Thursday, December 16, 2004

Joy to the World

"Do all things without grumbling and faultfinding and complaining . . . that you may show yourselves to be blameless . . .children of God . . . “
~ Philippians 2:14-15a (Amp)

You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch.
You really are a heel.
You're as cuddly as a cactus,
You're as charming as an eel.
Mr. Grinch . . .

You're a foul one, Mr. Grinch.
You're a nasty, wasty skunk.
Your heart is full of unwashed socks
Your soul is full of gunk.
Mr. Grinch . . .
Excerpts from “Mr. Grinch” by Dr. Suess

The Bible teaches us that the joy of the Lord is our strength, so when we get grouchy and start complaining about the circumstances of our life, it can send us spiraling downward into a sea of self-pity, which in turn robs us of the strength we need to face our struggles.

When Keen was hauling trash, he proved this principle to be true time and time again. If he started griping and complaining about large piles of trash in the morning, then he would drop like a lead balloon and be just miserable the rest of the day. But on those days where he made a determined effort to hold his tongue and do the work without complaining, he seemed to rise above the frustration of it all. There were still large piles and trash that dogs tore into, but it just didn't seem to get him down like it usually did.

“All the days of the desponding afflicted are made evil [by anxious thoughts and foreboding], but he who has a glad heart has a continual feast [regardless of circumstances]. ~ Proverbs 15:15

That reminds me of an experiment Keen and I tried one time when we made a conscious decision not to complain about a single thing for one entire week. We somehow managed to bite our tongues and resist every temptation to grumble or complain that whole week. The results were simply amazing. As I recall, we had several unexpected stressful situations arise that week, but instead of sinking under the weight of the pressure, we were able to soar like eagles above the storms. It really was remarkable. Unfortunately, repeating the success of that experiment was easier said than done. But I know from experience that it works!

“For let him who wants to enjoy life and see good days (good whether apparent or not), keep his tongue free from evil, and his lips from guile . . . Let him turn away from wickedness and shun it; and let him do right.”
~ I Peter 3:10

I hate to admit it, but I’m really preaching to myself this week, as last week I acted like a real grinch (as opposed to some other, less-flattering description of my behavior). It seems like once I start complaining, I get on a roll of negativity and nothing seems right.

”These are inveterate murmurers (grumblers), that complain of their lot in life . . .”
~ Jude 16

My poor husband. God sure knew what He was doing when He matched us up, because I'd probably be divorced three times over if I hadn't married such a patient man. I'm serious! But with all my imperfections, he still loves me. That's why I write poems about him all the time, because I’m so grateful for his love and for the way he always knows how to help pull me out of my funk.

The other day my niece Mimi sent me the following email which offered one possible explanation for my “grinchiness.”


1. Everyone around you has an attitude problem.
2. You're adding chocolate chips to your cheese omelet
3. The dryer has shrunk every last pair of your jeans.
4. Your husband is suddenly agreeing to everything you say.
5. You're using your cellular phone to dial up every bumper sticker that says: "How's my Driving? Call 1- 800-"
6. Everyone's head looks like an invitation to batting practice.
7. Everyone seems to have just landed here from "outer space."
9. You're sure that everyone is scheming to drive you crazy.
10. The ibuprofen bottle is empty and you bought it yesterday.

But the truth of the matter is: male or female, young or old, we all have "issues" and we all have ample opportunities to complain every day.

I’ve noticed that many of our standard complaints seem to center around two major areas of life: kids and cars. Kids spill their milk, wet their pants, hit their brother, get in trouble at school and unroll the toilet paper, as in this picture of my guilty grandson, Gabriel, with his exasperated mother, Erin.

As for the motor vehicles we can’t live with and we can’t live without: they either won’t start, or get a flat tire, or we lock our keys in them. Sometimes the steering goes out all together causing a minor accident and both air bags to deploy, as in the case of our son Keen’s car this past weekend. (Thankfully, Keen and our other son, Kirk, were both uninjured.) Then there are those “miscellaneous complaints” such as long lines in the grocery store, traffic jams, grouchy store clerks, or being overcharged for something you purchased and not discovering it until after you get back home. You know – things like that.

But the only way we can overcome the tidal wave of frustrations that wash over us on a daily basis is to button our mouths! As Proverbs 10:19 says: “In a multitude of words transgression is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is prudent.”

One of my favorite books (and one I’d highly recommend for any grinches or worry warts on your Christmas list), is “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff …and It’s All Small Stuff” by Richard Carlson, Ph.D. It contains so many practical insights that help remind us of how some of life’s most trivial issues can cause so much needless aggravation. A few of the chapter titles are: Make Peace with Imperfection; Be Aware of the Snowball Effect of Your Thinking; Remind Yourself that When You Die, Your “In Basket” Won’t Be Empty; Ask Yourself the Question, “Will This Matter a Year from Now?”; and Set Aside Quiet Time Every Day. Those are just a few examples from the 100 wisdom-packed chapters included in the book.

So instead of grumbling and complaining during this hectic holiday season, let’s try to be thankful for the many blessings we do have and use our words to bring joy to ourselves and all those around us.

“Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.”
~ Ephesians 4:29 (NLT)

Joy to the World!