Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Just a Cookie

What’s addiction all about? If it causes such pain and negative consequences, why do we continue to engage in it? As someone who’s struggled with eating disorders and worked through years of recovery, I see over and over again, how I kept looking to food, diets, rituals and all manner of behaviors to be my answer to my problems. In short, I put my trust in anything and everything except God. Scripture talks a lot about idolatry. It’s generally viewed as a big no-no. After all, God gets right to the point with the first commandment: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Exodus 20:3; Deuteronomy 5:7 But I saw repeatedly how my own eating disorder behavior directly flew in the face of that very commandment. I was trying, as an impossibly imperfect human being, to do things my way. Great. I had visions of Frank Sinatra singing the empowering song of individual freedom and independence. What I got, however, were stifling eating disorders. So much for my bright ideas, huh? Indeed, my desperate nature wanted to be soothed and comforted for a multitude of reasons: abuse, rejection, loneliness and fear, to name a few. And none of those reasons were sinful; they were what they were. But my choice to look outside of God was, dare I say, sinful. Yikes. Sinful. That’s a harsh word. Did I choose to have eating disorders? No, I don’t believe I did. But did I choose my choices which eventually led me down that road? Oh yes, I did. The word “sin” is often described as “missing the mark.” It’s a lighter touch than a descriptive definition of willful and evil disobedience to God. “sin” never is a feel good word; that’s for sure. I’ve gone several rounds with God praying for forgiveness of my sins, asking for help, trying not to look at and deal with them. But, for a moment, let’s just examine the “sin” word through that “missing the mark” definition. After all, God doesn’t want to pulverize anyone. Scripture tells us… “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9 So, that’s a breather right there. God’s opposition to sin is not because He wants to ruin all of our fun. It’s because that sin gets us astray from the best, most blessed and beneficial mark for our lives; we downright miss that mark by following sin. And that idea to miss the mark starts with a decision. And that decision starts with a thought. One tiny, seemingly innocent little thought. “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he...” Proverbs 23:7 “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23 Again, yikes. For me, that one little thought was that food would be my answer: to comfort, to companionship, to control, to entertainment and to love. And with that thought as a baseline, it set the stage for all of my other disordered eating issues and behaviors. Later on, starvation, binge overeating, excessive exercise, deceit and control tactics were additional layers which were added, convincing me “this” was the answer I could trust. However, of course, none of them were. Instead, each one of them only pulled me deeper into prison, unhealthy choices, fear and shame. Not what I chose, but, by virtue of that thought, leading to wrong choice after wrong choice, it was exactly what I got. A lot of us like Chinese food. And, what comes as a dessert treat with the meal is the fortune cookie. We crack it open to reveal a tiny paper fortune. It’s usually way above my head, spouting something about wisdom or strength. But how many of us don’t even focus past the actual cookie itself for some answer? “It” may not be an actual cookie which is your Achilles heel, but it’s something isn’t it? Something you, yourself, through a thought, a decision, have ordained to be your answer. It could be a pint of ice cream, a shot of Bourbon, a line of cocaine, a hit of speed, another bet on the horses or a rendezvous with that person who is “bad”: for you. But whatever “it” is, it is not your answer. God is. Scripture reminds us… “….Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” Psalm 2:12 So, what’s unsaid is, perhaps, “cursed are all they that put their trust in (Fill in the blank with your ‘it?’)” Again, it’s not comforting, like thinking on the word “sin.” But each of us really needs to get real with who- and what- we place our trust in. Nothing else will save or work for us. The fortune cookie will not work.
Only God…only God… Copyright © 2013 by Sheryle Cruse

A Message From God...

Monday, January 28, 2013

“Do Not Feed the Llamas”

Ever go to a petting zoo? Most of us, as children, can probably say yes to that question. We go with our families or our teachers. The goal is to entertain, educate and enrich our lives as the little hooligan we are; we so desperately need it. I remember when I was in kindergarten, I went to one of these petting zoos, “Deer Park.” Like the name says, there were deer to observe, as well as raccoons and goats. Oh yes, and there were llamas as well. Llamas… an interesting creature. Well, by virtue of Deer Park being a petting zoo, next to the various animal pens were feed dispensers. You got it, you could feed those suckers and add squealing joy, excitement and education to your little ones lives. So, I fed the raccoons, the deer and the goats. However, when we got the llamas’ area, there was sign: “Do not feed the llamas. They spit.” Should be self-explanatory, right? Can you guess what I did next? Uh-huh. Can you guess what happened? Uh-huh.
Everything seemed fine. I thought the llamas certainly wouldn’t mind being fed by moi. I was wrong- in the French, English- and any other language on the planet. What looked like an innocent ice cream cone of feed soon turned into a locked and loaded weapon of “eww,” soon to blow up in my face. Childhood memories. And yes, preventable, if I had only read- and HEEDED- the warning: “Do not feed the llamas.” But I thought I knew better or would receive preferential treatment from the spitting beasts, simply because I wanted it to be so. I was wrong and had a face full of chewed up corn feed to prove it. Speaking of spitting, this llama incident brought to mind the following scripture: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:15-16 Like the llama sign, there is a warning we need to read- and HEED. And if we don’t, well, there’s a consequence. When it comes to llamas, we can get a wet wipe and clean ourselves up. But what happens if we choose to ignore Jesus’ warning? Do we want to deal with that? Do we really consider how much we value Jesus? Is He relevant to our daily lives? Are we hot, cold or lukewarm toward Him? The definition of the word, “lukewarm” is as follows: “showing little enthusiasm: showing or having little enthusiasm, interest, support, or conviction.” Is that us? Is that you? Is that me? A little inventory of ourselves is needed, isn’t it? I don’t know about you, but the lukewarm possibility makes me squirm. What will we do with the warning? Will we stop, consider and heed it? Or, will we go on our own merry way, ignore it and feed the llama? I can think of few examples in which spitting is considered a desired result in any circumstance. We have a choice. We can choose to love and pursue Jesus and God’s high calling on our lives. All of us can improve on our love stance. What will we do? Spit or no spit? That is the question. Copyright © 2013 by Sheryle Cruse

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Funhouse Mirrors

When I was a little girl, I once went into one of those carnival funhouses with the mirrors.
It was the one and only time I did so. I remember I didn’t get very far. I took one look at my distorted series of reflected images and high-tailed it out of there so fast, you could probably see my streak marks hang in the air. Festive. Cut to about fourteen years later: I was nineteen or twenty years old when I was, once again, standing in front of multiple mirror images. Only this time, there was no carnival- and certainly, no fun. It was, instead, just me, choosing to stand and scrutinize myself in front of my three-way mirror, picking myself apart, via my disordered eating and body image behaviors. It was often during those times that I would ask God why He made me in the first place. What was the point? Was the torment of eating disorders all there was? Were the constant weight and food battles all there was to me? I hated what I saw so much of the time, regardless of where I was on the scale. At my thinnest, I hated what I saw; at my heaviest, I hated what I saw. Did God see me the same way? “Do you have eyes of flesh? Do you see as a mortal sees?” Job 10:4 Yeah, I was certainly living a Job kind of existence. It’s not a “skip to my loo” kind of approach. But no, God doesn’t stop at surface appearances- thank God! He looks deeper… “…God does not see as humans see. Humans look at outward appearances, but the LORD looks into the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7 And, isn’t that one of the problems for those of us dealing with eating disorders and body image issues? The old adage states there’s no reality, only perception. So, some of us perceive ourselves to be ugly and worthless. But is that the truth? Scientific studies state that there is a chemical disturbance in the brain function of many who suffer from eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia. Simply stated, the brain wiring of these individuals prevents them from seeing their physical bodies as they actually are. Instead, they only see themselves as the distorted “funhouse mirror” version of themselves. You know the saying, “seeing is believing?” Well, I guess that’s what can happen if the brain can only register one particular perception, even if it’s an inaccurate one. I believed that inaccurate perception for a long time. And, as years have passed, I’ve also had a spiritual reawakening as well concerning my disordered eating and image issues. Eating disorders, at their core, are spiritual matters. For my own situation, I had to recognize and confront how I let my own eating disorder behavior become some form of idolatry. Pleasant, isn’t it? According to “The Oxford American Desk Dictionary and Thesaurus Second Edition,” the definition of idolatry reads as follows: “the worship of idols. great adulation. The image of a deity, etc., as an object of worship. the object of excessive or supreme adulation, a graven image icon, effigy, symbol, fetish, totem, god, hero or heroine, star, celebrity.” Yeah, that covered it for me. Whether or not I knew it, my image desires and eating disorder behaviors were idols. I thought I was in control. But, before I knew it, all of my “little idols” turned into razor-sharp funhouse torture mirrors, mocking and threatening me. I had lost sight of my one true God. “I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me.” Exodus 20:2-3 And by disobeying that very first commandment, I had opened myself up to unnecessary pain. My eating disorders were not God’s Will or God’s fault. And, while it would be all too easy to blame myself here, I had to accept the fact that I was not completely hopeless; I still could make another choice. No matter how low I went with my eating disorders, there still was a way out: God. “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13
Like that childhood experience of the funhouse mirrors, I had a choice about what I could do. I could continue to stare into the scary, inaccurate reflections, or I could leave them and shift my view elsewhere. So, where- or more accurately, who- is that elsewhere? Three letters- starting with a “G…” “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; a righteous person rushes to it and is lifted up above the danger.” Proverbs 18:10 What’s your funhouse mirror? Is it an eating disorder? An addiction? Some other self-destructive behavior? Are you choosing to stare into that hopeless, futureless and lifeless reflection or are you choosing to look for God? If the funhouse isn’t so fun, then what? What will you do? You do have a better option out there. There is a better reflection, waiting to look back at you. Will you choose it? Copyright © 2013 by Sheryle Cruse

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Look At Jairus’ Daughter

Since I was a child, the Biblical account of Jairus’ daughter has been a big influence in my life. “While he yet spake, there came from the ruler of the synagogue's house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further? As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe. And he suffered no man to follow him, save Peter, and James, and John the brother of James. And he cometh to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and seeth the tumult, and them that wept and wailed greatly. And when he was come in, he saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn. But when he had put them all out, he taketh the father and the mother of the damsel, and them that were with him, and entereth in where the damsel was lying. And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise. And straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with a great astonishment. And he charged them straitly that no man should know it; and commanded that something should be given her to eat.” Mark 5:35-43 And, once my 1995 rededication experience happened in 1995, it has taken on greater personal meaning for me. It did, after all, result in both my eating disorder recovery and book, “Thin Enough,” not mention, my spiritual relationship with God. Not too shabby, a story about a supposedly dead little girl, eh? And, since then, I’ve loved different artistic interpretations of the scripture. I find it interesting how different artists tell the story. We see one telling of Jesus in the doorway… One of Jesus reaching for her hand, while still in her “deathbed…” And there have been some expressions of Jairus’ daughter actually sitting up in her bed, “resurrected…” …Including, yes, even my own take on it… The point is, no matter where you are in proximity to Jesus, no matter where Jesus is in proximity to you, it’s relevant. It’s alive. It’s alive because it’s God’s Word which cannot fail… “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. 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 55:8-11 Wherever you are in your life, your recovery, your issues, “the arise message” is still right there. Personally apply it for yourself! Copyright © 2013 by Sheryle Cruse

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Too Old and Haggard?

Alright, I’m irked. I know in today’s celebrity and image consumed culture, we focus on a lot of ridiculous things. So, it should not have surprised me when I came across a headline this morning on MSN’s home page, “Lopez Looks Old?” Yeah, here we go, happy weekend, everyone. Everyone out from under the proverbial rock knows who Jennifer Lopez or “J-Lo” is. She’s frequently gossiped about in fashion, music and celebrity discussions. She did a lot of great stuff for the derriere acceptance. Remember “Bennifer?” And she’s mentioned frequently for her Puerto Rican beauty. She’s been on numerous magazine covers. So, of course, as a curious onlooker, I was intrigued by the headline and started reading the online article by Kat Giantis. And this was what I discovered which I believe goes under the “Gimme a reality check break” file: "’Her camp feels she looks old and haggard,’ a Lopez source tells the New York Post. Word is, her people contacted the mag to kvetch about the photo…” This People magazine cover here.
Yes, this one. “Too old.” It’s another case of the uphill battle of focusing unrealistic expectations/emphasis on appearance. Yay. It’s not surprising. Frustrating and disappointing? Yes. Maddening and irritating? Yes. Quite ridiculous and unfair? You bet! And it’s not scripturally beneficial. Gossip. That’s what it is. It’s unproductive at its best and harmful at its worst. And whether it’s online, television or magazines, like “People Magazine” here, we are all drawn to it, giving it credence. But what’s the point? Check out the following scriptures: “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” Ephesians 4:29 “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” Romans 14:19 “Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” Romans 15:2 “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 C’mon, is that what this “entertainment” is doing here? Really? Have we gotten so distorted in our thinking that we can honestly think this image of Jennifer Lopez is “haggard?” And just look everywhere around the story for the ageism! Why should we ever equate old age with that “haggard” word? Again, it’s not scripturally accurate. The Bible, in fact, has this to say about age-or aging, more specifically… “Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is obtained by following a righteous path.” Proverbs 16:31 (Don’t tell L’oreal or Clairol hair color about that). Yes, I’m on a rant here. I’m not the first to kvetch about the issue. But we have gotten so screwed up, as a culture, in our definitions of attributes: words like “young,” “old,” “fat,”” thin,” “beautiful” and “ugly” are just a few adjective examples of this sick way of thinking. Jennifer Lopez is a woman in her 40’s. Should there be a good or bad distinction made about that? None of us can stop time and the aging process, even armed with the best cosmetics and surgical procedures. It happens. If Jennifer Lopez is “too old and haggard,” then what’s the epitome of “young and fresh?” Is it an unusually tall for her age seven year old model, made up to look like she’s a sophisticated nineteen- year old? C’mon! Again, believing and promoting this kind of thing, at best, is unproductive; at worst, it’s harmful. It’s idle. And, according to scripture… “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.” Matthew 12:36 Yikes! But you and I CAN stop it; in fact, we’re INSTRUCTED to stop it… “But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” Colossians 3:8 If nothing changes, nothing changes. Where are we, when we see articles like this? Do we agree or disagree? Is culture’s decree on youth, age, beauty, weight and worth the final say…or is God’s Word? And what will that final say positively or negatively do for each of us in our lives. We decide. “…Choose you this day whom ye will serve…” Joshua 24:15 Look at what “they” say about Ms. Lopez. Do you really want to choose that ruling for yourself? Copyright © 2013 by Sheryle Cruse

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Female Role Power

When we’re little girls, many of us have, at some point, wanted to be an actress. I did. I was “bitten” by the bug at age nine, when I played a baby doll in a school play. From there, I acted in various schools plays and eventually graduated from college as a theatre major. And during that time, I was exposed to Shakespeare and of course, his female characters. Which ones stood out the most to me? Juliet,
Queen Gertrude
and Lady Macbeth
were the most influential. I first encountered the Juliet character on a Brady Bunch episode. I know. It was during the time Franco Zefferelli’s film was out, portraying our young star crossed lovers.
And, by the time I hit high school, I’d seen the film. What wasn’t to like? Drama, a love story and two very beautiful lead actors; Juliet was played by Olivia Hussey.
Anyway, it lines right up with my desire to be beautiful, seeing her in that role. And, of course, a large part of wanting to be an actress, for me, was associated with being that beauty. And so, it begins. I pursued acting in high school productions. By the time I entered college, I decided to be a theatre major. I was a great way to express myself- and a nifty way to avoid having to take math classes as well. I know. But I was hopeless at algebra. Anyway, by college, I was introduced to Hamlet- and the leading lady role of the young, fragile-and crazy- Ophelia.
She was the love interest of Hamlet-(again, the start-crossed lovers theme)- and I bought into its mystique. Or rather, I bought into the ingénue’s mystique. Ingénue. According to its definition, the word means… "An unsophisticated girl or young woman: a girl or young woman who is naive and lacks experience or understanding of life; A naive character in drama: a character in a play or a movie who is a naive inexperienced young woman"
Really? That’s what little girls want to be when we grow up? Hmmm… I mention it because, for years, that very word was associated with beauty for me. And, since I so wrongly linked beauty with extreme delicate thinness, well, all sorts of things went awry. Hopelessness, despair, wrong views of God, as well as both physical and emotional complications, like, irregular heartbeat and suicidal thoughts were just a few fun highlights. So, I was far from eating disorder recovery during my college years, but it was during this time I became familiar with another type of “leading lady”- the strong, and yes, often sinister, complicated kind. Yay. During my exposure to Hamlet I became most familiar with Queen Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother.
I won’t give away the plot, for those of you who haven’t read the classic play, but let me just say yes, “it’s complicated.” And Queen Gertrude was no ingénue, no unsophisticated woman. During my junior year I was, in fact, a Queen Gertrude understudy. That was great. However, I still yearned to play those blasted ingénue roles. What can I say? I still wanted to be the fairy princess. And that’s how I regarded the ingénue. I wasn’t wanting, necessarily, to be dark, complicated or strong. I wanted to be the beauty. Let’s hear it for my wonderful embracing of female empowerment. But, as my college career plucked along, I became more intrigued by the dark, the sinister and the complicated. Acting already was a way I could safely channel emotions and feelings which “good girls” didn’t express. I soon reveled in the power of playing the strong, complicated or even wicked woman. This is where I encountered Lady Macbeth in a more relevant way, beyond my required reading, at least, in high school English classes. Indeed, by my Senior year of college, in all of my theatrical misadventures, I was informed that I possessed such power, as belonging to that Shakespearean character. In a directing class, a fellow theatre student was told that he miscast his choice for Lady Macbeth in the scene he was directing for a class exercise. Then the theatre instructor referred to me. In fact, he said that I should play this famous character; I could “play mean.” I loved hearing that! It’s as if any of my weaknesses were immediately canceled out. And, late in my senior year of college, I was cast as “Lady M” herself. Because of the complicated staging of the play, the production eventually fell through. But after immediately learning my lines (yes, I’m that kinda person), I felt empowered reciting them during those few rehearsals. I saw the character’s sinister nature present itself as strength and yes, a force to be reckoned with. So, go with it, right? Yes, I equated “mean” or angry to that of great power.
Being denied permission to possess any anger myself for much of my life, especially dealing with my eating disorder behaviors, in this theatre moment, I decided to take this strong persona- and all that it represented- and run! Run dramatically! Run fantastically! And yes, run mean!!! I ran amok, amok, amok is really what I did. Oh yeah and I ran my share of some bad acting also. But “being mean” in character meant that I could push boundaries, get what I want; it meant that I was powerful. Never mind the real weak person I actually was; no, please look at this acting (lie) I’m giving you! Don’t I have it all together? Aren’t I a force to be reckoned with? Not exactly. Like the famous player’s speech from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet, the speech all of us theatre students were required to learn, I indeed, was… “…tearing a passion to tatters, to very rags…” But power, by virtue of a mean character or a mean presentation of myself drove me to keep other people at bay and me on track in getting ahead. Not exactly “sugar and spice and all things nice,” is it? But I would be heard! I would be powerful! I would not be who I actually was! Lady Macbeth, indeed, would pop up a few times for me in my life. When I asked my theatre professor for audition piece suggestions, again, Lady Macbeth came up. Now, please keep in mind that, at the time, I was already doing dramatic pieces, “crazy women,” like the homeless bag lady from Jane Wagner’s “The Search For Signs of Intelligent Life In the Universe.” Therefore, I questioned his suggestion, informing him that I’d already done some strange and wacky pieces. His response? “You know you’ve already set yourself up. You’re strong; you have a strong presence.” He told me I am a great character actress. So much for the ingénue roles, huh? So, from that point on, I changed my view of the non-ingénue roles, like Queen Gertrude and Lady Macbeth. Roles. Do we box ourselves in, believing only certain female roles are worthy? How do we feel about beauty, wifedom and motherhood, for instance? Do we get into a catfight- emotionally, mentally and even-yikes-physically, simply because we’re insecure about the role we’re currently playing? Is this really how God wants us to live and relate to one another? It’s been years, and now, with cliché hindsight, I’ve discovered that way of being is not God’s best. Nope. Being competitive, covetous, sinister, plotting and frankly, “hell on wheels,” even if, like Queen Gertrude or Lady Macbeth we’re interesting characters, is not exactly what God had in mind for us when it comes to living with ourselves, other women- and all people, for that matter.
God has a better way; check it out: “You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.” Titus 2:1-5 Does it seem like an impossible, highly offensive tall order? As women, we can get edgy about such hot button words as “self-controlled,” “pure” and “subject to their husbands” (that one alone is dicey to our sensibilities). I know I’ve done my share of squirming. But I often think how much different things would have turned out if, say Queen Gertrude mentored Ophelia or Lady Macbeth signed up to be someone’s big sister. Okay, I know it’s a stretch. But, what could happen if we stopped striving against each other? What could happen if competition and envy ceased? God gives us the template of the Proverbs 31 Woman. “10Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. 11 The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. 12 She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life. 13 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. 14 She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar. 15 She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens. 16 She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. 17 She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms. 18 She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night. 19 She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. 20 She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. 21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet. 22 She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple. 23 Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land. 24 She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant. 25 Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come. 26 She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. 27 She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. 28 Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. 29 Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excel them all. 30 Favor is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised. 31 Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.” Proverbs 31:10-31 Again, looking at it, it appears to be an impossibly tall order. But what if we saw our worth as already there, only improving with time as we grow and age? In the context of the Proverbs 31 Woman, there is no time clock on her value, her beauty, her dignity or her accomplishments. She’s not limited by anything because, as is, she is who God created and called her to be. May we take on that role! Copyright © 2013 by Sheryle Cruse

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

January 2013 Issue of Serene Scene Magazine

This issue features the article, written by Cruse, "Steps to the New Year," discussing the challenges of new year's resolutions and improvements for the addict's recovery process.

No Drama!

In college, I was a theatre major. If you remotely know me at all, this is the point in which you say, “That explains it.” Drama queen, overly dramatic, emotionally driven- these are all description of the sort. Perhaps, these words even describe you. In today’s popular culture, the phrase, “no drama” is prevalent. It is, in fact, many times the preference for how we would like to live. Yet, if this is the goal, why do we have so much drama, often self-inflicted, going on in our lives? I’ll be the first one to admit I am a drama queen. And I’ll be the first to admit that, for the most part, my theatre degree has been as relevant to my daily current life as underwater basket weaving. As I’ve focused more on writing and a supposed direction in which I believe God is taking it, alas, my thespian days seem to be in the past. But, there have been some relevant lessons I have learned from my study as an actress. And yes, they can often translate to explain, and hopefully illuminate and aid, the ailment known as “drama.” Won’t you bear with me while I try to explain myself? Audition: First, you have to audition for the drama. That usually means you prepare a monologue of some sort. You fixate on a particular piece to hopefully, win the audition- and the people you’re reciting it for. Back as a desperate theatre student, this occupied me immensely, already suffering from my perfectionistic mentality. I wondered which approach would be strongest: the funny goofball, just rife with a yuck-yuck response from my “audience,” a sad tear-jerker of a piece, designed to promote sniffling and weeping or something of the mentally unstable, psychotic variety, creating uncomfortable squirms from those watching me. I’ve done all three, but, mostly, I gravitated toward a combination of the tear-jerking psychopath. Some audition examples include a suicide bomber, a bag lady and a jilted lover. Yeah. Long story short: I wanted people to cry and squirm. Ain’t I a sweet one? The purpose? To get attention, I suppose. I could overanalyze the choice and factor in family dynamics and latent this or that, but attention-getting is really at the core of it. And isn’t attention a great magnet for drama? “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23 Think about your own life and circumstances for a minute. You may have never been in any kind of stage play, but haven’t you done something, turned on some kind of tears or theatrics, all because you wanted some form of attention? Maybe you were the class clown, the love struck teenager or the needy child, desperate to gain some favor from a disinterested parent. Why did you and I do whatever dramatic, destructive and/or illegal activity each of us chose? It was to get attention.
So, wouldn’t it serve each one of us well to stop and examine that reality, asking ourselves, “why am I doing this?” Wouldn’t it be helpful to look at it before we did that deed, instead of regretting and looking at the “after” wreckage? The after wreckage is so much more complicated, isn’t it? So, the audition portion of our drama is already complete. Get the script: Next, we’re on the script. When it’s an actual play or some other desirable thing we’re auditioning for, the script still exists. Indeed, the rehearsal of the drama, via the script, doesn’t always mean we “get” something, be in stage role, goal, or desired thing or person. Either way, we’re still in the process of looking at the story, whether it is a “happily ever after” or epic tragedy. We can generate drama by the giddy “twitterpated” (see the Disney film, “Bambi” for the animated definition of the word) display of new and/or eternal love or by the abject poverty, loss and grief of something painful in our lives. We choose. Yes, it’s that power of positive (or negative) thinking cliché. What do we do with a template of a predicament, the script? How will we respond to it? Imagine and create a scenario: And that often leads us into the wonderful world of our imagination, for better or worse. It’s necessary in the theatre context to tap into this aspect of drama. We need to use our imaginations to envision character traits and motivations; we, as actors, desire to create a believable world and time. We want to convince our audience that the play is real. After all, according to Shakespeare, “the play is the thing.” And that’s great for theatre. Where it goes awry, however, is when that intense, often imagined or exaggerated drama goes skipping amuck in our lives, making us feel out of control and panicky. This is largely due to the imagination games of “what if” we so often trump up to such power. You’ve played the “what if” game many times, I’m sure. It’s the fear/dread/expectation of something, creating an anxiety-laden question, without following through and providing any answer to that question. And there lies the torment, a/k/a, the drama, in full living Technicolor. “For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me.” Job 3:25 Buying into that drama in our lives is erecting its power over God and His Truth. Not a great choice there. “Casting down arguments, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5 Learn the lines: And so, we begin to learn to say the things we fearing or do not want. Lovely. Why? It’s because we’re addicted to the drama of it, the larger than life nature of it. There has to be a reason we do it, right? The big payoff of manipulating people, gaining sympathy or again, attention keeps us saying some incredibly horrible things, doesn’t it? But we really have no clue what we’re doing. There is tremendous power in our words. It works for both the positive and the negative. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” Proverbs 18:21 Yippee!!! So, what are we saying? The things we’re wanting, the things which are healthy and loving? Or, is it all about the self-destructive? Let’s check out God’s approach… “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23 Sounds anti-drama to me. Back in college, my attack strategy was to learn my lines as thoroughly, perfectly and quickly as possible. Sometimes, I learned other actors’ lines as well. In all of my fear-driven paranoia, however, I mistakenly believed that if I was just prepared enough or perfect enough, there would be no mistakes or pain. Wrong! My perfectionistic need mandated complete control of life. Yeah, that’s realistic. And that perfectionism was creating and exacerbating the drama, which was doing such great things for my life and blood pressure already, right? Drama recovery lesson one: I needed to get over myself and the answer of a perfect life; it wasn’t happening. Rehearse the lines: Nevertheless, repetition solidified my knowledge of the lines and the creation of the play’s scenes. It became second nature and the cues were easier to bounce off from when I had my lines down pat. And, in life, we can get stuck in word ruts of our own, can’t we? We can easily find ourselves repeating words which don’t help us. Examples can include “Always,” “Never,” as in “I’ll always be alone and miserable” and “I’ll never achieve my goal.” Again… “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” Proverbs 18:21 The short-term gratification of spewing certain destructive words, even expletives, may feel wonderful and yes, quite dramatic as we believe we’re powerfully making our point, but what really does it accomplish which helps us? “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.” Proverbs 15:1 “Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter anything before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.” Ecclesiastes 5:2 As with a lot of “guilty pleasures” in life, things, including our words, may feel great in the moment, but regret, pain and damage usually follow later. Now, you may say that you have no control over your temper. Wrong! You do. Again, I refer you to the following scripture: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23 We have self-control. Do we always enjoy using it? No, of course not, but we do have it, all the same. How much are we exercising it in our lives? Self-destructive drama would rather we didn’t; drama wants to run the show. And whether you wish to call it drama or ego, it still is true that when it calls the shots in our lives, chaos and destruction inevitably occur. It’s all about which wolf you feed the most; it is what we repeatedly do. Rehash performances: And that brings me to the next point: the performances. When I was cast in certain play productions, of course, after the audition, the script, the learning and the rehearsal of lines, sooner or later, there were the actual performances. Lights, camera, action! Or, if not that spectacular of a reality, then, perhaps it was more like lather, rinse, repeat. There were many “off” nights. Lines were flubbed, people tripped and pregnant pauses you could drop kick a cannonball through. But, the showbiz expression, “the show must go on” still holds true. You get through it, try to recover and convince the audience things are great, even if your mustache or wig is falling off. You just deal. And that’s quite a challenge for us drama queens. It’s all or nothing, according to our larger than life mentalities. “Off” nights make us feel life is meaningless, horrible and over. Calm down, it’s not. It’s just life. And, as for the great nights? Yes, they’re there too. The challenge with these nights is to believe they’ll last forever. They won’t and they don’t Sorry to burst the bubble. But again, that’s life (I hear Frank Sinatra). And life is repetitious, joyous, wonderful, tedious, brilliant, embarrassing, heartbreaking and imperfect. Wherever we are in it, then, we need to gauge how much drama is ostentatiously galloping through our circumstances. Life can be dull at times; I don’t want to squelch sparkle. But, cliché alert: it’s about balance! Ta-dah! Feel wonderful yet, or are you groaning? I know, balance, moderation, self-control are not the fun party words. They certainly aren’t dramatic. But they’re there as a help to keep us from completely going off the rails. “Let all things be done decently and in order.” 1 Corinthians 14:40 “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace…” 1 Corinthians 14:43 And we kind of need that. Outgrow performance: And, finally, after the performance stage, there comes the outgrowing of the performance stage. I mention this because, all too often, we can get stuck in a moment in time. You, again, may have never been in any kind of stage play, but, more than likely, there was some kind of “glory days” experience in your life. To quote, the Boss, Bruce Springsteen, “glory days- they’ll pass you by, glory days- in the wink of a young girl’s eye.” You get the idea. Ideally, these memories are supposed to spring fond thoughts to our minds; we’re not supposed to live there forever. When I was a junior in college, I was cast as the character, “Bananas” in John Guare’s play, “The House of Blue Leaves.” It was a great role; I got to play a crazy housewife who barks. Yes, barks. Anyway, there was the two months of rehearsal, followed by the two weeks’ worth of performances. And, in the time and the space of the play’s performances, it was perfectly normal for me to act like her, to say my crazy lines and to bark. However, if years later, I were to do that now, well, I’d get a few more eyebrows raised and phone calls made about my behavior. There is a time and a place for everything. Again, to quote scripture… “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 Bishop T.D. Jakes had a wonderful message, years ago, in which he spoke of “enjoying the beauty of the season you’re in.” And it’s not conducive to do that if the drama queen in us believes only “way back when” was appropriately dramatic, beautiful and wonderful. Is that you? Are you bemoaning your present day existence? Do you see nothing of value there? Do you feel you need to have a much more exciting life than you’re currently experiencing? To those questions, I, again, refer to scripture… “…I am fearfully and wonderfully made…” Psalm 139:14 “…being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6 Feeling jumpy and uncertain about how things are going? Feeling the drama queen restlessly spinning in your mind? Calm down. Breathe. And hey, here’s another choice: trust 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 Our dramatic ways will not and cannot improve upon God’s ways of handling our lives. Absorb that thought for a second. Are you trying to play God through your addiction to and creation of your own drama? How’s that going? Is drama your God? It’s not a comfortable question, is it? But it’s one each one of us, myself included, need to answer at some time for ourselves. And, if you come up with an answer you don’t like, opt out of the automatic dramatic response, filled with anxiety and despair. And try on God’s reality: “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?” Jeremiah 32:27 You, your life and circumstances are never, repeat, never, too difficult for God…even if/when your drama queen flares up. Calm down, breathe, trust God and entertain the blessings which can, indeed, come from a life containing the phrase “no drama.” It is possible! Copyright © 2013 by Sheryle Cruse

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Aftermath Encore

Worth repeating and living, this January 1st- be blessed!!! “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23 Ugh! Does that word describe you today? Or is it more like post- New Year's regret? A hangover? Self-loathing? Are you feeling great today or bleh instead? This holiday season has the overindulgence factor attached to it. Regardless of how you did last night- or last year, there is always a new start. Never feel condemned and hopeless. God is in the “day by day business,” not the “or else smiting business” when it comes to His love for you. “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.” 2 Corinthians 4:16 And that reality never hinges upon our imperfect and overindulging natures. He just loves us, constantly and lavishly. Whatever you feel today, please remember renewal is God’s speciality in His love for you! Be made new today! Copyright © 2013 by Sheryle Cruse