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.

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!

Back On The Saddle & Always Grateful

Thank God the process of getting from America to Haiti is over and I am officially back to work at Danita’s Children! Nothing exciting to report this time around (which is a good things!) just the usual airport, airport, airport, hotel, transport home. My time in Florida was wonderful as expected and it is never fun to leave Free Life Chapel. It is truly an amazing house of worship and family to the community in Lakeland.

Someone said to me while I was there, “You know it’s good for you to come back so that you don’t remember it in your head as more than what it is.”

No.

I went back.

… and it is just as good as I remember it to be.

Thank you to everyone who made my time at home so so great! To my pastors and Caleb – as much as I tell you that you bless me – it is so much more than that! Thank you for providing for me so much more than just a place to stay – I couldn’t love you more!

Thank you to everyone who is so supportive in prayer as I continue this journey, and a special thank you the few who have joined with me finically – you make it possible for me to be here and I am so grateful for you!!

Lots of things happening since I left – our medical center is looking AMAZINGand is closer and closer to it’s opening – and I am so grateful to be a part of the team at Danita’s Children. Thank you for helping us fulfill the Great Commission as we rescue, care and love for orphaned children in Haiti! It takes everyone’s special part to make it happen!

God is so great, graceful and truly provides everything that I need!

Blessings From Haiti,

Hope

Room For One More

 I am looking at this group of 13 boys and my heart is breaking. I am reminded that I recently asked God to show me his heart in Haiti.

As an answer to my prayer He showed me his hurt,

which came in the form of two UN trucks and a van full of orphaned children. Their cheeks were stained with tears and they were all naked. Onto our property filed the Mayor, the Judge, the national social worker and a variety of security detail, UN guards, etc…

They shut down an orphanage in our village and with nowhere else to go they brought the children to our door in hopes of giving them a new home. These children were taken off of the street to be cared for, which clearly never happened, and as I peered into the van windows they were terrified and crying.

I can’t imagine what their day was like. And it was only lunch time.

The boys filed out, each one of them naked, one boy putting the neck of a t-shirt around his waste to create a skirt. Their faces were scared and their bellies large and expanded. They followed along, kind of confused, prolly a little embarrassed, and were slightly skiddish in the room full of missionaries and national officials, just watching. Naked. I wonder if they were ashamed? Sad? Just plain hungry? All I could do was hold them in my lap and tell them it’s okay now. It didn’t matter that they were naked, would prolly pee on me and clearly have infections all over their eyes. I couldn’t hug them enough. I knelt down next to one little boy and asked him, “How are you?” He put his head down with tears in his eyes and quietly whispered, “I don’t know.”

                 

When asked if they wanted to bathe they all eagerly agreed, even more than they wanted to eat. Who knows how long it’s been since they have had a bath, a toothbrush, a bed. As my heart is breaking, but I’m grateful that they’re here. I’m grateful that I will get to rock them to sleep tonight. I’m grateful that they are safe, clean, with full bellies and each will sleep soundly in a bed. I hope that they fall asleep feeling like this is a new beginning. A good beginning. And wake up feeling like they’re loved.

                                  

Learning how to pray.

Our sisters can scrub a kid down with the best of them, so first up with baths. Next was dinner. I don’t think they understand yet that this will happen THREE times EVERY day. Our kids trust that we will provide for them, but you can always tell the new guys from the bunch – they eat like they truly don’t know where their next meal will come from.

What made my heart overwhelmed most was how our boys took them in. They introduced themselves, took them by the hand and led them toward the playground. They prayed for them during devotions (And when I say prayed during devotions, our kids don’t play. They pa-ray). In Haiti, prayer is not a sweet notion. It is a real conversation with a real God. And even as young children, they get that.

One boy, sweet Moise, asked me, “Can they stay here for a long time so that they can go to school like we get to?” During Friday movie time I saw two let the new boys sit in their laps so the new boys could see better, and then when their legs got tired they gave up their prime viewing position so the new boys would remain comfortable and stood in the back. When it was time to get into bed they led the confused ones to an empty bed and got them a blanket before claiming a bed for themselves.

It is those moments that my heart of a mother beats – to watch the children that we brought in the exact same way and raise each day to be grateful and considerate and God conscious –  to then identify insecure, identify pain, and walk out everything we hope that they take away from life – when no one is watching – to ensure another child’s wellbeing.

Sigh… things that make you cry.

I ended my night rocking 13 little boys to sleep. Best part of the day for sure. Everytime I took one into my lap he immediately cuddled in and crashed. I know their day had to be so crazy. They all said they were tired and I know that it has been a long while since they have been rocked, cuddled, anything but laid on the ground for bedtime. As they fell asleep I sang to them and prayed over their little broken spirits. I’m choosing to see a hopeful future in them. What they are going to be. What their future now holds. Their countenance has already changed so much in only a few hours.

 

As I write this I am sitting in our office winding down. The kids are asleep, counted, double counted and prayed for. I love that time of the day. Our boys are so sweet when they’re getting sleepy. It’s late, but I’m not ready for bed. I’ll regret that tomorrow. I keep wondering about these boys and what they must be thinking about right about now.

In the midsts of all the growing and construction and work that goes into making each day a success at Danita’s Children, we were reminded today – that there is always room for one more.

  

I’m grateful for the reminder and grateful that I am able to be a part of their story. Also so grateful that Danita followed God’s call to her. It gives me such reassurance in the fulfillment of God’s promises – even when they seem crazy.

And on a day like today, you see the fruit of it. When 13 little boys file out of a beat up van and never look back.

I am going to sleep feeling ready for bed, but so content.

Here’s to purpose – Cheers & Goodnight!

P.S. Sidenote – we now have 13 little boys who desperately need sponsors so they can begin school, etc… please share with your friends and family and help us change these boys future!

Some Days Just Get The Best Of You

It’s true.

I sat in church today feeling like once again I would have no clue what’s going on until we dismiss.

I love singing the songs that I don’t know.

I love watching the people worship to words I can’t say but I know are glorifying to God.

And everything around me just seemed to overwhelm me with thanksgiving.

It’s already been a slightly overwhelming week but God showed me so many people this morning that reminded me how good life is and how the small things are Oh, so small.

Our Evenson, who suffers from Muscular Distrophy, can barely walk and has painful joints, but is never found without a smile. Who stays after all the other boys have gotten distracted to help put chairs away. Who goes out of his way to come say ‘hi’.

He sat by me in church today. It’s often uncomfortable for him to sit for a long period of time, but he never leaves his seat. During worship, as most of our other older boys are reluctant to stand, or are bored, Evenson is standing in the middle of them, with his hands lifted and his eyes closed, lifting the most sincere and genuine worship and prayer to God.

I cried because I know God was listening to him.

I cried because he wasn’t embarrassed or ashamed that he wasn’t fitting in.

I cried because, well, I’m super emotional right now.

I cried because he doesn’t deserve MD. He deserves to run. He deserves to play soccer. I pray for him each day that God would heal his body, or at least give him comfort in his bones.

Pepito and Chris Jerry.

Pepito is a single father. He brings his son, Chris Jerry with him everywhere, including church.

Alone.

Every week.

A single father is unheard of in Haiti.

A father is rarely heard of, but a father raising a son all alone is literally unheard of.

Not to mention a son who has special needs. Who requires 24 hour care.

He is a young man, in his 20’s, who gave up his job, his life – everything – to raise this boy who will never say ‘I love you’, who will never jump into his arms or play soccer with him. Pepito has literal minimal resources.

Yet, Pepito loves his son so much.

I cried today watching their love.

I cried watching a father love his son so much with no requirement for a return.

The man in the front who stood giving thanks to God the entire morning.

A grown man being vulnerable is another unheard of thing in Haiti.

I cried watching him be so incredibly grateful for life. For provision.

I cried because of my selfish heart – the difference in the way that this man and I would define the same term of provision.

Provision.

Most likely his children were able to eat this week, thus he feels provided for.

They weren’t out on the streets. Or maybe they were. Whatever the case, he felt provision in his life.

I cried thinking about the lives of the people in the church today. When they’re not at church. When it’s just a normal day. What their homes look like. When and if they eat.

On Sunday they are presenting their best. Even then, in the states we would be in those circumstances feeling like Job, like there is nothing left.

Yet they worship, they give thanks, feeling like they have been provided for another week.

Think again the next time you beg for provision, and clearly define that term for yourself.

Then give thanks.

Hot Showers and Such…

I was recently reading a blog of a girl who lives in a developing country and she does great things for God: she raises multiple children who would otherwise live hungry most days, and she feeds hundreds each week and she teaches English at a small village school. Her life is full of joy and hardship I’m sure, but she is gracious and humbled to do what she does. Although I was inspired by her faith and pursuit, there was a small bit that I couldn’t disagree more with and that I fear a lot of times the terms “missionary” or “mission work”, etc.. get wrapped up in.

This girl was describing the lifestyle of some of the people who surrounded her – their living conditions, their eating habits, their constant desperation for help – and challenging her readers to think more often toward those are aren’t as fortunate as themselves. However, she took that a bit further to say that she was praying that every time people who live in America take a hot shower that she is praying that they feel guilty over the water running over them.

 Wait.

Not only is a hot shower not shameful, but it is a hot shower that a business owner, church member or basic supporter is under each night who make every bit of a missionaries work possible.

I understand her point. But, it is being focused within and being consumer driven and selfish that is wrong. It isn’t the hot shower that should ensue guilt. It isn’t having nice things and enjoying all the abundance of the Lord. It is a greedy mindset that is wrong. Not thinking past ourselves or of the priorities of our God that is wrong.

In fact:

I am so grateful for every single business-minded, wealthy person, pastor, church member, believer, or non-believer for that matter, who understands the importance of legitimate change in developing countries, and sees the potential to act as the hands and feet of Christ through providing for others to go. Whether they may have never been out of the county, never have a desire to rescue a dying child off of the street or could simple not want to rough it in the mists of under-educated people and desolate, desperate lands.

 I’m even grateful for them if they took a hot shower tonight.

Even a little jealous.

The point is, it doesn’t have to be this or that. One is not right or wrong, or better than the other. All equally important although some are not doing what were doing, or doing it how were doing it.

That is all. Goodnight folks. Enjoy your shower.

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?

Behind The Scenes At FLC: The Preview

On the usual video announcement Thursday I am sure to be well rested for the hair and make up team to arrive. I have a well balanced breakfast as the team does their job and presents me with outfit options for the shoot, and then our transportation comes to head toward the shooting location while I view the script and sip cranberry juice.

That's me inside there.....ummmm... do you believe me????

*[this is the part where it sounds like a record screeches]

juuussttt kiddinggggg.

The only thing true about that is that video announcements are usually shot on Thursdays.

I get a text (or tweet from @lindellaustin) sometime before then about location ideas or time, and wake up accordingly.

Sometimes it’s an awesome place and i get to shoot at the beach or downtown, and sometimes it’s just by a column or cool plant that Lindell has searched out. For those who actually pay attention to the background, he usually finds some pretty cool places to shoot.

The morning of the shoot I take forever to pick out an outfit and hopefully am not scrambling out the door, putting make up on during the drive over rushing to put make-up on before I leave. Whatever the case, Lindell always knows I’m close to location because every natural and otherwise distraction becomes fully amplified – all birds have very deep conversations/arguments (we don’t know which but it gets intense), the train leaves the station and travels for 12 years right by use, the light never turns red, the homeless man starts performing his one man band – you name it, it’s picking up on that mic. Tonight, they were blasting Justin Bieber, Katy Perry and friends over the intercom for the skaters (“skapers” as said by Laylah Sierra) to enjoy. No problem, I knew I am the girl who always gets “shhh-ed” for a reason.

When I arrive to location I read over all the happenings of Free Life Chapel and mic myself up while Lindel sets up his camera (or he just tells me what I’m gonna say while he sets up if there is no script) and then I see a little red dot, he counts down and points (trying to be official), and I usually bust out laughing. I have to get it out of my system.

Just once.

Or more.

Sorry, Lindell.

Putting the mic on my belt.

It usually only takes about one run through, unless I get the giggles and keep promising Lindell that this really is the last take, and the product is what all sees as, “The Preview”.

Who is that weird man who keeps skating behind me and distracting my shot?!

I know you were all hoping for something more exciting, but thats just how we roll at FLC.. kicking butt and taking names.

So, for the night, I’m Hope and you have been reading about, The Preview.

Tell a Beautiful Story.

Anyone who reads my blog knows that I worship in a house that is simply re-defining “church” as we know it. It’s called Free Life Chapel and if you haven’t heard of it… well, let’s just say you will shortly. Interning with them has taught me so much just by sitting in a lot of meetings and watching a lot of people do what they do.

I didn’t realize just how relevant we are, however, until I took a new job and had a meeting out of town to discuss what my role would be and how the company could utilize my abilities.

Throughout every conversation I continued to catch myself saying, “… well at Free Life we do it like this…”, and it made me so proud that I was continuously using the house of God to influence the culture and execution of a company – not faith based – on best practices.

Then I  began to further question – is that not something that should be occurring on a daily basis? Should it be a shock that the church is the leading influence in our community and our businesses and our ideas?

Many people questioned my taking an internship at a “church” when I am so interested in things like journalism, event PR and politics.

None of which relate directly with typical churches in our society.

Whatsoever.

(Note that I said typical. So if you happen to attend a rather snazzy church yourself, don’t be offended, there are many across the nation that are doing huge things and making waves and kicking butt and taking names. Who am I to try and define what ‘typical’ looks like anyways? And if you are offended then you’re missing the point. Keep reading.)

However, if you do worship in a house that causes you to wonder why someone interested in things that pertain to no part of church, then all i can say in return is

you just haven’t found the right house to worship in.

As soon as church steps BACK INTO culture and becomes relevant again, that is when the church will be telling a story so beautiful that the world has no choice but to stop and listen.

Good Tuesday, folks.