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.

Sometimes Our Regulars Pass Away…

((And Other Things You Probably Don’t Realize About Your Servers))


I didn’t really find it entirely appropriate to post this one while I was in Australia, because I have zero experience in food service there and I know everything is different. But I’m back in Oklahoma, USA for a while and around my old stomping grounds and meals so, please enjoy this #ThinkBackThursday and learn a little something about our Good Ol’ American Servers.


  • About 75-80% of the demographic of any given (American) restaurant are mothers. They’re working to support someone else’s dreams. Bless accordingly
  • Some of your servers just suck, they should find new jobs that they love. But you’re still in charge of how many bills they don’t have to stress about.
  • Our regulars pass away. We go through divorces, we have sick kids at home, our dog just got hit by a car, we have a tummy ache. We have BAD days… You do too. Our job just requires we don’t show it or you get ‘bad service’ and servers make less money.
  • Some servers are just awesome. They are people with big hearts and huge smiles. They pay attention to more details as they balance 5-7 tables and 10-30 or even up to 40-something drink refills. Chips. Fries. Crying kids. Deathly allergies. And they carry heavy trays. Show gratitude.
  • You didn’t like your server? They probably didn’t like you as a guest. But your attitude isn’t reviewed and put on a survey after the meal is over. If patience isn’t your strong suit- or even something you know what is please stay home. We don’t like serving you either.
  • We are here to SERVE you. You are a guest in our home… We didn’t sign our names in blood declaring that we are your servant until we have paid back whatever you think we owe. Don’t treat them like dirt. Some of the greatest people I know serve tables.
  • That girl with the black polo and brown hair? Her name is Cecilia. She told you at the beginning of the meal. That other girl with the black polo and brown hair? Her name is Mary Beth. You haven’t met her she was just dropping off your food. They aren’t the same people.
  • Servers are by no means uneducated and stuck in that job because they couldn’t find better. A LOT of servers I know are working their way through high school, college and even masters degrees and still working 25+ hours a week. Some people are literally addicted to bringing you silverware, smiling, and saying, “Welcome to _______! My name is ______ I’ll be doing my best to serve you today. Can I start you off with the most expensive drink on the menu and an appetizer that I won’t have to refill again and again?” (Paraphrased). They are good at what they do and they like it. And they’re smart.

A large portion of you won’t care about this splurb. And that’s ok. I’m really just ranting to my voice text and thinking as I drive my little self to Pryor, OK.

I’m blessed to know all the people that I do. I have been in food 8 1/2 years and this might just be a rant but you didn’t have to read it so get over it. Just thinking about some of these incredible people and some funny things I’ve learned over the years.

Y’all have a good day.

I GET to work now.

List This

Things I’ve discovered while doing a 100-day creative challenge:

1. I love waking up and asking G-d if I can create with Him

He is a forever and eternally THE CREATIVE G-d and this challenge to create something or play every day has opened my eyes to all the opportunities that we have to learn from the Author and Creator Himself and co-write with Him along this journey.

2. I am creative

I’ve noticed that it isn’t a matter of, “oh I need to do something creative today for the 100-day challenge” but more “Oh my goodness, I read today, wrote, went diving with sharks, colored a page in, packed a suitcase that shouldn’t have been able to hold all that it did”.

WE ARE CREATIVE BEINGS and it’s awesome. I’ve realized that by spending copious amounts of time with G-d that He has granted my request to be more like Him and less like me. Life is full of beautiful things and we do beautiful things all the time, sometimes it’s just a matter of slowing down enough to realize you’re actually close to who you want to be.

3. People are inspiring

Lets get some facts straight: I spend a lot more time on Instagram now BUT it’s typically to scroll through the #100daycreativechallenge tag and see all the wonderful things that people are up to. Some of my friends have some insanely creative minds and what they are producing sparks my imagination to make even more unique things. I’m (clearly) a firm believer in producing your work and sharing and inspiring others so this whole challenge has me frothing*.


 

Things I’ve discovered while being at Hillsong College:

A. Relationships Matter

I knew it would take a miracle for me to love and get along with 7 other women in one house. I prayed that we would all get along and G-d gave me even more than I prayed for. I have lived in a house full of challenging, encouraging women who have shaped me this last year. My friends at school and in my tutorial have been a vital part of me trusting, giving and breathing through tests and assessments and full on pout fests. They are all wonderful.

B. Miracles Happen

My house. Provision. Healing. G-d reminding me in the DAILY that He is real. Relationships restored. Salvation. Blessing on blessing. I’ve seen so much this year. I began writing in my planner the miracles I saw on the daily near the beginning of the year because I just wanted to remember. I wasn’t awesome at keeping up with it but as I look back on the year I can tell you countless things that I have seen and life-changing experiences I’ve been through that have absolutely changed the way I see prayer.

C. You Can’t Explain All You Go Through

I wish I could… I so wish I could. The best way I can explain life here is with the metaphor of a garden.We as students literally plant ourself inside of this fertile soil here all the while trusting that G-d the father is at work. And OH He is. He seems to take no time to root out any weeds in our lives and continuously water us and give us sunshine to grow. As quickly as a flower in our garden begins to brown, there is Jesus with some sharp garden tools to make sure that we take no extra time to produce a flower even more beautiful than before. Our rocks are removed so that we have nothing to hide in and nothing to stunt our growth.

But also. It’s so much fun.


Things I’m excited to eat in America

. Chili’s

If you didn’t see that coming, I DON’T KNOW YOU.

.. Taco Bueno

Very few things divide the innocence of Owasso, OK like the Bueno vs. Bell debate.

… Anything that resembles holiday food

Cream Corn, Apple Pie, Stuffing, Cranberry Sauce, Soup, Holiday Little Debbie Snack Cakes… guys I’ll take anything.


 

What a weird season to have walked through, what a weird season to leave.

I can’t wait to get back.

 

*Frothingif you’re frothing over something you’re really excited.

 

The Heart of a Child

I wrote this when I was 18 years old, which would have made Gracie about 4 years old at the time. Also making her the cutest ever. Also making this a #ThinkBackThursday…

Pardon my love for ellipses at the time(…)

Enjoy!


Whatever you write on the heart of a child
No water can wash away
The sand may be shifted when billows are wild
And the efforts of time may decay
Some stories may parish, some songs may be forgotten
But this graven record—time changes it not
Whatever you write on the heart of a child
A story of gladness or care
That heaven has blessed or earth defiled
Will linger unchangeable there…
-Author, Unknown

“And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.”//“Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

For anyone on the brink of being a parent, who has been a parent, or who works with kids of any age: realize the gift and responsibility that has been given to you.

G-d not only gives children for the purpose of raising but instructing and to personally keep YOURSELF in check…

Storytime!

One fine, freezing Monday afternoon an Ice storm hit Owasso, OK. At the time I was at church working with Kevin, Kara, Nich and Francyne (Frankie). Nich and Frankie live in Catoosa (roughly 45 minutes away from Owasso) and the roads had already gotten too slick to drive safely home for them, so they stayed at my house. The next day was filled with quality time with them and my baby sister Gracie. Gracie and I LOVE making cookies so, Frankie, Gracie and I start making our homemade chocolate chip cookies. Francyne and I both LOVE McAlisters Deli cookies because they usually (more often than not) under bake them so that the middle is still a very soft almost cookie-type cookie dough (AMAZING).
So in honor of being stuck at home and wanting that good ol’ comfort food we under bake a batch just enough to satisfy mine and Frankie’s taste.  🙂

All of the cookies are done and cooling on the table downstairs and the boys come down (what guy doesn’t come to the smell of food?) so downstairs at the table it was me, Grace, Francyne, My dad, and Nich (Vito might of been there too at this point)… I went to go for one of the under baked cookies with a lot of chocolate chips. I picked it up with both of my hands and ALL of my focus. Nich, being the loving co-worker and friend that he is decides to take my chair out from under me and I, in all faith and confidence sit down expecting the chair that I just got up from to be there. I land on my back. I was really alright with falling, no big deal… but when I looked up and realized that my cookie that I so carefully picked out was no longer in my hands I shout (in a joking voice) “I HATE you Nich!! I hate you!” I look around in a somewhat panic to find my cookie broken into two or so pieces and I pick it up, pout and make Nich eat it because it fell on the floor.

About this time while everyone is laughing at me falling, Gracie chimes in and says “Laina, you shouldn’t say you hate people…” at this point apologize and still laughing sort of brush the comment off; She continues “It hurts G-d’s feelings when you say Hate” Ouch… I slide back from the table and everyone at this point is in shock and laughter (Francyne was crying she was laughing so hard) because hearing something like that from a 4 1/2 year old isn’t exactly common. Everyone is laughing and we all semi-collect ourselves back to the table. I apologize once more and take a huge sigh and say “I’m sorry Gracie but that was really funny” and she replies “Yeah, that was really funny when Nich pulled your chair out from under you”

….Gotta love the mind track of 4 year olds.

This was possibly one of the funniest things that has ever happened to me and also one of the most spiritually convicting.

The idea of having “Child-like faith”

It’s an innocents I wish I still had.

Words such as “crap”, “dang”, “stupid”, “hate” are all words that coming out of a child’s mouth you’d cringe to hear. But why does the standard change just because you’re older and you’ve put in your time? Do you somehow earn the right at a particular age to say whatever you want? What you say around children will not be forgotten. Gracie is 4 and absorbs anything and everything she hears. I thank G-d and my parents for teaching her that life is about being polite and honest and keeping your speech at a standard that pleases G-d. To this day I watch more than ever what I say because I didn’t even think about Gracie being in the room. To tell the truth I didn’t even think about saying “hate” …no harm no foul?
However, the harm in the situation is not being sensitive to the fact that not only was I in the presence of a child, I was in the presence of G-d and HE monitors more than just my speech, He guards my heart and spirit. The Bible says the Word of G-d even separates bones and marrow. G-d gets to the nitty gritty of faith and gives a black and white of what life should be.

Why is any of this story Important?

“I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” — Matthew 18.3

If you don’t become like little children, you WILL NEVER enter heaven. What better way to learn how to be a child that from a child? Next time you’re around a young person watch what you say and instead of trying to get them to learn to read or add or multiply or any of that, why don’t you just observe what exactly they have that you’ve lost.

He’s Faithful To My Heart…

I began my Wednesday morning this week as per usual at Gloria Jeans with my housemate for our coffee, catch up and read up time. We had a great time. 

Fast forward to just shortly before chapel started around 11:45am… I get a text from my housemates asking if any of us could come home and help clean out the refrigerator because our landlords had popped in for a surprise ‘we’re-going-to-take-your-refrigerator’ party that they didn’t invite us to.

(It IS their refrigerator but notification to remove food and maybe not have just gone shopping and stocked up would have been lovely)

So there sat the refrigerated portion of my households food. No one knew what was going on or where we were going to put all of this food.

My brain immediately went reeling through all of my food safety training. I was mentally sorting out where we were going to fit all of the meat and spoilable things that really needed to be cold. Mostly I was pissed and shocked at our landlords lack of understanding for all of my food safety concerns for all of the waste that would soon become of our food if we didn’t get the proper air temperature control box device to monitor the longevity of our edibles.

(guys, wasted money on food and spoiled food gets under my skin #ChilisForLife)

So, I prayed, I vented to G-d and told Him how unpleased this situation left my heart feeling. I then texted my parents. I asked them to pray for wisdom, peace and a free refrigerator. I also prayed for these things. I fumed a little bit through chapel all whilst reminding my household that it would all be alright.

The ‘fix it’ mode that I was operating in blocked off my memory from memor’ing* a meeting that I had set up with a friend until he called me as I was walking home. I apologized and explained that we needed to reschedule because I needed to get a house jam sorted. He asked me what was up and I explained in less words the story that you just read. Without another breath he responded, ‘wait let me call my friend she had some extra refrigerators I’m sure she could get you one!’.

What?

G-d what?

I know that I’ve heard that prayer works and I know that I even believe that prayer works but G-d, you aren’t messing around. Within the evening we picked up our new refrigerator.

The following day at Sisterhood I was reminded of a verse that in many seasons of my life I’ve held dearly:

Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I got to experience the entirety of this verse within the time span of chapel. I threw it to G-d and He did not disappoint. One thing I keep coming back to is His faithfulness… Guys, it’s SO big!

The resounding sentence I’ve had stuck in my heart is that, I’ve never lived a day that the sun didn’t rise. If that isn’t a display of the faithfulness of G-d than you must be a scientist or some non-science (see what I did there?)

Point of the story: Pray, and watch to see what G-d does.