How To Be A Super Guest

This is a guest post from my wife, or “April’s pathetic rant on the other side of hospitality.”

It’s not pathetic, but we just joke around like that:

wreath from etsy

Did you know that hospitality is a two-way street? We are often encouraged to open our homes and hearts to others and rightly so. We recently had a large group of friends over and I’d love to share what they did that made me want to be hospitable every day to people like these:


How to be a Super Guest? It’s EASY!

Verbalize your gratitude to your host. Be specific and sincere, but not syrupy.

Offer to help (prep, serving, cleaning up). You’ll often be refused but it’s worth a shot!

BE INTERESTED and INTERESTING. Your hosts want to engage you, not entertain you.

ASK your hosts about what you see around you. Our homes are our inner sanctuaries and you can tell a lot about your hosts by their homes. Look around and take interest in what you see: Their cool photo collection, cooking skills, their obvious Ikea addiction, antique rocker, half-done remodel, their kids, HAM radio, track trophies, goldfish, Deer heads, gourmet coffee station, Raiders Shrine, Congressional Medal of Honor, WHATEVER. Ask your host about them (Our mammoth metal tuna fish tends to be a conversation starter)…

Be COMPLIMENTARY not CRITICAL: Yes, this is for all you stereotypical Mothers-In-Law! Ignore the laundry pile, they already know about it. (better yet, joke about it being smaller than yours) and focus on the houseplants or the new nursery, or the pretty sunlight in their apartment.

Bring your kids, but keep an eye on them, and allow them to explore in limited ways. This is a great time for kids to learn how to be guests too. (I seriously love kids, but our place is a House Of Horrors for them; leaning mirrors everywhere). They can learn that closed doors stay closed. That when they break something they can say ‘sorry’ and move on (this is inevitable so hosts, don’t be so attached to your stuff!). And can I just mention here that there’s nothing so sweet as little kids all saying goodbye with sweet words or waves or hugs? THE BEST.

Return the Favor: Let people into your world too 🙂



Check out the cool wreath on Etsy.




Personality Profiles

I think that personality profiles like the Myers – Briggs inventory can be very helpful.

They have helped me to understand myself and others better and grow in thoughtfulness.

But they can also be abused.

Please don’t use your personality label as permission to see yourself as a victim, to complain that no one understands you, as an excuse for moral failures, to make this the unattainable standard for what it means to love you, or to blame the world for not treating you as your particular label requires.

In Praise of Leisure & The Unexpected Temptations of Superabundance

What is the real purpose for making money? How is it that our abundance of money has left us less able to answer that question? How is it that we have misplaced any sense of leisure (which is really just doing culture for its own sake rather than for profit)?

This is a thought provoking article from the Chronicle of Higher Education that seeks to answer these questions.

The authors provide some food for thought, but wrongly place the blame for human greed at the feet of capitalism. I have no desire to defend the evils of our current economy, which seems more like a kind of Frankenstein- with parts of different bodies stitched together in their decay-than anything pure. But I do find it short sighted to miss the fact that all  human history, and every economic system is full of greed and discontent. What human history is NOT full of is abundance. And in part it is capitalism that has helped us arrive at this situation where we are no longer fighting to survive with bare necessities. But it is a two edged sword and we are not doing a very good job at surviving the temptations of superabundance.

“Imagine a world in which most people worked only 15 hours a week. They would be paid as much as, or even more than, they now are, because the fruits of their labor would be distributed more evenly across society. Leisure would occupy far more of their waking hours than work. It was exactly this prospect that John Maynard Keynes conjured up in a little essay published in 1930 called “Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren.” Its thesis was simple. As technological progress made possible an increase in the output of goods per hour worked, people would have to work less and less to satisfy their needs, until in the end they would have to work hardly at all. Then, Keynes wrote, “for the first time since his creation man will be faced with his real, his permanent problem—how to use his freedom from pressing economic cares, how to occupy the leisure, which science and compound interest will have won for him, to live wisely and agreeably and well.” He thought this condition might be reached in about 100 years—that is, by 2030….

“He asked something hardly discussed today: What is wealth for? How much money do we need to lead a good life? This might seem an impossible question. But it is not a trivial one. Making money cannot be an end in itself—at least for anyone not suffering from acute mental disorder. To say that my purpose in life is to make more and more money is like saying that my aim in eating is to get fatter and fatter. And what is true of individuals is also true of societies. Making money cannot be the permanent business of humanity, for the simple reason that there is nothing to do with money except spend it. And we cannot just go on spending. There will come a point when we will be satiated or disgusted or both. Or will we?”

Here is another meaty phrase:

“If the ultimate end of industry is idleness, if we labor and create merely so that our descendants can snuggle down to an eternity of daytime television, then all progress is, as Orwell put it, “a frantic struggle towards an objective which [we] hope and pray will never be reached.” We are in the paradoxical situation of goading ourselves to ever new feats of enterprise, not because we think them worthwhile, but because any activity, however pointless, is better than none. We must believe in the possibility of genuine leisure—otherwise our state is desperate indeed.”


Source: In Praise of Leisure – The Chronicle of Higher Education

When and Why We Overlook Unethical Behavior

The folks at the Harvard Business Review point out the natural ways that employees punish unethical behavior-often through social means like walking away from an unethical person or leaving the room when someone enters. Basically this means that when we know someone is a cheater, it is so distasteful that we don’t even want to be around them. But there is an exception, and it is revealing.

When we are willing to tolerate or overlook really bad behavior there is always a reason. Often it is because we are benefitting in some way. It may be financial, social, career advancement, etc.  But the reason is revealing.  If there is real evil in your circumstances and you are unwilling to take a stand against it, you can learn something important about character. The reason you won’t take a stand may reveal what you value most.

Here is something from the article:

“Unethical high-performing employees, however, appear to receive a free pass for their unethical behaviors. These people may be unethical, but they get the job done, and enhance the organization’s short-term profitability along the way.

“This is the case even in organizations that on the whole are considered highly ethical. In our third study, we took into account the organization’s ethical environment and still found the same pattern of results. Irrespective of the extent to which the organization prioritizes ethics, unethical high-performing employees still had better working relationships with their peers and were less socially rejected than their unethical low-performing counterparts. There’s something about being a high performer that appears to mask concerns related to immorality.”

Source: We Don’t Shun Unethical Coworkers If They’re High Performers

The Value of Community and Solitude are Interdependent


I am studying for a sermon series on community and fellowship for our church and was struck by an odd realization.

The loss of a sense of community also signals the loss of meaningful solitude. The reason is that without meaningful relationships, solitude is no longer a nourishing respite. It is similar to the way sleep becomes different for a person that isn’t able to get out of bed. It still happens, but the way it is experienced is different from the person that is exhausted from a hard day of physical work. Without meaningful community we may fall into a state of constant loneliness, and in such a state periods of solitude may do little more than magnify the feelings of isolation.

Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas


I found an article on mother’s day in the rabbit hole of internet cross-linking. It has a fascinating story of how an undercover FBI agent realized that the mafia basically closed up shop on mother’s day. Reminds me of the line that Ben Wade says from 3:10 to Yuma, “even bad men love their mama’s.” He says this right before killing a man for calling his mom a whore.

I guess it goes like this, “I plan on snuffing you out, but it’s mother’s day…”

“Taking break from homicides

Burke’s [a mafia leader] gesture was no surprise to his fellow hoodlums: Mother’s Day was the most important Sunday on the organized crime calendar, when homicide took a holiday and racketeering gave way to reminiscing — often over a plate of Mom’s pasta and gravy. 

“These guys, they do have a love for their mothers,” said Joe Pistone, the FBI undercover agent who spent six Mother’s Days inside the Bonanno family as jewel thief Donnie Brasco. “They thought nothing of killing. But the respect for their mothers? It was amazing.” 

So amazing, Pistone recalled, that Bonanno member Benjamin “Lefty Guns” Ruggiero once told him that the Mafia — like a suburban Jersey mall shuttered by blue laws — closed for business when Mother’s Day arrived each May.”

Stranger than fiction….


Find the article here

The Power of Conscience


We all have an inner voice with a moral bent. It talks to us and we talk back, usually in our heads but sometimes out loud. The Bible calls this conscience. Here is an example of this conversation from a bizarre story that is stranger than fiction. It is from a Forbes article documenting how the uber rich do not escape the hardships of life.

“One of the strangest and disturbing tragedies involves a billionaire heir, Robert Durst who was arrested in 2015, after implicating himself in the suspected murders of three people in HBO’s documentary “The Jinx.” Durst, who is a member of the New York real estate family worth $4.4 billion, had long been suspected to have killed his first wife Kathleen, who went missing in 1982. After leaving an on-camera interview for the documentary, his lapel microphone was still on, and Durst said to himself: “What the hell did I do? Killed ’em all, of course.” And humiliated a family that once had the world in their palm.”

Romans 2:14-15 “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them…”

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001. Print.

Source: Aubrey McClendon’s Sad Death And 8 Other Tragic Stories Involving The Super Rich – Forbes

Brian Regan Live

A couple of weeks ago my wife and I saw Brian Regan live in Visalia. It was a Christmas present to her with a little delay on it.  We have been fans of his comedy for many years.  It is common to hear his jokes quoted around the Troupe house.  You should definitely go see him if his tour comes near you.  Most of his older stuff is available on Youtube and Netflix. He is a clean comedian that is truly funny without being cliched, forced, or cheesy. My life is better off because of his humor 🙂

You can find tour info on his page here at

His routine included an hour of completely new material. We saw Jim Gaffigan several years ago and he was good but much of his routine was recycled content. Still good, but nothing fresh on that occasion.  During the encore Regan did 20 minutes of older stuff by request. People in the crowd actually brought signs and held them up with their requests, like fans at a football game.  He did his bit on getting a hearing test at the end. It was fantastic.

Some thoughts:

  • The Fox theater in Visalia was great. Nice venue.  It felt intimate. Go early, there lots of restaurants and pubs within walking distance.  And also, there is a Hobby Lobby near by. The wife insisted we stop and browse.
  • His humor is contagious. At the end of 80 minutes I was still laughing with the little strength I had left.
  • His observations on people and politics are always genius and very quotable. He is great at the set-up and has wonderful comedic timing in his live show. Several times in the past on his recorded sessions he seemed rushed because of the TV time table. This was not a factor and made a difference.

Essentialism Chapter 8 Discussion Questions

Protect The Asset

Questions for Essentialism

Chapter 8

You can download a pdf of this here: Essentialism Questions Ch. 8

This is a list of discussion questions to help work through the content of the book “Essentialism” By Greg McKeown.

Major principles:

Protect the asset. You need to care for your mind and body through rest and sleep so that you can understand what is important and be effective over the long haul

Key examples/illustrations

  • Entrepreneur Geoff and burnout, panic attacks. Highly successful yet believing he had no limits.  His overwork required a 2 year sabbatical for healing.
  • The study quoted by Malcom Gladwell in his “10,000 hour rule” for excellence also requires adequate sleep.
  • Harvard Medicine Sleep School and the article “Sleep Deficit: The Performance Killer.” Sleep deprivation leads to impairment similar to a blood alcohol level of .1%.
  • Journal of nature study about puzzle solving abilities and the beneficial effects of sleep.
  • Google sleep pods.
  1. Getting enough rest may involve scaling back on work and other activities. Why is scaling back so hard for you?
  2. The belief that we can “do it all” can reveal a dangerous pride. We think the limits do not apply to us. Do you feel that needing rest is a sign of weakness?
  3. When so many others are burned out and exhausted, we may be reluctant to take time off because it will look like weakness or a lack of commitment. Are you afraid of looking uncommitted or weak?  Who are you worried about disappointing? Why?
  4. Without rest, we might be able to do some amazing things in the short run. But we may also have problems in the long run. Think of your important relationships and work. What would happen to those relationships and projects if you suffered a 2 year health crisis due to burnout?
  5. McKeown writes  (p.94) “By the time I was twenty-one I too thought of sleep as something to be avoided. To me, it was a necessary evil.”  Do you have a philosophy of sleep?
  6. How do you feel about sleeping in on a day off? Do you feel guilty? Do you struggle feeling like you have to justify this to yourself or others? Why?
  7. McKeown quotes Bill Clinton when he said that every major mistake he had made in his life happened as a result of sleep deprivation. Has anything like this (major or minor) happened in your life? Reflect on this.
  8. Why might sleep deprivation lead to poor decision making? What does this reveal about your mind and emotional needs for making decisions?
  9. What is the difference between operating at a high level of contribution and just being busy? How does sleep influence this?
  10. One reason that we struggle with getting sleep is the myth that if we sleep less we will accomplish more.  Why is this idea wrong headed? What is the truth that we need to shatter this lie?
  11. We readily reject the idea that people can perform well at work while drunk, yet we don’t think much about people that come to work sleep deprived.  Why is this inconsistent? What can we do about it?
  12. Pulling an “all-nighter” and working through exhaustion can give the appearance of productivity and commitment.  How is this different than real effectiveness in the long run?
  13. The author quotes the Journal of Nature Study on the improved puzzle-solving abilities of people with more sleep. This suggests something about how our brain works to solve problems.  Re-read pages 99-100 and put into your own words the benefits of sleep for solving difficult problems and creativity.
  14. Being sleep deprived affects our ability to distinguish between the vital few and the trivial many.  Apply this: What does it suggest about your sleep patterns? How can you use this to make better decisions?
  15. In the high success world some top leaders and creative people are talking more about the importance and value of sleep. Think of a person that you respect who is both highly productive person and also makes sleep a priority?  Read the WSJ article “Sleep Is the New Status Symbol For Successful Entrepreneurs” quoted in the book to delve deeper on this subject.

What Is Behind The Tattoo Impulse?

Why do people get tattoos, piercings, and other forms of body alteration?  Mark Bauerline at First Things has scratched out his eloquent, and mildly elusive opinion. I have inserted a few choice paragraphs below.

“Why? Because while the body satisfies human desire, it also impedes it. Women want to be thinner and their hips won’t comply. Men want to bulk up, but it takes too much work. Young women think their breasts are too small, and their boyfriends agree. People wish that their skin were lighter or darker, their hair had more curl or less. Men feel trapped inside a woman’s body, women in a man’s.

The body, too, is a focus of judgment, whether we like it or not. It excites or repels. It lends itself to unwanted racial and sexual stereotypes.

To overcome the problems, the academic argument goes, we must displace a longstanding conception. People have idealized the human body, treated it as a temple, a purity, and that mystification must end. The body is NOT a natural thing or divine form. It has no natural or supernatural status. That’s what my friend meant when he insisted on coloring hair, writing words on forearms, inserting studs in tongues, and otherwise modifying the physique. We must de-naturalize the body, redefine it as a human construct. A tattoo helps turn this object we seem to have been given into material we may shape and revise. Yes, each one of us is stuck with the one we’ve got (at this point in time), but we can re-create it, fashioning it into an expression of the identity we prefer.

That’s the theory of body art. It spells a transition from the body as physique to the body as text. You can write yourself upon it. As a friend put it to me: A tattoo isn’t the Word made flesh, but the flesh made word. It may strike old-fashioned types as pedestrian narcissism and adolescent conformity, and sometimes it surely is. But in a deeper and more troubling way, it is canny and subversive artifice, spiced with a moralistic claim to personal liberation. A tattoo is a personal statement but also an anthropological position that accords with the prevailing transvaluations of our time. It’s a wholly successful one, too, judging from the entertainment and sports worlds, and youth culture. With the mainstreaming of tattoos, another factor in the natural order falls away, yet one more inversion of nature and culture, natural law and human desire. That’s not an outcome the rationalizers regret. It’s precisely the point.”

Source: A Theory for Tattoos | Mark Bauerlein | First Things