The Culture Of Whine

children in AfricaAbout ten years ago, I finally heard myself the way my mother must have all those years ago. I was a whiner. Sadly, as an adult, I turned into a complainer. Pretty much everything I talked about ended up pointing to some imperfection, some reason for dissatisfaction.

At first I blamed my habit of complaining on the way God made me—I have this love for analysis, so I’m constantly tearing things apart mentally and looking at what works and what doesn’t. Except . . . why wasn’t I talking about the “what works” part as much as I was the “what doesn’t” part?

Now that I hear myself, guess what? I hear the whine in our culture. It’s as if all of us are being trained in the art of complaint.

Botswana1987Kidsrainv2Take the weather, for instance. This is the most innocuous topic in our conversational arsenal, and yet much of what we say about the weather is complaint: it’s sooooo hot, or rainy, or muggy, or dry, or windy, or unseasonal, or unchanging.

Our TV talent competitions reinforce this idea—the food prepared by this home cook or that one is undercooked or lacking a good sear on the bottom or not seasoned quite right. The dance competitions or singing competitions aren’t any different. After all, there can be only one winner, so something has to be wrong with all the other contestants.

Advertisements are the best source of this whine training. Nothing is quite right, which is why we consumers MUST buy their product.

In sports, the refs or umpires always get the calls wrong, or so you’d think by the way the players and coaches react. And fans! Who take their cues from the players and coaches, by the way. Some athletes (here’s looking at you, LeBron James) act as if the refs should call a foul every time they miss a shot. It doesn’t matter how many times you push off, the first time someone pushes off against you, you’re complaining to the ref.

SAINTE_RITA_CONGOWe’re a judgmental society. Politicians can never be right—if they compromise, they’re wafflers and if they stand by their convictions, they’re obstructionists.

The only time we’re happy is when things go our way—which lasts about fifteen minutes. We have to wait too long in line at the grocery store. The music is too loud at church. The traffic is too bad, pretty much any time of the day. The post office loses our mail. Stamps cost too much. Facebook makes changes apparently on a whim. Phone calls to the bank or the DMV or to the Internet provider rarely connect you with an actual person, and if you insist on talking to some one alive and breathing, the wait is too long.

Mokolo South AfricaThe price of gas is too high. The food at the restaurant is too cold, the coffee too bitter.

We are so rarely happy with the goods and services we receive.

In contrast, children in Botswana, the Congo, South Africa, who have so much less than we do, seem happy to have their picture taken. Their smiles put me to shame, and I think, I wish I’d never whine again.

Published in: on June 19, 2015 at 5:43 pm  Comments (2)  
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Does Anybody Have A New Recipe For Manna?

Gathering mannaBoiled manna. Fried manna. Mashed manna. Manna a la quail. Manna sauteed. Baked Manna. Raw manna. If there’s a way to prepare manna, my guess is, the people of Israel figured it out. After all, they had a steady diet of the stuff for forty years.

The people themselves didn’t take long to start complaining.

We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.” (Num. 11:5-6)

Nothing to look at. Only manna.

Apparently it didn’t occur to them that without manna they would have had nothing. Apparently it hadn’t occurred to them that their “free fish” in Egypt required them to be slaves.

So it is today. We seem so rarely contented. Rather, we live life for the next thing, and the next after that. We want the vacation to Tahoe until we hear about our friend who is heading off to Italy. So we add that to our “Bucket List,” which is nothing but a glorified “I want” list—I want this, I want to do that.

When we own our own home, we complain about the property taxes. We enjoy amazing technology, only to long for the newest gadget now out. We love our cars but can’t wait to trade them in for the upgraded model. Our jobs provide us with the money to pay for food and clothing, but we can hardly wait for the weekend so we don’t have to work. Or for vacation.

Life has become one big stress.

Or has it? Maybe life is not the stress, but we are looking at manna—or life—with dissatisfaction because we want something God hasn’t given us.

We take for granted God’s provision and we even diminish its value because we’re longing for something else—something we had in the past or something we think we’re entitled to in the present.

We replace gratitude with complaining, appreciation for disgruntlement. We disdain the security and constancy God provides in favor of something risky or edgy.

I do anyway. I hate to admit it. God is so faithful, and yet I grow complacent—so unlike Abraham. He considered God’s promises and “did not waver in unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God” (Romans 4:20b).

I have ample reason to give glory to God, but I tend to think more about what He did not give me rather than what He has given me.

The crazy thing is, some of the things God withholds become things I’m so thankful later on that I haven’t been burdened with. Who knew? Good things can become burdensome.

Let’s take books, for example. Every writer wants above all else to publish her book. But publishing only leads to the need to promote the book and to follow it up with another and another. In short, the very good thing of having published a book grows into a larger requirement, a burden, even.

Perhaps God withholds that good thing—a published book—because He wants to spare that writer the burdens and responsibilities that would come with it. I’m aware, for instance, of a writer who did not receive an expected book contract. While waiting, though, a family member contracted a serious illness which required a great deal of family involvement. How would it have been possible for this writer to navigate the waters of publishing at the same time as meeting the necessities of family life?

Of course, it’s so easy to say, Why didn’t God give the book contract and withhold the illness? No one can answer that for someone else, and sometimes we can’t answer it for ourselves. God simply hasn’t disclosed all His plans. But then, He doesn’t report to us, does He. He isn’t required to check in with us or get our approval to exercise His will.

In reality, He knows precisely what we need. And sometimes it’s not fish. It’s more manna.

And No Arguing?

Philippians 2:14 in the NIV says, “Do everything without complaining or arguing.”

I grew up arguing. No matter what my parents said or even the occasional paddling they gave, it seems my brother, sister, and I found something to argue about. Who got to sit in the front seat of the car, who’s turn it was to do dishes, what Monopoly deeds we’d trade, what TV program we’d watch. You name it, we argued about it.

Being the youngest, I learned pretty quickly that my best chance was to become the swing vote, siding with either my brother or my sister as circumstances demanded.

But arguing is stressful, as I’m sure my parents knew. Now I understand that arguing is in direct opposition to what God wants for believers. We’re supposed to love our neighbors as ourselves, and it’s pretty hard to do that when we’re complaining and arguing. I get it, but there are still too many times I don’t do what I get.

Since I started this short series by looking first at our response to God, then to those in governmental authority over us, I thought it might be good to consider another level of authority — that of our church leaders.

I know some Christians hardly think of their pastor or elders as being in authority over them — a sad state in the Church today. Instead, the pastor and worship leader seem to operate more like entertainers, doing whatever they can to keep the people coming. And the people act just like those in an audience. They critique the performance, applauding at times, and … dare I say it? … grumbling at others.

I attend a wonderful church where I receive Biblical teaching and enjoy rich worship. And yet, from time to time, I find myself grumbling in my spirit. After all, the worship leaders and pastors aren’t me, so they don’t always do things the way I think they should. Sometimes it’s a difference in style; sometimes I think there’s a Biblical issue at play.

But who made me worship cop? Who elected me to represent the Holy Spirit? Going into critique mode when I’m in church is part of my argumentative spirit, part of the wickedness James says we need to put off.

Come to think of it, he also has some important words about complaining and arguing.

What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. …

Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor? (James 4:1-3, 11-12)

If James says this about judging our neighbor, how does it apply to judging our pastor or our elders or our worship leaders?

Slowly I’m learning that when I find myself bristling about this issue or that, my reaction signals my need to repent.

I can and should pray for the leadership of my church. I’m even free to communicate with them in courteous and kind ways to express my thoughts. I am not free to grumble, even in my heart, or complain and argue about how the leadership is doing things.

I wonder how different church would be if we prayed more and argued and complained less.

Published in: on September 1, 2011 at 5:40 pm  Comments (5)  
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Do People Everywhere Complain?

I’m convinced the US has become a nation of complainers. Just watch the news and you’ll see what I mean. Here in SoCal we have dire stories about impending drought leading to probable water rationing and horrific fire danger … until it rains. Then we have dire stories about mud slides and traffic accidents and horrific fire danger (because of all the new vegetation the rain generates, which of course will be dry when “fire season” comes along in a few months).

I don’t know about anyone else, but this complaining wears on me. When you couple it with the discontent fostered by advertising, it would be easy to think the US is worse off than any nation or people of any time.

We have budget problems and health care problems and now Tiger has gone over to the dark side. As if it wasn’t bad enough that Oprah is leaving (in two years)!

And I don’t have the latest iPod or newest Lexus or Wii or Kindle or … After all, I DESERVE those things. The advertisers told me so, and nobody in the media would fabricate such a thing. I mean, we have government rules against such things, so I know it’s true. I should have more and more and more because I deserve more and more and more. Woe, oh woe is me!

Wouldn’t it be a novel experience for us to practice contentment? We Christians certainly can do so. We understand what we actually deserve, yet we’ve experienced God’s mercy and grace. All contentment takes, it seems to me, is to focus on what we have rather than on what we have not.

We can go one step further and praise God for those things and most of all for Himself because clearly, we who are in Christ are rich beyond compare.

My new understanding is that I have exactly what God wants me to have as long as I am walking in obedience to Him.

So there was Job, walking in obedience, and what he had was three miserable friends accusing him falsely of sinful behavior and a body ravaged by disease. Oh, yes. He also had God. And in the end, Job realized when he looked at God … really saw Him as He is … that was enough. Confession replaced his complaints.

Recently I reread The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom with John and Elizabeth Sherrill and followed it with The Five Silent Years of Corrie ten Boom by Pamela Rosewell Moore. Let me just say, When I grow up, I want to be like Corrie! 😉

There’s a woman who knew a thing or two about being content. I’d say her willingness to walk through the fire without murmuring or complaining was a result of her abiding trust in her Heavenly Father. What a great example she provided.

So I guess I’ll have to start the ball rolling in my own life by stopping my complaining about complaining! 🙄 But I still have to ask, do people everywhere complain?

At the Heart of Complaining

Legitimate cries to God appear everywhere in Scripture, but perhaps the book of Psalms has the most concentration. Rescue me, get even for me, keep me … those kinds of pleas intermingle with why? where are You?

Some people today use the Psalms as proof that it’s OK to rail at God. I don’t agree. As Nicole said in her comment to yesterday’s post, the difference between crying out to God and complaining is in our heart.

Complaining, I’d suggest, is actually complaining against God. It’s not a request for Him to intervene but an accusation that He messed up.

Back to the Israelites. When they were in legitimate, life-threatening danger from the on-coming Egyptians, they didn’t just say, Save us. They said, Why did You bring us out here to die? We knew this would happen. Didn’t we say that to Moses back in Egypt when he told us the plan?

Same song, second verse when they needed food. Followed by the third verse when they needed water. It was never, God will supply because He brought us here, knows our needs, won’t leave us or forsake us. Rather it was an inference that the people knew better than God what their circumstances should be.

Here I see myself.

And unfortunately, many in my culture. We American Christians seem to have adapted a sense of entitlement, perhaps because we believe in a Bill of Rights. In addition, we say we have been endowed by our Creator with the right to life, liberty, and happiness.

Of course, I changed the wording on that last point, but truth be told, the way I wrote it is exactly what Americans believe, and unfortunately what American Christians continue to hold on to.

So here we are, a day before the USA celebrates Independence, the day before our nation’s birthday, and I think, sadly, we’ve missed the central point of what our founders wanted to establish. Rather than entitlement, we were to be a nation of people responsible for what takes place.

But even that principle, when taken to the extreme, is off base. It can breed political activism instead of prayer. Expectation of governmental solutions instead of God’s answers. Grumbling and disputing instead of contentment.

I can’t get that image out of my head of Paul and Silas, beaten and in chains, singing God’s praises in the middle of the night.

Would American Christians be doing the same? Would I?

Published in: on July 3, 2008 at 10:48 am  Comments (2)  
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No, I don’t have something I want to rant about. I want to discuss complaining. I’ve been thinking about the topic for some time.

A little background. I have been a complainer for … just about as long as I’ve known me. 😦 This is not an easy confession. I wish I could say I’ve developed the habit of trusting God in all things and never get wadded up inside over things that seem unfair, dangerous, unwise, wasteful, unkind, unhealthy, ungodly … But the truth is, my first thoughts are usually of the “lash back” variety. And if not directly, then indirectly, to the first ready listener I can find. Of course, some call the latter by the ugly name, gossip.

The capper is, some years ago, as I was working my way through the book of Philippians in the Bible, I came across verse 14 in chapter 2: “Do all things without grumbling or disputing.” Some translations say complaining. This verse follows a section about Jesus humbling Himself and coming to earth in the form of a man, humbling Himself to the point of death. And yes, following those lines is the declaration of God exalting His Son above all names. But then this:

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing.

Recently I looked back on the all time grumblers recorded in Scripture (people like me)—the Israelites. They finally escape Egypt, only to have Pharaoh send his soldiers after them to bring them back. The people see the Red Sea in front of them and the Egyptians behind them, and they are afraid. They call out to God. Not just, Save us. But they accused Moses of being irresponsible for bringing them out of slavery to die in the wilderness.

God saves them.

Then they run out of food and grumble against Moses. Except, don’t they really need food?

Next they couldn’t find water and they quarreled with Moses saying “Give us water that we may drink.” Was that unreasonable?

Of course there is the ultimate incident, when the spies returned from checking out their aimed for destination and ten reported, There are giants in the land. The people then grumbled in earnest, going so far as to discuss appointing another leader to take them back to Egypt.

The grumbling didn’t end there either. But here’s the question. The Israelites weren’t making up the circumstances that frightened them. The Egyptians were indeed closing in behind them, they really did need food, and water, and there really were giants in the land.

So when does crying out to God about real concerns become grumbling and complaining?

Published in: on July 2, 2008 at 1:27 pm  Comments (2)  
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