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.
Underneath the role.
Underneath the productivity.
Underneath the appearances.
Underneath the expectations.
Underneath the successes.
Underneath the failures.
Underneath the hard-earned favor.
Underneath the grace-infused space.
Underneath the ability to smooth it over.
Underneath the inability to fix a thing.
Underneath my feet.
Underneath my skin.
Underneath my broken heart.
What is underneath?
Inside of me? Inside of you? Honestly?
That is where God wants to meet with us, raw as it is. This is the essence of Immanuel; God with us. Not God stopped still at the outer layer, but God piercing into the inner layer, the inmost layer, our inmost being.
The core me. The core you. The core of us...
.. is the only authentic meeting place with God.
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.
I remember sitting outdoors with my bible as a young girl. My family was on vacation and I found a spot near the water to spend time with God. My bible was open to the book of James. It began to rain; sprinkle, drop, downpour. I looked down at the pages of my bible and made a decision; I would let the rain fall and crinkle the pages. This way my bible would always wear the marks of this day and I could always remember the special time I was having with God.
Years later that bible got dumped into a washing machine and came out obliterated. I cried. I loved that bible.
Later in life I had a different encounter with the bible. It was one where people were criticizing my life and others through flipping through the pages of this ancient book and saying “it’s not biblical.” The pounding of a religious fist came down to crush personal experiences with God in the name of the bible. I began to lose my love for the bible, even as I was falling more in love with Jesus.
A few years ago, I had a personal disappointment with the bible that worsened my existing distance from it. I was in a time of great need and had marked my bible cover to cover with promises of hope for something specific to happen. That hope was drowned in a tragedy. In my view, the bible told me that something would happen, and the exact opposite happened. For months I couldn’t read my bible without being met by a fierce feeling of betrayal.
I sat with a trusted spiritual leader one afternoon and confessed, “I love Jesus, but I don’t like the bible.” I told her how I questioned the bible’s origin, its validity and its relevance. “Most of all,” I expressed, “I despise when it is used to enslave people in the name of a liberating God.” She stared back at me knowing that I was leading people in a biblical setting. “You may want to sort this out, Katie.” I knew that and I tried. But the hard feelings towards my soft leather bible remained.
Through all this, I can remember seeing people who had worn their bibles thin through intense use and I felt embarrassed by my own. I didn’t want to open my ten-year-old bible in front of people for fear they would see that it still looked brand new. I wished I loved my bible, but in all honesty - I didn’t.
Just over a year ago, I was sitting in a bible class and the teacher felt impressed to stop his lecture and do some ministry. He spoke to my class, “If anyone has used the Word of God to hurt you instead of liberate you, I want to apologize to you on their behalf. That's not what God gave the bible for.” The statement hurled into my spirit and I began to cry.
Okay. There it was.
The bible had hurt me.
… and people had hurt me with the bible.
How in the world do you heal from that?
Meet the Author.
The journey began. I decided to only read the bible in conjunction with a meeting with its’ Author. I’ve been falling in love with my bible – ever since.
This past week I read through most of the New Testament in a few days. My eyes were sore from reading for so many hours, and I couldn’t get enough of it. The more I read, the more I wanted to read. The bible is unraveling to me as threads of gold; wisdom for life, art for application, story for inspiration. I can’t get enough of it.
Friends, my relationship to my bible is healing. It’s been a long time coming. I am finding it so strengthening. My life is different when I'm in the word. My nights are more peaceful, my days feel more aligned. Maybe someday I’ll have a worn out bible with marked up pages like some of the people I so admire.
In the meantime, I can at least say …
To those who have been hurt by the bible, bored by the bible, apathetic towards the bible, disappointed by the bible, and in all honesty – love Jesus but could care less about the bible …
I get it.
And … I can honestly say –
Your bible is worth picking up again.
It’s worth spending time in again.
It’s worth falling in love with – again.
The Word reveals the Author.
He is so worth knowing.
"All music is made from tension."
In the tension of my own life, I dare myself to stop and listen.
Stop making noise.
Stop trying to fix it.
Stop demanding to understand it.
Stop working to maneuver over it, under it, around it - anything but - through it.
There is this temptation to just cut the chord and be done with it, unknowingly cutting its ability to sing. Instead, I hold myself still and choose to listen. I find that I'm not very good at listening; most often consumed by my own anxious noise. Yet in the practice of listening I begin to hear tones around me that offer to lead me out; tones that are swelling to imminent release.
Tension and release make music.
The only way to get release - is to let go.
Working, striving, pushing, pressing - only creates more - tension.
So what if I let go? Dared to ride the tension into its release instead of wishing it away?
Friends, let's let go.
Let's learn to listen.
To just let it happen.
To let life shake free of a stack of events
- and become to us a song.
Alive in the tension.
Alive in the release.
Alive to the music of our lives.
For some of us the best thing to do when: You need to be refreshed, you're feeling lost, have become overwhelmed, forgotten how to be, failed, dropped the ball, fallen out of sync with your own heart, or simply need to hear from God ...
Is … to pull out a local map.
Pull out a map and find the nearest body of water. Get in the car. Drive to it. Find a trail or make your own to the water’s edge. Then sit.
There’s just something about the water.
The lack of noise
Its happened before, it can happen again - that after just moments of sitting by the water stuff starts to come into focus, questions get answered, blocks in hearing disappear, and the soul is refreshed.
There's just something about the water.
I find a grace there to breath deep, think hard, wrestle through, hear God's voice, hear my own voice, tune out to tune in.
I don't know. Its a mystery to me, but one that breaths a reality. My guess is that it has something to do with that age old text that says, "the Spirit of God hovered over the water."
Bottom line is - for some of us … there's just something about the water.
Sometimes its hard to be still. Usually its hard when we have growing internal needs that have been kept under wraps through business and task. To stop means to face what we feel; to give in to our internal reality, to listen to our own heart. This can be scary, daunting, unwanted.
And so … we bustle onward and keep busy, not wanting to find out what would emerge if we were to truly stop and be still.
The problem is that the needs of the heart do not just go away. Somehow we have convinced ourselves that internal restlessness dissipates from lack of attention. Its just not true. In reality it increases its' noise until attention is granted, and time is not always a friend in this matter.
Stop trying to drowned out the voice of your heart through distractions. It will only cry louder, and not always kinder. Take the subtle cues instead of waiting for the explosive demands. I've lived out both, the latter is a disaster.
Do you know that what you feel matters?
Life happens in and through the heart. What's in you matters. Dare to be still and process what you honestly feel. Find some space. Give it some time. Express. You must. Soon.
You're couragous. You can do this.
In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength. Isaiah 30:15
I remember the plane landing in Moscow. I watched from the window as a heavy snowfall filled my view. The runway felt too short. Cabin doors opened. People gathered their things. I turned around to check the back door of the plane; sure enough it led to the same place, a Russian winter.
Courage pulled me out of that aircraft into a foreign airport. Exiting baggage, I saw a man with a small sign, Tver InterContact Group, Katie Burgmayer. I stood for a moment wondering if I should identify myself. I meandered while he puffed his cigarette and eventually we collided.
He drove me a few hours to the city of Tver where I would study abroad the next four months.
I was dropped off at a big gray apartment building where my host family lived. I learned on the first day not to trust the elevator. Inside the apartment, I was met by startling hospitality. My hosts were a couple who were giving up their bedroom to me. They would sleep in the living room for months while I stayed with them.
Window. The first thing I noticed in my room was the window. When I saw it my heart warmed for the first time since departing home soil. Windows to me are a meeting place with God. I dropped my stuff and sat down on the bed. Eyes out the window, I remember feeling so far from home and entirely alone. Tver. A city where I knew no one. I had no family, no friends, no church, no one to speak english with ... nothing but a bed - a window - and God.
The following days I watched the world bustle from my window; people covered in fur from head to foot scurrying around below. Moms carried their children on sleds through the ice covered streets. Cars managed to drive in extreme wintery conditions with no traffic lights to direct them. In time I would descend the stairs of my building and step unto those streets myself. A foreign pedestrian, watch out!
I had a mile and a half walk to school in the mornings. Imagine a neon sock tacked to a blackboard and you'll have an idea of how I looked against the scene of that city. I would slip and slide all the way to school in wonder at how the Russian women could walk in heels on ice as if it were not ice at all.
By the time I got to school my face was often frozen. Temperatures were consistently twenty below or even more. Inside the school lobby I would stand still and wait for my face to defrost so that I could let out a "Dobroye Utra!" (Good Morning!) to the only person in my world, the school secretary.
Sounds miserable, I know. But if you could see the look on my face when it defrosted, you would find a broad smile. To me this was adventure, and I loved it. Live or die, I was all in.
When I look back at my journals from Russia, I find that my intimacy with God was nailed into place during those months. He was all I had to lean on. I have since seen patterns in my history with God where He draws me away to develop a stronger direct connection with Him. In these times, He is re-established as my chief leader. Russia was an extreme experience of this for me.
I've been thinking about these times as it relates to knowing God as a personal leader. It makes me consider the vast number of people who are getting hurt by spiritual leaders. Its concerning. In part, I think this hurt has to do with poor leadership. On the other hand, I'm beginning to see that it also has a whole lot to do with ungodly expectations that we put on our pastors and leaders.
In a teaching I recently heard, I was struck by the simple question, "Did Adam have a pastor?" I would add, "Did Moses?" "David?" Did the man who wrote "The Lord is my shepherd" have any other consistent leader in his life besides God Himself?
God has been desiring face to face relationship with people since the very beginning. A mediator for His care was our idea, never His best. Does that mean I don't need leaders in my life? No. But it does mean that I refuse to put an expectation on my leaders that is meant to be on God.
There are times when we are removed from the care of others. Maybe its finding out your family is not a safe place for you, or your pastor has no time for you, or you have landed like I did in an entirely foreign world. Whatever the case, know that you are not off the grid. Most of the heroes in the bible were in the same boat. Consider that God may be shifting your dependence to keep you safe. He is the only thing that never shakes.
It took me time, but I learned in Russia how to walk on ice. I bought a fur hat and began to blend in, I worked my way into the hearts of a few people, and fell in love with their language. But most of all what I learned was that God is my shepherd, and when I have Him, I have everything I need.
What if you and I got a hold of "The Lord is my shepherd," and could therefore help care for our leaders instead of burdening them to be God for us?
It was on an ice covered land that I learned dependence on God. I wouldn't trade that experience for the world because direct dependence on God is exactly what gets tested when our world shakes.
I believe in spiritual leadership. I believe in being covered, connected, cared for and engaged in a spiritual family. Its really important. But I also believe that there is one spot for primary leader in your life, and only one safe Person who belongs there.
When it comes to leadership, He is not second best. He is the best.
The Lord is my shepherd. I have everything I need. Ps. 23:1
Katie Luse is a speaker and writer who is passionate about navigating life with eyes on a hunt for beauty.