Thursday, March 30, 2017

Thy Right and Royal Duty?


Okay, I’m attempting to simmer down. I just finished another viewing of the animated Disney classic, “Sleeping Beauty.”

Like a lot females out there, I have a complicated love/hate view of this fairytale princess depiction.

Over the years, I have bought into, absorbed, aspired to be like and have been resentful of this ingénue archetype. I have run the gamut of emotions, largely because of the all-important beauty factor which is mandatory for our young princess heroine.

It was all I could do to get through this latest viewing of the film.

For, right off the bat, we have our staple Disney music, chiming in, emphasizing just how beautiful our “Sleeping Beauty” is...

“One gift, my gift of beauty, gold of sunshine in her hair. Lips that shame the red red rose. She’ll walk with springtime wherever she goes.”

Sure, no problem there. I always walk with springtime wherever I go. Sounds completely realistic.

And, eventually, we’re at a critical moment in the story: our lead character, Aurora, is age sixteen, the magic age of blossomed beauty.

However, unfortunately, central to our fairytale plot, this reality is also entwined with a death curse from our villain, Maleficent.

As Roseanne Roseannadanna famously quipped, “It’s always something.”

Anyway, back to Aurora.

 As she faces her sixteen-year-old self, one of her trusty-dusty protector fairies places a crown on the teen’s head and punctuates the moment with rhyme...

“A crown to wear in grace and beauty/as is thy right and royal duty.”


 (Me, rolling my eyes) Here we go again.

However, before we all lose our crowned heads, let’s get an animated reality check of what young Aurora does after this adornment: she cries.

And, as strange as it may sound, I appreciate that moment and see a profound, truth-telling lesson there. Beauty does not instantly, perfectly and forever make a person happy. It is not the all-encompassing “cure-all.”

“Fearfully and wonderfully made...”

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

Psalm 139:14

I often write about and explore this scripture. It has been instrumental to my own healing of image and disorder issues.

And, at first glance, yes, we can focus on physical appearance.

 Indeed, how many benefits come when a person can accept and embrace his/her face and body, as is?

Yet, in solely focusing on the physicality of that scripture, we do ourselves a disservice. We ignore, downplay or malign any and every other component of who we are.

“Fearfully and wonderfully made,” in short, is not just about appearance.          

So, with that in mind, let’s look at a number of attributes to also acknowledge and honor. Embracing the totality of who we are, body, mind, spirit and soul is healthy.

And isn’t that what recovery is all about?

A Good Sense of Humor:

"A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken."

Proverbs. 15:13

I can already hear the murmuring and giggling. You and I know what this phrase means. It is often code for “ugly.”

We have heard this wording used to describe a person, usually female, who is less-than-aesthetically- pleasing. It can be a desperate selling point when arranging a blind date.

Yet, this good sense of humor thing cannot be underestimated.

“Humor is mankind’s greatest blessing.”

Mark Twain


Science has even weighed in on the health benefits of a merry heart.

·         Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.

  • Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.
  • Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
  • Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.

Laughter is the Best Medicine”

Therefore, let’s get to guffawing!

And again, returning to our sweet little Aurora, we really don’t see much wit emanating from her.

While she is, of course, sweet natured (she’s our heroine, after all), if there’s any humor captured within the fairytale, it usually involves those adorable Disney woodland creatures being, well, adorable Disney woodland creatures. And the interplay between those critters and Aurora has more to do with how enchanted they are by her beauty, including her beautiful voice trilling ingénue melodies.

No one was astounded by her clever observations or her sardonic wit.


Just a beautiful blonde damsel singing her beautiful blonde head off in the forest.

Moving on, we still have more “Fearfully and wonderfully made” attributes to cover.


Once again, this word is also often used to describe “ugly.” It is as if personality and beauty cannot occur simultaneously.

So, with that being said, let’s hold up Aurora and see how she registers. Apart from her sweet nature, does she really have a personality to her?

“Sugar and Spice and everything nice” is a rhyming ideal we often set before the female gender. But is that at the expense of a deeper human being?

Where is personality encouraged in Aurora?

In her exile to the woods, in an attempt to save her life, did she ever question, let alone, challenge, why things were as they were?

Did she find it necessary to expand her world view? Probably not. She simply carried on, singing, interacting with cute animals.

She did, however, mention her displeasure about not being around people, but it didn’t go any further than that. Part of the reason, perhaps, was that she voiced this complaint to woodland creatures. Still, there was no teenage rebellion, no attempt to discover herself. Just sweet disposition Aurora.

Now, I’m not against a sweet disposition; indeed, that is a personality trait. Neither am I encouraging youth rioting. No.

But, in the case of many a fairytale princess, Aurora included, as long as the beauty criteria is met (and it is), that seems to be where the character development stops.

And again, that’s a disservice- to both genders.

For we need to embrace the contradiction, the complexity, the duality of who we are. We need to stop suppressing, denying or judging those realities.

Human beings are multifaceted. We can be sweet...and not so sweet. We can be patient and impetuous. We can be spontaneous and deliberate. We can be thoughtful and silly. We can be so much, co-existing simultaneously.

And, that’s not to be condemned. It’s to be celebrated.

After all, look Who is doing some celebration about imperfect us already?

“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

If we dare to look at the trait of personality for its potential, we see there is power and benefit. And again, that can transcend beauty.

“When we read about the lives of famous people, we often see how personal values guided them, propelling them to the top of their fields. This is the power of every individual’s personality.”


We’re still not done; we have more “Fearfully and wonderfully made” traits to explore.


This attribute is powerful, possessing tremendous relevance and meaning.

According to The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, some of the benefits include:

§  A rush of euphoria, followed by a longer period of calm, after performing a kind act is often referred to as a “helper’s high”, involving physical sensations and the release of the body’s natural painkillers, the endorphins. This initial rush is then followed by a longer-lasting period of improved emotional wellbeing.

§  Stress-related health problems improve after performing kind acts. Helping reverses feelings of depression, supplies social contact, and decreases feelings of hostility and isolation that can cause stress, overeating, ulcers, etc.

§  A drop in stress may, for some people, decrease the constriction within the lungs that leads to asthma attacks.

§  Regular club attendance, volunteering, entertaining, or faith group attendance is the happiness equivalent of getting a degree or more than doubling your income.

So, with all of those perks, you would think there would be more emphasis on its importance in our culture.

Yet, from the earliest ages of childhood, we see a quite different reality concerning the kindness issue.

·         160,000 students miss school every day because of intimidation or the fear of an attack.

·         Nearly 10 percent of high school girls say they’ve been in a physical fight within the past 12 months.”

Centers For Disease Control and Prevention Report, 2004

“Chicks and Cliques Confronts Mean Girls,” ABC News


These statistics were given a pop culture name via a 2004 movie which was box office gold, “Mean Girls.”

And, although Aurora was not considered to be a mean girl, we did not, necessarily, see intentional acts of kindness from her.

This is not to “bully” our “Sleeping Beauty.”

Rather, it’s to illustrate how, again, our attention appears to stop at her beauty.

That shouldn’t come as a surprise.

After all...

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

1 Samuel 16:7


Still, that doesn’t get us off the hook. We are instructed we need to be kind. And the Proverbs 31 Woman template certainly doesn’t provide us any excuse.

She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.”

Proverbs 31:20

But it’s not just directed at the female gender; kindness is the call to everyone.

“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.”

Ephesians 4:32

And, that’s what makes the kindness trait so powerful- and dangerous if it is absent.

Whether it’s females or males, what is the message being taught?

Do we place an enormous amount of pressure on the females to be kind, at all cost, while giving males an excuse to ignore the character trait because, “boys will be boys?”

Do we reinforce how, really, all that matters is the outward appearance?

 Do we model the toxic gender role dance, teaching both sexes to disregard anything which doesn’t appear as an outward manifestation of aesthetically pleasing image and beauty?

Anything short of appreciating, modelling and living the spirit of kindness, again, does us a disservice.

We need to wake up to that truth.

Moving on to our next “Fearfully and wonderfully made” trait, we turn our attention to... Wisdom.

“WISDOM is the principal thing. Therefore get WISDOM...”

Proverbs 4:7

But do we always get it?

Come on, what do you think?

Nevertheless, again, there are benefits concerning ntelligence: and that’s just involves the information factor.

·         The brain is a physical organ, and like other organs or muscles in the body it can be trained to be fitter and more efficient.

·         Your IQ is not just your ability to solve problems – it is a measure of your overall brain fitness and efficiency.

·         Brain plasticity – the ability of brain to reorganize itself by growing new brain cells or connections.

  • Energy supply to the brain – particularly when it’s working hard

With a smarter brain, there are all-round cognitive benefits for attentional focus and grit, problem solving efficiency, learning capacity and memory – much like there are all-round physical benefits to being in good shape physically.

“High IQ & Intelligence Benefits,”

Indeed, data, facts and figures all scratch the spiritual surface of this life-altering characteristic. For wisdom is the application of vital resources...

“the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment.”

And, if we look to Aurora for this trait, we are left wanting.

A large part of that lackluster display of wisdom is her age. She’s all of sixteen years old. Not to pick on teenagers, but there is a wisdom which only comes with age.

Life experience- or the lack thereof- impacts the reality of wisdom.

“Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you.  Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.”

Proverbs 4:6-7

And, as mentioned earlier concerning the personality trait, there did appear to be a lack of complexity to Aurora.

This was even in spite of her traumatic circumstances: death curse wished upon her, uprooted from her parents and exile to the forest to live hidden from view.

That naïve perspective, therefore, did not trigger the much needed discernment required, especially as she wandered into encounters with Maleficent and, of course, that dreaded spinning wheel.

As isolated, young and unquestioning as she was, she did not pause to consider such things as ulterior motives, jealousy and reality of a dangerous world.


Perhaps it had to do with, again, those cute woodland critters. I suppose if you’re inundated with enough adorable bluebirds and squirrels, harmonizing with you, telling you how magnificent you are, life might look quite rosy.

And, again, the harmful fairytale message surfaces. It states how being beautiful is, indeed, enough to save you and, of course, make your way in the world. There is no need for knowledge, critical thinking and going beyond surface level images. Just go along your merry little way and be beautiful. It’s nothing to worry your pretty little head about.

Scripture, however, contradicts fairytale. Indeed, there is spiritual importance placed on wisdom.

Again, we return to the Proverbs 31 Woman.

 “She speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction is on her tongue.”
Proverbs 31:26

We just can’t seem to get away from her. Yet, however unfairly, there is the expectation- if not full-on pressure- for the female gender to, in one way or another, “have it all together.” Unrealistic? Yes.

Yet, no matter how we slice it, wisdom is doable. After all, we each have the fruit of the spirit:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”

Galatians 5:22-23

The question we need to answer for ourselves is this: do I cooperate with that fruit?

I know. It’s maddening.

Yet, there IS method to the madness.

I am focusing so much of the inaccurate image message of “Sleeping Beauty” and other like fairytales precisely because the sentiments they espouse have little-to-nothing to do with actual, relevant life. They promise an arrival of a perfect Prince Charming (snicker here) and a “happily ever after” kingdom in which no one ever has a bad day again.

Now, I am a romantic; I “love love.” But come on!

And this leads back to the de-emphasis of what is truly important: those non-superficial character traits. Yes, it is about the inner beauty stuff trumping the outer beauty.

It’s not because beauty is bad. Rather, it’s because the comprehensive, complex person has a better chance to experience the opened door of potential.

“But as it is written, ‘Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.’”

1 Corinthians 2:9

What if, all this focus on the external distracts us-and keeps us- from our truly unique untapped potential?

What if we miss out on our purpose by obsessing on some subtle form of fairytale mirror?

Or worse: what if we never see ourselves- and accept ourselves- as the spectacular, breathtaking, awe-inspiring, purpose-filled creation of the Most High?

 “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him.”

Colossians 1:16

That would truly be a shame.

Furthermore, it would be negligence of our true “right and royal duty.”

“And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”

Romans 8:17

There is simply too much greatness in us to permit that from happening, save one thing: our will.

What will we do then with that?

Copyright © 2017 by Sheryle Cruse

Name’s Sake (No Good Deed Goes Unpunished)


A friend of mine who is experiencing some painful family issues has repeatedly asked herself the “why” questions.

Why is this happening to me?

Why am I being treated like this?

Why is my loved one acting in such an ugly manner?

She has been blindsided by a situation and a relationship she never dreamed was possible, rife with betrayal, deception and slander. This was once a close, bonded relationship, one filled with unconditional love and trust.

So, the events over the last few years were a definite shock.

“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death.”

Matthew 10:21

This wasn’t supposed to happen.

So, why did it?

The question often produces, unfortunately, only unsatisfying silences, with, perhaps, some exceptions, as found in scripture...

“But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, because they know not him that sent me.”

John 15:21
“And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.”

Matthew 10:22

 “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.”

Matthew 24:9

I know, it’s not comforting. But there appears to be a theme here.

“...for my name's sake.”

We’ve all heard the phrase, “no good deed goes unpunished.”

This statement is also not comforting, largely because it flies in the face of the Godly principles we’ve staked our faith on: good triumphs over evil, we will be blessed for our kind deeds and God is a just God.

So, how do we reconcile this with a situation in which evil appears to be winning, wicked actions are rewarded and God seems to be absent, incompetent or non-existent?

Once again, we return to our theme...

“...for my name's sake.”

Living our spiritual journey, our faith will be tested; it’s a case of when, not if that testing occurs.

No one is immune. It is part of not just humanity, but the spiritual experience as well.

So, like it or not, that means like Master, like servant...

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

Matthew 10:24

Sooner or later, we’ll encounter hurt and betrayal. After all, Jesus had Judas.

“But Jesus said unto him, ‘Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?’”

Luke 22:48

(Check out Luke 22:3-48 for the entire gory story).

So, what makes you and I think we’d get out of our lives unscathed?

And then, complicating matters further (because, hey, life is already way too simple and easy, right?), we have to deal with our recovery issues on top of everything.

No easy feat, especially when boundaries are often blurry, at best, not everyone we encounter is in a healthy, love and life affirming place and, oh yeah, “hurting people hurt people” is in full force.


No, it’s more like good deed rubber, meet some getting punished road.

Here’s, therefore, where we need to get a bit mercenary about our health, well-being and yes, recovery. We need to remember how people vary widely- and their thoughts, motivations and issues do as well.

So, with that reality, we have the perfect storm for betrayals and persecutions of countless scenarios.

The players involved may or may not be aware of that. I’ve heard it said in my own faith walk how human beings are tools either in the hand of God (good) or in the hands of the devil (evil). We play a role in that; and often, yes, we can be deceived and misguided. It would be ideal and much easier if everyone always choose to be agents for good.

But we live in a real world with free will and matching free moral agent human beings who make choices- and not all of them are loving, informed or harmless choices.

Still more great news to ponder.

Yet ponder we must.

And, as we think about the varying, often unpleasant, circumstances we encounter, we need to have our reality check/action plan readied concerning our response when life presents itself.

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

Matthew 10:24

Nothing Pollyanna about this and it certainly doesn’t make it feel any easier as we encounter and endure hardship of being hurt and betrayed from seemingly unlikely directions.

Scripture, again, reminds us...

“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!”

Matthew 18:7

The definition of “woe” means:

“great sorrow or distress; things that cause sorrow or distress; troubles.”

So, yes...

Woe is betrayal.

Woe is slander.

Woe is deceit.

Woe is the unexpected, unloving behavior from our most unexpected loved one.

Again, Jesus had woe from Judas.

And again, it comes back to our theme...

“...for my name's sake.”

Therefore, a core element of our battle plan, in spite of painful, unfair incidents, needs to employ Ephesians 6:7...

 “With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men.”

Life is tricky, filled with unanswered questions. One can drive himself/herself crazy trying to answer the “Judas kiss” kind of experience we face from those “least likely” individuals.

A lot can be chalked up to “things happen.”

A lot can be chalked up to “life is unfair.”

And yes, again, there are things which fall under the “name’s sake” classification.

“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.  Remember the word that I said to you, 'A slave is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.

John 15:18-20

So, it is important to bear this in mind, coupled with the seemingly impossible directive given to us concerning our troubled feelings/responses...

 “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

John 14:27

None of this invalidates our pain, our heartbreak or our persecution.

Rather, it’s to remind us there is more going on than just our finite experiences- and understandings of them.

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;”

2 Corinthians 4:17

There is, in fact, a Glory principle in effect; and it doesn’t require we feel the positive feelings of that Glory...

 “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.”

1 Peter 5:10

Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”

Romans 8:17

So, perhaps, instead of asking our “why questions,” we should, instead, ask such things as...

What spiritual lesson is being taught to me?

How can I embody the Savior’s behaviors? (Yes, I know, that rhymes).

What is the Glory test here?

It is unrealistic enough to be believe we will be unchallenged and have an easy, pain-free life experience.

Likewise, in the faith realm, when we encounter offense and human experiences which make us feel judged, betrayed and persecuted, it also unrealistic to blame that stuff solely on a human being. There is also a spiritual warfare element added to the equation...

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

Ephesians 6:12

And yes, that especially applies to the “Name sake” issue.

So, it would do us all some good to bear this in mind as we deal with whatever “blindsiding” situation we face. We are not above suffering.

But, if we remember this “Name sake” principle, we also realize how, yes, we are also not removed from a deeper promise.

“If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.”

1 Peter 4:14

Indeed, it’s not about being punished at all. Rather, it is about the Divine reward of Savior resemblance.

So, let’s choose to experience that.

Copyright © 2017 by Sheryle Cruse