Saturday, April 30, 2011

Where's the Green Grass?

We've all heard it before:  
"The grass is always greener on the other side.
I'm not actually sure I've ever heard it spoken with a sincere attitude; usually it's shortened to 'The grass is greener..!' and said with a slight hint of banter and a half eye-roll (oh, and don't forget the shrug).

Having that experience with the sarcastic aphorism, I will be honest, I went into reading Stephen Altrogge's new book The Greener Grass Conspiracy with a few unfair reservations.

Incorporating the wit we would expect of him, however, Altrogge littered the pages with many stories (true and imaginary) that helped keep the book interesting and drive his points home. If reading about King Solomon sipping a latte at Starbucks (p. 47) and Paul throwing coffee in your face (p. 76) won't entice you enough to read this book, I'm not sure what will...maybe the following review will help:

Contentment is defined in chapter 3 as: 
     ...a disposition of the heart that freely and joyfully submits to God's will, whatever that will may be. (p. 28)
First, we are taught that we must address our heart if we want to be content. Mere self-denial is not enough to breed contentment:
I imagine that Saint Benedict encountered many discontent monks who were absolutely dying for a piece of bacon. (p. 29)
Second, we are given a great example of how freely and joyfully submitting to God's will is very important:
     Dentist appointments are a part of life that I tolerate. I know dentists are good for me, but I really don't like going to the dentist.
     Often we treat God like some sort of divine dentist. We know, at least in theory, that he is good and that all he does is good. We know from Romans 8:28 that God works all things for the good of those who love him. But when life starts to get rough, we adopt a "grin and bear it" attitude. We know that somehow God will work everything for good, but in the meantime we're going to climb into our bunker and prepare for whatever bombs God is going to drop. This is not biblical, God-honoring contentment. (p. 31)
Third, we cannot choose when we shall be content:
We don't experience a breeze or backache that hasn't first been ordained by God for our good and his glory. (p. 32)
...for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. (Philippians 4:11) (p. 29)
So in understanding contentment, we must know that mere self-denial, tolerating trials, and choosing when to be content are not going to cut it.

Altrogge accurately represented scripture in relaying to us an ideology that is far too absent in America. Our focus gets stuck on the 'other side' where the grass looks greener (new job, marriage, health) and not on Christ.

The chapter that stuck in my mind and heart the most:
Chapter 9 - Eat the meat and die

Here we are faced with what our complaining says about our heart. A step is taken away from funny stories to explain the serious side of what we're communicating when we complain:
     Complaining...[is] a slap in the face of God. (p. 103)

     We're saying that God hasn't been good to us, that he's not so kind after all. We're telling a lie about God. That's why complaining is so wicked. (p. 104)

     Call the defendant to the stand. Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?
     The accused is charged with the following crimes: dangerous neglect of family, failure to give child support, and family abandonment. This person is a deadbeat and a menace to society. He needs to be taken off the streets and locked up until he can get his act together. The name of the accused: God. (p. 106-107)

     Complaining turns us into blasphemers. (p. 108)
I will surely be re-reading this chapter many times to remind myself of the impact my complaining has on my view of God; especially what it communicates to others.

Overall, I found this book to be very helpful in understanding what contentment is (and isn't) for the Christian. All believers should be reminded of what it means when we aren't content with where God has us.


  1. It's amazing to realize that there is a difference between commitment to God and surrender to Him. Thanks for your review and thoughts - it all kind of nutshell's the idea that even Jesus had to learn obedience through suffering - as did Paul, Davd and so on. We are called to it and it is the only thing that will prepare us to be all of the above. Thanks so much friend for your words of encouragement - blessings!

  2. That's right. Understanding the 'Lordship' of Christ in our life is very important and under-preached today. Getting that right prevents 'shallow' believers (or false converts).

    Hmmm...sounds like a good blog post topic. lol. Guess I'll put it on the list!