Lesson from Dad: The Handshake

My dad taught me at a young age that first impressions are lasting impressions.

He was a salesman. First impressions helped put food on the table.

“When you meet someone, you give a firm handshake and look them in the eyes,” he said. Then he practiced with me. Over and over.

Have you ever encountered that person who gives you a weak handshake and turns the other way when you say hello? That’s a bad first impression.

When you engage someone, be attentive. The handshake should be firm and meaningful. It should not, however, be intimidating.

I’m passing this information along to my sons and I “grade” them when I have the opportunity.

The handshake is a small gesture but it’s important.

Do you battle sleep? Try this

My wife can sleep anywhere at any time. It makes me mad because I am a terrible sleeper. I can be exhausted, and just as I begin to drift away into blissful dreamland … BAM! Some stupid thought slams into my brain and plagues me the rest of the night. One of our researchers and experts, Dr. Michael Scullin, discovered something that works — a DIY thing to help you go to sleep quicker. Today, he shared his findings on KWTX in Waco. Two things excite me about this: 1) Another Baylor expert was interviewed on live TV, sharing his knowledge, and 2) these tips are so practical. Now, I just need to give it a try.

What’s your call to action?

If you fail to give your audience a “next step” — aka a call to action — then you’ve wasted an opportunity.

What does a call to action look or sound like?

“Read more.”

“Learn more.”

“Sign up for our newsletter.”

“Join us for lunch. Our treat!”


“Call now.”

“Send us your questions.”

“Be our guest.”

When people engage with you or your organization, what’s their next step?

6 steps to meet needs and minister to others

God sent the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to others and equip us to meet their needs.

Maybe it’s something simple like giving a few dollars for a hamburger. Maybe it’s changing a tire. Or leading someone to Christ. Maybe it’s a healing.

We see a beautiful example of this in Acts 3 when Peter and John encounter the crippled beggar at the Temple gate.

Here are 6 steps Peter and John take to minister to this man and ultimately change his life. Continue reading “6 steps to meet needs and minister to others”

That time I interviewed Fred Phelps’ son

In February 2003, members of Westboro Baptist Church threatened to travel to Springfield, Mo. to protest the production of “The Laramie Project,” a play about the murder of Mathew Shepard.

There was a small group of local protesters who gathered, and they were prepared to counter the Westboro congregants — who failed to show.

I was a reporter for The Springfield News-Leader and was assigned to the story.

I called the Kansas-based church and spoke to Timothy Phelps, youngest son of the church’s founder, Fred Phelps. Interestingly, in addition to the interview, Timothy and I had a side conversation  about the church’s beliefs — particularly its view that God hates gay men and women.

I was still a fairly young Christian, but I surprised myself by getting heated — shedding briefly my objective approach and waging a small battle about what I believed (and know) to be the group’s false message about God. I don’t remember the entirety of the conversation, but I do remember using Jacob and Esau as an example in some way.  It was a frustrating conversation. And, obviously, I wasn’t very persuasive.

I didn’t realize at that time how notorious Westboro was and how notorious they would become. Today, I teach a class on Law and Ethics of Journalism and we always discuss Snyder vs. Phelps, the Supreme Court case which upheld Westboro’s First Amendment right to conduct their hate-filled protests. The classroom debates about the case are always passionate — and they should be.

Honestly, I cringed when I clipped this article from Newspapers.com and reread Timothy Phelps’ quote:

“Of course we preach hate…You can’t preach the Bible without preaching hate. … You can’t talk about God Almighty without talking about all of his attributes.”

Phelps is wrong. Westboro is wrong. God is love. And it’s my right to write it.