Aug 2015 12

 “Justice that love gives is a surrender…” –Mahatma Ghandhi

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; but I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”*  -Jesus

Surrender

In the first few weeks of my new life a young woman asked me to mentor her through a similar struggle as I’d experienced, saying she “wanted what I had”.  She told me the courage she saw in me motivated her.  She said my commitment to doing what it takes to have a changed life inspired her and the steps I was taking to have an authentic experience with my Higher Power made her want to know more about Who He was. I felt insecure about helping her since it was all so new to me but upon the advice of my own spiritual mentor, I decided to give it a try and gingerly accepted her invitation.

Revised and reprinted from August 2012
 

I shared that if she wanted what I had, she would need to do what I did.  For weeks and often for hours on end I met with her one-on-one,  patiently listening to her pain and offering the same tools I’d been given.  I took her to meetings, dried her eyes, prayed with her, slowly taught her about surrender, and just generally poured into her life.

After a short while, she turned her back on all of it. Further, she gave the middle finger to the investment I was making in her and all the progress she’d made and never looked back.  I was floored.  What had I done wrong?  Had my enthusiasm for her to have a better life had the opposite effect on her?  What in the heck happened??

When I shared my dismay with my mentor, she said something I didn’t expect.  She said it had nothing to do with me, but more so that people don’t want it (change for the better). Although they might say they do, the reality is most people don’t want to do what it takes to get it.  What?  How could that be?  How could anyone NOT want to sleep soundly knowing they’d been truthful in everything?  How could anyone NOT want the peace that begins to flow into relationships as one by one we make things right with those we have hurt?  How could anyone NOT want to stop looking into life’s rear view mirror as each new mile traveled now is honest?  How could anyone NOT want the freedom that comes with being naked before God and feel no shame?  How could anyone NOT want to stop arm wrestling with what they knew to be good and right and true?  I had drunk the KoolAid, saw how amazingly improved my life could be, and just assumed everyone wanted it too.

Over time I began to understand what she meant as I watched many seemingly satisfied with “close enough”.  I watched the need to be right destroy relationships on all levels. I watched drinking get out of control in the life of influencers, inflated egos hide behind the guise of ministry, churches split over power struggles, single Christians get impatient as they’d live out romance as if they didn’t know how treasured they were. I watched anger go unchecked, and the perceived “right to happiness” blow marriages apart.  I knew how that went…  I had done a lot of the same thing; professing faith in God but then making choices that flew in the face of “righteousness” if I thought it’d suit me. It’s one thing to say “I believe”, but to really live it out?  Ouch.

So… what is it with us?  Why aren’t we willing to do what it takes to experience every ounce of richness that’s available to us on every level?  Why do we allow low-living to steal from us what God has to offer?

I think it’s because it’s hard. We don’t think so at first, but honest self-review and total surrender to God takes courage. It often takes a lot to swallow our pride and recognize we are not the center of the galaxy.  It’s hard to listen to raw counsel and then truly apply it to our life in ways that show others we’re different. It takes courage to shut up, share the credit, be tolerant with others, tell the truth, stop whining, return the money, admit we’re wrong, serve with no recognition, say we’re sorry, and in general, be willing to really make things right.  It costs us a lot and sometimes, though we’d hate to admit it even to ourselves, we just don’t want to.

Here’s the thing. I believe Jesus went through all the drama of coming to this earth as He did was because He loves us so much, He wants us to have it all. Think about it: He lived as a man, was criticized and tortured and ultimately killed by religious leaders who were ticked that He’d pulled focus from their rules. He then rose up from the dead (He was also still God) and a month or so later returned to heaven where He shared that He’s preparing our eternal home for our arrival.  The point was that He went through all that in order to give us a shot at a life that is marked by great plenty, no matter how much or how little we have.

So what stops us from jumping in the deep end… from biting into the juiciest part of the apple… from living and being all God made us to be?   What would it take for us to do the right thing for the right reason, and trust God with the outcome?

 

To read more of the story, visit Sylvia’s blog I Drank The KoolAid.

* John 10:10 NASB

Aug 2013 27

I have never been a huge fan of sugary things.  Pie or cake? Nah. Chocolate? Meh.  With the exception of gummi bears, I can pretty much take it or leave it.  But I have learned that I can’t live without a certain kind of sweet.

One morning after I had spoken at a women’s event, a young woman came up to me at my CD table.  She introduced herself and said she had a question for me after hearing my story.

“You seem so content that you never got to be a mom”, she said. And then asked “Are you content?”

I had to stop for a second and think. Was I indeed… content?

Here’s the thing: I had always wanted to be a mom.  From as far back as I could remember I wanted it more than anything.

I had been a focused businesswoman up through my forties and hadn’t married until I was 41.  And with a new husband 11 years my senior, it became clear to me that having a child together was not the right path for us.  So although my dream of finding my lifelong partner was exceeded beyond my wildest dreams, the dream of ever having a child… died.

I’m not going to lie.  Waiting all those years to find God’s man for me was tough but this… this was a bitter pill to swallow.

But 14 years ago, disguised as a personal crisis, God gave me a shot at a “do over”.  Doggone it if He didn’t let me start my life all over again when He gave me the chance to get out of myself, grow up and grow deep with Him, and I grabbed it with gusto.  He began maturing me in all areas of my life, showing me in spades that He had my back and wanted me to experience all that life had to offer.  I dug deep into His Word to learn more what that meant and realized one day that I had given in, had completely accepted what He had for me, and had developed a desire to want what He wanted for my life.

It just didn’t appear that having a child was going to be one of those things.

But here’s the thing. Over time, I began to realize that accepting life on life’s terms left a sweet taste in my mouth… and besides, I learned there are a lot of other ways to be a real mom.  Here are a few I’ve found:

When I married Wolf, an extraordinary stepdaughter came with the deal who I couldn’t love any more than if I’d given birth to her myself.  (Mariah often jokes that it’s a darned good thing I didn’t because if I had, she might’ve gotten my thin hair!)

Wolf and I host young people in our home from all over the world who come here to study English.  In the time they are with us, we are given entrance into their hearts and thoughts as we pour into them, striving to provide as full a cultural, family, and spiritual experience as possible.  Some of the richest times we’ve had in the last few years have been with these kids and I wouldn’t trade the experience of being “Mama Sillye” for anything.

For 13 years, I’ve gotten to be a “co-mom” with moms all over the third world who are unable to take care of their children on their own.   As a result of events at which I and my partner Billye have spoken, over 5,000 moms have fewer worries about their kids’ futures because American “moms” have sponsored their child*.  The mother of a child I sponsor in Africa humbled me to my bones when she thanked me for helping her raise her children. Me??

 Up until very recently, I had the honor of hosting a group of young women in my living room every Tuesday night for five years who still call me their “BFF spiritual mom”.  Each week, I got to guide them through God’s Word where I wanted them to see how sweet their life could be if they could  just develop a taste to want what He wants.  We went through breakups, marriages, cancer, pregnancy, and job woes and they began to see that peace is possible, regardless of our circumstances.

You can’t tell me I haven’t been able to be a mom.

So when that young woman asked me that day if I was content, I had to be honest when I said I was not.  But what I could tell her was that, in all honestly, I was in full agreement with God on His choice for my life.  Today, I get it.  Today I see why He withheld this “dream” of mine and I joyfully accept and embrace the extraordinary life He has given me in exchange.

When life turns out differently than the stuff of our dreams, we have a choice.  We can get bitter, wasting months and years pining for what we didn’t get, or we can begin to recognize there are just simply things we won’t understand on this earth and accept what comes our way, relishing what we DO have.

And with that, taste the delectable calm that accompanies the sweetness of acceptance.

With all your heart trust the Lord and not
your own judgment. Always let
Him lead you, and He will clear the road 
for you to follow.
Proverbs 3:5-6 CEV

*Click here for info on how $1.18/day can help a 3rd-world mom provide a better future for her child .  

Sylvia Lange is a Christian women’s speaker living in Southern California.

See Sylvia’s other posts.

Jun 2013 15

There is so much to say today, yet I struggle to find the words.  Odd, really, because first of all, I am rarely at a loss for words and besides, there are so many questions and thoughts and feelings swirling inside of me, refusing to be buttoned up in a tidy place.  But here I sit.

Today a close group of us are thinking  about how a special someone- a living, breathing soul, who once had children and house plants and a brother and friendships, a devoted husband, hobbies and favorite songs- can be here one minute, with opinions and agendas and things to say, with life and blood pulsing through her body… and then in the next minute while the rest of us are fighting traffic, blow-drying our hair, standing in line or watching Seinfeld, be just plain gone from this earth. Oh sure, we are certain my beautiful aunt’s new home is with God because of choices she made while she was here but man, we will  miss her while we are all still here fighting traffic, blow drying our hair, standing in line and watching Seinfeld.

After sitting with her the other day, just hours before she moved from earth and then getting the text from my cousin later that evening that she had left, I recounted all the things that made this sassy, edgy woman iconic in my mind. How she poured her 50-year-old body into a bikini to catch some waves, not caring what anyone thought.  How my grandmother died with no bedsores on her body because my aunt painstakingly cared for her in her last days in a hospital bed in the middle of her living room.  How this beach girl took on New York later in life as she managed the life and career of a Broadway songwriting icon.  And how she taught me that, like the words of a song I recorded on my first album, when it’s all said and done, grace is what mattered to determine my destiny, not works.

Her passing this week emphasized this as I pondered the story she’d lived.  Like most, hers was a day in and day out culmination of tasks, some big and important, but most, mundane, uneventful and quotidian.  But the more I think about it, those small things just may matter at least as much, if not more than the big stuff because those seemingly insignificant tasks add up- unseen, mostly- but I believe our everyday choices bleed together and before we know it, our story has been written.

When the day comes when those I love lay my body to rest, I want my story to have mattered.  I want the people in my life and those who might’ve been watching it to be able to say like the brilliant Shelley Pimentel did “… to be glad they existed on the page with me. (I want them) To feel loved. Fully. Leaps and bounds above even the kind of love we pay boatloads of money to find on the big screen. I want people to feel invested in and cared for and known and like their stories matter, matter a lot, to me too. And I want people, through my story, to somehow see God. To see Him moving and breathing and re-creating inside me. And to be drawn to experience the same.”

And so Auntie, as we say farewell to you today just above the beach you loved so much, I want you to know you mattered.  A whole lot.

And keep your eye on the gate… we’ll be there soon.

 

 

God Himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” And the One sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!”

Revelation 21:3b-5a NLT

 

 

Sylvia Lange is a Christian women’s speaker who lives in Southern California.

Read Sylvia’s other posts, and LIKE her on Facebook!

Apr 2013 22

Guest post by Dave P.  

A special post for friends of recovery

 

Angels pass through our lives, often unnoticed.  Whether we are aware of their presence or not, we are changed because of them and in many cases, our emotional lives are saved because they stopped to touch us.  I’ve had a few such whisk through my life to show me the way and wanted to introduce you to two of them.

I’m quite certain that if you look up “loving” in the dictionary it will say “see Dave and Polly P.”  There aren’t two people alive who understand what it means to love “on” people quite like these two.  There are souls in scores of countries who owe their very lives to this duo as they share their experience, strength, and hope the world over, and give as if the well will never run dry.  They share Who God is in a language few can deny and all can understand… the language of love.  These two shower a deluge of encouragement over anyone who falls in their path and I dare anyone who has gotten soaked by them to say so here. If you want to see that kind of God in action, watch Him work in Dave and Polly as they demonstrate how to truly live the “abundant life” in the service of others.

I’ve been one of the fortunates who have experienced this catalytic force up close and personal.  I knew Polly over 30 years ago as I watched her guide many a lost soul to wellness in the world of recovery from alcoholism. I had long since lost track of her but the day I reached the end of my asphalt 14 years ago, I remembered her, found her, and asked her for help.  As usual, her dance card was filled up as she was already helping a passel of women, but she made time for me, and for nearly five months she and Dave held my hand on a daily basis as I learned how to walk, feel, and pee again as a different person.

Although they now live on the other side of the country, these two still bless my life.  Not long ago when soaking up Dave’s special kind of downpour, I saw some of his writing and asked him to be a guest blogger someday.  He agreed, and I decided today is that day.  So close your eyes (as it were), feel the scenes he describes, and though this is just a taste… folks, meet the unique and wonderful DAVE.

It was another morning in Birch Bay where the weather kept us guessing. In my past, I had never liked changes in weather all that much. After having grown up in Texas, I went on to spend the majority of my life in Southern California where one could expect warm, clear skies 95% of the time. But sunshine relentlessly showered down on everything as a steady diet can slowly become tedious. Each day was the same: sun, sun, and more sun with not even a stray cloud now and then to intrude on the yellowish brown smog-smeared blue – only sun. Those in the earlier seasons of their lives might consider it heavenly, but then again, maybe that’s because hormones are raging and the desire for a slim, tanned body is insurmountable. The beach, the surf, the bikini, the sand… it’s intoxicating. But when we moved up to that blessed community on Washington’s extreme northwest coast, complete with its rain and clouds, I thought I’d found heaven.

We had WEATHER.In the early part of the day, I stood on my deck and drew in a great lungful of clear, clean air in the fifty degree coolness. At first, the sun flirted with a mess of cumulus clouds. The gulls out over the bay were doing what they always do — circling, squawking, diving. In front of me were four spruce trees near the deck. One was a dead snag that was unabashedly naked. Great bald eagles would sit in those trees in the spring and summer when the salmon were running.  I once saw a splendid regal goshawk admiring his world while sitting on the end of a large bare branch. He didn’t seem to mind that I watched him in awe for over an hour and then without notice, he dropped off the branch, soared out over the bay, caught a fish, and brought it back to the limb where he fastidiously dined to my heart’s content.

As the day wore on, the sky began to darken and wet stuff started to fall from the sky. I zipped my jacket up around my neck and remembered how I used to dislike such inclement weather.  In the past, if the weather was going to be bad, I would just stay home. But here I was, excited over the looming darkness.  I guess when I moved to the Northwest, my perspective on all that changed. While there I lived in a veritable rain forest which was merely glorious, with greens that saturated my eyes and were spiritually soothing. But for a guy like me to even be able to notice that kind of beauty, there has to be a lot of rain.

Why do I tell you all this?

I never had this perspective before.  I always sought comfort at all costs. I never heard life, felt life, or cared about life quite like I do now as I walk in the sunlight light of the Spirit. So what happened? Well, one stormy day, my life took a turn when I realized I had been wasting it in the “comfort” of “low living”. I had been settling… SETTLING for a shallow meaningless existence. I hadn’t noticed that my life was passing me by and worse yet, I was powerless to change it’s direction. I could come up with only one thing to do: I humbly asked God to come in and fill my eyes, my ears, my mind and my heart with new things and over time, I started to understand that a rain forest must have foul weather if it is to flourish.

Eventually, I got it. The question was really: “Dave, do you want to be just a spectator in God’s world or do you want to be a participant?”

I thought of my Texas roots in considering my answer. I remembered a mantra I had heard in my youth: “Pull your hat on tight, take a deep seat, get a faraway look in your eyes, give that bucking strap an extra yank, and yell ‘turn him out!’” Perhaps nurtured by my advancing age and whatever wisdom I may have accumulated along the way (with maybe a dash of the courage that comes from a deep belief in God thrown in), I remembered those words as I faced the years I have left and decided to give that strap a strong tug.

If you’re facing foul weather, don’t be afraid of the fierce downpour that may lie ahead. Maybe you could decide to be a participant in your own destiny. Live the life that wants to live you. “Don’t be afraid”, a voice in my head said.. I asked myself: how close to God do I want to be? I decided I want to climb right up there in His lap. Don’t you? Sure. So why not go for it… what have you got to lose? It may be pouring outside but you know what? There’s a break in the clouds right up here in His lap… come on up into the sunshine.

 For information on Alcoholics Anonymous, please visit aa.org.

 

Sylvia Lange is a Christian women’s speaker who lives in Southern California.