Attitude Makeover Step 2: Accept Others

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

In a culture that thrives on hurt, disappointment, and offense, could you dare to be different? How would it feel to walk around wearing emotional Kevlar, letting all the negativity bounce off without affecting your attitude? Sound impossible? It shouldn’t because as Christians, that is exactly what we are called to do.

Jesus’ earthly ministry was radical. If you don’t believe that, read the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). He said as far as He was concerned, lust and anger were the same as adultery and murder. He also said only the merciful obtain mercy, and if anyone has anything against you, you need to go make amends with them before coming to God. And He said if you judge others, you will be judged.

In other words, Jesus wants us to realize that whatever someone has done to us, or anyone else, we stand just as guilty. In a sin-sick world, the odds are by the time a child hits pre-school they have already developed a history of lying, cheating, stealing (even if it’s just a cookie) violence and anger. By the time we reach adulthood we are oblivious to how jacked up we are. We can spot it on others, but we are blind to most of our own sin. Why? Because we have a log in our eye.

“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5)

When we are looking at the sins of others, and feeling offended by them, the log in our eye is self-righteousness. If you read last week’s article, you may remember that self-stuff is stinky to God. That is why it is important to accept ourselves by receiving His grace, and then handing the gift of acceptance out to others. Freely we receive, freely we give. Receive His love, give it to others. Be amazed at His grace for you, become amazingly gracious to others.

Brant Hanson, the author of Unoffendable (a MUST read!), says it like this: “Yes, the world is broken, but don’t be offended by it. Instead, thank God that He’s intervened in it…recognize our current state, and then replace the shock and anger with gratitude. Recognize our brokenness, then gaze at the beauty of God’s manifested love and grace breaking into the world…When we recognize our unsurprising fallenness and keep our eyes joyfully open for grace, we’re much less offendable. Why? Because that’s the thing about gratitude and anger; they can’t coexist. One drains the very life from you. The other fills you with awe and wonder. Choose wisely.”

Attitude Makeover Step 1: Accept Yourself

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

I’m a bit of a mess. I procrastinate, so I’m always in a hurry. I’m an Olympic over-thinker. That leads to sleepless nights and emotional eating, and I often feel overwhelmed by my own life. In other words, I’m normal.

I wanted God to change me into a calmer, sweeter, thinner version of me that was always on time and never too busy to chat with a friend. I prayed about that. A lot. Then it dawned on me, what if I was asking God to make me into a person He didn’t want me to be. If so, I was destined for non-stop disappointment with myself and God.

Sound familiar? I think most of us have areas we don’t like about ourselves. And the self-help industry is making billions off our insecurities. But if we were good at self-improvement, we would not need a Savior. The truth is, He’s the only one good at transforming us, and He is the only one with the blueprint of the finished product. Trying to change ourselves is like trying to put together a 3D puzzle with no picture of the finished product.

Remember, the only things we control is free will and our attitude, and those two are linked. I believe God wants us to freely choose to hand over construction rights to Him, accept ourselves as we grow, and receive lots of grace from Him throughout the process. He wants us to love ourselves. Why? Because we can’t give grace to others if we aren’t receiving it ourselves. The Bible says “Freely receive” (from God), “freely give” (to others)” Second, we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves. If we are nitpicking and critical of ourselves, odds are we will be that way with others.

What makes this work is the Cross. God does not want me to ignore the fact that I’m a mess, He just doesn’t want me stuck there. What He wants is for me to have an honest appreciation of how large a price was paid for me on the Cross. As I become aware of my humanness and failures, I can’t help but look at the Cross and say “Wow!” and “Thank You!!” That is what pleases God.

He wants us to make a way bigger deal out of Jesus, and we start this by accepting the gift of His grace. We are not supposed to be self-occupied, but instead be Jesus occupied. If I self-loathe or self-aggrandize, I am self-occupied with a bad attitude. If I’m honest, I realize I’m a messy masterpiece that’s still being painted. Then I say, “Wow, Jesus, wow.” Being aware of Him and His grace makes me Jesus-occupied with a good attitude. So give yourself an attitude check. Self-occupied or Jesus-occupied? One will give you a case of the nasties, and the other a case of the happies.

Let’s Talk About Your Attitude

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

Let’s talk about your attitude. Most of us don’t like that subject. We would rather discuss the bad attitudes of our co-workers, spouse, or kids. Their bad attitudes and behaviors often offend us. Once we are offended, watch out! There are usually two responses, aggressiveness or passive-aggressiveness. Both are toxic attitude poison; so let’s talk about your attitude.

I believe God gave us control over two things; freewill in choices and our attitude. The two are directly linked. We always get the choice of whether or not we act like a jerk. Unfortunately, getting offended by others blinds us to our behavior. After all, we are the victim in this. “Do you know what they did to me,” is how we package it in our mind. Once we have adopted that mindset, hello bad attitude.

It says in James that a poison tongue can turn a ship or start a fire. But Jesus said that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. If we are turning ships or starting fires, it is because we have a heart condition (aka bad attitude). These things grieve the Spirit of God.

I know that because it’s in Ephesians 4:30-31. It says we can grieve the Holy Spirit by our behavior. And the practices mentioned that grieve Him all have to do with your attitude. Bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander (gossip). Uh oh! It also says we are to be kind and forgiving of one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven us.

Here is my translation of those verses: God knows offenses will come, or He wouldn’t tell you to forgive others. So when they occur, forgive people because God has forgiven you. If you choose instead to get angry and/or trash talk them, it hurts God’s heart. Jesus died for them just as much as He did for you. You have been given way too much forgiveness to be hoarding offenses.

Seriously, folks, this is Christianity 101. For some reason, this basic concept is tossed on the trash heap as soon as someone hurts or angers us. The Body of Christ is not supposed to be walking around with a bad attitude, verbally rehearsing the hurts we have received to anyone who might listen. We are called to be light in a dark world, and to show others that there is a better way.

I’m not writing this to shame you, I want to help. After all, no one wants to be known as the ‘fun sucker’ in the room. We all know that a stinky attitude can suck the good vibes out of any home or workplace. If you walk into a room and the atmosphere gets tense, you may need an attitude check. If you are using your bad attitude to punish others, you definitely need an attitude check! So, in the coming weeks, we are going to discuss offenses, and how to get an attitude make-over, courtesy of the Holy Spirit.

Have You Been Snakebit?

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

A scripture in Ecclesiastes says “whosoever breaks a hedge, a serpent shall bite him” (10:8). If that sounds like mumbo jumbo, stick with me. I promise this is going somewhere.

In Biblical times hedges were not decorative shrubbery. They were walls built around dwellings to keep out predators. This verse is saying that a gap in a protective hedge could allow a snake to slither in and bite someone. What does that have to do with you? Everything.

As a therapist, I see people with every problem imaginable. Some issues are mental health (anxiety, depression, etc.) and some are suffering from destructive life choices. Regardless the issue, they share a common trait. Somewhere along the line, their hedge broke, and they got snakebit.

For example, hope is a hedge. As long as we surround ourselves with hope, we remain resilient to life’s punches. If we begin to lose hope, our hedge breaks. Every time the phone rings there is anxiety. It might be bad news. Every victory is tinged with dread because the other shoe might fall. The optimist becomes a ‘realist’ (which is pessimism in disguise) and soon, depression kicks in. That’s what I call snakebite.

I see marital faithfulness as a hedge. If a couple starts struggling in their marriage, the hedge suffers stress fractures. Add in a husband watching porn, and he has broken the hedge and invited in the serpent. A lonely wife starts texting a sympathetic male friend; broken hedge and an engraved invitation for snakebite.

As most of us know, the Bible uses ‘serpent’ as a metaphor for the devil. We also know that he is the enemy that comes to destroy our lives. But quite often we are the ones that open that door. Ecclesiastes 10:8, in it’s entirety, says “He that digs a pit shall fall into it, and whosoever breaks a hedge, a serpent shall bite him.” That was written by the wisest man who ever lived, King Solomon. Ironically, the wisest man who ever lived dug himself a big pit, broke his hedge, and suffered a severe case of snakebite.

His pit was lust, his hedge broke from hooking up with idol worshipping women, and he got sucked into idolatry. Snakebite! Solomon’s idolatry ultimately resulted in God allowing the Kingdom of Israel to divide. The Promised Land split in two. That sounds like marriage and divorce to me!

If you have a break in your hedge, or are already suffering from snakebite, call Caring Counseling Ministries, or any reputable Christian counselor. We have the antidote for that bite. If you are in a pit, quit digging! Ask God to show you where your hedge is weak and batten down the hatches. Snakebite can be terminal.

Don’t be a Molly

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

We did it! Caring Counseling Ministries is operating at our new location, 11264 Route 37, Marion. We are settled in and feeling at home. All of us except Molly, Caring Counseling’s four-legged therapist. Molly is my pint-sized rescue dog I bring to work. Her job is to wander around, accept some petting, wag and lift spirits. She knows she’s a star and normally loves her job. Up until we moved.

Our new location is twice the size, and the back door opens to a landscaped half-acre, complete with pond and boat dock. It’s a doggie paradise. Her packmates love going over and sniffing for critters. Not Molly. She slinks around with a pathetic look of terror and tries to escape out the front door. Outside the front door is Highway 37. Inside the agency and the backyard both offer safety and doggie fun, but she’s so freaked out she wants to dash into danger.

Molly liked the old routine. She doesn’t care how amazing this change is. To her, it’s a looming house of terrors, and the backyard holds the lingering scent of things that might want to eat her (geese, raccoons, and maybe even those dreaded dog-eating deer!).

How many of us can relate to Molly? We snuff out our dreams because we fear change. We keep dating someone it doesn’t work with because we fear it may be the best we can do. We live in a town we despise because moving terrifies us. We settle for a job we don’t love because we are too afraid to go back to school.

God wants more for us, but He won’t force us. Over 1 million Israelites left Egypt and headed for the Promised Land. Only 2 made it in. The rest died in the wilderness, too frightened to take what God had for them. People with a God-breathed promise wandered around the same mountain for 40 years until they died. Their tombstones could have read: Died of Unbelief.

As I look at Molly, so frightened of change, I ache for her and may let her retire. I have two more at home that would be happy to take her place. I love bringing her with me but don’t want to force this on her. I believe God is the same way with us. If we are not willing to take dominion and inhabit our promises, there are always others who will (see Esther 4:14). Oh, but think of the adventure you would miss! Spend some time in prayer, let God resurrect those anesthetized dreams. Embrace your destiny. If the dream is so bit it staggers you, it’s probably from God. Go after it, and don’t be a Molly!

Why I’m Giving up on Understanding

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

It’s a new year, which means everyone gets a fresh dose of hope, and bad habits get a do-over. We call these ‘resolutions.’ I usually stay off that bandwagon, but this year I do have something I want to change. The habit of depending on my own understanding.

Proverbs 3:5 tells us to “Trust in the Lord will all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding…” I have been looking at that verse a lot lately. I think God is telling us there are two approaches to life, trusting Him or trying to figure things out on our own. That’s funny because our culture values human intellect, but the Bible does not.

The Bible stresses the importance of Godly wisdom (Proverbs 2:2-6), and I believe Godly wisdom is the opposite of my wisdom. In fact, Proverbs 3:7 even tells us “don’t be wise in your own eyes.” My translation, quit trying to be so smart about everything. The truth is until we start seeing things the way God sees things, we are way more of a smarty-pants than a brainiac.

I don’t believe God wants us to be idiots, but He does want us to anchor our lives on Him, and to see people and situations the way He does. Why? Because doing life based on our intellect is the express ticket to stress and anxiety. It also makes us cranky and limits the power of God in our lives, because He partners with our faith to move our mountains. When we try to figure out all of the logistics of our mountain, we are nowhere near faith.

If you don’t believe me think back to the last problem you were stressing over. Did you spend a lot of time turning it around in your head? Were you thinking about all the ‘what if’s’ that never happened, and all the possible solutions to that problem. How did that work out for you? If you are anything like me all you gained was 10 lbs from stress eating and a lot of sleepless nights.

Trusting the Lord is the cure, our own understanding is the illness. Why else would the Bible talk about “peace that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). Sounds to me like trusting God and peace are in the same camp. Here is another one, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” (Isaiah 26:3). A mind fixed on God is not fixed on problems. The result? Peace.

Then, when we are in trust, we are ready for His path, which is always a good life choice. Here is Proverbs 3:5-7 in its full glory: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take. Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil.” There you have it, my focal verses for 2018. Less of my understanding, more of Him. No more being a smarty-pants, I want Godly wisdom. Care to join me?

The First Christmas Club

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

Christmas is a few days away. As a therapist, I watch this holiday emotionally devastate people. It’s easy to lose sight of a baby in a manger when you are alone and feel unwanted. If you feel unwanted and have nowhere to go for Christmas, join the club. The Christmas Club that is. Because the Christmas story is a story of rejection. Your Savior who is now the King of kings started off as the King of rejection.

We are so familiar with the Christmas story we gloss over the details. Details such as “She gave birth to her firstborn Son. She wrapped Him snugly in strips of cloth and laid Him in a manger, because there was no lodging available to them” (Luke 2:7). No lodging available means that no one invited them into their home. Pregnant Mary, ready to pop and in a town full of strangers, was not invited into anyone’s home to give birth to the King of kings. Instead, He was born in a barn. All the love in the universe, wrapped in flesh, and no one invited Him in. Feel familiar?

Consider John 1:11, “He came to His own people, and even they rejected Him.” Wow. That’s talking about a lifestyle of rejection and scorn that eventually led to Him being crucified by the people He came to save. He chose to go through that so you could be eternally embraced, accepted, and never have to be alone again.

In Philippians 3:10 Paul said he yearned to know Christ better, and one of the ways Paul believed he could do that was to fellowship in Christ’s sufferings. I used to read that and think “not me!” as I envisioned a scourging. But daily life offers us plenty of opportunities. Betrayal, family shunnings, and loneliness are chances to fellowship with Christ. Every time we get rejected and are unwanted, we can invite Him into that pain. He knows how we feel and we can experience His tenderness and acceptance. Hebrews 4:15 says He understands the pain we suffer because He was tempted in every way, but did not sin.

Tempted with what? Considering all the rejection He faced I’m willing to bet He was tempted to become bitter or resentful, and even tempted to have a pity party. But He had a secret weapon, He knew the love and acceptance of the Father as His ‘true north.’ Cool thing is, because of what He went through, you now have that as your secret weapon. As you sit in your house with your un-ringing phone and TV dinner over Christmas, you get to say, ‘hey, I’m fellowshipping with my King, and He is in me. I am not alone, and I am loved and accepted.’ Make yourself a Christmas Club badge, and wear it with pride, because your King was the founder of that Club. He is oh so fond of you, and He loves TV dinners, so invite Him to share your Christmas meal.

Unwrapping the Perfect Gift, Part 2

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

It’s Christmas, and Jesus is the reason for the season. He is the only perfect Christmas gift the world has ever known. He came with a gift tag that reads, “To the world, with all my love, Daddy.” If you don’t believe me take a look at John 3:16. “For God so loved the world He gave…” Yep, a love gift from our Heavenly Dad.

Further in John 3:16-17 we find the gift tag also reveals the purpose. God gave us His Son “so everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world…” In our Western culture, we translate ‘save’ as eternal life, aka heaven. In response, we believe and say a prayer. We then try to live moral lives and wait to go to heaven. Guess what, we’ve been robbed! Thanks to our English language we have missed out on the full use of our Gift.

The New Testament was written in Greek, and the word we translate to ‘save’ is the Greek word ‘sozo.’ If sozo-ing is the main purpose of our Gift, it might behoove us to know what sozo means. The brief definition of Sozo is: to save, i.e., deliver or protect—heal, preserve, do well, be (make) whole (Strong’s). That is a lot more than heaven. Moreover, ‘eternal life’ isn’t even translated in the Bible to mean going to heaven. Jesus says eternal life is knowing God (John 17:3). Don’t get me wrong, there is a heaven, and believers are going, but God wants us to know Him and His benefits so we don’t get the snot kicked out of us while we wait to get there.

This is important because if we don’t know what we have we won’t use it. I have a Smartphone that does amazing things, but I have never learned how to use it fully. Therefore, I carry around a costly machine that I only use to text and send selfies. I am missing out on the benefits. It’s not the phones fault. It’s loaded with good stuff. It’s my fault for not learning what I have and using it.

God loves partnering with His people. He has this principle called ‘by grace through faith’ (Ephesians 2:8). It’s how we are saved (sozod). In other words, He provides the blessing and wants us to believe him to receive it. If we know it’s ours, then we can have the faith to receive what God has provided by His grace.

If McDonald’s shorts us an order of fries we will go back, show a receipt, and demand what is rightfully ours. God wants us to be just as aggressive and assured of the things our Gift, Jesus, provided. Through Him we are sozod. The cross and empty tomb is the receipt. We hold that up to God and say, ‘I want what is rightfully mine.’ Protection, healing, deliverance, and being made whole. That’s here on earth. Then afterward, heaven. The purpose of the perfect Gift is to save you completely. Don’t be like me with my Smartphone, learn what you have and enjoy it to it’s fullest!

Unwrapping the Perfect Gift, Part 1

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

Last week I wrote about how God gave the only perfect gift the world has ever known, Jesus. Let’s start unwrapping the ‘Gift.’ Jesus is such a big deal people were talking about Him centuries before His conception. For example, in Isaiah 9:6 there is a prophecy about His coming birth: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given. And the government will be upon His shoulder.” Before you doze off, let me unveil how cool this verse is.

Hundreds of years before there was a virgin birth, this verse tells how unique He will be. The beginning (a child is born, a Son is given), is a proclamation of both the humanity and divinity of Jesus. While Mary gave birth to Him (a child is born), God gave His Son (a Son is given). Jesus is 100% man and 100% God. This verse is the first indicator of the dual-citizenship of the coming Messiah. Clearly, this would be no ordinary child.

This child was to have authority because the “government will be upon His shoulder.” Now if that meant our world systems, Jesus would get a terrible performance review. Our world governments are hot messes! No, the government this is referencing is God’s government, a.k.a., the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus was born in Roman-occupied Judea, which was arguably one of the worst political climates in history. But He did not speak of the Roman government or re-establishing Jewish rule. He spoke of His kingdom, the Kingdom of Heaven. His Kingdom operated on the one thing the world is still in desperate need of, the love of the Father.

What rests on Jesus’ shoulder is the Kingdom of Heaven, and the currency of that Kingdom is love. The ‘Gift’s’ purpose was to bring love and establish the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. How do I know that? It’s in the Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6:10). “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.”

For centuries Christians have believed the primary purpose of God’s greatest Gift to humanity was to get us into heaven. But according to the Word of God, that’s only part of it. Jesus didn’t tell us to ask the Father to get us into heaven but to pray the Kingdom of Heaven is established here on earth. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful to ‘gain heaven and miss hell,’ but “if the sole purpose of Jesus were to get us into heaven, we would have been born there” (Jason Forby, SRCC). He desires to put so much of the Kingdom into you, that you infect this world with the currency of that Kingdom, love.

Wow, talk about a Gift that keeps on giving! Way better than an X-Box, huh? And we haven’t even taken the bow off! Next week we will unwrap a little more. Until then, put away your credit cards and spend Kingdom currency (love, love and more love). That’s what the world needs for Christmas.

The Perfect Gift

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

We are well into the holiday season. How’s everyone holding up so far? I ask this because I know that Christmas can cause people’s ‘cheese to slide off their cracker’ as the saying goes. Why? Some suffer loneliness and broken family relations, but many suffer from something far more treatable…holiday perfectionism.

The funniest example of holiday perfectionism is found in the character of Clark Griswold from Christmas Vacation. Clark is a nice man with a normal family, but he suffers from perfectionism. Every movie in the Vacation series features Clark trying to give his family something wonderful, but it always goes awry. In Christmas Vacation Clark’s idea is to give his family the ultimate gift (a swimming pool) and the perfect family Christmas. That launches a series of Clark’s misadventures as he tries to make his imperfect family and messy life fit his idea of perfection.

Hilarious on film; not so funny in real life. Parents stress over getting their children the perfect gifts. They often go into debt for these gifts, then get angry at their kids the rest of the year for being materialistic. They want the Normal Rockwell painting, forgetting that Norman was probably painting his dreams, not his experience. Reality is, we live in a broken world full of flawed people, so guess what, perfection will always elude us. Besides, Chrismas isn’t about us anyway!

There has only been one perfect gift given in this world, and it came from God Himself. It was His Son, Jesus. That’s the point of the holiday. The perfect gift from God, given to this imperfect world. He was born in a smelly stable and placed in a feeding trough for barnyard animals. That didn’t bother Jesus because the Perfect One was not a perfectionist. I find that very strange, but He absolutely was not.

Brennan Manning wrote that Jesus loves us as we are, not as we should be because chances are, we will never be as we should be. And while the book of Ephesians says that God loves us to wholeness, the truth is, on this side of heaven we are always going to be a little off. Not as we should be. Imperfect people in a fallen world.

So this Christmas give yourself the gift of lightening up! Quit spoiling your kids so much that you don’t like them the rest of the year. We came from the generation of apples, not iphones, in our stockings, and we were better for it. If you want to give someone the ‘perfect gift,’ tell them about Jesus, because He was, and always will be, the only Perfect Gift this broken world has ever know.