This is my contribution to the #GirlDad meme. One of my favorite photos with my daughters. What a blessing they are to my life. I love being a father to daughters.

Its been hard for me to process the tragic news of Kobe, his daughter and the families they were travelling with passing away. I can usually put my finger on how I feel and work through my emotions, but its taken me a minute with this one.

I think its because they were on their way to a travel basketball game.

I think its because it was too close to home with the season of my life right now.

I spend countless hours watching my daughters play basketball … And countless more dissecting games with them, finding videos of moves to help them and pretty much watching them fall totally in love with a sport that I have been passionate about since my early teens.

Kobe was a big part of the highs and lows I’ve experienced as a basketball player and fan … I don’t think any other single player made me yell ‘noooooooo’ as much at the TV (I was always on the wrong side of his brilliance ūüėä).

A few hours after I heard the news, somebody posted a montage of Kobe and his daughter … It wasn’t a montage of a celebrity family as much as it was of a father and his daughter totally consumed with the game they loved together. I couldn’t watch any more tributes after that … And I’ve been avoiding sports radio all week … (My kids know how unlike me that is ūüôā).

I didn’t know Kobe or his family and friends personally … But what I shared with them was our common humanity. Our common experiences of loving and being loved. Our common capacity for passion.

My meditation this week has been on how precious every moment is – and how much I cherish the gifts that God has given me to love ‚̧.

Note: This is the story that led to the #GirlDad meme

The simplistic theology in Daredevil

Daredevil Fan Art Image

Image courtesy of Jamie Castro from Devian Art

The new season of Daredevil is out on Netflix and of course, my superhero fandom cannot allow me to stay away.¬† If you follow this show and have not yet watched the newest season, don’t worry, there are no spoilers here.¬† This post is primarily about a theme that it looks like this season is exploring – and I wanted to comment on a few things I noticed.
When we start the season, Matt Murdoch, Daredevil’s alter ego, is struggling with the events that ended the previous season;¬†events which caused him to doubt himself and his ability to fulfill his ‘calling’ as a superhero.¬† The lens through which he works through this struggle is his relationship with God.
He focuses on a few questions that have been asked universally over the ages by people from all walks of life:


  • Is God mad at me?
  • Does God speak to me?
  • Does God care about me?
  • Does God even matter?
These are all powerful soul-searching questions that we all have every right to ask. I am very pleased that the show is exploring this as a theme because it is an important discussion.
Where I think the show (or maybe just Matt) becomes simplistic about these questions about God is to frame them as an examination of whether or not God answers prayer.
The argument goes something like this:


  • God’s job is to answer prayer and help those who are in need
  • I see so much suffering and unanswered prayer, so God is either not doing His job or doesn’t care
  • In addition, I have never heard God speak to me, therefore I don’t think He speaks to people
  • Therefore, I don’t think He answers prayers
  • Therefore I don’t think He cares about me
  • Therefore I don’t care about Him
  • Therefore He doesn’t matter
  • Therefore I will do whatever I want (Matt puts it like this: “Not even God can stop me!.”)
The problem with the conclusion stems from the initial premise about who God is and what He is ‘supposed’ to do – about His ‘job’.¬† This misunderstanding about the purpose of prayer mischaracterizes the way in which prayer is actually illustrated and modeled in the Bible.
If¬†I see God as a ‘vending machine’ that takes my prayers as the coins, then it’s easy to see how I would expect Him to do His part and give me my Doritos.
But, if I see prayer for what it actually is – a conversation through which I build and strengthen a relationship – I have a very different conclusion when I connect God’s answers to what I see around me.
Consider your own reaction to this post. I have a wide variety of beliefs represented in my relationships so I know that you could fall into one or more of the categories below:
  1. You believe God does not exist: you will probably see this post from a lens of anywhere from skepticism to outright annoyance. That’s okay, let’s just continue the conversation and allow me to present the case over time.
  2. You believe that some ‘higher being’ exists’, but he or she is not ‘knowable’: in your case, there is no need for prayer, because this higher power exists apart from us and we plot our own way. If this is you, I would love to continue the dialog with you too because there is indeed a mountain of evidence that says the contrary.
  3. You believe that it doesn’t matter whether or not God exists because it’s just a crutch for dealing with the reality of life: I am especially happy you are here because you are in the same place as Matt Murdoch on this and I hope I piqued your curiosity to learn more.
  4. You believe that faith is a very personal thing that we should not discuss in polite company and trying to force people into¬†one way of thinking is wrong: This might surprise you but, I absolutely agree with you. I do not believe it is my, or anybody else’s job to ‘convert’ you. I do however believe in two things: two propositions that oppose each other cannot both be true (i.e. truth is mutually exclusive) and the art of civil discussion, even in the face of disagreement, is dying, and I have a burning desire to revive it. This post, and some of my future ones are my contribution to this dialog.
So, if you enjoyed reading, look out for my future musings. I cannot promise a consistent schedule, but I can promise consistent reasoning.
And if you have thoughts, questions, or comments – feel free to jump in. I only ask that you be respectful to others as you would want them to respect you.

The next time you say “I can’t afford it”, think about this

When you say “I can’t afford it”, what do you really mean?¬† I think this is an important idea to deconstruct because money and your thoughts about money are an integral part of your emotional health.¬† All adults spend some portion of their life thinking about money.¬† Whether you have a lot of it, a little or just enough.

This is because money at it’s core is an abstract idea.¬† There is a practical element to money because we all need to trade the value of money for goods and services we need.¬† But most of the time when we are thinking about money, it is not the practical aspect of money that is occupying our thoughts.

What Money Represents to You

Before I go into my recommendation about what to do when you think “I can’t afford it”, here are some things to consider about what money represents in your life.¬† There are three key things money represents when we are dealing with the abstract concept:

  • Actions or Lack of Actions
  • Fears
  • Beliefs

Our thoughts about money are a representation of actions that we have either taken or failed to take.  An example of this is when you bounce a check, the emotion you have about money at that moment is based on a lack of balancing your check book.

Money also represents our fears.¬† This shows up primarily in your attitudes around spending, saving and investing.¬† Based on your internal programming, if you believe that life is about scarcity, you will try desparately to hold onto everything you have and miss out on opportunities to be a better steward of your money.¬† On the other hand, if you have a fear of being ‘controlled’, you may reject the idea of a budget and just spend whenever you want without planning because discipline translates to emotional bondage for you.

When it comes to beliefs, money and how we use it is generally aligned with what we truly believe, regardless of what we say we believe.¬† I have a friend who says: “Your spending history is your true story”.¬† So if you believe that your worth as a person is tied to how much money you have, when things get tough financially, your self-esteem takes a hit and it is difficult for you to move forward.

The Two Meanings of “I Can’t Afford It”

The next time you say “I can’t afford it”, examine the meaning of the thought.¬† It could mean one of two things.¬† The first source of the phrase could be a question of priorities.¬† When you say “I can’t afford it”, you might really be saying that the thing you want is not of a high enough priority for you to move the resources from something else to get it.¬† On the other hand, it might be a true issue of capacity and you really have a shortfall even if the thing you want is a true priority.

One Word to Change The Meaning

In the case where it is a capacity issue, there is one word that you can use to shift your mindset.


“I can’t afford it … yet.”

By adding that one word to the phrase, you force yourself to go into planning mode and to face the real issues around why you are stuck.¬† You can’t plan for a way to afford it without addressing your limiting beliefs and your fears.¬† So you can do the true internal work that will get you unstuck, instead of staying on a surface level that doesn’t move you forward.

I talk about this at greater length in this Facebook Live Video.


shining a light of humanity on the conversation

Last week I was riding the bus and felt like I was at a bursting point. My Facebook feed was ‘blowing up’ once again and I was watching the two silos in America duke it out. Some of the things I was reading made me do something uncharacteristic and weigh in on social media on a sensitive political issue.

I usually prefer to have these conversations in person, because I don’t find the forum of ‘comments’ very productive in have a conversation that truly seeks understanding.

I also understood in that moment that the majority of the people on my feed had never heard me tell my story and how I process what I see on the news from a very personal level. Because they know me as a person, and not as an abstract image on television that could have any manner of story told about it, I felt an obligation to share.

I am reposting the content of that post here because (based on the comments I received) it helped two groups of people.

  1. People who were able to develop a more nuanced understanding of an issue that has been watered down to soundbites and sometimes lost its rooting in humanity
  2. People who live the experience every day but did not have the words to accurately articulate what it really feels like to feel powerless towards this issue

Here is what I wrote in its entirety:

I generally keep things on a positive note on my Facebook feed. Not because I am blind to my surroundings, but because I think it is important to shine light even in the midst of all the darkness that may surround us sometimes.

Today is a little bit different for me. I feel helpless because it feels like my life is in imminent danger whenever I leave home. Not because my pants are sagging. Not because I don‚Äôt know how to say please or thank you. Not because I am loud and boisterous (read threatening), when I ride the subway. Not because I walk around with a ‘hoody and swagger’.

I do all the ‘right things’. I am educated. I am a devoted husband and father. I am a devout Christian. I am a geek. I love superhero movies. I live to inspire and motivate. I’m not ‘mooching’ off anybody.

I’ve had friends tell me that I’m different from those ‘guys’ on the news. They are not referring to ‘the ones like me’. Those guys ‘did something’ that led to their fate.

And yet, I am still terrified. For me and for my son. For the ‘gentle giants’ in my life – one of whom posted a heartbreaking post last night about how he spent a night in jail a few days ago because he fit the description: 6’4 black male … and just happened to be in a particular neighborhood.

Maybe I should take a bath and wash off my blackness. Because when my car breaks down and I am looking for assistance, there is no way for me to physically show my Harvard degree, or my faith, or my sense of humor, or my family pictures, or my paycheck, or my charitable donations, or the title deed to my home.

So please tell me what else I could possibly do to ensure I survive that encounter. Because right now.

I. Just. Don’t. Know.

I can’t get myself to watch the most recent video. And I don‚Äôt plan to. When I watch those things, it is impossible for me not to see myself, or my son, or so many men in my life that I love and respect. None of us can wash off our blackness, so we are in the same boat.
P.S. If it is possible to take in a suspected terrorist alive after a shootout, surely there is a way for both me and you to walk away alive from our encounter.

today is its own day


Today is its own day.

Regardless of what yesterday looked like and what you are worried about for tomorrow, today is its own day.

You can only live in today.

To change tomorrow, you work on your plan today.

So make today the very best you can, so that when you go to bed tonight you know that you gave it your all.

Then wake up tomorrow and tell yourself again …

Today is its own day.

living 2015 like a BOSS

“… Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‚ÄėMove from here to there,‚Äô and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.‚ÄĚ
(Matthew 17:20 NIV Bible)


Every year I use the month of January as an opportunity to reflect on my upcoming year and how I would like to focus my attention. I find this more effective than setting arbitrary resolutions that I am not truly committed to follow through with. This year, a series of events and circumstances has crystallized for me what my key theme for 2015 should be.

The colloquial phrase ‘like a BOSS’ is the easiest way for me to summarize the theme because it captures the posture with which I am looking at this year.

The combination of two things in my current reality have made me realize that my only way to come out of this year where I want to will be by exercising a level of boldness that is usually outside of my comfort zone.

The first is that I am experiencing a very high level of constraints on my resources. Money is tight. Time is limited.

Despite these constraints, the second thing is that my vision is bigger than it has been since my mid-20s. I have a very clear picture of what I want spiritually, relationally, physically, professionally and financially.

It’s a big picture.

And the only way to bridge the gap between my resources and what needs to happen will be through a strategic use of leverage – squeeze a lot out of a little.

I will seek out and take advantage of opportunities that are as efficient as possible, while maintaining my integrity and commitment to serving others.

So what does ‘like a BOSS’ look like?

  • It’s being honest with someone even when it’s uncomfortable
  • It’s finding a way to get things done regardless of the obstacles
  • It’s dreaming big and taking massive action to make those dreams happen
  • It’s shrugging of negative comments from those who don’t get it while loving them just the same
  • It’s not being afraid to fail because I know I can get right back up again
  • It’s believing in others long enough for them to see the giant within

It’s helping regular people do great things.

I don’t listen to Katy Perry but 2015 will hear me roar.

autocorrecting myself

Did you know the average person spends 4 years of his life looking down at a cell phone?

Every time I watch the video below where I got this quote, something rises up in me emotionally.  Its weird to have such a visceral reaction to a commentary on our obsession with devices Рbut I know the reason is that I am often in many of the traps he describes.

Take a moment and watch it:

Some of the great lines:

Do I not have the patience to have ‘Cnvrstn’ without ‘Abrvtn’ / This is the era of media overstimulation

The news is a hundred and forty characters

And this is the one that really hit home for me:

No longer do I want to spoil a precious moment by recording it with a phone / I’m just gonna keep them

I don’t wanna take a picture of my meals anymore / I’m just gonna eat them

The part about precious moments is often me – scrambling to get my phone out and actually missing the moment.

What a shame.

But like he says, all of this is a choice. And each day I am making a point to choose a little better.

For one thing, I don’t get the neck ache I used to have after my commute anymore because I don’t spend the whole ride looking down at my phone.

breakfast with a little champion


Mornings in my house are the ultimate display of multi-tasking chaos.  I think this is probably the case in most houses with multiple little kids that all have different reactions to the morning and whether or not they are happy to be awake.  This morning was a little different, not just because it was a Saturday morning,.

But because I took a moment to pause.

My three-year old son woke up complaining that I had left him in the bed by himself and was clinging to my leg as I ran my endless to-do list of the day in my head.¬† My internal monologue was simple: “I need to give him the tablet so he can get absorbed in his shows and I can get back to my long list.”

Sad, but true.

As I was finishing my rushed breakfast on the couch, he brought the tablet back in the living room, flipped to Netflix and selected his new favorite show: Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures. (Wasn’t that a video game when I was a kid?).

Internal monologue: “Great, that will keep him busy – now I can go back to my list.”

But my son was having none of that.

“I want you to sit with me when I watch my show.”

Plan B. “Do you want some breakfast?”


So I fixed him some cereal with the intention of leaving him with his grandmother at the kitchen table and going back to my ‘very important list’.

But then I paused and remembered an experience my pastor had with his mother that he credits for playing a big role in developing his self esteem: whenever his mother served him anything to eat, she would sit down with him (even if she was not eating) and spend time with him while he ate, giving him her full attention, until he was done.

I’m glad I made the right choice today and instead of Plan B, went to Plan C.¬† I tossed my mental list out of my head and focused on this little marvel of a three-year old while he explained to me that a T-Rex does not eat other dinosaurs, even though he clearly asserted that it is a carnivore and ‘eats meat’.

I learned that a falcon can sweep down into the water and get a fish.  That a Pteranodon is also a carnivore and it flies into the air so it can eat other Pteranodons.

I asked him if he knew what a herbivore was and with complete confidence he smiled and said: “Yes, it eats PLANTS’.

We made faces, giggled, talked about what kind of things would be fun to do on a rainy day – I don’t want to get wet and he thinks all you need is a coat and you can do anything on a rainy day – including playing in puddles.

All the time, he was shoving spoons of cereal into his mouth and grinning widely with pleasure each time he tasted it as if it was the best gourmet food in the world.  He savored every fruit loop and acknowledged the brief moment with complete absorption.

I’m sure his internal monologue was: “This is the life!”

Our little breakfast moment was not more than 20 minutes and of inconsequential impact to whether or not I get things done today.¬† But to him, it was an imprint that will last a lifetime – a moment that reconfirmed to him that …

I am not just here.

I am present.

The two are very different.

what unwritten rules are hindering you?


I recently decided to step down from a leadership role that I have held for several years outside of work. Its a decision that I mulled over for the better part of a year until it was clear that I needed to make the change.

I took so long to come to this conclusion because I had not identified a successor for the leadership role and felt it was irresponsible of me to step down without finding one. I have been reflecting on the mental and emotional process I went through and realized that one of the key issues I was struggling with was an unwritten rule that I was following without examining whether it was still valid in my situation.

My unwritten rule needed challenging.

The unwritten rule in this case was: you cannot voluntarily step down from a position of leadership if you have not identified and trained a successor.

I have always viewed doing so as ‘dropping the ball’ and doing a dishonor to the organization I was serving.

What I realized after extensive reflection was that this rule would have been true for me three years ago, but it was not relevant in this particular situation. Three years ago, I began working on duplicating myself in leadership by mentoring other members of the organization because I realized that I would eventually have to move on. Unfortunately, each time I indentified a successor and began working with them, circumstances arose that required them to move onto another role, or limit their involvement with the organization.

In parallel with these obstacles internally in the organization, I had some major events in my life that significantly limited my capacity to lead the organization. So for the past 18 months, I have led the organization on ‘auto-pilot’ with significantly less passion than I had a few years ago.

The turning point in how I was viewing the situation was when I realized that serving on auto-pilot is just as detrimental to the organization as stepping down without identifying a successor. In addition, holding onto the role might be hindering somebody else from stepping up and taking over the leadership when the ‘vacuum’ is created on my departure.

So, holding on to the ‘letter’ of my unwritten rule was actually violating the ‘spirit’ of the rule.

Your unwritten rules are an implementation of your internal values.

I would challenge you to periodically examine some of the major rules in your life that drive your decision-making and determine whether they need to be revisited. Often, these unwritten rules exist because of your deeply held internal values, but when your values change – or expand to include other perspectives, you¬†don’t take the time to re-examine decisions you¬†made based on those values.

A common consequence of this problem is holding onto commitments that should be challenged for their validity in your current context, and as you pick up new commitments without altering or dropping the old ones, you become increasingly overwhelmed. Your capacity to contribute has not changed, but the nature of your contributions needs to change.

You are the ultimate arbiter of your to-do list.

Be on the lookout for situations in which you constantly use one or both of the following phrases:

  • “I have to …”
  • “I can’t …”

There are very few things that are absolutely mandatory in your life. Things like breathing, eating, sleeping – are mandatory.

Everything else is a choice.

In my experience, I tend to confuse commitments with mandatory requirements. I commit to things based on my values, and that strong attachment to the commitment that makes it feel compulsory is a consequence of how deeply held the value is that the commitment is based on.

Something as simple as putting gas in your car is a choice you can make because it is a more convenient way to travel than your other choices.

On the other end of the scale, something as critically important as providing for your children is still something that you choose to do¬†because you value being a good parent. ¬†If it was mandatory, then all children would be provided for adequately because nobody would have the choice to ‘underprovide’ or abandon their children. ¬†But sadly, this is a reality of the world we live in.

In both cases, the simple and the critically important, there is still choice involved.¬† You don’t have¬†to do either one of those things.

There is a freedom that comes with this realization because you can then revisit all of the commitments you currently have and challenge yourself about why you are choosing to do each of the things on the list Рinstead of feeling like there is nothing that is negotiable because all the things seem important.

If you are feeling overwhelmed (or underwhelmed), test each of your major commitments with a critical eye and you might surprise yourself with what you find.

I am in no way suggesting that you should drop any particular commitments in your life – if you are a parent, please keep providing for your kids – just that you take the time to reflect and challenge yourself about what unwritten rules might be hindering you.

It might be time to bend, break or simply ignore some of your rules so that you can better align your actions with your values.