Announcing My Next Book Deal

Imagine two neighbors, one white and one black sitting down for a cup of coffee. The white neighbor has history in the small town—her family runs the local restaurant, her uncle is the community pastor, her mom is a career teacher at the only primary school, and her great uncle is the mayor. The story of the white neighbor is well known by everyone and it is considered normal. The black neighbor is new to town, so her story is virtually unknown. It is either distorted, rarely heard, or told in small snippets.

This is what it sometimes feels like to be black in America. We are treated as outsiders in a town where those in the majority group know and trust each other because of a known and shared history; but because of limited personal interactions, lack of familiarity, or cultural awareness, it is easy for Americans who identify as white to perpetuate lies and myths about their black and brown neighbors.

Some may ask: Why are we so divided across racial/ethnic and socioeconomic lines in America? I believe people desperately want an accessible way to answer this question, to confront their concerns, and to better understand themselves and their neighbors. People of good will may long to shed their fears of the unknown, reject false assumptions, and enter into relationships with their neighbor, but for this to happen, we must trade in the shallow break room chatter for more informed dinner conversations and long talks on the front porch.

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This is What all Leaders Need

The New Year is for reflection, fresh starts, and making adjustments. Have you considered, “What will help you stay focused this year?”


There is strength in a song that compels us to respond with clapped hands, lifted voices, stomped feet, and waving arms. There is power in a song that can pull on our emotions—make us shed a tear or reflect on an old memory. Sometimes a good tune makes us jump up and dance. It reminds us that we have soul, that we know a little something about rhythm and perhaps blues. Meaningful lyrics evoke a response by reminding us that we are human, connected through this shared experience we call life.

But too often the songs we love most—those things that bring us life—are drowned out by screaming kids, packed schedules, and burdensome responsibilities. When our lives are so consumed with meeting expectations, trying to measure up, and fulfilling the needs of others, we lose sight of ourselves. We forget who we are, what we need and want, and where we’re going. This sense of loss can become a dangerous reality in the life of leaders. To avoid this danger, we must intentionally practice personal leadership, or what I sometimes refer to as self-care or self-leadership.

The Art of Self-Care

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Caring for one’s well-being is necessary for those who intend to lead for an extended period, and it requires heightened self-awareness. There are personality tests and leadership diagnostics to help determine your personal needs, strengths, and weaknesses. Sustaining healthy relationships and building an affirming community can help ease some of the emotional strain life may bring. Intentionally developing a natural rhythm that brings purpose and significance to your life, however, are perhaps even more important than relationships and self-awareness.

When I was in the Navy, I worked out daily because it was required of me. I didn’t always like the discipline, but I loved the results. Working out increased my daily energy, gave me a good “attack” to start the day, and increased my capacity to enjoy the food that I loved. But after so many years of rigorous training, I needed a break. Five days of workouts every week dwindled to three, then two, and two eventually became none. I had exchanged a rhythm of fitness for a rhythm of desk work. I noticed that the more weekly responsibilities I had, the less I worked out—my physical fitness was the first thing I sacrificed for ministry. Within months, I had gained a few pounds, lacked energy, slept fitfully, and suffered from body aches. In order to gain back the rhythm I once had, my life needed a complete overhaul.

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“Hidden Figures” Teaches How Injustices Remain Hidden

I had the pleasure of watching the movie, “Hidden Figures” during opening weekend. It was a birthday gift to myself. I love seeing well written stories and brilliant acting on the big screen, and my heart gets all the more excited when those stories are being told about and by beautiful black people. Such is the case with this movie.

Who Were the Hidden Figures?

Hidden Figures is inspired by the real life stories of three African American women—Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson—who literally changed the face of NASA, the United States of America, and indeed history.

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Throughout the movie, the all-star cast led by Academy award winner, Octavia Spencer (Dorothy Vaughan); an Academy nominee, Taraji P. Henson (Katherine Johnson); and Grammy nominee Janelle Monáe (Mary Jackson) approach the challenges of being black and woman with a great deal of intellect, grace, and even some wit. It addition to telling this great American story and introducing many of us to these American sheroes, the movie provides a history lesson and a glimpse into some of the systemic injustices that remain hidden and why.

Let me begin here: When watching a movie that is based on or inspired by a true story, it is sometimes difficult to determine how much of the movie is historically accurate and how much filler is required to effectively bring the story to light.

We know from reading the Bible that a narrative can begin in one place only to have the story pick up in another place. When that happens, we long to know the in-between (like what transitioned in Jesus’ human life between the time that his parent’s lost him and he was “about his father’s business” in the temple, until the time that he began his earthly ministry in his early thirties). Sometime we are just left wondering. At other times, we try to fill in the gaps as best we can with the information that we do know.

In this instance, there is much to know about these women themselves (especially since Katherine Johnson is still alive), the federal government system in which they were required to operate, and the time period that they grew up in to fill in the unknown gaps with some integrity.

The time period was the early 1960s in America. The focus of NASA and the federal government was the Space Race (how Americans could get into space first). The Russians beat us by successfully having the first human journey into outer space in the spring of 1961. This defeat—what American government leaders saw as humiliation on the world’s stage—along with our concern for national security and distain for Russia was the catalyst that changed the personal and professional lives of these courageous women.

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