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.

Mar 2013 01

When you look at this image, what do you see? One person might say it’s a silhouette of a woman while the next sees a man playing a sax.

So which is it?

A singer on a stage will hear something vastly different when staring down the throat of the speaker’s horn than what she hears upon taking just two steps to the right. The dark image up ahead the hiker is sure is a bear ends up being a rock when he advances just 20 feet. The neighbor who bugs the snot out of you today ends up being a treasure after you find out she’s the one who called the police when an intruder broke in your house. A prolonged period of great financial uncertainty becomes the very thing that confirms deep in your spirit that you can’t only depend on your own ability.

When circumstances suck, many of us get stuck. But even a tiny step in either direction can make that which we initially viewed or heard or felt one way suddenly look, feel, and sound completely different.

When I came face to face with my alcoholism 13 years ago, life seemed to be over. It was as if I’d been bathing in emotional cement which had hardened when I wasn’t looking and I couldn’t see my way out of the mess I’d created. I’d failed everyone I loved and everything I attempted and felt nothing but shame about who I’d become. I was stuck and wanted to die.

But then.

After walking block after block down the depressing road that was my life, out of nowhere I took a right and found myself on a new path. Here, nothing looked familiar but man-oh-man, the light felt good. On this road, there were trees and empty lots where kids played basketball, and all that would come out of my mouth was “thank You”. With the help of good people, a solid program, and a new understanding of a great God, the reflection I’d see in the windows as I passed revealed that indeed, I was beginning to look like a new creature. Over time, the feeling of shame that had choked out all semblance of living within me was replaced with the overwhelming awareness that it had all been a gift.

My friend Ann showed us how it’s done recently after a long and devastating battle with cancer. As she began to take the turn on to heaven’s road, she chose not to feel sorry for herself but rather to thank God through it all. She continued to thank Him, even up to the time she gracefully moved from her current location to her celestial zip code last week, inspiring all who watched her go through the fire.

Perspective.

When one of my girls was hit with breast cancer this Spring at the age of 30, she decided to articulate gratitude instead of swimming in fear as she went through a double mastectomy. Though still dealing with it, Erin has come through this ordeal a vibrant and catalytic believer, profoundly influencing the spiritual lives of all she touches.

Perspective.

Is that really all it takes? Yah, pretty much. That, and a belief that a Power greater than ourselves can restore us to a place of wholeness. Things we thought were insurmountable become small mounds when we give it up, make it a practice to turn it over to God on a daily basis, and watch the Spirit do mind-blowing things inside of us.

I believe this stuff, I really do, and everything has changed as a result. Is my life all sewn up? Not even close. In fact, at this writing I’m going through one of the scariest things I’ve ever faced. I’m anxious and I’m scared– but I’m not derailed. In fact, I see my connection to God deepening and the size of my own agenda decreasing as my eyes are glued to His. When life is going well there is a tendency to give Him a fleeting glance but I thank Him for this trial because through it, I’m getting more in the “habit of Him” as I hang on to Him more than ever before. I also know I need people who want the same things I do. I need caring souls to refresh my memory that I’m God’s very favorite child or I’ll get caught in the cement again. I need folks with a sunny outlook and a great faith to remind me that God is nuts about me and doesn’t want me to stay stuck. Perspective shift? You bet. In fact, the way I see it these days is that I have the extraordinary life I have today all because once upon a time I drank too much. No matter what your issue is, we have Power available to us to squash our flaws, foibles, failures, and fears– we only need to seize it… and live like we believe it.

Maybe the skyscrapers on the road you’re on are so tall they’re blocking out the light. It seems no one notices your feet are dragging. But up ahead is an intersection; you can keep walking down this street or you can make a turn up in the next block. You may be unemployed, on the verge of divorce, ill, bankrupt, or just plain lonely. Take a different path. Hang a right. Get out from in front of your computer, have someone move your bed, bring the phone closer to you… whatever you’re doing or wherever you are, call or go talk to someone. Now. One of my favorite passages from James says “Tell your stuff to another person”; the words on the page actually say “confess your sins one to another” but what it’s telling us is open your mouth and tell another human being the exact nature of what you’re up against. Why? “So you may be healed”. Healed. Trite? Maybe. But pinky swear, this stuff works.

It takes guts, but come on… you can do it. Hang a right.

“I sought the Lord and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor (wo)man called and the Lord heard him; He saved him out of all his troubles.” Psalm 34:4-6

 

Sylvia is a singer and Christian women’s speaker, and lives in Southern California.

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

Aug 2012 30

In the first few weeks of my new life a young woman asked me to coach 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 sponsor Susan, I decided to give it a try and gingerly accepted her invitation.  I told her if she wanted what I had she would need to do what I did and she agreed.  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, and generally stopped at nothing as I poured into her life.

After a short while, she started drinking again.  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?  Did my enthusiasm to help her have the opposite effect and chase her away?  Or was I too soft?  What happened??

When I shared my dismay with Susan, she told me something I didn’t expect to hear.  She said it didn’t have anything to do with me, but said the reality is- most people don’t want 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 rearview mirror as each new mile traveled is honest now?  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 Susan meant as I watched many I loved or admired seemingly satisfied with “close enough”.  I watched churches split over power struggles, single Christians get impatient, and the need to be right destroy relationships on all levels.  I watched drinking get out of control in the life of influencers, anger go unchecked, and the perceived “right to happiness” blow marriages apart.  Earlier in my life, I had done a lot of the same kind of stuff; professing faith in God but then making choices that would belie such belief if I thought it’d suit me. It’s one thing to say “I believe”, but to live it?  Ouch.  I couldn’t help but wonder how different it might’ve been if someone had just grabbed me by the shoulders in those days and asked “what are you DOING?”

So… what is it with us?  Why aren’t we willing to do what it takes to have a rich life on every level?  Why do we allow low-living to steal from us what God has to offer?

You know what I think?  Sorry to be blunt, but when it really comes down to it, it’s just too stinking hard.  That’s right.  It takes a lot to swallow our pride as we listen to counsel and apply it to our life.  It takes GUTS 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 really make things right.  It costs us a whole lot and too often, we just don’t want to pay up.

I don’t know what you believe, but I believe the reason Jesus went through all the drama of coming to this earth as He did was because He wanted us to have it all.  Think about it: He lived as a man, was criticized and tortured and ultimately killed by a passel of religious leaders who were ticked that He’d pulled focus from their legalism. He then rose up from the dead (He was also still God, you know) and a month or so later returned to heaven where He tells us He’s preparing our eternal home for our arrival.  The whole point was that He came to give us a shot at a life that is marked by great plenty1, 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, even if it costs us a boatload to do it?   What would it take for us to muster up the GUTS to, as my buddy Danna says, do the right thing for the right reason, and trust God with the outcome?

“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.”  John 10:10 NASB

 

Sylvia is a singer and Christian women’s speaker, and lives in Southern California.

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

1“Abundant”: www.Merriam-Webster.com