Friday, December 24, 2010

GOTCHA in time for Christmas

On December 16, we made the trek all the way to Ozd on Hungary's border with Slovakia -- Levi's birthplace to make him ours. On that day we began the "30 day trial" which begins our forever with Levi as our son.

In the days that followed his English began exploding. "Good Job, Mommy! Good Job Daddy!" he says at every turn.

We are thankful to have our son this Christmas -- joining his two sisters to celebrate the birth of Christ. Good Job, God!

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Point of Honest Prayer

The concept of prayer conjures up all kind of images in our minds. For some it's all fancy language, an assortment of "thees" and "thous" woven neatly into overly ornate language to create some sort of melody of splendor.

For others, it is all yawns and distraction -- a boring conclusion to a stilted, antiquated church service. For still others it's like visiting Santa Clause, a time when we climb into the Almighty's lap to seek His comforting touch and deluge Him with a long list of "give mes" not so different from the spoiled child at Christmastime.

C.S. Lewis argues that if this is how we approach prayer, we've missed the point. "Prayer in the sense of petition, asking for things, is a small part of it;" he wrote. "Confession and penitence are its threshold, adoration its sanctuary, the presence and vision and enjoyment of God its bread and wine."

Even in the "asking for things" part of prayer, I think we often miss the point. The Bible in 1John 5:14 points out: "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us." And while we may quote this verse like child's play, we so rarely take time to discover what God's will is in a particular situation. We pray according to our will. If someone is sick, we pray for physical healing of the ailment. If someone is mourning, we pray for restoration. If someone is in need, we pray for abundance. If someone wants something we pray that they get it. It has become our formula for modern prayer.

George Mueller, the famous builder of orphanages, had a different perspective on it. "I seek at the beginning to get my heart into such a state that it has no will of its own in regard to a given matter," he wrote. "Nine-tenths of the difficulties are overcome when our hearts are ready to do the Lord's will, whatever it may be. When one is truly in this state, it is usually but a little way to the knowledge of what His will is."

It was his place of letting go of all his preconceptions -- laying his own wisdom on the altar, so that he could explore and discover God's will. When was the last time any of us approached prayer with this first step?

But prayer must be honest, not for God's sake but for ours. After all, God already knows what's in our innermost parts. We only delude ourselves when we pray,"Your will be done" and all the while work to manipulate our own will in a situation.

"We must lay before him what is in us, not what ought to be in us," CS Lewis exhorts. And that which is in us is often quite ugly. But to honestly lay before God where we are in a situation opens the door to a deeper prayer -- one in which we invite God to change us and align our will with His. Whether it's anger or grief, frustration or elation; whether the emotions are Godly or sinful, we need to be honest with God and in doing so, we are actually being honest with ourselves as God already knows exactly where we were in relation to the circumstance at hand.

And so I come to this meditation on prayer with much in my life to pray about: an adoption that seems to be moving NOWHERE fast, one daughter who cannot seem to recover from a fever/cough, the other daughter with a "suspicious" black mole that will have to be surgically removed just before Christmas, a precious dear friend diagnosed with terminal cancer, and an injured back leaving me incapacitated for the time being. Meanwhile the Christmas season rolls forward.

Can I just lay it all on the altar and truly, as George Mueller put it, "get my heart into such a state that it has no will of its own in regard to" these matters? It is an exercise in personal discipline not just up and tell God exactly what to do in all these matters, but rather to truly seek Him and in doing so allow him to work Himself in me and all these concerns.

After all, there is a bigger point to prayer than our long list of "give mes."

Oswald Chambers put it well when he wrote: "We look upon prayer as a means of getting things for ourselves; The Bible idea of prayer is that we may get to know God Himself."

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Love&Ashes has been released

My book has finally been released. Watch the trailer below. Love&Ashes: A Bible Study of Love, Loss, and Ultimate Romance is available through www.loveandashes.com or amazon.com

Monday, November 8, 2010

Unsung Hero

“Make Me Salt, Make Me Light” the verses of the song twirl through my mind, in the wake of my latest visit to Germany for the Protestant Women of the Chapel's “Worship and Study” Conference, I return exhausted and encouraged, having forged new friendships, learned and grown.

As I spent time with all these military wives, it brought back so many memories of what it was like to be in their shoes. Memories of war and deployment, absent husband, and the harried life they face each day.

While I participated in fun and fellowship, I could not shake a memory from another era in my life. The memory of refugee woman named Eliza whom I met during the Kosovo conflict in 1999 when I was doing refugee relief work in Macedonia.

She was a remarkable woman who fled her homeland with her four children. No husband. No explanation as to where he was or what happened to him. People get lost in war. Her greatest hope and dream had nothing to do with her own security. She wished to build a church in her hometown – not one of spires like the orthodox nor one with domes like the mosques. She wanted true Christianity in Kosovo.

And so she crocheted doilies to raise money to this end. She will always be one of my heroes, an unsung hero. For on the day I left Macedonia, she said she'd pray for me. And that shook me to the core. It is a truly remarkable thing when someone who stands in a place of genuine suffering can care for the needs of others.

The women of this PWOC have something in common with Eliza. For in these tenuous times, it's tough to be a military wife. The level of stress with constant deployments and cross cultural living is almost incomprehensible. And yet they go on each day. Choosing not simply to survive but to look outside their hard places and reach out to minister to the needs of others around them. It is truly remarkable.

They are the unsung heroes of the Iraqi war. And although no medals of valor will ever decorate their chest, they still walk faithfully through whatever God has called them to walk through.

Over the course of this trip I penned this poem. And although it is the story of Eliza, the refugee from Kosovo, it is dedicated to these amazing women of valor around the world who know how to walk faithfully and fruitfully, especially in the dark and hard places.


Unsung Hero

“She walks in beauty like the night,”

Lord Byron penned so long ago

Words on paper brought to life

in a refugee from Kosovo


She walked with masses, wounded, worn

Her four children walked in tow

Absent husband, Doubtful future

Hope deferred in war's harsh glow.


In the twilight, they came stumbling

down a dusty Balkan road

to a mud-walled, one-room dwelling

which would serve as safe abode.


She had nothing. She had a smile

and fingers that danced ov'r silken lace

She sold her wares not for herself

But to build a future, a better place.


In a land where Mosque and Steeple

Clash in cancerous catastrophe

She prayed her death-damaged homeland

Could receive Christianity


She walked in hope through life's bleak valley

She walked with joy, hospitality

She gave her all when she had nothing

Facing fear, fatality


Her children knew too much of landmines

terror, inhumanity

Still she walked in graceful courage

through wartime vanquished sanity


In the wake of devastation

as conflicts fade in evening hue

She packed her children to return

but stopped to say, “I'll pray for you.”


She, a woman with no husband,

She, a homeless refugee,

Looked in the eyes of one so wealthy

And said that she would pray for me!


She walked in beauty that dark night

She walked in faith and certainty

Christ alone was enough for Eliza

Could He alone be enough for me?


And so to those who walk in beauty

through all of life's dark dreadful nights

Unsung hero, unmedaled champion,

Stand strong and tall in Love's true light.


Friday, October 29, 2010

The Waiting Game.

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
--Psalm 130:5

"How long must I wait?" The Psalmist asks. I love the honesty of his question. So many verses give accounts of waiting on the Lord as if it is a delight, a joy, a comfortable thing. Not for me.

I am like the guy who whines "how long must I wait!" (Ps.19:84).

And so we wait for our adoption of Levi to go through. Letters come stating we have reached the next phase, but it's all a game of waiting on a faceless bureaucracy to bring that precious face home.

Waiting is a concept that saturates the Bible. That does not make me like it any better. I am not good at it and I do not want any more practice.

But I do not have a choice.

I must wait.

But while a great deal of biblical waiting has to do with our call to wait on the Lord. The fact is that God does a great deal of waiting on us.

Unlike many missionaries, God does not typically hit people over the head with Himself. He woos and waits. He reveals aspects of Himself in unexpected ways and waits. He grants us glimpses of His love and light and waits and waits and waits for us to respond.

But we, frail and fractious creatures that we are, know what we want and we want it now! Sad thing is that we apply it to our spiritual life.

William Carey noted it in his time.

“The temper of our times is for instant gratification and short-term commitment—quick answers to prayer and quick results with a minimum of effort and discomfort.” Yep, that's me. And I know it's ugly.

So God is making me wait. And slowly I am learning to wait. But I am still not good at it. May I learn in this time of waiting that like our adoption, the conversion of one into God's family is also a process that takes time. And it is God's process not mine to manufacture. Carey said it best:

“There is no such thing as easy and instant discipleship,” Carey explains. “One can commence a walk of discipleship in a moment, but the first step must lengthen into a life-long walk.”

And so as I wait, I hope to learn to love well and in doing so discover a bit more about what a genuine patient passion for souls is all about. For Oswald Chambers rightly warns against the impatient evangelist -- he who is not willing to wait on God's work:

‎"Remember that there is a passion for souls that does not come from God, but from our desire to make converts to our point of view."

God help us in our poorly practiced discipline of simple waiting.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Miracle of Miracles!

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.--Proverbs 13:12

Wonder of Wonder
Miracle of Miracles ...

The old song from the classic musical "Fiddler of the Roof" echoed through my head a couple weeks ago when we received the phone call. Although the psychologist listed her litany of objections to the adoption, in her final analysis, she decide to give lukewarm approval to our request to adopt Levi.

Of course our paperwork must still meander through the maze of bureaucracy before Levi will be ours for keeps. But now, that tree of life has sprouted and as we bring him home for visits each weekend, we know it is all a waiting game.

But waiting is a normal part of the Christian life -- so much so, it's a wonder we all aren't better at it. "But they that wait on the Lord shall renew your strength."How many times do we quote that?

Still, Russ and I watch the calendar, speculating on whether the postal service has gotten our paperwork to the next office yet.
We wait and watch the mail for the next fateful letter that will tell us we've reached the next step in the process that will bring us our son.

Meanwhile Levi remains at the orphanage during the week, going to school each day wondering where he really belongs. Is the orphanage his home? Is the Chun house his home? The answer is yes to both right now, as we are all a family in transition.

But perhaps for him, it feels more like being just a person in transition. For the first time in his life, he is experiencing something different than his siblings. And although some have already experienced adoption and others are in the process too, his experience is unique.
He is being adopted by people who speak English -- Americans to boot!
It's a crazy world in which we live. It's an imaginitive God who could take seven siblings and find them all homes within a year -- with parents determined to keep all the kids in touch. It is indeed a wonder of wonder and miracle of miracles. And it's one worth waiting for.

And so we wait, no longer with hope deferred, but with hope renewed. Now we await the emergence of that tree of life on that coming day when the longing is fulfilled and the Chun family of five comes into its completion.


Monday, August 9, 2010

HeartSick


"Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.
``
--Proverbs 13:12

We entered the summer with hearts dancing with excitement. The adoption seemed to be rushing forward with unimaginable momentum as so many hopes and dreams grew as Levi spent fully six weeks with us during camp season.

Under our roof, we watched as the quiet, unassuming child blossomed into outgoing comic wrapped up in little boyhood, and we emerged as a new kind of a Chun family -- one with five faces instead of four, melded into a kind of clan any human imagination would never dare to assemble. We embraced it as God's better plan, and prayed and hoped that God would grant us supernatural favor within the bureaucracy and Levi would be truly ours by summer's end, able to start school in the fall with us.

It was all a beautiful dream -- until hope was deferred.

The last major step in the process, the psychological evaluation, which we expected to be a cordial meeting, spiraled into a nightmare of hostility, prejudice, and accusation. We emerged perplexed and the follow up meeting with our daughters, Andi and Niki, (fully six weeks later) left me wishing I'd never allowed the psychologist time alone with my children.

The psychologist seemed dead set against us from square one. And now we wait for her official evaluation with sick hearts as so many hopes have been deferred.

But ours is not a unique plight. Hope deferred has become a standard state in this fallen world.

Many such hopes and dreams are good and righteous and God-seeded in the hearts of people -- still hope is deferred and the heart grows sick. For some it is the child they've hope for, fought for, yet miscarried again and again. For others it's the spouse they've longed for, waited for, trusted God for and still the years pass by and no one comes. For others still, and perhaps most tragically, they've held that longed-for child, or kissed that beloved spouse, only to have him ripped from their arms and torn for their souls by the cruel blade of death's grim reaper.

And so hope is deferred. And hearts reel in the agony of it all.

We respond to this heart sickness in many different ways. Russ avoids breakfast, because Levi and he always shared a special early breakfast together. He naps in Levi's room, so it does not feel so empty. But as I clean that tiny room and it remains clean far too long, we all face that profound void in the absence of what should be.

On August 15, we hope to learn the official result of our psychological evaluation. We have low expectations, knowing there could be long road ahead of us as we fight for our Levi. He may not be our child on paper, but he is already the son of our hearts.

And so for the moment hope has been deferred and our hearts are sick. But we believe there will come a day when this dream will be fulfilled and it will be a tree of life to us and others who witness it.

Not everyone gets to experience their righteous dreams fulfilled in this lifetime. May it be enough to know that our Lord, Jesus Christ is the fulfiller of our dreams for all eternity. For all our hopes are never extinguished, they are only deferred for a season -- until we embrace Him face to face.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Preparing a Place




There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. John 14:2-3

I never thought much about this concept of "preparing a place" for someone until recently. As we have begun the process of adopting Levi, I have poured myself into building his room, an undertaking that involved everything from framing and drywall to painting and building shelves. And as I engaged in this process, one verse echoed through my mind daily. " I go to prepare a place for you."

It has been with great delight I have drilled and hammered. As my back and arms ache from each day's strenuous activities, I can only smile and dream of giving this special place, crafted with him in mind to Levi that fateful day when he becomes our own.

Each time we meet and interact, I probe him with questions to discover what spark's his young imagination that I might incorporate more and more tiny details of who he is into the place I am preparing for him.

The place is a product of our relationship, which is only in its infancy and yet this small room is also a reflection of all I perceive him to be. It has been crafted meticulously out of love and devotion, designed to instill security, comfort and hope into a little boy who has already gone through so much in his nine years of life. It is a symbol that he is ours and we are his for when he moves into that room to stay, he will be a Chun by adoption.

Like the disciples in the verses preceding this passage, life must be very confusing for Levi. Last weekend four of his brothers went to live with their adoptive family for good. We come and spend time with him and then have to say good bye. And when we do, he wraps his arms around Russ and squeezes as if he would perish if he dared let go. But he knows he must, for he is not yet ours.

And when I watch him hold onto Russ I want to say, "Don't worry Levi, we are going to prepare a place for you! A place of your very own where you belong. And when everything is prepared, then we will certainly return for you!"

In this experience, I have caught a glimpse of a heavenly truth. I can now imagine Christ pouring himself into preparing a place for each one of us -- a place of perfect design, crafted out of love and relationship, tailored to perfection to meet our every need. And in this preparation, He takes great joy for it represents what is coming -- us truly becoming wholly his.

So as we face the confusing moments of this life, when God seems to have turned away, we must hold on to the truth that He is never far. He is probing us and developing relationship with us as He joyfully prepares that place that we shall one day occupy as He bring us into Himself completely -- forever.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Backtalk

But who are you, a mere man, to criticize and contradict and answer back to God? Romans 9:20 (Amplified)

Yesterday, I was evil.

I had dropped the girls off at school and was driving into Debrecen when I, being a law abiding citizen, stopped at a red light. Patiently I waited as the seconds ticked away. I watched as the local panhandler approached the car ahead of me. I come by this corner so often I almost feel as if I know these guys. It's always one of two: either the old man with a beard or the young man with a crutch. They seem to take shifts as they are never there at the same time.

Yesterday, the young man with a crutch was "on duty." He stood by the passenger side window of that car in front of me held out his hands beseechingly, but the driver would not even acknowledge his presence. Eventually the young man with a crutch moved on ... to my car.

Some years ago, I heard a man who worked with the homeless talk about how damaging it is for the down-and-out when the populace outright ignores them. "At least look them in the eye and treat them like a fellow human being," he had said. And I took the advice to heart. Although I don't give money to random people, I can show them honor and respect.

The young man, probably in his early 20s, hobbled over to my car. He took a humble stance and mumbled his schpeel in Hungarian. I looked at him kindly and said in simple, yet polite Hungarian, "I'm sorry, no."

Bad move on my part.

To my surprise, the man refused to move on to greener pastures. He fixed his feet firmly beside my car and motioned again that I should give him some money.

Still looking him straight in the eye, I said more strongly and firmly: Nem!

But this did not deter him. Now his demeanor changed. No longer beseeching me to show grace and grant him my spare change, now he began hitting my window demanding money.

Perhaps I should have been afraid. But I was too angry for that. With fire in my eye, I leaned over in the seat to face him squarely and shouted determinedly: "NEM! NEM!"

Since he showed no sign of moving on, I shoved my car in gear and moved up a meter or so to hug the car ahead of me, secretly hoping I would roll over his "good" foot in the process.

How dare he! I scoffed angrily as I watched him approach the next car in my rearview mirror. Who does this guy think he is!?!?!?

The whole episode got my back up for the rest of the day, so much so, that I could not help but wonder why it bothered me so much.

Utterly rude ... competely obnoxious ... outrageous ... absurd

Yeah, it's true, desiring to run over his foot is not likely the proper WWJD response. But I also don't buy that the honest WWJD response would be to cowtow to this bully. Jesus was no mamby-pamby, weenie of man. He was the Christ who overturned the money lenders, took on the prevailing dogma of the day, and spoke words that cut like swords to the very core of the issue in each person's life.

Christ was no pushover, so as I lay on my bed last night, I wondered what lesson I was to glean from this life experience. And as I began to mull over the life lessons God has instilled in me of late, I realized when I get riled like this it is often because I am in some way like the person who has riled me.

Me like HIM ... you've got to be kidding.

But then I thought. This is how I sometimes come to God. Sometimes I come properly, beseeching Him in all humility realizing that all the good gifts of this life are by His grace. And then every once in awhile, when I am experiencing His affection and honor toward me, I suddenly decide I can demand things of Him -- even when He compassionately, yet firmly, says "no." And so I "criticize, contradict and answer back to God." (Rom 9:20)

And at that moment, I am not so different from the crazy panhandler hitting my window. Unlike me, God does not get angry and try to run over my feet. Instead, he continues to look at me with His great compassion and He patiently waits for me to understand He has made available all that I will ever need, but I'll never obtain it through my demands and temper tantrums. I'll only discover it through relationship with Him.

For in relationship, He gives his grace utterly and sacrificially.

Relationship is what Christianity is all about. And while we might like mask our demands and criticism of how God is working in the spiritual lingo of "prayers" and "prayer requests." Such mechanisms were never designed to give us an opportunity to tell God how to handle any given situation. Prayer is not us changing God's mind. Prayer is an opportunity to let God change us through fellowship with Him.

So let's fellowship with Him today in all humility -- releasing Him from all the demands we'd like to make. Let's just be with Him and trust Him to handle the rest.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Better Dream


"Now to Him Who, by (in consequence of) the [action of His] power that is at work within us, is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly, far over and above all that we [dare] ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, ordreams]-- " Eph. 3:20 (Amplified)

"I have a dream..."

That ubiquitous quote, which fell from the lips of Martin Luther King, Jr. nearly five decades ago, still resonates from the very soul of each human as we all, on some level, have a dream -- a dream for something better, deeper, more meaningful. A dream to make the world better, if not for all, then certainly for some.

I too have had many dreams over the course of the four decades I've walked this earth. In my teens, all was black and white. And I felt destined to whiten all the black that seethed around me. Ironically, my obsession for the white too often blinded me to the blackness within myself.

If you knew me in my twenties, I often rhapsodized about "changing the world." Funny thing was, God seemed more interested in using His world to change me. And so He did.

This last weekend I was reawakened to a dream of my past. A dream of my thirties. Some ten years ago, my friends Andi (now Horvat-Kavai) and Michelle (now Kummer) strolled along a lovely country road near the palatial Lillafured, Hungary. It was a time when God had seen fit to intertwine my heart and soul with the children of the nearby Diosgyori orphanage. On some level I carried the children and their pain with me for they had become so very dear to me.

As we strolled the rural path, taking in the pastoral landscape, we came upon some beautiful old, yet abandoned and deteriorating, homes. We each chose one and dreamed about what we would do if we had such a house to restore. I vividly remember chosing the red brick one. In it's day it must have been truly lovely: red bricking laced by wooden beams with a turret-like tower on one end. "That's my house," I had said." And it can be a children's home for all my kids." The melancholy faces of those orphanage kids flashed through my mind like a slideshow. It was my dream. It was a good dream.

On Saturday I found myself walking that same country road in the Bukk mountains. I saw the stately place Michelle had chosen for her dream that day so long ago. And then, just before we turned around to go back to the car, a lovely red brick edifice caught my eye and I was taken back to that dream of long ago.
When I walked this path before, I was a single woman with big dreams. We all were.

This time I stood before the house with an exceptional husband at my side and three children scurrying around, picking flowers, collecting snails, and splashing in the mud. One of the children was Andi, named after the friend I had traversed this road with more than decade earlier. The second was our adopted daughter, Niki -- adopted from that very same orphanage that stole my heart so long ago. And the third was Levi, sweet Levi, whom we are working to add to our family in the next few months. He currently lives at that same orphanage.

I don't expect I will ever live in that red brick house in Lillafured. But at the end of the day, it's just a facade of red clay and mortar, crumbling in its imperfection over time -- not so different from the malformed dreams I've crafted for myself over the years.

The three that stand before it are the better dream fulfilled -- "far over and above all that we [dare] ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams"

Let's face it. God, Himself, crafts the better dream -- the dreams we never knew we had. Let's be willing to let go of our feeble, malformed dreams, however good they may seem, that we may not miss out on the better one.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Don't Turn Back

"... forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead," -- Phillipians 3:13

"No, no no!" The new orphanage caregiver shouted. "No strangers allowed in the house!"

My nine year old daughter froze in uncharacteristic stone-cold silence. For two years of her life she had lived within these walls. She had called it home and the 12 year old autistic girl, Angela, who stood beside her, had been her roommate.

"Angela," the caregiver scolded, doubtlessly with the best of intentions, "You know you can't bring strangers in here!"

Strangers? Niki's brow furrowed. How could she be a stranger here at the orphanage, her orphanage?

The two girls edged their way back outside and rejoined the games of the Easter program, but for the rest of day Niki wallowed in a funk. It was incomprehensible that her old life had forgotten her, but the experience declared all too eloquently that she no longer belonged there.

Perhaps we all can relate to Niki's experience last weekend. A certain amount of our identity is wrapped up in our old life. And we want to hold onto it. But God has called us to a new life, a better life, a place where He can meet our deepest needs. He has called us to push forward in it, still we tend to turn back and perhaps even long for things that are not in our best interest. Sometimes He has to bring us to that painful place where we realize we no longer belong there. It is a paring away of ourselves in order to help us embrace the better place he has for us.

So let's stop looking back. Stop living in what would have, could have or even should have been. Let's let go of the old life and embrace the life Christ has brought us into, for hard as this life might be at times, God has designed it to ultimately be good in His great plan.

At times when Niki must face punishment for disobedience or even when she simply longs for her biological or foster mother, her life with us does not feel so good from her perspective. But in the grand scheme of things, having witnessed how she has blossomed over the past 3 and half years with us, there's no doubt, God is working His good in her.

So we can be assured in our own adoption in God's family, that He is working His good in us, even in the painful places as we let go of all that's behind.


Angela and Niki



Monday, March 8, 2010

Ode to a Dog Named Pig

He was a little dog, insignificant as an animal can be. His tail spewed from his back end, a blond tuft of fur puffing out as demonstratively as his nose pushed inward. A pekingese wannabe of mutt stock, he patroled the areas around his home in much the same way his mistress, a Roma (gypsy) woman, struts the streets of the Hungarian village in which we live.

They called him "Malac," Hungarian for "pig," or more literally, "piglet," as his tiny stature would dictate. An annoying canine of note, Malac tormented the neighborhood with his screechy, high pitched yipes in the wee hours of the morning.

No, there was really nothing redeemable about Malac. Given the opportunity, the long-haired mongrel would creep into our fenced yard and "pig out" on our dogs' victuals. All the meanwhile, he turned up his concave nose at the dog food his own master/mistress dispensed.

Malac was a menace, driven wild by our schnauzer-setter's wiles. Granted, the tiny Romeo could hardly expect to accomplish much despite his aggressive attempts to court her. After all, at full height, he reached barely past her ankles.

Still Malac fancied himself quite the ladies man around the village, it would seem. From one end of Mikepercs to the other, the village remains speckled with the a curious presence of pekingese-variation mutts. I guess Malac lived up to his name on many levels, huh?

A couple weeks ago, a new notable peace seemed to descend over the neighborhood. Truth be told I hardly noticed it at first. Then I learned from the boy next door that Malac, the dog named pig, had perished after trying to take on a moving vehicle. Needless to say, he lost the altercation.

Hence, I deemed it fitting to write a tribute to the bothersome dog who, in my humble opinion, was scarcely dog enough to be called a dog. Perhaps that's why they called him, "pig."

Very often as I blog, I seek some sort of spiritual revelations in the ordinary events of life. With Malac, I am hard pressed to find practical application.

Except that, maybe on some level, Malac represents what John Donne wrote about when penned the phrase, "No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main..."

Insignificant as the little dog was, he still somehow impacted and still effects the lives of many in a little Hungarian village called Mikepercs. For some it is a legacy of troublesome strays with pushed in noses meandering about the streets. For others it is a fluffy haired, pig nosed bundle of fun and faithfulness who will follow some child through all his joys and sorrows of growing up.

And if God, in His infinite wisdom, could see fit to craft the workings of this world in a way that allows something as insignificant as a dog named pig to leave a legacy, just imagine all the potential for legacy he must have bound up in you and me.

Let's not leave legacy bound up as mere potential. Let's conciously seek the kind of legacy we wish to leave behind, the legacy we've been called to leave behind.

For "no man is an island" -- not even a scruffly little dog named pig.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

In the Shadow of the Limelight

It's Olympic season again and while athletes from around the world converge in Canada with gold-plated dreams, the rest of the world watches in awe at the strength of the the human body and spirit.

To tell you the truth, I've missed everything. With no working TV and American video blocked from foreign viewing on the internet, I've missed watching all my favorite winter events. But news still eaks through and this past week, no one could miss the drama when Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette took to the ice.

Only two days earlier, her mother died of a massive heart attack. Still, even in the deepest of grief, Joannie would not let that stop her from realizing the dream she and her mother shared. She dedicated her tango-inspired routine to her mother and skated the performance of her life. The Canadian crowds roared in pride and sympathy as she took her bow and tears poured from her eyes onto the ice. And hers were not the only tears shed. So moved by her strength and poise in the face of such tragic loss, the coliseum swelled with emotion and tears welled up in eyes around the globe as the world watched. It was a true Olympic moment, the kind the binds all peoples together regardless of nationality of cultural background, as we share the wonder and magic, the joy and grief of the human experience.

That soul-stirring performance catapulted Joannie to third place in the standings. Bittersweet, as full of grief as joy, Joannie Rochette captured her magical moment, her limelight.

And as we each well up with emotion for her and perhaps even release a sigh and smile, we forget that immediately following this amazing Olympic moment, another skater had to perform.

While onlookers still wiped their reddened eyes, Julia Sebestyen, representing her homeland of Hungary with pride, skated out on the ice, still stained by Joannie's tears. Like all the others she had come to fulfill her Olympic dream and maybe capture her own Olympic moment. By the luck of the draw, she found herself in perhaps one of the most difficult places -- in the shadow of the limelight.

While the world will remember the name Joannie Rochette, no one will remember Julia.

Do you ever feel like Julia?

You've finally reached that high point in your life. You are doing exactly what you were created to do and in your finest moment you find yourself eclipsed by circumstances beyond your control. You think you've reached your time in the spotlight, but end up only in the shadows.

We don't have to look far to find biblical characters who faced a similar situations. Jonathon and Saul both found themselves eclipsed by David. Each responded to their plight differently. Leah found herself overshadowed by Rachael. Esau was eclipsed by Jacob.

Even John the Baptist could have felt eclipsed by Christ, but realizing what was really going on, he said, "He must increase, but I must decrease." (John 3:30)

John the Baptist was okay with operating in someone's shadow.

While most of us will not face a situation as clear cut as John the Baptist's or as dramatic as Julia's, we will likely face situations in life where we get shafted out of our "moment."

The question is not whether it will happen, but rather, how do we respond? We can fill our hearts with viperous bitterness, ever agitated that we'd been robbed of our right for acclaim and appreciation. Or we can be willing to decrease that others may increase.

It would be not fair for anyone to have to skate at the Olympics after Joannie's moment, but life is not fair. And even though life is not fair, God is still in control and still good. Julia skated and has joined the annuls of figure skating history full of forgotten names who accomplished so much -- in the shadows of the great Olympic moments.

Perhaps the greatest call in the Christian life is not the call to the limelight, but the call to the shadow, for this is the way of humility, the way of sacrifice. It's the road that says "Yes, Lord," regardless what He calls us to walk through.

"The Lord has told you what is good,
and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God. " --Micah 6:8

Let's embrace the shadow of the limelight.

.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Szeretek a Rakott Krumplit!

Magyar étel nagyon finom. Talán a legfinomabb magyar tál Rakott Krumpli. Szombaton sokat csináltam ez. A barátnőm, Edo, segített.

Én boldog voltam, hogy Edo segített, mert ő autentikus magyar. Ez nem lenne igazi rakott krumpli ha azt nem készítették elő magyar kezek. Sajnos magyar vér nem fut végig a vénáimon. De én magyar vagyok szivemben.

Egy magyar sziv nem elég csinálni a rakott krumpli autentikus. Köszönöm Edónak, a bűvös Magyar érintésedet!

Ez finom volt, az volt, hogy mondom-e magam. De a legtöbb magyar étel finom.

Egészséges? Nem fontos.

Pedaul, a jóbb név rakott krumpinak lenni "koleszterin tűzálló tálja." Talán ez meg fog ölni téged. De ez annyira finom, hogy meg fogsz halni boldog.

És ahogy minden táplálékszakértő vagyis tudja, mindaz számít!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

To Be Chosen

Ahhh, to be "chosen"!

What an awe-inspiring concept. To be special, set apart. Our adopted daughter Niki knows something of what it means to be chosen. Adrift in an orphanage, rejected by the only home she ever knew, she had her basic needs met -- food and shelter. But she had no one to call her own.

Through adoption she discovered the concept of being chosen. SHE was the ONE! SHE now had a family who loved her! SHE had been chosen. But being chosen does not come without costs.

Consider what being "chosen" meant in Bible times:

Abraham was chosen. He had to leave his homeland and everything he knew to travel to -- only God knew where! Along this pilgrimmage he had to deal with a barren wife and no hope of offspring -- except for God's promise. Then when the promise was finally fulfilled, God asked him to sacrifice his son!

Moses was chosen. Set adrift in a basket as a baby, raised by strangers, he committed murder. He fled to the desert for many years, returned to face Pharoah and witness the plagues, and then after the parting of the Red Sea, he had to deal with a bunch of complainers in the wilderness until he died.

David was chosen. And he had spend a good portion of us life fleeing the king's wrath. When he finally became king, his son, Amnon, raped his daughter,Tamar. Later his other son Absalom killed Amnon, bringing the concept dysfunctional families to a new height.

Mary was chosen of God. Pregnant before marriage, she gave birth in a stable with only her husband to help. Then she had to flee to Egypt and live like a refugee until they could return to Israel, where she would raise that child only to watch him be tortured and murdered publicly.

Paul was chosen of God. And he suffered countless beatings, stoning, and tradition suggests he was ultimately beheaded.

The list could go on and on. Chosen of God most often means Chosen to Suffer in this life. It just doesn't seem fair, does it?

Niki too feels the sting of the "chosen" when all the kids at our village ministry "Kids Klub" are allowed to act like monsters, being rude and disrespectful with no consequences, and if she even uses a tone of attitude serious punishment awaits!

She senses it too when all the other kids are free to goof around and play and she comes home to study under the malevolent dictatorship of her mother.

It's not fair, she must often think. But she was chosen.

Like Niki, we often do not understand the circumstances we must walk through in this life. Indeed, being "chosen" doesn't seem to be all it's cracked up to be. But we cannot see this world as it truly is. We can only "see through a glass darkly." (As 1 Cor. 13:12)

Has God chosen you? It's no reason to be smug or self-righteous. Being chosen is no panacea. It's hard and it hurts -- so much it may make us wonder if we really wanted to be chosen in the first place.

But perhaps here is where we misunderstand most. CS Lewis summed it up nicely in The Great Divorce:

“‘That is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering, ‘No future bliss can make up for it,’ not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory. And of some sinful pleasure they say ‘Let me have but this and I’ll take the consequences’: little dreaming how damnation will spread back and back into their past and contaminate the pleasure of sin. Both processes begin even before death. The good man’s past begins to change so that his forgiven sins and remembered sorrows take on the quality of Heaven: the bad man’s past already conforms to his badness and is filled only with dreariness. And that is why, at the end of all things, when the sun rises here and the twilight turns to blackness down there, the Blessed will say ‘We have never lived anywhere except Heaven,’ and the Lost, ‘We were always in Hell.’ And both will speak truly.’

Can we catch a glimps of heaven in the trials we face today? Can we hold the title of "chosen" in humble surrender so that He who makes all things new may use even this present suffering to work heaven in our lives?

We are chosen.