We Gave Up Complaining for Lent

This year, our family is observing the Lenten fast in a rather unorthodox fashion. While food items such as meat or sugar are often fasted, this year we have decided to do something quite different: We’ve decided to give up complaining for Lent.

Yes, you heard me right. Complaining. It’s easy when your life mostly consists of first world problems to start getting picky and stop being thankful.

God’s word is very clear about complaining – He says very clearly again and again, “DON’T DO IT.” Philippians 2:14 says, “Do all things without complaining or arguing.”

In contrast, God tells us, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Put Off Complaining, Put On Thanksgiving

It’s not enough to stop whining and complaining. While the old adage, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” rings true, there is an important element missing.

While at times we may be able to bite our lip and suck in our snarkyness (is that a word?) and agitation, if we are grumbling in our hearts nothing has changed.

Don’t get me wrong – there are times it will take everything we’ve got just to keep our tongues from spewing out molten lava of negativity. And that’s important! Because what we say has a strong impact on the people around us. They either leave our presence uplifted or discouraged.

Beyond those “molten lava” moments, our family is trying to grab hold of a new practice. Scripture clarifies that we are not only to “put off” the unfruitful deeds of our sinful flesh, but also to “Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him” (Colossians 3:10).

Write Down Your Complaints – God Can Handle It!


Psalm 142:2 says, “I pour out my complaints before him and tell him all my trouble.”

I started by putting a long sheet of butcher’s paper on one of the doors near our kitchen. I wrote on the top left side “Complaints.” On the top right hand side I wrote “Thanks to God.” Then I told our family that if they had a complaint, they could write it to God on the wall.

Sometimes we don’t even realize what we are saying, but as we write it down, our thoughts become clear. When one of my daughters complained that she couldn’t have cheese (we have stopped giving her dairy due to skin problems) I said, “I understand that’s frustrating – let’s go write it on the wall.”

She wrote something to the effect of, “I’m tired of not having cheese!!” There was definitely an exclamation point involved.

But then my husband asked her, “Well, have you seen anything positive come from giving up cheese, though? Anything to thank God for?” She admitted that yes, her eczema is getting much better, so she wrote that down on the right side of “Thanks to God.”

Writing out our complaints to God and seeking to turn them into thanksgiving has not only helped us to become more aware of our negative attitudes but has also caused us to recognize gifts that God is giving us in that area of perceived lack.

Experts say that habits are a process, not an event. We’re not going to be “complaint-free” by Easter. But we’re getting started on the right path which will hopefully lead us to a deeper place of contentment and trust in the Lord as a family and as individuals. We’re giving space and grace for failure and we’re focusing on holding one another accountable.

And long after our “complaint/thanksgiving wall” is filled to the full, we will hopefully keep up the practice. Won’t you join us? Perhaps lying beneath some of your strongest complaints are some of your greatest blessings.

Christ’s Resurrection Through A Child’s Eyes

We cracked open the book, ready for our daily reading of Scripture and devotional time together. My girls got excited when they saw the picture of an angel standing beside an open tomb. “Mama, we get to read about how Jesus was raised from the dead today!!” You would think they won the “devotional lottery,” and it’s true.

The Life, Passion, and Resurrection of Christ is the greatest story ever told.

We walked through the account in the book of Luke slowly, deliberately imagining each moment of that miraculous and glorious morning.

I felt the dew in the early morning air and the deep love mixed with sorrow in the hearts of the two women as they approached Christ’s tomb.

My girls questions began immediately: “I wonder what the guards did when they saw the angel?!” one of my daughters asked excitedly. “I wonder if the angel was Gabriel – or another angel?” “I wonder what the angel looked like! He scared the guards!”

Seeing a Familiar Story with New Eyes


I’ve read the story of Christ’s resurrection hundreds of times. Like many familiar passages in Scripture, it can, unfortunately, be easy to read a story like Jesus miraculously feeding 5,000 people and then go take out the trash and forget all about it. I’m just being an honest adult here.

But these stories are not just stories. They are accounts of what God did when He came to earth. And my daughters eager imaginations at work beckoned me to look at this account of Christ’s resurrection with new eyes again.

Isn’t it cool that the first people to see Him raised from the dead were women?!” I chimed in with joy. “Yeah,” they answered in affirmation. “What would I do if I were Mary and I saw Him?,” Chesed asked.

We then read about how he appeared to several disciples as they were gathered together. “How did they know it was Him?,” I asked my girls. “The holes from the nails on his hands and feet,” Grace said. “And the place where the sword cut him in the side,” Chesed said as she touched her own side thoughtfully.

We talked about the wounds of Christ that day. We talked about Heaven, too, and how Jesus would be the only one in Heaven who still bore wounds of any kind.

I shared stories of how both my husband and I were injured in various ways as children that left scars on various parts of our bodies. I said, “Mommy and Daddy’s scars will be gone when we go to Heaven, but Jesus will always be able to show us His hands, feet, and side.”

The girls wanted to know if the tomb really looked like the picture in our story. I said, “Well, do you want to see a picture of the tomb they believe He was in?” Um, of course they did. I pulled up a picture of the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem, which I have stood in myself. They begged me to go there to see it themselves with their own eyes. “Someday,” I said, eyes twinkling.

Don’t Just Read the Story – Revel in It!

That day, my daughters and I didn’t just read a story. We reveled in a real-life account that became alive to each of us in a new way.

Because of my children’s eyes – fresh and new – I read that account like it was the first time I had ever heard it.

And I sat amazed in jaw-dropping wonder once again about the God who not only would send His Son to die for my sins but also has complete authority and power over death – indeed, He holds the keys to death, hell, and the grave.

This Holy Week, let’s read this amazing story with new eyes. Let’s revel in the miraculous.

Let’s let our eyes squint from the brightness of the angel.

Let’s allow our hearts to rise into our throats like the women who raced back to tell the rest of the disciples just whom they had seen that morning.

Let’s stand in wonder once again at an empty tomb – and all that it means for our lives today.

Why I Celebrate Passover


It’s the story of a people oppressed and enslaved. It’s the story of a baby boy rescued from death in order to one day be their deliverer. It’s the story of God speaking – through a burning bush, 10 plagues, blood on doorposts, parting a sea, and showering down bread from heaven. It’s a thrilling story that begs to be re-told time and time again.

Thirteen years ago, I celebrated my first Passover Seder in Jerusalem, Israel. This was a great way to break me into the practice since every Seder ends with this declaration: “Next year in Jerusalem.”

It wasn’t until the following year, however, when I celebrated Passover at the home of Jeff and Pat Feinberg in Chicago, that I was greatly enriched by this experience. My husband and I were in our first year of marriage and appeared in their Torah study one Friday night, never to miss a week after that.

Remembering the Exodus


That Passover, I learned how God’s people have been commanded to yearly retell the story of how God miraculously delivered their ancestors from slavery in Egypt through a historical event called The Exodus.

Every year, the Jews take the Seder plate (“Seder” means “order” – so it’s a dinner with a specific order) and experience once again the elements of their past. They remember the bitterness of slavery and oppression as they taste bitter herbs dipped in salt water, representing the tears of their ancestors.

They eat charoset, a mixture of apples, walnuts, honey, and wine between matza, which reminds them of the mortar, the cement that holds bricks together, that their people were forced to create.

The matza is unleavened bread – bread made in haste as they quickly fled Egypt.

There is the lamb shank bone which represents the Pesach (Passover) sacrifice.

The Jewish people retell this story every year for one main purpose: So that they don’t forget what their people have endured and how God delivered them miraculously in this time.

Christ, the Passover Lamb

The Exodus tells the story of a people and their God – Yahweh – the God that Christians worship, too. Through this story, we witness how He is a God who hears the cries of His people, how He miraculously delivered and provided for them each step of their journey with Him.

When Jesus celebrated The Last Supper with His disciples, He was celebrating Passover. In fact, Jesus said, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15).

As Christians, we believe that Christ left that last meal with His disciples and then went out and fulfilled Passover. As 1 Corinthians 5:7 says, “Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch–as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.


Remembering Our Deliverance

When I celebrate Passover, I celebrate the God who shed His blood to deliver me from the bondage of my sin. His blood, wiped over the doorposts of my soul, has broken my shackles and set me free to journey with Him – out of slavery and into new life as a daughter of the Most High God.

When I taste the bitter herbs each year, I am reminded both of the Jews suffering in and liberation from Egypt and my own deliverance from a life of separation from God.

I celebrate that I no longer have to live a life of striving in my own works or effort to earn salvation. I rest in the completed work of Christ and take comfort that the God who parted the Red Sea is still alive and well and “will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen” (2 Timothy 4:18).

This April will mark 10 years that Joel and I have hosted Passover Seders in our home. We pack our home to the brim with friends old and new – to retell this story and to share our own.

It’s really quite simple – we keep telling the story so we won’t forget it. Next year in Jerusalem!

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