Tag Archives: Belltower Pictures

Be Bold!

Be Bold! That’s the takeaway phrase from my lunch meeting the other day with Dr. Bruce Heilman, Chancellor of the University of Richmond.

E BRUCE HEILMANMy friend Billy Burford arranged the luncheon so we could pick Dr. Heilman’s brain about fundraising. He’s done a lot of it in his career. And we wanted his advice on raising the rest of the money we need to launch Belltower Pictures and produce our first feature film, SHOOTING THE PRODIGAL.

When Dr. Heilman took over as President of the University of Richmond in 1971, the school was on the verge of bankruptcy. He set out to boldly change the course of the institution. And that’s exactly what he’s done over his 43-year association with UR.

Today, with a $2 billion endowment, the University of Richmond is on sound financial ground and is one of the most respected, prestigious institutions of higher learning in the world.

Dr. Heilman told us some of his stories. He talked about meeting with one potential donor and telling him about all the bold new initiatives the university was launching. He said he used the word bold several times in his presentation. When he finished, he asked the donor for $500,000. The man replied, “If it’s so bold, why didn’t you ask for a million?” Dr. Heilman upped his ask… and got what he wanted.

He told about the building program in his early days as president. He said they once started construction on a new building before they actually had all the money in hand. The message sent by that bold move: the University is on the move… building and growing. And the result: more donors jumped on the bandwagon and the funds quickly accumulated.

Dr. Heilman was generous with his guidance. But that two-word piece of advice will stick with me forever. And it applies to more than fundraising…

“Be bold,” he said. “Don’t be reckless or foolish… but be bold.”

Photo: Nikki Waterman/The Collegian
Photo: Nikki Waterman/The Collegian

The advice comes with credibility from a man who, at age 86, rode his Harley Davidson motorcycle solo 8,000 miles, literally around the United States. And next month, at age 88, he’ll set out on his Harley again for a month-long ride from Richmond to Alaska and back.

Be Bold! It’s not just a slogan. It’s a lifestyle.

Establish the work of my hands

I woke up this morning with fear and doubt.

I’ve been working on The Prodigal Project for three years. And it is going well. We have a terrific screenplay, some talented and energetic folks working hard to move the story from the page to the screen, and a growing number of partners gathering around Belltower Pictures. Together we’re building a community around the idea of telling great stories that reveal spiritual truth.

There are still many hurdles to be cleared. We still need to raise a significant amount of money. There are insurance, legal, accounting, crew and cast, distribution and marketing issues to be resolved.

I’m having lots of conversations about the project. And without exception, everybody I talk with responds enthusiastically, affirming that we’re doing something that really needs to be done. Most of these conversations result in more creative ideas and another partner joining the family.

But still… doubt and fear grip my gut with predictable regularity. And that’s where I started this day.

This morning I wrote in my journal – “Oh Lord what am I doing? I’m foolish and naïve. Maybe I should just drift quietly into retirement oblivion.”

A full-on pity party was cranking up.

Then I began my daily Bible reading with Psalm 90. I didn’t really pick it out. It was just the next one in my regular reading pattern. It ends with –

“Establish the work of our hands for us –
Yes, establish the work of our hands.”

I wondered what that really means. So I googled it. Here’s what’s the famous 19th century British Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon wrote about it:

This set of images was gathered by User:Dcoetz...
Charles H. Spurgeon. (1834-1892) National Portrait Gallery, London

Let what we do be done in truth, and last when we are in the grave; may the work of the present generation minister permanently to the building up of the nation. Good men are anxious not to work in vain. They know that without the Lord they can do nothing, and therefore they cry to him for help in the work, for acceptance of their efforts, and for the establishment of their designs. The church as a whole earnestly desires that the hand of the Lord may so work with the hand of his people, that a substantial, yea, an eternal edifice to the praise and glory of God may be the result. We come and go, but the Lord’s work abides. We are content to die, so long as Jesus lives and his kingdom grows. Since the Lord abides for ever the same, we trust our work in his hands, and feel that since it is far more his work than ours he will secure it immortality. When we have withered like grass, our holy service, like gold, silver, and precious stones, will survive the fire. (The Daily Spurgeon)

Thank you for that encouragement, Lord. Now… on with the day. “Establish the work of my hands!”


Hiking during staff meeting

Staff meetings at Richmond’s First Baptist Church take place at 9:30 Tuesday mornings. Never having been a big fan of them, I decided the best way to spend my first Tuesday morning of retirement was by taking a long hike. So this morning, rather than sitting at a big table in a windowless room, I enjoyed the scenery along the James River.

James RiverAs I began my hike, I prayed thanksgiving to God for His immeasurable blessings: for the beautiful world He created, for good health to be able to enjoy this morning’s activity, for the extraordinary 46 years I’d been able to ply my trade in broadcasting and communication, the 33+ years I was able to serve in His church… the last 20 of them at FBC Richmond, and for the promise and challenges that are ahead as we launch Belltower Pictures and produce our first feature film.

Then I began to think about my friends and former colleagues sitting around the staff meeting table at that very hour. And the feeling that swept through my mind was not at all what I expected.

I had eagerly anticipated this moment: a Tuesday morning when I would be out in God’s creation, breathing the fresh air, and grinning with relief because I wasn’t sitting in a meeting. But the emotion I felt instead was deep gratitude for those folks with whom I’d shared so much of my life for the last 20 years. And just a touch of sadness that I would no longer be a part of that family.

If I could have immediately transported from the trail to the conference room, I would have done so… but just for a moment. Long enough to encourage my dear friends to cherish every minute of their time at that table. Because those precious times cannot be re-lived.

As I returned my focus to the trail and my long-anticipated hike, I once again gave thanks to God for the opportunities He’d provided me in the past. My pace quickened as I thought about all that is to come… a new chapter and an exciting new adventure.

And I thought of what Dr. Seuss once said…

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”