Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Jennifer's Perspective

Knock and Knock and Knock

We’re familiar with “knock, knock jokes.” “Knock, knock…” “Who’s there?” And then we insert whatever punch line to complete the joke; it’s usually pretty silly. Knocking: it seems to signify persistence. And, in this life game, persistence is necessary to obtain major goals and benchmarks. The challenge is to not give up. Simply stated, but not simply executed, huh? Scripture also addresses the knocking issue: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Luke 11:9-10 So, why aren’t we all a-knocking away? We’re finite, imperfect, flawed people…who get tired. And with that tired state, we often give up, in spite of the scripture telling us to do otherwise… “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Galatians 6:9 It comes down to a fun word: patience. “In your patience possess ye your souls.” Luke 21:19 I know- groan here. There is a method to the patience madness, however. “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope:” Romans 5:3-4 Yeah. Still more fun times ahead. “But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.” Romans 8:25 None of this patience thing feels great. It feels like discipline, which, let’s be real, feels like punishment. “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening--it's painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” Hebrews 12:11 Yay. So much fun! Because, after all, we want what we want and we want it now, right? But patience still is required, like it or not. “For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.” Hebrews 10:36 And here’s where scripture comes in. “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” Romans 15:4 No, we may not be in a celebratory mood about this entire thing. Nevertheless, there is a point to it. Again… “For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.” Hebrews 10:36 And that brings us back to Jesus. “Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;” 1 Thessalonians 1:3 Remember Him? He had to go through it also.
So, we revisit the knocking thing… “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Revelation 3:20
Patience has its reward. And we’re never more important than Jesus, especially when it comes to experiencing unpleasant things… "For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. "Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. "If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” John 13:15-17 Yet again, there is a promise for “hanging in there,” if we keep persisting… “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” Romans 8:16-17 But that requires knocking…and knocking…and, sometimes, MORE knocking… It’s up to each of us to decide. So.. “Knock, knock…” “Who’s there?” Is it you and I? How CAN it be today? Copyright © 2013 by Sheryle Cruse

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Please...every single one of us...let's be pro-girl!

Fuzzy Body

This is a doll from my childhood.
I don’t have an explanation why she has a fuzzy body. But I started thinking about the power of distortion. Scripture tells us our thoughts carry great significance regarding our self-image. “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he...” Proverbs 23:7 I thought playing with Barbie dolls skewed things enough. But this toy was on the scene long before I started my Barbie play. Yikes. With eating disorders, science has shown there is a distorted image the mind fixates on. “Distorted body image is common in people with anorexia. Instead of an ideal body shape, they see a fat person. This can be due to cognitive distortions, or Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), where the mind is not able to see and interpret things correctly.” (Distorted Body Image In Anorexia Nervosa) Someone with anorexia or bulimia, for instance, may see themselves as significantly larger than they are. So, their perception of their body is, indeed, “fuzzy.” Many of us who are struggling with disordered eating and body image issues have a warped self-image. This doll may be something we look at and logically know is not a realistic human representation. But emotionally, somewhere, somehow, we may internalize it as our true nature. Likewise, we may react in complete defiance of that “truth,” going in the other direction, pursuing our own self-defined ideal image, usually extreme thinness. We can be caught between two harmful and inaccurate images. Our brains are powerful machines. Our thoughts can work against us, creating an environment for eating disorders to thrive. “…in case of people suffering with eating disorders it is unwanted actions like negative thoughts about their body image that lead to the development of at ED... …When people start having bad thoughts and feelings about themselves their brain begins to develop certain new neuronal wiring (or connections) to produce certain behaviors. When people continue to acting on pathological behaviors like starving, binging-purging, over exercising etc: these neuronal pathways grow stronger and stronger. Basically it is what you think is what you get. You see any behavior we have or regular thoughts we think there are certain brain maps developed and pathways formed. These new brain maps can start to take up a huge amount of space in our brain until they become all powerful. Eating disorders take up a huge amount of space in the brain because they affect nearly all aspects of the sufferer's life. So, when it comes to eating disorder treatment if it does not work on changing the old neuronal pathways it is not going to work. What has to happen is for the sufferer to develop new neuronal pathways and build them around the old faulty pathological ones that is their ED. When you start using these new pathways (the healthy pathways) they become stronger and stronger and eventually they will replace the old pathological ones (the old pathological ones will fade)… …The first thing is to come to the realization that what your brain is telling you to do may not be correct so there is no need to act on it every time. Your brain is not your mind and you can influence it with better thoughts and action…But your mind is what you do, what decision you make, and what perception about yourself you give to others… (Eating Disorders Are Result of Brain Plasticity By Irina Webster) We can get obsessed with molding ourselves into a certain image. Based on what we think we see-or want to see, we can, unfortunately strive to obtain it. Eating disorders are often that result. We are not to mold ourselves to any image, other than Jesus’ Image. “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 Recovery, self-concept and life are all “in process” things. Indeed, we’re going “from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Let’s remember that as we view anything, any image in our lives. Are we seeing the truth or is it “fuzzy,” even concerning our physical bodies? Copyright © 2013 by Sheryle Cruse

Monday, July 29, 2013

Picasso Selves

Distortion. That’s the name of the game when it comes to body image issues and disordered eating, isn’t it? For those of us who have come to believe only the most narrow of criteria constitutes actual beauty, a/k/a, “being thin,” distortion is, indeed, running amok in our bodies and lives. When I recently came across this image, I thought about the famous artist, Pablo Picasso. Most of his work challenges the “typical” representation of the human form. He always seemed to paint an ear where a nose or eye should be. I’m sure you’ve seen some of his stuff. It looks bizarre, unrealistic and even disturbing. But that was his artistic vision of things; he saw ears, eyes and mouths in some nonconventional spots. And that, once again, reminded me of this particular Jesus image here. Is it merely kooky artistic interpretation or is there something more to it? Image…We get so caught up in it, don’t we? And, how could we not? After all, image has been around since the beginning: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness...” Genesis 1:26 However, this scripture is often lost on us. We’re so self-focused, we have difficulty seeing ourselves that way. Instead, we only see the “freak,” believing we’re deficient, subpar and ugly. We, therefore, pick apart, scrutinize and bemoan our “parts,” hating what we see in the mirror. And we judge it to be “bad” instead of “good,” let alone, “God created.” But that view is far more distorted and wrong than any Picasso- type painting in which an ear is painted in the middle of the face. God has intentionally created us as unique beings. “For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb.” Psalm 139:13 No two of us are alike. God considers us to be that special. “Since you were precious in my sight… I have loved you…” Isaiah 43:4 We’re loved, valued and wonderful- ALREADY!!! “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made…” Psalm 139:14 But really, c’mon, how many of us are really doing that praising God stuff concerning our features? Yep, I thought so. All we tend to see are the flaws, right? But what if what we deem to be our “flaws” is really God’s “higher thinking?” After all… “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9 Perhaps, then, we need to change a thought or two in our own heads, huh? What if every single feature and physical attribute has a larger, more magnificent and glorifying purpose? “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 We’re, by no means “finished.” That shouldn’t be discouraging; we should see it as good news. We’re changing for the better. And, regardless of where we are in the process, both our beauty and our victory are certainties! “…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 So, let’s be confident in God, not distorted in ourselves, in pop culture, media or society’s definitions of beauty. Let’s change the way we view ourselves and God; let’s see ourselves through the God Image! Copyright © 2013 by Sheryle Cruse

Saturday, July 27, 2013

"An Independence Issue"

“An Independence Issue,” written by Cruse, focuses on how addictions, disorders and compulsions are exacerbated when a person chooses his/her chosen drug of choice and unhealthy mindsets over a submitted recovery process involving God. It’s featured in the August 2013 issue.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Power of No

The disease to please. Ever hear that expression? It’s especially epidemic for us as women. We’re taught as little girls to be pleasing and agreeable. And that can translate into eating disorders and addictions for a lot of us. We stuff, hide, deny our true feelings, fearing the displeasure if we should ever entertain saying “no,” while, perhaps, choosing a self-destructive vice to soothe ourselves and cope. One little word: no. But that little word contains a lot of power- and maybe even healing? I recently came across this assertiveness training chart. How many of us, indeed, were taught anything positive about asserting ourselves? (I hear crickets). God never calls us to be doormats, incapable of turning down other peoples’ requests. Most of us are already taxed emotionally, spiritually and financially. Plus, if we think about it, we’re the ones who are giving more thought- more power- to the often times imaginary negative consequences. By saying no, people may not be thrilled with that answer, but, most of the time, they will move on and ask someone else, end of story. No muss, no fuss. It is us, however, who seem to be doing a lot more fussing, all because why? We aren’t good little girls? We aren’t pleasing? We aren’t sacrificing our feelings for someone else’s wants? Again, most people move on from a “no,” whatever that “no” may be. And we’ve opened a space for ourselves to say “yes” to something we truly want. It’s not bad; it’s not selfish. It’s even a Godly principle. “Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?” 1 Corinthians 3:16 We are being good stewards, choosing health and order over overwhelming chaos and stuffed emotions. “Let all things be done decently and in order.” 1 Corinthians 14:40 Nothing everything is for us. It doesn’t make a request evil. It just may not be a good fit for our lives at that moment. “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 But there’s no good in condemning ourselves for saying “no” when “yes” was the desired response. “Yes” will always be the desired response when someone wants something. There’s no mystery there. Choose to be empowered. God will help guide you if something is not right for your life. God won’t condemn you for saying “no.” Why not do likewise concerning yourself? Be a good steward; the “no” word is a part of that stewardship! Empower yourself by saying it as you need to! Copyright © 2013 by Sheryle Cruse

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Addiction Cycle

Right to the point. It says a lot...

Miss America

When I was a little girl, I remember getting this Miss America doll from a cereal book offer (I think it was Corn Flakes).
I loved playing with her. She was beautiful, with her long eyelashes, which weren’t just painted on; they actually stuck out.
She was dressed in a beautiful gown, red robe, Miss America sash, sparkly crown and carried a bouquet of red roses and a scepter.
She was the epitome of beauty, femininity and everything a female was “supposed” to be. As a little girl, besides wanting to be a princess and a movie star, for a time, yes, I also wanted to be Miss America. A lot of little girls do. And, throughout the years, there’s been controversy around the contest, image and aspirational importance. Criticism for the swimsuit category, unrealistic body images, pitting women against one another and the sheer focus on beauty as value for the female gender have all come into play. And the controversy is deserved, I suppose. One thing about that doll I failed to see then but think about now was the movement of her limbs. In order to “mimic” the congratulatory walk of the newly crowned Miss America down that famous runway, the doll’s arms and legs only went straight. Left arm forward triggered the right leg forward and vice versa. And, oh, yeah, her head swiveled, side to side, apparently taking in the crowd cheering her on. So, yes, that’s a completely healthy and realistic standard to teach a little girl, right? Beauty. We cannot deny its importance. The diet and cosmetic industries focus on it heavily. And horrible body image and eating disorders are just a sampling of the negative results from that emphasis. I know with my eating disorder track record, I operated from a Machiavelli “the ends justify the means.” And those “ends” were extreme thinness and perfection, also known as the desired beauty. So, I obsessed about it, pursuing it with single minded purpose. I thought losing weight, being thin, striving for attractiveness were all worthwhile. It seemed like it, especially as I received positive feedback from others about how pretty I was. That attention made me feel like I had achieved my own Miss America moment. That was it; I had finally achieved my value. But my focus was wrong, right from the start. For the attained beauty or rather, the illusion of attained beauty, was a hard taskmaster, an ever moving target, requiring I grow more desperate and extreme to achieve and maintain it. In its pursuit, I swung the full gamut: anorexia, bulimia, and binge overeating were the most obvious effects of its pursuit. But the damage went further; it affected me spiritually. “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” Proverbs 14:12 I believed the lie. I had reached the point of no return as far as God was concerned. I was not only a horrible, unattractive failure; I was also a hopeless, unloved creature God wanted nothing whatsoever to do with. “There she is…Miss America…” It’s not so bright and shiny, full of promise in that light, is it? It’s because my entire being was like that Miss America doll, only going, with rigid, tunnel vision, one way to self-destruction. How, then, could I ever expect to experience life, happiness or beauty? God has called us beautiful already. Scriptures confirm God’s view of us: “O my dove…let me see your form…for your form is lovely.” Song of Solomon 2:14 “Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee.” Song of Solomon 4:7 “Thou art beautiful, O my love…” Song of Solomon 6:4 God wants us to see ourselves positively. However, we are not to stop at beauty; we are so much more. “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30 There are gifts, talents and characteristics we haven’t tapped into yet. But if we are only focused on beauty as being the end all, be all, how can we ever hope to discover and experience them? God wants us to uncover our full selves, not just our beauty. We are created to be more than a Miss America beauty pageant title. Proverbs 31 speaks of the virtuous woman. Beauty’s an element of that virtue, but check out what else God has created us to be (verses 10-31): “A woman of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple. Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes. She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.’ Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.” That’s already you, now! Explore, experience and live it! It’s far more rewarding than any pageant could ever be! Copyright © 2013 by Sheryle Cruse

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Beyond "Friends"

Bravo to Lisa Kudrow, who speaks about not participating in any kind of “Friends” reunion. She joked about being “too old,” but the main argument against reprising her character role of Phoebe had to do with simple moving on. “Friends” is over, well, unless you count syndication. But that magic era is over; the pop culture landscape has changed. It’s a change in seasons. “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:” Ecclesiastes 3:1 There’s powerful beauty in embracing your current season, of letting go of the past. We would all do well to live this lesson.

And Action!

I was a theatre major in college. Yes, I was “one of those.” And part of that study involved studying directing. As a director, I was in charge of the lighting, the staging and the actors involved the scene. Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, I was able to play God, be all powerful and call the shots. So, it’d be no problem whatsoever for control freak me, right? Yikes. For those of us with addictions, disorders and compulsions, it can be tempting to believe the answer is if we’re just in control enough, perfect enough or powerful enough. And so, we chase playing God, often using our vices to propel us to such a state in which we feel in control of our lives, comforted and confident. But we aren’t. The exact opposite occurs, actually. And that’s where, yet again, we come back to God and His Word; we can’t do anything without Him: “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” John 15:4-5 That’s the cold hard truth, whether or not we want to accept it. In fact, God’s fully aware of our vulnerable condition. “For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.” Psalms 103:14 And that’s precisely why we need Jesus. We cannot “get it together” enough in our own strength. But, with Jesus? “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Philippians 4:13 We must never forget we are not alone in life; God’s always there, always offering to help us. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalms 46:1 “Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand.” Psalm 73:23 “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go: I will guide you with My eye.” Psalm 32:8 But HE is the ultimate Director, not us! Are we insisting on calling our own shots? God knows better. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9 “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 Let’s allow Him to do better by us, call action and direct us to incredible lives and blessings! It is possible! Copyright © 2013 by Sheryle Cruse

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Neely O’Hara

I recently watched the cult classic, “Valley of the Dolls,” the chick film based on Jacqueline Suzanne’s legendary book which took the 1960’s by storm for its dish-y look at starlets in Hollywood as they deal with fame, sex and drugs. And one of its lead characters, Neely O’Hara, played by Patty Duke, indeed, travels down a rocky, highly dramatic and addicted road of stardom and self-destruction. It’s drama queen chick film at its epic best! And, at the end of the wild ride, Neely suffers the damage done to her acting career, via her drug addiction. She is reduced to being in an alley, at night, screaming, “God-d-d-d-d!”
Yeah. I believe one calls this “hitting bottom.” Been there, ever? Perhaps we’ve never had such a dramatic low with addiction or disorders, but it’s probably safe to say we’ve all reached a personal low point of some kind of crisis or helpless state. And, because of our inherent imperfect human vulnerability, God has created a deep heart cry of help for Him. Hence, “God-d-d-d!” “The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who CALL upon Him in TRUTH.” Psalm 145:18 A dark alley is not mandatory. Are you screaming, in pain, in need, right now? Who are you calling for? Is it God? Call to Him right now. He assures us He’s there, He hears and He responds to that cry: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Romans 10:13 “Then you will CALL upon me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you and you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all of your heart... I will be found by you, says the LORD.” Jeremiah 29:12 What’s stopping you? Pride? Shame? Failure? Whatever it is, God already knows it- and STILL loves you. Just look at what He says about that love! “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 “The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” Jeremiah 31:3 “I have chosen you and have not cast you away.” Isaiah 41:9 “Since you were precious in my sight… I have loved you…” Isaiah 43:4 He’s not waiting to squash you, to punish or shame you. He wants to be in a relationship with you, help and, of course, love you. What’s your heart cry today? Whether or not you know or believe it, you are crying out for Him. Please don’t let anything stop you from reaching out to Him. He wants you more than you know. Take a tip from Neely O’Hara; cry out to Him right now! And see how He’ll love and answer you back! Copyright © 2013 by Sheryle Cruse

Amen and Amen

Monday, July 15, 2013

How Is Your Thinking?

Cruse’s article, “How Is Your Thinking?” appears in the July 15th issue of “Christians In Recovery Magazine.” It deals with the power of our words and thoughts, concerning body and self-image, especially in the addiction/disorder recovery process.

I'm Angry, But I Still Love You

I love this sweet sentiment here:
The faith of a child, huh? And I’ve had experience with the “or else” fear mentality of anger. Coming from abuse, it was difficult to feel anger and love coexisting simultaneously. Years later, as an adult, it’s still been a challenge to untangle the two. And, in my eating disorder recovery, I’ve frequently encountered individuals who have also been plagued with the struggle of anger versus love. Most of the time, in talking with young girls and women, if there’s ever been a disagreement, they often view it as me “hating” them, all of a sudden. Not true. Even if/when I’m angry about something, it’s not hatred. But, because of the importance subscribed to approval, unless there is an overjoyed, enthusiastic “yes response,” rejection, hatred and all manner of negative conclusions are viewed to be the only result. We have gotten the anger thing quite twisted. Scripture tells us anger will come. How we respond to it is the greater issue: “Be ye angry, and sin not…” Ephesians 4:26 Easier said than practiced, I know. But I think a key to it is recognizing anger does not equal hatred/loss of love. We can be angry and love fiercely at the same time. Someone once said the opposite of love is not hate; it’s indifference. Good point. After all, how many love relationships gone sour have had individuals who are unaffected by them? There’s usually some revenge fantasies, some desire to hurt the other party. We, as our base natures, want to hurt the one who hurt us. Not exactly lovely and noble, but human? Oh yeah! There’s tons of humanity oozing there! If we’ve come from a background of abuse and perfectionism, it’s especially difficult to remain neutral. We are affected all over the place! We become sensitive to any perceived slight or rejection, all because we determine love must be constantly approving of us, be perfect and never hurt, especially if we’ve been abused. There is a premium on the “love as action” element. And, it’s further complicated if we cannot separate OUR “who” from our “do.” We want approval for every action, forsaking the reality that love approves of us as human beings, but not necessarily of every human action. God loves us unconditionally. There’s nothing we can do to get Him to “un-love” us. “Since you were precious in my sight… I have loved you…” Isaiah 43:4 “I have chosen you and have not cast you away.” Isaiah 41:9 “The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” Jeremiah 31:3 Yep, there’s a lot of love going on. There’s nothing we can do to make Him love us less- or more. He loves, beyond our finite understanding of the word and the experience. But does that mean that God is absolutely thrilled with everything we do? Of course not. In some instances, God may even be peeved with us. But He never hates us. He just isn’t always happy with our choices. Some of us, however, may have encountered abusive experiences in which love was conditional, carrying perfect expectations and wrathful violence if a standard was not achieved and maintained. The “or else” sense of dread can paralyze and confuse us; we never know where we stand. And, if that’s how it is with human relationships, how much more powerful is this dynamic with a perfect ultimately powerful God? But there’s no “or else” to God’s love for us, regardless of how He feels about our choices. He loves- constantly… “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 In fact, He got there first… “We love him, because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19 And, because of that “first love,” He gave us Jesus, even while we were imperfect, sinning, careless and, perhaps even, unloving? “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 Let’s face it. If God had to wait until we got our perfectly loving act together, He’d STILL be waiting for it to happen! Again, I repeat this scripture… “We love him, because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19 He loved us while being pleased, frustrated, hurt by, concerned for, aware of, merciful and gracious with us. And yes, during that whole love fest process, God has been angry. An angry God is scary. We’re taught about “the fear of the Lord” in scripture (Psalms 19:9; Psalms 34:11; Proverbs 9:10; Proverbs 10:27; Proverbs 14:26; Proverbs 14:27; Proverbs 19:23). But that has to do with respecting Him, not being afraid of Him. Nevertheless, we need to remember God’s attitude to His anger… “For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favor is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Psalm 30:5 We’d benefit tremendously to adopt this perspective in our own lives, in relating to God and others. Scripture tells us to “let it go,” in fact… “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” Ephesians 4:26 If our relationships don’t reflect that, they need to be examined and corrected; they may be abusive and toxic. If our view of God or even ourselves runs counter to Ephesians 4:26, it’s self-destructive; it’s not God’s chosen best for us. Isn’t it time to free ourselves from the stifling conditions we place upon love? God loves, anger or no anger. He never takes that love away. Whatever your experience has been with love and anger, please rest in God’s love being more powerful, more eternal than any temporary and/or inaccurate situation you’ve encountered. God loves you. Here. Now. Forever. “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 Copyright © 2013 by Sheryle Cruse

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

For the Price Of...

Good Meal, Bad Meal

I have mixed feelings about this image:
As a person in eating disorder recovery, my antenna goes up whenever I come across images/messages which portray a kind of “half- truth.” I believe this image is, indeed, one such message. Yes, logically, we know one serving of junk food will not make us weigh 1,000 pounds. Likewise, eating a salad will not transform us into some mythical perfect being. Both are not realistic. But, this statement, while possessing this “half-truth,” still, however, contains its bottom line message: the certain desired image is a thin body. To me, it smacks of a backhanded compliment. I remember once, when I was twenty-two years old, a younger woman (age nineteen) once told me, “you’re not that old.” (Those of you older than twenty-two, please feel free to chuckle here). But I feel this good meal/bad meal sentiment is like that. It TRIES to make us feel better, to soothe fears, to help. However, the main message still contains a judgment in it, saying, “even if you eat, the worst possible thing in the world (being fat) won’t happen to you.” The value placed on thinness and the fear of fat are still there. It’s complicated, isn’t it? I mean, c’mon, let’s face it, since the beginning, there have been food issues going on. Ever hear of Adam and Eve? “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.” Genesis 3:6 Yeah. It’s about desire; it’s about fulfilled need. It’s about something which “looks good.” But is it? And is it supposed to be that estimation to us? That’s where much of the issue lies right? We subscribe more value to food than it warrants. “Is not life more than food?” Jesus, in Matthew 6:25 In its basic purpose, food keeps us alive. It doesn’t love us, comfort us, punish us or rescue us. It keeps us living. And, ideally, from the wide variety of choices out there, food is designed to keep us healthy. Vitamins, mineral, nutrients, protein, carbohydrates and fats are a part of that process. But where do we usually place our focus? On the calories, right? Enter the “good food/bad food” principle. And each one of us has a definition of that falls under those headings, right? Salads and vegetables usually fall under the “good food” heading; ice cream and cookies usually comprise the “bad food.” But, while, yes, there are healthy and not so healthy choices out there, food does not have the power we believe it has. It’s a resource, a tool, a vehicle, something to be used for its INTENDED purpose. When it isn’t, however, that’s when eating disorders and unhealthy views/expectations come in, creating chaos and harm. And we often don’t see it, gradually believing food/diet lies we’ve been exposed to over many years. “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice: but what I hate, that I do.” The Apostle Paul in Romans 7:15 And then, “all of a sudden,” we are astonished because we have issues and/or eating disorders? We don’t understand, exactly, just how we arrived to this place of pain and confusion. But, nevertheless, here we are. But we miss some major points. First, God created food, for us: “Who giveth food to all flesh...” Psalms 136:25 More specifically, God takes care of our needs: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. Matthew 6:25-32 God isn’t anti-food; He knows we need it. Food is not a sin to Him. Wrong attitudes, however, are. It’s not because God wants to punish us; He doesn’t want us hurt by lies. And isn’t that what diets, “good and bad foods” are: lies? So, what’s a more “Godly” view of food? How about the following scriptures? “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 “And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.” 1 Timothy 6:8 God’s not hung up on whether or not we eat a candy bar or a salad. He wants us healthy and happy. And He wants us focused on HIM, more than the food of the moment. Yes, that can be a challenge, especially if the food issue has been an all-consuming one in our lives. But here’s where Psalms 136:25, once again, gives us hope: “Who giveth food to all flesh: for his mercy endureth forever.” Did you catch that second part? “…for his mercy endureth forever.” We’re not in control; God is. And God is not intimidated with our bodies, our functions and our responses to food. He knows how to handle us. He knows our needs, including our needs for His love, wisdom and mercy in our lives. Let’s trust that, then, instead of our “good/bad food” thoughts! Copyright © 2013 by Sheryle Cruse

Monday, July 8, 2013

One day...

The Alice Solution

Recently, I watched the Disney animated version of the classic story, “Alice In Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll. The story has gotten many years of pop culture attention and references. The rock band, Jefferson Airplane notoriously captured the drug aspect of it in its song, “White Rabbit.” And, as I watched the film, yes, I was struck by the “drink me” and “eat me” scenes. Alice, bored with her current existence, encounters a utopia of Wonderland, but is faced with the obstacle of a locked door: And her “solution” was to partake of these substances to alter her size. She believed she could, indeed, be “just the right size” and obtain her perfect life of this magical world. So, she encounters the “drink me” bottle, does just that and shrinks.
Likewise, she follows the advice of an “eat me” cake and grows to a mammoth size.
But, taking these substances still doesn’t solve her problem. When she was tiny, she was too small to reach the key and unlock the door; when she was too big, she couldn’t fit through the door. And it started me thinking about our views of our solutions. Scripture cautions us about drawing our own “perfect” conclusion to our life issues: “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” Proverbs 14:12 Isn’t that exactly the case for us when we turn to our addictions, disorders and crutches of all kinds? We think we’re solving our problems. But the reality is we are compounding them. We often find ourselves having gone further, lost more and experienced more pain, all through the path of choices which kicked off from one thought: “this will be my answer.” But it never is. Only God is. “…And God said…I AM THAT I AM...” Exodus 3:14 He is Who/What we’re seeking. Anything and everything else is an illegal substitute… “They chose new gods; then was war in the gates…” Judges 5:8 That’s what happens eventually in our lives when we pursue an idol: war. That pursuit WILL fail us: “Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation.” Judges 10:14 Whatever we eat, drink, focus on and give energy to, apart from God, will fail us and create further problems and complications. And is that what we want? Of course not! So let’s confront the Alice in each of us. Why is the object of our focus our answer? Why isn’t it God? What can we do today to make God our true “I am?” It’s worth pursuing, isn’t it? Copyright © 2013 by Sheryle Cruse

Sunday, July 7, 2013

"You don’t get it"

“No one understands.” Ever hear that? Feel that? SAY that? All of us have probably encountered it; it presents itself as this forgotten or forsaken reality of being hopelessly cut off. Those of us with addictions, disorders and compulsions especially live this out. And that’s part of the problem. Whether it’s an eating disorder, a substance abuse issue or a mental illness challenge, isolation becomes a driving force, only complicating the situation further. We say to anyone and everyone, “You don’t get it.” And we may even believe God doesn’t understand as well. We believe the lie we are alone and hopeless. But we aren’t. God IS there and He DOES get it. Whatever thoughts we possess, including the destructive “No one understands” theory, God knows it: So, yes, there’s hope and comfort in knowing God is aware of it all. “I know that thou canst do everything, and that no thought can be withholden from thee.” Job 42:2 “You have searched me, LORD, 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, LORD, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.” Psalm 139:1-6 “How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.” Psalms 139:17-18 But we have a role in this situation. It comes down to our thoughts. What are they? We need to take responsibility for them. It sounds cliché; there’s probably eye rolling and groaning at that statement. Nevertheless, it is valid. We have free will. And we choose to think- or obsess upon- any given thought, be it positive or negative. And so, that requires both introspection and relationship with God about that reality, whatever it may be: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:” Psalms 139:23 And it requires addressing the reality check of our thoughts versus God’s thoughts. They may not actually be the same thing. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9 And by accepting the Truth that God knows more than we do, we can face that thought in a better way. “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;” 2 Corinthians 10:5 We don’t determine our entire existence; God does. And God has tremendous plans regarding 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 So do we reject that thought and embrace the “you don’t get it/I’m alone thought” instead? We are not hopeless; God is always there. Love, mercy, help, protection, provision- it’s God, in a multitude of ways. Do we see it? Let’s get THAT! Copyright © 2013 by Sheryle Cruse

A grave matter...

Some grave statistics... • It is estimated that 8 million Americans have an eating disorder – seven million women and one million men • One in 200 American women suffers from anorexia • Two to three in 100 American women suffers from bulimia • Nearly half of all Americans personally know someone with an eating disorder (Note: One in five Americans suffers from mental illnesses.) • An estimated 10 – 15% of people with anorexia or bulimia are males MORTALITY RATES • Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness • A study by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders reported that 5 – 10% of anorexics die within 10 years after contracting the disease; 18-20% of anorexics will be dead after 20 years and only 30 – 40% ever fully recover • The mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate of ALL causes of death for females 15 – 24 years old. • 20% of people suffering from anorexia will prematurely die from complications related to their eating disorder, including suicide and heart problems

Friday, July 5, 2013

From glory to glory, while going through hell...

I love Winston Churchill’s sentiment: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
Life is tough. Sooner or later, we’ll experience a trying situation which feels like hell. It isn’t actual hell, thank God. Nevertheless, the power of that notorious situation/trauma makes us feel tortured with pain, despair and hopeless evidence. Eating disorders, addictions, compulsions, loss and grief are just a few examples of things which can feel like hell, if, after all, torture is the calling card. It’s painful and almost impossible to see future, life, possibility or God. We can, instead, much more easily see ourselves as failures, weak, forgotten and ruined. It’s, therefore, inevitable that we come to a screeching halt; we stop in the mire and can only feel ourselves sinking…down to where? Greater depths of hell and torture? But that’s not God’s truth about us. Even in the middle of hopelessness, God is there…living…loving…working… “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 “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?” Jeremiah 32:27 It can be tempting to believe that in our self-defined hells, we’re going it alone. But we’re not. Psalm 23 reassures us… “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me…” Psalm 23:4 And as we ‘keep going,” transformation, bit by bit, occurs… “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 And “keep going” doesn’t necessarily mean a dramatic, larger than life display. It can be the tiniest effort, decision or prayer. It just needs to exist. God requires only a mustard seed of faith, not a mountain. Thank God for that! And I believe we underestimate both God and ourselves about the power of our thoughts, words and actions. We can be one thought, word or deed away from breakthrough; we never know. But God does. And even when we fall short, God has decided and created the contingency plan for us. Jesus. “…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 Are we confident in that Truth? Are we confident in God’s involvement as we go through our different kinds of hell? Do we “keep going,” armed with trust in God, leading, guiding, helping and transforming our lives, even in the appearance of wreckage? We all need help in this area of the faith department. We’re all in process. That applies even to the process of “going through hell.” Are you going through hell right now? Are you stopping in it or moving through it? Regardless, God is too good of a God to leave you in the spot of despair forever; you WILL get through this, whatever “this” may be. Trust God; trust Him. “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 God has much more for you! “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 Keep going! Copyright © 2013 by Sheryle Cruse

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest

On Independence Day, besides parades, barbecues and flag waving, there’s yet another tradition: the Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest. Each year, competitive eaters battle against each other for the coveted distinction of biggest eater of hot dogs. It’s even considered a sport. People train for gluttony. This year, competitor, Joey Chestnut was the winner; he consumed 69 franks and broke his own record in the annual Coney Island contest. He is a seven-time winner who set the old record - 68 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes - in 2009 and tied it last year. Anyway, as its gained notoriety as the patriotic institution, I started thinking, as an eating disorder sufferer, in recovery, what message it sends. Scripture cautions us about gluttony: "Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.” Proverbs 23:20-21 ‘The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Galatians 5:19-21 It’s not to break our spirits, shame or humiliate us; it’s not to take away our fun, either. It’s to protect us, to make sure we’re safe and healthy. But we often get it all screwed up, believing the lie that excess is the answer to fun and problems. And there’s danger in that. Without a Godly approach to all life situations, eating included, we quickly veer off course. But, perhaps, you think I’m going too far. It’s just an innocent hot dog eating contest. What’s the harm in that? Well, the harm comes when we notoriously vulnerable human beings are triggered. “Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak.” 1 Corinthians 8:9 We can be triggered by anything; alcohol, sex, relationships, shopping, anything under the sun, really. And just because we can have such things as hot dog eating contests doesn’t mean we should. For those of us struggling with binge and restriction behaviors, watching such contests can awaken our own extreme and unhealthy tendencies. And really, it addresses the core issue: what’s the payoff? Money? Fame? Indigestion? There’s really nothing glorious in the accomplishment. And isn’t our purpose about bringing Glory to God? “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.’’ 1 Corinthians 10:31 As human beings, we really value some vain and silly things. There’s no cure for a disease here; in fact, there’s triggering potential for several. Celebrating gluttony is not the answer. Honoring ourselves: spirit, mind, soul AND BODY is more like it. “Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?” 1 Corinthians 3:16 “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 This holiday, let’s give honor where honor is due: to God and his healthy ways. God has a much greater vision for us than stuffing ourselves with hot dogs. “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 Let’s tap into that freedom instead. Copyright © 2013 by Sheryle Cruse

God bless America!!!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Beauty: Something To Look Forward To?

When I saw this Elizabeth Arden ad, I wanted to scream.
That was after I did the long frustrated groan. Here we go again- or still. With all of the enlightenment, feminism, self-empowerment and emphasis on individuality, we still come right back to the beauty thing. Is it truly that important? Is it the only thing which is important? Beauty- it’s insidious. It’s subtle. And it pervades our lives from little girlhood on. It did mine, anyway. I can’t remember the exact point in which beauty was such an emphasis for me as a little girl. I was exposed to fairytale princesses, Barbie dolls and dress up, just like most little girls. There’s nothing new under the sun about that. But at some point, it became increasingly vital to my existence. And then there came the reality that I didn’t adequately meet its standard. This was mostly through the message that I was a fat, not a beautiful little girl. And yes, that message first emanated from my mother. Struggling with her own weight and body image issues, dieting and weight loss became commonplace. And it was accompanied with the “someday” promise of beauty. “Someday,” when this or that happens, when we’re both at our “right weight,” then, oh yes, then, we’ll be beautiful. That was something to look forward to. It wasn’t when I am smart, articulate, creative or a unique individual of God’s creation. Nope, it was beauty, end of story. That’s as far as it seemed to go. It seems like some cliché 1950’s mother/daughter dynamic of a mother giving her daughter some stifling advice about how to be pleasing for a man and catch that husband. We’d like to think those were the “good old days,” long gone, replaced by such equality and enlightenment, we’re advancing with incredible leaps and bounds in humanity. But the reality is still little girls everywhere want to be beautiful; we want to grow up to be the fairytale princess, who’s perfect in her “happily ever after” life. And how many of us have woken up to a reality check nightmare pursuing that dream? Yeah. Look, beauty isn’t evil. God created it; and He calls each one of us innately beautiful already. “Thou art beautiful, O my love...” Song of Solomon 6:4 But we cannot limit our value to JUST that; we are MORE! We can aspire toward incredible lives and purposes. I believe beauty is in there, but it shouldn’t be the only thing “to look forward to,” like this ad says. We should look forward to our unique, purpose-filled, God-given lives. And that thought begins in childhood; let’s help each little girl think this way! Copyright © 2013 by Sheryle Cruse