Wednesday, December 30, 2015

12 Daily Reminders...


Stop This Debate!


Words, Words, Words


 
As someone who’s had instances of writer’s block, this scripture frequently comes to mind:
“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
Granted, it doesn’t always feel conducive to the writing process; words are kind of important.
“The tongue has the power of life and death and those who love it will eat its fruit.”
Proverbs 18: 21
I remember, as a kid, having some cutesy stationery with babies, spouting statements like “Be patient; God isn’t finished with me” and “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak up and remove all doubt.” That one really stuck with me. And, it was only years later I discovered that cutesy slogan was, in fact, scriptural.
“He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit. Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.”
Proverbs 17:27-28
 Furthermore, there’s a little thing called consequences:
“The lips of fools bring them strife,
    and their mouths invite a beating.
The mouths of fools are their undoing,
    and their lips are a snare to their very lives.”
Proverbs 18:6-7
Yeah, that’s not appealing. Being ensnared does NOT sound like a party to me.
I keep thinking about Shakespeare’s character, Hamlet ranting about “Words, words, words…” and we know how well THAT went. (If you don’t, please feel free to look it up).
The point is, words carry results with them, either positive or negative; they’re not neutral.
“The tongue has the power of life and death and those who love it will eat its fruit.”
Proverbs 18: 21
And that includes our recovery processes. What do we say about ourselves, to ourselves when it comes to the state of our lives?
Do we lie? That’s often where addiction can really flourish.
“He whose tongue is deceitful falls into trouble.”
Do we isolate? Again, left to our own devices, addictive choices can run rampant.
“A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire;
He rages against all wise judgment.”
Proverbs 18:1
Do we embrace help/God?
Do we…really?
Let’s be real, the twelve steps wouldn’t be powerful at all if it weren’t for the reality of their action words.
1.      We admitted we were powerless over a substance or behavior ─ our lives had become unmanageable.
  1. We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  2. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  3. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  4. We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  5. We are entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  6. We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  7. We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  8. We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  9. We continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
  10. We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  11. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
 
Do we get it right? Most of the time, probably NOT. We’re imperfect. Yet, we’re still held accountable for the words we say.
So, worth considering, let words be few.
 “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.”
Psalm 19:14
Perhaps there’s some merit to the writer’s block condition after all.
Copyright © 2015 by Sheryle Cruse
 
 
 
 

Faith is not, Faith is...


Pay attention (Before it's twice)


It's This Simple...


Hint


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Recovery, Choices and Holidays


 
Featured in December 29th’s Christians In Recovery, Cruse discusses the self-medicating temptation we often face during the stressful holiday season.


 

Steps To the New Year


 

My new year’s resolution is… or was (fill in the blank)…

Sound familiar?

Yes, it’s that time of year again. The infamous New Year’s resolutions have started and/or have been broken by now. How many of us feel “what’s the point?” Adding to that already negative experience, those of us in recovery can often feel all the more hopeless pressure and failure if we “resolved” to stop a behavior which relates to our addictions, compulsions and disorders. Be honest: what did you swear you’d do or never do again?

So, we’re into a brand new year. Are we already off to a disappointing start?

The old adage states a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. So, what does that say about each one we take in this new year?

Some steps in the recovery journey are steps of progress. But what hits us with devastation are those other steps, right? Sometimes, in recovery, the step we’re taking feels like one of failure or relapse. We may even feel like the best we can hope for is to trudge and sink our footsteps into barren cold snow.  How are we to regard those kinds of steps? As hopeless? As final? As paralysis? No. they are just as much a part of progress as any victory, “good day,” or “good step.”

Motivational speaker, John Maxwell, wrote a book on a wonderful concept to consider, especially in moments of failure and relapse: “Failing Forward.”

Think about that.

In life, unfortunately, we often will fail. Recovery is not immune from that failure reality either. But there is hope; with each failure; whether you feel it or not, you and I are moving forward, making progress. One of my favorite scriptures, encouraging me through many dark, trying steps, has been that of 2 Corinthians 3:18:

“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

Recovery means going from step to step, glory to glory and even, sometimes failure to failure. But please know that God’s in control of our every step, regardless of our feelings about where we’re going. We are moving forward; God is too wonderful to allow us to be left.

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Hebrews 13:5

It may be at a snail’s pace, this progress we’re seeking. But that snail; gets a bad rap. A hugely inspiring quote is from the 19th century English preacher, Charles H. Spurgeon:

“By perseverance the snail reached the ark.”

We need to keep that slow movement in mind. Slow movement does not mean no movement. And the end result for the snail was the goal, the ark. Did the snail have obstacles, rough terrain and dangers along the way? Probably. Did that stop the snail? No. The snail moved slowly, in small increments. As do we.

“For who has despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice..”.

Zechariah 4:10

Yes, progress seems slow, if it can be even seen at all. You don’t see any positive results from all of your efforts, tears and pain. You feel like you’re going nowhere, nowhere good, anyhow.

But there is meaning in this tiny, gradual step each of us may be taking, whether it be in life, in recovery- or in both, at the same time.

Taking these tiny steps, one by one, does have a cumulative effect. It builds upon our future and individual destinies. And yes, that applies to the new year, resolution or no resolution.

We need to remember that God is our loving Father, seeing us as His children. Because of that perspective, He’s always helping and preparing us. It doesn’t matter if/when we fail or fall. He’s still our loving Father, who desires to bless His children. In fact, scripture tells us…

“So if you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who keep on asking him!”

Matthew 7:11

So, take that next step. Remember Jeremiah 29:11. It includes- it never excludes- you!

“For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

It’s all in how we look at it. How then, are we choosing to look at our recovery processes and our lives? Do we see beauty, value and potential? Or do we see ugliness, worthlessness, failure and a pointless existence? We can choose.

“I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.”

Deuteronomy 30:19

The fact is, just because we feel a certain way, doesn’t mean that’s truly the way it is.

“When I was a child, I spake as a child,I understood as a child, I thought as a child:
but when I became a man, I put awaychildish things. For now we see through a
glass, darkly; but then face to face: nowI know in part; but then shall I know even
as also I am known.”

1 Corinthians 13:11

We may feel hopeless or like a failure. But those are feelings. God’s Word, instead, is the Truth! And yes, once again, here’s what God says about 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

“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 see ourselves differently. We may feel we are one way, but why limit ourselves to that, especially if it’s harmful? God has more for each one of us than just our present situation, perception and condition.

We’re in a brand new year right now. What kind of step are you taking today in this new start? Whatever it may be, please realize that it is one which is lovingly guided by God. Having a great step today? Wonderful! Thank God for it! Having a struggling step or a “failure” step today? Please recognize that God’s allowing it to move you to another place of victory, recovery, success and help. You will get there; you ARE getting there. Remember your journey, not just today’s step. There’s more to your life, more to God in your life than you realize!

Happy New Year! Have a wonderful, healthy, grace-filled journey this next year and beyond, step by step.

Copyright © 2015 by Sheryle Cruse

 

A Valuable Lesson...


Sunday, December 27, 2015

Spelling Believe


 

If you’re a recovering perfectionist like me, you may be frustrated with who- and where you are in your life right now. Questions like, “why aren’t I (fill in the blank)?” or “when will I ever get there?” may be rolling around in your brain. Ah yes, negative self-talk. And this time of year is the perfect time for that kind of negative chatter: New Year’s, with all of its promised- and- on- the- way- to- be- broken resolutions.

Years ago, the scripture Mark 9:24 helped me so much as I struggled and doubted not just myself, but my own faith in God. It was simple, real and to the point:

“Lord, I believe. Help Thou my unbelief.”

A zinger- and a sentence which changed my life!

But, much like the excitement around making a New Year’s resolution, after the thrilling dust of that impact settled, tedious life came into the picture with not as much dramatic evidence of powerful transformation as I would have liked. Nope. I wanted “presto, change-o;” God wanted my trust, a slower, gradual, deep kind of thing, built up over time. A long time. A long, long time. Years.

Enter the next little scripture ditty:

“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

Yeah, somehow, this one wasn’t quite as thrilling as Mark 9:24. And that was the mistake on my part. It wasn’t grabbing onto the scriptures that was the problem. The scriptures are Truth, relevant and powerful. The issue was affixing my impatient “quicker than a microwave popping out popcorn” expectations to them. It’s just like the instant promising lie of a kept resolution, huh? Classic. And I fell for it. I wanted things done in my timing not God’s timing. Because my timing was such great hot stuff, right?

Yeah.

And so, my little noggin ran away with the thought, “it’s not working.” Are you thinking that about your own resolutions, however successfully kept they may be? I just couldn’t seem to make the connection that God had a much better handle on me, on my life and the situations going on than I did. I was too busy… with what? With my study of God’s Word and will? Nope. With the study and the practice of being more patient with the process? Nope again.

So, what was the deal?

Me, me, me. That’s what I was so busy with. That was the deal; that was the problem. And that was part of what was blinding me to my ability to believe- or at least blinding me to a healthier perception of believing, anyway.

Again, classic.

I mentioned the microwave earlier. In popular culture today, the word “microwave” doesn’t just refer to the oven that’s in most homes; it refers to instantaneous results which require no time, no waiting and no patience. Hurry up! Hurry up!

(I hear that Queen song of the same sentiment playing in my head).

“I want it all. I want it all. I want it all. And I want it now!”

But faith, perseverance, belief, recovery and life are all about being actively in process. All of these things are ongoing, living organisms. They’re alive. We, as human beings, often have a way of creating what we believe, for good-or not so good.

“…Because of your faith, it will happen."

Matthew 9:29

Yikes!

This new year, are you in process or have you, instead, imposed an oppressive, perfectionistic and harmful deadline on yourself? An impossible resolution? There are even those of us in eating disorder and addiction recovery process who just transfer the same perfectionistic tendencies which got us mired in our struggles into our actual recovery. There is no such thing as a perfect recovery; there is no such thing as a perfect life! All of us fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23)!

We will blow it. It’s not a case of “if,” but “when.” But God knows this- and He still is calling us to believe, nevertheless.

“As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe.”

Mark 5:36

“… ‘Fear not: believe only...’”

Luke 8:50

Just because we don’t see something we want instantly happening, doesn’t mean the entire thing is hopeless. What if it was all just simply “in process?”

Maybe, right now, the word “believe” isn’t spelled out completely, satisfying our wishes for a brand new perfect life in this brand new year. But believing is powerful. And what we put our attention to is powerful. What do you want to believe? The best or the worst?

God has not- and will not- give up on you as you’re going through your life, trying to spell everything out.

God is on your side!

“What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Romans 8:31

Choose then to tweak your believing. Instead of believing that you have to be perfect, that you’re hopeless or that “it’s never going to happen,” believe that you are getting there, with God’s help every step- and breath- of the way!

You’re in process; faith is being spelled out for you and indeed, you are going “from glory to glory.” And this new year is, indeed, a part of that process.

No microwave required. Only God.

Copyright © 2015 by Sheryle Cruse

 

Friday, December 25, 2015

Ah, Family (God, help me!)


 

Okay, I’m writing this entry “pre-holiday get together.” Like a lot of you out there, our family will be embarking on the traveling, the activity planning and gift giving challenges that can only come from spending time with family.
 


Let’s break it down even more; we’re preparing for the challenge of family itself! Ah, yes, I hear the groans and the sighs already! Family…yeah.

“…Lord, help me.”

Matthew 15:25

Just an encouraging reminder- to you and to me, as well- “this, too, shall pass.”

I know this is a REAL challenge to all of us; let’s face it, when it comes to family, as much as we love them, we all have our triggers! Hang on! God wants to bless you today.

So, let’s try not to dump the carrot Jell-O mold on anyone’s head or bust someone’s jaw with a fruitcake, or tie up family members with holiday tinsel or take a baseball bat to the tree. It will be over soon. We can all make it through this; we can.

 Like I said, I write this “pre- holiday get together,” so, I’m going into “battle,” just as much as anyone else out there right now.

As irritating, frustrating and downright maddening as family can be, still, in some way, they are a blessing to us. Try, therefore, to pick out SOME blessing needle in the family stress haystack as you may find yourself enduring the get together. I know I’ll be doing my own looking! Let’s keep each other covered in prayer, God bless and merry Christmas to everyone out there!!!

 
I’ll report back… Here’s hoping!
Copyright © 2015 by Sheryle Cruse
 
 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

“God with Us"



“Hark the herald angels sing
‘Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled.’"

Christmas- stressed out yet? Christmas trees, Christmas lights, Christmas shopping, Christmas stress, Candy canes, Santa this and Santa that are all overwhelmingly set before us now. We all know the cues. Everything, seemingly, screams celebration about the season. But there’s a quote out there, worth noting: “keep the main thing the main thing.”

Do we?

For those of us with all manner of eating disorders, compulsions and addictions, it’s even more difficult to focus on that main thing; forget about the healthy, positive things, including recovery! So much is coming at us from every side: parties, temptations, family stress and opportunities to overindulge in every possible vice and escape.

Now, who feels festive?

So, after we wade through all of that mire, we can maybe find ourselves facing Jesus. In the holiday sense, He’s difficult to miss this time of year. Baby Jesus displays are in churches, court yards and on the front lawns, usually blinking or glowing some form of Las Vegas style light. So yes, in the middle of shopping and stressing, we often “come to Jesus,” at least the plastic baby Jesus, anyway.

But what’s more challenging for us is the real and relevant encounter of Jesus truly being with us. The Bible tells us He is.

“…and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”

Matthew 1:23

But feeling that this time of year, especially if we struggle with our compulsions, addictions and relapses? It doesn’t seem to be so easy to embrace that Emmanuel, now, does it?  So, is this Baby Jesus, indeed, our Savior? Or is He just a decoration?

Matthew 1:23 reminds us of Jesus’ Name, Emmanuel, “God with us.” That means that as we Christmas hustle and bustle, Christmas shop and Christmas stress out about this wonderful time of year, He is right there. When we’re cheery, when we’re grumpy, He’s there. When we forget Him, when we remember Him, He’s still there. When we feel great about our lives and recovery processes, He’s there. When we have relapsed in a cataclysmic way, jeopardizing life, health, relationships and finances, not to mention, our recovery, He’s there. Therefore, can we believe beyond the Christmas decoration’s depiction? Can we believe God is really with us?

One of the biggest lies I ever believed in my eating disorders struggles was that I was abandoned by God. My own sick, perfectionistic mandates ordered me to do my life all by myself, with no room for mistakes, whatsoever. Grace? Unconditional love? Forgiveness? Acceptance? Forget about that! I gradually determined, the further into my eating disorders I sank, that I was hopeless, damned, beyond saving or loving in any possible way. I had “gone too far” for God to reach me. And because of that, God had forsaken me. I even went so far as to believe God hated me!

See yourself here? Are you battling with self-loathing, feeling abandoned and rejected right now? Is the Baby Jesus just a Christmas decoration to you, holding no real powerful application to your life and recovery? Are your imperfect, even sick thoughts calling the shots, even spiting God’s Truth? The famous talk show host, Dr. Phil McGraw, has a great question he frequently asks his guests regarding their negative choices: “How’s that working for you?”

Indeed, God tells us that our thoughts and His thoughts aren’t exactly on the same page:

“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

Hmmm…

Could there be a potential problem with that reality, maybe? Whether or not we want to admit it, our addictions, compulsions and disorders are of a spiritual nature. They negatively impact not only our bodies and minds, but also our spirits, the very core identity of who we are as individuals. These destructive behaviors can convince us that they are our answer to life and problems, not “God with us.” We believe the lie over God’s Truth.

And what is that Truth? It’s everything that addictions and disorders promise, but fail to deliver: love, acceptance and meaningful purpose. For instance…

“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             

“We love him, because he first loved us.”

1 John 4:19

“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

And of course, the well-known and often repeated verse of John 3:16:

“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.”

You may have a nativity display in your home; that manger scene may be a part of your yearly Christmas tradition. But what are you doing with Jesus during the “off season?” What do you do with Jesus in your daily life and recovery experiences when it is not Christmas? Is Jesus relevant to you, beyond a decoration or a Bible story?

We come now to the close of another calendar year. It’s a time of “new beginnings.” Dare to invite God into your life; dare to invite Him to daily, practically be with you! Jesus is relevant, as is. He doesn’t just want to merely decorate your life; He want to be in it and bless it! Are we keeping the “main thing the main thing?” Are we celebrating that?

Remember the main celebration: Emmanuel. God is with us. It’s a celebration beyond tradition; it’s God’s loving gift for us! And it’s already been done, even before we decide to love Him back. Again…

“We love him, because he first loved us.”

1 John 4:19

Emmanuel- He’s not just a statue a decoration or a myth. Emmanuel- “God is with us.”

But will we choose to be with God? Why not say yes? Why not embrace “God with us” into our lives?

Copyright © 2015 by Sheryle Cruse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Come To Jesus



Alright, yes, I have too much time on my hands and I take too many photos of our cats, Gracie and Glory. Here is no different. But they are so adorable, checking out the Baby Jesus. Really? Could you not seize such a photo-op yourself?

 

Anyway, these photos of our cats checking out the Baby Jesus, even nibbling on Him, re-reminded me of the direct, innocent and childlike way we are to approach Jesus and this time of year.

“But Jesus called them unto him, and said, ‘Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.’”

Luke 18:16-17

He will not reject us if we come to Him; we told us so:

“All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”

John 6:37

The phrase, “come to Jesus” is often used in our popular culture. It describes a serious intervention/discussion we need to have one another. But how often do you and I really think about the true meaning of that expression?

Let’s truly embrace the “come to Jesus” reality, Baby Jesus or otherwise. After all, as so often quoted, “Jesus is the reason for the season.”

God bless you and your family this wonderful Christmas season!

Copyright © 2015 by Sheryle Cruse