Monday, May 22, 2017

The Jackpot

Cameron Russell
Tonight's devotional is based on a quote from the lady above. It is from February 3, 2013.
I would not have recognized the name Cameron Russell if I'd heard it on the news. Truthfully, I might guess Cameron Russell to be male as there is a young man with that name in one of my classes this year. But Cameron Russell is a very well-known model and a very beautiful one at that. Several days ago, I read an article about a video series she made with a number of quotations. I came away impressed with what she said, particularly these words:
"The real way I became a model is I won a genetic lottery..."
In a world where the successful often glorify themselves, especially in the entertainment and athletic arenas, how refreshing to hear someone admit that their parents played a huge role in how they are equipped for the world. Obviously, she is in an industry that is cutthroat and you must have stage presence but I like the fact that she takes no credit for her inheritance of DNA and chromosomes. Many would die to look like Cameron Russell. Perhaps some even have by attempting to starve themselves to that level of spotlight.

That term has resonated with me: genetic lottery. I'm no gambler, although I went through a spell in college, but I've never been tempted to buy a lottery ticket. I see people all the time buying them at the store who look like they can barely afford food. But this isn't about gambling- it's about winning the lottery. Cameron says she won it with her looks but how many of us, by the grace of God, have done the same? How about...
"The real way I became prosperous is that I won the country of origin lottery...."
The missions I've been blessed to make to Haiti and Honduras and the poorer
parts of China and Vietnam have made me get some sense of what it's like to be born in poverty but I get to come home to my comfortable life after a month or so. Two summers ago in Vietnam, one of our WCS students who visited me in Can Tho told me about his cousin who was poor and had no way to escape poverty and no woman would marry him. I don't know why his cousin was born there and I was born here but I was and if you reading this, you probably were as well. My great grandparents were immigrants from Europe and they didn't leave Denmark because they were abnormally wealthy over there.
Then there's this:
"The real way I became literate is that I won the education lottery..."
I was blessed to be born into a family that made learning a priority. Both my mom's side and my dad's side stressed the value of college but also, the value of the process and the interaction of the parents with the school. My folks modeled reading and talking about what was happening in the world. Dad would drag us out of bed to watch every space launch because it mattered. My mother and father also constantly played musicals and symphonies on the record player so we were exposed to the arts. (And even though I am not musical, I appreciate that the introduction to Judge Judy is from Beethoven!)
And I shouldn't forget that:
"The real way I became relatively normal is that I won the stable family lottery....." 
We all know folks whose lives seems stacked against them at birth because of the awful choices their ancestors have made. Teachers ache over kids whose path to productivity is land-mined by the dysfunctionality that surrounds them. Neither side of my family was rich and I know there were characters in the family trees but the Chesshirs/McClures and the Hawleys/Petersens stayed out of the news and local gossip, at least as far as I can tell. How about this? Five straight generations of  Hawleys have had Golden Wedding Anniversaries; my parents and my Uncle Monroe and Aunt Julia, my grandparents, my great grandparents, my great great 
grandparents, and my great great great grandparents all surpassed fifty years of marriage. I know some of my students have no similar history of family bliss....and that's a shame.
And I can't forget that:
"The real way I became a believer is that I won the born into a family of believers lottery..."
All my relatives are Christians on both sides and I know some of you can say the same. While some criticize inherited faith, and we can't simply ride on parental coattails into heaven, I don't see the Bible making that same distinction. Paul obviously thought Timothy was blessed by the women in his family who were disciples. Growing up with belief has challenges but not nearly as many as having no background of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit at all. The acceptance of deity to me has always been as natural as breathing. Working with international students who have no concept of the Lord in their upbringing has been mind boggling to me. I cannot conceive what they cannot conceive.

And so I return to the extremely lovely Cameron Russell and her statement which I doubt she thought would become the basis of a devotional. I love that she freely admits her advantage in the realm of physical attractiveness. I should do the same in my life. We shouldn't feel guilty about the gifts we were born with- we should be utterly thankful, praising our Father for what He has given us. But we must be careful to remember we did nothing to deserve these traits or qualities or circumstances and we should live our lives using them to reach out to those who lack what we possess. Who can say if that's not the reason we were so blessed at conception? One of my favorite verses, Ephesians 2:10, puts it this way:
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Maybe that's why we hit the lottery of life. And obviously, luck had nothing to do with it.

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