Saturday, January 30, 2016

Go First To Your Brother


In the past few months, I’d had a couple of troubling interactions with people which have pointedly illustrated how social media, with its safety of anonymity and lack of accountability, has made it the wild wild west of inappropriate communications and resolution of arguments.

In our very public world, there seems to be less awareness and sensitivity to what, exactly, is a private matter. So, when private goes public, hurt, shame and embarrassment usually accompany that display.

I find it frustrating to have to teach someone a principle which should be common sense. If there is a dispute or a disagreement of something intensely sensitive and urgent, it needs to be first discussed, one on one, privately. Scripture instructs us…

“Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.”

Matthew 18:15

From there, the net of help can be widened, but only if the communication attempt was unsuccessful…

“But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.”

Matthew 18:16-17

When it is done in this manner, with respect as the cornerstone of the interaction, better, healthier results can usually manifest. I say “usually,” because, unfortunately, in our cultural landscape, there are many people who’s just rather vent and rage, in a big public way. They go FIRST to Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, completely bypassing the “go to your brother first” principle. This is counterproductive, hurtful and FURTHER complicates things between the parties. Why? Because now, offense is on the table…

“A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle.”

Proverbs 18:19

Yeah, so now we’re at an impasse.

There will be differing viewpoints, opinions and yes, disagreements. There is nothing new under the sun about that. But that still does not let us off the hook when it comes to a better way, a better choice, in how to work things out. It’s not impossible to do this. Nevertheless, it does take effort, thought and a WILLING spirit to engage in this approach.

God is a reconciliation kind of God; He, likewise, asks us to respond in kind.

So, let’s remember, before we go posting on social media, let’s go to our brother, one on one, instead. And, even better, before we approach him, how about we FIRST bring the matter to God?

In doing so, now we really, truly are going somewhere worthwhile!

Copyright © 2016 by Sheryle Cruse




Friday, January 22, 2016

Reaching Perfection?


Featured in January 22nd’s Christians In Recovery, Cruse explores the overinflated importance of perfection in both recovery and life issues.

Crossroads (The Blessing of Being Kept Safe While Frustrated)


There’s a saying out there: delay is not denial. I don’t know about you, but those words can really chap my hide. Perhaps you’re more patient and enlightened than I am. Perhaps you have a handle on life situations. But are there any of you out there who are as annoyed by that statement as I am?

File this under work in progress stuff?

Looking at this image of a mother duck leading her little goslings reminds me of the scriptures, Luke 13:34; Matthew 23:37:

“…how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!”

Jesus, in His tremendous love for Jerusalem (and really, on a broader scale, for all of us), declared a desperate, frustrated plea. He wanted to gather and protect us…from what, though? Was He trying to protect us from danger, from circumstances, from ourselves, maybe?

You know another quote out there as well; we can be our own worst enemies.

Sigh here with recognition of the unflattering truth.

Patience has never quite been my strong suit. I was always the kid who was trying to see inside wrapped Christmas presents, just hoping that, perhaps I “accidentally” tore the wrapping paper enough to see what was inside. Greed drove my patience, but so did anxiety as well. Can you relate?

When I was a kid in my physical education class, anxiety was my word of the day. I dreaded the class because, uncoordinated me knew I was horrible at playing most games and sports. I carried anxiety with me as my physical education teacher tried to expose us child hooligans to different things, like shuffleboard and bowling, things other than tag and kickball. She gave a valiant effort to turn us into renaissance hooligans. Somehow, however, I don’t think that particular dream of hers was ever fully realized.

Anyway, one such attempt at enlightenment was when we were introduced to archery. That’s right. Nine and ten year old kids walked into a gym one fine school day to see bullseye targets at the far end of the gymnasium and shooting stations twenty to thirty feet away from the targets, holding a bow and a set of arrows.  

I thought, how bad could it be? There was no running, after all. Just point and shoot.

As the rowdy bunch of us hooligan goslings chatted and oohed over this new game, our physical education teacher was trying to instruct us- and warn us about the dangers of archery. Just because it was a game, and maybe even a fun game, at that, didn’t, however, mean that we could just bulldoze our way a-shooting. Not unless some of us wanted to wear an arrow through a particular limb or achieve some unintentional ear piercing of our own.  

As much of a drag as it was to listen to the teacher, it was necessary. She informed us of the importance of shooting your five arrows at the target when she blew her whistle. And once you’ve shot all of them, you’re to remain at your station until everyone is finished or she again blows her whistle, whichever one comes first. Simple, right?

But, inevitably, someone, after their arrows were shot, would “forget” and start heading for the target to pick them up. That’s right. While arrows are still whizzing by, there’s a nine or ten year old hooligan trekking for the bullseye. Perhaps he or she forgot the warning. Perhaps he or she was caught up in the excitement. Perhaps he or she was too impatient to wait. Or, maybe, like me, there were kids who were just too anxious, wanting to get the session over with as soon as possible. Whatever the case, it would be no more than a few seconds before the whole class would hear a shrieking whistle blown and the archery session halted.

And how many of us have had instances when a warning whistle, scream or shout came our way? You may never have had an archery moment, but you probably have had some kind of near miss or close call. Maybe it’s even been in pursuit of some fun or desired thing you went after full steam ahead. Fun and desired things have their place, but what if there’s a danger in  pursuing them? What if what we chase and want requires God’s crossing guard guidance to ensure we’ll get to the other side of the street successfully and safely?

The cliché is true: “be careful what you want because you just might get it. “But we argue back, “I want it NOW!” We whine, “I don’t want to wait.” We think we’re ready and deserving of that coveted thing instantly and immediately, if not sooner.

But God knows the real deal.

He knows every single crossroad in our lives. He knows our desires and thoughts.

“O Lord, you have searched me

and you know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise;

you perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out and my lying down;

you are familiar with all my ways.

Before a word is on my tongue

you know it completely, O Lord.”

Psalm 139:1-4

“How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!

How vast is the sum of them!

Were I to count them,

they would outnumber the grains of sand.

When I awake,

I am still with you.”

Psalm 139:17-18


Heck, He even weighs our intentions.

“All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the LORD weigheth the spirits.”

Proverbs 16:2

And, He knows what that thing will do to us.

Your eyes saw my unformed body.

All the days ordained for me

were written in your book

before one of them came to be.”

Psalm 139:16

Ah yes, not just our immaturity is being assessed, but also our character as well. Wonderful. So, it might do us some good to slow down, even stop, and look to God to guide our next move.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;

test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Psalm 139:23-24

There are a lot of arrows whizzing by us in our daily lives. God is a loving and protecting God, but what if we’re insisting on rebelling against that reality?

In the recovery world, there’s phrase that I’ve personally used and have witnessed in others: “fighting your help.” We often go through interventions, “hit bottoms” and risk our families, lives and health, all because we spend our energy fighting our help. We fight people; we fight God. And that’s always such a brilliant strategy, isn’t it?

Meanwhile, God wants to lavish us with His love and blessings by leading us through His Word. Jesus is the embodiment of that guiding Word. He’s not called “the good shepherd” for nothing, right?

Going back to the image of a mother duck leading her offspring safely across the street, we see how not one of them gets ahead of mama. It’s a simple principle, yet we have such a difficult time heeding it: follow God.

Are we doing that? Or, are we going our own way, quacking in our ignorance, impatience and stubborn ways? Perhaps, not getting what we want is the blessing. Perhaps not obtaining that thing we desire is exactly what we need to keep us safe.

We don’t know the whole story. But God does. And God hasn’t changed His Mind about how it will turn out for us:

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

Jeremiah 29:11

Don’t let the following statement Jesus uttered be said about you:

“…how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!”

Are you darting out on a crossroad without looking for God’s direction? Stop. Look both ways and look to God before you cross that street.

Don’t fight your help; don’t fight God.

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

Proverbs 3:5-6

Copyright © 2016 by Sheryle Cruse







Just Be

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Are You Doing Your Spiritual Press Ups?


Featured in January 20th’s Christians In Recovery, Cruse explores the importance of doing those things which are tedious, but necessary, to our recovery processes.

Stop Debating


With the recent opening of the long-awaited film, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” actress, Carrie Fisher, who portrays the famous character, Princess Leia, opened up about her experiences with confining image in the filmmaking process. This is even as the seasoned actress of over forty years.

She openly discusses how, as she made this recent installment of the franchise, Hollywood’s pressure was still there, encouraging her to achieve a thin, ergo, beautiful, body.

And, as a woman in Hollywood, as a woman “of a particular age,” she made this bold statement which speaks to the blood sport we can make of judging a female’s beauty, especially as it relates to age and weight...

“Please stop debating about whether or not I aged well. Youth and beauty are not accomplishments, they’re the temporary happy by-products of time and/or DNA. Don’t hold your breath for either.”

There’s a sentiment out there which goes something like...

“Men are judged by what they do; women are judged for how they look.”

This is especially amplified within our western culture. It goes back to what we value: image, youth and results.

Therefore, when it comes to image, food and body issues, we often regard a certain aesthetic as an accomplishment. Check out the diet and fitness industries, the fashion magazines and the weight-loss reality television shows. As much as we may declare “diversity of beauty,” still, when it comes to a “bankable” aesthetic, we seem to default to young and thin.

So, the discussion continues, if not a full debate.

And it is here, again, where the Proverbs 31 Woman emerges as a pro-female weapon in the value debate.

“Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life. She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar. She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens. She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms. She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night. She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet. She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple. Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land. She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant. Strength and honor are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come. She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. Favor is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.”

As noted in verses 10-31, I’ve frequently turned to this portrait to see God’s viewpoint of a woman. She is a multi-faceted human being. She flourishes personally and in business. She is loved and respected for the unique individual she is. She possesses such attributes as kindness, wisdom and strength.

And, when I read Carrie Fisher’s comment, what first sprang to mind was the following...

“...Favor is deceitful, and beauty is vain...”

Yes, Fisher has often been viewed as the sex object of the film franchise. Her “Slave Leia” incarnation, from “Return of the Jedi,” showcases her provocative bikini top and scarf-like skirt costume.

This image has also produced merchandise, including toy figures and life-size cardboard cut outs of the Star Wars character. Indeed, “Slave Leia” has stimulated many a male fantasy.

Empirically, Fisher is beautiful. But her image, expressed through her portrayal of the character, has been the most discussed thing. There’s not as much discussion about Leia’s intellect, wisdom or integrity throughout the unfolding of the films. Instead it’s the all-important question of “how hot-or-not-hot-is- Princess- Leia- a/k/a/ Carrie Fisher?”

For let us never forget there is a real woman portraying this fictitious character. Carrie Fisher is more than Princess Leia. She is not only accomplished in film (including “Shampoo,” and “When Harry Met Sally”), she is also an accomplished writer as well (including “Postcards From the Edge” and “Delusions of Grandma”).

And, adding to those impressive accomplishments, she has most recently emerged as an advocate/activist for mental illness, openly discussing her own battle with the issue. That facet of her being is a positive statement for millions and of course, an empowering role model for her own daughter.

Still, with this astounding resume, we still keep focusing on Fisher’s appearance.

And now, in the context of the latest film, there emerges the question, “How has she aged?” There are different things you can read into that.

Is she ugly? Is she fat? Is she appealing enough to be in a movie?

Again, the sentiment...

“Men are judged by what they do; women are judged for how they look.”

In and of itself, there is nothing wrong with beauty. God creates it, including humanity’s beauty (see Song of Solomon 1:15; 2:14; 4:7; Psalm 139:14). But there is far more going on.

Unfortunately, human beings often cannot get past appearance...

“‘…For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’”

1 Samuel 16:7

So, I suppose, the onus is on us to know our value and to not be talked out of it. We need to arm ourselves with the truth of our incredible selves.

Our worth is NOT up for debate!

I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made…”

Psalm 139:14

Copyright © 2016 by Sheryle Cruse


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Keep Going (While Going Through Hell)

Featured in the January 18th Christians In Recovery, Cruse discusses the role of perseverance in recovery, inspired by a famous Winston Churchill quote.


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Pain Patterns...

I Think You Are Wonderful


I recently came across this child’s drawing once sent to the legendary Marilyn Monroe.

Children often get right to the truthful point.

“I think you are wonderful.”

What an astounding thought. Yet, how many of us experience that sentiment?


Most of us struggle with this positive self-image thing. We may have had negative people and experiences in which we were told- and believed- the exact opposite. Coping with that pain, therefore, it’s no surprise some of us have turned to our addictions, disorders and any number of “comforting” vices. We want to feel we are wonderful. And the drug, the drink, the food or any other object of our desire supposedly tells us precisely that.

Meanwhile, however, we completely lose sight of a Truth, if we ever knew about it in the first place. God already thinks we’re wonderful.

He thinks that…about us… right now. And God isn’t short on these kinds of thoughts…

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.”

Psalm 139:17-18

However, how much time, how many negative, self-destructive and toxic thoughts do each of us spend, draining ourselves, dragging ourselves down and engaging in self-destructive choices?

“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he...”

Proverbs 23:7

And then, what if we have the audacity to believe these negative thoughts are actually God’s thoughts? Things like...

God hates us...

God wants to punish us...

God doesn’t care...

God can’t do anything for us; it’s hopeless...

You can see how motivating these kinds of thoughts are in promoting a happy and healthy life and recovery.

Yes, we need to remember there’s a difference when it comes to the area of thoughts. Our negative self-image does not equal God’s perspective about us…

“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

Some examples of those higher thoughts include…

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

Psalm 32:8

“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

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

2 Corinthians 12:9

Yep, that’s already over our heads, isn’t it?

But wait, God’s just getting warmed up. We haven’t even gotten to the love stuff yet.

“Since you were precious in my sight… I have loved you…”

Isaiah 43:4

 “…‘Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.’”

Jeremiah 31:3

 “The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”

Zephaniah 3:17

Whew! He sounds like a love struck Romeo, doesn’t He?

But that’s the point. He is besotted with love for us; He just can’t help Himself.

Can anyone say Song of Solomon?

“If thou know not, O thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed thy kids beside the shepherds' tents.”

Song of Solomon 1:8

Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves' eyes.”

Song of Solomon 1:15

“Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves' eyes within thy locks: thy hair is as a flock of goats, that appear from mount Gilead.”

Song of Solomon 4:1

“Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee.”

Song of Solomon 4:7

And I’m just citing the tamer verses here. Song of Solomon, known as the most erotic book of the Bible, symbolizes the passionate love between God and us. Depicting the chatty commentary of two young lovers, this book has some pretty steamy pages. “Fifty Shades of Grey” has nothing on His love!

And, as if that wasn’t enough of a love fest, proving how much God is “into us,” check out these next two ditties:

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

 Romans 5:8

“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

These aren’t just some random musings here.


God’s Son.

Died for us.

Still feel unlovable?

Need more?

All right, let’s truck on over to Genesis, the beginning of the whole shebang.

 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them…

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good...”

Genesis 1:27; 31

God, from the start, created us to be glorious “mini me’s” of Himself...

“And God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness...’”

Genesis 1:26

From the beginning, He thought we were wonderful.

Why can’t we then?

…I am fearfully and wonderfully made…”

Psalm 139:14

Why should that wonderful thought be any more difficult to believe than any negative, insulting thought we entertain in our daily lives?

“I think you are wonderful.”

Let’s endeavor to start thinking that way about ourselves. God already does.

Copyright © 2016 by Sheryle Cruse



Throughout God's Story...

Friday, January 15, 2016

Remember What Really Matters...

“Stay Out of It"


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

“Stay out of it.”

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

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

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

The entertainer, RuPaul is known for stating one of my favorite quotes:

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

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

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

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

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

Yep, those critters often don’t feel great to our egos, our feelings and our outlook on life. And we can get ourselves in an incredibly unproductive, self-flogging snit, obsessing about why “so and so” thought or said what about us.

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

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

Matthew 26:4

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

Matthew 12:14

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

Matthew 26:4

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

John 11:53

You get the point.

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

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

Matthew 10:24

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

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

Deuteronomy 30:6

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

Jeremiah 11:20

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

Hebrews 4:12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 John 4:1-6

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

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

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

Proverbs 3:5-6

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

Copyright © 2016 by Sheryle Cruse