Nothing says warmth and comfort like a fireplace scene on a holiday TV show. One of my favorite scenes is in the Saturday Night Live sketch called, “Best Christmas Ever.” In this one, Matt Damon and Cecily Strong play a happy couple, snuggling by the fire, reflecting on the Christmas Day from hell. They did their best to reframe a rough day and focus on the good in it. If you can relate to that, I empathize.

(Click to see the SNL sketch on YouTube)

Friendship brings joys and challenges. Friends may comfort or confront us. If it’s done right, we’ll be better for it. This is what Proverbs 17:17 means when it says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one friend sharpens another” (New Living Translation).

Today I want to offer help for your holiday gatherings. Perhaps you may see or be Vital Friend #7 — the friend who helps you learn and grow, The Mind Opener.

See The Mind-Opener

In Vital Friends: Eight Friends You Can’t Live Without, Tom Rath says that the Mind Opener can…

  • Expand your horizons
  • Expose you to new ideas, cultures, and opportunities
  • Shed light on blind spots and gaps in your thinking
  • Challenge you to think in innovative ways and create positive change
  • Ask hard questions
  • Make you think outside the box (no judgment)
  • Challenge conventional wisdom and shake up the status quo

Do you have a Mind Opener friend or two? Can you name them? If not, beware. Don’t insulate yourself from honest feedback or silence the corrective voice.

Free the Mind Opener

When we were raising our boys, my sweet Bonnie and I would sometimes scuffle. When that happened, my boys would frequently take their mother’s side. On one such occasion, words were spoken and Bonnie got up and left the room.The boys looked down, then looked up at me. “What?” I asked. “Why am I always the one who has to apologize?” After a moment, one of them said, “Because you’re always the one who says something wrong.” Punk kids.

My boys were inviting me to consider an alternative point of view. Those of us in authority should listen now and then. We should stay humble, lest we play the fool like King Ahab. He complained about the prophet Micaiah, saying, “I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad” (1 Kings 22:8).

Mike Sares describes certain congregants as, “Brother Brillo Pad and Sister Sandpaper.” They can be abrasive and rub us the wrong way, but they challenge us to be better. So long as they speak to us with love and respect, we should let them give us input.

But since that’s not always the case, we may find it elusive to experience the best Thanksgiving ever. I have a suggestion that might help with that. 

Your Thanksgiving Table

I know how hard the holidays can be right now.

Many of us are missing loved ones who are far away or gone forever. We may also sit across the table from folks who see the world differently than we do. We may love one another dearly, yet disagree passionately. What do we do when we see things differently? In times like these, we need the Mind Opener more than ever.

I suggest we consider one of the great Mind Openers of the 20th century, Nelson Mandela. As you may recall, Mandela spent 27 years in South African prisons for standing against racism and social inequities. Yet he said, “I never lose. I either win or I learn.”

You may not be able to change anyone’s mind this holiday season. But maybe that’s not the assignment we have anyway. Maybe we are there to have our own minds opened and to listen with a sincere and humble goal — to learn.

Our holiday tables would become more gracious and transformational if we all took a page from this towering figure, this heroic Mind Opener.


  1. Do you have friends or family members who help you consider other points of view?
  2. Are you humble enough to listen and learn?
  3. Do you help others consider alternative views or make tense situations worse?

Please leave a comment in the box below.

PS I am so grateful for the urban Christian leaders we have been able to support and strengthen in 2021. Next week, please keep an eye on your Inbox for a special Update from me. 

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