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!

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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?

The Water Boy

I have been an intern for Free Life Chapel since January and have had the honor of walking with this team from it’s inception.

So many people enjoy the fabulousness that is know as the Free Life Chapel worship experience, but what many do not see is everything that there is to be done Monday through Saturday in order to make Sunday appear so fabulous. SO many faithful volunteers and leaders dedicate their time to execute the vision in different areas of ministry, and SO many staff members work effortlessly 25 hours a day.

My job is kind of lost somewhere in the middle.

 I am like the “whatever you need” girl.

You know like, “Hey Hope, could you help me with this?” and my reply is usually, “O sure, whatever you need.”

Or, “O you need help on that project? Ya, ask Hope, she can work on whatever you need.”

If that were a job title, it would be mine. Actually I am just gonna claim it as mine anyways.

Hope Dodson- Director of “Whatever You Need”

Nice to meet you.

So, my life as an intern is always changing. I answer to a few different people, depending on the job that day, but usually it’s these folks:

Dan Snider: He kind of gets things done, so Sunday Mornings are usually my day working under Mr. Dan (and his gorgeous wife, Alma).

Lindell Austin: Lindell is in charge of all videos, etc.. so on video announcement days (also known as Thursday) I work with Lindell.

Jon Sierra: Jon does all graphics and logos and website stuff (and like a million other things) for FLC and usually calls on me to research on behalf of his creative mind. So, just calling or googling, or laying out options.. you know, the things that I am best at.

Marisol: I pretty much do everything else with Marisol. Some of my favorite intern days have been spent working along side her. She is like all amazing with her 13 subject spiral notebook (maybe not 13, because I have never counted, but I bet it’s close). From ladies events to counting inventory, Marisol and I work hand in hand, very often.

 

Cindy Thomas: I am ultimately always working under Pastor Cindy, because, well, all the other people answer to her too.

 Each day I never know what it will look like, just wait for the text or call – I may be researching product information one day, driving to McDonald’s at 5 am the next day, sitting in front of a computer entering database for 9 hours one night (not even joking – good times), and then waking up to drive a jet ski to film Summer Slam the next day(not even joking again. swear.), and sitting in on meetings to plan upcoming events that night.

I have learned so much, just by watching a group of people do their thing, each in their own element, and interacting together. I realized that it’s not about finding “that career” that will make me happy forever, but more about finding that place of passion, that awakens my spirit and allows my heart to dream, and even challenges my potential.

It is in that place that I feel whole and available to change and flex. I have seen projects flourish and those that fall flat (falling flat at the spur of the moment is never good – note taken). I have realized what I love and what I don’t care for so much while getting my feet wet in a little bit of all of it.

And am looking back on my time thus far with such a respect for those who do what they do, and how they do it – all of it, juggling at once – with style.

let’s just say, if the Free Life Chapel staff was a football team, as an intern, I am the water boy.

He’s the guy with the best job anyways. Completely insignificant, but gets to be right in the action. No one watches the water boy to make sure he is wearing the right outfit while he works, but he is as close as they get to the heartbeat of the team. He gets to facilitate the needs of the players, can hear the plays and is part of the huddle.

There are even those cool guys who get to stand on the sidelines at the games, looking all official and snazzy. They may appear important or as if they are a really big part of the action, because after all, they are on the field. But just because they appear to be close to the team doesn’t mean that they attend practice, doesn’t mean that they are loyal to the coach or the team or that they even care about the game. They could have just gotten a free pass or enjoy the view.

That is exactly where my prayer has been to be. Not in the spotlight, but that significantly insignificant water boy, who feels honored to work along side just a few of those who make Free Life Chapel go ‘round, in the background, filling in gaps, and as close to the heartbeat of the house as I can reach.

Just, ya know, doing “whatever they need”.

And loving every minute of it!

Behind the Scenes: FLC Creative Team Meeting

Welcome to a glimpse into the watering hole!

In the jungle also known as Free Life Chapel there are animals of all sorts and walks of life, each Sunday morning is like a safari ride – everyone is in the same house, but each department is kind of their own species. The greeters are the monkeys – carefree and friendly, while the security team are the kung fu pandas – that’s all I’m gonna say about that (don’t test them). We each have our own characteristics and traits that make Sunday go ‘round, and no Sunday would be made possible without the mix of them all.

Some more aggressive than others, and some goofy, while others quiet and observant – but there are a few who gather each week around a watering hole, to bring perspectives of the like and execute tasks according to his make-up of talents. Without the differences and never ending debate, we would never end a meeting or produce a service on a one accord.

From there, the single plan is delivered to departments and executed with passion, creating what we all know as the Free Life Chapel worship experience.

It’s a rare sighting when the mix of movers and shakers gather together, and I will never forget the first time I witnessed a creative team meeting at Free Life Chapel, which kind of resembled– or was an exact remake of something I must have flipped through recently. You know, the Discover Channel documentaries about Lion herds and how the “head honcho” kills their prey and brings it back for the herd to feast on. Feeling like a safari guide sneeking up on a rare glimpse into this society of a group of people who are all different, trying to come to one idea. I don’t think I spoke too much, because all I could think was how amazed I was at the process that was unfolding around this ‘watering hole’ of thoughts. Like I had just flipped channels and couldn’t peel my eyes from the action.

Yep, pretty much a swamp of creative juices.

It kind of goes something like this.

There is a list of topics – holidays, projects, series, ideas, new elements, etc..

There is a group of people.

There may or may not be food.

There are always lots of rabbit trails.

There are hilarious ideas being subtly shot down.

And other ideas being simultaneously praised and developed.

But at the end of it, there are at least three weeks worth of projects taking place in tandem, spread between about 15 people (definitely not evenly – shout out to Jon, Lindell and team) and my job consists of exactly four things: 1. take notes, 2. sit in amazement, 3. comment when/if I feel necessary (which is pretty much never) and 4. not get distracted and fall behind on my notes because I’m sitting in amazement.

It really is a fascinating sight for an administrative girl such as my self, in a room full of fully 100% creative minds – with no concept of price, time or agenda (figure all of those things out along the way) – and amazingly, it works that way. Go as far creative as possible, give the pieces to be researched to an administrative person, and then begin to cut, chop and rebuild.

I continually remind myself of the concept of the “CREATIVE meeting”. All of those things that I was dying to do (list and call and plan and map) take place after the meeting is over, so I have to consistently remind myself that this administrative girl is not on my turf, but in a herd full of creative thinkers, so I tread lightly, and wait for the tasks to be delivered for execution.

The process begins when Scott Thomas (senior pastor of Free Life Chapel) or someone else who has observed something in the world that should be pulled off as our own, throws out an idea, and it lays there, lifeless and void; and I kid you not, those around the watering hole begin to pace (in their heads, but I know it’s happening because I can see it as their eyes begin to shift and they fidget) I’m telling you, right out of the documentary:

At first, it’s subtle and everyone is questioning what the plan of attack is, or if the idea is ready for attack at all. Then one brave soul will begin to slowly circle the idea, observing the thought, and then throw a test comment out. Once that comment is received or rejected, everyone gets a feel for where the idea lies and all begin to pounce. Before you know it, words are flying, agree, disagree, debate, like-it-but-add-something, hate it, love it, check into that, never gonna happen, and then eventually once the group has let the last piece go, a simple idea is developed into one of two things: it has either been torn into shreds and lies just as lifeless as it was delivered – a carcus in pieces – or it is torn into shreds and underneath the initial form lies a distinguished masterpiece; probably more developed than it had ever been intended.

That first day I was like the scared animal watching from the back behind a tree, some other days I still find myself staring in amazement, and rarely I’m that first brave soul to take a test shot at the idea that could potentially be a revolution; but every Tuesday, assuredly, I can be found around the watering hole, taking my notes, trying to follow rule number four, and just waiting to be delivered my portion.

Rough Life

I really have to rough it sometimes as an intern at Free Life Chapel.

Today we filmed for our upcoming summer series.

I mean, I had to drive around a jet ski all over Tampa Bay with our camera man turned around backward on the seat behind me getting shots of the pastors on the other ski. We didn’t laugh at all, not even at the mess ups. It was very serious.

Then I had to drive super fast for the last shot, THEN I was forced to have lunch at Bahamas Breeze before we headed back to Lakeland.

I truly don’t know how I made it.

*I would just like to note that if you did not pick up on the sarcasm in the above statements, then I’m sorry. Actually I’m not sorry, because I felt it was pretty obvious, but maybe that will make you feel better and/or put us all on the same page. Good Day!

Easter 2011: The Big Sha-Bang

April 24, Sunday

This morning overwhelmed my heart.

I am often times found standing in my tracks, mesmerized as I experience the true faithfulness of God.

Today was another one of those days.

With a team of pure hearts to serve, who have been planning this for weeks and weeks, and knowing that execution needed to be flawless, the energy was super-charged. I actually had nerves, I was so excited.

5 AM seemed like nothing but Christmas morning as I gathered my luggage for the day and headed out (I learned my lesson from my first 5 am unload.. Sweats and no hair/make-up: there’s too much work to do to be done in all the Sunday morning get-up and it’s too humid to expect my hair to not be a fro the second i step out the door).

My usual office was blocked off so I had to shift to a different ledge opening. Dan was so gracious enough to share his office space with me, and i pretty immediately began taking breakfast orders. Alma went with me, which is such a help, and we returned to organize and deliver.

After my set-up duties (everything in place, set-up flowing, sound check checking, t-shirt tables good) I found a quiet little hole in the wall with a plug and a mirror and got to work.

By the time 10 AM hit I was so jittery. Just the thought of the many souls in the house this morning gave me butterflies for them. Because potentially, their life will be changed forever this morning.

The worship team opened with a U2 rendition of “Beautiful Day” and away we went.

The energy was hyped, the music was on que, and all was right in the world. I was super stoked when I saw the bowl around our sanctuary arena being filled like a chain. Just kept coming. And that brought tears to my eyes. All the work and no tax deductions and 5am at the mall, all so insignificant to that moment, when I looked around and saw a full house only getting more packed out.

God is so good and so faithful. And now, we rest.

Easter 2011: Love Reach

April 23, Saturday

Today was organized into teams of two, to go into the communities behind the Lakeland Center and reach them with love and information to worship with us, if they had nowhere else to attend church on Easter Sunday.

Each team had a different “territory” to reach and the dynamic duo of Pastor Marisol and myself merged with some of our youth.

It was a privilege to watch them speaking with a less fortunate community about worship.

Although they were momentarily traumatized because many of the families in the government housing deveopment came to the door with minimal clothing (hey, when there’s no air, you gotta do whatcha gotta do) it was a hilarious experience and was a benefit to so many families who were blessed that day and will be at the service as well.