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.

Am I Hipster Yet?

My housemate Krysia and I have had coffee dates every semester since school started specifically to discuss what we are expecting for the semester coming. As well as the ‘pre-semester expectations’ that we set up we have follow up meetings to see how those expectations went. I’ve had ‘themes’ and sentences impressed on my heart for the semesters that have tied with different scriptures that have carried me through the very crazy seasons that emerge at Hillsong College.

At the end of last semester as I was thinking about what I wanted for this semester it wasn’t an opportunity or to even grow in a particular area of college or church leadership. I simply want to know G-d more this semester than I have in a while. I want to focus on the Word like I haven’t in a while and spend time learning about the Lord. The songwriting and lectures and learning curves will happen and somehow everything will get done this semester that needs to, but my desire is more Jesus and more of the Word in my heart. 

On a recent trip home for my brothers wedding I inherited my dads Nikon camera. Short of having another ‘Daddy teach me’ blog I will say that trying to figure out how to use it today has made me realise a few things:

  1. Learning new things, and more than that, learning ALL about new things involves more reaching out to people who know more than it does you trying to just guess. 
         By this I mean, I went ham on Youtube tutorials for this specific model of Nikon and watched all the things. I didn’t rely on and can’t rely on myself and my thoughts on how the camera should work in order to take the best pictures but I SHOULD research and see how people have used it and how they’ve best figured out to take those classic hipster shots that get so popular on Instagram (shameless plug). But really, learning is best done in community and I don’t see how that differs to learning about G-d. We should be discussing what passages mean to us and the best that we understand how it applies to whom it was addressed to and to us. We should be reading and researching what the scriptures are actually saying and we should be giving them a chance to say it. 
  2. Learning involves time – but the learning goes quicker if you focus your time. 
    I’m the QUEEN at multitasking… and by multitasking I mean today I did laundry, watched youtube, did make up on half my face, finished my laundry and then washed my face, straightened 1/3 of my hair before I realized I didn’t like the texture of my hair so I washed it then redid the whole thing and blogged. I also took one photo I was proud of but it was with my iPhone. I tend to get bored halfway through whatever I am doing so it sometimes takes me a while.In other, more related words, sometimes getting to know someone or something intimately involves time given up to focus JUST on that thing or person. This is more just a reminder for myself of what is required for my expectations
  3. I would love to have a number 3 because 3 points is good but I’ve really said what I wanted to.

Sometimes I don’t know why I post stuff on my blog that just belongs in my journal.

Thank you if you’ve read this – and if you will just pray that I focus and get what I’m expecting this semester. Love you all.

 

Just Cause

Amos 5:21-24
(NIV, emphasis mine)
“I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”

One of my classes this last week focused on Worship and Justice. We looked at what these two have to do with another and what expectations have changed since scripture was written up. I was shocked to discover the call in the Old and New Testaments to the leaders and governments to keep justice in the courts – be fair to the widow, orphan and poor. We have to assume these warnings were written to 1) keep them on track and 2) clean out what was already bleeding through the culture of oppressing those who couldn’t support or even defend themselves.

We as students were given different portions of scripture to look at: what it meant to the people it was addressed to, what it means for us as a collective body of Christ and what it means to us individually. My group looked at Exodus 23. I’ll summarise it for you…

  • Don’t lie about people
  • Don’t pervert justice and lie in court
  • Be fair to poor people in court
  • Be kind to your enemies property
    • Not JUST to them but even their stuff
  • Don’t take from the poor just because they are poor
  • Don’t oppress a sojourner (don’t beat down, put down, dishearten, suppress a visitor, companion, inmate, visitor, lodger, different nationalities, different religions, refugees)

When we as a group looked at what it might have meant for the Israelites we assumed maybe they had corruption in the courts and were probably exposing heaps of poor people because they thought they could get away with it. We assumed there were crooked people who were so wrapped up in the culture of slavery that they had just been delivered from that they were treating others as slaves. Granted, that’s what they knew to do but it still wasn’t just or fair. We assumed they were treating people less than what they would want to be treated like and that they were disregarding taking care of people who didn’t belong to them.

Then we moved to a harder question – What does this text mean to us as the body of Christ?
How do we take on these scriptures in the Church?

 We talked about Public Justice (How society treats and manages others),
and Private Justice (How I treat others and manage myself to benefit others).

So the public justice level around this passage would look more like how many Christians are educating themselves on the elected ‘in-charge’ of our governments and nations. Are they contributing to who is in the courts and even becoming those who are in the judges in courts deciding what is fair for all? Are we as a local church involved and benefiting the community around us? Are we investing in families and defending those trapped in Domestic Violence? Are we doing all we can to find homes, clothes, food, and clean water* for refugees and flood victims alike?

There are many more things the Church COULD be doing but there are loads of things that fall more on the individuals that make up the Church that we should probably be looking at.

Private Justice –
The hardest and most confronting question of all that we addressed is how this all applies to me? How do I treat others?

This was the hardest one to speak out loud.

I grew up in a westernised, bible belt, mostly white’ish people culture. But I also grew up with the news… I knew what areas of Tulsa (and now Sydney) to avoid if I was alone and I rarely ever walk in a park without looking over my shoulder. I grew up with a fear of homeless people because at no point do you know if they’re going to rape you, if they’re mentally unstable, if they’re in a very real sense ‘battling their own demons’ or how they would react to a conversation. But my fear grew out of judgments that began when I didn’t take the time to look them in the eyes as I walk by them on busy Sydney streets. My very judgments dehumanised someone with a story. I wasn’t being fair – I wasn’t being just – I wasn’t being anyone who remotely resembled my Saviour. Jesus, who took the time to look a naked woman in the face and tell her that He held no sins against her. Jesus, who when Himself was oppressed by the government didn’t fight back with entitlement or ‘rights’ but instead STILL SHOWED LOVE to all. I know much this last paragraph makes me seem like an ignorant… dirtyword… but this was my honest heart condition.
My ignorance turned into judgments that disguised itself as fear so that I could neatly sweep it all away as, “I’m just protecting myself”.

Am I saying single girls should stop at every homeless person and strike up conversation? No, that’s not what I’m getting at… But maybe just get involved and start to add humanity back to those around us. Maybe just start to learn the faces and names of those we equate with statistics and numbers.

My thought is that we are already a pretty passionate generation – I think that there are specific desires that are unique to individuals. Where our Private Justice comes in is EDUCATING ourselves on the issues of our hearts and GETTING ACTIVE in those areas.

Some of your hearts are absolutely wrenched for the homeless, some want to take care of the elderly, some have a resolve of adopting, some are desperate to help stop domestic violence, some of you can’t sleep at night because you’re broken over those still enslaved in sex-trafficking.

Great, I hope something breaks your heart – I hope you let yourself cry sometimes while praying over these neglecting issues that Christians love to talk about but sometimes never DO anything about.
But, OUR G-D… the one who CREATED JUSTICE calls us also to be just

The Lords desire is more for justice and fairness than for one more ‘Christian’ to write Him one more song, or worship Him one more time for all they have. He wants us to give to and restore those who DON’T have.

So after you forgive me for being a little too honest again, find one of the links throughout this blog and research, get involved, be the just cause… just because.

Obsessive Compulsive Details

I recently painted a mug at one of those places where you paint a pottery item and they fire them for you to seal on your artwork. It’s a pretty nice looking mug. I’d show you but it’s also a Christmas present for someone so I can’t exactly post a picture on here because they just might read this.

In which case, they now know they are getting a mug for Christmas.

I used 9 colors for this one mug.

It had a load of details etched into the sides and even the handle, so I took my time and made it look as awesome as the person getting it for Christmas.

When I first started on painting I was excited to get to all the cool ideas I had for each groove on the cup but as 1 ½ hours passed and I was still on the final, very tedious steps to complete the cup I began to lose patience. I wondered if the effort I was putting in would be appreciated or if they’d even realize how difficult it was to keep my hand steady for as long as I did. I began to want the world to understand how careful I was with my process and I wanted recognition.

This all came out in the form of me telling my mom over and over how freaking cool the mug was.

I wonder sometimes if G-d wants us to just notice. I wonder if while He was painting the colors of the trees if He thought, “Maybe if they see how much effort I’m putting into this for them they’ll appreciate me a little bit more”. I don’t think G-d NEEDS our appreciation for all of His works, but I do think He wants to tell us something. I think He might be telling us the story of how it always works out for the good of those who love Him and who are called according to His purposes because HIS purposes have already been established and we get to step into this pre-blessed work of good. I think that in the details He might be reminding us that HE is faithful and doesn’t get impatient in completing a good work that began in you. I feel like in the details, if we notice we might see a beauty about creation that can inspire awe and wonder around the things that He does and the person that He is. I feel like maybe we could learn a thing or two about beauty.

I’m so thankful that the Creator isn’t as sidetracked as I am. I’m thankful that He IS in this for the long haul and never grows weary of the tedious tasks of correcting, comforting, reminding and loving us. He raises the sun everyday and spins the earth into seasons. He forms something out of nothing on the daily and allows the smallest of faiths to move mountains. He is a G-d of the details and I feel like when I focus myself and my mind and sometimes my camera I find Him there.

((He is beautiful and I am paying attention.

Jesus I will trust You / I know You never fail / I will trust You / the only thing I know/ is G-d You’re in control/ in every little detail You are close / I’ll never be alone / here in the unknown / the power of Your presence fills my soul

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

It’s just so good to remember HOW good G-d is. The beauty of who He is can be revealed in his many gifts that He blesses us with. I’m so thankful for His grace everyday.

Please enjoy this #ThinkBackThursday

14.08.2012

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of G-d – not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Ephesians 2.8-9

Birthday gifts are funny things; we receive them in a celebration of the day we were born. They aren’t given to return favors but almost as a, “congratulations, you didn’t die this year!”. We didn’t earn them nor do we by any means deserve them. This is the case with most any gifts we received.

Our salvation is a gift from G-d. Of all things to be ill-deserving of, He chose to give us eternal life and in that life all of our mistakes (the accidents and purposely rebellious things) are covered by grace. I don’t understand a LOT of things – “I don’t know” comes out of my mouth and is written by my pen more times than I could recall.

But how I understand grace is this: I’m alive today.

Despite going from a devotion yesterday morning straight to driving and bickering at all the morons who drive with less skill than I do, despite forgetting what I even read yesterday or sleeping through my alarm and missing Sunday school – I’m here and I’m given this moment to praise my King. I’m given this gift of salvation and (dare I say) “insight” into the kingdom that I might know the hope to which G-d has called me, the riches of His glory and His great power (Eph. 1.18-19)

If you take Christ and His sacrifice out of the equation, it’s likely that ink would have never filled this page. I’d never have been born, and my parents might not have met. Me alone without G-d leaves me dead in sin (Eph. 2.1) – a useless bag of gross that people should light on fire and leave on a porch somewhere.

Thinking of my life without G-d is awful.

LORD, Thank You for Salvation and Grace. Help me to fully realize how dependent I am on You and remind me daily of where I’d be without You. Your grace is a beautiful thing and though I don’t see or understand fully I am so grateful for this gift. Forgive me for all the time I waste and for how sinfully forgetful I am. Help me remember to reflect on and praise Your name and blessings.

I don’t understand why He chose a sinful man to pour all of this out on but He did; probably because He is just THAT wise. He not only handles our shortcomings but He can make them look like they were always in “The Plan”. He teaches us through our trials not around them.

“In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will.”

Ephesians 1.11

Who has two mighty hands and can work out EVERYTHING in conformity with the purpose of His will?!
G-d. That guy.

Everything. G-d, Creator of the Heavens and Earth picked us all first before any other creature offered on the little league team to be apart of His great plan. Not only were we chosen but we are given this Author who has the creativity that is beyond our favorite writers, painters, inventors and kindergarten teachers meshed together. We have a G-d who can move us into something of worth – even after our days filled with mistakes –  ALL for His will. And He actually KNOWS what He is doing.

Shewt.

Jesus, Your Word is true. I was dead in my sin and have been offered this salvation and grace and forgiveness and I want it. I’m going to hold You to Your word. Use my life and cover my shortcomings to allow me to fit into Your will. Help me to understand the hope You’ve called me to – in that give me rest. G-d, I’m not the brightest… can You remind me how much I need You? How much others need You and let my life be of some use for Your kingdom. Cause I know it’s ONLY by You that it could.

            I love you, talk to You soon.

Out Of The Context: Christmas

Welcome to my #ThinkBackThursday this week, I wrote it shortly after my 19th birthday around Christmas time (totally on Christmas day). It’s more of just a prayer and not entirely a Jesus sermon, but it is where I’ve found my heart lately, in full surrender and hopeful request that G-d would be G-d and allow me to be me and hopefully use me everyday along the way. It’s all I really know how to do is lay my requests before G-d and wait on Him; and even with that I am terrible. G-d help me even now, 5 years later and a little bit farther into the path with you. Grow my heart towards You and let there be even more of a willingness to serve Your people and fill me to overflowing with grace. I am needy, but You think about me. Thank You.


For what it’s worth, I give you all I have.

I’m sorry it isn’t pretty, or all that much in the long run.

But I’m willing and ready to change if you want or need me to.


I give you a moldable me. I give you who I am in hopes that You’ll make me better. I give you me, praying that You’ll make me more like you. I let go of fears to give honor and awe to you. I let go of distractions so that You might have my full attention, not out of obligation but out of the LEAST I could give you. Starting now and going into the rest of my life I give it to You. May I never take lightly my service to You and help me to see and re-define who I should be for You.

I love you G-d and I know you love me too.

-Laina

Christmas always reminds me how ridiculously, and undeserving-ly blessed I am. I like all the gifts I got today and somehow I usually sit wishing I had more money or saved better so that this year I could give more. I’m always left with a few people to give presents to AFTER Christmas is over. I don’t see much wrong with that, I just wonder sometimes who stopped today to offer what they could to Jesus? It is after all – – About Him.

Blah blah blah… I’m not about to get on a Christmas lecture on how He is the reason we celebrate, if you don’t know that by now then you’ve been driving with your eyes shut and listening without ears for the months that led up to today. But, for what it’s worth, what have you offered to Him? Not because it’s Christmas, but because He deserves it? Daily. Ha <I can’t believe I started a sentence with a laugh. 8APR2015>, honestly take a look at yourself (I’m looking at my life thus far and the future promise I know I can hold onto) what can you legitimately offer to make the space you’ve taken up worth it? Nothing… Yet somehow when we mix who we are with who G-d wants us to be, HE makes us worth something. But He won’t force himself on you or change you without your allowance. You have to GIVE Him the gift of yourself. Which is almost comical when I think of my life ever being a gift I’d want to present to anyone.

((It’s ALMOST embarrassing))

I don’t understand why G-d chose to love me. All I know is that He did.

I don’t understand why I would somehow make an acceptable gift for the Creator. But somehow He sees it in me.

I don’t understand how G-d orchestrates all of our lives into a beautiful array of hope and progress. But oh, He does.

All I can do is be thankful that I live FREE, with a family that loves me, with friends that miss me when I leave, with jobs that are teaching me how to become who I’m supposed to be.
And despite how messy it is, I have a Creator who is constantly changing the image of who I am into who He is and what He wants me to be.

Jesus, I’m not much and I don’t understand what you see in me, but here I am.

My whole heart for You… Happy Birthday (ish)