Eww, What’s That Smell?!

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

Over the past weeks, I have been challenging you to adopt a more grateful, positive mindset for 2019. If you have been taking me up on this, I bet you have discovered a positive outlook takes work. That’s because by the time we hit adulthood our perspective is infected by what psychology calls “stinking thinking.” These are subconscious, negative biases and assumptions the brain uses to filter information.

Do you know someone who focuses on the negative and ignores the good things in life? That’s a “mental filter.” “Emotional reasoning” is a thought error that interprets the world through how we are feeling instead of facts. This makes our emotions the barometer of how we view life. A person who always feels guilty and thinks everything wrong is their fault has the problem of “personalization.” When someone consistently makes mountains out of molehills they have the cognitive distortion of “catastrophizing.”

These are just a few examples of the many thinking errors we adopt. While they may seem harmless, they are toxic and rob people of their happiness. Psychology has discovered if we change the way we think we will change the way we live. As a Christian therapist, I know God had the jump on this way before psychology ever caught wind of it.

Here’s what God had to say about stinking thinking. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is destruction” (Proverbs). Also in Proverbs, we are told: “as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” In other words, what we think will affect how we live. You won’t find someone with a negative mind living a positive life. Eventually, the toxic thought patterns will become a self-fulfilling prophecy and infect every relationship they have. That’s because “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Proverbs). A stinky thought life becomes air pollution to others.

We think people are negative because of their circumstances. But according to the bible (and psychology), it is more often the other way around. A negative mind produces a negative life full of tarnished relationships.

So what’s the cure? Luckily, God has the antidote to our stinking thinking. He says we “take our thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians). In other words, think about Jesus, His sinless life and obedience unto death, instead of your life and circumstances. How about this one, “we transform our lives by the renewing of our mind” (Romans). What do we renew our mind to? What God says about us, our life and circumstances.

Bill Johnson, the pastor of Bethel Church, says “you can’t afford to have a thought in your head about yourself that God doesn’t have in His head about you.” Here is the excellent news. If you are in Christ, His thoughts toward you are good. Really, really good.

He calls you things like “overwhelming conqueror,” “forgiven,” “righteous,” and “beloved Son.” He says He will “cause all things to work together for your good,” and that His “plans for you are good.” As you can see, God’s thoughts are in direct opposition to the negative biases most of us are operating on. So ask yourself, who’s right about you, you or God? If you answered you, please call Caring Counseling Ministries at 618-997-2129. You have some “Illusions of Grandeur” that need to be discussed immediately!

My Fake Facebook Face

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

I recently ran into an old friend I had not seen in a couple of years. As I gave her a quick hug and asked her how she’d been, she blew past my question and said to me, “I see you on Facebook, I know you are ALWAYS doing good.” As she emphasized the word “always” I sensed a touch of jealousy. After our pleasantries, I walked away baffled by the exchange. Why would she think I was “always” succeeding in life?

Truth be told, last year was very challenging. I have had an ongoing medical issue, professional and relational struggles, and have been grieving the loss of someone very dear to me. But that’s the private me. That is definitely not the Facebook me. Facebook is where I go to encourage others and talk about how awesome Jesus and dogs are. And food. I like to share recipes. What I don’t want to share is my down days. Those days are between me, Jesus, and my therapist.

So, unknowingly, I have created a fake Facebook face. I have unwittingly become one of those people that others watch and think, “I wish I had her life.” I remembered my “End of Year” video put together by Facebook and I have to admit, even I wanted to be me. That video showed a year of fun, vacations, and triumphs.

What it didn’t show was the in-between times when I had to go to therapy for anxiety, battles with people pleasing and chronic overthinking. Or my marital struggles. It also didn’t show that sometimes, when I have helped someone process some horrible trauma, I have moments when I doubt the existence of God.

In other words, I’m normal. No better, no worse, just average. We all have highs and lows, triumphs and defeats. Good days and bad days. When people share their bad days on social media, they are considered drama queens or attention seekers. When they are like me and keep that stuff to themselves, they are those “fake Facebook people.”

So, what’s the moral of the story? Quit believing everything you see on social media! And quit taking things so darn personal. Chances are, those drama queens and fake Facebook people are just ordinary folks who have no idea they are affecting others. I certainly had no idea I was.

Does this mean I’m going to change the way I use social media? Nope. I’m still going to use my space for encouraging others, swapping recipes, and talking about how much I love my family, my dogs, and Jesus. You know why? Those are the things that make me happy. Besides, what other people think of me is none of my business.

You know what? What other people think of you is none of your business, either. That concept right there has the power to set you free, and I encourage you to tell yourself that as often as possible. It will save you so much grief.

I’ve been dedicating January of 2019 for tips that will improve your mental health and keep you off the crazy train. Here are your takeaways from today. Don’t believe everything you see. All of us are going through struggles we are not sharing. Quit comparing your life to those you think have it better, and don’t worry about what other people think of you. If you take those tips, you won’t have to fake a smile for your next selfie!

What’s in Your Tank?

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

What a privilege it is to get to write this article. Especially today, because the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and all seems right with the world. Later this morning I get to take a hot shower and go to church. Afterward, this beautiful day will certainly be warm enough for dog walking. And sometime in my day, food will be involved. Cooking and eating. I enjoy at least one of those activities. An ideal day is on the horizon!

That, my friends, is an example of my positive reframing of activities I “have” to do today. If you listen to people talk you will discover we often view things from a negative perspective. “I have to work,” “I have to take a shower.” “I have to walk the dogs.” In those 3 seemingly benign statements I turned activities that are God-given privileges into drudgery.

When our cars need gas, most us choose the cheapest at the station. We give little thought to what long-term effect cheap fuel has on the car, we just fill up and go. Our thoughts are the fuel we run on, and we have been raised in a very negative culture, so most of us are running on cheap gas. If you want peak performance in your mental and physical health, you need to change your fuel source.

Last week we talked about choosing peace as a priority in 2019. This week I am going to teach you 2 tips to upgrade your thought life to premium gas, and 1 that could modify you to solar panels. The choice will be yours. But lets at least determine the cheap gas has got to go!

Hopefully, per last weeks discussion, you are already starting your day feeding on the positive. Now, I want you to try an experiment. Before you leave your house each morning, flip a coin. If it comes up tails, proceed as usual. If it comes up heads, force yourself to reframe the day’s events positively. All of your “have” to’s become “get” to’s. Lift your head and smile at people, and if they do something that seems hurtful, give them the benefit of the doubt. Then, at the end of your day, ask yourself 3 questions. What was 1 thing that surprised you in the day? What was 1 thing that moved you? What was 1 thing that inspired you? Then reflect on how you felt during the day.

After that, jot down a couple of things you are grateful for, say a quick prayer, and you are done. No need to think about praying to forgive anyone from the day, you already gave them the benefit of the doubt, so you are not offended. You are ready for bed. You have just had a day with premium fuel and an oil change! Track yourself, and notice how much better you feel on those premium fuel days.

If you want to really supercharge your life, upgrade to solar panels. If you are solar powered, you will gain your strength from the sun, or the Son, in this instance. You will invite Jesus into your entire day. Talk to Him throughout. Praise Him in the good moments, trust His grace in the challenges. In all things give thanks.

King David gave us examples of this in Psalm 118:24. He boldly declared, “This is the day the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.” And Psalm 23:1, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.” I picture him making both of these declarations through clenched teeth. David had grit and determination and sought God in everything he did. That is a portrait of a life running on solar power. That’s what made him a giant slayer. If you want to slay some giants, or at least not feel like crap at the end of the day, you are going to have to change your fuel source. Regular, Premium or Solar powered; God leaves the choice to you.

Staying off the Crazy Train in 2019

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

So long, 2018, hello 2019! There is something about a new year that gives a renewed sense of hope. It’s like our internal optimist rallies and says, “This year is going to be my year.” It can happen if you determine to make peace your top priority.

As a therapist I know if you don’t have peace, you are not going to be happy. Last I checked, this broken world does not prioritize peace. It thrives on drama and chaos. To remain peaceful, you need to develop a plan to stay off the crazy train. If you follow these tips, you will not only stay off the train, you may avoid getting on the platform.

1. Pay close attention to what you are putting in your head. The need to be informed cannot override your need for peace. Too much time watching Fox News or CNN is correlated with insomnia, anxiety, depression, and chronic over-thinking. Predetermine how much time you want to spend listening to the news. Once you have hit your limit, turn it off. Don’t even let it play in the background, as your subconscious will pick it up. Limit your time on social media, as well. Remember, garbage in equals garbage out.

2. Begin each day with some quiet time of prayer, praise, or Bible reading. Even if it’s only a five minute Psalm or a short devotional. Open your day with your focus on God, and how He loves you. On your way to work, turn on worship music. It’s amazing how something as simple as changing the dial on the radio can be life-changing, but it can. Our local station, WBVN (104.5) is a perfect drive-to-work companion.

3. Increase your gratitude and decrease your anger. Keep a notebook by your bed. Each night jot down a couple of things from the day you enjoyed. Hot coffee and a warm bed are two of my favorites. Simple things to be grateful for. Then reflect on your day and see if there is anyone who angered you. If there is, ask God to help you forgive them and let it go. Give God a quick prayer of gratitude, then you are ready for sleep.

That’s it. Three easy steps. But what have you done with these simple changes? You have now opened and closed your day focusing on positive things. We all know when it comes to our diet, junk food and no exercise equals disastrous results to our health and waistline. Why would we think what we put in our brain would be any different?

I just read this in my Jesus Calling devotional, “My Peace is still your deepest need, and I, your Prince of Peace, long to pour Myself into your neediness. My abundance and your emptiness are a perfect match. I designed you to have no sufficiency of your own. I created you as a jar of clay, set apart for sacred use. I want you to be filled with My very Being, permeated through and through with Peace. Thank Me for My peaceful Presence, regardless of your feelings. Whisper My Name in loving tenderness. My Peace, which lives continually in your spirit, will gradually work its way through your entire being.”

That’s a refreshing drink of water to a thirsty soul, isn’t it? In 2019, do yourself a solid and bookend your days with Jesus. Let the world do whatever it wants, be as crazy as it wants, and realize that other than prayer, there is nothing you can do to stop the crazy train from rolling. However, if you stick close to the Prince of Peace, you do not have to be on board.

Christmas in Mayberry

People can grumble all they want about Southern Illinois, but I love it, and I love living in Marion! Especially at Christmas. My husband, Nathan, and I took some friends to the WBVN Very Merry Christmas concert last night. It reminded me of all the things I adore about this community. A packed auditorium filled with some of the nicest people you ever want to meet. Many of them rocking their crazy Christmas sweaters and Santa hats, joining together to sing praises to Jesus.

There is something about the community, with all its diversity, singing Christmas carols that makes my heart melt. I am so grateful to our local radio station, WBVN, for giving us that gift. And our beautiful Civic Center, for making these events possible and affordable. In a time when a family can’t afford to go to the movies and buy popcorn, people can take their children out for a wonderful night of top-notch entertainment and snacks in downtown Marion.

Our town square looks lovely! We have a beautiful nativity scene, a spot for Santa, and the Hanukkah Candle. And guess what? No one is bent out of shape about any of it. And right off the square, at Southern Illinois Mercantile, you can find the coolest gifts ever, all made by area residents. It’s like walking into a Pinterest display with an ice cream counter and fresh coffee! Heaven.

What a blessing it is to have towns that go out of their way to provide holiday meals and entertainment for their residents. I’m happy I can go in stores and hear Christmas songs about Jesus and have checkout people say Merry Christmas. I love piling in the car and going to Candy Cane Lane with my family and dogs. But you know what I like best? There is always someone standing out there to greet us when we go through, AND they hand out dog biscuits to our pooches. They don’t have to do that, but they are giving a gift of love to our community. Look around. Our towns are full of people looking for creative ways to spread some joy. That’s beautiful, and in case you’ve lived here all your life, let me assure you, it’s quite unique.

When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to bust out of this town and see the world, so I joined the military and did some traveling. I lived in Europe for 2 years, came back stateside, bounced around, and wound up in Florida. I had nearly 25 Christmases away from Marion in places from London to Key West, and while those were great, what we have is better.

I used to sarcastically call this town “Mayberry, USA.” After my scorch-and-burn lifestyle chewed me up and spit me out, I realized what an idiot I was. I found out Mayberry/Marion is a pretty great place to live. All the things I used to despise are now the things I love. Maybe that’s middle age, or perhaps it’s because I have finally found the things in life that matter. Faith in God and caring for others. This area exemplifies those values.

Jesus said, “what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?” I had a lot of Christmas parties where I laughed all night but woke the next day with a hunger in my heart and an emptiness in my soul. I thank God those days are over. And while Christmas in Key West is a sight to behold, take it from someone who’s been there, what we have is worth coming home for. So, from me, Nathan, and the McCloskey Dog Pack, All our Love and Merry Christmas!

Christmas is about Forgiveness

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

I’m angry right now. A deep down hurt laced with anger, and it’s stuck in my craw. I’m holding a grudge and trying to justify it to God. It won’t work. Unforgiveness is never justified. I know I’m being stubborn. So I’m wrestling it out with God. Here are the rules of our wrestling match; I can tell Him it hurts, and I can say to Him I was wounded, but I can’t tell Him forgiveness is hard. Especially not at Christmas time, when I’m surrounded by evidence of how hard it was for Him to forgive me.

We look at the manger scene and take it for granted. Yep, there’s baby Jesus, asleep in the hay. Do you ever stop and think what it took to get Him there? Prior to Him being placed as an embryo in Mary’s womb, He had existed for all eternity. I don’t know what form He had, but it was not flesh, or the Bible wouldn’t say “the Word became flesh.” I bet He looked a lot like unapproachable light. Breathtaking and beautiful. He was never tired, hungry, felt pain, or had a hard day. He had never been separated from the Father. He existed in an eternal state of bliss and held all the wisdom of the universe in His omnipresent brain.

He went from that to this. The Father had to entrust His beloved Son to the care of a teenage girl. I know parents who won’t leave their kids in the church nursery, but God placed Jesus in the hands of men. Jesus had to experience dirty diapers, hunger, pain, dependency, and submission. The Word had to learn to speak Hebrew. And He, who had written the Torah (Law), had to learn it.

If that isn’t astonishing enough, He did it all without sin. He never had evil thoughts about His parents or his siblings. He was always humble. He was the only one on the face of the planet who had a reason to feel uppity, and He didn’t. He never held a grudge, not even when they nailed Him to a tree. Then He became our sin. My current sins of unforgiveness and pride were placed in His body as He died. He took the judgment for our sin and buried it in the grave. Then He rose from the dead. All this was so we could be reconciled to the Father. Geez and Wow!! Now that’s the definition of hard!

I used to wonder why Jesus had to come in the flesh. But now (especially whenI’m being a stubborn a**) I realize He had to come because I am so bad Jesus had to die to move my mountain of sin off me. So are you. That’s why, even when I’m sitting here, all up in my emotions and feeling hurt, I won’t tell God that forgiving someone is hard. Forgiving me was hard. Forgiving you was hard.

Now that he lives inside me, He won’t let me rest until I extend forgiveness to others. Even as I write this, I feel Him winning the wrestling match. I’m so grateful to Him for that because being hurt and angry is awful!

How about you? As Christmas approaches is there anyone you should be in contact with, but can’t bring yourself to forgive because you think it’s too “hard?” This is my plea for you to wrestle it out with God. You already know the rules. You can cry, you can tell Him why it hurts, you can do all that. You just can’t tell Him it’s hard. Not in the light of what hard really is. Now, it’s Christmas. Quit being a stubborn a** and extend some Christmas forgiveness.

The Real Grinch that Steals Christmas

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

When we were kids, my brother and I got fevered when gifts would start amassing under the Christmas tree. One year the Mac Daddy of all gift boxes appeared. It was huge and heavy, with a tag addressed to us both. We fantasized about the treasure trove of toys we were sure awaited us in that box. On Christmas morning we tore into it, quivering with anticipation. What did we find? ENCYCLOPEDIAS! All our Christmas dreams were dashed as we stared at an (almost) complete set of (nearly) new (mom was a thrifty shopper) Worldbook Encyclopedias. That was the first time I discovered the real Grinch that steals Christmas is disappointment.

Everyone has tangled with this Grinch, and once that happens, people try all sorts of ways to avoid him. Some employ the Disaster Preparedness Method. They psych themselves into a pre-holiday state of despair. Early on they start to believe their holidays are going to suck. Their rationale is if they expect a terrible Christmas, if it happens, they won’t be disappointed. That’s like inviting the Grinch to visit so you won’t be surprised when he shows up! If this is you, you are ruining weeks to avoid a few bad days. This also becomes self-fulfilling, because nobody wants to invite Debbie Downer to Christmas dinner.

The other method to avoid the Grinch is the All-In Method. These people are running around in crazy Christmas sweaters and have been shopping since last December 26th. They go to strenuous efforts to ensure everyone has the “perfect” gifts and get to sit down to the “perfect” meal. Alas, they are surrounded by imperfect people who are destined to ruin their holiday vision.

So, it looks like either method you choose, Disaster Preparedness or All-In, you are setting yourself us for an appointment with the Grinch. What’s a person to do?

We do what the Who’s do! Remember in the story how the Grinch gleefully awaited the Who’s disappointment when they discovered their Christmas had been stolen? But the Who’s foiled his plans (and won his heart,) by their unshakable joy because the Grinch couldn’t steal their love. The Who’s knew love was what Christmas was all about.

I can hear the chorus of naysayers from here, “but you don’t understand! My family doesn’t love me…I’m all alone.” Or, “My family is nuts, they are impossible to love!” Luckily, Christmas is not about the love of people, Christmas is about the love of God.

To be Grinched (disappointed), you have to have unmet expectations. This is why God is never disappointed in you. He expects you to be a mess, and you are. He expected it so much, He knew He had to intervene on your behalf. So He sent His Son as the ultimate gift to humanity. Christmas is about “For God so loved the world, He sent His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but will have eternal life.”

If you focus on the love of God found in Christ Jesus, you will be Grinch-proof! Plus, you may discover, like the Grinch, your heart is growing, and you want to go give some of that love away. Go on, give it away, and don’t expect a thing in return. That’s God’s idea of the Christmas spirit. It’s like wearing Grinch-Replant, which is way more fun to put on than an ugly Christmas sweater.

I’m Lousy at Following God’s Rules

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

It’s time I get honest with you. Here it is…I’m lousy at obeying God’s rules. Embarrassing, but true. I’m in ministry, so I’m supposed to be good at this stuff. Besides, there are only a couple of things God asks. Jesus, God in the flesh, summarized God’s rules into two commands. All we have to do is love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, and mind, and love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39). I honestly gave it my best shot.

It didn’t take long for me to figure out I was terrible at loving others. As a therapist, I know a lot of lonely people. But I don’t always invite them over or do home visits. And I don’t think all my neighbors know Jesus. I suspect some are on drugs. What is my response? Sometimes I do prayer walks (meaning I pray for them as I walk my dogs past their house). One year I burnt/baked them Christmas cookies. But most days I ignore them. Since I couldn’t find a scripture about Jesus handing out burnt cookies or ignoring people, I had to admit I sucked at obeying this rule.

When I saw my shortcoming with the loving my neighbor thing, I doubled down on my efforts to love God. And I got pretty good at it…most of the time. Until those times when my desire to binge watch YouTube videos over road my desire to pray or praise. This forced me to admit I’m bad at the loving God thing, as well. Uh oh! If I’m bad at loving God and my neighbor, I have a serious problem.

As Elyse Fitzpatrick points out, “Since God declares He hates injustice and it’s an abomination to Him when a guilty person goes unpunished, our only hope of avoiding His just sentence is to obey these two rules.” Problem is, we can’t. Don’t pretend you’re good at it. You aren’t. Getting these rules right demands our mind, will, and emotions all agree in a trifecta of loving obedience. Not just once, but continuously. How are you doing with that? See, we are in the same boat. Left on our own, we can’t please a Holy God. Simple rules (don’t eat that fruit) or complex (love your neighbor), we will fail every time.

And this is why Christmas is something to get excited about. Not because of shopping, gifts, or even family. Christmas is about Jesus and the fantastic news we call the gospel. “When the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman…to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that He could adopt us as His very own children” (Galatians 4:4-5).

Now, instead of trying to please God (and failing) with the rules, “We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ…For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood” (Romans 3:22-25). None of this would have been possible had it not been for God’s love and faithfulness, manifesting in the birth of God’s son, Jesus Christ.

I know once Black Friday hit, most of us went into a Holiday lather. This is a horrible season for loneliness, debt, anxiety, and depression. It’s not supposed to be that way. It’s supposed to be about God’s kindness and mercy in the form of a tiny baby, born to die because we are lousy at following God’s rules. Keep that in mind, and you will find your holiday happy.

When God Feels A Million Miles Away

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

Do you ever feel God is a million miles away? I am in one of those seasons. It started a couple of months ago. At first, I was distracted during morning quiet time. I started rushing through prayer, spending little time in the Word, but a lot of time on Facebook. Then my evening routine began to suffer. Books that would typically help me experience the presence of God have not been as engaging. I even feel distracted at church. It’s like I have rebellious squirrels in my brain.

I hate these seasons. As a former drug addict who spent the bulk of her life chasing feelings, not “feeling” the presence of God freaks me out. But this is something every believer experiences. In the past, my normal “go to” in times like these has been to engage in religious rituals. That way I would think I was doing my part to keep God and I’s relationship on track. But I have learned a few things since then.

One thing I’ve learned is I can’t escape the presence of an Omnipresent God. Jeremiah 23:23-24 says, “Can a man hide himself in hiding places so I do not see him?” declares the LORD “Do I not fill the heavens and the earth? Am I a God who is near, and not a God far off?” And in Psalm 139 David declares there is no place we can go to flee God’s presence. And those are Old Covenant promises.

As New Covenant believers we have the Spirit of God in us and around us. No matter how far off God “feels,” He lives inside us. I may not always “feel” the presence of my spleen, but I trust it is there. Same with the Holy Spirit. He moved inside us, so He was able to promise He will never, ever, leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Do you hear that, believer? God himself, your Creator, has made a promise that He will never, ever leave you. He cannot lie. He is faithful, He is with us, and He will not let us go (John 10:28).

This relationship between Him and us has always been and still is, His idea. He started it! It says in the first chapter of Ephesians He was dreaming of us before the beginning of time. He knew us. He had plans for us to be adopted as His children. He took great pleasure in dreaming up how He would redeem us through Christ’s blood. That is the same Christ who calls Himself our “Good Shepherd” and promised He would chase down any of His sheep that wandered off the path (Luke 15:4).

Where does all of this leave us when we are feeling lost and alone? Right smack dab in the middle of His presence, His will, and His promises. Philippians 1:6 says we are to be confident because He “who began a good work in you will bring it to completion.”

Knowing all of this, I am choosing to resist the panic, and rest in His promises. I know the squirrels are not permanent. God has not left me, and I will be okay. So will you. Remember, saving us was His idea, and He’s good at being God. Keep on keeping on, and remember, we walk by faith and not by sight…or feelings!

Our American Jesus

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

Its the American Jesus, we only want him to please us, just wear a suit and tie,
have a wink in his eye, just a really neat guy. ~ Lyrics to American Jesus by August Rain

I recently traveled to the Dominican Republic and Grand Turk Island. Both places had breathtaking beauty, horrific poverty, and some of the happiest, kindest people I’ve met. They had joy, peace, and abiding faith in Jesus I rarely see here in the States.

Upon our return, we had an Uber driver from the Dominican Republic. He migrated here in search of a better life. When asked if he missed his country he said, “We were so poor there, but we were so happy.” His wistfulness indicated his American dream had come at a cost he hadn’t expected to pay. Why is it, with all we have here, happiness remains so elusive?

In America our faith is a mile wide, but only about an inch deep. Many of us claim faith in God, but we are unhappy, and our Christianity feels meaningless compared to our struggles. I have had people tell me, “I don’t want much, just family, a home, and security.” From our American perspective, that doesn’t seem like much. Why can’t God just deliver?

Andrew Farley says if the gospel we believe doesn’t hold up in an impoverished country, we believe the wrong gospel. I think of Mother Teresa and her Home for the Dying in Calcutta. I wonder what gospel she offered.

I bet she shared a gospel that tells us to rejoice in hardship (Romans 5:3) and I’m sure she cited Jesus when He said “in me, you will find peace, but in this world you will have trouble, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). She undoubtedly told them of a Savior who poured out His life in service to others, then challenged us to do the same. In other words, she shared the Jesus of the Bible, not the American Jesus we’ve created.

Our American Jesus is supposed to be interested in our prosperity and comfort above all else. We want Him to make sure we don’t suffer, protect our family, pay off our home, and help us with a retirement fund. The Jesus we’ve created is more interested in our spouses and houses than things like feeding the poor or healing the sick. Last I checked, that is not the Jesus of the Bible. No wonder we are disillusioned and disappointed with our Christian experience!

Jesus tells us in Luke 14:26 “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison–your father and mother, spouse, children…even your life. Otherwise, you can’t be my disciple.” What the what?! That’s all the stuff I want Jesus to protect! In fact, I entered into a relationship with Him to save my own hide. Yet He challenges me to have a love for Him so deep that nothing else in my life can compare. Love like that will keep you warm, even when you’ve lost your house and your spouse. Love like that could not help but result in constant joy.

I will admit I’m not there…yet. However, I am grateful that my Savior’s goal is to take my eyes off the god I’ve created in my own image and place them on the living God. The real Jesus will not be tamed or conform to what I desire Him to be. I thank God for that! I want a God that saves me from my selfishness, not one that feeds it. With Thanksgiving only a week away, will you join me in being thankful for our most definitely Not-American Jesus?