Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Optical Illusion: Liar?


Recently, on social media, I saw a brain teaser trending. It was an image that, at first glance, looked like a face. It stated, “Share when you see a word,” asking us to look beyond this face value.

And, upon doing so, at a certain angle, one can see a dotted “I” where the nose/nostril is, along with an “a” for the mouth and an “r” creating the chin and neck. And starting the entire face, there is an elaborate “L,” making up the two eyes.

So, when we spell the face, what word do we get?

Answer: liar.

The face of addiction, right there, ladies and gentlemen.

The old joke asks,

How do you tell if an addict is lying?

Answer: His/her lips are moving.

That’s some punchline truth, isn’t it?

Yes, if you and I look at any form of our addictions, we inevitably encounter the role our deception plays in their proliferation and their destruction of all we hold dear.

Scripture has much to say about truth versus lies, offering warnings and consequences about the paths we choose. And we can see those spiritual principles in the twelve steps. There’s incredible benefit in applying them should we choose to do so.

The first step confronts our powerlessness.

1.      We admitted we were powerless over our addiction - that our lives had become unmanageable.

That usually shows up as a chaotic life, also known as trouble.

“He whose tongue is deceitful falls into trouble.”

If the disease is our addiction, then one of the first glaring symptoms we experience is any kind of problem: relational, marital, financial, physical or legal are a few examples of reality showcasing how unmanageable our lives have become.

Therefore, cue step number two...

We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

As we’re sorting through our individual representations of trouble, we hit a reality wall of needing God. In short, we have to tell the truth to and about ourselves.

And that’s no easy feat. For, to operate in addiction, deception has become our “go-to,” rescuing us from confrontation, responsibility, failure and uncomfortable situations.

“You love evil rather than good, falsehood rather than speaking the truth.”

But, before we fall in love with our lying ways all over again, we need to remind ourselves that our rock bottoms were all too painfully real.

We need to remember our lies got us into the mess; God and His Truth, therefore, will need to help extricate us from our various disasters.

So, we are in a moment like no other. We need to decide what to do with our addictions and our God. We need to answer a question. Will we accept or reject His intervention in our lives?

Yes...or no?

This is called a decision. It’s also called the next step. Do we take it?

3.      We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

God, by His very Nature, cannot lie (Numbers 23:19). Therefore, if we expect to bring lies and excuses instead of brutal truth before Him, we are not going to get the results we desire or need. And whatever results we DO obtain, will not be sustained.

“Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.”

Again, we see the protection which comes from being in the truth...

“The truth shall set you free.”

John 8:32

But that truth does not promise to be easy or painless. Often, facing truth is the hardest thing we will ever do.

This, therefore, is the work of steps four through nine...

4.      We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5.      We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6.      We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7.      We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

8.      We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9.      We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

These steps are focused on changed behavior. They exchange a destructive one for a healthier one. These steps exchange lies for truth, evasiveness for transparency. The reasons for these exchanges involve the relational, human experience and our need to repair whatever damage we have caused.

“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.”

Scripture, again, brings it home: “we are all members of one body.”

And this friendly reminder sets the stage for the purpose of the remaining steps, ten through twelve...

10.  We continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

11.  We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

12.  Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

We started in a place of confronting and accepting ugly truth; then, we accepted God’s help with it. Next, we needed to face and change behavior in the relational context, accepting how our addiction caused pain and destruction. Those are all important. But there’s still more work to do.

The “more” of that work refers to its ongoing nature. We need to keep doing it. What is the recovery adage?

“It works if you work it.”

Scripture, the twelve steps and truth all act as guardrails, hedging us in safely. And that is a key point to remember as we choose truth over deception. It’s more than just being a good, honest person; it is also about being a healthy, honest person.

“The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.”

In recovery, the expression goes, “You’re as sick as your secrets.”

And, for most of us, those secrets are some version of a lie- and some form of impending destruction.

Therefore, as we deal with our addictions and recovery from them, we need to do more than just work the steps and the reading of some Bible verses. We need to truly examine how both truth and deception operate in our lives- even to this day. Like the image brain teaser, when we study what we think we already see, is there, in fact, something quite different there?

And then, what are we going to do with that optical illusion’s actual truth?

Copyright © 2017 by Sheryle Cruse


Speaking the Foreign Language


“Rétablissement” is the French word describing recovery from illness or injury. Similarly, the phrase, “être en cure de désintoxication” has as its English translation, “to be in recovery from drugs, alcohol, et cetera.”

I recently stumbled across some old vocabulary flashcards from my two years of high school French class. Some things have stuck with me years later, like reciting the alphabet and singing the Christmas carol, “Silent Night,” à la française.

Yet, as I was flipping through the flashcards, I was re-reminded of just how much I had forgotten.

Seldom used words...

Factory is “l’usine.”

Waste basket is “la corbeille.”

On and on... you get the idea.

Anyway, these flashcards started me thinking. In life, learning another language and learning our faith and recovery are somewhat similar in their principles.

First, we need to acknowledge there is a language difference.

On the first day of class, our teacher, Madame Thomas, started speaking only in French. This spooked us.

For, there is, indeed, a helplessness when you don’t speak the language. You feel stupid. And you feel an urgency to get any kind of better handle on the situation.

But, Madame Thomas wanted us to, from the start, realize this was not the comfortable English-speaking situation we were used to. Our limited American experience was not the only way to live and be. We needed to face that and adapt.

“Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore,” so to speak.

Concerning matters of faith, the dynamic translates to just how little we know and see.

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part...”

1 Corinthians 13:12

Our spiritual experience, known as our human lives, involves definitions of our Creator and our relationship with that Creator. Life challenges us with lessons on how to navigate that relationship within the constraints of obstacles, pain, death, loss and, for a certain segment of us, addictions.

Whether it’s the connected relationship, a healthy recovery process or learning a new language, we need to recognize we are out of our element. And we need to get with the program.

Then we need to commit to learning that language.

With all of us assembled in Madame Thomas’ class, it was understood we would focus on the French language.

Not Spanish. Not Russian. Not German.


By our voluntary choice of this elective class, none of us could be surprised if that was, indeed, la langue du jour every blooming day we stepped into the room. We agreed to the romance language, with its conjugation of verbs and hopefully, some kind of mastery of basic conversation skills.

Yet, it was astounding how often we wanted Madame Thomas to speak English over French, simply because it was easier for us to understand. The path of least resistance, I suppose. Our so-called commitment to learn a foreign language didn’t seem to be visible. We wanted to learn it, but not if it was strange to us.

And isn’t that also the case concerning matters of our faith and/or our recovery? We want improvement and health, but we want our old ways too. Scripture confronts us on this agreement/commitment matter:

“Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”

Amos 3:3

We have to choose. If we want our cake and the luxury of eating it too, we are double minded.

“A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.”

James 1:8

With that perspective, we won’t get much of anything, goals and fulfillment included.

The discomfort which comes from learning an unfamiliar language taught me, concerning lifestyle and life quality issues, you cannot have it both ways.

“Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.

Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established.”

Proverbs 4:25-26

“If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land. But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.”

Isaiah 1:19- 20

We need to dismantle our familiar habits. We need to admit we don’t know everything, as clever as we believe ourselves to be.

Likewise, we don’t know everything about what is truly best for us. That’s how many of us have landed in the dysfunction, addiction and current assorted messes we find ourselves in. Our hearts and minds weren’t fully focused on a particular thing in the first place, be in language, health or recovery.

And, as some of my classmates decided, we’d “check out,” losing any enthusiasm we had, in favor of believing any discouraging and harmful lie.

We believe it won’t work.

We can’t do it.

It’s just not worth the time and trouble.

But the clichés of never giving in, pushing past the pain and following through are true. There is a pleasure in the hard-fought payoff.

With learning French, it was successfully carrying on a conversation, understanding and speaking it correctly. And, of course, passing the class.

With health and recovery matters, it’s about trusting the process. We need to surrender our “business as usual” attitude and embrace the strange foreign work of sobriety and making healthy choices. By getting a 30-day chip, examining the drives compelling us to seek our addictions and enjoying the positive health benefits of stopping our destructions, we associate our payoff with “doing the work.” That work begins when we learn and use the word, “help.”

While we’re on the subject of words, we need to adopt the next principle, as it applies to both learning other languages and dealing with our life issues.

We need to practice the language.

In my high school French class, it wasn’t enough to read about the language in textbooks; we had to also speak it. That meant regular drill sessions from Madame Thomas, frequently beginning with, “Bonjour, ça va?”

(“Hello, how are you?”)

Now, if we responded with stuttering or, heaven forbid, English words, she immediately retorted with, “En française, s’il vous plaît.”

(In French, please).

Again, there’s a theme going on. In French language class, we were required to speak French.

Go figure.

This “no brainer” concept can also translate spiritually as we pursue both our faith and our recovery journeys. It’s the rubber meets the road, action-oriented approach.

Do it. Speak it. Live it.

 “The sower soweth the word.”

Mark 4:14

There is no getting around it: the language will be unfamiliar to us. Without the practice, making the unfamiliar less so, we will not be fluent in any foreign truth.

For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.”

James 1:23-25

It is represented in not only another culture’s languages, but also in learning our inherent human value and what constitutes healthy love and grace for us, as documented in scripture.

“The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, ‘Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.’”

                                                             Jeremiah 31:3

“To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.”

 Ephesians 1:6

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Jeremiah 29:11

And that reality extends to the next lesson...

We need to understand there is purpose regarding that foreign language, object or circumstance, even if/when it is unfamiliar to us.

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:”

Ecclesiastes 3:1

What is the purpose of language?

Answer: to teach and to communicate.

Similarly, what is the purpose of scripture and spiritual principles?

Answer: to teach and to communicate.

We may agree with that theory, but usually, in some way, we fight against it.

Again, we are back to Madame Thomas’ class. None of us fluently spoke the French language. All of us, by virtue of our taking the class, said yes to a truth: we have something to learn.

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part...”

1 Corinthians 13:12

So, shouldn’t we be a-learning already?

And here’s where things can get embarrassing.

Usually, some personal sense of entitlement pops up. It expects this learning to be easy, effortless and free from any frustration or obstacle. It demands we should be given every answer, explanation and solution because we want it.

Cater to us; indulge us. Pamper us. Speak English to us, France.

There is no “teach us” to be found for miles.

To acknowledge our need to learn involves humility. And humility is not nearly as much fun as entitlement. Let’s be real- we want the fun.

In my French class, we were taught how, in other, non- English-speaking cultures, like France, the citizens of that country fully expect any foreign visitors to at least attempt to speak their language.

And here is where the unflattering caricature of the obnoxious American tourist emerges. A French national once spoke to our class, half- amused, half- irritated, as he shared stories of how easily a French person could immediately spot an American tourist.

“First of all, they are very loud. You usually hear them before you see them. And then, once you see them, they are often dressed very loud as well, wearing a lot of bright colors. Sometimes, they wear those Hawaiian shirts. We don’t dress like that in France; we wear a lot of black. And then, they usually approach us to ask for help, speaking only English, expecting the conversation to be solely in English, not French. And that is offensive to us. They refuse to acknowledge they are in another culture apart from America.”

He then went on to describe how, in this frustrated state, some French citizens are even apt to mess with the American tourist.

“We will give them the wrong directions or information. We won’t tell them where the closest bathrooms are located. If they cannot be bothered to try to communicate correctly with us, why should we communicate correctly with them?”

There’s some revelation to be found in these cultural experiences, as it involves our spiritual relationship with the Most High God. For, He, like the French citizen, has repeatedly come down to our level to relate to, help and teach us, the struggling American tourist.

“I have chosen you and have not cast you away.”

Isaiah 41:9

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go: I will guide you with My eye.”

Psalm 32:8

We, however, need to properly reciprocate as that vulnerable tourist. We need to put an effort and a value into learning Who He is and who we are to Him, however incomplete those lessons may be. It is in this placed priority where the value rests; it’s our decision to go beyond lip service to full-fledged action.

 “The sower soweth the word.”

Mark 4:14

Words, indeed, eventually frame action. They lead somewhere.

“Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”

Hebrews 11:3

Words translate into a number of other substantial things. If we use or embody any representation of a word, be it spiritually positive or destructive in nature, honestly, what are we expecting to be on the flipside of that vocabulary flashcard?

“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

What are we saying?

What are we meaning?

What are we wanting?

What are we expecting?

How is it translating?

What are we doing with those results we receive?

And are we truly wanting those translations?

Oui or Non?

Copyright © 2017 by Sheryle Cruse




Monday, March 27, 2017

“Stay Out of It”


One of my favorite television series, “Mad Men” offers up a scene in which one ad mad conveys this message to another character:

“Stay out of it.”

Hmmm. Sometimes, that is sometimes spot-on spiritual advice, isn’t it?

Meddling or helping- which one is it each of us are doing at any given time?

This becomes an especially valid question concerning our own self-interest. And, c’mon, be honest, most of us are EXTREMELY self-interested.

The entertainer, RuPaul states it this way:

“Someone else’s opinion of me is none of my business.”

This quote can be an incredible lifeline in the context of people pleasing, versus effective recovery and a purposeful life.

Yes, in an ideal world, everyone would love us, think highly of us and have nothing but the best things to say about us. But, do we live in an ideal world?

So, there will be chatterboxes, gossips, critics and even enemies out there. And guess what they’ll all come armed with? Offenses.

“Woe unto the world because of offences! For it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!”

Yep, those critters often don’t feel great to our egos, our feelings and our outlook on life.

And we can get ourselves in an incredibly unproductive, self-flogging snit, obsessing about why “so and so” thought or said what about us.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. After all, reality check, Jesus had more than His share of naysayers, critics and enemies…

“Now the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were scheming to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him.”

Matthew 26:4

“Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him.”

Matthew 12:14

“And consulted that they might take Jesus by subtlety and kill him.”

Matthew 26:4

“Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death.”

John 11:53

You get the point.

So, why should we expect to glide easily and unchallenged through life?

“The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord.”

Matthew 10:24

Scripture, therefore, is an important filter, screening with accurate perspective, what is the true intent of a thought, word or deed…

“And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.”

Deuteronomy 30:6

“But, O LORD of hosts, that judgest righteously, that triest the reins and the heart, let me see thy vengeance on them: for unto thee have I revealed my cause.”

Jeremiah 11:20

“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

Hebrews 4:12

Bottom line: our lives are far too important to worry about each and every opinion out there. We have too much to do.

So, concerning the next offense which breezes your way, ask yourself if God really wants you occupied with it? Test the spirits…

“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:

And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.

Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.

They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.

We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.”

1 John 4:1-6

Perhaps, the Most High God would rather you “stay out of it.” Perhaps He has better ways for you to be blessed in how you spend your time.

In all of our “staying out of it” then, let’s remember there’s a quite helpful “do…”

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”

Proverbs 3:5-6

Less “busybody,” more productive child of the Most High. Let’s all choose well.

Copyright © 2017 by Sheryle Cruse



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