Battling for Breakthrough: Lessons from the Dirtmeister

Historically, I have considered myself a meticulous housekeeper;  however, since the last child graduated from college and various volunteer commitments began to fill my days, I have become less rigorous in actually executing my formerly meticulous practices.  Lately, a careful observer would certainly have noticed an impressive layer of dust on the ledge above the front door, and the blinds only looked clean at night.  I excused myself by reasoning that I am home far fewer hours now than when I was shepherding a tribe of children and their young friends; moreover, I reasoned, most people would consider my home clean and inviting, as I am assiduous in cleaning bathrooms and the kitchen, and I am a neatnik by nature.

Even so, as the months flew by, I felt an increasing concern that the house was screaming for attention, and I simultaneously began to dread the length of time it would take to clean everything properly.  Thus began my experience with staying home to avoid exposure to COVID-19.  Finally, my months of procrastination screeched to a halt:  unable to tolerate the ever-expanding pile of cleaning chores at home, I carefully made a list and grouped various tasks into categories that could be tackled over the course of several days.

Last Friday morning, I faced the most daunting task:  two days of vacuuming everything in the house:  blinds, shutters, window sills, baseboards, floors, carpet, and area rugs.  I had remembered that our vacuum cleaner was heavy as well as powerful, but somehow I did not recall it being THIS heavy!  I speculated how much time might have passed since I had last dragged this veritable “dirtmeister”  all over the house, up and down the stairs, all the while disconnecting, attaching, and re-attaching the various vacuuming tools for different surfaces.  This machine, however valuable and effective it might be, had never felt this ponderous!  I wondered to myself whether I simply had somehow morphed into an elderly, feeble lady since my last rodeo with this vacuum cleaner.

In addition to its impressive weight, the machine kept tipping over backwards when I attempted to pull it along behind me.  To make matters worse, the tube accessories that connected to the hose flew apart quite often (except when I wanted to pull them apart to attach a different tool).  Suddenly I found myself vacuuming with a tool attached to nothing.  As the hours of battle wore on, the level of my ire was growing.   That night, with calves aching from dragging this megaton machine around the house, I collapsed into bed.   Perhaps I needed more rest and more regular exercise, in view of my new weakling status.  I consoled myself with the thought that I had vanquished at least half of the house.  As Scarlett O’Hara valiantly declared in the film Gone with the Wind, I asserted, “Tomorrow is another day!”  

The next day continued in the same vein; I tackled the master bedroom and was hopelessly losing the hose behind me and jerking on the recalcitrant beast when it refused to move forward.   Apparently, I started addressing the vacuum as if it were alive, yelling, “Come OVER here!  Stop breaking!”  Unbeknownst to me, my husband came downstairs to check on me, as he had actually overheard my yelling from the upstairs office on the other end of the house!  

At some point in the throes of this battle, I remembered a parenthetical comment my husband had made during the first day of this wrestling match.  I suddenly decided I might as well check the dirt bag to verify whether or not it needed to be emptied.  As I unzipped the cloth bag containing the dirt collection bag, I was aghast to see a bulging vacuum bag that was inflated to the point of bursting (mercifully, it had not done so!).  After laboriously disconnecting it, I lugged it out to the trash — horrified to discover that it weighed as much as a newborn baby!

A few moments later, still aghast at the volume of dirt packed into that bag, I fitted the dirtmeister with a clean bag and re-initiated my quest to finish vacuuming the house.  To my astonishment, I was no longer an elderly weakling!  The machine followed my lead quite readily without toppling over, and I lifted it over obstacles with ease.   (The hoses still fell apart, and one of the tools broke, but I persevered.)

The lesson was not lost on me:   how many times to we long for breakthrough into a new season without realizing we are encumbered in entering it?   How often do I exert an earnest effort to do what needs to be done without considering that I may be carrying detritus around with me that actually impedes my progress into the new season (in this instance, a clean house and a new sense of order in our personal space)?  Oddly, I had wondered for a day and a half why the battle was so fierce and the burden was so heavy — not realizing for a moment that the greatest source of the problem was my own baggage, baggage that belonged in the trash!

Jesus Himself invites us to come to Him when we find ourselves overwhelmed and weighed down by things visible and invisible:. “Are you weary, carrying a heavy burden? Then come to me.  I will refresh your life, for I am your oasis.” (The Passion Translation) Father, expose any hindrances to my spiritual growth that I may be lugging around with me.  Show me what to do to divest myself of things that should be consigned to the trash bin — dead things from past seasons, sins You already forgave, pain You want to lift from my heart.   Help me to be willing to respond quickly to Your revelation so I will be able to move more easily into breakthrough. Empower me to recognize and discard the harmful burdens of the past.  Be glorified in and through Me, Father!  

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The Holy Hunker

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.  (Jeremiah 29:13, NKJV)

In these days of increasing challenges, I find myself scrambling to meet obligations, yet grasping for some sense of routine and normalcy — even without an international health pan(dem)ic!  It seems that life these days is being lived on an increasingly precarious edge.   Attempts to cut back, set boundaries, and re-focus on personal priorities often are sabotaged by the urgency of various commitments to which I strive to be faithful.

Suddenly, I find myself confronted by governmental directives to cease and desist from routine activities:  gathering, traveling, meeting together in small groups, using public transportation.  Events I may have felt led to plan or even just attend are summarily cancelled.  Even education is moved online out of concern for infection.

What is the good news about this outwardly imposed isolation?  How could hunkering down in the bunkers of our homes or apartments lead to anything remotely positive, particularly when we witness the economic impact of the corona virus (and understandable fear of it) wreaking havoc with people’s jobs, incomes, and bank accounts?

What remains?  Personally, I am confronted by my own insignificance and human sense of helplessness.  However, I believe the Holy Spirit is calling me to seek Father God more passionately.  Desperation can be good for the soul; the Lord promises to meet me when I seek Him with my whole heart.   After all, He gave Himself wholeheartedly for me, and He is faithful even when I am faithless (2 Timothy 2:13). He is always listening; He longs to hear my voice cry out to Him, and He loves the sound of it!

What an amazing thought that the God of all Heaven and Earth wants my full attention!  I certainly do not deserve HIS attention, yet He gives it to me!

May I cease my restlessness and fretting, and may I seek the Lover of my soul with my whole heart in a deeper way than ever before!  Moreover, may my “hunkering down” not be self-protective, but outwardly directed to the magnificent Lord of the universe.  He wants to heal and touch, not only me, but the hearts of many around me who need His Presence and love in the midst of this season of trouble.  May my response to Him during this tumult be pleasing to Him, and may I reach out to others in need rather than focusing on my own losses, in Jesus’ Name!

 

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What Glasses Are You Wearing?

How do you see others?  Through dark glasses tinted by hurt?  Through rosy-colored glasses which gloss over problems?  Or through clear glasses, seeing as God wants you to see?  It makes a huge difference how we relate to others depending on how we see them.

Through prayer I’ve realized that I’ve sometimes seen others with dark or rosy-colored glasses.  I have been especially prone to this regarding people close to me.  Where there’s been problems in the past, related to the individual or not, I’ve found that my hurt and brokenness have given me poor vision at times.  I used to think it was how the others were, and, of course, there is truth to that.  After all, both individuals enter into relationship with their own brokenness that needs healing by God.  However, what I am responsible for is myself and my part in the relationship.  I can’t fix another’s problem.  I am to pray for healing for us both and do my part to promote a God-centered, healthy relationship.

What do I mean by dark glasses tinted by hurt?  Where there’s been rejection, perceived rejection, mistreatment, abuse, or neglect, we can wear dark glasses.  The relationship is filtered through the darkness.  Often there is anger, explosive or silent.  Unexpressed feelings or withdrawal because of fear.  Mistrust.  Misunderstanding heaped upon misunderstanding.  Thinking the worst when the facts prove otherwise.  Seeing the other with a skewed perspective, not a right perspective.  This all describes seeing the one who hurt you as well as others who have not hurt you that way but who resemble one who has.  Do you see anyone with dark glasses?

What about rosy-colored glasses?  When these glasses are worn, things look better than they are.  Rosy, bright, one could call this view optimistic although it’s not.  Why would anyone want to see things this way?  Sometimes we want it to be that way.  We don’t want to deal with the problems at hand in the relationship.  It seems easier to sweep the mess under the rug, so to speak, and ignore or deny it.  We can be afraid of the truth, afraid to confront when it’s necessary, afraid the relationship couldn’t hold up to working through problems.  Wearing rosy-colored glasses is a way of coping.  Do you see anyone with rosy-colored glasses?

The Lord wants us all to have clear vision, and He gives it to us as we ask.  The Spirit of Truth witnesses truth to us.   Truth brings clarity and right understanding in the relationship.  God’s Word is Truth and God heals.  “…(love) does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;  bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails.” (I Corinthians 13:6-8a NKJV)

We can hold onto hurt and pain or we can give it all to God asking Him to heal us.  We can choose to love and forgive unconditionally.  Even with what we thought were impossibly difficult and painful relationships, we can see with clear vision, we can be healed, and we can see what God will do in restoring and rebuilding our relationships.

“The LORD will guide you continually,
And satisfy your soul in drought,
And strengthen your bones;
You shall be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.”      (Isaiah 58:11 NKJV)

May His living water spring up in you anew today, bringing clear vision and healing!

 

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The Times, They Are A-Changin’

As a friend recently described a special envelope she had typically kept in her Bible for safekeeping; in this envelope was a list of significant events in her life, events that served as milestones in her family over a span of several decades.  In hearing her describe the joy she experienced upon discovering the list after having misplaced it for a period of time, it struck me that that list was a part of a permanent, even eternal legacy.  She will give that paper to her children as a record of momentous spiritual events in the life of her family.  Those events have eternal value.
Conversely, some things may contribute to our legacy but may not be a permanent part of it.   Just as we buy different kinds of clothing for different seasons, and we accumulate various types of supplies for particular chapters in our lives (baby bottles, children’s books, snow suits or sleds, pool toys, cameras, typewriters, computers, bread machines, even sound equipment that subsequently becomes dated), some items outlive their usefulness.   At intervals, we are compelled to sort through our “stuff” and give away or throw away things we no longer need (but to which we may have become attached).  This process is not always as simple as it sounds, as nostalgia can easily overwhelm us!
The challenge is to discern what is part of the permanent, eternal legacy of our lives and what might be temporarily vital but not carry lasting value.   With Aglow, we also face new seasons:  we distill what is and will always be part of who we are as a ministry, but we must lay aside the strategies that may have been pivotal in the past, but which no longer are proving useful or relevant in our current culture.   When God has used certain things to minister deeply to us, it can be very challenging to release those activities and approaches.   (Just yesterday evening, I was looking through a photo album and was overwhelmed with nostalgia at the sight of photos of our eldest two children when they were small; even their clothing was very dear to me, as it was passed down to their younger siblings yet ultimately given away or thrown away.  I remember how difficult it was to part with those clothes, as they symbolized the end of an era!  As a result, it was a bittersweet experience to gaze on those photos and wonder how those years had evaporated so quickly!)
The temporary things may CONTRIBUTE to the legacy, but they are NOT the legacy.   Jesus is our inheritance!   I am so grateful!  These days, I am continually asking God what has eternal value and what is merely temporary — what has outlived its season of usefulness — so I can focus on the eternal things.  Often, despite my earnest desire to move forward with Him, I find it challenging to welcome new seasons that, at least at first glance, seem unfamiliar and even frightening.   May the Holy Spirit empower me afresh to embrace the next part of my journey with confidence in His goodness and in the knowledge that He can be trusted to retain those aspects of the past that have eternal value!   Yes, we can agree with the Psalmist that we have a beautiful, eternal inheritance:  “The Lord is the portion of my inheritance, my cup [He is all I need]; You support my lot.  The [boundary] lines [of the land] have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.”  (AMP:  Psalm 16: 5-6)
I love this song by Amy Grant called “Heirlooms.”  Jesus is more than an heirloom to you and to me.  We can praise Him forever for that!

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The Word as Gauge and Guide

We who are called on mission for God must abide in His Word.  It is easy to get distracted, postpone, or neglect our daily time with the Lord.  We can slide into a pattern of picking up the Bible when we have “more time” or something else does not take precedence instead of making our priority Jesus as the Word.  Great benefits and blessings are ours as we give the Lord the “firstfruits” of our attention and devotion.  Additionally, we simply cannot complete our mission successfully if we don’t.

How is success measured?  In God’s eyes.

Joshua was called on mission to lead the Israelites across the Jordan River to a new land the LORD was giving them (Joshua 1:2).  He was to divide the land as an inheritance (1:6), which required defeating the enemies resident in the land as described in the book of Joshua.  It was a God-sized mission.  Joshua couldn’t have done it without depending on God and His provision.

When God called Joshua to it, He outlined the scope of the mission and also told him how to succeed.  “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it.  For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” (1:8, NKJV)

There are three things to note from the first sentence in verse 8.  First, the Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth.  Like Joshua, we are to speak the Word continually.  We are to speak truth over our circumstances from the Word.  We are to speak in faith knowing the power of the Word.  Secondly, like Joshua, we shall meditate in it day and night.  The Word is to be our focus, our go-to, our joy as we go through our days and nights.  This is true in the easier times as well as in the times of great struggle and difficulty.  The Word gives us the perspective, the wisdom, and the hope we need all the time.  Thirdly, we, like Joshua, are to “observe and do” (v. 8, AMP) according to all that is written.  It’s not just about agreeing with the Word, it’s about doing it.  It’s about making decisions about how to proceed with the issues at hand based on the Word.  And then, we are to take action based on the wisdom and truth of God’s glorious Word.

Verse 9 is God’s mandate to Joshua as well as to us today as to the way to successfully complete the mission.  “Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and of good courage;  do not be afraid nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”  When the going gets rough, when we feel stuck, when the obstacles seem too great, God is with us giving us all the strength and courage we need to overcome, press through, endure, and complete well His assignment.  He shows us how to replace fear with faith and dismay with renewed assurance.

How are we to do our mission?  By following God’s command to Joshua:  keep the Word front and center and go for it, trusting in the Lord to make the way.

 

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Marooned or Moving Forward? Pilgrimage & Promises

pilgrimSometimes we travel through desert seasons in our lives — seasons where we feel the heavens are brass, God isn’t listening (and certainly in not answering!), and our provisions are becoming increasingly depleted.   We wonder what happened to our initial sense of adventure.  In fact, whatever became of our vision?  Will we perish in the dry, desolate, silent space?

God’s Word describes this very predicament:  “Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, whose heart is set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a spring; the rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion.”  (Psalm 84:5-7)

It is interesting that God promises blessings to the one whose heart is fixed on pilgrimage, on continuing the journey, no matter how desolate the circumstances in which he finds himself.  That person is determined NOT to stand still and feel sorry for himself, but instead to press on through the Valley of Weeping (Baca in Hebrew), to continue his journey through the difficult straits of life.   Somehow, in the process of moving forward in the dry, sorrowful places of life, water ultimately springs forth in that wilderness.   Rain begins to fall and covers the dry ground with pools (the same word for blessings in Hebrew).  God brings life out of the barren, dry places of our lives if we purpose to move forward through them.

Luke corroborates the principle of pilgrimage when he relates the story of an encounter ten lepers had with Jesus:  “As He went on His way to Jerusalem, it occurred that [Jesus] was passing [along the border] between Samaria and Galilee. And as He was going into one village, He was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance. And they raised up their voices and called, ‘Jesus, Master, take pity and have mercy on us!’ And when He saw them, He said to them, ‘Go [at once] and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were cured and made clean.” (Luke 17:11-14 AMPC)

Sometimes, Jesus heals people instantly.  At other times, healing is a process.   More often than not, we are healed when we purpose to move forward in our inadequacy on the path set before us.  Pilgrimage is a journey with a purpose, often to a new, unfamiliar place.   When we set our hearts on pilgrimage, despite our weaknesses and inadequacies, even infirmities, the Lord brings forth springs of refreshing and blessing, even in the midst of those infirmities.   We are often healed in the going, regardless of how lame or halting we feel.   He meets us in the process of moving forward in the face of lack.

Can I dictate to the Lord how and when He heals me or meets my need?  No! He is God, and I am certainly aware that I am powerless to change myself.  However, as I obey Him in the process of pilgrimage, often not understanding even when I will reach my destination (moving stolidly, even with baby steps, toward Him), He heals me and brings forth life in the wilderness places of my heart.

Father, empower me to keep putting one foot in front of the other!  Strengthen me to move forward on this relentlessly challenging path and trust You to speak life to my personal wilderness.   You will bring forth streams in the desert and will heal my heart “in the going.”

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Holy or Unholy Roots?

RootsRecently, when on an evening walk in our neighborhood, my husband alerted me to a significant unevenness in the sidewalk. He wanted to alert me to a very real tripping hazard.  As I looked down, it was glaringly apparent that the sidewalk had been forcibly lifted up by subterranean roots of a tree adjacent to the edge of the concrete.  The lesson was not lost on me.  Aside from the obvious need to observe where I placed my feet in order to avoid stumbling, tripping, or even falling on my face, I suddenly realized that roots affect more than the plant they support.

In some cases, roots stretch deep into the soil below the plant they support; in other cases, roots spread out from the base of the plant and suddenly surface in unexpected places, thereby disturbing what has been placed there.

This disturbance can work both for good or for evil.  In the case of evil, unholy roots, the pernicious effect may remain underground, and therefore invisible, for a season; eventually, however, eventually those roots will surface and wreak destruction in the foundation of whatever has been established in the path of those roots.  Similarly, in the case of good, holy roots, the effect may be delayed until the plant reaches a significant point of growth.  At that critical point, the holy roots have the power to crack the foundation of darkness, no matter how long those roots may have lain invisible, seemingly powerless, below ground.

What’s the lesson?   Let’s examine the roots of our problems and not merely medicate the symptoms.   Those roots MATTER, and they impact those around us.   Are we striving valiantly to stuff our painful experiences from the past and move on, without truly processing them with the help of the Holy Spirit?  At some point, something will trigger those painful roots and cause additional pain.

Conversely, we can trust the holy ROOT (Revelation 22:16) — the Root and Offspring of David, Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ).  He is the Holy Seed that will continue to bear fruit that remains, fruit that transforms, fruit that is for food and leaves for healing (Ezekiel 47:12).

Moreover, the root affects the plant, including its branches.  Romans 11:16 admonishes us:  “For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches.” (NKJV)  We can therefore conclude that our good and bad roots affect our branches, our fruit, and the impact we have on those around us.

Father, search my heart and expose any unholy roots in me!  Help me uproot anything unholy in my life, that I might be healed of everything unholy from my past.  Connect me  more strongly to the holy Root, the Offspring of David, Jesus Christ my Messiah, that I might bear good fruit AND have impact for Your Kingdom on those around me, in Jesus’ Name!

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