The African Queen

I’m Blogging through the AFI top 100 you can see the other entries by clicking here here.

The African Queen is number 17 on the top 100 and it is unusual in several ways. For one, it’s the first movie on the list that I’ve watched that is less than two hours. It’s also the first non-drama that I’ve watched. The movie itself was unique at the time of its release in that it was shot on location in Africa using technicolor cameras. Technicolor wasn’t new, but it was rarely use outside of the studio backlot since the process required larger cameras.

If you haven’t watched this film, or if you haven’t watched it since it was restored in 2009 I recommend you head on over to your Netflix box and tune it to the African Queen’s frequency. The film is short, family friendly, and enjoyable by anyone who likes film.

The movie starts in a Methodist Mission Church (yeah, for reals) in Africa where Audrey Hepburn and her brother are ministering to the locals. Humphrey Bogart shows up to deliver some supplies via his small river boat, the African Queen. He tells them that a war has started in Europe. Shortly after he leaves the Nazis attack and burn down the village. The tribesmen flee and Hepburn’s brother dies shortly after. When Bogey returns to find the village in ruins and only Hepburn alive he offers to give her a ride up river. Shortly thereafter Hepburn’s character suggests that they go on a mission to sink the Nazi boat on lake Victoria.

They embark on a journey to navigate a part of the river that had previously been deemed impassable by boat. In the process they have some conflict and eventually (of course) fall in love. Whatever else this movie is; an adventure, a WWII movie – it’s primarily a romantic comedy which makes it very different from everything I’ve watched up to this point. It’s great fun and I really recommend that you check it out if you haven’t watched it before.

Goodfellas

Goodfellas is one of the films that I’ve studied the most without ever having watched all the way through. Goodfellas and the Godfather are referenced a great deal in pop culture – to the point that I spend a great deal of the time watching both saying “oh that’s where that’s from.”

The movie’s cinematography was somewhat groundbreaking. Many scenes take advantage of Steadicam motion for at least a portion of the scene and a few scenes are comprised entirely of one long shot. While this wasn’t the first time these techniques had been used it was the first time they had been used this well and to this extent.

The interesting thing about this being on the AFI top 100 is that the movie relies heavily on narration throughout the film, which is a big no-no in screenwriting. Narration is seen as a shortcut wherein the person is often telling instead of showing, but in this case it’s totally necessary for the expediency of the plot which covers a lot of ground, and they do a good job of showing and telling whenever possible.

Like many critically acclaimed movies, this movie’s plot is not terribly straightforward. Most popular, blockbuster movies have a clear objective, a singular clear conflict which, once resolved, resolves the plot. Many of the AFI top 100 have multiple smaller conflicts that resolve far before the movie is over. It’s less about a singular conflict and more about the events that shape the characters. Goodfellas is about the characters, who are played masterfully by the top-notch cast which is why it’s held in such high regard.

The story is odd because at it’s core it’s about a guy who seems to enjoy the perks of being a gangster, and oddly his wife is attracted to him because of the lifestyle, yet it comes at high costs with threats to his life and jail time. When he’s forced to leave the “Goodfellas” he still misses the adrenaline rush of organized crime. While not as laborious as others this film isn’t exactly what I would call it entertaining, though for those with a taste for a great deal of yelling, cursing, violence this might be more up your alley. I was shocked to find out at the end that this is true story about a real man who really went into witness protection. Like all movies on this list it’s well acted and well written, but like many movies on this list I could live without ever seeing it again.

The Godfather

I’m embarrassed to say that this was my first viewing of the Godfather. Yes, I know I should’ve watched ut years ago. My dad wasn’t that into gangster movies and I wasn’t begging to watch them, then I just never got around to it. It wasn’t that I didn’t know it was a good movie or that I wasn’t interested, I knew it was going to be a heavy movie and most of the time whenever the opportunity arose I wasn’t in the mood to live through that.I’m sorry. Now that I’ve gotten through that I get to entreat you to the thoughts of a person who has an MFA and just watched the Godfather for the first time.

Just like the rest of these movies no one needs me to tell them that the Godfather is an excellent movie. I suppose that what I was the most surprised at was how much I found the movie to be enjoyable. I say that because many (if not most) of the movies on the AFI top 100 are laborious dramas where the plot is secondary to the characters and acting trumps intrigue. The Godfather has a clear plot that meanders a bit, but doesn’t get lost in the weeds too much. Despite its long runtime it manages to keep interest and made me want to keep watching.

I’m also embarrassed to say that aside from the original Superman that this is the first film I’m watched featuring Marlon Brando. I’m eager to get to the others on the list that have in the lead. But I’ll talk about him more when I get to those films. The true feature character of The Godfather is young Al Pacino starts the film trying to deny “the family business.” But ends the film having dawned (pun intended) the title of “Godfather.” It’s the story of generational sin. It speaks to the reality that many people live with; the seeming impossibility of avoiding becoming your father, or at least grappling with his sins.

The drama of the movie and the characters are all fantastic, but the thing that makes the movie truly great are the moments of dissonence with that drama. “Leave the Gun, take th cannoli.” being spoken simply after disposing of someone. Or a scene wherein the senior Don plays in the garden with his grandson as if he were a normal grandfather. It’s this combined with the drama, the acting, the dialogue, and the excellent cinematography that make this movie so unusual.

Raging Bull

I’d heard of the film Raging Bull, knowing that it was critically acclaimed, it starred a young Bobby DeNiro, and it was about a boxer. I’d seen a few clips from the film, but I’d never really known much about it. I was surprised to find out that it was based on a true story – not just a true story but on the main character’s autobiography.

This is another film (one of many in the AFI top 100) that is in the category of movies about a tragic male lead. Movies like this feature someone who has multiple flaws, in this case it is the famous boxer’s pride and paranoia. The story is a sad one, about a guy who never really found any sense of contentment. He alienated his brother, beat his wife, and took the fall multiple times due to pressure from power the be.

The film was shot in black and white even though it was released in 1980. While not unheard of, it’s rare enough that you have to sit up and take notice of anyone who chooses to do it when the option for color is standard. The cinematography is impressive to say the least, with one of the most famous push-pull shots in cinema history during one of the fight scenes.

The film is never what I would describe as “entertaining” or “enjoyable” but it is well acted and apparently truthful. I would also put it in a category as “these people just need Jesus.” I know it’s boring and cliché of me to say, but the people in the story would all have had much more easy, enjoyable lives – albeit more boring ones – if they’d submitted their lives to Christ – it’s not the first time I’ve said that about a film and it won’t be the last.

DeNiro’s performance is the most impressive part of the film – he plays a character through multiple life stages which is always challenging, and always powerful when a single actor can successfully play those different season of life. The details of the plot are mostly forgettable and the movie’s black and white color scheme makes it all tend to blend together. Having said that, there’s no doubt that it’s an impressive feat.

Citizen Kane

I’m blogging through the AFI top 100. You can see all of them here.

So, according to the American Film Institute Citizen Kane is the best film of all time. That’s a pretty heavy burden for any film to carry. It’s also perhaps why I haven’t gotten around to watching it until now. I wanted to reserve a time where I could devote my attention to the film and appreciate it for all its worth. I don’t even like to pick a single “favorite” film of my own. The biggest problem with Citizen Kane is it’s label. I can see that it’s a phenominal film, but for most of the movie I found myself having a hard time not repeatedly asking “Is this really the best film of all time?” Regardless, it is undoubtedly a remarkable film. Any movie that spans the lifetime of a larger-than-life character is an ambitious undertaking. Capturing the whole of the human experience in less than the span of a work day is something we take for granted in the film world, yet it’s no small task.

The movie of course tells the story of Charles Foster Kane who was a millionaire media mogul turned failed politician played by Orson Welles who also wrote, directed, and produced the film. It is dangerous for a director to write, direct, produce, and star in their film – as it’s possible they’ll become insulated and not hear the feedback necessary to make adjustments. More often they turn out less like Citizen Kane and more like The Room. Every aspect of this movie is admirable, but perhaps the most impressive thing is the performance of Orson Welles himself, who really does appear to be a man at many stages of life from the ideals of young adulthood to the unrest of middle age to the jaded disappointment with his life in old age.

This film is about a man who gained everything and died wealthy and largely unhappy. The movie starts with his death and his famous last word “Rosebud.” The movie then tells the sad progression of his life through interviews with his business partners and wife. The entire time the reporter who is doing the interviewing is trying to find out the significance of this final utterance, and yet, no one seems to know what “Rosebud” means. If you, like me already knew the ending of the movie it’s hard to imagine what it was like for those who hadn’t heard the original meaning of rosebud.

Ultimately we’re left with many potential takeaways. One of them is the simple reality that money cannot buy happiness. Though, I’m sure Daniel Tosh would be quick to point out that Mr. Kane never own a wave runner. Toward the end in a scene where Kane tears apart a room full of expensive possessions, we see what money and self focus earn a man and a yearning for the simple days of his youth. Something many Americans can identify with, which is perhaps why this has earned its place as the number one film of all time.

Blogging through the AFI 100

Last month I completed my Masters of Fine Arts in Film. An MFA is the highest degree one can earn regarding film, and yet I’m struck by the amount I still don’t know about the subject. Primarily I’m embarrassed at the number of classic films that I haven’t seen. I decided a while back that upon finishing my degree I would watch the the American Film Institute’s top 100 films. I’ve watched many of them, but most of them will be new to me. I’m making it my goal to reflect on each film, whether I’ve seen it or not, for 300 to 500 words each. My hope is that it will make me more informed as a film scholar and more cultured as a film maker. So here goes nothing.

15 Steps to Navigate Conflict – Ice Cream For Breakfast Part 3

There are plenty of good blog entries, books, and sermons about a Biblical look at handling conflict, and there doesn’t need to be another. This instead is a collection of practical steps I’ve learned to take when walking through conflict to achieve minimum blood loss. Each of these steps represents a lesson that I’ve learned in my life, many of them very recently.

I’m terrible at dealing with conflict, at least my natural tendency is to be terrible at dealing with conflict. Though I’m still not great at it, I think that over the last ten years I’ve gotten much better at dealing with conflict largely due to the fact that I’ve listened to lots of good advice on the topic. There are several related books I would recommend. In college I read The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People which talks a lot about conflict, especially in habits 4,5,6. I also read The 5 Dysfunctions of at Team which outlines the way to diagnose conflict in its early stages. Pretty early on in my career, my boss recommended that I read Crucial Conversations and Leadership and Self-Deception. I also recently read Boundaries and Daring Greatly – which I’d recommend for everyone as well. All of these books have contributed to my understanding of conflict.

Before I jump in I do want to say that I’m not really addressing the issue of abuse in this entry. This list is about necessary conflict, not unnecessary rude and or hurtful behavior. So when I talk about staying and fighting it out, I’m not saying that a person should stay in an abusive situation. I’m saying that you shouldn’t give up on a necessary argument when it gets heated. the book Boundaries is probably the best book about dealing with emotionally abusive people and I recommend everyone read it. If you’re in a physically abusive relationship don’t bother with the book; find help and get out now.

The reality is that in adulthood you need to fight your own battles. If you call yourself and adult, never let a parent, a boss, a friend, a spouse, and definitely not a child fight a battle that only you should be fighting. Aside from the fact that getting more people involved in a conflict rarely makes it easier, if it is truly your battle then the easiest route to its resolution is going to be through your involvement – not through someone else’s.

I’m addressing conflict between coworkers and friends, but I believe most of these could apply to marriage as well. I just can’t speak to that from experience. I will say that a major difference in a relationship is that the relationship has to take precedence over who is “right” whereas in a work situation, you can’t have a productive environment if you can’t first agree on basic truths – and to do that you might have to have some conflict.

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[home_callout2_line]#1 CHOOSE[/home_callout2_line]
[home_callout2_line bg_highlight=”true”]YOUR BATTLES[/home_callout2_line]
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This one is pretty cliche, and, at least in my experience, Christians are more likely to avoid conflict entirely than to be overly aggressive, but it is a challenge for some. One of the things that is important to realize when dealing with people is that everyone has an emotional bank account with you. Not that everyone keeps score, but everyone has a natural need for there be a balance of trust versus questions, of compliments and criticisms, of endorsements or arguments. Keep this in mind when choosing which conflicts to pursue. Just like with a fiscal bank account, you don’t want to spend all your equity on something and then realize later that you need it for something more important. Be sparing with your choice of what to challenge and how far to take it. Ask questions before you dive headlong into it. It’s never bad to respectfully ask a person why they’ve made a choice from a point of curiosity and then explain why you might’ve done something different, but recognize that if you go further you’re entering into a conflict. If you spend your emotional equity well then managing conflict can become very easy and over time heated conflicts will become very rare.

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[home_callout2_line]#2 ACCEPT THAT CONFLICT[/home_callout2_line]
[home_callout2_line bg_highlight=”true”]IS OFTEN NECESSARY[/home_callout2_line]
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I was in an argument with someone on a Christian facebook group. It was civil, but when I referred to our exchange as an argument, the other guy said that it wasn’t an argument, but rather a discussion. I told him that I was presenting an argument, that he was presenting an argument – so what do you call that? We’ve come to a place where the very word “argument” denotes something bad. In reality sometimes you have to make arguments to get to the truth. A court case is a slow, drawn out argument that is often totally necessary. At times people will refer to certain scriptures about unwholesome talk and say that it means we’re not supposed to get into arguments which is a flagrant misuse of scripture, and a spiritual manipulation tactic often used to squelch disagreements. At times the only way to get to where you need to go is to wade through some tough conflict.

No, not all conflict is necessary, but in the church there seems to be a really messed up idea that a lack of conflict is a measure of success. Conflict doesn’t have to be heated, it certainly doesn’t have to be unkind, it doesn’t have to be violent. But one of the ways God reveals his will is through the fellowship of believers. Part of that fellowship is going to include disagreements. And while not all conflict is necessary conflict itself is a given in life and a lack of conflict is NOT a sign of success.

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[home_callout2_line]#3 DO NOT[/home_callout2_line]
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If someone blindsides you with a passing challenge, or sudden bit of negative feedback it is tough not to jump into a heated conflict. It’s especially tough if the person was inconsiderate in the way they addressed it. Often times a poorly worded thought or thoughtless comment is just that – thoughtless – and because it hurt, your lizard brain wants to either run away or hurt them back. Take a deep breath and don’t create a conflict where there isn’t one yet. I’m terrible at this. If someone says something that bothers me I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut about it. One of the most valuable lessons I learned was how to recognize when I need to respond to something and when I can just let it pass. It was amazingly freeing in meetings when I realized that I don’t have to respond to every mild criticism or every sideways comment. If someone’s inconsiderate remark is really bothersome it’s probably better to address in private, after a meeting and do so in a way that doesn’t assume the person was trying to be hurtful. Plus, given some time you may realize that it’s not a battle worth choosing.

Not overreacting and addressing things in private is a great way to avoid unnecessary conflict and in many ways will help you choose only the important battles. This is often hard to keep in mind because we have a tenancy to only choose one of two options when we’re faced with conflict.

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[home_callout2_line]#4 CHOOSE THE [/home_callout2_line]
[home_callout2_line bg_highlight=”true”]THIRD OPTION[/home_callout2_line]
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In Crucial Conversations the larger part of the discussion is on the fact that our natural tendency is to either run from conflict or to dominate our way to the conflict’s conclusion. It’s animal instinct; fight or flight. Neither way will really get you what you need. Running away will just make the conflict worse in the long-run. Dominating things will make other people resent you and will make other conflicts worse. Notice I said “dominate” not “shout” that’s because you don’t have to be super aggressive to dominate an argument. Mentioning your position on the org chart might be enough to dominate a conversation in the work place. “Well, let me remind you I’m your supervisor…” That’ll end the conflict, but it won’t help you with the next one.

[pullquote animation=”fadeInUp” align=”left or right”]”When there is trust, conflict becomes nothing but the pursuit of truth” – Patrick Lincioni[/pullquote]

The third option is simple, but often difficult – stay and reason it out. The process is long and it might get heated, but if you stick with it and don’t let them stop talking and don’t stop listening until they’re finished, you might find out that your position does actually need some alteration, and they might as well. It is much, much harder than the other ways of doing things, but once it’s done, it’s done for good and each conflict gets easier because as Patrick Lincioni says, once you’ve established trust, conflict is just getting to the truth.

Sometimes knowing there is a third option is the key to avoiding unnecessary conflict. I remember how huge this revelation was for me. After I read Crucial Conversations, I was in a meeting where I got some negative feedback. I felt my pulse quicken and blood rush to my face. I then remembered that I could choose not to react. I took a deep breath and listened. Basically what was said was fair, but I also knew the story behind the scenes justified why it all had happened, but I realized the people in the room didn’t need to know that, they just needed to know that I heard the feedback. I thanked the person for their feedback and the conversation moved on.

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[home_callout2_line]#5 LISTEN[/home_callout2_line]
[home_callout2_line bg_highlight=”true”]AND VALIDATE[/home_callout2_line]
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The greatest and first thing you can always do to diffuse tension is to validate the other person’s feelings. You can validate them without agreeing with their reasoning. If someone says “I feel depressed because you don’t care about me.” and you immediately say “I don’t care about you? Of course I do! I bought you dinner just last night!” then you start arguing about whether or not you actually DO care then you’ve missed the most important part of that sentence. “I feel depressed” is what you must address first. Tell them that you don’t want them to be depressed, and that you understand how hard it is to feel that way. Try to ask them why they feel that they’re not cared for and then you might kindly remind them about last night’s dinner. If you validate a person’s feelings before disagreeing with them you’re more likely to get them to listen to you when you explain your feelings.

In Stephen Covey’s book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, the 5th habit is “Seek first to understand then to be understood.” He talks about how some psychologists believe that the most basic human emotional need is to be understood – not even agreed with, but understood. By listening, repeating their position back, agreeing where you can, empathizing where you can, and asking if they feel understood, you can often end the conflict outright. Covey also says that most conflicts in relationships come about because of unexpressed thought about roles and goals.

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[home_callout2_line]#6 FIGHT FAIR, KEEP YOUR COOL[/home_callout2_line]
[home_callout2_line bg_highlight=”true”]AND APOLOGIZE[/home_callout2_line]
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There are whole books on how to argue in a fair way. Keeping to the matter at hand, not bringing up past arguments, being reasonable, and not interrupting are all important parts of this. When debating someone, getting heated isn’t always avoidable, but there’s no need to loose your cool completely. To avoid this, make sure that you’re only ever addressing the problem and you’re not attacking the person. “You always…” and “You never…” are generally untrue statements and they will not help the discussion. If you do loose your cool, apologize. Don’t say the word “But” after apology. Use statements of feeling and word pictures. “I’m sorry that I reacted. It was wrong of me. I think the reason why I got so upset is because when you’re late I feel like I’m just an extra in your movie.” Once again you have to listen and hear when you’ve hurt a person.

Some people think apologizing denotes a feeling. This is totally false. Some people think that apologizing for your actions means that you’re conceding the argument. Also false. Apologizing in the midst of conflict is primarily admitting that your actions (whether by intention or not) may have caused hurt and that you don’t want that hurt to get in the way of the discussion. You can apologize for hurting a person’s feelings and still discuss the truth. It is important that you clear the air before you get to the truth. Otherwise they’ll probably not come to you next time and they’ll just hold a grudge instead. I’ll say it again: Apologize if you caused hurt, otherwise you may totally win the argument and lose the person, in which case you have actually lost the conflict. “Winning” is more than demonstrating your right to the point that the other person doesn’t have a response. Oh, and “I’m sorry you feel that way” is not an apology, and if it is said to a person attuned to that kind of manipulative language it will only make it worse.

On keeping your cool: Just because you don’t raise your voice doesn’t mean you’re keeping your cool. If you interrupt, take a condescending tone, or make sideways comments about the other person’s opinions being less valid, then you’re not keeping your cool. Also smiling and/or laughing during a serious conflict DEFINITELY does not mean keeping your cool. It communicates to the other person that you’re scoffing at them or you’re not taking the discussion seriously. Keeping your cool means being totally in the moment, being serious without being angry, and being respectful and sympathetic to the person.

The easiest way to maintain your cool is to make sure you don’t demonize the person or over-simplify their argument. You really need to try to understand what they’re disagreeing with you on before you can find a resolution. Which leads us to the next item…

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[home_callout2_line]#7 TRY TO[/home_callout2_line]
[home_callout2_line bg_highlight=”true”]GET TO THE ROOT[/home_callout2_line]
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Try to figure out what the real cause of the conflict is. If someone is getting heated there is often some emotion involved and usually what you end up arguing about is only peripherally related to the actual issue at hand. You might ask: are they afraid of something? ashamed of something? In Daring Greatly Brené brown talks about how being vulnerable is one of the best ways to avoid conflict, and the thing that keeps us from being vulnerable is feeling ashamed about something in our lives.

Sometimes people don’t want to admit what is causing them to get emotional because they’re afraid of how they’ll be perceived. This is why it’s so important to keep your cool and establish trust. If someone feels like they can’t speak their mind around you, they’re not going to say what they’re really going through. To get to the root you have to have already established trust so that people can voice their thoughts on things.

Often times people have their own pictures of what is happening in an argument that may or may not be accurate. So often times to get to the root you first have to determine what those narratives are and whether they’re accurate.

This one is tricky, because if you’re dealing with a mature person it is a very effective way to diffuse an argument. But in real world application you’ll find some folks who are dealing with their own insecurities, being vulnerable could shock them into overreacting, or they may just be flippant in response to your vulnerability and basically give you a “that’s stupid that you feel that way.” If you find that people don’t respond to vulnerability in a mature way, you aren’t likely to find a quick or easy end to the conflict and you need to be careful that you don’t start arguing with them about their reaction to your vulnerability. Just back away, try not to feel to hurt and reengage through another path.

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[home_callout2_line]#8 WEED OUT[/home_callout2_line]
[home_callout2_line bg_highlight=”true”]FALSE NARRATIVES[/home_callout2_line]
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One of the greatest problems that we have with people is getting in a state where we have contempt for them – and usually to get to that place you have to build a network of false narratives. In Leadership and Self Deception a great deal of the book addresses what happens after we do something that we know we shouldn’t – something the book calls a “self betrayal” and how after a self betrayal our mind goes into over drive to justify that behavior, to do this, we often have to make up a series of false narratives. “Well sure I didn’t do what I said I would, but she didn’t listen to me when I was trying to tell her my opinion on the next project the other day and so she doesn’t really care about me and probably wants me to die anyway.”

Catch yourself when you start to make up these false narratives. Stop them at their root and realize that they’re often the cause of unnecessary conflict. Again, apologize for when you’ve behaved poorly. It is amazing how often conflict just ends when you apologize.

Brené Brown talks about this and says the best way to address it is often to tell the other person the story that you’re making up in your head. “Hey, yesterday when you rolled your eyes in the meeting it seemed really dismissive, and the story I’m making up in my head is that you don’t think I’m qualified to be here.” Sure, they might confirm that they don’t think you should work there, but more than likely they’ll respond with something more like “Oh gee, no I wasn’t even thinking about you at the time. I was responding to a lame joke someone on my side of the table had told earlier.” Conflict ended.

Similarly . . .

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[home_callout2_line]#9 DON’T ASSUME[/home_callout2_line]
[home_callout2_line bg_highlight=”true”]YOU UNDERSTAND[/home_callout2_line]
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Sometimes the thing that keeps a person from entering into a conflict is because they think they know what the other person will say, or they think they understand what the other person’s reasoning is. These are often false narratives that are keeping a necessary conflict from taking place. And even if they’re not false narratives, at the very least you can’t fault a person for something they haven’t said yet.

I’ve been on the giving and receiving end of a needless grudge and in pretty much every case the reason why the offended person doesn’t bring it up with the offender is because they think they know what the other person will say. If you are arguing with that person in your head then you’re probably making it into something worse than it is and you are already making up false narratives to support your claim. There might be a conflict there that needs to happen to get something sorted out, but you’re keeping it from happening because of your assumptions.

It’s also possible that, if addressed in the right way, the person will simply agree with you and you’ll find out that you had no clue what was in their head all along. If you’re so sure that you know what the person will say, here’s an exercise, write it down before hand and then go talk to them. Go back and see how different it was afterwards. Unlike the characters on TV shows you can’t really predict exactly what people will say.

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[home_callout2_line]#10 DON’T MAKE IT[/home_callout2_line]
[home_callout2_line bg_highlight=”true”]ABOUT YOU[/home_callout2_line]
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Before proceeding into any conflict ask, “Is this just about my pride, my way, my wants, and my expectations?” If yes, then you’re only arguing about you and you’re being selfish. It’s not wrong to say you’re not getting needs fulfilled; that’s different, but if this argument is taking place with a coworker or boss keep in mind they’re not there to fulfill your needs. Arguments about needs are reserved for spouses and friends.

If you’re working toward a common goal with a group and you don’t get what you want, I think you have to ask the question; can I truly make the argument that what I want is really what we need as a group? If not, then you’re making it about you. If so, then argue for that, not because you want it, but because you believe it’s what’s best for everyone – and explain why you believe it’s what’s best. Simply saying “I’m not getting what I was promised,” is an argument for something being unfair to you, but the sad truth is sometimes what’s best for everyone might actually be unfair for you. Again – go talk it out with your family, don’t expect your coworkers to be sympathetic when your reasoning is “I’m not getting what I want.” Does something being unfair factor in? For certain, but it shouldn’t outweigh everything else. If you feel that it’s unfair you can express it (I encourage you to), but not in such a way that shows you believe fairness toward you is a greater need than the ultimate goal of the group. Do so in a way that shows you recognize that it’s all for the greater good, even if you don’t get what you want. Example: “I don’t want this to be a determining factor, but I do think we need to recognize that this was not what was originally discussed and I feel that it is unfair. However, as long as we agree that this is what’s best, I can accept it, at the same time I hope we can all work together to be consistent with plans in the future.” Done right it could earn you respect.

One of the simple truths about Christianity is that we have to become more concerned with God’s kingdom than the little injustices in our lives. If you find yourself at the center of the conflict then you’re probably doing it wrong. If someone attacks you, try to look where you can apologize and focus on steps 6,7,& 8. Once you’ve rooted it out and thoroughly understood each other you should both have the maturity to admit if you’ve made it about your own wants.

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[home_callout2_line]#11 SOLVE IT[/home_callout2_line]
[home_callout2_line bg_highlight=”true”]FOR GOOD[/home_callout2_line]
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Don’t leave anything unsolved – if you have lingering feelings say them and get them out there – and make sure they do too. Not choosing to share something now doesn’t give you license to dredge up old conflicts back up. Let me say it again: If you don’t bring it up during that conflict you either forfeit your right to be angry about it or you cannot call yourself a mature adult.

I was in a conflict with someone I was close with not long ago. We talked about it off and on for the better part of a day. The great thing was when it was over it was totally over. If you leave something unexpressed there is a tenancy to also assume that they left things unexpressed and that will give way to false narratives. You don’t need to belabor the argument unnecessarily, but until you get to the place where you feel like you have resolved it don’t stop fighting.

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[home_callout2_line]#12 don’t hold on to the past[/home_callout2_line]
[home_callout2_line bg_highlight=”true”] LET IT GO[/home_callout2_line]
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Sorry. Now it’s stuck in your head.

Once you’ve solved it resolve to forgive. The phrase “let it go” often denotes a dismissive tone, but you must recognize that when someone has hurt you during a conflict that got heated, letting it go is often a multi-part process. You have to choose to not dwell on it, to stop writing more false narratives, and to give up your right to be judgemental. This doesn’t mean you have to forget and not learn from it, but it does mean that you must move past it if you’re going to be successful in navigating future conflict. Not dealing with the problems you have in your past allows you to smuggle past baggage into future conflicts where you will have no hope of getting through it clean.

[pullquote animation=”fadeInUp” align=”left or right”]It is the height of immaturity to hold a grudge against someone for something you refuse to discuss with them.[/pullquote]

If you have reasoned that something is not worth bringing up then you MUST let it go. It is the height of immaturity to hold a grudge against someone for something you refuse to discuss with them. You give up your right to be angry if you don’t discuss it with them. If it is truly not worth bringing up, then you must forgive and move on. If it is worth discussing then discuss it, even if you think you know what they’re going to say; remember #9.

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[home_callout2_line]#13 be sure to[/home_callout2_line]
[home_callout2_line bg_highlight=”true”] Follow UP[/home_callout2_line]
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If there is amends to be made after the fact, make that amends. If there is other action to be taken, take that action. If you decide to go in a specific direction with a plan go into that with gusto, especially if it wasn’t your plan. If you argue about it and come to a conclusion but nothing happens then all you’ve done is throw gasoline on some wood because the next time a match gets lit that thing is going up in flames instantly. If you don’t take the steps you agree to take then no matter how the argument ended you didn’t actually solve the issue and you’re setting yourself up for a much worse one next time.

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[home_callout2_line]#14 Thank them[/home_callout2_line]
[home_callout2_line bg_highlight=”true”]for working it out[/home_callout2_line]
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this is so, so, so important, especially if the other person came to you to discuss a conflict. You MUST thank them for working through it. The more difficult and long the conflict, the more you have to acknowledge that it was hard for them to work through it with you. You have to acknowledge that they were taking a risk by coming to you. You have to say that you’re grateful that they were willing to discuss it to your face rather than letting it fester behind your back. Hopefully you haven’t reacted, or tried to dominate the discussion, and hopefully you’ve apologized where you needed to, so they shouldn’t feel like it was an awful experience. To reinforce that this was a good thing for both of you, you have to give a sincere “thank you” to them for being willing to duke it out.

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[home_callout2_line]#15 learn from[/home_callout2_line]
[home_callout2_line bg_highlight=”true”]your mistakes[/home_callout2_line]
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There was definitely something in that conflict that you could’ve handled better. If you got heated ask why, and ask yourself how you can respond better to that trigger in the future. If they got heated think about how you might’ve triggered that and how you can be more sensitive – were you being condescending or scoffing? Were you actually listening? Did you interrupt?

As long as you think you handled it perfectly every time then you miss out on the reality that the only mediator who is capable of handling conflict perfectly is the Holy Spirit. The more you are willing to let Him influence your life the better you’ll get at this, but if you’re not willing to let Him do the work of transforming the way your view others, then you’ll always be stuck in cycles of unhealthy relationships at work and at home because of your inability to grow.

That’s it.

There are probably more that need to be added to this list. There are definitely more lessons I need to learn in this area. Handling conflict at work and in our major relationships is a major step toward health in every sphere of our life. Embracing necessary conflict is the sign of a mature person and handling it in a loving, unselfish way, is the sign of a good leader, which is a role that every adult must embrace: our place as a leader, a leader of self, in our family, of friends, and in our churches.

Cutting the Cord in 2017

Back in 2010 I wrote a blog entry about what TV would look like in ten years – we’re seven years later and pretty close to my predictions, but things are still pretty scattered. To get there, you’ll have to do lots of configuring and there are no truly “cheap” options. So let’s have a look at what you can do about cutting the cord (or satellite) in 2017.

THE BOX

You will need a set-top-box. This is something that I had hoped would fade out by now, but unfortunately the “smart” part of smart TVs still suuuucks. You will need to purchase either an Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, or Roku. All of these boxes have their pluses and minuses so let me run through them quickly:

First: All of them have voice commands now, and most of them do it pretty well and they all basically work the same way. Don’t be fooled by the fact that Amazon calls their voice command function “Alexa” and Apple calls theirs “Siri” these actually don’t play into your existing amazon Echo or Apple devices. All of them can be configured to work with universal remotes like harmony and in most cases (depending upon the model) they can be controlled using apps from your phone.

Netflix and Hulu pretty much run equally well on all of them (at least on the higher end versions of Roku and Amazon fire TV.)

Apple TV – $150

(we’re talking about the 4th generation): Best all around, but most expensive. Uses airplay, so if you have iPhones, iPads, or Mac computers you can stream anything; audio, video, or mirrored displays – directly from those devices to your TV without any extra wires or configuration. It just works. It’s also the only device that will work natively with your iTunes account, so if you have lots of movies or TV shows purchased through iTunes this is the way you’ll want to go. Also the Apple TV has a native app called TV that works with other TV apps to make it easier to search for content across several different sources – this works similar to the amazon fire TV, though I prefer the Apple TV interface; it’s smoother and integrates with your iPhone to allow you to input text instead of having to scroll through the alphabet. The remote is the best of any set-top-box. It comes with a lightning charging cable and the top half is a track pad that allows for quick, precise movement across the screen. Netflix, Hulu, and apps for most major broadcast networks are all available here and more and more subscription content is available all the time, especially for sports fans.

Perhaps the biggest downside to the Apple TV (besides the higher price point) is the fact that there is currently no native Amazon Prime video app. Though, I’d imagine this would come eventually, there’s been no announcements of plans to make one. However, because of airplay you can always just open the amazon prime video app on your phone, iPad or Macbook and stream it from there, making it a minor problem in the end.

Over all I recommend the Apple TV because its from the most time-tested brand and even though it’s a little bit more of an investment, think of it as being 1-2 payments of your cable bill and you realize, it’s still pretty inexpensive.

Roku – $50-$130

The Roku really was the first Set-Top-Box to really succeed and the fact that it’s become its own brand and still competes with the likes of Amazon and Apple shows that they’re making a quality product. There are currently five different Roku products, which is confusing because there really only needs to be two. The Roku “Stick” is only $50 and is a great device, but its older brother the Roku “Ultra” has voice commands, 4K, HDR streaming (making it the highest picture quality set-top-box), and the remote can be used as a wireless audio controller so you can watch TV with your earbuds in and not disturb your baby (or husband) napping in the other room.

All the apps are here; Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, and most others. Roku is a great device, and if I were writing this a year ago I would say that it was a good deal, but today Roku is probably the least impressive device when it comes to control and interface and it’s no longer the best quality or the least expensive. It all looks good, but it’s just not as smooth as the other two and as Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV have become more popular it seems like Roku doesn’t offer many advantages; Amazon fire TV is cheaper and works well with Amazon prime, Apple TV offers a better interface and works well with the Apple ecosystem. Unless you get a really good deal on it, I wouldn’t recommend the Roku at this point.

Amazon Fire TV – $40-$90

The Amazon fire TV is without a doubt the best over all value; for $90 you get a player capable of 4K video with voice control. The Amazon fire stick is the cheapest player and, having used it myself, I couldn’t tell a big difference in the speed of the interface between the Fire Stick and the Fire TV. While it’s not as smooth or slick as the Apple TV, it’s still very stylish and easy to use. It doesn’t have airplay, or iPhone integration, but if you just want something inexpensive this is the best way to go. The Amazon Fire TV box’s image is actually 4K, though I haven’t seen the 4K quality version in action – I’d suspect it’s solid. If you need 4K then this is the best way to get it. Also if Amazon Prime is the main source of online content for you, you’ll want to get this box as that’s what it is built for.

One last thing to keep in mind with all of these: They all run great over wifi if you have a a good strong signal, but you’ll get a better connection over hard-line ethernet and the stick versions only run on wifi. If you have a hard line near your TV I’d go with one of the boxes and hook it to your network that way. If you don’t get good wifi in your TV room and you don’t have a hard line, you’ll want to get something to boost your wifi signal or run a hard line before proceeding.

Internet-delivered TV options

Netflix $8-$12

You already have Netflix. I don’t need to tell you that it’s really the best streaming service out there for original content as well as syndicated classic TV. Yes the price has gone up consistently over the years, but so has the quantity and quality of content. For $8 you can go with one screen SD service, but you’ll probably at least want the $10 HD 2-screen service. Netflix is offering almost all new content in 4k via the new $12 premium service. The service also has an exclusive deal with Disney where they will get all new Disney films streaming before any other service does; that includes Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars films. A few shows you might want to check out that are only available on Netflix: Travelers, The Crown, Fuller House, Arrested Development, Daredevil, Voltron, Danger Mouse, and Stranger Things. Plus they have Friends, Frasier, and Cheers.

Hulu $8-$12

If you don’t want to bother with getting an antenna to enjoy most of the content available on three of the five of the major broadcast stations (ABC, NBC, FOX) then you’ll want to go with Hulu. It’s not the best deal, but they’re working on getting more exclusive content. Shows to check out on Hulu: Brooklyn 99, Saturday Night Live, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Emerald City, Agents of Shield, Smallville (complete series available), Blindspot, the Good Place, Drunk History, and tons of reality shows that I don’t care about, but you may. If you want current TV shortly after it airs and you don’t want to bother with an antenna, this is the simplest/cheapest way to do that. The downside is that while $8 gets you HD, it does have commercials that you cannot skip. For $12 you can skip the commercials. There is no 4K option. Little tip: don’t subscribe through your Apple TV, iPad or iPhone as it can add a $1 monthly “convenience fee,” instead log on using a computer.

Amazon Prime $99/year or $11/month

Of these “big three” Amazon prime offers the smallest exclusive library of shows, and really if you like movies at all you probably own all the movies they offer by the time they offer them. There are a few original series that are ok, but none at the level of Netflix. The only reason I have prime is for the two-day shipping and I think I’ve actually watched two movies and a couple episodes of their original shows, but I have every reason to expect that their library will improve as time goes on. As the service also includes the shipping perks, a small library of free ebooks, and amazon music (Hamilton sound track!), this one really does give you the most ROI, even if not in the area of video content.

Sling $20-$40

Sling is a different animal. It is not an on-demand service like the others, but rather basically an internet-based cable TV service. As of the publication of the post It offers no options to pause or re-watch content, this is totally just for live TV – especially for cable channels, the content for which you can’t get over air or through other services. There are three different tiers. Basically the first tier, “Orange” has all of the Disney-owned stations (Including ESPN) plus a smattering of others for $20. The second tier “Blue” has Fox and NBC’s related networks (Including Fox Sports and the NFL network) plus the same smattering of others for $25. For nerds, Orange has BBC America and Blue has Syfy. The upper tier is all of Sling’s available channels for $40, though at that point you could get the lower end Direct TV with DVR for about that much. The main advantage of sling over cable or satellite is they don’t do the rate hike after a year of service, though there is no realistic guarantee their rates will never go up in the future, this is pretty nice. If you don’t mind calling the cable company every year though, you can keep your rate at about this level and have more channels plus DVR.

Antenna Options

You’ve probably seen the set top antennas bragging about how they can get you dozens of free channels at higher quality than cable. While over the air (OTA) options are generally higher quality than most cable options, you’re never going to get “dozens” of channels with an indoor antenna. If you’re really looking to cut the chord and want something reliable, I don’t recommend getting an indoor antenna at all for a few reasons: First you have to buy one for every TV: to get a good one for every TV means that you’ll need to spend $15-$30 per set. Second, reception is going to be limited due to their location and it will vary greatly depending upon the weather. And finally they’re obtrusive and the most effective ones tend to be ugly. Yes, you can usually get 1-5 local stations with a nice, flat window antenna, but if you want to get all the stations in your area clear and reliably there are few better options. And these do require some significant set up, but once you’re finished then you’ll have free and very good TV for a long time.

First with either of these options I recommend visiting TVfool.com and using their TV signal tool. It will generate a PDF telling you what direction you need to face your antenna to get what channels. It will also tell you how strong the signal is for each station so you know what to expect and what kind of antenna you’ll need to get each channel.

Outdoor antenna – Best signal

If you already have a satellite on your house this is a super easy option because it is taking advantage of your existing wiring. Buy the best outdoor antenna you can afford and a mast. I recommend getting at least a double bowtie antenna as you can use the info you got from the TVfool signal report to face it at two different directions and receive signals from multiple places. Remove your satellite and put the antenna on the mast in its place. If you have a small house and only 1-2 TVs you might be able to get by with just taking the signal strait in off the antenna using a simple coax splitter, but if you’re looking to supply TV to a medium-sized house or to three or more TVs you’ll want to get an RF amplifier to split the signal and make it stronger. You may already have one in place, if not they’re $40-$80 depending upon how many sets you have. Wherever your satellite cable is fed to into your house (usually its your attic) you’ll want to place the amplifier there and use it to send the cable elsewhere. Look, I can explain this all to you, but I’ll probably make it sounds more complicated than it is. Just find where the existing wiring is and use it. Google it if you need more info.

Attic antenna – Most aesthetically pleasing/easiest to set up

If you don’t have a satellite or ladder – or if your HOA forbids you from putting a big antenna on your house, an attic antenna is usually a pretty easy option that won’t lower the curb appeal. Most outdoor antennas can be used as attic antennas, so my recommendation stays the same: a double bow-tie antenna is your best bet for capturing more signals, but since your attic probably isn’t big enough to accommodate the double bowtie, you could either settle for two singles and a combiner or one single. By the way, you might want to make sure you have a good place to mount it in your attic before purchasing. The one pictured is nearly 4 feet long – you may also want to buy a small mast to get it clear of your roof and rafters and as high as possible. Face the elements based on the report you got from TVfool.com. Then use your existing cable wiring to hook into the rest of your house. There is almost always an access in your attic to your cabling. Again you may want to buy an amplifier if you have a medium sized house or if you’re distributing to three or more TVs. Be sure to experiment with different locations before you drill holes. Get someone to stand up stairs with it and try a few different locations with the element facing the directions recommended by your TVfool report. and scan for channels. This is a hassle, but it will be worth it when you get a better signal.

Combine antennas – get all the channels

If you live in the middle of nowhere you might want to use the TVFool.com report to guide you as to where to place multiple powered single-direction antennas and combine those signals using a UHF/VHF combiner. This is a pretty advanced option but can result in getting lots of channels from over a hundred miles away. A less expensive, but more complicated option along these same lines is to get a single high-gain antenna with a rotor that moves the antenna from indoors so you can re-position it as needed. Again, this is really only if you live in the middle of no where, or if you just like getting channels from neighboring states.

OTA DVR

Look, lots of people have talked about all the great options for Over-the-Air DVRs so I’m just going to tell you what the guys at makehardware.com say. You can read their whole article on it here.  The following is from that page:

Tivo Roamio: Best All around & best value

If you do this, you should probably get the lifetime subscription deal that Tivo offers. Plug the antenna into the Tivo, and you’re done! TiVo also has the best interface for a DVR. It does have the ability to access Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon prime, but these apps are not going to run as smoothly on TiVo’s box as they would on an Apple TV, so bear that in mind. As an added bonus, the Roamio can be controlled with your smartphone.

To expand to other rooms you have to buy a TiVo Stream ($150.) There is an app where the Tivo can be streamed via Airplay to an Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV however a TiVo stream is still required.So you need at least one of them to do TV on multiple place and you might need more than that depending on how you want to scale your system, if you have three TVs.

Really this is the best option all around for an OTA DVR right now, for $400 you get a 1TB DVR with no added monthly fee.

Tablo 4: Good for gearheads and owners of multiple Set-top-devices.

If you want to access your Over-the-air DVR recording from multiple TVs, or from you tablet or phone, then the Tablo 2 ($190) or Tablo 4 ($300) systems are a great choice. The 2 has two tuners, meaning that you can watch one thing and DVR another or have two people watching two different things off of one Tablo. The Tablo four has four tuners so if you’re planning on accessing your Tablo on more than one device you might want to go with the 4. This type of system scales cheaply – to add another TV you just buy a FireTV stick. You can also do some of this with a Tivo by buying Tivo Mini’s, but it will end up costing more. The number of tuners determines how many programs total you can have being DVR’d/watched live at the same time. What’s also cool is that as long as you’re in range of your house’s wifi, you can actually watch your over-the-air TV on your phone(s).

A small, but substantial advantage to accessing Tablo through your Apple TV, Roku, or Amazon Fire TV is that you don’t ever have to change inputs on your TV – you select the Tablo app when you want to access Live over-the-air TV or your DVR, then hit back on your remote and your on to netflix without having to swap to a different input.

The less than awesome thing about Tablo is that while it works great once it’s up and running it can be a bit trickier to get set up and requires you to purchase an external hard drive.(I had one laying around so I didn’t need to spend the extra cash) And while you can use the DVR system without subscribing, to be able to see more than a day in advance and get programming descriptions you need to pay either subscribe to a $5 monthly fee or purchase a lifetime membership for $150. That plus a hard drive, and a streaming device (if you don’t have one already) and you could easily spend $550+ getting what you basically get for $400 with TiVo – again, UNLESS you’re planning on doing this on two ore more TVs as TiVo requires you to buy a TiVo stream ($150) to scale this to other rooms.

So what does Will Adams think?

Well if you already are getting a set-top-box like a Roku, Amazon, or a Apple TV then Tablo 2 can be an inexpensive option if you don’t mind the configuration, especially if you’re wanting to access multiple TVs. TiVo is the cheapest if either you’re not going to buy a set-top-box device, or if you’re only going to need it for one TV. And really it’s the best all around.

I have a Tablo 4, and while I would’ve gotten a Roamio (had they been out at the time I purchased my Tablo) after I got it configured I really found that I liked the interface and the convenience of being able to watch on any device without buying anything extra. In short TiVo is for most folks, Tablo is for gearheads outfitting more devices.

So that’s it.

Go fourth and configure your system and let me know how it works for you so I can update this post with more info!

Star Wars: Rogue One 300 word spoiler free- review

Rogue One is, in many ways, totally different from Episode 7. I believe for many who didn’t like Force Awakens this will be a refreshing installment. Since “Empire Strikes Back” has become short hand for a darker middle sequel, this is the “Empire Strikes back” of the first six films; it happens between the originals and the prequels. Featuring characters from the original ’77 Star Wars, whether recreated using creepy CG that doesn’t quite cross the uncanny valley, or using footage from the original to cut in a few characters it feels a lot like a prequel worthy of the original. I will give you this warning: some have called it a “downer” and it might be seen as such by many, but the final shot of the film is both a fun reveal for long time star wars fans, and a tonal shift that will serve to change the entire feel of the film.

Despite the darkness Rogue one has a great deal of fun, several laughs and will definitely entertain with both comedy and action. Beyond this, I personally enjoyed the exploration of the role of the Force as a guiding entity in the lives of non-Jedi. As there are no Jedi in this film I was worried that it wouldn’t feel like a Star Wars film, but in fact this feels more like star wars – and understands the role of the Force in a way that the prequels didn’t. The way that these warriors pray to the Force, trust the Force, and walk into certain death without fear because of the Force shows that it is more than just midichlorians, mind tricks, and making things levitate.

As such I’d recommend it to any long-time star wars fan given they have the right expectations and don’t mind a darker chapter.

Jim Cowart

On the 9th episode of the Brio podcast I interview Jim Cowart, founding pastor of Harvest in Warner Robins GA. Jim and his Wife Jennifer planted Harvest (get it?) many moons ago and have seen Christ at work in their midst. He talks about what it’s been like the past several years and tells a little about what he does in his limited free time.

[podcast]http://www.podtrac.com/pts/redirect.mp3/http://www.williamhadams.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/episode-9-Jim-Cowart.mp3[/podcast]