Hey, I have a RIGHT to complain! Oh, really?


Complain, Complain, Complain

When other people whine, they’re complaining.
When we whine, we’re just telling it like it is.

Too bad that’s not true.

Complaining is ugly no matter who it’s coming from, including our own mouths.

About eight years ago I read a very old but very important book (written in the 1600s), The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, by Jeremiah Burroughs. I had to slough through the old language, even though it had been partially updated (see, I’m complaining already). But the effort was worth it.

One by one, Burroughs examined a wide range of excuses we make. And how we justify each one. And even though the vocabulary was from his era, the content is as modern as 2017.

Which excuses do you use?

Here are seven excuses, followed by Burrough’s responses busting each one wide open (all in my own words).

  1. I’m not even really complaining; I’m just telling it how it is.

Then why aren’t you also telling of God’s grace in your problem? That’s also “how it is.”

Then why have you stopped doing the good things you could be doing, even with this problem?

Then why are you envious of others who don’t have your problem?

  1. I’m not troubled by my problem; I’m just troubled by my sin.

Then why weren’t you bothered by your sin before you got in trouble for it?

Then why aren’t you bothered by your sin once the problem goes away?

Then why aren’t you doubly concerned about adding grumbling on top of your current sin?

Then shouldn’t you now submit even more under God’s hand in the midst of this problem?

  1. God has abandoned me in my trouble.

Does it honor God for you to blame him if he is disciplining you?

Are you grumbling because God is gone, or is God gone because you are grumbling? [Personal note… I don’t believe God disappears like this.]

Even if God were distant from you, do you think it’s helpful for you to leave him as well?

  1. If it were God disciplining me, I wouldn’t complain. But it’s people.

Isn’t man but an instrument in God’s hand?

Aren’t you in a better state by being wronged, instead of being the one doing the wrong?

Even if men are doing evil, shouldn’t you still be praising God for the mercies that he is giving you?

  1. This problem caught me off guard; otherwise, I would handle it better.

Do you not expect to have troubles from time to time?

Don’t you have unexpected blessings as well? Do you grumble when the good things catch you off guard?

  1. But my problems are exceptionally hard.

Isn’t your sin still greater than your troubles?

Couldn’t it be even worse?

Aren’t you making your problems even worse by complaining about them all the time?

  1. My pain is worse than your pain.

Could your discontent be making it even more painful?

Even if your pain is worse, should you complain that God is showing grace to another?

Then don’t you have a greater opportunity to honor God more than others?

If all pain were equally divided, wouldn’t yours still be below average?

After reading all seven excuses, are you as convicted as I am? This doesn’t mean we don’t talk about our problems; it just means we attempt to be aware of the whole picture, not just the bad, but also the good, too.

Contentment is a “rare jewel” indeed, Mr. Burroughs.

* * *

Which excuse for complaining do you use most often? Please share in the comments.

The last I checked, the Kindle edition is only $.99 of The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, if you’re interested.

revised from the archives

sharing with Dawn, Deb, Susan,

7 More Ways to Say I Love You

7 More Ways to Say I Love You

What words do you like to hear?

We all love hearing, “I love you.”

But sometimes we need to hear it said another way. To make it more real. To make it more genuine. To make it more personal.

And we need to say it in other ways to the people we love.

I’m leaving for the beach in a few days with my 4 Corners friends. Jeff is excited for me. He wants me to go.

And of course I’m looking forward to it, too.

But there’s something I need to say about it to Jeff.

“You’re still my favorite beach partner.”

It’s a different way of saying, “I love you.”

It’s one of 7 things on this list by Leigh Newman of ways to verbalize our love.

#1 “I’d rather be spending time with you.”

While we may not use these exact words, we can rephrase them into our own words to those we are in relationship with, whether a partner or co-worker or friend.

7 Things Your Partner Wants to Hear Every Day

See how many of these you’ve said this week, or have heard said to you, from Leigh Newman’s list. (Make variations to match your circumstances.)

  1. “I’d rather be spending time with you.”
    Even when you have other things to do, tell your loved one they are still first in your heart.
  1. “The best thing about how you play Monopoly is that you let the kids win.”
    Give roundabout affirmations to help erase your partner’s insecurities.
  1. “I was hoping that’d be you.”
    Instead of being irritated when your friend calls, let them know you’re glad to hear from them.
  1. “What’s your rose, honey?”
    Use Michelle Obama’s dinnertime ritual to ask your kids to describe their rose of the day (happiest moment) and thorn (most upsetting).
  1. “Let me help you find that guitar pick.”
    Even if you don’t find it, let your partner know you’re helping look for what they’ve lost.
  1. “Plain Crest toothpaste in a tube!”
    Text each other little pleasures in your day that you know you share.
  1. “I sleep so much better with you.”
    Even though a night without snoring may sound pleasant, let your hubby know you still prefer having them beside you all night.

[Read the article for full explanations.]

We all long to feel special to the ones closest to us. And to express likewise to them.

Being more specific with our gratitude makes a difference.

Sometimes it’s hard to believe the big message of love if it’s not backed up with daily little doses of love. Concrete examples about why we love someone are always welcomed.

You never know which one of these statements of detailed love may be the very thing someone needs to hear today.

When I call Jeff this week from the beach, some of the things I hope to say are, “I’m so happy to hear your voice!” (#3) and “I’d be sleeping so much better if you were beside me” (#7).

Sappy words? Maybe.

But appreciated words? Definitely. 

* * *

Which statement would you most like to hear? Which are your most likely to say? Please share in the comments.

sharing with AnitaJenniferKelly,
HollyTerri, Barbie

Bigger Than My Prayer


Do you ever ask for the same things over and over?

I pray for better circumstances for a child, resolving of financial issues for a friend, diagnosis of health issues for many of us.

But I wonder: regardless of shifting circumstances, is God using our questions to change us instead?

Is he shaping us through the conversations, whether the answers are no or yes or maybe?

The act of praying invites God into deeper places.

Keeping up our end of the conversation does more than we realize.

It exposes things in us, sometimes things more important than the requests themselves.

Our prayers don’t exist in a world of their own.

We are in dialogue with a personal, divine Spirit. He longs to shape us as much as he wants to hear us.

For now, by faith I’ll keep asking him.
And thankfully, by grace he’ll keep changing me.

Only a God as wise as ours can straighten us out as he untwists our questions.

So keep asking, keep talking, and keep trusting, knowing he’s not only at work in the problems; he’s at work in us.

* * *

Have you seen God change you through your prayers? Please share in the comments.

revised from the archives

Looks Like Who?

God smiles_when-God-made-you

I looked for just the right Valentine’s Day cards. They would be for Jenna’s students, all who are children of color. I wanted cards that would reflect them.

But they weren’t to be found.

I found cards with white kids, with superheroes, with cartoon characters, with kittens and puppies. I begrudgingly settled on a box of Minions.

I have the same trouble at Christmas when I’m looking for easy reading books to give them. While we do enjoy (and need) stories about people that are different than us, we also enjoy (and need) stories that we can relate to.

Where are the children’s books with people of color as the heroes?

There are a few. I mainly order them online to get enough each year.

And, thankfully, the number of books reflecting all of us is growing. According to recent studies, people of color were in only 9% of children’s books published twenty years ago in the U.S. But by 2016, that percentage had jumped to 22%.

Yet with demographics reflecting 38%, the numbers still lag reality.

To authors, illustrators, publishers, book buyers, and book readers, we can do better.

WaterBrook recently published this beautiful book, When God Made Youby Matthew Paul Turner.


Delightfully illustrated by David Catrow, it features a young black girl in bright settings, as the words on the page remind her how much she is loved by God.

“Out of billions of faces from cultures, all races,
people God made, from all different places,

God knew your name. Your picture is framed.
God’s family without you would not be the same.”

When we see people who look like us, mirrored as the image of God, we find the words more believable. We’re more likely to hope, to dream, to aspire to greater things.

Just ask young black girls who are being inspired by the film Hidden Figures. (Have you seen it yet? Go!) It’s based on the true story of three African-American female aerospace workers in the 1960s who were human computers.

It’s adapted from the book by Margot Lee Shetterly. (I haven’t read it yet…any of you? Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race.)


Read an excerpt from the book via NYMag. Photo: Courtesy of Chernin Entertainment

We all benefit when each of us have healthy role models.

“A you who views others as sisters and brothers
and lives by three words: love one another.

A confident you, strong and brave too.
You being you is God’s dream coming true.”

Books like these are good for black kids.

But also for white kids. For Asian kids. For all kids.

Kids of all ages.

“‘Cause when God made you, all of heaven was beaming.
Over YOU, God was smiling and already dreaming.”


* * *

What’s a favorite book or movie you relate to? Please share any thoughts in the comments.

Related articles:

My thanks to Blogging for Books
for the review copy of this book.

God’s Math of Little Things

big love of little loves

I had checked out my groceries and was pushing my cart out the door. As I walked out into the cold, an elderly black couple was coming in. The gentleman was probably 85 years old, the lady around 80, both bundled up in coats.

But what caught my eye was the tiniest thing.

As they slowly walked in, she was adjusting his collar just so. It had flipped up and she was making it right. She didn’t make a big deal about it. He didn’t push her away. They stayed in step, never missed a beat.

It was a little thing. But those little things add up.

Sometimes we make love complicated. We think it asks big things of us, sacrifices we can’t make. Not enough time. Not enough energy. Not enough us.

But maybe we make it too hard.

Maybe a lifetime of big love is really a lifetime of little loves all added together.

  • Like, Jeff kissing me goodbye every morning before he goes to work. I’m still in bed so he keeps the light off. He whispers, “I love you” and slips out the door.
  • Or like my friend Kay gifting me a pack of Cadbury eggs every March because she knows how much I love them.
  • Or like God surprising me with an exquisite sentence in a book or extended time with special friends or yellow daffodils blooming every spring.

We know how good it feels to receive those little loves. And we know how good it feels to give them.

It aligns us with God’s intention in the universe.

Even if it’s just straightening our husband’s collar when we’re walking into Walmart.

It’s God’s math.

(A Little Act of Love)  x  (One Day at a Time)  =  Greatest Commandment Fulfilled

* * *

What little act of love do you enjoy receiving? Giving? Please share in the comments.

Links, Books, and Other Things I Love – March 2017

Here are favorites from February and what I’m looking forward to in March. We share once a month at Leigh’s.

1 Second Everyday 

[If you can’t see the 1 Second Everyday video, click here]

~ * ~ * ~

Around the Web

How to Treat Immigrants
Regardless of where you stand on immigration policies, these scriptures are important reminders of how we are to treat each other in everyday life. I’m halfway through the 40 Days of Scripture & Prayer reading plan. It’s a simple one or two verses a day on the YouVersion app.


~ * ~

The Shack Movie
Are you going to see The Shack when it comes out this weekend? Skillet has a new acoustic version of their “Stars” song in the movie.


If you can calm the raging sea
You can calm the storm in me
You’re never too far away
You never show up too late
So here I am, lifting up my heart
To the one who holds the stars

~ * ~

Advil or Tylenol?
When to take which painkiller? I can’t vouch how accurate this is, but it’s interesting to consider anyway.


~ * ~

Do You Memorize Your Passwords?
I don’t like passwords. If they’re easy to remember, they’re too easy. Do you use a password manager?

Here's why you should stop memorizing your password

~ * ~ * ~

On Reading

How to Read More Books
Spend less time on social media and more time in a book. In the time you spend on social media each year, you could read 200 books.


Gonna need a bigger bookshelf… (Reuters/Eric Thayer)

~ * ~ * ~

17 Books that You Can’t Put Down
According to Modern Mrs. Darcy, she read each of these books in 24 hours or less because they were that good.


~ * ~ * ~

• 7 Books I Recommend
Here are 5 non-fiction books and 2 novels I recommend from books I finished in February 2017.

7 Books I Recommend

~ * ~ * ~

• Currently Reading

  1. Becoming Wise
    An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living
    by Krista Tippett
  2. Slavery by Another Name
    The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II
    by Douglas A. Blackmon
  3. The Naked Now
    Learning to See as the Mystics See
    by Richard Rohr

~ * ~ * ~

Things I Love

Escape Room

We did the Classified Room on the Train Escape last Saturday and it was so much fun!


It helped to have my smart kids and husband in the room to figure out the clues. We made it out in record time, thanks to them. We followed up our victory with dinner at The Cheesecake Factory with Morgan and Fuller.


Trey, Jenna, Lisa, Jeff

~ * ~ * ~


It’s been five years since I’ve seen this special friend from Central America. We met up two weeks ago when Jeff and I were out west on his business trip. I loved meeting her beautiful baby boy for the first time!


~ * ~ * ~

4 Corners Sleepover

We had our annual “Christmas” party sleepover in February. But regardless of the month, we love being together.


Alicia, Julie, Kathy, Lisa

~ * ~ * ~

Apology to My Children

Yes, unfortunately, I was that mom. This picture from Facebook reminds me of years gone by, and makes me laugh. (I did forward it to my girls with my apologies.)


~ * ~ * ~

On the Blog

• Do You Judge My Southern Accent?
Do we judge each other by accents? By grammar? Don’t get hung up on a word or voice and miss the person.

• How do You Know If It’s Fake News?
What is fake news? What is real? Sometimes it’s hard to tell. Who will be a witness to the truth when the fake news is about us?

• This Is Not Fair 
The homeless boys know the forecast. Cold and stormy. I’ll have to turn up my electric blanket tonight. Life is not fair.

• Together We Fill Gaps 
As our country feels more separated than ever, I’m feeling the need for more togetherness. Together we fill gaps.

* * *

What was one of your highlights from February? What are you looking forward to in March? Please share in the comments.

previous Links and Books

On the Blog – February 2017

7 Books I Recommend – February 2017

7 Books I Recommend

Here are five non-fiction books and two novels I recommend from what I finished in February. Each month we share what we’ve been reading at Jennifer’s.


1. Words on the Move
Why English Won’t—and Can’t—Sit Still (Like, Literally)
by John McWhorter


If you’re a word person, you’ll likely love this book as much as I do. McWhorter walks us through the way language evolves, reminding us not to get so attached to the “right” words because language is always changing.

[my semi-review of Words on the Move]

2. Seeking the Light of God’s Comforter
When Challenges Dim Our Hope
by Lynn L. Severance


Life is challenging. How do we maintain hope in the midst of the tough times? Lynn walks us through 60 devotionals based on her own challenges—and victories. This is a beautiful book birthed from Lynn’s experiences in victorious faith. I’ll be reading through the last 40 devotionals for Lent.

[my review of Seeking the Light of God’s Comforter]

3. Peak
Secrets from the New Science of Expertise
by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool


This will likely make my Top 10 of 2017 books. Contrary to what we often think, the secret to expertise isn’t innate talent or IQ, but focused, deliberate practice. Whatever the skill, Ericsson makes a scientific case from research that, “Generally the solution is not “try harder” but rather “try differently.” Fascinating information!

4. When Breath Becomes Air
by Paul Kalanithi


Beautifully written, this is the heart-wrenching story of the 36-year-old author’s discovery of stage IV lung cancer, just as he was about to complete his final training as a neurosurgeon. Lesson I learned from it: Be present in your daily life now; pay attention to what you’re doing, who you’re with, why you’re here. Excellent book.

5. Idiot Brain
What your Head Is Really Up To
by Dean Burnett


Another interesting book on the brain. As marvelous as the brain is, it’s also fallible, funny, and confusing. This book is engaging and humorous, but also seriously researched by its neuroscientist author. One takeaway for me? Don’t trust my memory 100%. Our brains are very biased to tilt events toward our favor instead of what really happened. (Maybe it really wasn’t me that always saved the day?)


6. The Lake House
by Kate Morton


This novel is a mystery set in England. It begins with 16-year-old Alice Edevane and goes back and forth in time between her youth and old age, to resolve the disappearance of her baby brother. I love books that catch me off guard, and this one did repeatedly.

7. Gods in Alabama
Jackson, Joshilyn


The title drew me in since I live in Alabama. This novel is about Arlene who left Alabama after making three promises to God if he would do her a favor, yet finds herself having to break her promises to return there. It’s a mystery about lies and truth. This book does have some disturbing scenes and bad language, so if that would bother you, skip this one.

Reading Now

  • Becoming Wise
    An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living
    by Krista Tippett
  • Slavery by Another Name
    The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II
    by Douglas A. Blackmon
  • The Naked Now
    Learning to See as the Mystics See
    by Richard Rohr

* * *

What good book have you read lately? Please share here.


My books on Goodreads
Previous reading lists

Seeking the Light of God’s Comforter – Book Review


I’ve been waiting on a book from Lynn.

You know when someone is different. Lynn Severance is different.

Sometimes a painful event enters our lives. It moves on. We move on.

But other times, the pain comes to sit.

Pain came to sit with Lynn.

“Am I spending my life in spacious places? My view can seem confining as others rush by me to involvements in many places. Does activity always mean that productivity follows? It seems that as I commit each day to the Lord, He is the one who defines what is productive for me.
– Lynn Severance

I started reading her words around 2008/2009 when we both begin writing devotionals for Rest Ministries about living with chronic illness.

Her words were always a little deeper, more thought-filled, always faith-filled.

As a thriving elementary school teacher, Lynn awoke one morning in 1983 with a full-fledged vertigo attack.

The dizziness came to stay.

After experiencing additional challenges, including aggressive breast cancer, she eventually was forced to retired from a career she loved due to vestibular dysfunction. Her life was forever changed.

Physical pain not only hurts our bodies, it also hurts out hearts, our activities, and, at times, our faith.

But out of these challenges, learning “to live in a body that took an unexpected turn,” Lynn and God birthed this book, Seeking the Light of God’s Comforter: When Challenges Dim Our View.

It is a collection of 60 devotionals and accompanying photographs that bear reflection to God’s faithfulness, goodness, and presence in the midst of hardships.


Lynn doesn’t dismiss our pain through her writings. But she strips away its edge.

In Section One, she writes,

“The writings of this section of the book deal with harsh realities, but the qualities of springtime dominate in their messages. These are gifts God wants to bring to us if we can open our hearts to receive them. Our faith, giving reception to them, is what we return to the Giver.”

Through her meditations on God’s love, truth, and grace, we look to God not just for answers and changed circumstances (they may or may not come), but for relationship and peace.

Accepting the reality of our situation instead of denying it helps us increase our faith in the one who does understand the big picture. And who never leaves us in the midst of it.

“I choose to recognize both [trials and beautiful moments]. I desire to dwell in the buoyancy of your light that lifts me above a world that can clamor, wanting to pull me down. Someday I will understand reasons for many of my life events during these past decades. I am in no rush. Delivery to my eternal home will come and all things will be made clear.”

The four sections of devotionals are:

  • Section One: Hope—Faith—Redemption—Love—Praise
  • Section Two: Comfort—Goodness—Peace—Kindness—Flexibility
  • Section Three: Gratitude—Trust—Faithfulness—Abundance—Surrender
  • Section Four: Courage—Perseverance—Strength—Compassion—Incarnation

Along with each devotional, we also receive a related scripture, a prayer, and a beautiful color photo from Lynn’s collection. The back of the book details the origin of the pictures, an extensive recommended reading list of encouragement from Lynn’s bookshelves, and questions for personal reflection or group discussion.

Lynn is real. She doesn’t sugarcoat the painful things, but she doesn’t leave you wallowing in them either. She presses on and through.

I see light shining through the pain.

I hear God’s wisdom through Lynn.

His truths through her words are a gift to us all.


Lynn L. Severance, author of Seeking the Light of God’s Comforter

* * *

Do you live with a chronic illness or pain? What helps you press on? Please share in the comments.


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