Thursday, March 29, 2012

Pavement and the Bumpy Road

Today I got back from 4 days in Mexico with Amor ministries. It was a very good few days. I got to be a part of helping hundreds of volunteers build houses for 25 impoverished families. It was very good for my soul!

As I was driving around this week I got to see lots of interesting things. My back definitely took a pounding on the dirty, back roads of the poor communities in which we were serving. Every time I got to a paved road, I was thankful. I thought I'd share a little video with you to show you what I mean.

video

Don't forget to be thankful when you get to drive on the pavement of life!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Development at the Mission

Last night was a great night at the San Diego Rescue Mission... 150 guys worshiping God with all their hearts! It was awesome! I got to speak after worship and it was just one of those nights where I really felt the guys were connecting with God and His word.

It's great seeing familiar faces each month as our team serves the 4th Friday. There is a whole bunch of them ready to graduate from their one year program... more success stories of how God is transforming their lives! It just doesn't get any better than seeing a bunch of guys who used to be strung out and homeless who are now sober, and with purpose in their lives!

If you live in San Diego, you'll have to come with us some time. If you live outside San Diego, you should check out a Rescue Mission in your area and get involved some how. It's totally worth it!

I wanted to let you guys know that I won't be blogging from Sunday night to Thursday of this coming week. I'll be taking a few days of vacation time. I'll be back Friday ready to share again!

Thanks for all the kind words from those of you who are following my blog!

In the mean time, check out my photography website at www.tropicalphotosbylarson.com.

See you Friday!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Listening and Recklessness

Listening for God's voice is critical as we navigate through life. He may speak to us through His Word, someone giving us wise Godly counsel, opening or shutting certain doors, or other methods. God has lots of resources at His disposal. Once we hear from Him, we must be careful to not become reckless in our journey.

I was reading the story of Balaam in Numbers 22. I love this story! It's kind of like a scene out of Shrek, where a donkey does some serious talking, trying to keep Balaam from reckless destruction. You see Balaam initially listened to God, but after listening, he was about to be reckless. While the donkey was protecting Balaam from his recklessness, Balaam beat his donkey 3 times. You'll need to read the whole story in Chapter 22 and 23 to get the whole idea.

My favorite two verses are verse 20 and 32.

Numbers 22:20 That night God came to Balaam and said, “Since these men have come to summon you, go with them, but do only what I tell you."

Numbers 22:32 The angel of the LORD asked him, “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me.

Now here is a good word from God..."Do only what I tell you...and don't be reckless." Seriously...that would save us so much trouble if we could just get that right! Ultimately Balaam gets it right...he listens to God...he only does what God says...and he stays steady, not reckless in the process. The result is that God blesses Israel.

So as we learn from Balaam...Listen to God, do only what He tells you, and don't be reckless. It will save us a bunch of grief.




Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Cool New Gadgets

I came across a few new gadgets that look cool. Thought I'd pass them on to you.

The Optrix HD Sport case transforms your iPhone 4S/4/iPod into an HD action sports camera. It's like a Hero cam in iPhone format.


The Flashpoint 500 is a hard drive/memory card reader in one. Great for the field or trips.








Best Electric Razor ever! The Panasonic Arc 4! Smooth and closer than a blade!

Kind of random, but kind of cool. I can't help the nerdy, gadget side of me from coming out every once in a while.

See you tomorrow.

What does my team look like?

Stepping out in audacious faith to do something can be a mix of emotions...scary, exciting, discouraging, thrilling. It doesn't matter if you are switching jobs or going on a mission trip to another country, the unknown is not for the faint of heart.

That's why it's important to have a group of people who will be there with you in the process. You'll need people praying for you, and giving you wise counsel along the way. You'll need strong people of faith in your life. They will be the ones who will be a part of your encouragement team. I like that team! They are helpful to the process.

There will also be a group of people looking to be a part of your journey who are not so helpful. It seems like every audacious faith journey is filled with at least a few people who think you need a discouragement team. In their own weird way, they might think they are doing you a favor. When they speak, they want their world of fear to become yours. They'll be the ones who try and talk you out of going somewhere on a mission trip because they are afraid to go. They are not so helpful to the process.

Although others may choose to live their lives in fear, God never has that plan for us. So...let God help you build your team of faith...and minimize, tolerate, smile, and speak God's potential into team fearful.


Living a life of audacious faith is way more fun and fulfilling!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Prepping For The Experience

I was in college when I was challenged with a new thought. Would I continue to just show up to church on the weekend, most of the time straggling in late, visiting with a few friends, and slowly focusing in on the message? You see, this is what I had done since I was a little kid. Hey...at least I was there, I thought.

I remember when the idea was passed on to me that I was about to have an encounter...an experience with Almighty God on the weekend. I was about to spend time with the One who created the heavens and the earth, who forgave me, and saved me from my brokenness. Would that be something I would ever take lightly again?

What if I spent time preparing for my weekend worship encounter (church service) in advance... one hour, or even a few dedicated minutes? What if I would dare to get there early, eagerly anticipating my experience with God? I guess the thought never really occurred to me until then. But that challenge was a life changer for me. From then on, I vowed I would prep myself for the worship experience on the weekend. 

I realized that I had really been treating what we commonly call, "worship time" (music), kind of like the "warm up act" for the message (sermon). For much of my life, I had not prioritized meeting with and experiencing God during the entire church service. I must have thought that it was really "only about the message."

Boy, was I missing out! From that day on, I began putting a high priority on the whole worship experience. The time I spent before a church service took on a whole new look. I was very aware that I was about to encounter Almighty God with a community of people who were there to do the same thing. Prepping for the worship experience took it from an event, to an encounter. It was much more fulfilling. 

So my challenge to you is the same one that was given to me...will your church service this weekend be an event, or an encounter? Prep for the experience and be amazed!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

FREE Photography Class

For all of you photo enthusiasts, I wanted to let you know about a FREE digital photography class next Thursday night, March 22nd, 6:30pm at Hage Elementary School in Mira Mesa. Hage is located at: 9750 Galvin Avenue, San Diego, CA 92126.


The class will be taught by a good buddy and photography mentor of mine, Fred Greaves. Fred is an award winning photographer who will teach you all about your camera. He'll help you get your camera out of the "Auto" mode and really start capturing some great images.


As a follow up to the class, you'll be able to sign up for a free 2 hour photo shoot at La Jolla Cove with me. We'll take what Fred teaches us into the field for some "hands-on" practice.


Spread the word! Bring a friend! Let's have some fun with our cameras!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Here's My Sign

In the life of a homeless person, their sign is their job. "I'm going to work" means I'm going to run my sign. And let's just say, if they can stay on a corner for a couple of hours without being run off, they can rake in some great money.
 
But when life transformation starts to knock at their door, their sign can become their crutch. Guys I know who have been in the San Diego Rescue Mission had a hard time with the idea of getting rid of their sign. It was always something to fall back on.
 
Today, I received a call from my buddy who recently got a new job, and a new place to live. When he told me he threw his sign away, my jaw hit the floor! I couldn't believe it! Even though a new sign is just a piece of cardboard and a Sharpie away, this was a big moment in his life. The new life that God has given him just keeps getting better. Getting rid of his sign was his way of embracing God's blessing of forgiveness and life transformation.
 
For many of us, we may not have a cardboard sign, but we have our own crutches. They are the things that keep us trapped in our past or present, and keep us from the kind of life transformation God has for us right now. The truth is, God has taken care of our past, wants to meet us in our present, and transform our future. This truth takes on radical new meaning when we come before Him and say, "Here's my sign."
 
What sign are you still holding on to? Don't let it define you any longer. Let God define you! His sign says, "You are amazing because I made you amazing!"
 
 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The pieces of the puzzle

I've been with our pastors and directors for a couple of days of planning for our church. We have such an awesome staff at Newbreak! This is going to be an great rest of the year!

I want to share a idea from our lead pastor. He was speaking of our faith journey being like a big puzzle box. If you've ever put a puzzle together you know that it's way easier to put it together if you have the box cover. That's where you'll find the picture of what the puzzle should look like. 

Here is the idea: Jesus has the box cover, we have the puzzle pieces. Most of the time we can't see the box cover, but by faith we still have to put the pieces of the puzzle of life together. Sometimes it takes a quite a while to figure out how all the pieces fit together. It can even be very frustrating!

As we walk in faith and continue to put the pieces together, we start to get an idea of what the finalized puzzle will look like. We begin to see clarity take shape.

The great news is that Jesus totally knows what the puzzle will look like. Not only is He holding the box cover, but He created the picture on the box cover! We can take great comfort in that, especially when we experience times in our lives when the puzzle pieces just don't seem to be going together well. 

In those times, remember this is only a puzzle to us! God holds the box cover!

 

Heart first...Head second

I was with our worship pastor and some of our church staff today and we were talking about worship. He spoke of a worship concept that really made me think, and I totally agreed with it.

 

I tend to be a very calculated person. It's a part of my wiring to care about details, sometimes to a fault. One of my biggest challenges toward being more versatile is learning to be more spontaneous. So what our worship pastor shared was definitely something I'd like to grow into and champion.

 

Here's what he challenged us with..."in worship, let the first draft come from the heart and let the second draft come from the head." What he meant was that we tend to get this the other way around. We tend to think about worship in a calculated way first, then try to get our heart into it. Today's worship experience with our staff was a challenge to let the first draft come from our hearts, from a spontaneous place where we could simply meet God where we were at. 

 

I have to tell you...for a calculated person like me, this was a challenge, but it was very liberating! A core value of mine is to strive to live a life of balance, not letting the pendulum swing to far in either direction. I know my heart still has room to move toward more spontaneity and I will look forward to the journey of meeting God in that place.

 

Heart first...head second.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Tough Love...Victory!

Last week I wrote about a tough love situation where I helped a homeless guy...a friend of mine I've been journeying with for the last 4 years. You can see my previous post for the details of my tough love situation.

 

It's only been a week of clean and sober for him, but there was a huge break through before the weekend. He actually was offered a job and a place to stay. The job was for a maintenance position for a event vendor here in town. His first job was fixing all the electrical problems in their warehouse. My buddy was super excited because before he was homeless, he was a journeyman electrician for almost 30 years. This guy totally knows his stuff. Over time though, he had lost confidence in himself. 

 

Well, he totally amazed the owner of the company when he installed a brand new breaker panel, and fixed a bunch of the vendor stands. He did such a great job that he was offered a permanent job! Plus, there is a small apartment inside the warehouse my buddy gets to live in. 

 

The greatness of this is, this is the first time in 8 years he's actually worked a real job instead of holding a sign on the street corner. This is the first time he's live in anything besides a tent under a bush...besides when he stays at my house, and his time in the San Diego Rescue Mission. Development is starting to manifest itself.

 

This is the forth homeless person who has come to our church, and is now mainstreamed back into society with a real job and a home to live in. That is super cool! It makes all the effort worth it. God is totally changing their lives and it's amazing. So I write this to celebrate with each of you who has played a part in this recovery situation. Your consistent love and prayers have made a difference! 

 

Never quit loving and praying!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Poverty Alleviation

Another segment from a great book on helping the poor...When Helping Hurts

The goal of poverty alleviation is not to make the materially poor all over the world into upper class North Americans, a group characterized by high rates of divorce, sexual addiction, substance abuse, and mental illness. Nor is the goal to make sure that the materially poor have enough money.

Rather, the goal is to restore people to a full expression of humanness, to being what God created us all to be, people who glorify God by living in right relationships with God, with self, with others, and with the rest of creation.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Epic Day... Guess and Win

My wife and I are getting a jump on our day off tomorrow. I love it when our days off line up together. I LOVE living in San Diego. 


First person to guess what beach we're at wins a print of your choice (up to 12X18) from my website www.tropicalphotosbylarson.com.

One guess per person. You must guess in the comments section of my blog. I'll announce the winner in my next blog.

Good luck. Have an Epic San Diego day tomorrow!

 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I Promise

31 years ago today, I was a freshman at a Jr. College in my hometown of Oceanside, California. I had met a girl that swept me off my feet. Even though we were young, I knew this girl was worth waiting for. So, on March 7th, 1980, I gave a girl named Sheri, a promise ring. What I wanted her to know was that I was committing my life towards the journey of falling more in love with her every day. I knew that some day she'd be my wife.

That year, I went away to Texas to college and we continued to dedicate ourselves to each other. College presented many opportunities to date other girls, but I didn't. I knew I had the right one and I didn't want to do anything to mess that up. During the times we apart for 3 1/2 years, we literally wrote each other letters every single day. We never missed! Here is just one box of the letters I wrote to her.

I have to say, after all these years of being with her, my love for her just keeps getting stronger. She is absolutely my best friend and I love spending every moment I can with her. She is the most amazing, loving, thoughtful, selfless, caring, devoted person I've ever met. Every day I thank God for her!

I may not get everything right in my life, but 31 years ago when I said "I Promise"...I totally got that right! I love you Sheri!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Tough Love

One of the hardest things in working with the homeless is the slow pace in which progress seems to come. How does one share hope and change with someone who has lived their whole life running from responsibility and living in addiction?

From a big picture view, you can see the changes that took someone from "most every day was bad" to "most every day is pretty good." But the day-to-day journey is filled with much frustration.

As relationships develop, consistency, boundaries, and tough love must go hand in hand. Quick types of relief like some spare change, a warm shower, or a night out of the cold, must ultimately transition into rehabilitation and development. If not, those things will only temporarily revive the addict for brief amounts of time, usually making them feel 6 foot 10 and bullet proof. They will always believe that they've had their last drink, only to be thrust back into surroundings that breed more failures. The cycle never seems to end. But I have to remember that God created them for way more than this! So, I keep speaking this into them until the light bulb turns on in their lives.

This week, I picked up a guy who was in pretty bad shape, gave him a hot shower, and a warm bed for the night. Though he had not taken a drink in 24 hours, the effects of alcohol poisoning were taking its toll. It's hard to watch a guy with cold sweats and the shakes, but it's all a part of the process of healing. The tough love part was sending him back to his home...a tent down by the river...while he was still withdrawing. Although I wanted to keep him, I knew that wasn't the best thing for him. What he really needs is to check into a recovery program that will help him with counseling, job training, and the ability to become all God has created him to be. This week, he wasn't ready to do that.

The good news was, he called me today and was feeling much better and thanked me. He is talking like he is close to seeking the help he needs...checking into the San Diego Rescue Mission. Until he's ready for that, I'll keep being his friend, dispensing God's love, but being OK with tough loving him towards the healing he needs. Maybe next week will be his week!

Who will you speak God's love and purpose into this week? It doesn't have to be a homeless guy, but someone in your life needs to hear it. Maybe this will be their week!


Monday, March 5, 2012

Pocket camcorder reviews

I can't believe how much video camcorders have improved and changed over my lifetime. OK...so I'm going to play the old card now. When I got married, I remember the "state-of-the-art" camcorder was a big shoulder model with VHS tape. The quality then was considered good, but if you look at it now, it was pathetic! Seriously, I think the Fisher Price model could out do it now.

As technology improves, the cost of shooting high quality video keeps dropping. I'm going to do my best to review a couple of pocket camcorders currently on the market...Sony's Bloggie Touch, and Samsung's w200. Both are $99 models capable of shooting 1080p HD. I must start out by saying...just because something shoots 1080p, doesn't mean the quality is going to be awesome! The awesome factor has everything to do with the size of the sensor in the camcorder. The same goes for a camera. Just because you have a lot of megapixels, doesn't mean you'll have quality images. The smaller the sensor, the less the quality.

Both the Sony Bloggie, and the Samsung w200 have small sensors. The Bloggie has a touch screen on back, and comes with 4gb of flash memory (not expandable). There is also an 8gb model. It claims it can shoot 2 hours of video at 720p. The Bloggie is smaller in size than the w200, but has a larger screen than the Samsung model.

Although the Samsung w200 has a more rugged and larger body, much of that is due to the fact that it is waterproof up to 10 feet. This would make for a great pool or snorkeling camcorder. There is a white balance setting for underwater too.

In head-to-head outdoor video shooting, the Samsung is richer in color. Both have image stabilization and do a pretty good job with that. In low light shooting, the Samsung is still richer in color. The Bloggie did a poor job with color in low light. The Samsung also uses a micro SD card so you don't have to worry about running out of memory, as long as you have enough memory cards.

After shooting both, I choose the Samsung over the Sony. Easier menu options, micro SD memory, waterproof, and richer color make it my winner. Both are available at Costco.

I have to say that my Canon s95 point and shoot camera does an even better job with video, as does my iPhone. But if you need a cheap, waterproof option, the Samsung w200 can be a great choice.

Happy videoing!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Camera Awesome!

Yesterday, I got a message from SmugMug telling me about an awesome new FREE app for my iPhone. It's called "Camera Awesome" and it is just that! Camera Awesome takes your photos to the next level by shooting fast, and taking better, exposed shots.

It has a built in level for leveling your horizons. You can adjust focus and exposure separately. You have 1 tap sharing to your favorite social media sites. There are special effects, an "Awesomize" button for auto correcting, and a cool video feature...so cool you'll have to check it out for yourself. There's even more than this!


Did you miss it the first time? This is a FREE app. So what are you waiting for? I'm not sure if this comes in a Droid app, but I'm sure it will soon.

There is one more phone camera app that I love. It's called SnapSeed. It's a very powerful little app. It comes in iPhone and Droid versions, and was just released for Windows.

Have fun making awesome photos and videos with your phone!