Monday, September 30, 2013


I never understood cutting. Or really gave it much thought.

In my years as a middle school teacher, if any of the students had actively cut him or herself, I was completely unaware.

Ditto regarding my years as a mother of teens.

Then an adult friend said something to me recently that really took me by surprise.

She had a sibling who had died and the subsequent days were filled with a sort of grief that became somewhat unbearable to her. Family relationships being what they are—and my friend being the driven, faith-filled Catholic gal that she is—started to create a perfect storm of human frailty.

I watched as my friend motored through a variety of emotions that ranged from helplessness to anger and then circled back to logic and reason peppered with charity and kindness. Through it all, my heart carried her burden. It pained me to see her in such anguish.

At one point, exhausted from it all, she quietly said to me, “I see why people cut themselves.”

I had no response.

In her pain, she connected with the pain of others who choose to cut themselves to alleviate their pain and burden—to somehow grab control of things. The physical pain they inflict upon themselves serves a real purpose, a relief. It is something they are in charge of when everything else around them seems uncontrollable.

My friend desired that sort of control in that very moment.

In an online article on, Wendy Lader, PhD, clinical director of S.A.F.E Alternatives and co-author of Bodily Harm, says self-harm is more prevalent than most people think. “Studies on adolescents in community samples report a lifetime prevalence between 15 and 20 percent,” she says.

She goes on to say that the most common reason is control of emotions. “For kids experiencing intense emotions, it can be used to deaden the intensity. For those feeling a sense of numbness, it serves the opposite effect, helping them feel something.”

This need to cope with intense emotions is something that we have all grappled with from time to time—and we know how difficult it can be, as adults, to get those emotions under control. So it is no wonder that among our adolescent population—which faces a tremendous amount of stressors along with the standard teen angst fare—the cutting phenomenon is on the rise.

In the same article on, Susan Bowman, a licensed counselor and author says, “When kids cut themselves, it releases endorphins and they get a high from it. It becomes a control issue: This is the way I release the pressure.”

My friend’s pain was—as much as is humanly possible—my own. So in her simple statement about cutting, she spoke volumes. If she had turned around and cut herself right in front of me I believe I would have understood.

In her own pain at the death of her sibling and the ensuing family dynamics surrounding that difficult time, my friend had an incredible epiphany. She recognized that sometimes emotional pain or trauma is so deep, so overwhelming that we can’t cope with it and we need to find some sort of release.

And it is a release—or control—that our kids are pursuing more and more.

There are a number of indicators for parents and teachers to be aware of for possible self-harm which while typically starts around 15 years old, can certainly start at any time. According to a study by Cornell University and a few other reports, these include:

ü  Wounds (it seems obvious but pay attention to wounds—especially clustered wounds and scars) on the most common areas: wrists, arms, hands, thighs.

ü  Bandages on the same areas especially in a consistent basis.

ü  Blood inside clothing or on sheets or towels.

ü  Clothing that doesn’t make sense for the season—for instance, long sleeves or pants on a hot summer day.

ü  Signs of distress, depression, anxiety, or withdrawal that seems out of pattern, excessive, long in duration, or inconsolable.

All current reports and studies agree that self-harm—cutting, self-injury—is far from being fringe behavior for kids.

It shouldn’t be stigmatized or ignored as there are many avenues of help available.

And of course, this is a reminder that we are all called to be bastions of love, kindness, prayer, and charity for all children.

 Cheryl Dickow


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Dead To Me

I read that the Clintons have a “dead to me” list.

Or maybe it is a “dead to us” list. They are, after all, a machine when it comes to politics so I imagine this list is some combined effort (he adds one, she adds one and maybe even Chelsea adds a few) based upon all their experiences over the past few decades.

And of course, the whole thing may just be a rumor—but between you and me, somehow I don’t think so.

Let’s be honest, there’s a lot of appeal in making a “dead to me” list so if it is true, I imagine theirs might be very long, indeed.

Actually, whose wouldn’t be of some length?

It is so easy for us to take our hurts and our pains and turn them into such a list; it is only natural to see the injustices and the slings and arrows of life as a battle cry for retribution and retaliation.

So a “dead to me” list can be quite a handy tool.

Of course, living as a Christian means that while we may very well create a “dead to me” list, we then have to turn around and pray for every person that made it onto our list.

Bummer, huh?

It’s becomes our job to take those who are “dead to us” and make them alive in Christ.

That, after all, is what Jesus calls us to do: pray for our enemies. Sometimes our enemies are fairly obvious: they are the ones who have made life difficult—they have caused us to stumble and fall. Other times, our enemies aren’t as crystal clear to us; they haven’t been outright offenders but they have brought grief to us all the same. We’d have much preferred not to have had them in our lives.

I can’t help but think that at one point we were all on the heavenly “dead to me”list until Jesus did the unthinkable. He removed us from that list through the supreme, almost-unthinkable act of self-sacrifice.

And now all that is asked of us is to pray for our enemies—those people who are on our “dead to me” lists.

It seems rather easy when you think about it that way, doesn’t it?

Cheryl Dickow

Friday, September 20, 2013

Women's Book Clubs

Every year about this time I get a number of inquiries about women’s groups. Summer is winding down and the anticipation of autumn stirs a woman’s spirit towards a more contemplative time of year.

I love hearing that women want to start study groups or book clubs; and so I always try to post an article on how to get something like this started. (And I’m always available at Cheryl@BezalelBooks.comto answer questions!)

I’ve been invited on Brian Patrick’s EWTN Sonrise Morning Show next week to talk about the great value Catholic fiction in our faith walk so it made sense to also get this post going about starting a women’s book club—to sort of go hand-in-hand with that guest spot next week.

Starting a book club is so much easier than you may think and if you’ve been toying with the idea, I’m hoping this will give you the courage to go for it!

First: Pick your book.

Decide if you want to read fiction or non-fiction. Since I’ll be talking with Brian about fiction books, my passion is to invite Catholic women to see how fun it is to read Catholic fiction. At Bezalel Books we’ve put together packages specifically for women’s clubs and of course I think it is a great place to start your search. Our packages do include some non-fiction as well.

Find our packages here:

Second: Getting the group together.

You really only need two or three women to have a great time (am I right?) and so you shouldn’t feel like this has to be a big production—although if you know you have the leadership and hostess gifts (charisms), by all means, gather as many women as your heart desires!

Consider extending an invitation or two to women with whom you don’t necessarily know very well. This is a nice time to establish new friendships and since it is confined to specific dates and times, it doesn’t require you become best friends nor does it make all kinds of demands on you.

Maybe someone in the carpool lane at the kid’s school that you’ve always smiled at and said hello but never struck up a conversation; or it might be a neighbor with whom you’ve chatted over the mailbox but it never became more. You get the idea.

On the other hand, feel free to use it as a reason for you and your closest friends to stay connected as well.

No matter what, ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in selecting the women.

Third: Meeting dates and times (and location).

When you know who you are inviting, your best bet is to look at your own schedule and offer a couple of options for getting together. I would suggest an hour and a half to two hours, once a week. So, for example if Tuesdays from 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. or Wednesdays from 6:30-8:00 p.m. work best for you, offer those dates and times to the women.

I do have a friend who finds that twice a month commitments work best. For her it is always the first and third Thursdays.

Ultimately go with the most popular choice for the group. Too many options will muddy the waters; just a couple to put out there is fine.

Chances are you will open your home to the group but you may decide that the parish center or some other location works better. Just make sure that you coordinate the days and times you offer with the location availability. All this, along with the book title, should be part of the invitation you extend.

Make sure to give a tentative start and end date as well. Decide if you are purchasing the books and the women will reimburse you or if you are asking that each purchase her own book.

Fourth: Have fun!

Determine if your first meeting is just a chance to set the stage or if you will dive right into the book which means that a chapter had to have been read before the gathering.

For your first meeting you might provide a light snack and beverages and have a signup sheet for the following three of four get-togethers. If you try to sign up too far into the future, women might not be able to commit because schedules change.

I have found that a reminder email is helpful as we all get caught up in our schedules and sometimes forget these things that nourish our souls! Something that goes out to everyone a day or two before the meeting and is a simple message; Blessings…I just wanted to remind everyone of Tuesday’s book club…we will be discussing chapter 3 and that we are looking forward to Sue’s snacks…

These wonderful get-togethers make for great times! They provide opportunities for personal relationships to take root and grow; they allow you to journey with others in anointed ways.

And remember I’m here to answer questions to help get you on your way!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

An Omelet Fit for a King

Maria Stewart is a homeschooling mother of seven. She is a graduate of Franciscan University in Steubenville where she majored in Elementary Education and Theology. Maria and Chris, her husband, are involved in the Casting Nets Ministry ( They are also involved in foster care.

One has to wonder how this busy woman ever found time to write her wonderful new children’s story An Omelet Fit for a King—and yet when God asked her to write it, how could she not?

In the charmingly illustrated book, Maria explores different aspects of humility using the acronym E.G.G.S. A lesson she admits she learned herself while being hospitalized and relying on the love and kindness of others. An Omelet Fit for a King has been released to rave reviews and consistently ranks in the top 100 in different Amazon categories.

Whether you are a mom looking for a great book for your children, or a teacher looking for a wonderful book for your classroom, Maria’s new release is a book you are sure to read again and again!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Names of God

Knowing God by name allows us to enter into a relationship with him in a very intimate, personal way. While many of us know him as “God” or “Father,” there are a vast array of names to which he will answer—and each signifies yet another of his unique aspects.

The Eternal One

The name of God is often represented by the four Hebrew letters Yud-Hay-Vav-Hay and is never actually spoken. The High Priests in the Old Testament would have known the correct pronunciation but in their understanding of its sacredness, would have only uttered it in the silence of their hearts.

This four letter name is the name used when God identified Himself to Moses as “I AM WHO I AM;” thus identifying Himself as The Eternal One.


To overcome the avoidance of uttering the too-sacred name—or of mispronouncing it, the title Adonai is the most often used substitution for Yud-Hay-Vav-Hay. In the Old Testament, the Tetragrammaton is found as the capitalized word “LORD.”


Like Adonai, HaShem is a very popular name for God and means “The Name.”  

In Leah’s life as Jacob’s wife, HaShem is the name of God who responds to Leah’s circumstances and blesses her with children. HaShem heard Leah’s prayers.

Leah talks of HaShem’s response to her prayers and so she names her children accordingly: Reuben, because HaShem had seen her affliction; Simeon, because HaShem had heard that she was unloved; Levi, because she hoped HaShem would join her husband to her; Judah, because she would praise HaShem.


El-Shaddai is the Almighty God who invited Abram, “Walk in my presence and be blameless. Between you and me I will establish my covenant, and I will multiply you exceedingly.”

El-Shaddai means “All Sufficient.”

God makes it clear to Abram that whatever he is being asked to do, he will do it with the might of the one who is “all sufficient” behind him. Even in the midst of circumstances that may seem foreboding, El-Shaddai promised to be at Abram’s side.


It is the priest Melchizedek who proclaims that Almighty God is, in fact, Jehovah-Elyon: “Lord Most High.” The emphasis is on most high as it was often the case that pagan nations pitted their god against an enemy god and whoever had the most powerful, or most high, god was the “winner.” In using the name Jehovah-Elyon, there is no mistake that in these daily battles of “whose god is better,” the God that Abram serves is the Lord Most High, sovereign Creator and Ruler of the universe, bar none.


The Gospels are filled with accounts of Jesus’ ministry of healing.

This name of God—Jehovah-Repheka—reveals that very nature of God as healer. He reveals his interest and willingness to heal us through this powerful name.

Although we will never fully understand the nature of God, he has used a number of names to help us along the way. He is the Lord of Hosts (Jehovah-Tsebaoth) who is always there (Jehovah-Shamah) and is righteous (El-Tsaddik).  

He is El-De’ot—the God of knowledge who is compassionate (El-Rachum), gracious (El-Channun), and strong (El-Sali).  

 Cheryl Dickow

p.s. Bezalel is Hebrew and means "in the shadow of God" and is exactly where I always want to be!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Four Marks of the Catholic Church

Every time a Catholic recites the Nicene Creed, he is proclaiming belief in the “Four Marks of the Church.” He joins with all other believers and professes a faith which says, “We believe in one,holy,catholic, and apostolic church…”

These “four marks” are called “indelible” in that they cannot be changed or removed. They are the same as when Christ founded the church and will remain the same until his return. As indicated in the Nicene Creed, they bind together the believers in a unique and significant way.

The first mark: the church is one.

As diverse as we are, we are also considered one in that we are one body in Christ. Even as we bring our different cultures to the one body of Christ, we all believe that this Christ is our Lord and Savior; in him we have our redemption. All who have been baptized are part of his one, true church.

The second mark: the church is holy.

The teachings of the church lead each believer to holiness. They never lead away from God—who calls all to holiness.

While we continue to stumble and often even grope our way to our eternal reward in heaven, we can look towards the church to aid us in our call to holiness. The teachings of the Magisterium help us unwrap the Truths of our faith as we seek holiness.

The third mark: the church is catholic.

Catholic means “universal.” It beckons all men—throughout the ages and across the globe—towards the truths of Christ. Its universality began at Pentecost with men of every nation gathered and has since retained the same fullness of faith throughout time.

The fourth mark: the church is apostolic.

The Catholic Church is apostolic in nature. It began with the teachings of Christ given to the apostles and will remain the same until Christ’s second coming. It is the only Church which can trace its roots back to the first apostles—and the first Vicar of Christ: Peter.

These four indelible marks of the Catholic Church are proclaimed by believers in communion with other believers and are meant to inspire the humility of Christ in each one. They are immutable gifts from God, established by Christ, that exist because of his grace and mercy. These four marks of the Catholic Church (one, holy, catholic, and apostolic) and are meant for our sanctification and his glory.