Advanced Diploma in Hospitality Ministry

Bless, I never know where to begin. I guess I can say that what I know to be true is that God works ALL things together for the good of those who love Him.

ALL THINGS.

One of the many things on my mind lately has been:
How I can work full time and save money to go back to do degree, while not feeling like, by working full time, that I’ll never get back to my degree.

But it’s probably not as big of a deal as my brain makes it out to be.

Something that comes up after someone finishes studying is what they are going to do after it. I was recently very thankful to get to travel back to the USA and see my family for Mothers Day. Which landed me at my old church among people who’ve known me or known about me through my family for ages. Someone (rightfully so) inquired as to what on earth I was still doing in Australia and if I was done with studies.

First off I married an Australian.

Other than that – I’ve finished my Advanced Diploma in Ministry and I’m saving to go back and get my Bachelors of Theology. But… please don’t ask me what is after that.

So, naturally she asked me what was after and if I was planning on running a church with my studies. This has been such a weird thing for me to balance over the years because I haven’t had a very strong desire to pursue a job within ministry *gasp*. And guys, that’s weird. Why on earth did I move to the other side of the world to learn how to do ministry from some of the best and why have I had an increasing desire to never get a pay-check from a church?

Phill (my husband) and I both have a massive heart to GIVE to the Church and BUILD the Church but maybe not be employed by the church, possibly ever. I told her that one of the biggest things I’ve learned about myself in the years in Australia is that my ministry is very much hospitality – I think even if the only thing I learned in three years was how to be a better person and how to be hospitable then it was all worth it.

I think ministry looks a whole bunch like a house full of people and a meal that maybe you didn’t have all the finances to afford but you tried anyway. Sometimes ministry for me is asking a customer at work one extra question just to see if they need to talk. I think pastoring maybe looks like cinnamon rolls, coffee and a late night couch chat with someone who had the worst week and feels life might not change.

I believe that hospitality and ministry looks a whole lot like showing up to the table, saving a spot for someone and listening.

I actually just switched jobs this week from a café that I’ve been serving at for two years to sales. I needed the challenge of a new environment and something to learn but taking care of people will always be my nature. My last shift was this past Thursday and I decided to come in Friday morning to surprise one of our regulars and have coffee with him. He is around my father’s age and has two sons. We chatted about travel, jobs, learning, and books. Truthfully, I don’t know why I came in to have coffee with him, it sounded like a nice gesture to finish the week and make someone feel special. We talked about doing what you’re passionate about and with reading, writing came up… he asked if I had a book idea already down and I began to share a bit about what I’d love to write out.

I had a BIT of a panic as I realized I couldn’t tell him about what I wanted to write about without God being a part of the picture. Not knowing how he felt about religion, I disclaimed that my story has a lot to do with my faith. I got to talk about Jesus, in the most casual and relational way and I left thanking Jesus that we get to talk about Him. What a wonderful honour.

By the end of the conversation he just thanked me for showing up – I didn’t have to and he wasn’t expecting it and to that point, I wasn’t sure why I did. But G-d works ALL things together for good. Even a coffee with someone I’ve got to serve for a few months. I don’t know what will ever come of that conversation but I hope he knows that Jesus is good. I hope he knows that Jesus thought enough about him to prompt me to just a simple coffee. I hope I always listen to those promptings and understand that ministry should cost me something – even just $4.50 and some time.

I think hospitality ministry is just as valid as a preaching the word, counseling, being and elder or a theologian. I think it’s where I belong and I hope I always steward that well

I hope you understand that being ‘called to the ministry’ is just a phrase, and that everyone to some capacity is called to their ministries. Live inside of yours gracefully and remember that you’re just as potent as a minister as those who end up working for a church. Be the stay-at-home moms and dads that they next generation needs, be the business people who lead with honour, authority and truthfulness. Open your home to anyone and everyone who you love or don’t agree with, at the end of the day everyone needs a meal. Use your words kindly and never be afraid to speak to the stranger with their face down low. Play music in all areas of entertainment with excellence and creativity. Do YOUR thing with G-d and for G-d as worship and let G-d bless it and bring ALL things together for good.

He is SO good.

Happy Birthday

Hillsong College has been booming with end of semester presentations and performances lately, which has been great fun mixed with a little nervous excitement. The first year songwriters had their performance this week and as I sat at the packed out café and listened to their beautifully composed songs I began comparing (as you do). But it wasn’t a negative comparison or even a “me against them”. It was more reflective of my first year songwriting self – I began to wonder if there was a difference between my time before college, last year and this last weeks performances and the caliber of songs that I was producing. I think this was Jesus – because I am not this clever – but I felt in my heart that it wasn’t a measure of “are my songs better” but:

“Am I better? Am I better at being a songwriter?”

I got stuck on the thought that if I haven’t improved in my discipline of songwriting, then, I haven’t improved. I feel the same can be said of my character and life. I question a lot if I’ve changed much year to year being at a Christian Leadership college and spending most every day at the church. We are invested into almost hourly and are exhausted by the second week of school. It’s beautiful here and it is hard. This has been the most demanding semester I’ve been a part of and I have felt stretched and sometimes broken. I didn’t address my infrequency of writing this semester in my previous blog because I didn’t want to.

But just so you know, I KNOW.

In my questioning if I have changed, if I’m the same, if I’m different but revert quickly back to the worst of me, I again felt that drop of a discipline thought – If I haven’t improved in my discipline, I haven’t improved. I can’t actually gauge how I’m doing by how I feel because that changes every time I change my diet. If I don’t see my journals filled, if I have more books to read than books that I’ve read, If I have more abandoned coffee dates than friends then I am no better.

But tomorrow, I get to start a new journal, I get to start reading Joshua, I have a coffee date with a good friend and I get to choose to believe that He who began a good work in me will carry it out unto completion. I’ve learned more this semester than ever about getting into the Word of God and APPLYING it to my life. Technically there is a model to look at them, us, me – but that’s more of an in person conversation and it’s my blog so naturally I’m talking about me.

The Word of God is active and is most useful when it is USED. Of all my disciplines I pray this increases the most.

My life isn’t about the caliber of my accomplishments but the consistency of my growth – and I pray that yours never becomes about what you produce but the daily producing of fruit and great things to build your community and to grow you closer to Christ.

I love you all, Happy Birthday.

Life Update

“We’ll smile at the sound of silence”
Staple, Sound of Silence – Of Truth and Reconciliation ’05
((one of the few bands I cried about when they broke up))

I wish I could link that song for you all but unfortunately you’re only option is to find the full album on YouTube and skip to the song… or listen to the entire album which may do you just fine.

I didn’t mean to carry on posting fortnightly and I can assure you this isn’t the new norm- Last week was the final push to get to and through songwriting performances for this semester. They went well if you ask me. I wrote a song about a prostitute (Gomer – Hosea’s wife… from the Bible) and much enjoyed my typical minor chord fashion.

This week has been wonderful! It’s school break so everyone has been posting pictures of their travels and adventures and I’ve enjoyed minimal going out, minimal make up, and minimal stressing about what is coming next. I got a random road trip to the Blue Mountains —blue.JPGand I purchased a bucket of apples for $10. I found out a few tidbits about myself I think I forgot

  1. Nostalgia is refreshing – The group I went to the mountains with all listened to Underoath in their lives and so we had a good throwback to our teenage years and listened to heaps of screamo songs.
    1. A. Apple sauce smells like fall to me and will always remind me of my family, even when I didn’t actually grow up going with them when they could go apple picking.
  2. Clean laundry and clean hair ALWAYS make me feel better. Nuff said.
  3. Quiet and empty places creep me out and I also love them.

Now, can I change topics and remain pretty honest? I’ve put off writing my book this entire break because I’m a big scaredy cat. I LOVE going alone to cafés and sitting for ages but the thought of sitting alone with my thoughts to work towards my book (which my goal is to have written and ready for editing by July) sounds like an awful experience.

I’m really good at boundaries and I tend to say ‘no’ when I need to for things and social events but I’m stinking at setting a boundary to write every day. Even when and especially when I don’t feel like it or think I have anything to say. But you can’t edit what isn’t there.

Also, I don’t like random blogs or abrupt endings, unless they are done well.

All The Little Pieces

I will likely always be my worst critic, which means you’ll likely be your own as well –  So I’m going to attempt to be less critical and judgmental because we subconsciously do it enough for everyone a few times over.
I didn’t post last week for a few reasons:
1) Friday seemed to throw its own surprise party and didn’t tell me about it, so it wasn’t until viewing the remanence of it on Saturday’ Facebook feed that I realized I had failed to post, or even realized that it was Friday. Life does that.
2) I was having a cute little whinge about why the heck I feel called to write when others are better, others are more noticed and others will probably have a wider reach. That got corrected real quick.

So what do I do with that?

The point of this site is to share my weekly “Jesus Story” or the things I’m learning so that I document being in Australia, at Hillsong College, and continue to develop the craft I feel passionate about (because Lord knows I suck at doing it with pictures). I share my story because I have decided that all of my story is going to be apart of my ministry. That usually looks like being sold on the idea to share, sharing, being happy about myself and then discouraged, wanting to quit and then being graciously reminded of my passion. Sometimes I feel like if I walk away from this I wouldn’t know what else to do – not walking away from this blog, but walking away from sharing.

So this week, after wanting to give up and walk away I sat in a chapel with Catrina Henderson, our school Principle and a brilliant woman in love with G-d. She spoke about jig-saw puzzles and puzzle pieces – I couldn’t possibly regurgitate all of her information on here the same way she did, but I will tell you what stuck out to me.

She talked about the need to be who we are called to be, because we FIT inside of this beautiful family and puzzle by not trying to be someone else. We also help others fit when we are ourselves. If one puzzle piece tried to be a little bit different it would actually cause the pieces around it to be misfits as well and would cause an even bigger issue. We give freedom to those around us to be the most confident and feel the most at home when we ourselves just BE who we need to be. When we live inside of our callings, when we operate inside of our grace zones (our areas where we excel because we are actually good at what we are doing), when we post every week to learn more about ourselves than to see how many reposts we can get.

We actually grow in general when we become more natural to ourselves. 

One of the most impacting things I heard out of this sermon was the call to not only take our place, but to remain there. Being a blessing to others requires more than just turning up sometimes to fill our roles. Being a blessing to others requires the day in, day out consistent giving of ourselves – our FULL selves.

Thinking that people need me more when I am myself is such an odd thought for me to wrap my brain around. I don’t think I’m often NOT myself but I don’t think about how much more I contribute to life when I am fully me and I remain fully me and inside of what I’m passionate about and called to do.

I deeply appreciate and love each one of you, even if I don’t know you or don’t know you well. I love when you are fully you so I think maybe I just need to work on allowing myself to be fully me.

Quality, Quantity: Both and Neither

*Downtown Tulsa – Shades of Brown. Hot and fresh chai tea lattes in hand – you know, the ones that taste like Christmas if Christmas was a marshmallow. The background music is even farther away with the sounds of the kitchen staff yelling through the teatime rush and I am staring out the window trying to collect my thoughts*

Thing 1: “Whats going on Laina?”

Thing 2: “… I think sometimes my standard for myself is too high, or maybe that it’s just high enough and I don’t forgive myself well enough.” 

I’m sure from this point they break out into High School Musical-type song but I’m not songwriting today.

I was reminded again this week of my passion, which is funny enough because I continue to do what I love even when I don’t love it. I made a commitment to write every week (or every day and post once a week) and for the most part I’ve loved what it has taught me. It taught me that I CAN.

I missed two weeks ago and was frustrated with myself until last night. We had a masterclass for the Writers Guild in our creative community where Kylie Beach read to us her Letter To The Poets. Please do take a read, it’s beautiful.

As she read this letter I thought of my daily/weekly commitment and how sometimes I actually miss the mark. Sometimes I write a blog that I hate or feel isn’t my best work and I don’t want to publish it. Sometimes I post on Saturdays even though my goal is Fridays. Sometimes I post at midnight even though my goal is noon. Sometimes (only once in over a year) I actually don’t set the time out to post at all.

Occasionally though, I write a blog that I actually tell my friends in person about (with my real words) because I feel like G-d just might have put His seal of approval over it. But set aside all the good blogs, the bad ones and the ones I haven’t written to be judged yet and I still have a need inside of me to write my heart out.

“Creativity is sacred, and it is not sacred.
What we make matters enormously, and it doesn’t matter at all.
We toil alone, and we are accompanied by spirits.
We are terrified, and we are brave.
Art is a crushing chore and a wonderful privilege.
Only when we are at our most playful can divinity finally get serious with us. Make space for all these paradoxes to be equally true inside your soul, and I promise—you can make anything.
So please calm down now and get back to work, okay?
The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes.”
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Elizabeth Gilbert

What we make matters enormously, and it doesn’t matter at all. I could never post again and what G-d wants to accomplish though my writing will still happen if I continue to seek Him. But, I could continue to post every week and grow, learn discipline and correct my sometimes terrible grammar. I can read articles on what makes a great blog, how to edit, study literature and use all the tags on WordPress… But at the end of the day my prayer is that if any of what I write is what you need to read – that it finds you timely. And if anything I need to learn is something that you’re creating, that you’d be brave enough to create, share and discipline yourself in your craft. I promise – you can make anything.

*I’ve never read Big Magic before but this quote was shared last night as well…
I’ve attached a link to the book on Amazon for some birthday ideas, or some random gift ideas, or some
“Happy Friday” ideas. So. That’s that.

Bullet Point Update

  • I have an issue of collecting lots of ideas in my heart and wanting to write about all of them but struggling to clarify what I am meaning.
    • I have 3-4 pending ideas on posts any given week
    • I have one on my heart specifically that I’d love to share with you all but I don’t feel like I’ve focused and thought through the subject enough to be satisfied with my work.
    • I’m extremely passionate about a lot of things but sometimes I forget that I am until I begin to speak.
  • The semester is picking up a lot faster than I expected
    • Colour Conference 2016 is RIGHT around the corner
      • I have this sinking sort of understanding that I’m going to learn A LOT this year. I could sort of explain why but I don’t care to.
    • Easter is the Sunday after Colour. Yup.
    • Assessments are already due this coming week.
      • I’m already done with them 🙂
  • Second Year classes are blowing my mind
    • Worship Theology –
      • One of the greatest questions I’ve never been asked before, “When you pray, who do you tend to address first and then in what order do you address? (i.e. Father, G-d, Lord, Jesus, Abba, Holy Spirit, Daddy)
    • Old Testament – Psalms
      • I feel like it’s the bible half of a songwriting lecture
      • The Hebrew Poetry is gorgeous and somehow the beauty translated
      • It had to be G-d breathed
    • Tutorials – New people to learn and believe in
      • Everyone has, “a really good tutorial this semester”
        • That’s because our intake is amazing
      • I already love them all and can’t wait to do life with them this semester
      • Acts is leaning on my heart and I have a desire to see a grace-filled community in tutorial.
    • Chapels/Church (they aren’t the same thing)
      • Not the same thing BUT – there is something different going on this year
      • Chapels haven’t felt like this before. Everyone is engaged and passionately seeking something more.
      • Church feels more like family than ever, I don’t feel like it’s really a Sunday without serving with my team and picking on Paul for coffee.
    • Me
      • I’ve had random fatigue since coming to Australia again, it got better but I still felt a tad off.
      • My overthinking is hella annoying right now
      • I’m beside myself when I think about how blessed I am to be here, with these people and learning in this environment again.
        • #WeGETtodothis
      • I frequently have extremely weird dreams – EXTREMELY weird
      • I’m excited to refocus my passion and time to fit in writing a book this year. Jesus bless it.
      • I love you all

        I keep reading Philippians over and over in different versions and study Bibles because I can’t get over how full of thanks and blessing that book is.

The picture was brought to you today by my 2009 year old self. It was one of my favourite hair styles I had. But it hardly has anything to do with todays blog. Except that I like baking… that’s another point under the “Me” section I guess.

Dear Diary,

I suddenly have to ask myself questions I don’t want to hear. I’m sitting wondering if I’m good at loving people or if maybe I have no idea what love really looks like. I found out that I struggle to let the Lord just love me and through my non-educated assumptions I reckon it has brought some of the issues I have. I’ve been sitting with myself thinking about faithfulness and measuring myself up in uneven scales. Lord, teach me to just be again, teach me how to sit with you and breathe.

I am gross when I look at You.
I am a curse when I see Your blessings.
I am dark when I stand in Your light.
I am off key when the angels start singing.

And then I see the way You look at me…
And I see how deeply You care
You tell me that’s not how You see me
And you begin again to repair

I’m not actually sure if I’m GOOD at loving but I know that I just have to ask you to love me and You will, and You’ll change me.

Lord, please change me