Lessons from a Snowstorm

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To say my weekend turned out nothing like I planned would be an understatement. It started off with a phone call on Friday morning that forced me to change my plans for the whole day. As I drove home on Friday night the snow was coming down much earlier than had been forecasted and the weather reports seemed to be raising the amount of snowfall expected. Our landscape company does snow removal, so I knew we were definitely in for an interesting weekend.

As the snow fell on Friday night everyone gathered at our house and we turned on a movie. But it was not a normal relaxed movie night as my husband, son, and son-in-law kept their eyes on the weather and wondered how they were going to handle such a huge storm.

Three days later, it is mostly over. Although as I sit here at my laptop, my guys are still clearing snow in their efforts to get normal life back up and running for folks. Oh, how I respect and admire them for this. I don’t think I could do it. They have been going nonstop since during the night on Friday with just a few hours of sleep. I don’t know about you, but I know that I couldn’t do that. I am so thankful for the men in my life!

My job is to take the inevitable phone calls, which is always an adventure. One of our secretaries made it into the office this morning, so I am finally getting the opportunity to sit down and write on this Monday morning. My thoughts feel a little scattered, so I am going to try to pull them all together.

The weekend was full of interesting stories and tidbits, but instead of relaying everything, I thought I’d just summarize a few lessons that I learned (or was reminded of yet again)–

1. God is faithful. I never fail to be amazed at how God works out all the details when these days come. We have breakdowns and we have problems, but God is there in the midst of it. Without question. I know skeptics call this coincidence. But really–is there such a thing?

2. Most people are still generally nice. At least that is what I experienced yesterday. Because of the huge amounts of snow, we had run into the unusual circumstance of our normal snow equipment not being adequate for all of our jobs. This meant contracting subcontractors with bigger machines. But most people were patient and very kind when they called to ask about their driveway.

3. Some people are not so nice and they are the ones who remind me that I still have such a long way to go in the sanctification process. At one point, one lady called to complain about something. Her complaint was certainly legitimate, but it was made with such anger and accusations that I had a very difficult time holding on to my temper. I did manage to do so, but I got a little sarcastic and felt quite a bit of glee informing her that I was one of the owners when she demanded to speak to one of them. It is people like this that remind me that I still have such a long way to go in loving others–especially the ones that are selfish and unkind.

4. God answers prayer. In the midst of the weekend, we ended up having quite the crisis. Without going into details, I felt so helpless and really had to reign in the worry and fear that was rising quickly inside me, threatening to overtake me. I learned again that when I am faced with circumstances far outside my control, that I am not that spiritually mature, after all. I enlisted a few people to pray and God answered in an amazing way. We feel undeserving but offer our deepest and most humble thanks to Him!

5. A thank you in the midst of something like this is like a balm to the soul. This morning, before I switched the phones back to the office, I answered a call from a local business that we plow for. As most calls are usually negative, I prepared for the complaint that was sure to come. Instead, they had called to thank us for doing such a great job. Wow. What a blessing! Just a simple phone call, so easy to do, and yet so many of us never take the time to do this. I am thankful that this man did so. It means so much to our guys to hear words of praise once in awhile. We are always so quick to complain but most of us rarely offer a thank you. This phone call reminded me of the importance to express my gratitude to others.

6. I won’t die if I can’t leave my house. One of the things I have had to get used to is being the last one plowed out. Even now, my driveway is full of snow and drifts. This used to really get to me and I would grow a little angry. But as I have gotten older, I have realized that it was just my selfish desire not to be stuck here that drove my anger. Now I just try to be patient and not to be an extra burden that my husband has to worry about. When I feel a little claustrophobia rising in me, I just remind myself that I have people who could pick me up if there was an emergency!

 

These are just a few of things I learned this weekend. I am sure I could come up with more, but I need to go get busy and see if I can get my life back to some semblance of order! Hope you have a great day!

 

 

How Deep the Father’s Love

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The other night my husband and I were laying in bed talking. As we prepared to go to sleep for the night, he turned over and wrapped me in his arms. As I lay there, listening to him breathe and feeling the warmth of his body, I felt so safe and secure. I don’t deserve to be loved as well as he loves me. I just don’t. I can be bossy and talk too much and struggle with being submissive sometimes but he loves me, anyway. I make mistakes and sin and fail and continue to do so even after all these years. And yet he continues to love me. For almost 28 years, this man has loved me despite my faults.

Of course, he has his faults, too, and so we love each other, offering much grace and mercy, in our mutual understanding that we are both sinful human beings in a fallen world.

I know I am beyond blessed to have this kind of marriage. I know that this is not the experience of everyone. And my heart hurts for those of you who have never experienced this or have experienced it but have had it taken away due to the great thief called Death. (And, on a side note–we all have our crosses to bear. My crosses just look different than yours. A happy marriage does not equal a perfect life.)

But as I was thinking about the security I feel in the imperfect, human love of my sinful husband, I found my mind moving to the absolute security, safety, and peace that we have in the perfect, divine love of our Heavenly Father when we are born again. We can trust Him wholly because of who He is.

It is a little easier for us to offer love to one another because we understand each others’ humanity. We expect the other person to make mistakes and to fail and change. We expect them to expect us to do the same.

But God doesn’t change. He doesn’t fail. He doesn’t make mistakes.

That He would reach down to love someone such as I astounds me. He is perfect, just, and holy. He is omnipotent and mighty. He does not need me for any reason. I have nothing to offer Him. Anything good in me is a gift from Him to be used for His glory. And yet, despite all this, He made a way for me–and for you, too–to be saved through faith alone, by His grace alone.

Ephesians 2:4-10 is just one of the scripture passages where we read of this great love towards wretched sinners–

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

God loves us with great love and much mercy. And that’s something to be thankful for today. There are so many songs about God’s love, but I think the song How Deep the Father’s Love For Us best expresses my thoughts for today–

How deep the Father’s love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the man upon a cross
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

Here is the song, if you’ve never heard it but would like to. I hope it is a comfort and blessing to you today, no matter what circumstances you find yourself in–

Two Types of People

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I was listening to Gateway to Joy the other day and heard Elisabeth Elliot say something like this: “there are only two kinds of people: the kind who complain and the thankful kind.”

And I had to ask myself:

Which kind am I?

I guess none of us are either kind all the time, but which kind am I most of the time?

The really great thing about this question is that we get to choose what kind of person we will be. It isn’t like the question are you short or tall? While we can’t change our height, we can change if we are a complainer or if we are thankful.

I would say that I am overall a pretty happy person, but these last couple of years have challenged that a bit. I have been thrown out of my norm, forced to develop a new normal, and I have rebelled a bit against that. I have had many moments– even months– that I have not been thankful. I have blamed it on my circumstances.

But God, I don’t want this in my life.

Slowly but surely, God is teaching me that my joy is not dependent on my circumstances. My grateful heart is not dependent on what’s going on in my life. Instead it comes from a heart surrendered to the will of the Father, trusting in Him and knowing that whatever is going on in my life is for His glory and my best.

This is a very hard lesson to learn, no matter what change in life we face. Or what circumstances. We all have them, don’t we? We traverse on this troubled and fallen earth where trials abound. We can all think of plenty of reasons to complain. But when we choose thanksgiving, we are like a lighthouse on this dark earth.

Let me give you an example.

I know two older women who have now lived out most of their lives. They have married, raised a family, and watched grandchildren grow up. They have health issues and life has changed considerably for both of them over the past ten or so years, giving them much to complain about.

But these two women are like night and day in how they face their circumstances and the contrast is remarkable.

The one complains frequently about her circumstances. The other one chooses to be thankful despite her circumstances. The complainer talks negatively about everyone around her. The other one does not. The complainer rarely has a positive thing to say. The other one is inspiring and full of joy. The complainer is lonely and has few friends. The other one is loved dearly by many. One is showing me what not to be like when I am old and one is creating a beautiful legacy.

One of these women is joining the roiling, heaving mass of discontented humanity and the other one is standing out like a lighthouse on the shore, offering hope despite life’s hard times.

This contrast has given me cause for great thought. I want to be creating a beautiful legacy of joy and thanksgiving. But how do I get there?

Perhaps the change starts in our minds, where we first get our initial thought of complaint. Most of us are wallowing in sinful, negative thoughts before ever speaking. And if we want to change, we need to recognize this. 2 Corinthians 10:5 commands us to take every thought captive. Captive. Instead of  letting our thoughts take control of us, we are to take control of them. This is where I fail so often.

I have that thought of sadness or irritation and I will feed it. Instead of taking it captive, I will set it out to pasture to gobble up all of my peace. And yet, life is so much better when I take those thoughts captive as instructed in scripture.

And so I am learning to choose joy and thanksgiving. In my Bible Challenge reading this week, I read that wonderful passage in I Thessalonians 5, including verse 18 about giving thanks always. God’s Word speaks to so many of our problems and struggles. But changing is no easy process and needs to be done very intentionally through the power of the Holy Spirit, just like the rest of our Christian lives. Intentional submission to God’s sovereignty, intentional scripture study and prayer time, intentional choices that lead to pure, holy, and thankful lives. Until one day God calls us into His presence to live with Him forever. The Hope of Heaven–now that is something for which to be truly thankful!

 

50 Reasons Why I’m Still Thankful To Be An American

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Yes, America is going the wrong direction. And, yes, it is coming quickly. But I thought it might be a good idea to remember why America is still a great place to live— at least right now. Some of these things will change sooner rather than later. Hopefully, many of these things will never change. But, whatever happens, for this day…for this moment…we have so much for which to be thankful! Let’s not get so caught up in all that’s wrong that we miss the blessings that are right before our eyes.

And so I thought of 50 things for which we Christians can still be thankful. Yes, I know this is not a list that fits everyone. But if you can’t relate to some of mine, then think of some of your own that you have in your situation and then add them in the comment section below. I am sure I forgot some obvious ones. Please add them, as well. Here is my list–

1. I can count on the roads to be passable and safe.

2. My children have access to a good education and to higher education of their choice.

3. I can still go to any church I want to.

4. I can go to a mall and see Latinos, Asians, Indians, Middle-Easterners, African-Americans, and Whites all shopping peacefully together, without incident.

5. I can grow my own vegetables and fruit in my garden.

6. I can still share the gospel freely wherever I go.

7. I still feel safe when I jog, bike, and walk in my neighborhood.

8. My grocery store shelves abound with food of all kinds and varieties.

9. If I can’t find what I want at my grocery store, I can travel a short distance to a Farmer’s Market, an Asian Market, or a Specialty Food Store to find what I am looking for.

10. Our judicial system is not completely and utterly corrupt and full of bribery, like many other countries.

11. I can go to the beach or to the mountains or to the city for a getaway.

12. I can blog about anything I want without fear of being arrested or shut down.

13. I have a variety of specialists that I can go to to meet almost any medical need I have.

14. I can afford a reliable vehicle to take me where I want to go.

15. The general public still obeys traffic laws.

16. We can still buy, sell, and distribute Bibles and other Christian books.

17. We can not only count on getting a paycheck if we have worked, but we can also count on the bank being able to cash it.

18. We don’t have trash on the sides of our roads.

19. We don’t have people living in the city dumps, trying to make a living from people’s trash.

20. We have heat in the winter and AC in the summer.

21. We can freely travel throughout all 50 states without fear of interrogation and danger.

22. I have good dental care available to me. I can go to the eye doctor and afford glasses.

23. Most of our policemen are still good men with a heartfelt desire to serve the public.

24. We have a wealth of tests and tools available to diagnose our illnesses and keep us healthy.

25. I can sit on my porch to enjoy the sunset without fear of attack.

26. I can communicate with someone I love across the world without charge because internet access has become available almost anywhere–even in many public places.

27. Instead of the wild, foraging dogs that are so rampant in many countries, we keep dogs as faithful companions and protectors.

28. There is still an outpouring of love and generosity when someone is in need in this country– no matter their color, race, or sex. Americans have a wonderful sense of empathy and generosity. It is truly a beautiful thing.

29. We have faithful men in this country who are still dedicated to teaching the truths of the Bible.

30. The sermons and lessons of these men are available freely through podcasts and internet stations.

31. There is still the possibility to be successful in this country if you are willing to work hard. The American Dream is still a familiar concept to most of us.

32. I can still find wonderful Christian music to listen to online and in iTunes.

33. I have a multitude of good, wholesome entertainment available for my family through the likes of DVDs, Netflix, and Amazon Prime.

34. I have a plethora of fun activities to choose from for my children. So many, in fact, that I am forced to choose only the best ones.

35. If I choose to lose weight or rid myself of any other unhealthy habit, I can find programs and websites to help me– many which are free.

36. I can trust that when I cross a bridge that it will hold the weight of my car.

37. I don’t have to worry about wild animals mauling me.

38. I have fresh, drinkable water pouring from my faucet whenever I want it.

38. I look out my back window and see beautiful, green grass and colorful plants.

39. I have electricity available to me 24 hours a day.

40. I can choose to eat organic or to not eat organic. It’s my choice.

41. We can get in our car, on a plane, on a train, or on a bus, and go almost anywhere in this world if we really want to.

42. Our church can hold Bible School and picnics and festivals without fear of government censure or intervention.

43. I have ample amount of leisure time to spend as I choose.

44. We have a yard with plenty of room for picnics and activities.

45. We have affordable –and even downright cheap– clothing available to us. This is not the case in many countries.

46. Gasoline is far less inexpensive here than in almost any other country. Ask a European if you don’t believe me.

47. Even the lowest income person in this country has more than the average poor person in other countries.

48. We have vast sections of forest and natural resources that have been protected from greedy men.

49. Our kids can play or be involved in almost any sport that is known to mankind. If there is a will, there is a way.

50.  We can still enjoy a 4th of July celebration with our families!

 

Now will you please take a moment and add to my list in the comment section? And then go have an awesome 4th of July!

After the Rain

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I couldn’t resist. Yes, with two weddings coming up and a landscape business, I am incredibly busy right now, but what kind of life is it to be too busy to grab your camera and take a few shots? We have been hoping, praying, and longing for rain here at our house. When it’s dry it brings all the stresses that a weather-related business tends to bring. Apparently, before yesterday, this was shaping up to be the third driest spring on record in this area! We received an inch and a half of rain last night and we are praising the Lord for it!

I thought I’d share a few shots I took from our yard after yesterday’s beautiful rain–

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Springing to Life!

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I absolutely love this time of year! To me, it symbolizes hope and new life. The plants that have been dormant underneath the surface of the earth make their tentative way up through the ground and come back to life. Trees and shrubs start to bud and then produce blossoms that take your breath away when you really stop to look at them. The landscape comes to life as greens and reds and yellows start replacing the drab browns that have been our background for the past several months.

As you may already know if you’ve been hanging around Growing4Life for a little while, I am a bit of an amateur photographer (actually, I don’t think I would even use the term photographer–maybe just “picture-taker”). At any rate, I took my camera around my backyard a couple of times so far this spring and captured a few shots, reveling in the beauty of nature.

So I thought I’d share a few of my photos with you. Don’t forget to spend a few moments observing the earth springing back to life in your own backyard.

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Thighs are jiggly in the real world

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I saw a video on Facebook the other day that showed real women exercising. Their bodies weren’t perfect, their thighs jiggled, most had a little tummy, and they broke a real sweat. They looked like they were having a great time. It was a commercial put out by a foreign athletic company for the same reason that the Dove soap commercial came out a few years ago with Jamie Lee Curtis–to present the truth about women. And it was beautiful.

Sometimes I get so weary of trying to be perfect, don’t you? We are constantly barraged by photos on our computers, tablets, and smartphones that tell us we do not measure up. We’re not skinny enough, our houses aren’t beautiful enough, our kids aren’t perfect enough. There is always this elusive, impossible standard that hangs over our heads.

That standard didn’t really exist even 25 years ago. It was just starting to affect us. Now it can control us if we aren’t careful. A big problem in our pinterest-facebook-instagram world is the standards and expectations we set for ourselves because of the pictures we see.

It reminds me of a blog I landed on a few weeks ago. It was a young mom’s home and she had taken some holiday pictures of it that were gorgeous! She obviously has an eye for decorating and design. But even as I scrolled down through, I felt inadequate.

Now, don’t get me wrong– I don’t think there is anything necessarily wrong with posting beautiful pictures. Our world is a much more creative place now that the online world is filled with blogs and Pinterest. But, oh, how careful we need to be as we surf the online world.

Life is so much more than the pictures you see on social media. It’s full of jiggles and cellulite. It’s full of dirt and messes. It’s okay if our houses don’t look like they belong on a blog post. It’s okay if we have a little tummy pooch. Who in the world ever gave us the impression that’s it’s not? And why do we listen to them?

This post is not about losing weight or enjoying interior design but, instead, about trying to be someone we are not because of pictures we see. It’s about young, healthy moms who think they are overweight because they don’t look like the single girl they graduated with ten years ago. It’s about being discontent with our body shapes and our possessions. It’s a vicious cycle, isn’t it?

And if we get into that cycle of discontentment, all gratitude is gone. And without gratitude, we lose sight of our many blessings — a critical part of a healthy relationship with God.

We need to be careful of the subtle call of discontentment and view it for what it is and then take necessary steps to change it. Because life is just too short to try to be something we aren’t. Let’s instead live lives of joy and gratitude and turn to God’s Word for our standards of living. Because, in the end, the fruits of the spirit and a godly life will be so much more important than any external change we may have made.

I Timothy 4:8 For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.

 

 

Dealing with Difficult People: Part 2

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Difficult people. We all have them in our lives. How do we wrestle with impossible, unpleasant situations over which we have no control? How do we work through the anger and the frustration and the hopelessness when someone keeps hurting us–over and over again. I have really been thinking about this a lot lately.

If you are a regular reader, you may remember Part 1. You can read it here. If you haven’t read it, I suggest you do. What I wrote there truly revolutionized how I view difficult people in my life. It was written a  few months ago and it was never intended to have a Part 2. However, God has led me to think further about this topic that is so painful and affects so many people. This is my first paragraph from Part 1–

Have you ever had to deal with someone you just couldn’t make happy? Or perhaps it is someone who lies constantly, is consistently unkind, or very angry? Or maybe they just absolutely exhaust you by telling you all of their woes? Sometimes, if they are friends, we can gently extricate ourselves from these relationships. But, many times, we can’t. We may go to church together. Or we may work together. More often than not, our difficult relationships are within our own families.

If you can relate to this, then I think you will find this post helpful. I would like to share some specific steps we can take to work through a never-ending and seemingly hopeless situation. Notice I did not say “easy” steps. But we need to remember that oftentimes the hardest steps yield the greatest rewards. And if you can take these steps–one slow step at a time– I promise that the bitterness that is welling inside you will dissipate and you will grow stronger spiritually. I can promise you this because these steps are straight from scripture.

1. Submit to God’s sovereignty in your life. This is the first step we need to take in any difficult and troubled situation. It is how we need to view any frustrating and annoying person we come across. We can never change someone else, so we need to instead turn our eyes to God and recognize that He has allowed this person or situation in our life for a reason. It is probably to help us grow more like Christ. We can shake our fist at God and rail that it isn’t fair or we can submit humbly and ask God what He wants to teach us through this. Both attitudes have consequences. If we choose to be angry, then we will grow hard and bitter. If we choose to submit, we will be filled with the peace that passeth understanding. It is our choice. Of course, Romans 8:28-30 is perfect for this idea of God’s Sovereignty but also check out Philippians 1:6 and Romans 5:1-5.

2. Love and forgive the other person(s). So, I know this one is a whole lot easier to write than it is to do. But I didn’t come up with this one on my own. This comes straight from the pages of scripture. Check out Matthew 5:44-48 and Luke 6:27. And then turn to Matthew 6:14-15 and Ephesians 4:31-32. There are many more. I just picked a couple. It would seem that loving our enemies and forgiving them are a pretty big part of a genuine Christian faith. We don’t have a choice here.

So how do we do this? I am going to share something that has helped me tremendously. When I am at the end of myself and have no love to offer or forgiveness to extend, I ask the Lord to fill me with His love and forgiveness for that person. And He answers that prayer! You see, sometimes we are humanly incapable of giving that love and forgiveness. But God is all-powerful and He has provided the Holy Spirit to guide and strengthen us. He will help us. Keep in mind that this is not a once and done thing. It is often a prayer that we need to pray for weeks, months, or even years. But don’t stop asking. And He won’t stop answering.

3. Surround yourself with godly people who will build you up. When we are struggling and suffering, it’s important we don’t fall prey to the very human temptation to hang out with those who will help us point a finger of blame, talk unkindly about the other person, and excuse our sinful attitudes. Instead, surround yourself with friends who will encourage you to respond correctly and biblically. Look up Proverbs 27:5-6 and Proverbs 13:20.

Again, not easy. I know when I am really upset, the last thing I want is someone telling me what the Bible says. And, look, I’m not talking about one of those friends who annoyingly always seems to have the answer and is quite arrogant in the way they give it to you. With friends like that who needs enemies?? No, I am talking about a true and wise friend who will listen and empathize, pray with you and for you, and will lovingly challenge your sinful attitudes.

4. Don’t allow Satan to get a foothold in your life because of this situation. This is best done by controlling our thought life! When we feel our thoughts spiraling out of control, we need to consciously choose to think about something else. We need to carefully refuse to let our thoughts take us down to that dark pit where we feel hopeless and full of despair. We need to very purposefully turn away from the angry and bitter thoughts that can so easily consume us. Honestly, this takes work and a lot of prayer but it does get easier! Check out Ephesians 4:26-27 and 2 Timothy 2:22-26.

5. Be thankful. This can be tough. These situations can utterly and completely take over our lives. So grab yourself an empty notebook and start a thankful journal. You will be shocked at how much you have for which to be truly thankful. God has blessed all of us in a myriad of ways. Start writing it down and see how this little exercise in gratitude helps to move your focus from your woes to your blessings. I Thessalonians 5:18 and Ephesians 5:20 are just two of many verses in scripture about gratitude.

I hope these steps help you. It won’t be instant and it won’t be easy, but if you can follow them, I truly believe God will work in your heart and your life to grow you tremendously through this trial. An added bonus will be the ability to become that friend who can help others when you get to the other side of this trial. You will really be able to understand the challenges faced by someone going through a similar situation and will be able to be used by God in a mighty way– if you choose to submit instead of shaking your fist. If you choose to be thankful instead of bitter. If you choose to grow instead of staying stuck in the mud.

Victory can be yours! This is not a hopeless situation! But, as always, the choice lies with you. No one else can make it for you. No, you can’t change the other person, but you can take steps to work on your own heart. If we choose to submit and obey, blessing will surely follow!

 

 

Searching for Spring

Totally spontaneous post here but today was a bit more seasonable and, between the weather and my illness, I have been yearning for a little sign of spring. I mean when it is time for spring, even winter weather can’t hold it back–not forever, anyway. And so I took my camera with me on a little walk outside to see if I could find some proof that spring is definitely on its way. I thought I’d share a few shots with you. I find them a wonderful reminder of Ecclesiastes 3– to everything there is a season. So thankful for the season of SPRING!

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The Very Easy Extremely Hard Way to Stand Out

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When we Christians talk about standing out as salt and light in the world, many different things come to mind–

We need to love, for the world hates.

We need to be peacemakers, for the world is full of anger.

We need to love righteousness, for the world loves evil.

We need to be pure, for the world is dirty.

But God has been teaching me that there is another way that we need to stand out to the world around us. May I suggest that one easy {but extremely hard} way to stand out is to–

Rest calmly with a heart of gratitude in God’s sovereignty, for the world complains…and complains…and complains.

What a testimony this is to unbelievers.

And, if we are honest, how rare for Christians to do this.

Well, let me speak for myself. Maybe you have this down, but I certainly do not. For instance, when someone I know well asks me how I am today, it is very normal for me to begin a conversation by mentioning something that is wrong in my life right now. I try to put a positive spin on it, but it is still a thinly veiled complaint and I know it and God knows it.

I am reading through the Bible this year (yes, pleeease hold me accountable! I am determined to finish it! I would so appreciate an e-mail now and again asking me how I am doing!) and I have been very struck by how God handled the Israelites when they complained. In several incidents, the punishment was–get this–DEATH. They were struck down forever via plagues and fire and snakes because of a complaining spirit (Numbers 11:1-3; 21:4-6). Now there were times that they complained that God had mercy (Exodus 15-18) and supplied these whining people with their requests. But the Israelites seemed to make complaining a habit and it is obvious that God took this very seriously.

As I reflect on the seriousness of this sin, I wonder how often I complain without even realizing it? This winter, especially, I think there are many of us who are tired of the snow, tired of the cold, weary with being stuck inside, some of us caring for family members who are sick or perhaps we are fighting illnesses ourselves. If we aren’t careful, we may begin to believe that these kinds of moments in our lives give us the “right” to complain.

But if anyone had a right to complain, it would have been the Israelites. I don’t want to be too hard on them. Here I am in my warm, safe home with lots of variety to eat, modern medicine to help heal and comfort me, and technology to keep me entertained and I still complain. They were wandering in the hot desert and eating only manna and quail. I might have complained, too.

And, so, my conclusion is that we can truly stand out as a Christian if we do not complain. Instead, let us be motivated by a heart of gratitude. For it is impossible to speak a complaint and a thank you in the same breath. Let us be a light in this way to the very dark, incessantly complaining world around us. And, most importantly, let us remember that complaining is a very great offense to our Holy God.