Quiet But Busy

I’ve had a few close friends note that it’s been quiet around here lately. Quiet, yes. But by no means fruitless. As any who know me might well surmise, my energies have been consumed by other more-pressing activities.

For one, I’m still writing—quite a lot, in fact. But not much of it, if any, is ready for daylight on a public forum. I’ve been writing daily, mostly of theology. While The Sky Riders II is in process, I’m simultaneously working on at least three other non-fiction works, as well as some writings for future songs and messages, all content that I feel needs addressing for the sake of Christians I find myself mentoring and pastoring. This has been further inspired and somewhat initiated by an uptick in my reading and processing of older Christian texts.

Apart from the reading and writing disciplines of my life, I’m in gaged in numerous New Life church activities, all of which have been large in scope and demanding of time. A vision to reach mankind with the Gospel and to make disciples should require nothing less. Our current production of A Watertown Christmas hits this weekend to two sold out audiences. On top of regular Christmas activities, as well as preparations for January’s series and annual fast, my team has had their hands full.

The businesses (CiCis Pizza, Cold Stone Creamery) have also consumed more of my creative attention lately, as I’m overseeing new directives to meet with school administrators and church leaders to ascertain how we might be able to serve their food needs and create win-win scenarios in the community.

I’m also fully engaged in one of my more favorite enterprises at the moment: overseeing the final phases of construction for Sprig Studios, due to open mid-winter. The final electrical work begins today, and we’re building all the custom light fixtures on site. The studio, by nature, begets newfound ventures of music creation, which are also simmering behind the scenes at home and in various nooks of the church.

Life is full and rich, made the most so by my wife, children and close friends, and reminds me of how truly blessed I am to be surrounded by constant beauty, creativity and mission. 2014 holds more adventures still, with calls back to Central America and Europe. May the God of the nations receive the glory that he’s due.

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Reallocating Energies

I’ve decided to move my creative energies from daily blogging – a habit which began last July – toward a few more demanding projects that need my immediate attention.

I still plan on posting regularly, but the frequency will be determined by availability netted from progress made in other areas.

This daily-run, which has been the most consistent writing of my life, has been a tremendous benefit personally, helping me grow in my use of words and in articulating my thoughts. Likewise, I believe many of you, my faithful readers, have been encouraged in some way.

In staggering my posts, I hope to craft even better content, giving each piece the time it needs to be written. Likewise, I’m moving into some seasons of renewed productivity that will demand the best of my creative energies.

To name a few:

• Finishing and formatting The Berinfell Prophecies Book 3

• Pursuing 3 new possible restaurant openings

• Launching of Sprig Records studio and record company

• Recording Jennifer’s next full-length album

• Writing and producing for New Life’s first live worship album, as well as CHB’s next project

• Completion of book 1 of my new upcoming series, as well as development for books 2 and 3

I also plan on taking considerable time off in the next few months to enjoy summer in the 1000 Islands. This will include a lot of time sailing on the river with The Hopper Kids, and Jennifer and my first “kid-less vacation” in 8-years.

For those who faithfully read here, I’d appreciate your investment of prayer into everything listed above; your support and encouragement mean a great deal to me.

Here’s to seasons of rest, and renewed productivity.

The best is yet to come.

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Coldstone Creamery Coming to Watertown


Yep. It’s true.

Northern Ice Cream Company LLC is putting its newest addition to the ever expanding list of Watertown eateries right beside CiCi’s Pizza in the Stateway Plaza on Arsenal St. Need another excuse to get fat? Yeah, me neither. But who can’t resist pizza and ice cream?

With final approval and permitting just in from the City of Watertown, construction will begin Monday with a grand opening slated for late-May. It’s yet another way we believe we’re bringing families together in a fun, safe environment, as well as creating more jobs in northern New York. (If the national government truly wants to help us create more jobs, they sure could ease up on regulations and obscene taxation).

You’re welcome.

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Project’ing

My parents said that, as a boy, I had a new project every day.

It’s amazing to me that how we function as children we often function as adults. Hopefully more maturely.

I feel so blessed that I have a place in my professional life that demands my very best creative abilities every day.

Today I was thanking the Lord for the opportunity to imagine, design, and create stage sets for a church that embraces and celebrates the arts. It’s a privilege to communicate truth through the wonders of design.

Today my cart was full of goodies from Lowe’s. I joke with the staff there because I rarely use the materials in that store for their intended functions.

I suppose the more mature version of myself was trading Legos for Lowes. ch:

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A Breakdown of Speed

Ask anyone.

They’ll all say they have a busy life. And they’ll all mention how fast time is moving.

But having a gauge on just how fast your life is going can make all the difference on how much you enjoy the moments that are flying by.

Here are some of the tick-marks on my speedometer:

0-10 mph – In this range, I’m relaxed, and most creative thought I have to force to shut down, as well as no talking. Activities include laying in a hammock, napping; at most, reading fiction, at least, sitting on the couch zoned out and on the verge of falling asleep. I’m getting better at making this state intentional, but more often it’s a product of redlining. If I stay here too long, I risk becoming lazy and unproductive; if I don’t frequent it enough, I risk cracking the engine block.

10-20 mph – I’m thoughtful with my time, using it to play with my kids, have casual conversation with family and close friends, read non-fiction, and dream. Oddly enough, most of my creative ideas (as well as direction from the Lord) comes in the shower. This speed seems the most natural, but left here too long and I’ll become discouraged.

30-40 mph – Things are picking up speed as creative ideas demand energy. Tasks around the house get done, and to do lists for artistic and ministry related projects are made, notes gathered. Eventually I’ll leave the home and will have set up shop in my office at New Life. Computers fired up, and starting to engaged with projects. Things feel fresh, and the anticipation of seeing things get fleshed out is exciting. One of the more enjoyable speeds, this pace doesn’t ever last for very long.

40-50 mph – This is where projects take on a life of their own and meet one of three crossroads: #1) they are completed, #2) they are delegated, #3) they are interrupted and delayed. This is a good speed where a lot can be accomplished, but also the place where a lot of #3′s can slam the accelerator to the floor. I’m covering a lot of ground at a pretty good clip, feeling extremely productive.

50-60 mph – This tends to be the speed at which things can go wrong. One completed project provokes another; a delegated project comes back with problems; a present project gets interrupted numerous times. This is typically where frustration sets in. Road conditions, spiritually speaking, are also amplified due to the increase of speed and of the greater handling demands. If my energy level is still high and I have a good team around me, this speed is manageable for a good part of the day. But I often find myself asking for wisdom, strength, and favor from the Holy Spirit, especially as deadlines approach and I feel the not-enough-hours-in-the-day effect.

60+ mph – While only a scooter would redline at 60, for the purposes of my example, this is top speed before the engine breaks down. Here I’m going flat out. Teams are operating, projects are in and out of my office, I’m responding to phone calls, texts, emails, and knocks by the minute. I fight to keep people as my main priority and not tasks or interruptions, and try to complete small jobs that can be accomplished in under 2 minutes. Because of the nature of my work and how many different entities I support or carry entirely, my days can reach top speed within the first hour I arrive at the office for days or even weeks on end. My health – one of my ultimate redlining indicators – tends to fade quickly, and I become susceptible to colds, ear infections, and the flu. My wife is telling me to slow down, as are my closest friends. If I don’t slow down, God makes me. And it isn’t pretty.

When looking at this, it must be noted that the proverbial car was meant to drive at all these speeds. Each gear is designed to be used for various purposes. And left in any one gear for too long, and we fall into error. But if you’re using them all, someone will always criticize you:

“How come you’re being so lazy?” – The person that says this probably doesn’t know you well, and didn’t see your work week. Just smile and nod, and go back to reading your book.

“Slow down or else you’ll burn out!” – Whoever tells you this probably doesn’t know your home-life habits, nor do they understand the weight of reaching souls. There is little time.

The key is finding your stride, your pace. Knowing what gear to transition through or hold in, and when.

There’s a certain rhythm to driving, and being able to anticipate the course ahead – something the Holy Spirit is pretty amazing at – will help you know what gear to be in and for how long. ch:

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5 Tips on Collaboration

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To some, the word collaboration makes them feel threatened. To others, it’s how they operate in life on a regular basis. But no matter what your perception of the word, in some way, shape, or form, you will eventually collaborate with someone on something. Whether you’re a stay-at-home mom making brownies with your three year old (quite the task, I know…just watching the aftermath made me want to stay out of the kitchen), or a business executive planning your next acquisition, at some point you’re going to have to work with others. And it’s probably safe to assume you already have on multiple occasions.

Successfully learning how to navigate the waters of co-laboring can turn collaborative efforts into gold mines of creative output, where failing to will dig wastelands of “I’m never doing that again as long as I live.” With the reality being that if we are to be successful in life, salesman, architect, mom, musician, or pastor, embracing a few fundamental rules on the Kindergarten concept of “playing well with others” can go a long way in helping. Here are a few I’ve found to be helpful:

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1.) Designate a Point Person. In any project, there needs to be a person with whom the proverbial (and sometimes literal) buck stops with. No Utopian communal program here. All projects need to have an executioner, the person in a place of command who says it’s done. Creative types will want to tweak it for the next twenty years, and even then it won’t be “finished,” while pragmatists will have it functional it a day (even if it is ugly as sin). In both extremes, the Point Person has the ability to prompt a team to go to greater lengths while also knowing when to put the operation to bed.

2.) Consensus, Not Unanimous. I was once taught that “unity is not uniformity.” Unity, rather, is being able to agree on the same goal, regardless of method. If your goal is to get everyone to agree, have fun. To quote Mr. Scott, “I [You] just can’t du’ it, Captain!” One of the reasons a team is strong is because they all have different opinions (at least, that’s how you should pick members of a good team when you have the opportunity). Instead, look for ways to get a consensus on a particular issue; while everyone may not be in agreement that it’s the best way to achieve the goal, they will be able to agree that it’s the most common means given the group’s diverse members.

3.) Compromise Promotes Ownership. Similar to #2, being able to relinquish your own opinions–even when they are legitimately the best–is an essential quality of good leadership. I recently heard a Christian church leader say that the only two instances they will ever interrupt someone they’ve given a task to is when the person is either not producing any results over time, or is theologically in error. While the net result may not be what you want it to be, allowing people the opportunity to let their ideas be the ones that stick ultimately promotes team unity, and therefore pride in project.

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4.) Share Canvases Carte Blanche. Most people feel that when someone criticizes their work, they are criticizing them personally. But for those experienced with separating their personal identity from their creations, having someone analyze their efforts undoubtedly brings strength to the finished concept. Developing a smooth system of passing work back and forth, from vision to manufacturing, is also critical. When writing books with a co-author, we share one master Scrivener file; when designing graphics for a church campaign, we play PhotoShop tennis; and when writing new material for a CD, we trade MP3 files like baseball cards (with a bit less drama). In all cases, we do not “track changes,” or keep a list of what we did; the team has the ability to do whatever they want to the work. No questions asked. This ensures everyone gets a say, and as the work is passed around and around and around, it begins to become “our creation,” not “my creation.”

5.) Open Air Policy. One of the best policies that Senior Pastor Kirk Gilchrist put into place at New Life Christian Church, is a strict “open air policy.” Meaning, we say what we mean to say, and everything stays in the open. No grudges, no harboring resentment. This must be tied with a deep feeling of genuine love for the other teammates (or at least trust to some degree, if “love” is too strong a word given your situation). But knowing I can say anything about any idea is incredibly freeing, and actually lends to the efficiency and effectiveness of the collaborative process.

Remember, a better result can always be expected when you’re collaborating with people at their best, submitting their best. I deleted a few further tips (and might save them for a future post) as I didn’t feel this was supposed to be an exhaustive list, but rather something to reflect on in the midst of your current team project, or one you’re about to leap into. Read this post for more thoughts on leading teams.

What collaborative effort are you in the midst of right now? ch: