Feb 2015 16

50 SHADESI’m pretty sure I would have and you know what? I’m not proud of it, but it’s true. I probably would have secretly seen it with a girlfriend or worse, let the Man of the Month persuade me to see it with him. But in either instance, I would’ve felt dirty but sure would’ve been there on the front row of church the next morning all cleaned up in my Cathy Christian persona. Such a fraud, wanting it both ways.

Since then, I’ve learned about second chances as grace released me from the ick of my hypocritical self, and it has driven me to live not a perfect life, but an honest one. But back then, I struggled with self-worth so low that it would cause me to do things a healthy person would never consider. Where it showed itself the strongest was with men. 

BuddhaThink

Buddha said  “What we think, we become”. Science tells us that what we believe starts with what we think. I would’ve seen Fifty Shades of Grey and it would maybe have aroused me, it certainly would’ve confused me, and for sure driven further into the belief that what was good for ME was not on the menu. I saw the similarly controversial 9 1/2 Weeks in 1986 and walked out halfway through, but it was too late; even by then, damage had been done in my psyche and for years after, every time I connected with a man, I was haunted by the images I saw.

Although I never got caught up in real life situations as horrifying as this movie describes, I often entered into secret relationships and compromising situations with the same kind of disrespectful man, one who withheld love or was just a blatant narcissist. I routinely exposed myself to his selfish message and after awhile, was convinced I was unworthy. This is interesting because I have a loving father who, though very strong, always made sure I knew he loved me and wanted the best for me. But there were other male figures in my early life from whom twisted ideas about love were planted in my mind. Experience tells me that the shame from those ugly experiences drove me to hide the truth as I believed the lie that I was somehow responsible and ultimately didn’t deserve respect.

As I got older and made decisions of my own accord, I would often go in and out of wishing someone would talk turkey to me about my duplicitous tendencies but I wonder: if they had, would I have listened? Would I have heard the interventions of the caring soul who might’ve told me that exposing myself to these kinds of influences would wreak havoc on my emotional soul later in my life? I actually think I would have and in hindsight, wish someone would’ve taken the risk to get in my face.

But that was then. In recent years I have focused on trying to help other young women, hoping to help protect them from the pain I endured and from making the same mistakes I did. I’ve wanted to share how broken things can be put back together again with God’s help. For five years, I had the privilege of being the “spiritual mom” for a passel of gorgeous and bright young women in their early 30s, some of whom struggled with difficult childhoods resulting in low self worth. I took that role very seriously as weekly I tried to provide a safe place to explore things from a spiritual perspective that they didn’t feel they could ever talk about with parents or God forbid, in church circles. So when 50 Shades of Grey came out in book form in 2012, I felt compelled to steer them away from reading it.  I wanted them to understand that God saw them as perfect and that He wanted the best for them, as any loving parent would. I wanted them to see how their actions now as single women could deeply influence their future married life. I explained how feelings are formed from what we think, and how our thoughts are influenced by what we allow in to our minds but at the same time though, wanted to be careful not to be “that” Christian who protested so much that they would want to read it just to prove me wrong. Sadly, a couple of them did and I cannot help but believe there is a part of them that regrets it.

Anyway, I just learned today, the Monday after the movie was first released, this movie has already done over $81 million in box office sales… in just two days and they expect it to hit $100 million this week.  Millions of people have paid good money to see it… young people have gone to see it on a first date, groups of girlfriends have hosted FSOG parties where whips and handcuffs were given as party gifts, and some married folks have felt pressured by their spouses to go. What? And more importantly, why? 

I’m no prude, but I know I’m not alone in my protest from both atheist and religious folks.

Popular erotic romance author and Huffington Post regular Jenny Trout blogs “I cannot, for the life of me, understand how it would be enjoyable to fantasize about a man who takes control in all aspects of your life.” Jill Savage, Hearts at Home president and best selling author and friend describes some of the dangers with “The problem with that is a slightly skewed perspective away from the way God wants me to live can easily become a slippery slope.” And Dannah Gresh, bestselling Christian author of Lies Young Women Believe and Pulling Back the Shades, wrote this just a couple of days ago in anticipation of the film’s release: “The romance you’re hungry for requires a strong man, but not one with whips and chains. So pass up Christian Grey and find a man who is so strong that he’d have the guts to lay his life down for you.”

HeartKnifeCornell and UCLA psychiatrist and sex expert Miriam Grossman, MD wrote a compelling piece this week which said “The bottom line: the ideas of Fifty Shades of Grey  are dangerous, and can lead to confusion and poor decisions about love. There are vast differences between healthy and unhealthy relationships, but the movie blurs those differences, so you begin to wonder: what’s healthy in a relationship? What’s sick? There are so many shades of grey…I’m not sure. Listen, it’s your safety and future we’re talking about here. There’s no room for doubt: an intimate relationship that includes violence, consensual or not, is completely unacceptable. This is black and white. There are no shades of grey here. Not even one.”

Rom 12 2

It does start in our mind.  It is science. It all starts in the brain. It is black-and-white… and indeed, there are no shades of gray. For me a great deal of healing has come since those days as a young woman as I recognize God sees me as a beautiful, perfect daughter. Although I am deeply loved today by a gloriously unselfish, respectable and respecting man, there are still some marks that remain but  I am no longer haunted by the past. But oh, what I could have protected myself from if only I had stayed on this side of the line when I drew it between where I stood and looming evil!

So, if you’re thinking about going, I hope this has caused you to pause if only for a moment. And hear this: no matter what the trailers say, no matter what the misguided author attests, and no matter how much your giddy friends might say otherwise as they try to entice you to a girls night out to see it, 50 Shades of Grey is no love story. It is a cheap thrill… nay, unadulterated porn.  Nothing more. And you know what? No amount of perfume sprayed on a pile of poop will make it stop stinking. A rose by any other name is still a rose.

I, for one, don’t want those images polluting my mind. Ever. When I am with my darling husband who loves me deeply, I only want to see us; our love, our way- the way God gave it to us… not some stranger’s twisted fantasy. So call me a prude, but I think I’ll just stay home tonight, blissfully ignorant, and bask in the only pure Love Story* I’ve ever known.

 

* “I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.”

Romans 8:38

 

 

 

 

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.  

Aug 2013 20

I love Facebook.  Blogs. Instagram. Twitter.  All of it.

I look forward to seeing Tracey’s latest ocean adventure or chew on the profundity of Donald Miller or hear myself say “awww” each morning as I read Jen’s quotes posted to encourage all who stop by.  I love Catherine‘s Biblical wisdom and Mackenzie’s scientific brilliant wit.  I could swear I smelled the garlic as I read Brian‘s descriptive account of his and the fam’s adventures at their Tuscany cooking school and I was so happy to fete my sister when I saw she received award at work recognizing her accomplishments.  My nephew’s adventures as he settles in to his first apartment in LA would very possibly have not made its way on to my radar if not for social media, and without it, I might not have known to pray for Allie in the early days of her cancer.  And to miss my daily belly laugh, courtesy of Seth, or the hilarity that comes through Deanna’s or Junko‘s mommy musings … are you kidding me?  Quelle horreur.

It’s like having my own pleasant little neighborhood coffee shop where everyone knows my name and where I can poke my head in when I have a minute to sip a cup of joe as I hear quick updates from folks I wouldn’t otherwise see.  Call me Pollyanna, but it often feels like my own little Mayberry.  In that place, people often make statements about their truth, whatever that might be and although I may not always agree with their position, I appreciate hearing it as I see it as an opportunity to gain a little more insight into who they are.

But in an instant, that lovely atmosphere can get poisoned.  You know what I’m talking about: those times when it is as if someone walks into that corner meeting place with a bullhorn in hand and publicly blasts that person’s truth, and all of us on the sidelines are forced to witness the verbal carnage in front of us.  All it takes is a couple of acerbic volleys between two opposing points of view and bam,  we all just want to head for the door or at the very least, select “unfriend”.

Really, what could possibly be accomplished when we bash Kirk Cameron or the POTUS on our newsfeed?  Do we actually believe we’re going to change a person’s opinion about DOMA by blasting our viewpoint, or do we really think Christians are going to suddenly kick their God to the curb because someone bullies them on Facebook for their beliefs?

I just don’t think that clubbing someone over the head with a quote by Jon Stewart or Huck or the Huffington Post or even the Bible as a means to win an argument serves any purpose except to unnecessarily cause division. Sure, we need to stand for truth when the time is right and yes, we live in the land of free speech… but in that setting?  Just because we can… should we?

When I look at the whole counsel of Scripture, I see that no matter who He encountered in public, Jesus hit the core of everyone He met with love and in fact, said that love wins.

Every time.

My mother has always said “You can always say more, but you can never say less.”  Good advice, mom.

As I was chewing on all this the other day an old protest song came to my mind and before I knew it, I’d penned my own satirical rewrite as my own little protest.  I hope Bob doesn’t mind.

 

(Listen to Bob Dylan sing “The Times, They Are A Changin”)
 
Come gather ’round people wherever you roam
And see that the whole world around us has thrown
Us a curve ball that no one could guess would be shown
So many around us are hating
What if we looked inward to see how we’re prone
For the times, they are a changin’
 
Come right wings and liberals
Who shake hard your fists
And keep up the rancor and how you insist
That your bents and opinions are all catalysts
For the changes you think should be raging
For whoever wins now will be later to lose
And your ground, it’s slowly fading
 
Come family and old friends throughout the land
Do criticize what you can’t understand
And pound down your fist but the flame will be fanned
Insist the opposer’s worth blamin’
Though red or though blue, all opinions remand
And your cause, no one is listening
 
And God, what thinks You as this tumult abounds?
You must feel so saddened as Your kids expound
On their theories and slants as their prejudice unbounds
The twists on Your truth they are making
Straight on at a mirror we all need to gaze
At ourselves, we all need changing.

And in closing, some great advice from the best selling Book of all time:

“’I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.'”
1 Corinthians 10:22
 
 “One of them, an expert in the law, tested Him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’
Matthew 22:35-40

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

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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.

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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.