Tuesday @ 7 - #1: Benjamin Lytle

Here's the truth: it's easy as an artist or a worker, or as an anything really, to get to a place where you're comfortable and complacent with where you are. It's easy to stop learning and stop growing and trying to be better. We make excuses like "well, I'm good enough" or "I don't have time." At least, these are the excuses I made.

That is, until a few weeks ago. I don't know about you but, no matter how good I get, I'm always insecure about my work. We're always our own worst critics and we're always harshest on ourselves. That's when I decided that I wasn't going to settle for where I am. I'm going to work hard and make time to get better at my craft. I looked at my schedule and noticed that I have my Tuesday mornings free and sunrise shoots always are amazing. I decided that I could either keep sleeping in or wake up and do a shoot every Tuesday morning at 7 when the sun rises. I chose the latter.

Today, I just happened to have a breakfast scheduled with my dear friend, Benjamin Lytle, who I've been close friends with since 3rd grade. I asked him if we could push it even farther up to 7am even though he was driving up to Dallas from Denton. He said yes, and so today, we got started.

I could go on and on about my friendship with Ben. We've been through some pretty intense stuff together. We've shared some of the best and worst moments of both of our lives. I guess that's what happens when you're friends for as long as we have been. 

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It's crazy to know that Ben is getting married in June. I couldn't be more happy for him knowing his life and how much Hayley, his fiancé means to him. I'm honored to be one of his groomsmen, as he will be in my wedding when it's time. 

Ever since I moved to Dallas for school, we haven't gotten to see each other as much as we used to, but there are some friendships that stand the test of time, and Ben is easily one of those friends. 

About 4 years ago, Ben entered the coffee industry working at a Starbucks kiosk in Kroger. Now he's a manager at Roots Coffeehouse in Highland Village, has roasted with Novel Coffee Roasters, and is one of the best baristas in DFW. Seriously. I mean he was literally voted the 2nd best barista in DFW and his guest roasting program at Roots was voted best in DFW. It doesn't get much better than that. He makes the best cup of coffee you'll ever have. My taste buds have benefitted from his barista skills plenty of times. He's more chemist than coffee snob. It's pretty amazing to listen to him talk about his craft. 

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I'm thankful for friends like Ben. Friends who are Spirit-filled. Friends who speak life into others and are always looking out for other's interests more than themselves. That's the kind of friend Ben is. 

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Work Won't Set You Free

ARBEIT MACHT FREI // "Work Will Set You Free"

This is written on the gate of every Nazi concentration camp, including Sachsenhausen. It was the predominate philosophy, but it was also a lie on a couple of levels. 

"Work will set you free" // Engraved on the gate of Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp in Berlin, Germany.

"Work will set you free" // Engraved on the gate of Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp in Berlin, Germany.

The idea was that if you could work hard and contribute, then you were an asset to society and would be set free. If you weren't, you would be killed. Of course, the hard workers were never set free, so there's the first lie. The second lie is the identity that this gave the prisoners. This told them that their only worth as a human was in the work that they could produce. 

And before you jump on the Nazis for this, how many times do we think the same thing, even if we don't put it like that? How many times do you allow your self-worth to rise and fall on how well you perform? How much does others output effect your view of them? I know for me, it's more than I'd care to admit. 

The entrance of Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp in Berlin, Germany. It is the first concentration camp ever in Nazi Germany

The entrance of Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp in Berlin, Germany. It is the first concentration camp ever in Nazi Germany

One of the hardest parts of the trip was coming to terms with the evil that's in all of us. That's in me. I'd like to think I'm nothing like the Nazis, but I so often allow my work to be my worth. 

Jesus gives us worth and value in simply being human. We're created in the image of God and that's enough. It has nothing to do with results. That's something that the Nazis never understood and I think something we all struggle to remember every single day.

Taylor Castleberry

Recently, I explored the streets of Deep Ellum, TX with local singer/songwriter, Taylor Castleberry. Besides having a pretty incredible last name, Taylor has some great music and was incredibly kind while we were out on our shoot. Deep Ellum had an abundance of vibrant colored walls and interesting street art that made for fantastic backgrounds in these photos. It was definitely a win in the location department.


The Other Side of Discipleship

“I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him” // Philippians 2:19-20

I read this passage the other day and I stopped to ask myself the question, “Why doesn’t Paul have anyone else like Timothy?” What did Timothy do to earn so much of Paul’s trust that Paul will openly tell a church that Timothy’s the only guy he has? What makes Timothy so special?

Here’s what I’ve noticed. The Church as a whole spends a lot of time talking about two primary things when it comes to this; and, for what it’s worth, one even far more than the other.

The two things are:

  1. How to be a good disciple of Jesus
  2. How to be a good disciple maker

The Church talks all the time about what it takes to follow Jesus well. Of course, this is a great thing. This conversation needs to be continually had and I’m glad that it is one of the predominant conversations in the Church. The thing is, there’s times when Paul says, “imitate me as I imitate Christ” and even Jesus says to “go make disciples.” That’s where the other conversation comes in.

We don’t talk about this as much as the first, but the other primary conversation around discipleship is how we can be better disciple makers. How we can live lives, like Paul’s, worthy of imitation. Once again, this is a great conversation that continually needs to be had. All of us should mature into lives worth imitation by other Christians. That’s called sanctification. 

But then there’s some of us, particularly the younger of us Christians, who have to step back and ask a question that it doesn’t seem like many of us are asking. This question takes humility and implies that we haven’t “made it” yet (even though Paul would say he still hasn’t ‘attained all this’ either). 

In addition to being a disciple of Jesus, in addition to discipling others, we have to ask ourselves, “How do I be a good disciple of someone else?”

We rush people into becoming disciple makers before they’ve been disciples of someone else themselves. We create half-full pitchers of water and say “pour” before they are ready and shortchange both parties involved as a result. One empties before he is full and the other only gets half of what he could.

So the question remains, “How do you be a good disciple of someone else?” What made Paul trust Timothy so much that he would openly admit that he’s the only guy he’s got?

The following verses seem to show two things that made Timothy a good disciple.

  1. Selflessness
  2. Provenness 

Selflessness

“I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.” // v20-21

Apparently, everyone else Paul knew was out for their own personal gain. But not Timothy. Timothy had genuine care for others above himself, and would put the interests of Jesus for His people and the welfare of others above his own interests. This is crucial considering that Paul had just finished saying “Have this mind that was in Christ Jesus” and went into the famous “kenosis” passage about Jesus emptying himself for the sake of us. According to Paul, Timothy has that.

For us to be good disciples, we have to care more about other’s than ourselves. We have to always be willing to put ourselves at an inconvenience for the benefit of others. This is the model of Jesus, and by modeling Jesus, we are opening ourselves up to be more like Him and approach having a life worth imitating.

Provenness

“But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel.” // v22

I’m sure after a while of hanging out with Paul, Timothy was ready to go out and start his own ministry or plant his own church or something like that. He must have had some times where he thought he was pretty hot stuff. I mean, he was mentored by Paul. That counts for something, right?

But instead of doing that, Timothy served along side of Paul in the trenches of ministry, watching and learning from Paul “as a son with his father.”  Instead of running out after a while and doing his own thing, Timothy stayed and let himself be the little guy until it was his time to step up. He didn’t choose himself for ministry or just decide that it’s his time. He served faithfully with Paul until Paul said, “You’re ready. I’m sending you. You go be in charge. It’s your time.” 

Without selflessness and provenness, we’re all a fraction of what it looks like to be a disciple of Jesus and to be a true disciple maker ourselves. We’re running on the fumes of our own perceived competence hoping no one will notice that we’re not ready and have no idea what we’re doing. 

However, if we lay low for a while, learning from someone who knows more than we do, imitating someone who's life looks more like that of Christ’s than ours, allowing our mind to be transformed to that of the selfless mind of Christ, then we will be set up for success when it is our turn to be in charge.

That takes humility.

That takes patience. 

That takes time.

These aren’t things our generation is particularly used to. But it’s better to be patient, full, and ready than quick, empty and ill-prepared. So play the long game. Don’t jump early. 

Soon enough, it’ll be your time.


Mr. & Mrs. Titsworth || WEDDING

A few weeks ago, I got to take photos for Ben and Stefanie Titsworth's wedding. Ben Titsworth is quite the guy. He has a thick beard, a hearty laugh, and a big vision for how he wants to impact the world for Jesus. He has a huge heart for church planting and developing young leaders. I'm so excited to see how God uses both Ben and Stefanie in the years to come.

You can click on a photo to enlarge it.


BEHIND THE INITIATIVE REBRAND

In the months of May and June, I led a rebrand of the non-profit I work for, INITIATIVE. Our original “brand” was all graphics we had thrown together on our phones or a website we built before we even knew who we were. It all worked, but it just wasn’t us. It didn’t communicate who we are or what we do. Six months in, it was time to create a brand that truly represented us well and that’s exactly what we did. 

LOGO

Starting with the logo, we wanted something both modern and evergreen. Something that looks good now and will look good in 50 years. We wanted something that communicated youth, unity and action while also paying respects to our heritage in Dallas. Also, it had to be both a symbol and the name, not just one or the other. The symbol had to be recognizable no matter where you saw it.

We commissioned a designer friend of ours from San Francisco, Leanne Kawahigashi, to design the logo for us. What she sent back was fantastic. A complicated pair of concentric circles representing the messiness of unity enclosed in a full circle representing the one thing that holds us all together, Jesus. The line and circle in the center representing Reunion Tower in Dallas as a reminder of our heritage, all while resembling the classic Power On design to represent youth and action. It was perfect. 

WEBSITE

After the logo was designed, we turned our attention to the new website. The old one was built on Wordpress, but we decided to build the new one using Squarespace. This decision was made because of the clean design and easy user interface of Squarespace. We needed the website to be able to be managed by anyone, not just a web specialist. Squarespace’s platform makes that possible. 

We wanted to follow Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle in regards to our website, heavily incorporating our “Why”, “How”, and “What” in the front page of the website. The site had to tell our story and say exactly who we are. We didn’t want to leave one shadow of a doubt about our purpose or function once someone had come to our site. That’s why on the very first panel of the site, we describe why we’re a network, not a movement and we list our three primary functions: Connect, Expose, Empower. After that, you see our four values, the things we will always fight for. Followed by our four events that practically make our values happen.

We made the website extremely photo heavy. Our old website had pretty sub-par photos. Not because our photographers were bad, but because we had only had two events at most when we made it. The photos did not tell the story of who we are at all. On the new website, we went through and selected our finest photos from the past seven months and also contacted some of our photographer friends in Dallas and asked for their best photos of the city and incorporated them into every aspect of the website. This gave us a beautiful, visual representation of who INITIATIVE is and what we do.

We also wanted to make it incredibly easy to join the INITIATIVE Network. Before, there was a button you clicked that took you to an intimidating looking form that asked for some additional information to name and email like “What is your passion?” and other stuff like that. We need people to fill out that form so our Mobilization team can do their job, but we were finding that many people weren’t because of how intimidating it was. Now, we’ve replaced it with a simplistic form that just asks for name and email. We set up an autoresponder through Mailchimp to send them an email with a link to the other form for them to fill out if they want to. This creates for a less intimidating, more friendly user experience. 

DOMAIN

For those of you that followed INITIATIVE from the start, you would know that our original URL and social media handles were INITIATIVE Dallas. Now, they are all INITIATIVE Network. We didn’t make the switch because we don’t love Dallas anymore or because we don’t want to reach Dallas anymore, but because we wanted to open our hands to other possibilities in the future. God is already opening up doors for us to possibly duplicate ourselves in other cities. We wanted our brand to be ready for such an expansion before it was necessary, so we’re not scrambling and doing another rebrand once there was another city in the picture. That’s why we decided to push the Network more than the city-specific side of things. 

In another post, I will lay out the why behind branding as a whole. I think it’s incredibly important for any organization to have a clear, beautiful and engaging brand. However, that’s a post of it’s own. In the mean time, I hope this post on the in’s and out’s of the INITIATIVE rebrand was helpful.