and catch up on your sleep may be the best gift you can give yourself for a better Thanksgiving. And, you know you need to exercise, right? Even the smallest activity can make you feel so much better.

Think others first. This may be the most important. For example, if you wear your feelings on your shoulders or you’re easily offended by what others did or didn’t do for you – you’ll have a miserable holiday. On the other hand, if you clothe yourself with an attitude of humility and consider others even before your own needs – the rest of this list will take care of itself. And, here’s the strange thing, you’ll be blessed as you do!

There’s my list for the best Thanksgiving ever. You may not be able to do all of them this weekend. The key is to complete as many as you can.

Any you would add to my list?

My Thankfuls: 10 Reasons for a Happy Thanksgiving


I have updated this post from a couple years ago.

For years, when the boys were at home, we shared our list of “Thankfuls” each Thanksgiving holiday. We would each take turns (one item at a time) of ten things we were most thankful for that year. I remember early in this tradition the boys’ spellings weren’t always correct, but their lists were always sincere.

I would totally recommend you try this at home as a tradition in your family.

I miss those special times sitting in our living room, but that shouldn’t stop me from sharing my list with you.

Here are my “Thankfuls” this year:

1. My relationship with Christ. And the grace that got me there. (And keeps me there.)

2. My loving wife. She’s my best friend. She’s seen my best and my worst and keeps being my biggest supporter.

3. Our two amazing sons – and daughter-in-law. Jeremy and Nathaniel (Nate) age 27 and 24 – are simply two of the best men I’ve ever known. Seriously. God keeps using them for His glory in ways I never imagined. Jeremy’s wife Mary – if I had raised a daughter – or picked a wife for my son – I would have wanted a Mary.

4. My calling. I work for Jesus. How cool is that? I ran from it for years – but it’s the best “career” I’ve ever had. And, I’ve had several.

5. Kingdom opportunities. Wow! This year has been incredible. I love to invest in others and I never thought I’d get to the point where I have to say no more than I get to say yes to the opportunities God is bringing my way. Amazing! I am a living example of God’s grace – that He can take dust and produce something He can use – and I’m humbled by this truth more every year.

6. Family and friends. Cheryl and I are so blessed with amazing families – with low or no drama. We have friends we can call upon at any time day or night – who aren’t our friends because of our positions or for information or any other reason other than to be our friends. The greatest asset of our married life together is people.

7. The staff and people of Immanuel Baptist. After three years, I can honestly say we’ve met some of the most loving, supportive people we’ve ever known. Our staff are our friends. I love being around people I truly enjoy, who believe in me as I believe in them. We’ve made friends for life.

8. My health. Granted, I work on it, but I’ve had friends die of cancer (and other causes) this year – some younger than me. I am thankful for being able to run – and walk – and feel well enough to work – and play.

9. The city of Lexington. We adopted the city as home quickly. I wear a lot of Kentucky blue. It’s our mission field, and, I believe, this is what missionaries do. We love the sports, exploring the many restaurants, the neighborhoods, and especially the people. We are here to serve! What a lovely place to live!

10. The future. I look around the world today and see a lot of darkness. But, this year, I’m thankful, as always, that I serve a risen Savior. This truth makes every morning new with His mercies and grace. I’m grateful the days ahead are bright – because He is my light. (Cheesy – maybe – but always true.)

There’s part of my list. I could continue, because I am blessed. No, my world is not trouble free…far from it actually – but when I pause and consider all that God has done and is doing around me – thanksgiving is my only proper response.

And for what (or whom) are you thankful this year?

When You’re The Pastor But Not The Leader

Funny scared man

I was talking with a 25 year old pastor recently. He is frustrated with the church where he serves. He was brought to the church because they wanted him to help the church grow again — or so the search committee convinced him — but they see him as too young to make decisions on his own.

They won’t take his suggestions, voting them down at business meetings. 

They consistently undermine his attempts to lead.

They expect him to speak each week and visit the sick, but they won’t let him make any changes he feels need to be made.

It has made for a very miserable situation and he feels helpless to do anything about it. He’s ready to quit and the situation is negatively impacting every other area of his life.

It isn’t the first time I have heard a story such as this. I hear it frequently from young leaders in churches and the business world. I didn’t want to be the one to tell him, but I didn’t want to mislead him either. The bottom line in this young pastor’s situation:

He is the pastor of the church but not the leader.

(Of course I’ll get kickback from those who want to remind me Jesus is the leader of the church. I couldn’t agree more, but He does use people to lead His work and this pastor is not the one.)

Perhaps you share this young leader’s dilemma. If no one is following your attempt to lead it could be because:

You haven’t been given authority to lead.
You haven’t assumed the responsibility you’ve been given.
No one is leading in the organization and no one wants anyone to – because that would mean change has to occur.

If this is your situation, you have a few options as I see it:

  • You can live with the power structure in place and complete the role within the authority you’ve been given. And, probably be miserable.
  • You can fight the power structure, lining up supporters, building a coalition in your corner – and be prepared to win or lose.
  • You can figure out how to “lead up” — build a consensus for leadership, confront where needed, win influence and the right to lead — even sometimes learning to lead people who don’t want to be led. (Read THIS POST on how to lead people older than you.)
  • You can leave.

Think through these options and see which feels best in your situation. Every situation is unique and this post is not an attempt to solve your problem — perhaps if anything it can help identify what the problem is in your unique circumstance. You will have to own your response to this information. Obviously, you should spend consistent time in prayer.

And let me add a few other thoughts. If you know God has you there then you must endure until He releases you. He always has a plan. But, I believe God often gives tremendous latitude in the call. Our call is to Him and to obedience. And, most likely, there are thousands of places where God could use your talents and abilities. As I read about the Apostle Paul, for example, there seemed to be more opportunities than Paul’s time would allow. I suspect the same may be true for most pastors today. The potential harvest is plentiful. 

With this in mind, I would say if you are miserable now and things are not improving you shouldn’t wait long without doing something. Life is short and many have left the ministry because of situations like this. Don’t be a casualty. Address the problem!

I would also say – and as hard as this is to hear you need to hear it – you will learn from this season. You may even learn more in this season than in a future season where everything appears wonderful and the church easily follows your leadership. Attempt to soak up wisdom now, which you will use later, rather than become bitter. You must protect your soul and the reality of your calling to Christ. 

One final thought, don’t handle a situation like this alone. Reach out to someone you trust, probably outside the church or organization; someone who has more experience in situations like this than you have. And, don’t let the stress from this destroy your family or personal health. 

Have you ever been in a situation where you were given the responsibility to lead without the power to do so? What did you do?

7 Ways to Help Children Deal with Fear


Tragedy is all around us. It’s on the news every night — and all throughout the day. We talk about it at the dinner table. And, as fun and engaging as it can be, we can thank social media for keeping us constantly informed of all the bad things happening in our world.

Evil is rampant — and, because of this – fear is rampant.

And, it doesn’t impact only us.

Our children are not immune from fear. In an Information Age — they know what we know, filtered, of course, with their childlike mind.

Violence even happens in school — in malls — in churches — places children go regularly.

Childhood can be a scary time of life naturally, but especially these days. We should never diminish a child’s fear or the impact the news of the day is having on them. It may be totally irrational fear – something you know is completely impossible — but it’s very real to them.

How does a parent or teacher address this fear?

Here are 7 suggestions to help children deal with fear:

Don’t assume their thoughts

Don’t assume just because your child doesn’t mention what happened they don’t know about it or care. Fear is a normal reaction, especially for a child. Watch for unusual behavior. Be aware of mood changes or extreme sadness. Make sure they know it’s okay to talk about it and there is no shame or disappointment from you when they are fearful. Maybe tell them of a time you were afraid — even a recent time.

Limit their exposure

You’re curious, so the television may be on news stations. What are they covering right now? Remember children process information different from how you do. They may not appear to be watching, but they probably are more than you think. Fill their minds with things to encourage them not perpetuate the fear. This is a time to turn off the television and simply play with your kids. They’ll get no better assurance than their time with you.

Ask them questions

You may think children are afraid of one thing, but it is something completely different. Many times children, especially young children, are simply confused or have misinformation. You can better address the fear if you know its roots. Getting them to talk about what they are afraid of can help them learn to better rationalize and seek comfort and assurance from you.

Assure them they are safe

Let children know they are safe. Don’t lie to them or give them false assurance, but remember the chances of the same thing happening to them is rare — very rare. Remind them you will do anything to protect them. Show them ways you’ve already provided for their safety. Let them help you lock the doors at night. You may need to help them process for weeks to come. Don’t rush them to “get over it”. Pray for and with them often.

Live a normal life as much as possible

As much as possible, live a normal weekly schedule. Their routine is part of their “security blanket.” Don’t allow their fear to cripple them or the family for long. In spite of our fears, we have to move forward.

Be calm around them

Especially during this stressful time, don’t let your children see you in panic. Watch what you say in front of them. Discuss the world events – and especially your fears of them – outside of their listening ears. Let the home be their “safe place”. Parents shouldn’t fight in front of kids anytime, but especially during a time of uncertainty like this. Renew your faith. Renew your commitment to each other. Children often get their faith through parents.

Read them Scripture

Children need something they can cling to as permanent and dependable. What better place than the Word of God, which will never fade? Recite Psalm 56:3 to them. If they are old enough, write it down somewhere they can see it often. Memorize some verses of strength and share with them often. Help them memorize some. (When our boys were young we played Scripture music appropriate for their age. Steve Green’s “Hide ’em in Your Heart series was great for this. You can find them online.)

What else would you share with parents?

Why I Don’t Always Give People an Answer – Even When They Come to Me for Answers

multicultural mentor

I have a theory I practice often.

I’ve been using it for many years — as a leader, father, a friend, and a pastor. It’s not always what people come looking to me for, but I think it’s the best practice.

I don’t always give people answers.

  • As a pastor, people come to me for answers.
  • As a dad, my boys come to me for answers.
  • As a friend, people come to me for answers.
  • As a leader of a team, people come to me for answers.

In either case, I don’t always give people answers.

I don’t try to solve their problems for them.

I know that seems hard to understand – maybe even cruel of me. 

Now, if there is a clear Biblical answer for their problem or issue, I give it to them – as I understand it. I’m talking about the issues more difficult to discern. Things such as career choice decisions, the calling in life decisions, who to marry, how to respond to a marriage conflict, etc. — the unwritten answer type decisions.

For those type issues, I probably have an opinion, but I almost never “have” the answer.


I help people discover a paradigm through which to make the decision.

  • I become an objective listener.
  • I help them see all sides of the issue.
  • I share Scriptures whigh may speak to both sides of the decision.
  • I serve as an outside voice.
  • I connect them with people who have experienced similar issues.
  • I may diagram the problem, as I hear it, so they can see the issue on paper.
  • I help them learn to pray and listen to God.

And then I release them to make a decision.

Here is my reasoning…

If I solve the problem:

  • I’m just another opinion — and I may be wrong.
  • They’ll resent me if it proves to be a wrong decision.
  • They may never take ownership of the issue.
  • They’ll likely do what they want anyway.
  • They won’t learn the valuable skills of listening to the voice of God.
  • They won’t learn from experience.
  • They will only need someone to give them the answer next time.

My advice:

Don’t always have an answer.

Help people form a paradigm through which to to solve their problems or make decisions.

Leaders, parents, friends – ideally you want people to develop healthy decision-making skills. You want them to gain independence and be able to stand on their own. If you’re always making the decisions for them they will never they will never become all they can be individually.

Are you too quick to have an answer sometimes?

4 Ways I Know When to Say No to Seemingly Good Things


Age and maturity has helped me better discern what I can do and should do based on my strengths, weaknesses, passions and dreams. It’s freeing when we become more certain in who God has wired us to be and who He has not.

Still, I’ve equally learned – through many different seasons – there are often more opportunities than time in life – even God-honoring, seemingly good opportunities. I have recently had to say no to some great opportunities. These were things I would have clearly thought had to be “God appointed”. They were things I wanted to do. But, as much as they lined with my strengths, passions, and dreams, I said “no” to them.

How do you know when to say no to what looks like a good thing — perhaps initially even like a “God thing”?

Here are 4 ways I know when to respond no:

God’s calling on my life says no.

This trumps all the others. This applies to many decisions, but let me use my vocation as an example. I do not believe I’m called to a place as much as I’m called to a Person — the Person of Jesus Christ. I believe God often gives tremendous latitude in where we serve. There are seasons of life, however, where I know He has positioned me in a place “for such a time as this”. There are things He has called me to complete “at such a times as this” God always has a right to change my assignment, but when He has made the assignment clear the decisions of yes and no should become easier. 

My heart doesn’t line up with this decision.

If I can get no “peace” about saying “yes” it’s time to wait or say no. This requires consistent prayer and wrestling with the decision, but the more I pray the more confident I become in sensing God’s specific will for my life and in this decision.

When it distracts from what God has called me to do.

I can’t do everything or be everywhere. I can only do what I can do. There is nothing wrong with taking assignments just because I want to do them. If, however, it is going to get in the way of my ultimate calling – the right answer – the often difficult, but brave answer – is to say no.

When my personal strengths and interests don’t match the opportunity and I don’t sense an urgency from God.

I have learned situational or physical limitations aren’t a factor if God is in the mix. He can part waters if they are in the way, so I can do things outside of my strengths, but in my life God seems to usually work within the experiences and gifting He has granted me. Why would He waste the investments He has already made in me? Therefore, apart from a sense God is challenging me in a direction outside my gifting, I can rest within the place where He has been preparing me and say no to those He has not.

Discerning the heart of the decision is critical and requires a consistent, close, seeking the heart of God relationship with the Father. I realize it’s much easier to write this post than to live this post, but hopefully this will help you as you too wrestle with the seemingly good, even sometimes seemingly God opportunities.

I wish I had used this paradigm earlier in life, because it would have saved me some heartache.

What “good thing/s” do you need to say “no” to during this season of your life?

10 Thank You’s to My Pastor’s Wife


This post is written to my wife.

It could be to anyone married to a pastor. It’s hard work.

In fact, I’ve said this before, but the spouse of the pastor may be the most difficult job in the church at times.

But, this one is to my wife. (You’re welcome to read along.)

I’ve also said this before — I have the perfect pastor’s wife. Younger pastor’s wives, if you want to learn how to do it, I’d submit my wife as an example.

Three years ago we ventured out –  again – this time into church revitalization. Church planting was hard – God allowed us to be part of 2 plants – and this would prove to be our toughest assignment. And, there have been many in our years together. Some days, especially early when change seemed rapid, Cheryl came home in tears many Sundays because people took the emotions of change out on her instead of me. (I’ve never understood that cowardly move, but it happens.) 

Yet, God’s been faithful and Cheryl has been faithful. And, for the overwhelming portion of people the church has been faithful. I couldn’t have done what I’ve been called to do without all of them. 

But, second only to God, Cheryl deserves my applauds. Not that she’d ever expect it. That’s one of the reasons she’s so great – she just faithfully loves and serves others – but because it’s right for me to honor her. And, I have this public opportunity, so here goes. 

Cheryl, here are 10 “Thank you’s” to the pastor’s wife:

Thank you for following me where God leads me — without complaining, or resisting, or refusing to move even though life was very comfortable where we were and the future looked very uncertain where we were going. Truth is, you are usually ready to walk by faith before I am. What a blessing!

Thank you keeping confidences. Thank you for biting your tongue when someone complains or criticizes unjustly. Thank you for knowing more “junk” than most people should, and never sharing it with anyone, yet being my closest confidant.

Thank you for being my biggest encouragement and never making the church wonder where your support is. Even when the message stinks, you pretend it is wonderful! Even if you think I’m doing wrong your message to others is one of support.

Thank you being a safe place to share — even letting me blow off steam at times. Ministry is hard. I’m glad my wife has big shoulders upon which to cry at times and an incredible faith to point me back where I belong. And, guts to tell me when I’m wrong.

Thank you for believing in me — even when no one else does. You were with God and had me in ministry long before I could see what God was doing. You still believe I can do things of which I’m not so confident.

Thank you for knowing me best yet loving me most. Okay, contrary to public opinion – you know I’m not perfect. Far from it. Yet, your love is always undeniable. I’m always amazed how you’d rather spend time with me than anyone. I know people in your life far more “fun” than me.

Thank you for putting our marriage before any human relationship. At times, that has meant you had to say no to others so you could say yes to me. Thank you for the sacrifice. Thanks for helping build a marriage and family life the church can easily follow.

Thank you for loving people and Jesus so passionately. The church knows it. Everyone knows it. You fully reflect that in all that you do!

Thank you for being a protection for me. You sense things in people and ministry, which I can’t sense. This is why I have you help me interview people. It’s why you have protected me from people who don’t have my best interest at heart. I feel safer with you around.

Thank you for respecting me unconditionally. You understand the frailty of a man’s ego and know it’s my greatest need. And, you fill it completely and consistently.

Thank you for being my pastor’s wife.

Give a shout out to your pastor or minister’s wife/spouse here!

Better yet, also send her/him a card!

7 Random Suggestions for Younger Leaders

Team in the office. Asian businesswoman standing in the foreground smiling, her team of co-workers in the background

I love working with younger leaders. It keeps me young and it helps to know I’m investing in something and someone who will likely last beyond my lifetime.

I also love sharing some things I’ve learned from experience. Some of it hard experiences.

If you can learn and practice some of what I’ve learned early in your career it will help you avoid having to learn them by experience.

Please know these are intended to help – not hurt or discourage. I believe in you.

Here are 7 random pieces of advice I give young leaders.

Never attend a meeting without some way to take notes

It helps you remember to write it down, but it also communicates you care about what is being discussed. If you take notes on your electronic device (phone), be sure to tell people this is what you are doing.

Respect your elders

The fact is you may not always feel respected by them, but that’s their fault not yours. Showing respect to people older than you now will help ensure you receive natural respect from others when you’re the elder in the relationship.

Learn all you can from everyone you meet

This includes the awkward, even difficult people that you encounter. (You may actually learn more from them if you’re willing.)

Keep a resume handy and keep revising it

You may never use a resume again in today’s work world. It’s all about knowing someone or knowing someone who knows someone. But, the discipline of gathering your experience as you gain it forces you to think through your worth to a future employer. You’ll likely be asked to defend this someday and need to be prepared. (Also keep your LinkedIn account up-to-date. Future employers will look.)

Never burn a bridge

You’ll be surprised how many times relationships come back around. Don’t be caught by surprise. Leave well always. Always honor your past.

Be an encourager

Encouragers win the approval of others and are rewarded because they are liked. Be a genuinely positive influence on your team.

Never underestimate a connection made

When someone introduces you to someone, consider it a high compliment. Follow through on the opportunity to know someone new. Always value networking. You’ll be surprised how often these relationships will work for good.

Drop the defensiveness

Young people often get defensive when a person with more experience challenges them. This is especially true when being corrected by a leader. Remember you don’t know what you don’t yet know. It’s okay. Learn from your mistakes. Grow from correction. Be patient with those who are trying to teach you. Get the chip off your shoulder and allow feedback to make you better. Over time you’ll win over those who see you as inexperienced.

There are 7 random suggestions.

Elders, what other suggestions would you advise?

10 Principles of God Leadership

man waiting to help poor single-handed

How would we lead if we led as God inspired us to lead?

What does godly leadership look like?

I put some thought into this question recently. Actually, I’ve thought about it for years.

I should tell you I believe God is okay with us using good leadership principles in the church — even business principles. He gave us a mind. He made us creative. He said He makes Himself known in all creation. And, we are told all things were created for Him and by Him. I think we can find great leadership principles — the best — and implement them in doing His work.

But, there are principles clearly spelled out in Scripture. These are simply leadership principles, but rather principles for life. And, of course, these trump all the others. In fact, all other principles are built upon the principles of God’s word. The point of this post, however, is any good life principle from God’s word is a good leadership principle — or rather — a God principle. 

So, what are some characteristics of God leadership?

Here are 10 Principles of God Leadership:

Seek God’s will before your personal desires or ambition. Matthew 6:33

Be Humble. 1 Peter 5:6

Serve others. Matthew 23:11

Walk by faith. Hebrews 11:6

Practice Patience. Romans 8:25

Consider the interest of others even above your own . Philippians 2:4

Submit to authority. Ephesians 5:21

Be Teachable — seek wisdom from others. Proverbs 4:7

Believe the impossible can happen. Luke 18:27

Empower others to do what they can do. Ephesians 4:12

What would you add to my list?

How Should Believers Respond in Pain — and What Difference Does it Make?


From Acts 16, I think this is one of the best messages Nate Edmondson has delivered in our church.

How should believers respond in pain – and what difference does in make in the lives of others?

Are you in a painful time right now – maybe this will add some perspective – and probably a challenge.

Stand Alone from ron edmondson on Vimeo.