I love this irreverent version of the classic Dickens, “A
Christmas Carol.” And right now, I’m feeling a little like this ghost of
Christmas present when she declares, “I’m a little muddled.”
The thing is, this
time of year, we’re all, to one degree or another, feeling like we’re sharing
this creature’s boat.
To and fro, getting, buying, going, here, there, everywhere…
And, oh yeah, we’re simultaneously dealing with the forced
upon reflection this time of year brings: discouragement, regret, sadness and
uncertainty for the future.
“I’m a little muddled.”
Is anyone else, besides me, hitching a ride on this sprite’s
This time of year, it’s natural to look back, with as much
20/20 vision as we may have and look to all of the “woulda, coulda, shoulda”
stuff. Yep, we all could have made different choices. And yes, some of those
possible choices could have resulted in better, more positive results.
But, no matter what opportunities have passed, it’s still
not hopeless. We have God, Who is never confused, especially when it comes to
our muddled lives:
“For God is not the author of
confusion, but of peace...”
1 Corinthians 14:33
Whatever has happened this year, it’s not too late for you,
even if you are muddled now. God tells us we can ask Him for wisdom, help,
guidance; He is loving and faithful to give it.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to
all men liberally, and reproaches not; and it shall be given him.”
“Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, This is the way, walk
in it, whenever you turn to the right hand, and whenever turn to the left.’”
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go: I will
guide you with My eye.”
Even here, even now, your life and future looks bright! As
long as God is never muddled, we’re more than conquerors!
“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.”
Yep, back at
“It’s a Wonderful Life.” All of these beloved Christmas films; I think I’m
starting to bug my husband with them. But what can I say? I’m a sap.
scene involves our character, George Bailey, “trying to impress the girl.” And
so, he puffs up his chest, talks all kinds of bravado and asks the character,
Mary, what she wants.
What do you want?
That’s a question that gets even more attention this time of
year, isn’t it?
What do you want for Christmas?
You may have a bad taste in your mouth about the “gimme/want”
thing, but God, Himself, is asking you what you want.
“Ask, and it
shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto
For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him
that knocketh it shall be opened.
Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a
stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how
much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that
“Again I say
unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that
they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.”
things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.”
whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be
glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I
will do it.”
“If ye abide
in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be
done unto you.
Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my
And, unlike George Bailey’s inability to give Mary the moon,
God’s not limited by what He can do.
Can you believe it, receive it and tell Him?
Go ahead; God’s waiting on you!
“Coincidence is God’s way of remaining
I love this quote by Mr. Einstein. How
true it is! When we think of the word, “coincidence,” we tend to think along
the standard definition’s description:
“a chance happening: something that happens by chance in a surprising or
remarkable way; happening without planning.”
Ever had one of those experiences
like that definition? You know, those weird, in sync, “hmm” kinds of moments
which just seem to be too timely/helpful to be believed? If you call yourself a
human being, more than likely, at one time or another, you probably have had a
few. Meet God, being anonymous.
I myself have had a number of
those weird in sync moments. Back at the height of my anorexia when I was
nineteen, I had come across a girl who went to my high school, post high
school. In the cliché line of thought, “it takes one to know one,” she, a
recovering anorexic herself, had first approached me in a college history class
we shared during the spring quarter of my freshman year, calling me out on my
already too thin frame. Of course, I lied and denied, spooked by her
allegation, desperately believing I could talk myself out of the uncomfortable
encounter. At that point and time, she left it at that. Whew! Dodged a bullet
there! I thought I was home free. After all, beyond sharing the same high
school, the two of us had no real contact with one another. We weren’t in the
same circle of friends. So, I thought I was in the clear. Not so fast, Sheryle!
Just three months later, during
my summer break, I ran into her, yet again, seemingly “out of nowhere.” I was
at the mall, nothing earth shattering. But the store, of all stores, to run
into her, was a bid odd. Because of my already intense eating disorder
behaviors, I was trying to occupy my mind with anything I could think of. One
of my latest “answers” was crafting. Yes, that’s right. I said crafting. I
guess I believed pipe cleaners and cross stitch kits could save me. So, I was a
regular at the mall’s hobby store. How many college kids honestly frequent that
place, right? I remember I was close to my lowest weight, attempting to keep
from passing out, while looking at a dollhouse miniature section (really?),
just trying to occupy my highly disturbed mind when, low and behold, once again,
out of seemingly nowhere, appeared this same girl. Talk about feeling busted!
We had the initial nervous chitchat, but, c’mon, we both knew the score. She
was gentle as she could be, but eventually, came the moment of getting real.
She again, brought up the dreaded curse words of “eating disorder” to my
attention. And I had no where I had to be. I had no class I needed to escape
to, nothing pressing I had to do. I just had to stand there in front of the
dollhouse miniatures and converse with her.
The coincidence of this situation
was that I was at a point in which I fully believed and argued with God that I
was the only one who was grappling with my struggle, especially in this relatively
small town rural area. No one else would get it; no one else would understand.
It’s such a cunning and cliché lie, isn’t it? So, that was an awakening to the
reality that no, I was not the only one. There were others. I was nowhere near
healthy or in recovery mode, but this “coincidence” was a timely event which
was relevantly needed by me. It was God.
And then there was the time when,
after missing my bus, I was privy to a conversation between two strangers about
a recent change to the bus schedule starting the next week. There would have
been no other way I could have found out that information, other than to miss
my connection at that time. Really? God’s involved in a bus schedule? Isn’t
that too unimportant for God’s attention? No, God tells us about His thoughts
“I know that thou canst do everything, and
that no thought can be withholden from thee.”
“Many, O LORD my God, are thy wonderful works
which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be
reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are
more than can be numbered.”
“Thou knowest my downsitting and mine
uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off.”
And that leads me to a third
coincidence. A few years ago, which attending a church Christmas raffle, one of
the winning prizes was mentioned: two tickets to a ballet performance of “The
Nutcracker.” Being a theatre fan (heck, I was a theatre graduate from college),
I have always loved the arts: drawing, painting, film, stage productions and
dance. So, this was right up there in my “heart’s desire” alley. I remember
quietly talking to God in my mind, saying, “It sure would be great to win
something like that.”
as for me, my prayer is unto thee, O LORD, in an acceptable time...”
So, do I need to tell you what
happened next? Uh-huh. Guess who’s name was called for that particular prize?
Coincidence? Not noteworthy? Not important enough? Or God at work?
“I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto
It’s a question worth pondering
in the circumstances of our lives, whatever they may be, don’t you think? God
is a relevant God, not just a loving God. Scripture, in fact, tells us…
“Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What
shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these
things do the Gentiles seek); for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have
need of all these things.”
But God encourages us to start
with Him, by being in connection with Him first, in prioritizing Him…
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his
righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
And part of that means
recognizing and respecting that God is not just a thing or an irrelevant
coincidence. He is a very loving involved God and Father to each one of us.
Which way do we choose to see Him
though? Is God timely with you? I’m sure you’ve heard the famous passage from Ecclesiastes. It’s often used at funerals:
“To everything there is a season, and a time
to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time
to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a
time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and
a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away
stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to
refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and
a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence,
and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a
time of peace.”
Indeed, seasons, “coincidences”
and time impact every single one of us…
and chance happeneth to them all.”
what’s more important than that is
that God happens to each of us, in
myriads of ways every day, whether or not we recognize or accept it. So, what
will we do with the reality of both coincidence and God? Are they the same
thing or is it, indeed, all God? Ancient Hebrew teachings reveals there is no
such word for “coincidence” in their vocabulary. Does coincidence exist for
you? Or is it all God, working intricately and relevantly on your behalf? Are
you focused on God whenever something in your life syncs up? What if God is
touching your life and connecting with you right now? What will you do with
loving, connected and involved Heavenly Father to us all?
“One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in
“But to us there
is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by
whom are all things, and we by
“ …‘the LORD seeth not as man seeth;
for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.’”
1 Samuel 16:7
This time of
year assaults us with the obvious “too much” of the holiday season: red and
green, Santas, nativity scenes, silver bells and sensory overload at every
This time of
year, we also see the abundance of angels. It’s almost as much of an
association with Christmas as the Baby Jesus Himself.
“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the
heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on
earth peace, good will toward men.’”
are everywhere throughout Scripture:
“For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in
all thy ways.”
“The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall
gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity.”
“And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you,
Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and
descending upon the Son of man.”
“Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he
covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And
one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the
voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.”
And, in and of itself, that’s okay. However,
things can go wonky when we come to the table with our own thoughts about
anything, angels included.
Now we’re in
my domain. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been obsessed with angels. It
had nothing to do with them being messengers of God. C’mon, let’s be real. It
did, however, have everything to do
with their beauty. As a little girl, what wasn’t to love about them? The silky,
(usually blonde) flowing hair, the beautiful glowing faces, the exquisite wings
and gowns, often trimmed with gold. Angels are beautiful. We’re drawn in,
transfixed. And some of us even create beauty templates based upon those
images. I did.
At the height
of my anorexia, I strove to weigh as little as possible, to embody a fragile
image. Emaciated equaled fragile; fragile equaled ethereal. And ethereal
equaled beautiful. There have been, after, no overweight angels (with the
exception of cherubs), unless used for some kind of comic effect. Indeed, when
it comes to reverential depiction of holiness and all things God, angels are
beautiful; they are ethereal.
Again, in and of itself, nothing wrong with
But all ethereal is not good ethereal. Or, as 2 Corinthians 11:14 puts it…
“And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an
angel of light.”
some of us out there, a beautiful, delicate appearance may hide an ugly and
dangerous reality. Especially when it concerns anorexia. For me, it did not
take long for peoples’ comments of “Sheryle, you’re thin” or “Sheryle, you’ve
lost weight” to go from a compliment to worried statement. And a delicate
aesthetic soon turned into a life-threatening reality. If 100 pounds was
ethereal, how much more would 90 pounds or lower be? You see the mind game in
full effect, don’t you?
And I played
that game, never realizing how I was already
amazing, beautiful and destined for God’s purpose.
“…I am fearfully and wonderfully made…”
“Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou
hast doves' eyes.”
Song of Solomon 1:15
“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
“…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.”
And speaking of angelic resemblance, look
again at what Scripture has to say about that:
“You made them a
little lower than the angels; you crowned them with glory and honor.”
secret human beings are attracted to beauty. After all, we take after God Who creates beauty.
time of year, with dramatic displays of such glorious beauty, spectacular
angels included, we will come face to face with the luster of the ethereal.
Some of us may, therefore, need to heed the caution of being triggered by
these, our image issues. Let’s, the, leave the ethereal to the angels, while
remembering and reveling in our own incredible value, worth and, yes, beauty.
fearfully and wonderfully made, as is, right now, period. God’s decided; it is
with Him and enjoy not just the holiday season, but our entire lives, fully
realizing and celebrating how beyond
ethereal we truly are!
“Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are
possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried
out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”
Christmas films; “Miracle on 34th
Street” is one of my favorites.
In this classic movie, the little girl
character of Susan is precocious, wise beyond her years, perhaps even a bit
cynical. It’s these traits, in fact, that each of us can relate to as well, as
we see how Susan responds to her own turn in the “Santa Line.” She’s probably
no more than eight years old, yet she’s humoring the adults, Santa, himself,
included. Initially, she’s skeptical in believing that he is who he says is,
but begins to change her mind as she tugs at his beard.
more evidence, then, has God given each of us to believe Him at Who He is? Just
like the Santa character’s ability to easily speak Dutch to the little Dutch
girl in the story, how much more can God overcome your problem?
are this Christmas season, wherever your faith may be, with whatever issues you
possess, like Susan did with Santa, try God
(Mark 9:24)! He is real!
November 28th’s Christians In Recovery, Cruse illustrates the role
deception can play in the addictive process using both the adorable lipstick
puppy social media image and the cautionary tale of scripture’s Ananias and
the Winter 2016 issue of In Recovery Magazine, Cruse explores how image
standards have fluctuated throughout history. Knowledge of these ever-changing
beauty aesthetics, indeed, is a necessary tool in disordered eating and image
2016 issue is available on newsstands in all Barnes and Noble bookstores
December 1st, 2016.
“Making the word of God of none effect
through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do
season is all about traditions. Families build their own, everything from the
food to the decorations to the outings.
can be wonderful. However, seen through the prism of eating disorder rituals,
they can be imprisoning.
are both a tactic not to eat and also a piece of obsessionality associated with
anorexia. When eating disorders are starting, people will try to make it look
like they are eating by cutting things up and shifting food around on the plate
so as to not draw attention to how little they are eating.”
Bulik, PhD, eating disorder specialist at the University of North Carolina-
rituals- it all represents the same unrealistic expectation: perfection,
happiness and a sense of safety.
rituals can be anything such as counting to a specific number how many times
one chews his/her food before swallowing, meticulously counting calories or
eating from the same bowl and spoon. There’s an exacting precision attached to
keeping these behaviors- and a dreadful fear if one is unable to do so.
doesn’t make the holiday season very joyful. And God has desired abundance for
“…I am come that they might have life,
and that they might have it more abundantly.”’
God has given us freedom to choose:
“All things are lawful for me, but all things
are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.”
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.”
struggling with disordered eating, however, that’s easier read than lived.
Yet, if we
face our own truth about why we do what we do, fully aware of perfection’s
demanding and impossible nature, we can ease up on ourselves and be fully
present with the holidays as they occur.
“It may be helpful to
realize that the "picture-book" holiday sense is not a reality for
many people. Some cannot afford it, there are many single people who are not
close to their families or do not have a family, and there are many families
that do not fit into the dominant cultural model of "family". Do not
blame yourself for family or friendship conflicts. People are not different
during the holidays than any other time of the year. Remember that you are
responsible only for your own actions and for taking care of yourself.”
time of year again: Christmas, with all of its Christmas themed films, like
“Miracle on 34th Street” here. It’s one of my favorites.
And one of my favorite scenes in this classic
is when a little Dutch girl, who doesn’t speak English, sees Santa Claus in the
Macy’s department store.
At first, it looks like the language barrier will pose
a communication issue- until, low and behold, Santa starts conversing with her!
It’s a great
reminder to all of us who feel intimidated by the big spiritual relationship
with God out there. Often, we make it so much more complicated than it needs to
be, don’t we?
reason or another, we convince ourselves that we simply cannot- or should not-
talk to God. We may believe things like, we’re not good enough, it’s too
difficult, God doesn’t understand or God doesn’t love us. Anyone been there?
these highly intimidating, discouraging moments, we need to remember God is
unlimited; there are no barriers for Him. He will work with, work in spite of,
whateverHe needs to, just because
He loves us that much and wants to be in our lives. He speaks our language,
even when we, ourselves, feel speechless and befuddled.
“Likewise the Spirit
also helps our weakness: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought
but the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be
are, whatever you’re going through, holiday season, in, holiday season out, God
loves you and is able to connect with you.
In spite of
who you are.
hopeless for you. Even if it seems too difficult for you, please remember God’s
take on it…
“Behold, I am the Lord,
the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?”
speak your language, no matter what. It’s called love.
up side of the down economy is that scaled-back events now feel more right than
ever. So if the fast-approaching holidays fill you with visions of stress and
dread rather than dancing sugarplums, family and friends, make an early New
Year's resolution: Vow now to simplify your life; don't wait for January
regrets to kick in.
Greet the season with easy shortcuts that shift the focus away from rote
obligation to what really matters — those you love and care about.
Holiday stressor: Overscheduling
Shortcuts that preserve "me" time
might sound counterintuitive to cram in time for yourself during what's
supposed to be a season of loving your fellow man. But regular time to regroup,
without distractions, gives you both energy and calm — making you more fun to
be around. Too many people lop self-time off the list in the busy season.
Check in with your body first,
every time. Before answering an invitation
or building a gingerbread house, pause to notice whether you feel excited
or tense, relaxed or headachy, calm or vaguely nauseated. If you're not
good to go, don't go forward. Don't worry about what others will think.
Take a mid-party break. Step outside. Look up at the stars. Or find a quiet
corner where you can listen to music alone for a few minutes or do some
deep breathing, even if it's just in the bathroom.
Say "yes" to the
bigger gatherings. Attending
events where you'll see lots of faces in a short period may help you feel
less obligated to attend lots of smaller events over successive evenings.
Big parties can be exhausting, but then you're done.
Make entertaining easier
Holiday stressor: Entertaining
Shortcuts that spread the burden
Do you dread playing hostess,
doing all that cooking, making sure your house looks "perfect,"
worrying about having enough space for guests to sit or mingle? Go easy on
yourself with entertaining ideas that focus on relaxation and good cheer.
·Host a cookie exchange instead of a big
party. Invite eight or ten friends to each bring that many dozen
cookies to share. You see your pals without having to fuss over a sit-down
dinner — and you get a billion cookies by only having to bake (or, pssst, buy)
·Spread cheer to others. As a family,
find a volunteer outlet that needs help and do something together: Work in a
soup kitchen, deliver meals, wrap gifts, shop for needy children.
·Revive the potluck. Ask
everyone to bring a holiday favorite. You supply the wine, cocoa, and
·Eat out. Make
having a festive dinner at a restaurant your new holiday-season tradition — no
·Amuse one another. Take
turns reading greeting cards and reminiscing about the senders. Have a
tree-trimming party. Sing along to corny holiday songs. Buy a big bowl of nuts
in the shell and hand out nutcrackers.
Downplay the decorations
that go green
All those lights, all that
razzle-dazzle — it takes effort, not to mention energy and resources. Downshifting
to a more ecologically friendly holiday is a simple way to get a simpler look.
·Skip the lights in front of the house — and
maybe even the tree. Fewer watts to burn, fewer strings for you
to get tangled in.
·Decorate with natural elements. Fill
bowls with pinecones. Let the kids stud oranges with whole cloves. Bring red
berry branches and pine boughs indoors (or snip boughs from the bottom of the
tree). Bonus: No hauling boxes of decorations down from the attic. When the
season ends, you can just pitch everything on the compost pile.
·Wrap gifts in paper you already have on
hand. Ordinary newsprint or paper grocery bags look festive tied with
string in red or silver. No newsprint in this digital age? Try recycling some
of those holiday catalog pages or smaller gifts.
Shortcuts that make new memories
At the root of a lot of holiday
stress: doing certain things, in a certain way, in the name of tradition. Maybe
you want to please aging parents or carry on in their memory. Or maybe your
focus is on creating the same traditions, so your kids will know them, too.
Either way, the effort often creates more stress (for you) than bliss.
·Shift your focus. Decide
to make happy memories, rather than continue traditions for tradition's sake.
The more relaxed an event, the more likely everyone will want to keep it up,
making future holidays easier, too.
·Don't assume, ask. Find out
which parts of the holiday truly mean the most to your loved ones. You might be
surprised by what others really
like. Caroling? A special feast? Driving around to look at the lights and
decorations? Keep one or two of those traditions — period — and do them up.
·Or just decide to wing it this year. Do what
feels festive in the moment. Plan meals on the fly after seeing what looks good
in the store. Invite guests on the spur of the moment, even new acquaintances
you don't know well. Plan nothing. Often whims and accidents are the way
beloved new traditions are born.