Monday, January 31, 2011

Love is not Selfish ...

"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters." -- 1John 3:16

Last week American Idol hopeful Chris Medina won the hearts of millions not with his dazzling vocals, but with his story of love and commitment. In 2009, two months before his scheduled wedding, his fiance was critically injured in a car accident. She suffered a traumatic brain injury.

"I was about to make vows just two months from the accident -- through thick and thin, 'til death do us part, for better or worse," he said in an interview. "What kind of guy would I be if I walked out when she needed me the most?"

As we learn of Chris' story, we watch in awe. His level of true commitment, devotion, and unadulterated unselfishness leaves us breathless. But perhaps the most telling part of the story is not Chris' actions, but our response.

In a society that rhapsodizes about "love" in everything from the biggest hits in every genre of music to the hottest movies to best selling books, we really don't get what love is.

We've redefined love to cater to our own pleasures and desires. We've made it all about ME! And we've forgotten what our God has taught us -- that love is sacrifice. It is laying down one's life for another. It is not about getting your needs fulfilled but about giving up your own comfort for another person's good.

Chris Medina has quite simply demonstrated true love. It is a choice he is making each day. And one I hope he continues to make.

Are you longing for love? Then take a honest look at Chris' story. His situation is not one any of us would ever choose. But if God saw fit to require it of us, would we be able to love well? It is not question I want to answer, because I fear I would fail, though I pray God would grant me the grace to walk faithfully through it.

Our ultimate example, our Lord Jesus Christ, demonstrated it so long ago when He laid down His life for us. But since we've heard it in church since childhood, sometimes it seems to have lost its luster. If we can get teary eyed in the face of Chris' demonstration to true love, why can't the idea of God Himself giving His very son still stir us inside?

As February approaches and Valentine's day emerges on the horizon, instead of buying chocolates and roses (or gagging at those who do), we would do well to ask God to help us learn to live out true love -- by His definition.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sharp Surrender

"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." --Philippians 4:12

"There's always something," my husband sighed as our three children shouted at each other in a language we could not understand. After months and months of fighting to get Levi, now he's ours and the period of "adjustment" is in full swing. Levi was new and exciting when he came to visit us each weekend. But now he's just an annoying brother.

"Why do we always get the annoying ones?" my biological daughter, Andi, asked as I put her to bed last night, exasperated with both her siblings. Five months ago when the brakes had been put on our adoption process by an unsupportive psychologist in Budapest, this same little girl looked at me with anguish in her eyes and asked, "What if they don't let us have Levi?"

We are never satisfied, are we? There's always something.

We tend to our lives filled with the phrase, "If only ..." You can fill in the blank.

If only I had more money...
If only I had a car...
If only I were married...
If only I had children...
If only I had a better husband/wife...
If only I had smarter children...
If only I had a better car ...
If only I could lose weight...
If only I were better looking...

...then I would be content/happy.

Really? I doubt it.

Because if we live the "if only" lifestyle, there will always be something else -- just out of our reach.

We frail, pathetic human creatures seek our completeness in the things of this world. AND some of those things are truly good and legitimate requests we can make of God. But these things are not God and therefore will never give us the "completeness" we seek. And God is under no obligation to give them to us.

So often we approach God as if He owes us. After all, He's provided those things to so many others. Why not ME?!

And so instead of coming to Him recognizing who He is and who we are, we selfishly demand things of God, telling Him that "if only" he will give us this one thing, THEN we will be good and content Christians.

I believe contentment is deeply connected to surrender. I remember growing up in Church hearing songs that rhapsodized over "sweet surrender." But that may be a misnomer.

Surrender is tough when it is genuine. It involves loss, a death of sorts. It is a death to the self and all the expectations and rights we deem our own. And on the outset there is nothing sweet about it. It's more like sour or spicy hot, piquant, bitter or sharp. It is uncomfortable and goes against our nature.

And yet, surrender is the centerpiece of the Christian life.

We call Him Lord. And yet readily tell him NO!

Think about that. There is some fundamental contradiction in the statement "No, Lord." If He is TRULY our LORD, then we can only say, "yes." If we say "no" then He is not truly our Lord.

So this brings us back to the places of discontent in our lives. If God chooses to never give you any of your "if onlys", would you still be able to say, "Yes, Lord"?

After all, a place of discontent may very well be little more than a place unsurrendered.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Cross Cultural Cornucopia

"After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands." --Revelation 7:9
There was milk, and there was wine. Saaris and Csizma. It was a night where Bollywood meets csarda dancing and Hungarian, English and Malayalam merged into the universal language of laughter. When a Hungarian girl marries an Indian boy (from America) the cultures collide into a cornucopia of beauty and splendor this gives us all a little glimpse of Heaven.

I've always believed that in
each and every culture on Earth, God has infused a bit of Himself -- something that reflects His glory. After all, if He created man in His image, how could it be otherwise?

So when cultures come together and maybe a little savory masala mixes with potent paprika sprinkled with a little American salt (and a pinch of Chinese parsley), the result is a scrumptious combination that can potentially draw us closer into the courts of Heaven.

And for me this wedding did just that. From Suja, the groom's sister who beams with the glory of God in all she does to Sunil who knows how to make sure everyone has a good time, to Luca the Hungarian choreographer of the Bollywood-styled wedding dance, to Gigi who inspires all with her eye for design and gentle spirit. Cultures came together seamlessly as women in Saaris joined Hungarian folk dancers for a few boot-slapping steps. And the bride and groom? Well, the picture says it all!
If we frail creatures can create such a beautiful night of celebration by combining several cultures, just imagine what the wedding feast of the Lamb will look like one day -- when God brings the best of all cultures of the world together and we celebrate our union with Him!

Egészségedre! Cheers! Prost! Salute! Skål! Noroc! Chia!
Oogy wawa! Lechaym! Ziveo! Budmo! Saliginiza! Choc-tee! Na zdravie! Minum! Hipahipa! It will all be just one big party. And I'm looking forward to it!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Jeopardy of Good Things

But Samuel replied: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams." -1 Sam 15:22

"Niki! Put on your boots and coat!" I raised my voice as this was the third time I'd had to say it.

Niki danced around, in that rose-colored Niki way, and immediately noticed that a candle was still burning on the table. She stopped and gazed at it, fascinated by its golden glow. Then puff, she blew it out.

"Niki!" I snapped. "Your coat!"

We had planned to go to the toy store so that she and her brother and sister could buy a toy with the money they had earned working around the house over Christmas break. Her brother and sister stood bundled by the door patiently waiting, but Niki remained in her own little world.

She spun around and danced toward the door -- in no particular hurry -- and suddenly noticed that music was playing. Skipping over to the stereo she punched some buttons.

"Niki!" Now my voice had reached an all-out bellow. "Why are your coat and boots not on your body?!"

Again she started toward the door, but some light had not been turned out so her path once again was diverted as she tried to be "helpful" and flip the switch.


I had reached to point of sheer exasperation. I wondered if we'd ever make it out the door. Why is simple obedience soooo difficult!?

And then it hit me. It was one of those "ah ha" moments when God taps me on the shoulder and says, "She reminds me of you."

Forever focusing on doing good things. And all those good things distract me from simply obeying. As a result I jeopardize the best thing -- that wonderful treasure God has in store if I'd simply obey.

"To obey is better than sacrifice" Samuel says. Funny we all think we'd be willing to be the martyr -- make the greatest sacrifice -- yet we cannot manage to listen to God and simply obey this moment today.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Christmas Movie

In the spirit of the classic Church Christmas Pageant, our kids class at Calvary Chapel Debrecen created a Christmas film for this year's celebration. I'm a little late in posting it, but better late than never.

Sunday, January 2, 2011


Levi is now with us and the Chun family is swirling headlong into the vast vortex of adjustments. From the parents perspective, we've moved from the standard "man-to-man" defense possible with two children to the trickier "zone" defense as we two frail, feeble humans try to decifer, discern, and meet the needs of each of our three kids.

Even though Niki has been with us for fully four years, we see her slip back in orphanage behaviors in the face of new competition for attention. And Levi has much to learn about the rules of the Chun house and how we expect him to relate to his sisters and us.

Andi, our biological daughter, probably has the toughest job of all. She's been in the family the longest. She knows the rules, how things work, and pretty much tries to do the right thing. But when the other two are snapping at each other or trying to get away with something, she finds herself caught in the crossfire.

Family adjustments are tricky business. But it is a business not simply for the adoptive family. It is also the business of the Church. After all, who is the Church but the "family of God"? And who are each one of us, if we are not part of that family through adoption? (Romans 8:15)

The business of family adjustments is essentially discipleship, a gentle retraining in the way we respond to others both inside and outside the family unit. It is all about relationship. We sit down with each of our children and teach how to respond to conflicts with each other, how to express their needs to us, and how live as responsible, loving human beings. We strive to teach them to love well. But these lessons are not learned quickly by children who have faced so much pain. And to be honest, it is incredibly exhausting for the family as a whole.

So also any church who is fulfilling the great commission and truly making disciples is faced with the constant, awkward, exhausting job of retraining people (some of whom, like adopted kids, are not so eager to be retrained despite their salvation/adoption experience). Those in the church who have been in the family of God the longest, like Andi, may sometimes find themselves caught in the crossfire, struggling to be the example and taking on responsibility you really never asked for. Others, like Niki, may feel threatened by the newcomers and may well serve more as a bad example than a good one. Still wherever we fall in the spectrum, we are called to disciple -- despite our deficiencies. Funny how God set that up.

So as the Chun family seeks to readjust and disciple these precious ones God has placed in our care, we find ourselves as parents being discipled in the process too. We catch glimpses of how much patience, longsuffering, and true love the God of Heaven must have for us, frail feeble wounded souls to be willing to adopt us in His family regardless of the required adjustments.