Friday, November 22, 2002

Crabby or Thankful?

There once was a man who lived in a $5 million house. But he was not happy. (Hard to believe, huh?) He COMPLAINED that the swimming pool wasn't the shape he liked, the chandeliers did not have the right reflections and the 3 kitchens were not laid out correctly. A friend who owned a $1million house could not believe it. He thought to himself, "If I lived in this house I would never COMPLAIN. I would have everything I ever wanted."

The man in the $1 million house went home, looked around and started COMPLAINING about his house. A friend stopped by who lived in a $ ½ million house and couldn't believe his ears. He thought to himself, "If I lived in this house I would never COMPLAIN. I would have everything I ever wanted."

The man in the $ ½ million house went home, looked around and started COMPLAINING. Why couldn't he live in a nicer house? A friend who lived in a $100,000 house happened to overhear. Astonished, he thought to himself, "If I lived in this house I would never COMPLAIN. I would have everything I ever wanted."

That man went home to his $100,000 house, looked around and began to COMPLAIN. Why couldn't he have it as good as his friend? A coworker who lived in a $50,000 home dropped in and heard the whining. Amazed, he thought to himself, "If I lived in this house I would never COMPLAIN. I would have everything I ever wanted."

On his way home he began to focus on all that he didn't have because he lived in a $50,000 home. As he stopped at the grocery store, he began to COMPLAIN to the man bagging groceries who lived in a $10,000 home. The worker was bewildered and thought to himself, "If I lived in his house I would never COMPLAIN. I would have everything I ever wanted."

The man bagging groceries started thinking. As he did he became dissatisfied with his $10,000 house. He grumbled to himself and to those buying groceries. A man counting out change, hoping there was enough to buy milk for his children, overheard. Perplexed, he thought to himself, "I live in an apartment! If I had any kind of house I would never COMPLAIN. I would have everything I ever wanted."

And the man started to COMPLAIN about the difficulty of living in an apartment and having just enough to scrape by. If the millions of people around the world who wake up every morning wondering if they will have any food to eat that day could speak to the man in the apartment, they would say, "If we had what you have we would never COMPLAIN. If we had a little food, a place to live and safety we would have everything we ever wanted."

Are you crabby or thankful? A COMPLAINING spirit comes from looking at what we don't have, at our problems, at others and at this world. A thankful spirit comes from looking at what we have been given, at God who is bigger than any problem, at ourselves and at the next world with all that God promises.

You may be thinking, "Herb. It's no big deal. COMPLAINING is a part of the Western Civilization Way. We just COMPLAIN when things go wrong or there's something we don't like." NOOOOO! It is serious. COMPLAINING is a HUGE sin and separates us from God.

COMPLAINING is actually spitting in the face of God

COMPLAINING is unbelief, not trusting that God will take care of us. (Lots of Israelites died because they COMPLAINED to God after He had done so many miracles on their behalf).

COMPLAINING is an ironic activity. By COMPLAINING we eliminate the possibility of enjoying what we have. By being grateful we open up untold vistas of enjoying what we do have.

COMPLAINING focuses us on that which is trivial in the scheme of the truly important.

DID YOU KNOW? At one point during the second winter in America, the pilgrims' daily ration of food was FIVE KERNALS OF CORN a day? Can you imagine? The records show no COMPLAINING but only gratitude and seeking God. Soon after God provided a ship from England. I wonder if the ship would have arrived if the pilgrims had chosen to COMPLAIN rather than be thankful.

You too have a choice during this Thanksgiving and Christmas season: be crabby or thankful. Like Bart Simpson, that great theologian, you can say, "Since we paid for all this ourselves, thanks for nothing!" Or you can consistently thank God for all that you have and have been promised.

Here's a suggestion to use sometime in the next month to foster gratitude. Place 5 kernels of corn or candy corn or beans or some other type of food on each person's plate at a meal. Ask each person to share what he is thankful for and eat one piece of corn. Go around the table five times until the food on the plates is gone. Join hands and thank God together for all He is and has done and promises to do. In the future, every time you start to whine, take it as a signal to express gratitude to God.

And then you will be a lot more pleasant and fun to be around. Just ask your friends.

"Do EVERYTHING without COMPLAINING or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe" Philippians 2:14-15 (NIV)

"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)

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, WITH THANKSGIVING, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)

Friday, November 08, 2002

Sense or Nonsense

I believe there is a conspiracy at our house. Against me.

Each one of our children has been introduced to foreign languages in seventh grade. A couple weeks of French, of German, and of Spanish. In eighth grade they choose one of those languages full-time. Sheila took German in high school and has been secretly lobbying each of the kids from birth to follow in her footsteps. I took Greek in college, but unfortunately, the school doesn't offer that. I took French in high school and thought that would be nice. (I can still recite the poem, "The Ant and the Grasshopper." I have NO IDEA what I'm saying but my French teacher was bound and determined we would leave her class with something.)

Amber is now in eighth grade and taking, you guessed it, German. She reports to us at the supper table of the words she is learning. Sheila asks her questions about other words and phrases in German. And I have NO IDEA what they are talking about. They could be calling me an ugly dog and I'd take it as a compliment! (Maybe it WOULD be a compliment?!) I decided to fight back. "I'll show them," I thought. "I'll talk in German, too."

So one night as I was hugging Amber and Chadd goodnight, I said, "Gutten Noggin." "Good-night is 'Gutten Nacht,’" said my wife. "Gutten Nac-HT!" said I. Sheila just shook her head.

The next night… "Gutten Noggin, Chadd." Patiently my wife corrected me. "Gutten Nacht." "Gutten Nac-HT," I repeated. This went on night after night, Sheila getting more and more irritated. She wasn't sure if I was simply a slow learner (she's not the first) or if I was doing it intentionally. After a couple of weeks, in frustration she said firmly and boisterously, "It is Gutten Nacht! If you're going to say it, SAY IT RIGHT! There is no such word as Gutten Noggin!" "There is now," said I. Hey, there was no word, "ain't" in the dictionary when I was growing up, but there is now. I figure if they can add a word, so can I.

So every night as I hug my kids goodnight, I glance over at my lovely wife with a mischievous smile. She gives me another look that communicates, "Don't do it." But I can't resist. "Gutten Noggin, my children." "It is not Gutten Noggin! Oh, never mind," say she.

I've been thinking about going into Amber's German class to tell them about my new word. But I'm afraid. You see if I go into her class, I’m certain I would feel out of place. No, not because I'm so tall. I've gotten used to being around short teenagers. Because I wouldn't have a clue what they are talking about. The teacher would be speaking in German. The students would be responding in German. They could be calling me an ugly dog, I'd respond with the only German I know, "Gutten Noggin," and they'd all laugh at me. And you know how easily I am embarrassed. It would sound like nonsense to me.

Would it really be nonsense? No. It would simply be a language I don't understand. It would make perfect sense to those who understand the language, but gibberish to me.

When it appears that life doesn't make sense, is it really nonsense? Or are things operating in a language I don't understand? It feels like gibberish, but maybe, just maybe it is a language that I’m still striving to learn – the language of heaven.

More importantly, when it appears that God is not making sense, is it really nonsense? Or is he operating in a language we don't understand? Is it possible when it appears that our prayers aren't answered, that life is unfair, that we don't get what we deserve, that God is far away… that it is because God has a language that we can't understand? Could it be that in those times we need to trust God and do as He instructs because we will never fully understand the language and ways of heaven until we get there? Oh, we can learn some of the words and phrases. Enough to get us by. But the depths will not be understood until we arrive on the other side.

It may seem like nonsense to us, but in heaven it makes more perfect sense than we could ever dream. And if God tried to tell us, to explain things to us, we'd blow a gasket anyway.

Are you facing something that doesn’t make sense? Figure it out if you can, but if you can't, trust God that there is no nonsense when He is in charge. It’s just too big for us right now. But someday…

Gutten Noggin, my friends.

""For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. 9 "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)