Easier to give up

Why am I seeing more “Christian” parents with awful children? A blunt and straight question. And why does it seem easier for those “Christian” parents to focus on evangelism outside the home when their own children give Believers a bad name? What’s the pull to “reach the lost”, while their own family suffers under carnal oppression?

I say start in the home.

I have eight – children, that is – four of which we adopted. While we probably drop the Parenting Ball more often than we’d like to admit, I still believe we are heading in the right direction: Train your children to serve the Lord their God so that they may be light and salt for others. Simple? Apparently not. Otherwise, I believe Christians would have the best behaved and well-mannered children around, and the rest of the world would take notice. I’m not talking the long denim skirts, button-up shirts, never speak unless spoken to, 15-passenger van full kid (“not that there’s anything wrong with that”), just the everyday child who understands that authority comes from God. Is it too much to ask Christian parents to drive this point home?

I attribute much of my parenting to my mom and the Marine Corps. Mom showed me how to walk by faith, while the USMC taught me that “discipline is instant and willing obedience to all lawful orders and respect for authority.” I value each day that I require that level of discipline as my children see me walk by faith.

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Lack of progress

It’s official – I’m not getting things done fast enough.

It’s amazing, to actually look ahead, into an “open” month, feeling the freedom to accomplish the most amazing tasks…then suddenly, like a speeding car out of control, I’m fighting for every second of my day to correct my steering and stay true to the road under me. Sure, when bedtime rolls around I’m safely in bed, pondering the chaotic events that demanded my attention while I attempted to navigate the details of my daily travel, but I fear, for good reasons, that tomorrow holds more road-weary struggles. It’s amazing I accomplish…well, anything.

Much of my personal anguish comes from the fact that I don’t ever have enough time to read. Me? Read? It is quite an interesting statement, seeing that I was always the kid that did a book report on a book that was either adapted to the screen, or written as a result of the film’s success – and that I always, by coincidence, had seen the film. With a book report, details (such that change from book to film) didn’t seem to matter. And I always got an ‘A’. Imagine that.

The books I like to read, however, are now ABOUT filmmaking, not of the film itself – save a screenplay (or many). I cannot consume information on directing, screenwriting, casting, agents, writing for TV, financing film, marketing (well, maybe marketing), or the whole process of making movies and producing for TV fast enough. I hunger, with a passion, to know more every day. I’m like a starving man, upon receiving my 8-book order from Amazon, and can’t stand the thought of having to wait till “supper” to sit and read one after the other. It’s sad, really, to be such a book geek.

On the flip side..”History has shown that knowledge is the key to success.  Whether it is embraced or rejected, knowledge of the game equals power on the playing field, and the men who have shaped the world have always known that.” – Michael Flocker, The Metrosexual (Nevermind where I found that quote)

I want that power on the Hollywood playing fields, I want to be a man who shapes the world. “Give me more time,” I beg to the Lord in heaven, “more time each day to consume the knowledge that will make me a powerful player within an industry in need of change!”

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New direction, then a new direction, then a new direction

Diving into full-time production, not commercial work, but bona fide “film” and broadcast production, it’s really hard to know where I should place my eggs – as in, which basket. Although I’ve never understood that phrase, I do understand that it means to limit my portfolio investment, giving particular attention to one area, or project. Should it be a feature? How about a sitcom? Perhaps something like a short film – easier to self-produce and a good way to build a portfolio while honing my craft. The possibilities may not be endless, but they are varied nonetheless.

When picking a project, I try to go with a gut feeling. Which project is burning inside me, grabbing hold of my soul, and screaming for attention? No, that won’t work – every project begs for my attention. Why not settle for the most profitable? Nah, too hard to call. How about the one that cost the least to produce? That makes sense, but am I truly driven to see that project through? How about settling for the one that’s actually written; well, or rewritten, or needs to be rewritten? That just seems to take me back to square one. Crap.

Of all my aimless and misguided – or so it seems – ambitions, I know that the efforts toward each project (although, at times, merely a nibble) payoff in the greater scheme of things to come. I believe firmly that experience is education. Still, the need to complete, to see that one project through, is a great yearning that time alone will never satisfy.

My solemn promise, as this blog is my testimony (and can be deleted), I will accomplish a script, a short film, or a sitcom before the summer is out.

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Trying to finish in order to start

Why is it that trying to start something new requires finishing everything else?  For me, the so easily distractable one, anything left that needs attending will pull my focus away from the new task I have chosen; thereby, creating the shotgun effect of trying to hit everything, but managing only to do a little damage in the wake of the blast.  What I really need is to not allow other things to remain undone, or not to start something new when I haven’t yet completed other tasks.  If I stick to that first item, complete it, then move on, I have managed to stay ahead of the “fall behind” game.

Maybe my real fault is that I’m bad at finishing.  If I could master the art of finishing what I started, maybe I wouldn’t be tempted to start something new ahead of myself.  Tackling one project after the other sounds like a better plan.  Then again, some projects hit dry spots, where things take time and I’d end up sitting around waiting, burning precious “do” time for other projects.  Of course, that gets me back into the “start-finish” cycle, even while supporting productivity.

See what plagues me?!  It’s a wonder I accomplish anything at all.

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Moving forward

Today I made a decision – a decision to leave the fear and doubt, voices of the past, echoing insecurity and loneliness.  Instead, I choose to believe that my life has more meaning and purpose than I have ever allowed myself to see.  Today I will stand, shaking off the garments weighed down with uncertainty and wrap myself in a garment saturated with faith.  For if I am ever going to be the man that God has been preparing me to be, then now is the time to be transformed by the utter and complete renewing of my mind.  To see things as the Lord gives me eyes to see, I must embrace a faith walk – a way so narrow, and often so dark, that the only light will come from knowing that He holds me straight and true.  It is a journey that will take me along difficult choices, relational challenges, and opportunities to jump ship and drown; however, I will hold fast to the truth that I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Lord prepare me, for here I come.

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Finishing what you started

Off to bed after a long day of ‘finish work’.  You know, the stuff that keeps getting pushed aside during a project, that lingers in boxes months (or years) after you move, the last step in the process of completing whatever it is that you started when the thrill of tackling the project fueled you — yeah, that stuff.  I never do the finish work well.

Life is like that for me; well, not in everything (wink).  Coming to that place where the push to be finished runs out of fuel before I drive that last nail.  It’s the inside molding on the front door that went missing for nearly 18 months before I couldn’t stand the sight of it another minute.  It’s the sunroom that started as a weekend project and saw years pass before it was done.  It’s the laundry room sink I buy for Mother’s Day that becomes half a Christmas gift. Or how about the kitchen floor that produced a hole when the old baseboard heaters were removed and now is a targeted location for floor trash.  It’s anything that needs ‘one more thing’ done to it in order to feel truly accomplished.  It’s my story, because I never was a good closer.

I’ll continue to work on finishing what I start, but for now I’m finishing this post to prove it can be done.

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Hard working hands

I spent the month of January building inside the production studio.  I enclosed my office space, providing more privacy from the foot traffic traveling from mudroom to the stairs, as well as built an audio recording.  I had been thinking about building out the interior for about 18 months, since adding the three bedrooms and bath upstairs for the three oldest children.  With those rascals moving upstairs, I felt in some ways my productivity dropped; where I once was alone in the studio for the duration of my work day, now I shared it with others.  And being the easily distractible person I am, constant motion behind me randomly throughout the day was a problem.  At first I considered getting rid of the kids, but then I wondered who would do the dishes.

All that interior construction work got me thinking. There’s something I really enjoy about working with my hands: framing walls, wiring, hanging drywall, mudding and sanding (my least favorite parts), painting, flooring, then hanging doors and adding the fixtures.  I enjoy building.  I enjoy creating something out of raw materials, bringing the potential of that raw material into the reality of what I know it can become.  That satisfies something deep within me.

Whenever I work with my hands I think back to my Shoney’s days.  It was 1988, and I was a waiter.  One of my customers was a woman I had seen there often enough, so when she sat at my table that afternoon I decided to ask about her job.  She was a nice-looking lady but she had a tough demeanor about her, like a cowgirl.  And sure enough, she worked down the road on a horse farm.  She managed the stables, feeding, riding, and tending to the horses while maintained the premises.  Since I have always fancied horses, and loved the idea of riding one, I asked if she needed some help — free labor, of course.  That’s when she asked to see my hands, taking them in hers as if to read my palms. What she said next took me back — “These aren’t working hands.  They’re soft.”  Soft?  Not working hands?  Was this woman blind?  I’m a man (I was 20 years old, after all).  I laughed it off, dropped the check, and went to tend to other tables.

I couldn’t get that interaction off my mind.  Was she right?  Do I have girlie hands?  I couldn’t stand the thought of having anything other than man’s hands, so what was I going to do?  What could I do with my hands in order to impress the next cowgirl I came across?  It troubled me.

To say I never thought about it again after that would be a lie.  In fact, I think often about that day — as in every time I pick up a hammer, fire up the chainsaw, grab a shovel, change a tire, hang a sheet of drywall, turn a wrench, roll up the back door of my grip truck, or a laundry list of other activities.  I thought about it when I was across seas during the Gulf War, when I worked with a traffic barricade company, when I built my kid’s first playground set, and when I first broke ground to plant a garden.  I think about it every time I do anything with my hands. These hands might have been soft back in the day, but not anymore.

I think I’m ready to meet the next cowgirl.

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A birthday for Mom

The children made cards for their mom this year (typical of most birthdays), however, Rachael went a step further and wrote a poem. So without further delay, enjoy:

The biggest job in the world by far
It is also very hard
Yet rewarding all the same
It’s exciting, and rarely lame

She has to be a hair stylist and cook
She has to read a lot of books
Not only to her kids for fun
But to learn how, until the job is done

She’s a secretary, librarian, and a nurse
She has to carry a huge purse
In the purse, she has THE BRAIN
It keeps her life in a single lane

One of her biggest jobs is to teach
And she also loves the beach
Swim in the ocean, ride the bikes
It is something she really likes

Her favorite food is Chinese
She says, “Oh, Howard, please!”
So they go down to China Wok
Eat some rice, and have a talk

She’s in love with Daddy, it is true
And she makes good potato stew
She is also very cheap
She picks up furniture off the street

Paul says, “For ailments, take some wine”
So she does, when she has the time
She loves coffee very much
And she’s a fan of cream and such

We love her so much, we cannot deny
Especially when she makes us apple pie

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