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.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Where I do not want to be...

Have you ever found yourself in a place you didn't want to be?

I'm not simply talking geographically, but more poignantly relationally. Maybe your own choices (right or wrong) brought you to this uncomfortable place. Perhaps it was someone else's choice and you had no say in it. Regardless you find yourself in a place of awkward tension and irreversible discomfort.

In a word, TRAPPED.

And trapped in this world of discontentment, with swirling angst and tension on all sides, how do we do what we are called to do. How do we love well?

When I was a kid, my pastor preached a whole sermon on an obscure character in Scripture. 2 Kings 5:2 tells us about a little girl "taken captive from Israel" by bands from Aram and forced into slavery.

The Bible gives us little more information about her background. But we can extrapolate much from this one verse. Fundamentally, the little girl was in a place where she did not want to be. She had suffered great loss -- the loss of family, friends, home, culture, lifestyle, freedom, and all those hopes and dreams that little girls have regarding what their lives will be like when they grow up. We can only speculate as to the brutality she witnessed, if not experienced.

She was but a child, still she was old enough to know who she was. And that was one thing they could not take away. She remembered there was a God in Israel and His prophet did extraordinary things. It must have all seemed so far away -- until her master became a leper.

In a place she did not want to be, held by those who had destroyed her life, she had every reason to be discontent, bitter, and angry. And then he who had caused her so much suffering in her youthful innocence, began to suffer!



Time to celebrate JUSTICE!!!!

"Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord!" Right? Muhahahahaha.

But that was not her response. At the end of verse 2, we read her only words recorded: "If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy."

The master, Naaman, went. And God healed him.

There is no indication that this child ever was set free from her place of hardship because of this good deed. In fact, there is no indication she even received a reward. She likely lived out the rest of her life in slavery.

So what's the point?

Her circumstances did not change her character and her character did not change her circumstances.

Still, she made a choice to make the most of a bad situation -- to practice contentment which enabled her to love well even in the face of her own suffering -- and those actions brought glory to God.

That made all the difference.

Lately, I’ve found myself in a place of awkward tension – a place I really do not want to be. My choices (which I believe are right) brought me to this place. May I learn to love well and “practice love” in the face of it – even if those choices never free me from my place of hardship.

May bringing glory to God be enough for me.