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

A Rare Glimpse Into My Thought Process.

I haven’t written much in the past month. Not because I couldn’t write and not because I had nothing to say. But because I had no words to serve proper justice to what is under weigh in my heart.

It’s not easy to share in a hard place, always better to share the story in hind sight, after it has all worked out for my good. But you know I’m always told to write down my feelings because one day I will want to tell my kids how I felt and I won’t remember. All I can say today is that my hurt is burdened. I know that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle and I am confident that there are blessings on the other side of this test of obedience, but the process of pressure that is building my exit has me at a place where I’m just ready to walk away.

There have been many times that I have come to this point and have not walked it through because it hurts me to see those hurting around me. Apparently a pressure cooker needs the pressure in order to cook correctly, but at some point I have got to stop crying.

(Is this normal? No clue.)

I can’t think about it, I can barely talk to the closest people in my life because my current reality is heavy.

I love my life.

I love my normal.

I am so grateful and so blessed.

I love my church. I love that it doesn’t take going to the street to see true and tangible change in lives, and that is what is happening at Free Life Chapel.

This is the moment where relationships are truly tested. Were they becoming because they were convenient or available? Or was there something that connected a relationship worth investing in? I am grateful for the relationships that I know will remain.

No matter what, I feel like I am leaving my place in my home. Giving up my room. The place where I feel valuable and purposeful. When I come back, will it be the same? I almost feel guilty  because I’m bringing this on myself. I don’t have to feel this way.

I could just stay.

And then my heart wouldn’t be aching with the slightest thought of leaving this place that I call home. I wouldn’t be making myself sick over the idea of gambling the most precious relationships to me in the world for the opportunity to serve a small community of people.

I have a good life. I am in a good position. Why is it even necessary to go? I have no clue. Is it just longing for adventure? Is there something that I need to learn about God and faith and trusitng Him that I’m not getting in my element? I don’t know. I have asked myself that same thing and tried to substitute the idea with another and I keep returning to this point.

This same point of “go or don’t go”. I could just stay in my good life where I know the ropes and it’s comfortable. People do it all the time. People have huge dreams and desires in their heart and instead they stay where they’re comfortable and live a happy life, never knowing what else they could have missed out on.

 It’s harder because it has been my choice. It is so much easier for me to react courageously to other’s choices that I have no control over, but it’s never been me who caused my own pain. This is something new.

I am holding on to what I know to be true, and trusting that God has a sufficient plan.

Goodnight,

Hope

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.

 

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!

Attention – We’re Gettin’ Spicey!

O ladies, O ladies!

Public Service Announcement: Free Life Chapel is amazing.

 Just in case I have never said it before.

And I don’t say that lightly. Like, I moved out of the state in order to be in the guts of what they are about.

They’re THAT cool.

Cindy Thomas, lead pastor of Free Life Chapel, and her team of fabulous ladies (ahem, me) have done it once again – prepared and delivered a delicious feast before the FLC ladies… literally, it was a dessert party.

The young girls were invited as well and I loved seeing that engagement between generations, many of them even coming early to help set-up and serve all the way through. *big shout out to my youth girls, Valeria and Laurie!*

 

The event started with a game where each lady had a card with an animal on it and they had to find all the other women in their “herd” according to the noise that their animal made.

I had no idea that animals made so many different versions of their sound.

 

Pastor Cindy delivered a beyond amazing, hilarious, timely message about character and the purpose of the women of Free Life, to be spicey and to add flavor to our world. And to sometimes get together and eat lots of dessert.

I love that she made the point that it isn’t our job to condemn the world, but to just be “salty”, to make our culture thirsty, to see what we have and want it.

To just be the best version of ourselves.

And that’s it. Not that deep.

Each table had four bowls of different types of spices that resembled different characterisitcs

and each woman had a little bag to combine their own combo of spices that met their personality.

It was a great way to introduce the new ladies ministry of Free Life Chapel – “Spice!”

I couldn’t help but sing Spice Girls, “Spice Up Your Life”, like the whole time.

So excited for all that is to come and the next Lisa Bevere that is on the rise! Just saying.

 P.S. Shout out to the men of Free Life Chapel who so humbly served the ladies as greeters. It set such a great atmosphere of servanthood.