Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Encore: Scary Candy

It’s that time of year again-the official start of the “candy holidays,” kicked off by Halloween. It can be sheer torture, facing the overwhelming displays of treats now. There seems to be candy everywhere! And, for a lot of us out there, it can trigger disordered eating patterns. So, what do we do? We can’t stop Halloween- and all “candy holidays” from coming. No, it’s not an easy situation. But, we can look for God’s perspective and help, even considering the temptations and issues we face, dealing with candy and “trigger” situations. “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.” 1 Corinthians 10:23 “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” 1 Corinthians 6:12 Candy, by itself, is neither evil, nor good. It’s inanimate. It has no nutritional value; and yes, it’s loaded with sugar, other preservatives and colors. The “moderation” issue, therefore, comes into play. You and I will not die or have the worst case scenario, (whatever we define that to be for our lives, such as the notoriously dreaded “getting fat” fear) if we eat some candy, from time to time, in our lives. However, we need to look at eating candy as a choice; it has no nutritional value. So, according to 1 Corinthians, it’s “lawful,” but does it “edify?” Candy will not harm us, if, the constant staples in our lives are healthy choices: healthy food, balanced exercise, sleep, relationships, support and numerous daily spiritual, emotional and physiological choices. It’s about an overall healthy lifestyle, not whether or not we ate some candy corn today. And let’s not forget, each of us has help for our individual, unique lives. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalms 46:1 Yes, it’s challenging, facing the overwhelming flavors, colors, choices- and emotional ties that Halloween candy can represent to us. But remember, God has called us to a life that includes enjoyment. “…I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”’ John 10:10 Are you and I taking time to enjoy our lives? For some of us out there, that may mean having some candy today; for others, it may mean choosing another option. Regardless of what you choose today, “to candy or not to candy” (forgive me, Shakespeare), God is in control and loves each of us unconditionally. He’s there, helping us, wanting us to succeed and to experience His love and blessings. So, look at candy with some newer eyes today. It’s not your best friend or your worst enemy. It’s candy; that’s all. And God is more powerful than it- and every trigger/disorder/issue surrounding it. Go to God, then, no matter what you face concerning your struggles/disorders/issues with candy- or any other food, for that matter. He IS there, now, for you! He will be, long after the candy- and the candy holidays- are gone! “…I am with you always, [even] unto the end of the world. Amen.” Matthew 28:20

Saturday, October 27, 2012


I recently came across the artistic piece from modern artist, Alex Rietveld, entitled, “Venus de Biomechanica.”
It’s an interpretation of the classic sculpture, “Venus de Milo.” You know, the statue of a woman with no arms. Anyway, Rietveld’s approach for “Venus de Biomechanica” offered a different interpretation of famous sculpture, probably suggesting the faster paced society in which we live, one which also places such importance on manipulating our image as well. That’s what I saw. This female form was armless, just like the classic work. However, the more modern “add-ons” included what looked to me like a gas mask and a machine gun arm strapped to the statue. And then there was some strange looking headpiece, worn like a tiara, resembling, possibly some monitoring device for the female’s electrode responses. It was far from the classic Greek form we know both in the art world and in popular culture today. I also checked out the original Venus as well.
Indeed, the original classic is breathtaking, carrying with it a rich history of Greek culture and also controversy. When discovered, supposedly in the 1800’s, the statue created quite a stir, as immediately, individuals fought to possess it, (of course). And then there was the matter of the missing arms and pedestal, also contributing more questions to the actual artist behind the feminine form. And since that time, the Venus de Milo has gotten quite a lot of attention. In popular culture, she’s been referenced by the likes of Miles Davis and Chuck Berry in their music, as well as popping up in such television shows as “The Simpsons” and “Twin Peaks.” I’ve even seen her as a kitchen magnet and a carved bar of soap. Yep, Venus is everywhere. And it’s no wonder. After all, she was originally regarded, adored and even worshipped as Aphrodite, “the love goddess,” the epitome of all that is feminine, graceful and beautiful. Then it should come as no shock that she’s still influential here and now. And, whether it’s her original form or interpretations like “Venus de Biomechanica,” something is still not lost on me: the impact of her arms, or rather, lack of them. My interpretation, as I consider Ms. Venus, is that her beauty standard has so overshadowed what her arms literally and figuratively represent: power and ability. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love this art work; it’s still one of my favorites. I just can’t help but note the attention she garners, in spite of her missing limbs. And, yes, I admit to being biased. Because of the filter of eating disorder experience and awareness, through which I’ve now come to view matters of image, beauty and power, I read something more with her. Perhaps it’s there; perhaps it isn’t. But the missing arms, to me, register as significantly representing a kind of powerlessness, both emanating from and co-existing with her emphasized physical beauty. And it can be insidious to think about, especially in such an image driven culture in today’s society. No matter what we may espouse concerning intellect, character, kindness and all manner of “inner beauty,” we still have rampant eating disorders, diets and plastic surgery going on in our world today. Everyone wants to be eternally young, beautiful, thin and perfect, it seems. I remember years ago, coming across a study in which a group of children were given the choice between being overweight or losing their limbs. Shockingly, overwhelmingly, the majority of these children chose to lose their limbs instead of enduring the stigma which comes from the dreaded “f” word in our culture: “fat.” Is that the message we want to communicate, however, when we depict beauty? Beauty at all cost? Obtain beauty, to the exclusion of more important things in life? Beauty needs to be achieved, even employing harmful methods? And that leads me back, again, to “Venus de Biomechanica.” As I mentioned earlier, this piece seemed to concentrate on the more modern add-on elements concerning the beauty aesthetic. Whether it’s the machine gun arm, the gas mask or that electrode gathering looking headpiece, there seems to be a message stressing the importance of manipulating what is already beautiful in each of us, to conform to society’s standard of beauty. And, then, once you do such a thing, you become armless and powerless. But that’s of no matter, apparently. Because, after all, you’re still considered beautiful by choosing to conform to society’s definition of beauty. And that’s all that counts, right? I have repeatedly referenced scriptures on idolatry and image in my writing and in my speaking engagements. I know I probably sound like a broken record. But I continue to see just how consumed we are in this day and age with that subject matter. God seems to think the issue is worth paying attention to. There doesn’t seem to be much which has changed from the time of ancient scripture to now. The “Greek” attitude to idolatry still exists. “Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.” Acts 17:16 But the instruction to this heart attitude also still exists. “Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.” 1 John 5:21 A statue is just a statue. In and of itself, it cannot do anything positive for us. “What profiteth the graven image that the maker thereof hath graven it; the molten image, and a teacher of lies, that the maker of his work trusteth therein, to make dumb idols? Woe unto him that saith to the wood, Awake; to the dumb stone, Arise, it shall teach! Behold, it is laid over with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in the midst of it.” Habakkuk 2:18-19 It is a dumb idol, no matter how beautiful it may be. If our hearts get caught up in it as representing something “God-like,” however, then we have a big problem; then it becomes harmful to our souls. Let’s not forget a pretty hefty commandment: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Exodus 20:3 God doesn’t give us this commandment because He wishes to take away our joy and fun in life. No, instead, He knows the harm which comes from idolatry, getting our hopes pinned on something which will only fail and disappoint us in the end, detracting from us living a fulfilling life and distracting us from engaging in a real relationship with a loving God and Father. “Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.” 1 Corinthians 8:7 We give our strength and ourselves to something which will one day vanish. One day, as wonderful as the “Venus de Milo” is, she will crumble. One day, youth will fade. One day, our “permanent solutions” will fail us. Why, exactly, do we try to conform to something which is not God? When that conforming fails, then what? “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Romans 12:2 God has not called us to be crafted after a powerless image. Scripture tells us, in fact… “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7 But it’s based on His Image, not anyone or anything else’s image. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” Genesis 1:27 Can we dare to bravely pursue that concept? Can we dare to pursue God? Our decision could determine between the powerful and the powerless result. Let’s find our arms and our God-given power in Him! Leave the statue, the manufactured and manipulated image alone! Let’s be who God has created us to be! Indeed, that’s true beauty! Let’s be armed with that! Copyright © 2012 by Sheryle Cruse

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Hair of a Reminder...

Sometimes, life, like bad hair days, just happens.


"(For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)" 2 Corinthians 6:2 Proctastination runs rampant in the human race. We seem to keep searching for excuses and opportunities to "put things off." That may apply to difficult decisions, seeking recovery and even a personal, spiritual relationship with God Himself. We keep thinking and saying "tomorrow." But what about "NOW?" There is power in NOW! Pursue it!!!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Face Eating Disorders

"Big Tex"

Last week, the symbol of the Texas State Fair, a 52 foot animatronic cowboy by the name of “Big Tex,” went up in flames.
The State Fair mascot apparently had an electrical short, starting in his right boot. The photos taken show the blaze spread quickly, to onlookers, until all that was left was some wire framing.
Thankfully, no one was hurt. But it got me to thinking, once again, about the issue of idols. No worshipping of a fatted calf here, no. I never heard or saw of any report of someone literally bowing before the cowboy. But this mascot does speak to a larger issue. It’s about a representation we look to, from which get identity, meaning and value. The Texas State Fair, for the past sixty years, has, indeed, employed “Big Tex” as their mascot, to immediately identify the uniqueness of their state’s attraction. And yes, it is an effective message: the cowboy. What’s more Texas than that, right? But, after this unfortunate fire event, I cannot count how many times I have heard the use of the word, “icon” to describe “Big Tex’s” significance. Icon. Isn’t that another word for “idol?” And doesn’t God warn against us erecting any such idol? “Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.” 1 John 5:21 When I’ve written and spoken about the idol issue, I frequently use the example of the Barbie doll, especially when discussing disordered food, weight and body image issues.
Barbie is the epitome of the idol, as so many of us little girls grew up influenced by her measurements and physical appearance, an appearance which is not realistic in the first place. But placing so much attention upon anything and anyone, apart from God, is still idolatry. Let’s not sugarcoat it. Mascots and dolls, like “Big Tex” and Barbie, in and of themselves, aren’t the problem. The problem comes when we attach power and value to nothing that can save us, to the detriment of a correct, loving attitude, pursuit of and relationship to God. “What profiteth the graven image that the maker thereof hath graven it; the molten image, and a teacher of lies, that the maker of his work trusteth therein, to make dumb idols? Woe unto him that saith to the wood, Awake; to the dumb stone, Arise, it shall teach! Behold, it is laid over with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in the midst of it.” Habakkuk 2:18-19 It is God, after all, Who deserves all of our heart and attention: “…‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Luke 10:27 “Big Tex” may be rebuilt. I don’t know what will happen there. But if and when he is, will our hearts and attention once again, go to that object for identity, power and value, or will we really check our hearts for our own individual idols instead and choose another choice, an eternal one we’ll never regret? “For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;” 1 Thessalonians 1:9 Let’s try to put our focus on that, instead of any other representation, image or mascot! Copyright © 2012 by Sheryle Cruse

The Freeing Apology (You Never Get)

“Life becomes easier when you learn to accept the apology you never get.”
I don’t know who said that, but it’s some challenging advice. The issue of forgiveness is tricky- and a certainty in each one of our lives. Things like abuse, neglect, betrayal are some of the major themes that force us, like it or not (and really, how many of us like it?) to confront forgiveness for ourselves personally. Tricky. And no one can get around the forgiveness issue, as far as God is concerned, anyway: “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15 “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins." Mark 11:25 Who is feeling all sunny about that piece of information? Yeah. More often than not, our response to the forgiveness matter falls along the lines of Peter’s questioning… “Then came Peter to him, and said, ‘Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?’” Matthew 18:21 Can’t you just hear him grappling for some kind of loop hole or “good enough” rule? Peter thought, like I would think, seven times is certainly more than good enough. But Jesus comes back with His response… “… Jesus saith unto him, ‘I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.’” Matthew 18:22 Here is where you and I groan. This is not the answer we want. We want permission to smite, to avenge, to kill and to destroy. But God operates His Kingdom differently. “Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.” Matthew 18:23 And, guess what? He expects us to emulate Him in our behavior. That includes when others not only hurt us, but never apologize to us either. “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” Micah 7:18-19 “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” Romans 8:29 Not fun stuff. Not easy stuff. But it’s still necessary, all the same. We may be stamping our feet in a temper tantrum, shrieking, “It’s not fair!” (Or is that just me? )And logically and emotionally, it isn’t. There have been instances when childhood bullies and even my own abusive dad have hurt me and have never bothered to apologize for their words and actions. It’s painful, difficult, infuriating and, if left unchecked, all consuming. But there’s a verse before Romans 8:29 which we need to pay attention to: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 Translation? God will make it right; God will make it up to us. He will avenge the wrongs done to us… “…‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay,’ saith the Lord.” Romans 12:19 That includes betrayals, spiteful deeds and injustices. You and I may never get the apologies owed to us. And that’s not fair. But, a reality check we need to keep in mind is the parable of the unforgiving servant, further detailed in Jesus’ response to Peter about the forgiveness quota: “…‘Therefore the Kingdom of Heaven is like a certain king, who wanted to reconcile accounts with his servants. When he had begun to reconcile, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But because he couldn't pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, with his wife, his children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down and knelt before him, saying, 'Lord, have patience with me, and I will repay you all!' The lord of that servant, being moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. "But that servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, who owed him one hundred denarii, and he grabbed him, and took him by the throat, saying, 'Pay me what you owe!' "So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, 'Have patience with me, and I will repay you!' He would not, but went and cast him into prison, until he should pay back that which was due. So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were exceedingly sorry, and came and told to their lord all that was done. Then his lord called him in, and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt, because you begged me. Shouldn't you also have had mercy on your fellow servant, even as I had mercy on you?' His lord was angry, and delivered him to the tormentors, until he should pay all that was due to him. So my heavenly Father will also do to you, if you don't each forgive your brother from your hearts for his misdeeds." Matthew 18:23-35 Like I said, reality check. For as many apologies which have been owed to us, how many apologies do we owe to others, God included, as well? Ouch! It’s sobering, but something to remember the next time we feel like smiting someone. Plus, there is the cliché response of forgiveness setting ourselves free. Something further to consider, isn’t it? And God does consider everything about us, everything which happens to us. In short, God knows. How much power and freedom could we experience it we allowed that to trump any bitter unforgiving thought? It’s worth considering and living. Copyright © 2012 by Sheryle Cruse

The Enoch “Walk with God”

Recently, one of my friends talked to me about a hard time in her life. She wondered aloud if she had any faith. This has been a strong Christian, mind you, devoted to God her entire life. Yet now, she was questioning her faith. There’s nothing like hard times to make a person do that, I suppose. In the Christian community, there seems to be emphasis placed on “perfect faith.” But is there such a thing? I know that the point of being a Christian is having faith, something which seems to be intangible. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1 That’s often not very satisfying or reassuring to our souls, though, is it? Yet God calls us to this often unseen, unknown kind of faith. That doesn’t mean, however, that it will be a perfect faith. And that’s where I think a lot of us get tripped up. And those of us who are perfectionists? Yikes! I’ve been thinking about the Biblical character of Enoch (Genesis 5:18-25).
Supposedly, according to scripture, he “walked with God” for three hundred and sixty-five years (Genesis 5:22-23). Whew! That’s some power walk of faith! However, it never mentions that faith walk/relationship (because isn’t that what faith realty is?) was perfect. We never hear about Enoch, perhaps, questioning, doubting, complaining to and arguing with God. Did he, indeed, do those things, like the rest of us who try to pursue God in our own lives? I don’t know, but Genesis tells us that Enoch’s walk with God led to the following result: “And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.” Genesis 5:24 Hmm. Pretty fabulous, eh? Now, I’m not saying that we will be whisked away into thin air like Enoch was in our own individual walks with God, but why should we allow anything to deter us from relationship with Him? Yes, discouragement, doubt, problems, challenges and loss will come in our lives. And guess what? We will not navigate through those situations with absolutely perfect results. But God still desires to be close to us, nevertheless: “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” James 4:8 I believe self-imposed perfectionistic demands are not only harmful, but they also scream of double minded doubt. There’s a phrase out there which states, “If you wait for everything to be absolutely perfect, you will never get anything accomplished.” How true is that concerning a relationship with God? News flash: that faith walk will never be perfect. But it can be living, ongoing, relevant and powerful. How will we decide to walk with Him, then, today? Copyright © 2012 by Sheryle Cruse

Some Lily advice...

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pray For America

I am a cat couch

Our cat, Glory has anointed me her cat couch. I am honored- and slightly uncomfortable. She has decided she is at her most fulfilled when my legs are at their most asleep state.

Basic Math- Yep!

Find the time

What will we do with our time? What kind of stewards are we with it? Take the time, to invest the time on valauble, beautiful and holy pursuits. They will never be wasted! "Redeeming the time, because the days are evil." Ephesians 5:16

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Everything, alright...

Simple, but true...

The Hamster Wheel

The famous phrase, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, yet expecting a different result” can probably best be depicted by the hamster on the hamster wheel.
Ever had a hamster as a pet? When I was eleven, I had one by the name of Mitsy. Anyway, the romance of having a hamster didn’t quite measure up to the actual reality. For one, I could never pick her up and hold, snuggle and kiss her. One time I attempted to do so, Mitsy whipped her head around sharply and sunk those two long front teeth into my finger. Here’s a helpful factoid: hamster bites HUR-R-R-R-T!!! And then there was that hamster smell, emanating from her cage. I don’t think I need to elaborate. But the most brutal shattering to my hamster dream was the nocturnal, repetitive noise of Mitsy on her hamster wheel. It just would not end! Every night, the same sound of a spinning, grinding wheel would keep me awake and frustrated. And it struck me how, years’ later, I came to find myself, spinning my own wheels in the middle of the night, via my excessive, disordered exercise routine, due to my eating disorder behaviors. At the height of it, I would wake up at midnight to insure I could exercise on my stationary bike for up to six hours a day. Yeah. I’d become my own hamster. And, like Mitsy, even though I was furiously spinning wheels, I still was going nowhere. Sound familiar? Are you on a hamster wheel of your own? Is it because of disorders, addictions or compulsions? Or, are you simple stuck in a rut? God knows all about it. He knows our nature and how easily we can get caught on a hamster wheel. “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9 But it’s not hopeless. We’re not left to forever be chained to the wheel of even our own poor choice making. God does know when and how we all will blow it. And He’s there still to help. But are we turning to that very definition of help? “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalms 46:1 As we spin and frustrate ourselves through our own faulty choices in life, do we realize the power of God, even the power of his Name? “Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” Psalms 124:8 If the answer to that question and to our life experience appears to be “no,” then, perhaps, it’s because we cannot hear Him speaking help to us. “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go: I will guide you with My eye.” Psalm 32:8 Perhaps the sound of the grinding, racing hamster wheel is too loud and distracting for us to hear anything else, including God’s voice trying to guide us! “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, This is the way, walk in it, whenever you turn to the right hand, and whenever turn to the left.’” Isaiah 30:21 Noise is, after all, everywhere in our lives, isn’t it? It’s not just traffic, appliances, cell phones and crowds any longer. It’s between our own two ears; it’s our thoughts and memories. It’s our addictions and disorders. It’s our own poor self-image. And repeatedly hearing and heeding these same destructive noises keeps us on the hamster wheel. Insanity. Not sure if this applies to you? Well, ask yourself this question: “Is what I’m doing working, without harmful or chaotic results?” If not, it’s probably a good reason to change your approach. You and I are created to flourish, not to spin and go nowhere. God wants to take us great places, but we need to start by first getting off the wheels that have kept us stuck and limited. Take it from Mitsy. Not once did I ever see her calm and peaceful. There was always nervousness, obsession and compulsive activity. But "God has called us to peace" (1 Corinthians 7:15: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27 So, how about a new approach? How about God? The hamster wheel will never solve anything. God, however, will. “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?” Jeremiah 32:27 So, stop. Right now. Stop whatever wheel is spinning you. Stop and focus on peace. But most importantly, focus on God. Only then, can we truly go somewhere worth going, to a place which is definitely not insanity. “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.” Colossians 3:15 Don’t be Mitsy! Be, instead, who God created you to be. And that doesn’t involve any frustrating wheel! Copyright © 2012 by Sheryle Cruse

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Crossroad (The Blessing of Being Kept Safe While Frustrated)

There’s a saying out there: delay is not denial. I don’t know about you, but those words can really chap my hide. Perhaps you’re more patient and enlightened than I am. Perhaps you have a handle on life situations. But are there any of you out there who are as annoyed by that statement as I am? File this under work in progress stuff?
Looking at this image of a mother duck leading her little goslings reminds me of the scriptures, Luke 13:34; Matthew 23:37: “…how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!” Jesus, in His tremendous love for Jerusalem (and really, on a broader scale, for all of us), declared a desperate, frustrated plea. He wanted to gather and protect us…from what, though? Was He trying to protect us from danger, from circumstances, from ourselves, maybe? You know another quote out there as well; we can be our own worst enemies. Sigh here with recognition of the unflattering truth. Patience has never quite been my strong suit. I was always the kid who was trying to see inside wrapped Christmas presents, just hoping that, perhaps I “accidentally” tore the wrapping paper enough to see what was inside. Greed drove my patience, but so did anxiety as well. Can you relate? When I was a kid in my physical education class, anxiety was my word of the day. I dreaded the class because, uncoordinated me knew I was horrible at playing most games and sports. I carried anxiety with me as my physical education teacher tried to expose us child hooligans to different things, like shuffleboard and bowling, things other than tag and kickball. She gave a valiant effort to turn us into renaissance hooligans. Somehow, however, I don’t think that particular dream of hers was ever fully realized. Anyway, one such attempt at enlightenment was when we were introduced to archery. That’s right. Nine and ten year old kids walked into a gym one fine school day to see bullseye targets at the far end of the gymnasium and shooting stations twenty to thirty feet away from the targets, holding a bow and a set of arrows. I thought, how bad could it be? There was no running, after all. Just point and shoot. As the rowdy bunch of us hooligan goslings chatted and oohed over this new game, our physical education teacher was trying to instruct us- and warn us about the dangers of archery. Just because it was a game, and maybe even a fun game, at that, didn’t, however, mean that we could just bulldoze our way a-shooting. Not unless some of us wanted to wear an arrow through a particular limb or achieve some unintentional ear piercing of our own. As much of a drag as it was to listen to the teacher, it was necessary. She informed us of the importance of shooting your five arrows at the target when she blew her whistle. And once you’ve shot all of them, you’re to remain at your station until everyone is finished or she again blows her whistle, whichever one comes first. Simple, right? But, inevitably, someone, after their arrows were shot, would “forget” and start heading for the target to pick them up. That’s right. While arrows are still whizzing by, there’s a nine or ten year old hooligan trekking for the bullseye. Perhaps he or she forgot the warning. Perhaps he or she was caught up in the excitement. Perhaps he or she was too impatient to wait. Or, maybe, like me, there were kids who were just too anxious, wanting to get the session over with as soon as possible. Whatever the case, it would be no more than a few seconds before the whole class would hear a shrieking whistle blown and the archery session halted. And how many of us have had instances when a warning whistle, scream or shout came our way? You may never have had an archery moment, but you probably have had some kind of near miss or close call. Maybe it’s even been in pursuit of some fun or desired thing you went after full steam ahead. Fun and desired things have their place, but what if there’s a danger in pursuing them? What if what we chase and want requires God’s crossing guard guidance to ensure we’ll get to the other side of the street successfully and safely? The cliché is true: “be careful what you want because you just might get it. “But we argue back, “I want it NOW!” We whine, “I don’t want to wait.” We think we’re ready and deserving of that coveted thing instantly and immediately, if not sooner. But God knows the real deal. He knows every single crossroad in our lives. He knows our desires and thoughts. “O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.” Psalm 139:1-4 “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you.” Psalm 139:17-18 Heck, He even weighs our intentions. “All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the LORD weigheth the spirits.” Proverbs 16:2 And, He knows what that thing will do to us. “Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:16 Ah yes, not just our immaturity is being assessed, but also our character as well. Wonderful. So, it might do us some good to slow down, even stop, and look to God to guide our next move. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24 There are a lot of arrows whizzing by us in our daily lives. God is a loving and protecting God, but what if we’re insisting on rebelling against that reality? In the recovery world, there’s phrase that I’ve personally used and have witnessed in others: “fighting your help.” We often go through interventions, “hit bottoms” and risk our families, lives and health, all because we spend our energy fighting our help. We fight people; we fight God. And that’s always such a brilliant strategy, isn’t it? Meanwhile, God wants to lavish us with His love and blessings by leading us through His Word. Jesus is the embodiment of that guiding Word. He’s not called “the good shepherd” for nothing, right? Going back to the image of a mother duck leading her offspring safely across the street, we see how not one of them gets ahead of mama.
It’s a simple principle, yet we have such a difficult time heeding it: follow God. Are we doing that? Or, are we going our own way, quacking in our ignorance, impatience and stubborn ways? Perhaps, not getting what we want is the blessing. Perhaps not obtaining that thing we desire is exactly what we need to keep us safe. We don’t know the whole story. But God does. And God hasn’t changed His Mind about how it will turn out for us: “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 Don’t let the following statement Jesus uttered be said about you: “…how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!” Are you darting out on a crossroad without looking for God’s direction? Stop. Look both ways and look to God before you cross that street. Don’t fight your help; don’t fight God. “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 Copyright © 2012 by Sheryle Cruse

There's nothing to change this Truth!

The Power of One

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Big Dress

When I saw this image of Grace Jones I laughed an amen laugh.
It didn’t appear to me to be simply exaggerated fashion; it felt like a universal female truth. Living in this image based culture, it’s probably a safe bet to say that there has been at least one dress which has plagued us. It may be the pressure of fitting into that dream prom dress. It may be the fairytale torture known as finding that perfect wedding dress to transform us into the bride to end all brides. It may also be any variety of special occasion dress: the high school reunion show stopper, the charity ball evening gown, created to dazzle or the pageant dress, guaranteeing us a tiara on our head. The dress. The notorious, nail biting, nerve-wrecking, insanity creating dress. Been there? If not, be patient, you will be. You probably will get there sooner than you think. There have been a lot of desperate diets and exercise regimes plotted, all in the name of the big dress. We push, pull, cinch, torture, starve and manipulate ourselves into all kinds of predicaments. I certainly have had my share. Like when I was a bridesmaid at my cousin’s wedding. “...I really started obsessing the two weeks prior to the wedding. Looking back on my diary entries, I wrote a repetitive string of comments like, ‘I’m not going to eat today or tomorrow,’ and ‘I can’t blow it now. I’m so close.’ ... ...At 82 pounds, I tried on the dress and discovered that’s all it was—just a dress. Yes, it was hanging on me, but it didn’t really mean anything anymore. I was too exhausted for it to mean anything to me. I had to pin the sides of the dress with safety pins. It was hanging off from my 20-inch waist (18 inches, if I held in my breath)... ...People stammered things like, ‘Sheryle, you look, pretty’ and ‘My, you’re thin. I didn’t recognize you.’ They obviously felt uncomfortable saying it. A guy cousin of mine said something like, ‘Man, you’re thin,’ (two beats of awkward silence), ‘but—you—you look—good.’ He said it to me like I was in danger of dying right there. It was a long day. I focused most of my concentration on just staying vertical and not fainting. I had accomplished my goal; I was skinny for this wedding. I was just too exhausted and hollow to enjoy it… And this time, I definitely had no control over what was happening.” All over a big dress. And that obsession was only compounded when it came to my wedding dress. Although I was no longer at that bridesmaid low weight, I was still obsessed with everything I put in my mouth two weeks, leading up to my “big day.” Have you been there and done that? What have you done to manipulate yourself into that big dress of your own? Are you and I simply dieting or are we worshipping an idol? It’s a slippery slope. Diets tend to start out innocently enough. “I’ll just lose five pounds.” But how many of us struggling with disordered eating, find out, only all too late, that the simple diet has become the torturous, hard taskmaster? Eating disorders “suddenly” appear from nowhere, stealing so much from our lives. But they didn’t happen overnight. No, it’s more insidious than that. We warned to stay vigilant against subtle lies and attacks which can sneak up on us all too quickly: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” 1 Peter 5:8 That includes eating disorders; no one is immune. It can all start with a thought. One thought. And that one though leads to another thought which eventually leads us astray. So, what are we thinking? Is the big dress, the big thing or the big image becoming too big in our lives? Has it become God? If so, that’s idolatry. No golden calf being worshipped, but something is, isn’t it? We’re spiritual beings, loved and created by A God for relationship with Him. Accept no substitutes. These substitutes never work, anyway. Like my bridesmaid dress, when I put it on, it didn’t magically perfect my life and make me blissfully happy. It was just a dress; it couldn’t save me. What are you and I counting on to save us? If it’s idols, we’ll only be disappointed, at best, and destroyed, at worst. “What profiteth the graven image that the maker thereof hath graven it; the molten image, and a teacher of lies, that the maker of his work trusteth therein, to make dumb idols? Woe unto him that saith to the wood, Awake; to the dumb stone, Arise, it shall teach! Behold, it is laid over with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in the midst of it.” Habakkuk 2:18-19 “Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another god...” Psalms16:4 All because we conformed to an idol? However, what’s the damage done to our psyches? It’s sobering to think about how easily our hearts can grab onto idols. And it’s sobering to see what heart damage can come from those idols: addictions, compulsions and disorders. Issues. “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23 But thankfully, we can go to God with those issues… “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Romans 12:2 The dress is just a dress; the thing is just a thing. But God is the most high God, Who loves us and has the power to bless us beyond measure. “For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;” 1 Thessalonians 1:9 Can we conform to that instead? Can we rethink what we’re thinking? It’s worth thinking about. The dress or the thing we’re focusing on will come and go. What will remain? It’s to our advantage to have that be God. Plus, that reality fits us better than anything else, clothes included,ever could. Copyright © 2012 by Sheryle Cruse

Friday, October 12, 2012

Your Story...

A Young Girl’s Courage

Malala Yousafzai, age 14, is a young Pakistani girl who was shot in the neck and head by the Taliban on October 10th, due to her stance on female education.
Malala, who was nominated for the International Children's Peace Prize in 2011 for articles she wrote on the subject matter, will hopefully make a full recovery. She’s been a target for years; in fact, after the shooting the people responsible stated that if she survived this attack, they will attempt to kill her again. Why is this happening? We’ve long known how women have been subjugated in this culture; it’s been a hot button issue. It’s astonishing in our country, so favored with freedoms, to see another part of the world which is not. But, let’s face it, we have a long way to go with women’s rights everywhere, even within our own free country. And that’s what makes Malala’s stance even braver still. Not only is she a target, risking her safety by her written and spoken words, she is brave because of her innocence. Scripture tells us there’s tremendous impact to young people speaking out: “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.” Psalm 8:2 What a powerful thought. The innocence of children, I believe, often shows more wisdom to life than any “wise” adult could. We, as adults, can become so desensitized to atrocities in the world. This was long an issue before it was brought to our attention through the recent headlines. The famous saying out there is “knowledge is power,” but I’ve often heard of a correction to the saying. It’s the application of knowledge that’s truly the power. Despite their ferocious bullying, that’s what the Taliban is afraid of; it’s cliché, even in its oppression. God made men and women in His Image; God does not subjugate! “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27 Could it be that a child’s innocence recognizes that faster than an adult’s reason? It’s not just a “women’s issue;” it’s a human issue. And, as long as there is not equality for everyone to education, everyone will suffer. “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge…” Hosea 4:6 We never know who God has chosen to discover or usher in the next cure or breakthrough, benefiting us all. It could be a female! I believe this young girl is taking the torch of God’s will. God is never anti-women. As disturbing as the brutal news of her shooting is, I still see hope. As I pray for Malala’s recovery, life and safety, I also pray the scripture Joseph uttered, centuries ago, in response to horrible, unjust situations: “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” Genesis 50:20 Let’s pray and believe for God to move completely in this situation!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

October 2012 Issue of Serene Scene Magazine

Once again, God's amazing! Just found out my article, "The Monster Predicament" is in the October issue of Serene Scene Magazine!
Like I said, God is amazing! So thankful!!!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Bondage Barbie

Like most little girls, I played with Barbie dolls, dreaming of the beauty, glamour and excitement which would one day become my life.
Okay, in a lot of respects, I’m still waiting. Part of the intoxication of the whole Barbie dream life involved image. Isn’t that usually the way it goes? Check out this image:
It says it all, doesn’t it? So, early on, as little girls, we are indoctrinated into to the concept of “Barbie bondage.” I remember as part of my doll play, spending hours dressing my Barbie dolls in various outfits: sporty, evening, equestrian, ballerina attire and, of course, the wedding dress. And these were just a few options. So, this made me focus on, of course, Barbie’s body. Uh huh. Here we go romping into the wonderful world of unrealistic expectations for body image. And how could I ever avoid it? The plastic body was my first exposure to what the female form should look like. So, already, it’s not encouraging. Because, after all, Barbie’s measurements, if she was a real woman, would read as follows: 39-19-33. Compare that with “the real woman’s” measurements: 36/37-29/31-40/42. Notice a difference? Yeah. Add to that, the height and weight of Barbie if she was a real woman; she’s be six feet tall and 101 pounds. And how about the real woman? She’d be 5’4” and 145 pounds. Again, it’s a notable difference. So, it was a choice between the dream of Barbie and the reality of an actual woman. Which one would I choose? It’s not hard to guess. Yep, I signed up for a lifetime struggle of Barbie bondage. As a little girl, that doll’s standard was what I should be. I expected my body to look like hers as I grew up. So, when I entered puberty, I was in for a major disappointment. My body looked nothing like the plastic Barbie doll. I, therefore, determined I was a failure. But I missed one huge point: Barbie was not real; I was. Barbie was plastic; I wasn’t. Barbie was a dumb idol; I was a real human being. “What profiteth the graven image that the maker thereof hath graven it; the molten image, and a teacher of lies, that the maker of his work trusteth therein, to make dumb idols? Woe unto him that saith to the wood, Awake; to the dumb stone, Arise, it shall teach! Behold, it is laid over with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in the midst of it.” Habakkuk 2:18-19 Apples and oranges? Perhaps. Or maybe it was just the wrong image I was focusing on as a child…and then as an adolescent…and then as an adult. Image. Or, more accurately, idolatry. Maybe, if we view Barbie with a caution, as a potential idol, at worst, causing harm and at best, giving us unrealistic portrayal of the female form and life, then maybe we could refocus our attention onto the image we truly resemble: God’s Image. After all, right from the start, God let us know He created each of us to take after Him: “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:26-27 So, why are we looking elsewhere? Barbie- and anything apart from God- is only a dumb idol, profiting us nothing. Focusing on her image subjects us to harmful bondage, as we get obsessed with measurements, inches and pounds. This is not who we’re called to be. It is God’s Word which defines, helps, delivers and frees us, not an idol of our own making. Once again… “What profiteth the graven image that the maker thereof hath graven it; the molten image, and a teacher of lies, that the maker of his work trusteth therein, to make dumb idols? Woe unto him that saith to the wood, Awake; to the dumb stone, Arise, it shall teach! Behold, it is laid over with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in the midst of it.” Habakkuk 2:18-19 Are you struggling with body image issues? Did these struggles start as a child, perhaps, with your own Barbie doll play? What is the answer? God and what He has to say about you! “O my dove…let me see your form…for your form is lovely.” Song of Solomon 2:14 “Thou art beautiful, O my love…” Song of Solomon 6:4 Each of us needs to place our trust in God, in what He says about us, ABOVE any temporary- failing idol. God and His Word will not fail: “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:10-11 “This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me.” Psalms 119:50 God gave us Jesus to fee us. “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” Galatians 5:1 We may have learned the wrong things about ourselves and our bodies as children. But that can be corrected now. We now have awareness and the ability to choose. What will we choose? Barbie bondage or God freedom? “…choose you this day whom ye will serve…” Joshua 24:15 We are so much more than a plastic doll. We have spirits, hearts, minds and personalities that far transcend any inanimate object! We don’t deserve the limiting, lying bondage of the plastic image; we deserve the life God has created for us! Let’s put away childish things and live that life now! “When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.” 1 Corinthians 13:11 Barbie has nothing on us, on the incredible women we are! Celebrate- and play with that Truth instead of playing with Barbie! Copyright © 2012 by Sheryle Cruse

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Eagles in Patience

It’s difficult for us, in our daily lives, to see ourselves as eagles: majestic, beautiful, graceful and strong. Nope. I don’t know about you, but often, more accurate of a picture for me is the image of a buzzard, instead. Not good. Wrong self- perception: also known as impatience, perhaps? It’d be great if life was all presto change-o. It’s not. It’s gradual most of the time, punctuated by occasional dramatic moments of sudden change. Image of the day (and challenge): to see ourselves as the incredible eagles here in this photo.
And we need to see God at work in each of our individual life flights. God is taking each and every single one of us somewhere wonderful. But it requires patience…and waiting. “But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31 And that means that turning our eagle eyes to God; He’s guiding, preparing and helping us for the flight of our lives, moment by moment. Be an eagle, not a buzzard. It’s who we are created to be!

"How To Be A Woman"

Just finished the incredible book, "How To Be a woman" by Caitlin Moran.
Thought provoking! Not for the faint of heart, sprinkled with colorful words, but there are right on, laugh out loud moments of woman truth in it!

Friday, October 5, 2012

God is greater

God's already decided...

Mad About Christina Hendricks… Or Just Plain Mad?

Do you love the AMC show, “Mad Men?”
I do. Over the past few years, it seems to have become a phenomenon; popular culture has embraced the retro nostalgia of the 1960’s Madison Avenue advertising scene. And Christina Hendricks, the actress portraying the character of secretary, Joan Holloway, has struck a va-va-va-voom nerve with us.
It’s understandable. Ms. Hendricks is a stunning woman with quite an impressive bust line, so much so, according to a recent article, her décolletage has created a craze of breast implants in the United Kingdom to look just like her busty figure. Here we go again. It’s not the first time imitation has popped up; it won’t be the last. And, while I appreciate the fact that this culture embraces her beauty and “real woman’s body,” the breast implant response to that influential beauty power still targets a larger issue. No, she’s not rail thing, “heroin chic.” And yes, her figure is naturally occurring. But instead of simply celebrating that and getting on with our own figure shapes and lives, it appears we are only capable of comparing, coveting and trying to find ways to conform our body shapes to her shape.
We believe if we “just looked like her,” somehow, then our problems will be solved. Our lives will be complete. Nope. It’s doesn’t happen like that. It’s part of our human nature, I suppose, to want to emulate what we see, especially if it appears to be beautiful. I have done it repeatedly in my life. For instance, when I was thirteen, both influenced by the gorgeous Rita Hayworth and one of my strawberry blonde girlfriends, I decided to dye my hair red.
Please keep in mind, I have dark brown hair and olive skin. I certainly didn’t keep that bit of information in mind as I picked up a shade of red hair color at my local drugstore. And not just a subtle red hair color either. What was the descriptive name of my chosen red? “Red copper penny.” Go get a penny and look at it. Now, imagine that on my head. Yeah. Now, I’m not against coloring one’s hair. I just bought into the lie that it would transform me into instantly Rita Hayworth glamorous and beautiful, with a perfect life. However, I soon discovered I was still sentenced to being my thirteen year old self, only now, with the red copper penny dyed hair against my olive skin, I looked jaundiced. Wonderful. Adventures in hair color mistakes. But I got off relatively easy. After all, hair grows out and, even though I spent years going through bad roots and trying to color my hair back into the vicinity of my original shade, it still didn’t alter my body shape. I’m not going to get into the plastic surgery debate. People do things for all kinds of reasons. And cosmetic surgery can do wonders for things like cleft palates and deviated septums, as well as for reconstructive surgery, due to illness and injury. But, we’ve all heard about the horror stories of breast implants gone wrong. It can happen. And is it really wise and healthy to alter our bodies, based on the latest pop culture trending show’s actress? Ms. Hendricks is beautiful and probably gives off that same glamorous vibe that Rita Hayworth does. But to view her as “it,” while simultaneously bashing our own bodies as unacceptable unless and until we look “just like her” is harmful. What about the damage that has been done to our psyches? While Christina Hendricks is beautiful in a timeless way, eventually, pop culture’s emphasis will shift from this “Mad Men” retro style to something else. Who knows? We may even go back to a “retro” kind of “heroin chic” again. The swinging from one constantly moving target body beautiful du jour to the next has us spending all of our energy, resources, money and selves into becoming “like someone else” at the expense of living our lives, learning to be and learning to accept ourselves. And look at what even Ms. Hendricks has to say about this latest breast implant trend: “I hope I’m not encouraging that. If there’s anything to be learned from me, it’s that I’m learning to celebrate what I was born with.” Well said and amen to that! If you and I are going to get mad for anything in life, let’s get mad about being who God created us to be! As is, right now! “…I am fearfully and wonderfully made…” Psalm 139:14 Copyright © 2012 by Sheryle Cruse