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.

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.

What’s It To You?

Lately in college life and in my own thinky-thoughts we’ve gathered around the ‘D’ word;

The Topic of Discipline.

In class with Aran Puddle this last week we broke into the importance of keeping an organized and ordered life (and not using the ‘creative excuse’ of being built a certain way and unable to participate in such nonsense). The uncomfortable facts of growing up and doing ministry is that a portion of those you study ministry with will have nothing to do with Jesus by the time you’re finished learning about Him. At first this was a massive concern for me because I the only thing I could reckon was that this was a random school yard pick of who would make it and who would decide they can and will do whatever comes there way. Then the longer I’m in and around this I’m finding it’s absolutely the opposite; it isn’t a school yard pick of who will stay but rather a choice of nothing but the individual deciding to pick the path that will keep them.

            This comes from the discipline of reading the Word.

There is no magic pill. It is waking up and spending time with G-d, being in His word, and asking the Spirit to reveal what it means to you. I wonder sometimes if we treat our time reading as an afterthought instead of a need. I know for myself, sometimes I wake up and have little desire to get myself quiet and focused but then I realize that in daily time and the little progressions and the getting into the Word even when it may feel like I am learning little to nothing is what is going to ultimately change and keep me. No time with G-d returns void and for that I’m so thankful. I don’t have to work up my emotions or overthink in my Jesus time, I can simply be hanging out with Him and listening or just enjoying the fact that He is there.

I get really frustrated when I spend a few days in the same area of my Bible and realize I’m not catching anything that it’s putting down and then I remember a few things:

1) What I’m doing now is setting me up for the future I want of being an old 75 year old grandma who the entire family knows that I know the Lord.

2) “I can plod. I can persevere in any definite pursuit. To this I owe everything.” – William Carey, I can continue. I can do the little by little so I really need to stop beating myself up for the days I don’t get it. I know that the next day I’ll be there again ready to try.

((I’m not ever trying to be better than you, I’m trying to be better than the day before.))

But, this all makes me wonder, how do I really treat the Word of G-d? Is it negotiable in my life or is it the very lifeblood I’m leaning on to make it through the day? Do I hide it in my heart and meditate on it? Or do I let it sit on the side of the road getting destroyed in the storm?

While walking to the gym the other day I saw just that, a children’s bible, page by colorful page every few yards on the ground as I went along the road. I have a bit of an imaginative brain so I naturally write stories in my head of things and people that I see so I couldn’t help but wonder if the child ever had a chance to read their bible before they misplaced it. I wonder if it was left outside on purpose or if the parent tried to get rid of it? I wonder if it was a gift for someone hoping it would bring them a little closer to the savior. My brain always reels but the simple fact is that the bible I saw despite how it got there was simply not cared for. We see that as Christians and think, ‘huh that’s a shame’ but are we any better with our bibles sitting on the coffee table collecting dust? I don’t want to leave this. I don’t want to be one of the students who graduate and forget all they know about the body of Christ. I want to be solidly following and anchored into this spot. I was reading about anchors in preparation for this, I was reminded of our over quoted verse in Hebrews about hope being the anchor for the soul, but I’m not sure if I understand the context of that scripture and if it even really relates to Bible reading… So I’ll leave that verse there and instead tell you what I learned about anchors.

            Anchors are the connections that boats or watercraft rely on so that they can stay in one spot through wind, current, or storm. Anchors can be temporary or permanent. (oh – that’s awful)

While I’m not sure if that verse is relevant to this I do still agree that our relationship with G-d is absolutely our anchor in the storms of life. The terrifying part, back to the people you know now who love G-d who will slowly lose interest is that there ARE temporary and permanent anchors… Yeah, they might be solid now but they are using the correct anchor. Using Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday chapel as the anchor will only last the week; it’s temporary. Using Sunday services and mid-week services as an anchor will only last temporarily. It won’t hold. Of permanent anchors Wikipedia says – “These are used where the vessel is permanently or semi-permanently sited, for example in the case of light vessels or channel marker buoys. The anchor needs to hold the vessel in all weathers, including the most severe storm, but needs to be lifted only occasionally, at most – for example, only if the vessel is to be towed into port for maintenance. An alternative to using an anchor under these circumstances, especially if the anchor need never be lifted at all, may be to use a pile driver into the seabed.”

What anchor are you chucking out right now? Are you in this for the long haul only to be lifted for repair? And when you do need repair are you letting Jesus handle it? Dig deeper in your relationship with the Father and make yourself immovable you have things to learn and a position you need to stand it.

            So what’s the Bible to you?

Super reliable scholarly articles with information that I used:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anchor
The Bible