Free Life Chapel: Intentionally Spiritual

 

Is it an oxymoron for a church staff to make an effort to pray together on purpose? Well, we are.

It sounds contradictory to your perception, right? Hate to burst your bubble but praying together is not on our weekly office priority list from Tuesday-Friday… we work, and lots of it.

However, this week at Free Life, we are going intentionally spiritual – as a staff and personally – to remember the why: why we are each here, and why we are here serving this city for the purpose of Christ. We’re starting our work day off as a group, praying with each other and over each other, and discussing the why of what we do here each week.

peace-it-does-not-mean-to-be-in-a-place-where-there-is-no-noise-trouble-or-hard-work

It has been exceptionally necessary for me, as I have recently forgotten, and remembered again, why I am here instead of somewhere else. Somewhere that may seem more enticing, more fun, easier, more perks, and in turn more distracting. I know this season is strategic, as was the one prior to that, and the one prior to that. Foundational. I know that God is, as always, trying to speak to my heart about something. The problem is when my heart becomes so heavy with other things that I cannot hear him. It’s seriously the worst… like trying to run in thick fog.

Yes, exactly, can’t breathe.

When I was in Haiti I would think sometimes that if I could just get a moment in an American church, with English worship songs, then I could certainly more easily connect with Jesus. Now I find myself, not only in America, but on staff at an incredible church – yes, on staff, which is like as much in an American church as you can get – and I find it so distracting at moments that it all just translates as chaos in my head .

However, I have heard the contrary from others before – feeling like if they could just go out into the mission field, do something seemingly more tangible, then certainly their passion for Christ would truly be ignited. To you, dear person who thinks that, let me help you with something – it won’t. You will just be hot and irritated, on top of all the stuff you arrived with. Not a good combination – trust me, I’ve seen it.

All in all, the ‘God life’ is in the heart, not in the life, at all. It has nothing to do with where I am or what I do each day for work. It is all a matter of my heart, and how my heart seeks the heart of the one who saved me.

There are so many times where I have a though of a different path that would be so much easier, and this week I am reminding myself that I didn’t ask for easy. I don’t want easy. I want worth it. And I know in the deepest part of who I am that the lessons I am learning right now, the distractions that are in front of me, the sacrifices that I am making in these years, are more worth it than I could ever pay for.

And for that, I am grateful.

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I Love This Place.

You know, there are some days when you just need a good pick-me-up… and just when I was having one of those days I am sent this link.

Yes readers, I claim these people as my own!

Free Life Chapel, you know how to do it right! and Scott Thomas – way to commit, sir!

I LOVE THIS PLACE!

Easter in Seasons & Reflections of His Son

This time last year I was taking a deep breath at the end of a whirlwind weekend called Easter. A week full of being out in the middle of the night buying toys, calling every store in Central Florida for an iPad 2, waiting in lines, Good Friday service, Love Reach – all built up to these few hours that held so many souls in the balance.

There were lights, there were give aways, there was all sorts of excitement. I remember the anxiety in the build up, the set-up, the breakfast run, the tweeting, and when it was go-time, I remember standing in worship, looking around me and thinking to myself that I wanted to capture the serene moment that I was standing in, as people filled into the balcony, because I knew that it was the beginning of something amazing in Lakeland.

True to that sentiment, I am once again excited and overwhelmed at what God continues to do – a year later – in Lakeland, Florida… and I wasn’t even there. I can’t tell you the amount of people who are so committed to the execution of the vision of Free Life Chapel and yesterday is just one – out of many – of those days that proves that. Someone told me while I was in the states that it was good being there so that I could see that it isn’t all that I make it out to be in my head. But I continue to disagree – it has only gotten better and more fulfilling to be a part of the house at FLC – and I love every chance I get to be there and be a part just like when I was 19 and stepped into that place for the very first time.

I will admit that when Good Friday came around I was taking my grape and cracker communion alone in my room, reflecting on a day that ultimately changed my eternity and throwing a little prayer in for all the people who were doing the same so far away (and simultaneously pulling their hair out in preparation for the days ahead) and my heart was a little heavy because a piece of me wanted to be pulling my hair out in crazy preparation also.

For me, however, this was a different kind of Easter. One for the books, really. There were no lights, there was no invite bunny (only through my Facebook stalking skills), there was no cool music and no power house message from someone I honor and admire (Thank you, Jesus, for podcast!) but instead a lot of silence and reflection. I read through the gospels and tried to dwell on the fact that Jesus struggled with this decision. That His sweat was like blood. I spent time meditating on the suffering of my God and the confusion that must have occurred in Jerusalem during the days that followed.

Last year was loud and crazy for me and this year was quiet and pensive, but the heart of both were the same: that on Sunday people all over the world came together to celebrate that Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father and longs for us to find freedom in His death.

I am aware that this season of my life has purpose and is different for that reason, and for that I am excited. I am excited because it is weekends like the one that just passed, in silent reflection and strong presence, that remind me that no matter how bright the lights are and how loud the music is, the heart of it all is the Son!

And in that I’m so grateful that it isn’t this or that. That I was here reflecting and such, while watching my people at FLC throw a mean party in Florida – all in celebration of the same thing – He is Risen!

Happy Easter – keep that reflection in your heart all year!

My First Thoughts of 2012

I am laying in bed, skipped church to try and rest to kick the last of this cold (not like I get much out of a bunch of a language that I am still in the beginning phases of learning… my Creole is about as advanced as a three year-old) but am not getting much done.

Resting didn’t quite work out for me. So of course I resort to writing. I can’t even concentrate. Literally right now I’m typing all that comes to mind and all there is, is that my eyes feel like their gonna explode out of my head and the motorcycles outside are really loud. There are kids on the sidewalk outside the window yelling and joking and screaming “o my gosh” in Creole a bunch of times, and one singing the beginning of “O, Holy Night” in English. Clearly the only line she knows, prolly has no clue what she is saying but she is definitely enjoying herself. A different rendition each go-around.

Last night I rang in the New Year with a… bang? I was slightly bummed that I wasn’t at the big time party, didn’t have a cute outfit, didn’t need a cute outfit and had nothing to do. However, little did I know there was a staff Christmas party that Brenda went to so I stayed at the girls house while she was away. And well, that’s a party in itself.

Basically threw on some fabulous lip gloss (courtesy of Kathleen, thanks for the year supply) and spent the night watching the Justin Bieber movie (how these Haitian girls are so in love, I will never know), practicing our midnight 2012 celebration screams and recording music videos with Francia to Spice Girls songs.

I took some cough meds around 11:45 pm and rang the new year in drifting away on the couch. I would say it kind of sucked but it was the first night that I haven’t spent struggling and coughing to death in about a week so I’ll take it.

 

There is somewhere that I would have loved to have been, but I am certain that God has me here for a reason, whether it is to overcome my obsession with finding a great New Year’s Eve outfit or to teach me some great principles of my life and it’s true meaning, I have yet to find out.

2012 is gonna be a good year.

I can feel it.

Happy New Year everyone. What are your resolutions?

Mine – to find and record a great moment each day.

XOXO,

Hope

Reminding Myself – Read and Repeat.

I don’t know how to share. It’s easy to impart and pour in – when the hurting is not coming from within.

But it is from within and I can’t quite comprehend why this is so hard and why my journey is never soft to the touch .

Why the questions that are being asked of me are so extreme and why the answers take so much. Why the sacrifice to grow, to be more, to expect great is always screaming and why I continue to desire to choose to turn the volume up.

During this time I don’t know how to share. I don’t know how to write. I don’t know how to poeticly form lines and rhymes and stories to flow from my cup. Within me feels pain and anguish and hurt. I feel selfish and deserting. I feel like the Ruth inside of me is betraying her loyalty.

But I know that it is right.

I know because I have prayed for this. I have prayed that this would come to pass. As soon as I saw a glimpse of it I ran so fast.

I refused, I regretted, because the roots that I have planted are so comforting, so warm, so true and so rewarding. I’m comfortable in my place. I know my lane. And have found what makes me shine.

So to my Father, to my Father who has known me before I was birthed into this earth. To the One who I’ve never had to question, assume or raise a second guess. My heart is content with you. You know me, my fears, and each very tiny insecurity and concern that is inside of me. You are the greatest love story ever told, the greatest story ever known, and I am privileged to play opposite you. To even be in the supporting cast. Even if it makes me the damsel in distress instead of the heroin that I wish I could be.

Just know that I am scared.

Tears on my pillow betray my strength.

The decision before me is one that confuses me, has my head and my heart spewing two different lines. It’s a gamble and a bet. Unknown, risky and without convenient, safe or reserved seating. However, it is not what awaits in Haiti that frightens me, but it is what I am leaving and what possibly will not be.

 Right now all that I am asking of you is that if I step away from the things that I know. If I walk away from the people who have aided my healing and provided a safe place for my pain, celebrated my growth and gave segway to “church” as more than a name. If I go through with this time away from those who have become family and forever important, that You will hold steady the distance between us and provide grace in the mean time. And in the latter of this adventure, what remains is strength and honor.

However, whatever the outcome, whatever the trial, wherever the journey – I will remain knowing that your plan is true and real. You are sovereign and still reigning over this earth that You created in the vast cosmos of eternity.

Even if the relationships that are deepest and closest to my heart find another bonding place, I will continue to meditate that You are forever my judge and I long to forever be your witness. My only prayer is that I am always found on a mission about my Father’s business.

Whatever that looks like, wherever that is. Beyond whoever understands, is confused or could care less. I pray that you keep my mind on this path, this very narrow bind that is embedded into my heart. The one that pulls me here and pushes me there.

 But I thank you before I even know it or feel it that on this journey you have lit, you have put in me peace and contentment in a way that as uncomfortable it is, as wrong as it feels, as selfish as I seem, it is a fit. It is a fit because I know the Word that you have put in me, I know the desires that my soul longs to be.

And on the other side I know the reward that you have waiting for me. On the other side of prayer, of obedience, of fear, of sacrifice. Just to see if I will.

 But I want you to know, that even if my steps seem shaky, inconsistent and quietly plotting our escape any minute, know that my heart is willing. I want all that You have for me, in the abundance and essence that You want to give me. I want Your word to be tatted all over me.

And before this one is even over, let me just say… if it isn’t how I want or not how I planned, if You’re ready for another move, another test or another trial – I will be waiting. Still willing. Knowing all that You are according to who You have always been.

Selah.

Livin’ The Free Life: The Power Of Church

The power of church.

The power of a church family.

The power of fellowship.

The power of serving.

It has the ability to change desires, to change passions, to change priorities and to shift the entire path of a seemingly perfect life into something more than was ever thought possible.

But there isn’t a question as to wether or not church can be powerful in your life. The question is if you will allow it to be or not.

And I don’t say that because I want people to go to church and I don’t say that because I want people to get more involved in their home church (although I SO DO want people to get more involved in their home churches). I say it because it happened. To me.

And I’ve literally never been the same since.

I am sitting in the Dominican Republic in an open air cafe in the back of a Texaco (yes, Texaco like the gas station, you are correct) and listening to an extremely loud ‘Fall Festival’ gearing up island style in the streets behind me that I’m sure will bellow over into the late night and early morning hours. So amped for falling asleep to that tonight.

While I’m sitting here waiting for some videos to download I can’t help but dwell on my hilariously random surroundings, which lead to thoughts on the past few years that put me in this location (in life and – literally – geographically), and just in general what an extreme impact one decision had which unfolded my life as I know it.

The decision to leap. To launch. To say ‘yes’.

I wouldn’t say that church changed my life. God definitely changed my life. But He used a church – not a name, or a building, but a few interesting people who do life in fellowship with one another and come together to worship and present Christ to their community and through their lifestyles – to get me to this initial place of change. Which seems to continually progress from there… always.

My goodness, sometimes it’s exhausting how much life changes and progresses around me. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. What is the alternative? To be stagnant? To live the same day-to-day cookie cutter style? No, thanks.

At my first opportunity (actually about 6 months of running from my opportunity and justifying ‘why not’ in my head,

I leaped into a lifestyle of servanthood.


Was launched into a world that I never knew existed or could get so good.

All because I said ‘yes’ to the posed question of surrendering my current path for one bigger than I could dream.

Maybe it was just me, maybe it was my desire to serve or find my place in a new state and new home all by myself. Or maybe, just maybe, it was God inside of me, showing me possibilities and proving to me the fruit of service to His kingdom, and most of all being all things to all men – making it relevant and real to the life that I live every day in this secular world.

Sometimes I feel like we look at people and think, “Wow – They are so involved. God must really be powerful in THEIR life.”

But, God isn’t selective. If you indeed do say ‘yes’ I guarantee you that church has the capability to be more powerful in your wor

ld than you could ever ask for. It brings families together, builds a stronger relationship with Christ and fills a greater fulfillment than this world could ever know.

My life would be different in every way if I hadn’t been open to the opportunity of being driven by a purposeful life and a powerful, purpose driven church.

So answer me this: What will you allow church to be in your life?