Day 13 – Tuesday – A day off sort of…
So, don’t think me lazy – I’m taking the day off from work. Home office is cool with it because I hardly ever take a personal day. I’m their dedicated, successful and committed cog in a wheel of a machine. And I’m getting back one of my wasted weekend days (stomach sickness if you recall). I will still be productive though. I am sleeping in until 10 o’clock and then I will head over to Halo Architects and Gone Virtual Studios. These are the companies who are building the church I have only been to twice. I guess I am weird to get involved but I’m a curious guy. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Okay. Here are the highlights of my day. Sleeping in felt amazing. The bed in my corporate housing suite is sweet (see what I did there…) It’s perfectly comfortable and my body gave me a fist bump for lying on this bed for longer than usual. After this excellent snooze, I sauntered down to where breakfast is served and I chewed slowly some fruit and granola. Then I took my time driving. I drove at a leisurely pace and arrived right on time for my meeting. And the meeting was amazing for me – not because I realized that I would be invaluable to these guys’ efforts for this particular church design. It was because I got to meet some very hardworking and creative fellows who were nice enough to let me shadow them as they put the church design together in front of me. It had already been done and presented to the church, but I got to see the 3D animations and architectural renderings they used to stage out a church design project. It was fascinating. I never thought this sort of high-tech business would exist in Lubbock, Texas but it does. They would fit right in in LA or New York but they choose to run their national juggernaut in the Hub of the Plains.
Anyway, I bought the staff lunch for letting me in on their business and I asked if they could see a role for me in the future marketing of this design. The reason I asked about doing something once the end of the project was because I could tell they had their own in-house power marketing skills being utilized from start to finish. They were in charge of everything (of course with the church giving plenty of input). They staged everything from church dialogues to budgeting and fundraising. The technology meeting up with strong work ethics was very impressive. In response to my question, the head guy told me that I might ask the church leaders how I might be an effective internal change agent as they prep their congregation through small groups. I said I would do just that and said that if they ever needed me to come by and buy lunch again, I’d do it. He laughed and told me he appreciated my caring about their business.
Then all of the sudden it was like something in his head clicked. He said, “I actually just thought of something you could do for our company as a whole if you are willing. Is Search Engine Optimization (SEO) something that you use in your marketing?” I smiled and nodded. “Yeah man. It’s one of the main things I offer companies. Then he asked if I would do some inbound marketing for them. They needed their websites to be optimized. They wanted to let more of the nation know they existed. I told him I would be happy to and we agreed to meet in a week or so to discuss how that would work.
So, my day off ended up being a great day where I could rest up and also help a church and its architects using SEO. By the time I got to this journal, I was feeling as if my life was being guided by the Lord, which is a fantastic feeling. I went to bed and slept soundly with no dreams of fish gills or treasure chests.
Day 12 – Monday again – Feeling better
Same routine in the morning from my Lubbock corporate housing spot – wake early, pool, breakfast (a light one since I’m just getting back into stride with my belly), and then off to meet with clients. I ran into the three traveling nurses in the lobby on the way out and they briefly told me about their weekend. They went to see the Buddy Holly museum (it was much smaller than they had imagined) and then they stuck around in what is known as the depot district to have some fun. The depot district is where there are a bunch of bars and clubs where people blow off steam after a tiring work week. Also, there is a lot of live music that they told me was quite good. They said they went to La Diosa, which is a classy wine bar. It was a good time and none of them got drunk and sick this time – always a plus. I sort of have a crush on all of them – “A traveling crush” – one that will never lead anywhere but still makes the heart beat fast. Melissa still acts a bit embarrassed by her pledge of semi-love towards me on the night of The Office. But the other two are always looking to innocently flirt with me. It’s nice to have that going on because it makes me know I am somewhat attractive and somewhat worthy of flirtation. Sometimes I forget that I do have something to offer in the ways of a romantic connection. I’m no 20-something Brad Pitt, but apparently I am close to being a young Tom Selleck with the charm of Jimmy Stewart. Not a bad catch. Plus even though I am in my early 40’s, I get mistaken for late 20’s and early 30’s – That doesn’t hurt either.
Why don’t I have a girlfriend? Why am I not married? Long story told quickly – I had a fiancée and we were right on the doorsteps of marrying. This was two or three years ago. I was totally sold on her and I thought she was totally sold on me until we went to a marriage therapist that really dug in on questions we had not talked about. We found that we both had deal-breakers in several areas and they were not the sort that could be compromised. Thus, the hard breakup. Since then I’ve had a few good Christian girlfriends, but not one that stood out enough to be my lifetime helper and ally. And I’m sure I wasn’t their knight in shining armor.
Relationships, especially in marriage, are harder than most people consider until they get married and the harsh truth comes up leading to sadness and even divorce. I recommend to all of you readers out there to go to a marriage therapist before you get married. I also recommend a set of books by Ben Donley called: “I Guess I Do: The Ultimate Marriage Survival Guide. These books don’t play around and they get you to really think about the hard things in marriage. Anyway, I am not impatient and if I end up alone, I can always get a dog that loves me (for the food I give him).
Back to life in the here and now: My days with clients was good. I didn’t have to do much selling because they were ready to go when I got there. So, once again, I didn’t have to work a full day. So, I called up to the church and told them about what I wanted to do for them pro bono. They were wide open to it and so I got the number to the church architects and asked them if I could come by and look at their architectural renderings and church design. They were busy, but said they could give me some time tomorrow to explain the whole process of what they were doing and to see if my skill set was important or even necessary.
So, that will happen tomorrow – that is if I get my work done early again.
Day 10/11 – Saturday/Sunday – Back to Lubbock-land and the ER
Well it was bound to happen at some point – especially after being boastful about not getting sick for two years. Saturday morning I had such a terrible stomach ache that I could hardly move. I tried to man up and not let it get to me. I tried to refuse the reality of whatever was causing this sickness, but I could not get past it. It got to the point that I had to leave my comfortable Lubbock Corporate Housing spot and head to the Emergency room. But this wasn’t just any Emergency Room located at a hospital, which would have left me waiting for hours in massive pain and then mostly looked over quickly by the staff who would tell me I had had too much cheese (might be correct since I am lactose intolerant and have been eating a lot of ice cream – Klondike bars and such). Still I didn’t end up in one of those rooms. I instead took myself to a place called West Texas ER. When I got there I was the only patient in the waiting room and the papers I filled out were minimal. Then I was taken back to the ER room where I was treated seriously.
I will admit something to you – I hate giving blood and I especially hate getting IVs. But as they jammed an IV into my arm I really didn’t mind. I just put a cold washcloth over my face so I could not see anything and let them hook up all sort of medications to make me forget about the pain that had been crushing me. The doc was funny and cool. I even got my first CAT scan (abdomen) and was overall treated very well. The problem was that they could not help me in the moment. I had a serious case of intestinal blockage and it would take stool softener and some other something taken for 3-4 days before I would lose the pain totally and be able to work at my highest capacity. Still, it was a nice experience that only cost me $500. Yes, that’s right – $500 even with my insurance. I love shelling out $500 an hour of my Saturday afternoon. Seriously, who wouldn’t?
Anyway, after getting back to my Lubbock suite, I took my meds and decided to take the down time to do some research on church design, 3D animation, Texas colleges and Lubbock homes for sale. Basically, I pulled out my computer so I could learn more about my new church and my marketing sales I had taken on. After all, I could just lie there and just waste time on poor Saturday and Sunday TV or I could get ahead on my reports back to the home office. So that’s what I did. And after looking over the church reports, I decided that I would approach the leadership and offer my help in their efforts to market and pitch their plan pro bono.
Why not? It might be nice to do something for free.
Day 9 – Friday – A strange work force –
Friday – my second day in Midland (which happened to be a waste of business time, because I was able to do everything yesterday) was mine to spend however I wanted. That’s the beauty of my job – If I can get my job done earlier than was predicted, I am given the extra time to do as I please. Cool, right? But, it’s not like I am in San Francisco or Toronto – There is not much to see. But, I did get a strong sense of the Boom and Bust mentality that has owned this town for years and years. It feels like a very large and very wealthy suburb drenched in memories and promises of oil. I crossed paths with several of the locals and just got a feeling that I was unwanted here. I felt like a fish out of water for sure and I’m not exactly sure where this comes from. Maybe I feel insecure around so many rich people – feelings just coming from within me. These residents are all probably very nice. I am probably just judging them unfairly. To be fair, the people working in the lobby of my Midland Corporate Housing Unit (I sound like a robot saying it like that, but to me it’s fun because that’s how it is listed on my company’s expense report – I find fun easily, huh?) are exceptionally nice and well-paid as it turns out.
While eavesdropping near the counter and semi-flirting with a hotel lobbyist, who actually happened to have graduated from the Texas college I recently visited in Snyder, I heard her co-workers talking about how much they make per hour. I was interested because I figured it was probably around minimum-wage (not because I am a jerk but instead because I come from a Capitalist world that de-values the common human by setting wages as low as possible for those outside of the plutocracy).
Anyway, I butted my way into their conversation and asked them if they would tell me what they made per hour. I was shocked when they told me a starting wage there was $17 per hour. My mouth sort of fell open. “Double minimum wage?” Had communalism and equality led to living wages right here in Midland? They laughed when I seemed so shocked and one of the older ones said, “Once the oil and the fracking came back here, the labor force went for the big money in that industry and left a huge gap in the regular businesses.”
I nodded my head and just said, “Wow.” Another of them said, “Most of us commute in for 45 minutes because the pay is so good. Plus we sort of have to because we couldn’t afford the housing costs out here in Midland.”
Now it all makes sense. I bet church capital campaigns out here have no problem raising funds for whatever church design is desired. Or maybe they do. Selfishness and tightly closed wallets live everywhere.
Day 8 – Thursday – Beds and Breakfasts and Special Soap
The bed and breakfast I stayed in last night was good. I was the only guest and was given the “Love Shack”. The “Love Shack” was a small cabin that was quite quaint. It’s bathroom was stocked with everything a traveler would need. It even had special soap, which is cool because I have a thing for special soaps. I am not a man’s man who hunts and fishes and climbs big rocks – I am just fine reading books and smelling like Lavender and Honeysuckle. I think I should be a salesman for Bath and Body Works. Think what you want about me, but I like to smell more like fruit than just skin.
Sorry that was a bit tangential.
Besides the special soap, I got a wide-open sky filled with stars you cannot see in the city. I stared up and wondered if I was as significant as I usually think I am. Wide open skies and a full moon tend to shrink a man’s sense of size and importance. They also remind me that my God is not just an intelligent designer – He is a creative one. I was left in awe and thanksgiving as I put my head to the pillow.
When I awoke, I was greeted with a special breakfast of perfectly scrambled eggs, crispy bacon, scones and fresh orange juice. And this was not even the best part of my stay. The owner of this B&B was a 75-year old spitfire who spent breakfast time with me. She was fun to hang out with on these many acres of land she owned. I felt more than welcome. I learned a lot about her and about Snyder. It turned out that this Marianne was a large and strong voice in county politics and had been helping make Snyder into a town to be reckoned with – She was a forward thinker and she could spin a good story that made me not want to leave. But I had to. I marked this place as one to visit again some day.
Anyway, I had to drive to Midland for two days and work a couple of days to broker a few deals with two oil companies. While there, I stayed in a Midland Corporate Housing Space that was just as nice as the one I had in Lubbock, which makes sense since this place was owned by the same company. It didn’t hit the spot as well as the Windmill Ranch B&B, but it was nice to have a place I was familiar with – the pool and the breakfast and the amazing customer service. To be honest I think I could live in these short-term furnished apartments for at least a year. They are so comfortable and even though they don’t have special soap, I can use my own.
So, the days in oil-rich Midland were fine. I was successful with one of the companies and met with a “maybe” by the other – I hate “maybe” because it means I wasn’t able to do what I was sent out to do. I’ll go back there in a month and turn that maybe into a yes – keep my perfect streak going. I’m a perfectionist in my job, which can tend to bite me when I mess up a sale or market a company in ways they don’t approve of – It hits me in my ego and drops it to an 8 count knee drop. This is something I need to deal with unless I want to explode from feeling less than.
Day 7 – Wednesday Dreams and Drives
I woke up early and did my normal laps in the pool followed by a slower breakfast. I keep thinking about the dream I had last night. It was strange to say the least and I know it is missing some crucial pieces I cannot recall. I’m not sure that Freud could have interpreted this properly (Did Freud interpret anything very well?) Anyway, in the dream I had square cinder blocks on my feet making it difficult for me to walk. I was almost shuffling toward the deep end of the pool so I could jump in. Right before I jumped, Tom (the shed man) yelled at me to stop. “You’ll drown,” he said. I paused a moment and looked down and at the bottom of the deep end – there was a treasure chest that I really wanted to open and so I waved Tom off. How dare he stop me from procuring some pool-based booty? Right then, Melissa the nurse comes up from behind me and gives me a shove. I hit the pool’s bottom and Melissa follows me down. As I stand there with these cinder-blocked feet, Melissa swims over and touches my neck where suddenly gills grow. I can breathe underwater. She smiles and disappears. I make my way to the treasure chest and I’m able to open it easily. Inside I see a version of myself all folded up and contorted. It’s me staring back at the me who is a sort of flesh origami piece. Then boom, I wake up. If any of you can interpret that for me, I’d appreciate it. Maybe I am Aquaman. Or maybe I need a really good psychiatrist.
So that was my night adventure.
As for today’s adventure, I had to make a quick hour drive to Snyder, Texas where one of the top-ranked small Texas colleges is located. (They are known as one of the best colleges in Texas) After a four-hour meeting and a successful marketing pitch (we would now take over all of their online marketing), I decided to visit the small town’s square. I was glad I did because I happened upon a small diner that served one of the best Reuben sandwiches I had ever eaten. I also struck up several conversations with locals who were probably wondering why a young man in a suit was entering their lunch space. Everyone I spoke to there was decent and nice but I did sense a sort of suspicion in their replies to my questions. If I saw me, I’d probably be suspicious too.
The rest of the day was mine and so I grabbed a few beers from some place where the blue collar oilmen hung out and even visited the local museum. I don’t know why I did that because I absolutely despise museums. Finally, I decided to stay overnight at a Bed and Breakfast called The Windmill Ranch. I might tell you more about that in my next article.
Until then, dream on!
Day 6 – Tired Tuesday
For some reason I didn’t pop out of bed this morning. Do you ever have those random days that seemingly come out of nowhere when you feel a very heavy heart and even heavier covers? Do you ever have those days when you know you have a lot to do, but you don’t even want to enter the fray – when you just want to stay in bed and download sadness until it deletes itself? I think most of us have and I know that this Tuesday morning is just one of those types of days. I cannot for the life of me trace the source of these feelings. I haven’t remembered any loss or tragedy and nothing has happened to punch me in the gut. But, so it goes. I kneel down in the shower and let the spray of the warm water hit me from all sides. It’s a bit like a prayer mixed with a full-on surrender. My eyes well up with tears and I let a few fall. It must be the loneliness breaking through. I didn’t have time for the pool and all I can do is grab an apple from the breakfast bar and be on my way. Shaking my arms as if these feelings can be shaken off. As I get into my car, I recall an old voice that does help. The voice was from my late father and it always says the same thing: “Think of others.” I say it aloud and it immediately does something positive to me. I get out of my own head and start to think of all of the rest of humanity surrounding me. I think of their suffering. I think of their busyness. I throw up a prayer for them and I am able to take my first deep breath of the day. I pull away from the curb at my Lubbock corporate housing – my home for this time and I smile a bit. I’ve beaten back the fetal position self-pity and I’m off to see a realty company who I have heard needs our help.
After getting to my first and main stop for the day, I quickly realize why this residential and commercial real estate company is considered to be one of the best in the nation. And with all of the new Lubbock homes for sale, I can see the realtors buzzing about making deals and placing people into their best life spaces. Homes for sale in Lubbock is a major industry as the city grows up and out. And after meeting with the leadership and figuring out how we can do the little bits of marketing they need to go to an even higher plane of business, I start thinking what it would be like to actually live in this town. I wonder what it would be like to just move here and experience the fullness of life that Lubbock has to offer. But then I step outside of Coldwell Banker and am hit with a gust of dirty air and see that a tumbleweed has been blown underneath my car.
Moving to Lubbock? It’s fine for business and it’s fine for a visit. But I’m not interested in putting down new roots here.
Anyway, I do the rest of my day (ate Taco Villa combo burritos for lunch – cheap and fantastic) and find my way back to my short-term furnished apartment (I think the furniture allows me to call it an apartment.) I say hey to one of the nurses, who is sitting by the pool and decide to grab a book I brought on this junket of sorts to join her. The day started as a challenge. But it has ended well. I’ll be ready for Wednesday. Will it be ready for me?
Day 5 – Monday blues?
I always think of that annoying lady (or was it the waiter or both) in the movie Office Space who asks the main character who is in a bad mood if he “is having a bad case of the Mondays.” I love how frustrated this makes the main character and if someone said this to me on a Monday, I’d probably explode. Mondays don’t bring me the blues. I embrace every day as one that allows me to work hard and try to please God in some way or another. I had and usually do have fun on weekends, but that doesn’t mean I cannot appreciate each day I have on this earth. That attitude doesn’t make me some special human or anything. I do understand why some people live for the weekends – pressure at some jobs can really drop you down – but it’s just not me. I reserve my blues and depression for when I do stupid things that make me feel shame. I tend to dwell in that for longer than I ought to do and it breaks me.
Looking back at my weekend, I have to say it was a blast even though Melissa, the traveling nurse, must have felt a bit of shame after telling me she liked me and then projectile vomited into a can. She had slid a note of apology under my hotel door that Monday morning expressing such and I wrote her back saying, “No worries. I was flattered. We will all have to do that again soon minus the exploding stomach.”
Looking back, I also have the church service in my head – from worship to the sermon to the church design 3D animations, which showed the congregation what was coming if they all came on board. I’m still impressed with the professionalism of it all. Now, some church capital campaigns don’t seem to be necessary at all, but this one made sense to me. I found out that the lead pastor and preacher was in charge of five services each week – one on Saturday and four on Sundays. These five services were not done on a whim – they had to have them because the building they were in did not have enough space for the people coming in. If they completed the vision for the new church, it would mean the pastor could preach at just three services. For the sake of the pastor I hoped they get it done. Anyway, I will be going back to this church for my time here. I’ve even thought about joining one of their small groups to stave off the occasional lonely times.
Okay – moving forward into this Monday I kept up the normal early pool time, breakfast and work times. This work day was a strange one, mainly because I met the VP of new business for an old client. Why was this strange? Well, this guy seemed to be unable to look me in the eyes. He also had an inordinate amount of sweat coming out of his palms and his collar area. He seemed to be a criminal of some sort – someone I wouldn’t trust and couldn’t trust. I know that sounds unfair to characterize him based on his shifty eyes and sweaty person, but it was my first impression. Our whole meeting was filled with him acting quite rude. He seemed to be in a hurry even though the meeting was set for two hours. At the thirty-minute mark, this guy was looking for the door. Maybe he had ADHD or maybe he was on cocaine or maybe he also had an overactive bladder. Anyway, he stood out to me.
All of this judgment I had of him made me think of perceptions – If I had characterized this guy as a weird person in just that amount of time, how were others perceiving me? Maybe I was the weird one and just didn’t know it. It’s something to think about. Do you ever wonder how you are perceived and why? Reputations are often built on perceptions and it’s hard to lose a reputation.
So that is my deep thought for this Monday. I’ll give you Tuesday when it happens.
Day 3.5-4.0: Clubbing and Churching
Just because I am a Christian doesn’t mean I don’t know how to have a good time. There’s nothing in the Bible about not dancing (Thanks Footloose) and there’s nothing about not drinking alcohol as long as it is done in moderation. So, I accepted the nurses’ invitation to join them in going to dance at a local club/bar they had heard of. It was called The Office and it happened to have a band that was playing the best 80’s and 90’s songs. I had already drunk a few beers and felt like waving my arms around and moving my feet as I made a dancing fool out of myself. The nurses were surrounding me and we were all mouthing the words of the songs as we let go of our inhibitions. One of them, Melissa, might have had one too many Cosmopolitans because she was definitely flirting with me – Cosmo goggles were making her see me as attractive, which was fine with me. I thought she was pretty and it felt good to have someone in the crowd focus on me. She kissed me on the cheek and whispered into my ear, “I like you Kevin.” I leaned in and shared the same news with her.
Club crushes are fun, but I know they don’t last. Especially since Melissa was vomiting out her alcohol and dinner 45 minutes later. Me and the other two nurses decided that it was time to get back to our short-term furnished apartments. When we got back “home” I got innocent kisses from the two non-drunks and we all headed to our own spaces.
I slept in on Saturday and pretty much just laid out around the Corporate Housing pool for the day. Friday had been wild enough to make me rest up. I was going to try a church that had a five o’clock Saturday service. It was a big church and I had looked it up on the internet. I thought it would be a good place to kind of disappear among the other congregants. Nothing against small churches – I’ve been a member of a 100 member church once and it was great, but while I’m on the road I like to kind of hang out in the back of a 1,500 member place.
So, my church review: I don’t want to pass any judgment on the whole of the service. It was your standard big church worship followed by announcements and then a pretty dang good sermon that only lasted for 20 minutes. I was actually shocked when the pastor didn’t pull the six-point 45 minutes sermon. It was a relief to me – I have a normal attention span of about 15 minutes and after that I find myself in a brain drift. But I was into this sermon. It was about Lordship and it challenged me to see life different. Beyond these things, I found out that they were in the middle of a church capital campaign, which means that they were raising extra money so they could add some buildings to house their growing numbers. At the end of the service, they showed a 3D animation video and some of the architectural renderings. It was impressive. As a salesman, I appreciated the soft pitch. I decided to give some of my money to it. Why not?
Okay that’s all I’ve got for my weekend. It was a fun and restful time that I fully enjoyed. And I’ll talk more about church campaigns as time goes forward.
Best questions for church architects
When you and your church leadership have decided that your church needs an upgrade or even extra buildings to house the ministries you have going on, you would not want to just grab the first group of church architects you find. Church Capital Campaigns are expensive, time-consuming and energy consuming.
So, what should you ask when interviewing church architects? (This is not going to be some comprehensive list, but as a pastor it’s what I would ask.)
- How much experience do you have designing churches?
- Can I see your full portfolio?
- Can you give me a client list of people who you have worked for before so that we can get direct testimonials from them?
- How large is your team and what size of projects do you typically take on?
- Do you have the capabilities to show the end design before building even begins? In other words, can you create accurate 3D animation and show the congregation your architectural renderings before things get going?
- How much do you charge and how do you charge it? Is there a way for a church to pay something like this off?
- Do you work with churches with budgeting?
- How do you help a church prep it’s fundraising?
- What advice would you give to this church before getting involved with a capital campaign? What are the usual problems that you have encountered and do you help overcome them?
- Do you stage out your work and work off of deadlines that we agree on or do you set the deadlines?
- Are we able to make changes in the church design once everything begins?
- What are your favorite church designs you have seen? Would you draw on those influences to help us build ours?
- Would you help with any neighborhood associations that might not like the fact that we will be building? How would you help us?
- How will you help us match the surrounding areas? We don’t want to build the Crystal Cathedral and upset the balance of the neighborhood.
- Are you Christians and if so, how would you let that influence how you work with us?
Okay – there is a jumping off point for you guys. I hope that this helps you get started. I’ve been through this capital campaign process several times and I can tell you that you are best off asking as many questions as you can before accepting a company’s bid. You don’t want to get stuck with a company that is hard to deal with.