Relaunch. Renew. Re…commit.

20 February, 2012

When I started this blog nearly six years ago, it was intended to be a heartfelt commentary on the trials and tribulations of a historically-Midwestern guy making a jaunt to the West Coast.  If you were to tell me that, less than a year later, I would be making the journey back to the midwest to start a three-year journey through mounds of strategy coursepacks and research papers on poverty alleviation, I would have dismissed your tomfoolery with a curt psh.

Then, if you were to tell me that, in the course of those three years, I would wax philosophical while in South Africa, reaffirm my purpose while developing a farmers cooperative in Jamaica, and move to Detroit — Detroit?! — to work for a highly-prestigious consulting firm, I’d show you that the definition for guffaw in the dictionary would have a photo of me next to it.

THEN, if you were to tell me that, only eighteen months after graduation, I’d have kinda sorta lost my way through the rat race of moving to a downtrodden city, starting an unbelievably intense career, and pursuing a long-term relationship…I’d be frightened to think of the prospects.

Well, it happened.


Patrick Carnes writes in his revolutionary book Out of the Shadows that graduate school is the first place where people encounter the challenge of  “proving one’s self in an arena where every inadequacy is evaluated”.  To a Christian that has embedded himself in a community of non-judgmental believers, even the process of applying to these programs — and receiving an impersonal rejection — can be a daunting task that ultimately shakes your perceptions of self-worth to the core.  For others, the constant need for approval from friends, family, etc. can have the same effect.

When I first read this passage by Dr. Carnes, I immediately flipped through the pages of my recent life story and had an “A HA!” moment: my brain was rewiring itself in a way that made me believe that I could achieve my way through life.  And my relationships — with others, and even God.

My recent circumstances showed me, clear as day, that such an attempt was nothing more than a charade.  Throughout Scripture, there is a clear indication that works are an essential component of the Christian’s service to God and others, but unless derived from a heart of service and adoration for the Creator, they are lifeless.

Lifeless.  Going through the motions due to overburdened work environments, stress, or simply trying to ignore the still, small voice begging you to be at peace…it’s easy to do.  But it’s neither life-giving nor sustaining.  We forget the profound responsibility we’ve been entrusted with — to love God, others…and ourselves with reckless abandon.


This morning, I sat in a coffee shop in Detroit’s Mexicantown district, chatting with my friend Dan Sadlier.  As we shared stories of challenge and hurt, a simply profound dialogue took place:

“Dan, I still hurt.  I hurt a lot.”

“…I know.  But lead through it.

…Lead through it.  It can mean so many things, and at this present time it has some profound, specific applications for my life.  But it aligns directly with a verse that has been on my heart for the past few weeks, one that inspires the crippled man to get up and walk, and one that compels all of us to RISE.

Awake, o sleeper,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you.  — Ephesians 5:14 


The Chrysler Ad: Frame by Frame

10 February, 2011

Updated 6 April

By now, you’ve probably read the press and followed the buzz on Chrysler’s two-minute epic advert during the Super Bowl.  I was one of the tens of millions of viewers that caught a glimpse during the broadcast, and one of a few hundred thousand that got a slight lump in my throat.

But many viewers, including my Detroit-living self, weren’t completely aware of everything they were actually seeing during the spot.  So, I figured I’d break it down frame-by-frame and offer some commentary, links, and background on all of the glorious bits of the D being showcased here.

(Note: I’ll continue to update the list until it’s complete; if you have insight on some of the empty timeslots, please let me know (either via comment or twitter) and I’ll include it.)

0:03 — Interstate 75 North, mile marker 39, near the Detroit suburbs of Lincoln Park and Allen Park.

0:04-0:09 — I believe we’re seeing the Marathon Oil Company — or Detroit Salt — plant at Fort Street and I-75 near River Rouge. The sign for “J.L. Lasser Crane Company” was actually digitally altered — J.J. Curran Crane Company actually exists.

0:10-0:11 — Clearly on a northbound trend here: I-75 North, mile marker 44, just having crossed over the bridge past River Rouge.

0:12-0:13 — Unknown. Speculating that it’s somewhere near Wayne State’s campus because of the radio tower in the reflection of the window panes.

0:14-0:15 — The old Detroit Edison plant on Willis Avenue in Midtown.

0:16-0:17 — Unknown.

0:17-0:19 — Detroiters know this well.  It’s the old flagpole from Tiger Stadium at Michigan and Trumbull in Corktown.

0:20-0:22 — Campus Martius Park in Downtown Detroit.  The modern-looking building in the background is the Compuware Building.

0:23-0:25 — Unknown, but I *think* they’re heading toward the Wayne County Building on Randolph Street, Downtown Detroit.

0:26 — Unknown. Somewhere in the vicinity of the People Mover.

0:27-0:32 — Monument to Joe Louis, located at Jefferson and Woodward, near Hart Plaza in Downtown Detroit.

0:33-0:35 — Diego Rivera’s famous fresco, Detroit Industry, found at the Detroit Institute of Arts, Midtown.

0:36-0:37 — Unknown.

0:38-0:41 — The Penobscot Building near Campus Martius.  At the time of its completion (1928) until 1977, it was the tallest building in the city. (Thanks, Russ Hickson!)

0:44-0:46 — Marshall Fredericks’ Spirit of Detroit, Woodward Avenue, Downtown Detroit.

0:47 — Eminem’s bling. (Any coincidence to the fact that the previous clip was of a sculpture designed by a guy named Marshall?)

0:48-0:49 — St. Josaphat Church at I-75 and Warren.

0:50-0:51 — Unknown.

0:52-0:53 — Unknown. I’ve been looking all over the internets, trying to figure out which Detroit-area high school has the Fighting Aces as a mascot.  Thoughts?

0:54-0:58. Yep, that’s Metro Detroit’s very own Alissa Czisny, US National Champion figure skater, showing off her stuff at Campus Martius Park in Downtown Detroit.

1:00-1:01 — Unknown. Possibly on Woodward by the Shops at Kresge?

1:02 — Looks like that dude’s crossing at Congress and Woodward in Downtown Detroit.

1:03-1:05 — On the bridge to Belle Isle.

1:08-1:09 — Unknown.

1:10 — Unknown.

1:19-1:20 — Unknown.

1:22-End — Fox Theatre, Foxtown.  An icon of the city, a staple of the Motown movement.  The choir selected for the commercial is the “Selected of God” repertoire; they apparently were selected in a nationwide competition.


For those that claim Detroit is a city devoid of character, look no further than the twenty-eight incredibly diverse venues listed here.  From this, fires that create steel were borne.

$30,000 for my 30th Birthday: Make It Memorable

22 January, 2011

In a few short weeks, I’ll hit that little life milestone that seems to strike fear into the hearts of men: turning 30. Honestly, it doesn’t faze me much, besides wondering on occasion why I nearly demand at least six hours of sleep these days.

Now, I had given some thought recently on the concept of giving and how we tend to offer up presents, well-wishes, and whatnot to celebrate significant accomplishments in our lives.  It’s a good thing to remind others of our appreciation for the substantial events that occur in their lives too.  So, I recently thought about how I would want others to celebrate my 30th birthday with me — if they so felt like it. 🙂

What came to mind was this: I wanted to celebrate the avenues that have been a humble, immense blessing to me over these years.  My parents, my family, my friends — yes, all worth celebrating infinitely, and I try to do so every day.  But I wanted to find something unique, perhaps an event or cause that I don’t always reflect upon, but deserves to be uplifted.  And I think I found it.  But first, a quick story.

…four days after my 13th birthday, in 1994, I was diagnosed with a mid-aggressive stage of Hodgkin’s Disease, a cancerous lymphoma, that threw my whole young perspective on life into flux.  In the six months of intensive chemotherapy that ensued, I discovered that this battle wasn’t just between my body and the disease: a small army of doctors, nurses, caregivers, and community members took up arms alongside me.  And we won, convincingly, to the point that it has never chosen to rear its ugly head again for seventeen straight years.  Without this network of support, bolstered by an incredible network of researchers working diligently to find solutions to combating this disease, I truly wouldn’t be here today.

I reflected upon this a few days ago, as the 17th anniversary of my diagnosis approaches, and I realized that the greatest gift I would want to receive is to watch others acknowledge the importance of the work being done to help cancer patients and survivors like me.

So, here’s my wish: In the next three weeks, up to my birthday on February 10th, I want my network of peers, family, and friends to give at least $30,000 to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The LLS is one of the leading advocates for research, patient information, and survivor support for those affected by these cancers.  My family was blessed to have these resources during my trial, and it would be an honor to have us all support, in some small way, the efforts they undertake to bless others.

Giving is simple: just text HFC to 90999 and a non-recurring $5 charge will be added to your mobile phone bill. If you prefer to donate via other means, read up on those at

$30,000 is a lot. It’s 6,000 people giving five bucks (there’re my math skills kicking in!).  So, spread the word.  Tell your friends and family to give a few bucks.  I don’t even need to know who gives — in fact, I WON’T know who gives — but if you want to send a note over stating you did, I’ll happy oblige with a “thank you” and perhaps even a kiss on the forehead if you really demand it.

Thank you, in advance, for making my 30th birthday a little more meaningful than a stack of “over the hill” cards. 🙂



The D = Big Three?

21 August, 2010

Quite a bit of hullabaloo has been thrown about this week — some good, some bad — regarding last Friday’s New York Times article, “Detroit Goes From Gloom to Economic Bright Spot“.  By highlighting a recent slew of statistics, Bill Vlasic provides confirmation to his readers that, yes, Detroit is on the rebound.  Example:

Detroit has vowed to change before, slimming down when sales slumped or pouring resources into vehicle quality to catch up to foreign competitors. Those efforts stalled or failed. But many auto analysts say the current makeover has a more permanent feel, largely because of the presence of the outsiders at the top and the lessons learned from the near-death experience of last year’s bankruptcies at G.M. and Chrysler.

And that’s not all.  Sales are up, the industry is streamlined, and GM’s upcoming IPO are the talk of the town.  And while I believe the announcement of in-the-black profits and higher sales ratios are only signs of a short-term improvement, there’s an air of positivity swirling about the (aptly-named, I hope) Renaissance Center.

But, there’s one teensy aspect of this article that draws my ire a bit.  Actually, wait.  Let me stop beating around the bush: I almost find this article deplorable because of this one oversight, and it needs to be disclosed.

GM, Ford, and Chrysler are NOT Detroit.  Detroit is….Detroit.  Duh.

I use bold type because I’m trying to emphasize my frustration with this viewpoint.  Let me explain why:

Read the rest of this entry »


18 August, 2010

For four years, I’ve kept the domain active with a bit of irony attached: of all the places I’ve lived in the States, Seattle panned out to be the shortest-lived residency.  So, I technically haven’t been writing any quips about the city basking in the shadow of Mount Rainier for quite some time.

My move to Detroit looms, and with it comes a whole new opportunity to blog about all things related to the Gritty City.  I plan on doing some spring cleaning around here, sprucing up some of the links, incorporating some guest bloggers (including an occasional visit from GLTN, perhaps?) and showing you, dear readers, why Detroit is the most stunningly opportune city on earth.

And you’ll also learn why I loooooove to speak in superlatives. 🙂