How Do You Turn Whining into Joy? Psalm 5

 January 9, 2018

Dear Mildred,

            Perhaps you are wondering why I am using such an antiquated form of communication as an actual hand-written letter.  Well let me tell you about the last few weeks.

            As you know, my children presented me with a laptop computer and cell phone and cable to use with the computer for Internet. Time to be a modern grandma, they tell me. This way I can bring the Internet with me wherever I go. It will also be faster than the dial-up connection I had been using. Needless to say, I told them at my age, nothing goes fast, so dial-up is fine for me.

They also decided that I no longer needed to be confined to my large old house and moved me into an apartment in a senior living complex in Florida. This way, they told me, it will be easy for me to jet around the country for weeks, even months at a time and visit them or some exciting locale, making me a jet setting grandma. Well, the last time I flew was when I slipped on some spilled water in the kitchen and ended up on my rear in the dining room. That was enough excitement for me, thank you. But then, I’m not one to complain.

            Now I’m in an apartment in this luxury senior complex complete with pool and Tiki bar for liquid refreshments.

            Anyway, to get back to my computer troubles, my cell phone is what they call “tethered” to the computer by this cable. Last I knew tether was something you did to horses, “Tether her up to the hitching post, Tonto,” or to inmates. The way I see it, I’m either being put out to pasture or imprisoned, but I’m not one to complain.

            Everything was going well with my phone and computer until last Monday. I tried to connect to the Internet and got an error message – “unauthorized charger.” I called technical support at the phone company, waited ten minutes to talk to an actual human voice, was told to try turning off the cell phone, removing the battery, waiting one minute then putting battery back and turning the phone on, as well as turning the computer off and back on– something they call “rebooting.” Why, I have no idea. She then gave me this sales pitch for a “smart phone.” I told her I did not need a phone that was smarter than me. I had enough trouble with the one I had. I just needed one that worked. But then, you know me, I’m not one to complain.

            So I did what she told me to do – no luck. I called back and waited fifteen minutes this time and told my story to another technician. She asked if I had checked whether the phone worked with the original charger to see if problem might be with the phone. If that doesn’t work she said to restore the phone back to its original status, however if I did that I might lose all of my contact information so make sure that I back it up. She told me how to do this, all of which I did. No luck

            I called again, this time waiting twenty minutes to talk to someone with a heavy accent. I told my story, everything I had already tried, and no, I did not want a new phone.

            She suggested the problem might be with the computer and explained how to check for any recent up-dates and how to do a system restore. I did this and lo and behold, it worked. I was in the middle of sending Sylvia my apple pie recipe (Sylvia says I make the best apple pie) when I lost the Internet again, before I could send the email. I tried everything I had been told to do only to get the Internet back long enough to be in the middle of sending the recipe and have it turn off again.

            At this point, not only did I have no Internet, I had also lost all of my phone contacts and when I tried to find the back-up – it was non-existent, which is why I haven’t called you for a while.

            So I decided to restore my sanity by “rebooting” the computer into the recycle bin. I hid the phone in my underwear drawer, and retired to the pool and Tiki bar to do a system restore on myself back to the good old days minus technology.

                                                            Sincerely,

                                                            Ethel

                                                            Vista Grande Boca, Senior Living Residence

 

 

What is it about us humans? We just love to complain, don’t we? Seems to be inherent in human nature.

So how is one to deal with the whining and complaining that is part of human nature? How do you go from groaning, in the first verse of this week’s Psalm, to rejoicing at the end?

One way is to look for the humor in the situation, which is what I did in writing the letter at beginning. I wrote this letter over six years ago while serving as chaplain to a retirement community. The technology I refer to is already out-of-date. No-one tethers their phone to their computer for internet anymore. Now you use your phone as a wireless hotspot. Still the experience of difficulties with technology is a common one.

Ethel, perhaps because she is smarter than I am or because she is retired and doesn’t need a daily connection to internet to do her work, is able to do what sometimes I would love to do – throw away my computer and cell phone and go back to a simpler time. Writing that letter gave me a chance to live vicariously through her. It also gave me something to laugh at, an opportunity to see my situation from a different perspective, which is what humor does.

Psalm 5 is a morning prayer. It is a hymn for the morning sacrifice in the temple. It speaks of what is necessary for proper worship. In the first verse the writer is complaining to God. The King James translation is “consider my meditation”– a far cry from Revised Standard version, “give heed to my groaning,” or New Revised Standard version, “give heed to my sighing.”

Meditation is not a precise translation. A more precise one would be the “murmur of my soul”- my souls complaining. The psalmist comes before God to complain about experiences which he feels he does not deserve. This causes him to probe deeper into himself in order to discover the murmurings against God which may be poisoning his inner life. From there he may proceed to real meditation. This meditation may help him discover his own complaining spirit and thus prepare him for proper worship.

I discovered this myself one summer when I wrote a feelings journal. Each morning I poured out whatever I was feeling. When I went back to read what I had written, I was surprised at how whiney I was. This opened my eyes to my own complaining nature and helped me to change.

The psalm starts with bringing complaints, groaning, to God. This can actually be a good way to begin a prayer. Christopher Reeves, former Superman star who was paralyzed in an accident, used to allow himself 20 minutes each morning to feel sorry for himself. After that no more whining or self-pity was allowed.

There’s a lot of complaining going on in the Psalms. You might say the Psalms is the feeling journal of the Hebrew community where they let out all they are feeling, including whining, in order to then to move on to something else. The psalmist gets up in the morning and lets out his complaints in order to let them go, in order to move from whining to gratitude. It is good to begin the day, looking up to God – “in the morning I will direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.” (vs. 3, KJV) It’s hard to stay down when you are looking up.

Verses 4-6 speak of how God does not delight in wickedness; God isn’t deceived by evildoers. A particular type of men is singled out for rejection, the foolish in King James, the boastful in Revised Standard. Those who lie and are bloodthirsty are abhorred by God. God isn’t tricked by their lies or treachery. This is a vote of confidence in God by the psalmist.

In verse 7, the psalmist speaks of entering God’s temple for true worship, not because of any worth on his part but because of God’s great, steadfast, love, showing him to be a truly humble person. It is not we who do God a favor by coming to his temple to worship, but God who bestows this favor on us.

The psalmist concludes with three requests.

First, to lead him out of his troubles, and keep him on God’s path so that he doesn’t go astray. “Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me.”  (8)

Second, that his enemies be requited according to their own wrongdoings. “Punish them, O God; let them fall by their own devices.” (11 NAB). He compares their throats to open sepulcher, open graves which left uncovered through neglect could be cause of injury or even death to those who stumble on them unaware, an apt description of those who lie and deceive and cause injury to others. The writer uses four body parts to show four ways that these people lie and cheat:  their mouth, their heart, their throat and their tongue.

Finally he prays for both himself and all believers that they may sing for joy. He concludes with a statement of confidence that God will bless the righteous and protect them with his shield. “For you bless the righteous, O Lord; you cover them with favor as with a shield.” (12) Again the image of a shield to show God’s protection and care for his people.

So how do you change your whining to joy? Bring your complaints to God and leave them there. Offer them up as a sacrifice each morning, as Christopher Reeve’s did, as the psalmist did.

We aren’t going to wipe out all complaining and whining. That’s simply not possible. Complaining gives us something to talk about, a common experience to share. However we need not be stuck there. If we bring our complaints to our God and let go, we can turn our complaints into joy.

How do you deal with whining? How do you change whining into joy? I’d love to hear from you.

 

This post is part of a series on the Psalms.   click here to follow blog

 

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