The Story of the Bummer Lamb

by:  Cris Corzine McCloskey

In this broken world, few of us escape the hurt of rejection. Whether the pain comes from a dysfunctional home, schoolyard bullying, or unrequited love, by the time we reach adulthood, most of us are bearing some scars. Since feeling rejected is a pain we find unbearable, we protect ourselves.

Pop quiz: Are you afraid of being hurt? Are you a people pleaser, scared people will leave you if you don’t keep them happy? Do you look for flaws in relationships so you can reject them before they reject you? Do you avoid emotional intimacy? Are you insecure? Hypersensitive to criticism? If you answered yes to one or more of these, you have rejection issues.

There is a reason rejection hurts so much. Studies have shown the brain reacts the same way to rejection as it does to physical pain. That’s why we get so stuck. Recently, someone told me she feels like a stray cat no one wants to let in. The animal reference reminded me of the story of the bummer lamb.

Sometimes, when a ewe gives birth to a lamb, she rejects it. She won’t allow it to nurse or accept it in any way. The rejected lambs are called “bummer lambs.” The rejection not only puts them on the path to starvation, but it also breaks their spirit.

Shepherds are on the lookout for these little lambs. A good shepherd will find the bummer lamb, place it close to his heart so it can hear his heartbeat, and takes it home. He bottle feeds it and keeps it warm. Throughout the days ahead, the shepherd will continue to carry the lamb close to his heart. He knows it needs nurturing, or it will die of a broken spirit. As the lamb rests near his heart, it learns the sound of his voice. It learns to trust him.

By the time it is ready to be released back into the flock, there is a new nobility to the little lamb. It no longer feels rejected. It feels special, and it holds it’s head high. It has been singled out by the shepherd. And when the shepherd yells, “sheep, sheep, sheep,” the bummer lambs are always the first that come running.

I am a bummer lamb. I know the sting of rejection from an alcoholic father who would not get sober to save his family. I have had betrayals in friendships and the pain of unrequited love. But I now know the love of the Good Shepherd.

The Bible says Jesus will leave the 99 to pursue 1 lost lamb. That’s what He did for this bummer lamb. When I finally stopped running, He picked me up and carried me close to His heart. And He rejoiced when He carried me home. I can’t tell you I’ve fully recovered from my scars of rejection, but I feel special, and I hold my head high. I feel loved in an extraordinary way by the Good Shepherd, and for me, that trumps the rejection of others.

I know there are a lot of bummer lambs out there. My professional practice is full of them. What is truly tragic, though, is how many Christians won’t allow the Good Shepherd to hold them close to His heart. They want just enough of Him to go to heaven but don’t want to get close enough to be nurtured to wholeness. Without the tending of the Good Shepherd, they are suffering from broken spirits. That is why the world is full of so many wounded Christians.

If this is you, I pray you will allow His love to be a salve for your rejection issues. You are precious to Him, and He longs to gather you close to His heart so you can learn the sound of His voice and feel the comfort of His heartbeat. Then, the rejection of the rest of the flock won’t seem such a big deal. And when the Good Shepherd yells, “sheep, sheep, sheep,” guess who will be leading the pack?

My New Goal

by:  Cris Corzine-McCloskey

It’s a sad day for the McCloskey household. This morning our oldest and most beloved dog, Pabu, could not walk. She’s usually such a tough girl. She is the alpha, ruling over the other dogs with an iron paw. But today she had to be carried out of bed and is currently resting on the couch, unable to get her back legs to work. We can no longer deny she has arthritis and needs medication. Seeing her like this breaks our hearts.

Both my parents just had birthdays. Another year older. My dad’s health took a turn last winter, and he is still fighting for a full recovery. Oh, how I wish I could freeze time and not let them get a minute older or ever suffer bad health, but I can’t.

All of these things, plus the mountain of tasks on my ever-expanding to-do list, tempt me to jump down the rabbit hole of anxiety. I am fighting hard not to over-think and analyze all this because as soon as I do, my peace will be gone.

One of my friends recently told me her husband paid her a fabulous compliment. He accused her of being an “under-thinker.” While she doubted he meant it as a compliment, she certainly took it as such. You see, she has a history of jumping down rabbit-holes and looking at worse-case scenarios. All of that led to her being depressed and anxious.

Evangelist extraordinaire, Dan Mohler, says analytical thinking, which is something we take such pride in, is not a blessing. He says God would never give us the ability to talk ourselves out of Him or out of being at peace. But that’s precisely what we do. We reason ourselves out of peace, and we pride ourselves on the process. We package it as disaster preparedness, so when that worst-case scenario happens, we will be prepared for it. But at what cost? I, for one, am tired of over-thinking and doomsday preparations.

I now have a new goal. I want to be an under-thinker. It sounds like absolute Nirvana! And I know how my friend got to this blissful state. She simplified her theology. She boiled it down to this, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

Jesus, my friends, is perfect theology. He has to love you, He died for you. And if He loves you enough to die for you, it’s safe to assume He is an ever-present source of peace at all times. Including dog emergencies and aging parents.

When I am tempted to look down the road into my future, let me look no further than the fact that when hard days arrive, He will be there for me. Providing the grace and peace to get me through. In fact, it says in Psalm 139 that He “hems me in, behind and before, He has laid His hand upon me.” That sounds like a pretty safe place to be. He’s covering my past and going ahead of me into my future, and all the time has His nail-scarred hand of love on my life.

Today, I choose to enjoy my life. I’m going to go pet my dog, and relish in the fact that she is here, and such a source of joy for us. And truth be told, the Diva Dog is reveling in all this extra attention. This afternoon we are having lunch with my parents. We are going to celebrate those birthdays and soak up the pleasure of their company. They are Nathan and I’s favorite hang-out buddies. And if I get tempted to start analyzing anything in my day, I vow to repeat my new, under-thinker mantra, “Jesus loves me this I know.”

The Lottery You Don’t Want to Win

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

Another person I care about died from addiction last week. He was young and bright, and he smelled like destiny. He had the potential to be a world changer. Now he’s gone. Destroyed by a disease that is killing more Americans each year than the Vietnam and Afghanistan Wars combined.

There is a disturbing story by Shirley Jackson called The Lottery. The tale is about a small town with the disturbing tradition of picking a sacrificial victim each year for a public stoning. In the story, the victim was selected by a random lottery, and their death was thought to ensure a good harvest for their crops. Everyone was accepting of the practice until someone in their family was picked. Then that family wanted it stopped and declared it to be awful and unfair. But by then it was too late. Their number was up, and their loved one suffered a horrible death.

That’s what addiction is like. People pay little attention to it other than what they see on the news. When it’s just a story, addicts are easy to disregard as “those people” with loose morals and no willpower. Then it hits someone they love, and their eyes are open to how horrifying a disease it is.

When it happens in your family, you get a ringside seat to watching your person get swallowed alive by a disease that wants to eat their soul. That’s a game changer. Then it becomes awful and unfair. Incarceration and death don’t feel like good answers when your family’s name comes up as the unlucky winners of this lottery. Then you want treatment options.

But as far as treatment goes, Southern Illinois is as far behind the times as the town in Shirley Jackson’s story. We are not a community that values recovery. You find that out quickly when you have a loved one you are trying to get into treatment. If you do get them in, there is no sober living community to support them when they get out. Good recovery meetings are hard to find and even harder to start. It’s not even easy to find a reliable AA sponsor. And good luck finding regular fun and fellowship when you are embracing a sober lifestyle.

You know what you can find a lot of? Bars and churches. It makes sense why the bars aren’t on the front-line fighting addiction, but what’s wrong with our churches? Why aren’t more of them getting involved?

I will tell you why. In our very Christian, Bible-Belt community, mental illness and addiction are diseases that are shrouded in shame and stigma. Many churches don’t want “those people” in their congregation. If they don’t have a heart for the population in need, they won’t give money to help fund treatment options. Instead, they will spend their money on carpet and drapes and building committees, while outside their doors people are dying of treatable diseases like addiction and mental illness.

Brennan Manning said if you want your ministry to line up with the heart of Jesus, you have to learn where the outcast weeps. It’s time for the church to learn where the outcasts weep.

My family knows what it feels like to be the unlucky winners of this lottery. We drew the short straw, and it was me that became addicted. I was stuck in the horror of my addiction for over two decades. It was awful for my family to have to watch me go to prison, but they did not have to bury me. In the recovery community, that is a success story.

For those families who weren’t so lucky, I grieve with you. Every family touched by this insidious disease grieves with you. And I vow I will not stop advocating, educating, and fighting until this disease is eradicated or I draw my last breath, whichever comes first.

Searching for Serenity

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

There is a prayer that goes like this, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” That’s the Serenity Prayer. It’s famous in recovery circles, but I believe it holds treasures for us all.

I recently heard a woman on the radio telling how she applies the Serenity Prayer to relationships. She said she has finally grown into the wisdom that she can’t change people. By the sound of her voice, I could tell she was advanced in years. That didn’t surprise me. The wisdom to realize we can’t change others usually takes a lifetime to acquire. I’m learning, but I’m not there yet.

Trying to change others has a multitude of titles. Fixer, enabler, rescuer, nagger, fault-finder, and micro-manager, just to name a few. I have been guilty of the first three. I have been a fixer/enabler/rescuer in some of my personal relationships. It’s no secret that I have a hard time watching those I love struggle. I forget how God used my difficulties to rescue me from myself. Had anyone else been able to step in and fix things for me, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today. But when I love someone and see them in need, I want to fix their problems.

Trouble is, I don’t honestly know what their needs are. I’m just throwing band-aids on internal bleeds. That’s because I can only see surface issues while God sees heart issues. When I try to fix their surface needs, I am often blocking Him from addressing their real needs.

I am also creating a false dependency and tarnishing the relationship. By stepping into a role I was never meant to have (savior), I will inevitably frustrate and disappoint them. I have damaged relationships with people I treasured this way. My intentions were always good, but I was meddling in something that was not my job in the first place. That job belongs to Jesus because He is called to be their Savior, not me.

Why do I air my embarrassing junk for the world to see? Because I know trying to change people is a universal issue. And in Christian circles, rescuing feels like its the Jesus thing to do. After all, we are told if we give a cup of water in Jesus name, it’s the same as giving it to Him. So how do we tell the difference?

I am starting to recognize fear as my “error indicator light”. When I swoop in and try to meet needs because I am afraid for them, that is not Jesus directed. Jesus never motivates us with fear. He leads us with peace.

So if I am need meeting because I am afraid for them, I am not giving them a cup of water in Jesus’ name. I am serving them up a cup of Cris because I am secretly afraid Jesus won’t be big enough to take care of them. Sad but true. Not surprisingly, it seems all roads lead back to trusting the Lord.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. God, grant me the trust in you to stop all efforts to rescue, fix, enable, nag, fault-find, criticize, micro-manage, or attempt to control others. Not their behaviors, not their attitudes, not the way they look, talk, walk, not anything. Help me to trust you to be big enough to change whatever needs changing with them, and with me. Amen.

The True Tree of Life

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

I love Easter! To me, it commemorates the ultimate Clash of the Titans. It was Love versus evil and death in a smack-down fight, and Love won. Love finished the work.

On the night before the crucifixion, Jesus wrestled with His humanity in a garden called the Mount of Olives. We now call that Maundy Thursday. He had to decide between His very human desire to self-preserve and His God-driven desire to redeem us. A tough decision. He already knew those He loved the most would run away, deny Him, and betray Him. He also knew the crowds were going to turn on Him. It’s one thing to die for people that adore you, it’s another to choose to die for people who are spitting in your face and nailing you to a cross.

In the Garden of Eden, when Adam was asked if he had eaten from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, the first thing he did was self-preserve. He blamed his wife and God. He accused his wife of making him sin and blamed God for creating her. In the garden known as the Mount of Olives, Jesus could have done that. We were guilty and God did create us. But Jesus did not blame anyone for anything. Instead, He took all the blame for our mistakes and went to a different tree, the tree of Calvary. His tree of death became our Tree of Life.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the tree Jesus died on, and just what it means to us. I know in the Bible God refers to us, humanity, as trees. Scriptures tell us when we trust in the Lord we are trees with deep roots. The New Testament refers to us as fruit-bearing trees, and the book of Isaiah calls us believers Oaks of Righteousness. So if we are considered trees, then what is the significance of Christ being nailed to a tree? I think of the cross as us, as humanity. His body was affixed to that tree as He and the Father worked together to conquer evil and death to save us.

On Maundy Thursday He chose us instead of Himself. On Good Friday He became our Tree of Life when He laid His life down on the tree of Calvary. He spoke three Hell crushing words right before He died, “It is finished.” The smack-down was over. Love had won. All our sins were permanently punished. Past, present, future. All of it. On Sunday He walked out of His grave to show us sin had been permanently dealt with. Love/Jesus conquered death and gave you the ability to be adopted as a child of God.

Your trust in what Jesus did on the cross gives you access to the most incredible, powerful Being in the Universe, who becomes your Father. He is more fun and easier to get along with than you ever dreamed. If He can keep this former speed freak enthralled for 14 years, He’s got to be all that and a bag of chips!

In case you are wondering why God would this, you need look no further than Romans 5:8. It says, “God demonstrates His own love for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Did you notice the word demonstrates is in the present tense? That is because the Tree of Life we call Calvary is still God’s demonstration of love. Jesus finished the work. The price has been paid to give you access to a Father who was willing to pay the ultimate price to show you how loved you are. And all you have to do to eat from the Tree of Life is believe.

Don’t Buy the Lie

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

My body is crushing it lately! Yesterday I ran errands, did some housework, and took the dogs for a long walk. Today I went to the grocery store. I have been craving homemade curry, so I have plans to try a new recipe tonight. With all the amazing things my body is doing for me I want to give it something delicious.

A month ago I did not appreciate my body. The person who tells others not to take anything for granted and to live with an attitude of gratitude was not thankful for my body. I wanted to be thinner. I tried fad diets and intermittent fasting to the point of getting the shakes. Crazy stuff. All in the name of hitting my ever elusive goal weight. I was obsessed, and in my frenzy, I forgot to love myself and the body I am packaged in.

I know I am not alone in this. As a mental health provider, I see countless men and women who struggle with some aspect of themselves they don’t like. Once they have zeroed in on whatever flaw they see, this becomes their personal truth about themselves. They forget that God says they are handcrafted, fearfully and wonderfully made masterpieces (Psalm 139).

I used to value the idea of being at my goal weight much more than I appreciated my appetite. I saw my hunger as the enemy, keeping me from my prize. Then I got sick. I lost my appetite and couldn’t eat. It’s interesting how much you miss something when it’s gone. I realized hunger was not my enemy. Two weeks ago I actually hit my goal weight, but it felt like a hollow victory considering what I had lost. I hovered at that weight for about a day. I missed having an appetite more than I enjoyed those numbers on the scale. Now that my appetite is back I see it as a blessing from God that not everyone has. So it’s sayonara goal weight and hello curry!

I came across this in my Jesus Calling devotional, “Take nothing for granted, not even the rising of the sun. Before Satan tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden, thankfulness was as natural as breathing. The Garden was filled with luscious fruits, but Eve focused on the one fruit she couldn’t have rather than being thankful for the many good things freely available. This negative focus darkened her mind.”

That is an exact summation of what happened to me. I was so focused on what I saw as my bodily imperfections my mind became darkened, and it sucked some of the happy out of me. I stopped smiling at myself in the mirror because I forgot to see my body as a temple where Jesus lives. That in itself makes me marvelous. It makes you marvelous. But when we take that for granted, we allow our minds to be darkened by what we fear we aren’t instead of appreciating what we are.

I am hopeful this experience has taught me a lesson that sticks. It’s hard when we are surrounded by a culture that tells us we need to be younger, thinner, and richer. But I know a lot of younger, thinner, wealthier people who are miserable. I think the only way to be genuinely content is to believe what God says about us, we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” He loves us. Enough to die for us. And He desires us to stop buying the lie that we are lacking something and love ourselves.

Easter is right around the corner. With it, we commemorate the death, burial, and resurrection of the one who paid it all to prove to you how amazing you are. If He was willing to conquer sin and death just to be with you, maybe you should take a long look in the mirror and smile. With Him inside you, you are as ageless as eternity, as lovely as heaven, and rich beyond your wildest dreams. You indeed are a wondrous sight!

The Upside of Being Down

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

My medical leave ends today. It feels strange going back after nearly a month off. I’m excited, but this ordeal has changed me, and I may not approach therapy the same. Don’t worry, the changes are good because I have experienced the upside of being down.

My old life could have been summed up by this saying, “You can always tell what you have turned over to God because it’s got scratches and claw marks on it.” I have struggled to trust God fully. This has caused me anxiety, control issues, guilt, and even therapy. Luckily, He’s been way more patient with me than I have been with myself.

Do you know what I did not have the strength for when I was flat on my back? Anxiety, control, pride, performance-driven guilt…all that junk had to go. I felt like I was in a lifeboat, jettisoning anything that took energy away from getting better.

Guess what? The world did not stop spinning. I did not spontaneously combust because I could not have my nose in everything. Caring Counseling Ministries did not slide off into the abyss or go belly up because I wasn’t there. God really did take care of everything. My clients survived, my finances survived, my dogs even survived. I discovered I am not nearly as indispensable as I thought, and that was a great feeling.

Plus, when I was in the hospital with my head in a puke pan and my backside hanging out of a gown, I felt a love from Jesus unlike anything I have ever experienced. I was at my worst, and could not lift a finger to “help” Him, but I have never felt as treasured. I realized He is trustworthy because He loves me. I was finally able to just “let go and let God.”

I feel like I had been given a glimpse of the old me, and it looks like me, in a panic, white-knuckling a fake steering wheel attached to nothing. But Jesus, in his infinite love and patience, is there steering the car, chuckling at me with a look of love on His face, coaxing me to let go of the fake wheel.

I think this is best summed up in an excerpt from a book by Judah Smith entitled Jesus Is: “I’m convinced that in comparison to God, we cannot make our problems small enough. We cannot make Satan small enough. We cannot make sin and sickness small enough. When we consider the magnitude and majesty of our all-powerful, all-knowing God, when we realize Jesus is here with us no matter what turns or twists our lives take, we find peace. I’m not worried about the state of the union, the state of the universe, or the state of my finances. I’m going to bed with a smile on my face because Jesus is in control. That’s not irresponsibility, gullibility, or naivete’. It’s true life.”

Good stuff, huh? And so, I may have lost an appendix, but I feel like I have gained a Kingdom. This feels a whole lot like God’s Kingdom. It operates by love, faith, and grace.

How about you? I only share this stuff about my life because I know my struggles are universal. The world is full of anxious Christians. We trust God with eternity because we know we can’t have any control after we are dead. But everything else, well now, that’s a different story. Take it from me, don’t wait until you are down and out to learn you really aren’t controlling anything, except your own misery. Now, take a deep breath and repeat after me, “Let go of the steering wheel, it’s not attached to anything!”

A Thanks to Those Who Served

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

I am a Veteran of the United States Air Force. I was a communication specialist in the mid-1980s stationed in Europe. My husband says I’m his favorite Cold War spy, and considering the nature of my job, I guess that’s what I was. I never think of my contribution as being noble. I was just a kid back then, so I’m always surprised when people say “Thank you for your service.”

As a Veteran, the Marion V.A. Medical Center takes care of my healthcare needs. I’ve had no complaints. I cringe at the national news stories of mistakes made with Veterans healthcare at other facilities because I know it makes our local folks look bad. I have also wondered why the positive experiences never get any press. Today, I get to rectify that.

On Wednesday, March 13th I was taken to the V.A.’s emergency room. I had excruciating abdominal pain, along with fever, chills, nausea, and vomiting. Between the pain and the fear, I could not stop shaking. It was a hectic day at their ER, but Dr. McClallen and his team (Faith Priddy, RN, and Tiffiny Sweet, RN) moved heaven and earth to soothe me, get me in a bed, and find some answers.

It ended up being a Gangrenous Appendix. As bad as that sounds, it feels worse when it’s inside you. My surgery was performed at the V.A. by a team led by Dr. Sooriash. He got it out before it ruptured, but due to complications, it could not be removed laparoscopically. I was told I would have to spend the next few days in the hospital for recovery and IV antibiotics. It was a miracle my appendix didn’t burst, but they told me the seriousness of the situation. I knew I was in for a battle. I didn’t realize how bad it would be.

My days in the hospital are a blur of pain, sickness, and more nausea. Nausea from the medication was nearly as severe as the appendix. I did not know I could be that sick and still be alive. I lost all of my ability to do anything for myself and had to rely entirely on the nursing staff at the V.A. For someone who is used to being in the care-giving position, this was extraordinarily humbling.

When you find yourself so sick you can’t find your own derriere with a road-map, let alone tend to it, you don’t want to be cared for by people collecting a paycheck. You want caregivers who are there because it is their passion and calling. I was blessed to be the recipient of a nursing staff who took care of me because it is their passion. I was at my absolute worse, yet I received their very best. They all said to me, “Thank you for your service,” with such sincerity I knew they meant it and were serving me from their heart.

I received hundreds of mercies at the hands of this staff. The ones that made the biggest impression on me are Night shift RN’s Jessie Zarnoth and Jill Hefner. Their CNA’s were Legacy Reese and Amy Cheers. Day shift standouts were Kristina Simulis, RN and her CNA Mandy Nickens. There is no way I can ever thank these women enough. They tended to all my physical needs, but also my emotional needs. I was sick and needed hope. They helped me find it. They were the hands and feet of Jesus, and I felt His love through them. They even encouraged my husband to bring Molly, (aka CCM’s Therapy Dog) to aid in my recovery. For those of you who know me, you know that was exactly what I needed.

I am not here to invalidate the horrific experiences other Veterans have received across the country. What I am here to say is an enormous thank you to the staff we have at the Marion V.A. Medical Center. Even the janitorial staff and the people who delivered my food trays were amazingly kind, and they thanked me for my service. Once again, not like it was scripted, but like they meant it.

So to all of you who work at the Marion V.A. Medical Center, I would like to say, sincerely, from the bottom of my heart, Thank You For Your Service! You went above, and beyond the call of duty for me, so I know you are serving other Veterans with the same enthusiasm. You are all heroes in my book.

To Have and to Hold

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

I have been using a gratitude journal. Each night I am given a writing prompt by way of an inspirational quote or question. These ideas direct me to seek out and reflect on the things I have to be grateful for. The other night I was given this question, “What 3 things do you have that you are grateful for?” Since the word “have” implies ownership, the question was not an easy one to answer.

Think of the tornadoes that recently ripped through Alabama. The news was full of horrifying images. Peoples homes, full of their prized possessions, reduced to matchsticks in a matter of moments. One clip showed an elderly woman sitting in a pile of rubble, praising God she was still alive. There were at least 23 others who were not so lucky. This town knows what that feels like, as do many towns around us. Events like that have a way of searing themselves into our memories because they teach us how fragile our lives are and how quickly we can lose what felt so permanent the day before.

Grief counseling is a big part of what we do at CCM, and it isn’t always a death causing the grief. Career changes, job loss, even retirement can be hard on people. The tendency is to place our identity in our careers, so when they change, we feel lost and question our purpose.

Another thing people grieve is divorce or family estrangement. Sadly, while it takes 2 to enter a marriage or relationship, but it only takes 1 to end it. This is tragic and unfair, but part of life. We aren’t meant to cling to things that don’t love us back. Kids leave, spouses want out, friends come and go. None of it is as permanent as we would like to think.

As a therapist, part of my job is to know the fragility of life, and how the things we hold so dear can be lost at a moments notice. That’s why, when faced with the question of what 3 things I have that I’m grateful for, I ended up with this answer, “The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

I promise you, I am not over-spiritualizing the question or the answer, I’m just keeping it real. I know my good, good, Father has a lot of stuff out on loan to me, but it’s only on loan. Even if my marriage lasts another 50 years, it’s likely one of us will have to go first, so my spouse is only on loan. My career, as much as I love it, is not something I will do forever, so it’s a temp position. I can’t over-identify or wrap my existence around a temp position. My family, especially my parents, are more dear to me than words can say, but they belong to God. My precious pooches are created by God and loaned to me as temporary blessings in my life. The upside of this is, when we know things are on loan, we know they aren’t ours, so we don’t take them for granted.

I love to read, and our local library is full of books they generously loan me. When I have something that belongs to them, I take extra good care of it, and I thoroughly enjoy it while it is in my possession. When I return it, I feel a little sad, until I remember all the other titles that are at my disposal, just waiting to be discovered. God’s unlimited grace and blessings are like that. We can’t exhaust His supply. He merely asks that we treasure Him more than the things He loans us. He’s the only permanent thing we will ever have or ever need, and He’s holding on to you.

Hey, What’s Your Problem?!

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

One thing we know, hurting people hurt people. Pain and offense are spreading like a virus. It seems nearly everyone is mad about something or someone. Whether it be feelings hurt by spouses and families or offenses taken in church or with co-workers, hurt and offense has become a way of life in this country. What is everybody’s problem?!

There’s a story in Luke 9 where the Apostle John and his brother got offended when a village didn’t welcome Jesus. In response to the rejection, the brothers asked Jesus if they could petition God to fire-bomb the town! Yep, Jesus’ proteges wanted God to rain down Holy Molotov Cocktails on innocent women and children. Undoubtedly an epic ministry fail. Yet Jesus did not fire them or cast demons out of them. He also didn’t go sit alone and cry about the rejection of the village or the hatred in his disciple’s hearts. You see, Jesus knew something they didn’t know. He knew love because He knew the Father.

We have a country where the majority of our people claim a belief in God. But do they “know” Him? I know of our President. I believe he exists. I read about him and see him on TV, but I don’t know him. If I spent time with him and knew his heart on issues, it might change the way I feel about him and his policies. Without knowing his heart, I am left to make my own opinions and conclusions based on insufficient evidence.

The religious elite of Jesus day thought they knew God, and they were looking for the Messiah. Yet in all their studies, they did not know the heart of God. That’s why they didn’t recognize Jesus as God and crucified Him. Jesus’ disciples thought they knew God, but until Jesus died to usher in their ability to commune with God as Father in a relationship, they just knew of Him. Things changed for them after the cross.

How do I know that? Because the same Apostle who wanted to rain down fire from heaven on people went on to become known as “The Apostle of Love.” He wrote in 1 John 4 that God is love, and if you “know” Him, you will learn to love others. Regardless of how they treat you. So if you have problems with people, it could mean you don’t know God as well as you think you do. Maybe you know him like I know the President.

I’m not saying you are not saved or not going to heaven. Heaven will be packed with people whose religion was a mile wide and only about a centimeter deep. But it may mean you have never learned His heart, and you are missing the best part of being a believer. And if you haven’t learned His heart, that’s what’s stealing your happy. You see, my friend, the people who are ruffling your feathers aren’t your problem, they are your mission field.

This country holds to a self-serving gospel. Most people accept Christ because they want to “gain Heaven and miss Hell.” If that’s why you are a Christian you have a self-centered gospel that’s all about you instead of a gospel that is radically transforming the way you think, feel, and treat others. If that isn’t happening in your life, do yourself a favor and get to know the Father. He’s so much better, and way more fun than you ever imagined. And He longs to spend time with you because He loves you. If you do that, I promise you will stop having a problem with people, and you will become part of the solution.