Heavenly Places


I recently listened to a worship song that I heard a long time ago but never quite grasped the true heart behind the message.

Thankfully, I came across it again and was blown away by the relevance and application it held for my life right here, right now.

One part in particular that gripped my heart was this line about “heavenly places.”

I had to stop, rewind and just sit on that concept for a bit because I couldn’t quite wrap my head around what the singer might actually be singing of.

What does that really mean?

What constitutes a heavenly place?

And then I began to wonder, is the church doing anything to achieve or earn such a description?

Are God’s people facilitating God’s environment?

When I imagine a heavenly place, my heart bleeds imagery. I see a place where love is the currency. A place where suffering and pain are met with wellness and comfort. A place where the weight of every moment is counted and honored. A place where abundance is the only option. And ultimately, a place where God proudly and powerfully resides.

Does my life’s influence as a Christ follower deserve an adjective as exalted as the word “heavenly?” I would guess that it should, but it most certainly does not realistically speaking.

Tough questions for the mirror tonight.

Tongue in Sneak...ers

If you know me well and call yourself my friend then you know that I'm not a fan of socks.

I'm not necessarily a sandal man, I just don't like socks.

Specifically, I wear my chucks sock-less. Now many of you who see me in person from time to time comment without fail at the "oddity" of seeing the skin of my foot through the opening of my twisted converse tongue.

Drop it. I don't like socks.

However, I still wonder why it seems like my pair of chucks only suffers from this limp-tongue syndrome. I have plenty of friends who wear such shoes and with no tongue malfunctions. In fact, I have friends who also boycott socks and still don't have this problem so don't tell me it's a sock thing.

The smallest amount of walking sends the tongue sliding down the side of my foot to one side. Every time.

Maybe converse will enforce a recall if I write them a letter? Does this happen to anyone else?

With Everything

Do yourself a huge favor and watch this. It's powerful to say the least.

Number 80

Throw the confetti because this is my 80th blog post and you know exactly what that means.

Nothing.

I've been extremely busy in the design game these days which I can't complain about. It's been a while since the volume of my freelance work has equaled what it does at the moment. God always sees me through.

I'm working on a great project at the moment: a 21-city conference tour entitled, "The Home Owner's Conference." Guest speakers include leading economic forecaster, Harry Dent and celebrated money expert, Loral Langemeir.

I've been brought on to brand the conference logo, website, some film work and additional collateral material. Quite the arduous task but worth the experience.


Your City

I wrote a song a while ago entitled, "Your City" and to commemorate the song and my current boredom, I brought the concept to life as a t-shirt design.

That's it. That's all I got.

Go Team

Morale is a beautiful and complicated thing.

When it's high it's an unstoppable experience for any unified group. When it's low, things look bleak.

Lately, my eyes have been opened to the weighty responsibility on a leader to build and sustain a high team-morale. It's everything.

As a leader/vision caster in any arena, you have to continually feed hope and direction and confidence into your program. Just as barn yard animals need the daily slop - volunteers, followers and employees alike need regular reassurance of vision.

In the context of church leadership, I think of it this way: you are the sacred keeper of morale so guard it like the life of your church depends on it. Because it does.

You've probably heard the expression, "fake it 'till you make it." As much as I hate cliche's I love that statement for its timeless truth. Do whatever it takes to build your team morale and you'll see an army behind you.

It's Alive!

I'm back from a small hiatus from blogging. I just had one of those weeks where I had nothing interesting nor profound to say and I didn't feel like forcing it.

What have I been working on in the meantime?

A magnificent exquisite decent work of art known as my portfolio.

As many of you know, I was petitioning the public for opinions on some brand prototypes that I was working on. The result of those much needed critiques transformed a concept into this new simple yet effective design.



Visit my portfolio and tell me what you think!

Southern Comfort


Columbia, South Carolina is a beautiful place.

I've been staying with friends of mine for the past few days just enjoying the shift in scenery and contour. Tampa doesn't know hills like this.

We drove through the University and saw several of the historical buildings unique to Columbia.

For dinner we ate at the Lizard's Thicket - this incredible down south home-cooked shmorgesboard. The sweet tea was flowing and my stomach was growing: beef stew, rice and gravy, creamed corn, potato salad, and corn bread.

I'll be back home tomorrow to my beloved Tampa. Thanks for the experience, South Carolina, you were good to me.



"BRAND" New

I'm getting ready to "professional" my portfolio because at the moment, I'm using my flickr account as a make-shift reference and it's in un-branded disarray. It's driving me nuts.

Here are some of the prototypes I've been experimenting with. Any votes?


In Living Color

I decided to re-post the picture from earlier today in color as well as the original version to contrast the manipulation that took place to achieve the HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography look = detail extravaganza.

I edited his eyes quite a bit with the dodge/burn tool to look more blue and glazed. The detail and dirt on his face was also manipulated in the same way. I also sharpened some of the key areas of existing texture (wrinkles, blemishes, hair, etc.) to over exaggerate his age and physical condition. The original image was very sharply contrasted so I applied a guassian blur over the entire image to soften the edges.

Add some channel mixing and photo filter (warming filter 85 at 37% density) layers and you have your final product.


Lyrical Imagery

Photo + Desaturation + Shadows/Highlights + Excerpt = Self Explanatory.

EVER-Lasting Choices

That's right. I need your help once again on the color scheme for EVER GREENCARE business cards. Here are two mock-ups of different colors. I just want to know which one has the most high contrast value from one side to the next. Some might say it's an obvious choice but I need opinions. Comment away!

Typecast

I started this piece months ago and could never finish it.

To be honest, it's not exactly up to my standards of completion but I needed the closure of getting it the heck out of the "unfinished" folder on my hard drive.



United

I bought my tickets. I'm ready to have my face melted.

I present to you quite possibly Australia's greatest contribution to the western world: Hillsong United.

It's seldom that God gives one church a voice so influential that an entire generation would stop and listen. Hillsong Church in Sydney, Australia has been given such a mantle. In all they do, their vision is obvious and passionate.

A stellar example of leadership and integrity -- the entire world could glean from such a model.

Their team of young musicians travel the globe creating an environment where incredible music meets the heart-gripping presence of God; lives are indelibly changed.

And also, they have cool hair.




Blast From The Past

Old photography piece I worked on from years back. It's always fun coming across old work and realizing either (A) how far you've come or (B) wow, I suck now. Enjoy :)

City On A Floating Hill


No particular reason for this post. Just adding color to the world.

The Brandon Show

There's a guy named Brandon Mendelson out of Glen Falls, NY who is an influential activist against cancer.

I ran into him on twitter recently and asked him a few questions concerning his launch and driving purpose for the campaign.

He actually answered my question via his YouTube video blog entitled, "The Brandon Show." Check him out.

Ground Beef Conspiracy

I was thawing out some ground sirloin for tasty consumption when something caught my eye.

As I'm reading the instructions, I notice this strange line on the label:

"Ready for use in fast weekend meals."


What kind of prejudice do these meat people have with regular week day meals? I'm pretty sure I've had my share of tacos, sloppy joes and spaghetti with meat sauce during the week.

But here's what's even weirder -- why did I subconsciously pull this thing out on a Friday (beginning of the weekend)? Maybe these magic meat makers know something far more mystical than my mind can muster.

I promise you that alliteration was completely unintentional.

Reminded

I know I already let the cat out of the bag on twitter but I just wanted to tell the full story.

Today Keith, our drummer, and I visited a local middle school to have lunch with our friend, Dylan. Dylan attends our church with his family and is passionate about music just like us. He's even come to our practices and dubbed our new band name as "Metallic Blood."

Needless to say, he's a fan of rock.

It was such a rewarding experience to sneak up behind him and see his surprise. All of a sudden, his "cool" status skyrocketed through the roof. Kids were waving to him just to simply say "Hi."

Later he told us he barely knew them. Oh middle school politics. Love it.

I'm just so reminded that life is about people. It's about loving like God loves. It's about serving like Christ served. It's about sharing community and making it public that we were never meant to journey alone.

Business Venture

So a friend of mine is starting a lawncare business serving the Greater Tampa Area and he's still in the process of deciding on a name/logo.

Here is my contribution to the pile. For his sake, please leave a suggestion/critique. Thanks.


Act In The Opposite

Sometimes, God has to make some pretty controversial moves to get our attention.

Why is it that in struggle we affirm his existence more than ever. In hardship, we cry out for a savior. In turmoil, we're needy.

Yet...

In happiness, we're oblivious. In prosperity, we're forgetful. In abundance, we're ungrateful.

It's a hard trend to break. But for God's sake, a must. It's a pretty hurtful thing to cling to a friend only when you need something -- and in the same breath, ignore their desire to connect.

I'm making a concerted effort this week to act in the opposite of what comes natural to me. Because let's face it, our humanity is naturally selfish, innately egocentric.

Translation: we're flawed and need God's grace daily.

Don't Ask.

I never do this but I just had some quick thoughts concerning a current affair that's been blown out of proportion in the media.

Miss California vs. Perez Hilton.

For those that don't know, Perez Hilton is the self-acclaimed "Gossip Queen" of the universe. He's an internet personality who makes his living slandering celebrity names and exposing vulnerability. I'm not bashing him, I simply describing his public persona.

Then there's Miss California who was a candidate in the Miss USA pageant which took place a few nights ago.

The big deal? Perez, being one of the judges, asked Miss Cali her opinion on gay marriage.

She expressed her ideals of a heterosexual marriage concept. And he tore her up on his gossip website.

The moral of this dumb argument: if you're not gonna like the answer, then don't ask.

Pizza Party!

I'm a "streak" guy. I love streaks. Not streak-ing, but streaks. Winning streaks: most consecutive free-throws, most reps during a work out session, etc.

As I was thinking about this obsession of mine, I was reminded of a classic Mad-TV sketch from years ago that couldn't convey my point better:

Tickets To The Gunshow




I went to the Gun Show today - and my biceps were no where to be seen.

That's right. A real gun show with real people, real mullets, real odors, and real nice lookin' sets of tooth.

Wow, Tampa. I thought you were better than that. Nonetheless, I went to support my dad who has recently taken a fascination with guns.

It was like a Republican convention only no good looking women whatsoever....wait, same thing.

I literally got asked, "Hey man, you need a machine gun?" I mean, is there ever a day when I NEED a machine gun?

One kid was looking to buy a samurai sword and after deciding to keep browsing, bowed and gracefully handed the thing back with honor - good thing he's got honor because I know one thing he'll never get.

Today | Tonight

Today was jam-packed.

And yet I still have so much to do. To-do list's run my existence.

Tonight was a night of creation. Band practice was awesome. Brainstormed with some of the guys afterward. I love creativity. I love surrounding myself with people who think new thoughts continually. What a novel idea.

Habit to live by: Identify a form of expression that you love (art, music, writing, etc.) and create once within that environment every day.

If you're not creating, you're just in the way.




...those last two lines rhymed and totally ruined my profundity.

Panera Meltdown

My life was changed today at Panera Bread.

My brother, Rei, and I are sitting in a booth directly next to customer traffic. Rei begins telling me of this creepy zombie dream he had last night when a red-haired lady walks up right next to our table and just stands there obviously eave's dropping.

Annoyed, Rei weaves her into his dream by mentioning loudly that there was, "...this ugly RED-HAIRED lady that started eating all the zombies..."

I lost it.

Then this large man walks up behind her and follows suit - you could see him leaning in to hear our conversation. Boom, you're in the story too pal.

Rei: "Then this HUGE guy came out of no where and punched the RED-HEAD in the face." He heard us.

So now we're both dying of laughter when immediately to our left we witness this middle-aged woman SMASH her face into one of the hanging lights at Panera. The collision made a noise that convinced me whole-heartedly that her head was made of fine brass.

Exactly 30 seconds later another old woman drops like 15 quarters and bends over RIGHT in my face; I accidentally laughed audibly into her butt -- awkward.

And that is my Panera Meltdown; I literally almost threw up from laughing so hard.

Man, I Liked That.

I'm on a quest for the organic.

What makes an environment, an experience or even a person feel organic, natural? I think any form of evangelism, whether church related or not, is successful when people experience a natural and even subconscious relation with your message.

No over-thought - it just makes sense.

Not forced or awkward - it just feels right.

Bottom line: as a Christ follower, I am trying to re-tell his story in a way that makes people think, "Man, I liked that."

The Greatest Mistake Of My Life...


...Was driving to the mall food court to get work done and sitting directly beside one of those stupid "claw" vending machines.

You know, the ones where you insert 2 quarters and this dumb hand-like metal thing drops down to grab stuff but you never win? Yeah, those.

I know you're wondering why I don't just get up and leave? Because my Macbook is plugged into the only God-forsaken electrical socket in this mall - conveniently located near the vortex of hell machine.

I have heard 5 year old kids use language that I don't even use. One little girl uttered, "I hate you!!!"

Another little spanish-speaking boy yelled, "Tu eres el Diablo!"

Here's the winner:

(actual transcript)
Demon child: Mom, please just 2 more quarters?
Mom: No this is a rip off, let's go.
Demon child: Why do you suck!?

I'm seriously going to unplug it.

Hairiest Man Alive

I have a stress problem. It's so unnecessary too. But nonetheless it's there and it's doing me no good.

My stress isn't just tied to work or family - this thing is everywhere.

For instance, this past week my little Brother was visiting for Spring Break. He is a sucker for quality time. And being that he's in high school, quality time ends up turning into video games.

So we're playing Halo for the Xbox, blowing each others heads off and all of a sudden my shoulders tense up and I feel like I'm having a stroke.

And it hits me - I take myself way too seriously.

Here I am taking it personal every time I die in a VIDEO GAME, c'mon. I am shortening my life span with every inner burst of anger and stress and all because I can't stand to lose.

Reading this over, I am seeing the bigger picture of how my perfectionism and serious outlook is a detriment to my productivity and more importantly, my health. Am I suggesting I quit my job, join the Circus and start a new life wowing unsuspecting crowds as the hairiest man alive? Not entirely.

But I am coming to a conclusion that I need peace. I need God to deal with the complicated stuff. And the only thing I need to worry about is worrying less.

This Feels Like That

This Friday has felt like a Saturday.

I like that because now I have a Saturday that will also hopefully feel like a Saturday.

But I hate it when Sundays feel Mondays. That's rough.

What's even worse is when Tuesday and Wednesday feel like Thursday, because then you know your Thursday is going to drag like RuPaul on a Monday. Make sense?

Ultimately, my favorite day is definitely Wednesday because it's the farthest from either end of the week. The beginning of the week always sucks for obvious reasons.

And weekends are great, don't get me wrong, but sometimes my perfectionism stresses me out on Sunday's at the Connection Point.

So the day that Sunday's feel like Wednesdays, I will have arrived.

Office Space


If I could be a wizard just for a day and if I could use my magic wizard stick to transform any inanimate object into a living human being and then if I could challenge that human being to a fight and then kill them gruesomely in battle...that God-forsaken object would be the Brother HL-4040CN network printer sitting directly behind me in the office.

This lousy excuse for a printer has been crumpling and wasting my precious glossy paper all day. If I see that dumb red "rear jam" screen one more time, I will relieve myself in its tray.

This all reminds me of the priceless scene in the movie, Office Space (above). All I need is that "....it feels good to be a Gangsta" song playing in the background while I do my damage.

Ok, I'm done.

Judge Judy

I can't help it but I've been swallowed up by daytime TV. My particular vice? Judge Judy.

I would hate to be her son. I would hate to be her husband. I would hate to be her gavel.

Yet I watch her devour her prey one by one.

She's a beast.

I kinda want to box her...but not really.


-- Post From My iPhone

5 Signs Of A Slob

I hate to admit it but my apartment is a mess right now. It's border-line dangerous. So I've drawn up a 5-point list that truly classifies a slob. Hopefully, I will motivate myself to clean it...but probably not.

1. When you wake up, your first step on the ground is...technically not on the ground.

2. Your bathroom smells like a wet dog eating a peach cobbler; You don't own a dog nor do you like peach cobbler.

3. The fridge and pantry are jammed packed with food and 2008 is the popular year among the supply.

4. Due to a late night video game binge, your couch blocks basic living room traffic.

5. There's a bundle of old bananas sitting on your counter resembling an evil hand of claws.

I guess I feel slightly more guilty but still unmotivated. Man, I thought for sure that would work.




Bonus Item: Literally just found a pair of underwear behind the TV. Now it's just funny.

Nothing Related 2.0

You guessed it. It's time for another sketch of NOTHING RELATED TM

1. Family is in town. My little bro is spending his spring break at my apartment. Should be fun. Free groceries via my mom. Free business advice via my dad. Free hustling lessons via my 11 year-old sister.

2. I just recently jail-broke my iPhone. That means I unlocked it's yummy apple potential to download apps, ringtones, video backgrounds and alternate layouts all for free - as well as other crazy otherwise unavailable features. Part of me feels like the second I post this, Barack Obama will knock on my door and take it away.

3. I've been wearing the same pair of jeans every day for a little over a week.

4. My dad just bought my mom a concealable revolver. Yeah, a gun. I have a new respect for my mom. Not because she's any cooler or whatever, but because I have to...she's got a gun.

5. Seriously, my sister has only been here 3 hours and she's already trying to gamble for money. Did I mention she's 11?

Brick Man

I heard an allegedly true story of a guy and a horrible mishap involving a construction site, a pulley and a barrel full of bricks.

I've taken the liberty to illustrate his misfortune for all of you lovely and devoted followers. We'll call him Brick Man.

(left to right)

Slide 1: Brick man must transport a large barrel of bricks up to the top of a nearly completed building with only a pulley and rope.

Slide 2: Brick man grossly underestimates the barrel's weight and loses control. Forgetting to let go, he is flung up into the air due to the contrasting weight. His body smashes into the barrel on the way up.

Slide 3: At the top of the building, his arm gets caught in the industrial sized pulley and on the way down, the bricks fall out of the bottom of the barrel.

Slide 4: Now empty, the barrel whips back up and they meet again for a second hulk smash.

Slide 5: Weighing more than the empty barrel, Brick man's lifeless body plummets down onto the bed of freshly dropped bricks while the barrel screams back up to the top.

Slide 6: Yep, you guessed it, that mother drops right on poor Brick Man to put a mortal kombat finish to his day.

The moral of this story? Don't go to work. Ever.

Talkin' Snakes N' Stuff

I was listening to a pastor and gifted communicator speak on the parallels of life in the garden of Eden and life in the church. He focused his message on a specific principle that contrasted the tree of life vs. the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Super interesting stuff.

What really provoked my thought process was this observation he made about Eve and the serpent.

Conventionally, we hear the tale of the serpent tempting the woman, the woman committing the first ever recorded "sin" and bam - we're all naked and going to hell.

But what he pointed out was that the serpent didn't actually appeal to Eve's sin nature or her desire to do wrong. Technically, she was still perfect - the serpent had nothing to work with in that department and he knew it.

But, what he could do was appeal to Eve's desire to be more like God. And he did. He offered her a chance to recognize good and evil just as God did, to see life through divine eyes. Pretty attractive to the innocent woman, huh?

His final point? Let God be God. Let the tree of life be your source. Don't let the knowledge of good and evil strangle the purity of your faith. Simplify. Tune out all the legalistic, religious nonsense and regain your innocence. We busy ourselves in imitating the "real thing" and inadvertently find ourselves even farther from the original. Choose life.

TWITTER DESIGN MADNESS

That's right folks. For a limited time only, you too can sport your very own custom twitter page design for the ridiculously unfair price (for me that is) of $10.

Catch your followers' eyes with a graphic interpretation of your personality, promote a blog or other website or just shamelessly brand your face for the entire world wide web to see.

I accept checks and cash only. Make all checks payable to Gabe Lopez and all cash payable to my wallet.

Confirm your order by leaving a comment at the bottom of this blog. You can even include a blurb about the creative direction you have in mind for your design.

The only stipulation would be that all payments must be made upfront because c'mon, it's 10 bucks ;)

Call in the next 10 minutes and receive...ok, just kidding about that part.

Live The Difference

Ok, there's this one thing called conviction. And there's this other thing called condemnation.

One is good. One is bad. I'll give you 2 guesses and the first 1 don't count.

Although, they start with the same letter, they are nothing alike.

Conviction is this God-given mechanism inside of us that helps to correct the out of tune strings of our heart. Pardon my musical analogy but I think it's fitting. Conviction does not tell us we're worthless. Nor does it back us up into a corner. Conviction shows us the way out.

Condemnation is a dirty word. I don't like it honestly. It keeps us down. It blinds our future. It's that credit card with mounting interest that will never let you get ahead of your debt. Condemnation is never healthy and never from God.

The Bible says in Romans 8:1, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." There you have it. Condemnation is not Christ's deal. It's just not his thing.

It's a scary thought to be "condemned" and yet I'm realizing that I embody that burden in my daily life. I allow the guilt and shame of my past to cloud my vision instead of allowing God's loving conviction to lift my head.

There's a HUGE difference here. Live the difference.

Best|Favorite|Both

So I have this theory on friendship and the occupying roles therein.

It's possible that at any given time in your life, you'll have 2 types of friends.

Best friends and favorite friends.

Here's the difference: the true working definition of a best friend is the person in your life that is best for you. The person who lifts you up, encourages you, calls you to accountability even when it's uncomfortable - we need people like this in our lives.

Your favorite friends often look a whole lot like best friends but usually occupy the cliche archetypal BFF sidekick role. Basically, if a picture were to be taken of you, this person would either be posing next to you or somewhere in the background.

Now obviously it is very possible for one person to occupy both of these roles in your life and that's the ultimate goal.

This isn't everyone's story. I've only come to this conclusion from picking some knuckleheads as friends in the past and it has sparked my curiosity to find the culprit.

It's great to have a partner in crime, but that's just it. Sometimes I think we have to take a good look around us and examine our environment of friends. Do the people around you do a thing for your spiritual well-being or are they just a shallow good time?

Tough question - but to those who strive for integrity, purpose and continuing success, a must-answer.

He Said Dare Me

In Malachi 3:8-12 it reads as such,

8 "Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. "But you ask, 'How do we rob you?' "In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe (10%) into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, (He basically just said, "Dare me!") "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit," says the LORD Almighty. 12 "Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land," says the LORD Almighty." (NIV)

Times are tough.

And that's the understatement of this era, I know.

But that doesn't compromise the potency or even the truth of God's promise.

Put away your jaded thinking toward the following cliche for a minute and affirm the fact that everything you have is a gift from God. So isn't it only fair to give back?

It sounds like a great deal to me: God gives 100% and I give 10%.

Consider it paying it forward; giving out of your blessing. We'd be lying dramatically if any of us could deny the blessings we reap every day.

Breathing? Yeah, me too, we're blessed.

I'm certainly not telling anyone what to do. But I am telling everyone what I'm going to do.

Unplugged

Here's a little montage of our unplugged worship set yesterday at the Connection Point. Other than a sore throat and some pitch problems (what else is new) I thought it went well.

God definitely came through in a big way despite the rain and location change.

Check it out.

My Dad Always Said

Be a man of your word.

If you say you're going to do something, do it.

If you say you're going to be somewhere, be there; be there early.

If you promise someone the world, you better see to it that the world is neatly packaged at their door step within the agreed shipping time-line.

Always under-promise and over-deliver.

It's alright to say no.

Think before you say yes.

Carve your own path.

Don't ride on the success of others.





...and don't fart at the dinner table or I'll smack you.

Debut

So this Sunday our church is meeting in different location due to conflicting schedules with our usual facility.

A group of us went in early tonight and set up the sound equipment, chairs, the works.

Rick, our sound tech and myself, music director, decided to stay a little later than everyone else to make absolutely sure that the sound would be flawless despite our variable environment.

When the acoustics change, the sound changes.

Here are the results of our completely serious efforts and finely tuned ears, enjoy.




...and I'm joking.

I'm An Idiot

I hardly even remember recording this, but nonetheless I found a ridiculous 3 year-old cell-phone video of myself documenting an intense trip into "the wild."

Laugh at me:

video

I See Pride; I See Power

Leadership takes pride.

Not arrogance but pride.

I would use the word confidence if it conveyed my point with justice; it doesn't. Pride is gritty. Pride is animated. It's full of color and it stretches a mile in either direction of where you're standing right now.

Pride in what you do. Pride in who you've been created to be. Pride in where God has appointed you to lead.

In both the physical environment as well as the technical area. Be proud to shoulder such privilege.

One of my favorite movies of all time is Cool Runnings, the heart-gripping story of Jamaica's first bob-sled team.

In arguably one of the movies most infamous scenes two of the main characters, Yul and Junior, are having a dispute concerning Junior's sudden conviction to obey his controlling father's orders to leave the team. Staring at themselves in the mirror, Yul grabs Junior and makes him recite this mantra:

"I see pride, I see power, I see a bad mother who don't take no crap off'a nobody!"

Again and again they repeat this declaration until finally Junior wells up with fierce pride, storms down stairs, and informs his father of his decision to stay and commit to leadership.

Pride, baby. Pride in who you are, what you do, where you've come from and how you can lead those behind you.

Leadership takes pride.

I Know I Don't Know

Ever arrive at one of those daunting moments in your life when you realize just how little you know?

Sometimes I feel like I need a brown paper bag to breathe into.

It just hit me like a ton of bricks - what an intimidating feeling. And yet, somehow in the same anxious breath, I'm reassured that I'll be alright.

Less of me, more of God. Less probability for my error, more opportunity to see God thrive.

I suppose the more you know that you don't know much, the less you act like you know more than you really do...follow me?

Ultimately, knowing the pythagorean theory inside and out or having the answer to world poverty would be great - but I'd rather just know God and His love so that I can replicate the model to everyone I come in contact with.

Nothing Related Sketch.

I'm gonna try something new here. A new format for when I'm juggling way too many thoughts all at once and can't pinpoint what I wanna discuss:

I hereby welcome you to....NOTHING RELATEDTM


1. I'm gonna clean out my car in just a minute. If you know me well enough to understand what that entails, you'd get on your knees and pray for my safety the second you were done reading this.

2. I'm hoping my new song goes well tomorrow. I always have this anxiety feeling when I unveil a piece of my intellect and creative nature to an unsuspecting audience. Then again, my CP family loves me and I love 'em back.

3. I need to brush my teeth.

4. My brain wants to work out; my muscles hate my brain.

5. I'm constantly tormented between all these investments I want to make: Gretch Catalina Mod drum kit, a Canon PowerShot SX1 IS, 50's hollow body Fender telecaster, 6-color t-shirt screen-printer, a robot girlfriend...

That's all for the first installment of NRTM, thank you for reading along, bless your heart.

Time To Breathe

I've taken a bit of a hiatus from my blog this week but I'm slowly returning.

It's not because of laziness or lack of content, it's really just because I've been so overly enveloped in creating that some specific areas of my life, primarily music and art, have lured me away from others.

It's really crazy how many songs and graphic pieces have been born in just this last week. There's nothing I love more than exploring my creativity and confronting inspiration until it yields fruit.

This is undoubtedly God's design and I am thankful.

God I thank you for today. I look forward to tomorrow. I thank you that my life is directed by your divine forethought and not my narrow vision.

Thank you for grace in my life. I'm utterly helpless without it.

Thank you for birthing so many passions and dreams in my heart. It's a circus in there but I know you will see them all to fruition when the time is right.

And thanks for a great family and meaningful friends. I really lack nothing.

Amen.

Alas...

Meet Fredrik Strand Halland. He's 12. I'm 22. He's the reason why I quit playing guitar today...whatever, talk to my hand little kid.

Today's Prayer

God, make me pliable.

Grant me the wisdom to know when I'm wrong and to have humility when I'm right.

May I never be so zealous in my convictions that I disregard tact.

That's all for now.

Amen (Let It Be So).

Forget The Popular Noise

Context is everything. Good Lord, it is the foundation upon which all understanding lies.

It's finally hitting me that as a Church plant, we can read all the manuals and listen to all the mega-church jedi's about what worked for them but the bottom line is this: who cares.

Honestly, their story is never gonna be our story.

Advice is great. Counsel is awesome. Insight is neato. But nothing is more effective than the very voice of God breathing through the vision-caster and leader of your church, nothing.

If you want to be unique, you need to listen to the unique voice of God in your life. Forget the popular noise.

The Process

Can you even put a face on who or what inspires you?

*If you're not being inspired then you have probably made yourself unavailable to the process of influence itself.

We know influence can be good. Can't we thank the divine inspiration of God using multiple vessels to give us the greatest book ever written?

As my pastor related this last week, it's about "submitting yourself to the process." And the process in this context is being available to be inspired. Inspiration defined is an outside stimulus, such as a person or work of art, that moves the intellect or emotions or prompts action or invention.

Translation: As creative beings, we are predominantly so through osmosis.

We glean know-how and innovation from other know-how-ers and innovators.

Raise your hand if you know someone suffering from creative inertia because of an unwillingness to be inspired. Of course the process can be risky but didn't Mama tell you nothing comes free and easy in this world?

Thought-provoking. Sensory-stimulating. Dream-encouraging. Go find everything and anyone that remotely fits the 3 aforementioned adjectives and be friends with it/him/her now.

Mr. Lopez, Wake Up Mr. Lopez


I really enjoy daydreaming. It's one of my favorite and most frequent hobbies in life.

I don't mean staring off into space and thinking about non-sense.

I mean really dreaming - vision-casting for my life, following every trail of passion, losing myself in the boundless opportunity God has waiting for me.

It's seriously fun.

I earnestly try to write everything down or record it for the sake of reference. I want to make this stuff happen, I don't want to leave it as a dream.

A famous pair of lab mice described what I'm feeling best...

Pinky: "What are we going to do tomorrow night, Brain?
Brain: The same thing we do every night, Pinky: try and take over the world!"

MVP's

I gotta be honest; I thought tonight's band rehearsal would be a complete wreck.

1. Our usual drum kit was left in storage so we busted out our back-up drum kit. The thing seriously makes me laugh out loud; missing legs, sliding bass drum, 1 sad ill-tuned tom, no bueno. Keith, our drummer, totally made the best of it - they sounded great.

2. Rei, our lead guitarist, left work only to find a dead car in the parking lot. Long story short: my Dad drove all the way from Bradenton to pick him up and then take him to practice. That's devotion.

3. Dave, our bass player, works strenuously all week and fought through the parking lot known as the "Howard Franklin Bridge" for who knows how long to finally arrive with a great attitude to serve.

4. Someone forgot my mic stand (probably me) so with the help of some ingenious minds, I was able to rig up a stand using a slightly-too-short PVC pipe, some colored rubber bands, and a hand truck - haha, I wish I was joking.

5. To add to the stress list, I wrote a new song that I wanted to spear-head for execution this Sunday and I just didn't know if we could pull it off. Rick, our sound tech, was the voice of encouragement all night.

I'm proud to say that we melted each others faces off with one of the best rehearsal performances to date. Keith, Dave, Rei, Rick: I love you guys, so proud to serve with you. Sunday here we come!

Growing Pains

I have growing pains.

Not the kind you usually think of. It's more the opposite.

The growing pains I suffer from are the kind that come from wishing you were growing faster and wider than you are ready for or God for that matter is prepared to allow.

One of Rick Warren's famous mantras states that "God is more concerned with our character than our comfort."

I realized the multi-faceted truth of this statement today when God let it occur to me that maybe I'm not at rock-star status because maybe God knows me well enough to know that maybe I'd screw it up and just maybe He's more focused on welding my integrity together at every vulnerable seam and also, maybe I'm not God?

Psalms

Psalms 37:4 says, "Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart." (NIV)

The word delight means great joy or to find pleasure in. It's as if God is saying, 'stick with me kid and I'll take you places you've never imagined.' The desires of my heart include the realized and unrealized dreams. The things I've verbalized and even the stuff that hasn't come to mind yet.

Verse 5 goes like this. "Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this:" (NIV)

Commit your way: commit your lifestyle, your character; the way you roll. Make all of that God's and He will make your ministry and even your life look and become irresistible to others.

Verse 6 continues, "He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun." (NIV)

Righteousness and Justice are usually public perspectives. If you live righteously, chances are people know it. In our judicial system, justice is reached by numerous people. They are corporate experiences. So if the public perception of your life or ministry shines like the noonday sun (the most brilliant, beaming time for sunlight in the day) I'd say your set for exponential growth on either side.

Toward The Goal

Tonight I experienced God in an intimate way.

I decided to go running for honestly the first time in years - literally. I have never been a fan of running. I've always complained that as a skinny kid it just makes me more skinny.

But tonight was different.

The air was frigid and my joints weren't nearly prepared for such a traverse. Nonetheless, I took off in the direction that seemed most well-lit and tried to focus my breathing.

As I continued to push my body to its limit something in my mind shifted. It was as if these dormant goals and dreams in my life began to materialize before me. I blame it on the adrenaline. I picked up my pace.

I wasn't just running anymore. I was chasing.

I pictured Jesus on the horizon. With no particular route in mind, I just couldn't bring myself to look behind me. Cheesy-ness accepted, I'm telling you I ran like my life depended on it. I began to pray out loud. I began to verbally revisit promises that only God and I had made with one another.

Pain and fatigue were blurred at this point; stopping wouldn't have even helped.

As I neared my house I was reminded of the scripture Philippians 3:13. It reads, "...Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal..."

What an amazing declaration.

Almost 5 accidental miles later I learned first hand the joy of this perseverance. If it means that I'm the crazy guy yelling at the air while cars whiz by, I'll never give up. I'll never quit on this. I will press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Amen.

God & Submarines


Loose lips sink ships. Can't that be a good thing?

Submarines are built to withstand large amounts of aquatic pressure as well as a certain extent of artillery blast. Sailors take refuge within their hulls for months or even years at a time to withstand the obvious killer surge of high-pressure ocean water.

Military Submarines are nearly always equipped with some form of weaponry for defense. Bottom line, they are prepared to do whatever it takes to keep the water out.

Sound familiar spiritually speaking?

Ever find yourself subconsciously doing whatever you can to keep the conviction of God's presence out of sight and mind. Lately, I've been realizing that I put up this same safe guard in times where the penetrating presence of God is most concentrated or high-pressured if you will.

I've sat in worship services with a submarine mentality: nothing in, nothing out

It’s as if I expect God’s boundless glory to be confined to the comfortable dimensions of my humanity.

God's presence is piercing; once the outer exterior is compromised it's a flood. Let's go for it.

Never Before Seen Footage

I found cutting room floor footage of Steve casting the vision for the Stop Campaign in an Ybor alley-way. As the month long initiative comes to a corporate end I thought I'd spice up the original footage and post it here.

Enjoy


The Stop Campaign | Teaser IV from The Stop Campaign on Vimeo.

Super Neat


So guess who's coming into town tomorrow. Yes. Mama and Papa Dukes. We're all gonna hang out as a family for the weekend which I'm actually excited about.

The not-so-exciting part? I have to clean like a banshee to get my place in shape for the likes of my mother.

Not to over-spiritualize a simple visit from the fam but I realized the parallels of such last minute cleaning in my walk with Christ.

How many times do I actually keep things in order regardless of inspection. Why don't I just do what I know is right consistently.

I think that's called integrity. And I think I can transparently say that I'm striving for more of it because I don't have enough.

God. Discipline my heart to be ready for any visit from You.

The Stop Campaign | Main Feature

Here it is. A little footage, a little color correction and some melody:

Just one of those days...

Today was awesome. Super productive. Super light-hearted. Super heavy in content.

Tonight we had our creative team meeting for the CP. I love getting together with a group of people with varying talents and assets while all being woven tightly by our central focus.

To put it bluntly, we kicked you-know-what tonight. And the awesome part is I know God agrees.

The scriptures tell us that without vision people perish. It's one of those 'if P then Q' statements so imagine what the reverse is like. I think God didn't include the other side to that truth because he left it up to our imaginations.

Imagine what happens to the people with vision.

The opposite of perish, baby.

Another Creativity Blog

I've really been thinking a lot about creativity and what fuels it, how to flow with it, how to keep it in motion and, most importantly at the moment, how to apply it toward my life in ministry.

So as I was driving in my car this afternoon and I really feel God gave me some clarity and truth on the matter. Here's what I got:

Creativity is not a limited commodity. Nor is it an object of vulnerable supply. Creativity cannot be wasted.

The kicker: Creativity is a time-line.

Here's what I mean. I analyze my life a lot. Almost to a fault. I know it's unhealthy but the perfectionist in me has the tendency to scrutinize past projects or ministry endeavors that I've been apart of and think that I've wasted some creativity along the way. But the big picture truth is that it's necessary to expend whatever creativity you have at that moment in order to do it again in the future. It's as if to say, "If I don't use my best idea now, although it might be ill-supported, I might not make room for the next big idea to come through." God doesn't allow women in labor to press the pause button to make sure the baby is good looking does He?

At the forefront of creativity (literally and figuratively) is the verb, create. So if this holds true, then to access creativity is to make something new or to manufacture out of thin air, right? So really, the natural progression of creating is to do it over and over again. Life reproduces and so does creativity.

The Bible reads in Psalms 45:16, "Instead of Your fathers shall be Your sons, Whom You shall make princes in all the earth" (NKJ). The crucial word in this context is instead. It didn't say along with because I believe God was trying to make the point that life has a natural progression of one generation succeeding the next. So does creativity trump itself with every new idea.

Creativity is a time-line. Access it and watch it run its beautiful, natural course. It's always there, it just might be hiding beneath the debris of preoccupation.

Creactivity

You know, our world would be a pretty drab place without creativity. Our city sky-lines would consist of 1-story monopoly board game houses. We would no longer have need for museums or art galleries. Our technology would never surpass sticks and stones. And who knows what we'd do with broken bones.

Imagine if we served an uncreative God. The gorgeous landscapes we know and admire would look like desaturated polaroids on an equally unimpressive earthly canvas.

Let's not even discuss what music would sound like. We'd all be listening to worn-out John Denver records.

Anyway, I say all of this to emphasize the truth that we DO live in a creative world and we DO serve the most creative being in all existence. So how much more should our creativity reflect the originator of every brilliant idea or eureka.

I don't think we'll ever truly know how many inventions or ideas have come from some desperate creator locking him or herself in a room until that idea came to them. I believe that creativity takes action. It means taking part in an intentional activity that sparks that dormant thought process leading to a new idea.

I'm actually in that locked room right now as I type, wish me luck.

The Stop Campaign



God is so good.

Life has been a whirlwind these past few months and I've barely noticed the time fly by. I am so incredibly pumped about this new generosity initiative our church has launched called The Stop Campaign. It's already becoming a huge success within our community and even across the nation. I was blown away to view our online analytics reports which indicated hits in more than 20 different states. It's so exciting to be a part of something bigger than yourself, especially from the ground level. I give God all the credit for the countless hours of creative branding and marketing that we've invested into this project.

Today was an awesome example of the power behind a simple act of kindness. I drove by Gunn Highway to snap a picture of our newly risen 48' billboard and happened to notice a Wendy's maybe 50 yards away. I went to the drive-thru, ordered my food, and told the girl in the window to go ahead and pay for the SUV behind me. The catch was that she would give them a "have you been stopped?" card along with their order. The girl seriously looked at me like I just yelled "bomb" in an airport. Priceless. So as I drove up, watched her give them my card, saw the look of confusion on their faces, I drove away hoping that I had just brought some kind of value to their day. I also thought it would be great if they simply looked to their right to notice the huge towering billboard with the same mysterious website as the card. Talk about situational irony. I would be speeding home to see what that was all about.

Tampa is my city. It's God's city. And when I moved here, I made a vow to change this place and be changed with it. This is just the beginning.