When I was a young boy in Tennessee, we heated our small, drafty house with a potbelly wood stove. On those cold winter nights, we would all drag our mattresses into one room and pile as many quilts and blankets on them we had. Before going to bed, we would stoke the fire as hot as we could get it, but in the wee hours of the morning the fire was reduced to a smoldering pile of ashes, producing no recognizable warmth.
Upon arising, our first duty was to “fan the flame,” to re-ignite the fire. When you first opened the little iron door to that stove you saw what looked like a cold pile of useless, gray ashes. But we knew there was fire beneath those ashes. If we had simply laid more wood on the ashes, it would have suffocated and totally extinguished the fire. That’s what we do when we try to solve our lack of ministerial effectiveness by adding more and more activities. We smother what’s left of the fire. More wood is not always the answer, just as more activity may not be your answer.
There are two things that must happen to rekindle the fire. Those old stoves had a grate. A grate is simply the metal grid whereon the coals lay. As you shook that grate, the ashes that were smothering the fire were sifted to the bottom of the stove, exposing that which could still burn. The first step to rekindling your fire is to remove that which is smothering it!
This is where we remove the weights. This is where we ask, “What am I doing that’s consuming time, energy, and resources but is no longer moving me toward my ultimate goals?” This is where I remove the ashes. The first question is not, “What do I need to add to my efforts?” The first question may instead be, “What do I need to remove? What do I need to stop?” (read entire article)