Do Everything Without Grumbling

Grumble: to complain or protest about something in a bad-tempered but typically muted way. (Google)

My Thursday night Bible study group has been going through the book of Philippians with the help of Karen Ehman’s book, What Matters Most. Everything was fine and dandy, until we got to Philippians chapter 2, and then she issued a challenge: Do not grumble for seven days. I’m gonna be honest. I grumbled about the not grumbling. I put down my pen. How can we be expected to do that? Do you know the people I come in contact with every day? Have you seen me trying to get my kids ready in the morning? Or in bed at night, for that matter? And don’t get me started on the traffic!

I listened. I doodled a big number seven in my book, and I penned out “No grumbling challenge”. I paraphrased Philippians 2:14-15, which says, “Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world”.

Well…when you put it that way…

I decided I’d do it, but I didn’t want anyone to expect that I would succeed. I didn’t tell anyone that I was participating so I wouldn’t be obvious if I failed. And if I needed to grumble, I didn’t want to be held accountable.

Friday came, and I realized it wasn’t so bad! I even made it through the weekend. By Sunday, I checked in with my fellow non-grumblers, and I commented that it had been a lot easier than I thought it would be. My well-meaning friend, who happens to be a guy, said “You know if you think it, it’s just as bad right?” Being someone who doesn’t grumble, I smiled and assured him I was doing just fine. One step at a time.

Then came the most Mondayest Monday there ever was. A situation that a lot of people are unhappy with tends to bring about a group grumble. And it’s really hard not to participate. You tend to hear a plethora of “AND…”, “One more thing!”, “Did you think about…” We add fuel to the fire. More specifically, I added fuel to the fire.

I confessed to my coworker that I was miserably failing at my no grumbling challenge. Her response surprised me. She said “You know, I noticed you seemed so much more refreshed the past few days. That must be it.”

My non-grumbling was noticed. It had changed my outward appearance. I’m glad, but I’m now also hyperaware of how much grumbling is weighing me down.

Philippians 2:5 tells us to “Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus”.

I grumble about minor inconveniences: It took me a long time to get to work. I didn’t like what was for dinner (The dinner I didn’t have to make, mind you). I’m tired of wearing the same few dresses to church every Sunday. I felt left out. Someone was rude. Somebody call a waaaaambulance, already!

If I’m adopting the same attitude as Christ, I have to remember that He was betrayed, mocked, ignored, falsely accused, beaten, tortured, and ultimately killed, yet He never once complained. He brought His heaviness to God, asking Him to take away the suffering (see Mark 14:36), but He didn’t grumble, even though anyone would have understood if He did.

Even though I didn’t manage to make it a whole week without grumbling, I didn’t let my failure stop me from trying. I noticed I felt less angry throughout the week. I tried to be more proactive with things I was frustrated about. I found myself more sad about certain things, letting myself feel the actual emotion instead of hiding it in anger. I was more thankful.

I knew pretending to be Pollyanna and playing the Glad Game wouldn’t truly fix any situation, but bringing my frustrations to God and tweaking my attitude certainly could mold my heart to look a little more like His.

Even when I’m complaining with humor, trying to make a bad situation better, I’m still stirring the pot. I’m still adding to the negativity. It’s time to clean house and pick up a better habit.

Joy is a major theme in Philippians. It’s funny because we were all on board with being more joyful and spreading joy to others; however, when the author started outlining ways to become more joyful, like not complaining, I got all up in arms. Choosing joy isn’t easy; choosing to be grateful instead of grumbling truly is a challenge. But it’s one I’m willing to take, and you may close your app or shut your laptop at this point, but I’m inviting you to the challenge this week too. (C’mon, you knew it was coming). Write yourself a big seven- a reminder. Jot out Philippians 2:14 and tape it to your mirror. Write that verse on your heart. Do everything with out grumbling and arguing. Peel back the layers of your heart and see a more Christ-like attitude just waiting to come out.

I’m not going to end my challenge. I don’t need to word vomit a bunch of unhappy expressions. I’m not going to succeed every day, but I’m going to try, and I’m going to hope that it’s reflected to others.

Ready? Go!

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Non-Blog

Here’s a fun fact: I was named after the mermaid in the movie, Splash. Because of this, I’ve probably watched this movie more than the average Joe. There’s a character in the movie who tries to prove Madison is a mermaid so he can make great strides in his scientific career, but he is the character who experiences everything going wrong. His famous (at least famous in my childhood house) line is “What a week I’m having!”

This is not to say everything has gone wrong this week. Our family is fine, we are not experiencing tragedy or immense troubles, but it’s been a long, stressful week. We are weary. We’ve struggled with behavior, illness, discontentment, and hectic sports schedules. We have not been at our bests. I’ve found myself muttering “What a week I’m having!” more than I care to admit.

Long story short, there’s no new blog post today. This is my non-blog.

I’ve loved the rhythm of writing every Friday. I’ve loved the words God has provided and the time I’ve had to create blog posts each week. But I’ve gotten off rhythm. I need a few measures to catch back up. So that is exactly what I’m doing.

Soak up this Friday with all its crazy rhythms, enjoying the song God has placed on your heart today, whether it’s a love song, a song that makes you want to dance, a song that makes you cry, or just keeps the room a little less quiet.

Maybe next week will go from a downcast “What a week I’m having” to an exuberant shout for joy: “What a week I’m having!!”

But I trust in your unfailing love;

my heart rejoices in your salvation.

I will sing the Lord’s praise,

for he has been good to me. -Psalm 13:5-6 NIV

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭11:28‬ ‭CSB

I Forgot

I had plans to blog about waiting this morning. I had some words on my heart, and some ideas I’d been contemplating for a day or so. I knew I’d be refreshed when I woke up, so I got cozy, opened the laptop and got ready to write. Only, I had a feeling that I had written those words before. They were suddenly feeling familiar. I used the search feature on my site, and lo and behold, I had written a blog about waiting already. In fact, some of the words I had floating in my head were words I had already written.

It was clear to me that God needed me to read those words this morning. Some of the same situations I wrote about two years ago are situations I am finding myself in again today. Waiting is hard, and sometimes it makes us forget.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty forgetful. I would be worried that it’s an age thing, but I’ve forgotten things my whole life. Be it homework, a test, an appointment, or something else important, sometimes things just slip my mind. I have a weekly meeting- same time, same place, every week- and I forget it every now and then. I get to checking my work emails, checking out my census for the day, planning my interactions, and the next thing I know the meeting is over and done with, without a single thought of it. Sometimes I don’t even realize that I didn’t attend until the next day.

Sometimes, I find myself getting ready for work on a Thursday, and I realize I didn’t bring a prize to a patient on Wednesday. Talk about feeling like a loser!

On a different note, I forget the roads I’ve been on. When I am waiting on something to happen, I tend forget about God’s goodness. I get so frustrated as I wait, that I forget that I’ve been there before. I’ve played waiting games. Sometimes I play them gracefully, and sometimes I stumble to the finish line, but God always shows Himself in the waiting. He always comes through, even if it looks different that my original plan.

But I forget that.

As friends are waiting for results or medical decisions, I wonder, “Why is this happening?”. As I’m waiting for answers, waiting for the time to pass, I question the silence. As we wait for a hurricane to make landfall, I fear, “What are those people going to do?”. We have been here before, and God was there, too.

I make things harder on myself because I forget that God has been with me the whole time. I forget that in the most devastating moments of my life, in the most boring days, in the moments when I’m so frustrated I can’t see straight, God is there; He always has been, and He will continue to be.

On Wednesday at church, we talked about Jesus coming back. We had to rank how often we think about it happening on a scale of 1-10. I put 5. I forget about it, as embarrassing as that is to say. I forget that He promised to come back one day. That this life is “like a vapor”, according to James 4:14. I look at my problems and get so stressed out, so overwhelmed, and I forget that most of these things have an expiration date. If Jesus were to come back in the middle of them, it wouldn’t matter a single bit. I forget that He cares about the little things, and wants to carry the burden for me (1 Peter 5:7).

We simply cannot forget God. There’s no way we can make it through the waiting without Him. Whether you’re waiting on healing or an answer or the inevitable, remember Who has gone before you, Who has been there every single time, and Who will be with you when you find yourself in this position again.

If you’re interested in reading what I planned on writing, click here.

Escape Artist

I tend to look for emergency exits everywhere I go. I like to know how to get out of a bad situation. I remember in high school when I was in drill team, feeling like the beginning of a dance routine was like being on a roller coaster. For the next two and a half minutes, I was trapped with no way out. Once it started, I was stuck. I don’t like that feeling. Even now, when I’m in the middle of something hard, I give myself a pep talk to tell myself that I can bail at any time. Very rarely do I go back on my word or quit something once I start, but I like to know there’s at least an option to stop.

When something is uncomfortable and difficult, I want to run away. Sometimes, it’s not a literal escape that I’m looking for. Sometimes it’s running to something more pleasant. Sometimes, I want to escape to Stars Hollow for a couple hours. Sometimes, I cozy up with a carton of ice cream. Sometimes, I escape to the gym. (See? Taking a break can be healthy.) The problem with all of those escapes, is that they don’t get me where I need to go. They’re like a ladder on a fire escape that doesn’t go all the way to the ground. I’m left needing more.

We were designed to run to God. All of the things we seek solace in are fleeting. Many of them have negative effects on our bodies or minds. They put a bandaid on the cut, but they don’t heal the wound; they don’t stop the problem.

In the Bible, David had all the reason to look for an escape. He found himself in some scary situations, some of his own doing, most unavoidable. In Psalm 31, he cries out to God,

Lord, I seek refuge in you;
let me never be disgraced.
Save me by your righteousness.
Listen closely to me; rescue me quickly.
Be a rock of refuge for me,
a mountain fortress to save me.
For you are my rock and my fortress;
you lead and guide me
for your name’s sake.
You will free me from the net
that is secretly set for me,
for you are my refuge.
Into your hand I entrust my spirit;
you have redeemed me, Lord, God of truth. (CSB)

David wasn’t the guy who ran to Ben and Jerry when he was upset. He probably didn’t take a nap to escape the world for a little while. He did hide in a cave once, but I’m pretty sure he prayed the whole time. He cried out to God in his struggles. He poured his heart out to the Lord and asked for guidance and strength. He knew his only escape was God. May we have a heart like his.

I’ve seen a phrase floating around online that says “Have you prayed about it as much as you’ve talked about it?”. Venting can be such an unhealthy escape. We candy coat gossip as “venting”. We fuss and complain to our friends about our problems and never once pray about them to the God who can actually do something about them. You know who can handle our venting? God. Journal it out, cry it out, pray it out.

A lot of the things we want to escape are life’s inconveniences, but so many of the problems we get ourselves in are sin problems. God is always right there to help us out of them. He will not let you drown in sin if you ask for help out. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says “No temptation has come upon you except what is common to humanity. But God is faithful; he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation he will also provide a way out so that you may be able to bear it.” (CSB)

If you want to see a miracle, pray for God to help you through a situation. Our amazing escape artist can line up some pretty cool scenarios to deliver you safely to your destination. In our own strength, we are not enough, and we will never be enough. Only through Him can we escape. (see 2 Corinthians 12:9)

Control

If you attended in the church during the nineties, you probably know the song “God is in Control” by Twila Paris. It was everyone’s favorite special music. I remember hearing it one Sunday after the soloist told us about her car spinning out of control during a rainstorm, stopping on a railroad track, and miraculously being moved just in time. She said she knew that even though she couldn’t fix it, God was in control in that moment, and it inspired her to sing that song.

As a child, it was comforting to know God was in control. I didn’t have to worry about bad guys because God had it taken care of. I didn’t have to worry about getting in a wreck, because God would protect me. He is in control. As an adult, I’ve learned that while God is in control, bad things still happen. While God is in control, there will be accidents, sin still exists, and we live in a broken world. In God’s sovereignty, He still allows us to make decisions that impact our lives and others’. As an adult, I crave that control, believing that I can make things better, convinced that my way is best. But no matter how many things I try to control, it is crystal clear that I do not have control over most of the things in my life.

Today, I do not have control over the impending storm that seems to be heading our way. I did not have control over the nail salon being closed, even though I had a gift certificate and a day off. I do not have control over what conduct grades my children will come home with. I do not have control over the fact that four years ago today, we said goodbye to our third baby and my ability to have more children. The control that was comforting as a child somehow stops me in my tracks as I try to take it and hang on with clenched fists.

Sometimes being out of control means being destructive. A person runs to drugs or alcohol or relationships to escape reality. A person spends more money than he has. A child is running around like a banshee. A friend of mine would say “She is OOC!” (out of control). But I’m learning to be out of control in a healthy way. I’m reading the book It’s All Under Control by Jennifer Dukes Lee, and it’s helping me loosen my grip. I’m gradually understanding what it means for God to be in control. I’m not just letting go of my responsibilities, but I’m focusing on God first. If something does not work out the way I want it to, I trust that God is in control, that His plans and ways are better than my own. Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “”For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways.” This is the Lord’s declaration. “For as heaven is higher than earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”” 

I love how Jennifer describes our relationship with God as a partnership. In the first few pages, she advises, “Stop playing God and start becoming a partner with Him in the life He’s set before us.” She encourages us to imagine God as a drivers ed coach in the passenger seat, rather than a chauffeur. We have the wheel, but He’s guiding us. In John Mark Comer’s book, Garden City, he also visits this idea of partnership. Comer discusses work and rest and God’s plan for us on both fronts. While we are free from the law, we need to understand that God set up the world the way He did for a reason. To try to do life on our own isn’t necessarily a sin, but it doesn’t make sense. To try to live life without rest isn’t morally wrong, but it’s dumb. When we lay down our desire to handle it all, we admit that we trust God more than ourselves. We surrender to the better way of doing things.

Practically speaking, how does this work? What does it look like to give God control? The simple, yet not so simple answer is to go to the Word. 1 Peter 5:7 says to cast all our cares upon Him, because He cares for us. Usually the things we want to control are the things that scare us. If we pray about it before we try to make a plan about it, chances are, we’ve taken the first step to letting go. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to trust in the Lord with ALL our hearts and to lean not on our own understanding. Again, pray about it before trying to work it out. Trusting with our whole hearts leaves no room for doubt.

In the words of Twila,

He has never let you down
Why start to worry now?
He is still the Lord of all we see
And He is still the loving Father
Watching over you and me