Glass Castle Kingdom

Protective fingers encircle
Jagged edges puncture

Melting in Your burning gaze
Shaken in its fragile state

A glass castle kingdom
How foolish its architect

The war cry from within
No more than tiny squeaks

Defensive maneuvers
Futile on all counts

Attempted escape or surrender
Both mean certain death

Your Kingdom versus mine
A senseless battle

Lordship demanded
Glass castle kingdom crushed

Leadership Lessons with Papa Jethro: Part 1

To me, Moses is one of the most fascinating characters in the Bible narrative. I never tire of the details of his walk with God as recorded in the Old Testament. Maybe it is because he was a reluctant leader in the beginning and yet God did such great things through Him. So it isn’t surprising that I recently found myself back in Exodus.

In Exodus 18: 13-18, we happen upon Moses having a conversation with his father-in-law, Jethro. Basically, Jethro saw how Moses sat before the people to judge their matters, asked him about the process, and then informed him that his process was no good.

Gee thanks Pops!

As I read through the passage though, I realized that Jethro has quite the wisdom to offer here and Moses was smart to pay attention to his words.

And really I think that is the first lesson.

“Listen” by Ky Olsen. Licensed through Creative Commons 2.0.

Lesson #1: Leaders listen.

Moses was obviously seen as a judge in the land. His job from morning to night had become that of listening to disputes, judging and making known the laws of God. He did a LOT of listening.

He probably got tired of it too. Imagine if everyone came to you with their problems every day (maybe that isn’t such a stretch for some of you!). However, even when exhausted, Moses cared for the people of Israel and took his job seriously.

I was once told that we have two ears and one mouth so it means that we should listen twice as much as we speak. I think that’s a fair assessment.

The students I am with on a regular basis will not hang around long if someone isn’t willing to hear them out and engage with them in conversation. If you proclaim to have all the answers then you actually lose out on the dialogue with people.

It doesn’t mean we do not speak, it just means that we should truly listen first.

This isn’t just about Moses listening to the people’s disputes though. After all, this is one of the reasons that Jethro declared that the current mode of operation was no good (not that he was listening to them, just that the job was too big for just Moses to handle… but that’s later).

I think it is huge that Moses recognized the voice of wisdom in his father-in-law.

At this point, God had already done a lot through Moses in leading the children of Israel out of Egypt. He could have been prideful and refused to listen. He didn’t stand up and say, “Now wait a second… what I’m doing is important and who are you to tell me that it isn’t good!” He didn’t make an excuse about being the only one who could do the job or get offended at Jethro, but instead he was humble and listened.

And sometimes that is hard to do.

I am not sure about you, but at times I want to stomp my foot and plug my ears and yell “la la la la la, I can’t hear you!” because I do not like being told that I am doing something incorrectly. Especially when it comes to issues of leadership, because my insecurities rise up and I want more than anything to prove I can do it well.

We all need those who are wiser to speak into our lives.

Sometimes we need to hear that what we are doing is not the best way and humbly listen to wise counsel. It may not be fun or easy, but it can be for the health of those we serve and for us personally.

What are your thoughts? Agree or disagree? Are you a listener? Do you have someone who gives you wise counsel from time to time?

The $1.25 Smile

The day had been long, stretching out before me like a never-ending journey. Finally I was making my way home, the introvert inside crying out for the quiet comfort of my apartment.

Wearily I pushed through the crowd exiting the Kyiv metro, willing my feet to carry their owner swiftly to their destination, yet I couldn’t help but notice her in the pale light of the tunnel.

To my right an elderly woman sat hunched with vacant stare atop a dirty, yellow bucket, clutching a bundle of lavender and fuchsia colored flowers. Both plants and grandmother appeared to have had a long and trying day.

I passed her trying to ignore the tiny tug inside my chest.

As I continued walking I felt that I just needed to turn around. “It’s almost midnight,” I thought. “She shouldn’t still be out here.”

Moving to the side, the crowd I had pushed through moments ago passed leaving the underground quiet, except for a few vendors packing up for the evening.

Whether lost in thought,  accustomed to avoiding the presence of people who could look upon her with rejection and disdain, or simply tired, it took several moments to engage her in conversation about the flowers she was holding.

I soon realized that she spoke Ukrainian, rendering me even more incapable of communicating, but we managed.

She took the wrinkled red bill from my hand and smiled as she gave me the flowers. It was the kind of smile that reaches to the eyes making them appear briefly childlike. She told me something, I only understood the “God bless you” at the end and bid her farewell and

her gratitude transpired the differences in language.

The remaining vendors smiled a bit at me too, but it was the “silly girl you paid too much for those flowers” kind of smile. If that’s what they were thinking though, they were wrong.

It was the best $1.25 I spent all week.

A Posture Adjustment

In fourth grade I had the one teacher at Cooper’s Elementary School that struck fear in every child’s heart by mere mention of her name. I still shudder a bit and I was even a teacher’s pet of sorts (my theory was to keep friends close and enemies closer).

Unfortunately for the artist in me, her demand that we only color side to side and stay in the lines still haunts me every time I pick up a coloring book or try to paint. However, the good advice of keeping perfect posture somehow eluded me.

Image courtesy of cartoonchurch.com

So it is that I find a couple of decades few years later I am trying to correct a nasty habit — slouching.

In light of being compared to a tree trunk, it seemed only common sense to note that my painful back and neck are not helped by my lack of posture. So aside from crunches, planks and other hated exercises, I have become meticulously aware of the posture I keep and correcting it seems to be a full-time job. It’s one of those jobs you know will pay eventually, but you are almost certain you won’t see the check for much longer than you had hoped.

Below are just two of my observations from the past several days.

#1: What seems natural/most convenient isn’t always best.

My natural response is to rush from one place to another, head down, pushing along. It’s a posture killer and it doesn’t do wonders for self-confidence either. It’s just what seems natural, or what seems most convenient. Trying to walk with a more correct posture means I can’t walk as fast because I’m trying to teach my body all over again how to move in a proper manner.

In a world that is moving at break neck speed, we all struggle to keep up and often we give in to convenience because we are too exhausted for any other solution. Or we turn to our natural, sinful responses because walking as Jesus walked seems much too demanding.

How do I respond to that person in my life that pushes all my buttons and who, from my perspective, seems to look for opportunities to prove me wrong or make me look stupid? I guarantee you that both my natural response and the response that would be most convenient in that situation aren’t the best.

#2: Change requires discipline.

Constantly throughout the last several days I have caught myself slouching, shuffling along, giving into the posture I’ve known for so long. For one, my muscles simply aren’t accustomed to this new form and they tire quickly. They need to be strengthened through discipline, which frankly I stink at.

Habits that we have kept for years and years don’t just vanish overnight. It takes work. Hard work. It’s a process and sometimes it takes longer than we wish and sometimes it just plain hurts.

When it comes to a relationship with Christ, I find that to live by the teachings found in the Bible requires a lot of change that seems to grind against natural responses. Exercising the spiritual muscles that require “turning the other cheek,” for example, can be uncomfortable at best.

Sometimes my spiritual muscles cannot withstand the blows that come because they aren’t strong enough yet. Thankfully we have the Holy Spirit and God’s grace and mercy to aid in our change, but we also have a responsibility to be disciplined until it becomes natural for us to live as Christ desires. Reading the Bible, praying, fasting, giving, etc are all spiritual disciplines that help posture us to allow God to form our lives as He wills.

Do you need to work on your posture (physical or spiritual)?

The posture we take has far reaching effects that we may not even be able to notice for years to come. Small measures of discipline consistently will lead to better posture and the benefits that brings in the future.

Like Massaging a Tree Trunk: Dealing with Stress

image taken from http://members.multimania.co.uk/sethamanda/tree-trunk.htm

“You are like trying to give a massage to a tree trunk. I cannot tell where your spine is and where your muscles end.”

Those were the words the massage therapist said to me last week just before telling me to relax.

When I responded, “This is relaxed,” she clicked her tongue at me like an unhappy mother hen.

Her recommendation? Exercise (that’s a bad word in my vocabulary) and a course of massage therapy for two weeks, five days a week for her to be able to get the muscles loose and restore my body back to something of normalcy. At the end she handed me her card and told me to think about it and call when she returns from vacation.

Stressed much?

All of us deal daily with stress. We live in the tensions created by maintaining relationships, demanding jobs, and a myriad of responsibilities that are always lingering on the edges of our minds and reminding us of what we need to do that we haven’t done yet.  There are children to take care of and homes to keep clean (I swear that dust bunnies multiply even faster than real bunnies!) and smart phones that beep reminders and updates to us all day and night.

So what do we do about it?

Most of the answers are practical and common sense. We all know them. We just don’t follow through with them for whatever reason or excuse we give. Here are a few I’ve been reflecting on recently and is by no means meant to be an exhaustive list.

1. Spending time daily with God

My Dad gets up before the dawn, much like Grandpa used to, and first thing each morning reads his Bible while having a cup of coffee. It’s something I have always admired about him. As for me that time of day means that I don’t understand a word that I’ve read. I keep praying to be a morning person but I just don’t function so usually I read my Bible on the hour long metro commute or in the evenings when I’m actually awake.

It’s hard to stay focused on and trusting in the LORD if we aren’t cultivating a relationship with Him. Anxiety comes from stressing out over not knowing the future, which none of us do, but it helps a lot if you are abiding in the One who does.

2. Exercise

It hurts. It’s sweaty. If you’re uncoordinated like me then it can just be plain embarassing too. But if we don’t keep ourselves healthy then we aren’t able to do the things that daily life demands and it just adds more stress. Plus if you keep all that stress you end up being like a tree trunk and since those aren’t flexible then if something comes along that cannot be handled then it snaps. That’s not really good.

Maybe you’re a runner – I kind of envy you. Maybe you’re a Richard Simmons workout videos person – I don’t envy you at all. I think the key is to find something you enjoy, since it makes it a lot more likely that you will actually KEEP doing it! Personally I love kickboxing workout videos. I’m terrible at it but at least I find it fun and have decided it is time to get back to doing a bit of it.

3. Don’t procrastinate

Why do today what can be put off for tomorrow? Because it adds more stress to continually procrastinate. Tackle the big project. Have the hard conversation. Start.

When I was in college, I was always one of those students that was writing term papers the night before they were due and downing pots of coffee to stay awake. I would run to the computer lab as soon as the doors opened to get in and print the paper to slip it in to my teacher’s hands just before the deadline. My claim was that I write better under pressure, I’m not so sure that was true and unfortunately my bad habit has followed me, which is why I’ve been trying to be disciplined and work on plans for fall semester English clubs. Trust me when I say that I haven’t been as successful as hoped but I am further along than last summer.

4. Have fun!

I’m either all work and no fun or all fun and no work. I don’t really do balance that great and it is something I continually have to be mindful of. But I find that it is absolutely necessary to have some fun every day.

Take a break and do something you enjoy. I’ve read that we are actually more productive if we take small breaks – the key is to not make it a permanent break that turns into perpetual procrastination. Find a way to add some fun to that normal, daily routine. Below is an example from the TV show The Nanny and I may have been guilty of something like this on occasion.

If someone tried to give you a massage would you be like a tree trunk? What are your ways of dealing with stress?