Archive for the “grumbling & complaining” Category

Living God's HeartLiving Gods Heart

1It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
to sing praises to the Most High.
2It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning,
your faithfulness in the evening.
Psalm 92:1-2 (NLT)

Your assignment during this focus on thanksgiving has been to memorize these two verses. How’s it going? I have them down, and I attribute it to quoting them first thing most mornings and last thing most evenings…and then any time throughout the day when I am tempted to complain about things.

What I’ve become convinced of is that giving thanks is a strong aggressive and preemptive play against the enemy. He wants to neutralize our witness for Christ. Giving thanks and proclaiming God’s unfailing love in the morning and His faithfulness in the evening puts us in the position of standing against satan before, during and after any and all attempts he makes to derail us. Here’s how:

Morning thanksgiving sets the stage for the day – and it establishes that we’re playing on God’s stage, not satan’s stage. It says “OK, satan – this is the field we’re playing on today.” It starts the game each morning with the home field advantage.

What’s the impact of starting every day by proclaiming boldly and declaring with enthusiasm that God’s love is unfailing; that His loving kindness is constant and that His mercies are new every morning? How will the first hour of my morning be different if I proclaim God’s unfailing love while I get ready for work instead of going over my to do list for the day or a taking stock of my aches and pains or rehashing the argument I had with someone the day before? It will be night and day different! These actions allow us to take control of our thoughts first thing in the day, setting the pattern for the rest of the day.

It also puts on my shield of faith. As I remind myself of God’s unfailing love my faith rises to meet the day’s challenges. It puts me more in the mindset of being on the offensive instead of playing defense.

Continuing to give thanks throughout the day puts me in a position of obedience because it is impossible to be actively praising God and actively complaining at the same time. “Stop complaining” Jesus told the crowds in John 6. The Apostle Paul wrote telling us to “Do everything without complaining or arguing” in Philippians 2:14. As I wrote in this blog – let’s be counter-culture and stop the complaining and grumbling.

Not only does being an aggressive giver of thanks put me in a position of obedience throughout the day, it repeatedly changes my focus from this world to the Kingdom of heaven; from bricks and mortar to gold and glory; from sinful, fallen attitudes and behaviors to righteousness and holiness and loving kindness. That’s being on offense.

And becoming more obedient in my thanksgiving and changing my focus to the Kingdom of God, has another huge impact – it repeatedly puts me in the presence of God. Psalm 100 says:

Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him and praise his name.

Psalm 100:4 (NLT)

Thanksgiving and praise bring us into the presence of God. And that’s where my victory comes from; that’s where my joy in life’s challenges is found.

Not only are we to proclaim God’s unfailing love in the morning, we’re to proclaim His faithfulness in the evening. “Lord, You are a faithful God and I thank you for it.” How different will our sleep be when the last thing we do is remember – declare and give thanks for – God’s faithfulness?

I love the bookending of praising God morning and night: “It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning, your faithfulness in the evening.”  To me the psalmist is saying “Sandy, frame your life within the structure or boundaries of thanksgiving and praise. Morning and night, remember God’s goodness and thank Him for it.”

I’m working on my frame, how about you?

Lagniappe (a term used in southern Louisiana and southeast Texas, it means “a little something extra”)

Here’s a kind of cool thing about the word  translated “good” In this passage,  – “It is good to give thanks…” and “It is good to proclaim…”: It’s the same word that is used in Genesis when God declared that what He had made was “good!” God created the light and saw that the light was good. He caused the waters to be collected and the dry ground to appear creating the land and the seas and He saw that it was good. He created all the plants and animals and He saw that they were good. He created the sun, the moon and stars and saw that they were good. All of God’s creation was declared to be “good.”

And in the psalms, David writes that our thanksgiving and praise is likewise, “good.”

I think that’s pretty cool!

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods Heart

1It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
to sing praises to the Most High.
2It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning,
your faithfulness in the evening.
Psalm 92:1-2 (NLT)

A few weeks ago, I published a blog titled The Proof of Repentance – Living Differently. The point of the article was that when we agree with God about our sin, we choose to live differently. We choose to let go of sinful behaviors and replace them with behaviors that are pleasing to God. That makes us counterculture.

If ever there was a lifestyle pattern in which we need to be counterculture, it is grumbling and complaining. It is the most common conversational “style” I find – both among Christians and non-Christians. Ask anyone how they are doing and you are unlikely to hear about how blessed they are, even though we live in a most blessed country. Yes, we’re going through a recession and perhaps they’re not feeling as “blessed” as they were five years ago, but on our very worst days, we’re still living in a blessed country.

Psalm 92 instructs us to give thanks, sing praises and proclaim His unfailing love in the morning and His faithfulness in the evening. That’s a lifestyle of thanksgiving and praise. And it’s inconsistent with grumbling and complaining. A thankful heart must be developed and cultivated in our culture because grumbling and complaining is so prevalent. I confess – sometimes I feel like I have to complain about something just to be a part of the crowd. If I’m not complaining, I’m just too different from everyone else to be comfortable! Lord forgive me! Teach me to embrace the discomfort of not being like everyone else so that I can live in the joy of thanksgiving!

A thankful heart lifts our eyes to the Lord – I need that. A grumbling and complaining heart puts my eyes on the situation – and the very worst elements of it. Next week’s blog is going to be all about that!

This week, I want to get us thinking.

  • What do you have to be thankful for?
  • What keeps you from being thankful?
  • How strong is your thankful heart? Mine is doing OK, but I know it could be stronger.

I’m looking forward this month to learning about how to grow my thankful heart and then…actually growing it! My goal for the next four weeks is to become a more thankful person. Because I’m convinced that there is joy to be found in thankfulness. In good times and in bad times. I am hoping that people notice the difference, but even if they don’t, I will.

I am anticipating going into a difficult few months. We all face times that are more challenging than others. I want to experience my thankful heart growing stronger before I get too far into that difficult period.

So let’s start with an easy assignment. (At least I it’s an easy one.) Memorize Psalm 92:1-2.

1It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
to sing praises to the Most High.
2It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning,
your faithfulness in the evening.
Psalm 92:1-2 (NLT)

And if you find that to be a really easy assignment, begin to implement it.

  • Every morning when you wake, proclaim – declare with enthusiasm and confidence – God’s unfailing love.
  • Pause before each meal to give thanks – truly give thanks, don’t just repeat words you often say but frequently don’t fully embrace.
  • At least once each day sing praises to God. (Perhaps you could sing your thanksgiving before one of your meals.)
  • Every night before you go to sleep, proclaim – again, declare it with enthusiasm and confidence – God’s faithfulness.

I’m looking forward to this week…and next week and the week after that. I’m looking forward to them because I believe that developing a heart of thanksgiving has tremendous power to transform us into the people God wants us to be. And that will not only please God, it will bring more joy into my life.

So…let grumbling and complaining cease and let the thanksgiving begin!

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An elderly gentleman drove himself up to the airline check-in counter. His vehicle was a motorized wheelchair. He was in the wheelchair because he had no legs. They had been amputated at the point where they connected to his torso.

He was wearing a baseball cap that appeared to have some war veteran insignia on it. I was immediately humbled.

I don’t know the gentleman and I didn’t stop to talk to him, but I imagine that he lost his legs serving his country (and mine) in a war many, many years ago. Perhaps that’s not his story, but it is the story of many.

So perhaps for the first time, I really (I mean really) thought about this man and those he represents. I imagined returning home from war with no legs and the tremendous struggle that must have been so many years ago. Then I imagined the lifetime this man has lived without his legs. And I was so very aware that I live every day enjoying a lifestyle that very well may not have been possible without the service and sacrifice of this man and others like him.

I can’t express the thankfulness that welled up in my heart.

Then God took the teachable moment a step further. He reminded me of how easily I give in to the temptation to complain. My back hurts. My sinuses burn. My have a headache. My car windshield wiper motor isn’t working properly. My house is a mess. My customers have unrealistic expectations. The weather is too hot/cold/humid/dry. I could go on. Unfortunately sometimes I do. It doesn’t glorify God.

His word tells me to “do everything without complaining or arguing” (Philippians 2:14). It also tells me that “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Peter 13a). Further, it tells me that I am “blessed beyond the curse” (a simplification and paraphrase of Galatians 3:13-14).

When I focus on these things, how can I complain about the small things I mentioned above? The obvious answer is that I cannot, so I must be focusing on the wrong things. More about that in a minute.

When I complain, I am not only letting the enemy win over my attitude, I am also letting society influence me more than God’s Word. America has become a society of complainers. I don’t know when that happened, but I don’t think it was always so. I can’t imagine the pioneers travelling across the country complaining all the way. I rather think they were expectant about their adventure and endured adversity because of their anticipation of things to come. Reminds me a bit of Jesus – read Hebrews 12:2.

I don’t remember adults from my childhood sitting around complaining. I can’t think of a single person from my childhood whose life was characterized by complaining.

As an adult, I can name many. And when I am with them, I sometimes get tired of being what seems like “Miss Pollyanna,” so I join in their complaining. I follow the crowd. Don’t misunderstand me – I’m quite capable of initiating the complaining, so I’m not in any way blaming them for my sin. I’m pointing out the multiplication of my sin – the sin is mine not only for complaining, but for following the crowd instead of responding to God’s higher call.

That’s not the person God wants me to be, and it’s not the person I want to be. Again, when we remember all that Christ has done, how can we consider complaining? A Scripture that often comes to mind is:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Philippians 4:8

Our focus will impact our thoughts, actions and words. When we focus on what we have to complain about, it is very difficult not to complain. When we focus on how blessed we are in Christ, it is difficult not to be thankful.

Thankfulness and complaining cannot live together in harmony. The complaint robs the thankfulness of its substance. It weakens the impact that being thankful has in our lives. It kills the joy that might otherwise spring from the thankful heart.

God is the author of thankfulness; satan is the author of complaining. We have the power to choose whom we will serve. With the prompting of the Holy Spirit and the enabling power of God Almighty, I choose to serve the Lord.

It’s not the Fourth of July, Memorial Day or Veteran’s Day, but I want to thank all those who have served our country in a uniform of the armed forces. Thank you for giving sacrificially so that I may live in freedom today. I bless you in the name of Jesus to live in peace, joy and the awesome presence of God.

Friends, will you join me in blessing those who have served today. Pray for them and for those who continue to serve to preserve our freedom.

Further, will you agree with me to serve the Lord instead of satan with your attitude? Choose to focus on thankfulness and allow complaining to die before it is ever spoken. Your thanksgiving muscle will grow and your complaining muscle will weaken. And that’s such a better way to live!

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28The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”… 30But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God…”
Luke 1:28, 30

I frequently say that God is good. All the time. No matter what my circumstances are, I know that the God who is in control loves me beyond my understanding and wants more goodness for me than I understand. Yet it doesn’t always feel that way! Well, I could say that it doesn’t always feel like my husband loves me, too, but I know the truth is that he does. My feelings aren’t the gauge of God’s love for me. Truth determines reality and the truth is that God loves me and is always working both within me and in the circumstances around me to conform me to the image of Christ – and that is definitely for my good. Doesn’t matter how I feel about it. What does matter is how I respond to it.

The angel of the Lord spoke and reported Truth to Mary when he greeted her, saying “The Lord is with you” and “you have found favor with God.” Of course, he immediately follows up the latter greeting with “you’re going to become pregnant even though you aren’t married yet and you haven’t had sexual intercourse yet.” He might as well have met her with the greeting “Good morning, Mary! God is with you! He’s about to mess up your life big time!”

Finding favor with the Lord is a good thing. Having our lives turned upside down – well, from our perspective, not always such a good thing! Lord, give us Your perspective! Example after example after example in Scripture and in history shows us that when God wants to use someone, their life is turned upside down – when God blesses them, their life becomes unpleasant.

It begs the question: What is our definition of being “favored” or blessed by God? Is it a “pleasant” life? Or is it being used by Him to impact those around us and beyond? Mary’s life immediately became unpleasant, and ultimately her heart was shattered as she watched her Son die a horrific death. Yet the angel greeted her “you have found favor with God.”

I want to find favor with God, and I want Him to use me to impact those around me and beyond. I think that means I ought to get used to a life that seems turned upside down. I’m pretty sure it also means that I ought to greet those jumbled and chaotic circumstances with more faith and hope (confident expectation) than I often do. Again, I pray, Lord, give me Your perspective!

How about you? Are you complaining about your circumstances today? Perhaps they are the circumstances that God has orchestrated to favor you. How did you greet them? With grumbling or in faith with thankful praise?

God, help me to greet the jumbled, chaotic circumstances you throw me today in faith and with thankful praise. Help me to respond as Mary did:

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.”
Luke 1:38a

For more reading about the person God uses – check out this blog from Dec 2008.

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Preface 1 – A Word about the Timeline
I apologize that the timing on this blog isn’t quite right. I began to write it on Wednesday, but haven’t found the time to finish it until today. Rewriting the beginning to match the true timeline with today would be awkward. Yet printing the blog with a false timeline bothers me. It seems untruthful. So, please don’t hold me to dates, but the blog reflects how it happened. It just took me a few days to get it all on paper (so to speak).

Preface 2 – A Word to the Men
Guys, I suspect that you would never characterize yourself as “whining.” It’s way too girly, I know. I also know (because I’ve been married to one of you for a very long time) that your equivalent of whining is getting annoyed and venting about it, i.e., grumbling. It’s that pre-anger stage you go through. So when you see the word “whine” in this blog, substitute “grumble” or “complain with annoyance/anger.” The primary difference between a whine and a grumble is the pitch of our voice!

From Celebration to Whine
Two weeks ago today I had surgery. Two days later I learned that I do not have cancer! Hallelujah!

Today I just want to whine!

I was preparing to meet some friends for breakfast – girlfriends who get together monthly to encourage one another to reach higher heights in business and life. When I began to think about the opening conversations we’d have, I realized that in response to the question “how are you” I just wanted to whine. I wanted to tell them about the minor discomfort and disabilities associated with recovering from the surgery.

How very self-centered I am! How ungrateful I am! Less than two weeks after learning that my life will not be significantly impacted by medical issues in the coming months, less than two weeks after not receiving what could have been life-threatening news, I just want to complain because I have a few restrictions and some discomfort! I don’t like the picture this paints of me.

So I am disciplining myself to celebrate.

It doesn’t seem like the words “disciplining myself” should be combined with “to celebrate” but they do. Celebrating usually includes some degree of festivities – special food, exuberance, balloons, laughter, and dancing. It’s happy face time. Discipline doesn’t include festivities – it brings to mind the sober, perhaps even somber face, as we get serious about things and exercise self-control. Yet there is a valid, even vital relationship between them.

The purpose of disciplining ourselves – of exercising self control – is to bring our actions in line with God’s guidelines for living. One of those guidelines is to quit complaining – stop the whining!

Do everything without complaining or arguing
Philippians 2:14 (NIV)

When we live according to God’s plan, our soul prospers and joy, from the depths of our spirit, follows. Is it an immediate consequence? Not necessarily. But it is a promised one. We live with the consequences of the choices we make, so from an earthly perspective our circumstances don’t necessarily change immediately. But in the spiritual realm and in our heart, changes begin to happen.

What kinds of things happen when we choose to celebrate instead of whine? In the spirit realm, we are blessing instead of cursing. We are speaking our “amen” to the good things that God has done – we are making them known, giving Him praise and saying “thank You” all at once. We are cultivating a grateful heart. And we are being obedient – we are disciplining ourselves to live as God instructs us to live.

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:18

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Colossians 3:17 (NIV)

When I discipline myself to celebrate, I am embracing the lifestyle and character of Christ. I am becoming more like the One to whom I pledge my allegiance and declare my desire to follow. And in so doing, I apprehend the grace God has for me in that area. He will enable me to do that which I have set my heart to do when it is in accordance with His will.

On the other hand, when I choose to whine and complain instead of celebrate, different things happen in the spiritual realm. In the following verse, Paul is referring to men and women who have rejected God. Paul writes that God has revealed himself to them but they have not responded to Him:

21For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.
Romans 1:21-22 (NIV)

21Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. The result was that their minds became dark and confused. 22Claiming to be wise, they became utter fools instead.
Romans 1:21-22 (NLT)

I believe there is a connection between an ungrateful heart and a spiritual darkness that brings confusion and foolish actions. When we discipline ourselves to consistently and regularly rejoice over what God has done in our lives, we reinforce in our minds and spirits truths about who God is and how He interacts with His people. When we allow complaining and whining to take center stage, we reinforce lies that the enemy is whispering in our ears – God doesn’t love you, God doesn’t provide what you need, God isn’t interested in blessing you, God is not good to you. Your thinking becomes “futile” and you begin to think up “foolish ideas” about God, His character and His actions. Ultimately, your heart and mind become “dark and confused.” That sounds a lot to me like the description of depression. I’ve experienced serious depression. Dark and confused does a pretty good job of describing it. I didn’t like it. I prefer the happy face of celebration. That means no whining.

The Ubiquitous Caveats
Please know that I am not talking about sharing legitimate needs with friends and asking them to pray. We should always be quick to do that. And when my need to whine threatens to jeopardize my long-term attitude, that becomes a prayer request – not the things I want to whine about, but the fact that I have lost a grateful heart.

Also, please know that I am not minimizing the recovery from clinical depression to simply celebrating and not whining. Clinical depression is a serious condition that requires more than this simple discipline. I am saying, though, that resisting whining will help the healing process and any step you make toward celebrating will help you apprehending the healing grace God has for you.

A Call to Greater Love
Finally, as I thought about this whole issue, I realized how guilty I am of allowing others to whine in my presence. How many times have you said to a friend, or had a friend say to you “I just want to whine a little.” I would bet that the most common response, “Go ahead, girlfriend. You can vent with me.” It’s well meant – giving an ear to hear and a shoulder to cry on. But isn’t there a time and place to say “Friend, I love you and if you need prayer, I want to pray for you. But I also want you to experience all God has for you. First, let’s spend some time celebrating what God is doing in your life”?  I’d like to encourage all of us to help one another “grow up” in Christ by helping one another be better than we sometimes (in weak moments) want to be.

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So I’ve been really sick this week. Really sick. But my brother’s son was coming to town for the first time in years and he was bringing his new wife with him. We were meeting at mom’s nursing home for a lunch get together. I had secret hopes of making it a special late wedding celebration, but knew I’d only be able to pull it off if I got a lot better. Praise God! I finally began to feel a little better last night, and I actually woke up early this morning. It was one of those mornings where time seems to wonderfully drag by slowly (“I can’t believe I still have an hour before I have to leave”), then all of a sudden it disappears (“How in the world did it get to be ten minutes after I wanted to leave?”).

My first stop was the grocery store to buy a pseudo-wedding cake, hoping they’d have time to personalize it. Hurray! They did. While waiting, I noticed these cutest little cupcakes that I absolutely had to buy for my mom. Their frosting was stringy and hair-like, and they had eyes on top. My mom would love them. It was about this time that I realized my emotions were much more fragile than I wanted them to be. For whatever reason, I nearly started crying while I stared at bakery! I have no idea what that was about…I’m blaming it on being sick for the past week. (I figure I’ve got about one, maybe two more days in which I can blame being sick last week for everything. After that…)

Anyway, I paid for my bakery, along with the wedding and gift cards. I then pushed the cart out the door where there were three young girls trying to raise money for some worthy cause. As I turned the corner to exit, the little bag with mom’s cute cupcakes fell from the seat into the basket of the cart landing on their eyes & hair. “Oh, noooo,” I cried in this high pitched voice that really isn’t mine. The three young girls all turned and looked at me. I looked at them, paused half a second, and then said “I’m having a bad day” as I tried to salvage mom’s cupcakes.

And that’s when God got my attention. What kind of an example was I setting to these three young girls by showing them that cupcakes falling from the basket to the cart is worthy of being considered a bad day? And was I really having a bad day?

Lately I’ve become more aware of how teens seem to pick up the attitudes and actions of the adults around them, and then imitate those attitudes and actions to seem more adult themselves. I see it in teens valuing being overly busy and in complaining about how stressful life is. I had just acted out that the simple misfortune of having your cupcake get a bit smushed is worthy of being considered a bad morning. How foolish is that? And how wrong?

I wasn’t having a bad day (my weakened emotional condition not withstanding). I was physically feeling better than I had in days, I was glad to have the energy and time to get a cake (and doubly blessed to find cupcakes to amuse mom with), I was going to see my nephew who had become an adult since I last saw him, and I was getting to meet his new bride. Not to mention I was going to have pizza for lunch! (Always worthy of celebration in my book.)

I corrected myself almost immediately. The three girls probably think I’m a bit crazy, actually, so I’m still not sure the example I set was a good one, but I corrected the record, anyway. I said something like “That’s not true. I’m not having a bad day, I just dropped my cupcakes. Oh well!” I guess I’m glad I don’t know the girls or there would be rumors all over town that I’m losing my mind!

Seriously, God is speaking to me about how easily I blow negative experiences out of proportion and willingly proclaim my sorry state to others. I’m sorry for that! Lord, help me change that inclination. I want to be pre-disposed toward joyfulness and finding the humor in the situation.

How about you? Do you tend to over-exaggerate the negative and allow it to spill into more of your day than it ought to? If so, I invite you to join me in trying to do better. We’ve been living a lifestyle that isn’t consistent with our faith. Scripture assures us that we are incredibly blessed. When I forget that it’s because I’m looking at the cupcakes as a tragedy instead of a minor mishap hardly worthy of consideration. And it probably means I’m not looking at Christ as much as I ought to be.

Father, we want to see Jesus more today. Thank You!

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1Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the LORD, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. 2When the people cried out to Moses, he prayed to the LORD and the fire died down. 3So that place was called Taberah, because fire from the LORD had burned among them.

4The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! 5We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. 6But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”

7The manna was like coriander seed and looked like resin. 8The people went around gathering it, and then ground it in a handmill or crushed it in a mortar. They cooked it in a pot or made it into cakes. And it tasted like something made with olive oil. 9When the dew settled on the camp at night, the manna also came down.

10Moses heard the people of every family wailing, each at the entrance to his tent. The LORD became exceedingly angry, and Moses was troubled. 11He asked the LORD, “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? 12Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their forefathers? 13Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ 14I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. 15If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.”
Numbers 11:1-15

Moses has been through a lot. Standing up to Pharaoh all those times. All those plagues. The faith required to lead the people to this point. Finally he reaches a breaking point, crying out to the Lord “If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now.”

Wow. Pretty strong statement.

What drove him over the edge? It was the complaining of the people. Moses heard the people of every family wailing. Hearing the people entrusted to his care complaining is what sent him over the edge. I wonder how many times I’ve complained and it caused my pastor to cry out to the Lord in frustration? I don’t complain a lot…but any is too much. It grieves me to think of the impact that our complaints have on the men and women God has sent to encourage and strengthen us.

I could go on about how the people were really complaining about God, or how they were dissing the miraculous provision He was faithfully sending each day, or how the people were begging to go back to Egypt – the place where they were in bondage to slavery. But I won’t. I’ll let you glean those lessons for yourself. Today, I’m grieved that it was the complaining that caused their spiritual leader to doubt himself. “What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me?” he asked God.

Let’s not be people who cause our leaders to throw up their hands in frustration and defeat. Let’s not be people who cause our leaders to doubt their own position and behavior.

Encourage your pastor today!

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Anyone who is married struggles with expectations for their spouses. “I thought you were going to do that!” “Well, I thought you were going to do it!” “When are you going to…” “Isn’t it time to…” “Will you finish…..before friends come tomorrow?”

I work really hard at not having a Honey-Do list. I don’t want to be that whining, nagging wife. I don’t want to be the one who sets “standards” for our life and home that someone else must meet. I don’t want to define his life, I want to let him define it as he hears from God. Of course my wants and my actions don’t always match up.

Scripture says that “a nagging wife annoys like a constant dripping” (Proverbs 19:13 and 27:15). Ouch! And that it’s “better to live on the corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife” (Proverbs 21:9 and 25:24). Again, I don’t want to be that wife.

I friend gave me an expression many years ago that has been helpful to me: In the light of eternity, how important is it? I think a friend of hers gave it to her when she was angry because her husband had bought the wrong color door for their garage!

Here’s a blog by a woman whose deck furniture mocked her – both before and after she nagged her husband to finish the refinishing he had started!

What mocks you? Will you let it get away with the mocking or will you focus your attention on what really matters? (And be sure to give your husband/wife a kiss today. Not a peck, a kiss like you mean it!)

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I love the Lord! This is a super crazy week! A super crazy week. Long, long work hours. It will probably be our busiest week of the year at work. Our community is engaged in a 24/7 prayer watch with community worship every evening. I’m involved in planning a ladies’ retreat that will be this Friday and Saturday. I didn’t get my grocery shopping done last week so we have no milk, bread, bananas (a staple in our house) and a long list of other things. My husband has been fighting a cold and I have felt the fatigue from it, although thankfully not the sinus and chest congestion. It is a super crazy week! And I’ve wondered how I would be able to write a blog (or two!). Writing blogs on a regular basis is a priority for me…but so are lots of other things!

So mostly, I’ve committed to not worrying (the theme of our retreat, coincidentally) and to do my best to sit back and watch God work it all out…all the while moving with what feels like warp speed from one task to the next. Are those two things possible in the same moment? Can I sit back and watch God work while I’m working and moving at a high rate of speed? Well, watch this space for more on that. There’s bound to be a future blog about it.

But back to loving the Lord. Now that you know the back story, let me tell you how the Lord is surprising me with joy. Sunday was the last day for signing up for our ladies’ retreat. There were at least 50% more people signed up than we expected! Praise God! (Right?) Well, we had planned a retreat that was going to be small and intimate in nature – one in which we sat together and shared what God was teaching us. One with lots of time for laughter and tears. No lecture format. There’s a point at which that format doesn’t work, though, and I’m afraid we’ve passed that point in attendance, so I’ve been wondering how to deal with it. It’s the top item on our prayer list for our next and last retreat planning meeting (which begins in less than two hours).

Yesterday as I mused about the situation (notice I am specifically not using the word “worry” because I am refusing to do so – I was simply wondering what God might do and I was beginning to pray for creativity) – anyway, yesterday as I mused about the situation, God made me laugh! He impressed upon me what His perspective must be of all the little plans we make. We’re almost like children playing grown-up – like the little girl playing “mommy” or the little boy playing “daddy.” He’s not deriding our efforts, in fact, I believe He is blessed and honored by our best efforts to bring Him glory. But we are His children, and I think sometimes He watches us in amusement as we “play” grownup. I’m OK with that. In fact, I am happy to bring my Savior amusement!

Then this morning…Late night, early morning, but I sat at my desk, bowl of oatmeal/12 grain hot cereal in front of me and water at my side, ready to greet the day. I took a deep breath and opened my Bible. I took a deep breath to help me resist the cry of all that was to be done and decided to continue my reading in Isaiah. I made it nine verses. Isaiah 19:9 struck me:

Those who work with combed flax will despair,
the weavers of fine linen will lose hope.”

Improbable verse to be struck by, right? Well, what struck me was not some deep spiritual significance or detailed meaning of any of the words…well maybe some of the latter…what struck me was that I read the first line as “those who work with com-bed flax will despair.” What in the world is com-bed flax? What is com-bed? Is it some different kind of flax? (That would be the two syllable kind of flax – you know the com-bed flax!) I must have blinked then because as I was scrunching my brow try to figure out what the word com-bed meant, I finally saw that it was the word “combed” – as in comb your hair which is something I barely did this morning! It made me laugh out loud.

Thank You, Lord, for laughter in the midst of deadlines. Thank You for helping us see that life is not so serious and important that there’s no time or room for expecting  joy and laughter.

Now I’m going to go greet the day with a smile on my face. How about you?

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Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit,
for anger resides in the lap of fools.

Ecclesiastes 7:9

I had planned to spend all day with my mom last Friday. It had been on the schedule for two weeks, but I was having one of those mornings when it seems impossible to get out of the house. I had to go back upstairs several times because I kept forgetting things, then I had to go downstairs in the basement to gather supplies I needed. I was planning to eat my breakfast of toast and tea on the road, but couldn’t find my car tea cup. So after boiling the water for tea, I just threw it away and looked for an alternative beverage. Diet Coke was my second choice, but we didn’t have any cold. So I put ice in a plastic glass and took the can with me. I was also taking lots of other things for various projects we’d be working on – scrapbooking supplies for making some cards, my laptop so I could make some notes about mom’s life for a book we’re working on, a puzzle I bought to put together during some visit, and various other things I’d collected that needed to be taken to mom’s.

In retrospect, I recognize that this morning really wasn’t atypical. The problem was my attitude. It just seemed that each additional trip upstairs or downstairs or each thing that didn’t go exactly as I wanted it to go increased my frustration. Never during those 45 minutes of getting ready did I stop, take a breath and remind myself that life is good. I was letting little things that shouldn’t even rate being considered annoyances get to me.

Finally, after three trips to the car loading various supplies, I grabbed my purse, my glass of ice and my can of pop and headed to the car with my keys in my hand. I was ready to be off for the day (finally! – sigh). I put the glass of ice in the cup holder, then reached over it to put my purse on the passenger’s seat. That’s when my shirt caught on the straw and knocked the glass of ice onto the floor. One would think that I’d have celebrated that there was only ice in the glass, right? Wrong. My “celebration” more like a loud growl-groan – “Aarrrghhhhhhh!”

God’s Interruption
It was in the midst of that aarghh that God spoke to me. Not in an audible voice, but in a distinct thought in my mind that was inconsistent with the emotions I was experiencing. “Sandy, you’re making it harder,” was what I heard, “Sandy, you’re making it harder.” I knew instantly what He meant. My loud growl-groan didn’t do a thing to alleviate my frustration. In fact, it fed it and made it stronger. It was increasing my annoyance with the day in general and moving me closer to throwing in the towel – having my own personal hissy fit, slamming the car doors, throwing the keys in the key-basket and plopping in my chair and saying, “I quit. I can’t go to Mom’s today. I can’t deal with this!” Or maybe my reaction wouldn’t have been quite that bad – maybe I was just being set up for an hour-long drive during which I would rehearse all the miserable things about my life, arriving at Mom’s with a fake smile pasted on my face, and being frustrated at everything that didn’t go right for the next eight hours.

In His grace, God stopped what was happening by whispering into my mind, “Sandy, you’re making it worse.” I immediately realized the truth in the words. I could/should have been considering myself blessed that there was no pop in the glass. I could/should have been spending the morning in anticipation of the blessings of being with Mom all day. I could/should have been using each trip upstairs or downstairs to do any of a number of things other than complain about them. If I hadn’t been expending mental and emotional energy complaining, I probably would have remembered everything I needed on the first trip upstairs…or at least the second one.

There are blessings all around us and we miss them because we get too caught up in the minor things that go wrong (or in some cases, the things that might go wrong – but that’s a different blog).

Blogging about this experience has been on my list for the past week, but when I read the verse in Ecclesiastes this morning, it was moved to the top of the list. “Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit.” I was much too quickly provoked last Friday. And all along the way I had a choice to not be provoked. At any point I could have re-directed my thoughts to the good that God has put around me and in my life. Perhaps this sounds to you much like brainwashing or self-delusion. Not so. The truth is that we constantly have a voice inside us that speaks into our minds – either good or bad. That morning, I had chosen to listen to the bad.

My Freight Train of Thought
If I had taken the time to really listen to that bad voice, I know that I would have been hearing things like this: “You’re never going to get out of here on time. You’re always late when you go to your Mom’s. If you don’t get there by 9am you won’t really have time to do much of anything before lunch. Why is it that your Mom always gets the short end of the stick?” Another line of self-talk might have been more like this: “Why is it that you can’t remember three simple things in one trip? If you had laid this stuff out last night you’d be having a better morning today. If you forget something you won’t be able to finish making the cards you want to do with Mom.” And here’s the third track the voices would have taken: “You know it’s going to take you three trips to get all this stuff to the car. And then three more trips to get it all from the car into the nursing home. Not to mention three more trips to get it all back home. What are you going to do with your laptop while you’re working on cards in the lounge? You know you’ll have to leave it in your Mom’s room because you can’t carry your laptop and your scrapbook supplies all at once. Maybe you should leave your laptop in the car and just work on cards, then go out to the car and exchange the scrapbooking supplies for the laptop. Of course, that limits what you can do…”

I debated about including that last paragraph in this blog for many reasons. It’s very revealing of my personal thought life. Yes, I think these kinds of thoughts, more often than I’d like to admit. This is the kind of self-talk that creeps into my head, trying to suck the life out of me and get me to take the easier path of just giving up and doing nothing. Can you relate to that? It’s not just a “train of thought” – it’s more like a freight train of thought, because it hits you with such impact and it’s full of the baggage of life. But it’s baggage that we’re not called to carry. These thoughts reside just under the surface of my life waiting to pop up at the least provocation. Who can sustain a positive attitude with that flood of negative thoughts vying for attention?

God’s Better Plan
Part of the wonderful package of becoming a follower and disciple of Christ, though, is learning to replace those thoughts with His thoughts. What were God’s thoughts during this time? If I could have silenced the darts the enemy was throwing, I would have been able to recognize how blessed I am to be able to take a day off to spend with Mom. How wonderful it is to have a house with three floors, and the health to be able to climb all those stairs, and the finances to buy scrapbooking supplies and a puzzle and a laptop computer! Was I angsting over what to wear this morning? (Yes!) What a blessing to have such choices in clothing! Was I complaining about tromping upstairs so many times? (Yes!) What good exercise on a day when I would spend most of it sitting! Beyond those blessings that relate directly to what was frustrating me, I have the overriding blessings of a God who is just wild about me, a husband who loves me just about as much as God does, and other family and friends who help make life precious. I also have the physical and mental ability to work and play in the beautiful and abundantly varied world that God has created for me. And I have a warm, dry, and comfortable bed to sleep in each night as I thank God for His goodness.

Being easily provoked last week was all a matter of focusing on the wrong things, and dealing with them in a fleshly way. As God said, my reaction to each incident was just making it worse. The greatest blessing? That God mercifully spoke to me to remind me that I have a choice about letting these little things provoke me to frustration and anger. What a great God we serve!

Lord, as we face the coming week, will you help each reader hear Your voice and not be easily provoked by the darts the enemy throws their way.

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