MUSIC, LEADERSHIP, CULTURE… and humor (sometimes)


On Kind Words

Hey Everybody,

It’s been forever and a day since my last post.  This blog is not dead.  It just woke up from hibernation like a bear in winter.  A very long, cold winter.  A very long, cold winter in Antarctica.  Which is pretty much winter all year long.  So now we’re moving out of Antarctica and moving into Southern California.  Which is where I live now. . . shall I go on?

Just a quick thought about kind words.

Funerals are sad, we can all agree on that right?  You know what makes funerals doubly sad?  The fact that the kind words and eulogies given will never be heard by the person who passed away.  The tragedy of “I never got a chance to say . . . ” is an absolute killer.

Going-away parties, last-day-at-work parties, etc are also pretty sad.  A lot of “I have always wanted to tell you this but … ” and “I wish we got to know each other…” or “I think you’re super hot” are kind words that almost sting when you consider the possibility that they might have meant a lot more had they been shared before you ever mentioned leaving!  (Side note: I also feel incredibly awkward when some of the parting words get a little out of hand.  Things like, “You were always my favorite” or “You single-handedly changed my life forever” or “You complete me” are never as much fun to hear when they feel like desperate euphemisms for “Sorry I never gave you the time of day.  Like ever.”  Just for the record, I have never heard these words said to me before so no harm done.  Phew!)

It’s unfortunate that we often save our kindest, best words for when it is almost (or is) too late.  There’s no harm in looking at the people who mean something to you square in the eye once in a while to let them know that they freakin’ rock. I think this is one of many things we could do right away to make this world a better place.

So tell me: What are some “parting words” you heard that made you feel ridiculous?  On the converse, what are some in-the-moment-when-it-matters words you heard that totally breathed new life into you? 


New Thoughts: Whether You Like it or Not, You’re a Missionary

I don’t like calling myself a missionary because that makes it weird for everyone else. 

I may live in a country that’s foreign to me (Mexico), receive monthly financial support from a generous group of friends and donors, and send out a monthly newsletter update– but that doesn’t make me a missionary.

In fact, I rather hate calling myself a missionary. Some people like it and love including that title in their introductions to strangers.  In my humble opinion, you might as well say “Hi, I am going to convert you.  Want to be my friend?” or imagine an undercover cop who finally reaches the mafia kingpin only to ruin everything by saying “Hi, I’m an undercover cop.  Kill me now.”

I don’t like calling myself a missionary because that makes it weird for everyone else. 

What about the person who wants to make movies but can’t because of a major lack of resources?  What about the girl who has a dream to become a dancer and train under one of the best instructors in Europe, but needs a little communal boost to get there?  What about the dude with a great, game-changing business idea that could really benefit from seed money?  What about you?  Could you use some help right now?

I don’t like calling myself a missionary because somehow that implies that what I am doing and what I want to do is more important and more “sacred” than what you are doing or pursuing.

Well, the truth is that whether you like it or not, you’re a missionary. 

It’s because you have a purpose in life and you have dreams.  You’re supposed to do all that you can to fulfill that very thing on your heart and contribute your version of beauty to this broken world.

You have a mission.

You’re a missionary.

Entonces . . . You should be supported in the ways that I am right now.  You should be validated and affirmed in ways that only a dedicated community of believers (in you) can.  The church missionary budget should allocate some funds to you.  You should have access to a list of supporters who have committed themselves to journey with you on your mission and ensure that you reach your God-given pursuit.

“But aren’t missionaries supposed to evangelize and win souls for Jesus?”

I think Jesus was a better friend than he was an “evangelist”.  That was His mission. “Winning souls” has very little to do with talk and more to do with being the best, most honest version of you intersecting with that person who simply wants to be whole.

“Missionaries are also the ones who are supposed to be compassionate and help people and villages in need. . . “

. . . and so is every one else.  Don’t be dumping the burden (and privilege) of simple care on someone who moves to a different country.

At the end of the day, the term “missionary” is just a label.  Maybe it helps some to carry that label to feel distinguished or focused.  For others, it helps them to give generously since their money is going towards “holy” work.  Still others out there enjoy the fact that they don’t carry such a title since it lets them off the hook.

Well, everything we do is holy and sacred.  Every one of us has a responsibility to our fellow man.  We all have dreams in and for the world.  We’re all “missionaries” because we all have something that we’re supposed to carry out with all our mind, heart, and soul.

Whether you like it or not, you’re a missionary. . . and you need to be supported like one. 

More than a Korean Susan Boyle

If you have not seen Sung-Bong Choi’s story, please take a moment NOW to watch this Korea’s Got Talent clip:

I don’t have too many words to say except this: Wow.

We should know by now that the way a person looks has very little to do with the talents that they possess.

Even if you don’t believe in God, this has to be one of the few times you feel compelled to believe in a Divine Justice.

Unfortunately, the world does not operate under a perfect justice–

The rich get richer.  The poor get poorer.

Good things happen to evil people.  Horrible things happen to great people.

The Yankees win the World Series.

Heidi Montague and Spencer Pratt have fans.

Etc. Etc.

The story and voice of Sung Bong Choi grab me because I am seeing someone who is walking proof that Grace exists.  Yes, he has lived an unbelievably heart-wrenching life up to this point, but he has also been given a gift from the Hand of God Himself.

And he is making sure he doesn’t waste it.  This Grace is meant to be shared.

Keep singing, Sung Bong Choi.  You are obviously loved and you deserve every bit of the Divine Justice bestowed upon you.

What intrigues you about his story and voice? 

My son, the 2 yr old advocate for the poor

Every weekday morning, I take my 2 year-old son, Micah, to school.  School has been the place where Micah could satisfy his growing social needs while mommy and daddy get some quiet time for a few hours each day.  It’s a win-win situation in every sense.

There is a definite routine to our morning trek.  We eat breakfast, get dressed, kiss mommy and baby Isla goodbye and head downstairs with the umbrella stroller in my left hand and Micah rested on my right arm.  Once downstairs, we say “buenos dias” and “hasta luego” to our building manager, Juan, and then I strap Micah in the stroller… and away we go!

We then say “hola, buenos dias” to about a dozen people on our way to school.  There’s Mari, the street-parking guide along with her husband.  There’s Gabriel, Juan, and another friend who sells helium-filled balloons.  There’s the 3-4 valet parking attendants at the restaurant across the street.  Goyo is the guy who sells “super tortas” in front of the bank and then the rest are random people who take notice of Micah in the stroller and flash a friendly smile on their brisk walk to work.

It takes about 20 minutes to walk to school.  I say a few more “hola, buenos dias”s to the teachers and receptionists at the school, kiss Micah, tell him I love him and let the teachers whisk him away.

Now when I pick Micah up from school, the routine is repeated but in reverse.  However, this time, there is an old couple on the street who I presume to be of indigenous origin by the language that they speak.  It’s difficult for me to give money to the poor when I see them on the same exact part of the street during very particular hours, only to not see them there on holidays and off-hours.  It seems a little “iffy” but maybe that’s just me.

In any case, I got tired (or guilty, perhaps?) of ignoring them so one day I decided I would have Micah hand them some money from the stroller.  The purpose of this was three-fold: 1) a few measly pesos from a child seems to be a more acceptable offering than from a grown man, 2) it’s the cute thing to do, and 3) life lessons at the age of 2 seems about right.  The lady with the cup appreciated our small offering, we all shared a smile and proceeded home.  I then affirmed Micah in his willingness to share and told him that this is what we’re supposed to do when we see people in need. 

The next day, the indigenous couple was in the same spot.  Using my “this is iffy” logic, I decided to give them a smile (nothing more) and go our merry way toward home. Besides, we already gave them money– this can’t be a daily thing, can it?  As soon as I passed them, my son yells out, “money, daddy!  money!”  I stopped the stroller, stooped to his level and asked him, “what do you mean son?  You think we should give them money?”  He says, “yeah.” 

I pulled out my wallet, handed him a few pesos and backed up the stroller so that he could deposit the small gift into the lady’s cup again.  Their gratitude was once again, very evident. We smiled and headed home.

The next day, the same thing.  It’s become very clear that my 2-year-old son is not going to let me just walk by these people who clearly have a need.  What I considered a one-time lesson has now become a daily practice.  Even if the teacher doesn’t practice what he preaches on a daily basis, the pupil will not let the opportunities pass.  Touche, my son, touche.

My dream for my children would be that they would be the Best Versions of Us x 1000.  That’s high-level math right there.

It’s no cliche to say that our children often teach us.  They are capable of showing us a way of life that is beautiful, generous, loving, and filled with wonder.

One day, our family will make our way back to the suburbs where the streets are swept daily and the vagabonds are met more on TV than in real life.  For now, I am grateful that we live in the City where the tension to give and serve is propelled with a daily opportunity.  It’s uncomfortable, it’s trying, and it is a test of what we really believe and practice. 

I’m thankful that at age 2, Micah gets it.  It’s not rocket science, it’s not a judgment call, it’s not a curriculum you study for weeks with a small group; it is a here and now.  “Money, Daddy!  Money!”  You have money, they don’t.  It’s simple, isn’t it?  Drop it in their cup and love them in simple, real ways… Duh!

Thanks, buddy.  You put your daddy to shame but you also make me unbelievably proud. 

How ’bout that?  My 2 year-old advocate for the poor, folks.

Unto Us a Child is Born (and thus, a truth)

This past Friday, May 6, 2011 my daughter was born weighing just over 6 lbs! She is a tiny bundle of joy and we couldn’t be happier!

As she sleeps, sleeps, sleeps, eats, sleeps, sleeps, poos, sleeps, pees, sleeps, sleeps, eats, and sleeps… one phrase keeps surfacing out of my mouth over and over again.

She’s amazing. 



How can anything that does just about nothing be considered amazing?

I don’t know.  This is the mystery and beauty of a new life.  Something within me is stirred to a place of wonder, awe, gratitude, peace, giddyness, and joy —

All from staring at a newborn who’s only job description right now is to simply be

Maybe this is just a little bit too simplistic (or too profound?!) but I think that’s a task in life I need to embrace every once in a while: to just be.

When I am who I am (or as Popeye would say, I Yam What I Yam), I think the universe rejoices.

It’s good to know that even on our days (or seasons) of doing seemingly nothing but eat, sleep, and s—, our mere existence has brought a smile to someone’s face– whether it be our parents, lovers, or God.

I think I know a little more of what it means when I hear that a Father rejoices over me, sings over me, and loves me just as I am.  I suppose it takes one to know one.

How is it that such little things can point us to such great truth and beauty?