Urban Oasis An Introduction

Something inside me has always longed to be outdoors, amongst the mountains, the trees, away from the concrete jungle I grew up in. Growing up, I felt akin to a domesticated wolf. There I was, locked away in my suburban prison where the most 'woodsy' place was an all-wood playground nestled between some trees – I hated that place, it brought me nothing but splinters – and all I wanted was to actually be in the trees. Trips to my grandmother's house out in the countryside brought relief to the restlesness brought upon by the suburbanite life I had (really it wasn't THAT bad, at this point I'm just being dramatic... but you get the point). I didn't fit, I felt as if I was just wired different from everyone else, and that began to get to me. 

I would often skate around town with my friends, and at some point, I stumbled upon this cut in the treeline next to one of my usual hauntings. I never really gave the trees much thought since they were between two houses and, to me, it just looked like another lot bound for urban expansion. Through the cut in the trees was a bridge, just a giant slab of concrete, really, but below the slab was a creek.

The creek wasn't much, only about ankle deep, waist deep at some parts. But the best thing was that it was sheltered on both sides by trees, and the deep and rough terrain kept it safe from being tampered with. I had just discovered the place that would eventually be where I would spend most of my time growing up, from grade school, through graduating high school, and even on visits home from university, I always found myself drawn back to the creek. A place where I would hunt, fish, camp, take photos, videos, sketch, create. It was my home, my own little urban oasis.

Now, after finishing college, getting married, and moving across Dallas, I still try to discover little spots around Dallas, hidden from the city, the places that make you forget that you're surrounded by millions of people, vehicles, buildings, and streets that I deem fit to be classified as another urban oasis. As I discover these places I will share them here, with photos and memories of each, and I invite you to share with me your own place to escape from reality, wherever you are, whoever you are, and whatever shape your own oasis may take.

Christmas Eve - CHRIST


On this Christmas Eve, we light all of the candles of the Advent wreath.

We light the candle of HOPE because Jesus is our hope, our Redeemer and Savior. We light the candle of PEACE because Jesus is the Prince of Peace that brings unity among us.
We light the candle of JOY because the presence of Jesus in our lives brings joy. We light the candle of LOVE because Jesus is love, and through His love we are able to love others.

Last, we light the center CHRIST candle, celebrating the birth of Jesus and the light of His presence in a world of darkness. Emmanuel has come, and we rejoice that the promise of God has been fulfilled in the coming of the Baby born in a manger.

From Galatians 4:4a:
But when the time had fully come, God sent His Son...

Let us pray:
Gracious God, we celebrate the gift of Your son, Jesus and the fulfillment of the hope, peace, joy and love that is found in Him. May our lives reflect to those around us the Good News that Emmanuel has come. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen 

Advent narratives provided by Dallas First Church of the Nazarene

4th Sunday of Advent - LOVE


Today we re-light the first three candles of the Advent wreath, PEACE, HOPE and JOY.

Now we light the fourth candle of LOVE. God’s love for us is found in the gift of His Son, Jesus, who demonstrated the love of the Father, and also showed us how to love others.

Jesus spoke these words, found in John 13:34-35:
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

There is nothing that love cannot face, there is no limit to its faith, to its hope, to its endurance. Love never ends.

Let us pray:
Thank you God for the love you give us. Teach us to love, O Lord. May we always remember to put you first as we follow Christ’s footsteps, that we may know your love and show it in our lives. As we prepare for our celebration of Jesus’ birth, also fill our hearts with love for the world, that all may know your love and the one whom you have sent, your son, our Savior. Amen. 

Advent narratives provided by Dallas First Church of the Nazarene

3rd Sunday of Advent - JOY


Today we relight the first two candles of the Advent wreath. The candle of HOPE and the candle of PEACE.

Next we light the third candle of JOY. Just as the birth of Jesus gave great joy to his mother, so his presence in the world gave joy to those who had none before. He healed them and gave them hope and peace when they believed in him. We light the candle of joy to remind us that when Jesus is born in us we have joy and that through him there will be everlasting joy on earth.

From Isaiah 12:2-6
Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the Lord God is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation. With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day: Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known his deeds among the nations; proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be known in all the earth. Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

Let us pray:
Thank you Lord for the gift of salvation through the birth of your son, Jesus and for the joy you give us. Help us to worship you, to hear your Word, and to share with others about the joy that comes from knowing You. We ask it in the name of the Jesus. Amen 

Advent narratives provided by Dallas First Church of the Nazarene

2nd Sunday of Advent - PEACE


Last Sunday we lit the first Advent candle, the candle of HOPE. We light it again as we remember the hope we have that Christ will fulfill all of God's promises to us.

Today, on this second Sunday of Advent, we light the candle of PEACE. As we prepare for the coming of Jesus, we remember that Jesus is our hope and our peace.

From the prophet Isaiah:
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

And from the Gospel of John the words of Jesus:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)

Gracious God, grant that we may find peace as we prepare for our Lord’s birth. Where there is division or turmoil or stress, may Your peace fill those areas. May there be peace in our cities and in the countries of our world. Help us to remember that you only are the giver of lasting peace. Fill our hearts today with Your peace. Amen.

Advent narratives provided by Dallas First Church of the Nazarene


1st Sunday of Advent - HOPE


First, we light the candle of HOPE. Jesus is our hope, He is our Redeemer, and He is our Savior. Through Him we have the hope that God will fulfill all his promises.

The prophet Jeremiah wrote in chapter 33:14-16:
“The days are coming, ’declares the LORD, ‘when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah. In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD Our Righteous Savior.’”

The hope that God gave to his people was fulfilled in the birth of Jesus Christ. And God gives that same hope to us that He will finish all He has started through Jesus.

Father, during this Advent season may we be reminded of your promises to us and the hope that we have in your fulfillment of them. Help us to prepare our lives for the celebration of Your Son’s coming into the world. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen. 

Advent narratives provided by Dallas First Church of the Nazarene

5 Gifts For New Photographers

Looking for gifts to get for your friend or family member who's just got their first camera? Or maybe you just received your first camera and are wondering what gear you might need to assist you in your photography? If you answered yes, or no to these questions, then this list is for you! Here are 5 different gift ideas perfect for the beginning photographer!

Camera Bag || AmazonBasics Backpack || $27

One thing that all photographers have in common, whether they have a lifetime of experience or are just starting out is that they all need some way to organize and transport their gear. Starting out, I swooned over the amazing camera bags with features galore, but there was no way I could afford one of these $100+ bags that I saw advertised. I needed something a little more basic, which is where the AmazonBasics Backpack came in. 
The name says it all, this bag is basic, but when you've only got a small DSLR and maybe a couple of lenses, that's really all you need. The bag is small but has enough space for room to grow. It comes with adjustable inner compartments, two front pockets large enough to hold spare cables and up to a medium-sized tablet, as well as two quick access pockets and straps for holding a tripod on the outside. I have used this bag for years now and will continue to use it until I run it into the ground, which might be a while because it's held up exceptionally well. 

Tripod || Ravelli Light Weight Aluminum Tripod || $26

Whether it's self-portraits, timelapse, or long exposure shots, photographers need a sturdy base to rest their camera as it captures the moment. This is where the tripod comes in. My first tripod and the one I personally use is the Ravelli Light Weight Aluminum Tripod and, while it might not be the fanciest option, it is light, easy to use, and has plenty of adjustment points that can help you get the shot. It even includes a universal smartphone mount as well! 

Spare Batteries || LP-E6, LP-E10, LP-E12, LP-E17 || $10-30

Batteries are always a good gift for new photographers. There's nothing worse than having your battery die on you halfway through your shoot. Or showing up to shoot an event only to discover that the battery you thought was fully charged, was out of juice (had this happen, not fun). Well, to keep your loved ones from having to make a mad dash to the nearest tech store minutes before an important shoot, praying the whole way that they have the correct battery. Go ahead and pick them up one or two spare batteries for their camera model. 
I use the Digipower BP-LPE6 for my Canon 80D and can say that it works great and even charges using the same battery charger that comes with the camera, but there's also this deal that gives you two batteries for just a bit more as well as free shipping with Amazone Prime, and although I have no personal experience using this brand, I've read good reviews on it and would use it in my own gear. 
Let me also add that, in my experience, the best batteries will be the ones that are specific to your brand but they can be pretty pricey for just one battery. However, you can save a good bit of money by going for third party batteries that work for your camera model. 

Prime Lens || Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens || $125

I always gravitated towards all of the different lenses as a new photographer. There were so many options that could be used for so many different photo roles, but I had no idea where to start. After a few bad lens purchases, I found my way to the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens, otherwise known as the "Nifty Fifty." This is a prime lens, which means that it has a fixed focal length that utilizes a "walking zoom" technology. What that means is that if you want to zoom in, you simply... walk closer to your subject. This might sound like more of a hindrance but not having the variable focal length allows the lens to bring in more light, making it better for low light conditions and easier to get that blurry background in portraits that everybody loves. Not only that but the fixed focal length forces you to be more creative when capturing shots since staying put in one place is not really an option. Plus, the simplicity of this prime lens is what has made it my go-to lens 90% of the time, just grab and go. 

Photo Editing Software || Adobe Lightroom CC || $9.99/mo

Something every aspiring photographer needs to have is a way to edit their photos, but the native Photos app and Instagram filters can only get you so far. Help your loved ones instantly step up their photo game by getting them Adobe Lightroom. Now, Adobe currently has a couple of different options out there now that they have released the new version of Creative Cloud. I won't go into too much detail about each one but to sum things up, the new Adobe Lightroom CC is more of a mobile-based platform while the Adobe Lightroom Classic CC is the desktop-based program that is more like the previous versions of Lightroom. So the editing workflow is most likely going to dictate which one to choose, but I will say that Lightroom CC appears to be a bit more user-friendly and also includes cloud storage for your photos. I personally use Lightroom Classic CC, but that's just my preference. Each of these programs is available from Adobe on a subscription basis as one of three different options and more info on it can be seen here.

The stand-alone Lightroom 6 software is still available as a one-time purchase, however, updates and support options from Adobe may be limited as time goes on. 

Bonus: Camera Strap || TARION Camera Neck Strap || $8

The standard camera strap that comes with a DSLR is pretty boring and doesn't look very good. Not only that, but it usually has the brand and camera model plastered in large letters across the surface, which can catch the eye of those who may want to snatch that shiny new camera. A simple fix to both of these problems is to get a strap that looks good but keeps from standing out too much while out in the field. I use this strap by TARION, it looks nice and stands up to everyday use. 

Now your new shutter bug will be set to head out and capture the world and you're looking like a hero for giving them tools to do so. Thank you for taking the time to read this article, and if you would, please share this with your friends and follow me at any or all of the links below to keep up to date on more posts like this one! 

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