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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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!

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

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.

 

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!