BRKN: New Short Film Shooting This Month

BRKN logo

A new short film from Scott Link Media.

Synopsis: Emily becomes annoyed with her husband’s constant use of his smartphone, but finds more than she bargained for when she takes it from him.

Starring Anna Walker and Derek Henning, BRKN should be released this June.


Lessons From the Other Side of a Burned Bridge

burningbridgeA few weeks ago my main freelance client cut me loose. It was sudden, unexpected and shocking. Now, though on my part I tried to wet the wood, that bridge is thoroughly burned. One week I was the best thing since sliced bread, the next I was cut loose, the next after that I (from the client’s perspective) had tried to rip her off and the relationship is broken. Stop payments had been placed on my checks.

After a couple of weeks of drama, I’m hopefully done with it. I wanted to share some of what I learned.

Be sensitive

In hindsight, even though up front everything was great, she let a few comments slip about finances and desires to do more or different things. While she didn’t broach those subjects specifically, in the end these were major factors fueling the bridge fire.

If I had been more sensitive to what was under the surface, I might have been able to head off the bad part of the break. The break, I fear, was inevitable. But we could have parted much better.

Business, not friendship

Don’t let a long relationship dull your business sense. Our final disagreement really stemmed from a misunderstanding about scope of work I was assigned. I got sloppy, assumed she understood what I was saying because of how long we had worked together. She claims she didn’t know, and didn’t authorize some of the work I did. I was clear about what and how long. But now I know she was preoccupied with finances, and being hit with a bill larger than expected didn’t sit well.

Always be sure both parties know what work you are doing and what you expect to charge. The easiest way to do this is to provide a quote and follow up with an invoice. If you choose not to do this, as I did, then make sure you both understand and agree verbally. Maybe you will get into a weekly gig, and a standing agreement may work. But if you vary from the normal work/payment formula in place, always fall back to quote and invoice. This will prevent a lot of headaches.

This was the fundamental mistake I made.

Have a thick skin
If/when something does go wrong, it’s probably not personal. Try to understand their perspective. Find out what the root of the problem is.

In my situation, she wanted to do more for less money. She ran into a company that said they could do that. So, I was out. Then when I presented my final bill, she was unsure about my charges.

Those two facts resulted in a list of inadequecies leveled at me and the accusation that I was trying to cheat her. I was not doing what this company says it would do for less money, so I must not be as good as an employee as she thought. She did not like my final bill and did not understand why it was higher than expected, so I was trying to rip her off.

Don’t underestimate the power of emotion. We had worked together for a year and a half. While the new deal with the new company might make good business sense, it was hard for her to cut me loose. Creating this list of grievances helped her justify the break to herself.

You won’t please everyone. Even if you are doing your level best, eventually someone won’t be happy. It doesn’t matter that you did amazing work. Or that you were professional in your behavior and attitude. Eventually someone will burn that bridge.

You can’t sit on the side of the bank wondering why. You have to move on to the next project, the next client.

Be professional

When I was in the middle of the “you’re fired” conversation a part of me wanted to just leave. After all, it’s not like this was a real job. It’s freelance. She can fire me any time she likes, I can quit any time I like. I don’t have to like it. But, instead I tried to act professionally. And then she asked me to work a couple more weeks during the transition. I really did not want to do that, but I did need the money.

Before I agreed to that, I talked about what she owed me. I could tell she was surprised, but I reminded her of our previous conversation. She ended up writing me two checks. Half for now, and half post dated. I had picked up on her concerns about cash flow by now, so this wasn’t a surprise.

I told her where the new company could find all the information they would need, and made sure she had everything that she was supposed to have.

When I left we had made a time to shoot one more time. I really didn’t want to, but I agreed to come back and set up some equipment and tape one more time. I was trying to exit gracefully, and not burn any bridges.

It’s OK to stand up for yourself.

When I called the morning of the scheduled shoot I was told that she had decided to put a stop payment on both my checks. These were for work already done. And our shoot for that day was canceled.

That surprised me more than anything. We had a 45 minute polite, but frank conversation. In the end I was able to get one of the checks released. I decided not to pursue the 2nd check because it would take more time than it was worth. The check had been deposited and stopped. I had to wait for it to return and then go cash it. It took a few days, and I assumed we were done at this point.

Then I got an email asking me to do a little more work, and could the amount she already paid me cover it. At this point I was still upset about the way things had been handled. I explained that I had done work for which I had not been paid. If that bill was settled I would be open to helping set up her equipment. But not before I was paid for the work I had already completed. That was not the answer she wanted.

Just because someone asks for something does not mean you have to say yes.

Sometimes being right isn’t the most important thing.

In small claims court I could win hands down. With outside mediation I would come out on top. I could have forced the issue, but what I needed to do is find work to replace the income I had lost. Getting bogged down in trying to get the rest of the money is counterproductive in the long run.

In this case, digging past the nastiness, I believe the root of it all was a major financial need on her part.

God can ask you to do weird stuff.

Of course, through all of this there were naturally times when I was upset. Times when I would cringe when my phone would buzz, hoping it was not another nasty-gram email. It became easy to hold a grudge, to carry hard feelings.

One day, after I had gotten another viscous, rambling email (to which I had responded kindly, but frankly.) I was praying for this person. You see, I find that sometimes the quickest way to get past a grudge is to ask God to bless the person you are mad at. It’s very hard to stay angry at someone when you are asking for God to give them good things. That evening I was doing just that when I really felt that I was supposed to return the money that I had just gotten cleared.

I know, that makes no sense. I was owed more than I’d been paid. But I really felt compelled to return it. So I told her, via email, that I had been praying and felt compelled to return the money she had paid me. I am sure she read all sorts of stuff into that. But God is bigger than this situation.

The next day the bank was open, I did one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in business: send a money order to this woman. Everything in me screamed that this was dumb. But I was sure this was what God wanted me to do. So I mailed it.

Even though you take the high road, sometimes the other person won’t.

A couple of days after the money order had been delivered, I got another email. This one claimed that I had damaged some lights, and said that I needed to replace them within a few days time. Rather than email, I picked up the phone and called.

The “damage” to these lights was one broken bulb in a fixture and a dent in the side of another. The dent had been there longer than I had been working with her, and the fixture still worked. The bulb was a normal fluorescent you can buy at any home improvement store for under $5. Even if the lights had been destroyed, the cost to replace them would be far less than I was owed. This was not high quality gear.

Obviously, when I refused to replace this gear, things were not well received. It was clear that this disagreement would not be resolved, I told her that I was done. Please don’t call or email, or contact me again. She said that I would hear from her lawyer, and hung up.

Keep a record of what has happened.

Through this whole process I kept a record of any phone calls, writing down what we talked about. I kept all the emails. If necessary, I was ready to defend myself.

Luckily, about 20 minutes after I was told to expect a contact from a lawyer, I got another email saying she was dropping everything, and moving on. It’s been a few weeks with no more contact, so I am hopeful this will just fade into memory.

But if it had not, I was ready. Always keep a record of our invoices and payments. And if you find yourself in a bad situation, keep a record of what is said and agreed upon.

As much as you may try to keep from burning bridges, other people may still set them on fire. If you find yourself in this place, it will get better. Things will pass. Focus on the larger picture. This is one client, not your life.

10 Reasons I Love My Wife

Today is my 14th wedding anniversary. I wanted to take a minute and list a few reasons I love being married to my wife.

1. She is funny. She has a great sense of humor. I love to laugh with her. Plus, she makes fun of me a lot. She even has the grace to laugh at my jokes sometimes.

2. She is hot. Seriously, have you seen this woman? This actually happened: A guy walks up to us and looks at her, then me, and says to me, “How did you end up with that?” Leaving aside the fact that he referred to my wonderful wife as “that”… I know, right? How did that happen?

3. She is an amazing mother. My threes kids may be the luckiest on the planet.

4. She is freaky smart. Anything she puts her mind to, she does well. She crammed 4 years of college into less than 3, and still got a 4.0. Seriously, she was taking 21 hours of classes in the summer. I crammed 4 years of college into 7. She teaches our kids at home, and is teaching 5th graders 2 days a week, and is getting her teaching certificate at the same time.

5. She is willing to sacrifice for what she cares about. She has followed me all around the country. Because we wanted what we felt was best for our children, she left her job to raise them, multiple times. She has given of herself over and over again for others.

6. She is good at what I’m bad at. Like finances. Her undergraduate is in finance, and she helps me not spend all our money on gadgets and snack food. In so many ways, she fills in the holes I have.

7. Vegetarian lasagna. OK, I don’t love that, but I do love that she cares about healthy stuff. When she can, she makes sure we eat right.

8. She juggles like a acrobat. She organizes like… an organizer. I don’t know how she does it. I mean, I’m petty good at logistics, but she keeps all three kids on track, runs the house, handles her work load at school, volunteers at church, and somehow keeps her sanity.

9. She is a great cook. I know that sounds sexist, but I don’t mean it like that. She is really good at mixing ingredients into good food. But she is always up for grabbing something on the go. Got a craving? Let’s hit Chipotle!

10. She is a Godly woman. I know I have the title pastor, but her faith dwarfs me.

Happy 14 years, Mandy. I can’t imagine life without you.

Knee Surgery and the Things You Take For Granted

Recently I began having real pain when I walked down stairs. Then it progressed to just walking more than 200 feet. So one MRI later, I was told I had a tear in the meniscus of my knee. There’s isn’t any real cause of this, other than just getting older and some freak twist which happens to catch in the knee. I never even knew i tore it, until it started hurting.

The only way to fix it is arthroscopic surgery. So I found a hole in my schedule and got it done. As far as surgeries go, this one is minor. No issues, and really, you are up and around very quickly. I was off crutches within four days. But, I’m not healed yet.

I am often reminded of just how hurt i still am. All i have to do is forget, an start down or up a stairs case. oops. Yesterday I forgot I was recovering, and squatted down. I can do that if i am moving slow, but wow I sure found out I cannot do it fast right now.

These are simple movements that I never even thought about. You need to go up stairs? Just go. Need to get down to get something, no problem.

The funny thing about stuff you take for granted is that when it’s gone you get surprised. I wonder what other parts of my life and relationships I take for granted every day? I wonder how much I miss them if they were gone?

Stray Oxen: Improving Relationships Through Kindness

If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall bring it back to him. Exodus 23:4 ESV

As a part of the emphasis on “Passion for God” my church is doing this year, we are reading through several books of the Bible together, and one of them is Exodus. The reading from a few days ago took us through the chapters after the 10 Commandments, which also list law after law. Now I know that we are not bound by the Law, and are under grace, but God didn’t make laws for no reason. And the reasons for those laws are worth considering for today. Obviously, some had to do with temples rituals and health that don’t apply to modern life, but many have a moral foundation that can teach us something.

This law in chapter 23, verse 4 jumped out at me. I imagine this scene, a young man is walking down the road, and sees the donkey of a man who hates him wandering loose. He knows that the donkey isn’t supped to be out there. This man has done nothing wrong. It’s not his donkey, and he didn’t turn it loose. The owner hates the man. In modern America, it would perfectly acceptable for the man to just keep on walking with a clear conscience. He did nothing wrong, it isn’t his problem. He is not expected to help a guy who hates him.

But here in the Old Testament, a law telling people to bring the donkey or ox back to the owner, even if he is an enemy.


It goes back to why we are here. What is the meaning if life on earth, and how that applies to this sort of situation. (I know, this is getting philosophical. Even if you don’t like my idea about why we are here on earth, there is another reason, so hang on.) There are two reasons for life on earth, and only two reasons: 1. We are here on this plane of existence to have opportunity to choose God or not. 2. Once we have chosen God, we our mission, our ministry in life is to help others to do the same. that is an extreme simplification of a complicated journey of sanctification that starts with justification by faith in Christ, but there it is. If you ascribe to that view of life’s purpose, you cannot afford enemies. Your whole job, once you have been reconciled to God through Christ, is to be a “minister of the reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5). If you have an enemy, you must do everything in your power to mend that relationship so that you can influence them toward Christ. Going out of your way to do a good thing, to help them is not a bad way to start fixing what’s broken there.

A second reason, which applies even if you think my first reason is messed up, we are supposed to love others. If you love someone, you don’t want bad things to happen to them, even if they hate you. So if it is within your power to help them, you should. That’s why the Law said that if you see your enemy’s ox wandering free, go and take it back to him.

But how does any of that apply to us, now? I don’t own oxen. And if I saw one wandering free, I wouldn’t know how to get it back to the owner.

We may not have oxen or donkeys, but there are times when we encounter situation where we can help others. And the others we encounter may not even be enemies. If we are to try to help our enemies, how much more should we try to help friends and work colleagues, and neighbors?

So yes, they may not have filled out the proper form, but you may be able to help them. It’s not your problem that the wind knocked over the trash can in your neighbors yard, but maybe you can gather it up. That guy at work may get on your last nerve, and it may not be your job to help him, but if you can you should.

Try it and see if your relationships don’t get better.