The wind moves the water. The water does not move the wind. The wind moves the leafs. The leafs do not move the wind. The wind moves the grass. The grass does not move the wind. The wind moves my hair. My hair does not move the wind. The wind has authority. It initiatives movement. It is a powerful source, and yet is familiar with softness, invisibility, gentleness, subtleness, and freedom. Herein lie lessons on leadership from gentle wind:
Wind is not always gentle, but today it is. This gentle wind holds secrets on the use of authority.
Behold; the power of gentle leadership.
I took the month of July off from public ministry. The first two weeks were terrible, an unravelling of myself to a hard-knock discovery of how I was really doing. The last two weeks were wonderful, a restoration of who I am outside of roles and responsibilities.
I feel like I am getting my life back.
I want to spend my life for Jesus.
I cannot give what I do not have.
If my life is in the grip of another’s agenda, how am I to give it to Jesus?
How is it that we think we can give our lives wholly to Jesus when we have already given them away to jobs, churches, ministries and other people? What would it look like to really give our lives to Jesus?
Perhaps no contradiction.
Perhaps all the contradiction in the world.
Everyday this past month I pursued exercise, time with God, and finding a way to serve my husband. These three pillars were protected despite a whirlwind of an internal process that was noisy, nasty and frankly embarrassing. Honest, nonetheless.
It is easy to lose sight of our identity when we allow our roles, jobs, responsibilities or lack of significant roles to define who we are. If all of that disappeared today, would you still know yourself?
Tomorrow is August 1. I feel alive, ready for the upswing of this next season. I can see it coming. Fast. Friend, consider setting aside time to re-discover your priorities. The honest condition of your soul matters to God. I recommend a focused number of days to:
Take care of yourself. You matter.
"They intoxicate themselves with work so they won't see how they really are." Aldous Huxley
Nine weeks since I left my full-time job. I have little to show for it except for the symptoms of a detox; a detox I hope not to repeat. I am left feeling bewildered; how in this racing world do we resist the intoxication of work? Our identity is strapped to production as if our life depended on it. Who strapped it? Who knows how to unstrap it?
Putting the breaks on in life is hard work, a discipline. As long as our foot is no where near the breaks we don't have time to acquaint with the destruction of our competitive speeding lives.
Until ... we do.
Until we are forced to ...
And then ... we either run harder, run away, or crash.
There must be a better way.
I think the better way has something to do with self-control. When that is present, strong, alive in our lives, these things do not so easily happen. Self-control. Prove it is present through taking a break. Prove it.
Until they could NOT GROW anymore
And then -
With their flowery heads and orange eyes
turned toward one another with a nod -
And the release began -
The letting go
The giving in
The freedom to be
And not reach anymore.
Decorating their earth with white
They sprinkled their surrender around
And let the scent of it float.
And that -
THE RELEASE -
Proved to be -
Their awaited glory.
Today the sky is gray.
Yesterday the sky was gray.
The day before that it was gray.
Last week the sky was gray.
Tomorrow the forecast is … gray.
Gray. Gray. Gray.
Meet my cloudy fog-filled mid-winter world.
Meet my cloudy fog-filled mid-winter demeanor.
I want to take a big stick and poke through the clouds today to find the sun. Or pull out our leaf blower, hold it high over my head and blow the clouds away. A cloud blower would be much more useful to me than a leaf blower anyway.
Maybe I will try.
Katie vs. the gray sky.
I need sun.
My friend brought me to an apple orchard. I picked a lot of apples. I picked way too many apples. I picked so many apples that my plastic bags sagged as I fought to put them on the counter. Check out.
For two weeks my apples sat. They sat because I could not find time to sit with them. The following weekend came and I remembered them, returned to them, pulled those sagging bags of apples out because I knew ... some things are now or never.
I peeled so many apples my hands hurt. I put half of them in the crockpot overnight to make applesauce and the next morning they were burned. I put the other half in a pie shell with brown sugar and those came out perfect. How is it that sugar perfects things? Certain things.
Two bags of apples left.
Mitch and I walked the neighborhood and knocked on people's doors to offer them apples. We ended up at the table of an elderly couple that lives around the corner. They talked for a long time. They talked about appropriate things and inappropriate things; things we wanted to lean into, things we wished we could lean out of. They unloaded their stories as if our knock on their door pulled a long-standing gag out of their mouths.
In time we stood in the kitchen of our new friends and caught the tears of hearts unlocked. The right visit with the right words at the right time. They took our apples.
Where apples may lead.
I like when the paved road becomes a dirt road. I like it even more when the dirt road becomes a trail. My favorite is when the trail becomes a slim clearing and then … that slim clearing disappears.
… which to some is the end of the road...
BUT … to others it is just the beginning.
I like exposed ground beneath my feet; moist dirt, bumpy pebbles, protruding roots. I like the raw, untethered land, unbroken ground, unhappening potential.
Find me on the less-beaten trail.
Find me off the trail.
Find me creating my own trail -
and there walking - long.
Getting lost on purpose is under-rated.
After all, who wants to only ever go where others have gone before?
There is a time to follow -
and there is a time to stop following -
I woke up this morning out of a bazaar dream. Sunscreen. I had a dream that I put sunscreen on my face, turned around and looked into a mirror. My reflection in the mirror revealed excessive sunscreen; blobs of caulk-like white plastered around my face. I tried to rub it in, but that only made my face increasingly pale. “I didn’t even need sunscreen!” This clear thought shot through my brain and I woke up.
One foot in front of the other I crawled out of bed. Today is my first day off in a very long time. Two months ago I accepted a full time job, a very full time job. Demands and deliverables have been driving me fast, somehow graced by my own genuine excitement and sense of purpose in the role. Busy, nonetheless, very busy.
Four large trees tower over the roof of our house and I stare at their jagged branches. The leaves on them are full - creating a canopy of shade on our deck. Shade.
The Lord watches over you. The Lord is the shade at your right hand.
The Word washes me and I hear Him, “You don’t need sunscreen, Katie. You need to respect the role of shade. Get into the shade. I am Your Shade.”
In that moment, I understand my dream:
My face – myself
Excessive sunscreen – my fear of getting burned, burned out
Mirror – a reflection of my fear
My thought – an invitation to trust God instead of self-protecting
Self-protection is a big deal. It limits my personal freedom. Trust in God to protect me in what He is calling me to is a bigger deal. It liberates my present.
Is it possible to be in full-time ministry and not burn out? I don’t mean the obvious crash, burn, and quit of external burnout. I mean the subtler, unnoticed, layers of internal burnout where people lose their personal sense of “life abundant” and “my cup overflows.”
I fear that.
The trees shake with the wind and the shade shifts.
I sense my invitation – "Don't fear the increase, Katie, trust Me, make use of the shade."
Its easy when people’s expectations are increasing, to start living in response to them, for them, because of them. In that space plaster me with sunscreen and even then I would probably do well to just hide. It is not safe. But … I believe there is a better way. Instead of self-protecting, I could up my ante on following Holy Spirit's voice. Let Him be my protector; listen, respond.
When Holy Spirit says take a Sabbath – take it.
When Holy Spirit says turn off my phone – turn it off.
When Holy Spirit says walk away from a need – walk away.
When Holy Spirit says do something for myself – do it.
I think that becoming a better follower of Holy Spirit is how we can position ourselves to steward increase in a way that supports rather than threatens our personal needs. This requires a die-hard commitment to Him as the primary leader in our lives.
After all, who is really driving us? Is it Him?
It’s a brilliant hot day in my life and I plan to enjoy it.
But the dazzling favor of man, I refuse to work to maintain.
Sunscreen is not my solution.
The Shade is.
The Lord is the shade at my right hand.
I was taking a walk recently and saw a boy standing in his driveway blowing bubbles. He had brown knickers on and a shaggy blue shirt. He looked to be about six years old. His hair was dark and his eyes intent. Bubbles.
My sidewalk steps neared his bubble terrain and I noticed a faint sound of speaking coming from his mouth. His sense of personal space, some imaginary drama, was apparent and I obliged to cross the street and walk on the other side.
It was a kind gesture on my part, but not entirely sincere. I was actually quite curious what he was experiencing and feared that my nearness would squash it. I slowed down and leaned into his mumblings as I passed by. To my surprise, I found that he was talking to each and every bubble until it popped, and then he would start again.
Blow the bubble.
Forge a connection.
Let the bubble pop.
Have I ever seen someone so successfully living in the present? I mean, why forge a connection with a bubble that is going to pop? And why not blow a thousand bubbles all at once?
Living in the present - on display.
I have been very busy the last few months. Racing, chasing, pushing, striving, diving, cartwheeling - to get stuff done. This season, however, I want to stop and take a lesson from the boy with the bubbles. I am challenging myself to be present; forge a connection with whatever, whomever, is in front of me.
This is a my season’s greeting: The boy with the bubbles invites you to step out of the raw current of stress and engage in the moments of your life.
Friends, let's not let "busy" rob our joy or validate our excuses for misery. Let's determine to enjoy ourselves - one fleeting bubble at a time!
I bend down and thumb through a pile of shells. "Victims or survivors?" I think to myself.
On one hand, these shells have been beaten, tossed, lost. They have been separated from their counterparts; textures erased by the pounding of water that spit them out of their home. Shells, literally, are all that are left, victims of the rage of the sea.
On the other hand these shells are the few who made it to the shore. Riding what came against them, they did not drowned, they did not shatter, they rode in on their opposition and are now littering the ground like gems. A whole shell cannot be taken for granted; it is most definitely - a survivor.
I worked for a few years full-time in Anti-Human Trafficking. When I first started with the organization, I was an Administrative Assistant to the Director - a passionate modern day Abolitionist. One of the values she engrained in me from the first day was, "We do not call people victims, they are survivors." I was tasked with sorting through correspondences, articles, and materials to meticulously delete any instance of "victim of trafficking," and replace it with "survivor of trafficking." It seemed to me an odd pet peeve of my boss … until ...
I was sitting in a prominent conference on Human Trafficking. One of the hosts escorted a young girl to the stage who had agreed to share her story. She had been trafficked and sold for sex for a number of years. At the time of this testimony, she was fourteen years old. The room stood to their feet and applauded wholeheartedly as she approached the podium. Tears streamed down our faces as we, the audience, fought to find the honor she deserved. Before she even said a word, I finally understood … survivor. Every minute I had spent deleting the word "victim" from materials about human trafficking felt well worth it. She was not a victim; she was in every sense of the word - a survivor.
Immersed in this work for a few years, I find myself living with long-term effects on my perspectives. One of these is the value of seeing people as survivors instead of victims. People may seem very broken, but what if we don't know the half of it? What if the fact that they are even alive is testament to their strength?
Friend, consider it for yourself. What if you are not a victim of loss, divorce, addiction, abuse, disease, loneliness, rejection, re-location, miscarriages, stress, poverty, disappointment, etc. What if you are a survivor? What if you are one of the few who hit the shore with a determination not to give up on life after internal or external pain that could easily have shattered you and left you on the bottom of the sea?
And consider it for others. What if the pain people have endured needs to be honored before they know they have the strength to heal?
I have found that seeing people as survivors empowers them to understand their own strength, which in turn inspires them to heal. I cannot tell you how many people have begun to heal from the simple recognition of, "Your pain matters, and I am amazed that you have gotten to where you are today."
You, my friend, are in my book - a survivor.
… and so is that tattered homeless man you pass every day.
Dare to see.
Survivor = "a person who continues to function or prosper in spite of opposition, hardship or set back."
A pile of shells.
A pile of prized heroes who are - against all odds - here.
Katie Luse is a speaker and writer who is passionate about navigating life with eyes on a hunt for beauty.