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

Nov 2013 28

I’m not gonna lie, Thanksgiving hasn’t always been my favorite.

In the years when I was my own favorite subject, this holiday seemed to bring out all kinds of crazy in me as it seemed to shine a big, bright spotlight on to what I didn’t have.  I didn’t have enough money in the bank and I didn’t live near my family at the beach. My friends felt few and far between.  I didn’t have a husband and I didn’t have children.  I rarely felt thankful.

I would come to be with family and would end up tainting the spirit of the day.  I’d sulk as I ‘d help peel potatoes, chop celery, wash dishes, polish the remaining silver.  “Meh” was written all over my face when a family member would share about a pregnancy, a job promotion, or a new boyfriend.  The smallest of things would get to me.  All it would take would be a tone, a look.. and you’d think the media should be alerted.

But then.

One day, the worst and the best happened.  I put down the glass and picked up a new life.

Broken pieces were gradually put back together again as I began to see the world didn’t revolve around me.  Ugliness was replaced with beauty as my lens began to refocus off of myself and on to others.  I learned the benefits of consciously and intentionally loving people through my actions.  With practice, I adopted a thankful attitude and began to see how celebrating others in turn only served to celebrate me.  Oh, it didn’t come all at once, but with a strong mentor and arrows from the Spirit, I began to experience a calm I’d never known before.  I thanked God out loud for His goodness and at long last, I discovered peace.

Give thanks to God – He is good and His love never quits.  ~1 Chronicles 16:34

And now, I can’t stop saying it: God is good.  To say it out loud reinforces my belief that it is true: God is good.  No matter what might hit… God is still good.

With my love and my sadness
I come before You Lord
My heart’s in a thousand pieces
Maybe even more
Yet I trust in this moment
You’re with me somehow
And You’ve always been faithful
So Lord even now

When all that I can sing
Is a broken hallelujah
When my only offering
Is shattered praise
Still a song of adoration
Will rise up from these ruins
I will worship You and give You thanks
Even when my only praise
Is a broken hallelujah

Performed by Mandisa
Written by Gina C. Boe, Tony Wood, Ronnie C. Freeman, Jr. 

Sylvia Lange is a Christian women’s speaker, independent music artist, blogger, and teacher. To see more of her blogs, visit here.  

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.