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The Lang Gang’s 2016 Christmas Letter

“I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows Me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

Dear Family and Friends,

One of the iconic landmarks of our little town of Mount Dorachristmas-card-2016, the lighthouse on Lake Dora is designed to guide boaters safely to the marina after dark. Florida’s waterways are a great source of recreation and adventure, but they are not without their dangers, and lighthouses like ours help those adrift in darkness to find their way home.

Consider for a moment what it’s like to be “adrift in darkness”—to have no sure foundation and no clear sense of direction. If you do nothing, you surrender to the ever-shifting waves and currents which may take you where you do not wish to go. On the other hand, if you strike out into the darkness, you may run aground or become hopelessly lost. In such dire straits, a light that points the way home is a light that gives life.

In the days of the prophet Isaiah, the people of Galilee, in the north of Israel, were a people living in darkness. A foreign army had invaded their land, disbanded their government, and carried much of the population off into exile. The only Israelites who were left were too poor and weak to be much of a threat to their new overlords. Yet God promised that they would one day see a great light:

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; a light has dawned on those living in the land of darkness. … For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:2–6)

It is this child whose birth we celebrate at Christmas. Jesus came as a light that gives life, the “light of the world” (John 8:12) which “shines in the darkness” and which the darkness has not “overcome” (John 1:5). No matter how adrift in darkness we are, no matter how desperately lost we find ourselves, the “light of the world” will lead us home.

It’s interesting how many Christmas songs and stories center around this idea of coming home: “I’ll be home for Christmas,” “no place like home for the holidays,” even “the prettiest sight to see is the holly that will be on your own front door.” Somehow, the celebration of Christ’s birth always seems to direct our steps homeward, much as the Roman census led Joseph to travel with Mary to his ancestral home of Bethlehem.

This Christmas, the majority of our children are now adults who are merely coming home to visit. David (21) is out of college and having a ball (pun intended) working as a dance instructor. Caleb (20) and Bethany (18) are both at Florida State University majoring in Theatre. We’re looking forward to having them here for a few weeks, but then they’ll be back in Tallahassee and who knows where beyond that. Our “gang” is no longer all in the same boat, and Lisa and I are learning to trust that they will be able to explore new shores and experience new vistas without losing their way. When they were children at home, we could help light the way for them, but now, we live in the hope that “no matter how far away they roam,” they will always look to Jesus and walk in His light.

As for the two who are still at home, Alexa (15) is already beginning to look to the horizon. Her passion is playing the violin in the Florida Symphony Youth Orchestra, and she will have the opportunity this summer to travel to Europe on tour. Thankfully, Josiah (7) does not currently have any travel plans, although his imagination takes him on daily trips across the rooftops of Gotham City and New York, across the sea to pirate ports-of-call, and across the universe to galaxies far, far away. It would seem that even when they’re little, our children are preparing themselves to one day strike out on their own.

That, of course, is as it should be, and we parents must adapt to our children’s change in orbit. Our homes must transition from being the center of their worlds to being that safe harbor that beckons whenever life’s waters get too rough.

This Christmas, we pray that wherever you are and whatever you’re facing, you would look to the Light of the World and follow Him “out of darkness and into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9). Christmas is the celebration of that moment when the “true light, who gives light to everyone” (John 1:9) came into the world to bring us Home. We’re not meant to remain adrift in darkness. The Light shines. Safe Harbor awaits.

Love,
The Lang Gang
David, Lisa, David, Caleb, Bethany, Alexa, and Josiah

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Prostitution By Any Other Name

When star-crossed Juliet was contemplating her difficulty with Romeo’s last name, she famously observed that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” In other words, Romeo’s hated name was not central to his nature; which was clearly good. Conversely, when we apply a pleasant-sounding name to something horrible, we do not thereby make it any less horrible.

This past week my wife and I took our son to Tallahassee for his college orientation. As we were driving around campus, we turned a corner and saw perhaps the creepiest billboard we’ve ever seen:

SugarDaddy

It starts off innocently enough: “Hey students, need a summer job?” Well, what college student couldn’t use a good summer job? This is targeted marketing at its best!

But then the horrible reality of this summer job opportunity is made clear: “Date a Sugar Daddy.” This message is reinforced by the image of a young woman applying a little too much makeup. So rather than encouraging college students to apply for an internship, work at a summer camp, or even flip burgers, this billboard is urging them to make an “arrangement” with a wealthy benefactor. And while this kind of arrangement is described as a “date,” it is all too clear that money can be expected in exchange.

The advertised website (which I’ve concealed because I don’t want to promote it) is even less subtle. The main page shows a woman dressed in lingerie standing provocatively in front of a fully-dressed business man with a wolfish stare. The tag-line beside this image reads “Intimacy with a Twi$t.” I guess that’s supposed to be clever, but a “twist” implies something unexpected, and exchanging intimacy for money is hardly something new. In fact, it’s commonly referred to as “the world’s oldest profession”!

Dating a “Sugar Daddy” is a nice way to sugar coat the exchange of money for sex, but prostitution by any other name still smells anything but sweet. What’s more, the attempt to lure female college students into thinly-veiled sex work reeks on numerous levels. It communicates to young women that their sexuality is a commodity they can use to get ahead in life. It urges them to look for a man who can take care of them—not a husband who will love and sacrifice for them, but a “sugar daddy” whose gifts come at a shameful price. Conversely, it encourages wealthy men to exploit young women who may be struggling to pay for college. Worst of all, it dresses the whole seedy affair up as a “date” with a wealthy man—the kind of fairy tale imagery many young women associate with romance.

As I drove away, it occurred to me that the decision to prostitute oneself in this way is really just the next logical step beyond the way many college students are already handling their sexuality. Rather than seeing it as something to be valued and saved for a future spouse, many girls offer it in exchange for a nice dinner, a few drinks, or a boy’s empty flattery. After giving it away to a few penniless college guys, they may wonder what’s so bad about using it to get something in return. American culture has so commoditized and cheapened sex that prostitution is no longer unthinkable—just as long as we are careful to call it by another name.

Some feminists might argue that it can be “empowering” when a young woman chooses to use her sexuality to benefit herself materially, but that line of thinking has always struck me as playing right into the hands of men who want sex without responsibility and commitment. My perspective on this is reinforced by the image used to sell these “arrangements” on the advertised website: it is the fully-clothed businessman who holds the power, while the woman is partially undressed for his enjoyment. In the end, she is just one more commodity for him to purchase and consume.

A woman’s sexuality is indeed a powerful thing—not when it is carelessly given away, nor when it is cynically bartered for material gain. It is at its most powerful when used according to God’s design: to bind a husband and wife together as “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). That has the power to encourage a man to give his whole life to a woman, as opposed to merely handing her a few Benjamins.

I pray that the girls who see that billboard will learn Juliet’s wisdom in reverse: prostitution cannot be made to smell sweet by any other name.

Lexi Fiddles Around

My ten-year old daughter, Alexa (affectionately known as Lexi), took up the violin a little more than eight months ago. Today, she and her fellow students played at a local nursing home to entertain the residents. Here she is “fiddling around”: