All Posts By

Mike Johnson

Behind the Scenes ISeeIt! Productions

Make Any Idea Come To Life (Part 4)

The cautious optimism of the treehouse IDEA had now turned into full expectation. As the IDEA pushed past the Development stage, it could see the finish line in the distance. It had successfully been through the Dream Stage, the Design Stage, and now the Development stage and there was no doubt in its mind it would soon be all that it dreamed it could be. But, being brand new at this “becoming a reality” thing, the IDEA didn’t realize that the next stage was going to be the most critical yet…The Do Stage.

Those working on the treehouse with me arrived at my friend’s house ready to build. The IDEA had been formed, put on paper so others could see it, and the details and supplies needed had been placed in an official Step by Step. Now, the day of the build, everything was in place for success; the people were there, the plan was there, the supplies were there, even the donuts were there (thanks to my wife who is always looking out for us). But, although we had everything ready to go, there were still some intangibles that would be needed throughout the day to make the end result perfect.

Wisdom and Instruction – Not everyone on the job will know how to do everything, but one or two will need to. I call these people the Trade Specialists. They provide wisdom on all the ins and outs of the project to make sure it is done right. For example: they know how to properly drive a deck screw without stripping it out; how to use a circular saw and speed square to get straight cuts; how to make sure everything is level at all times, but most importantly, they know how to look at unexpected issues that arise (which they always do) and give a strategy to work around it.

Communication – Someone needs to be in charge of keeping everyone busy. Sometimes the Trade Specialist can be distracted while others have completed their jobs and are waiting for more. The person in charge of communication hears when others have needs (tools, instruction, etc.) or are looking for something new to do and acts on it. This “Communication Liaison” keeps up with the building strategy outlined in the step by step and stays in close contact with the Trade Specialist, keeping him/her abreast of the project and consulting on issues that need further assistance. Beyond this, the Communication Liaison keeps everyone in motion by understanding the Step By Step process and keeping the people moving in a logical progression.

Patience – Rome wasn’t built in a day, and a treehouse can’t be built in a morning. I have found that people, myself included, always underestimate how long it will take to construct something and they often get discouraged over the fact that it is taking longer than expected.  The Trade Specialist and Communication Liaison must encourage everyone that things ARE going as planned and remind them of what is on the horizon – a completed IDEA!

Perseverance – This goes hand in hand with patience. People need to be encouraged to press on, even through adversity. Sure, it may rain a little, it may get hot, unexpected problems may arise, but the people must press on. All good and worthwhile things take work!

Fun – No project is worth doing if you’re not laughing a little and enjoying the process. Some people (again, my wife) are naturally good at this by helping people to look beyond their tasks and enjoy the process. These people have the unique ability to keep others entertained, while not getting them so preoccupied that the job languishes as a result. Do you have someone fun for your next job?

Excellence – The Trade Specialist and Communication Liaison need to be encouraging everyone to pursue excellence at all times. It’s easy as people begin to get tired to start cutting corners. But, each person needs to be reminded that every small task they are assigned to needs to be done in a way that brings honor to GOD and earns the approval seal of the Trade Specialist.

Celebration – When the job is completed, and everyone is standing back looking at what they have accomplished, remind them what they have been able to pull off. Only a few weeks earlier an IDEA about a treehouse was just a dream in someone’s head. Now, standing proudly before them is the finished product.  Enjoy the moment. Let everyone walk around and see their handiwork. Give high fives. Commend them on the excellence with which the project was completed and most importantly, remind them how their labor will bring joy, happiness, and excitement to children for many years to come.

5 years later…

The IDEA sat in the tree on a warm summer morning, reflecting on how it came to be as the sun rose on the horizon. Many years ago, with some fear and trepidation, it had moved through the Dream Stage, the Development Stage, the Design Stage, and the Do Stage and, because of that, it was now experiencing the joy of holding memories of countless adventures from imaginative children. Every day was a blessing and, thanks to the continued efforts of its owner, the IDEA was standing the test of time with ease. A gentle breeze blew through the air, and the morning sun broke through the swaying branches. The IDEA sat warm and content knowing that shortly it would hear the back door slam and the voices of children filling the air. 

A new adventure would soon begin.

Uncategorized

Make Any Idea Come To Life (Part Three)

The treehouse IDEA was cautiously optimistic. It had moved from the Dream Stage and had now made its way, courtesy of the Design Stage, onto paper so all could see and grasp its potential. It was hard for it to keep its excitement in check as it imagined itself sitting high up in a tree, basking in the summer sun, birds singing in the nearby trees, children laughing as they steered the pirate ship off to Neverland, and the joyful privilege of growing older with the very children who were playing within. Oh, how it could not wait for that day! But, in spite of all this excitement, the IDEA was still a bit worried. It knew was still vulnerable because it was absolutely dependent on the owner to press onto the third stage of the process: the Development Stage.

Being the owner, I saw that things were now clicking along. The treehouse IDEA had made its way onto paper and I could now visually see what it was going to look like, and the supplies it would take to build it. Now I needed to move onto the next stage – The stage of Development. This stage is a logistical stage where all of the details are worked out so that when the next, and final, stage arrives everyone will be ready to build.

  • Supply lists are formed (based upon what the IDEA looks like on paper).
  • Materials are ordered and secured.
  • Dates and times are put on the calendar.
  • People who will help are contacted.
  • The weather forecast is watched with great interest, etc.

The Development Stage is critical because if affects how long the project will actually take to complete. The lesser amount of preparation, the longer the build. For example, if people arrive to help work on the project and you still haven’t made your trip to Home Depot, they will be sitting around when they could have been working. If no one took account of the weather and coordinated scheduling of alternate days for building, the project would languish on for longer than necessary as sunny days come and go. If you haven’t thought through everything needed, people will be sitting around while you run to pick up the next vital piece.

In this stage, one thing that I have found to be extremely important is taking the time to sit down and create what I call a Step by Step. This is when I look at the whole project on paper and imagine each step it will take to complete it. Nothing is too insignificant and should be written down. For example:

  • What is every supply that needs to be purchased or gathered?
  • In walking through a “visual build” in my mind, what exact tools do I need to bring to accomplish each step? (This is a big one! There is nothing worse than getting to a site and having to “make do” with a tool that wasn’t designed for what you are using it for. Screwdrivers are not good chisels, measuring precisely is not best done with your feet, and installing 500 screws with a manual screwdriver will test anyone’s patience.)
  • What time in the morning will we leave on the day of the build?
  • Check traffic before leaving to find best route
  • In order to get the right amount of wood I need to stop at several Home Depots on the way. What are their locations.
  • Where are the supplies located in Home Depot so I can make a mental map of where to go for time efficiency (I can waste a whole lot of time at a hardware store getting distracted if I’m not careful)
  • How will I pay for the supplies?
  • When we arrive at my friends house, how far will the supplies need to be carried. (As I picture unloading the supplies I remember the splinters I always get when I haul wood and I put gloves down on my list of things to bring)
  • Hopefully you get the idea 🙂

The Step by Step is the key to the Development stage. A poor Step by Step will leave people scratching their heads wondering if you know what you are doing. A good step by step will reduce most problems that will occur when the project enters its “let’s do it phase”. A GREAT step by step will eliminate almost all problems and it will allow the project to run smoothly where everyone participating will have a great time!

In our tree house build, stage three was now complete. Everything in the Step by Step had been taken care of and we were all standing in the back yard smiling at each other on the day of the build. What now?

Now, the fun begins!

To be continued…

Behind the Scenes DIY Production

Make Any Idea Come To Life (Part Two)

The IDEA for the perfect treehouse was alive, excited and nervous. It wanted desperately to move out of the realm of the intangible into the real world but it knew that this was the stage it was most vulnerable, a stage where it could just as easily disappear and be forgotten as come true. As with all dreams in their dream state, this IDEA was warm and fuzzy and full of possibilities, but it knew that in order to move into an actual, tangible play structure someone had to lasso it, pull it down, wrestle and struggle with it, devote time to it and work at it till it actually became part of a child’s life and his future memories. So what was next?

Once I saw in my mind what I wanted the treehouse to be, I realized I had to get that picture down onto paper so its viability could be examined. I knew this next step, called the Design Stage, was critical because once it was completed my dream would be something tangible, something others could see and understand, something that others who knew about treehouses could look at, comment on and offer advice. And so, over the next week the tree house made its way onto paper where at last I could see what would and what wouldn’t work. For example:

The Wouldn’ts

  • No, the hot tub I dreamed about (if only for a second) would definitely not work. There were just a few too many logistical problems 🙂
  • A pole to slide down would be fun, but the branches of the tree didn’t leave a good spot for it to exist.
  • Multi-tiers were out too, the tree just wasn’t big enough.

The Woulds

  • A pirates ship wheel.
  • A silver bucket transport system with pulley
  • And a ladder with a trap door would work nicely

It’s important to note that the Design Stage is a study phase. No matter what your dream is, get it down on paper. Mull over it. See what can be done and what realistically can’t. Let the thoughts/images sit for awhile on the paper and see what pops into your head. I have found that if I give my Dream enough time to sit in the design stage, a lot of new and awesome ideas come about, so don’t rush this! The brain takes awhile to think and process, to ruminate. To allow this to happen, I find it helpful to just sit and look at the design for 15-20 minutes. It’s at that point that my mind somehow kicks into another gear and then the creative ideas come. Many times you may try to rush creativity, and when ideas don’t come fairly quickly you give up and say to yourself, “I’m just not that creative”. Not true! Creativity is often more about patience and persistence than anything else. Give it time. Don’t give up. Something awesome is on the other side of the mental wall.

I also find it helpful to walk away from the thought/design and then look at it again the next day. At that point I re-adjust and massage the ideas from the day before and become amazed at the new things that pop into my head that make the project more exciting.

At this point of the process the Treehouse IDEA was something more than just a Dream. It had form and structure. But, unfortunately, it still wasn’t something that could be climbed into and provide great adventures.

Two more stages would be needed. (To be continued…)

Behind the Scenes DIY ISeeIt! Productions Leadership

Make Any Idea Come To Life

Awhile back a good friend of mine asked me to consider building a tree house for his son. Within a couple of weeks we were standing in his backyard looking at the tree. It was not a very big tree, in fact there was no way it could support a tree house on its own, but immediately the dream of a perfect tree house began to take shape. The little boy in me came alive as we discussed what it might look like and all that it could be. Drew, my friend’s son, added his input – he wanted a rope with a pulley to bring things up into the tree house, he wanted a ladder and a trap door, he wanted to have plenty of room to be able to walk around and use his imagination. My mind began to whirl with the possibilities. Different images filled my head of what this might look like. At that point how it was going to be done didn’t matter, we would figure that out later. Now was just the time to dream. I thought of a pirate ship wheel overlooking the yard, I thought of a pole that could be slid down from the upper deck, I thought of a hot tub (but only for a second), I thought of lights hanging in the tree, a silver bucket carrying up essential supplies from the ground to the upper deck, multiple tiers on the upper level, a sitting area under the tree house that would provide shade from the summer sun. Many ideas flooded into my head, some ludicrous, some simple, some perfect. This was going to be fun.

But in this stage, there is a problem. The first step of any dream is coming up with the IDEA itself, but many times the IDEA never makes it past the Dream stage, it just stays up in your head – happy, lofty, exciting, ready to drift off with the clouds it co-exists with. But we can’t allow this to happen or it will drift away and amount to nothing. We need to grab that IDEA and pull it down from its lofty heights and wrestle with it. Dreams are tough, they take a lot of effort to subdue. Pulling an IDEA into reality is also scary too. What if I get started and can’t see it through? What if I’m not up to the task? What if my abilities won’t take me where I need to go? And the biggest…what if I fail? Ideas are fun to live with when they don’t threaten us and push us to actually do something. But few things in life are worthwhile without ideas that become dreams. Over the years I have found that GOD is a GOD of dreams and that when He gives you a vision He will also provide the resources if you’re willing to take the next step. And this can even apply to something as small as a tree house.

And so, we decided to take the IDEA of this tree house and give it a chance. But, in order to fully pull it down from the clouds to begin wrestling with its possibilities, a few more steps needed to be taken.

(To be continued…)

Uncategorized

The 3 Greatest Statements In the Bible

For unto us a child is born.

It is finished.

He has risen.

You may not have noticed in this world, but mankind has a problem. We were created in the beginning to have an eternal, loving relationship with our Creator, but something got in the way – sin. Because of it we are kept from having a loving relationship with our Creator. We are utterly hopeless and lost.

Why is this? Because God, our Creator, is pure and perfect, He is Holy. And because of this it is impossible for Him to be in a loving relationship with us as imperfect beings. Imperfection is incompatible with perfection. Imperfection makes perfection not perfect anymore. Our lot has been cast. Our imperfection has only one outcome, eternal separation from our perfect Creator. This is bad news.

But, there is also some very good news as well. God is a God of holiness yes, but He is also a God of love, and even though we were lost to our sin He still desired to have that eternal, loving relationship with us. And so, because of this, He set into action the ONLY plan that could be executed to take care of the sin inside of us. That sin would have to be put to death once and for all. And so He sent His Son, Jesus, to come to this earth as a child, live a perfect life and ultimately be put to death on a cross. It was on this cross that our sin, our imperfection, was dealt with. All of our sin was placed upon Him and, full of sin, Jesus became imperfection for us. As He hung there He cried out, “It Is Finished” and when He did He died, separated from GOD and His holiness. Through His action all of our sin, all of our imperfection, was put to death right then and there.  

But then the miraculous happened. As man, Jesus died and was separated from God for us, full of our imperfection. But as GOD His perfection met the imperfection of sin and destroyed it. The perfection of GOD met the imperfection of sin and sin lost. And, on the third day, Jesus arose from the dead as a conqueror. The work had been done.

Now Jesus sits at the right hand of God and our imperfection has been dealt with. But, this perfection from God does not come to all men automatically. He wants us to give our love freely to Him. He will not force us to love Him and so He gives each of us a choice. We can choose to walk away and stay in our imperfection, willing to be separated from Him forever. But we can also stay and accept the work of Jesus on the cross and, as the Bible promises, become One with Him. In doing so, His perfection destroys our imperfection and we now have the ability to have a relationship with GOD for all eternity, the relationship He desired from the very beginning. This glorious work is what we celebrate today!

Behind the Scenes ISeeIt! Productions

What’s All The Moho?

For any of you who have dabbled in animation, you know that figuring out how to animate a story while worrying about the physical time to work on the computer, numbers of employees working on the project, render times, etc. is more an art than a science. Creativity, tinkering, experimenting and thinking outside the box is essential. We discovered this early on. We have limited resources, limited time and a limited number of employees (not a good trifecta by any means) yet we still want to produce a high quality 2.5D product. We want our animated characters to not have to be modeled in Maya (a 3D animation program) but still give the impression that they were created as three dimensional characters for the screen.

(To tackle the project we decided on a combination of a program called MOHO (formerly Anime Studio Pro) and Maya. Maya would be used to create the 3D environment and MOHO would be used to create the 2.5D characters that were drawn in 2D but would look 3D.)

Sounded good, but we soon discovered what we thought would be relatively smooth (not easy…smooth) turned out to be anything but. We brought our characters into Maya once they were created and we discovered that our render time for 5 minutes was going to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 9 days or so and would cost over $5000. Obviously, this wasn’t going to work for us 🙂 So, the our very creative animators set out to find a resolution to the problem and, at this present time, I think we have found a creative idea. We won’t know for sure until we are ready to render, but it looks very promising. In the meantime, the rigging of the characters continues and within a week the animation process will begin! I can’t wait!

Behind the Scenes Children’s Ministry Eternal Thinking Leadership

Servant Leadership Basics

For those of us in leadership positions of any kind, this is a great statement on Servant Leadership…

“Yet when we are in charge of people, we are called to be their servant. We must treat others with respect, care for their human needs and seek what is best for them, even as we seek the best for the organization in which we are a leader.” Theologyofwork.org

Seek the best for those we lead as we also seek the best for the organization we represent. A challenging, but worthy goal.

Behind the Scenes ISeeIt! Productions

A Short Film Idea Is Born

Three of our team were sitting in our office brainstorming several weeks back, trying to come up with an engaging trailer that would introduce our new Christmas curriculum that will be coming this year. As you know, we are in the process of building our production company and this would be our first offering to the public, so we wanted it to be great.

But what should it be about? What should it say? Should it be a trailer at all? Should it be an introduction to the family who will be starring in our first several series? Should it be a story that has merit on it’s own, while still showcasing our storytelling and animation for future products? We considered the pros and cons for many different ideas and we finally decided to roll the dice on a project that would bring in no money, but would hopefully be able to be used to challenge and encourage people to do something better in their lives. A project that we would be proud to show potential donors and allow them to see what we are all about – telling engaging stories through animation that will impact families and kids in a positive way.  

Keep an eye out for “Rainy Day”, an animated short on family togetherness. Coming Soon!

Eternal Thinking ISeeIt! Productions

Eternal Thinking

Imagine an old family book was given to you from a safety deposit box. In it was a letter that stated that at the age of 60 you were going to inherit 500 million dollars from a relative you barely knew. How excited would you be? But it gets better, the letter continues on to explain that at that time, along with the money, every bad thing in your life that has ever happened to you will be reversed AND anything you have ever lost in life that was precious to you would be given back to you again, ready to be picked back up right where you left off. Reading this, you suddenly realize that everything that you thought you were going to miss out on when that special thing went away would be given back to you! That you NOW had a future where everything would be renewed and the perfect life would be yours.

How would all of this make you feel right at this moment? How much would the hope of that future change you right now? It may not take away all the pain you might be feeling right now, but you should have a new sense of joy as you continuously think about this glorious future and revel in the  love of the benefactor who gave this gift to you.

Sound far fetched? It isn’t. A future even better awaits us in Christ. A future that is guaranteed to give us all of the above and more (okay, we won’t need money where we are going, but you get the idea). I don’t know about you, but I for one am anxiously looking toward this future with great hope and joy!

Behind the Scenes ISeeIt! Productions

What Do We Do Now?

Stepping out in faith was the biggest step of faith in my life. Leaving the security of 25 years of ministry, a great salary and my vested retirement and stepping out with no foreseeable income and 8 months of money in the bank, took much prayer and counsel. But when you know that you know that GOD is calling you to take the step, it’s impossible to do anything else. Taking that step was exciting and terrifying. I know that we should not have fear when GOD calls us to do something, but I think it is impossible for even the most spiritually mature not to feel a twinge of fear when making monumental decisions that have no humanly known certain outcome. But there was also excitement and peace that can only be found through Christ over the Christmas holidays. It was a joy of what GOD was going to do in the future and all that could be accomplished with ISeeIt! Productions. It was like a gift from GOD under the tree.

When January rolled around the reality of the magnitude of what GOD had called us to hit pretty hard. Who were we to think we could accomplish such grand things as one day producing a full length animated feature film? Who were we to think that we can figure out a way to produce curriculum with no financial or material support in sight? I can’t lie, there were many anxious early mornings spent in prayer and time in His word. What followed was a roller coaster of a ride with the highs of knowing we are in the center of GOD’s will and the struggling lows of doubts that creep in saying, “this can’t be done.”

But one thing I do know, GOD is capable of ALL things and this journey He has placed us on will be seen through to His fruition. I am at complete peace with the fact that every day I’m not 100% sure what needs to be done. But, through daily prayer and seeking Him, I am assured that GOD knows and He will lead us. You see, this is HIS adventure, not mine. The skills He gave me are HIS skills, not mine. The opportunities presented are HIS opportunities, not mine. I am but a conduit for Him to work through. All I can do is make myself available and work on the things that He presents to me. This brings me great comfort and relieves my anxiety. I am not in control. This is GOD’s adventure to do what He wants. And, whatever that turns out to be, I will be blessed because He chose me to be a part of it. What a ride it will be!