Tag Archives: progress

Come Up Higher? You’ve Got to Be Kidding!

When someone asks me about my dreams for the future, I typically respond with enthusiasm, as I love to consider myself a visionary with exciting plans. After all, it is important to set goals and move toward fulfilling them. Progress is paramount, and no progress can be made without a plan.

If I am honest with myself, however, after an initial sprint up the rocky trail, I have a tendency to grow weary halfway up the mountain. In the interest of cultivating the virtues of contentment and satisfaction, I tell myself that I am quite pleased right where I am. Breathless from the climb, I pause to reward myself with a much-deserved break and admire the view. I even discover that the view is stunning and linger longer than expected, finding myself reluctant to resume the trek.  A thought nags at the back of my mind:  Am I actually that content with what I see, or am I growing complacent and less passionate about the dream of reaching the pinnacle?

Somewhat begrudgingly, I force myself to abandon this hard-won vantage point and resume the now-arduous ascent. I find myself wondering why the thrill of finishing the climb has so quickly lost its appeal? Am I too easily satisfied with the immediate reward and therefore less motivated to press on? Even more disturbing, am I too quick to re-evaluate and abandon God’s promises? Am I simply unwilling to press on to the finish? Am I yielding to complacency and passivity? Have I lost my vision by exchanging it for something beautiful but far less glorious than the finished work?

Certainly, the view from the top of the mountain is far more breathtaking than the perspective from the halfway point, regardless of how lovely the pit stop view might initially appear. However, climbing higher has its price; the upward trail may involve affliction, buffetting, a stony or steep path, narrow passageways, or even unexpected encounters with wildlife. However, if I allow fatigue, complacency, and distraction to lure me into giving up before reaching the top, I will certainly miss the view from the pinnacle and fail to grasp the bigger picture. The ascent is doubtless worth the effort when I focus on the glorious view that awaits me above the treeline.

During this recent hike in Wyoming’s spectacular Teton Mountains, I found myself reflecting on my spiritual journey.  While it may sound glorious to have high aspirations, even dreams and visions, actually making the climb is often far from glorious.   Often such climbs are fraught with challenges.   Do I want to be a person who resists moving onward and upward, despite difficulties, or do I want to be satisfied with where I am and fail to reach the goal?  More often than not,  speaking with great enthusiasm and passion about a dream comes easily to me, but actually moving forward with realizing the dream is another matter entirely! 

In his letter to the Hebrews, the apostle Paul urges us to press on to the goal without wavering:  “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2, NKJV)



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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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